My Life and My Travels by Heinrich Brugsch, 1894, Berlin

Stuggle For Existence, Chapter IV


My happy return home to Berlin was of course a celebration for my house, in which I set foot with thanks to God. Laden with the richest treasures from my labors in the historic Nile Valley, I looked into the immediate future full of cheerfulness, even though first of all it still remained hidden from me in what way I had to smooth the path of life before me. Received by my magnanimous King in the most gracious way, overwhelmed by Alexander von Humboldt with the most encouraging praises, greeted by my sincere friends in the most affectionate manner, I let the first period of excitement and relaxation slip away reflectively, before I sat down at the work table, arranged my transcripts and drawings, and approached my scientific investigations with the old love and pleasure. Truly I had no lack of material, it was only a matter of making use of it in the most profitable way, and of losing no precious moment.

Those very ones who occupy themselves with the deciphering of unknown scripts and languages of Antiquity will best be able to judge in what an extended manner their time will be taken up. Days, weeks and months, yes, even years occasionally go by, before one succeeds in coming on the right track for the grammatical forms of a single obscure character or word, and establishing its sound and its meaning. Excursions into the realm of the unknown strain and weary the nerves, even though each new victory bears in itself the highest reward: one's own satisfaction in the hard work. The accumulated leaves grow into a tree, which the researcher cultivates with sheer, inexplicable love, in order to let future generations pluck the fruits. Even if several among them may have been gnawed by the worm of error, the good fruits offer rich compensation for the spoiled ones.

My demotic studies, for which I had collected in Egypt a rich treasure for future works, taught me that the popular language and popular script of the ancient Egyptians represented only the youngest forms of the older hieroglyphic. In order to understand the daughter, the ancestress had to become known in her innermost nature. But still at the beginning of the fifties, the old lady was in pretty good condition, for her mouth had just barely been opened, and her speech allowed only broken traces of her thoughts to be recognized. One surmised more than one knew, and a world of doubts stood in the way of weak knowledge.

In Egypt I had already reached the resolution to master the secrets of the hieroglyphic written language and to compile its rich vocabulary in the form of an alphabetically arranged lexicon. It was a daring attempt on my part, to want to solve this problem, but the previous labors accomplished up to then gave me the firm foundation on which I planned to erect the structure. Equipped, as few others were, with word-material accumulated in Egypt, to which an enormous number of geographical names provided an addition likewise still to be worked on, I went rashly to work, in order to master a task for which the entire strength and the longest conceivable life of an individual hardly seemed to suffice. But I had learned to realize that without the full understanding of the ancient Egyptian inscriptions and texts, the various fields of my knowledge, above all, Egyptian history, floated in the air, and that empty names of kings and chronological tables could raise no claim to replace the substance of the traditions on stone and papyrus. In a word, I was eager to read, not only to guess, what the hieroglyphics concealed within themselves, and the desire to come nearer to my goal did not let me rest, day and night.

The beginnings of my preparatory work fell already in the first months after my return home from the Nile Valley. In my enthusiasm I overlooked the anxiety that sat behind me on my chair. I did not stand alone in the world, for my family of five required the necessaries of life and nourishment of the body. My modest position as private docent at the University of our Residence city provided me the pleasure, to be sure, of gaining a number of listeners relatively large for that time, among them foreigners who today bear a name in science, but the honorarium paid formed only single drops in the bucket of my expenditures. I must gratefully acknowledge that occasional remunerations from the office of the Ministry of Education helped to plug many a gap, but in the main I was thrown upon my own activity, in order to earn the necessary means for the maintenance of the family.

Since my scientific productions, which appeared successively in print were not the kind to attract a larger circle of readers to buy them, the income gained from them was understandably of the most modest nature. In order to make up the deficiency, I began, despite my time-consuming, serious studies for the enlightenment of the Egyptian darkness, to develop a rather extensive literary activity in book form, as well as in periodicals and newspapers. My favorite organ was the Spener newspaper of that time, Uncle Spener, as the Berliners called it, for which even A. Von Humboldt set his pen in motion. Besides, I gave private instructions, and at the persuasion of my former Director August, I became a teacher in the senior class of Kolln. Frankly, this new activity brought me the greatest pleasure, and laid the ground for my later qualification to discharge my office as Director of a newly founded academy in the Levant. In the winter months I appeared not infrequently as speaker at the lecture-evenings in the Music Academy and won, perhaps undeservedly, the praise of my indulgent listeners. Culture-conscious Berlin used to gather on Saturdays in the long lecture building in the little chestnut grove, and even their Majesties and the princely members of our royal house did not disdain to demonstrate their interest through their personal appearance and to give their fullest attention to the scientific subjects treated by learned speakers. The lecture evenings, which enjoyed an extraordinarily large attendance under the direction of Professor von Raumer, only came to an end in the course of time, when the musical arts had established their exclusive residence in the Music Academy, and in place of the lonely speaker's podium, a well-filled orchestra appeared.

My regular activity suffered many interruptions through the frequent, even though pleasant visits of friends and patrons, to which foreign countries above all Paris, provided a significant contribution. A special satisfaction was granted me by the sudden arrival of my host August Mariette, who had made use of a journey to France in order to undertake a three week detour to Berlin and unburden his full heart to me. After the termination of his excavations carried out in Egypt, which had brought him much honor and fame, but little money and hopes for the future, he found himself in the end facing nothing, so that he shared with me a similar fate, and we two had understandable cause to dwell on our mutual miseries. Fortunately his good humor saved him from desperate steps, and he began to take new plans into consideration, to make possible his return to Egypt and his entry into the Egyptian state service. He considered himself proscribed in his own country, after his work concerning the cult of the Apis bull had been placed on the Index by the Church, and had earned for him many silent opponents in his French homeland.

The arrival of Mariette in Berlin offered the King the desired opportunity to gain from the discoverer of the Serapeum a more precise insight into the subterranean structures laid bare with their extremely rich antiquarian contents. To myself, through his benevolence, there had come fifty bright gold Friedrich thaler, to lighten for me the costs of the hospitality offered, with the express order to let nothing of this be divulged to Mariette. The two of us were invited to dinner in Charlottenburg on a February evening and Mariette had the honor to offer to the King, on the basis of his laid-out drawings and plans, the most penetrating explanations concerning his excavations and discoveries. With the liveliest interest the King followed the report of the French researcher of Antiquity, whom he distinguished, upon departure, by the conferring of the Red Eagle, 3rd class, in order to lend a lasting expression to his royal thanks. Also my humble self did not come away from this occasion empty-handed. On the point of descending the staircase of the palace in the company of my friend, in order to make our homeward way, the then Privy Councillor Illaire pressed a little packet into my hand with the words; "This, on the order of His Majesty, for you, so you will not cry." It contained the Order of the Red Eagle, 4th class.

