After these preliminary remarks, let us look again at the memoranda which William of Worcester made at St. Michael's Mount, and it will appear that what we anticipated has actually happened, and that a book originally belonging to Mont St. Michel in Normandy, and containing the early history of that monastery, was transferred (either in the original or in a copy) to Cornwall, and there used by William of Worcester in the belief that it contained the early history of the Cornish Mount and the Cornish priory.
The Memorandum of William of Worcester runs thus: "Apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Tumba, antea vocata le Hore-rok in the wodd; et fuerunt tam boscus quarn prata et terra arabilis inter dictum montem et insulas Syllye, et fuerunt 140 ecclesias parochiales inter istum montem et Sylly submersse.
"Prima apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Gorgon in regno Apuliae fuit anno Christi 391. Secunda apparicio fuit circa annum domini 710 in Tumba in Cornubia juxta mare.
"Tertia apparicio Romae fuit; tempore Gregorii papae legitur accidisse: nam tempore magnae pestilenciae, etc.
"Quarta apparicio fuit in ierarchiis nostrorum angelorum.
"Spacium loci mentis Sancti Michaelis est DUCENTORUM CUBITORUM UNDIQUE OCEANO CINCTUM, et religiosi monachi dicti loci. Abrincensis antistes Aubertus nomine, ut in honore Sancti Michaelis construeret ... predictus LOCUS OPACISSIMA PRIMO CLAUDEBATUR SYLVA, AB OCEANO MILIARIBUS DISTANS SEX, aptissimam prasbens latebram ferarum, in quo loco olim comperimus MONACHOS domino servientes."
The text is somewhat corrupt and fragmentary, but may be translated as follows:—
"The apparition of St. Michael in the Mount Tumba, formerly called the Hore-rock in the wodd; and there were a forest and meadows and arable land between the said mount and the Syllye Isles, and there were 140 parochial churches swallowed by the sea between that mount and Sylly.
"The first apparition of St. Michael in Mount Gorgon in the Kingdom of Apulia was in the year 391. The second apparition was about the year 710, in Tumba in Cornwall by the sea.
"The third apparition is said to have happened at Rome in the time of Pope Gregory: for at the time of the great pestilence, etc.
"The fourth apparition was in the hierarchies of our angels.
"The space of St. Michael's Mount is 200 cubits; it is everywhere surrounded by the sea, and there are religious monks of that place. The head of Abrinca, Aubertus by name, that he might erect a church(93) in honor of St. Michael. The aforesaid place was at first enclosed by a very dense forest, six miles distant from the ocean, furnishing a good retreat for wild animals. In which place we heard that formerly monks serving the Lord," etc.
The only way to explain this jumble is to suppose that William of Worcester made these entries in his diary while walking up and down in the Church of St. Michael's Mount, and listening to one of the monks, reading to him from a MS. which had been brought from Normandy, and referred in reality to the early history of the Norman, but not of the Cornish Mount. The first line, "Apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Tumba," was probably the title or the heading of the MS. Then William himself added, "antea vocata le Hore-rok in the wodd," a name which he evidently heard on the spot, and which no doubt conveyed to him the impression that the rock had formerly stood in the midst of a wood. For instead of continuing his account of the apparitions of St. Michael, he quotes a tradition in support of the former existence of a forest surrounding the Mount. Only, strange to say, instead of producing the evidence which he produced afterwards in confirmation of St. Michael's Mount having been surrounded by a dense forest, he here gives the tradition about Lionesse, the sunken land between the Land's End and the Scylly Isles. This is evidently a mistake, for no other writer ever supposed the sunken land of Lionesse to have reached as far as St. Michael's Mount.
Then follows the entry about the four apparitions of St. Michael. Here we must read "in monte Gargano" instead of "in monte Gorgon." Opinions vary as to the exact date of the apparition in Mount Garganus in the South of Italy, but 391 is certainly far too early, and has to be changed into 491 or 493. In the second apparition, all is right, if we leave out "in Cornubia juxta mare," which was added either by William or by the monk who was showing him the book. It refers to the well-known apparition of St. Michael at Avranches. The third and fourth apparitions are of no consequence to us.
As we read on, we come next to William's own measurements, fixing the extent of St. Michael's Mount at two hundred cubits. After that we are met by a passage which, though it hardly construes, can be understood in one sense only, namely, as giving an account of the Abbey of St. Michel in Normandy. I suppose it is not too bold if I recognize in Aubertus Autbertus, and in Abrincensis antistes, the Abrincatensis episcopus or antistes, the Bishop of Avranches.
Now it is well known that the Mont St. Michel in Normandy was believed to have been originally surrounded by forests and meadows. Du Moustier in the "Neustria Pia" relates (p. 371), "Haec rupes antiquitus Mons erat cinctus sylvis et saltibus," "This rock was of old a mount surrounded by forests and meadows." But this is not all. In the old chronicle of Mont St. Michel, quoted by Mabillon, which was written before the middle of the tenth century, the same account is given; and if we compare that account with the words used by William of Worcester, we can no longer doubt that the old chronicle, or, it may be, a copy of it, had been brought from France to England, and that what was intended for a description of the Norman abbey and its neighborhood was taken, intentionally or unintentionally, as a description of the Cornish Mount. These are the words of the Norman chronicler, as quoted by Mabillon, compared with the passage in William of Worcester:—
Mont St. Michel. St. Michael's Mount. "Addit idem auctor hunc "Predictus LOCUS locum OPACISSIMA OLIM OPACISSIMA OLIM SILVA CLAUSUM fuisse, et CLAUDEBATUR Sylva ab MONACHOS IBIDEM oceano miliaribus distans INHABITASSE duasque ad sex, aptissimam praebens suum usque tempus latebram ferarum, in quo exstitisse ecclesias quas loco olim comperimus illi scilicet monachi MONACHOS DOMINO incolebant." SERVIENTES".
"The same author adds that this place was formerly inclosed by a very dense forest, and that monks dwelt there, and that two churches existed there up to his own time, which those monks inhabited."
The words CLAUSUM OPACISSIMA SILVA are decisive. The phrase AB OCEANO MILIARIBUS DISTANS SEX, too, is taken from an earlier passage of the same author, quoted above, which passage may likewise have supplied the identical phrases OCEANO UNDIQUE CINCTUS, and the SPATIUM DUCENTORUM CUBITORUM, which are hardly applicable to St. Michael's Mount. The "two churches still existing in Mont St. Michel," had to be left out, for there was no trace of them in St. Michael's Mount. But the monks who lived in them were retained, and to give a little more life, the wild beasts were added. Even the expression of antistes instead of episcopus occurs in the original, where we read, "Haec loci facies erat ante sancti Michaelis apparitionem hoc anno factam religiosissimo Autberto Abrincatensi episcopo, admonentis se velle ut sibi in ejus montis vertice ecclesia sub ipsius patrocinio erigeretur. Haerenti ANTISTITI tertio idem intimatum," etc.
Thus vanishes the testimony of William of Worcester, so often quoted by Cornish antiquarians, as to the dense forest by which St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall was once surrounded, and all the evidence that remains to substantiate the former presence of trees on and around the Cornish Mount is reduced to the name "the Hoar rock in the wood," given by William, and the Cornish names of Cara clowse in Cowse or Cara Cowz in Clowze, given by Carew. How much or how little dependence can be placed on old Cornish names of places and their supposed meaning has been shown before in the case of Marazion. Carew certainly did not understand Cornish, nor did the people with whom he had intercourse; and there is no doubt that he wrote down the Cornish names as best he could, and without any attempt at deciphering their meaning. He was told that "Cara clowse in Cowse" meant the "Hoar rock in the Wood," and he had no reason to doubt it. Even a very small knowledge of Cornish would have enabled Carew or anybody else at his time to find out that cowz might be meant for the Cornish word for wood, and that careg was rock. Clowse too might easily be taken in the sense of gray, as gray in Cornish was glos. Then why should we hesitate to accept Cara clowse in cowse as the ancient Cornish name of the Mount, and why object to Mr. Pengelly's argument that it must have been given at a time when the Mount was surrounded by a very dense forest, and that a fortiori at that distant period Cornish must have been the spoken language of Cornwall?
The first objection is that the old word for "wood" in Cornish was cuit with a final t, and that the change of a final t into z is a phonetic corruption which takes place only in the later stage of the Cornish language. The ancient Cornish cuit, "wood," occurs in Welsh as coed, in Armorican as koat and koad, and is supposed to exist in Cornish names of places, such as Penquite, Kilquite, etc. Cowz, therefore, could not have occurred in a Cornish name supposed to have been formed at least 2,000 if not 20,000 years ago.
This thrust might, no doubt, be parried by saying that the name of the Mount would naturally change with the general changes of the Cornish language. Yet this is not always the case with proper names, as may be seen by the names just quoted, Penquite and Kilquite. At all events, we begin to see how uncertain is the ground on which we stand.
