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yTZt^ca/kx^^ptt^ ^^.y^i^ y/^^ii^K^ a /^'^'^^ 




The Life 
Travels and Books 

Alexander Von Humboldt-. 



By bayard TAYLOR. 

*' / am become a name ; 
For always roaming vnUi a hwigry heart 
Much have I seen wnd Icnown; cities of Tnen 
Arid manners, clitnaies, councils, govemmentSf 
Myself not least, but honored of them alL" 


New York: 
RuDD Sc Carleton, 130 Grand Street, 

(brooks building, cor. of BROADWAY.) 

• • ••• -•- 

» • ••• • • •• 

, 1 

<. 1 

BbUdm Moordlof to Act of Ck>iigrwa, In th« jmr 1801, bj 
£in)D ft CABLETON. 
!■ tiM Clerk*s Office of th« District Court of the United State* for tbo Bovtben 
District of New York. 

ftkUku, StMVOty-pnr. uid Klcetrolyp*^ 

Carton ^uOtitng* 

n, 8B, ami 65 CmIT* SirMb 



Than am ^eoerdl bioffrqpMes of MunibdUU^ French^ 
Oerman^ and JEkgUshj but none of any importance^ except 
ProfeeeoT Kknck^e. Klencke had an exceOent opportu- 
nity to make a good booJcy for much of his material wae 
obtained from JETumbokU himaei/^ but he failed to do eo. 
He eeemed to have no idea of uniting^ beyond its being a 
means of conveying fitcts. JERs facts are reliable^ but 
bungUngly arranged^ without order or method. He says 
the same thing over and over again^ and entirely lacks the 
chitf requisite of a biographer — the art of making his 
sul^ect attractive. StiUj he is reliable^ and the aiUhor fuu 
made considerable use of his toork, especially in Book I. 

The first five chapters of Book II. are taken from Humr 
boldPs ^* Voyage anx Regions Equinoxiales." As these 
chapters cover an important epoch in Humboldt* s /(/V, it was 
thought advisable to let him teU his own story ^ and this 
has accordingly been doncj wherever it was practicable^ the 
relation being changed from the first person to the third— 
from autcbiogrc^hy to narrative. Of course only the 



substance of the "Voyage" is given^for the work extendi 
to three octavo volumes^ of four or Jive hundred pages 
each. It would have been easy to have revrritten this mat- 
ter^ but the author could not see the advantage of so doing: 
his book would have gained something in origincdity^ but 
it would have lost much more in interest. No writer of 
travelSy ancient or modem, can compare with Humboldt in 
descriptive power, especially in the " Voyage," wh^re his 
words are pictures. These pictures Jiave been faithfuIXy 
transferred to the chapters mentioned, and are commended 
to the reader's attention. 

The chapters on Colombia and Peru, and Mexico, are 
made up from the " Vues des Cordilleres," the "Ansicbcen 
der Natur," and the "Essiu politique sur le Royaume de 
Nouvelle Espagne.'' They are not so complete, as the 
author coidd have vnshed, but that is rather HumboldCs 
fault than his own, for the "Voyage" which would have 
famished material for them, had it ever been completed, 
ends abruptly at Carthagena, beyond that point the 
narrcUive of the journey ceases. Gleams of it occur, 
however, in HurnboldVs other works, chiefly in those just 
mentiofied, and it is by these thai his progress has been 
traced untU his return to Europe, If this portion of tJie 
Biography lacks tJie picturesque and adventurous element 
of the chapters that precede it, it has at least the merit of 
variety, and of being the fullest account of the last two or 
three years of IlumboldVs eventful journey in the New 
"World, The worJcs specified above having been translated 
into English, the tranMations have been generally used. 


not because the author prtferred theni to their originals^ 
but becatcse he dmbtcd his ability to better them. It is one 
thing to find favU toith a translator for his shortcomings^ 
hul quite another thing to avoid them in one^s own trans- 
lation. The translators to whom the author of this Biogror 
phy is indebted are: Thomasina JRosSy for the "Voyage;" 
Mrs, Sabine for the "Ansichten der Natur;" Helen Maria 
Williams, for the "Vues des Cordill^res ;" and John 
Black for the " Essai politique." The last two works are 
out of print, though copies are occasionaUy to be f(yund at 
the old book stalls ; the " Ansichten der Natur," and the 
"Voyage," or as it is christened in the translation, the 
** Personal Narrative," are in print, though scarcely within 
the reach of the general reader, never having been reprinted 
in this country. The English edition of the "Personal 
Narrative" costs three times as much as the present 

The chapter on Central Asia, in Book TIT,, which is the 
substance of Bose^s " Reise nach dem Ural," is rewrittefi 
and enlarged from Mr, Taylor'* s " Cyclopaedia of Modem 
Travel." These, as far as the author remembers, are the 
principal sources to which Tie is indebted, Me should men- 
tion, perhaps, the various French and English EncydO' 
peedias from which he has filled up his sketches of soms 
of jSumbold(*s contemporaries, but Encyclopcedias have no 
authors, as everybody knows ; besides, they are m^ade for 
the very purpose to which he has put them. The same 
may be said of the journals of the day. 

The reader now understands the extent of the atUhor*s 


obUgations in ihU Biography. Of tiie Biogrcgphy iUeff 
it does not become the cmthor to epeak^jharcher than to say 
that he has taken great pains to make it ctocurcOe. Jff'it 
shall be considered as readable as it is accuraie^ he wiU 
JMveacoompUshed his purpose^ wJkich was to write a pcpu- 
lar life ofSumboUU. 


A BiOGSAFHT of Alexfinder Yon Humboldt, whioh diall 
oonUun a ftill and ooDsdentioas aooonnt of his life and 
labors, written in a style sufficiently dear and nntedinical 
to meet the popular tastes, has long been a necessity in our 
literature. Those biographies which are already in exist- 
ence do not possess this character : they are rather chroni* 
des of his achierements in the yarious departments of 
natural sdence, than stories of a life almost unexampled 
for its wealth of experience, its labors, and successes. The 
^ lires of the Brothers Humboldt," by Elencke, which 
has been translated into English, is very fragmentary in 
this respect ; it passes over unnoticed, many episodes in the 
life of Alexander Yon Humboldt, which are of great interest 
to the general reader. In &ct, it has only been in the 
dosing years of his life, that the excellences of his charac- 
ter, as a man^ apart from his distinction as a $av(mt^ have 
recdyed full and general acknowledgment. 

No task could have been pleasanter to me than that of 
attempting to bring home to the familiar acquaintance of 


the great reading pablic of the United States, the history 
of the great man, with whose friendship I was honored ; 
and, as the literary labors I had already on hand prevented 
me from undertaking such a work, it is all the more grati- 
fying to me to know that it has been faithfully and con- 
scientiously done by one every way capable of the perform- 
ance. Having examined the biography which follows, I can 
testify to its exactness and completeness, and therefore — 
though the subject of the book is its own sufficient recom- 
mendation — cordially accede to the request of the author, 
that I i^ould add a few words of introduction, embodying 
my own impressions of Humboldt^s character. 

When I first saw him, he was in his eighty-eighth yeaar, 
but, except in the bowed head and slow step,showed scarcely 
any signs of bodily decay. A portrait, painted nearly forty 
years before, at whidi time his hair was already gray, 
diowed that time had occasioned but little change in his 
appearance, while Us only effect upon his mind was, per- 
haps, a lack of that power of concentration which enabled 
him to master so many various departments of natural 
science. He was still every inch a king, with no faculty 
appreciably dulled, no sympathy blunted, no hope for the 
increase of human knowledge or generous aspiration for 
the good of his kind less earnest than in his prime of life. 
A year later, I found him broken, indeed, in bodily health, 
yet still capable of sixteen hours of continuous mental labor, 
and his last letter to me, written but a short time before 
his death, betrayed no sign of failing faculties, though the 
hand whidi traced it was evidently weak and trembling. 


In the castle at Tegel, where he was born, and in the 
park of which he now sleeps beside his brother, hangs a 
portrait of him, painted at the age of thirty-five. He is 
there represented as man of rather less than the medium 
stature, bat firmly and symmetrically built, with a full, 
keen, ardent face, firm lips, dear blue eyes, and thick locks 
of chestnut hair, clustering about his square, massive brow. 
He wears a green coat, knee-breeches, and a heavy cloak 
lined with red. He is represented as leaning against a 
rock on a slope of the Andes, the snowy dome of Chimbo- 
razo filling up the background of the picture. In com- 
paring this picture with his living presence, I found that 
the shoulders had stooped, leaving the head bent forward, 
as if weighed down by the burden of its universal know« 
ledge; the hair had grown snow-white, and somewhat 
thinner ; the moutli had lost its clear, sharp outline, and 
the eager, energetic expression of the &ce was gone : but 
the blue eyes were as serene and youthful as ever, and the 
Ain as &ir, smooth, and ruddy, almost, as that of a young 

The first impression produced by Humboldt's face was 
that of its thorough humanity. The blood which fed his 
restless brain never weakened the pulsations of his human 
heart. Beneath that devotion to science which he illus- 
trated by the labours of seventy-five years, burned steadily 
and unwaveringly the flame of sympathy for his kind. Pro- 
bably no man who ever lived has given aid and encourage- 
ment to so great a nimiber of aspiring and deserving men. 
I know instances of persons in humble life having sought 


his assisianee for themselyes or their friends, and in no ease 
was it refused. The applicants returned from the interview 
cheered, inspired, and full of affectionate veneration for the 
man who, in the midst of his immense labours, could jet give 
an hour to themselves and their plans. No rational appeal 
to him was ever slighted, and the vast influence which he 
possessed, in his later years, was always exerted in the 
behalf of science, and her earnest votaries. 

Jealousy of his fellow4abourers formed no part of his 
nature. His enthudasm was too pure and ardent to be 
alloyed by any personal consideration. Not his own &me 
— not his supremacy as an observer or a theorizer — ^but the 
advancement of human knowledge, the discovery of grand 
general laws — ^the footsteps of God in the Creation — ^waa 
bis aim and his ambition. What he has done is not to be 
measured by his own individual achievements : the generoui 
impulse which he has given to others cannot be estimated. 
The vast results which have followed scientific research, 
since the commencement of this century, were initiated by 
his example ; he pointed out to others the tracks which he 
could not himself follow, and, even when acknowledged as a 
leader, never hesitated to labor with the humblest. In tbia 
respect, his character presents an almost ideal excellence. 

The lesson of Humboldt's life is not without its special 
significance at the present day, when the thirst for wealth, 
and place, and power, seems hotter and fiercer than ever. 
With the advantages of his birth and inherited position, 
many paths of advancement were open to him, but he dis- 
dained them all, sacnficing everything to his love of know- 


ledge, until finallj, in his old age, honors such as no states- 
man ever won, were laid as voluntary offerings at his feet. 
The indifference which he regarded them showed how little 
such rewards had entered into his plan of life. Yet,though 
the acknowledged equal of kings, he was never seduced b j 
the spl^idors of courts to forget his character as a man, 
whose sympathies were with the people rather than their 
rulers. So well were his political predilections understood 
among the monarchs who called him Mend, that at the Con- 
gress of Verona, of which he was a member, when he proposed 
some temporary measure which had an arbitrary charac- 
ter, the Emperor Alexander L Qf Russia, turning to him, 
said in a tone of mock reproach : " And is it you, arch-re- 
publican as you are, who propose this despotic measm^e ?" 
This incident was related to me by Himiboldt himself dur- 
ing my last interview with him. One can therefore undei^ 
stand the depth of that esteem felt for him by the present 
demented king of Prussia, when the latter introduced Hum- 
boldt to the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, at Prague, 
some four or ^vq years ago. His Jesuitical majesty asked : 
" Who is the Baron Von Humboldt, that you present him 
to me with so much empresaemerU t I have never heard of 
him !" " Not heard of him I" exclaimed the king, in honest 
amazement ; " why he is the greatest man since the De- 
luge !» 

Humboldt's large fortune was wholly expended in the 
prosecution of his travels and the publication of his works, 
and during the later years of his life, he was entirely depen- 
dent on his diplomatic pension, and the copyright of his 


"Kosmos." To my friend Heine, the artist, he sent his 
own copy (the original edition) of his " Vues des Cordil- 
IhreSj^^ containing some of his marginal notes. On learning 
that the same gentleman had been obliged to go to Ame- 
rica through his connexion with the events of 1848, he pre- 
vailed upon the king of Prussia to grant him the Order of 
the Red Eagle — ^through which recognition the official ban 
was removed. This is but one instance of the many acts 
of kindness on his part, with which I have become ac- 

His mind was so admirably balanced — ^his development 
was so various, and yet so complete in every department of 
science, that his true greatness is not so apparent as in the 
case of those who have risen to eminence by devoting them- 
selves to some special study. Perfect symmetry never 
produces the effect of vastness. It is only by studying the 
details that we comprehend the character of the whole. 
Humboldt, however, may be termed the &ther of Physical 
Geography, and the suggester, if not the discoverer, of that 
system of the distribution of plants and animals which opens 
to our view another field of that Divine Order, manifested 
in the visible world. He strove to grasp those secrets, 
which, perhaps, no single mind will ever be able to compre- 
hend — ^the aggregate of the laws which underlie the myste- 
ries of Creation, Orowth, and Decay ; and though he fell 
short of the sublime aim, he was at least able to say, like 
Kepler, when he discovered the mathematical harmonies of 
the solar system ; " Oh, Almighty God, I think Thy 
thoughts after Thee !" 


The record of sacb a life, even in its external aspects, i% 
pregnant with suggestions. It is a magnificent illustration 
of true success. A combination of the purest and noblest 
human character with splendid qualities of the mind is un- 
fortunately rare. Without the former, Humboldt might have 
achieved the same success in his own personal labors, but 
he could not have given the same impetus to scientific re- 
search in all parts of the world. The satisfaction we feel 
in contemplating his life arises firom its completeness. In 
him the heart was the focus of warmth, whence radiated 
the light of his intellect. 

The Portrait which accompanies this volume, is copied 

from a photograph which I obtained from Berlin, and which 

is a perfect representation of Humboldt, in his eighty-sixth 


Batabd Tatlob. 
Kbw Yobs, Atiffwt, 1S59. 


Mter Mi JBaaaHe am SMn n^fst UfUersttchimgen fi&er SyenU um 

BaaatnUderAUen, Berlin, 1790 

Fkra IHbergensia^ prodromus, -ita Berlin, 1798 

Specimen Flora subterranea JFHbergensii tt aphoritnU ex physiologia 

ehimiea pUuUarum. 4to. Berlin, 1793 

Venuche Uber die geretzten Muskd' und Nervenfasem nebst Vermu- 
Ikungeniiberdm OhemischenFroceeadesLebena in der Thiers wid 
jyUmzenwOL 2 vola, 870. Posen, 1T97 

Vertuche Uber die Chemieche Zerkgtmg dee iMfi-Kreises ttnd Uber 
eMge cmdere Oegenetdnde der NaJtmlehre, 

Plates, Sra Brunswiok, 1799 
Been ekur Phyaiogrumumik der Cfewaeechee, 4ta Tnbingen, 1806 

Vereuche Uber die EledrischenFieche, 12mo. Erltirt, 1806 

Physique gMrale el Qkiogie. 4ta Paris, 1807 

Beaai mw la Oeographie dee Flanies aceampagnS dPun TabUau physique 
dee RSgians equirumaks, fondJk dee meewres eocecuiSes depuis le 
siaaiTne degrS de latitude boricUe juaqu^au dixiime degre de latitude 
attstr<Uef par Bwnboldt et Bor^land. 4ta Paris, 180*7 

Aneiehten der Katur. 2 vols., 12ma Stutgard & Tubingen, 1808 

MeUtetomatologia, eive deeonptio MeUulomaH ei generum afflnium. 

Plates, FoL Ga^sel & Paris, 1808 
Chnepedua longUudinum et kUiiudinum geographicartmi per decur- 
ewrn annorwn 1799 ad 1804^ astronomia obeervaiarwm. 

Plates, Fol Cassel, 1808 
Flanies Equinoxiales reoueiOiea au Mesdq^ dane Vile de Ouba^ dans 
les Ftomneea de Caraccas^ de Cvmana el de Barcelone, aux Andee 
de la NouveUe Orcmade^ de QuiiOf ei de Ferou, etsurles Borda da 
Rio NegrOy de VOrinoque, et de la Bivih-e des AmoMmes, par 
Bmnboldt et Bonpland, 2 vols., FoL Paris, 1808-1809 


Vue$ dea OordUlh'eA, ou Monumena des Peupks indighies de PArte- 

rique. Plates, FoL and 8va Paris, lilO 

Jiecueil cP Observations astronomiqtbes, <f OpSralions trigonometriqties, 
et de Afesures barorrUiriques. Redigees et calcuUes d'apr^s les 
Tables les plus exactes par J. OUmans, 2 vols., 4to. Paris, 1810 

Ideenzu einer Geographie der P/lamen. 4to. YieoDa, 1811 

Essai poUUque sur le Royaume de la Kouvelie Espagn^ avec un Atlas 
physique et giographiquey fondS sur les Observations astrono- 
miquesj des Mesures iriganomiiriques et des NiveUemens baromS- 
Iriques. Atlas FoL, Texta 2 vols^ 4to. Paris, 1811 

Recueil d' Observations de Zoologie et d'Anatomie comparSe, faits dans 
r Ocean AUantiquey dans CInierieur du Nouveau Continent et 
dans la Mer du Sud. Far Humboldt et Bonpland 

2 vols., 4to. Pari^ 1811-1833 

Voyage aux Rigums Squinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, fait en 1799, 
1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, et 1804. Par A. de Humboldt et A. 
Bonpland, Bedigi par A, de Humboldt. Avec deux Atlas, qui 
ren/erment tun ks Vues des CordiUeres et les Monumens des 
Fettples indigenes de rAmerique, et Pautre des Cartes ghogra- 
plaques et physiques. 8 vols., 4ta Paris, 1814-1825 

Kova Genera et Species Plantarum in PeregrinaHone Orbis Novi col- 
legerunt, descripserunt, partim adumbraveruni A. Bor^land et 
A, de Humboldt. In ordinem digessit C, S. KuntK 

7 vols., Fol. Paris, 1815-1826 

Monographie des MBlastomacies comprenant toutes les PUmtes de cet 
ordre recueiUies jusqu^d ce Jour et notammeni au Mexiquej dans 
File de Cuba, (j^c, mise en ordre par A. Bonpland, 

FoL Paris, 1816 

De Katurali familia graminum. FoL Paris, 1817 

Des Lignes isoihermes etdela distribtUion de la chaleur sur le ghbe. 

8vo. Paris, 1817 

De Distributione geographica Plantarum secundum CosU Temperiem 

et Altiiudinem Montium. Prolegomena, 12 mo. Paris, 181T 

Memoirs sur la fixation des limites des Guyanes Frangaise et Poriu- 

guaise, 4to. Paris, 1818 

Mimoses et auires Plantes legumineuses du Nouveau Continent^ decrites 
et publiees par C. S. Kunthy avec Figures colorizes. 

2 vola, FoL Paris, 1819 

Synopsis Plantarum quas in iiinere ad plagam cequiam Oibis Novi 

CoUegerunt Humboldt et Bonpland 4 vols., FoL 1822-1826 

Essai gSographique sur le Gisemeni des Rochers dans les deux hemi' 

spheres. 8vo. Paris ATStrasburg, 1823 

Ueber den Bau und die WirksamJceit der Vtdkane. 8vo. Heidelberg, 1824 

EvcduaHon num-erique de la population du Nouveau Continent, con- 
sidkrie sous le rapport de la difference des cuUes, des races^ et des 
idiomes. 8va Paris, 1826 


Usaai poUHque sur Vile de Cktbctj avec une Carte ei un SuppUfment 

qui renferme des OonsidSraiions aur la Populaiion^ la Richease 

tcrrUoriale ei le Commerce de VArchipel des Antilles et de 

Colombia. 2 vols., 8vo. Paris, 1826 

Von der in Verschiedenen Theikn der ffeisaen Zone am Spiegel des 

Meeres StaUfindefnden Tenvperatwr, 8vo. Leipzig, 1826 

Ud)er die Edupiursachen der Temperatm''Verschiedenheit auf dem 

Erdkqper. 4to. Berlin, 1827 

Observaiums sur quelques phenomknes pen connuSy qrjCojfre le goitre 
sous les iropiqtteSy dans les plaines^ et les plateattx des Andes. 

Paris, 1838 
Revision des GraminieSy pvJbliies dans Us Nova Genera et Species 
Flaniarum de Humboldt et Bonpland, prScidSe d'un travail 
ghtiral sur lafamille des GraminSes, par C. S Kunth, Ouvrage 
accompagni de cent Planches coloriees, FoL Paris, 1829 

UlAer die bei verschiedenen Vblkem Oblichen Systeme von Zahheichen 
and aber Ursprung des Stellenwerthes in den Indischen Zahlen. 

4to. Berlin, 1829 
Fragmens de Oiohgie et de CUmaiologie AsicUique. 

2vol&, 8yo. Paris, 1831 
Astronomische und hypsomeirische Grundlagen der Erdbeschreibung. 

8vo. Stutgard & Tubingen, 1831 
fbbleau statistique de Vile de Cuba pom les annies 1826 d 1829. 

8vo. Paris, 1831 
fkamicn critique de rhisioire de la Geographic du Nouveau Continent^ 
el des Progrhs de V Astronomic natUique au XV* et XVI* sUdes. 

5 vola, 8vo. Paris, 1836-1839 
Petrifications recueHUes en Amerique decriies par Leopold de Buch. 

Plates, Fol. Berlin, 1839 
Asie Centrales Recherches sw Us Chaines de Montagnes et la CUma- 
iologie comparSe. 3 vols., 8vo. Paris, 1843 
JTisYTUM, Bntumrf einer Physischen WeUbeschreibung. 

6 vola, Bvo. Stutgard A Berlin, 1846-1858 
Kkinere Schrifleny ersterBand; GeognosiischeundPhysikaliscTie Erin- 
nawigen mil einem Atlas enhaltend Umrisse von VuUcanen cms 
den CcrdiXleren von Quito und Mexico. 

8vo. Stutgard & Tubingen, 1868 

BOOK I. 1769-1799. 

Childhood amd Youth, 3 

grruDiis AND Dreams, 17 

BOOK II. 1799-1804. 

ThbSra, 85 

About CuMANA, 61 

Towards the GRurgoo, 87 

Up the Geinooo, 119 

To Cuba AND Back, 190 

Colombia and Peru, 214 

Mexico, 264 


BOOK m. 1804-1829. 



Books, 307 

ObktralAbia, 384 

BOOK IV. 1829-1869. 



Back tc Teobi^ • • • 471 


17 6 9-17 9 9. 



Three leagues from the good city of Berlin, near an 
arm of the Havel, called Tegel, stands, or stood ninety 
years ago, the old castle of Tegel. Behind it lay a grove 
of dark pines which separated it from the capital ; on 
the southern shore of the lake were the town and for- 
tress of Spandau, and to the north-west grassy and 
wooded declivities, studded with promenades and gar- 
dens. Doubtless this castle, gray and antiquated, had a 
stirring history of its own in the days of old, but of this 
Tradition is silent. All that we know is, that shortly 
before the opening of this life-history, it was the resi- 
dence of a Prussian commissioner of woods and forests, 
who had greatly beautified it by the laying out of 
nurseries and ^antations. This commissioner, whose 
name was Von Burgsdor^ was succeeded in 1768, or there- 
abouts, by Major Alexander George Von Humboldt 

Major Von Humboldt was born in 1720. His father, 
Hans Paul Von Humboldt, served as a captain in the 
army of Frederick William the First ; his mother was 
the daughter of the Prussian major and general adjutant, 
Von Schweder ; it was natural therefore that he should 
follow the profession of arms. He served for a long 

tiixiB^irf'af «Mig<K>i> VcpmeiiVaiicl was then made major 
and finally adjutant to Duke Frederic of Brunswick, 
who often sent him on embassies to Frederic the Great 
This was in the famous seven years' war. When the 
war was over, in 1765, the great Frederic made him one 
of his chamberiains ; he was also attendant chamberlain 
on Elizabeth, the newly-married princess of Prussia. 
His ofiicial duties compelled him to reside in Potsdam^ 
where he probably met the lady who became his wife. 
A descendant of the family of Colomb, which emigrated 
from Burgundy, where it was celebrated for its glass 
works, she was the widow of a Baron Von Holwede 
Major Von Humboldt persuaded her to change her 
weeds for the orange wreath, so they married and settled 
in Potsdam. Their first child, William, was bom there 
on the 22d of June, 1767. They lived in Potsdam but 
a short time, two or three years at most, for the marriage 
of the princess being at length dissolved, she had no fiir- 
ther need of an attendant chamberlain, consequently 
Major Von Humboldt was at liberty to change his resi- 
dence, if so inclined. He exchanged Potsdam for Berlin^ 
and lived partly there, and partly in his castle at Tegel, 
How he became possessed of the castle is not stated. It 
was originally a hunting seat of the gre^tt Elector, and a 
hunting estabUshment was kept up there under Frederic 
the Great. The Major's second son, Frederic Henry 
Alexander, was bom at Berlin on the 14th of September, 
1769. It was principally at Tegel, however, that his 
childhood passed. 

Of the first years of his life nothing remarkable has 
been related. There is a sameness in the lives of chil- 
dren, no matter what their rank or talents. K they 

picrrusES of childhood. 5 

Happen to become fSunous in after years, admiring and 
credulous biographers tell wonderful stories aboiit them, 
but for the most part these stories are myths. The 
infancy of the great, we think, should be surrounded 
with marvellous influences. It will never do for us to 
make them common mortals like ourselves. So if we 
feil to discover any traits of early divinity we must 
boldly invent them. Should the cheat be discovered 
the world will forgive it, for the sake of the pleasure it 
has given them. 

That the childhood of Alexander, however, was 
an exceedingly happy one, cannot be doubted, for if 
ever Nature was kindly disposed towards any of her 
children, it was towards him. He was bom of wealthy 
and noble parents, who mingled, by virtue of their rank 
and worth, with the most illostrious of the land. His 
home, the old castle of Tegel, situated in a pleasant 
country, was surrounded by charming and varied land- 
scapes. His earliest glimpse of Nature was beautiful 
enough to make him desire to see the rest of the book : 
it was a fair page that opened before his childish eyes. 
And here, if the reader is imaginative, he can employ 
himself in filling up the outlines of the first five or six 
years of Alexander's life. He may picture him in the 
chambers of the old castle, climbing up his father's knee, 
and wondering, as he runs his fingers through his gray 
hair, what the wrinkles on his forehead mean ; ox tugging 
at the gown of his mother to make her answer some un- 
answerable question ; or, likelier still, scrambling on the 
floor with his brother William, and a heap of toys. 
Some day when playing alone, he sees the bookcase in 
the comer, and remembering, as in a dream, the pic- 


tares with which the nurse pacified him when he was 
sick, he goes to it, and opening the door softly, lights 
by a sort of impish instinct, on the costliest volume on 
the shelves. It is some fiimous work on natural history, 
a ponderous quarto filled with coloured prints of strange 
plants and animals, and still stranger men. He pores 
over them with great eyes. Fearing at last that he is in 
mischief for she has heard nothing of. him for a long 
time, his mother steals into the room, and finds him fast 
asleep, with the book in his lap. As he grows older he 
takes himself out of doors on all possible occasions. 
Now he is in the garden, plucking and studying 
flowers and grasses ; now in the pine grove filling his 
pockets with last year's cones and needles, and now by 
the edge of the Ifdce, skimming pebbles over its surfiuie, 
or watching its fleet of mirrored clouds. 

In such wise, says Fancy, who is sometimes truer than 
Fact, lived the boy Alexander, until 1775, when his 
education commenced. The science of education, a 
science which is still in its infancy, the opinion of ita 
professors to the contrary notwithstanding, was at that 
time agitating the European world. The new method 
of Rousseau, which aimed at the physical as well as the 
mental development of its pupils, and which considered 
the study of natural science full as important as that of 
metaphysics, and the classics, had made many adherents 
in Germany, and among others Joachim Heinrich Campe. 
Bom in 1746, Campe studied theology at Helmstadt and 
at Halle, and was appointed, in 1773, chaplain to the 
Prince of Prussia's regiment in Potsdam. He fulfilled 
for two years the duties of his sacred calling in that 
doubtful sphere of action, and feeling himself much more 


fitted to teach children than men, and those men soldkrs^ 
he was transplanted by Major Von Humboldt to teach 
his sons, at the old castle of Tegel. A ripe and varied 
scholar even then, he enjoyed in after life the reputation 
of being, next to Klopstock, the greatest philologist and 
critic of German style. He is the author of a German 
dictionary, and other works calculated to improve the 
language. But the books by which he is best known 
are those of travel and adventure. The chiefest of these 
are his " Discovery of America," and " Robinson Crusoe." 
Looking back fipm the vantage ground of Time, and 
bearing in mind what Alexander Von Humboldt has 
done, what might have seemed a trivial thing then, a 
mere lucky chance, now seems the special ordering of 
Nature. He was fitted, we have since learned, to per- 
form a great work for her ; but before he could perform 
that work it was necessary that she should reveal it to 
him. K the child is to become the father of the man, 
the man must somehow be brought before the mental 
eye of the child. His infancy must be nurtured by 
noble books, and wise teachers, or 

" By solemn visioa, and bright silver dream." 

What better teacher could the boy have had, considering 
the work he was to do, than one who translated that 
marvellous fiction of the homely old truth-teller, De Foe, 
— the firesh, unfading, world-renowned Robinson Crusoe? 
It was the book of all others to fire his youthful imagina- 
tion with the desire of travel, and to fill his mind with 
the unconquerable spirit of adventure. It was a happy 
day when Joachim Heinrich Oampe, philologist, critic^ 


translator, and finally bookseller, became the tutcr of 

He remained in the family a year, teaching the eldest 
boy the languages, and the youngest, who was then in 
his seventh year, whatever, he was pleased to learn. 
Alexander was not so robust as his brother, for his 
health was considered delicate for many years, nor was 
he regarded as his equal in mental endowments. 

Their next tutor was a young man of twenty, poor in 
this world's goods, but rich in what the proverb declares 
to be better than houses and lands — ^Learning. His 
name was Christian Kunth. He is said to have pos- 
sessed an extraordinary knowledge of German, Latin, 
and French literature, and to have been deeply read in 
philosophy and history. He taught William the lan- 
guages, and Alexander the natural sciences. One 
studied Man in classic antiquity and art, the other the 
World in its manifold forms and appearances. It seems 
strange, not to say impossible, for children of eight and 
ten to pursue such profound studies, but we must 
remember that these were not common children. - 

Nor was their teacher Kunth a common man. Had he 
been he would have stopped here. But having sense as 
well as learning, he took care of their bodies as well as 
their minds. Instead of merely cramming them with 
books until they became unwholesome monstrosities, 
mental paiSs de foie gras^ he gave their thoughts and 
limbs free play, in the wind, and dew, and sunshine. 
They had holidays whenever they needed them; long 
walks with Kunth in the woods and fields; sails on the 
blue bosom of the Tegel lake; excursions to the fortress 
of Spandau, and now and then a flying visit to Berlin. 


Or they threw aside their books, and ran off by them* 
selves, like the children they were, and romped and 
played to their hearts' content This kept the roses of 
health in their cheeks (Alexander's as yet were delicate 
buds), and enabled them to 

''bear their weight 
Of learning li^tly, like a flower." 

Bat for this it might have been a nightshade of deadly 
power. Besides, their life was diversified by the coming 
and going of visitors : for their fether was hospitable, 
and die castle was always open to his firiends. Retiring 
firom the world with honor, the world sought him, in 
the shape of its princes, statesmen, and scholars, to say 
nothing of generals, colonels, and the like, his old com- 
panions in arms. Among other celebrities who enjoyed 
the hospitalities of Tegel was Goethe, who accompanying 
Duke Karl August to Berlin in May 1778, to see a grand 
review, strolled over Schonhausen one morning and 
dined at the castle, with the Major and his family. 
Little did the man of thirty know that he saw in the 
boy of nine, one who was destined to accomplish as 
much in Science, as he himself in Literature. But the 
time came when he knew him, and admired him, none 
more warmly. 

Among the most frequent of the visitors at the castle 
•^was Dr. Ernst Ludwig Heim, of Spandau, who, having 
attended the now officially-defunct head-ranger. Von 
Burgsdorf; continued his visits, medical and friendly, to 
nis successor, ^ajor Von Humboldt. And the major 
stood in need of his services, for his health, which had 


10 DB. HEDC 

been broken for some time, now began to fail rapidly. 
Day after day Dr. Ileim might have been seen on horse- 
back, with his saddle-bags full of medicine, rounding the 
stretch of land between Spandau and Tegel. But he 
could do little for the shattered constitution and the 
sixty years of his patient He died in January 1779, 
and was buried at Tegel. 

After the major's death Dr. Heim continued to come 
as usual, not now bringing medicine, let us hope, but 
with a book under his arm for Kunth, or possibly for 
William and Alexander. Or perhaps it was a rare 
flower from his conservatory. For as long ago as the 
days of Von Burgsdorf he was noted for his knowledge 
of foreign trees and plants, and he helped the head 
ranger to lay out the nurseries and plantations, which 
the Humboldts were now enjoying. He would drop in 
near their dinner hour, and being pressed would remain 
to dinner, and often for hours after, instructing the boys 
in botany, and explaining to them the twenty-four classes 
of the system of Linnaeus. They could now know the ^ 
names, classes, and characteristics of the flowers, which 
they had before admired ignorantly. William was con- 
sidered the cleverest, because he could easily compre- 
hend the doctor's lessons, and retain the botanical names : 
Alexander was not, or did not seem, so apt. The 
brothers went with the doctor in his excursions about 
the neighbourhood, and in May 1783, were present with 
him in Spandau, where they saw Frederick tho Great 
reviewing his grenadiers — one of his annual amuse- 

But grand reviews, country excursiops, after-dinner 
chats on botany, and the cosy comforts of home, must 


floon come to an end. For though the widowed mother 
lives only in her children, she knows that they must 
one day be men, and go out into the world. So the best 
thing they can do is to go to Berlin, and pursue their 
studies, and enlarge their experiences. To Berlin they 


They are instructed in Greek and the modem lan- 
guages, William having great philological talent, while 
Alexander, whose love of the natural sciences grows with 
his growth, continues the study of botany under the 
celebrated botanist Wildenow. Kunth, who accompanies 
them, engages Engel, Klein, Dohn, and others to give 
them complete courses of lectures on philosophy, law 
and political economy. Nor do they neglect the litera- 
ture of their own land and time. They read Goethe and 
Schiller together. William prefers " Werter," and "Don 
Carlos," and their art- writings ; Alexander, while he ad- 
mires these, prefers Goethe's more abstruse researches in 
natural history. So passes the time, now in the bustle 
of the capital, and now in the quiet of the old castle at 
home. Dear old Tegel I it is doubly dear to them now. 
For there their mother lives, and there lies their dead 
fiither's dust. 

In 1786 they commenced their academical life in the 
University of Frankfort on the Oder, where they re- 
mained nearly two years, William devoting himself to 
the study of law, and Alexander to political economy, 
In 1788 they removed to the University of Gottingen. 

The name of this University will remind the reader of 
English comic poetry, of Canning's femous song in the 
burlesque drama, " The Eovers." 


'* Whene'er with haggard eyes I view 
This dungeon that I*m rotting in, 
I think of those companions true, 
Who studied with me at the U- 
-niveraity of Qottingen, 
-niversity of Gottingen." 

The stanzas are quizzical enough, but the University 
itself was a staid, grave place, Ml of earnest students, and 
learned professors. Among the latter we may mention 
three who were celebrated in their different branches of 
literature and science, and who helped to mould the 
minds of William and Alexander. These were Blumen- 
bach, Heyne, and Eichhom. Eichhom, the professor 
of Arabic, was a profound scholar, especially in biblical 
literature, of which he may be considered the historian. 
Hq filled the chair of Theology. In the chair of Archae- 
ology sat Christian Gottlob Heyne, a venerable man of 
sixty, who had risen from the lowest circumstances by 
the force of his will, and his talents. His specialiii was 
classic bibliography. He edited Homer, Pindar, Diodo- 
rus Siculus, Epictetus, Virgil, Tibullus, and other Greek 
and Roman authors, great and small, enriching their text 
with learned commentaries. When the Humboldts be- 
came his scholars he was busy making out a catalogue of 
the immense library of the University. 

Last was Johann Frederic Blumenbach, professor of 
physiology and comparative anatomy. Passionately at- 
tached to science all his life, which by the way was 
nearly as long as that of his famous pupil, Humboldt, his 
love of anatomy commenced at the early age of ten, from 
accidentally seeing a skeleton in the house of one of his 
fether's friends, a physician of course. He soon had a 


collection of bones and skulls of his own, and taking to 
medicine in Jena, obtained his degree in Qottingen in 
1775. The next year he was appointed conservator of 
the noble Museum of Natural History in the University, 
which he enriched by numerous collections of great value. 
He preceded Cuvier in many of his discoveries, institut- 
ing, shortly before the Humboldts entered his classes, 
the method of comparing dififerent varieties of human 
skeletons, and skeletons of animals. To the care of these 
femous professors William and Alexander were com- 
mitted by their old tutor and friend, Kunth, and they 
remained under their teachings for two years. Strongly 
attracted by Eichhom and Heyne, William pursued his 
favorite studies, philology and art, while Alexander 
speculated on " the ground plan of man " in the lecture 
room of Blumenbach. 

But the person who exercised the most influence over 
him while at Gottingen, was the son-in-law of his 
teacher, Heyne — George Forster. Nor is this at all 
strange, for the experience of every day shows us that 
the influence of man over man outweighs that of books 
a thousand fold. There are times, indeed, when even a 
bad man is more potent than many good books. Blu 
menbach, Heyne, Eichhom, and the rest, excellent and 
indispensable as they were, were books, so to speak, dead 
books to the realistic Alexander, while Forster was a 
man, a live man. He had seen what they had only 
dreamed of The feats of Alexander's mythical friend, 
Crusoe, were outdone by Forster. Not that Forster had 
ever been shipwrecked on a solitary island ; but he had 
done better — ^he had put a girdle round the earth. Some 
sixteen years before, when a bov of eighteen, he had 


accompanied Captain Cook as a naturalist In that greai 
navigator's second voyage round the world. After- 
wards professor of natural history in Hesse Cassell, and 
at Wilna, he was now spending the summer with his 
wife at the house of his father-in-law, Heyne. He had 
written several works on natural history, geography, 
philosophy, and politics, besides a history of his voyage 
round the world. Writing of Forster in 1844, more 
than fifty years after his death, Humboldt paid the 
following tribute to his memory : 

" Through him began a new era of scientific voyages, 
the aim of which was to arrive at a knowledge of the 
comparative history and geography of different countries. 
Gifted with delicate esthetic feelings, and retaining a 
vivid impression of the pictures with which Tahiti and 
the other then happy islands of the Pacific had filled his 
imagination, as in recent times that of Charles Darwin, 
George Forster was the first to depict in pleasing colors 
the changing stages of vegetation, the relations of climate 
and of articles of food in their influence on the civiliza- 
tion of mankind, according to differences of original de- 
scent and habitation. All that can give truth, individu- 
ality, and distinctiveness to the delineation of exotic 
nature is united in his works. We trace, not only in his 
admirable description of Cook's second voyage of dis- 
covery, but still more in his smaller writings, the germ 
of that richer fruit which has since matured." 

Such was *George Forster, who, after Campe, was the 
chief instrument in determining the future life of Alex- 
ander Von Humboldt They were fest friends during 
the short period of their intercourse in Gottingen, and 
all the time they could spare from their customary 


duties, was spent in each other's society. What conver- 
sations they must have had of that CTentful journey 
round the world, and what schemes they planned for 
the future I The active imagination of the young student, 
fresh from the reading of wonderful adventures in the 
New World, the chronicles of Vasco Nufies de Balboa, 
Pizarro, and the rest of those grand old Spaniards, was 
fired with the thought of making new voyages and dis- 
coveries, which should cast the old ones for ever in the 
shade. Voyages in the long swell of tropic seas, under 
constellations that never shine to European eyes : sailing 
along the dim outlines of the western continent, dark 
with the long belt of the pathless forests, or ragged with 
the peaks of inland mountains, capped with eternal 
snow : or up great rivers a thousand leagues in length, 
on, on, into the heart of the New World, the primeval 
solitudes of Nature I The best hours of a man's life are 
those that he wastes in dreams, and happy is he who 
can make them true, as Humboldt did. 

But this was recreation rather than study, and as he 
went to the University to study, a graver mood soon 
succeeded. The University was rich in scientific collec- 
tions, none of which were neglected by the earnest young 
student When not attending the lectures of Blumen- 
bach and Heyne, which were generally given in their 
own houses, he pursued his researches and experiments 
in the University Museum. To-day in the laboratory 
among its vials and crucibles, testing acids and gases, 
or in the botanic gardens, theorizing over tropic plants 
and trees: to-morrow in the anatomical room, sur- 
rounded by casts and models ; and many a long night 
in the observatory unwinding the dances of the stars. 


William meanwhile was deep in the philosophy of Kant, 
and the esthetic speculations of Goethe and .Schiller 
Occasionally the brothers strolled through the city, arm 
in arm. Led on by their vagrant fancies they would 
cross into the market-place to watch the fountain splash- 
ing its broad basin ; lounge on the bridge and look at 
the boats below; or quickening their steps they would 
hasten to the ramparts, and saunter up and down the 
shaded avenue of lime trees. K the day was beautiftil, 
they wandered out of the city gates into the fertile 
valleys beyond, and perhaps clomb the Hainberg before 
they returned. 

So passed their university life. It ended in the autumn 
of 1789. 

It is to be regretted that we have no fuller account of 
the youth of Himiboldt, for if there is anything interest- 
ing in the life of a great man like him, it is a minute 
relation of his youth. We want a living record of hia 
sayings and doings in the ductile period of his genius : 
even his sports, if we can recover nothing better, will 
give us some insight into his character. We have pre- 
sented, as the reader will perceive, the merest skeleton 
of the first twenty years of Humboldt's life. He may 
cloftie it with flesh, if he pleases, we can do no more. 
Nor can others at this late day. It is easy to write the 
biographies of those who die young, they leave so many 
behind who recollect all that we desire to know; but 
when a man of genius lives to the age of ninety, aa 
Humboldt did, and leaves no auto-biography, the sweetest 
time of his life is lost, 

" In the dark backward and abysm of Time." 



In the summer of 1789, Campe. who had been foi 
some years canon and councillor in Brunswick, deter- 
mined to make a trip to Paris, to be present at the 
funeral of French despotism, and it was deemed advisable 
for William to accompany him. They arrived in Paris 
on the 3d of August Not bemg fortunate enough while 
there to follow Tyranny to its grave, Campe revenged 
his disappointment by doing what most authors would 
have done in his place — he wrote patriotic letters in 
fevor of the revolution, and attracted much attention. 
Alexander remained behind, probably at Qottingen, pur- 
suing his favorite studies, and constantly corresponding 
with Forster, who was then at Mayence, where he was 
councillor and librarian of the University. The plan of 
the great transatlantic journey, formed a year or two be- 
fore, was laid aside for a time, in order that he might 
study what was then a new science — Geology. He was 
deep in the writings of the then celebrated geologist, 
Abraham Gottlob Werner. 

In his peculiar department of science Werner was un 
doubtedly the most remarkable man of his time. The 
son of a pooi; iron-worker, he commenced his career as a 


mineralogist in the Mineralogical Academy of Freyberg, 
before he was out of his teens. From thence he went to 
Leipsic, where he busied himself in defining the external 
character of minerals, experimenting, and eventually, in 
1774, publishing a work on the subject Up to that 
time the^iescriptive language of mineralogists had been 
too indefinite to convey accurate information, or to en- 
able those of difTerent countries to understand each other. 
After publishing this work, which was long a manual, 
Werner returned to the Mineralogical Academy at Frey- 
berg, and took charge of its noble cabinet of natural 
history. He lectured on mineralogy, and the art of min- 
ing, rendering the latter intelligible to all, by his simpli- 
fication of the machinery, and his drawings and figures. 
His cabinet of minerals was unrivalled for its complete- 
ness and arrangement, numbering one hundred thousand 
specimens. He wrote largely in the scientific reviews of 
that day, the reading of which probably drew the atten- 
tion of Humboldt towards him. He contributed more 
to extend the practical knowledge of mineralogy than 
any one who preceded him, although his method of 
classifying minerals acc6rding to their external charac- 
teristics, instead of their internal essences, if we may use 
the phrase, was rather empirical than scientific. Hia 
geology, too, was shallow. His observations were made 
on the limited portion of the earth^s surfece in his own 
vicinity, and the succession of rock-formations which he 
found there, extended, he reasoned, over the whole sur- 
face of the globe. A wider ran^ of observation would 
have shown him, that at a little distance from Freyberg, 
many of his supposed universal rock-formations were not 
to be found, and that other rocks supply their place. 


But as he was obstinate in his theory he remained igno- 
rant of this feet. He contended for the aqueous forma- 
tion of almost every kind of rock, the Neptunic theory 
as it was called, maintaining that even pumice stone was 
the production of water. He would not visit, however, 
the volcanic districts of Italy, and the ancient volcanoes 
of France, fearing perhaps that he might be led to aban- 
don his first theory — a common fault of scientific men. 
Still, considering the time in which he lived, and the 
little that was then known of the true formation of the 
earth, Werner was entitled to much credit, and is still 
honorably mentioned as a pioneer in science. He raised 
the art of mining into the science of geology. 

Such was Abraham Gottlob Werner, over whose mul- 
tiferious writings Alexander was now poring. That 
they made a deep impression on him may be gathered 
firom the feet that we find him, in company with his 
finend Forster, in the spring of 1790, making a mineral- 
ogical journey. Their route was to the Rhine, through 
Holland, and to England. While in England Forster 
introduced him to Sir Joseph Banks, the femous Presi- 
dent of the Royal Society. Humboldt studied the rock- 
formations of the countries through which he passed, 
especially the basaltic rocks of the Rhine, and embodied 
the result in a small work which was published in that 
year. It was entitled, " Mineralogical Observations on 
some Basaltic Formations of the Rhine," and was in- 
tended to 'support the Neptunic theory of Werner. 
Forster collected materials for *his magnum opiLS, "The 
Views of the Lower Rhine." In the meantime William, 
who had returned from Paris, vibrated between Erfurt, 
where he and the beautiful daughter of the president, 


Von Dacheroden, to whom he was betrothed, were per- 
fecting themselves in the art of Love, and Weimar, the 
residence of Schiller, with whom he waB intimate. 

Alexander sympathized with his brother in the cha- 
I'acter which he was then playing in the delightful drama 
of life, but showed no inclination to appear in the same 
rdle himself It was not that he loved woman and so- 
ciety less, but that he loved solitude and wisdom more. 
Besides, had he not his great transatlantic journey to 
make? To do this properly it was necessary that he 
should have a more thorough worldly training. So 
while William, who was appointed councillor of l^a- 
tion, and assessor to the court of Berlin, went thither to 
familiarize himself with his duties, aJfter which he in- 
tended to marry, Alexander, choosing the department 
of finance, set off for Hamburg, and entering the Com- 
mercial Academy of Busch and Ebeling, studied the 
practical part of^ book-keeping. Ere long he was initi- 
ated into its mysteries ; but beyond the sense of satis- 
faction which the performance of a duty always gives, 
we suspect that he found no delight in them. Evidently 
he preferred the leaves of flowers, luminous with the 
hand-writing of Nature, to the leaves of his day-books 
and ledgers, with their long rows of black figures, and 
their monotonous horizons of red lines. And instead of 
worshipping gold and silver, as a true book-keeper would 
have done, he had a scientific weakness for the less pre- 
cious metals. He still pursued his mineralogical and 
botanical studies. Indeed, he was so fond of the latter, 
that he would often take a tramp in mid winter to 
gather the mosses which only grow at that time. 

His stay in Hamburg was short. For in addition to 


his admiration for Werner, and his growing taste for 
mining, one of his acquaintances, Leopold Von Buch of 
Berlin, had gone to Freyberg to study mining under Wer- 
ner, who had just published a new theory of the forma- 
tion of metallic veins. This determined Alexander to 
vacate his high stool at the mercantile desk, and to set 
off for Freyberg. Before going, however, he hastened 
to Berlin, to enjoy for a time the society of his mother, 
who doubtless found the old castle of Tegel too melan- 
choly a place to live in, since the death of her husband, 
and the absence of her sons. William was there, with 
his beloved Caroline, and his old tutor and friend, Kunth. 
For Kunth was one of the family, if untiring devotion 
to their interests could make him so. 

After his trip to Berlin Alexander proceeded to Frey- 
berg, where he remained a year, employing himself 
during that time in attending the lectures of Werner, in 
looking over his magnificent collection, and in visiting 
the mines in the neighbourhood. Freyberg had a fine 
cathedral, and several remarkable monuments and works 
of art, but nothing that would have led Humboldt thither 
except its mines. There were over a hundred of these 
in the country about ; silver mines, copper mines, lead 
mifles, and mines of cobalt. How the enthusiastic young 
mineralogist must have revelled in them 1 

In the spring of 1792 he was appointed assessor to the 
mining and smelting departments at Berlin ; in the latter 
part of the same year he was removed to Bayreuth, as 
superintendent of mines, in the newly-acquired Fran- 
onian districts, and oflBcially commissioned to remodel 
the mining operations there. He was general director ol 
the mines in the principalities of Bayreuth and Anspach. 


His duties were many and arduous, for in addition to 
his scientific labours, he superintended the erection of 
public institutions in these districts. Bayreuth is divided 
into two parts, Oberland and Unterland. The former, 
which came more immediately under his supervision, is 
a hilly region, intersected by branches of the great 
Fichtelberg, and rich in mines of iron and other minerals. 
Humboldt spent a considerable part of his time in jour- 
neying over the country, visiting the various mines, and 
directing the operations of the miners. He descended 
into the mines for the purpose of making observations 
on the fungi that grew in the shafts, or, pursuing his 
journeys, he botanized by the way. If the region was 
mountainous he studied the rock-formations, and specu- 
lated on the Neptunic theory of his teacher, Werner. 
Busy as he must have been at this time he wrote largely 
for the scientific journals and periodicals, contributing to 
them the result of his experiments on the physical and 
chemical laws of metallurgy, and on the susceptibility 
of plants, their modes of nourishment, colour, etc. He 
also published a work of local botany, — ^a " Flora of 
Oryptogamic Plants in the Neighbourhood of Freyberg," 
and dedicated it to his former teacher, Wildenow. 

In 1794 he accompanied the provincial minister. Von 
Hardenberg, on a political mission to the Rhine. He 
also made several tours through the Alp districts and 
Silesia, and an official trip into the province of Prussia 
and Poland. Not beipg able yet to begin his great jour 
ney he contented himself with these small ones — slight 
studies as it were for the great picture that was to be. 

In 1795 he resigned his situation as director of mines, 
and went to Vienna, where he renewed liis passion for 


botany, studying to great advantage an excellent oolleo- 
tion of exotic plants which he found there, and enjoying 
the society of the geologist Freiesleben. He also studied 
galvanism, and made a variety of interesting experi- 
ments. He planned an excursion into Switzeriand with 
Freiesleben, but postponed it to make an Italian journey. 
The war, which was then raging, confined him to Upper 
Italy, so that he was obliged to return without visiting 
the volcanic regions of Naples and Sicily. 

Shortly before leaving Bayreuth he had received a 
letter from his brother William, who, having finished his 
rdk as a lover, had now assumed that of a husband, 
telling him that the health of their mother was failing. 
She is ill at Tegel, the letter ran — (it was dated in June, 
1795) — ^but we, William and Caroline, will remain with 
her until the spring. On his return from Italy another 
letter reached him — one of those mournM letters which 
every man sooner or later receives. It bore the escut- 
cheon of death — a black seal. There was a new grave 
at Tegel. His mother was dead. 

In the beginning of the year 1797 he went to Jena, 
where his brother William was then residing. Here he 
found Freiesleben and Goethe. Goethe was so much 
interested in his studies in anatomy that he devoted the 
rest of his stay in Jena to that science. On his return to 
Weimar he wrote to Schiller : " I have spent the time 
with Humboldt agreeably and usefully : my natural his- 
tory studies have been roused from their winter sleep by 
his presence." And Schiller wrote back shortly after -. 
" Although the whole family of Humboldt, down to the 
servant, lie ill with ague, they still speak only of great 


But sick or well, Humboldt's studies went on. He con- 
tinued his experiments on galvanism, turnmg his atten- 
tion chiefly to the laws of muscular irritation, and tha 
disposition of the nerves of living animals when under 
the galvanic influence. He wrote a work on the subject, 
" Experiments on Nervous and Muscular Irritation," and 
sent it to his old teacher, Blumenbach, who published it 
for him, with notes and comments of his own. 

The brothers went to Berlin in May to settle the fiunily 
inheritance, previous to making a journey together into 
Italy. William's share was the old castle at Tegel, Alex- 
ander's the estate of Ringenwalde, in Neumark. He 
sold it to the poet Franz Von Kleist, to raise the neces- 
sary funds for his great journey. 

The unsettled state of affairs in Italy preventing the 
contemplated journey, William and his family determined 
to proceed to Paris. Alexander went with them as far 
as Saltzburg, where he was induced to stay awhile by 
his friend Leopold Von Buch. Buch, who had just pub- 
lished a scientific work, " Outlines of a Mineralogical De- 
scription of Landeck," had been, as the reader remem- 
bers, one of his fellow-students in the Mineralogical 
Academy at Freyberg, and was like him a believer in 
the Neptuiric theory of Werner. Humboldt afterwards 
called him " the greatest geologist of the age." A scientific 
trip was proposed, and the pair started off on foot, armed 
with their geological hammers, and a change of linen. 
They travelled through several cantons of Saltzburg, and 
Styria, and reached the Tyrolese Alps. While* on this 
Bohemian trip Humboldt made the acquaintance of ]jord 
Bristol, an English nobleman, who had visited the coasts 
of Greece and Illyria, and had planned an expedition 


to Upper Egypt The party were to be provided with 
astronomical instruments and able draughtsmen, and 
were to ascend the Nile as far as Assouan, after examin- 
ing minutely the positions of the Said between Tentyris 
and the cataracts. The expedition was to occupy eight 
months. Humboldt consented to join it, on condition 
that he should be allowed to continue the journey over 
Palestine and Syria, and went to Paris to make the 
necessary preparations. 

He arrived at Paris in the spring of 1798, and was 
warmly welcomed by his brother William, whose house 
was a rallying point for all his educated countrymen. 
The family led a pleasant life during their stay in the 
capital: gave dinner parties, esthetic teas, etc., and en- 
joyed themselves at the Parisian theatres. " The comedy, ** 
wrote Frau Von Humboldt, " is excellent." " My little 
ones would please you. Caroline grows very amiable ; 
she is delicate, and has a rare degree of sentimentality, 
perfectly natural, however, as you may imagine. Her 
brother William is handsome, much more rough, very 
naughty, self-willed, and yet exceedingly good-natured* 
Theodore is the most amiable child I ever saw : he is 
stout, and almost fat, and yet looks slender ; his little 
&ce has an expression of merriment, and yet his glance 
seems to indicate something more profound. BKs eyes 
are as if you gaze into the heavens. The white in them 
is quite blue, and the eyeball brown. His hair is light, 
and his mouth the prettiest I ever saw in a child. If 
you could see the boy he would make a fool of you, as 
he does of me." 

The Humboldts were surrounded by celebrities of all 
sorts, artists, poets, statesmen, and savans. Among 



Others wbo patronised them was the celebrated Madame 
de Stael, who called William, who had praised her works 
highly, it is scarcely necessary to say, '* la plus grande 
cajpaciie de VEurope^ Had the flattering Corinne chris- 
tened Alexander so, she would not have been far from the 

The political aspect of Europe destroyed the plan of 
the Egyptian journey, as it had already done the Italian 
one, and Lord Bristol having been arrested at Milan, it 
was given up. Another scheme, however, was soon set 
afoot, for Humboldt now learned that the National Mu- 
seum of France was preparing an expedition under the 
command of Captain Baudin. The purpose of this expedi- 
tion was to visit the Spanish possessions of South America, 
from the mouth of the river Plata, to the kingdom of 
Quito and the isthmus of Panama. It 'v^as to visit the 
archipelago of the Pacific, explore the cdasts of New 
Holland, from Van Dieman's Land to that of Nuyt^ 
after which the vessels were to stop at Madagascar, and 
return by the Cape of Good Hope. Humboldt had bul 
little confidence in Baudin, who had given cause of dis 
content to the court of Vienna when he was commis 
sioned to conduct to Brazil the botanist, Van der Schott ; 
but as he could not hope with his own resources to make 
a voyage of such extent, he determined to take the 
chances of the expedition. He obtained permission to 
embark, with his instruments, in one of the vessels 
destined for the South Sea, reserving to himself the 
right to leave Captain Baudin whenever he thought pro- 
per. Michaux and Bonpland were to accompany the 
expedition as naturalists. 

The war breaking out afresh in Italy and Germany, 


and the French goverament needing the funds for some- 
thing more solid than science, it was postponed to an 
indefinite period. Truly this was the pursuit of travel 
under diflSculties. 

It is an ill wind however that blows nobody good. 
The failure of the expedition was no interruption to the 
friendship which Humboldt had formed with Bonpland. 
Aim6 Bonpland, the naturalist, then in his twenty-fifth 
year, was a native of Eochelle, France. His father was 
a physician, and he studied the same profession, but the 
revolutionary authorities got hold of him before he could 
finish his studies, and made him a surgeon on a man- 
of-war. When peace was restored he went to Paris, and 
became a pupil of the celebrated Corvisart, who had 
established a clinical school at the hospital of La Charity. 
It was at this time that Humboldt and he met They 
were friends at once. Understanding anatomy and 
botany better than Humboldt did, he gave him further 
instructions in those studies, receiving from him in 
exchange a knowledge of natural history and mineralogy. 

Humboldt's friendship with Bonpland, the society that 
he met at the house of his brother William, and his own 
scientific attainments soon introduced him to the notice 
of the naturalists and mathematicians of Paris. He 
mingled with the most eminent French savans as their 
equal. He pursued his experiments before and after the 
failure of the expedition of Baudin, working in concert 
with Gay Lussac, of whom more hereafter, with whom he 
undertook eudiometric investigations of the chemical 
analysis of the atmosphere. The result of their labors 
was embodied in a joint production, "Researches on the 
Composition of the Atmosphere." He also wrote a 


work on subteirauean gases, the fimit of his experience 
in the mines of Bayreuth and Anspach. 

In the autumn there was a prospect of another expe- 
dition. The Swedish consul, Skioldebrand, was at Paris 
on his way to embark at Marseilles, on a special mission 
from his government with presents to the Dey of 
Algiers. He had resided a long time on the coast of 
Africa, and being highly respected by the government 
of Algiers, he could, he thought, easily procure permis- 
sion for Humboldt to visit the chain of the Atlas moun- 
tains. A portion of these mountains had been visited 
by M. Desfontaines ; but no mineralogist had yet ex- 
amined them. Besides this inducement the consul 
despatched every year a vessel for Tunis, where the 
pilgrims embarked for Mecca, and he promised Hum- 
boldt to convey him by this means to Egypt The 
opportunity was too good to be lost. Humboldt com- 
pleted his collection of instruments, and purchased works 
relating to the countries he intended to visit, and bidding 
adieu to his brother, and Frau Caroline, not forgetting 
the delicate Caroline, junior, the handsome but naughty 
William, and the amiable Theodore with his blue eyes 
and light hair, he repaired to Marseilles with his friend 
Bonpland. They impatiently awaited the Swedish 
frigate, which was expected at the end of October; 
several times a day they climbed the mountain of Notre 
Dame de la Garde, which commands an extensive out- 
look on the Mediterranean, eagerly watching every sail 
on the horizon. Two months passed, and no frigate 
came. The papers at length informed them that she had 
suffered severely in a storm on the coast of Portugal, 
and had been obliged to enter the port of Cadiz to refit. 

SPAIN. 29 

She would not be at Marseilles till spring. Still persist- 
ing in their intention of visiting Africa, they found a 
small vessel of Ragusa on the point of setting sail for 
Tunis, and agreed with the captain for their passage. 
Before the vessel sailed they learned that the government 
of Tunis, inimical to la grande nation^ was persecuting its 
residents in Barbary, and that every person coming from. 
a French port was thrown into a dungeon. The journey 
was abandoned. Not to be baffled, however, they re- 
solved to pass the winter in Spain, in hopes of embark- 
ing the next spring, either at Carthagena or Cadiz. 

They crossed Catalonia and the kingdom of Valencia, 
visiting the ruins of Tarragona and ancient Saguntum. 
They made an excursion from Barcelona to Montserrat, 
and saw the hermits that inhabit its lofty peaks. Hum- 
boldt ascertained by astronomical observations the posi- 
tion of several points important for the geography of 
Spain, and determined by the barometer the heights of 
the central plain. The inclination of the needle, and the 
intensity of the magnetic forces came in for a share of 
his attention. 

They arrived at Madrid in March, 1799, and Humboldt 
was presented to the king at Aranjuez by the minister 
from the court of Saxony, who was himself a mineralo- 
gist The king received him graciously. He explained 
to his majesty the motives which led him to undertake 
his journey to the New World, and presented a memoir 
on the subject to the secretary of state. Don Mariano 
Luis de Urquijo, the minister, supported Humboldt's 
demand, and obtained for the travellers two passports, 
one from the first secretary of the state, the other from 
the ccundl of the Indies. The good time had come at 


kst "Never," says Humboldt, "had so extensive a 
perniission been granted to any traveller, and never had 
any foreigner been honored by more confidence on the 
part of the Spanish government." 

The savans of Madrid oflfered the travellers great 
inducements to stay awhile among them. Don Casimir 
Ortega, the abb^ Pourret, and the learned authors of the 
Flora of Peru opened to them their rich collections. 
They examined part of the recently discovered plants of 
Mexico, from drawings which had been sent to the 
Museum of Natural History of Madrid, and obtained 
from the chemist Proust, and the mineralogist Hergen, 
some curious details of the mineral substances of 
America. They could have spent a long time usefully 
as well as pleasantly in the Spanish capital, but bearing 
in mind their previous disappointments they departed 
about the middle of May, en route for Corunna, Irom 
whence they intended to embark for Cuba. They 
crossed a part of Old Castile and the kingdoms of Leon 
and Galicia. The snow still covered the lofty granitic 
tops of the Guadarama, but in the deep valleys of Galicia 
the rocks were clothed with dstuses and arborescent 
heaths. Pursuing his geological researches on the way 
Humboldt examined the mountains between Astorga 
and Corunna, and found that many of them were com- 
posed of graywacke. Near Corunna he came upon 
granitic ridges which contained tin ore. 

Arriving at Corunna they sought Don Raphael 
Clavijo, the superintendent of the dockyards, to whom 
they had recommendations from the Spanish minister, 
and the chief secretary of state. He advised them to 
embark on board the frigate Pizarro, which was soon to 


laU for Cuba, in company with the Alcudia, the packet 
boat of the month of May, which had been detained by 
an English fleet, then blockading the port in order to cut 
off the communication between Spain and her colonies. 
They concluded to follow his advice, and arraDgements 
were made to receive their instruments on board the 
Pi^arrb. Don Raphael ordered the captain to stop at 
Teneriffe, as long as Humboldt should deem necessary, 
that the travellers might visit the port of Orotava, and 
ascend the peak. 

It was ten days before their instruments were em- 
barked and the vessel was ready to sail. They spent 
that time in preparing the plants that they had collected 
in the beautiful valleys of Galicia, which they were the 
first naturalists to explore, and in examining the fuci and 
mollufica, which the northwest winds had cast on the 
rocks. Crossing from Corunna to Ferrol, a little town. 
on the other point of the bay, they made several experi- 
ments on the temperature of the ocean, by means of a 
valved thermometrical sounding lead, and found that 
the neighborhood of a sand bank is revealed before the 
lead can be made use of, by the quick decrease in the 
temperature of the water, and that the seaman can there- 
fore perceive the approach of danger much sooner by 
the thermometer than by the lead. 

The time of departure drawing near Humboldt wrote 
ferewell letters to his friends in Gtermany and Paris. 
As before leaving Paris he had agreed with Captain 
Baudin, that if the expedition for discoveries in the 
Pacific, which seemed to be adjourned for several years, 
should take place at an earlier period, he would endeavor 
to return from Algiers and join it, at some port in 

82 ^ * OFF AT LAotI 

France or Spain; he now wrote him that if the govern- 
ment persisted in sending him by Cape Horn, he would 
meet him at Montevideo, Chili, or Lima, or wherever 
else he should touch in the Spanish colonies. This 
done he was ready to bid the Old World adieu. 

The English squadron was still off the harbor, but a 
storm coining up on the 5th of June, it was obliged to 
quit the coast, and make for the open sea. They seized 
the opportunity and set sail, cheered by a pleasing 
prophecy, from those who saw the Pizarro weigh anchor, 
that they would certainly be captured in three days. 
They sailed at two o'clock in the afternoon. The wind 
was contrary, and they made several tacks before they 
could get out of the harbor. At half-past six they 
passed the lighthouse of Corunna, the famous Tower of 
Hercules. At sunset the wind increased, and the sea 
ran high. The shores of Europe lessened in the dis- 
tance. The last thing they saw that night was the light 
of a fishing hut at Sisarga. It faded. The land disap- 
peared. The sea was before them, the wide waste Sea 1 





At sunset on tlie third day they saw fix)m the mast* 
head an English convoy, sailing along the coast, and 
steering towards the southeast To avoid it they altered 
their course. From that moment no light was allowed 
in the great cabin, for fear of their being seen at a dis- 
tance. Humboldt and Bonpland were obliged to make 
use of dark kmterns to examine the temperature of the 

From the time of their sailing until they reached the 
S6th degree of latitude they saw no organic beings, ex- 
cept sea swallows and dolphins; they even looked in 
vain for sea-weeds and mollusca. On the sixth day 
however they entered a zone where the waves were co- 
vered with a prodigious quantity of medussB. The sea 
was nearly becalmed, but the medusae were bound 
towards the south-east, with a rapidity four times greater 
than that of the current 

Between the island of Madeira and the coast of AMca, 
they had slight breezes and dead calms, which were 
favorable for the magnetic observations that occupied 
Humboldt during the passage. The travellers were 
never weary of admiring the beauty of the nights; 

36 laGHT 8CBNB. 

nothing could be comparod to the transparency and 
serenity of the African sky. They were struck with the 
innumerable quantity of falling stars, which appeared at 
every instant. The farther progress they made towards 
the south, the more frequent was this phenomenon, espe- 
cially near the Canaries. Forty leagues east of the 
island of Madeira a swallow perched on the topsail yard. 
It was so fetigued that it suffered itself to be caught by 
the hand. 

The Pizarro had orders to touch at the isle of Lance- 
rota, one of the seven great Canary Islands ; and at five 
in the afternoon of the 16th of June, that island appeared 
so distinctly in view that Humboldt was able to take the 
angle of altitude of a conic mountain, which towered 
majestically over the other summits. 

The current drew them toward the coast more rapidly 
than they wished. As they advanced, they discovered 
at first the island of Forteventura, famous for its nume- 
rous camels; and a short time after saw the island of 
Lobos in the channel which separated Forteventura 
from Lancerota. They spent part of the night on deck. 
The moon illumined the volcanic summits of Lancerota, 
the flanks of which, covered with ashes, reflected a silver 
light. Antares threw out its resplendent rays near the 
lunar disk, which was but a few degrees above the 
horizon. The night was beautifully serene and cool. 
The phosphorescence of the ocean seemed to augment 
the mass of light diffused through the air. After mid- 
night, great black clouds rising behind the volcano 
shrouded at intervals the moon, and the beautiful con- 
stellation of the Scorpion. They beheld lights carried 
to and fro on shore, which were probably those of fish- 


ennen preparing for their labors. Humboldt and Bon* 
pland had been occasionally employed during their 
passage, in reading the old voyages of the Spaniards, 
and these moving lights recalled to their fancy those 
which Pedro Gutierrez, page of Queen Isabella, saw in 
the isle of Guanahani, on the memorable night of the 
discovery of the New World. 

On the 17th, in the morning, the horizon was foggy, 
and the sky slightly covered with vapor. The outlines 
of the mountains of Lancerota appeared stronger : the 
humidity, increasing the transparency of the air, seemed 
at the same time to have brought the objects nearer their 
view. They passed through the channel which divided 
the isle of Alegranza from Montafia Clara, taking sound- 
ings the whole way, and examined the archipelago 
of small islands situated northward of Lancerota. In 
the midst of this archipelago, which was seldom visited by 
vessels bound for Teneriffe, they were singularly struck 
with the configuration of the coasts. They thought them- 
selves transported to the Euganean mountains in the 
Vicentin, or the banks of the Rhine near Bonn. 

The whole western part of Lancerota bore the appear- 
ance of a country recently convulsed by volcanic erup- 
tions. Everything was black, parched, and stripped of 
vegetable mould. They distinguished, with their glasses, 
stratified basalt in thin and steeply-sloping strata. They 
were forced by the winds to pass between the islands of 
Alegranza and MontaQa Clara, and as none on board the 
Pizarro had sailed through this passage, they were obliged 
to be continually sounding. 

From some notions which the captain of the Pizarro 
had collected in an old Portuguese itinerary, he thought 


liimself opposite to a small fort, situated north of Teguisa, 
the capital of the island of Lancerota. Mistaking a rock 
of basalt for a castle, he saluted it by hoisting a Spanish 
flag, and sent a boat with an officer to inquire of the 
commandant whether any English vessels were cruising 
in the roads. He was not a liUle surprised to learn that 
the land which he had considered as a prolongation of 
the coast of Lancerota, was the small island of Graciosa, 
and that for several leagues there was not an inhabited 
place. Humboldt and Bonpland took advantage of the 
boat to survey the land, which inclosed a large bay. 
The small portion of the island which they traversed 
resembled a promontory of lava. The rocks were naked 
with no marks of vegetation, and scarcely any of vege- 
table soil. 

They re-embarked at sunset, and hoisted sail, but the 
breeze was too feeble to permit the Pizarro to continue 
her course to Teneriffe. The sea was calm ; a reddish 
vapor covered the horizon, and seemed to magnify 
every object. In this solitude, amidst so many iminha- 
bited islets, the travellers enjoyed for a long time the view 
of rugged and wild scenery. The black mountains of 
Graciosa appeared like perpendicular walls five or six 
hundred feet high. Their shadows, thrown over the 
surface of the ocean, gave a gloomy aspect to the scenery. 
Rocks of basalt, eimerging firom the bosom of the waters, 
wore the resemblance of the ruins of some vast edifice, 
and carried their thoughts back to the remote period 
when submarine volcanoes gave birth to new islands, or 
rent continents asunder. Everything which surroimded 
them seemed to indicate destruction and sterility; but 
the back-ground of the picture, the coasts of Lancerota, 


presented a more smiling aspect. In a narrow pass 
between two hills, crowned with scattered tufts of trees, 
marks of cultivation were visible. The last rays of the 
sun gilded the com ready for the sickle. 

The captain of the Pizarro endeavored to get out of 
this bay by the pass which separated Alegranza fix)m 
Montafia Clara, and through which he had easily entered 
to land at the northern point of Ghraciosa. The wind 
having fallen, the currents drove the vessel very near a 
rock, on which the sea broke with violence, and which 
was noted in the old charts under the name of Hell, or 
Infiemo. Examined at the distance of two cables* length, 
this rock was found to be a mass of lava, full of cavities, 
and covered with scoria© resembling coke. 

As the vessel was prevented by the fall of the wind, 
and by the currents, from repassing the channel of Ale- 
granza, the captain resolved on tacking during the night 
between the island of Clara and the West Eock. This 
resolution had nearly proved fetal. A calm was very- 
dangerous near this rock, towards which the current 
drove with considerable force. They began to feel the 
effects of this current at midnight. The proximity of 
the stony masses, which rose perpendicularly above the 
water, deprived the vessel of the little wind which blew ; 
sheno longer obeyed the helm and they dreaded striking 
every instant 

. The wind having freshened a little towards the morning 
of the 18th, they succeeded in passing the channel 

From the time of their departure from Graciosa the 
horizon continued so hazy that they did not discover 
the island of Canary, notwithstanding the height of its 
mountainfl, till the evening of the 18th. On the morning 


of the 19th, they discovered the point of Naga ; but the 
land, obscured by a thick mist, presented forms that were 
vague and confused. As they approached the road of 
Santa Cruz, they observed that the mist, driven by the 
winds, drew nearer to them. The sea was strongly agi- 
tated, as it most commonly is in those latitudes. The 
vessel anchored after several soundings, for the mist was 
so thick that they could scarcely distinguish objects at 
a few cables' distance ; but at the moment they began to 
salute the plaoe, the fog was instantly dispelled. The 
peak of Teyde appeared in a break above the clouds, and 
the first rays of the sun, which had not yet risen, illu- 
mined the summit of the volcano. 

Humboldt and Bonpland hastened to the prow of the 
vessel to behold the magnificent spectacle, and at the 
same instant saw four English vessels lying to, and very 
near the stern. They had passed without being perceived, 
and the same mist which had concealed the peak from 
their view, had saved them from the risk of being carried 
back to Europe. The Pizarro stood in as close as possi- 
ble to the fort, to be under its protection. It was on this 
shore, that, in the landing attempted by the English 
two years before, in July, 1797, ihe great Nelson had his 
arm carried off by a cannon ball. 

Santa Cruz stands on a narrow and sandy beach. Its 
houses, which are of dazzling whiteness, with flat roofe, 
and windows without glass, are built close against a wall 
of black perpendicular rock, devoid of vegetation. A 
fine mole built of freestone, and the public walk planted 
with poplars, are the only objects which break the same- 
ness of the landscape. 

The recommendation of the court of Madrid pro- 


cured for them the most satisfactory, reception. The 
captain-general gave them immediate permission to ex- 
amine the island, and Col. Armiaga, who commanded a 
regiment of infantry, received them into his house with 
great hospitality. They could not enough admire the 
banana, the papaw tree, and other plants, which they 
had hitherto seen only in hot-houses, cultivated in his 
garden in the open air. In the evening they went to 
herborize along the rocks, but were little satisfied with 
their harvest, for the drought and dust had almost de- 
stroyed vegetation. The few plants that they saw, chiefly 
succulent ones, which draw their nourishment from the 
air rather than the soil on which they grow, reminded 
them by their appearance, that this group of islands be- 
longed to Africa, and even to the most arid part of that 
arid continent. 

Though the captain of the Pizarro had orders to stop 
long enough at Teneriffe to give the naturalists time to 
scale the summit of the peak, if the snows did not prevent 
their ascent, they received notice, on account of the block 
ade of the English ships, not to expect longer delay 
than four or five days. They consequently hastened 
their departure for the port of Orotava, which was situ- 
ated on the western declivity of the volcano, where they 
were sure of procuring guides ; for they could find no 
one at Santa Cruz who had mounted the peak. 

On the 20th of June, before sunrise, they began their 
excursion by ascending to the Yilla de Laguna. The 
road by which they ascended was on the right of a tor- 
rent, which in the rainy season formed fine cascades. 
Near the town they met some white camels. The town 
itself, at which they soon arrived, was situated in a 


small plain, surrounded by gardens, and protected by a 
hill which was crowned by a wood of laurels, myrtle, 
and arbutus. It was encircled by a great number of 
chapels. Shaded by trees of perpetual verdure, and 
erected on small eminences, these chapels added to the 
picturesque effect of the landscape. The interior of the 
town was not equal to its external appearance. The 
houses were solidly built, but very antique, and the 
streets seemed deserted. Our botanists, however, did 
not complain of the antiquity of the edifices, for the 
roofs and walls were covered with Canary house leek, 
and elegant trichomanes. 

Before they reached Orotava they visited, at a litde 
distance from the port, a botanic garden, which had been 
laid out at a great expense some years before by the 
Marquis de Nava. There they found M. Le Gros, the 
French vice-consul, who had often scaled the summit of 
the peak, and who served them as a guide. 

They began their ascent on the morning of the 21st 
M. Le Gros, M. Lalande, secretary to the French Consul- 
ate at Santa Cruz, and an English gardener at Durasno, 
joined them on this excursion. The day was not fine, 
for the summit of the peak, which was generally visible 
at Orotava from sunrise till ten o'clock, was covered 
with thick clouds. 

They passed along a lofty aqueduct, lined with a great 
number of fine ferns, and visited several gardens, in 
which the fruit trees of the north of Europe were 
mingled with orange trees, pomegranate, and date trees. 
Here they saw the famous dragon tree of M. FranquL 
Although they had been made acquainted with it, from 
the narratives of many travellerS| they were not the less 


Struck with its enonnous magnitude. They were told 
that the trunk of this tree, which is mentioned in several 
very ancient documents, was as gigantic in the fifteenth 
century as when they saw it Its height appeared to 
them to be about fifty or sixty feet ; its circumference 
near the roots was forty-five feet The trunk was divided 
into a great number of branches, which rose in the form 
of a candelabrum, and were terminated by tufts of leaves. 

On leaving Orotava, a narrow and stony pathway led 
them through a beautiful forest of chestnut trees to a site 
covered with brambles, some species of laurels, and ar- 
borescent heatha The trunks of the latter grew to an 
extraordinary size, and were loaded with flowers. They 
now stopped to take in their provision of water under a 
solitary fir-tree. 

They continued to ascend, till they came to the rock 
of La Gay ta and to Portillo : traversing this narrow pass 
between two basaltic hills, they entered the great plain 
of Spartium. They spent two hours and a half in cross- 
ing the Llano del Betama, which appeared like an im- 
mense sea of sand. 

As far as the rock of Gayta, or the entrance of the 
extensive Llano del Retama, the peak of Tenerifle was 
covered with beautiftil vegetation. There were no traces 
of recent devastatiou. They might have imagined 
themselves scaling the side of some volcano, the fire of 
which had been extinguished for centuries ; but scarcely 
had they reached the plain covered with pumice-stone, 
when the landscape changed its aspect, and at every step 
they met with large blocks of obsidian thrown out by the 
volcana Everything here spoke perfect solitude. A 
few goats and rabbits bounded across the plain. The 


barren region of tlie peak was nine square leagues ; and 
as the lower regions viewed from this point retrograded 
in the distance, the island appeared an immense heap of 
torrefied matter, hemmed round by a scanty border of 

From the Llano del Eetama they passed through nar- 
row defiles, and small ravines hollowed at a very remote 
time by the torrents, first arriving at a more elevated 
plain, then at the place where they intended to pass the 
night. This station bore the name of the English Halt. 
Two inclined rocks formed a kind of cavern, which 
afforded a shelter from the winds. Though in the midst 
of summer, and under an African sky, they suffered 
from cold during the night The thermometer descended 
there as low as to 41°. Their guides made up a large fire 
with the dry branches of retama. Having neither tents 
nor cloaks, Humboldt and Bonpland lay down on some 
masses of rock, and were incommoded by the flame and 
smoke, which the wind drove towards them. They had 
attempted to form a kind of screen with cloths tied toge- 
ther, but their inclosure took fire, which they did not 
perceive till the greater part had been consumed by the 
flames. As the temperature diminished, the peak became 
covered with thick clouds. The approach of night inters 
rupted the play of the ascending current^ which, during 
the day, rose fix)m the plains towards the high regions 
of the atmosphere ; and the air, in cooling, lost its capa- 
city of suspending water. A strong northerly wind 
chased the clouds; the moon at intervals, shooting 
through the vapours, exposed its disk on a firmament of 
the darkest blue; and the view of the volcano threw a 
majestic character over the nocturnal scenery. Some* 


times the peak was entirely hidden firom tneir eyes by 
the fog, at other times it broke upon them in terrific 
proximity; and, like an enormous pyramid, threw ita 
shadow over the clouds rolling beneath their feet. 

About three in the morning, by the sombrous light of 
a few fir torches, they started on their journey to the 
summit of the Sugar-loaf They scaled the volcano on 
the northeast side, where the declivities were extremely 
steep ; and after two hours' toil reached a small plain, 
which, on account of its elevated position, bore the name 
of Alta VLsta. This was the station of the neveros, those 
natives whose occupation it was to collect ice and snow, 
which they sold in the neighbouring towns. Their mules, 
better practised in climbing mountains than those hired 
by travellers, reach Alta Vista, and the neveros are 
obliged to transport the snow to that place on their 
backs. Above this point commenced the Malpays, a 
term by which is designated here, as well as in every 
other country subject to volcanoes, a ground destitute of 
vegetable mould,- and covered with fragments of lava. 

Day was beginning to dawn when the travellers left 
the ice-cavern. They observed, during the twilight, a 
phenomenon which is not unusual on high mountains, 
but which the position of the volcano they were scaling 
rendered very striking. A layer of white and fleecy 
clouds concealed from them the sight of the ocean, and 
the lower repon of the island. This layer did not ap 
pear above five thousand feet high ; the clouds were so 
uniformly spread, and kept so perfect a level, that they 
wore the appearance of a vast plain covered with snow. 
The colossal pyramid of the peak, the volcanic summits 
of Lancerota, of Forteventura, and the isle of Palma, 


were like rocks amidst this vast sea of vapours, and their 
black tints were in fine contrast with the whiteness of 
the clouds. 

While they w^re climbing over the broken lavas of 
the Malpays, they perceived a very curious optical phe- 
nomenon, which lasted some minutes. They thought 
they saw on the east side small rockets thrown into the 
air. Luminous points, about seven or eight degrees 
above the horizon, appeared first to move in a vertical 
direction ; but their motion was gradually changed into 
a horizontal oscillation. Their fellow-travellers, their 
guides even, were astonished at this phenomenon, with- 
out either Humboldt or Bonpland having made any 
remark on it to them. The travellers thought, at first 
sight, that these luminous points, which floated in the 
air, indicated some new eruption of the great volcano of 
Lancerota; for they recollected that Bouguer and La 
Condamine, in scaling the volcano of Pichincha, were 
witnesses of the eruption of Cotopaxi. But the illusion 
soon ceased, and they found that the lutninous points 
were the images of several stars magnified by the vapours. 
These images remained motionless at intervals, they then 
seemed to rise perpendicularly, descended sideways, and 
returned to the point whence they had departed. This 
motion lasted one or two seconds. Though they had no 
exact means of measuring the extent of the lateral shift- 
ing, they did not the less distinctly observe the path of 
the luminous point. It did not appear double from an 
efiect of mirage, and left no trace of light behind. 
Bringing, with the telescope of a small sextant, the stars 
into contact with the lofty summit of a mountain in 
Lancerota, Humboldt observed that the oscillation was 


constantly directed towards the same point, whicli was 
towards that part of the horizon where the disk of 
the sun was to appear ; and that making allowance for 
the motion of the star in its declination, the image re- 
turned always to the same place. These appearances 
of lateral refraction ceased long before daylight rendered 
the stars quite invisible. 

The road, which they were obliged to clear for them- 
selves across the Malpays, was extremely fatiguing. The 
ascent was steep, and the blocks of lava rolled from 
beneath their feet At the peak the lava, broken into 
sharp pieces, left hollows, in which they risked falling 
up to their waists. Unfortunately the listlessness of 
their guides contributed to increase the difficulty of this 
ascent Models of the phlegmatic, they had wished to 
persuade Humboldt and Bonpland on the preceding 
evening not to go beyond the station of the rocks. Every 
ten minutes they sat down to rest themselves, and when 
unobserved they threw away the specimens of obsidian 
and pumice-stone, which the geologists had carefully 
collected. They discovered at length that none of the 
guides had ever visited the summit of the volcano. 

After three hours' walking, they reached, at the ex- 
tremity of the Malpays, a small plain, called La Ram- 
bleta, from the centre of which the Sugar-loaf took its 
rise. They had yet to scale the steepest part of the 
mountain, the Sugar-loaf, which formed the summit 
The slope of this small cone, covered with volcanic 
ashes, and fragments of pumice-stone, was so steep, that 
it would have been almost impossible to reach the top, 
had they not ascended by an old current of lava, the 
ddbris of which had resisted the ravages of time. These 


d^ris formed a. wall of scorious rock, whicli stretclied 
into the midst of the loose ashes. They ascended the 
Sugar-loaf by grasping the half-decomposed scoriae, 
which often broke in their hands. They employed 
nearly half an hour to scale a hill, the perpendicular 
height of which was scarcely five hundred and forty feet. 

When they gained the summit of the Sugar-loaf they 
were surprised to find scarcely room enough to seat 
themselves conveniently. They were stopped by a 
small circular wall of porphyritic lava, with a base of 
pitchstone, which concealed from them the view of the 
crater. The west wind blew with such violence that 
they could scarcely stand. It was eight in the morning, 
and they suffered severely from the cold, though the 
thermometer kept a little above freezing point. 

The wall which surrounded the crater like a parapet, 
was so high, that it would have been impossible to reach 
the crater itself, if, on the eastern side, there had not 
been a breach, which seemed to have been the effect of a 
flowing of very old lava. They descended through this 
breach toward the bottom of the funnel, the figure of 
which was elliptic. The greatest breadth of the mouth 
appeared to them to be three himdred feet, the smallest 
two hundred feet. 

The external edges of the crater were almost perpen- 
dicular. They descended to the bottom of the crater on 
a train of broken lava, from the eastern breach of the 
inclosure. The heat was perceptible only in a few 
crevices, which gave vent to aqueous vapours with a 
peculiar buzzing noise. Some of these funnels or cre- 
vices were on the outside of the inclosure, on tiie external 
brink of the parapet that surrounded the crater. Hum- 


boldt plunged the thermometer into them, and saw it 
rise rapidly to 154*" and 167^ He also sketched on the 
spot a view of the mterior edge of the crater as it pre- 
sented itself in the descent by the eastern track. 

The top of the circular wall exhibited those curious 
ramifications which are found in coke. The northern 
edge was most elevated. Towards the south-west the 
enclosure was considerably sunk, and an enormous mass 
of scorious lava seemed glued to the extremity of the 
brink. The rock was perforated on the west, and a 
large opening gave a view of the horizon of the sea. 

Seated on the brink of the crater, Humboldt dug a 
hole some inches deep, into which he placed the thermo- 
meter, which rapidly rose to 107**. Some sulphurous crys- 
tals which he gathered here, consumed the paper in which 
he wrapt them, and a part of his mineralogical journal 

From the outer edge of the crater the admiring tra- 
vellers turned their eyes towards the north-east, where the 
coasts were studded with villages and hamlets. At their 
feet were masses of vapour constantly drifted by the 
winds. A imiform stratum of clouds had been pierced 
in several places by the eflfoct of the small currents of 
air, which the earth, heated by the sun, began to send 
towards them. The port of Orotava, its vessels at 
anchor, the gardens and the vineyards encircling the 
town, showed themselves through an opening which 
seemed to enlarge every instant From the summit of 
these solitary regions their eyes wandered over an 
inhabited world. They enjoyed the striking contrast 
between the bare sides of the peak, its steep declivities 
covered with scoriae, its elevated plains destitute of vege- 



tation, and the smiling aspect of the cult cured country be- 
neath. They beheld the plants divided by zones, as the 
temperature of the atmosphere diminished with the eleva- 
tion of the site. Below the Sugar-loaf, lichens began to 
cover the scorious and lustrous lava : and violets rose on 
the slope of the volcano at eight thousand five hundred 
feet of height. Tufts of retama, loaded with flowers, 
adorned the valleys hollowed out by the torrents, and en- 
cumbered with the effects of the lateral eruptions. Below 
the retama, lay the region of ferns, bordered by the tract 
of the arborescent heaths. Forests of laurel, rhamnuA, 
and arbutus, divided the ericas from the rising grounds 
planted with vinta and fruit trees. A rich carpet of 
verdure extended from the plain of spartium, and the 
zone of the alpine plants even to the groups of the date 
tree and the musa, at the feet of which the ocean ap- 
peared to roll. The seeming proximity, in which, from 
the summit of the peak, they beheld the hamlets, the 
vineyards, and the gardens on the coast, was increased 
by the prodigious transparency of the atmosphere. la 
spite of the great distance, they could plainly distinguish 
not only the houses, the sails of the vessels, and the 
trunks of the trees, but they could discern the vivid 
colouring of the vegetation of the plains. 

Notwithstanding the heat which they felt in their feet 
on the edge of the crater, the cone of ashes remains 
covered with snow during several months in winter. It 
was probable that under the cap of snow considerable 
hollows were found, like those existing under the gla- 
ciers of Switzerland, the temperature of which was con- 
stantly less elevated than that of the soil on which they 
rexKJsed. The cold and violent wind, which blew from 


the lime of sunrise, induced them to seek shelter at the 
foot of the Sugar-loa£ Their hands and faces \^ ere 
nearly frozen, while their boots were burnt by the soil 
on whioh they walked. They descended in the space of 
a few minutes the Sugar-loaf which they had scaled with 
so much toil ; and this rapidity was in part involuntary, 
for they often rolled down on the ashes. It was with 
regret that they quitted this solitude, this domain where 
Nature reigned in all her majesty. 

