Ármin Vámbéry stayed in close contact until the end of his life with his first student, Ignác Goldziher (1850-1921), the still dominant figure of European Islam research. A good documentation of their relationship are Vámbéry’s letters and – in lack of Goldziher’s replies – the Diary of Goldziher, 1 as well as his Commemorative speech written on Vámbéry’s death. 2

Their communication was determined by the teacher-student relationship. Goldziher emphasized both in his Diary and in his Commemorative speech, how great an impact Vámbéry’s suggestive lectures had on him: “This vivid immediacy necessarily influenced the spirit of the young student, and transferred him by magic into that living Oriental milieu, whose spiritual phenomena he tried to understand.” 3 Vámbéry was understandably proud that the attention of the young researcher, who became one of the most prestigious Islam scholars of the contemporary world, was directe by him toward the East. “I would be an evil spirit if I ever forgot… or deny, that I must thank to Vámbéry my sincere attraction to the Oriental studies”, writes Goldziher in his Diary (p. 35), which is beautifully echoed by a late letter of Vámbéry: “when they speak about the studies of Goldziher, I have to insist that I know him as my first student, whom I introduced into the hall of Oriental knowledge, whose first steps were led by me, and for whose advance I had to fight and lobby a lot.”. 4

Goldziher’s correspondence in the Oriental Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, organized by his son Károly, contains about 13,000 letters from more than 1,600 persons, and Vámbéry figures with a decisive amount among them. Only 56 persons sent more letters to Goldziher than he, and these also include the dervish with 71 letters. In addition to these letters, the envelope marked GIL/44/09 also contains two business cards from Mrs. Vámbéry, and an envelope and a letter from the Turanian Society, 5 Goldziher’s response draft to a letter of Vámbéry, and three obituaries of Vámbéry. 6

The linguistic and thematic distribution of the letters is very interesting. Vámbéry was on correspondence with his student since the 1860s, and the language of these letters was almost exclusively German 7 as long as 1894. 27 letters have survived from this period, and this series was broken only by two letters in Hungarian and one in English. 8 However, in 1894 this proportion changed on the contrary. While the letters dated to the early months of the year were written in German, in June Vámbéry already proposed his “private secretary” to the attention of Goldziher in Hungarian. 9 From then on – with four exceptions – he only wrote in Hungarian, a total of 37 letters.

Among the letters we also find postcards and business cards, on which Vámbéry wrote a few words. The tone of the letters is always very friendly. The undated but certainly first letter is addressed as “Liebes Kind”, 10 the German-language ones “Lieber Natzi”, and the Hungarians “Kedves öcsém uram” (My dear young lord). Goldziher addresses Vámbéry in his surviving Hungarian letter as “Nagyon tisztelt professor ur!” (Very honored Mr. Professor), and in the early German one as “Hochwürdiger Herr”. 11 The three letters written in the 1910s by Rusztem Vámbéry to Goldziher were addressed to “Mélyen Tisztelt Goldziher Bácsi” (Deeply revered Uncle Goldziher), 12 and “Kedves Goldziher Bácsi” (Dear Uncle Goldziher). 13

An even more detailed picture can be obtained from the thematical distribution of the letters. In the long letters written in the 1870s Vámbéry provides the young scholar with advices, or asks him for some favors 14 during his European university studies. Vámbéry also felt the death of József Eötvös 15 to be a major blow for the Hungarian Oriental studies, and shared this opinion with Goldziher. In addition, we can find the following topics:

– request for support to someone, either for a recommendation for an academic membership (Aurél Stein 16 ), professional care, 17 or for gaining the financial support of the Jewish Community of Pest (R. Mordekhai Deutsch, 18 Bernát Munkácsi, Ignác Kunos 19 ), of which Goldziher was the secretary since 1874;
– congratulations on the occasion of the appointments, 20 family events, 21 or release of books 22 of Goldziher (as well as the expression of compassion 23 for the death of Goldziher’s mother);
– New Year’s 24 and other 25 greetings, invitations; 26
– request and offering of etymologies. This is the actually professional part of the correspondence, which clearly shows that Goldziher repeatedly turned to his former master when he could not cope with a Turkish expression, 27 and Vámbéry also counted on Goldziher’s answer in the case of the Arabic language, which was never learned by him 28

