Edward Caird's Hegel



DURING the eight years which Hegel spent in the Nuremberg Gymnasium, the fortunes of Germany had undergone a great change. The disasters of the Russian campaign had given the first shock to the seemingly unconquerable power of the French Emperor, and Prussia, regenerated by the silent reforms of Stern and Hardenberg, had commenced the German insurrection, which ended in the overthrow of Napoleon. The Congress of Vienna had done what it could to evoke some kind of order out of the confused result of war, and also it had sought in some degree to bridle the national spirit which the war had called forth. But Germany was still agitated like the sea after a storm. The undefined expectation of some great result from so many sacrifices, the effort of the representatives of the old Germanic system to reassert those historical rights which had disappeared, the necessity of giving some satisfaction to the desire of national unity, and the policy of the different dynasties leading them to reassert their separate independence,-all these tendencies and influences were confusedly struggling with each other. On the whole, the desire of peace and rest after so many troublous years, and the fear of revolution produced by the example of France, prevailed over all other feelings. The German nation had no clear idea of what it wanted, and was not willing to rouse itself to any continued efforts to remold its institutions. All that could be expected was that some working compromise should be secured, out of which better things might grow, as the times became ripe for a new movement of progress.


Hegel was deeply interested, as we shall see, in the political problem, but his first natural feeling was that the time had come when the interests of culture and philosophy, which had been silenced by the noise of battle, might find a hearing; and this is the idea expressed in his introductory address at Heidelberg. "While the spirit of the world was so much occupied with real interests, it could not turn inwards, or gather itself together in itself: but now that the stream of events, on which we were carried along so rapidly, has been checked-now that the German nation has redeemed itself by the sword from the worst of tyrannies, and regained its nationality, that foundation of all higher life-we may hope that besides the kingdom of this world, on which all thoughts and efforts have been hitherto concentrated, the kingdom of God may also be thought of; in other words, that besides political and other worldly interests, science and philosophy, the free interests of intelligence, may also rise to newness of life."

This hope is the more reasonable, Hegel declares, as philosophy is the peculiar vocation of the German nation. "History shows us that even when all but the name of philosophy was lost in other lands, it has maintained itself as the peculiar possession of the German nation. We have received from nature the high calling to be guardians of this sacred fire, as in earlier times the world-spirit maintained the highest consciousness in the Jewish nation, that from them it might rise again as a new spiritual force in the world. . . . Let us greet together the dawn of a better time, when the spirit, that has hitherto been driven out of itself, may return to itself again, and win room and space wherein to found a kingdom of its own."

Hegel began to lecture with an audience of four, which, however, gradually increased to twenty for one of his courses and thirty for the other. Heidelberg afforded him opportunities of extending his knowledge of art, and it was there that he first lectured on Aesthetic. The work, however, which mainly engaged him was his Encyclopaedia, a general outline of his system, consisting of short compressed paragraphs, which he often made the basis of his lectures. This work was afterwards much extended and developed, but in its first form it has a compactness, a brief energy and conclusiveness of expression, which he never surpassed. He is described as at this time rather withdrawing from general society, and so intensely concentrated on the effort of applying his principles to nature and history, as sometimes to lose all sense of outward things.

His students thought him idle, because they used to see him standing for hours at his window, looking out on the misty hills and woods of Heidelberg; and it is related that on one occasion, as he was walking to the university, after a heavy rain, he left a shoe in the mud without being conscious of the loss. On the general body of the students his influence was not great, but he gradually drew to himself those who had any aptitude for philosophy. And during his whole stay in Heidelberg his name was steadily rising, in spite of the general tendencies of the place, which seem to have been rather unfavorable to philosophic studies.

Hegel wrote at this time two rather important papers in the ' Heidelberg Jahrbiicher,'-one on Jacobi, and the other on the constitutional struggles of "Wurtemberg,- papers which first denned Hegel's attitude to the religious and political life of his time. Jacobi, like Fichte, had been vigorously attacked by Hegel in the ' Critical Journal,' when he and Schelling were fighting their early battle against the philosophical world; but now greater clearness had brought greater calm, and Hegel recognized that in aim, if not in method, he was at one with Jacobi. The arbitrary intuitional ways of the latter, whose ideas were generally put forth like mere "shots from a pistol," his want of dialectic, and his inability to recognize his own ideas when they were presented to him in other language, Hegel still criticizes. But he recognizes that, after all, Jacobi's intuitions were right, and that, in his own way, he had kept alive the essential idea of philosophy-the idea that the principle of all things is spiritual This amende honorable much comforted the old man, who of late had received somewhat rough usage from Schelling, and who now came to Heidelberg to embrace Hegel and thank him for his acknowledgment.


In the second paper, on the proceedings of the Estates of Wurtemberg, we have Hegel's first published utterance on politics, though, as we have seen, he bad all along taken a deep interest in the political movement, and had twice before been on the point of giving his views to the world. The changes through which his opinions on this subject passed went on pari passu with the general development of his system. The youthful enthusiasm for liberty kindled in him by the French Revolution, was changed by the experiences of the time and his own advance beyond individualistic views of society, into a conception of the state as an organic unity, in which the individual should find at once the means of his education as a moral and rational being, and the sphere for the exercise of his special gifts. In the time of Hegel's closest alliance with Schelling, his conception of the unity of the state was so strict that it even approximated to a revival of the Greek aristocratic socialism.

