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France to a lozenge or rhomboides; Belgium to a lion; Britain to an ax; Ireland to an egg ; Peloponesus to a plantane leaf; Spain to an ox hide spread on the ground; Italy (which indeed holdeth best proportion) to a man's leg; with divers the like phantasms of a capricious brain,—these countries no more resembling them than pictures made when painting was in her infancy, under which they were fain to write, “This is a lion, and this is a whale,' for fear the spectators might have taken one for a cock and the other for a cat."
But modern discipline is not content to recognize with the ancients the beauty and symmetry of the material creation, regarded as a unit, nor to enumerate in lists and catalogues the names of rivers and lakes, of mountains and plains, nor even in flora and fauna the varieties of the vegetable and animal kingdoms. The eye may be delighted with the exquisite perfection of the natural world; the memory may be stored with innumerable details; the love of the marvelons may revel in all “ the curiosities” of natural history; indeed many departments of science may be thoroughly cultivated, while the relations of the several parts to one another and to the whole are entirely neglected, and the plan of the Creator in adapting the earth to man remains unperceived.
It is these relations which Humboldt and Ritter, beyond all other naturalists, have discovered and made known. Even the famous French geographer, Malte-Brun, who displays in his writings vast learning, (notwithstanding he gives heed to the foolish story that a crow-bar will float upon the compressed waters at Bellows Falls, Connecticut river,) and a methodical arrangement which renders his works very popular,-even he with all his attainments as a geographer, considers that “the structure of the globe presents in all its parts the appearance of a vast ruin," and laments that “a good system of physical geography can only be the gradual work of many successive ages." He shrinks from efforts to generalize, and abhors “the mania of systematizing" then prevalent, because, as it
, appears to us, while he knows too much to be tolerant of a false philosophy, he thinks too little to develop a true. So he solemnly declares his purpose "to resist the seductions of systems and detail with clearness the limited number of facts which observation has collected and which have passed the ordeal of sound investigation.”
Thanks to the Germans, Geography is emancipated from such thraldom. No longer bound to the mere enumeration of facts, it is free to study thoughts, even the thoughts of the Omnipotent as evinced in his works. If we should raze a cathedral to the ground and arrange in a museum its elaborate carvings, the statues, the pinnacles, the capitals, the traceries, we could not fail to admire the beauty of each part; but it is only when these fragments, however perfect in themselves, are combined in the stately edifice that we can fully comprehend their beauty and their use, or admire sufficiently the purpose and the power of the architect who designed them.
How different from the mere appreciation of beauty in nature, or froin the mere accumulation of facts, is that study of the world, which shows us that the forms, the arrangements and the distribution of the terrestrial masses on the surface of the globe, accidental in appearance, yet reveal a plan which we are enabled to understand by the evolutions of history; that the continents are made for human societies, as the body is made for the soul ; that each of the northern or historical continents is peculiarly adapted by its nature to perform a special part which corresponds to the Wants of humanity in one of the great phases of its history; and that thus nature and history, the earth and man, stand in the closest relations to each other, and form only one grand harmony !"*
We have already intimated that it is not easy to say whether Humboldt or Ritter has done the inost for the new geography of which these are the principles, for they have labored by different methods and in different departments, Humboldt inclining decidedly to the study of material science, in geology, hydrography, orography, and terrestrial physics, and Ritter in as marked a manner evincing his love for the
* Guyot, Earth and Man,
study of mankind, in history, ethnography, and archæology, and regarding the world as a theater for human progress.
To define the relative value of their services is happily as needless as it would be difficult. They acted and reacted upon one another. Humboldt was the older in years, and his peculiarly fortunate circumstances led him to publish at an early period of life. He was consequently world-renowned, when Ritter remained almost unknown. He has suggested much in his various writings which his younger associate more completely developed. We find the latter near the commencement of his great work making a special acknowledgment to the former, personally and in the name of science, for the use of most important learned and official documents, manuscript memoirs, itineraries, maps, monographs, and rare literary works, which pour upon him, and upon him alone, from every direction.