They traversed the Malpays but slowly ; for their feet 
found no sure foundation on the loose blocks of lava. 
Nearer the station of the rocks, the descent became ex- 
to^mely difficult ; the compact short-swarded turf was so 
slippery that they were obliged to incline their bodies 
continually backward, in order to avoid felling. In 
the sandy plain of retama, the thermometer rose to 72^ ; 
and this heat seemed to them suffocating in comparison 
with the cold, which they had suffered from the air on 
the summit of the volcano. They were absolutely with- 
out water; for their guides, not satisfied with drinking 
clandestinely their little supply of Malmsey wine, had 
broken their water jars. 

They at length enjoyed the refreshing breeze in the 
beautiful region of the arborescent erica and fern, and were 
enveloped in a thick bed of clouds stationary at three thou- 
sand six hundred feet above the plain. The clouds having 
dispersed, they remarked a phenomenon which afterwards 
became familiar to them on the declivities of the Cordilleras. 
Small currents of air chased trains of cloud with unequal 
velocity, and in opposite directions: they bore the ap 
pearance of streamlets of water in rapid motion and 
flowing in all directions, amidst a great mass of stagnant 


water. As the travellers approached the town of Oro- 
tava, they met great flocks of canaries. These birds, 
well known in Europe and America, were in general 
uniformly green. Some, however, had a yellow tinge 
on their backs ; their note was the same as that of the 
tame canary. Towards the close of the day they reached 
the port of Orotava, where they received the unexpected 
intelligence that the Pizarro would not set sail till the 
24th or 25th. If they could have calculated on this de- 
lay, they might either have lengthened their stay on the 
peak, or have made an excursion to the volcano of Cha- 
horra. As it was they passed the following day in visit- 
ing the environs of Orotava, and enjoying its agreeable 
society. They were present on the eve of St John at a 
pastoral fete. In the beginning of the evening the slope 
of the volcano exhibited on a sudden a most extraordi- 
nary spectacle. The shepherds, in conformity to a cus- 
tom, no doubt introduced by the Spaniards, had lighted 
the fires of St. John. The scattered masses of fire, and 
the columns of smoke driven by the wind, formed a fine 
contrast with the deep verdure of the forests which 
covered the sides of the peak. Shouts of joy resound- 
ing from afar were the only sounds that broke the silence 
of nature in these solitary regions. 

They left the road of Santa Cruz on the 25th of June, 
and directed their course towards South America. They 
soon lost sight of the Canary Islands, the lofty moun- 
tains of which were covered with a reddish vapour. The 
peak alone appeared from time to time, as at intervals the 
wind dispersed the clouds that enveloped the Sugar-loaf 
A few land birds, which had been driven to sea by the 
impetuosity of the vrind, followed them for several days. 


The wind fell gradually the farther they receded from 
the African coast : it was sometimes smooth water for 
several hours, and these short calms were regularly inter- 
rupted by electrical phenomena. Black thick clouds, 
marked by strong outlines, r6se on the east, and it seem- 
ed as if a squall would have forced the Pizarro to hand 
her topsails ; but the breeze freshened anew, there fell 
a few large drops of rain, and the storm dispersed with- 
out their hearing any thunder. 

To the north of the Cape Verd Islands they met with 
great masses of floating seaweeds. They were the tropic 
grape, which grows on submarine rocks, only from the 
equator to the fortieth degree of north and south lati- 
tude. From the twenty-second degree of latitude, they 
found the Surface of the sea covered with flying-fish, 
which threw themselves up into the air, twelve, fifl;een, 
or eighteen feet, and fell down on the deck. 

From the time they entered the torrid zone, they were 
never weary of admiring, at night, the beauty of the 
southern sky, which, as they advanced to the south, 
opened new constellations to their view. "We feel," 
says Humboldt, writing of himself at this time, " we 
feel an indescribable sensation when, on approaching the 
equator, and particularly on passing from one hemi- 
sphere to the other, we see those stars, which we have 
contemplated from our infancy, progressively sink, and 
finally disappear. Nothing awakens in the traveller a 
livelier remembrance of the immense distance by which 
he is separated from his cx)untry, than the aspect of au 
unknown firmament The grouping of the stars of the 
first magnitude, some scattered nebulae, rivalling in splen- 
dour the milky way, and tracts of space remarkable for 


their extreme blackness, give a peculiar physiognony to 
the southern sky. This sight fills with admiration even 
those who, uninstructed in the several branches of physical 
science, feel the same emotion of delight in the contempla- 
tion of the heavenly vault, as in the view of a beautiftil 
landscape, or a majestic site. A traveller needs not to be 
a botanist, to recognise the torrid zone by the mere aspect 
of its vegetation. Without having acquired any notions 
of astronomy, without any acquaintance with the celes- 
tial charts of Flamstead and De la Caille, he feels he is 
not in Europe, when he sees the immense constellation 
of the Ship, or the phosphorescent Clouds of Magellan, 
arise on the horizon. The heavens and the earth, 
everything in the equinoctial regions, presents an exotic 

The lower regions of the air were loaded with vapours 
for some days. They saw distinctly for the first time 
the Southern Cross only on the night of the 4th of July, 
in the sixteenth degree of latitude. It was strongly in- 
clined, and appeared from time to time between the 
clouds, the centre of which, furrowed by uncondensed 
lightnings, reflected a silvery light. 

The pleasure the travellers felt on discovering the 
Southern Cross was warmly shared by those of the crew 
who had visited the colonies. In the solitude of the 
seas we hail a star as a fiiend, fix>m whom we have long 
been separated! The Portuguese and the Spaniards are 
peculiarly susceptible of this feeling ; a religious senti- 
ment attaches them to this constellation, the form of 
which recalls the sign of the faith planted by their an- 
cestors in the deserts of the New World. 

The two great stars which mark the summit and the 


foot of the Cross having nearly the same right asceiision, 
it follows that the constellation is almost perpendicular 
at the moment when it passes the meridian. This cir 
cumstance is known to the people of every nation situ- 
ated beyond the tropics, or in the southern hemisphere. 
It has been observed at what hour of the night, in differ- 
ent seasons, the Cross is erect or inclined. It is a time- 
piece which advances very regularly nearly four minutes 
a day, and no other group of stars affords to the naked 
eye an observation of time so easily made. Often after- 
ward did Humboldt and Bonpland hear their guides ex^ 
claim in the savannahs of Venezuela, or in the desert 
extending from Lima to TruxiUo, " Midnight is past, the 
Cross begins to bend I" It reminded them of that affect- 
ing scene, where Paul and Virginia, seated near the 
source of the river of Lataniers, conversed together for 
the last time, and where the old man, at the sight of the 
Southern Cross, warned them that it was time to sepa- 

The last days of their passage were not so felicitous as 
the mildness of the climate and the calmness of the ocean 
had led them to hope. The dangers of the sea did not 
disturb them, but the germs o£ a malignant fever became 
manifest on board the Pizarro, as they drew near the An- 
tilles. Between decks the ship was excessively hot^ and 
very much crowded. From the time they passed the 
tropic, the thermometer stood at 98*^ or 97*^. Two sail 
ors, several passengers, two negroes from the coast of 
Guinea, and a mulatto child, were attacked with a dis- 
order which appeared to be epidemic. 

On the morning of the 13th high land was seen jfrom 
the masthead, though not clearly, as it was surrounded 


with a thick fog. The wind blew hard, and the sea waa 
very rough. Large drops of rain fell at intervals, and 
every indication menaced tempestuous weather. When 
the sun rose, and the fog cleared away, they saw the 
island of Tobago. It was a heap of rocks carefully cul- 
tivated. The dazzling whiteness of the stone formed an 
agreeable contrast to the verdure of some scattered tufta 
of tpees. Cylindric and very lofty cactuses crowned the- 
top of the mountains, and gave a peculiar physiognomy 
to this tropical landscape. The wind slackened after 
sunset, and the clouds disappeared as the moon reached 
the zenith. The number of falling stars was consider- 
able on this and the following nights. 

The malady which had broken out on board the 
Pizarro had made rapid progress, from the time when 
they approached the coasts of Terra Firma ; but having 
nearly reached the end of their voyage, they flattered 
themselves that all who were sick would be restored to 
health, as soon as they could land them at the island of 
St. Margareta, or the port of Cumana. 

This hope was not destined to be realized. The young- 
est of the passengers attacked with the malignant fever 
fell a victim to the disease. He was an Asturian, nine- 
teen years of age, the only son of a poor widow. Seve- 
ral circumstances rendered the death of this young man 
aflfecting. He had embarked against his own inclination ; 
and his mother, whom he had hoped to assist by the 
produce of his eflTorts, had made a sacrifice of her affec- 
tion in the hope of securing the fortune of her son, by 
sending him to the colonies to a rich relation, who re- 
sided at the island of Cuba. The unfortunate young 
man expired on the third day of his iUness, having fallen 


from the beginning into a lethargic state interrupted 
only by fita of delirium. Another Asturian, still younger, 
did not leave for one moment the bed of his dying friend ; 
still he did not contract the disorder. 

Humboldt and Bonpland assembled on the deck, ab- 
sorbed in melancholy reflections. It was no longer 
doubtful, that the fever which raged on board had as- 
sumed within the last few days a fatal aspect. Their 
eyes were fixed on a hilly and desert coast on which the 
moon, ffom time to time, shed her light athwart the 
clouds. The sea, gently agitated, emitted a feeble phos^ 
phoric light. Nothing was heard but the monotonous 
cry of a few large sea-birds, flying towards the shore. 
A profound calm reigned over these solitary regions, but 
this calm of nature was in discordance with the painful 
feelings by which they were oppressed. About eight 
o'clock the dead man's knell slowly tolled. The sailors 
suspended their labours, and threw themselves on their 
knees to offer a momentary prayer. All were united 
in one common sorrow for a misfortune which was felt 
to be common to all. The corpse was brought upon 
deck during the night, but the priest entreated that it 
might not be committed to the waves till after sunrise, 
that the last rites might be performed, according to the 
usage of the Eoniish church. There was not an indivi- 
dual on board, who did not deplore the death of this 
young man, whom they had beheld, but a few days be- 
• fore, ftill of cheerfulness and health. 

Most of the passengers considered the vessel infected, 
and resolved to leave her at the first place at which she 
might touch; among these were Humboldt and Bon- 
pland. It was not that they feared the fever, but 


58 nr sight op ulnd. 

not wishing to visit Mexico until they had rrade sonw 
sojourn on the coasts of Venezuela and Paria, they 
thought it best to land at Cumana. Humboldt was 
anxious to behold in their native site the beautiful 
tropic plants which he had seen in the conservatory at 

On the morning of the 15th they perceived a very low 
islet, covered with a few sandy downs, on which they 
could discover with their glasses no trace of habitation 
or culture. Cylindrical cactuses rose here and 'there in 
the form of candelabra. The soil, almost destitute of 
vegetation, seemed to have a waving motion, in conse- 
quence of the extraordinary refraction which the rays 
of the sun underwent in traversing the strata of air in 
contact with plains strongly heated. Under every zone, 
deserts and sandy shores appear like an agitated sea, 
from the effect of mirage. 

The coasts, seen at a distance, were like clouds, in 
which each observer met the form of the objects that 
occupied his imagination. The bearings of the vessel, 
and the chronometer being at variance with the charts 
which they had to consult, the crew and the passengers 
were lost in vain conjectures. Some took mounds of 
sand for Indian huts, and pointed out the place where 
they alleged the fort of Pampatar was situated ; others 
saw herds of goats, which were common in the dry 
valley of St. John ; or descried the lofty mountains of 
Macanao, which seemed to them partly hidden by the 
clouds. The captain resolved to send a pilot on shore, 
and the men were preparing to get out the long-boat 
when two canoes were perceived sailing along the coast. 
The vessel fired a g^in as a signaV for them, and hoisted 


Spanish colours, but they drew near with distrust/ These 
canoes, like all those in use among the natives, were 
constructed of the single trunk of a tree. In each canoe 
there were eighteen Guayqueria Indians, naked to the 
waist, and of very tall stature. They had the appearance 
of great muscular strength, and the colour of their skin 
was something between brown and copper-colour. Seen 
at a distance, standing motionless, and projected on the 
horizon, they might have been taken for statues of bronze. 
When they were near enough for those on board the 
Pizarro to hail them, which they did in Spanish, they 
threw off their mistrust and came on board. They had 
left the port of Cumana, they said, during the nighty and 
were going in search of timber to the cedar forests, which 
extended from Cape San Jose to beyond the mouth of Eio 
Carupano. They gave Humboldt some fresh cocoa-nuts, 
and some beautifully coloured fish. What riches tcfTiis 
eyes were contained in the canoes of these poor Indians I 
Broad spreading leaves, covered bunches of plantains. 
The scaly cuirass of an armadillo, the fruit of the cala- 
bash tree, used as a cup by the natives, productions 
common in the cabinets of Europe, had a peculiar charm 
for him, because they reminded him that, having reached 
the torrid zone, he had attained the end to which his 
wishes had been so long directed. 

The master of one of the canoes came on board as 
pilot, and the Pizarro weighed anchor towards evening. 
They soon came in sight of the little island of Cubagua, 
formerly celebrated for its pearl fisheries, but now en- 
tirely deserted. There being but little wind, however, 
the captain stood oflF and on till daybreak. Humboldt 
and Bonpland passed a part of the night on deck, con* 


versing with the Indian pilot respecting the animals and 
plants of his country. 

At daybreak on the 16th of July, 1799, forty-one 
days after their departure from Corunna, they beheld a 
verdant coast of picturesque aspect The mountains of 
New Andalusia, half-veiled by ftiists, bounded the hori- 
zon to the south. The city of Cumana and its castle 
appeared between groups of cocoa-trees. They anchored 
in the port about nine in the morning : the sick dragged 
themselves on deck to enjoy the sight of a land which 
was to put an end to their sufferings. The eyes of the 
naturalists were fixed on the groups of cocoa- trees which 
bordered the river: their trunks, more than sixty feet 
high, towered over every object in landscape. The 
plain was covered with tufts of Cassia, Caper, and ar- 
borescent mimosas, which spread their branches in the 
form of an umbrella. The pinnated leaves of the palms 
were conspicuous on the azure sky, the clearness of 
which was unsullied by any trace of vapour. The sun 
was ascending rapidly towards the zenith. A dazzling 
light was spread through the air, along the whitish hills, 
which were strewed with cactuses, and over a sea ever 
calm, the shores of which were peopled with brown 
pelic^s, egrets, and flamingoes. The splendour of the 
day, the vivid colouring of the vegetable world, the 
forms of the plants, the varied plumage of the birds, 
everything was stamped with the grand character of 
nature in the equinoctial regions. 



The captain of the Pizarro conducted Humboldt and 
Bonpland to Don Vincente Emparan, the governor of the 
province, that they might present to him the passports 
which had been furnished them by the Secretary of 
State at Madrid. He received them with much cordiality, 
and expressed his great satisfaction at the resolution they 
had taken to remain for some time in the province, which 
at that period was but little known, even by name, in 
Europe. Sefior Emparan was a lover of science, and 
the public marks of consideration which he gave them 
during a long abode in his government, contributed 
greatly to procure them a favourable welcome in every 
part of South America. 

The city of Cumana occupied the ground lying be- 
tween the castle of San Antonio, and the small rivers of 
Manzanares and Santa Catalina. The banks of the 
Manzanares were very pleasant, and were shaded by 
mimosas, erythrinas, ceibas, and other trees of gigantic 
growth* The children of Cumana passed a considerable 
part of their lives in its waters ; all the inhabitants, even 
the women of the most opulent families, knew how to 
swim ; and in a country where man was so near the state 


of nature, one of the first questions asked on meeting in 
the morning was, whether the water was cooler than it 
was on the preceding evening. One of the modes ol 
bathing was curious. Every evening Humboldt and 
Bonpland visited a fiimily in the suburb of the Guay- 
querias. In a fine moonlight night, chairs were placed 
in the water; the men and women were lightly clothed, 
and the family and strangers, assembled in the river, 
passed some hours in smoking cigars, and in talking, 
according to the custom of the country, of the extreme 
dryness of the season, of the abundant rains in the neigh- 
bouring districts, and particularly of the extravagances 
of which the ladies of Cumana accused those of Ca- 
racas and Havanna, The company were luckily under 
no apprehensions from the small crocodiles, which were 
then extremely scarce, and which approached men 
without attacking them. These animals are three or 
four feet long. Humboldt never met with them in the 
Manzanares, but found a great number of dolphins, 
which sometimes ascended the river in the night, and 
frightened the bathers by spouting water. 

The situation of the house which Humboldt and Bon- 
pland occupied was highly favourable for the observa- 
tion of the stars and meteorological phenomena. The 
view from it by day, however, was by no means plea- 
sant to them ; for a part of the great square on which it 
faced was surrounded with arcades, above which was one 
of those long wooden galleries, common in warm coun- 
tries. This was the place where slaves were sold. The 
slaves exposed to sale were young men from fifteen to 
twenty years of age. Every morning cocoa-nut oil waa 
distributed among them, with which they rubbed theij 


bodies, to give their skins a black polish. The persona 
who came to purchase examined the teeth of these slaves, 
to judge of their age and health, forcing open their 
mouths as if they had been horses in a market 

The first excursion of the travellers was to the peninsula 
of Araya. They embarked on the Rio Manzanares on the 
19th of August, abouttwo in the morning. The principal 
objects of this excursion were, to see the ruins of the cas- 
tle of Araya, to examine the salt-works, and to make a 
few geological observations on the mountains forming 
the narrow peninsula of Maniquarez. The night was de- 
lightfully cool ; swarms of phosphorescent insects glis- 
tened in the air, and over the groves of mimosa which 
bordered the river. 

When, on descending the river, they drew near planta- 
tions, they saw bonfires kindled by the negroes. A 
. light and undulating smoke rose to the tops of the palm- 
trees, and imparted a reddish hue to the disk of the 
moon. It was on a Sunday night, and the slaves were 
dancing to the music of the guitar. The bark in which 
they passed the gulf of Cariaco was very spacious. Large 
skins of the jaguar, or American tiger, were spread for 
their repose during the night Though they had been 
scarcely two months yet in the torrid zone, they had 
already become so sensible to the smallest variation of 
temperature that the cold prevented them fix>m sleeping. 

They landed at Araya, and examined the salt*works, 
and having finished their operations, departed at sunset 
to sleep at an Indian hut, some miles distant, near the 
ruins of the castle of Araya. Night overtook them 
while £hey were in a narrow path, bordered on one side 
by the sea, and on the other by a range of perpendicular 


rocks. The tide was rising rapidly, and narrowed th« 
road at every step. They at length arrived at the foot 
of the old castle of Araya, where they enjoyed a pros- 
pect that had in it something melancholy and romantic. 
The ruins stood on a bare and arid mountain, which was 
crowned with agave, cactus, and thorny mimosas, and 
bore less resemblance to the works of man, than to 
masses of rock which were ruptured at the early revolu- 
tions of the globe. 

Among the mulattoes, whose huts surrounded the salt 
lake, they found a shoemaker of Castilian descent He 
received them with an air of gravity and self-sufiSciency. 
He was employed in stretching the string of his bow, 
and sharpening his arrows to shoot birds. His trade of 
a shoemaker was not very lucrative in a country where 
the greater part of the inhabitants went barefooted; 
and he complained that, on account of the deamess of 
European gunpowder, a man of his quality was reduced 
to employ the same weapons as the Indians. He was 
the sage of the plain ; he understood the formation of 
the salt by the influence of the sun and full moon, the 
symptoms of earthquakes, the marks by which mines of 
gold and silver were discovered, and the medicinal 
plants, which he classified into hoi and cold. Having 
collected the traditions of the country, he gave them 
some curious accounts of the pearls of Cubagua, objects 
of luxury, which he treated with the utmost contempt. 
To show the travellers how familiar to him were the 
sacred writings he took a pride in reminding them that 
Job preferred wisdom to all the pearls of the Indiea 
His philosophy was circumscribed to the narrow circle 
of the wants of life. The possession of a very strong 


asB, able to carry a heavy load of plantains to the land- 
ing-place, was the consummation of all his wishes. 

After a long discourse on the emptiness of human 
greatness, he drew from a leathern pouch a few very 
small opaque pearls, which he forced Humboldt to ac- 
cept, enjoining him at the same time to note on his 
tablets that a poor shoemaker of Araya, but a white 
man, and of noble Castilian race, had been enabled to 
give him something which, on the other side of the sea, 
was sought for as very precious. 

In the morning the son of their Indian host conducted 
them to the village of Maniquarez. On their way they 
examined the ruins of Santiago, the structure of which 
was remarkable for its extreme solidity. The walls of 
freestone, five feet thick, had been blown up by mines ; 
but they still found masses of seven or eight hundred 
feet square, which had scarcely a crack in them. Their 
guide showed them a cistern, thirty feet deep, which, 
though much damaged, furnished water to the inhabit- 
ants of the peninsula of Araya, 

After having examined the environs of Maniquarez, 
they embarked at night in a fishing-boat for Cumana. 
The small crazy boats employed by the natives here, 
bore testimony to the extreme calmness of the sea in 
these regions. The boat of the travellers, though the 
best they could procure, was so leaky, that the pilot's 
sou was constantly employed in baling out the water 
with a calabash shell. 

Their first visit to the peninsula of Araya was soon 
succeeded by an excursion to the mountains of the mis« 
sions of the Chayma Indians. 

On the 4th of September, at five in the morning, they 


began their journey. On account of the extreme diffi- 
culties of the road, they had been advised to reduce their 
baggage to a very small bulk. Two beasts of burden 
were sufficient to carry their provision, their instruments, 
and the paper necessary to dry their plants. The morn- 
ing was deliciously cool. The road, which led to Cuma- 
nacoa, ran along the right bank of the Manzanares, pass- 
ing by the hospital of the Capuchins. On leaving Ca- 
mana they enjoyed during the short duration of the twi- 
light, from the top of the hill of San Francisco, an 
extensive view over the sea, the plain covered with 
golden flowers, and the mountains of the Brigantine. 

After walking two hours, they arrived at the foot of 
the high chain of the interior mountains, which stretched 
from east to west ; from the Brigantine to the Cerro de 
San Lorenzo. There, new rocks appeared, and with 
them another aspect of vegetation. Every object as- 
sumed a more majestic and picturesque character. The 
soil, watered by springs, was furrowed in every direction; 
trees of gigantic height, covered with lianas, rose from 
the ravines; their bark, black and burnt by the double 
action of the light and the oxygen of the atmosphere, 
contrasted with the fresh verdure of the pothos and dra- 
contium, the tough and shining leaves of which were 
sometimes several feet long. 

From the top of a hill of sandstone, they had a mag- 
nificent view of the sea, of Cape Macanao, and the pen- 
insula of Maniquarez. At their feet an immense fore^ 
extended to the edge of the ocean. The tops of the trees^ 
intertwined with lianas, and crowned with long wreaths 
of flowers, formed a vast carpet of verdure, the dark tint 
of which augmented the splendour of the aerial light 


In proportion as they penetrated into the forest the 
barometer indicated the progressive elevation of the land. 
The trunks of the trees here presented a curious phenome- 
non, for a gramineous plant, like a liana, eight or ten feet 
high, formed festoons, which crossed the path, and swung 
about with the wind. They halted in the aftemoon,»on 
a small flat, known by the name of Quetepe. A few 
small houses had been erected near a spring, well known 
by the natives for its coolness and great salubrity. They 
found the water delicious. 

As they advanced toward the south-west, the soil be- 
came dry and sandy. They climbed a group of moun- 
tains, which separated the coast from the vast plains, or 
savannahs, bordered by the Orinoco. That part of the 
group, over which passed the road to Cumanacoa, was 
destitute of vegetation, and had steep declivities both 
on the north and .the south. It was knoWn by the name 
of the Imposible, because it was believed that, in the 
case of hostile invasion, this ridge of mountains would 
be inaccessible to the enemy, and would oflFer an asylum 
to the inhabitants of Cumana. The view from the Im- 
posible was finer and more extensive than that from the 
table-land of Quetepe. Humboldt distinguished clearly 
by the naked eye the flattened top of the Brigantine, the 
landing-place, and the roadstead of Cumana. The rocky 
coast of the peninsula of Araya was discernible in its 
whole length. The travellers were particularly struck 
with the extraordinary configuration of a port, known 
by the name of *Laguna Grande. A vast basin, sur- 
rounded by high mountains, communicated with the 
gulf of Cariaco by a narrow channel which admitted 
of the passage of only one ship At a time. 


This port was capable of containing several squadiona 
at once. It was an uninhabited place, but annually fre- 
quented by vessels, which carried mules to the West 
India Islands. Humboldt traced the sinuosities of this 
arm of the sea, which, like a river, had dug a bed be- 
tween perpendicular rocks destitute of vegetation. The 
prospect here reminded him of the fanciful landscape 
which Leonardo da Vinci has made the back-ground of 
his famous portrait of Mona Lisa, the wife of Francisco 
del Giacondo. 

The LlaneroSj or inhabitants of the plains, sent their 
produce, especially maize, leather, and cattle, to the port 
of Cumana by the road over the Imposible. Humboldt 
and Bonpland continually saw mules arrive, driven by 
Indians, or mulattoes. Several parts of the vast forest, 
which surrounded the mountain, had taken fire; and 
the reddish flames, half enveloped in clouds of smoke, 
presented a grand spectacle. The inhabitants frequently 
set fire to the forests, to improve the pasturage, and 
to destroy the shrubs that choked the grass. Enor- 
mous conflagrations, too, were often caused by the care- 
lessness of the Indians, who neglect, when they travel, 
to extinguish the fires by which they dress their food. 

They left the Imposible early in the morning of the 
5th of September. The path was dangerous for their 
beasts, being in most places but fifteen inches broad, and 
bordered by precipices. When they quitted it it was to 
enter a thick forest, traversed by many small rivers, 
They walked for some hours in the shade of this forest, 
with scarcely a glimpse of the sky. 

In this place they were struck for the first time with 
the sight of nesta in the shape of bottles, or small bags, 


Buspended from the branches of the lowest t/ees, and 
attesting the wonderful industry of the orioles, that 
mingled their warbling with the hoarse cries of the par- 
rots and the macaws. They left the forests, and taking 
a narrow path with many windings, came into an open, 
but humid country. Here the evaporation caused by the 
action of the sun was so great that they were wet as 
with a vapour bath. The road was bordered with a kind 
of bamboo, more than forty feet in height. Nothing 
could exceed its elegance. Its smooth and glossy trunk 
generally bent towards the banks of rivulets, and it 
waved with the lightest breath of air. 

The road led them to the small village of San Fer- 
nando, which was situated in a narrow plain, and sur- 
rounded by steep rocks. This was the first mission they 
saw in America. The huts of the Chayma Indians, 
though separated from each other, were not surrounded 
by gardens. The streets, which were wide and very 
straight, crossed each other at right angles. The walls of 
the huts were made of clay, strengthened by lianas. 
The uniformity of these huts, the grave and taciturn air 
of their inhabitants, and the extreme neatness of the 
dwellings reminded Humboldt of the establishments of 
the Moravian Brethren. Besides their own gardens, 
every Indian family helped to cultivate the garden of 
the community, which was situated at some distance 
from the village. In this garden the adults of each sex 
worked one hour in the morning, and one in the evening. 
The great square of San Fernando, in the centre of the 
village, contained the church, the dwelling of the mis- 
sionary, and a very humble-looking edifice pompously 
called the king's house. This was a caravanserai, des- 


tined for lodging travellers ; and, as our travellers often 
experienced, infinitely valuable in a country where the 
name of an inn was unknown. 

The missionary of San Fernando was a Capuchin, a 
native of Aragon, far advanced in years, but strong and 
healthy. His extreme corpulency, his hilarity, the in 
terest he took in battles and sieges, ill accorded with the 
ideas we form of the melancholy reveries and the con- 
templative life of missionaries. Though extremely busy 
about a cow which was to be killed next day, the old 
monk received Humboldt and Bonpland with kindness, 
and permitted them to hang up their hanmiocks in a 
gallery of his house. Seated, without doing anything, 
the greater part of the day, in an arm-chair of red wood, 
he complained bitterly of what he called the indolence and 
ignorance of his countrymen. The sight of Humboldt's 
instruments, and books, and the dried plants of Bon- 
pland drew from him a sarcastic smile ; and he acknow- 
ledged, with the naivete peculiar to the inhabitants of 
those countries, that of all the enjoyments of life, without 
excepting sleep, none was comparable to the pleasure 
of eating good beef 

In the village of Arenas, at which they next arrived, 
lived a labourer, Francisco Lozano, who presented a curi- 
ous physiological phenomenon. This man had suckled 
a child with his own milk. The mother having fallen 
sick, the father, to quiet the infant took it into bed, and 
pressed it to his bosom. Lozano, then thirty-two years 
of age, had never before remarked that he had milk: 
but the irritation of the nipple, sucked by the child, 
caused the accumulation of that liquid. The milk was 
thick and very sweet Astonished at the increased size 


of his breast, the fiither suckled his child two or 
three times a day during five months. He drew on 
himself the attention of his neighbours, but he never 
thought, as he probably would have done in Europe, 
of deriving any advantage from the curiosity he excited. 
Humboldt and Bonpland saw the certificate, which had 
been drawn up on the spot, to attest this remarkable 
feet, eye-witnesses of which were then living. They 
assured them that, during this suckling, the child had 
no other nourishment than the milk of his father. Lo- 
zano, who was not at Arenas during their journey in 
the missions, came to them afterwards at Cumana. He 
was accompanied by his son, then thirteen or fourteen 
years of age. Bonpland examined with attention the 
father's breasts, and found them wrinkled like those of a 
woman who has given suck. He observed that the left 
breast in particular was much enlarged ; which Lozano 
explained from the circumstance, that the two breasts 
did not furnish milk in the same abundance. Don 
Vicente Emparan sent a circumstantial account of this 
phenomenon to Cadiz. 

As they approached the southern bank of the basin 
of Cumanacoa, they enjoyed the view of the Turimiquiri. 
An enormous wall of rocks, the remains of an ancient 
clif^ rose in the midst of the forests. Farther to the 
west, at Cerro del Cuchivano, the chain of mountains 
seemed as if broken by the effects of an earthquake. 
The crevice, which was more than nine hundred feet 
wide, was surrounded by perpendicular rocks, and filled 
with tre^ the interwoven branches of which found no 
room to spread. It appeared like a mine opened by the 
falling in of the earth. Two caverns opened into this 


crevice, whence at times there issued flames which might 
be seen at a great distance in the night; judging by the 
elevation of the rock above which these fiery exhala- 
tions ascended, Humboldt waa led to think that they 
rose several hundred feet 

In an excursion which they made at Binconado the 
travellers attempted to penetrate into the crevice, wish- 
ing to examine the rocks which seemed to contain in their 
bosom the cause of these extraordinary conflagrations ; 
but the strength of the vegetation, the interweaving 
of the lianas, and thorny plants, hindered their pro- 
gress. Happily the inhabitants of the valley themselves 
felt a warm interest in their researches, less from the fear 
of a volcanic explosion, than because their minds were 
impressed with the idea that the crevice contained a gold 
mine ; and although the travellers expressed their doubts 
of the existence of gold in a secondary limestone, they 
insisted on knowing " what the German miner thought 
of the richness of the vein." Ever since the time of 
Charles V. and the government of the Welsers, the 
Alfingers, and the Sailers, at Coro and Caracas, the peo- 
ple of Terra Firma had entertained a great confidence in 
the Germans with respect to all that related to the work- 
ing of mines. Wherever Humboldt went in South 
America, when the place of his birth was known, he was 
shown samples of ore. In these colonies every French- 
man was supposed to be a physician, and every German 
a miner. 

The farmers, with the aid of their slaves, opened a 
path across the woods to the first fall of the Rio Juagua; 
and on the 10th of September Humboldt and Bonpland 
made their excursion to the crevice. On entering it they 


recognised the proximity of tigers by a porcupine re- 
cently embowelled. For greater security the Indians 
returned to the farm, and brought back some dogs of a 
very small breed. The travellers were assured that in 
the event of meeting a jaguar in a narrow path he would 
spring on the dog rather than on a man. They did not 
proceed along the brink of the torrent, but on the slope 
of the rocks which overhung the water. They walked 
on the side of a precipice from two to three hundred feet 
deep, on a kind of very narrow cornice ; when the cor- 
nice was so narrow that they could find no place for 
their feet they descended into the torrent, crossed it by 
fording, and tiien climbed the opposite wall. These de- 
scents were very fatiguing, and it was not safe to trust 
to the lianas, which hung like great cords from the tops 
of the trees. The creeping and parasite plants clung but 
feeblv to the branches which they embraced ; the united 
weight ot their stalks was considerable, and the travellers 
ran the risk of pulling down a whole mass of verdure, 
if, in walking on a sloping ground, they supported their 
weight by the lianas. The farther they advanced the 
thicker the vegetation became. In several places the 
roots of the trees had burst the rock, by inserting them- 
selves into the clefts that separated the beds. They had 
some trouble to carry the plants which they gathered at 
every step. The cannas, the heliconias with fine purple 
flowers, the costuses, and other plants of the amomuir 
femily, attained here eight or ten feet in height; and 
their fresh tender verdure, their silky gloss, and the ex- 
traordinary development of the parenchyma, formed a 
striking contrast with the brown colour of the arbores- 
cent ferns, the foliage of which was delicately shaped 



The Indians made incisions with their large knives in 
the trunks of the trees, and fixed Humboldt's attention 
on the beautiful red and gold-coloured woods. 

The supposed 'gold mine of this crevice, which was 
the object of their examination, was nothing but an ex- 
cavation cut into a black strata of marl, which contained 
pyrites in abundance. The marly strata crossed the 
torrent, and, as the water washed out metallic grains, 
the natives imagined, on account of the brilliancy of the 
pyrites, that the torrent bore down gold. Nor could 
Humboldt convince them to the contrary ; for they con- 
tinued to pick up secretly, every bit of pyrites they saw 
sparkling in the water. The melancholy proverb, " All 
that glitters is not gold," seemed never to have reached 
them. Leaving this mythical gold mine they followed 
the course of the crevice which stretched along a narrow 
canal, overshadowed by lofty trees. 

They had suffered great fatigue, and were quite 
drenched by frequently crossing the torrent, when they 
reached the caverns. A wall of rock rose there perpen- 
dicularly to the height of five thousand feet. In the 
middle of this section, and in a position unfortunately 
inaccessible to man, two caverns opened in the form of 
crevices. The naturalists were assured by their guides 
that they were inhabited by nocturnal birds. The party 
reposed at the foot of the cavern where the flames were 
seen to issue. The natives discussed the danger to 
which the town of Cumanacoa would be exposed in case 
the crevice should become an active volcano, while Hum- 
boldt and Bonpland speculated on the causes of the phe- 
nomenon. So ended the expedition. 

On the 12th of September they continued their jour- 


ney to the convent of Caripe, the principal settlement of 
the Chayma missions. Their first stopping-place was a 
solitary farm, situated on a small plain among the moun- 
tains of Cocallar. 

Nothing could be compared to the majestic tranquillity 
which the aspect of the firmament presented in this soli- 
tary region. Tracing with the eye, at nightfall, the mea- 
dows which bounded the horizon, the plain covered 
with verdure and gently undulated, they thought they 
beheld from afar the surface of the ocean supporting the 
starry vault of Heaven. The tree under which they 
were seated^ the luminous insects flying in the air, the 
constellations which shone in the south; every object 
seemed to tell them how far they were from their native 
land. If amidst this exotic nature they heard from the 
depth of the valley the tinkling of a bell, or the lowing 
of herds, the remembrance of their country was awakened 
suddenly. The sounds were like distant voices resound- 
ing from beyond the ocean, and with magical power trans- 
porting them from one hemisphere to the other. 

On the following morning they made the ascent of the 
Turimiquiri. The view on this mountain was vast and 
picturesque. From the summit to the ocean they per- 
ceived chains of mountains extended in parallel lines 
ftt)m east to west, and bounding longitudinal valleys. 
These valleys were intersected at right angles by an infi- 
nite number of small ravines scooped out by the torrents. 
The ground in general was a gentle slope as far as the 
Imposible; farther on the precipices became bold, and 
continued so to the shore of the gulf of Cariaco. They 
seemed to look down into the bottom of a funnel, in 
which they could distinguish, amidst tufts of scattered 


trees, the Indian village of Aricagua. Towards the 
north, a nairow slip of land, the peninsula of Araja 
formed a dark stripe on the sea, which, being illumined 
by the rays of the sun, reflected a strong light. Beyond 
the peninsula the horizon was bounded by Cape Macanao, 
the black rocks of which rose amid the waters like an 
immense bastion. 

At last the travellers reached the convent of Caripe. 
It was backed with an enormous wall of perpendicular 
rock, covered with thick vegetation: the stone, which 
was of resplendent whiteness, appeared only here and 
there between the foliage. In a small square in front of 
the convent was a cross of Brazil wood, surrounded with 
benches for the infirm monks. They were telling their 
beads when Humboldt and Bonpland arrived. 

They were received with great hospitality by the 
monks of Caripe. The building had an inner court, sur- 
rounded by an arcade, like the convents in Spain. This 
inclosed place was highly convenient for setting up their 
instruments and making observations. They found a 
numerous society in the convent Young monks, re- 
cently arrived from Spain, were just about to settle in 
the Missions, while old infirm missionaries sought for 
health in the fresh and salubrious air of the mountains 
of Caripe. Humboldt was lodged in the cell of the su- 
perior, which contained a pretty good collection of books. 
He found there the TecUro Oriiico of Feijoo, the Lettres 
Edifiantes, and the TraxiJi (TUlectriciie by abbd Nollet 
It seemed as if the progress of knowledge had advanced 
even in the forests of America. 

But that which conferred the most celebrity on the 
valley of Caripe, was the great Cavern of the Guacharo. 


In a country where the people loved the marvellous, a 
cavern which gave birth to a river, and was inhabited 
by thousands of nocturnal birds, the tat of which was 
employed in the Missions to dress food, was an everlast- 
ing object of conversation and discussion. The cavern, 
which the natives called " a mine of fat," was not in the 
valley of Caripe itself but three short leagues distant 
firom the convent 

Humboldt and Bohpland set out for it on the 18th 
of September, acompanied by the alcaldes, or Indian 
magistrates, and the greater part of the monks of the 
convent A narrow path led them at first towards the 
south, across a fine plain, covered with beautiful turf. 
They then turned westward, along the margin of a small 
river which issued firom the mouth of the cavern. They 
ascended sometimes in the water, which was shallow, 
sometimes between the torrent and a wall of rocks, on a 
soil extremely slippery and miry. The falling down of 
the earth, the scattered trunks of trees, over which the 
mules could scarcely pass, and the creeping plants that 
covered the ground, rendered this part of the road fa- 
tiguing. They were within four hundred paces of the 
cavern, and yet they could not perceive it. The torrent 
ran in a crevice hollowed out by the ^^raters, and they 
went on under a cornice, the projection of which pre- 
vented them from seeing the sky. The path wound in 
the direction of the river ; and at the last turning they 
came suddenly before the immense opening of the 
grotto. Pierced in the vertical profile of a rock, the 
entrance faced the south, and formed an arch eighty 
feet broad, and seventy-two feet high. The rock 
which surmounted the grotto was covered with trees 


of gigantic height Plants rose in its clefts, and creep 
ing vines, waving in the wind, were interwoven in fes- 
toons before the mouth of the cavern. Nor did this 
luxury of vegetation embellish the external arch merely ; 
it appeared even in the vestibule of the grotto. They 
saw with astonishment plantain-leaved heliconias eight- 
een feet high, the praga palm-tree, and arborescent arums, 
following the course of the river, even to those subter- 
ranean places. The vegetation continued in the cave of 
Caripe, and did not disappear till, penetrating into the 
interior, they had advanced thirty or forty paces fix)m the 
entrance. They measured the way by means of a cord, and 
went on about four hundred and thirty feet without being 
obliged to light their torches. Daylight penetrated &Lr 
into this region, because the grotto formed but one single 
channel, keeping the same direction. Where the light 
began to fail, they heard from afar the hoarse sounds of 
the nocturnal birds. 

The noise of these birds was horrible. Their shrill and 
piercing cries struck upon the vaults of the rocks, and were 
repeated by the subterranean echoes. The Indians showed 
the travellers the nests of the guacharos by fixing a torch 
to the end of a long pole. These nests were fifty or sixty- 
feet high above their heads, in holes in the shape of fun- 
nels, with which the roof of the grotto was pierced like a 
sieve. The noise increased as they advanced, and the birds 
were scared by the light of the torches. When this 
noise ceased for a few minutes around them, they heard 
at a distance the plaintive cries of the birds roosting in 
other ramifications of the cavern. It seemed as if differ- 
ent groups answered each other alternately. 

Tlie Indians were in the habit of entering this cavern 


once a year, near midsummer. They went armed with 
poles, with which they destroyed the greater part of the 
nests. At that season several thousand birds were killed ; 
and the old ones, as if to defend their brood, hovered 
over the heads of the Indians, uttering terrible cries. 
The young, which fell to the ground, were opened on the 
spot for their &t 

Ajt the period commonly called, at Caripe, the oil har- 
vest, the Indians built huts with palm-leaves, near the 
entrance, and even in the porch of the cavern. There, 
with a fire of brushwood, they melted in pots of clay the 
fet of the young birds just Idlled. This fiit was known 
by the name of the butter of the guacharo. 

As the travellers continued to advance into the cavern, 
they followed the banks of the river which issued from 
it, and was from twenty-eight to thirty feet wide. They 
walked on the banks, as far as the hills formed of cal- 
careous incrustations permitted them. Where the tor- 
rent wound among high masses of stalactites, they 
were often obliged to descend into its bed, which was 
only two feet deep. They learned that this subterranean 
rivulet was the origin of the river Caripe, which, at the 
distance of a. few leagues, where it joined the small river 
of Santa Maria, was navigable for canoes. They found 
on the banks of the subterranean rivulet a great quan- 
tity of palm-tree wood, the remains of trunks, on which 
the Indians climbed to reach the nests hanging from the 
roofe of the cavern. The rings formed by the vestiges 
of the old footstalks of the leaves, ftimished as it were 
the steps of a ladder perpendicularly placed. 

They had great difiiculty in persuading the Indians to 
pass beyond the anterior portion of the grotto, the only 


part which they annually visited to collect the fat The 
whole authority of the monks was necessary to induce 
them to advance as far as the spot where the torrent 
formed a small subterranean cascade. The natives con- 
nected mystic ideas with this cave, inhabited by nocturnal 
birds ; they believed that the souls of their ancestors so- 
journed in the deep recesses of the cavern. " Man," 
said they, " should avoid places which are enlightened 
neither by the sun nor by the moon." " To go and join 
the guacharos," was with them a phrase signifying to 
rejoin their fathers, to die. The magicians and the poi- 
soners performed their nocturnal tricks at the entrance 
of the cavern, to conjure the chief of the evil spirits. 

At the point where the river formed the subterranean 
cascade, a hill covered with vegetation, which was oppo- 
site to the opening of the grotto, presented a very pic- 
turesque aspect. It was seen at the extremity of a straight 
passage, one thousand four hundred and fifty feet in 
length. The stalactites descending from the roof, and 
resembling columns suspended in the air, were relieved 
on a background of verdure. The opening of the cavern 
appeared singularly contracted, when the travellers saw 
it about the middle of the day, illumined by the vivid 
light reflected at oncfi from the sky, the plants, and the 
rocks. The distant light of day formed a strange con- 
trast with the darkness which surrounded them in the 
vast cavern. They discharged their guns at a venture, 
wherever the cries of the nocturnal birds and the flap- 
ping of their wings led them to suspect that a great 
number of nests were crowded together. Aft/cr several 
fruitless attempts Bonpland succeeded in killing a couple 
of guacharos, which, dazzled by the light of the torches, 


seemed to pursue him. This circumstance affc rded Hum- 
boldt the means of making a drawing of this oird^ which 
had previously been unknown to naturalists. 

In this part of the cavern, the rivulet deposited a 
blackish mould. They could not discover whether it 
fell through the cracks which communicated with the 
surfece of the ground above, or was washed down by the 
rain-water penetrating into the cavern. They walked in 
thick mud to a spot where they beheld with astonish- 
ment the progress of subterranean vegetation. The seeds 
which the birds had carried into the grotto to feed their 
young, had sprung up wherever they could fix in the 
mould which covered the incrustations. Blanched stalks, 
with some half-formed leaves, had risen to the height of 
two feet It was impossible to ascertain the species 
of these plants, their form, colour, and aspect having 
been changed by the absence of light These traces of 
organization amidst darkness forcibly excited the curi- 
osity of the natives, who examined them with silent 
meditation inspired by a place they seemed to dread. 
They regarded these subterranean plants, pale and de- 
formed, as phantoms banished from the face of the earth. 
To Humboldt the scene recalled one of the happiest 
periods of his youth — ^his abode^n the mines of Frey- 
berg, where he had made experiments on the effects of 

The missionaries, with all their authority, could not 
prevail on the Indians to penetrate farther into the ca- 
vern. As the roof became lower the cries of the guacha- 
ros were more and more shrill. The travellers were 
obliged to yield to the pusillanimity of their guides, and 
retrace their steps. 



On turning back to go out of the cavern, they folk wed 
the course of the torrent. Before their eyes became 
dazzled with the light of day they saw on the outside of 
the grotto the water of the river sparkling amid the 
foliage of the trees which shaded it. It was like a pic- 
ture placed in the distance, the mouth of the cavern serv- 
ing as a frame. Having at length reached the entrance, 
they seated themselves on the bank of the rivulet, to rest 
after their fetigues. They were glad to be beyond the 
hoarse cries of the birds, and to leave a place where 
darkness did not oflFer even the charm of silence and 

Swiftly glided their days in the convent of Oaripe. 
From sunrise to nightfall they traversed the forests and 
neighbouring mountains, to collect plants. When the 
winter rains prevented them from undertaking distant 
excursions, they visited the huts of the Indians, the 
garden of the community, or assemblies in which the 
alcaldes every evening arranged the labours of the suc- 
ceeding day. They returned to the monastery only 
when the sound of the bell called them to the refectory 
to share the repasts of the missionaries. Sometimes, 
• very early in the morning, they followed them to the 
church, to attend the niligious instruction of the Indians. 
After passing almost the whole day in the open air, they 
employed their evenings, at the convent, in making 
notes, drying their plants, and sketching those that ap- 
peared to form new genera. Unfortunately the misty 
atmosphere of a valley, where the surrounding forests 
filled the air with an enormous quantity of vapour, was 
unfavourable to astronomical observations. Humboldt 
spent a part of the nights waiting to take advantage of 


the moment when some star should be visible between 
the clouds, near its passage over the meridian. He often 
shivered with cold, though the thermometer only sank 
to 60^. The instruments remained set up in the court 
of the convent for several hours, yet he was almost 
always disappointed in his expectations. 

From the valley of Caripe the travellers proceeded 
across a ridge of hills, and over a vast savannah, to the 
table-land of Guardia de San Augustin. Beyond this 
was a slope, extremely slippery and steep, to which the 
missionaries haS given the name of the Descent of Pur- 
gatory. When they looked down from the top to the 
bottom of the hill the road seemed inclined more than 
60°. The mules in going down drew their hind legs 
near to their fore legs, and lowering their cruppers, let 
themselves slide at a venture. They soon entered a 
thick forest, known by the name of the Montafla de 
Santa Maria. Here they descended without intermission 
for seven hours. It was difficult to conceive a -more 
tremendous descent; it was absolutely a road of steps, a 
kind of ravine, in which, during the rainy season, im- 
petuous torrents dashed from rock to rock. The steps 
were from two to three feet high, and the beasts of bur- 
den, after measuring with their eyes the space necessary 
to let their load pass between the trunks of the trees, 
leaped from one rock to another. Afraid of missing 
their mark, the travellers saw them stop a few minutes 
to scan the ground, and bring together their four feet 
like wild goats. K the animal did not reach the nearest 
block of stone, he sank half his depth into the soft 
ochreous clay, that filled up the interstices of the rock. 
When the blocks were wanting, enormous roots served 


as supports for the feet of men and beasts. Some of 
these roots were twenty inches thick, and they often 
branched out from the trunks of the trees much above 
the level of the soil. The Creoles had sufficient confi- 
dence in the address and instinct of the mules, to remain 
in their saddles during this long and dangerous descent 
Fearing fatigue less than they did, and being accustomed 
to travel slowly for the purpose of gathering plants and 
examining the nature of the rocks, Humboldt and Bon- 
pland preferred going down on foot. 

The weather was cloudy. The sun at times illumined 
the tops of the trees, and, though sheltered from its 
rays, they felt an oppressive heat. Thunder rolled at a 
distance; the clouds seemed suspended on the tops of 
the lofty mountains of the Guacharo ; and the plaintive 
howling of the monkeys denoted the proximity of a 
storm. They stopped to observe these monkeys, which, 
to the number of thirty or forty, crossed the road, pass- 
ing in a file from one tree to another over the horizontal 
and intersecting branches. While the travellers were 
observing their movements they saw a troop of Indians 
going towards the mountains of Caripe. They were 
•without clothing, as the natives of this country generally 
are. The women, laden with rather heavy burdens, 
closed the march. The men were all armed, and even 
the youngest boys had bows and arrows. They moved 
on in silence, with their eyes fixed on the ground. The 
travellers endeavoured to learn from them whether they 
were yet far from the Mission of Santa Cruz, where they 
intended passing the night. They were overcome with 
fittigue, and suffered from thirst. The heat increased as 
the storm drew near, and they had not met with a single 


spring on their way. The words si, paire^ u)^ patre, 
which the Indians continually repeated, led them tc think 
they understood a little Spanish. In the eyes of a native 
every white man was a monk ; for in the Missions the 
colour of the skin characterized the monk, more than 
the colour of the garment In vain they questioned 
the Indians respecting the length of the way: they 
answered, si and no, without the travellers being able 
to attach any precise sense to their replies. This made 
them the more impatient, as their smiles and gestures 
indicated their wish to direct them; and the forest 
seemed at every step to become thicker and thicker. At 
length they separated from the Indians; their guides 
were able to follow them only at a distance, because the 
beasts of burden fell at every step in the ravines. 

After journeying for several hours, continually de- 
scending on blocks of scattered rock, they found them- 
selves unexpectedly at the outlet of the forest of Santa 
Maria. A savannah stretched before them farther than 
the eye could reach. On the left was a narrow valley, 
extending as fai* as the mountains of the Quacharo, and 
covered with a thick forest Looking downward the 
eyes of the travellers rested on the tops of the trees,- 
which, at eight hundred feet below the road, formed a 
carpet of verdure of dark and uniform tint. They passed 
the night at one of the king's houses already mentioned. 

They were desirous of continuing their journey east- 
ward still farther, but learning that the roads were im- 
passable in consequence of the torrents of rain that had 
fallen, and that they would be likely to lose the plants 
which they had already gathered, they resolved to em- 
bark at Cariaco, and return to Cumana by the gulf, 


instead of passing between the island of Margareta and 
the isthmus of Araya. They accordingly started from 
the mission of Catuaro, and proceeded to the town of 
Cariaco, where they embarked in a canoe, on the morn- 
ing of the 24th. Quitting the town they sailed westward 
along the river of Carenicuar, which ran through gar- 
dens and plantations of cotton trees. They saw the 
Indian women on the banks washing their clothes with 
the fruit of the soap-berry. Contrary winds beset them 
in the gulf of Cariaco. The rain fell in torrents, and 
the thunder rolled very near. Swarms of flamingoes, 
egrets, and cormorants filled the air, seeking the shore, 
whilst the alcatras alone continued peaceably to fish in 
the middle of the gulf They landed till evening, and 
then resumed their voyage, under a misty sky. In the 
morning they saw the vultures perching on the cocoa- 
trees, in flocks of forty or fifty. 
At last they reacbMl Cumana. 



Humboldt and Bonpland remained a month at Cu- 
mana, employing themselves in preparing for a visit to 
the Orinoco and the Rio Negro. They had to choose 
such instruments as could be most easily transported in 
narrow boats ; and to engage guides for an inland jour- 
ney of ten months, across a country without communica- 
tion with the coasts. The astronomical determination of 
places being the most important object of this undertaking, 
Humboldt felt desirous not to miss the observation of an 
eclipse of the sun, which was to be visible at the end 
of October: and in consequence preferred remaining till 
that period at Cumana, where the sky was generally clear 
and serene. It was now too late to reach the banks of 
the Orinoco before October; and the high valleys of 
Caracas promised less favourable opportunities on ac- 
count of the vapours which accumulated round the neigh- 
bouring mountains. 

He was, however, near being compelled by a deplor- 
able occurrence, to renounce, or at least delay for a long 
time, his journey to the Orinoco. On the 27th of Octo- 
ber, the day before the eclipse, he and Bonpland went as 
usual to take the air on the shore of the gulf, and to 
observe the instant of high water, which in those parts 

88 riGUT Avnii iiiE zambo. 

was only twelve or thirteen inches. It was eight in the 
evening, and the breeze was not yet stirring. They 
crossed the beach which separated the suburb of the 
Guayqueria Indians from the landing-place. Here Hum- 
boldt heard some one walking behind them, and on turn- 
ing he saw a tall Zambo, naked to the waist He 
held almost over Humboldt's head a stick of palm-treo 
wood, enlarged to the end like a club. Humboldt 
avoided the stroke by leaping towards the left ; but Bon- 
pland, who walked on his right, was less fortunate. He 
did not see the Zambo as soon as Humboldt did, and re 
ceived a stroke above the temple, which levelled him 
to the ground. The travellers were alone, without 
arms, half a league from any habitation, on a vast plain 
bounded by the sea. The Zambo, instead of attacking 
Humboldt, moved oflf slowly to pick up Bonpland's hat, 
which, having somewhat deadened the violence of the 
blow, had fallen off and lay at some distance. Alarmed 
at seeing his companion on the ground, and for some 
moments senseless, Humboldt thought of him only. 
He helped Bonpland to raise himself, and pain and anger 
doubled his strength. They ran towards the Zambo, who, 
either from cowardice, or because he perceived at a dis- 
tance some men on the beach, did not wait for them, but 
ran off in the direction of a little thicket of cactus. He 
chanced to fall in running, and Bonpland, who reached 
him first, seized him round the body. The Zambo drew 
a long knife ; and in this unequal struggle the travellers 
would infallibly have been wounded, if some Biscayan 
merchants, who were taking the air on the beach, had 
not come to their assistance. The Zambo seeing himself 
surrounded, thought no longer of defence. He again 


ran away, and they pursued him through the thorny cac- 
tuses. At length, tired out, he took shelter in a cow-house, 
whence he suffered himself to be quietly led to prison. ' 

Bonpland was seized with fever during the night; 
but being endowed with great energy and fortitude he 
continued his labours the next day. The stroke of the 
club had extended to the top of his head, and he felt its 
effect for the space of two or three months. When 
stooping to collect plants, he was sometimes seized with 
giddiness, which led him to fear that an internal abscess 
-was forming. Happily these apprehensions were un- 
founded, and the symptoms gradually disappeared. 

During a few days which preceded and followed the 
eclipse of the sun, very remarkable atmospherical phe- 
nomena were observable. From the 10th of October to 
the 8rd of November, at nightfall, a reddish vapour 
arose in the horizon, and covered, in a few minutes, with 
a veil more or less thick, the azure vault of the sky. 
Sometimes, in the midst of the night, the vapours disap- 
peared in an instant ; and at the moment when Humboldt 
had arranged his instruments, clouds of brilliant white- 
ness collected at the zenith, and extended towards the 
horizon. On the 18th of October these clouds were so 
remarkably transparent, that they did not hide stars even 
of the fourth magnitude. He could distinguish so per- 
fectly the spots of the moon, that it might have been sup- 
posed its disk was before the clouds. 

After the 28th of October, the reddish mist became 
thicker than it had previously been. The heat of the 
nights seemed stifling, though the thermometer rose only 
to 78^. The breeze, which generally refreshed the air 
from eight or nine o'clock in the evening, was no longer 


felt. The atmosphere was burning hot, an J the j arched 
and dusty ground was cracked on every side. C)n the 
4th of November, about two in the afternoon, large 
clouds of peculiar blackness enveloped the high mountains 
of the Brigantine and the TataraquaL They extended 
by degrees as far as the zenith. About four in the after- 
noon Humboldt and Bonpland heard thunder over their 
heads, at an immense height, not regularly rolling, but 
with a hollow and often interrupted sound. At the mo- 
ment of the strongest electric explosion, at twelve minutes 
past four, there were two shocks of earthquake, which 
followed each other at the interval of fifteen seconds. 
The people ran into the streets, uttering loud cries. Bon- 
pland, who was leaning over a table, examining plants, 
was almost thrown on the floor. Humboldt felt the 
shock very strongly, though he was lying in a hammock. 
Some slaves, who were drawing water from a well 
eighteen or twenty feet deep, near the river Manzanares, 
heard a noise like the explosion of a strong charge of 
gunpowder. The noise seemed to come from the bottom 
of the welL 

A few minutes before the first shock there was a 
very violent blast of wind, followed by electrical rain, 
falling in great drops. The sky remained cloudy, 
and the blast of wind was followed by a dead calm, 
which lasted all night. The sunset presented a pic- 
ture of extraordinary magnificence. The thick veil 
of clouds was rent asunder, as in shreds, quite near the 
horizon ; the sun appeared at 12° of altitude on a sky 
of indigo-blue. Its disk was enormously enlarged, dis- 
torted, and undulated towards the edges. The clouds 
were gilded; and fasQicles of divergent rays, reflecting 


the most brilliant raiiibow hues, extended over the hea- 
vens. A great crowd of people assembled in the public 
square. This celestial phenomenon, the earthquake, the 
thunder which accompanied it, the red vapour seen dur 
ing so many days, all were regarded as the effect of the 
eclipse. About nine in the evening there was another 
shock, much slighter than the former, but attended with 
a subterraneous noise. In the night between the 8d and 
4th of November the reddish vapour was so thick that 
Humboldt could not distinguish the situation of the moon, 
except by a beautiful halo of 20*^ diameter. 

The travellers had frequent visits from persons who 
wished to know whether their instruments indicated new 
shocks for the next day ; and alarm was great and gene- 
ral when, on the 5th, exactly at the same hour as on the 
preceding day, there was a violent gust of wind, attended 
by thunder, and a few drops of rain. No shock was 
felt. . The wind and storm returned during five or six 
days at the same hour, almost at the same minute. 

The reddish vapour disappeared after the 7th of No- 
vember. The atmosphere resumed its former purity, 
and the firmament appeared, at the zenith, of that deep 
blue tint peculiar to climates where heat, light, and a 
great equality of electric charge seem all to promote the 
most perfect dissolution of water in the air. Humboldt 
observed, on the night of the 7th, the immersion of the 
second satellite of Jupiter. The belts of the planet were 
more distinct than he had ever seen them before. 

The night of the 11th was cool, and extremely fine; 
From half after two in the morning, the most extraordi- 
nary luminous meteors were seen in the direction of the 
east Bonpland, who had risen to enjoy the freshness of 


themir, perceived them first. Thousands of bolides and 
falling stars succeeded each other during the space of four 
hours. No trace of clouds was to be seen. From the 
first appearance of the phenomenon, there was not in the 
firmament a space equal in extent to three diameters of 
the moon, which was not filled every instant with bolides 
asnd falling stars. The first were fewer in number, but 
as they were of different sizes, it was impossible to fix 
the limit between these- two classes of phenomena. All 
these meteors left luminous traces from 5^ to 10° in 
length. The phosphorescence of these traces, or lumi- 
nous bands, lasted seven or eight seconds. 

The phenomenon ceased by degrees after four o'clock, 
and the bolides and falling stars became less frequent, 
though Humboldt still distinguished some to the north- 
east by their whitish light, and the rapidity of their 
movement, a quarter of an hour after sunrise.. 

On the evening of the 16th of November the travellers 
set sail from Cumana for La Guayra, descending the 
little river of Manzanares, the windings of which were 
marked by cocoanut-trees. At high water they passed 
the bar at its mouth. The evening breeze gently swelled 
the waves in the gulf of Cariaco. The moon had not 
risen, but that part of the milky way which extended 
fi-om the feet of the Centaur towards the constellation of 
Sagittarius, seemed to pour a silvery light over the sur- 
face of the ocean. The white rock, crowned by the 
castle of San Antonio, appeared from time to time be- 
tween the high tops of the cocoa-trees which bordered 
the shore, and tbe voyagers soon recognised the coasts 
only by the scattered lights of the Guayqueria fishermen. 
As they advanced towards the shoal that surrounded 


Cape Arenas they enjoyed one of those varied sigjits 
which the great phosphorescence of the sea so often dis- 
plays in those climates. Bands of porpoises followed 
their bark. Fifteen or sixteen of these animals swam at 
equal distances from each other. When turning on their 
backs, they struck the surface of the water with their 
broad tails; they diffused a brilliant light, which seemid 
like flames issuing from the depth of the ocean. Each 
band of porpoises, ploughing the surface of the waters, 
left behind it a track of light, the more striking as the 
rest of the sea was not phosphorescent. 

The voyagers found themselves at midnight between 
fsome barren and rocky islands, which uprose like bas- 
tions in the middle of the sea, and formed the group of 
the Caracas and Chimanas. The moon was above the 
horizon, and lighted up these cleft rocks, which were 
bare of vegetation and of &ntastic aspect. 

As they came near this group of mountainous islands, 
they were becalmed; and at sunrise, small currents 
drifted them towards Boracha, the largest of them. 
The temperature of the atmosphere became sensibly 
higher whilst they were sailing among the islands of this 
little archipelago. The rocks, heated during the day, 
threw out at night, by radiation, a part of the heat ab- 
sorbed. As the sun rose on the horizon, the rugged 
mountains projected their vast shadows on the surface 
of the ocean. The flamingoes began to fish in the creeks, 
Humboldt and Bonpland saw them as they passed, stand- 
ing like a file of soldiers, along the narrow beaches, and 
necks of land. 

They were so far advanced on their voyage on the 
morning of the 20th, that they hoped to reach La Guayra 


that day ; but their Indian pilot being afraid of the pri- 
vateers who were near that port, thought it would be 
prudent to make for land, and anchor in the little har- 
bour of Higuerote, which they had already passed, and 
await the shelter of night to proceed on their voyage. 
They found neither village nor farm there, but merely 
two or three huts, inhabited by fishermen. Their livid 
hue, and the meagre condition of their children, showed 
the voyagers that this spot was one of the most unhealthy 
of the whole coast. The sea had so little depth aloflg 
these shores, that even with the smallest barks it was 
impossible to reach the shore without wading through 
the water. The forests came down nearly to the beach, 
which was covered with thickets of mangroves, avicen- 
nias, and manchineel-trees. To these thickets, and par- 
ticularly to the exhalations of the mangroves, Humboldt 
attributed the extreme insalubrity of the air. On quit- 
ting the boats, and whilst they were yet one hundred 
feet distant from the land, he perceived a &int and 
sickly smell, which reminded him of that diffused 
through the galleries of deserted mines. The tempera- 
ture of the air rose to 93°, heated by the reverberation 
from the white sands which formed a line between the 
mangroves and the great trees of the forest As the 
shore descended with a gentle slope, small tides were 
sufficient alternately to cover and uncover the roots, and 
part of the trunks of the mangroves. The sea-water, 
along the whole coast, acquired a yellowish brown tint, 
wherever it came into contact with the mangrove trees. 
The beaches around were covered with infinite numbers 
of molluscs and insects. Loving shade and feint light 
they sheltered themselves from the shock of the waves 



amid the scaffolding of thick and intertwining roots, 
which rose like lattice-work above the surfece of the 
waters. Shell-fish clung to this lattice ; crabs nestled in 
the hollow trunks ; and the seaweeds, drifted to the coast 
by the winds and tides, remained suspended on the 
branches which inclined towards the earth. 

They set sail from this noxious place at nightfidl. At 
sunrise they were opposite Caracas. The coast was 
rocky and elevated, the scenery at once wild and pictur- 
esque. They were sufficiently near land to distinguish 
scattered huts surrounded by cocoa-trees, and masses of 
vegetation, which stood out from the dark ground of the 
rocks. The mountains were everywhere perpendicular, 
and three or four thousand feet high ; their sides cast 
broad and deep shadows upon the humid land, which 
stretched out to the sea, glowing with the freshest ver- 
dure. They soon saw the black rocks of La Guayra, 
studded with batteries rising in tiers one over another ; 
and in the misty distance, Cabo Blanco, a long promon- 
tory with conical summits, and of dazzling whiteness. 

Humboldt and Bonpland remained two months at 
Caracas, in a large house in the most elevated part of the 
town. From a gallery they could survey at once the 
summit' of the Saddle, the serrated ridge of the Galipano, 
and the charming valley of the Guayra, the rich culture 
of which was pleasingly conti-asted with the gloomy cur- 
tain of the surrounding mountains. It was in the dry 
season, and to improve the pasturage, the savannahs and 
the turf covering the steepest rocks were set on fire. 
These vast conflagrations, viewed from a distance, pro- 
duced the most singular effects of light. Wherever the 
savannahs, following the undulating slope of the rocks, 


had filled up the furrows hollowed out by the waters, the 
flame appeared in a dark night like currents of lava sus- 
pended over the valley. The vivid but steady light 
assumed a reddish tint, when the wind, descending from 
the Saddle, accumulated streams of vapour in the low 
regions. At other times these luminous bands, enve- 
loped in thick clouds, appeared only at intervals where it 
was clear; and as the clouds ascended their edges re- 
flected a splendid light These various phenomena, so 
common in the tropics, acquired additional interest from 
the form of the mountains, the direction of the slopes, 
and the height of the savannahs covered with alpine 
grasses. During the day, the wind of Petare, blowing 
from the east, drove the smoke towards the town, and 
diminished the transparency of the air. 

On the morning of the Sd of January they commenced 
the ascent of the Saddle, a celebrated mountain near 
Caracas. The party consisted of eighteen persons, and 
they all walked one behind another, in a narrow path, 
traced on a steep acclivity, covered with turf They 
reached a hill, connected with the body of the mountain, 
and called the Gate of the Saddle. Here they crossed a 
narrow dyke of rocks, which led to the ridge of the 
mountain, and looked down on two valleys, filled with 
thick vegetation. In one of these valleys they heard the 
roaring of waterfalls, which they could not see, they were 
so thickly hidden in groves of fig-trees. 

From the Gate of the Saddle the steepness of the 
ascent increased, and they were obliged to incline their 
bodies considerably forwards as they advanced. They 
felt the want of cramp-irons, or sticks shod with iron. 
Short grass covered the rocks of gneiss, and it was 


equally ioipossible to hold by the grass, or to form steps 
as they might have done in softer ground. This ascent^ 
which was attended with more fatigue than danger, dis- 
couraged those who accompanied them from the town, 
and who were unaccustomeni to climb mountains. The 
travellers lost much time in waiting for them, and they 
did not resolve to proceed alone till they saw them 
descending the mountain instead of climbing it The 
weather was becoming cloudy ; the mist already issued 
in the form of smoke, and in slender and perpendicular 
streaks, from a small humid wood which bordered the 
region of alpine savannahs above them. It seemed as if 
a fire had burst forth at once on several points of the 
forest. These streaks of vapour gradually accumulated 
together, and rising above the ground, were carried along 
by the morning breeze, and glided like a light cloud 
over the rounded summit of the mountain. 

Humboldt and Bonpland foresaw frx)m these signs, 
that they would soon be covered by a thick fog ; and 
lest their guides should take advantage of this circum- 
stance and leave thei^ they obliged those who carried 
the most necessary instruments to precede them. The 
familiar loquacity of the Creole blacks formed a striking 
contrast with the taciturn gravity of the Indians, who 
had constantly accompanied them in the missions of 
Caripe. The negroes amused themselves by laughing at 
the persons who had been in such haste to abandon an 
expedition so long in preparation ; above all, they did 
not spare a young Capuchin monk, a professor of mathe- 
matics, who never ceased to boast of the superior physi- 
cal strength and courage possessed by all classes of 
European Spaniards over those born in Spanish America. 



He had provided himself with long slips of white paper^ 
which were to be cut, and flung on the savannah, to in- 
dicate to those who might stray behind, the direction 
they ought to follow. • The professor had even promised 
the friars of his order to fire oflF some rockets, to an- 
nounce to the whole town of Caracas that they had suc- 
ceeded in an enterprise which to him appeared of the 
utmost importance. He had forgotten that his long and 
heavy garments would embarrass him in the ascent. 
Having lost courage long before the Creoles, he passed 
the rest of the day in a neighbouring plantation, gazing 
at the travellers through a glass directed to the Saddle, 
as they climbed the mountain. Unfortunately for them, 
however, he had taken charge of the water and the provi- 
sion so necessary in an excursion to the mountains. The 
slaves who were to rejoin them were so long detained by 
him, that they arrived very late, and the travellers were 
ten hours without either bread or water. 

They were sometimes so enveloped with mist that they 
could not without difficulty find their way. At thii 
height there was no path, and they were obliged to climl 
with their hands, when their feet failed them, on the 
steep and slippery ascent After proceeding for the 
space of four hours across the savannahs, they entered 
into a little wood composed of shrubs and small trees. 
The steepness of the mountain became less considerable, 
and they felt an indescribable pleasure in examining the 
plants of this region. Quitting the wood they found 
themselves again in a savannah. They climbed over a 
part of the western dome, in order to descend into the 
hollow of the Saddle, a valley which separated the two 
summits of the mountain. They had great difficulties 


to overcome here, occasioned by the force of the vegeta- 
tion, and were obliged to cut their way through this 
forest : the negroes walked before them with cutlasses, 
chopping down the limbs that opposed them. 

On a sudden they found themselves enveloped in a 
thick mist; the compass alone could guide them. In 
advancing northward they were in danger at every step 
of finding themselves on the brink of an enormous wall 
of rocks, which descended almost perpendicularly to the 
depth of six thousand feet towards the sea. They were 
obliged to halt Surrounded by clouds sweeping the 
ground, they began to doubt whether they should reach 
the eastern peak before night Happily, the negroes 
who carried their water and provisions, rejoined them, 
and they resolved to take some refreshment. Their re- 
past did not last long. As it was only two o'clock in, 
the afternoon, they entertained some hope of reaching 
the eastern summit of the Saddle before sunset, and of 
re-descending into the valley separating the two peaks, 
intending there to pass the night, to light a great fire, 
and to make their negroes construct a hut. They sent 
oflf half of their servants with orders to hasten the next 
morning to meet them with a supply of salt beef. They 
had scarcely made these arrangements when the east 
wind began to blow violently from the sea. In less than 
two minutes the clouds dispersed, and the two domes of 
the Saddle appeared singularly near. 

They shaped their course to the eastern summit, which 
they were three-quarters of an hour in reaching. They 
were now over eight thousand feet high, and they gazed 
on an extent of sea, the radius of which was thirty-six 
leagues. It was as smooth as glass, but in the distance 

100 THB LrrrLB angels. 

it was lost in the strata of air. They expected, as at 
Teneriffe, to see the horizon level with the eye, but in 
stead of distinguishing a marked limit between the two 
elements, the distant strata of water seemed to be trans- 
formed into vapour, and mingled with the aerial ocean. 
The western dome of the Saddle concealed firom them 
the view of the town of Caracas; but they distin- 
guished the nearest houses, the villages of Chacao and 
Petare, the coffee plantations, *and the course of the Rio 
Guayra, a slender streak of water reflecting a silvery 

While they were examining with their glasses that 
part of the sea, the horizon of which was clearly defined, 
and the chain of the mountains of Ocumare, behind 
which began the unknown world of the Orinoco and the 
Amazon, a thick fog from the plains rose to the elevated 
regions, first filling the bottom of the valley of Caracas. 
The vapours, illumined from above, presented a uniform 
tint of a milky white. The valley seemed overspread 
with water, and looked like an arm of the sea, of which 
the adjacent mountains formed the steep shore. 

Seated on the rock, Humboldt was determining the 
dip of the needle, when he found his hands covered with 
a species of hairy bee, a little smaller than the honey-bee 
of the north of Europe. These insects make their nests 
in the ground. The people, in these regions, call them 
little angels, because they seldom sting. 

The fog became so dense that it would have been im- 
prudent to remain any longer, so they descended. It 
was now half-past four in the afternoon. Satisfied with 
the success of their journey, they forgot that there might 
be danger in descending in the dark, steep declivities 

DBSCEN06r& TIIE. SAI^tlB. /ll /•*. 101 

covered by a smooth and slippery tur£ The mist con- 
cealed the valley from them ; but they distinguished the 
double hill of The Gate, which, like all objects lying 
almost perpendicularly beneath the eye, appeared ex- 
tremely near. They relinquished their design of passing 
the night between the two summits of the Saddle, and 
having ^ain found the path that they cut through the 
thick wood, they soon arrived at the little wood already 
mentioned. As there is -scarcely any twilight in the 
tropics, they passed suddenly from bright daylight to 
darkness. The moon was on the horizon ; but her disk 
was veiled from time to time by thick clouds, drifted by 
a cold and rough wind. Rapid slopes, covered with 
yellow and dry grass, now seen in shade, and now sud- 
denly illumined, seemed like precipices, the depth of 
which the eye sought in vain to measure. They pro- 
ceeded onwards in single file, and endeavoured to sup- 
port themselves by their hands, lest they should roll 
down. The guides, who carried their instruments, 
abandoned them successively, to sleep on the moimtain. 
Among those who remained with them was a Congo 
black, who evinced great address, bearing on his head a 
large dipping-needle : he held it constantly steady, not- 
withstanding the extreme declivity of the rocks. The 
fog had dispersed by degrees in the bottom of the valley, 
and the scattered lights they perceived below them caused 
a double illusion. The steeps appeared more dangerous 
than they really were ; and, during six hours of continual 
descent, they seemed to be always equally near the farms 
at the foot of the Saddle. They heard very distinctly 
the voices of men and the notes of guitars. Sound is 
generally so well propagated upwards, that in a balloon 

102 . •*. : . ' sxA •SAHilre- knfL* Matbb. 

at the elevation of eighteen thousand feet, the barking 
of dogs is sometimes heard. 

They did not arrive till ten at night at the bottom of 
the valley. They were overcome with fatigue and thirst, 
having walked for fifteen hours, nearly without stopping. 
The soles of their feet were cut and torn by the asperi- 
ties of a rocky soil and the hard and dry stalks, for they 
had been obliged to pull oflF their boots, the soles ha^ng 
become too slippery. 

They passed the night at the foot of the Saddle. 

On the 7th of February they departed from Caracas, 
en route for the banks of the Orinoco. Nothing worthy 
of note occurred for several days. 

Not far fix>m the village of Turmero, they discovered 
at a league distant, an object, which appeared at the 
horizon like a round hillock, or tumulus, covered with 
vegetation. It was neither a hill, nor a group of trees 
close to each other, but one single tree, the famous 
Zamang del Guayre, known throughout the province for 
the enormous extent of its branches, which formed a 
hemispheric head five hundred and seventy-six feet in 
circumference. The zamang is a fine species of mimosa, 
and its tortuous branches are divided by bifurcation. 
Its delicate and tender foliage was agreeably relieved on 
the azure of the sky. They stopped a long time under 
this vegetable roof The trunk of the Zamang del Guayre 
was only sixty feet high, and nine thick ; its real beauty 
consisted in the form of its head. The branches ex- 
tended like an immense umbrella, and bent toward the 
ground, fiom which they remained at a uniform distance 
of twelve or fifteen feet. The circumference of this 
head was so regular, that, having traced diflFerent diame- 


terSj Humboldt found tliem one hundred and ninety-two, 
and one hundred and eighty-six feet One side of the 
tree was entirely stripped of its foliage, owing to the 
drought; but on the other side there remained both 
leaves and flowers; parasites covered its branches, and 
cracked the bark. The inhabitants of the adjacent 
villages, particularly the Indians, held in great venera- 
tioB the Zamang del Guayre, which the first conquerors 
found almost in the same state in which it now remains. 
Humboldt considered it at least as old as the Orotava 

On the 21st, in the evening, the travellers set out for 
Guacara and Nueva Valencia. They preferred travel- 
ling by night, on accoimt of the excessive heat of the 
day. The road was bordered with large zamang-trees, 
the trunks of which rose sixty feet high. Their branches, 
nearly horizontal, met at more than one hundred and 
fifty feet distance. The night was gloomy : the Eincon 
del Diablo with its denticulated rocks appeared jfrom 
time to time at a distance, illumined by the burning of 
the savannahs, or wrapped in ruddy smoke. At the 
spot where the bushes were thickest, their horses were 
frightened by the yell of an animal that seemed to follow 
them closely. It was a large jaguar, which had roamed 
for three years among these mountains. He had con- 
stantly escaped the pursuits of the bolcksst hunters, and 
had carried oflf horses and mules from the midst of in- 
closures ; but, having no want of food, had not yet at- 
tacked men. The negro who conducted the travelle^p . 
uttered wild cries, expecting by these means to frighten 
the jaguar, but his efforts were ineffectual. 

On the morning of the 27th they visited the hot springs 


of La Trinchera. Next to the springs of Urijin ), in Ja 
pan, the waters of La Trinchera are the hottest in the 
world. Humboldt and Bonpland break&sted near them, 
imd found that eggs plunged into the water boiled in less 
than four minutes. The heat became stifling as thej ap* 
preached the coast A reddish vapour filled the horizon. 
It was near sunset, and the breeze was not yet stirring. 
The river of hot water, along the banks of which they 
passed, became deeper. A crocodile, more than nine feet 
long, lay dead on the strand. Humboldt wished to ex- 
amine its teeth, and the inside of its mouth ; but having 
been exposed to the sun for several weeks, it exhaled a 
mnell so fetid that he was obliged to relinquish his design 
and remount his horse. 

Between Porto Cabello and the valleys of Aragua they 
saw a remarkable tree. They had heard, several weeks 
before, of a tree, the sap of which was a nourishing milk. 
It was called 'the cow-tree'; and they were assured 
that the negroes, who drank plentifully of this vegetable 
milk, considered it a wholesome aliment. All tiie milky 
juices of plants being acrid, bitter, and more or less 
poisonous, this account appeared to them very extraordi- 
nary ; but they found by experience during their stay in 
the neighbourhood, that the virtues of this tree had not 
been exaggerated. It rose like the broad-leaved star^ 
apple. Its oblong and pointed leaves, rough and alter- 
nate, were marked by lateral ribs, prominent at the 
lower surface and parallel. Some of them were ten 
inches long. They did not see the flower : the fruit was 
somewhat fleshy, and contained one and sometimes two 
nuts. When incisions were made in the trunk it yielded 
an abundance of glutinous milk, tolerably thick, devoid 


of all acridity, and of an agreeable and balmy smell. 
The travellers drank considerable quantities of it in the 
evening before they went to bed, and very early in the 
morning, without feeling the least injurious eflEect The 
negroes and the free people who worked in the plantar 
tions drank it, dipping into it their bread of maize or 
cassava. The overseer of the farm told Humboldt that 
the flegroes grew sensibly fatter during the season when 
it furnished them with most milk. It was at the rising 
of the sun that this v^etable fountain was most abun- 
dant The negroes and natives were then seen hasten- 
ing from all quarters, furnished with large bowls to re- 
ceive the milk, which grew yellow, and thickened at 
its surfece. Some emptied their bowls under the tree 
itself, others carried the juice home to their children. 

They left the valleys of Aragua at sunrise on the 
6th of March. They were never weary of admiring the 
fertility of the soil, covered with calabashes, water- 
melons, and plantains. The rising of the sun was an- 
nounced by the distant noise of the howling monkeys. 
Approaching a group of trees, they saw nimierous bands 
of these monkeys moving as in procession and very 
slowly, from one tree to another. A male was followed 
by a great number of females, several of the latter carry- 
ing their young on their shoulders. The howling mon- 
keys, which live in society in different parts of America, 
everywhere resemble each other in their manners, though 
""the species are not always the same. The uniformity 
with which they perform their movements is extremely 
striking. Whenever the branches of neighbouring trees 
do not touch each other, the male who leads the party 
suspends himself by the callous and prehensile part of 



his tail ; and, letting fall the rest of his body, swinga 
himself till in one of his oscillations he reaches the neigh- 
bouring branch. The whole file performs the same 
movements on the same spot. The Indians told the 
travellers that when the monkeys filled the forests with 
their howling, there was always one that chaunted as 
leader of the chorus. During a long interval one soli- 
tary and strong voice was generally distinguished, till 
its place was taken by another voice of a different pitch. 
The Missionaries asserted that when a female among 
them was on the point of bringing forth, the choir sus- 
pended its bowlings till the moment of the birth of the 

At Guigue they lodged with an old sergeant, a native 
of Murcia, a man of a very original character. To prove 
to them that he had studied among the Jesuits, he re- 
cited the history of the creation of the world in Latin. 
He knew the names of Augustus, Tiberius, and Diocle- 
tian ; and while enjoying the agreeable coolness of the 
nights in an inclosure planted with bananas, he employed 
himself in reading all that related to the courts of the 
Eoman emperors. He inquired of Humboldt for a remedy 
for the gout, from which he suffered severely. " I know," 
said he, "a Zambo of Valencia, a femous curioso, who 
could cure me; but the Zambo would expect to be treated 
with attentions which I cannot pay to a man of his 
colour, so I prefer remaining as I am." 

In the Mesa de Paja, in the ninth degree of latitude, 
they entered the basin of the Llanos. The sun was 
almost at its zenith ; the earth, wherever it appeared 
sterile and destitute of vegetation, was at the temperature 
of 118** or 122*. Not j^ breath of air was felt at the height 


at wldcli they were on their mules ; yet, in the midst of 
this apparent calm, whirls of dust incessantly arose, 
driven on by small currents of air which glided over the 
surface of the ground, and were occasioned by the differ- 
ence of temperature between the naked sand and the 
spots covered with grass. These sand- winds augmented 
the suffocating heat of the air. Every grain of quartz, 
hotter than the surrounding air, radiated heat in all 
directions ; and it was difficult for Humboldt to observe 
the temperature of the atmosphere, owing to the particles 
of sand striking against the bulb of the thermometer. 
All around the plains seemed to ascend to the sky, and 
the vast and profound solitude appeared like an ocean 
covered with sea-weed. The horizon in some parts was 
clear and distinct, in other parts it appeared undulating, 
sinuous, and as if striped. The earth there was con- 
founded with the sky. Through the dry mist and strata 
of vapour the trunks of palm-trees were seen from afaf, 
stripped of their foliage and their verdant summits, and 
looking like the masts of a ship descried upon the hori- 
zon. There was something awful, as well as sad and 
gloomy, in the uniform aspect of these steppes. Every 
thing seemed motionless; scarcely did a small cloud, 
passing across the zenith, and denoting the approach of 
the rainy season, cast its shadow on the earth. 

The chief characteristic of these steppes was the abso- 
lute want of hills and inequalities — the perfect level of 
every part of the soil. Often within a distance of thirty 
square leagues there was not an eminence of a foot high. 

After having passed two nights on horseback, and 
sought in vain, by day, for some shelter from the heat 
of the sun beneath the tufts of the palm-trees, they 


arrived at a little farm. It was a solitary house in tlie 
steppes, surrounded by a few small huts, covered with 
re^ and skins. The cattle, oxen, horses, and mules 
were not penned, but wandered freely over an extent of 
several square leaguea There was nowhere any inclo- 
sure ; men, naked to the waist and armed with lances, 
rode over the savannahs to inspect the animals, bringing 
back those that wandered too fer from the pastures of 
the ferm, and branding all that did not already bear the 
mark of their proprietor. These mtdattoes were partly 
freed-men and partly slaves. They were constantly ex- 
posed to the burning heat of the tropical sun. Their 
food was meat dried in the air, and a little salted ; and 
of this even their horses sometimes partook. Being 
always in the saddle, they fancied they could not make 
the slightest excursion on foot. The travellers found an 
old negro slave, who managed the farm in the absence 
of his master. He told them of herds composed of 
several thousand cows, that were grazing in the steppes ; 
yet they asked in vain for a bowl of milk. They were 
offered, in a calabash, some yellow, muddy, and fetid 
water, drawn from a neighbouring pool. The indolence 
of the inhabitants of the Llanos was such that they did 
not dig wells, though they knew that almost everywhere, 
at ten feet deep, fine springs were found. After suffering 
during one half of the year from the effect of inunda- 
tions, they quietly resigned themselves, during the other 
half, to the most distressing deprivation of water. The 
old negro advised the travellers to cover the cup with 
a linen cloth, and drink as through a filter, that they 
might not be incommoded by the smell, and might swal- 
low less of the yellowish mud suspended in the water. 


As soon as their instruments were unloaded they let 
the mules go to search for water, a common custom in 
the Llanos. They followed them till they came to one 
of the pools fix>m which the water they had drunk wat 
drawn. They longed impatiently to take a bath, but 
found only a great pool of feculent water, surrounded 
with palm-trees. The water was turbid, though a little 
cooler than the air. Accustomed during their long jour- 
ney to bathe whenever they had an opportunity, often 
several times in a day, they hastened to plunge into the 
pool. They had scarcely begun to enjoy the coolness of 
the bath, when a noise which they heard on the opposite 
bank, made them leave the water precipitately. It was 
an alligator plunging into the mud. 

They were only at the distance of a quarter of a league 
from the farm, yet they continued walking more than 
an hour without reaching it. They perceived too late 
that they had taken a wrong direction. Having left it 
at the decline of day, before the stars were visible, they 
had gone forward into the plain at hazard. They were 
provided with a compass, and it might have been easy 
for them to steer their course from the position of 
Canopus and the Southern Cross; but unfortunately 
they were uncertain whether, on leaving the farm, they 
had gone towards the east or the south. They attempted 
to return to the spot where they had bathed, and again 
walked three quarters of an hour without finding the 
pool. They sometimes thought they saw fire on the 
horizon ; but it was the light of the rising stars enlarged 
by the vapours. After having wandered a long time in 
the savannah, they resolved to seat themselves beneath 
the trunk of a palm-tree, in a spot perfectly dry, sur- 


rounded by short grass. They could not flatter them 
selves that their guides would come in search of them in 
the savannah before they had prepared their food and 
finished their repast * Whilst somewhat perplexed by 
the uncertainty of their situation, they were agreeably 
affected by hearing from afar the sound of a horse ad- 
vancing towards them. The rider was an Indian, armed 
with a lance, who had just made the round, in order to 
collect the cattle. The sight of two white men, who said 
they had lost their way, led him at first to suspect some 
trick. They found it difficult to inspire him with con- 
fidence ; he at last consented to guide them to the farm, 
but without slackening the gentle trot of his horse. 
Their guides assured them that they had already 
begun to be uneasy about them; and, to justify this 
inquietude, they gave a long enumeration of persons 
who, having lost themselves in the Llanos, had been 
found nearly exhausted. 

In order to escape as much as possible from the heat 
of the day, they set off at two in the morning, with the 
hope of reaching before noon Calabozo, a small but busy 
trading-town, situated in the midst of the Llanos. Th6 
aspect of the country was still the same. There was no 
moonlight ; but the great masses of nebulae that spotted 
the southern sky enlightened, as they set, a part of the 
terrestrial horizon. The solemn spectacle of the starry 
vault, seen in its immense expanse; — ^the cool breeze 
which blew over the plain during the night: — ^the waving 
motion of the grass, wherever it had attained any height; 
everything recalled to their minds the surface of the 
ocean. The illusion was deepened when the disk of 
the sun appearing on the horizon, repeated its image by 


the effects of refraction, and, soon losing its flattened 
form, ascended rapidly and straight towards the zenith. 

In proportion as the sun rose towards the zenith, and 
the earth and the strata of superincumbent air took 
different temperatures, the phenomenon of the mirage 
displayed itself in its numerous modifications. The 
little currents of air that swept the surfece of the soil 
had so variable a temperature that> in a drove of wild 
oxen, one part appeared with the legs raised above the 
surface of the ground, while the other rested on it 
A well-informed person assured them, that he had seen, 
between Calabozo and Uritucu, the image of an animal 
inverted, without there being any direct image. They 
several times thought they saw on the horizon the figures 
of tumuli and towers, which disappeared at intervals, 
without their being able to discern the real shape of the 
objecta They were hillocks perhaps, or small emi- 

The plain assumed at sunrise a more animated aspect. 
The cattie which had reposed during the night along the 
pools, or beneath clumps of mauritias and rhopalas, were 
now collected in herds; and these solitudes became 
peopled with horses, mules, and oxen, that lived here 
free, without settled habitations, and disdaining the care 
and protection of man. 

