« ElőzőTovább »
because they were always the same antique virtuosos, whom on its own behalf and that of the other cities, Nuremberg had undertaken to maintain, and to produce them annually at the appointed place.
We children were particularly interested in this festival, because it flattered us not a little to see my grandfather in so honourable a post; and because commonly on the very same day we used to visit him very modestly, that when my grandmother had poured the pepper into her spice-box, we might make prize of a cup and small rod, a pair of gloves, or an old silver coin.*
One could not have these symbolic ceremonies, which reproduced antiquity as if by magic, explained to one, without being again carried back into past ages, and seeking information about the manners, customs, and feelings of our remote ancestors, who were made present to us by pipers and deputies risen from the dead, and even by gifts that we could handle and ourselves possess.
Such venerable solemnities were followed, in the fine season, by many a festival most delightful to us children, which took place outside the city, in the open air. On the right bank of the Maine, down the stream, about half-an-hour's walk from the gate, rises a sulphureous spring, neatly enclosed and surrounded with lime-trees of a great age. Not far from thence stands the Hof zu den guten Leuten, [house of good people,] formerly an hospital, built on account of this spring. On the common pastures round about, the herds of cattle from the neighbourhood were assembled on a certain day of the year, and the herdsmen, together with their young women, celebrated a country festival with dance and song, and with much enjoyment and clownishness. On the other side of the city lay a similar but larger common green, adorned in the same way by a spring, and still more beautiful lime-trees. Thither the flocks of sheep were driven at Whitsuntide, and at the same time the poor sickly orphans were let escape out of their walls into freedom. For the thought did not occur to people till later than this time, that these deserted creatures, who have
to make their own way through the world, should early be brought into connexion with it; instead of being fostered with a melancholy kind of care, ought rather to be trained from the first to serve and suffer; and, for the best reasons, should even from the cradle be both physically and morally strengthened. The nurses and maids, who were always glad of gaining themselves a walk, did not fail to take us from our earliest days to such places; so that these country festivals remain among the first impressions which I can now recall.
In the meantime the house had been finished, and that in a tolerably short time, because every thing had been well considered and prepared, and the requisite money provided. We now found ourselves all collected again, and felt comfortable. For a well-contrived plan, when it stands completely executed, makes us forget all the inconveniences of the means that have been used in order to the end. The house, for a private residence, was spacious enough, throughout bright and cheerful; the staircase easy, the sittingrooms pleasant, and that view over the gardens could be freely enjoyed from several windows. The inner completion, and what relates to finish and ornament, was gradually done, and served at once for occupation and
The first business of its kind was the arrangement of my father's collection of books, of which the best in calf or half-calf binding were to furnish the walls of his business-andstudy room. He possessed the handsome Dutch editions of the Latin authors, which, for the sake of outward uniformity, he had endeavoured to have all in quarto. And there was also much relating to Roman antiquities and the more elegant jurisprudence. The most eminent Italian poets were not wanting, and he showed a great preference for Tasso. The best recent travels were also there; and it was one of his pleasures to correct and complete from them the books of Keyssler and Nemeiz. Further, he had surrounded himself with the most necessary books of reference, with diction aries of different languages, and of
* Bäder-Albus, a small silver coin stamped with a wheel--a name like our RoseNoble, &c.
arts and sciences, [Real lexikon,] which could thus at pleasure be consulted, as well as with much else for use and entertainment.
The other half of this collection of books in clean vellum bindings, with very fairly written letterings, was placed in a particular attic room. The acquisition of new books, as well as the binding and arrangement of these, was carried on by him with great composure and orderliness. In this, the critical notices which attributed particular merit to this or that work had great influence upon him. His collection of juridical dissertations was increased annually by some volumes.
Next the pictures, which had before been hung promiscuously about the old house, were now symmetrically placed together on the walls of a favourable room near the study, all in black frames, ornamented with gilt mouldings. My father had a principle, which he often and even vehemently expressed, that it was right to employ the living masters, and to spend less upon the dead, in the value for whom, moreover, much prejudice was mingled. He had the notion that the case is exactly the same with pictures as with Rhenish wines, which, although age gives them a superior value, yet may in any succeeding year be produced of as excellent quality as in those gone by. After the lapse of some time, the new wine also becomes old, quite as precious, and perhaps even more delicious. He confirmed himself in this opinion, particularly by the remark, that many old pictures seem to gain their chief value for lovers of art from becoming darker and browner; and that the harmonious tone of such a picture is often celebrated. My father asserted, on the other hand, that he had no fear that the new pictures would not also become black. But that they would actually gain by this he would not acknowledge.
