The Life and Letters of The Right Hon. Friedrich Max Muller

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Life and Letters of The Right Hon. Friedrich Max Muller

Postby admin » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:18 am

The Life and Letters of The Right Honourable Friedrich Max Muller
In Two Volumes, With Portraits and Other Illustrations
Edited by His Wife




Blessed is he who has found his work: let him ask no other blessedness.

-- Carlyle



• CHAPTER I. 1823-1841. Parentage. Father's death. Dessau. Musical training. School. Poetical tendencies. Nicolai School, Leipzig. Dr. Carus. Music. Letters to his mother. Examination at Zerbst
• CHAPTER II. 1841-1844. University life at Leipzig. Studies. Sanskrit. Friends. University life at Berlin. Hensels. Lectures. Hagedorn. Humboldt, Bunsen 16-29
• CHAPTER III. 1845-1846. Paris. Lonely, struggling life. Gathy. Burnouf. Rig-veda. Rachel. Dvarkanath Tagore. Boehtlingk
• CHAPTER IV. 1846-1847. London. W. H. Russell. Bunsen. Visit to Germany. East India Company and the Rig-veda. British Association
• CHAPTER V. 1848. Visit to Paris. Revolution. Settles at Oxford. Friends there. Letters to Burnouf and Bunsen
• CHAPTER VI. 1849. Death of sister's children. Froude. Visit to Lakes. Prix Volney. Publication of first volume of Rig-veda. Carus. Visit to Germany
• CHAPTER VII. 1850-1851. Dinner at Potsdam. Morier's illness. Return to Oxford. Ranch. Waagen. Appointed to lecture at Oxford. Letters from Professors Cowell and Story-Maskelyne. Visit to Froude. Article in Edinburgh Review. Made Deputy Professor and Honorary M.A
• CHAPTER VIII. 1852-1853. Member of Bavarian Academy. Summer in Germany. The George Butlers. Arrival and baptism of Dr. Aufrecht. Essay on Turanian Languages for Bunsen. Visit to Scotland. First meeting with future wife. Missionary Alphabet
• CHAPTER IX. 1854-1855. Professor of Modern Languages. Second volume of Rig-veda. Death of Burnouf. Crimean War. Languages of the Seat of War. Bunsen's resignation. Nehemiah Goreh. Visit to Germany. Froude. Kingsley. Macaulay. Visit to Malvern. Indian Civil Service Examinations. Paris. Dresden. M.A. by decree. Renan
• CHAPTER X. 1856-1857. Comparative Mythology. Commemoration. His mother in England. Vol. III of Rig-veda. Curator of Bodleian. Christmas at Glasgow. Deutsche Liebe, Buddhist Pilgrims. Examination at Exeter. Visit to Froude. Germany. Manchester Exhibition
• CHAPTER XI. 1858-1859. Letters of Philindus. Canterbury. German Classics. Fellow of All Souls. Jenny Lind. Birmingham Festival. Correspondent of French Institute. Death of Manuel Johnson. Ancient Sanskrit Literature. Marriage. Germany. Life at Oxford. Mother's illness. Correspondent of Turin Academy
• CHAPTER XII. 1860-1861. Mother's illness. Death of Wilson. Move to High Street. Sanskrit election. Birth of first child. Wife's illness. Spring at Ray Lodge. Lectures on the 'Science of Language.' Visit from his mother. Death of Prince Consort
• CHAPTER XIII. 1862-1863. Birth of second child. Exhibition. Stay in London. Ewald. Ranke. Fourth volume of Rig-veda. Second course of lectures on 'Science of Language.' Paris. Germany. North Italy. Lectures at Edinburgh. First visit to Windsor
• CHAPTER XIV. 1864- 1865. Lectures at Osborne. Schleswig-Holstein war. Birth of third child. Member of Royal Irish Academy. Weymouth. Visit of his mother. Lecture at Leeds. Member of Turin Academy. Last visit to Ray Lodge. Sub-Librarianship of Bodleian
• CHAPTER XV. 1866-1867. Easter in Paris. Sanskrit Grammar. War between Prussia and Austria. Cornwall. 'My Brother.' Gold medal from Duke of Anhalt. Illness. Bournemouth. Letter on Brahma Somaj. Death of niece. 'Parks End' bought. Cure at Ems. Chips, Vols. I and II
• CHAPTER XVI. 1868-1869. Death of sister. Visit of mother. Letter to Duke of Argyll. LL.D. at Cambridge. Professorship of Comparative Philology. Visits to Frogmore, Fulham, and Gloucester. Isle of Wight. Tennyson. Illness of children. Member of French Institute. Translations from the Vedic Hymns, Vol. I. Soden. Kiel. Denmark
• CHAPTER XVII. 1870. Lectures on the 'Science of Religion.' Keshub Chunder Sen. Franco-German War. LL.D. at Edinburgh. Letters to Dean Stanley. To 'the English People.' Work for sick and wounded. North Wales. Letters to Dr. Abeken and Mr. Gladstone. Chips, Vol. III
• CHAPTER XVIII. 1871. King of Burma. Correspondence with Abeken and Gladstone. Taine's Lectures. Peace Festival. Letter from Crown Prince. Death of father-in-law. Ems. Interviews with Emperor and Crown Prince. Dr. Stainer. New edition of Lectures on Language
• CHAPTER XIX. 1872. Memorial to Bishop Patteson. Offer of Professorship at Strassburg. Rig-veda, Vol. V. Death of sister-in-law. Strassburg. Baden. Munich. Life of Stockmar. Switzerland. Dr. Stanley Select Preacher. Freiligrath's poem
• CHAPTER XX. 1873-1874. German University finances. Strassburg Professorship declined. Schliemann. Lectures on Darwin's Philosophy of Language. Emerson. Veddahs. Cromer. Lecture in Westminster Abbey. Order pour le Merite. Member of Hungarian Academy. Prince and Princess of Roumania. Oriental Congress. Last volume of Rig-veda. American attack on Max Muller
• CHAPTER XXI. 1875. Death of Charles Kingsley. Visit to Italy. Windsor. Last visit of mother. Chips, Vol. IV. The Mumbles. Manchester. Plans for return to Germany. Maximilian Order. Oxford Girls' High School
• Portrait of F. Max Muller, aged 40 . . . Frontispiece (From a Photograph by Hills & Saunders, Oxford)
• No. 7, NORHAM Gardens, Oxford . . . To face p. 335 (From a Photograph by Hills & Saunders, Oxford)
• F. Max Muller, aged 50 . ... p. 453 (From a Medallion by Bruce Joy)
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Re: The Life and Letters of The Right Hon. Friedrich Max Mul