They found at Calabozo, in the midst of the Llanos, 
an electrical machine with large plates, electrophori, 
batteries, and electrometers; an apparatus nearly as com- 
plete as the first scientific men in Europe possessed. It 
was the work of a man who had never seen any instru- 
ment, who had no person to consult, and who was 
acquainted with the phenomena of electricity only by 


reading the treatise of De Lafond, and Franklin's 
Memoirs. Seflor Carlos del i^ozo, the name of thia 
ingenious man, had begun to make cylindrical electrical 
machines, by employing large glass jars, afker having cut 
off the necks. It was only a few years before that he 
had been able to procure, by way of Philadelphia^ two 
plates, to construct a plate madiine, and to obtain more 
considerable effects. It is easy to judge what difficulties 
Sefior Pozo had to encounter, since the first works upon 
electricity had £Eillen into his bands, and that he had the 
courage to resolve to procure himself by his own industry, 
all that he had seen described in his books. TiU now he 
had enjoyed only the astonishment and admiration pro- 
duced by his experiments on persons destitute of all 
information, and who had never quitted the solitude of 
the Llanos; the abode of Humboldt and Bonpland at 
Calabozo gave him a satisfaction altogether new. It 
may be supposed that he set some value on the opinions 
of two travellers who could compare his apparatus with 
those constructed in Europe. Humboldt had brought 
with him electrometers mounted with straw, pith-balls, 
and gold-leaf ; also a small Leyden jar which served for 
his physiological experiments. Sefior del Pozo could 
not contain his joy on seeing for the first time instruments 
which he had not made, yet which appeared to be copied 
from his own. Humboldt showed him the effect of the 
contact of heterogeneous metals on the nerves of frogs. 
The names of Galvani and Volta had not previously been 
heard in those vast solitudea 

Next to the electrical apparatus, nothing at Calabozo 
excited in the travellers so great an interest as the 
gymnoti, which were animated electrical apparatuses 

FismNQ wrru hobses. 113 

Humboldt was impatient, from tte time of his arrival 
at Cumana, to procure electrical eels. He had been 
promised them often, but his hopes had always been 
disappointed. He at first wished to make his experi- 
ments in the house he inhabited at Oalabozo, but the 
dread of the shocks caused by the gymnoti was so great, 
and so exaggerated among the common people, that 
during three days, he could not obtain one, though they 
were easUy enough caught, and he had promised the 
Indians two piastres for every strong and vigorous fish. 
Impatient, at last, of waiting, and having obtained very 
uncertain results from an electric eel which had been 
brought to him alive, but much enfeebled, Humboldt, 
accompanied by Bonpland, repaired to the Cafio de Bera, 
to make his experiments in the open air, and at the edge 
of the water. They set oflf on the 19th of March, at a 
very early hour, for the village of Eastro ; thence they 
were conducted by the Indians to a stream, which in the 
time of drought, formed a basin of muddy water, sur- 
rounded by fine trees. To catch the gymnoti with nets 
was considered very difficult, on account of the extreme 
agility of the fish, which buried themselves in the mud. 
Tlie Indians told them that they would fish with horses. 
They found it difficult to form an idea of this manner of 
fishing ; but they soon saw their guides return from the 
savannah, which they had been scouring for wild horses 
and mules. They brought about thirty with them^ which 
they forced to enter the pool. The noise caused by the 
horses' hoofe, made the fish issue fix)m the mud, and 
excited them to the attack. These yellowish and Uvid 
eels, resembling large aquatic serpents, swam on the sur- 
&ce of the water, and crowded under the bellies of the 


horses and mules. A contest between animals of so 
different an organization presented a very striking spec* 
tacle. The Indians, provided with harpoons and long 
slender reeds, surrounded the pool closely, and some 
climbed up the trees, the branches of which extended 
horizontally over the surface of the water. By their 
wild cries, and the length of their reeds, they prevented 
the horses fi-om running away and reaching the bank of 
the pool. The eels, stunned by the noise, defended 
themselves by the repeated discharge of their electric 
batteries. For a long interval they seemed likely to 
prove victorious. Several horses sank beneath the vio- 
lence of the invisible strokes which they received from 
all' sides, and stunned by the force and frequency of the 
shocks, they disappeared under the water. Others, pant- 
ing, with mane erect^ and haggard eyes expressing anguish 
and dismay, raised themselves, and endeavoured to flee 
from the storm by which they were overtaken. They 
were driven back by the Indians into the middle of the 
water; but a small number succeeded in eluding the 
active vigilance of the fishermen. These regained the 
shore, stumbling at every step, and stretched themselves 
on the sand, exhausted with &tigue, and with limbs 
benumbed by the electric shocks of the gy mnoti. 

In less than five minutes two of the horses were 
drowned. The eels being five feet long, and pressing 
thefnselves against the beUy of the horses, made a dis- 
charge along the whole extent of their electric organ. 
They attacked at once the heart, the intestines, and the 
coeliac fold of the abdominal nerves. The horses were 
probably not killed, but only stunned. They were 
drowned fi-om the impassibility of rising amid the 


prolonged struggle between the other horses and the 

The travellers had little doubt that the fishing would ter- 
minate by killing successively all the animals engaged ; 
but by degrees the impetuosity of this unequal combat 
diminished, and the wearied gymnoti dispersed. They re- 
quired a long rest^ and abundant nourishment, to repair 
the galvanic force which they lost The mules and horses 
appeared less frightened; their manes were nojongei 
bristled, and their eyes expressed less dread. The gym- 
noti approached timidly the edge of the marsh, where 
they were taken by means of small harpoons fastened to 
long cords. When the cords were dry the Indians felt 
no shock in raising the fish into the air. In a few min- 
utes Humboldt bad five large eels, most of which were 
but slightly wounded. Some others were taken, by the 
same means, towards evening. 

The travellers left the town of Calabozo on the 24th, 
highly satisfied with their stay, and the experiments they 
had made on an object so worthy of the attention of 
physiologista As they advanced into the southern part 
of the Llanos, they found the ground more dusty more 
destitute of herbage, and more cracked by the effect of 
long drought The palm-trees disappeared by degrees. 
The calmer the air appeared at eight or ten feet high, the 
more they were enveloped in those whirlwinds of dust, 
caused by the currents of air that swept the ground. In 
the afternoon they found a young Indian girl stretched 
upon the savannah. She was almost in a state of nudity, 
and appeared to be about twelve or thirteen years of age. 
Exhausted with fatigue and thirst, her eyes, nostrils, and 
mouth filled with dust, she breathed with a rattling in 


her throat, and was unable to answer their questions 
A pitcher, overturned, and half-filled with sand, waa 
lying at her side. Happily one of their mules was laden 
with water ; and they roused the girl from her lethargic 
state by bathing her face, and forcing her to drink a few 
drops of wine. She was at first alarmed on seeing her- 
self surrounded by so many persons ; but by degrees she 
took courage, and conversed with their guides. She 
judged, from the position of the sun, that she must have 
remained during several hours in that state of lethargy. 
They could not prevail on her to mount one of their 
beasts of burden, and she would not return to Uritucu, 
She had been in service at a neighbouring farm ; and she 
had been discharged, because at the end of a long sick- 
ness she was less able to work than before. Their 
menaces and prayers were alike fruitless ; insensible to 
suffering, she persisted in her resolution of going to one 
of the Indian Missions near the city of Calabozo. They 
removed the sand from her pitcher, and filled it with 
water. She resumed her way along the steppe before 
they had remounted their horses, and was soon separated 
from them by a cloud of dust. During the night they 
forded the river Uritucu, which aboimded with a breed 
of crocodiles remarkable for their ferocity. They were 
advised to prevent their dogs from going to drink in the 
rivers, for it often happened that the crocodiles of Uri- 
tucu came out of the water, and pursued dogs upon the 
shore. They were shown a hut, in which their host of 
Calabozo had witnessed a very extraordinary scene. 
Sleeping with one of his friends on a bench or couch 
covered with leather, he was awakened early in the 
morning by a violent shaking and a horrible noise. 


Clods of earth were thrown into the middle of the hut 
Presently a young crocodile two or three feet long issued 
from under the bed, darted at a dog which lay on the 
threshold of the door, and, missing him in the impetu- 
osity of his spring, ran towards the beach to gain the 
river. On examining the spot where the couch was 
placed, the cause of this strange adventure was easily 
discovered. The ground was disturbed to a considerable 
depth. It was dried mud, which had covered the croco- 
dile in that state of lethargy, or summer-sleep, in which 
many of the species lie during the absence of the rains 
in the Llanos. The noise of men and horses, perhaps 
the smell of the dog, had aroused the crocodile. The 
hut being built at the edge of the pool, and inundated 
during part of the year, the crocodile had no doubt 
entered, at the time of the inundation of the savan- 
nahs, by the same opening at which it was seen to go 

On the 25th they traversed the smoothest part of 
the steppes of Caracas, the Mesa de Pavones. As 
fer as the eye could reach, not a single object fifteen 
inches high could be discovered. The air was clear, and 
the sky of a very deep blue ; but the horizon reflected 
a livid and yellowish light, caused by the quantity of 
sand suspended in the atmosphere. They met some 
large herds of cattle, and with them flocks of birds of a 
black colour with an olive shade. They had ofl«n seen 
them perched on the back of cows, seeking for gadflies 
and other insects. Like many birds of these desert 
places, they feared so little the approach of man, that 
children often caught them in their hands. In the valleys 
of Aragua, where they were very common, the travellers 


often saw them perched upon the hammocks on which 
they were reposing, in open day. 

On the 27th of March they arrived at the Villa de 
San Fernando, the capital of the Mission of the Capu- 
chins, in the province of Yarinas. 



The next jonmey that the travellers made was to the 
Orinoco. In the afternoon of the 80th of March, they 
set sail from San Fernando in a large canoe, managed by 
a pilot and four Indians. They constructed, near the 
stem, a cabin covered with palm-leaves, sufficiently 
spacious to contain a table and benches. These were 
made of ox-hides, strained tight, and nailed Uf frames of 
brazil-wood- The canoe was loaded with provisions for 
a month; fowls, eggs, plantains, cassava, and cocoa, not 
forgetting sherry wine, oranges, and tamarinds, which 
were given them by the Capuchins. 

They soon entered a land inhabited only by tigers, 
crocodiles, and tapirs. They saw flocks of birds, crowded 
so closely together as to appear against the sky like a 
dark cloud which every instant changed its form. The 
river widened by degrees. One of its banks was barreli 
and sandy from the effect of inundations ; the other was 
higher, and covered with lofty trees. In some parts the 
river was bordered by forests on each side, and formed a 
straight canal nine hundred feet broad. The manner in 
which the trees were disposed was remarkable. First 
were bushes of sauso, forming a kind of hedge four feet 


high, and appearing as if they had been clipped by the 
hand of man. A copse of cedar, brazilletto, and lignum- 
vit8B rose behind this hedge. Palm-trees were rare. The 
large quadrupeds of those regions, the jaguars, tapirs, 
and peccaries had made openings in the hedge of sauso, 
through which they passed when they came to drink at 
the river. As they feared but little the approach of a 
boat, the travellers had the pleasure of viewing them as 
they paced slowly along the shore till they disappeared 
inihe forest, which they entered by one of the narrow 
passes left at intervals between the bushes. 

When the shore was of considerable breadth, the hedge 
of sauso remained at a distance from the river. In the 
intermediate space they saw crocodiles, sometimes to the 
number of eight or ten, stretched on the sand. Motion- 
less, with their jaws wide open, they reposed by each 
other, without displaying any of those marks of affec- 
tion observed in other animals living in society. The 
troop separated as soon as they quitted the shore. These 
monstrous creatures were so numerous, that throughout 
the whole course of the river almost at every instant five 
or six were in view. Yet at this period the swelling of 
the Rio Apure was scarcely perceived ; and consequently 
hundreds of crocodiles were still buried in the mud of 
the savannahs. About four in the afternoon Humboldt 
stopped to measure a dead crocodile which had been 
cast ashore. It was sixteen feet eight inches long; some 
days after Bonpland found another, a male, twenty-two 
feet three inches long. The Indians told them that at 
San Fernando scarcely a year passed without two or 
three grown-up persons, particularly women who fetched 
water from the river, being devoured by these camivo- 


rous reptiles. They related the history of a young girl of 
Uritucu, who, by singular intrepidity and presence of 
mind, saved herself fix)m the jaws of a crocodile. When 
she felt herself seized, she sought the eyes of the animal, 
and plunged her fingers into them with such violence, that 
the pain forced him to let her go, after having bitten off 
the lower part of her left arm. Notwithstanding the enor- 
mous quantity of blood she lost, the girl reached the 
shore, swimming with the hand that still remained to her. 
In those desert countries, where man was ever wrestling 
with nature, discourse daily turned on the best means 
that might be employed to escape from a tiger, a boa, or 
a crocodile ; every one prepared himself in some sort for 
the dangers that might await him. " I knew," said the 
young girl of Uritucu coolly, " that the cayman lets go 
his hold, if you push your fingers into his eyes." After 
his return to Europe, Humboldt learned that m the inte- 
rior of Africa the negroes knew and practised the same 
means of defence. Isaac, the guide of the unfortunate 
Mungo Park, was twice seized by a crocodile, and twice 
escaped from the jaws of the monster, having succeeded 
in thrusting his fingers into the creature's eyes while 
under water. The African Isaac, and the young Ameri- 
can girl, owed their safety to the same presence of mind, 
and the same combination of ideas. 

Humboldt ofl;en saw young crocodiles biting their tails ; 
and other observers have seen the same action in croco- 
diles at their full growth. If their movements almost 
always appear to be straight forward, it is because, like 
lizards, they move by starts. Crocodiles arc excellent 
swimmers ; they go with facility against the most rapid 
current It appeared to Humboldt, however, that in 



descending the river, they had some difficulty in tum'ng 
quickly about. A large dog, which had accompanied 
him in hia journey from Caracas to the Rio Negro, was 
one day pursued in swimming by an enormous crocodile. 
The latter had nearly reached its prey, when the dog 
escaped by turning round suddenly and swimming 
against the current The crocodile performed the same 
movement, but much more slowly than the dog, which 
succeeded in gaining the shore. 

Near the Joval the travellers saw the largest jaguar 
they had ever met with. The natives themselves were 
astonished at its prodigious length, which surpassed that 
of any Bengal tiger ever seen in the museums of Europe. 
The animal lay stretched beneath the shade of a large 
zamang. It had just killed a tapir, but had not yet 
touched its prey, on which it kept one of its paws. The 
zamuro vultures were assembled in great numbers to 
devour the remains of the jaguar's repast. They pre- 
sented the most curious spectacle, by a singular mixture 
of boldness and timidity. They advanced within the dis- 
tance of two feet from the animal, blit at the least move- 
ment he made they drew back. In order to observe 
more nearly the manners of these creatures, Humboldt 
and Bonpland went into the little skiflF that accompanied 
their canoe. Tigers very rarely attack boats by swim- 
ming to them; and never but when their ferocity is 
heightened by a long privation of food. The noise of 
their oars led the animal to rise slowly, and hide itself 
behind the sauso bushes that bordered the shore. The 
vultures tried to profit by this moment of absence to 
devour the tapir; but the tiger, notwithstanding the 
proximity of the boat, leaped into the midst of them, 


and in a fit of rage, expressed by his gait and the move- 
ment of his tail, carried oflF his prey to the forest 

Continuing to descend the river, they met with a 
great herd of tapirs which the tiger had put to flight, and 
irom whom he had selected his prey. These animals saw 
them land very unconcernedly : some were seated, and 
gazed upon them, moving the upper lip like rabbits. 
They seemed not to be afraid of man, but the sight of the 
dog put them to flight Their hind legs being longer 
than their fore legs, their pace was a slight gallop, but 
with so little* swiftness that the travellers succeeded in 
catching two of them. 

They passed the night in the open air, though in a 
plantation, the proprietor of which employed himself in 
himting tigers. He wore scarcely any clothing, and was 
of a dark brown complexion like a Zambo. This did not 
prevent his classing himself among the whites. He called 
his wife and his daughter, who were as naked as himself 
Dofia Isabella and Dofia Manuela, Without having 
ever quitted the banks of the Apure, he took a lively 
interest in the news of Madrid, enquiring eagerly re- 
specting " those never-ending wars, and everything down 
yonder," He knew, he said, that the king was soon to 
come and visit the grandees of the country of Caracas, 
but he added with some pleasantry, " as the people of 
the court can eat only wheaten bread, they will never 
pass beyond the town of Victoria, and we shall not see 
them here." Humboldt had brought with him a tapir 
which he had intended to have roasted; but his host 
assured him that such * Indian game ' was not food fit 
for white gentlemen like the travellers and himself. 
Accordingly he offered them some venison, which he 


had killed the day before with an arrow, for he had 
neither powder nor fire-arms. 

They supposed that a small wood of plantain-trees 
concealed the hut of the farm ; but this man, so proud 
of his nobility and the colour of his skin, had not taken 
the trouble of constructing even a hut of palm>leaves. 
He invited them to have their hammocks hung near his 
own, between two trees ; and he assured them with an 
air of complacency, that, if they came up the river in the 
rainy season, they should find him beneath ^ roof. They 
soon had reason to complain of a system of philosophj' 
which was indulgent to indolence, and rendered a man 
indifferent to the conveniences of life. A fiirious wind 
arose after midnight, lightnings flashed over the horizon, 
thunder rolled, and they were wet to the skin. During 
this storm a whimsical incident served to amuse them 
for a moment. Dofta Isabella's cat had perched upon 
the tamarind-tree, at the foot of which they lay. It fell 
into the hammock of one of their companions, who being 
hurt by the claws of the cat, and suddenly aroused fix)m 
a profound sleep, imagined he was attacked by some 
wild beast of the forest They ran to him on hearing 
his cries, and had some trouble to convince him of his 
error. While it rained in torrents on their hammocks 
and on their instruments which they had brought ashore, 
their host congratulated them on their good fortune 
in not sleeping- on the strand, but finding themselves in 
his domain, among whites and persons of respectability. 
Wet as they were, they could not easily persuade them- 
selves of the advantages of their situation, and they 
listened with some impatience to the long narrative 
which he gave of his pretended expedition to the 


Ko Meta, of the valour he had displayed in a sanguiaary 
combat with the Guahibo Indians, and the services that 
he had rendered to God and his king, in carrying away 
Indian children, from their parents, to distribute them 
in the Missions. 

On the 1st of April, at sunrise, they quitted Seflor 
Don Ignacio and Sefiora Dofia Isabella his wife. 

They passed the next night on a bare and extensive 
strand of the river. The forest on its banks being im- 
penetrable, they had the greatest difficulty in finding dry 
wood to light fires. The night was calm and serene, 
and there was a beautiful moonlight. The crocodiles, 
stretched along the shore, placed themselves in such a 
manner as to be able to see the fire. The travellers 
thought they observed that its blaze attracted them, as it 
attracts fishes, crayfish, and other inhabitants of the 
water. The Indians showed them the tracks of three 
tigers in the sand, two of which were very young. A 
female had no doubt conducted her little ones to drink 
at the river. Finding no tree near, the travellers stuck 
tlieir oars in the ground, and fiistened their hammocks 
to them. Everything passed tranquilly till eleven at 
night; and then a noise so terrific arose in the neigh- 
bouring forest, that it was almost impossible to close 
their eyes. Amid the cries of so many wild beasts 
howling at once, the Indians discriminated only such as 
were at intervals heard separately. These were the little 
soft cries of the sapajous, the moans of the alouate apes, 
the bowlings of the jaguar and couguar, the peccary, and 
the sloth, and the cries of the curassao, the parraka, and 
other gallinaceous birds. When the jaguars approached 
the skirt of the forest, the dog, which accompanied the 


party, and which till then had never ceased barkings 
b^an to howl and seek for shelter "beneath their ham- 
mocks. Sometimes, after a long silence, the cry of the 
tiger came from the tops of the trees ; and then it was 
followed by the sharp And long whistling of the monkeys, 
which appeared to flee from the danger that threatened 
them. When the natives were interrogated on the causes 
of the tremendous noise made by the beasts of the forest 
at certain hours of the night, they answered, *^ They are 
keeping the feast of the full moon." 

The travellers set sail on the 2d of April. The morn- 
ing was beautiful and cool. The porpoises ploughed 
the river in long files. The shore was covered with fish- 
ing-birds. Some of these perched on the floating wood as 
it passed down the river, and surprised the fish that pre- 
ferred the middle of the stream. The canoe was aground 
several times during the morning. These shocks were 
sufficiently violent to split a light bark. They were 
caused by the limbs of large trees, which had remained 
for years in an oblique position, sunk in the mud. 
Reaching a spot near the island of Carizales, they saw 
trunks of the locust-tree, of an enormous size, above the 
surfiioe of the water. They were covered with a species 
of plotus, nearly resembling the white bellied darter. 
These birds perched in files, like pheasants, and re- 
mained for hours entirely motionless, with their beaks 
raised towards the sky. 

It rained towards evening, and before the rain fell, 
swallows skimmed over the surface of the water. They 
saw also a flock of paroquets pursued by little goshawks. 
The piercing cries of these paroquets contrasted singu- 
larly with the whistling of the birds of prey. They 


passed the night in the open air, upon the beach near 
the island of Carizales. There were severjd Indian huts 
in the neighbourhood, surrounded with plantations. 
Their pilot assured them beforehand that they should 
not hear the cries of the jaguar^which, when not ex- 
tremely pressed by hunger, withdraws from places where 
he does not reign immolested. " Men put him out of 
humour," said the people in the Missions. 

They stopped at noon the next day in a spot called 
AlgodonaL Leaving his companions while they drew the 
boat ashore and were occupied in preparing their dinner, 
Humboldt went along the beach to get a near view of a 
group of crocodiles sleeping in the sun, and lying in such 
a manner as to have their tails resting on one another. 
Some little herons, white as snow, walked along their 
backs, and even upon their heads, as if passing over 
trunks of trees. The crocodiles were of a greenish gray, 
half covered with dried mud ; from their colour and im- 
mobility they might have been taken for bronze statues. 
This excursion had nearly proved fatal to him. He had 
kept his eyes constantly turned towards the river ; but, 
whilst picking up some spangles of mica agglomerated 
together in the sand, he discovered the recent footsteps 
of a tiger, easily distinguishable from their form and size. 
The animal ha4 gone towards the forest, and turning his 
eyes on that side, he found himself within eighty paces 
of a tiger that was lying under the thick foliage of a 
ceiba. No tiger ever appeared to him so large. 

He was extremely alarmed,' yet sufficiently master of 
himself and of his motions to enable him to follow the 
advice which the Indians had so often given him as to 
how he ought to act in such cases. He continued to 


walk on without running, avoided moving his arms, and 
thought he observed that the jaguar's attention was fixed 
on a herd of capybaras which was crossing the river. 
He then began to return, making a large circuit toward 
the edge of the water. He was often tempted to look 
back in order to assure himself that he was not pursued I 
Happily he yielded very tardily to this desire. The 
jaguar had remained motionless. He arrived at the boat 
out of breath, and related his adventure to the Indians. 
They appeared very little interested by it ; yet, after the 
party had loaded their guns, they accompanied him to 
the ceiba beneath which the jaguar had lain^ He was 
there no longer. 

The 4th of April was the last day that they passed on 
the Rio Apure. During several days they had suflfered 
cruelly firom the stings of zancudos, which covered their 
&ces and hands. These insects were gnats, though very 
different firom those that they had seen in Europe. They 
appeared only after sunset Their proboscis was so long 
that, when they fixed on the lower surface of a hammock, 
they pierced through it and the thickest garments with 
their sting. 

The travellers had intended to pass the night at the 
Vuelta del Palmito, but the number of jaguars at that 
part of the Apure was so great that the Indians found 
two hidden behind the trunk of a locust-tree, at the 
moment when they were going to sling their hamniocks. 
Finding no trees to which they could suspend their ham- 
mocks, they were obliged to sleep on ox-hides spread on 
the ground. The boats were too narrow and too full of 
zancudos to permit them to pass the night in them. 

lu the place where they had landed their instruments, 


the banks being very steep, they saw new proofe of the 
indolence of the gallinaceous birds of the tropics. The 
corassaos and cashew birds had the habit of going down 
several times a day to the river to allay their thirst 
They drank a great deal, and at short intervals. A vast 
number of these birds had joined, near their station, a 
flock of pheasants. They had great difficulty in climb- 
ing up the steep banks ; they attempted it several times 
without using their wings. The travellers drove them 
before them as if they had been driving sheep. 

CJontinuing their journey they discerned towards the 
south the lovely hills of Coranto ; while to the east the 
granite rocks, of the Curiquima, the Sugar-loaf of Cay- 
cara, and the mountains of the Tyrant began to rise on 
the horizon. It was not without emotion that they 
beheld for the first time the waters of the Orinoco. 

On leaving the Rio Apure they found themselves in a 
country presenting a totally diflferent aspect An im 
mense plain of ^ater stretched before them like a lake, 
as fer as they could see. White-topped waves rose to the 
height of several feet, fix>m the conflict of the breeze and 
the current. The air resounded no longer with the 
piercing cries of herons, flamingoes, and spoonbills, cross- 
ing in long files from one shore to the other. Their 
eyes sought in vain those water-fowls, the habits of wiiich 
vary in each tribe. All nature appeared less animated. 
Scal^ly could they discover in the hollows of the waves 
'a few large crocodiles, cutting obliquely, by the help of 
their long tails, the surfiice of the agitated waters. The 
horizon was bounded by a zone of forests, which nowhere 
reached so far as the bed of the river. A vast beach, 
constantly parched by the heat of the sun, desert and 



bare as the shores of the sea, resembled at a distance, 
from the effect of the mirage, pools of stagnant water. 
These sandy shores, far from fixing the limits of the 
river, rendered them uncertain, by enlarging or contract- 
ing them alternately, according to the yariable action c^ 
the solar rays. 

Striick with the extreme breadth of the Orinoco, be- 
tween the mouth of the Apure and the rock Ouriquima, 
Humboldt ascertained it by means of a base measured 
twice on the western beach. The bed of the Orinoco, at 
low water, was over six thousand feet broad ; but this 
breadth was increased to thirty-two thousand feet in the 
rainy season. 

The travellers first proceeded south-west, as far ad the 
shore inhabited by the Guaricoto Indians on the left bank 
of the Orinoco, and then advanced straight towards the 
south. The river was so broad that the mountains of 
Encaramada appeared to rise from the water, as if seen 
above the horizon of the sea. They fopied a continued 
chain from east to west. These mountains were com- 
posed of enormous blocks of granite, cleft and piled one 
upon another. What contributed above all to embellish 
the scene at Encaramada was the luxuriance of vegeta- 
tion that covered the sides of the rocks, leaving bare only 
their rounded summits. They looked like ancient ruins 
rising in the midst of a forest. 

In the port of Encaramada they met with some Ohribs 
of Panapana. A cacique was going up the Orinoco in 
his canoe, to join in the famous fishing of turtle's eggs. 
His canoe was rounded toward the bottom, and fol- 
lowed by a smaller boat He was seated beneath a sort 
of tent, constructed, like the sail, of palm-leaves. Ilia 


cold and silent gravity, the respect with which he was 
treated by his attendants, everything denoted him to be 
a person of importance. He was equipped, however, in 
the same manner as his Indians. They were all equally 
naked, armed with bows and arrows, and painted with 
onoto. The chie^ the domestics, the furniture, the boat, 
and the sail were all painted red. These Caribs were 
men of an almost athletic stature ; they appeared to the 
travellers much taller than any Indians they had hitherto 
seen. Their smooth and thick hair, cut short on the 
forehead like that of choristers, their eyebrows painted 
black, their look at once gloomy and animated, gave a 
singular expression to their countenances. The women, 
who were very tall, and disgusting fix)m their want of 
cleanliness, carried their in&nts on their backs. The 
thighs and legs of the in&nts were bound at certain dis- 
tances by broad strips of cotton cloth, and the flesh, 
strongly compressed beneath the ligatures, was swelled 
in the interstice^. 

Near Encaramada a very long island divided the river 
into two branches. They passed the night in a rocky 
creek, opposite the mouth of the Eio Cabullare, which 
was formed by the Payara and the Atamaica. The 
evening was beautiful. The moon illumined the tops 
of the granite rocks. The heat was so imiformly distri- 
buted, that, notwithstanding the humidity of the air, no 
twinkling of the stars was observable, even at four or 
five degrees above the horizon. Towards midnight, the 
north-east wind became extremely violent It brought 
no clouds, but the vault of the sky was covered more and 
more with vapours. Strong gusts were felt, and made 
them fear for the safety of their canoe. During this 


whole day they had seen very few crocodiles, but all of 
an extraordinary size, from twenty to twenty four feet 
The Indians assured them that the young crocodiles 
preferred the marshes, and the rivers that were less 
broad and less deep. 

Speaking of the mountains of Encaramada, Humboldt 
says that the natives of those countries had retained the 
belief that, " at the time of the great waters, when their 
fistthers were forced to have recourse to boats, to escape 
the general inundation, the waves of the sea beat against 
the rocks of Encaramada." This belief was not confined 
to one nation singly, it made part of a system of historical 
tradition, of which he found scattered notions among 
the Maypures of the great cataracts ; among the Indians 
of the Eio Erevato, and among almost all the tribes of 
the Upper Orinoco. When the Indians were asked how 
the human race survived this great deluge they said, 
" a man and a woman saved themselves on a high moun- 
tain, called Tamanacu, situated on the banks of the 
Asiveru ; and casting behind them, over their heads, the 
fruits of the mauritia palm-tree, they saw the seeds con- 
tained in those fruits produce men and women, who 
repeopled the earth." A few leagues from Encaramada, 
a rock, called "the painted rock," rose in the midst of the 
savannah. Upon it were traced representations of ani- 
mals and symbolic figures. Between the banks of the 
Cassiquiare and the Orinoco, between Encaramada, the 
Capuchino, and Caycara, these hieroglyphic figures were 
often seen at great heights, on rocky cliflfe which could 
be accessible only by constructing very lofty scaffolds. 
When the natives were asked how those figures could 
have been sculptured, they answered with a smile, as if 


idiating a fact of which only a white man ccmld be ig- 
norant, that "at the period of the great waters, their 
fathers went to that height in boats." 

A fresh breeze carrying the travellers towards the 
Boca de la Tortuga they landed at an island in the middle 
of the river. This island was celebrated for the turtle- 
fishery, or, as it was called there, " the harvest of eggs," 
that took place annually. Here the travellers found an 
assemblage of Indians, encamped under huts made of 
palm-leaves. This encampment contained more than 
three hundred persons. Accustomed, since they had 
left San Fernando de Apure, to see only desert shores 
they were singularly struck by the bustle that prevailed 
here. They found, besides the Guamos and the Ottomacs 
of Uruana, who were both considered as savage races, 
Oaribs, and other Indians of the Lower Orinoco. Every 
tribe was separately encamped, and was distinguished by 
the pigments with which their skins were painted. Some 
white men were seen amidst this tumultuous assemblage, 
chiefly pulperos, or little traders of Angostura, who had 
come up the river to purchase turtle-oil from the natives. 
The missionary of Uruana, a native of Alcala, came to 
meet Humboldt and Bonpland, and he was extremely 
astonished at seeing them. After having admired their 
instruments, he gave them an exaggerated picture of the 
Buflferings to which they would be necessarily exposed in 
ascending the Orinoco beyond the cataracts. The object 
of their journey appeared to him very mysterious. " How 
is it possiblie to believe," said he, "that you have left 
your country, to come and be devoured by mosquitos on 
this river, and to measure lands that are not your own?" 
They were happily furnished with recommendations from 


the Superior of the Franciscan Missions, and the brother 
in-law of the Governor of Varinas, who accompanied 
them, soon dissipated the doubts to which their dress, 
their accent, and their arrival in this sandy island, had 
given rise among the Whites. The missionary invited 
them to partake a frugal repast of fish and plantains. 
He told them that he had come to encamp with the 
Indians during the time of the harvest of eggs, "to 
celebrate mass every morning in the open air ; to procure 
the oil necessary for the church-lamps, and especially to 
govern this mixed republic in which every one wished 
to profit singly by what God had granted to all." 

They made the tour of the island, accompanied by the 
missionary and by a trader, who boasted of having, for ten 
successive years, visited the camp of the Indians, and 
attended the turtle-fishery. They were on a plain of 
sand perfectly smooth ; and were told that, as far as they 
could see along the beach, turtles' eggs were concealed 
under a layer of earth. The missionary carried a long 
pole in his hand. He showed them, that by means of this 
pole, the extent of the stratum of ^gs could be deter- 
mined as accurately as the miner determines the limits of 
a bed of marl, of bog iron-ore, or of coal. On thrusting 
the rod perpendicularly into the ground, the sudden 
want of resistance showed that the cavity or layer of 
loose earth, containing the eggs, had been reached. They 
saw that the stratum was generally spread with so much 
uniformity, that the pole found it everywhere in a radius 
of sixty feet around any given spot Here they talked 
continually of square perches of eggs; it was like a 
mining-country, divided into lots, and worked with the 
greatest regularity. The stratum of eggs, however, was 


for fix)in covering the whole island ; they were not found 
wherever the ground rose abruptly, because the turtle 
could not mount heights. The Indians assured them 
that, in going up the Orinoco fix)m its mouth to its 
junction with the Apure, not one island or one beach 
was to be found, where eggs could be collected in 
abundance. The great turtle dreads places inhabited 
by men, or much frequented by boats. It is a timid 
and mistrustful animal, raising only its head above 
the water, and hiding itself at the least noise. 

The period at which it lays its eggs coincides with the 
period of the lowest waters. The Orinoco beginning to 
increase from the vernal equinox, the lowest flats are 
found uncovered from the end of January tiU the 20th 
or 25th of March. The turtles collect in troops in the 
month of January, then issue from the water, and warm 
themselves in the sun, reposing on the sands. The In- 
dians believed that great heat was indispensable to the 
health of the animal, and that its exposure to the sun 
favoured the laying of the eggs. They are found on the 
beach a great part of the day during the whole month of 
February. At the beginning of March the straggling 
troops assemble, and swim towards the small number of 
islands on which they habitually deposit their eggs. At 
this period, a few days before they lay their eggs, thou- 
sands of these animals may be seen ranged in long files, 
on the borders of the islands of Cucuruparu, Uruana, 
and Pararuma, stretching out their necks and holding 
their heads above water, to see whether they have any- 
thing to dread. The Indians, who are anxious that the 
bands when assembled should not separate, that the tur- 
tles should not disperse, and that the laying of the egga 


Bhould be performed tranquilly, place sentinels at certain 
distances along the shore. The people who pass in boats 
are told to keep in the middle of the river, and not 
frighten the turtles by cries. The laying of the eggs 
takes place always during the night, and it begins soon 
after sunset With its hind feet, which are very long, 
and furnished with crooked claws, the animal digs a hole 
of three feet in diameter and two in depth. These turtles 
feel so pressing a degire to lay their eggs, that some of 
them descend into holes that have been dug by others, 
but which are not yet covered with earth. There they 
deposit a new layer of eggs on that which has been 
recently laid. In this tumultuous movement an immense 
number of eggs are broken. The missionary showed the 
travellers, by removing the sand in several places, that 
this loss probably amounted to a fifth of the whole quan- 
tity. The yelk of the broken eggs contributes, in drying, 
to cement the sand ; and they found very large concre- 
tions of grains of quartz and broken shells. The num- 
ber of animals working on the beach during the night is 
so considerable, that day surprises many of them before 
the laying of their eggs is terminated. They are then 
urged on by the double necessity of depositing their eggs, 
and closing the holes they have dug, that they may not 
be perceived by the jaguars. The turtles that thus re- 
main too late are insensible to their own danger. They 
work in the presence of the Indians, who visit the beach 
at a very early hour, and who call them * mad turtles.' 
Notwithstanding the rapidity of their movements, they 
are then easily caught with the hand. 

The encampments formed by the Indians began about 
the end of March or commencement of April. The 


gathering of the eggs was conducted in a uniform man- 
ner, and with that regularity which characterizes all mon- 
astic institutions. Before the arrival of the missionaries 
on the banks of the river, the Indians profited much less 
from a production which nature has supplied in such 
abundance. Every tribe searched the beach in its own 
way, and an immense number of eggs were uselessly 
broken, because they were not dug up with precaution, 
and more eggs were uncovered than could be carried 
away. It was like a mine worked by unskilful hands. 

When the camp was formed, the missionary of Uruana 
named his lieutenant, or commissary, who divided the 
ground where the eggs were found into different por- 
tions, according to the number of the Indian tribes who 
took part in the gathering. The lieutenant began his 
operations by sounding. He examined by means of a 
long wooden pole or cane of bamboo, how far the stratum 
of ^gs extended. This stratum, according to the mea- 
surements of Humboldt, extended to the distance of one 
hundred and twenty feet from the shore. Its average 
depth was three feet. The lieutenant placed marks to 
indicate the point where each tribe should stop its labours. 
The Indians removed the earth with their hands ; they 
placed the eggs they had collected in small baskets, 
carried them to their encampment, and threw them into 
long troughs of wood filled with water. In these troughs 
the ^gs, broken and stirred with shovels, remained ex- 
posed to the sun till the oily part, which swam on the 
sur&tce, had time to inspissate. As fast as this collected 
on the surfece of the water, it was taken off and boiled 
over a quick fire. This animal oil, called turtle butter, 
kept the better in proportion as it had undergone a strong 


ebullition. When well prepared, it was limpid, inodorous, 
and scarcely yellow. The missionaries compared it tc 
the best olive oil, and it was used not merely for burning 
in lamps, but for cooking. It was not easy, however, to 
procure oil of turtles' eggs quite pure. It had generally 
a putrid smell, owing to the mixture of eggs in which 
the young were already formed. The Indians brought 
away a great number of ^gs to eat them dried in the 
sun; and they broke a considerable number through 
carelessness during the gathering. The number of eggs 
that were batched before the people could dig them up 
was so prodigious, that near the encampment of Uruana 
Humboldt saw the whole shore of the Orinoco swarming 
with little turtles an inch in diameter, escaping with diffi- 
culty from the pursuit of the Indian children. 

At the Playa de huevos where their pilot had an- 
chored to purchase provisions, their store having b^un 
to run short, the travellers found fresh meat, Angostura 
rice, and even biscuit made of wheat-flour. Their In- 
dians filled the boat with little live turtles, and eggs dried 
in the sun, for their own use. Having taken leave of 
the mission€uy of Uruana, who had treated them with 
great kindness, they set sail about four in the afternoon. 
The wind was fresh, and blew in squalls. Since they 
had entered the mountainous part of the country, they 
had discovered that their canoe carried sail very badly ; 
but the master was desirous of showing the Indians who 
were assembled on the beach, that, by going close to the 
wind, he could reach, at one single tack, the middle of 
the river. At the very moment when he was boasting 
of his dexterity, and the boldness of his mano8U\Te, the 
force of the wind upon the sail became so great that they 


were on the point of going down. One side of the boat 
was under water, which rushed in with such ^olence 
that it was soon up to their knees. It washed over a 
little table at which Humboldt was writing at the stem 
of the boat He had some difficulty in saving his journal, 
and in an instant they saw their books, papers, and dried 
plants, all afloat Bonpland was lying asleep in the 
middle of the canoe. Awakened by the entrance of 
the water and the cries of the Indians, he understood the 
danger of their situation, whilst he maintained a coolness 
which he always displayed in the most difficult circum- 
stances. The lee-side righting itself from time to time 
during the squall, he did not consider the boat as lost 
He thought that, were they even forced to abandon it, 
they might save themselves by swimming, since there 
were no crocodiles in sight Amidst this uncertainty the 
cordage of the sail suddenly gave way. The same gust 
of wind, that had thrown them on their beam, served also 
to right them. They laboured to bail the water out of 
the boat with calabashes, the sail was again set, and in 
less than half an hour they were in a state to proceed. 
The wind now abated a littJe. Squalls alternating with 
dead calms were common in that part of the Orinoco which 
was bordered by mountains. They were very dangerous 
for boats deeply laden, and without decks. The travellers 
had escaped by a miracle. To the reproaches that were 
heaped on their pilot for having kept too near the wind, 
he replied with the phlegmatic coolness peculiar to the 
Indians, observing " that the whites would find sun 
enough on those banks to dry their papers." They lost 
only one book, the first volume of the " Genera Plan- , 
tarum" of Schreber, which had fiJlen overboard. At 


nightfall they landed on a barren island in th€ middle of 
the riv«r, near the mission of Uruana. They supped in 
a clear moonlight, seating themselves on some large 
turtle-shells that were found scattered about the beach. 

On the 8th the travellers passed the mouths of the Sua 
pure and the Caripo, on the east, and the outlet of the 
Sinaruco on the west. This last river was, next to the 
Rio Arauca, the most considerable between the Apure 
and the Meta. The Suapure, full of little cascades, was 
celebrated among the Indians for the quantity of wild 
honey obtained from the forests in its neighbourhood. 

Early on the following morning the travellers arrived 
at the beach of Pararuma, where they found an encamp- 
ment of Indians. They had assembled to search the 
sands, for collecting the turtles' eggs, and extracting the 
oil ; but they had unfortunately made a mistake of seve- 
ral days. The young turtles had come out of their shells be- 
fore the Indians had formed their camp ; and consequently 
the crocodiles, and a species of large white herons, availed 
themselves of the delay. These animals, and birds fond 
of the flesh of young turtles, devour an innumerable 
quantity. They fish during the night, for the young 
turtles do not come out of the earth to gain the neigh- 
bouring river till afl«r the evening twilight The zamuro 
vultures are too indolent to hunt after sunset. They 
stalk along the shores in the dajrtime, and alight in the 
midst of the Indian encampment to steal provisions; but 
they often find no other means of satisfying their voracity 
than by attacking young crocodiles of seven or eight 
inches long, either on land, or in water of little depth. 
It was curious to see the address with which these little 
animals defended themselves for a time against the vul 


tures. As soon as they perceived the enemy they raised 
themselves on their fore paws, bent their backs, and 
lifted up their heads, opening their wide jaws. .They 
turned continually, though slowly, towards their assailant 
to show him their teeth, which even when the animal 
had but recently issued from the egg, were very long and 
sharp. Often while the attention of a young crocodile 
was wholly engaged by one of the zamuros, another 
seized the favourable opportunity for an unforeseen at- 
tack. He pounced on the animal, grasped him by the 
neck, and bore him off to the higher regions of the air. 

They found among the Indians assembled at Pararuma 
some white men, who had come from Angostura to 
purchase the turtle-butter. After having wearied the 
tnivellers for a long time with their complaints of the 
bad harvest, and the mischief done by the tigers among 
the turtles, at the time of laying their eggs, they con- 
ducted them beneath an ajoupa, that rose in the centre 
of the Indian camp. They found there the missionary- 
monks of Carichana and the Cataracts seated on the 
ground playing at cards, and smoking tobacco in long 
pipes. From their ample blue garments, their shaven 
heads, aoid their long beards, they might have been mis- 
taken for natives of the East These poor priests re- 
ceived them in the kindest manner, giving them every 
information necessary for the continuance of their voy- 
age. They had suffered from tertian fever for some 
months ; and their pale and emaciated aspect easily con- 
vinced the travellers that the countries they were about 
to visit were not without danger to their health. 

The Indian pilot who. had brought them from San 
Fernando de Apure as far as the shore of Pararuma^ was 


unacquainted with the passage of the rapids of the On 
noco, and would not undertake to conduct their bark 
any f%fther. They were obliged to conform to his wilL 
Happily for them, the missionary of Carichana consented 
to sell them a fine canoe at a very moderate price : and 
Father Bernardo Zea, missionary of the Atures and May- 
pures near the great cataracts, oflfered, though still un- 
well, to accompany them as &r as the firontiers of BraziL 

Most of the missionaries of the Upper and Lower Ori- 
noco permitted the Indians of their Missions to paint 
their skins ; some of them even speculated on this bar- 
barous practice of the .natives. In their huts, pompously 
called convents, Humboldt often saw stores of chica, 
which they sold as high as four francs the cake. To 
form a just idea of the extravagance of the decoration of 
these naked Indians, he tells us that a man of large 
stature gains with difficulty enough by the labour of a 
fortnight, to procure in exchange the chica necessary to 
paint himself red. Thus as we say in temperate climates, 
of a poor man, " he has not enough to clpthe himself^" 
the Indians of the Orinoco say, " that man is so poor, 
that he has not enough to paint half his body." 

Humboldt was surprised to see, that, the women fiur 
advanced in years, were more occupied with their oma- 
menta than the youngest women. He saw an Indian 
female of the nation of the Ottomacs employing two of 
her daughters in the operation of rubbing her hair with 
the oil of turtles' eggs, and painting her back with anato 
and caruto. The ornament consisted of a sort of lattice- 
work formed of black lines crossing each other on a red 
ground. Each little square had a black dot in the centre. 
It was a work of incredible patience. He returned from 


a very long herborization, and the painting was not half 

The Indians were not always satisfied with one colour 
uniformly spread ; they sometimes imitated in the most 
whimsical manner, in painting their skin, the form of 
European garments. The travellers saw some at Para- 
ruma, who were painted with blue jackets and black 
buttons. The ^nissionaries related to them that the 
Guaynaves of the Rio Caura were accustomed to stain 
themselves red with anato, and to make broad transverse 
stripes on the body, on which they stuck spangles of 
silvery mica. Seen at a distance, these naked men ap- 
peared to be dressed in laced clothes. 

The traveUers had an excellent opportunity while on 
the Orinoco of examining several animals in their natural 
state, which, till then, they had seen only in the collec* 
tions of Europe. These little animals formed a branch 
of commerce for the missionaries. They exchanged to- 
bacco, resin, the pigment of chica, rock-manakins, orange 
monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and other species of mon- 
keys in great request on the coast, for cloth, nails, hatch- 
ets, fish-hooks, and pins. The productions of the Ori- 
noco were bought at a low price from the Indians, who 
lived in dependence on the monks ; and these same Indi- 
ans purchased fishing and gardening implements fi-om 
the monks at a very high price, with the money they 
gained at the egg-harvest. Humboldt and Bonpland 
bought several animals, which they kept throughout the 
rest of their passage on the river, and studied their man- 
ners. Among these was a little monkey called the titi. 

No other monkey has so much the physiognomy of a 
child as the titi; there is the same expression of in no- 


cence, the same playful smile, the same rapidity in the 
transition fix)m joy to sorrow. Its large eyes are in- 
stantly filled with tears, when it is seized with fear. Il 
is extremely fond of insects, particularly of spiders. The 
sagacity of this little animal is so great that one brought 
in their boat to Angostura distinguished perfectly the 
different plates annexed to one of Cuvier's works on 
Natural History. The engravings of this work were 
not coloured ; yet the titi advanced rapidly its little hand 
in the hope of catching a grasshopper or a wasp, every 
time the travellers showed it the plate, on which these 
insects were represented. It remained perfectly indiffer- 
ent when it was shown engravings of skeletons or heads 
of mammiferous animals. When several of these little 
monkeys, shut up in the same cage, were exposed to ihe 
rain, they twisted their tail round their neck, and inter- 
twined their arms and legs to warm one another. The 
hunters told the travellers that in the forests they often 
met groups of ten or twelve of these animals, whilst 
others sent forth lamentable cries, because they wished 
to enter the group to find warmth and shelter. By 
shooting arrows dipped in weak poison at one of these 
groups, a great number of young monkeys are taken 
alive at once. The titi in falling remains clinging to its 
mother, and if it be not wounded by the fall, it does not 
quit the shoulder or the neck of the dead animal Most 
of those that were found alive in the huts of the Indians, 
had been taken thus from the dead bodies of their 

To gain something in breadth in their narrow canoe 
the ^travellers constructed a sort of lattice-work on the 
stern with branches of trees, that extended on each side 


beyond the gunwale. Unfortunately, the roof of leaves, 
that covered this lattice-work, was so low that they were 
obliged to lie down, without seeing anything, or, if 
seated, to sit nearly double. The necessity of carrying 
the canoe across the rapids, and even from one river to 
another, and the fear of giving too much hold to the 
wind, by making the roof higher, rendered this construc- 
tion necessary. The roof was intended to cover four 
persons, lying on the deck or lattice- work of brush-wood, 
but their legs reached fer beyond it, aud when it rained 
half their bodies were wet Their couches consisted of 
ox-hides or tiger-skins, spread upon branches of trees, 
which were painfully felt through so thin a covering. 
The fore part of the boat was fiUed with Indian rowers, 
furnished with paddles, three feet long, in the form of 
spoons. ThejT were all naked, seated two by two,- and 
they kept time in rowing with a surprising uniformity, 
singing songs of a sad and monotonous character. The 
small cages containing the birds and the monkeys of 
the travellers, the number of which increased as they 
advanced, were hung, some to the roof and others to the 
bow of the boat. This was their travelling menagerie. 
Every night, when they established their watch, their 
collection of animals and instruments occupied the centre; 
around these were placed first their hammocks, then the 
hammocks of the Indians ; and on the outside were the 
fires which were thought indispensable against the attacks 
of the jaguar. 

In a canoe not three feet wide, and so encumbered, 
there remained no other place for the dried plants, 
trunks, sextants, dipping-needles, and the meteorological 
instruments, than the space below the lattice-work of 


branches, on whicli Humboldt and Bonpland were com- 
pelled to remain stretched the greater part of the day. 
If they wished to take the least object out of a trunk, or 
to use an instrument, it was necessary to row ashore and 
land. To these inconveniences were joined the torment 
of the mosquitos which swarmed under the roof, and the 
heat radiated from the leaves of the palm-tre^ the upper 
surface of which was continually exposed to the solar 
rays. They attempted every instant, but always without 
success, to mend their situation. While one of them 
hid himself under a sheet to ward off the insects, the 
other insisted on having green wood lighted beneath the 
roof in the hope of driving away the mosquitos by the 
smoke. The painful sensations of th© eyes, and the 
increase of heat, already stifling, rendered both these 
contrivances alike impracticable. 

On the 11th of April they found the course of the 
river encumbered by blocks of granite rocks. They 
passed on the west the Cafio Orupe, and then a great 
rock known by the name of the Rock of the Tiger. The 
river there was so deep, that no bottom could be found 
with a line of twenty-two fathoms. Towards evening 
the weather became cloudy and gloomy. The proximitj^ 
of the storm was marked by squalls alternating with dead 
calms. The rain was violent, and the roof of foliage, 
under which the travellers lay, afforded but little shelter. 
Happily these showers drove away the mosquitos for 
some time. They found themselves before the cataract 
of Cariven, and the impulse of the waters was so strong, 
that they had great difficulty in gaining the land. They 
were continually driven back to the middle of the cur- 
rent. At length two Salive Indians, excellent swimmers, 


leaped into the water, and having drawn the boat tc 
shore by means of a rope, made it feat to a shelf of bare 
rock, on which they passed the night The thunder 
continued to roll during a part of the night ; the swell 
of the river became considerable ; and they were several 
times afraid that their frail bark would be driven from 
tiie shore by the impetuosity of the waves. 

The next day Aey found the bed of the river, to the 
length of thirty-six hundred feet, full of granite rocks. 
They passed through channels that were not five feet 
broad. Their canoe was sometimes jammed between 
two blocks of granite. When the current was too violent 
to be resisted the rowers leaped into the water, and 
fastened a rope to the point of a rock, to warp the boat 
along. This manoeuvre was very tedious ; and the tra- 
vellers sometimes availed themselves of it, to climb the 
rocks among which they were entangled. The rocks 
were of all dimensions, rounded, very black, glossy like 
lead, and destitute of vegetation. It was an extraordinary 
phenomenon to see the waters of one of the largest rivers 
on the globe in some sort disappear. They perceived, 
even fer from the shore, those immense blocks of granite 
rising from the ground, and leaning one against another. 
The intervening channels in the rapids were more than 
twenty-five fathoms deep ; and were the more difficult to 
be observed, as the rocks were often narrow towards their 
bases, and formed vaults suspended over the sur&ce of 
the river. 

From the mouth of the Meta, the Orinoco appeared to 
be freer of shoals and rocks. They navigated in a channel 
three thousand feet broad. The Indians remained row- 
ing in the boat, without towing or pushing it forward 


with their arms, and wearying the travellers with tneii 
wild cries. It was night when they reached the Cataract 
of Tabaje. As the Indians would not hazard passing the 
cataract, they slept on a very incommodious spot, on the 
shelf of a rock, with a slope of more than eighteen 
degrees, and of which the crevices sheltered a swarm of 
bata. They heard the cries of the jaguar very near them 
during the whole night The jaguars were answered 
by their great dog in lengthened bowlings. Humboldt 
waited the appearance of the stars in vain : the sky was 
exceedingly black; and the hoarse soimds of the cascades 
of the Orinoco mingled with the rolling of the distant 

Early in the morning of the ISth they passed the 
rapids of Tabaje, and again disembarkea. Father Zea, 
who accompanied them, desired to perform mass in 
the New Mission of San Borja, established two years 
before. They found there six houses inhabited by un- 
catechised Guahibos. They differed in nothing from the 
wild Indians. Their eyes, which were large and black, 
had more vivacity than those of the Indians who inha- 
bited the ancient missions. They were offered brandy, 
but they would not even taste it. The faces of all the 
young girls were marked with round black spots ; like 
the patches by which the ladies of Europe formerly 
imagined they set off the whiteness of their skins. The 
bodies of the Guahibos were not painted. Several of 
them had beards, of which they seemed proud ; and, 
taking the white men by the chin, they showed them 
by signs, that they were made like them. 

The Orinoco, in running from south to north, was 
crossed by a chain of granitic mountains. Twice con 


fined in its course, it turbulently broke on the rocks. 
Nothing could be grander than the aspect of this spot. 
It was traversed, in an extent of more than five miles, 
by innumerable dikes of rock, forming so many natural 
dams. The space between these dikes was filled with 
islands of different dimensions ; some hilly, divided into 
several peaks, and twelve or fifteen hundred feet in 
length, others small, low, and like mere shoals. These 
islands divided the river into a number of torrents, which 
boiled up as they broke against the rocks. The jaguas 
and cucuritos with plumy leaves, with which all the 
islands were covered, seemed like groves of palm-trees 
rising fix)m the foamy surface of the waters. Blocks of 
granite were heaped together, as in the moraines which 
the glaciers of Switzerland drive before them. The 
river was ingulfed in caverns ; and in one of these 
caverns the travellers heard the water roll at once over 
their heads and beneath their feet. The Orinoco seemed 
divided into a multitude of arms or torrents, each of 
which sought to force a passage through the rocks. They 
were struck with the little water to be seen in the bed 
of the river, the frequency of subterraneous falls, and the 
tumult of the waters breaking on the rocks in foam. 

From Caracas the travellers proceeded to Atures. The 
missionary at Atures related to them a striking instance 
of the familiarity of a jaguar. Some months before their 
arrival, a jaguar, which was thought to be young, though 
of a large size, had wounded a child in playing with him. 
The facts of this case, which were verified to them on the 
spot, are not without interest in the history of the man- 
ners of animals. Two Indian children, a boy and a girl, 
about eight and nine years of age, were seated on the 


grass near the village of Atures, in the middle of a 
savannah. At two o'clock in the afternoon, a jaguar 
issued from the forest, and approached the children, 
bounding around them ; sometimes he hid himself in the 
high grass, sometimes he sprang forward, his back bent, 
his head hung down, in the manner of a cat The little 
boy, ignorant of his danger, seemed to be sensible of it 
only when the jaguar with one of his paws gave him 
some blows on the head. These blows, at first slight, 
became ruder and ruder; the claws of the jaguar 
wounded the child, and the blood flowed freely. The 
little girl then took a branch of a tree, struck the animal, 
and it fled from her. The Indians ran up at the cries of 
the children, and saw the jaguar, which bounded off 
without making the least show of resistance. 

The little boy, who was brought to the travellers, ap- 
peared lively and intelligent The claw of the jaguar 
had torn away the skin from the lower part o[ the fore- 
head, and there was a second scar at the top of the 

Among the cataracts of Atures the travellers began to 
hear of the hairy man of the woods, that carried off 
women, constructed huts, and sometimes ate human flesh. 
The Tamancas called it achi, and the Maypures vasitri, 
or " great devil." The natives and the missionaries had 
no doubt of the existence of this man-shaped monkey, 
of which they entertained a singular dread. Father Gili 
gravely relates the history of a lady in the town of San 
Carlos, in the Llanos of Venezuela, who much praised 
the gentle character and attentions of the man of the 
woods. She is stated to have lived several years with 
one in great domestic harmony, and only requested some 


hunters to take her back, " because she and her children 
(a little hairy also) were weary of living far from the 
church and tiie sacraments." The travellers did not see 
this mythical hairy man. 

They were horribly tormented in the day by mosqui- 
tos and the jejen, a small venomous fly, and at night by 
the zancudos. Their hands began to swell considerably, 
and this swelling increased daily till their arrival on the 
banks of the Temi. The means that were employed to 
escape from these little plagues were extraordinary. The 
good missionary Bernardo Zea, who passed his life tor- 
mented by mosquitos, had constructed near the church, 
on a scaflfolding of palm-trees, a small apartment, in 
which the travellers breathed more freely. To this they 
went up in the evening, by means of a ladder, to diy 
their plants and write their journal. The missionary 
had observed, that the insects abounded more particu- 
larly in the lowest strata of the atmosphere, that which 
reaches fix»m the ground to the height of twelve or fifteen 
feet. At Maypures the Indians quitted the village at 
night, to go and sl^p on the little islets in the midst of 
the cataracts. There they enjoyed some rest, the mos- 
quitos appearing to shun air loaded with vapours. The 
travellers found everywhere fewer in the middle of the 
river than near its banks. 

In the missions of the Orinoco, in the villages on the 
banks of the river, surrounded by immense forests, the 
plague of the mosquitos, afforded an inexhaustible sub- 
ject of conversation. When two persons met in the 
morning, the first questions they addressed to each other 
were: "How did you find the zancudos during the 
night ? How are we to-day for the mosquitos?" These 


questions reminded Humboldt of a Chinese form of ik> 
liteness, which indicated the ancient state of the country 
where it took birth. Salutations were formerly made in 
the Celestial Empire in the following words, " Have you 
been incommoded in the night by the serpents?" 

" How comfortable must people be in the moon !" said 
a Salive Indian to Father Gumilla ; " She looks so beau- 
tiful and so clear, that she must be free firom mosquitos." 
These words which denoted the infancy of a people were 
remarkable. The satellite of the earth appears to all 
savage nations the abode of the blessed, the country of 
abundance. The Esquimaux, who counts among his 
riches a plank or trunk of a tree, thrown by the currents 
on a coast destitute of vegetation, sees in the moon plains 
covered with forests ; the Indian of the forests of Ori- 
noco beholds there open savannahs, where the inhabi^ 
ants are never stung by mosquitos. 

At Mandavaca the travellers found an old missionary, 
who told them with an air of sadness, that he had had 
" his twenty years of mosquitos in America." He de- 
sired them to look at his legs, " that they might be able 
to tell one day beyond the sea, what the poor monks 
suflFer in the forests of Cassiquiare." Every sting leav- 
ing a small darkish brown point, his legs were so 
speckled that it was difficult to recognise the whiteness 
of his skin, through the spots of coagulated blood. 
"What appeared to the travellers singular, was that 
the different species did not associate together, and that 
at different hours of the day they were stung by distinct 
species. Every time that the scene changed, and, to use 
the simple expression of the missionaries, other insects 
"mounted guard," they had a few minutes, often a quar- 


ter of an hour, of repose. The insects that disappeared 
did not hare their places instantly supplied by their suc- 
cessors. From half-past six in the morning till five in 
the afternoon, the air was filled with mosquitos. An 
hour before sunset a species of small gnat took the place 
of the mosquitos. Their presence scarcely lasted an 
hour and a half; they disappeared between six and 
seven in the evening, or, as they said there, after the 
Angelus. After a few minutes' repose, the travellers 
would be stung by zancudos, another specieb of gnat 
with very long legs. The zancudo, the proboscis of which 
contains a sharp-pointed sucker, caused the most acute 
pain, and a swelling that remained several weeks. Its 
hum resembled that of the European gnat, but was 
louder and more prolonged. In the day-time, and even 
when labouring at the oar, the natives, in order to chase 
the insects, were continually giving one another smart 
slaps with the palm of the hand. They even struck 
themselves and their comrades mechanically during their 
sleep. Near Maypures the travellers saw some young 
Indians seated in a circle and rubbing cruelly each other's 
backs with the bark of trees dried at the fire. Indian 
women were occupied, with a degree of patience of which 
the copper-coloured race alone are capable, in extracting, 
by means of a sharp bone, the little mass of coagulated 
blood that formed the centre of every sting, and gave 
the skin a speckled appearance. One of the most bar- 
^ barous nations of the Orinoco, that of the Ottomacs, was 
acquainted with the use of mosquito-curtains, woven 
fix)m the fibres of the moriche palm-tree. At Higuerote, 
on the coast of Caracas, the copper-coloured people slept 
buried in the sand. In the villages of the Rio Magda- 



lena the Indians often invited the travellers to stretch 
themselves on ox-skins, near the church, in the middle 
of the great square, where they had assembled all the 
cows in the neighbourhood. The proximity of cattle 
gives some repose to man. The Indians of the Upper 
Orinoco and the Cassiquiare, seeing that Bonpland could 
not prepare his herbal, owing to the continual torment 
of the mosquitos, invited him to enter their ovens. Thus 
they called the little chambers, without doors or win- 
dows, into which they crept horizontally through a very 
low opening. When they had driven away the insects 
by means of a fire of wet brushwood, which emitted a 
great deal of smoke, they closed the opening of the oven. 
The absence of the mosquitos was purchased dearlj 
enough by the excessive heat of the stagnated air, and 
the smoke of a torch of copal, which lighted the oven 
during their stay in it. Bonpland, widi courage and 
patience well worthy of praise, dried hundreds of plants, 
shut up in these ovens of the Indians. 

They embarked on the morning of the 17th of AprU. 
On the 18th they stopped at the mouth of the Rio Tomo. 
The Indians went on shore, to prepare their food, and 
take some repose. When the travellers reached the foot 
of the Cataract of the Guahibos it was near five in the 
afternoon. It was extremely difficult to go up the cur- 
rent against a mass of water, precipitated from a bank of 
gneiss several feet high. An Indian threw himself into 
the water, to reach, by swimming, the rock that divided 
the cataract into two parts. A rope was fastened to the 
point of this rock, and when the canoe was hauled near 
enough, their instruments, their dry plants, and the pro- 
vision they had collected at Atures, were landed in the 


eataract itselt They remarked with surprise, that the 
natoral dam over which the river was precipitated, pre- 
sented a dry space of considerable extent, where tiiej 
stopped to see the boat go up. 

The rock of gneiss exhibited circular holes, the largest 
of which were four feet deep, and eighteen inches wide. 
These funnels contained quartz pebbles, and appeared to 
have been formed by the friction of masses rolled along 
by the impulse of the waters. Their situation, in the 
midst of the cataract, was singular enough, but unat- 
tended by the smallest danger. The missionary, who 
accompanied them, had his fever-fit on him. In order 
to quench the thirst by which he was tormented, the 
idea suggested itself to them of preparing a refreshing 
beverage for him in one of the excavations of the rock. 
They had taken on board at Atures an Indian basket 
filled with sugar, limes, and grenadillas. As they were 
destitute of large vessels- for holding and mixing liquids, 
they poured the water of the river, by means of a cala- 
bash, into one of the holes of the rock: to this they 
added sugar and lime-juice. In a few minutes they had 
an excellent beverage. 

After an hour of expectation they saw their boat 
arrive above the cataract, and were soon ready to depart 
They were now overtaken by a storm, accompanied 
happily by no wind, but the rain fell in torrents. After 
rowing awhile, the pilot declared, that, far from gaining 
upon the current, they were again approaching the cata- 
ract. These moments of uncertainty appeared to them 
very long ; the Indians spoke only in whispers, as they 
always did when they thought their situation perilous. 
They redoubled their eflforts, and the travellers arrived 


at nightfall, without any accident, in the port of May 
purea The night was extremely dark, and it waa 
two hours or more before they could reach the village. 
They were wet to the skin. In proportion as the rair 
ceased, the zancudos re-appeared, with that voracity 
which tipulary insects always display immediately after 
a storm. Their fellow-travellers were uncertain whether 
it would be best to stop in the port or proceed on their 
way on foot, in spite of the darkness of the night 
Father 2iea was determined to reach his home. He had 
given directions for the construction of a large house of 
two stories, which was to be begun by the Indians of 
the mission. " You will there find," said he gravely, " the 
same conveniences as in the open air; I have neither 
a bench nor a table, but you will not suffer so much 
from the flies, which are less troublesome in the mission 
than on the banks of the river." They followed the 
counsel of the missionary, who caused torches of copal 
to be lighted. They walked at first over beds of rock, 
which were bare and slippery, and then entered a thick 
grove of palm-trees. They were twice obliged to pass 
a stream on trunks of trees hewn down. The torches 
had already ceased to give light Being formed on a 
strange principle, the woody substance which resembled 
the wick surrounding the resin, they emitted more smoke 
than Hght, and were easily extinguished. The Indian 
pilot, who expressed himself with some facility in Span- 
ish, told the travellers of snakes, water-serpents, and 
tigers, by which they might be attacked. 

Arriving during the night at Maypures they were 
forcibly struck by the solitude of the place ; the Indians 
were plunged in profound sleep, and nothing was heard 


but the cries of nocturnal birds, and the distant sound of 
the cataract. In the calm of the night, amid the deep 
repose of nature, the monotonous sound of a fall of 
water had in it something sad and solemn. They re- 
mained three days at May pu res. 

Humboldt and Bonpland were enraptured with the 
cataract of Maypures, and they often visited the little 
mountain of Mammi to gaze upon it. A foaming sur- 
face of four miles in length presented itself at once to 
the eye : iron-black masses of rock, resembling ruins and 
battlemented towers, rose frowning from the waters. 
Rocks and islands were adorned with the luxuriant vege- 
tation of the tropical forest; a perpetual mist hovered 
over the waters, and the summits of the lofty palms 
pierced through the clouds of spray and vapour. When 
the rays of the glowing evening sun were refracted in 
these humid exhalations a magic optical effect began. 
Coloured bows shone, vanished and reappeared; and 
the ethereal image was swayed to and fro by the breath 
of the sportive breeze. During the long rainy season 
the streaming waters brought down islands of vegetable 
mould, and thus the naked rocks were studded with 
bright flower-beds adorned with Melastomfls and Droseras, 
and with small silver-leaved mimosas and ferns. 

The calm of the atmosphere, and the tumultuous 
movement of the waters, produced a contrast j^culiar 
to this zone. Here no breath of vnnd ever agitated the 
foliage, no cloud veiled the splendour of the heaven ; a 
great mass of light was diffused in the air, on the earth 
strewn with plants with glossy leaves, and on the bed 
of the river, which extended as far as the eye could 


They spent two days and a half in the little village of 
Maypures, on the banks of the great Upper Cataract, 
and on the 21st of April embarked in the canoe they 
had obtained from the missionary of Carichana. It 
was much damaged by the shoals it had struck against, 
and the carelessness of the Indians ; but still greater dan- 
gers awaited it. It had to be dragged over land, across 
an isthmus of thirty-six thousand feet; from the Rio 
Tuamini to the Rio Negro, to go up by the Cassiquiare 
to the Orinoco, and to repass the two cataracts. 

They landed at the mouth of the Rio Vichada or Visata 
to examine the plants of that part of the country. The 
scenery was very singular. The forest was thin, and an 
innumerable quantity of small rocks rose from the plain. 
These formed massy prisms, ruined pillars, and solitary 
towers fifteen or twenty feet high. Some were shaded 
by the trees of the forest, others had their summits 
crowned with palms. 

Passing the Cafio Pirajavi on the east, and then a small 
river on the west, they rested on the night of the 22d on 
the shore of the Orinoco, at the mouth of the Zama. 
Notwithstanding the " black waters " of the Zama, they 
suffered greatly from insects. The night was beautiful, 
without a breath of wind in the lower regions of the at- 
mosphere, but towards two in the morning they saw thick 
cloudy crossing the zenith rapidly from east to west 
When, declining towards the horizon, they traversed the 
great nebulae of Sagittarius and the Ship, they appeared 
of a dark blue. 

The travellers left the mouth of the Zama at five in the 
morning of the 23d. The river continued to be skirted 
on both sides by a thick forest. The mountains on the 


east seemed gradually to retire farther back. They passed 
first the mouth of the Rio Mataveni, and afterwards an 
islet of a very singular form ; a square granitic rock that 
rose in the middle of the water. It was called by the mis- 
sionaries the Little Castle. They passed the night on the 
right bank opposite the mouth of the Rio Siucurivapu, 
near a rock called Aricagua. During the night an in- 
numerable quantity of bats issued from the clefts of the 
rock, and hovered around their hammocks. 

On the 24th a violent rain obliged them early to re- 
turn to their boat. They departed at two o'clock, after 
having lost some books, which they could not find in the 
darkness of the night, on the rock of Aricagua. The 
river ran straight from south to north ; its banks were 
low, and shaded on both sides by thick forests. They 
'passed the mouths of the Ucata, the Arapa, and the 
Caranaveni. About four in the afternoon they landed 
at the Indian plantations of the mission of San Fernando. 
•The good people wished to detain them among them, but 
they continued to go up against the current, which ran 
at tiie rate of five feet a second. They entered the mouth 
of the Guaviare on a dark night, pa^ed the point where 
the Rio Atabapo joins the Guaviare, and arrived at the 
mission after midnight They were lodged as usual at 
the C!onvent, that is, in the house of the missionary, who, 
though much surprised at their unexpected visit, never- 
theless received them with the greatest hospitality. 

During the night, they had left:, almost unperceived, 
the waters of the Orinoco ; and at sunrise found them- 
selves as if transported to a new country, on the banks 
of a river the name of which they had scarcely ever 
heard pronounced, and which was to conduct them, by 


the portage of Pimicliin, to the Kio Negro, on the firon 
tiers of Brazil. " You will go up," said the president 
of the missions, who resided at San Fernando, " first the 
Atabapo, then the Temi, and finally, the TuaminL When 
the force of the current of * black waters ' hinders 
you from advancing, you will be conducted out of the 
bed of the river through forests, which you will find in- 
undated. Two monks only are settled in those desert 
places, between the Orinoco and the Bio Negro ; but at 
Javita you will be furnished with the means of having 
your canoe drawn over land in the course of four days 
to Cafio Pimichin. K it be not broken to pieces you 
will descend the Bio Negro without any obstacle (fix>m 
north-west to south-east) as fiir as the little fort of San 
Carlos ; you will go up the Cassiquiare (fix)m south to 
north), and then return to San Fernando in a month^ 
descending the Upper Orinoco from east to west." Such 
was the plan traced ibr their passage, and they carried it 
into efiect without danger, though not without some 
suffering, in the space of thirty-three days. 

In their walks together the president of the mission 
gave the travellers an animated account of his incurs 
sions on the Bio Guaviare. He related to them how much 
these journeys, undertaken for the conquest of souls, were 
desired by the Indians of the missions. All, even women 
and old men, took ^art in them. Under the pi^ptext of 
recovering neophytes who had deserted the village, chil- 
dren above eight or ten years of age were carried ofl^ and 
distributed among the Indians of the missions as serfe. 

Three years before the arrival of the traveller^ the 
missionary of San Fernando led his Indians to the 
banks of the Bio Giiaviare, on one of those hostile in- 


cursions. They found in an Indian hut a Guahiba 
woman with her three children, two of whom were still 
in£knts, occupied in preparing the flour of cassava. * 
Besistance was impossible ; the father was gone to fish, 
and the mother tried id vain to flee with her children. 
Scarcely had she reached the savannah when she was 
seized by the Indians of the mission. The mother and 
her children were bound, and dragged to the bank of the 
river. The monk, seated in his boat, waited the issue of 
an expedition of which he shared not the danger. Had 
the mother made too violent a resistance the Indians 
would have killed her, for everything was permitted for 
the sake of the conquest of souls, and it was particularly 
desirable to capture children, who might be treated in 
the mission as slaves of the Christians. The prisoners 
were carried to San Fernando, in the hope that the mother 
would be unable to find her way back to her home by 
land. Separated from her other children wh© had ac- 
companied their father on the day in which she had been 
carried ofl^ the unhappy woman showed signs of the 
deepest despair. She attempted 'to take back to her 
home the children who had been seized by tte mission- 
ary ; and she fled with them repeatedly from the village 
of San Fernando. But the Indians never foiled to re- 
capture her ; and the missionary, after having caused her 
to be mercilessly beaten, took the cruel resolution of 
separating the mother from the two children who had 
been carried off with her. She was conveyed alone to 
the missions of the Rio Negro, going up the Atabapo. 
Slightly bound, she was seated at the bow of the boat, 
ignorant of the fate that awaited her ; but she judged by 
the direction of the sun, that she was removing ferther 


and farther from her hut and her native country. She 
succeeded in breaking her bonds, threw herself into the 
water, and swam to the left bank of the Atabapo. The 
current carried her to a shelf of rock, which bears her 
name to this day — The Mother's Bock. She landed and 
took shelter in the woods, but the president of the mis- 
sions ordered the Indians to row to the shore, and follow 
the traces of the Guahiba. In the evening she was 
brought back. Stretched upon the rock, a cruel punish- 
ment was inflicted upon her with straps of manati leather, 
which served for whips in that country, and with which 
the alcaldes were always furnished. The unhappy wo- 
man, her hands tied behind her back, was then dragged 
to the mission of Javita. 

She was there thrown into one of the caravanserais. 
It was the rainy season, and the night was profoundly 
dark. Forests till then believed to be impenetrable 
separated the mission of Javita from that of San Fer- 
nando, which was twenty-five leagues distant in a straight 
line. No other route was known than that by the 
rivers ; no man ever attempted to go by land from one 
village to another. But such difficulties could not deter 
a mother, separated from her children. The Guahiba 
was carelessly guarded in the caravanserai. Her arms 
Deing wounded, the Indians of Javita had loosened her 
bonds, unknown to the missionary and the alcaldes. 
Having succeeded by the help of her teeth in break- 
ing them entirely, she disappeared during the night; and 
at the fourth sunrise was seen at the mission of San 
Fernando, hovering around the hut where her children 
were confined. " What that woman performed," added 
the missionary, who gave the travellers this sad narra- 

UP THB mo TBMI. 163 

tive, "the most robust Indian would not have ventured 
to undertake I" She traversed the woods when the sky 
was constantly covered with clouds, and the sun during 
the whole days appeared but for a few minutes. Did the 
couise of the waters direct her way? The inundations 
of the rivers forced her to go fitr from the banks of the 
main stream, through the midst of woods where the 
movement of the water was almost imperceptible. How 
often must she have been stopped by the thorny lianas, 
that formed a network around the trunks they entwined I 
How often must she have swum across the rivulets that 
ran into the Atabapol This unfortunate woman was 
asked how she had sustained herself during the four 
days. She said that, exhausted with fatigue, she could 
find no other nourishment than black ants. The travel- 
lers pressed the missionary to tell them whether the 
Guahiba had peacefully enjoyed the happiness of remain- 
ing with her children ; and if any repentance had fol- 
lowed this excess of cruelty. He would not satisfy theii 
curiosity ; but at their return from the Kio Negro they 
learned that the Indian mother was again separated from 
her children, and sent to one of the missions of the Upper 
Orinoco. She there died, refusing all kind of nourish- 

Above the mouth of the Quasucari they entered the 
Rio Temi. The country exhibited the uniform aspect 
of forests covering ground perfectly flat. Wherever the 
river had formed caves the forest was inundated to the 
extent of more than half a league square. To avoid 
the sinuosities of the river and shorten the passage, the 
navigation was performed here in an extraordinary man 
ner. The Indians made the travellers leave the bed of 


the river; and they proceeded southward across the 
forest, through open channels of four or five feet broad. 
The depth of the water seldom exceeded half a fiithom 
These channels were formed in the inundated forest like 
paths on dry ground. The Indians, in going firOm one 
mission to another, passed with their boats as much as 
possible by the same way ; but the communications not 
being frequent the force of vegetation sometimes pro- 
duced unexpected obstacles. An Indian, furnished with 
a machete, a great knife, the blade of which was fourteen 
inches long, stood at the head of their boat, employed 
continually in chopping off the branches that crossed 
each other from the two sides of the channel. In the 
thickest part of the forest they were astonished by an 
extraordinary noise. On beating the bushes, a shoal of 
fresh-water dolphins, four feet long, surrounded their 
boat. These animals had concealed themselves beneath 
the branches of a Bombax ceiba. They fled across the 
forest, throwing out those spouts of compressed air and 
water which have given them in every language the name 
of "blowers." How singular was this spectacle in an 
inland spot, three or four hundred leagues from the 
mouths of the Orinoco and the Amazon I 

At five in the evening they regained with some diffi- 
culty the bed of the river. Their canoe remained fast 
for some time between two trunks of trees ; and it was 
no sooner disengaged than they reached a spot where 
several small channels crossed each other, so that the pilot 
was puzzled to distinguish the most open path. They 
navigated through a forest so thick that they could guide 
themselves neither by the sun nor by the stars. 

On the 1st of May the Indians chose to depart long 


before sunrise. The travellers were stirring before them, 
however, because Humboldt waited, though vainly, for a 
star ready to pass the meridian. In those humid regions 
covered with forests, the nights became more obscure in 
proportion as they drew nearer to the Eio Negro and the 
interior of Brazil. They remained in the bed of the river 
till daybreak, being afraid of losing themselves among 
the trees. At sunrise they again entered the inundated 
forest, to avoid the force of the current. On reaching 
the junction of the Temi with another little river, the 
Tuamini, the waters of which were equally black, they 
proceeded along the latter to the south-west. This direc- 
tion led them near the mission of Javita, which was 
founded on tiie banks of the Tuamini; and at this 
Christian settiement they were to find the aid necessary 
for transporting their canoe by land to the Eio Negro. 
They arrived at San Antonio de Javita shortly before 

They went every day to see how their canoe advanced 
on the portages. Twenty-three Indians were employed 
in dragging it by land, placing branches of trees to serve 
as rollers. The canoe being very large it was necessary 
to avoid with particular care any friction en the bottom ; 
consequently the passage occupied more than four days. 
Hearing on the 5th that it had arrived, they set off and 
followed it on foot, fording a great number of streams 
which were considered dangerous on account of the 
vipers with which the marshes abounded. They passed 
the night in a hut lately abandoned by an Indian family, 
who had left behind them their fishing-tackle, pottery, 
nets made of the petioles of palm-trees ; in short, all that 
composed the household furniture of that careless race of 


men, little attached to property. A great store of resin 
was accumulated round the house. This was used by the 
Indians to pitch their canoes, and fix the bony spines of 
the ray at the points of their arrows. They found in the 
same place jars filled with a vegetable milk, which served 
as a varnish, and was celebrate in the missions by the 
name of " milk for painting." Before they took possession 
of the deserted hut, the Indians killed two great mapanare 
serpents. These serpents grow to four or five feet long. 
As the inside of the hut was filled with grass, and Hum- 
boldt and Bonpland were lying on the ground, there 
being no means of suspending their hammocks, they 
were not without inquietude during the night In 
the morning a large viper was found on lifting the 
jaguar-skin upon which one of their domestics had 

They embarked on the Rio Negro on the 8th of May. 
Passing the mission of Maroa, and the mouths of the 
Aquio and the Tomo, they arrived at the little mission 
of San Miguel de Davipe. Here they bought provisions, 
among which were some fowls and a pig. This purchase 
greatly interested their Indians, who had been a long 
time deprived of meat They pressed the tatvellers to 
depart in order to reach the island of Dapa, where the 
pig was to be killed and roasted during the night They 
reached this island at sunset, and were surprised to find 
some cultivated ground on it, and on the top of a small 
hill an Indian hut Four natives were seated round a 
fire of brushwood, in this hut, and they were eating a 
sort of white paste with black spots. These black spots 
proved to be large ants, the hinder parts of which resem- 
bled a lump of grease. They had been dried, and black* 


ened by smoke. The travellers saw several bags of 
them suspended above the fire. These good people paid 
but little attention to their guests ; yet there were more 
than fourteen persons in this confined hut, lying naked 
in hammocks hung one above another. When Father 
Zea arrived, he was received with great demonstrations 
of joy. Two young women came down from their ham- 
mocks, to prepare for them cakes.of cassava. In answer 
to some inquiries which were put to them through an 
interpreter, they answered that cassava grew poorly on 
the island, but that it was a good land for ants, and food 
was not wanting. In fact, these ants furnished subsist- 
ence to the Indians of the Rio Negro and the Guainia. 
They did not eat the ants as a luxury, but because the 
fet of ants was a very substantial food. When the 
cakes of cassava were prepared. Father Zea, whose fever 
seemed rather to sharpen than to enfeeble his appetite, 
ordered a little bag to be brought to him filled with 
smoked ants. He mixed these bruised insects with floui 
of cassava, which he pressed Humboldt and Bonpland to 
taste. It somewhat resembled rancid butter mixed with 
crumb of bread. The cassava had not an acid taste, but 
some remains of European prejudices prevented theii 
joining in the praises bestowed by the good missionary 
on what he called " an excellent ant paste." 

The violence of the rain obliged them to sleep in this 
crowded hut. The Indians slept only from eight till two 
in the morning ; the rest of the time they employd in 
conversing in their hammocks, and preparing their bitter 
beverage of cupana. They threw fresh fuel on the fire, 
and complained of cold, although the temperature of the 
air was at 70^. This custom of being awake, and even 


on foot, four or five hours before sunrise, was general 
among the Indians of Guiana. 

The travellers left the island of Dapa long before day- 
break ; and notwithstanding the rapidity of the current, 
and the activity of their rowers, their passage to the fort 
of San Carlos del Eio Negro occupied twelve hours. 

They were informed at San Carlos that, on account of 
political circumstances, it was dif&cult at that moment to 
pass from the Spanish to the Portuguese settlements; 
but they did not know till after their return to Europe 
the extent of the danger to which they would have been 
exposed in proceeding as &r as Barcellos. It was known 
at Brazil, through the medium of the newspapers, that 
Humboldt was going to visit the missions of the Bio 
Negro, and to examine the natural canal which united 
two great systems of rivers. In those desert forests in- 
struments had been seen only in the hands of the com- 
missioners of the boundaries; and at that time the sub- 
altern agents of the Portuguese government could not 
conceive how a man of sense could expose himself to the 
fatigues of a long journey, " to measure lands that did ■ 
not belong to him." Orders had been issued to seize his 
person, his instruments, and above all, his registers of 
astronomical observations. The pair of dangerous na- 
turalists were to be conducted by way of the Amazon to 
Grand Para, and thence sent back to Lisbon. But for- 
tunately for Humboldt, the government at Lisbon, on 
being informed of the zeal of its ignorant agents, in- 
stantly gave orders that he should not be disturbed in 
his operations ; but that on the contrary they should be 
encouraged, if he traversed any part of the Portuguese 


On the 10th of May, their canoe being ready, they em- 
barked to go up the Bio Negro as far as the mouth of 
tiie Cassiquiare, and to devote themselves to researches 
on the real course of that river, which united the Orinoco 
to the Amazon. The morning was fine ; but, in propor- 
tion as the heat augmented, the sky became obscured. 
The air was so saturated by water in these forests, that 
the vesicular vapours became visible on the least increase 
of evaporation at the surfece of the earth. The breeze 
being never felt, the humid strata were not displaced and 
renewed by dryer air. The travellers were every day 
more grieved at the aspect of the cloudy sky. Bonpland 
was losing by this excessive humidity the plants he had 
collected ; and Humboldt, for his part, was afraid lest he 
should again find the fogs of the Bio Negro iu the valley 
of the Cassiquiare. No one in these missions for half & 
century past had doubted the existence of communica- 
tion between two great systems of rivers ; the important 
point of their voyage was confined therefore to fixing by 
astronomical observations the course of the Cassiquiare, 
and particularly the point of its entrance into the Bio 
Negro, and that of the bifurcation of the Orinoco. With- 
out a sight of the sun and the stars this object would be 
frustrated, and they would have exposed themselves in 
vain to long and painful privations. Their fellow-travel- 
lers would have returned by the shortest way, that of 
the Pimichin and the small rivers ; but Bonpland and 
Humboldt persisted in the plan of the voyage, which 
they had traced for themselves in passing the Great Cata- 
racts. They had already travelled one hundred and 
• eighty leagues in a boat from San Fernando de Apure to 
San Carlos, on the Bio Apure, the Orinoco, the Atabapo, 



the Temi, the Tuamini, and the Rio Negro In again 
entering the Orinoco by the Cassiquiare they would have 
to navigate three hundred and twenty leagues, from San 
Carlos to Angostura. By this way they would have to 
struggle against the currents during ten days ; the rest 
was to be performed by going down the stream of the 
Orinoco. It would have been blamable, they thought, 
to have suflFered themselves to be discouraged by the fear 
of a cloudy sky, and by the mosquitos of the Cassiquiare. 
Their Indian pilot promised them the sun, and " those 
great stars that eat the clouds," as soon as they should 
have left the black waters of the Guaviare. They there- 
fore carried out their first project of returning to San 
Fernando de Atabapo by the Cassiquiare; and, fortu- 
nately for their researches, the prediction of the Indian 
was verified. The white waters brought them by degrees 
a more serene sky, stars, mosquitos, and crocodiles. 

They reached San Carlos again, and Humboldt passed 
a part of the night in the open air, waiting vainly for 
stars. The air was misty, notwithstanding the white 
waters, which were to lead them beneath an ever-starry 

They passed three nights at San Carlos, Humboldt 
watching during the greater part of them, in the hope of 
seizing the moment of the passage of some star over the 
meridian. That he might have nothing to reproach him- 
self with, he kept his instruments always ready for an 

On the banks of the Cassiquiare he purchased from 
the Indians two fine large birds, a toucan, and a species 
of macaw, seventeen inches long, having the whole 
body of a purjde eolour. He had already in his canoe 


seven parrote, two manakins, a motmot, two guans, two 
manaviris, and eight monkeys. Father Zea whispered 
some complaints at the daily augmentation of this ambu- 
latory collection. The toucan resembles the raven in 
manners and intelligence. It is a courageous bird, but 
easily tamed. Its long and stout beak serves to defend 
it at a distance. It makes itself master of the house, 
steals whatever it can come at, and loves to bathe often 
and fish on the banks of the river. The toucan that 
Humboldt bought was very young ; yet it took delight, 
during the whole voyage, in teasing the nocturnal mon- 
keys, which were melancholy and irritable. 

Most of the animals were confined in small wicker 
cages ; others ran at full liberty in all parts of the boat. 
At the approach of rain the macaws sent forth noisy 
cries, the toucan wanted to reach the shore to fish, and 
the little monkeys went in search of Father Zea, to take 
shelter in the large sleeves of his Franciscan habit. These 
incidents sometimes amused the travellers so much that 
they forgot the torment of the mosquitos. At night they 
placed a leather case containing their provisions in the 
centre ; then their instruments, and the cages of their 
animals; their hammocks were suspended around the 
cages, and beyond were those of the Indians. The ex- 
terior circle was formed by the fires which were lighted 
to keep off the jaguars. Such was the order of their en- 
campment on the banks of the Cassiquiare. 

Among the Indians in their canoe was a fugitive from 
Q-uaisia, who had become sufficieAtly civilized in a few 
weeks to be useful to them in placing the instruments ne- 
cessary for their observations at night He was no less 
mild than intelligent, and they had some desire of taking 


him into their service. What was their horror when, talk- 
ing to him by means of an interpreter, they learned, that 
the flesh of the marimonde monkeys, though blacker, 
appeared to him to have the taste of human flesh. He 
told them, that " his relations preferred the inside of the 
hands in man, as in bears." This assertion was accom- 
panied with gestures of savage gratification. They in- 
quired of this young man, so calm and so affectionate in 
the little services which he rendered them, whether he 
still felt sometimes a desire to eat of a Cheruvichahena. 
He answered, without discomposure, that^ living in the 
mission, he would only eat what he saw was eaten by 
the Padres. 

As they approached the bifurcation of the Orinoco 
their passage became troublesome, on account of the 
luxuriance of the vegetation. There was no longer 
a bank: a palisade of tufted trees formed the margin 
of the river. They saw a canal, one thousand two 
hundred feet broad, bordered by two enormous walls, 
clothed with lianas and foliage. They often tried to 
land, but without success. Towards sunset they sailed 
along for an hour seeking to discover, not an opening, 
since none existed, but a spot less wooded, where their 
Indians by means of the hatchet and manual labour, 
could clear space enough for a resting-place for twelve 
or thirteen persons. It was impossible to pass the night 
in the canoe ; the mosquitos, which tormented them dur- 
ing the day, accumulated towards evening beneath the 
roof covered with palm-leaves, which served to shelter 
them from the rain. Their hands and &ces had never 
before been so much swelled. Father Zea, who had till 
then boasted of having in his missions of the cataracts 


the largest and fiercest mosquitos, at length gradually 
acknowledged that the sting of the insects of the Cassi- 
quiare was the most painful he had ever felt They ex- 
perienced great difficulty, amid a thick forest, in finding 
wood to make a fire, the branches of the trees being so 
fiill of sap that they would scarcely bum. There being 
no bare shore, it was hardly possible to procure old 
wood, which the Indians called tvood baked' in the sun. 
However, fire was necessary to them only as a defence 
against the beasts of the forest ; for they had such a 
scarcity of provision that they had little need of fuel for 
the purpose of preparing their food. 

On the 18th of May, towards evening, they discovered 
a spot where wild cocoa-trees were growing on the bank 
of the river. It rained violently, but the pothoses, arums, 
and lianas, fiimished so thick a natural trellis, that they 
were sheltered as under a vault of foliage. The Indians, 
whose hammocks were placed on the edge of the river, 
interwove the helioonias, so as to form a kind of roof 
over them. Their fires lighted up, to the height of fifty or 
sixty feet, the palm-trees, the lianas loaded with flowers, 
and the columns of white smoke, which ascended in a 
straight line towards the sky. 

