TRANSLATED AND ANNOTATED BY
Head Mistress of the Croydon Kindergarten and Preparatory School,
H. KEATLEY MOORE, MUS. BAC., B.A.,
Examiner in Music to the Froebel Society and Vice-Chairman of the Croydon Kindergarten Company.
*"Come, let us live for our children."*
SYRACUSE, N.Y.: C.W. BARDEEN, PUBLISHER. 1889.
German Books on Pedagogy.
1. Comenius. Grosse Unterrichtslehre. Mit einer Einleitung, "J. Comenius, sein Leben und Werken," von LINDNER. Price $1.50.
2. Helvetius. Von Menschen, seinen Geisteskraften und seiner Erziehung. Mit einer Einleitung, "Cl. Adr. Helvetius, 1715-1771. Ein Zeit- und Lebensbild," von LINDNER. 12mo, pp. 339. Price $1.50.
3. Pestalozzi. Wie Gertrud ihre Kinder lehrt. Mit einer Einleitung, "J.H. Pestalozzi's Leben, Werke, und Grundsaetze," von RIEDEL. Price $1.25.
4. Niemeyer. Grundsaetze die Erziehung und des Unterrichtes. Mit einer Einleitung "Aug. Herm. Niemeyer, sein Leben und Werken," von LINDNER. 2 vols. Price $3.00.
5. Diesterweg. Rhenische Blaetter. Mit einer Einleitung, "F.A.W. Diesterweg," von JESSEN. Price $1.25.
6. Jacotot. Universal Unterricht. Mit einer "Darstellung des Lebens und der Lehre Jacotot's," von GOERING. 12mo, pp. 364. Price $3.75.
7. Froebel. Paedagogische Schriften. Herausgegeben von SEIDEL. 3 vols. Price $7.00.
8. Fichte. Paedagogisch Schriften und Ideen. Mit "biographischer Einleitung und gedraengter Darstellung von Fichte's Paedagogik," von KEFERSTEIN. Price $2.00.
9. Martin Luther. Paedagogische Schrifte. Mit Einleitung von SCHUMANN. Price $1.50.
10. Herder als Paedagog. Von MORRES. Price 75 cts.
11. Geschichte der Paedagogik. in Biographen, Uebersichten, und Proben aus paedagogischen Hauptwerken. Von NIEDERGESAESS. Price $2.50.
11. Lexikon der Paedagogik. Von SANDER. Price $3.50.
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*C.W. BARDEEN, Publisher, Syracuse, N.Y.*
PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
It will be long before we have a biography of Froebel to compare with DeGuimp's Pestalozzi, of which an English translation has just appeared. Meantime we must content ourselves with two long autobiographical letters contained in this volume, which, though incomplete, have yet the peculiar charm that comes from the candid record of genuine impressions.
The first of these letters, that to the Duke of Meiningen, has already appeared in English, in a translation by Miss Lucy Wheelock for Barnard's American Journal of Education, since reprinted in pp. 21-48 of his Kindergarten and Child Culture, (see p. 146), and in a small volume under the title Autobiography of Froebel (see p. 146). While a faithful attempt to reproduce the original, this translation struggled in vain to transform Froebel's rugged and sometimes seemingly incoherent sentences into adequate and attractive English, so that the long letter has proved to most English readers formidable and repellant. But in the original it is one of the most charming productions in literature, candid and confidential in tone, and detailing those inner gropings for ideas that became convictions which only an autobiography can reveal. These qualities are so admirably preserved in the translation by Miss Emily Michaelis and H. Keatley Moore that it seemed to leave nothing to be desired. They have not only given a faithful rendering, but they have impressed upon it the loving touch of faithful disciples. Accordingly I purchased from the English publishers the American rights to this translation; and have reproduced not only this letter, but that to the philosopher Krause, with Barop's "Critical Moments," and the "Chronological Abstract," all from duplicates of the English plates.
The rest of the volume appears for the first time. The Bibliography seemed desirable, and is confined to attainable books likely to be of value to American teachers. The Index is full, but not fuller than the fragmentary character of the material seemed to require. The Table of Contents will also serve to make reference easy to the principal evens of Froebel's history.
