, Letter, Ratisbon (Regensburg), Bavaria, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 17 July 1841. Featured version published in “Letter from Elder Hyde,” Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1841, vol. 2, no. 24, 570–573. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
On 17 July 1841, wrote a letter from Regensburg, Bavaria (now in Germany), to JS in , Illinois, to share information regarding his mission abroad. This was Hyde’s third letter to JS since arriving in Europe.
After leaving on 20 June 1841, arrived in , the Netherlands, where he met with the area’s chief rabbi to discuss the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land. Hyde traveled through the Netherlands, unsuccessfully seeking audiences with local Jewish leaders before continuing on to . After traveling through Mainz and Frankfurt, Hyde stopped in Regensburg, where he boarded with a hospitable German family for nearly two months. The family reportedly taught him German in exchange for English lessons and offered him the use of their carriage during his stay.
planned to travel to , but because he had failed to send his passport to the Austrian consulate upon his arrival in Frankfurt, he was required to forward the passport to Munich and await approval before he could legally enter Austria. While he waited, Hyde concentrated on learning German and writing. This letter to JS was one among many of his resulting works. Combining a mission report and travelogue with sentimental expression, the letter outlines Hyde’s efforts to fulfill his charge to “be [an] agent and representative in foreign lands . . . and converse with the priests, rulers and Elders of the Jews.”
JS likely received this letter in in September 1841. The original letter is apparently not extant, but it was published in the 15 October issue of the Times and Seasons; that is the version featured here.
An 1837 travel handbook warned travelers that “without the signature of an Austrian ambassador or minister on his passport, no traveller is allowed to enter the Austrian dominions.” If a signature was not procured before reaching the border, travelers would be “turned back to seek the signature . . . of an Austrian minister, in the nearest capital.” (Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany, 107, italics in original.)
Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany; Being a Guide to Bavaria, Austria, Tyrol, Salzburg, Styria, &c., the Austrian and Bavarian Alps . . . . London: John Murray and Son, 1837.
Postal transmission times were irregular. Letters from England to Nauvoo generally took between thirty and ninety days to arrive. Hyde’s letter was written on 17 July and received before 2 October in Nauvoo, when JS read it aloud at a churchconference, suggesting JS received it sometime in September. (JS History, vol. C-1, 1228.)
continued he, “almost continually.” I told him that I had written an address to the Hebrews, and was about procuring its publication in his own language; (dutch) and when completed, I would leave him a copy. He thanked me for this token of respect, and I bade him adieu. I soon obtained the publication of five hundred copies of the address, and left one at the house of the Rabbi—he being absent from home, I did not see him.
After remaining here about one week, I took the coach for , distance 7 hours, or about 30 English miles. is a fine town of about 80 thousand inhabitants. The cleanliness of its streets, the antique order of its architecture, the extreme height of its buildings, the numerous shade trees with which it is beautified, and the great number of canals through almost every part of the town filled with ships of various sizes from different parts of the world; all these, with many other things not mentioned contributed to give this place a peculiararity resembled no where else in the course of my travels, except in . Most of the business men here speak a little English—some speak it very well. In ascending the waters of the Rhine from the sea to , the numerous Wind-mills which I beheld in constant operation, led me to think, almost, that all Europe came here for their grinding. But I ascertained that they were grinding for distilleries, where the floods of gin are made, which, not only. deluge our beloved country with fatal consequences, but many others. Gin is one of the principal articles of exportation from this . In going to , I passed through a very beautiful town called “,” the residence of the King of Holland. I saw his palace which was guarded by soldiers, both horse and foot. For grandeur it bore but a faint resemblance to Buckingham Palace in : But the beautiful parks and picturesque scenery in and about , I have never seen equaled in any country. I remained in only one night, and a part of two days—I called on the President Rabbi here, but he was gone from home. I left at his house a large number of the addresses for himself and his peolpe, and took coach for on the Rhine. Took boat the same evening for Mazenty. Travelling by coach and steam is rather cheaper in this country than in the . We were three days in going up the Rhine to Mazenty. Holland and the lower part of Prus[s]ia are very low flat countries. The French and German language are spoken all along the Rhine; but little or no English. The Rhine is about like the Ohio for size, near its mouth where it empties into the . Its waters resemble the waters, dark and muddy. The scenery and landscapes along this river have been endowed with art and nature’s choicest gifts. I have been made acquainted with Europe, in , by books, to a certain extent; yet now my eyes behold!! It is impossible for a written description of a stranger’s beauty, to leave the same impression upon the mind, as is made by an ocular view of the lovely object. This is the difference between reading of and seeing the countries of Europe.