They passed the night of the 20th, the last of their 
passage on the Cassiquiare, near the point of the bifur- 
cation of the Orinoco. They had some hope of being able 
to make an astronomical observation, as falling-stars of 
remarkable magnitude were visible through the vapours 
that veiled the sky ; whence they concluded that the stra- 
tum of vapours must be very thin, since meteors of this 
kind were scarcely ever seen below a cloud. Those they 
now beheld shot towards the north, and succeeded each 


other at almost equal intervals. The Indians, who seldom 
ennobled by their expressions the wanderings of the ima 
gination, named the falling-stars the urine, and the dew 
the spittle of the stars. The clouds thickened anew, and 
the travellers discerned neither the meteors, nor the real 
stars, for which they had waited during several days. 

They had been told that they should find the insects 
at Esmeralda still more cruel and voracious, than in the 
branch of the Orinoco which they were going up ; never- 
theless they indulged the hope of at length sleeping in a 
spot that was inhabited, and of taking some exercise in 
herbalizing. This anticipation was, however, disturbed 
at their last resting-place on the Cassiquiare. Whilst 
they were sleeping on the edge of the forest, they were 
warned by the Indians, in the middle of the night, that 
they heard very near the cries of a jaguar. These cries, 
they alleged, came fix)m the top of some neighbouring 

As their fires burnt brightly, the travellers paid little 
attention to the cries of the jaguars, who had been 
attracted by the smell and noise of their dog. This 
animal began at first to bark ; and when the jaguars drew 
nearer, to howl, hiding himself below the hammocks 
of the travellers. Great was their grief, when in the 
morning, at the moment of re-embarking, the Indians 
informed them that the dog had disappeared! There 
could be no doubt that he had been carried off by the 
jaguars. Perhaps, when their cries had ceased he had 
wandered from the fires on the side of the beach. They 
waited part of the morning, in the hope that the dog had 
only strayed. Three days after they came back to the 
same place; they heard again the cries of the jaguars, 


but all their search was in vain. The dog, which. had 
accompanied them from Caracas, and had so often in 
swimming escaped the pursuit of the crocodiles, had been 
devoured in the forest. 

On the 21st they again entered the bed of the Orinoco, 
three leagues below the mission of Esmeralda. It was 
now a month since they had left that river near the mouth 
of the Guaviare. They had still to proceed seven himdred 
and fifty leagues before reaching Angostura. 

At Esmeralda they were cordially received by an old 
officer, who took them for Catalonian shopkeepers, and 
who supposed that trade had led them to the missions. 
On seeing packages of paper intended for drying their 
plants, he smiled at their simple ignorance. "You 
come," said he, " to a country where this kind of mer- 
chandise has no sale ; we write little here ; and the dried 
leaves of maize, the plantain-tree, and the heliconia serve 
us, like paper in Europe, to wrap up needles, fish-hooks, 
and other little articles of which we are careful." This 
old officer united in his person the civil and ecclesiastical 
authority. He taught the children the Rosary; he 
rang the bells to amuse himself; and impelled by ardent 
zeal for the service of the church, he sometimes used his 
chorister's wand in a manner not very agreeable to the 

When they arrived at Esmeralda, the greater part of 
the Indians were returning from an excursion which 
they had made to the east, beyond the Rio Padamo, to 
gather brazil nuts. Their return was celebrated by a 
festival, which was called in the mission the festival of 
brazil nuts, and which resembled the harvest-homes ana 
vintage-feasts of Germany. The women had prepared a 


quMitity of fermented liquor, and during two dajB the 
Indians were in a state of intoxication. The harvest 
was celebrated by dancing and drinking. The hut 
where the natives were assembled, displayed during 
several days a singular aspect There was neither table 
nor bench; but large roasted monkeys, blackened by 
smoke, were ranged in regular order against the wall. 
The manner of roasting these animals contributed to 
render their appearance extremely disagreeable in the 
eyes of the travellers. A little grating or lattice of very 
hard wood was formed, and raised one foot from the 
ground. The monkey was skinned, and bent into a 
sitting posture ; the head generally resting on the arms, 
which were meagre and long. When it was tied on the 
grating, a very clear fire was kindled below. The mon- 
key, enveloped in smoke and flame, was broiled and 
blackened at the same time. On seeing the natives de- 
vour the arm or leg of a roasted monkey, it was difficult 
not to believe that this habit of eating animals so closely 
resembling man in their physical organization, had, to a 
certain degree, contributed to diminish the horror of can- 
nibalism among these people. The flesh of monkeys is 
so lean and dry, that Bonpland preserved in his collec- 
tions at Paris an arm and hand, which had been broiled 
over the fire at Esmeralda ; and no smell rose from them 
after the lapse of a number of years. 

The travellers saw the Indians dance. The monotony 
of their dancing was increased by the women not daring 
to take part in it. The men, young and old, formed a 
circle, holding each other's hands, and turned sometimes 
to the right, sometimes to the left, for whole hours, with 
silent gravity. Most frequently the dancers themselves 


were the musicians. Feeble sounds, drawn fioin a 
series of reeds of different lengths, formed a slow and 
plaintive accompaniment. The first dancer, to mark the 
time, bent both knees in a kind of cadence. Sometimes 
they all made a pause in their places, and executed little 
oscillatory movements, bending the body from one side 
to the other. When they were weary of dancing the 
women brought them roasted monkeys and palm cabbage, 
not forgetting their native liquors, which were strong 
and heady. 

Leaving Esmeralda on the afternoon of the 23d 
the travellers reached the bifurcation of the Orinoco, 
where they remained that night Descending the river 
the next morning they passed the mouths of the Bio 
Cunucunumo, and the Guanami, and Puriname. Be- 
tween the sources of the Bio Blanco, and the Bio Esse- 
quibo, they met with rocks and symbolical figures. They 
were also shown, near the Culimacari, on the banks of 
,the Cassiquiare, traces which were believed to be regular 
characters. They were however only misshapen figures, 
representing the heavenly bodies, together with tigers, 
crocodiles, boas, and instruments used for making the 
flour of cassava. It was impossible to recognise in these 
painted rocks any symmetrical arrangement, or characters 
with regular spaces. 

The travellers stopped at the village of Santa Barbara 
on the evening of the 25th. During the whole of the 
'^next day they enjoyed the view of the fine mountains of 
Sipapo, which rose at a distance of more than eighteen 
leagues in the direction of north-north-west. The vege- 
tation of the banks of the Orinoco was singularly varied 
in this part of the country; the arborescent ferns de 



scended from the mountaias, and mingled with the 
palm-trees of the plain. They rested that night on the 
inland of Minisi ; and, after having passed the mouths 
of the little rivers Quejanuma, Ubua, and Masao, arrived, 
on the 27th, at San Fernando de Atabapo. They 
lodged in the same house which they had occupied a 
month previously, when going up the Rio Negro. Then 
they directed their course towards the south, by the 
Atabapo and the Temi ; they were now returning from 
the west, having made a long circuit by the Caasiquiare 
and the Upper Orinoco. 

Quitting San Fernando on the 27th, they arrived, by 
help of the rapid current of the Orinoco, in seven hours, 
at the mouth of the Rio Mataveni. They passed the 
night in the open air, under the granitic rock El Cas- 
tiUito, which rose in the middle of the river, the form of 
which remiaded Humboldt of the ruin called the Mouse- 
tower, opposite Bingen. 

" Fair Bingen on the Rhine." 

On the evening of the 81st they landed just before 
sunset on the eastern bank of the Orinoco in order te 
visit the cavern of Ataruipe, the sepulchre of a de- 
stroyed nation. 

They climbed with difficulty, and not without some 
danger, a steep rock of granite, entirely bare. It woidd 
have been almost impossible for them to have fixed their 
feet on its smooth and sloping surface, but for large crystals 
of feldspar, resisting decomposition, which stood out from 
the rock, and furnished points of support. Scarcely had 
they attained the sunimit of the mountain when they 


beheld the singular aspect of the surrounding country. 
The foamy bed of the waters was filled with an archi- 
pelago of islands covered with palm-trees. Westward 
on the left bank of the Orinoco, the wide-stretching 
savannahs of the Meta and the Casanare resembled a 
sea of verdure. The setting sun seemed like a globe of 
fire suspended over the plain, and the solitary peak of 
Uniana, which appeared more lofty from being wrapped 
in vapours which softened its outline, all contributed to 
deepen the majesty of the scene. Immediately below 
them lay a deep valley, inclosed on every side. Birds of 
prey and goatsuckers winged their lonely flight in this 
inaccessible place. The travellers found a pleasure in 
following with the eye their fleeting shadows, as they 
glided slowly over the flanks of the rock. 

The most remote part of the valley was covered by a 
thick forest In this shady and solitary spotj on the 
declivity of a steep mountain, the cavern of Ataruipe 
opened to the view. It was less a cavern than a jutting 
rock, in which the waters had scooped a vast hollow 
when, in the ancient revolutions of our planet, they 
attained that height In this tomb of an extinct tribe 
the travellers counted nearly six hundred skeletons well 
preserved, and regularly placed. Every skeleton reposed 
in a sort of basket made of the petioles of the palm-tree. 
These baskets had the form of a square bag. Their size was 
proportioned to the age of the dead ; there were some for 
in&nts cut off at the moment of their birth. The travel- 
lers saw them from ten inches to three feet four inches long, 
the skeletons in them being bent together. They were 
all ranged near each other, and were so entire that not a 
rib or a phalanx was wanting. The bones had been 


prepared in three different manners, either whitened in 
the air and the sun, dyed red with anoto, or like mummies, 
varnished with odoriferous resins, and enveloped in leaves 
of the heliconia, or the plantain-tree. The Indians in- 
formed them that the fi'esh corpse was placed in damp 
ground, that the flesh might be consumed by degrees ; 
some months afterwards it was taken out, and the flesh 
remaining on the bones was scraped off with sharp stones. 
Earthen vases half-baked were found near the baskets. 
They appeared to contain the bones of the same family. 
The largest of these vases, or funeral urns, were five feet 
high, and three feet three inches long. Their colour was 
greenish-grey, and their oval form was pleasing to the 
eye. The handles were made in the shape of crocodiles 
or serpents ; the edges were bordered with painted mean- 
ders, labyrinths, and grecques, in rows variously com- 
bined. Such designs are found in every zone among 
nations the farthest removed from each other, either with 
respect to their respective positions on the globe, or to 
the degree of civilization which they have attained. 
They still adorn the common pottery made by the 
inhabitants of the little mission of Maypures ; they 
ornament the bucklers of the Otaheitans, the fishing- 
implements of the Esquimaux, the walls of the Mexican 
palace of Mitla, and the vases of ancient Greece. 

They could not acquire any precise idea of the period t6 
which the origin of the baskets and the painted vases, 
contained in the bone-cavern of Ataruipe, could be traced. 
A tradition circulated among the Guahibos, that the war- 
like Atures, pursued by the Caribs, escaped to the rocks 
that rose in the middle of the Great Cataracts ; and there 
that nation became gradually extinct, as well as its Ian- 


goage. The last fitmilies of the Atures still existed in 
1767, in the time of the missionary Gili. At the period 
of Humboldt's voyage an old parrot was shown at May- 
pures, of which the inhabitants said, that " they did not 
understand what it said, because it spoke the language of 
the Atures." 

The travellers opened, to the great concern of their 
guides, several baskets, for the purpose of examining 
attentively the form of the skulls. They were all 
marked l^ the characteristics of the American race, with 
the exception of two or three, which approached to 
the Caucasian. In the middle of the Cataracts, in the 
most inaccessible q)ots, cases were found strengthened 
with iron bands, and filled with European tools, vestiges 
of clothes, and glass trinkets. These articles, which had 
given rise to the most absurd reports of treasures hidden 
by the Jesuits, probably belonged to Portuguese traders 
who had penetrated into these savage countries. 

Humboldt and Bonpland took several skulls, the 
skeleton of a child of six or seven years old, and two 
full-grown men of the nation of the Atures, from the 
cavern of Ataruipe. All these bones, partly painted red, 
partly varnished with odoriferous resins, were placed in 
the baskets which we have just described. They made 
almost the whole load of a mule ; and as the travellers 
knew the superstitious feelings of the Indians in refer- 
ence to the remains of the dead after burial, they care- 
fully enveloped the baskets in mats recently woven. 
Unfortunately for them, the penetration of the Indians, 
and the extreme quickness of their sense of smelling, 
rendered all these precautions useless. Wherever they 
stopped, in the missions of the Caribees, amid the Llanos 


between Angostura and Nueva Barcelona, the natives 
assembled round their mules to admire the monkeys 
which they had purchased at the Orinoco. These good 
people had scarcely touched their baggage, when they 
announced the approaching death of the beast of burden 
that carried the dead. In vain the travellers told them 
they were deceived in their conjectures ; and that the 
baskets contained the bones of crocodiles and manatis; 
they persisted in repeating that they smelt the resin that 
surrounded the skeletons, and " that .they were their old 
relations." The travellers were obliged to request that 
the monks would interpose their authority, to overcome 
the aversion of the natives, and procure for them a change 
of mules. 

They withdrew in silence from the cavern of Ataruipe. 
It was one of those cabn and serene nights which are so 
common in the torrid zone. The stars shone with a mild 
and planetary light Their scintillation was scarcely 
sensible at the horizon, which seemed illumined by the 
great nebulae of the southern hemisphere. An innumer- 
able multitude of insects spread a reddish light upon the 
ground, loaded with plants, and resplendent with these 
living and moving fires, as if the stars of the firmament 
had sunk down on the savannah. On quitting the ca- 
vern the travellers stopped to admire the beauty of 
this singular scene. The odoriferous vanilla and fes- 
toons of bignonia decorated the entrance ; and above, on 
the summit of the hill, the arrowy branches of the palm- 
trees waved murmuring in the air. They descended 
towards the river, to take the road to the mission, where 
they arrived late in the night 

Thev stayed at the mission of Atures only during the 


time necessary for passing the canoe through the Great 
Cataract The bottom of their frail bark had become so 
thin that it required great care to prevent it from split- 
ting. They took leave of the missionary, Bernardo Zea, 
who remained at Atures, after having accompanied them 
during two months, and shared all their sufferings. This 
poor monk still continued to have fits of tertian ague ; 
they had become to him an habitual evil, to which he 
paid little attention. Other fevers of a more fetal kind 
prevailed at Atures on their second visit. The greater 
part of the Indians could not leave their hammocks, and 
the travellers were obliged to send in search of cassava- 
bread, the most indispensable food of the country, to the 
independent but neighbouring tribe of the Piraoas. 

The travellers passed in their canoe through the lat- 
ter half of the Cataract of Atures. They landed here 
and there, to climb upon the rocks, which like narrow 
dikes joined the islands one to another. Sometimes the 
waters forced their way over the dikes, sometimes they 
fell within them with a hollow noise. A considerable 
portion of the Orinoco was dry, because the river had 
found an issue by subterraneous caverns. In these soli- 
tary haunts the rock-manakin with gilded plumage, one 
of the most beautiful birds of the tropics, built its nest. 
The little Cataract of Carucari was caused by an accu- 
mulation of enormous blocks of granite, several of which 
were spheroids of five or six feet in diameter, and they 
were piled together in such a manner, as to form spacious 
caverns. The travellers entered one of these caverns to 
gather the confervae that were spread over the clefts and 
humid sides of the rock. This spot displayed one of the 
most extraordinary scenes of nature, that they had con« 


templated on the banks of the Orinoco. The river rolled 
its waters turbulently over their heads. It seemed like 
the sea dashing against reefe of rocks; but at the en- 
trance of the cavern they could remain dry beneath a 
large sheet of water that precipitated itself in an arch 
from above the barrier. In other cavities, deeper, but 
less spacious, the rock was pierced by the effect of suc- 
cessive filtrations. They saw columns of water, eight or 
nine inches broad, descending from the top of the vanity 
and finding an issue by clefts, that seemed to communi- 
cate at great distances with each other. 

They had the opportunity of examining this extraor- 
dinary sight longer than they wished. Their boat was 
to coast the eastern bank of a narrow island, and to take 
them in again after a long circuit They passed an hour 
and a half in vain expectation of it Night approached, 
and vrith it a tremendous storm. It rained with vio- 
lence. They began to fear that their frail bark had been 
wrecked against the rocks, and that the Indians, con- 
formably to their habitual indifference for the evils of 
others, had returned tranquilly to the mission. There 
were only three of the party ; they were completely wet, 
and uneasy respecting the fete of their boat : it appeared 
far from agreeable to pass, without sleep, a long night 
of the torrid zone, amid the noise of the cataracts. Bon- 
pland proposed to leave Humboldt on the island, and to 
swim across the branches of the river, that were separated 
by the granitic dikes. He hoped to reach the forest, 
and seek assistance at Atures from Father Zea. They 
dissuaded him with difficulty from undertaking this 
hazardous enterprise. The little monkeys which they 
had carried along with them for months, were deposited 


on the point of the island Wet bj the rains, and sensi- 
ble of the least lowering of the temperature, these deli- 
cate animals sent forth plaintive cries, and attracted to 
the spot two crocodiles, the size and leaden colour of 
which denoted their great age. After long waiting, the 
Indians at length arrived at the close of day. The na- 
tural coflTer-dam, by which they had endeavoured to de- 
scend, in order to make the circuit of the island, had 
become impassable, owing to the shallowness of the 
water. The pilot sought long for a more accessible pas- 
sage in this labyrinth of rocks and islanda Happily 
the canoe was not damaged, and in less than half an 
hour the instruments, provision, and animals, were em- 

They stopped a few days after at the mission of Uruana. 
The situation of this mission was extremely picturesque. 
The litde Indian village stood at the foot of a lofty 
granitic mountain. Bocks everywhere appeared in the 
form of pillars above the forest, rising higher than the 
tope of the tallest trees. The aspect of the Orinoco was 
nowhere more majestic, than when viewed from the hut 
of the missionary. Fray Eamon Bueno. It was more 
tlian fifteen thousand six hundred feet broad, and it ran 
without any winding, like a vast canal, straight towards 
the east. Two long and narrow islands contributed to 
give extent to the bed of the river. The mission was 
inhabited by the Ottomacs, a tribe in the rudest state, 
and presenting one of the most extraordinary physiologi- 
cal phenomena. They ate earth; that is, they swallowed 
every day, during several months, very considerable 
quantities, to appease himger, and this practice did not 
appear to have any injurious effect on their health. 


Thougli the travellers could stay only one day at 
Uruana, this short space of time sufficed to make them 
acquainted with the preparation of the balls of earth, 
Humboldt also found some traces of this vitiated appetite 
among the Guamos ; and between the confluence of the 
Meta and the Apure, where everybody spoke of dirt- 
eating as of a thing anciently known. 

The inhabitants of Uruana belonged to those nations 
of the savannahs called wandering Indians, who, more 
difficult to civilize than the nations of the forest, had a 
decided aversion to cultivating the land, and lived almost 
exclusively by hunting and fishing. They were men of 
very robust constitution ; but ill-looking, savage, vindic- 
tive, and passionately fond of fermented liquors. They 
were omnivorous animals in the highest degree; and 
therefore the other Indians, who considered them as 
barbarians, had a common saying, '^ nothing is so loath- 
some but that an Ottomac will eat it" While the waters 
of the Orinoco and its tributary streams were low, the 
Ottomacs subsisted on fish and turtles. The former they 
killed with surprising dexterity, by shooting them with 
arrows when they appeared at the surface of the water. 
When the rivers swelled fishing almost entirely ceased. 
It was then very difficult to procure fish, which often 
foiled the poor missionaries, on fast-days as well as flesh- 
days, though all the young Indians were under the obli- 
gation •f fishing for the convent. During the period of 
these inundations, which lasted two or three months, the 
Ottomacs swallowed a prodigious quantity of earth. The 
travellers found heaps of earth-balls in their huts, piled 
up in pyramids three or four feet high. These balls 
were five or six inches in diameter. The earth which 


the Ottomacs ate was a very fine and unctuous clay, of 
a yellowish grey colour; when it»was slightly baked 
at the fire, the hardened crust had a tint inclining to red, 
owing to the oxide of iron which was mingled with it. 
The travellers brought away some of this earth, which 
they took firom the winter-provision of the Indians. 

They reached Angostura on the 18th of June. In 
seventy-five days they had performed a passage of five 
hundred leagues on the five great rivers, Apure, Orinoco, 
Atabapo, Eio Negro, and Cassiquiare ; and in this vast 
extent they had found but a very small number of inha- 
bited places. After the. life they had led in the woods, 
their dress was not in the very best order, nevertheless 
they hastened to present themselves to Don Felipe de 
Ynciarte, the governor of the province of Guiana. He 
received them in the most cordial manner, and lodged 
them in the house of the secretary of the Intendencia. 
Comi^ firom an almost desert country, they were struck 
with the bustle of the town, though it contained only six 
thousand inhabitants. They admired the conveniences 
which industry and commerce furnish to civilized man. 
Humble dwellings appeared to them magnificent; and 
every person with whom they conversed, seemed to be 
endowed with superior intelligence. Long privations 
give a value to the smallest enjoyments ; and Humboldt 
could not express the pleasure he felt, when he saw for 
the first time wheaten bread on the governor's tablfe. 

They felt themselves on the first days after their arrival 
tired and enfeebled, but in perfect health. Bonpland 
began to examine the small number of plants which he 
had been able to save from the influence of the damp 
climate; and Humboldt was occupied in settling by 


astronomical observations the longitude and latitude <rf 
the capital, as well^as the dip of the magnetic needle. 
These labours ^ere soon interrupted. They were both 
attacked almost on the same day by a disorder, which 
with Bonpland took the character of a debilitating fever. 
At this period the air was in a state of the greatest 
salubrity at Angostura; and as the only mulatto servant 
they had brought firom Cumana felt symptoms of the 
same disorder, it was suspected that they had imbibed the 
germs of typhus in the damp forests of Cassiquiare. 
Their mulatto servant having been much more exposed 
to the rains than they were, his disorder increased with 
frightful rapidity. His prostration of strength was exces- 
sive, and on the ninth day his death was announced 
to them. He was however only in a state of swooning, 
which lasted several hours, and was followed by a salu- 
tary crisis. Humboldt was attacked at the same time 
with a violent fit of fever, during which he was made to 
take a mixture of honey and bark, a remedy much 
extolled in the country by the Capuchin missionaries. 
The intensity of the fever increased, but it left him on 
the following day. Bonpland remained in a very alarm- 
ing state, which during several weeks caused tJiem the 
most serious inquietude. Fortunately he preserved suf- 
ficient self-possession to prescribe for himself. The fever 
was continual; and, as almost always happens within 
the tropics, it was accompanied by dysentery. Bonpland 
displayed that courage and mildness of character which 
never forsook him in the most trying situations. Hum- 
boldt was agitated by sad presages ; for he remembered 
that the botanist Loefiing, a pupil of Linneus, died not 
£blt from Angostura, near the banks of the Carony, a 


victim of his zeal for the progress of natural history. 
They had not yet passed a year in the torrid zone; and 
Humboldt's fiiithful memory conjured up everything he 
had read in Europe on the dangers of the atmosphere 
inhaled in the forests. Instead of going up the Orinoco, 
they might have sojourned some months in the temperate 
and salubrious climate of the Sierra Nevada de Merida. 
"It was I," he thought, "who chose the path of the 
rivers, and Bonpland's death, if he dies, will be laid at 
my door." 



The travellers left Angostura on the 10th of July. 
Night had set in when they crossed for the last time the 
bed of the Orinoco. They purposed to rest near the littlo 
fort San Rafael, and on the following morning at daybreak 
to set out on their journey through the plains of Vene- 
zuela. About a month had elapsed since their arrival at 
Angostura ; and they earnestly wished to reach the coast, 
with the view of findiiig, at Cumana, or at Nueva Barce- 
lona, a vessel in which they might embark for the island 
ofCuba,thenceto proceed to Mexico. After the sufferings 
to which they had been exposed during several months, 
whilst sailing in small boats on rivers infested by mos* 
quitos, the idea of a sea-voyage was not without its 
charms. They had no idea of ever again returning to 
South America. Sacrificing the Andes of Peru to the 
Archipelago of the Philippines, they adhered to their old 
plan of remaining a year in Mexico, then proceeding in 
a galleon from Acapulco to Manilla, and returning to 
Europe by way of Bassora and Aleppo. 

Their mules were in waiting for them on the left bank 
of the Orinoco. The collection of plants, and the differ- 
ent geological series, which they had brought from the 


Esmeralda and Eio Negro, had greatly increased ^eir 
baggage ; and, as it would have been dangerous to lose 
sight of their herbals, they expected to make a very slow 
journey across the Llanos. 

On the 18th they arrived at the village of Can, the 
first of the Caribbee missions. They lodged as usual at 
the convent Their host could scarcely comprehend 
"how natives of the north of Europe could arrive at his 
dwelUng fix)m the frontiers of Brazil by the Rio Negro, 
and not by way of the coast of Cumana." He treated 
them in the most poilte manner, at the same time 
manifesting that somewhat importunate curiosity which 
the appearance of a stranger, not a Spaniard, always ex- 
cited in South America. He expre^ed his belief that 
the minerals they had collected must contain gold ; and 
that the plants, dried with so much care, must be medici- 
nal. Here, as in many parts of Europe, the sciences 
were thought worthy to occupy the mifid only so far as 
they conferred some immediate and practical benefit on 

The travellers found more than five hundred Caribs in 
the village of Cari; and saw many others in the sur- 
rounding missions. They were a very tall race of men, 
their height being fix>m five feet six, to five feet ten 
inches. According to a practice common in Ameri -a 
the women were more sparingly clothed than the men. 
The former wore only the guajuco^ in the form of a band. 
The men had the lower part of the body wrapped in a 
piece of blue cloth, so dark as to be almost black. This 
drapery was so ample, that, on the lowering of the tem- 
perature towards evening, the Caribs threw it over their 
Bhouldeis. The men cut their hair in a peculiar manner 


very much in the style of the mooks. A part of the 
forehead was shaved, which made it appear extremdj 
high, and a circular tuft of hair was left near the crown 
of the head. The Carib women were less robust and 
good-looking than the men. On them devolved almost 
the whole burden of domestic work, as well as much of 
the out-door labour. They asked the travellers eagerly 
for pins, which they stuck under their lower lip, msJdng 
the head of the pin penetrate deeply into the skin. The 
young girls were painted red, and were almost naked. 

On quitting the mission of Can, they had some diffi- 
culties to setde with their Indian muleteers. They had 
discovered that the travellers had brought skeletons with 
them from the cavern of Ataruipe; and they were fully 
persuaded that the beasts of burden which carried the 
bodies of their old relations would perish on the joumey- 
E very precaution the travellers had taken was useless ; 
nothing could escape a Carib's penetration Imd keen sense 
of smell, and it required all the aulliority of the mission- 
ary to forward their passage. They had to cross the Rio 
Cari in a boat, and the Bio de Agua Clara, by fording, 
or, it may almost be said, by swimming. They had two 
bad stations, one at Matagorda and the other at Los 
Riecetos, before they reached the little town of Pao 
They beheld everywhere the same objects; small huts 
constructed of reeds, and roofed with leather; men on 
horseback armed with lances, guarding the herds; herds 
of cattle half wild, remarkable for their uniform colour, 
and disputing the pasturage with horses and mules. 

The travellers arrived, on the 28rd, at the town of 
Nueva Barcelona, less fatigued by the heat of the Llanos^ 
to which they had been long accustomed, than annoyed 


by the winds of sand, which occasioned painfiil chaps in 
the skin. 

The climate of Barcelona was not so hot as that of 
Cumana, but it was extremely damp, and somewhat ^m- 
healthy in the rainy season. Bonpland had borne very 
well the irksome journey across the Llanos, and had 
recovered his strength and activity ; but Humboldt suf- 
fered more at Barcelona than at Angostura, immediately 
after their passage on the rivers. They remained nearly 
a month at Barcelona, where they found their friend Fray 
Juan Gonzales, who had traversed the Upper Orinoco 
before them. He expressed regret that they had not 
been able to prolong their visit to that unknown coun- 
try ; and he examined their plants and animals with that 
interest which must be felt by even the most uninformed 
man for the productions of a region he has long since 
visited. Pray Juan had resolved to go to Europe, and to 
accompany them as far as the island of Cuba. They 
were together for the space of seven months, and they 
found his society agreeable : he was cheerful, intelligent, 
and obliging. Little did they anticipate the sad &te that 
awaited him. He took charge of a part of their collec- 
tions; and a friend of his own confided to his care a 
child, who was to be conveyed to Spain for its education. 
Alas I the collection, the child, and the young ecclesias- 
tic, were all buried in the waves. 

• The packet boats from Corunna bound for Havanna 
and Mexico had been due three months ; and it was be- 
lieved they had been taken by the English cruisers sta- 
tioned on this coast. Anxious to reach Cumana, in 
order to avail themselves of the first opportunity that 
might offer for their passage to Vera Cruz, the travel- 



lers hired an open boat called a lancha, a sort of aaft 
employed habitually in the latitudes east of Cape Co- 
dera, where the sea was scarcely ever rough. Their 
laneha, which was laden with cocoa, carried on a contra- 
band trade with the island of Trinidad. For this reason 
the owner imagined they had nothing to fear £rom the 
enemy's vessels, which then blockaded all the Spanish 
ports. They embarked their collection of plants, their 
instruments, and their monkeys; and, the weather being 
delightful, they hoped to make a very short passage from 
the mouth of the Rio Neveri to Cumana. But they had 
scarcely reached the narrow channel between the conti- 
nent and the rocky isles of Borracha and the Chimanas, 
when to their great surprise they came in sight of an 
armed boat, which, whilst hailing them from a great dis- 
tance, fired some musket-shot at them. The boat be- 
longed to a privateer of Halifax. The protestations of 
the travellers were without effect; they were carried on 
board the privateer, and the captain, affecting not to re- 
cognise the passports delivered by the governor of Trini- 
dad for the illicit trade, declared them to be- a lawful 
prize. Being a little in the habit of speaking English, 
Humboldt entered into conversation with the captain, 
begging not to be taken to Nova Scotia, but to be put on 
shore on the neighbouring coast While he endeavoured, 
in the cabin, to defend his own rights, and those of the 
owner of the laneha, he heard a noise on deck. Some- 
thing was whispered to the captain, who left in con- 
sternation. Happily for them an English sloop of 
war, the Hawk, was cruising in those parts, and had 
signalled the captain to bring to; but the signal not 
being promptly answered, a gun was fired from the sloop, 


and a midshipman sent on board the vessel. He gave 
Humboldt hopes, that the lancha, which was laden with 
cocoa, would be given up, and that on the following day 
*they might pursue their voyage. In the meantime he in- 
vited the traveller to accompany him on board the sloop, 
assuring him that his commander, Captain Gamier, would 
furnish him with better accommodation for the night, 
than he would find in the vessel from Halifax. 

Humboldt accepted these obliging offers, and was re- 
ceived with the utmost kindness by Captain Gamier, 
who had made the voyage to the north-west coast of 
America with Vancouver, and who appeared to be highly 
interested in all he related to him respecting the great 
cataracts of Atures and Maypures, the bifurcation of the 
Orinoco, and its communication with the Amazon. He 
introduced to him several of his officers, who had been 
with Lord Macartney in China. Humboldt had not, 
during the space of a year, enjoyed the society of so 
many well-informed persons. They had learned from 
the English newspapers the object of his enterprise. He 
was treated with great confidence, and the commander 
gave him up his own state-room. 

The travellers continued their passage the next day, 
and were surprised at the depth of the channels between 
the Caracas Islands, where the sloop worked her way 
through them almost touching the rocks. Numbers of 
pelicans, and of flamingoes, which fished in the nooks, or 
harassed the pelicans in order to seize their prey, indi- 
cated their approach to the coast of Cumana. At sun- 
rise the sea-birds suddenly appeared, and animated the 
scene, reminding the travellers, in these solitary re- 
gions, of the activity of the cities of Europe at the 


dawn of day. At nine in the morning they reached the 
gulf of Cariaco, which served as a roadstead to the town 
of Cumana. The hill, crowned by the castle of San An- 
tonio, stood out, prominent fix)m its whiteness, on the 
dark curtain of the inland mountains. They gazed witli 
interest on the shore, where they first gathered plants in 
America, and where, some months later, Bonpland had 
been in such danger. Among the cactuses that rose in 
columns twenty feet high appeared the Indian huts of 
the Guayquerias. Their firiends at Cumana came out to 
meet them : men of all castes, with whom their frequent 
herborizations had brought them in contact, expressed 
the greater joy at sight of them, as a report that they 
had perished on the banks of the Orinoco had been cur- 
rent for several months. • 

The travellers hastened to visit Don Vicente Em- 
paran, whose recommendations and constant solicitude 
had been so useful to them during the long journey they 
had just terminated. He procured for them, in the centre 
of the town, a house which was extremely useftd for 
their instruments. They enjoyed from its terraces a ma- 
jestic view of the sea, of the isthmus of Araya, and the 
archipelago of the islands of Caracas, Picuita, and Bor- 
racha. The port of Cumana was every day more and 
more blockaded, and the vain expectation of the arrival 
of Spanish packets detained them two months and a half 
longer. They were often nearly tempted to go to the 
Danish islands, which enjoyed a happy neutrality ; but 
they feared that, if they left the Spanish colonies, they 
might find some obstacles to their return. They em- 
ployed their time in completing the Flora of Cumana, 
geologically examining the eastern part of the peninsula 


of Araya, and observing many eclipses of satellites, which 
confirmed the longitude of the place already obtained 
by other means. They also made experiments on the 
extraordinary refractions, on evaporation, and on atmo- 
spheric electricity. 

They prolonged their stay at Oumana a fortnight 
Having lost all hope of the arrival of a packet from 
Corunna, they availed themselves of an American vessel, 
laden at Nueva Barcelona with salt provision for the 
island of Cuba. They had now passed sixteen months 
on this coast, and in the interior of Venezuela, and on 
the l6th of November they parted from their friends at 
Cumana to make the passage for the third time across 
the gulf of Cariaco to Nueva Barcelona. The night was 
cool and delicious. It was not without emotion that they 
beheld for the last time the disc of the moon illuminating 
the summit of the cocoa-trees that surrounded the banks 
of the Manzanares. The breeze was strong, and in less 
tjjan six hours they anchored near the Morro of Nueva 
Barcelona, where the vessel which was to take them to 
Havanna was ready to sail. 

They sailed from Nueva Barcelona on the 24th. On 
the 2d of December they descried Cape Beata. During the 
night there was a very curious optical phenomenon, 
which Humboldt could not account for. At half-past 
twelve the wind blew feebly from the east; the ther- 
mometer rose to 74*. Humboldt had remained upon 
the deck to observe the culmination of some stars. The 
full moon was high in the heavens. Suddenly, in the 
direction of the moon, 45° before its passage over the 
meridian, a great arch was formed tinged with the pris- 
matic colours, though not of a bright hue. The arch 

19fl HA V ANNA. 

appeared higher than the moon ; this iris-band was near 
2° broad, and its summit seemed to rise nearly fix)m 80° 
to 85*^ above the horizon of the sea. The sky was sin- 
gularly pure ; there was no appearance of rain ; and 
what struck him most was, that this phenomenon, which 
perfectly resembled a lunar rainbow, was not in the 
direction opposite to the moon. The arch remained sta- 
tionary, or at least appeared to do so, during eight or 
ten minutes ; and at the moment when he tried if it were 
possible to see it by reflection in the mirror of the sex- 
tant, it began to move and descend, crossing successively 
the moon and Jupiter. It lacked six minutes of one o'clock 
when the summit of the arch sank below the horizon. 
This movement of an arch, coloured like the rainbow, 
filled with astonishment the sailors who were on watch 
on the deck. They alleged, as they did on the appearance 
of every extraordinary meteor, that it denoted wind. 

The travellers anchored at Havanna on the 19th of 
December. Not being able to find a passage in any ne% 
tral vessel, Humboldt freighted a Catalonian sloop, lying 
at Batabano, which was to be at his disposal to take him 
either to Porto BellQ or Carthagena, according as the 
gales of Saint Martha should permit. 

The travellers set sail on the 9th of March, somewhat 
incommoded by the smallness of their vessel, which 
afforded no sleeping place but upon deck. The cabin 
received no air or light but from above ; it was merely 
a hold for provisions, and it was with difficulty that they 
could place their instruments in it. 

They were soon in the gulf of Batabano, which was 
bounded by a low and marshy coast, and looked like a 
vast desert. The fishing birds, which were generally at 


their post whilst the small birds and the imlolent vul- 
tures were at roost, were seen only in small numbers. 
The sea was of a greenish-brown hue, as in some of the 
lakes of Switzerland; while the air, owing to its extreme 
purity, had, at the moment the sun appeared above the 
horizon, a cold tint of pale blue, similar to that which 
landscape painters observe at the same hour in the south 
of Italy, and which makes distant objects stand out in 
strong relief. They sailed E.S.E., taking the passage 
of Don Cristoval, to reach the rocky island of Cayo de 
Piedras, and to clear the archipelago, which the Spanish 
pilots, in the early times of the conquest, designated by 
the names of Gardens and Bowers. The Queen's Gar- 
dens, properly so called, were nearer Cape Cruz, and 
were separated from the archipelago by an open sea 
thirty-five leagues broad. Columbus gave them the 
name they bear, in 1494, when, on his second voyage, 
he struggled during fifty-eight days with the winds and 
currents between the island of Pinos and the eastern cape 
of Cuba. He describes the islands of this archipelago as 
verdant, full of trees and pleasant 

A part of these so-styled gardens was indeed beautiful; 
the voyagers saw the scene change every moment, and the 
verdure of some of the islands appeared the more lovely 
fi*om its contrast with chains of rocks, displaying only 
white and barren sands. The surface of these sands, 
heated by the rays of the sun, seemed to be undulating 
like the surfece of a liquid. The contact of layers of air 
of unequal temperature, produced the most varied pheno- 
mena of suspension and mirage, from ten in the morning 
till four in the afternoon. Even in these desert places 
the sun animated the landscape, and gave mobility to the 


sandy plain, to the trunks of trees, and to the rocks thai 
projected into the sea like promontories. When the sun 
appeared these inert masses seemed suspended in air; 
and on the neighbouring beach, the sands presented the 
appearance of a sheet of water gently agitated by the 
winds. A train of clouds sufficed to seat the trunks of 
trees and the suspended rocks again on the soil ; to render 
the undulating sur&ce of the plains motionless ; and to 
dissipate the charm which the Arabian, Persian, and 
Hindoo poets have celebrated as 

" The sweet illusions of the lonely desert" 

They doubled Cape Matahambre very slowly. Hum- 
boldt determined, " as they sailed, as they sailed," the 
positions of Cayo de Don Cristoval, Cayo Flamenco, 
Cayo de Diego Perez, and Cayo de Piedras. He also 
employed himself in examining the influence which the 
changes at the bottom of the sea produce on its tempera- 
ture- at the surface. 

Noth withstanding the small size of their bark, and the 
boasted skill of their pilot, they often ran aground. The 
bottom being soft, there was no danger ; but, nevertheless, 
at sunset, near the pass of Don Cristoval, they preferred 
to lie at anchor. The first part of the night was beauti- 
fully serene: they saw an incalculable number of felling- 
stars, all following one direction, opposite to that from 
whence the wind blew in the low regions of the atmo- 
sphere. The most absolute solitude prevailed in this 
spot, which, in the time of Columbus, was inhabited and 
frequented by great numbers of fishermen. The inhabit- 
ants of Cuba then employed a small fish to take the 
great sea-turtles. The " fisher-fish," formerly employed 


by the Cubans, by means of tbe flattened disc on his 
head, furnished with suckers, fixed himself on the shell 
of the sea-turtle, which was common in the narrow and 
winding channels of the Bowers. "The fish," says 
Columbus, "will sooner suffer himself to be cut in 
pieces than let go the body to which he adheres." The 
Indians drew to the shore by the same cord, the fisher- 
fish and the turtle. When Gomara, and the learned 
secretary of the Emperor Charles V., Peter Martyr 
d'Anghiera, promulgated in Europe this fact which 
they had learnt fix)m the companions of Columbus, it 
was received as a traveller's tale. There is indeed an air 
of the marvellous in the recital of d'Anghiera, which 
begins in these words: "Exactly as we follow hares 
with greyhounds in the fields, so do the natives of Cuba 
take fishes with other fish trained for that purpose." 
We now know, fix)m the united testimony of Rogers, 
Dampier, and Commerson, that the artifice resorted to in 
the Bowers to catch turtles, is employed by the inhabit- 
ants of the eastern coast of Africa, near Cape Natal, at 
Mozambique, and at Madagascar. In Egypt, at San 
Domingo, and in the lakes of the valley of Mexico, the 
method practised for catching ducks was as follows: 
men, whose heads were covered with great calabashes 
pierced with holes, hid themselves in the water, and 
seized the birds by the feet The Chinese, from the 
remotest antiquity, have employed the cormorant, a bird 
' of the pelican family, for fishing on the coast: rings are 
fixed round the bird's neck to prevent him from swallow- 
ing his prey, and fishing for himself. In the lowest de- 
gree of civilization, the sagacity of man is displayed in 
the stratagems of hunting and fishing: nations, who 



probably never had any communication with each other^ 
furnish the most striking analogies in the means they 
employ in exercising their empire over animals. 

It was three days before the travellers could leave this 
labyrinth of Gardens and Bowers. At night they lay at 
anchor; by day they visited the islands, or chains of 
rock, that were most easily accessible. 

One day while they were employed in herborizing ou 
the Cayo Bonito, their sailors were searching among 
the rocks for lobsters. Disappointed at not finding 
lobsters there, they avenged themselves by climbing on 
the mangroves and making a dreadful slaughter of the 
young alcatras, grouped in pairs in their nests. With 
the want of foresight peculiar to the great pelagic birds, 
the alcatra builds his nest where several branches of trees 
unite together Humboldt and Bonpland counted four 
or five nests on the same trunk of a mangrove. The 
young birds defended themselves valiantly with their 
enormous beaks, which were six or seven inches long ; 
the old ones hovered over their heads, making hoarse and 
plaintive cries. Blood streamed from the tops of the 
trees, for the sailors were artned with great sticks and 
cutlasses. In vain were they reproved for this cruelty. 
Condemned to long obedience in the solitude of the seas, 
they felt pleasure in exercising a cruel tyranny over 
animals, when occasion offered. The ground was 
covered with wounded birds struggling in death. At 
the arrival of the sailors a profound calm prevailed in 
this secluded spot ; when they left, everything seemed to 
say : Man has passed this way. 

They sailed along the coast keeping two or three milea 
distant from land. On the 13th, a little before sunset^ 


they were opposite the month of the Rio San Juan, which 
was dreaded by navigators on account of the innumera- 
ble quantity of mosquitos and zancudos which filled the 
atmosphere. Humboldt passed a great part of the night 
on deck. The coast was dreary and desolate. Not a 
light announced a fisherman's hut. There was no village 
between Batabano and Trinidad, a distance of fifty 
leagues; scarcely were there more than two or three 
fitrm-yards, containing hogs or cows. Yet, in the time 
of Columbus, this territory was inhabited along the shore. 
When the ground is dug to make wells, or when torrents 
furrow the surface of the earth in floods, stone hatchets 
and copper utensils are often discovered. 

On the 14th the travellers entered the Rio Guaurabo, 
one of the two ports of Trinidad de Cuba, to put on shore 
the pilot dt Batabano, who had steered them across the 
flats of the Bowers, though not without causing them to 
run aground several times. They also hoped to find a 
packet-boat in this port, which would take them to Car- 
thagena. Humboldt landed towards evening, and placed 
Borda's azimuth compass and the artificial horizon, on 
the shore, for the purpose of observing the pass^e of 
some stars by the meridian ; but they had scarcely begun 
their preparations, when a party of traders, who had dirked 
on board a foreign ship recently arrived, invited them to 
accompany them to the town. They requested the tra- 
vellers to mount two by two on the same horse ; and, as 
the heat was excessive, their offer was accepted. 

The road leading to the port was brilliantly illuminated 
by phosphorescent insects. The grass that overspread 
the ground, the branches and foliage of the trees, all 
shone mth a reddish and moveable light, which varied 


in its intensity at the will of the animal by which it waa 
produced. It seemed as though the starry firmament 
reposed on the savannah. In the hut of the poorest in- 
habitants of the country, fifteen of these insects, placed 
in a calabash pierced with holes, afforded sufficient light 
to search for anything during the night To shake the 
calabash forcibly was all that was necessary to excite the 
animal to increase the intensity of the luminous discs 
situated on each side of its body. The people of the 
country remarked, that calabashes filled with these phos- 
phorescent insects were lanterns always ready lighted. 
They were, in fact, only extinguished by the sickness or 
death of the insects, which were easily fed with a little 
sugar-cane. A young woman at Trinidad de Cuba told 
the travellers, that during a long and difficult passage 
from the main land, she always made use of fheir phos- 
phorescence when she gave suck to her child at night ; 
the captain of the ship would allow no other light on 
board, from the fear of corsairs. 

The travellers quitted Trinidad on .the night of the 
16th. The municipality caused them to be conducted to 
the mouth of the Rio Guaurab^ in a fine carriage lined 
with old crimson damask ; and, to add to their confusion, 
an ecclesiastic, the poet of the place, habited in a suit of 
velvet notwithstanding the heat of the climate, cele- 
brated, in a sonnet, their voyage to the Orinoco. 

On the morning of the 17th they came within sight of the 
most eastern island of the group of the Lesser Caymans. 

As long as they were within sight of this island, sea- 
turtles of extraordinary dimensions swam round their 
vessel. The abundance of these animals led Columbus 
to give the whole group of the Caymans the name of 


ZAPOTB. 205 

" The Ro3ks of the Turtles." The sailors would have 
thrown themselves into the water to catch some of these 
animals; but the numerous sharks that accompanied them, 
rendered the attempt too perilous. The sharks fixed 
their jaws on great iron hooks which were flung to them ; 
these hooks were very sharp and, for want of fish-hooks 
with-chains, they were tied to cords. The sharks were in 
this manner drawn up half the length of their bodies ; 
and the voyagers were surprised to see that those which 
had their mouths wounded and bleeding continued to 
seize the bait over and over again during several hours. 
The passage from the island of Cuba to the coast of 
South America terminated at the mouth of the Eio Sinu, 
and it occupied sixteen days. The roadstead near the 
Punta del Zapote afforded bad anchorage ; and in a rough 
sea, and Vith a hard wind, the travellers found some 
difficulty in reaching the coast. Everything denoted 
that they had entered a wild region, rarely visited by 
strangers. A few scattered houses formed the village of 
Zapote : they found a great number of mariners assem- 
bled under a sort of shed, all men of colour, who had 
descended the Rio Sinu in their barks, to carry maize, 
bananas, poultry, and other provisions, to the port of 
Carthagena. Their barks, which were from fifty to 
eighty feet long, belonged for the most part to the planters 
of Lorica. The Zambos of the Rio Sinu wearied the 
travellers with idle questions respecting the purpose of 
their voyage, their books, and the use of their instru- 
ments. They regarded them with mistrust; and to 
escape from their importunate curiosity, the travellers 
went to herborize in the forest, although it rained. The 
Zambos had endeavoured, as usual, to alarm them by 


Stories of boas, vipers, and the attacks of jaguars ; but 
during a long residence among the Chayma Indians of the 
Orinoco, the travellers were used to these exaggerations. 
Quitting the coast of Zapote, covered with mangroves, 
they entered a forest remarkable for a great variety of 

After an hour's walk, they found, in a cleared spot, 
several inhabitants employed in collecting palm-tree 
wine. The dark tint of Uie Zambos formed a strong 
contrast with the appearance of a little man with light 
hair and a pale complexion, who seemed to take no share 
in the labour. Humboldt thought at first that he was a 
sailor who had escaped from some North American ves- 
sel ; but was soon undeceived. This feir-complexioned 
man was his countryman, bom on the coast of the Bal- 
tic ; he had served in the Danish navy, and had lived for 
several years in the upper part of the Kio Sinu, near 
Santa Cruz de Lorica. He had come, to use the words 
of the loungers of the country, " to see other lands, and 
to roam about : nothing else." The sight of a man who 
could speak to him of his country, seemed to have no 
attraction for him ; and, as he had almost forgotten Ger- 
man without being able to express himself clearly in 
Spanish, the conversation was not very animated. Dur- 
ing the five years of his travels in Spanish America, 
Humboldt found only two opportunities of speaking his 
native language. The first Prussian he met with was a 
sailor from Memel, who served on board a ship from 
Halifax, and who refused to make himself known till 
after he had fired some musket-shot at his boat The 
second, the man he met at the Rio Sinu, was very amica- 
bly disposed. Without answering his questions, he con- 


tinTied repeating, with a smile, " that the country was hot 
and humid ; that the houses in the town of Pomerania 
were finer than those of Santa Cruz de Lorica ; and that, 
if they remained in the forest, they would have the ter- 
tian fever from which he had long suflFered." The travel- 
lers had some difficulty in showing their gratitude to this 
man for his kind advice ; for according to his somewhat 
aristocratic principles, a white man, were he barefooted, 
should never accept money "in the presence of those 
vile coloured people I" Less disdainful than their Euro- 
pean countryman, the travellers saluted politely the 
group of men of colour, who were employed in drawing 
off into large calabashes, the palm-tree wine, fix)m the 
trunks of felled trees. 

They weighed anchor in the road of Zapote, on the 
27th, at sunrise. The sea was less stormy, and the 
weather rather warmer, although the fury of the wind 
was undiminished. They saw on the north a succession 
of small cones of extraordinary form, as fer as the Morro 
de Tigua ; these cones were known by the name of the 
Paps of Santero, Tolu, Eincon, and Chichimar. The two 
latter were nearest the coast. The Paps of Tolu rose in 
the middle of the savannahs. There, from the trunks 
of the Toluifera balsamum was collected the precious 
balsam of Tolu. In the savannahs of Tolu the travellers 
saw oxen and mules wandering half wild. In the archi- 
pelago of San Bernardo, they passed between the island 
of Salamanquilla and Cape Boqueron. They had scarcely 
quitted the gulf of Morosquillo, when the sea became so 
rough, that the waves frequently washed over the deck 
of their little vessel. Their captain sought in vain a 
sheltering-place on the coast, to the north of the village 


of Eincon. They cast anchor at four fethoms; but 
having discovered that they were lying over a .reef of 
coral they preferred the open sea. 

The wind having dropped during the night they could 
only advance to the island of Arenas, where they an- 
chored. The weather becanie stormy during the night 
They again set sail on the morning of the 29th, hoping 
to be able to reach Boca Chica that day. The gale blew 
with extreme violence, and they were unable to proceed 
with their frail bark against the wind and* the current, 
when by a false manoeuvre in setting the sails (they had 
but four sailors), they were during some minutes in im- 
minent danger. The captain, who was not a very bold 
mariner, declined to proceed further up the coast, and 
they took refuge, sheltered from the wind, in a nook of 
the island of Baru. 

There was to be an eclipse of the moon during the 
night, and the next day an oocultation of a star in Vir- 
go. The observation of the latter phenomenon might 
have been very important in determining the longitude 
of Carthagena. In vain Humboldt urged the captain to 
allow one of his sailors to accompany him by land to the 
foot of Boca Chica, a distance of five miles. He objected 
on account of the wild state of the country^ in which 
there was neither habitation nor path. A little incident, 
which might have rendered the expedition more fatal, 
justified the prudence of the captain. Humboldt and 
Bonpland went by moonlight, to collect plants on the 
shore ; as they approached the land, they saw a young 
negro issue fix^m the thicket He was quite naked, 
loaded with chains, and armed with a long knife. He 
invited them to land on a part of the beach covered with 

ESCAPED coNYicrrs. 209 

large mangroves, as being a spot where the surf did not 
break, and offered to conduct them to the interior of the 
island of Baru, if they would promise to give him some 
clothes. His cunning and wild appearance, the often- 
repeated question whether they were Spaniards, and cer- 
tain unintelligible words which he addressed to some of 
his companions who were concealed amidst the trees, 
inspired them with mistrust. These blacks were no 
doubt maroon negroes: slaves escaped from prison. 
The party from the vessel were without arms; the 
negroes appeared to be more numerous than they were, 
and, thinking that possibly they invited them to land 
with the desire of taking possession of their canoe, they 
thought it prudent to return on board. 

On the morning of the 30th they doubled Punta Gi- 
gantes, and made for the Boca Chica, the entrance of the 
port of Oarthagena. From thence the distance was seven 
or eight miles to the anchorage near the town; and 
although they took a pilot to guide them, they repeat- 
edly touched on the sandbanks. On landing, Hum- 
boldt learned, with great satisfaction, that the expedition 
appointed to take the survey of the coast, had not yet 
put to sea. This circumstance not only enabled him to 
ascertain the astronomical position of several towns on 
the shore, which had served him as points of departure in 
fixing chronometrically the longitude of the Llanos and 
the Orinoco, but also served to guide him with respect to 
the future direction of his journey to Peru. The passage 
from Oarthagena to Porto Bello, and that of the isthmus 
by the Eio Chagres and Cruces, were alike short and 
easy ; but it was to be feared, that they might stay long 
at Panama before they could find an opportunity of pro- 


ceeding to Guayaquil, and in that case the voyage on the 
Pacific would be extremely lingering, as they would have 
to sail against contrary winds and currents. The persons 
they consulted all agreed that the journey by land along 
the Cordilleras, by Santa F^ de Bogota, Popayan, Quito, 
and Caxaniarca, would be preferable to the sea-voyage, 
and would furnish an immense field for exploration. 
The predilection of Europeans for the cold and temperate 
climate that prevailed on the back of the Andes, gave 
further weight to these counsels. The distances were 
known, but Humboldt was deceived with respect to the 
time it would take to traverse them on mules* backs. He 
did not imagine that it would require over eighteen 
months to go from Carthagena to Lima. Notwithstand- 
ing this delay, or rather owing to the slowness with 
which he passed through Cundinamarca, the province 
of Popayan, and Quito, he did not regret having sacri- 
ficed the passage of the isthmus to the route of Bogota, 
for every step of the journey was full of interest both 
geographically and botanically. This change of direc- 
tion gave him occasion to trace the map of the Eio Mag- 
dalena, to determine astronomically the position of eighty- 
points situated in the inland country between Cartha 
gena, Popayan, and the upper course of the river Ama- 
zon and Lima, to discover an error in the longitude of 
Quito, to collect several thousand new plants, and to ob- 
serve on a vast scale the relations between the rocks of 
syenitic porphyry and trachyte, with the fire of vol* 

During the six days of their stay at Carthagena their 
most interesting excursions were to the Boca Grande, and 
the hill of Popa. A small portion of hUly land sepa- 


rated the town of Carthagena and the islet of Manga 
from the Cienega de Tesca. These hills, some of which 
were more than five hundred feet high, commanded the 
town. The Castillo de San Lazaro was seen from afar 
rising like a great rocky pyramid ; when examined nearer 
its fortifications were not very formidable. Layers of clay 
and sand were cevered with bricks, and furnished a kincj 
of construction which had little stability. The Cerro de 
Santa Maria de la Popa, crowned by a convent and some 
batteries, rose above the fort of San Lazaro, and was 
worthy of more solid and extensive works. The image 
of the Virgin, preserved in the church of the convent, 
had been long revered by mariners. The view from the 
Popa was extensive and varied, and the windings and 
rents of the coast gave it a peculiar character. Hum- 
boldt was assured that sometimes from the windows of 
the convent, and even in the open sea, before the fort of 
Boca Chica, the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada de 
Santa Marta were discernible. 

In order to avoid the excessive heats, and the diseases 
which prevailed during the summer at Carthagena, 
the travellers removed inland to the village of Turbaco. 
This small Indian village stood on a hill, at the entrance 
of a majestic forest, which extended towards the south 
and the east as far as the canal of Mahates and the river 
Magdalena. The houses were mostly built of bamboos, 
and covered with palm leaves. Here and there limpid 
springs rose out of the calcareous rock, which contained 
numerous fragments of petrified coral, and were shaded 
by the splendid foliage of the anacardium caracoli, a tree 
of colossal size, to which the natives attributed the pro- 
perty of attracting from great distances the vapours float 

212 THE yoixioroBS of tubbaoo. 

ing in the atmosphere. Aa the soil of Turbaco was more 
than nine hundred feet above the level of the ocean, 
a delightful coolness prevailed, especially during the 

The Indians of Turbaco, who accompanied the travel- 
lers in their herbalizations, spoke of a marshy coun- 
try, situated in a forest of palm trees, and called by the 
Creoles the Little Volcanoes. They related that, accord- 
ing to a tr^tion still existing among them, this spot had 
formerly been in flames ; but that a very pious man, a 
vicar of the village, had succeeded by his fir^uent asper- 
sions of holy water in extinguishing the subterraneous 
fire. They added, that, since this time, the fiery volcano 
had become a water volcano. From their long residence 
in the Spanish colonies, the travellers were familiar with 
the strange and marvellous stories, which the natives 
eagerly recited to fix the attention of travellers on the 
phenomena of nature; though they knew, that these 
stories were in general less indebted for their currency to 
the superstition of the Indians, than to that of the 
whites, the mulattoes, and the African slaves ; and that 
the reveries of a few individuals, who reasoned on the 
progressive changes of the surface of the globe, gradu- 
ally assumed the character of historical traditions. With- 
out giving any credit to the existence of an extent of 
country in a former state of ignition, they were conducted 
by the Indians to the Volcanoes; and this excursion 
made them acquainted with phenomena, much more im- 
portant than any they could have expected. 

The Volcanoes were situated to the east of the village 
of Turbaco, in a thick forest, abounding with balsam of 
Tolu trees. The ground rose gradually two hundred 


and fifty or three hundred feet above the village of Tur- 
baco ; but as it was everywhere covered with vegetation, 
it was not possible to distinguish the nature of the rocks 
that reposed on ike shelly calcareous soil. 

In the centre of a vast plain were eighteen or twenty 
small cones, in height not above twenty -five feet These 
cones were formed of a blackish gray clay, and had an 
opening at their summits filled with water. On ap- 
proaching these small craters, a hollow but very distinct 
sound was heard at intervals, fifteen or eighteen seconds 
previous to the disengagement of a great quantity of air. 
The force with which this air rose above the surface of 
the water led them to suppose, that it underwent a great 
pressure in the bowels of the earth. Humboldt generally 
reckoned five explosions in two minutes ; and this phe- 
nomenon was often attended with a muddy ejection. The 
Indians assured him, that the forms of the cones 
suffered no visible change in a great number of years ; 
but the ascending force of the gas, and the frequency of 
the explosions, appeared to vary according to the seasons. 
He found by analyses made by means both of nitrous 
gas and of phosphorus, that the disengaged air scarcely 
contained a thousandth part of oxygen. It was azotic 
gas, much more pure than that which is generally pre- 
pared in laboratories. 



Completing about the end of April the observationa 
Ihey proposed to make at the northern extremity of tho 
torrid zone, Humboldt and Bonpland were on the point 
of proceeding to Vera Cruz with the squadron of Admiral 
Ariztizabal; but being misled by false intelligence 
respecting the expedition of Captain Baudin, they were 
induced to relinquish the project of passing through 
Mexico on their way to the Philippine Islands. The 
public journals announced that two French sloops, the 
" Geographe" and the " Naturaliste," had sailed for Cape 
' Horn ; that they were to proceed along the coasts of 
Chili and Peru, and thence to New Holland. This in- 
telligence revived in Humboldt's mind all the projects he 
had formed during his stay in Paris, when he solicited 
the Directory to hasten the departure of Captain Bau- 
din. The travellers at once set to work and divided 
their precious herbals into three portions, to avoid ex- 
posing to the risks of a long voyage the objects they 
had obtained with so much difficulty on the banks of the 
Orinoco, the Atabapo, and the Eio Negro. They sent 
one collection by way of England to Germany, another 
by way of Cadiz to France, and a third remained at 


Havanna. They had reason to congratulate themselves 
on uhis foresight : each collection contained nearly the 
same species, and no precautions were neglected to have 
the cases, if taken by English or French vessels, remitted 
to Sir Joseph Banks, or to the professors of natural history 
at the Museum at Paris. It happened fortunately that 
the manuscripts which Humboldt at first intended to send 
with the collection to Cadiz, were not intrusted to Fray 
Juan Gonzales, who had followed them to Havanna with 
the view of returning to Spain. He left the island of 
Cuba soon after the travellers, but the vessel in which he 
sailed foundered on the coast of Africa, and the cargo and 
crew were all lost By this event the travellers lost 
some of the duplicates of their herbals, and what was 
more important, all the insects which Bonpland had with 
great difficulty collected during their voyage to the Ori 
noco and the Rio Negro. 

Their collections shipped, the travellers ascended the 
Rio Magdalena, Bonpland, as was his wont, exploring the 
botanical treasures of the shore, and Humboldt making a 
chart of the river districtr* The sky was cloudy, but the 
nights were tropically fine. Their old torments, the 
mosquitos followed them. By and by they passed the 
little city of Monpex, with its white houses and its red 
roofs. They saw the inhabitants chatting before the 
doors of their dwellings (it was evening at the time,) and 
promenading the darkening streets. In addition to the 
plague of mosquitos, which kept them most of the day 
in their hammocks, the inliabitants of Monpex were 
horribly disfigured with goitres. Their city was sur- 
rounded with swamps, and was liable to inundations. 
Sometimes they were obliged to desert their houses, and 

216 HOHDA. 

take to their canoes. Crocodiles came up to the bankg 
to feed on the oflFal thrown fix)m the city. 

From Monpox to Santa Margarita the shore was bor- 
dered with orange and lemon trees. At Pinon they saw 
the mountains in the interior. The depth of the water 
increasing along the shore, they were now and then 
obliged to lay in the poles, and haul along by the trees. 
They passed the island of Morales, which was shaded with 
cocoa palms. Beyond BadiUo the crocodiles diminished, 
and cocoa plantations began. Sometimes the river, 
broadening, resembled a large lake, bordered with forest- 
trees. At such places the travellers saw their old fiiends 
of Cumana and the Orinoco, flamingoes, herons, parrots, 
and macaws, and hordes of howling monkeys. Turtles 
were plentiful, as were also crocodiles and jaguars. They 
saw the crocodiles and jaguars fighting on the banks as 
they passed. At last they reached the town of Honda, 
having been thirty-five days on the river. 

From Honda they proceeded on mules to Bogota. 
The road was more like the bed of a torrent than a 
road. They descended fix)m the mountain of Sarjento 
into the picturesque valley of Guaduas ; then they 
climbed the steep sides of the Alta del Trigo, and again 
descended to the plain of Villietas. From the paramo 
of Cerradera they saw the plains of Bogota, though 
they were still nine leagues from the capital. At Is^st 
they came in sight of the white towers of the cathedral, 
and the monasteries of Monserrat and Guadalupe. 

The travellers arrived at Bogota in June, and remained 
till September, pursuing their botanical and geographi- 
cal researches, and making excursions to* the natural 
curiosities of the neighborhood. 


The plain of Bogota was encircled with lofty moun- 
tains; and the perfect level of the soil, its geological 
structure, the form of the rocks of Suba and Facatativa, 
which rose like small islands in the midst of the savan- 
nas, all served to indicate the existence of an ancient 
lake. The Eio Funzha, into which flowed the waters of 
the valley, forced its way through the mountains to the 
south-west of Bogota. Near the farm of Canoas this 
river rushed from the plain by a narrow outlet into a 
crevice, which descended towards the basin of the Eio 
Magdaleua. Here were the celebrated fells of Tequen- 
dama. 'Caking one pleasant day the road which led to 
\he fells, the travellers passed the village of Suacha, and 
'iie great ferm of Canoas, famous for its crops of wheat 
At a small distance from the fenn, on the height of 
Chipa, they found themselves surrounded with oaks and 
elms, and plants which recalled to their minds the vege- 
tation of Europe. Looking down, as from a terrace, 
they discovered below them a country producing bana- 
nas and sugar canes. They descended by a dangerous 
pathway to the brink of the precipice, into which the river 
threw itsel£ At a short distance above them it was one 
hundred and forty feet broad, but as it drew near the fell 
it contracted itself in a deep but narrow bed, scarcely forty 
feet wide, and plunged at two bounds down a perpendi- 
cular rock to the depth of six hundred and fifty feet It 
came on like a broad arch of glass ; as soon as it was over 
the brink of the precipice it became a fleece of spray, which 
was changed in its descent to mist The mist rose, how- 
ever, to a considerable height, and was crowned with gli^ 
tering rainbows. From the rocky sides of the crevice, 
bung with shrubs and bushes, gushed innumerable springs 



and tributary streams, and over and around all dartetl 
strange birds, with beautiful plumage. A great portion of 
the fell was lost in vapour ; what little was left below, a 
dwindled streamlet, rushed impetuously along a stony bed 
overhung with trees, and was lost in the dark windings 
of the rock. The crevice into which the river plunged, 
communicating with the plains of the warm regions, a 
few palm trees had sprung up at the foot of the cataract. 
This led the inhabitants of Bogota to say that the river 
plimged from a hot into a cold country. Humboldt suc- 
ceeded, not without danger, in carrying his instruments 
into the crevice. It took him three hours to reach the 
bottom by a narrow path. A few feeble rays of noon 
fell on the bottom of the crevice. The solitude of the 
place, the richness of the vegetation, and the dreadftd 
roar that struck upon his ear, were long remembered by 
him. He considered it one of the wildest scenes in the 
whole range of the Cordilleras. 

The column of vapour, rising like a thick cloud from 
the falls, could be seen from the walks round Bogota, at 
five leagues distance. 

There was a legend connected with the place : " In the 
remotest times," it ran, " before the moon accompanied 
the earth, the inhabitants of the plain of Bogota lived 
like barbarians, naked, without agriculture, without any 
form of laws or worship. Suddenly there appeared 
among them an old man, who came from the plains situ- 
ate on the east of the Cordillera of Chingasa, and who 
appeared to be of a race unlike that of the natives, 
having a long and bushy beard. He was known by 
three distinct appellations, Bochica, Nemquetheba, and 
Zuh6. This old man instructed men how to clothe 


themselves, build huts, till the ground, and form them- 
selves into communities. He brought with him a woman, 
to whom also tradition gives three names, Chla, Yube- 
cayguaya, and Huythaca. This woman, extremely beau- 
tiful and not less malignant, thwarted every enterprise 
of her husband for the happiness of mankind. By her 
skill in magic she swelled the Rio Funzha, and inun- 
dated the valley of Bogota. The greater part, of the 
inhabitants perished in this deluge ; a few only found 
reftige on the summits of the neighbouring mountains. 
The old man, in anger, drove the beautiful Huythaca far 
from the Earth, and she became the Moon, which began 
from that epoch to enlighten our planet during the night. 
Bochica, moved with compassion for those who were dis- 
persed over the mountains, broke with his powerful arm 
the rocks that inclosed the valley on the side of Canoas 
and Tequendama. By this outlet he drained the waters 
of the Lake of Bogota. He built towns, introduced the 
worship of the Sun, named two chiefe, between whom he 
divided the civil and ecclesiastical authority, and then 
withdrew himself, under the name of Idacanzaa, into the 
holy valley of Iraca, near Tunja, where he lived in the 
exercise of the most austere penitence for the space of 
two thousand years." 

After the excursion to the Falls of Tequendama, 
the travellers visited the Lake of Guatavita. It was 
situated to the north of Bogota, in a wild and soli- 
tary spot, on a ridge of the mountains of Zipaguira, at 
a height of eight thousand five hundred feet It was 
held in veneration by the Indians in the olden time, who 
were supposed to have repaired thither for the purpose 
of ablution and purification. The travellers found the 

290 icoNOXzo. 

remains of a flight of steps, by which the Indians were 
accustomed to descend to the water, and a channel by 
which the Spaniards, after the conquest, had attempted 
to drain the lake, to recover the treasures which were 
said to have been concealed there when Quesada and 
his cavalry appeared on the plains of Oundinamarca. It 
lay on a plain, surrounded by mountains. Its basin was 
a sort of half oval, whose stony sloping sides were over 
grown with bushes and trees. 

Towards the end of September Humboldt and Bon- 
pland bade Bogota adieu, and started for Quito. Out of 
two roads which they might have taken, like true natu- 
ralists they chose the worst The road from Bogota to 
Fusagasuga and thence to Icononzo was one of the most 
difficult and least frequented in the Cordilleras. " The 
traveller," Humboldt afterwards wrote, "must feel a 
passionate enthusiasm for the beauties of nature, who 
prefers the dangerous descent of the desert of San Fortu- 
nato, and the mountains of Fusagasuga, leading towards 
the natural bridges of Icononzo, to the usual road by 
the Mesa de Juan Diaz, to the banks of the Magdalena." 

Journeying two days in a south-easterly direction they 
came to Icononzo, a ruined town of the Muysco Indians. 
It lay at the southern end of a valley of the same name. 
The rocks of this valley seemed to have been carved by 
the hand of man. Their naked and barren summits 
presented a picturesque contrast with the tufts of trees 
and shrubs which covered the brinks of a deep crevice 
in the centre of the valley. Through this valley ran a 
small torrent called the Rio de la Summa Paz. To this 
torrent the travellers came, nor could they have crossed 
it, without great difficulty, had not nature provided two 


bridges of rocks, like the natural bridge in Virginia 
The highest of these bridges was forty-six feet in length, 
and nearly forty in breadth ; its thickness in the centre was 
about seven feet. Humboldt experimented on its height, 
and found it three hundred and twelve feet above the level 
of the torrent. For the safety of travellers the Indians of 
the valley had formed a small balustrade of reeds, ex- 
tending along the precipitous road leading to the bridge. 

Sixty feet below this bridge was another, to which the 
travellers were led by a narrow pathway, descending 
along the brink of the crevice. In the middle of the 
second bridge was a hollow of more than twenty -four feet 
square, through which they perceived the bottom of the 
abyss. The torrent seemed to flow through a dark ca- 
vern, from which arose a melancholy noise, caused by 
the numberless flights of nocturnal birds that haunted 
the crevice. Humboldt at first mistook them for bats 
of gigantic size. Thousands of them were seen flying 
over the surface of the water. The Indians assured 
hiin that these birds were of the size of a fowl, with 
a curved beak and an owl's eye. They were called 
cacas. It was impossible to catch them, on account of 
the depth of the valley ; and they could be examined 
only by throwing down rockets, to illumine the sides of 
the crevice. 

Leaving the bridges of Icononzo, the travellers pursued 
their journey until they came to the mountain of Quin- 
diu. At the entrance of this mountain, near Ibague, 
they saw the truncated cone of Zolima covered with per- 
petual snow. The little river of Combeima wound along 
a narrow valley, and forced its way across a thicket of 


The mountain of Quindiu was considered the mo8t 
difficult passage in the Cordilleras of the Andes. It was 
a thick, uninhabited forest, which, in the finest season, 
could not be traversed in less than ten or twelve days. 
Not even a hut was to be seen, nor oonld any means of 
subsistence be found. Travellers, at all times of the year, 
furnished themselves with a month's provision, since it 
often happened, that, by the melting of the snows, and 
the sudden swell of the torrents, they found themselves 
so circumstanced, that they could descend neither on the 
side of Cartago, nor that of Ibague. The highest point 
of the road, the Garito del Paramo, was one thousand 
four hundred and fifty feet above the level of the sea. 
As the foot of the mountain, towards the banks of the 
Cauca, was only three thousand one hundred and forty 
feet, the climate there was, in general, mild and tem- 
perate. The pathway which formed the passage of the 
Cordilleras was only about a foot in breadth, and had 
the appearance, in several places, of a gallery dug, and 
left open to the sky. In this part of the Andes the 
rock was covered with a thick stratum of clay. The 
streamlets which flowed down the mountains, had hol- 
lowed out gullies eighteen or twenty feet deep. Along 
these crevices, which were full of mud, the travellers 
were forced to grope their passage, the darkness of which 
was increased by the thick vegetation that covered the 
opening above. The oxen, which were the beasts of 
burden commonly made use of in this country, could 
scarcely force their way through these galleries, some of 
which were two thousand yards in length ; if a travel- 
ler had met them in one of these passages, he could not 
have avoided them, but by turning back, and climb- 


ing the earthen wall which bordered the crevicej and 
keeping himself suspended^ by laying hold of the roots 
which penetrated to this depth from the surface of the 

They traversed ij^e mountain of Quindiu in October, 
on foot, followed by twelve oxen, which carried their 
collections and instruments, amidst a deluge of rain, to 
which they were exposed during the last three or four 
days in their descent on the western side of the Cordil- 
leras. The road passed through a country full of bogs, 
and covered with bamboos. Their shoes were so torn 
by the prickles which shoot out from the roots of these 
gigantic gramina^ that they were forced, like all other 
travellers who disliked being carried on men's backs, to 
go barefooted. This circumstance, the continued hu- 
midity, the length of the passage, the muscular force 
required to tread in a thick and muddy day, and the 
necessity of fording deep torrents of icy water, rendered 
this journey extremely fiitiguing ; but, however painful, 
it was accompanied by none of those dangers with which 
the credulity of the people alarmed travellers. The road 
was narrow, but the places where it skirted precipices 
were very rare. As the oxen were accustomed to put 
their feet in the same tracks they formed small furrows 
across the road, separated from each other by narrow 
ridges of earth. In very rainy seasons, these ridges were 
covered with water, which rendered the steps of the 
travellers doubly uncertain, since they knew not whether 
they placed their feet on the ridge or in the furrow. 

The usual mode of travelling for persons in easy cir- 
cumstances, was in a chair, strapped to the back of one 
of the native porters, who lived by letting out their backs 


and Ibins to travellers. They talked in this country of 
going on a man's back, as we mention going on horse 
back. No humiliating idea was annexed to the trade of 
porters ; and the men who followed that occupation were 
not Indians, but mulattoes, and son^times even whites. 
It was curious to hear these men, with scarcely any 
covering, quarrelling in the midst of a forest, because 
one had refused the other, who pretended to have a 
whiter skin, the pompous title of dim, or of su rnerced. 
The usual load of a porter was six or seven arrobas ; 
those who were very strong Carried as much as nine 
arrobas. When we reflect on the enormous fetigue to 
which these miserable men were exposed, journeying 
eight or nine hours a day over a mountainous country ; 
when we know, that their backs were sometimes as raw 
as those of beasts of burden; that traveUers had often the 
cruelty to le-ave them in the forests when they fell sick 
that they earned by a journey from Ibague to Cartago, 
only twelve or fourteen piasters in from fifteen to twenty 
five days ; we are at a loss to conceive how this employ 
ment of a porter was so eagerly embraced by all the 
robust young men who lived at the foot of the moun- 
tains. The taste for a wandering life, the idea of a cer- 
tain independence amid forests, led them to prefer it to 
the sedentary and monotonous labour of cities. The 
passage of the mountain of Quindiu was not the only 
part of South America which was traversed on the backs 
of men. The whole of the province of Antioquia was 
surrounded by mountains so difficult to pass, that those 
who disliked entrustipg themselves to the skill of a 
bearer, and were not strong enough to travel on foot 
from Santa ¥6 de Antioquia to Bocca de Nares or Rio 


Samana, relinquished all thoughts of leaving the country. 
Humboldt was acquainted with an inhabitant of this 
province so immensely bulky, that he had not met with 
more than two mulattoes capable of carying him ; and it 
would have been ifnpossible for him to have returned 
home, if these two carriers had died while he was on the 
banks of the Magdalena, at Monpox, or at Honda. The 
number of young men who undertook the employment 
of beasts of burden at Choco, Ibague, and Medellin, was 
so considerable, that the travellers sometimes met a file 
of fifly or sixty. A few years later, when a project was 
formed to make the passage irom Naires to Antioquia 
passable for mules, the porters presented formal remon- 
strances against mending the road, and the government 
yielded to their clamours. The person carried in a chair 
by a porter was compelled to remain several hours mo- 
tionless, and leaning backwards. The least motion was 
sufficient to throw him down, and his fall was so much 
the more dangerous, as the porter, confident in his 
own skill, generally chose the most rapid declivities, or 
crossed a torrent on a narrow and slippery trunk of a 
tree.- These accidents were, however, rare; and those 
which happened were attributed to the imprudence of 
travellers, who, iiightened at a Haise step of the porters, 
leaped down from their chairs. 

At Ibague, before the porters started on their journey 
across Quindiu, they plucked on the neighbouring moun- 
' tains several hundred leaves of the vijao, a plant of the 
femily of bananas. These leaves were twenty inches 
long, and fourteen inches broad. Their lower surface was 
sovered with a farinaceous substance which fell off in 
scales. This peculiar varnish enabled them to resist the 



rain for a long time. Of these leaves, with which thej 
were plentifully supplied on their journey, the porters 
made a roof; a hundred weight was suflBlcient to cover a 
hut large enough to hold six or eight persons. When 
Humboldt and Bonpland stopped foi* the night, in Quin 
diu, they picked out a spot in the forest where the ground 
was dry, and the porters lopped from the trees a few 
branches, and made a tent. Dividing their timber-work 
into squares, by the stalks of some climbing plants that 
grew near, or perhaps by the threads of the agave, they 
spread over this frame- work their vijao leaves, the stems 
of which were notched so as to hang, row overlapping 
row, like the tiles of a house. The travellers found 
these extemporized houses cool and commodious: if 
they felt the rain during the night, they had only to 
point out the spot through which it dropped upon them 
— a single leaf would mend it. 

Day after day passed, and they were still on the moun- 
tains of Quindiu, struggling along its diflBcult paths, "now 
buried in the depths of its forests, and now emerging into 
solitary openings, rugged and stem with rocks. When 
the rain ceased, and the sun shone, a varied prospect 
opened before them ; deep but irregular valleys : table- 
lands of rock sloping away precipitously : barren-looking 
hills whose sides were studded with trees ; now and then 
a gigantic cactus like a bundle of broken spears ; forests 
before and behind, and in the distance the snowy cone of 
Zolima, looming among the ragged peaks, in a wilderness 
of clouds I Then the sky would be overcast, and the 
rain would fall in torrents, drenching them to the skin. 

They reached Popayan in November, and rested there 
awhile to recruit themselves, Popayan was situated in 


the beautiful valley of the Eio Cauoa, at the foot of the 
great volcanoes of Purac^ and Sotara. They visited these 
volcanoes during their stay. On ascending from Popayan 
towards the top of Purac6 they found, at an elevation of 
eight thousand feet, a small plain inhabited by Indians^ 
and cultivated with the greatest care. This delightful 
plain was bounded by two ravines extremely deep, on the 
brink of which the houses of the village of Purace were 
built. Waters sprang out profusely from the porphyritic 
rock ; every garden was inclosed by a hedge of euphor- 
biums, with slender leaves, and of the most delicate green. 
Nothing could be more agreeable than the contrast of 
this beautiful verdure with the chain of black and arid 
mountains, which surrounded the volcano, and which 
were cleft and torn asunder by earthquakes. 

The village of Purac6 was celebrated in the country 
for the beautiful cataracts of the Eio Pusambio, the 
waters of which were acid, and were called by the 
Spaniards Eio Vinagre. This small river was warm 
towards its source, and probably owed its origin to the 
daily melting of the snows, and the sulphur that burned 
in die interior of the volcano. It formed, near the plains, 
three cataracts, the two uppermost of which were very 
striking. Humboldt sketched the second of these in the 
garden of an Indian, near the house of the missionary of 
Purac^. The water which made its way through a cavern 
precipitated itself downward nearly four hundred feet 
The cascade was extremely picturesque, but the inhabi^ 
ants of Popayan regretted that the river was not ingulfed 
in some abyss, instead of mingling, as it did, with the Eio 
Cauca. For the latter river was destitute of fish for four 
leagues, on account of the mixture of its waters with those 

228 QUITO. 

of the Bio Vinagre, whicli were loaded with oxide of iron^ 
and sulphuric and muriatic acid?. 

The travellers arrived at Quito on the 6th of January, 
1802, and remained there nearly nine months. How 
they filled up the greater part of this time is not stated ; 
but fix>m the number of celebrated mountains in the 
neighbourhood, most of which they visited, and from 
their omnivorous taste in the sciences, it is certain that it 
seldom or never hung heavily on their hands. They had 
first to look after their instruments and their collections ; 
Humboldt had to complete his map of the Rio Magdalena, 
and Bonpland to arrange his crowded herbal. Then there 
were visits to be received, and returned ; excursions to be 
planned and executed : in short a thousand ways to make 
the days and months slip away unperceived. When not 
in the city of Quito itself they resided in the neighbour- 
hood, in the villas and country houses of their friends. 
Humboldt resided at one time in the hacienda of Q^ieral 
Aguerr^, at Ohileo, where his portrait was painted by a 
Quitan artist, and where it still hangs. When Mr. 
Church, our greatest landscape painter, was in South 
America, making studies for his magnificent painting, 
" The Heart of the Andes," he lodged in the very room 
that Humboldt occupied, and struck with his portrait, 
which continually met his eyes on the wall, he procured 
a copy of it, from a pupil of the artist who painted it, 
and brought it with him, in his return to the United 
States. It is an invaluable relict of the great traveller, 
representing him, not as we know him from later engrav- 
ings and photographs, a gray old man, with his head 
drooping on his bosom, heavy with its harvest of thought ; 
but in the vigour of manhood, thin and muscular, with 


his hair long, as was the fashion then, and in a Prussian 
nniform. The pleasant look of the old face is there, and 
the beautiful blue eyes ; but the look is more eager and 
longing, and the eyes are brighter and keener. A copy 
of the same picture hangs in the old castle at Tegel. 

The months of May and June were devoted to moun- 
tains and volcanoes, which abounded in the regions about 
Quito. Within the space of thirty -seven leagues to the 
west, were Casitagua, Pichincha, Atacazo, Corazon, Illi- 
niza, Carguairazo, Chimborazo, and Cumambag: to the 
east, were Guamani, Antisana, Passuchoa, Ruraminnavi, 
CJotopaxi, Quelendanna, Tungurahua, and Capa-Urcu. 
Humboldt visited several of these mountains, but two of 
the grandest ones, Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, he was 
unable to ascend. 

Cotopaxi was situated twelve leagues from the city, to 
the south-east, between the mountain of Rumminnavi, the 
sunmiit of which, rugged with small separate rocks, ex- 
tended like a wall of enormous height, and Quelendanna, 
which entered the boundaries of eternal snow. Its 
height was eighteen thousand seven hundred feet. The 
masses of scoriae and huge pieces of rock, which it had 
in former times vomited from its 'fiery depths, were 
spread over the neighbouring valleys, covering a space 
of several square leagues ; could they have been col- 
lected and heaped together, they would have formed 
a colossal mountain, as large perhaps as Cotopaxi itself 
Cotopaxi was the most dreadful mountain in the whole 
kingdom of Quito. During one of its eruptions .in 1739, 
Qames rose into the lurid air three thousand feet above 
the brink of its crater. In 1744 its roaring was heard 
as £tr as Honda, a distance of two hundred leagues. In 


1768 the quantity of ashes sifted finom it was so great^ 
that in the towns of Hambato and Tacunga, day broke 
only at three o'clock in the afl«moon, and the inhabilr 
ants were obliged to use lanterns in the streets. 

The summit of Cotopaxi was one of the most beauti- 
ful and regular of all the colossal summits of the Cor- 
dilleras. It was a perfect cone, covered with an enormous 
layer of snow, which at sunset shone with a dazzling 
splendour, detaching itself picturesquely firom the in- 
tensely blue sky. This covering of snow concealed from 
the eyes of the travellers the smallest inequalities of the 
soil; no point of rock, no stony mass penetrated this 
coat of ice, or broke the regularity of the figure of the 
cone. Near the brink of the crater they saw a ledge of 
rock which was never covered with snow, and which 
looked like a series of belts of the darkest hue. The 
cone was too steep here for the snow ever to lodge upon 
it; besides, currents of heated air were coDtinuallj 
issuing from the crevices. The soul of Winter himself 
would have shrunk into nothingness before these " blasts 
from hell." 

The crater of Cotopaxi, like that of Teneriflfe, was sur- 
rounded by a circular wall, which the travellers were 
unable to scale ; for unlike the crater of TenerifTe it had 
no opening. The lava which had poured over its horri- 
ble brink had never yet made a breach in it. Indeed 
they found it difficult to attain even the inferior boun- 
dary of perpetual snow : so they were reluctantly com- 
pelled tq descend. Humboldt made two sketches of the 
volcano, one at Suniguaicu, from a ridge of porphyritic 
mountains which joined Cotopaxi to the Nevada of 
Quelendanna — ^a southern view of the crater, near the 


limit of eternal snow; the other, a westerly view from 
the terrace of a beautiful country house, belonging to hia 
friend, the Marquis of Maenza, with whom he occasion- 
ally lodged during his residence in Quito. 

On the 22nd of June, the birthday of his brother, 
Humboldt conunenoed his ascent of Chimborazo, accom- 
panied by Bonpland and Carlos de Montufer, a young 
Spanish naturalist. They started from the plain of 
Tapia, at an elevation of over nine thousand feet This 
arid table-land was near the village of Lican, the ancient 
residence of the sovereigns of Quito. From Lican to 
the summit of Chimborazo was nearly five leagues in a 
straight line. They followed the plain, leaving behind 
them groups of Indians bound to the market of Lican, 
and slowly ascending halted for the night at the little vil- 
li^e of Calpi They were now at the foot of Chimbo- 
razo. It rose before them stupendously in the light of 
the setting sun. The foreground was veiled in the 
vaporous dimness that striped the lower strata of the 
air, but as they cast their eyes towards the summit it de- 
tached itself from the deep blue sky. They saw above 
the region of ligneous plants and alpine shrubs a broad 
belt of grass like a gilded yellow carpet. Beyond this 
was a region of porphyritic rocks, and beyond these 
rocks, eternal ice and snov/. As the earth below grew 
darker, the heaven above seemed to grow brighter; their 
sight was dazzled with the refulgent splendour of the snow. 

Early the next morning their Indian guides awoke 
them, and they began to climb the mountain on the 
south-western side, traversing the great plains which 
rose like terraces, one above another, until they reached 
the plain of Sisgun, twelve thousand four hundred feet 


above the level of the sea. Here Humboldt wished to make 
a trigonometrical measurement to ascertain the height of 
the summit, but it was shrouded in thick clouds. Frona 
time to time they caught a momentary glimpse of it, through 
openings in the clouds, but the sky was gradually darken- 
ing. They continued to ascend until they reached the 
little lake of Yana-Cocha, a circular basin* one hundred 
and thirty feet in diameter. It was the most elevated spot 
yet reached by man on the ridge of mountains, three thou- 
sand three hundred feet higher than the summit of Mont 
Blanc. Here they left their mules. The barometer showed 
a height of fourteen thousand three hundred and fifty feet. 
Crossing the yellow belt of grass which they had seen over 
night, they came to a region of augite. Here rocks rose 
in columns fifty or sixty feet high, and looked like the 
trunks of trees. Traversing the aisles of this enchanted 
forest of stone, over fields of new-fallen snow, they gained 
a narrow ridge which led directly to the summit of Chim- 
borazo, and by which alone they might hope to reach it ; 
for the snow around was too soft and yielding to be ven- 
tured upon. The path became steeper and narrower, and 
at last the guides refused to go any further. When they 
were sixteen thousand five hundred feet high, all but one 
left them. Nothing daunted, however, the travellers went 
on, enveloped in a thick mist. The path which they were 
ascending was in many places not more than eight or ten 
inches broad : the natives called it a " knife-blade." On 
one hand was a declivity of snow covered with a glassy 
coating of ice, on the other a chasm one thousand feet deep, 
the bottom of which was covered with masses of naked 
rocks. They inclined their bodies over this chasm, dan* 
gerous as it was, for they dared not trust themselves to the 


snowy pitch on the opposite side. Had they stumbled 
they would either have been buried in the mingled snow 
and ice, or would have rolled headlong down the steep. 
The character of the rock, which was brittle and crumbling, 
increased the difficulty of the ascent Here and there they 
were obliged to crawl on their hands and feet ; the sharp 
edges of the rock wounded them, and they left behind a 
bloody trail. They marched in single file, testing with 
their poles the stability of the rocks before them. This 
precaution was very necessary, as many of the rocks 
were lying loose on the brink of the precipice. Desirous 
of knowing how much of the mountain remained to be 
ascended, for the summit was continually hidden firom 
their sight, Humboldt opened the barometer on a point 
where the path was broad enough to allow two persons 
to sit side by side : the mercury indicated a height of 
eighteen thousand three hundred and eighty feet. The 
temperature of the air was 98'', and that of the earth lOT**. 

They proceeded for another hour, and found the rocky 
path less steep ; the mist, however, was thicker than ever. 
They now began to suffer severely from the extreme 
rarefaction of the air. They breathed with difficulty, and 
what was still more disagreeable, felt like vomiting. Their 
heads swam, their lips and gums bled profusely, and their 
eyelids and eyeballs were charged with blood. 

From time to time great birds, probably condors, came 
swooping down the terrible pass, sailing grandly away ; 
and little winged insects, resembling flies, fluttered gaily 
around. It was impossible to catch them, owing to the 
narrowness of the ledge ; but Humbgldt judged that they 
were Dipteras. Bonpland saw yellow butterflies, a little 
lower down, flying very near the ground. 


Finally the belts of cloud parted, and they saw on the 
sudden, the vast dome of Chimborazo It seemed near 
them, so near that in a few minutes they might reach it 
The ledges too seemed to favor them by becoming 
broader. They hurried onward for a short distance, 
excited with the hope of soon standing on the pinnacle. 
All at once the path was stopped by a chasm, four hun- 
dred feet deep, and sixty feet broad. There was no way 
by which they could cross it: the difficulty was insur- 
mountable. To tantalize them still further they saw 
that the path went forward on the other side of the 
ledge, evidently reaching the summit. If they could 
have but crossed that chasm I 

It was one o'clock in the afternoon, and they were 
benumbed with cold. They were nineteen thousand two 
hundred feet above the level of the sea. 

