In 1827, it was rather a chance meeting that brought the German professor Friedrich Eduard Beneke together with Rosmerta Howl from Carmarthen.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.
Beneke, Welsh WizardDirk Puehl writes - The former had just returned to Berlin after years of disfavour for speaking out against mighty Hegel, the latter visited the Prußian capital in the wake of "Pickwick" Fürst von Pückler-Muskau.
The Welsh adventureß was an infrequent guest in the famous Salon of Rahel Varnhagen where she and Beneke became acquainted during a soiree. A lengthy discussion together with the famous Romantic poet Ludwig Tieck ensued, with Beneke lecturing his position of metaphysics, Tieck adding the sense of wonder and magic while Rosmerta introduced the professor and the poet to Iolo Morganwg's theory of concentric rings of existence emerging from the old Celtic Otherworld, the Annwn, then a pet theory of the Welsh revival circles.
Whether the unfamiliar theory and ancient lore or the charms of Rosmerta Howl captivated Beneke's interest is open to debate. While Tieck perpetuated the meeting in his novel "The Scholar" ("Der Gelehrte"), Beneke began to study history, language and customs of the old Gauls and Britons with a vengeance. He studied Brythonic languages together with Friedrich Rückert who was equally captivated by the topic and began to estrange his Berlin students beyond anti-Hegelian positions with highly theoretical deliberations on other and spirit-worlds as well as metempsychosis.
Beneke finally lost his chair at the Berlin University of the Arts in 1832 and returned to Göttingen to earn a meagre living as lecturer, since the late 1830s as assistant of the Princeps mathematicorum Carl Friedfrich Gauß, he even published a paper on "Paraxial Approximation and the Wisdom of the Ancients" and was noted especially in students' anecdotes for sudden appearances and disappearances in and from improbable places.
Beneke was in correspondence with quite a few members of the Gwyneddigion Society on the inheritance of Iolo Morganwg who had died in 1826 as well as the whereabouts of Rosmerta Howl until he finally met with William Owen Pughe and others in London in 1835. How he made the journey from Göttingen to there with almost no means to speak of remains a mystery. The discußions followed up the topics of the surviving correspondence, about the Welsh fairies, the Tylwyth Teg, fairy paths, the Annwn and, of course, Rosmerta. He finally met her in Camarthen in 1836 and returned to Göttingen a year later after a prolonged but undocumented sojourn in the historical region of Brycheiniog in Southern Wales.
His unexpected reappearance in the German university town saw him not only obviously financially independent but in even more frequent meetings with Gauß without giving lectures anymore. Beneke resettled to a lonely manor in the nearby Harz mountain range where he continüd his studies in utmost privacy. He was rumoured to have been seen in various European towns and ancient locations from Spain, France and Bohemia and even Central Turkey to Scotland and Ireland until he finally disappeared on March 1st, 1854 on the island of Anglesey. His body was discovered in June 1856, floating in a Berlin Canal, without any obvious reasons for his death.