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With these views of the knowledge of physical laws and of human nature, Herder regarded the influence of the Critical Philosophy as of the most pernicious character, tending to throw contempt on experience and observation, to substitute in their place the technical language and procedure of the schools, and to perplex the judgment even of the clearest minds. “That and the French Revolution,” he would frequently remark, "have put us back a hundred years.” At this distance of time and place from the scene of the controversies which then agitated Germany, we may be allowed to observe, that if the disciples of Kant were guilty of an error in elevating the Critical Philosophy to the rank of an absolute and exclusive system, the error of Herder was no less, in the bitterness with which he assailed it from a limited point of view, and the pertinacity with which he confounded its essential principles with their casual and temporary application. It must be admitted, however, in justice to Herder, that his attacks were principally directed against the extravagances of Kant's followers, rather than against the system as it was expounded by Kant himself.
In the relations of society, Herder displayed a serene and cheerful disposition, a lively sympathy with the joys and the sufferings of others, and a turn for humor and good-natured irony. This last trait never led him to pass the bounds of propriety, and it always grieved him when a sportive remark was misunderstood and construed as a matter of serious importance. He delighted to make one in those social circles where a free play of mind was enjoyed, and he was quite as ready to listen as to speak. His rich and manifold knowledge, his excellent judgment, the mild benevolence which shone in every feature of his face, his tender consideration for the feelings of others, and his entire forgetfulness of self, made him a most agreeable and instructive companion, so that men of genius and feeling were glad to cultivate an intimacy with him. În the intercourse of society, he permitted no one to be oppressed with a sense of his superiority, he never attempted to play the part of a great man. "Towards the arrogant and assuming, he would, indeed, sometimes show himself harsh and inflexible, but the gentleness of his nature soon returned. He discussed every interesting subject of conversation with a wide reach of thought, and with great vivacity, but always with a sacred regard for truth. “There is only one truth in every thing,” said he, "and that truth is holy.” With sophists, who attempted to pervert and undermine the truth, he had no patience, nor with the intellectual despots, who wished to force their own dogmatic decisions upon others, with an insolent disregard to the rights of personal opinion. His modest and sensitive nature could not meet such men on equal grounds, he did not understand the use of their weapons, and, in the last years of his life, as much as possible he avoided their society. He regarded them as a kind of social and moral assassins, and would not put himself in their power. In the common intercourse of life, he was unwilling to say any thing severe and unpleasant, even by the most distant allusion. In the discharge of his official duties, on the contrary, he would express his opinion, whatever it was, without concealment or disguise, scorning to flatter either friend, patron, or adversary. He abhorred every crooked path, every sly and cunning art. The practice, too well understood, of attempting to change falsehood to truth, and truth to falsehood, was the object of his indignation. This hypocrisy and timeserving was repugnant to his whole nature, and in his official relations he always opposed it with a manly courage. “If I accomplish nothing by it,” he would remark, “it must be said as a sign and a testimony for the truth.”
A few words with regard to the literary habits of one of the most eminent scholars in Germany will probably be acceptable to our readers. The industry of Herder was no less remarkable than his genius. He brought nothing before the public without careful and thorough preparation. When he undertook any literary labor, he digested the plan in his own mind, before he committed a word to paper. He usually chose for this purpose a solitary walk; and the serene expression of his countenance upon his return, indicated the success of his meditations. In the stillness of the morning he completed his plan, and then, for the first time, with a distinct perception of the whole subject, he wrote down his scheme in a tabular form. He composed rapidly and easily. His mind was impelled as by an unseen power; his ideas often deprived him of sleep. In the early part of his life, before his health was impaired, he commenced his labors at four or five in the morning. The forenoon was his favorite time for work, though he often protracted it until the hour of his afternoon's walk, and sometimes until late in the evening. He was never weary with intellectual exertion, and never more cheerful than when laboring on a subject which interested his mind. But he would not touch a subject which had no interest for his feelings or his heart. If the charm of labor was weakened, as it sometimes was, by external circumstances, he would pause and wait for a congenial season. The ideas which employed his mind in the composition of his works, were often introduced into his sermons. In preparing these, he also had regard to any peculiar events in his own life or in the times, which were capable of being touched upon in the pulpit; and his sermons of this description were the most powerful and eloquent which he ever preached.
In the intervals of labor, his favorite recreation was found in visiting and in conversing with literary men, and particularly in poetry and music. In the summer season he delighted in a walk. On such excursions, he always carried a volume of some ancient or modern classic in his pocket.
He was fond of reading his productions, as they were finished, to some literary friend, for the sake of his corrections and advice. The opinions of others, in matters of taste and execution, he was generally willing to follow; but when any principle was involved, nothing could shake him from his own. On being once solicited to temper the severity of some remarks which he felt it his duty to make, as liable to give offence in his circle of society, he replied, “ I write not for Weimar; I write for Germany, for the world."
The religious character of Herder may be best understood from the description which has been already given of his life. His religion was not a distinct and separate part of his nature, but intimately blended with every thought and feeling. It sent its vital current through every fibre of his being, and gave health and life and beauty to his whole character. His ideas of God, of the soul, and of Christianity, were of the most elevated and affecting nature. They breathed a holy influence over his heart, and made him, as has been justly said, the Fenelon of Protestantism.
