Karamzin, Kant, and Lavater — Intersecting BiographiesAbstract
In his “Letters of a Russian Traveller” Karamzin left a detailed account of his visit to I. Kant in Königsberg on June 18, 1789. Published in 1791, his report is important as the first printed mentioning of Kant in Russian. Karamzin was looking forward to meet J. K. Lavater in Zürich, with whom he had already corresponded for three years, but Kant warned him of Lavater’s excessive imagination, which let him believe in dreams and magnetism. Lavater’s ‘Schwärmerei’ was above all attacked by the publishers F. Nicolai and J. E. Biester, whom Karamzin would soon come in touch with in Berlin. The young traveler was appalled by the caustic tone of the debate among philosophers, who considered themselves enlightened and ought to be tolerant toward dissenters. Aside from contemporary pamphlets, the correspondence between Lavater and Kant (published in 1900) and between Karamzin and Lavater (published in 1893) reveals their mutual respect, but also their profound differences in opinion.