The Last Days of Immanuel Kant  

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The Last Days of Immanuel Kant is a text on Immanuel Kant by Thomas De Quincey first published in 1827 in Blackwood's Magazine. The text is largely based on Immanuel Kant in seinen letzten Lebensjahren (1804) by Ehregott Andreas Wasianski.

From the introductory:

I take it for granted that every person of education will acknowledge some interest in the personal history of Immanuel Kant. A great man, though in an unpopular path, must always be an object of liberal curiosity. To suppose a reader thoroughly indifferent to Kant, is to suppose him thoroughly unintellectual.... I make no apology to the reader for detaining him upon a short sketch of Kant's life and domestic habits, drawn from the authentic records of his friends and pupils.
It is true, that, without any illiberality on the part of the public in this country, the works of Kant are not regarded with the same interest which has gathered about his name; and this may be attributed to three causes--first, to the language in which they are written; secondly, to the supposed obscurity of the philosophy which they teach, whether intrinsic or due to Kant's particular mode of expounding it; thirdly, to the unpopularity of all speculative philosophy.

See also

Excerpts[1]

Kant never perspired, night or day. Yet it was astonishing how much heat he supported habitually in his study, and in fact was not easy if it wanted but one degree of this heat. Seventy-five degrees of Fahrenheit was the invariable temperature of this room in which he chiefly lived; and if it fell below that point, no matter at what season of the year, he had it raised artificially to the usual standard. In the heats of summer he went thinly dressed, and invariably in silk stockings; yet, as even this dress could not always secure him against perspiring when engaged in active exercise, he had a singular remedy in reserve. Retiring to some shady place, he stood still and motionless--with the air and attitude of a person listening, or in suspense-- until his usual aridity was restored. Even in the most sultry summer night, if the slightest trace of perspiration had sullied his night-dress, he spoke of it with emphasis, as of an accident that perfectly shocked him.
Precisely at five minutes before five o'clock, winter or summer, Lampe, Kant's servant, who had formerly served in the army, marched into his master's room with the air of a sentinel on duty, and cried aloud in a military tone, -- 'Mr. Professor, the time is come.'
It was a great misfortune for Kant, in his old age and infirmities, that this man also became old, and subject to a different sort of infirmities. This Lampe had originally served in the Prussian army; on quitting which he entered the service of Kant. In this situation he had lived about forty years; and, though always dull and stupid, had, in the early part of this period, discharged his duties with tolerable fidelity. But latterly, presuming upon his own indispensableness, from his perfect knowledge of all the domestic arrangements, and upon his master's weakness, he had fallen into great irregularities and neglect of his duties. Kant had been obliged, therefore, of late, to threaten repeatedly that he would discharge him. I, who knew that Kant, though one of the kindest-hearted men, was also one of the firmest, foresaw that this discharge, once given, would be irrevocable: for the word of Kant was as sacred as other men's oaths. Consequently, upon every opportunity, I remonstrated with Lampe on the folly of his conduct, and his wife joined me on these occasions. Indeed, it was high time that a change should be made in some quarter; for it now became dangerous to leave Kant, who was constantly falling from weakness, to the care of an old ruffian, who was himself apt to fall from intoxication. The fact was, that from the moment I undertook the management of Kant's affairs, Lampe saw there was an end to his old system of abusing his master's confidence in pecuniary affairs, and the other advantages which he took of his helpless situation. This made him desperate, and he behaved worse and worse; until one morning, in January, 1802, Kant told me, that, humiliating as he felt such a confession, the fact was, that Lampe had just treated him in a way which he was ashamed to repeat.
For the space of more than thirty years, during which he had been in the habit of reading the newspaper published by Hartung, Lampe delivered it with the same identical blunder on every day of publication. -- 'Mr. Professor, here is Hartmann's journal.' Upon which Kant would reply -- 'Eh! what?-- What's that you say? Hartmann's journal? I tell you, it is not Hartmann, but Hartung: now, repeat it after me-- not Hartmann, but Hartung.' Then Lampe, looking sulky, and drawing himself up with the stiff air of a soldier on guard, and in the very same monotonous tone with which he had been used to sing out his challenge of -- Who goes there? would roar- - 'not Hartmann, but Hartung.' 'Now again!' Kant would say: on which again Lampe roared -- 'not Hartmann, but Hartung.' 'Now a third time,' cried Kant: on which for a third time the unhappy Lampe would howl out-- 'not Hartmann, but Hartung.' And this whimsical scene of parade duty was continually repeated: duly as the day of publication came, the irreclaimable old dunce was put through the same manoeuvres, which were as invariably followed by the same blunder on the next.
the expressions of his impatience, though from old habit still gentle, were so lively, and had so much of infantine naivete about them, that none of us could forbear smiling. Knowing what would happen, I had taken care that all the preparations should be made beforehand; the coffee was ground; the water was boiling; and the very moment the word was given, his servant shot in like an arrow, and plunged the coffee into the water. All that remained, therefore, was to give it time to boil up. But this trifling delay seemed unendurable to Kant. All consolations were thrown away upon him: vary the formula as we might, he was never at a loss for a reply. If it was said -- 'Dear Professor, the coffee will be brought up in a moment.' Will be!' he would say, 'but there's the rub, that it only will be: Man never is, but always to be blest.'
One part only there was of the daily ceremonial, where all of us were at a loss, as it was a part which no mortal eyes had ever witnessed but those of Lampe: this was breakfast. However, that we might do all in our power, I myself attended at four o'clock in the morning. The day happened, as I remember, to be the 1st of February, 1802. Precisely at five, Kant made his appearance; and nothing could equal his astonishment on finding me in the room. Fresh from the confusion of dreaming, and bewildered alike by the sight of his new servant, by Lampe's absence, and by my presence, he could with difficulty be made to comprehend the purpose of my visit. A friend in need is a friend indeed; and we would now have given any money to that learned person who could have instructed us in the arrangement of the breakfast table. But this was a mystery revealed to none but Lampe.
Other people record what they wish to remember; but Kant had here recorded what he was to forget. 'Mem.: February, 1802, the name of Lampe must now be remembered no more.'
About ten o'clock in the forenoon he suffered a remarkable change; his eye was rigid and his face and lips became discolored by a cadaverous pallor. Still, such was the effect of his previous habits, that no trace appeared of the cold sweat which naturally accompanies the last mortal agony... Soon after his death the head of Kant was shaved; and, under the direction of Professor Knorr, a plaster cast was taken, not a masque merely, but a cast of the whole head, designed (I believe) to enrich the craniological collection of Dr. Gall.

Full text[2]

THE LAST DAYS OF IMMANUEL KANT.


I TAKE it for granted that all people of education will acknowledge some interest in the personal history of Im- manuel Kant, however little their taste or their opportu- nities may have brought them acquainted with the history of Kant's philosophical opinions. A great man, though in an unpopular path, must always be an object of liberal curiosity. To suppose a reader thoroughly indifferent to Kant, is to suppose him thoroughly unintellectualj and, therefore, though in reality he should happen not to regard Kant with interest, it would still be amongst the fictions of courtesy to presume that he did. On this principle I make no apology to any reader, philosophic or not, Goth or Vandal, Hun or Saracen, for detaining him upon a short sketch of Kant's life and domestic habits, drawn from the authentic records of his friends and pupils. It is true that, without any illiberality on the part of the public, the works of Kant are not, in this country, regarded with the same interest which has gathered about his name; and this may be attributed to three causes first, to the language in which those works are written;* secondly, to the sup-

  • " ThA language," &c. : viz., German. For it was a significant fact

- -significant cf that great revolution in conscious dignity which, early in the eighteenth century, had begun to dawn upon the German race

j)osed obscurity of the philosophy which they deliver, whe- ther inalienable, or due to Kant's particular mode of ex- pounding it; thirdly, to the unpopularity of all speculative philosophy whatsoever, no matter how treated, in a coun- try where the structure and tendency of society impress upon the whole activities of the nation a direction almost

that Leibnitz, the forerunner of Kant, holding the same station in phi- losophy for the fifty years between 1666 and 1716, which Kant held for the fifty years between 1750 and 1800, wrote chiefly in French; and, if at any time not in French, then in Latin; whereas Kant wrote almost exclusively in German. And why? Simply because all the sovereign princes in Germany, that found nothing amiss in German dollars and crowns, drew their little Aulic machineries in so servile a spirit of mi- micry from France, that the very breath of their nostrils was the foul, heated atmosphere of Versailles, "laid on" (as our water companies say) at second-hand for German use. The air of German forests which once Arminius had found good enough, the language of Germany that Luther had made resonant as a trumpet of resurrection these were not super- fine enough for the Serenissimi of Germany. Even Fritz the unique (Friederich der Einziger), which was the German name, the caressing name, for the man whom in England we call the great king of Prussia, the hero of the Seven Years' "War, the friend and also the enemy of Vol- taire, in this respect was even more abject than his predecessors. Eut, if he did not alter, Germany did. The great power and compass of the German language, which the vilest of anti-national servilities obscured to the eyes of those that occupied thrones, had gradually revealed them- selves to the popular mind of Germany, as it advanced in culture. And thence it happened that Kant's writings were almost exclusively in Ger- man; or, if in any case not in German, then in Latin, but Latin only upon an academic necessity. This prosperity, however, of the German language proved the misfortune of Kant's philosophy. For many years his philosophy was accessible only to those who read German, an accom- plishment exceedingly rare down to the era of Waterloo; or, if in any quar- ter not rare (as amongst the travelling agents of great commercial houses that exported to Germany, and amongst the clerks of bankers), not likely to be disposable for purposes of literature or philosophy. Since then, Kant has been translated into Latin viz., by Born, whose version I have not seen; and, as respects Kant's cardinal work, admirably by Phiseldek, a Danish professor; and it is possible by others unknown to myself. He has also been translated into English; but, if the slight fragment once communicated to myself were at all a fair representative specimen of the prevailing style, not in such English as could have much chance of win'


THE LAST DATS OF KANT. 101

exclusively practical.* But, whatever may have been the immediate fortunes of his writings, no man of enlightened curiosity will regard the author himself without something of a profounder interest. Measured by one test of power viz, by the number of books written directly for or against himself, to say nothing of those which indirectly

ning a favourable audience. To do that, however, it may be said, would be beyond all powers that ever yet were lodged in any language wielded by any artist. And, if so, does it not seem invidious to tax this parti- cular version, however unskilful, with a failure that must for all substan- tial results have attended any possible version, though in the highest degree judicious and masterly? I answer, that no doubt mere skill in the treatment of language could not avail to popularise a philosophy essentially obscure. Popular the Transcendental Philosophy cannot be. That is not its destiny. But, in those days, when as yet German was a sealed language, a judicious version might have availed to disarm this philosophy of all that is likely to prove offensive at first sight. The few who in any nation are capable of mastering it might have been concili- ated; at any rate, they did not need to find anything primd facie repul- sive, or gratuitously repulsive in its diction; and, here as in other cases, these few would gradually have diffused much of what was chiefly valu- able amongst the many. Were it only as to logic and as to ethics, there would have arisen the benefits of a new and severer legislation. Logic, mth its proper field and boundaries more rigorously ascertained, would have re-entered upon its rights; renouncing a jurisdiction not its own, it would have wielded with more authority and effect that winch is. And ethics, braced up into stoical vigour by renouncing all effeminate daily- ings with Eudcemonism, would indirectly have co-operated with the sublime ideals of Christianity.

  • "Exclusively practical:" At the time when this was written, it

might be regarded as nearer to the truth than now, and so far less need- ing an apology. But, on closer consideration, I doubt whether at any period this were true in the degree assumed by rash popular judgments. The speculative philosophy of England has at all times tended to hide itself in theology. In her divinity turks her philosophy. For more than three centuries, the divinity of England has formed a magnificent section in the national literature. In reality there are but two learned churches in the world not more, therefore, than two systematic theo- logies first, tfye Papal; secondly, amongst Protestant churches, the Anglican. But is there not also the German? Yes, there is also a Ger- man theology, and lias been any time these forty years. And with respect to this, which styles itself (upon mixed motives of cowardice and


102 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

he Las modified there is no philosophic writer whatso- ever, if we except Aristotle, Des Cartes, and Locke, who can pretend to approach Kant in the extent or in the depth of influence which he has exercised over the minds of men. Such being his claims upon our notice, I repeat that it is no more than a reasonable act of respect for the reader,

eelf-interest) a Protestant theology, it is quite sufficient to say, that it presents no unity of any kind, good or bad. It is a distracted, fragmen- tary thing; without internal cohesion; offering no systematic whole; starting from no avowed creed, and controlled by no common principles of interpretation. But is it not a learned theology; and, secondly, a Pretestant theology? As to the first question, any candid man will inswer by distinguishing if philology, and that alone, were equal to the task of building up a systematic divinity then is the German in a su- preme degree learned. But I deny that the enormous labours of three and a-half centuries, accumulated by our Anglican Church, by the Gal- lican Church, by various branches of the Romish Church more strictly Papal, can be resolved into mere philology. All studies connected with language having become in our day more critically exact, and with great advantages for accurate research, so far the German is seen under a favourable light. But, in the meantime, its labours of thought and far-stretching meditative collation are as children's play, by comparison with the colossal contributions of our own heroic workmen in that field. As to the second question, the answer is short and peremptory. Is it not Protestant] No; sans phrase, no. Neither could it ever have been fancied such, unless under the following fallacy. The characteristic principle of Protestantism is supposed to be the right of private judg- ment: without scruple, therefore, it is usual to say, all Protestants exer- cise the right of private judgment. Upon which comes some German, who reverses the rule saying, all men, exercising the right of private judgment, are Protestants. Under that courteous indulgence, German theology is Protestant, for assuredly there is no want of private judgment or audacity. But, in the meantime, the value or efficacy of such a desig- nation has exhaled into smoke. That cannot be Protestant which assumes by fits all possible relations to all conceivable subjects. It is enough to say, that the German theology is altogether at sea, drifting in any chance direction, according to the impulse which it receives: sometimes obedient to a random caprice in the individual writer, sometimes to a momentary fashion of thought in the age. It presents almost as many incoherent theologies as there are of individual authors. And finally, under any extremity of feud and schism, there is no recognised court (I speak figu- ratively, meaning no intellectual tribunal) for arbitration or appeal.


