« НазадПродовжити »
practical, on the peculiar natural resources and economical advantages of the country. Can this volcanic land within three days' sail of our coast furnish the volcanic product-sulphur
-without which many of the most important branches of our manufacturing industry, in which the sulphuric acid is essential, would fall to the ground, and upon account of which we are on the eve of war? The question must have occurred to every reader,-must have been the main subject of inquiry to many; but neither the philosophic traveller, nor the amateur of locomotion, neither Sir George Mackenzie, nor Mr. Dillon, give a plain mercantile answer to the plain mercantile question.-Can this natural product of volcanic countries be found in available depôts, in Iceland also ? and can any application of capital and labour bring it to the coast? The spirit of enterprise of our great merchants might surely be applied to the solution of this question-without incurring the name of wild speculation. The Danish government would probably concur in any fair proposal which could not but benefit the revenue of the state and the condition of the Icelanders; and a party of two or three competent practical men sent to Iceland in a stout smack, would at no great expense settle the very important point, whether Britain can be supplied from Iceland with this, the most essential perhaps of any of the mineral products not found within her own territories, to the progress and even to the existence of her manufactures ?
ARTICLE IV. 1. Lebensnachrichten über Barthold George Niebuhr aus
Briefen desselben und aus Erinnerungen seiner nächsten
Freunde. 3 Bände. Perthes, Hamburg : 1838–39. 2. Reminiscences of an intercourse with Niebuhr. By
FRANCIS LIEBER. London: 1835. 3. A Vindication of Niebuhr's History of Rome, 8c. By
Julius CHARLES HARE. Cambridge: 1829. The reputation of Niebuhr in England, though it stands higher than that of any contemporary philosopher, depends almost exclusively upon his History of Rome. Posterity also
will be compelled to judge of him principally from his great work, which is an excellent sample indeed, but by no means an adequate measure of his various powers and acquirements. Even from this, however, we may perceive that his genius for historical inquiry is so peculiar, and in its kind so entirely unequalled, that it becomes desirable to understand how he learned as well as how he taught, by making ourselves acquainted with his original character, his education, employments and fortunes. The investigation assumes a higher interest when we find that Roman history, which he reproduced, occupied scarcely more than its proportionate space in the vast system of his knowledge,—that even to literature in general he could only devote the intervals of an active official career, and that of all the great events of his time he was a careful observer, and in some an influential participator. From his childhood to his death he kept up a lively interest in the passing events of every European state ; and as his perfect knowledge of modern history supplied the clue by which he entered into the very thoughts and feelings of ancient times, Greece and Rome gave him in turn inexhaustible precedents and parallels by which he could measure and estimate the indistinct tendencies of the age ; for as long as no other records exist of the complete course of a form of civilization from its rise to its destruction, it is here alone that an unvarying standard of comparison can be found for the phænomena of our present midway position. Niebuhr's opinion upon all questions of government and policy is entitled to the highest respect, as that of a practical man who had interpreted history by experience, while on the other hand he learned politics from history. The drawbacks which are to be made from his authority we shall have an opportunity of pointing out below; but if they were of far greater importance, and the instruction to be derived from his theoretical opinions was far less valuable than it is, the facts of his life would well deserve to be studied for his own sake; as well on account of the active and enlightened interest which he cherished in every branch of art and science, as for the unceasing sympathy which he felt with every attempt to promote human happiness; above all, for the purity, the tenderness and the undeviating integrity of his personal character.
Several interesting anecdotes, reports of conversational re
marks, and pleasing illustrations of Niebuhr's amiable disposition may probably be familiar to our readers from Lieber's agreeable little work, or from other sources. Those who wish for a fuller knowledge of his history must consult the account of his life, of which the title is prefixed to the present article. Of the friends who have compiled it, we have only the name of M. Perthes of Hamburg, who is also the publisher. In the preface and conclusion he admits that the work is neither a regular biography, nor a complete collection of Niebuhr's letters. The object proposed is to illustrate his moral and intellectual character: public and private considerations render it proper for the present to suppress many things; and the editors, while they are desirous of making use of materials which may be hereafter inaccessible, modestly express doubts of their own fitness to take an impartial and comprehensive view of the friend whom they admire and regret. Would that a similar diffidence existed in England, where it seems now an established rule, that the biography of eminent men is most fitly written by the unbiassed pens of their sons and their widows.