Even then, however, he was conscious that the Greek ideal could not be applied without modification to modern life; and that the modem state must seek to combine the unity of the ancient republic with an acknowledgment of the independent rights and personal freedom of the individual, which to the ancient republican, to Plato and Aristotle, would have seemed anarchy. The modem state must not be an extended family or socialistic community in which the individual is lost; nor, on the other hand, must it be a mere "social contract" of individuals who have no vital relations to each other-no relations which are not produced by their own will. Yet in some sense it must embrace both these ideas, and reconcile them in one. Like a family, it must be based on nature, on a community of race and language; it must rest on relations that are, and are acknowledged to be, independent of all the mere caprice of individuals. This end, as Hegel thought, could he best attained in a hereditary monarchy, where the person of the monarch becomes as it were the fixed point which is raised above all discussion, the representative of the historical unity of the nation. On the other hand, the state must also be a "civic society," in which individuals are secured in their private rights of person and property, and allowed 'every opportunity of pursuing their particular aims and developing their special abilities in competition and co-operation with each other. And in order that natural unity and social freedom may be combined, the monarch must be a constitutional monarch, ruling through his ministers, who are in contact with and responsible to the Parliament, and the people must be organized in communities and corporations, from which again representatives to the Parliament shall be chosen. In this way the Government will be at once permanent and progressive, raised above the direct revolutionary action of the many-a real leader of the people, and yet continually receiving new support and development from the constitutionally expressed will of the nation.

Hegel, it will be observed, does not think of a constitutional monarchy as a slightly veiled democracy, at least according to Rousseau's idea of democracy as a Government which only collects and records the decisions of its subjects; he thinks of it as-what indeed every real Government must be, whatever its name-a guiding and directing power. Nor is this irreconcilable with the fact that no Government can be powerful that does not express the will of the people,-for, as Hegel says, "the people never knows what it wills." It is the business of Government at once to make it conscious of its will, and to carry it into effect. It may be questioned whether Hegel was right in supposing that a hereditary monarchy is necessary, or will in the end prove to be even the best expedient, to secure this result. But, in any case, there were good grounds for believing that was so under the actual conditions of the time in. England and in Prussia. Hegel's ideal seems, indeed, to have lain midway between the English and the Prussian systems,-having more of democracy than the latter, and implying more of direct initiative on the part of the Government than the former, as might be expected in the political system of one who had witnessed the great reforms of Stein and Hardenberg.


This ideal of the state was, in its main points at least, already developed by Hegel before he left Jena; for it is implied, if not directly expressed, in his unpublished pamphlet on the imperial system. This pamphlet appears from internal evidence to have been written shortly after the Treaty of Luneville, when the imperial system had already shown its weakness for the defense of Germany against the French. It begins with the words, "Germany is no longer a state, but, as a French writer has said, a constituted anarchy." This it has learnt by experience in war; for "war is the touchstone which proves whether there is a real coherence in the different parts of the state, and whether they are prepared to make any sacrifices for it." Hegel therefore calls on his countrymen not to waste their time in vain complaints of then-fate, but to try to understand it, and to see in it not the working of caprice and accident, but the necessary result of the political paralysis into which Germany had fallen.

The "Holy Roman Empire" had gradually sunk under the abuses of the feudal system, according to which each part of the whole political body was so strongly entrenched in its particular rights, that the general power of the state was annihilated. An imperial army was a theme for jest, for every contributor tried to contribute as little as possible; imperial justice was a mockery, for a suit in the courts of the empire never came to an end. An endless formalism, which in its tenderness for particular rights never allowed any right to be realized, might console itself' with the maxim, Fiat justitia pereat mundus; but it was time to consider whether that could be really justice which made Germany perish. This system, whose weakness had long been hidden under the magni nominis umbra of the empire, was stripped of its disguise by the calamities of the times. " Only the memory of the former bond preserves yet a semblance of union, as fallen fruits may be known to have belonged to the tree because they lie beneath it, though its shadow neither protects them from corruption nor from the power of the elements to which they now belong."


Hegel therefore calls for a renewal of the imperial authority, which shall not, indeed, imitate the centralization of France, but which, while admitting the self-government or " home rule" of the separate provinces in matters that concern themselves, shall yet bring them together in a real effective political union under one monarch and one government. "The greatness of modern states makes it impossible to realize the ancient idea of the personal participation of every freeman in the general government. Both for execution and deliberation, the power of the state must gather to a center. But if this center is maintained in independence by the reverence of the people, and consecrated in its unchangeableness in the person of a monarch, determined by the natural law of birth, the Government may, without fear or jealousy, leave the subordinate systems and corporations to determine in their own way most of the relations which arise in society, and every rank, city, commune, etc., to enjoy the freedom of doing that which lies within its sphere." Hegel's ideal is therefore not that of a machine moved by one spring, which communicates motion to all the rest of the endlessly complicated works, but of a social organism in which life is continually streaming from the center to the extremities, and back again from them to the center; and he points out that, while a centralized despotic government has nothing to calculate on beyond its definite known resources, a free state has besides, in every part of it, points of force from which new resources may spring.

Hegel, however, felt that such a revolution as he contemplated, by which the old structure of privilege should be turned into an organic state, was one of those things which do not come of themselves, but that there was need of force to suppress the opposition of the different provinces which were so strongly entrenched in their particular rights. And in words that are somewhat prophetic, - though the prophecy was long of accomplishment, - he calls for a hero, to realize by "blood and iron" the political regeneration of Germany. "Though all parts would gain by Germany becoming one state, and though public opinion has been so far educated that the need of it is deeply and definitely felt, yet such an event is never the fruit of deliberation, but always of force.

The common mass of the German nation with their provincial estates, which know of nothing but the division of the separate sections of their race, and look upon their union as something altogether strange and monstrous, must be gathered into one by the violence of a conqueror; they must be compelled by him to regard themselves as belonging to one Germany. Such a Theseus must have magnanimity enough to grant to the nation which he has formed out of scattered peoples a share in that which is the common interest; he must have character enough, if not to submit to be rewarded with ingratitude, like Theseus, yet to be willing to brave, by reason of the direction of government which he keeps in his own hands, the hate which Richelieu and other great men have brought upon themselves, when they crushed all particular wills and factious interests to secure the general good."