Mariette was charmed by the scholarly knowledge and the amiability of His Highness, and he could not find words enough to express his admiration for me and to assure me that he almost envied me as to my fate, that once and for all was secure in the immediate future. How different had been his reception in France, where even a Napoleon did not possess the power to protect him against his opponents and to procure an honorable and secure position. More than ever, he had therefore resolved to forsake his Fatherland in order to seek a second homeland in Egypt, and to find a noble-hearted protector in the person of Sajid Pasha, who had acceded to the rule after the assassination of Abbas I, Pasha.

The next years passed by like months among my scientific works and investigations, but to me it was as if my dreamed-of future was a house of cards which threatened to fall down before the gentlest gust of wind. The intention of my so gracious King, to appoint me as co-director of the completely installed Egyptian Museum, was frustrated through an unlucky error. Through a still unexplained, for me fateful mistake of the then Cabinet Councillor Niebuhr, the name of Lepsius had been entered in place of mine, into the Cabinet orders drawn up, and the King had signed it with a number of other documents, in the full belief that it had to do with my person. On the next day the appointment was to be read in all the newspapers. A. von Humboldt was beside himself with agitation, but the damage was no longer to be rectified, and I had to thank fate that at least there remained assured for me the role of directorial assistant at the Egyptian Museum, with a salary which at that time was sufficient to keep my head above water.

Toward the end of the year 1857 there came an invitation to me from Mariette in Egypt with the happy information that his position was once and for all confirmed, Sajid Pasha having appointed him General Director of a museum in Bulak, a suburb of Cairo, and given him the full authority over the most widely extended excavations, and he expected my most speedy arrival, in order to undertake in his company a journey to Upper Egypt on the Museum's Nile steamer. Because of my friendship he was awaiting an assent by return mail, and he asked me to pack my bag immediately and make my way to his official apartment on the bank of the Nile.

A. von Humboldt considered the invitation so important for my scientific development, and with regard to new excavations already begun, that he urged me to take my departure immediately, with the promise that he would deliver to the ruling Viceroy of Egypt one of the most forceful letters of recommendation for me, "which will do wonders," as my aged patron smilingly added. The King had me summoned to Sanssouci, in order to permit me to take leave personally. Despite his ailing condition, the King had the strength to carry on the liveliest conversation for almost half an hour, to listen to the more detailed report on my travel plans, to allude to historical questions concerning the Rameses period, and to recommend to me the close study of certain monuments. Deeply touched, I received the parting wishes of the benevolent King, without at that time suspecting that I was granted the happiness of being able to look into his mild and friendly features for the last time.

On my way from Sanssouci to the railroad station in Potsdam, to begin my return to Berlin, I was taken by a surprise as sudden as it was unexpected. An Adjutant of the King, it was a Captain von Rauch, galloped after me and handed me "on the order of His Majesty," a sealed box, in which I found the Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd class, with band. Even though I imagined that, as a young man of thirty, I had no sufficient right to so unusual a distinction, which is customarily conferred upon persons at a more advanced age, outstanding through position and merit, nevertheless, this renewed proof of the most gracious benevolence of the King touched me deeply, for it told me, more than words, with what interest the King followed my humble activities, and how he intended, even before the outset of my second journey to Egypt, to present me with a public proof of his interest. A von Humboldt assured me repeatedly how much he had been surprised by the King's magnanimous intention, of which he himself had not possessed the slightest idea.


In the middle of the month of October I found myself already in Cairo. Since my first presence in Egypt the residence of the modern Pharaohs had been connected with Alexandria, the port city, by a railway, even though near Kafr-Zeijad a bridge was lacking across the Rosetta arm of the Nile, and the connection between the two banks of the sacred stream was made by a steam-ferry. In the railway station of Cairo I had the joy of embracing my dear friend Mariette, and of greeting the Prussian Consular administrator Bauerhhorst as well as the French Consul Batissler. Mariette was thoroughly delighted, pressed my arm so that I could have cried aloud, repeatedly called me his "Prussian de mon noeur," and on the way to his living-quarters in Bulak told me that chief events which the favorable turn of his fate had brought about. Prince Plonplon, the well-known cousin of the Emperor Napoleon, had expressed the wish to undertake a journey to Egypt, and in the upper region to inspect the wonders of the monuments. There followed on the heels of his scarcely uttered wish an invitation from the Viceroy Sajid, who, through his education and his inclinations and from political considerations besides, was half French, and in his own country and among his subjects took no pains at all to conceal his preference for the "grande nation" and its all-powerful "Empereur." The highest conceivable honors were to be rendered to the aforesaid Prince during his stay in Egypt and his antiquarian desires satisfied in every respect. A request was dispatched to Mariette to hasten to Egypt as speedily as possible, in order to lay bare new, unknown monuments through excavations, to free the buried ones, as far as time allowed, from the rubbish surrounding them, and to place at the disposal of the expected Prince a choice of precious antiquities as souvenirs of his Egyptian visit. Mariette fulfilled the task assigned him by summoning all his powers, but Prince Plonplon suddenly gave up his travel-plan, and there remained nothing for the Viceroy but to reconcile himself to the unavoidable and to have forwarded to to Paris, as a sign of his veneration for His Imperial Highness, the largest part of the monuments collected for him. They remained for a long time in the Prince's palace, before he turned them over to the Louvre Museum as permanent property.

Mariette was really a born diplomat, and above all, he understood admirably how to combat the aversion of the Egyptian Viceroys toward the heathen antiquities of their land, and to break their holy dread of the old junk. Although it cost him incredible trouble and time, to attain his appointed goal, he nevertheless succeeded in gradually convincing the Viceroy Sajid that the founding of an Ancient Egyptian Museum in Cairo would only serve to increase his viceregal fame and would attract an uncounted multitude of visitors to the Residence. He finally put it through; his proposal was approved and the necessary place turned over to him in order to obtain the requisite space for the intended museum building.

In the Miceregal Ministries, in which at that time Turkish officialdom occupied the most influential positions, they looked askance at the Mariette plan and of course raised the greatest possible difficulties for carrying it out. With great reluctance, they finally consented to assign to the just-appointed "General Director of the Museums and the entire excavations" a piece of land situated on the Nile and in the suburb of Bulak, which heretofore had served as embarkation-and landing-place for the passengers on the mail-streamers between Cairo and Alexandria. On the south side there was a dilapidated building which housed the offices for the Postal Service, on the north side stood an old, tumble-down coal shed, from which the steamers received the necessary supply for heating the boilers. The free place situated in the middle, between the two structures, looked neglected in the highest degree, and needed first of all a thorough cleaning and levelling.

In the short time of a few months Mariette had accomplished the unbelievable. The coal shed had been transformed into a museum with an ancient Egyptian entrance facade, and the rooms in the interior shone in the glow of gaily-colored old Egyptian ornaments, which the skilled hand of the Italian painter and antique dealer Vassalli had executed with stylistic fidelity. The latest finds from the Serapeum, the antiquities acquired by purchase from the Austrian Consul General von Huber, and a large part of the monuments dug up for the Prince Plonplon filled the existing spaces of the Museum, whose contents were augmented from year to year by the most precious remains of Antiquity. The post-office Mariette had transformed into his official apartment, and in the empty place in front he had laid out a pretty garden. For all these creations the funds had been granted only in small portions, but Mariette's patience and perseverance had overcome these difficulties also, and he showed me his miracle with justified pride, at my first entrance into the realm of the rescued antiquities.

