« PreviousContinue »
FORMERLY PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT GÖTTINGEN, PRIVY COUNSELLOR OF JUSTICE, KNIGHT OF THE POLAR STAR, MEMBER OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY AT LONDON, AND OF THE ACADEMY OF INSCRIPTIONS OF PARIS, &c. &c.
in 1733. Reiske, the two Baumgartens, Krüge, and Mittelstadt, men who became afterwards highly distinguished, were his schoolfellows. He made great progress in style, in Hebrew, in Latin poetry, and in the facility of disputation, such as it was practised at the University. The best method that he found of acquiring the grammar of a language, he found was an intimate and dissected knowledge of an eminent author. Gesner advised him to this, and he studied it with success in Virgil. The classic authors he always read out loud; and he held, that by a second reading he always became acquainted with a book, which he recommended to read over at first loosely. Of botany and astronomy he knew but little; at least what he called little, for he seemed to think that he should have made a greater figure, in the world, if he had applied himself to the study and practice of physic. He subsequently made a tour into Holland and England.
In England he was well received, particularly at Oxford, and he confesses his religious opinions to have undergone a great change whilst in this country. The Germans alone, he said, were cool to him; he preached several times at the German chapel, St. James's. Whilst in England he had the misfortune not to become acquainted with Lowth, with whom he afterwards corresponded, and for whom he entertained the highest
respect. At that time there prevailed in this country a belief in the uniformity of all the Hebrew manuscripts, which prevented Michaelis from paying that attention to the subject which it has since enjoyed, and from which so much light has been thrown upon Biblical illustrations.
The doctrine of supernatural grace was carried to an extent in Germany, which, like all violent faiths, unfortunately subside in the opposite Here Michaelis found great advantage from his English residence. Upon his return to Halle his lectures were unusually well attended. Baron Munckhausen, who was most assiduous in founding the University of Göttingen, invited Michaelis, in 1745, to accept the Professorship of Philosophy, and here he formed that friendship with Haller and Gesner, which continued to the end of their lives. To the English reader it is of little consequence to know, that of the learned societies of that University, Michaelis was a most distinguished and leading member. The French were so sensible of his merit, that during the bloody war which raged. between Prussia and Austria, and almost ruined Hanover, the peculiar privilege was accorded to him of being exempt from military quartering. Frederick the Great of Prussia considered it not beneath him to make overtures to Michaelis to settle in his kingdom, and left the conditions to his own choice; and Frederick the
Fifth of Denmark intrusted to him the entire management of the scientific Journey to Arabia, undertaken with a view to illustrate the Bible, and which terminated in the voyage of Niebuhr.
Whilst in England he made the acquaintance of Sir John Pringle and of Franklin; with the first of whom he was in strict correspondence. I mention Franklin, because as early as 1741 Michaelis had formed his own views of the approaching independence of America, but which Dr. Franklin, who was at one time much attached to England, considered completely visionary; the attempt, he said, would end in the bombardment of the maritime towns, and reduce the colonies to despair. The attempt however was made, but the maritime towns were never bombarded.
In 1775 he received from the King of Sweden the Order of the Polar Star, an honour the more gratifying, as it is exclusively national, and was accorded alone to Michaelis and to Haller. In 1789 he was made a Member of the Academy of Belles Lettres at Paris, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
He gradually retired from the chair of the Professor into his private study, and devoted himself to the revisal of his numerous works. Amongst those which were left unfinished, his Life of David would have been most interesting, and the learning and originality which marks his Introduction to the Old Testament, creates a