The rapid advance of events, the succession of blows by which Napoleon annihilated the German empire, apparently outstripped Hegel's pen, and this pamphlet was never completed. Nor, in spite of the great outburst of German patriotism in the war of liberation and the hopes which it produced, would the Congress of Vienna listen to the idea of a revival of the empire. Hence, after the war, Germany resolved itself into a very loose confederation of states, each of which was left to develop in its own way, only with the understanding that "Estates" or a Parliament were to be introduced by every Government for its own subjects.


One of the first states to enter upon the path of reform was Wurtemberg, the territory of which had been doubled by the Napoleonic policy. The king, one of the most arbitrary and tyrannical of princes, but a man of statesmanlike ability, anticipated the attack on his despotism by offering to his people a charter, in which provision was made for their representation in a parliament, and also, with some reserves, for parliamentary control over the legislation and taxation of the kingdom, but in which, at the same time, the privileges of the nobles, as well as the special rights and monopolies guaranteed to certain other classes in the old semi-feudal constitution of Wurtemberg, were abolished. Suspicion of the king's motives, however, and a somewhat reactionary patriotism, united the people with the Estates in their rejection of the royal offer, and in their demand for the restoration of the " good old laws." The death of the king and the accession of a popular heir, who had been one of the heroes of the war of liberation, did not put an end to this strange struggle between a despotic Government seeking to force the people to be free, and a people supporting the abuses and monopolies of feudalism.

But the sympathy of Germany, which at first had been with the resistance of the Estates, soon began to change sides, and even in Wurtemberg-at least in those parts of it which did not belong to the old duchy-a party in favour of the king's proposals was forming itself. It was at this time that Hegel, moved thereto, it is said, by the request of the minister Von Vangenheim, struck into the battle. Filled as he was with a sense of the evils which the " good old laws " had brought upon Germany, he could not but take the side of the king; and nowhere do we find a more thorough and merciless exposure of the defects of the semi-feudal arrangements pertaining to the imperial system, than in the paper which he wrote on the subject. Hegel, however, in his vigorous polemic, shows himself more of a partisan than we should have expected, and does not give us any glimpses of the reasons which partly excused the wrong-headedness and obstinacy of his Swabian fellow-countrymen.

Indeed it has to be allowed generally, that in controversy Hegel, if not unfair, is at least ruthless. There is no malice, nor, I think, personal bitterness in his polemic ; but it is unsparing, unsympathetic, and gathers itself into weighty words of irony and indignation which were felt like blows, and sometimes roused violent opposition and anger against him. "We are often reminded of his own admission to his wife, that in assailing principles which seemed to him wrong, he forgot to allow for " the manner and way in which they are present in particular individuals." And it was only to be expected, when he treated thus persons as representatives of ideas, that, on the other hand, words which were really directed by him against ideas should be interpreted as personal attacks.


The complete expression of Hegel's political theories in his 'Philosophy of Right' was not published till a later date, when he had been transferred to Berlin, which was beginning to be recognized as the scientific as well as the political center of Germany. By the thorough reforms carried out in the hour of her apparent ruin, by the reorganization of her army and the foundation of Berlin University, and by her energy and sacrifices in the war of liberation, Prussia had gained, and, as it turned, out, permanently gained, the leadership of Germany. And though Austria was now seeking, with some success, to withdraw her from her political task, and to entangle her in a reactionary and repressive policy, yet even at the worst, the process of internal improvement was never entirely checked, and the alliance which she had formed with science and philosophy was never entirely broken. In 1816, Hegel had already drawn the attention of Solger, Niebuhr, and other men of influence in Berlin, as the one man who could fill with credit the vacant chair of Fichte, and in 1818 the proposal was renewed and accepted.

From this time until his death in 1831, Hegel held a commanding position as the greatest teacher of philosophy in the most important university of Germany. He was now in his forty-ninth year, fully possessed of himself, strong in the consciousness of the truth which lie had grasped, and of the method by which lie had developed it. The long delay of recognition, if it had taken away something of the first poetic vividness of conception and expression, had brought clearness, definiteness, and proportion to his treatment of the different parts and aspects of knowledge, and had enabled him to work out his principles to a system. On the other hand, it had inevitably given to his mind a certain rigidity, a certain incompliant firmness and disinclination to compromise, which was apt to be felt as tyrannical by those who were not in complete sympathy with him.

The long solitary work of construction, in which he had had to be sufficient for himself, had taken away from him the capacity to give and take which belongs to youth. Nor were his eight years' labor as a schoolmaster probably without influence on his- character. "I am a schoolmaster," he once said, "who has to teach philosophy, and, perhaps partly for that reason, am possessed. with the idea that philosophy, as truly as geometry, must be a regular structure of ideas which is capable of being taught." " His main influence upon the Berliners," says his biographer, "was that he formally put them to school, and with firm inflexibleness made them learn his system." Though in a sense his philosophy was rooted in the idea of freedom, it was also penetrated with the consciousness that real freedom is possible only through discipline; and even the Prussian tendency to introduce into everything a kind of military drill was not unwelcome to him. As Socrates was compared to those figures of Silenus which contained within the image of an Olympic god, so it may be said that in Hegel we find an idealist, for whom truth is poetry and religion one with philosophy, in the dress of a punctual and orderly civil servant of the Prussian Government.