From Mazenty I came to Frankfort on the Main, by railroad—distance 7 hours. From Frankfort, I came to this place—distance about 30 hours, where Napoleon gained a celebrated victory over the Prusians and Austrians. The very ground on which I now write this letter, was covered by about 60 thousand slain in that battle. It is called the battle of Ackynaeal.
It was my intention to have gone directly down the to Constantinople; but having neglected to get my passport vezayed by the Austrian Embassador at Frankfort, I had to forward it to the Austrain Embassador at Munich and procure his permission, signature, and seal, before I could enter the Austrian dominions. This detained me five days, during which time I conceived the idea of sitting down and learning the German language scientifically. I became acquainted with a lady here who speaks French and German to admiration, and she was very anxious to speak the English—she proposed giving me instruction in the German if I would instruct her in English. I accepted her proposal. I have been engaged eight days in this task. I have read one book through and part of another, and translated and written con[s]iderable. I can speak and write the German considerable already, and the lady tells me that I make astonishing progress. From the past experience, I know that the keen edge of any work translated by a stranger in whose heart the spir [p. 571]
The old English mile was likely an outgrowth of the Belgic-German mile, which is equal to 6,610 feet. Although it historically has varied in length, it was generally longer than the American mile by approximately a third. By the nineteenth century, however, the English mile was sometimes synonymous with the American mile of 5,280 feet. Based on Hyde’s estimation of thirty miles between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, his reference to the English mile likely coincides with the longer old English mile. (Klein, Science of Measurement, 69–70; Landmann, Universal Gazetteer , iii.)
Klein, Herbert Arthur. The Science of Measurement: A Historical Survey. New York: Dover, 1988.
Landmann, George. A Universal Gazetteer; or, Geographical Dictionary. London: Longman, Orme, and Co., 1840.
William II assumed the Dutch throne in 1840. The monarchy had two palaces in The Hague: Noordeinde and Huis ten Bosch. Based on Hyde’s comparison of the building to Buckingham Palace, he was likely referring to Noordeinde Palace. (Koopmans, Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands, 34, 245.)
Koopmans, Joop W. Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.
The chief rabbi of Amsterdam died in December 1838. Rather than appoint a new chief rabbi, the Jewish congregation appointed a rabbinical court, or bet din, to lead and make decisions for them. The court consisted of A. J. Susan, J. M. Content, B. S. Berenstein, J. S. Hirsch, and J. D. Wynkoop. Hyde’s unsuccessful efforts to gain an audience with the “President Rabbi” might have been directed to any of these individuals who served in the court. (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1:542; see also Het Amsterdamsche Opper-Rabbinaat, 1–16.)
The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Edited by Isidore Singer. 12 vols. New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1901–1906.
Het Amsterdamsche Opper-Rabbinaat. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: no publisher, 1839.
Mainz, a city in the German Confederation, located on the Rhine. In nineteenth-century English, Mainz was traditionally spelled “Mayence.” It is likely that Hyde or the typesetter at the printing press, instead of spelling the city name as “Mayentz,” switched the letters “z” and “y” each time the name was written.
As Hyde notes, Regensburg was the stage for Napoleon’s battle with the Austrian Empire on 19–23 April 1809. Hyde likely conflated several closely related battles into one larger event. Fought within days and miles of each other, the battles of Abensberg, Ratisbon, Landshut, and Eckmühl all seem to merge in Hyde’s account into the Battle of Eckmühl (or Eggmühl), which he calls “Ackynaeal.” The Battle of Eckmühl was fought on 21–22 April 1809 in Eckmühl, Bavaria, fifteen miles outside of Regensburg. Conflating the battles would also result in a death toll closer to Hyde’s estimation of “about 60 thousand slain.” (Zabecki et al., Germany at War, 1:390.)
Zabecki, David T., Willam H. Van Husen, Carl O. Schuster, and Marcus O. Jones, eds. Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History. 4 vols. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC- CLIO, 2014.
Hyde had some teaching experience. Zebedee Coltrin later recalled JS appointing Hyde as the instructor in the School of the Prophets, an organization for learning “revelations and doctrine, but also for learning English grammar.” (School of the Prophets Salt Lake City Minutes, 11 Oct. 1883.)
School of the Prophets Salt Lake City Minutes, Apr.–Dec. 1883. CHL.
Orson Hyde’s son Joseph later recollected his father’s description of the agreement with this German woman and her family. According to Joseph Hyde, his father was to receive room and board, along with use of the house servants and horse-drawn carriage. In exchange, Hyde would teach the mother and her two daughters English. He was also permitted to take the daughters on any outings if all conversations outside the home were in English. (Hyde, “Orson Hyde’s Life,” 23.)
Hyde, Joseph S. “Orson Hyde’s Life,” no date. Weston Nephi Nordgren, Orson Hyde Research Files, ca. 1945–1979. CHL.