There is only one, highly significant exchange of letters from the spring of 1897, which cannot be inserted in the above categories. To understand it, we have to note that in 1881 Goldziher broke his connections with Vámbéry, 29 an continued them only twelve years later, when his former professor asked him 30 to send him his list of publications, as this was necesary for Vámbéry’s proposal for a public ordinary professor at the Faculty of Letters. 31

The subject of the 1897 correspondence is a new proposal of Vámbéry, which was submitted to the Faculty of Letters to provide regular “rewards” to Goldziher, who did not yet receive a salary for his university teacher’s job. “My request” – writes in the official document 32 – “to the respected Faculty of Letters is the following: let the Faculty address a petition to the Minister of Religion and Education, His Eminence Gyula Wlassics, in which they propose a reward of yearly 1500 forint to Ignác Goldzieher [sic]. 33

The interesting side of this exchange of letters lies in its fullness, since not only Vámbéry’s formal submission of 27 April 1897 has survived (which, having withdrawn it from the Faculty, he himself sent over to Goldziher), but also the detailed response draft of Goldziher written in the night of 1 May, 34 and even the two answers written by Vámbéry on 2 May 35 and 6 May. 36

Goldziher, as he writes in his Diary, saw this proposal for the first time on the table of the Dean, and he was very upset by it. “This is where I got in the 26th year of my university career? A supplication instead of a clear recognition? And in addition, the expectable failure.” 37 However, at that time he still thought to let the things flow on their own way. But on the same day he also visited Vámbéry, who mentioned him the application, and as a result, in the night of 1 May he wrote a long letter to his former professor, asking him to withdraw the submission. Vámbéry, having carefully considered Goldziher’s words, first decided to present the application to the Faculty if it will be accepted “without debate and contrary vote”. However, in his second letter he writes that during his informal interviews he learned that the debate would be inevitable, thus he withdrew his proposal, but he did not give up supporting Goldziher’s advance. “I will speak with the minister, and I hope that he will fulfill my wish by his own will” –, he closes his letter.

Vámbéry supported his former student not only in his university career, but since his youth he tried to introduce him into the Hungarian scientific world, encouraged him to publish, and presented his studies at the Academy, which, however, was later felt unjust by Goldziher, who loved to mature his works. 38 Goldziher felt that after the outbreak of the “Ugro-Turkish war” many opponents of Vámbéry also transferred their hostility on him, the “house student” of Vámbéry. 39 Vámbéry willingly wrote opinions even in the later years on Goldziher’s works waiting for publication, as it is attested by a handwritten page on his study “The religion of the desert and the Islam”. 40

From the above exchange of letters and the other gestures of Vámbéry in support of Goldziher – recommendations of books, invitations etc. – it seems that Goldziher unjustly accused his former professor by doing a negative campaign against his university advance. 41 The tensions may have come from their extremely different disposition: the self-taught traveler, who changed faith several times, published with an easy hand, thereby also opening new fields of research was the contrary of the well-trained scholar, who deeply felt his religion, and put down every single line with great consideration and care. 42 However, at the death of Vámbéry Goldziher was able to overcome his reservations. He devoted a part of the summer of 1915 to write the Commemorative speach, 43 in which he appreciated for long and in detail the groundbreaking nature of Vámbéry’s achievements in several fields. He gave a personal and individual overtone to his commemoration and appreciation by mentioning that in October 1865 “he was the first student, who … enrolled for his lectures”, 44 and with the speech delivered on 25 October “he closed the “Vámbéry chapter” of his life. 45