JOURNEY FROM SAXONY TO PARAMARIBO, SOUTH AMERICA, IN 1827. (Written by Dr. Hering while waiting in Amsterdam for the East Wind.)
It was on Oct. 10th, at noon that Weigel and I entered the stagecoach. The space about us was crammed with people. We felt in our new surroundings as must feel a peasant bride in her wedding outfit, scarcely knowing knowing how to move, yet compelled to do so constantly. The horses pulled us along, indifferent to all but their load, which concerned them far more than the burden that lay upon our hearts and minds.
I stopped off in Oschatz for a painful parting with Luise who would not listen to the word America, which, she said, would shatter all her hopes. Even the word Amsterdam sounded harshly to her ears. I had to let the matter rest there, although keeping silence pained me. Every thing seemed to conspire to keep me in Oschatz. Many things had to be done in Leipzig, where my companion, Weigel (a botanist appointed by the crown) was chafing at the delay. The passage money for the diligence had been paid. I had to hire a private conveyance; no other being available. There was sufficient time, when later. I arrived in Leipzig, to attend to my affairs and to deliver a letter to Plass.
It is well, when at parting, the gray threads in the fabric of care are shot through with the red of joyful anticipation, as was the case with us who were leaving. It is always those who remain behind that doubly feel the pain of separation. For us the burden was lighter; for our friends in Dresden, Oschatz and Leipzig it was heavier.
In the evening the leave taking in Leipzig was enlivened by a quarrel with the authorities over our firearms. There was plenty of room, for besides the main coach there were four extra wagons, nevertheless we were to be debarred from taking our rifles. The Prussian officer did not wish to shoulder the responsibility, and the matter had to be referred to his eminence, the Postmaster General of Saxony himself, who was willing to let us take our guns, but ruled that we must leave our dogs behind.
We started on journey. We occupied first places in one of the extra coaches. There was a scramble among the passengers. Weigel and I were to be separated, because armed as we were, to the teeth, with four guns, numbering five barrels, and two swords, we were accounted unsafe, and no one was willing to share our conveyance, to which we did not object in the least. For a while we harbored a Prussian officer, a major, who had missed the coach ahead in the scramble for seats.
He later gave a favorable report of us to the rest of the passengers. The caravan reminded one of a centipede, with a very rapid crawl. It had about fifty horses’ feet with which to cover the road. Its segmented body was equipped, in front, with a yellow head and chest, and whips for antennae. Its entrails, with ramifications, were represented by the twenty-four or twenty-five passengers inside the coaches. As Parasites, on its sides, rode five outriders on horseback; that these were suckers was shown at every stop.
In all the centipede numbered one hundred and ten legs, ten more than belong to the many jointed myriapod, commonly named hundred-legger. If at first we had a mathematical problem to solve, it was now a geographic one. Our journey took us through seven lordly domains. The second country we came to was Prussia, where, in Naumburg, where we had a longer stop, I received a warm welcome and godspeed. Stapf, a mainstay of our school of medicine, who was expecting me, according to appointment, was waiting.
Although in correspondence with him for a long time we had never met, and the time seemed all too short for this meeting, in the brief time allowed for the stopover. We had expected to arrive at midnight, but it was two o’clock when I alighted to look for my friend. I made out to see strangers, whom if I had known them I could not have recognized in the dark, there being no moon. My principal object in meeting Stapf was to obtain certain medicines which I needed to complete my outfit, and also to get his counsel about certain to be done for our cause. Furthermore there were medicines to reach me at the local postoffice, and possibly a letter.
Anxiety gripped me; for rather than be without my Hahnemannian medicines I would go without coat and pants. Nothing at the postoffice Furiously I demanded to see the postmaster, who was asleep. A postilion nearby asked: What is the matter? Why the hurry? Here is a package from Dr. Stapf for a traveler who is to come through. This must be the party, he said, pointing his finger at me. He had observed me with my cap off, my mantle over my ears, under it gun and hunting knife, a terrifying object.
At this moment a man slightly stooped, simply dressed, of scholarly appearance, with a box under his arm, stepped forward saying: Surely you must be Dr. Hering? That I am; and you, Dr. Stapf My dear friend, said he What a solemn first meeting with so soon a parting What an enormous undertaking, this journey, what gain, very great gain, and what danger in a thousand ways But come; come quickly.
As we walked through the dark streets, our voices made us acquainted, our faces being revealed but in shadowy outlines. At his home my friend provided me with the medicines I had asked for in my letter, with several more, all genuine and of the best preparations, carefully packed and ready for the long journey. All I had to give in return was promises, thanks and some observations for his advice. Doubtful things were cleared up. Uncertain matters corroborated. But more of this for a later page.
With all the worries and anxieties the prospect of leaving home had caused me, my heart was made glad by meeting face to face a great man, like Stapf, whom I had thus far only been able to admire form a distance. To me this was the crowning point: that words such as he spoke would illuminate whatever of darkest night might come over me.
It was granted me, at the last moment before leaving, to receive a greeting from another, from Hahnemann himself, who stands, and ever will stand high above all of us, our master, the man foremost, not only in his century, but in the history of a thousand years. All of what has been ridiculed, pitifully derided, proclaimed as folly, most of it childish prattle, shall not hinder me from doing honour to the man who is pitted against the world of superstition, and this flame shall forever be kept alive within me, May I be denounced should I have said one word too many Gladly will I bear all the scorn that may be heaped upon me.
It will be but an infinitesimal part of the mountains of mud that they have tried to pile upon his name. To be blessed and victorious in him will forever make life happy for me. My heart’s desires, the intense longings in my soul, ever glowing with a warmer love, will find consummation in his service, in giving to the world what he intends. With all knowledge bestowed upon mankind there can be no other, none greater for me than he, until death. There can be nothing wider or higher than the heavens and what belongs therein. Often, have I not only felt and spoken this, but have put it in writing, as I do now, and will continue to do.
It was fitting that in darkest night, under the roof of heaven, this greeting was brought to me by one whose heart beats in joyous union with mine. The words were: Hahnemann sends you his heartfelt greeting; gives you his blessing and wishes you Godspeed. Twice he told it to me; a third time and I would have embraced him, but the time had come to enter the stagecoach. It seemed to me as though the dark night had suddenly become illuminated by this message, received through my friend Stapf. It was like a benediction upon my head, and my feet seemed to touch consecrated ground. More greetings in Weimar, and a parcel. Oken had sent a book on botany, and to add to my pleasure there was a letter from home.
We stopped over in Frankfort from six in the evening of the fifteenth, until six in the evening of the seventeenth. Much enjoyment was crowded into the forty-eight hours. I took my passports to secretary von Carlowitz who received them with exclamations of delight when he saw the signatures upon them of a dear friend, whose name has escaped me. Ah said he, the signature of my very dear N.N. I must introduce you to the ambassador. I made apology for my coat and shoes. Not the slightest bit of different. You have come from my dear N.N. Here his handwriting, the dear man Come as you are; you are on a journey. His handwriting I will show your passports to the ambassador and acquaint him with your wishes. Your hand in welcome
I was kindly received by the Minister of foreign affairs, who was politeness itself, without any show of formality. His excellency, as also some of the servants in his house, claimed knowledge of Frau Blum, my landlady in Dresden. His Grace had the faculty of extracting information without the least discourtesy. We were invited to dinner. My friend Weigel, occupied with affairs of botany, declined the invitation. I went and enjoyed a perfect afternoon.
My host showed the liveliest interest in our undertaking and was ready with advice, which, in most cases, came too late. He thought we should have taken the Duke of Weimar into our confidence, or at least since that was too late, call on his son at Geldern who had shown great interest in botany. But this we could not do. He mentioned the wife of a former governor in Surinam who made her home in Frankfort, but who was temporarily absent.
After examining our passports he secured their endorsement by the Dutch functionary, on the following day, and our wishes were satisfied. Our departure had to be made in some haste to avoid the chance of missing our ship. I did, however, in all kindness, succeed in making arrangements for a stopover in Mayence where we arrived on the seventeenth and were given until the morning of the nineteenth, when we embarked in a fast sailing boat down the Rhine.