The great danger of a position such as Hegel now held, - in close alliance with the Government, employed by it in testing the candidates for the scholastic profession, and often consulted by it in reference to academic appointments, - was that it tended too much to confuse the official and the philosopher, and to cast a suspicion of political reserve and accommodation upon all the conservative, or apparently conservative, tendencies of his social and religious speculation. Starting with the revolutionary principle, Hegel, by the natural development of his thought, had, as we have seen, been led to a view of things which was neither revolutionary nor reactionary, because based upon the idea of the evolution of humanity as an organism. He had learned to recognize that "the real is the rational," that the "soul of the world is just," yet not in the sense of a mere glorification of the status quo, but in the sense that history is the progressive manifestation of reason, and that, therefore, no true reform is possible which is not in its essence a development-i.e., which is not already contained in germ in that which has to be reformed.

It is vain to command the seed to become an oak unless it is an acorn. Mere abstract ideals, therefore, are worthless, and their application can only lead to a general overturn without reconstruction. The revolutionary contempt of the past is fatal to all real progress, for it is only in the past that we can find such an explanation of the present as may enable us to see in it the germ of the future, - "the spirit of the years to come, yearning to mix itself with life." In religion, also, Hegel had gradually outgrown the bare negations of the Aufklarung, and the Hellenism of his youth, and had learnt to recognize, in the Christian idea of self-realization through self-sacrifice, the principle that explains the intellectual and moral life of man and the nature of the universe in which he lives. Such a view separated him at once from the Revolution and the reaction, from the prevailing rationalism and from the reviving orthodoxy; and it was certain to be misunderstood by the partisans of both.

Especially was it natural that to liberals in theology and politics Hegel should seem to be an obscurantist and a political quietist, an "official philosopher," won by the bribes of place and power to maintain the cause of obstruction with the weapons of reason. Nor can it be said that Hegel took much pains to avoid such misconception. His denunciation of the revolutionary sophisms, and especially of the sentimental politics of Fries, whom in the preface to the 'Philosophy of Right' he calls the "ringleader of the hosts of shallowness," seemed to be no fair philosophical controversy at a time when the Government, in the panic that followed the murder of Kotzebue, were adopting strict measures of repression in the universities, and Fries himself was in danger of being driven from his chair.

When, however, a writer in the 'Literary Review' of Halle pointed to this coincidence, and characterized Hegel's attack as an "ignoble" persecution of a man who was down, Hegel was deeply wounded and incensed, and even made the matter worse by complaining to the minister, Altenstein, that such an insinuation should be directed against him in a Review supported by the Government. Hegel declared that he had never once thought of Fries as a private person, but only of his principles; but though this declaration might be true - though, indeed, from a consideration of his general character, we may say certainly that it was true - yet Hegel should have remembered that above all things it is needful for a philosopher to take care that the weapons of the spirit should not seem to be used to help the weapons of the flesh. In like manner, Hegel's approximation to orthodoxy, his desire to show that in all essentials he was one with the Christian church, and his attacks upon the ordinary rationalism, exposed him, because of his official position, to the suspicion of compromising unworthily the interests of scientific truth, especially as he did not dwell with the same emphasis on the great, though in the main formal, changes-and especially the complete rejection of ordinary supenaturalism-which are involved in the Hegelian interpretation of Christianity.

Yet, on the whole, Hegel's attitude is neither unnatural nor inconsistent. If he felt in some degree the influence of the Restoration period - if a certain weariness of political movement is visible in the writings of his latest years - if he shows, as time goes on, an increasing proneness to reconciling views, and a disinclination to insist on a complete sifting of terms upon which the reconciliation should be made, - we need not wonder at a change which is the ordinary result of age, and was above all natural to one who had lived through such a period of overturn and renewal.

Finally, after forty years of war and immeasurable confusion, an old heart might rejoice to see an end of it all, and the beginning of a period of peaceful satisfaction," as he said in one of his latest lectures, in reference to the French Revolution of 1830. But Hegel knew, as he immediately goes on to show, that there were discords and unresolved antagonisms, which would not let men rest in what had been attained. Apart from such " tints of the setting sun," such natural leaning to rest in the attained, there is no trace of reaction in Hegel. Nowhere do we find any unfaithfulness to his fundamental principles, or a willingness to compromise any of the results that flowed from the natural development of his thought. If he attacks the Aufklwung, it is under the "modern standard of the free spirit," and with a distinct rejection of the principle of authority in all its forms.

If his polemic is more frequently directed against the extravagances of revolutionary theory than against the sophistry of reaction, it is not because his philosophy has any special kinship with the latter, but rather for an opposite reason - because of that necessity of development which forces every new principle into a struggle with its immediate predecessor. Hegel, in fact, assumed, perhaps prematurely, that the skepticism of the Aufklarung had completed its work, and that the conflict with orthodoxy and the struggle with feudality was so far settled and done with, that it was now safe to recognize the substantial unity of the life that once expressed itself in these forms with that which expressed itself in his own philosophy; while with those who stood nearer to himself, and started from the same principle of reason and liberty, he felt himself obliged to fight out the battle to the end.

Meanwhile the allies whom Hegel was willing to acknowledge were not always willing to acknowledge him. The orthodox suspected philosophy et dmw fw-entem, and refused to trust to a dialectical proof of Christian ideas, which they feared to be no proof of Christianity as they understood it. And if statesmen like Altenstein and Hardenberg, who were liberals at heart, and who promoted Hegel before the reaction had fairly set in, were willing to look with favor on his political speculations, yet, towards the end of Hegel's life, when the policy of repression was finally adopted, a suspicion seems to have arisen in the Court that there was some "perilous stuff" in the 'Philosophy of Right,' - as indeed there was for a Government which was still refusing to grant many of those popular institutions which that book declares to be necessary for a free people.

