Copyright
Andrew Dickson White.

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) online

. (page 38 of 54)
Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 38 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


you British so much trouble in India ? " to which the bold
Briton answered: "Sire, he is only an old tyrant who,
after robbing his neighbors, is now falling into his do-
tage" ("Sire, ce n'est qu'un vieux tyran qui, apres avoir
pille ses voisins, commence a radoter").

Having made with my nephew a rapid excursion on
the Continent, up the Rhine, and as far as Munich, I re-
turned to see him off on his return journey to America,
and then settled down for several weeks in London. It
was in the early autumn, Parliament had adjourned, most
people of note had left town, and I was left to myself as
completely as if I had been in the depths of a forest.
Looking out over Trafalgar Square from my pleasant
rooms at Morley's Hotel, with all the hurry and bustle
of a great city going on beneath my window, I was sim-
ply a hermit, and now found myself able to resume the
work which for so many years had occupied my leisure.
At the British Museum I enjoyed the wonderful oppor-
tunities there given for investigation; and there, too, I
found an admirable helper in certain lines of work my
friend Professor Hudson, since of Stanford University,
California.

The only place where I was at all in touch with the
outside world was at the Athenaeum Club; but the main
attraction there was the library.

Now came a sudden change in all my plans. My
health having weakened somewhat under the influence



EGYPT, GREECE, AND TURKEY-1888-1889 433

of this rather sedentary life in the London fog, I con-
sulted two eminent physicians, Sir Andrew Clarke and
Sir Morell Mackenzie, and each advised and even urged
me to pass the winter in Egypt. Shortly came a letter
from my friend Professor Willard Fiske, at Florence,
saying that he would be glad to go with me. This was
indeed a piece of good fortune, for he had visited Egypt
again and again, and was not only the best of guides, but
the most charming of companions. My decision was
instantly taken, and, having finished one or two chapters
of my book, I left London and, by the way of the St.
Gotthard, soon reached Florence. Thence to Kome, Na-
ples, and, after a charming drive, to Castellammare, Sor-
rento, Amalfi, and Salerno, whence we went by rail to
Brindisi, and thence to Alexandria, where we arrived on
the 1st of January, 1889.

Now came a new chapter in my life. This journey in
the East, especially in Egypt and Greece, marked a new
epoch in my thinking. I became more and more im-
pressed with the continuity of historical causes, and real-
ized more and more how easily and naturally have grown
the myths and legends which have delayed the unbiased
observation of human events and the scientific investi-
gation of natural laws. On a Nile boat for many weeks,
with scholars of high character, and with an excellent
library about me, I found not only a refuge from trouble
and sorrow, but a portal to new and most fascinating
studies.

Nor was it only the life of old Egypt which interested
me : the scenes in modern Eastern life also gave a needed
change in my environment. At Cairo, in the bazaar,
in contact with the daily life, which seemed like a chapter
out of the "Arabian Nights," and also in the modern
part of the city, in contact with the newer life of Egypt,
among English and Egyptian functionaries, there was
constant stimulus to fruitful trains of thought.

For our journey of five weeks upon the Nile we had
what was called a "special steamer," the Sethi; and

II.-28



434 SUNDRY JOURNEYS AND EXPERIENCES -IV

for our companions, some fourteen Americans and Eng-
lishall on friendly terms. Every day came new sub-
jects of thought, and nearly every waking moment came
some new stimulus to observation and reflection.

Deeply impressed on my mind is the account given me
by Brugsch Bey, assistant director of the Egyptian Mu-
seum, of the amazing find of antiquities two or three
years before perhaps the most startling discovery ever
made in archaeology. It was on this wise. The museum
authorities had for some time noted that tourists com-
ing down the river were bringing remarkably beautiful
specimens of ancient workmanship ; and this led to a sus-
picion that the Arabs about the first cataract had dis-
covered a new tomb. For a long time nothing definite
could be found; but, at last, vigorous measures having
been taken, measures which Brugsch Bey did not ex-
plain, but which I could easily understand to be the time-
honored method of tying up the principal functionaries
of the region to their palm-trees and whipping them until
they confessed, the discovery was revealed, and Brugsch
Bey, having gone up the Nile to the place indicated, was
taken to what appeared to be a well; and, having been
let down into it by ropes, found himself in a sort of ar-
tificial cavern, not beautified and adorned like the royal
tombs of that region, but roughly hewn in the rock. It
was filled with sarcophagi, and at first sight of them he
was almost paralyzed. For they bore the names of sev-
eral among the most eminent early sovereigns and mem-
bers of sovereign families of the greatest days of Egypt.
The first idea which took hold of Brugsch 's mind while
stunned by this revelation was that he was dreaming;
but, having soon convinced himself that he was awake,
he then thought that he must be in some state of hallu-
cination after death that he had suddenly lost his life,
and that his soul was wandering amid shadows. But
this, too, he soon found unlikely. Then came over him
a sense of the reality and importance of the discovery
too oppressive to be borne. He could stay in the cavern