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 103

to presume in him so much interest about Kant as will justify this brief memorial sketch of his life and habits.

Immanuel Kant,* the second of six children, was born at Konigsberg, in Prussia (a city at that time containing about fifty thousand inhabitants), on the 22d of April, 1724. His parents were people of humble rank, and not rich even for their own station, but able (with some assist- ance from a near relative, and with a trifle in addition from a gentleman who esteemed them for their piety and domestic virtues) to give their son Immanuel a liberal education. He was sent, when a child, to a charity school; and in the year 1732 was removed to the Royal (or Fre- derician) Academy. Here he studied the Greek and Latin classics, and formed an intimacy with one of his school- fellows, David Ruhnken (afterwards so well known to scholars under his Latinised name of Ruhnkenius), which lasted until the death of the latter. In 1737, Kant lost his mother, a woman of exalted character, and of intellec- tual accomplishments beyond her rank, who contributed to the future eminence of her illustrious son by the direc- tion which she impressed upon his youthful thoughts, and by the elevated morals to which she trained him. Kant never spoke of her to the end of his life without the utmost tenderness, or without earnest acknowledgment of his obli- gations to her maternal care.

In 1740, at Michaelmas, he entered the University of Konigsberg. In 1746, when about twenty-two years old, he wrote his first work, upon a question partly mathema-


  • By the paternal side, the family of Kant was of Scotch derivation;

and hence it is that the name was written by Kant the father Cant, that being a Scotch name, and still to be found in Scotland. But Iin- inanuel substituted a K for a C, in order to adapt it better to the analo- gies of the German language.


104 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

tical and partly philosophic viz., the valuation of living forces. The question concerned had been first moved by Leibnitz, in opposition to the Cartesians; a new law of valuation, and not merely a new valuation, was insisted on by Leibnitz; and the dispute was supposed to have been here at last and finally settled, after having occupied most of the great European mathematicians for more than half-a-century. Kant's "Dissertation" was dedicated to the King of Prussia, but never reached him; having, in fact (though printed, I believe), never been published.* From this time till 1770, Kant supported himself as a private tutor in different families, or by giving private lectures in Kb'nigsberg, especially to military men on the art of fortification. In 1770, he was appointed to the Chair of Mathematics, which he exchanged soon after for that of Logic and Metaphysics. On this occasion he deli- vered an inaugural disputation (De Mundi SensiUlis atque Intelligibilis Forma et Principtis), which is remarkable for containing the first germs f of the Transcendental Philo- sophy. In 1781, he published his great work, the " Kri- tik der Reinen Vernunft," or "Critical Investigation of the Pure Reason." On February 12, 1804, he died.

These are the great epochs of Kant's life. But his was a life remarkable, not so much for its incidents, as for the purity and philosophic dignity of its daily tenour; and of

  • To this circumstance we must attribute its being so little known

amongst the philosophers and mathematicians of foreign countries, and also the fact that D'Alembert, whose philosophy was miserably below his mathematics, many years afterwards still continued to represent the dis- pute as a verbal one.

t " The first germs:" Such, I believe, is the prevailing phrase, but in reality much more than germs. To me this memorable essay seems rather to resemble an abstract of the " Kritik der Reinen VernuDft." from a dim recollection of it, than a foreshadowing of its outline by any effort of imperfect preconception.


TEE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 105

this the best impression will be obtained from Wasianski's memorials checked and supported by the collateral testi- monies of Jachmann, Rink, Borowski, and others. We see him here struggling with the misery of decaying faculties, and with the pain, depression, and agitation of two different complaints one affecting his stomach, and the other his head; over all which the benignity and nobility of his na- ture mount, as if on wings, victoriously to the last. The principal defect of this and all other memoirs of Kant is, that they report too little of his conversation and opinions. And perhaps the reader will be disposed to complain, that some of the notices are too minute and circumstantial, so as to be at one time undignified, and at another unfeeling. With respect to the first objection, it may be answered, that biographical gossip of this sort, and ungentlemanly scrutiny into a man's private life, though not what a man of honour would allow himself to write, may be read with- out blame; and, where a great man is the subject, some- times with advantage. As to the other objection, I should hardly know how to excuse Mr Wasianski for kneeling at the bedside of his dying friend, in order to record, with the accuracy of a short-hand reporter, the last flutter of Kant's pulse, and the struggles of nature labouring in extremity^ except by supposing that his idealised conception of Kant, as of one belonging to all ages, seemed in his mind to transcend and swallow up the ordinary restraints of human sensibility; and that, under this impression, he gave that to his sense of a public duty which, it may be hoped, he would willingly have declined on the impulse of his private affections. Now let us begin, premising that for the most part it is Wasianski who speaks.*

  • "It is Wasiansld who speaks :" This notification, however, must

not be too rigorously interpreted. Undoubtedly it would be wrong, and


106 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

      • + *

My knowledge of Professor Kant began long before the period to which this little memorial of him chiefly refers. Tn the year 1773 or 1774, I cannot exactly say which, I attended his lectures. Afterwards I acted as his amanu- ensis; and in that office was naturally brought into a closer connection with him than any other of the students; so that, without any request on my part, he granted me a general privilege of free access to his class-room. In 1780 I took orders, and withdrew myself from all connec- tion with the university. I still continued, however, to reside in Konigsberg; but wholly forgotten, or at any rate wholly unnoticed, by Kant. Ten years later (that is to say, in 1790), I met him by accident at a gay festal party; in fact it was a wedding party, and the wedding was that of a Konigsberg professor. At table, Kant distributed hi? conversation and attentions pretty generally; but after the entertainment, when the company had dispersed into separate groups, he came and seated himself obligingly by my side. At that time I was a florist an amateur, I mean, from the passion I had for flowers; upon learning which he talked of my favourite pursuit, and with very extensive information. In the course of our conversation, I was surprised to find that he was perfectly acquainted

of evil example, to distribute and confound the separate responsibilities of men. When the opinions involve important moral distinctions, by all means let every man hang by his own hook, and answer for no more than he has solemnly undertaken for. But, on the other hand, it would be most annoying to the reader, if all the petty recollections of some ten or fourteen men reporting upon Kant were individually to be labelled each with its separate certificate of origin and ownership. Wasianski loquitur may be regarded as the running title: but it is not, therefore, to be understood that Wasianski is always responsible for each particular opinion or fact reported, unless where it is liable to doubt or controversy. In that case, the responsibility is cautiously discriminated and restricted.


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 107

with all the circumstances of my situation. He reminded me of our previous connection; expressed his satisfaction at finding that I was happy; and was so good as to desire that,, if my engagements allowed me, I would now and then come and dine with him. Soon after this, he rose to take his leave; and, as our roads lay in the same direction, he proposed to me that I should accompany him home. I did so; and then received an invitation for the next week, with a general invitation for every week after, and permission to name my own day. At first I found it diffi- cult to account for the distinction with which Kant had treated me; and I conjectured that some obliging friend might have spoken of me, jn his hearing, somewhat more advantageously than belonged to my humble pretensions; but more intimate experience has convinced me, that he was in the habit of making continual inquiries after the welfare of his former pupils, and was heartily rejoiced to hear of their prosperity. So that it appeared I was wrong in thinking he had forgotten me.

This revival of my intimacy with Kant coincided pretty nearly, in point of time, with a complete change in his own domestic arrangements. . Up to this period it had been his custom to dine at, a table d'hote. But he now began to keep house himself; and every day invited a few friends to dine with him, so as to fix the party (himself included) at three for the lower extreme, and at nine for the upper, and upon any little festival from five to eight. He was, in fact, a punctual observer of Lord Chesterfield's rule* that

  • This was no rule of Lord Chesterfield's, but a rule bequeathed to us

by the classical ages of Greece. Not happening, however, to remember this, and looking out for some suitable person to invest with the paternity of so graceful "a formula, the German writer showed his judgment in fixing upon Lord Chesterfield; for, though not his, the mot is really not better than many that are : it ought to be Ju*.


108 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

his dinner party, himself included, should not fall below the number of the Graces, nor exceed that of the Muses. In the whole economy of his household arrangements, and especially of his dinner parties, there was something peculiar, and amusingly opposed to the conventional usage of society; not, however, that there was any neglect of decorum, such as sometimes occurs in houses where there are no ladies to impress a better tone upon the manners. The routine, which under no circumstances either varied or relaxed, was this : no sooner was dinner ready, than Lampe, the professor's old footman, stepped into the study with a certain measured air, and announced it. This summons was obeyed at a pace of double-quick time Kant talking all the way to the eating-room about the state of the weather,* a subject which he usually pursued during the earlier part of the dinner. Graver themes, such as the political events of the day, were never introduced before dinner, or at all in his study. The moment that Kant had taken his seat, and unfolded his napkin/he opened the business of the hour with a particular formula "Now, then, gentlemen!" The words are nothing; but the tone and air with which he uttered them proclaimed, in a way that nobody could mistake, relaxation from the toils of the morning, and determinate abandonment of himself to social enjoyment. The table was hospitably spread; a sufficient choice of dishes there was to meet the variety of tastes; and the decanters of wine were placed, not on a distant sideboard, or under the odious control of a servant (first cousin to the Barme- cides), but anacreontically on the table, and at the elbow


His reason for which was, that he considered the weather one of the principal forces which act upon the health; and his own frame was ex- quisitely sensible to all atmospheric influences.


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 109

of every guest.* Every person helped himself; and all delays, from too elaborate a spirit of ceremony, were so disagreeable to Kant, that he seldom failed to express his displeasure with anything of that sort, though not angrily. For this hatred of delay Kant had a special ex- cuse, having always worked hard from an early hour in the morning, and eaten nothing until dinner. Hence it was, that in the latter period of his life, though less per- haps from actual hunger than from some uneasy sensation of habit or periodical irritation of stomach, he could

  • Something is said or insinuated, by some of the contributors to this

record, about second courses. But, in strict truth, when speaking of so humble a menage as that of any scholar possessing no private fortune, or (like Kant) none beyond that modest one of about 4000 sterling, which forty years of frugality had won from the narrow appointments of his academic office, one is obliged to recollect that anything whatever in the shape of a remove will stand good for a technical "course." I knew a man who presented his guests with a plate of water-cresses and radishes, as what he called a third course, and two kinds of biscuits as & fourth. Meantime, I have myself drawn from a private source some information (liable to no doubt whatsoever) which would partially set aside the re- ports of "Wasianski and Kink. Do I therefore allow myself to question the veracity of these gentlemen] Not at all. The mere triviality of the whole case is a sufficient guarantee of their accuracy. But of necessity they (one as much as the other) spoke to a particular period a month, or a year. My two informants spoke to far different periods differing by five and nine years from the period of Wasianski, and each from the . other differing by four. These two informants (one of them an English- man, long settled as a merchant at Konigsberg) described to me a dinner in all its circumstantial features. The sum of their information was, that in those days Kant's dinners, if at all of the festival class com- memorating any interesting event, were long and loitering, as indeed all dinners ought to be which minister to colloquial pleasures as their pri- mary objects. They lasted through three or four hours; and the dishes were not placed on the table at all, but were handed round one by one in succession. On this plan it was out of the question to talk of courses. People leaned back in their chairs, as at any aristocratic dinner in England, for half-hours together, simply conversing, and recurring only at inter- vals to the business of eating, when any dish happened to be offered which epecially attracted the particular guest.


110 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

Lardly wait with patience for the arrival of the last person invited.

There was no friend of Kant's but considered the day on which he was to dine with him as a day of festal pleasure. Without giving himself the air of an instructor, Kant really was such in the very highest degree. The whole enter- tainment was seasoned with the overflow of his enlightened mind, poured out naturally and unaffectedly upon every topic, as the chances of conversation suggested it; and the time flew rapidly away, from one o'clock to four, five, or even later, profitably and delightfully. Kant tolerated no lulls, which was the name he gave to the momentary pauses in conversation, when its animation languished. Some means or other he always devised for rekindling its tone of interest; and in this he was much assisted by the tact with which he drew from every guest his peculiar tastes, or the particular direction of his pursuits; and on these, be they what they might, he was never unprepared to speak with knowledge, and with the interest of an original observer. The local affairs of Konigsberg must have been interesting indeed, before they could be allowed to usurp attention at his table. And what may seem still more singular, it was rarely or never that he directed the conversation to any branch of the philosophy founded by himself. Indeed he was perfectly free from the fault which besets so many savans and literati, of intolerance towards those whose pursuits might happen to have disqualified them for any special sympathy with his own. His style of conversation was popular in the highest degree, and un- scholastic; so much so, that any stranger acquainted with his works, but not with his person, would have found it difficult to believe, that in this delightful and genial companion he saw the profound author of the Transcendental Philosophy.


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. Ill

The subjects of conversation at Kant's table were drawn chiefly from natural philosophy, chemistry, meteorology, natural history, and, above all, from politics. The news of the day, as reported in the newspapers, was discussed with a peculiar vigilance of examination.* With regard to any narrative that wanted dates of time and place, plau- sible as it might otherwise seem, he was uniformly an in- exorable sceptic, and held it unworthy of repetition. So keen was his penetration into the interior of political events, and the secret policy under which they moved, that he

  • And even with a searching spirit of scepticism, for which all the

journals in central Europe (as then conducted) furnished but too much justification. In none of the German states was there, nor could there have been, either illumination to discern, or freedom to choose. The French Revolution had suddenly begun to rock, like a succession of earth- quakes, beneath and round about all thrones. Awful chasms in the midst of portentous gloom, equally uncertain for their extent and their direc- tion, seemed opening and yawning beneath men's feet. And at a time when the kings of Christendom could rationally have faced the new-born dreadful republic on the Seine in no rational spirit of hope, but such as rested on fraternal alliance and absolute good faith, most of them were perfidiously undermining, by secret intrigues for purely selfish objects, those great military confederacies on which ostensibly they relied. Prussia, above all, in the very noon of her aggressive movements against France, and in the mid ravings of her hellish menaces against Paris (such as fur- nished but too colourable a plea to the atrocities that subsequently turned France into a butcher's shambles), was playing the traitress to her en- gagements from the first fixing her hungry eye upon the approaching wrecks of Poland; and in captivity to this fierce vulture instinct, as if scenting continually the odour of distant carrion in the East, altogether overlooking her great military interests in the West, so perilously con- fided to the Duke of Brunswick. To the stern integrity of Kant, all such double-dealing was hateful. That it should be imputed to his own coun- try, grieved him profoundly. Personally he was known to the reigning King of Prussia; had been treated by that prince with distinguished con- sideration; and thus had an extra motive for refusing at first to read the signs of the Prussian policy as many others read them. But he was too sagacious not to ^uspect them; and the evidences of this deep treachery, which laid the foundation f6r suffering so incalculable to all the states of Christendom, but to none so much as to Prussia herself from 1806 to 1813, finally became irresistible.