Hegel's last days were disturbed by a dispute with his old pupil Gans, which is said to have arisen from the democratic inferences drawn by the latter from the 'Philosophy of Right.' And the rise, after his death, of a branch of the Hegelian school, which exaggerated to distortion those very aspects of the Hegelian theory on which the philosopher himself had seemed to lay less emphasis, was the natural reaction from its apparent temporary identification with the Prussian system of State and Church. Philosophy, like religion, must seek to view human life in relation to those principles which are at the making and the unmaking of states; it cannot "sit on a hill remote" to reason about abstractions; it cannot but attempt to comprehend that greatest of organisms, the State, which, in the "architectonic of its rationality," is the highest result of the conscious and unconscious working of reason in the life of man; but, like religion, it must suffer loss, when it is drawn down into the region of immediate practical politics, and confounded with the attack and defense of special measures and institutions.


Hegel's real work, however, had little to do with the changing politics of the Government that employed him. He was a teacher, and not a statesman, - a teacher whose main mission in life it was to find expression for one great leading idea, which should reconcile men to the world, and revive the power that seemed to be passing away from the Christian faith, as well as to imbue his pupils with the new philosophic method, by which that idea was to be developed and applied. For this work his position at Berlin gave him a great opportunity. During the first ten years of his residence his influence on the students of the great university was continually increasing; and though after that period the decline of bodily vigor, or at least of the buoyancy necessary to the successful teacher, began to be perceptible, he was, till the end of his life, in 1831, recognized as occupying in philosophy a place almost analogous to that which Goethe held in the world of letters.

His pupils, indeed, were fond of associating the two names together; and the circumstance that their birthdays fell on successive days was used in the year 1826 to unite them in one continuous festival, in which the enthusiasm of Hegel's present and past students found its culminating expression. Hegel himself seemed to take this apotheosis as a proof that his work was nearly done, when, in his address to his assembled friends, he said, with that grand simplicity that always marked his acceptance of the facts of life: "If one lives long enough, one must be content to take this also among the experiences of life, no longer to see one's self beside, or at the head of, younger men, but to stand to them as age to youth; and that point of life has now come for me."


If we ask for the sources of this influence, we cannot attribute it to any of those external advantages of address and manner which distinguished Fichte and Schelling. Cousin, who may be said to have been the pupil of both Hegel and Schelling, contrasts the flowing eloquence of the latter with the "powerful, though embarrassed, diction, the fixed gaze, and the clouded brow" of Hegel, "which seemed to be an image of thought turned back upon itself." And from Hotho, one of Hegel's most distinguished pupils, we have an account of him, which - though something may be allowed for the fervor of discipleship - enables us vividly to realize the impression made by him both in public and in private.

"It was at the beginning of my student-life that one morning I ventured to present myself, shyly, yet full of trust, in Hegel's room. He sat before a broad writing-table, and was impatiently turning over the books and papers which lay heaped in some disorder upon it. His figure was bent in premature age, and yet had a look of native toughness and force; a yellow-gray dressing-gown hung from his shoulders, covering his person down to the ground. There was nothing very noticeable in his general external appearance-no imposing height or charm of manner; rather an impression of a certain honest downrightness, as of some citizen of the olden time, was conveyed in his whole bearing.

"The first impression of his face, however, I shall not easily forget. Pale and relaxed, his features hung down as if lifeless; no destructive passion was mirrored in them, but only a long history of patient thought. The agony of doubt, the ferment of unappeasable mental disturbance, seemed never to have tortured, never at least to have overpowered him, in all his forty years of brooding, seeking, and finding; only the restless impulse to develop the early germ of happily discovered truth with ever greater depth and riches-with ever greater strictness of inevitable logic-had furrowed the brow, the cheeks, the mouth. When his mind was slumbering, the features appeared old and withered; when it awoke, they expressed all the earnestness and strength of a thought, which, through the persistent effort of years, had been developed to completeness. What dignity lay in the whole head, in the finely formed nose, the high but somewhat retreating brow, the peaceful chin! The nobleness of good faith and thorough rectitude in great and little, the clear consciousness of having sought satisfaction in truth alone, wag, in the most individual way, imprinted on every feature. I had expected a testing and inspiring discourse about philosophy, and was mightily surprised to hear nothing of the kind.

"Just returned from a tour in the Netherlands, Hegel would talk of nothing but the cleanliness of the cities, the charm and artificial fertility of the country, the green far-stretching meadows, the ponds, canals, tower-like mills, and well-made roads, the art treasures, and the formal but comfortable manner of living of the citizens; so that after half an hour I felt myself as much at home in Holland as with himself.

"When, after a few days, I saw him again in the professorial chair, I could not at first accommodate myself either to the manner of his outward address or the inward sequence, of his thoughts. There he sat, with relaxed, half-sullen air, and, as he spoke, kept turning backwards and forwards the leaves of his long folio manuscript; a constant hacking and coughing disturbed the even flow of speech; every proposition stood isolated by itself, and seemed to force its way out all broken and twisted; every word, every syllable was, as it were, reluctantly let go, receiving from the metallic ring of the broad Swabian dialect a strange emphasis, as if it were the most important thing to be said. Yet the whole appearance compelled such deep respect, such a feeling of reverence, and attracted by such a naive expression of overpowering earnestness, that, with all my discomfort, and though I may have understood little enough of what was said, I felt myself irresistibly bound to him. And no sooner, by zeal and patience, had I accustomed myself to these outward defects of his address, than they and its inward merits seemed to unite themselves into an organic whole, which claimed to be judged by itself alone.


