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From The National Review.
people "faithful, unpretending, contented, AUSTRIA: ITS SOCIETY, POLITICS, AND guileless, pious." Lacking the strength of manhood, they have many of the charms THE Overwhelming tide of cosmopolitan of childhood its simplicity, its naturalideas and customs that seems to be oblit-ness, its absence of self-assertion, its readierating ancient landmarks between civil-ness to be pleased. Of course they have ized nations is not quite so destructive as les défauts de leurs qualités, which it appears at first sight. To the resident in does not take long to discover. Their a foreign country it soon becomes evident chief faults are carelessness of their own that nature is strong enough to resist even and others' interests, want of fixity of purso powerful a current as that of nine- pose, absorption in the present, an inorditeenth-century civilization. National char-nate love of amusement - in a word, want acter and national customs have not yet of character. When these tendencies are been lost. Austria is one of the European kept in check by religious or moral feelcountries in which this is most obvious. ing, you have often a very lovable speciThere are in that country few travellers men of humanity, and at any rate ein who have not felt and acknowledged the ganz solider mensch (the curious Austrian charm of the land and its inhabitants. term for a virtuous man or woman); but From the forest-clad mountains in the it is needless to say what consequences north of Bohemia down to the lovely ensue when such restraints are wanting. shores of the Adriatic, from the wild A foreign writer has said that the supreme scenery of the Tyrol and the peaceful wish of the average Austrian is to have lakes of the Salzkammergut to the wooded three hundred and sixty-five holidays in hills that make the environs of Vienna so the year. It is self-evident that such a charming, there is scarcely a corner bereft people could be no match in the long run of nature's gifts of stern or smiling beauty. for the steady, laborious, iron-willed PrusThinly populated, and as yet outside the sian. The Austrians have been called the beaten track of British and American "French of Germany." That was a mistourists, it has large tracts of mountain take. The Austrians have not the bril and forest clothed in the charm of solitude. liant cleverness or the energy of the Even in the neighborhood of Vienna you French, and the French are without the may wander up and down the wooded hills good-hearted simplicity that is so conspicfor hours and meet only a solitary wood-uous in the Austrian. Then we have to cutter. From him you may receive a friendly "Grüsz Gott," or "Küss die hand," for courtesy is innate in the Austrian people. The traveller will almost invariably meet with kindness unmixed with the mercenary spirit that in other countries meets one so unpleasantly. If you ask the way in Vienna say, of a cook coming from market, with a heavy basket on her arm-in high, shrill tones a goodnatured answer will be vouchsafed you; and when she perceives that, speaking pure Hanoverian German, you do not understand her dialect, she will go far out of her way to put you in the right direction, and will leave you with a friendly nod and smile.
Is your first impression of the Austrians lasting? It certainly is. It tallies perfectly with the view taken by a north German writer, who calls the Austrian
consider the different races of which the empire is composed. I was strongly impressed by the number of these races when witnessing the opening of the Austrian Reichsrath in 1879. Only the socalled "Cis-leithan " portion of the empire was represented, and yet the oath was administered in German, Czeck, Polish, Ruthanian, Italian, Slavonic, Serbo-Croatian, and Roumanian! The spectacle was picturesque from the variety and brilliancy of the national costumes, and interesting in making one realize very graphically the past, the present, and the possible future of the Austrian Empire. Instead of going down to the House to open Parliament, the emperor received members of both Houses in the throne-room of the Hofburg. While reading his speech, he was frequently interrupted by cheers, and after its conclusion the president of the upper
House proposed a "Hoch!". -a formal "Hurrah!"
constitutional ideas. Events of 1848 and subsequently made it impossible to keep It is the broad distinction between Ger- this opposition up. In 1867 the emperor mans and Slavs that is most apparent to was obliged to give Hungary a separate the resident in Vienna. Although they constitutional government; the control of have intermarried a good deal, they do not foreign affairs, of the army, and of the imas a rule love each other. The German perial finances remaining with the "Reichsdespises the passionate, hot-blooded, yet minister" (imperial ministers) aided by servile Slav, and you hear "Er, ist ja ein "Delegations" from the legislative bodBöhm!" ("Why, he is a Bohemian !") ies of both parts of the empire, bodies given as a sufficient explanation for many which meet alternately at Vienna and at delinquencies. On the other hand, the Pest. Why should not the ancient kingSlav hates the German, as belonging to dom of Bohemia, once the proud rival of the dominant race which has tried to im- Hungary and by turns the coveted friend pose its language and rule on the other or the dreaded foe of the then obscure races of the empire. It must be borne in Austrian duchies, obtain similar privimind that in the Austrian monarchy itself, leges? Why should not other Slav peowhich has a population of about twenty-ples and the Poles likewise obtain "Home two and a half millions, there are only Rule," or, at the very least, such lesser eight millions of Germans.