On these principles, he continued for many years to employ all the Frankfort artists-the painter Hirt, who was skilful in animating with cattle his oak and beech forests, and other so-called landscape scenes; likewise Trautmann, who had taken Rembrandt as his model, and had so well succeeded in enclosed and reflected lights, and also in striking confla
grations, that he was once asked to paint a companion to a picture of that master. Besides these, Schutz, who, in the manner of Sachtleven, painted laboriously subjects from the Rhine country; and also Junker, who executed with great purity, in the manner of the Dutch flower and fruit pieces, still life and persons quietly employed. But now, by the new arrangement, by the more convenient space, and still more by the acquaintance with a skilful artist, the taste for pictures was again freshened and enlivened. This man was Seckaz, a pupil of Brinkmann, the Darmstadt court painter, whose talent and character will hereafter unfold themselves before us more minutely.
In this way, the finishing of the other rooms, according to their several destinations, was carried forward. Cleanliness and order prevailed throughout; large panes of fine glass especially contributed their aid to a perfect lightness, which had been wanting in the old house from many causes, but principally from the roundness of most of the window-panes. My father showed himself cheerful, because all had succeeded with him: and, if the good-humour had not often been interrupted by the inferiority of the workmen in industry and accuracy to what he required, no happier life could have been imagined, particularly as much good had partly arisen in the family itself, and partly had been added to it from without.
But an extraordinary public event deeply shook the boy's peace of mind. On the first of November 1755, happened the earthquake of Lisbon, and spread a prodigious alarm over the world which had already accustomed itself to quiet and repose. A great and splendid capital, which is also a trading port, is suddenly struck with the most dreadful calamity. The earth quakes and wavers, the sea roars up, the ships dash together, the houses fall, and over them the churches and towers; the royal palace is in part devoured by the sea, the gaping earth appears to spit out flames, for smoke and fire show themselves every where in the ruins. Sixty thousand men, a moment before quiet and in comfort, are destroyed together; and he must be called the happiest for whom neither feeling nor thought of the calamity is possible. The flames rage
out, and along with them rages a multitude of criminals before concealed, or set at large by this occurrence. The unhappy survivors are exposed to robbery, murder, and every kind of violence. And thus Nature asserts, in all directions, her boundless capricious
Intimations of this event had spread through wide regions faster than the accounts of it. In many places slight tremblings were noticed. In many springs, particularly the mineral ones, an uncommon subsidence took place; and so much the greater was the effect of the accounts themselves, which diffused themselves at first generally, and afterwards with terrible details. Hereupon the devout abounded in reflections, the philosophic in consolations, the clergy in warnings. So much coming together, turned for a long time the attention of the world on this point. And the minds excited by the misery of others, were more and more disturbed by anxiety for themselves and their friends, as further and more minute accounts arrived from every corner, of the far-spread influence of this explosion. Nay, perhaps the demon of alarm has never so swiftly and powerfully spread his terrors over the earth.
The boy, who had frequently to hear all this repeated, was not a little struck. God, the Creator and Preserver of heaven and earth, whom the explanation of the first article of belief presented to him as so wise and gracious, in abandoning the righteous and unrighteous to the same destruction had manifested no fatherly love. The young heart tried in vain to restore itself against these impressions. This, indeed, was the less possible, as the wise and biblically-learned themselves could not agree as to the way in which such a phenomenon was to be regarded.
The following summer gave a nearer opportunity of directly knowing that wrathful God, of whom the Old Testament declares so much. A hail storm came unexpectedly, and in the midst of thunder and lightning vio. lently broke the new panes of glass in the back of the house, looking to the west. It injured the new furniture, spoiled some valuable books and other costly things, and was the more frightful for the children, as all the bewildered household hurried them into a dark passage, and there, on their knees, endeavoured to appease the
angry Deity by fearful howls and shrieks. Meanwhile my father, who alone was self-possessed, took down and removed the window-frames, by which, indeed, he saved much glass, but also cleared a broader way for the rain that followed after the hail, so that, when at last we were tranquilized, we found ourselves in the rooms and on the stairs surrounded by flowing and streaming water.