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It may be thought that the publication of these volumes is superfluous after the two works Auld Lang Syne and the Autobiography, written by Max Muller himself. But it seemed that something more was wanted to show the innermost character of the real man; for Auld Lang Syne gave recollections of his friends only, 'a small portion of the panorama of life that passed before' his eyes; and the Autobiography is but a fragment, bringing us little beyond the threshold of his career. The plan pursued throughout these volumes has been to let Max Muller's letters and the testimony of friends to his mind and character speak for themselves, whilst the whole is connected by a slight thread of necessary narrative. The selection from the letters has been made with a view to bring the man rather than the scholar before the world. His innumerable works, covering a period of nearly sixty years, have made known the scholar; the object of this book is to show 'the elevation of soul and enlargement of mental outlook which was revealed more and more as his life's work opened up before him [Funeral Sermon. — Rev. H. J. Bidder.]' — that work which he carried on to within ten days of his death.

It is a matter of regret that much valuable correspondence has been destroyed. In America no letters have been preserved to Emerson or Oliver Wendell Holmes, and only one to Lowell. In England the letters to Carlyle, Sellar, Froude, Sir A. Grant, and other intimate friends have been burnt. In Germany all to Humboldt are gone, and all except a few trifling notes to the brothers Curtius, to Carriere, Mommsen, and others. In France none have been found to Stanislas Julien, to Regnier, or Bartholemy-St.-Hilaire. From Italy, too, no letters have been recovered. The corresponding letters from these distinguished men show how much of deep interest to the public has been lost.

I here desire to express my grateful thanks to many friends and relatives who have helped me in my task, especially to Mrs. Rowland Corbet and Miss Mabel Peach, who have translated and copied innumerable letters for me; to the many known and unknown in all quarters of the globe who responded to my petition for letters; and I am also greatly indebted to Messrs. Hills and Saunders for the use of the Photographs which illustrate the work.