If we take the facts, scanty and uncertain as they are, we may admit that, at the time of William of Worcester, the Mount had most likely a Latin, a Cornish, and a Saxon appellation. It is curious that William should say nothing of a Cornish name, but only quote the Saxon one. However, this Saxon name, "the Hoar rock in the Wood" sounds decidedly like a translation, and is far too long and cumbrous for a current name. Michelstow is mentioned by others as the Saxon name of the Mount (Naveus, p. 233). The Latin name given to the Mount, but only after it had become a dependency of Mont St. Michel in Normandy, was, as we saw from William of Worcester's diary, Mons Tumba or Mons Tumba in Cornubia, and after his time the name of St. Michael in Tumba or in Monte Tumba is certainly used promiscuously for the Cornish and Norman mounts.(94) Now tumba, after meaning hillock, became the recognized name for tomb, and the mediaeval Latin tumba, too, was always understood in that sense. If, therefore, the name "Mons in tumba" had to be rendered in Cornish for the benefit of the Cornish-speaking monks of the Benedictine priory, tumba would actually be taken in the sense of tomb. One form of the Cornish name, as preserved by Carew, is Cara cowz in clowze; and this, if interpreted without any preconceived opinion, would mean in Cornish "the old rock of the tomb." Cara stands for carak, a rock. Cowz is meant for coz, the modern Cornish and Armorican form corresponding to the ancient Cornish coth, old.(95) Clowze is a modern and somewhat corrupt form in Cornish, corresponding to the Welsh clawdh, a tomb. Cladh-va, in Cornish, means a burying-place; and cluddu, to bury, has been preserved as a Cornish verb, corresponding to the Welsh cladhu. In Gaelic, too, cladh is a tomb or burying-place; and in Armorican, which generally follows the same phonetic changes as the Cornish, we actually find kleuz and kloz for tomb or inclosure. (See Le Gonidec, "Dict. Breton-Francais," s. v.) The en might either be the Cornish preposition yn, or it may have been intended for the article in the genitive, an. The old rock in the tomb, i.e. in tumba, or the old rock of the tomb, Cornish carag goz an cloz, would be intelligible and natural renderings of the Latin Mons in tumba.
But though this would fully account for the origin of the Cornish name as preserved by Carew, it would still leave the Saxon appellation the "Hore rock in the wodd" unexplained. How could William of Worcester have got hold of this name? Let us remember that William does not mention any Cornish name of the Mount, and that nothing is ever said at his time of the "Hore rock in the wodd" being a translation of an old Cornish name. All we know is that the monks of the Mount used that name, and it is hardly likely that so long and cumbrous a name should ever have been used much by the people in the neighborhood. How the monks of St. Michael's Mount came to call their place the "Hore rock in the wodd" at the time of William of Worcester, and probably long before his time, is, however, not difficult to explain, after we have seen how they transferred the traditions which originally referred to Mont St. Michel to their own monastery. Having told the story of the "sylva opacissima" by which their mount was formerly surrounded to many visitors, as they told it to William of Worcester, the name of the "Hore rock in the wodd" might easily spring up among them, and be kept up within the walls of their priory. Nor is there any evidence that in this peculiar form the name ever spread beyond their walls. But it is possible that here, too, language may have played some tricks. The number of people who used these names and kept them alive can never have been large, and hence they were exposed much more to accidents arising from ignorance and individual caprice than names of villages or towns which are in the keeping of hundreds and thousands of people. The monks of St. Michael's Mount may in time have forgotten the exact purport of "Cara cowz in clowze," "the old rock of the tomb," really the "Mons in tumba;" and their minds being full of the old forest by which they believed their island, like Mont St. Michel, to have been formerly surrounded, what wonder if cara cowz in clowze glided away into cara clowse in cowze, and thus came to confirm the old tradition of the forest. For cowz would at once be taken as the modern Cornish word for wood, corresponding to the old Cornish cuit, while clowse might, with a little effort, be identified with the Cornish glos, gray, the Armorican glaz. Carew, it should be observed, sanctions both forms, the original one, cara cowz in clowze, "the old rock of the tomb," and the other cara clowse in cowze, meaning possibly "the gray rock in the wood." The sound of the two is so like that, particularly to the people not very familiar with the language, the substitution of one for the other would come very naturally; and as a reason could more easily be given for the latter than for the former name, we need not be surprised if in the few passages where the name occurs after Carew's time, the secondary name, apparently confirming the monkish legend of the dense forest that once surrounded St. Michael's Mount, should have been selected in preference to the former, which, but to a scholar and an antiquarian, sounded vague and meaningless.
If my object had been to establish any new historical fact, or to support any novel theory, I should not have indulged so freely in what to a certain extent may be called mere conjecture. But my object was only to point out the uncertainty of the evidence which Mr. Pengelly has adduced in support of a theory which would completely revolutionize our received views as to the early history of language and the migrations of the Aryan race. At first sight the argument used by Mr. Pengelly seems unanswerable. Here is St. Michael's Mount, which, according to geological evidence, may formerly have been part of the mainland. Here is an old Cornish name for St. Michael's Mount, which means "the gray rock in the wood." Such a name, it might well be argued, could not have been given to the island after it had ceased to be a gray rock in the wood; therefore it must have been given previous to the date which geological chronology fixes for the insulation of St. Michael's Mount. That date varies from 16,000 to 20,000 years ago. And as the name is Cornish, it follows that Cornish-speaking people must have lived in Cornwall at that early geological period.
Nothing, as I said, could sound more plausible; but before we yield to the argument, we must surely ask, Is there no other way of explaining the names Cara cowz in clowze and Cara clowse in cowze? And here we find—
(1.) That the legend of the dense forest by which the Mount was believed to have been surrounded existed, so far as we know, before the earliest occurrence of the Cornish name, and that it owes its origin entirely to a mistake which can be accounted for by documentary evidence. A legend told of Mont St. Michel had been transferred ipsissimis verbis to St. Michael's Mount, and the monks of that priory repeated the story which they found in their chronicle to all who came to visit their establishment in Cornwall. They told the name, among others, to William of Worcester, and to prevent any incredulity on his part, they gave him chapter and verse from their chronicle, which he carefully jotted down in his diary.(96)
(2.) We find that when the Cornish name first occurs, it lends itself, in one form, to a very natural interpretation, which does not give the meaning of "Hore rock in the wodd," but shows the name Cara cowz in clowze to have been a literal rendering of the Latin name "Mons in tumba," originally the name of Mont St. Michel, but at an early date applied in charters to St. Michael's Mount.
(3.) We find that the second form of the Cornish name, namely, cara clowse in cowze, may either be a merely metamorphic corruption of cara cowz in clowze, readily suggested and supported by the new meaning which it yielded of "gray rock in the wood;" or, even if we accept it as an original name, that it would be no more than a name framed by the Cornish-speaking monks of the Mount, in order to embody the same spurious tradition which had given rise to the name of "Hore rock in the wodd."
I need hardly add that in thus arguing against Mr. Pengelly's conclusions, I do not venture to touch his geological arguments. St. Michael's Mount may have been united with the mainland; it may, for all we know, have been surrounded by a dense forest; and it may be perfectly possible geologically to fix the date when that forest was destroyed, and the Mount severed, so far as it is severed, from the Cornish coast. All I protest against is that any one of these facts could be proved, or even supported, by the Cornish name of the Mount, whether cara cowz in clowze, or cara clowse in cowze, or by the English name, communicated by William of Worcester, "the Hore rock in the wodd," or finally by the legend which gave rise to these names, and which, as can be proved by irrefragable evidence, was transplanted by mistake from the Norman to the Cornish coast. The only question which, in conclusion, I should like to address to geologists, is this: As geologists are obliged to leave it doubtful whether the insulation of St. Michael's Mount was due to the washing of the sea-shore, or to a general subsidence of the country, may it not have been due to neither of these causes, and may not the Mount have always been that kind of half-island which it certainly was two thousand years ago?
Ours is, no doubt, a forgetful age. Every day brings new events rushing in upon us from all parts of the world; and the hours of real rest, when we might ponder over the past, recall pleasant days, gaze again on the faces of those who are no more, are few indeed. Men and women disappear from this busy stage, and though for a time they had been the radiating centres of social, political, or literary life, their places are soon taken by others,—"the place thereof shall know them no more." Few only appear again after a time, claiming once more our attention through the memoirs of their lives, and then either flitting away forever among the shades of the departed, or assuming afresh a power of life, a place in history, and an influence on the future often more powerful even than that which they exercised on the world while living in it. To call the great and good thus back from the grave is no easy task; it requires not only the power of a vates sacer, but the heart of a loving friend. Few men live great and good lives; still fewer can write them; nay, often, when they have been lived and have been written, the world passes by unheeding, as crowds will pass without a glance by the portraits of a Titian or a Van Dyke. Now and then, however, a biography takes root, and then acts, as a lesson, as no other lesson can act. Such biographies have all the importance of an Ecce Homo, showing to the world what man can be, and permanently raising the ideal of human life. It was so in England with the life of Dr. Arnold; it was so more lately with the life of Prince Albert; it will be the same with the life of Bunsen.