The peculiar traits of his religious character grew out of his religious principles, and of these we propose to give an account in a future article on Herder's theological opinions and services. The translation of a passage from Jean Paul Richter (one of Herder's most intimate friends, and enthusiastic in his admiration of him, as in every thing else), which describes his impressions of his character, in his own peculiar and truly German style of writing, may interest some of our readers, and will form an appropriate conclusion to the present article.
“ This noble Spirit was misunderstood by opposite times and parties; perhaps, not altogether without his own fault; since he had the defect not to be a star of the first, or of any other specific magnitude, but was a cluster of stars, from which every one spelled out a favorite constellation for himself. Men with multifarious powers are always misunderstood; but seldom those who are limited to a single faculty.
I was wandering in a lovely garden, until I had an unclouded prospect of the soft, rosy sunset. The nightingales warbled
among the flowers; high above them the lark sung among the evening clouds; the Spring had passed through all the leafy groves, and left them hung with odorous blossoms, as her memorial; I thought of that Spirit, which (seldom as we may apply that abused name) I can call not otherwise than a great man.
What genial delight he took in trees and flowers, drawing new life from the bosom of the country! Born, as it were with the love-potion of warm affection towards the whole universe, like an eastern Bramin, with his lofty Spinozism of heart, the smallest animal and every flower were dear to him. The travelling-carriage, passing through the green windings of life, was his Sun-chariot; and only under the open heavens, as if amid the music of nature, his heart serenely expanded itself, like a flower. Was he no poet,
as he often said of himself, judging by the Homeric or Shakspearian standard, — yet was he something better, namely, a Poem: an Indian-Grecian Epic, composed by the Holiest Maker. How can I attempt to analyze it, since in that beautiful soul, as in a poem, every thing was graciously blended, the Good, the Beautiful, the True, inseparably united! Greece was to him supreme, and universally as his cosmopolitan taste gave praise and recognition, yet, in his declining years especially, like the fartravelled Ulysses on his return from many a flower land, he hung with the warmest love upon his Grecian home. Herder was formed after a Grecian model, copied from the life. Poetry was not to him merely an appendage in the horizon of life, as we often see in a stormy sky, within the circle of our vision, a rainbow-colored mass of clouds, but it hovered over the scenes of coarse and material life, lightly glancing like a rainbow from the gate of heaven. Hence his truly Grecian reverence for all degrees of life, his rightlyplacing epic manner, in all his works, which, as a philosophical heroic poem, produced all ages, forms, nations, and spirits, with the power and impartiality of a Creator, before the eye of centuries, on the broad stage of the world. Hence his Grecian hostility against every turning of the scale to either side. Many storm- and torture
poems could increase the agony which they inflicted on him, even to physical suffering, — therefore, in the Grecian spirit, he early drew around every emotion the lines of beauty, and often the softness of his Attic wit.
“Few minds have been so truly learned, on a large scale, as his. Most persons seek only what is rare and unknown in a science; he, on the other hand, received only the great streams, but of all branches of knowledge, into his heaven-reflecting sea, which impressed upon them its own motion from the west to the east. Many are twined round with their learning, as with the exhausting ivy ; he as with the rich clusters of the vine.
“ It was the nature of his mind to act, with organic force, in appropriating the widest opposites to itself; to surround the most bitter kernel with the sweetest shell. Thus he united the boldest freedom of speculation on Nature and God, with the most pious faith, even in forebodings and presentiments. Thus he displayed the Grecian humanity, to which he restored the name, in a tender reverence for all truly human relations, and in a Luther-like zeal against every poison, consecrated by religion or the state, that had been poured into them. How nobly, how irreconcilably did he burn with hostility to every creeping spirit, to all torpidity of soul, self-contradiction, unfairness, and poetical effeminacy, as well as to the coarseness of German criticism, and every sceptre in brutal hands! How did he imprecate the serpents of his age ! But would you hear the sweetest voice which was ever uttered from human mouth, listen to his tones of love, whether towards a child, or a poem, or music, or of tenderness towards the weak.
“ When he describes his friend Hamann as an inspired prophet, when we hear his sorrowful exclamation that his true world and island of friendship has sunk with him into the grave,
we then perceive, from this secret yearning, that he judged far more austerely of the age than we had supposed, from the tolerance and universality which he exhibited. Hence his works are pervaded with a hidden irony, sometimes Socratic, sometimes Horatian, which only his familiar friends understand. Generally speaking, he was little comprehended ; in particulars, and not in the whole, was he weighed and estimated; this can only be done by the diamond scales of posterity, from which are removed the flint-stones with which the rude scribblers, the still ruder Kantians, and the rough poetasters of his day, would sometimes stone and sometimes enlighten him.
“ His kind spirit gave much and suffered much. Two sayings of his remain, without significance perhaps to others, but to me always fruitful of the deepest thought. One, which he uttered on a Sunday, as he heard the sound of the church-bell, floating down as it were from past centuries, and reminding him, by contrast, of