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From The Spectator. THE HUMBOLDT CORRESPONDENCE.*
the king against him were incredible; and | he would lie as little tolerated in other Ger
Afteb a careful reading of Miss Ludmilla I man states were he once deprived of the Assing's preface to the third edition of Sum- protection afforded him by the prestige of Mdet Letters, we have nothing to change I «« office." Of the king himself, Humboldt in the opinion we have already expressed j writes in terms of sorrowing affection end with regard to her conduct as an editor. It respect. Speaking of one of Frederick
may be that Ilumholdt gave his friend Varnhagen von Ense authority for the posthumous publication of letters he wrote to him, and of others which he placed in his hands, but it is indisputable that in evenease such a general permission carries with it certain reservations, implied if not formally declared, which must be perfectly intelligible to persons of honor. Varnhagen's niece has been reckless of all such restrictions; she has trafficked in the abuse of private confidence, and her book is a crime against sock; v. A few suppressions would have rendered it inoffensive, but perhaps they would have greatly diminished its sale, for we cannot agree with its English publishers in thinking that its great success in Germany is to be attributed to its political importance "far more than to the delicious bits of scandal" it contains. What is not odious in it is at least disappointing, its principal contents being complimentary letters addressed to Humboldt. and hasty notes of little intrinsic interest written by him to Yamhagen. Mingled with these are scraps from Varnhagen's diaries, some of which throw more light on the life and character •f Humboldt than do his own letters. For instance, one brief extract from the diaries explains what many persons have regarded u a puzzling anomaly; namely, the voluntary abasement, as it seems to them, of Humboldt's great powers to the petty observances of a courtier's life without political (unctions or influence. It is not by choice that he made himself the associate of men whom he despised, and whose bitter enmity lie rather liked to exasperate than to oswiage; it was because he felt it necessary to the fuller exercise of his influence as a potentate of science that he accepted a position to uncongenial to his nature. Yarnhagen records a visit from him in December, 1845, and says, "lie made a remarkable communication to me. He assures me that but for hit connection with the court he should not W »ble to live here. So much was he hated by the Ultras and the Pietists that he would be exiled. The pains they took to prejudice
* fatten ef Alexander ton llumbolli. vritttn btteten the yeart 1827 and 186S to Varnhagen con Evtt. Together with Kxtrncts from Varnuagen's Diaries, nnd Letters from Varnhagen and others to Huniboldt. Authorized Trnnslntions from the Gerwith Explanatory Notes and a full Index of Published by Triibner and Co.
William's harangues, he says:—
"There is, after all, something noble in this constant yearning to address masses of the people extempore,—in this impulse to speak with tho public face to face. The magnanimity of protecting the 'servants in high places,' by wrapping them in the royal purple, will not mcctwith much recognition. Can one then assume a hostile attitude towards the small predatory ' birds of night ? * A feeling of melancholy conies over one that such a highly gifted prince, guided as ho is by the most benevolent intentions, and in possession of u vigorous mind, which is ever urging him to action, should in spite of his excellent intentions, Ik) deceived as to the direction in which his policy is leading. When Tarry, on the ice, wanted to reach tho polo with his numerous Samojcdo dogs, sledges and dogs apparently went Jbncard. When, however, tho sun broke through tho mist, and tho latitude could bo ascertained, it was found that, without being awnro of it, they hud actually gone several degrees backwards. Tho ground over which they moved forward was a detached field of ice carried south by tho current. Ministers are this moving, icy ground. Is the current dogmatizing missionary philosophy?"
Humboldt also makes honorable mention of the prince of Prussia, the present regent. The following extract from a letter of the 9th of August, 1855 has reference to the timorous policy of the court of Berlin at the moment when the war in the Crimea was imminent, and is especially interesting at this moment from the indication it affords of the prince's character as a statesman:—
"Having yesterday seen the prince of Prussia for nearly one hour by himself, I shall be able to report to you some not unintercstiiw, although not precisely decisive matter. Tile prince, whom I take to bo a lover of truth, assured mo that, faithful to his principles, ho had spoken out everywhere to the purport, that war would probably have been avoided if Prussia and Austria from tho very beginning had earnestly and actively co-operated with tho western powers against fiussia. At Petersburg!! they had objected that the Emperor Nicholas would not have yielded, even in this case, which ho, tho prince, doubted."