It seems but yesterday that Bunsen left England; yet it was in 1854 that his house in Carlton Terrace ceased to be the refreshing oasis in London life which many still remember, and that the powerful, thoughtful, beautiful, loving face of the Prussian Ambassador was seen for the last time in London society. Bunsen then retired from public life, and after spending six more years in literary work, struggling with death, yet reveling in life, he died at Bonn on the 28th of November, 1860. His widow has devoted the years of her solitude to the noble work of collecting the materials for a biography of her husband; and we have now in two large volumes all that could be collected, or, at least, all that could be conveniently published, of the sayings and doings of Bunsen, the scholar, the statesman, and, above all, the philosopher and the Christian. Throughout the two volumes the outward events are sketched by the hand of the Baroness Bunsen; but there runs, as between wooded hills, the main stream of Bunsen's mind, the outpourings of his heart, which were given so freely and fully in his letters to his friends. When such materials exist, there can be no more satisfactory kind of biography than that of introducing the man himself, speaking unreservedly to his most intimate friends on the great events of his life. This is an autobiography, in fact, free from all drawbacks. Here and there that process, it is true, entails a greater fullness of detail than is acceptable to ordinary readers, however highly Bunsen's own friends may value every line of his familiar letters. But general readers may easily pass over letters addressed to different persons, or treating of subjects less interesting to themselves, without losing the thread of the story of the whole life; while it is sometimes of great interest to see the same subject discussed by Bunsen in letters addressed to different people. One serious difficulty in these letters is that they are nearly all translations from the German, and in the process of translation some of the original charm is inevitably lost. The translations are very faithful, and they do not sacrifice the peculiar turn of German thought to the requirements of strictly idiomatic English. Even the narrative itself betrays occasionally the German atmosphere in which it was written, but the whole book brings back all the more vividly to those who knew Bunsen the language and the very expressions of his English conversation. The two volumes are too bulky, and one's arms ache while holding them; yet one is loth to put them down, and there will be few readers who do not regret that more could not have been told us of Bunsen's life.
All really great and honest men may be said to live three lives: there is one life which is seen and accepted by the world at large, a man's outward life; there is a second life which is seen by a man's most intimate friends, his household life; and there is a third life, seen only by the man himself and by Him who searcheth the heart, which maybe called the inner or heavenly life. Most biographers are and must be satisfied with giving the two former aspects of their hero's life,—the version of the world, and that of his friends. Both are important, both contain some truth, though neither of them the whole truth. But there is a third life, a life led in communion with God, a life of aspiration rather than of fulfillment,—that life which we see, for instance, in St. Paul, when he says, "The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." It is but seldom that we catch a glimpse of those deep springs of human character which cannot rise to the surface even in the most confidential intercourse, which in every-day life are hidden from a man's own sight, but which break forth when he is alone with his God in secret prayer,—aye, in prayers without words. Here lies the charm of Bunsen's life. Not only do we see the man, the father, the husband, the brother, that stands behind the ambassador, but we see behind the man his angel beholding the face of his Father which is in heaven. His prayers, poured forth in the critical moments of his life, have been preserved to us, and they show us what the world ought to know, that our greatest men can also be our best men, and that freedom of thought is not incompatible with sincere religion. Those who knew Bunsen well, know how that deep, religious undercurrent of his soul was constantly bubbling up and breaking forth in his conversations, startling even the mere worldling by an earnestness that frightened away every smile. It was said of him that he could drive out devils, and he certainly could, with his solemn, yet loving voice, soften hearts that would yield to no other appeal, and see with one look through that mask which man wears but too often in the masquerade of the world. Hence his numerous and enduring friendships, of which these volumes contain so many sacred relics. Hence that confidence reposed in him by men and women who had once been brought in contact with him. To those who can see with their eyes only, and not with their hearts, it may seem strange that Sir Robert Peel, shortly before his death, should have uttered the name of Bunsen. To those who know that England once had prime ministers who were found praying on their knees before they delivered their greatest speeches, Sir Robert Peel's recollection, or, it may be, desire of Bunsen in the last moments of his life has nothing strange. Bunsen's life was no ordinary life, and the memoirs of that life are more than an ordinary book. That book will tell in England and in Germany far more than in the Middle Ages the life of a new saint; nor are there many saints whose real life, if sifted as the life of Bunsen has been, would bear comparison with that noble character of the nineteenth century.
Bunsen was born in 1791 at Corbach, a small town in the small principality of Waldeck. His father was poor, but a man of independent spirit, of moral rectitude, and of deep religious convictions. Bunsen, the son of his old age, distinguished himself at school, and was sent to the University of Marburg at the age of seventeen. All he had then to depend on was an exhibition of about L7 a year, and a sum of L15, which his father had saved for him to start him in life. This may seem a small sum; but if we want to know how much of paternal love and self-denial it represented, we ought to read an entry in his father's diary: "Account of cash receipts by God's mercy obtained for transcribing law documents between 1793 and 1814,—sum total 3,020 thalers 23 groschen," that is to say, about L22 per annum. Did any English Duke ever give his son a more generous allowance,—more than two-thirds of his own annual income? Bunsen began by studying divinity, and actually preached a sermon at Marburg, in the Church of St. Elizabeth. Students in divinity are required in Germany to preach sermons as part of their regular theological training, and before they are actually ordained. Marburg was not then a very efficient university, and, not finding there what he wanted, Bunsen after a year went to Goettingen, chiefly attracted by the fame of Heyne. He soon devoted himself entirely to classical studies: and in order to support himself,—for L7 per annum will not support even a German student,—he accepted the appointment of assistant teacher of Greek and Hebrew at the Goettingen gymnasium, and also became private tutor to a young American, Mr. Astor, the son of the rich American merchant. He was thus learning and teaching at the same time, and he acquired by his daily intercourse with his pupil a practical knowledge of the English language. While at Goettingen he carried off, in 1812, a prize for an essay on "The Athenian Law of Inheritance," which attracted more than usual attention, and may, in fact, be looked upon as one of the first attempts at Comparative Jurisprudence. In 1713 he writes from Goettingen:—
"Poor and lonely did I arrive in this place. Heyne received me, guided me, bore with me, encouraged me, showed me in himself the example of a high and noble energy and indefatigable activity in a calling which was not that to which his merit entitled him; he might have superintended and administered and maintained an entire kingdom."
The following passage from the same letter deserves to be quoted as coming from the pen of a young man of twenty-two:—
"Learning annihilates itself, and the most perfect is the first submerged; for the next age scales with ease the height which cost the preceding the full vigor of life."
After leaving the university Bunsen travelled in Germany with young Astor, and made the acquaintance of Frederic Schlegel at Vienna, of Jacobi, Schelling, and Thiersch at Munich. He was all that time continuing his own philological studies, and we see him at Munich attending lectures on Criminal Law, and making his first beginning in the study of Persian. When on the point of starting for Paris with his American pupil, the news of the glorious battle of Leipzig (October, 1813) disturbed their plans, and he resolved to settle again at Goettingen till peace should have been concluded. Here, while superintending the studies of Mr. Astor, he plunged into reading of the most varied character. He writes (p. 51):—
"I remain firm, and strive after my earliest purpose in life, more felt, perhaps, than already discerned,—namely, to bring over into my own knowledge and into my own Fatherland the language and the spirit of the solemn and distant East. I would for the accomplishment of this object even quit Europe, in order to draw out of the ancient well that which I find not elsewhere."
This is the first indication of an important element in Bunsen's early life, his longing for the East, and his all but prophetic anticipation of the great results which a study of the ancient language of India would one day yield, and the light it would shed on the darkest pages in the ancient history of Greece, Italy, and Germany. The study of the Athenian law of inheritance seems first to have drawn his attention to the ancient codes of Indian law, and he was deeply impressed by the discovery that the peculiar system of inheritance which in Greece existed only in the petrified form of a primitive custom, sanctioned by law, disclosed in the laws of Manu its original purport and natural meaning. This one spark excited in Bunsen's mind that constant yearning after a knowledge of Eastern and more particularly of Indian literature which very nearly drove him to India in the same adventurous spirit as Anquetil Duperron and Czoma de Koeroes. We are now familiar with the great results that have been obtained by a study of the ancient languages and religion of the East; but in 1813 neither Bopp nor Grimm had begun to publish, and Frederic Schlegel was the only one who in his little pamphlet, "On the Language and the Wisdom of the Indians" (1808), had ventured to assert a real intellectual relationship between Europe and India. One of Bunsen's earliest friends, Wolrad Schumacher, related that even at school Bunsen's mind was turned towards India. "Sometimes he would let fall a word about India which was unaccountable to me, as at that time I connected only a geographical conception with that name" (p. 17).