If at times I have found the labour almost beyond my powers, it has been a labour of love, bringing strength and solace to many lonely hours. As Mr. Mozoomdar writes to me, 'The most heavenly relation here is the relation between the living and the dear dead. We cannot draw them down to us, but they continually draw us to them.'

Ightham Mote,
September, 1902.
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Re: The Life and Letters of The Right Hon. Friedrich Max Mul

Postby admin » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:29 am

CHAPTER I. 1823-1841. Parentage. Father's death. Dessau. Musical training. School. Poetical tendencies. Nicolai School, Leipzig. Dr. Carus. Music. Letters to his mother. Examination at Zerbst.

Friedrich Max Muller was born at Dessau, the capital of the Duchy of Anhalt Dessau, on December 6, 1823. His father was the popular lyric poet, Wilhelm Muller, Librarian to the Duke of Dessau, and master at the Gymnasium (chief school) in that place; a man of great cultivation, of most genial disposition, a general favourite, keenly alive to the enjoyments of life, in every way of noble and forcible character.

Max Muller's mother was Adelheid, elder daughter of President von Basedow, Prime Minister of the Duchy of Dessau. She was very small, but very beautiful, clever and lively, and had a fine contralto voice; and it was from her that Max Muller inherited his intense love of music. Frau Hofrathin Muller was a highly cultivated woman, understanding English, French, and Italian perfectly. She was a woman of an eager, even passionate temperament, and her children evidently suffered early from this, as Wilhelm Muller's letters are full of warnings to her not to punish too severely, and not to expect too much from her children (babies of four and five when their father died). Her father, President von Basedow, was himself the son of a man famous in Germany in his day, the pedagogue Basedow, the forerunner of Pestalozzi and Frobel.

Friedrich Max was named after his mother's elder brother, who later on succeeded his own father as President of the Duchy, and after Max in the Freischutz, an opera which had then just appeared; Carl Maria von Weber being an intimate friend of his parents and Max's godfather. Soon after he finally settled in England he used Max as part of his surname, Muller alone, as he always said, being as distinctive a name as Smith without any prefix in England. His only sister was nearly two years older than himself, and he never had any brother. Max Muller had but a vague memory of his first home, the Librarian's house in Dessau, with its pretty garden — a memory founded more on visits to the house in subsequent years than on any clear remembrance of his life there. His recollections of his father, too, were very dim, as he was not quite four at the time of his death. Such as they were they are recorded in the Autobiography.

'Wilhelm Muller's life in Dessau was a very happy one,' wrote his friend, the poet Gustav Schwab; 'he was valued by his Duke and Duchess . . . devotedly loved by his pupils, and a favourite with all who had once recognized his character and nature; he had a clever, attractive wife, and healthy, handsome children, to whom he was a most devoted father, and with whom he would play for hours like a merry child himself. Though only thirty-three when he died, he had achieved a considerable amount of work, and evidently possessed the power of working rapidly, a power inherited by his son. The end to this happy life came with frightful suddenness. Wilhelm Muller had been to Oranienbaum, a park near Dessau, to see the Duke, and returned late, in high spirits. In the night his young wife woke to find him dead by her side! The awful shock is supposed to have brought on the deafness from which she soon began to suffer, and which became total many years before her death. Adelheid Muller, who had only a small pension as the widow of a civil servant, went for a time with her two children to live in her father's house, the house she had left but a few years before as a brilliant, happy bride.

But Wilhelm Muller's widow had not been forgotten by his friend and patron, and shortly after his death she received the following letter from the Duke of Dessau: —


'Whilst I wish again to express my sincere sympathy in the great loss you have sustained, I am anxious in some degree to lessen the cares which the education of your children must bring, and I therefore grant you, as long as you remain a widow, the yearly sum of 100 thalers [£15] till your son has completed his twenty-first year, and then for your life the sum of fifty thalers, to begin from the first of this month. I beg to assure you of the continuance of my true esteem. Leopold.

'Nov. 30, 1827.'

Max Muller tells us in his Autobiography of the gloom cast over his whole childhood by his father's death. Happily he had inherited much of that father's joyous temperament, so that the almost daily visits to the grave 'where the young mother stood and sobbed and cried' whilst her two children looked on, had less effect on him than might be expected; and the constant intercourse with various friends and relations brightened what would otherwise have been a time of dark memory for his whole life. The few left who remember those early days agree in describing Max Muller as brimful of fun and mischief, and his mother's old servant Hanna, who lived to a great age and was never tired of asking for news of her former torment, used in those early days to call him Dieser infame Junge, 'this terrible boy.'