Germans and Slavs, however, have at least one sentiment in common. That is fierce hatred of the Jews, a hatred which is an ugly blot on their character and a perpetual danger to peace. It is easily explained. The Jews are money-lenders and usurers, and have in their grasp many Gentile debtors. They are clever, pushing, successful; by their energy and piuck they frequently outstrip the indolent Austrian in the race for life; and by their wealth they are a power that makes itself felt in a hundred ways. It may be, too, that in a country which is still half-mediæval, the old, bitter spirit against Jews merely as such is not extinct. Whatsoever the causes may be, the fact is beyond dispute that there is between the Austrian Jew and the Austrian Gentile an animosity which may at any moment lead to acts of violence such as have had precedent in many a judenhets (riot against Jews) even in recent times.
The relationships of the States and provinces of which the empire is composed are not harmonious. It is clear that where the traditions and the interests of different parts of an empire are so conflicting as is the case in Austria, conciliation is impossible, and that for such an empire anything less than a strong personal government would be inadequate. This partly explains the opposition in Austria under Metternich to the spread of
privileges as the official use of their own languages and a distinctively national education?
These various claims were for many years steadily opposed, in the interests of imperial unity, by a ministry which was mainly supported by the German element in Parliament; but on the recurrence of a deficit in the budget the ministerial party insisted on economy, especially in regard to the army. The emperor refused his consent, dismissed the ministry, and called to office a personal friend, Count Taaffe (Viscount Taaffe in the Irish peerage), who within ten years acquired a majority, principally by making important concessions to the separate nationalities. The latest elections, however, appear to have strengthened the German party, and Count Taaffe seems to have come to an understanding with the Poles that they shall join the Germans in sustaining his policy.
It must not be thought that "nationalist" ideas alone dominate the parties. There are the ultra-Catholics, the great noblemen landlords, the "anti-semitic" coalition, and other factions. The mere mention of those groups will suffice to show how difficult the task of the Austrian government is. It is a good thing for the country that the emperor is much raised above parties, and that his personal prestige (which is not altogether traditional, but largely due to his devotion to duty and other good qualities) is so great.
The emperor's position and character are the best guarantee for the welfare of Austria, whose friends look with anxiety on the contingency of a new reign.
The result of the unequal distribution of wealth should be that the younger sons followed a profession; but in Austria they scorn almost every profession other than that of arms, and since the introduction of examinations the army has, for obvious reasons, lost attraction. It is not surprising that, as a rule, the younger sons are not very useful members of the community. The education of boys of their class is generally narrow. It is carried on either at home under clerical tutors or at schools for young "nobles." The lads seldom enter a university, and if they do, it is often a north German one. They have little opportunity of getting "in touch" with other boys and men of the educated classes, and generally remain hopelessly out of sympathy with the majority of their fellow-citizens.
Besides threatening the integrity of the empire, the jealousies of the various races naturally hinder the development of a healthy public life. Another hindrance may be found in a class so far separated from the great mass by birth, by education, by traditional ideas, and by social habits as almost to form a separate caste. The broad English distinction between the "classes" and the "masses" is quite out of place in Austria. The "class"we allude to is not the great body of educated people. It is merely the nobility. Everyone knows how different the German idea of nobility is from the English idea of aristocracy. To be adlig in Germany is to have "noble " blood in your veins, to Besides the older nobility, there is an trace your descent back to some count, or increasing class of newly created barons baron, or knight in the Middle Ages, and and ritter (knights), mostly wealthy finanto have only nobles among your ancestors. ciers, —a class that scarcely ranks with Whether those ancestors have distin- the real nobility. Their titles do not conguished themselves or not does not much fer the right of admission at court. To be affect their descendants' estimate of them-hoffähig (as it is called), you must possess selves; but, of course, they are supposed sixteen quarterings. Otherwise no court to have transmitted to their descendants appointment can be held. Of course, men qualities which the man of burgher or who have an official position-ministers, plebeian origin is supposed not to possess. generals, and others - appear at court in As poverty or obscurity cannot rob a man virtue of their offices; but till within the of such advantages, whether fancied or last six or seven years their wives, if not real, the German at least, the German themselves of noble birth, were rigidly noble himself sees no absurdity in the excluded, and now only the wives of minpretensions of even a poor and insignifi-isters actually in office are admitted to the cant nobility. In his view, the absurdity lies in the English system; and he cannot understand how the descendants of earls and barons can be merely commoners. In Austria, however, there is a mixture of both systems. All the great families have what they call majorats rechte.
court balls and presented.
