- Residence in Gottingen till the end of 1815. -- University life. -- his own studies. -- Bencke, Eichhorn, Blumenbach, Schultze, Michaelis, Kastner. -- Wolf. -- excursion to Hanover.
On arriving at Gottingen, which was to be Mr. Ticknor's home for twenty months, he felt like the pilgrim who had reached the shrine of his faith; here he found the means and instruments of knowledge in an abundance and excellence such as he had never before even imagined. Gottingen was at that time the seat of the leading university in Germany, occupying much the same comparative position as that of Berlin does now. Founded by George II., it owed its rank and eminence, in a great measure, to the fostering care of the king's enlightened Hanoverian minister, Baron Munchausen, who watched over its interests with a vigilance and constancy which had something of the warmth of personal affection. Another of its benefactors, in a different way, was the illustrious Heyne, who had died in 1812, after having been connected with it, in various capacities, for half a century. He was not only a scholar of eminence and varied attainments, and an unrivalled teacher in the department of philology, but also a man of sound practical wisdom and tact in the conduct of life, and had, for many years before his death, been the leading spirit in the government and administration of the University. His high and wide reputation had brought to it a great number of pupils. At the time of Mr. Ticknor's residence in Gottingen, there were many distinguished teachers and scholars connected with its University, such as Dissen, Benecke, Schultze, Eichhorn, and others, and especially two men of world-wide fame,—Gauss in mathematics, and Blumenbach in natural history. The latter  was attracting pupils from all over Europe, not merely by his immense and accurate knowledge, but by his peculiar felicity in communicating it. His learned and instructive lectures were brightened by a rich vein of native humor, which was always under the control of tact and good sense, and never degenerated into buffoonery. He retained to the last the high spirits of a boy, and was not entirely free from a boy's love of mischief. Though not much interested in natural history, Mr. Ticknor attended the lectures of Blumenbach, who seemed to have formed a strong attachment for his studious and animated pupil from the far-distant West. Easy and cordial relations grew up between them, and when Mr. Ticknor took leave of the great naturalist, he felt almost as if he were parting from a European father. The way of life into which he fell at Gottingen, continuing with little interruption for twenty months, was not only in marked contrast with his brilliant experience in London, but was unlike that which he had been accustomed to lead at home. Though he had always been a diligent student, yet his warm domestic affections and strong social tastes had claimed some portion of his time; but now all his hours, from early morning till night, were given to hard work, unrelieved by either amusement or society. A daily walk with his friend Mr. Everett was all that varied the monotony of continuous study. Having never been dependent for happiness upon amusements, it cost him little to renounce these; but it was a loss and a sacrifice to give up society,—that full and free exchange of feelings and opinions with those whom we love and trust, which is one of the highest pleasures of life. His only relaxation was found in a change of employment. But his life in Gottingen was a happy one. For all his privations and sacrifices there was this great compensation, that here, for the first time, a deep and ever-flowing fountain was opened to him in which his passionate love of knowledge could be slaked. Here, for the first time, he was made to understand and feel what is meant by instruction. At home he had had teachers, that is, he had had men who knew somewhat more than he did, to whom he recited his lessons, who corrected his mistakes and  allowed him to learn. But at Gottingen he was made to understand the difference between reciting to a man and being taught by him. Here he took lessons in Greek, for instance, of a scholar who had not only learned Greek thoroughly, but had also learned the art of teaching it. The delight he took in his new charters and privileges was in proportion to his ardent love of knowledge and his previous imperfect opportunities for gratifying it. Another source of happiness, as well as of intellectual growth, was opened to him at Gottingen in its magnificent library of over two hundred thousand volumes, especially rich in modern literature, and adminstered so liberally that any number of books might be taken from it and kept as long as the student had any need of them. This immense treasury of knowledge was all the more impressive and the more welcome from its contrast with the meagre collections he had left at home.1 Every student knows what a pleasure it is to be able to lay his hands on every book he wants when he is studying a subject, as well as the exaggerated value he will put upon the particular book he cannot find. Here our ardent young scholar could be sure of lighting upon every book of which he had even ever heard; and the delight with which his eye ran along the endless shelves of the University library was only tempered by the sigh called forth by the thought of the disproportion between these boundless stores of knowledge and the length of any human life, or the measure of any human powers. Mr. Ticknor's enjoyment of the new and copious sources of knowledge which were now opened to him, and his sense of the intellectual growth derived from them, were alloyed both by the painful comparison he was forced to make between what he found in Gottingen and what he had left at home, and the sad thought of how much more he might have done and known if,  in childhood and youth,2 he had had the advantages he was now enjoying. He saw men around him, his contemporaries, not superior to him in capacity or industry, but far beyond him in extent and accuracy of knowledge, and he could not but recall with a bitter pang the precious hours he had lost for want of books and teachers. The tone of his correspondence, however, is never desponding, but always cheerful. The following extract from a letter to his father, written in November, 1815,—certainly not a season of exhilarating influences in Northern Germany,—is but a fair specimen of the spirit which animates all his communications.