In the lives of Pestalozzi and of Froebel many resemblances may be traced. Both were sons of clergymen. Both were half-orphans from their earliest recollections. Both were unhappy in childhood, were misunderstood, companionless, awkward, clumsy, ridiculed. Both were as boys thrown into the almost exclusive society of women, and both retained to the last strongly feminine characteristics. Both were throughout life lacking in executive ability; both were financially improvident. Both were dependent for what they did accomplish upon friends, and both had the power of inspiring and retaining friendships that were heroic, Pestalozzi's Kruesi corresponding with Froebel's Middendorf. Both became teachers only by accident, and after failure in other professions. Both saw repeated disaster in the schools they established, and both were to their last days pointed at as visionary theorists of unsound mind. Both failed to realize their ideas, but both planted their ideas so deeply in the minds of others that they took enduring root. Both lacked knowledge of men, but both knew and loved children, and were happiest when personally and alone they had children under their charge. Both delighted in nature, and found in solitary contemplation of flowers and woods and mountains relief from the disappointments they encountered among their fellows.
But there were contrasts too. Pestalozzi had no family ties, while Froebel maintained to the last the closest relations with several brothers and their households. Pestalozzi married at twenty-three a woman older than himself, on whom he thereafter relied in all his troubles. Froebel deferred his marriage till thirty-six and then seems to have regarded his wife more as an advantage to his school than as a help-meet to himself.
Pestalozzi was diffident, and in dress and manner careless to the point of slovenliness; Froebel was extravagant in his self-confidence, and at times almost a dandy in attire. Pestalozzi was always honest and candid, while Froebel was as a boy untruthful. Pestalozzi was touchingly humble, and eager to ascribe the practical failure of his theories to his personal inefficiency; Froebel never acknowledged himself in the wrong, but always attributed failure to external causes. On the other hand, while Froebel was equable in temperament, Pestalozzi was moody and impressionable, flying from extreme gaiety to extreme dejection, slamming the door if displeased with a lesson a teacher was giving, but coming back to apologize if he met a child who smiled upon him. Under Rousseau's influence Pestalozzi was inclined to skepticism, and limited religious teaching in school to the reading of the gospels, and the practice of Christianity; Froebel was deeply pious, and made it fundamental that education should be founded plainly and avowedly upon religion.
Intellectually the contrast is even stronger. While Froebel had a university education, Pestalozzi was an eminently ignorant man; his penmanship was almost illegible, he could not do simple sums in multiplication, he could not sing, he could not draw, he wore out all his handkerchiefs gathering pebbles and then never looked at them afterward. Froebel was not only a reader but a scientific reader, always seeking first to find out what others had discovered that he might begin where they left off; Pestalozzi boasted that he had not read a book in forty years. Naturally, therefore, Pestalozzi was always an experimenter, profiting by his failures but always failing in his first attempts, and hitting upon his most characteristic principles by accident; while Froebel was a theorist, elaborating his ideas mentally before putting them in practice, and never satisfied till he had properly located them in his general scheme of philosophy.
And yet, curiously enough, it is Pestalozzi who was the author. His "Leonard and Gertrude" was read by every cottage fireside, while Froebel's writings were intelligible only to his disciples. Pestalozzi had an exuberant imagination and delightful directness and simplicity of expression; Froebel's style was labored and obscure, and his doctrines may be better known through the "Child and Child Nature" of the Baroness Marenholz von Buelow than through his own "Education of Man."
The account of Froebel's life given in this volume is supplemented somewhat by the "Reminiscences" of this same Baroness, who became acquainted with him in 1849, and was thereafter his most enthusiastic and successful apostle. Till some adequate biography appears, that volume and this must be relied upon for information of the man who shares equally with Pestalozzi the honor of educational reform in this century.
C.W. BARDEEN. Syracuse, June 10, 1889.
COMMENTS UPON FROEBEL AND HIS WORK.
Und als er so, wie Wichard Lange richtig sagt, der Apostel des weiblichen Gechlechts geworden war, starb er, der geniale, unermuedlich thaetige, von Liebe getragene Mann.—SCHMIDT, Geschichte der Paedagogik, Coethen, 1862, iv. 282.