My first visit which I had the honor to pay the ruling Viceroy, in his castle situated on the Nile, will remain unforgettable to me. The extremely corpulent Prince, with his strong face framed by a reddish-blond beard, and his blinking eyes, was cheerfulness itself, which now and then broke into a burst of laughter and was answered in the richest measure by his entourage, of which the majority were Frenchmen. The conversation was conducted in the French language, which Sajid Pasha used with incredible fluency. The subjects touched upon everything possible. From isolated sentences I was able to draw the conclusion that Monseigneur, for reasons unknown to me, at that time bore a certain grudge against the English. He did not speak at all well of them.

His questions about my royal Master I answered in a suitable manner, and it seemed to gratify him in the highest degree that His Majesty manifested so unusual an interest in ancient Egypt. He spoke to me of the great work on monuments that would be published at the King's instigation, and assured me that he, too, had resolved to render his humble services through the founding of a Museum of Science. He spoke of A. von Humboldt as of a hero, and it seemed to him incomprehensible how a single man, even throughout a long life, could have displayed such extraordinary activity. Humboldt, he said, united in his person an entire Academy, and was the pride of the Prussian people, because of whom the other nations, with fullest justification, envied them.

The favorable moment had come to present to the Viceroy the letter of the great scholar addressed to him and written in the French language. Since I possess a copy of it, I am in the position of being able to offer it to my readers verbatim:

"Monseigneur, La haute protection que Votre Altesse daigne accorder gracieusement a la culture des sciences et des arts, la noble munificence avec laquelle Elle a encourage, depuis les premiers jours heureux de Son regne les progres de la civilisation sur les bords du Nil, m'inspirent le courage de Lui adresser une humble priere. Affectueusement lie avec le jeune, mais deja tres renomme savant qui ambitionne l'honneur insigne d'entre admis a la presence de Son Altesse le Vice-Roi, j'implore la faveur d'un genereux et puissant appui pour les travaux d'antiquite dont il est charge. Le docteur Brugsch, un des conservateurs au Musee d'archeologie egyptienne du Roi a Berlin, chevalier de l'ordre Royal de l'Aigle-rouge, s'est rendu dans les ouvrages qu'il a publies comme fruit de son premier voyage en Egypte, l'interprete des merveilles qui attirent l'admiration de l'Europe et dont Votre Altesse daigne faciliter la libre investigation. Je me sens d'autant plus le courage de solliciter votre geneeuse protection que le jeune voyageur, aussi distinque par sa vaste enudition que par ses qualites morales, jouit tres personnellement de la bienveillance de Sa Majeste le Roi de Prusse. Ce Souverain a la cour duquel j'ai l'honneur d'appartenir, a recu le docteur Brugsch au Chateau de Sanssouci, pres de Potsdam, peu de jours avant son depart pour Alexandrie et l'a fait monter en grade dans ses ordres Royaux. Son nom est tres avantageusement connu a l'etranger.
Je suis avec le plus profond respect, Monseigneur, de votre Altesse le tres humble, tres obeissant et tres soumis serviteur, Alexandre do Humboldt.*

(Translation of Humboldt's French Letter)

* "Monseigneur, The high protection which your Highness deigns graciously to accord to the cultivation of the sciences and the arts, the noble munificence with which, since the first happy days of your reign, you have encouraged the progress of civilization on the banks of the Nile, inspire me with the courage to address to you a humble request. Bound affectionately with the young, but already very renowned savant who aspires to the signal honor of being admitted to the presence of Your Highness the Viceroy, I beg the favor of generous and powerful support for the works of antiquity with which he is charged. Doctor Brugsch, one of the conservators at the Royal Museum of Egyptian Archeology in Berlin, Chevalier of the Royal Order of the Red Eagle, has, in the works which he has published as the fruit of his first journey in Egypt, rendered himself the interpreter of the marvels which attract the admiration of Europe, and of which Your Highness deigns to facilitate free investigation. I feel all the more the courage to solicit your generous protection which the young traveller, as distinguished by his vast erudition as by his moral qualities, enjoys personally from the benevolence of His Majesty the King of Prussia. This Sovereign, to whose court I have the honor to belong, received Doctor Brugsch at the Castle of Sanssouci, near Potsdam, a few days before his departure for Alexandria and had him raised in rank in his Royal Orders. His name is very favorably known abroad.
I am, with the most profound respect, Monseigneur, the very humble, very obedient, and very submissive servant of Your Highness.
Alexandre de Humboldt."

So strong a recommendation could not fail to exert its effect, and in fact the result surpassed my highest expectations. A few days had passed since my first reception, when there was paid to me, on Viceregal order, for the facilitation of my investigations on my journey to Upper Egypt, the truly no small sum of 20,000 francs in shining gold. I felt like a Croesus, reveled in the anticipation of my works, and found myself two weeks later on the well-equipped viceregal steamer which was to carry Mariette and my humble self into the monument-rich highlands. My French friend had been provided with the necessary papers, in order to encounter no hindrances anywhere on the part of the authorities. Of foremost importance were the orders to the at the time Turkish Mudirs, or Governors of the provinces, to furnish people for the excavations and to supply the required coal from the government store-house for the fuel steamer. A brave Turkish kawass, who later came to the Museum as under-inspector, served as police, some marines of the Egyptian fleet formed our escort, and a Corsican, who had left his homeland for obscure reasons - Mariette asserted he must have poisoned his own father - performed altogether excellent services as engineer. Master Floris, which was his name, belonged later to the best-known persons in Egypt, who as an unintentional comic delighted everyone, and for us travellers became a source of daily cheer. He revealed the qualities of a factotum, for even though he claimed in all seriousness to be a poet by the grace of God, according to his talent and his inclination, and only to have missed his calling, he performed in technical respects everything required of him. If one were to have given him the order to transport the obelisk of Luxor to Cairo, he would certainly, and without hesitating, have carried out this difficult task with success. He was sculptor, painter, carpenter, cabinetmaker, turner, glazier, clock-maker, tailor, cobbler, etc., in one person, and his skilled hands accomplished quite extraordinary things in all fields of the most varied activity. Proud to be a compatriot of the great Napoleon, he had the ambition to astonish the world some day by a magnificent invention, with which he had been occupied for many years. It had to do with the production of a "perpetuum mobile," which was to take the place of steam-power. Later he actually brought a wooden monster with a queer wheel-construction to the point that it was to be set in motion by field-stones weighing 25 kg. But when at the first trial, the movement accelerated so unexpectedly that two field-stones were hurled against his breast and head and wounded him almost mortally, he gave up his wonderful invention after his recovery, and compensated for it by founding a Corsican-Masonic lodge in the Caliph city of Cairo. He died a few years ago at the age of almost eighty, although the small, active figure looked sixty at the most. Master Floris was an original, as the book says, but nevertheless such a useful member of the personnel at the newly-established Museum, that still today I do not hesitate to affirm that he seemed utterly indispensable. Mariette furnished the head, Floris the hand, in the founding of the world-famous collection. He himself knew that very well, and let it be clearly noticed by his General Director, whom he occasionally addressed with a highly familiar "mon cher ami," but fundamentally hated with all his heart. He could not get over it, that on our journey together his chief, because of his obstinate refusal to perform a required service, had placed him under lock and key for a whole week, as a "dangerous maniac," in an empty Upper Egyptian barracks.