While thus engaged in his studies at Goettingen, and working in company with such friends as Brandis, the historian of Greek philosophy; Lachmann, the editor of the New Testament; Luecke, the theologian; Ernst Schulze, the poet, and others,—Bunsen felt the influence of the great events that brought about the regeneration of Germany; nor was he the man to stand aloof, absorbed in literary work, while others were busy doing mischief difficult to remedy. The princes of Germany and their friends, though grateful to the people for having at last shaken off with fearful sacrifices the foreign yoke of Napoleon, were most anxious to maintain for their own benefit that convenient system of police government which for so long had kept the whole of Germany under French control. "It is but too certain," Bunsen writes, "that either for want of good-will or of intelligence our sovereigns will not grant us freedom such as we deserve.... And I fear that, as before, the much-enduring German will become an object of contempt to all nations who know how to value national spirit." His first political essays belong to that period. Up to August, 1814, Bunsen continued to act as private tutor to Mr. Astor, though we see him at the same time, with his insatiable thirst after knowledge, attending courses of lectures on astronomy, mineralogy, and other subjects apparently so foreign to the main current of his mind. When Mr. Astor left him to return to America, Bunsen went to Holland to see a sister to whom he was deeply attached, and who seems to have shared with him the same religious convictions which in youth, manhood, and old age formed the foundation of Bunsen's life. Some of Bunsen's detractors have accused him of professing Christian piety in circles where such professions were sure to be well received. Let them read now the annals of his early life, and they will find to their shame how boldly the same Bunsen professed his religious convictions among the students and professors of Goettingen, who either scoffed at Christianity or only tolerated it as a kind of harmless superstition. We shall only quote one instance:—
"Bunsen, when a young student at Goettingen, once suddenly quitted a lecture in indignation at the unworthy manner in which the most sacred subjects were treated by one of the professors. The professor paused at the interruption, and hazarded the remark that 'some one belonging to the Old Testament had possibly slipped in unrecognized.' That called forth a burst of laughter from the entire audience, all being as well aware as the lecturer himself who it was that had mortified him."
During his stay in Holland, Bunsen not only studied the language and literature of that country, but his mind was also much occupied in observing the national and religious character of this small but interesting branch of the Teutonic race. He writes:—
"In all things the German, or, if you will, the Teutonic character is worked out into form in a manner more decidedly national than anywhere else.... This journey has yet more confirmed my decision to become acquainted with the entire Germanic race, and then to proceed with the development of my governing ideas (i.e. the study of Eastern languages in elucidation of Western thought). For this purpose I am about to travel with Brandis to Copenhagen to learn Danish, and, above all, Icelandic."
And so he did. The young student, as yet without any prospects in life, threw up his position at Goettingen, declined to waste his energies as a schoolmaster, and started, we hardly know how, on his journey to Denmark. There, in company with Brandis, he lived and worked hard at Danish, and then attacked the study of the ancient Icelandic language and literature with a fervor and with a purpose that shrank from no difficulty. He writes (p. 79):—
"The object of my research requires the acquisition of the whole treasures of language, in order to complete my favorite linguistic theories, and to inquire into the poetry and religious conceptions of German-Scandinavian heathenism, and their historical connection with the East."
When his work in Denmark was finished, and when he had collected materials, some of which, as his copy taken of the "Voeluspa," a poem of the Edda, were not published till forty years later, he started with Brandis for Berlin. "Prussia," he writes on the 10th of October, 1815, "is the true Germany." Thither he felt drawn, as well as Brandis, and thither he invited his friends, though, it must be confessed, without suggesting to them any settled plan of how to earn their daily bread. He writes as if he was even then at the head of affairs in Berlin, though he was only the friend of a friend of Niebuhr's, Niebuhr himself being by no means all powerful in Prussia, even in 1815. This hopefulness was a trait in Bunsen's character that remained through life. A plan was no sooner suggested to him and approved by him than he took it for granted that all obstacles must vanish, and many a time did all obstacles vanish, before the joyous confidence of that magician, a fact that should be remembered by those who used to blame him as sanguine and visionary. One of his friends, Luecke, writes to Ernst Schulze, the poet, whom Bunsen had invited to Denmark, and afterwards to Berlin:—
"In the inclosed richly filled letter you will recognize Bunsen's power and splendor of mind, and you will also not fail to perceive his thoughtlessness in making projects. He and Brandis are a pair of most amiable speculators, full of affection; but one must meet them with the ne quid nimis."
However, Bunsen in his flight was not to be scared by any warning or checked by calculating the chances of success or failure. With Brandis he went to Berlin, spent the glorious winter from 1815 to 1816 in the society of men like Niebuhr and Schleiermacher, and became more and more determined in his own plan of life, which was to study Oriental languages in Paris, London, or Calcutta, and then to settle at Berlin as Professor of Universal History. A full statement of his literary labors, both for the past and for the future, was drawn up by him, to be submitted to Niebuhr, and it will be read even now with interest by those who knew Bunsen when he tried to take up after forty years the threads that had slipped from his hand at the age of four-and-twenty.
Instead of being sent to study at Paris and London by the Prussian government, as he seems to have wished, he was suddenly called to Paris by his old pupil, Mr. Astor, who, after two years' absence, had returned to Europe, and was anxious to renew his relations with Bunsen. Bunsen's object in accepting Astor's invitation to Paris was to study Persian; and great was his disappointment when, on arriving there, Mr. Astor wished him at once to start for Italy. This was too much for Bunsen, to be turned back just as he was going to quench his thirst for Oriental literature in the lectures of Sylvestre de Sacy. A compromise was effected. Bunsen remained for three months in Paris, and promised then to join his friend and pupil in Italy. How he worked at Persian and Arabic during the interval must be read in his own letters:—
"I write from six in the morning till four in the afternoon, only in the course of that time having a walk in the garden of the Luxembourg, where I also often study; from four to six I dine and walk; from six to seven sleep; from seven to eleven work again. I have overtaken in study some of the French students who had begun a year ago. God be thanked for this help! Before I go to bed I read a chapter in the New Testament, in the morning on rising one in the Old Testament; yesterday I began the Psalms from the first."
As soon as he felt that he could continue his study of Persian without the aid of a master, he left Paris. Though immersed in work, he had made several acquaintances, among others that of Alexander von Humboldt, "who intends in a few years to visit Asia, where I may hope to meet him. He has been beyond measure kind to me, and from him I shall receive the best recommendations for Italy and England, as well as from his brother, now Prussian Minister in London. Lastly, the winter in Rome may become to me, by the presence of Niebuhr, more instructive and fruitful than in any other place. Thus has God ordained all things for me for the best, according to His will, not mine, and far better than I deserve."
These were the feelings with which the young scholar, then twenty-four years of age, started for Italy, as yet without any position, without having published a single work, without knowing, as we may suppose, where to rest his head. And yet he was full, not only of hope, but of gratitude, and he little dreamt that before seven years had passed he would be in Niebuhr's place; and before twenty-five years had passed in the place of William von Humboldt, the Prussian Ambassador at the Court of St. James.
The immediate future, in fact, had some severe disappointments in store for him. When he arrived at Florence to meet Mr. Astor, the young American had received peremptory orders to return to New York; and as Bunsen declined to follow him, he found himself really stranded at Florence, and all his plans thoroughly upset. Yet, though at that very time full of care and anxiety about his nearest relations, who looked to him for support when he could hardly support himself, his God-trusting spirit did not break down. He remained at Florence, continuing his Persian studies, and making a living by private tuition. A Mr. Cathcart seems to have been his favorite pupil, and through him new prospects of eventually proceeding to India seemed to open. But, at the same time, Bunsen began to feel that the circumstances of his life became critical. "I feel," he says, "that I am on the point of securing or losing the fruit of my labors for life." Rome and Niebuhr seemed the only haven in sight, and thither Bunsen now began to steer his frail bark. He arrived in Rome on the 14th of November, 1816. Niebuhr, who was Prussian Minister, received him with great kindness, and entered heartily into the literary plans of his young friend. Brandis, Niebuhr's secretary, renewed in common with his old friend his study of Greek philosophy. A native teacher of Arabic was engaged to help Bunsen in his Oriental studies. The necessary supplies seem to have come partly from Mr. Astor, partly from private lessons for which Bunsen had to make time in the midst of his varied occupations. Plato, Firdusi, the Koran, Dante, Isaiah, the Edda, are mentioned by himself as his daily study.
From an English point of view that young man at Rome, without a status, without a settled prospect in life, would have seemed an amiable dreamer, destined to wake suddenly, and not very pleasantly, to the stern realities of life. If anything seemed unlikely, it was that an English gentleman, a man of good birth and of independent fortune, should give his daughter to this poor young German at Rome. Yet this was the very thing which a kind Providence, that Providence in which Bunsen trusted amid all his troubles and difficulties, brought to pass. Bunsen became acquainted with Mr. Waddington, and was allowed to read German with his daughters. In the most honorable manner he broke off his visits when he became aware of his feelings for Miss Waddington. He writes to his sister:—
"Having, at first, believed myself quite safe (the more so as I cannot think of marrying without impairing my whole scheme of mental development, and, least of all, could I think of pretending to a girl of fortune), I thought there was no danger."
