THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. VII.—MARCH, 1861.—NO. XLI.
"Which of the German universities would be the best adapted to my purpose?" is the question of many an American student, who, having gone through the usual course in the United States, looks abroad for the completion of his scientific or liberal studies. Of Goettingen and Heidelberg he will often have read and heard; the reputation of the comparatively new university of Berlin will not be unfamiliar to him; but of Tuebingen, Wuerzburg, Erlangen, Halle, or Bonn, even, he will perhaps know little more than the name. In the majority of the last-named places, foreigners, especially his own countrymen, are rare; none of his friends have studied there; they have followed the current, since the last century, and spent their time in Goettingen or Heidelberg, perhaps a winter in Berlin. They have found these institutions good, and affording every facility for study; but would not Munich, or Leipzig, or Jena, or any other one of the twenty-six universities of Germany, better answer the purpose of many a student?
During the last winter, in many conversations with a retired professor in Berlin, who manifested a special interest in American institutions, mainly in the American educational system, he was very particular in inquiring as to what we meant by our term College. He had read the work of the historian Raumer on America, and declared that from this he could get no notion whatever as to what the term meant with us. The very same thing occurs daily in the United States in regard to foreign, or, more properly, the Continental universities. Accustomed as we are to the prevalence of the tutorial system, the use of text-books,—in many parts of the Union not defining clearly the difference between the terms University, College, Institute, and Academy, giving the first name often to institutions having but one faculty, and that at times incomplete, with no theological, and often no law or medical department, forgetting that the University should, from its very name, be as universal as possible in its teachings, comprehending in its list of studies the combined scientific and literary pursuits of the age,—we are apt to look upon foreign schools of learning as similar in nature and purpose to our own, differing not in the quality or specific character of the teaching, but rather in the scope and extent of the branches taught. Yet nothing is farther from the truth. The result is, that many a one starts for Europe full of hope, to seek what he would have found better at home,—or, when prepared and mature for European travel, is left to chance or one-sided advice in the choice of a locality in which to prosecute further studies. Often with only book-knowledge of the language of the country, accident will lead him to the very university the least adequate to his purpose.
Having now spent some time in four of the leading German universities, and contemplating a longer stay for the purpose of visiting others, the writer has thought that some general remarks might call attention to points often disregarded, and serve to give some insight into the nature of the institutions of learning of the country,—rather aiming to characterize the system of higher education as it now exists than to give detailed historical notices, including something of student-life, and the professors,—in fine, such observations as would not be likely to be made by a general tourist, and such as native writers deem it unnecessary to make, presupposing a knowledge of the facts in their own readers.
The German universities are the culminating point of German culture. They concentrate within themselves the intellectual pith of the country. Dating their foundation as far back as the fourteenth century, as Prague, Vienna, and Heidelberg,—or established but of late years in the nineteenth, as Berlin, Bonn, and Munich,—they attract to themselves the mental strength of the land, forming a focus from which radiates, whether in Theology, Science, Literature, or Art, the new world of thought, which finds its way to remotest regions, often filtered and unacknowledged. They number among their professors the most distinguished men of the century, whether poets, philosophers, or divines. All who lay claim to authorship find in the lecture-room a firm stand and rank in society, as Government is ever ready to insure a life-position to distinguished scholars. To mention only a few examples of men who would scarcely be thought of in a professorial career,—Schiller was Professor of History in Jena, Rueckert Professor in Berlin, Uhland in Tuebingen.
In nothing can Germany manifest a better-grounded feeling of national pride than in this, its university system. Politically inert, divided into petty states, powerless, the ever-ready prey of more active or ambitious neighbors, it has played a pitiful role in the world's history, with annals made up of petty feuds and jealousies and tyrannical meannesses, never working as one people, save when driven to extremity. With countless differences of dialect, manners, customs, it is one and national in nothing save in its literature, and feels that, through the high culture of its scholars, through the new paths its men of science have opened, through the profound investigations of the learned in every sphere, it holds its place at the head of every intellectual movement of the age. It feels that its universities are the laboratories whence issue the thoughts whose significance the world is ever more and more ready to acknowledge. France even, selfish and proud of its past supremacy in all things, has within the last quarter of a century laid aside much of its exclusiveness, and a Germanic infusion is perceptible through all the mannerism of the latest and best productions of the French school. Comparatively of late years is it, that the English mind has fairly come in contact with this German culture. Its first loud manifestation may be heard in the prose of Carlyle and his school; yet even now its influence has permeated our whole literature so much, that, when reading some of our latest poetry, tones and melodies will come like distant echoes from the groves on the hillsides where warble the nightingales of Germany.
A most unpractical people, however, the Germans, who have been so active in almost every possible field of speculation, have produced nothing which could give one unacquainted with their university system a true notion of its workings and actual state. Much has been written on Pedagogy, its history general and special, the common schools and gymnasia; but until 1854 there was not even a general work on the history of the universities. To Karl von Raumer, former Minister of Public Worship in Prussia, we owe the first Beitrag, as he modestly calls it, the fourth volume of his "History of Pedagogy" being devoted exclusively to these. Partly made up of historical sketches, partly narrations of the writer's personal experience as student from 1801, as professor in various places from 1811, it does not aim and is but little calculated to give a clear idea of the system itself. Special works, as the one of Tomek on Prague, and of Kluepfel on Tuebingen, do exist, but otherwise nothing but personal observation can be made use of. Statistics, every information, in fine, concerning the present intellectual wealth of the nation, must be acquired either orally, or from the catalogues, programmes, and hundreds of local pamphlets that are issued yearly. The work of the Rev. Dr. Schaff, "Germany, its Universities, Theology, and Religion," (Philadelphia, 1857,) rather aims to characterize the nature and tendency of German theology, the latter part being taken up with interesting and well-written sketches of the leading divines.
Before proceeding to these high-schools themselves, let us glance at the general system of German education. In spite of political differences, there exists much uniformity in this throughout the Confederation. The German States are exceedingly paternal in the care they take of their subjects. They extend their parental supervision even to the family interior, every relation of life regulated by fixed laws, and even after death the inhumation must be conducted the forms and with the precautions prescribed. The new-born child must be baptized within six weeks after birth. If the parents neglect it, Government sees to it,—unless they claim the privileges of Israelites, in which case the rites of their religion must be followed. Between his sixth and seventh year the child must enter some school or receive elementary instruction at home. So far is education compulsory; beyond, it is optional. When duly prepared, he enters, if the parents desire it, the Government Gymnasium or Lyceum, answering pretty much to our College; it fits the youth for entering the University. It confers no degrees; only, at the conclusion of the studies, an Examen Maturitatis takes place. The youth is then declared ripe for matriculation. Without having undergone this examination, he can never become a regular student. Even should he have attended regularly any of the many private academies, or the Realschule, where thorough instruction is given, but with less special, though no slight attention to Latin and Greek, and more to mathematics and practical branches, even then he must acquire from one of the gymnasia the exemption-and-maturity-right. In the slang of student-life, the gymnasiast is styled a Frog, the school itself a Pond; between the time of his declaration of maturity and his reception as student, he is called a Mule.
The course is no light one the candidate has gone through,—nine or ten years of classical training, Latin the whole time, Greek the last six or seven years, Hebrew the last four, generally optional, though in many cases required at future examinations. The modern languages have not been neglected: French he has pursued seven years, English or Italian the last three or four. Beside all these, the elements of Philosophy, Moral and Natural, History, Mathematics, etc. In fine, the certificate of maturity would in most cases equal, in many surpass, what our colleges is styled the degree of A.M. Of course, the parallel must not be understood as existing with respect to many of the older institutions in the United States, which presuppose, in the entering freshman, a preparatory course of several years.
The classical training so strictly required of natives who enter these high-schools is not so rigidly inquired into in the case of foreigners,—though in this respect the regulations differ in various states. In Prussia and generally, the passport is all-sufficient; but in Wuertemberg, a diploma or some certificate of former studies must be exhibited before admission. The officers of some of the universities, as Tuebingen, for instance, are very particular in enforcing all the rules, inquiring of the applicant, whatever be his age or nationality, whether he has a written permission from his parents to study abroad and in their university, whether he has the money necessary to pay the debts he may contract, and such other minute questions as will strike an American especially as particularly impertinent. The precaution is carried so far, that, when no positive information is given as to means of subsistence, the letter of credit must be delivered into the hands of the beadle as security. Yet such little incidents are but slight annoyances at most, which a little good-humor and desire to conform to the habits and ways of doing of the country will remove. He who goes abroad always ready to bristle up against what does not exactly conform to his preconceived ideas of propriety, measuring and weighing all things with his own national weights and measures, will be continually making himself disagreeable and unhappy, and in the end profit little by his absence from home.