The narrative, which is interspersed among the letters, occupies a comparatively small part of the three volumes ; but it is sufficient to explain and connect them. We could wish that the correspondents were more numerous, as every man shows to each friend to whom he writes a different side of his character. Probably the wittiest and gayest men would write seriously to their wives, and to graver and older friends; and in every case there will be some adaptation of the kind. Earnestness is however the main requisite in a letier, and, if Niebuhr could ever have laid it aside, he would have used it in his correspondence with his beloved friend and sister Dore Hensler, to whom the greater part of these letters are fortunately addressed. We regret to find that the statements of his political opinions are far less full and explicit than we could have wished. In many cases they are no doubt suppressed, in deference to the scrupulous timidity which to Englishmen so oddly characterizes the monarchies of the continent. If they are ever hereafter incorporated together with other materials now omitted in a complete Life of Niebuhr, we hope that extracts will be included of the letters which he received as well as of those which he wrote. Such illustrations of the feelings which a man impresses on his associates are indispensable to a perfect biography, though they are neglected by almost every writer, notwithstanding the paramount authority of Boswell. In the mean time we can recommend our readers to the present work as one of great interest and information. We propose to extract from it, as far as our limits will allow, a general outline of his life.
His father, Carsten Niebuhr, sprang from a long line of freehold farmers in the Frisian marsh-country of Hadeln, on the south of the Elbe. After overcoming by unusual energy the disadvantage of a neglected education, he had been selected as a member of the mission of discovery which the Danish Government, at the suggestion of Michaelis, determined to send into Arabia. After his return to Copenhagen, with a well-deserved reputation as the most laborious and authentic of Oriental travellers, he had formed an intention of exploring central Africa, which was defeated by his marriage in 1773, with the orphan daughter of Dr. Blumenberg, a Thuringian physician. He resided at Copenhagen, with the rank of captain of engineers, till the year 1778, when he exchanged the military for the civil service, and settled for life, with his wife and two children, as collector of the revenues at Meldorf, a decayed town in the south-west of Holstein.
Barthold George Niebuhr was born in his father's house at Copenhagen, on the 27th of August, 1776. His earliest recollections were associated with Meldorf, which had been a principal town in the ancient commonwealth of Dithmarsch. The character of those old republican husbandmen, illustrated by the simplicity and rustic equality of their descendants, as well as by the kindred habits of his own ancestors and countrymen on the other bank of the Elbe, made an indelible impression on Niebuhr's mind, by which his political views were effected through life. Externally it was a bleak and gloomy region, removed from great roads, and surrounded by marshes; and it was natural that he should attribute to its unattractive dreariness, the want of susceptibility to outward objects, which he had afterwards cause to
regret. A more probable reason, however, may be found in the delicate constitution which he inherited, together with a morbid and irritable disposition, from his mother. Her anxiety for his health confined him often to the house, and taught him almost in infancy to find his chief pleasure in sedentary occupations, and to please his fancy with images derived rather from books than from the outward world.
The elder Niebuhr was a self-taught man, and had learned several languages empirically, without mastering the principles of grammar. He succeeded, however, tolerably in teaching his son, from his fifth or sixth year, English and French, and even the rudiments of Latin. An attempt in Arabic broke down from a want of systematic knowledge in the teacher, and of inclination in the scholar, who some years afterwards gave his father great pleasure by proofs that he had remedied the earlier failure by his own exertions. History, and, above all, his favourite science, geography, afforded more scope for Carsten Niebuhr's peculiar powers. The great value of his instruction depended upon the clear and distinct conceptions which he possessed and communicated to his pupil of every object which occupied his thoughts. He helped the child to dig regular fortifications in the garden, and taught him to illustrate his historical studies with maps and plans. The vigour of reproductive imagination, which afterwards distinguished the historian, was undoubtedly fostered by this early habit of embodying the results of his studies in vivid and definite pictures.
Thus Barthold Niebuhr grew up in a strict and studious retirement, which was not unattended by disadvantages.
“ I lost,” he says many years afterwards, “ the life of a child, which ought in its observations and reflections to supply the material for those of a maturer age. An education ill suited to me, or rather a mixture of this and of no education, increased an inward discord of nature with which I was born. I found matter for my childish fancy only in books, engravings, or conversation. It drew into its sphere all that I read, and I read without measure and without aim; but the real world was closed to me, and I could not conceive or imagine anything which had not been first conceived or imagined by another. In this second-hand world I was at home, but truth, the genuine truth of objective reason, was shut from me.”
About his thirteenth year he attended for some months the school at Meldorf, till Jaeger, the head master, an excellent VOL, X.-No, xx.