previous next
[498] and down before her, successively, to see their paces. ‘I was present,’ he went on,

when Fichte's turn came. After talking with him a little while, she said, ‘Now, Mons. Fichte, could you be so kind as to give me, in fifteen minutes or so, a sort of idea or apercu of your system, so that I may know clearly what you mean by your ich, your moi, for I am entirely in the dark about it?’

The notion of explaining in a petit quart d'heure, to a person in total darkness, a system which he had been his whole life developing from a single principle within himself, and spinning, as it were, out of his own bowels, till its web embraced the whole universe, was quite shocking to the philosopher's dignity. However, being much pressed, he began, in rather bad French, to do the best he could. But he had not gone on more than ten minutes before Mad. de Stael, who had followed him with the greatest attention, interrupted him with a countenance full of eagerness and satisfaction: “Ah! c'est assez, je comprends, je vous comprends parfaitement, Mons. Fichte. Your system is perfectly illustrated by a story in Baron Munchausen's travels.” Fichte's face looked like a tragedy; the faces of the rest of the company a good deal like a comedie larmoyante. Mad. de Stael heeded neither, but went on: ‘For, when the Baron arrived once on the bank of a vast river, where there was neither bridge, nor ferry, nor even a poor boat or raft, he was at first quite confounded, quite in despair; until at last, his wits coming to his assistance, he took a good hold of his own sleeve and jumped himself over to the other side. Now, Mons. Fichte, this, I take it, is just what you have done with your ich, your moi; n'est-ce-pas?’

There was so much of truth in this, and so much esprit, that, of course, the effect was irresistible on all but poor Fichte himself. As for him, he never forgot or forgave Mad. de Stael, who certainly, however, had no malicious purpose of offending him, and who, in fact, praised him and his ich most abundantly in her De l'allemagne.

This, to be sure, is not much like the talk of a man upon whose spirits the burthens of the state rest with a very fretting wear. I stayed with him about an hour and a half, and he amused me the whole time in this way.

May 26.—Alexander von Humboldt came this morning and spent an hour with us.1 . . . . He looks much as he used to, but older, and his hair is grown white; his manners are kind and flattering and courtly, even more than they used to be, though his person and

1 He had been in Potsdam with the King until the day before this.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Potsdam (Brandenburg, Germany) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Fichte (6)
De Stael (3)
Munchausen (1)
Alexander Von Humboldt (1)
French (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 26th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: