I had the privilege of meeting Alexander von Humboldt at a small dinner party, and his image is vividly imprinted on my memory. He was at that time far beyond the span of life usually allotted to man, and what I heard him say was hardly worth retaining, for it related to the pleasures of the table, ladies' toilettes, court gossip, etc. When he afterwards gave me his hand I noticed the numerous blue veins which covered it like a network. It was not until later that I learned how many important enterprises that delicate hand had aided.
Heinrich Brugsch is still pursuing with fresh creative power the profession of Egyptological research. The noble, simple-hearted woman who was so proud of her son's increasing renown, his mother, died long ago. She modestly admired his greatness, yet his shrewdness, capacity for work, and happy nature were a heritage from her.
Heinrich Brugsch's instruction extended beyond the actual period of teaching.
With the commencement of convalescence and the purposeful industry which then began, a time of happiness dawned for me. The mental calmness felt by every one who, secluded from the tumult of the world, as I was at that time, devotes himself to the faithful fulfilment of duty, rendered it comparatively easy for me to accommodate myself patiently to a condition which a short time before would have seemed insupportable.
True, I was forced to dispense with the companionship of gay associates of my own age. At first many members of my old corps, who were studying in Berlin, sought me, but gradually their places were filled by other friends.
The dearest of these was Dr. Adolf Baeyer, son of the General. He is now one of the leaders in his chosen science, chemistry, and is Justus Liebig's successor in the Munich University.
My second friend was a young Pole who devoted himself eagerly to Egyptology, and whom Lepsius had introduced as a professional comrade. He called me Georg and I him Mieczy (his name was Mieczyslaw).
So, during those hard winters, I did not lack friendship. But they also wove into my life something else which lends their memory a melancholy charm.
The second daughter of my mother's Belgian niece, who had married in Berlin the architect Fritz Hitzig, afterwards President of the Academy of Arts, was named Eugenie and nicknamed "Nenny."
If ever any woman fulfilled the demands of the fairy tale, "White as snow and black as ebony," it was she. Only the "red as blood" was lacking, for usually but a faint roseate hue tinged her cheeks. Her large blue eyes had an innocent, dreamy, half-melancholy expression, which I was not the only person who found unspeakably charming. Afterwards it seemed to me, in recalling her look, that she beheld the fair boy Death, whose lowered torch she was so soon to follow.
About the time that I returned to Berlin seriously ill she had just left boarding-school, and it is difficult to describe the impression she made when I saw her for the first time; yet I found in the opening rose all that had lent the bud so great a charm.
I am not writing a romance, and shall not permit the heart to beautify or transfigure the image memory retains, yet I can assert that Nenny lacked nothing which art and poesy attribute to the women who allegorically personate the magic of Nature or the fairest emotions and ideals of the human soul. In this guise poet, sculptor, or artist might have represented Imagination, the Fairy Tale, Lyric Poetry, the Dream, or Compassion.
The wealth of raven hair, the delicate lines of the profile, the scarlet lips, the pearly teeth, the large, long-lashed blue eyes, whose colour formed a startling contrast to the dark hair, the slender little hands and dainty feet, united to form a beauty whose equal Nature rarely produces. And this fair body contained a tender, loving, pure, childlike heart, which longed for higher gifts than human life can bestow.
Thus she appeared before me like an apparition from a world opened only to the poet. She came often, for she loved my mother, and rarely approached my couch without a flower, a picture which pleased her, or a book containing a poem which she valued.
When she entered I felt as if happiness came with her. Doubtless my eyes betrayed this distinctly enough, though I forced my lips to silence; for what love had she, before whom life was opening like a path through a blooming garden, to bestow on the invalid cousin who was probably destined to an early death, and certainly to many a year of illness? At our first meeting I felt that I loved her, but for that very reason I desired to conceal it.
I had grown modest. It was enough for me to gaze at her, hear her dear voice, and sometimes—she was my cousin—clasp her little hand.
Science was now the object of my devotion. My intellect, passion, and fire were all hers. A kind fortune seemed to send me Nenny in order to bestow a gift also upon the heart, the soul, the sense of beauty.
This state of affairs could not last; for no duty commanded her to share the conflict raging within me, and a day came when I learned from her own lips that she loved me, that her heart had been mine when she was a little school-girl, that during my illness she had never wearied of praying for me, and had wept all night long when the physician told her mother of the danger in which I stood.
This confession sounded like angel voices. It made me infinitely happy, yet I had strength to entreat Nenny to treasure this blissful hour with me as the fairest jewel of our lives, and then help me to fulfil the duty of parting from her.
But she took a different view of the future. It was enough for her to know that my heart was hers. If I died young, she would follow me.
And now the devout child, who firmly believed in a meeting after death face to face, permitted me a glimpse of the wondrous world in which she hoped to have her portion after the end here.
I listened in astonishment, with sincere emotion. This was the faith which moved mountains, which brings heaven itself to earth.
Afterwards I again beheld the eyes with which, gazing into vacancy, she tried to conjure up before my soul these visions of hope from the realm of her fairest dreams—they were those of Raphael's Saint Cecilia in Bologna and Munich. I also saw them long after Nenny's death in one of Murillo's Madonnas in Seville, and even now they rise distinctly before my memory.
To disturb this childish faith or check the imagination winged by this devout enthusiasm would have seemed to me actually criminal. And I was young. Even the suffering I had endured had neither silenced the yearning voice of my heart nor cooled the warmth of my blood. I, who had believed that the garden of love was forever closed against me, was beloved by the most beautiful girl, who was even dearer to me than life, and with new hope, which Nenny's faith in God's goodness bedewed with warm spring rain, I enjoyed this happiness.