I realize, at the beginning of my departure, that among the many things in which I must learn to improve myself, is my handwriting. When I consider what little of extra care and restraint is needed to acquire a more legible hand, so gratifying to one’s readers who so sweetly and patiently come to the task of pouring over our correspondence, and what a torment it may become to those of our friends who must laboriously decipher what should inspire rather than weary them, I resolve at once to do better in the future. I well know the trouble I have had in reading my own writing, even when not of the worst.
Thinking and speaking have always come easily enough to me. Reading and listening more difficult. To the setter of type I must show leniency, for, should I undertake to sit too hard upon the setter, what more likely than that he might become completely upset. Hence I stand helplessly by, and misprints go before the public eye. Speaking of improvement in writing suggests improvement in style, which scarcely belongs here since I am not at present writing for publication. This, however, would not alter the contents of my letters in the least, excepting to give more attention to the systematizing of things under observation.
These thoughts did not come to me while sailing down the Rhine, in a dense fog which prevented one from seeing anything. I meditated then upon the realization of human desires and the anticipation of things to come. The people about us are talking of their travelling plans and are busy strapping their bundles.
I am reminded of plans my friend Dehmel and I had once made, after a long separation, to make a Rhine journey. I had this desire, which grew to an intense longing, in the fall of 1824, when the days were cool and beautiful and the air filled with the singing of birds. It was in the early days when I had no money at all, only debts to be paid and no prospects. My booklet, Poor Henry, had now enriched me somewhat, and there were prospects of more to come from the sale of the Water Spirit.
My heart was light as we set sail upon the green waters of the Rhine. Next fall, according to promise, we met again to make the journey together, and now once more, in the fall, sitting in the stagecoach, on my way to Frankfort, I was again to meet with my friend, who was to accompany me down the Rhine. This time in good standing and with better prospects for the future. My mind is occupied with a long cherished resolve to write a treatise in which many wishes are to be realized. In this there is the charm of anticipation. I have in mind writing about the perfecting of certain attributes such as memory, and the like, which must be possible with leisure, and careful training. The way must lie clear before one, the victory certain or nothing will be gained.
I have already dipped my pen into ink to write such a book, which, though not yet accomplished, is occupying my brain in leisure hours. Much of it still is in a fog like the one we are passing through. But more of this later. As we neared Bingen, the fog lifted revealing the ancient castles. The Rhine flowed as always and all was beautiful as before. We saw the vintners harvesting their grapes, the time for which had begun on the same day. I thought of poets and their rapturous descriptions, sincere, not distorted, and of my own better hours in which I wrote verses. These, though not of great value, at least were true and not forced, if I may say so.
I make mention of this because later, in my own way, I may be expected to describe some of the glories of the world. I cannot remember ever having been deeply moved, thrilled, or exalted by descriptions of the beautiful. For this reason I have never been able to either write or speak in glowing terms of things seen or experienced on a journey. I believe I might travel through Switzerland or Italy without writing a single intoxicating letter.
I take delight in describing pictures of a room with its furniture, or of an individual to whom I have taken a liking, but these I cannot associate with landscapes which for me retire into a shade. I do not know why this is so. I have, however in a letter written recently, tried to make this clear to myself. It is, as I understand it, the feeling of a definite, distinct reality that I experience through the events that occur in my life. Even events of great importance in one’s life, such as getting married, could not alter the case.
After all, things that happen, are but pictures come true from what has passed in our minds in moments of silent meditation. Things that I have read, and others conceived in imagination, take shape and furnish material for elaboration. All vision is repetition (Jedes sehen ein wiedersehen). At present the actuality, the newness of things, though they dominate me, do not disturb my composure.
There is no overpowering longing to see the new world, such as some might feel in a burning desire to view the tropics, long before they experience its scorching heat. To me all outward experiences as well as my thoughts, even when written with fervor, remain to be read peacefully on paper. I am calm, mostly smiling, seldom moved to tears of joy or sorrow; and, in the latter case, only in matters that touch the innermost recesses of the heart.
