by Sue B. Walker
CHAPTER 10: W/Reading Through The Invention of Nature
We read of Humboldt’s hero’s welcome when he arrived in Paris. No so—Berlin. It was freezing, indeed unbearably cold – and within three weeks, Humboldt was ill – covered in a rash like measles. King Friedrich Wilhelm III was delighted to have hi in the country and gave him a pension of 2,500 thalers with no obligations. Don’t know how much that would have been in American dollars in 1805? Wulf doesn’t say.
In April 1806, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac departed for Paris. Humbold complained of feeling lonely and unhappy.
Of significance in Chapter 10 is the acclaim of Humboldt’s Essay on the Geography of Plants that declared “all living matter as an organism of interconnected forces.” The book was dedicated to Goethe who said Humboldt had lit science into a bright flame.
In his unhappiness, Alexander turned to writing. His Views of Nature was composed of poetic vignettes. Strange insects “poured their red phosphoric light on the herb-covered ground, which glowed with living fires if the starry canopy of heaven had sunk upon the turf.”
He told his publisher he was not to change a word in the manuscript lest he mar the melody of his sentences. It was a book unembarrassed by its lyricism. Nature was in a mysterious communication with our “inner feelings.”
Views of Nature was said to have inspired Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin and Jules Verne. Captain Nemo in twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea owned the complete works of Humboldt.
Humboldt left Berlin in mid-November 1807.
This chapter of Invention is short compared to many of the other chapters in the book—only 14 pages. On to Paris and London.
PROMPTS: 1) Write about an arrival – good or bad – poetry or prose. 2) Write about a specific place, where you have been. London? France? Berlin?