Yet conscience could not be silenced. The warning voice of my mother, to whom I had opened my heart, sharpened the admonitions of mine; and when Wildbad brought me only relief, by no means complete recovery, I left the decision to the physician. It was strongly adverse. Under the most favourable circumstances years must pass ere I should be justified in binding any woman's fate to mine.
So this beginning of a beautiful and serious love story became a swiftly passing dream. Its course had been happy, but the end dealt my heart a blow which healed very slowly. It opened afresh when in her parents' house, where during my convalescence I was a frequent guest, I myself advised her to marry a young land-owner, who eagerly wooed her. She became his wife, but only a year later entered that other world which she had regarded as her true home even while here. Her beloved image occupies the most sacred place in the shrine of my memory.
I denied myself the pleasure of introducing her character in one of my novels, for I felt that if I should succeed in limning it faithfully the modern reader would be justified in considering her an impossible figure for our days. She would perhaps have suited a fairy tale; and when I created Bianca in The Elixir I gave her Nenny's form. The gratitude which I owe her will accompany me to my life's end, for it was she who brought to my sick-room the blue sky, sunlight, and the thousand gifts of a blooming Garden of Eden.
THE SUMMERS OF MY CONVALESCENCE.
While I spent the winters in my mother's house in industrious work and pleasant social life, the summers took me out of the city into the open air. I always went first with my faithful nurse and companion to Wildbad; the remainder of the warm season I spent on the Elbe, sometimes with my mother, sometimes with my aunt.
I used the Wildbad springs in all seventeen times. For two summers, aided by a servant, I descended from a wheel-chair into the warm water; in the third I could dispense with assistance; and from the fourth for several lustra I moved unchecked with a steady step. After a long interval, owing to a severe relapse of the apparently conquered disease, I returned to them.
The Wurtemberg Wildbad is one of the oldest cures in Germany. The legend of the Count Mirtemberg, who discovered its healing powers by seeing a wild boar go down to the warm spring to wash its wound, has been rendered familiar by Uhland to every German. Ulrich von Hutten also used it. It rises in a Black Forest valley inclosed by stately mountains, a little stream, the Enz, crystal clear, and abounding in trout.
The small town on both banks of the river expands, ere the Enz loses itself in the leafage, into the Kurplatz, where one stately building of lightred sandstone adjoins another. The little white church stands at the left. But the foil, the background for everything, is the beautiful foliage, which is as beneficial to the eyes as are the springs to the suffering body. This fountain of health has special qualities. The Swabian says, "just right, like Wildbad." It gushes just the right degree of heat for the bath from the gravelly sand. After bathing early in the morning I rested an hour, and when I rose obeyed any other directions of the physician in charge of the watering-place.
The remainder of the day, if the weather was pleasant, I spent out of doors, usually in the grounds under the leafy trees and groups of shrubs on the shore of the Enz. On the bank of the clear little stream stood a wooden arbour, where the murmur of the waves rippling over the mossy granite blocks invited dreams and meditation. During my whole sojourn in Wildbad I always passed several hours a day here. During my period of instruction I was busied with grammatical studies in ancient Egyptian text or archaeological works. In after years, instead of Minerva, I summoned the muse and committed to paper the thoughts and images which had been created in my mind at home. I wrote here the greater portion of An Egyptian Princess, and afterwards many a chapter of Uarda, Homo Sum, and other novels.
I was rarely interrupted, for the report had spread that I wished to be alone while at work; yet even the first year I did not lack acquaintances.
Even during our first stay at Wildbad, which, with the Hirsau interruption, lasted more than three months, my mother had formed an intimate friendship with Frau von Burckhardt, in which I too was included. The lady possessed rare tact in harmonizing the very diverse elements which her husband, the physician in charge, brought to her. Every one felt at ease in her house and found congenial society there. So it happened that for a long time the Villa Burckhardt was the rendezvous of the most eminent persons who sought the healing influence of the Wildbad spring. Next to this, it was the Burckhardts who constantly drew us back to the Enz.
Were I to number the persons whom I met here and whose acquaintanceship I consider a benefit, the list would be a long one. Some I shall mention later. The first years we saw most frequently the song-writer Silcher, from Tubingen, Justus von Liebig, the Munich zoologist von Siebold, the Belgian artist Louis Gallait, the author Moritz Hartmann, Gervinus, and, lastly, the wife of the Stuttgart publisher Eduard Hallberger, and the never-to-be-forgotten Frau Puricelli and her daughter Jenny.
Silcher, an unusually attractive old man, joined us frequently. No other composer's songs found their way so surely to the hearts of the people. Many, as "I know not what it means," "I must go hence to-morrow," are supposed to be folk-songs. It was a real pleasure to hear him sing them in our little circle in his weak old voice. He was then seventy, but his freshness and vivacity made him appear younger. The chivalrous courtesy he showed to all ladies was wonderfully winning.
Justus Liebig's manners were no less attractive, but in him genuine amiability was united to the elegance of the man of the world who had long been one of the most distinguished scholars of his day. He must have been remarkably handsome in his youth, and though at that time past fifty, the delicate outlines of his profile were wholly unmarred.
Conversation with him was always profitable and the ease with which he made subjects farthest from his own sphere of investigation—chemistry perfectly clear was unique in its way. Unfortunately, I have been denied any deeper insight into the science which he so greatly advanced, but I still remember how thoroughly I understood him when he explained some results of agricultural chemistry. He eagerly endeavoured to dissuade the gentlemen of his acquaintance from smoking after dinner, which he had found by experiment to be injurious.
For several weeks we played whist with him every evening, for Liebig, like so many other scholars, regarded card-playing as the best recreation after severe tension of the mind. During the pauses and the supper which interrupted the game, he told us many things of former times. Once he even spoke of his youth and the days which determined his destiny. The following event seems to me especially worth recording.