EGYPT, GREECE, AND TURKEY-1888-1889 435

no longer; and, having gone to the entrance of the
well and signaled to the men above, he was drawn up,
and, arriving at the surface, gasped out a command to
them all to leave him. He then sat down in the desert
to secure the calm required for further thought; and,
finally, having become more composed, returned to the
work, and the mummies of Rameses the Great and of
the other royal personages were taken from their tem-
porary home, carried down the river, and placed in the
museum at Cairo.

Another experience was of a very different sort. I
had passed a day with the Egyptian minister of public
instruction, Artin Pasha, at the great technical school
of Cairo, which, under the charge of an eminent French
engineer, is training admirably a considerable number
of Egyptians in various arts applied to industry; and,
at luncheon, I had noticed on the wall a portrait of the
Khedive, Tewfik Pasha, representing him as most com-
manding in manner over six feet in height, and in a
gorgeous uniform. On the evening of that day I went
to dine with the Khedive, and, entering the reception-
rooms, found a large assemblage, and was welcomed by
a kindly little man with a pleasant face, and in the plain-
est of uniforms, who, as I supposed, was the prime min-
ister, Riaz Pasha. His greeting was cordial, and we were
soon in close conversation, I giving him especially the
impressions made upon me by the school, asking ques-
tions and making suggestions. He entered very heartily
into it all, and detained me long, I wondering constantly
where the Khedive might be. Presently, the great doors
having been flung open and dinner announced, each gen-
tleman hastened to the lady assigned him, and all marched
out together, my thought being, ' ' This is the Oriental way
of entertaining strangers ; we shall, no doubt, find the sov-
ereign on his throne at the table." But, to my amaze-
ment, the first place at the table was taken by the unas-
suming little man with whom I had been talking so freely.
At first I was somewhat abashed, though the mistake



436 SUNDRY JOURNEYS AND EXPERIENCES -IV

was a very natural one. The fact was that I had been com-
pletely under the impression made upon me by the ideal-
ized portrait of the Khedive at the technical school, and
the thought had never entered my mind that the real
Khedive might be physically far inferior to the ideal.
But no harm was done ; for, after dinner, he came to me
again and renewed the conversation with especial cor-
diality. I also had a long talk with the real Biaz, and
found him intelligent and broad-minded. One thing he
said amused me. It was that he especially liked to wel-
come Americans, because they were not seeking to exploit
the country.

In Cairo and Alexandria I enjoyed meeting the Ameri-
can and English missionaries, among them my old Yale
friend Dr. Henry Jessup, who has for so many years
rendered admirable services at Beyrout; but the most
noteworthy thing was a lecture which I heard from Dr.
Grant, an eminent Presbyterian physician connected with
the mission. It was on the subject of the Egyptian Trini-
ties. The doctor explained them, as well as the Trimurtis
of India, by expressing his belief that when the Almighty
came down in the cool of the day to refresh himself by
walking and talking with Adam in the garden of Eden,
he revealed to the man he had made some of the great
mysteries of the divine existence, and that these had
"leaked out" to men who took them into other countries,
and there taught them !

I also found at Cairo another especially interesting
man of a very different sort, an Armenian, Mr. Nimr;
and, on visiting him, was amazed to find in his library
a large collection of English and French books, scientific
and literary among them the "New York Scientific
Monthly " containing my own articles, which he had done
me the honor to read. I found that he had been, at an
earlier period, a professor at the college established by
the American Protestant missionaries at Beyrout; but
that he and several others who had come to adopt the
Darwinian hypothesis were on that account turned out



EGYPT, GREECE, AND TURKEY -1888 -1889 437

of their situations, and that he had taken refuge in Cairo,
where he was publishing, in Arabic, a daily newspaper,
a weekly literary magazine, and a monthly scientific jour-
nal. I was much struck by one remark of his which
was, that he was doing his best to promote the interests
of Freemasonry in the East, as the only means of bring-
ing Christians and Mohammedans together under the
same roof for mutual help, with the feeling that they
were children of the same God. He told me that the worst
opposition he had met came from a very excellent Protes-
tant missionary, who had publicly insisted that the God
worshiped by the Mohammedans was not the God wor-
shiped by Christians. This reminded me of a sermon
which one of my friends heard in Strasburg Cathedral,
in which a priest, reproving his Catholic hearers for en-
tering into any relations with Protestants, especially op-
posed the idea that they worshiped the same God, and
insisted that the God of the Catholics and the God of
the Protestants are two different beings.

Among the things which gave me a real enjoyment at
this period, and aided to revive my interest in the world
about me, was the Saracenic architecture of Cairo and
its neighborhood. Nothing could be, in its way, more
beautiful. I had never before realized how much beauty
is obtainable under the limitations of Mohammedanism;
the exquisite tracery and fretwork of the Saracenic pe-
riod were a constant joy to me, and happily, as there had
been no "restorers," everything remained as it had left
the hands of the men of genius who created it.

In this older architecture a thousand things interested
me; but the greatest effect was produced by the tombs
at Beni Hassan, as showing the historical linking to-
gether of human ideas both in art and science the de-
velopment of one period out of another. Up to the time
of my seeing them I had supposed that the Doric archi-
tecture of Greece, and especially the Doric column, was
of Greek creation; now I saw the proof that it was
evolved out of an earlier form upon the lower Nile, which



438 SUNDRY JOURNEYS AND EXPERIENCES-IV

had itself, doubtless, been developed out of forms yet
earlier.

At one thing I was especially surprised. I found that,
excellent as are our missionaries in those regions, their
work has not at all been what those who send them have
supposed. No Mohammedan converts are made. Indeed,
should the good missionaries at Cairo wake up some fine
morning in the spacious quarters for which they are so
largely indebted to the late Khedive Ismail, and find that
they had converted a Mohammedan, they would be filled
with consternation. They would possibly be driven from
the country. The real Mohammedan cannot be con-
verted. There were, indeed, a few persons, here and
there, claiming to be converted Jews or Mohammedans;
but we were always warned against them, even by Chris-
tians, as far less trustworthy than those who were true
to their original faith. Whatever good is done by the
missionaries is done through their schools, to which come
many children of the Copts, with perhaps a certain num-
ber of Mohammedans desirous of learning English; and
the greatest of American missionary successes is doubt-
less Robert College at Constantinople, which has certainly
done a very noble work among the more gifted young
men of the Christian populations in the Turkish Empire.

Several times I attended service in the United Pres-
byterian church at Cairo, and found it hard, unattractive,
and little likely to influence any considerable number of
persons, whether Mohammedan or Christian. It was evi-
dent that the preachers, as a rule, were entirely out of
the current of modern theological and religious thought,
and that even the best and noblest of them represented
ideas no longer held by their leading coreligionists in
the countries from which they came.

After a stay of three months in Egypt, we left Alex-
andria for Athens, where I enjoyed, during a consid-
erable stay, the advantages of the library at the American
School of Archaeology, and the companionship of my
friend Professor Waldstein, now of Cambridge Univer-



EGYPT, GREECE, AND TURKEY- 1888 -1889 439

sity. Very delightful also were excursions with my old
Yale companion, Walker Fearne, our minister in Greece,
and his charming family, to the Acropolis, the Theater
of Dionysus, the Bay of Salamis, Megara, and other
places of interest. An especial advantage we had in the
companionship of Professor Mahaffy of Trinity College,
Dublin, whose comments on all these places were most
suggestive.

Very interesting to me was an interview with Tricou-
pis, the prime minister of the kingdom. His talk on the
condition of things in Greece was that of a broad-minded
statesman. Speaking of the relations of the Greek
Church to the state, he said that the church had kept
the language and the nationality of the people alive dur-
ing the Turkish occupation, but that, in spite of its ser-
vices, it had never been allowed to domineer over the
country politically; he dwelt on the importance of push-
ing railway communications into Europe, and lamented
the obstacles thrown in their way by Turkey. His remi-
niscences of Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Dallas, whom he had
formerly known at the Court of St. James during his
stay as minister in London, were especially interesting.