The belt of clouds closed again, and the peak was 
lost The mist grew thicker and thicker, and everything 
indicated a storm. There was nothing left them but to 
descend. Halting long enough to collect a few specimens 
of the rock they retraced their steps. A storm of hail 
overtook them, but as they descended into a lower atmo- 
sphere it changed into snow. When they reached the 
little lake of Yana-Cocha, where they had left their mules, 
they found the ground covered with snow several inches 
deep. Before dusk they reached the Indian village of 
Calpi, and were entertained that night by the priest 

So ended the attempt to scale the sununit of Chimbo- 

Not content with his defeat at Chimborazo and Coto- 
paxi, Humboldt visited several other mountains and vol- 
canoes in the neighbourhood of Quito. K he could not 


ascend them, he could at least sketch them, which was 
something. He visited and sketched Corazon, Illinissa, 
and Cayambe. 

Of the various summits of the Cordilleras, the heights 
of which have been determined with any precision, Cay- 
ambe is the loftiest after Chimborazo. From angles 
which he took on the Exido of Quito, to observe the 
progress of the terrestrial refraction at different hours of 
the day, Humboldt found its elevation to be eighteen 
thousand seven hundred feet. Its form, which was that 
of a truncated cone, reminded him of the peak of Zolima, 
as he saw it looming above the forests of Quindiu. 
Among the many snow-clad mountains that surrounded 
the city of Quito he considered it the most beautiful, as 
well as the most majestic, and it never ceased to excite 
his admiration when at sunset it threw its vast shadow 

^^ver the plain. 

^^ lUinissa was grand and picturesque. Its summit was 
divided into two pyramidal points, which were probably 
the wrecks of a volcano* that had fellen in. These pyra- 
mids were visible at an enormous distance. 

Corazon derived its name from the form of its summit, 
which was nearly that of a heart. It was on the western 
Cordillera, between Illinissa and Pichincha. Bouguer and 
Condamine ascended this mountain in July, 1738. " We 
began our journey," says Condamine, in his celebrated 
Voyage to the Equator, "in very fine weather. The 
persons whom we had left in our tents soon lost sight of 
us among the clouds, which appeared to us only a mist, 
from the time we entered them. A cold and piercing 
wind covered us in a short time with icicles. In several 
places we were forced to scale the rock, by climbing with 


our hands and feet. At length we reached the summit : 
and on looking at each other, we perceived all one side 
of our clothes, one of our eyebrows, and half our beards, 
stuck full of small firozen points, exhibiting a singular 

In one of their excursions to Eiobamba, on the west- 
ern slope of the volcano of Tunguragua the travellers 
visited the delightful village of Penipe, where they saw a 
fiunous bridge of ropes. It crossed the river of Chambo, 
which separated the villages of Penipd and Guanando. 
The ropes of this bridge, which were three or four inches 
in diameter, were made of the fibrous part of the roots 
of the agave Americana, and were fastened on each bank 
to a clumsy wooden framework. As their weight made 
them bend towards the middle of the river, and as it 
would have been imprudent to have stretched them with 
too much force, the Indians were obliged, when the banks 
were low, to form steps or ladders at both extremities of 
the bridge. That which the travellers crossed at Penip6 
was a hundred and twenty feet long, and seven or eight 
broad. The great ropes were covered transversely with 
small cylindrical pieces of bamboo. These structures, 
of which the people of South America made use long be- 
fore the arrival of the Europeans, reminded Humboldt of 
the chain bridges at Boutan^ and in the interior of Africa. 
Mr. Turner, in his interesting account of his journey to 
Thibet, gives the plan of the bridge of Tchintchieu, near 
the fortress of Chuka, which is one hundred and forty 
feet in length, and which may be passed on horseback. 

Travellers had often spoken of the extreme danger of 
passing over these rope bridges, which look like ribands 
suspended above a crevice or an impetuous torrent ; but 


Humboldt did not consider this danger great, when a 
single person passed over the bridge as quickly as possi- 
ble, with his body leaning forward. The oscillations of 
the ropes, however, become very strong, when the travel- 
ler is conducted by an Indian who walks quicker than 
himself; or when frightened by the view of the water 
which he sees through the interstices of the bamboos, he 
has the imprudence to stop in the midst of the bridge, 
and lay hold of the ropes that serve as a rail. A bridge 
of this kind lasted generally in good condition only 
twenty or twenty-five years. It was necessary to renew 
some of the ropes every eight or ten years. But in these 
countries the police was so negligent, that Humboldt 
often saw bridges, in which most of the pieces of bam- 
boo were broken. On these old bridges it was necessary 
to proceed with great circumspection, to avoid holes, 
through which the whole body might slip. A few years 
before Humboldt's visit to Penip6, the bridge of the 
Rio Ohambo suddenly broke down. This was owing to 
a very dry wind having succeeded long rains, in conse- 
quence of which all the ropes gave way at the same time. 
By this accident four Indians were drowned in the river, 
which was very deep and rapid. 

The ancient Peruvians constructed also bridges of 
wood, supported by piers of stone ; though they most 
commonly satisfied themselves with bridges of ropes. 
These were extremely useful in a mountainous country, 
where the depth of the crevices and the impetuosity of 
the torrents prevented the construction of piers. It was 
by a bridge of ropes, of extraordinary length, on which 
travellers could pass with loaded mules, that a permanent 
communication was established between Quito and Lima, 


after uselessly expending upwards of forty thouBaad 
pounds sterling, to build a stone bridge, near Santa, over 
a torrent, which rushed jfrom the Cordillera of the Andes. 

But we must not forget the various monuments of the 
ancient Peruvians, visited by the travellers during their 
nine months' residence in Quito, especially the Panecillo 
of Callo, and the House of the Inca Huayna-Capac. They 
came upon these singular remains in April, on their 
way to the volcano of Cotopaxi, and Humboldt made a 
sketch of them as they then appeared. He found them 
in an immense plain covered with pumice stone. The 
Panecillo was a conic hillock, about two hundred and fifty 
feet high, covered with small bushes of molina, spermacoce, 
and cactus. The natives believed that this hillock, which 
resembled a bell, and was perfectly regular in its figure, 
was a tumulus, or one of those numerous hills, which the 
ancient inhabitants of this country raised for the interment 
of the sovereign, or some other distinguished personage. 
Tt was alleged, in fiivour of this opinion, that the Pane- 
cillo was wholly composed of volcanic rubbish, and that 
the same pumice stone, which surrounded its basis, was 
found also on its summit 

This reason might appear little conclusive in the eyes 
of a geologist, for the back of the neighbouring mountain 
of Tiopullo, which was much higher than the PanecDlo, 
was also covered with great heaps of pumice stone, 
probably owing to ancient eruptions of Cotopaxi and 
Illinissa. We cannot doubt, but that in both Americas, 
as well as in the north of Asia, and on the banks of the 
Boristhenes, mounds raised by men, and real tumuli of 
an extraordinary height, are to be seen. Those which 
are found amid the ruins of the ancient town of Mansiclie, 


in Peru, are not much lower than: the Panecillo of Callo. 
It is nevertheless possible, and this opinion appeared to 
Humboldt the most probable one, that the latter was a 
volcanic hillock to which the natives had given a more 
r^ular form. UUoa, who visited the Panecillo, and 
whose authority is of great weight, adopted the opinion 
of the natives; he even thought that the Panecillo was a 
military monument ; and that it served as a watch tower, 
to discover what passed in the country, and to insure the 
prince's safety on the first alarm of an unforeseen attack. 
The Inca's House was a little to the south-west of the 
Panecillo, three leagues from the crater of Cotopaxi, and 
about ten leagues to the south of the city of Quito. This 
edifice formed a square, each side of which was one hundred 
feet long; four great outer doors were still distinguish- 
able, and eight apartments, three of which were in good 
preservation. The walls were nearly fifteen feet high 
and three feet thick. The doors were similar to those 
of Egyptian temples; the niches, eighteen in number 
in each apartment, were distributed with the greatest 
symmetry. The stone made use of in buUding the Inca's 
House was a rock of volcanic origin, a burnt and spungy 
porphyry with basaltic bases. It was probably ejected 
by the mouth of the volcano of Cotopaxi. As this 
monument appeared to have been constructed in the be- 
ginning of the sixteenth century, the materials employed 
in it proved that it was a mistake to consider as the first 
eruption of Cotopaxi that which took place in 1583, 
when Sebastien de Belalcazar made the conquest of the 
kingdom of Quito. The stones of the Inca's House were 
cut in parallelopipedons, not all of the same size, but 
forming courses as regular as those of Roman workman- 


ship. During his long abode in the Cordilleras Humboldt 
never found any structure resembling those which are 
termed Cyclopean. In every edifice that dated from the 
time of the Incas, the front of the stones was very skil- 
fully cut, while the back part was rugged, and often 
angular. Before Humboldt and Bonpland visited the 
ruins at Callo, Don Juan Larea had remarked, that in the 
walls of the Inca's House the interstices between the outer 
and inner stones were filled with small pebbles cemented 
with clay. Humboldt did not observe this circumstance. 
He saw no vestige of floor, or roof; he supposed, however, 
that the latter was of wood. He could not decide whether 
the edifice had originally more than a single story, or 
not ; as the height of its walls had been diminished no 
less by the avidity of the neighbouring peasantry, who 
took away the stones for their own use, than by the 
earthquakes, to which this unfortunate country was con- 
tinually exposed. 

He thought it probable that this edifice, as well as 
others which he heard called at Peru, Quito, and as fiir as 
the banks of the Amazon, by the name of Inca's HouseSi 
did not date farther back than the thirteenth century. 

Some time in August or September Humboldt received 
intelligence that Baudin's expedition had sailed to New 
Zealand, intending to pass homeward around the Cape 
of Good Hope. This frustrated his projected visit to the 
Philippine Islands. As he was by this time, however, 
somewhat accustomed to having his plans thwarted, he 
devised a new route, and as soon as it was practicable he 
and Bonpland started upon it About the last of Sep- 
tember they left Quito, following the chain of the Andes 
by the way of Assuay, Cuenca, and Loxa. 


The road which led them over the Paramo of Assuay 
was nearly as high as Mont Blanc. Here it descended A 
valley, there it ascended a moontain, and a little further 
on it stretched monotonoosly across a level plain. In 
one of these plains, which was six leagues square in 
breadth, the travellers found lakes of fresh water of con- 
siderable depth. These lakes were bordered by a thick turf 
of Alpine grasses, but contained no fish, and scarcely any 
aquatic insects. Here they found the remains of the 
great road of the Incas, which ran by the side of their 
heavily-laden mules for over a mile. It had a deep under- 
structure, and was paved with well-cut blocks of blackish 
trap-porphyry. Nothing that Humboldt had seen of the 
remains of Boman roads in Italy, the South of France, 
or Spain, was more imposing than these works of the an- 
cient Peruvians. They originally formed a line of com- 
munication through all the provinces of the Empire, 
extending over a length of more than a thousand 

Proceeding from Assuay towards Cuenca the road led 
them to the ancient fortress of Cannar. It was on a hill, 
terminated by a platform, and was in excellent preserva- 
tion. A wall built of large blocks of freestone, rose to 
the height of twenty feet, forming a regular oval, the 
great axis of which was nearly one hundred and twenty 
feet in length. The interior of this oval was a flat piece 
of ground, covered with rich vegetation. In the centre 
of this inclosure stood the Fortress of Cannar, a house 
containing only two rooms, the walls of which were 
twenty feet high. It was probably a lodging-place for 
the Incas, when they.joumeyed from Cuzco to the king- 
dom of Quito. The foundations of a great number of 



edifices surrounding the inclosure showed that there was 
room enough to lodge the small army which generally 
accompanied the Incas on these joumeya What was 
curious about the Fortress of Cannar was the form of its 
roo^ which gave it the appearance of a European house. 
As one of the first historians of America, Pedro de Cieca 
de Leon, who began to describe his travels in 1541, 
says that several similar houses, which he examined in 
the province of Los Canares, were covered with rushes, 
this roof was probably added after the conquest of Peru 
by the Spaniards. 

Leaving the Fortress of Cannar, the travellers came to 
a valley hollowed out by the river Gulan. Here they 
found small foot-paths cut in the rock. These paths led 
to a fissure, which the ancient Peruvians called the 
Kavine of the Sun. In this solitary spot, shaded by 
beautiful and luxuriant vegetation, the travellers saw an 
isolated mass of sandstone, twelve or fifteen feet high. One 
side of this rock was remarkable for its whiteness: it wai 
cut perpendicularly as if it had been worked by the 
hand of man. On this smooth white ground were several 
concentric circles, representing the image of the sun. 
They were of a blackish brown, and in the space they 
inclosed were features, half effaced, that indicated two 
eyes and a mouth. Examining these circles closely 
Humboldt found that they were small veins of iron ore, 
conmion in every formation of sandstone. The features 
indicating the eyes and mouth, which were evidently 
made by some metallic tool, were probably added by the 
Peruvian priests to impose upon the people. When the 
Spaniards conquered the country, it was to the interest 
of the missionaries to eSajGe them, and it was accord- 


iBglj done. Humboldt saw traces of their chisels in all 
the circles. 

The foot of the rock was cut into steps, which led to a 
seat, hollowed out on the top, and so placed that from the 
bottom of a hollow the image of the sun might be seen. 
The natives related that when the Inca Yupa-Yupangi 
advanced vdth his army to conquer the kingdom of 
Quito, then commanded by the conchocando of Lican, 
the priests who accompanied him discovered on the 
stone the image of the Divinity whose worship ought to 
be introduced among the conquered nations. The prince 
and his soldiers considered the discovery of the stone as 
a lucky augury, and it no doubt contributed the choice 
of the ground on which the Fortress of Cannar was 

Near by was a chain of hills which was once a part of 
the garden belonging to the ancient fortress. Here, as at 
the ravine, the travellers found a number of small path- 
ways cut in the slope of a rock, which was scarcely 
covered with vegetable mould. There was not a tree 
which seemed to have outlived fifty years. Nothing re- 
minded them of the Incas, except a small monument of 
stone, placed on the edge of a precipice. At a distance 
it resembled a sofa, the back of which was decorated 
with a sort of arabesque, in the form of a chair. From 
this singular chair, in which but one person could sit at 
a time, there was a delightful prospect Here, without 
doubt, the Incas used to sit and gaze over the surround- 
ing country. Before them was the verdant valley, 
through which ran the river Gulan, broken into cascades, 
and foaming along through tufts of gunnera and mela 
stomas : behind and around were the everlasting hills I 


The trayellers rested awhile at Loxa, and visited its 
cinchona woods which jrielded quinine, or Peruyian 
bark. Peruvian bark was first brought into Europe in 
the middle of the seventeenth century, either, as Sebas- 
tian Badus asserts, to Alcala de Henares in 1682, or to 
Madrid in 1640, on the arrival of the wife of the Viceroy, 
the Countess of Chinchon, who had been cured of inter- 
mittent fever at Lima, accompanied by her physician, 
Juan del V^o. The trees which yielded the finest 
quality of quinine were found from eight to twelve miles 
to the south-east of Loxa, in the mountains of Uritusinga, 
Villonaco, and Rumisitana. They grew in dense woods, 
and aspired above the surrounding trees. Their leaves 
were five inches long and two broad, and of a peculiar 
reddish color. When the upper branches waved to and 
fro in the wind, their glittering could be seen at a great 

The quinine tree was cut down in its first flowering 
season, or in the fourth or seventh year of its age, accord- 
ing as it had sprung from a vigorous root-shoot, or from 
a seed. Humboldt learned, that at the period of his 
journey, according to oflScial computations, only 11,000 
lbs. of the bark were collected annually. None of this 
precious store found its way at that time into commerce ; 
the whole was sent from the port of Payta on the Pacific, 
round Cape Horn to Cadiz, for the use of the Spanish 
Court. In order to ftimish this small quantity eight or 
nine hundred trees were cut down every year. The older 
and thicker stems were already becoming scarce; but 
the luxuriance of vegetation was such that the younger 
trees, which supplied the demand, though only six inches 
in diameter, often attained the height of fifty or sixty feet 


Between the Indian villages of Ayavaca and Guanca- 
bamba the travellers found the ruins of the city of Chulu- 
cana& These ruins were situated on a slope of the 
Cordilleras, near the brink of a river, from which they 
were separated by a wall. Two openings in this wall 
corresponded with the two principal streets of the city. 
The houses, built of porphyry, were distributed into 
eight quarters, formed by streets cutting each other at 
right angles. In the centre of these quarters, each of 
which contained twelve small habitations, were the 
remains of four large buildings of an oblong form, sepa- 
rated by four small square buildings, occupying the four 
comers. The hill on which the city stood was divided 
into six terraces, the platforms of which were faced with 
hewn stone. On the right of the river which bounded 
the city, they discovered an uncouth structure, evidently 
an ancient amphitheatre. 

The region of country in which they were now travel- 
ling — a series of mountain wildernesses, was cold and 
stormy. They were often for days in a dense mist, 
or worse still, they endured the peltings of violent 
showers of hail, which cut their faces and hands. The 
vegetation had a peculiar character, from the absence of 
trees, the short close branches of the small-leaved myrtle- 
like shrubs, the large-sized and numerous blossoms, and 
the perpetual freshness of the whole from the constant 
and abundant supply of moisture. 

At various points in their journey they came upon the 
remains of the old road of the Incas. The finest portions of 
these roads were at Chulucanas, and in the neighbourhood 
oftngatambo, at Pomahuaca. It was nine thousand seven 
hundred feet lower at the latter place than at Assuay. 


They found placed at nearly equal distances apart, sta 
tions consisting of dwelling-houses built of well-cut stone 
These stations were a kind of caravanserai, and were 
called Tambos, and Tnca-houses. Some were surrounded 
by a kind of fortification ; others were constructed for 
baths with arrangements for conducting hot water. The 
largest of them were designed for the use of the fiimily 
of the Monarch himself. 

There were two great artificial Peruvian paved roads 
or systems of roads, covered with flat stones, or some- 
times even with cemented gravel. One passed through 
the wide and arid plain between the Pacific Ocean and 
the chain of the Andes, and the other over the ridges of 
the Cordilleras. Mile-stones, or stones marking the dis- 
tances, were often found at regular intervals. The 
road was conducted across rivers and deep ravines by 
bridges of stone, wood, and rope. Both systems of roads 
were directed to the central point, Cuzco, the seat of 
government of the great empire. As the Peruvians em- 
ployed no wheel carriages, and the roads were con- 
sequently only designed for the march of troops, for men 
carrying burdens, and for lightly-laden lamas, Hum- 
boldt and Bonpland found them occasionally inter- 
rupted, on account of the steepness of the mountains, by 
long flights of steps, provided with resting-places at 
suitable intervals. Francisco Pizarro and Diego Al- 
magro, who on their distant expeditions used the military 
roads of the Incas with so much advantage, found great 
diflBcuIties for the Spanish Cavalry at the places where 
these steps occurred. The impediment presented to their 
march on these occasions was so much the greater, be- 
cause in the early times of the Conquista, the Spaniards 


nsed only horses instead of the carefully treading mule, 
who in the difficult parts of the mountains seems to de- 
hberate on every step he takes. It was not until a later 
period that mules were employed. 
' Sarmiento, who saw the Roads of the Incas while they 
were still in a perfect state of preservation, asks in a 
Eelacion which long lay unread, buried in the Library 
of the Escorial, "how a nation unacquainted with the use 
of iron could have completed such grand works in so 
high and rocky a region, extending from Cuzco to Quito on 
the one hand, and to the coast of Chili on the other? The 
Emperor Charles," he adds, " with all his power could not 
accomplish even a part of what the well-ordered Govern- 
ment of the Incas effected through the obedient people over 
whom they ruled." Hernando Pizarro, the most educated 
and civilized of the three brothers, who for his misdeeds 
suffered a twenty years' imprisonment at Medina del 
Campo, and died at last at a hundred years of age. in the 
odour of sanctity, exclaims : " In the whole of Christendom 
there are nowhere such fine roads as those which we here 
admire." The two important capitals and seats of govern- 
ment of the Incas, Cuzco and Quito, are one thousand 
English geographical miles apart in a straight line, without 
reckoning the many windings of the way ; and includ- 
ing the windings, the distance is estimated by Garcilaso 
de la Vega and other Conquistadores at five hundred 
leagues. Notwithstanding the great distance, we learn 
firom the well-confirmed testimony of the Licentiate Polo 
de Ondegardo, that Huayna Capac, whose father had 
conquered Quito, caused some of the building materials 
for the houses of the Incas in the latter city, to be brought 
fix>m Cuzco. 


When enterprising races inhabit a land where the 
form* of the ground presents to them difficulties on a 
grand scale which they may encounter and overcome, 
this contest with nature becomes a means of increasing 
their strength and power as well as their courage. Under 
the despotic centralizing system of the Inca-rule, security 
and rapidity of communication, especially in the move- 
ment of troops, became an important necessity of govern- 
ment. Hence the construction of artificial roads on so 
grand a scale, and hence also the establishment of a 
highly improved postal system. Among nations in very 
different stages of cultivation we see the national activity 
display itself with peculiar predilection in some particular 
directions, but we can by no means determine the general 
state of culture of a people from the striking development 
of such particular and partial activity. Egyptians, Greeks, 
Etruscans, and Romans, Chinese, Japanese, and Hindoos, 
show many interesting contrasts in these respects. It is 
difficult to pronounce what length of time may have been 
required for the execution of the Peruvian roads. The 
great works in the northern part of the Empire of the 
Incas, in the highlands of Quito, must at all events have 
been completed in less than thirty or thirty -five years ; 
i e. within the short period intervening between the 
defeat of the Ruler of Quitu, and the death of Huayna 
Capac. But entire obscurity prevails as to the period of 
the formation of the Southern roads. 

Notwithstanding the tribute of admiration which the 
first Conquistadores paid to the roads and aqueducts of 
the Peruvians, they not only neglected the repair and 
preservation of both these classes of useful works, but 
they even wantonly .destroyed them ; and this still moie 


towards the sea-coast, than on the ridges of the And^ or 
in the deep-cleft yalleys by which the mountain chain is 

In their journey from the rocks of Zaulaca to the Valley 
of San Felipe, the travellers were obliged to wade through 
the Rio de Quancabamba, which flow^ into the Amazon, 
no less than twenty-seven times, on account of the 
windings of the stream ; while they continually saw near 
them, running in a straight line along the side of a steep 
precipice, the remains of the high built road of the Incas. 
The mountain torrent, though only fix)m one hundred 
and twenty to one hundred and fifty feet broad, was 
so strong and rapid that, in fordiog it, their mules 
were oft«n in danger of being swept away by the flood. 
As these mules carried their manuscripts, their dried 
plants, and all that they had been collecting for a year 
past, we can conceive the suspense with which they 
watched from the other side of the stream until the 
long train of eighteen or twenty beasts of burden had 
passed in safety. 

The same river, in the lower part of its course, where 
it had many fitlls and rapids, was made to serve in a 
singular manner for the conveyance of correspondence 
with the coast of the Pacific In order to expedite more 
quickly the few letters from Truxillo which were intended 
for the province of Jaen de Bracamoros, a swimming 
courier, as he was called in the country, was employed. 
' This post messenger, who was usually a young Indian, 
swam in two days from Pomahuaca to Tomependa, first 
by the Rio de Chamaya, and then by the Amazon. He 
carefully placed the few letters entrusted to him in a 
large cotton handkerchief, which he wound round his head 



in tlie manner of a turban. When he came to the water 
falls he left the river, and made a circuit through the 
woods. In order to lessen the fatigue of swimming for so 
long a time, he sometimes threw one arm round a piece 
of a very light kind of wood. Sometimes a friend went 
with him to bear him company. The pair had no concern 
about provisions, as they were always sure of a hospitable 
reception in any of the scattered huts, which were abun- 
dantly surrounded with fruit trees. 

The Governor of the province of Jaen de Bracamoros 
assured Humboldt that letters carried by this singular 
water-post were rarely either wetted or lost Soon after 
his return to Europe from Mexico, the traveller received, 
in Paris, letters from Tomependa, which had been sent in 
the manner above described. Several tribes of Indians, 
living on the banks of the Upper Amazon, made their 
journeys in a similar manner, swimming down the stream 
sociably in parties. 

On approaching the hot climate of the basin of the 
Amazons, the eyes of the travellers were cheered by the 
aspect of a beautiful, and occasionally luxuriant vegeta- 
tion. They had never before, not even in the Canaries, 
or on the hot sea coast of Cumana and Caraccas, seen finer 
orange trees than those of the Huertas de Pucara. Laden 
with many thousands of golden finiits, they attained a 
height of sixty feet ; and, instead of rounded tops, had 
aspiring branches, almost like laurels or bay trees. The 
oranges of these trees were deliciously sweet, though the 
bitter, or Seville orange, was not wanting among them. 

Not far from thence, near the Ford of Cavico, the 
travellers were surprised by an unexpected sight They 
saw a grove of small trees, only about eighteen or nineteen 


feet high, which, instead of green, had apparently 
red or rose-coloured leaves. It was a new species of 
Bougainvillaea, a genus first established by the elder 
Jussieu, fix)m a Brazilian specimen in Conimerson'a 
herbarium. The trees were almost entirely without true 
leaves, as what were taken for leaves at a distance, proved 
to be thickly crowded bracteas. The appearance was 
altogether different, in the purity and freshness -of the 
colour, from the autumnal tints which, in many of our 
forest trees, adorn the woods of the temperate zone at the 
season of the fall of the leaf. 

They found at Chamaya rafts in readiness to convey 
them to Tomependa, which they desired to visit for the 
purpose of determining the difference of longitude be- 
tween Quito and the mouth of the Chinchipe. They 
slept as usual under the open sky, on the sandy shore at 
the confluence of the Rio de Chamaya with the Amazons. 
The next day they embarked on the latter river, and 
descended it to the Cataracts and Narrows of Rentema, 
where rocks of coarse-grained sandstone rose like towers, 
and formed a rocky dam across the river. Humboldt 
measured a base line on the flat and sandy shore, and 
found that at Tomependa the afterwards mighty river of 
the Amazons was only a little above thirteen hundred 
and eighty-six feet across. In the celebrated River 
Narrow of Manseritche, between Santiago and San 
Borja, in a mountain ravine where at some points the 
overhanging rocks and the canopy of foliage forbade 
more than a feeble light to penetrate, and where all the 
drift wood, consisting of a countless number of trunks of 
trees, was broken and dashed in pieces, the breadth of the 
stream was less than one hundred and sixty feet. The 


rocks by which all these Narrows were formed underwent 
many changes in the course of centuries. Thus a part 
of the rocks forming the Narrow of Rentema, had been 
broken up by a high flood a year before Humboldt's 
journey ; and there had been preserved among the inha- 
bitants, by tradition, a lively recollection of the precipitous 
fall of the then towering masses of rock along the whole 
of the Narrow — ^an event which took place in the early 
part of the eighteenth century. This fall, and the con- 
sequent blocking-up of the channel, arrested the flow of 
the stream ; and the inhabitants of the village of Puaya, 
situated below the Narrow of Bentema, saw with alarm 
the wide river-bed entirely dry : but after a few hours 
the waters again forced their way. Earthquake move- 
ments were not supposed to have occasioned this remark- 
able occurrence. The powerful stream appeared to be 
incessantly engaged in improving its bed, and some idea 
of the force which it exerted may be formed from the 
circumstance, that notwithstanding its breadth it was 
sometimes so swollen as to rise more than twenty-six feet 
in the course of twenty or thirty hours. ^ 

The travellers remained for seventeen days in the hot 
valley of the Upper Amazons. Here Humboldt cor- 
rected and revised the chart of the Amazon made by 
Condamine, by sketching an accurate chart of this un- 
known portion of the great river, partly from his own 
observations, and partly from careful inquiries. This 
done they ascended the eastern declivity of the Cordil- 
leras, and arrived at the argentiferous mountain of Gual- 
gayoc, the principal site of the silver mines of Chota. 
Gualgayoc was an isolated mass of siliceous rock, tra- 
versed by a multitude of veins of silver which often in- 


tersected, and terminating to the north and west by a 
deep and almost perpendicular precipice. The outline 
of the mountain was broken by numerous tower-like 
and pyramidal points. "Our mountain," said a rich 
possessor of mines to the travellers, " stands there like 
an enchanted castle." Gualgayoc reminded Humboldt 
of the serrated crest of the Monserrat Mountains in Cata- 
lonia, which he had visited before his departure for tho 
New World. Besides being perforated to its summit by 
many hundred galleries driven in every direction, this 
m6untain presented natural openings in the mass of the 
siliceous rock, through which the intensely dark blue sky 
of those elevated regions was visible to a spectator stand- 
ing at the foot of the mountain. These openings were 
called windows — ^the windows of Gualgayoc. Similar 
windows were pointed out to the travellers in the walls of 
the Volcano of Pichincha, and called by a similar name, — 
the windows of Pichincha. The strangeness of the view 
was still farther increased by the numerous small sheds 
and dwelling-houses, which nestled on the side of the 
fortress-like mountain wherever a flat surface permitted 
their erecuon. The miners carried down the ore in bas- 
kets by very steep and dangerous paths to the places 
where the process of amalgamation was performed. 

The travellers quartered themselves awhile near the 
mines in the small mountain town of Micuipampa, which 
was twelve thousand feet above the level of the sea, and 
where, thoughonly 6^ 43' from the equator, water froze in 
the house nightly throughout a large portion of the year. 
In this desert devoid of vegetation lived three or four 
thousand persons, who were obliged to have all their 
means of subsistence brought from the warm valleys, as 


they themselves only reared some kinds of kale and salad 
Here, as in every town in the high mountains of PerU; 
ennui led the richer class of persons to pass their time in 
gambling. They reminded Humboldt of the soldier of 
Pizarro's troop, who, after the pillage of the temple at 
Cozco, complained that he had lost in one night at play 
" a great piece of the sun." 

In a high plain not far from Micuipampa, there were 
found throughout an area of above a square mile, imme- 
diately under the turf, and as it were intertwinea wUh 
the roots of the alpine grasses, enormous masses of rich 
red silver ore, and threads of pure silver. Another ele- 
vated plain near the Quebrada de Chiquera, was called 
the Field of Shells. The name referred to fossils which 
belonged to the cretaceous group, and which were found 
there in such abundance that they early attracted the 
attention of the natives. In this place there was obtained 
near the surface a mass of pure gold, spun round with 
threads of silver in the richest manner. 

The path by which the travellers journeyed from 
Micuipampa to Caxamarca was difficult cvqa fcr mules. 
Their way lay over a succession of Paranios^where they 
were exposed almost incessantly to the fury of the wind, 
and to the sharp-edged hail so peculiar to the ridges of 
the Andes. The height of the route above the level of 
the sea was generally between nine and ten thousand 

Reaching at length the last of thesjj iilountain wilder- 
nesses, they looked down with increased pleasure on the 
fertile valley of Caxamarca. It afforded a charming 
prospect : a small river wound through the elevated 
plain, which was of an oval form and about a hundred 

RCA. 25!; 

square miles in extent The plain resembled that of Bo- 
gota : both were probably the bottoms of ancient lake? 
But at Caxamarca there was wanting the myth of the 
wonder-working Bochica, who opened for the waters a 
passage through the rock of Tequendama. Caxamarca 
was situated six hundred and forty feet higher than Bo- 
gota — almost as high as the city of Quito ; but being 
sheltered by surrounding mountains it enjoyed a far 
milder and more agreeable climate. The soil was ex- 
tremely fertife, and the plain full of cultivated fields and 
gardens traversed by avenues of willows, large flowered 
red, white, and yellow varieties of Datura, Mimosas, and 
beautiful Quinuar-trees. Wheat yielded on an average in 
the Pampa de Caxamarca fifteen to twentyfold, but the 
hopes of a plentiful harvest were sometimes disappointed 
by night frosts, occasioned by the great radiation of heat 
towards the unclouded sky through the dry and rarefied 
mountain air; these frosts were not felt in the roofed 

In the northern part of the plain, small porphyritic 
domes broke through the widely extended sandstone 
strata, and probably once formed islands in the ancient 
lake before its waters had flowed oflEl On the summit of 
one of these domes, the Cerro de Santa Polonia, the 
travellers enjoyed a beautiful prospect. The ancient 
residence of Atahuallpa was surrounded on this side by 
fruit gardens and by irrigated fields of lucerne. Co- 
lumns of smoke were seen at a distance rising from the 
warm baths of Pultamarca, which were still called the 
Baths of the Inca. Atahuallpa spent a part of the year 
at these baths, where some slight remains of his palace 
still survived the devastating rage of the Conquistadorea 


A large and deep basin in which, according to tradition, 
one of the golden chairs in which the Inca was carried 
had been sunk, and has ever since been sought in vain^ 
appeared to Humboldt, from the regularity of its circular 
shape, to have been artificially excavated in the rock 
above one of the fissures through which the springs 

Of the fort and palace of Atahuallpa there were only 
very slight remains in the town, which was adorned with 
some fine churches. The destruction of the ancient 
buildings was hastened by the devouring thirst of gold 
which led men, before the close of the sixteenth century, 
in digging for supposed hidden treasures, to overturn 
walls and carelessly to undermine or weaken the founda- 
tions of all the houses. The palace of the Inca was 
situated on a hill of porphyry which had originally been 
hollowed at the surface, so that it surrounded the princi- 
pal dwelling almost like a wall or rampart. A state 
prison and a municipal building had been erected on a 
part of the ruins. The most considerable ruins still visi- 
ble, but which were only fix)m thirteen to sixteen feet 
high, were opposite the convent of San Francisco ; they 
consisted of fine-cut blocks of stone two or three feet 
long, and placed upon each other without cement, as in 
the fortress of Cannar. 

There wqb a shaft sunk in the porphyritic rock which 
once led into subterranean chambers, and a gallery said 
to extend to the other porphyritic dome before spoken 
of. Such arrangements showed an apprehension of the 
uncertainties of war, and the desire to secure the means 
of escape. The burying of treasures was an old and 
very generally prevailing Peruvian custom. Subter- 


ranean chambers were often found below many of the 
private dwellings of Caxamarca. 

The travellers were shown steps cut in the rock, and 
also what was called the Inca's foot-bath. The washing of 
the monarch's feet was accompanied by some incon- 
venient usages of court etiquette. Minor buildings, 
designed according to tradition for the servants, were 
constructed partly like the others of cut stones, and pro- 
vided with sloped roofs, and partly with well formed 
bricks alternating with siliceous cement In the latter 
class of constructions there were vaulted recesses, the 
antiquity of which Humboldt long doubted, but, as he 
afterwards believed, without sufficient grounds. 

In the principal building the room was still shown in 
which the unhappy Atahuallpa was kept a prisoner for 
nine months from November, 1532, and there was pointed 
out the wall on which the captive signified to what height 
he would fill the room with gold, if set free. This height 
is given variously, by Xerez in his " Conquista del 
Peru" which Barcia has preserved for us, by Hernando 
Pizarro in his letters, and by other writers of the period. 
The prince said that " gold in bars, plates, and vessels, 
should be heaped up as high as he could reach with his 
hand." Xerez assigns to the room a length of twenty- 
three feet, and a breadth of eighteen feet. Garcilaso 
de la Vega, who quitted Peru in his twentieth year, in 
1560, estimates the value of the treasure collected from 
the temples of the sun at Cuzco, Huaylas, Huamachuco, 
and Pachacamac, up to the fateful 29th of August, 1553, 
on which day the Inca was put to death, at three mil- 
hon, eight hundred and thirty-eight thousand Ducados de 
Oro, — ^not fiur from fifteen millions of dollars. 


In the chapel of the state prison the stone was showQ 
still marked by the indelible stains of blood. It was a 
thin slab, thirteen feet long, placed in front of the altar, 
and had probably been taken fix)m the porphyry or 
trachyte of the vicinity. Humboldt was not permitted 
to make a precise examination by striking oflF a part 
of the stone, but the three or four supposed blood 
spots appeared to him to be natural collections of horn- 
blende, or pyroxide in the rock. The Licentiate Fer- 
nando Montesinos, who visited Peru scarcely a hundred 
years after the taking of Caxamarca, even at that early 
period gave currency to the faWe that Atahuallpa was 
beheaded in prison, and that stains of blood were still 
visible on the stone on which the execution had taken 
place. There is no reason however to doubt the fact, 
confirmed by many eye-witnesses, that the Inca, to avoid 
being burnt alive, consented to be baptized under the 
name of Juan de Atahuallpa, by his fanatic persecutor, 
the Dominican monk Vicente de Valverde. He was put 
to death by strangulation, publicly, and in the open air. 
Another tradition relates that a chapel was raised over 
the spot where Atahuallpa was garroted, and that his 
body rests beneath the stone ; in such case, the supposed 
spots of blood would remain entirely unaccounted for. 
In reality, however, the corpse was never placed beneath 
the stone in question. After a mass for the dead, and 
solemn funereal rites, at which the brothers Pizarro were 
present in mourning habits, it was conveyed first to the 
churchyard of the convent of San Francisco, and after- 
wards to Quito, Atahuallpa's birthplace. This last trans- 
fer was in compliance with the expressed wish of the 
dying Inca. His personal enemy, the astute Ruminnavi, 


from political motives, caused the body to be buried at 
Quito, with solemn obsequies. 

Humboldt found descendants of the monarch, the 
&mily of the Indian Cacique Astorpilco, dwelling in 
Caxamarca, among the melancholy ruins of ancient 
departed splendour, and living in great poverty and pri- 
vation; but patient and uncomplaining. The son of 
Cacique Astorpilco, a pleasing and friendly youth of 
seventeen, who accompanied Humboldt over the ruins of 
the palace of his ancestor, while living in extreme 
poverty, had filled his imagination with images of buried 
^splendour and golden treasures hidden beneath the 
masses of rubbish upon which they trod. He related to 
the traveller that one of his more immediate forefathers 
had bound his wife*s eyes, and then conducted her 
through many labyrinths cut in the rock into the subter* 
ranean garden of the Incas. There she saw, skilfully 
and elaborately imitated, and formed of the purest gold, 
artificial trees, with leaves and fruit, and birds sitting on 
the branches; and there too was the much sought for 
golden travelling chair of Atahuallpa. The man com- 
manded his wife not to touch any of these enchanted 
riches, because the long foretold period of the restoration 
of the empire had not yet arrived, and that whoever 
should attempt before that time to appropriate any of 
them would die that very night. These golden dreams 
and &ncies of the youth were founded on recollections 
and traditions of former days. These artificial golden 
gardens were often described by actual eye-witnesses, 
Cieza de Leon Sarmiento, Garcilaso, and other early his- 
torians of the Conquest. They were found beneath the 
Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, in Caxamarca, and in the 


pleasant valley of Tucay, a favourite residence of the 
monarch's family. Where the golden gardens were not 
below ground, living plants grew by the side of the arti- 
ficial ones; among the latter, tall plants and ears of 
maize were mentioned as particularly well executed. 

The morbid confidence with which the young Astor- 
pilco assured Humboldt that below their feet, a little to 
the right of the spot on which Humboldt stood at the 
moment, there was an artificial large-flowered Datura 
tree, formed of gold wire and gold plates, which spread 
its branches over the Inca's chair, impressed him pain- 
fully, for it seemed as if those illusive and baseless visions 
were cherished as consolations in present sufferings. He 
asked the lad : " S^noe you and your parents believe so 
firmly in the existence of this garden, are not you some- 
times tempted in your necessities to dig in search of trea- 
sures so close at hand ?" The boy's answer was so sim- 
ple, and expressed so fully the quiet resignation charac- 
teristic of the aborginal inhabitants of the country, that 
Humboldt noted it down in his journal. " Such a 
desire does not come to us ; father says it would be sin- 
ful. If we had the golden branches with all their golden 
fruits, our white neighbours would hate and injure us. 
We have a small field and good wheat." 

Quitting Caxamarca, the travellers descended into the 
valley of the Magdalena, the outlet to which lay over the 
mountain pass of Guangamarca. A longing desire now 
seized them to behold the sea, which they had not seen 
for eighteen mouths. In looking from the summits of 
the volcanos near Quito, no sea horizon could be clearly 
distinguished, by reason of the too great distance of the 
coast and the height of the station : it was like looking 


down from an air-balloon into vacancy. Subsequently 
"when between Loxa and Guancabamba they reached the 
Paramo de Guamini, from whence the mule-drivers had 
confidently assured them that they should see beyond 
the plain, beyond the low districts of Piura and Lamba- 
jeque, the sea itself, which they so much desired to 
behold, a thick mist covered both the plain and the dis- 
tant sea shore. They saw only variously shaped masses 
of rock alternately rise like islands above the waving 
sea of mist, and again disappear. They were now 
exposed to almost the same disappointment. As they 
toiled up the mighty mountain side, with their expecta- 
tions continually on the stretch, their guides, who were 
not very well acquainted with the^paad, repeatedly pro- 
mised them that at the end of the hour's march their 
hopes would be realized. The stratum of mist which 
enveloped them appeared occasionally to be about to dis- 
perse, but at such moments their field of view was again 
•restricted by intervening heights. 

" The desire which we feel," says Humboldt, " to 
behold certain objects does not depend solely on their 
grandeur, their beauty, or their importance ; it is inter- 
woven in each individual with many accidental impres- 
sions of his youth, with early predilection for particular 
occupations, with an attachment to the remote and dis- 
tant, and with the love of an active and varied life. The 
previous improbability of the fulfilment of a wish gives 
besides to its realization a peculiar kind of charm. The 
traveller enjoys by anticipation the first sight of the con- 
stellation of the cross, and of the Magellanic clouds 
circling round the Southern Pole; of the snow of the 
Chimborazo, and the column of smoke ascending from 


the volcano of Quito ; of the first grove of tree-ferns, and 
of the Pacific Ocean. The days on which such wishes 
are realized form epochs in life, and produce ineflBaceable 
impressions ; exciting feelings of which the vividness 
seeks not justification by processes of reasoning." With 
the longing which Humboldt felt for the first view of 
the Pacific fi'om the crests of the Andes, there mingled 
the interest with which he had listened as a boy to the 
narrative of the adventurous expedition of Vasco Nuliez 
de Balboa, the fortunate man who, followed by Francisco 
Pizarro, first among Europeans beheld from the heights 
of Quarequa, on the Isthmus of Panama, the eastern 
part of the Pacific Ocean. 

When, after many undulations of the ground, on the 
summit of the steep mountain ridge, the travellers finally 
reached the highest point, the Alto de Guangamarca, the 
heavens which had been long veiled became suddenly 
clear: a sharp west wind dispersed the mist, and the 
deep blue of the sky in the thin mountain air appeared 
between narrow lines of the highest cirrhous clouds. The 
whole of the western declivity of the Cordillera by Cho- 
rillos and Cascas, covered with large blocks of quartz, 
and the plains of Chala and Molinos as far as the sea 
shore near Truxillo, lay beneath their eyes in astonishing 
apparent proximity. They now saw for the first time 
the Pacific Ocean itself; and they saw it clearly, forming 
along the line of the shore a large mass from which the 
light shone reflected, Und rising in its immensity to the 
well-defined horizon. 

They reached Truxillo, from whence they proceeded 
southward along the sandy tracts that bordered the Pa- 
cific, till they came to Lima. Near Truxillo Humboldt 


visited the ruins of the ancient city of Chimu, and de- 
scended into the tomb of a Peruvian prince, in which 
(Jarci Gutierez de Toledo, while digging a gallery, in 
1576, discovered a mass of gold amounting in value to 
more than a million of dollars. They remained some 
time at Lima and Callao, Bonpland botanizing, and 
Humboldt studying the influence of the climate, and 
making astronomical observations. They were fortu 
nate enough while at Lima to observe the transit of Mer- 
cury over the sun's disk, which enabled Humboldt to 
determine the exact latitude of the city. 

Towards the end of December, 1802, or at the begin- 
ning of January, 1803, they departed for Mexico, sailing 
for Acapulco in the Spanish frigate, Atalanta. They 
touched at Guayaquil on their way, and remained there 
several days. Here they heard from their inaccessible 
old friend, Cotopaxi, although they were at least one 
hundred and fifty miles from him. After a long period 
of rest the volcano had suddenly burst into violent erup- 
tion, and was discharging its terrible artillery. They 
heard it day and night. Afl«r a few hasty preparations 
they started inland, fired with the determination to re- 
visit the volcano: but before they had gone far they 
were recalled by the news, that the frigate was obliged 
to set sail immediately. They were soon at sea again, 
standing away to the north and west for Acapulco. 
They landed in Mexico on the 23d of March, 1803. 



The letters with which Don Mariano de TJrqnizo had 
furnished Humboldt before leaving Spain, introduced 
him at Acapulco, and throughout Mexico, as they had 
already done in South America, to the highest govern- 
ment oflBicials. We accordingly find him three days 
after his arrival at the house of the contador, Don Bal- 
tasar Alvarez Ordono, taking observations to ascertain 
Ae latitude and longitude of the town. Except in a sci- 
entific point of view Acapulco had little to attract him. 
It stood on the southern shore of Mexico, on the recess 
of a bay, near a chain of granitic mountains. On a hill 
commanding the town and the entrance to the harbour, 
stood the castle or fortress of San Diego. The harbour 
was shut in by mountains. It had two entrances formed 
by the island of Roquetta; one a quarter of a mile 
wide, the other a mile and a half. This was the extent 
of its picturesqueness. 

From Acapulco, in the beginning of April, the travel- 
lers proceeded to the capital, passing the plains of Chil- 
pantzingo, rich in wheat fields, and the little town of 
Tasco, famous for its beautiful church. They stopped at 
Cuemavaca on the southern declivity of the Cordillera 
of Guchilaque, to rectify the longitude, which was incor- 


rect on the common maps. Not far from Cuemavaca 
was the monument of Xochicalco, an isolated pile three 
hundred and fifty feet high. It was a mass of rocks to 
which the hands of man had given a regular conic form. 
It was divided into five stories, or terraces, each of which 
was at least sixty feet high, but narrowed towards the 
top. The hill was surrounded with a deep and broad 
ditch ; the whole encampment was nearly twelve thou- 
sand feet in circumference. The summit, which was an 
oblong platform, two hundred and thirty feet from north 
to south, and three hundred feet from east to west, was 
encircled by a wall of hewn stone six or eight feet high. 
Within this wall stood the remains of a pyramidal monu- 
ment. It was originally five stories high, but only the 
first story remained ; for the owners of a neighbouring 
sugar-house had demolished the rest, and used the stones 
to build their ovens. There was no vestige of a stair- 
case leading to the top of the pyramid, where, it was said, 
there was once a stone seat, ornamented with hiero- 
glyphics. The stones of the pyramid were beautifully 
cut and polished, and decorated with reliefi. As each 
of these reliefe occupied several stones, and as they were 
interrupted by the joints, they must have been sculp- 
tured after the edifice was finished. Among the hiero- 
glyphical ornaments were heads of crocodiles spouting 
water, and figures of men sitting cross-legged, after the 
manner of some Asiatic nations. As the building was 
on a plain four thousand feet above the sea, and croco- 
diles haunted only the rivers near the coast, it was 
strange that the architect should have sculptured them, 
instead of the plants and animals that belong to moun- 
tainous countries. 



This artificial mountain, or pyramid, was probably a 
fortified temple, which originally contained an arsenal, 
and served in war as a fort. The Indians of the neigh- 
bourhood showed an ancient map, drawn before the ai 
rival of the Spaniards, in which, where this monument 
should have been, there was a rude sketch of two war- 
riors fighting with clubs. And about thirty years before 
the arrival of Humboldt and Bonpland, an isolated stone 
was found near by, with a relief of an eagle tearing a 

It was in the capital, however, which they soon 
reached, that the travellers found the greatest number 
of ruins. lu fact the city of Mexico was based on ruins 
— ^the wrecks of the ancient capital, Tenochtitlan. Under 
the Great Square were fragments of the spacious temple 
of Mexitli. Behind the Cathedral was the palace of the 
king of Axajacatl, where Montezuma lodged the Span- 
iards on their arrival ; and opposite the Viceroy's palace 
stood formerly the palace of Montezuma himself These 
things had a great influence over the imaginative travel- 
lers ; but their first object, after finding a residence, and 
delivering their letters, was to inquire for a new set of 
scientific instruments, in order to pursue their studies. 
They were not content to run through the country like 
ordinary travellers, chronicling their journey by a list 
of the inns at which they stopped : nor yet like artists 
or poets, alive to the charm of beautiful scenery and 
strange traditions. They were poets, artists, travellers, 
it is true : but they were something more. They were 
men of science, philosophers, savans, whose business and 
pleasure it was, to understand what they saw. They 
would read, or at least would try to, every page in the 


great World-Book ; not skipping any, because they were 
common, or tedious, but reading all. 

They found in Mexico a School of Mines, like the 
Mineralogical Academy of Freyberg, (the director, by 
the way, was a pupil of Humboldt's old teacher, Wer- 
ner) a Botanic Gwden, and an Academy of Painting 
and Sculpture. The last bore the title of Academia de 
los Nobles Aries de Meadco. It owed its existence to the 
patriotism of several private citizens, and the protection 
of the minister, Galvez. The government had assigned 
it a spacious building, which was enriched by a finer 
and more complete collection of casts, than was at that 
time to be found in any part of Germany. Humboldt was 
surprised and delighted when he saw the Apollo Belvi- 
dere and the Laocoon. There were no fees for entrance 
at the Academy : it was free to all, even mulattoes and 
Indiana The rooms were lighted every evening with 
Argand lamps, and filled with hundreds of young peo- 
ple, who drew from reliefs, or living models, .or copied 
drawings of furniture, chandeliers, or ornaments in 
bronze. The director of the class of sculpture, Don 
Manuel Tolsa, had just completed a bronze equestrian 
statue of Charles IV., the then reigning king of Spain; 
Humboldt was present when it was cast, and saw it 
moved to the Great Square — a five days' task. As the 
buildings around the Square were not lofty it looked 
admirably on its pedestal, standing grandly out from its 
blue background of sky. 

This royal statue, the Viceroy's palace, and above all 
the new Cathedral with its massive towers, made the Great 
Square an imposing place. Humboldt did it full justice, 
we have no doubt^ for his tastes like his powers were 


universal, but we suspect it interested him more for 
what it had been, than what it was — ^more for what was 
under it, than what was above and around it Below it, 
as we have already remarked, were the remains of the 
great temple of Mexitli, jfragments of which were fire 
quently brought to light A few years before his arriTal, 
(in August 1790) some workmen who were employed 
there in making excavations, in order to build a subter- 
raneous aqueduct, discovered a great Aztec Idol of 
basaltic porphyry. It was about twenty feet high, and 
six or seven feet broad, and was sculptured on every 
side. At first it g^peared an almost shapeless mass, bat 
on being examined closely, upon the upper part was 
found the united heads of two monsters. The eyes were 
large, and in each mouth were four hideous teeth. The 
arms and feet were hidden under a drapery surrounded by 
enormous serpents; the ancient Mexicans called this 
drapery the Garment of Serpents. All these aocessories, 
especially the fringes, which were in the form of feathers, 
were sculptured with the greatest care. This double idol 
probably represented Huitzilpochtle, the Aztec God of 
War, and his wife, Teoyamiqui, who conducted the souls 
of the warriors who died in the defence of the gods, to 
the House of the Sun, where she transformed them into 
humming-birds. Her bosom was surrounded with deaths'- 
heads and mutilated hands, symbols of the sacrifices 
which were celebrated in honour of this horrible.pair. The 
hands alternated with the figures of vases, in which in- 
cense was burnt As the idol was sculptured ©n every 
side it was doubtless supported in the air on two columns, 
between which the priests dragged their victims to the 
altar of the temple beyond. Upon the under side of the 


idol was a representation of Michlanteuhtli, the lord of 
the place of the dead. It was a fitting roof to that ter- 
rible portal of death. 

The viceroy, Count Revillagigedo, transported it to 
the University of Mexico; but the professors of the 
University were unwilling to expose it to the sight of 
the Mexican youth, so they buried it anew, in one of the 
passages of the college. At Humboldt's solicitation the 
Bishop of Monteray, who was passing through the capital 
on his way to his diocese, persuaded the rector to unbury 
it, which gave the traveller an opportunity of sketch- 
ing it 

Humboldt was shown another idol at the house of 
Senor Dup^, one of his Mexican friends. It represented 
a sitting, or rather squatting woman. Site had no hands, 
but where they should have been were the toes of her 
feet This statue was remarkable for its head-dress, 
which resembled the veils sculptured on the heads of 
Isis and the Sphynxes. The forehead was ornamented 
with a string of pearls on the edge of a narrow fillet : 
the neck was covered with a three-cornered handkerchief, 
to which hung twenty-two little balls or tassels. These 
tassels and the head-dress generally, reminded Humboldt 
of the apples and pomegranates on the robes of the 
•Jewish High Priests. This strange figure was called the 
statue of an Aztec priestess, but Humboldt thought it a 
representyiion of some of the Mexican divinities. It was 
probaoly one of the old household gods. 

Besidei this statue he saw the great Monument of the 
Calftidar, jHd the Stone of Sacrifice, adorned in relief 
mth the taimiiphs of some old Aztec king, both of which 
were dug up in the Great Square. He also visited the 


arcliives of the Viceroyalty, and pored over its hoard of 
Aztec manuscripts. These hieroglyphs were written 
either on agave paper, or on stag-skins. They were fre- 
quently from sixty-five' to seventy feet in length, and 
each page contained ttom two to three feet of surfece 
They were folded here and there in the form of a rhomb, 
and thin wooden boards fastened to the extremities 
formed their binding, and gave them a resemblance to 
our volumes in quarto. No nation of the old continent 
ever made such an extensive use of hieroglyphical writ- 
ing as the Aztecs, and in none of them were real books 
bound in this way. Humboldt procured several frag- 
ments of similar manuscripts during his stay in Mexico. 

But mysterious manuscripts which he could not read, 
and uncouth idolP with which he could have no sym- 
pathy, were soon laid aside for the great Book of Nature, 
and the thousands of men around him. One of his favour- 
ite haunts was the famous hill of Chapoltepec. From 
the centre of this solitude his eye swept over a vast plain 
of cultivated fields which extended to the feet of the dis- 
tant mountains covered with perpetual snow. Below 
him were old cypress trunks fifty feet in circumference, 
and oS to the east the city. It appeared as if washed by 
the waters of the lake of Tezcuco, whose basin, sur-^ 
rounded with villages and hamlets, brought ta his mind 
the most beautiful lakes of the mountains of Si^tzerland. 
Large avenues, of elms and poplars led to it^n every 
direction ; and two aqueducts, constructed over arches 
of great elevation, crossed the plain like '«aj*. The 
magnificent convent of Our Liidy of Guadalupq^appe^^ 
joined to the mountains of Tepeyacac, an^^||» ravines, , 
which sheltered date and yucca trees. Tofjj^rds tho 


fioutli was the tract between San Angel, Tacabaya. and 
San Augustin de las Cuevas, an immense garden of 
orange, peach, apple, and cherry trees. This beautifiil 
cultivation formed a singular contrast with the wild ap 
pearance of the naked mountaine *which enclosed the 
valley, among which were the famous volcanoes of La 
Puebla, Popocatepetl, and Iztaccihuatl. And around and 
overhead, steeped in sunshine, was the deep blue tropic sky. 

Sometimes in the morning Humboldt went to the 
market-place and watched the Indian hucksters, en- 
trenched in verdure. No matter what they sold, fruit, 
roots, or pulque, their shops were ornamented with 
flowers. A hedge, a yard high, made of fresh herbs and 
dehcate leaves, surrounded like a semicircular wall the 
fruits oflfered to public sale. The bottom of the market, 
which was smooth and green, was divided by garlands 
of flowers, which ran parallel to one another. Small 
nosegays placed symmetrically between the festoons, 
gave this enclosure the appearance of a carpet strewn 
with flowers. Humboldt was struck with the way 
in which the natives displayed their fruit in small 
cages of light wood. They filled the bottom of these 
cages with raisins and pears, and ornamented the top 
with the most odorous flowers. Without doubt this art 
of entwining fruits and flowers had its origin in that 
happy period when, long before the introduction of 
inhuman rites, the first inhabitants of Anahuac offered up 
to the great spirit Teotl the first fruits of their harvest. 

But t\e prettiest sight was to see at sunrise the In- 
dians with their boats loaded with fruits and flowers, 
descending the canals of Iztacalco and Chalco. The 
greater part of their fruits and roots were cultivated on 


floating gardens. There were two sorts of these gardens, 
one which was movable, and driven about by the winds, 
the other fixed and fiistened to the shore. The ingeni- 
ous invention of floating gardens appears to go back to 
the end of the fourteenth century. It had its origin in 
the extraordinary situation of a people surrounded with 
enemies, and compelled to live in the midst of a lake 
little abounding in fish, who were forced to fall upon 
every means of procuring subsistence. It is even proba- 
ble that Nature herself suggested to the Aztecs the first 
idea of floating gardens. On the marshy banks of the 
lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco, the agitated water in the 
time of the great rises carries away pieces of earth 
covered with herbs, and bound together by roots. 
These, floating about for a long time as they are driven 
by the wind, sometimes unite into small islands. A 
tribe of men, too weak to defend themselves on the con- 
tinent, would take advantage of these portions of ground 
which accident put within their reach, and of which no 
enemy diluted the property. The oldest floating ga^ 
dens were merely bits of ground joined together artifi- 
cially, and dug and sown upon by the Aztecs. Similar 
floating islands are to be met with in all the zones. Hum- 
boldt saw them on the river Guayaquil, twenty-five or 
thirty feet long. 

Apropos of the markets of Mexico. Here is a pass- 
age from a letter of Cortez to the Emperor Charles V., 
which gives a description of the valley of Mexico, and 
the old city of Tenochtitlan, markets included. It is 
dated the 30th October, 1530, nearly three hundre<l 
years before the visit of Humboldt : 

" The province in which the residence of this great 



[uteczuma is situated, is circularly surrounded with 
elevated mountains, and intersected with precipices The 
plain contains near seventy leagues in circumference, and 
in this plain are two lakes which fill nearly the whole 
valley ; for the inhabitants sail in canoes for more than 
fifly leagues round. Of the two great lakes of the valley 
of Mexico, the one is fresh and the other salt water. 
They are separated by a small range of mountains. 
These mountains rise in the middle of the plain, and the 
waters of the lakes mingle together in a strait between 
the hills and the high Cordillera. The numerous towns 
and villages constructed in both of the two lakes carry 
on their commerce by canoes, without touching the con- 
tinent The great city of Temixtitan is situated in the 
midst of the salt-water lake, which has its tides like the 
sea ; and from the city to the continent there are two 
leagues whichever way we wish to enter. Four dikes 
lead to the city ; they are made by the hand of man, 
and are of the breadth of two lances. The city is as 
large as Seville or Cordova. The streets, I merely speak 
of the principal ones, are very narrow and very large ; 
some are half dry and half occupied by navigable canals, 
furnished with very well constructed wooden bridges, 
broad enough for ten men on horseback to pass at the 
same time. The market-place, twice as large as that of 
Seville, is surrounded with an immense portico, under 
which are exposed for sale all sorts of merchandise, eat- 
-ables, ornaments made of gold, silver, lead, pewter, pre- 
cious stones, bones, shells, and feathers, delf ware, lea- 
ther, and spun cotton. We find hewn stone, tiles, and 
timber fit for building. There are lanes for game, others 
for roots and garden fruits ; there are houses where bar- 



bers shave the head, with razors made of obsidian ; and 
there are houses resembling our apothecary shops, where 
[prepared medicines, unguents, and plasters are sold. 
There are houses where drink is sold. The market 
alx)unds with so many things, that I am unable to name 
them all to your highness. To avoid confusion, every 
species of merchandise is sold in a separate lane ; every- 
thing is sold by the yard, but nothing has hitherto been 
seen to be weighed in the market. In the midst of the 
great square is a house which I shall call the Audiencia, in 
which ten or twelve persona sit constantly for determin- 
ing any disputes which may arise respecting the sale of 
goods. There are other persons who mix continually 
with the crowd, to see that a just price is asked. We 
have seen them break the small measures which they 
had seized from the merchants." 

In one of their excursions from the city the travellers 
visited the pyramids of Teotihuacan. These pyramids 
stood in a plain that bore the name of the Path of the 
Dead. Surrounded by several hundreds of smaller edi- 
fices which formed streets, in exact lines from north to 
south, and fix)m east to west, rose two great pyramids 
which the Indians called Tonatiuh Ytzaqual, and Metzli 
Ytzaqual, or the Houses of the Sun and Moon. The 
largest was one hundred and seventy-five feet in perpen- 
dicular height, the smallest one hundred and forty feet. 
Twenty-five or thirty feet was the average height of the 
lesser pyramids, which, according to the traditions of the 
Indians, were burial-places for the chiefe of the tribe. 
They were said to be dedicated to the stars. 

The two great pyramids of Teotihuacan were divided 
into four principal terraces, which were subdivided into 


steps. These steps were covered with fragments of ob- 
sidian, which were probably the edges of the instruments 
with which the Toltec and Aztec priests in their barba- 
rous sacrifices, opened the chests of their human victims. 
The npper terrace was formerly crowned with colossal 
statues of the Sun and Moon. These statues were made 
of stone, and covered with plates of gold. Had they 
been stone merely, they might have remained there to 
this day, but being plated with gold they were sure to 
be spoiled by the first foreign invader. The soldiers of 
Cortez stripped off the gold at once, and Bishop Zuma- 
raga, a Franciscan monk, who undertook to destroy 
whatever related to the worship, the history, and the an- 
tiquities of Mexico, completed the work of his militant 
followers, by demolishing the idols. The pyramids 
alone remained. 

When Humboldt arrived in Mexico his astronomical 
instruments were sadly out of order, and thinking it 
would be impossible to replace them, he intended to re- 
main only a few months, and then depart for Europe. 
But as Don Manuel del Rio, the director of the School 
of Mines, was able to lend him a new set, he remained 
a year, travelling in various parts of the country, and 
making observations. 

Towards the end of April, or the beginning of May, 
he proceeded to the mines of Moran, and Real del Monte, 
which lay to the north-east of the capital. The road was 
covered with oaks, cypresses, and rose trees. He made 
several astronomical observations on his way, stopping 
for that purpose at the haciendas of Zumpango, Huchue- 
toca, and Tisayuca. 
Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, the natives 


of Mexico, as well as those of Peru, were acqaainted 
with several metals. They were not contented with the 
metals which were found in their native state on the sur- 
face of the earth, and particularly in the beds of rivers, 
and ravines formed by the torrents : they applied them- 
selves to subterranean operations in the working of veins ; 
they cut galleries, and dug pits of communication and ven- 
tilation : and they had instruments for cutting the rocks. 
Cortez informs us in the historical account of his expedi- 
tion, that gold, silver, copper, lead, and tin, were publicly 
sold in the great markets of Tenochtitlan. The inhabit- 
ants of Tzapoteca and Mixtecapan separated the gold by 
washing the alluvial lands. They usually paid their 
tributes in two ways, either by collecting in leathern 
sacks or small baskets of slender rushes, the grains of 
native gold, or by founding the metal into bars. These 
bars, like those now used in trade, are represented in the 
ancient Mexican paintings. In the time of Montezuma, 
the natives had begun to work the silver mines of Tlachoo, 
in the province of Cohuixco, and thpse which run across 
the mountains of Zumpango. In all the great towns of 
Anahuac gold and silver vases were manufactured. The 
Spaniards on their first arrival at Tenochtitlan, could 
never cease admiring the ingenuity of the Mexican gold- 
smiths. When Montezuma, seduced by his credulity, 
recognised on the arrival of white and bearded men, the 
accomplishment of the mysterious prophecy of Quetzal- 
coatl and compelled the Aztec nobility to yield homage 
to the king of Spain, the quantity of precious metala 
offered to CJortez was one hundred and sixtv-two thou- 
sand pesos de oro. ; " Besides the great mass of gold and 
ailver," says the fimous Conquestidor in his first letter 


to the Emperor, Charles V., " I was presented with gold 
plate and jewels of such precious workmanship, that un- 
willing to allow them to be melted, I set apart more than 
a hundred thousand ducats worth of them to be pre- 
sented to your Imperial Highness. These objects were 
of the greatest beauty, and I doubt if any other prince 
on earth ever possessed anything similar to them. That 
your Highness may not imagine I am advancing fables, 
I may add that all which the earth and ocean produces, 
of which king Montezuma could have any knowledge, 
he had caused to be imitated in gold and silver, in pre- 
cious stones and feathers, and the whole in such great 
perfection, that we could not help believing that we saw 
the very objects represented. Although he gave me a 
great share of them for your Highness, I gave orders to 
the natives to execute several other works in gold, after 
my designs, which I furnished them with, such as images 
of saints, crucifixes, medals, and necklaces. As the fifth 
or eighth on the silver paid to your Highness amounted 
to more than a hundred marcs, I gave orders to the native 
goldsmiths to convert them into plate of various sizes, 
spoons, cups, and other vessel* for drinking. All these 
works were imitated with the greatest exactnessT^ When . 
we read this passage, we cannot help believing that we 
are reading the account of a European ambassador, re- 
turned firom China or Japan. Yet we can hardly accuse 
the Spanish General of exaggeration, when we consider 
that the Emperor Charles V. could judge with his own 
eyes the perfection or imperfection of the objects sent 

Humboldt remained a couple of months at Moran and 
Beal del Monte, inspecting the Mexican system of min- 


ing. As might have been expected, it was in its infancy. 
It had not advanced since the sixteenth century, when it 
was first transplanted from Europe. The miners were 
not enterprising enough to adopt any of the modem im- 
provements ; they adhered tenaciously to the old way, 
which was notoriously crude and imperfect They were 
better paid, however, Humboldt thought, than the miners 
of other countries ; they earned from $5 to $6 a-week, 
while the wages of other labourers in Mexico did not 
exceed $1,60, or $1,75 for the same time. The miners 
were not remarkable for their honesty, for they made 
use of a thousand tricks to steal the rich minerals in 
which they worked. As they were nearly naked, and 
were searched on leaving the mines (not in the most 
delicate manner either), they tried to conceal small mor- 
sels of native silver, or red sulphuretted and muriated 
silver in their hair, under their arm-pits, in their mouths, 
and other out-of-the-way comers of their persons. Good 
or bad, all were searched alike, and a register was kept 
of the minerals found about them. In the mine of 
Valenciana, between 1774 and 1787, the sum stolen, but 
recovered, amounted to $M0,000, 

Tne working of the mines was long regarded as one 
of the principal causes of the depopulation of Mexico. 
Humboldt, however, did not consider the mortality 
among the miners much greater than among the other 
classes. This seemed to him remarkable from the tem- 
perature to which they were exposed. In one mine he 
found the thermometer at 93^ at the bottom, a perpen- 
dicular depth of one thousand six hundred and eighty- 
one feet, while at the mouth of the pit, in the open 
air, the same thermometer sank in winter to 89^ 


above 0, a difference of 54^ to which the minera were 

The hardest part of the work was performed by the 
native Indians, who were the beasts of burden of the 
mines. They carried the metals out on their backs, in 
loads of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred 
and fifty pounds at a time, ascending and descending 
thousands of steps, of an inclination of forty-five degrees, 
where the air was fix)m 71^ to 73^. The mode of trans- 
portation was in bags, under which the Indians placed a 
woollen covering, for they were generally naked to the 
middle, to save themselves from being bruised and 
chafed. Humboldt met them in files of fifty or sixty ; 
men of seventy years, and children of ten or twelve. 
They threw their bodies forward in ascending, and rested 
on staffs, which were generally not more than a foot in 
length. They walked in a zig-zag direction, because 
they had found from long experience that their respira- 
tion was less impeded when they traversed obliquely the 
currents of air which entered the pits from without. 
Great care was taken in controlling the minerals trans- 
ported by them. The proprietors of the mines knew, 
within a few pounds, what went out daily. As the 
Indians were paid for what they carried, their loads were 
weighed before they left the mines. 

The Indians of Mexico bore a general resemblance to 
those who inhabited the forests of North America, and 
the interior of Peru and Brazil. They had the same 
swarthy and copper colour, flat and smooth hair, small 
beard, squat body, long eyes, with the comers directed 
upw^lrds towards the temples, prominent che qjjfffc nes, 
thick lips, and an expression of gentleness in tne^outh, 

280 deunke;jxess of the Indians. 

strongly contrasted with a gloomy and severe look. 
They had a more swarthy complexion than the Indiana 
which Humboldt and Bonpland saw in Peru, and more 
beard likewise. Almost all those that he saw in the 
neighbourhood of the capital wore small moustaches. 
They attained a pretty advanced age, in spite of their 
excessive drunkenness. This vice was most common 
among those who inhabited the valley in which the 
capital stood, and the environs of Puebla and Tlascala. 
The police of Mexico, when Humboldt was there, were 
in the habit of sending round tumbrils to collect the 
drunkards that were found stretched out in the streets. 
They were treated like dead bodies, and carried to the 
principal guard-house. The next morning an iron ring 
was put round their ancles, and they were made to clean 
the streets for three days; they were set free on the 
fourth day, but many of them were sure to be back 
again in the course of the week. 

Travellers who merely judge from the physiognomy 
of the Indians are tempted to believe that it is rare to see 
old men among them. In fiwjt, without consulting parish 
registers, which in warm regions are devoured by the 
ants every twenty or thirty years, it is very diflScult to 
•form any idea of the age of Indians : they themselves 
are completely ignorant of it Their head never becomes 
gray. It is infinitely more rare to find an Indian than a 
negnj with gray hairs, and the want of beard gives the 
former a continual air of youth. The skin of the Indians 
is also less subject to wrinkles. Humboldt often saw 
in Mexico, in the temperate zone half way up the 
Cordilteik natives, and especially women, a hundred 
years of tlg^ This old age was generally comfortable' 


for the Mexican and Peruvian Indians pm^erved theii 
muscular strength to the last. While Humboldt was at 
lama the Indian Hilario Pari died at the village of Chi- 
guata, at the age of one hundred and forty-three. He 
remained united in marriage for ninety years to an 
Indian of the name of Andrea Alea Zar, who attained 
the age of one hundred and seventeen years. This old 
Peruvian went, at the age of one hundred and thirty, 
from three to four leagues daily on foot. He became 
blind thirteen years before his death, and of twelve chil- 
dren left behind him but one daughter, of seventy-seven 
years of age. 

The copper-coloured Indians enjoy one great physical 
advantage, which is undoubtedly owing to the great sim- 
plicity in which their ancestors lived for thousands of 
years. They are subject to almost no deformity. Hum- 
boldt never saw a hunchbacked Indian ; and it was ex- 
tremely rare to see one who squinted, or was lame in the 
arm or leg. In the countries where the inhabitants suflfer 
firom the goitrt, it never prevails among the Indians, and 
seldom among the Mulattoes. 

The Indians of Mexico adhered to their ancient cus- 
toms, manners, and opinions, especially their religious 
ones, with great obstinacy. The introduction of Chris- 
tianity into the country had no other eflfect than the 
substituting of new ceremonies for the old — the symbols 
of a gentle and humane religion for the ceremonies of a 
sanguinary worship. They received from the hands of 
their conquerors new laws and new divinities : their van- 
quished gods appeared to them to yield to the gods of the 
strangers. In such a complicated mythology as that of 
the Mexicans, it was easy to find out an affinity between 


the divinitiai of Aztlan and the divinity of the east 
Cortez very artfully took advantage of a popular tradi- 
tion, according to which the Spaniards were merely the 
descendants of king QuetzalcoatI, who left Mexico for 
countries situated in the east, to carry among them 
civilization and laws. The ritual books composed by the 
Indians in hieroglyphics at the beginning of the conquest, 
several fragments of wh ch Humboldt procured while in 
Mexico, show that at that period Christianity was con- 
founded with the Mexican mythology : the Holy Ghost, 
is identified with the sacred eagle of the Aztecs. The 
missionaries not only tolerated, but even favoured to a 
certain extent, this amalgamation of ideas, by means of 
which the Christian worship was more easily introduced 
among the natives. They persuaded them that the gospel 
had, in very remote times, been already preached in 
America ; and they investigated its traces in the Aztec 
ritual with the same ardour which the learned, who in our 
days engage in the study of the Sanscrit, display in dis- 
cussing the analogy between the Greek mythology and 
that of the Ganges and the Barampooter. 

The Indians knew nothing of religion beyond the ex- 
terior forms of worship. Fond of whatever was connected 
with a prescribed order of ceremonies, they found in the 
Christian religion particular enjoyments. The festivals 
of the church, the fireworks with which they were ac- 
companied, the processions mingled with dances an 
whimsical disguises, were a most fertile source of amuse- 
ment for them. In these festivals their national charac- 
ter was displayed in all its individuality. Everywhere 
the Christian rites assume the shades of the country 
where they have been transplanted. In the Philippine 


and Mariana islands, the natives of the Malay race have 
incorporated them with the ceremonies which are peculiar 
to themselves ; and in the province of Pasto, on the ridge 
of the Cordillera of the Andes, Humboldt saw Indians, 
masked and adorned with small tinkling bells, perform 
savage dances around the altar, while a monk of St 
Francis elevated the host. 

The Indians were fond of painting, and carving on wood 
or stone. Humboldt was astonished at what they were 
able to execute with a bad knife on the hardest wood. 
They were particularly fond of painting images, and 
carving statues of saints. They had been servilely imi- 
tating for three hundred years, the models which the 
Europeans imported with them at the conquest. This 
imitation was derived from a religious principle of a very 
remote origin. In Mexico, as in Hindostan, it was not 
allowable in the feithful to change the figure of their 
idols in the smallest degree. Whatever made a part of 
the Aztec or Hindoo ritual was subjected to immutable 
laws. The Christian images had preserved in Mexico a 
part of that stiffness and harshness of feature which cha- 
racterized the hieroglyphical pictures of the age of Mon 

Returning from Moran and Real del Monte in July 
Humboldt projected a visit to the mines of Guanaxuato, 
These celebrated mines, which were among the richest 
in the country, lay to the north of the capital. On his 
way thither he stopped to examine the canal of Huehue- 

From the valley of Tula, through which this great 
canal ran, he proceeded to the plain of Queretaro, pass- 
ing the mountain of Calpulalpan, and the town of San 


Juan del Rio, till lie came to the city of Queretaro. He 
remained there a few days to make an astronomical ob 
servation, and started for Guanaxuato, stopping oa hia 
way at the mines of Sotolar, Juchitlan, Las Agnas, Ma- 
coni, El Doctor, and San Christobal. 

The mine of Valenciana, the most celebrated of all 
the mines of Guanaxuato, and the richest in Mexico, 
although it had been worked by the Indians, and the early 
Spanish settlers, was not much wrought until towards 
the end of the eighteenth century. In 1760 a Spaniard, 
named Obregon, began to work a vein on a part of the 
old mine, which was till then believed to be destitute of 
metals. He was without fortune, but as he had the repu- 
tation of being a worthy man, he' found friends, who 
from time to time advanced him small sums to carry on 
his operations. In 1766 the works were over two hun- 
dred and fifty feet deep, yet the expenses greatly sur- 
passed the metallic produce. The next year he entered 
into partnership with a petty merchant of Rayas, named 
Otero, and in a short time the silver began to be more 
plentiful; as the pit grew deeper it grew richer. In 
1771 they drew enormous masses of sulphuretted silver, 
mixed with native and red silver. From that time it 
yielded over $1,000,000 annually. 

When Obregon, or as he was afterwards called, the 
Count of Valenciana, began to work the vein above the 
ravine of San Xavier, goats were feeding on the hill 
tops. Ten years after there was a town there containing 
seven or eight thousand inhabitants. At the time of 
Humboldt^s visit the population of Guanaxuato was 
seventy thousand six hundred; twenty-nine thousand 
six hundred of the number were miners. He remained 


there and in the neighbourhood two months, pursoing 
his scientific studies, now on the mountains raddng as- 
tronomical observations, and now in the mines, wresting 
from Nature the secret of her richest treasures. 

We shall not pursue him in his various excursions 
among the mines, but give here the result of his obser- 
vations on the mineral wealth of Mexico. 

The quantity of silver annually extracted from the 
Mexican mines was ten times greater than was at that 
time furnished by all the mines in Europe ; gold, how- 
ever, was not more abundant than in Hungary or Tran- 
sylvania. For the most part extracted from alluvial 
grounds by means of washing, it was occasionally found 
in veins on mountains of primitive rock. The mines of 
native gold were most plentiful in Oaxaca, in gneiss, or 
micaceous slate. This last rock was particularly rich in 
gold in the mine of Rio San Antonio. It was either 
found pure, or mixed with silver ; there was scarcely a 
silver mine in Mexico that did not contain some gold. 
The principal vein in the mine of Santa Cruz, at Villal- 
pando, was intersected by a great number of small rotten 
veins of exceeding richness. The . argillaceous slime 
with which these veins were filled contained so great a 
quantity of gold disseminated in impalpable parcels, that 
the workmen were compelled to bathe themselves in 
large vessels when they left the mine, to prevent any of 
the auriferous clay from being carried off by them on 
their bodies. 

Great quantities of silver were derived from ores, such 
as antimony, arsenical gray copper, sulphuretted silver, 
muriated silver, prismatic black silver, and red silver. 
Red silver constituted the greater part of the wealth of 


Cosola, Zolaga, and Sombrete. The mine of la Veia 
Negra, near Sombrete, yielded in five or six months 
seventy thousand silver marcs ; yet it was not one hun 
dred feet deep. Black silver was conmion in the mines 
of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, and Eeal del Monte. Muri- 
ated silver abounded in the mines of Catorce, and Cerro 
San Pedro. At Fresnillo it was frequently olive-green ; 
superb samples of this colour were found in the mines 
of Vallorecaa. The veins of Zimapan, a little to the 
north of Eeal del Monte, offered a great variety of 
curious minerals; among others chrysophrase, and a 
new species of opal of rare beauty. Humboldt procured 
one of these opals of great size, and carried it with him 
when he returned to Europe. The mineralogists Karsten 
and Klaproth described it as a fire-opal. 

Of all the rock-formations in Mexico the porphyritic 
rocks were the richest in gold and silver ; then came 
primitive slate, gray wacke, and alpine limestone. Cop- 
per was found in the mines of Ingaram, and at San Juan 
Guetamo. Tin was sometimes obtained by washing the 
alluvial lands. Iron, too, was abundant 

From Guanaxuato Humboldt proceeded in a southerly 
direction to Salamanca. He stopped at Salamanca long 
enough to fix its latitude and longitude, and then con- 
tinued his journey to Valladolid, the capital of the In- 
tcndancy of that name. Valladolid was a small city, 
containing only eighteen thousand inhabitants. Its ele- 
vation was six thousand four hundred feet above the sea, 
yet snow had been known to fall in its streets. It con- 
tained nothing worthy of notice, except an aqueduct, and 
a bishop's palace. 

From Valladolid he proceeded to Pq^uaro. 


. Pascuaro was situated on the picturesque banks of a 
little lake of the same name. This lake, and the scenery 
in its vicinity, Humboldt declared, would alone have re- 
paid him for his voyage across the ocean. The city or 
town of Pascuaro contained the ashes of a remarkable 
man, Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Mechoacan. 
He was the benefactor of the Indians in his diocese, 
whose industry he encouraged, prescribing one particular 
branch of trade to each village. He died in 1556 ; but 
even in Humboldt's time his memory was venerated by 
the Indians, who continued to call him their father. 

The Indians of the province of Valladolid formed 
three races of different origin, the Tarascs, celebrated in 
the sixteenth century for the gentleness of their manners, 
for their industry in the mechanical arts, and for the 
harmony of their language, abounding in vowels ; the 
Otomites, a tribe far behind them in civilization, whc 
spoke a language full of nasal and guttural aspirations 
and the Chichimecs, who had preserved the Mexican Ian 
guage. All the south part of the Intendancy of Valla 
dolid was inhabited by Indians. In the villages, the onl;j 
white figure to be met with was the curi, and he also 
was frequently an Indian, or Mulatto. The benefices 
were so poor there, that the bishop of Mechoacan had 
the greatest difl&culty in procuring ecclesiastics to settle 
in a country where Spanish was almost never spoken, 
and where along the coast of the Great Ocean, the priests, 
infected by the contagious miasmata of malignant fevers, 
firequently died before the expiration of seven or eight 

But the wonder of the Intendancy of Valladolid, and 
indeed of Mexico itself, was the remarkable volcano of 


Jorullo, which lay a little to the south of Fascuaro. Tha 
great catastrophe in which this mountain rose from the 
earth, and by which a considerable extent of grounJi 
totally changed its appearance, is one of the most extra- 
ordinary physical revolutions in the history of our planet. 
Geology points out the parts of the ocean, where, at 
recent epochs, within the last two thousand years, near 
the Azores, in the jEgean sea, and to the south of Iceland, 
small volcanic islands have risen above the surGace of 
the water; but it gives us no example of the formation, 
from the centre of a thousand small burning cones, of a 
mountain of scoriae and ashes one thousand seven hun- 
dred feet in height, comparing it only with the level of 
the old adjoining plains, in the interior of a continent, 
thirty-six leagues distant from the coast, and more than 
forty-two leagues from every other active volcano. This 
remarkable phenomenon was sung in hexameter verses 
by the Jesuit Father Eaphael Landivar, a native of Gua- 
timala. It is mentioned by the Ahh4 Clavigero in the 
ancient history of his country ; and yet, till Humboldt 
visited and described it, it remained unknown to the 
mineralogists and naturalists of Europe, though it took 
place not more than fifty years before, and within six 
days' journey of the capital of Mexico. 

A vast plain extended from the hills of Aguasarco to 
near the villages of Teipa and Petatlan, both equally 
celebrated for their fine plantations of cotton. This 
plain was at the most not over two thousand six hun- 
dred feet above the level of the sea. In the middle 
of a tract of ground in which porphyry, with a base 
of griinstein predominated, basaltic cones appeared, the 
summits of which were crowned with evergreen oaks 


of a laurel and olive foliage, intermingled with small 
palm trees. This beautiful vegetation formed a singular 
contrast with the aridity of the plain, which was laid 
waste by volcanic fire. 

Till the middle of the eighteenth century, fields culti- 
vated with sugar-cane and indigo occupied the extent of 
ground between two brooks, called Cuitamba, and San 
Pedro. They were bounded, by basaltic mountains, of 
which the structure seemed to indicate that all this coun- 
try at a very remote period had been already several 
times convulsed by volcanoes. These fields, watered by 
artificial means, belonged to the plantation of San Pedro 
de JoruUo, one of the greatest and richest of the coun- 
try; In the month of June, 1759, a subterraneous sound 
was heard.' Hollow noises of a most alarming nature 
were accompanied by firequent earthquakes, which suc- 
ceeded one another for from fifty to sixty days, to the 
great consternation of the inhabitants of the plantation. 
From the beginning of September everything seemed to 
announce the complete re-establishment of tranquillity, 
when in the night between the 28th and 29th, the horri- 
ble subterraneous noise recommenced. The affrighted 
Indians fled to the mountains of Aguasarco. A tract 
of ground, from three to four square miles in extent, 
rose up in the shape of a bladder. The bounds of this 
convulsion were still distinguishable in the fractured 
strata. The Malpays near its edges was only thirty-nine 
feet above the old level of the plain ; but the convexity 
of the ground thus thrown up increased progressively 
towards the centre to an elevation of aboijt five hundred 
and twenty feet 

Those who witnessed this great catastrophe from the 



top of Aguasarco, asserted that flames were seen to issue 
forth for an extent of more than half a square league, 
that fragments of burning rocks were thrown up to pro- 
digious heights, and that through a thick cloud of ashes, 
illumined by the volcanic fire, the softened surfece of 
the earth was seen to swell like an agitated sea. The 
rivers of Cuitamba and San Pedro precipitated them- 
selves into the burning chasms. The decomposition of 
the water contributed to invigorate the flames, which 
were distinguishable at Pascuaro, though it was situated 
on extensive table-land, four thousand six hundred 
feet elevated above the plaint of Jorullo. Eruptions of 
mud, and especially of strata of clay enveloping balls of 
decomposed basalts in concentricaJ layers, jippeared to 
indicate that subterraneous water had no small share in 
producing this extraordinary revolution. Thousands of 
small cones, from six to nine feet in height, called by the 
Indians ovens, issued forth from the Malpays. Each 
smaU cone was a funnel, from which a thick vapour 
ascended to the height of forty or fifty feet. In many 
of them a subterraneous noise was heard, which appearec 
to announce the proximity of a fluid in ebullition. 

In the midst of the ovens six large masses elevated 
from thirteen hundred to seventeen hundred feet each 
above the old level of the plains, sprung up from a 
chasm. The most elevated of these enormous masses 
was the great Volcano of Jorullo. It was continually 
burning, and had thrown up from the north side an im- 
mense quantity of scorified and basaltic lavas containing 
fragments of primitive rocks. These great eruptions of 
the central volcano continued till the month of February, 
1760. In the following years they became gradually less 


frequent. The Indians, frightened at the horrible noises 
of the new volcano, abandoned at first all the villages 
situated within seven or eight leagues of the plain of Jo- 
rullo. They became by degrees, however, accustomed to 
this terrific spectacle ; and having returned to their cot- 
tages, they advanced towards the mountains of Augua- 
sarco and Santa Ines, to admire the streams of fire dis- 
charged from an infinity of great and small volcanic 
apertures. The roofe of the houses of Queretaro were 
then covered with ashes at a distance of more than fi>rty- 
eight leagues in a straight line from the scene of the ex- 
plosion. Although the subterraneous fire appeared to 
Humboldt fiir from violent, and the Malpays and the 
great volcano began to be covered with vegetables, he 
found the ambient air heated to such a degree by the ac- 
tions of the small ovens, that the thermometer, at a great 
distance from the surface, and in the shade, rose as high 
as 109^. This feet appeared to prove, that there was no 
exaggeration in the accounts of several old Indians, who 
affirmed, that for many years after the first eruption, the 
plains of Jorullo, even at a great distance from the scene 
of the explosion, were uninhabitable, from the excessive 
heat which prevailed in them. 

Humboldt was shown, near tho Cerro de Santa Ines, 
the rivers of Cuitamba and San Pedro. These streams 
disappeared in the night of the 29th September, 1769 ; 
but, at a distance of six thousand five hundred feet far- 
ther west, in the tract which was the theatre of the con- 
vulsion, he saw two rivers bursting through tlie argilla- 
ceous vault of the ovens, of the appearance of mineral 
waters, in which the thermometer rose to 126^. Tne In- 
dians continued to give them the names of San Pedro and 


Cuitamba, because in several parts of the Malpaya great 
masses of water were still heard to run from east to west 

In the opinion of the Indians, these extraordinary 
transformations, the surface of the earth raised up and 
burst by the volcanic fire, and the mountains of scoria 
and ashes heaped together, were the work of the monks, 
the greatest, no doubt, which they have ever produced in 
the two hemispheres! In the cottage which Humboldt 
occupied in the plains of JoruUo, his Indian host related 
to him, that, in 1759, Capuchin missionaries came to 
preach at the plantation of San Pedro, and not having 
met with a fevourable reception (perhaps not having got 
so good a dinner as they expected), they poured out the 
most horrible and unheard of imprecations against the 
then beautiful and fertile plain, and prophesied that in 
the first place the plantation would be swallowed up by 
flames rising out of the earth, and that afterwards the 
ambient air would cool to such a degree, that the neigh- 
bouring mountains would for ever remain covered with 
snow and ice. The former of these maledictions having 
already produced such fetal effects, the Indians contem- 
plated in the increasing coolness of the volcano, the 
sinister presage of a perpetual winter. 

After visiting the volcano of Jorullo, and descending, 
on the 19th of September, two hxmdred and fifty feet into 
the burning crater of the central cone, Humboldt re- 
turned to the capital. The arrangement of his botanical 
and geological collections, and the regulation and calcu- 
lation of his barometric and trigonometric measurements, 
detained him and Bonpland there until the beginning of 
January, 1804. It would have been difficult to have 
found anywhere, least of all in the doke far niente of 


Mexico, two busier men than the travellers were at this 
tame. They were up to their eyes in work, Humloldt 
surrounded with rocks, ores, minerals, observations, 
maps and road-books, and Bonpland with thousands of 
strange plants, many of them unknown to botanists. 
But busy as they were, the travellers found time to 
mingle in the gay society of the capital, and to make 
short excursions in the neighbourhood. 

