Charles von Hügel/In Memoriam
CHARLES VON HÜGEL.
FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY L. ANGERER.
MEMOIRS AND ADDRESSES.
LADY GEORGIANA FULLERTON
His Excellency the Baron Charles von Hügel.
By Lady Georgiana Fullerton. Privately Printed. 1870. 4to.
BARON VON HÜGEL was not only a traveller and a student: he was also a man of the world in the good and noble sense of the word, a brave soldier, an able diplomatist, an accomplished linguist, and an agreeable and popular member of society. When he returned from his travels, he fixed his residence in his beautiful villa of Hietzing, near Vienna, where for many years he was surrounded with every object that could charm the eye and please the fancy of a man of taste and refinement, passionately fond of the beauties of nature and of art. Honoured by his Sovereign, beloved by his friends, and visited by strangers from every part of the world, whom he always welcomed with the most cordial hospitality, his time was divided between society, literary pursuits, and the practical study of botany and horticulture. Around him sprang up the various and numerous shrubs and plants which he had brought back from distant countries. Rare collections of foreign birds and insects, works of art, ingenious devices, graceful fountains, and flowers of every land, formed a scene of beauty, fairy-like in its loveliness, and bearing in all its details the impress of a mind that took pleasure in all the beautiful creations of God, and loved to impart those enjoyments to others. Three times a week these beautiful gardens, with their splendid hot-houses, containing a large collection of rare orchideous plants, were thrown open to the public. Thus the poorest as well as the highest in the land could resort to them for instruction or for amusement. The present Emperor of Austria and his brother, the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian, often and often in their childhood visited Hietzing, and always with delight. It was during that period of tranquillity that the Baron founded the Vienna Horticultural Society, which, under his active and intelligent presidency, increased and prospered rapidly. The first exhibition of flowers in that capital took place, under his auspices, in his own grounds, and he only resigned his office of president in 1850, when he was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Grand Ducal Court at Florence. Up to his death he retained the honorary presidency of the Society, which owed to him its origin, existence, and development, and annually awarded a prize of twenty ducats to its flower exhibitions.
Between the year 1847 and the date above referred to, when the Baron von Hügel reentered on his diplomatic career and proceeded to Italy, many changes occurred in the tenor of his life which must be briefly mentioned here. In August 1847 a young guest came to his fairy abode, whose heart after a very short lapse of time was entirely won by the host, whose merits, great attractions, and affection made her overlook completely the vast difference of age existing between them, and in her earliest girlhood she gladly accepted the hand of Baron von Hügel. During an engagement of four years, and then a wedded life of nearly twenty years, she devoted herself to him with a strength of attachment which never experienced the shadow of a change, and leaves her now as desolate in her widowhood as she was happy in her marriage. This young lady was the daughter of the brave General Farquharson, one of the time-honoured veterans of the Anglo-Indian Army, and the niece of Sir James Outram, a man of no mean fame in our contemporary annals. The Austrian nobleman and the young Scotch girl were affianced at Verona in 1847, but, owing to the various complications occasioned by the impending revolutionary outbursts then threatening Europe, were not married till the spring of 1851, when the Baron von Hügel was Austrian Minister at Florence.
Many had been the trials and vicissitudes of the preceding years. Events which no loyal-hearted man or true patriot, whatever his line of politics might be, could witness unmoved, determined the Baron von Hügel to abandon the studious pursuits and pleasant leisure of his beloved villa, and to throw himself again into the business and turmoil of the world. He accordingly took up his residence at Vienna, and entered with energy and zeal into all the agitating political affairs of that eventful period. His fidelity towards those whom he had once admitted to his friendship was one of his most striking characteristics, and he had many opportunities during his long life of proving that his chivalrous ideas on this point were no mere theory. When Prince Metternich, in 1848, was threatened with danger and death by an infuriated mob, he rescued him from their hands at the imminent peril of his life, and drove him, concealed in his own carriage, with calm courage at a foot’s pace through crowds clamouring for his blood, who never suspected the presence of the ex-Minister in an equipage which manifested so little haste. From the 13th of March, for more than a month, they were in daily, hourly danger—they remained for days in various places concealed for safety, and they travelled through towns where a price was set on the Prince's head, and where both he and his deliverer would certainly have been torn to pieces had they been discovered. The whole heavy responsibility and fearful risk of this perilous escape, this long, terrible journey fraught with danger at every step, rested on the Baron von Hügel, and when at last, he conducted the Prince and Princess in safety to England, he merely said, "He considered it a matter of simple duty to risk every sacrifice of life and property rather than let a hair of that honoured head be injured."
