previous next

[413] on craint les doubles, je dois presque redouter que cette belle collection traverse le grand fleuve atlantique. J'ai presque lair d'exciter votre appetit en me presentant devant vous comme citoyen du monde, tandis que la Kirchenzeitung de Vienne me nomme, en lettres majuscules, un naturaliste assassin des âmes, Seelenmorder.

Agreez, je vous prie, mon cher et respectable ami, le renouvellement de la haute et affectueuse consideration que j'ai vouee depuis tant d'annees à votre talent et à votre caractere.

À Berlin, ce 9 Mai, 1858.
Da so viele mir wohlwollende Menschen, farbige und weisse, in den Vereinigten Staaten, an mir Antheil nehmen, so ware es mir angenehm, theurer Freund, wenn dieser Brief von Ihnen ins Englische übertragen (ohne Weglassen dessen was sich auf unsere gegenseitige Freundschaft bezieht) gedruckt werden konnte. Wenn Sie es fur nothwendig halten, konnten Sie zusetzen, ich hatte die Bekanntmachung selbst erbeten, weil ich so viele an mich gerichtete Briefe unbeantwortet gelassen.


1 Translation of the above:—

my dear and excellent friend,—Bonds of friendship which have their origin so far back in 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 pleasant duty of giving you some sign of life,—that is to say, a renewed proof of my attachment to you, and my interest in your country, and a brief account of my labors.

My physical strength declines, but it declines slowly. My steps are more uncertain in their direction, owing to a feebleness (a relaxing) of the ligaments of the knees; but I can remain standing for an hour without being fatigued. I continue to work chiefly at night, being unrelentingly persecuted by my correspondence, which increases the more as one becomes an object of public curiosity. What is called literary celebrity is especially the result of a long endurance of life. This kind of eminence 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-nine.

Since we were only two persons in the American Expedition (the unfortunate Carlos 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 labors, 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 ‘Cosmos,’ and they are now printing the fifth volume, which completes that work, so imprudently begun and so favorably received by the public. General 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 effect 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 offers 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 labors 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 century, Prof. Johann Muller. This loss is as great for science as was for art the death of the immortal sculptor, Rauch. The universality of his zoological knowledge in the inferior organizations placed Johann Muller 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 shipwreck 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 character. He was admirable for the elevation and independence of his opinions. By making enormous sacrifices he was able to form a choice library, not only of anatomy, physiology, and zoology, but one that extended 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. Muller spent nearly eight hundred thalers a year [six hundred dollars] 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 when I thus present 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, Seelenmorder.

Accept, I beg you, my dear and respected friend, the renewal of the high and affectionate consideration which, for so many years, I have given to your talents and to your character.

Berlin, 9 May, 1858.
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 printed, without omitting what relates to our mutual friendship. If you think it necessary you can add that I have myself begged of you this publication, because I leave unanswered so many letters that are addressed to me.

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)
hide People (automatically extracted)
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 9th, 1858 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: