John George Hamann -- By: J. M. Hoppin
BSac 17:66 (April 1860) p. 313
John George Hamann
There are some men who have left behind them the reputation for transcendent abilities, that is not adequately shown by their works. Hamann was one of these. An author not much read even in his native land, and not much known out of Germany, he nevertheless exerted a great and beneficent, though silent and conservative, influence in his day, and deserves to he known wherever genius united with faith is honored. His memory should be precious to the church of Christ in all places and ages. We cull from German sources1 the following brief account of his life.
John George Hamann was born Aug. 27,1730, at Königs berg, in Prussia, of parents in good circumstances, his father being a surgeon of some note. He was reared in a faithful Christian manner. He was instructed in the liberal branches, the languages, the fine arts, and especially music. But his early education, notwithstanding these advantages, was very irregular. He was first in the hands of an ex-preacher named Hoffman, who taught him seven years, chiefly in Latin; he then came into the school of the pro-rector Kohl, a dull and pedantic man, who confined him entirely to the classics. “I obtained no knowledge of history,” he himself says, “nor of geography, nor the least conception of style, nor any idea of poetry. I have never been able to make up the deficiency in the first two, and have acquired a taste for the latter too late; for I find it very difficult to arrange my thoughts in conversation or writing in an orderly manner, and to express them with ease.” He next became the pupil of a neological tutor; and at last entered the government school, under the
BSac 17:66 (April 1860) p. 314
learned and pious rector Salthenius, where he gained the first idea of philosophy and mathematics, of theology and the Hebrew language. “Here,” he says, “a new field was open to me, and my brain was in a market-booth of entirely new wares.” In 1746, he entered the University of Königsberg, and studied philosophy with Knutzen, and for a time devoted himself to theology, and afterwards, in order to please his parents, to jurisprudence. But a strong inclination to the study of antiquity, criticism, and philology, turned his mind from the positive sciences. In order to live with more freedom, and to see somewhat of the world, he took the situation of a tutor in Liefland, but after a year and a half gave it up, through his restless desire for independence. Thereupon he lived some months with a countryman of his father’s in Riga without occupation, until necessity compelled him, in 1753, again to become a tutor in Curland. But impatient and unsatisfied, he went back in 1755 to Riga. One of his yo...
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