The conclusion of the training-system in the gymnasia usually occurs before the nineteenth or twentieth year. With the reception of the certificate of maturity the youth may be said to have donned the virile toga. He enjoys during his university years a degree of liberty such as he never enjoyed before, never will enjoy again when his student-days are over. Having taken out his matriculation-papers, and given the Handschlag (taken the oath) to obey the laws of the land and the statutes of the university, he has become a student,—a Fox, as the freshman is styled,—he chooses his own career, his own professors, hears the lectures he pleases, attends or omits as he pleases, leads the life of a god for a triennium or a quadrennium, fights his duels, drinks his beer, sings his club-and-corps songs.—But of student-life more in due time.—There is no check, no constraint whatever, during the whole time the studies last. At the expiration of three or four, sometimes even five years, an examination takes place before the degree of Doctor can be conferred,—not a severe one by any means, confined as it is to the special branch to which the candidate wishes to devote himself. In the Medical and Law Departments it is more serious than in the Philosophical. This examination is followed by a public discussion in presence of the dean and professors of the faculty, held in Latin, on some thesis that has been treated and printed in the same language by the candidate. His former fellow-students, and any one present that wishes, stand as opponents. This disputation, whatever may have been its merits in former days, has degenerated in the present into a mere piece of acted mummery, where the partakers not only stutter and stammer over bad Latin, but even help themselves, when their memory fails utterly, with the previously written notes of their extempore objections and answers. The principal requisite for the attainment of the Doctor's degree, when the necessary amount of time has been given, in the Philosophical Faculty at least, is the fees, which often mount quite high.
From the ranks of such as have attained this title, for so it should be called, every office of any importance in the State is filled. Through every ramification of the complicated system of government, recommendations and testimonials play the greatest role,—the first necessary step for advancement being the completion of the university studies—And by public functionaries must not be understood merely those holding high civil or military grades. Every minister of the Church, every physician, chemist, pharmaceutist, law-practitioner of any grade, every professor and teacher, all, in fact, save those devoting themselves to the merely mechanical arts or to commercial pursuits, and even these, though with other regulations, receive their appointment or permission to exercise their profession from the State. It is one huge clock-work, every wheel working into the next with the utmost precision. To him who has gone so far, and received the Doctorate, several privileges are granted. He has claims on the State, claims for a position that will give him a means of subsistence, if only a scanty one. With talent and industry and much enduring toil, he may reach the highest places. He belongs to the aristocracy of learning,—a poor, penniless aristocracy, it may be, yet one which in Germany yields in point of pride to none.
We proceed to the Professors. It is within the power of all to attain the position of Lecturer in a university. The diploma once obtained, the farewell-dinner, the comilat, and general leave-taking over, the man's career has commenced in earnest. If he turn his attention to education, he may find employment in some of the many schools of the State. Does he look more directly to the University, he undergoes, when duly prepared on the branches to which he wishes to devote himself, the Examen Rygorosum, delivers a trial-lecture in presence of his future colleagues, and is entitled to lecture in the capacity of a Privat-Docent. As such be receives no remuneration whatever from Government; his income depends upon what he receives from his hearers, two to six dollars the term from each. All who aspire to the dignity of Professor must have passed through this stage; rarely are men called directly from other ranks of life,—though eminent scholars, physicians, or jurists have been sometimes raised immediately to an academical seat. After a few years, five or more, the Privat-Docent who has met with a reasonable degree of success may hope for a professorship,—though many able men have remained in this inferior position for long years, some even for life. If their hearers are but few, they resort to private lessons, to book-making, anything that will aid them in maintaining their position, always with the hope that "something must turn up."
The Privat-Docent system, though condemned by some, has been much extolled by many German writers. It is, say the latter, a warranty for the freedom of teaching, no slight point In a country where all is subservient to the political rulers, forming men for the professorship, and giving them a confidence in their own powers, as they must rely exclusively for their support on the income they receive from their hearers. From among their number are chosen those constituting the regular faculties; and thus there are ever at hand men ready to fill the highest places upon any vacancy, men not new or inexperienced, but whose whole life has been one training for the position they may be called to occupy.
The Privat-Docent may be raised directly to a seat in the faculty, but more generally he passes through the intermediate stage of Professor Extraordinarius. The Professors Extraordinary receive no, or at most a very small, income from the State; they are merely titled lecturers, and nothing more; yet in their ranks, as well as among the more modest Privatim-Docentes, are often found men of the greatest learning, whose names are known abroad, whose contributions to science are universally acknowledged, whose lecture-rooms are thronged with students, while the halls of some of the regular professors may be left empty. No vacancy may have occurred in their department,—or, as is unfortunately oftener the case, some political reasons may be the occasion of their non-advancement.
We come to the regular faculty of the university, the Professores Ordinarii. They enjoy the fullest privileges, are appointed for life, and receive beside the tuition-fees regular incomes. They may be elected to the Academic Senate and to the Rectorship, the Rector or Chancellor not being appointed for life, but changing yearly,—the various faculties being represented in turn. He is styled Rector Magnificus.
The faculties are usually four in number. In several universities, of late, a fifth has been created,—the Staatswissenschaftliche, Cameralistic; so that in institutions where both Catholic and Protestant Theology are represented, there are in fact six faculties. The Philosophical Department stretches over so wide a field, that, were it separated into its real divisions, as Philosophy proper, Philology, History, the Mathematical and Natural Sciences, the faculties would extend far beyond the present number. In France, it is divided into a Faculte des Lettres and a Faculte des Sciences. The present comprehensive use of the term is but an extension of the Middle-Age division of the liberal arts into the Trivium,—Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectics,—and the Quadrivium,—Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy,—as expressed in the verse,—
"Lingus, tropus, ratio, numerus, tenor, angulus, astra."
The term Magister Artium Liberalium, so often met with, refers to these. Those pursuing these studies were denominated Artisti. As the number of studies increased, the name was changed, and the department now includes all branches not ranged under one of the heads of Theology, Law, or Medicine; so that every student, whatever his pursuits may be, if he does not confine himself exclusively to them, will wish to hear one or more courses of lectures in this faculty.
The Professors Ordinary and Extraordinary, together with the Privat-Docents, form the active force of the German university. In Tuebingen are Repetenten, who lecture or comment on classical and Biblical writers and form classes in the ancient or modern languages. Those teaching the modern languages exclusively are styled Lectors. The title, Professor Honorarius, as of Gervinus in Heidelberg, is conferred merely as a mark of honor, the bearer lecturing only when he pleases. To complete this enumeration, it may not be unnecessary to state, connected with each university are masters for riding, fencing, swimming, gymnastics, and dancing, regular places appointed for these exercises, beside access to museums, the university library, scientific collections, etc.
The number of professors—and under this name we include the three divisions of lecturers—varies from forty to one hundred and seventy and upwards, according to the size and importance of the institution. In Berlin, last winter, there were one hundred and sixty-nine; in Erlangen, but forty-four; in Munich, one hundred and eleven. The University of Kiel, with not one hundred and thirty students, numbers fifty professors. These each deliver at least one course of lectures; most deliver more,—some as many as four or five. In Prussia, each is required by law to read one course, at least, gratis (publice); otherwise the lectures are privatim, a fee being paid by the hearer,—say four or five dollars on the average for the term. The privatissime are private lessons or lectures, the when and where to be settled with the lecturer himself.
The year is divided into two terms, varying somewhat in different places. The summer session is the shorter of the two, lasting from near the middle of April till August, when the long vacation takes place. The winter semester usually commences in October and lasts till the latter part of March.
As to the scope and variety of the lectures, it is unlimited, and varies yearly. In Berlin, during the winter semester of 1859-60, there were no less than three hundred and forty-six courses in all, besides the clinics, demonstrative and practical courses, philological exercises, and the like. These were divided as follows:—
In Theology . . . . . . 38 " Law. . . . . . . . 56 " Medicine . . . . . . 78 " Philosophy . . . . . 174
In the latter department there were,—
In Philosophy proper . . . 18 " Mathematical Sciences . . 19 " Natural " . . 45 " Political Economy, etc. . 10 " History and Geography . . 12 " Aesthetics . . . . 19 " Philology . . . . . 51
But Berlin is by far the most complete university in Germany, however much it may be surpassed in many points by others. Lesser institutions do not exhibit half this number of courses, though there are always enough to satisfy the student who does not devote himself to a narrow speciality. Private tuition can always be resorted to.
Beside the lectures, there are also occasionally Seminaren, mostly conducted in Latin, where classical or Biblical authors are explained and read by the students, or where discussions take place, in presence of a professor, on philosophical, historical, or philological subjects,—resembling, however, in nothing our debating-societies.