En resume, Rousseau aurait pu etre deconcerte par les inventions pratiques, un peu subtiles parfois, de l'ingenieux Froebel. Il eut souri, comme tout le monde, des artifices par lesquels il obligeait l'enfant a se faire acteur au milieu de ses petits camarades, a imiter tour a tour le soldat qui monte la garde, le cordonnier qui travaille, le cheval qui pietine, l'homme fatigue qui se repose. Mais, sur les principes, il se serait mis aisement d'accord avec l'auteur de l'Education de l'homme, avec un penseur a l'ame tendre et noble, qui remplacait les livres par les choses, qui a une instruction pedantesque substituait l'education interieure, qui aux connaissances positives preferait la chaleur du sentiment, la vie intime et profonde de l'ame, qui respectait la liberte et la spontaneite de l'enfant, qui enfin s'efforcait d'ecarter de lui les mauvaises influences et de faire a son innocence un milieu digne d'elle—COMPAYRE's Histoire Critique des Doctrines de l'Education en France depuis le XVIme Siecle, Paris, 1879, ii. 125.
We might say that his effort in pedagogy consists chiefly in organizing into a system the sense intuitions which Pestalozzi proposed to the child somewhat at random and without direct plan.—COMPAYRE's History of Pedagogy, Payne's translation, Boston, 1886, p. 449.
Er war gleich Pestalozzi von den hoechsten Ideen der Zeit getragen und suchte die Erziehung an diese Ideen anzuknuepfen. So lange die Mutter nicht nach den Gesetzen der Natur ihr Kind erzieht und bildet und dafuer nicht ihr Leben einsetst, so lange—davon geht er aus—sind alle Reformen der Schule auf Sand gebaut. Trotsdem verlegt er einen Theil der muetterlichen Aufgabe in den Kindergarten, in welchem er die Kinder vor ihre Schulpflichtigkeit vereinigt wissen will, (1) um auf die haeusliche Erziehung ergaenzend und verbessernd einzuwirken, (2) um das Kind aus dem Einzelleben heraus Zum Verkehr mil seinesgleichen zu fuehren, und (3) um dem weiblichen Geschlechte Gelegenheit zu geben, sich auf seinen erzieherischen Beruf vorzubereiten.—BOeHM's Kurzgefasste Geschichte der Paedagogik, Nuernberg, 1880, p. 134.
Le jardin d'enfants est evidemment en opposition avec l'idee fondamentale de Pestalozzi; car celui-ci avait confie entierement a la mere et au foyer domestique la tache que Froebel remet, en grande partie, aux jardins d'enfants et a sa directrice. A l'egard des rapports de l'education domestique, telle qui elle est a l'heure qu'il est, on doit reconnaitre que Froebel avait un coup-d'oeil plus juste que Pestalozzi.—Histoire d'Education, FREDERICK DITTES, Redolfi's French translation, Paris, 1880, p. 258.
While others have taken to the work of education their own pre-conceived notions of what that work should be, Froebel stands consistently alone in seeking in the nature of the child the laws of educational action—in ascertaining from the child himself how we are to educate him.—JOSEPH PAYNE, Lectures on the Science and Art of Education, Syracuse, 1885, p. 254.
Years afterwards, the celebrated Jahn (the "Father Jahn" of the German gymnastics) told a Berlin student of a queer fellow he had met, who made all sorts of wonderful things from stones and cobwebs. This queer fellow was Froebel; and the habit of making out general truths from the observation of nature, especially from plants and trees, dated from the solitary rambles in the Forest.
As the cultivator creates nothing in the trees and plants, so the educator creates nothing in the children,—he merely superintends the development of inborn faculties. So far Froebel agrees with Pestalozzi; but in one respect he was beyond him, and has thus become, according to Michelet, the greatest of educational reformers. Pestalozzi said that the faculties were developed by exercise. Froebel added that the function of education was to develop the faculties by arousing voluntary activity. Action proceeding from inner impulse (Selbsthaeligkeit) was the one thing needful, and here Froebel as usual refers to God: "God's every thought is a work, a deed." As God is the Creator, so must man be a creator also. Living acting, conceiving,—these must form a triple cord within every child of man, though the sound now of this string, now of that may preponderate, and then again of two together.