When a young and wholly unknown student he had gone to Paris to bring his discovery of fulminic acid to the notice of the Academy. On one of the famous Tuesdays he had waited vainly for the introduction of his work, and at the close of the session he rose sadly to leave the hall, when an elderly academician in whose hand he thought he had seen his treatise addressed a few words to him concerning his discovery in very fluent French and invited him to dine the following Thursday. Then the stranger suddenly disappeared, and Liebig, with the painful feeling of being considered a very uncivil fellow, was obliged to let the Thursday pass without accepting the invitation so important to him. But on Saturday some one knocked at the door of his modest little room and introduced himself as Alexander von Humboldt's valet. He had been told to spare no trouble in the search, for the absence of his inexperienced countryman from the dinner which would have enabled him to make the acquaintance of the leaders of his science in Paris had not only been noticed by Humboldt, but had filled him with anxiety. When Liebig went that very day to his kind patron he was received at first with gay jests, afterwards with the kindest sympathy.
The great naturalist had read his paper and perceived the writer's future promise. He at once made him acquainted with Gay Lussac, the famous Parisian chemist, and Liebig was thus placed on the road to the lofty position which he was afterwards to occupy in all the departments of science.
The Munich zoologist von Siebold we first knew intimately years after. I shall have more to say of him later, and also of the historian Gervinus, who, behind apparently repellant arrogance, concealed the noblest human benevolence.
After the first treatment, which occupied six weeks, the physician ordered an intermission of the baths. I was to leave Wildbad to strengthen in the pure air of the Black Forest the health I had gained. On the Enz we had been in the midst of society. The new residence was to afford me an opportunity to lead a lonely, quiet life with my mother and my books, which latter, however, were only to be used in moderation.
Shortly before our departure we had taken a longer drive with our new friends Fran Puricelli and her daughter Jenny to the Hirsau cloister.
The daughter specially attracted me. She was pretty, well educated, and possessed so much independence and keenness of mind that this alone would have sufficed to render her remarkable.
Afterwards I often thought simultaneously of her and Nenny, yet they were totally unlike in character, having nothing in common save their steadfast faith and the power of looking with happy confidence beyond this life into death.
The devout Protestant had created a religion of her own, in which everything that she loved and which she found beautiful and sacred had a place.
Jenny's imagination was no less vivid, but she used it merely to behold in the form most congenial to her nature and sense of beauty what faith commanded her to accept. For Jenny the Church had already devised and arranged what Nenny's poetic soul created. The Protestant had succeeded in blending Father and Son into one in order to pray to love itself. The Catholic, besides the Holy Trinity, had made the Virgin Mother the embodiment of the feeling dearest to her girlish heart and bestowed on her the form of the person whom she loved best on earth, and regarded as the personification of everything good and beautiful. This was her older sister Fanny, who had married a few years before a cousin of the same name.
When she at last appeared I was surprised, for I had never met a woman who combined with such rare beauty and queenly dignity so much winning amiability. Nothing could be more touching than the manner in which this admired, brilliant woman of the world devoted herself to the sick girl.
This lady was present during our conversations, which often turned upon religious questions.
At first I had avoided the subject, but the young girl constantly returned to it, and I soon perceived that I must summon all my energies to hold my ground against her subtle dialectics. Once when I expressed my scruples to her sister, she answered, smiling: "Don't be uneasy on that score; Jenny's armour is strong, but she has sharp arrows in her quiver."
And so indeed it proved.
She felt so sure of her own convictions that she might investigate without peril the views of those who held a different belief, and beheld in me, as it were, the embodiment of this opportunity, so she gave me no peace until I had explained the meaning of the words pantheism, atheism, materialism, etc.
At first I was very cautious, but when I perceived that the opinions of the doubters and deniers merely inspired her with pity, I spoke more freely.
Her soul was like a polished plate of metal on which a picture is etched. This, her belief, remained uninjured. Whatever else might be reflected from the mirror-like surface soon vanished, leaving no trace.
The young girl died shortly after our separation the following year. She had grown very dear to my heart. Her beloved image appears to me most frequently as she looked in the days when she was suffering, with thick, fair hair falling in silken masses on her white dress, but amid keen physical pain the love of pleasure natural to youth still lingered. She went with me—both in wheel-chairs—to a ball at the Kursaal, and looked so pretty in an airy, white dress which her mother and sister had arranged for their darling, that I should have longed to dance with her had not this pleasure been denied me.
Hirsau had first been suggested as a resting-place, but it was doubtful whether we should find what we needed there. If not, the carriage was to convey us to beautiful, quiet Herrenalb, between Wildbad and Baden-Baden.
But we found what we sought, the most suitable house possible, whose landlady proved to have been trained as a cook in a Frankfort hotel.
The lodgings we engaged were among the most "romantic" I have ever occupied, for our landlord's house was built in the ruins of the monastery just beside the old refectory. The windows of one room looked out upon the cloisters and the Virgin's chapel, the only part of the once stately building spared by the French in 1692.
A venerable abode of intellectual life was destroyed with this monastery, founded by a Count von Calw early in the ninth century. The tower which has been preserved is one of the oldest and most interesting works of Romanesque architecture in Germany.
A quieter spot cannot be imagined, for I was the first who sought recreation here. Surrounded by memories of olden days, and absolutely undisturbed, I could create admirably. But one cannot remain permanently secluded from mankind.
First came the Herr Kameralverwalter, whose stately residence stood near the monastery, and in his wife's name invited us to use their pretty garden.
This gentleman's title threw his name so far into the shade that I had known the pleasant couple five weeks before I found it was Belfinger.
We also made the acquaintance of our host, Herr Meyer. Strange and varied were the paths along which Fate had led this man. As a rich bachelor he had welcomed guests to his ever-open house with salvos of artillery, and hence was still called Cannon Meyer, though, after having squandered his patrimony, he remained absent from his home for many years. His career in America was one of perpetual vicissitudes and full of adventures. Afore than once he barely escaped death. At last, conquered by homesickness, he returned to the Black Forest, and with a good, industrious wife.