It is only since the middle of the last century that instruction in the higher branches has been usually carried on in German. Latin was formerly in general use; it is now seldom made a medium. There is occasionally a course delivered in English, Italian, or French,—in Berlin often in one of the Sclavonic languages. Modern Literature and Philology are by no means extensively cultivated. Lectures on the Provencal, the Langue d'Oil, the Old-German, the Cyrillic, are not uncommon, though but poorly attended. The study of the modern languages themselves must be pursued with private teachers. A knowledge of these, as well as a thorough preparatory training in Latin and Greek, is presupposed. Modern History, on the contrary, has of late years become an important branch of study. The "Period of Revolutions" is fully treated every semester, and always draws crowds of students. The spirit that animates them is the unity of the Fatherland. Classical studies, though not holding the same undisputed ascendency as in former times, are yet very actively pursued, embracing Greek and Roman history and antiquities, comments on classical authors, lectures, critical and minute in the extreme, where every line is made the subject of microscopic investigation, and different readings are weighed and compared, with often an unlimited amount of abuse of editors who have differed in opinion from the lecturer. The German philologers are not remarkable for mildness when speaking of each other; and many a one, as Haupt in Berlin, will enrich his vocabulary with ever-varying, new-coined epithets to characterize the ridiculousness, tameness, and stupidity of emendations proposed, and that, too, when speaking of such men as Orelli and Kirchner, his own colleagues in the profession. A laugh raised at the expense of a brother is enough to justify the severest slash. Comparative Philology, which owes its existence and progress to the labors of German scholars, and whose first representative, Bopp, is still living and teaching in Berlin, is more and more pursued of late. Sanscrit is now taught universally; and lectures are delivered on the affinities of the Indo-Germanic languages with each other and with the mother-tongue of all. A perceptible movement is being felt to introduce this study into the preparatory departments. Such a change would result in a complete revolution of the methods formerly employed in elementary classical tuition. The higher laws of affinity, as applied to the Romanic languages, are also daily more a matter of investigation. Diez and Delius, in Bonn, are at the head of this movement. In Philosophy, properly so called, the list of studies is often very full, comprising lectures on Logic, the Encyclopedia of Science, Metaphysics, Anthropology and Psychology, Ethics, the Philosophy of Nature, of Law, of History, of Religion, the History of Philosophy, general and special, and the Philosophy of Art, or Aesthetics,—the latter general, or branching into specialities, as Music, Painting, Sculpture, Ancient and Modern Art. Special points are also treated,—as the Philosophy of Aristotle, of Kant, of Hegel, etc. Mathematics and the Natural Sciences are not always cultivated to the same extent as the above-named branches. They are made the subject of particular attention, however, in the numerous Polytechnic Schools, the most celebrated being those of Hanover and Carlsruhe. They have risen in reputation and attendance of late to such a degree, that in the Grand Duchy of Baden, for instance, a perceptible diminution is felt in university attendance, while new appropriations have been made for the enlargement of the Carlsruhe school.
The Theological Faculty ranks the highest, and comprises a wide range of study. We quote from Dr. Schaff:—
"In modern times the field has been greatly enlarged by the addition of Oriental Philology, Biblical Criticism, Hermeneutics, Antiquities, Church-History and Doctrine-History, Homiletics, Catechetics, Liturgies, Pastoral Theology, and Theory of Church-Government. No theological faculty is considered complete now which has not separate teachers for the exegetical, historical, systematic, and practical branches of divinity. The German professors, however, are not confined to their respective departments, as is the case in our American seminaries, but may deliver lectures on any other branch, as far as it does not interfere with their immediate duties. Schleiermacher, for instance, taught, at different times, almost every branch of theology and philosophy."
The Law Department, to which the celebrated school of Bologna served as a first model, extends over a far wider field than similar institutions elsewhere. Starting from the Roman Law, it embraces lectures on the History of Jurisprudence, the Pandects, Civil, Criminal, and Common Law, and Natural Rights, besides History and Philosophy, as applied to legal studies,—branching into specialities for German Law and Practice, local and general. To Americans, of course, only the first part of these studies would be at all desirable. Moreover, the advantages are not all of a practical nature.
The Medical Faculty embraces all the studies pursued in our medical colleges, more specialities being treated,—the time required being scarcely ever less than five years for the course, often more. Examinations are severe. The faculties of Berlin, Munich, and Wuerzburg are in especial repute,—Vienna also affording many advantages. In some of the smaller university towns the means of study are limited for the advanced student, extensive collections and large hospitals being wanting. Medical studies are attended with more expense than any other.
The Cameralistische Facultaet is devoted to those preparing themselves for practical statesmanship. It is new, and established only of late years in a few of the universities. In others, the branches taught are still comprehended under the philosophical. Munich is in especial repute. It comprises lectures on Political Economy in all its branches, Mining, Engineering,—in fact, whatever is necessary to fit one for service in the State.
Let no one, from the above comprehensive list of studies, form the idea, that the outward incarnation of the German intellect, in speech or deed, corresponds to its inner worth and solidity. The name Dryasdust must cling to many a learned professor more firmly than to the most chronological of the old historians. Germany is not the land of outward form. To one accustomed to public speaking, the lecturers will often appear far below the standard of mediocrity in their manner. Though such men as Lasaulx in Munich, Haeusser in Heidelberg, Droyson and Werder in Berlin deliver their lectures in a style that would grace the lecture-room of any country, yet the great majority are far, very far, from any eloquence in their delivery. Timid and bashful often to an extreme, they ascend their rostrum with a shuffling, ambling gait, the very opposite of manly grace and bearing, and, prefacing their discourse with the short address, "Meine Herren" keep on in one long, never-varying, monotonous strain, from beginning to end,—reading wholly or in part, often so slowly that the hearer can write down every word, often only the heads and substance of paragraphs, definitions and the like,—and that so indistinctly, so carelessly of all but the very words themselves, that it is not only unpleasant, at first, but even repulsive to many. This dictating of every word, a relic of the times when printing was yet unknown, is fast dying away. Many, both students and professors, are loud against it, yet the tedious method is still pursued in many places. The introductory remark of a celebrated lecturer is characteristic. Seeing all his hearers, on the first day of the course, ready with pen and paper, he began,—"Gentlemen, I will not dictate: if that were necessary, I should send my maid-servant with my manuscript, and you yours with pen and paper; my servant would dictate, yours would write, and we in the mean while could enjoy a pleasant walk." This is, however, not the only point that will be likely to produce an unfavorable impression. To see a man whose name you have met in your reading as the highest authority, whose works you have so often admired, his style energetic, fiery, and impressive,—to see him ascend his rostrum with every mark of negligence, uncouth and awkward in his appearance, with every possible mannerism, talking through his nose, indistinctly and unsteadily mumbling over his sentences, careless of all outward form and polish, awakens anything but pleasant feelings, as the preconceived ideal must give way to the living reality. And yet so it is with many!
It may have contributed not a little to the reputation of Goettingen and Heidelberg with foreigners, that a good and clear German is spoken in both places by the professors. In Tuebingen, on the contrary, even in Munich, to a great extent, the local dialect prevails to such a degree, that students from Northern Germany, many of whom frequent these cities in the summer session, find it difficult, nay, almost impossible, to understand at first, especially the broad Suabian of Tuebingen. Here, however, as the system of dictation prevails, the slowness of utterance compensates in a measure for its indistinctness and incorrectness.
In some places, where academic freedom, as the students style it, exists to a high degree, a general scraping of the feet admonishes the lecturer to repeat his words or be more distinct and clear in his enunciation. This pedal language, though often disregarded, still does not fail in the end in producing the desired effect.
With such characteristics, it cannot be a matter of wonder, if some time be required to be spent in hearing lectures daily before the full benefit can be fairly appreciated. Many will appear slow in the extreme; and the constant recourse to notes, and the tedious manner, will create a feeling of weariness hard to overcome. However, these peculiarities are soon forgotten in the excellence of the matter, and their disagreeableness is scarcely noticed after a few weeks, except in extreme cases. The mannerism fades away, and the hearer learns to follow from thought to thought under the guidance of an experienced leader, whose living words he hears, whose thought he feels as it is communicated directly to him.
Not so much from the actual things heard, the actual facts mastered, is the lecture-system valuable to the student, as for the method of study which he derives from it. He is no longer like an automaton, a school-boy guided by his teacher and text-book, but is spoken to as an independent thinker. Authorities are quoted, which he may consult at his leisure. No subject is exhausted,—it is only touched upon. He learns to teach himself.
Far different is the mental training thus acquired from that gained in the same amount of time spent in mere reading. Thought is stimulated to a far greater degree. The lecture-room becomes a laboratory, where the mind of the hearer, in immediate contact with that of a man mature in the ways of study, of one whose whole life seems to have prepared him for the present hour, assimilates to itself more than knowledge. The lecturer gives what no books can give, his own force to impel his own words. His mind is ever active while he speaks. The hearer feels its workings, and his own is stirred into action by the contact. It is not given to all to enjoy the conversation and intercourse of the master-minds of the age: in the lecture-room they speak to us immediately; we feel the current of their life-blood; it pulsates through all they say.
That seeming exceptions may occur, as in the case of professors who year after year deliver the same written course, can have no weight against the system. The tone and gesture, the very look, must animate the whole;—and these very written lectures, read and delivered so often, are no dead stalk, but a living stem, which puts forth new leaves and blossoms every spring.