Pestalozzi held that the child belonged to the family; Fichte on the other hand, claimed it for society and the State. Froebel, whose mind, like that of Frederick Maurice, delighted in harmonizing apparent contradictions, and who taught that "all progress lay through opposites to their reconciliations," maintained that the child belonged both to the family and to society, and he would therefore have children spend some hours of the day in a common life and in well-organized common employments. These assemblies of children he would not call schools, for the children in them ought not to be old enough for schooling. So he invented the term Kindergarten, garden of children, and called the superintendents "children's gardeners."—R.H. QUICK, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, xix edition.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
INTRODUCTORY 1, 2
LETTER TO THE DUKE OF MEININGEN 3-101
Birth and early life 3, 104
Enters the girls' school 9
Goes away from home to Stadt-Ihm 15
Is apprenticed to a forester 24
Returns to his father's house 27
Goes to the University of Jena 28, 105
Returns home again 35
Goes to Bamberg as clerk 33
Becomes land-surveyor 39
Goes to the Oberfalz as accountant 42
Soon after to Mecklenberg 42
Gets small inheritance from his uncle 43
Goes to Frankfurt 48, 107
Becomes teacher in the Model School 31, 109
Visits Pestalozzi 52
Resigns to become a private tutor 65, 110
Takes his three pupils to Yverdon 77
Returns to Frankfurt 84
Goes to the University of Goettingen 84, 111
Goes to Berlin 89, 111
Enters the army 91, 111, 120
Becomes curator in Berlin 96, 111, 121
Enlists in the army again 100, 121
SUPPLEMENTARY REMARKS BY THE TRANSLATORS 102, 103
LETTER TO KRAUSE 104-125
Begins at Griesheim his ideal work 113, 121
Undertakes education of his nephews 121
Moves to Keilhau 122, 127
NOTE BY THE TRANSLATORS 126
CRITICAL MOMENTS IN THE FROEBEL COMMUNITY 127-137
Froebel goes to the Wartensee 131
Then to Willisau 132, 136
Then to the Orphanage at Burgdorf 135, 136
Visits Berlin 137
NOTES BY THE TRANSLATORS 138, 139
Death of Froebel 138
CHRONOLOGICAL ABSTRACT OF FROEBEL'S LIFE AND MOVEMENT 140-144
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF FROEBEL 145-152
The year 1882 was the centenary of Froebel's birth, and in the present "plentiful lack" of faithful translations of Froebel's own words we proposed to the Froebel Society to issue a translation of the "Education of Man," which we would undertake to make at our own cost, that the occasion might be marked in a manner worthy of the English branch of the Kindergarten movement. But various reasons prevented the Society from accepting our offer, and the lamentable deficiency still continues. We have therefore endeavoured to make a beginning by the present work, consisting of Froebel's own words done into English as faithfully as we know how to render them, and accompanied with any brief explanation of our own that may be essential to the clear understanding of the passages given. We have not attempted to rewrite our author, the better to suit the practical, clear-headed, common-sense English character, but have preferred simply to present him in an English dress with his national and personal peculiarities untouched.
In so doing we are quite aware that we have sacrificed interest, for in many passages, if not in most, a careful paraphrase of Froebel would be much more intelligible and pithy to English readers than a true rendering, since he probably possesses every fault of style except over-conciseness; but we feel that it is better to let Froebel speak for himself.
For the faithfulness of translation we hope our respective nationalities may have stood us in good stead. We would, however, add that a faithful translation is not a verbal translation. The translator should rather strive to write each sentence as the author would have written it in English.