A little later he writes to Mrs. Waddington to explain to her the reason for his discontinuing his visits. But the mother—and, to judge from her letters, a high-minded mother she must have been—accepted Bunsen on trust; he was allowed to return to the house, and on the 1st of July, 1817, the young German student, then twenty-five years of age, was married at Rome to Miss Waddington. What a truly important event this was for Bunsen, even those who had not the privilege of knowing the partner of his life may learn from the work before us. Though little is said in these memoirs of his wife, the mother of his children, the partner of his joys and sorrows, it is easy to see how Bunsen's whole mode of life became possible only by the unceasing devotion of an ardent soul and a clear head consecrated to one object,—to love and to cherish, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part,—aye, and even after death! With such a wife, the soul of Bunsen could soar on its wings, the small cares of life were removed, an independence was secured, and, though the Indian plans had to be surrendered, the highest ambition of Bunsen's life, a professorship in a German university, seemed now easy of attainment. We should have liked a few more pages describing the joyous life of the young couple in the heyday of their life; we could have wished that he had not declined the wish of his mother-in-law, to have his bust made by Thorwaldsen, at a time when he must have been a model of manly beauty. But if we know less than we could wish of what Bunsen then was in the eyes of the world, we are allowed an insight into that heavenly life which underlay all the outward happiness of that time, and which shows him to us as but one eye could then have seen him. A few weeks after his marriage he writes in his journal:—
"Eternal, omnipresent God! enlighten me with thy Holy Spirit, and fill me with thy heavenly light! What in childhood I felt and yearned after, what throughout the years of youth grew clearer and clearer before my soul, I will now venture to hold fast, to examine, to represent the revelation of Thee in man's energies and efforts: thy firm path through the stream of ages I long to trace and recognize, as far as may be permitted to me even in this body of earth. The song of praise to Thee from the whole of humanity, in times far and near,—the pains and lamentations of men, and their consolations in Thee,—I wish to take in, clear and unhindered. Do Thou send me thy Spirit of Truth, that I may behold things earthly as they are, without veil and without mask, without human trappings and empty adornment, and that in the silent peace of truth I may feel and recognize Thee. Let me not falter, nor slide away from the great end of knowing Thee. Let not the joys, or honors, or vanities of the world enfeeble and darken my spirit; let me ever feel that I can only perceive and know Thee in so far as mine is a living soul, and lives, and moves, and has its being in Thee."
Here we see Bunsen as the world did not see him, and we may observe how then, as ever, his literary work was to him hallowed by the objects for which it was intended. "The firm path of God through the stream of ages" is but another title for one of his last works, "God in History," planned with such youthful ardor, and finished under the lengthening shadow of death.
The happiness of Bunsen's life at Rome may easily be imagined. Though anxious to begin his work at a German university, he stipulated for three more years of freedom and preparation. Who could have made the sacrifice of the bright spring of life, of the unclouded days of happiness at Rome with wife and children, and with such friends as Niebuhr and Brandis? Yet this stay at Rome was fraught with fatal consequences. It led the straight current of Bunsen's life, which lay so clear before him, into a new bed, at first very tempting, for a time smooth and sunny, but alas! ending in waste of energy for which no outward splendor could atone. The first false step seemed very natural and harmless. When Brandis went to Germany to begin his professorial work, Bunsen took his place as Niebuhr's secretary at Rome. He was determined, then, that nothing should induce him to remain in the diplomatic career (p. 130), but the current of that mill-stream was too strong even for Bunsen. How he remained as Secretary of Legation, 1818; how the King of Prussia, Frederick William III., came to visit Rome, and took a fancy to the young diplomatist, who could speak to him with a modesty and frankness little known at courts; how, when Niebuhr exchanged his embassy for a professorial chair at Bonn, Bunsen remained as Charge d'Affaires; how he went to Berlin, 1827-28, and gained the hearts of the old King and of everybody else; how he returned to Rome and was fascinated by the young Crown Prince of Prussia, afterwards Frederick William IV., whom he had to conduct through the antiquities and the modern life of the world city; how he became Prussian Minister, the friend of popes and cardinals, the centre of the best and most brilliant society; how, when the difficulties began between Prussia and the Papal government, chiefly with regard to mixed marriages, Bunsen tried to mediate, and was at last disowned by both parties in 1838,—all this may now be read in the open memoirs of his life. His letters during these twenty years are numerous and full, particularly those addressed to his sister, to whom he was deeply attached. They are the most touching and elevating record of a life spent in important official business, in interesting social intercourse, in literary and antiquarian researches, in the enjoyment of art and nature, and in the blessedness of a prosperous family life, and throughout in an unbroken communion with God. There is hardly a letter without an expression of that religion in common life, that constant consciousness of a Divine Presence, which made his life a life in God. To many readers this free outpouring of a God-loving soul will seem to approach too near to that abuse of religious phraseology which is a sign of superficial rather than of deep-seated piety. But, though through life a sworn enemy of every kind of cant, Bunsen never would surrender the privilege of speaking the language of a Christian, because that language had been profaned by the thoughtless repetition of shallow pietists.
Bunsen has frequently been accused of pietism, particularly in Germany, by men who could not distinguish between pietism and piety, just as in England he was attacked as a freethinker by men who never knew the freedom of the children of God. "Christianity is ours, not theirs," he would frequently say of those who made religion a mere profession, and imagined they knew Christ because they held a crosier and wore a mitre. We can now watch the deep emotions and firm convictions of that true-hearted man, in letters of undoubted sincerity, addressed to his sister and his friends, and we can only wonder with what feelings they have been perused by those who in England questioned his Christianity or who in Germany suspected his honesty.
From the time of his first meeting with the King of Prussia at Rome, and still more, after his stay at Berlin in 1827, Bunsen's chief interest with regard to Prussia centred in ecclesiastical matters. The King, after effecting the union of the Lutheran and Calvinistic branches of the Protestant Church, was deeply interested in drawing up a new Liturgy for his own national, or, as it was called, Evangelical Church. The introduction of his Liturgy, or Agenda, particularly as it was carried out, like everything else in Prussia, by royal decree, met with considerable resistance. Bunsen, who had been led independently to the study of ancient liturgies, and who had devoted much of his time at Rome to the collection of ancient hymns and hymn tunes, could speak to the King on these favorite topics from the fullness of his heart. The King listened to him, even when Bunsen ventured to express his dissent from some of the royal proposals, and when he, the young attache, deprecated any authoritative interference with the freedom of the Church. In Prussia the whole movement was unpopular, and Bunsen, though he worked hard to render it less so, was held responsible for much which he himself had disapproved. Of all these turbulent transactions there remains but one bright and precious relic, Bunsen's "Hymn and Prayer Book."
The Prussian Legation on the Capitol was during Bunsen's day not only the meeting-place of all distinguished Germans, but, in the absence of an English embassy, it also became the recognized centre of the most interesting portion of English society at Rome. Among the Germans, whose presence told on Bunsen's life, either by a continued friendship or by common interests and pursuits, we meet the names of Ludwig, King of Bavaria; Baron von Stein, the great Prussian statesman; Radowitz, the less fortunate predecessor of Bismarck; Schnorr, Overbeck, and Mendelssohn. Among Englishmen, whose friendship with Bunsen dates from the Capitol, we find Thirlwall, Philip Pusey, Arnold, and Julius Hare. The names of Thorwaldsen, too, of Leopardi, Lord Hastings, Champollion, Sir Walter Scott, Chateaubriand, occur again and again in the memoirs of that Roman life which teems with interesting events and anecdotes. The only literary productions of that eventful period are Bunsen's part in Platner's "Description of Rome," and the "Hymn and Prayer Book." But much material for later publications had been amassed in the mean time. The study of the Old Testament had been prosecuted at all times, and in 1824 the first beginning was made by Bunsen in the study of hieroglyphics, afterwards continued with Champollion, and later with Lepsius. The Archaeological Institute and the German Hospital, both on the Capitol, were the two permanent bequests that Bunsen left behind when he shook off the dust of his feet, and left Rome on the 29th of April, 1838, in search of a new Capitol.
At Berlin, Bunsen was then in disgrace. He had not actually been dismissed the service, but he was prohibited from going to Berlin to justify himself, and he was ordered to proceed to England on leave of absence. To England, therefore, Bunsen now directed his steps with his wife and children, and there, at least, he was certain of a warm welcome, both from his wife's relations and from his own very numerous friends. When we read through the letters of that period, we hardly miss the name of a single man illustrious at that time in England. As if to make up for the injustice done to him in Italy, and for the ingratitude of his country, people of all classes and of the most opposite views vied in doing him honor. Rest he certainly found none, while travelling about from one town to another, and staying at friends' houses, attending meetings, making speeches, writing articles, and, as usual, amassing new information wherever he could find it. He worked at Egyptian with Lepsius; at Welsh while staying with Lady Hall; at Ethnology with Dr. Prichard. He had to draw up two state papers,—one on the Papal aggression, the other on the law of divorce. He plunged, of course, at once into all the ecclesiastical and theological questions that were then agitating people's minds in England, and devoted his few really quiet hours to the preparation of his own "Life of Christ." With Lord Ashley he attended Bible meetings, with Mrs. Fry he explored the prisons, with Philip Pusey he attended agricultural assemblies, and he spent night after night as an admiring listener in the House of Commons. He was presented to the Queen and the Duke of Wellington, was made a D.C.L. at Oxford, discussed the future with J. H. Newman, the past with Buckland, Sedgwick, and Whewell. Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell invited him to political conferences; Maurice and Keble listened to his fervent addresses; Dr. Arnold consulted the friend of Niebuhr on his own "History of Rome," and tried to convert him to more liberal opinions with regard to Church reform. Dr. Holland, Mrs. Austin, Ruskin, Carlyle, Macaulay, Gaisford, Dr. Hawkins, and many more, all greeted him, all tried to do him honor, and many of them became attached to him for life. The architectural monuments of England, its castles, parks, and ruins, passed quickly through his field of vision during that short stay. But he soon calls out: "I care not now for all the ruins of England; it is her life that I like."
Most touching is his admiration, his real love of Gladstone. Thirty years have since passed, and the world at large has found out by this time what England possesses in him. But it was not so in 1838, and few men at that early time could have read Gladstone's heart and mind so truly as Bunsen. Here are a few of his remarks:—
"Last night, when I came home from the Duke, Gladstone's book was on my table, the second edition having come out at seven o'clock. It is the book of the time, a great event,—the first book since Burke that goes to the bottom of the vital question; far above his party and his time. I sat up till after midnight; and this morning I continued until I had read the whole, and almost every sheet bears my marginal glosses, destined for the Prince, to whom I have sent the book with all dispatch. Gladstone is the first man in England as to intellectual powers, and he has heard higher tones than any one else in this island."
And again (p. 493):—
"Gladstone is by far the first living intellectual power on that side. He has left his schoolmasters far behind him, but we must not wonder if he still walks in their trammels; his genius will soon free itself entirely, and fly towards heaven with its own wings.... I wonder Gladstone should not have the feeling of moving on an inclined plane, or that of sitting down among ruins, as if he were settled in a well-stored house."
Of Newman, whom he had met at Oxford, Bunsen says:—
"This morning I have had two hours at breakfast with Newman. O! it is sad,—he and his friends are truly intellectual people, but they have lost their ground, going exactly my way, but stopping short in the middle. It is too late. There has been an amicable change of ideas and a Christian understanding. Yesterday he preached a beautiful sermon. A new period of life begins for me; may God's blessing be upon it!"
Oxford made a deep impression on Bunsen's mind. He writes:—
"I am luxuriating in the delights of Oxford. There has never been enough said of this queen of all cities."
But what as a German he admired and envied most was, after all, the House of Commons:—
"I wish you could form an idea of what I felt. I saw for the first time man, the member of a true Germanic State, in his highest, his proper place, defending the highest interests of humanity with the wonderful power of speech-wrestling, but with the arm of the spirit, boldly grasping at or tenaciously holding fast power, in the presence of his fellow-citizens, submitting to the public conscience the judgment of his cause and of his own uprightness. I saw before me the empire of the world governed, and the rest of the world controlled and judged, by this assembly. I had the feeling that, had I been born in England, I would rather be dead than not sit among and speak among them. I thought of my own country, and was thankful that I could thank God for being a German and being myself. But I felt, also, that we are all children on this field in comparison with the English; how much they, with their discipline of mind, body, and heart, can effect even with but moderate genius, and even with talent alone! I drank in every word from the lips of the speakers, even those I disliked."
More than a year was thus spent in England in the very fullness of life. "My stay in England in 1838-39," he writes at a later time, the 22d of September, 1841, "was the poetry of my existence as a man; this is the prose of it. There was a dew upon those fifteen months, which the sun has dried up, and which nothing can restore." Yet even then Bunsen could not have been free from anxieties for the future. He had a large family growing up, and he was now again, at the age of forty-seven, without any definite prospects in life. In spite, however, of the intrigues of his enemies, the personal feelings of the King and the Crown Prince prevailed at last; and he was appointed in July, 1839, as Prussian Minister in Switzerland, his secret and confidential instructions being "to do nothing." These instructions were carefully observed by Bunsen, as far as politics were concerned. He passed two years of rest at the Hubel, near Berne, with his family, devoted to his books, receiving visits from his friends, and watching from a distance the coming events in Prussia.
In 1840 the old King died, and it was generally expected that Bunsen would at once receive an influential position at Berlin. Not till April, 1841, however, was he summoned to the court, although, to judge from the correspondence between him and the new King, Frederick William IV., few men could have enjoyed a larger share of royal confidence and love than Bunsen. The King was hungering and thirsting after Bunsen, yet Bunsen was not invited to Berlin. The fact is that the young King had many friends, and those friends were not the friends of Bunsen. They were satisfied with his honorary exile in Switzerland, and thought him best employed at a distance in doing nothing. The King too, who knew Bunsen's character from former years, must have known that Berlin was not large enough for him; and he therefore left him in his Swiss retirement till an employment worthy of him could be found. This was to go on a special mission to England with a view of establishing, in common with the Church of England, a Protestant bishopric at Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the King hoped that the two principal Protestant churches of Europe would, across the grave of the Redeemer, reach to each other the right hand of fellowship. Bunsen entered into this plan with all the energy of his mind and heart. It was a work thoroughly congenial to himself; and if it required diplomatic skill, certainly no one could have achieved it more expeditiously and successfully than Bunsen. He was then a persona grata with bishops and archbishops, and Lord Ashley—not yet Lord Shaftesbury—gave him all the support his party could command. English influence was then so powerful at Constantinople that all difficulties due to Turkish bigotry were quickly removed. At the end of June, 1841, he arrived in London; on the 6th of August he wrote, "All is settled;" and on the 7th of November the new Bishop of Jerusalem was consecrated. Seldom was a more important and more complicated transaction settled in so short a time. Had the discussions been prolonged, had time been given to the leaders of the Romanizing party to recover from their surprise, the bill that had to be passed through both houses would certainly have been defeated. People have hardly yet understood the real bearing of that measure, nor appreciated the germ which it may still contain for the future of the Reformed Church. One man only seems to have seen clearly what a blow this first attempt at a union between the Protestant churches of England and Germany was to his own plans, and to the plans of his friends; and we know now, from Newman's "Apologia," that the bishopric of Jerusalem drove him to the Church of Rome. This may have been for the time a great loss to the Church of England; it marked, at all events, a great crisis in her history.
In spite, however, of his great and unexpected success, there are traces of weariness in Bunsen's letters of that time, which show that he was longing for more congenial work. "O, how I hate and detest diplomatic life!" he wrote to his wife; "and how little true intellectuality is there in the high society here as soon as you cease to speak of English national subjects and interests; and the eternal hurricanes, whirling, urging, rushing, in this monster of a town! Even with you and the children life would become oppressive under the diplomatic burden. I can pray for our country life, but I cannot pray for a London life, although I dare not pray against it, if it must be."
Bunsen's observations of character amidst the distractions of his London season are very interesting and striking, particularly at this distance of time. He writes:—
"Mr. Gladstone has been invited to become one of the trustees of the Jerusalem Fund. He is beset with scruples; his heart is with us, but his mind is entangled in a narrow system. He awaits salvation from another code, and by wholly different ways from myself. Yesterday morning I had a letter from him of twenty-four pages, to which I replied early this morning by eight.
"The Bishop of London constantly rises in my estimation. He has replied admirably to Mr. Gladstone, closing with the words, 'My dear sir, my intention is not to limit and restrict the Church of Christ, but to enlarge it.' "
A letter from Sir Robert Peel, too, must here be quoted in full:—
"WHITEHALL, October 10, 1841.
"MY DEAR MR. BUNSEN,—My note merely conveyed a request that you would be good enough to meet Mr. Cornelius at dinner on Friday last.
"I assure you that I have been amply repaid for any attention I may have shown to that distinguished artist, in the personal satisfaction I have had in the opportunity of making his acquaintance. He is one of a noble people distinguished in every art of war and peace. The union and patriotism of that people, spread over the centre of Europe, will contribute the surest guarantee for the peace of the world, and the most powerful check upon the spread of all pernicious doctrines injurious to the cause of religion and order, and that liberty which respects the rights of others.
"My earnest hope is that every member of this illustrious race, while he may cherish the particular country of his birth as he does his home, will extend his devotion beyond its narrow limits, and exult in the name of a German, and recognize the claim of Germany to the love and affection and patriotic exertions of all her sons.
"I hope I judge the feelings of every German by those which were excited in my own breast (in the breast of a foreigner and a stranger) by a simple ballad, that seemed, however, to concentrate the will of a mighty people, and said emphatically,—
"They shall not have the Rhine."
"They will not have it: and the Rhine will be protected by a song, if the sentiments which that song embodies pervade, as I hope and trust they do, every German heart.
"You will begin to think that I am a good German myself, and so I am, if hearty wishes for the union and welfare of the German race can constitute one.
"Believe me, most faithfully yours,
When Bunsen was on the point of leaving London, he received the unexpected and unsolicited appointment of Prussian Envoy in England, an appointment which he could not bring himself to decline, and which again postponed for twelve years his cherished plans of an otium cum dignitate. What the world at large would have called the most fortunate event in Bunsen's life proved indeed a real misfortune. It deprived Bunsen of the last chance of fully realizing the literary plans of his youth, and it deprived the world of services that no one could have rendered so well in the cause of freedom of thought, of practical religion, and in teaching the weighty lessons of antiquity to the youth of the future. It made him waste his precious hours in work that any Prussian baron could have done as well, if not better, and did not set him free until his bodily strength was undermined, and the joyful temper of his mind saddened by sad experiences.
Nothing could have been more brilliant than the beginning of Bunsen's diplomatic career in England. First came the visit of the King of Prussia, whom the Queen had invited to be godfather to the Prince of Wales. Soon after the Prince of Prussia came to England under the guidance of Bunsen. Then followed the return visit of the Queen at Stolzenfels, on the Rhine. All this, no doubt, took up much of Bunsen's time, but it gave him also the pleasantest introduction to the highest society of England; for as Baroness Bunsen shrewdly remarks, "there is nothing like standing within the Bude-light of royalty to make one conspicuous, and sharpen perceptions and recollections." (II. p. 8.) Bunsen complained, no doubt, now and then, about excessive official work, yet he seemed on the whole reconciled to his position, and up to the year 1847 we hear of no attempts to escape from diplomatic bondage. In a letter to Mrs. Fry he says:—
"I can assure you I never passed a more quiet and truly satisfactory evening in London than the last, in the Queen's house, in the midst of the excitement of the season. I think this is a circumstance for which one ought to be thankful; and it has much reminded me of hours that I have spent at Berlin and Sans Souci with the King and the Queen and the Prince William, and, I am thankful to add, with the Princess of Prussia, mother of the future King. It is a striking and consoling and instructive proof that what is called the world, the great world, is not necessarily worldly in itself, but only by that inward worldliness which, as rebellion against the spirit, creeps into the cottage as well as into the palace, and against which no outward form is any protection. Forms and rules may prevent the outbreak of wrong, but cannot regenerate right, and may quench the spirit and poison inward truth. The Queen gives hours daily to the labor of examining into the claims of the numberless petitions addressed to her, among other duties to which her time of privacy is devoted."
The Queen's name and that of Prince Albert occur often in these memoirs, and a few of Bunsen's remarks and observations may be of interest, though they contain little that can now be new to the readers of the "Life of the Prince Consort" and of the "Queen's Journal."
First, a graphic description, from the hand of Baroness Bunsen, of the Queen opening Parliament in 1842:—
"Last, the procession of the Queen's entry, and herself, looking worthy and fit to be the converging point of so many rays of grandeur. It is self-evident that she is not tall; but were she ever so tall, she could not have more grace and dignity, a head better set, a throat more royally and classically arching; and one advantage there is in her not being taller, that when she casts a glance, it is of necessity upwards and not downwards, and thus the effect of the eyes is not thrown away,—the beam and effluence not lost. The composure with which she filled the throne, while awaiting the Commons, was a test of character,—no fidget and no apathy. Then her voice and enunciation could not be more perfect. In short, it could not be said that she did well, but she was the Queen,—she was, and felt herself to be, the acknowledged chief among grand and national realities." (Vol. II. p. 10.)
The next is an account of the Queen at Windsor Castle on receiving the Princess of Prussia, in 1842:—
"The Queen looked well and rayonnante, with that expression that she always has when thoroughly pleased with all that occupies her mind, which you know I always observe with delight, as fraught with that truth and reality which so essentially belong to her character, and so strongly distinguish her countenance, in all its changes, from the fixed mask only too common in the royal rank of society." (Vol. II. p. 115.)
After having spent some days at Windsor Castle, Bunsen writes in 1846:—
"The Queen often spoke with me about education, and in particular of religious instruction. Her views are very serious, but at the same time liberal and comprehensive. She (as well as Prince Albert) hates all formalism. The Queen reads a great deal, and has done my book on 'The Church of the Future' the honor to read it so attentively, that the other day, when at Cashiobury, seeing the book on the table, she looked out passages which she had approved in order to read them aloud to the Queen-Dowager." (Vol. II. p. 121.)
And once more:—
"The Queen is a wife and a mother as happy as the happiest in her dominions, and no one can be more careful of her charges. She often speaks to me of the great task before her and the Prince in the education of the royal children, and particularly of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal."
Before the troubles of 1847 and 1848, Bunsen was enabled to spend part of his time in the country, away from the turmoil of London, and much of his literary work dates from that time. After his "Church of the Future," the discovery of the genuine Epistles of Ignatius by the late Dr. Cureton led Bunsen back to the study of the earliest literature of the Christian Church, and the results of these researches were published in his "Ignatius." Lepsius' stay in England and his expedition to Egypt induced Bunsen to put his own materials in order, and to give to the world his long-matured views on "The Place of Egypt in Universal History." The later volumes of this work led him into philological studies of a more general character, and at the meeting of the British Association at Oxford, in 1847, he read before the brilliantly attended ethnological section his paper "On the Results of the recent Egyptian Researches in reference to Asiatic and African Ethnology, and the Classification of Languages," published in the "Transactions" of the Association, and separately under the title, "Three Linguistic Dissertations, by Chevalier Bunsen, Dr. Charles Meyer, and Dr. Max Mueller." "Those three days at Oxford," he writes, "were a time of great distinction to me, both in my public and private capacity." Everything important in literature and art attracted not only his notice, but his warmest interest; and no one who wanted encouragement, advice, or help in literary or historical researches, knocked in vain at Bunsen's door. His table at breakfast and dinner was filled by ambassadors and professors, by bishops and missionaries, by dukes and poor scholars, and his evening parties offered a kind of neutral ground, where people could meet who could have met nowhere else, and where English prejudices had no jurisdiction. That Bunsen, holding the position which he held in society, but still more being what he was apart from his social position, should have made his presence felt in England, was not to be wondered at. He would speak out whenever he felt strongly, but he was the last man to meddle or to intrigue. He had no time even if he had had taste for it. But there were men in England who could never forgive him for the Jerusalem bishopric, and who resorted to the usual tactics for making a man unpopular. A cry was soon raised against his supposed influence at court, and doubts were thrown out as to his orthodoxy. Every Liberal bishop that was appointed was said to have been appointed through Bunsen. Dr. Hampden was declared to have been his nominee,—the fact being that Bunsen did not even know of him before he had been made a bishop. As his practical Christianity could not well be questioned, he was accused of holding heretical opinions, because his chronology differed from that of Jewish Rabbis and Bishop Usher. It is extraordinary how little Bunsen himself cared about these attacks, though they caused acute suffering to his family. He was not surprised that he should be hated by those whose theological opinions he considered unsound, and whose ecclesiastical politics he had openly declared to be fraught with danger to the most sacred interests of the Church. Besides, he was the personal friend of such men as Arnold, Hare, Thirlwall, Maurice, Stanley, and Jowett. He had even a kind word to say for Froude's "Nemesis of Faith." He could sympathize, no doubt, with all that was good and honest, whether among the High Church or Low Church party, and many of his personal friends belonged to the one as well as to the other; but he could also thunder forth with no uncertain sound against everything that seemed to him hypocritical, pharisaical, unchristian. Thus he writes (II. p. 81):—
"I apprehend having given the ill-disposed a pretext for considering me a semi-Pelagian, a contemner of the Sacraments, or denier of the Son, a perverter of the doctrine of justification, and therefore a crypto-Catholic theosophist, heretic, and enthusiast, deserving of all condemnation. I have written it because I felt compelled in conscience to do so."
Again (II. p. 87):—
"In my letter to Mr. Gladstone, I have maintained the lawfulness and the apostolic character of the German Protestant Church. You will find the style changed in this work, bolder and more free."
Attacks, indeed, became frequent, and more and more bitter, but Bunsen seldom took any notice of them. He writes:—
"Hare is full of wrath at an attack made upon me in the 'Christian Remembrancer'—in a very Jesuitical way insinuating that I ought not to have so much influence allowed me. Another article execrates the bishopric of Jerusalem as an abomination. This zeal savors more of hatred than of charity."