Nor is the hearer himself without his corresponding influence. His attention and eager desire for knowledge stimulate new thought in the speaker day by day, hour by hour; and many a German scholar must have felt with Friedrich August Wolf, when he says,—"I am one who has been long accustomed to the gentle charm which lies in the momentaneous unfolding of thought in the presence of attentive hearers, to that living reaction softly felt by the teacher, whereby a perennial mental harmony is awakened in his soul, which far surpasses the labors in the study, before blank walls and the feelingless paper."
The first entrance into a German auditorium or Hoersaal, as the lecture-rooms in the universities are called, will show much that is characteristic. But little care is bestowed on the decoration of the apartment. Whatever aesthetic culture the nation may have, it finds little manifestation in the things of daily life, and elegance seems little less than banished from the precincts of the learned world. The academic halls present to the view nothing but dingy walls, rough floors coated with the dust and mud of days or weeks, and, winter and summer, the huge porcelain stove in one corner,—that immovable article of cheerless German furniture, where wood is put in by the pound, and no bright glow ever discloses the presence of that warmest friend of man, a good fire. For the students there are coarse, long wooden desks and benches, with places all numbered, cut up and disfigured to an extent which will soon convince one that whittling is not a trait of American destructiveness exclusively. Here are carved names and intertwined lettering, arabesque masterpieces of penknife-ingenuity, with a general preponderance of feminine appellatives, bold incisures, at times, of some worthy professor in profile,—the whole besmutched with ink, and dotted with countless punctures, the result of the sharp spike with which every student's ink-horn is armed, that he may steady it upon the slanting board. The preceding lecture ended when the university-clock struck the hour; the next should begin within ten or fifteen minutes. One by one the students drop in and take their places,—high and low, rich and poor, all on the same straight-backed pine benches. The days fire over, even in title-loving Germany, though not long since, when the young counts and barons sat foremost, on a privileged, raised, and cushioned seat, and were addressed by their title.
As the hearers thus assemble, they present a motley appearance,—being, in the larger cities especially, from all lands, all ranks of society, and of every age. Side by side with the young freshman in his first semester, the Fat Fox, as he is called, who has just made a leap from the strict discipline of the gymnasium to the unbounded freedom of the university, will be a gray-haired man, to whom the academic title of Juvenis Studiosus will no longer apply. Here sits, with his gaudy watch-guard, the colors of his corps, one of those students by profession who have been inscribed year after year so long that they have acquired the name of Bemossed Heads. Were his scientific attainments measured by his capacities for beer-drinking and sword-slashing, he would long ago have been dubbed a Doctor in all the faculties. He hears a lecture now and then for form's sake, though it is rather an unusual thing for him. By his side, but retiring and earnest, may be one of the younger professors, who the hour before stood as a teacher, and now sits among some of his former hearers to profit by the experience of his older professional brother. Where the court resides and many officers are garrisoned, the hall presents a spangled appearance of bright epaulettes and glittering uniforms. It is no unusual thing for young men during their years of service to attend the courses regularly. The uncomfortable sword is laid on the knee, where it may not dangle and clink with every motion of the wearer,—no easy task in the very narrow space left between desk and desk. In the last century, it was a universal custom for all students to wear the sword; but this academic privilege, as it was considered, leading to numerous abuses, laws were enacted against it, as well as other eccentricities in dress.
The regular students are provided with portfolios, or rather, soft leathern pouches, which they can fold and pocket, containing the heft or quire of paper on which the lecture is transcribed by them wholly or in part. These hefts are often the object of much care and labor. Each plants his ink-horn firmly in front of him. As the time approaches, and all are in readiness with pen in hand, there is a universal buzz throughout the room. Though, when the auditory is large, many nations are represented, as well as the various provinces of the Confederation, still the language heard is predominantly that of the country. Though Poles and Greeks, English and Russians, may be in abundance, still they rarely congregate in nationalities,—save the Poles, who speak their own language at all times and places, and cling the more fondly to their own idiom since they have been robbed of everything else. After some fifteen minutes of expectation the professor enters. All is still in an instant. He advances with hasty strides and bent-down head to his rostrum, an elevated platform, on which stands a plain, high, pine desk. He unfolds his notes, looks over the rim of his spectacles at the attentive hearers, who sit ready to write down the words of wisdom he is about to utter, and begins with the short address, "Meine Herren." There is then an uninterrupted gliding of pens for three-quarters of an hour, until, above the monotony, rarely the eloquence, of the speaker, the great clock in the centre of the building gives the significant sound of relief to busy fingers and rest to ear and brain unaccustomed to such slow, entangled, lisping, laborious, in rare instances manly delivery. The lecture is at an end, and each prepares to enter another auditorium, or wends his way home, to study out the notes taken, consult the authorities quoted, complete or even copy his work anew. In the study of these hefts consists the main preparation for future examinations, as text-books are rarely used, save in Austria, and the examiners are the professors themselves, who will not ask the candidate much beyond what they have embraced in their own lesson.
With a remarkable degree of skill, the practised German student can take down, even when the delivery is by no means slow, the pith and essence of a whole lecture. Yet there is much abuse in this; and it has called forth, ever since the invention of printing has made the multiplication of books by transcription unnecessary, much just, though at times unjust criticism. A German writer has said, that the man of genius takes his notes on a slip of paper, he of good abilities on a half-page, while the dunce must fill a whole sheet. Now the reverse would be quite as true in many cases. For though thoughtless writing may be little more than wasted labor, yet there is nothing that can fix more steadily thoughts and facts in the mind than the precision and constant attention required in following a lecture with the pen, especially when the words of the professor are not taken down with slavish exactitude, but when, as is most generally the case, merely the thoughts are noted in the hearer's own language. The ideas thus gained have been assimilated and become the listener's own property. There is thus generated a steady transfusion, the surest remedy against flagging mental activity. Many a foreigner writes down the lecture in his own tongue, and values highly this training of constant translation, though, before many months, the mere transposition from one language into the other must become purely mechanical. It is amusing to see the puzzled expression of countenance of some Swiss student who takes his notes in French, when one of those long German compounds, involving some bold figure of speech, is uttered. What circumlocutions must he not use, if he wish to give the full force of the idea!
A real abuse, however, is the perpetual dictation-system still used by some. For these, the three worthies in profile on the title-page of old Elzevir editions are as if they had never existed; they teach as they have been taught, perpetuating the methods in use in the days of Abelard, when books were dearer than time. All that has been said and written against the custom will do less towards abolishing it than the recent introduction of lessons in phonography, or stenography rather, which is now taught in several universities. The question is agitated of introducing this study into the preparatory schools. The system is different from the English or American, being based on the etymological nature of the language. It is fast coming into use, though as yet not general. The old slow delivery seems little better than spelling to those that have mastered it. The students have usually special abbreviations of their own, and so find no difficulty in taking down all the important points, even when the utterance is rapid.
Not all, by any means, go through this labor of transcription. Many of the wealthier and high-titled attend but irregularly, and when they do, are impatient listeners. In Berlin may be seen many a youth who, from the exquisite fit and finish of his dress, if he be not an American just from Paris, must at least be a German count The young Graf plays with his lips on the ivory head of his bamboo, as he holds it with his kid-gloved hand, sitting carefully the while, lest the elbow of his French coat should be soiled by contact with a desk ignorant of duster for many a month. He is condemned, however, to hear, day by day, over and over, many a truth that will scarcely flatter his noble ears. The heft and the toil of writing down a lecture are unknown to him. He pays a reasonable sum to some poor scholar who sits behind and copies it all afterwards, while he takes his afternoon-ride towards Charlottenburg, or saunters along Unter-den-Linden, ogling the pretty English girls, and spying every chance of saluting, whenever a royal equipage, preceded by a monkey-looking lackey, rolls by. These are, of course, exceptions, rarer in the present than formerly. In Padua, in the sixteenth century, it became notorious that the richer students never attended in person, but always sent one of their servants who wrote a good hand. Laws were enacted to prevent the evil, yet long after this there were still many promotions of these paper-doctors.
Many, in taking their notes, abandon the German script as too illegible, and make use of the Latin letters. A word or two on this subject, as connected with general education. The German script, which any one may learn in a few hours, is a constant source of vexation to a foreigner. To write, and write fast, too, is easy enough; but then to read one's own handwriting, not to mention the crumpled notices of the professors tacked on the blackboard in the Aula, is almost impossible without much practice. Why the Germans should have kept their Gothic lettering and peculiar script, when all other European nations, save the Russian, have adopted the Roman, it is difficult to say, unless it be with them a matter of national pride. And they have been unnational in so many things! That the Russians should have their own alphabet is natural enough; they have sounds and letters and combinations—which neither the Germanic nor the Romanic group of languages possess. And yet both in Polish and Zechish, where the same sounds exist to a great extent, the deficiencies are made up by accented and dotted letters. So, though we have a universal standard of spelling for names and places on the Continent, we find in our most popular histories and geographies a divergence in the lesser known Russian names, not far removed from that we daily meet in the nomenclature of the gods of Hindoo mythology.
The like plea of necessity cannot be urged in regard to the Teutonic or Scandinavian languages. Within the last quarter of a century, the chief scientific works issued in Northern Germany, and many even in Southern, have been printed in the Roman character. Were there no other argument in favor of its universal adoption, it has been found less trying to the eyes. It can be read by all nations; and the other is at best but an additional difficulty for the learner, even in the case of native children, who are plagued with two alphabets and two diametrically opposite systems of penmanship in their earliest years. The result is evident: a good hand is a rare thing In Germany. It is a good sign, that of late years public acts and records, works of learning, all the higher literature, in fact, not purely national, as poetry and romance, are all printed in the Roman character. Nor will any look upon this as a servile imitation. Some of the most national of German writers and scholars, as the brothers Grimm, have pronounced themselves loudly in favor of the change. The tendency of the age is towards universality. It will occur to none to talk of French imitation because chemists make use of the excellent and universally applicable system of the decimal French weights and measures.
What has been said above is not altogether irrelevant as characterizing the tendency of the higher institutions of learning. Every movement in Germany, even the least, since the Reformation, whose chief propagators were professors in the universities,—Luther, Reuchlin, Melancthon,—every permanent and pervading conquest of the new and good over the old and worn-out, has issued from the lecture-room. Whatever sticklers for old forms and crab-like progress may be found, there is always an overbalancing power. The unity of Germany as one nation has never stood a better chance of being realized than now, when the very men who were students and flocked as volunteers when the iron hand of Napoleon I. weighed heavily on their Fatherland stand as lecturers in the days of Napoleon III., warning of the past, and preaching louder than Schiller or Koerner or Arndt for the brotherhood of Prussian and Bavarian, of those that dwell on the Rhine and those that inhabit the regions of the Danube.
Thanks, not to her statesmen, not to her nobility, not to her princes even, that Germany has at last fairly shaken off the self-imposed yoke of servile French imitation, but thanks to her scholars who centre in her twenty-six universities! There was a time, and that not a century ago, when the German language was considered to be of too limited circulation for works of general scientific interest. Lectures were all delivered in Latin, until Thomasius broke open a new path, and now lessons otherwise than in the vernacular tongue are exceptions. French was long the universal medium. Even Humboldt wrote most of his works in that language; and it is not two years since one of the most distinguished Egyptian scholars of Prussia published his History of Egypt in French. The last representatives of this tendency are dying off. The days are over, when every petty German prince must create in his domains a servile imitation of the stiff parks of Versailles,—the days of powdered wigs and long cues,—when French ballet-dancers gave the tone, and French actors strutted on every stage,—when Boileau was the great canon of criticism, and Racine and Moliere perpetuated in tragedy and comedy a pseudo-classicism. They are far, those times when Frederick the Great wrote French at which Voltaire laughed, and could find no better occupation for his leisure hours at Sans-Souci than the discussion of the materialistic philosophy of the Encyclopedists, while he affected to despise his own tongue, rejecting every effort towards the popularization of a national literature. Well is it for Germany that other ideas now prevail,—well, that Goethe in his old age overcame the Gallomania, which for a while possessed him, of translating all his works, and thenceforth writing only in French. The iron hand of Goetz of Berlichingen would burst the seams of a Paris kid-glove. The bold lyric and dramatic poesy of a language whose figures well up in each word with primitive freshness can ill be contained in an idiom blase by conventionality and frozen into crystal rigidity by the academy of the illustrious forty,—in an idiom in which an unfortunate pun or allusion can destroy the effect of a whole piece. We need but call to mind that Shakspeare's "Othello" was laughed off the stage of the Odeon, owing to the ridiculous ideas the word "napkin" or "handkerchief" called up in the auditory.
Nor is the influence of the university in Germany exerted in matters of great national interest only. It pervades the social, literary, and political organization of the people. The least part of what characterizes an individual nation ever comes into its books. Here it finds its way from mouth to mouth to the remotest corners of the land. When Luther, the Professor of Wittenberg, spoke against indulgences, it was more than priest or monk that was heard. The voice of the monk would not have echoed beyond his cell, and the influence of the priest would have been arrested and checked before it could have been exerted beyond the limits of his parish or town. But the Professor Luther addressed himself to a more influential audience. His words were carried before many years into every part of the Empire.
Setting aside the Austrian universities, which are no longer what they were formerly, the teaching in these higher schools, whatever the State restrictions may be, is eminently free,—freer than in France,—freer than in England,—in many respects even, however it may sound, freer than in the United States. As a result, the land is a hot-bed of the boldest philosophical systems and the wildest theological aberrations. There is no branch of speculation that does not find its representative. In law, in medicine, in philology, in history, the old methods of study and research have been revolutionized. But the State stands before the innovators, firm and conservative in its practice. And in the end it has been found, that, whatever wild theories may spring up in theology and in philosophy, the corrective is nigh at hand, and truth will make its way when the field is open to all.
It must be remembered that the German university is no preparatory school; those who enter it have gone through studies and a mental training that have made them capable of judging for themselves. They hear whom they please. Their chief study, whatever they acquire in the lecture-room, is done when alone. They attend on an average for three or four hours a day, spending as much time in the libraries, from which they have the privilege of taking out books. As a completion to their lectures, the professors generally have Seminaren once or twice a week, or Exercitationes in history, philology, etc., in which the Socratic method of teaching in dialogue is made use of. Museums and scientific collections are richly provided in the larger institutions. In some of these lectures are held: thus, Lepsius explains Egyptian archaeology in the Egyptian halls in Berlin. The libraries provided by the State, and to which all have access, are often considerable: thus, Goettingen has 350,000 volumes; Berlin, 600,000; Munich, 800,000.
As for the expenses of study, they are inconsiderable; thirty or thirty-five dollars the term will cover them, as there are generally several courses public. The students often attend for months as guests, hospitanten. As they say,—"The Fox pays for more than he hears, and the Bursch hears more than he pays for." The lecturers take no notice of those present; and, provided the matriculation-papers have been taken out, the beadle has nothing to say. There is the fullest liberty of wandering from room to room, and hearing, if only once or twice, any one of the professors. As for the expenses of living, they vary. To one who would be satisfied with German student-fare and comforts, four hundred dollars a year will answer every purpose, even in the dearest cities: many do with much less. In Southern Germany, life is simpler and cheaper than in Northern, and the saying is true in Munich, that a Gulden there will go as far as a Thaler in Prussia. There are poorer students, who are exempted from college-fees, and support themselves by Stipendia, whose outlay never exceeds a hundred dollars a year.
When several hundred or thousand young men are thus thrown together, with their time all their own, and none to whom they are responsible for their actions, it may easily be supposed that many abuses and irregularities will occur. Yet the great mass are better than they have been represented; though regular attendance upon lectures is true only of those who ox it at home, as the phrase goes, and who by the rioting, beer-drinking Burschen are styled Philistines or Camels. These same quiet individuals, whom the Samsons affect to despise, will be found to be by far in preponderance, when the statistics of Corps, Landmannschaften, and all such clubs, are looked into; though the characteristic of the latter, always to be seen at public places of amusement with their colored caps, gaudy watch-guards, or cannon-boots, would lead one to suppose that German student-life was one round of beer-drinking, sword-slashing, and jolly existence, as represented, or rather, misrepresented, by William Howitt, in the halo of poetry he throws around it. No,—the fantastically dressed fellows whom the tourist may notice at Jena, and the groups of starers who stop every narrow passageway in front of the confectionery-shops of Heidelberg, or amuse themselves of summer-afternoons with their trained dogs, diverting the attention of the temporary guest of "Prince Carl" from the contemplation of the old ruined castle of the Counts-Palatine,—these are but a fraction of the German students. From, among them may be chosen those tight-laced officers who make the court-residences of Europe look like camps; or, as they are often the sons of noblemen or rich parents, they may reach some of the sinecures in the State. They make their student-years but a pretext for a life of rough debauchery, from which they issue with a bought diploma; and, in many cases, satiated and disgusted with their own lives, they dwindle down into the timeserving reactionaries, the worst enemies of free development, because they themselves have abused in youth the little liberty they enjoyed.
If the numbers be counted of those who lead the life so much extolled by William Howitt,—who, by the way, has left out some of its roughest traits,—they will be found, even where most numerous, as in the smaller towns, never to exceed one-fourth of those inscribed as students. The linguists and philosophers of Germany, her historians and men of letters, her professors and savans, have come from the ranks of that stiller and more numerous class whom the stranger will never notice: for their triennium is spent mostly in the lecture-room or at home; and their conviviality—for there are neither disciples nor apostles of temperance in this beer-drinking land—is of a nature not to divert them from their earnest pursuits.