Froebel's opinions, character, and work grow so directly out of his life, that we feel the best of his writing that a student of the Kindergarten system could begin with is the important autobiographical "Letter to the Duke of Meiningen," written in the year 1827, but never completed, and in all probability never sent to the sovereign whose name it bears. That this is the course Froebel would himself have preferred will, we think, become quickly apparent to the reader. Besides, in the boyhood and the earliest experiences of Froebel's life, we find the sources of his whole educational system. That other children might be better understood than he was, that other children might have the means to live the true child-life that was denied to himself, and that by their powers being directed into the right channels, these children might become a blessing to themselves and to others, was undoubtedly in great part the motive which induced Froebel to describe so fully all the circumstances of his peculiar childhood. We should undoubtedly have a clearer comprehension of many a great reformer if he had taken the trouble to write out at length the impressions of his life's dawn, as Froebel has done. In Froebel's particular case, moreover, it is evident that although his account of himself is unfinished, we fortunately possess all that is most important for the understanding of the origin of the Kindergarten system. After the "Letter to the Duke of Meiningen," we have placed the shorter account of his life which Froebel included in a letter to the philosopher Krause. A sketch of Barop's, which varies the point of view by regarding the whole movement more in its outer aspect than even Froebel himself is able to do, seemed to us also desirable to translate; and finally we have added also a carefully prepared "chronology" extended from Lange's list. Our translation is made from the edition of Froebel's works published by Dr. Wichard Lange at Berlin in 1862.
EMILIE MICHAELIS. H. KEATLEY MOORE. THE CROYDON KINDERGARTEN, January 1886.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF FROEBEL.
(A LETTER TO THE DUKE OF MEININGEN.)
I was born at Oberweissbach, a village in the Thuringian Forest, in the small principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, on the 21st April, 1782. My father was the principal clergyman, or pastor, there. (He died in 1802.) I was early initiated into the conflict of life amidst painful and narrowing circumstances; and ignorance of child-nature and insufficient education wrought their influence upon me. Soon after my birth my mother's health began to fail, and after nursing me nine months she died. This loss, a hard blow to me, influenced the whole environment and development of my being: I consider that my mother's death decided more or less the external circumstances of my whole life.
The cure of five thousand souls, scattered over six or seven villages, devolved solely on my father. This work, even to a man so active as my father, who was very conscientious in the fulfilment of his duty as minister, was all-absorbing; the more so since the custom of frequent services still prevailed. Besides all this, my father had undertaken to superintend the building of a large new church, which drew him more and more from his home and from his children.
I was left to the care of the servants; but they, profiting by my father's absorption in his work, left me, fortunately for me, to my brothers, who were somewhat older than myself. This, in addition to a circumstance of my later life, may have been the cause of that unswerving love for my family, and especially for my brothers, which has, to the present moment, been of the greatest importance to me in the conduct of my life. Although my father, for a village pastor, was unusually well informed—nay, even learned and experienced—and was an incessantly active man, yet in consequence of this separation from him during my earliest years I remained a stranger to him throughout my life; and in this way I was as truly without a father as without a mother. Amidst such surroundings I reached my fourth year. My father then married again, and gave me a second mother. My soul must have felt deeply at this time the want of a mother's love,—of parental love,—for in this year occurs my first consciousness of self. I remember that I received my new mother overflowing with feelings of simple and faithful child-love towards her. These sentiments made me happy, developed my nature, and strengthened me, because they were kindly received and reciprocated by her. But this happiness did not endure. Soon my step-mother rejoiced in the possession of a son of her own; and then her love was not only withdrawn entirely from me and transferred to her own child, but I was treated with worse than indifference—by word and deed, I was made to feel an utter stranger.
I am obliged here to mention these circumstances, and to describe them so particularly, because in them I see the first cause of my early habit of introspection, my tendency to self-examination, and my early separation from companionship with other men. Soon after the birth of her own son, when I had scarcely entered my boyhood, my step-mother ceased to use the sympathetic, heart-uniting "thou" in speaking to me, and began to address me in the third person, the most estranging of our forms of speech. And as in this mode of address the third person, "he," isolates the person addressed, it created a great chasm between my step-mother and me. At the beginning of my boyhood, I already felt utterly lonely, and my soul was filled with grief.