After some years, Hofrathin Muller left her father's home and settled herself and her two children on the ground floor of a very small house. This house, though altered and improved, is still standing, a type of the old style of Dessau houses, consisting of a ground floor and one story above, with a loft under the high-pitched brown roof. The house looks into the churchyard of the Johannis Kirche, the church mentioned in Deutsche Liebe, where the effect of the Easter hymn on the musical child is so vividly described: —


'On this Easter Day ... the old church, with its grey slate roof, and the high windows, and the tower with the golden cross, shone with marvellous brightness. Suddenly the light which streamed through the high windows began to wave and seem alive. But it was far too bright to look at; and as I shut my eyes, the light still came into my soul, and everything seemed to shine and be fragrant, and to sing and sound. I felt as if a new life began in me, as if I had become another being — and when I asked my mother what it was, she said it was an Easter hymn, which they were singing in the church. I have never been able to discover what was the pure holy song which then sank into my soul, ... I have never heard it again. But now when I hear an adagio of Beethoven, or a psalm of Marcello, or a chorus of Handel ... I feel as if the lofty church windows were again sparkling, as if the organ notes rang through my soul and a new world opened to me.'

It is needless to repeat all that Max Muller has told us in Auld Lang Syne and the Autobiography of the life at Dessau, and the appearance of the little Residenz-Stadt (capital) at that time, still walled in, and with gates shut every night, its night watchman, and the oil lamps swinging across the streets. The night watchman and the oil lamps existed till late in the century. And yet with these primitive arrangements and simple life the little town was a centre of intellectual interest and cultivation. Music, such as one hears now only in a great capital; a first-rate theatre, as far as the acting and opera were concerned; real intellectual society, which hardly exists in our hurried modern life — were all to be found at Dessau, and enjoyed at so modest a cost that they were within reach of all.

Those who remember Max Muller's pianoforte playing when he first came to England will not be surprised to hear that his musical training began very early, and before he went to any school. A young musician who lived next door taught him to play, as a surprise to his mother. They had made friends over the hedge that divided their gardens, and after the musician had discovered the little fellow's genuine love of music he lifted him daily over the hedge, and gave him his lesson. For months the child kept the secret, till at last one day he sat down before several friends and played his first piece. There are easy sonatas of Beethoven with his name on them and the date, showing that he was only six years old when he learnt them. At fourteen he played brilliantly, and took part in concerts at Dessau and Leipzig, and when at home for the holidays was often sent for by the Duchess of Dessau, who was herself a fine musician, to play duets with her on the piano. Whilst still quite a child he was invited to any good music that was given in Dessau. One note written by a Dr. Otta, about the year 1831, runs thus: —


'In the hopes of giving you pleasure, I take the liberty of inviting you to hear the quintette to be played to-night at my house. I trust your mother will kindly give you permission.'

The note is addressed to —

The distinguished Musician
Master Max Muller.

When Max was only six years old Mendelssohn visited Dessau, and taking the child into the large church set him on his lap at the organ and made him play the keys, whilst he himself managed the pedals, which the little boy could not reach.

Many of Wilhelm Muller's old friends took an interest in his lively attractive boy.

There is a charming letter dated Saturday, July 31, 1830, from M. Gathy, to whose friendship Max Muller owed a good deal in later years in Paris: —


'As I could not, my good Max, have you, as I wished, last Sunday for a long visit, I keep you to your promise and invite you and your dear little sister to have breakfast with me to-morrow at half-past eight, hoping that you will both receive permission to do so. If you paid me a visit in Hamburg, I could show you many beautiful things — toys of every sort, and particularly the most beautiful coloured tin soldiers, which would delight you. But I have left them all at home, and the hobby-horse and dolls and toys I have here would not amuse you. Toys are delightful — are they not, Max? — when one receives them from one's loved parents; but other things, that one must be busy with, for other reasons, when one is older, are not nearly so pretty, or so nice to play with. Besides my brave tin soldiers, I had three beautiful collections of pictures, and flowers and butterflies. But one cannot always keep, my good Max, what one has, and, alas! everything does not last as one would wish. Everything is perishable, everything changes, and that is a great pity. Now, I still have all the pictures. I carry them about with me, yet I cannot show them to you; but the flowers are all withered, and mostly turned to dust, and my lovely coloured butterflies turn at last into crickets, [A play on the word Grillen, which means crickets, and worries.] which do not look so pretty or so pleasant. So it is with my toys, my good Max. But it does not matter; I will be like my little soldiers, which were always my greatest delight. They stood up firmly, without knowing why, and let themselves be seized and pushed about on every side, and fought bravely and never complained. And when evening came they were gathered together and placed quietly in the dark cupboard, and there was peace. But don't be frightened, Max: come here and bring your fine sword with you; we will play and talk with each other, and from the window nod to your dear mother, as I always like to do, as she goes by to church, to pray the good God that you may always be a courteous, kind, good boy, and learn diligently and thrive to your own good, and her pleasure. Adieu, dear Max; you are expected then by your friend