Our journey in Upper Egypt was the most favorable and successful imaginable in the world, and I had the joy to see, in the monuments cleared of their thousand-year-old rubbish, chiefly in Abydos and Thebes, new sources, hitherto unknown to me, opened for the expansion of my hieroglyphic lexicon and for the knowledge of historical, geographical, astronomical and mythological traditions. The diary written in the French language by Mariette and my humble self, which I have kept as a precious souvenir until the present day, leaves little to be desired in preciseness and richness of content, and if anything gives it a particular charm, it is the joyful tone with which two happy men, enthusiastic for their studies, had written in it the description of their common experiences, observations and investigations. Such a period does not return a second time, and therefore, retains its lasting value through all later life. Provided with ample means, furnished with the most emphatic orders to the local authorities, and masters of our time, it was the enviable privilege of both of us to live together in our friendship and our studies. Each learned from the other, and we filled the gaps in our knowledge through the exchange of our thoughts on the field of the Egyptian language and archaeology. The island of Philae, in the extreme south of the Egyptian border, was the goal of our journey, which had taken us almost four months.


In the upper country I found the condition of the population little changed since my first journey in the Nile Valley. A good inundation, and a good year without poor harvest and without cattle-plague was all the fellahs required, in order to pay their taxes and be able besides to furnish the indispensable baksheesh at the appropriate place. It looked differently in Cairo, where the presence of the Viceroy and the court sets the tone, which the officialdom duty-bound follows, while the people do not let it keep them from bringing praise and blame on gossiping tongues in coffee-houses and social gatherings in the bazaars or in their own homes, according to the custom of the country.

It was considered right that the Viceroy had broken with the English, but it was not forgiven him that he had delivered himself to the French, and then and there was ready to found an Egyptian military state, and had genuine silver buttons and insignia of diamond crescents fastened on the uniforms of the soldiers and officers. In fact, Sajid was an enthusiastic friend of soldiers, always ready to make the greatest sacrifice for his troops. These consisted at that time of native Egyptians, at whose head were the sons of the Schech-el-Beleds, or village magistrates, who wore a picturesque, true Arabian costume for show, and of Turkish Baschi-Bosuks from the land of the Arnauts, who had put on their customary native costume which gave a sensational impression, especially in the almost meter-high fur caps with turbans wound directly around the head. As at the court and in the civil service, it was Frenchmen who had been called to Egypt as instructors for the army. Yet it may not remain unmentioned that at that time a battery of the Egyptian artillery was under the direction of Prussian instructors, or Talimbaschis, of whom one, the Geheimrat Kanski now living in Berlin, still numbers among my contemporaries. He, as well as his meanwhile deceased regimental comrade Blumel, both of whom had belonged to the artillery in our Berlin residence, fulfilled their task with the greatest success and in the exercises were superior to the French-Egyptian batteries on every occasion. The Prussian energy was transmitted to the Arabian artillerymen, and they did not fall short of their northern models in any way.

Sajid Pasha lived among his Egyptian troops wherever he was staying, and a change of his stopping-place was combined each time with a military migration of peoples on a small scale. From my diary I see that, for example, on February 4, 1859, no fewer than thirteen steamers and nineteen towboats, laden collectively with troops, horses, mules, camels, cannon, etc., went from Cairo down the Nile, in order to precede their Lord and Master and set up an encampment at the Fum-el-bapr, in the vicinity of the Barrages, the sluice-bridges, and to take part in a magnificent celebration which was set for the birthday of the Viceroy on February 8. Evil tongues asserted in those days that the government intended to withhold the salary of all its officials for six months in order to defray the costs of the planned festivity. It was not impossible, when one takes into consideration that under Ismael's rule no salary was paid to the entire officers' corps for three years, so that an uprising broke out in Cairo, a description of which will occupy me later.

The festivity I have in mind at the moment applied not only to the celebration of Sajid's birthday, but at the same time to the inauguration of a fortification established at the order of the Prince and consisting of five bastions, the so-called Sajidieh, at the above-mentioned spot. There where the Nile below Cairo divides into its two main arms, the western of Rosetta and the eastern of Damietta, the fork bears the odd designation of "Cow-belly" or the other name of "River-mouth" (Fum-el-Bapr). A tongue of land extends here into the bed of the river which from the left is connected with the opposite river banks by the two mighty sluice-bridges, or so-called barrages. Napoleon I was the first who had cast his eye on the plan to dam the Nile inundations at this point and to keep their fertile blessing for irrigation of the fields in the neighborhood of Cairo. Later the two giant bridges were built, but it had been forgotten to lay side-canals beforehand on both sides of the river, in order to divert the powerful masses of water and lessen their pressure on the sluice-gates. As a result of this negligence, the unavoidable occurred, that is, ships were driven with all force against the locks, and every year were dashed to pieces by the hundreds, along with their cargoes. Only in our day it remained for the English to remedy the fault and to divert the pressing floods into the laid-out canals.

Honored by an invitation to the festivities, I had embarked in time on a Nile boat in the company of several European officers, Prussians and Austrians, in order to witness, on the morning of the main day, the "Fantasia" in prospect. A dense throng of people filled the tongue of land, in the midst of which stood a countless number of Spanish mules and French horses, which belonged to the teams of the artillery and were to be employed for the great show of troops. Egyptian officers and soldiers in their becoming, but almost over-rich costumes, squatted before the erected tents, the Pashas and Beys ran about in confusion, giving their orders, and the kawasses of the Viceroy struck at random with sticks, when their instructions did not produce immediate results. The fortress ramparts were covered with pyramidal wooden frames which were to serve as supports for thousands of glass lamps for the evening illumination; also the main gates of the bastions, painted in bright colors a la Turca, were hung with lamps and lampions - in a word, everything seemed appropriate to promise a "Fantasia" of the first rank. For the enhancement of pleasure a public circus had been set up, close in front of the improvised wooden house of the Viceroy, to offer the invited guests and the assembled forces the opportunity to admire the performances of a French troupe of equestrians and Moghrebin acrobats from Fex and Morocco. For the horses an enormous tent had been set up, while the band of performers had previously taken their places on the deck of a Nile steamer at the shore. In giant field-kitchens the viceregal cooks bustled about before whole batteries of kettles and pans, to begin the preparation of the meal for the guests, although the sight could little entice the appetite. For "the fathers of the kitchen" looked extremely dirty, and the most dubious smells steamed into the blue air. Then suddenly there sounded a twenty-one-cannon salute. The viceregal harem on its flotilla of steamers had just landed. There emerged first of all the then four-year-old Prince Tussan-Pasha, son of the reigning Prince, in a great general's uniform and led by the hand of his French governess to the house of the Viceroy. The entire harem followed after him, but invisible to the crowd, for the carpets stretched on both sides of the way prevented any glimpse of the closed-off space, which in addition was defended by twenty black-skinned eunuchs armed to the teeth. New steamers brought "the Fathers of the Faith," the whole band of learned Ulama from Cairo to the "Cow-belly." The Muslim spiritual leaders all appeared in silk, bright-colored kaftans and high turned-up turbans, over their shoulders hung precious cashmere shawls, and fluttering banners with embroidered Koran verses separated the individual sections from one another. The trumpeter corps of the Egyptian cavalry blew Arabian tunes, the infantry music resounded wildly in between, and to make everything perfect, also the Baschi-Bosuks, with their piping and beating on small kettle-drums were not left out, so that a truly infernal noise resulted, such as you could not find anywhere.