"An easy-flowing eloquence presupposes that one has made up one's final accounts with the matter in hand, and therefore an ability of a merely formal kind is able to chatter away with cheap attractiveness, without rising above the region of commonplace. Hegel's work, on the other hand, was to call up the most powerful thoughts out of the deepest ground of things, and to bring them as living forces to bear upon his audience; and for this it was necessary that,-often as they had been meditated and recast through past years,- with every new expression they should be reproduced afresh in himself, A more vivid and plastic representation of this hard conflict and birth-labor of thought than Hegel's manner of address could not be conceived. As the oldest prophets, the more vehemently they struggle with language, utter with the more concentrated force that thought which they half conquer, and which half conquers them, so did he struggle and overcome by the unwieldy verve of his expression. Entirely lost in his subject, he seemed to develop it out of itself for its own sake, and scarcely at all for the sake of the hearer; and an almost paternal anxiety for clearness softened the rigid earnestness which otherwise might have repelled one from the reception of such hard-won thoughts.

"Stammering already at the beginning, he forced his way on, made a new beginning, again stopped short, spoke and meditated: the exact word seemed ever to be in request, and just then it came with infallible certainty. . . . Now one felt one had grasped a proposition, and expected a further advance to be made. in vain. The thought, instead of advancing, kept turning with similar words again and again round the same point. Yet if the wearied attention was allowed to stray for a moment, one found, on returning, that one had lost the thread of the discourse. For slowly and carefully, by apparently insignificant intermediate steps, a thought had been made to limit itself so as to show its one-sidedness, had been broken up into differences and entangled in contradictions, the solution of which suddenly brought what seemed most opposed to a higher reunion. And thus, ever carefully resuming again what had been gone over before, and deepening and transforming it by new divisions and richer reconciliations, the wonderful stream of thought flowed on, twisting and struggling with itself, now isolating and now uniting, now delaying and now springing forward with a leap, but always steadily moving to its goal.

"Even one who could follow with full insight and intelligence, without looking to the right or to the left, saw himself thrown into the most strange tension and agony of mind. To such depths was thought carried down, to such infinite oppositions was it torn asunder, that all that had been won seemed ever again to be lost, and after the highest effort the intelligence seemed to be forced to stand in silence at the bounds of its faculty. But it was just in these depths of the apparently undecipherable that that powerful spirit lived and moved with the greatest certainty and calm. Then first his voice rose, his eye glanced sharply over the audience, and lighted up with the calmly glowing flame of conviction, while in words that now flowed without hesitation, he measured the heights and depths of the soul. What he uttered in such moments was so clear and exhaustive, of such simple self-evidencing power, that every one who could grasp it felt as if he had found and thought it for himself; and so completely did all previous ways of thinking vanish, that scarce a remembrance remained of the days of dreaming, in which such thoughts had not yet been awakened.

". . . From his earliest youth Hegel had given himself with unwearied rectitude of purpose to every kind of scientific study ; in later years he had lived for a time, like Schiller, estranged from the world, almost as in a cloister, while the impulse towards active life was fermenting within him. When he emerged from retirement, life subjected him to a hard school, outward embarrassments hemmed him in on all sides; and clearly as he saw the necessity of a complete remolding of science, yet at that time he was far from feeling in himself the power to achieve such a reform by his own efforts. For he was one of those strong natures which only after a long process of growth, in the full maturity of manhood, reveal all their depth, but which then bring to the riper completion what has been so long developed in silence.

"When I first knew him his main works were published, his fame stood high, and also in all externals his position was fortunate. This comfort and peace lent to his whole bearing-except when his temper was fretted or blunted by bodily suffering-the most thorough kindliness. How gladly I met him on his daily walks; though he seemed to move forward with effort and without spring, he was really more robust and forcible than we younger men. He was ready for every pleasure-party, nay, complete relaxation seemed, with advancing years, to have become more and more necessary to him. Who would then have recognized in him the deepest spirit of his times. Ever ready for talk, he rather sought to avoid, than to encourage, scientific subjects: the day's gossip, the on dits of the city, were welcome to him; political news, the art of the moment, came in for a share of his attention; and as his aim was amusement and recreation, he often approved at such moments what at other times he would have blamed, defended what he had before rejected, and found no end of chaffing me for my judicial strictness and straightness.

"What life there was in him at such times! Yet if one walked beside him, there was no getting on; for at every other moment he stood still, spoke, gesticulated, or sent forth a hearty ringing laugh; and whatever he might say, even when it was untenable and spoken to provoke contradiction, one was tempted to agree with him, so clearly and vigorously was it expressed. An equally agreeable companion he was at concerts and theatres-lively, inclined to applaud, ever ready for talk and jest, and content even, when it came to that, with the commonplaces of good society. Especially was he easy to please with his favorite singers, actresses, and poets. In business, on the other hand, his sharp understanding made him so painfully exact in weighing every pro and con, so scrupulous and obstinate, that men of quick decisive ways were often driven to despair by him; yet, if he had once resolved, his firmness was immovable. For in practical matters he had no want of insight; only the execution was difficult for him, and the smaller the matter the more helpless he was.

"Repellent personalities, who were opposed to the whole direction of his efforts, he could not abide, especially when their want of a fixed way of thinking had pained him in regard to that which he revered most: only in his most happy moods could one induce him to have any relations with such people. But when friends gathered round him, what an attractive loving camaraderie distinguished him from all others! The minute nuance of manners was not in his way; but a certain somewhat ceremonious bourgeois frankness united itself so happily with jest where jest was in place, with earnest where the occasion required earnestness, and always with an equable good-humor, that all those surrounding him were instinctively drawn into the same tone. He was fond of the society of ladies; and where he knew them well, the fairest were always sure of a sportive devotion, which, in the pleasant security of approaching age, had maintained the freshness of youth.

"The greater the retirement in which his earlier laborious years had passed away, the greater was his pleasure in later days to live in society; and as if his own depth needed to find a compensation in the triviality or commonplace of others, at times he took pleasure in people of the commonest stamp, and even seemed to cherish for them a kind of good-humored preference. With what natural dignity, on the other hand, and with what unaffected earnestness, did he appear when some public occasion made it necessary for him to come forward! And how many long hours of advice, of testing, of confirmation, was he ready to devote to those who sought his aid and guidance! If Plato celebrates how Socrates at the banquet preserved complete sobriety and measure even in the full tide of enjoyment, and when all the others were sleeping around, continued with Aristophanes and Agathon to drink and philosophize, till he left them overcome at cock-crow, and went out to the Lyceum to spend the day as usual, and only at the second evening cared to lay himself down to rest-I may surely say that Hegel alone, of all men whom I have seen, brought before my eyes this image of joyous, untiring energy, with a vivid force of realization that can never be forgot." (Hotho, Vorstudien fur Leben und Kunst, pp. 383-399.)

Hegel's life at Berlin was not very fertile in direct literary effort, though it was there for the most part that those lectures were produced, and delivered which form the greater part of his published works. Besides the 'Philosophy of Right,' during this period two more editions of the 'Encyclopaedia,' the last with considerable alterations, were given to the world, and the first volume of the 'Logic' was thoroughly revised. And in 1827, the Berlin Jahrbucher for Scientific Criticism, which were in the main, though not entirely, an organ of the Hegelian school, began to be issued; and to this Hegel during the following years contributed a number of important articles.

In 1830 he was chosen Rector of the University; and the festival of the third centenary of the Augsburg Confession gave him an opportunity again to declare his adherence to the "Standard of the Free Spirit," set up by Luther. The same year brought the July Revolution in Paris, and troubled him, as it troubled Niebuhr and many others, with the fear that France was again about to set the world on fire. This feeling shortly after found its expression in an article written on the English Reform Bill' of 1831. In this article there are many severe criticisms on the English constitution, which had much justification then, and have not altogether ceased to be applicable now. But the main point lies in the distinction between " formal" and "real" freedom - in other words, between popular government and rational institutions, with which Hegel apparently seeks to console his countrymen for the slow development of the former in Prussia.

The "ungodly jungle" of English law, the semi-feudal arrangements of landed inheritance, the power of the hereditary aristocracy, the abuses of the English Church, and in connection with this, the English tendency to treat public offices as private property, are compared with the more rational system introduced into these matters in Prussia by the Crown acting through enlightened ministers and civil servants; and Hegel is too near the French Revolution not to have many fears about a system like the English, in which the movement of reform cannot be initiated by the Crown, - which has lost all real power, - but must be won by the struggle of popular forces against a privileged aristocracy. Yet he sees the inevitable-ness of the change embodied in the Reform Bill, and points to the English experience of municipal self-government as a security against the dangers of revolutionary principles. The sagacity of many of Hegel's remarks has been proved by the subsequent history of the political movement in this country; what is defective in them is mainly due to the want of a living experience of the working of a free state, and perhaps also of a closer view of the English character. It is noticeable that even the moderate liberalism of this paper was too much for the growing fears of the Prussian Government, and a second part of it, which Hegel was preparing, was stopped by the censor.


This article was Hegel's last work, if we except a preface to the new edition of his 'Logic,' which ends somewhat sadly with an admission of the defects of his own development of the great principle of his philosophy, and an expression of his fear that the interval of political quiet, which had given such a favorable opportunity for philosophical culture, had come to an end. " One who has taken for his task to develop for the first time an independent structure of philosophical science in these latter days, must be reminded of the story that Plato wrote and rewrote his 'Republic' seven times over. This remembrance, and the comparison it suggests, might well awake a desire that, for a work which, as belonging to the modem world, has to deal with a harder subject, and to work upon a material of much greater compass, there might be given time to write and rewrite it even seventy times and seven. But while he thus thinks of the greatness of the task, the writer must content himself with what it has been allowed him to attain under the pressure of circumstances, under the unavoidable dissipation of energy caused by the greatness and many-sidedness of the interests of the times, and with haunting presence of a doubt whether, amid the loud noises of the day, and the deafening babble of vain opinion that cares for nothing but noise, there is left any room for sympathy with the passionless stillness of a science of pure thought."


Seven days after these words, weighty with the melancholy of genius, were written, Hegel was struck down by a sudden attack of cholera. This pestilence had been raging in Berlin during the summer, and had caused him to withdraw his family to a country house in the neighborhood, and during the vacation almost to break off all connection with the city. But in the week previous to his death he had returned to his work, and had begun his lectures, on Thursday and Friday, the 10th and 11th of November, with a fire and energy of expression which surprised his hearers, and in which there was, perhaps, something of the false strength of disease. On Saturday he still did some university duties; but on Sunday he was suddenly seized by the cholera in its most virulent form, and the next day passed away in a quiet sleep, without having ever felt an apprehension of danger. He was buried at a spot that he himself had chosen, beside Solger, and Fichte, his great predecessor. "His death," wrote Varnhagen von Ense, "was as fortunate as death can ever be. With unweakened spirit, in vigorous activity, at the height of his fame and influence, surrounded by the proofs of his success, content with his position, taking a lively share in the social pleasures and showing a friendly sympathy in all the life of the capital,-he passed away from the midst of all these interests without regret or pain; for the nature and name of his illness remained unknown to him, and he might fall asleep with the dream of recovery. But for us, what an awful void! He was the comer-stone of our university."