It is doubtful whether, inborn poet as he was, Max Muller could at six and a half have understood the beauty and pathos of this letter from the little deformed Jew.

Max entered the Gymnasium or High School at Dessau at six years old, and remained there till he was past twelve. His school reports were not remarkable, and certainly at that time he gave little evidence of the power that was in him. 'Writing bad' was the almost invariable report, and in later years he often lamented the small pains taken by the writing-master to improve it. An old schoolfellow, still living at Dessau, writes that all the other boys considered him a clever boy. 'He was full of life and much loved by all his schoolfellows.'

To our ideas the life led by the little Max was one of considerable hardship. Thinly clad and poorly fed, not from want of care and love, but from sheer poverty, his breath in winter frozen into a sheet of ice on his bed from the absence of fire, suffering from constant headaches, which may have originated from want of full nourishment such as a growing child needs, and yet nothing seems to have clouded his naturally sunny, joyous temperament. He tells us: 'As a little boy, when I could not have the same toys which other boys possessed I could fully enjoy what they enjoyed, as if they had been my own. It was not the result of teaching, still less of reasoning — it was a sentiment given me, and which certainly did not leave me till much later in life.'

He remembered how constantly he was enjoined to take care of his clothes and make them last: and when he and his sister returned from school the boots that cost so much were put away and replaced by shoes made for them by the careful mother. It was this frugal training, this life of constant self-denial and careful thought for every trifle, that gave Max Muller in after life the feeling of thankfulness, and the power of rejoicing in every little luxury and pleasure which he could afford himself. To the very last the child's pure delight in little things' gave a constant zest to his life, and made it easy for others to give him pleasure. Through his whole life he took every good thing, every honour that he received, as a gift he had not deserved.
Some of his critics, who never knew him personally, speak of his vanity, because he dwelt with pleasure and gratitude on the honours and successes that came to him in later life. Any really vain man would have shrunk from showing his enjoyment of the good things that fell to him, for fear of being thought vain. One who knew him well mentions his entire freedom from vanity as a prominent point in his character. There is a mock humility more akin to vanity than the grateful rejoicing in all blessings (his own talents included) which was a characteristic of Max Muller's whole life. It is true that he greatly valued and even desired the love and approbation so largely accorded him, but this arose from his loving nature, which craved for sympathy, and not from vanity.

One more glimpse is given us of the early life in a letter from his von Basedow grandmother. His mother had gone in the early summer of 1835 with some friends to Heligoland; and she took her daughter with her, leaving Max at his grandfather's to go to his school. The Frau Prasident writes to her absent daughter: —


'6 a.m. My dear Adelheid, — The father is out riding, Max is having his music lesson, Julie is still asleep, and I am sitting in the garden, in the summer-house, where we breakfast every morning. I think that I cannot employ my time better than in writing to you, to give you an account of us all, for Max now belongs to us. We are all, down to the youngest, quite well, thank God. Max is very good and diligent, and has given no occasion for punishment. He bathes regularly, either with Fritz or our servant, but never alone. I am much too nervous to allow that. Just now he goes with Julie, who bathes every other day in the Mulde. We shall miss him very much when he leaves us, he has become quite one of us. You would be amused if you saw him smoking a pipe with his grandfather. He can also take a pinch of snuff, and he does not refuse a taste of liqueur. The father has a very quiet horse on which he can ride alone, so you will find him quite a grown-up man in all the finer arts. His trousers indeed have a very variegated appearance from cherries, bilberries, and ink, but a young man does not think much of that.'