His house in the monastery suited his longing for rest; he obtained a position in the morocco factory in the valley below, which afforded him a support, and his daughters provided for his physical comfort.
The big, broad-shouldered man with the huge mustache and deep, bass voice looked like some grey-haired knight whose giant arm could have dealt that Swabian stroke which cleft the foe from skull to saddle, and yet at that time he was occupied from morning until night in the delicate work splitting the calf skin from whose thin surfaces, when divided into two portions, fine morocco is made.
We also met the family of Herr Zahn, in whose factory this leather was manufactured; and when in the East I saw red, yellow, and green slippers on the feet of so many Moslems, I could not help thinking of the shady Black Forest.
Sometimes we drove to the little neighbouring town of Calw, where we were most kindly received. The mornings were uninterrupted, and my work was very successful. Afternoon sometimes brought visitors from Wildbad, among whom was the artist Gallait, who with his wife and two young daughters had come to use the water of the springs. His paintings, "Egmont in Prison," "The Beheaded Counts Egmont and Horn," and many others, had aroused the utmost admiration. Praise and honours of all kinds had consequently been lavished upon him. This had brought him to the Spree, and he had often been a welcome guest in our home.
Like Menzel, Cornelius, Alma Tadema, and Meissonier, he was small in stature, but the features of his well-formed face were anything but insignificant. His whole person was distinguished by something I might term "neatness." Without any touch of dudishness he gave the impression of having "just stepped out of a bandbox." From the white cravat which he always wore, to the little red ribbon of the order in his buttonhole, everything about him was faultless.
Madame Gallait, a Parisian by birth, was the very embodiment of the French woman in the most charming sense of the word, and the bond which united her to her husband seemed enduring and as if woven by the cheeriest gods of love. Unfortunately, it did not last.
After leaving Hirsau, we again met the Gallaits in Wildbad and spent some delightful days with them. The Von Burckhardts, Fran Henrietta Hallberger, the wife of the Stuttgart publisher, the Puricellis, ourselves, and later the author Moritz Hartmann, were the only persons with whom they associated. We always met every afternoon at a certain place in the grounds, where we talked or some one read aloud. On these occasions, at Gallait's suggestion, everybody who was so disposed sketched. My portrait, which he drew for my mother at that time in black and red pencils, is now in my wife's possession. I also took my sketch-book, for he had seen the school volume I had filled with arabesques just before leaving Keilhau, and I still remember the 'merveilleux and incroyable, inoui, and insense' which he lavished on the certainly extravagant creatures of my love-sick imagination.
During these exercises in drawing he related many incidents of his own life, and never was he more interesting than while describing his first success.
He was the son of a poor widow in the little Belgian town of Tournay. While a school-boy he greatly enjoyed drawing, and an able teacher perceived his talent.
Once he saw in the newspaper an Antwerp competition for a prize. A certain subject—if I am not mistaken, Moses drawing water from the rock in the wilderness—was to be executed with pencil or charcoal. He went to work also, though with his defective training he had not the least hope of success. When he sent off the finished drawing he avoided taking his mother into his confidence in order to protect her from disappointment.
On the day the prize was to be awarded the wish to see the work of the successful competitor drew him to Antwerp, and what was his surprise, on entering the hall, to hear his own name proclaimed as the victor's!
His mother supported herself and him by a little business in soap. To increase her delight he had changed the gold paid to him into shining five franc pieces. His pockets almost burst under the weight, but there was no end to the rejoicing when he flung one handful of silver coins after another on the little counter and told how he had obtained them.
No one who heard him relate this story could help liking him.
Another distinguished visitor at Hirsau was Prince Puckler Muskau. He had heard that his young Kottbus acquaintance had begun to devote himself to Egyptology. This interested the old man, who, as a special favourite of Mohammed Ali, had spent delightful days on the Nile and made all sorts of plans for Egypt. Besides, he was personally acquainted with the great founders of my science, Thomas Young and Francois Champollion, and had obtained an insight into deciphering the hieroglyphics. He knew all the results of the investigations, and expressed an opinion concerning them. Without having entered deeply into details he often hit the nail on the head. I doubt whether he had ever held in his hand a book on these subjects, but he had listened to the answers given by others to his skilful questions with the same keen attention that he bestowed on mine, and the gift of comprehension peculiar to him enabled him to rapidly shape what he heard into a distinctly outlined picture. Therefore he must have seemed to laymen a very compendium of science, yet he never used this faculty to dazzle others or give himself the appearance of erudition.
"Man cannot be God," he wrote—I am quoting from a letter received the day after his visit—"yet 'to be like unto God' need not remain a mere theological phrase to the aspirant. Omniscience is certainly one of the noblest attributes of the Most High, and the nearer man approaches it the more surely he gains at least the shadow of a quality to which he cannot aspire."
Finally he discussed his gardening work in the park at Branitz, and I regret having noted only the main outlines of what he said, for it was as interesting as it was admirable. I can only cite the following sentence from a letter addressed to Blasewitz: "What was I to do? A prince without a country, like myself, wishes at least to be ruler in one domain, and that I am, as creator of a park. The subjects over whom I reign obey me better than the Russians, who still retain a trace of free will, submit to their Czar. My trees and bushes obey only me and the eternal laws implanted in their nature, and which I know. Should they swerve from them even a finger's breadth they would no longer be themselves. It is pleasant to reign over such subjects, and I would rather be a despot over vegetable organisms than a constitutional king and executor of the will of the 'images of God,' as men call the sovereign people."