Truth and earnestness are the distinguishing traits of the German character; and these qualities show no less strongly in the youth who frequent the universities than in the professors themselves. The latter, conscientious to a nicety in exposing the fullest fruits of their laborious researches, are ever faithful to the trust reposed in them. Placed by the State in a position beyond ordinary ambition and above pecuniary cares, they can devote themselves exclusively to their calling, concentrating their powers in one channel,—to raise, to ennoble, to educate. It contributes not a little to their success, that their hearers are permeated, whatever wild and unbridled freaks they may fall into at times, with the fullest sense of honor and manly worth, with an ardent love for knowledge and science for their own sake, not for future utility. Their sympathies are awake for the good everywhere, their minds receptive of the highest teachings. Their loves and likes are great and strong,—as it behooves, when the first bubblings of mental and physical activity are manifested in action. They abandon themselves, body and soul, to the occupation of the moment, be it study, be it pleasure. Their gatherings and feasts and excursions are ennobled by vocal music from the rich store of healthy, vigorous German song,— from which they learn, in the words of one of their most popular melodies, to honor "woman's love, man's strength, the free word, the bold deed, and the FATHERLAND!"
* * * * *
THE PROFESSOR'S STORY.
THE SECRET IS WHISPERED.
The Reverend Chauncy Fairweather's congregation was not large, but select. The lines of social cleavage run through religious creeds as if they were of a piece with position and fortune. It is expected of persons of a certain breeding, in some parts of New England, that they shall be either Episcopalians or Unitarians. The mansion-house gentry of Rockland were pretty fairly divided between the little chapel with the stained window and the trained rector, and the meeting-house where the Reverend Mr. Fairweather officiated.
It was in the latter that Dudley Venner worshipped, when he attended service anywhere,—which depended very much on the caprice of Elsie. He saw plainly enough that a generous and liberally cultivated nature might find a refuge and congenial souls in either of these two persuasions, but he objected to some points of the formal creed of the older church, and especially to the mechanism which renders it hard to get free from its outworn and offensive formulae,—remembering how Archbishop Tillotson wished in vain that it could be "well rid of" the Athanasian Creed. This, and the fact that the meeting-house was nearer than the chapel, determined him, when the new, rector, who was not quite up to his mark in education, was appointed, to take a pew in the "liberal" worshippers' edifice.
Elsie was very uncertain in her feeling about going to church. In summer, she loved rather to stroll over The Mountain on Sundays. There was even a story, that she had one of the caves before mentioned fitted up as an oratory, and that she had her own wild way of worshipping the God whom she sought in the dark chasms of the dreaded cliffs. Mere fables, doubtless; but they showed the common belief, that Elsie, with all her strange and dangerous elements of character, had yet strong religions feeling mingled with them. The hymn-book which Dick had found, in his midnight invasion of her chamber, opened to favorite hymns, especially some of the Methodist and Quietist character. Many had noticed, that certain tunes, as sung by the choir, seemed to impress her deeply; and some said, that at such times her whole expression would change, and her stormy look would soften so as to remind them of her poor, sweet mother.
On the Sunday morning after the talk recorded in the last chapter, Elsie made herself ready to go to meeting. She was dressed much as usual, excepting that she wore a thick veil, turned aside, but ready to conceal her features. It was natural enough that she should not wish to be looked in the face by curious persons who would be staring to see what effect the occurrence of the past week had had on her spirits. Her father attended her willingly; and they took their seats in the pew, somewhat to the surprise of many, who had hardly expected to see them, after so humiliating a family development as the attempted crime of their kinsman had just been furnishing for the astonishment of the public.
The Reverend Mr. Fairweather was now in his coldest mood. He had passed through the period of feverish excitement which marks a change of religious opinion. At first, when he had begun to doubt his own theological positions, he had defended them against himself with more ingenuity and interest, perhaps, than he could have done against another; because men rarely take the trouble to understand anybody's difficulties in a question but their own. After this, as he began to draw off from different points of his old belief, the cautious disentangling of himself from one mesh after another gave sharpness to his intellect, and the tremulous eagerness with which he seized upon the doctrine which, piece by piece, under various pretexts and with various disguises, he was appropriating, gave interest and something like passion to his words. But when he had gradually accustomed his people to his new phraseology, and was really adjusting his sermons and his service to disguise his thoughts, he lost at once all his intellectual acuteness and all his spiritual fervor.
Elsie sat quietly through the first part of the service, which was conducted in the cold, mechanical way to be expected. Her face was bidden by her veil; but her father knew her state of feeling, as well by her movements and attitudes as by the expression of her features. The hymn had been sung, the short prayer offered, the Bible read, and the long prayer was about to begin. This was the time at which the "notes" of any who were in affliction from loss of friends, the sick who were doubtful of recovery, those who had cause to be grateful for preservation of life or other signal blessing, were wont to be read.
Just then it was that Dudley Venner noticed that his daughter was trembling,—a thing so rare, so unaccountable, indeed, under the circumstances, that he watched her closely, and began to fear that some nervous paroxysm, or other malady, might have just begun to show itself in this way upon her.
The minister had in his pocket two notes. One, in the handwriting of Deacon Soper, was from a member of this congregation, returning thanks for his preservation through a season of great peril,—supposed to be the exposure which he had shared with others, when standing in the circle around Dick Venner. The other was the anonymous one, in a female hand, which he had received the evening before. He forgot them both. His thoughts were altogether too much taken up with more important matters. He prayed through all the frozen petitions of his expurgated form of supplication, and not a single heart was soothed or lifted, or reminded that its sorrows were struggling their way up to heaven, borne on the breath from a human soul that was warm with love.
The people sat down as if relieved when the dreary prayer was finished. Elsie alone remained standing until her father touched her. Then she sat down, lifted her veil, and looked at him with a blank, sad look, as if she had suffered some pain or wrong, but could not give any name or expression to her vague trouble. She did not tremble any longer, but remained ominously still, as if she had been frozen where she sat.
—Can a man love his own soul too well? Who, on the whole, constitute the nobler class of human beings? those who have lived mainly to make sure of their own personal welfare in another and future condition of existence, or they who have worked with all their might for their race, for their country, for the advancement of the kingdom of God, and left all personal arrangements concerning themselves to the sole charge of Him who made them and is responsible to Himself for their safe-keeping? Is an anchorite, who has worn the stone floor of his cell into basins with his knees bent in prayer, more acceptable than the soldier who gives his life for the maintenance of any sacred right or truth, without thinking what will specially become of him in a world where there are two or three million colonists a month, from this one planet, to be cared for? These are grave questions, which must suggest themselves to those who know that there are many profoundly selfish persons who are sincerely devout and perpetually occupied with their own future, while there are others who are perfectly ready to sacrifice themselves for any worthy object in this world, but are really too little occupied with their exclusive personality to think so much as many do about what is to become of them in another.
The Reverend Chauncy Fairweather did not, most certainly, belong to this latter class. There are several kinds of believers, whose history we find among the early converts to Christianity.
There was the magistrate, whose social position was such that he preferred private interview in the evening with the Teacher to following him with the street-crowd. He had seen extraordinary facts which had satisfied him that the young Galilean had a divine commission. But still he cross-questioned the Teacher himself. He was not ready to accept statements without explanation. That was the right kind of man. See how he stood up for the legal rights of his Master, when the people were for laying hands on him!
And again, there was the government official, intrusted with public money, which, in those days, implied that he was supposed to be honest. A single look of that heavenly countenance, and two words of gentle command, were enough for him. Neither of these men, the early disciple nor the evangelist, seems to have been thinking primarily about his own personal safety.
But now look at the poor, miserable turnkey, whose occupation shows what he was like to be, and who had just been thrusting two respectable strangers, taken from the hands of a mob, covered with stripes and stripped of clothing, into the inner prison, and making their feet fast in the stocks. His thought, in the moment of terror, is for himself: first, suicide; then, what he shall do,—not to save his household,—not to fulfil his duty to his office,—not to repair the outrage he has been committing,—but to secure his own personal safety. Truly, character shows itself as much in a man's way of becoming a Christian as in any other!
——Elsie sat, statue-like, through the sermon. It would not be fair to the reader to give an abstract of that. When a man who has been bred to free thought and free speech suddenly finds himself stepping about, like a dancer amidst his eggs, among the old addled majority-votes which he must not tread upon, he is a spectacle for men and angels. Submission to intellectual precedent and authority does very well for those who have been bred to it; we know that the under-ground courses of their minds are laid in the Roman cement of tradition, and that stately and splendid structures may be reared on such a foundation. But to see one laying a platform over heretical quicksands, thirty or forty or fifty years deep, and then beginning to build upon it, is a sorry sight. A new convert from the reformed to the ancient faith may be very strong in the arms, but he will always have weak legs and shaky knees. He may use his hands well, and hit hard with his fists, but he will never stand on his legs in the way the man does who inherits his belief.
The services were over at last, and Dudley Venner and his daughter walked home together in silence. He always respected her moods, and saw clearly enough that some inward trouble was weighing upon her. There was nothing to be said in such cases, for Elsie could never talk of her griefs. An hour, or a day, or a week of brooding, with perhaps a sudden flash of violence: this was the way in which the impressions which make other women weep, and tell their griefs by word or letter, showed their effects in her mind and acts.
