Skip to main content

Full text of "Letters of Alexander von Humboldt to Varnhagen von Ense. From 1827 to 1858. With extracts from Varnhagen's diaries, and letters of Varnhagen and others to Humboldt"

See other formats

■' 'if ■'i'-d- 




', •'( 'l 'l 

r 1; i^ f 

1 i) >: i 

1 > '; 1 

k t i 

i I n ''( 

1 ■ r' 1*^ 1 ' 

' L^ p fl 

^ r- ? ^< 

^' i m 

•" ^ ^ ^ 


N< ; ' ,g V 

V ^ \C' 


H ^ 

1 i; 1' 1, 

( ; »j 


'i i »1 

i' ^ ^ ^ 

^' i m 

¥ i 




1 ^.1 <! 






Darlington JVjLemorial JUibrary 






One handsome- 12mo. volume, uniform with " The Let- 
ters of Von Humboldt,''^ elegantly hound in muslin^ 
with an original steel portrait. Price, $1.25. 

Containing a full account of his Life from birth to, 
death ; a picturesque summary of his Travels and 
Adventures in the New World and Asia; biographi- 
cal sketches of his relatives and literary associates ; 
a complete resum^ of his various works, with extracts 
from his most important ones ; a lucid statement of 
his achievements in all departments of science, &;c. 

" The Life Travels and Books of Alexander von 
Humboldt has already gone into a fifth edition, * * * 
It is entertaining as a romance, and contains the cream 
of Humboldt's books. * * * The plan of the work is 
excellent. The biography is combined with the wan- 
derings of the old savant, and the essence of numerous 
volumes is here artistically condensed into one. A 
more readable and instructive book has not been lately 
issued," — Philadelphia Daily Press. 

*^* Sold hy all booksellers, and it will he sent hy mail, 
postage free, on receipt of the price, $1,25, hy 

RUDD & €ARI.£TOi\, Publishers, 

No. 130 Grand Street, New York. 

/r7e-?c<Z'yv.,id^^ v-^T.'T.-/ yTTl-yT^a /^^^ 


Alexander;^von Humboldt M'»>^^'^ 


Varnhagen von Ense. 

/ Fmn 1827 Ä? 1858. 

Extracts from Varnhagen's Diaries, and Letters of Varnhagen 
and others to Humboldt. 


©ranslattlj from i\t ^txonlr (Kerman BBÄitioir, 



RuDD & Carleton, 130 Grand Street, 

Leipzig: f. a. brockhau s. 




Entered according-to Act of Congress, in the year 1S60, by 

In the Clerk's OflBce of the District Court of the United States for the Southern 

District of New York. 

V. oCv-" 


Printer, Siereoiyp^r, hthI Elecirotyptr, 
Caxion Biiillinig, 

81, 83, tvid 85 Ccnire Street. 

" Your last favor doing me so much honor contains words 
about which I wish to prevent every mistake. 'You are 
afraid to confess yourself the exclusive owner of my impieties.' 
You may freely dispose of this sort of property after my not far 
distant departure from life. Truth is due to those only whom 
we deeply esteem — to you therefore." 

Alexander von Humboldt to Varnhagen. 
Letter of December jth, 1841. 


1. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

2. Humboldt to Yaruhagen, . 

3. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

4. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

5. Humboldt to Varnliagen, . 

6. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

7. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

8. Yarnhagen to Humboldt, . 

9. Humboldt to Rahel, 

10. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

11. Humboldt to Rahel . 

12. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

13. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

14. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

15. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

16. (No Address.) . 
IT. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

18. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

19. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

20. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

21. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

22. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

23. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

24. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 

25. Humbold to tlie Princess von Pueckler, 

26. Humboldt to Yarnhagen, . 





21. Humboldt to Varnhageu, . 

28. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

29. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

30. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

31. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

32. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

33. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

34. (No Address.) . 

35. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

36. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

37. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

38. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

39. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

40. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

41. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

42. Metternich to Humboldt, . 

43. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

44. King Christian VIII. of Denmark to 

45. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

46. (No Address.) . 

47. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

48. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

49. Guizot to Humboldt, 

50. Arago to Humboldt, 

51. Humboldt to Bettina von Arnim, 

52. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

53. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

54. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

55. Humboldt to Spiker, 

56. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

57. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

58. King Christian VIII. of Denmark to 

59. (No Address.) 

60. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

61. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

62. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 
63 Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

64. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

65. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

66. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

67. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

68. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

69. Humboldt to Varnliagen, 

70. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

71. (No Address.) 

72. Ilumholdt to Varnhagen, 
7.'{. Iluiiilioldi to ^'^;lnll1ao:en. 





74. Humboldt to the Prince of Prussia. . 

75. (No Address.) 

76. Humboldt to Varuhasjcu, .... 

77. J. W. T. to Humboldt, 

78. Count Bresson, French Ambassador, to Humboldt, 

79. Arago to Humboldt, ..... 

80. Four Notes of Frederick William the Fourth to Humboldt, 

81. King Christian VHI. of Denmark to Humboldt, 

82. John Herschel to Humboldt, 

83. Balzac to Humboldt, 

84. Robert Peel to Humboldt, 

85. Metternich to Humboldt, 

86. Prescott to Humboldt, 

87. Madame de Recamier to Humboldt, 

88. Humboldt to Yaruhagen, 

89. Leopold, Grand-Duke of Tuscany, to Humboldt 

90. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 
91 Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

92. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

93. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

94. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

95. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

96. (No Address.) .... 

97. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

98. Metternich to Humboldt, 

99. Jules Janin to Humboldt, 

100. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

101. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

102. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

103. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

104. Humboldt to Varnliagen, 

105. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

106. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

107. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

108. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

109. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

110. Humboldt to Friedrich Wühelm lY., 

111. Bessel to Humboldt. 

112. Victor Hugo to Humboldt, 

113. Friedrieh Rueckert to Humboldt, 

114. Alexander Manzoni to Humboldt, 

115. Thiers to Humboldt, 

116. The Princess of Canino, Lucien Bonaparte's "Widow, to 

Humboldt, ..... 

117. Duchess Helene d'Orleans to Humboldt, 

118. Duchess Helene d'Orleans to Humboldt, 

119. Duchess Helene d'Orleans to Humboldt, 





120. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

121. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

122. Mettemich to Humboldt, 

123. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

124. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

1 25. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

126. Humboldt to Varnliagen, 

127. Mignet to Humboldt, 

128. Humboldt to Baudin, 
12y. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

130. Mettemich to Humboldt, 

131. Prince Albert to Humboldt, 

132. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

133. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

134. (No Address.) . 

135. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

136. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

137. Mettemich to Humboldt, 

138. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

139. Helen, Duchess of Orleans, to Humboldt, 

140. Humboldt to Varuliagen, 

141. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

142. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

143. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

144. Humboldt to Bettina von Arnim, 

145. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

146. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

147. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

148. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

149. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

150. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

151. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

152. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

153. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

154. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

155. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

156. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 
J.57. Arago to Humboldt, 
J58. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

159. Humboldt to Varnliagen, 

160. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 

161. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

162. Humboldt to Bettina von Arnim, 

163. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 
164 Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

165. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

166. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 

Contents. xi 


167. Humboldt to Yamhagen, 30(5 

168. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 308 

169. Plumboldt to Varnhagen, 313 

170. The Princess Lieven to Humboldt, 316 

171. Varnhagen to Humboldt, , 317 

173. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 318 

173. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 320 

174 Varnhagen to Humboldt, 321 

17.5. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 323 

176. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 324 

177. The Prussian Minister Resident, von Gerolt, to Humboldt, 32.5 

178. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 327 

179. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 329 

180. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 330 

181. Grand Duke Charles Alexander of Paxe-AVeimar to Hum- 

boldt, 330 

182. Varnhagen to Hamboldt, 331 

183. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 333 

184. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 334 

185. Metternich to Humboldt, ...... 336 

186. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 338 

187. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . .... 338 

188. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 341 

189. Charles Alexander, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, to Hum- 

boldt, 34.T 

190. Jobard to Humboldt, 344 

191. Lines by Varnhagen on Hildebrandt's Painting of Hum- 

boldt's Apartments, and the Motto Attached. . . 346 

192. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 347 

193. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 360 

194. Charles Alexander, G^rand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, to Hum- 

boldt, 351 

195. Humboldt to Varnhagen, ...... 352 

196. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 354 

197. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 356 

198. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 359 

199. Humbotdt to Varnhagen, 360 

200. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 362 

201 Karl Alexander, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, to Hum- 
boldt, 363 

202. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 364 

203. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 366 

204. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 368 

205. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 368 

206. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 370 

207. Charles Alexander, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, to 

Humboldt, 371 




208. Humboldt to Varnhagen, . 

209. Humboldt to Vamhagen, . 

210. Charles Alexander, Grand 

Humboldt, .... 

211. Thiers to Humboldt, 

212. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

213. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

214. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

215. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 

216. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

217. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

218. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

219. Prince Napoleon, Son of Jerome, to Humboldt, 

220. Varnhagen to Humboldt, 

221. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

222. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

223. Humboldt to Varnhagen, 

224. Humboldt to Vamhagen, 

225. Humboldt to Ludmilla Assing, 

of Saxe-Weimar, to 





The following letters of Humboldt furnisli a con- 
tribution of the highest importance to the true, correct, 
and unveiled representation of his genius and charac- 
ter. That they should be delivered to publicity after 
his death was his desire and intent, which have found 
their positive impression in the words preceding this 
book as its motto. Never has he spoken out his 
mind more freely and sincerely, than in his communi- 
cations with Yarnhagen, his old and faithful friend, 
whom he esteemed and loved before all others. In 
him he placed an unlimited confidence ; with him he 
deposited those letters received by him, which he 
desired to be saved for their importance, while he 
used to destroy nearly all others. He presumed that 
Varnhagen, the junior of the two, would survive him. 

xiv Preface. 

Yarnliagen, however, died first and transmitted tlie 
duty — a doubly sacred one — to me, of publishing 
this memorable evidence of the life, the activity, and 
the genius of this great man. In the accomplishment 
of this charge it was a religious duty to leave every 
word unchanged as written down. I would have 
thought it an offence to Humboldt's memory had I 
had the arrogance to make the slightest alterations of 
his words. For the same reason I did not think 
myself authorized to grant the request — however 
well-meaning it may have been — of the publisher, 
that I should make such alterations, nor could I 
accord the least influence to my own feelings or to 
personal regards. There was but one consideration 
to be obeyed — the eternal truili^ for an adherence to 
which I am responsible to Humboldt's memory, to 
History and Literature, and to the will of him who 
enjoined this duty upon me. 

And therefore the legacy, intrusted to my hands, 
will appear full and complete, as it was received. The 
interest of Humboldt's letters is sometimes pleasantly 
heightened by entries in Yarnhagen's diary — they will 

Preface xv 

indicate the verbal sentiments of Humboldt in addi- 
tion to those written by him. Of Varnhagen's letters 
few only were preserved or could be found. In the 
little, however, wliich is known, the noble friendship, 
the constant, never-ceasing mental activity, the fliith- 
ful fellowship in their mutual efforts in behalf of 
science and liberty, in all of which Humboldt and 
Yarnhagen were so many years nnited, find a suffi- 
cient expression. 

The letters of many other distinguished and cele- 
brated persons, which are also added, will show 
Humboldt in his world-wide connexions, in his mani- 
fold relations to savans and authors, to statesmen and 
princes, all of whom approached him with reverenc '. 


BERLiif, February, 1S60. 

Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, September 25th, 1827. 
My Honored Friend : 

Allow me to present you with the best copy of my 
essay* left me. 

The end of it will, I hope, secure me your indulgence 
for the whole. 

Tuesday. A. v. HUMBOLDT. 

* On the Principal Causes of the Variation of Temperature upon 
the Earth. 

i8 Humboldt's Letters. 


Berlin, N'ovember \st, 1827. 

Tou recollect having once uttered some affectionate 
words in acknowledgment of my endeavors to describe 
Nature vividly and ti'uly (that is, with strict correctness 
as to what we do observe). 

That your words have left agreeable impressions, you 
will perceive from this insignificant token of my grati- 

I have altered nearly all " the Explanations," and 
added " The Genius of Rhodes," for which Schiller has 
shown some predilection. 

With friendship and the highest consideration, 


Is it not strange, that Koreff has never acknowledged 
what we did for him here ? 

* With a copy of " Views of Nature," new edition. 

Humboldt's Letters. 19 


Beklin, November 21, 1827. 

Wedxesday, at Night. 
Trusting more to your friendship for me and to my 
memoranda, which always guide me in my lectures, 
than to the notes taken by the students, I send you 
herewith the entire fifth lecture, together with to-day's 
recapitulation. I am sure, you will not find anything 
anti-philosophical therein. You may make whatever 
use you like of them — except a copy for publication — 
please send them back before Saturday. That the 
memoranda were made for my own use only, you will 
observe by the confusion in their composition — the 
desire, however, to be always frank, makes me forget 
any consideration which vanity could suggest.* 


* The memoranda were intended to be communicated to Professor 
Hegel, who was told that Humboldt had indulged in attacks on Phi- 
losophy in his lectures. 

20 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Ajyril 15th, 1828. 

Will you allow me to disturb you for some moments 
between 2 and 3 o'clock this afternoon, that I may ask 
your literary opinion? My book shall bear the title: 
" Sketch of a Physical Description of the World." 

I should like to embody in the title itself the occasion 
of these lectures, so as to make it understood at once 
that the book contains more and something else than 
the lectures. " From reminiscences of lectures in the 
years 1827 and 1828, by A. v. Humboldt," is considered, 
I am told, ridiculous and pretending. I do not insist on 
it ; but " Souvenirs d'un cours de Physique du monde,'' 
or, " Souvenirs d'un voyage en Perse," seemed simple 
enough. How shall I arrange the title of the book? 
" Sketch of the Physical World, elaborated from lec- 
tures by A. V. H. ;" or, " Partly treated from Lectures ?" 
All that seems rather awkward. Adverbs will not do 
for titles. What if I add in small type : " A part of 
this work has bee7i the subject of lectures in the years 
1827 and 1828?" Tliis is, however, rather long and 

Humboldt's Letters. 21 

then the verb! " Occasioned oy," <fec., ■u-oukl perhaps 
be better. I trust to your genius ! You will help me 
out of this labyrinth, I am sure ! With the sincerest 

Your obedient, 


Note by Yarxhagej^. — I had objected to the first herein mentioned 
title myself when I once dined at Prince August's, and Humboldt had 
heard it from Beuth. 



Beelix, "id of Aprils 1829. 

I SHALL call and thank you and enjoy your being 
home again, and the good eflects which the exercise of 
your new duties have everywhere had. And I will 
implore pardon of your gifted lady, so dear to me 
through the misfortunes that happened in my own 
family. It is never allowed to present a book to the 
King, not even by Prince Wittgenstein. It must go the 
usual way. But I will entreat Albrecht very, very fer- 
vently.* I am quite exhausted and will be oif in a week. 

Friday. A. Ht. 

* It was a book of Ranke (the Historian). 

22 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, 26th of April, 1830. 

I HAVE just come home from Potsdam, and find your 
dear letter and your present, so very agreeable to me. 
The " Zinze7idorf" * will delight me very, very much. 
He is an individual physiognomy like Lavater and Car- 
danus. The recent i^ietism, which began to break out 
at Halle, made me smile. I rejoice that you will kindly 
accept my " Cri de Petersbourg" — it is a parody recited 
at Court — the forced work of two nights ; an essay to 
flatter without self-degradation, to say how thmgs 
should be. As you and your high-gifted wife, my 
ancient and kind friend, rejoice in anything agreeable 
that happens to me, I wish to say that the King sends 
me to the Emperor to attend the meeting of the 
Potentates. I shall probably go with the Crown-Prince, 
who will meet the Empress at Fischbach. 

A. Ht. 

Zinzendorf's letters to the Saviour were rather more 
legible, f 

* Biography of Count Zinzendorf by Vamhagen. — Translator. 
f Humboldt wrote a very illegible hand, hence this allusion. — 

Humboldt's Letters. 23 



Berlin, July 9^ä, 1830. 
Please accept for yourself and your highmiuded 
and excellent lady my sincerest thanks for your new 
present, so agreeable to me.* I was not personally 
acquainted with the man Avhose eccentricities you have 
so aesthetically described. He was one of those who 
shine by their personal appearance ; their lives are of 
greater effect than their writings. A man who boasts 
that his recollections go back to the first year of his 
life (how differently the Margravine judged things, 
when she says : " J'etais un enfant tres precoce — a 
deux ans je savais parier, ä trois ans je marchais!") ; a 
man who owns a guardian angel in a black cloak, like 
Cardanus — who makes love to old maids, without being 
drunk, only in order to convert the same to virtue and 
reading ; a man, to whom the fate of German profes- 

* Memoirs of John Benjamin Ehrhard, Pliilosopher and Physician. 
Edited by Varnhagen von Ense. Stuttgart and Tubingen. Cotta, 

24 Humboldt's Letters, 

sors under German princes appears more tragical than 
that of the Greeks — such a man cannot but be admired 
— as a curiosity ! The " Kirchen-Zeitung" will never 
inscribe his name in the list of "the faithful," and 
the Schimmelmanns will hardly thank you, my most 
honored friend, that the work recalls the Danish- 
Holstein saturnalia of sentimental demagogism. 

I am very much gratified that you will take " Har- 
denberg" in hand. It is a difficult but satisfactory 
task, if you be careful to separate the epochs, and pro- 
vided his life be judged without party hatred, which 
seems to have subsided at last, with regard to Hegel 
in the Academy. 

Thankfully yours, A. Humboldt. 

We find in Varnhagen's diary the following entry 
referring to the above : " Alexander von Humboldt 
said to Gans, after the July revolution, when he heard 
him express very exalted hopes of the new govern- 
ment, ' Believe me, dear friend, my wishes go as far as 
yours, but my hopes are very feeble. I have seen 
changes of government in France for forty years. 
They always fall by their own incapacity ; the new 
ones give always the same promises, but they never 
keep them, and the march to ruin is renewed. I 
was personally acquainted with most of the men in 
power, some of them intimately; there were distiu- 

Humboldt's Letters. 25 

guished, well-meaning men among them ; but they did 
not persevere ; after a short time they were not better 
than their predecessors — nay, they became even greater 
rascals. Not one of all the governments there has 
kept the promises made to the people — not one of them 
has subordinated its own interest to the welfare of the 
country. And until this be done, no power can pos- 
sibly take a lasting root in France. The nation has 
always been deceived, and will again be deceived ; 
when it will punish the treason and the perjury of its 
rulers ; for it is strong and mature enough to do this 
at the proper time.' " 



BEELi:!f, January 2Zd, 1833. 
CEETAEfLY it was I who met your Excellency some 
time ago at the sunny hour of noon and who recognised 
you too late, as I was recognised too late by you. 
How I should have liked to run after you, but it would 
not do, the distance was already too great. I would 
have liked to have told you something concerning Mi', 
von Bulow at London, which I had just got from the 


26 Humboldt's Letters. • 

best authority, and which I thought would be new to 
you, as it was to me. It was about the danger in which 
that bold ambassador was for some time, and which, 
according to a declaration of the King, had passed over. 
Since then your Excellency has heard it from other 
sources, and my information will be but stale. 

Now we Prussians are also gi-atified at last by a 
general representation of the people, or, to speak more 
correctly, we had it a long time ago, only we did not 
know it ! Bishop Eylert has lifted the veil from our 
eyes. He is the first to speak out the great truth, like a 
second Mirabeau, in clearness of thought and boldness 
of words. I can vividly imagine how the " Rittersaal," 
nay, the whole palace, was shaken to its foundation, 
when he thundered that powerful truth to the assembly, 
that the representation of the whole people, of all the 
classes and interests, ought to be found in that solemn 
lodge of the Order of Knights ! I bend my head in 
deep reverence to such a colossal boldness, to such a 
new unheard-of combination, by which other miserable 
institutions, until now regarded as national representa- 
tions, as for instance Parliaments, Assemblies, Cortes, 
and the like, were annihilated and blown into nothing- 
ness ! I have listened to the orator from the silent 
mouth of the official gazette only ; but your Excellency 
was present without doubt at the solemnity and pitied 
me, to be sure, and will say, what in ancient times was 

Humboldt's Letters. 27 

said when a speech of Demosthenes "was read : " Oh ! 
had you heard it delivered by him !" And the smiling 
approval, the gracious satisfaction of the high audience, 
the amazement of all present at the wonderful discovery, 
how much the impression must have been heightened 
by all that ! 

Oh, our Protestant parsons are on the best road, they 
promise to leave behind their Catholic brethren as they 
were when in the most flourishing condition of their 
priesthood. Such hypocritical black coats make us 
the laughing-stock of the world. Representation of the 
people or no representation, may we have it, or may it 
be denied, I care little about it just now, but that such 
a scoundrel should assume to call the meeting of the 
Knights of an Order a national representation, is an 
attempt which should be rewarded by the lunatic 
asylum or the State prison. And there is not even a 
Bong, a street ballad, a caricature, to make merry of 
such a monstrosity — all is silent ! 

But as this is the time of sleep, I will go to bed and 
wish you and myself good night and sweet dreams. 
"With the highest respect, &c., 


See A. V. Humboldt's note to Rahel, Yarnhagen's wife, of the 1st 
of February, 1833. 

28 • Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, February 1, 1833. 
My speedy reply has no good foreboding, my dear 
friend. When anything is to be done in this country, 
it wants fourteen months' maturing — after that there is 
hope. The inclosed letter, which, however, you are 
entreated not to leave in the hand of your lady friend, 
explains all. I was listened to in my words and letters 
kindly and promisingly. This morning, however, the 
drawings — those beautiful drawings — were sent back. 
The underlined word in the accompanying note might 
give some hope ; but I like better to give myself up to 
illusions than to nourish them in others, and the firm- 
ness with which Beuth, who alone has to decide in the 
matter, sticks to his will, bars all prospects. That I 
have done my best in the matter, as you yourself have 
desired it, does not require further words — this should 
be a sort of historical faith with you. Please send me 
a word of comfort about ray dear Varnhagen — the only 
brilliant star in the Hterary world of our country — that 
country in which, as the bishop with the drawn sicord 

Humboldt's Letters. 29 

says, even the most eminent talents, as such, ought to 
have no distinction whatever ! I do not wonder that 
such things are spoken out, but what depresses me is tlie 
vileness of the society in which we are here living, and 
which is not even aroused by such contemptible asser- 
tions. May both of you preserve your nobler selves. 

A. Ht. 



Berlin, dd of Fehy., 1833. 

I am eternally grateful and affected by your noble 
letter. Grace and euphony of language should always 
be joined to purity of character and gracefulness of 

My brother was here for two days, but almost ahvays 
under the shock of the weaves, dashing from the Court. 
Princes have the right to pray without ever being depre- 
cated. He ordered me to tell you, dear friend, how 
very sensible he is to the flattering nature of your offer ; 
but he is just now so much occupied with the publica- 
tion of the quarto edition on the aßinity of Asiatic 
languages with the Sanscrit, that he cannot accept 

ßo Humboldt's Letters. 

what lie considers, nevertheless, as highly important. 
He desires, in honor of the celebrity of the great 
departed one,* that you should undertake the task. I 
am painfully concerned to hear that you enjoy, together 
with your ingenious friend, but a small bit of health, 
which you kindly lend each other — something of a 
mutual self-instvuctioii, or Azais-compensation, which 
afflicts me very much. I have received a long letter of 
Mrs. Cotta. It seems she will assume the editorship of 
the Allgemeine Zeitu7ig^ an anti-salique enterprise alto- 
gether. Is it not strange, how, at certain epochs, a 
certain principle seems to penetrate all mankind ? Resus- 
citation of reverence for the past, not-to-be-disturbed 
love of peace, distrust in the possibility of amelioration, 
hydrophobia against genius, religious compulsion for 
unity, mania-diplomatica for protocols Cardi- 
nes rerum. 

Note by VarnhaGEN. — I had replied ia Raliel's name, who was 
prevented by sickness, to the note of the 1st inst., directed to her, and 
in a postscript had expressed the desire Minister de Humboldt 
should write the critique of Faust, just then to be published fur tho 
Jahrbücher der Kritik. 

* Goethe. — Translator. 

Humboldt's Letters. 




Berlin, February Qth, 1853. 

I have seen Beuth once more, to remind him of his 
ancient friendship with L. His opinion is, that it 
would be advantageous for the family to separate the 
architectural subjects from what belongs to landscape 
merely, and also to leave out the engravings. Only the 
architectural drawings Avere of any use to his institute, 
and if the family wanted the money, he w^ould be 
enabled to purchase to the amount of some hundred 
Thalers (perhaps four to five hundred?). However im- 
inviting such an offer may be, I thought it my duty, 
dear friend, to impart it to you. In case of acceptance, 
Beuth wishes to deal forthwith with some agent, who 
should come and see him in his house. 

May the sun of gentle spring give you both warmth, 
cheerfulness, and vigor ! The "Byzantine emj^ire" 
(ours I mean) is seriously divided into two parties about 
" Bunsen's Psalm Book," and " Eisner's Collection of 
Hymns ! " The military power and the adjutants are 
in favor of the " Collection of Hymns." As for myself, 
I have not yet made up my mind. 

Saturday. A. Ht. 

32 Humboldt's Letters. 



Saturday, March Qth, 1833, 
To a mind like yours, noble friend, solitude and calm 
are necessary. You draw only upon yourself. Think, 
that I received the painful news* only last night by Prince 
Carolath. You know what a warm-hearted, long-proved, 
and kind friend I lost in her, the honor of her sex ! how 
amiable she was, when lately she instructed me to trans- 
act the little business with Beuth. So experienced in 
all the vicissitudes and illusions of life, and yet so cheer- 
ful, and so gentle ! With such an intellect, so full of 
soul, and so true of heart ! The world will appear to 
you a solitude for a long time, but the consciousness of 
having imparted to such a lovely woman, until her very 
last breath, all that genius, and heart, and gracefulness of 
intercourse like yours can afford, will be a balm to 
your wound, dear Yarnhagen. I conjure you, take care 
of your health ! 

A. Humboldt, 

* Of Rahel's death. 

Humboldt's Letters. 33 



Beexin, Decemher 3, 1833. 

Paedon, a thousand pardons, for not sooner return- 
ing the classical studies of Friedrich Schlegel. I stu- 
died them diligently and I am convinced that many 
views of Grecian antiquity, which modern authors ascribe 
to themselves, are buried in writings dated from 1795 
(a deucalionic time of yore !). Angelus Silesius, whom I 
have but now learned to appreciate, has also gratified me 
and my brother very much. There is a piety in the book, 
which breathes on the mind like the balmy air of spring, 
and the mysterious and hieroglyphical marks of your 
departed wife, render your gift doubly dear to me. 

Spiker,* very curiously mistook the genitive in the 
" astronomical observations of Alexander von Hum- 
boldt," for my signature, when he informed the public 
of Oltraann's death. I will pass it over, however, with- 
out correction. 

With everlasting affection, yours, 

A. Humboldt. 

* At that time editor of the Haude and Spenersche Zeitung in 
Berlin.— TV. 


34 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, December 9, 1833. 

I ENCLOSE you, most honored friend, some words of 
the lovely Duchess of Dessau, Anything honoring the 
memory of our departed lady friend must be dear to 
your heart. 

Sunday, A. v. Humboldt. 

Dessau, December 1, 1833. 
Accept my best thanks for the books you sent me. 
Each m its way interested me very much. I am sony 
not to have been personally acquainted with Rahel. 
Her mind now lies so clearly before me, that I should 
have been happy to have been acquainted with her 
exterior appearance, that it might suggest to me the 
intellect within. 

Friederike, Duchess at Anhalt. 

Yet full of admiration for R. the book of all books. 
May I ask you, my honored friend, for Friedrich Schle- 
gel's works, third volume ? * 

Humboldt's Letters. 




Berlix, December 19, 1833. 

I HATE been prevented by the irksome and noisy 
Court-life from inquiring pei"Sonally after the dear health 
of ray friend. I am sorry that I must request you, by 
the present note, to return me the letter of the Duchess 
of Dessau, containing the amiable words concerning our 
sainted friend. 

Tuesday. A. v, HuirBOLDT. 


Berlin, Od. 24, 1834. 
I begi:n' the printing of ray Tvork (the work of my 
life). I have the extravagant idea of describing in one 
and the same work the whole material world — all that 
we know to-day of celestial bodies and of life upon the 
earth — from the nebular stars to the mosses on the 

oß Humboldt's Letters, 

granite rocks — and to make this work instructive to the 
mind, and at the same time attractive, by its vivid lan- 
guage. Every great and sparkling idea must be noticed, 
side by side with its attendant facts. The work shall 
represent an epoch of t?ie intellectual development of 
mankind in their knowledge of nature. The prolego- 
mena are, for the most part, ready. They are my 
amended "dLscours d'ouverture" as they were dehvered 
from memory, although immediately afterwards care- 
fully written down ; the picture of physical nature — 
incentives to the study of nature in the spirit of our age 
— ^these latter are threefold: 1. "Poesie descriptive" 
and vivid description of natural scenery in modem 
works of travels. 2. Landscape pictures, sensitive 
description of an exotic nature — when it originated, 
when it became a necessity and a pleasure to the 
mind ; the reason why antiquity (too passionate) could 
not feel it. 3. Plants — grouping of them, according to 
the physiognomy of plants (no botanic gardens). — His- 
tory of the physical description of the world. How the 
idea of the world — of the connexion of all the pheno- 
mena, became clear to the nations of the world in the 
course of centuries. These prolegomena are the most 
essential. They contain the general part of the work, 
which is followed by the special part, the particulars 
of wliich are arianged in systematic order. I send also 
a part of the tabular register; space of the universe; the 

Humboldt's Letters. 37 

whole physical astronomy ; our globe, its interior, exte- 
rior ; electro-magnetism of its interior ; vulcanism, that is, 
the reaction of the interior of a planet upon its surface ; 
organization of the masses ; a concise geognosy ; ocean ; 
atmosphere ; climate ; organic matter ; vegetable geogra- 
phy; animal geography; human races and languages ; the 
physical organization of which (articulation of sounds) is 
controlled by the intellect, the product and manifestation 
of which is language. In the special part all numerical 
results, the most minute, as in " Laplace's Exposition 
du Systeme du Monde." As these particulars do not 
admit the same literary perfection of style as the general 
combinations of natural science, the simple facts are 
stated in short sentences, arranged in tabular order. The 
attentive reader will find condensed in a few pages all 
results on climate, magnetism of the earth, etc., which it 
would take years of application to learn by study. The 
intimate relations of the fundamental details, for the sake 
of literary harmony with the general plan, are effected by 
brief introductory remarks to each chapter. Otfried 
Mueller, in his ably written " Archaeology," has very suc- 
cessfully pursued the same method. 

It was my Avish that you, my dear friend, should get 
a clear perception of my undertaking from myself I 
have not succeeded in concentrating the whole in one 
single volume, however magnificent the effect of such 
conciseness would have been. I hope, however, that 

38 Humboldt's Letters. 

two volumes will contain the whole. There will be no 
notes under the text, but at the end there will be notes 
appended, containing solid erudition, and minuteness of 
detail ; these, however, may be left unread. 

The work is not what is commonly called " Physical 
Description of the Earth?'' It comprises heaven and 
earth — everything existing, I began to write it fifteen 
years ago in French, and called it '•'•Essai sur la Phy- 
sique du MondeP In Germany I thought first of 
calling it " The Booh of Nature ; " a title already 
adopted in the middle age by Albertus Magnus. But 
all this is too vague. The title shall be '■'■ Eosmos,'''* 
S^cetch of a Physical Description of the World, by A. v. 
IL, enlarged outlines of his Lectures in 1827 atid 1828. 
Cotta, Publisher. 

I wanted to add the word Eosmos, and to force 
people to call the book by this name in order to avoid 
their calling it " Humboldt's Physical Geography," 
which would throw the thing in the class of Mitter- 
sacher's writings. " Description of the World" (formed 
after History of the World) would, as a designation 
seldom used, always be confounded with " Description 
of the Earth." I know that "Kosmos" sounds rather 
pretending, and the word is indeed not without a 
certain "Affeterie ;" but this title says in one and the 
same striking word, '•'•Heaven and Earth,^'' and is quite 
opposed to " Gaea^'''' the title of that rather imperfect 

Humboldt's Letters. 39 

description of the earth by Professor Zeune. My brother 
is also for the title " Kosmos." I myself hesitated for 
a long time. Now, grant me a favor, my dear friend. 
I cannot prevail upon myself to send away the com- 
mencement of my manuscript without entreating you 
to cast a critical eye over it. You possess such an 
eminent talent for style, and you have at the same time 
so much genius and independence of judgment, that you 
do not quite discard the style of others because it differs 
from your own. Please read the " Discours," and put 
in a little sheet on which you write — without giving 
any reasons. — " So .... I would better like, so ... . 
instead of . . . ." Do, however, not condemn without 
assisting me ! and do also ease my mind as to the title. 

With the utmost confidence, yours, 

Monday. A. v. Humboldt. 

The principal faults of my style are an unhappy inclina- 
tion to hyper-poetical forms, long constructions upon 
participles, and too much concentrating of manifold 
views and sentiments in one and the same period. I 
think, however, that these radical evils, founded in my 
individuality, are somewhat lessened by a grave simpli- 
city and generalization, enabling me to contemplate my 
subject with a complete mastery of its details, if I may 
be permitted so much vanity. A book on nature should 
produce an impression like nature itself. I have been 

40 Humboldt's Letters. 

always careful, as in my " Views of Nature^'' and in 
that work my manner is quite different from that of 
Forster and Chateaubriand. I have always endeavored 
to describe faithfully, to design correctly, and to be 
even scientifically true, without losing myself in the dry 
regions of knowledge. 



Bkblin, Oddbtr 28th, 1834 
YoTJ have encouraged and cheered me by your amia- 
ble letter, and your still more amiable solicitude. You 
have quite entered into the spirit of my efforts. But 
the expression of my affectionate confidence in you [a 
manifestation of the acknowledgment of your talent ia the 
Humboldt family] has rendered you too considerate and 
inclined to praise. Your remai'ks have a degree of refine- 
ment, of taste, and acuteness, which makes emendation a 
highly pleasant task. I have adopted all, or nearly all — 
more than nineteeu-tAventieths. Some obstinacy, how- 
ever, must always be allowed an author. I beg a thousand 
pardons for sending you some sheets, in which (towards 
the end of the Discourse) I had not corrected the newly- 

Humboldt's Letters. 41 

annexed parts. Some sentences were really confused. 
You will permit me to call one of these days, and thank 
you personally. I will then show you the emendations 
at the end of the discourse. How happy I would have 
been to have laid some of these travels before her, the 
dear departed one ! 

Yours gratefully, 

A. T. Humboldt. 

I would there were in Germany as excellent a book 
of synonyms as the inclosed one, which, I am sure, you 
did not see before now. Abbe Delisle has advised me 
to use it, and indeed it spares much time ; if a similar 
word is wanted, one finds it at once. I shall come and 
take the book back. 



Berlin, Sunday, 6 o'clock a.m., 

April 5ih, 1855. 

You, my dearest Varnhagen, who are not afraid 

of grief, but who trace its phases through the depths 

of sentiment, you should receive at this sorrowful 

time a few words expressing the love which both 

42 Humboldt's Letters. 

brothers feel for you. The release has not yet come. I 
left him last night at 11 o'clock, and I hasten to him 
again. The day, yesterday, was less distressing. A 
half lethargic condition, frequent, though not, restless, 
slumber, and after each waking, words of love, of com- 
fort ; but always the clearness of the great intellect, 
which penetrates and distinguishes everything and 
examines its own condition. The voice was very feeble, 
hoarse, and thin, like a child's — leeches were therefore 
applied to the throat. Full consciousness ! " Think often 
of me,'' he said the day before yesterday, " but always 
with cheerfulness ! I was very happy ; and this day also 
was a beautiful one for me ; for ' Love is above all.' 
I will soon be Avith mother, and will have an insight into 
a higher order of things." I have no shadow of hope. I 
never thought my old eyes had so many tears ! It has 
lasted near eight days.* 

* Wilhelm von Humboldt died oa the 8th of April, 1835, at Tegel, 
at 6 o'clock in the evening. 

Humboldt's Letters, 43 



Berlin', May loth, 1835, Tuesday. 

My time is, unfortunately, so mucli occupied by the 
many princely strangers, and I am so affected by the 
cold, though not at all bracing weather, that I can 
scarcely find leisure to thank you, dear fi-iend, for the 
"Bollmann"* and the biographical sketch of him, in 
which I recognised at once yoicr pen, and also the 
"'retouchings," when the " Staats Zeitung" fell into my 
hands. One should not undertake to speak of distin- 
guished men in such papers ; it is a difficult task, even 
for a man of your genius, to keep the proper course 
between the family, the censor, and the cold, indifferent 

The name of " Mundt" has recalled to me some 
remarkable pages of his " Madonna," on the tendency 
of the Germans to sentimental lucubrations. There is 

* Bollmann, a German who resided a long time in the United 
States, and who is known by his bold attempts to liberate Lafayette 
from the prison of Olmutz. — Translator. 

44 Humboldt's Letters. 

much truth in these observations, and I thought to read 
my own sentence in them. So much, dear friend, on 
this world, to us, now unhappily deserted. 

Always gratefully, A. Humboldt. 

I feel some sorrow, nevertheless, that you refuse to 
see the Grand-Duchess. 



Berlin, Afaij 6th, 1835. 
I SEND back the communicated sheets, as they might 
interrupt the series. I was personally acquainted with 
almost all those whom Bollmann describes so vividly 
and faithfully. One perceives how he rises as he enters 
into more important situations. What a strange course 
of life, " Medecin de Sauvetage !" I have now a better 
impression of him, thanks to you ; for, without being 
capable of divining the true cause, I noticed some cool- 
ness towards Bollmann in Lafayette's family, for some 
years past. A. Ht. 

Humboldt's Letters. 4^ 



Berlin, Saturday, 23d of May, 1835. 
If the "Morgenblatt" of the 18th of May should 
fall into your hands, dear friend, please glance at a 
rather offensive article therein, entitled " Wilhelm von 
Humboldt's Funeral." My brother is said to have died 
abandoned by his family. I take but little notice of 
such misrepresentations. I should wish to know, how- 
ever, is " that other thing" which ray brother was 
" ignorant of, besides music, and which one dare not 
name" — is it God, or some lewdness ? I do not know 
what it possibly can be ! Please, dearest one, to find 
out how this assertion is explained by the public. The 
cause of my brother's retiring from public life is also 
so world-known, that it is singular to intimate that 
one did not know whether it was by his own fault. I 
call ■svith pleasure on your acuteness and affection. 
Supply my deficiency in the first. 

Most thankfully yours, A. Humboldt. 

46 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, March 28th, 1836. 
A MiKD like yours, my generous friend, understands, 
in its mildness and fortitude, how to discover some 
justification for everything. I do not fear, therefore, 
to appear this morning again before you as a petitioner, 
after a winter distracted by the dashing court-waves 
and festivities. You are the only one in this harmony- 
barren, genius-deserted city who possesses a harmony 
of style and a sense of moderation in the utterance of 
painful sentiments. May I beg you to cast a critical 
glance over the inclosed sheets ?* The variations 
played on the praise-chanting lyre for forty individuals 
were a tedious, style-spoiling necessity. It was arranged 
who should be invited to the great table. As for me, 
I think I came out not quite awkwardly, by some indi- 
vidual characteristics, and by a sort of graduation in 
my praise. Allow me to call to-day, about eleven 

* Preface to Wilhelm voa Humboldt's work about the Kawi lan- 

Humboldt's Letters. 47 

o'clock, to receive the sheets, which are much wanted 
by the printer, together with your verbal remarks at 
the same time. I can alter, if necessary, sous voire 
dictee, at your home. It would be humane in you to 
receive me in bed. 

Respectfully yours, 
Monday. A. Humboldt. 

At eleven o'clock I shall be with you. 

Varnhagen made, on the 11th of May, 1836, the fol- 
lowing entry in his diary : 

" Very early this morning, Alexander von Humboldt 
came to see me, and remained an hour and a half. The 
principal subject of our conversation was the French 
princes, who arrived here to-day. The embarrassment 
of the King is very great ; he would like to show the 
greatest attention to the strangers, while at the same 
time he desires his attentions should have the appear- 
ance of insults at St. Petersburg. State Secretary 
Ancillon had not courage enough to advise the Crown- 
Prince for their coming here as a certainty. He trusted 
to chance to acquaint him with it. Our princes got 
into a violent passion, and complained bitterly of the 
unwelcome visit. The Princesses Augusta and Marin, 
who showed themselves pleased Avith it, had hard words 
to hear. It was said that there would be a demonstra- 

48 Humboldt's Letters. 

tion in the theatre : some would applaud, and a greater 
number would hiss, it was hoped. At Treves, some- 
thing of that sort had already happened, on their way 
through that city. No doubt, however, that our 
Princes, notwithstanding their ill-feelings, will behave 
very civilly, as the King has expressed his wishes in this 
respect too positively. The Queen of the Netherlands, 
who is just now here, and who was believed to be the 
most violently opposed to them, leads the Avay with a 
good example, and declares that she will receive the 
strangers. The Ambassador, Mr. Bresson, and Mr. von 
Humboldt, at first disapproved of this excursion. That 
it is carried out notwithstanding is owing to Prince von 
Metternich, who desiring to secure the influence of 
France in the Oriental afikirs, and at the same time to 
preserve the friendship of Russia, puts Prussia in the 
foreground, whose conduct in receiving the French 
Princes will form a precedent which must necessarily 
be followed at Vienna. The thing is, indeed, an event 
of great importance, and must tell efiectively on public 
opinion. It is a fact, and, as such, speaks to every one. 
Every one will say that our Court has not the principles 
it pretended to have, or that it is too weak to avow 
them openly, and is driven, therefore, to try hypocrisy. 
A bad thing either way ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 49 



Berlin, May 31s<, 1836. 
[Coucerning the article in the Allgemeine Zeitung, against Raumer,* 
written, it was said, by Major von Radowitz.] 

The correspondent had, it seems, little to fear from 
the mendacious declaration of this " defloured." In the 
general view on the shallowness and dough-facedness, 
of the great historian, I am of his opinion. Moreover 
reading Herr von Raumer's books is like being 
" whipped," and that I neither suffer nor pardon. 



Monday, April lAth, 18S7. 
It is very consoling, that both brothers in this intel- 
lectually desolated city (how brilliant it was when Rahel 
was in her zenith) live in the memory of the only one, 
to whom have remained good taste, refined manners, and 
gracefulness of style. 

* Professor of History at Berlin. 


50 Humboldt's Letters. 

All my researches concerning the separate print of the 
essay were in vain to-day. I have not even the single 
volume of the Academical Proceedings of 1822, because 
at that time I lived in Paris. Yet, in a few days, I will 
bring you this one. I will then also show you a list of 
all the remaining works of my brother, which I have 
made with great care, and which you may perhaps in- 
crease. Cotta will print all of them ; also, the eight 
hundred sonnets, and likewise the hitherto unprinted 
ecclesiastical poems from Spain. I make the prepara- 
tions for this edition in a spirit of sincere piety that I 
may not die regretting its non-completion. 

How could I ever suspect, dear friend, that you 
would let me become a Madame Sontag, at the house of 
the excellent Princess (as in the saloon of the Princess 
Belgiojoso), and make an exhibition of myself! I will 
read with pleasure in a small circle of twelve or fifteen 
persons, certainly not otherwise, because Berlin is a small 
illiterate town and more than malicious, in which 
j^eople would find it ludicrous, if I, in addition to two 
alas ! already so piibllc theatres were to offer a third 
entertainment. But happily, I certainly am no iMadame 
Sontag in Berlin, and the lecture can therefore well 
remain a secret de comedie. You are certainly suffi- 
ciently humane to understand all this, and not to blame 

With all reverence, yours, A. v. H. 

Humboldt's Letters 51 



I AKRivED this very night from Potsdam, and I accept 
with pleasure the amiable oiFer of Madame la Princesse 
for to-morrow, "Wednesday night, at eight o'clock pre- 
cisely, for the spectacle lasts one horn-. I feel some 
fear in fixing it for Thursday, considering the jDlanetarian 
perturbations. Any persons selected by you will be 
agreeable to me. I would only beg Madame la Prin- 
cesse not to invite Rauch, Gans, and Mr. and Mrs. 
Ruble, because they have already been bored by this 
affair. Mr. de Varnhagen may add whomever he pleases. 
This tact in selecting only those who will have some 
indulgence in listening to me is unsurpassed. 

Thousand respectful and affectionate devotions. 

A. Humboldt. 

Thursday, Id May, 1837. 

52 Humboldt's Letters. 



I CAME, dear friend, for two purposes: 1, to bring 
you the opinions of Minister Kamj^tz {casus in terminis, 
only twenty-five copies jDrinted), which you, perhaj^s, had 
not seen before, and which has elicited a vehement reply 
from Herr von Oertzen, the Minister of Mecklenburg- 
Strelitz, burned in the Lord. Read (p. 30 and 32), how 
one can whitcAvash a person. I would beg of you not to 
laugh at me, when you are invited to-morrow to a lec- 
ture at the Princess's. I can assure you there is less 
vanity, from which, by the bye, I am not at all free, 
than Aveakness of character and good nature in it. 
Thus, I believed that I owed this satisfaction to the 
Princess ; the daughter also pressed me, and she showed 
me a harmless list of ten persons. If you will propose 
or bring with you one or more persons, it will be agree- 
able to me ; only bring no one who has heard me 
already. Your friends are mine ; from yours I may expect 
indulgence. I insist upon it, that a man is not without 
merit, who after spending his life with cyphers and 

Humboldt's Letters. 53 

stones, has put himself to the trouble of learning to 
write German. 


A. Ht. 

I hope also to procure for you the vehement " opus" 
of the Strelitz Minister, which is by far more spirited 
than might be expected. 

Varnhagen remarks in his Diary, imder May 3d : In 
the evening, at the Pi-incess of Pueckler's, the long- 
promised lecture by Herr von Humboldt. The lecture 
was very fine, and made an excellent impression. I had 
a conversation with General von Ruble on Humboldt's 
genius. He totally agreed with me, saying, " When 
he shall have died, then only shall Ave understand well 
what we have possessed in him." 

Herr von Humboldt was with me yesterday, and 
brought me the little note of Minister Kamptz, of which 
twenty-five copies only were printed, " Casus in termi- 
nus," in which he puts the best face on the French change 
of rulers, and in which he justifies the Mecklenburg mar- 
riage. So much in contrast with his old principles, 
that I could exclaim : " If he could only cut him- 
self in two, he certainly would put one half in prison.'' 
There is still no opposition wanting against the mar- 
riage. Duke Charles of Mecklenburg-Strelitz has for- 

54 Humboldt's Letters. 

mally intrigued against it, and tried to form in the 
Mecklenburg and Prussian dynasty an alliance, a cove- 
nant and obligation, against all marriages with the house 
of Orleans. There was even talk of a formal protest. 
All this is the most vehement opposition to the expi'essed 
views of the King. Duke Charles is now really sick 
from annoyance and trouble, not only in this but also 
in other things. 



Berlin, May lOth, 1837. 
At last, my dear friend, I can send you the volume of 
the Academical Proceedings, Avhich contains the import- 
ant treatise on history. I shall soon exchange this bor- 
rowed volume for another, which you may keep. It 
seems that there never were separate copies made of 
this essay. You disappeared so quickly after the last 
performance, that I fear very much your appearance on 
that fated day was only a sacrifice to me. I move eter- 
nally like a pendulum between Potsdam and Berlin. 
To-morrow again to Potsdam, where Ave expect, on the 

Humboldt's Letters. 55' 

16th, the amiable Priucess,* who has set at variance the 
whole hellenic camp, and whom they will now be happy 
to find " by for not beautiful enough." 

Most gratefully yours, 
Wednesday. M. Humboldt. 

I knew long ago that General Bugeaud did not speak 
French. I now see that his real language is Mongol. 
What a Timurid proclamation of the " armee civilisa- 

The essay of thy brother is one of his most perfect 
works as to style. "God governs the world (p. 317) ; 
the task of history is to trace these eternal mysterious 
destinies," This is the essence of his production, I have 
sometimes discussed with my brother, not to say quar- 
relled about that. This result certainly is analogous to the 
oldest ideas of mankind, expressed in every language. My 
brother's treatise is a commentary developing, explaining, 
praising, this dim percejition. In the same manner the 
physiologist creates so-called vital powers, in order to 
explain organic phenomena, because his knowledge of 
physical powers, which act in what they call Hfeless nature, 
does not sufiice to explain the [)lay of living organisms. 
Are vital powers demonstrated by this ? I know that 

* Helene. Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, afterwards Duchess of 

56 Humboldt's Letters. 

you will be angry with me, because you divine that the 
fundamental idea of this wonderful treatise is not entirely 
satisfactory to me. 



Wednesday, May 11th, 1837. 
You have prepared for me, my highly esteemed 
friend, a delightful pleasure. I hope that these remarks 
upon the composition of history will hereafter form a 
part of your miscellaneous writings ! The mind cer- 
tainly becomes dizzy in contemplating the abundance 
of material which springs copiously from every fresh 
source. You point out how this material may be 
moulded by a man of genius. In the approaching 
millennium everything will be simplified — the indi\ädual 
life of nations is preserved, in spite of Avarlike expedi- 
tions over continents. Since the great epoch of Colum- 
bus and Gama, who made one part, one side of this 
planet known to the other, that fluctuating element, 
the ocean, has established the omnipresence of one 
kind of civilization (that of Western Europe). Its 
influence breaks through the rigid barriers of continents, 

Humboldt's Letters. ^"J 

and establishes new customs, new faith, new wants of 
life even in the most unorganised parts of the earth. 
The South Sea Islands are already Protestant parishes ; 
— a floating battery, a single vessel of war, changes the 
fate of ChUi 

Princess Helene, by her charming grace and intel- 
lectual superiority, also yesterday made many conquests 
over the raw and obstinate material which had opposed 
her. It was ludicrous to see how some persons tried to 
appear serious, dignified, and — silly. That she leaves 
in good spirits for her new country, I am much rejoiced. 
Would that she passed the Rhine wuth less retinue ! 
Her mother is good and refined, but of retired habits ; 
but some other members of her suite had better remain 
on this side of the river. Fortunately, people in the great 
French world are entirely free from the paltry gossip 
and fault-finding that rule in Berlin and Potsdam, where 
they subsist for months, in thoughtlessnöss, upon the 
self-created phantasy of a Aveak imagination. 

I made Privy Councillor Mueller, who knows how to 
estimate you and your genius, participate in my joy. 
But he also, as a jurist, strayed away to the first sheet, 
No. 63 (Criticisms on the Provincial Law, by Goetze). 
Will you not, dear friend, send me, for Mueller, the 
commencement of that criticism ? 

Most gratefully yours, A. v. Humboldt. 


58 Humboldt's Letters. 



Monday, May ZOth, 1837. 
You can, my revered friend, dispose entirely of the 
volume of the Academy until I shall procure you a copy 
for yourself. I am particularly pleased with the com- 
munication to the ingenious Gans. The historical stu- 
dies of Hegel will interest me particularly, because, imtil 
now I nourished a wild prejudice against the idea that 
each nation individually is bound to represent an idea. 
In order that the prediction of the philosopher may be 
fulfilled I shall nevertheless read it attentively, and 
gladly abandon my prejudice. 


A. V. Humboldt. 

Humboldt's Letters. 59 



Saturday, July \st, 1837. 
To-MOEROw to Tegel,* and on Monday I depart for 
the eternal spring,f at which the sight of the Prince of 
Warsaw will not lessen my sadness ; I cannot, therefore, 
thank you personally. Sophie CharlotteJ and Hegel's 
Philosophy of History will accompany me, and both 
will delight me greatly. My soul rather turns to you. 
I shall certainly find a torrent of ideas in that Hegel, 
whom his editor, Gans, in so masterly a manner has not 
deprived of his great individuality ; but a man who is 
as I am, like an insect, inseparable from the earth and its 
natural valuations, feels himself uneasy and constrained at 
an abstract assertion of totally unfounded facts and views 
on America and the Indian world. At the same time I 
appreciate what is grand in the conception of Hegel. 

* Tegel, Humboldt's couutry-seat uear Berlin. — Tr. 
\ Toeplitz, a Bohemian bathing-place. — Tr. 
\ Biography by Varnhagen. — Tr. 

6o Humboldt's Letters. 

With you all is profound and subdued, and you pos- 
sess what is wanting in the other, unceasing grace and 
freshness of language. 

A. Humboldt. 

I have badly arranged my life ; I do every thing for 
becoming prematurely stupid. I would gladly abandon 
" the European beef," which Hegel's phantasy presents 
as so much better than the American, and I could almost 
wish to live near the weak inanimate crocodiles (which, 
alas! measure 25 feet). Pp. 442-444, are certainly made 
more palatable to me by our noble friend. 



Berlin, October 4th, ISST. 
You delight sometimes in arresting fleeting events, 
and in preserving what the winds usually carry away. I 
therefore send you, dear friend, the little speech, which 
the papers have published in such a mutilated form. The 
sense of it will please you, although its neglected style 
might be better. Political Hanover I found, as you 
eupposed ; £|,nd private conversations with King Ernest, 

Humboldt's Letters. 6l 

which at the same time express wrath and fear, confirm 
the view. Leist of Stade with his report, which lasted 
five hom"S, has lately done harm by his flattery. 

A. Ht. 

Stieglitz, Wilhelm's oldest friend, and who once saved 
his life in the Leine river (my brother cried out to him, 
with unexampled stoicism ; " I die, but it does not 
matter,") was to me a serious apparition of a ghost. 
The efiect of his spirit uj)on me is uncomfortable. 