1 1 2 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

talked rather with the authority of a diplomatic person who had access to cabinet intelligence, than as a simple specta- tor of the great scenes which were in those days unfolding throughout Europe. At the time of the French Revolu- tion, he threw out many conjectures, and what then passed for paradoxical anticipations, especially in regard to mili- tary operations, which were as punctually fulfilled as his own memorable conjecture in regard to the hiatus in the planetary system between Mars and Jupiter,* the entire confirmation of which he lived to witness on the discovery of Ceres by Piazzi, and of Pallas by Dr Olbers. These two discoveries, by the way, impressed him much; and they fur- nished a topic on which he always talked with pleasure; though, according to his usual modesty, he never said a word of his own sagacity in having upon a priori grounds shown the probability of such discoveries many years before.

  • Vesta and Juno were discovered in June, 1804, about the time when

Wasianski wrote. Meantime, I do not profess to understand my German authorities at this point. Any hiatus in the planetary system that Kant suspected, so far as I am acquainted with his views, did not lie between Mars and Jupiter, but in a higher region; neither was it of a nature to be remedied by bodies so small as Ceres and Pallas. What Kant had indicated as an apparent ground for presuming some hiatus in our own system, was the abruptness of the transition from one order of orbits to another viz., from the planetary, which might be regarded as by ten- dency circular, to the cometary order, which departs from this tendency by all degrees of eccentricity. The passing of the first into the last seemed to Kant not properly graduated: it was discontinuous. He pre- sumed, therefore, that between the outermost known planet, which at that time was Saturn, and the cometary system, some great planet must exist that would constitute a link of transition as being more eccentric than Saturn, and less so than the nearest of the comets. Not very long after was discovered by Herschel (the father) the great planet Uranus, or (as it was called by the discoverer in a spirit of gratitude to his patron) the Georgium Sidus. This discovery was so far a justification of Kant's conjecture; which conjecture was altogether an a priori speculation, like that which led to the discovery of Neptune that is, it did not by one iota rest upon any experimental hint, but upon necessities a priwi.


THE LAST BAYS OF KANT. 113

It was not only in the character of a companion that Kant shone, but also as a most courteous and liberal host, who had no greater pleasure than in seeing his guests happy and jovial, and rising with exhilarated spirits from the mixed pleasures intellectual and liberally sensual of his Platonic banquets. Chiefly, perhaps, with a view to the sustaining of genial hilarity, he showed himself some- what of an artist in the composition of his dinner parties. Two rules there were which he obviously observed, and I may say invariably: the first was, that the company should be miscellaneous; this for the sake of securing sufficient variety to the conversation: and accordingly his parties presented as much variety as the world of Konigsberg af- forded, being drawn from all varieties of life men in office, professors, physicians, clergymen, and enlightened merchants. His second rule was, to have a due balance of young men, frequently of very young men, selected from the students of the university, in order to impress a move- ment of gaiety and juvenile playfulness on the conversa- tion; an additional motive for which, as I have reason to believe, was, that in this way he withdrew his mind from the sadness which sometimes overshadowed it, for the early deaths of some young friends whom he loved.

And this leads me to mention a singular feature in Kant's way of expressing his sympathy with his friends in sickness. So long as the danger was imminent, he testi- fied a restless anxiety, made perpetual inquiries, waited with impatience for the crisis, and sometimes could not pursue his customary labours from agitation of mind. But no sooner was the patient's death announced, than he recovered his- composure, and assumed an air of stern tranquillity almost of indifference. The reason was, that he viewed life in general, and therefore that particular

E2


1 1 4 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

affection of life which we call sickness, as a state of oscilla- tion and perpetual change, between which and the fluctu- ating sympathies of hope and fear, there was a natural proportion that justified them to the reason; whereas death as a permanent state that admitted of no more and no less, that terminated all anxiety, and for ever extio guished the agitations of suspense he regarded as not adapted to any state of feeling, but one of the same enduring and unchanging character. However, all this philosophic heroism gave way on one occasion; for many persons will remember the tumultuous grief which he manifested upon the death of Mr Ehrenboth, a young man of very fine understanding and extensive attainments, for whom he had the greatest affection. And naturally it happened, in so long a life as his, in spite of his provident rule for selecting his social companions as much as possible amongst the young, that he had to mourn for many a heavy loss that could never be supplied to him.

To return, however, to the course of his day, imme- diately after the termination of his dinner party, Kant walked out for exercise; but on this occasion he never took any companion; partly, perhaps, because he thought it right, after so much convivial and colloquial relaxation, to pursue his meditations,* and partly (as I happen to

  • Mr Wasianski is wrong. To pursue his meditations under these cir-

cumstances might, perhaps, be an inclination of Kant's to which he yielded, but not one which he would justify or erect into a maxim. He disapproved of eating alone, or solipsismus conmctorii, as he calls it, on the principle, that a man would be apt, if not called off by the business and pleasure of a social party, to think too much or too closely, an exer- cise which he considered very injurious to the stomach during the first process of digestion. On the same principle he disapproved of walking or riding alone; the double exercise of thinking and of bodily agitation, carried on simultaneously, being calculated, as he conceived, to press toa baid upon the stomach.


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 115

know) for this very peculiar reason that he wished to breathe exclusively through his nostrils, which he could not do, if he were obliged continually to open his mouth in conversation. His reason for this wish was, that the at- mospheric air, being thus carried round by a longer circuit, and reaching the lungs, therefore, in a state of less rawness, and at a temperature somewhat higher, would be less apt to irritate them. By a steady perseverance in this prac- tice, which he constantly recommended to his friends, he flattered himself with a long immunity from coughs, hoarse- nesses, catarrhs, and all modes of pulmonary derangement; and the fact really was, that these troublesome affections attacked him very rarely. Indeed, I myself, by only occa- sionally adopting his rule, have found my chest not so liable as formerly to such attacks.

On returning from his walk, he sat down to his library table, and read till dusk. During this period of dubious light, so friendly to thought, he rested in tranquil medita- tion on what he had been reading, provided the book were worth it; if not, he sketched his lecture for the next day, or some part of any book he might then be composing. During this state of repose, he took his station winter and summer by the stove, looking through the window at the old tower of Lobenicht; not that he could be said properly to see it, but the tower rested upon his eye as distant music on the ear obscurely, or but half revealed to the conscious- ness. No words seem forcible enough to express his sense of the gratification which he derived from this old tower, when seen under these circumstances of twilight and quiet reverie. The sequel, indeed, showed how important it had become to his comfort; for at length some poplars in a neighbouring garden shot up to such a height as to obscure the tower, upon which Kant became very uneasy and rest-


116 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

less, and at length found himself positively unable to pursue his evening meditations. Fortunately, the pro- prietor of the garden was a very considerate and obliging person, who had, besides, a high regard for Kant; and, accordingly, upon a representation of the case being made to him, he gave orders that the poplars should be cropped. This was done; the old tower of Lb'benicht was again ex- posed; Kant recovered his equanimity, and once more found himself able to pursue his twilight meditations in peace.

After the candles were brought, Kant prosecuted his studies till nearly ten o'clock. A quarter-of-an-hour before retiring for the night, he withdrew his mind as much as possible from every class of thoughts which demanded any exertion or energy of attention, on the principle, that by stimulating and exciting him too much, such thoughts would be apt to cause wakefulness; and the slightest in- terference with his customary hour of falling asleep was in the highest degree unpleasant to him. Happily, this was with him a very rare occurrence. He undressed himself without his servant's assistance; but in such an order, and with such a Roman regard to decorum and the rb crgsorov, that he was always ready at a moment's warning to make his appearance without embarrassment to himself or to others. This done, he lay down on a mattress, and wrapped himself up in a quilt, which in summer was always of cotton; in autumn, of wool; at the setting-in of winter, he used both; and, against very severe cold, he protected himself by one of eider-down, of which the part which covered his shoulders was not stuffed with feathers, but padded, or rather Padded closely with layers of wool. Long practice had taught him a very dexterous mode of nesting and enswathing himself in the bedclothes. First of


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 117

all, he sat down on the bedside; then with an agile motion he vaulted obliquely into his lair; next he drew one corner of the bedclothes under his left shoulder, and, passing it below his back, brought it round so as to rest under his right shoulder; fourthly, by a particular tour d'adresse, he operated on the other corner in the same way; and fin- ally contrived to roll it round his whole person. Thus swathed like a mummy, or (as I used to tell him) self-in- volved like the silk-worm in its cocoon, he awaited the approach of sleep, which generally came on immediately. For Kant's health was exquisite; not mere negative health, or the absence of pain, and of irritation, and also of mal-aise (either of which, though not " pain," is often worse to bear), but a state of positive pleasurable sensation, and a con- scious possession of all his vital activities. Accordingly? when packed up for the night in the way I have described, he would often ejaculate to himself (as he used to tell us at dinner) " Is it possible to conceive a human being with more perfect health than myself?" In fact, such was the purity of his life, and such the happy condition of his situation, that no uneasy passion ever arose to excite him, nor care to harass, nor pain to awake him. Even in the severest winter, his sleeping-room was without a fire; only in his latter years he yielded so far to the entreaties of his friends as to allow of a very small one. All nursing or self-indulgence found no quarter with Kant. In fact, five minutes, in the coldest weather, sufficed to supersede the first chill of the bed, by the diffusion of a general glow over his person. If he had any occasion to leave his room in the night-time (for it was always kept dark day and night, summer and winter), he guided himself by a rope, which was duly attached to his bedpost every night, and carried into the adjoining apartment.


118 THE LAST DAYS OF KAXT.

Kant never perspired,* night or day. Yet it was asto- nishing how much heat he supported habitually in his study, and, in fact, was not easy if it wanted but one de- gree of this heat. Seventy-five degrees of Fahrenheit was the invariable temperature of this room in which he chiefly lived; and if it fell below that point, no matter at what season of the year, he had it raised artificially to the usual standard. In the heats of summer he went thinly dressed, and invariably in silk stockings; yet, as even this dress could not always secure him against perspiring when en-

  • This appears less extraordinary, considering the description of Kant's

person, given originally by Reichardt, about eight years after his death . "Kant," says this writer, "was drier than dust" [if so, he was worse than Dr Dry-os-dust, whom else we generally place at the head of his category], " both in body and mind. His person was small; and possibly a more meagre, arid, parched anatomy of a man .has not appeared upon this earth. The upper part of his face was grand; forehead lofty and serene, nose elegantly turned, eyes brilliant and penetrating; but express- ing powerfully the coarsest sensuality, which in him displayed itself by immoderate addiction to eating and drinking." This last feature of his temperament is, beyond a doubt, here expressed much too harshly. There were but two things on earth viz., coffee and tobacco for which Kant had an immoderate liking; and from both of those, under some notion that they were unwholesome, it is notorious that generally he abstained. By the way, Kant's indisposition to perspire, taken in connection with his exquisite health, may serve perhaps to refute (or, at least, to throw strong doubts upon) a dark fancy, which has been sometimes insinuated as to the misery which desolated the life of Cowper the poet. I knew personally several of Cowper's nearest friends and relatives one of whom, by the way, a brilliant and accomplished barrister, with a splen- did fortune, shot himself under no other impulse than that of pure ennui, or tcedium vita, or, in fact, furious rebellion against the odious monotony of life. Tcedet me haruni quotidianarum formarum : this was his outcry. Ah, wherefore should Thursday be such a servile fac-simile of Wednesday] This, however, argued a taint of insanity in the family. But, said some people, that taint (presuming it to exist) rested upon the incapacity of perspiring. Cowper could not perspire. This I know to be a fact; and connecting it with Cowper's constitutional tendency to mania, one might fancy the one peculiarity to be the cause of the other. But, on the other hand, here is Kant equally non-perspiring, who never betrayed any tendency to mania.


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 1 1 9

gaged in active exercise, lie had a singular remedy in re- serve. Retiring to some shady place, he stood still and motionless with the air and attitude of a person listening, or in suspense until his usual aridity was restored. Even in the most sultry summer night, if the slightest trace of perspiration had sullied his night-dress, he spoke of it with emphasis, as of an accident that perfectly shocked him.

On this occasion, whilst illustrating Kant's notions of the animal economy, it may be as well to add one other parti- cular, which is, that, for fear of obstructing the circulation of the blood, he never would wear garters; yet, as he found it difficult to keep up his stockings without them, he had invented for himself a most elaborate substitute, which I will describe. In a little pocket, somewhat smaller than a watch-pocket, but occupying pretty nearly the same situation as a watch-pocket on each thigh, there was placed a small box, something like a watch-case, but smaller: into this box was introduced a watch-spring in a wheel, round about which wheel was wound an elastic cord, for regulating the force of which there was a separate contrivance. To the two ends of this cord were attached hooks, which hooks were carried through a small aperture in the pockets, and so, passing down the inner and the outer side of the thigh, caught hold of two loops which were fixed on the off side and the near side of each stocking. As might be expected, so complex an apparatus was liable, like the Ptolemaic system of the heavens, to occasional derangements; however, by good luck, I was able to apply an easy remedy to these disorders, which otherwise threatened to disturb the somfort, and even the serenity, of the great man.