He talked most delightfully of the Viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, and described the plan which he had laid before this brilliant ruler of arranging a park around the temple on the island of Philae, and creating on the eastern bank of the hill beneath shady trees, opposite to the beautiful island of Isis, a sanitarium especially for consumptives; and whoever has seen this lovely spot will feel tempted to predict great prosperity for such an enterprise. My mother had heard the prince indulge in paradoxical assertions in gay society, and the earnestness which he now showed led her to remark that she had never seen two natures so radically unlike united in one individual. Had she been able to follow his career in life she would have recovered a third, fourth, and fifth.
These visits brought life and change into our quiet existence, and when four weeks later my brother Ludo joined us he was delighted with the improvement in my appearance, and I myself felt the benefit which my paralyzed muscles had received from the baths and the seclusion.
The second season at Wildbad, thanks to the increased intimacy with the friends whose acquaintance we had made there, was even more enjoyable than the first.
Frau Hallberger was a very beautiful young woman. Her husband, who was to become my dearest friend, was detained in Stuttgart by business. She was unfortunately obliged to use the waters of the springs medicinally, and many an hour was clouded by mental and physical discomfort.
Yet the vivacity of her intellect, her rare familiarity with all the newest literature, and her unusually keen appreciation of everything which was beautiful in nature stimulated and charmed us. I have never seen any one seek flowers in the field and forest so eagerly, and she made them into beautiful bouquets, which Louis Gallait called "bewitching flower madrigals."
Moritz Hartmann had not fully recovered from the severe illness which nearly caused his death while he was a reporter in the Crimean War. His father-in-law, Herr Rodiger, accompanied him and watched him with the most touching solicitude. My mother soon became sincerely attached to the author, who possessed every quality to win a woman's heart. He had been considered the handsomest member of the Frankfort Parliament, and no one could have helped gazing with pleasure at the faultless symmetry of his features. He also possessed an unusually musical voice. Gallait said that he first thought German a language pleasing to the ear when he heard it from Hartmann's lips.
These qualities soon won the heart of Frau Puricelli, who had at first been very averse to making his acquaintance. The devout, conservative lady had heard enough of his religious and political views to consider him detestable. But after Hartmann had talked and read aloud to her and her daughter in his charming way, she said to me, "What vexes me is that in my old age I can't help liking such a red Democrat."
During that summer was formed the bond of friendship which, to his life's premature end, united me to Moritz Hartmann, and led to a correspondence which afforded me the greater pleasure the more certain I became that he understood me. We met again in Wildbad the second and third summers, and with what pleasure I remember our conversations in the stillness of the shady woods! But we also shared a noisy amusement, that of pistol practice, to which we daily devoted an hour. I was obliged to fire from a wheel-chair, yet, like Hartmann, I could boast of many a good shot; but the skill of Herr Rodiger, the author's father-in-law, was really wonderful. Though his hand trembled constantly from an attack of palsy, I don't know now how many times he pierced the centre of the ace of hearts.
It was Hartmann, too, who constantly urged me to write. With all due regard for science, he said he could not admit its right to prison poesy when the latter showed so strong an impulse towards expression. I secretly admitted the truth of his remark, but whenever I yielded to the impulse to write I felt as if I were being disloyal to the mistress to whom I had devoted all my physical and mental powers.
The conflict which for a long time stirred my whole soul began. I could say much more of the first years I spent at Wildbad, but up to the fifth season they bore too much resemblance to one another to be described in detail.
A more brilliant summer than that of 1860 the quiet valley of the Enz will hardly witness again, for during that season the invalid widow of the Czar Nicholas of Russia came to the springs with a numerous suite, and her presence attracted many other crowned heads—the King of Prussia, afterwards the Emperor William I, her royal brother; her beautiful daughter, Queen Olga of Wurtemberg, who, when she walked through the grounds with her greyhound, called to mind the haughty Artemis; the Queen of Bavaria—But I will not enumerate all the royal personages who visited the Czarina, and whose presence gave the little town in the Black Forest an atmosphere of life and brilliancy. Not a day passed without affording some special feast for the eyes.
The Czarina admired beauty, and therefore among her attendants were many, ladies who possessed unusual attractions. When they were seated in a group on the steps of the hotel the picture was one never to be forgotten. A still more striking spectacle was afforded by a voyage made on the Enz by the ladies of the Czarina's court, attired in airy summer dresses and adorned with a lavish abundance of flowers. From the shore gentlemen flung them blossoms as they were borne swiftly down the mountain stream. I, too, had obtained some roses, intended especially for Princess Marie von Leuchtenberg, of whom the Czarina's physician, Dr. Karel, whose acquaintance we made at the Burckhardts, had told so many charming anecdotes that we could not help admiring her.
We also met a very beautiful Countess Keller, one of the Czarina's attendants, and I can still see distinctly the brilliant scene of her departure.
Wildbad was not then connected with the rest of the world by the railroad. The countess sat in an open victoria amid the countless gifts of flowers which had been lavished upon her as farewell presents. Count Wilhorsky, in the name of the Czarina, offered an exquisitely beautiful bouquet. As she received it, she exclaimed, "Think of me at nine o'clock," and the latter, with his hand on his heart, answered with a low bow, "Why, Countess, we shall think of you all day long."
At the same instant the postillion raised his long whip, the four bays started, a group of ladies and gentlemen, headed by the master of ceremonies, waved their handkerchiefs, and it seemed as if Flora herself was setting forth to bless the earth with flowers.
For a long time I imagined that during the first summer spent there I lived only for my health, my scientific studies, and from 1861 my novel An Egyptian Princess, to which I devoted several hours each day; but how much I learned from intercourse with so great a variety of persons, among whom were some whom a modest scholar is rarely permitted to know, I first realized afterwards. I allude here merely to the leaders of the aristocracy of the second empire, whose acquaintance I made through the son of my distinguished Parisian instructor, Vicomte de Rouge.