Sunday, October 22d, 1837. 
Six o'clock, A. M . 
I FIND after a week's residence in Potsdam, which 
has very much discouraged me, your amiable souvenir. 
Receive, revered friend, this very evening, my warmest 
thanks; you have praised me for my most cherished 
aim, which is, that I may not become a fossil, as long 
as I move, and cling to the belief, " that nature has put 
her curse upon stagnancy and inertia." Youth is the 

62 Humboldt's Letters. 

symbol of progress, and those, who rule now (the Berlin 
world's elephants) sont des momies en service extra- 

Good night, 

A. Humboldt. 



Berlin, Tuesday, November lih, 1837. 

The commencement of my letter is weak, the end of 
it more reasonable. But you should not lose the dra- 
matic effect of the whole. 

What you ask, my dear friend, is very perilous, for the 
question is not about my feelings, but about a family who 
anxiously mterpret. The more striking and spirited your 
delineation is, particularly p. 10-15, ("He started from 
ideas." ..." That which many deny to him entirely.") . . . 
it impresses me uncomfortably, the more because it is in 
so short an essay, and because it would appear less harsh 
in the description of a whole life which was, in a literary 
and political point of view, not unimportant. But this 
more complete description is impossible now ; therefore, 
my wish is incessantly to secure his renown by the pub- 
lication of his literary works. To leave out anything, 

Humboldt's Letters. 63 

or to alter anything in this fine essay of yours, Avould 
rob it both of its charm and vigor. You have written the 
whole in the noblest mood; but there are points 
(Reineke Fuchs, the relation to Frau von Humboldt), 
which it is not pleasant to allude to just now. Since 
you only demand of me to enumerate individual impres- 
sions, I will give you these. Often they are merely 
doubts. P. 5 : " Foreign to abstract thinking." The 
term " Conservative philosophy" points, I believe, to 
Kant, to whom he adhered most. He just believed that 
metaphysics, ante-Hegelian, had been the chief study of 
his youth. I only Avished a more decided expression. 
P. 6 : " In the proper sense not productive." Philosophy 
of language according to entirely new views, genius of 
antiquity, treating of history, deep understanding of 
poetry — in all these branches he produced nothing that 
was not of importance. P. 8 : "Style all ice ;" "make it 
somewhat milder. You do it yourself (p. 30), Avhere 
the word "warms." P. 13: "Thus the call is soon 
decided, and the name is Mephistopheles or Reineke." 
One would wish the two significant names left out, since 
all is said before in the happiest, liveliest style. " Me- 
phistopheles" reminds one of Duke Charles. 

P. 14, The question about tender feeling, and the 
saying of Talleyrand, which I did not know before, and 
which can have a sense only by secondary relations of 
political irresolution, are not agreeable. "C'otait uu 

64 Humboldt's Letters. 

des hommes d'etat dont I'Europe, de mon temps n'en a 
pas compte trois ou quatre," was an expression heard 
from Talleyrand. 

P. 15. "What many denied to him entirely," very 
ingenious and fine. Old Princess Louise said of you : 
"You are most to fear Avhen defending." 

P. 18. My brother often narrated that Stieglitz saved 
him; but those Avords, which vould have sounded 
vain-glorious coming from his, I only just now 
learned from Stieglitz. They are very characteristic 
and true. Therefore, I wished only an explaining word, 
to prevent misunderstanding. 

P. 23. That he admired Rahel infinitely, is very, veiy 
true ! 

P. 28. " Constitutional principles." If you ever make 
use of these sheets, my dear, please add, at any rate : 
" Although he afterwards, in other essays, pressed in the 
most distmet manner the necessity of a general repre- 
sentative constitution." This limitation is necessary. I 
myself had in my hands his i^lan for a constitution, and 
for the mode of election, and he died with these ideas. 

P. 31. In place of " avarice," say too great economy. 

I read once more, with more peace of mind. I con- 
sider this your best eflfort. 

Pp. 6, 7, 10-12 ! 13-20, 24-27, 30 ! ! all— almost all; 
and you have treated with infinite consideration those 

Humboldt's Letters. 65 

things which you yourself, here and there, hardly 
approved of. 

" II n'y a rien de maudit," said the great painter, 
Gerard, " que de consulter la famille sur la ressemblance 
du defunt. II y a de quoi se prendre, telle est leur 
exigeance ! Bs auraient fait bon marche du parent 
vivant." Thus you will speak of me. I now ask my- 
self, at the close, whether I am not depriving the 
brother whom I loved so tenderly and so xoatchfully^ of 
a great renown, by asking you in the beginning not to 
print your article ? 

Certamly I would deprive Jihn of renown^ for who 
will ever write of him so very truly and eloquently. 
Therefore, what I wish to sacrifice, what I dare to beg, 
is so trifling, so easy to change with your versatility of 
style ! It refers to the few lines, which I underlined, 
pp. 13 and 14, Rahel's opinion, pp. 14 and 15, not 
included; for she always is mild and just and charming. 

Take my warmest, most heartfelt thanks, my revered 
friend ! Do not answer me. I shall call on you to- 
morrow morning, about twelve o'clock. 

Yours, A. Humboldt. 

66 Humboldt's Letters. 


Berlin, June 9th, 1838. 

I AM very happy, revered friend, that I can offer to 
you as a present the only volumes of the great Russian 
poet hitherto published. Shall I come to you to-morrow, 
Sunday, at one o'clock, that my eyes may see the 
beautiful eyes which have enticed you (for our literary 
benefit) into the Slavonian lingual labyrinth ? 

I called twice at Mr, K.'s ; but, as he was not in, I 
left cards. Moreover, I wrote him a tender letter, with 
offers for Petersburg (concerning his journey to Geneva) 
— but I have not heard a word from him since. Such 
conduct in a young man, who Avithout me would stUl 
sit in Orenburg as a Cossack clerk, is difficult to under- 

Most gratefully yours, 

Saturday. A. Ht. 

Do not answer, if you permit me to come. 

Humboldt's Letters. 67 



Berlin. August 3d, 1838. 
" Tou are for me, my dearest friend, the standard 
of refinement as well as my authority in matters of 
elevated taste. I have written two articles (not hereto- 
fore published) for Cotta's "New Quarterly," with 
which his advisers are very much delighted, viz. : a 
natural description of the Plateau of Bogota, and on the 
fluctuations in the production of coin since the middle 
age. He sends me for them (they fill four printed 
sheets) an exchange for fifty fredericksdor's, or more 
than twelve fredericksdor's per sheet. I have a mind 
(although A-ery much in need of money) to return one 
half the sum. Before carrying out, however, the reso- 
lution, I thought it best to ask, Avhat at the present 
time may be considered as a maximum of an author's 
payment for such articles? Is it six, eight, or ten 
fredericksdor's? I would then return only in pro- 
portion. It may be of some importance hereafter to 
me. Excuse the prosaic question, and send me some 
word of answer one of these days. I am going to the 

Island to-day. 


68 Humboldt's Letters. 

In Varnhagen's Diary is the following entry, dated 
August 9th, 1838. Humboldt told me in a long visit 
the news of Toeplitz. The King of Prussia and the 
Emperor of Russia have both avoided meeting each 
other alone, each of them fearing the embarrassment of 
a tete-ä-tete. The Emperor spoke on several occasions 
quite contemptuously of the present French Govern- 
ment, and still worse of the King Louis Philippe himself. 
Prince Metternich's conduct was frivolous, light-minded, 
and without fear for the present ; he is not alarmed, 
though haunted by the gloomy thought that at Louis 
Philippe's death things must take a new turn, and that 
then war will become inevitable. Does he think to make 
people believe this, I ask ? With Mettemich one always 
ought to examine first, how far an opinion adapts itself 
to the position of the moment. 

Under date of April 9th, 1839, Yarnhagen wrote in 
his Diary : " Humboldt called quite unexpectedly and 
made the greatest excuses for not having called on 
me before. And then he opened his newsbag and 
recited a thousand stories from Paris and Berlin — at least 
for two hours. Things in France bear a very gloomy 
aspect, he thinks ; and he has lately written about 
it to Prince Metternich. The crisis in France is yet a 
latent one — but to-morrow it may burst forth, and how 
needful it would then be, and, in this event, how neccs- 

Humboldt's Letters. 69 

sary, that Germany should he strong and united, and 
the farces at Cologne and Hanover be settled ! 

Under 19th of Ajjril, 1839, Varnhagen says in his 
diary : " I saw Humboldt to-day, who told me many 
things, and showed me abeautiful portrait of Arago, which 
pleased me very much. He talked much about the dif- 
ficulties between Russia and England, as to their inte- 
rests in the East Indies and in Persia, and repeated what 
he had heard about it from the Russian Emperor himself. 
The Czar was in a great passion against the English, 
and thought it highly important to oppose their supre- 
macy in Asia. Humboldt agrees with me that the Eng- 
lish have nothing serious to fear for the next fifty years 
from Russia in the Indies, but that fear and jealousy 
may engender a quarrel in Europe prior to any conflict 
in the East, although conflicting parties wiU certainly 
think twice before allowing it to come to that pass." 

Under date of May 25, 1839, Varnhagen wrote in his 
diary : 

" I met Humboldt ' unter den Linden :' we had a long 
talk together. He told me that the death of Gans had 
been the object of the meanest slander at court by all 
except the King, who never speaks ill of the dead, and 
the Crown-Prince, who had even uttered a word of sor- 
row. The other princes were delighted, and the Prin- 
cess of Liegnitz showed herself very ill-natured." 

70 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Monday, June 3J, 1839. 

The book wliicli you lent me, dear friend, is delight- 
ful,* as everything must be called which characterizes 
the individuality of men. My brother's letters are 
excellent indeed. His opinion of the State Chancellor 
does much credit to his character, and the conclusion, 
which seems to take away something from the praise 
bestowed on him, is full of a deej) political meaning. 
He alludes to some other result of greater magnitude, 
Avhich the development of the world-wide events in 
question might have j^roduced. 

What pleases me most is the acknowledgment ot 
2/owrtalents, o^ your power of writing; the praise of the 
high-mindedness exhibited in MahePs letters (to the few 
who can appreciate them). Adam Mueller's aristocratic 
fancies and coarsely but naturally sensual princess,f a 

* Dorow's Memoirs and Correspondence, 3d voL 
f Sophia Wilhelmina, Princess of Baireuth. 

Humboldt's Letters. yi 

little lewd — no doubt from being hunchbacked — afford 
the most striking contrast of political and human filth. 
" To save the country," says Gentz, in his Primary Politi- 
cal Position, " means to restore to the nobility of Prus- 
sia their ancient privileges, to liberate all the noblemen 
from taxes, so that they may spontaneously, after some 
negotiation, offer their 'don gratuit' to the monarch. 
To enable them to do this the peasant must be indis- 
solubly bound to the soil." How charmed " the Montmo- 
rencys of the Ackermark " must have been to see what, 
until then, was uselessly concealed in their miserable 
souls, expressed in refined language by a talented 
writer, and moulded into such systematical dogmas. 
This narrow spirit of caste knows neither place nor 
time. Like a threatening spectre it will reappear 
when I shall be no more. I fi'equently ask myself 
whether Adam Mueller could not, at the present time, 
again canvass for votes among the " cross-bearers," who, 
like Homerian heroes, take their repose stretched on 
their bags in the wool market? Benjamin Constant 
has exquisitely pictured this aristocratic idea of self- 
importance in the parable of the Shipwrecked. He cries, 
" Grand Dieu, je ne suis pas assez indiscret pour vous 
prier de nous sauver tons ! Sauvez-moi tout seul !" 

If you have a moment's leisure, please read in the 
3d volume of my " History of the Geography of the 
Middle Ages," what I have said of the natural views 

72 Humboldt's Letters. 

and the style of Christopher Columbus, vol. iii. p. 232. 
This dream, p. 316, was the object of a lecture at 
Chateaubriand's and Madame Recamier's, and had a 
good eiFect, as the utterance of sentiment always will 
have, on the barren fields of minute erudition. I hope 
to offer you shortly the five volumes that have already 
been printed. The negligence of the publisher prevents 
my doing so now. 

A. Ht. 

On the 9th of June, 1839, Vai'nhagen wntes in his 
diary : " Humboldt agrees with me in the assertion 
made by me at different times, that too much cannot 
be inferred from the silence of the historians. He 
refers to three highly important and undeniable facts, 
which are not mentioned by those whose first duty it 
should have been to record them. In the archives of 
Barcelona, no vestige of the triumphal entry held there 
by Columbus; in Marco Polo, no mention of the 
Chinese wall ; in the archives of Portugal, nothing of 
the travels of Amerigo Vespucci, in the service of that 
•crown." (History of the Geography of the New Con- 
tinent, part iv., p. 160, sq.) 

Humboldt's Letters. 73 



Friday, Sept. 13th, 1839. 
Mr. Piaget has made a very favorable impression on 
me. In my opinion, he would be most useful as " Pro- 
fesseur de Litterature ou d'Histoire" at the " College 
Fran9ais." A pedantic examination, however, stands 
in his way. I will try my best with Mr. von Werther. 
I have, however, some fear that the rather illiterate- 
looking mustaches, and the long, straight, South Sea 
hair, will be found a little odd in that quarter. 
Ever Avith the same attachment, 

A. v. Humboldt. 

Is it not remarkable that the Neufchatel Coimcülors 
in the cabinet, have tried to dissuade Mr. Piaget — " par' 
jalousie de metier ?" 

74 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, 29<ä Dec, 1839. 
It is kind in you, and very humane^ dear fi-iend, 
sending me that little pamphlet,* which otherwise 
would certainly have escaped my attention. The praise 
which you bestow on it is of great weight, as you 
understand so well sketching a life-portrait and adorning 
it gracefully, without discoloring its characteristic ti'aits. 
Kries is one of my earliest friends. We were students 
together in Heyne's Seminary.f I will return the 
print very soon. 

In great haste, A. Humboldt. 

* Fr. Jaco's Jubilee Oration for Kries, at Gotha. 
f At Göttingen. 

Humboldt's Letters. 75 



"Wednesday Afternoon, Feb. 26th, 1840. 
I DEEM myself unfortunate, dear friend, in having 
missed you. I have been suffering from a miserable little 
boil on my foot, and went to-day (for the first time) to my 
neighbor, Leopold von Buch. Best thanks for Sesen- 
heim.* You certainly were right in snatching the little 
work from oblivion, a work which possesses a German cha- 
racter in the highest degree, and dei'ives a tender inte- 
rest from your preface. There is in this little work a 
nice appreciation of what must ever be important and 
sacred to a German in his literature. The author searches 
Sesenheim and Drusenheim as others do the Troade. 
The proper names, alas ! are less poetic. The pas- 
sages (p. 12 and 13), are written in a charming style; 
afterwards the philologist becomes heavy and doubtful 
about what he only half examined ; doubtful, as if he 
had superficially read an old code. Whether the sisters 

* Pilgrimage to Sesenheim. By August Ferdinand Nacke. Pub- 
lished by K. A. Varnhagen von Ense. Berlin, 1840. 

76 Humboldt's Letters. 

of Friederike, " of whom one has not to care at all" 
(p. 48), whether the Catholic clergyman who, according 
to some, caused, and according to others, did not cause, 
and then did cause her fall, will rejoice at all this, I do 
not dare myself to decide. About the Troade and the 
Skamander, they never could exactly determine, and 
Helen had to sufier much from Hellenic gossip. 
In old friendship most gratefully, 

Yours, A. V. Hdt. 



Monday, March dth, 1840. 
The Crown-Prince, to whom I brought, this morning, 
your thoughtful '•'• Lebenshuch^'' has ordered me to 
express to you, revered friend, his " most friendly 
thanks." It reminded him, at the same time, of your 
" Sophie Charlotte," your " Seydlitz," your always 
delightful language, and your skill in portraying diffi- 
cult relations of life. The liberal passage on Grimm I 
read to him. It pleased him much, and brought on a 
conversation on Hanover. He expressed himself very 
sensibly in regard to it. " The King of Hanover does 
not understand how to treat Germans: he does not 

Humboldt's Letters. 77 

know how to win them, by availing himself of their 
loyal emotions. On the day when the news of the final 
election in Göttingen arrived in Hanover, I would have 
sent an aide-de-camp or a civil officer to Göttingen, to 
thank the professors, and ask them whether they would 
like to have the whole seven professors reappointed." 
These are words flowing from a noble soul. Of your 
article on Niebuhr, I do not speak to the Crown- 
Prince, though I entirely agree with you regarding it. 
With old attachment, 

Yours, A. V. Hdt. 



"Wednesday, March \9,ih, 1840. 
An insipid polemical book of Mr. Gretsch, against 
Melgunofi", and against the book of Koenig, which is 
entirely unknown to me, full of Siberia, strangulation, 
secret funds, and Russian patriotism — an insuflferable re- 
hash ! TVÜ1 you read it, my dear friend ? For you alone 
understand it entirely. The book might almost recon- 
cile me with Mr. Melgunoff, against whom I have felt 
some anger. I have, it is true, neither a recollection 
of him nor of my conversation Avith him ; but he must 

78 Humboldt's Letters. 

have strangely interpreted and translated into his own 
language, what I said to him, when he represents me 
as condemning one whose great talents and delight- 
ful style and manners I praise everywhere. How is it 
credible that I could have spoken unfavorably of you 
in the only conversation I ever had with a man who 
brought me a letter from your own hand ? Who 
recognises in me such careless, Orinoco manners ? 

Marheineke also has made a camjDaign in the " Kri- 
tische-Blatter," more against Savigny than against 
Stahl. There is a good deal of acrimony in the air, 
and the black-coats are not merciful. The conclusion 
of the philippic is very eloquent, in the climax from the 
rationalists, via St. Hegel, to Galilee. It is a pity that 
the preceding twelve pages are so indiffei'ently written — 
in the most mediocre style. 

Goerres and Schelling understand coloring better. I 
thus feel only interested in what is dramatic and in the 
talents exhibited, or not exhibited, therein. Caesareo- 
papacy, teri-itorial system, nay, even "the authority 
of a distinctly positive doctrine, and marked physiog- 
nomy,'''' for which Marheineke (p. 41) has a tendency, 
are abominations, and are mere carnival buffoonery to 
me. Both parties are mere compressing machines of 
different kinds, and a philosophically proved Christian 
dogmatism of " marked physiognomy," this seems to me 
the most offensive of all strait- waistcoats. 

Humboldt's Letters. 79 

Raumer (Carl) has published " Crusades" — crusades 
against the geognosts. The Saracens are Leopold von 
Buch (your newly converted one), and myself. 

A. Ht. 

And Sintenis at Magdeburg and the State's Council 
at Neufchatel, " who have prohibited the deluge !" 
And all that in the year 1840 ! Three comets are not 
enough ! 

I received a letter from the Marquis Clanricarde, at 
St. Petersburg, on the 5th of March, stating, " that 
nothing was heard for four or five weeks from the expe- 
dition to Chiwa. It is purely an attack upon the Khan, 
whom they propose to dethrone, and to put his brother 
in the place." You see that he wishes to appear very 
tranquil ! What meek politics ! 



Vienna, 29th of March, 1840. 
My deak Baron — Though I do not doubt that the 
Crown-Prince, to whom I had the honor of replying to- 
day, will inform you of my declaration, I refer you to my 
letter to his Royal Highness. You will see that I have 

8o Humboldt's Letters. 

placed myself at his disposal, with a reservation, however, 
prescribed by my ignorance of archaeology. To my igno- 
rance upon this point must be added my ignorance upon 
another — I mean the duties of the Presidency. I desire 
to state, at all events, what I think of the relations of a 
single member with any scientific association. There 
are three sorts of men — some are true savans ; the num- 
ber of these is small : others are friends of science in 
general, or of some branch of it ; these are more nume- 
rous : the third class — the largest of all — comprises the 
narrow-minded, the barren in spirit, the " viveurs^'' to 
whom, though often they are very good fellows, art and 
science are quite superfluous. I enrol myself in the 
second of these classes. My brethren and I can be of 
some service to mental cultivation, provided we do not 
meddle too much with details. When I feel that I can 
do a good work, I consider it my duty to devote myself 
to it. In the present^ case, however, I can only throw 
my good will into the scale. 

My confession of faith is set forth in the explanations 
given to the August Protector ; and to what I took the 
liberty of stating to him, I also take the liberty of refer- 
ring you. 

It is so long, my dear Baron, since you paid us a 
visit, that when you feel inclined to judge for yourself, 
you will be more than gratified by the real progress 
we have made in the departments of which you are the 

Humboldt's Letters. 81 

acknowledged master. The place of Jaeger, whose loss 
was greatly to be regretted, is well filled by Endlicher 
— a man of eminent genius ; Baumgarten and iEtting- 
hausen, are savans of great distinction. The Polytech- 
nic School goes on admirably and is training up savans, 
and thoroughly educated mechanicians. Roesel is the 
best optician of our time, and the young Yoigtlander 
follows in his footsteps. 

The establishment of Baron Charles Huegel has 
opened a new and vast field to botany. The arts and 
sciences advance quite to one's liking; all that is wanted 
is a supervisor like yourself. 

You complain, my dear Baron, at finding yourself 
the oldest of the foreign members of the Institute ; this 
indeed is a dreary lot, but it is inevitable and quite 
natural — provided one does not commit the folly of 
going ofi" before the others. I have the same feeling — 
and that in a field which is certainly the greatest of all 
fields. Of all the Kings and the Ministers of State in 
ofiice, between the year 1813 and the year 1815, the 
King of Prussia and myself are the only survivors ! And 
yet the time does not embrace more than a quarter 
of a century — so true is it that twenty-five years are 
quite an historical epoch. Let us not lose courage at 
such trifles, but go on as if they were nothing at all. 
My sincerest homage, dear Baron. 



82 Humboldt's Letters. 



Thursday, April 9th, 1840. 
Here are two Salamanders. The black (black bor- 
dered) king of Denmark is not only a Norwegian 
constitutional, but also a mineralogical king, who has 
written pretty good memoirs on Vesuvius. The prede- 
cessor having been an astronomical king, who proposed 
prize questions on comets, presented great men like 
General Mueffling and myself with chronometers, and 
died of a comet on the night of the discovery of Galli's 
comet, the Danish astronomers were, probably, rather 
anxious for their heavenly pursuits under the reign 
of such an earthly (or rather subterranean) monarch. 
I was called upon to remind the King of his old predi- 
lection for me. I therefore resorted to the pretext, 
never before made use of by me, of congratulating him 
on his accession to the throne. This is the cause of the 
black drama. The letter is plain and sensible. 

A. Ht. 

Please read in Mr. Quinet's the passage on Goethe 
and Bettina, and return the venom to me. 

Humboldt's Letters. 83 



Copenhagen, the 13th January, 1840. 
Monsieur le Baron de Humboldt : 

Of all the letters received on the occasion of my 
accession to the throne, none has afforded me so sensible 
a pleasure as that which you addressed me under the 
date of the 17th of December last. 

Your remembrance is of the highest value to me, and 
I recall with the greatest interest, Monsieur le Baron, 
our conversations many years ago at Paris. Since that 
time you have enriched science by new discoveries. 
Siberia, explored by you, as you before explored Ame- 
rica, offers to natural science new viöws for which. Mon- 
sieur le Baron, it is entirely indebted to you. Really — 
I shall be happy at some future day to converse with you 
on these new researches. 

The natural sciences are constantly presenting fresh 
interest, and I shall certainly not neglect to do every- 
thing that depends upon me for their advancement. 

The astronomical and geodesical labors of your dis- 
tinguished friend Schumacher, certainly deserve my 

.84 Humboldt's Letters. 

patronage. He has acquii-ed a European name as a sa- 
van, and I appreciate his rare merits. As to the mag- 
netic observations after the method of Gauss — I am 
occupied in amplifying them here at Copenhagen, where 
an observatory, established since 1834 near the Poly- 
technic School, is about to be removed to a more suitable 
place on the outskii-ts of the city. It will be provided 
with two different " emplacements," one for " observa- 
tions on declination," and another for experiments in 
" inclination." The establishment will be under the 
superintendence of the celebrated Oersted. 

I esteem myself hapj^y, my dear Baron, in being able 
to speak to you of the advancement of natural science in 
my own country, and you must consider it a proof that 
I shall not neglect any occasion of justifying the good 
opinion you entertain of my interest in the sciences and 
in everything which can tend to the enlightenment and 
happiness of my subjects. 

I hope. Monsieur le Baron, that you wUl frequently 
find leisure to communicate with me, and I shall en- 
deavor, upon my own part, to cultivate relations so agree- 
able to myself. 

The Queen charges me with her compliments to you, 
and I embrace the occasion of assuring you of my high- 
est consideration. Monsieur le Baron Humboldt. 
Your most affectionate, 


Humboldt's Letters. 85 



Satubdat, April llih, 1840. 
The Crown-Prince would like very much to see that 
interesting letter of Prince Metternich to you. Could 
not you send it to me before half-past seven o'clock 
to-night, my dear friend ? 

A. Ht. 

In regard to the said letter, Varnhagen says in his 
diary, under date of April 2d, 1840 : " When returning 
home, found a letter from Prince Metternich — a long 
one, under his own hand. He declares my picture of 
the Congress of Vienna to be a perfectly faithful one, a 
few points excepted, which ought to be corrected. He 
himself corrects, in detail, the description of the eifect 
of the news at Vienna, that Napoleon had left Elba. 
It is a letter of historical value." 

Under date of the 5th of the same month, Varnhagen 
mentions again the Metternich letter. " In the after- 
noon," he says, " Humboldt called. He had heard of 
the letter from Wittgenstein, who had spoken of it to 

86 Humboldt's Letters. 

Count Orloff and others, as a most remarkable produc- 
tion. Humboldt also was astonished and delighted. 
He showed me a letter which Prince Mettemich 
had addressed him, as to the position of several natu- 
ralists at Vienna, and the presidency of the Archseolo- 
gical Society at Rome. Humboldt tells me of dark 
tendencies of the Westphalian nobility, which the 
Crown-Prince favors. They think of establishing a 
great Catholic seminary for young noblemen — a proper 
nursery for Jesuits, On Humboldt's remarking that the 
Crown-Prince, perhaps, out of absence of mind, had 
not reflected on the important consequence of the 
King's illness, Minister von Rochow made the follow- 
ing reply : " Oh, certainly he has thought of it ! And 
he has prepared various things, which he means then to 
propose. But to his views and commands in ecclesias- 
tical matters I should be highly opposed." 


April Uth, 1840. 
The Crown-Prince has expressly charged me to ofier 
you, dear friend, his thanks for such an interesting com- 
munication. Count Alvensleben was present. Every 
one considered the letter a gratifying testimonial to 

Humboldt's Letters. 87 

you and to your description of the Congress, and 
praised it for the noble simplicity in which one of the 
most remarkable events is recited. " Et tout cela 
prouve que ma fille est muette," and that a talent like 
yours (in advising, in describing, and in knowledge of 
mankind) is allowed to be idle, so that after your death, 
as after my brother's, people will express their astonish- 
ment at your not having been employed in time. 

A. Ht. 

I am quite " turned Quaker." Mrs. Fry and William 
Allan — little sermons in the penitentiaries (the most 
horrible ones which the Quakeress has ever seen), and 
little tracts against brandy-drinking ! 



FRroAT, March 29ih, 1840. 

Decide, master of eloquence and euphony : I had it 
thus, "As far as humanity (civilisation) extended on 
earth !'' 

Now, it pleases me better to put: 1, "It has influ- 
enced rulers and nations equally, as far as civilization and 
commerce extend" (extend, not extended, which latter 

88 Humboldt's Letters. 

I abhor) ; or, 2 " As far as civilization and commerce 
ennobled mankind ;" or, 3, " Made mankind suscepti- 
ble ;" or, 4, " United mankind." 

Would No. 4 (the last), not be the better ?" Per- 
haps you have an inspiration. Put clandestinely, to- 
night at Staegemann's, a bit of paper in my hand. Per- 
haps the first conception is the best. 

A. Ht. 

" Humanity" I give up at any rate, having just read 
so many mockeries regarding it in the last volume of 
Campe's dictionary, 

" Sed quamquam, primo statim beatissimi sgeculi ortu, 
Nerva Caesar res olim, dissociabiles miscuerit, principa- 
tum ac libertatem; augeatque quotidie felicitatem im- 
pei-ii Nerva Trajanus." Tacitus in Agricola, cap. 3. 
Also, of the same old Nerva (noble and gifted with 
literary taste) : 

" Quod si vita suppeditet, principatum divi Nervae, et 

imperium Trajani, uberiorem securiorenique materiam 

senectati seposui : rara temporum felicitas^ tibi sentire 

quce velis, et quae sentias dicere licet.'''' Tacit. Hist. I. 

1. I, of course, in order to avoid all detail, shall give 

only the numerical quotations, sic : Tacit. Vita Ag. c. 3 

Hist. I. 1. 


Humboldt's Letters 89 



Berlix, Tuesday Night, OcL 27ih, 1840. 
. If I have delayed so long in coming to you, my dear 
friend, both before and after my campaign to the North, 
it is only because there are impossibilities in life against 
•which we battle in vain. Immediately after the festi- 
vities in this city I intended to hasten to you, but the 
uncertainty whether I should go to Paris (I refused, 
because then it would not have been honorable either 
to me or to the king, if Prussia did not dare to act 
independently !) the approaching departure of Bulow, 
the arrival of the sick General von Hedemann and his 
family, together with a rheumatic fever, which kept me 
in the house for six days, spoiled all my intentions. To- 
morrow morning, at 8 o'clock, I have to move over again 
to Sans Souci ; but (I hope) only for some days, I, 
therefore, now take up my pen to chat with you. First 
my best thanks for your talented and noble treating of 
the rather mediocre " Erinneih.üigen von 3f. Arndt .^" 
I certainly had observed his hostility towards you. The 
tone of your criticism is the noblest kind of revenge. 

90 Humboldt's Letters. 

The man, whom I never knew personally, was raised by 
the great events of his time and not by himself. Strange 
enough that the government attached to him in these 
latter days, in the evenuig of his life, an importance not 
arising merely from a simple love of justice. 

Since you like everything individual, I shall answer 
your kindness with another very small one. I make 
you a present of a letter of Guizot, which he wrote to 
me to Koenigsberg, not without design. The under- 
lining belongs to me, as you would guess yourself. I 
showed the letter to the King. It was written when 
the Belgian (the King of Belgium), Bulow, and Guizot 
had been in Windsor, and when his affairs looked pro- 
mising, as they do now again, as Thiers at once shows 
himself so weak and yielding, and Palmerston so dog- 
matical and defying. But do not let the letter out of 
your hands. 

For the news about the brothers Grimm I thank you 
most cordially. It is very important to me to keep 
" au courant" with the course of passing events. In the 
months during which I lived on the " historical hill,"* 
I moved uncontrolled in the same direction, though 
surrounded by conflicting elements. 

Respecting the brothers Grimm, the King had given 
orders to others, not to me ; but up to the I'eturn from 

* Sang Souci, the King's residence near Potsdam. — Translator. 

Humboldt's Letters. gi 

Königsberg, nothing was done. I therefore addressed 
a memorial to the King on the actions in Königsberg 
of the Provincial Diet, and on the necessity of acting 
authoritatively in things which interest all hearts, in 
order to secure their affections — and therefore to bestow 
a professorship upon the brothers Grimm, Albrecht, and 
Dahlmann. There is little hope for Dahlmann. Albrecht 
received a call, but refused it, giving as a reason his 
gratitude to Saxony. It would have been a satisfaction 
to the seven professors, could Albrecht have become 
pi'ofessor in Berlin. 

They certainly will at least hear in Hanover that 
the King has called the " Elbinger." In respect to the 
brothers Grimm, the King insists upon his plan, that 
minister Eichhorn should offer to them a place in the 
Academy, with a pension to both, as they live like hus- 
band and wife. That the King wants these things to be 
arranged with tact, you may see from the negotiations 
with Tieck. For librarians, although excellent men, 
they are very unfit. Whether "Wilhelm Grimm, as a 
correspondent of the Academy, lectures or not is also 
very irrelevant. The chief thing is to get them. Of 
"smuggling them in," "a debasement," "to think of them 
so late," — dans un regne de cent jours — it is nonsense 
to talk ! It does hojior at least to the administration 
of Ladenberg, that I was able to jiropose Dahlmann in 
due form, and in flattering terms for the university of 

92 Humboldt's Letters. 

Breslau, where there was a vacancy. I have cleared 
the way as it was my duty to do, but the appointment 
itself is not in my hands. As soon as I return from 
Potsdam, I shall trouble minister Eichhorn, to settle this 
patriotic affair oflScially and at once. The interference 
of many in these things is injurious, although it can be 
pardoned where the interest is so natural. I know not, 
my dear friend, whether you will be able and willing 
to read these lines, the sense of which is more blameless 
than the style. I need not conjure you, the dijalomatist, 
not to read my letter to the " child," * but she ought to 
hear how these matters stand, respecting which I have 
neglected nothing. 

A. Ht. 

An inexpressible misfortune has happened in the 
death of the only son of my friend the astronomer, 
Bessel, only twenty-five years old, a young man of the 
most eminent mathematical talents. He died yesterday 
of nervous fever. 

* Bettina vou Arnim. Bopp's critique is to me a source of great 

Humboldt's Letters. 93 



London, August 24, J 840. 
Monsieur le Baron : 

It was very amiable indeed in you to have thought of 
sending me the two new volumes of your brother's works. 
I thank you not only for this gift, in itself so very valu- 
able, but also for your remembrance which is at least 
equally dear to me. I hope that notwithstanding all our 
affairs, for they are yours as well as mine, I shall manage 
to read something of this great work. I should like to 
employ my time in so complete and varied a manner as 
you occupy yours. Preserve a little of it for the ad- 
vancement of a good and a wise policy, which though 
it already owes you much, still needs you. 

I envy Baron von Bülow the pleasure of seeing you. 
I regret extremely losing his society in London. Con- 
versation — genuine conversation — profound, pregnant, 
and free, is very scarce among us. His I shall miss very 
much. I should like to go some day to see you at your 
home, to visit your country, in which, beyond all 
Others, human intellect acts the greatest part, and to see 

94 Humboldt's Letters. 

your new King, who is worthy, it is said, of such a 
country. In the meanwhile, Monsieur le Baron, pray pre- 
serve for me jour old kindness and believe in the lasting 
sincerity of the sentiments which long ago I conceived 
for you. 


Note of Humboldt. — Received at Königsberg during the festivals. 

A. VON Humboldt. 



Paris, March 12th, 1841. 
I MUST not, I will not, believe that you asked me 
seriously whether I should look forward to your journey 
to Paris with pleasure. Could it be that you ever 
doubted my invariable attachment ? Be it known to you 
that I should consider the slightest doubt upon this 
point a most cruel offence. Beyond the immediate circle 
of my own family you are, without comparison, the per- 
son whom, of all others, I love the most dearly. But 
you must be resigned to the duties of this position, as 
you are of my friends the only one to whom I would 
look in my difficulties. 

Humboldt's Letters. 95 

I am truly happy in the anticipation of spending some 
evenings with him to whom I am indebted foi' my taste 
in meteorology and physics. There will be a bed for you 
at the Observatory. 

Poor Savary is in a lamentable state. The physician 
assures me that the disease of his lungs leaves no hope. 
What a calamity ! 

You will arrive at Paris at the opening of my course 
of astronomy. My new ami^hitheatre is got up with 
a profligate luxury. 

I am charmed with the news of poor Sheifler's* reco- 
very (is it true ?). Your good heart has always secured 
you a numerous family. 

Adieu, best of friends. My attachment to you will 
only cease with my life. 

Fk. Akago. 

Note of Humboldt. — T had asked whether he thought it possible 
that the difiference of our pohtical wishes [war with Germany] might 
disturb our intercourse. 

Note op Humboldt. — To his highly gifted friend, Yarnhagen von 
Euse, with the most earnest request to avoid all publication of this 
autograph before Arago's death. 

A. Humboldt. 

* Probably Seiffert, Humboldt's servant. — Tr 

96 Humboldt's Letters. 



[A copy in Yarnhagen's handwriting ] 

Saturday, November 21, 1840. 
How could you doubt, most honored Madam, my 
being thankful for the news of the real situation of 
those noble men, who after so many undeserved suffer- 
ings, and after so long and so shameful a neglect, are at 
last to be placed in an independent position. I thought 
that, to have given them such a situation in Berhn, 
three thousand thalers would be a sufficient salary for 
both, and with this view I have continued my efforts. 
The King has adopted it as a princij^le never to issue an 
order in financial matters on his own account ; like all 
princes, he has no standard by which to measure the 
wants of learned men. The superior intellects with 
whom we wish to surround ourselves have wants as pro- 
saic as their inferiors. Whoever wishes to obtain the 
end must also be willing to employ the means, and espe- 
cially in an affair which attracts every eye and which 
touches the honor of the country. The minister Eich- 

Humboldt's Letters. 


horn, upon whom everything now depends, is happy in 
the arrival of the two Grimms. He was formerly on the 
most friendly terms with Jacob Grimm. I called on the 
minister an hour ago in order to support my view of the 
matter. He declares that by-and-by he wiU arrange the 
affair in the best manner, but that we must confide in 
him, and allow him to act without obstruction. 

Receive, gracious Madam, the expression of my vene- 
ration and of my sentiments of gratitude. 

A. Humboldt. 



Berlin, August 22c?, 1841. 
TouB letter has done me an immense deal of good. 
I see that we feel ourselves both equally attracted to 
each other, and that you attributed my long, and to me 
very gloomy, seclusion, only to the distracted state of my 
life, and to the application of my faculties, to an aim 
which they never can reach. Towards the close of a 
much troubled life which has but imperfectly realized its 
aspirations, it is a happiness to remain secure in, and 
to possess the esteem of those to whose mind and 


98 Humboldt's Letters. 

intellect and wishes we are irresistibly drawn. I shall 
personally thank you, and this very afternoon apply for 
Mr. L. to the Princess of Prussia, and beg her Imperial 
Highness to assist me with all earnestness. With old 
veneration and love, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

At the request of the King I took the opportunity of 
readuig to him Schelling's discourse on nature and art. 
(Philosoph. Werke, tome 1st, 1809.) The passages con- 
cerning Raphael, Leonardo da Yinci, and about the 
possibility of a resuscitation of the arts, are the most 
pleasing in our language. This lecture produced on the 
King the effect of a beautiful song. But the bird is 
now sixty-seven years old, and goes from one golden 
cage to another. 

Vamhagen says in his diary, under date of April 28, 
1841 : " Humboldt came and remained more than an 
hour and a half; I found him looking ill, but lively, 
cheerful, and more communicative than ever. He praises 
the King for his disposition and his intentions, but 
thinks that he is no man of action, and that whenever 
he acts, he does it by starts, without system or method. 
Whether it be from kindness or timidity, at all events, 
be often does not dare to do what he most wishes and 
could do quite easily ; thus he expects impatiently that 
the minister Von Werther will resign, and asks of Hum- 

Humboldt's Letters. 99 

boldt, whether the minister has given no intimation 
of it." 

On the 30th April, 1841, Varnhagen says : " Humboldt 
has a great many enemies, as well amongst the savans 
as at court, who are constantly seeking an opportunity 
to malign him, but the moment he is praised all vitupera- 
tion ceases — for it is all vituperation. It is seldom that 
anybody is able to maintain it. Some time ago a gentle- 
man said to me, that he did not know what to think of 
Humboldt, and that he could not come to a conclusion 
concerning him. I answered : ' Think always the best 
of him, believe him always capable of the best action, 
and you always will be nearest the truth.' Another 
said, same day, sneeringly: 'Humboldt was a great 
man before he came to Berlin, where he became an 
ordinary one.' Moritz Robert remarked that Rahel 
had already said several times : ' Nothing holds its 
ground in Berlin, everything has a downward tendency ; 
indeed, if the Pope himself came to Berlin, he would not 
continue long to be Pope, he would sink into the ' com- 
monplace,' down perhaps to the standard of a groom.' 
What Rahel said is true, and I remember that she said 
so, but had made no note of it. This peculiarity of 
Berlin ought to be examined closer ; it indicates a strong 
stratum of undeveloped greatness, and may, Avhen posi- 
tively brought forth to a point, bring the highest 
honor on Berlin ; but if allowed to act negatively, it 

loo Humboldt's Letters. 

will, of course, become a shame to this city. ' The Ber- 
liners are such a daring race of men,' said Goethe, 
once. That is much the same definition.'' 



Saturday, Aptil 2Wh, 1841. • 
A DISAPPOINTMENT, dear friend, not to have found 
you. Correct this title-page for me ; I have to send it 
away. As it is necessary to state, " that this is not the 
lecture of 1828," I thought of having the long sentence 
printed on the title-page, in small type, like an apho- 
rism. It may look strange after the name, but I hope 
you will be able to approve of it. 


" Kosmos. Sketch of a Physical Description of the 
World, by A. von Humboldt. From Sketches and Lec- 
tures delivered in the years 1827 and 1828, enlarged 
and corrected according to the latest researches. 

" ' Naturse vero rerum vis atque majestas sin omnibus 
momentis fide caret, si quis modo partes ejus ac non to- 
tam complectatur animo.' — Plin.Hist. Nat.., lib. V. c. 1. 

Humboldt's Letters. loi 



Wednesday, April 28th, 1841. 

Be very kind and indulgent in reading my work. 
I am anxious that you should get a complete idea of the 
composition of it. In A, I have made large corrections. 
J^otice especially p. 37 and the notes; Schelling's name, 
pp. 37 and 68 ; Hegel, p. 66. The positive declaration 
at p. 64, that it is not the creator of ISTatural Philoso- 
phy whom I accuse, will, I hope, make my biting seve- 
rity at the " gay Saturnalia," le hol en masque of the 
craziest of all natural philosophers, seem more pardon- 
able to him. " II faut avoir le courage d'imprimer. 
Ce que I'on a dit et ecrit depuis trente ans." It has 
been a lamentable period, in which Germany has sunk 
far below England and France. Chemistry, without so 
much as wetting one's fingers. 

The diamond is a pebble arrived at consciousness. 
Granite is ether. Carus. 

The side of the moon turned towards the earth is of a 
different convexity from the reverse. The cause of it : 
the moon fain would stretch out her loving arms — she 
cannot, but gazes at the earth, and protrudes her lower 

102 Humboldt's Letters. 

The granite blocks on the rocks are the convulsions of 

It is well known that the forests are the hair of the 
earth-animal. The swelling equatorial region is the 
belly of Nature. 

America is a female figure, long, slender, watery and 
freezing at 48°. The degrees of latitude are the years 
woman gets old at, 48 years. The East is oxygen, the 
West hydrogen; it rains when clouds from the East 
are mixed with clouds from the West. — Schelling. 

Petrifictions in rocks are not the remains of former 
living beings. They are the first attempts of n.ature at 
making animals and plants. In Siberia some dogs lived 
for years on such an experiment — a stinking elephant at 
the mouth of the Lena. 

These are the Saturnalia ! Cast your eye particularly 
on the notes, en masse, of which I inclose a few. P. 40— 
49; p. 55-57. 

I wish to give to the work the greatest generality 
and breadth of views, a lively and, if possible, grace- 
ful style, and to rej^lace all technical terms with well- 
chosen, graphic, and descriptive language. 

Correct freely, my friend ; I gladly follow where I can. 
Some not very common erudition I intend to banish to the 
notes. This book should be the reflex of my own self, 
of my life, of my own very old person. This freedom of 
treatment enables me to proceed more aphoristicaUy. 

Humboldt's Letters. 


More will be suggested than elaborated, Mucli will be 
well understood by those only who know thoroughly 
one special branch of natui-al history ; but I think my 
style is such as to confuse no one, not even the superfi- 
cial. My real aina is to hover over those results which 
are known in 1841. Mens agitat molem, may the 
mind still be there ! 

That such a work cannot be finished by one born 
in the comet-year, 1769, is as clear as daylight. The 
separate fragments will appear in parts of twelve to 
fifteen sheets each, so that those who may see me buried 
will possess in each fragment some one subject com- 
plete. Thus of the "Prolegomena," there will b« 
No, 1-4 ; My " incentive, " descriptive poetry, which 
you have not yet seen, is a chief feature of the work 
on which I rely a good deal. — No. 5. The history of 
man's conception of the world, which is quite finished, 
will form the entire second book. Plain scientific 
description will always be intermingled with the orato- 
rical, like nature itself. The glittering stars fill us 
with joy and inspiration, yet in the canopy of heaven 
all bodies revolve in mathematical figures. It is essential 
to preserve a dignified style, so that the impression 
of nature's greatness will not be wanting. I hojje 
you will not find fault with my quoting (C) in a note 
the passage from Shakespeare which is but little known. 

All the notes are to be printed in very small type at 

104 Humboldt's Letters. 

the end of each chapter, never at the bottom of the 
page. I had said that a knowledge of nature is not 
absolutely necessary to enjoy it, but that it increases 
the enjoyment. Pardon this hasty writing. I leave 
to-morrow morning with the King for Potsdam, to stay 
there six or seven days. With thanks and friendship, 
your illegible 

A. V. Humboldt. 




[Biro7i speaks to the King of Navarre !\ 
" These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights, 
That gave a name to every fixed star, 
Have no more profit of their shining nights. 
Than those that walk, and wot not what they are, 
Too much to know, is to know nought but fame ; 
And every godfather can give a name." 

Shakespeare, Love's Labor Lost. Act I. Scene 1. 

Be so kind as to send me back this page. I make 
use of your fine translation in a note which is now being 
printed in my JCosmos. You Avill permit me to say: 

Humboldt's Letters. 105 

" according to Spiker's translation." It will give me 
pleasure to do so. Shall I excite the ire of the Marquis 
August von Schlegel or of Tieck Acorombonus ? Please 
tell me whether they have also ti-anslated that passage ? 
Many kind regards. 


Note of Varnhaqen. — ^Unfortunately Spiker'a translation is bad in 

every respect 



Monday Night, May 3, 1841. 
I AM afi-aid, my dear friend, that I shall be obliged to 
go to Potsdam again on Thursday, and thence to Paris 
on the 10th or 12th. I am to send Cotta more copy 
before I go. Let me not be suspended so long between 
condemnation and indulgence. Pray send me a few 
words with the parcel. 


A. V. Humboldt. 


1 o6 Humboldt's Letters. 



Tuesday, May 4th, 1841. 

My Dear Feiend : — Even after deducting the kind 
expressions written expressly for my tranquillity, there 
still remains more than enough in your letter of to-day 
to comfort me. The penance,* therefore, which I 
assign you is to receive me to-morrow morning at 
11 o'clock, for a few moments, to accept my thanks. 
The " schmeichle mich " must be a clerical error ; as 
for me I am unconscious of it. The false use of the 
accusative case at p. 44, you will have to show me. 
It cannot be " Einsicht in den Zusanim.enhang .^" be- 
cause it is looking into. I shall expunge Mr. Spiker. 
I had a presentiment of the end, and would rather even 
omit the English as well, which, after all, is rather a 
praise of ignorance, than indicative of the increase of 
enjoyment to be derived from science. 

I see that you give me full liberty concerning the 
" Saturnalia." Speaking of the Dane, you say : " I 
only mention, I do not object." 

* The 5th of May was a day of penance. 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 07 

I did not wish to mention SteiFens, however much he 
might deserve a reproach for his xitter barrenness in 
experimental science, and for ]iis vain and criminal idle- 
ness. " Saturnalia " I call that merry but short farce, 
of which lately I gave you some specimens, but which 
are not from Steffens ; they are by some of his wor- 
shippers several degrees lower down. Were Steffens a 
poor savan, oj^pressed by the powerful, I would be 
more careful ; but as you are an amateur of autographs, 
I will give you one from which you will see how north- 
ern kings believe that there exists in Berlin a Stef- 
fensian philosophy, which is consoling to the theologians, 
et qui li'est pas celle de Hegel! Steffens will believe 
that he is included among those deep and powerful 
thinkers, whose advice has been disregarded. Besides 
the dangerous passage is immediately followed by 
another : " Abuse of youthful talents ; for serious 
minds, devoted equally to philosophy and to observa- 
tion, have kept aloof from those Saturnalia." Such a 
sentence is a defense^ a fort detache, and Steffens cer- 
tainly thinks that he, too, devoted himself to observa- 
tion, when he once descended into a mine at Freiburg. 
By softening anything I should spoil the whole, and 
we ought in writing to show the same courage as in 
speaking, but should do both in the same easy and 
cheerful manner. 

Did you find out from Steffens's tiresome biography, 

io8 Humboldt's Letters. 

with wliich I was bored at Sans Souci, how his pietism 
and aristocracy is explained by the twofold inoculation 
of his old grandparents, performed by an archbishop 
and a king, — ce sont des heritages ! 

A. V. Humboldt. 



Mo^rsiEUR LE Baron — I am .doubly obliged to the 
illustrious counsellor Dieffenbach for his attention in 
presenting me with a copy of his work on the cure of 
strabism and stammering, since it was the cause of 
your dear letter of the 9th February. Introduced by 
you. Monsieur le Baron, any one is sure of success. In 
the present case, the reputation and the works of the 
author could have dispensed with all further recommen- 
dation; but you only do justice to the great services 
Avhich Counsellor Dieffenbach has rendered to mankind, 
and I hasten to acknowledge them by bestowing my 
Danebrog Order on that distinguished savan. My let- 
ter to him on this subject will be remitted by the Envoy 
Count de Reventlau, and I shall particularly recommend 
to Chevalier Dieffenbach any Danish surgeons going to 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 09 

Berlin to learu the art upon which he has thrown so 
much light. 

The bearer of the present, whom I beg leave to 
recommend to your protection, is the theological can- 
didate, Bornemann — a yoimg man of talent and know- 
ledge, whom I send to Berlin to study Philosophy under 
the guidance of my countryman, Steffens — not precisely 
that of Hegel, who has disciples enough in our Univer- 
sity ; but that philosophy which may assist in rectifying 
the sometimes rather extravagant doctrines of our 
modern thinkers, Steffens is kept at Berlin by a sacred 
tie, the gratitude he owes to the King ; but I desire 
that his genius and his knowledge may not be lost to us, 
and that this young scholar may profit by his light 
before it ceases to shine, and to enlighten all those 
coming in contact with my illustrious countryman, who, 
in my opinion, is in himself worth an entire academic 

I follow with the greatest interest, founded on sincere 
friendship and on the mutual relations of our respective 
positions, which I fully apj^reciate, all that your excellent 
King does and projects for the happiness of his subjects, 
for German nationality, and for the preservation of 
peace. May his efforts be blessed by the Almighty ; his 
people will then enjoy an increased and steady prospe- 
rity, which will materially contribute to the welfare of 
their neighbors. 

1 1 o Humboldt's Letters. 

The King has shown more kindness to my son than I 
can thank him for. I look forward to a most happy 
future for him, based on his marriage with the amiable 
Duchess of Mecklenburg Strelitz. 

I appreciate the good wishes which you address me 
on this occasion, and remain, with the highest consider 
ation, Monsieur le Baron de Humboldt, 

Your affectionate 

Christian R. 


Berlin, May llth, 1841. 
[Written at Varnhagen's. With the preface to Wilhelm von Hum- 
boldt's works.] 

I AM very sorry not to be enabled amid the annoy- 
ances of to-morrow's departure (first to Potsdam, then 
to Paris, until October) to bid you farewell. I appeal 
to you once more as the soui'ce, until Rückert's arrival, 
the only source of good taste, of pure language, and 
of a delicate appreciation of the appropriate sense. 
Tell me with all indulgence what I ought to strike out 
from the enclosed preface, but give me also your advice 
wherever you find fault. I wrote the two pages at 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 1 1 

night in a gloomy frame of mind. They show perhaps 
a too sentimental disposition to praise. 

Page 1, line 2, "yet" because it happens during my 
life time. Line 10, "The highly gifted sow^s," perhaps 
displeasing. Should it be men f 

A. V. Humboldt. 

On the 21st of November, Yarnhagen wrote down 
the following about Humboldt : 

*' I read to-day the dispatches which Al. von Hum- 
boldt addressed to the King from Paris in the year 
1835. They are not like Humboldt! Anybody else 
could have written such dispatches — nay, what is still 
worse, nobody could have written them otherwise! 
Thus it is, however, with political business — it con- 
sists of mere trifles, not at all important in themselves, 
but becoming important because everybody has agreed 
to consider them so. Thus the established hypocrisy 
of forms, presumptions, and exaggerations drown the 
truth. I looked into myself and confessed that were 
I engaged in such affairs, I, too, would follow in the 
beaten track ; and yet people wonder that in England 
and France editors of newspapers become ministers, as 
if it Avere not infinitely more easy to write the usual 
dispatches than good newspaper articles." 

112 Humboldt's Letters. 



Friday, 3d December, 1841. 
Of all that I have had to thank you for, dear friend, 
I like Hormayr's manly letter best. Le style est tout 
I'homme. Jle is not like the people who surround us, 
the better ones of whom lose themselves in reticences, 
temporizations, in trimming, excitements, and irresolu- 
tion. His belief in Muenster's liberalism is perhaps only a 
misconception of Muenster's motives. No doubt Count 
Muenster has nobly contributed to the Hberation of 
Germany — but assuredly he never did it in order to 
open the path to " that light" which, even to-day, is 
feared like a spectre. "Bruno" (Bauer) has found me 
out to be a prseadamite convert ! When I was a boy 
the court preachers reasoned in this way : I was con- 
firmed by one of them, who told me that the biogra- 
phies of the Evangelists were finally manufactured out 
ofmemoranda made by themselves during their lifetime. 
Many years ago I wrote : All positive religions contain 
three distinct parts — First, a code of morals, very pure 
and nearly the same in all — next, a geological dream — 

Humboldt's Letters. , 113 

and thirdly, a myth or historical novellette ; which last 
becomes the most important of all. I enclose the pam- 
phlet of Baron Seckendorf. He also calls for a " repre- 
sentation," namely the " re puro," the incarnation of the 
people, all explained in philosophical terms. It must be 
acceptable, for without being assured of this he would 
not have dared to publish it. Such people must not be 
left in doubt about our real opinions. I told him (he is 
vice-president) that I would read his essay attentively, 
although our political priuciples on popular constitutions 
differed very much. 