The illumination from the approach of evening on was in fact fairylike; even the two Nile bridges sparkled in the shimmer of lights, whose reflection was mirrored in the waters of the Nile in wonderful splendor. Also the interiors of the principal tents shone in the full candlelight of giant glass candelabra which had been set on precious carpets. In one of the largest thirty Ulama, squatting on the floor, chanted whole passages of the Koran with nasal voices, and awaited the arrival of the Viceroy in order to implore God's blessing on his head.

A frightful thunder of cannon awakened the sleepers from their rest on the next morning, to announce the beginning of the great parade. At nine o'clock the muster took place in front of the silk tent of the Viceroy. The troops consisted of three battalions of riflemen and infantry, among them a battalion of blacks, a squadron of Uhlans wearing polished helmets with yellow and red feather tufts on them and banners of pure silk in the same colors on their lances. Included was a squadron of hussars with bearskin caps, another of cuirassiers in yellow breastplates with a great silver star on them and yellow helmets with red crests. A new squadron was made up of hussars who wore black kalpaks with red tufts of hair and whole horses were decorated with dark-blue silk bridles and silver insignia. The artillery was represented by twelve cannon, while the Baschi-Bosuks appeared in two squadrons. For the European the sight of the wild horsemen was captivating above all else. The men of the first squadron wore white turbans, red coats and sashes over them, blue trousers in waterproof boots, and carried muskets with short bayonets. The second troop presented itself in green silk kaftans, orange-colored dolmans, and meter-high hats of red silk. Their hands held lances of immense length. The musicians, enveloped in green silk, operated their small kettledrums and pipes in a superhuman manner, while I noted that the fierce drummers held the reins of their horses between their teeth.

At the removal of the green silk, gold-embroidered standards and banners, the assembled troops presented arms with a loud Turkish "Effendimiz tschok jascha," "Long live our Lord!" Thereupon they shouldered arms, in order to present them once more, for the Ulama, the pious fathers of heavenly wisdom, appeared in order to enter the silk reception tent of the Viceroy and offer their congratulations in the name of Allah. They were followed by the generals and the invited notables, that is, a "rien du tout," as Nubar Bey remarked to me jokingly.

It had an uncommonly cheering effect on me when, after the close of the wearisome reception scene, the investiture of a hoary Pasha as Commander of the Baschi-Bosuks was consummated with all formality in the open square in front of the viceregal tent. His short Arabian jacket was taken off him and replaced by a long blood-red kaftan, the breast of which was decorated by six heavy golden clasps with six great emeralds. The huge, high fur cap of the Baschi-Bosuks was set on his bald-shaven skull, after which, among loud cheers of the assembled troops, he was mounted on an Arabian racehorse of noblest stock, with precious saddle and trappings.

During the entire period of this ceremony the Viceroy appeared in snow-white Arabian costume, and only the shining patent-leather boots on his feet recalled European custom. He seemed to be thoroughly bored, even though for a moment a witty word escaped his lips and a brief smile flitted across his features.

At the great court table set for eight o'clock in the evening, laid out in crescent form for about one hundred guests under a giant tent, natives and Europeans took part without distinction. I myself, thanks to chance, could greet in my neighbor a young Egyptian Pasha named Ismael, who remained unnoticed and lonely. He later became Viceroy of Egypt, my patron always so well-disposed toward me, who probably had hardly a presentiment then, what a high honor would befall him some day. The reigning Viceroy took his place at the center of the table, to be served y his favorite, the then Director of Railways and later all-powerful Minister Nubar, a Christian Armenian. The dishes appeared before the Viceroy sealed, were examined closely by His Highness, unsealed by Nubar, who at the same time was obliged to taste the contents of the meal beforehand. The service consisted of pure gold and silver dishes, on the long table there were about sixty candelabra of the same precious metals - in a word, the viceregal luxury which was displayed under the tent recalled the fabulous times of the "Thousand and One Nights." The third course had just been reached when the Viceroy suddenly rose to go, with a very natural, to be sure, but most bluntly expressed excuse. With that, everyone left the table and turned toward the exits of the tent, in order not to miss the pleasure of the fireworks promised for the evening. Two European firework-makers, a Frenchman and an Austrian, had to work for three full weeks, completing with one another in their pyrotechnic feats, and each had taken pains to carry out his program in the most artistically correct and complete manner. The object was to surpass the most intense expectations of the Viceroy where possible, and to reap his never-failing thanks in hard cash. Hardly had the usual cannon shots died away into the dark of night, when the first Roman candles crackled heavenward and the spectacle began. But to the astonishment of all, there suddenly developed such a confusion of fiery apparitions that nobody was nay longer able to follow even a single figure. In every nook and corner the fireworks hissed, sparkled, crackled, roared and burst in competition, so that in a short quarter of an hour, the enjoyment calculated to last half the night was completely over. As it came out later, the patience of the high Lord and host had become exhausted and he had issued the order to prepare everything for a prompt departure; accordingly the giant fireworks had ascended into the air in accelerated tempo. The steamers were heated up, arrangements made for embarkation, the drums and trumpets gave the signals for the marching out of the troops, and toward ten o'clock in the evening the Viceroy was seen already in his steamer going homeward, followed first of all by the ships in which the riflemen had taken their places, to make the return trip to Cairo.

The other troops embarked later, concluding with the worthy Ulama, whose chant, a continuing "la illah il'allah," "There is no God but God," long resounded across the water into the still night.

The lamps were extinguished, the festival had reached its sudden end, and I slept the rest of the broken night on my Nile ship. That was the great consecration of the newly established fortress of Sajidieh, which no one any longer speaks about today. But the recollection of it has remained vividly in my memory to this hour, for every effort had been made to land a truly Oriental color to the planned celebration.