Our ship continued on its journey down the green royal Rhine until, on the following day, we spied the blue Seven Hell Mountains as they appeared in the background. I felt sad as I said farewell to the blue hills so dear to me from my childhood; dear as if they had been people. It was the hills, more than aught else, that enriched my youthful happy days; friends came later and singly.
It was only of late, and the time brief, that friends had multiplied, and the hills were pushed into the background, but where they will forever stand, unforgotten. It was the farewell to the hills that helped to make me homesick as I took a long and lingering look behind. It was among their rocks and valleys, forests and tree tops. I felt happy, and at home, before I was understood by others.
It was there I gathered my specimens, rested and dreamed the dreams that were to brighten my future years. Many things have happened since, are happening now, yet I feel that some day I will have a longing for these heights beyond all other things upon earth; from them to get other perspectives for my future. The next blue mountains to greet our eyes, in case we should not get to see the peak of Teneriffe, will be those in the interior of Guiana. At present I would not have the desire to look upon them; my heart must first grow lighter.
We arrived in Cologne by night. I could barely make out, by the dim light of the moon, the innumerable spires above the walls of houses that stretched along the banks. I said to myself, this is Germany’s Rome. There, in the distance, stood the dome like a gigantic ant hill, the magnificent structure which, in its entirety, I was never to behold. We wandered through the streets of the ancient city by moonlight; saw a large cemetery with many crosses. The general impression given was that of a city with many graves. There was just time to secure our passage in the stagecoach, and early next morning, which was foggy, we left the holy city, which, looking back from the lowlands, appeared blue in the distance.
I am reserving my impressions of my first day in Holland for another letter in which I will have more things to relate, for the benefit of certain persons.
We had travelled from Mayence to Coblentz, down the Rhine, on the nineteenth, arriving in Cologne on the twentieth, and left there early on the twenty-first, arriving at Utrecht at noon of the twenty-second, and at Amsterdam on the evening of the same day. Here good news awaited us. I have communicated some things about this great city, from later days, not intended for the many.
It turned out that we had travelled with unnecessary haste. On the morning on which I left Cologne, Weigel, who had remained behind, travelled alone to Brussels to obtain from the home- minister our passports and a letter to the secretary of the navy. My reason for leaving Weigel behind, was partly to save expenses, and partly to attend to affairs that might become necessary in the event of a hurried departure after his arrival.
He soon followed, bringing with him a letter of importance to the Minister of Naval Affairs at the Hague. His funds, which had only held out to get to this place, necessitated another trip to the Hague. We are now prepared with the very best passports and letters of introduction to the Governor, all to our satisfaction. Likewise our business with the French Consul here has been most pleasant and satisfactory. We must say that we have been treated with even greater kindness than we could have anticipated.
The first and more important point having been arranged to our satisfaction, we have to consider our second venture our ship. The latter, as also its passengers who are to sail with us, appear favorable, and the passage costs reasonable. The company on board ship might not be all that could be desired, but we have our books which will help to make life supportable in our leisure moments.
While waiting here, in Amsterdam, we are getting acquainted with the city as far as bad weather and the necessity of keeping down expenses will permit. We have been kindly received in different quarters. We are mostly satisfied with the purchases we have made. The larger size of paper, thirty reams of blotting paper, besides other kinds, which we have found cheaper, here than in Dresden, are packed to go on board tomorrow. Glassware is no dearer than in Dresden, of the same Bohemian quality. Our clothing for the voyage we obtained at a reasonable price from an honest dealer. Shoes were a different proposition, about which more later. With the tradesmen in general and their greed for money we had much contention.
Our lives take their course while waiting for favorable winds come from the same direction as our money. A kind man brought us our first remittance; even left us the purse in which it came, since we had none. The morning after our arrival, as soon as the stores opened, which is late, we went shopping for the thousand and one smaller articles of greater or lesser importance, looking for the best and cheapest to be had.