In reference to this topic, Varnhagen makes the following entry in his diary on the 12th of August:—
"Speaking of tho position of Prussia, Humboldt said it reminded him of a pleading which ho had once heard in Paris; tho counsel for tho prosecution, in tho matter of a box on the car, had wound up, triumphantly exclaiming: 'An fond nous n'avons pas repu lo soufnct, nous n'avons en quo lo gesto!'"
Humboldt speaks of himself as "a wild man of the woods whom they fancy they have tamed at court;" but the wild man still showed his tooth, and often made them felt by the " soberly fanatical and white-blooded Polignacs" by whom he was surrounded. In April, 1843, he writes, "How unjust we were once in judging the men who tried to settle Europe in the great congress. I cannot help saying how much higher were our pretensions then in our unjust temper, if now, in comparison with the wietchedness which surrounds us, the personages assembled in Vienna present themselves as great statesmen to our memory. Instead of them, we possess court philosophers, female missionary ministresses, court divines, and startling-effect preachers." Nor did the people who endured such a rigime escape his sarcasm. He tells his correspondent that "the host of (dicunt) a very dirty hotel bearing my name," in San Francisco, sends him German Californian newspapers, and adds:—
"Descanting in a lute number on the moral and intellectual condition of the English, French, and Germans, the editor says : ' Wo Germans ore a tribe of thinkers, deeply engaged in our innermost jnind with tho world of thought; we also have, over nil the other nations settled here, the great advantage of troubling ourselves very little, or not at all, about municipal and political affairs.' Thus wo boast on tho shores of tho Pacific; wo buy tho Signs of the Times [Bunsen's], but scarcely five in a hundred of us will go to the poll. It is too inconvenient. We are thinking."
Varnhagen writes in his diary, on the 20th of June, 1844:—
"At the royal table in Sans Souci, Humboldt lately let fly two good shafts from his bow. 1%c conversation turned on a Russian ordinance, and Humbolilt, in speaking of it, mentioned the name of the Minister of Public Instruction scv
oral times, 'You are mistaken,'interrupted the king; 'this was uot the work of the Minister of Instruction, but of the Minister of Enlightenment. That's quito another person from the Minister of Instruction.' Iltimboldt, without being put ont, accepted the correction by hastily adding, 'Not the Minister of Instruction, then, but of the contrary;' and then continued in hi* usual way. The following piece is still finer:— General Leopold von Gerlai-h [the leader of the Krcuzzeitung party] who cannot leave off teasing, lately ventured to make an attack on Humboldt by saying to him, 'I suppose your excellency often goes to church now; he hoped thereby to put him in a dilemma. Bat Humboldt answered at once, ' That now of yours is very kindly put in: you mean to point ont to me how to make my way in the world.' The canting jester was regularly dumbfounded!"
In November, 1856, Varnhagcn visited Humboldt, and was shown by him a live chameleon, in a box. The great naturalist said "it was the only animal which could direct one of its eyes upwards while looking downwards with the other; only our parsons were as clever, directing one eye to heaven, and the other to the good things and advantages of the world."
On science, there is scarcely a word in the volume before us, and the allusions to literature which it contains are generally of the most cursory kind. One among them—and the only one, we believe—is of permanent value, and is quoted as follows, from Varnhagcn's diary:—
"Humboldt's confirms tho opinion I have more than once expressed, that too much must not bo inferred from the silence of authors. Ho adduces three important and perfectly undeniable facts, as to which one finds no evidence in places where one would naturally, aboi-o all others, expect to find it. In tho records of Barcelona, there is not a trace of the triumphal entry made by Columbus; in Marco Polo no mention of tho great wall of China, and in the archives of Portugal nothing nbont the voyago of Amerigo Vespucci in tho service of that crown." ("History of tho Geography of the New World," Part IV. p. 160, ct seq).