Such events, however troublesome, yet interrupted but a little the progress and course of the instruction which my father had himself undertaken to give to us children. He had passed his youth at the Coburg Gymnasium, which held one of the first places among the German educational establishments. He had there laid a solid ground in the languages, and whatever else is considered part of a learned education, had afterwards studied jurisprudence at Leipzig, and lastly taken his degree at Giessen. His careful and laborious dissertation, Electa de Additione Hæreditatis, is still cited with praise by jurists.
It is a natural wish of all fathers to see whatever has failed with them realized in their sons, much as if they thus could live a second time, and so at last use rightly the experiences of their earlier existence. With the sense of his acquirements, and with distrust of the teachers of the day, my father proposed to teach his children himself, and only so far as necessary to have particular lessons given by special masters. Already a certain dilettantism in instruction had begun to show itself generally. The pedantry and heaviness of the masters at the public schools, was probably the first occasion of this. People sought for something better, and forgot how defective all teaching must be, except that of persons making it their profes
My father's own career had hitherto succeeded fairly according to his wish. I was to pursue the same road, but more easily, and to a greater length. He valued my natural gifts the more, as himself wanting them; for he had gained every thing only by indescribable labour, perseverance, and repetition. He often assured me, early and late, in jest and earnest, that, with my powers, he would have acted very differently, and would not have been so careless in his employment of them.
By quick apprehension, by practice,
and by retention, I very soon outgrew the knowledge which my father and my other teachers could give me, and yet I was not grounded in any thing. Grammar displeased me, because I regarded it only as an arbitrary law. The rules appeared to me ridiculous, because they were nullified by so many examples, all of which again I was obliged to learn singly. And, had there not been a rhymed book of Latin for beginners, it would have gone ill with me. But I liked to drone this over, and chant it to myself. We had, in the same way, a geography in such verses for the memory; and the most absurd rhymes best fixed the recollection of that which was to be retained, e. g. :
"Ober-Yssel's watery fen,
I easily learned the inflections and constructions, and soon got to understand what is the conception of a thing. In rhetorical exercises, themes, and so forth, no one surpassed me, although I was often turned back for faults of grammar. It was such compositions, however, which particularly pleased my father, and on account of which he rewarded me with many a gift of money, not inconsiderable for a boy.
My father taught my sister Italian in the same room in which I had to learn Cellarius by heart. Now, as I was soon ready with my task, and was still obliged to sit quiet, I turned my attention away from my book, and very readily learned Italian, which struck me as a pleasant variety of Latin.
Other precocities, as to memory and combination, were common to me with those children who have thus obtained an early renown. On this account, my father would hardly wait for the proper time of my going to the college.
He very early intimated that I was to study law in Leipzig, a place for which he had a great preference, and then visit some other university and take my degrees. As to this second, it was indifferent to him which I might select; only, against Gottingen he had, I know not why, some dislike-to my sorrow, for it was precisely in it that I had much confidence and high hopes.
Further, he told me that I was to go to Wetzlar and Ratisbon, and also to Vienna, and thence to Italy, though he requently maintained that it was necessary to see Paris first, because, after
enjoying Italy, nothing else could give one pleasure.
This vision of the future wanderings of my youth I liked to hear repeated to me, particularly as it used to end in an account of Italy, and lastly in a description of Naples. His general seriousness and dryness seemed always in this way to dissolve and grow animated; and thus the passionate wish arose in us children that we also might share in the paradise he spoke of.
Lessons of private teachers, which gradually multiplied, were shared with neighbouring children. This common instruction did not advance me. The teachers followed their routine; and the rudenesses, nay, often illhumours of my companions, brought disquiet, vexation, and disturbance into the scanty hours of lesson. Chrestomathics, by which the teaching becomes pleasant and varied, had not yet reached us. Cornelius Nepos, who for young people is so stiff—the New Testament, which was much too easy, and which, by preaching and religious instruction, had even become trivialCellarius and Pasor, could excite no interest in us. On the other hand, through the reading the German poets of that day, a certain fury of rhyme and verse had taken possession of us. It had seized me even earlier, as I found it pleasant to pass over from the rhetorical treatment of subjects to the poetic.