Precisely at five minutes before five o'clock, winter and Bummer, Lampe, Kant's footman, who had formerly served


120 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

in the army, marched into his master's room with the air of a sentinel on duty, and cried aloud, in a military tone, " Mr Professor, the time is come." This summons Kant invariably obeyed without one moment's delay, as a sol- dier does the word of command never, under any circum- stances, allowing himself a respite, not even under the rare accident of having passed a sleepless night. As the clock struck five, Kant was seated at the breakfast-table, where he drank what he called one cup of tea; and no doubt he thought it such; but the fact was, that, in part from his habit of reverie, and in part also for the purpose of re- freshing its warmth, he filled up his cup so often, that in general he is supposed to have drunk two, three, or some unknown number. Immediately after, he smoked a pipe of tobacco (the only one which he allowed himself through the entire day), but so rapidly, that a pile of reliques par- tially aglow remained unsmoked. During this operation he thought over his arrangements for the day, as he had done the evening before during twilight. About seven he usually went to his lecture-room, and from that he returned to his writing-table. Precisely at three-quarters before one, he arose from his chair, and called aloud to the cook, " It has struck three-quarters." The meaning of which summons was this: At dinner, and immediately after taking soup, it was his constant practice to swallow what he called a dram, which consisted either of Hungarian wine, of Ehenish, of a cordial, or (in default of these) of the English compound called Bishop. A flask or a jug of this was brought up by the cook on the proclamation of the three-quarters. Kant hurried with it to the dining- room, poured out his quantum, left it standing in readiness (covered, however, with paper, to prevent its becoming vapid), and then went tack to his study, where he awaited


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 121

the arrival of his guests, whom to the latest period of his life he never received otherwise than in full dress.

Thus we come round again to dinner, and the reader has now an accurate picture of Kant's day, according to the usual succession of its changes. To him the monotony of this succession was not burdensome, and probably contri- buted, with the uniformity of his diet, and other habits of the same regularity, to lengthen his life. On this conside- ration, indeed, he had come to regard his health and his old age as in a great measure the product of his own exertions. He spoke of himself often under the figure of a gymnastic artist, who had continued for nearly fourscore years to sup- port his balance upon the tight-rope of life, without once swerving to the right or to the left. And certainly, in spite of every illness to which his constitutional tendencies had exposed him, he still kept his position in life triumphantly.

This anxious attention to his health accounts for the great interest which he attached to all new discoveries in medicine, or to new ways of theorising on the old ones. As a work of great pretension in both classes, he set the highest value upon the theory of the Scotch physician, Brown, or (as it is usually called, from the Latinised name of its author) the Brunonian Theory. No sooner had Weikard adopted* and popularised it in Germany, than Kant became familiar with its details. He considered it not only as a great step taken for medicine, but even for the general interests of man, and fancied that in this he saw something analogous to the course which human nature has held in still more important inquiries viz.: first of all, a continual ascent towards the more and more

  • This theory was afterwards greatly modified in Germany; and, judg-

ing from the random glances which I throw on these subjects, I that in this recast it still keeps its ground in that countrj. F III.


H2 THE LAST DATS OP KANT.

elaborately complex, and then a treading back, on its own steps, towards the simple and elementary. Dr Beddoes' Essays, also, for producing by art and for curing pulmo- nary consumption, and the method of Keich for curing fevers, made a powerful impression upon him; which, how- ever, declined as those novelties (especially the last) began to sink in credit.* As to Dr Jenner's discovery of vacci- nation, he was less favourably disposed to it; he appre- hended dangerous consequences from the absorption of a brutal miasma into the human blood, or at least into the lymph; and at any rate he thought that, as a guarantee against the variolous infection, it required a much longer probation.f Groundless as all these views were, it was


  • It seems singular, but in fact illustrates perhaps the dominion of

chance and accident in distributing so unequally and disproportionately the attention of learned inquirers to important and suggestive novelties; and in part also it proclaims the very imperfect diffusion in those days, through scientific journals, of useful discoveries that, in the treatment of fevers, Kant seems never to have heard of the " cold-water allusion " introduced by Dr Currie; nor again of the revolutionary principles ap- plied by Dr Kentish and others to the treatment of burns. Dr Beddoes, who married a sister of Miss Edgeworth's, and was the father of Beddoes the poet (a man of real genius), Kant had heard of, and regarded with much interest. In which there was an unconscious justice. For Dr Beddoes read extensively amongst German literature in the first decen- nium of this century, when a few dozens composed the entire body of such students in Great Britain. He was, in fact, the first man who uttered the name of Jean Paul Bichter in an English book; as I myself was the first (December, 1821) who gave in English a specimen of Bichter's style. (It was a chance extract, such as I could command at the time, from his " Flegel-jahre.") Beddoes, meantime, an offset from the school (if school it could be called) of the splendid Erasmus Darwin, Kant knew and admired. But Darwin, the leader in this freethinking school, Kant had not apparently ever heard of.

t Kant, in his primary objections to the vaccine inoculation, will be confounded with Dr Rowley, and other anti-vaccine fanatics. But this ttugnt not to hide from us, that, in his inclination to regard'vaccination as no more than a temporary guarantee against small-pox, Kant's saga- city has been largely justified by the event. It is now agreed tha : vao-


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT 123

exceedingly entertaining to hear the fertility of argument and analogy which he brought forward to support them. One of the subjects which occupied him at the latter end of his life, was the theory and phenomena of galvanism, which, however, he never satisfactorily mastered. Augug- tin's book upon this subject was about the last that he read, and his copy still retains on the margin his pencil- marks of doubts, queries, and suggestions.

The infirmities of age now began to steal upon Kant, and betrayed themselves in more shapes than one. Con- nected with Kant's prodigious memory for all things hav- ing any intellectual bearings, he had from youth laboured under an unusual weakness of this faculty in relation to the common affairs of daily life. Some remarkable in- stances of this are on record from the period of his childish days; and now, when his second childhood was com- mencing, this infirmity increased upon him very sensibly. One of the first signs was, that he began to repeat the same stories more than once on the same day. Indeed, the decay of his memory was too palpable to escape his own notice; and, in order to provide against it, and to secure himself from all apprehension of inflicting tedium upon his guests, he began to write a syllabus, or list of themes, for each day's conversation, on cards, or the covers of letters, or any chance scrap of paper. But these me- moranda accumulated so fast upon him, and were so easily lost, or not forthcoming at the proper moment, that I pre- vailed on him to substitute a blank-paper book, which still remains, and exhibits some affecting memorials of his own conscious weakness. As often happens, however, in

cination, as an absolute guarantee against the natural small-pox, ought to be repeated every seven years.


124 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

such cases, he had a perfect memory for the remote events of his life, and could repeat with great readiness very long passages from German or Latin poems, especially from the " ^Eneid," whilst the very words that had been uttered but a moment before dropped away from his remembrance. The past came forward with the distinctness and liveliness of an immediate existence, whilst the present faded away into the obscurity of infinite distance.

Another sign of his mental decay was the weakness with which he now began to theorise. He accounted for every- thing by electricity. A singular mortality at this time prevailed amongst the cats of Vienna, Basle, Copenhagen, and other places widely remote. Cats being so eminently an electric animal, of course he attributed this epizootic to electricity. During the same period he persuaded him- self that a peculiar configuration of clouds prevailed; this he took as a collateral proof of his electrical hypothesis. His own headaches, too, which in all probability were a mere remote effect of old age, and a direct one of an inabi- lity* to think as easily and as severely as formerly, he ex- plained upon the same principle. And this was a notion of which his friends were not anxious to disabuse him; be- cause, as something of the same character of weather (and therefore probably the same general distribution of the electric power) is found to prevail for whole cycles of years, entrance upon another cycle held out to him some prospect of relief. A delusion, which secured the comforts of hope, was the next best thing to an actual system of relief; and

  • Mr Wasianski is probably quite in the wrong here. If the hindran-

ces -which nature presented to the act of thinking were now on the in- crease, on the other hand, the disposition to think, by his own acknow- ledgment, was on the wane. The power and the habit altering in pro- portion, there is no case made out of that disturbed equilibrium to which apparently he would attribute the headache*.


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 125

ft man \vlio, in such circumstances, is cured of his delusion. " cui demptus per vim mentis gratissimus error" might reason* ably have exclaimed, " Pol, me occidistis, amid"

Possibly the reader may suppose that, in this particular instance of charging his own decays upon the state of the atmosphere, Kant was actuated by the weakness of vanity, or some unwillingness to face the real fact that his powers were decaying. But this was not the case. He was per- fectly aware of his own condition; and, as early as 1799, he said, in my presence, to a party of his friends, "Gentlemen, I am old, and weak, and childish, and you must treat me as a child." Or perhaps it may be thought that he shrank from the contemplation of death, which, as apoplexy seemed to be threatened by the pains in his head, might have hap^ pened any day. But neither was this the case. He now lived in a continual state of resignation, and prepared for any decree whatever of Providence. "Gentlemen," said he, one day to his guests, " I do not fear to die. I assure you, as in the presence of God, that if, on this very night, suddenly the summons to death were to reach me, I should hear it with calmness, should raise my hands to heaven, and say, Blessed be God ! Were it indeed possible that a whis- per such as this could reach my ear Fourscore years thou hast lived, in which time thou hast inflicted much evil upon thy fellow-men, the case would be otherwise." Whosoever has heard Kant speak of his own death, will bear witness to the tone of earnest sincerity which, on such occasions, marked his manner and gestures.

A third sign of his decaying faculties was, that he now lost all accurate measure of time. One minute, nay, with- out exaggeration, a much less space of time, stretched out in his apprehension of things to a wearisome duration. Of this I can give one rather amusing instance, which was of


126 1HE LAST DAYS OF KAITT.

constant recurrence. At the beginning of the last year of his life, he fell into a custom of taking, immediately after dinner, a cup of coffee, especially on those days when it happened that I was of his party. And such was the im- portance he attached to this little pleasure, that he would even make a memorandum beforehand, in the blank-paper book I had given him, that on the next day I was to dine with him, and consequently that there was to be coffee. Sometimes it would happen that the interest of conversa- tion carried him past the time at which he felt the craving for it; and this I was not sorry to observe, as I feared that coffee, which he had never been accustomed to,* might dis- turb his rest at night. But, if this did not happen, then com- menced a scene of some interest. Coffee must be brought " upon the spot " (a word he had constantly in his mouth

  • How this happened to be the case in Germany, Mr Wasianski has

not explained. Perhaps the English merchants at KQnigsberg, being amongst Kant's oldest and most intimate friends, had early familiarised him with the practice of drinking tea, and with other English tastes. However, Jachmann tells us that Kant was extravagantly fond of coffee, but forced himself to abstain from it under a notion that it was very un- wholesome; but whether on any other separate ground beyond that of its tendency to defraud men of sleep, is not explained. A far better reason for abstaining from coffee, than any visionary fancies about its insalubrity, rests in England upon the villanous mode of its preparation. In respect to cookery, and every conceivable culinary process, the English (and in exaggerated degree the Scotch) are the most uncultured of the human race. It was an old saying of a sarcastic Frenchman on visiting that barbarous city of London (foremost upon earth for many great qualities, but the most barbarous upon earth (except Edinburgh and Glasgow) for all culinary arts) " Behold !" said the Frenchman, "a land where they have sixty religions" (alluding to the numerous subdivisions of Protestant dissent), "and only one sauce." Now this was a fib: for, wretched as England is and ever was in this respect, she could certainly count twenty- five. But, meantime, what would the Frenchman have thought of Scot- land, that absolutely has not onel Even to this day, the horrible fish, called haddy throughout Scotland, is eaten without any sauce whatever; by which means its atrocities are mad ten times more distinguishable atrocious.


LAST DAYS OP KANT. 127

during his latter days) " in a moment." And the expres- sions of his impatience, though from old habit still gentle, were so lively, and had so much of infantine naivete about them, that none of us could forbear smiling. Knowing what would happen, I had taken care that all the preparations should be made beforehand: the coffee was ground; the water was boiling; and the very moment the word was given, his servant shot in like an arrow, and plunged the coffee into the water. All that remained, therefore, was to give it time to boil up. But this trifling delay seemed unendurable to Kant. All consolations were thrown away upon him: vary the formula as we might, he was never at a loss for a reply. If it was said, " Dear professor, the coffee will be brought up in a moment." " Will be!" he would say, "but there's the rub, that it only will be:

'Man never is, but always to be blest.'"

If another cried out, " The coffee is coming immediately," " Yes," he would retort, " and so is the next hour: and, by the way, it's about that length of time that I have waited for it." Then he would collect himself with a stoical air, and say, "Well, one can die after all: it is but dying; and in the next world, thank God ! there is no drinking of coffee, and consequently no waiting for it." Sometimes he would rise from his chair, open the door, and cry out, with a feeble querulousness, as if appealing to the last arrears of humanity amongst his fellow-creatures, " Coffee ! coffee !" And when at length he heard the servant's steps upon the stairs, he would turn round to us, and, as joyfully as ever sailor from the mast-head, he would call out, " Land, land ! my dear friSnds, I see land."

This general decline in Kant's powers, active and pas- sive, gradually brought about a revolution in his habits


128 THE LAST DATS OP KANT.

of life. Hitherto, as I have already mentioned, he went to bed at ten, and rose a little before five. The latter practice he still observed, but not the other. In 1802 he retired as early as nine, and afterwards still earlier. He found himself so much refreshed by this addition to his rest, that at first he was disposed to utter a 'iv^na,, as over some great discovery in the art of restoring exhausted nature: but afterwards, on pushing it still* farther, he did not find the success answer his expectations. His walks he now limited to a few turns in the king's gardens, which were at no great distance from his own house. In order to walk more firmly, he adopted a peculiar method of stepping: he carried his foot to the ground, not forward, and obliquely, but perpendicularly, and with a kind of stamp, so as to secure a larger basis, by setting down the entire sole at once. Notwithstanding this precaution, upon one occasion he fell in the street. He was quite unable to raise himself; and two young ladies, who saw the accident, ran to his assistance. With his usual graciousness of man- ner he thanked them fervently for their assistance, and presented one of them with a rose which he happened to have in his hand. This lady was not personally known to Kant; but she was greatly delighted with his little present, and still keeps the rose as a frail memorial of her transi- tory interview with the great philosopher.