We arc glad to hear that ix life of Hallam is likely to appear under tho editorship, or from the pen, of Dean Milman. No more competent hand could have undertaken such a task than that of one who unites congeniality of pursuit with personal knowledge of the deceased, and who is peculiarly qualified to form a judgment
by flourishing, as it were, in two ages. For be* twccn the publication of tho " History of Christianity" and tho "History of Latin Christianity " a great interval has elapsed, full of change in style, thought, and literary experiences; and yet tho latter work lias still kept its author in tho front rank, and shown that he has kept np with the progress of the time.—Prett.
From The Spectator, 9 June. THE AUSTRIAN AND RUSSIAN REFORMS. If hope were not something indestructible in human nature, we should have ceased to put the slightest faith in Austrian promises. Their normal state is to be broken. Yet, so plain is the fate of the empire, should the government persevere in the infatuated policy of the last few years, that it is difficult to resist some belief in the possibility of a repentance even at the eleventh hour. The new " Council of the Empire " is discussing reforms for all the kingdoms of which "Aus, tria " is composed. In the emperor's own address to the members of the council he confessed the true position. He had even the courage to declare a hope " that a financial balance may be finally attained." In • his recent action' towards Naples he seems to have perceived that no territory is to be retained by Austria on the strength of defying the public opinion of Europe, especially since that public opinion has recently obtained such very high patronage. In his declaration to the Hungarians, and still more in his beliatior to the Hungarian members of the new council, he has admitted that the claims of that nation are no longer to be slighted; and he seems at last to have perceived that unless a financial balance be attained by the only possible path, administrative and fiscal reforms, the empire must break down through its insolvency. The experiences of Italy, the reports of Hiibncr and Bencdok, had opened his eyes to the state of Hungary; Rothschild and the suicide of Briick have made him understand the impossibility of going on any longer with a procrastinating finance.
The hopeful sign consists in the entirely new circumstances under which the council meets. They are, indeed, enough to show that a revolution has actually been effected in the imperial palace. The conditions under which the emperor agreed to meet the Hungarian members of the council amount to a capitulation: the members had declined their scats, and they were pressed to accept; when they consented to enter the council they declared that they accepted their seats on their sole personal responsibility, holding no commission from their country. Thus they entered the council experimentally, clothed with no authority save that which the emperor gave them, pledged to accept no course, but simply coming to listen, to take the imperial proposals into consideration, and, as they declared, to give their own judgment frankly, without reserve and without prejudice. The debates of the council ore really a conference between the imperial government which capitulates, and the volunteer deputies of Hungary who listen.
Nor is this all. Count Apponyi stated, in his place in that peculiar parliament, that while accepting this curious provisional position, " he did not renounce one of his principles ;" he "preserved all the historical rights of Hungary;" and "he did not resign his rights in the future Hungarian constitution." Only Hungary thinks that she may get her rights without disturbing the unity of the monarchy.
But even this is not all. The count and his brother Hungarians have absolutely refused to sanction the imperial proposition, that they should be pledged to secrecy in the council. They have, therefore, already so far forced a change upon the imperial plan, that instead of being a privy council to debate cabinet questions of the emperor, "the Council of the Empire" is a provisional convention, an initiatory parliament, with public debates. And even to that almost British condition, the emperor of Austria has assented. In this aspect the council seems to have become an instrument as valuable for the recovery of Hungarian rights, and the development of liberties in other provinces of Austria, as our own Runnymede and the parliament of our Plantagenets.