In Egypt the peach trees were in loveliest blossom and the bloom of roses filled the air with fragrance when, toward the end of the month of February, I decided to return to my native land. I had touched only a little of my treasure, which had come into my possession through the entirely unexpected generosity of an Eastern Prince, and I pondered quietly, in what way I could put it to the best use. I even thought of buying a house in Berlin, in order for once to play the host myself, and to establish a permanent home. I wanted to suspend travel and to live within my four walls alone and solely for my science and my family. But man proposes and God disposes, as the reader is truly to learn later, for I bought a house, to be sure, but my small fortune, which was invested in the house, I lost down to the last heller during my third sojourn in Egypt.

Also, to my deepest regret, I saw my Oriental patron, Sajid Pasha, hastening to his financial ruin. When, at the beginning of the year 1863, he departed this life, he left behind a burden of debt of six hundred million marks to the country which he had taken over debt-free after the death of his predecessor, the cruel but thrifty Abbas I. He had to experience many disillusionments at the conclusion of his reign, when his position appeared more critical from day to day, and not the last was the fact that the silver buttons on the uniforms of his soldiers and the diamond insignia of his officers, which at his order were to have been set in gold, proved to be completely worthless. The buttons, on closer examination, revealed themselves as silver-plated brass, which a French manufacturer had delivered in place of pure silver, and the diamonds had been exchanged by their wearers for glass, after they had sold the genuine stones for a high price. Even the precious fabrics, mostly embroidered on silk, which served to decorate the warriors and horses, were taken away to be converted into cash, but no one paid a suitable price, since the quantity on hand reduced its worth as a matter of course. Ruin was all at once at hand, and loans - they were the first ones to come on the market - had to be raised, in order to help cover the great deficits.

The latest news from home was not disposed to make me feel happy, in spite of my assumed riches. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV was suffering from the effects of a pernicious illness which had gradually developed, and of which I received the first information, to my horror, through a communication of A. von Humboldt's. It was addressed to a consular friend, to whom the old scholar had written the following words:

"I owe to your obliging kindness the pleasing news of the departure of our dear mutual friend, Dr. B., for Upper Egypt, as well as an exceedingly amiable, witty letter from the Pasha Mahommed Said. This Prince knows how to choose his secretaries well. In no European Chancellery does one know how to praise with more refinement and taste. I have been able to read the Pasha's letter in part to the Monarch. This was all the more pleasing to His Majesty, as the King, out of great fondness for B., had often asked me about him, even during the more serious stage of illness. I may not conclude this expression of my thanks without the happy report to Your Excellency of the clearly progressing, although slow recovery of the King which we perceive since the move to Charlottenburg, more precisely since ten to twelve days (physically and also mentally, with reference to his distinctness of speech). Abstention from all affairs will, however, still remain necessary certainly for six to eight months longer."

My return to Berlin, in the beginning of the month of March, 1858, had filled me with a new fear. Early in the morning I was waiting for my father at the Silesian railway station, but how it wrung my heart when I saw before me, in place of the strong, handsome man I had left a few months previously, a sick, pitiful figure who greeted me with tearful eyes. To my hasty question, what had happened, he gave only the one answer: "My son, do not be frightened! To you I may say that after three months I must leave this world." Unfortunately he kept his word all too punctually, for exactly three months after my return home, I closed his weary eyes. He died a sacrifice to his military calling, which he carried out in the most loyal fulfillment of duty, without any sparing of his suffering condition, almost until his last breath. My own family at that time, besides my wife, consisted of three children, two sons and a daughter; through the death of my father there fell to me the responsibility for the maintenance of my widowed mother and my about fifteen-years-younger brother, the only one I had, and who today, invested with the rank of Bey, occupies an honored position as Conservator of the Viceregal Museum in Gizeh.

Deep sadness filled my soul, especially at the thought of the immediate future and of the obligations which fate had laid upon me, the young supporter of a family of six. To deaden the cares, I took my refuge in the best expedient; I gave myself up to the continuation of my Egyptian studies, and in the daily findings and discoveries, with the help of the material I collected on my two journeys in Egypt, I felt the true joy of my existence. My circle was limited to a few like-minded contemporaries, who belonged to the most varied professions and who regularly assembled once a week, after a completed day's work, for a merry little evening party. Although in the veins of most of them flowed no Berlin blood, nevertheless Berlin wit prevailed at fullest worth. Since not only "learned people," but also artists namely Afinger, Blaeser, Hildebrandt, Meyerheim,, among others, and not to forget the soda-water producer of that time, Marsch, belonged to our circle, it might justifiably boast of a certain many-sidedness, which never lacked material for captivating or lively conversations.

Outside of this closed circle there were three personalities in particular, with whom fate brought me into contact, and one of whom the first two exerted a tangible effect on my later destiny. Their names: Prince Puckler-Muskau, Baron Jul. von Minutoli, and Lassalle, I have only to cite in order to remind my contemporaries of the importance of each individual.

The Prince belonged to the best-known personalities at the Court and the distinguished Berlin society in which, in spite of his seventy-three years, he moved with almost youthful agility and exerted an irresistible attraction. His entire being, even to the expression of speech, suggested the highly cultivated man of the world, who must have seen countries and peoples and come into frequent contact with the great ones of this earth. And so it was in fact, for his journeys in Egypt and in the Sudan at the time of the Viceroy Mehemmed Ali, and his wanderings in the Near East, to recall only his exotic pilgrimages, provided him with a reputation that spread far beyond the borders of the Fatherland, after he had revealed himself as an outstanding writer in the mid- thirties, in his five-volume work "Semilasso in Africa" and in similar creations. The attacks which the skillful pen of Fallmerayer directed against "Semilasso" and "Der Verstorbene" in the first half of the forties never alluded to the literary value of the Prince's writings; they criticized only his outspoken opinions therein concerning Mehemmed Ali and the Egyptian peasantry, as well as his proposals to send German colonies to the Nile Valley. In reference to the latter, the Prince was not alone. Still in the year 1868 it was reserved for a German writer Hans Wachenhusen, to interest the Viceroy Ismael and his Minister Nubar in the same proposal, without success, to be sure, after a chief stipulation for it had proved impossible to fulfill.

The "old Prince," as he was called in Berlin, was a cheerful, happy person, who did not let himself be disturbed by the natural effects of advancing age. Celebrated for his successful activity in the field of horticulture, he had transformed his desolate estate of Muskau in the Lausitz into a magnificent park; and well known for his cooking and his gourmet taste, the Prince lived in Berlin during the winter months, which he regularly used to spend in the first floor of the then existing Hotel de Russia (behind the Command headquarters, in the vicinity of the Schloss Bridge). For the summer he loved to take up his residence in the Castle Branitz near Kottbus, after he had sold Muskau to the Prince Friedrich of the Netherlands. I had been recommended to the Prince already at the beginning of the year 18537 through a letter of Alexander von Humboldt's. The letter in question, of whose contents I possessed no knowledge, has quite recently and to my own surprise been sent to me in a copy by its present owner, Dr. Karpeles. The passage in it referring to me: "Pleasing in manner, esteemed in France and England, he possesses a rare talent in writing 'German.' To you, master in this art, he may be recommended from this angle," taught me anew, how an A. von Humboldt understood how to praise.