Some coarse-minded people wished to make use of my sentiments and my mood at this time to set me against my step-mother, but my heart and mind turned with indignation from these persons, whom I thenceforth avoided, so far as I was able. Thus I became, at an early age, conscious of a nobler, purer, inner-life, and laid the foundation of that proper self-consciousness and moral pride which have accompanied me through life. Temptations returned from time to time, and each time took a more dangerous form: not only was I suspected as being capable of unworthy things, but base conduct was actually charged against me, and this in such a way as left no doubt of the impropriety of the suspicion and of the untruthfulness of the accusation. So it came to pass that in the first years of my boyhood I was perforce led to live to myself and in myself—and indeed to study my own being and inner consciousness, as opposed to external circumstances. My inward and my outward life were at that time, even during play and other occupations, my principal subjects for reflection and thought.
A notable influence upon the development and formation of my character was also exercised by the position of my parents' house. It was closely surrounded by other buildings, walls, hedges, and fences, and was further enclosed by an outer courtyard, a paddock, and a kitchen garden. Beyond these latter I was strictly forbidden to pass. The dwelling had no other outlook than on to the buildings to right and left, the big church in front, and at the back the sloping fields stretching up a high hill. For a long time I remained thus deprived of any distant view: but above me I saw the sky, clear and bright as we so often find it in the hill country; and around me I felt the pure fresh breeze stirring. The impression which that clear sky and that pure air then made on me has remained ever since present to my mind. My perceptions were in this manner limited to only the nearest objects. Nature, with the world of plants and flowers, so far as I was able to see and understand her, early became an object of observation and reflection to me. I soon helped my father in his favourite occupation of gardening, and in this way received many permanent perceptions; but the consciousness of the real life in nature only came to me further on, and I shall return to the point hereafter in the course of my narrative. Our domestic life at this time gave me much opportunity for occupation and reflection. Many alterations went on in our house; both my parents were exceedingly active-minded, fond of order, and determined to improve their dwelling in every possible way. I had to help them according to my capacity, and soon perceived that I thereby gained strength and experience; while through this growth of strength and experience my own games and occupations became of greater value to me.
But from my life in the open air amongst the objects of nature, and from the externals of domestic life, I must now turn to the inner aspects of my home and family.
My father was a theologian of the old school, who held knowledge and science in less estimation than faith; but yet he endeavoured to keep pace with the times. For this purpose he subscribed to the best periodicals he could obtain, and carefully examined what information they offered him. This helped not a little to elevate and enlighten the old-fashioned truly Christian life which reigned in our family. Morning and evening all its members gathered together, and even on Sunday as well, although on that day divine service would of course also call upon us to assemble for common religious worship. Zollikofer, Hermes, Marezoll, Sturm, and others, turned our thoughts, in those delightful hours of heavenly meditation, upon our innermost being, and served to quicken, unfold, and raise up the life of the soul within us. Thus my life was early brought under the influence of nature, of useful handiwork, and of religious feelings; or, as I prefer to say, the primitive and natural inclinations of every human being were even in my case also tenderly fostered in the germ. I must mention here, with reference to my ideas regarding the nature of man, to be treated of later, and as throwing light upon my professional and individual work, that at this time I used repeatedly, and with deep emotion, to resolve to try and be a good and brave man. As I have heard since, this firm inward resolution of mine was in flagrant contrast with my outward life. I was full of youthful energy and in high spirits, and did not always know how properly to moderate my vivacity. Through my want of restraint I got into all kinds of scrapes. Often, in my thoughtlessness, I would destroy the things I saw around me, in the endeavour to investigate and understand them.
My father was prevented by his manifold occupations from himself instructing me. Besides, he lost all further inclination to teach me, after the great trouble he found in teaching me to read—an art which came to me with great difficulty. As soon as I could read, therefore, I was sent to the public village school.
The position in which my father stood to the village schoolmasters, that is to say, to the Cantor, and to the master of the girls' school, and his judgment of the value of their respective teaching, decided him to send me to the latter. This choice had a remarkable influence on the development of my inner nature, on account of the perfect neatness, quiet, intelligence, and order which reigned in the school; nay, I may go further, and say the school was exactly suitable for such a child as I was. In proof of this I will describe my entrance into the school. At that time church and school generally stood in strict mutual relationship, and so it was in our case. The school children had their special places in church; and not only were they obliged to attend church, but each child had to repeat to the teacher, at a special class held for the purpose every Monday, some passage of Scripture used by the minister in his sermon of the day before, as a proof of attention to the service. From these passages that one which seemed most suitable to children was then chosen for the little ones to master or to learn by heart, and for that purpose one of the bigger children had during the whole week, at certain times each day, to repeat the passage to the little children, sentence by sentence. The little ones, all standing up, had then to repeat the text sentence by sentence in like manner, until it was thoroughly imprinted on their memories.