The political atmosphere is to me thick, dark, and 

With the same old attachment, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

On the 2d of December, the day before the above 
letter, Vamhagen wrote in his diary : " Humboldt 
called yesterday. Talked about Paris. How he finds 
things here. He thinks seriously of retiring. He 
knows that his name alone is of any value to the King, 
and that his active usefulness has long been superseded 
by that of others. Thiers told him, in Paris, that 
France is much talked about as being revolutionary ; 
but he thought Prussia was pretty w^ell agitated, too. 
A letter from Guizot to Humboldt spoke much in praise 
of the King ; and when Humboldt read it to him, and 

114 Humboldt's Letters. 

came to the word ' success,^ the King interrupted him 
with the words, ' Ah me ! there is not much of that ; on 
that point we had best be silent.' And really Humboldt 
thinks the public feeling here dreadfully changed for the 
worse. The King has enemies, and in the highest 
circles ! Minister Eichhorn is generally hated, and 
makes but a poor figure at court. There seems scarcely 
a doubt that Bunsen will be Ambassador to England. 
Count Stolberg is almost the only one who speaks 
openly against Bunsen. Humboldt sneers at Bunsen's 
little tract, ' The Week of Meditation.' " 

The 3d of December, 1841, Varnhagen observes: " I 
just received a note from Humboldt, inclosing a pam- 
phlet of President Seckendorf 's, which also calls for a 
' representation' — the ' re puro,' an incarnation of the 
people. Humboldt observes : ' Must be acceptable, 
for withovxt such an assurance he would not have dared 
to publish it.' He concludes with significant melan- 
choly : ' The atmosphere to me is gloomy and forebod- 
ing. It is hard to be Humboldt, and to be obliged to 
confess this, at the summit of honor, and in the fulness 
of glory.' Indeed, he has but little pleasure, and his 
satirical humor alone can make life here at all support- 
able to him !" 

Humboldt's Letters. iij; 



Berlin, Monday Night, Dec. lih, 1841. 
I HAVE not the leisure, dear friend, to thank you as 
I ought to do for your spirited and historically thorough 
biography of Schwerin.* A deep penetration into the 
individuality of this great man pervades the whole. 
Simplicity is the essential, vital element of description. 
A hasty word of advice to ride off, and the winning 
of the battle by himself alone,f were constant stum- 
bling-blocks in the path of this hero during his life. 
His end, the standard in his hand, amid the bloody 
massacre of thirteen thousand unsympathizing men, is a 
striking conclusion to the life of the old soldier, who, 
like Columbus, was at the same time great and uni*o- 
mantically avaricious. What does much honor to your 
talent as historian, and what is probably overlooked by 

* A Prussian Field Marshal, killed at the battle of Prague, 1157. — Tr. 

jf Allusion to the battle of Mollwitz. 1741, which was won by 
Schwerin alone, who, indignant at the blunders of the King, ordered 
him to ride off, and assumed the command himself, which Frederick 
the Great never forgave. — Tr. 

1 16 Humboldt's Letters. 

many is, that you do not allow Schwerin's death to 
interrupt the narrative of the strife of battle. I will 
bring you the " Collected Works" myself, and beg the 
second volume of Hormayr's exquisitely spicy produc- 
tion. Your last favor, doing me so much honor, con- 
tains words about which I wish to prevent every mistake. 
"You are afraid to enjoy the exclusive jDOSsession of my 
impieties." You may freely dispose of this sort of pro- 
perty after my not far distant departure from life. 
Truth is due to those only whom we deeply esteem — to 
you, therefore. A. Ht. 

On the 18th December, 1841, Varnhagen writes in 
his diary : " I heard to-day the quite incredulous, mys- 
teriously-whispered story, that the King would go to 
England for the baptism of the Prince of Wales ; that 
it had been agreed upon quite secretly, and that this 
flattering communication had contributed a great deal 
to make Buusen's appointment as Ambassador agreeable 
to the Court of St. James. The latter part of the story 
makes me suspect the truth of the whole. This is by 
no means the real diplomatic state of things. Should, 
however, the journey have been decided upon, or even 
only be under discussion, there can be no doubt that 
Bunsen had a hand in it ; and then important events 
Avould result therefrom, and very dangerous events, too, 
in my opinion. A near alliance with England would in 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 1 7 

itself be hazardous; but to enter into close connexion 
with the Anglican Church and the Tories, sure ruin ! 
And all Prussia, all Germany, all Europe would take it 
for granted that such a connexion was really established, 
even if it were not ; and the supposition alone would 
damage us in a thousand ways ; the king would lose 
more in the loyal attachment of his subjects than he can 
now aiford. I hope the whole story will turn out a 
fable. Humboldt says the spirit of discontent, which 
he calls the howling mania, has largely increased here. 
When he left, a few were howling ; but now they all 
howl. His sharp and witty remarks are really refresh- 
ing in our spiritless society." 

Before his departure for England Humboldt called on 
Varnhagen to take leave. On this occasion the follow- 
ing entry was made in the diary, on the 14th of 
January, 1842 : "Humboldt called to take leave, — he 
starts to-morrow night. He came from Count Maltzan's 
of whose life but little hope is left to-day. 'His 
death will bring Canitz here — not Buelow', said Hum- 
boldt dolefully. I comforted him with the suggestion, 
that Canitz too might be dropped, ' And whose turn 
would it then be?' 'Bunsen's.' 'That would be too 
frightful ! But as it is, he accompanies the King on his 
return. That is already decided upon.' Humboldt dis- 
likes Canitz and cannot understand how I am not more 

ii8 Humboldt's Letters. 

afraid of him — of this arch-aristocratic, utterly bigoted 
— (and consequently preposterous, nay, stupid) — fanati- 
cally anti-French Canitz, with his malicious and vulgar 
sneers. 'But then you are a Tory yourself!' he added. 
'As to that,' I replied, ' that is still somewhat doubtful — 
but as for Canitz, he is honest, strict, and straightfor- 
ward ; he will do much, and as for the rest, business 
and circumstances will control him.' " 

After Humboldt's return, Vai'nhagen writes on the 
24th of February, in his diary : " Humboldt gave me 
some very interesting descriptions of England. At 
court the greatest magnificence ; the mode of living, 
however, plain and easy ; conversation unrestrained ; 
the tone very pleasant and cheerful, even between 
gentlemen and ladies of adverse parties. Peel pleases 
him as little as ever ; looks like a Dutchman ; is more 
vain than ambitious, and narrow in his views. Lord 
Aberdeen is invincibly taciturn, without being able to 
convince people that his taciturnity covers anything 
worth saying. Bunsen has shown the greatest want of 
tact ; every one is against him, except the King, who 
likes him better than ever." The whole visit of the 
King Avas an intrigue of Bunsen, and was so understood 
even by Englishmen. 

"Our aifairs here are the subject of much conjec- 
ture. As minister of foreign affairs the pious Arnim will, 

Humboldt's Letters. 119 

for the present, be recalled from Brussels ; at some 
later day Canitz will be appointed, — or Bnnsen, say I. 
Count Alvensleben is to go to Vienna; Radowitz first to 
Carlsruhe, until the embassy to the German Diet become 
vacant. Perhaps there is hardly courage enough as yet 
to take Bunsen and remove Buelow. Every month, how- 
ever, every week must improve the courage, and then 
both these appointments will be done. There is no 
hope that Maltzan can recover ; the better days have 
again been followed by the worse, and light gives way 
to renewed darkness. Sad state of things. 



Berlin, Monday, 2Bth February, 1842. 

I AM anxious to hear a few words about your health, 
dear friend. 

I have succeeded in procuring a pension of three hun- 
dred thalers, a miserable sum, but it is only a beginning, 
for the impoverished but talented poet Freiligrath at 
Darmstadt, involving no obligation on his part, and allow- 
ing him to live out of the country. Can you lend me 
his poems ? 

A. Ht. 

1 20 Humboldt's Letters. 

Note by Varnhagen. — On Tuesday Humboldt wrote me with 
the feuilleton of the Journal des Debats, in which Philarete Chasles, 
in the most vulgar manner, abuses the literature of Germany, and 
sneers at the most distinguished German authors. 

And tliis miserable fellow has been appointed under 
Guizot's ministry Professeur des Langues du Nord (litt, 
anglaise, allemande) au College de France. 

You need not return tbe silly, spiteful trash. 

A. Ht. 



Berlin, IGth March, 1842. 

Be comforted about the mishap. The King pur- 
chases Italian, but, under no circumstances whatever, 
French pictures. The portrait of Cherubini is, indeed, 
very fine, and if I remember aright, I saw it in Cherubini's 
own house. As the author is not dead, and Ingres very 
rich, I cannot conceive how the portrait can be for sale ? 
You can tell the sprightly " Child"* that you sent me 
the feuilleton. 

In the last number of the Journal des Debats there is 

* Bettina von Arnim. 

Humboldt's Letters. 121 

a strong and very fine article against the abominable 
Jew Bill, with which we are threatened, and against 
which I have already protested in very impressive 

Ever grateful, yours, 
"Wednesday, A. Ht. 

It was intended in the preamble of the law to speak of 
" the miracle which God performed in preserving the Jew- 
ish race amid other nations ;" " of the will of God to keep 
the Jewish race separated." I have replied thereto, that 
the bill is a violation of all the principles of a wise policy 
of unity ; that it is a dangerous arrogance in short-sighted 
man to dare interpret the primeval decrees of God. 
The history of the dai'k ages ought to teach us what 
abnormities such doctrines lead to. 

I live in apparent outward luxury, and in the enjoy- 
ment of the fanciful predilection of a generous Monarch, 
yet in a moral and mental seclusion, such as can only 
arise from the monotonous dulness of a country (a real 
steppe) which, though it is not wanting in erudition, is 
torn asunder by the opposing influences of similar 
" poles," and becomes more and more contracted in its 
Eastern proclivities. May you be content with him, 
who, though standing alone, has the courage to avow his 
own opinions. 

122 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, March 'list, 1842. 

My dear friend, so happily restored to me ! It is a 
source of infinite joy to meto learn, from your exquisite 
letter, that the really very delightful society at the Prin- 
cess's has benefited you physically, and, therefore, as I 
should say in my criminal materialism, mentally also. 
Such a society, blown together chiefly from the same 
fashionable world of Berlin (somewhat flat and stale), 
immediately takes a new shape in the house of Princess 
Pueckler. It is like the spirit which should breathe 
life into the state ; the material seems ennobled. 

I still retain your " Christliche Glaubenslehre,"* I 
who long ago, in Potsdam, was so delighted with 
Strauss's Life of the Saviour. One learns from it, not 
only what he does not believe, which is less new to me, 
but rather what kind of things have been believed and 
taught by those black coats (parsons) who know how to 

* A celebrated work on the Christian Dogma by Friedrich David 
Strauss. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 23 

enslave mankind anew, yea, wha are putting on the 
armor of their former adversaries. I shall gladly copy 
the passage concerning Spinoza. Will not the late date 
of the second volume of the "Glaubenslehre" (1841) 
be urged against it by these men who pretend to teach 
from ancient manuscript ? It would seem to me a better 
plan to have published the wonderfully conflicting chro- 
nology with some remarks on the new faith in the whole 
" roman historique^'' of the apostolic collectors of myths. 
He who teaches so publicly has to subject himself to the 
publicity arising from the defence of those who differ 
from him in creed. A private statement, clothed in the 
mild language of complaint, makes the subsequent public 
one very difficult, and elicits only patronizing smiles and 
a denial. It is not the mishap of Spinoza, but this degra- 
dation of the noblest intellectual faculties in the service 
of the narrow doctrines of dark ages, that is really pain- 
ful to me. The man* himself had certainly nothing 
attractive for me, but I had a kind of predilection for 
him, because everything enthrals and enraptures me, in 
which, as in his lecture on Art, the gentle breath of 
imagination warms and enlivens the harmony of lan- 

* Humboldt refers here to Schelling, the philosopher, who had just 
received from the King of Prussia a call to Berlin, and who, in a peni- 
tent spirit, endeavored to reconcile Christianity and philosophy, thus 
recanting his former views. Humboldt was quite exasperated at hia 
conduct. — Tr. 

1 24 Humboldt's Letters. 

guage. Nowwe are-se]5arated. In his last speech, not 
the one on art, amid the glare of torchlight, he spoke of 
his de2Darture like a well-paid artist who had just accom- 
plished a musical tour — probably only a sentimental 
figure of speech to frighten his listeners. 

Now for an answer to enquiries for the biography, of 
which, after all, I think with some fear, not on account 
of its political contents, but on account of family con- 
siderations. I rely on your promise. The man cer- 
tainly cannot want to afflict so many ! 

Wilhelm was born in Potsdam, because his father was 
Royal Chamberlain, and at the same time acting Cham- 
berlain to the Princess Elizabeth of Prussia. He left 
Potsdam when the Princess was sent to Stettin. My 
father remained in high favor with the Prince of Prus- 
sia, who visited him frequently at Tegel. This explains 
to you the passage in the English despatch, running 
thus (I believe veiy early in 1775 ? Raumer's Beitraege 
zur neuern Geschichte, vol. v., p. 297) : — " Hertzberg, 
Schulenburg could form a ministry, but those have the 
greatest chance of success, who, although not of the 
same kind, are considered favorites of the Prince. 
Among the first of these stands Herr von Humboldt, 
formerly an official in the allied army, a man of sense 
and fine character ; Herr von Hordt, an enterprising 

genius " The expression " official" is a strange 

mistake. My father was major and aide-de-camp to Duke 

Humboldt's Letters. 125 

Ferdinand, of Brunswick : after long service in the 
Finkenstein dragoons, he was frequently sent to Frede- 
rick II., during the gloomiest period of the Seven Years' 
War ; thus Frederick II, writes in his letters on the 
Wedel disaster : — " I told Humboldt everything that 
can be told at such a distance." — (Manuscript letters 
quite recently bought by the King in Eastern 

My family comes from Northern Pomerania. My 
brother and I were for a long time the last of our name. 
My mother's maiden name was Colomb, cousin of the 
Princess Bluecher, and therefore niece of the old Pre- 
sident in Aurich (Ostfriesland). She was first married 
to a Baron von Holwede. From this marriage sprung 
my step-brother Holwede, formerly in the regiment 
of gensdarmes. To my mother belongs the merit of 
having procured for us, at the instigation of old privy- 
councillor Kuntli, a thorough education, Wuhelm, 
for the first years, was educated by our tutor Campe. 
The foundation of his profound attainments in Grecian 
lore was laid by Loeffler, the author of a liberal book 
on the Kew Platonism of the Fathers of the Church ; he 
then was a chaplain in the army, and afterwards chief 
ecclesiastical counsellor at Gotha. Fischer, of the Graue 
Kloster, instructed Wilhelm in Greek for many years ; 
he had, what is little known, a profound knowledge of 
Greek, besides that of mathematics. That Engel, Reite- 

126 Humboldt's Letters. 

meier, Dohm, and Klein lectured to us for a long time 
on i>hilosophy, jurisprudence, and political science, is 
known to you. When at the University of Frankfurt 
(for six months) we lived with Loeffler, who was Pro- 
fessor there. In Goettingen, both of us were mem- 
bers (for one year) of the Philological Seminary of 

To my father belonged Tegel (formerly a hunting 
chateau of the great Elector, and it was consequently 
only a leasehold j)roperty. Wilhelm first possessed the 
place in fee-simple, as a manor ; therefore Schinkel 
added to it four towers, in order to preserve the old 
tower erected under the great Elector). Besides this, 
he owned Ringenwalde, near Soldin, in the Nemnark. 
Ringenwalde afterwards belonged to me, then to the 
Counts Reeden and Achim Arnim. Wilhelm, at the 
time of his death, possessed Tegel, Burgoerner, and 
Auleben (acquired by his wife, as the fiefdom of the 
Dacheroeden family had been abolished), Hadersleben, 
in the Magdeburg country, and Castle Ottmachau, in 
Silesia, the dotation given to him after the Paris 

The Sonnet I., 394, refers to a second child, I believe, 
which Frau von Humboldt lost when at Rome. One 
was buried in Paris. 

I conjure you do not mention to the author anything 
as coming from me. He would inevitably state it in 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 27 

the preface, and then I should become responsible for 
a great many things which I dread. 

Pardon the stercoran-like* loquacity. A. Ht. 

Note by Vaukhagen. — He probably had just read of the Ster- 
coranists in Strauss's " Glaubenslehre." Hence this allusion. 



Thursday, 31st March, 1842. 
On my retui-n from Potsdam with the King I received 
the " Loa-Tseu," a work with a peculiar jflavor of ante- 
Herodotian antiquity. Your note accompanying the 
Chmese philosopher impresses me painfully. I find that 
you have not yet received the courage arising from a 
consciousness of restored physical strength. That the 
vigor of your intellect never suffered is shown in each 
of your letters. I think I have not lost any of them. 
About a week ago I wrote you a long one of four pages 
about that " Christianly-dogmatising philosopher," and 
my reply to the inquiries of the " Biographer," who 
pestered me with his pietistic curiosity. Did that letter 
come to hand safely ? It contained also much chit-chat 

* The Stercoranists are those who beUeve tliat the Host is subject 
to digesiion. — Tr. 

1 28 Humboldt's Letters. 

on my brother's first erudition. You don't make any 
mention of my talkativeness. I trust it will not be a 
source of trouble to me. We have succeeded with 
Buelow. He may be here next Saturday. It may be 
the beginning of something good ; or the end of it — le 
bouquet — the stage efiect of foot-lights. I met with 
Tholuk and Bekedorff yesterday at Potsdam at dinner. 
No other occasion would have favored me wdth their 
apparition. With constant devotion yours, 

A. Ht. 



Berlin, April 6th, 1842. 
SmcE the inquisitorial sentence against Bruno (Bauer) 
has been so presumptuously published, I deem it my 
duty to retain your Strauss no longer. I return you 
that remarkable book, which caused me to indulge 
in much meditation. Accept my best thanks. The 
method of the author is excellent ; it makes us ac- 
quainted with the whole history of the fluth of our 
time, particularly so with the Jesuitical trick of so many 
people who declare publicly their belief in and their 
adherence to all the dogmas of the Christian mythology, 
after the fashion of Schleiermacher, and after having 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 29 

" drained the chalice," are followed to the grave by a 
solemn cortege of court equipages, although in fact 
they had always discarded the orthodox belief and sub- 
stituted for it i3seudo-phUosoi3hical interpretations. 

What displeases me very much in Strauss is his frivo- 
lous manner of speaking of natural sciences, which makes 
him accept without hesitation the formation of organ- 
ism from inorgauisms, and which enables him to easily 
believe in the origin of man as springing from the 
primitive sod of Chaldea. That he seems to think very 
little of the blue regions on the other side of the grave 
I might cheerfully forgive him ; the more so, as we are 
the more agreeably and wilhngly surprised when we 
expect little. As for you, you fortunate man, it could 
have caused no surprise. How purely Spanish and revolt- 
ing in the jjresent inquisitorial formula was the sentence 
that " The culprit would admit himself." Neque aliud 
aut qui eadem saevitia usi sunt, nisi dedecus sibi atque 
reges Uhs gloriam peperere. 

I send you a copy of "Don Juan." It shows beaitty 
of language, also a rich imagination. I am anxious to 
hear how you are pleased with it. 

The constitutional Roi des Landes* repeatedly said 
yesterday at dinner in the presence of forty people: 
The j)rofessors of Goettingen had talked of their patriot- 

* King Ernest August of Hanover. 


130 Humboldt's Letters. 

ism in an address to him. Professors, he said, have no 
country at all. Professors, prostitutes, and dancers may 
be had every where for money ; they go to the highest 
bidder. What a shame to call such a fellow a German 
Prince ! 

With faithful attachment, yours, A. Ht. 

Wednesday !N"ight. 



Berlin, April 1th, 1842. 

OtiE unknown friend is very amiable. I have lost all 
apprehension. Tbu have a balm for every wound. I 
will show you, with pleasure, the few lines, which fell, 
as it was intended they should, into the King's hands 
on the following morning. I chose that circuitous way, 
because it enabled me to write more freely, and to 
oj^enly show my dissatisfaction. The thing is now in a 
better way, but it is not yet irrevocably dismissed. I 
must entreat you, therefore, most fervently, not to give 
the lines in question out of your hand. They would 
irrevocably be inserted in the papers, and that would 
seriously injure my efforts in a good and important cause. 

The King sent for me at a very early hour ; and his 

Humboldt's Letters. 131 

thanking me very cordially for my frank exposition does 
him much honor. 

I did not go to Potsdam to-day, because I wished to 
advocate in the full board of the Academy the election 
of Mr. Riess, the Jewish philosopher, as a member. 
His election is veiy honorable to the Academy. There 
were only three black balls. 

To-morro"w I shall be with the King till Sunday. I 
will try to hunt up some interesting autograph — some- 
thmg poetical (by Wilhelm von Humboldt) — for Stutt- 
gart. AU that I i^ossess are unfortunately but copies. 

Take care of your health, dear friend, it is not firmly 

Yours, A. V. Humboldt. 

Thuesdat Night. 



Berlin, June. 1U\ 1842. 
YouB kind remembrance, honored and gifted friend, 
was very beneficial to me — the more so, as I have 
returned from Sans Souci rather unwell, afiected by a 
cold ; and as I am involved in all the miseries of moving 
into a detestable house in the Siberian ward of the city, 

132 Humboldt's Letters. 

the Oranienburger Strasse, I have not even an inkstand 
on my table. 

At j)resent, nothing more than my best thanks. I 
have told Marheineke myself how dear he is to me. A 
thunderstorm, in the form of a cabinet order, suddenly 
growling through the papers, and exhibiting a few 
flashes of censorial absurdities, would be preferable to 
that impracticable law, the assigning of a Grand Inqui- 
sitor to the liberty of the press. We have so much to 
say to each other, I hope to see you yet before your 
departure. Think only of the enlivening presence of 
four Crown-Princes and throne-successors — one lame in 
the knees, and pale ; the other a drunken Icelander ; 
the third blind, and politically ravuig; and the last 
capricious and infirm in intellect. And this is the 
approaching generation of the monarchical world. 

Yours, A. Ht. 

I accompany the King to the Rhine. That I had no 
mind to become a mere color-stand at Petersburg will 
be understood by you. The Chancellor has always the 
pleasure of being the subject of vulgar recrimination on 
the part of those who are either not invited or refused 
admittance to the banquet. What an excitement glass 
beads, peacock plumes, and ribbons can stir up among 
men !*.... 

* Allusion to the new order — pour le merito. 

Humboldt's Letters. 


Note by Yarxhagex. — Marheineke's article on the Anglican church 
in the " Jahrbuecher fuer wissenschaftliche Kritik," with a couple of 
censorial blunders. 

On the 26th June, 1842, Varnhagen Avrites in his 
diary about the new order : — " Humboldt tells me much 
about the foundation of the new order. The King had 
at first composed a list, in which he had written the 
names with Sanscrit letters. This list was referred for 
advice to Humboldt, Eichhorn, Savigny, Thiele; then 
it was altered many times ; new names were added and 
others stricken out — the indecision lasted six weeks. 
Originally the King had decided for forty-six members, 
to correspond with the number of years embraced by 
the reign of Frederick the Great. Afterwards he 
thought of adopting forty, but was afraid of doing so, 
on account of the ' plaisanteries ' about the number ' qua- 
rante ' in the French Academy ; at last he limited the 
number to thirty. All was managed by the King in his 
own way. Arago was originally placed on the list by 
the King. He insisted upon Metternich as his particular 
choice. Rumohr was abandoned. Steffens was, in the 
opinion of the King, not deserving ' enough — neither 
as philosopher nor as a naturalist.' Liszt was decidedly 
favored by the King, and no objections could prevail. 
Spontini was thought of, but Savigny and the cabinet 
counsellor, Mueller, succeeded in displacing him. Moore 
was objected to as having written satirical verses on 

134 Humboldt's Letters. 

Prussia. 'That is not at all my business,' said the 
King. Melloni was opposed as being a Carbonaro, and 
having been at the head of a revolutionary Junta. ' I 
do not care the least about that,' said the King. ' I 
would confer the order on O'Connell, if he possessed such 
scientific merits.' The King proposed Raumer and 
Ranke. Eichhorn and Savigny assented only to Ranke, 
and thereupon both were dropped. Notwithstanding 
the view taken in Melloni's, Moore's, and Arago's cases, 
Schlosser the historian was rejected on account of his 
poUtical views (?). Metternich had railed at the ' bishop- 
ric of Jerusalem.' ISTow to insure the new order against 
the same fate, he was to be nominated a member of it 
— this is deemed the ' secret motive,' in Humboldt's 
opinion. And for Mettemich's sake Uwaroff was left 
out, for with him the other would not have been the 
sole representative of his species. Link was weighed, 
but found wanting." 

On the 27th June, 1842, Varnhagen makes the fol- 
lowing addition to his notes of yesterday : " Humboldt 
told me he had informed the King in advance of the 
intention of the Academy of Sciences to elect Mr. 
Riess, a Jew, one of their members, and that the King 
had replied he would confirm the election unhesitatingly. 
' I will hope,' he added, ' your brother has not com- 
mitted the folly of writing in the by-laws a clause 

Humboldt's Letters. 135 

against Jews becoming members of the Academy?' 
Minister Eichhorn knew that the King would not create 
any difficulty in the matter, but he himself disliked it, 
and he thought it likely that Thiele, Rochow, Stollberg, 
and others, would also be displeased at it ; therefore he 
left the application of the Academy, to have their elec- 
tion confirmed by the King, imattended to for six weeks, 
and then wrote a letter, by which he inquired of the 
Academy, whether they were aware that Riess was a 
Jew ? The Academy, indignant at this inquiry, replied 
unanimously, that they were only ruled by the by-laws, 
in concurrence with which the election had taken place, 
and they therefore repudiated the minister's inquiry as 
inappropriate and impertinent. Eichhorn pocketed the 
insult, and reported the application to the King, who at 
once confirmed the election ; feeling, however, a little 
disinclined to approve, at the present day, what Frede- 
rick the Great had refused. Frederick the Great had 
declined to confirm the election of Moses Mendelssohn, 
out of regard, as it is believed, for the Empress Cathe- 
rine of Russia, who was a member of the Academy, and 
who was presumed to be averse to such a colleague." 

On the 30th of August, 1842, Varnhagen remarks in 
his diary : " Humboldt tells me miserable things of 
Eichhorn. Talks also much of the King, his amiability, 
good humor, jocoseness. He thinks, however, he will 

136 Humboldt's Letters. 

not relinquisli his favorite views, even when he seems to 
abandon them. The King was more satisfied with Count 
Maltzan than with any one else of his ministers ; he 
placed full confidence in him — believed him capable of 
anything. We had a dispute about tlie signification of 
the word ' ingenious,' and how far it could be applied 
to the King. Humboldt thinks the King intends going 
to Greece, and to extend his journey to Jerusalem. It 
was to be feared, however, that the parsons would at last 
get control of him, and destroy his cheerfulness. Hum- 
boldt goes to Eu on business, with the King of France ; 
then to Paris. Will be back at Berlin in December," 

Varnhagen speaks of a call made by Humboldt after 
his return from Paris, in his diary of the 18th March, 
1843, as follows: "Humboldt came to see me; he 
looks much older since I last saw him, but his spirit 
and courage are fresh. In Paris he was happy and 
gay ; here his spirits sank at once. Things here Avere 
going on miserably, he says ; the old beaten track — treat- 
ing matters of dangerous character in a spirit of childish 
frivolity. And besides that, he is overrun with applica- 
tions and requests ; every one wishes to secure his influ- 
ence ! ' Influence !' said he ; ' nobody has any ! Even 
Bunsen and RadoAvitz, the King's favorites, have none. 
All that they are cnpable of is to anticipate the weak 
fancies of the King, and obey them. Should they 
attempt anything beyond this, their overthrow is cer- 

Humboldt's Letters. 137 

tain. The King acts just as he pleases. He fol- 
lows the impulses of his early received and firmly- 
rooted impressions, and the advice which he may now 
and then think worthy of hearing, is nothing at all to 
him. He speaks contemptuously of Eichhorn and 
Savigny, as hypocritical menials, who receive the word 
of command from Thiele, from Gerlach, and from Heng- 
stenberg. The King has relinquished nothing whatever 
of his cherished designs, and may, at any time, come 
out again with them, as with his designs regarding the 
Jews' observance of the Sabbath, the Anglican ordina- 
tion of the bishops, and the new institutions of nobi- 
lity, etc. He has projects Avhich it "would take a 
hundred years to accomplish. He contemplates immense 
constructions, outlaying of parks, enterprises in matters 
of art. There is already the question of going to Athens ; 
in the background a pUgrimage to Jerusalem may be 
looming ; triumphant promenades a la Napoleon ; peace- 
able ones to Loudon, to St. Petersburg, to the Orient ; 
conquered scholars and artists, instead of countries. 
Love of art and imagination upon the throne, fanati- 
cism and deceit all round, and hypocritical exaggeration 
in matters unworthy of attention. And with all this, 
the man is really ingenious, is really amiable, and inspired 
by the best intentions. What will come out of all this 
at last ?» 

1 38 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, April 3d, 1842. 

If I have appeared slow in thanking you, my dear 
friend, for your delightful present, it is because all my 
leisure time at Potsdam was absorbed by the perusal of 
your biography, beginning with your early youth and 
terminating with your description of the Congress of 
Vienna. To have had such a development as yours is a 
gratifying advantage. It is instructive to follow the 
career of men like you and to behold them acting before 
our eyes. 

How unjust we once were in our opinions of the men 
who undertook to rearrange Europe at that great Con- 
gress — I mean to say how much more did we then exact 
in our unjust views, while at present, on comparing the 
members of that Congress with the mediocre creatures 
of to-day, they appear great in our recollection. In 
their place we have now court-philosophers, missionary- 
devoted ladies of state ministers, court theologians, and 
sensation preachers 

Minister Buelow complains that you never came to see 

Humboldt's Letters. 139 

him enfamille between the hours of 8 and 9. He will 
hold his public reception to-morrow, Tuesday evening, 
and you would be an ornament to his circle. He never 
sends letters of invitation to those who know how 
welcome they are to him. 

Monday. A. T. Humboldt. 



Tuesday, June 13th, 1843. 
Excuse me, dear friend, for being prevented by the 
absence of Reimer, by my own eternal distractions and 
pendulum-like movements, as well as by some little prepa- 
rations for an excursion to Pomerania, from sending you 
the two new volumes of Wilhelm's works. I know that 
you are Httle pleased with the commentary on Hermann 
and Dorothea. It would have been preferable, to be 
sure, had he extended it into a pamphlet on epics ; but 
you perceive even in the Kawi book how that great ge- 
nius always deduced general law from special instances. 
The sonnets are full of grave pathos and depth of senti- 
ment. I shall call to embrace you, and to ask you the 
surest way of sending a copy to Mr. Thomas Carlyle ? 

140 Humboldt's Letters. 

A. seems unreliable, and Buelow's despatches cannot be 
overloaded. I shall thank Mr. Carriere personally. The 
" fossil" minister, I am told, has given evidence of his 
vitality by an amiable letter to you ! My life is also 
described " dans les biographies redigees par un homme 
de rien," in which I am pictured as a socially-mali- 
cious beast. Such things will not kill, nor will they 
improve a man either. 

Always faithfully yours, A. v. Ht. 


Berlin, June 26<A, 1843. 
I AM sure, dear friend, to afford you some enjoyment 
by communicating to you (to you alone) a fragment of a 
new volume by Eckermann. Remarkable adoration of 
youthful vigor as the divine source of productiveness. 
This is simply the adoration of an old man. Napoleonic 
worship unrestrained by moral considerations. I most 
fervently entreat you, not to sliow the sheet to our 
child, also not to talk with Brockhaus about what 
Eckermann has confided to me. It miglit possibly 
damage him, and he is already unfortunate. I am con- 
fident the two last volumes will have come to your 
hands through Buschmann. The Aveather was very 

Humboldt's Letters. 141 

favorable for our journey north. Such journeys are the 
best means to deceive princes regarding public opinion. 
I have made a little speech, out of a window, to the 
young men upon " The intellectual ties" — which inde- 
pendent of " space" beget a just interpretation of liberal 
ideas, and an unfading confidence in the advancement 
of humanity. You may read the speech in the Staats 
Zeitung, as I wrote it down after delivery, a necessary 
precaution, as my daily increasing friends would have 
perverted it. I read a part of "Custine" to the King. 
He is infinitely ingenious and magnificent in style. I 
have read but two volumes, and of these I prefer the 
first, which portrays a modern greatness of tragical 
events in a masterly manner. 

With devotion, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 
Please send me back Eckermann. 



TuESDAT, June 21th, 1843. 
I AM afraid, my dear friend, that you might come to 
Tegel next Thursday and find nobody at home. Buelow 

142 Humboldt's Letters. 

will take leave of the King to-night and expects to start 
to-morrow — "Wednesday — for Schlangenbad. His wife 
and two oldest daughters are going with him. I write 
this in view of the impossibility of my embracing you 
before your departure. The torchlight procession at 
Düsseldorf could shed light on many a thing. I enclose 
the httle speech for you, as you like to preserve every- 
thing concerning your friends. 

A. Ht. 



Sans Souci, Augtist 21th, 1843. 
How could I be, my dear friend, otherwise than 
alive to the duty of thankmg you at once for your 
precious gift, and for the affectionate souvenir of one 
whose life is gradually vanishing ? I know nothing- 
more graceful in composition, in sympathy of concep- 
tion, in elegance of language, and in appropriate scenic 
surroundings, than your " Lebenshilder^'' which serve 
at the same time as correct commentaries upon all the 
valuable literature of our time. How generous you are 

Humboldt's Letters. 143 

when you mention me, and even my most insignificant 
words ! I have often followed you through the three 
volumes, over those beaten, but still delightful paths ; 
but nothing pleases me more in this " sylva sylvarum" 
than your dignified and just remarks on the historical 
blunder as to the " truly Germanic" distinction of poli- 
tical classes, ii., p. 256-272. 

Tou will observe that my political " ire" is still the 
same ; that I am always very much attached to this life, 
having learned from you that, according to Kant's 
doctrine, there is not much to boast of after our disso- 
lution. " The budding twig starting up in the regions 
of northern empires" (I am satirical now) has been but 
poorly acclimated ; and I have little time to spare, 

having already waited fifty-three years The 

Germans will yet have to write many more books on 

The card-playing man — ii., p. 157 — will again cause 
some excitement in the environs of my " hül." I 
believe I have discovered some " moderation," which, 
however, one does not like to mention. The words, 
" that miserable fellow," are no longer heard. You see 
how much I love to read your writings — and not 
through fear. A. v. H. 

We have not yet talked of Custine's book. The first 
volume is an eloquent and sprightly description (of dra- 

144 Humboldt's Letters. 

matic scenes), and is the best done. What a startling 
effect such a book must have, even on those who detest 
justifying themselves. "II y a des longueurs de decla- 
mations," — something of rhetorical blackening, which is 
tiresome. I find the publication of the hypertragical 
letter (of Princess Trubetzkoi) very wrong. "Were it not 
for the irritation necessarily caused by the publication 
of this letter, we might have looked for some salvation 
from a new petition. What justification is there for 
risking so much, even for murder ? I am also disgusted 
by the worship of those literary trifles by Mad. de 
Girardin and Mad. Gay. Such worship could, perhaps, 
be allowed in a beautiful Grand-Duchess. 

That the " Saint-Simonism" was invented by a Prus- 
sian business-man, amuses me very much. As it con- 
cerns Königsberg, I will keep it secret. 


Berlin, Dec. 29, 1843. 
YouK Royal Highness : 

I HAVE the honor, most humbly, to inform you that the 
box containing the universal siderial clock of the inven- 
tors, D. and H. v. A , together with your gracious 

Humboldt's Letters. 145 

orders, has duly been delivered to me. I shall do in the 
matter what will be agreeable to you. The two officers, 
in a letter dated Temesvar, 13th of December, gave me 
notice of the arrival of the instruments, naively adding 
" That I should try to procure for the inventors some 
military decoration from His Majesty the King 'the 
universal physician^'' of all arts and sciences." 

To obtam, however, such a " universal j^anacea," from 
the " universal physician," the gentlemen must address 
his majesty a few words themselves. The so-called 
universal siderial clocks had much reputation in the 
middle ages ; in the present state of astronomy, how- 
ever, they are never used in observatories, where the 
astronomer makes the calculations himself. Such 
graphic inventions in that line cannot therefore be 
recommended as deserving reward unless the inventors 
address themselves in person to the monarch. These 
rules are observed even when books are presented, 
which meet with no acknowledgment unless accom- 
panied by a letter. 

Under these circumstances I hope that your Royal 
Highness will approve of my writing to Lieutenant H. 
V. A., thanking him for his confidence, and requesting 
him, for his own sake and that of his friend, to write 
some letters to his majesty the King, in which he may 
refer to me. To secure the delivery of the letter at 
Temesvar your Royal Highness will gracefully be pleased 


146 Humboldt's Letters. 

to direct it under your seal to the ambassador, General 
von Canitz. I shall have the box opened at the obser- 
vatory in the presence of Professor Enke, and charge 
him, as is usual in such cases, to make a report for the 
private cabinet. Although the word " ingenious''' cannot 
be applied to instruments the construction of which is not 
strictly original, I will nevertheless try to obtain, through 
my representations, a small dose of " the universal 

In deepest devotion, I remain 

Your Royal Highness's 

most humble servant, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


Monday, Jan. 1st, 1844. 
I AM in haste to tell you, as the Potsdam train is 
about starting, dear friend, in spite of your incognito, that 
the King, previous to the soap bubbling, lead melting, 
and to the angelic chorus in the cathedral, and the en- 
trance of the watchman,* received and enjoyed very 

* The usual festivities in family circles on New Year's night in Gr©r- 
many. — Tr, 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 47 

much the charming gift. It is a group full of grace and 
sweetness of composition ; it is heaven reflected in 
earthly love. The King instantly guessed it to be the 
woi'k of those young fairies, Bettina's cygnets, and would 
like to offer his thanks. 

A. V. Ht. 

Privatissime. — I expressed some doubts about that 
hieroglyph distinguishing the male swan from the fe- 
male. The King thinks me, however, quite " arriere" as 
to the changes which art-life has made in modern educa- 

Note by Yarnhagen. — Bettina von Arnim had given me a deli- 
cate and beautifully executed drawing, representing a naked girl and 
a naked lad standing under a tree, in the foliage of which a nightin- 
gale is singing, which she requested me to send anonymously to Mr. 
V. Humboldt, asking him to present it also anonymously to the King as 
a New Year's present. The nakedness of the male figure might in- 
deed appear rather shocking, although it would have been pardonable 
in one like Bettina, but that the King could suppose it the work of her 
daughters is rather too strong, unless by this pretence he meant to 
convey a rallying correction to Bettina. 

On the 1st of April, 1844, Vai'uhagen wrote in his 
diary : " After a long interruption, a visit from Hum- 
boldt at last. He told me all that occupies his mind. 
He is striving to do what he can, but this is not much, 

148 Humboldt's Letters. 

and after all, the man of seventy-four years is but a man 
of seventy-four. He himself refers significantly to his 
advanced age. His manifold duties are a heavy charge 
upon him, although he is reluctant to abandon them. 
The Court and its society are to him like a tavern of 
habitual resort, where one is wont to pass one's evening, 
and to drink one's glass. The King, says he, busies 
himself with nothing but his whims, and these have, for 
the most part, a spiritvxal, nay, an ecclesiastical, ten- 
dency — worshipping, building churches, concocting mis- 
sions. He cares very little about earthly affairs. It 
seems immaterial to him whether Louis Philippe's 
death causes a crisis ; what may happen after Metter- 
nich's death, or how Russia behaves with us. To all this 
he is indifferent ; lie scarcely thinks of it. Whoever has 
secured his favor and nourishes his fancies plays a sure 
game. Bunsen, Radowitz, and Canitz stand highest in 
his favor. Stollberg comes only in the second rank. 
Besides, there exists the greatest carelessness and 
distraction. Rueckert had congratulated the Queen 
upon her recovery, in some very beautiful stanzas. 
They Avere found delightful ; but the propriety of 
acknowledging such an offering by a word of thanks 
was overlooked, until at last it occurred to the 
Queen. Rueckert was then sent for, but had been 
gone some three weeks. Schelling is received scarcely 
once a year by the King. Having secured him, he 

Humboldt's Letters. 149 

cares but little for him. Steffens, too, whom he likes, 
is seldom invited. Reumont belongs to the exceptions ; 
he secures a small share of the favoritism of Bunsen 
and Count Bruehl. There is much sneering at ... . 
about his dancing, &c. Humboldt said once, he was 
green, if not quite yellow, whereupon the King 
answered : ' At . . . . every one had that complexion.' 
Bunsen has not grown much wiser : he proposed to the 
King to purchase California, to send missionaries there, 
&c. He strongly supports the schemes of Madame von 
Helfert ; he had a mind to send his own son with her, 
and to contribute £12,000 of his own means for the 
establishment of settlements in the East Indies (!), with 
the view, of course, to open a field for missionaries ; he 
withdrew, however, his offers when he saw that the 
King's co-operation was doubtful. In the meantime 
Mrs. Helfert could not obtain more than ten thousand 
thalers from the King. Minister Rother succeeded in frus- 
trating her plot ; he could not help, however, sending two 
agents to examine and to report on the state of the pos- 
sessions of Mrs. Helfert in the East Indies. It was also 
attempted to induce the King to take part in the colo- 
nization of Texas — always in connexion, of course, with 
religious interests. Humboldt had written previously 
to Bunsen, in strong terms, adAising him to warn Eich- 
horn, and to point out to him the hatred Avhich his 
actions awakened, and which also reflected upon the 

i^o Humboldt's Letters. 

King. "When he met Bunsen here he expressed himself 
in the same Avay, arguing in forcible but fruitless lan- 
guage. Bunsen, who talked with him with great interest 
on Egypt for two hours, did not answer a word, but rose 
and went away. Humboldt believes him vain enough to 
accept a ministry. It seems to me that Humboldt is 
much too familiar with Bunsen, and shows him too 
much friendship. The Queen, says Humboldt, has no 
Catholic tendencies ; on the contrary, she is an arch- 
Protestant, and even more of a fanatic than the King 
himself, whom she is constantly urging in this direction. 
She would have more influence if she better understood 
the management of matters. 

In the evening Humboldt sent me the work : ' Russie, 
Allemagne et France,' par M. Fournier, Paris, 1844, 
Avith a very amiable letter, inclosing eighteen precious 
autographs by Arago, Metternich, Peel, Stanley, Reca- 
mier, Balzac, Prescott, Brunei, Herschel, Bresson, 
Helene d'Orleans, Duchesse de Dino, and four confi- 
dential good-humored notes of the King. A brilliant 
pi*esent !" 

Humboldt's Letters. 




Berlin, April Ist, 1844. 
I HAVE a mind, my noble friend, to impart some 
enjoyment to you to-night by a few insignificant gifts, 
accompanying the horrible liuthenic venom beneath 
enclosed.* I know that I am personally flattered in all 
the inclosed letters with the exception of that from 
Solingen; but this cannot prevent my offering what 
may be interesting to you. You will find the following 
letter from 

1. Lord Stanley, the present minister, to Avhom I had 
recommended the cousin of our Dieffenbach, the author 
of a highly commendable journey to New Zealand. 
This traveller was implicated in the rebellion at Frank- 
fort, wherefore it was difficult to get him an engage- 
ment in Germany. If travelling were still a business of 
mine I could not desire a better companion. 

2. The " Presumption" from Solingen. 

* The work of Marc Foumier : Russie, Allemagne et France. 
Paris, 1844. 

1 52 Humboldt's Letters. 

3. A very interesting letter of Count Bresson, the 
ambassador of France, dated Feb. 6, 1839. 

4. A very amiable letter from Arago, when I had 
dedicated him the " Examen de I'histoire de la geogra- 
phic du 15 Si^ele." I don't recollect having given you 
anything else of Arago. 

5. A note written by the King, at a time when he 
assisted me in obtaining the pardon of young " dema- 
gogues." The note refers to the prosecution of yoimg 
Hoeninghaus, for whom my efforts were successful. 
The letter of the Crown-Prince shows a noble indignation 
against Kamj^tz and his accomplices. 

6. A letter of the Duchess of Orleans. 

7. A letter of the King of Denmark. Simultaneously 
with Arago I had recommended Hansen, the great 
lunar calculator at Gotha, to the King. Our petition was 
granted. Arago received also a very amiable autograph 
from " Christianus Rex," once constitutional King in 

8. Another note of the Crown-Prince, good-humored 
and witty. He wished very much to have Metter- 
nich accept the Presidency, po^lr mettre la societe en 
bonne oderir ä Home ou eile passe pour Sunso- 

9. A letter of the Duchess de Dino, now Duchesse 
de Talleyrand. She has been created Duchess of Sagan 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 53 

10, 11. Two good-humored letters more of the Kmg, 
Le Seehund., the recommendation of a rather rough 
Danish sea captain, who declared his willingness to take 
two naturalists around the globe at the rate of 2500 
rixthalers a head (a little high). The plan was a failure. 
Le Seigneur Cados, ministre Secretaire d^Etat of the 
watchmaking Due de Normandie., who addressed to the 
Crown-Prince a complaint about the indecent manner in 
which he was treated by the Staats-Zeitung. 

12. From Brunei, the hero of the tunnel. 

13. A letter of Sir John Herschel, fall of flattering 

14. Mr. de Balzac. 

15. Sir Robert Peel. Somebody had written me, 
from Oxford, that Robert Brown, the first botanist of 
Europe, had got suddenly into money difficulties, and 
that Peel, on my intercession, would grant him one of 
the four only pensions accorded to savans by Parlia- 
ment. I recommended him and was successful. 

16. Mad. Recamier. I am sure you have already 
several letters from her. 

17. A letter from Prince Metternich, to be added to 
the number of those which you have already from 

18. The illustrious American historian, Prescott. In 
your hands all will be safe, even Avhat I myself would 
destroy from wantonness. I entreat you, dear friend, 

1 54 Humboldt's Letters. 

not to tell anybody that I gave you the King's notes, 
however insignificant they are. It would injure me. 
With old veneration, yours, 

A. VON Humboldt. 

Monday Evening. 



Höfgen, near Solingen, March ]2s<, 1844. 
Your Excellency will not be offended at the liberty 
I take of writing you. Some time ago I read in the 
newspapers that somebody of Koenigsberg is said to 
have written you about secrets of nature, referring to 
photographs taken in the dark. I presume, therefore, 
that your Excellency is a naturalist and has friends who 
are likewise so. As I also have made important dis- 
covei'ies in secrets of nature, which my present business 
will not allow me to pursue, I wish to have an oppor- 
tunity of speaking with you about them. Perhaps we 
can be useful to each other. I am perfectly wdlling to 
make the journey to Berlin, in order to see you. May 
it please your Excellency to write me as soon as possible 
at what time I can call on you at Berlin, if you have no 
objection to my visit. 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 55 

In hope that you vnR favor me with an answer, I am, 
with due respect, 

Tour Excellency's most obedient, 

J. W. T. 

Mr. Gottfried H., merchant at Berlin, can give you 
information, if required, as to my standing and character. 

Note op Humboldt. — The presumption of the writer, arising from 
the perusal of a newspaper, that I might be a naturalist, is a fact. I 
am guilty of having published some books on Natural History as 
early as 1*789. 



Berlin, February 6th, 1839. 

Dear Excellency, — I am happy to be able to send 
you to-day an article worthier of you than that of yes- 
terday. Keep this number "J9es Debats.^^ I do not 
file them. 

The remark of Mr. M. Y. L on the " Nescio 

quis Plutarchus''' is puerile. Besides, excepting this, 
his article is inspired by a just appreciation of your 
glory, which is ours as well, and which we claim as such. 

156 Humboldt's Letters. 

Pray, dear Excellency, receive my affectionate and 
respectful homage. Beesson. 

P. S. — I had just finished this note when yours of 
this morning reached me. I shall keep it all my life, as 
well for its being a true historical monument, as for the 
precious title of friend which you deign to give me. 
It is true, alas ! we shall see, if God grants ns life, a 
great many things ; but may it be His will that we shall 
never see again events like those which have already 
swept over our country, by sapping the power of the 
King. Yet the Coalition works in this direction with 
all its might. It is a fit of madness which reminds me 
of 1791. These plotters are Girondists in embryo, 
whom we would have loved ; and they will be the first 
to be buried under the ruins of the edifice which they 
are undermining. 

Does it, then, require a great effort of reasoning 
to perceive that the King is the cementer of all things, 
that he keeps us out of chaos, and that upon his living 
or dying the state of affairs wholly depends ? Let us 
ask conscientiously, does our danger to-day come from 
him ? Shall an oi'der of things, acquired with so much 
trouble, established with so much labor — shall it be 
sacrificed to the renown of a few men, or to the vain 
theories inapplicable to France, serviceable at the best 
oi^ly iji England, where they are consecrated by age, 

Humboldt's Letters. 157 

and, what is still better, administered by the enlightened 
upper classes. D., who is a man of sound intellect, 
writes rae that he believes in the happy issue of the 
ministerial crisis. Mr. Mole has changed his determina- 
tion not to resume office ; he will do so if there is a 
majority of thirty-six or forty votes secured to him. 
The Jacqueminot party, which is rendering great ser- 
vice, is working for this. 

Here are the adieux, the last ones of Mr. de Talley- 
rand at Fontainebleau, on the 2d of June, 1838 : " Adieu, 
my dear Bresson, stay at Berlin as long as you can ; 
you are " well off there ; do not try to be better off. 
There will be much commotion in the world ; you are 
young ; you will see it." I quote these words for you, 
because they agree Avith the spirit of your note, for 
which I thank you once more, and which will become a 
family title to me. 

Note by Humboldt. — Leiter of Count Bresson, French Ambassador 
at Berlin. — I kept it on account of the few words of Talleyrand. I 
had written to Mr. Bresson that the situation of France was very 
serious, that I still believed in peace, because, besides the wisdom of 
the rulers, there was an expectant treatment of want of energy and 
timid prudence. That these things, however, could act only for a 
limited time, and that those who were young, like him, would see in 
action what was now spreading its deep roots, as the unconscious and 
inarticulate desires of the nations. 

1 58 Humboldt's Letters. 



PARia, August 19th, 1834. 

Mt dear Feiend — I cannot find words to tell you* 
how sorry I am at having caused you a moment's 
annoyance. Be persuaded, then, once for all, that what- 
ever wrongs, real or apparent, you may have experienced 
at my hands, you will never suffer that of my forgetting 
how good you have always been to me. The friendship 
which makes me so happy and proud, and which I have 
shown to you, shall never be surpassed by yours for me. 
I wanted, on the occasion of your kindly dedication, to 
give a public evidence of my friendship, but various 
circumstances arising out of my position, just now so 
very difficult and complicated, prevented. I hope, how- 
ever, that it is only delayed. 

I am sorry to learn that your health is not satisfac- 
tory. Mine is very bad ; but I care little about it. All 
that I daily see in this vile world of meanness, servi- 
lity, and low passion, makes me look with indifference 

* Arago uses ihou and thee in his letter to Humboldt — the evidence 
of great fVieadship and intimacy. 

Humboldt's Letters. i^'g 

on the events with which men are mostly pre-occupied. 
The only news that could at present cure me of my 
spleen, would be that you were coming to Paris. Why 
have I not found a single word of hope in your letter — 
even for a distant future ? 

The scientific world here is in a dead calm. Every- 
thing has a desponding look. I am going to-morrow to 
England with Mr. Pentland. Shall I come back with 
more comforting notions ? 

Our observatoiy is elegant, and very commodious. 
The Ministry decided that a director must be appointed, 
and I was chosen unanimously. I have under my orders 
four or five youths, Avho have the title of assistants, and 
a salary of 2,000 francs. Under this arrangement, we 
shall try to achieve something out of the beaten track. 

Adieu, my dear and excellent friend. Mathieu, who 
has not yet entirely recovered from a severe disease in 
his eyes, charges me, as does his wife also, to^recom- 
mend him to your remembrance. 

Always yours through life, 


1 6o Humboldt's Letters. 




23d December, 1836 (at Night). 
The quasi nameless number* may expect the mildest 
of sentences. It will, doubtless, be commuted to six 
months, and three years' incapacity to hold office. You 
may therefore send some comfort, at least as a Christmas 
present, to the faithful Crefeld. Perhaps !!?!!! shall 
succeed in procuring the full pardon of this list. It is, 
however, revolting and horrible to let the poor boy 
languish so long in a loathsome hole. Leaving the 
respectability of his parents out of the question, had 
they been fools or knaves, it could scarcely be excused. 
Shall we see each other to-night ? 

Fe. W. 


Cheeissime Humboldt, you are acquainted with all 

* Humboldt had supplicated for a politically-prosecuted young 
man, who is alluded to under that designation. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 161 

the pretenders to all the crowns. Please read the 
inclosed letter, and inform me who the Seigneur Caclos 
may be — who were his father, mother, and ancestors, 
and also what are his titles to the crown of France, 
which I shall certainly try to procure for him? 

Fkedebic GtJiLLAUME, Pr. Royal. 
B. 21 Feb., 1839. 


Episode from " The Marriage of Figaro." 

H y manque quelque chose. 

Quoi ? — 

Le cachet. 

Don't overlook the nice allusion, dearest friend! 
Your seal must help me out of nearly as great a diffi- 
culty as that of Countess Almaviva ; otherwise the 
Prince would perceive that I have read all the flattering 
things which you have so ill-advisedly ! said of me. 
Pour vous divertir, I inclose my letter. Vale. 

Fe. W. 

B, 23 March, 1840. 

(Tn SuniboläVs handwriting?) — Autograph of the 
Prince-Royal of Prussia. — The Prince ofiered to Prince 
Metternich the chair as President of the Archaeological 
Institute at Rome. I was called upon to write a letter 
to Prince Metternich, which the Prince Royal wanted 

102 Humboldt's Letters. 

to inclose in his own. As it contained some praises of 
the Prince, he desired to have it sealed. 


I was honest and stupid enough not to take a copy 
of the letter of the King to Prince Mettemich. 