Of Hegel's personal character and genius it is not necessary to add much to what has already been said. What strikes us most in his life, as in his philosophy, is the combination of a deeply idealistic, poetical, and religious view of the world, with that practical good sense and that critical keenness of understanding which are usually the possession of another order of minds. The inner life of pious feeling, the subtle suggestions of art, all the forms in which poetry, religion, and philosophy have expressed men's consciousness of the infinite, were open secrets to him, and it was in this element that he lived and moved with the utmost freedom. But though his greatest strength lay in his imaginative and speculative grasp of the things of the spirit, it was not as an idealistic, still less as a poetic genius that he impressed most of the immediate observers of his life. Until a comparatively late period, when growing clearness of self-consciousness had brought with it greater freedom, of utterance, he was generally regarded rather as a man of strong understanding and definite practical aims, without superstitions or illusions of any sort.

At college his most intimate friends evidently looked upon him as a good-humored and reasonable companion, whose premature sobriety of judgment was inconsistent with any idea of genius. Even at a much later date the poet Holderlin, who knew him as well as any one, calls him a "man of calm prosaic understanding" (ruhiger Verstandesmensch); and Schelling, - though this, it is true, was after his breach with Hegel-writes of him to the same effect. "Such a pure example of inward and outward prose must be held sacred in these our over-poetic days: for all of us have now and again a touch of sentimentality, and against this such a 'spirit that denies' is an excellent corrective." ( An allusion to the description of Mephistopheles in 'Faust.') In these words there is, indeed, a certain one-sidedness of judgment, which can only be explained as personal bitterness-for, after the 'Phenomenology,' it was absurd to speak of Hegel as essentially prosaic; yet there is probably also a recurrence to what was really the first impression produced by Hegel on one whose weakness was, that he never could understand the requirements of prose.

Now this view of Hegel's nature and tendencies was undoubtedly and entirely erroneous. The critical understanding-that sense of finite conditions which is the essence of prose, and which constitutes what is called a positive temper of mind in science or practical life-was powerfully developed in Hegel. But it was by no means the predominant characteristic of his genius, as we see it in his works. There are, however, reasons why it should have seemed to be so to those who looked at Hegel from the outside. One is that, though he was certainly not prosaic, he was almost entirely without an element which is most commonly mistaken for poetry, and which, in the passage just quoted, Schelling seems to confuse with it.

To the impression of the beautiful and the ideal he was always open, and as we have seen, his whole thought was for a long period molded by the influence of Greek art and literature. But he was not sentimental, and he even had a dislike of the " effusions of sensibility," which is rather uncommon in a German, and which must have been still more uncommon in the age of Werther. Hence he seems to have affected his countrymen somewhat in the same way that the manner of Englishmen usually affects them, as showing a lack in sympathy and spontaneity, and also-such is the natural judgment of less reserved natures-of poetic feeling. Yet the history of literature does not show that the native springs of imaginative feeling and expression are less genuine and copious in England than in Germany. And of few men could it be said with -more certainty that he had " music in his soul," than of the author of the ' Phenomenology' and the ' Lectures on Aesthetic.'

Another characteristic of Hegel was closely connected with this want of what is technically called "sensibility." He never "made his studies in public," or in any way gave his thoughts to the world till they were ripe. Scarcely even did he communicate them to his most intimate friends. The important studies of his youth on the history and nature of religion, of which some account has been given in a previous chapter, were probably never heard of by any one till they were brought to light by his biographer: and it is most likely that, to his friends as to the public, his published writings were the first revelation of a speculative genius whose depth and riches they had scarcely even suspected. In society Hegel sought for relaxation, for extraneous interests which might break the tension of the inner life of thought; and except, perhaps, for a short time during his alliance with Schelling, he never really philosophized with any one-never developed his speculations by the living interchange of ideas, but always by solitary meditation.

"In no pursuit," he says and repeats several times, "is one so solitary as in philosophy;" and this is especially true of his own philosophic life, which always went on below the surface as a hidden process of brooding thought, and seldom showed itself to others except in the completed result. Hence those who witnessed the outward life of the diligent tutor, or editor, or schoolmaster, or even those, in later days, who met Hegel at the whist-table or in the theatre, or listened, in general society, to his ready talk about art and politics, and indeed about everything except philosophy, might not suspect that they had seen almost nothing of the man. It was only in his direct work as a writer and teacher of philosophy that the inner life of thought - which with him was almost everything - freely revealed itself. And even in his professorial teaching it revealed itself so simply and directly, working on the hearers entirely by its own power and not by any of the arts of the orator,-that the essential depth and earnestness of his character, as well as the poetic insight which was, so to speak, held in solution by the scientific strictness of his method, were apparent only to the few.


Hegel's style is, in many ways, a mirror of his mind. It may be described as a good style spoiled by the desire of scientific completeness and accuracy, and by the very weight of concentrated meaning which it is forced to convey. This, indeed, is no more than the fact; for his earlier writing, e.g., in the unpublished treatise on the relations of positive and natural religion-has an ease and flow that is wanting to his later works. In the 'Phenomenology' there is already a good deal of that "repulsive terminology" which has often been complained of by those who will not recognize that it is almost as difficult to put metaphysical, as to put physical, science into the language of literature. Yet not only in that treatise, which is Hegel's literary masterpiece, but also in nearly all his works, when the subject allows of it, there are long passages which, for verve and beauty of expression, challenge comparison with the masters of style.

Nor, even in his most abstruse works, can one read many pages without coming upon some of those powerful epigrammatic sayings, lighted up at once with dialectic and poetry, with which he loves to clench his argument. Generally, however, the stress of thought, and the effort to fix it in definite formulas, is too great to permit anything like pure literary form; and it is only on a second or third reading that we become aware of the living flowers of imagination which are scattered among the hard stones of the road over which we have been carried. The harshness and abstruseness of philosophical terminology, and the painfully subtle movement of an endless dialectic, are almost all that is at first seen by the student; and it is only when he learns how to break through this outward husk that he is able to reach the kernel of truth-truth poetical as well as philosophical-which it conceals.