CONTINUANCE OF CONVALESCENCE AND THE FIRST NOVEL.
The remainder of the summer I spent half with my mother, half with my aunt, and pursued the same course during the subsequent years, until from 1862 I remained longer in Berlin, engaged in study, and began my scientific journeys.
There were few important events either in the family circle or in politics, except the accession to the throne of King William of Prussia and the Franco-Austrian war of 1859. In Berlin the "new era" awakened many fair and justifiable hopes; a fresher current stirred the dull, placid waters of political life.
The battles of Magenta and Solferino (June 4 and 24, 1859) had caused great excitement in the household of my aunt, who loved me as if I were her own son, and whose husband was also warmly attached to me. They felt the utmost displeasure in regard to the course of Prussia, and it was hard for me to approve of it, since Austria seemed a part of Germany, and I was very fond of my uncle's three nearest relatives, who were all in the Austrian service.
The future was to show the disadvantage of listening to the voice of the heart in political affairs. Should we have a German empire, and would there be a united Italy, if Austria in alliance with Prussia had fought in 1859 at Solferino and Magenta and conquered the French?
At Hosterwitz I became more intimately acquainted with the lyric poet, Julius Hammer. The Kammergerichtrath-Gottheiner, a highly educated man, lived there with his daughter Marie, whose exquisite singing at the villa of her hospitable sister-in-law so charmed my heart. Through them I met many distinguished men-President von Kirchmann, the architect Nikolai, the author of Psyche, Privy Councillor Carus, the writer Charles Duboc (Waldmuller) with his beautiful gifted wife, and many others.
Many a Berlin acquaintance, too, I met again at Hosterwitz, among them the preacher Sydow and Lothar Bucher.
To the friendship of this remarkable man, whom I knew just at the time he was associated with Bismarck, I owe many hours of enjoyment. Many will find it hardly compatible with the reserved, quiet manner of the astute, cool politician, that during a slight illness of my mother he read Fritz Reuter's novels aloud to her—he spoke Plattdeutsch admirably—as dutifully as a son.
So there was no lack of entertainment during leisure hours, but the lion's share of my time was devoted to work.
The same state of affairs existed during my stay with my aunt, who occupied a summer residence on the estate of Privy-Councillor von Adelsson, which was divided into building lots long ago, but at that time was the scene of the gayest social life in both residences.
The owner and his wife were on the most intimate terms with my relatives, and their daughter Lina seemed to me the fairest of all the flowers in the Adelsson garden. If ever a girl could be compared to a violet it was she. I knew her from childhood to maidenhood, and rejoiced when I saw her wed in young Count Uexkyll-Guldenbrand a life companion worthy of her.
There were many other charming girls, too, and my aunt, besides old friends, entertained the leaders of literary life in Dresden.
Gutzkow surpassed them all in acuteness and subtlety of intellect, but the bluntness of his manner repelled me.
On the other hand, I sincerely enjoyed the thoughtful eloquence of Berthold Auerbach, who understood how to invest with poetic charm not only great and noble subjects, but trivial ones gathered from the dust. If I am permitted to record the memories of my later life, I shall have more to say of him. It was he who induced me to give to my first romance, which I had intended to call Nitetis, the title An Egyptian Princess.
The stars of the admirable Dresden stage also found their way to my aunt's.
One day I was permitted to listen to the singing of Emmy La Gruas, and the next to the peerless Schroder-Devrient. Every conversation with the cultured physician Geheimerath von Ammon was instructive and fascinating; while Rudolf von Reibisch, the most intimate friend of the family, whose great talents would have rendered him capable of really grand achievements in various departments of art, examined our skulls as a phrenologist or read aloud his last drama. Here, too, I met Major Serre, the bold projector of the great lottery whose brilliant success called into being and insured the prosperity of the Schiller Institute, the source of so much good.
This simple-hearted yet energetic man taught me how genuine enthusiasm and the devotion of a whole personality to a cause can win victory under the most difficult circumstances. True, his clever wife shared her husband's enthusiasm, and both understood how to attract the right advisers. I afterwards met at their beautiful estate, Maxen, among many distinguished people, the Danish author Andersen, a man of insignificant personal appearance, but one who, if he considered it worth while and was interested in the subject, could carry his listeners resistlessly with him. Then his talk sparkled with clever, vivid, striking, peculiar metaphors, and when one brilliant description of remarkable experiences and scenes followed another he swiftly won the hearts of the women who had overlooked him, and it seemed to the men as if some fiend were aiding him.
During the first years of my convalescence I could enjoy nothing save what came or was brought to me. But the cheerful patience with which I appeared to bear my sufferings, perhaps also the gratitude and eagerness with which I received everything, attracted most of the men and women for whom I really cared.
If there was an entertaining conversation, arrangements were always made that I should enjoy it, at least as a listener. The affection of these kind people never wearied in lightening the burden which had been laid upon me. So, during this whole sad period I was rarely utterly wretched, often joyous and happy, though sometimes the victim to the keenest spiritual anguish.
During the hours of rest which must follow labour, and when tortured at night by the various painful feelings and conditions connected even with convalescence from disease, my restrictions rose before me as a specially heavy misfortune. My whole being rebelled against my sufferings, and—why should I conceal it?—burning tears drenched my pillows after many a happy day. At the time I was obliged to part from Nenny this often happened. Goethe's "He who never mournful nights" I learned to understand in the years when the beaker of life foams most impetuously for others. But I had learned from my mother to bear my sorest griefs alone, and my natural cheerfulness aided me to win the victory in the strife against the powers of melancholy. I found it most easy to master every painful emotion by recalling the many things for which I had cause to be grateful, and sometimes an hour of the fiercest struggle and deepest grief closed with the conviction that I was more blessed than many thousands of my fellow-mortals, and still a "favourite of Fortune." The same feeling steeled my patience and helped to keep hope green and sustain my pleasure in existence when, long after, a return of the same disease, accompanied with severe suffering, which I had been spared in youth, snatched me from earnest, beloved, and, I may assume, successful labour.