This accident, as I have reason to think, was the cause of his henceforth renouncing exercise altogether. All labours, even that of reading, were now performed slowly, and with manifest effort; and those which cost him any considerable bodily exertion became very exhausting. His feet refused to do their office more and more; he fell continually, both when moving across the room, and even when standing still: yet he seldom suffered from these


THE LAST DATS OF KANT. 129

falls; and he constantly laughed at them, maintaining that it was impossible he could hurt himself, from the ex- treme lightness of his person, which was indeed by this time the merest shadow of a man. Very often, especially in the morning, he dropped asleep in his chair from pure weariness and exhaustion: on these occasions he was apt to fall upon the floor, from which he was unable to raise himself up, until accident brought one of his servants or his friends into the room. Afterwards these falls were prevented, by substituting a chair with circular supports, that met and clasped in front.

These unseasonable dozings exposed him to another danger. He fell repeatedly, whilst reading, with his head into the candles; a cotton nightcap which he wore was instantly in a blaze, and flaming about his head. When- ever this happened, Kant behaved with great presence of mind. Disregarding the pain, he seized the blazing cap, drew it from his head, laid it quietly on the floor, and trod out the flames with his feet. Yet, as this last act brought his dressing-gown into a dangerous neighbourhood to the flames, I changed the form of his cap, persuaded him to arrange the candles differently, and had a large vase of water placed constantly by his side; and in this way I applied a remedy to a danger which would else probably have proved fatal to him.

From the sallies of impatience which I have described in the case of the coffee, there was reason to fear that, with the increasing infirmities of Kant, would grow up a general waywardness and obstinacy of temper. For my own sake, therefore, and not less for his, I now laid down one rule for my future conduct in his house: which was, that I would, on no ocasion, allow my reverence for him to intoi>


13 J THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

fere with the firmest expression of what seemed the just opinion on subjects relating to his own health; and, in cases of great importance, that I would make no compro- mise with his particular humours, but insist, not only on my view of the case, but also on the practical adoption of my views; or, if this were refused to me, that I would take my departure at once, and not be made responsible for the comfort of a person whom I had no power to influ- ence. And this behaviour on my part it was that won Kant's confidence; for there was nothing which disgusted him so much as any approach to sycophancy or to compliances of timidity. As his imbecility increased, he became daily more liable to mental delusions; and, in particular, he fell into many fantastic notions about the conduct of his ser- vants, and, consequently, sometimes into a peevish mode of treating them. Upon these occasions I generally ob- served a deep silence. But now and then he would ask me for my opinion; and when this happened, I did not scruple to say, " Ingenuously, then, Mr Professor, I think that you are in the wrong." " You think so ? " he would reply calmly, at the same time asking for my reasons, which he would listen to with great patience and candour. Indeed, it was evident that the firmest opposition, so long as it rested upon assignable grounds and principles, we-- upon his regard; whilst his own nobleness of character still moved him to habitual contempt for timorous and partial acquiescence in his opinions, even when his infirmi- ties made him most anxious for such acquiescence.

Earlier in life Kant had been little used to contradiction. His superb understanding, his brilliancy in conversation, founded in part upon his ready and sometimes rather caustic wit, and in part upon his prodigious command of knowledge the air of noble self-confidence which the con-


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 131

sciousness of these advantages impressed upon his manners and the general acquaintance with the severe purity of his life all combined to give him a station of superiority to others, which generally secured him from open con- tradiction. And if it sometimes happened that he met a noisy and intemperate opposition, supported by any pre- tences to wit, he usually withdrew himself calmly from that sort of unprofitable altercation, by contriving to give such a turn to the conversation as won the general favour of the company to himself, and impressed silence, or mo- desty at least, upon the boldest disputant. From a person so little familiar with opposition, it could scarcely have been anticipated that he should daily surrender his wishes to mine, if not without discussion, yet always without dis- pleasure. So, however, it was. No habit, of whatever long standing, could be objected to as injurious to his health, but he would generally renounce it. And he had this excellent custom in such cases, that either he would resolutely and at once decide for his own opinion, or, if he professed to follow his friend's, he would follow it sincerely, and not try it unfairly, by trying it imperfectly. Any plan, however trifling, which he had once consented to adopt on the suggestion of another, was never afterwards defeated or embarrassed by unseasonable interposition from his own humours. And thus, the very period of his decay drew forth so many fresh expressions of his cha- racter, in its amiable or noble features, as daily increased my affection and reverence for his person.

Having mentioned his servants, I shall here take occa- sion to give some account of his man-servant Lampe. It was a great misfortune for Kant, in his old age and infir- mities, that this man also became old, and subject to & different sort of infirmities. This Lampe had originally


132 THE LAST DATS OF KANT.

served in the Prussian army; on quitting which he entered the service of Kant. In this situation he had lived about forty years; and, though always dull and stupid, had, in the early part of this period, discharged his duties with tolerable fidelity. But latterly, presuming upon his own indispensableness, from his perfect knowledge of all the domestic arrangements, and upon his master's weakness, he had fallen into great irregularities and habitual neglects. Kant had been obliged, therefore, of late to threaten re- peatedly that he would discharge him. I, who knew that Kant, though one of the kindest-hearted men, was also one of the firmest, foresaw that this discharge, once given, would be irrevocable: for the word of Kant was as sacred as other men's oaths. Consequently, upon every opportu- nity I remonstrated with Lampe on the folly of his con- duct; and his wife joined me on these occasions. Indeed, it was high time that a change should be made in some quarter; for it now became dangerous to leave Kant, who was constantly falling from weakness, to the care of an old ruffian, who was himself apt to fall from intoxication. The fact was, that from the moment I undertook the management of Kant's affairs, Lampe saw there was an end to his old system of abusing his master's confidence in pecuniary affairs, and to all the other advantages which he took of his helpless situation. This made him desperate,' and he behaved worse and worse; until one morning, in January, 1802, Kant told me, that humiliating as he felt such a confession, the fact was, that Lampe had just treated him in a way which he was ashamed to repeat. I was too much shocked to distress him by inquiring into the parti- culars. But the result was, that Kant now insisted, tem- perately but firmly, on Lampe's dismissal. Accordingly, a new servant, named Kaufmann, was immediately engaged;


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 133

and on the following day Lampe was discharged, with a handsome pension for life.

Here I must mention a little circumstance which does honour to Kant's benevolence. In his last will, on the assumption that Larape would continue with him to his death, he had made a very liberal provision for him; but upon this new arrangement of the pension, which was to take" effect immediately, it became necessary to revoke that part of his will, which he did in a separate codicil, that began thus: "In consequence of the misbehaviour of my servant Lampe, I think fit," &c. But soon after, considering that such a solemn and deliberate record of Lampe's misconduct might be seriously injurious to his interests, he cancelled the passa e, and expressed it in such a way, that no trace remained behind of his just displeasure. And his benign nature was gratified with knowing that, this one sentence being blotted out, there remained no other in all his numerous writings, published or confidential, which spoke the language of anger, or could leave any ground for doubting that he died in charity with all the world. Upon Lampe's calling to demand a written character, he was, however, a good deal embarrassed; Kant's well-known reverence for truth so stern and inexorable being, in this instance, armed against the first impulses of his kindness. Long and anxiously he sat, with the certificate lying before him, debating how he should fill up the blanks. I was present; but in such a matter I did not presume to suggest any ad- vice. At last he took his pen, and filled up the blank as follows: " has served me long and faithfully" (for Kant was not aware that he had robbed him) " but did not display those particular qualifications which fitted him for waiting on an old and infirm man like myself."


134 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

This scene of disturbance over, which to Kant, a lover of peace and tranquillity, caused a shock that gladly he would have been spared, it was fortunate that no other of that nature occurred during the rest of his life. Eaufmann, the successor of Lampe, turned out to be a respectable and upright man, and soon conceived a great attachment to his master. Henceforth things wore a new face in Kant's family: by the removal of one of the belligerents, peace was once more restored amongst his servants; for hitherto there had been eternal wars between Lampe and the cook. Sometimes it was Lampe that carried a war of aggression into the cook's territory of the kitchen; some- times it was the cook that revenged these insults, by sally- ing out upon Larape in the neutral ground of the hall, or invaded Him even in his own sanctuary of the butler's pantry. The uproars were everlasting; and thus far it was fortunate for the peace of the philosopher, that his hearing had begun to fail; by which means he was spared many an exhibition of hateful passions and ruffian violence, that annoyed his guests and friends. But now all things had changed: deep silence reigned in the pantry; the kitchen rang no more with martial alarums; and the hall was unvexed with skirmish or pursuit. Yet it may be readily supposed that to Kant, at the age of seventy- eight, changes, even for the better, were not welcome: so intense had been the uniformity of his life and habits, that the least innovation in the arrangement of articles as trifling as a penknife or a pair of scissors disturbed him; and not merely if they were pushed two or three inches out of their customary position, but even if they were laid a little awry; and as to larger objects, such as chairs, &c., any dislocation of their usual arrangement, any transposition, o? addition to their number, perfftly confounded him;


THE LAST DATS OF KANT. 135

and his eye appeared restlessly to haunt the seat of the mal- arrangement, until the ancient order was restored. With such habits the reader may conceive how distressing it must have been to him, at this period of decaying powers, to adapt himself to a new servant, a new voice, a new step, &c.

Aware of this, I had, on the day before he entered upon his duties, written down for the new servant upon a sheet of paper the entire routine of Kant's daily life, down to the minutest and most trivial circumstances; all which he mastered with the greatest rapidity. To make sure, how- ever, we went through a rehearsal of the whole ritual; he performing the manoeuvres, I looking on, and giving the word. Still I felt uneasy at the idea of his being left en- tirely to his own discretion on his first debut in good ear- nest, and therefore I made a point of attending on this important day; and in the few instances where the new recruit missed the accurate manoauvre, a glance or a nod from me easily made him comprehend his failure.

One part only there was of the daily ceremonial where all of us were at a loss, since it was that part which no mortal eyes had ever witnessed but those of Lampe: this was breakfast. However, that we might do all in our power, I myself attended at four o'clock in the morning. The day happened, as I remember, to be the first of Fe- bruary, 1802. Precisely at five Kant made his appearance; and nothing could equal his astonishment on finding me in the room. Fresh from the confusion of dreaming, and bewildered alike by the sight of his new servant, by Lampe's absence, and by my presence, he could with diffi- culty be made to comprehend the purpose of my visit. A friend in need is a friend indeed; and we would now have given any money to that learned Theban, who could have


1 36 THE LAST DATS OF KANT.

instructed us in the arrangement of the breakfast- table. But this was a mystery revealed to none but Lampe. At length Kant took this task upon himself; and apparently all was now settled to his satisfaction. Yet still it struck me that he was under some embarrassment or constraint. Upon this I said that, with his permission, I would take a cup of tea, and afterwards smoke a pipe with him. He accepted my offer with his usual courteous demeanour; but seemed unable to familiarise himself with the novelty of his situation. I was at this time sitting directly opposite to him; and at last he frankly told me, but with the kind- est and most apologetic air, that he was really under the necessity of begging that I would sit out of his sight; for that, having sat alone at the breakfast-table for conside- rably more than half-a-century, he could not abruptly adapt his mind to a change in this respect; and he found his thoughts very sensibly distracted. I did as he desired; the servant retired into an anteroom, where he waited within call; and Kant recovered his wonted composure. Just the same scene passed over again, when I called at the same hour on a fine summer morning some months after.

Henceforth all went right: or, if occasionally some little mistake occurred, Kant showed himself very considerate and indulgent, and would remark spontaneously, that a new servant could not be expected to know all his ways and humours. In one respect, however, this new man adapted himself to Kant's scholarlike taste in a way which Lampe was incapable of doing. Kant was somewhat fas- tidious in matters of pronunciation; and Kaufmann had a great facility in catching the true sound of Latin words, the titles of books, and the names or designations of Kant's friends: not one of which accomplishments could Lampe, the most insufferable of blockheads, ever attain to. la


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 137

particular, I have been told by Kant's old friends, that f jr the space of thirty-eight years, during which he had been in the habit of reading the newspaper published by Har- tung, Lanipe delivered it with the same identical blunder on every day of publication: "Mr Professor, here is Hartmawi's journal." Upon which Kant would reply, "Eh! what? What's that you say? Hartmann's jour- nal? I tell you, it is not Hartmann's, but Hartung's: now, repeat after me not Hartmann's, but Hartung's." Then Lampe, looking sulky, and drawing himself up with the stiff air of a soldier on guard, and in the very same monotonous tone with which he had been used to sing out his challenge of Who goes there? would roar, "not Hart- mann's but Hartung's." "Now again!" Kant would say: on which again Lampe roared, "Not Hartmann's, but Hartung's." " Now a third time," cried Kant: on which for a third time the unhappy Lampe would howl out, in truculent despair, "Not Hartmann's, but Hartung's." And this whimsical scene of parade duty was continually re- peated: duly as the day of publication came round (viz., twice a-week), the irreclaimable old dunce was put through the same manoeuvres, which were as invariably followed by the same blunder on the next. So that this incorri- gible blockhead must have repeated the same unvarying blunder for a hundred and four times annually (i. e. y twice a-week), multiplied into thirty-eight, as the number of years. For more than one-half of man's normal life under the scriptural allowance, had this never - enough - to - be- admired old donkey foundered punctually on the same iden- tical rock. In spite, however, of this advantage in the new servant, ahd a general superiority to his predecessor, Kant's nature was too kind, too good, and too indulgent to all people's infirmities but his own, not to miss the


138 THE LAST DATS OP KANT.

voice and the "old familiar face" that he had been accus- tomed to for forty years. And I met with what struck me as an affecting instance of Kant's yearning after his old good-for-nothing servant in his memorandum-book: other people record what they wished to remember; but Kant had here recorded what he was to forget. " Mem. February, 1802, the name of Lampe must now be remem- bered no more."

