Arie L. Molendijk

Arie J. Molendijk (Photo)

Arie L. Molendijk

Arie L. Molendijk, full professor of the History of Christianity and professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the University of Groningen, has published extensively in the history of ideas, in particular on nineteenth- and twentieth-century theology, religious studies and philosophy. He has engaged in research on religion, identity, and the public sphere, and participated in a research programme on new sacred places and emerging rituals. Presently he is working on a new book about one of the most ambitious editorial projects of late Victorian Britain, Max Müller’s huge edition of Sacred Books of the East (fifty volumes, published between 1879 and 1910). Max Müller, a German-born philologist and Orientalist, lived in Great Britain and taught at Oxford, focusing on Indian studies and comparative religions.

Molendijk’s paper topic for this conference, “’We are not the only people who have a Bible.’ The Impact of Max Müller’s Sacred Books of the East Series on the Conceptualization of ‘Religion,’” will discuss how Max Müller’s series introduced a new argument regarding comparative religion that changed the perception of “religion” by selecting and categorizing the “sacred books” of the East and bringing them under the scrutiny of Western scholarship.

The Armstrong Browning Library has a collection of twenty-seven letters written by Frederick Max Müller, covering the years 1873-1900. Most of the letters are correspondence with Sir Robert Hawthorn Collins, Comptroller to the Royal Household, and describe Müller’s relationship with Prince Leopold and his family, his engagements with Ralph Waldo Emerson, his teaching position at Oxford, his correspondence with the Queen, his Northern Star award, and his refusal to accept knighthood.

View the ABL's collection of Frederick Max Müller letters.

 

Letter from Frederick Max Müller to Sir Robert Hawthorn Collins. 3 December [1874].

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Letter from Frederick Max Müller to Sir Robert Hawthorn Collins. 3 December [1874].

This letter, sent to Prince Leopold, grandson of Queen Victoria, in care of Sir Collins, includes a transcription of David Strauss’s “Wem ich dieses klaga,” lines supposedly written by Strauss to the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany near his death.

     Let me not bewray it,
     Call not this a wail;
     She to whom I say it
     Feels I do not quail.

     As a spent note sighing
     Breathes itself away,
     As a low light dying,
     Life goes out to-day.

     Yet, though weak and weaker,
     May my last note here
     May my light’s last flicker
     Still be pure and clear.

Translated by Alfred W. Benn. The Academy, 2 May, 1896, No. 1252, 365.

Letter from Frederick Max Müller to Miss Mabel and Miss Emily. 11 March 1866.

(Click to see all pages and transcriptions)

Letter from Frederick Max Müller to Miss Mabel and Miss Emily. 11 March 1866.

In this letter Müller advises these ladies to pursue the study of Siamese, purporting that “there is not a single man in Europe I believe who knows Siamese.” He goes on to say:

The alphabet is troublesome, the grammar itself seems easy. There is a vast literature, as yet unknown. The King of Siam is a man of literary tastes, a man who reads & writes in English, and who would no doubt be delighted to receive, say two or three years hence, for it will take at least that time—a letter written in his own language by two English ladies.

Letter from Frederick Max Müller to Sir Robert Hawthorn Collins. [16 May 1894]

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Letter from Frederick Max Müller to Sir Robert Hawthorn Collins. [16 May 1894].

Müller discusses some of his publications in this letter and ends with this poignant quotation:

I incline more and more to believe that man, instead of being born as the grandchild of an ape, was born a philosopher, whether he liked it or not. Who can help being a philosopher and asking Why? when he sees a man die, or the sun set?

 

- Exhibition Text by Melinda Creech

Arie L. Molendijk