The younger generation may be told once more how effective a consolation man possesses—no matter what troubles may oppress him—in gratitude. The search for everything which might be worthy of thankfulness undoubtedly leads to that connection with God which is religion.
When I went to Berlin in winter, harder work, many friends, and especially my Polish fellow-student, Mieczyslaw helped me bear my burden patiently.
He was well, free, highly gifted, keenly interested in science, and made rapid progress. Though secure from all external cares, a worm was gnawing at his heart which gave him no rest night or day—the misery of his native land and his family, and the passionate longing to avenge it on the oppressor of the nation. His father had sacrificed the larger portion of his great fortune to the cause of Poland, and, succumbing to the most cruel persecutions, urged his sons, in their turn, to sacrifice everything for their native land. They were ready except one brother, who wielded his sword in the service of the oppressor, and thus became to the others a dreaded and despised enemy.
Mieczyslaw remained in Berlin raging against himself because, an intellectual epicurean, he was enjoying Oriental studies instead of following in the footsteps of his father, his brothers, and most of his relatives at home.
My ideas of the heroes of Polish liberty had been formed from Heinrich Heine's Noble Pole, and I met my companion with a certain feeling of distrust. Far from pressing upon me the thoughts which moved him so deeply, it was long ere he permitted the first glimpse into his soul. But when the ice was once broken, the flood of emotion poured forth with elementary power, and his sincerity was sealed by his blood. He fell armed on the soil of his home at the time when I was most gratefully rejoicing in the signs of returning health—the year 1863. I was his only friend in Berlin, but I was warmly attached to him, and shall remember him to my life's end.
The last winter of imprisonment also saw me industriously at work. I had already, with Mieczyslaw, devoted myself eagerly to the history of the ancient East, and Lepsius especially approved these studies. The list of the kings which I compiled at that time, from the most remote sources to the Sassanida, won the commendation of A. von Gutschmid, the most able investigator in this department. These researches led me also to Persia and the other Asiatic countries. Egypt, of course, remained the principal province of my work. The study of the kings from the twenty-sixth dynasty—that is, the one with which the independence of the Pharaohs ended and the rule of the Persians under Cambyses began in the valley of the Nile—occupied me a long time. I used the material thus acquired afterward for my habilitation essay, but the impulse natural to me of imparting my intellectual gains to others had induced me to utilize it in a special way. The material I had collected appeared in my judgment exactly suited for a history of the time that Egypt fell into the power of Persia. Jacob Burckhardt's Constantine the Great was to serve for my model. I intended to lay most stress upon the state of civilization, the intellectual and religious life, art, and science in Egypt, Greece, Persia, Phoenicia, etc., and after most carefully planning the arrangement I began to write with the utmost zeal.
[I still have the unfinished manuscript; but the farther I advanced the stronger became the conviction, now refuted by Eduard Meyer, that it would not yet be possible to write a final history of that period which would stand the test of criticism.]
While thus engaged, the land of the Pharaohs, the Persian court, Greece in the time of the Pisistratidae and Polycrates grew more and more distinct before my mental vision. Herodotus's narrative of the false princess sent by Pharaoh Amasis to Cambyses as a wife, and who became the innocent cause of the war through which the kingdom of the Pharaohs lost its independence, would not bear criticism, but it was certainly usable material for a dramatic or epic poem. And this material gave me no peace.
Yes, something might certainly be done with it. I soon mastered it completely, but gradually the relation changed and it mastered me, gave me no rest, and forced me to try upon it the poetic power so long condemned to rest.
When I set to work I was not permitted to leave the house in the evening. Was it disloyal to science if I dedicated to poesy the hours which others called leisure time? The question was put to the inner judge in such a way that he could not fail to say "No." I also tried successfully to convince myself that I merely essayed to write this tale to make the material I had gathered "live," and bring the persons and conditions of the period whose history I wished to write as near to me as if I were conversing with them and dwelling in their midst. How often I repeated to myself this well-founded apology, but in truth every instinct of my nature impelled me to write, and at this very time Moritz Hartmann was also urging me in his letters, while Mieczyslaw and others, even my mother, encouraged me.
I began because I could not help it, and probably scarcely any work ever stood more clearly arranged, down to the smallest detail, in its creator's imagination, than the Egyptian Princess in mine when I took up my pen. Only the first volume originally contained much more Egyptian material, and the third I lengthened beyond my primary intention. Many notes of that time I was unwilling to leave unused and, though the details are not uninteresting, their abundance certainly impairs the effect of the whole.
As for the characters, most of them were familiar.
How many of my mother's traits the beautiful, dignified Rhodopis possessed! King Amasis was Frederick William IV, the Greek Phanes resembled President Seiffart. Nitetis, too, I knew. I had often jested with Atossa, and Sappho was a combination of my charming Frankfort cousin Betsy, with whom I spent such delightful days in Rippoldsau, and lovely Lina von Adelsson. Like the characters in the works of the greatest of writers—I mean Goethe—not one of mine was wholly invented, but neither was any an accurate portrait of the model.
I by no means concealed from myself the difficulties with which I had to contend or the doubts the critics would express, but this troubled me very little. I was writing the book only for myself and my mother, who liked to hear every chapter read as it was finished. I often thought that this novel might perhaps share the fate of my Poem of the World, and find its way into the fire.
No matter. The greatest success could afford me no higher pleasure than the creative labour. Those were happy evenings when, wholly lifted out of myself, I lived in a totally different world, and, like a god, directed the destinies of the persons who were my creatures. The love scenes between Bartja and Sappho I did not invent; they came to me. When, with brow damp with perspiration, I committed the first one to paper in a single evening, I found the next morning, to my surprise, that only a few touches were needed to convert it into a poem in iambics.