Having made several journeys to the northern, west- 
em, and southern parts of the country, Humboldt now 
determined to see some of the eastern portions, lying 
along the gulf of Mexico. So in company with Bon- 
pland he started off in January for Xalapa and Vera 
Cruz. On their way the travellers stopped at the vol- 
canoes of Iztaocihuatl and Popocatepetl, and the pyramid 
of Cholula. This famous pyramid, the largest in all 
Mexico, stood in the vicinity of the old city of Cholula, 
in the intendancy of Puebla. ]J^he inhabitants of this 
city," so writes Oortez, in his third letter to the Em- 
peror Charles V., ** are better clothed than any we have 
hitherto seen. People in easy circumstances wear cloaks 
above their dress. These cloaks differ from those of 
Africa, for they have pockets, though the cut, cloth, and 
fringes are the same. The environs of the city are very 
fertile and well cultivated. Almost all the fields may be 
watered, and the city is much more beautiful than all 
those in Spain, for it is well fortified, and built on very 
level ground. I can assure your highness, that from the 
top of a mosque, I reckoned more than four hundred 
towers all of mosques. The number" of the inhabitants 
is so great, that there is not an inch of ground unculti- 
vated ; and yet in several places the Indians experience 


the eftfects of famine, and there are many b^gara, who 
ask alms from the rich in the streets, houses, and market- 
place, as is done bv the mendicants in Spain, and other 
civilized countries/y^ 

When the pyramid of Cholula was in its prime, its 
summit was covered with an altar dedicated to Quetzal- 
coatl, the God of the Air. He was a white and bearded 
man, like the Bochica, of whom we have spoken in our 
description of the faUs of Tequendema. He was high 
priest of Tula, legislator and chief of a religious sect> 
which inflicted on themselves the most cruel penances. 
He introduced the custom of piercing the lips and ears, 
and lacerating the rest of the body with the prickles of 
the agave leaves, or the thorns of the cactus ; and of 
putting reeds into the wounds, in order that the blood 
might be seen to trickle more copiously. 

The reign of Quetzalcoatl, strange to. say, was the 
golden age of the people of Anahuac. Men and animals 
lived in peace : the earth brought forth without culture 
the fruitfullest of harvests, and the air was filled with in- 
numerable birds, of whom it was difficult to say, which 
was most admired — the beauty of their plumage, or the 
sweetness of their song. Such a blessed epoch could 
not, and did not last long. The great spirit Tezcatlipoca, 
oflFered Quetzalcoatl a rare beverage which rendered him 
immortal, and inspired him with a taste for travelling. 
He started off at once for the distant country of Tlap^ 
allan. The inhabitants of Cholula, through whose terri- 
tory he passed, offering him the reins of government, he 
remained among them twenty years. He taught them to 
cast metals; ordered fasts of eight days; regulateU the 
intercalations of their year; preached peace to them, and 


would permit no other offerings to the Divinity than the 
first firuits of the harvest. From Cholula he proceeded 
to the mouth of the river Groasacoalco, where he disap- 
peared, declaring however, that he would return soon, to 
govern the Cholulans again, and renew their happiness. 

The unhappy Montezuma thought he recognised the 
posterity of this saint in the soldiers of Cortez 1 " We 
know by our books," said he in his first interview with 
the Spanish General, " that myself and those who inhabit 
this country are not natives, but strangers who came from 
a great distance. We know also that the chief who led 
our ancestors hither, returned for a certain time to his 
primitive country, and thence came back to seek those 
who were established here. He found them married to 
the women of this land, and living in cities which they 
had built. Our ancestors hearkened not to their ancient 
fiither, and he returned alone. We have always believed 
that his descendants would one day come to take posses- 
sion of this country. Since you arrive fi'om that region 
where the sun rises, and, as you assure me, you have 
long known us, I cannot doubt, but that the king who 
sends you, is our natural master.'^ So far Cortez in his 
first letter. How fer he and his soldiers resembled Quet- 
zalcoatl, the Mexican Prince of Peace, the readers of 
Mexican history must judge for themselves. 

Cholula in its glory was one of 

" The Delphian vales, the Palestines, 
The Meccas of the mind." 

It was the holy city of the ancient Mexicans, who pe» 
sorted thither from the most distant parts of the empire. 


Its streets were picturesque with the long traiu of theii 
processions, its winds were jubilant with their baroaric 
music With noise and pomp they marched to the great 
pyramid, whose smnmit was crowned with perpetual 
flame, that rose from the temple of Quetzalcoatl. Climb- 
ing the steps that led from terrace to terrace they reached 
the shrine, and worshipped the image of the god. It 
was a monstrous idol of stone, holding in one hand a 
shield covered with hieroglyphic^ and in the other a 
jeweled sceptre. Upon its head was a mitre with plumes ; 
its neck was encircled with a collar of gold, while from 
its ears hung pendants of turquoise. " Glory to Quetzal- 
coatl I the mighty God of the Air!" 

But to return from the Past to the Present, fix)m Tra- 
dition to Pact. The perpendicular height of the pyramid 
when Humboldt and Bonpland saw it, was one hundred 
and seventy-seven feet; the horizontal breadth of its base 
was one thousand four hundred feet It had four sides, 
fiEicing the cardinal points, an(i as many terraces; alto- 
gether it covered a space of forty-five thousand square 
feet. They had a magnificent view from its summit^ 
seeing at one glance four moimtains, Popocatepetl, Iztao- 
cihuatl, the peak of Orizaba, and the Sierra de Tlascala, 
famous for its tempests. Three of these mountains were 
higher than Mont Blanc, two were burning volcanoes. 

The Pyramid of Cholula was built of unbaked bricks, 
alternating with layers of clay. Humboldt was assured 
by the Indians that the inside was hollow. During the 
abode of Cortez at Mexico, their ancestors, they said, 
concealed in the body of the pyramid a considerable 
number of warriors, for the purpose of falling suddenly 
on the Spaniards. The material of which the pyramid 


was built, and the silence of historians on so singular a 
circumstance led Humboldt to doubt the truth of the 
tradition. It was certain, however, that in this pyramid 
there were several cavities, which had been used as 
sepxdchres for the natives, A short time previous the old 
road which ran from Puebla to Mexico was changed, and 
in tracing the new one the first terrace was cut through, 
so that an eighth part remained isolated, like a heap of 
bricks. In making this opening a square house was dis- 
covered in the interior of the pyramid. This house con- 
tained two skeletons, several idols in basalt, and a great 
number of vases curiously varnished and painted. There 
was no outlet! To whom did these vases and idols 
belong? Of whom were those skeletons the remains? 
Humboldt conjectured that the pyramid was built by 
prisoners, taken by the Cholulans in their wars with the 
neighbouring nations, and that these were the skeletons 
of some unfortunate slaves who had been shut up in the 
interior of the pyramid to perish. It seems to us, how- 
ever, that they were the remains of some important state 
personages, condemned for some reason which must ever 
remain unknown, to die in this horrible manner. Might 
not the King of the Toltecs, like another civilized bar- 
barian of later times, have had his Man in the Iron Mask ? 
A wife fiJse to him ? A daughter loving ^below herself? 
Upon the platform of the pyramid the Spaniards had 
built a little chapel, dedicated to the Virgin de les Eeme- 
•dios. Here an ecclesiastic of Indian blood celebrated 
mass every day. Crowds came from far and near to 
witness the festival, and among them were many of the 
descendants of the ancient people, to whom the land had 
once belonged. What thoughts must have crowded 



upon them as they stood there, silent and degraded, the 
last of their racel "Glory to Quetzalcoatl I" no longer 
rent the air; it was drowsy with " the blessed mutter of 
the mass," and 

" Good, strong, thick, stupifying incenseHsmoke." • 

Quetzalcoatl had passed away, but his altar still remained. 
A mysterious dread, a religious awe pervaded their souls 
as they gazed upon that immense pile, covered with 
shrubbery and perpetual verdure. 

The pyramid of Cholula having led the travellers a 
little beyond Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, they turned 
back and visited these volcanoes. Before proceeding to 
Xalapa, Humboldt determined their geographical posi- 
tion by his observations, and measured their height. 
Iztaccihuatl he found to be fifteen thousand seven hun- 
dred feet above the sea, and Popocatepetl seventeen thou- 
sand seven hundred, which was two thousand feet higher 
than the most elevated summit of the old world. He 
ascended to the summit of the latter mountain. It was 
an ever-burning volcano, but for several centuries it had 
thrown up nothing fh>m its crater but smoke and ashes. 

Speaking of a report that prevailed in Mexico, that 
Diego Ordaz penetrated into the crater of Popocatepetl, 
for the purpose of procuring sulphur for the Spaniards 
to make powder with, Humboldt gossips thus about the 
circumstance, and the mountain itself. 

" When the united army of the Spaniards and Tlas- 
caltecs, in the month of October, 1519, marched from 
Cholula to Tenochtitlan, across the Cordillera of Ahualco, 
which unites the Sierra Nevada to the volcanic summit 


of Popocatepetl ; the army suflfered both from the cold, 
and the extreme impetuosity of the winds, which con- 
stantly prevail on the table-land. Writing of this march 
to the Emperor, Cortez expresses himself in the follow- 
ing manner: * Seeing smoke issue from a very elevated 
mountain, and wishing to make to your royal excellency 
a minute report of whatever this country contains of 
wonderful, I chose from among my companions in arms, 
ten of the most courageous, and I ordered them to ascend 
to the summit, and to discover the secret of the smoke, 
and to tell me whence and where it issued.' 

" Bemal Diaz affirms that Diego Ordaz was of that 
expedition, and that this captain attained the very brink 
of the crater. He may have happened to boast of it 
afterwards, for it is related by other historians, that the 
Emperor gave him permission to place a volcano on his 
arms. Lopez de *Gomara, who composed his history 
from the accounts of the Conquistadores and religious 
missionaries, does not name Ordaz as the chief of the 
expedition ; but he vaguely asserts that two Spaniards 
measured with the eye the size of the crater. Cortez, 
however, expressly says : * That his people ascended very 
high ; that they saw much smoke issue out, but that none 
of them could reach the volcano, on account of the enor- 
mous quantity of snow with which it was covered, the 
rigour of the cold, and the clouds of ashes that enveloped 
the travellers.' A terrible noise which they heard on 
approaching the summit determined them to turn im- 
mediately back. We see from the account of Cortez, 
that the expedition of Ordaz had no view of extracting 
sulphur from the volcano, and that neither he nor hia 
companions saw the, crater in 1519. *They brought 


back,' sajs Cortez, * only snow and pieces of ice, the ap- 
pearance of which astonished us very much, because this 
country is under the 20** of latitude, in the parallel of the 
island Espanola, and consequently, according to the 
opinion of the pilots, ought to be very warm.' 

" Three years later, however, after two Unsuccessful 
attempts, the Spaniards succeeded in seeing the crater of 
Popocatepetl. It seemed to them three-fourths of a 
league in circumference, and they found on the brink of 
the precipice a small quantity of sulphur, which had 
been deposited there by the vapours. Cortez relates: 
* that he is in no want of sulphur for the manufacture of 
powder, because a Spaniard drew some from a mountain 
which perpetually smokes, by descending, tied to a rope, 
to the depth of firom seventy or eighty fathoms.' 

" A document preserved in the fiimily of the MontaBoa, 
and which Cardinal Lorenzana affirms he once had in 
his hands, proves that the Spaniard of whom Cortez 
speaks, was Francisco MontafLo. Did that intrepid man 
really enter into the crater of Popocatepetl ; or did he 
extract the sulphur, as several persons in Mexico sup- 
pose, from a lateral crevice of the volcano? M. Alzate, 
with very little foundation affirms, that Diego Ordaz ex- 
tracted sulphur from the crater of the old volcano of 
Tuctli, to the east of the lake of Chalco, near the Indian 
village of Tuliahualco. The makers of contraband pow- 
der no doubt procure sulphur there ; but Cortez expressly 
designates Popocatepetl by the phrase, *the mountain 
which constantly smokes.' Be this as it may, it is certain 
that after the rebuilding of the city of Tenochtitlan, the 
soldiers of the army of Cortez ascended the summit of 
Popocatepetl, where nobody has since been." 


From the volcanoes of Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, 
the travellers proceeded to Xalapa, travelling for the most 
part over lofty mountaius, and through dense forests of 
oaks and fir-trees. Tbey lodged while at Xalapa in the 
convent of Saint Francis, the view from which was mag- 
nificent On one hand they could see the plains and the 
ocean ; on the other the declivities of the Cordilleras of 
Anahuac, and the colossal summits of Orizaba and the 
Coffer of Perote. • The Coffer of Perote was a rock of 
singular shape on the eastern side of the summit of the 
porphyritic mountain of that name. It resembled a 
square tower, and served as a signal to the sailors who 
put in at Vera Cruz. The harbour of Vera Cruz, and 
the castle of San Juan de Ulua, were visible from this 
great watch-tower. Nothing at the summit announced a 
crater, yet the mountain was enveloped in a thick bed of 
pumice-stone. Its height was thirteen thousand five 
hundred feet. The peak of Orizaba, which Humboldt 
ascended, and which he always regarded as the most 
magnificent mountain in the world, was two or three 
hundred feet higher than the crater of Popocatepetl. 

The intendancy of Vera Cruz like that of Puebla was 
celebrated for its ruins. The most remarkable of these 
was the pyramid of Papantla. It was situated in the 
midst of a thick forest, at the distance of two leagues 
fipom a great Indian village. It was unknown to the 
Spaniards, for centuries ; for as it was an object of vene- 
ration among the Indians, they concealed its existence 
from the conquerors of their country ; and it was only 
discovered accidentally by some hunters, about thirty 
years before the time of Humboldt's visit It was not 
constructed of bricks, or clay mixed with stones, and 


faced with a wall, like the pyramids of Cholula and 
Teotihuacan ; the only materials employed were inmienae 
stones of a porphyritical shape. Mortar was distinguish- 
able in the seams. The edifice, however, was not so 
remarkable for its size as for its symmetry, the polish of 
the stones, and the great r^ularity of their cut The 
base of the pyramid was an exact square, each side being 
eighty-two feet in length. The perpendicular height 
i^peared not to be more than from fifty to sixty feet 
This monument, like all the Mexican temples, was com- 
posed of several terrace. Six were still distinguishable, 
and a seventh appeared to be concealed by the v^etation 
with which the sides of the pyramid were covered. A 
great stair of fifty-seven steps conducted to the truncated 
top of the pyramid, where the human victims were sacri- 
ficed. On each side of the great stair was a small stair. 
The feeing of the terraces was adorned with hierogly- 
phics, in which serpents and crocodiles carved in relief 
were discernible. Each terrace contained a great nimiber 
of square niches synametrically distributed. In the first 
story were twenty-four on each side, in the second 
twenty, and in the third sixteen. The number of these 
niches in the body of the pyramid was three hundred 
and sixty-six, and there were twelve in the stair towards 
the east. The Abb^ Marquez supposed that this number 
of three hundred and seventy-eight niches had some 
allusion to a calendar of the Mexicans; and he even 
believed that in each of them one of the twenty figures 
was repeated, which, in the hieroglyphical language of 
the Toltecs, served as a symbol for marking the days 
of the common year, and the intercalated days at the 
end of the cycles. 


The route fixjm Xalapa to Perote was thrice travelled 
over by Humboldt and Bonpland, and each time sub- 
jected to barometric measurements, for the purposes of 
a post road, which was afterwards constructed in that 
locality, according to Humboldt's plans. 

The remainder of their stay in the New World was 
destitute of incident, and may be summed up briefly. 

From Xalapa they proceeded to Vera Cruz, where the 
yellow fever was raging. They stopped here a few 
days when a Spanish firigate sailing for Havana, they 
took passage in her, quitting the shores of Mexico on the 
7th of March. They remained at Havana two months 
attending to the packing and shipping of their various 
collections, and then set sail for Philadelphia, which 
they reached after a stormy passage of thirty-two days. 
While in Philadelphia, at a public library, Humboldt 
received intelligence which delighted him. It was in a 
scientific publication, and to this effect : " Arrival of M. 
de Humboldt's manuscripts at his brother's house in 
Paris, by way of Spain." He could hardly help shout- 
ing for joy. 

From Philadelphia they proceeded to Washington, 
where Humboldt was introduced to Jefferson. 

They left the New World on the 9th of June, 1804. 





One pleasant August day, fifty-five years ago, in a 
quiet chamber in Paris, sat a pale and thoughtful woman. 
The chamber was decidedly French, the furniture dating 
back, it may be, to the days of Louis Quatorze ; yet there 
was something in its atmosphere not quite in keeping. 
Perhaps it was the books and pictures, both of which 
were Gterman, or it might have been the lady herself, 
who was also German. She was not beautiful ; her 
figure was a little crooked, but the contour of her head 
was fine, and her eyes were remarkably brilliant Indeed, 
her eyes were too brilliant, large and lustrous, as is often 
the case with those who are, or have been, ill. That this 
lady was ill, could be seen at a glance. Being a wife and 
mother she had known all the pains and pleasures of 
woman. She knew what it was to give birth to children, 
and to have her children die. A few months before she 
had given birth to a daughter, her fifth child, who soon 
died. It was this that made her pale and thoughtful. 
On the couch beside her lay a book, which she had just 
been reading, a Gterman book, the work of Qt)ethe, or 
Schiller. Beside her was a bundle of letters, one with a 
foreign post mark. It was directed to her husband, 


William Von Humboldt. The lady was Frau Carolineii 
and the letter was from Alexander. It was dated in 
March, at Havana, and announced his speedy return 
from the New World. Two or three months had passed 
since it was received in Rome, and yet there were no 
tidings of him. None, at least, that they wished to 
believe. There was at one tinae an ugly report that he 
had died of the yellow fever, but it lacked confirmation, 
they thought. So Frau Caroline, who had been spend- 
ing a few weeks at Weimar, with her friend Schiller, 
had come up to Paris to see if she oould not learn some- 
thing definite concerning the long-absent Alexander. 

While she was sitting there with his letter before her, 
that pleasant August day, there came a tap at the door, 
and a note was handed her by a messenger. It was 
from the Secretary of the National Institute, announcing 
the arrival of the traveller in the Garonne. He was 
then at Bordeaux, and would shortly be in Paris. Her 
heart was lightened of one load ; her pale cheek kindled, 
and snatching a pen, she wrote the good news to bar 

In a few days Alexander himself appeared. 

From time to time during his five years' absenoe, 
rumours of his travels were noised abroad, and he was 
much talked about, not only by scientific men, who 
naturally felt a deep interest in him and his pursuits, but 
by the world at large. Great'changes had been wrought 
since he left ; battles had been fought, before which the 
famous fields of antiquity must " pale their inefTectual 
fires :" empires had risen and fallen, or were tottering to 
their fall, yet he was not forgotten. The crash of empires, 
the thunder of battles had not drowned the '^ still small 


voice" of Science, and the name of its most distinguished 
votary, Alexander Von Humboldt. He returned to find 
himself fiunous. 

He was warmly welcomed by the savans of Paris, 
The collections which he had brought from the New 
World were richer than any that had ever before been 
brought into Europe from foreign countries. Other tra- 
vellers, selecting some specioMti, with which they parti- 
cularly sympathized, had enriched different departments 
of science, but Humboldt and Bonpland, universal in 
their tastes and pursuits, enriched all. Botany, geology, 
mineralogy, geography, climate — ^they left nothing un- 
touched. Their collections and journals contained the 
natural history of a continent. They had achieved a 
great triumph by their travels, but its fruit was yet to 
come. As they had travelled for the interests of science 
rather than their own private gratification, for the world 
rather than themselves, it was necessary that the world 
should know the results of their travels. For themselves 
it was not necessary, for they could recall them day by 
day, and step by step, without even turning to their jour- 
nals. The rocks and ores in their cases, the plants in 
their herbals, were dumb historians of their progress. 
Even their mirrors were tell-tales, whispering, as they 
reflected their sun-bronzed feces, the gorgeous secret of 
the tropics. Of this, however, the world could know 
nothing. They might, as they afl«rwards did, deposit 
their collections in Museums of Natural History. This 
would be something towards making known the results 
of their five years' sojourn in the New World, but it 
would not be much after all. By this means they might 
reach the scientific and the curious, but not the world. 


There was but one way to reach the world, and that was 
by writing. 

Such, we may conceive, were the thoughts of the tra- 
vellers as they surveyed their collections and journals. In 
the meantime there were some arrears to be settled before 
they could ftdly resume their old life of civilization and 
refinement There were half-sundered ties to be renewed ; 
letters to be written ; friends to be seen ; homes- to be 
visited ; and for one at least, a debt of love to be paid. 
Before Alexander could begin the great work he must 
see his brother William, who was then at Albano. He 
learned from Frau Caroline, to whom his return had been 
a cordial of health, all that had taken place since his de- 
parture. When he started for the New World he left 
William in Paris, but the letters which he wrote him 
during his journey in Spain, led the latter to undertake 
a journey thither. He left Paris in July or August, 
1799, accompanied by Frau Caroline and his &mily, and 
proceeded to Garonne and the Pyrenees, crossing over 
into Spain at St Jean de Luz. In the autumn he 
reached Biscay. He was delighted with the Basque 
nation, whose strange language opened a new field for 
his philological studies. From Vittoria he travelled 
to Madrid: thence to Cadiz^ Seville, Valencia, and Bar- 
celona*. The journey ended in the plains and mountains 
of Catalonia. 

In 1802 he was made a chamberlain by the King of 
Pmssia, and appointed privy counsellor of legation, and 
resident-ambassador at the court of Rome, an office 
which he still filled. In literature he had not done 
much, beyond planning great works, many of which were 
never executed. He was then, or as Frau Caroline 

GAY-LUS8AC. 311 

doubtless said to Alexander, in August, 1804, " He is 
now translating Agamemnon." 

The fact of William's being hard at work on his be- 
loved -^Ischylus, and that Frau Caroline intended to re- 
main in Paris until the commencement of the following 
year, determined Alexander to remain there until he had 
regulated his collections and arranged his journals for 
publication. He renewed his intimacy with his former 
scientific associates, especially with his friend, Gay-Lus- 
sac, who had just distinguished himself as an aeronaut, 
by making two ascensions fix)m the Conservatory of Arts, 
one with M. Biot, on the 24th of August, and one alone, 
on the 15th of September. The object of these ascen- 
sions was to examine whether the magnetic power ex- 
perienced any appreciable diminution as we leave the sur- 
face of the earth. Saussure, who made experiments on 
the Col du Geant, at eleven thousand feet above the level 
of the sea, thought he could perceive a very sensible de- 
crease of magnetic virtue : some aeronauts even asserted 
that it vanished at a certain height. Loaded with a cargo 
of galvanic apparatus, barometers, thermometers, hygro- 
meters, and electrometers, besides a small menagery of 
fix)gs, insects, and birds, Biot and Gay-Lussac rose from the 
Conservatory amid the plaudits of all Paris. The lower 
side of the clouds through which they passed had a bluish 
tint, similar to that which they exhibit on the surface of the 
earth, but as they rose above them, they saw that they 
were full of small eminences and undulations, like a vast 
field of snow ploughed and drifted by the wind. They 
commenced their experiments at the height of six thou- 
sand five hundred feet, and continued them to the height 
of fifteen thousand seven hundred feet, and the result of 


their observations was that the magnetic property expe 
rienced no appreciable diminution. 

This first trip not being considered satiafiMStoiy in some 
respects, Gay-Lussac made the second alone, and ascended 
to the height of four miles and a quarter. He still saw 
clouds above him, at a great height^ but none below. The 
atmosphere had a dull misty appearance. He suffered 
intensely from the cold during his experiments. His 
hands were benumbed ; he breathed with difficulty ; his 
pulse was much quickened, and his throat was so parched 
that he could scarcely swallow a morsel of bread. The 
result of his experiments was the same as before — 
namely, that the magnetic qui^ty does not diminifih as 
we proceed from the surface of the earth. 

Humboldt, to whom great heights were by this time no 
novelty, was deeply interested in these researches of Gay- 
Lussac, and afterwards joined him in them. His only 
literary labour at this time was an essay on the Geology 
of America, published in the ''Journal of Natural His- 

In the spring of 1806 he accompanied Frau Caroline, 
who in the meantime had had another child, a little 6us* 
tavus, to Albano. The reader will be good enough to 
imagine the meeting of the brothers, who were both men 
of strong feelings, though they did not always show 
them, and loved and respected each other as two such 
brothers should. Be sure they had much to talk o^ be 
fore they settled into the quite routine of life, William 
of his studies^ and Alexander of his travels. He had 
remembered his brother's tastes in the distant r^ons of 
the New World, and had collected for him, in missions 
and cloisters, and wherever he could, a great number of 

▲LBANO. 313 

grammars of American dialects. These treasures he 
gave to William, with the stipulation that he would oc- 
casionally lend them to Professor Vater and Frederick 
Schlegel, both noted philologists. 

The Humboldts were as much sought after at Albano, 
as they had previously been at Paris, not only by their 
own countrymen, of whom they knew a goodly number, 
but by all the learned and great, residing in Eome and 
the vicinity. They still gave dinner parties, esthetic teas, 
etc., to which the elect were invited. Among those who 
visited them at this time were the sculptors, Thorwaldsen 
and Eauch, and Sismondi, A. W. Schlegel, and Madame 
de Stael. The latter lived so near the Humboldts that 
they might be said to form one household. 

Notwithstanding the gay life that he led at Albano, 
Humboldt was far from idle ; for he contrived to find or 
make time to visit the great libraries of Bome, especially 
that of the Vatican, and the fsimous Museum of Cardinal 
Borgia, of Velletri. This Museum was rich in hiero- 
glyphical writings, especially those of Mexico, and he 
renewed in it his acquaintance with his- old friends, the 
Aztecs, and copied some quaint specimens of their sin- 
gular picture-language. And, better still, he was joined, 
about this time, by Gay-Lussac, and Leopold Von Buch. 
Learning that Vesuvius was active, they had come to 
Italy, the one from Paris, and the other from Germany, 
to be present at the expected eruption. They witnessed 
it with Humboldt on the 12th of August As neither 
have left a record of the impression it made upon them, 
we conclude that it was not remarkable, or, what is quite 
as likely, that they were preoccupied with other pursuits . 
Gay-Lussac was still engaged with his magnetic experi- 


814 NO man's life eveb wnnTEsr. 

ments, in which he was assisted by Humboldt and V Dn 
Buch, the latter examining the magnetic qualities of the 
serpentine rocks of Vesuvius. In the autumn Humboldt 
departed for Berlin, where he remained nearly two years. 
Though he wrote largely during this year, he seems to 
have published little, except an "Essay on Botanical 
Geography," and a paper on magnetism. 

From this time for twenty years and more, his life 
was as destitute of incident as can well be imagined ; ex- 
cept in a bibliographical point of view it is nearly a blank 
to his biographers. Yet this blank covers the most 
prolific period of his genius, for in it he wrote all his 
great works, except " Kosmos." From 1806 to 1829— 
from his thirty-sixth to his sixtieth year, not much is 
known of Humboldt. We know where he lived during 
that time ; this year he was in Berlin, we can say, and 
that year in Paris ; but this is little. To be sure locality 
is something, for it helps statistical readers to facts, which 
are never to be despised ; but an authentic leaf from the 
book of his life, a momentary gleam of thought or feeling 
would be worth centuries of mere locality. 

And here we are reminded of a thought which has 
often come home to us with striking force, when reading 
the biographies of great men. It is this : No man's life 
was ever written I If a biographer is skilful, like Boswcll 
for instance, he gives us a life-like picture of his hero : 
the colour of his eyes and hair, his voice, his manner of 
speaking, his gestures : his little peculiarities of dress, 
the snuff on his shirt frills, or, possibly, the stains of 
his last night's wine ; or, as in the case of Poor Goldy, 
the awkward patch on the breast of his coat. Still, we 
are not satisfied. Delighted we may be, but satisfied we 


are not. We feel all the while that this is not the man, 
it is but his outline, his frame, his shell. What we want 
to get' at is the man himself and unfortunately that is 
just what we never do get at It is but little to know 
that his head is covered with golden curls, or thatched 
with the snows of age, when we know nothing of the 
brain within it — nothing of the thoughts that struggle 
there like mad demons, or sleep serenely like angels. 
Give us an insight into the man : open his secret doors 
and let us see his heart, whether it be noble or base. 
Does his blood run rich with love, or boil and seethe with 
hate ? Or does it lie like a stagnant pool in a dead marsh, 
loathsome, horrible ? We can never know. 

Granting, however, that the inner life of a man is 
hidden from us, there is still his outer life to be narrated, 
and it is with this that most biographers occupy them- 
selves. It is not, or should not be, difficult to write the 
life of a soldier, for the biographer's work is ready done 
to his hands. What can be want better than 

" The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, 
The royal banner, and all quality, 
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war ?'* 

The biographies of actors, and other adventurers, are 
excellent reading. But authors, whose days and years 
are proverbially barren of incident, and whose profession 
keeps them from mingling actively with the world — how 
shall their lives be made interesting? The most that 
can be done for an author, in a picturesque point of view, 
is to describe him with pens, ink, and paper before him. 
From these, by the subtle alchemy of his genius, books 
are made — poems, novels, histories, but how is a mystery, 


often to the author himself. A man at a table writing 
or, as Miss, who doats on his books, fancies, a pale and 
spiritual genius in his study at night, his brain labouring 
with thought, which his fingers are not swift enough to 
jot down — let the picture be as romantic as possible, the . 
world will never think it equal to a battle-field, although 
it reiterates complacently, 

" The pen is mightier than the sword." 

As with the author, so with the man of science, or raUu^ 
worse with him, for his life, while it is similar to the 
author's, is generally less interesting, which makes the 
writing of his biography more difficult Fortunately, 
however, Humboldt was more than a mere man of 
science, and his life in the main was a stirring one. 
There were intervals of comparative quiet in it, chasms 
of scientific and literary labours, yawning, as it were, 
between epochs of travel and adventure ; but these once 
bridged over, all is well. We shall bridge over, in this 
chapter, Humboldt's scientific life in Paris. 

We left him at Berlin in the autumn of 1805. There 
was no reason for his quitting Albano where he was so 
happily situated, except that he needed more solitude 
than he could find there. He was, doubtiess, too hap- 
pily situated to work as he wished. He remained at 
Berlin two years, writing, and pursuing his scientific 
researches. He continued his magnetic observations, and 
the result of his experiments was, that mountain chains 
and even active volcanoes exercise no perceptible force 
on the magnetic power, but that it deviates gradually 
with its distance from the equator. 

He wrote largely at this time, working up different 


portions of his travels, in the form of essays and treatises, 
which he read before the Academy of Berlin. Two of 
these papers, one on Steppes and Deserts, and another 
on the Cataracts of the Orinoco were included in his 
" Aspects of Nature." Upon this book, which was the 
first, not purely scientific, that he wrote after his return to 
Europe, he was now Busily engaged. Not having made 
up his mind as to the exact fi)rm in which he would cast ' 
his journey, he selected some of its most striking inci- 
dents and phenomena, and interwove them in a series of 
papers, which he called " Aspects of Nature." 

The " Aspects of Nature " is one of the few books 
that he wrote in his native language, and for that reason 
perhaps it was always a favorite with him. When he 
wrote for the scholjy:^ of Europe he wrote in French or 
Latin, but when he wished to reach the hearts of his 
countrymen he wrote in German. It was not published 
until 1808, when he had left Berlin for Paris. It was 
dedicated to his brother William, who acknowledged the 
compliment in one of his finest poems. Humboldt's 
literary life in Berlin may be summed up in the writing 
of the "Aspects of Nature," and in the writing and 
publishing of four smaller works, " Ideas on a Geography 
of Plants," " A Picture of the Natural Productions of 
the Tropics," a " Tableau of the Equinoctial Kegions," 
and a treatise on " Electric Fish." 

In the autumn of 1807 Humboldt removed to Paris, in 
order to be near his beloved collections, and to commence 
his long-delayed work. He had come to the conclusion 
that it could not be done properly, or at any rate as he 
wished to have it done, by one man in the course of a 
life-time, so he divided the material amon^the savans of 


Paris, giving to each the portion for wliich his tastes and 
studies had fitted him. No city in the world was ever 
so rich in men of science, as Paris was then, and all these 
men were Humboldt's personal fiiends. He was ac- 
quainted with most of them before he started on his 
travels: when he returned, opulent in knowledge and 
experience, his acquaintance was 1k>ught by the rest. 
Among his friends at this time, and for years afterwards, 
in fact till the close of their lives, for Humboldt never 
lost a friend, except by death, we may mention Biot, 
Gay-Lussac, Latreille, Cuvier, Laplace, Arago, and Ber- 
thoUet. Arago and Gay-Lussac were the youngest of 
the band, the former being in his twenty-second year, the 
latter in his twenty-ninth. The oldest were Laplace and 
Berthollet, both of whom were within a few months of 
fifty-nine. Cuvier was bom in the same year vrith Hum- 
boldt, and like him Was thirty-eight. 

Claude Louis Berthollet was bom at Talloire, in 
Savoy, on the 9th of December, 1748. Eeceiving his 
early education at Chambery, he entered the university 
of Turin, where he obtained a diploma as doctor of medi- 
cine. Armed with this formidable weapon he came to 
Paris, and was fortunate enough to be appointed physi- 
cian to the Duke of Orleans. While holding this situa- 
tion he devoted himself- to the study of chemistry, and 
published his "Essays," which made him favourably 
known in the world of letters. The influence of the 
Duke procured for him, some years later, the office of 
government commissary, and superintendent of dyeing 
processes. This led him to write a work on the theory 
and practice of dyeing. He was soon afl;er engaged in 
another kind ^f dying, or rather trying to help the 

CUVIER, .31 J. 

Frencli people towards the material for it When the 
Revolution had involved the country in war, saltpetre, 
which at first was plentiftil enough, finally became scarce, 
owing to the difficulties of importation. To make up 
the deficiency Berthollet travelled over France, and 
showed its sanguinary ciioyens how to extract and purify 
the salt Under his teaching any man who desired it, 
might have had a private powder-manufactory of his own. 

In addition to his little lessons in the art of extempo- 
rizing gunpowder, Berthollet was engaged, like many 
other men of science at the time, in teaching the French 
the art of smelting iron, and converting it intx) steel. 
The swords of the dtoyens were probably a little dinted 
with hacking each other, so they wanted new ones. 

In 1792 we find Berthollet one of the Commissioners 
of the Mint, and two years later a member of the Com- 
mission of Agriculture and Arts, and Professor of Che- 
mistry in the Polytechnic and Normal Schools. In 1796 
the Directory, who began to think of returning to civili- 
zation, sent him to Italy to select works of art^nd 
science for the capital. Meeting General Bonaparte 
there, he joined the expedition to Egypt, and helped to 
form the Institute of Cairo. On his return to France 
Napoleon, then first consul, made him a senator, and 
grand officer of the Legion of Honour, and shortly after- 
wards created him a count 

George Leopold Christian Frederic Dagobert Cuvier, 
the most celebrated anatomist of modem times, was born 
at Montbeliard, on the 28d of August, 1769, twenty-two 
days before Humboldt. From his earliest childhood he 
gave indications of great talent. He learned to draw 
from the works of Buffi)n, a copy of which, illustrated 


with plates, fell into his hands in his twelfth year. Latin 
and Greek were among his first studies ; he learned them 
as by intuition, and German with equal facility. He 
also made himself master of most of the modem lan- 
guages. He had a passion for all kinds of reading 
especially for history, the driest details of which he mas- 
tered, and remembered without an eflTort 

Proficient at the age of fourteen in all the branches of 
study taught in the school of Montbeliard, he was sent 
to the Caroline Academy, at Stuttgard, where he re- 
mained four years. His favourite study was the science 
of government, which was one of the five different fecul- 
ties in which lessons were given at this academy. His 
great mental endowments were at once recognised by the 
professors, and by none more warmly than M. Abel, the 
professor of Natural History, who rekindled in the mind 
of the young student his early taste for that science. 

When the Revolution broke out, Cuvier was residing 
in Normandy. Here he met the naturalist, Jessier, who 
discovered his scientific attainments, and put him in 
communication with the savans of Paris. He repaired 
thither in 1795, when the fury of the Revolution had 
subsided, and by the interest of Jessier and Mellin was 
appointed a member of the Commission of Arts, and 
soon after a professor of the School of the Pantheon. 
For the use of this school he composed a treatise on the 
natural history of animals, which served as the basis of 
all subsequent works on zoological classification. From 
the School of the Pantheon he passed to the Museum of 
Natural History, where he filled the chair of Comparative 
Anatomy. When Bonaparte returned from Egypt, in 
1800, he was secretary to the National Institute. The 


revolution of the 18tli Brumaire, made the victorious 
general first consul, and led him to assume the title of 
President of the Institute. This made him acquainted 
with Cuvier, who vacated the post of secretary for the 
chair of Natural Bistory. Wishing, in 1802, to remodel 
the system of public instruction, Napoleon named him 
one of the six inspectors, who were directed to establish 
lyceums in the principal towns in France. His commis- 
sion directed him to Bordeaux and Marseilles. He esta- 
blished lyceums in these cities, and returned to Paris, 
shortly before Humboldt made it his permanent abode. 

Pierre Simon Laplace, the world-renowned mathemati- 
cian, was bom in Normandy on the 23d of Maroh, 1749. 
Of his youth nothing is related, except that he was re- 
markable for his talents. He achieved his first success in 
theology, which he soon abandoned for the study of geo- 
metry. To perfect himself in the science, he came to 
Paris, with letters of recommendation to D'Alembert He 
presented himself at the house of this philosopher, but 
could not succeed in reaching him. Finding his recom- 
mendations useless he sat down and wrote D'Alembert a 
letter on the general principles of mechanics. Astonished 
at its profundity, D'Alembert in his turn waited upon La- 
place. "Sir," said he to the young geometrician, "you 
see that I pay little attention to recommendations. You 
have no need of them. You have made yourself better 
known ; that is sufficient for me. You may command 
" my support." In a few days he had Laplace appointed 
Professor of Mathematics to the Military School of Paris. 

The wind of good luck, blowing from the 18th of 
Brumaire, made Laplace Minister of the Interior. His 
talent for statesmanship not being equal to his talent for 


mathematics and geometry, he resigned the portfolio of 
his office to Lucien Bonaparte. He was then created a 
senator, then vice-chancellor, and at length chamberlain 
of the conservative senate. 

Of his various scientific writings, especially of his 
immortal work, the Traite de Mecanique Celeste^ we shall 
not speak here; neither shall we pursue him through 
his subsequent career. An anecdote of his last days, 
and we have done with Pierre Simon Laplace. 

"You have made many splendid discoveries, mar- 
quis," said a friend to him as he lay on his death-bed. 

" What we know is a little matter," the dying phUo- 
sopher murmured, " what we do not know is immense." 

Of Dominique Fran9oi8 Jean Arago, the celebrated 
astronomer, and equally celebrated friend of Humboldt, 
no sketch is necessary here, as most readers are fiBuniliar 
with his biography. It will be sufficient to say that he 
was at this time engaged in measuring the arc of the 
meridian, a famous and dangerous epoch in his life. Of 
Biot, and Gay-Lussac — ^their balloon ascensions, and mag 
netic experiments, we have already spoken. 

Among these men, and others of less note, minor 
lights in the constellation of science, Humboldt took his 
place, as a star of the first magnitude. He was undoubt- 
edly surpassed by some of them in particular departments 
of study, but in general knowledge, a knowledge of all 
branches of science, and all literatures, he had no supe- 
rior, if indeed an equal. There was no sense of in- 
feriority on his part ; he was a king among his peers. 

Once fairly settled in Paris, he sat down and mapped 
out his great work. Had a book of travels been his object^ 
it would not haye been difficult for him to have written 


it within a reasonable time : many a traveller would*have 
done SO, while Humboldt was thinking about it. A book 
of travels, however, was not his object, at any rate not 
his sole object, it was but a small portion of the task 
which he contemplated. He would do himself justice as 
a traveller by describing the scenes through which he 
had passed; the ocean over which he had sailed; the 
forests in which he had wandered: the rivers he had 
explored; the mountains he had ascended; the ruins he 
had seen ; but he would also do himself justice as a man 
of science. He would give the geography, the geology, 
the botany, in shorty the natural history of the New 
World ; not in a general way, from the vague reports of 
others, but fix)m his own conscientious observations and 
researches. Clearly this was a Herculean task. 

• He divided his material into six portions. First, the 
narrative of his journey ; then its zoology and anatomy ; 
then its political aspect These were followed by its 
astronomy and magnetism, its geology, and its botany. 
Knowing that he could not, without assistance, write 
the multitude of books that such a treatment of his 
travels implied, he parcelled the different portions around 
among his firiends. Arago and Gay-Lussac were to assist 
him in chemistry and meteorology : Latreille and Cuvier 
in anatomy: Laplace in mathematics: Vauquelin and 
Klaproth in mineralogy ; and Bonpland and Kunth, — ; 
(not our old friend, and his boyish tutor, Christian, but 
Charles Sigismund Kunth, Professor of Botany in the 
University of Berlin) in botany. For his own part he 
would superintend their labours, and write the narrative 
of his journey. And now to work, Messieurs I 

To work they went 


As Humboldt laid out his works with great legularity 
the reader may suppose that the same regularity attended 
their publication : but it was not so Not all those that 
related to, and completed one branch of science, appeared 
at one time : they were published as they were written. 
It could not well have been otherwise when so many 
hands were at work. 

To know the years in which Humboldt's books were 
published, is to know the nature of his employment at 
that time. With this due before us we shall trace him 
during his life in Paris. He came thither, the reader 
will remember, in the autumn of 1807. 1808 was a busy 
year with him. It witnessed the publication of two edi- 
tions of his " Aspects of Nature," one in Gterman, the 
other in French ; of a work on latitude and longitude, in 
Latin ; of a Work on electric fish, in German, and of the 
first volume of his work on the equinoctial plants. This 
last publication, an immense folio, with pages two feet, or 
thereabouts, in length, was the first of a series of works 
of the same size and kind. They were mostly written in 
Latin, some by Humboldt, others by Bonpland and 

In the prefiuje to the first volume of " Equinoctial 
Plants," which preftuse, by the way, was written before 
Humboldt visited his brother William at Albano, (it is 
4ated at Paris, March 1, 1805) he speaks of the labours 
to which Bonpland and himself were devoted during 
their five years' travels, and says that botanical researches 
were those with which they occupied themselves most 
assiduously. A great part of the countries through which 
they passed had never been visited by botanists. Don 
Jose Celestino Mutis, director of the botanical expedi- 


tion of New Grenada, whom Humboldt met at Bogota, 
where he was royal astronomer, and to whom he dedi- 
cated the "Equinoctial Plants," had examined before 
them the forests of Turbaco, and the banks of the Rio 
Magdalena; he did not penetrate, however, the moun- 
tains of Quindiu, where they obtained some of their 
rarest botanical specimens. Only one traveller, Joseph de 
Jossieu, had preceded them at Loxa. Ruiz and Pavon 
had examined some portions of Peru, but not the province 
of Jaen de Bracamorras, where the vegetation was richest. 
Cervantes, Se8s6 and Mocino haid made many researches 
in Mexico, but nature was so unexhaustible in that im- 
mense territory that Humboldt and Bonpland obtained 
many specimens, not known to those botanists. 

The number of equinoctial plants which the travellers 
collected in both hemispheres amounted to six thousand 
two hundred diflferent species, many of which were not 
previously known in botany. Their collection surprised 
the most celebrated botanists, it contained so many new 
specimens. In palms, gramines, and cryptogrames, three 
families of plants much neglected by former botanists, 
it was especially rich. 

The " Equinoctial Plants" bore on the title page the 
names of Humbolt and Bonpland as its authors. Most 
of the work, however, was written by Bonpland, who 
was highly complimented by Humboldt His praise of 
his fellow-traveller was as sincere as it was beautiful. 
" If my enterprise," he said, " shall one day be regarded 
as interesting in the progress of botany, the success will 
be almost entirely owing to the active zeal of M. Bon- 
pland." The work was embellished with a great number 
of designs, which were carefully engraved by Sellier. 

326 WORKS PUBLISHED IN 1839-10. 

The second volume of the "Eqiinoctial Plants" was 
published in 1809. 

This, and the two following years, found Humboldt 
hard at work. He had not yet decided, it would seem, 
upon writing a regular narrative of his travels, or, 
deciding, had postponed it for a few years longer, until 
he could see his way more clear before him. He would 
first work up some of his lighter materials. His port- 
folio was full of sketches ; his journals were overflowing 
with astronomical observations. He entrusted the latter 
to Oltmans, a young geometrician of Berlin, who revised 
them and made all the calculations anew, employing the 
lunar tables of Berg, and correcting them at the same 
time by the passage of the moon over the meridian. 
The Institute of France recognised the seven hundred 
positions calculated in this manner as the greatest mass 
of materials for astronomical geography then existing, 
and awarded to Oltmans, in 1809, the prize for astro- 
nomy. His work, " A Collection of Astronomical Ob- 
servations, Trigonometric Operations, and Barometric 
Measurements," was published in 1810, in two quarto 
volumes. Humboldt's own publication this year was 
the " Picturesque Atlas." This was another of his great 
folios, and undoubtedly the most attractive one to general 
readers. It is not scientific, like the " Equinoctial Plants,'* 
and his other botanical works in folio, but descriptive 
and historical — ^a sort of sketch-book of the New World. 
It is illustrated by sixty-nine engravings, executed by 
the best artists in Paris, Rome, and Berlin — such men as 
Gmelin, Wachsmann, Pinelli, and Massard, the elder. 
Many of these engravings were made from Humboldt's 
own sketches, which were taken on the spots represented. 


The popularity of the folio "Picturesque Atltus" in- 
duced Humboldt to issue a less expensive edition in 
12mo. The title of the folio " Picturesque Atlas" was 
dropped, and its sub-title, " Views of the Cordilleras, and 
Monuments of the Native People of America," substi- 
tuted instead. It soon became a favourite book. 

If the reader were to imagine Humboldt at this time, 
he would doubtless picture him as a man absorbed in 
his pursuits,, and inattentive to everything else; his 
mind pre-occupied, his memory burdened, his days and 
nights devoted to thought. • He would picture him in 
his study, with quires of white paper before him, a pen 
in his hand, and the floor strewn with pages of blotted 
manuscript. Or, in the alcoves of some great library, 
taking down ponderous folios or quartos to settle some 
knotty point. This, we believe, is the usual beau ideal 
of a scholar, and in many cases it happens to be the true 
one. For Humboldt it will not answer. It is true that 
he read deeply in the public libraries of Paris, and wrote 
unweariedly in his private study, turning quires and 
reams of paper into manuscript The manuscript was 
not blotted, however, for his handwriting was singularly 
clean, neat, and lady-like in its delicacy ; nor was his 
memory burdened, or his mind pre-occupied. He pos- 
sessed himself too thoroughly to be oppressed by his 
work ; his nature was large enough to rise above it, gigan- 
tic as it was. He would as soon have gone into society 
with ink on his fingers, as to have betrayed himself as a 
scholar by any of the cheap signs of scholarship. With 
the scholar's love of solitude, he had a woman's love of 
society. He loved it, not because it flattered his vanity, 
for he had no vanity ; but because his nature was emi- 


nently a social one, and because it revived and refreshed 
him in his labours, and sharpened his insight into life 
and man. Like his friend Goethe, he was a man of 
the world, in the noblest sense of that much-abused 
term. He loved to meet and converse with the distin- 
guished men and women who filled the sdUms of Paris. 
Even its frivolous characters, the light-headed and light- 
heeled crowd, were not despised by him. He amused 
himself at their expense occasionally, but it was in 
such a pleasant manner that they could not be angry. 
He had a vein of genial Humour in him, and, when 
the occasion demanded it, a biting wit The worst 
that could be said of him was, that he was a little 

" In the sahns of Mettemich," says Vamhagen Von 
Ense, who met him at Paris, in 1810 ; " in the salons of 
Mettemich (at that time Austrian ambassador near the 
Court of St Clond), I saw Humboldt only as a brilliant 
and admired meteor, so much so, that I hardly found 
time to present myself to him, and to whisper in his ear 
a few of those names which gave me a right to a per- 
sonal acquaintance with him. Barely has a man engaged 
in such a degree the esteem of all, the admiration of 
most opposite parties, and the zeal of all in power to 
serve him. Napoleon does not love him. He knows 
Humboldt as a shrewd thinker, whose way of thinking, 
and whose opinion can not be bent ; but the Emperor 
and his Court, and the high authorities have never denied 
ffie impression which they received by the presence of 
this bold traveller, by the power of knowledge, and the 
light which seems to stream from it in every direction. 
The learned of all nations are proud 3f their high asso* 



ciate, all the Germans of their countryman, and all the 
liberals of their fellow. 

"It has been rarely vouchsafed to a man in such degree 
as to Humboldtj to stand forth in individual independence 
and always equal to himself, and at one and the same 
time, in scientific activity, and in the widest social and 
international intercourse, in the solitude of minute in- 
quiry, and in the almost confusing brilliancy of the 
society of the day : but I know of no one who, with all 
this, has endeavoured throughout his whole life to pro- 
mote the progress and welfare of our race, so steadily, 
luiiformly, and with such ample success." 

Humboldt published three works in 1811 ; one in Ger- 
man, on the Geography of Plants, another, or rather the 
first volume of another, in French, on Zoology and Ana- 
tomy, and another, also in French, on Mexico. It was 
his " Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain." 

The title of this celebrated work gives but a poor in- 
dication of its contents. It is not only a political essay 
in the amplest sense of the word, but a geographical, mi- 
neralogical, agricultural, and ethnological picture of Mex- 
ico, as it appeared to Humboldt at the time of his visit. 
It is divided into six grand sections or books. The first is 
taken up with general considerations of the extent and * 
physical aspect of the country. The second treats of the 
general population and division of the castes. The third 
presents a particular statistical view of the intendancies, 
their population, and area. He discusses in the fourth ^ ' 
book the state of agriculture, and of the metallic mines ;j^^ 
and in the fifth, the progress of manufactures and com- 
merce. The sixth contains researches into the revenues. 
of the state, and the military defence of the country. 


To obtain, as he did, during his year s life in Mexijt», 
the material necessary for such a work, did not im- 
ply much idleness either on his part, or that of Bon- 
pland. For they worked in concert, Bonpland taking the 
boUanical and agricultural portions, and Humboldt those 
that related to geography and geology. He also drew up 
a minute map of the whole country, or rather a series of 
maps, in most cases from his own surveys and measure- 
ments. He determined the position of the capital, and 
of most of the principal cities and towns ; the height 
above the sea of the different table lands, mountains, and 
volcanoes : the configuration of lakes and the windings 
of rivers : and above all, the exact situation of the hun- 
dreds of mines, with which Nature has blessed, or cursed, 
that rich but imfortunate country. 

Humboldt was led to this undertaking by the Director 
of the Eoyal School of Mining, who had long been col- 
lecting &ct8 regarding the position of the Mexican mines, 
and the districts into which they were divided. He was 
desirous of having a detailed map, on which the most 
noted mines should be marked, constructed for the use 
of the Tribunal of Mines. Such a labor was necessary, 
he thought, both for the administration of the country, 
tind for those who wished to know its resources. The 
city of Guanaxuato, for instance, was not on most of the 
maps published in Europe, although it contained seventy 
thousand inhabitants, and some of the richest mines in 
Mexico. Neither were Bolanos, Sombrete, Batopilas and 
■%Zimapan mentioned. The position of the Real de Catorce 
in the intendancy of San Louis Potosi was not indicated, 
although it yielded annually $4,000,000. 

The " Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain ^ 


was dedicated to the King of Spain. How his Catholic 
Majesty received the work, which, on the whole flatter- 
ing to his government of Mexico, was still truth-telling 
when it came to speak of its defects, we are not told. It 
was eagerly read in France, and immediately translated 
into English, the English version appearing simulta- 
neously in London and New York. The English and 
American public were anxious to see what Humboldt 
had to say concerning Mexico ; familiar with his reputa- 
tion as a traveller and a naturalist, they were curious to 
see him in the character of a political economist. That 
he satisfied their expectations th^ reviews of the day tes- 

In the autumn of 1810 William Von Humboldt, who, 
since we left him at Albano, had been appointed by the 
King of Prussia Councillor of State in the Ministry of 
Home Affairs, and Chief of the Section of Religion and 
Public Instruction, went as Extraordinary Ambassador 
to the Court of Vienna. There, as at Rome and Paris, 
he was surrounded with authors, artists, and statesmen, 
such men as Mettemich and Schlegel, and Komer, the 
youthful Theodore Komer, who was soon to lay down 
his lyre, and take up his sword. But a greater celebrity 
soon appeared. It was his brother Alexander, who had 
left Paris after the publication of the first portions of his 
American travels, to take leave of his family before he 
started on another great journey. The Minister Roman- 
zow had proposed to him to accompany a Russian mis- 
sion across Kashghor to Thibet, and, delighted with the 
idea, he had at once accepted. He could now visit the 
mountains of India, and compare them with the Cordil 
leras of America. 


But it was not to be, for France and Russia were at 
war. The ill wind that had so often crossed his path 
when a scheme of travel was on foot, blew him back to 
Paris. Disappointed, but not disheartened, he resumed 
his labours. They were not much lightened by the books 
he had published, for his great book, the personal narra- 
tive of his travels, was still to be written. In addition to 
the labour which this implied, he assumed another, the task 
of learning Persian. Considering his projected journey to 
Asia as merely postponed, not abandoned, he set about 
fitting himself for it. It was his intention to proceed to 
India, by the way of Teheran or Herat, at his own 

He returned to Paris on the breaking out of the war 
in 1812, and for two years the public knew nothing of 
him. He forsook the salonsy and was seldom seen in the 
chambers of his scientific associates. Even his old friend 
Bonpland, to whom Napoleon had granted a pension, 
and whom Josephine, whose heart he had won by a col- 
lection of flower-seeds from the West Indies, had made 
intendant of Malmaison, saw but little of him. He was 
busy with his travels, finishing from memory and imagi- 
nation his wonderful picture of the tropics. How he 
must have enjoyed reading his journals, written on the 
spur of the moment years before; this page on the deck 
of the Pizarro, with the sea around him, that on the 
crater of Teneriffe, with the heavens above him, and that 
in Caracas, dear dangerous Caracas, which an earthquake 
had just tumbled in ruins I It was as good as a second 
journey to the tropics. It was eight years since his return 
to Europe, and during all that time he had brooded over 
his task. He had written much, as the reader has seen-^ 


great scientific works on botany, zoology, and astronomy, 
and a profound political essay on the resources of a king* 
dom ; but with the exception of a few slight sketches in 
his " Picturesque Atlas," nothing that showed his marvel- 
lous power of description, or could be considered as an ap- 
proach to a narrative of his travels. He was making up 
for lost time now, if an epoch so j&nitful in books can be 
called lost time, delighting his heart and wearying his 
fingers with his task. He wrote, and wrote, and wrote, 
turning the quires and reams of blank paper, with which 
our fancies have furnished him, into pages of the neatest 
manuscript that ever came from an author's study. His 
fingers, indeed, might ache, but he was never tired of his 
labour of love. Neither was he discouraged at the good- 
natured banter of Arago, who told him that he did not 
know how to write. " You write without end, mon cher 
ami, but that is not a book ; it is a picture without a 

The first volume of his travels appeared in 1814. It 
was entitled " A Voyage to the Equinoctial Regions of 
the New Continent" 

We shall not criticise this remarkable book, of which 
the reader has by this time formed an opinion, but let 
Humboldt speak for himself, by culling a few paragraphs 
from his introduction. It is one of his most masterly 
productions, fresh, clear, and philosophical, with a charm- 
ing vein of autobiography. 

" Many years have elapsed since I quitted Europe, to 
explore the interior of the New Continent. Devoted 
from my earliest youth to the study of nature, feeling 
with enthusiasm the wild beauties of a country guarded 
by mountains and shaded by ancient forests, I expe- 

334 BrrRA.cT fbom prsfaob* 

rienced in my travels, enjoyments which have ampl^ 
compensated for the privations inseparable firom a labo- 
rious and often agitated life. These enjoyments, which I 
endeavoured to impart to my readers in my 'Eemarka 
upon the Steppes,' and in the * Essay on the Physiog- 
nomy of Plants,' were not the only fruits I reaped from 
an undertaking formed with the design of contributing 
to the progress of natural philosophy. I had long pre- 
pared myself for the observations which were the princi- 
pal object of my journey to the torrid zone. I was pro- 
vided with instruments of easy and convenient use, con- 
structed by the ablest makers, and I enjoyed the special 
protection of a government which, far from presenting 
obstacles to my investigations, constantly honoured me 
with every mark of regard and <x)nfidenoe. I was aided 
by a courageous and enlightened friend, and it was sin- 
gularly propitious to the success of our participated 
labour, that the zeal and equanimity of that friend nevei 
foiled, amidst the fatigues and dangers to which we were 
sometimes exposed. 

" Under these favourable circumstances, traversing re- 
gions which for ages have remained almost unknown to 
most of the nations of Europe, I might add even to Spain, 
M. Bonpland and myself collected a considerable num- 
ber of materials, the publication of which may throw 
some light on the history of nations, and advance the 
study of nature. 

" I had in view a two-fold purpose in the travels at 
which I now publish the historical narrative. I wished 
to make known the countries I had visited ; and to col- 
lect such facts as are fitted to elucidate a science of which 
we as yet possess scarcely the outline, and which has 


been vaguely denominated Natural History of the 
World, Theory of the Earth, or Physical Geography. 
The last of these two objects seemed to me the most im- 
portant I was passionately devoted to botany and cer- 
tain parts of zoology, and I flattered myself that our 
investigations might add some new species to those 
already known, both in the animal and vegetable king- 
doms ; but preferring the connection of facts which have 
been long observed, to the knowledge of insulated facts, 
although new, the discovery of an unknown genus 
seemed to me fisur less interesting than an observation on 
the geographical relations of the vegetable world, on the 
migrations of the social plants, and the limit of the 
height which their different tribes attain on the flanks of 
the Cordilleras. 

" When I began to read the numerous narratives of 
travels, which compose so interesting a part of modem 
literature, I regretted that travellers, the most enlightened 
in the insulated branches of natural history, were seldom 
possessed of sufficient variety of knowledge to avail 
themselves of every advantage arising from their posi- 
tion. It appeared to me, that the importance of the 
results hitherto obtained did not keep pace with the 
immense progress which at the end of the eighteenth 
century, had been made in several departments of science, 
particularly geology, the history of the modifications of 
the atmosphere, and the physiology of animals and 
plants. I saw with regret (and all scientific men have- 
shared this feeling), that whilst the number of accurate 
instruments was daily increasing, we were still ignorant 
of the height of many mountains and elevated plains ; 
of the periodical oscillations of the aerial ocean ; of the 


limit of perpetual snow within the polar circle and on 
the borders of the torrid zone ; of the yariable intensity 
of the magnetic fences, and of many other phenomena 
equally important 

" Alaritime expeditions and circomnavigatory voyages 
have conferred just celebrity on the names of the natur- 
alists and astronomers who haye been appointed by 
various governments to share the dangers of those under- 
takings ; but though these eminent men have given us 
precise notions of the external configuration of countries, 
of the natural history of the ocean^ and of the productions 
of islands and coasts, it must be admitted that maritime 
expeditions are less fitted to advance the progress of 
geology and other parts of physical science, than travels 
into the interior of a continent The advancement of the 
natural sciences has been subordinate to that of geography 
and nautical astronomy. During a voyage of several 
years, the land but seldom presents itself to the obser- 
vation of the mariner ; and when, after lengthened expec- 
tation, it is descried, he often finds it stripped of its most 
beautiful productions. Sometimes, beyond a barren coast, 
he perceives a ridge of mountains covered with verdure, 
but its distance forbids examination, and the view serves 
only to excite regret 

" Journeys by land are attended with considerable diffi- 
culties in the conveyance of instruments and collections, 
but these difficulties are compensated by advantages 
which it is unnecessary to enumerate. It is not by 
sailing along a coast that we can discover the direction 
of chains of mountains, and their geological constitution, 
the climate of each zone, and its influence on the forms 
and habits of organized beings. In proportion to the 


extent of continents, the greater on the sur&ce of the soil 
are the riches of animal and vegetable productions ; the 
more distant the central chain of mountains from the sea- 
shore, the greater is the variety in the bosom of the earth, 
of those stony strata, the regular succession of which 
unfolds the history of our planet As every being con- 
sidered apart is impressed with a particular type, so, in 
like manner, we find the same distinctive impression in 
the arrangement of brute matter organized in rocks, and 
also in the distribution and mutual relations of plants and 
animals. The great problem of the physical description 
of the globe, is the determination of the form of these 
types, the. laws of their relations with each other, and the 
eternal ties which link the phenomena of life, and those 
of inanimate nature." 

He next states the objects that he had in view in his 
expeditions, and gives a reswmJi of his collections and 
observations, and the various scientific publications to 
which they gave use, and continues : 

" After having distributed into separate works all that 
belongs to astronomy, botany, zoology, the political de- 
scription of New Spain, and the history of the ancient civi- 
lization of certain nations of the New Continent, there still 
remained many general results and local descriptions which 
I might have collected into separate treatises. I had, during 
my journey, prepared papers on the races of men in South 
America ; on the Missions of the Orinoco ; on the obstacles 
to the progress of society in the torrid zone arising from the 
climate and the strength of vegetation ; on the character 
of the landscape in the Cordillera of the Andes, compared 
with that of the Alps of Switzerland ; on the analogies 
between the rocks of the two hemispheres ; on the phy- 



sical constitution of the air in the equinoctial regionis, &c. 
I had left Europe with the firm intention of not writing 
what is usuailj called the historical narrative of a journey, 
but to publish the firuit of my inquiries in works merely 
descriptiye; and I had arranged the facts, not in the 
order in which they successively presented themselves, 
but according to the relation they bore to each other. 
Amidst the overwhelming majesty of Nature, and the 
stupendous objects she presents at every step, the traveller 
is little disposed to record in his journal matters which 
relate only to himself and the ordinary details of 

" I composed a very brief itinerary during the course 
of my excursions on the rivers of South America, and in 
my long journeys by land. I regularly described (and 
almost always on the spot) the visits I made to the summits 
of volcanoes, or mountains remarkable for their height; 
but the entries in my journal were interrupted whenever 
I resided in a town, or when other occupations prevented 
me irom continuing a work which I considered as having 
only a secondary interest Whenever I wrote in my 
journal, I had no other motive than the preservation of 
some of those fugitive ideas which present themselves to 
a naturalist, whose life is almost wholly passed in the 
open air. I wished to make a temporary collection of such 
facts as I had not then leisure to class, and note down the 
first impressions, whether agreeable or painful, which I 
received from nature or firom man. Far from thinking 
at the time that those pages thus hurriedly written would 
form the basis of an extensive work to be oflfered to the 
public, it appeared to me, that my journal, though it might 
furnish certain data useful to science, would present very 


few of those incidents, the recital of which constitutes the 
principal charm of an itinerary. 

" The difficulties I have experienced since my return, 
in tlie composition of a considerable number of treatises, 
for the purpose of making known certain classes of 
phenomena, insensibly overcame my repugnance to write 
the narrative of my journey. In undertaking this task, 
I have been guided by the advice of many estimable 
persons, who honour me with their friendship. I also 
perceived that such a preference is given to this sort of 
composition, that scientific men, after having presented 
in an isolated form the account of their researches on the. 
productions, the manners, and the political state of the 
countries through which they have passed, imagine that 
they have not fulfilled their engagements with the public, 
till they have written their itinerary. 

"An historical narrative embraces two very distinct 
objects ; the greater or the less important events connected 
with the purpose of the traveUer, and the observations he 
he has made during his journey. The unity of composi- 
tion also, which distinguishes good works from those on 
an ill-constructed plan, can be strictiy observed only 
when the traveller describes what has passed under his 
own eye; and when his principal attention has been fixed 
less on scientific observations than on the manners of 
different people and the great phenomena of nature. 
Now, the most faithful picture of manners is that which 
best displays the relations of men towards each other. 
The character of savage or civdlized life is portrayed either 
in the obstacles a traveller meets with, or in the sensations 
he feels. It is the traveller himself whom we continually 
desire to see in contact with the objects which surround 


him ; and his narration interests us the more, when a local 
tint is diffused over the description of a country and its 
inhabitants. Such is the source of the interest excited 
by the history of those early navigators, who, impelled 
by intrepidity rather than by science, struggled against 
the elements in their search for the discovery of a ne\i 
world. Such is the irresistible charm attached to the fitte 
of that enterprising traveller (Mungo Park), who, full of 
enthusiasm and energy, penetrated alone into the centre 
of Africa, to discover amidst barbarous nations the traces 
of ancient civilization. 

*'In proportion as travels have been undertaken by 
persons whose views have been directed to researches 
into descriptive natural history, geography, or political 
economy, itineraries have partly lost that unity of com- 
position, and that simplicity which characterized those of 
former ages. It is now become scarcely possible to con- 
nect so many different materials with the detail of other 
events ; and that part of a traveller's narrative which we 
may call dramatic gives way to dissertations merely 
descriptive. The numerous class of readers who prefer 
agreeable amusement to solid instruction, have not gained 
by the exchange ; and I am afraid that the temptation 
will not be great to follow the course of travellers who are 
encumbered with scientific instruments and collections. 

" To give greater variety to my work, I have often 
interrupted the historical narrative by descriptions. I 
first represent phenomena in the order in which they 
appeared ; and I afterwards consider them in the whole 
of their individual relations. This mode has been suc- 
cessfully followed in the journey of M. de Saussure, 
whose most valuable work has contributed more than 


any other to the advancement of science. Often, amiist 
dry discussions on meteorology, it contains many charm- 
ing descriptions ; such as those of the modes of life of the 
inhabitants of the mountains, the dangers of hunting the 
chamois, and the sensations felt on the summit of the 
higher Alps. 

" There are details of ordinary life which it may be 
useful to note in an itinerary, because they serve for the 
guidance of those who afterwards journey through the 
same countries. I have preserved a few, but have sup- 
pressed the greater part of those personal incidents which 
present no particular interest, and which can be rendered 
amusing only by the perfection of style. 

"With respect to the country which has been the 
object of my investigations, I am fully sensible of the 
great advantages enjoyed by persons who travel in 
Greece, Egypt, the banks of the Euphrates, and the 
islands of the Pacific, in comparison with those who 
traverse the continent of America. In the Old World, 
nations and the distinctions of their civilization form the 
principal points in the picture ; in the New World, man 
and his productions almost disappear amidst the stupen- 
dous display of wild and gigantic nature. The human 
race in the New World presents only a few remnants of 
indigenous hordes, slightly advanced in civilization ; or it 
exhibits merely the uniformity of manners and institu- 
tions transplanted by European colonies to foreign shores. 
Information which relates to the history of our species, to 
the various forms of government, to monuments of art, 
to places full of great remembrances, affect us far more 
than descriptions of those vast solitudes which seem 
destined only for the development of v^etable life, and 


to be the domain of wild animals. The savages of 
America, who have been the olgects of so many sys* 
tematic reveries, and on whom M. Volney has lately 
published some aocurate and intelligent observations, 
inspire less interest since celebrated navigators have 
made known to us the inhabitants of the South Sea 
islands, in whose character we find a striking mixture of 
perversity and meekness. The state of half-civilization 
existing among thoise islanders gives a peculiar charm to 
the description of their manners* A king, followed by 
a numerous suite, presents the fruits of his orchard ; or a 
funeral is performed amidst the shade of the lofty forest 
Such pictures, no doubt, have more attraction than those 
which pourtray the solemn gravity of the inhabitant of 
the banks of the Missouri or the Maranon. 

"America offers an ample field for the labours of the 
naturalist. On no other part of the globe is he called 
upon more powerfully by nature to raise himself to 
general ideas on the cause of phenomena and their mu- 
tual connection. To say nothing of that luxuriance 
of vegetation, that eternal spring of organic life, those 
climates varying by stages as we climb the flanks of the 
Cordilleras, and those majestic rivers which a celebrated 
writer (Chateaubriand) has described with such graceful 
accuracy, the resources which the New World affords 
for the study of geology and natural philosophy in 
general have been long since acknowledged. Happy the 
traveller who may cherish the hope that he has availed 
himself of the advantages of his position, and that he 
has added some new facts to the mass of those previously 
acquired 1 

" Since I left America, one of those great revolutions^ 


wliicli at certain periods agitate the human race, has 
broken out in the Spanish colonies, and seems to prepare 
new destinies for a population of fourteen millions of inha- 
bitants, spreading from the southern to the northern hemi- 
sphere, from the shores of the Rio de la Plata and Chile to 
the remotest part of Mexico. Deep resentments, excited 
by colonial legislation, and fostered by mistrustful policy, 
liave stained with blood regions which had enjoyed, for 
the space of nearly three centuries, what I will not call 
happiness but interrupted peace. At Quito several of 
the most virtuous and enlightened citizens have perished, 
victims of devotion to their country. While I am giving 
the description of regions, the remembrance of which is 
so dear to me, I continually light on places which recall 
to my mind the loss of a friend. 

" When we reflect on the great political agitations of 
the New World, we observe that the Spanish Americans 
are by no means in so favourable a position as the inha- 
bitants of the United States ; the latter having been 
prepared for independence by the long enjoyment of 
constitutional liberty. Internal dissensions are chiefly to 
be dreaded in regions where civilization is but slightly 
rooted,. and where, from the influence of climate', forests 
may soon r^ain their empire over cleared lands if their 
culture be abandoned. It may also be feared that, during 
a long series of years, no foreign traveller will be enabled 
to traverse all the countries which I have visited. This 
circumstance may perhaps add to the interest of a work 
which pourtrays the state of the greater part of the Spanish 
colonies at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I 
even venture to indulge the hope that this work will be 
thought worthy of attention when passions shall be 


hushed into peace, and when, under the influence of a 
new social order, those countries shall have made rapid 
progress in public welfiu^e. If then some pages of my 
book are snatched firom oblivion, the inhabitant of the 
banks of the Orinoco and the Atabapo will behold with 
delight populous cities enriched by commerce, and fertile 
fields cultivated by the hands of fi^ee men, on those very 
spots where, at the time of my travels, I found only im- 
penetrable forests and inundated lands." 

Such was the plan that Humboldt propoaed to himself 
when he sat down to write the historical relation of his 
travels, and he succeeded perfectly. He produced the 
finest book of travels ever written. As picturesque 
as the most perfect masters of description, no writer, 
living, or dead, ever approached him in varied and pro- 
found knowledge — ^in what may be called the philosophy 
of nature. He is nature's own philosopher. Nearly 
fifty years have elapsed since the publication of his 
** Voyage ;" men and manners have changed, and taste 
with them ; what was a mere groping after knowledge 
then, is a grasping of it now : similar books have been 
written, and excellent ones, too : yet he still holds his 
ground with all classes of readers. Nay, he has gained 
ground, for his book was never so popular as at pre- 

From 1814 to 1819, when the second volume of the 
"Voyage" was published, Humboldt continued his 
literary labours, writing a number of works, mostly 
scientific. In 1815, he published the first volume of the 
" New Gkjnera and Species of Plants." It was a great 
folio, similar to the " Equinoctial Plants." Like that it 
was written in Latin, and chiefly by Kunth, to whom he 

WOBKS PUBLISHED IN 1816-17-18. 345 

had committed his botanical (Collections, Bonpland being, 
as we have seen, at Malmaison. A kindred work ap- 
peared in 1816, the " Monography of Melastomes." This 
year was marked by two other pubUcations, a map of 
the Eio Magdalena, and a paper " On the Mountains of 
India, "the result of his oriental studies. In 1817, he 
published the second volume of the " New Genera and 
Species of Plants," his celebrated essay on the " Iso- 
thermal Lines," and two Latin treatises, one on the 
" Geographical Distribution of Plants," the other on the 
" Nature of the Family of Gramines." In 1818, appeared 
the third volume of the " New Genera," and a " Memorial 
upon the Settlement of the Limits of French and Portu- 
guese Guiana." 

Busy during all these years with the works that we 
have enumerated, Humboldt still found time to write in 
the scientific reviews of France and Germany. From 
his early years, aa far back as when he was superinten- 
dent of mines at Bayreuth and Anspach, he was in the 
habit of contributing to them. His first papers appeared 
in the " Mining Journal" of Von Moll, in Kohler and 
Hoffman's " Journal," and in Crell's " Chemical Annals:" 
his later ones in the " Journal of Natural History," in 
the " Annals of Chemistry," and the " Memoirs of the 
Society of Arcueil." 

The Society of Arcueil was a scientific association, 
composed of some of the most distinguished savans of 
' Paris. It took its name from the place at which they 
assembled — Argueil, a little village on tljp^i^vre, three 
or four miles fix>m Paris. A favourite holiday resort of 
the Parisians, it was the abode of Laplace and Berthollet, 
the founders of the society. Its members were Biot^ 



Gay-Lussac, Thenard, Decandolle, Collet, Descotils, MaluSj 
A. B. Berthollet, and Humboldt They met once a fort- 
night at the house of Berthollet, and spent the day to- 
gether, giving each other the results of their studies and 
experiments, reading the scientific papers that they had 
composed since their last meeting, or in pleasant ramble 
about the neighbourhood. Most of these men were 
members of the Institute of France, and the papers that 
they read at Arcueil, were delivered before that august 
body, and afterwards published in the " Memoirs" of the 
society. To this work, which extended to several 
volumes, Humboldt was a constant contributor. In con- 
junction with Biot, he wrote the opening paper of the 
first volume — (published in 1807) — sl treatise on magnetic 
observations, to the second (published in 1809) he con- 
tributed a curious paper, on the respiration of fishes, the 
result of a great number of experiments, made by him- 
self and Provengal. 

It is a happy thing for a busy man, whose days are . 
passed in the noise and dust of cities, to have a pleasant 
neighbourhood within reach, "a city of refuge," as it 
were, to which he can retreat now and then, anS meet a 
few friends, and refresh his jaded spirit. Such was 
Arcueil to the busy Humboldt, who spent many delight- 
ful days in its quiet shades. The friends that he met 
there were the most congenial that he could have chosen, 
the world over ; each distinguished for some pursuit with 
which he sympathized, and all united in the interests of 
science. It wqg a pleasure to him to re^ his papers to 
them, and what is not always the case in these matters, 
a pleasure to listen to theirs in turn. They met, as we 
have said, at the house of Berthollet; but, as the house 


of Laplace was near by, the gardens of the two sTvans 
adjoining each other, they were as often at Laplace's as 
at BerthoUet's. They could not but profit by the con- 
versations of the old mathematician, for he was pro- 
foundly versed in all the sciences ; besides, he had seen 
taiuch of the world, and was full of anecdotes of bygone 
times and men. He could tell them of D'Alembert, 
Diderot, and the Encyclopedaists, — the master-spirits of 
the eighteenth century. If the conversation turned, as 
was likely, on Descartes 5r Newton, their "portraits hung 
in his study, as did also those of Euler, and poor old 
blind Galileo. If they wished to walk he accompanied 
them. Arm-in-arm, discussing what was uppermost in 
their minds, they wandered around the neighbourhood, 
now in the fields and meadows, or along the banks of the 
BiSvre ; and now by the ruins of the aqueduct built by 
the Emperor Julian, in the olden time, to convey water to 
his palace in Paris. There was no end of pleasant 
rambles at Arcueil. 

In addition to the best literary and scientific society 
in Paris, Humboldt met from time to time, many of his 
German friends. Among others who were present there 
in. 1814 was A. W. Schlegel, and his brother William. 
Napoleon had fallen, the Bourbons were restored, and 
the different Powers sent their ambassadors to congratu- 
late them. William came as the ambassador of Prussia. 
He had ascended several rounds of the political ladder 
since he left Albano, as Alexander himself might have 
done, had he wished. Soon after the latter settled in 
Paris, in 1807, and again in 1809, he filled a political 
mission there, near the person of Frederick William, the 
Prince of Prussia. When the conferences were over at 


Paris, the Prince Eegent of England invite 1 the assem 
bled crowned heads and their courts to visit England 
Alexander accompanied the Prussian embassy to Lon< 
don, where he remained some weeks. 

About this time, on the 29th of May, 1814, his old 
friend, Bonpland, suffered a severe loss in the death of 
the Empress Josephine. He was by her bed when she 
died. When Napoleon abdicated he was advised by 
Bonpland to retire to Mexico, and await there the course 
of events; but the great disturber of nations was still 
confident of his star. He could not foresee its &tal 
setting on the bloody field of Waterloo. Bonpland 
might have remained at Malmaison, under the new dy- 
nasty ; he was even solicited to do so by Prince Eugene, 
but he refused. It was no place for him, since the death 
of his beloved mistress. He remained with Humboldt 
till the close of 1816, when he sailed from Havre to Bra- 
zil, carrying with him a collection of useful plants and 
European fruit trees. As soon as he arrived at Buenos 
Ayres the Brazilian government offered him the post of 
Professor of Natural History, but some intrigue or slan- 
der, what was never known, changed their feelmgs to- 
wards him, and he tendered his resignation. He was 
not allowed to show his collections, which would have 
conferred a greater benefit on the country than on him- 
self; he was even refused a place to lecture in. Dis- 
pirited by such ill treatment, but as eager as in his youth 
to explore new lands, and to discover new plants and 
flowers, he started on an expedition into the interior. 
Such was the tenor of his letters to Humboldt. 

In August or September, 1818, Humboldt made his 
third visit to England, where his brother William was 


residing as Prussian ambassador. His stay was shortj 
for he was in Paris during both these months. "We go\ 
glimpses of him at this time, as of other French celeb- 
rities, in the flippant but amusing diary of Lady Mor- 
gan. Writing from Paris in August, to her sister Lady 
Clarke, she gossips in this fashion : 

" We found dear D6non surrounded by English 
fashionables, from whom he rushed, when we were 
announced, into our arms alternately. We met at din- 
ner chez Madame d'Houchien, who received us like her 
children. We found some of the old habitues there ; 
but D^non and Morgan set me down at our hotel early 
in the evening, I was so tired, and they proceeded to the 
Bishop of Blois (Gr6goire.) The bishop actually em- 
braced him, heretic as he was, before all the company, 
although there were two Italian bishops present, praised 
my work on * France,' and assui:^ him it had done infi- 
nite good. You may, therefore, be perfectly easy about 
us. We are to dine to-morrow with D6non. Humboldt 
asked to meet us." 

At the commencement of September her ladyship 
walkecf to the Barbe bleue^ MarcM dea Innocerits, where 
she bought herself a chapeau de sokil, with corn flowers 
stuck in the side of it — ^a regular Leghorn — twenty 
francs. She then went to JEJaubonne to see poor dear 
Madame Ginguen^, but not finding her at home, she drove 
to Montmorenci, where she dined deliciously for four 
francs. On her return she found that Humboldt had 
called upon her during her absence. He left a little 
billet, instead of a card. 

" Lk Babon De Humboldt est venu s' informer du 
retour bien tardif de Sir Charles et Lady Morgan." 


On the 10th of September she writes Lady Clarke, 
from the chateau of Lafayette, at La Grange, and among 
other feminine tattle says, ** The general has proposed 
inviting Humboldt and D6non to join us. K they come, 
Europe could scarcely present such another circle of 
talent and celebrity." 

A month later at Paris she again mentions Humboldt, 
this time in her diary. 

" Humboldt had called, and, as usual, had written hLg 
scrap in the porter's lodge. The poor porter I had he 
known the*value of this autograph he would have pil- 
fered it ; and what renders it more curious, it is writter 
on the back of a milliner's card I" 

Where coidd Humboldt have got that milliner^s card, 
pray ? Had he been buying a new boni^et for some of his 
lady acquaintances? Or was he thinking of studying the 
botany of artificial flowers ? If the latter he must have 
found har Ladyship a rare specimen. 

Another extract from the diary : no date : about Ae 
80th of October. 

"Humboldt has been again to-day, and again we 
were out. How very mortifying I His visits are none 
the less * angels' visits' because they are not *few or 
far between ;' and certainly, so far as my acquaint- 
ance goes with the angelic choir, *celui-li vaut bien 
les kutres.' He left a precious little billet in the porter's 
lodge,, where he wrote it : * Alexandre Humboldt tou- 
jours aflsez malheureux de ne pas trouver Lady Mor- 
gan.'" , 

Another amusing extract from the diary : some time 
towards the end of November. 

" Thursday. — I was sitting this morning for my picture 


to Berthon, when ^h^froUeur of the hotel, in the absence 
of my servant threw open the door, and announced in 
one word, * Lordvillanspence !' and enter the charming 
William Spencer, the poet-laureate of the aristocracy of 
London. What an agreeable surprise I He always 
brings a hon-ton London atmosphere about him. Berthon 
was charmed with the cordiality of our meeting, which, 
he thought, brightened up my countenance — which had 
hitherto expressed nothing but bore. He made Spencer 
sit down — ^per far effetto — whence I could see him, and 
kept poking my head with his mahl stick till, I am sure, 
my pose gave me the air of an illustration of the petit 
courier des dames, I took the opportunity of asking 
Spencer for a copy of his beautiful verses of * Apology 
to Lady Anne Hamilton' for staying too late at her 
house, spell-bound by the eyes of the lovely Susan Beck- 
ford (afterwards the Duchess of Hamilton). He pre- 
tended to have forgotten them. I said that was an affec- 
tation unworthy of him ; and I repeated the first verse 

' Too late I stayed — forgive the crime, 
For who could count the hours ? 
For lightly falls the foot of time 
That only treads on flowers,* &c. 

Berthon, affecting to be charmed with the metre, said, 
* Mais traduisez moi cela, MiladL' I began, * J'ai reste 
trop tard I'autre soir,' but Spencer and I both burst out 
laughing, so that we could not proceed. Berthon looked 
confused. * Oh I' said Spencer, in beautiful French, * it 
is only nonsense worthy of Voiture ; or the H8tel Eam- 
bouillet' *Vraiment!' said Berthon, who had, most 


likely, not heard of either one or the other, * Attenticm, 

" So he went on with his painting, and we fell into dis* 
course, in English, on the caivcan of May Fair, and into 
fashionable frivolities, and Miss Berry's last mai — * No 
friendship can cross the north of Oxford Street' — when 
a letter was delivered to me, on the outside of which was 
written, * Alexandre Von Humboldt.' The dirty little 
spot called the world disappeared into its own mists, and 
the universe, of which Humboldt is at this moment the 
high-priest, seemed to replace the puppet-show with 
which we had been playing. 

" Spencer begged the cover, and read out the letter, that 
my 'pose might not be disturbed ; and Berthon said, look- 
ing at the picture through his hand, \C'est tin grand 
homme, M. Humboldt I J'ai ambition de jEedre son portrait, 
et de le mettre i I'exposition du Louvre avec le portrait 
de MUadi.' 

" I promised to invite Spencer to the first Wednesday 
evening I expected Humboldt This is Humboldt's 
letter : 

" From j£ Humholdt to Lady Morgan, 

" ' The pleasing remembrance of Sir Charles and Lady 
Morgan adds to the deep regret I felt at not having en- 
joyed their interesting conversation at Madame d'H/s. 
My health is almost entirely re-established, and I shall 
hasten to present myself at Lady Morgan's residence to 
offer what is her due on so many claims, the homage of 
my sentiments of admiration and devoted respect 

AT KADAme D£ houohien's. 353 

Alas 1 what pitiless judges I have in your beautiful Al- 
bion 1 You will permit me, I hope, to complain a little 
when you see how I am treated in the last number of the 
* Quarterly Beview.' But I have well deserved it. 

"* Humboldt.'" 

Our next and last extract from the diary is the most 
Morganish of alL It shows us the sort of people with 
whom Humboldt mingled in his lighter moments, and 
with whom he amused himself, unbending his great 
nature in the intervals of his labours. 

Towards the end of December, her ladyship, 
after dining with the "Doctrinaires," a political set 
of the day, set Morgan, who enjoyed an opera, serious 
or comic, beyond everything else in the world, down 
at the Opera Comique, and drove to the Faubourg St 
Honor6 to pay a visit to Madame de Houchien, who 
received in the charming easy French style every 

" Madame de Houchien had been a dame d'cUour of 
the Empress Josephine, and her salon was Bonapartiste 
tout pur, 

" Her comph'ea this evening were no less than D6non, 
S^gur, and M. de Mortemar, the latter creating groups 
out of a pack of cards scattered on the table. Well, the 
moment I mentioned where I had come from, grande 

"*Figurez vous,' said Madame de Houchien, *the 
author of that maudite * France,' popped down among 
these Solons and Lycurguses.' 

" They insisted on hearing how I had dSbiitSd, and my 
irreverent question as to the religion d la mode was the 


text to a most curious and interesting conversation, in 
which every one bore a part, and were well qualified to 
do so, as they knew all the chief actors, and, above all, 
the principal actresses at the Congress of Vienna (1814), 
where Madame de Krudener was the pythoness, and the 
Duchesses de Biron and de Bragazia were the secret 
oracles of Metternich, who won hfe spurs in their 

" Lady Castlereagh (with whom, by-the-bye, some two 
or three years ago, I lived for three days every week — 
for she used to come to Lord Abercorn's whilst I was 
there every Saturday, and stopped till Monday), who 
was * so innocent, dear chuck,' of the knowledge of all 
politics, that even that Mephistopheles of diplomacy, 
Talleyrand, gave her up in despair, though he tried his 
hand to turn her to account whilst she was at the Con- 

" * Oh,' said D^non, * Madame Krudener engrossed all 
influences. I remember her at the Congress, and later 
at. Paris, when her salons were crowded with devotees 
and crowned heads. She was the greatest actress I ever 
saw — too melo-dramatic for a Clairon or a Mars, but 
quite good enough for an audience of kings and empe- 
rors; for royalty has loved the drama from Csesar to 

" * How was she dressed ?' I asked — always a woman's 
first idea. 

" * Well, in a flowing robe of white cashmere, or some 
soft fabric, but draped arUstiquemerU, the folds gathered 
round her waist by a silver girdle, des tresses dories flow- 
ing in profusion over a neck of alabaster. She had the 
air of having been flung on a crimson velvet sofa piled 


with cushions — ^the sort of background a painter would 
have chosen for her. Always two or three crowned 
heads in attendance : — Alexander on one side, dressed to 
efifect in black and diamonds; the King of Prussia, 
nowise remarkable except by contrast, on the other. On 
a low stool at the feet of the prophetess, sat her disciple, 
Bergasse, and her high priest, Jung Stilling.' 

" * Ecoutez done I' said Madame de Houchien, nudging 
me ; ' est-il artiste, notre Ddnon ? Quelle groupe I' 

"/Attendez,* attendezi' said D^non. *In the midst 
of a solemn ^ilence she rose, and extending her arms, 
exclaimed, with a strange and penetrating tone, * Prions P 
Down on his knees went the Emperor of all the Russias, 
followed by everybody present, kings, aides-de-camp, 
and valets included.* 

" * And this,' said S^gur, starting up, * was the grand- 
son of my great Catherine I' 

" * You may well say your great Catherine,' said 
Denon. * What must the Prince de Ligne have thought 
on the occasion ? He was present.' 

" * Madame de Krudener must have had great talent,' 
said Madame de Houchien. 

" * Pas le moins du monde,' said D^non. * She had 
art, the genius of mediocrity.' 

" * Yes,' ventured I, ' she had religion for her aid ; but 
she fought with the arms of St. Thdrfese, who legislated 
for popes, and made princes do her bidding. Once you 
get into the spiritual, you have nothing to go by but 
faith ; and Madame de Krudener had the greatest faith 
in Jung Stilling, as the Emperor Alexander had in 

" Here Humboldt was announced. I never hear his 


name without rising with involuntary deference. Hia 
presence recals all that is most sublime in the capability 
of human nature. His gigantic labours, contrasted with 
the pleasant &miliarity of his conversation, indicate the 
universality of the highest order of mind. He is like 
the elephant, who can with equal ease tear down an oak 
or pick up a pin ! With me, he always * picks up the 
pin,' and we fell into persiflage as usual. His frequent 
visits to my safon, and his great kindness t(f us, have not 
diminished the awe and reverence with which I first met 
him. He is reckoned very sarcastic, and given to mysti- 
fication. D^non put me en garde against this habit, on 
which I answered, * Jalousie du m6tier.' And so I 
soon after took my leave, somewhat wearied, but highly 
delighted by the contrast of the two societies, 'Les 
hommes de la veille et les hommes de Tavenir.' I am 
glad, however, I was bom soon enough to live among the 

As we have given a specimen of one kind of light- 
v^riting, the reader may like to see another. It dif- 
fers from the prattle of her ladyship, but is equally 
amusing in its way. It is from one of "the pitiless 
judges" of " beautiful Albion." Everybody remembers 
the brilliant opening of Judge Jeflfrey's charge, in the 
Edinburgh Review, in the famous case of The Excur^ 
axon — " This will never do ;" and how signally his lord- 
ship's verdict has been reversed. Here is a similar case, 
from some unknown judge, sitting in the court of the 
Quarterly. It is to this that Humboldt playfully refers 
in his note, though he was mistaken in the number which 
contained the article. It appeared in the Quarterly foi 
January, 1816, and was called forth by a translation of 


the first volume of his "Voyage to the Equinoctial 

" We have been rather tardy," his honour commences, 
" in directing our attention to the labours of this cele- 
brated traveller; and we hardly know what excuse to 
offer for such apparent neglect towards so highly gifted 
a person. It is some consolation however to be able to 
state that our readers will lose but little from the delay; 
for, if we may be permitted to form a judgment from the 
two volumes now before us, and from two others under 
the title of * Researches,' which we shall notice hereafter, 
the most material parts of all his former publications, 
have been, or will be, worked up anew, and in a less 
bulky form, in which some of them originally appeared. 