In the spring of this year, 1802, 1 advised Kant to take the air. It was very long since he had been out-of-doors,* and walking was now out of the question. But I thought that perhaps the motion of a carriage and the air might have a chance of reviving him. On the power of vernal sights and sounds I did not much rely; for these had long ceased to affect him. Of all the changes that spring carries with it, there was one only that now interested Kant; and he longed for it with an eagerness and intensity of expec- tation, that it became almost painful to witness: this was the return of a little bird (sparrow was it, or robin-red- breast ?) that sang in his garden, and before his window. This bird, either the same, or one of a younger generation, had sung for years in the same situation; and Kant grew uneasy when the cold weather, lasting longer than usual, retarded its return. Like Lord Bacon, indeed, he had a child-like love for birds in general; and in particular he took pains to encourage the sparrows to build above the windows of his study; and when this happened (as it often did, from the deep silence which prevailed in the room), he watched their proceedings with the delight and the

  • Wasianski here returns thanks to some unknown person, who, hav-

ing observed that Kant in his latter walks took pleasure in leaning against a particular wall to view the prospect, had caused a seat to be fixed at that point for his use.


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 1 39

tenderness which others give to a human interest. To return to the point I was speaking of, Kant was at first very unwilling to adopt my proposal of going abroad. " I shall sink down in the carriage," said he, " and fall to- gether like a heap of old rags." But I persisted with a gentle importunity in urging him to the attempt, assuring him that we would return immediately, if he found the effort too much for him. Accordingly, upon a tolerably warm day of early* summer, I and an old friend of Kant's accompanied him to a little place which I rented in the country. As we drove through the streets, Kant was de- lighted to find that he could sit upright, and bear the mo- tion of the carriage, and seemed to draw youthful pleasure from the sight of the towers and other public buildings, which he had not seen for years. We reached the place of our destination in high spirits. Kant drank a cup of coffee, and attempted to smoke a little. After this, he sat and sunned himself, listening with delight to the carolling of birds, which congregated in great numbers about this spot. He distinguished every bird by its song, and called it by its right name. After staying about half-an-hour, we set oft on our homeward journey, Kant still cheerful, but appa- rently satiated with his day's enjoyment.

I had on this occasion purposely avoided taking him to any public gardens, that I might not disturb his pleasure by exposing him to the distressing gaze of public curiosity. However it became known in Konigsberg that Kant had gone out; and accordingly, as the carriage moved through


  • Mr Wasianski says, late in summer; but, as he elsewhere describes

by the same expression as " late in summer " a day which was confess- edly before the longest day, and as the multitude of birds which continued to sing will not allow us to suppose that the summer could be very for advanced, I have translated accordingly.


1 40 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

the streets which led homewards, there was a general rush from all quarters in that direction; and, when we turned into the street where the house stood, we found it already choked up with people. As we slowly drew up to the door, a lane was formed in the crowd, through which Kant was led, I and my friend supporting him on our arms. Looking at the crowd, I observed the faces of many per- sons of rank and distinguished strangers, some of whom now saw Kant for the first time, and many of them for the last.

As the winter of 1802-3 approached, he complained more than ever of an affection of the stomach, which no medical man had been able to mitigate, or even to ex- plain. The winter passed over in a complaining way; he was weary of life, and longed for the hour of dismission. "I can be of service to the world no more," said he, "and am a burden to myself.'* Often I endeavoured to cheer him by the anticipation of excursions that we might make together when summer came again. On these he calcu- lated with so much 'earnestness, that he had made a regu- lar scale or classification of them 1. Airings; 2. Journeys, 3. Travels. And nothing could equal the yearning impa- tience expressed for the coming of spring and summer, not so much for their own peculiar attractions, as because they were the seasons for travelling. In his memorandum- book he made this note: "The three summer months are June, July, and August;" meaning that they were the three months for travelling. And in conversation he ex- pressed the feverish strength of his wishes so plaintively and affectingly, that everybody was drawn into powerful sympathy with him, and wished for some magical means of antedating the course of the seasons.

During this winter his bedroom was often warmed.


THE LAST DATS OF KANT. 141

That was the room in which he kept his little collection of books, somewhere about four hundred and fifty volumes, chiefly presentation-copies from the authors. It may eeem .strange that Kant, who read so extensively, should have no larger library; but he had less need of one than most scholars, having in his earlier years been librarian at the Royal Library of the Castle; and since then, having enjoyed from the liberality of Hartknoch, his publisher (who, in his turn, had profited by the liberal terms on which Kant had made over to him the copyright of his own works), the first sight of every new book that appeared.

At the close of this winter (that is, in 1803), Kant first began to complain of unpleasant dreams, sometimes of very terrific ones, which awakened him in great agitation. Oftentimes melodies, which he had heard in earliest youth sung in the streets of Konigsberg, resounded painfully in his ears, and dwelt upon them in a way from which no efforts of abstraction could release him. These kept him awake to unseasonable hours; and sometimes, when after long watching he had fallen asleep, however profound his sleep might be, it was suddenly broken up by terrific dreams, which alarmed him beyond description. Almost every night the bell-rope, which communicated with a bell in the room above his own, where his servant slept, was pulled violently, and with the utmost agitation. No matter how fast the servant might hurry down, he was almost always too late, and was pretty sure to find his master out of bed, and often making his way in terror to some other part of the house. The weakness of his feet exposed him to such dreadful falls on these occasions, that at length (but with much difficulty) I persuaded him to let his servant sleep in the same room with himself.


142 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

The morbid affection of the stomach, out of which the dreadful dreams arose, began now to be more and more distressing; and he tried various applications, which he had formerly been loud in condemning, such as a few drops of rum upon a piece of sugar, naphtha,* &c. But all these were only palliatives; for his advanced age pre- cluded the hope of a radical cure. His dreams became continually more appalling: single scenes, or passages in these dreams, were sufficient to compose the whole course of mighty tragedies, the impression from which was so profound as to stretch far into his waking hours. Amongst other phantasmata more shocking and indescribable, his dreams constantly represented to him the forms of mur- derers advancing to his bedside; and so agitated was he by the awful trains of phantoms that swept past him nightly, that in the first confusion of awaking he gene- rally mistook his servant, who was hurrying to his as- sistance, for a murderer. In the daytime we often con- versed upon these shadowy illusions; and Kant, with his usual spirit of stoical contempt for nervous weakness of every sort, laughed at them; and, to fortify his own re- solution to contend against them, he wrote down in his memorandum-book, " No surrender now to panics of dark- ness." At my suggestion, however, he now burned a light in his chamber, so placed as that the rays might be shaded from his face. At first he was very averse to this, though gradually he became reconciled to it. But that he could bear it at all, was to me an expression of the great revolu- tion accomplished by this terrific agency of his dreams. Heretofore, darkness and utter silence were the two pillars

  • For Kant's particular complaint, as described by other biographers,

a quarter of a grain of opium, every eight hours, would have been the best remedy, perhaps a perfect remedy.


THE LAST DATS OF KANT. 143

on which his sleep rested: no step must approach his room; and as to light, if he saw but a moonbeam penetrating a crevice of the shutters, it made him unhappy; and, in fact, the windows of his bedchamber were barricaded night and day. But now darkness was a terror to him,, and silence an oppression. In addition to his lamp, therefore, he had now a repeater in his room. The sound was at first too loud, but means were taken to muffle the hammer; after which both the ticking and the striking became com- panionable sounds to him.

At this time (spring of 1803) his appetite began to fail, which I thought no good sign. Many persons insist that Kant was in the habit of eating too much for health.* I, however, cannot assent to this opinion; for he ate but once a-day, and drank no beer. Of this liquor (I mean the strong

  • Who these worthy people were that criticised Kant's eating, is not

mentioned. They could have had no opportunity for exercising their abilities on this question, except as hosts, guests, or fellow-guests; and, in any of those characters, a gentleman, one would suppose, must feel himself degraded by directing his attention to a point of that nature. However, the merits of the case stand thus between the parties: Kant, it is agreed by all his biographers, ate only once a-day; for, as to his breakfast, it was nothing more than a very weak infusion of tea (vide "Jachmann's Letters, "p. 163), with no bread or eatable of any kind. Now, his critics, it is believed, ate their way, from "morn to dewy eve," through the following course of meals: 1. Breakfast early in the morning; 2. Breakfast d la fourchette about ten A.M.; 3. Dinner at one or two; 4. Vesper Brod; 5. Abend Brod all which does really seem a very fair al- lowance for a man who means to lecture upon abstinence at night. But I shall cut this matter short by stating one plain fact; there were two things, and no more, for which Kant had an inordinate craving during his whole life: these were tobacco and coffee; and from both these he ab- stained almost altogether, merely under a sense of duty, resting probably upon erroneous, grounds. Of the first he allowed himself a very small quantity (and everybody knows that temperance is a more difficult virtue than abstinence); of the other, none at all, until the labours of his life were accomplished.


144 THE LAST DATS OF KANT.

black beer) he was, indeed, the most determined enemy. If ever a man died prematurely, Kant would say, "He haa been drinking beer, I presume." Or, if another were in- disposed, you might be sure he would ask, " But does he drink beer?" And, according to the answer on this point, he regulated his anticipations for the patient. Strong beer, in short, he uniformly maintained to be a slow poison. Voltaire, by the way, had said to a young physician who denounced coffee under the same bad name of a "slow poison," " You're right there, my friend: slow it is, and hor- ribly slow, for I have been drinking it these seventy years, and it has not killed me yet;" but this was an answer which, in the case of beer, Kant would not allow of.

On the 22d of April, 1803, his birth-day, the last which he lived to see, was celebrated in a full assembly of his friends. This festival he had long looked forward to with great expectation, and delighted even to hear the progress made in the preparations for it. But, when the day came, the over-excitement and tension of expectation seemed to have defeated itself. He tried to appear happy; but the bustle of a numerous company confounded and distressed him, and his spirits were manifestly forced.* He seemed first to revive into any real sense of pleasure at night, when the company had departed, and he was undressing in his study. He then talked with much pleasure about the presents which, as usual, would be made to his servants on this occasion; for Kant was never happy himself, unless he saw all around him happy. He was a great maker of pre-

  • The English reader will here be reminded of Wordsworth's exquisite

stanza:


And often, glad no more,

We wear a face of joy, because

We have been glad rf yofu"


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 145

sents; but at the same time he had no toleration for the studied theatrical effect, the accompaniment of formal con- gratulations, and the sentimental pathos, with which birth- day presents are made in Germany.* In all this, his mascu- line taste gave him a sense of something fade and ludicrous. The summer of 1803 was now come, and, visiting Kant one day, I was thunderstruck to hear him direct me, in the most serious tone, to provide the funds necessary for an extensive foreign tour. I made no opposition, but asked his reasons for such a plan; he alleged the mise- rable sensations he had in his stomach, which were no longer endurable. Knowing what power over Kant a quotation from a Eoman poet had always possessed, I simply replied, "Post equitem sedet atra cura;" and for the present he said no more. But the touching and pa- thetic earnestness with which he was continually ejaculat- ing prayers for warmer weather, made it doubtful to me whether his wishes on this point ought not, partially at least, to be gratified; and I therefore proposed to him a little excursion to the cottage we had visited the year be- fore. "Anywhere," said he, "no matter whither, provided it be far enough." Towards the latter end of June, therefore,

  • In this, as in many other things, the taste of Kant was entirely Eng

lish and Roman; as, on the other hand, some eminent Englishmen, I am sorry to say, have, on this very point, shown the effeminacy and falsetto taste of the Germans. In particular, Coleridge, describing, in " The Friend," the custom amongst German children of making presents to their parents on Christmas Eve (a custom which he unaccountably sup- poses peculiar to Ratzeburg), represents the mother as " weeping aloud for joy" the old idiot of a father with "tears running down his fiice," &c. &c., and all for what? For a snuff-box, a pencilcase, or some article of jewellery. Now, we English agree with Kant on such maudlin display of stage sentimentality, and are prone to suspect that papa's tears are the product of rum-punch. Tenderness let us have by all means, and the deepest you can imagine, but upon proportionate occasions, and with causes fitted to sustain its dignity. G III.


1 46 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

we executed this scheme. On getting into the carriage, the order of the day with Kant was, " Distance, distance. Only let us go far enough," said he: but scarcely had we reached the city-gates, before the journey seemed already to have lasted too long. On reaching the cottage, we found coffee waiting for us; but he would scarcely allow himself time for drinking it, before he ordered the carriage to the door; and the journey back seemed insupportably long to him, though it was performed in something less than twenty minutes. "Is this never to have an end?" was his continual exclamation; and great was his joy when he found himself once more in his study, undressed, and in bed. And for this night he slept in peace, and once again was liberated from the persecution of dreams.

Soon after he began again to talk of journeys, of travels in remote countries, &c., and, in consequence, we repeated our former excursion several times; and though the cir- cumstances were pretty nearly the same on every occa- sion, always terminating in disappointment as to the immediate pleasure anticipated, yet, undoubtedly, they were, on the whole, salutary to his spirits. In particular, the cottage itself, standing under the shelter of tall alders, with a valley silent and solitary stretched beneath it, through which a little brook meandered, broken by a waterfall, whose pealing sound dwelt pleasantly on the ear, sometimes, on a quiet sunny day, gave a lively de- light to Kant: and once, under accidental circumstances of summer-clouds and sunlights, the little pastoral land- scape suddenly awakened a lively remembrance, which had been long laid asleep, of a heavenly summer morn- ing in youth, which he had passed in a bower upon the banks of a rivulet that ran through the grounds of a dear and early friend, Gen. Von Lossow. The strength


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 147

of the impression was such, that he seerned actually to be living over that morning again, thinking as he then thought, and conversing with beloved friends that were no more.

His very last excursion was in August of this year (180 3), not to my cottage, but to the garden of a friend. On this particular day he manifested great impatience. It had been arranged that he was to meet an old friend at the gardens; and I, with two other gentlemen, attended him. It happened that our party arrived first; and thus we had to wait; but only for a few minutes. Such, however, was Kant's weakness, and total loss of power to estimate the duration of time, that, after waiting a few moments, several hours (he fancied) must have elapsed. So that his friend could not be expected. Under this impression he came away, and in great discomposure of mind. And so ended Kant's travelling in this world.

