Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reminiscences of an Active Life #12 -- January 11, 2009

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde was born in Nymegen, Holland in 1813. He went on to live a remarkable life of achievement in the sciences and the arts. He died in America in 1895.

While serving as editor of Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, he wrote many articles, including the ones which gave this blog its name. In 1893 and 1894, he published a 23-part (!) memoir in the same periodical. Here is the twelfth part. He continues to discuss his training in theology and his reasons for not becoming a Doctor of Divinity.

The image comes from the first installment, in the February, 1893 issue.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Part Ten

Part Eleven

Reminiscences of an Active Life.


From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 26, Issue 1, January 1894

(Continued from page 273.)

6th. Career as a Theological Student. -- It is evident from the last paragraph of the preceding account of my reminiscences, that my industrious Bible-reading did not produce the result which my aunt, and others who advised it on the occasion of my confirmation, hoped for. This was simply due to two facts:

First, the influence of my mother, who, from my childhood, impressed me with her admiration for the beauties of nature, which are so abundantly displayed around my native town Nymegen, situated as it is on the top of the extreme western promontory of a spur of hills, extending from the volcanic mountains which border on a large por
tion of the German Rhine, and dip in Nymegen under the fertile alluvial plains of the Netherlands.

The largest of the three branches into which the Rhine divides itself when entering the plains of the Netherlands, gives a charming variety to the landscape as seen from the hights of the city, where the public parks are situated, especially as the serpentine windings of the stream cause it to approach the foot of the hills on and around which the city is built, of which the cathedral is very prominent, even its base projecting upward above the roofs of the houses, while its tower is very much in the style of architecture of the tower of Madison Square Garden in New York city, only its size is much larger, especially in the horizontal dimensions. On that tower is a set of chimes which can be played from a keyboard of fully four octaves, with all the sharps and flats, making in all forty-nine bells, a compass unparalleled in the United States and in England, but very common in Holland, Belgium and France. My performances on these Dutch chimes belong to my musical career and will be treated of later, as well as those on the American calliope, or steam organ, when I give an account of my musical career.

I must add here that the public parks referred to are made more interesting still, by a few old buildings and ruins, such as that of part of a Roman temple two thousand years old, and an octagonal chapel built by Charlemagne, and therefore more than one thousand years old.

In addition to the impressions made upon me from childhood by the beauties of nature and the teachings of my mother, was the conviction that these were the true revelations of divine power and wisdom which nobody could deny, and which are found all over our world, preaching tbe same sermon everywvhere, while the written revelations are by no means the same, every nation, or group of nations, having adopted such as suited themselves. The Turks have their Koran, the Hindus their Zendavesta, the Jews their Old Testament and Talmud, the Chinese have Confucius doctrines, the Christians their New Testament, etc.

Still another reason why I refused to become a preacher of an orthodox faith, was that my mind had become impressed with the principles of the evolution theory, which was becoming more and more prevalent in the Netherlands among the more advanced thinkers, as was stated on page 205 of the September number of this journal.

A short time before I left my father's house to become the organist of the large church and leader of an orchestra in Heusden (see page 249 of the November issue of this journal), my aunt wanted me to abandon my musical aspirations and go to the Leyden University to prepare for the pulpit. When I told her that I had made up my mind never to bind myself to expound doctrines which I could not myself then believe, she became excited and told me that if I would not go to Leyden as a divinity student, she would disinherit me and leave all her wealth to my sister. I told her that this was exactly what I wished her to do, as my sister, with her daughters, needed it, and that the free expression of my opinions was not for sale, and never would be. This was the last I saw of her, and after that we did not even write to one another.

The outcome of all this has been that I never was graduated as a D. D., but am still a theological student, and will remain so until the year 1900, more or less. In the meantime I have kept up my studies of the natural sciences, and intend to continue to do so, as instead of losing interest by old age (to-morrow I will be 81), I am taking more and more interest in the new developments of different branches, especially in electricity.

In order to give the reader an idea of my vitality, I will state that lately, Mr. Gerard, the publisher of this journal, received a letter asking if Dr. Van der Weyde was still alive, as he wanted to ask him some knotty scientific questions. When this was communicated to me, I was almost insulted, and felt like the apparently dead Irishman, who (as the comic song tells us) while a wake was being held over his supposed remains,suddenly sat up in his coffin and said, "I am not such a fool as to be dead when such nice stuff is going round; I want some too." My feeling is this: "I don't want to be such a fool as to be dead when such great improvements in dynamos, telephones, etc., are going on; I want to see where these things will lead us, for as long a time as I possibly can keep alive."

(To be Continued.)

No comments: