The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias, baron von
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Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias, baron von
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BUNSEN, Christian Karl Josias, baron von, popularly known as Chevalier Bunsen, a German scholar and diplomatist, born at Korbach, Waldeck, Aug. 25, 1791, died in Bonn, Nov. 28, 1860. His grandfather was a lawyer, but his remoter ancestors were farmers, and in after life Bunsen often proudly referred to his springing from that kernel of the nation, the cultivated and cultivating class of society. He was the only child of his father by his second marriage with a former governess in the family of the countess of Waldeck. He attended the gymnasium from 1806 to 1808, afterward studied theology at Marburg, and in 1809 entered the university of Göttingen. Here Heyne showed him great attention, and recommended him as a German teacher to young William B. Astor of New York, whose travelling companion he afterward became. In 1811 he went with Arthur Schopenhauer to Gotha, Jena, and Weimar. In April, 1812, he became teacher of Hebrew and Greek in Göttingen. The university awarded a prize to his first literary attempt in Latin, De Jure Atheniensium Hereditario. In 1813 he received the diploma of doctor of philosophy from the university of Jena. Subsequently he travelled extensively with Mr. Astor in Germany and Italy. At Vienna he met Friedrich von Schlegel; at Munich, Schelling and Thiersch; and he joined the latter in studying Persian, and read law with Feuerbach. On his return to Göttingen, he and his friends formed the nucleus of a philological and philosophical society, and he pursued a vast system of kindred studies, including Semitic and Sanskrit philology, and perfecting his knowledge of the Scandinavian languages on a visit to Denmark and Sweden. He spent the winter of 1815 and the year 1816 in Berlin, where the preaching of Schleiermacher greatly impressed him, and where he conceived a profound admiration for Niebuhr. He continued his studies of Persian and Arabic in Paris under Sylvestre de Sacy, joined Mr. Astor at Florence, and after the return of the latter to the United States became the French teacher of Mr. Cathcart, an English gentleman. On July 1, 1817, he married at Rome Fanny Waddington, the daughter of an English clergyman, and the plan of an improved German translation of the Bible was first suggested to him by his young wife. Cornelius, Overbeck, Brandis, and Platner were the inseparable companions of the Bunsens, and their modest lodgings in the palazzo Caffarelli on the Capitoline hill, where they lived 22 years, became a resort of many distinguished persons. When Brandis, Prussian secretary of legation, fell ill, Bunsen replaced him, and in August, 1818, was officially appointed to that post. From this time his influence began to be felt alike in the scientific and literary world, and in the political affairs of his time. Frederick William III. of Prussia, visiting Rome in 1822, was pleased with the secretary, and to Bunsen's influence are ascribed several reforms in the state church of Prussia which were decreed by the king during his stay at Rome. Bunsen held that there could be no real church without a liturgy, and no liturgy without a church; and he prepared a Protestant liturgy for public worship, which was approved by the king. In 1824, on Niebuhr's resignation, Bunsen was made chargé d'affaires, and in 1827 minister. When the European powers endeavored to settle the atfairs of the Papal States, he elaborated for the conferences the so-called memorandum del Maggio. He had obtained from Pope Leo XII. the celebrated brief regulating mixed marriages; but when Gregory XVI. succeeded Leo, a different view of the subject was taken at the Vatican; and then began in Germany, Poland, and all semi-Catholic and semi-Protestant countries, a series of dissensions between the state and the clergy, which ended in the imprisonment of several bishops. Bunsen, failing in his efforts to change the opinion of the pope, withdrew in 1837, and in 1839 became minister to Switzerland. In 1841 he was sent by Frederick William IV. to England to take measures for the establishment of a Protestant bishopric in Jerusalem, and soon after was made ambassador at the court of St. James's. From England he several times visited Berlin; and in 1844, at the request of the king, he presented several memoirs and projects concerning the introduction into Prussia of a representative form of government, modelled as far as possible on the English standard. In 1845 he was made privy councillor, with the title of excellency. After the outbreak in 1848 Bunsen strongly advocated the cause of Schleswig-Holstein against Denmark, and published a pamphlet in English, under the title, “Memoir on the Constitutional Rights of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, presented to Viscount Palmerston April 8, 1848.” His influence was on the side of the efforts made by the diet in Frankfort for the union of Germany under the king of Prussia as emperor, and he supported this movement in several pamphlets. In 1849 he participated in the conferences in London relative to the Schleswig-Holstein question, and in 1850 protested against the London protocol which resulted from them as contrary to the interests of Germany. At the beginning of the Crimean war Bunsen's sympathies were with the allies, contrary to those of the Pmssian cabinet. This, and his opposition to the pietistic tendencies of the Prussian court and government, weakened the favor which for more than 20 years he had enjoyed with Frederick William IV. In England he had endeared himself to the royal family and to many eminent persons, among whom was Dr. Arnold, upon whose death he wrote a memorial which was in 1852 translated into English by Anna Gurney. Bnnsen's resignation of the embassy was accepted in April, 1854, after which he resided at Charlottenberg, near Heidelberg. He was made a baron and peer in 1857, spent the winters of 1858-'9 and 1859-'60 at Cannes, visited Paris in 1859, and in the spring of 1860 went to Bonn. During his residence in Rome, in conjunction with Niebuhr, he studied Roman antiquities, and made various historical researches upon the philosophy of language and religion, and their influence in the world's history. Among the fruits of these studies was Die christliche Basiliken des christlichen Rom (Munich, 1843). He united the study of Plato's philosophy with Biblical and liturgical labors, and with researches in the history of Christianity; and Champollion, who was then at Rome, assisted him in mastering the Egyptian hieroglyphics. As the result of these labors we have the great work, Aegyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte (5 vols., Hamburg and Gotha, 1845-'57; English translation, “Egypt's Place in Universal History,” 2 vols., London, 1845-'54). The work is divided into five parts, each composing a distinct whole. Most of his other publications bear on theological and political questions. Two critical works on Ignatius of Antioch were followed by “Hippolytus and his Tunes, or the Life and the Teaching of the Roman Church under the Emperors Commodus and Alexander Severus” (4 vols., London, 1851), which he wrote both in English and in German (2 vols., Leipsic, 1853), and which is considered one of the most eminent productions of the present epoch in theological literature. Among his other works are Zeichen der Zeit (2 vols., Leipsic, 1855; English translation, “Signs of the Times,” 2 vols., London, 1855-'6), and Gott in der Geschichte (3 vols., Leipsic, 1857-'8; English translation, “God in History,” 1857). The publication of his comprehensive Bibelwerk für die Gemeinde (“The Bible for the Common People”) was commenced with the pecuniary assistance of Mrs. Salis Schwabe, a lady of Manchester, and was afterward aided by a contribution from Mr. Astor. It was completed after Bunsen's MS. shortly before his death by Profs. Holtzmann of Heidelberg and Camphausen of Bonn (9 vols., Leipsic, 1858-'70). His correspondence with Frederick William IV., edited by Ranke, was published in 1873. The baroness Bunsen has published “Memoirs of Baron Bunsen” (2 vols., London, 1867; German translation,, with additions by Prof. Nippold, 3 vols., Leipsic, 1868-'70). — Baron Bunsen left ten children. Several of his sons are diplomatists, and Georg von Bunsen, born in Rome, Nov. 7, 1824, is prominent in politics.