In the beginning of autumn, the sight of his right eye began to fail him; the left he had long lost the use of. This earliest of his losses it is noticeable that he had dis- covered by mere accident. Sitting down one day to rest himself in the course of a walk, it occurred to him that he would try the comparative strength of his eyes; but, on taking out a newspaper which he had in his pocket, he was surprised to find that with his left eye he could not dis- tinguish a letter. In earlier life he had two remarkable affections of the eyes: once, on returning from a walk, he saw objects double for a long space of time; and twice he became stone-blind. "Whether these accidents are to be considered as uncommon, I leave to the decision of oculists., Certain it is, they gave very little disturbance to Kant; who, until old age had lowered the tone of his powers,


148 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

lived in a constant state of stoical preparation for the worst that could befall him. I was now shocked to think of the degree in which his burdensome sense of dependence would be aggravated, if he should totally lose the power of sight. Even as it was he read and wrote with great difficulty: in fact, his writing was little better than that which most people can produce as a trial of skill with their eyes shut. From old habits of solitary study, he had no pleasure in hearing others read to him; and he daily distressed me by the pathetic earnestness of his en- treaties that I would have a reading-glass devised for him. Whatever my own optical skill could suggest I tried, and the best opticians were sent for, to bring their glasses, and take his directions for altering them; but all was to no purpose.

In this last year of his life, Kant very unwillingly re- ceived the visits of strangers; and, unless under particular circumstances, wholly declined them. Yet, when travel- lers had come a very great way out of their road to see him, I confess that I was at a loss how to conduct myself. To have refused too pertinaciously, could not but give me the air of wishing to make myself of importance. And I must acknowledge, that, amongst some few instances of importunity and coarse expressions of low-bred curiosity, I witnessed, pretty generally in all ranks, a most delicate sensibility to the condition of the aged recluse. On send- ing in their cards, they would usually accompany them by some message, expressive of their unwillingness to gratify their wish to see him, at any risk of distressing him. The fact was, that such visits did distress him much; for he felt it a degradation to be exhibited in his helpless state, when he was aware of his own incapacity to meet properly the attention that was paid to him. Some, however, were




THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 149

admitted,* according to the circumstances of the case and the accidental state of Kant's spirits at the moment. Amongst these, I remember that we were particularly pleased with M. Otto, the same who signed the treaty of peace between France and England with the presentf Lord Liverpool (then Lord Hawkesbury). A young Eussian also rises to my recollection at this moment, from the ex- cessive (and I think unaffected) enthusiasm which he dis- played. On being introduced to Kant, he advanced has- tily, took both his hands, and kissed them. Kant, who, from living so much amongst his English friends, had a good deal of the English dignified reserve about him, and hated anything like scenes, appeared to shrink a little from this mode of salutation, and was rather embarrassed. However, the young man's manner, I believe, was not at all beyond his genuine feelings; for next day he called again, made some inquiries about Kant's health, was very anxious to know whether his old age was burdensome to him, and, above all things, entreated for some little me- morial of the great man to carry away with him. By ac- cident the servant had found a small cancelled fragment of the original MS. of Kant's "Anthropologie:" this, with my sanction, he gave to the Russian; who received it with rapture, kissed it, and then gave to the servant in return the only dollar he had about him; and, thinking that not enough, actually pulled off his co^t and waistcoat, and forced them upon the man. Kant, whose native simplicity of character very much indisposed him to sympathy with

  • To whom it appears that Kant would generally reply, upon their

expressing the pleasure it gave them to see him, " In me you behold a poor superannuated, worn-out old man."

f "Present:" i. e., that Lord Liverpool who was struck by paralysis when Prime Minister to Geo. IV., and has now, for nearly thirty years, been described as the late Lord Liverpool.


150 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

any extravagances of feeling, could not, however, forbear smiling good-humouredly, on being made acquainted with this instance of naweteaud enthusiasm in his young admirer.

I now come to an event in Kant's life which ushered in its closing stage. On the 8th of October, 1803, for the first time since his youth, he was seriously ill. When a student at the university, he had once suffered from an ague, which, however, gave way to pedestrian exercise; and in later years he had endured some pain from a con- tusion on his head; but, with these two exceptions (if they can be considered such), he had never (properly speaking) been ill. At present, the cause of his illness was this: his appetite had latterly been irregular, or rather I should say depraved; and he no longer took pleasure in anything but bread-and-butter and English cheese.* On the 7th of October, at dinner, he ate little else, in spite of everything that I and another friend then dining with him could urge to dissuade him. For the first time I fancied that he seemed displeased with my importunity, as though I were overstepping the just line of my duties. He in- sisted that the cheese never had done him any harm, nor would now. I had no course left me but to hold my tongue; and he did as he pleased. The consequence was

  • Mr W. here falls into the ordinary mistake of confounding the cause

and the occasion, and would leave the impression that Kant (who from his youth up had been a model of temperance) died of sensual indulgence. The cause of Kant's death was clearly the general decay of the vital powers, and in particular the atony of the digestive organs, which must soon have destroyed him under any care or abstinence whatever. This was the cause. The accidental occasion which made the cause operative on the 7th of October, might or might not be what Mr W. says. But, in Kant's burdensome state of existence, it could not be a question of much importance whether his illness were to date from a 7th of October, or from a 7th of November.


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 151

what might have been anticipated a restless night, suc- ceeded by a day of memorable illness. The next morning all went on as usual, till nine o'clock, when Kant, who was then leaning on his sister's arm, suddenly fell senseless to the ground. A messenger was immediately despatched for me; and I hurried down to his house, where I found him lying on his bed, which had now been removed into his study, speechless and insensible. I had already sum- moned his physician; but, before he arrived, nature put forth efforts which brought Kant a little to himself. In about an hour he opened his eyes, and continued to mutter unintelligibly until towards the evening, when he rallied a little, and began to talk rationally. For the first time in his life, he was now, for a few days, confined to his bed, and ate nothing. On the 12th of October, he again took some refreshment, and would have had his favourite food; but I was now resolved, at any risk of his displeasure, to oppose him firmly. I therefore stated to him the whole consequences of his last indulgence, of all which he mani- festly had no recollection. He listened to what I said very attentively, and calmly expressed his conviction that I was perfectly in the wrong; but for the present he submitted. However, some days after, I found that he had been offer- ing a florin for a little bread-and- cheese, and then a dollar, and even more. Being again refused, he complained heavily; but gradually he weaned himself from asking for it, though at times he betrayed involuntarily how much he desired it.

On the 13th of October, his usual dinner parties were resumed, and he was considered convalescent; but it was seldom indeed that he recovered the tone of tranquil spirits which he had preserved until his late attack. Hitherto he had always loved to prolong this meal, the


152 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

only one he took or, as he expressed it in classical phrase, " ccenam ducere; " but now it was difficult to hurry it over fast enough for his wishes. From dinner, which terminated about two o'clock, he went straight to bed, and at inter- vals fell into slumbers; from which, however, he was re- gularly roused up by phantasmata or terrific dreams. At seven in the evening came on duly a period of great dis- tress, which lasted till five or six in the morning some- times later; and he continued through the night alter- nately to walk about and lie down, occasionally tranquil, but more often in great agitation.

It now became necessary that somebody should sit up with him, his man-servant being wearied out with the toils of the day. No person seemed to be so proper for this office as his sister, both as having long received a very liberal pension from him, and also as his nearest relative, who would be the best witness to the fact that her illus- trious brother had wanted no comforts or attention in his last hours which his situation admitted of. Accordingly she was applied to, and undertook to watch him alternately with his footman a separate table being kept for her, and a very handsome addition made to her 'allowance. She turned out to be a quiet, gentle-minded woman, who raised no disturbances amongst the servants, and soon won her brother's regard by the modest and retiring style of her manners; I may add, also, by the truly sisterly affection which she displayed towards him to the last.

The 8th of October had grievously affected Kant's fa- culties, but had not wholly destroyed them. For short intervals the clouds seemed to roll away that had settled upon his majestic intellect, and it shone forth as hereto- fore. During these moments of brief self-possession, his wonted benignity returned to him; and he expressed his


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 153

gratitude for the exertions of those about him, and his sense of the trouble they underwent, in a very affecting way. With regard to his man-servant, in particular, he was very anxious that he should be rewarded by liberal presents; and he pressed me earnestly on no account to be parsimonious. Indeed, Kant was nothing less than princely in his use of money; and there was no occasion on which he was known to express the passion of scorn very powerfully, but when he was commenting on mean and penurious acts or habits. Those who knew him only in the streets, fancied that he was not liberal; for he steadily refused, upon principle, to relieve all common beggars. But, on the other hand, he was most liberal to the public charitable institutions; secretly also he assisted his own poor relations in a much ampler way than could reason- ably have been expected of him; and it now appeared that he had many other deserving pensioners upon his bounty; a fact that was utterly unknown to any of us, until his increasing blindness and other infirmities devolved the duty of paying these pensions upon myself. It must be recollected, also, that Kant's whole fortune (which, exclu- sively of his official appointments, did not amount to more than 20,000 dollars) was the product of his own honour- able toils for nearly threescore years; and that he had himself suffered all the hardships of poverty in his youth, though he never once ran into any man's debt; circum- stances in his history which, as they express how fully he must have been acquainted with the value of money, greatly enhance the merit of his munificence.

In December, 1803, he became incapable of signing his name. His sight, indeed, had for some time failed him so much, that at dinner he could not find his spoon with- out assistance; and, when I happened to dine with him. I


154 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

first cut in pieces whatever was on his plate, next put it into a dessert-spoon, and then guided his hand to find the spoon. But his inability to sign his name did not arise merely from blindness: the fact was, that, from irretention of memory, he could not recollect the letters which com- posed his name; and, when they were repeated to him, he could not represent the figure of the letters in his imagi- nation. At the latter end of November, I had remarked that these incapacities were rapidly growing upon him, and in consequence I prevailed on him to sign beforehand all the receipts, <kc., which would be wanted at the end of the year; and afterwards, on my representation, to prevent all disputes, he gave me a regular legal power to sign on his behalf.

Much as Kant was now reduced, yet he had occasionally moods of social hilarity. His birth-day was always an agreeable subject to him: some weeks before his death, I was calculating the time which it still wanted of that anni- versary, and cheering him with the prospect of the rejoic- ings which would then take place. "All your old friends," said I, "will meet together, and drink a glass of champagne to your health." " That," said he, " must be done upon the spot;" and he was not satisfied till the party was actually assembled. He drank a glass of wine with them, and, with great elevation of spirits, celebrated by anticipation this birth- day which he was destined never to see.

In the latter weeks of his life, however, a great change took place in the tone of his spirits. At his dinner-table, where heretofore such a cloudless spirit of joviality had reigned, there was now a melancholy silence. It disturbed him to see his two dinner companions conversing privately together, whilst he himself sat like a mute on the stage with no part to perform. Yet to have engaged him in the


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. ] 55

conversation would have been still more distressing, for his hearing was now very imperfect; the effort to hear was itself painful to him; and his expressions, even when his thoughts were accurate enough, became nearly unintelli- gible. It is remarkable, however, that at the very lowest point of his depression, when he became perfectly incapable of conversing with any rational meaning on the ordinary affairs of life, he was still able to answer correctly and dis- tinctly, in a degree that was perfectly astonishing, upon any question of philosophy or of science, especially of phy- sical geography, chemistry, or natural history. He talked satisfactorily, in his very worst state, of the gases, and stated very accurately different propositions of Kepler's, especially the law of the planetary motions. And I remem- ber, in particular, that upon the very last Monday of his life, when the extremity of his weakness moved a circle of his friends to tears, and he sat amongst us insensible to all we could say to him, cowering down, or rather, I might say, collapsing into a shapeless heap upon his chair, deaf, blind, torpid, motionless even then I whispered to the others, that I would engage that Kant should take his part in conversation with propriety and animation. This they found it difficult to believe. Upon which I drew close to his ear, and put a question to him about the Moors of Barbary. To the surprise of everybody but myself, he immediately gave us a summary account of their habits and customs; and told us, by the way, that in the word Algiers the g ought to be pronounced hard (as in the English word gear).

During the last fortnight of Kant's life, he busied himself unceasingly in a way that seemed not merely purposeless, but self-contradictory. Twenty times in a minute he would unloose and tie his neck-handkerchief; so also with a sort of belt which he wore about his dressing-gown; the mo-


15G THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

ment it was clasped, he unclasped it with impatience, and was then equally impatient to have it clasped again. But no description can convey an adequate impression of the weary restlessness with which from morning to night he pursued these labours of Sisyphus doing and undoing fretting that he could not do it, fretting that he had done it. By this time he seldom knew any of us who were about him, but took us all for strangers. This happened first with his sister, then with me, and finally with his servant. Such an alienation from us all distressed me more than any other instance of his decay: though I knew that he had not really withdrawn his affection from me, yet his air and mode of addressing me gave me constantly that feeling. So much the more affecting was it, when the sanity of his perceptions and his remembrances returned, but at inter- vals of slower and slower recurrence. In this condition, silent or babbling childishly, self-involved and torpidly abstracted, or else busy with self-created phantoms and delusions, waking up for a moment to trifles, sinking back for hours to what might perhaps be disjointed fragments of grand perishing reveries, what a contrast did he offer to that Kant who had once been the brilliant centre of the most brilliant circles for rank, wit, or knowledge, that Prussia afforded ! A distinguished person from Berlin, who had called upon him during the preceding summer, was greatly shocked at his appearance, and said, " This is not Kant that I have seen, but the shell of Kant !" How much more would he have said this, if he had seen him now.

For now came February, 1804, which was the last month that Kant was destined to see. It is remarkable that, in the memorandum-book which I have before mentioned, I found a fragment of an old song (inserted by Kant, and


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 157

dated in the summer about six months before the time of his death), which expressed that February was the month in which people had the least weight to carry, for the ob- vious reason that it was shorter by two and by three days than the others; and the concluding sentiment was in a tone of fanciful pathos to this effect " Oh, happy February ! in which man has least to bear least pain, least sorrow, least self-reproach ! " Even of this short month, however, Kant had not twelve entire days to bear, for it was on the twelfth that he died; and, in fact, he may be said to have been dying from the first. He now barely vegetated; though there were still transitory gleams flashing fitfully from the embers of his ancient magnificent intellect.