We have spoken of Max Muller as an inborn poet, and in later life he told a friend he had all his life tried not to be a poet. From the early age of nine he began to write verses, all of which were carefully kept by his devoted mother. They are verses written for Christmas, or family birthdays, but one on the beautiful God's Acre at Dessau attempts a higher flight.

'It is a beautiful and restful place,' he says in the Autobiography, 'covered with old acacia trees.' It was probably this association that gave Max Muller a peculiar love for acacia trees, and it was a real grief to him when one that stood in the Parks close to his house in Norham Gardens withered and died. He tells us that the inscription over the gateway of the God's Acre was a puzzle to his young mind: 'Death is not death, 'tis but the ennobling of man's nature.' It may have been the echo of these words in his mind that made him in 1884, in writing to one of his Buddhist pupils, speak of 'looking forward to a better life — I mean a life in which we shall be better.' When at school at Leipzig he constantly wrote poems in the letters he sent his mother, and there were three occasions at his school at Leipzig where he had to recite publicly verses of his own writing. There is a whole book full of manuscript sonnets and poems written during his University career, some of which were published at the time in journals and papers, and brought in a little money, most acceptable to the poor student.
During the hard battle with life in Paris and London, the muse seems to have been silent. A few beautiful sonnets exist, written later under the pressure of great sorrow, but his life was too full of other work, to which he was pledged to devote his time, for him to indulge in poetry, and except two sonnets to the Emperor Frederick (1871 and 1888), and an ode on the death of the Duke of Albany, nothing exists written in later years but a few birthday couplets. Max Muller never published any of his poems, except in his University days.

After his grandfather's death Max was sent, at Easter, 1836, to the famous Nicolai School at Leipzig. He lived in the house of Dr. Carus, an old family friend, whose only son, Victor, was of the same age. 'Max was taken as a friend,' writes Professor Victor Carus, 'and was treated entirely as a son of the family. Aunt Muller, as his mother was called by all of us, never paid anything, as my parents were intimate friends of hers. We went together to the Nicolai School, we slept in the same room, worked together, and had, in fact, everything in common.' Max was placed in Quarta, which answers to Remove at Eton. The education was almost entirely classical, and before he left the school, five years later, he could speak Latin with perfect ease. He was able to hear a great deal of good music at Leipzig, Frau Carus herself being very musical, with a fine voice, and she and Dr. Carus delighted in collecting the best musicians at their house. Victor Carus was a good violinist, and when the two young friends, Victor and Max, were about fifteen years old, they astonished Dr. Carus on his birthday by playing the whole Kreutzer Sonata by heart.

There had long been an intimate friendship between the Mendelssohns and Max Muller's parents, therefore he naturally saw much of Felix Mendelssohn, who was conductor of the Gewandhaus Concerts at Leipzig from 1835 to 1843.
He thus describes his first musical evening to his mother: —


'I went on Friday to Mendelssohn's, and already on the staircase heard the lovely music. I went in bravely, [He was little over thirteen.] and was received in the most friendly manner. I found Felix, David, Dreischock, and Mendelssohn's sister Fanny. Hensel was very kind, so was she; both spoke of you, and Hensel of my father too, whom he admired immensely. Mendelssohn stood close to the piano, and I sat where I could watch Dreischock with great comfort. He is still the first of pianists, and quite a young man. He played here last winter and was taken for Thalberg. He played really marvellously, so that Mendelssohn wondered at his skill, though he (Felix) immediately afterwards played an imitation of his composition. I must say, I much prefer Mendelssohn, even if the other has more skill, particularly in octave playing, in which he is decidedly the first of artists. Then Hensel told me a delightful story. They had already last Wednesday sent here for me, but Sophie did not understand the maid, and sent her to Dr. Muller, who lives behind this in the Garden house. And so he went in the evening, beautifully got up, and nobody knew him, or what to say to him. That was funny.'

Later, he writes thus of Thalberg: —


'Now I have seen and heard Thalberg. It was yesterday evening. It is indescribable. I am still perfectly enchanted by it; there can be nothing else like it. He is quite young, handsome, and very distinguished looking, beautiful hands and such skill, execution, and power.' [/quote]

From the time he went to Leipzig, Max Muller began the correspondence with his passionately loved mother, which continued till the year of her death, 1883. Almost every letter has been kept, and the whole forms a complete journal of his doings when not with her. With his ardent affection for her, he felt the separation keenly, and writes on the first birthday on which he was not with her, as follows: —


Oct. 10, 1836.

