BOOK THREE BERLIN
The Celebration of Hegel's last
"How welcome are the good wishes of friends.
More than wishes besides, call [us] to decide,
To speak out in order to implore
All those, friends included, inflamed by madness.
But what then, subject of your complaints, is their crime?
To hear only themselves, to raise their voices;
So that speech, that keeps from harm,
Should become only a means of increasing misery.
But if I struck forth, as I have long wished,
Your call would pledge me to wager again
Hoping that other minds would respond,
That the matter would not expire in vain lamentations
That they would reach the people, that they make it their work."
The Literary Testament
He wrote letters of condolence to von Altenstein, who had lost a sister and to Heinrich Beer, who had lost a son. He returned for his courses to Berlin, where cholera had broken out.
[Note: Osmo tells us that, according to Arnold Ruge, who heard it in Gans' company, the Crown Prince had complained to Hegel about Gans' republican lectures. Hegel had thus decided to lecture the next semester, but Gans' lectures were more popular with students. Then Hegel wrote his angry letter. Gans duly cancelled his course, but students did not transfer to Hegel, for Gans was clearer. Hegel gave a few lectures, but then died. The source of this is Ruge's memoir Auf früherer Zeit (Berlin, 1867). I seem to recall that Terry Pinkard takes this up in his biography, but it is interesting that the source seems to be second hand at best and from over thirty years after the event. Looking into it a little further, the original letter reads:
"To Professor Gans
The means of information that I will only call "unreliable", which you decided to make use of, Herr Professor, in putting up a poster where you make known to students the competition which was the object of a discussion and where you allow yourself to recommend my course to these students - this means, I say, would justify me in making on my side a public notice in order to correct the annoying impression that yours might produce in our colleagues and students - as if your poster and the recommendation of my courses had been done at my instigation (as you gave me almost to understand in your note) and as if I was in agreement with this proceeding. The hopes of those at least who know me do not permit me to act in such a manner and the fear of giving you occasion for new clumsiness impels me to express my opinion of your poster to you, not by another poster, but only by these lines.
Chapter Twenty One
The Death of Hegel
"I will have to get a grip of myself and tell you briefly how it all happened. My beloved husband felt ill from Sunday before midday, although breakfast had gone off in the best humor, complaining of stomach pain and nausea, without there having been any error of regime or chill. The Thursday before, he had started his courses full of energy and lively; still on the Saturday he had overseen the exams, and he had invited some friends for midday on Sunday. I let them know and devoted myself entirely to looking after him. Through a lucky meeting, the doctor arrived straight away, gave prescriptions - but his condition didn't give rise to concern in any of us. His stomach pains were bearable. Then there was vomiting, at first without then mixed with bile. He had already had frequent attacks of this sort. He spent all the night in the greatest agitation. I stayed by his bedside and covered him in eiderdowns each time he sat up in bed and turned himself although he asked me on several occasions several times to go and lie down and leave him alone with his irritation. His stomach pains weren't really violent, but rather "as bad as a toothache when there is no position you can find peace".
On Monday morning, he wanted to get up. We carried him into the adjoining living room, but his weakness was so great that he almost collapsed before he reached the sofa. I put his bedding close by. We propped him up in warm eiderdowns. he complained only of weakness. All the pains and nausea had disappeared, so much that he said "Please God if I should have a single hour as peaceable this night." I told myself that he needed calm, that I mustn't accept any visits. When I wanted to take his pulse, he took my hand affectionately as if to say, don't fuss, it's my concern.
The doctor arrived the next day in good time. Like the day before, he prescribed mustard plasters applied to the stomach (the previous evening I had applied leeches). In the morning, he had hiccoughs and had difficulties passing water. Nevertheless, despite all that, he rested very peaceably, always with the same warmth and the same sweat, always fully conscious and, so it seemed to me, without any apprehension of danger. A second doctor, Doctor Horn, was called. Mustard plasters on all the body, covered in flannel cloths dipped in a camomile preparation. None of that upset or agitated him. Towards three o'clock, asthma was noticeable, followed again by a peaceful slumber; but on the left side of his face an icy coldness started to spread. His hands became blue and cold. We knelt at his bedside to listen for his breath. it was the gasp of a transfigured being carried into the beyond.
Let me stop there. Now you know everything. Share my tears, but also thank God with me for this end without suffering, soft and blessed. Only, tell me, in all that, did you recognise even one symptom of cholera? I was horrified on learning that the doctors, health counsellor Barez and privy-councillor Horn had identified it as that, and even as that form which in the absence of external symptoms, destroys the life inside with the most extreme violence. But they didn't look at what seemed to have happened internally."
Rosenkranz concludes with a poem that echoes Schiller's On Friendship; the poem that Hegel adapted in the closing words of the Phenomenology. He concludes:
"And when the ghosts awake
That you exiled for so long in the night
When the moment comes to clean the temple
That you consecrated to the cult of light
Let your mind then, its wings beating,
Be for us the measure of an assured victory,
Whilst as the prince of spirits, in a joyous clarity,
Your lips taste again the chalice of eternal truth.""