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Mercury and Pallas, crosses the earth's path more than sixty times in a century, and, in the immensity of time, it may meet with the earth, and, but for its extreme tenuity, might do incalculable damage ; still it is not easy to say, how far velocity might compensate for want of mass in increasing the momentum.
Biela's comet also frequently comes very near the earth's orbit. In the year 1832, M. Damoiseau created very serious apprehension in France, by predicting that the comet would pass within eighteen thousand four hundred and eighty-four miles of the earth's orbit, a little before midnight, on the 29th of October, that year; and as M. Olbers had computed that the radius of the comet's head, that is, the distance from the centre of the comet's head to its surface, would be twenty-one thousand one hundred and thirtysix miles, it was clear that its nebulosity would envelope a portion of the earth's orbit; and if any cause had retarded the arrival of the earth one month, it must have passed through the comet's head. M. Arago dispelled the fears of his countrymen in a very admirable treatise on the subject, in which he assured them that the earth never would be nearer to the comet on that occasion, than twentyfour million eight hundred thousand leagues. It had been ten times as near to the earth in 1805 without creating alarm.
If the nucleus of a comet having a diameter equal only to onefourth part of that of the earth, should come nearer to the sun than the earth is, its orbit being otherwise unknown, M. Arago has computed that the probability of the earth receiving a shock from it is only one in two hundred and eighty-one millions, and that the chance of our coming in contact with its nebulosity is not more than ten or twelve times greater. Thus, though it cannot be affirmed that the earth never will come into collision with a comet, there is no reasonable cause to dread such an event. The time has now come when all such fears are at an end, and the return of a comet which formerly spread dismay over the world, is regarded as one of the greatest triumphs of science: ,
• Lo! from the dread immensity of space
The enlighten'd feir,
Art. VIII.—Reminiscences of an Intercourse with George Ber
thold Niebuhr, the Historian of Rome. By Francis Lieber.
London. 12mo. 1835. . THIS is a pleasant book. We wish to love those whom wę I admire; and we are grateful to that Boswellism which, with friendly fidelity, but without awakening any suspicion of its veracity, shows us authors of great literary distinction under the character of high-minded and amiable men. Mr. Lieber, indeed, did not enjoy the advantage of Niebuhr's society for any considerable time; and was not perhaps qualified, particularly during the early period of his intimacy, to .sound the depths of his understanding, or to draw forth all the accumulated riches of his knowledge; but he has preserved many sagacious remarks and many well-matured opinions of the Roman historian, which, if they do not invariably command our assent, severely task our intellect in investigating their truth, and always deserve our respect for their freedom and candour. Mr, Niebuhr's friends will scarcely allow this hasty though agreeable glimpse of his social and domestic character to be the only record of his fame; but, as we have not heard whether any more full and complete memoir is in preparation, we cannot pass over the work before us without some notice.
As the generous conduct of Niebuhr to his present biographer is one of the most characteristic passages in the volume, we must first introduce the author of it to our readers. His singular and rambling life is in itself sufficiently amusing. Francis Lieber, whom we have already noticed in this Journal as the author of a respectable book on America, was one of those honest and enthu siastic German youths whose, imaginations were kindled with the brilliant visions of the regeneration of Greece. He was not like the more prudential of the Philhellene crew' in this country, (we too have some honourable exceptions, whose classical ardour was contented with modest speculations in Greek loans ; and whose patriotic zeal for the liberation of Athens and Sparta, some how or other, was singularly connected with the value of the said scrip. So the poet sang
•As we see in the glass that tells the weather,
The heat and the silver rise together.' Francis Lieber, in a different spirit, devoted all he possessed-his own person, and his small fortune, a strong arm and a zealous heart-to the cause. Let him speak for himself as to his reasons for abandoning that cause :
• After having suffered many hardships and bitter disappointments, and finding it impossible either to fight or to procure the means for a
bare subsistence, however small, I resolved, in 1832, to return, as so many other Philhellenes were obliged to do. The small sum which I had obtained by selling nearly every article I possessed was rapidly dwindling away : I should have died of hunger had I remained longer.' · Mr. Lieber soon found himself at Ancona, but poverty and passports equally precluded his ardent hope of visiting the Eternal City. A friend, to whom he wrote, a young German artist, obviated the tirst difficulty; his own dexterity the second. But it availed little to have made his way into Rome, without permission and without funds to enable him to reside there. In this embarrassment he threw himself at once on the generosity of Mr. Niebuhr, then Prussian Minister of the Papal Court, frankly explaining his situation, and the arts which he had practised, excusable as he hoped they would appear to so zealous an admirer of Roman antiquities, in order to reach Rome. Nothing could exceed the kindness of Mr. Niebuhr; his favours were conferred in such a manner as not to be refused by a man of the most sensitive delicacy.
The following trait is diverting. His first personal interview with the ambassador was concluded with an invitation to return to dinner. To Niebuhr's astonishment, the young Philhellene hesitated :
• When I saw that my motive for declining so flattering an invitation was not understood, I said, throwing a glance at my dress, “ Really, sir, I am not in a state to dine with an excellency.” He stamped with his foot, and said with some animation, “ Are diploma. tists always believed to be so cold hearted ? I am the same that I was in Berlin when I delivered my lectures: your remark was wrong." No argument could be urged against such reasons.'-p. 21.