I came into school on a Monday. The passage chosen for that week was, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." I heard these words every day in the calm, serious, somewhat sing-song voices of the children, sometimes repeated by one child, sometimes by the whole number. And the text made an impression upon me such as none had ever done before and none ever did after. Indeed, this impression was so vigorous and permanent, that to this day every word spoken, with the special tone and expression then given to it, is still vivid in my mind. And yet that is now nearly forty years ago! Perhaps even then the simple boy's heart felt that these words would be the foundation and the salvation of his life, bringing to him that conviction which was to become later on to the working and striving man a source of unconquerable courage, of unflinching, ever-ready, and cheerful self-sacrifice. In short, my introduction into that school was my birth into the higher spiritual life.
Here I break off my narrative to ask myself whether I dare venture to pause yet a little longer over this first period of my life. But this was the time when the buds began to unfold on my tree of life; this was the time when my heart found its pivot-point, and when first my inner life awoke. If, then, I succeed in giving an exact description of my early boyhood, I shall have provided an important aid to the right understanding of my life and work as a man. For that reason I venture to dwell at some inordinate length on this part of my life, and the more willingly since I can pass more quickly over later periods.
It often suggests itself to me, while thus reviewing and describing my life, just as it does with teaching and education—namely, that those things which are by most men thrown aside as common and unimportant are the very things which are, as I take it, of weightiest import. In my eyes, it is always a mistake to leave a gap in the rudimentary and fundamental part of a subject. Still I know one may exhaust the patience of a reader by touching on every minute detail, before he has been permitted to glance at the whole picture and to gather its scope and object. Therefore I beg your Highness to pass over, at all events on the first reading, anything that may appear too long and too detailed.
Against standing rules, I was received in the girls' school, on account of the position of my father as pastor of the district. For the same reason I was placed, not with the pupils of my own age, but close to the teacher, which brought me among the elder girls. I joined in their lessons as far as I could. In two subjects I was quite able to do this. First, I could read the Bible with them; and, secondly, I had to learn line by line, instead of the little texts of the younger children already spoken of, the hymns for the following Sunday's service. Of these, two especially light up the gloomy lowering dawn of my early boyhood, like two brilliant stars. They are—"Schwing dich auf, mein Herz und Geist," and "Es kostet viel ein Christ zu sein." These hymns were hymns of life to me. I found my own little life expressed therein; and they took such a hold upon me that often in later years I have found strength and support in the message which they carried to my soul. My father's home life was in complete harmony with this discipline of the school. Although divine service was held twice on Sundays, I was but very seldom allowed to miss attending each service. I followed my father's sermons with great attention, partly because I thought I found in them many allusions to his own position, profession, and life. Looking back, I consider it of no slight importance that I used to hear the service from the vestry, because I was there separated from the congregation, and could the better keep my attention from wandering.
I have already mentioned that my father belonged to the old orthodox school of theology; and in consequence the language both of his hymns and of his sermons was mystical and symbolic—a style of speech which, in more than one sense, I should call a stone-language, because it requires an overwhelming power to burst its walls, and free from this outer shell the life contained within. But what the full strength of later life seems too weak to attain, is often accomplished by the living, life-awakening, and life-giving power of some simple, thoughtful young soul, by some young spirit first unfolding its wings, busily seeking everywhere for the causes and connections of all things. Even for such a youth, the treasure is to be gained only after long examination, inquiry, and reflection. If ever I found that for which I so longingly sought, then was I filled with exceeding joy.