Humboldt's celebrated journeys, first to tropical America and afterwards to Central Asia, furnished him with rich materials for publication. He was a reaper in fields from which nothing had been garnered. On returning from the former expedition he passed several years in Paris, preparing for the press the result of his researches, and in this labor the most eminent naturalists of the world were intimately associated. Bonpland, his companion in travel, Cuvier, Arago, Gay Lussac, Vauquelin, Klaproth, Kunth, all took part with eagerness in the preparation of those departments with which they were severally most acquainted. The work, or rather the series of works, was written in French under the general title, “ Voyage aux Régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent par A. de Humboldt et A. Bonpland.” To enumerate the successive parts, the atlases, and plates, and the various editions and translations of the whole or of portions, would be to furnish our readers with a longer and more intricate chapter of bibliographical knowledge than would be here appropriate. We shall not atteinpt it. Humboldt's second great journey, that to the central regions of Asia, was not only less prolific but less important than the former. Respecting this, he published a preliminary work in connection with his companions, Rose and
Ehrenberg, but it was only the forerunner of his more complete treatise on "Asie Centrale; recherches sur les chaînes de montagnes, et la climatologie comparée." Paris, 1843.
These costly works on the new world and the old will always remain as monuments of the native endowments, the industry, the learning and the wisdom of their author. But, fortunately, those who have not that profound knowledge of science which alone will enable them to enjoy these works, may yet become acquainted with their writer. Indeed, to the multitude, even to the circle of highly educated readers, Humboldt is better if not more admiringly known, by two comparatively popular works, than by the more imposing memorials of his intellectual greatness. The works to which we allude are almost his earliest and his latest books, the beginning and the ending of the series of his writings, the "Views of Nature," and the "Kosmos."
The former of these-Ansichten der Natur-was prepared by the author, in 1807, soon after his return from South America, when his enthusiasm was at its hight. Although two or three chapters were added in the subsequent revisions of the work, and the notes were very much expanded, yet the text remained almost unaltered, while the numerous allusions to it, and the quotations from it which may be found in the other writings of the author, are a still more decided indication of the estimate with which he was wont to regard this production. of his youth. Many a man on attaining years and fame has been eager to suppress his early publications, but Humboldt seems to have made for himself in this first, fresh, hearty expression of his love of nature a perpetual fountain of youth, to which in advancing years he delighted to return. The book has been as popular in Germany, France, and England, as it is fascinating. It is not one finished memoir, but a succession of delightful essays, suggested chiefly by the author's observations on the physical geography of this continent. It thus reminds us of the sketches by pencil and pen, which adorn the portfolio of a traveler, less elaborate perhaps, but more natural than the later productions of his quiet hours. As such, the work is peculiarly attractive to the
cornmon reader, who might possibly be repelled by a treatise of more logical method, and more minute details. In the “ Ideas for a Physiognomy of Plants,” for example, he may see the “Heart of the Andes ” almost as vividly as in that master-piece of American art, the landscape of Church.
On the other hand, Humboldt's Kosmos, as we have said, is the work of his declining years; if, indeed, that life can be said to decline, which closes like the course of the sun in summer with radiance more beautiful and impressive than the splendor of noon. It is true that the general plan of this work was projected at an early period of his life. Upon going to Berlin in 1827, while he declined a chair in the already famous university of which his distinguished brother, William von Humboldt, may be regarded as the founder,-he gave a public course of lectures on Physical Geography. These were the outline, or rather the germ, of that survey of the natural world, which, in the form of connected volumes, began to see the light in 1844, and which was not quite completed at the time of the author's death; for like his distinguished contemporaries, Macaulay and Prescott, he leaves an unfinished book, to stand as a broken shaft above his grave, an emblem of the mortality to which the most exalted of our race are subject. We say these lectures were an early attempt to bring out the ideas which lie at the basis of the Kosmos, but long before even they were given, the mind of the author had considered the scheme, so that when he began to publish he was able to speak of his work “as having been present to his mind in outline for half a century." What Humboldt wrote in half a century is not to be criticised in half a page. We shall accordingly state the object of his book in his own words, and shall leave it to be judged by the testimony of others.
But before proceeding to do so, such of our readers as delight to compare the bud with the flower, may be interested in seeing the outline of his lectures. They were sixty-one in number,—arranged in the foliowing order. Five lectures treated of the nature and limits of physical geography, and included a general sketch of nature; three were devoted to a history of the science of the world ; two to the inducement to