" It is not the fault of M. de Humboldt, though it may 
be his misfortune, that he has fallen into the hands of inju- 
dicious jfriends, who speak of his pretensions in a tone of 
exaggerated panegyric that must pain a modest man, and 
shame a wise one : to term M. de Humboldt * the first of 
travellers ' is little ; he is represented as one in whom may 
be found the rare union of all that Plato, Thales, and 
Pythagoras taught among the ancients — ^all that Montes- 
quieu, Buffon, D*Alembert have written among the 
modems. Astronomer, physiologist, antiquary, philolo- 
gist, he superadds, it is said, to all these characters a 
profundity of wisdom in political economy, and an en- 
larged comprehension- ia the science of statistics, that 
would do honour to the first statesman of any age or 
country. Language like this has had its usual effects. 
It has made the subject of it impatient of just rebuke ; 
and M. de Humboldt is disposed to be angry with us, 
because in our review of the Missionary Travels, (No. 


xxvi p. 825) we animadverted on his quoting a feet 
fix)m a journal in which it did not exist, and whidi he 
now admits to be the case. We know nothing of that 
unfriendly criticism^ of which he complains. M. de Hum- 
boldt may rest assured that we deprecate alike all bias 
of friendship or hostility towards the person of an author ; 
but he may also rest assured that we shall use all possible 
freedom with his works^ neither lavishly bestowing unde- 
served praise, nor wantonly scattering malidous and 
unjustifiable censure: we are disposed indeed to think 
highly of M. de Humboldt's acquirements; we admire 
his zeal and unwearied industry in collecting infcwmation, 
and his liberality in distributing it, but at the same time 
we have a duty to perform which will neither permit our 
senses to be ravished, nor our judgement swayed *by 
the whistling of a name.' 

" It would be great injustice, and a violation of the 
truth," his honour continues, cunningly blowing hot and 
cold at the same time,*" not to allow to M. de Humboldt 
an extraordinary share of talent; his literary acquire- 
ments appear indeed to be more various than generaUy 
fell to the lot of man. To intellectual powers of the 
highest order, he adds an ardent and enthusiastic mind, 
full of energy and activity in the pursuit of knowledge. 
In the true spirit of enterprise and research we doubt if 
he has any superior ; and it seems to be equally exerted 
on all occasions; the ardour of pursuit^ the mental 
energy, and the bodily activity are as much in earnest in 
rummaging the shelves of a library, as in clambering up 
the sides of a volcanic mountain. He is well read in all 
the modem discoveries of astronomical, geological, and 
physiological science, but his book affords no evidence 


that he is well grounded in chemistry and mineralogy, 
or in the principles and details of the several departments 
of natural history, with the exception of botany, in which 
he had an able assistant in M. Bonpland. 

"M, de Humboldt however," his honour concludes, 
after giving a sketch of the traveller's journey as fiix as 
it was contained in the volume before him, or rather the 
volumes, for the first volume of the French edition was 
expanded into two in the translation ; " M. de Humboldt 
however," his honour concludes, "has one good quality 
for a traveller; he is no egotist; he never offends by 
thrusting forward his own exploits, his own adventures, 
and his own * hair-breadth escapes :' all the parade which 
he displays is in adorning science, in whose cause he is 
always eloquent ; perhaps he may too frequently throw 
his cloak of wisdom over subjects that ages ago had 
descended to the vulgar, and thoughtlessly expend his 
powers on familiar objects that are generally understood. 
In a word we ,are persuaded that he aims at too much 
for any one man to accomplish ; or, to make use of a 
nautical phrase, (we have been dealing in nautical mat- 
ters) he spreads too much canvass, and carries too little 

This curiosity of literature is a fair sample of scores 
of others which might be selected from the Quarterly at 
that time. Its proprietors paid their contributors libe- 
rally, and certain prejudices respected, left them free to 
slash as they pleased ; the hai*der the better, it made the 
thing sell ! It is instructive to turn over its back volumes, 
and see its treatment of many of the now famous names 
of the century ; especially the poetical names. It tram- 
pled on the divine genius of Shelley : called dear old 


Leigh Hunt a cockney, and was supposed to have killed 
"Johnny Keats." Far from killing Humboldt, its 
absurd attempt to slash his "Voyage" only amused him. 
The very extracts that the scribbler quoted, proved his 
own incompetency and malice. To think of Humboldt 
knowing nothing of mineralogy I 

The origin of the difficulty between the traveller 
and the reviewer, for there was a difficulty, is to be 
found in the preceding volume of the Quarterly, in 
the number for July, 1815. It was this passage which 
occurs in a review of Campbell's "Travels in South 

" * Having heard,' says Mr. Campbell, * of some paint- 
ings in Salakooto's h'>use, we went after breakfetst to 
view them. We found them very rough, representations 
of the camel-leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, lion, tiger, 
and stein buck, which Salakooto's wife had drawn on 
the clay wall, with white and black paint; however, 
they were as well done as we expected, ^and may lead 
to something better.' 

" If any credit were due to the authority of M. Hum- 
boldt, they have already * something better.' 'Mr. 
Triiter relates,' says the traveller, * that in the southern 
extremity of Africa, among the Betjuanas, he saw chil- 
dren busy in tracing on a rock, with some sharp instru- 
ment, characters which bore the most perfect resemblance 
to the P and M of the Eoman alphabet, notwithstanding 
which, these rude tribes were perfectly ignorant of writ- 
ing.' No such passage, nor any allusion to such a cir- 
cumstance occurs in the only journal which Mr. Triiter 
wrote; we take it upon ourselves to assert this posi- 
tively, having examined the original manttscnpi with 


great care. Yet this is a fuct on which M. Humboldt 
hangs one of his numerous theories." 

But enough of reviewers and tourists. 

Humboldt's visit to London in the summer or fall of 
1818, had something of a political cast, for in addition to 
his receiving a commission from the Allied Powers to 
compose a political treatise on the colonies of South 
America (probably in relation to the boundaries of 
French and Portuguese Guiana) he was summoned by the 
King of Prussia to Aix-la-Chapelle, where the Congress 
of the Allied Powers was to be held. He arrived there 
on the 13th of October, and remained till the 26th of 
November. Famous as Aix-la-Chapelle was, for the 
treaties that had been signed there, it was never so re- 
splendent as now. The object of the Congress being an im- 
portant one, namely, the settling of all the old scores that 
Napoleon had entailed upon Europe, before and after the 
battle of Waterloo ; the adjustment of that formidable 
bugbear, the BtJance of Power ; in short the formation 
of what has since been called the Holy Alliance, — (as if 
any alliance between kings and emperors could be 
holy I) it was necessary for all the leading potentates of 
Europe to be present Thither came the King of Prus- 
sia, and the Emperors of Russia and Austria, each with 
l^iS train of diphrruUs^ astute statesmen, headed by the 
wily Mettemich, and the sagacious Nesselrode. France 
sent Talleyrand, and England Castlereagh and Welling- 
ton. On the 5th of November came William Von 
Humboldt, somewhat disgusted with politics. Another 
potentate was present, though we question his being 
taken into the account by many of the great personages 
that attended the Congress. It was Alexander Von 



Humboldt, who was holding a Congress of his own To 
this few were admitted save himself and the King of 
Prussia. It related to his old scheme of travelling in 
Asia. The king promised to defray the expenses of his 
preparations, and to allow him twelve thousand thalers a 
year during the journey, which he purposed to commence 
at once. His plans, however, were thwarted, as they 
usually were in such cases, so he returned to Paris. 

The next ten years of his life were prodigal in books. 

In 1819 he published the second volume of his " Voy- 
age to the Equinoctial Regions," and '* Mimosas and 
other Leguminous Plants of the New Continent" In 
1820 appeared a second paper " On the Mountains of 
India," and the fourth volume of " The New Genera and 
Species of Plants." The fifth volume of "The New 
Genera" was published in the ensuing year ; the sixth in 
1828. To the latter year belongs his " Geological Essay 
on the bearing of the Rocks of both Hemispheres." In 
1824 he published a work " On the Structure and Opera- 
tion of Volcanoes," and in 1825 the seventh volume of 
" The New Genera," the third volume of his " Voyage 
to the Equinoctial Regions," and " A Numerical Esti- 
mate of the Population of the New Continent." In 
1826 and '27 he published " The Temperature of the Sur- 
face of the Sea in difFerent parts of the Torrid Zone," 
" The Principal Causes of the difference of the Tempera- 
ture of the Globe," and "A Political Essay on the 
Island of Cuba." The draft of this latter work is to be 
found in the third volume of " The Voyage to the Equi- 
noctial Regions." He has expanded the chapter in 
which it occurred, and enriched it with a Map, and a 
Supplement, devoted to the Internal Resources and Com- 


meice of the Antilles and Columbia. Three works ap- 
peared in 1828 and '29 ; " Eemarks on the Goitre in the 
Tropics," " On the Systems of Numbers," and " A Re- 
vision of the Gramines published in the New Geiera 
and Species of Plants." 

A paragraph has sufficed to give the name and date 
of these works ; to criticise them would require at least a 
chapter. We shall not write that formidable chapter, 
but, lest the reader should find our resume as meagre as 
an auctioneer's catalogue, we shall devote a few pages to 
the subject As we have already spoken of " The 
Aspects of Nature," and the " Voyage to the Equinoctial 
Regions," we shall confine ourselves to some of Hum- 
boldt's less popular, but more abstruse books. Discard- 
ing an embarras du richesse^ in the shape of literary and 
scientific reviews, we shall let Humboldt himself describe 
them, believing that he understood the character of his 
writings as well, if not better, than any of his critics. 
We follow his bwn classification in the introduction to 
the " Voyage to the Equinoctial Regions." 

"I. Astronomical observations^ trigonxymetrical operations^ 
and barometrical measurements made during ike course of a 
journey to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, 
fnmt 1799 to 1804. This work, to which are added his- 
torical researches on the position of several points im- 
portant to navigators, contains, first, the original obser- 
vations which I made from the twelfth degree of south- 
em to the forty-first degree of northern latitude ; the 
transit of the sun and stars over the meridian ; distances 
of the moon firom the sun and the stars ; occultations of 
the satellites; eclipses of the sun and moon ; transits of 


Mercury over the disc of the sun; azimuths; circum- 
meridian altitudes of the moon, to determine the longi- 
tude by the differences of declination ; researches on the 
relative intensity of the light of the austral stars ; geo- 
desical measures, &c. Secondly, a treatise on the astro- 
nomical refractions in the torrid zone, considered as the 
effect of the decrement of caloric in the strata of the 
air ; thirdly, the barometric measurement of the Cordil- 
lera of the Andes, of Mexico, of the province of Vene- 
zuela, of the kingdom of Quito, and of New Granada ; 
followed by geological observations, and containing the 
indication of four hundred and fifty-three heights, calcu- 
lated according to the method of M. Laplace, and the 
new co-efficient of M. Baymond; fourthly, a table of 
near seven hundred geographical positions on the New 
Continent ; two hundred and thirty-five of which have 
been determined by my own observations, according to 
the three co-ordinates of longitude, latitude, and height 

"n. Equinoctial plants collected in Mexico^ in the island 
of Cnba^ in the provinces of Cara/^as, Oumana^ and Barce- 
lona^ on the Andes of New Orenada^ Quito, and Peru, and 
on the banks of the Rio Negro, the Orinoco, and the River 
Amazon. M. Bonpland has in this work given figures 
of more than forty new genera of plants of the torrid 
zone, classed according to their natural femilies. The 
methodical descriptions of the species are both in French 
and in Latin, and are accompanied by observations on 
the medicinal properties of the plants, their use in the 
arts, and the climate of the countries in which they are 

" in. Monography of the Mehstoma, Rhexia, and other 
genera of this order of plants, comprising upwards of a 


hundred and fifty species of melastomacese, \vhich we 
collected during the course of our expeditions, and which 
form one of the most beautiful ornaments of tropical 
vegetation. M. Bonpland has added the plants of the 
same family, which, among many other rich stores of 
natural history, M. Richard collected in his interesting 
expedition to the Antilles and French Guiana, and the 
descriptions of which he has communicated to us. 

" IV. Essay on the geography of plants^ accompanied by 
a physical table of the equinodial regions^ founded on meor 
sures taken from the tenth degree of northern to A^ tenth 
degree of southern latUvde, I have endeavoured to collect 
in one point of view the whole of the physical pheno- 
mena of that part of the New Continent comprised 
within the limits of the torrid zone from the level of the 
Pacific to the highest summit of the Andes ; namely, 
the vegetation, the animals, the geological relations, the 
cultivation of the soil, the temperature of the air, the 
limit of perpetual snow, the chemical constitution of the 
atmosphere, its electrical intensity, its barometrical pres- 
sure, the decrement of gravitation, the intensity of the 
azure colour of the sky, the diminution of light during 
its passage through the successive strata of the air, the 
horizontal refractions, and the heat of boiling water at 
different heights. Fourteen scales, disposed side by side 
with a profile of the Andes, indicate the modifications to 
which these phenomena are subject from the influence of 
the elevation of the soil above the level of the sea. Each 
group of plants is placed at the height which nature has 
assigned to it, and we may follow the prodigious variety 
of their forms from the region of the palms and arbores- 
cent ferns to those of the johannesia (chuquiraga, Juss^ 


the gramineous plants, and lichens. These regions form 
the natural divisions of the vegetable empire ; and as 
perpetual snow is found in each climate at a determinate 
height, so, in like manner, the febrifuge species of the 
quinquina (cinchona) have their fixed limits, which I 
have marked in the botanical chart belonging to this 

" V. Observations on Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. 
I have comprised in this work the history of the condor; 
experiments on the electrical action of the gymnotus ; a 
treatise on the larynx of the crocodiles, the quadrumani, 
and birds of the tropics ; the description of several new 
species of reptiles, fishes, birds, monkeys, and other 
mammalia but little known. M. Cuvier has enriched 
this work with a very comprehensive treatise on the 
axolotl of the lake of Mexico, and on the genera of the 
ProteL That naturalist has also recognised two new 
species of mastodons and an elephant among the fossil 
bones of quadrupeds which we brought from North and 
South America. For the description of the insects col- 
lected by M. Bonpland we are indebted to M. Latreille, 
whose labours have so much contributed to the progress 
of entomology in our times. The second volume of this 
work contains figures of the Mexican, Peruvian, and 
Aturian skulls, which we have deposited in the Museum 
of Natural History at Paris, and respecting which 
Blumenbach has published observations in the *Deca3 
quinta Craniorum diversarum gentium.' 

" VI. Political essay on the kingdom of New Spain^ vnih 
a physical and geographical Atlas, founded on astronomical 
observations and trigonometrical and barometrical measure' 
m^ents. This work, based on numerous official memoirs, 


presents, in six divisions, considerations on the extent 
and' natural appearance of Mexico, on the population, 
on the manners of the inhabitants, their ancient civiliza- 
tion, and the political division of their territory. It 
embraces also the agriculture, the mineral riches, the 
manu^ictures, the commerce, the finances, and the mili- 
tary defence of that vast country. In treating these dif- 
ferent subjects I have endeavoured to consider them 
under a general point of view ; I have drawn a parallel 
*not only between New Spain, the other Spanish colonies, 
and the United States of North America, but also 
between New Spain and the possessions of the English in 
Asia ; I have compared the agriculture of the countries 
situated in the torrid zone with that of the temperate 
climates ; and I have examined the quantity of colonial 
produce necessary to Europe in the present state of civi- 
lization. In tracing the geological description of the 
richest mining districts in Mexico, I have, in shortj 
given a statement of the mineral produce, the popula- 
tion, the imports and exports of the whole of Spanish 
America, I have examined several questions which, for 
want of precise data, had not hitherto been treated with 
the attention they demand, such as the influx and reflux 
of metals, their progressive accumulation in Europe and 
Asia, and the quantity of gold and silver which, since 
the discovery of America down to our own times, the 
Old World has received from the New. The geographi- 
cal introduction at the beginning of this work contains 
the analysis of the materials which have been employed 
in the construction of the Mexican Atlas. 

" VII. — Views of the Cordilleras^ and morMments of th^ 
indigenious naiions of the New Continent This work ifl 


intended to represent a few of the grand scenes which 
nature presents in the lofty chain of the Andes, and at 
the same time to throw some light on the ancient civili- 
zation of the Americans, through the study of their 
monuments of architecture, their hieroglyphics, their 
religious rites, and their astrological reveries. I have 
given in this work a description of the leocalUy or Mexi- 
can pyramids, and have compared their structure with 
that of the temple of Belua I have described the ara-^ 
besques which cover the ruins of Mitla, the idols in 
basalt ornamented with the caiantica of the heads of Isis ; 
and also a considerable number of symbolical paintings, 
representing the serpent- woman (the Mexican Eve,) the 
deluge of Coxcox, and the first migrations of the natives 
of the Aztec race. I have endeavoured to prove the 
striking analogies existing between the calendar of the 
Toltecs and the catasterisms of their zodiac, and the divi- 
sion of time of the people of Tartary and Thibet, as 
well as the Mexican traditions on the four regenerations 
of the globe, ihepraiUiycis of the Hindoos, and the four 
ages of Hesiod. In this work I have also included (in 
addition to the hieroglyphical paintings I brought to 
Europe,) fragments of all the Aztec manuscripts, col- 
lected in Eome, Veletri, Vienna, and Dresden, and one 
of which reminds us, by its lineary ^rmbols, of the koxms 
oi the Chinese. Together with the rude monuments of 
the aborigines of America, this vo/ume contains pictu- 
resque views of the mountainous countries which those 
people inhabited ; for example, the cataract of Tequen- 
dama, Chimborazo, the volcano of Jorullo, and Cay- 
ambe, the pyramidal summit of which, covered with 
eternal ice, is situated directly under the equinoctixJ line 


In every zone the conj5guration of the ground, the phy- 
siognomy of the plants, and the aspect of lovely or wild 
scenery, have great influence on the progress of the arts, 
and on the style which distinguishes their productions. 
This influence is so much the more perceptible in pro- 
portion as man is farther removed from civilization. 

" I could have added to this work researches on the 
character of languages, which are the most durable 

i monuments of nations. I have collected a number of 
materials on the languages of America, of which MM. 
Frederic Schegel and Vater have made use ; the former, 
in his Considerations on the Hindoos, the latter in his 
Continuation of the Mithridates of Adelung, in the 
Ethnographical Magazine, and in his Inquiries into the 
Population of the New Continent These materials are 
now in the hands of my brother, William Von Hum- 
boldt, who, during his travels in Spain, and a long abode 
at Home, formed the richest collection of American vo- 
cabularies in existence. His extensive knowledge of the 
ancient and modem languages has enabled him to trace 
some curious analogies in relation to this subject, so im- 
portant to the philosophical study of the history of man. 
A part of his labours will find a place in this narrative. 

** Of the different works which I have here enumerated, 
the second and third were composed by M. Bonpland, 
from the observations which he made in a botanical jour- 
nal. This journal contains more than four thousand 

'methodical descriptions of equinoctial plants, a ninth 
part only of which have been made by me. They ap- 
pear in a separate publication, under the title of Nova 
Oenera et Spines Plantarura, In this work will be found, 
not only the new species we collected, which, afl»r a 



careful examination by one of the first botanists of the 
age, Prof. Wildenow, are computed to amount to fourteen 
or fifteen hundred, but also the interesting observations 
made by M. Bonpland on plants hitherto imperfectly de- 
scribed. The plates of this work are all engraved ac- 
cording to the method followed by M. Labillardi^re, in the 
Specimen Planiarum Nbvce HoUomdim^ a work remark- 
able for profound research and clearness of arrange- 

The publication of these immense works is an epoch 
in the history of bibliography. To give some idea of the 
amount of money that was expended upon them we will 
give a list of the prices at which they were published. 
Many of them, we diould premise, particularly the folios, 
were brought out as separate pamphlets, or in numbers, 
on different kinds of paper, and at different prices. We 
shall enumerate the latter only, as we write for general 
rather than bibliographical readers. 

Voyage to the Equinoctial Regions, There are two 
editions of this work, one in quarto, in three volumes^ 
another in octavo, in thirteen volumes. The former was 
published at one hundred and fifty-eight firancs, (large 
paper copies two hundred and fifty-two francs,) the latt^ 
at ninety francs. The six Atlases which accompany the 
work cost two hundred and sixteen francs. 

The Picturesque Atlas. Published in folio, at five 
hundred and four francs, (large paper copies, five hun- 
dred and seventy-six francs,) and in octavo, at twenty- 
five francs. 

Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. There 
are three editions of this work ; one in quarto in two 
volumes, with a folio Atlas, published at two hundred 


and fifty francs, and two in octavo, in four and five 
volumes, published at thirty-six francs. 

Observations on Zoology. Two quarto volumes. 
Published at three hundred and fifty francs, (large paper 
copies, four hundred and twenty fiuncs.) 

Astronomical Observations. Two quarto volumes. 
Published at one hundred and ninety-two fitmcs, (large 
paper copies, three hundred and fifty-two fiuncs.) 

Equinoctial Plants. Two volumes, folio. Published 
at five hundred and ten francs, (large paper copies, eight 
hundred and fifty francs.) 

Monography of Melastomes. Two volumes, folio. 
Published at eight hundred and sixty-four francs, (largo 
paper copies, one thousand four hundred and forty 

Mimosas and other Leguminous Plants, folio. Pub- 
lished at six hundred and seventy-two francs, (large pa' ler 
copies, eight hundred and forty francs.) 

Revision of Gramines in the New Genera. Two vo- 
lumes, folio. Published at one thousand nine hundred 
and twenty francs. 

The New Genera and Species of Plants. There are 
two editions of this great work, one in quarto, in thirty- 
six books or parts, and one in folio, in seven volumes. 
The former was published at one thousand two hundred 
and ninety-six francs, the latter at one thousand eight 
hundred francs. (Large paper copies, three thousand six 
hundred francs, six thousand four hundred and eighty 
francs, and seven thousand two hundred fi'ancs.) 

The cheapest copies of these works cost at publication, 
unless our arithmetic is at faidt, five thousand nine hun- 
dred and fifty-five francs, the dearest fourteen thousand 


one hundred francs. Or, calling five francs a dollar, one 
thousand one hundred and ninety-one, and two thousand 
eight hundred and twenty dollars I 

If it took a small fortune to buy these books, it took a 
large one to make them. The exact amount is not 
known, but it is estimated at two hundred thousand 
dollars. The French and Prussian Governments assist^ 
in their publication, but the greater part of the cost was 
borne by Humboldt himself, and of course was lost. 
For however successful such works are, scientifically, they 
are always failures in a mercantile point of view. The 
labour and expense involved in the writing and publish- 
ing of these works gives us a grander idea of Humboldt, 
whan we coidd obtain from any relation of his travels. 
'J'hey show his intense and \inselfish devotion to science, 
- -a devotion of which few men besides himself were 
cf pable, and to which no man ever sacrificed more — and 
pi ice him among the literary benefactors of the world. 

But to return to our narrative, from which these biblio- 
graphical remarks have led us. Humboldt remained at 
Paris imtil 1822, when he proceeded to Verona, where 
another Congress was being held. There he met the 
King of Prussia, and after the Congress was over, ac- 
companied him on a journey through Italy, stopping on 
the way at Venice, Home, and Naples. "While at Naples, 
Humboldt had several opportunities of visiting Vesuvius, 
which was in a very active state. A series of eruptions 
succeeded each other, from the commencement of the 
year to the time of his visit to Naples, which was in 
October or November. He made three ascents of Vesu- 
vius, partly to witness the eruption, and repeat his 
former barometric measurements of the mountain, and 


partly to make a more complete determination of all the 
edges of the crater. 

The eruption of Vesuvius which Humboldt witnessed 
in the autumn of 1822 was the most memorable of any of 
which we possess any authentic account, since that which 
occasioned the death of the elder Pliny, and destroyed 
Herculaneum and Pompeii. 

In the commencement of 1823, the King of Prussia 
returned to Berlin and Hulnboldt accompanied him 
thither. It was not long before he was at Tegel. He 
found his brother William, and Frau Caroline, and the 
children there, but not the old castle of his childhood. 
Only one turret of it remained ; the rest had given place 
to a new and stately building. The grounds, the trees, 
the flowers, all were changed ; but so was Humboldt 
himself. The careless light-hearted boy had passed 
away, and in his stead was a staid and thoughtful miin. 
He left Tegel when he was fourteen, he returned when he 
was fifty-four ! What changes had passed over him in 
that time I What lands he had seen, what books he had 
written 1 He left Tegel a boy, clever it is true, but un- 
known : he returned a famous man, known to the world, 
one of the world's men — ^a Name I 

Humboldt remained some months at Tegel and Berlin, 
enjoying the society of his brother, and his king. The 
king had long honoured him for his profound knowledge 
of science, and felt a strong liking for his person and 
conversation. This liking and honour now took a 
definite turn; he solicited Humboldt to remove from 
Paris, and to come and live in Berlin. His brother, 
William, and Frau Caroline, joined in this solicitation, 
and he resolved at last to gratify them. He would 


return to Paris for a while, and finish somo of the woiks 
that he had left there undone ; then he would come lo 
Berlin. So back to Paris, his dear Paris, be went 

He remained at Paris till the autumn of 1826, whenh« 
made a visit to his brother at Tegel, to announce his 
speedy and permanent return to Berlin. While stopping 
in Berlin, or on his way back to Paris, he saw Goethe. 
Of Goethe's impressions of Humboldt at this time we 
have a record in "Eckerman's Conversations," under 
the date of Monday, 11th December. Hear the German 

" I found Goethe in an animated and happy mood. 
* Alexander Von Humboldt has passed some hours with 
me, this morning,' said he, coming to meet me with, 
great vivacity ; ' What a man he is 1 Long as I have 
known him, he is continually astonishing me anew. I 
may say he has not his equal in knowledge, in living 
wisdom ; and such many-sidedness I have found nowhere 
else. Wherever you call upon him, you find him at 
home, everywhere ready to lavish upon you the intel- 
lectual treasures he has amassed. He is like a fountain 
with many pipes; you need only to get a vessel to hold 
under it, on any side refreshing streams flow at a mere 
touch. He is to stay some days, and I shall feel, 
when he goes away, as if I had lived years during his 
visit.' " 

This is the way that a great man speaks of his equal. 
How unlike those little fellows, the reviewers 1 Clearly 
Goethe would never have answered the requirements <rf 
the Quarterly. 

In February 1827, Humboldt removed from Paris. He 
did not proceed directly to Berlin, but joined his brother's 

n>SA. OF KOSMOS. 875 

son-in-law, C^unt Biilow, who had just been appointed 
ambassador to England, on a journey to London. Hum 
boldt's stay in England was short, for in May we find him 
permanently settled in Berlin. He found his brother in 
Berlin, for he had a residence there, as well as at Tegel, 
and scores of his old friends, among others Augustus 
SchlegeL The king received him with open arms, and 
conferred upon him the title of privy councillor. He 
might have been Secretary of State, if he had chosen ; 
indeed, there was no office too good for him, but he loved 
Science too well to change it for Politics. Never 
enamoured of that artful, but powerful goddess, who, 
whatever her feults, is sure in the end to reward her 
worshippers, he was less likely to be won by her blandish- 
ments then, than at any other period of his life, • He had 
a new and grand scheme on foot, — one that he had pon- 
dered over for years. He thought of it at Paris, in his 
study among his books and manuscripts, and in the sahna 
of art and fashion, among the wise and the foolish. He 
thought of it in Mexico, as he groped his way in the 
darkness of the mines, or wandered among the ruins of 
vanished nations. He thought of it in Peru, on the 
rugged sides of Chimborazo and Cotopaxi ; in the terrible 
pass of Quindiu ; in the dense forests of the Orinoco, 
and at Cumana among the earthquakes. He thought of 
it on the deck of the Pizarro, in the midst of the Sea, and on 
the crater of Teneriflfe in the illimitable wilderness of Air. 
He thought of it everywhere, by day and at night, in his 
waking moments, and in his dreams. It was always 
with him. It was the one thought of his thoughts, his 
first and last conception, the most majestic statue of his 
house of life. It was "Kosmoe." "Its undefined 


image," he wrote in 1844, " has floated he%>Te my mind 
for almost half a century." 

All the travels that he had undertaken, and all tlie 
books that he had written, related to this great work.»-It 
was not as a traveller that he had crossed the sea, and 
explored unknown lands : nor yet as a man of science: 
but as the traveller, the man of science. He aimed at no 
common fame. Indeed, he aimed at none. It was to a 
nobler object than " the bauble reputation" that he de- 
voted his life ; it was a thirst for knowledge, a passion 
for wisdom, not in one thing, or many things, but in all 
things. To be a wise man was not enough ; he would be 
the wisest of men. His wisdom was universal, like the 
Universe to which it-was directed, and which he under- 
stood, if ^ver man did, or can understand it. 

On the 8rd of November, 1827, he conamenced a series 
of lectures on the Universe, at Berlin. The University 
building in which they were delivered was crowded. 
The king and royal family were there; the court waa 
there: the rich, the noble, the wise — ^in short all the 
intellect of Berlin was there. A perfect master of his 
theme, he was clear, eloquent, impassioned, inexhaustible, 
and they were enchanted. He stood before them like 
one inspired. It was a memorable time in Berlin, and 
indeed throughout Prussia ; for the fame of these lectures 
was soon noised all over the land. Scholars came from 
great distances to hear him, and even common people, 
the unlettered mass, who only knew of him through the 
newspapers. Everybody was anxious to hear and see 

The press was soon so great that he was forced to 
repeat the earlier lectures, in a larger building. " Alex- 


ander," William wrote to a fiiend in Vienna, " Alexander 
is really a 'puissance,' and has gained a new kind of 
glory by his lectures. They are unsurpassable. He is 
always the same ; and it is still one of the principal fea- 
tures of his character to h^e a peculiar timidity and 
undeniable anxiety in the mode, of his appearance." 
But Herr William that is not strange, for your truly 
great man is always modest The greatest of men — the 
" myriad-minded" Shakespeare was so, or he vould never 
have left his divine plays to the mercy of the players and 

"These lectures of Humboldt," says his biographer. 
Professor Klencke, " were also new and remarkable in 
respect to the position which he took towards the people. 
For while other learned men, whose social position is 
always higher than that of the people, nearly all, in 
their scientific and academic pride, did not deem it worth 
their while to disseminate their knowledge among the 
people, whom it must ultimately most benefit, while 
they generally keep their learning as the property and 
mystery of a caste, and interchange it among themselves ; 
while they consider it infra dig. and degrading for a man 
of science to popularize his knowledge ; Alexander Von 
Humboldt set them the noble example that a baron, a 
chamberlain, and confidential adviser of his king, did 
not consider it beneath his rank and dignity to appear 
publicly as the teacher of his favourite science; he 
showed that a true man of science does not attach him- 
self to an exclusive caste, and that all considerations of 
birth, rank, and title, are as nothing in the high service 
of science. And thus, Alexander, in the impulses of his 
heart and mind ftilfilled the noble duty which the men- 


tally-gifted man owes to his people of bestowing on them, 
and instructing them with the rich treasury of his know 
ledge and experience, thereby raising them nearer him- 

Humboldt finished his coprse of sixty-one lectures on 
the 26th of April, 1828. Their reputation was now so 
universal that he was urged to print them, for the sake 
of those who had not been able to hear him. He con- 
sented to do so, and began to write them oflF firom 
memory, for he had spoken without notes, but his atten- 
tion was distracted by other things. He had been applied 
to some months before, while the course was in prepress, 
by Count Cancrin, the Russian Minister of Finance, who 
requested him to give his opinion as to the eligibility of a 
coinage of platina from the Ural, and its relative value 
to gold and silver. The Spanish Government had also 
applied to him on the same subject, and a proposal had 
been made by some private individuals to the Congress 
of Vienna, to introduce the new metal into circulation, 
supported and recognised by government authority, 
Humboldt doubted the eligibility of the scheme, and 
said so frankly, without forfeiting the good opinion of 
the Russian Government. Happening in the course of 
his correspondence to express a wish to visit the Ural, 
and to compare its mountains with those of the New 
World, the Emperor of Russia invited him to undertake 
an expedition thither, and offered to defray the whole ex- 
pense. More than this, he was instructed to consider 
the advantages which the Imperial Government might 
draw from his researches into the mining capabilities of 
the country, as of secondary importance, and to devote 
himself entirely to what he thought the advancement of 


science. The offer was too tempting to be resisted. He 
had long dreamed of such a journey, but his plans for it 
had been repeatedly thwarted and postponed. It had 
seemed to him that it was never to be, but here when he 
least expected it, when he had almost ceased to think of 
it, was an opportunity such as might never occur again. 
He at once accepted the offer. 

Besides the preparations which such a journey 
demanded, he was busy with other important matters — 
the books that he had in progress, some of which were 
then passing through the press, and above all with the 
unhappy case of his friend Bonpland. We left poor 
Bonpland as far back as 1817, in Brazil, on his way into 
the interior of that country. He ascended the Parana 
until he reached tne ancient mission of the Jesuits, which 
was situated on the left bank of that river, at a little dis- 
tance from Itapua. The possession of this region of country 
was then a subject of dispute between Paraguay and the 
Argentine Confederation. Aware of this fact, Bonpland 
notified Dr. Francia, the Dictator of Paraguay, of his 
presence there, and explained to him his intention of 
cultivating tea, with the aid of a small colony of Indians 
whom he had taken into his service. Francia wished to 
have the monopoly of tea to himself, so he pretended to 
take Bonpland for a spy, and sent four hundred men 
across the Parana one dark night to fall upon him and 
his Indians. The little colony was taken by surprise ; a 
massacre ensued, many of the Indians were killed, most 
were wounded, and Bonpland himself received a sabre- 
cut on the head. He repaid this inhuman assault by 
dressing the wounds of the soldiers. Two days after- 
wards (the massacre took place on the night of the 3d 


of December, 1821) he was sent in chains to the neigh 
bouring village of Santa Maria. Francia refused to see 
him ; he was not imprisoned, but a watch was kept upon 
him, and he was forbidden to return to Assumption. He 
was allowed to practise as a physician, so he whUed away 
the months and years of his captivity, in making medi- 
cines, distilling and composing liquors, and in going 
about to minister to the sick and afficted. He wore only 
the coarsest garments, and went barefooted. 

It was a long time before intelligence of this outrage 
reached Europe, but it did at last, while Humboldt was 
residing in Paris, and he left no means untried to secure 
the release of his friend and fellow-traveller. He inter- 
ested the French Government in his b^^f, and Chateau- 
briand, who was then Minister of the AflFairs of Strangers, 
demanded lus freedom from the tyrannical Francia. It 
was not granted. The Emperor of Brazil made the same 
demand with the like success. At last, however, after a 
captivity of nearly eight years, Bonpland was set at 
liberty. What influence was powerftd enough to com- 
pel Francia to this tardy act of justice is not known, but 
it is said to have been that of Bolivar. If so, he probably 
owed his freedom to Humboldt We know that Hum- 
boldt was at this time in correspondence with Bolivar, 
in reference to the internal improvement of his country, 
and we cannot doubt that he urged the cause of his friend 
with him, as he had previously done with the French 
and Brazilian Governments. It was Humboldt, we 
believe, who restored Bonpland to liberty. 

Ostensibly set free on the 12th of May, 1829, he took 
the road to the Missions, but when he arrived at Itapua 
there was no order there for his release. He remained at 


Itapua some months before the capricious Dictator could 
make up his mind to let him go. On the 6th of Decem- 
ber, 1880, the creatures of Francia again beset him, and 
demanded of him, for the fourth time, the motives of 
his former association with the Indians. They insisted 
upon knowing whether he was a spy of the French or 
Argentine Governments. Finally on the 2nd of Febru- 
ary, 1831, they told him that he was free to cross the 
Parana, and that the Supreme, (not his Maker, but one 
of his Maker's worst specimens of humanity, Francia), 
allowed him to go where he would. He hurried towards 
Brazil, and fixed his residence on the frontier near the 
little city of San-Borja. There, in a modest cott^e, sur- 
rounded by a large garden of orange trees, he passed the 
remainder of his life, practising medicine, botanizing, and 
writing to Humboldt and the savans of Europe. He died 
last year over eighty years old. 

When Humboldt accepted the oflFer of the Eussian 
Government, to explore the mountains of the Ural, he 
selected two companions for the journey, — Christian 
Gottfried Ehre^berg, and Gustav Bose. Both these 
naturalists were young men, one being thirty years old, 
and the other thirty-three, which was about the age of 
Bonpland and Humboldt when they started on their 
great transatlantic journey twenty-nine years before. 
Eose, who bad studied chemistry and mineralogy, was 
conservator of the collection of minerals in the Uni- 
versity of Berlin ; and Ehrenberg, whose specialite was 
the microscope, had travelled with Hemperich through 
Egypt, Abyssinia, and a great part of Arabia, and had 
brought back from those countries a magnificent collec- 
tion of plants and animals, many of which were till 


then Unknown in Europe. The narrative of Lis travefe 
which lasted fix)m 1820 to 1825, was published while the 
preparations for the Asiatic journey were in progress, 
and was edited by Humboldt. Besides editing, or help- 
ing to edit, this work, and attending to the measurements 
of temperature, which the king, at his suggestion, had 
caused to be made in all the Prussian mines, the never- 
resting traveller was occupied and troubled with the 
afflictions of his brother. William was indeed afflicted, 
for Frau Caroline, who had been in ill health for years, 
was slowly dying. At the close of Alexander's lectures 
he had taken her to Paris and London, in the hope that 
a journey thither, and the use of the bath of Gastein, at 
which they were to stop on their return, would benefit 
her ; but it was not to be. They returned to Tegel in 
the middle of September, and she was worse than ever. 
She failed rapidly, and towards the end of November 
was in constant expectation of death. November, 
December passed, and she still lived. All over the land 
the Christmas holidays were celebrated. The candles 
were lighted on the Christmas tree, the presents were 
plucked from the branches, and rich and poor, young 
and old rejoiced in the birth of the blessed Christ-Child. 
But at T^gel all was sad. No Christmas tree, no gifts, 
no happy hearts. All was stillness and gloom, — the 
hush of the sick chamber, the shadow of the coming 
doom. The New Year came, and went, and Frau Caro- 
line still lived. Alexander visited her on a Lord's day 
in January. " She was dying," he wrote to a friend ; 
" opened her eyes and said to her husband, * Another 
human being is ended I' She expected her death, but in 
vain ; she lived again and took an interest in what was 


going on around her. She prayed muct." So wrote 
Alexander on the 22nd of January, 1829. He was still 
preparing for his journey : Frau Caroline was prepared 
for hers. It was a short one. 

" One step to the white death-bed, 

And one to the bier; 
And one to the chamel, 

And one— oh where ? 
The dark arrow fled 

Into the noon !" 

She departed on the 26th of March. There was 
another grave at Tegel. 



On the 12tli of April, 1829, Humboldt, Rose, and 
Ehrenberg departed from Berlin for St Petersburg. 
They had arranged the different branches of science to 
which each was to devote himselfi Ehrenberg was to 
attend to the botany and zoology of the countries through 
which they should pass, Bose was to analyse the minerals, 
and keep the travelling diary, while Humboldt imdertook 
the magnetic observations, the results of geographical 
astronomy, and the geology and natural history gene- 
rally. To show the respect in which he held him, be- 
fore he started, the King of Prussia appointed Humboldt 
an acting privy councillor. It was the rank of a minis- 
ter, and his title thenceforth was Excellency — ** His 
Excellency the Baron Von Humboldt" 

On their way from Berlin to St Petersburg, the tra- 
vellers passed through Konigsberg and Dorpat, Esthonia 
and Livonia. As the sea shore in the neighbourhood of 
Konigsberg abounded with amber, it was almost a for- 
bidden ground to the inhabitants. It was farmed out at 
a high rate, and carefully guarded, so that the fishermen 
could only put to sea at certain prescribed points of the 
coast The coast between Dantzic and Memel was let 


out to a ricli contractor for ten thousand dollars a-year. 
His magazines contained, at the time the travellers visit- 
ed them, one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of 
amber. Being highly inflammable it was kept in vaulted 
rooms, which were secured with iron doors. 

They arrived at St. Petersburg on the 1st of May, 
and found everything in readiness for their journey. 
Carriages, couriers, and horses were placed at their dis- 
posal by Count Cancrin ; a military escort was provided 
for them, and even their residences on the way were 
selected. A Eussian mining officer was appointed as 
Humboldt's companion, to give him information regard- 
ing the roads and localities, and to see that the authori- 
ties performed what was required of them. 

The travellers remained some time in St Petersburg, 
in order to see its sights before they commenced their 
journey. They visited the public institutions of the 
capital, and most of the show-places in the vicinity. As 
might have been expected, from their tastes, and the 
objects of their journey, they were attracted by the 
mineralogical collections of St. Petersburgh, and the size 
and splendour of the crown jewels. The largest of these 
jewels was on the top of the imperial sceptre. It 
weighed one hundred ninety-four and three-quarter 
carats, and its greatest diameter was one inch three and 
and a half lines. Formerly in the possession of Nadir 
Shah, whose throne it long adorned, it was bought, 
with other jewels, after his death, by an Armenian at 
at Bagdad, for fifty thousand piastres. From this Arme- 
nian it was purchased by Catharine the Second, at the 
price of four hundred and fifty thousand silver rubles, 
and a patent of nobility. 


886 KABAH. 

On the 20th of May the party started for Moscow. Be- 
sides a courier, and the mining officer already mentioned, 
they were famished with a Russian cook, as in the sta- 
tions beyond Moscow travellers were obliged to cook for 
them^lves. The broad highway between St Petersburg 
and Moscow was soon traversed, and th%y halted for a 
few days in the old capital of Moscovy. After making 
some barometric observations and examining the geology 
of the country, they continued their journey over a 
marshy level until they reached Nishni Novgorod, on the 
Volga. Here they met with Count Polier, the ownei 
of several large mining estates in the Ural, and as he 
was on his way thither he joined the party. They em- 
barked on the Volga on the last of May, and reached 
Kasan on the 4th of June. 

Originally the seat of a Tartar Khanate which was 
overturned in 1562, after flourishing for three hundred 
years, E^asan was still inhabited by Tartars, especially in 
the suburbs. The travellers visited the temples of these 
Tartars to see their form of worship : the guides removed 
their slippers as they entered, but as the travellers wore 
boots they were permitted to keep them on. 

The party remained at E^asan five days, during which 
they made several excursions in the neighbouthood. 
The most interesting of these was to the ruins of Bui 
gar, the capital of ancient Bulgaria. As they drew neai 
the modern village they were met by groups of men, 
women, and children ; the whole population came forth 
to meet them. At the head of these groups walked the 
oldest inhabitants, who, when they came to Humboldt, 
offered him bread and salt as a token of reverencei 
according to the Russian custom. 


Dismissing these good people when their hospitable 
ceremony was over, the travellers proceeded to the ruins 
of the old capital They found the walls of some build- 
ings still standing, two towers, and a number of tomb- 
stones bearing moniunental inscriptions, in Turkish, 
Arabic, and Armenian. These inscriptions dated back 
to the year 623 of the Hegira (a. d. 1226). Silver and 
copper coins and copper rings and trinkets were some- 
times found in the rubbish of Bulgar. There were 
several tombs among the ruins, which were objects of 
veneration to the feithful. They were the tombs of 
Tartar saints, who, as the Tartars generally were any- 
thing but saints, were undoubtedly, in their time, the 
cream of Tartars. The travellers found a MoUah per- 
forming his devotions at one of these tombs. He repeated 
his form of prayer, and bowed his body without being 
disturbed by their presence. They oflFered him a seat in 
their carriage, which he accepted, as the ruins were some 
distance fix>m each other; and he managed each time 
they stopped, to finish his devotions before they finished 
their examinations. Devotion was a good thing, so was 
a comfortable ride. Returning to Kasan they witnessed 
the Saban, a Tartar festival, celebrated every year after 
seed-time. The Tartars wrestled with each other, and 
ran foot races, and galloped their horses at full speed. It 
was a scene of barbaric merriment 

They left Kasan on the 9th, and passed through a dis- 
trict inhabited by the Wotjaks. This tribe was a branch 
of the femily of Finns ; they had embraced Christianity, 
and spoke the Russian language, although they retained 
the customs of their ancestors. The women wore high 
caps of birch-bark, covered with blue doth, bedecked 


with fringes, and hung with silver coins. On the 12th 
they reached the estate of Count Polier, at Werchne 
Mulinsk, where they halted to partake of his hospitality. 

From Werchne Mulinsk, they journeyed to Jekathari- 
nenburg, the Coiint accompanying them. Near Perm 
they fell in with a party of exiles on the way to Siberia. 
This party consisted of sixty or eighty women and girls, 
and as they were not fettered, they were probably ban 
ished for trivial offences. The worst class of criminalfl 
were always fettered while on their way to Siberia, being 
fastened by one hand to a long rope. The party that the 
travellers overtook was escorted by a band of armed and 
mounted Bashkirs. 

The postmaster at Malmiisch was a mineralogist, with 
a taste for anatomy, for around and within his house 
were the teeth and bones of an Immense mammoth, 
found on the banks of the Wjatka. 

On the 14th the travellers reached the outskirts of the 
Ural — ^a series of delicious valliea When they left the 
Neva three weeks before, it was crusted with ice ; now 
the grass was out, the plants were in ftdl bloom, and the 
ground was profusely covered with flowers. On the 16th 
they arrived at Jekatharinenburg. 

Jekatharinenburg was situated among the mountains on- 
the Asiatic side of the Ural ridge. This ridge consisted 
of several nearly parallel lines, whose highest point rose to 
the height of nearly five thousand feet. Its direction in 
the meridian, which was in a line standing perpendicu- 
larly upon the equator from the pole, reminded Humboldt 
of a similar situation in a chain of the Andes. The north- 
em and central portions of the Ural mountains contained 
gold and platina, and abounded in minerals of all kinds. 


The party remained at Jekatharinenburg four weeks, 
making excursions to the mines in its vicinity. They 
visited the gold mines of Schabrowski and Beresowsk, 
and the copper mines of Gumeschewskoi, and penetrated 
as fer northward as Nischne Tagilsk. Nischne Tagilsk 
and the whole district for some eight thousand square 
versts belonged to the Demidoff family. Their ancestor, 
Netika DemidoflF, was a common blacksmith at Tula, poor 
and obscure, until Peter the Great, in 1702, made him a 
present of Magnetberg, a recently discovered magnetic 
mountain, and the iron forges of Newjansk. This was 
the foundation of Nischne Tagilsk, and the fortunes of 
the family. 

Nischne Tagilsk was one of the richest mining dis- 
tricts in the world* At two versts distance from it stood 
the Magnetberg, which supplied all the surrounding 
forges with ore, and in the immediate neighbourhood 
were copper ores, and mines of gold and platina. 

Between Tscherno-Istotschinsk and Kuschwinsk, a 
lofty plateau separated the waters of Europe and Asia. 
On the east rose the springs of Bobrowka, a rivulet flow- 
ing into the Tagel ; on the west those of the Wissim, 
which flowed into the Utka and Tschussowaja. Near 
the centre of this plateau stood a majestic pine, with the 
words "Asia^" and "Europe" carved on the right and 
left sides. It was the guide post of two continents. 

Not far from Kuschwinsk, which was the seat of the 
Imperial Iron Works, there was a second mountain of 
magnetic iron. It was called Gora Blagodat, or the 
Blessed Mountain. Its existence was made known to 
the Eussians by a Wogul, named Tschumpkin, who was 
aftierwards burned alive on it by his enraged countrymen^ 


the primitive inhabitants of the country. The Rnssiani 
erected on the summit a monument to his memory. 

This region abounding in gold and platina, reminded 
Humboldt of the gold and platina regions of Brazil 
The latter produced diamonds; why should not these 
produce hem also? They would, if there was any truth 
in his theory, that Nature was always true to herself; 
not governed by accident or caprice, but by eternal im- 
mutable laws, of which she was at once subject and 
sovereign. He had already in his " Essay on the Bear- 
ing of Rocks," directed attention to the singular analogy 
of mineralogical characteristics- in diflferent parts of the 
globe, as regards platina and gold-sand. Thus at Cor^ 
rego, in Brazil, gold, platina, and palladium were found 
together ; near Tejuco gold and diamonds ; and platina 
and diamonds near the river Abaste. This fact awakened 
in him the strongest hope of discovering diamonds in 
the Ural. When he arrived at any of the works he 
caused the gold-sand to be subjected to microscopic ob- 
servations: if gold and platina were found in it, he 
directed the workmen to search carefully for diamonds. 
These examinations revealed the existence of crystals 
previously unknown in the gold-sands of the Ural, such 
crystals as in Brazil occurred in gold-sand with dia- 

The travellers parted from Count Polier at Kusch- 
winsk, on the 1st of July. It was their intention to 
have accompanied him to his estates on the Koiva, in 
the western declivity of the Ural, but as the direct path 
was only practicable on horseback, and another route 
would have caused them to lose too much time, they 
abandoned the idea. The same day they proceeded to 


the copper mines of Bogoslowsk. The road led through 
dense forests of pines, larches, and cedars; here and there 
were birches and poplars. The underwood of these 
forests was formed of wild roses in fiill bloom, and luxu- 
riant junipers whose dark green shade was relieved with 
the light hue of the birches. The richness and beauty 
of the plants contrasted strongly with the poverty of 
the fauncL The travellers saw hares and squirrels, and 
" such small deer," and now and then a bird No war- 
bling was heard in these forests. They saw several 
small hawks, and one finch, but no civilized birds, so to 
speak, such as swallows, wagtails, etc. The excessive 
v^etation of plants abounding in sap, produced myriads 
of gnats, which were a great torment to the travellers. 
To protect themselves against these gnats the inhabitants 
of the country wore over their feces nets steeped in birch 
tar, the smell of which was offensive to the insects. 
ISometimes they carried pots on their backs, filled with 
decayed wood ; or they burned the fungus of the birch, 
the smoke of which was not injurious to the eyes. As 
the travellers were not prepared to meet the gnats, they 
suffered severely firom their attacks: their only resource 
was to drive rapidly through them. When they drove 
slowly, or stopped, they were beset and stung by swarms. 
Their horses were stung worse than themselves : the poor 
beasts were in agonies. Along the road, which was being 
mended at the time, were groups of peasants at work. 
These peasants had lighted fires as a means of defence 
against the gnats, and whenever they paused from their 
labour they held their heads in the smoke, preferring to 
suffer that rather than the intolerable torment of the in- 

S92 MUBsmsK. 

Arriving at last at Bogoslowsk, tke trayeUers pro- 
oeeded to visit the mines in its vicinity. The scenery 
here was magnificent. To the east was a broad unbroken 
plain, stretching away like the sea: to the west and north, 
forty or fifty miles distant, a range, of magnetic moun* 
tains. The peaks of these mountains, dad with snow, 
loomed over the dark forests of pine and fir that covered 
the intervening heights. 

From Bogodowsk they returned to Jekatharinenburg, 
stopping on their way at Mursinsk. This district was 
rich in precious stones, topazes, beryls,* amethysts, and 
the like. Eighty-five versts from Jekatharinenburg, 
near the granite rocks on the right bank of the Teko- 
waja, emeralds were found in abundance. The presence 
of emeralds in this neighbourhood was first detected by 
a peasant, who was attracted one day as he was cutting 
wood by their lustrous sparkling in the mica, where the 
ground was opened around the roots of a tree which h«d 
been blown down by the wind. He collected a quantity, 
and took them on sale to Jekatharinenburg. They were 
tested, fresh excavations were made, and specimens were 
sent to St. Petersburg. These emeralds were remarkable 
for their extraordinary size, one in the mineralogical col- 
lections of St. Petersburg being no less than eight inches 
in length, and five inches in diameter. 

The travellers arrived at Jekatharinenburg on the 11th, 
afl«r an absence of sixteen days. They spent a week 
there preparing and arranging their collections, and then 
set out for Tobolsk, where they arrived on the 21st 

Tobolsk had been originally laid down as the eastern 
Umit of their jouraey, but their speedy and easy pro- 
gress through the northern Ural induced Humboldt to 

ON ras WAY TO bassaxju 399 

extend his i-esearclies to the Altai, of wliicli b it little 
was known since ihe time of Pallas, Kenovantz, and 
Hermann. This scheme was strongly supported by the 
Gtovemor-General. The distance from Tobolsk to Bar- 
nftnl was one thousand five hundred versts, but by start- 
ing at once they could traverse it within the time pre- 
scribed for their undertaking. So providing themselves 
with cap-nets as a defence against the gnats, they imme- 
diately commenced the journey. Their road lay across 
a steppe through Zara and Kainsk to Tomsk. The soil 
was firm and black, cultivated near the villages, and 
everywhere covered with tall herbage, interspersed with 
groups of birch and poplar. Between the Wagai and 
the Ischen whole tracts were covered with red flowers in 
full blossom: others were of a deep azure. The pea- 
sants of the villages through which the travellers passed 
appeared to be wealthy, and their houses, for the most 
part, were strikingly clean and neat. 

As the sky was unclouded the heat was considerable. 
The waters of the river Ajeff, at noon, on the 21st, were 
19** 4' Eeaumur, the air being 24° 6'. The Irstysch was 
also warm, being 19° near the convent of Abalak, on 
the 24th. The water of the wells, however, was ex- 
tremely cold. At Basckshewa, the first station from 
Tobolsk, the water of an ordinary well, free from ice, 
was 2^. 

Ascending the Irstysch to Tatmytakaja they proceeded 
•'in a south-easterly direction to the waters of the Om, and 
thence eastwardly along its banks across the great steppe 
of Barabinski, which reached fi*om the Irstysch to the 
ObL Unlike the majority of steppes which are dry and 
arid, this terrible waste abounded with marshes, rivers 



and lakes. The soil in some places was flat ami level bm 
the sea, in others it was covered with vegetation 
It waa impregnated with salt, and many of the lak^ 
contained salt water. The road was bridged in long 
courses over the marshy ground ; but as these course? 
were out of repair, the travelling was tedious. 

The party reached Kainsk on the 29th. Here they 
learned, for the first time, that the Siberian Plague was 
raging in the neighbouring villages. The physiciaik 
who gave them this intelligence could afiEbrd them but 
little information regarding the nature of the disease, 
except that it broke out among the cattle, and soon ex- 
tended to men. It attacked men in the uncovered parts 
of the body, in the face, neck, or arms, commencing 
with an indurated swelling, which turned to black and 
burning suppurations, that ended in fever and death. 
The origin of the disease was ascribed to the stings ot 

As it was impossible to reach the Altai region by any 
other route, at least within the time they had allowed 
themselves, the travellers resolved to continue their jour^ 
ney, taking all possible precautions to avoid contact with 
the peasants among whom the plague prevailed. They 
even rejfrained from sleeping at the halting places. They 
found traces of the malady in all the villages. The day 
before their arrival six persons died at Karganskaja, 
where five hundred horses had already perished. It was 
with considerable difficulty that they procured the means 
of continuing their route. Every village had a hospital 
of its own, and smoky fires of dry turf and dung were 
kept continually burning, in order to purify the air. As 
the travellers drew near the Obi and left the 8tq>pe 


behind them, the disease disappeared. It was never 
known among the mountains. 

They crossed the Obi at Bergsk, and proceeding in a 
southerly direction, reached Baraaul on the morning of 
the 2d of August. In nine days they had travelled one 
thousand miles. 

The dty of Barnaul was the central point of the 
mining interests of the Altai. It was the seat of the 
authorities of the whole region, and the principal loca- 
tion of its smelting furnaces. The most important pro- 
duct of the Altai was silver, the yield of which wa3 
greater there than in any other part of the continent. 
For fifty years before Humboldt's visit it amounted to 
two hundred thousand dollars annually. The annual 
yield of the mines during the same time was five hun- 
dred thousand pounds of copper, and eight hundred 
thousand pounds of lead. Notwithstanding the quan- 
tity of silver produced by the Altai, the ore fi'om 
which it was obtained was very poor ; its average was 
only four per cent, while the average of the silver 
ores of Mexico was fi^om eighteen to twenty-five per 

Though the working of the Altai mines was more 
recent than that of the Ural, the former were undoubt- 
edly known from the earliest antiquity, for the remains 
of andent mining operations were plentiful among them. 
These remains were generally ascribed to the Tchudes ; 
but who the Tchudes were, and at what period they 
lived was a mystery which no one cared to inquire into. 
It was enough to know that they had left the mines 
' behind them. The actual working of the mines of the 
Altai owed its existence to Akimfitsch Nitikas Demi 


dofl^ a son of the old blacksmith of Tola. With the 
permission and assistance of the government ne formed, 
in 1728, the great smelting establishments of Kolywansk 
and Bjelaja, and in 1739 laid the foundation of the town 
of Barnaul. 

Leaving Barnaul on the 4th, the travellers journeyed 
southward across the steppe of Platowskaja to the upper 
districts of the ObL They visited the porphyry works 
of Kolyvansk, and the silver mines of Kiddersk and the 
Serpent Mountain. This mountain, which derived its 
riune from the great number of serpents found upon it 
when it was discovered, was an immense mass of ores, 
the most important of which was silver. Two versts be- 
yond Riddersk there was a comical hill, called Kruglaja 
Sopka, or the Round Mountain. The vegetation of this 
hill, which was destitute of trees, was so dense and lofty 
that it prevented the travellers from seeing each other, 
when they were a few steps apiart 

On the 18th they reached Ustkamenogorsk, a fortress 
on the frontiers of Chinese Mongolia. Leaving their 
baggage at this post, which was guarded by a company 
of Cossacks, who went through their military exercises 
for them, they continued their journey to the gold and 
silver mines of Syranowsk. Beyond Syranowsk they 
came in sight of the ranges of Cholsun and Katunja. 
They saw at a distance of thirty miles the Stolbrowucha, 
and still further to the eastward the untrodden summit 
of Bjelucha, or as it was called by the Calmucks, God's 
Mountain, the highest peak of the Altai In this region, 
near the source of the Berel, in the valley of Rachman- 
owka, the travellers saw some remarkable hot springs. ' 
A few feet distant from one of these springs was one of 


cold water, whicli flowed eastward through the tuif, intc 
a small lake. 

They were now so near the boundary of China that 
Humboldt determined to pass over to Batfi, the nearest 
Chinese Mongolian post. It was situated on the Irstysch, 
below Lake Saisan. As he had made known his wishes 
at Buchtarminsk, a Cossack had been sent to Bat£ to an* 
nounce his visit. There were two stations at this post, 
one on each bank of the river. The left, or Mongolian 
station, was occupied by Mongolian troops, the right, or 
Chinese station, by Chinese troops; both were com- 
manded by Chinese ojficers. Between these two stations, 
on an island in the Irstysch, was a Mongolian and Chi- 
nese piquet, commanded by a captain of cavalry. Un- 
like the rest of the soldiers, who lived in tents, this piquet 
lived in houses. They superintended the fishery carried 
on by the Mongols of the Chinese portion of the Irstysch, 
and arranged the moderate duties on salt, payable to the 
Chinese oflScers. During the winter, when there was no 
fishing, the Mongolian part of the piquet returned to the 
village of Krasnojarsk, while the Chinese retired to the 
town of Tschugutschask, south of Lake Saisan, and four 
hundred and fifty ^evsts from Buchtarminsk. 

The travellers visited the Chinese station first, and as 
their arrival was expected, they found two tents prepared 
for their reception. They were met at one of these tents 
by the Chinese commander and two attendants. He 
was a tall, thin, young man, arrayed after the fashion 
of the Celestial Empire ; he wore a blue silk robe reach- 
ing to his ancles, and the usual conical cap, adorned with 
peacock feathers, which denoted his rank. His compa- 
nions wore a similar dress, but had no feathers in their 


C3aps. He invited the travellers by signs to enter the 
tent. It was carpeted, and opposite the door stood seve- 
ral chests, covered with carpets and pillows. He seated 
himself on one of these extempore couches, and placed 
Humboldt by his side ; the rest of the party sat on the 
other chests, or on the ground* The interpreter they 
had brought spoke only Mongolian, but as the Chinese 
commander understood that language they were able 
to converse with him. He offered them tea, which was 
declined, and then inquired into the object of their jour- 
ney. Humboldt told him it was to inspect the mines, and 
questioned him in turn. He told the traveller that he 
came direct from Pekin, on horseback, in four months ; 
that he had not been long on that station ; and that he 
would be sent to another in three years, that being the 
length of military service at any one station in China. 

Proceeding to the Mongolian post, they found the com- 
mander in his tent at the end of an avenue of poles, upon 
which hung fresh pieces of meat He was dressed like 
his comrade on the other side, but was considerably older, 
and very dirty, as were also his tent and attendants. As 
he did not understand Mongolian, or pretended not to, 
the conversation was carried on with diflSculty. Hum- 
boldt presented him with a piece of velvet, which he 
accepted thankfully and offered tea, which was declined. 
He led the party to a temple on the bank of the Irstysch. 
It was a small square wooden building, with a door 
opening on the river. In the interior was an altar, and 
on the wall over the altar, a Buddist idol. Between the 
door and the river in a kind of walled court, there was 
another altar with burning coals on it. 

Returning to their own tent, the party weie visited by 


the first commander, who was accompanied by his two 
companions and a band of soldiers. They received him 
seated, while the common Mongolians crowded around 
the door and looked on. The ceremonies of visitation 
over, he and his attendants lighted their pipes, and 
smoked vigorously, urging the travellers to do the same. 
He tried some tobacco which they offered him, and 
relished it highly, but seeing that they did not join him 
in his fumigation, he put up his pipe, as his good breed- 
ing would not permit him to smoke alone. Humboldt 
offered him a piece of blue doth, which he declined to 
accept, though evidently with great reluctance. It was 
pushed towards him, and pushed back, but very gently, 
several times. When he had done all that Chinese polite- 
ness required of him under the circumstances, he accepted 
it, and the twinkle of his eye showed the satisfaction that 
he felt He.inquired what he could offer in exchange, and 
the interpreter, who had received his instructions before 
hand, told him that he could offer Humboldt nothing 
that he would value so much as some Chinese books, 
which he had seen in his tent They were immediately 
brought, and the same ceremony was again gone through 
with: he pushed them towards Humboldt, and Hum- 
boldt pushed them gently back. When etiquette was 
satisfied he accepted them. They proved to be a famous 
historical novel — " San-kue-tch|i" containing the history 
of the three kingdoms into which China was divided, 
after the Hofn dynasty. Humboldt told the commander 
that he intended to give the books to his brother, who 
was studying the Chinese language, and the commander 
desired him to inscribe his name, Chin-foo, upon them 
He did so, and presented him with the pencil with 


which he wrote.. It was placed on the blue cloth, aJid 
borne away by his attendants. 

Madeira, biscuits, and sugar were handed round to 
the guests. Chin-foo took a small piece of sugar, and 
drank one glass of wine. His attendants were not so 
moderate; they drank several glasses, tossing them 
down at a single draught, and devoured quantities of 
sugar, putting away their pipes for that purpose. Sugar 
was then handed round among the Mongols, who by this 
time had entered the tent, and stood like children, hold- 
ing out their hands wistfully. After a time Chin-foo 
took his leave. The Mongols, full of curiosity, crowded 
around the Europeans, and touched them. They were 
much struck with one of the party who was corpulent, 
putting their hands round his stomach, and feeling him 
with their fingers. The travellers pushed them away, 
but they took it good-humouredly, and as a matter of 

There were eighty men in these two stations, all 
dressed like their leaders, though their robes were of 
different colours, and were confined at the waist by a 
girdle. They were ragged, dirty, and mostly without 
arms. The weapons of those who were armed were 
bows and arrows. They seemed to set little store by 
them, for they offered to sell them to the travellers, to- 
gether with their pipes ^d chopsticks, and the rest of 
the celestial knick-nacks. About the tents were a few 
camels, a flock of goats, and some sheep with enormous 
fat tails. 

The travellers returned to Ustkamenogorsk, by the 
way of the Irstysch. The route was full of interest to 
Humboldt^ for on the lonely shores of the river he saw 

MIAfiK. 401 

immense rocks of granite, lying horizontally and in 
layers, and resting on clay slate, whose layers were 
partly perpendicular and partly at an angle of eighty- 
five degrees. It was an important fact for him in his 
theory of granitic formations. 

Prom Ustkamenogorsk the travellers proceeded to 
Miask. They were accompanied by a military escort of 
Cossacks, which was relieved at the different posts. 
These posts, which consisted of small fortified villages, 
at intervals of twenty or thirty versts, extended along 
the whole boundary, from the fi-ontier of China to the 
Caspian Sea. Passing through Semipolatinsk, a town of 
considerable importance in the caravan trade of Central 
Asia, they followed the course of the Irstysch as fer as 
Omsk. They arrived at Omsk on the 25th, and remained 
there two days, visiting the Cossack, military, and Asiatic 
schools, and pursuing their usual researches. They lefl; 
the river at Omsk, and struck to the westward, across 
the steppe of Ischim, passing along the fi-ontiers of the 
Middle Horde of Khirgises, and stopping by the way 
at Petropaulowsk and Troitsk. On the 3d of Septem- 
ber they arrived at Miask, 

They spent two weeks at Miask, visiting the gold 
workings in its vicinity, and making excursions to the 
Hmen moimtains, and the mines around Slatoust The 
truth of Humboldt's theory of the existence of diamonds 
in the gold-sands of Asia was made known to them 
while at Miask ; not through any discoveries of their 
own at this time, but by a messenger firom Count Polier. 
They parted fi-om the Count, who was on his way to his 
estates, as the reader will remember, on the 1st of July, 
at Kuschwinsk, He was strongly impressed with the 


mineralogical ideas of Humboldt, so he examined Hi the 
works for gold-washing in the vicinity of Bissersk. On 
the 6th of July he reached the last erf these works, 
about twenty-five versts fix)m Bissersk, and entered it 
with M. Schmidt, a young mineralogist from Preyberg. 
In the sands which were brought to him, amongst a 
quantity of iron crystals and quartz, lay the first dia- 
mond of the Ural ! It had been foimd the day before 
by Paul Popoff, a boy of fourteen, employed in the 
works. As a reward had been promised to those who 
should discover any valuable stones, the boy hastened 
with his prize to the overseer. The overseer taking it 
for a topaz, placed it among the other minerals for the 
Count's inspection. Its transparency was perfect, and 
the Count at once recognised it as a diamond. Within 
three days afterwards a second was found by another 
boy ; and a few days after his departure from the works 
the Count received a third, larger than the two others 
put together. 

As M. Schmidt had all the necessary instruments to 
examine the three crystals, and verify the discovery, the 
Count ordered him to take their specific gravity. The 
first two gems weighed together 3.620, the exact medium 
between tiie extremes assigned by mineralogists, as the 
specific gravity of the diamonds ; there are 3,4 and 8,6. 
The absolute weight of the first was 0.106, or a little 
over half a carat 

Count Polier sent one of these diamonds to Humboldt 
by M. Schmidt, requesting him not to make the dis- 
covery public until the party should return to St Peters- 
burg, as he had not yet presented one to the Emperor. 
Before his departure from St Petersburg, Humboldt was 


confident of finding diamonds in the. Ural, and jestingly 
declared to the Empress that he would not return with- 
out Russian diamonds. When the party returned to St. 
Petersburg in November, the Emperor alone had seen 
the Count's diamonds. Humboldt was the first who 
showed one to the Empress. 

Count Polier made a circumstantial report of his dis- 
covery to the Minister of Finance, and commenced a 
letter on the subject to Arago and the "Annals of 
Chemistry," but died before he could finish it. The boy 
who discovered the first diamond was more fortunate, for 
his liberty was given him, and a sum of money besides. 

From Miask Humboldt and his party proceeded south- 
ward to the head waters of the Uri. They passed a 
number of villages belonging to the Bashkirs, but not 
then peopled by them, for this tribe, leading a nomadic 
life in summer, occupied their houses only in the winter. 
Following the course of the southern Ural, the travellers 
came to Orsk, at the junction of the Or. This district 
was rich in quarries of green jasper, and the river Jaik, 
in its vicinity, presented some curious geological pheno- 
mena. The road fix)m Orsk to Orenberg being the most 
dangerous one on the whole Jfrontier, the authorities fur- 
nished Humboldt with a guard of Cossacks as a defence 
against the Khirgises. 

On the 21st the party reached Orenberg. It was the 
capital of the district, the chief fortress on the line, and 
the centre of a vast caravan trade to all parts of Central 
Asia. The Gk)vernor-General being absent, the party 
were entertained by Major-Gfeneral Gens. General Gens 
was deeply versed in the geography of Asia, for which 
he had collected many important materials, partly from 


the caravans that traversed that country, and partly fix)ni 
his own travels. He told Humboldt of a lofty niountain 
situated to the north-east of the great Balkaach lake. 
This mountain had once been a volcano, and caravans in 
passing it were frequently disturbed by the storms which 
it occasioned. The inhabitants of the region in which it 
stood endeavoured to propitiate it by sacrifices of sheep. 
Greneral Grens had not seen this singular mountain, but 
he knew a Tartar who had visited it, or pretended to 
have done so. It reminded Humboldt of the volcanoes 
mentioned in the Chinese books, as lying far from the 
ocean, the existence of which had divided the opinions 
of geologists. He made it the subject of his investiga- 
tions, and subsequently obtained more accurate imforma- 
tion concerning it fix)m the Bussian police-director of 

As Humboldt had seen but little of the Tartars that 
inhabited the regions along his route, Greneral Gens sent 
a messenger to the nearest sultan of the Eiiirgises, and 
requested him to come with his people into the neigh- 
bourhood of Orenberg, and give the ti-avellers a specimen 
of their games and sports. A large number of Khirgises 
soon made their appearance, and raised their tents a few 
versts from the city. Then the sultan came, and paid his 
respects to Gens and Humboldt. 

They drove out to the encampment, surrounded by a 
band of Khirgises, who rode around the carriage at full 
gallop, resting with their hands on the backs of their 
horses, with their feet in the air. The sultan introduce! 
the travellers to his wives who were seated in a row in 
his tent, and the sports began. The first was horse- 
racing. The jockeys drove off to the distance of seven 


versts, and commenced galloping their horses back to the 
tents. In the meantime the spectators fonned a ring, • 
into which stepped two stout Khirgises to wrestle. Cast- 
ing off their outer garments, they threw their leather 
girdles over each other, and struggled until one was 
thrown. When this was done another entered the ring 
and contested the prize with the victor, who remained 
there until he himself was thrown. One of the wrestlers 
threw six of his comrades in succession, but was van- 
quished by the seventh. Then a large kettle was brought 
out, half filled with boiled groats. Into this kettle General 
Gens tossed a silver ruble, which the Khirgises attempted 
to fish out with their teeth. Several added to their stock 
of small change by their dexterity in this sport, but the 
greater number besmeared their heads and shoulders in 
vain. Now came the musicians, a band of men who 
sang in long-drawn tones, and frightfully distorted their 
feces. Their singing was execrable, btlt they were so 
enraptured with it, that it was almost impossible to stop 
them. When they had finished, a veiled woman entered 
the circle, and sang in the same horrid manner. Then 
came two others who sang a duet. They stood with their 
faces close together, and were veiled ; but in the course 
of the duet they raised their veils so that they could see 
each other, and at the same time give the spectators a 
side view of their charms, which piece of coquetry was 
not thrown away. But now the news spread that the 
horsemen were coming, whereupon the overseers plied 
their whips, and the crowd gave way. The first prize, a 
cloak embroidered with gold, was won by a boy. Then 
commenced the foot-race. The distance from the starting 
point to the sultan's tent was about a mile ; it was run 


by the winner in three minutes. The first prize was a 
silver ruble, the rest were pieces of cotton doth, and 
smaller presents. When the q)orts were over, the tra- 
vellers returned to the city, and prepared for their 
departure the next day. 

From Orenberg they descended the Ural to Uralsk, 
the chief- city of the Uralian Cossacks, where they re- 
mained a day to witness the autumnal fishing. Then 
turning to the north-east across the mountain steppe of 
Obschtschei Syrt, they proceeded to Busuluk, and firom 
thence westwaxdly to the Volga at Samara. This region 
abounded with sulphur springs and waters impregnated 
with salt and asphaltes ; in many places large quantities 
of sulphur were obtained ftx)m the earth. They de- 
scended the Yolga, passing a number of German colonies 
on its banks, and came to Dubowka. From this place 
they made an excursion to the great salt lake of Elton, 
or AUan Nor^ the Grolden Lake, as it was called by the 
Cossacks. It was situated in the steppe, seventy miles 
to the eastward of the Volga, and was celebrated for its 
extensive salt manufiwstories. In this lake the travellers 
found large quantities of insects and birds, which had 
feUen into the water, and were preserved. From these 
salted specimens Ehrenberg made a good collection of 
the /auna of the region. 

At Sarepta, further down the river, they visited a 
colony of Moravian brethren, who had established them- 
selves there in 1765, since which time they had carried on 
a considerable trafl&c, chiefly of their own manufactures, 
with the Cossacks. 

The lower districts of the Volga, were quite thickly 
settled by the Kalmucks ; the travellers firequently passed 


tbeir houses, and sometimes met the people with their 
herds of horses, sheep, and camels. In the course of 
their journey they came to a Kalmuck temple. Before 
its entrance stood a number of upright sticks, like a 
clump of spears adorned with flags, or pennons. These 
pennons, which were long stripes of cotton cloth, were 
covered with Kalmuck prayers, written in the language of 
Thibet, which was always used by the priests in their reli- 
gious rites, though unintelligible to their flock. The simple 
Kalmucks admired it, just as the simple Catholics admire 
Latin. It was a divine language, consecrated by the use 
of ages. Neither the priests nor the Kalmucks read 
these prayers, (the latter indeed could not :) they were 
fastened to the long sticks already mentioned, in order 
that the wind might wave them to and fro. The flutter- 
ing of these written supplications was considered as 
eflfectual as the repeating of them. If the god to whom 
they were addressed had eyes, and most of the gods of 
Asia were jsupposed to be rather liberally supplied in the 
matter of vision, he could see them, which would answer 
his purpose just as well as if he heard them. It was a 
capital test of his divinity, and it saved so much time ! 

The travellers entered the temple, and watched the 
Kalmucks at their worship. 

Glaring pictures of grotesque idols, hung on the waUs, 
and gilded images stood on the altar, before which were 
several basins containing fruit, water, dried flesh, cheese, 
and other offerings. Between the door and the altar 
were six priests, sitting face to fece on the floor, the 
inferior priests nearest the door, the Lama, beside the 
altar. They were singing and playing on a variety of 
instruments. It was difficult to tell which was worsl 


their chant or their music ; both were execrable, har^ 
discordant, noisy — a diabolical uproar. At last the 
Larrui arose, the music ceased, and the priests came and 
talked with them. 

The travellers came in sight of Astrachan on the 
afternoon of the 12th of October. They found a steam- 
boat awaiting them at the ferry by the order of the 
Ck)vemor-General Ossipoff, and at once crossed over to 
the city, where they were received by the firing of can- 
non, and an immense crowd of spectators. They were 
conveyed by four-horse carriages to the spacious apart- 
ments allotted them, and the next day Humboldt was 
waited upon by the dignities of the city, and the deputies 
of the various nations represented in the population of 
Astrachan. The Gtevemor-General presented them to 
the traveller in the order of rank. First came the burgo- 
master of the city and the elders of the mercantile pro- 
fession, bringing the tokens of homage, in the shape of a 
large pound cake, ornamented with grapes, plums, pears, 
apples, and salt Then came the nobles, and the officers 
of the garrison, and last the deputies of the Armenians, 
Persians, Hindoos, and Tartars, a motely but picturesque 

The travellers remained at Astrachan nine days, 
studying its diversified population, and visiting its bazars 
and temples. In one of these temples they saw a fakir^ 
who sat crouching on the floor; his chin rested upon his 
knees, between which streamed his long white beard, 
that reached down to his feet He had been sitting thus 
for fifteen years, with no clothing but a sheep skin, 
which was thrown loosely about him. He had forgot 
himself to marble. 


They made a short excursion to the mouths of the 
Volga and the Caspian Sea, for the purpose of analysing 
its waters, obtaining specimens of its fish, and making 
barometric measurements. They then proceeded to visit 
Sered Dschab, a noted Calmuck prince, who resided near 
the Volga, fifty miles from Astrachan. He sent car- 
riages and a large cavalcade to meet them at the land- 
ing-place, from which they were conducted to his resi- 
dence, where he received them with great state, and 
entertained them royally. He showed them his temple, 
his horses, his orchards and gardens, and the distilleries 
where he manufactured brandy from mare's milk. 
Besides Sered Dschab himself, they met at his residence 
a neighbouring prince, Dschangir, the young Khan of 
the Inner Horde of Khirgises. They would willingly 
have spent some time at Astrachan, but as the weather 
was cold, and winter was drawing near, they were 
obliged to hasten their journey homeward. The day 
after their departure the country was covered with 

They retraced their route along the Volga to Zarizyn, 
and then crossed over to the Don, where Humboldt 
made his last barometric observation on the relative 
height of the Caspian Sea. They reached St Peters- 
burg on the 18th of November, after an absence of six 
months, during which they had travelled between eleven 
and twelve thousand miles. 

On the 28th of December they were back in Berlin. 






Fbom the time of his return from Central Asia till the 
day of his death, Humboldt resided in Berlin. His 
house was in the Oranienburger Strasse, at a little dis- 
tance from the Spree. It was a quiet neighbourhood, in 
the northern part of the city, not &x from the palace of 
the King. The palace was his home, too, whenever he 
chose to make it so ; indeed, during a large portion of 
the year he might be said to reside with the King. When 
he gave up Paris for Berlin, he entered into closer rela- 
tions with his sovereign than was enjoyed by any other 
person in the kingdom, outside the royal femily. The 
tie that bound them was one of the noblest that ever 
bound a monarch and his subject The King honoured 
Humboldt for his profound wisdom, and Humboldt 
respected the King for his many excellent qualities. It 
was a sincere disinterested friendship on both sides. The 
gain, however, was with the King, rather than with 
Humboldt, for the rank and emolument that he bestowed 
upon Humboldt were more than repaid by his society 
and conversation. 

Besides his palace at Berlin the King had palaces at 
Potsdam and Charlottenburg. The Charlottenburg 


palace was two or three miles from Berlin, outside the 
Brandenburg gate. It was built by the King on his 
marriage with the Princess Sophia Charlotte. The gar- 
dens in which it stood were prettily laid out, diversified 
with the windings of the Spree, and several small lakes 
filled with carp. These carp were trained to come at the 
sound of a bell, and pop their noses out of the water 
for crumbs. 

At Potsdam there were four royal palaces, the most 
noted of which was the celebrated Sans Souci, built by 
Frederic the Great, in 1746-47. It stood on a terrace on 
the right of a broad avenue, which ran through the 
grounds. The grounds and gardens were laid out in the 
stiff formal French style of the last century; here em- 
bowered alleys and . cut hedges, there statues of fiiwns 
and wood nymphs, and there fountains spouting foam in 
marble basins. Vines, olives, and oranges grew in hot- 
houses. At the end pf the terrace on which the palace 
was built were the graves of the great Frederic's favour^ 
ite dogs, and of one of his horses that had borne him 
through many battles. Old Fritz loved this spot, and 
just before his death he used to be brought to it in a great 
arm-chair, to bask in the sun, with his dogs around him. 

In the gardens of Sans Souci stood the Charlottenhof 
palace, built by Frederic William IV., when he was 
srown prince. It was in the style of a Pompeian dwell- 
ing, elegant and tasteful, with beautiful fountains, and 
an antique altar, and a number of statues and bronzes 
from Pompeii and Herculaneum. This was the King's 
favourite residence while at Potsdam, and here Hum- 
boldt generally resided when he visited him — several 
rooms being set apart for his exclusive use. 


The commencement of 1830 found Humboldt and 
his companions, Rose and Ehrenberg, at work on their 
Asiatic journey, but some years elapsed before it was 
ready for publication. Humboldt's portion was ready 
first, which could hardly have been expected, a consider- 
able portion of his time being taken up with his oflBcial 
duties. He sought the advice and assistance of his sci- 
entific friends, as was his custom when undertaking his 
great works. This obliged him to reside a while in 
Paris. He was also sent thither by the King, with a 
diplomatic mission, to acknowledge Louis Philippe and 
the new regimd This was in September, 1830. In 
February, 1831, he filled another mission there, while 
his brother William, who had retired from politics 
shortly before the death of his wife, was decorated with 
the order of the Black Eagle at home, and admitted into 
the Council of State. 

It was at this time that Humboldt first met Agassiz, 
then a poor student, now the celebrated Professor. " I 
was only twenty-four years of age," says Agassiz, in his 
touching tribute to the memory of Humboldt, " I was 
only twenty-four years of age when in Paris, whither I 
had gone with means given to me by a friend, but was 
as last about to resign my studies from want of ability to 
meet my expenses. Professor Mitscherlich was then on 
a visit to Paris, and I had seen him in the morning, 
when he had asked* me what was the cause of my de- 
pressed feelinge, and I told him that I had to go, for I 
had nothing left. The next morning as I was seated at 
breakfest, in front of the yard of the hotel where I lived, 
I saw the servant of Humboldt approach. • He handed 
me a note, saying there was no answer, and disappeared. 


I opened the note, and I see it now before Hke as dis- 
tinctly as if I held the paper in my hand. It said : 

" * My friend, I hear that yoa intend leaving Paris in 
consequence of some embarrassments. That shall not 
be. I wish you to remain here as long as the object for 
which you came is not accomplished. I inclose you a 
check for fifty pounds. It is a loan which you may 
repay when you can.' 

" Some years afterwards, when I could have repaid him, 
I wrote, asking for the privilege of remaining for ever in 
his debt^ knowing that this request would be more con- 
sonant to his feelings than the recovery of the monqr, 
and I am now in his debt What he has done for me I 
know he has done for many others — in silence and un- 
known to the world. 

" It is a circumstance worth noticing," continues Pro- 
cessor Agassiz, " that above all the great powers Prus- 
-da has more distinguished scientific and literary men 
among her diplomatists than any other State. And so 
Humboldt was actually a diplomatist in Paris ; though 
he was placed in that position, not from choice, but in 
consequence of the benevolence of the King, who wanted 
to give him an opportunity of being in .Paris as often and 
as long as he chose. 

" But from that time there were two men in him, the 
diplomatist, living in the Hotel des Princes, and the natu- 
ralist who roomed in the Biie de Itf Harpe, in a modest 
apartment in the second story, where his scientific friends 
had access to him every day before seven. After that 
he was frequently seen working in the library of the 
Institute until the time when the Grand Seigneur made 
his appearance at the court, or in the salons of Paris." 


It was through Humboldt's liberality in 1833, that 
Agassiz was enabled to commence the publication of his 
great work on Fossil Fishes ; and in the fulfilment of a 
mission suggested to the King of Prussia by the same 
kind friend, that he emigrated to the United States in 

Besides filling the £plomatic mission which called him 
to Paris, Humboldt was busily engaged in seeing through 
the press, the first instalment of his journey to Central 
Asia. It was published in 1.831, under the title of 
"Asiatic Fragments." It was not a narrative of the 
journey, for the writing of the narrative was assigned 
to Eose, but a dissertation in two octavo volumes, on 
geology and climatology. The first volume treats of the 
mountain-ridges and volcanoes of Central Asia, and of 
the various kinds of eruptions in different parts of that 
region, comparing them with similar eruptions in Ame- 
rica. " He has everywhere interspersed," says Professor 
Klencke, " numerous geognostic observations and notes 
on the general formation of the soil between the Altai 
and the Himalaya mountains, and his communications 
on the remarkable occurrence of volcanoes in the middle 
of the continent, and far from the ocean, are of great in- 
terest Here Humboldt placed science on a new footing, 
for he had had the special opportunity of observing the 
volcanoes in three different quarters of the world. He per- 
ceived that the volcanic phenomena could no longer be 
' considered as belonging to geological developments, but 
that they must be explained by physical history in gene- 
ral, as the volcanic activity seemed to him to be the 
result of a continual communication between the interior 
of the earth, which is in a molten fluid condition, and 



the atmospliere which surrounds the hardened and oxy» 
dized crust of our planet. On this theory he explained 
the still active and the extinct craters, the direction of 
the mountain-ridges, and the formations of the soil ; he 
deciphered the traces of former terrestrial revolutions, 
their relative age, and the physical powers which have 
influenced and still influence the form of the earth's sur- 
face. Thus the masses of lava which pour from the 
craters were to him the petrified streams of formerly 
gushing springs of the interior of the earth ; from the 
connection and similarity of effects he traced the causes 
and conditions of the formation of rocks and superin- 
cumbent strata, of the chemical results of volcanic erup- 
tions, of elevations and depressions of the earth's sur- 
face. By the strictest investigation of all occurring new 
appearances, and by penetrating combination of analo- 
gous, observed fiicts, he explained numerous physical 
and geological problems, whose exact solution had 
hitherto been deemed impossible. Humboldt thinks that 
the volcanic activity of our earth, compared to former 
ages, is considerably decreased ; it can no longer bring * 
forth new elevations or heat in the north, but can only 
produce small craters, and an agitation of the earth's 
surface. Before the advent of man into terrestrial nature, 
a tropical, animal, and vegetable world flourished every- 
where on the volcanically -heated earth; now, on the 
cooled planet, the petrified surface only receives warmth 
from the sun, the tropical luxuriance died out towards the 
north, and only flourishes where the sun can exercise its 
perpendicular influence over the tropics. 

In those remote ages of the boiling centre of our earth- 
ball the hot fluid and the gases it generated often and ou 


many points burst through the firm crust with tremen 
dous force, made clefts and depressions in it into which 
the molten masses of metal, basalt, and other matter 
flowed, which were petrified, and now lie in the thus- 
formed mountain ridges. Thus arose the Cordilleras of 
the Andes, the Himalaja mountains, and thus was petri- 
fied the waving sur&ce of the broken soil into those hills 
and valleys which transform our plains into picturesque 
landscapes. From these causes Humboldt explained the 
peculiarities of the Asiatic soil. It was in consequence 
of the volcanic power which raised mountains and conti- 
nents, and swelled up the earth-crust bubbling like a 
gigantic vault, that these hollow vaults sank down in 
the course of ages, and thus Humboldt established that 
the depression of the surfece of the old world, where the 
level of the Caspian Sea, like that of the Sea of Ural, 
lies two hundred or three hundred feet below the level 
of the ocean, and where the depression of the firm soil 
extends as fer as Orenberg, Saratow, and south-east, pro- 
bably as far as the so-called central plain, is nothing but 
-a crater-land like that of the moon, where the large 
points, above one hundred miles broad, called Hipparch, 
Archimedes, and Ptolemy, form a basin formation such 
as exists also nearer home ; for instance, in Bohemia. 

Before Humboldt's journey into the interior of Asia, 
there existed many erroneous notions of the geography, 
the connexion of the mountain-chains, and the produc- 
tions of the soil of those districts, but an entirely new 
view of the country was acquired through this bold and 
penetrating traveller, who made a large number of inde- 
pendent latitude measurements, and who obtained varied 
information on travelling routes and local circumstances 


jGrom trayelled Tartars, Bnlgarians, and TaflchkentS) as 
well as from the Bussian oflScers. The inner, central 
part of Asia was not, as had been supposed, an immense 
agglomeration of mountains, nor an uninterrupted table- 
land, for Humboldt established that this part of the 
world was crossed from east to west by four mountain- 
systems (by the Altai, which ends westward in the Kir^ 
ghiz district, by the Himmelsberg, by Kuenlun, and by 
the Himalaya), which haye exercised authenticated in- 
fluence on the historical migrations of nations. And 
thus Humboldt discovered a volcanic territory in the 
centre of Asia, which is one thousand to one thousand 
four hundred miles distant from the ocean, and which 
presents a surfig^oe of two thousand five hundred geo- 
graphical miles. 

The second volume of the " Asiatic Fragments'* con- 
tains, besides the description of the twelve routes, "Obser- 
vations on the Temperature and the Hygrometric Con- 
dition of the Atmosphere in some portions of Asia, and 
Investigations into the Cans^ of the Deflection of the 
Isothermic Lines" — namely, the imaginary lines which 
unite all points on the earth of equal mean temperature. 
In this volume we have important contributions to a cli- 
matic knowledge of that country, and in it are indicated 
also the causes which produce the deflection of the iso- 
thermic lines from the parallel circles. These results, 
based on numerous astronomic and magnetic measure- 
ments, throw an entirely new light on this branch of 
science, and are again closely connected with the results 
of the former American journey, as Humboldt had there 
also construed the terrestrial laws from similar pheno- 
mena in the old and new world." 


"But the Asiatic journey," continues the Professcr, 
** became of vast importance in its more extensive re- 
sults. Where Humboldt could not himself institute 
observations, he arranged further studies for others, with 
prudence and foresight In many parts of Siberia, he 
left carefully compared thermometers in the hands of 
competent and intelligent persons, and awakened the 
taste for these measurements and comparative experi- 
ments, especially among the Russian mining superin- 
tendents of the Ural Mountains. In addition to this, he 
gained the assistance of the imperial academy of St 
Petersburg, by submitting to them an excellently regu- 
lated plan for instituting over the entire extent of the 
Russian empire a regular system of observations on the 
daily changes in the state of barometer, thermometer, 
and hygrometer, on the temperature of the air, the direc- 
tion of the wind, and the moisture of the atmosphere. 
The interest which all the members of the Academy 
took in Humboldt's plan was increased by the Emperor's 
interest; and if it is taken into account that the Russian 
empire presents a surfece larger than the whole visible 
surface of the moon, it will be comprehended what 
important laws of terrestrial organization can be deduced 
and revealed by contemporary and comparative observa- 
tions over such a large field. The Russian government 
at once acknowledged the importance of these plans, and 
instituted a physical observatory in St Petersburg, whose 
task it was to choose the other observatory stations, to 
compare and adjust the instruments with which the ex- 
periments were to be made ; accurately to determine the 
astronomical position of the stations selected, to superin- 
tend and direct the magnetic and meteorologic researches, 


to arrange the collected results, to calculate them, and to 
publish the mean results." 