I COMMUNICATE you the inclosed despatch from 
Copenhagen, to inform you of the new " Seccatura," 
which will wait upon you in the shape of a sea-dog 
of the Sound, to ask your advice, and assistance as 
to a voyage around the globe. This letter having no 
further object, I pray God, Monsieur le Baron de 
Humboldt, to keep you in his holy and especial care. 

Given at our Palace at Potsdam, 29tli April, 1849 
(1843 ?), near midnight. 

Signed, Fbedeeic Guillaume. 

Note of Varnahgbn. — Every word exactly as above — to be 
understood as a joke. 

Humboldt's Letters. 163 


Copenhagen, May 3(f, J 843. 

MoxsiETTK US Baron de Humboldt : 

The letter which you addressed me the day before 
you left Paris has called my attention to the lunar 
tables, for which science is indebted to the labors of 
Professor Hansen. I have applied to our illustrious 
astronomer Schumacher, in order to learn what will be 
still necessary to complete this important subject. By 
following his ad\-ice it was easy to procure everything 
necessary for the continuation of the labors, the com- 
paring of the observations, and when the necessary 
expenses are once apportioned and allowed, Schumacher 
expects to be enabled to publish the lunar tables before 
the expiration of two years. A recompense for efforts 
devoted to the sciences will no doubt be found in the 
advancement of science itself; but the approbation of 
distinguished savans gives us a veritable satisfaction, 
and we rejoice the more in it when it comes from a man 
so far superior to others. Always anxious to deserve 
your approbation, Monsieur le Baron, I wish to be 

164 Humboldt's Letters. 

guided by your intelligence, and I shall be happy to 
be acquainted with the results of your scientific observa- 
tions, whenever you please to address them to me. 

"With the highest consideration, I am, Monsieur le 
Baron, your well-affectionate, 

Chkistian R. 



COLLINGWOOD, 2lst Dec. 1843. 
Hawkhukst, EIent. 

My dear Bakon : 

It is now a considerable time since I received your 
valued and most interesting work on Central Asia, 
which I should have long ago acknowledged, but that I 
was unwilling, and indeed unable, in proper terms to 
thank you for so flattering and pleasing a mark of your 
attention, till I had made myself at least in some degree 
acquainted with the contents. This, however, the con- 
tinued pressure of occupations which leave me little 
time and liberty for reading has not yet allowed me to 
do otherwise than partially — and, in fact, it is a work of 
such close research that I despair of ever being able 
fully to master all its details. In consequence I have 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 65 

hitherto limited myself chiefly to the climatological 
researches in the third volume, and especially to the 
memoir on the causes of the flexures of the isothermal 
lines, which I have read with the greatest interest and 
which appear to me to contain by far the most complete 
and masterly coup-d'oeil of that important subject 
which I have ever met with. In reading this and other 
parts of your work on this subject, and of the " Physique 
du globe" in all its departments — that which strikes 
me with astonishment is the perfect familiarity and 
freshness of recollection of every detail, which seems to 
confer on you in some degree the attribute of ubiquity 
on the surface of this our planet — so vividly present 
does the picture of its various regions seem to be in 
your imagination, and so completely do you succeed in 
making it so to that of your readers. 

The account of the auriferous and platiniferous de- 
posits in the Ural and the zone in 56 lat. has also very 
much interested me, as well as the curious facts respect- 
ing the distribution of the Grecian germs in those 
regions. I could not forbear translating and sending to 
the "Athenaeum " (the best of our literary and scientific 
periodicals) the singular account of the "monstre" of 
Taschkow Targanka — (citing of course your work as 
the source of the history) — in vol. HI. p. 597. 

The idea of availing ourselves of the information con- 
tained in the works of Chinese geographers, for the 

1 66 Humboldt's Letters. 

purpose of improving our geographical knowledge of 
Central Asia, appears to me as happy as it is likely to 
prove fertile ; especially now that the literature of that 
singular country is becoming more accessible daily by 
the importation of Chinese books. What you have 
stated respecting the magnetic chariots and hodometers 
of the Empei-or Tching-wang — if you can entirely rely 
on your authority — gives a far higher idea of the ancient 
civilization of China than any other fact which has yet 
been produced. 

In a word, I must congratulate you on the appear- 
ance of this work, as on another great achievement ; 
and if — as fame reports — it is only the forerunner of 
another on the early discovery of America, it is only 
another proof that your funds are inexhaustible ! May 
you have many years of health and strength granted 
you to pour them forth ; and may each succeeding con- 
tribution to our knowledge afford yourself as much 
delight in its production as it is sure to do your readers 
in its perusal. 

Miss Gibson writes word that you have more than 
once enquired of her when my Cape observations will 
appear. No one can regret more than myself the delay 
which has taken place, but it has been unavoidable, as I 
have had every part of the reduction to execute myself, 
and the construction of the various catalogues, charts, 
and minute details of every kind consume a world of 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 67 

time, quite dispi-oportioned to their apparent extent. 
However, I have great hopes of being able to get a 
considerable portion, in the course of the next year, into 
the printer's hands. Some of the nebulje are ah-eady in 
course of engraving. Perhaps the subject which has 
given me most trouble is that of the photometric estima- 
tion of the magnitudes of Southern stars and their com- 
panions with the Northern ones. A curioi^s fact respect- 
ing one of them — 7 Argus — has been communicated to 
me from a correspondent in India (Mr. Mackay), viz. : 
that it has again made a further, great, and sudden step 
forward in the scale of magnitude (you may perhaps 
remember that in 1837-8, it suddenly increased from 
2. 1 m to equal a Centauri). In March, 1843, according 
to Mr. Mackay, it was equal to Canopus. " a Crucis," 
he says, " looked quite dim beside it." When I first 
observed it at the Cape it was very decidedly inferior to 
a Crucis. 

Believe me, my dear Sir, ever yours, most truly, 
J. F. "W. Hekschel. 

I must not forget to wish you a " merry Christmas 
and many happy returns of the season" in English 

i68 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Hotel de la Russie, 1843. 

Monsieur Le Baron : — May I hope on ray arrival in 
Potsdam, next Monday, by the 1 1 o'clock train, to have 
the honor of seeing you, for the purpose of presenting 
my respects. 

I am merely passing through this city, and you will 
therefore excuse the liberty I take in announcing the 
time of my visit. May I hope that you will receive it 
as a proof of my ardent desire to add some new recol- 
lections to those of the " Salon de Gerard." 

Should I be so unfortunate as to miss seeing you, this 
little note will assure you at least of my desire to 
recall your remembrance of me otherwise than by a 
card. Be kind enough, then, Monsieur le Baron, to 
accept the assurance of my most respectful admira- 
tion of 

Your most humble and obedient Servant, 

DE Balzac. 

Humboldt's Letters. 169 



Whitehall, Sept. ith, 1843. 
Dear Baron de Humboldt : 

I WAS mucli flattered by your kind attention in trans- 
mitting for my acceptance your most interesting work 
on Central Asia. It will be much prized by me, as well 
on account of its intrinsic value as a token of your per- 
sonal regard and esteem. 

There is no privilege of official power the exercise of 
which gives me greater satisfaction than that of occa- 
sionally bestowing a mark of Royal favor and public gra- 
titude on men distinguished by scientific attainments 
and by services rendered to the cause of knowledge. 

From the very limited means which Parliament has 
placed at the disposal of this Court, it has been my good 
fortune to be enabled to recognise the merit of Mr. 
Robert Brown. I have just conveyed to him the inti- 
mation that Her Majesty has been pleased to confer 
upon him for his life a pension on the Civil List of two 
hundred pounds per annum, in recognition of his eminent 

1 yo Humboldt's Letters. 

acquirements as a botanist, and of the value of his con- 
tributions to the store of botanical knowledge. 

Believe me, dear Baron de Humboldt, with sincere 
esteem, Very faithfully yours, 

Robert Peel. 



Vienna, October, 1843. 
My Dear Baron : 

You were kind enough to present me a copy of your 
'■'■ Asie Centrale.'''' I call it your because discoveries 
lawfully belong to those who make them, and because it 
is often better to make a discovery than to become the 
possessor of its results. 

I have begun the perusal of the work, which is among 
those to which I look for mental relaxation, just as minds 
differently constituted from mine are apt to have 
recourse to light and futile productions. This is really 
the case. I often feel the necessity of some relief from 
my monotonous duties, and it is then that I seek fresh 
elements of life and vigor in works of profound learning. 
A book, therefore, like yours, is to me a source of the 

Humboldt's Letters. 171 

richest enjoyment. I learn, and I love to learn, and I 
feel no jealousy of your great erudition. 

"What I most admire in your work is " the method." 
You understand tracing a line without ever losing sight 
of it, and therefore you arrive safely at the end — 
which is not always the good fortune of those who start 
well enough upon the road. Please send me the volumes 
complete — I shall receive them with gratitude. 

I pray you, dear Baron, accept the assurance of my 
highest consideration and old attachment, 




Boston, Dec. 2Zd, 1843. 
Sir — A book on which I have been engaged for some 
years, the History of the Conquest of Mexico, is now 
pubUshed in this country, as it was some few Aveeks 
since in England ; and I have the pleasure to request 
your acceptance of a copy which sails for that purpose 
from New York in January. Although the main sub- 
ject of the Avork is the conquest by the Spaniards, I 
have devoted half a volume to a view of the Aztec 
civilisation; and as in this shadowy field I have been 

1 72 Humboldt's Letters. 

very often guided by the light of your researches, I 
feel especially indebted to you, and am most desir- 
ous that the manner in which my own investigation 
is conducted may receive your approbation. It will 
indeed be one of the best and most satisfactory results 
of my labors. 

As I have been supplied with a large body of 
unpublished and original documents for the Peruvian 
conquest, I shall occujiy myself with this immediately. 
But I feel a great want at the outset of your friendly 
hand to aid me. For although your great work — 
the Atlas JPittoresque — sheds much light on scattered 
points, yet as your Voyage aux regions equinoxialea 
stops short of Peru, I shall have to grope my way 
along through the greater part without the master's 
hand, which, in the Nouvelle Espagne, led me on so 

The Peruvian subject will, I think, occupy less time 
and space than the Mexican, and when it is finished 
I propose to devote myself to a history of the Reign 
of Philip the Second. For this last I have been long 
amassing materials, and a learned Spaniard has explored 
for me the various collections, public and private, in 
England, Belgium, France, and is now at work for me 
in Spain. In Ranke's excellent history : " Fürsten und 
Völker von Sild-Europa,'''' I find an enumeration of 
several important MSS., chiefly Venetian relations, of 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 73 

which I am very desirous to obtain copies. They are 
for the most part in the Royal Library of BerUn, and 
some few in that of Gotlia. I have written to our 
Minister, Mr. Wheaton, to request him to make some 
arrangements, if he can, for my effecting this. The 
liberal principles on which literary institutions are con- 
ducted in Prussia, and the facilities given to men of let- 
ters, together with the known courtesy of the German 
character, lead me to anticipate no obstacles to the exe- 
cution of my desires. Should there be any, however, 
you will confer great favor on me by giving your coun- 
tenance to my applications. 

I trust this will not appear too presumptuous a request 
on my part. Although I have not the honor of being 
personally known to you, yet the kind messages I have 
received from you, and lately through Professor Tell- 
kampf, convince me that my former publication was not 
unwelcome to you, and that you may feel an interest in 
my future historical labours. 

I pray you, my dear Sir, to accept the assurance of 
the very high respect with which I have the honor 
to be 

Your very obedient servant, 

Wm. H. Prescott. 

174 Humboldt's Letters. 



Paris, July 28th, 1843. 
I FIND no words, dear Sir, to tell you how deeply 
your letter has affected me. You have spared me the 
horror of suddenly learning through the papers the 
painful and unexpected news. Although very much 
afflicted and suffering I will not lose a moment in 
expressing my thanks. You are aware, dear Sir, that I 
had not seen for many years the Prince Augustus. I 
received, however, continually, evidences of liis remem- 
brance. It was at the most unhappy time of his life 
that I made his acquaintance at Madame de Stael's, 
where he encountered so much generous sympathy. 
Alas ! of that brilliant and spirited circle at the Chateau 
Coppet, he was the only survivor. There now remains 
to me no other souvenir of my youth and my past 
than the beautiful " tableau de Corinne," the noble and 
affecting sentiments of which have cheered and adorned 
my retirement. I have not the courage. Sir, to pro- 
long this letter, and to answer the interesting details 
M'ith which yours concludes. Allow me to speak to-day 
only of my sorrow, of my gratitude, and my admiration. 

J. Recamier. 

Humboldt's Letters. ij^ 



August 3\st, 1844. 
I TRUST that the following autographs will prove wel- 
come to you : — (A) Bettina under the indictment ; (B) 
two copies of my very brief speech ; (C) two letters of 
Spontini, with strange allusions to PrinceWittgenstein, 
Count Redern, full of hatred against Meyerbeer, toge- 
ther with my earnest reply to it ; (D) a letter of Gay- 
Lussac, when he was so dangerously injured by an 
explosion ; (E) a very humane letter of the Grand Duke 
of Tuscany. 

Always respectfully yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

Saturday Nioht. 



Florence, Jubj 20th, 1844. 
Dearest Cou>rr : 

The Professor of Botany, Philip Parlatore, is about to 

1 76 Humboldt's Letters. 

leave for Berlin, and I cannot resist charging him with 
a letter to you, dear Count, expressive of my thanks for 
the recommendations whereby you have enriched Tus- 
cany with several illustrious men. 

You (the father and patron of natural science) knew 
Mr. Parlatore, and your good opinion was sufficient to 
secure him the appointment at Florence, where he is 
now the Botanic Director of the Museum, and President 
of the Botanic Central Institute, which owes its existence 
to him. 

Another professor of physics was recommended by 
you. Professor Matteucci. He is a true investigator of 
nature. Not only leading science, he consti'ucts instru- 
ments for its interrogation, and is on the road to import- 
ant discoveries. He is now on a little excursion to 
recuperate his strength after his too fatiguing labors. 
I do not know that he will be fortunate enough to meet 
you, for whom he feels so much veneration and grati- 
tude. Our University of Pisa has brought together all 
that is distinguished in physical science — and the fruits 
are maturing. 

At Florence the practical studies in the grand hospital 
contribute greatly towards keeping medicine and sur- 
geiy in the legitimate direction of natural science, sup- 
ported by observation and experience. The congress 
of the " Amateurs of Science in Italy" will also produce 
desirable results. Such meetings, politically inoffensive 

Humboldt's Letters. i yy 

as they always are, make science accessible to a great 
many persons, and establish useful connexions between 
men of great merit who might otherwise remain unac- 

We were told some time ago that you intended 
descending into Italy. This Avould have afforded us the 
utmost happiness, and you would have been received as 
the true protector of natural science. * 

Believe me always yours, Leopold. 



•■Id September, 1844. 
If Dr. Prutz, at Halle, in his obnoxious " Moritz," 
had said nothing more than what he puts in the mouth 
of the clown (page 40), who, speaking of the people, 
" One should give them two morsels, so that they may 
wag their tails and crawl back into their cold kennels ;" 
and at page 53, the poetically fine lines "I conjure you, 
ye future monarchs," one would understand how that 
wonderful drama, in which Moritz contrives to plunge 
all his friends into the water that he may have the 
pleasure simply of fishing them out, dead or alive, but 

1 78 Humboldt's Letters. 

at any rate, cold and wet, could produce an excitement 
at the present time.* Peruse the manuscript, dear 
friend, and send it back to-morrow, Tuesday, before two 
o'clock. The steps which I intend taking will, however, 
be unsuccessful. The proceeds of its representation 
might, with propriety, be given to the inundated, and 
thus the police might become a hydraulic power, or 
even a drying machine. Yours, 

Monday. A. Hx. 



Berlin, September 6th, 1844. 
I uisTDERSTAND as wcll as you do, my dear friend, that 
the speechf in question must necessarily have produced 
a great sensation and excitement in our " north," as 
well as under the sluggish Pole. Se really excels in 
flowery eloquence. The figures which he presents are 
hardly new ; but a certain delicacy of expression, and a 

* Humboldt refers here to a patriotic drama of Robert Prutz, 
"Moritz von Sachsen," the representation of which was forbidden by 
the Berlin police. — Tr. 

\ Of the King, at the inauguration of the Provincial States. 

Humboldt's Letters. 179 

nice perception of the " harmonious" in oratory, camiot 
be denied him. There is really something noble in the 
passion for speaking, upon every occasion, to thousands 
of people. His generosity in sheltering " high officials 
under the veil of the royal purple" will be but indiffe- 
rently acknowledged. Does he, by this course, deliver 
over to our assaults those small fry who obscure the 
day ? I am sorry that such a highly-gifted prince, 
acting under the most benevolent incentives, and pre- 
serving the full vigor of his mind, which constantly 
urges him to action, is, in spite of his good intentions, 
absolutely deceived as to the direction in which the 
state is impelled. When Parry, with a number of 
Esquimaux dogs, had started for the North Pole, dogs 
and sledge were continually driven foricard. When, 
however, the sun broke through the mist, so that the 
latitude could be taken, it was ascertained that the 
expedition had unwittingly been carried backward 
several degrees. A floating field of ice, drifting in a 
southerly current, Avas the surface on which they 
seemed to advance. Our ministers are the drifting, 
icy surface. And may not the current be " the dog- 
matische Missions-Philosophic ?" A. v. Ht. 

It is now certain that the Empress (of Russia) will 
not come. The King will, on the 15th, be in Sans 

i8o Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Sept. IZth, 1844. 

I MUST be in a few moments at the Stettin depot to 
meet the King, who arrives at 9 o'clock. Thence I 
go for a few days to Sans Souci, where I shall, unfortu- 
nately, celebrate my seventy-fifth birth-day. I say 
unfortunately, because in 1Y89 I believed that the 
world would have solved more problems than it has 
done. It is true that I have seen a great deal ; but very 
little, indeed, in proportion to my exactions. 

I have no time to-day to write you about your charm- 
ing description of your sojourn in Paris in 1810. My 
good sense led me at once to that page, from which I 
could inhale the perfume of your friendship. I have 
learned that I have not yet grown insensible to praise. 
What a magnificently anti-Scythian spirit the University 
of Breslau has evinced! How inventive men become 
under political oppression ! Nothing but rope-ladders, 
loop-holes, disguises to get out into the open air. And 
when once there, how really German they are in their 

Humboldt's Letters. 181 

speculations, as to whether they have improved their 
position. It is with them as with the Prince — " Tell me 
whether I am amusing myself." 


A. V. Ht. 

We insert here an entry in Varnhagen's diary, dated 
June 26, 1844, reciting two sharp repartees of Hum- 
boldt. At the Royal table at Sans Souci, some time 
ago, Humboldt shot two well-directed arrows from his 
bow. The conversation turned on some Russian ordi- 
nance, and Humboldt, in speaking of it, mentioned 
repeatedly the Minister of Public Instruction. "You 
have mistaken, sir," said the King. " It was not the 
Minister of Public Instruction who acted in this matter, 
but the Minister of Enlightenment." Humboldt, not in 
the least discountenanced, hastened to reply, "Very 
well. Sire ; then it was not the Minister of Public 
Instruction, but of its opposite," and continued his con- 
versation in his usual way. 

The following anecdote is still neater : General Leo- 
pold von Gerlach, who is fond of badinage, attempted an 
attack upon Humboldt some time ago, saying to him, 
" Your Excellency frequently goes to church, ' now-a- 
days,' do you not ?" He hoped to perplex hiui witli 
the question. Humboldt, however, coolly replied, " Your 
' now-a-days' is very kind of you. You allude, undoubt- 

1 82 Humboldt's Letters. 

edly, to my adopting the only road which, at present, 
could lead to my promotion." The bantering hypocrite 
was dumb. 

An entry of a later date (26th December, 1848), 
speaks of the animosities to which Humboldt was sub- 
jected in still stronger terms. " Humboldt has called ; 
He remained longer than an hour. He assures me that 
were it not for his position at Court, he would not be 
suffered to remain in the country, but would be expelled, 
so strong is the hatred of the ultras and bigots against 
him. It can hardly be described; however, they 
endeavor to discredit him with the King, In other 
parts of Germany they would still less endure him, 
were he once divested of the prestige of his position," 


Berlin, September I9th, 1844. 
Can you command courage enough, dear friend, to 
devote a few moments to a conversation on the present 
state of French literature ? I take the liberty to intro- 
duce Mr. Jousserandot of Franche Comte, a French 
novel-writer. He possesses much beard and much good- 
natured vivacity. He is the son of a wealthy physician, 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 83 

and was recommended me from Paris. Excuse the 
importunity, but you must sometimes take your share 
of the annoyance of being gazed at. 

A. V. Humboldt. 




Beelik, Tuesday, Jum 3(?, 1845. 
One o^ clock, A. IL 

All the mysteries were solved to-night, dearest 
friend. I I'eceived this afternoon from the department 
of Foreign Affairs, where they were stored up, fourteen 
parcels pell-mell, misdirected there from Paris and 
dating from December to May. The first thing we 
perceived was your handwriting; the parcel was duly 
directed and contained, well secured under your seal, 
your important political letter and a parcel for Comtesse 
d'Agoult, w^hich I remit with the present. I am quite 
innocent of what has happened. 

In the Rhine and Moselle Gazette, Xo. 122 of the 29th 
of May, I am judged guilty of Voltairianism, denial of 
all revelations, of conspiring with Marheineke, Bruno 
Bauer, Feuerbach, nay even of the expedition against 

1 84 Humboldt's Letters. 

Luzerne — ipsissimis verbis — and all that on account of 
my Kosmos, page 381. The King had already been 
told that my book was the work of a demagogue and 
an infidel. Whereupon the King wrote me, that he 
could but say what Alfons said to Tasso : 

"And so I hold it in my hand at last 
And call it mine, if I may use that word 1" 

This is poetical and very civil. 

With the sincerest gratitude, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 



Berlin, Wednesday, June 4:th, 1845. 
I BECOGNiSED at ouce from the gi'acefulness of style 
the guardian spirit of my feeble literary efforts. I had 
not yet seen the precious sheet, containing, in addition, 
the interpretations by Neander. I avail myself of the 
last moment before breaking up, to write you a preli- 
minary word of sincerest thanks for one of the most 
interesting life sketches — for which we are indebted to 
your brilliant and vivifying pen. You have represented 
with dignity and magnificence a subject, which popular 

Humboldt's Letters. 185 

enthusiasm out of mere perverseness has repeatedly de- 
graded in burlesque prose. Your exquisite art of puri- 
fying is highly gratifying. 

If Süssmilch will graciously permit, I shall try to accom- 
plish my Kosmos. It is, however, true after all, that at 
the gates of many a temple of science (History of the 
World, Geology, Mechanics of the Heavens) black 
spectres menacingly defend the entrance. 

Indeed Madame von Hormayr is a very charming lady. 
With constant devotion and love, yours, 

A. Humboldt. 


Berlin, June 16/Ä, 1845. 
I AVAIL myself of the few moments allotted me before 
going to the railroad station, dear friend, to thank you 
heartily for your characteristic biography of " Hans von 
Held," I have read but one half of it, and that imme- 
diately after having read your " Life of Bluecher." It 
is, therefore, but natural that I was filled with admira- 
tion. How fortunate you are in coloring all the details 
of military life in the one, and in describing the c\\i\ 
efforts of a people struggling for liberty, in the other 
book. The fatalistic word " fortunate," however, is out 

i86 Humboldt's Letters. 

of place here, because the secret of such successes lies in 
the clearness of intellect and the intensity of your feel- 
ings. The whole world, as it is at present, is reflected in 
your " Held," Zerboni's letter on the bloody tragedy in 
the streets of Breslau, is as eloquently written as it is 
heart-rending. Such things, however, can't deter our 
dull, fanatical, white-livered Polignacs. They will 
attempt to confirm the first deed of violence and bru- 
tality by subsequent ones more systematically devised — 
and all this under the reign of such a King ! I am very 
angry and deeply affected. 

Monday Morning. A. v. Humboldt. 

As I shall have no time for reading during my hasty 
journey, I have left the instructive book for a few days 
to Buelow's, at Tegel. 



Berlin, Thursday, Septemher 4lh, 1845. 
I AVAIL myself of the first moments of my return from 
Potsdam to joyfully congratulate you on the good effect 
of the waters on your health. On account of the domes- 

Humboldt's Letters. 187 

tic misfortunes of my family, my participation in the 
dull and rain-spoiled Court festivities at Bruehl and 
Stolzenfels was a hard trial for me. I will acquaint 
Madame von Buelow to-morrow with your hearty sym- 
pathy. Buelow's recovery progresses rapidly. Except 
some weakness of memory, which, however, does not 
appear for whole days, no change of mind is perceptible ; 
relaxation, however, retirement, and tranquillity of 
mind are still necessary. Always conscious of what he 
owes to his character he resigns. You know, my noble 
friend, that he demanded his dismissal when Itzstein 
was violently expelled from Prussia. Public affairs are 
now in a much worse condition. Buelow's retirement 
fi'om office is a sad event ; but the current of affairs in 
Northern Germany is too strong to be arrested by the 
effort of one individual. 

Please inform Professor Fichte that although I am 
already an unworthy Doctor of Philosophy, I will 
gratefully accept anything which may be offered me 
from Wurtemberg's high-spirited Universities. 

Yours affectionately, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

I enclose to your safe-keeping a beautiful letter of 
Prince Mettemich, on whom I had called on the Johan- 
nisberg ; a letter from Lord Stanley, the Minister; and 
two letters from Jules Janin and Spontini ; also a book 
for the Countess of Stolberg, 

i88 Humboldt's Letters. 



Vienna, June 21«f, 1845. 

My dear Baeon: 

Enclosed you will find my vote fox* the future col- 
league. I expect that you will not look for my assistance 
beyond the sphere of my principles ; but my principles 
are so strongly influenced by a recommendation from 
you, that the request and the grant are but one. I have 
perused your Kosmos and have treated it as is my habit 
with rich collections. The impression made on me by 
the work will be best described by the avowal that it 
caused in my mind two conflicting, or if you like better, 
two mutually neutralizing sentiments — one of satisfaction 
at knowing so much, and one of regret at my great 
ignorance. These sentiments, however, sink into 
nothingness when compared with the admiration of that 
knowledge which alone can have enabled you to accom- 
plish that gigantic enterprise. Knowledge alone, how- 
ever, would not suffice — and hence I am led to acknow- 
ledge the full merit of the author — his great power 
of representation and his method ! You have applied 

Humboldt's Letters. 189 

and dignified in your work the old word discipline^ 
in its relation to science. Would to God, that the 
true meaning of this word could, in political society, 
also recover its eternal rights. If my own impres- 
sions are of but little value, it is different with those 
of the men of science. Their judgment is overflowing 
with admiration, and I agree with them in the convic- 
tion, that you alone of all living men could achieve the 
task, and that the word Kosmos is the true and appro- 
priate title of your work. 

I told you, that I have perused the first volume of 
your work, I am now studying it, and I wish to thank 
you for the really delightful hours, which you have 
opened to me. I call all these hours delightful which 
I can snatch from the uninviting field of political distur- 
bances, and devote to the natural sciences. 

Accept, dear Humboldt, the renewed assurance of my 
sincere and well-known consideration. 




Stab Hotel at Bonn, 
Sunday Evening, August \Oth, 1845. 
Deae Sir, — ^I beg and entreat you to do an impos- 

1 90 Humboldt's Letters. 

sible thing for me. You are the kindest friend of the 
literary men of my country, and you have always been 
the most indulgent of men to me. Please listen, there- 
fore, to my request. I left Paris a week ago for the 
express .purpose of transmitting to the " Journal des 
Debats" a faithful record of the journey of her Majesty 
the Queen of England along the banks of the Rhine. 
Before leaving, I had the honor of paying my respects 
to the King at Neuilly, and of securing his approval of 
my design. Monsieur Guizot also strongly encouraged 
me by saying, that hospitality required that an honest 
and conscientious writer should follow the royal party, 
and faithfully chronicle these wonderful rambles, Avhich 
are now interesting and delighting the whole of Europe. 

Monsieur Guizot gave me, at the same time, letters 
of introduction and instructions, of which I am proud. 
The letters are all honorable to me, and my instructions 
are worthy of the man who gave them. 

Now, dear sir, assist me. What I wish is, not a pre- 
sentation to his Majesty, your King, but an admission 
into the royal circle. Unobserved by all, I myself shall 
see everything, and thus be able to fulfil the mission 
with which I have been honored. 

You see that it is the imperious passion, the passion 
of a feuilletonist, which actuates me. It is true I have 
no title. But, if one be necessary, you can say that I 
am the Lieutenant-Colonel of a Legion (militia), that I 

Humboldt's Letters. 191 

shall appear in a brilliant uniform ; and further, that it 
is but proper that the writers whom the King invites to 
his table, and whom he so greatly honors on so momen- 
tous an occasion, should furnish a report of its chief 
features, as an authority to which future historians of 
the time may refer. 

I am writing, dear sir, under the best auspices — 
under the auspices of Mr. Meyerbeer. You will make 
him very happy, I am sure, and with him the whole 
" Journal des Debats," which is so much devoted to 
you, and, in addition, your very humble servant, myself. 

I shall await with great impatience, but with the most 
perfect submission, your kind reply. 

I am sure that, in any event, you will have done all 
that you honorably could do, to secure me this favor. 

Please accept, Monsieur le Baron, the humble homage 
of my devotion and of my profound respect. 

Jules Ja^hn. 

192 Humboldt's Letters. 



Potsdam, 2Gth of September, 1845. 
(To his dear friend, the Privy Councillor von Varnhagen.) 

Kings and Republics. 

Por lo que desio la conversacion de los Reyes desio la 
conversacion de ellos dentro de los limites perraitidos. 
Un grave consejero dixo al Rey Don Phelipe 11., viendo 
que iva en diversas ocasiones al poder absolute : Senor, 
reconoced a Dios en la tierra como en el cielo, por que 
ne se cause de las monarquias, suave govierno si los 
Reyes suavemente usan de el. — Cartas de Antonio 
JPerez,p. 545. 

At the time of the insurrection of the N"etherlands 
there had already been raised the question, " Whether 
the Kings were going off." I translate the passage from 
Antonio Perez for you. He says : It is because I desire 
the preservation of monarchs that I advise them to 
remain in the limits jjrescribed for them. A Avise Coun- 
sellor said to the King Philip II., being aware of his ten- 
dency to absolute power : " Sire, recognise the supre- 
macy of God on earth as well as in Heaven, so that God 

Humboldt's Letters. 1 93 

may not become tired of monarchies — a very excellent 
sort of government, if it be used Avitli moderation." 

El Dios de cielo es delicado mucho en suffrir com- 
panero en ningmia cosa y se pica del abuso del poder 
liumano. Si Dios se causa de las monarchias, dara otra 
forma al mundo. 

The God of Heaven is very jealous about admitting a 
co-partner in anything whatsoever : He is offended by 
every abuse of human power. Should God once be 
tired of monarchies, he will give another form to the 
political world. 

A. Humboldt. 



Potsdam, October 2d, 1845. 
The curious little note containing the prophecy " that 
God would become tired of kings," was lying for many 
days on my desk, awaiting my delivering it to you, in 
person, my dearest friend. Whenever anything worth 
reading falls into my hands during the late hours of my 
solitary study in the chateau here, I always think of 
you. As I have hitherto been prevented by my efforts 


194 Humboldt's Letters. 

to arrange the manner of Buelow's discharge from 
calling on you, I have thought best to send you, dear 
friend, the little sheet, under envelope. My reason 
for quoting this prophecy is, the general state of public 
affiiirs, which provokes my highest indignation. Every 
day discloses something Avorse. The future looks 
gloomy and menacing, the greatest carelessness pre- 

I have just returned from Tegel, where the Buelows 
would be very happy to see you. They beg especially 
that you will gratify them next winter by frequent calls 
at their town residence. 

In the " "Westminster Review" a certain Dr. Cross says, 
the style of Kosmos is lengthened, and very indiiferent ; 
the frequent reflection on sentiment was deemed very 
superfluous by English savans — such a book did not con- 
tain any thing new. Then follows the denunciation of 
Atheism, although " creation" and the " created world" 
are never lost sight of in the book. And did I not, only 
eight months ago, in the French translation, say, in the 
plainest terms : — It is this necessity of things, this occult 
but permanent connexion, this periodical return in the 
]U"ogress, development of formation, phenomena, and 
events, which constitute Nature submissive to a control- 
ling power. Physics, as the name itself implies, can 
only deduce the phenomena of the physical world 
from tlie properties of matter ; the highest aim of expe- 

Humboldt's Letters. 195 

riiBental science is therefore to ascend to the existence 
of the laws, and progressively to generaUse the same. 
Whatever Hes beyond is no object for physical demon- 
stration^ it belongs to another order of more elevated 
speculations. Immanuel Kant, one of the few philoso- 
phers whom no one has yet accused of impiety, has, with 
rare sagacity, indicated the limits of physical explana- 
tion in his renowned JEssai sur la Theorie et la Construc- 
tion des Cieux. Koenigsberg, 1755. 

The conduct of the aldermen is very praiseworthy. 
It is a pleasure, and a miracle at the same time, to 
encounter such a degree of j)ublic spirit among men 
differing so much in intellect and cultui'e of mind. It 
is hatred concentrated against the same object, but it 
only appears so on the outside. 

I confess that I am wi'ong to have not yet answered 
so excellent a man as the author of "The Religious 
Poetry of the Jews in Spain.'' I first wanted to read the 
book, and the terror of having reached the age of 
seventy-six years on the 14th of September, has plunged 
me so deeply in my " Kosmos," that duties otherwise 
sacred to me have been neglected. I shall call person- 
ally on Mr. Sachs, and beg you to excuse me to him in 
advance ; as to justifying myself, that is out of the 

Most respectfully, yours, 

A. V. HuilBOLDT. 

196 Humboldt's Letters. 

The sketch on Hormayr, which, in a political view, 
stops very singularly at 1808, is very interesting. What 
a mass of writings ! one hundred and fifty volumes. 



Berlin, October 2d, 1845. 
I WOTILD not like, my dear friend, that a friend of 
Thiers, whom he has warmly recommended to me, 
'should leave Berlin without having had the pleasure of 
seeing you. Mr. Thomas, one of the editors of the 
" Revue des deux Mondes," is the author of a most 
remarkable work on the ancient provincial constitutions 
of France, compiled from archives. I recommend him 
to yqur indulgence. 

Yours, in great haste, A. v. Humboldt. 



Berlin, Kov. 30ih, 1845. 
All gifts, tendered through a hand like yours, are of 
double value to me, my dear friend. I have immedi- 

Humboldt's Letters. 197 

ately replied to that Ingli-gifted lady, the Coiintess. 
You are quite right in saying that her beautiful poetry 
evinces an admirable familiarity of the mind with the 

I deem it more delicate to write to Baron Hormayr 
rather than to his lady. May I beg to enclose my little 
note, provided jon approve its form ? I have long had 
a predilection for this liberal-minded man. His literary 
activity is astomiding. I shall have the pleasure of 
calling on Mr. Sachs to-day. I shall also present his book 
to the King myself; this is, however, a time in which 
no impression is permanent. All things dissolve into 
mere visions, which will, however, reappear, ominous 
and deformed, by being joined to old fancies. I am much 
afraid of the consequence produced by incentives, fi'om 
Avhich I had hoped to produce happier results. How 
has it happened that Kosmos is so popular beyond ex- 
pectation ? It seems to me that it must be attributed 
to the imagination of the reader, which invests it with 
additional features, or to the pliability of our (German) 
language which renders it so easy to describe every 
object intelHgibly, and to picture it in words. 

I will come and thank you, my generous friend, for 
the light you have thrown on the moral and intellectual 
merits of Voltaire.* Your revelations are dehghtful ; 

* Voltaire at Francfort-on-the-Main in 1753, by K. A. Varnbagen 
vou Ense. 

igS Humboldt's Letters. 

but " Duncker-Freitag," the recruiting officer, the sen- 
tinel, and the humorously excited suspicion of what 
was attempted at night with Madame Denis, are and 
will always produce an uneasiness. 
With old attachment, yours, 

A. V. Ht. 


I shall not forget Mr. Breul the ftierchant. Minister 
Buelow was very sorry that you missed him. You 
will be very agreeable to him and Lady Buelow any 
evening from half-past seven to nine o'clock. 



Thubsday, January \Wh, 1846. 
Mr. Milnes, and what he may have said of the King, 
" who showed him no personal civilities," interest m.e 
but little ; but it will afford me great joy if my earnest 
intercession for Prutz be at last useful to him. This 
miserable trifle is the only thing that I can secure in 
my position. I shall die, however, in the conscientious 
belief, that to my last moment I never abandoned one 
devoted to the same principles as myself. Your appro- 
bation is highly valuable to me, my dear friend ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 199 

The " Quarterly Review" says I had a prolix style, 
and am never able to write one page of " vivid expres- 

With faithful attachment, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

Please excuse, like a philosopher, the writing on this 
mutilated sheet. I am in such a hurry that I have 
mistaken the address. 



Berlin, January 25th, 1846. 
After an oflScial feeding, at court, of the " knights 
of the peace," whose unwoi-thy chancellor I am — after 
some sorrowful hours at Buelow's, whose state becomes 
every day more precarious — after a ball at the Chateau, 
from which I am just returned, I cannot seek repose 
without sending you my preliminary thanks for your 
ecclesiastical gifts. I am delighted at the review of a 
poetical period, the precursor of a nobler one — or, to 
speak more correctly, of one more pregnant with life. 
I will, however, turn away from the long " Ode of 
Grief," from "The Blue and the Black Eyes," from 

200 Humboldt's Letters. 

" Besser's Merry Wig," and recur with new pleasure to 
your " Zinzendorf." This is a grand, well-executed 
life-sketch, a figure towering above all other things, 
Avhich, in a different direction, attract the interest of our 
time. Tour " Zinzendorf" was also constantly admired 
by my brother. How much the interest is enhanced 
by all that we see or rather expect to see ! But where, 
among the intellectual " glaciers" of the present time, 
are those who could compare themselves with Zinzen- 
dorf, Lavater, and Stilling ? . . . . 

Most gratefully yours, A. Humboldt. 

Saturday Night. 

I told Ranke to-day, very frankly, how much I was 
disgusted at what he presumptuously did at a meeting 
of the Academy, when I was not present, against Preuss, 
a much nobler character than he is. Have you not 
received yet the journals, in which I am immoderately 
praised and reproved (" North-British Review" and 
" Quarterly Review) ? In Germany, ray prose is fre- 
quently blamed as being too poetical ; but the " Quar- 
terly Review" finds it languishing, lifeless, and " not a 
vivid description." How differently different nations 
feel ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 201 



Berlin, February *lih, 1846. 
Yesterday afternoon poor Buelow was released from 
his sufferings. Thursday night, at eleven o'clock, on go- 
ing to bed, he fell lifeless into the arms of his servant. An 
apoplexy ! He closed his eyes never to open them again. 
In the morning a hundred and forty pulses were counted ; 
bleeding had no effect. His end Avas, as lately his life was, 
iinconscious. The family is deeply affected ; the event, 
however, is beneficial. His excellent wife would have 
been sacrificed. Next Tuesday morning we will carry 
him, without pageantry, to Tegel, and bury him imder 
the column of the " Statue of Hope." Under the pres- 
sure of business, caused by this event, and in the midst 
of letters which I have still to write to Guizot, Metter- 
nich, and Aberdeen, I can only briefly reply to the 
heartfelt letter of Madame von Arnim. I have but little 
hope, that the old folks now reigning at Weimar will 
appoint either Prutz or Fallersleben. I had formerly 
thought of Guhrauer, for whom you will also have 
some predilection to be sure. You know how happy 
I would have been if Prutz were appointed. I 


202 Humboldt's Letters. 

am not personally acquainted with Fallersieben. The 
whole passage, however, in the " Wochenstube^'''* 
alluding to the King and to me, must be changed. 
It is based on a false rumor. I never have shown 
the book to the King, and I never applied to the 
King to quash the indictment, as he is always rather 
irritated against Prutz, on account of the old cousia 
from Kulmbach.f It was Minister Bodelschwingh who 
showed it to the King. On this Minister Prutz had 
personally made a very favorable impression, which it 
was easy to improve. Prutz had applied to have the 
indictment quashed, and besides he would hardly have 
been found guilty on all the counts. It was thought 
advisable, as he made the first advances to the Govern- 
ment, not to rebut him. The passage " that our King 
should be asked," must also be discarded, as it would 
give offence to the Grand Duchess, avIio Hkes to show 
her independence of Prussia at every opportunity. So 
she protected, not long ago, the Chancellor Mueller, wtien 
the Court of Weimar was diplomatically reproached for 
allowing a journal here prohibited to be read in a read- 
ing-room at Weimar. The Court of Weimar replied 

* Die " Politische" Wochenstube by Robert Prutz, a satire on Schel- 
ling and his philosophy. — Tr. 

\ The cousin referred to is Margrave Albrecht, of Brandenburg, 
who, in Prutz's drama^ "Moritz von Sachsen," is represented aa 
a " Robber Knight."— TV. 

Humboldt's Letters. 203 

with dignity. But that Prutz or Fallersleben coukl he 
appointed seems highly improbable to me. Credat 
Judöeus Apella. Excixse to-day my confused Avriting, 
dear friend ! 

Saturday. A. v. Ht. 


Berlin, Feb. 20ih, 1846. 
Do you guess, my dear friend, who sent me this strange 
article ? Do you guess anything from the seal and the 
name on the envelope, " M. ?" Is that the author, and 
to what journal may the article belong ? Profound, of 
enlarged political views, it certainly is not. The j)assage 
on p. 8 is underscored by the author himself, and it con- 
tains a contradiction ! Prussia is to have unity in an 
American confederacy. His remarks, p. 3, on Frede- 
rick n. and on his works, and on " Kant a guillotine," 
p. 5, are as Minister Thiele would write them. I am 
indignant at both. The author knows all the news, all 
the names, all the gossip, of the " Eckensheher,"* and is 
touched by the liberalism of Bodelschwingh, p. 14, who 

* Curbstone Guard. — TV. 

204 Humboldt's Letters. 

still defends every day the expulsion of the Baden 
Representatives. He does not dare to name Eichhorn 
with censure. The last line only is grand and fine. 
With unalterable devotion, 
Pmdat. a. v. Humboldt. 



• Berlin, March 29ih, 1846. 

I have only time to tell you, that I shall certainly be 
in Sans Souci from June to September, and to thank 
you, noble friend, from my heart, for the kind manner 
in which you allude to the Agamemnon of my brother. 
To choose maliciously 16 verses out of 1700 !! I once 
complained that they would not perform the drama in a 
royal palace in my brother's translation ! As the Staats 
Zeitung is seen every evening by the King, they thought 
it well to malign the production there. The very next 
day I answered in the Spenersche Zeitung mildly, 
because the well-informed but unpoetical Dr. Franz is 
now seeking an increase of his pension. I myself took 
care that the King did not see my answer ; at least, he 

Humboldt's Letters. 205 

did not talk to me about it. Send back the little sheet. 

I am at work, not without success, I believe, at the 

Kosmos, but in a sad mood respecting the public cause. 

Your news from England is very interesting. 

With the most cordial friendship. 


Sunday. A. v. Humboldt. 



Berlin, March 30ih, 1846. 
I SEND you again some autographs of little import, 
ten in number, of Villemain, Bessel, Victor Hugo, 
Rueckert (of whom you have plenty of autographs), 
Manzoni (full of praise for me, but in bad style), 
Thiers, Widow of Lucien Bonaparte, three billets de 
matin of the Duchesse d'Orleaus. I add to these fugi- 
tive sheets a letter from me to the King, which I beseech 
and implore you not to show to any one, and to send 
back to-morrow^ because I might have use for it. You 
shall have the letter afterwards. It sometimes happens 
that the King, instead of a billet de matin, writes hia 
answer on my letter. This happened yesterday. The 

2o6 Humboldt's Letters. 

ministers who would gladly permit the " Turnen,*'' throw 
suspicion on Prof. Massman, whom the King likes very- 
much, and whom he wants to keep here. My letter will 
show you at least, that I openly say, how the tide of evil 
is bearing down all things before it, and how we are 
depriving ourselves of the means of action. 

With my old attachment, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 



As early as eight o'clock this morning I sent to the 
Koethener Strasse, to have an interview with Professor 
Massmann, after the confiding communications of your 
Majesty, concerning the decision of his situation. He 
has just gone, leaving me again with an excellent 
impression of his solidity, clear perceptions, and enthu- 
siastic vigor for influencing our youth (the indelible, 
primaeval, self-restoring institution of mankind) . To be 
afraid of every enthusiastic energy is to take from the 
life of a State its nourishing, preserving power. Pro- 

* Gymnastic ExercLses. — Tb. 

Humboldt's Letters. 207 

fessor M. did not see Minister von Bodelschwingh for 
two years, bnt the Minister then treated him very 
kindly, and Massmann desires very much, without 
intruding, to give a candid answer to every question. 
In view^ of the noble and frank character of Minister 
von Bodelschwingh I have great hopes of the result of 
such a conversation, and therefore I have to beg of your 
Majesty, most submissively, to communicate to me, 
whether, according to the orders of your Majesty, the 
Minister will send for Professor M., or whether he may 
go to the Minister on his own account, not called for, 
but animated by some words of your Majesty. I won- 
der how it could be forgotten how much Massmann has 
done for the poetry of the Hohenstaufen times, and 
how talented a lecturer he was at the University. I 
find praised in Gei'vinus Geschichte der Deutschen 
Litteratur : Massmann's Denkmaeler Deutscher Sprache, 
1828 ; his Gedichte des Zwoelften Jahrhunderts, his 
Legenden and Ritterliche Poesie. How could a man 
be dangerous to youth whom the King of Bavaria 
appointed for the education of his princes, and by whom 
above all others the Ci'own-Prince declares himself to 
have been animated with the love of culture and intel- 
lectual freedom, and the true appreciation of his impend- 
ing kingly duties ? We live not in a sad, but in an 
earnest time. All action and energy are paralysed, if 
backbiting is permitted to deprive us of our most useful 

2o8 Humboldt's Letters. 

men. Enthusiastically attached to your person, to the 
splendor of your reign, and to the glory of our country, 
it makes me sad to see the most noble purposes in 
danger of being misunderstood. No doubt there are 
very honorable men who, from pure love of your 
Majesty, would like to see me also under the column at 
Tegel, or at least on the other side of the Rhine. 
In grateful submission, 

Your Royal Majesty's most faithful 


Berlin, March 29, 1846. 

T?ie King wrote on the fly-leaf : 

My warmest thanks, dearest Humboldt. M. Bodel- 
schwingh will send for Massmann. 
In all haste, as ever. 

Your faithlul F. W. 

Alexander v. Humboldt, Present. 


KoenigsberCt, Fch. \2th, 1846. 
I HEAR with great regret that your Excellency has 
to mourn the loss of Herr von Buelow. Although I had 

Humboldt's Letters. 209 

not the pleasure of knowing the late Baron jiersonally, 
I was not unacquamted with the trvxe affection of the 
xincle for his nephew, and I heard frequent mention of 
the enthusiastic manner in which it was reciprocated. 
JVIoreover, I knew his re])ute as that of a noble, talented, 
clear-sighted man. Would that I could indite words 
of consolation, such as I heard them, at the time of my 
great loss ! — but it is not given to every one to speak 
them. That time heals our bleeding wounds, the 
wounds which at first seemed mortal, I myself have 
experienced ; that death after a short suffering is prefer- 
able to death after a long one, is a truth which impresses 
itself often on my mind ! 

The chancellor, Herr von Wegnern, communicated to 
me on the 27th ult. the letter which he received from 
your Excellency. This letter contains the first news I 
received since Nov. 7th, of last year, respecting the 
portrait by which our most gracious monarch intended 
to gratify a poor invalid : that your letter was ex- 
ti-emely gratifying and consoling to me, is natural. It 
created the first ray of hope ; it has unceasingly occupied 
me ; it even gave rise to some kind of superstition, and 
I attributed my good health the whole month of Decem- 
ber to the vivid hopes it had raised. This prospect of 
the restoration of my health, I thought, gave me hoi)e 
of being able to indulge for a longer period in the plea- 
sure which the dear picture of the " most highly revered 

21 o Humboldt's Letters. 

one, affords me. I, however, do not indulge in the 
hope of this restoration," since I find my own experi- 
ence as frequently opposed to as in harmony with that 
of others, and the result of my reflections on this obscure 
subject, is simply this, that it is one of the innumerable 
questions, which are beyond the veil that separates 
us both from the great secrets of our own nature, and 
from those which nature in general interposes between 
first causes and perceptible phenomena. I did, however, 
excuse the rising superstition by recalling the indis- 
putable truth, that vivid agreeable effects on the mind 
or soul react upon the body ; but w ay did the reaction 
not endure in my case ? Be this as it may, it is a fact 
that the portrait of the King always moved before my 
eyes during my restless nights ; I hoped every day would 
bring me news of it. I perfe'ctly understand that a 
care for the well-being of millions of subjects, equally 
dear to the heart of the monarch, rules the ruler himself 
and compels him to abandon, under the pressure of the 
moment, the arrangement of a succession of innumerable 
interests centring in him ; I also fully understand that the 
King, although he is no more unmindful of the honors he 
intends bestowing than of those he has already awarded, 
has not been able to fix the exact moment of confer- 
ring the intended benefit upon me. I also know be- 
yond all doubt, that I am standing upon a mine which 
may at any time explode, and that to-day has no 

Humboldt's Letters. 211 

power over to-morrow. I have, therefore, thought best to 
conceal entirely within my own breast the hope of possess- 
ing the dearest of pictures, and to betray nothing, even to 
my wife and daughters, until further news of the actual 
approach of the hoped-for object shall render me as 
secure in the certainty as the case permits. I have the 
utmost horror against the propagation of anything the 
truth of which maybe subjected to doubts by succeeding 
events ; knowing from sad experience that it may not be 
sustained by the next moment, for which falsehood and 
misrepresentation are greedily lying in wait. I fear that 
the premature spreading of such news, moreover, may 
imply a sort of coercion (sit venia verbo) on the King. 
These reflections imposed profound silence on me. But 
when the letter of your Excellency to Herr von Wegnern 
spread the news without my co-operation, and when the 
realization of my hopes seemed near, this compulsory si- 
lence terminated, and I actually revelled in the idea of its 
possession. Next day, the 28th of January, I put down 
on paper the testamentary provision, which disposes of 
the picture after my death. I consider it the common 
property of our country, not only on account of its funda- 
mental object, that of alleviating the sufferings of the sick 
man, but also- for other reasons. I therefore do not leave 
it to my family ; but in consequence of long and careful 
considerations, up to January 27th, to my native town of 
JMinden, so that the highest military and civil functiona- 

212 Humboldt's Letters. 

ries of the province, together with the Mayor of the 
town, may decide further on the place and manner of 
its keeping. Moreover, on the 28th of January, I 
entered vipon the execution of other plans relative to the 
fulfilment of my hopes, which entertained me in various 
ways during these last months. In order to receive the 
portrait of the " most highly revered" in a becoming man- 
ner, it is necessary to put the place where I shall keep 
it into the best state at my command. I have, therefore, 
condemned the present furniture and ornaments of my 
two rooms, and ordered new ones, as luxurious and 
tasteM (for a professor, of course) as I could decide 
upon. The directions for their manufacture were sent 
immediately, and Avith the opening of the navigation in 
spring I shall have everything I want. I shall blame 
no one who thinks me foolish in prosecuting plans for 
embellishing my residence at a moment when my leav- 
ing it for ever seems so highly probable. But if I 
delayed, the prospect of the arrival of the royal portrait 
would depress, instead of elevating me joyfully, as it 
does now, above much suffering. If I enjoy the sight 
of the picture even one day only, I shall pass through a 
fleeting, indeed, but beautiful " frontier scenery" — from 
this life into the other ! One thing yet I sl>all add before 
I cease annoying your Excellency, by narrating the con- 
sequences following the invaluable expected gift of the 
most hisfh Master. Mr. Chancellor von Wegnern has 

Humboldt's Letters, 213 

asked Professor Sinisou to express to uie bis wish to 
insert a notice of the picture in the papers. But I 
opposed it, partly for reasons stated above, and partly 
because such a notice would certainly be more appro- 
priate after the recei^it of the picture. In case I should 
be unable to write any more after its arrival, Simson 
knows what are to be the contents of the notice accord- 
ing to my wish. 

Could I but once behold the fine appearance now pre- 
sented of the comet of Biela ! At our place, on the 
ilth of January, Wichman could observe nothing, per- 
haps, or probably on account of the little clearness of 
the sky at that time; but on the 15th he saw distinctly 
both heads of the comet. On the following day he 
described to me orally what he had seen ; but I did not 
get a clear idea of it, and was, on the contrary, of opi- 
nion, that what he called a second head of the comet, is 
an accumulation of nebulce, as other comets too had 
shown at a greater or smaller distance from the real 
head. I asked of him to make for me, when it appeared 
again, a diagram of it, as accurate as possible. The state 
of the sky and the position of the comet, which was 
often very low, delayed the making of a diagram and 
measurement till the 26th of January. Since that time 
the second head of the comet has been traced as faith- 
fully as possible. Our observations are the earliest of 
those known ; since, they have directed their attention to 

214 Humboldt's Letters. 

it everywhere, and have measured it ; there will become 
known, in spite of the bad season, a fine series of obser- 
vations, which may, as I hope, permit us to draw reliable 
conclusions. As now developed, forces of polarity, I 
believe, must be recognised in it. The further deve- 
lopments will, I hope, enable us to advance beyond 
superficial conjectures like these. 