This was scarcely permissible in a novel. But the scene pleased my mother, and when I again brought the lovers together in the warm stillness of the Egyptian night, and perceived that the flood of iambics was once more sweeping me along, I gave free course to the creative spirit and the pen, and the next morning the result was the same.
I then took Julius Hammer into my confidence, and he thought that I had given expression to the overflowing emotion of two loving young hearts in a very felicitous and charming way.
While my friends were enjoying themselves in ball-rooms or exciting society, Fate still condemned me to careful seclusion in my mother's house. But when I was devoting myself to the creation of my Nitetis, I envied no man, scarcely even a god.
So this novel approached completion. It had not deprived me of an hour of actual working time, yet the doubt whether I had done right to venture on this side flight into fairer and better lands during my journey through the department of serious study was rarely silent.
At the beginning of the third volume I ventured to move more freely.
Yet when I went to Lepsius, the most earnest of my teachers, to show him the finished manuscript, I felt very anxious. I had not said even a word in allusion to what I was doing in the evening hours, and the three volumes of my large manuscript were received by him in a way that warranted the worst fears. He even asked how I, whom he had believed to be a serious worker, had been tempted into such "side issues."
This was easy to explain, and when he had heard me to the end he said: "I might have thought of that. You sometimes need a cup of Lethe water. But now let such things alone, and don't compromise your reputation as a scientist by such extravagances."
Yet he kept the manuscript and promised to look at the curiosity.
He did more. He read it through to the last letter, and when, a fortnight later; he asked me at his house to remain after the others had left, he looked pleased, and confessed that he had found something entirely different from what he expected. The book was a scholarly work, and also a fascinating romance.
Then he expressed some doubts concerning the space I had devoted to the Egyptians in my first arrangement. Their nature was too reserved and typical to hold the interest of the unscientific reader. According to his view, I should do well to limit to Egyptian soil what I had gained by investigation, and to make Grecian life, which was familiar to us moderns as the foundation of our aesthetic perceptions, more prominent. The advice was good, and, keeping it in view, I began to subject the whole romance to a thorough revision.
Before going to Wildbad in the summer of 1863 I had a serious conversation with my teacher and friend. Hitherto, he said, he had avoided any discussion of my future; but now that I was so decidedly convalescing, he must tell me that even the most industrious work as a "private scholar," as people termed it, would not satisfy me. I was fitted for an academic career, and he advised me to keep it in view. As I had already thought of this myself, I eagerly assented, and my mother was delighted with my resolution.
How we met in Wildbad my never-to-be-forgotten friend the Stuttgart publisher, Eduard von Hallberger; how he laid hands upon my Egyptian Princess; and how the fate of this book and its author led through joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, I hope, ere my last hour strikes, to communicate to my family and the friends my life and writings have gained.
When I left Berlin, so far recovered that I could again move freely, I was a mature man. The period of development lay behind me. Though the education of an aspiring man ends only with his last breath, the commencement of my labours as a teacher outwardly closed mine, and an important goal in life lay before me. A cruel period of probation, rich in suffering and deprivations, had made the once careless youth familiar with the serious side of existence, and taught him to control himself.
After once recognizing that progress in the department of investigation in which I intended to guide others demanded the devotion of all my powers, I succeeded in silencing the ceaseless longing for fresh creations of romance. The completion of a second long novel would have imperilled the unity with myself which I was striving to attain, and which had been represented to me by the noblest of my instructors as my highest goal in life. So I remained steadfast, although the great success of my first work rendered it very difficult. Temptations of every kind, even in the form of brilliant offers from the most prominent German publishers, assailed me, but I resisted, until at the end of half a lifetime I could venture to say that I was approaching my goal, and that it was now time to grant the muse what I had so long denied. Thus, that portion of my nature which was probably originally the stronger was permitted to have its life. During long days of suffering romance was again a kind and powerful comforter.
Severe suffering had not succeeded in stifling the cheerful spirit of the boy and the youth; it did not desert me in manhood. When the sky of my life was darkened by the blackest clouds it appeared amid the gloom like a radiant star announcing brighter days; and if I were to name the powers by whose aid I have again and again dispelled even the heaviest clouds which threatened to overshadow my happiness in existence, they must be called gratitude, earnest work, and the motto of blind old Langethal, "Love united with the strife for truth."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Appreciation of trifles Carpe diem How effective a consolation man possesses in gratitude Men studying for their own benefit, not the teacher's Phrase and idea "philosophy of religion" as an absurdity
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF EBERS:
A word at the right time and place Appreciation of trifles Carpe diem Child is naturally egotistical Child cannot distinguish between what is amusing and what is sad Coach moved by electricity Confucius's command not to love our fellow-men but to respect Deserve the gratitude of my people, though it should be denied Do thoroughly whatever they do at all Full as an egg Half-comprehended catchwords serve as a banner Hanging the last king with the guts of the last priest Hollow of the hand, Diogenes's drinking-cup How effective a consolation man possesses in gratitude I approve of such foolhardiness I plead with voice and pen in behalf of fairy tales Life is valued so much less by the young Life is the fairest fairy tale (Anderson) Loved himself too much to give his whole affection to any one Men studying for their own benefit, not the teacher's Nobody was allowed to be perfectly idle Phrase and idea "philosophy of religion" as an absurdity Readers often like best what is most incredible Required courage to be cowardly Scorned the censure of the people, he never lost sight of it Smell most powerful of all the senses in awakening memory The carp served on Christmas eve in every Berlin family To be happy, one must forget what cannot be altered Unjust to injure and rob the child for the benefit of the man What father does not find something to admire in his child When you want to strike me again, mother, please take off