Another reform initiated by an imperial statesman has every appearance of being more genuine, because it is more spontaneous, and because it also accords more completely with the context of that statesman's action in other affairs. When Alexander the Second of Russia was only heir-apparent, it was generally considered that he was a dull man, and likely to stand in great contrast with the "energy" of his father; so much so, that we were familiar with anticipations of his being passed by in favor of his younger brother. From the conduct of Alexander since he has attained the throne, we have the key to these anticipations: he was judged from the St. Petersburg point of view,—we might almost say from the Moscow point of view. "Energy" was estimated by the standard of those who admired a Russian prince when riding into the chamber of his bride on horseback, or calmly parading his men in the midst of a killing frost, against which he himself was armed by special clothing. Energy was probably thought to be synonymous with despotism: Alexander has shown us that he construes it in a manner more congenial to European opinion. Ho has not thought it an act of energy to persevere with the Mcnschikoffism which characterized Russian policy; but, on the contrary, has shown a real strength only in withdrawing from a false position, and in raising his state at once to the higher lerel of European statesmanship. He has become one of the influential leaders of the contemporary movements of Europe. The emperor has attained that position for the first time in the history of Russia. For Peter was a leader only within Russia, and Alexander the First a leader only in i the military aspect of statesmanship; whereas Alexander the Second exercises an undoubted influence on public opinion, and, Italia teste, on the progress of the most cultivated states in Europe. Not long after he had come to the throne it was understood j that he intended to effect a great reform in j the social state of the peasantry. About ] three years ago, some of the more intelligent, nobility, under the direct injunction of the emperor, met in a few provinces and organized a committee to examine into the best method of emancipating the serfs on their estates. The majority of the nobles recalcitrated, and the imperial inquiry has proceeded contemporaneously with other chronic but smothered agitation among the reluctant nobles. There seems to be reason to believe that this oppugnant majority has gradually given off its numbers. Indeed, the commanding position which the Emperor Alexander has acquired, necessarily gives him an influence at home not altogether unlike that exercised by the Emperor Napoleon on the game ground; and it is now announced that the emancipation of the serfs is fixed for a definite time upon fixed principles. The period calculated for the process is not more than two years! During that interval, the
Eeasant, who is now nothing but a villein on is landlord's estate, will have the opportunity of acquiring what we see called a " feesimple," but what appears to us rather to resemble our base tenures, of copyhold or leasehold. In other words, Russia is now going through the identical change which France went through at the end of the last century, but with this most glorious difference,—that the Louis the Sixteenth of the country, instead of being the leader of an impossible resistance, is the leader of the reform.
These great historical pictures in Vienna and St. Petersburg ought to bo well studied by princes in other quarters of Europe, particularly in those Which boast any sort of Teutonic throne. Indeed, a broad distinction might be drawn between the state of the several countries as to the relations of the crown and the people. In one class we find the monarch rendering himself the agent for consummating and executing a matured public opinion, on questions of the broadest national interest. In the other case, we see the monarch imperilling life, throne, nnd dynasty, by resisting matured public opinion, in the hopeless endeavor to keep his country
back to a mediaeval condition. We hear much loud talk about partition of empires and annexation to foreign crowns. We are not entering just now into the moral of those transactions, but we may note a great fact. There is no question of partition where the reigning prince has constituted himself the leader of the nation on points of the most urgent interest, commanding the most matured judgment of the community at large. The dread of partition is felt only by those princes who are unable, or unwilling, to assume the post of leader. Feebleness may debar the sultan; mental imbecility may incapacitate the king of Naples; some stupendous conservative philosophy may distract the mind of a Prussian prince-regent; habit and bad counsel may long have misled an Austrian emperor j but it is simply a fact that all these princes stand or profess to stand in fear of partition. On the other hand, the provinces aspiring to annexation look to princes who have been leaders of their nation—the Alexanders, the Napoleons, and the Victor Emmanuels.
We English have no fear of partition, perhaps with one exception, and that is an exception which has not been overlooked in our own pages for some years past. Our administrators in India have neglected to make the European government the leader of the indigenous community. And even in India the hopes of the British supremacy are as much identified with the leadership of the native people, as the apparently renewed hopes of Austrian survival.
From The Press, 9 June. EUROPEAN ANXIETIES. That coming events cast their shadows before them is a proverb the profound truth embodied in which must have frequently struck, within the last few years, the attentive observer of the affairs of Europe. For months before the first gun was flred upon the banks of the Alma the political barometer had stood at stormy, in spite of every prediction of the continuance of fair weather from the lips of those who should have known better. If science has taught us to gauge with accuracy the course and prescribe the limits of atmospheric convulsions, the periods and duration of their counterparts among men are at the present day hardly less accurately ascertdnable. We can tell, almost to a day, when the cup which has been brimmed full of bitterness will run over. We possess tests, which long experience has rendered wellnigh infallible, of the sufferings and endurance of a people. The fall of a dynasty is not unprecedcd by warnings, any I more than the thunderstorm which bursts I over our heads is unheralded by the low mut
terings which bespeak its approach in the distance. It would almost seem as if the minds of men had been endowed with some mysterious sympathetic faculty which presages the arrival of a season of disturbance and disaster. Sudden as the blow is when it falls at last, it is rarely indeed that its advent in some shape has been wholly unexpected. The fears of Austria may have pointed to the open estrangement of Russia, rather than to the hollow friendship of France, but for a whole year previous to the Lombard campaign it was obvious to every servant of the house of Hapsburg whose opinion was worth consulting that a crisis was impending somewhere. The king of the Two Sicilies may have been surprised at the recent descent at Marsala, but he can hardly plead ignorance of the fact that his turn was come, and that he could count no longer on the forbearance of those whom he had so cruelly insulted and outraged.