We boys had a meeting on Sunday, at which every one was to produce verses of his own making. And here I was struck by something strange, which long disquieted me. My poems, such as they were, I could not but hold for the best. But I soon made out that my competitors, who produced very lame things, were alike in this, and thought no less of themselves. But what seems still more suspicious, one boy, good, though quite unfitted for such labours, to whom indeed I was kindly disposed, but who had his rhymes made by his tutor, not only considered them the best of all, but was fully persuaded that he had made them himself. And in the familiar relation in which I stood towards him, this he always frankly asserted. Now, as I saw this error and delusion plain before me, it one day occurred to me to ask whether I might not myself be in the same case; whether those poems were not really better than mine; and whether I might not justly appear to
those boys as mad as they to me? This disturbed me much, and for a long time; for it was quite impossible for me to find an outward sign of truth. At last, I even stopped in my productions, until at length I was quieted by levity and self-reliance, and at last by a trial which our teachers and parents, who had noticed our amusement, set us on the spur of the moment, and in which I came off well, and obtained general applause.
At that time people had not as yet established any libraries for children. In earlier times, men had themselves childish ways of thinking, and found it easy to impart their own knowledge to posterity. Except the Orbis Pictus of Amos Comenius, no book of this kind came into our hands; but we often turned over the great folio Bible, with plates, by Merian. Goltfried's Chronicle, with engravings of the same master, instructed us in the most remarkable events of general history. The Acerra Philologica added all kinds of fables, mythologies, and singularities; and, as I very soon became acquainted with Ovid's Metamorphoses, and studied laboriously the earlier books in particular, my young brain was quickly enough filled with a mass of images and events, significant and wondrous forms and occurrences; and I could never feel the want of employment, as I constantly occupied myself in working up, repeating, and reproducing these acquisitions.
A better moral effect than that of those somewhat rude and dangerous antiquities, was produced by Fénélon's Telemachus, which I first read only in Neukirch's translation, and which, however, even thus imperfectly transmitted, had a delightful and beneficial influence on my feelings. That Robinson Crusoe was soon added, is a matter of course; and it may easily be supposed that the Isle of Felsenburg was not wanting. Lord Anson's Voyage Round the World combined the dignity of truth with the fancifulness of legend; and while in thought we accompanied this excellent seaman, we were led far away over the world, and tried to follow him with our fingers on the globe.
But now a still richer harvest was to lie before me, when I lighted on a mass of writings, which certainly in their present form cannot be called admirable, but the contents of which
innocently bring nearer to us many a merit of former times. These books, which were afterwards known and even renowned under the name of Books for the People, had their place of publication, or rather their manufactory, in Frankfort itself; and, on account of the great sale, they were kept in standing types, and printed almost illegibly on the most frightful blotting-paper. We children, therefore, had the luck to find every day these precious remains of the middle ages on a little table before the door of a dealer in cheap books, and to obtain them for a penny a-piece. The Eulenspiegel, the Four Sons of Haimon, the Fair Melusina, the Emperor Octavian, the Fair Magelona, Fortunatus, with the whole race down to the Wandering Jew, all were at our command, whenever we had a fancy for these works, rather than for any kind of dainty sweet thing. In this the greatest advantage was, that when we had worn out such a pamphlet by reading, or otherwise damaged it, we could buy another copy again, and consume it anew.
As a family party into the country in summer is disturbed in the most vexatious way by a sudden storm, and a cheerful state of things thus changed into the most unpleasant, so the illnesses of children happen without warning in the fairest season of early life. With me also this was the case. I had just bought myself Fortunatus, with his Purse and Wishing-Hat, when I was seized with an uneasiness and fever that announced the smallpox. Inoculation was still considered among us as very problematical, and although it had already been clearly and zealously recommended by popu lar writers, yet the German physicians hesitated about an operation which seemed to forestall nature. Speculating Englishmen came therefore on the Continent, and inoculated for a large fee the children of the opulent and unprejudiced. The majority, however, were still exposed to the old mischief. The disease raged in families, killed and disfigured many children and few parents dared to seize an expedient, of which the probable success had nevertheless been already established by many trials. This misfortune now befell our house, and attacked me with extraordinary violence. My whole body was sprinkled