After I had the honor to be presented to him, there arose on his part a liking for me which was perhaps connected with our mutual longing for the venerated land of Egypt. I had the good fortune to be his constant house guest, to receive his visits in my modest home, and to participate in his outings, on which he himself used to drive the horses with steady hand. His midday meal in the hotel consisted regularly of a choice of the most select dishes, for which the Branitz estate delivered the poultry, the eggs, and the butter, and he never allowed the salad to be prepared by other hands. He himself executed this work of art, and every time I read on a menu in Berlin or abroad "Salate du Prince Pueckler," I was transported in spirit to the Hotel de Russie.

To the former traveller in the Orient it was pleasant to speak of his recollections of Mehemmed Ali and to boast about his inventions during his wanderings. To these belongs the ingenious contrivance of a small cooking apparatus for liquid and solid meals, which one could actually put comfortably into one's pocket and which sufficed for all requirements. A second invention consisted of an arrangement to ward off lions-and mosquitos-from one's self during the night, on a sojourn in the desert. For the use and benefit of all African travellers I will reveal the secret. It consists of a simple sack of white cotton, into which the traveller crawls. It ends at the head in a kind of hood of gauze material which can be closed with a string at the top. One fastens it to a nail driven into a tree or the wooden tent-pole. The sinister effect of the sight scares away the lion-imagine a white sack that moves here and there-and the sting of the mosquitos is unable to reach through the fabric to the living contents.

The company at the Prince's was always a select one in an intellectual respect also, and the subjects of conversations remained far from everything ordinary and insignificant. The sale of the historical anecdotes seasoned it and often gave it an added piquant flavor.

Not infrequently, it happened that my godfather, Prince Heinrich von Caroleth, and his friend the poet Geibel, along with my godfather's excitable dwarf with his biting tongue, met at the hotel in order to play a game of whist at which conversation on questions of the day used to fill the intervals. Above all, it was the worsened state of the King's health that provided fears which one would have liked to call unnecessary. On October 7, 1858, Prince Wilhelm von Preussen was named Regent, and with that a new era of our Fatherland was ushered in.

For me, it became clear that for myself a new period had begun, and that I had to summon everything in order to learn how to stand on my own feet. Also the days of Alexander von Humboldt were already numbered. Even though the nearly ninety-year old maintained his old creative power, and worked until late in the night on the completion of his Kosmos, his advanced age, but likewise the sufferings of the royal patient, had exerted their disturbing effects on the body and spirit of the venerable old man. In addition, it came about that the cherished habits, which had brought him daily into the proximity and the society of his loyal friend at the Court in Berlin, Sanssouci, or Charlottenburg were with one stroke broken off so that his earlier influence lost its beneficial result. It is true that the celebrated scholar and Nestor of Science was honored by distinctions and attentions, full of delicacy of feeling by the Prince von Preussen and by his illustrious wife, the Empress Augusta, but it was difficult for him to adapt himself to the new circumstances and to take a warm interest in events which earlier had occupied his mind so actively. His adversaries, and he had them in great number, frankly triumphed over the fading and sinking of the bright star; they were not ashamed to speak occasionally of "the well-known tourist Humboldt" and to push his high scientific merits into the background, but they forgot that the whole world bowed in reverence before the renown of his name and his works.

I must gratefully acknowledge that Prince Puckler, on an independent impulse, felt induced, from this combination of circumstances on, to place me under his personal protection. To him alone I owed the distinction to be named Consul of Prussia in Cairo in the year 1863, as the reader is to learn later in greater detail.

The second person with whom I came into closer contact in the year 1858 was Dr. Ferd. Lassalle, whose name I need only mention, in order to recall to memory one of the most remarkable of personalities. To my surprise, he appeared one day in my apartment, in order to present to me his just completed work, "Die Philosophie Herakleitos des Dunkein von Ephesos" as a mark of his esteem, and to combine with it the request that I be willing to regard him in the future as my pupil. He had resolved to devote his time for a series of years exclusively to scientific investigations, after his already determined police expulsion from Berlin had been revoked upon the recommendation and mediation of Bockh, the famous Hellenist, and Alexander von Humboldt. He wished to occupy himself in all seriousness with ancient Egyptian studies and entreated me most urgently, not to refuse him as a pupil. He was too old, he said, to sit at my feet in the midst of young students in the college, and therefore preferred the form of a regular private lecture. To my question as to what particular purpose he wished to apply his Egyptian knowledge to be acquired, he answered that he had taken it into his head to translate and to explain the old Egyptian Book of the Dead from beginning to end. Smiling, I remarked to him that this was a problem which could hardly be solved in a hundred years, but his resolve remained firm, and he replied to me simply: "What I want to do, I can do; I shall solve the problem, for it is the very difficulties which exert a special attraction for me."

Lassalle was at that time, thirty-three years old. Our L. Pietsch, in his charming book, Wie ich Schriftsteller geworden bin, has described the outward appearance of the social-democratic agitator with surprising fidelity and truth, and has sketched the peculiarities of his character with accurate strokes. The passionate and impetuous element formed a principal feature of his character, with which was linked a mania for contentiousness. It subsequently cost me much trouble in the appointed lessons to restrain the willfulness of the pupil. It often happened that I gave up the lesson in a certain exasperation, whereupon Lassalle, in the most excited mood, regularly launched letters to me which mostly began with the words, "To the devil with you."

When I had come to know him for the first time, he occupied, as the Berliners used to say, "chambre garnie" in a corner house situated on Behren and Mauer Stasse. Later he established his own house on Bellevue Street, close by the dwelling of Fraulein Ludmilla Assing. His home, for conditions at that time, was handsomely furnished, there was a splendid library in the salon which constituted his work-room and from which a glass door led to a conservatory with exotic plants. Even a servant was not lacking, to attend to the orders of the master, and the gracious master was sometimes abusive. Lassalle led an existence in elegant style, and only in his conversations did he develop his social-democratic ideas, which stood in the fullest contrast to his actual life.

It is known that the groups that met in his house by special invitation belonged to the most selected, whether with respect to the position and the name of the invited guests, or with regard to their intellectual merits. Prince Puckler-Muskau, General von Pfuel, Hans von Bulow, to mention only a few names, gladly accepted the witty and learned host's invitations, where the Countess von Hatzfeld was so kind as to do the honors of the house. The hospitality left nothing to be desired in the choice and delicacy of the dishes served and the vintage wines, and Lassalle seemed to be heartily pleased when the praise of his table resounded from the lips of the guests. The conversation moved naturally in the most selected patterns; it was always intellectually stimulating, and each of the participants could maintain that he had borne away from it again for himself.