She wandered off up into the remoter parts of The Mountain, that day, after their return. No one saw just where she went,—indeed, no one knew its forest-recesses and rocky fastnesses as she did. She was gone until late at night; and when Old Sophy, who had watched for her, bound up her long hair for her sleep, it was damp with the cold dews.
The old black woman looked at her without speaking, but questioning her with every feature as to the sorrow that was weighing on her.
Suddenly she turned to Old Sophy.
"You want to know what there is troubling me," she said. "Nobody loves me. I cannot love anybody. What is love, Sophy?"
"It's what poor ol' Sophy's got for her Elsie," the old woman answered. "Tell me, darlin',—don' you love somebody?—don' you love——? you know,—oh, tell me, darlin', don' you love to see the gen'l'man that keeps up at the school where you go? They say he's the pootiest gen'l'man that was ever in the town here. Don' be 'fraid of poor Ol' Sophy, darlin',—she loved a man once,—see here! Oh, I've showed you this often enough!"
She took from her pocket a half of one of the old Spanish silver coins, such as were current in the earlier part of this century. The other half of it had been lying in the deep sea-sand for more than fifty years.
Elsie looked her in the face, but did not answer in words. What strange intelligence was that which passed between them through the diamond eyes and the little beady black ones?—what subtile intercommunication, penetrating so much deeper than articulate speech? This was the nearest approach to sympathetic relations that Elsie ever had: a kind of dumb intercourse of feeling, such as one sees in the eyes of brute mothers looking on their young. But, subtile as it was, it was narrow and individual; whereas an emotion which can shape itself in language opens the gate for itself into the great community of human affections; for every word we speak is the medal of a dead thought or feeling, struck in the die of some human experience, worn smooth by innumerable contacts, and always transferred warm from one to another. By words we share the common consciousness of the race, which has shaped itself in these symbols. By music we reach those special states of consciousness which, being without form, cannot be shaped with the mosaics of the vocabulary. The language of the eyes runs deeper into the personal nature, but it is purely individual, and perishes in the expression. If we consider them all as growing out of the consciousness as their root, language is the leaf, music is the flower; but when the eyes meet and search each other, it is the uncovering of the blanched stem through which the whole life runs, but which has never taken color or form from the sunlight.
For three days Elsie did not return to the school. Much of the time she was among the woods and rocks. The season was now beginning to wane, and the forest to put on its autumnal glory. The dreamy haze was beginning to soften the landscape, and the most delicious days of the year were lending their attraction to the scenery of The Mountain. It was not very singular that Elsie should be lingering in her old haunts, from which the change of season must soon drive her. But Old Sophy saw clearly enough that some internal conflict was going on, and knew very well that it must have its own way and work itself out as it best could. As much as looks could tell Elsie had told her. She had said in words, to be sure, that she could not love. Something warped and thwarted the emotion which would have been love in another, no doubt; but that such an emotion was striving with her against all malign influences which interfered with it the old woman had a perfect certainty in her own mind.
Everybody who has observed the working of emotions in persons of various temperaments knows well enough that they have periods of incubation, which differ with the individual, and with the particular cause and degree of excitement, yet evidently go through a strictly self-limited series of evolutions, at the end of which, their result—an act of violence, a paroxysm of tears, a gradual subsidence into repose, or whatever it may be—declares itself, like the last stage of an attack of fever and ague. No one can observe children without noticing that there is a personal equation, to use the astronomer's language, in their tempers, so that one sulks an hour over an offence which makes another a fury for five minutes, and leaves him or her an angel when it is over.
At the end of three days, Elsie braided her long, glossy, black hair, and shot a golden arrow through it. She dressed herself with more than usual care, and came down in the morning superb in her stormy beauty. The brooding paroxysm was over, or at least her passion had changed its phase. Her father saw it with great relief; he had always many fears for her in her hours and days of gloom, but, for reasons before assigned, had felt that she must be trusted to herself, without appealing to actual restraint, or any other supervision than such as Old Sophy could exercise without offence.
She went off at the accustomed hour to the school. All the girls had their eyes on her. None so keen as these young misses to know an inward movement by an outward sign of adornment: if they have not as many signals as the ships that sail the great seas, there is not an end of ribbon or a turn of a ringlet which is not a hieroglyphic with a hidden meaning to these little cruisers over the ocean of sentiment.
The girls all looked at Elsie with a new thought; for she was more sumptuously arrayed than perhaps ever before at the school; and they said to themselves that she had come meaning to draw the young master's eyes upon her. That was it; what else could it be? The beautiful, cold girl with the diamond eyes meant to dazzle the handsome young gentleman. He would be afraid to love her; it couldn't be true, that which some people had said in the village; she wasn't the kind of young lady to make Mr. Langdon happy. Those dark people are never safe: so one of the young blondes said to herself. Elsie was not literary enough for such a scholar: so thought Miss Charlotte Ann Wood, the young poetess. She couldn't have a good temper, with those scowling eyebrows: this was the opinion of several broad-faced, smiling girls, who thought, each in her own snug little mental sanctum, that, if, etc., etc. she could make him so happy!
Elsie had none of the still, wicked light in her eyes, that morning. She looked gentle, but dreamy; played with her books; did not trouble herself with any of the exercises,—which in itself was not very remarkable, as she was always allowed, under some pretext or other, to have her own way.
The school-hours were over at length. The girls went out, but she lingered to the last. She then came up to Mr. Bernard, with a book in her hand, as if to ask a question.
"Will you walk towards my home with me to-day?" she said, in a very low voice, little more than a whisper.
Mr. Bernard was startled by the request, put in such a way. He had a presentiment of some painful scene or other. But there was nothing to be done but to assure her that it would give him great pleasure.
So they walked along together on their way toward the Dudley mansion.
"I have no friend," Elsie said, all at once. "Nothing loves me but one old woman. I cannot love anybody. They tell me there is something in my eyes that draws people to me and makes them faint. Look into them, will you?"
She turned her face toward him. It was very pale, and the diamond eyes were glittering with a film, such as beneath other lids would have rounded into a tear.
"Beautiful eyes, Elsie," he said,—"sometimes very piercing,—but soft now, and looking as if there were something beneath them that friendship might draw out. I am your friend, Elsie. Tell me what I can do to render your life happier."
"Love me!" said Elsie Venner.
What shall a man do, when a woman makes such a demand, involving such an avowal? It was the tenderest, cruellest, humblest moment of Mr. Bernard's life. He turned pale, he trembled almost, as if he had been a woman listening to her lover's declaration.
"Elsie," he said, presently, "I so long to be of some use to you, to have your confidence and sympathy, that I must not let you say or do anything to put us in false relations. I do love you, Elsie, as a suffering sister with sorrows of her own,—as one whom I would save at the risk of my happiness and life,—as one who needs a true friend more than any of all the young girls I have known. More than this you would not ask me to say. You have been through excitement and trouble lately, and it has made you feel such a need more than ever. Give me your hand, dear Elsie, and trust me that I will be as true a friend to you as if we were children of the same mother."
Elsie gave him her hand mechanically. It seemed to him that a cold aura shot from it along his arm and chilled the blood running through his heart. He pressed it gently, looked at her with a face full of grave kindness and sad interest, then softly relinquished it.
It was all over with poor Elsie. They walked almost in silence the rest of the way. Mr. Bernard left her at the gate of the mansion-house, and returned with sad forebodings. Elsie went at once to her own room, and did not come from it at the usual hours. At last Old Sophy began to be alarmed about her, went to her apartment, and, finding the door unlocked, entered cautiously. She found Elsie lying on her bed, her brows strongly contracted, her eyes dull, her whole look that of great suffering. Her first thought was that she had been doing herself a harm by some deadly means or other. But Elsie saw her fear, and reassured her.
"No," she said, "there is nothing wrong, such as you are thinking of; I am not dying. You may send for the Doctor; perhaps he can take the pain from my head. That is all I want him to do. There is no use in the pain, that I know of; if he can stop it, let him."
So they sent for the old Doctor. It was not long before the solid trot of Caustic, the old bay horse, and the crashing of the gravel under the wheels, gave notice that the physician was driving up the avenue.
The old Doctor was a model for visiting practitioners. He always came into the sick-room with a quiet, cheerful look, as if he had a consciousness that he was bringing some sure relief with him. The way a patient snatches his first look at his doctor's face, to see whether he is doomed, whether he is reprieved, whether he is unconditionally pardoned, has really something terrible about it. It is only to be met by an imperturbable mask of serenity, proof against anything and everything in a patient's aspect. The physician whose face reflects his patient's condition like a mirror may do well enough to examine people for a life-insurance office, but does not belong to the sick-room. The old Doctor did not keep people waiting in dread suspense, while he stayed talking about the case,—the patient all the time thinking that he and the friends are discussing some alarming symptom or formidable operation which he himself is by-and-by to hear of.
He was in Elsie's room almost before she knew he was in the house. He came to her bedside in such a natural, quiet way, that it seemed as if he were only a friend who had dropped in for a moment to say a pleasant word. Yet he was very uneasy about Elsie until he had seen her; he never knew what might happen to her or those about her, and came prepared for the worst.
