HIRZEL, Bernhard. Enge near Zürich 12.8.1807 — Paris 6.6.1847. Swiss Indologist, Priest and Politician. Priest and Docent in Zürich. Grandfather of —> A. H. Son of Johannes H., a wealthy industrialist, and Margaretha Bürkli. Studied theology at Carolinum in Zürich, where he learnt well Hebrew and Arabic. In 1831-33 further studies at Berlin, where Bopp introduced him to Sanskrit, also under Chézy in Paris. After a few years’ studies he debuted with his Śakuntalā translation, which was written in elegant and good German, but contained a number of mistakes. In 1833 Ph.D. Göttingen, ordained priest and habilitation at the just reestablished Zürich University, taught Sanskrit there and thus founded Swiss Indology. As his main occupation he was Inspector der Stipendiaten. He also worked as a priest and was active in politics. In 1833 he married Maria Elisabeth Tobler (1811–1856).
The life of BH soon took started to go to ruin. Because of family problems and financial worries he accepted in 1837 the minister’s office in Pfäffikon, in the east of Canton Zürich. In September 1839 he headed the so-called prayer-revolt against the government. The revolt was dispersed by army, but the cabinet had to quit. Now BH concentrated on Hebrew studies and became interested in Gothic and Old High German. He taught privately local teachers. Irregular lifestyle, poverty and change in cantonal politics forced him in 1845 to give up his curacy and his priesthood, to avoid suspension. Now he retook his docentship at Zürich and tried with poor succes to find ways of income. His position deteriorated quickly and in the end of 1846 he had to run away because of a forged draft. Now he settled down in Paris hoping to find a chance for scholarly work. He lived with a mistress, because of whom he had deserted his wife. Again a failure and desperate he committed a suicide with poison.
During his checquered life BH had little time for profound scholarly work and could publish only translations. He collected material for an edition of the Śrutabodha. In a letter to Bopp he claimed to have presented his dissertation on this text at Göttingen, but such a work seems to be unknown (cf. Windisch). Among his few students were Ettmüller, Sauppe and Schweizer-Sidler.
Publications: translated: Sakuntala oder der Erkennungsring. 29+155 p. Zürich 1833; Urwasi und der Held. Indisches Melodrama von Kalidasa, dem Dichter der Sakuntala metrisch übersetzt. 30+164 p. Frauenfeld 1838; Krischnamisra, Prabodhatschandrodaja, oder der Erkenntnismonaufgang, philosophisches Drama und Meghaduta oder der Wolkenbote. Lyrisches Gedicht von Kalidasa, beides metrisch übersetzt. 102 p. Zürich 1846.
– translated: Das Lied der Lieder oder Sieg der Treue. Zürich 1840; wrote himself in Hebrew Gedicht des Todesboten über dem Erdkreis. With German translation. Zürich 1844.
– Mein Antheil an den Ereignissen des 6. Septembers 1839. Ein Wort der Wahrheit an die Schweizerbrüder in der Nähe und Ferne. Zürich 1839.
Sources: *P. Aerne, ZTb 1992 (1993), 227-263; *A. Etter, “B. H.: der erste Sanskritist an der Universität Zürich”, 150 Jahre Zürichputz. 1989; *Adolf Frey, B.H. Zürcher Roman. Zürich 1918 (a novel); Meyer von Kronau, A.D.B. 12, 1880, 483f. ; *F. Richner (ed.), Vom Luxus des Geistes. 1994, 241-272; F. Richner, Web HistLexSchweiz; Windisch 95f.; Wikipedia.