On the 3d of February the springs of life seemed to be ceasing from their play; for from this day, strictly speak- ing, he ate nothing more. His existence henceforward seemed to be the mere prolongation of an impetus derived from an eighty years' life, after the moving power of the mechanism was withdrawn. His physician visited him every day at a particular hour; and it was settled that I should always be there to meet him. Nine days before his death, on paying his usual visit, the following little cir- cumstance occurred, which affected us both, by recalling forcibly to our minds the ineradicable courtesy and good- ness of Kant's nature. When the physician was announced,

I went up to Kant, and said to him, " Here is Dr A ."

Kant rose from his chair, and, offering his hand to the doctor, murmured something in which the word " posts " was frequently repeated, but with an air as though he wished to be helped out with the rest of the sentence. Dr

A , who thought that, by posts, he meant the stations

for relays of post-horses, and therefore that his mind was wandering, replied, that all the horses were engaged, and


158 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

begged him to compose himself. But Kant went on, with great effort to himself, and added, "Many posts, heavy posts then much goodness then much gratitude." All this he said with apparent incoherence, but with great warmth, and increasing self-possession. I meantime per- fectly divined what it was that Kant, under his cloud of imbecility, wished to say, and I interpreted accordingly.

"What the professor wishes to say, Dr A , is this, that,

considering the many and weighty posts which you fill in the city and in the university, it argues great goodness on your part to give up so much of your time to him " (for Dr

A would never take any fees from Kant); "and that

he has the deepest sense of this goodness." " Right," said Kant, earnestly "right !" But he still continued to stand, and was nearly sinking to the gi ound. Upon which I re marked to the physician, that Kant, as I was well con- vinced, would not sit down, however much he suffered from standing, until he knew that his visiters were seated. The doctor seemed to doubt this; but Kant, who heard what I said, by a prodigious effort confirmed my construction of his conduct, and spoke distinctly these words " God for- bid I should be sunk so low as to forget the offices of hu- manity."

When dinner was announced, Dr A took his leave.

Another guest had now arrived, and I was in hopes, from the animation which Kant had so recently displayed, that we should to-day have a pleasant party; but my hopes were vain Kant was more than usually exhausted; and, though he raised a spoon to his mouth, he swallowed nothing. For some time everything had been tasteless to him; and I had endeavoured, but with little success, to stimulate the or- gans of taste by nutmeg, cinnamon, &c. To-day all failed, and I could not prevail upon him to taste even P- biscuit,


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 1 59

rusk, or anything of that sort. I had once heard him say that several of his friends, whose complaint was marasmus, had closed their illness by four or five days of entire free- dom from pain, but totally without appetite, and then slumbered tranquilly away. Through this state I appre- hended that he was himself now passing.

Saturday, the 4th of February, I heard his guests loudly expressing their fears that they should never meet him again; and I could not but share these fears myself. However, on

Sunday, the 5th, I dined at his table in company with his particular friend Mr R. R. V. Kant was still present, but so weak that his head drooped upon his knees, and he sank down against the right side of the chair. I went and arranged his pillows, so as to raise and support hig head: and, having done this, I said, "Now, my dear sir, you are again in right order." Great was our astonishment when he answered clearly and audibly, in the Roman mili- tary phrase, "Yes, testudine et facie;" and immediately after added, " Ready for the enemy, and in battle array." His powers of mind were smouldering away in their ashes; but every now and then some lambent flame, or grand emanation of light, shot forth, to make it evident that the ancient fire still slumbered below.

Monday, the 6th, he was much weaker and more torpid: he spoke not a word, except on the occasion of my ques- tion about the Moors, as previously stated, and sat with sightless eyes, lost in himself, and manifesting no sense of our presence, so that we had the feeling of some mighty phantom from some forgotten century being seated amongst us.

About this time, Kant had become much more tranquil and composed. In the earlier periods of his illness, when


160 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

his yet unbroken strength was brought into active conflict with the first attacks of decay, he was apt to be peevish, and sometimes spoke roughly or even harshly to his ser- vants. This, though very opposite to his natural disposi- tion, was altogether excusable under the circumstances. He could not make himself understood: things were there- fore brought to him continually which he had not asked for; and what he really wanted oftentimes he could not ob- tain, because all his efforts to name it were unintelligible. A violent nervous irritation, besides, affected him, from the unsettling of the equilibrium in the different functions of his nature; weakness in one organ being made more palpable to him by disproportionate strength in another. But at length the strife was finished; the whole system was thoroughly undermined, and now moving forward in rapid and harmonious progress to dissolution. From this time till all was over, no movement of impatience, or ex- pression of fretfulness, ever escaped him. I now visited him three times a-day; and on Tuesday, February 7, going about dinner-time, I found the usual party of friends sitting down alone; for Kant was in bed. This was a new scene in his house, and in- creased our fears that his end was close at hand. However, having seen him rally so often, I would not run the risk of leaving him without a dinner-party for the next day; and accordingly, at the customary hour of one, we assembled in his house on

Wednesday, February 8. I paid my respects to him as cheerfully as possible, and ordered dinner to be served. Kant sat at the table with us; and, taking a spoon with a little soup in it, carried it to his lips; but immediately put it down again, and retired to bed from which he never rose again.


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 181

Thursday, the 9th, he had sunk into the weakness of a dying person, and the corpse-like appearance (the facies Hippocralica) had already taken possession of him. I visited him frequently through the course of the day; and going for the last time about ten o'clock at night, I found him in a state of insensibility. I could not draw any sign from him that he knew me, and I left him to the care of his sister and his servant.

Friday, the 10th, I went to see him at six o'clock in the morning. It was very stormy, and a deep snow had fallen in the night-time. And, by the way, I remember that a gang of house-breakers had forced their way through the premises, in order to reach Kant's next neighbour, who was a goldsmith. As I drew near to his bedside, I said, "Good-morning." He returned my salutation, by saying, " Good- morning," but in so feeble and faltering a voice that it was hardly articulate. I was rejoiced to find him sensible, and I asked him if he knew me. * Yes," he re- plied; and, stretching out his hand, touched me gently upon the cheek. Through the rest of the day, whenever I visited him, he seemed to have relapsed into a state of insensibility.

Saturday, the llth, he lay with fixed and rayless eyes; but to all appearance in perfect peace. I asked him again, on this day, if he knew me. He was speechless, but he turned his face towards me, and made signs that I should kiss him.* Deep emotion thrilled me as I stooped down

  • "That I should kiss him:" The pathos which belongs to such a

mode of final valediction is dependent altogether for its effect upon the contrast between itself and the prevailing tone of manners amongst the society where such an incident occurs. In some parts of the Continent, there prevailed during the last century a most effeminate practice amongst men of exchanging kisses as a regular mode of salutation on meeting after any considerable period of separation. Under such a standard of G2


1G2 THE LAST DAYS OF KANT.

to kiss his pallid lips; for I knew that in this solemn act of tenderness he meant to express his thankfulness for our long friendship, and to signify his last farewell. I had never seen him confer this mark of his love upon any- body except once, and that was a few weeks before his death, when he drew his sister to him and kissed her. The kiss which he now gave to me was the last memorial that he knew me.

Whatever fluid was now offered to him passed the oeso- phagus with a rattling sound, as often happens with dying people; and there were all the signs of death being close at hand.

I wished to stay with him till all was over; and, as I


manners, the farewell kiss of the dying could have no special effect of pathos. But in nations so inexorably manly as the English, any act, which for the moment seems to depart from the usual standard of man- liness, becomes exceedingly impressive when it recalls the spectator's thoughts to the mighty power which has been able to work such a re- volution the power of death in its final agencies. The brave man has ceased to be in any exclusive sense a man: he has become an infant in his weakness: he has become a woman in his craving for tenderness and pity. Forced by agony, he has laid down his sexual character, and re- tains only his generic character of a human creature. And he that is manliest amongst the bystanders, is also the readiest to sympathise with this affecting change. Ludlow, the parliamentary general of horse, a man of iron nerves, and peculiarly hostile to all scenical displays of sentiment, mentions, nevertheless, in his Memoirs, with sympathising tenderness, the case of a cousin that, when lying mortally wounded on the ground, and feeling his life to be rapidly welling away, entreated his relative to dismount "and kiss him." Everybody must remember the immortal scene on board the Victory, at four P.M. on October 21, 1805, and the farewell, "Kiss me, Hardy/" of the mighty admiral. And here again, in the final valediction of the stoical Kant, we read another indication, speaking oracularly from dying lips of natures the sternest, that the last necessity that call which survives all others in men of noble and im- passioned hearts is the necessity of love, is the call for some relenting caress, such as may stimulate for a moment some phantom image of female tenderness in an hour when the actual presence of females is im possible.


THE LAST DAYS OP KANT. 163

had been amongst the nearest witnesses of his life, to be witness also of his departure; and, therefore, I never quitted him, except when I was called off for a few minutes to attend some private business. The whole of this night I spent at his bedside. Though he had passed the day in a state of insensibility, yet in the evening he made intelli- gible signs that he wished to have his bed put in order; he was therefore lifted out in our arms, and the bedclothes and pillows being hastily arranged, he was carried back again. He did not sleep; and a spoonful of liquid, which was sometimes put to his lips, he usually pushed aside; but about one o'clock in the night he himself made a movement towards the spoon, from which I collected that he was thirsty; and I gave him a small quantity of wine and water sweetened; but the muscles of his mouth had not strength enough to retain it; so that, to prevent its flowing back, he raised his hand to his lips, until with a rattling sound it was swallowed. He seemed to wish for more; and I continued to give him more, until he said, in a way that I was just able to understand, "It is enough." * And these were his last words. It is enough ! Sufficit ! Mighty and symbolic words! At intervals he pushed away the bedclothes, and exposed his person; I constantly restored the clothes to their situation, and on one of these occasions I found that the whole body and extremities were already growing cold, and the pulse intermitting.

At a quarter after three o'clock on Sunday morning, February 12, 1804, Kant stretched himself out as if taking


  • "It is enough:" The cup of life, the cup of suffering, is drained.

For those who watch, as did the Greek and the Roman, the deep mean- ings that oftentimes hide themselves (without design and without con- sciousness on the part of the utterer) in trivial phrases, this final uttei- ance would have seemed intensely symbolic.


1G4 THE LAST DAYS OP KANT.

up a position for his final act, and settled into the precise posture which he preserved to the moment of death. The pulse was now no longer perceptible to the touch in his hands, feet, or neck. I tried every part where a pulse beats, and found none but in the left hip, where it continued to beat with violence, but often intermitted.

About ten o'clock in the forenoon he suffered a remark- able change; his eye was rigid, and his face and lips be- came discoloured by a cadaverous pallor. Still, such was the intensity of his constitutional habits, that no trace appeared of the cold sweat which naturally accompanies the last mortal agony.

It was near eleven o'clock when the moment of dissolu- tion approached. His sister was standing at the foot of the bed, his sister's son at the head. I, for the purpose of still observing the fluctuations in the pulse, was kneeling at the bedside; and I called his servant to come and wit- ness the death of his good master. The last agony was now advancing to its close, if agony it could be called, where there seemed to be no struggle. And precisely at this moment, his distinguished friend Mr E. K. V., whom I had summoned by a messenger, entered the room. First of all, the breath grew feebler; then it missed its regu- larity of return; then it wholly intermitted, and the upper lip was slightly convulsed; after this there followed one feeble respiration or sigh; and after that no more; but the pulse still beat for a few seconds slower and fainter, slower and fainter, till it ceased altogether; the mechanism stopped; the last motion was at an end; and exactly at that moment the clock struck eleven.

Soon after his death the head of Kant was shaved; and, under the direction of Professor Knorr, a plaster cast waa


THE LAST DAYS OF KANT. 165

, not a mask merely, but a cast of the whole head, designed (I believe) to enrich the craniological collection of Dr Gall.

The corpse being laid out and properly attired, immense numbers of people in every rank, from the highest to the lowest, flocked to see it. Everybody was anxious to avail himself of the last opportunity he would have for entitling himself to say, " I too have seen Kant.'* This went on for many days, during which, from morning to night, the house was thronged with the public. Great was the asto- nishment of all people at the meagreness of Kant's appear- ance; and it was universally agreed that a corpse so wasted and fleshless had never been beheld. His head rested upon the same cushion on which once the gentle- men of the university had presented an address to him; and I thought that I could not apply it to a more honour- able purpose than by placing it in the coffin, as the final pillow of that immortal head.

Upon the style and mode of his funeral, Kant had ex- pressed his wishes in earlier ^ears by a special memoran- dum. He there desired that it should take place early in the morning, with as little noise and disturbance as pos- sible, and attended only by a few of his most intimate friends. Happening to meet with this memorandum, whilst I was engaged at his request in arranging his papers, I very frankly gave him my opinion, that such an injunction would lay me, as the executor of his will, under great embarrassments; for that circumstances might very probably arise under which it would be next to impossible to carry it into effect. Upon this Kant tore the paper, and left the whole to my own discretion. The fact was, I foresaw that the students of the university would never allow themselves to be robbed of this occasion for express-


166 THE LAST DATS OF KANT.

ing their veneration by a public funeral. The event showed that I was right; for a funeral such as Kant's, one so solemn and so magnificent, the city of Konigsberg has never witnessed before or since. The public journals, and separate reports in pamphlets, &c., have given so minute an account of its details, that I shall here notice only the heads of the ceremony.

On the 28th of February, at two o'clock in the after- noon, all the dignitaries of church and state, not only those resident in Konigsberg, but from the remotest parts of Prussia, assembled in the church of the castle. Hence they were escorted by the whole body of the university, splendidly dressed for the occasion, and by many military officers of rank, with whom Kant had always been a great favourite, to the house of the deceased professor; from which the corpse was carried by torchlight, the bells of every church in Konigsberg tolling, to the cathedral, which was lit up by innumerable wax-lights. A never-ending train of people followed it on foot. In the cathedral, after the usual burial rites, accompanied with every possible expression of national veneration to the deceased, there was a grand musical service, most admirably performed; at the close of which, Kant's mortal remains were lowered into the academic vault; and there he now rests among the patriarchs of the university. PEACE BE TO His DUST;

AND TO HIS MEMORY EVERLASTING HONOUR!




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