"Sick, my child?" he said, in a very soft, low voice.
Elsie nodded, without speaking.
The Doctor took her hand,—whether with professional views, or only in a friendly way, it would have been hard to tell. So he sat a few minutes, looking at her all the time with a kind of fatherly interest, but with it all noting how she lay, how she breathed, her color, her expression, all that teaches the practised eye so much without a single question being asked. He saw she was in suffering, and said presently,—
"You have pain somewhere; where is it?"
She put her hand to her head.
As she was not disposed to talk, he watched her for a while, questioned Old Sophy shrewdly a few minutes, and so made up his mind as to the probable cause of disturbance and the proper means to be used.
Some very silly people thought the old Doctor did not believe in medicine, because he gave less than certain poor half-taught creatures in the smaller neighboring towns, who took advantage of people's sickness to disgust and disturb them with all manner of ill-smelling and ill-behaving drugs. To tell the truth, he hated to give any thing noxious or loathsome to those who were uncomfortable enough already, unless he was very sure it would do good,—in which case, he never played with drugs, but gave good, honest, efficient doses. Sometimes he lost a family of the more boorish sort, because they did not think they got their money's worth out of him, unless they had something more than a taste of everything he carried in his saddle-bags.
He ordered some remedies which he thought would relieve Elsie, and left her, saying he would call the next day, hoping to find her better. But the next day came, and the next, and still Elsie was on her bed,—feverish, restless, wakeful, silent. At night she tossed about and wandered, and it became at length apparent that there was a settled attack, something like what they called formerly a "nervous fever."
On the fourth day she was more restless than common. One of the women of the house came in to help to take care of her; but she showed an aversion to her presence.
"Send me Helen Darley," she said at last.
The old Doctor told them, that, if possible, they must indulge this fancy of hers. The caprices of sick people were never to be despised, least of all of such persons as Elsie, when rendered irritable and exacting by pain and weakness.
So a message was sent to Mr. Silas Peckham, at the Apollinean Institute, to know if he could not spare Miss Helen Darley for a few days, if required to give her attention to a young lady who attended his school and who was now lying ill,—no other person than the daughter of Dudley Venner.
A mean man never agrees to anything without deliberately turning it over, so that he may see its dirty side, and, if he can, sweating the coin he pays for it. If an archangel should offer to save his soul for sixpence, he would try to find a sixpence with a hole in it. A gentleman says yes to a great many things without stopping to think: a shabby fellow is known by his caution in answering questions, for fear of compromising his pocket or himself.
Mr. Silas Peckham looked very grave at the request. The dooties of Miss Darley at the Institoot were important, very important. He paid her large sums of money for her time,—more than she could expect to get in any other institootion for the education of female youth. A deduction from her salary would be necessary, in case she should retire from the sphere of her dooties for a season. He should be put to extra expense, and have to perform additional labors himself. He would consider of the matter. If any arrangement could be made, he would send word to Squire Venner's folks.
"Miss Darley," said Silas Peckham, "the' 's a message from Squire Venner's that his daughter wants you down at the mansion-house to see her. She's got a fever, so they inform me. If it's any kind of ketchin' fever, of course you won't think of goin' near the mansion-house. If Doctor Kittredge says it's safe, perfec'ly safe, I can't objec' to your goin', on sech conditions as seem to be fair to all concerned. You will give up your pay for the whole time you are absent,—portions of days to be caounted as whole days. You will be charged with board the same as if you eat your victuals with the household. The victuals are of no use after they're cooked but to be eat, and your bein' away is no savin' to our folks. I shall charge you a reasonable compensation for the demage to the school by the absence of a teacher. If Miss Crabs undertakes any dooties belongin' to your department of instruction, she will look to you for sech pecooniary considerations as you may agree upon between you. On these conditions I am willin' to give my consent to your temporary absence from the post of dooty. I will step down to Doctor Kittredge's, myself, and make inquiries as to the nature of the complaint."
Mr. Peckham took up a rusty and very narrow-brimmed hat, which he cocked upon one side of his head, with an air peculiar to the rural gentry. It was the hour when the Doctor expected to be in his office, unless he had some special call which kept him from home.
He found the Reverend Chauncy Fairweather just taking leave of the Doctor. His hand was on the pit of his stomach, and his countenance expressive of inward uneasiness.
"Shake it before using," said the Doctor; "and the sooner you make up your mind to speak right out, the better it will be for your digestion."
"Oh, Mr. Peckham! Walk in, Mr. Peckham! Nobody sick up at the school, I hope?"
"The haalth of the school is fust-rate," replied Mr. Peckham. "The sitooation is uncommonly favorable to saloobrity." (These last words were from the Annual Report of the past year.) "Providence has spared our female youth in a remarkable measure, I've come with reference to another consideration. Dr. Kittredge. is there any ketchin' complaint goin' about in the village?"
"Well, yes," said the Doctor, "I should say there was something of that sort. Measles. Mumps. And Sin,—that's always catching."
The old Doctor's eye twinkled; once in a while he had his little touch of humor. Silas Peckham slanted his eye up suspiciously at the Doctor, as if he was getting some kind of advantage over him. That is the way people of his constitution are apt to take a bit of pleasantry.
"I don't mean sech things, Doctor; I mean fevers. Is there any ketchin' fevers—bilious, or nervous, or typus, or whatever you call 'em—now goin' round this village? That's what I want to ascertain, if there's no impropriety."
The old Doctor looked at Silas through his spectacles.
"Hard and sour as a green cider-apple," he thought to himself. "No," he said,—"I don't know any such cases."
"What's the matter with Elsie Venner?" asked Silas, sharply, as if he expected to have him this time.
"A mild feverish attack, I should call it in anybody else; but she has a peculiar constitution, and I never feel so safe about her as I should about most people."
"Anything ketchin' about it?" Silas asked, cunningly.
"No, indeed!" said the Doctor,—"catching?—no,—what put that into your head, Mr. Peckham?"
"Well, Doctor," the conscientious Principal answered, "I naterally feel a graat responsibility, a very graiiiit responsibility, for the noomerous and lovely young ladies committed to my charge. It has been a question, whether one of my assistants should go, accordin' to request, to stop with Miss Venner for a season. Nothin' restrains my givin' my full and free consent to her goin' but the fear lest contagious maladies should be introdooced among those lovely female youth. I shall abide by your opinion,—I understan' you to say distinc'ly, her complaint is not ketchin'?—and urge upon Miss Darley to fulfil her dooties to a sufferin' fellow-creature at any cost to myself and my establishment. We shall miss her very much; but it is a good cause, and she shall go,—and I shall trust that Providence will enable us to spare her without permanent demage to the interests of the Institootion."
Saying this, the excellent Principal departed, with his rusty narrow-brimmed hat leaning over, as if it had a six-knot breeze abeam, and its gunwale (so to speak) was dipping into his coat-collar. He announced the result of his inquiries to Helen, who had received a brief note in the mean time from a poor relation of Elsie's mother, then at the mansion-house, informing her of the critical situation of Elsie and of her urgent desire that Helen should be with her. She could not hesitate. She blushed as she thought of the comments that might be made; but what were such considerations in a matter of life and death? She could not stop to make terms with Silas Peckham. She must go. He might fleece her, if he would; she would not complain,—not even to Bernard, who, she knew, would bring the Principal to terms, if she gave him the least hint of his intended extortions.
So Helen made up her bundle of clothes to be sent after her, took a book or two with her to help her pass the time, and departed for the Dudley mansion. It was with a great inward effort that she undertook the sisterly task which was thus forced upon her. She had a kind of terror of Elsie; and the thought of having charge of her, of being alone with her, of coming under the full influence of those diamond eyes,—if, indeed, their light were not dimmed by suffering and weariness,—was one she shrank from. But what could she do? It might be a turning-point in the life of the poor girl; and she must overcome all her fears, all her repugnance, and go to her rescue.
"Is Helen come?" said Elsie, when she heard, with her fine sense quickened by the irritability of sickness, a light footfall on the stair, with a cadence unlike that of any inmate of the house.
"It's a strange woman's step," said Old Sophy, who, with her exclusive love for Elsie, was naturally disposed to jealousy of a new-comer. "Lot Ol' Sophy set at th' foot o' th' bed, if th' young missis sets by th' piller,—won' y', darlin'? The' 's nobody that's white can love y' as th' ol' black woman does;—don' sen' her away, now, there's a dear soul!"
Elsie motioned her to sit in the place she had pointed to, and Helen at that moment entered the room. Dudley Venner followed her.
"She is your patient," he said, "except while the Doctor is here. She has been longing to have you with her, and we shall expect you to make her well in a few days."
So Helen Darley found herself established in the most unexpected manner as an inmate of the Dudley mansion. She sat with Elsie most of the time, by day and by night, soothing her, and trying to enter into her confidence and affections, if it should prove that this strange creature was really capable of truly sympathetic emotions.