The observations of the new planet can be made here 
so excellently by the heliometer, which is quite invalu- 
able for this purpose, that their accuracy far surpasses 
that of the best meridian observations ; of course its 
greatest usefulness will only be attained when the stars 
of comparison are equally well determined in their posi- 
tion. To this determination, then, the power of the 
meridian observations is directed about the planet itself. 
Dr. Busch, following my counsel, does not trouble him- 
self. I have also requested Encke and Schuhmacher to 
assist in determining the positions of the stars. The 
former has already received from here a series of excel- 
lent observations, as a foundation for his calculation of 
the orbit, and he will soon receive the continuation of 
them. It is very fortunate that I have arranged my 
extensive investigations on the exact reduction of 
obseiwations by my heliometer, and that these are pub- 
lished in the first volume of my " Astronomische Unter- 
suchungen." Without them, Wichmann would be unable 
to reduce them with exactness, as I can do nothing now, 

Humboldt's Letters. 215 

and the observations of the planet would thereby lose 
much of their interest, Avhich exists only in the first 
period of observation, and therefore only when the 
observations are calculated immediately. I hope, that 
by proceeding on this basis, Encke's calculations will 
acquire certainty, which will prove itself up to a few 
seconds at the reappearance of the planet. 
At last an end of this ! 

In accustomed reverence to the end of life, 
Your Excellency's most obedient 

F. W. Bessel. 

Note by HmiBOLDX. — The last letter but one which I received 
from the great and noble man. 



March 20ih, 1845. 
You have been kind enough, my Lord Baron, and 
illustrious colleague, to promise your acceptance of a 
copy of " Notre Dame de Paris," and the further good 
office of offering it in ray name to your august Sove- 
reign, my sympathy with and admiration for whom are 
well kno^vn to you. To " Notre Dame de Paris" I add 

2l6 Humboldt's Letters. 

my solemn discourse before the Academy. It would 
make me liappy to think that it gave you a little plea- 
sure to receive this mark of my high and profound 

Yours, Victor Hugo. 



Berlin, March, 1846. 
I HAD the misfortune of twice missing your Excellency 
when I called to give you my thanks for your great 
kindness, and at the same time to bid you a Hearty 
farewell, as to-morrow I hasten to my rustic solitude. 
May God grant you many felicitous hours for the happy 
completion of your great work, for which I now am 
more heartily anxious than for any work of my own. 
For it is the monument of honor for Germany, her repre- 
sentative work before the nations of Europe ; and I, as a 
German, feel proud that you did not write it in French. 
I would also ask your leave to introduce to you my eldest 
son, who is private tutor at the university of Jena ; now, 
he may try his luck himself with you, as bearer of this 
letter. Finally, I beg of you that you will speak in my 

Humboldt's Letters. 


behalf with their Majesties, whom it was not my fortune 
to see this winter. May I yet be permitted to work 
something worthy of their approbation and of yours ; 
but may you also be persuaded that it is not for me to 
appear in person before the public of the capital, but to 
shape my thoughts in the solitude and quiet of rural 
life, whither I am now permitted to withdraw, grateful 
fbr the highest favor of his Majesty, and with the 
purest reverence for you. 




(from the FRENCH.) 

Milan, Dec. &th, 1844. 

Monsieur le Baron : 

I WOULD not have hesitated to express my confidence 
in an august and perfect goodness ; but, instead of a 
becoming confidence, it would have been an unpardon- 
able presumption on my part to have dared to foresee 
under what ingeniously amiable form this goodness 
would deign to manifest itself I have thus a second 
time acquired the precious right (I had almost been 
made to forget that it is a sacred duty), to beg your 


21 8 Humboldt's Letters. 

Excellency to lay at the feet of your noble sovereign 
the humble tribute of a gratitude which has become, if 
jDOSsible, more lively and more grateful. And at the 
risk of appearing indiscreet, I cannot refrain from avail- 
ing myself of this o])portunity to renew the respectful 
homage of the. devotion which, as a dweller on this 
earth, and under this title, nihil humani a me alienum 
putans, I have long entertained. This homage would 
cease to be pure, and would thus lose its unique value 
if it involved the slightest sacrifice of my Catholic con- 
science, that is to say, of that which is the soul of my 
conscience. But, thank God, such is not the case ; for, 
amid the character and the sign of the high destiny 
which I salute from afar, with a respectful joy, it is my 
privilege to admire and to love the development of the 
most excellent work of justice, which is the liberty of 
doing good. 

My admiration for you, M. le Baron, if even it did 
not content itself with being the simple echo of so great 
a reputation, ought not to surjjrise you ; for if, as I am 
daily told, there is not a learned man who has not some- 
thing to learn from you, there are few unlearned men 
whom you have not taught something. In this con- 
nexion, and at the risk of abusing your indulgence, I 
cannot conceal from you my hope to have a memento 
of Humboldt — a memento less precious, no doubt, than 
those which I owe to his good-will, but which will also 

Humboldt's Letters. 2 1 9 

have its value. My fellow-citizen, Count Alexander 
Lito Modignani, in a journey made by him, entirely 
under your guidance, in North America, sought out, in 
the mountain of Quindia, the magnificent Ceroxylus at 
the season of the ripeness of their fruit, possessed him- 
self of one, and was kind enough, on his return, to 
divide with me the seeds he gathered from it. Planted 
last spring, not one has yet sprung np ; but on visiting 
them lately, I found them entirely sound, and in two of 
them a trace of vegetation was perceptible at the base. 
I should be happy, and even a little proud, to possess 
a memento, and that, I believe, a very rare one, of a 
people at once ancient and new, whom you have sub- 
jected to the victorious sway of science. 

It is with the most profound respect, and, permit me 
to add, with that affection always so naturally enter- 
tained for a great man, and which it gives such pleasure 
to express, that I have the honor to be your Excel- 
lency's most humble and most obedient servant, 

Alexander Manzoxi. 

Note by HmrBOLDT. — Written to A. Humboldt on the occasion of 
a refusal to accept the class of peace of the order pour le merite. I 
had been commissioned to write to him, that it was not to interfere 
with his liberty in any degree, that he was never to wear the cross, 
but that a name so great and so beautiful as his must needs continue 
to grace the list of the knights. 

220 Humboldt's Letters. 



(from the FRENCH.) 

Paris, Augmt, 1845. 
Sir, — I take the liberty of introducing a young 
Frenchman, full of talents, of acquirements, and of 
thirst for knowledge. He desires to become acquainted 
with Germany, and Berlin in particular. I thought I 
could not direct him better than to the illustrious who 
does the honors of Berlin to strangers. Permit me to 
recommend him in a very special manner. Mr. Thomas 
is my particular friend, and the friend of all your friends 
of Paris. Be pleased to receive in advance all my 
thanks for the reception you will kindly accord him, 
and to receive the assurance of my attachment and of 
my high consideration. 

A. Thiers. 



Paris, May, 1845. 
I SEND you, M. le Baron, a copy of my refutation of 
M. Thiers, in regard to the passages of that historian 

Humboldt's Letters. 221 

which assail the memory of my husband. The esteem 
which you bore him, as well as that of your dear brother 
and your estimable sister-in-law, both, to me, of sweet 
and noble memoiy, leads me to hope that you will receive 
with interest this token of all the sentiments I possess 
for you, M. le Baron, and in which I beg you to believe 
me. Yours affectionately, 

The Peincess of Caning, 

Widow Bonaparte Lucien. 



TuiLERiES, Feb. I2ih, 1845. 
I WILL not longer hold the treasure intrusted to my 
keeping, which was a source of great joy to me. Receive 
once more my sincerest thanks for this communication, 
and let me hope soon to find new material for thanks. 
You see, selfishness is unpardonably predominant in my 

Your Excellency's affectionate 


222 Humboldt's Letters. 



Neuilly, M'ay I2th, 1845. 

Your Excellency must suffer me often to claim your 
services ; but to-day I come to ask something great of 
you. I wish for myself and for my cousin of Weimar 
the instructive pleasure of visiting Versailles in your 
society ; our plan is to go there on Thursday. For the 
evening, the King invites you for dinner and theatre in 
Trianon. If you have the courage to share our altered 
pilgrimage, I invite your Excellency to be here in 
Neuilly, Thursday, half-past 11, to accompany us on our 
journey. But if other occupations should prevent you 
from going, I ask an open confession. 

I beg your Excellency to receive the expression of 
my sincerest esteem, 


Humboldt's Letters. 223 



Winter of 1845. 

I HAD not the satisfaction to bid adieu to your Excel- 
lency, and to repeat to you my thanks for your excellent 
work ; permit me to do it now in writing, whilst I send 
to you the lines for ray beloved cousin, and receive 
once more the expression of the most heartfelt wish to 
greet again your Excellency, after a short interval, on 
French soil. 

With most sincere esteem, your Excellency's affec- 
tionate Helene. 



Potsdam, Ajml 22d, 1846. 
It has afforded me a great relief being permitted to 
i-ead before you, and while very much of the warm and 

224 Humboldt's Letters. 

friendly praises expressed by you are of course to be 
ascribed to the kindness of heart which prompts you to 
give pleasure to an old man, still there is a large margin 
for the unalloyed gratification of my love of approbation. 
The main object of my efibrts is that of composition in 
the precise sense of the word, the command of large 
masses of matter compounded with care and with an 
accurate knowledge of details. The management of 
our beautiful, pliant, harmonious, and drastic tongue is 
but a secondary consideration. I shall certainly find an 
opportunity of availing myself of your excellent advice 
for Flemming and Mad. de Sevigne. Seneca also, though 
I consider him a little bombastic (Quaest. natur.) I have 
taken home with me for perusal. 

Now for the special purpose of these lines. The King 
said to me on going to bed yesterday, "Let Bettina 
know that she may make her mind easy in regard to the 
leading person.* No one ever thought of giving him 
up to the Russians." " You should write her to that 
efiect yourself," said I. " Yes, I hope to do so," was the 
answer. He spoke very kindly of Bettina. 
With my old attachment, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


How sad is this eighth attack upon the King ! Strange 
* MicroslawskL 

Humboldt's Letters. 225 

that ministers and cabinet councillors are never shot at ! 
Such events are the more unpleasant, the more the 
probabilities or improbabilities of their recurrence baffle 
all attempts at calculation. 



Potsdam, May 18th, 1846. 
I SEND you, dear friend, to be added to your collec- 
tion, a very remarkable letter from Prince Metternich, 
with a semi-theological conclusion, full of mind and 
rhetorical fervor, with a slight dread of pantheism at 
the close of the letter. 

With unaltered friendship, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


(From the French.) 

Vienna, 3fay 10, J 846. 
My dear Baron — Inclosed is my vote.* I give it in 
good conscience, and absolve you from the crime ofthat 

* Note by Humboldt. — The Prince voted for Mr. Hermann, of 


226 Humboldt's Letters. 

electioneering to which the world is addicted. The 
King and his Chancellor are the sound appreciators of 
scientific merit, and I know how to designate the place 
which belongs to me in the avenue of science, and 
which, to my great regret, is far from the sanctuary. 

What I have just told you, my dear Baron, is neither 
gasconade nor an excess of modesty ; it is the unvar- 
nished history of my life. You do not knoAV this his- 
tory, and I will relate it to you in a few words. 

At the age at which life takes its direction, I con- 
tracted an inclination for the exact and natural sciences 
which I would permit myself to describe as irresistible, 
and a disgust for practical life which I would call uncon- 
querable, if I had not overcome both this disgust and 
this inclination. It is fate that disposes of individuals, 
and their qualities as well as their defects decide upon 
their careers. Fate has separated me from the object 
of my choice, and has thrust me upon the road I should 
not have chosen. Once started, I submitted without 
losing sight of the goal of my wishes, and the result was 
that what I should have wished to regard as the aim of 
my life has become only the solace of it. The King has 
set the mark of a learned man upon me. I know to 
whom this is to be attributed. If it is a question of 
the heart, the King is not mistaken. 

What you tell me of the forthcoming second volume 
of Cosmos, makes me look forward to the study of it 

Humboldt's Letters. 227 

with impatience ; yon ai*e not to be read, you must be 
studied, and the place of a pupil suits me exactly. No 
one is more called upon than I am to do justice to your 
remark relative to the influence exercised by Christianity 
on the natural sciences,* as upon mankind in general 
and hence upon all science, for that remark has long 
since dawned upon my mind. It is correct in all 
respects, and its generating cause is simple as are all 
other truths, those which are, as well as those which 
are not understood, for the latter fircunistance has no 
effect on the substance of a truth. Error leads to error, 
as truth is the guide to truth. As long as the mind 
remained in error in the sphere of thought which is the 
most elevated of all those attainable by the human 
mind, this deplorable state of things could not fail to 
react upon every quarter of the moral compass upon all 
intellectual and social questions, and to oppose to their 
development in the right direction, an insurmountable 
obstacle. The good ?ieics once told, the position could 
not but change. It was not by bestowing divine honor 
on effects that they could be traced to the fountain head 
of truth ; the investigation continued to be confined to 
the abstract speculations of the philosophers, and to the 
rhapsodies of poets. The cause once laid bare, the hearts 

* Note by Humboldt. — I had spoken of the intensity of the love 
of nature. I had compared St. Basil with Bernardin de St. Pierre. 

A. Ht. 

228 Humboldt's Letters. 

of men were comforted, and their minds opened to con- 
viction. Nevertheless, the latter still remained for a 
long time shrouded in the mists of pagan scepticism, 
until at last scholastic j^hilosoj^hy was unhorsed by expe- 
rimental science. Do you admit the force of my reason- 
ing ? If you do, I have no doubt you wUl share my 
fears that true scientific progress is in danger of being 
checked by too ambitious spirits, who desire to rise from 
the effects to the cause, and who finding the approach 
cut off by the impassable barriers which God has set 
upon human intelligence, and finding themselves unable 
to advance, roll back upon themselves, and relapse into 
the stupidity of paganism, in seeking the cause in the 
effect ! 

The world, my dear Baron, is in a dangerous position. 
The social body is in fermentation. You would do me 
a great favor if you could teach me the nature of this 
fermentation, whether it is spirituous, acid, or putrid ? 
I greatly fear that the verdict will be for the last- 
named of these kinds, and it is not I who could teach 
you that these products are hardly beneficial. 

Be pleased to accept the thanks of my household for 
your friendly memento, and the assurance of the con- 
tinuance of my old attachment. 


Humboldt's Letters. 229 



Berlin, May 30th, ] 846. 
Perhaps, my dear friend, it will not be withoiat some 
interest to you to possess a copy of the poem of the 
Crown Prince of Bavaria. The language is less crude 
than that of Walhalla ; and some passages show a good 
deal of feeling, if but little poetical fervor. 



A. V. Humboldt. 



POTSDAir, November lith, 1846. 

What a splendid reception, my dear friend, have 

y(^u given the fifth volume of my brother ! Pardon me 

if, in the excessive bustle of the last few days upon the 

cold " historic hill," I have not written some commen- 

230 Humboldt's Letters. 

datory remarks. I also deplore the omissions to which 
you are kind enough to make me attentive. Perhaps 
they could be supplied in the next volume. It was sup- 
posed that the letters must be printed in the form in 
which my brother had prepared them for publication, 
and in which they were offered for sale. I believe no 
nation on earth can produce an instance of such a life 
devoted exclusively to the increase of the wealth of 
ideas ! How inexpressibly I rejoice in the mere prospect 
of once more beholding a master-piece of your accurate, 
life-like, and withal delicate representations of social 
and diplomatic occurrences ! 
With unalterable attachment. 

Your grateful 

A. Humboldt. 

While it was not entirely wise in a monarch who is 
great in history to have yielded, under the influence of 
the atmosphere of Versailles, to the temptation of off- 
setting the memory of the barricades with a spectacle 
ä la Louis XIV., throwing great difficulties in the way 
of the successor, and attaining nothing of value, the 
conduct of Palmerston, and of Albert and Victoria, on 
the other hand, is likewise clumsily ill-mannered. Mean- 
time, the sober Americans are establishing a universal 
empire in the West, which already threatens the trade 
of China. 

Humboldt's Letters. 231 

My MS. " On the Textile Fabrics of the Ancients," 
pp. IOÖ and 113, appears also to have been lost among 
the papers of the lamented Wolf. The effect of the 
religious music, particularly on p. 323, contains much 
that is finely expressed. 

In the year 1846 we find the following remark in 
Varnhagen's diary: "The conversation turned upon 
the capacity of one of the younger princes, which was 
declared to be inferior. Humboldt was of a difierent 
opinion. ' I do not agree with you,' he said ; ' the 
young prince spoke to me the other day, finding me in 
waiting in the apartments of his mother, and asked, 
"Who are you?" "Humboldt is my name," said I. 
" And what are you ?" " A chamberlain to his Majesty 
the King." " Is that all ?" said the prince, curtly, turn- 
ing on his heel. Is not that a proof of intelligence ?' " 



Berlin, November 28th, 1846. 
I DO not answer to-day, my dear friend, in regard to 
your splendid Memoirs. How everything succeeds in 

232 Humboldt's Letters. 

your hands ! To-day I recommend you an able French- 
man, M. Galuski, who knows Germany better than we 
do, the author of an essay on A. W. Schlegel. He 
will stay but a few days. Preserve the autograph of 

A. V. Humboldt. 




Berlin, December 6th, 1846. 
There will be perhaps some delay, my dear friend, in 
your receiving the " Cinq jours de Berlin," in which I 
am spoken of by the Berliners (who are introduced as 
speaking themselves), as a tolerably pleasant tattlei-, but 
in which I am alluded to rather unkindly, as to my 
moral character. If all my speeches lack consistency, 
I apprehend for the durability of the system of the 
world, the Kosmos. Mr. Barriere will probably have 
called on you the sixth day, and you will have suggested 
all that to him. The paper contains some excellent 
things, Cracoviana, about the vote of Prussia and Mr. 
de Kanitz. 

* Barante introduced M. Galuski to Humboldt. 

Humboldt's Letters. 233 

I send you for your autograph collection a flattering 
letter of Mignet, and a letter of mine, written in 1801, 
at Cartliagena, in South America, at a turning point in 
my life, and addressed to " Citizen" Baudin, who, on 
board of the Perron, made a voyage round the world. 
This letter was written at a time when probably people 
in Europe had ceased to be addressed any more as 
" citizens." Baudin, instead of doubling Cape Horn, 
and receiving me at Lima, went round the Cape of Good 
Hope to Australia. 

Your old friend, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


I inclose an excellent letter of my brother to Koerner, 
which will be published in the sixth volume ; but you 
must return this copy. 

IS 7. 


Paris, July Ut, 1846. 
Deae Bakon, and most illustrious Colleague : 

You will easily understand how happy and flattered 
I was at hearing, that the book " Antonio Perez and 

234 Humboldt's Letters. 

Philip II." has interested you and obtained approval so 
distinguished as that of your King. The applause of a 
Prince, of so great genius and learning, who ranks 
among the most acute and most infallible of literary 
critics, could not be otherwise than of the greatest value 
to me. To make the book which was honored with 
this august approbation worthier of it, may I ask you, my 
dear and most illustrious colleague, to offer the work in 
the new form, more complete and more elaborate, which 
I have just given to it, to your sovereign ? This is a 
respectful act of homage, which the King of Prussia, by 
the expression of his kind satisfaction, has encouraged 
me to render, and for which your goodness to me will 
obtain, I am very sure, a gracious reception. 

I take also the liberty of sending to you, for your own 
library, a copy of this new edition. Documents, hitherto 
unknown and very curious, which have enabled me to 
exiiibit the designs of Don John of Austria, the murder 
of Escovedo, and the disgrace of Perez, in their true 
light, make the first edition imperfect. 

But I must hasten to speak of the first volume of 
Kosmos, which you sent me, and in which you have so 
admirably shown, if I may use one of your beautiful 
sentences, " the order of the universe and the magnifi- 
cence of the order." I read the book with the greatest 
pleasure and advantage. It is an exposition, full of the 
most absorbing grandeur, of the phenomena and laws 

Humboldt's Letters. 235" 

of the universe, from those nebulous distances whence 
light comes to us only after a journey of two millions of 
years, to the revolutions which preceded the actual 
organization of our planet, and which enabled men to be 
born, to live, and to reign on its surface. To paint this 
great picture in its teeming variety and majestic har- 
mony, one needs to be master, like yourself, of all 
sciences, to love nature earnestly, and to have studied 
her under every aspect. In addition he must unite a 
vivid imagination to an accurate and profound judgment. 
Finish quickly this charming work, for your OAvn glory 
and for our instruction. 

Accept, dear Baron, the assurance of my gratitude, 
my admiration, and my affectionate devotion. 




Carthagena, April 12, 1801. 
Citizen ! 

When I embraced you for the last time in Helvetius 
Street, in Paris, on the eve of my departure for Africa 
and the East Indies, I had but a feeble hope of seeing 
you again, and of sailing under your orders. You have 

236 Humboldt's Letters. 

been told, no doubt, by our common friends, C. C. 
Jussieu, Desfontaines . . . how the Barbaresques have 
prevented my departure for Egypt, how the King of 
Spain has given me permission to journey over his vast 
domains in America and Asia, to gather whatever may be 
useful to science. Independently, and always at my own 
expense, my friend Bonpland and I have wandered for 
two years through the territories lying between the coast, 
the Orinoco, the Casiquian, the Rio Negro, and the 
Amazon. Our health has resisted the frightful risks cre- 
ated by the rivers. In the midst of the forests we have 
talked of you ; of our useless visits ; on C. Francois, of 
Neufchatel; of our beguiled hopes. Just as we were 
starting from Havana for Mexico and the Philippines, 
the gratifying news reached us that your perseverance 
had overcome every obstacle. After making our calcu- 
lations, we felt sure that you would touch at Valparaiso, 
at Lima, or at Guayaquil. "We changed our plans at 
once, and in spite of the stormy gales of this shore, we 
started in a little pilot boat to look for you in the South 
Sea, to try whether by reviving up our old plans, we 
could join our labors with yours, and sail with you on 
the South Sea. A long passage of twenty-one days 
from the Havana to Carthagena, unfortunately hindered 
us from taking the route of Panama and Guayaquil. We 
fear that the wind has ceased blowing in the South Sea, 
and we have decided to continue our journey on land by 

Humboldt's Letters. 237 

the way of the River Magdalena, Santa Fe, Popajan, 
Quito. . . . 

I hope we shall arrive in June or early in July at the city 
of Quito, where I will wait for the news of your arrival 
at Lima. Have the kindness to write me a line, directed 
in Sj^anish, " al Sr. Baron de Humboldt, Quito ; casa del 
Sr. Governador Baron de Carondelet." In case I should 
liear nothing from you, my respected friend, I intend to 
visit Chimborasso, Losca, . . . till November, 1801, and 
to come down in December or January, 1802, with my 
instruments, to Lima. You will perceive from all this, 
my revered friend, that the heat of the tropics has not 
made me sluggish, and that I am afraid of no sacrifice 
where useful and bold enterprises are to be prosecuted. 
I have told you now frankly what I want from you. 
I know that I ask more from you than I can return ; it 
may also be that particular circumstances may prevent 
your taking us on board of your vessel. ... In that 
case, my letter may embarrass you, the more, perhaps, 
since you honor me with your friendship, I beg you, 
therefore, to write to me frankly. I shall always be 
glad to have seen you once more, and shall never com- 
plain of circumstances, which often govern us in spite of 
ourselves and our wishes. Your frankness will be the 
highest proof of your regard for me. I should then 
continue on my route from Lima to Acapulco, Mexico, 
the PhUii^pines, Surato, Bassora, Palestine, Marseilles. 

238 Humboldt's Letters. 

How much I should prefer, however, to make a voyage 
with you ! Mr. Bonpland presents you his respects. 
Greetings and unchangeable friendship, 

Alexander Humboldt. 

Note of Humboldt, written long after. — This letter to Cap- 
tain Baudin, written on my arrival at Carthagena (from the Havana), 
was returned to me, Captain Baudin not having touched at Lima. 

A. Humboldt. 
Berlin, Nov. 1846. 



Sunday, Feb. 2\st, 1847. 
I DO not recollect showing you a very beautiful letter 
of my brother, on the death of Schiller, dated " Rome, 
1805." It was discovered but lately, and will be pub- 
lished in the next volume of his works. I inclose a 
very amiable letter from Prince Metternich, received 
this week, also a stiff and unmeaning one from Prince 
Albert. Prince Metternich has published, at his own 
cost, a splendid description of his mineralogical collec- 
tion at Koenigswarth, having probably in view his 
election to the Presidency of the new Academy instead 
of Kolowrat. At the special request of Prince Albert I 

Humboldt's Letters. 239 

left a copy of Kosmos on his desk at Stolzenfels. He 
had the civility not to thank me. The " blackbird"* 
has improved his politeness in the present instance, and 
besides, he makes me talk of " roving oceans of 
light " and " sidereal terraces" — a Coburg version of 
my text, quite English — from Windsor, where terraces 
abound. In Kosmos I speak once of the " starry car- 
pet," page 159, in explaining the open spaces between 
the stars. He presents me a Avork upon " Mexican 
Monuments,'' a copy of which I myself had purchased 
two years ago. A splendid edition of Lord Byron 
would have been in better taste. It is also strange that 
he does not mention " Queen Victoria." Possibly my 
" Book of Nature" is not sufficiently Christian for her 
Majesty. You see that I am a severe critic of " princely 

Please return Metternich and Albert soon, as I have 
not yet replied to them ; also Wilhelm's letter at your 
leisure — it is the only copy I have. I gave the original 
to Schlesier, who Avas very anxious to possess something 
from my brother's hand. 

With old attachment, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

* The Prussian order of " The Black Eagle," which had just thea 
been conferred on Prince Albert. — Tr. 

240 Humboldt's Letters. 



Vienna, February, 1847, 
My dear Baeon: 

I WILL begin this letter by congratulating you upon 
the new decoration, which the King has lately conferred 
upon you. The ^'' JEJagle," under whose wing — sub 
umbra alarum — you have executed so much will be a 
noble decoration on your breast. Suum cuique ! 

Now to what I wish to say further. You know, that 
I am no savan and that I have no pretension to be 
one ; but notwithstanding this, you know that I am the 
friend of science, and in that capacity have furnished 
the means to some savans of publishing the little work 
of which I enclose the first copy to you. I hope you 
will approve of its execution. I think I am at the 
present the owner of the most complete collection of 
monuments* now existing of an epoch of which I can- 
not pretend to fix the age — and of which the "Gossau'' 
conceals countless numbers. History written by man 

• Petrifactions dug out in tlio Gossau, in Bohemia. 

Humboldt's Letters. 241 

presents but an insignificant point when compared to 
that of which nature suppUes the material. It was not 
I who christened one of the Ammonites after me — it is 
the doing of the editors of the opuscule. — ^I am, how- 
ever, quite sure that neither my name nor even that of 
Ammon was known when my godson was alive. 
Thousand sincere homages, my dear Baron, 




Windsor Castle, Fthruary Vlth,, 1847. 
My dear Baron: 

I HAVE been constantly impressed while gradually 
reading the first volume of your "Kosmos" with my 
desire to thank you for the high intellectual enjoyment, 
its study has afforded me. 

I am really unable to give you an authoritative judg- 
ment on this excellent work, which I received from 
your hands, and to atone in some measure for this de- 
fect, as well as to give some substantial character to the 
expression of my thanks, I present you the accompany- 
ing work (Gather wood's Views in Central America). 
It may serve as an appendix to your own great work 


242 Humboldt's Letters. 

on Spanish America, and thus become worthy of your 
attention. I do not dare to express the intense anxiety 
with which I look forward to the aj^pearance of the 
second volume of " Kosmos." May that Heaven, whose 
roving oceans of light and sidereal terraces you have so 
ably described, be pleased to preserve you to your 
country, to the world, and to "Kosmos" itself, for many 
years, in undisturbed vigor of mind and body. This is 
the sincere wish of your 

Very devoted, Albeet. 



Berlin, Feh-uary 21th, 1847. 

Hebe, at last, is my thankful letter to Carriere, con- 
taining three warm recommendations. 

You were right in reprimanding me as to my extreme 
severity against the man of the " sidereal terraces." I 
am severe only to the mighty ones of the earth, and 
this man impressed me very uncomfortably at Stolzen- 
fels : " I know you feel great compassion for the Poles 
under the Russian sceptre ; but, I am sorry to say, the 
Poles are as little deserving of our sympathy as the 
Irish." " Mihi dixit ;" and one is the handsome hus- 
band of the Queen of Great Britain 1 

Humboldt's Letters. 243 

I hasten to Potsdam to day, in oi'der to bring all the 
manuscripts here, which have fortunately arrived from 
Erfurt. Madame von Buelow writes, that they contain 
a long and very beautiful passage about our Rahel, and 
flattering things for you. 

With old attachment, 

A. V. H. 




Berlin, March 21th, 1847. 
I AM more deserving than you would believe, dear 
friend ! I am through with the first volume of the 
" Letters"* (Therese's property). I had very little to 
correct, and only about four pages to suppress, viz, 
allusions to biscuits, household details, a few sarcasms 
against Duke Charles of Brunswick (which he would 
have answered with calumnies as to the lady's virtue), 
and more such things. The letters are excellent both 
in thought and expression. They furnish a picture of a 
most remarkable life. Their contempt of all worldly 

* "Wilhelm von Humboldt's "Letters to a Lady Friend" (Charlotte 
Diede), bequeathed to Therese von Bacheracht. 

244 Humboldt's Letters. 

happiness or unhappiness beyond the narrow circle of 
one's own feelings, this mixture of scriptural and Chris- 
tian dogmas, of stoical indifference to the affairs of the 
world, together with so much delicacy and gentleness 
in a correspondence, continued to the four last days of a 
life, and written by a trembling hand on ruled paper. 
The torments of love-sickness, qui nHmpatientent, are left 
untouched, in order not to lessen the impression of that 
powerful individuality. I repeat, all that I struck out 
amounts to only five or six lines — all that 1 suppressed 
as dull or trivial, would not fill two printed pages. 
You will, however, see much, very much, in the manu- 
script stricken out, thus — ~ ^^^, sometimes 

half pages ; this is, however, not mine but the old lady's 
doing. This " Daughter of the Pastor of Taubenheini"* 
had, perhaps, hysterical fits of prudery now and then. 
The different ink shows that I am a stranger to these 

The first volume has a beautiful passage on Theresa, 
and says much in praise of the King of Bavaria. In the 
second volume a description of Rahel will please you. 
Of Bettina she speaks less approvingly, as Madame von 
Buelow told me. I shall try to modify it in this respect. 
I think the first volume will be ready for dehvery next 
Tuesday, and the second will soon follow. I shall bring 

* A most sentimental and tragically- ending German love story 
made popular by Burger's ballad. — Tk. 

Humboldt's Letters. 245 

it myself, together with notes and facsimiles, all locked 
in a tin box, which must be shortened. Then you will 
be in possession of the whole treasure, and I " salvavi 
animam meam.'' The thing will create much provok- 
ing but salutary scandal, and will elicit much conflicting 

With suicerest friendship, yours, 

A- V. Ht, 

Please don't let the book be printed at Berlin, and 
have it (if possible) advertised before it is in the trade. 
My letters to Carriere will have duly reached you, I 

On the 30th March, 1847, Varnhagen "wrote m his 
diary : — " Just when I returned home, Humboldt came 
in and brought a pack of manuscripts — the letters of his 
brother to Mrs. Diede. Humboldt regards affairs here 
as desperate, as I do myself. He consoles himself with 
the belief that the constitution presented, though good for 
nothing at first, may result beneficially. He expects vio- 
lence of every description — atrocities committed by the 
police, popular rage, and military strokes. The King, 
however, Humboldt thinks, has no misgivings. He is in 
high spirits, having prepared his opening speech, and no 
longer minds the 11th of April, and its consequences. 
He never yet talked with Humboldt on constitutional 
affairs. As to Michelet, Eichhorn has instigated the King 

246 Humboldt's Letters. 

very much ; but after all they will not find a reason to 
dismiss him, although the King would like very much 
to do it, and the Minister urges him on to it." 

On the 31st March Vai-nhagen adds : " Humboldt told 
me but yesterday that the King was firmly believing the 
restoration of Don Miguel, Don Carlos, the overthrow 
of the July dynasty, and that he would yet go to Paris, 
to salute the» legitimate king. Also, that he, Humboldt,' 
was deemed a Jacobin, who carried the tri-colored 
standard in his breeches pocket. As for myself, I was 
considered a royalist, but the King had prejudices 
against me. They think it strange that my old friend 
Canitz should not have enlightened the King on my 
behalf; that they did not ask my advice, and avail 
themselves of my services in the present situation. Witt- 
genstein also has talked in this manner with Humboldt. 
They forget only one thing : that I neither can nor will 
— the one and the other, with equal determination. 

The nobility is terribly excited ; the change is remark- 
able ; self-esteem is mightily roused. The devil him- 
self could not have invented more efficacious ways of 
provoking the hostility of this Avhole class than this 
monstrous " Herrenstand." 

A Dream. — I saw the King weeping bitterly, and 
crying : so far it has come. Well, I will resign ! May 
my brother take charge of the whole, and be happier 
than I was ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 247 

March 27th, 1847, Varnhagen wrote the following 
repartee of Humboldt in his diary : " Humboldt re- 
cited, good-humoredly, that a certain Mr. Massow, in 
the Assembly, had characterized liberalism as a felony. 
He, Humboldt, was therefore a twofold felon, as Minis- 
ter Bodelschwingh considered literary men felonious." 

On the 11th July, 1847, Varnhagen observes: "This 
morning Humboldt came in quite unexi^ectedly. He is 
in good health and spirits, and denies having been 
really sick. He says that the King lives in a whirlpool 
of pleasure, that he is often extravagantly gay ; thinks 
no longer of the Chamber, except when reminded of 
it, when he becomes immediately grave and sullen. The 
ministers, however, are full of anger — Savigny and 
Eichhorn particularly so. Foremost, however, is Bodel- 
schwingh, who is always exciting the King to strong 
measures. Canitz acts this time in a conciliatory and 
compromising spirit. Bodelschwingh cannot bear being 
deprived of the imaginary triumph of his visionary 
premiership by the Chambers. Humboldt is engaged 
on the final sheets of his second volume. He is going 
to Paris next September, 

248 Humboldt's Letters. 


Beelin, Jan. 18th, 1849. 

If I appear slow, my dear Yarnhagen, and rather 
laconic to-day in offering you my thanks for your 
friendly presents and your letter, and your congratula- 
tions, you will not ascribe it to a diminution of my true 
esteem and friendship. I have had but now the enjoy- 
ment of what you alone are entitled to call " A Plain 

How much more fearful, and at the same time hopeful, 
a turn events have taken. They only know how to 
oppose brute force to the impending danger, and are 
afraid themselves to pluck the proffered fruit. 

Romuald's "Vocation"! deserves, no doubt, the 
severest censure. What an abuse of his most eminent 
talents ! We will talk about it as soon as I shall have 
done with the "OrdenstagJ" and the annoyances of the 

* A pamphlet under that title, written by Varnhagen, in commen- 
dation of the King. — Tr. 

f Romuald ou la Vocation, par Mr. de Custine. Paris, 1848. 4 

X The day on which the Prussian government yearly distributes 
orders and decorations. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 249 

Academy elections of my order. JLa petite piece side by 
side with the great world's drama. 

With the old attachment, 

Yours, A. V. Ht. 

There never was nobler praise bestowed on the King 
than in " The Plain Discourse." 

The little work, " Plain Discourse to the Germans on 
the Duties of the Day. Berlin, 1848," is from the pen 
of Varuhagen. A few months later, on the 10th of May, 
1849, the author himself thus speaks of it in his diary: 
" I have been re-reading what I wrote in August last on 
Frederick William IV., and what I wrote in 1840, the 
day after he received the homage of his subjects. What 
strange sensations it provokes ! Do what I will, awake 
or asleep, I cannot for a moment shake off the night- 
mare of consciousness of our political condition, although 
I know full well how ephemeral it is, hoAV certain the 
retribution, and how bright the ultimate future. Arouse 
then, my country, arouse ! Civil wai' is thy fate, but it 
is not thy choice. Go on thy way undaunted, and be 
the blood on the head of those who willed it not other- 
wise. At a time like this it is not the successes but the 
failures of the moment that are of profit to the people." 

This is the place to interpose another visit from Hum- 
boldt to Varnhagen. On the 12th of February, 1849, 

250 Humboldt's Letters. 

the latter wrote in his diary : " Humboldt called. He 
thinks it absurd in the ministers to talk of meeting the 
Chambers, when they cannot find men to make up their 
own number. Even Kuehlwetter disdains to join them. 
My o^Dinion that the constitution imposed by the govern- 
ment is merely a husk concealing the germ of a new 
revolution, which will shortly burst forth, startled him a 
little ; but he was much pleased with the notion that the 
King has been embroiled with the canon of logic for the 
last eight years past. He says the King was disposed to 
return to Canitz as Minister of Foreign Affairs ! Eich- 
horn also vouchsafes bis advice, and, like the lady of 

Privy Counsellor , talks of the Pietists as if he 

had never belonged to them. 

" The ' Staats Anzeiger' publishes the Austrian note 
in regard to the German question. Austria will not 
withdraw, but will have a voice in the counsels of the 
empire, and will not tolerate a variety of things, such as 
popular sovereignty, or any leadership except its own. 
A fling at Prussia, a fling at Frankfort, and particularly 
at Gagern. There* it is ! Everything plays into the 
hands of the revolution !" 

Humboldt's Letters. 251 



Potsdam, August l&th, 1849. 
"Whenever I enjoy the fancy of having written a few 
lines grateful to my ears, I always ask myself whether 
they would also please you, my valued friend. You 
know, or rather you do not know, that the Princess of 
Prussia has deposited a splendid album, with numerous 
autographs and painted initials, in those halls of the 
Chateau at Weimar which have been dedicated to 
Goethe, Schiller, and to Herder and Wieland, maligned 
by Schiller in his letters to Koerner. I have been com- 
pelled to write a preface, which Galuski has translated 
quite happily. The Grand-Duchess desired a French 
version for the benefit of foreign travellers who might 
open the album. Look upon this little memento of your 
fiiend with indulgence. There is blood on the horizon, 
and it makes me sad. I need not remind you of the 
friendship and esteem of 

Yours, A. V. Humboldt. 


252 Humboldt's Letters. 



Potsdam, October \Uh, 1849. 

I HOPE, my dear friend, that my " Views of Nature," 
enlarged, and, for two-thirds of it, almost re-written, 
are at last in your hands ! It was owing to an unfor- 
tunate confusion, occasioned by my long absence from 
Berlin, that this my favorite work was so long in reach- 
ing my favorite reader. Perhaps you wiU derive a brief 
pleasure from contrasting the picture of the nocturnal 
din of the words with that of the stillness of high noon 
— vol. i., pp. 333 and 337 ; or from glancing at the 
golden visions of young Astorpileo, vol. ii., 352. 
In love and friendship, yours. 

In haste. A. v. Humboldt. 

Increase your collection of autographs by a very 
agreeable letter from the man who now lives in Brussels. 
The phrase " votre fortune morale " is used with great 
freedom. But the newspaper, all disfigured with blood- 
stains ! What a year, in which all the feelings of the 
heart run wild ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 253 



(from the FRENCH.) 

Richmond, Sep. I7th, 1849. 
My dear Babon: 

I SEE by to-day's papers that the 9th of September, 
1769, gave you to the world, and that thus you have just 
celebrated your eightieth birth-day. Had I been near 
you I would have joined your friends in offering my good 
wishes ; at the distance which separates us, I approach 
you alone. Let me say in a few words that I render 
thanks to the giver of the faculties which have rendered 
your name imperishable. To be born is of little account ; 
to make life valuable is excellent. You are numbered 
among the richest, and you have made a noble use of 
your moral fortune. May God preserve you in safety 
and in health ! 

Receive, my dear Baron, with the expression of a 
congratulation of which you do not doubt the sincerity, 
that of my sentiments of devotion and friendship, of a 
date as ancient as all that has a place between us ! 


254 Humboldt's Letters. 



Potsdam, October 29<Ä, 1849. 
My dear Friend: 

A German letter of the Duchess of Orleans, to whom 
I have sent all my writings for many years, and who is 
very fond of them. She writes a hand so cabalistic to 
my eyes, that I beg to avail myself of your diplomatic 
experience in decyphering, and to be favored with a 
legible copy. The purport appears to be of a political 
nature. It will not be without interest for you, and on 
this account I appeal all the more confidently to your 

Your faithful friend, A. Humboldt. 



Your Excellency will accept my most heartfelt thanks 
for the token of the remembrance, so valued by me, 

Humboldt's Letters. 255 

which you devote to the hours we passed in times but 
recently gone by, which the course of events, however, 
seems already to have thrust back into antediluvian 

I see with joyous gratitude that the conversations in 
my red saloon in the Tuileries and in St. Cloud, ever 
present to myself, still live in your recollection also, and 
thank your Excellency for this constancy of sentiments, 
doubly precious at a time like this. 

The kindness of my beloved cousin had already ena- 
bled me to refresh myself by the perusal of your latest 
work, which is hailed as a fountain of health by so many 
hearts smitten by the rude hand of fate, and minds 
stunned by the wild confusion of public events ; and 
my son has also found nourishment in it to assuage his 
thirst of knowledge. Nevertheless, I thank you most 
cordially for the jewel you have sent, which receives 
additional value fi'om being accompanied by your letter. 

As you say, in words so mild and yet so truly appro- 
priate, " Men are at present laboring at a fable con- 
venue / they strive in part after what is unattainable, 
and in which they themselves do not believe !" But 
where will the light appear that is to lead them to the 
truth, and what events will yet be required to convince 
them of the impracticability of the most contradictory 
demands ? I agree with your Excellency in thinking 
that the present tranquillity is destined to be of brief 

256 Humboldt's Letters. 

duration. I also do not see in it any real pacification, 
but only the apathy and indifference which enervates 
without convincing. Who can fathom the future ? 
The riddle of the coming day remains concealed — how 
much more must we await in patience the developments 
of coming years ? But courage and resignation must 
not be impaired by this uncertainty ; on the contraiy, 
our hearts should be steeled by it. 

During my visit in England, the King asked many 
questions in regard to the health of your Excellency ; 
the Queen also received with great interest such reports 
as I could give her. They hold in grateful remem- 
brance your frequent visits in Paris. My children ask 
to be commended to your recollection, and I also hope 
to revive in it from time to time. 

With heartfelt reverence and gratitude, your Excel- 
lency's friend and admirer, 


Eisenach, Od. 23, 1849. 



Potsdam, October ^\st, 1849. 
A THOUSAND, thousand thanks for the interpretation, 
my dear fiicnd. How the political tempests have 

Humboldt's Letters. 257 

ravaged even this handwriting, once so fine, or, at least, 
so distinct. The " beloved courier" I read " beloved 
cousin," the Princess of Prussia, who first showed the 
Duchess the latest " Views." 

A little address delivered by me before the delegates 
from this city, in which I referred to the views of my 
brother, a Potsdamer by birth, on a political Hfe which 
develops itself freely from within, has been printed by 
the " Spikersche Zeitung," with numerous typographi- 
cal errors. Inclosed is my own report, written imme- 
diately after delivery. I would have been pleased if 
the answer had been correctly given in the Constitu- 
tional and other truly liberal papers. "With my old 
devotion and friendship, 


A. Ht. 

"Wednesday Night. 


I cannot, fellow-citizens, more vividly express the 
profound gratitude I entertain, than by saying, that you 
have given me as great a pleasure as you have bestowed 
an unexpected honor. A pleasure such as tliis shall not 
be dashed by the question how I can possibly deserve 
this distinction at the hands of your beautiful city. You 

258 Humboldt's Letters. 

have worthily shown, not only that you value her 
material prosperity, but that you are alive to higher 
interests, and accord sympathy and respect to efforts 
directed to the advancement of knowledge, the educa- 
tion of the people, and the general culture of mankind. 
As a reward, for a portion of these efforts, to which my 
long and chequered life has been devoted, I accept with 
pride your flattering gift. By the favor of two illustri- 
ous monarchs it has been my privilege, for twenty- 
two years, with but little interruption, to live as 
your townsman, and to find, in scenery beautiful 
by nature and art, those inspirations indispensable 
to a life-like portraiture of nature, which aims to 
display the workings of the powers of the universe. 
Grateful for this good fortune, I have adorned almost 
all my later writings with the historic name which has 
become dear to me, and in the walls of which the year 
1767 witnessed the birth of my brother, whose memory 
lives in the hearts of those who have preserved a sense 
of the enlarged proportions of a political life which pro- 
gresses in obedience to laws inherent in the constitution 
of society. 

A. V. Humboldt. 

On receipt of the Honorary Citizenship of Potsdam. 

Humboldt's Letters. 259 



Potsdam, November ith, 1849. 

What pleasure you have given rae, dear friend, by so 
agreeable a communication from England ! But on 
account of my brother's memory, and in order to reply 
to those who calumniate me for remaining at this court, 
I am very anxious to see my response to the deputies of 
Potsdam correctly printed in a liberal journal. I would 
like to send it to the " Constitutionelle Zeitung," which 
has not yet mentioned the subject. I have no copy, 
however — nothing but the bit of paper I sent you. 
Have the goodness to send it back to me soon. 

How important is the news from Paris ! The forward 
one may attain the consulate for life (to which the 
words durce et stabilite seem to refer) ; but he will fall, 
nevertheless, and awake the sleeping lion. Liberty 
will lose nothing by it, and the German statesmen (are 
there any such besides Herr von Gagern ?) will then 
understand, that in the centre of Europe is the France of 
1789, the same, about the nullity of which so many sar- 
casms have been uttered. The centres of gravity change. 

With cordial friendship, yours, A. Ht. 


26o Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, March IQÜi, 1850. 

Accept, my dear friend, my heartfelt thanks for the 
lines you gave M. Rio, whose praises had already been 
sung to me by Cornelius, Olfers, Radowitz, and the 
King himself, on account of the book, " De I'Art 
Chretien." The new incarnation of a deputy to the 
Erfurt Parliament, and his supervision in the interest of 
the Prince President, was unexpected ; but Rafael him- 
self was a good deal of a mannerist. 

Very truly, and in some suspense, 

Youi's, A. V. Humboldt. 




Potsdam, July 2d, 1850. 
In the gloomy period of reaction, I am delighted to 
receive so pleasing a menieuto at your hand, my dear 

Humboldt's Letters. 261 

friend, I am also glad of your journey to Kiel, to the 
little region where German spirit finds an expression 
free and consistent. The state of public affairs is like 
the Avater-bottle shaken by D'Alembert, in order to 
produce a mixture of bubbles of different shapes. 
" Calculez moi cela," he said, in irony of hydraulic 
science, of which he was himself so great a professor. 
Many a bubble mlII burst before the diplomatists find 
time to calculate its evanescent figure. 

I shall render my heartfelt thanks to Herr von 
Froloff. I made a futile effort to dissuade him from 
inserting a mass of exj^lanations and metaphors, in- 
tended to facilitate comprehension. He wished to 
accomplish what is absolutely impossible, and seemed 
to have but little understanding of the form of compo- 
sition. I shall say nothing more to him about all that. 
Hybrids are never successful in literature. 

I was extremely iinwell, confined to my bed even ; 
but now, in spite of the dispersion of all matters of 
interest, I am well, industrious, and not cheerful. 
In friendship as of old, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

202 Humboldt's Letters. 

(Copy in Yamhagen's Handwriting.) 

Berlin, June Ith, 1851. 
You could not doubt, dear lady Baroness, that I 
would respond with the greatest warmth to your wishes 
for a composer of such sterling merit as * * * * In 
consequence of malignant prejudices against music, 
originated by my brother, and transmitted through the 
King to me, my voice upon a subject Avhich no one ever 
mentions to me, is somewhat lacking in tone, particularly 
when church music is in question. What with Warsaw, 
Olmuetz, Russian Grand Dukes, and, to name something 
of a higher order, Rauch's inspiring master-piece, it was 
impossible hitherto to obtain a hearings Warsaw is 
now succeeded by Hanover, by the visit to your royal 
friend and mine. I have not yet seen our monarch at 
Potsdam again, and surrounded by all the horrors of a 
cosmic transmigration, shall wait for the returning tide 
from Warsaw (the alluvium of Batavian and Mecklen- 
burgh highnesses), and when the rock-bound seas are 
calm again, I shall go to work systematically, as your 

Humboldt's Letters. 263 

cheerful and genial letter inspires me. But at this 
gloomy period everything oral is unheard, and what is 
written is scarcely noticed. The latter, however, is an 
insuperable necessity. In order, then, to accomplish so 
attainable a purpose, a very brief writing addressed im- 
mediately to the King, will be required, to be delivered 
by me with a warm recommendation. Our excellent 
friend asks the King for a trifling assistance in point of 
funds, to enable him to travel to Munich. The state- 
ment of a specific amount is not necessary, but it will 
simplify the matter. The man's delicate sense of honor 
will not be oflfended by my suggestion, as the request 
is made not for himself, but for a noble service to the 
cause of art. 

"With all devotion and grateful reverence, your most 
faithful and obedient 

A. V. Humboldt. 



PoTTSDAM, November 1st, 1851. 
Tou have given me an inexpressible pleasure, my 
dear, my noble friend, by your kind letter. I am 

264 Humboldt's Letters. 

heavily in your debt, and my long silence and apparent 
neglect might have provoked some suspicions of cool- 
ness or diversity on matters of opinion. With a man 
of your mind and goodness of heart I ought to have 
entertained no such aj)prehensions. Before I received 
your dear letter with Baader's portrait, it was my inten- 
tion tobring you personally the thh'd volume of Kosmos 
(two parts in one), now finished with great difficulty, 
and which unfortunately is exclusively astronomical. I 
was certain of a kind reception, and your letter of the 
24th of October, which had been left behind in my 
house at Berlin, confirmed my purpose. Ottilie von 
Goethe gives me cheering news in regard to your health. 
As usual you will combat her opinion. But what 
astonished me was, that the president of the council, 
usually cold as a glacier, was delighted with Ottilie, and 
is entirely disposed to gratify her wish for the appoint- 
ment of Wolfgang, at the Prussian embassy at Rome. 
Was it necessary, however, for Wolfgang, after publish- 
ing a very able little work on Nature and Legislation, 
to go to press with a collection of poems, containing but 
rare gleams of imagination ? 

Written with the devotion of better days, in a time 
of gloom and feebleness, by 

A. V. Humboldt. 

On the 24th of November, 1851, Varnhagen wrote 

Humboldt's Letters. 265 

in bis diary: "Backbiters are busy witb Humboldt. 
Littleness and mediocrity, conscious of tbeir notbing- 
ness beside bim, combine tbeir envy and spite, and 
thereby hope to be something. The one comes to the 
other with smiles, and makes him the confidant of the 
dislike he entertains, and of the foibles and defects he 
claims to have detected. The other -welcomes the sugr. 
gestion, responds Avith similar remarks, they clasp each 
other's hands, and are fast friends in enmity of the hero. 
Those who pretend to be the most faithful lend them- 
selves to such intrigues. Singly they amount to nothing, 
but when lumped together they constitute a stumbling- 
block, which obstructs the light of day, interferes with 
what is good, and destroys life and spirits : such vermin 
tormented Goethe, and now they torment Humboldt. 
I know these fellows by experience ; in Rah el's time 
I have seen my fill of it ! The brothers, the nieces, 
how glad they would be to make common cause with the 
most inferior beings, to place their united mediocrity 
above the genial power of heart and mind, by which 
even they were yet constantly lighted and warmed ! 
Humboldt's weak points are well known, he does 
nothing in secret, men see him as he is ; but his great- 
ness is unimpaired, the greatness of his mind and the 
equal greatness of his heart. And eighty years — what 
a bulwark ! Who will dare assail it ? 


266 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, January 28<A, 1852. 

Here is my Cosmic present, my dear friend ! I 
choose not to bring it myself lest it should seem that I 
dare not come without it. Cast a look at p. 1 — 25, 
Mars p. 511, and the concluding passage p. 625 — 631. 

I may call to-morrow, Thursday, at one o'clock, may 
I not ? I shall be sure to come. 

With the old attachment, which will never grow cold, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


With two yellow pamphlets, to his friend of many 
years, Varnhagen von Ense, Avith old admiration and 
attachment. The author. 

On the 29th January, 1852, Varnhagen's journal reads 
as follows : " Humljoldt came at one o'clock, wonder- 
fully robust for his time of life! Speaks with indignant 
scorn of the coup cPetat in France, the midisguised out- 
rage, the arbitrary banishments, and particularly the 
robbery of the estates of the Orleans family. The King 

Humboldt's Letters. 267 

■was at first full of rejoicing, he and the court saAv 
nothing offensive in the crime committed against the 
people, the legislature, the law, and the sanctity of 
oaths, but that the adventurer preserves universal 
suffrage, rests upon the people, practises socialism, 
and even wants to be emperor ; this is what makes him 
detested ! Humboldt is of opinion that in the revolu- 
tion of February the establishment of the Provisional 
Government, which was immediately obeyed throughout 
France, was a piece of even greater audacity than the 
present usurpation of the one man who has already been 
president, and worn the name of government for three 
years. I reminded hinr of the parliament, and the com- 
mittee of fifty at Frankfort-on-the-Main. In the dispo- 
sition to acquiesce, he sees that national feeling of unity 
and cohesion which, among Frenchmen, suppresses all 
party feeling. Humboldt says there is no doubt that 
Louis Bonaparte is a son of Admiral Yerhuel, and his 
brother, Morny, a son of General Flahault, who, he says, 
lived with both the sisters, the Queen of Holland and the 
Queen of Xaples, Of Persigny — Fialin de Persigny — 
he speaks with the utmost contempt, calling him a raw, 
unkempt non-commissioned officer, who still arrogates 
to himself discoveries about the pyramids. Passing on 
to our own affairs, he deplored the narrowness, the 
pitiful character of our ministry ; he considers Raumer 
the most stuj)id of them all, stupid and unmannerly 

268 Humboldt's Letters. 

both; the King is cross and peevish, capricious, and 
prone to excuse himself by saying that he is powerless, 
and must be governed by his ministers. 

On the 30th of January, 1852, Varnhagen adds: 
" Humboldt takes a lively interest in the widow of the 
philologist F. ; her husband has done much work for 
him. At Humboldt's urgent advice, she has petitioned 
the King for a pension, and Humboldt and Boekh were 
to support the petition by their signatures. But F. was 
a democrat, not an active, but an avowed one, and the 
King might have heard of it. To neutralize this, Hum- 
boldt proposed to request Stahl to join in countersign- 
ing the petition. His own name can now accomplish 
nothing with the King ! On what days have Ave fallen, 
when Humboldt asks Stahl to give him countenance !" 



