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Enteryu according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by
EUDD & CARLETON.
Ja the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.
There are several biographies of Humboldt, French, German, and English, but none of any importance, except Professor Klencke's. Klencke had an excellent opportunity to make a good book, for much of his material was obtained from Humboldt himself, but he failed to do so. He seemed to have no idea of writing, beyond its being a means of conveying facts. His facts are reliable, but bunglingly arranged, without order or method. He says the same thing over and over again, and entirely lacks the chief requisite of a biographer—the art of making his subject attractive. Still, he is reliable, and the author has made considerable use of his work, especially in Book I.
The first five chapters of Book II. are taken from Humboldts “Voyage aux Régions Equinoxiales.” As these chapters cover an important epoch in Humboldt's life, it was thought advisable to let him tell his own story, and this has accordingly been done, wherever it was practicable, the relation being changed from the first person to the thirdfrom autobiography to narrative. Of course only the
substance of the “Voyage” is given, for the work extends to three octavo volumes, of four or five hundred pages each. It would have been easy to have rewritten this matter, but the author could not see the advantage of so doing : his book would have gained something in originality, but it would have lost much more in interest. No writer of travels, ancient or modern, can compare with Humboldt in descriptive power, especially in the “Voyage,” where his words are pictures. These pictures have been faithfully transferred to the chapters mentioned, and are commenderl to the reader's attention.
The chapters on Colombia and Peru, and Mexico, are made up from the “ Vues des Cordillères,” the “Ansichten der Natur," and the “Essai politique sur le Royaume de Nouvelle Espagne.” They are not so complete, as the author could have wished, but that is rather Humboldt's fault than his own, for the “Voyage” which would have furnished material for them, had it ever been completed, ends abruptly at Carthagena. Beyond that point the narrative of the journey ceases.
Gleams of it occur, however, in Humboldt's other works, chiefly in those just mentioned, and it is by these that his progress has been traced until his return to Europe. If this portion of the Biography lacks the picturesque and adventurous element of the chapters that precede it, it has at least the merit of variety, and of being the fullest account of the last two or three years of Humboldt's eventful journey in the New World. The works specified above having been translated . into English, the translations have been generally used,