The most important "function" I saw was the sol-
emn "Te Deum" at the cathedral on the anniversary of
Greek independence, the King, Queen, and court being
present ; but I was less impressed by their devotion than
by the irreverence of a considerable part of the audi-
ence, who, at the close of the service, walked about in
the church with their hats on their heads. As to the
priests who swarmed about us in their Byzantine cos-
tumes and long hair, I was reminded of a sententious
Moslem remark regarding them: "Much hair, little
brains."

On Good Friday I visited Mars Hill and mused for an
hour over what has come from the sermon once preached
there.

Toward the end of April we left the Piraeus, and, after
passing through the JBgean on a most beautiful day, ar-



440 SUNDRY JOURNEYS AND EXPERIENCES -IV

rived in Constantinople, where I made the acquaintance
of Mr. Straus, our minister at that capital. Thus began
a friendship which I have ever since greatly prized. Mr.
Straus introduced me to two of the most interesting
men I have ever met ; the first of these being Hamdi Bey,
director of the Imperial Museum at Constantinople.
Meeting him at Mr. Straus 's table and in his own house,
I heard him discuss sundry questions relating to modern
art better, in some respects, than any other person I
have ever known. Never have I heard more admirably
discriminating judgments upon various modern schools
of painting than those which he then gave me.

The other person to whom Mr. Straus introduced me
was the British ambassador, Sir William White, who
was very hospitable, and revealed to me much in life and
literature. One thing especially surprised me namely,
that though a Roman Catholic, he had a great admiration
for Renan 's writings, of which he was a constant reader.
Here, too, I renewed my acquaintance with various mem-
bers of the diplomatic corps whom I had met elsewhere.
Curious was an evening visit to the Russian Embassy,
Mrs. Straus being carried in a sedan-chair, her husband
walking beside her in evening dress at one door, I at
the other, and a kavass, with drawn sword, marching
at the head of the procession.

While the Mohammedan history revealed in Constan-
tinople gave me frequent subjects of thought, I was more
constantly carried back to the Byzantine period. For
there was the Church of St. Sophia ! No edifice has ever
impressed me more; indeed, in many respects, none has
ever impressed me so much. Bearing in mind its origin,
its history, and its architecture, it is doubtless the most in-
teresting church in the world. Though smaller than St.
Peter's at Rome, it is vastly more impressive. Taking
into account the view as one enters, embracing the lofty
vaults retreating on all sides, the arches springing above
our heads, and, crowning all, the dome, which opens
fully upon the sight immediately upon passing the door-



EGYPT, GBEECE, AND TURKEY -1888 -1889 441

way, it is certainly the most overpowering of Christian
churches. Gibbon 's pictures thronged upon me, and very
vividly, as I visited the ground where formerly stood
the Great Circus, and noted the remains of monuments
where the " Blues" and "Greens" convulsed the city with
their bloody faction fights, and where squabbling Chris-
tian sects prepared the way for that Turkish dominion
which has now burdened this weary earth for more than
five hundred years.

From Constantinople, by Buda-Pesth, Vienna, Munich,
Ulm, and Frankfort-on-the-Main, to Paris, stopping in
each of these cities, mainly for book-hunting. At Munich
I spent considerable time in the Royal Library, where
various rare works relating to the bearing of theology
on civilization were placed at my disposal ; and at Frank-
fort added largely to my library especially mono-
graphs on Egypt and illuminated manuscripts of the
middle ages.

At Paris the Exposition of 1889 was in full blast. As
to the American exhibit, there were some things to be
lamented. Our "commission of experts" was in part
remarkably well chosen; among them being a number
of the best men in their departments that America has
produced; but, on the other hand, there were some who
had evidently been foisted upon the President by politi-
cians in remote States so-called " experts," yet as un-
fit as it is possible to conceive any human beings to be.
One of these, who was responsible for one of the most
important American departments, was utterly helpless.
Day in and day out, he sat in a kind of daze at the Ameri-
can headquarters, doing nothing indeed, evidently in-
capable of doing anything. One or two of his associates,
as well as sundry Frenchmen, asked me to aid in getting
his department into some order ; and this, though greatly
pressed for time, I did, devoting to the task several
days which I could ill afford.

