In this volume, which has all the literary charm and deftness of character drawing that distinguish his novels, Dr. Ebers has told the story of his growth from childhood to maturity, when the loss of his health forced the turbulent student to lead a quieter life, and inclination led him to begin his Egyptian studies, which resulted, first of all, in the writing of An Egyptian Princess, then in his travels in the land of the Pharaohs and the discovery of the Ebers Papyrus (the treatise on medicine dating from the second century B.C.), and finally in the series of brilliant historical novels that has borne his name to the corners of the earth and promises to keep it green forever.
This autobiography carries the reader from 1837, the year of Dr. Ebers's birth in Berlin, to 1863, when An Egyptian Princess was finished. The subsequent events of his life were outwardly calm, as befits the existence of a great scientist and busy romancer, whose fecund fancy was based upon a groundwork of minute historical research.
Dr. Ebers attracted the attention of the learned world by his treatise on Egypt and the Book of Moses, which brought him a professorship at his university, Gottingen, in 1864, the year following the close of this autobiography. His marriage to the daughter of a burgomaster of Riga took place soon afterward. During the long years of their union Mrs. Ebers was his active helpmate, many of the business details relating to his works and their American and English editions being transacted by her.
After his first visit to Egypt, Ebers was called to the University of Leipsic to fill the chair of Egyptology. He went again to Egypt in 1872, and in the course of his excavations at Thebes unearthed the Ebers Papyrus already referred to, which established his name among the leaders of what was then still a new science, whose foundations had been laid by Champollion in 1821.
Ebers continued to occupy his chair at the Leipsic University, but, while fulfilling admirably the many duties of a German professorship, he found time to write several of his novels. Uarda was published in 1876, twelve years after the appearance of An Egyptian Princess, to be followed in quick succession by Homo Sum, The Sisters, The Emperor, and all that long line of brilliant pictures of antiquity. He began his series of tales of the middle ages and the dawn of the modern era in 1881 with The Burgomaster's Wife. In 1889 the precarious state of his health forced him to resign his chair at the university.
Notwithstanding his sufferings and the obstacles they placed in his path, he continued his wonderful intellectual activity until the end. His last novel, Arachne, was issued but a short time before his death, which took place on August 7, 1898, at the Villa Ebers, in Tutzing, on the Starenberg Lake, near Munich, where most of his later life was spent. The monument erected to his memory by his own indefatigable activity consists of sixteen novels, all of them of perennial value to historical students, as well as of ever-fresh charm to lovers of fiction, many treatises on his chosen branch of learning, two great works of reference on Egypt and Palestine, and short stories, fairy tales, and biographies.
The Story of my Life is characterized by a captivating freshness. Ebers was born under a lucky star, and the pictures of his early home life, his restless student days at that romantic old seat of learning, Gottingen, are bright, vivacious, and full of colour. The biographer, historian, and educator shows himself in places, especially in the sketches of the brothers Grimm, and of Froebel, at whose institute, Keilhau, Ebers received the foundation of his education. His discussion of Froebel's method and of that of his predecessor, Pestalozzi, is full of interest, because written with enthusiasm and understanding. He was a good German, in the largest sense of the word, and this trait, too, is brought forward in his reminiscences of the turbulent days of 1848 in Berlin.
The story of Dr. Ebers's early life was worth the telling, and he has told it himself, as no one else could tell it, with all the consummate skill of his perfected craftsmanship, with all the reverent love of an admiring son, and with all the happy exuberance of a careless youth remembered in all its brightness in the years of his maturity. Finally, the book teaches a beautiful lesson of fortitude in adversity, of suffering patiently borne and valiantly overcome by a spirit that, greatly gifted by Nature, exercised its strength until the thin silver lining illuminated the apparently impenetrable blackness of the cloud that overhung Georg Moritz Ebers's useful and successful life.
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