'My dear good Mother, — To-day, for the first time, I have to be far away from you on your birthday, and you can fancy how sorry I am. I think it grieves you too, little mother, for I know your love for me. Oh, how I long to be with you, only for a moment, only to press you in my arms, only to tell you how I love you: but it can't be. Your birthday is always doubly dear to me, first because it is your birthday, and then because it was the first day that you roused yourself again from your sorrow, [W. Muller died Oct. 1; her birthday was Oct. 12.] to which just in these weeks of the year you gave way more than usually. You were right to grieve, and it would not have been proper to try to console and amuse you. You must have sorrowed this year more than usual, as the birthday of our good grandfather was this week. But I will not write more about this; it will but renew your sorrow. I will only say that God has replaced something of what you have lost, in giving you two beings who love you as no others do. You best know whom I mean.

'Your Max.'

These early letters to his mother show a maturity of thought and earnestness of purpose that are very unusual in so young a boy; and as life went on the relations of mother and son seem changed, and it is the son who takes the guiding and protecting tone towards the mother.

In March, 1839, Dr. Carus lost his wife, who had watched over Max with the same motherly care she gave to her own boy. His grief at the time, and his later letters, prove how sorely he missed her. In one letter he gives his mother an account of his day, which would probably have been laid out more wisely had the kind Tante (aunt) been still there to watch over him.


'You will be surprised to hear that I have arranged everything for certain fixed hours, but I am very glad to have settled it so that I am not interrupted. I get up at five, or even earlier, and work till seven, go to school, play the violoncello at eleven, the piano at twelve, then dinner, then school again, then coffee and gymnastic exercises, then work again till I can get fresh air in the garden, which is impossible in this heat, during the day. I seem quite changed to myself, and you know that such punctual arrangements were not at all in my line. I eat only a roll from five in the morning till one o'clock, and drink no coffee early, and I often feel rather faint. Then for the last week I have had constant headaches, but I am getting quite accustomed to them, and I lead a very happy life.'

In the last years of his school life he seems to have read a good deal for himself, and discusses the books he reads with his mother.


'I had already said to myself that you would not be pleased that I had read Wilhelm Meister, and in some respects you are quite right; not that it can exactly hurt me, but that it might occupy my thoughts too much. On the evil influence of reading or other temptations, I could not point out any better passage than the Latin verse in Faust which Mephistopheles repeats to the student, that God is holy and good just because He knows what evil is. This is very true if only further explained, i.e. because He knows evil, but never commits it. If we could imagine that God did not know what sin and temptation are, we could not call Him God, for we should have an imperfect God. . . . The more dangerous things I read, the stronger I become, if I am not mistaken, to wage war with them. And yet again what you say is true, for how foolhardy it would be to throw oneself into temptations without thoroughly knowing oneself, and how far one could stand firm. So a desire for dangerous reading is in itself a crime.'

And again —


'I have had a great deal of pleasure from Bettina von Arnim's letters and diary. It is full of beautiful feeling and well expressed, though towards the end it is weaker, for there it becomes laboured; at first it just bubbles up of its own accord.'

Though Max Muller tells us he had little chance of travelling during his school days, there is a journal of three days spent at Dresden and in a walking tour through Saxon Switzerland at Whitsuntide, 1839, when he was fifteen and a half years old. This visit gave him his first sight of really great works of art, for though there are some choice pieces of sculpture and a few good pictures at Dessau, the little capital naturally possesses nothing quite of the first rank. 'It was perfect enchantment,' he says, 'to step into the Raphael room, where the great Madonna standing on the globe shines down upon us, a picture that far exceeds all one's imagination, and stands there, the crown of all pictures.' The same feeling animated him in 1857, when he wrote in Deutsche Liebe; 'To stand before the Madonna di San Sisto in Dresden, and to allow all the thoughts to wake in us, which year after year the unfathomable look of the child has created in us.'

From reasons of economy he was not always able to spend his holidays at Dessau with his mother and sister, as we see from the following little note dated 'Silvester Evening,' that is December 31, probably 1839: —


'How often I wish that I were so far advanced that I could myself earn something to make your life easier — you who deprive yourself of everything and spare everything to make us happy. But I will try to be more and more diligent, and better, that, as far as I can, I may give you pleasure, which is the only possible return for all your love and care.'