Berlin, Feb. 5th, 1852. 

I BELIEVE, my dear friend, that the letter I have just 

received, will greatly confirm your ideas about Paris. 

Galuski, the translator of the second volume of Kosmos, 

is a man of noble instincts, great talents, and much 

Humboldt's Letters. 269 

philological learning, but very moderate in his love of 
liberty. What he says of his first impression, is a 
pretty impudent expression of this moderation. He 
also was seized with a marvellous dread of coming 
events. My opinion has always been that the wildest 
republic cannot do so much and such enduring harm to 
the intellectual progress of mankind, and to their con- 
sciousness of right and honor, as le regime de raon 
oncle^ le despotisme eclaire, dogmatiqice, milieux, which 
applies all the arts of civilization to subject a people to 
the caprices of an individual. Read, to increase your 
abhorrence of such degradation, which threatens to 
spread like a pestilence, in the " Journal des Debats" of 
this morning (February 3d), the reasons for drawing up 
a list of recommendations of those who might be elected 
(according to the " Constitutionnel)." The " Spenersche 
Zeitung " of yesterday did not fail to follow suit with a 
corrmaunication in favor of a similar set of proposals for 
our second chamber ! 

I hope soon to procure for you the Ilistoire de I'Aca- 
demie (by Bartholmess). I have made many vain efforts 
to advance the interests of Professor F.'s widow. 

Your most attached, 

A. Humboldt. 

270 Humboldt's Letters. 


" Spenersche Zeitung," of 1852, Feb. 4, No. 29.— The 
transactions in reference to the formation of the second 
Chamber have repeatedly been the subject of our com- 
munications. It is perhaps not equally well known, 
that at this moment the attention of higher circles is 
also directed to the formation of the Second Chamber. 
The present electoral law presents the right of suffrage 
as one to be exercised or not at the option of the voter, 
without a corresponding obligation on his part. A law 
compelling men to vote would seem to be equally inex- 
pedient and impracticable. But by refraining from 
voting in any number, the voters repose the decision of 
the question in the hands of an unknown minority, who, 
by exercising their privilege, frequently bring about a 
state of things by which representation is given, not to 
the political views of the constituency, but to their very 
opposite. The principles had in view in fixing the 
reconstruction of the First Chamber, have, by force of 
logical inference, led to the proposals to alter the elec- 
toral law for the Second Chamber in this manner, that 
His Majesty^ the King, shall appoint in each district, 
long before the election, a government candidate, xcho 
shall he the representative, U7dess the majority of the 
voters should at the election record their p)reference for 
another. The specific arguments in support of such a 
plan will appear to-morrow in connexion with its details. 

Humboldt's Letters. 




Berlin, Felrruary 12ih, 1852. 

It may interest you, dear friend, to see collected on 
one sheet all the efforts making by the Orleans dynasty 
to counteract the robbery. The Duchess of Orleans 
sends the paper by the Princess of Prussia. 

Are you acquainted with a candidate for theological 
honors, named William S., of Dresden, disguised under 
the name of Wilfried von der Neun, who torments me 
by sending aphorisms in manuscript ? 

Yours, A. V. Ht. 

Be kind enough to return the enclosed at your early 



Berlin, March 23d, 1852. 
One of the many inconveniences of old age is that of 
liability to attempts at conversion. Do you care to 

272 Humboldt's Letters. 

deposit this curious, good-natured letter among your 
psychological curiosities ? (The man who is entirely con- 
vinced of Bernadotte's salvation, circuitously informs 
me that Satan wields the baton of command in my heart, 
as in that of Goethe, that of the i:)ious Kant, and that of 
Wieland.) And our parliament ! ! If necessary the 
cities must be expunged from the face of the earth — 
such is the desire of our diplomatist at the Diet. 
With heartfelt attachment. 


A. Ht. 
TtTESDAT, late at night. 

The enclosed letter from August. Grau, of Mont- 
gomery County, Ohio, dated February 6, 1852, contains 
the following : " A gentleman who has travelled over 
a large portion of the earth, who, by the publication of 
so many excellent writings, has erected for himself so 
durable and so resplendent a monument on the field 
of literature and science, is not to be named by 
any German without the greatest esteem. When the 
names of great warriors who have spilt the blood 
of their fellow-men uj^on the battle-field shall be 
forgotten, your name will blaze for hundreds and 
thousands of years in the annals of history. But it 
is singular, at the same time, that the greatest natu- 
ralists, philosophers, and astronomers who have occu- 

Humboldt's Letters. 273 

pied the principal portion of their lives with new 
inventions, and with investigations into the elementary 
powers of nature, are often totally indifferent to their 
salvation or perdition in the world to come. Goethe, 
Schiller, Wieland, and Kant, were all distinguished 
characters and brilliant ideals, and in their walk and 
conversation were more or less observant of what are 
called the laws of morality, so as probably to abstain 
from cards, nine-pins, playhouses, and dancing, but their 
sphere of operations did not reach into eternity, and 
the fate of their fellow-men in the other world — their 
salvation — was of little interest to them." After launch- 
ing into further sanctified regrets at the scarcity of true 
godliness, and its absence even in princes and royal 
chaplains, the wa-iter continues : " The last King of 
Prussia, and his truly royal Louise, had some know- 
ledge of a state of regeneration, as well as the last 
King of Sweden, the former French Marshal Bernadotte, 
Prince of Ponte Corvo. A poor peasant was better 
able to enlighten him on the means of salvation than 
one of the first bishops of the Lutheran church. O, Sir 
Privy Councillor, while I do full justice to your unble- 
mished life, your high character as a statesman, and 
your acquirements as a man of science ; and while I 
rejoice that Berlin — ay, that Prussia may boast of such 
a man as your Excellency, yet my joy would turn into 
holy exultation if T should have the honor of seeing 


274 Humboldt's Letters. 

you a warm discii^le of Him who died upon Golgotha. 
Without Him, Lord Chamberlain, with all our acquire- 
ments, with all our boasted knowledge, we are singu- 
larly unhappy." Further on, the letter reads : " Goethe 
says, on a certain occasion, that during the whole course 
of his long life he had not spent four happy weeks. 
These are the words of a great man of science. If 
Christ has not taken up his residence in our hearts, who 
else can be there but Satan ? One of them, surely, 
must be there — one must wield the baton of command. 
It is manifestly impossible at one and the same time to 
serve two masters! Worthy sir, my gracious Lord 
Chamberlain, I am penetrated with great esteem for 
you and your lofty merits ; I love and revere you. I 
am not worthy to unlace your shoes. This is the 
unconstrained language of my heart ; although I have 
occupied myself with acquiring the elements of seventeen 
different languages, and can even at this day read the 
writings of the New Testament in seven different 
tongues. But I have not only been firmly convinced 
of the truth of the Christian religion for thirty-one 
years, but experience the influence of the Holy Ghost 
from day to day, and almost from hour to hour." The 
letter is subscribed, " Your Grace's most devoted 
servant and brother in Chi'ist, Augustus Grau." Hum- 
boldt adds the remark : " An attempt at conversion, 
from the State of Ohio." 

Humboldt's Letters. 275 



Berlin, March I3th, 1853. 
The confusion of my lonely life, my dear friend of 
many years, at a time of sucli profound moral degrada- 
tion, leaves me in a harassing uncertainty as to "whether 
I have or have not sent you the seventh volume of my 
brother's complete works. I am greatly ashamed, but I 
know that you have not yet learned to be angry with 
me. The article against Capodistrias, the demand for 
the surrender of Strasburg, sounds like the irony of fate 

upon our present humility 

With ancient love and reverence, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

The death of Leopold von Buch bows me deeply. A 
happy blending of the most noble, philanthropic senti- 
ments, momentary impulses, and a little despotism of 
opinion ; one of the few men wlio have a physiognomy. 
He has given a new form to his science ; he was one of 
the greatest illustrations of our times ; our friendship 
has endured sixty-three years, unruffleil, although we 
often tilled the same field. I found him, in Freiberg, in 
1791, where he had come to the Mining Academy before 
myself, although five years yomiger. His funeral 

276 Humboldt's Letters. 

appeared like a prelude to my own, C'est comme cela que 
je serai dimanche. And in what a condition do I leave 
the world — I who lived in 1789? But centuries are 
as seconds in the mighty development of advancing 
humanity. The swelling curve, however, has its little 
indentations, "and it is irksome to be found in such an 
interval of decadence. 


Berlin, March I4th, 1853. 
Heaety thanks for the comfort derived from the 
characteristic AvordofFontenelle's, hitherto unknown to 
me — but twenty years are too short to see anything 
better! Your Buelow von Dennewitz is great and 
good news to me ! The treasure of the warm-blo<fded 
Leopold von Buch I return inclosed. May not Fried- 
rich Schlegel's astronomical vision be connected with 
conversations I had Avith him at Vienna on tlie certainty 
that we shall see the southern cross rise again in Ger- 
many, where it has already shone in historic ages ? Let 
me remind you of a passage in my Kosmos (IL p. 333), 
which derives some interest for you from its reliable 
cbronological date. " It was not more than 2900 years 

Humboldt's Letters. 277 

before our era that the cross became invisible in Nortli- 
ern Germany. The constellation had ascended as far 
as the tenth degree above the horizon. When it dis- 
appeared from the Baltic skies, the pyramid of Cheops 
had already stood five hundred years. The shepherd 
nation of the Hyksos invaded Egypt seven hundred 
years later. The past becomes apparently less remote 
when we can measure it by reference to memorable 

Persevere in your diligence upon Buelow von Denne- 
witz, who became very dear to me in Paris. Fond of 
music, he was very affable in the family of Lafayette, 
in the little chateau of Lagrange, at Paris — Lafayette's 
country-seat, where Buelow was quartered. 

Yours, A. V. Humboldt. 

I shall bring volume VI. myself. 

Note by Varnhagex. — As a comfort for his eighty years, I had 
written to Humboldt that even these could be transformed into a 
comparative youth, as appeared by Fontonelle's example, who, at tho 
age of a hundred years, attempted to pick up a fan dropped by a lady» 
and, unable to do it as quickly as he wished, exclaimed, " Que n'ai j€ 
plus mes quaire vingt ans /" Of Friedrich Schlegel I had told him, 
that shortly before his death, he prophesied to Tieck, at Dresden, that, 
at no very remote period, though ho could not exactly define it, a 
mighty change would take place in the heavens, the great constel- 
lations would leave their places, and combine to form an immense 

278 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, August 15th, 1853. 
Sepaeated from you, my dear intellectual friend, by 
the prolongation of my dreary sojourn at Potsdam, my 
first approach to you is to petition. You, you alone are 
my literary adviser, you who combine such depths of 
feeling with so wonderful a command of the harmonies 
of language. In my extreme old age, timidity in regard 
to my own powers increases in an almost morbid 
degree. A separate volume is to contain a selection of 
the sonnets of my brother, in which there is not always 
a perfect consonance between form and substance. I 
crave your permission to come to you to-morrow, Tues- 
day, at one o'clock, to read you a preface I have been 
compelled to write ! By all means send a verbal assent 
by the bearer. 

With indestructible friendship, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

Humboldt's Letters. 279 



Berlin, August 2\st, 1853. 

Foe once in this gloomy time, when a fell simoom 
blows from the Pruth to the Tajo, I have had a real 
and a keen delight — your retm-n, your encouraging 
message, and even the assistance I implored. Your 
superb letter finds me at the bon ä tirer of a little, I 
hope unpretending, preface to the sonnets. As it will 
be unfortunately impossible to-morrow (on Friday the 
King arrives at Potsdam, when I must hand him a good 
many things, according to promise), I take the liberty 
of sending you my proof sheets this evening. 

I beseech you to be severe in your treatment of these 
sheets, with which I have incorporated a remarkable 
fragment (in illustration of the ideas and frames of 
mind manifested in the " Letters to a Lady Friend") and 
to note on a separate piece of paper what I ought to 
alter^ and especially what I ought to substitute. I follow 
you implicitly. 

I dislike the phrase on page 4, " ßchoen errun gene 

* Beautifully extorted gift of heaven. 

28o Humboldt's Letters. 

Tlie pious fragment is an autograph, nearly illegible, 
and requiring some emendation in the construction of 
the sentences ; thus on page 11 : Perhaps you prefer the 
phrase " bei Annerkenung." The phrase is heavy, even 

On p. 14 you will not disapprove of " eben nicht," in 
place of "haben nie gerade," which is still more verna- 
cular. The four lines stand there like a fallen aerolith. 
They must be preserved at all hazards, if only on account 
of their freedom. 

Could not you help out page 13 below somewhat? 
Is the close of the phrase "voice of conscience — has 
laid" clear to you ? It is not so to me. Perhaps a few 
words would make the sense clear. 

Roma, the verses to me from Albano, and all the cho- 
ruses and Pindarus will form another volume. 
With old affection and profound esteem. 

A. V. Humboldt. 

The saddest news of Arago's family ; swollen hands 
and feet, diabetes, and almost blindness ! Forty years 
of life go wdth him ! ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 281 


Berlin, September 2d, 1853. 

A THOUSAND pardons for troubling you in suffer- 
ing! I have adopted every suggestion, taken every 
hint. But I should like also to insert the reflection you 
made in regard to p. 6. Would you ajjprove of the 
following interpolation : " A long sojourn at Rome, and 
perhaps a lively interest in certain epochs of Italian 
poetry, appear to have imbued my brother with a par- 
ticular preference for a little lyric form, which, if melody 
is not to be sacrificed, closely fetters the thought, but 
which he handled with a freedom, the result of intention 
and confidence." Or would you have it, "which he 
freely handled witli the confidence of a clear intention," 
or, " which he handled with a freedom of which he was 
perfectly conscious ?" " When the poet, urged by his 
realistic and individual peculiarity, felt most keenly the 
desire of welding ideas into the flood of sentiment." 

Be good enough to return me your MS., which is a 
treasure of critical research. 

Very thankfully, yours, Humboldt. 

282 Humboldt's Letters. 

Note by Vaenhagen. — I selected "wliich he handled with a 
freedom of which lie was perfectly conscious," as most in accordance 
with the metaphor of the fetters, and as otherwise clearly indicative of 
the idea intended to be conveyed. 

Varnliagen reports under date of September 9th, 
1853, ia his diary: " Humboldt had advised me of his 
coming ; he came about half-past one o'clock, and 
remained till half-past two o'clock, a mere visit, nothing 
of business; he felt the necessity of unburdening himself 
of many things. First he vented his bitter and indig- 
nant scorn on the speeches of the King in Elbing and 
Hirschberg, and on the utter absence of vigor, which 
makes itself known in such disconnected ebullitions. 
Then he spoke Avith the utmost contempt of von Raumer, 
the Minister of Public Worship and Instruction, of his 
brutality and insolence, his hatred of all science, his 
pernicious activity. ' The King,' Humboldt said, ' hates 
and despises all his ministers, but this one particularly, 
and speaks of him as of an ass ; what particularly nettles 
him is, that Raumer opposes all the King's wishes, and 
he keeps him in office nevertheless, as he keeps all 
of them, because he has them, and every j^hange is a 
troublesome affair.' The case of the brothers Schlagin- 
tweit was cited as an instance. The King wished to 
aid them in their voyage to the Himalaya Mountains ; 
the minister refused ; the King ordered him to hear the 
opinion of Humboldt, which was a most favorable one, 

Humboldt's Letters. 283 

but Raumer insisted upon his opinion, which, he said, 
was not changed by Humboldt. Then the King, who 
confessed himself to be powerless against his minister, 
wrote to Bunsen, who took the matter in hand, and the 
brothers Schlagintweit now receive English aid. And 
the very same King, who pretends to be so jealous of 
his prerogatives, permits them to be thus encroached 
upon ? ' Yes, sometimes he delights in playing the 
part of a constitutional monarch, absolves himself from 
all responsibility when the matter is a dehcate one, 
answers demands made upon him by adverting to the 
difficulty of obtaining the signatures of his ministers, and 
even pretends to regard that "baggage, the state" as 
something T\'ith which he had little concern, accuses the 
ministers of forgetting him in their devotion to that 
" baggage, the state," &c., &c. 

" ' In the asking of small suras the King often experi- 
ences the greatest resistance, large ones he gets ; he is 
refused three hundred thalers for a poor scientific man 
or artist, forty thousand thalers for buying something, 
they dare not refuse. What a mess of confusion and 
disaster ! The King is quite satisfied that he is per- 
mitted to cook up church matters to his heart's content, 
for these are considered separate from the state, no 
minister has a word in them.' That I do not under- 
stand and it cannot be so, the ministers I believe have 
their hands in it too. 'The meanest fellow of the 

284 Humboldt's Letters. 

Avhole concern is privy counsellor Niebuhr, a low, cant- 
ing parasite, full of spite and venom. 

" ' Garcia cannot sing here, he said some time ago, she 
is too red ;* all representations, that her singing would 
not be red, were in vain. At last I told him to send to 
Bethaniaf for deaconesses to sing. He will be happy 
to see me under the sod.' " 

On the 25th of September, Varnhagen narrates in his 
diary : " They say, on the presence of Humboldt in the 
High Ecclesiastical Council, that the priests had had in 
their midst their greatest adversary, who puts all of 
them to rout — the man of natural science, before whom 
all their mist and deceits flow into nothingness. ' Abael- 
lino is among you !' one might have cried out." 



Berlin, Bee. Vlth, 1853. 
Again, my noble friend, you have shown your skill 
in giving me pleasure. After our departure from Pots- 

* I.e. too much of a Red Republican. 

f A Hospital near Berlin, administered by Protestant Sisters of 

Humboldt's Letters. 285 

dam, which transformed itself entirely into a Buddhistic 
" cold hell," was prevented for a long time by the 
delicate health of the Queen, I at last moved over 
here on Saturday. You have shed renown upon tlie 
Prussian arms, and, what touches me in a more human 
manner, on the warrior of many-sided culture.* The 
gallery of your biographies stands in singular grandeur 
in our German literature. I am enraged by the treat- 
ment of my friend Arago in the last number of the 
" Quarterly Review" (Sej^tember) — an ebullition of 
political party spirit, exactly as I was treated by the 
same journal from 1810-1818. A note at the end of 
the number for September says, with rare delicacy^ 
that the article was Avritten before his death was known ; 
but it was known generally in London that he had 
become blind, and that he suffered infinitely from 
dropsy, one of the symptoms of which is to fill the 
mind with apprehensions. 

With ancient gratitude and devotion, and admiration 
of your talents, your faithful 

A. V. Humboldt. 


* Leben des Generals Buelow von Dennewitz. Von EL A. Varn- 
hagen von Ense. Berlin, 1853. 

286 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Thursday Night— /rom the IZth to 
the Uth of April, 1854. 
Receive, noble friend, my most heartfelt thanks, you 
and the amiable confidant of the " demons." * The 
King is now invisible to me, on account of the spiritual 
preparations, and on Monday he goes to Potsdam for 
five or six days, on account of military afiairs ; but a 
very warm letter, written by me, Avill be in his hands 
to-morrow, at eight o'clock, in Charlottenburg.f Thus 
we have at least done our duty faithfully. I am fast 
becoming the responsible minister of the Conservatives ; 
for three days ago I asked the fourth minimum of the 
red birdj for a man who has conserved his real estate 
for one hundred and fifty years, for Bouche, a gar- 
dener, an adopted son§ from the Champagne. It is a 
great joy to me that my introduction, which has only 

* Bettina. 

\ Informing tliat on tlie 17tli is tlie golden wedding of Savigny. 
■j- The Prussian order of tlie Red Eagle. 

§ Ludwig von Gerlach, in the Second Chamber, had called tiio 
representative Bethmann-Hollweg an adopted son of Prussia 

Humboldt's Letters. 287 

the merit of liberal sentiment and faithfulness, has also 
pleased you in regard to form. As a sign of gratitude, 
I send you for your collectiou of autographs a document 
not unimportant on account of the political situation — 
June, 1848. The other papers, which contam the sub- 
lunar miserabilities of the disagreement,* which, alas ! 
has become public, I beg you to return hereafter. 

Everything noble is drawn down in the mud. I was 
compelled to write a few lines in answer. I live in 
a monotonous and sad mood — et mourant^ avant le 

With old fidelity, yours, A. v. Humboldt. 

I shall certainly make my appearance on Monday in 
a wedding garment. 


Paris, June Zd, 1848. 
My Dear and Illustrious P"'riend : 

My son has loft for Berlin a few days ago, in the 
capacity of Minister Plenipotentiary. He quitted me 
animated with the best of sentiments, with the most 

* Mons. Mathieu had protested against the statement on the title- 
page, that Mons. Birral was appointed editor by the author. 

288 Humboldt's Letters. 

decided ideas of peace and conciliation ! And yet this 
day your Charge d'Affaii'es waited upon our Minister of 
Foreign Afiairs to represent to him the apprehensions 
which the mission of my son has excited in your cabi- 
net and among the population of Berlin. This is my 
recompense for the efforts made since my arrival at 
power to maintain the accord of the two governments, 
in order to remove every pretext for war ! Who can be 
made to believe that, animated Avith the sentiments which 
I publicly profess, I would have consented to entrust 
Emanuel with an important diplomatic mission, if he 
had been in discord with me, if he belonged to a hideous 
socialist sect, to communism^ for, I am ashamed to say 
it, the accusations made have not stopped short of that ? 
As to the rest, I appeal to the future ; all such appre- 
hensions will disappear as soon as Emanuel shall have 
entered upon his functions. Your Charge d'Affiiires 
will then regret the untimely protest addressed to M. 

I am very happy, my dear friend, to receive your 
welcome letter. Nothing in the world could be more 
agreeable than to hear of the continuance of your 
friendship. I am worthy of it, because of the price I sat 
upon it. I have an abiding faith that my conduct, during 
the last three months (I had about said the last three 
centuries), has not caused me to lose in your esteem. 
Ever yours, with heart and soul, F. Arago. 

Humboldt's Letters. 289 



Berlin, Friday, April \Ath, 1854. 
As the King held his churching on Thursday, I dined 
in Charlottenburg to-day, and can give you news agree- 
able to us, that the King, as he told me, had known of 
the day of honor* (not by Uhden ! !)f and had prepared 
everything for it long ago. The ingredients of the 
spiritual or material feeding are buried in Cimmerian 
dai-kness. * Your faithful 


The Prince of Prussia knows nothing of the invitation 
for noce et festin. 



My American connexions having entailed upon me 
the predilection of the Peace Society, I am molested 

* Savigny's golden wedding. \ Minister. 


290 Humboldt's Letters. 

by them with many of their writings and tracts. But 
the last number of the "Herald of Peace" is so remark- 
able on account of the political movepient of the pietis- 
tic peace Quakers, that perhaps it will amuse you for 
one moment, my dear friend, to read for yourself the 
testimonies. Destroy the sheet ! 

The missive, at the same time, is intended for a sign 
of life^ that is, of most intimate and faithful friendship 
for you in these sad times of weakness and folly. I 
have disentangled myself from the new " Stahl-Ranke " 
council, for reasons which are not those of old age ; I 
resigned. I add an unkempt letter of poor Bunsen, 
which you must keep quite secret, and send it to me, if 
there is an opportunity, to' my Berlin residence. First 
Heidelberg and afterwards Bonn, constantly vibrating 
between the perturbating recollections of tAvo arch- 
bishops. With the dangerous tendency of the noble 
man for theological dispute, and for his newly-invented 
apostolic church, under the firm of Hippolytus, a resi- 
dence in England, that is to say, in the country between 
London and Oxford (on account of the books), would 
be more favorable than Bonn. The Anglican High 
Church, intolerant though it be, is less inconvenient in 
a/ree country, than a ministerial church diet in Prussia. 
Moreover, in the interest of Bunsen's scientific repu- 
tation, I look forward with dread to the impending 
l^roductions, full of hypotheses on aboriginal nations, 

Humboldt's Letters. 2gi 

Egyptian, Indian, and excavated Assyrian Semitic, as 
also on the situation of Paradise, for which a map has 
been ordered at Kiepert's. Maps on the creeds of 
nations can ascend from the ship-fastening myth at the 
ocean and the Himalaya mountains to the Ararat and 
to Aramea Kymbotas, even to the Mexican Coxcox, 
vagaries, not unknown to the Mormon bible. (See 

The "NYeimar fancies are of a more exhilarating kind ; 
controlling the climates by means of crystal palaces, 
which, at the same time, are taverns, and make super- 
fluous Nicos and Madeira, and demand only a capital 
of one and a half millions of thalers, an undertaking in 
the deserted Potsdam town of barracks. And such a 
device, hatched in the brains of a well-infoi'med man 
like Froriep. 

In faithful friendship, yours, A. Humboldt. 

Potsdam, July Uh, 1854. In the age of crystal palaces. 

It was but the other day, in glancing at a letter of 
Gneisenau's, of 1818 (in the pointless biography of Stein,* 
p. 262) that I stumbled upon a passage, doubtless long 
familiar to you : " H, strives again for the centre, but 
there are Avanting to him confidence, esteem, character, 
and courage." Sheer personal hatred alone can have 
moved the vain Gneiscnau to speak thus disreputably of 

* By Pertz. 

292 Humboldt's Letters. 

my brother. I recollect, indeed, to have heard of him, 
that Gneisenau was hostile to him when he was dis- 
missed. By-the-by, what was said by all parties in those 
times on political institutions looks to me now, and did 
so already in the years 1815-1818, as if I was reading a 
book of the thirteenth century on physical science ; 
fear of provincial estates was alone praiseworthy — 
c'est de la bouillie pour les chats. 

On this letter Varnhagen remarks in his diary, July 
5th, 1854: — "I found a long letter from Humboldt, 
who communicated to me, accompanied by fine remarks, 
the latest number of the Herald of Peace, a letter of 
Bunsen — four closely-written quarto pages — and another 
by Robert Froriep, of Weimar. 'The missive at the 
same time is intended for a sign of life^ that is, of most 
intimate and faithful friendship for you in these sad 
times of weakness and folly.' Farther : ' I disengaged 
myself from the new " Stahl-Ranke" council, for reasons, 
which are not those of old age ; I resigned.' Then he 
speaks of Froriep's plays of imagination, who wishes to 
build a crystal palace to control the climate in the 
' deserted town of barracks,' Potsdam, with a loan of 
one and a half million of thalers ! Finally, he blames 
Gneisenau's misjudgment on Wilhelm von Humboldt, 
pronounced in a letter of 1818, which Pertz communi- 
cates in his ' pointless Biography of Stein j' and Hum- 

Humboldt's Letters. 293 

boldt rightly condemns the mean misjudgment of his 

" The letter of Bimsen is written in a very unconnected 
manner — Humboldt calls it an ' unkempt ' one, "which 
characterizes it admirably. Bunsen intends to live for 
the future in Bonn, but he complains that the university 
has deteriorated so much, particularly the theological 
faculty. Dorner and Rothe have been jostled out, and 
their places are held by the most mediocre and narrow- 
minded people to be found in all Germany, such as 
Lange and Steinmeyer; from Hengstenberg's study, 
through Gerlach, all bends, he says, to ignorance and 
darkness, the present gloomy period of the most intel- 
lectual king of the century will come to be deplored 
even more grievously than the age of Woellner ; every 
thing is imbued with the reactionary political character 
of the squirearchy; hypocrisy and real infidelity can 
grow out of this unholy system, and a most violent 
reaction must ensue ; body-guards and policemen can 
enforce any political programme as long as it lasts ; but 
the German never submits to the enthralment of the 
mind, and his curse will pursue through all the centu- 
ries those who have attempted it. Thus writes Bunsen ! 
But he writes thus now as a deposed lavorite ! How 
was he, and for what did he work before ? For the 
same ignorance and darkness. Quite like Radowitz, 
who also played the liberal at last !" 

294 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, July 8th, 1854. 
With emotions of gratitude I received the dear letter 
of your Excellency. Yet a sign of life, indeed, a sign of 
the most vigorous life ! Whenever the question could 
arise how you felt and thought in this gloomy time, such 
a sheet Avould be the most decided answer, the most 
brilliant testimony, to a sentiment and activity which 
always kept on in the same direction, and never proved 
false. The letter from London — the epithet " unkempt" 
is singularly happy. I send back dutifully, as directed ; 
hoAV I should have liked to incorporate it with my collec- 
tions ! It is a remarkable sign of the present situation ; 
many expressions in it strikingly significant. Had the 
writer but expressed himself thus before his last 2:)erso- 
nal experience ! The scientific renown which you 
believe in danger from the threatening deluge of writings 
seems to me to have stood from the first upon unsafe 
ground, upheld by external props, with Avhich it must 
fall inevitably. Perhaps a political career will be open 
to him again, but certainly not through literary aid, 
for which, in part, this sudden literary taste seems 

Humboldt's Letters. 293" 

intended. Silent rest would be far more useful. But 
this can hardly be expected in the place selected, where 
Catholic hatred is already alive, and nourishes and 
strengthens that political rancor which will continue in 
vigor, fed with fuel from here. 

The late Prince Wittgenstein once congratulated me 
that I had not to sit in the Council of State, and that 
was the old Council, of which your Excellency also Avas 
a member! How much more must I congratulate 
you on your escape from the new one, of which Stahl 
and Ranke are members ! To the latter, no one will 
dispute the part of the clown ; to the first, every one 
will accord that of the sophist. 

The words of Gneisenau, which Pertz alludes to in 
Stein's Leben (v. 262), are so entirely inapplicable .to 
William von Humboldt that one would be tempted to 
interpret the H. differently, if an acceptable conjecture 
could be found. I have myself, indeed, heard from 
Gneisenau's lips expressions of dissatisfaction, but never 
such extravagant ones, which might be contradicted so 
easily and perfectly. What Gneisenau blamed chiefly 
in your brother was that he never tried, by the respect 
which he commanded and by the superiority of his 
mind, to unite all those of equal sentiment into a com- 
munion, by which much might liave been undertaken 
and effected. But this reproach, if it be one, Gneisenau 
himself deseiwed as well, and received from his adhe- 

296 Humboldt's Letters. 

rents! The Look of Pertz is full of aspersions and 
incongruities, which, indeed, in most cases originate in 
Stein himself, but are confirmed by Pertz in blind par- 
tiality; he, while communicating everything, even m 
many cases things which do not belong to the subject, 
leaves out important documents without hesitation as 
soon as he finds them not entirely for the benefit of his 
hero. The same will take place when he writes the 
biograj)hy of Gneisenau, for which the hand of a tacti- 
cian would seem to be the first desideratum. 

The pious quaker-sheet was already known to me ; 
one could hardly have thought such monstrosities prac- 
ticable in the English language ! But our time abounds 
in such. The psychographer takes tlie place of the 
moving table ; they try to enforce my faith in the absur- 
dity ; I excuse myself, that at my time of life a man is a 
little backward, and that I have just arrived at table 
moving, but of that they do not want to hear any more. 
This reminds me of something, I will not suppress ! It 
of course happens often, that remarks of your Excellency, 
in particular such made at the royal table, come to the 
ears of the public, and are repeated with zeal, and by 
this assume widely difierent forms ; thus, quite recently, 
a reply to Herr Senfft von Pilsacli, in which the original 
form seemed lost to a great extent, it would certainly 
be desirable if the latter were always authentically pre- 

Humboldt's Letters. 297 

With my repeated most heartfelt thanks, in most 
faithful reverence and submission, I remain immutably, 
your Excellency's most obedient, 

Vaknhagex von Ense. 

Some strong expressions in the London letter, as 
welcome to me as they were xmexpected, remind me that 
Herr von Radowitz indulged in similar ones, and even 
had them printed (Gesammelte Schriften IV., 210, 256, 
281) ; in the second passage he even goes so far as to 
reverse the motto, " Against democrats soldiers alone 
avail !" 



Berlin, July 9ih, 1854. 
Returning from the Russian Saint's day celebrated 
in Sans Souci, I found your amiable letter. As I cannot 
refuse you anything, I add Hippolytus ! Satisfy in 
return my curiosity. I believe that I never in my life 
spoke to Herr Senfft von Pilsach ; I might meet him in 
the street or in society without knowing him. Notwith- 
standing all this I may have dined with him at the 
King's. After wliat I heard of him I do not feel well 
affected towards him. Since I always sit opposite the 

298 Humboldt's Letters. 

King, I talk aloud only to him, but very freely, because 
I know that it will be reported, colored certainly accord- 
ing to the color of the reporter, and this the more 
especially in a country where anything like a gentle 
allusion by way of criticism is lost on account of the 
complete want of development of conversational lan- 

The judgment of Gneisenau is certainly on my bro- 
ther. These often are ebullitions of the moment. Schiller 
writes to Koerner, when I arrived in Jena, " that I was 
by far more ingenious and gifted than my brother ; '' 
afterwards, in a time when he saw me daily and over- 
whelmed me with tenderness, he wrote to Koerner that 
" I was a man of narrow understanding," without poetry 
or soul, who, in spite of all my restless activity in my 
walk of study, never would accomplish anything great ; 
that Herder's works were diseases, discharged by his 
mental constitution." (One thinks it is a passage of 
Zelter's letters !) In an autograph of a collection at 
Augsburg, Avhich they wanted to give to me, but which 
I sent back, my friend Prince S. writes to Koreff: "Alex- 
ander H. again accompanies the King to the Congress 
at Aachen only as a pointer!" Thus they play on the 
boards of the world for credulous posterity. 

The Emperor Alexander had told the late King that 
my brother Avas doubtless bribed by the Jews to be of 
service to them in the Congress of Vienna, as Baron 

Humboldt's Letters. 299 

von Buelow was bribed in the Belgian affair by the 
French, according to the King of Hanover. In Schoen- 
ing's very interesting War of the Bavarian Succession, 
interesting by the correspondence with Prince Hemrich 
and the reflection cast on the present disputable state 
of things, there is mentioned on p. 294, a political pro- 
ject, which was unknown to me, the Austrian proposi- 
tion to give Burgundy as a kingdom to the Bavarian 
dynasty in return for a cession of Bavaria. This title 
of King of Burgundy was the object of the ambition 
of the Duke of M. in 1815, though he would have 
contented himself with Lorraine and Alsatia. Napoleon 
also once had a momentary intention to make the Prin- 
cipe de la Paz, King of Baetica (Andalusia and Grenada) 
from recollections of "Telemaque," and the King of 
Sardinia, Roi de Numidie, although the donor had not a 
foot of land in Africa to dispose of. 

With warm friendship, always equally incorrect and 
illegible, your most faithful, 

A. v. Humboldt. 

Saturday Xight. 

XoTE BY Yarxhagen. — As early as the year 1743, Austria offered to 
the Emperor Charles VII. a kingdom not yet conquered, to be composed 
of Alsace, Lorraine, and Franclie Comte, in return for Bavaria. See 
"Mem. de Noailles," Tome vi. 


300 Humboldt's Letters. 


(Copied hj Varnhagen.) 

Berlin, July Sih, 1854. 
To what purpose, most gracious baroness, did the 
Eternal shower down upon you, from the horn of plenty 
that he so sparingly opens upon this miserable, sinful 
earth, the bountiful gift of genius and the more precious 
adornment of a noble heart, if you believe the absurd 
gossip uttered "about those from whom I am separating 
myself!" "What you call your prophetic vision could 
not alarm me, because the same double sight has fallen 
to my lot ! Not a syllable of your book has the King 
read or desired to have read to him, as I hear from 
others ; I rarely attend in the evening, and have not 
read to him for years. But how, my honored friend, 
am I to gain his ear in this matter, when I never pro- 
nounce the words Cathedral, Orchestra, Theatre, or 
Concert Room, and never have heard of the existence 
of a Central University Cathedral Building Association 
at Bonn, or of a Board of Managers of the Berlin Asso- 
ciation ? Such things are undoubtedly desirable ; but 
even if those who are now called influential would advo- 

Humboldt's Letters. 301 

cate them by word of mouth, their intercession would 
not even receive attention ; success is only to be hoped 
for from an official expose of the project, addressed 
immediately to the King himself, with the autograph 
signature of the managers, with specific and distinct 
requests. The decision rests exclusively with the cabi- 
net, and to be discussed there, a full and exphcit petition 
to the King is necessary. This is doubly important at 
a time so eventful as the present, when the King never 
remains longer than a few weeks at Sans Souci. Painter 
Rattis' Titian, political insinuations, and great unknown 
personages, are all subjects of which I receive the first 
intimation from your kind letter. It will be my study 
to repel the insinuations, although, on account of my 
well-known opinions, these " essais de hlanchir'''' will be 
but a feeble support. Among the many painful impres- 
sions you so sedulously cultivate in the midst of your 
glowing love of the true, the free, the noble, and the 
good, it gives me great delight to direct your attention 
to two special matters of gratification — your Goethe 
monument is a fixed fact, and the great man's grandson, 
whom I regard and esteem, has succeeded in obtaining 
a recognition of the value of his services, and a less 
constrained position in the Roman embassy. 
"With unalterable devotion and friendship, 

I remain your Old Man of the Hills, 

A. v. Ht. 

302 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, July lOth, 1854. 
Such a rough " Hind Pomeranian !"* direct answer, 
dear friend, you could certainly not expect from me ! 
I have no idea of the question about the animation of 
pinewood at the King's table, where everybody believes 
in it as in the Persian host seen in the air at the 
Eichsfeld. The " drama" of the " Kreuz Zeitung," like 
everything emanating from this bad party, sick with 
mental poverty, bears the stamp of cowardly malice ! 
You are not to be pitied, for you possess a treasure in 
the power of animating recollections of the great period 
of 1813. I have always kept at a respectful distance 
from the Mevue des Deux Mondes^ which is edited with 
spirit and address. Two parties may hate the same 
thing without hating it from the same motives. The 
present Liberals there think themselves justified in 
harking^ but not biting., after the fashion of the Berlin 

* The province of Pomeraaia is divided into " Vorpommern" — 
Fore Pomerania, and "Hinterpommern" — Hind Pomerania ; i.e. 
Pomerania before and behind the Oder. — T7: 

Humboldt's Letters. 303* 

muzzles, " because, without the rescuei** they weuld 

all have been drenched in blood." Credat Judceus 
Apella I 

Your faithful, " A. v. Humboldt. 

Monday. — At another funeral !f 

A workman, unknown to me, addressed me at the 
funeral of Benjamin Constant : " N'est-ce pas, mon bon 
Monsieur, vous n'avez rien de si beau en Prusse, mais ce 
sera bien plus beau quand nous enterrerons M. de la 



Berlin, July 29th, 1854. 
In Spain, the virtuous rebels, like the virtuous order 
of St. John on the Wilhelrasplatz, have raised the cry 
of "Long live chastity !" — " Viva el pudor" (Isabella) ! 
" Viva la moralidad" (disinterested Christina) ! But, 
will you, dear friend, think it possible (July, 1854!) 
that the Minister of Public Worship and Instruction, 

* Louis Napoleon. — Tr. 

\ Of M. Borsig, a macljinist, a few days after that of Mad. Amalia 
Beer. The old man of eighty-five attended both of them. 

304 Humboldt's Letters. 

though hitherto without success, is also shouting " Viva 

el pudor !" He has quite officially demanded a royal 

order for the imprisonment in the arsenal of the wanton 

group* which so wantonly disport themselves on the 

bridge ; all this without fear from the press, since the 

new press law, promulgated by the Diet at Frankfort, 

only resembles the ingenious Berlin muzzles, not yet 

exhibited in the Muenchen Crystal Palace, which 

prevent authors from biting only, but not from 


The third cry, " Viva la libertad !" has succeeded in 

the Peninsula, after all, in spite of the disavowals of 

good society. 

Your faithful A. v. Humboldt. 

At Night. 



Berlin, July Slsi, 1854. 
Alas ! no ! I was in error thinking that the monu- 
ment for Weimar was definitely bought, only that the 
enlargement of it, desired by our excellent lady friend, 
was given up. In the circles with which I am acquainted 

* In marble. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 305 

we cannot hope for an active participation. The expres- 
sion, " Is not art itself a vestment ?" is fine and 

Most gratefully yours, A. v. Humboldt. 

Monday, waiting for the train to leave. 

In the United States there has, it is true, arisen a 
great love for me, but the whole there presents to my 
mind the sad spectacle of liberty reduced to a mere 
mechanism in the element of utility, exercising little 
ennobling or elevating influence upon mind and soul, 
which, after all, should be the aim of political liberty. 
Hence indifference on the subject of slavery. But the 
United States are a Cartesian vortex, carrying every- 
thing with them, grading everything to the level of 



Berlix, January 8ih, 1855. 
I HAVE to thank your Excellency most heartily that, 
in dispensing bounties, you always think with favor also 
of me ! Xo one shall surpass me in anxiety to receive, 
in estimation of the gift, and in gratitude for the noble 
donor ! This preface, at once temperate in form, rich in 

3o6 Humboldt's Letters. 

substance, and elegiac in tone, is the worthiest and most 
lasting monument of the prince,* of whom I hoar on 
every side accounts which make one mourn his loss in 
the prime of life. I shall try to procure his work which 
is so highly recommended by your Excellency. 

The gloomy cover of mist which veils the light of 
day, corresponds with the sentiments by which I at 
least feel myself weighed down, I have not succeeded 
in becoming cheerful for some days. 

With the warmest wishes for you, in faithful reve- 
i-ence and most grateful submission, immutably 

Your Excellency's most obedient, 

Vaenh^gen von Ense, 



Berlin, April 2ßth, 1855. 

Revered Friend — A strange missionary experiment, 
enveloped in a somewhat idyllic ghost story, political 
and religious, in a style of singular " finish" and bom- 
bast, Avhich I cannot refrain from showing to you. I 
take it to be the work of a tnale author. 

The saturnalia of despotism and of ilatteries, the wan- 

* Waldeiuar of Prussia, tbo traveller in India and Brazil. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 307 

ton festival of oblivion (as if there was no history of 
1813 and '14), is now played out among the free insular 
people, a kind of monkey comedy. There is only this 
consolation which uplifts my spirit, that out of all this 
something will arise, which both parties do not at all 
intend. That is, le principe, which outlives us all. I 
am so cruel as to include you too. To my brother, 
Wilhelm, the Kassel book seems to have done good up 
there. In old attachment and reverence, 

Your faithful A. Humboldt. 


Be good enough to return the ghost story, by all 

Note by Varnhagen^ to Humboldt's Letter of April 26th, 
1855. — A " stranger is emboldened to transmit words of power to tiie 
spirit." " They are given to her with the order to repeat them." In 
case Humboldt should answer, he is requested to send the letter with 
the Chiffre A. W., to the store on the left of the house, at No. 120 
Linden Street, and receive further details. A wanderer is described 
as sitting down to rest. Brother Wilhelm appears to brother Alexan- 
der and exhorts him to think of the kingdom of heaven, and how 
splendid it is up there, how misty on earth. As a token of identity, 
he reminds him of the eighteenth warm birthday, " where they swore 
to love each other," an oath which reaches beyond the portals of 
death, and which he now fulfils. It is a bombastic farrago, frequently 
repeating the word '■ finish," which strikes the reader as eminently 

Of the above-named direction Humboldt observes : "That it is the 
boarding-school of Frau von Wenkstern and Widow Poppe." 

3o8 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Augmt 9th, 1855. 
I HAD already heard with sorrow from the gifted 
Princess von Wittgenstein, that you, noble friend, suf- 
fered more than usually. Receive me with indulgence 
on Saturday, about 10 o'clock, in spite of my long 
absence, and of my inconvenient trilogy, Berlin, Tegel, 
and Potsdam, I shall then also bring you a few lines 
of thanks to your cousin, the Imperial Brazilian Charge 
d' Affaires in Madrid, His history, founded upon archi- 
val monuments, seems to become of great importance ; 
but what a strange missive without adding the first 
pages, and notes also without a beginning.* I doubt 
of my ever catching those commencements in my cos- 
mic disorder. As I spent almost an hour alone with the 
Prince of Prussia yesterday, I shall be able to tell 
you something not uninteresting, although not at 
all decisive. The Piince, whom I take to be veracious, 

* Historia general do Brazil, tomo primeiro. The pieces wanting 
here he had already sent as specimens. 

Humboldt's Letters. 309 

assures me of having always asserted, faithful to his 
principles, that war would probably have been avoided, 
if Prussia and Austria had from the first co-operated 
actively with the Western powers against Russia. They 
answered in St. Petersburg that the Emperor would 

not have yielded, but this the Prince doubted 

With old attachment, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


You will explain to me orally the mythological name 
of Sorocaba.* « 

Varnhagen narrates in his diary, under date of August 
11th, 1855: — "About 1 o'clock Humboldt came, look- 
ing well, quite vigorous, in fresh and lively spirits ; 
■when he make a worse impression a short time ago, as 
Dirichlet thought, it was the efiect of sickness, and is 
passed now^ First, he spoke of the book of my cousin, 
which he praised, for which he thanks him (in a letter). 
The expression Sorocaba I cannot explain to him. 
Humboldt "was but recently made a knight of the 
great Brazilian order, on accoimt of an arbitration 
between Brazil and Venezuela, respecting a large tract 

* Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen's dedication of his book to the 
Emperor over his own signature. The title-page contains the words : 
" For um socio do Instituto Historico do Brazil, Natural de Sorocaba' 
(the native place of the author, west of Rio Janeiro). 

31 o Humboldt's Letters. 

of land. ' Formerly they intended, in Rio de Janeiro, 
to arrest me as a dangerous spy, and to send me 
back to Europe, the order drawn up for the pur- 
pose is still shown there as a curiosity ; now they 
make me an arbitrator ! I, of course, decided for Brazil, 
because I wanted the large order ; the Republic of 
Venezuela has none to confer !' These words, spoken in 
the gayest irony, I interruj)ted with the exclamation, 
' How times change !' ' Yes ; the order of arrest, and 
then the insignia of the great order !' ' Oh, no,' I 
replied, ' I did not think of this personal affair, but of 
the historical ; formerly the pope was the general arbi- 
trator ." Humboldt saw the last volumes of the life of 
Stein on my table, and expressed his displeasure on the 
external arrangement, the meagreness of the text, and 
the imsifted character of this book; he thought that the 
gold snuff-box, with brilliants, which the King had 
already sent to Pertz for these volumes, was entirely too 
much. Injustice, crying and mean, perpetrated by Stein 
against old Prince Wittgenstein. Pertz, too, he said, was 
unjust to Wittgenstein. Stein had not at all been a firm 
character, no one had changed views and judgments 
more easily, (Beyme said the same thing, and adduced 
instances of it.) His early liberal ideas on national eco- 
nomy, civil institutions, commerce, and trades, were a 
product of the times, which he afterwards entirely 
renounced and disputed when the current of opinion 

Humboldt's Letters. 31 1 

set in that direction. He surrendered his former senti- 
ments so shamefully that his former friend, Kunth, avIio 
remained faithful to them, but also wished to avoid 
committing Stein, burned more than three hundred of 
Stein's letters, because, as he thought, they would bring 
nothing but disgrace on the revered man, and Avould 
shoAV him in the greatest contradiction with himself. Of 
the Prince of Prussia, Humboldt said that he had told 
every one in St. Petersburg, as well as here, that the 
war would have been avoided if Prussia had from the 
first acted resolutely. The Emperor Nicholas would 
have yielded. The imperial family he represented as 
harmonious, including the Grand Duke Constantine, who 
did not seem so dangerous to him as usually described. 
The Emperor's mother used to say they Avere all mere 
children, and that she must remain with them in order to 
keep them together. The war was severely felt, business 
at a standstill, the country drained of men, the armies 
not very numerous; Poland, the Baltic countries, and 
Finland but weakly garrisoned ; the greater part of 
their forces was in the Crimea ; the losses immense and 
irreparable. GortschakofF reports that the daily com- 
bats cost him 180-200 men — a frightful number for a 
month ; that Nesselrode contemplates a renewal of 
negotiations, but before that heavy blows would first be 
dealt on one side or on the other. Sebastopol itself was 
by no means considered out of danger. The Prince has 

312 Humboldt's Letters. 

gone from here to Erdmannsdorf to the King ; thence he 
hastens on to Baden. The King has Lieutenant-General 
von Gerlach, with him in Erdmannsdorf, among others, 
also Radowitz, in case he is not ' already tired of him, 
as happens so easily.' Humboldt talks of Radowitz 
decidedly as of a Jesuit, calls him Ignatius, mocks him, 
and jests on him a long time. ' The great destinies of 
Italy' leave the King very indifferent ; but a colored 
pane of glass, a quaint device on an old monument, a 
family name, enlist his greatest interest, occupy, and 
amuse him ; and for such trifles Radowitz was the right 
man ! The same is the case with Bunsen, wüth whom 
the King corresponds on theological and patristic curi- 
osities. He has asked him to write articles in the papers 
against the Bishop of Mainz ; but Bunsen makes 
the coTadition to be allowed to refer in his articles to the 
command of the King, since otherwise they would pos- 
sess neither influence nor effect. Humboldt thinks 
Bunsen would not resist a call hither, even if it was not 
official, but only a personal one by the King. The Duke 
of Coburg-Gotha desires an enlargement of his territory 
and a higher title — that of a ' King of Ostphalia' is 
already proposed. The King jestingly calls him by that 
title already. He counts upon England and France, 
and willingly flatters and accommodates Bonaparte, who 
would meet with little difficulty in being the recog- 
nised Protector of a new Rhenish Confederation. So 

Humboldt's Letters. 


much for Germany and Teutonism. It is betrayed most 
assiduously by its sworn defenders. Finally, Humboldt 
added: 'When a man has the misfortune to be com- 
pelled to live among such wretches as this Ge -lach, 
Raimier, and the rest who have crept into this 
Court.' .... He went from me to the Koethener 
Strasse to look at a picture, and left me much excited. 
I could not keep in mind and write down one-tenth of 
all he said." 

Varnhagen adds, on the 12th of August, Humboldt 
said of the situation of Prussia, it reminded him of a 
trial he once heard in Paris ; the lawyer had to ask 
damages for a box on the ear, and had exclaimed 
triumphantly at the close : " Au fond nous n'avons paa 
re9u le soufläet, nous n'avons eu que le geste ! " 



Berlin, January \Zth, 1856. 

Smile, dear friend (you are fully justified !) at the 

strange lines of Piincess Lieven, and at my troublesome 

inquiry. Madame de Quitzow, who has not written to 

me for twenty-five years, wants to know, whether the 


314 Humboldt's Letters. 

Emj^eror Paul, in the ej)och of his political insanity, 
had made the proposition through Kotzebue, that the 
ministers for foreign affairs shoidd measure swords 
pers(<nally instead of the armies. I was at that time 
(1799 and 1800) in the deltas of South America, and was 
entirely ignorant of the anecdote which the Russian 
Princess now, as it appears to me, so occidental in her 
predilections, desires to corroborate. The obscure re- 
searches I have made would seem to lead to the result 
that the duel was to be waged not by the ministers 
but by the monarchs themselves. I pray you, noble 
friend, to write me a few" lines on what your excellent 
memory supplies, and still more I pray you to tell me 
consoling words about your health at the return of the 
injurious cold weather. Bunsen writes me that he 
expects a fourth edition of his letters. Docs the great 
reading demand for this excellent or rather useful book 
indicate that the German public is less chloroformed 
against action than we had supposed? Duhlto. The 
German landlord of a (dicunt) very dirty hotel, Avhich 
glories in my name in Cahfornia for many years — beside 
a more cleanly one of " Jenny Lind," — sends me German 
California papers from time to time. In a discourse on 
the moral and intellectual state of the English, the 
French, and the Germans, the editor recently said: 
" We Germans are a nation of thinkers, deeply occupied 
with the world of ideas, we also have the great advan- 

Humboldt's Letters. 315 

tage before the members of other nations who live here, 
that we care little or not at all about civil or political 
affairs." Thus we boast on the shores of the Pacific, 
buy the " Zeichen der Zeit," but hardly 5 j^er cent of 
us go to the primary elections. It is inconvenient, we 
think. With old love and reverence, 

Yours, A. V. Humboldt. 

Was not the young Tyrolese very amiable poet Adolf 
Pichler (properly speaking a geologist by trade) with 
you ? I do not believe in peace during this quite .... 

or at least uncomfortable humiliating * 

year, though certainly in useless diplomatic transactions. 

Note by Varnhagen. — In the third Hue stands "Madame de 
Quitzow," clearly a mistake instead of " Madame de Lieven." What 
may have been the reason that that name, here entirely without mean- 
ing, should have protruded itself, cannot be guessed. 

Later Note by Varnhagen. — The Princess Lieven is closely con- 
nected with the late Minister Guizot, they even say secretly married 
to him. Guizot, pronounced German easily sounds Quitzow, a well- 
known name in the Mark. Humboldt, always inclined to jesting, and 
particularly here, may have given her this surname — perhaps current 
already at the court — with full intention. [This is quite right.] 

* These two words are illegible. 

3i6 Humboldt's Letters. 



Paris, January 8ih, 1856. 

You have not forgotten me, my dear Baron. I know 
that by two kind messages which Baron Brockhauseu 
brought me from you. I have charged him to testify 
my lively gratitude ; but I now prefer to express it 
myself. On ihis occasion, it serves me as the passport 
to a question which I take the liberty of addressing 

Can you, Avho know everything, remember the follow- 
ing fact ? In 1799 or 1800, the Emperor Paul took it 
into his head to propose a combat on a tilted field, 
where England, Russia, Austria, and I know not what 
other 2)ower, should adjust their differences by the per- 
sons of their Prime Ministers, Pitt, Thugut, etc. The 
task of drawing up this invitation was assigned to 
Kotzebue, and the article inserted in the " Hamburg 
Gazette." This is my very distinct recollection. I 
have not dreamed any part of it. Could you complete 
the tradition ? I can meet with no one who remembers 
it. I have thought you might be able to sustain my 

Humboldt's Letters. 317 

memory, and I hope so still, for I am suspected of hav- 
ing lost my wits. 

Paul I. was not such a fool, after all. Do you not 
consider the follies of our time much greater ? What 
a chaos ? And for what ? . . . . 