Having reentered the Austrian army, he made the campaign of Italy with Marshal Radetzky in 1849, was sent at different times on important missions to the Pope and to the King of Naples, assisted at the siege of Leghorn, and entered it with the Austrian troops. After the return of the Grand Duke, he was named Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Florence, and remained there till the 27th of April, 1859, when he left with the exiled Sovereign for Vienna. During those ten years his firmness, gentleness, and unvarying courtesy obtained for him the respect and regard of all parties, even of those most opposed to him in politics. He had been named Privy Councillor in 1855, and left the military service with the rank of Major in 1860. In the course of the same year he was made Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Brussels, where he remained until 1867, when he retired on account of his health.
Diplomacy had been one of the traditions of his family, both his father, Baron Aloys von Hügel a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Stephen, and his brother, Baron Clemens von Hügel having rendered distinguished services in that line to the Austrian Empire. As to Baron Charles von Hügel in whatever capacity he acted, or whatever position he occupied, devotion to the Sovereign and the country he loved, and a constant desire to promote everything that could tend to benefit humanity, were the ruling motives and objects of his life. One little trait deserves to be recorded as illustrating the extreme tenderness and delicacy of his manly and vigorous nature. He had a special love for little children, who were on their side irresistibly attracted towards him, and seemed to feel an instinctive confidence under his powerful, tender protection. His greatest delight was to plan little pleasures for them, and he could command the lively, unflagging interest of children for hours together, with the most graceful tales of fairies and flowers, under the imagery of which were veiled the beautiful, deep, and mystic thoughts with which his great and eminently poetic mind was full.
The great modesty and utter absence of all self-consciousness in one who was certainly eminent for his great and profound erudition was very remarkable. No stranger would ever guess from his conversation, either the extent of his vast learning or the very important part he had played in scientific research. The idea of shewing off his talents, or drawing attention to himself and his own achievements, never seemed to cross his mind. Occasionally some superficial talker would discourse before him on subjects which had been the study of his life without his uttering a word, yet this reluctance to speak only concerned himself: he lent the most ready sympathy to the interests of everyone around him, and it is extraordinary that, notwithstanding his extreme modesty and reserve, he left an impression on those who came in contact with him which time and circumstances never effaced. Casual acquaintances, whom he met with on his travels, speak and write of him as of a great, good, and most amiable man, whose memory is as fresh and vivid in their minds as though they had seen him but yesterday, and many ties thus casually formed years ago remained unbroken till his death.
But the most precious of all the fond memories connected with his life to those who knew him, is that of the unfailing charity with which, up to the hour of his death, he regarded the actions and motives of others. He acted up to the words of the Apostle, "Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things." It was not only that no unkindly word ever passed his lips, but no harsh, suspicious, or uncharitable thought ever embittered his soul. He believed in the goodness of others with the faith of a large and generous heart, and when actual proofs of baseness, falsehood, or ingratitude were forced upon him, he still hoped on with patient trust in the existence of redeeming points hidden for a time, but which would some day come to light.
Throughout his long and eventful life all he possessed was poured out with lavish hand in the service of his country and friends; he seemed to have a happy incapacity for seeing the selfish and petty intrigues which often crossed his path: even when the political horizon grew dark, and the great ingratitude of those who owed him most saddened his declining years with many disappointments and keen sufferings, it may be truly said, "He learnt from them to love and to forgive." This extreme charity in his judgments was the more remarkable from his own uncompromising fidelity to his religious and political principles, and his devoted loyalty to those he had once called his friends, or to any who had ever rendered the smallest service to him or his. He would rather have died a thousand times than done the things which he forbore to judge severely in another. There was in his soul a sweetness, a serenity, a calm imperturbable dignity, and an absolute inability to accustom itself to the rough, base, deceitful ways of earth, which makes those who most keenly mourn his loss thankful to think of him at home in the free air of heaven: where all things else have passed away, Charity remaineth for ever!
During the years which he spent in England after his retirement from public life, years marked by the severest bodily sufferings entailing privations of the heaviest sort on one whose mind and heart were as alive as ever to the interests and pursuits which had filled his existence, he evinced a patience, sweetness of temper, and calm resignation which touched and edified all who approached him. He exactly fulfilled the duties of his religion. He practised to the highest degree those two great Christian virtues—perfect submission to God's will and unbounded charity towards his fellow-creatures in its various branches; for he was generous to the poor, generous to his enemies, kind and forgiving to all: and has left behind him an honoured and unblemished name, of which his children may well be proud. His ardent desire had been to end his life in his native land. He left London at the end of May 1870 in an almost dying state, calmly looking death in the face, prepared to meet it whenever and wherever God might choose to call him. It was not the Divine will that he should reach his home; but in Brussels, a city where he was honoured and esteemed, and had many friends, he died, in the arms of his devoted wife, and rendered up to his Maker his gentle, kind, and noble spirit.
Much more than this little Memoir can comprise might be said of his merits as a man of science, a soldier and a diplomatist, of the great value of his labours in the world of science, and his worldly successes; but the highest of the praises which those who knew and loved him best could utter is contained in these simple words: He never was known to say an unkind word to or of any one.
Requiescat in pace.