The shortest days are soon coming, and I am glad of it. . . . . At home I used to delight in the silence and darkness of the morning, and a long, uninterrupted winter's evening had pleasures that were all its own; but here, where the sun hardly rises above the damp and sickly mists of the horizon through the whole day, where candles must be burnt till nine in the morning and lighted again at three,— here the darkness becomes a burden of which I shall rejoice to be rid. It no longer seems to me like that “grateful vicissitude of day and night” that Milton says “ flows from the very throne of God,” but like the Cimmerian darkness in which Homer has involved the gloomy regions of death and despair. I would not write thus to you, my dear father, if I did not know that, when you receive this letter, you will be able to console yourself with the recollection that I have already emerged to the light of day. The climate and weather are much like our own in fickleness, though more damp and rainy. .... But I care nothing for this. My health is perfect and constant; and, as for “the seasons and their changes, all please alike.” Mr. Ticknor always was an easy and ready writer, and the exercise of writing was never distasteful to him. His letters and journals, during his residence in Europe, were so copious that they alone, had he done nothing else, would have saved him from the reproach of idleness. They contain so full and continuous a record of his life and thoughts, that little is left for his biographer to relate. They should be read, however, not merely as fresh and animated sketches of what he witnessed and felt, but as unconscious revelations of character, addressed, as they were, to his father and mother, with that frank and affectionate confidence which had always existed between them. They reveal to us a rare degree of self-denial and force of character in a young man of four-and-twenty, suddenly exchanging the loving and watchful supervision of a New England home for the absolute freedom of Europe, but yielding to none of the temptations of his new position; devoting himself to an unbroken life of hard study, making his plans deliberately and adhering to them resolutely, and renouncing not merely all debasing but all frivolous pleasures. And from these letters and journals we also learn that his love of study was not the effect of a solitary temper or an ascetic spirit, but that he was fond of society as well as of books, that he was a social favorite, everywhere well received, and treated with marked kindness by many of the most distinguished men in Europe.
Being rather weary after six weeks of constant study, Mr. Ticknor and Mr. Everett made a visit of five days to Hanover, leaving Gottingen September 19th, and returning the 24th, and found much interest in making the acquaintance of Feder,— for twenty-nine years professor in Gottingen,—Count Munster, Minister of State, Professor Martens, author of a work on the  Law of Nations, ‘much read in America,’ and Mad. Kestner, the original of Goethe's ‘Charlotte.’ The following are passages from his journal in Hanover:—
A memorandum made in 1868, by Mr. Ticknor, on the flyleaf of the first volume of his early journal, contains some facts about his Gottingen studies, and though it refers also to later experiences, it seems appropriate here.
It is only that part of my time which I gave to travelling, society, and amusements, of which I have spoken at any length in this journal, written out wherever I stopped long enough to do it, from slight memoranda made on the spot, in small note-books which I carried with me. I, however, prepared myself as well as I could, by collecting beforehand, in other manuscript note-books, statistical, historical, and geographical facts concerning the countries I intended to visit. This was no very easy task. Murray's Hand-Book, or anything of the sort worth naming, was not known in 1815. There was not even a good Gazetteer to help the traveller, for I think the first was Constable's, published at Edinburgh, a little later; and as for such works as Reichard's for Germany, and Mrs. Starke's for Italy,—which were the best to be had,—I found them of little value. . . . . I read what I could best find upon Italy, and took private lectures on the Modern Fine Arts, delivered in Italian by Professor Fiorello, author of the ‘History of Painting’; on the Ancient Fine Arts, by Professor Welcker, in German, afterwards the first archaeologist of his time; on Statistics, in French, by Professor Saalfeld, and in German, on the Spirit of the Times; of all of which I still have at least six volumes of notes, besides two miscellaneous volumes on Rome, and other separate cities and towns of Italy. . . . . But in Spain and Portugal I was reduced very low, travelling much on horseback, though with a postilion, who took a good deal of luggage; but I like to remember that even in those countries I carried a few books, and that I never separated myself from Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, and the Greek Testament, which I have still in the same copies I then used.