My dear Baron, I live here in a little intimate circle 
of old friends, who are your friends also, and who hold 
you in affectionate rememhrance. What a pleasure we 
should have in seeing you here, and together forgetting 
the troubles of the hour ! O that men and things were 
worth more at this day ! Is this an old woman's com- 
mission with which I trouble you ? 

Adieu, my dear Baron. I ask your recollection and 
regard, and promise a bountiful return. 

Ever yours, The Pkincess Leeven. 



Berun, January 21th, 1856. 
With joyful thanks I profit by your Excellency's 
goodness in sending me the copy oi your beautiful 
response to the deputies of the city of Berlin. Were 
it not presumption to praise, where praise has already 
become a habit and a superfluity, I should say that the 

31 8 Humboldt's Letters. 

speech is as full of sterling merit as of noble intention. 
The brightest passage, to my mind, is the (I liesitate 
whether to call it felicitous or masterly) allusion to the 
King, in terms so dignified and delicate, so warm and 
graceful ; and every pure heart must at once acknow- 
ledge, that in this connexion the remark Avas singularly 
appropriate and beautiful. In your Excellency's last 
favor, the expression, " Madame de Quitzow," at first 
puzzled me a good deal. But I may boast of having 
solved the riddle by the power of the head — as the 
Jews say, Avhere we speak of cudgelling our brains — 
and am constrained to acknowledge that the little sally 
is not only a good joke, but proportion ably a mild 
measure of punishment. The Grand Duke of Saxe 
Weimar desired to see me ; but I found myself chained 
down to my rheumatic complaint. 

With faithful reverence and most grateful devotion, 
unalterably your Excellency's most obedient, 

Vaenhagen von Ense. 



Bermn, January 2^th, 1856. 
My far from dormant ambition has been abundantly 
gratified by the grateful praise bestowed by the great 

Humboldt's Letters. 


master of our language (to avoid the expression rheto- 
rician), upon my manner of speaking of tlie King, and 
my relations with him. In praising that with which the 
party praised is hut scantily supplied, we point him to 
the honorable road, and justify ourselves before the 
people. A man of tlie woods, who is supposed to have 
been tamed at coiirt, is in need of such justification. 
Madame Quitzow, whom I could not sooner obtain from 
the King, I now repose in your hands, as your own. 
Our former minister, General Thiele, was firmly persuaded 
that the Guizots of the neighborhood of Montpellier 
were disguised remnants, softened in pronunciation, 
Frenchified and Protestantized, of the emigrated Quit- 
zows* from Langkloder. And your poor excellent Dora, 
who pities all your friends for the sufferings she knows 
so well how to alleviate ! Give her my kindest regards. 

Your faithful 

A. Humboldt. 

At Night. 

The Grand Duke, whom you escaped, sends much 
love. He has curious theories, probably imbibed some- 
where or other (Boeotia was near to ancient Attica), 

* A Brandenburg family of the Middle Ages, who came near hang- 
ing one of the Electors of Brandenburg, predecessor of the Kings of 
Prussia. They were representatives of those " Robber Knights" who 
long successfully resisted the introduction of regular government by 
the Electors.— TV. 

320 Humboldt's Letters. 

and misunderstood. There are two classes of sculptors, 
the one inferior, to which Rauch inclines, and which 
works inward from without, while the better (repre- 
sented by Rietschel) works outward from, within. But 
what an exposure. Philarete Chasles in the " Journal 
des Debats !" I wrote to Paris : " Vulgaire dans les idees 
comrae dans les formes des langage, indigne d'un litte- 
rateur du College de France." 



Berlin, Thursday, Feb. 1th, 1856. 
As it would be impossible that you, dear friend, 
should not have seen the new book by Montalembert 
(the friend and companion of the Abbe Lammenais on 
his journey to Rome), I hope to give you a little plea- 
sure by offering you the King's cojiy for a few days 
(five or six). The only thing racy in it is the conclusion, 
levelled at the present state of affairs in France, p. 284 
to 298. I wish it were possible to have the whole of it 
translated and published in Germany. 

Most gratefully yours, A. v. Humboldt. 

How is our excellent Dora doing ? I had a patri- 
archal time yesterday until seven o'clock, at Potsdam, at 

Humboldt's Letters. 321 

a christening of a child of a very handsome and accom- 
plished daughter of my Sibei'ian waiting-man's, Seifert, 
who,* a traveller named Moellhausen, who, at Baron 
Gerolt's and my recommendation, accompanied the 
great exploring expedition of Captain Whipple, of San 
Luis, San Francisco, and Panama, in the capacity of 
topographer and draughtsman for the American Govern- 
ment. It is about a year since the King appointed 
young Moellhausen custodian of the palace library at 

An excellent article by Laboulaye, on the domestic 
Institution, and the flagitious Pierce's extension of the 
outrage upon territory, hitherto free, met my eye yes- 
terday in the " Journal des Debats," of the 5th of 
February, I believe ! 

Keep the very commonplace verses " Oh, Gentle Jim." 



Berlin, Jlarch I4th, 1856. 
YouE Excellency's kind and precious gift come into 
the seclusion forced upon me by the rude relapse of 

* '• is married to," evidently omitted in the original. Humboldt 
took a great interest in Moellhausen, and wrote a preface to his book 
on the above journej. — Tr. 

322 Humboldt's Letters. 

winter, brighter and more enlivening than the sun- 
beams which accompany them ! Receive my repeated 
thanks and the assurance that I know how to appreciate 
every one of them, and most of all the beneficent inten- 
tion, which remember me so well, and gladden my heart 
so cheerily ! The pencil lines of the dying Heine are a 
valued keepsake, and shall be continued to be devoutly 
treasured in the envelope superscribed by your Excel- 
lency. The boon of to-day, the significant combination 
of Archimedes and Franklin in reference to their tomb- 
stones, I have also read with the warmest appreciation. 

I see that you do not dread the wind or the weather, 
and that, fortunately, you need not dread them, when a 
duty of honor is to be performed. The present time 
imposes curious tasks upon us ! The death of a chief 
of j^olice in a duel is probably unprecedented in the 
communities of modern Europe. The summoning of a 
Minister of Foreign Afiairs to Paris, to attend at the 
close of important negotiations, with a box of writing 
sand from the Mark,* has also a fabulous aspect. How- 
ever, Allah is great ! 

In the most faithful reverence and most grateful 
devotion, I remain immutably 

Your Excellency's most obedient, 

Varnhagen vox ExsE. 

* The Mark Brandenburg, a very sandy province, sometimes face- 
tiously called tlie sand-box of the Holy Roman Empire. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 323 



Berlin, April lith, 1856. 
I COULD not but speak, being the Nestor of Prussian 
mining officials, and prone to boast of my calling. My 
reliance upon your indulgence, dear and worthy friend, is 
so great, that I am emboldened to send even i/ou a copy 
of these unimportant lines. Count B. deserved this 
praise. Free from opinion of any kind, he is useful to 
the art of mining, and still occupies himself with scien- 
tific pursuits since he has resigned the direction. 
"With unshaken constancy, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt, 

Note by Vahnhagen. — Enclosed was the address delivered at the 
fiftieth anniversary of the entrance into the royal miners of his 
Excellency the Actual Privy Councillor and Captain of Miners, Count 
Beust. April 9th, 1856. 

324 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, September llth, 1856. 
Knowing the warm interest you take, my dear 
friend, in the slavery question, and in what concerns 
myself, I send you the last letter of Gerolt, which was 
very long in coming, but which will certainly command 
your attention. Most unfortunately Buchanan will be 
the next President, and not Fremont, the traveller of 
great acquirements, Avho has four times travelled the 
land route to San Francisco, surveying the country over 
which he passed, to whom it is owing that California did 
become a free State. Do not return the letter, nor 
the enclosure. On the heels of this African absurdity 
comes another folly, of a more serious cast, though 
richly fraught with ridicule, not royalistic so rnuch as 
aristocratically Bernese, and spiced with a little railroad 
speculation as to whether the route by the way of 
Neufchatel or that by Avay of Chaux de Fonds is to be 
preferred ! And the heroic Count,* who executes the 
coup d'etat ä la Napoleon, whence did he dei'ive his 

* Pourtales, couspicuous iu the Neufchatel embroglio. — Ti: 

Humboldt's Letters. 325 

inspiration ? From Berlin, while we have a minister at 
the Diet, Avhom at this clay we pretend never to have 
recognised. How are these things to be reconciled ? 
We shall have a similar fate with our three ultramarine 
possessions, the Jade, the Zollern, discovered by Colum- 
bus Stillfried, and Neufchatel. I feel for the Constanti- 
nopolitaii Pourtales, who finds himself involved in an 
awkward conflict between his dynasty (the Prussian 
earldom) and his oflicial liberalism. It is fortunate that 
the mouth of the English Parliament is still closed. 

Your faithful A. v. Humboldt. 



New York, August 2öih, 1856. 
My most dear and HojStored Patkon ! 

Since my last letter to your Excellency, of the 8th 
inst., I was made happy by your favor of the 2'7th of 
July, from which I learn, with the most sincere regret, 
of your temporary indisposition. For the information 
it contains I return your Excellency my most hearty 
thanks, and hasten to comply with your wish by send- 
ing two extracts from papers published here (the " New 

326 Humboldt's Letters. 

York Herald" and the " Courrier des Etats IJnis"), 
containing your publication on the subject of slavery in 
Cuba, as well as the excuse pubUshed by Mr. Thrasher, 
which is, it must be confessed, exceedingly lame. 

The affair has excited great attention here, and could 
not but be welcome to the opponents of slavery, who 
have made Fremont their candidate. 

Some days ago, his German supporters, many thou- 
sands in number, held a mass meeting in his support, 
and honored him with a splendid torch-light procession 
in the evening. 

The slavery question is becoming more alarming frova. 
day to day. While the House of Representatives 
refuse to appropriate moneys for the support of the 
army, news is daily coming in from Kansas of bloody 
conflicts between the free-soilers and the slaveholders. 
It is hoped, however, that after the presidential election 
(in November), domestic peace will be restored. 

The unwholesome climate in "Washington has driven 
me out for a few days, as the heat was intolerable last 
month, and now the fever and ague begins. 

I am going to Albany to-day, to attend the meeting 
of naturalists to which I have been invited. I expect 
to meet a number of savans of distinction there, and to 
report the details to your Excellency hereafter. 

Mr. Heine is very much delighted with the expression 
of your Excellency in his favor. 

Humboldt's Letters, 327 

Mr, C and the beau monde have retreated to the 

mountains and the sea-baths long ago, and I shall not 
see him for three or four weeks to come, 

Mr. Fillmore would be the best President ; but he ap- 
pears to have little hope of succeeding against Fremont 
and Buchanan; and the Known othings have lost all credit. 

My poor wife and children are counting the hours 
which must elapse before my return, and I am not less 
anxious to find all that is dear to me again in the 
country of my home, next year, at the close of the 

The approaching departure of the mail for England 
compels me to close this letter, which I do wüth the 
most heartfelt wishes for your Excellency's continued 

With immutable reverence and aifection, I remain 
your Excellency's most devoted Gerolt. 



Berlin, September \Z(h, 1856. 
The great influence of the name of your Excellency in 
the United States, as in America in general, is a gratify- 
ing sign of the improvement of those countries in civiliza- 
tion, and a sure pledge of the ultimate triumph of the 

328 Humboldt's Letters. 

philanthropic principles which you have consistently 
advocated through the course of a long and eventful 
life. I thank you heartily for the letter of M. v. Gerolt, 
and its printed inclosure, which will be a valuable addi- 
tion to my collections. At this moment, it is true, the 
chances of Fremont are a little doubtful ; nevertheless 
the latest accounts represent tlie zeal of his sujjporters 
as very great and by no means hopeless. 

Our domestic events — domestic in their origin though 
the scene be laid abroad — it would be more agreeable to 
pass in silence, as it is difficult to find the proper expres- 
sion with which to characterize tliem, and impracticable 
to make use of those expressions when found. The 
most consoling observation to be made is that of unani- 
mous condemnation on all hands, where there are no 
private ends to gain. For the veritable Prussian of the 
good old school such things as Jade, Neufchatel, and 
even Zollern, are at all times nothing but distractions, 
having no legitimate concern with the core of the Prus- 
sian state. In regard to Neufchatel, I fear that a 
momentary favorable nod of France is over valued, and 
will lead to inextricable entanglements ; Reynard* is apt 
to incite his friends to dangerous adventures ; the escape 
from them is their affiiir, and he takes a malicious plea- 
sure in looking on. 

* The Fox, i. e. Louis Napoleon. — 2V 

Humboldt's Letters. 329 

The other day Lady Bettina von Arnim contributed to 
my collections near a thousand autographs. One of the 
most valuable is a letter from your Excellency to Lud- 
wig Achim von Arnim, on petrifactions; it is not dated, 
but I refer it to the third decade of the present century, 

I well know on what day I write these lines. It pre- 
cedes the day more widely and more enthusiastically 
celebrated than any other. May it please your Excel- 
lency to accept the modest tribute of my warm good 
wishes with kind favor ! In faithful reverence and 
grateful devotion. 

Your Excellency's most obedient, 

Varnhagen von Ense. 



Berlin, September 22d, 1856. 
The Grand Duke of Weimar, who has just left, com- 
missions me to beg of you as a particular favor, the 
permission for him to visit you to-morrow (on Tuesday) 
between nine and eleven o'clock. He is determined to 
see you in person. 

A. v. Humboldt. 

330 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Sept. 2Zd, 1856. 
Cher et introuvaUe ami ! 

How the improbable can become real ! How royal 
hniitsmeu and royal coachmen cannot find you, cannot 
look for your direction in the prosaic directory, I send 
this direction at this moment to the Grand Duke, who 
has the anguish of having detained my revered friend. 
May he be more fortunate in a new attempt. The 
enclosed sheet is a Berlin curiosity for your archives. 
Faithfully yours, A. v. Humboldt. 

Tuesday, 2 o'clock. 




At tue Chateau of Berlin, 
Tuesday Morning. 

Had I had the skill of the Marquis of St. Germain, 

of whom, if I am not mistaken, it is told that one line 

Humboldt's Letters. 331 

morning he departed through four gates at one and the 
same time, I could not have been more desirous to find 
M. von Varnhagen than I Avas. Nevertheless, it was 
all in vain. No one could tell me where he lived, and it 
was of no use to take the measure of the " Mauren- 
strasse^ Nature having made me the most obstinate of 
all Grand Dukes, I still persist m my intention to see 
the invisible, and hasten to attain that consummation by 
requesting your Excellency to tell me where M. de 
Varnhagen actually does live. Pardon my repeated 
importunities ; but in conscience I know of no route 
which could be shorter or more direct. I remain, with 
the inextinguishable attachment of the most devoted 
admiration and veneration for your Excellency, 

Charles Alexander. 



Berlin, September 2Ath, 1856. 
YouE Excellency : 

You have had not a little trouble on my account 
lately, which I lament with shame. Most of all I regret 
having missed your kind visit, which is always an honor 
as well as a good fortune. That the Grand Duke could 

332 Humboldt's Letters. 

not find me yesterday, although he drove up and down 
the Maurenstrasse, and made several inquiries, would 
be incomprehensible if the servants of a Court were not 
a very peculiar fraternity. It is nearly thirty years that 
I have resided in the largest house in the street, which 
the Grand Duke himself has entered in visiting Prince 
Wilhelm of Baden. To-day, however, he arrived punc- 
tually at eight o'clock, was very pleasant and aifable, 
spoke with a good deal of frankness and much cordiality, 
and mentioned your Excellency with great esteem and 
gratitude. His real errand did not appear until his 
visit came to a close ; in referring him to me, your 
Excellency has done me great honor, but you have also 
involved me in no inconsiderable perplexity. The afiair 
is of great importance, and may lay the foundation for 
the happiness of a worthy man ; the wish itself is credi- 
table to the Grand Duke, and it will give me great 
pleasure in any way to subserve his noble purpose. I 
shall take it into consideration, and, if a result is attain- 
able, shall respectfully submit it to your Excellency. 
At the first blush, I named young H., which, however, 
led to nothing, the Grand Duke doubting the extent 
of his acquaintance with the French language. The 
visit lasted nearly an hour, and much that was said 
was remarkable ; my share in the conversation must 
have been unpleasant, at least the physical part of it, 
which is entirely ruined and quite unintelligible from 

Humboldt's Letters. 333 

coughing, influenza, and rheumatic compression of tlie 

With the best wishes for your Excellency's welfare, I 
remain in profound reverence and gratitude, 

Your obedient Varnhagek von Ense. 



Berlin, Sep. 24th, 1856. 
Before I bury myself again for some days in Pots- 
dam, a sacrifice to the Queen and to her solitude, I 
shall, dear friend, justify the Grand Duke and myself. 
The Grand Duke visited you, which honors him, not to 
consult you, but out of respect for your fine talents and 
your character, because he had, as he said, inherited the 
idea from his house, that one must see two men in 
Berlin, you and me. That we must both accept with 
gratitude as an inheritance from the old gentleman 
and the Imperial Highness, who is a worthy lady. He 
had not at all the idea to speak with you of Avhat he 
seeks and never will find (equal inclination for science 
and poetry, history of geographical discoveries, art, 
painting, gems and sculpture, refined social manners, 
fluent Fi-Cnch speaking and writing, also reading aloud). 
That bantling is yet unborn. I said, J'aü^sörae, and quite 

334 Humboldt's Letters. 

casually I added, that I would ask your opinion. Only 
when taking leave, which he introduced officially by 
very far-fetched phrases on the " noble grey-haired 
youth," he asked me whether it would be contrary to 
my wishes to submit the problem to you also. The 
visit had for its motive the manifestation of inherited 
reverence, and a desire to produce an effect, which must 
be connected with some self-denial at eight o'clock in 
the morning, on the day of departure. To vaccinate 
him with our excellent H,, Ave might send the latter for 
four months to Paris and London ; but would a min.d 
like H.'s put up with it ? tPen doubte. 

Most cordially, your A. v. Humboldt. 


Gerlach intends to separate himself from the King, 
and to oust Reyher, whereby he would still remain quite 
near the King, ay, even nearer than at present, for the 
cause of little animosities (electricity from contact) would 
then disappear. 



Potsdam, November 9th, 1856. 
I FORGOT to inform you, my revered friend, that I 
fulfilled punctually your wish to send to Weimar the 

Humboldt's Letters. 335 

letter you addressed me, and to recommend urgently 
the proposed " Private Secretary," and all this a few 
days after I knew your intention. 

A German letter from Prince Mettemich, expressing 
sentiments fiill of graceful language, will interest you. 
I present you the letter for your archival collection 
The occasion was a moulding in plaster and copy, 
partly by the Prince's own hand, of an old Egyptian 
column of granite, which he had received twenty-five 
years ago from Mehemed Ali. The old Prince gave me 
this copy, three-fourths of a foot in height, to decipher 
the long inscription in Demotic writing. This has been 
done by Dr. Brugsch, the talented young Egyptologist, 
author of a Demotic Grammar, universally admired in 
other countries. Dr. Brugsch, who had the first edition 
of his Grammar printed in Latin, when he was still in 
the first class of August's Gymnasium* (the second 
edition is Avritten in French), has found a good deal of 
very remarkable astronomy in the inscription ; and in 
order to give pleasure to the old Prince, Brugsch has 
published the whole under the name of " Stele. Metter- 
nich," in the " Journal for the Orient," and in the 
" Athenee." Brugsch was in Egypt for two years, at 
the expense of the King; he is the son of a poor 
sergeant, and is familiar with Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, 
Coptic, and Persian. 

* The Koelnische Gymnasium, Berlin, of which August was director. 

33^ Humboldt's Letters. 

Pardon my horrid writing, illegible, and in wild, 
incorrect style. 

The letter of the maccaroni King* to Louis Philippe, 
in the " Spenersche Zeitung," will not have escaped you, 
I hope. Non r'a hisogno — entirely as Rochow-Seiffart 
(in his first manner) to the Elbingers : — " It is not at all 
necessary that my people think ; I think for them ; the 
people, who have betrayed me so often, submit to my 

Your faithful A. Humboldt. 



KoENiGSWART, October 14i7(, 1856. 
My old Friend ! — I received gratefully the informa- 
tion on the stele which Herr Brugsch calls by my name, 
and I beg of you to hand over to the learned investi- 
gator the words you find inclosed. After my return to 
Vienna, I shall avail myself of the interpretation, already 
so instructive, of the monument, to point out the way 

* The King of Naples, known in this country as King Bomba. 
In Naples the best maccaroni is manufactured. "Was this letter 
really directed to Louis Philippe, or was there not a mistake in 
the name ? "Was not Louis Philippe dead before that time ? — 

Humboldt's Letters. 337 

to archaeologists in which they may obtain copies, by 
an advertisement. I did not doubt that I could not 
do better than to address you for light on the scientific 
value of the present of Mehemed Ali, which for many 
years slept in my multifarious collections, and of which 
I was quite ignorant. May you and Herr Brugsch 
receive my most sincere thanks. 

I have had the good fortune to find the King in 
excellent health, and in the usual kind disposition 
towards myself. Great recollections in long lives are a 
fine bond between man and man, the power of which 
is well tried when it has resisted the storms of time. 
It is more than half a century since my first intercourse 
with the young heir-apparent. What vicissitudes have 
occupied this long interval is matter of history. That 
they have never deprived me of the confidence of the 
two kings, father and son, is with me a source of pride 
— that is to say, of a sensation which the term peace of 
mind and heart would better characterize than the 
unsafe word that has escai:)ed my pen. 

You, three years my senior, have just celebrated 
your eighty-seventh birthday. Tliat you and I have 
understood " the art of living," we may confess. That 
we shall do well to cultivate it still longer, is not to be 

With sincere friendship and esteem, 



338 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlix, November 20th, 1856. 

I "WANT your literary aid, my noble friend. Our great 
landscape painter, Hildebrandt, who was in Brazil, Ca- 
nada, Egypt, Palestine, Greece, and recently at the North 
Cape, has executed an admirable aquarelle picture of my 
" Interior Household," in order to replace a smaller one 
sold in many hundreds of copies in America. " La renom- 
mee, fruit d'une longue patience de vivre, augmente avec 
I'imbecilite." I am compelled to make an inscription to 
this picture of mine, with my own hand. This is no 
easy task. I pray that you will visit me on Saturday, at 
one o'clock, if it is possible to you. You shall guide me. 
Your most grateful 

Thtjesday. a. v. Humboldt. 



Berlin, November 21st, 1856. 
I TESTERDAT prayed, dear fiiend, that you should 
make me the pleasure of your visit on Saturday. I 

Humboldt's Letters. 


pray to-day that you will not come ; I hear with sorrow 
that you suffer much. The great picture of Hildebrandt 
remains yet a long time in my house. Every later day 
will also be useful to me. I only beg of you that you 
will kindly announce to me the day, beforehand, on 
which I may expect you. Choose the twelfth hour, 
under any circumstances, because I am sure to be free 
then. I also am in a condition in which I desire to run 
out of my skin.* As an old man, I suffer as from 
musquito bites ; and moreover, a hyper-christian, Mr. 
Foster (living at Brussels), consults me from time to 
time, whether I believe that the souls of the lower ani- 
mals, such as bed-bugs and musquitoes, are included ia 
the scheme of salvation, and destined to go to heaven. 
So they threaten me up there too, where I shall find the 
animal souls, well known to me from the Orinoco, 
chanting a hymn of praise. 

In old friendship, yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 


And the disgraceful party which sells negro children, 
and distributes canes of honor, as the Russian Empei-or 
does swords of honor, and Graefe's noses of honor, — who 
prove that all white workmen should rather be slaves 
than free — have succeeded. What a crime ! 

* A German proverbial expression for feeling very uncomfortable. 

340 Humboldt's Letters. 

Nov. 22d, 1856. — Varnhagen writes in his diary: — 
" I started at half-past 1 2 o'clock, and drove to Hum- 
boldt in the pouring rain. He was rejoiced at my 
coming, and soon led me to an adjoining room, where 
hung Plildebrandt's great aquarelle picture, in a frame ; 
an excellent picture, indeed, in the rich variety of which 
the sitting figure of Humboldt predominates. Now 
came the question about the inscription to be chosen for 
it. I had rightly expected that he did not so much 
expect propositions from me, as my approval of those 
chosen by him already. Contrary to my expectation, 
no short sentence, but a longer speech, a rhetorical com- 
position, which happily compares the searching traveller 
with the returned man of science. Some alterations 
were approved in the beginning, but disapproved again 
in the end. Hildebrandt gave the picture not to Herr 
von Humboldt, but to his valet SeiiFert. It is to be 
engraved. We looked at the rooms, in three of them ; 
his apparatus of study is strewn about ; all three 
warmed to 19 degrees Reaumur, an intolerable tem- 
perature for me. A library hall not warmed. Pictures 
painted by Madame Gaggiotti, whose talents he praised 
highly; he Avondered and rejoiced that I knew her too. 
He complained of itching ; I said it was a well-known 
complaint, pruritus, " Senilis," he immediately added. 
In a box he had a living chameleon, which he showed 
me, and of which he said, that it was the only animal 

Humboldt's Letters. 341 

which was able to direct one of its eyes upwards, and 
at the same time the other downwards ; tliat our 
parsons only were able to do the same, with one eye 
directed to heaven and the other to the good things of 
this world. We talked of Neufchatel too ; he said that 
the King was full of good hopes, and counted upon 
Louis Bonaparte ; that Manteuflfel did not see things in 
such a favorable light, but made merry of them. The 
Russian Chancellor, Graf von Nesselrode, said to Hum- 
boldt on his. last visit, that the present constitution and 
position of Switzerland made the best impression on 
him, and were such as to win esteem and favor for the 



Berlin, November 30ih, 1856. 
Esteemed Fkiend: 

At this moment I receive a letter from a jnipil, 
deserving of moderate praise for clearness of thought 
and diction. I shall not write before having first come 
to see you, my dear friend. The last fifteen lines of the 
letter are utterly illegible and unintelligible to me. I had 
written to him about the laying of the telegraph cable 
between Ireland and Newfoundland, but had not made 
him any ofier. I cannot read what is underscored ! 

342 Humboldt's Letters. 

Keep my pupil's letter by all means, including the infor- 
mation that I am the subject of discussion in the Belgian 
Chambers, as a materialist and republican, who ought to 
be discharged ! Where the dinner of the Baron d'Arhim 
(Arnim) took place, I cannot guess. I may have said, 
that I was as liberal as Arago, but certainly not that I 
was a Republican. Deposit M. Jobard in your archives, 
my friend, 

Your faithful, A. v. Humboldt. 

Sunday. . • , 

What men believe and disbelieve does not generally 
become a subject of contention until after they have 
been officially buried and bepreached by Sydow.* 

The " Spenersche Zeitung," besides discussing Neuf- 
chatel and the evacuation of the Danubian principalities, 
contains a daily health return about five little silkworms 
of Fintelmann, the court gardener. How all things 
diminish in importance I I have often written letters 
dated from the hill of Sans Souci, which formerly was 
historical. Now the Peacock's Island becomes historical 
by the still life of two caterpillars. Thus the world moves. 
It must be remembered that when the Angora goats 
made illustrious the administration of Richelieu in 
France, the Moniteur contained the announcement : " Le 
moral des chevres s'ameliore de jour en jour." 

* A fashionable preacher in Berlin. — Tr. ' 

Humboldt's Letters. 343 



■Weimar, November 29<ä, 1856. 
As I fortunately have the honor to be known, truly 
known to your Excellency, I may flatter myself that you 
will not estimate my gratitude for your services and 
those of M. de Varnhagen, by the length of time which 
has elapsed since the day I received your letter of the 
31st, and the present time. My sincere thanks shall 
here receive a place. They have been delayed by the 
very nature of the transaction. Such could not but be 
the efiect, for in an affair of that kind it is impossible 
to form a sudden resolution, and accordingly I now 
w'rite for the sole purjjose of not appearing ungrateful, 
and because, on the other hand, it is necessary to secure 
the possibility of forming a fixed resolve. To do this I 
must have time and freedom of election. Both are secured 
by the kindness of yourself and M. Varnhagen, for you 
join in proposing to send the young man so as to enable 
me in the first place to make his acquaintance. The 
question arises, when can this be done ? for I do not 
care to begin by calling * * * here with the trombone 

344 Humboldt's Letters. 

of an appointment. Nothing remains, therefore, but to 
beg your Excellency to make inquiries at what time the 
gentleman would be at leisure and inclined to undertake 
a journey to the bank of the Jim. Having asked this 
question, I would pause above all things, in order to 
proceed to the expression of my thanks for the important 
news you have the goodness to communicate. If I add 
the question, whether your Excellency will kindly send 
me the map for an admiring inspection, and if you should 
possibly find this question wonderfully troublesome, I 
take refuge under the shelter of your goodness to me, 
which has often made me proud, and to-day, perhaps, 
indiscreet. Yet I am proud of your goodness, which 
is ever covipled with truth, and in the latter I put my 
trust, that you will decisively reject my petition, if it 
troubles you, to whom, in reverence, I remain the most 
grateful scholar, 

Charles Alexander. 



Brussels, Novemler 2Wh, 1856. 
Monsieur le Baron: 

Peruaps you will not be displeased to learn the role 

Humboldt's Letters. 345 

you have been made to play in the iinfortunate debate 
of our religious politics. 

The old Minister Dechamps, who sat on your right at 
the dinner of the Baron of Arhim, and who was so much 
astonished at hearing you say that you were as much of 
a Republican as your friend Arago, having associated 
your name with those of the illustrious believers who 
profess the Catholic faith, a liberal journal this morning 
answered him as follows : — 

" M. Dechamps, in the last homily delivered by him 
in the Chamber, cited the name of M. de Humboldt to 
prove that science could well be made subservient to the 
creed. It must be admitted, as Mr, Devaux showed, 
that the example could not have been worse chosen, 
M. de Humboldt is one of those rationalists, pure and 
simple, against whom M. Dechamps has already written 
so many letters. If M. Humboldt had taught in Bel- 
gium he would most certainly have been pursued in 
pastoral letters, and discharged by M, Dechamps, if M. 
Dechamps had been the Minister. Nevertheless, it is 
thus that history is written, and thus that the most 
important questions of our intellectual and moral future 
are appreciated !" 

Here is another unmixed and undisguised political 
opinion : — 

" As often and so sure as you base your church upon 
human obtuseness, the gates of the mind will not pre- 


346 Humboldt's Letters. 

vail against it, because there will always be consummate 
fools, old fools, and little fools, to uphold and repair it. 
Pure reason has not the same chance." 
Yours, ever devotedly, 




(translated by CHARLES GOEPP, ESQ., AT EASTON, PA.) 

This was the latest, the peaceful home, where the mighty explorer, 

Early ascender of summits, reposed on the heights of his glory. 

Hall of the Castle of Knowledge, the limner has deftly restored thee 1 

Lofty and light, rich hung with trophies of noble endeavor ; 

Treasures of nature and art, and of love, and the weapons of science. 

While in the midst sits, earnestly glad, thoughtfully commanding 

All the profusion around, himself thy sovereign, breathing 

Speech and significant life into every shape of the picture ; 

Plying the wonderful shuttle of thought, until it produces. 

Painting and painted at once, fresh images, brighter and brighter.* 

Varnhagen von Ense. 
Berlin, December \st, 1856. 

* Spaetes Daheim des einst in ruestig kaempfender Jugend 
Weitgewanderten Forschers, der, gleichwie Hoehen der Erde, 
Hoehen des Ruhmes erstieg, hat dargestellt uns der Maler, 
Schoen, reich ausgestattet mit herrlichen Schoetzen des "Wissens : 

Humboldt's Letters. 347 



Berlin, December 3d, 1856. 
So my pedestrian prose has led you back, ray friend, 
to the regions of the noblest of rhythms ! It would 
make me proud, if the universe were not entitled to 
your favor. With even more modesty than the poor, 
for whose benefit the old man with the moss-grown 
beard* exhibits himself for the small compensation of 
five silver groschen. With what excellent taste you 
have transferred the English " home''' into " DaheimP 
Indescribably beautiful is your poetry, full of grace 

"Werke der Kunst, der Natur, und Schrift und Geraeth des 

Aber ihn selbst inmitten des neidenswerthen Besitzthums 
Sehen wir froh sein Reich mit sinnigem Blicke beherrschen. 
Deutende Sprache verleihen dem wundervollen Gemaeldo, 
Durch lichtvoller Gedanken beredsam glückliche Fügung 
Schafifend ein neues Bild, ein geistiges, staunendem Anschaun I 
* Bemoostes Haupt is an expression often applied to a student who 
has grown grey without passing an examination, and which, in this 
connexion, has an effect at once humorous and pathetic, which ia 
inimitable. — Tr. 

348 Humboldt's Letters, 

and delicacy, and of a solemn monition of what should 
have been extracted from nature and art, and the 
weapon of science. If my brother William, who, in 
his correspondence with Wolf, discoursed so largely on 
lax and severe hexameters, could but have lived to 
witness this family honor ! 

Your advice, even when not clothed in verse, is law 
to me. I shall follow it at once ; and you have made 
matters a great deal easier than they were. Aleajacta 
sit ! Could you, perhaps, dear friend, transfer the last 
ten syllables (or lines) of the Grand Ducal letter into 
your classic chirography, so as possibly to enable me to 
guess what it is that I am understood to have promised. 

Fremont's portrait reminds one vividly of Chateau- 
briand. A biography of the former has just appeared 
in New York, dedicated to me — " Memoirs of the Life 
and Public Services of John Charles Fremont, by John 
Bigelow (?)." The dedication says : " To Alexander von 
Humboldt this memoir of one whose genius he was 
among the first to discover and acknowledge, is respect- 
fully inscribed by the author." Delicate words, a little 
artificially combined. There is a copy of the letter 
written to him from Sans Souci, in the King's name, in 
1850, accompanying the great prize medal for science 
and art, upon his having projected the most extensive 
]3arometrical level ever executed, from Missouri to the 
ßouth Sea. It closes with the words of which Sans 

Humboldt's Letters. 349 

Souci has no reason to be ashamed : " La Calif ornie^ 
qui a NOBLEMENT resiste ä I'introduction de Vesclavage, 
sera dignenient representee par un atni de la liberie 
et des progrhs de V intelligence.''''* The biography has 
passages of a strange romantic interest. At one time 
cold and hunger have driven a party to fury and almost 
phrensy, when they all pray and sing, and then an oath 
from Fremont that there shall not in any case be a resort 
to cannibalism. As soon as my own curiosity is satis- 
fied I shall send you the book. For the present, you 
may occupy yourself with the miracle performed by the 
chaplain of an army division in Magdeburg, on a Mr. 
Assemann, in Quedlinburg. I have lighted upon it in 
my capacity of naturalist. It is to be found on p. 34. 
Gratefully yours, A. v. Humboldt. 

Note by Varnhagen. — The water color paintings by Hildebrandt, 
that of Humboldt among them, were exhibited in the hall of the Art 
Union, for the benefit of the poor. Price of admission, five silber- 

Suicide a Folly and a Crime ; Two Sermons by Dr. Crusius, Chap- 
lain of a Division of the Army: Magdeburg, 1855. 8vo. The miracle 
consists in this, that one, who under the qualms of a guilty conscience, 
was long occupied with thoughts of suicide, was suddenly cured of 
them, permanently, by an invocation of the name of Jesus. The 

* California, which has nobly resisted the introduction of slavery, 
will be worthily represented by a friend of liberty and of the progress 
of intelligence. 

\ About eleven cents. 

350 Humboldt's Letters. 

production is also remarkable as containing, on p. 34, the following 
allusion to Schleiermacher : "It is said of a distinguished divine, 
that he was once sorely tempted to commit suicide. Such is the 
influence which suffering of body and mind may exercise even upon 
good and godly men." 



Berlin, December lliJi, 1856. 

Another grateful, unconstrained, and amiaHe letter 
from the Grand Duke. He fixes February for the visit, 
and desires the drama to open with a request to search 
the archives. The permission being given, the material 
part is to follow, as he says, symbolically. You will 
arrange that with care, my dear friend. We are 
approaching the goal of our wishes. 

I have another funeral to-morrow at the column in 
Tegel, which, under the hand of Thorwalsden, promises 
Hope. The oldest niece (daughter) of my brother, the 
wife of General Hedemann, born in Paris in 1 800, a few 
days after Madame von Humboldt's return from Spain, 
has departed after much suffering (liver complaint 
connected with dropsy), an amiable, cheerful house. 

Humboldt's Letters. 351 

wife, who enjoyed good health for forty years in a 
very happy marriage. I live to bury all my kith 
and kin. 

Yours, A. V. H. 

Wednesday Etenino. 



Weimar, December I6th, 1856. 
Like unto Nature, eternally invoked, eternally giving, 
because eternally bountiful, you respond with ever 
returning goodness to every repeated solicitation. The 
proposal of your Excellency in regard to the young man 
of science, as suggested by the plan of M. de Varnhagen, 
is so excellent, that I can only beg for its speedy execu- 
tion. For that pui-pose, it would seem desirable that 
M. de Varnhagen should instil the idea into the young 
men that our plentiful archives would repay a thorough 
search, if I could be induced to sanction it. I would do 
so at once, permitting the material part to follow here- 
after. The period beginning with February of next 
year would seem to me best adapted for the literary 
investigation. The real object of the journey should 

352 Humboldt's Letters. 

remain a secret, so that I shall be entirely at liberty to 
see him, to appoint him, or not to appoint him. 

I thank you with all my heart for that printed inclo- 
sure. This task also, by no means an easy one, you have 
performed with a master hand, and could do so better 
than any one. else, because you, more than most men, 
have spoken to the world by noble actions. 

I shall appropriate the Journal of Petermann. My 
veneration for you is the pledge of the effective truth of 
my aspirations. I beg you to preserve your interest in 
it, and your goodness also, being your most grateful 
admirer and servant, 

Chakles Alexander. 



Berlin, Feb. lih, 1857. 
When I read anything in Berlin that enlists my poli- 
tical or literary attention, my first thought is of you. 
Lasaulx of Munich, of Baader's tribe, Avas only known to 
me as a man of the " Kreuz Zeitung" and of Schubert's 
World of Darkness, and the new historical work he 
sends me contains little originality of views, but it mani- 
fests, by way of allusion, a wealth of positive know- 

Humboldt's Letters. 353 

ledge, which I had not expected of the man. Numerous 
citations indicate a great preference for the views of my 
brother. The Slavonic passage in regard to the Messiah 
is also remarkable, and the notes present a rich collec- 
tion of antiquities. I should not look for anything of 
the sort from President Gerlach and his brother, to 
whom Professor Gelzer of Basle, and others, of opinions 
opposite to his, have been oificially referred in the 
Neufchatel negotiations! If Lasaulx is not agreeable to 
you on account of his wishes for the restoration of the 
ancient German empire, you may find it interesting to 
skim over the work, and glance at the notes. 

My cutaneous disease is much better, as also my noc- 
turnal diligence. The fourth and last volume of Kos- 
mos will consist of two parts, ^. e., of two volumes, each 
of thirty-five sheets, the first of which has already left 
the press. Both the parts, however, are to appear 
together^ to avoid spoiling the efiect of a continuous 
description, beginning with the internal warmth of the 
earth, and ending with the different races of man. 

The presumptuous want of caution with which the 
pitiful Neufchatel affair is carried on here, exposes Prus- 
sia to great humiliation at Paris. Waterloo will be 
avenged on Prussia as it has been on Russia. 
Yours most truly, 

A. Y. Ht. 

354 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Feb. Mh, 1857. 
Your Excellency will receive, accompanying this, 
with my most hearty thanks, the book so kindly lent 
me. I have read it with varied emotions, I might say 
with painful interest. True, the author makes conces- 
sions, and opens up points of view, which I should not 
have expected any more than the luxurious learning of 
his manifold citations. But the pretty collection of 
notes fails to mantle the kernel of the text, which is 
extremely bitter ; the apology of negro slavery, the 
brutal praise of warfare and of standing armies, and the 
beneficence of aristocratic revolutions, in spite of his 
far-fetched compliments, which look like invitations to 
be converted, the author really offers nothing but the 
f:xre of the " Kreuz Zeitung," in a preparation somewhat 
more delicate than that of Professor Leo, whose "mire of 
cultivation" and " scrofulous rabble" are here cooked 
up with spices. Latet anguis in herha! I must say 
that I always take the alarm wl)en j^liüosopliers under- 
take to measure the course and the stage of human 
development, and to combine the meagre dates of our 

Humboldt's Letters. 355 

puny history, of at most a few thousand years, with 
laws for the possibilities of millions of years. Neither 
Fichte, nor Schelling, nor Steffens, nor Hegel, were par- 
ticularly fortunate in their essays ; the assignment of 
the ages is best left to the poets. What is especially 
singular in our author is that he confesses to a strong 
doubt of his own doctrine, for he " cannot practically 
renounce the national Ideal of a restored emperor and 
empire, although his theoretical faith in their realization 
is slight" (p, 157). One who writes thus has written 
his own sentence. A friendly answer at the hands of 
your Excellency the author may hope to receive, an 
approving one you will not be able to give him. 

To hear that your welfare, your activity, your energy, 
continue unaltered and progressive, is refreshing and 
encouraging to us authors, who stand in need of great 
example to protect us from flagging in our daily work, 
oXiyov T£ (jpiXov te. The views of the new volume of 
Kosmos give me great delight, and, as Schiller said when 
Goethe produced one of his masterpieces, "I thank the 
gods that they have suffered me to live to see it." 

The Xeufchatel affair, even in its present stage, has in 
it much that is disheartening, and I was from the first 
opposed to our negotiations at Paris, which had all tlie 
appearance of snares, in wliich much may yet be entan 
gled. The zeal displayed by many is not at all sincere, 
but seems an excellent means for the attainment of 

35^ Humboldt's Letters. 

other ends, and will probably be successful. Never- 
theless, I am without anxiety for the future, the light 
cannot be extinguished and must triumph ; it is only 
the moment of darkness that is hard to bear. 

With the best wishes, in the greatest veneration and 

I remain your Excellency's most obedient, 
Vaenhagen von Ense. 



Berlin, February 20ih, 185T. 
Will your Excellency pardon me for trespassing on 
your valuable time a moment ? Not for myself, but for 
a literary project from which I cannot Avitlihold my 
personal interest, if only on the score of old acquaintance! 
Professor Francis HoiTmann, of Wuerzburg, is engaged 
upon the publication of the works of Francis von Baader, 
which he pursues with self-sacrificing perseverance. I 
may say against Avind and tide. He is about closing the 
enterprise with a sketch of the life of his author, and is 
anxious not to pass over unmentioned the fact, that 
Baader attended the Mining Academy at Freiberg, at 
the same time with your Excellency. It would be in- 

Humboldt's Letters. 357 

valuable to him to obtain a word of reference to the 
matter from yourself, a bare hint as to whether any 
relation of moment took place between you, or whether 
he made any impression upon you ? I would not pre- 
sume to trouble your Excellency, if I did not take for 
granted that either a memento, or the contents of a 
single line, would dispose of the matter ! 

The crowd and your Excellency''s early departure 
prevented me from making my salutation at the Artists' 
Festival. It is more than twenty years since I have 
ventured into such deep waters. 

Strange reports are in circulation. I hope it is only 
a jest that presents M. Niebuhr as the Future Minister 
of finance, and M. Wagener as Privy Councillor, with a 
seat in the cabinet. 

With a repeated request of your indulgence, I remain, 
with the most profound esteem, and in the most sincere 

Your Excellency's most obedient, 

Varnhage]^ von Ense. 

On Humboldt's attack of sickness, Varnhagen's diary 
of February 27, 1857, contains the following: "M. 
Hermann Grimm called, coming from Humboldt's apart- 
ments, where he had conversed with Sciffert, the valct. 
It is not a cold that has befallen Humboldt, but a far 
more serious attack, a paralytic stroke. After the court 

358 Humboldt's Letters. 

ball on Tuesday evening he felt unwell, in the night he 
left his bed to drink some water — wished to avoid dis- 
turbing the servant — and fell upon the floor. Seifiert 
awoke with the noise, and found his master speechless 
and unconscious ; it was some time before he revived. 
Privy Councillor Schoenlein is not sanguine ; he had 
not a very good night. 

Humboldt's loss would be irreparable. He is a coun- 
terpoise to so much that is mean and contemptible, which, 
after his death, would boldly seek the light and glory in 
its own depravity. The honor and influence of science 
are embodied in him, and both would sink if he were 
taken away. There is not now a name in Germany, or 
in Europe, like his, not an influence in Berlin more exten- 
sive or more generally recognised than his. And how 
painful would his loss be to me ! His name and his inter- 
course is attached to fifty years of my life, he has known 
those who were near and dear to us of old! 

Under March 14th, Varnhagen narrates in his diary: 
" When the King was with Humboldt, Schoenlein said 
to the latter, that he would not be able for some time 
to stand firmly on his left side,- to which Humboldt 
rejoined : ' For all that, it will not be necessary for me 
to sit on the right with Gerlach.' "* 

* Leader of the most reactionary party. — 3V. 

Humboldt's Letters. 359 



Berlin, March llih, 1857. 

I CANNOT deny myself the pleasure to offer to your 
Excellency my most heartfelt congratulations for your 
happy and perfect recovery ! The finest and most 
powerful testimony of it is the letter to Privy Councillor 
Boeckh, Avhich appeared in the papers this morning, and 
which no epithet of praise will suffice to describe. Such 
an invocation has never yet fallen to the lot of any man, 
and the receiver will not fail to honor and appreciate it 
as the most precious of all the gifts bestowed upon him. 
How fresh must have been the mind, and how warm 
the heart, from which it emanates, and how sterling and 
graceful at once is its expression ! Even its narrative 
form — its Herodotic narrative, I might call it — is of 
inestimable value, and shows us a beautiful combination 
of youth preserved and old age achieved. 

May your Excellency pardon this overflow of senti- 
ment ! You have no need of my words, but to me it 
is not possible to suppress them, and I therefore will 
give free vent to my most fervent desire, that the 
radiating star, covered for a moment by a cloud, may 

360 Humboldt's Letters. 

still shine upon us for a long time in accustomed splen- 
dor, and may forebode, as heretofore, health and wealth 
at home and abroad. 

With profound veneration and gratitude, 

Ever faithfully your most devoted 

Varnhagen von Ense. 

These lines are not so presumptuous as to expect an 



Berlin, March I9th, 1857 — at Night. 
How should I deny myself the pleasure to thank 
you, the dearest, ablest, and most attached of my 
friends. Not indulgence — no, praising exj^ressions on 
my address to Boeckh — a praise of form, of the vesture 
of thought — has been my lot from the lips of the master 
of language, and of the delicate turns of good-will. 
You caused me great joy, more than you anticipated. 
What my nervous affection was, which produced a 
paralysis of such short duration, with the functions of 
the brain remaining entirely free, with pulse unchanged, 
with preservation of sight, and of all motion of the 
extremities subject to will, I cannot divine. There are 

Humboldt's Letters. 361 

magnetic storms (the polar light), electric storms in the 
(.'louds, nervous storms in man, heavy and light ones — 
l^erhaps, also, sheet lightning, foreboding the others. 
I had serious thoughts of death, comme un homme qui 
part, ayant encore heaucoup de lettres d ecrire. Other 
interests, which for ever remain alive in me, bind me to 
the memories of yesterday ! ! I believe myself in full 
convalescence; but as I had to rest much on the bed 
without occupation, sadness and displeasure of the 
world have increased in me. This I say to you alone. 
I shall soon come to you, and thank you orally from 
the depths of my soul. All around us puts us to shame. 
In most intimate friendship, your most faithful 

A, V. Humboldt. 

Varnhagen writes in his diary, March 19th, 1857: 
" Unexpectedly a letter from Humboldt ! I had writ- 
ten under my congratulation, that these lines were not 
so immodest as to expect an answer. But he, neverthe- 
less answers, and in the most obliging, most heart-glad- 
dening manner. He gives a remarkable report of his 
sickness. The bad reports were all untrue, at least 
exaggerated ; he never lost consciousness or language, 
his pulse remained as usual. Yet he did not conceal 
from himself, that it might be the end. " I had serious 
thoughts of death, corame un homme qui part, ayant 
encore beaucoup de lettres ä ecrire !" Grand and fine is 


362 Humboldt's Letters. 

what he adds : " Other interests, which remain for ever 
alive in me, bind me to the memories of yesterday ! ! 
(of the 18th of March!)* I believe myself in full 
convalescence, but as I had to rest much on the bed 
without occupation, sadness and displeasure with the 
world have increased in me. This I say to you 



Berlin, April 6</i, 1857. 
If you, dear friend, understand the letter of the 

Grand Diike as I do, must go. I had proposed 

that he should come to Weimar, under the pretext of 
studying the archives ; he would bring a letter of intro- 
duction from you or me ; should be invited to court and 
if he did not please, should simply be asked whether he 
meant to return to . That this should be a shib- 
boleth as a bad end of the drama, quod Deus avertat. 
I also proposed to advance the stipulated sum of 
money. On this head the tyrant does not answer dis- 
tinctly. goes, I think, by way of Berlin. Shall 

* Day of the Prussian Revolution of 1848. 

Humboldt's Letters. 363 

■we then give him the letter of recommendation with 
the galvanic stimulants ? I do as you wish. 
Your faithful 

A. V. Humboldt, 


Keep the letter of the Grand Duke, which ends nicely, 
and in good taste. 



"Weimar, April 3d, 1857. 

A MisuKDERSTANDiNG is the key to my behavior 

towards . I believed and expected that he, after 

he had, in January, I believe, asked the permission to 
search our archives, would immediately come hither. 
Then only of course I would have paid his expenses. 
Just in these last days I wondered neither to hear nor 
to see anything of . 

Then arrived the second letter of your Excellency, 
which, asking explanation of me, gives explanation ; and I 

hasten to answer it by saying that may come in 

about ten days, and I would be prepared in any case to 
make the payment, the amount of which your Excellency 

364 Humboldt's Letters. 

yourself named. According to understanding, both of 
us, I and the ti*aveller, would consider ourselves entirely 
free yet, and therefore observe due discretion on the 
proper cause of this journey. 

Dante would have spoken still more truly if he had 
said: " Viver'ch' h un correr a I'eterna gioventü." You 
prove it, for eternally your immortal spirit rejuvenates, 
its excellence is also a proof of this. 

In grateful reverence and love, your faithfully most 

Kakl Alexander. 



Berlin, April 1th, 1857, 
Your Excellency's kind and very much desired com- 
munications I forwarded in haste to that is to 

say, the substance of it. It is to be hoped that 

will start immediately, but I expect first to receive an 
answer from him, and as I do not believe that in the 
short time the Grand Duke has left him, he can make 
the detour by way of Berlin, it will be best for him to 
receive the letter of introduction in Weimar. 

The Grand Duke insists upon discretion, and justly so ! 

Humboldt's Letters. 365 

It is convenient for him, and delicate and sparing for the 

other party. has acted correctly in this respect 

up to the present time. I am very anxious to see the 
end of the matter ; taking for granted that there was a 
good relation present in the germ. Success would give 
me extraordinary satisfaction. 

The present you make me of the letter of the Grand 
Duke delights me very much. Not only the end is in 
good taste and fine, but the whole style has agreeable 
turns ; and above all, the reverence for your Excellency 
expresses itself in a manner, the heartfelt sincerity of 
which cannot be misunderstood. 

For some days I have been living entirely in recollec- 
tions of past times and relations. The correspondence 
between Gentz and Adam Mueller, just now published 
by Cotta, keeps me spellbound, and I must contemplate 
the whole series of those experiences in my reviving 

I have known both men early and intimately, and 
have had much intercourse with them, personally, of a 
friendly character, in measures generally an adversary. 
The superiority of Gentz over the younger friend, whom 
he greatly overvalued, never was doubtful to me, and is 
here confirmed anew ; only at last when the murder of 
Kotzebue deranges and stupifies the mind, the force of 
terror drives the statesman, who formerly was fond of 
clearness, into the gloomy nebulous strata, to which the 

366 Humboldt's Letters. 

frightened friend had retreated long before. This cor- 
respondence is certainly unique in its kind. The trans- 
actions, disquisitions, mutual influences, inclinations, 
and feuds are invested with dramatic interest. In Adam 
Mueller, by-the-by, is contained the complete germ of 
the " Kreutz Zeitungs" party, though in ideal elevation, 
still without contact with the real world, and therefore 
without offensive vulgarities. 

Your Excellency kindly promised me a few lines on 
Franz Baader ; may I remind you of them in the most 
modest manner, and with the remark, that really a few 
lines only would suffice for the purpose ? 

In most faithful reverence and most grateful submis- 
sion, immutably your Excellency's most obedient 

Varnhagen von Ense. 



Berlin, April lOth, 1857. 
I nAVE the pleasure to announce to your Excellency 

that Herr will start from to Weimar on 

the 14th. Much as he would have wished to make the 
detour by way of Berlin, if only to lay at the feet of 
your Excellency the most cordial expression of his 

Humboldt's Letters. 367 

boundless gratitude for so much friendly intercession, 
he is comi^elled by the brief period fixed by the Grand 
Duke to renounce the realization of that wish for the 
present. I therefore venture to solicit the favor of the 
introduction to the Grand Duke you were good enough 
to promise ; a single line would suffice. I would imme- 
diately despatch it to Weimar, so that Mr. will 

find it there on his arrival. The young man is well 
aware that the journey concludes nothing, and that he 
must be prepared for a denial ; but he is much pleased 
to see that the long delay in the progress of affiiirs is 
ended, and he is at last in motion. By your kind inquiry 
your Excellency has produced this result, and dispelled 
the clouds of misconception ; the most grateful heart 
will acknowledge this ^nth heartfelt devotion ! His sen- 
timents are warmly shared by myself, in this case, as in 
so many earlier cases ! 

"With the best wishes for your welfare ; with profound 
veneration and attachment I remain unalterably, 
Your Excellency's most obedient 

Vaenhagen von Ense. 

368 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, April IBih, 1857. 
Here, my valued friend, is the archivary recommen. 

dation for , just as prescribed. May the matter 

be successful. "With heartfelt attachment, 

Yours, A. V. Humboldt. 



Berlin, April 21 si, 1851. 
To my great regret, dear friend, I cannot accept the 
kind invitation of yourself and your amiable niece to a 
cup of coffee on Thursday, as I shall return late and 
much fatigued from Charlottenburg. During my illness, 
a number of unimportant matters have accumulated, 
which must be disposed of after dinner, because they 
are trumpery affairs of orders and dedications, a pre- 
sentation of Betel in preference to gifts of money. The 
fourth class* operates like Betel chewing, it occupies 

* i.e., of the order of the Prussian eagle. 

Humboldt's Letters. 369 

the time, but affords no nourishment. On Thursday 
the King hopes to close and settle with me. Be pleased 
to write Professor Hoffmann, of "VYuerzburg, that I am 
grateful for his torso, but no assistance is to be expected 
from the King, not only (what you must not write), 
because something like a holy horror of the Catholic 
zeal of Baader is rooted in the King's mind, but also 
because all literary assistance dwindles down in the 
cabinet to a present of forty or forty-five thalers. In 
preference to the publication in the preface of a miser- 
able letter of introduction, which may have been written 
in a moment of ill-humor, I enclose a memorandum as 

With the same fi-iendship as of old, 



You ask me, dear friend, what were the earliest im- 
pressions produced upon me by Franz Baader ! I first 
saw him in June, 1791, while studying the art of mining 
in Freiberg, after the journey with George Forster to 
England, and after my sojourn in the Hamburg Com- 
mercial Academy of Buesching and Ebeling, For eight 
months I enjoyed the daily intercourse of this amiable 
and gifted man. Franz Baader had then published his 
work on caloric, and his inclinations were all of a che- 
mico-physical nature, vAxh. a slight infusion of ideas 

370 Humboldt's Letters. 

on the jiliilosophy of physical science. He was active 
nnderground, more occupied with j)ractical mining and 
furnace operations than with geognostic researches ; 
thorough in the observation of fact, cheerful, and satiri- 
cal, but always with good taste, and not intolerant of 
those who diifered from him. His imagination was not 
then specially directed to religious subjects. He was 
generally popular, and a little feared at the same time, 
as is so common where there is a consciousness of mental 
superiority. His political opinions were liberal. It was 
the period of the Congress of Pillnitz in our neighbor- 
hood — a time and a neighborhood which gave occasion 
to political utterances. 



Berlin, April 25/A, 1857. 

" The gate of the oracle, the abyss of the archives of 

state, analogies leading down to the depths of the sea." 

This is inferior to the last letter. Rafael's manner is not 

always the same. I am surprised to find that curiosity 

appears to have led him to avoid seeing before the 

journey to Hanover ! Preserve the vapid letter, my dear 
friend ! The bottom of the sea refers to a map of the 

Humboldt's Letters. 371 

sea from Newfoundland to Ireland, wbicli I recom- 
mended to the Grand Duke, but whicli is not to be pro- 
cured because it was published in Carthage by Perthes ! 
The Times flatter themselves, in all seriousness, that 
the French race is on the point of extinction ; well, the 
pugs are extinct also. 


A. V. Humboldt. 

I have disagreeable rudera of the correspondence 
with a certain Dr. Gross Hoftinger, in Vienna, who 
accuses himself of having written against Prussia in 1848, 
and now asks Prussia to recommend him to the Austrian 
government. Have you any recollection of him ? 

Note by Yarnhagen. — " Carthage" means Gotha, a town not far 
from Weimar, but under tlie sovereignty of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, 
between whom and his cousin there is a constant rivalry, such as of 
old existed between Rome and Carthage. 



Your Excellency's letter was duly received by the 

hands of Mr. . Accept my thanks for these lines, 

for this new token of your constant kindness to me. 

37^ Humboldt's Letters. 

The bearer is for the present immersed in the abyss of 
my archives. As soon as I shall return from Hanover, 
where an invitation will detain me a few days,* to seek 
him out, awaiting further developments at the hand of 
time, like the people at the gate of the oracle. 

Analogies lead me from deep to lower deep, and then 
I descend from the archives to the bottom of the sea. 
How am I to obtain the map of which you wrote ? 
When I inquired for it in Gotha, some time ago, the 
inquiry was futile. So I return to the source, ever rich 
and bounteous, of whom I subscribe myself the most 
grateful and obedient 

Chaeles Alexander. 

Vienna, A2>ril 22d, 1857. 



Berlin, May 28ih, 1851. 
I AM uneasy, my dear friend, about Weimar. The 
Grand Duke is everywhere, except in Weimar "Athens." 
What will become of our warmly recommended ? Has 
he been spoken to by the eloquent Prince ? You have 
not wished me joy to the order bestowed upon me by 

* An ellipse, probably of Grand Ducal origin. — Tr. 

Humboldt's Letters. 373 

the " Hamburg Moniteur" as Grand OfBcier, which 
Guizot gave me fifteen years ago. Raumer's conversa- 
tion is A'ery mteresting ; he was at Pesth, at Milan, 
dined with the Archduke, and called on Cavour. He 
has again returned with something of a hankering after 
the Austrian regime in Lombardy, like the Republicans 
when they visit the United States, where arsenic, the 
torture, or Fremont-worshipping negroes, cause a 
criminal colic to Cuba-mad Buchanan. Multa sunt 
eadem sed aliter. The Russian Minister of Enlighten- 
ment, Noroff, who had a leg shot off by the thigh at 
Borodino, and who has carried his wooden leg to 
Jerusalem and Egypt, and even to the top of the 
Pyramids, is here, and attends as a guest, sitting among 
the students, the lectures of Johannes Mueller and 
Diderici. His companion, the young Count Ouwaroff, 
the author of a great work on Hellenic antiquities in 
the Chersonese, attends the lectures of Michelet and 
Boeckh. Both are very agreeable men. The former is 
accused of being over spiritual, but not intolerant ; 
both are much pleased with the freedom of our student 
life, and with the absence of policemen from our uni- 
versity building. I did not cai'e to disabuse the mind 
of the one-legged Raumer, as they will leave soon. 
Decipitur mundus. 

With old affection, your tiresome 

A. V. Humboldt. 

374 Humboldt's Letters. 

Note bt Varnhagen. — " The United States, where arsenic, the 
torture, or Fremont-worshipping negroes, cause a criminal cohc to 
Cuba-mad Buclianan." This passage alludes to the circumstance, that 
at a hotel in "Washington, the President, and many others with him, 
were seized with a violent colic after dinner, so that suspicions of 
poison were entertained ; and it was only after a legal investigation 
that the whole was found to have been caused by impure water. 

By the Translator. — " Fremont-worshipping negroes" must refer 
to the slaves who were reported to be in insurrection soon after the 
accession of President Buchanan, in Tennessee or Kentucky, and of 
whom it was said, that they believed Fremont and all his men to be 
encamped at the bottom of the Cumberland river, ready to emerge 
for their delivery. 



Potsdam, Thursday. In haste, 
June 4ih, 1857. 

A TRULY grand ducal letter, indelicate without excuse, 
cutting off every prospect, as he said " Au revoir" on 
going away, after the preconcerted shibboleth. Silence 
as to the costs, which are unnecessarily heavy. You 
and I shall cease " steering in the ocean of investiga- 
tion," as acquaintance with the party proposed does not 
suffice to determine him. I have a mind to answer some- 
what mockingly. It may be agreeable to you, my 

Humboldt's Letters. 375 

esteemed friend, to enrich your archives with an auto- 
graphy of Thiers, who is now an Oi'leanist. Duvergier 
de Hauranne also came here after a pilgrimage to 
Eisenach. The Duchess is going to England. Preserve 
both letters, the bad one and that which is simply good. 

A. V. Ht. 

On Saturday I expect to come to Berlin with the King. 
The Queen is coming on Monday. 



Ettersburg, June 1, 1857. 
Your Excellency has probably learned already, that 
I have seen, repeatedly conversed with, but finally re- 
frained from appointing . He interested me, I may say 

he pleased me, but I thought I could not recognise in him 
the secretary who could not only keep me informed of 
everything of moment in the spheres of science, art, 
and literature, but should attend to my correspondence, 
my intercourse, verbal and social, in various languages ; 
and to appoint him at hazard I feared to venture. To 

37^ Humboldt's Letters. 

retreat was, then, the only resource. I did so in order 
to steer fürther in the ocean of investigation. Whether 
you will continue, even in this matter, to cast upon me, 
as a star of good omen, the light of the goodness ever 
extended to me — is what I may be permitted to wish, 
but can hardly be permitted to hope — although we 
agreed that the acquaintance of the party was not to 
include his selection. 

I shall now retire into various forest solitudes of Thu- 
ringia with a number of books, among w'hich I anticipate 
l^articular pleasure from the perusal of Earth's itinerary. 
I bow in reverence before such endurance in the love of 
science, before such indomitable energy ; how much the 
more must I do so before his prototype, before you ? 
Remaining your most devoted, most grateful servant, 

Charles Alexander. 



(from the FRENCH.) 

Paris, May Uth, 1857. 
My Dear M. de Humboldt — I take the liberty of 
commending to your goodness shown so often to myself 
and to Frenchmen generally, M. Duvergier de Hau- 
ranne, who goes to Germany to show it to his young son. 

Humboldt's Letters. 377 

You know our country too well for me to tell you what 
important and always honorable part has been sustained, 
by M. Duvergier de Hauranne in our assemblies, where 
he has ever been faithful to the cause of rational Hberty ; 
and not faithful alone, but eminently useful. Having 
returned to private life and devoted himself to study, he 
goes to see your excellent country, and I thought I 
could not do better than to recommend him to your 
kindness. To his young son it wUl be an imperishable 
recollection to have seen the illustrious savan who does 
the greatest honor to the century, and whom we French- 
men have the vanity to consider as French, and belong- 
ing to us no less than to Germany. 

I do not write on current affairs here, for M. Duver- 
gier de Hauranne knows them, and can make you 
acquainted with them better than any other man. 

Accept the renewed homage of my respectful attach- 
ment. A. Thiers. 



Berlin, June 19<A, 185T. 
To my greatest joy, a beautiful portrait of yourself 
was brought me by Mr. Ricliaid Zeune, during an 
excursion to Tegel. I know not which most to admire, 

378 Humboldt's Letters. 

the fresh, vivid, characteristic likeness of features so 
dear to me (the taleut of the skilful Miss Ludmilla 
Assing), or the writing of your hand, so pregnant in 
thought and expression. The latter I have copied 
myself and shown it to my friends, because it is to be 
ranked with the best of what our language contains in 
the sententious compression of ideas. The unexj^ected 
ari'ival of the brothers Schlagintweit from Cashmere, 
Thibet, and the Kuen Luen mountains, which bound 
Thibet on the north, as the Himalaya on the south, 
has unreasonably delayed my acknowledgment of your 
kindness, as they are going to the King at Marienbad, 
without, it is to be hoped, the three hundred and forty 
boxes they have brought with them. All the passes, 
even those most convenient for travel, are 18,000 feet 
high. From the liberal grand ducal power (not liberal 
in the prosaic sense of filthy lucre), not a syllable, pro- 
bably because he is expecting us to send him fresh 
proposals, fresh victims. No one but the honorary 
Hungarian monk* and the j^rincess is now a riddle to 
me. Yours most faithfully, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

The Emperor Napoleon has adroitly mended what 
before was dubious, by means of very amiable letters, 
rich in delicate turns of language, addressed to me by 

* Liszt. 

Humboldt's Letters. 379 

Prince Napoleon (plon plon), and Walewski. As Nie- 
buhr, the Prussian Cabinet Councillor, is publishing a 
book on Noric Antiquities, nothing remains to cause 
surjjrise, not even the fkee canvass for ihcfree election 
in free France. I believe a few weeks in Branitz will 
be of benefit to you. 



Berlin, June ZOiH, 1857. 
I AM at a loss for words to express to you, my 
honored friend, and to the amiable and brilliant artist 
and authoress, Ludmilla Assing, what pleasure you have 
provided for my solitude, by " Elisa von Ahlefeldt," a 
pleasure still to be enjoyed by all who will deprive me 
of it for a few days. Who can read without emotion a 
fate so tender, so simple, told in such glowing language, 
by Miss Ludmilla ; who can escape the most anxious reflec- 
tions about the tortures of sentiment which the most 
noble and cultivated of mankind are skilled in inflicting 
on themselves about passion half-dogmatic in character, 
for the gratification of which the difiicult institutioji of 
official marriage is inadequate. Elisa von Ahlefeldt 
loved Adolph von Luetzow, but only as the vigorous 
representative of a noble political sentiment. The mo- 

380 Humboldt's Letters. 

tive for the disruption of the fetters, indelicate on his 
part, has something depressing. Immerman wishes to 
he loved, dreads the constraint of marriage, as Elisa does, 
but marries nevertheless ! ! The man who most occu- 
pies my thoughts in all these matters is Friesen, who 
worked so hard with me at the Mexican atlas in 1807, 
who was so dear to me, and to whom I was so much. I 
have mentioned him with tenderness in the Essai Poli- 
tique sur la Nouvelle Espagne. Had I known the beau- 
tiful work of Miss Ludmilla, I would gladly have offered 
her a few lines. Her book, however, will go through 
many editions. As I am unfortunately compelled to go 
to Tegel for a night, I inquire, my dear friend, whether 
I may call upon you at three o'clock on Friday, and 
whether I may hope then to find Miss Ludmilla wäth 
you. So much skill in art and literary genius united in 
one and the same person is a rare luxury. It might 
lead to misfortunes. The course of the world refuses to 
admit of great exceptions to its compensatory system of 
pleasure and sadness. 

Your A. Y. Humboldt. 


In great haste, and incorrect. 

(Inclosed, a Letter from Friesen, of the year 180Y, with this Super- 
scription by Humboldt.) 

A little gift for Miss Ludmilla Assing, the brilliant 

authoress of Elisa von Ahlefeldt, an autograph of my dear 

Humboldt's Letters. 381 

young friend Friesen, with sentiments of sincere thank- 

A. V. Humboldt. 

June 30th, 1857. 

Varnhagen's diary of July 4, 1857, contains the fol- 
lowing : " Yesterday Humboldt spoke of the time when 
he lived in a house at the side of George's Garden, 
and was so assiduous in his magnetic observations that 
he once stinted himself of sleep for seven successive days 
and nights in order to examine the state of things every 
half hour ; after that he changed the watch with substi- 
tutes. This was in 1807, just fifty years ago. I often 
saw the little house in M'hich the experiments were 
made, when I visited Johannes von Mueller, who also 
lived in a house at the side of the same garden ; or Fichte 
who lived in a garden house in the middle of the garden. 
Wlien old George, a wealthy distiller, showed the gai-- 
den to his friends, Humboldt w^ent on to say, he never 
failed to boast of ' his learned men.' ' Here I have the 
famous Mueller ; there is Humboldt, and there is Fichte, 
but he is only a philosopher, I believe.' " 

382 Humboldt's Letters. 



Bkrlin, July Gth, 1857. 
So ignorant of German poetry as to know nothing 

of the fame of Mr. of what he calls the dreary 

Mecklenburg, I must ask you, my dear friend, to spe- 
cify the degree of politeness with which the man ought 
to be answered. Eight volumes, a compensation of 
forty louis d'or, four for myself, four, as usual, for the 
King, and a nonsensical letter, are before me. The 
man appears to have sung of the great Napoleon and 
Ney, but to have A^ainly knocked at the door of Napo- 
leon III., Stephanie, Walewski, and Edgar Ney. It is 
made my duty forthwith to read a Trajan, a Bianca, 
and a Henry TV. Neither does he seem to have an 
extravagant idea of what is to be obtained from the 
King, a circumstance which discourages me from deli- 
vering the treasure. Elisa von Ahlefeldt has given great 
pleasure in Tegel, Avhere I went with Kaulbach yester- 
day, as delicate and pure in taste. Not in Tegel but in 
Berlin, some court chaplains or officers, anxious to 
acquire the title of consistorial councillors, may have 
mooted the ecclesiastical question, whether a liusband 

Humboldt's Letters. 383 

and a friend are both allowable ? The Berliners manage 
to talk about and to soil whatever comes into their 


Most gratefully faUj yours, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

Monday Night. 

I shall send for the two volumes again in a day or 

My best and most grateful compliments to Miss Lud- 
milla, the poetic artist, who combines the poet and the 



Berlin, July Sth, 1857. 
The two volumes of poetry kindly sent by your 
Excellency, no doubt manifest considerable literary cul- 
ture, and a skilful management of language and of 
metre ; but this would seem to exhaust the truthful 
measure of their praise. The number of men of this 
order of talent is very large, and where there are not 
further excellences they can hardly be called otherwise 
than ordinary. The claims advanced on the basis of 
such performances are frequently exorbitant, and such is 

384 Humboldt's Letters. 

the case in the present instance, where not appreciation 
merely, but actual remuneration is demanded. The 
author is not known to me, and his reputation certainly- 
far from extensive. That his youth has been hard, and 
that his present condition is far from pleasant, is much 
to be deplored, but the manner in which he seeks to 
better himself, by supplication to the powei'ful — bestow- 
ing praise upon men of all parties and all shades of 
party, without a conviction of his own, — is none the 
less disreputable, as well as his letter to your Excellency, 
which has received the proper epithet at your hands. 
In the answer with which you will honor him, the severe 
expressions I have used are sure of being softened to the 
full extent of what is desirable by your inexhaustible 
and unchangeable humanity and goodness. 

My niece, Ludmilla, thanks you from the fulness of 
her heart for the friendly interests your Excellency has 
so kindly manifested, and which she will never cease to 
count among the greatest treasures of which she could 
possibly become possessed ! 

Yesterday we paid a visit to Madame Gagiotti 
Richards, and found her, more beautiful than ever, in 
the midst of her artistic occupations. The whole family 
entertain the most enthusiastic veneration for you, and 
this alone would make them dear to us ; the personal 
attractions of the beautiful artist are enchanting. 

At the present day nothing literary is permitted to 

• Humboldt's Letters. 385 

make its appearance, be it ever so peaceful and inoffen- 
sive, without giving rise to manifestation of priestcraft 
and zealotry. The little book could not escape the 
imiversal fate, and the author must expect to meet 
"with many an offensive objurgation on this head. But 
she has had the good fortime de manger son pain hlanc 
le premier^ she has reaped the praises of your Excel- 
lency, and may now quietly leave the black bread of 
detraction untouched ! 

We mean to leave for Dresden on Monday, and hope 
to find your Excellency again in excellent health at the 
end of a few weeks ! 

With profound veneration and grateful devotion, 
Your obedient Vaenhagen von Ense. 



Berlin, Septemler IQih, 1857. 
An inquiry about letters and packages of the 8th and 
22d of August, gives me the gratifying certainty of your 
return to monastic Berlin, where (supplement to No. 
215 of Tante Voss, Sept. 15) "God in History»* is 
accused of rationalism and sinful Romanism on account 

» Title of a work by Chevalier Bunsen. 

386 Humboldt's Letters. 

of a kiss extorted from M. Merle d'Aubign6, and not 
yet sufficiently explained, and where (what is much 
more refreshing) pastor Kind boasts of having been 
kissed on the shoulder by a young Italian chambermaid 
at Naples, with the warmth of semi-conversion to 
Evangelism. As my monotonous birth-day has already 
brought in more than three hundred letters and pack- 
ages, I never know anything about the dates of arrival ; 
but I well remember having received a letter with a black 
margin of the 15th of July, from your distinguished 
relative Adolfo de Varnhagen in Madrid, and also a 
fragment of his history. I shall thank him heartily. 
His history is not without interest. You know that an 
attempt was made to get rid of M. von der Hey dt, whose 
independent activity is disagreeable to his colleagues, by 
the appointment of a commission of finance in the coun- 
cil of state. But the man has acted with considerable 
energy, and the King has adjourned the whole commis- 
sion, which was the work of Niebuhr. 

With heartfelt friendship, 
Wednesday. Yours, A. v. H. 

My respects to your talented niece. 

I believe " God in History" has acted unwisely in 
accepting the King's invitation, even after so many 
repetitions. I esteem him, but he will be accused of 
many things of which he is innocent. 

Humboldt's Letters. 387 



Berlin, October lith, 1851. 


My best thanks ! I had already received the letters 
and enjoyed them. Nothing can add more to the glory 
of my brother. Strange that Ancillon could so long 
deceive so shrewd a man as Gentz. 

A. V. Ht. 

Vamhagen's diary of Dec. 3d, 1857, reads as follows: 
" I called on Humboldt ; M. von Olfers was just going, 
and told me that Rauch had died in Dresden. Next 
General Count von der Groeben took his leave ; he was 
very cordial, and pleased with my offer to send him a 
man who will republish the poems of Schenkendorf. 
Humboldt was full of cordiality for Ludmilla and my- 
self; told me about the King, about Schoenlein, about the 
Princess of Prussia, about Doctor Lassalle, whose work* 
he had read accurately in three nights, and of Friesen ; 
spoke of the ' Kreuz Zeitung' with contempt, praised the 
Count von der Groeben as a man of honor, and von der 

* The Philosophy of Heraclitus the Obscure of Ephesus. 

388 Humboldt's Letters. 

Heydt for his determination to leave the cabinet. He 
had a letter" from the Queen. The King wishes to see 
him, and he therefore drives to Charlottenburg. He is 
hale and hearty. I read much in Lassalle. Even the 
external appearance of so great and important a work 
excites reverence. On me it makes a peculiar impres- 
sion to witness the downfall, one by one, of the stays 
and rivets by which my inveterate opinions have been 
upheld. Every one who has grown old has to observe 
and experience such things ; but in our times the 
changes are quicker and more powerful than in former 
times, and I am peculiarly sensible to them. Even 
where the contents do not matter to me, wehere I do 
not lose in the matter, because the subjects do not 
belong directly to my jirovince, the phenomenon is 
nevertheless somewhat disagreeable. Such is again my 
lot in regard to Schleiermacher ; his work on Heraclitus 
was hitherto the last word, the final disposition of all 
questions relating to that philosopher ; even Hegel's 
adverse hints had not been able to overturn this 
authority. One could rest upon it as on a downy pil- 
low, when lo ! a new critic comes, and snatches it from 
under us. True, Lassalle supplies its place with another, 
which is large and well stuffed, but still the change is 
uncomfortable. And yet I am pleased with this unrest 
of intellectual efforts, this ingenuity, learning, progress, 
which asks no fear or favor." 

Humboldt's Letters. 389 


Berlin, January Wth, 1858. 
Revered Friend, — I, too, am a suflferer from the 
returning cutaneous affection, an unwelcome conse- 
quence of old age. You have, at least, unconditional 
freedom, and can attend to your comfort ; to me there 
is no freedom granted ; I am molested by all ; most 
unmercifully and inexorably by the mail. The kind 
memento of Mrs. Sarah Martin is very honorable to 
me. I owe it, like many other things, to you. Suffer 
•me to make you the interj^reter of my gratitude and of 
my faithful reverence for the talented lady, and for her 
brother, so dear to me, Mr. John Taylor. The news 
from Livingstone interests me chiefly on account of his 
views of the susceptibility of the negro race to civiliza- 
tion, at a time when France on the one hand, and 
North America on the other, are most shamelessly 
subserving the capture of slaves in Africa, under the 
flimsy pretext of introducing free laborers. The politi- 
cal news from India, by Captain Meadows Taylor, was 
unimportant. Perhaps it is agreeable to you to add to 
your archives some original letters of Count Walewski, 

390 Humboldt's Letters. 

Prince Napoleon, who goes to Egypt, son of King 
Jerome, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and a copy of a 
very finely-written letter of the Pasha of Egypt, the 
original of which I was obliged to present to Dr. 

Dr. Michael Sachs could not be prevented from cele- 
brating me in Hebrew.* Many kind greetings to the 
noble General von Pfuel, whom I shall visit as soon as 

Yours faithfully, always equally illegible, 

A. V. Humboldt. 



Paris, Oct. Uth, 1857. 
Monsieur le Baron, — Mons. Mariette sent to me, 
only a few days ago, your letter of July, in which you 
speak of Dr. Brugsch, and of his having sent me a 
Demotic Grammar, which I have not yet received. I 
mention this, so that you cannot accuse me of negli- 
gence in answering you. To-day I do not feel the 
courage in me to speak to you even of science. Your 
heart and your mind must be much afiiicted by the 
sickness of your sovereign and friend, who causes us 

* A Life of Humboldt was written in Hebrew by Mr. Sachs. 

Humboldt's Letters. 391 

great sorrow. I say us, because the few days which I 
passed at Berlin made me appreciate the eminent qua- 
lities of the King, and attached me very much to him. 
May God preserve his life ! I wish it from my heart. 

Receive, Monsieur le Baron, the assurance of my 
high esteem. Napoleon. 

Varnhagen reports in his diary under February 18th, 
1858 : — " I went to Humboldt. With a wonderful pre- 
sence of mind he immediately thinks of all the things 
of which our presence can remind him ; he tells most 
flattering things to Ludmilla on her book, for the second 
edition of which (which he declares to be inevitable), he 
will give her a passage on Friesen,* which he had indeed 
intended to communicate to the ' Turners ' of Leipzig, 
as an inscription on the monument intended to be 
erected in Friesen's honor, but which, after a prelimi 
nary inquiry, appears to have been forgotten by them. 
He is out of humor with the Grand Duke of Saxe- 
Weimar, who robbed him and the brothers Schlagin- 
tweit of some hours, by repeated visits ; they soon 
found out that he did not want to inform himself about 
those things they had prepared for him, but that he 
only wanted to have spoken with them ; he also gave 
to each one the Falkenorden.f About he made 

* One of the founders, " der Tumkunat." 
f Order of the Falcon. 

392 Humboldt's Letters. 

the same excuse to Humboldt as he made to me, that 
noble birth was indispensable, which Humboldt thinks 
quite detestable, and moreover entirely in harmony with 
the personal prejudices of the Grand Duke; the father, 
he says, who also was not very remarkable, had at least 
concealed this sentiment, but the son expresses it 
openly ; once, after a man who was not of noble birth 
had left the company, he had with great satisfaction 
given utterance to his delight, saying, ' Now we are 
among ourselves ! ' Another time, when some one 
observed that thirteen were at the table, he replied for 
consolation, that two among them were not nobles, and 
therefore did not count ! and this he said to Humboldt 
in French, because, he said, these two would certainly 
not understand that! Humboldt complained bitterly 
of the mass of letters by which he was visited ; he had 
to read at least 400 of them in one month ; many com- 
menced, ' Noble old man,' or, ' Noble youthful old 
man ;' or also in this fashion : ' Caroline and I are 
happy ; our fate is in your hands.'* He praised Princess 
Victoria, saying, that she was not pretty, but had 
pleasing simple manners, and an eye full of soul." 

* Meaning " Caroline and I can get married, if 70U will help us to 
some money." 

Humboldt's Letters. 393 



Berlin, February I9th, 1858. 

Ton see, dear friend, that in spite of many little cavils 
of Mr. d'Avezac, who has learned to quote from Malte- 
Brun, your cousin does you much honor. 

But it is incomprehensible that Mr. d'Avezac knows 
nothing at all of the map of Juan de la Cose, of 1500, 
published by me in 1830, six years before the death of 
Colon, and of a w^ork in large quarto, under the title 
"Geschichte des Seefahrers Ritter Martin Behaim, 
von W. Ghillany and Alex. Humboldt, 1853," where the 
origin of the name of " America" is discussed. 

A. Ht. 

The ravages of a single night. The noble, youthful 
old man, Veccliio della Montagna. 

Accompanying the book, " Considerations Geogra- 
phiquGS sur THistoire du Brezil, Examen critique d'une 
uouvelle histoire generale du Brezil, par M. Francois 
Adolphe de Varnhagen. Rapport fait par M. d'Avezac, 
Paris, 1857-58." 


394 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, March 1th, 1858. 

I PKESiTME that you, dear friend, have not seen the 
indiscreet, almost talentless, book of Normanby. I shall 
not return it to Lady Bloomfield without offering it to 
you. Skip over it according to the index, and send it 
kindly back to me in four or five days. It depicts a 
badly played comedy. 

My reverence to your amiable niece. Your most 
attached . ' 

A. V. Humboldt. 

Sunday Nwht, 

" A Year of Revolution. From a journal kept in Pai'is 
in 1848. By the Marquis of Normanby, K.G. London, 
1857. 2 vols. inSvo." 

Varnhagen remarks in his diary, under March 8th, 
1858: "Humboldt sends me, with kind lines, the book 
of the Marquis of Normanby on the revolution of 1848. 
He calls it an indiscreet book, and almost talentless. I 
call it stupid, and perfidious in its contents; it shows 

Humboldt's Letters. 395 

the evil results of meddling with diplomacy, particularly 
if unofläcial, as was that of the Marquis at the time. 
Lamartine as well as Cavaignac gave far too much heed 
to him. He is one of the dullest and most tedious Eng- 
lishmen ever heard of." 

March 9lh, 1858. Varnhagen adds this further re- 
mark on Normanby : " Read a little more of Normanby. 
He is a poor fool, but his bad book is good enough to 
expose the paltriness of Louis Philippe, the villany of 
Guizot, and the pernicious influences of sneaks and 
sharpers. His forte consists in the perfect success with 
which he flattens down to insufierable monotony the 
enlivening and exhilarating efiects of the torrent of 



Berlin, A2}ril loih, 1858. 
I AM touched by the kindness of your letter, and the 
souvenir from your talented niece, Miss Ludmilla. As 
Illaire called yesterday, I have made every preparation 

to be of use to M , the esteemed clergyman of , 

in the acquisition of one of those toys, which, if they 
do not nourish, yet afford an ngreeablo diversion, like 


396 Humboldt's Letters. 

that enjoyed by the knights of old, who galloped over 
a course covered vnth obstructions, and the prospect of 
escape from the infernal regions of the fourth class.* 
I shall write to lUaire for the third class, but beseech 

you to jog my memory. 's title ! I believe he 

does not preach — has even ceased to administer the 
Uttle wafers which refuse to unite with the bread, their 
chemical kinsman. I believe, however, he is a Pro- 
testant power in . 

For the benefit of your soul and Miss Ludmilla's, I 
inclose some phantasies on the antediluvian universal 
absence of rain in the Berlin world, and on the con- 
suming fire, sure to be occasioned by a little forgotten 
potash, in the midst of innocent felspar of the granite 
formation, on the day of judgment : " de la geologic 
hebraizante," as I have been imprudent enough to style 
it in " Kosmos." 

Yours, A. V. Ht. 


* I.e. of the order of the Prussian Eagle. The sentence reads 
thus : " Da gestern lUaire bei mir war, so habe ich alles vorbereitet, 

Herrn dem vielgeachteten Geistlichen in .... nuetzlich fuer 

eines der Spielwerke zu werden, welche zwar nicht naehren, aber 
eine augenehme Zerstreuung, aiu:h des spaet ausgefuehrten Reitens mit 
Hindernissen, Aussicht zur Errettung aus der Unterwelt dervier ten 
Klasse gewaehren." As it stands, the clause printed by us in italics 
makes nonsense. — Translator. 

Humboldt's Letters. 397 

(" Thoughts on the first Rainbow, in connexion with 
certain Geological Facts." London: 1852. The author 
is W. Bateman Byng, but it was sent to Humboldt by- 
Mr. F. A. Fokker, of Hamburg, a superannuated pilot 

On the 24th of April, 1858, Varnhagen observes in 
his diary : " Humboldt was very droll yesterday, in 
speaking of the letters he receives. A number of ladies 
in Elberfeld have conspired to labor at his conversion, 
by means of anonymous letters, and have informed him 
of their design. Such letters are received from time to 
time. Somebody in Nebraska asks him what becomes 
of the swallows in "winter. I suggested that this inquiry 
must be for ever on the wing. ' Of course,' he replied ; 
'I don't know any more than other folks, but,' he 
added, with jocose gravity, : 'I took care not to write 
that to the man in Xebraska, for it is never safe to 
make such admissions.' " 



Potsdam, June \^th, 1858. 
Tedious on the whole, and full of internal contradic- 
tions, but still historical in reference to the mythical 
Americo-Germanism, and unfortunately too true. See 

398 Humboldt's Letters. 

p. 76 to 80, and pp. 33, 35, 75. The charms of a lan- 
guage without genders. " Fermez les l^vres et serrez les 
dents.''''* " Der" and " die " fell into lazy mouths, and 
lapses into " de," and this was corrupted into a neutral, 
lifeless " the.» 

Page 88 sets forth how my friend Froebel escaped 
being JBlumed. A. Ht. 

There gloomy Potsdam has kept me too long from 
your side. 

Note by Varnhagen. — This letter accompanied " The German 
Emigration, and its Importance in the History of Civilization. By 
Julius Froebel. Leipsic : 1858." A copy sent by Froebel to Hum- 

* " Close your lips and set your teeth." In the ' Anglaises pours 
rire " there is a squib which says, " Ouvrez la bouche et serrez les dents 
et vous parkrez anglais /" Open your mouth and set your teeth, and 
you will speak English. Humboldt may have had this in his mind 
and have converted ouvrez into fermez by mistake. 

Froebel says in page 35: "After all, the German and the English 
are but two different dialects, or rather stages of development. The 
English occupies the higher grade, for it is acknowledged that the 
attrition of grammatical form corresponds to a higher mental develop- 
ment." Opposite this passage Humboldt writes " Ah I " 

On p. 88, Froebel alludes to the great mission of Austria in the 
future. Similar passages were to be found in a pamphlet of his, 
which appeared in 1848 ; they were pointed out to Prince Windisch- 
graetz by an aide-de-camp, just in time to procure his pardon, while 
his colleague, Robert Blum, was brutally shot. 


Humboldt's Letters.^^ 399 



Berlin, September 9th, at night, 1858. 
Hearty thanks, my dear friend, for your affectionate 
missive. The thanks of the excellent .... is far from 
indifferent to me. No one here has had the politeness 
to inform me that my proposal has been accepted. As 
you and your accomplished niece, Miss Ludmilla, are 
fond of curiosities, and as my extreme old age has 
deadened all compunction at the exhibition of my own 
praises, I send you a letter from Queen Victoria, deli- 
vered by the Princess of Prussia, and requesting an 
autograph of some passages from the Views of Nature 
and Kosmos (poetical descriptions of nature), as well as 
a letter from the American Secretary of War, who has 
been accommodating to me for the traveller Moell- 
hausen, the son-in-law of Seiffert, draughtsman of the 
two expeditions to the South Sea, and who, mirahile 
cUctu^ has dismissed all political animosity on account 
of my friendship for Fremont. The latter of the com- 
munications gives me the greater pleasure of the two, 
though it is unpardonably extravagant in the use of 
great names. 

400 Humboldt's Letters. 

The regency, indispensable as it is to restore the 
wasted power of the country, is still, alas ! in the clouds. 
I hope the Prince of Prussia will abide by his present 
promise, not to act further without being expressly 
invested with the title of Regent. But who is to make 
the first move, when the King is kept in such seclusion, 
that even I have not seen him since the return ? If the 
Chambers initiate the matter, the Government stands 
convicted of pusillanimity. Aleajacta, and the sum of 
intelligence at stake seems to have been doled out by 
nature with laudable economy. 

What knowledge have you, dear friend, of M. Iwan 
Golowin, whose impudence is so unprecedented as to 
admit of his photographing me before the public in the 
most dreadful neglige de costume^ meme, as I wrote 
him in great indignation, en me dotant de deux f antes de 
fran^ais, venaient instead of viennent, poiirrait instead 
of poiivait. What will men not do to make tools of 
their neighbors ? 

I beg you to return me the three curiosities consisting 
of the copy of Victoria, the letter of the Secretary of 
War, and Rovira by Golowin, by Sunday morning, 
when I must go to Tegel with Baron Stockmar, the 

My walk {ma demarche) increases lamentably in 
senile want of direction. Beware of my patience Avith 
life. Reputation keeps pace with imbecility, and the 

Humboldt's Letters. 401 

part of the " dear youth in age," of the " worthy Nestor 
of all living men of Science," Vecchio della montagna^ 
becomes extremely irksome, though there be in the 
neighborhood of the Netze, a maiden whom the Nestor 
is to establish for life at Tegel, because the place is so 
near to Berlin, that on the slightest hint she can hasten 
to the city to close my eyes. 

With the most faithful friendly esteem, 

A. V. Humboldt. 

My wicked friend Lasalle — Heraclitus the Obscure — 
has been expelled by the Prince of .Prussia and lUaire,* 
in spite of all my intercession, and in spite of the pro- 
mises made to me. They led me to hope that after a 
few weeks (the election being over) the Obscure would 
return to Pythagoras, t!ie more obscure. What a dis- 
pensation of justice ! 

Note by Varnhagen. — I wan Golowin had asked Humboldt's per- 
mission to dedicate to him a Russian drama entitled Rovira, and 
when Humboldt assented in a hasty French note, he inserted a fax;- 
simile of the note into the book. 

* Not quite exact, in so far as M. Westphalen, the minister, carried 
this poiut in the absence of the parties named, and, as afterwards 
appeared, without their knowledge. 

402 Humboldt's Letters. 



Berlin, Oct. 12th, 1858. 
What a day of agitation, of grief, of misfortune was 
yesterday. I was summoned by the Queen to Potsdam, 
to take leave of the King. He wept with deep emotion. 
Returning home at six m the evening, I opened your 
letter, my friend ! He has departed from the earth 
before me, the man of ninety years, the old man of the 
hills ! It is not enough to say that Germany has lost a 
great author^ him who could most nobly mould our 
tongue to the expression of the finest sentiments — for 
what is the value of form in the presence of such acute- 
ness, such pregnant force of mind, such elevation of 
thought, such knowledge of the world. What he was to 
me, to me who am now entirely isolated, is incompre- 
hensible to any mind less refined, less beautiful than 
yours ; I shall soon come to tell you, 
Bowed with grief, yours, 

A. V. HUMB0L1>T. 

Alphabetical Index 


27ie figures opposite the names refer to the numbers of the letters in 
which they are mentioned. 

Aberdeex, Lord, 106. 

Albert, Prince Consort, 124, 131, 

Alembert, d', 143. 
Allan, 4G. 

Alvensleben, 46, 61. 
Amerigo Vespucci, 36. 
Ancillon, 22, 217. 
Arago, Francis. 50, 68, 75, 76, 78, 

153, 15.5, 157. 
Arndt, E. M., 48. 
Arnim, Achim von, 64. 
Assing. Ludmilla, 213, 214, 217, 

222, 224, 225. 
Augustus. Prince of Prussia, 4, 87. 
Auguste, Princess, 22. 


Baader, Francis, 145, 205. 

Balzac, 75, 83. 

Baudin, 128. 

Bauer, Bruno, 60, 66, 94. 

Baumgarten, 42. 

Bavaria, Crown Prince ofj 123. 

Belgium, King oi, 48. 

Bettina, 43, 48, 51, 52, 63, 71, 75, 

88, 120, 133, 144, 162, 178. 
Bessel, 48, 111. 
Bey me, 168. 
Beust, 175. 
Beuth, 11. 
Bigelow, John, 192. 
Bodelschwingh, von, 106, 107, 116, 
Bollmann, 19. 
Bopp, 48. 

Bresson, 22, 75, 76, 78. 
Brown, R., 76, 84. 
Brunei, 75, 76. 

Buch, Leopold von, 31, 41, 150. 
Buclianan, James, 176, 208. 
Buelow, von, 8, 48, 49, 61, 65, 69, 

70, 71, 72, 97, 101, 103, 106, 

Bugeaud, Marshal, 27. 
Bunsen, 11, 61, 68, 75, 159, 168. 


Cados, 80. 

Canino, Princess, 116. 

Canitz, von, 61, 74, 75, 126, 134. 



Cardanu3, 6, 7. 

Carolath, 12. 

Carlyle, Thos., 10. 

Carriere, M., 70, 132. 

Chasles, 62, 172. 

Chateaubriand, 16, 36. 

Cherubini, 63. 

Christian VII., King of Denmark, 

43, 44, 53, 76, 81. 
Clanricarde, Marquis ofj 41. 
Columbus, Christopher, 28, 36, 61. 
Constant, 163. 
Cornelius, Peter, 142. 
Cotta, 10, 16, 24, 35, 56. 
Custine, 71, 73. 

Dahlmann, Prof., 48. 

Delisle, 17. 

Dohm, 64. 

Duchess of Dino (Talleyrand), 75, 

Duke of Coburg Gotha, 168. 
Duchess of Orleans, 27, 75. 76, 

117, 119, 139, 148 


Eckermann, 71. 

Ehrhardt, 7. 

Eichhorn, 48, 51, 60, 68, 75, 107, 

133, 134. 
Eisner, 11. 
Encke, 74, HI. 
Endlicher, 42. 
Engel, 64. 
Ettinghausen, 42. 
Eylert, Bishop, 8. 

Fallersleben, Hoffmann von, 106. 
Feuerbach, Ludwig, 94. 

Fichte, 99, 196, 213. 

Fillmore, Millard, 177. 

Forster, 16. 

FreUigrath, F., 62. 

Fremont, 176, 177, 192. 

Friedrich IL, 64, 68. 

Friedrich WUhehn III., 8, 23, 35, 

Friedrich Wilhehn IV., 35, 40, 42, 
45, 46, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 60, 
63, 67, 68, 75, 76, 91, 92, HO, 
134, 154, 156, 158, 168, 185. 

Friesen, 213. 

Froebel, Julius, 223. 

Froriep, 159. 

Fry, Mrs., 46. 


Gagern, H., 134, 141. 

Galuski, 125, 135, 147. 

Galilei, 41. 

Garaa, Vasco de, 28. 

Gans, E., 7, 25, 29, 30. 

Gauss, 44. 

Gay, Mad., 73. 

Gay Lussac, 88. 

Gentz, Fr., 36, 202, 217. 

Gerard, 33, 83. 

Gerlach, L. von, 68, 92, 159, 168, 
183, 195. 

Gerolt, Baron de, 177. 

Girardin, Mad, 73. 

Gneisenau, 159. 

Görres, 41. 

Goethe, J. W., 10, 43,52, 71, 161. 

Goethe, Ottilie von, 145. 

Goetze, 28. 

Golowin, 224. 

Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold, 

Grand Duke of Weimar, Charles 
Alexander, 171, 179, 180, 181, 
182, 183, 189, 193, 194, 200, 
201, 202, 206, 207, 208, 209, 
210, 212. 



Grand Duchess of Weimar, 135, 

Grau, 149. 
Gretsch, 41. 

Grimm Brothers, 40, 48, 51. 
Guhrauer, 106. 
Guizot, 48, 49, 60, 62, 99, 106, 

172, 221. 


Hanover, King o^ 31, 40, 66. 

Hansen, 81, 

Hardenberg, Prince, 7. 

Hedemann, 48, 193. 

Hegel, 3. 7, 29, 30, 41, 54, 196. 

Heine, 174, 177. 

Helfort, Frau von, 75. 

Hengstenberg, 68, 159. 

Herschel, 75, 76, 82. 

Hertzberg, Count, 64. 

Heyne, 38, 64. 

Hildebrandt, 186, 187, 191. 

Hoeninghaus, 76. 

Hordt, 64. 

Hormayr, 60, 95, 101, 103. 

Huegel, Baron, 42. 

Humboldt, Wilhelm von, 10, 16, 
18,21, 27, 31, 33,36, 64, 67, 70, 
129, 133, 140, 152, 153, 154, 159, 
167, 192, 217. 

Jacobs, Friedrich, 38. 
Jaeger, 42. 
Janin, 99. 
Joburd, 190. 
Itzstein, 97, 

Kamptz, 26, 76. 

Kant, Immanuel, 33, 73, 107. 

Klein, 64. 
König, 41. 
Kolowrat, 129. 
Korefif, 2. 

Kotzebue, 169, 170. 
Kries, 38. 
Kunth, 64. 

Ladenberg, 48. 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 20, 151. 

Laplace, 16. 

Lasaulx, 195. 

Lassalle, 217, 224. - 

Lavater, 6, 105, 

Leist, 31. 

Leo, 196. 

Leonardo da Vinci, 52. 

Liegnitz, Princess of, 35. 

Lieven, Princess, 169, 170, 172. 

Link, 68. 

Liszt, 68. 

Loeffler, 64. 

Louis Philippe, 75, 139, 184^ 221. 

Louise, Princess, 33. 


Maltzan, 61, 68. 

Manzoni, 114. 

Marco Polo, 36. . 

Marheineke, 41, 68, 94. 

Mary, Princess, 22. 

Massmann, 110. 

Melloni, 68. 

Melgunofif, 41. 

Metternich, 35, 42, 45, 68, 75, 76, 

85, 98, 106, 122, 130, 137, 181, 

Meyerbeer, 88, 99. 
Milner, 104. 
Mole, 78, 
Mueffling, 43. 
Müller, A-, 36, 202. 



Muller, 0., 16. 

Mueller, Chancellor, 106. 

Mueller, Privy Councillor, 28, 68. 

Muenster, Count, 60. 

Hundt, Theo. 19. 


Nacke, 39. 

Napoleon I., 48, 71, 161. 

Napoleon III., 141, 146, 147, 212. 

Neauder, 95. 

Nesselrode, 187. 

Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, 35. 

Netherlands, Queen of) 22. 

Niebuhr, G. B., 40, 

Niebuhr, M., 154, 212, 216. 

Norraanby, 221. 

Noroff, 208. 


Oersted, 44. 
Oertzen, 26. 
Oilers, 142. 
Oltmaxin, 13. 

Palmerston, Lord, 48, 124. 

Peel. Robert, 75, 76, 84. 

Persigny, Fialin, 146. 

Pertz, 160. 

Pichler, 159. 

Pierce. Franklin, 173. 

Pourtales, Count, 176. 

Prescott, 75, 76, 86. 

Preuss, 105. 

Prussia, Prince of, 74, 158, 

Prussia, Princess of, 52. 
Prutz, R., 90, 104, 106. 
Piickler, Princess, 26. 


Quinet, 43. 


Radowitz, 61, 68, 75, 142, 159, 168. 
Raliel, 7, 9, 10, 24, 33, 36, 132, 133, 

Ranke, Leopold, 5, 68, 86, 105, 159. 
Raphael, 52. 
Rauch, 25. 
Raumer, Charles, 41. 
Raumer, Fred , 23, 64 
Raumer, Minister, 154, 168. 
Recamier, Mad., 36, 75, 76, 87. 
Redem, 88. 
Reeden, 64. 
Reimer, 70. 
Reitmeyer, 64. 
Reumont, 75. 
Riess, 67, 68. 
Rochow, 45. 
Robert, 52. 
Ruesel, 42. 
Rothes, 75. 
Rueckert, 59, 75, 113. 
Ruehle, 25. 
Rumohr, 68. 


Sachs, 101, 103. 

Savary, 50. 

Savigny, 68, 133. 

ScheUing, 41, 52, 54, 64, 75, 196. 

Schiller, 2, 129, 169. 

Schlagintweit, Brothers, 154, 212. 

Schlegel, Aug., 55, 125. 

Schlegel, Fr., 13, 14, 151. 

Sehleiermacher, 66. 

Schlosser, 68. 

Schoenlein, 197. 

Scliwerin, 61. 

Seckendorf; 60. 



Schumacher, 41, 81, 111. 
Seiffert, 50, 173. 
Sintenis, 41. 
Spiker, 13, 55, 57. 
Spontini, 68, 88, 91. 
Staegeraanns, 47. 
Stael, Mad., 87. 
Stahl, 159. 
Stanley, 75, 76, 
Steffens, 52, 65, 196. 
Stein, 160, 168, 
Stieglitz, 30, 33, 
Stlllfried, 176. 
Stilling, 105, 
StoUberg, 75. 
Strauss, 64, 66. 


Talleyrand, 33, 78. 

Therese, 133. 

Thiele, 68, 107, 172, 

Thiers, 48, 102, 115, 116, 211, 

Thomas, 102, 115. 

Tholuk, 65. 

Tieck, 55. 

Trubetzkoi, Princess, 73. 


Uhden, 158. 
Uwaroflf, 68. 

Vamhagen, Fr. A. 168. 
Victoria, Queen, 124, 227. 
Voigtlaender, 42. 


"Wittgenstein, 5, 45, 88, 160. 


Zeune, 16, 212. 
Zinzendorf, Count, 6, 106. 






130 Grand Street, 

(brooks building, cor. of BROADWAY,) 

New York, 



6y Mrs. Caroline H. Glover. " A Novel which wili 
give its author high rank among the novelists of thf 
day." — Ailmdic Monthly. i2mo.. Muslin, price $i oo 


And other Poems. By Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Thr 
first selected collection of verses by this author. r2mo 
Exquisitely printed, and bound ip muslin, price 75 cents. 


An Eastern Tale, in Verse. By Thomas Bailey Aldrich, 
author of " Babie Bell, and other Poems." Printed 
on colored plate paper. Muslin, price 50 cents 


A Historical Novel. By F. D. Guerrazzi. Translateo 
from the original Italian by Luici Monti. Muslin^ 
two volumes in one, with steel portrait price 61 25. 


A new historical novel. By F. D. Guerrazzi, authoi 
of "Beatrice Cenci." Translated by Monti, of Har- 
vard College. With steel portrait. Muslin, price 81 25. 


A charming Love Tale of Italy. By G. Ruffiki, au 
thor of "Lorenzo Benoni," "Dear Experience," &c 
From the last London edition. Muslin, price ?l oa 


A Tale. By G. Ruffini, author of "Doctor Antonio,' 
"Lorenzo Benoni," &c. With illustrations by Leech, 
of (he London Punch. i2mo. Muslin, price %\ oo- 



Including her " Autobiography," " Wits and Women of 
Paris," " Comic Aspect of Love," " Gallantrj'," &c 
A new edition, large 12 mo. Muslin, price $1 25. 


By Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman. A volume possessing 
many attractions and which has created considerable in- 
terest among the literati. 1 2mo. Muslin, price 75 cts 


Or Things coming on the Earth. By Rev. John Cumming, 
D.D., author of "Apocalyptic Sketches," kc. From 
the English edition. First Series. Muslin, price 81 00. 


Second Series of the new work by Rev. Dr. Gumming, 
which has awakened such an excitement throughout 
th« religious community. i2mo. Muslin, price 8 1 00. 


By CuTHBERT Bede, B.A. The best humorous story of 
College Life ever published. %otli edition, from English 
plates. Nearly 200 original illustrations, price Si 00, 

By Francis T. Buckland, M.A. A sparkling collection 
of surprises in Natural History, and the charm of a 
lively narrative. From 4th London edition, price ^5 1 25. 


The best practical work on Architecture ; with Plans for 
every description of Building. Illustrated with ovei 
200 Plates. Strongly bcund in leather, price $5 00 


A volume of Miscellaneous Papers, treating in colioquia 
sketches upon Literature, Society, and Art. By Adav 
Badeav. Bound in muslin, i2mo, price 81 00. 


A. new and popular Biography of this celebrated Savant, 
including his travels and labors, with an introduction by 
Bayard Taylor. One vol., steel portrait, price $) 2?;, 


By M. Jules Michelet. Author of " A History of 
France," &c. Translated from the French by J. W, 
Pa'mer, M.D. One vol., l2mo. Muslin, price §1 00. 


A sequel and companion to " Love" (L'Amour) by the 
same author, Michelet. Translated from the French 
by Dr. J. W. Palmer. i2mo. Muslin, price ll 00. 


Author of ** Schools and Schoolmasters," " Old Red 
Sandstone," &c. Reprinted from the English edition. 
One large lamo. Muslin, new edition, price |i 25. 


An interesting theme admirably treated. Companion to 
Miss Muloch's "Woman's Thoughts about Women." 
From London edition. i2mo. Muslin, price, $1 00. 

By Mrs. Lillie Devereux Umsted. " A spirited an 
well drawn Society novel — somewhat intensified bui 
bold and clever." i2mo. Muslin, price 81 00. 


Being a compilation of the Original Lei.c:rs of O K.. P. 
DoESTicKS, P. B. V/ith many comic tijited illustrationi 
by )ohn McLenan. izmo. Musün, price $l oo 


A song that's bv-no-author. Not a parody on "Hia- 
watha." By DoESTiCKs. With 150 humorous illus- 
trations by 'McLenan. i2mo. Muslin, price $1 00 

An irresistibly droll volume. By Doesticks, assisted by 
Knight Russ Ockside, M.D. One of his best works 
Profusely illustrated by McLenan. Muslin, price Si 00. 

A new humorous work by Doesticks; being minute, 
particular, and faithful Revelations cf Black Art 
Mysteries in Gotham. i2mo. Muslin, price Si 00 

A Novellette. Reprinted from the columrs of Morris & 
Willis' New York Home Journal. -.tao. Hand- 
somely bound in muslin. Price -'5" 00, 


A History of Political Parties in the State of New York. 
ByjABEZ B. Hammond, L.L.D. 3 vols., octavo, with steel 
portraits of all the Governors. Muslin. Price, S6 co. 

From the French of Octave Feuillet. An admirable 
and striking work of fiction. Translated from the 
Seventii Paris edition. i2mo. Muslin, price Si 00 



By Joseph Rodman Drake. A charming edition of thii 
world-celebrated Faery Poem. Printed on colored 
plate paper. Muslin, i2mo. Frontispiece. Price, 50 cts, 


Or, California and India in Romantic Aspects. By ',. 
W. Palmer, M.D., author of " Up and Down the Irra- 
waddi." Abundantly illustrated. Muslin, izmo. $1,25. 


Or, the Golden Dagon. Being 'passages of adventure in 
the Burman Empire. By J. W. Palmer, M.D., author 
of "The New and the Old." Illustrated. Price, $-1,00. 


An interesting handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen; with 
thoughts, hints, and anecdotes, concerning social obser- 
vances, taste, and good manners. Muslin, price 81 25. 


A private manuscript journal of home events, kept during 
the American Revolution by the Daughter of a Clergy- 
man. Printed in unique style. Muslin. Price, $1,00 


A New Novel. " Close and accurate observation, enables 
the author to present the scenes of everyday life with 
great spirit and originality." Muslin, izmo. Price,$i,25. 


An unique and attractive little HoHday volume. Printed 
on tinted paper, with frontispiece by Billings. I2m0v 
Elegantly bound in fancy colored muslin, price 75 cts.