Max Muller had to pass his abiturienten examination in the early spring of 1841 at Zerbst, in order to gain a Dessau scholarship for the University. This examination was more scientific than classical, but he passed easily, taking a first class, and gained his scholarship, such as it was — £6 — a mere trifle to English ideas, but an important help to him. Before the examination, Dr. Nobbe, the head master of the Nicolai School, wrote thus of him to his mother: —


'I rejoice that I can see him leave this school with testimonials of moral excellence not often found in one of his years, possessed of knowledge first rate in more than one subject, and with intellectual capacities excellent throughout. May this young mind develop more and more, and may the fruits of his labours be hereafter a comfort to his mother for the sorrows and cares of the past.'

For months before leaving school, though only seventeen, the thought of the future weighed heavily on him, and he seems, almost to the time of entering the University, to have felt uncertain as to the special line of life he should adopt. Poor and without influence, it was necessary that he should be in a position to keep himself as soon as he left the University. The following letter shows how carefully he weighed and considered the question: —

To His Mother.


'I recognized blindly that a free, unfettered life is the best, but did not reflect sufficiently on the results that might arise. . . .

'It would be indeed delightful, and my greatest wish, to be engaged actively as a philologist, and make a career at the University. But who can be certain that I shall distinguish myself? and where there is only mediocrity, this life as a philologist is miserable. Many struggle on their whole lives here as tutors (Privatdocent) and never arrive at being full Professors. Such a life costs a great deal, and how miserable I should feel, for there is something so uncertain in it, and one's success depends on how one pleases others by one's writings and lectures, and a risk of this kind in my circumstances seems too great. It is quite certain that I must have an assured support. On the grounds of prudence I consider philology alone as too uncertain a foundation, but that I wish to work in philology and philosophy is true. Remember the many works on these subjects by theologians and doctors. Think of distinguished philologists who have studied law. This influences me to look round for a certain position, that I may not attempt to erect an airy building, on a yet more airy foundation. Medicine is disagreeable to me; I am physically unfit for it. I like theology, but it is too unsettled and occupies too much time. There remains the law, which is certainly very dry and pedantic; but it may lead to more lively studies, and it also leaves time for other intellectual employments. One must begin everywhere in a small way. If other subjects of culture are added to the knowledge of law, that helps not a little — so one can lay the foundations of a satisfying life, for on good fortune or rather on God's will most things depend. If we do not forsake Him, He guides us at last to where we should be, however we may choose paths where we should like to walk. I have so far settled to choose my way, but if another road must be followed I shall not make myself unhappy. So do not be anxious about this.'

At Easter, 1841, Dr. Nobbe, in his farewell address to the boys who were leaving the Nicolai School, thus parted with Max Muller:—


'I must also mention F. Max Muller from Dessau, a highly talented youth, who has just passed the final examination in his own Duchy, and who, with far from common endowments, joins the University, where he will study philology.'

On November 26, 1900, at the gathering always held in memory of the old members of the Nicolai School who have passed away in the year, the Director thus ended his mention of Max Muller, 'He was without any doubt, next to Leibniz, one of the greatest of our pupils.' [/quote]

Before leaving the house of Dr. Carus, Max writes to his mother: —


'When I remember the time that I first sent you my birthday greetings from Leipzig, and now see that this period of life is nearly over, I must gratefully acknowledge how good God has been to us in various ways, and has given us many compensations. But above all, how grateful we should be that God has preserved you, our dear mother, to us, to sweeten for us all that is bitter, to reward all effort. How I rejoice over next year, in which a new existence opens for me, a higher aim in life floats before me, and I shall have you both [His mother and sister.] with me. I cannot tell you how I rejoice at the thought of this time, when I must take another step forwards, and shall again, at all events for a time, be with my own people.'

Max Muller's old friend, Victor Carus, thus sums up his recollections of these school days: —

'Our chief recreations were pretty regular walks on Sundays during the summer, and skating in winter. There was no fencing during our school life, it was not allowed. It began at the University; if I remember, Max went to the "Fechtboden," the official fencing-lessons of the University. On the whole there was not much free time left to us, and we were happy when my parents had some music in the evening, or when we might amuse ourselves with my father's pensionnaires. Max was a handsome boy, but not so strikingly so as in later years. He was rather thin, and gave the impression of a delicate boy, but he was strong, and not once seriously ill.'
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