Very happy was I over one improvement which the
United States had made since the former exposition, at



442 SUNDRY JOURNEYS AND EXPERIENCES -IV

which I had myself been a commissioner. Then all la-
mented and apologized for the condition of the Ameri-
can Art Gallery ; now there was no need either of lamen-
tation or apology, for there, in all their beauty, were
portraits by Sargent, and Gari Melchers's picture of "A
Communion Day in Holland" the latter touching the
deep places of the human heart. As I was sitting before
it one day, an English gentleman came with his wife and
sat beside me. Presently I heard him say: "Of all the
pictures in the entire exposition, this takes the strongest
hold upon me." Many other American pictures were
also objects of pride to us. I found our minister, Mr.
Whitelaw Eeid, very hospitable, and at his house became
acquainted with various interesting Americans. At
President Carnot's reception at the palace of the Elysee
I also met several personages worth knowing, and
among them, to my great satisfaction, Senator John
Sherman.

During this stay in Paris I took part in two commem-
orations. First came the Fourth of July, when, in obe-
dience to the old custom which I had known so well
in my student days, the American colony visited the
cemetery of the Eue Picpus and laid wreaths upon the
tomb of Lafayette, the American band performing a
dirge, and our marines on duty firing a farewell volley.
It was in every way a warm and hearty tribute. A week
later was the unveiling of the statue of Camille Desmou-
lins in the garden of the Palais Royal, this being the
one-hundredth anniversary of the day on which, in that
garden, and, indeed, on that spot, before the Cafe Foy,
he had roused the mob which destroyed the Bastille and
begun the whirlwind which finally swept away so much
and so many, including himself and his beloved Lucille.
Poor Camille, orating, gesticulating, and looking for a
new heaven and a new earth, was one of the little great
men so important at the beginning of revolutions and
so insignificant afterward. It was evident that, in spite
of the old legends regarding him, the French had ceased



EGYPT, GREECE, AND TURKEY-1888-1889 443

to care for him; I was surprised at the small number
present, and at the languid interest even of these.

Among my most delightful reminiscences of this period
are my walks and talks with my old Yale and Paris stu-
dent friend of nearly forty years before, Randall Gib-
son, who, having been a general in the Confederate ser-
vice, was now a United States senator from Louisiana.
Revisiting our old haunts, especially the Sorbonne, the
Pantheon, St. Sulpice, and other monuments of the Latin
Quarter, we spoke much of days gone by, he giving me
most interesting reminiscences of our Civil War period
as seen from the Southern side. One or two of the things
he told me are especially fastened in my mind. The first
was that as he sat with other officers over the camp-fire
night after night, discussing the war and their hopes
regarding the future, all agreed that when the Confed-
eracy obtained its independence there should be no
"right of secession" in it. But what interested me most
was the fact that he, a Democratic senator of the United
States, absolutely detested Thomas Jefferson, and, above
all things, for the reason that he considered Jefferson
the real source of the extreme doctrine of State sov-
ereignty. Gibson was a typical Kentucky Whig who, in
the Civil War, went with the South from the force of
family connections, friendships, social relations, and the
like, but who remained, in his heart of hearts, from first
to last, deeply attached to the Union.

Leaving Paris, we went together to Homburg, and
there met Mr. Henry S. Sanf ord, our minister at Belgium
during the Civil War, one of Secretary Seward's fore-
most agents on the European continent at that period.
His accounts of matters at that time, especially of the
doings of sundry emissaries of the United States, were
all of them interesting, and some of them exceedingly
amusing. At Homburg, too, I found my successor in
the legation at Berlin, Mr. Pendleton, who, though his
mind remained clear, was slowly dying of paralysis.

Thence with Gibson and Sanford down the Rhine to



444 SUNDRY JOURNEYS AND EXPERIENCES-IV

Mr. Sanford's country-seat in Belgium. It was a most
beautiful place, a lordly chateau, superbly built, fitted,
and furnished, ample for the accommodation of a score
of guests, and yet the rent he paid for it was but six hun-
dred dollars a year. It had been built by a prince at
such cost that he himself could not afford to live in it,



Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 38 of 54)