In spite of the invectives of M. Fould against " parties who endeavor to propagate uneasiness," few will venture to deny that the political horizon is overcast at the present moment, or that the signs of the times are such as may well moke the wisest anxious, and the boldest consider. We may lack those portents in the heavens which were of old the indications of approaching troubles, but we have on all sides the silent but not less faithful testimony which is borne by "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking at those things which are coming upon the earth." Disguise it as •we may, the fact still remains that an undefined sense of insecurity and apprehension pervades every corner of Europe. We turn to the east, only to witness the closer circlings of the imperial eagles around the carcase which they deem will so soon be their prey. No one misunderstands for an instant the revived anxiety of Prince Gortschakoff for his coreligionists in Turkey, or affects to be ignorant of the precise import of his recent suggestions. The prince of Prussia announces publicly that under no circumstances will he " ever consent to Germany losing one inch of her soil." Count Cavour goes out of his way to make a similar protestation in the House of Representatives at Turin. In the latter case it is to be feared that such a declaration assimilates somewhat closely to the ancient precaution of " shutting the stable door when the steed is gone," but the meaning of both speakers is perfectly understood by their auditors and by the world at large. Denmark in the north vies with Spain in the south in the preparation of armaments, and Portugal has begun , to restore the lines of Torres Vcdras; all of j these preparations being, of course, strictly .
defensive, but which were never dreamed of until within the last few years. Garibaldi, the stormy petrel of Italy, is again abroad upon the waters, and has relinquished, apparently forever, the attractions of his farm in the Island of Sardinia. Turn where wo will, we find the same nervous dread of what is coming. Men start at their own shadows, and listen with impatience for whispers the uncertainty of which is even more terrible than reality itself.
Our own island is not exempt from the prevailing panic. Divided as we may be "from the whole globe," we cannot avoid taking a lively interest in what may one day concern ourselves as wtll as our neighbors. Our Ucalegon is now separated from us by a barrier which every year grows "beautifully less." His incendiary propensities become daily a more serious question, in proportion as we are gradually denuded of the safeguards which we were wont to derive from the assistance of the opposite element. For the first time in half a century we have resuscitated those extraordinary precautions which were thought necessary under the first empire. The "nation of shopkeepers" which defied the undo has to renew its protest against the family failings, as exemplified in the conduct of the nephew. It was the fashion to say that England had lost all taste for military display. Under the auspices of the Manchester school our r.rmy and navy had both been reduced to zero, our stores had been sold or otherwise disposed of, and every department had been starved on principle. It really seemed as if we were about to carry out Mr. Bright's darling scheme in earnest, and place ourselves unreservedly at the feet of the first invader. Yet, in spite of our careful inoculation with such pacific doctrines, the recurrence of similar conditions has resulted in what we suppose Mr. Bright would term a fresh outbreak of the mania, after the happy intervention of a lucid interval. We, like everybody else, feel at last that we cannot afford "to sit tamely by, when signs and sounds are abroad in the air which bode ill for the permanent maintenance of tranquillity. Nothing can instance more strongly the existence of the feeling to which we have alluded than the numbers, the perseverance, and the efficiency of those who will, if we are to believe Mr. Sidney Herbert, have placed within a few months at the disposal of their country upwards of one hundred and twenty thousand men trained to the use of arms. When we remember the extreme inconvenience with which, in nine cases out of ten, the services thus voluntarily offered are attended, we shall bo better able to understand the urgent light in which their necessity is regarded.