As Vienna society consists, with scarcely an exception, only of the persons who appear at court, it often happens that a man mixes night after night with people who refuse to see his wife and daughters, many of whom, according to non-Austrian eldest son inherits the bulk of the prop-ideas, are ladies of excellent birth and erty. Land, houses, plate, and jewels are breeding. When ladies who have no perentailed. Thus, a great part of the no-sonal rank do mix in society, they must bility is extremely rich and very powerful. You will hear people speak of der regie rende fürst or of der regierende graf (the reigning prince or count). The heads of noble houses have an hereditary seat in the Herrenhaus, or upper House, in which bishops and life members named by the emperor also sit.
have social talents of a high order if they are to win "positions for themselves. The outsider who in process of time is not only tolerated but welcomed owes her success to the tact with which she assimilates herself to current ideas, to stern repression of her own, to an accurate study of the "Almanach de Gotha" and of the "Grä
fliches Almanach" and to a strict avoidance of the faintest assumption of mental superiority. Of course, we are speaking of popularity in society, not of the formation of personal friendships within its pale, which is quite another thing. There really are patricians glad to meet with independent ideas, original thought, and wide sympathies in the native or the foreign "outsider."
The exclusiveness of Vienna society is not altogether due to pride. It is partly the result of clannishness in large families. Vienna society is comparatively small, for there are other centres of adlige gesellschaft in Austria - Prague, Gratz, Salzburg, for example-which attract the poorer members of the nobility. All those present in a salon must know each other, and it is considered rude for a new-comer not to have himself or herself introduced to every person in the room-at least, to every person of equal or higher position -unless at very large gatherings. The Viennese themselves have known each other from early childhood, and are on terms of easy familiarity. They often tutoyer each other, and call each other by their Christian names, and even by des petits noms, such as Rudi (for Rudolph) | and Peppi (for Joséphine); they know the "ins and outs" of each other's lives; ils se comprennent à demi mot, as the French say; they have the same habits of thought, tastes, and interests; and they neither understand nor care much for what happens in the great world beyond their own enchanted circle.
extraordinary mixture of good-natured simplicity and naïveté, the haughtiest pride of birth and apparent abandon, and the strictest regard for the conventionalities. In this connection, we must notice a pleasing habit of deference from youth to age. We allude to the curtsey of the young girl and of the young married woman to the elder lady, sometimes accompanied by the Austrian kiss on the hand-the usual salutation of children to parents, of inferiors to superiors.
How entirely Vienna society is limited to the higher nobility appears incidentally from the fact that young girls in society are collectively called contessen, the title given colloquially to the daughters of counts. A room is reserved for them and called der contessen-salon. In some houses where weekly receptions are held there is a separate salon for young married women and another for les mamans (ladies who bring out daughters). The division does not stop there. Even in the contessen-salon there are several côteries; and there is something almost mysterious in the way in which the same friends gravitate towards each other on all occasions. At balls, when they have curtseyed to the mistress of the house, the girls trip away, to be no more seen by their respective mothers, and they stand together in large groups like herds of deer. At the weekly receptions all through Lent, the same contessen seat themselves, night after night, round the same tables laden with sweetmeats, and they have a wonderful knack of keeping off outsiders. Each That such society has a charm for the set of contessen generally has its correinitiated will be understood by those who sponding set of gentlemen satellites. know how pleasant, how perfectly natural These have little chance of paying attenand easy, intercourse of this kind is apt tion to an individual girl. They can only to be; but it is not the society one expects hope that the collective addresses they to find in a great capital. Indeed, it has offer may somehow not miss the special a parallel only at Munich, where there is objects. The Vienna contesse is, as a the same rigorous exclusiveness. As yet rule, pretty, and remarkably free from the golden key that is so potent to open affectation. She generally marries young, doors all over the civilized world has and makes a good wife and mother. failed at Vienna and at Munich. Wealth" Fast" ladies are almost unknown in the gives no title to admission. Even mothers with daughters eager to dance every night of the Fasching (Carnival) would not dream of accepting an invitation to any house outside the court circle.
Underlying all the apparent freedom of intercourse, there is a great deal of etiquette at Vienna. Questions of precedence are "burning" ones. Differences of rank are observed very strictly; yet relationships are settled with ease and good humor. Indeed, Austrian society is full of piquant contrasts, chiefly due to an
highest Vienna society; but, although the general tone is very good, there are some cliques of young women and girls who are not free from what the Viennese call mauvais genre (bad form). Smoking is a very general habit among married women, and not considered a sign of their being emancipees, but girls who indulge in tobacco are looked askance at. Young girls and very young married women are hedged round by restraints which Englishwomen would find unbearable. They neither walk alone nor drive in a fiacre unattended.
- ye who pass by pray for his soul." This simple appeal to the wayfarer to give prayerful thought to an utter stranger is a touching recognition of the fact of human brotherhood.
This custom embraces respectable mem- or Stephen's Kirche (which has been bers of the haute bourgeoisie who do not called the work of a poet-architect, just act from snobbish imitation of the aris- as the Cologne Cathedral has been detocracy. The promeneuse is a regular scribed as that of a mathematician), and Vienna institution. As her name indi- the Votiv Kirche, a lovely imitation of the cates, she is a lady whose business it is Milan Cathedral. The churches in counto chaperone the grown-up contesse on try villages are generally poor, whiteher daily walk. She is often French or washed buildings with no pretence to English, and she is supposed to benefit architectural beauty. More striking to her charge by conversing in her native the foreigner are the numberless crosses, tongue. The contesse has plenty of time images, and chapels in secluded valleys, for walking. She has no social duties; on lonely hilltops, and on the dusty highshe does not pay visits with her mother road. The effect of a huge cross standing or attend the morning receptions held by out in bold relief against the sky is often the ambassadresses and other "official" very fine; and the rough wooden prie ladies; nor does she mix in other ways Dieu, often sheltered by a large tree, is with the elder members of the community, a picturesque and suggestive feature of for she is not invited either to dinner- the landscape. The eye will sometimes parties or to the soirées where there is no be caught by an inscription, beneath the special contessen-salon. She is supposed crucifix, or the saint's image. You may to be in a transition state, which is brief. read, for example: ", aged, was If she does not marry young, she is ex-struck by lightning on the of the year pected to retire from the world. If she happens to have a vocation for the convent, her friends generally allow her to take the veil. If not, she often becomes a stiftsdame or a chanoinesse! and she joins a secular order, such as the Savoyen Stift at Vienna, a wealthy house founded by Prince Eugéne of Savoy, the great general. The ladies of this order are residents, for part of the year at least, in a gloomy mansion in the Annagasse, one of the narrow, winding streets in old Vienna; and, being poor, they are glad to enjoy the material advantages connected with the institution. Certain orders do not impose the obligation of residence; but all of them confer the title of Frau, and what is considered to be a better position than that of a maiden lady, even if she still enjoys the shelter of her father's house. She may, however, exchange the empty title for the real thing any day she likes, and meanwhile she enjoys more liberty as a sham Frau than is allowed even to girls no longer young. An archduchess, if there be one available, is always abbess of the Maison noble des dames au château du Hradschin at Prague, founded by Maria Theresa. The present queen of Spain held the office for a short time, and in virtue of it took precedence of her mother the Archduchess Elizabeth. It is almost superfluous to dwell on the intensely Roman Catholic character of Austria. As in most Catholic countries, outward and visible signs at every step remind you of the national faith. The churches, as a rule, are neither beautiful nor well kept. We can recall only two really fine ones in Vienna: the old Dom
Processions are very general. On the 5th of June, the Fête Dieu comes off every year in Vienna. The emperor, and sometimes the empress, the whole court, many government officials, and the entire body of the clergy follow the Host through the streets, halting at different "stations." The curious sight carries your thought back to mediæval times. A smaller procession is held in Passion Week in the inner courts of the Hofburg. Then, on Holy Thursday, the emperor and empress, aided by archdukes and archduchesses, perform the Fuszwaschung (washing of feet) on twelve poor old men and women, in imitation of our Saviour's example. Those who know Austria will see no reason to doubt that those customs will continue to be observed, for the country is intensely conservative. The gorgeous town processions are very unlike the humble country ones formed by wallfahrer (pilgrims), poor men, women, and sometimes children, on their way to some famous shrine, repeating prayers, singing a hymn, or chanting a litany, and, unlike the majority in the Vienna procession, looking thoroughly in earnest.
The reader may ask how far these cere. monies are an expression of real faith in the Church and an index of the religious state of the country. That is an exceedingly difficult question. I believe, however, that the majority of the Austrian people are sincerely attached to the Ro