After the publication of the "Asiatic Fragments," Hum- 
boldt returned to Berlin, stopping on his way at Weimar 
to see Goethe. " I owe some hours of a frank friendly 
conversation with your brother," Goethe wrote to Wil- 
liam Von Humboldt on the 1st of December, 1831, " for 
whom I can find no expressive title. For although his 
view of accepting and operating on geological objects is 
quite impossible for my cerebral organs, I have seen with 
real interest and admiration how that of which I cannot 
convince myself, is with him clearly deduced, and enters 
into combination with the stupendous mass of his know- 
ledge, where it is then digested by his most estimable 
character." A few months more, and Goethe was dead. 

The next six or seven years of Humboldt's life were 
devoid of incident. His time was principally spent at 
Berlin with the King, and at Tegel with his brother Wil- 
liam. Indeed all the time that he could spare from his 
official duties was devoted to William. The death of 
Frau Caroline brought them more closely together ; the 
blow that robbed William of his wife gave him back his 
brother. Not that there had ever been a shadow of 
estrangement between them, but in their case, as in thou- 
sands oC others, death seemed to reveal them more fully 
to each other. Their hearts were cemented by sorrow. 
Besides this there was another bond between them — the 
growing consciousness that William's health was de- 
clining. The blow that struck down Frau Caroline 
seemed to have wounded him also, for from the day of 
her death he was changed. His nerves were shattered ; 
he stooped and tottered in his gait, and his whole body 


trembled. It was evident that one of " the German Dio- 
scuri," as the brothers were called, was on his way to the 
Silent Land. One by one the friends of his youth went 
before him. First Niebuhr and Stein ; then Goethe and 
Q^ntz, and then Hegel and Schleiermacher. Then it was 
his turn. It was his custom to visit his wife's grave on 
the anniversary of her birthday, and it cost him at last 
his life ; for on one of these solemn festivals of his soul 
he caught a severe cold, which hastened his death. 
Three days before he died Alexander wrote concerning 
him to their mutual friend, Vamhagen Von Ense. Here 
is his letter. 

" Berlin, 6 o'clock a.m., 5ih April, 1835. 
" You, my dear Varnhagen, who do not fear pain, but 
consider it reflectively in the depth of the feelings, you 
must receive a few words of love which the two brothers 
feel for you in this mournftd time. The dissolution has 
not taken place yet. I left him at eleven o'clock last 
night, and now hasten thither again. Yesterday was a 
less painful day : he was in a half soporific condition, had 
much and not very restless sleep ; and at each awaking, 
words of love and consolation, and the clearness of his 
great intellect, which comprehends everything, and ex- 
amines its own condition. His voice was very weak, 
hoarse, and sharp, like a child's, therefore the physician 
applied leeches to the larynx. He is perfectly conscious. 

* Think often of me,- he said, the day before yesterday, 

* but always cheerfully. I have been very happy ; to-day 
also was a happy day for me, for love is the greatest 
happiness. I shall soon be with your mother, and com' 
prehend the laws of the higher world.' I have no hope. 


I did not think my old eyes could shed so many tears. 
It has now lasted eight days. 

" A. V. Humboldt." 

Three days passed, — three long and dreary days 8f 
suffering and sorrow, and all was over. He died in his 
brother's arms. 

" I had the misfortune to lose my brother the day be* 
fore yesterday," Humboldt wrote to Arago, "and am 
in the most profound grief. In great distress we think of 
those dearest to us, and I feel a slight consolation in 
writing to you. We saw him dying for six days. Hia 
weakness had painfully increased during the last week ; a 
continued trembling had shown itself in all his limbs, 
but his mind had retained all ite native vigor. He la 
boured ceaselessly, and leaves two almost finished works; 
one on the languages of the Indian archipelago, derived 
from the Sanscrit ; the other, on the origin and philosophy 
of languages in general. These works will be published. 
My brother has left his manuscripts, his commenced 
works, and his valuable collection of books, to the public 
library. He died of an inflammation of the lungs, 
watching, with painful sagacity, the progress of the dis- 
ease. Hifi was a high intellect, and his soul was fiill of 
elevation and nobility. I feel very isolated." . 

William Von Humboldt was buried on Palm Sunday. 
At eleven o'clock the procession started fix)m the castle. 
First came the hearse covered with crape and drawn by four 
horses, followed by Alexander and William's children 
and grand-children ; then a number of noble personages 
from Berlin, Prince William, the King's brother, seve- 
ral generals and statesmen, and a long train of scholars 


and artists: and then the people of the village, who 
showed their affection for the dead man's memory by 
following his body to the grave, singing hymns and 
psahns as they went The solemn procession wound its 
way through the grounds until it reached the monument 
which William had erected for his wife. It stood at the 
end of an alley of cypress, in a spot of the park to 
which Frau Caroline had been partial, and which she 
bad chosen for a resting-place. Upon the summit of 
this monument, stood a statue of Hope, by Thorwaldsen. 
Under this divine angel, by the side of his dead wife, the 
great scholar was laid with prayers and many tears. 

"You should have known my brother William," 
Alexander used to say in after years : " he was always 
the cleverest of us two brothers." 

There is a period in our lives when we think that 
grief will kill us. It is in youth when we are ignorant, 
not in age when we are wise. Age teaches us many 
things, not the least of which is our power of endurance. 
Humboldt felt that he was desolate after his brother's 
death, but he also felt that he could endure his desola- 
tion. He had many consolations left him still, — his 
friends, his books, his inextinguishable thirst for know- 
ledge. As we have given a glimpse of his private life, 
let us reverse the medal, and show him as he appeared to 
the public at this time. 

" When, in the years 1884-5," says the author of Ber- 
lin and the Berliners, ** we young students thronged into 
lecture room No. VIII., at eight o'clock on winter morn- 
ings, to hear Bockh on Greek literature and antiquities, 
we used to see in the crowd of students in the dark cor- 
ridor, a small, white-haired, old, and happy-looking man, 


dressed in a long brown coat. This man was the itudi' 
osus phtblogicBy Alexander Von Humboldt, who came, as 
he said, to go through again what he had neglected in his 
youth. When we met him in the lecture-room we re- 
spectfully made way for him ; for though we had no re- 
spect for anybody, especially professors, Humboldt was 
an exception, for he knew * a hellish deal.' To his own 
honour, the German student still respects this quality. 
During the lecture Humboldt sat on the fourth or fifth 
bench near the window, where he drew a piece of paper 
firom a portfolio in his pocket, and took notes. In going 
home he liked to accompany Bdckh, so as in conversa- 
tion to build some logical bridge or other firom the old 
world to the new, after his ingenious fashion. There was 
then in the class a man who has since distinguished him- 
self in political literature, but whom we had nicknamed 
*Mosherosh,' that is Calves'-head, on account of hia 
stupid appearance. As Mosherosh generally came in late, 
it was the fashion to receive him with a magnificent 
round of stamping. One day, Humboldt too came late, 
and just at the usual time of Mosherosh, and without 
looking up we gave the regular round, while Humboldt, 
blushing and embarrassed, made his way to his place. In 
a moment the mistake was seen, and a good-natured 
laugh succeeded. Humboldt also attended the evening 
lectures of Eitter on universal geography, and let the 
weather be as bad as it might, the gray-haired man never 
failed. K for a rarity he chanced not to come, we said 
among ourselves in students' jargon, * Alexander cuts 
the college to-day, because he's gone to ELing's to 
tea.' Once, on occasion of discussing an important 
problem of physical geography, Ritter quoted him, and 


everybody looked up at him. Humboldt bowed to us, 
with his usual good-nature, which put the youngsters 
into the happiest humour. We felt ourselves elevated by 
the presence of this great thinker and most laborious 
student We seemed to be joined with him in the pur* 
suit of great scientific ends." 

Humboldt's next work of consequence was " A Criti- 
cal Examination of the history of the Geography of the 
New Continent, and of the Progress of Nautical Astro- 
nomy in the 15th and 16th Centuries." It was written 
in French, and was published in five octavo volumes, at 
Paris, in 1836-39. He had once intended to write a his- 
tory of Columbus — a task for which no one was so 
well fitted — and had employed the leisure hours of thirty 
years in collecting materials for it ; but the multiplicity 
of his labours, in other directions, prevented him from 
completing it. He was not content, however, to lose his 
valuable materials, so he gave them to the world in the 
work just named. It is divided into four divisions. 
The first discusses the causes which prepared and led to 
the discovery of the New World. The second relates to 
Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and the dates of several 
important geographical discoveries. In the third he 
treats of the early maps of the New World, and of the 
time when the name America was first commonly used ; 
the fourth is a history of the progress of nautical 
astronomy, and map-making in the fifteenth and six- 
teenth centuries. It is a fine subject, and Humboldt has 
handled it, as no one besides himself could have done ; but 
it is not equal to what we conceive his Life of Columbus 
would have been, and we shall always regret that he 
abandoned his first intention. 


In 1840 Humboldt published an aooount of hk 
ascent of Chimborazo, and of the mean elevation of the 
continent of America, besides superintending the publi- 
cation of the works of his brother William. He was 
also a member of the academic committee for the publica- 
tion of the works of Frederic the Great In January, 
1842, he accompanied the King of Prussia to England, 
and was present with him at the baptism of the Prinoe 
of Wales. In May of the same year a new order 
awaited him, in connexion with the Order of Merit. 
This order was founded by Frederic the Great as a mili- 
tary order, only five non-military persons, of whom 
Voltaire was one, being admitted into it in his time. 
Frederic William IV. instituted a peace class of the 
Order of Merit, and His Excellency the Baron Von 
Humboldt was chosen Grand Chancellor. 

Thirteen years had now passed since Humboldt had 
made his great Asiatic journey, and eleven years since 
his first book on the subject, the " Asiatic Fragments," 
appeared. During that time he had collected a multi- 
tude of fresh materials from his correspondents in Bussia, 
and j&x)m the directors of the Observatory of St. Peters- 
burg. So instead of preparing a second edition of the 
"Asiatic Fragments," which was called for, the first 
being out of print, he set about an entirely new work, 
which should give the result of the latest discoveries. 
He was assisted, as usual, by some of the most eminent 
men of the time ; not so much by his former scientific 
co-labourers, for the subject was beyond the pale of their 
studies, as by a new and rising generation of naturalists and 
scholars ; such men as Henrich Julius Klaproth, Stanis- 
laus Julien, and Eugene Bumouf Burnouf investigated 


the ethnographical and geological portions of the subject 
in the ancient Zend books,, while Julien and Klaproth 
devoted themselves to physical researches in Chinese, in 
which language both were profound scholars. The result 
of their labours was fused by Humboldt with his own, 
and published at Paris in 1848, in three octavo volumes. 
The title of the new work was " Central Asia," and the 
chief subjects that it treated oi^ were the mountain chains 
and climatology of that r^on. 

" The result of the Asiatic journey," says Professor 
EHencke, " which Humboldt has given in his work on 
Central Asia, are very various, and cannot yet be com- 
bined under one conunon head. The most important 
new investigations which have here led to further 
inquiries, are the treatise on the mean altitude of the 
great continent of the earth, on the table-lands of the 
interior of Asia, on the mountain system of Kuenlun, 
on the depression of the Caspian Sea and its environs, 
below the level of the ocean ; also historico-geographical 
investigations into the former course of the Eiver Oxus, 
and communications on the boundary of perpetual snow. 
Besides this, the work contains plates, which give the 
mean temperature of more than three hundred places, 
and besides the voluminous geognostic revelations of the 
Ural, the volcanoes, the beds of gold, and on the pro- 
duce of the gold washings in the Ural districts, and in 
Siberia, on the diamonds in the mountains, there are 
explanatory essays by Stanislaus Julien, on Chinese his- 
torical sources, additions by Klaproth, on volcanoes, 
notes by Valenciennes, on the sea-d^gs of the Caspian 
Sea, &C. The work abounds in important results, and 
iooludes a chart of Central Asi% drawn by Humboldt 


himself which is prepared entirely according to the 
latest astronomic and altitude measurements. The cal- 
culation of the astronomical observations made for this 
purpose, in Siberia, was the last work of Humboldt's 
constant fellow- worker, Oltmans, who died soon after the 
completion of this task," 

But let us for a moment leave these great works, and 
glance at their author. 

" I visited Humboldt," said Professor Lieber, in his 
eloquent address before the New York Geographical 
Society, "I visited Humboldt at Potsdam in the year 
1844, when he had reached, therefore, the age of seventy- 
five ; for you know that he was bom in that memorable 
year, 1769, in which Cuvier was bom, and Wellington, 
and Chauteaubriand, and Napoleon, and Canning, and 
Walter Scott, and Mackintosh— just ten years after 
Schiller, just twenty after Gk>ethe. Humboldt told me 
at that time that he was engaged in a work which he 
intended to call Kosmos ; that he was obliged chiefly to 
write at night, for in the morning he studied and 
arranged materials, and in the evening he was expected 
to be with the King fix>m 9 o'clock to about 11. After 
his retum fix)m the King he was engaged in writing until 
1 or 2 o'clock. 

" Humboldt, when in Berlin or Potsdam, was retained, 
if we may use a professional term, to join the evening 
circle of the King for the indicated hours. It was all, I 
believe, he was expected actually to perform in retum 
for the titles, honours, and revenue which he was enjoy- 
ing, except that the monarch sometimes selected him as 
a companion on his journeys. Humboldt described to 
me the character of these royal evening reunions. Every 


thing of interest, as the day brought it to notice, was 
there discussed. The drawing of a beautiful live oak, 
near Charleston, which a fiEur friend had made for me, 
was taken by Humboldt to that circle, where it attracted 
so much attention that he begged me to leave it, and he 
told me that the volume describing our aqueduct, which 
my friend, the author, now the President of our College, 
had given me at the time of its publication, and which I 
had then sent him, had furnished the topic of discussion 
for an entire week. We collected, he said, all possible 
works on ancient and modem aqueducts, and compared, 
discussed, and applied, for many successive evenings. Is 
jihere, then, a royal road to knowledge after all, when a 
Humboldt can be retained ? 

" May I extend your supposed permission of giving 
personal anecdotes, provided they are of a sufficiently 
biographical character, such as Plutarch, perhaps, would 
not have disdained to record? I desire to show what 
interest he took in everything connected with progress. 
I have reason to believe that it was chiefly owing to him 
that the King of Prussia oflfered me, not long after my 
visit, a chair to be created in the University of Berlin, 
exclusively dedicated to the science and art of Punish- 
ment, or to Poenology. I had conversed with the 
Monarch on the superiority of solitary confinement at 
labour over all the other prison systems, when he con- 
cluded our interview with these words: *I wish you 
would convince Mr. Von Humboldt of your views. He 
is rather opposed to them. I shall let him know that you 
will see him.' 

" Humboldt and prison discipline sounded strange to 
my ears. I went and found that he loved truth better 


than his own opinion or bias ; and my suggestion thai 
so comprehensive a University as that of Berlin, our com- 
mon native city, ought to be honoured with having the 
first chair of poenology, for which it was high time to 
carve out a distinct branch, treating of the ooavict in all 
his phases after the act of conviction, was seized upon at 
once by his liberal mini He soon carried the Minister 
of Justice along with him, and the offer to which I have 
alluded was the consequence. 

" On the other hand, a friend, whose name is perhaps 
more interwoven with the history of our canal than that 
of any other citizen, except Clinton, informs me that he 
had the pleasure of sitting by the side of Humboldt at a 
royal dinner, at Charlottenburg. During the whole time 
they were engaged in conversing almost exclusively on 
our great canal, and that greater one which ought to 
unite in everlasting wedlock the sturdy Atlantic and 
the teeming Pacific, having now yearned for one another 
for centuries. Humboldt spoke with a knowledge of 
details and a cagacious discernment which were sur- 
prising to my firiend, well versed in all the details of 
these topics. 

" Although it has been stated by high authority that 
the works of Humboldt show to every one who can 
*read between the lines' an endeavour to present 
Nature in her totality, unconnected with Man, I cannot 
otherwise than state here that, on the contrary, it baa 
ever appeared to me that this great man, studying 
nature in her details, and becoming what Bacon calls 
lier interpreting priest, he elevates himself to those 
heights whence he can take a comprehensive view of 
her in connexion with man and the movements of 


society, with language, economy, and exchange, insti- 
tutions and architecture, which is to man almost like the 
nidifying instinct to the bird. Humboldt's tendency in 
this respect seems to me in its sphere not wholly dissi- 
milar to the view which his friend Eitter. takes of geo 
graphy in connexion with history." 

" Some fifteen years ago," continued Professor Lieber, 
after speaking of a visit which he made to William Von 
Humboldt at Tegel; "some fifteen years ago, Hum- 
boldt presided over the annual meeting of Naturalists, 
then held at Berlin. In his opeaing speech he chiefly 
discoursed on the merits of Linnaeus. He knew of 
Linnaeus as Herodotus knew of Salamis and Thermo- 
pylae ; for the life of the great Swede overlapped by 
some ten years that of Humboldt, and all he there said 
of Linn^ seems to me to apply to himself with far 
greater force and on an enlarged scale. In that speech, 
too, I remember, he quoted his friend Schiller. Hum- 
boldt was, in a marked manner, of a poetic tempera- 
ment. I do not believe that, without it, he would have 
been able to receive those living impressions of nature, 
and to combine what was singly received, in those vivid 
descriptions and in language so true and transparent, 
that they surprise the visitor of the scenes to this day. 
He had that constructive imagination — ^I do not speak 
now of inventive fiincy — without which no man can be 
great in any branch, whether it belong to nature or to 

** But yesterday an officer of oar navy, whose profes- 
sion has made him well acquainted with South America, 
by* sea and land, and with the Andes — one of the Monu- 
ments of our Illustrious Man — told me that he knew of 



no descriptions or rather characteristics, sc true to living 
reality as Humboldt's .Views of Nature, whicL he bad 
perused and enjoyed on the spot 

" The power of collocation and shrewdness of connex- 
ion, the knowledge of detail and the absence of a desire 
to perceive things according to a system, the thirst for a 
knowledge of the Life of Nature and the constant wish 
to make all of us share in the treasures of his know- 
ledge — his lucid style, which may raise his Kosmos to a 
German classic — ^these seem to me to characterize Hum- 
boldt in his studies of Nature, besides all that which he 
has done as a professional naturalist 

" Humboldt's name and life may be termed with strict 
propriety of language, international. He read and spoke 
English and Italian; he spoke and wrote Spanish 
with ease and correctness, and French almost as well as 
German ; he lived for entire periods of many years in 
Paris, and counted many French among his best friends, 
yet not at the expense of patriotism. In that very 
speech at Berlin, which has been mentioned, he dwells 
with pleasure on the penetrating effect which the Ger- 
man mind has exercised on all the physical sciences no 
less than in the mental branches. 

" Humboldt was a dweller in kingly palaces ; a courtier, 
if you choose, and the son of a courtier, without a taint 
of servile flattery or of submission. He was rather the 
honoured guest of royalty. He loved liberty, and con- 
sidered it a necessary element of our civilization. He 
was a sincere friend of substantial, institutional freedom. 
His mind often travelled to this country, and that^ he 
loved America (sometimes with sadness) is sufficiently 
shown, were it not otherwise well known, by the sin- 


gular love which the Americans bore hiitu To me that 
little piece of news was inexpi;essibly touching which 
simply informed ns that our Minister in Berlin, with the 
Americans now present at that city — a cluster of 
mourners from afar — ^formed part of his funeral pro- 
cession, the only foreign nation thus represented. 

"In his simplicity and genial warmth he did what 
many a bold man would have hesitated to do. I was 
prisent as a young and distant listener, when, at Eome, 
immediately after the Congress of Verona, the King of 
Prussia, Humboldt and Niebuhr conversed on the affairs 
of the day, and when the last-mentioned spoke in no 
flattering terms of the political views and antecedents of 
Arago, who, it is well known, was a very advanced 
Republican of the Gallican School, an uncompromising 
French Democrat. Frederick William HI. simply abo- 
minated republicanism, yet when Niebuhr had finished, 
Humboldt said, with a sweetness which I vividly remem- 
ber: * Still this monster is the dearest friend I have in 

" Humboldt had all his brother's views of the necessity 
of the highest University education and of the widest 
possible popular education, and he gave impulse to 
many a scientific, historical, or ethnological expedition, 
fitted out even by foreign governments, for he was con- 
sidered the counsellor of all. 

" But I cannot dwell, here, any longer on his versatility 
and manifold aptitude. It is proved by the literature 
of almost every branch. If we read Barth on Central 
Africa, we find Humboldt; if we read Say's Political 
Economy, we find his name ; if we study the history of 
the Nineteenth Century, we find his name in the diplo- 


macy of Prussia and France ; if we read general literar 
ture, we find his name in connexion with Schiller and 
Madame de Stael ; if we look at modem maps, we find 
his isothermal lines ; if we consult Grimm's dictionary 
of the German language, we find Humboldt as authority. 

" That period has arrived to which Croesus alluded in 
the memorable exclamation, Oh, Solon, Solon, Solon ! 
and we are now allowed to say, that Humboldt was one of 
the most gifted, most fortunate, and most fevoured mor- 
tals — favoured even with comeliness, with a brow so 
exquisitely formed that irrespective of its being the 
symbol of lofty thought, it is pleasant to look upon in his 
busts as a mere beautiful thing — ^favoured even in his 
name, so easily uttered by all nations which were des- 
tined to pronounce it. 

" When we pray, not only for the kindly fruits of the 
earth, but also, as we ought to do, for the kindly fruits 
of the mind, let us always gratefully remember that He 
who gives all blessed things, has given to our age and to 
all posterity, such a man as Humboldt." 

The publication of the narrative of the expedition to 
the Ural, by Eose, in 1837-42, and of Humboldt's 
" Central Asia" in 1843, gave the latter the leisure that 
he needed to begin the long-delayed "Kosmos." To the 
publication of this work, which was to embody the sub- 
stance of his lectures delivered at Berlin in 1828-29, 
Humboldt had in some sort committed himself, before 
starting on the Asiatic journey. As he remembered 
only the outlines of his lectures (there were sixty-one in 
all, the reader will remember, and they were delivered 
without notes), he was obliged to go over the whole 
ground anew. He had begun to do so, we have already 


Been, when Professor Lieber visited him in 1844 ; and 
from that time until within a few months of his death, 
he was engaged on this great undertaking. The idea of 
a work like " Kosmos" had been in his mind for nearly 
fifty years. It was, as it were, the sun of his life, and 
though his lesser works might seem for a while to 
obscure it, floating like clouds between it and the world 
of men, it was still there as radiant as ever, shining 
divinely in his limitless firmament of mind. One by 
one the clouds were drifted aside, — the royal pavilions 
of his genius, rich with purple and gold — and in the 
calm sweet evening of his age the world was enlightened 
as it never had been before. 

V Glorious old man I We love to think of thee and thy 
immortal task I We see thee in thy study, the floor 
around thee piled with books, the table before thee 
strewn with charts, the pen in thy fingers flying over the 
sheets of white paper, as thou thinkest " the thoughts 
of God," the Divine Conception that shaped the Kos- 
mos, the universal World Poem, which thou art singing 
anew in thy grand old German tongue I Next to Milton, 
blind, old, poor, sitting at the door of his cottage in the 
sunshine, and dictating his long-delayed task, — "Para- 
dise Lost," we know of no grander spectacle than the 
white-haired Humboldt writing " Kosmos" at midnight ! 
The men were unlike in many things, one a dweller in 
kingly places, the other " fallen on evil days and evil 
tongues," but both had served the world through a long 
life, and both on the threshold of death were serving it 
still, each building a deathless poem. For " Kosmos" is 
a poem, though it lacks the jingle of rhythm^ 

The first volimie of "Kosmos" was published in 1846, 


the fifth and last in 1858. With the exception of a 
journey to Copenhagen in the former year, and an occa- 
sional visit to Paris (his last visit to the French capital 
was in October, 1847), Humboldt spent this time, the 
last twilight of the mellow evening of his life, at Berlin, 
Potsdahi, and Tegel. The preface to the first volume 
of " Kosmos" is dated firom Potsdam, and the preface to 
the last edition of the " Aspects of Nature" firom Berlin. 
He was visited at the former place in 1847, by Stephens, 
the distinguished American traveller, recently deceased. 

" Towards sunset, on the first of July," says Mr. Ste- 
phens, " the railroad cars from Hamburg brought me to 
the gate of Berlin. Entering the city the twilight of a 
northern summer illuminated the stately houses, and the 
broad avenue of Unter den Linden. Leaving the broad 
portal of the Brandenburgh gate, with the car of Victory 
on the top, carried off as a trophy by Napoleon, and 
after eight years of captivity restored to its place — ^and 
riding on to the other extremity of the avenue, I bad 
before me at one view the Schloss Platz, or Palace 
Square, with the colossal palace, and all the most magni- 
ficent buildings of the city, all enlarged and made more 
grand by the mellow twilight, and exhibiting an archi- 
tectural splendour hardly to be met with in any capital 
in Europe. Turning off on one side of the square, at 
nine o'clock, I was * taking mine ease' in the salon of the 
Hotel de Kussie. 

" I had gone over in the Washington, the pioneer of 
the American mail steamers to Bremen, and was striking 
over the continent for a pa^eo on the Ehine, and to 
intercept the steamer at Southampton on her return to 
New York. I had but one day for Berlin. There was 


but one object in it I had any special desire to see, and 
that was — Humboldt I might visit Berlin again, the 
other monuments of the city would remain; but he 
might pass away. 

" Early in the morning I called upon Mr. Donaldson, 
our minister, and to my extreme regret learned from him 
that Baron Humboldt was with the king at Potsdam, 
thirty miles distant, in feeble health, and unable to 
receive visitors. Fortunately I had occasion to call 
upon Baron Von Boenne, fonAerly Prussian Minister to 
this country, and incidentally mentioning to him my 
disappointment and regret, he stopped me abruptly, and 
with friendly earnestness said, that I must not leave 
Berlin without seeing Baron Humboldt, at the same 
time looking at his watch, calling up my servant, telling 
him that the cars for Potsdam started at twelve; and 
hastily writing a line of introduction, without allowing 
me time for acknowledgments, he hurried me oflF to my 
carriage. A brisk ride brought me to the depdt just in 
time for the cars ; three quarters of an hour carried us 
to Potsdam, and almost before I had recovered from my 
surprise I was at Baron Humboldt's residence. 

" It was in the royal palace, a stately and historic pile, 
once the residence of Frederick the Great, with his apart- 
ments remaining in the same state in which he left them. 
One wing was now occupied by Baron Humboldt, and it 
seemed a just tribute and a right reward — a proper 
crowning of his &me, alike honourable to prince and 
subject, that after years of travel, of physical and intel- 
lectual labour, he should, in the evening of his days, 
return lo the town in which he was born, to live in the 
royal palace, the guest and friend of his king. 


" Ascending to the door of his apartments I was ilia 
appointed anew by positive word from the servant in 
attendance, that the Baron would not receive any visitors 
that day. With very little hope of success, but disposed 
to try every chance, I left my letter, and card, with an 
intimation that I would call again at two o'clock. 

" On my return, the expression of the servant's fiice 
as he opened the door relieved me erf all apprehension. 
Showing me into an adjoining apartment, Baron Hum- 
boldt came to meet me with the flattering greeting that 
no letter of introduction was necessary. 

" I was entirely mistaken in the idea I had formed of 
his personal appearance, and was surprised at uot finding 
him bowed down and bent by age. Nearly half a cen- 
tury ago, he had filled the first place in the world of 
letters, sitting as it were, upon a throne, lighting up the 
pathway of science to the philosopher, and teaching the 
schoolboy at his desk. He was recorded in the annals 
of a long generation. Indeed, his reign had been so 
long, and his fame went back so far, that until I saw 
him bodily I had almost regarded him as a part of 
history, and belonging to the past; even then, alone, and 
in the stillness of the palace, I could hardly keep from 
looking at him as something monumental, receiving the 
tribute of posthumous fame. 

" He is now nearly eighty, but has the appearance of 
being some years younger. In stature he is rather under 
than above the middle size, with a frame, probably in 
youth, well fitted for the hardships of his arduous travels. 
His head might serve as a study for a craniologist ; his 
fisice is broad, and his eye remarkable for its intellect and 
expression. He was dressed in & plain suit of black, 


without ribands or decorations of any kind, and hia 
apartments corresponded with the simplicity of his per- 
sonal appearance. He was debilitated from an attack of 
illness, but the vigour and elasticity of his mind were 
unimpaired. He spoke English with much fluency, but 
with an accent, and his manner of speaking and the tone 
of his conversation reminded me of Mr. Gallatin, who 
was an old personal friend, and to whom he wished to 
be remembered. 

" The ruined cities of America, being the means of 
bringing me to his acquaintance, were of course the first 
subject referred to, but learning that my connexion with 
the line of mail steamers to Bremen was the immediate 
object which had brought me to Germany, he expressed 
his satisfaction that I was identified with an enterprise at 
that moment most interesting to Germany. He con- 
sidered the action of our government in establishing the 
line, wise and statesmanlike, as, for a commercial people 
like ours, it must be the means of opening new relations, 
and a wide field for the enterprise of our citizens. He 
himself felt a lively interest in its success, believing that 
the Germans of all classes were desirous of direct inter- 
course with us ; that they had a great variety of manu- 
fiictures which might be exchanged to advantage for the 
large amount of our staples now consumed in that coun- 
try, when more frequent intercourse should give a better 
knowledge of each other's wants and resources; as 
r between the United States and Germany there never 
could be any feeling of rivalry, or any cause of collision, 
and the closer we could be drawn together the better it 
would be for both countries. He spoke of the long lines 
of railroads now constructing in Germany, to connect 



the Ehine and the Danube, the Adriatic and the NDrth 
Sea, T^ith branches from towns and mannfecturing dis- 
tricts, winding into each other all over the country, fur- 
nishing facilities for travel and transportation to the sea- 
board, such as had never been known before, the greater 
part of which, both as a matter of feeling, and on the 
score of interest, must in the first instance turn to the 
United States. 

" He inquired about Mr. Wheaton, our late Minister 
to that country, whether he had arrived in the United 
States before my departure, and what was to be his 
future career. He said that it was understood at Berlin 
that he was to be appointed Minister to France, and 
expressed his surprise that the United States should be 
willing to lose the public services of one so long trained 
in the school of diplomacy, and so well acquainted with 
the political institutions of Europe. 

" Although I had heard Baron Humboldt spoken of 
as one of the privy councillors of the king, I did not 
expect to find him, at his advanced age, and with his 
great work Kosmos to occupy his mind, bestowing much 
of his attention on political relations ; but the political 
condition of Prussia, and indeed of the world, seemed to 
be the subject which interested him most It was in fact 
just at that moment an interesting point in the history 
of Prussia. The long-called-for Diet, which had been 
looked to with great anxiety throughout all Germany, 
had closed its session but two days before my arrival. 
For the first time in the history of Prussia, delegates had 
been permitted to appear at the capital, and, in the 
hearing of the king, discuss the measures of his gcvem- 
ment Gre^t reforms had been proposed, apd boldly and 


fearlessly debated. The debates had been published^ 
and the voice of a liberal party heard all over Germany. 

" Baron Humboldt himself is a liberal, a firm believer 
in progress and improvement, knoTvn and recognised as 
sympathizing with that great political party which has 
for its lofty aim the greatest good to the greatest nuip- 
ber, bettering the condition of the masses, and increasing 
the sum of human happiness ; and whUe throughout the 
civilized world he has filled * the measure of his fame' as 
a traveller and philosopher, in Prussia he is regarded 
besides as one of her soundest and best statesmen. 

" Out of Europe, Mexico seemed to be the country 
which intOTested him most ; perhaps from its connexion 
with those countries which had brought me to his 
acquaintance, or, more probably, because it was the 
foundation of his own early feme. He spoke of Mr. 
Prescott's History of the CJonquest, and said that I might, 
when the opportunity offered, say to that gentleman, as 
fix)m himself that there was no historian of the age, in 
England or Germany, equal to him. 

" And he was keenly alive to the present condition of 
Mexico ; he was full of our Mexican war ; his eyes were 
upon General Taylor and the American army. I was 
well aware that, in the conduct of this war. General Tay- 
•lor was drawing upon himself the eyes of all Europe; 
and that, whatever might be the differences of opinion as 
to its necessity or justice, it was producing everywhere, 
in monarchical and anti-republican countries, a strong 
impression of onr ability and power for war — which in 
enlightened (?) Europe, even at this day, more than all 
the fruits of peace, industry, and extended commerce, 
more than the exhibition of twenty millions of people 


abounding in all the oomforts of life, raises iis to tho 
lank of a * first-rate power,' and makes us * respected.' 

" Baron Humboldt said that with one of his own maps 
before them, the kiiig and his military council had fol 
lowed General Taylor from his encampment at Corpus 
Christi, to Palo Alto and Besaca dc la Palma, through 
the storming of Monterey, and the bloody scenes of 
Buena Vista. They had fought over all his battles, and, 
with his positions all marked on the map, were then 
looking for ftirther tidings. They had seen and appre- 
ciated all his difficulties at Buena Vista. In Prussia war 
is a science, and according to the leading policy of 
Europe, to be always ready for war, every male in Prus- 
sia, the highest nobleman's son not excepted, is compelled 
to serve his regular turn in the army. In the teeth of 
all settled opinions, and as it were, upsetting the whole 
doctrine of standing armies. General Taylor, with a 
handful of regulars, and a small body of volunteers who 
had never been in battle, had stood up for a whole day 
against a murderous fire, and had finally defeated four 
times his number. Field-marshals and generals of 
Prussia, among them veterans who had studied the art of 
war on the great battle-fields of Europe, were struck 
with admiration at the daring and skill displayed at 
Buena Vista; and this admiration. Baron Humboldt* 
said, they expressed without reserve, freely, publicly, 
and everywhere. Amidst the bitterness and malignity 
of the English press, it was grateful to hear from such 
lips, that the leading military men of a military nation 
did justice to the intrepidity of our volunteers, and to 
.the courage, skill, and high military talents of General 
Taylor; while Baron Humboldt's comments upon his 


dispatches and orders, and in fact upon all that related 
to him personally in the conduct of the war, were such 
as no American could listen to without feeling proud. 

" I had occupied, without any interruption, more than 
an hour of Baron Humboldt's time, when the servant 
entered to summon him to dinner — with the king. 1 
would have left him at once, but courteously saying that 
if late, he would excuse himself by mentioning the 
cause that detained him ; he urged me to remain a few 
days for the purpose of making certain acquaintances at 
Berlin, and, pressed as he was, insisted upon giving me a 
line to a distinguished gentleman of that place, Without 
seeing whom he said I ought not to leave. Circum- 
stances did not permit me to deliver the letter; but I 
had the satisfaction of bringing it home with me, written 
in German, in a strong, firm hand, bs an autograph of 
Humboldt, and a memento of one of my most interest- 
ing incidents of travel." 

Among the multitudes of all nations who visited 
Humboldt in his last years, none were so warmly re- 
ceived as those who came fix)m America: to be an 
American was an almost certain passport to his pre- 
sence, and if the visitor was not ill-bred, to his favour. 
He seemed to have a love for the people of the United 
States ; he appreciated the youth of their country, and 
he admired their freshness and enthusiasm. " He who 
knew our continent so well," says Bancroft, the historian, 
who visited him in Paris in 1820, and again in 1847 ; 
" he who knew our continent so well, knew the relations 
of the United States towards every part of it, and formed 
his judgments respecting the gradual advancement of the 
United States in the eitent of its territory— judged us 


greatly, judged us calmly, with the best and most fervent 
wishes for our welfare, with no disinclination to our in- 
crease of territory. Wishing especially that California 
and all the noble tract of land which now belongs to u« 
on the Pacific might come to us, expressing only his 
apprehensions of the extent of territory that circum- 
stances might step in and interfere with the proper 
development of free institutions. I have never heard 
any one discuss these questions of our relations to Mex- 
ico and our relations to Cuba more calmly and more 
candidly, and with more gentleness towards us, and with 
more flHl and perfect intimacy of all the circumstances 
that would attend any further progress on our part He 
was always the friend of Young America. He measured 
his regard for us not by any merits that we might have, 
but by the goodness of his own heart He was always 
re^y to pour out his thoughts, his sympathies,, and his 
encouragements to any young man that came within his 
influence. I remember, in 1820, having at that early 
period bestowed a good deal of attention to the study 
of languages, and, among others, the aboriginal lan- 
guages of our own country ; he particularly pointed out 
the proper methods of continuing inquiries and investi- 
gations on the subject These ideas he not only commu- 
nicated by word of mouth, but he wrote them out at 
considerable length, and I had the satisfecJ;ion, when I 
returned, to communicate them to persons engaged in 
that branch of study, and I doubt not that in some degree 
they contributed to the development of an acquaintance 
with the aboriginal languages of this country." 

" It has been my good fortune," says an American cor- 
respondent of The Commercial Advertiser^ writing from 

HUMBOLDT IN 1850. 447 

Berlin on the 1st of January, 1850 : " it Las been my 
good fortune to see the patriarch of modern science, 
Alexander Von Humboldt During the summer, and in 
feet up to the last week, he resided in Potsdam, in the 
royal palace ; when the king removed to Charlottenburg 
he returned to his own residence in Berlin. One of his 
friends, to whom I am already indebted for many kind- 
nesses, offered to present me to him, and wrote a note to 
solicit an interview. This is necessary, as casual visitors 
are rarely or never admitted. The first post of the next 
morning brought the answer, written evidently before 
daybreak, and mailed before seven o'clock. He fixed 
the hour at one o'clook on the 29th. But on that day 
a second note informed us that Mr. Humboldt was unex- 
pectedly called to attend some court ceremony at the 
appointed hour, and so begged us to defer our visit until 
the 30th, at the same hour. I mention this as an illus- 
tration of his attention to small things. He does not 
consider himself exempted from the performance of all 
the minor duties of social intercourse. Exactly at the 
appointed hour we were at his door. The house is plain 
and comfortable, just like the other three-story houses 
of Berlin, in its dull, clay-yellow colour. The entrance 
is by a large carriage door, persons driving in and de* 
scending at the foot of the stairway. 

" Humboldt occupies the second floor. A tall, well- 
fed servant in livery answered the bell, and ushered us 
into a small anteroom, where we laid aside our cloaks 
and hats, and waited until our visit should be announced. 
We had scarcely time to see that a large picture on wood, 
after the old Flemish school, hung on the wall, and to 
admire some stuffed birds, admirable specimens of taxi- 


dermic skill, which stood on a round table, leforc the 
servant reappeared and conducted us through a large 
room, the walls of which, from ceiling to floor, were 
covered with books, plainly shelved up, into the room of 
Humboldt himself. He met us at the door, and received 
us very cordially. I must confess that my first impres* 
sion was one of disappointment, for his busts and pic- 
tures had given me the idea of a man nearly six feet 
high, rather stoutly built, and erect as an arrow. Instead 
of this there stood before me a man of middle height, 
his once robust frame and limbs meagre with age, and 
his head drooping and shoulders bowed under the weight 
of more than fbur score summers. Behind him stood a 
tall, rosy-complexioned professor from Bonn, some fifty 
years of age, and at first my eye fell on him as the per- 
son more nearly approaching my ideal of Humboldt; 
but a single glance convinc€Ki me that he had not yet 
lived his half century. This ideal is the one common to all 
the world who have not seen Humboldt, for everybody 
that has seen him seems to delight in repeating that age 
has not touched his noble faculties, or abated his bodOy 
vigour. It is very natural to us to excuse our want of 
acquirements by attributing supernatural qualities to 
those who excel us so far as to be unapproachable. But 
in the case of Humboldt the miraculous escape from the 
eflfects of age does not exist He appears as old as he 
really is, but in a fine state of preservation — ^the result 
of constant temperance, and active exercise in the open 
air from youth, and of carefiiUy avoiding all unnecessary 
exposure, and all extreme emotions, but at the same time 
cultivating his afiections, and the genial part of his 


"He commenced the conversation in English^ with an 
apology for his imperfect style, and spoke in that lan- 
guage during a greater part of the interview. Truth 
requires me to say that Mr. Humboldt knows, far better 
than his too hasty admirers, his proficiency in that lan- 
guage. Contrary to the assertion generally made so 
loosely, I must agree with him that he does not speak it 
perfectly, though well, and with great fluency. A foreign 
accent made his English less intelligibly than his French, 
which he speaks elegantly, and like a native. In speak- 
ing of the French savant, Nicolet, he adopted that lan- 
guage, and his wit and playful humour appeared in a 
very fiivourable light. Here, for the first time, I recog- 
nised the literary artist, whose taste and genius have won 
undjring renown, and in the quiet satire and richness of 
the style that inimitable power of word-painting and 
felicity of expression, which make the pages of his hun- 
dred books so fascinating. I felt now the charm of that 
eloquence which has convinced so many that age has not 
aflfected the philosopher, either physically or mentally. 
It was indeed surprising : there was all the fire and spirit 
of thirty on the lips of the man of fourscore. He sat 
generally with his head bowed on his breast, but when 
he became interested would raise it and look on his 
visitors, while a warm and genial smile would play 
across his featuresi. He has the expression of a man of 
great goodness of heart, without weakness, and the 
polished and simple manner of a veteran courtier. 
There is nothing flabby about the face, the flesh being 
firm and solid. His head is not remarkable for size, 
but the forehead is high and smooth, without the pro- 
tuberances which phrenologists usually assign to the 


perceptive organs of such men. It is, I should saj, a 
head of remarkably harmonious development, and not 
singular in its appearance, unless it be a singularity that 
it is not yet bald," but covered with long thin white 

" The conversation ran on numerous topics. He had 
just received a pamphlet published by one of our astrono- 
mers, Mr. G., in which Sir John Herschel is attacked. 
This he regretted^nd made some remarks on the fiivour- 
able opinion Herschel had always had of America, and 
her scientific men. He inquired with interest after Mr. 
Bache, and his progress towards the survey of our coasts, 
and seemed quite familiar with the state of policy his 
appointment had produced among the gentlemen of the 
navy. * The navy oflBicers always object to an appoint- 
ment of that kind when not made from their own number, 
no matter how competent and eflBcient the person may 
be.' Speaking of Professor Agassiz, he said, *You 
Americans have made a fine acquisition there. Agassiz 
would be distinguished, even in Europe, for his attain- 
ments in various branches of natural history. Perhaps 
he is a little too unbending in his theory of the eflFect of 
glaciers on the change of the general «limate of the world. 
However, he has thrown a great deal of light on that 
subject, having made personally many very excellent 
experiments and observations,' The mention of glaciers 
led naturally to that of persons who had explored them, 
and of exploring voyages to the north. One of us asked 
his opinion as to the fate of Franklin. He thought it 
quite probable that Franklin had not perished, but was 
still shut in by the ice, and gave several facts of voyagers 
whom he had seen, and who had been for long seasons 


SO detained in the northern seas. The Esquimaux of 
the coast, he said, were not at all dangerous ; Franklin 
was well supplied with provisions, and would probably 
yet return to give an account of his voyage. Indeed 
the report that the Esquimaux Indians had said that 
some vessels had long been frozen fast in the ice, away 
oflF to the north, seemed to be fully confirmed. 

" He praised the United States for its generous initia- 
tive in matters of science, and said that the expedition 
to Chili, for scientific purposes, would not have been 
undertaken by any country in Europe. He had on the 
desk near him a letter, which he had apparently been 
reading when we came in. His eyes falling on it, he 
asked, * Do either of you know a Lord K., who is now 
travelling on the continent?' On the reply that we had 
not the honour of his lordship's acquaintance, and indeed 
had never heard of him, he said that he had just received 
the most extraordinary letter from him. * He writes me 
from Dresden that he will shortly be in Berlin, and will 
be most happy to make my acquaintance, and that I must 
certainly dine with him and a few friends at two o'clock 
on the 3d, at the British Hotel. He expects an old man 
like me to come from Potsdam in the middle of winter 
to dine with a lord whom I know nothing about. This 
is one of the antics of an eccentric class.' He then went 
on in some gay and delicately -humoured remarks on the 
eccentricity of Englishmen, whicL if I could put them 
on paper as he uttered them, would be read with great 
relish by the lovers of true wit, and by none more than 
the English themselves. They reminded me of the 
lively sallies of the Parisian wit, Philarete.Chasles. One 
of us told him that Captain Stone had left for Egypt and 


Jerusalem. Mr. Humboldt expressed the pleasure He 
had derived from his acquaintance, and wished to know 
whether the Captain was aware that he had put his name 
in the last volume of the recent edition of the work, Th^ 
Aspects of Nature, This is in connection with the account 
of the Captain's visit to Popocatepetl. He then showed 
us the English translation of this work by Mrs. Sabine, 
"The name of Colonel Fremont happening to be men- 
tioned, Humboldt spoke in high praise of his contribu- 
tions to geographical science, and thought it unfortunate 
he had returned as a prisoner by the very road which he 
travelled as an explorer. He thought the day would 
come when Col. Fremont's works would be much better 
appreciated than at present. He expressed the opinion 
that the probable produce of the Californian gold mines 
had been over estimated, for that up to the present time 
the yield had been much less than that of the Busaian 
mines, the latter having often produced annually thirty 
millions of dollars. No such large pieces had been 
found in California. One solid piece of eighty pounds 
had been found in Russia, and many of forty, thirty, 
twenty, and sixteen. He was surprised that no platina had 
been found. These are only a few of the remarks made 
in a conversation, which he, of course, conducted almost 
without remarks on our side. He seems to have an 
inexhaustible store of facts, and to be accurately informed 
about everything and everybody. His friend said, after 
we came away, that the way to hear him to the greatest 
advantage was to ask his opinion on any given point, 
when his wonderful knowledge would be brought to bear 
upon it in a mg,nner most satisfactory to any sceptic as to 
the extent and minuteness of his information. We left., 


quite charmed with the noble and genial nature vrhose 
richness has made it the glory of the age. 

" The habits of Humboldt are not remarkable, except 
in the limited number of hours necessary to sleep and in 
temperance and regularity. His time is systematically 
divided. He rises at six in the wintef, and &ve in the 
summer, studies two hours, drinks a cup of coffee, re- 
turns to his study, and commences the task of answering 
his letters, of which he receives yearly more than one 
hundred thousand. (I have heard this number doubled, 
but dislike to seem to exaggerate.) From twelve until 
two he receives visits, and returns to work at two. At 
four he dines, in summer with the king, in winter at 
home. From four until eleven he passes at the table, 
and generally in company with the king, but sometimes 
at the meetings of learned societies, or in the company of 
his friends. At eleven he retires to his study, and con- 
tinues there until one or two, answering letters, or 
writing his books, or preparing them by study. His best 
books have all been written at midnight He sleeps four 
hours, it having been a peculiarity in his family to re- 
quire little sleep. Now, if anybody thinks that by sleep- 
ing only four hours, and studying at midnight, he may 
equal Humboldt in varied attainments, let him fiirst be 
sure that he possesses another of Humboldt's peculiari- 
ties, namely, genius. 

" His early inclinations led him to thep irsuits in which 
he has since so distinguished himself At twenty-three 
he was in such repute for his knowledge that he was ap- 
pointed first assessor of the mines of Prussia. From a 
very early age, then, up to the present time, about two- 
thirds of a century, he has been indefatigable in the pur- 


suit of knowledge. He baa brought to tbis pursuii a 
rare susceptibility to tbe cbarms of nature, a heart capa- 
ble of feeling, and a head of generalizing. His fortune 
and rank have ever given him the best advantages of 
every kind. If he had not been a savant^ he might have 
been an artist or a poet, for his works show taste and 
imagination of the most exquisite perfection. Most of 
his writings will compare in elegance with the purest 
classics of Germany. In short, he is one of the most har- 
moniously developed characters the world has ever seen, 
and posterity will reserve for him a higher niche in the 
temple of fame, than for the bloody heroes who have 
dazzled the world for a moment by their engineer talent 
of manoeuvring masses of troops." 

Some years later there came to Berlin a young Ameri- 
can traveller, who, younger than Humboldt, when he 
made his great American journey, had already travelled 
extensively in four continents, and written several books 
of travel, which the world had pronounced unequalled 
of their kind. He lacked Humboldt's universal know- 
ledge of science, for what traveller, ancient or modem, 
ever possessed it ? but in word-painting — ^in the power 
of making the landscapes that he had seen, glow on his 
pages, as on a painter's canvass, he had no need to fear 
a comparison with that great master of the picturesque. 
From his early youth he had venerated the name of 
Humboldt, and being in Germany, he made a pilgrimage 
to Berlin to see him. The homage that he brought to 
the great traveller was alike honourable to both. It 
becomes youth to reverence age, and it becomes age to 
accept the reverence of youth. 

"I came to Berlin," says Bayard Taylor, writing 


from that city, under the date of November the 25th, 
1856 : " I came to Berlin, not to visit its museums and 
galleries, its magnificent street of lindens, its operas and 
theatres, nor to mingle in the gay life of its streets and 
saloons, but for the sake of seeing and speaking with 
the world's greatest living man, Alexander Von Hum- 

" At present, with his great age and his universal re- 
nown, regarded as a throned monarch in the world of 
science, his friends have been obliged, perforce, to pro- 
tect him from the exhaustive language of his thousands 
of subjects, and, for his own sake, to make difficult the 
ways of access to him. The friend and familiar com- 
panion of the King, he may be said, equally, to hold his 
Court, with the privilege, however, of at any time 
breaking through the formalities, which only self-defence 
has rendered necessary. Some of my works, I knew, 
had found their way into his hands ; I was at the begin*- 
ning of a journey which would probably lead mc 
through regions which his feet had traversed, and hii' 
genius illustrated, and it was not merely a natural curi- 
osity which attracted me towards him. I followed the ad- 
vice of some German friends, and made use of no mediae 
tory influence, but simply dispatched a note to him, stating 
my name and object, and asking for an interview. 

" Three days afterwards I received, through the city 
post, a reply in his own hand, stating, that although he 
was suffering from a cold which had followed his removal 
from Potsdam to the capital, he would willingly receive 
me, and appointed one o'clock to-day for the visit. I 
was punctual to the minute, and reached his residence in 
the Oranienburger-strasse as the clock struck. While in 


Berlin he lives with his servant, Seifert, whose name 
only I found on the door. It was a plain two-storj 
house, with a dull pink front, and inhabited, like most 
of the houses in German cities, by two or three femilies. 
The bell-wire over Seifert's jiame came from the second 
story. I pulled : the heavy porte-^ioMre opened of itself 
and I mounted the steps until I reached a second bell-pull, 
over a plate inscribed * Alexander Von Humboldt' 

" A stout, square-faced man of about fifty, whom I at 
once recognised as Seifert, opened the door for me. 
'Are you Herr Taylor?' he asked: and added, on re- 
ceiving my reply : * His Excellency is ready to receive 
you.' He ushered me into a room, filled with stuffed 
birds and other objects of natural history ; then into a 
large library which apparently contained the gifts of 
authors, artists, and men of science. I walked between 
two large tables heaped with sumptuous folios, to the fur- 
ther door, which opened into the study. Those who 
have seen the admirable coloured lithograph of Hilde- 
brand's picture, know precisely how the room looks. 
There was the plain table, the writing-desk covered with 
letters and manuscripts, the little green sofa, and the 
same maps and pictures on the drab-covered walls. The 
picture had been so long hanging in my own room at 
home, that I at once recognised each particular object. 

" Seifert went to an inner door, announced my name, 
and Humboldt immediately appeared. He came up to 
me with a heartiness and cordiality which made me feel 
that I was in the presence of a friend, gave me his hand, 
and inquired whether we should converse in English or 
German. * Your letter,' said he, * was that of a German, 
and you must speak the language familiarly ; but I am 


also in the constant habit of using English.' He insisted 
on my taking one end of the green sofe, observing that 
he rarely sat upon it himself then drew up a plain cane- 
bottomed chair and seated himself beside it, asking me 
to speak a little louder than usual, as his hearing was not 
so acute as formerly. 

" As I looked at the majestic old man, the line of Ten- 
nyson describing Wellington came into my mind : 

' good gray head, which all men knew.' 

The first impression made by Humboldt's fece is that of 
a broad and genial humanity. His massive brow, heavy 
with the gathered wisdom of nearly a century, bends 
forward, and overhangs his breast, like a ripe ear of 
com, but as you look below it, a pair of clear blue eyes, 
almost as bright and steady as a child's, meet your own. 
In those eyes you read that trust in man, that immortal 
youth of the heart, which make the snows of eighty 
seven Winters lie so lightly upon his head* You trust 
him utterly at the first glance, and you feel that he will 
trust you, if you are worthy of it. I had approached him 
with a natural feeling of reverence, but in five minutes I 
found that I loved him, and could talk with him as jfreely 
as with a friend of my own age. His nose, mouth, and 
chin, have the heavy Teutonic character, whose genuine 
type always expresses an honest simplicity and direct- 

" I was almost surprised by the youthful character of 
his fSace. I knew that he had been frequently indisposed 
during the present year, and had been told that he was 
beginning to show the marks of his extreme age ; but I 



should not have suspected him of being over seventy- 
five. His wrinkles are few and small, and his skin has a 
smoothness and delicacy rarely seen in old men. His 
hair, although snow-white, is still abundant; his step 
slow but firm, and his manner active almost to restless* 
ness. He sleeps but four hours out of the twenty-four, 
reads and replies to his daily rain of letters, and 
suffers no single occurrence of the least interest in any 
part of the world to escape his attention. I could not 
perceive that his memory, the first mental faculty to 
show decay, is aU all impaired. He talks rapidly, with 
the greatest apparent ease, never hesitating for a word, 
whether in English or German, and, in fiwt, seemed to 
be unconscious which language he was using, as he changed 
five or six times in the course of the conversation. He 
did not remain in his chair more than ten minutes at a 
time, frequently getting up and walking about the roomt 
now and then pointing to a picture, or opening a book 
to illustrate some remark. 

" He began by referring to my Winter Journey into 
Lapland. *Why do you choose the Winter ?' he asked : 
*Your experiences will be very interesting, it is true, 
but will you not suffer fix)m the severe cold ?' * That re- 
mains to be seen,' I answered, * I have tried all climates 
except the Arctic, without the least injury. The last 
two years of my travels were spent in tropical countries, 
and now I wish to have the strongest possible contrast' 
*That is quite natural,' he remarked, *and I can under- 
stand how your object in travel must lead you to seek 
such contrasts; but you must possess a remarkably 
healthy organization.' * You doubtless know fix)m your 
own experience,' I said, * that nothing preserves a man's 


vitality like travel' * Very true,' he answered, * if it 
does not kill at the outset For my part, I keep my 
health everywhere, like yoursel£ During five years in 
South America and the West Indies, I passed through 
the midst of black vomit and yellow fever untouched.' 

" I spoke of my projected visit to Eussia, and my de- 
sire to traverse the Russian Tartar provinces of Central 
Asia. The Kirghiz steppes, he said, were very mono- 
tonous : fifty miles gave you the picture of a thousand ; 
but the people were exceedingly interesting. If I de- 
sired to go there, I would have no difiiculty in 'passing 
through them to the Chinese frontier ; but the southern 
provinces of Siberia, he thought, would best repay me. 
The scenery among the Altai mountains was very grand. 
From his window in one of the Siberian towns, he had 
counted eleven peaks covered with eternal snow. ■ The 
Kirghizes, he added, were among the few races whose 
habits had remained unchanged for thousands of years, 
and they had the remarkable peculiarity of combining a 
monastic with a nomadic life. They were partly Bud- 
dist and partly Musselman, and their monkish sects fol- 
lowed the different dans in their wanderings, carrying 
on their devotions in the encampments, inside of a sacred 
circle marked out by spears. He had seen their cere- 
monies, and was struck with their resemblance to those 
of the Catholic church. 

"Humboldt's recollections of the Altai Mountains 
naturally led him to speak of the Andes. * You have 
travelled in Mexico,' said he : * do you not agree with 
me in the opinion that the finest mountains in the world 
are those single cones of perpetual snow rising out of the 
splendid vegetation of the tropics? The Himalayas, 


although loftier, can scarcely make an equal impression ; 
they lie further to the north, without the belt of tropical 
growths, and their sides are dreary and sterile in com« 
parison. You remember Orizaba,' continued he : * here 
is an engraving from a rude sketch of mine. I hope 
you will find it correct.' He rose and took down the 
illustrated folio which accompanied the last edition of 
his * Minor Writings,' turned over the leaves, and re- 
called at each plate, some reminiscence of his American 
travel. *I still think,' he remarked, as he closed the 
book, * that Chimborazo is the grandest mountain in the 

" Among the objects in his study was a living chame- 
lion, in a box with a glass lid. The animal, which was 
about six inches long, was lazily dozing on a bed of 
sand, with a big blue fly (the unconscious provision for 
his dinner) perched upon his back. * He has just been 
sent me from Smyrna,' said Humboldt ; * he is very list- 
less and unconcerned in his manner.' Just then the 
chamelion opened one of his long, tubular eyes, and 
looked up at us. * A peculiarity of this animal,' he con- 
tinued, * is its power of looking in diflferent directions at 
the same time. He can turn one eye towards heaven, 
while his other inspects the earth. There are many 
clergymen who have the same power.' 

" After showing me some of Hildebrand's water-colour 
drawings, he returned to his seat and began to converse 
about American affairs, with which he seemed to be 
entirely familiar. He spoke with great admiration of 
Col. Fremont, whose defeat he profoundly regretted. 
* But it is at least a most cheering sign,' he said, * and an 
omen of good for your country, that more than a half 


million of men supported by their votes a man of Fre- 
mont's character and achievements.' With regard to 
Buchanan, he said: 'I had occasion to speak of his 
Ostend Manifesto not long since, in a letter which has 
been published, and I could not characterize its spirit by 
any milder term than savage,^ He also spoke of our 
authors, and inquired particularly after Washington 
Irving, whom he had once seen. I told him I had the 
fortune to know Mr. Irving, and had seen him not long 
before leaviujg New York. * He must be at least fifty 
years old,' said Humboldt * He is seventy,' I answered, 
* but as young as ever.' * Ah,' said he, * I have lived so 
long that I have almost lost the consciousness of time. 
I belong to the age of Jefferson and Gallatin, and I heard 
of Washington's death while travelling in South America.' 
" I have repeated but the smallest portion of his con- 
versation, which flowed on in an uninterrupted stream 
of the richest knowledge. On recalling it to my mind, 
after leaving, I was surprised to find how great a number 
of subjects he had touched upon, and how much he had 
said, or seemed to have said — ^for he has the rare facultj 
of placing a subject in the clearest and most vivid light 
by a few luminous words — concerning each. He 
thought, as he talked, without effort. I should compare 
his brain to the Fountain of Vaucluse — a still, deep, and 
tranquil pool, without a ripple on its surface, but creating 
a river by its overflow. He asked me many questions,, 
but did not always wait for an answer, the question 
itself suggesting some reminiscence, or some thought 
which he had evident pleasure in expressing. I sat or 
walked, following his movements, an eager listener, and 
speaking in alternate English or German, until the time 


which he had granted me had expired. Seifert at length 
reappeared, and said to him, in a manner at once lespect- 
fill and familiar, * It is time,' and I took my leave. 

" * You have travelled much, and seen many ruins^ 
said Humboldt, as he ^ve me his hand again ; ' now 
you have seen one more I' ' Not a ruin,' I could not 
help replying, 'but a pyramid.' For I pressed the 
hand which had touched those of Frederick the Great, 
of Forster, the companion of Captain Cook, of Klop- 
stock and Schiller, of Pitt, Napoleon, Josephine, the 
Marshals of the empire, Jefferson, Hamilton, Wieland, 
Herder, Goethe, Cuvier, Laplace, Gay Lussac, Bee- 
thoven, Walter Scott, in short of every great man whom 
Europe has produced for three-quarters of a century. I 
looked into the eyes which had not only seen this living 
history of the world pass by, scene after scene, till the 
actors retired one by one, to return no more, but had 
beheld the cataract of Atures and the foresta of the 
Cassiquiare, Chimborazo, the Amazon, and Popoca- 
tepetl, the Altaian Alps of Siberia, the Tartar steppes^ 
and the Caspian sea. Such a splendid circle of experi- 
ence well befits a life of such generous devotion to sci- 
ence ; I have never seen so sublime an example of old 
age, crowned with imperishable success, full of the 
ripest wisdom, cheered and sweetened by the noblest 
attributes of the heart. A ruin, indeed I A human 
•temple, perfect as the Parthenon. 

" As I was passing out through the cabinet of Natural 
History, Seifert's voice arrested me ; 'I beg your par- 
don, Sir,' said he; *but do you know what this is?' 
pointing to the antlers of a Rocky Mountain elk. * 01 
course I do,' said I; 'I have helped to eat many of 


them.' He then pointed out the other specimens, and 
took me into the library, to show me some drawings by 
his son-in-law, Miihlhausen, who had accompanied Lieut. 
Whipple, in his expedition to the Eocky Mountains. 
He also showed me a very elaborate specimen of bead- 
work, in a gilt firame. * This,* he said, * is the work of 
a Barghiz princess, who presented it to His Excellency 
when we were on our jouraey to Siberia.' * You 
accompanied His Excellency, then?' I asked. *Yes,' 
said he; ^lue were there in '29.' Seifert is justly proud 
of having shared for thirty or forty years the fortunes 
of his master. There was a ring, and a servant came in 
to announce a visiter. * Ah, the Prince Ypsilanti,' said 
he ; * don't let him in ; don't let him in ; don't let a sin- 
gle soul in ; I must go and dress His Excellency. Sir, 
excuse me — ^yours, most respectfully,' and therewith he 
bowed himself out. As I descended to the street, I 
passed Prince Ypsilanti on the stairs." 

In October, of the following year, Mr. Taylor had a 
second interview with Humboldt, this time at Potsdam. 

" As I had business," he writes, " which detained me 
four days in Berlin, I sent a note to Humboldt, asking 
permission to call upon him again, in case his time per- 
mitted the visit The next day's express from Potsdam 
brought me a most kind and friendly reply, welcoming 
me back to the * Baltic sand-sea,' aa he calls the Bran- 
denburg plain, and stating that, although the Emperor 
Alexander and his suite were to arrive that evening, he 
would nevertheless take an hour or two from the excite- 
ment of the Court to talk to me about the North. He 
was residing in the Palace at Potsdam, where he directed 
me to call at noon on Monday. 


" The train by which I left Berlin was filled with ofl& 
cers and diplomatic officials in fiill uniform, going down 
to do homage to the Czar. In the carriage in which I sat, 
were two old gentlemen who presently commenced con- 
versing in French. After a time, their talk wandered to 
the Orient, and they spoke of Diebitsch and his cam- 
paigns, and the treaty of Unkiar-Iskelessi. Suddenly, 
one of them asked in Arabic, * Do you speak Arabic? ' 
The other answered in Turkish, * No, but I speak Turk- 
ish.' The first replied in the same language, which, 
after a time, the two exchanged for Modem Greek, and 
finally subsided into Russian. I made out that one was 
a Wallachian, but could discover nothing more, notwith- 
standing there was an air of a secret mission about them, 
which greatly piqued my curiosity. With us was also a 
Prussian regimental surgeon, decorated with the Order of 
St Stanislaus for his service in the Crimea. 

"Potsdam was all alive with the Imperial arrival. The 
King of Saxony was also coming to dinner; and, that 
the three monarchs might be pleasantly diverted in the 
evening, the sparkling Marie Taglioni, who had arrived 
with us, tripped out of the cars and off to the Royal 
Theatre. The park at Sans Souci was in brilliant holi- 
day trim, the walks newly swept, and the fountains jet- 
ting their tallest and brightest streams. The streets of 
the dull little court-town glittered with resplendent uni- 
forms, among which the driver of my carriage pointed 
out Carl, Albert, and various other princes of the House 
of Prussia. As we were crossing an open space near the 
palace, a mounted guard, followed by an open carriage, 
drawn by a span of superb black horses, suddenly ap- 
peared. I at once recognised the punchy figure in a 

HUMBOLDT IN 1857. 465 

green military coat, buttoned up to the chin, who sat on 
the right hand, although I had never before seen his 
Majesty. My driver reined up on one side and took oflp 
his hat I lifted mine as the King passed, looked at'hin^ 
and he replied with a military salute. His face was 
slightly flushed and his eyes bright, and I remember 
thinking that the heavy and rather stupid air which he 
wears in his portraits did him injustice. But he was even 
then, perhaps, laboring under that congestion which 
struck him down the same night, and from the eflfects of 
which he will never recover. 

" I was glad when the dock struck twelve at last, and 
I could leave the rattling streets for that quiet comer of 
the palace in which Humboldt lives. The door was 
opened, as before, by Seifert, who recognised me at 
once. * Welcome back!' he cried; *we know where 
you have been — we have read all your letters I Btts Ex- 
cellency has been quite sick, and you will not find him 
so strong as he was last year, but he is in tolerable health 
again, thank God I Come in, come in ; he is waiting.' 
Opening the doors as he spoke, he ushered me into a lit- 
tle library, on the threshold of which Humboldt, who 
had risen, received me. He was slightly paler than be- 
fore, a little thinner, perhaps, and I could see that his 
step was not so firm ; but the pale blue eye beamed as 
clear an intelligence as ever, and the voice had as steady 
and cheery a tone. He shook hands with the cordiality 
""of a friend, and after the first greetings were over, 
questioned me minutely concerning my travels in the 

" But one topic soon suggests a hundred others, and he 
was ere long roaming at large over the whole field of 


466 PR00F-6HEEIB OF K08M06. 

geography and climatology, touohing the farthest aud 
darkest regions of the earth with the light of his stu- 
pendous knowledge. The sheets of the new volume of 
Cosmos' lay upon the table. *Here is what I hare 
been doing, since you were here before,' said he, taking 
it up: *the work will be published in two or three 
weeks.' * You find yourself, then, still capable of such 
labour ?' I ventured to ask. * Work is now a part of 
my life,' said he ; * I sleep so little, and much rest would 
be irksome. Day before yesterday, I worked for sixteen 
hours, reviewing these sheets.' 'Are you not greatly 
fatigued,' I a^ked, * after such an exertion ?' * On the 
contrary,' he replied, *I feel refreshed, but the per- 
formance of it depends greatly on my state of bodily 
health. I am unconscious of any mental fatigue.' As 
I saw in the face, and heard in the voice, of the splendid 
old man, all the signs of a soimd, unfeiling intellect, I 
could well believe it I had prided myself a little on 
having worked with the brain fifteen hours a day for six 
months, yet here was Humboldt, in his eighty-ninth year, 
capable of an equal exertion. 

The manner in which he spoke of his bodily healtii 
was exceedingly interesting to me. His mind, full of 
vigour and overflowing with active life, seemed to con- 
sider the body as something independent of itself and to 
watch, with a curious eye, its gradual decay, as he might 
have watched that of a tree in his younger days. *I 
have been unwell through the Summer,' said he, * but 
you must not believe all you may have seen in the news- 
papers concerning my illness. They stated that I was 
attacked with apoplexy, but it was only a vertigo, which 
soon left me, and has not been followed by any of the 


usual effects of apoplexy. One result, however, stows 
that my body is beginning to give way. I have not the 
same power of controlling my limbs as formerly ; the 
will does not seem to act upon the muscles ; there is a 
link broken somewhere, which it is probably too late to 
restore. For instance, very often, when I attempt to 
walk straight forward, I do not feel certain that my legs 
will carry me in a straight line ; they may go either to 
one side or the other, and, though I cannot notice any 
real want of strength, I feel uncertain and mistrustful. 
For this reason, I must have assistance when I go up or 
down stairs. After all, it is not singular that some parts 
of the ma<?hinery should get rusty, at my age.' Soon 
afterward, while speaking of Thibet, he referred to a very 
fine copperplate map, and I noticed that he saw the most 
minute names distinctly, without the aid of spectacles. 
But then he has the eyes of a youth of twenty years. 
Age may palsy his limbs, but it has never looked out of 
those windows. 

" Aft«r I had been sitting an hour, Seifert came to the 
door and said : * The two gentlemen have come — shall 
I admit them ?' I rose to leave, but Humboldt said : 
*No, no — ^remain. They are from Hong-Kong; per- 
haps you know them.' I looked at the cards, and 
recognised an acquaintance in the name of an editor of a 
Hong-Kong paper. The other was a Government 
official. After they entered, the conversation took a 
more general tone, but I was not sorry for this afterwards, 
as it gave Humboldt occasion to recall some scenes of 
his early life. One of the visitors spoke of Frederic the 
Great. 'I remember him well,' said Humboldt: *I 
was sixteen years old when he died, and I can see his 


face sttll as plainly as I can see yours. I was bit 
eighteen when I visited England for the first time. It 
was during the trial of Warren Hastings, which I fre- 
quently attended. I remember that I heard Edmund 
Burke, Pitt, and Sheridan, all speak on the same night' 

" I shall not repeat his account of the Congress of 
Verona, or his anecdotes of Alexander I. of Russia, 
whom he knew intimately, as I am not certain whether 
I have a right to do so at present After the visitors 
left, I remained with him until it was time for him to 
prepare for the dinner given to Alexander 11., to which 
he was bidden. * You will pass through Berlin on your 
way to Moscow ?' said he. ' Yes.' * Well — ^I must be 
polite enough to live until then. You must bring your 
wife with you. Oh, I know all about it, and you must 
not think, because I have never been married myself, 
that I do not congratulate you.' Aft«r these cordial 
words, and a clasp of the hand, in which there was 
nothing weak or tremulous, I parted from the immortal 
old man. 

" I was glad to learn from Seifert, that Hildebrand's 
admirable water-colour drawing of Humboldt in his 
library is soon to be printed in chromotint, so that very 
accurate copies of it can be obtained at a moderate price. 
As I have not only seen the original but the room and 
man that it represents, I can testify to its entire fidelity, 
and would suggest to Humboldt's admirers in America 
that they cannot procure a better illustration of him. 1 
suppose copies of it will be sent to America for sale. 
Herr Mollhausen, Seifert's son-in-law, who is now 
attached, as artist, to the expedition for the survey of a 
wagon-road to the Pacific, prepared for the press, before 


leaving Berlin, a splendidly illustrated work on the Gila 
Country, which is now being published under the patron- 
age of the King. It will cost about twenty-eight dollars 
a copy. Humboldt himself wrote the preface, a copy of 
which he gave me. He was greatly gratified at the 
readiness with which our present Secretary of War gave 
Mr. Mollhausen a second appointment." / 

Such was Alexander Von Humboldt, author and tra- 
veller, as he appeared to authors and travellers in the 
palace of his King, and in his own quiet home. To the 
citizens of Potsdam and Berlin, all of whom knew him 
by sight, he appeared in a somewhat different light ; tor 
while many of them were ignorant of him as an author 
and traveller, or had at best but a vague idea of his 
world-wide renown in this respect, none were ignorant 
of his rank as one of the King's privy councillors. 
Everybody knew His Excellency, the Baron Von Hum- 
boldt, and honoured him like the King himself. He was 
often seen at Potsdam, walking on the terrace of Sans 
Souci with his Majesty, Frederic William IV., or saun- 
tering by himself in the avenues of the park. One of 
his favourite haunts at Sans Souci was a shady walk, in 
a retired part of the garden. He loved this spot because 
it reminded him of his friend, the former King, who was 
buried there. Frederic William III. slept by the side of 
his queenly wife in a stately marble monument, the 
work of the sculptor. Ranch. Upon this monument was 
a recumbent statue of his Majesty, ^ 

" With his martial doak around him." 
But it was in Berlin after all that Humboldt was best 


known. His house in the Oranienburger-strasse was, as 
we have said, in the neighbourhood of the palace, to 
which he went daily when the King was in Berlin. All 
the inhabitants of the city, men, women, and children, 
knew his slender figure and white hair. He walked 
with a firm but slow step, with his head bent on his 
breast His dress was simple, a plain black suit, without 
ribands or orders, and he had the Napoleonic habit of 
carrying his hands behind him. His eye was generally 
fixed on the ground, but he always noticed and returned 
the greetings of the citizens. He was as much at home 
in the street, as in his own private study, for the passers- 
by stepped softly aside for fear of disturbing his thoughts ; 
the poorest working-man gazed after him as he passed, 
and whispered to his comrade or neighbour: "There 
goes Humboldt." 

Often in the summer twilight the old man was seen 
wending his way to the beautiful avenue — Unter den 
Linden. A few minutes' walk from his house brought 
him to Frederic's-strasse, and the bridge that crossed the 
Spree, and a few minutes more to Unter den Linden, 
which was crowded with promenaders. Up and down 
the avenue of lime trees, now in shadow and now in 
sunshine, the figure of the old man moved, his hands 
behind him, and his head drooping on his breast Of 
what is he thinking as he walks there in the mellow 
twilight? Of Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, or the dreary 
WHstes of Central Asia ? Or of the yet unwritten volume 
of "Kosmos?" Perhaps he dreams of his early days, 
the far off golden time when he was a boy at Tegel. 
Let the old man dream, ye gay promenaders ! Disturb 
him not with your laughter; let him not hear your foot 


Steps as you pass him. He has earned the right to 
dream, for his dreams are worlds I 

The only drawback to Humboldt's happiness in his 
last years, was the flood of letters which poured in upon 
him. He had always corresponded largely with scientific 
men in all parts of the world. He was glad to learn of 
their experiments and discoveries, and to communicate 
his own in return. But to be deluged as he was with 
letters in his latter days was intolerable. 

"I work," Humboldt wrote to his friend, Julius 
Froebel, in January, 1858, " I work mostly in the night, 
because I am unmercifully tormented with a constantly 
increasing correspondence, for the most part of not the 
slightest interest. I live joyless in my eighty-ninth year, 
because of the much for which I have striven from my 
early youth, so little has been accomplished. 

" Your illegible, 
" Al. Humboldt." ^ 

It was only of those who pestered him, however, auto- 
graph hunters, and the like, that Humboldt complained, 
not of scholars and savans, and least of all of his friends. 
His pen was as ready in their service as his purse had 
been in former years, and would have been still, had 
there been anything in it. Witness this letter to George 
Ticknor, the historian of Spanish Literature. 

"My Dear and Excellent Friend: — Bonds of 
friendship, which have their origin so far back as my 
family, and the affection felt for you by my brother, 
William Von Humboldt, when you lived in Germany, 
as a young man, seem to impose on me the very plea* 


sant duty of giving you some sign of life — that is to say 
a renewed proof of my attachment to you and my inte- 
rest in your country, and a brief account of my labours. 

" My physical strength declines, but it declines 
slowly. My steps are more uncertain in their direction, 
owing to a feebleness of the ligaments of the knees ; 
but I can remain standing for an hour without being 
fatigued. I continue work chiefly at night, being unre- 
lentingly persecuted by my correspondence, which in- 
creases the more as one becomes an object of public 
curiosity. What is called literary celebrity is especially 
the result of long endurance of life. This kind of emi- 
nence increases, therefore, in proportion as imbecility 
becomes more manifest. I am never really ill, but often 
incommoded, as is to be expected at the age of eighty- 

" Since we were only two persons in the American ex- 
pedition (the unfortunate Carlos de Montufar, son of the 
Marquis de Selvalegra of Quito, fell a victim to his love 
for the liberty of his country), it is somewhat remarkable 
that we should both have reached so advanced an age. 
Bonpland, still much occupied with scientific labours, 
even cherishing the hope of visiting Europe again, and 
of bringing in person back to Paris his rich and beautiful 
collections in botany and geology, is eighty-five years 
old, and enjoys greater strength than I do. 

" I have just published in Germany the fourth volume 
of Kosmos, and they are now printing the fifth volume, 
which completes that work so imprudently begun and 
so favourably received by the public. Gen. Sabine 
writes me that the English translation is finished and 
will appear immediately. The same news comes to me 


from France, from M. Galuzzi, who has been passing the 
winter in the South, at Cannes. 

" The great and beautiful work of Agassiz (the first 
two volumes) reached me only a few days since. It will 
produce a great eflfect by the breadth of its general views 
and by the extreme sagacity of its special embryological 
observations. I never believed that this illustrious man, 
who is no less a man of a constant and beautiful nature, 
would accept the oflFers nobly made him in Paris. I was 
sure that gratitude would bind him to a new country 
where he finds a field so immense for his researches and 
great means of assistance. I hope he may be inclined, 
together with his great anatomical and physiological 
labours among the inferior organisms, to give us also the 
specific ichthyology of the numerous basins of the * Far 
West,' beginning with the Holy Empire of the Mormons. 

" Science has lately met with an immense loss here by 
the unexpected death of the greatest anatomist of our 
country. Prof. Johann MtLller. This loss is as great for 
science, as was for art the death of the immortal sculptor 
Eauch. The universality of his zoological knowledge 
in the inferior organizations placed Johann Miiller near 
Cuvier, having a great pre-eminence in the delicacy of 
his anatomical and physiological work. He made long 
and painful voyages, at his own expense, on the shores 
of the Mediterranean and in the Northern Seas. It is 
scarcely two years since he came near perishing by ship- 
wreck on the coast of Norway. He sustained himself 
by swimming for more than half an hour, and considered 
himself quite lost when he was wonderfully rescued. I 
lose in him a friend who was very dear to me. He was 
a man of great talent, and at the same time of a noble 

474 jlS assassin of souls! 

character. He was admirable for the elevation and inde- 
pendence of his opinions. By making enormous sacri* 
fices he was able to form a choice library, not only of 
anatomy, physiology, and zoology, but one that ex- 
tended over all the physical sciences. It consists of 
more than three thousand volumes, well bound, and 
of as many more volumes containing dissertations, so 
difficult to collect Mr. Miiller spent nearly eight hun- 
dred thalers a year for binding alone. It would be 
sad to see a collection dispersed and broken up, which* 
was made with so much care. Since duplicates are 
dreaded in Europe, I cannot help fearing lest this fine 
collection should cross the great Atlantic river, I have 
almost the air of exciting your appetite whto I thus pre- 
sent myself before you as a citizen of the world, while 
the Church journal of Vienna calls me, in capital letters, 
a naturalist assassin of souls, * Selen-morder.' 

" Accept, I beg you, my dear and respected friend, the 
renewal of the high and aflFectionate consideration which, 
for so many years, I have given to your talents and to 
your character. 

" A. V. Humboldt. 

"Berlin, 9th May, 185a 

" Since so many benevolent persons, colored as well 
as white, in the United States, take an interest in me, it 
would be agreeable to me, my dear friend, if this letter, 
translated into English by you, could be prirUed^ without 
omitting what relates to our mutual friendship. If you 
think it necessary you can add that I have myself be^ed 
of you this publication, because I leave unanswered so 
many letters that are addressed to me." 


The last page of the fifth and last volume of " Kosmos " 
was finished on the 14th of September, 1858. It was a 
happy day with Humboldt, for he had lived to finish his 
life-long task ; besides, it was his birth-day, his eighty- 
ninth birth-dav. His Mends assembled at his house and 
congratulated nim. "Never," says an English corres- 
pondent, "did conqueror receive greater congratulations 
firom so many persons, and from such great distances, as 
the postboy had to carry on Tuesday morning to the 
well-known house in the Oranienburger-strasse. 

" Humboldt is said to be of the opinion that he will die 
next spring; but his firiends who observe him speak dif- 
ferently, and are bold enough to predict that this time 
he is in error, and that a very different celebration than the 
one he anticipates will next year take place in his house." 

Autumn passed, and winter came, and still the eld 
man lived ; so fieu* as his friends could see there was no 
danger of his prediction being fulfilled. They would 
meet him on his ninetieth birthday, and banter him on 
his mistake. 

" Yesterday," a young American wrote fixjm Berlin on 
the 23d of February, 1858 ; " yesterday was Washing- 
ton's birth-day, and we celebrated it by a grand dinner 
at the American Minister's, Gov. Wright Some eighty 
or ninety persons were present, among them the Baron 
Von Humboldt, whom we all reverence above any man 
living. I shall remember it until the last moment of my 
life, and it will be with pride that I can say that I was 
present upon that occasion in which he honoured the 
American nation, in his old age, with his presence at a 
dinner given in remembrance of *The Father of our 


" The dinner was set at three o'clock, and every one 
was already there a little before the hour, in order to be 
present when Humboldt came. He entered the room 
precisely upon time. He is a very short man, and quite 
infirm, and it is with difficulty that he is able to walk. 
Of course as soon as he was placed in hii^hair, the Min- 
ister introduced the ladies and many of the gentlemen 
present. After a few minutes' conversation the party 
adjourned to the dinner, and the * devouring of eatables ' 
took place after a short blessing from a clergyman. 

" Gov. Wright made the first speech, and spoke of the 
occasion which had brought them together in a very elo- 
quent manner, and gave as the first toast, ' The Prince 
and Princess of Prussia,' and for the second, * Washing- 
ton's birthday.' Next the Secretary of Legation made a 
few remarks, and gave a toast in which he coupled the 
names of * Washington and Humboldt,' which was drunk 
standing, and three rousing cheers given. Aft«r some 
other speeches and toasts were given, Mr. Thayer (cor- 
respondent of Dvyvghts Journal of Music) gave the fol- 
lowing, which I consider the best toast of the occasion : 
' The Baron Von Humboldt — the King of Science, the 
latchet of whose shoes no common Kings are worthy of 
unloosing.' It made a tremendous noise, and Humboldt 
spoke in answer ; but his voice was so feeble, and his 
language so indistinct, that I believe no one understood 
what he said. He remained two hours and then left;, as 
he can bear but little excitement. As his greatcoat was 
being put on I was standing quite close to him, and 
seized the opportunity of touching his cape, which ia 
honour enough for me." 



Towards the end of April, 1859, the citizens of Berlin 
began to miss His Excellency, the Baron Von Humboldt 
They met him no longer in the street in the afternoon 
walking towards the palace ; neither did they see him at 
twilight in his favourite haunt, Unter den Linden. 
"Where is His Excellency?" they asked, but none 
could answer. In a few days the question was changed 
to " How is His Excellency ?" for they had learned in 
the meantime that he was ill. The postboy still made 
his morning calls at the famous little house in the Ora- 
nienburger-strasse, and from time to time through the day 
carriages stopped near by, and stately gentlemen, deco- 
rated with orders, alighted and rang the bell softly. 

On the morning of the 8rd of May, the journals of 
Berlin announced his illness. 

" Alexander Von Humboldt has been confined to his 
bed for the last twelve days; his strength has been 
gradually failing; his mind retains all its clearness, 
though his power of expression has decreased. In the 
dangerous condition of the revered patient, the greatest 
care and precaution against all excitement is neces- 


Then followed the bulletin of his health. 

" May 2. — The fever has somewhat abated since last 
evening. The catarrh is also less violent The con- 
dition of the patient in his very weak state is still very 

The bulletins were continued fix)ni day to day. 

"Jlfey. 3. — ^Yery great loss of strength; his condition 
in a high degree doubtful. 

"Ifoy4. — The condition of Humboldt during the 
uight of Monday-Tuesday, was exceedingly critical^ 
through the violent fits of coughing and difficulty of 
breathing. Towards noon of Tuesday the patient was 
much improved in various respects, but the continued loss 
of strength renders his position to a high degree critical 

" May 5. — Humboldt's condition since yesterday almost 
unchanged. Weakness increasing. 

" May 6. — (Friday morning) — The strength of the 
patient is decreasing fix>m hour to hour." 

The last hours of the dying man were soothed by the 
presence of his relatives, who flocked to his residence as 
soon as they heard of his illness. First came from 
Tegel the Baroness Von Bulow,— once his merry little 
niece Gabriele, but now a placid widow of fifty-seven : 
then the husband of his niece Adelheid, General Von 
Hedemann ; and then, firom Ottmachan, his nephew Her- 
mann, and his grandnephew William, the son of " the 
amiable Theodore," of whom Frau Caroline wrote more 
than sixty years before. 

Shall we describe the chamber of the dying man — 
the darkened walls touched with the sunlight that creeps 
through the half-closed blinds — the group of soi rowing 
fiiends around his bed — his reverend white hair, his 


divine blue eyes, the smile on his kind old fa(^ ? No. 
The death of the humblest man is too sacred a thing to 
make a picture of; how much more sacred then the 
death of Humboldt — ^the greatest and best of men I 

He died on the 6th of May at half-past two o'clock in 
the afternoon. A few moments before his death the 
blinds were opened, and the full blaze of the sun poured 
into the chamber. " How grand those rays," he mur- 
mured: "they seem to beckon Earth to Heaven." He 
closed his eyes like a wearied child, and slept the long 
long sleep. 

The tenth of May was set apart for the funeral. Early 
in the morning the citizens of Berlin were seen hurry- 
ing in the direction of Frederic-strasse and Unter deii 
.Linden, through which the procession was to pass. The 
houses in the Oranienburger-strasse were hung with 
crape, and decorated with black flags: Humboldt's house 
was closed. The police kept the street clear, admitting 
into it only those who were to take part in the cere- 
monies. They soon made their appearance — Ministers 
of State, Generals of the army, and grave and learned 
professors. There was Dove, Rector Magnificus of the 
University, Encke, the celebrated astronomer. Professor 
Mitscherlich, Carl Bitter the great geographer, and a 
host of authors and artists. Before starting they entered 
the house to take a last look at the illustrious dead. He 
lay in a large oaken coflBn in his study, surrounded hy 
his books. Over him hung his portrait, wreathed with 
palm-leaves and exotic flowers. At eight o'clock the 
coffin was borne down the stairs, and placed in the 
funeral-car. The crowd uncovered their heads as the 
coffin appeared. 


Presendy the processioii started. It was headed by 
Seifert and the servants of the fitmily. Then came the 
students of the Frederic William University, six hundred 
in all, led by marshals bearing black rods ; then a band 
of musicians playing solemn music, and followed by eight 
clergymen in official robes. Next came the three court 
chamberlains, the Count of Furstenberg Stammhein, 
Count Von Donhofl^ and Baron Von Zecklitz, and a 
fourth appointed for the occasion. They bore on red 
velvet cushions the insignia of the Order of the Black 
Eagle, the medal of the Grand Chancellor of the peace 
class of the Order of Merit, and the countless medals and 
orders which the sovereigns of Europe had showered 
upon Humboldt Then came the hearse covered with 
black, and drawn by six black horses from the royal 
stables. The horses were led by royal grooms, who were 
attended by five court footmen, and a yager. Behind 
the hearse were twenty deputies of the Students' Society, 
each with a palm branch in his hand. Upon the coffin, 
which was also decorated with palm-leaves, were two 
crowns, one of laurel, the other of white azalea branches. 
The male relatives of the dead followed — General Von 
Hedemann, Hermann Von Humboldt, and William Hum- 
boldt-Dacheroden ; together with a number of Kiiights of 
the order of the Black Eagle, headed by the chief of the 
order, General Von Wrangel, and the Generals of the in- 
fantry and cavalry. Prince Wradzivill, and Count Von der 
Groeben. Then came the Ministers of State in their bril- 
liant uniforms, officers of the Court, Privy Councillors, 
and the members of the diplomatic corps. Among the 
latter was the American Minister, Governor Wright, and 
all the Americans in Berlin. Then a deputation from 


both Houses of the Legislature; the members of the 
Academy of Sciences; the Professors of the University, 
headed by the Rector Magnificus ; the members of the 
Academy of Arts, and some of the most distinguished 
actors of the Royal Theatre. Then the magistrates and 
officials of the city, each wearing a gold chain and a 
medal over his coat. Then the citizens of Berlin, old 
and young, rich and poor, with a great number of stran- 
gers, many of whom had come from a long distance to 
show their respect to the dead. The rear was formed by 
a line of empty carriages, half a mile in length, headed 
by the State carriage of the King and Queen, drawn by 
eight horses, the carriage of the Prince Regent^ and those 
of the Princes and diplomatic corps. 

Solemn and slow to the sound of moumftd music the 
procession wended its way to the Dom Church. As 
it passed through Frederic-strasse the pupils of the 
Frederic Gymnasium sang a hymn. The windows were 
draped with black and thronged with respectful fiices : 
the crowds in the street stood uncovered and silent. Not 
a sound was heard save the rain-like patter of feet, and 
the yearning soul of the music. As soon as Unter den 
Linden was passed the church bells began to toll, and 
the Choral Society of Berlin broke into a hymn. 

The Prince Regent, and the Princes of Prussia, stand- 
ing with their heads bared like the meanest of their sub- 
jects, received the coffin at the portico of the Dom 
^Church. It was borne into the church, followed by the 
court preacher and several ministers, and placed on a 
bier before the altar, which was decorated with palms and 
flowers. The chamberlains deposited their cushions laden 
with orders on eitffer side, and stood at the head of the 



ooffia ; the royal personages and tlie relatives cf Hum^ 
boldt stepped within the altar-railing, and the organ 
began to peal. The congregation sang " Jesus my trust.** 
" Blessed are^the dead," said the Priest, ".who die in the 
Lord." "Yea, saith the Spirit," the choir answered, 
"for they rest from their labours. Hallelujah 1" A prayer 
was then made, a funeral sermon was preadied, and the 
Lord's Prayer waa said. Then the grand old chorals, 
" Be comforted and most hap^y," and " Christ is my 
Life," were sung, and the ceremony was over. The pro- 
cession departed as it came, with pattering feet and 
melancholy music. The church Was soon deserted of the 
living, but the dead remained, in the oaken cofiBn under 
the solemn dome, alone with God ! 
That night the body was removed to Tegel. 





"WR" 2 7 2002 


OCT 211916 

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