But though Bunsen felt far too firmly grounded in his own Christian faith to be shaken by such attacks upon himself, he too could be roused to wrath and indignation when the poisoned arrows of theological Fijians were shot against his friends. When speaking of the attacks on Arnold, he writes:—
"Truth is nothing in this generation except a means, in the best case, to something good; but never, like virtue, considered as good, as the good,—the object in itself. X dreams away in twilight. Y is sliding into Puseyism. Z (the Evangelicals) go on thrashing the old straw. I wish it were otherwise; but I love England, with all her faults. I write to you, now only to you, all I think. All the errors and blunders which make the Puseyites a stumbling-block to so many,—the rock on which they split is no other than what Rome split upon, self-righteousness, out of want of understanding justification by faith, and hovering about the unholy and blasphemous idea of atoning for our sins, because they feel not, understand not, indeed, believe not, the Atonement, and therefore enjoy not the glorious privileges of the children of God,—the blessed duty of the sacrifice of thanksgiving through Him who atoned for them. Therefore no sacrifice,—therefore no Christian priesthood,—no Church. By our fathers these ideas were fundamentally acknowledged; they were in abeyance in the worship of the Church, but not on the domestic altar and in the hymns of the spirit. With the Puseyites, as with the Romanists, these ideas are cut off at the roots. O when will the Word of God be brought up against them? What a state this country is in! The land of liberty rushing into the worst slavery, the veriest thralldom!"
To many people it might have seemed as if Bunsen during all this time was too much absorbed in English interests, political, theological, and social, that he had ceased to care for what was passing in his own country. His letters, however, tell a different tale. His voluminous correspondence with the King of Prussia, though not yet published, will one day bear witness to Bunsen's devotion to his country, and his enthusiastic attachment to the house of Hohenzollern. From year to year he was urging on the King and his advisers the wisdom of liberal concessions, and the absolute necessity of action. He was working at plans for constitutional reforms; he went to Berlin to rouse the King, to shame his ministers, to insist in season and out of season on the duty of acting before it was too late. His faith in the King is most touching. When he goes to Berlin in 1844, he sees everywhere how unpopular the King is, how even his best intentions are misunderstood and misrepresented. Yet he goes on working and hoping, and he sacrifices his own popularity rather than oppose openly the suicidal policy that might have ruined Prussia, if Prussia could have been ruined. Thus he writes in August, 1845:—
"To act as a statesman at the helm, in the Fatherland, I consider not to be in the least my calling: what I believe to be my calling is to be mounted high before the mast, to observe what land, what breakers, what signs of coming storm there may be, and then to announce them to the wise and practical steersman. It is the same to me whether my own nation shall know in my life-time or after my death how faithfully I have taken to heart its weal and woe, be it in Church or State, and borne it on my heart as my nearest interest, as long as life lasted. I give up the point of making myself understood in the present generation. Here (in London) I consider myself to be upon the right spot. I seek to preserve peace and unity, and to remove dissatisfaction, wherever it is possible."
Nothing, however, was done. Year after year was thrown away, like a Sibylline leaf, and the penalty for the opportunities that had been lost became heavier and heavier. The King, particularly when he was under the influences of Bunsen's good genius, was ready for any sacrifice. "The commotion," he exclaimed, in 1845, "can only be met and overcome by freedom, absolute freedom." But when Bunsen wanted measures, not words, the King himself seemed powerless. Surrounded as he was by men of the most opposite characters and interests, and quite capable of gauging them all,—for his intellect was of no common stamp,—he could agree with all of them to a certain point, but could never bring himself to go the whole length with any one of them. Bunsen writes from Berlin: "My stay will certainly not be a long one; the King's heart is like that of a brother toward me, but our ways diverge. The die is cast, and he reads in my countenance that I deplore the throw. He too fulfills his fate, and we with him."
When, at last, in 1847, a Constitution was granted by the King, it was too late. Sir Robert Peel seems to have been hopeful, and in a letter of twenty-two pages to Bunsen he expressed an opinion that the Prussian government might still be able to maintain the Constitution if only sincere in desiring its due development, and prepared in mind for that development. To the King, however, and to the party at court, the Constitution, if not actually hateful, was a mere plaything, and the idea of surrendering one particle of his independence never entered the King's mind. Besides, 1848 was at the door, and Bunsen certainly saw the coming storm from a distance, though he could not succeed in opening the eyes of those who stood at the helm in Prussia. Shortly before the hurricane broke loose, Bunsen had once more determined to throw up his official position, and retire to Bonn. But with 1848 all these hopes and plans were scattered to the winds. Bunsen's life became more restless than ever, and his body was gradually giving way under the constant tension of his mind. "I feel," he writes in 1848 to Archdeacon Hare, "that I have entered into a new period of life. I have given up all private concerns, all studies and researches of my own, and live entirely for the present political emergencies of my country, to stand or to fall by and with it."
With his love for England he deeply felt the want of sympathy on the part of England for Prussia in her struggle to unite and regenerate the whole of Germany. "It is quite entertaining," he writes, with a touch of irony very unusual in his letters, "to see the stiff unbelief of the English in the future of Germany. Lord John is merely uninformed. Peel has somewhat staggered the mind of the excellent Prince by his unbelief; yet he has a statesmanlike good-will towards the Germanic nations, and even for the German nation. Aberdeen is the greatest sinner. He believes in God and the Emperor Nicholas!" The Schleswig-Holstein question embittered his feelings still more; and in absence of all determined convictions at Berlin, the want of moral courage and political faith among those in whose hands the destinies of Germany had been placed, roused him to wrath and fury, though he could never be driven to despair of the future of Prussia. For a time, indeed, he seemed to hesitate between Frankfort, then the seat of the German Parliament, and Berlin; and he would have accepted the Premiership at Frankfort if his friend Baron Stockmar had accepted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But very soon he perceived that, however paralyzed for the moment, Prussia was the only possible centre of life for a regeneration of Germany; that Prussia could not be merged in Germany, but that Germany had to be resuscitated and reinvigorated through Prussia. His patriotic nominalism, if we may so call his youthful dreams of a united Germany, had to yield to the force of that political realism which sacrifices names to things, poetry to prose, the ideal to the possible. What made his decision easier than it would otherwise have been to a heart so full of enthusiasm was his personal attachment to the King and to the Prince of Prussia. For a time, indeed, though for a short time only, Bunsen, after his interview with the King in January, 1849, believed that his hopes might still be realized, and he seems actually to have had the King's promise that he would accept the crown of a United Germany, without Austria. But as soon as Bunsen had left Berlin, new influences began to work on the King's brain; and when Bunsen returned, full of hope, he was told by the King himself that he had never repented in such a degree of any step as that which Bunsen had advised him to take; that the course entered upon was a wrong to Austria; that he would have nothing to do with such an abominable line of politics, but would leave that to the Ministry at Frankfort. Whenever the personal question should be addressed to him, then would he reply as one of the Hohenzollern, and thus live and die as an honest man. Bunsen, though mourning over the disappointed hopes that had once centred in Frederick William IV., and freely expressing the divergence of opinion that separated him from his sovereign, remained throughout a faithful servant and a loyal friend. His buoyant spirit, confident that nothing could ruin Prussia, was looking forward to the future, undismayed by the unbroken succession of blunders and failures of Prussian statesmen,—nay, enjoying with a prophetic fervor, at the time of the deepest degradation of Prussia at Olmuetz, the final and inevitable triumph of that cause which counted among its heroes and martyrs such names as Stein, Gneisenau, Niebuhr, Arndt, and, we may now add, Bunsen.
After the reaction of 1849 Bunsen's political influence ceased altogether, and as Minister in England he had almost always to carry out instructions of which he disapproved. More and more he longed for rest and freedom, for "leisure for reflection on the Divine which subsists in things human, and for writing, if God enables me to do so. I live as one lamed; the pinions that might have furthered my progress are bound,—yet not broken." Yet he would not give up his place as long as his enemies at Berlin did all they could to oust him. He would not be beaten by them, nor did he altogether despair of better days. His opinion of the Prince of Prussia (the present King) had been raised very high since he had come to know him more intimately, and he expected much in the hour of need from his soldier-like decision and sense of honor. The negotiations about the Schleswig-Holstein question soon roused again all his German sympathies, and he exerted himself to the utmost to defend the just cause of the Schleswig-Holsteiners, which had been so shamefully misrepresented by unscrupulous partisans. The history of these negotiations cannot yet be written, but it will some day surprise the student of history when he finds out in what way public opinion in England was dosed and stupefied on that simple question. He found himself isolated and opposed by nearly all his English friends. One statesman only, but the greatest of English statesmen, saw clearly where the right and where the wrong was, but even he could only dare to be silent. On the 31st of July, 1850, Bunsen writes:—
"Palmerston had yielded, when in a scrape, first to Russia, then to France; the prize has been the protocol; the victim, Germany. They shall never have my signature to such a piece of iniquity and folly."
However, on the 8th of May, 1852, Bunsen had to sign that very piece of iniquity. It was done, machine like, at the King's command; yet, if Bunsen had followed his own better judgment, he would not have signed, but sent in his resignation. "The first cannon-shot in Europe," he used to say, "will tear this Pragmatic Sanction to tatters;" and so it was; but alas! he did not live to see the Nemesis of that iniquity. One thing, however, is certain, that the humiliation inflicted on Prussia by that protocol was never forgotten by one brave soldier, who, though not allowed at that time to draw his royal sword, has ever since been working at the reform of Prussia's army, till on the field of Sadowa the disgrace of the London protocol and the disgrace of Olmuetz were wiped out together, and German questions can no longer be settled by the Great Powers of Europe, "with or without the consent of Prussia."