Our acquaintance, interrupted at times by my later journeys to Persia and Egypt, lasted until his death. My idea that Lassalle would accomplish nothing special in the ancient Egyptian field was abundantly confirmed, for it is the peculiarity of these studies that they demand the entire time and working energy of a man and consequently offer no opportunity to occupy one's self with other things. That Lassalle was a man as clever as he was highly cultivated and scientifically informed is certainly not to be doubted. His ingenuity was not discouraged by any difficulties, but in the face of the Egyptian problem, as I had observed beforehand, he lacked the necessary time and repose to solve the riddles of Antiquity and to bring renown to his name through his accomplishments in this field. In spite of everything, I think of the contacts with Lassalle not without some pleasure, and often recall in memory the agreeable hours I spent in his household.

The third personality with whom I had the honor to have a relationship was, like the two preceding, well known to all Berliners at that time. The Baron Julius von Minutoli for a long time occupied the position of Chief of Police of Berlin, which the March Days of the year 1848 brought to a sudden end. I have already above recalled the interest which he showed in the fullest measure toward the young gymnasium student, probably at first for the special reason that Egypt and Egyptian Antiquity exerted a particular attraction on him.

His father, General H.C. Menu von Minutoli, belonged in the number of the older travellers who had visited Egypt and Nubia in the years 1820 and 1821 under the rule of Mehemmed Ali, and who had extended their route even as far as the oasis of Jupiter Ammon. His observations on the old and new Egypt revealed the connoisseur who viewed the past and present of the Orient with open eyes and who gave the attractive literary expression to his ideas on the subject.

The Egyptian Museum in Berlin owes to him precious contributions of ancient treasures which the General had brought home from the old land of the Pharachs, while another part remained in the possession of the family. It was this latter which led to my frequent association with the former Police Chief of Berlin - an association which later, oddly enough, offered the occasion for my journey to Persia.

After the March Days Herr J. von Minutoli was obliged to withdraw temporarily from state service. He made use of the free time to attend lectures at the University of Berlin, and I remember often having sat beside him in order to listen to the geographical discourses of our great Ritter. Later he reentered the state service in order, in his capacity as Consul General, to represent the interests of our Prussian Fatherland in Spain and Portugal. The amiable man had the kindness to carry on the most active communication with me by letters from his place of residence in Barcelona, to inform me of the excavations and finds in Spain. And his interest extended so far as to propose, and to obtain on the spot, my membership in two Spanish Academies. As I want to remark by way of addition, during his entire stay in Spain, he enjoyed the particular favor of the then Queen Isabella.


Hardly one year after the death of my own father, I was to experience the great sorrow of seeing Alexander von Humboldt depart from life on May 6, 1859, at half-past two in the afternoon, and thereby of losing a fatherly protector once for all. Some months before this sad day, the incomparable scholar and philanthropist already felt the increasing decline of his powers. The so-called pruritis senilis tortured him day and night, and according to his own expression, it often seemed to him that it must drive him out of his skin. Nevertheless, he continued his labors on the Kosmos with uninterrupted zeal, in order, still before his death, to leave to posterity his lifework, embracing the complete sum of his studies, as a legacy of his spirit. In addition, he arranged his papers and prepared himself valiantly for his imminent end. Often as I had the opportunity to see Alexander von Humboldt during this period, I could not leave his room without deepest emotion, for he complained how much still remained for him to do, in order to complete his work, and how he himself must doubt that he would reach his goal.

On one of my visits, I received from his hands, to my greatest surprise, the unarranged accumulations for a work begun by him but remaining unfinished, on the origin of numerals and the beginning of methods of counting by the various peoples of the earth. The collection, which for the greatest part is hand-written by him on sheets and scraps of paper, contains besides valuable contributions in the form of letters from famous contemporary scholars, who had given detailed answers to the questions addressed to them in reference to the subject of his investigations, "I turn over to you this manuscript" he said to me, "to publish it after my death. There are rough materials which I have collected for forty years, in order to work the up some day at leisure. My days are numbered, and so to you, who have devoted such penetrating investigations concerning the numerical signs and the accounting system of the ancient Egyptians, I hand over this manuscript with the request to carry out the task in my memory. The inscription which is found written by my hand n the envelope should serve to confirm to everyone your right of possession."

A stroke, which seized the most celebrated Nestor of Science in the middle of his nightly work, forced him to lay down the pen forever, in order to await his death with philosophical calm in the bed in his alcove. All Berlin took the most deeply-felt interest in his suffering, and even the Princesses of the royal house felt moved to drive to his home, to enquire after his condition, and to leave gifts of flowers. At his special wish I was called to him a few days before his death, in order to take leave of him and to receive his last handclasp. I was surprised to read in his features not the slightest symptoms of imminent death and to find again in his conversation the earlier vivacity and interest in scientific things. When he saw tears in my eyes, he remarked with a smile; "My time has come, and I die peacefully, since you know what I think about it." Then suddenly and with a certain bitterness, he jumped to a conversation alluding to charlatanism in science. Dr. R...., "who has made such important discoveries in the field of animal galvanism, does not hesitate to exploit them in quackery, in order to combine therewith a business bringing in money. He certainly belongs to those who passed through the Red Sea, but his scientific importance should have restrained him from making a profitable business out of his discoveries." With these words he expressed his indignation at the conduct of a then very well-known, learned physician.

In the course of further conversation, he questioned me about the most recent state of my studies and gave me precepts for my later course of life, as the father on his deathbed is accustomed to urge them upon a beloved son. Deeply shaken, I left the narrow room in which soon thereafter the greatest spirit of our century was to take leave of life.

The entombment of Alexander von Humboldt in the Cathedral of Berlin was set for eight o'clock in the morning. Long before the appointed time an unbelievable crowd of people had assembled in the neighborhood of the house of death, in order to show their sympathy through their presence. First in the funeral cortege were the representatives of the city of Berlin, who paid this last homage on earth to their honored fellow citizen. The scholarly world understandably formed the main part of the mourners. The funeral procession, which did not seem to want to end, took the road to Friedrichstrasse, and upon reaching Unter den Linden turned in the direction of the Cathedral. My humble self, as private docent at the Berlin University, was among the last in the line, but no one could feel more deeply the sorrow which filled my breast at the thought of the loss of the unforgettable one who had laid hold upon my life with so powerful a hand, after having raised the soldier's son out of the dust up to himself.

I now stood quite alone, without a counsellor in the world, and needed all my energy to maintain myself upright and, out of purest love of science, to endure the difficult struggle for existence. I had friends who sustained me and tried to raise my sunken spirit, but the silent grief for the lost one would not cease, for no one in the world seemed to me to be in a position to substitute for an Alexander von Humboldt. The period of mourning gradually passed, I began to reconcile myself to the unavoidable, and to leave my future to God's goodness. I was bold enough even to believe in the Islamic kismet, and to look into the future with a less gloomy view.

My Life and My Travels, by Heinrich Brugsch (English version, 1992), edited by George Laughead Jr. and Sarah Panarity. Used with permission of Dr. Heinrich George Brugsch, M.D., Waban, MA.