The said dress was certainly not exactly court-attire: • My dress consisted as yet of nothing better than a pair of unblacked shoes, such as are not unfrequently worn in the Levant; a pair of socks of coarse Greek wool; the brownish pantaloons frequently worn by sea-captains in the Mediterranean; and a blue frock-coat, through which two balls had passed--a fate to which my blue cloth cap had likewise been exposed. The socks were exceedingly short, hardly covering my ankles, and so indeed were the pantaloons ; so that, when I was in a sitting position, they refused me the charity of meeting, with an obstinacy which reminded me of the irreconcilable temper of the two brothers in Schiller's “ Bride of Messina." There happened to dine with Mr. Niebuhr another lady besides Mrs. Niebuhr; and my embarrassment was not small when, towards the conclusion of the dinner, the children rose and played about on the ground, and I saw my poor extremities exposed to all the frank remarks of quick-sighted childhood.'-p. 24. Mr. Niebuhr supplied the young student with books his own
history history was the first work which Lieber was most anxious to borrow-and very soon invited him into his house to assist in the education of one of his sons. He was thus domiciliated with the historian during the remainder of his residence in Italy. He was indebted likewise to bis generous patron for much good advice, which we fear was rather thrown away; we extract the passage for the benefit of young men of the like ardent temperament:
• He had observed that my mind had not been cheerful for some time past, and he said, " I believe I understand your pensiveness. My dear friend, prav to God, I will keep thy commands, give me tranquillity in return.' A kind Providence will not refuse so simple a prayer. It is not the destiny of men of your cast of mind to go quietly on the path of faith from childhood to old age. You must struggle, but be not afraid. Many before you bave had to pass through the same struggle. Keep your mind active and your soul pure, and all will come right. Whatever aspect the world around you may have, keep steadily to the love of truth. You could not help becomiug old before your age ; but there are at present many, it seems to me, who wantonly lose their youth, and trouble their minds with cares and griefs of which they know nothing but the name. The vigour of manhood depends much upon a healthy and natural, not premature, state of mind in youth."'-p. 91, 92.
But Mr. Lieber has a propensity to agitation,' which is not indulged quite so easily, or to so much advantage, on the Continent, particularly in the Prussian dominions, as in our more favoured country, and he found himself, soon after his returu to his native land, again' lodged in a prison. The kindness of Niebuhr did not desert him: he visited the place of his incarceration, a village a few miles from Berlin; and it was chiefly through the privy-councillor's influence that Lieber was liberated. He then came to England, where he entertained thoughts of offering himself as candidate for a professorship in the London University. His restless spirit, however, did not await the decision; though we should have supposed that the powerful recommendation of Niebuhr to some of the most influential, and certainly most respectable, patrons of that institution, with the irresistible claim of having been twice imprisoned for his love of liberal opinions, must have ensured his success. However that may be, he passed over to America, with a view, we uncerstand, of instructing our trans-Atlantic brethren in the noble science of gymnastics. He has, however, settled down into the more congenial, and, we unfeignedly hope, more lucrative situation of professor of history and political economy in the college of South Carolina. There, no doubt, in the Uiopia of perfect freedom, if he has the prudence to exclude from bis historical lectures all allusions to the question of negro slavery, and to admit its advan
tages in those on political economy, he may end his days in peace and respect. That this may be the case, Francis Lieber has our hearty good wishes.
Niebuhr, however, now demands our attention. The Historian of Rome was not a mere author, a German professor confined within the walls of his lecture-room and the library of his University; he was a public man, employed in offices of trust and responsibility by the Prussian government. As an author, his career is remarkable for the concentration of his whole mind upon one great subject : most of his smaller works bear relation to contested or difficult points in some period of the Roman history; even the scheme which he superintended for some time, the new edition of the Byzantine Historians, has a kind of reflected interest, as a continuation of the annals of the Eternal City. Of his public life, the present volume contains only a brief and unsatis. factory outline. He was the son, as it is well known, of Carsten Niebuhr, the celebrated traveller in the East. He was born in Copenhagen, August 27, 1776 ; but he always considered South Ditmarsh, a small province in Germany, in which, during his second year, his father received an appointment, as his native country. Many allusions to the singular constitution of society in that district are introduced as illustrations in his history. He was chiefly indebted to his father for his early education. The traveller had adopted the wise maxim, so much neglected in modern systems of instruction, “That a man did not deserve to learn what he had not principally worked out for himself; and that a teacher should be only a helper to assist his pupil out of otherwise inexplicable difficulties.' But the strong bias of the father's mind could not but betray itself in the direction of young Niebuhr's studies. He was ambitious to make his son a great traveller like himself. Geography was the science cultivated with the greatest interest—the father fed the young imagination of his son with passages of Eastern history. instead of fairy tales ;' and works of this class were the first placed in his hands.
'I recollect, too, that on the Christmas-eve of my tenth year, by way of making the day one of peculiar solemnity and rejoicing to me, he went to a beautiful chest containing his manuscripts, which was regarded by us children, and indeed by the whole household, as a sort of ark of the covenant; took out the papers relating to Africa, and read to me from them.'-P. xx.
The fondness of the mother and a feeble constitution caused the abandonment of the father's scheme. But the gratitude of the elder Niebuhr to the English for their distinguished kindness' led to a second unaccomplished plan for sending his son to India; this attachment, however, to England produced a inore permanent