The surroundings amidst which I had grown up, especially those in which my first childhood was passed, had caused my senses to be much and early exercised. The pleasures of the senses were from the first, therefore, an object for the closest consideration with me. The results of this analysing and questioning habit of my early boyhood were perfectly clear and decisive, and, if not rendered into words, were yet firmly settled in my mind. I recognised that the transitory pleasures of the senses were without enduring and satisfying influence on man, and that they were therefore on no account to be pursued with too great eagerness. This conviction stamped and determined my whole being, just as my questioning examination and comparison of the inner with the outer world, and my study of their inter-connection, is now the basis of my whole future life. Unceasing self-contemplation, self-analysis, and self-education have been the fundamental characteristics of my life from the very first, and have remained so until these latest days.
To stir up, to animate, to awaken, and to strengthen, the pleasure and power of the human being to labour uninterruptedly at his own education, has become and always remained the fundamental principle and aim of my educational work.
Great was my joy when I believed I had proved completely to my own satisfaction that I was not destined to go to hell. The stony, oppressive dogmas of orthodox theology I very early explained away, perhaps assisted in this by two circumstances. Firstly, I heard these expressions used over and over again, from my habit of being present at the lessons given by my father in our own house, in preparation for confirmation. I heard them used also in all sorts of ways, so that my mind almost unconsciously constructed some sort of explanation of them. Secondly, I was often a mute witness of the strict way in which my father performed his pastoral duties, and of the frequent scenes between him and the many people who came to the parsonage to seek advice and consolation. I was thus again constantly attracted from the outer to the inner aspects of life. Life, with its inmost motives laid bare, passed before my eyes, with my father's comments pronounced upon it; and thing and word, act and symbol were thus perceived by me in their most vivid relationship. I saw the disjointed, heavy-laden, torn, inharmonious life of man as it appeared in this community of five thousand souls, before the watchful eyes of its earnest, severe pastor. Matrimonial and sexual circumstances especially were often the objects of my father's gravest condemnation and rebuke. The way in which he spoke about these matters showed me that they formed one of the most oppressive and difficult parts of human conduct; and, in my youth and innocence, I felt a deep pain and sorrow that man alone, among all creatures, should be doomed to these separations of sex, whereby the right path was made so difficult for him to find. I felt it a real necessity for the satisfaction of my heart and mind to reconcile this difficulty, and yet could find no way to do so. How could I at that age, and in my position? But my eldest brother, who, like all my elder brothers, lived away from home, came to stay with us for a time; and one day, when I expressed my delight at seeing the purple threads of the hazel buds, he made me aware of a similar sexual difference in plants. Now was my spirit at rest. I recognised that what had so weighed upon me was an institution spread over all nature, to which even the silent, beautiful race of flowers was submitted. From that time humanity and nature, the life of the soul and the life of the flower, were closely knit together in my mind; and I can still see my hazel buds, like angels, opening for me the great God's temple of Nature.
I now had what I needed: to the Church was added the Nature-Temple; to the religious Christian life, the life of Nature; to the passionate discord of human life the tranquil peace of the life of plants. From that time it was as if I held the clue of Ariadne to guide me through the labyrinth of life. An intimate communion with Nature for more than thirty years (although, indeed, often interrupted, sometimes for long intervals) has taught me that plants, especially trees, are a mirror, or rather a symbol, of human life in its highest spiritual relations; and I think one of the grandest and deepest fore-feelings that have ever emanated from the human soul, is before us when we read, in the Holy Scriptures, of a tree of knowledge of good and evil. The whole of Nature teaches us to distinguish good from evil; even the world of crystals and stones—though not so vividly, calmly, clearly, and manifestly as the world of plants and flowers. I said my hazel buds gave me the clue of Ariadne. Many things grew clear to me: for instance, the earliest life and actions of our first parents in Paradise, and much connected therewith.
There are yet three points touching my inner life up to my tenth year, which, before I resume the narrative of my outer life, I should like to mention here.
The folly, superstition, and ignorance of men had dared to assume then, as they have done lately, that the world would soon come to an end. My mind, however, remained perfectly tranquil, because I reasoned thus with myself firmly and definitely:—Mankind will not pass from the world, nor will the world itself pass away, until the human race has attained to that degree of perfection of which it is capable on earth. The earth, Nature in its narrowest sense, will not pass away, moreover, until men have attained a perfect insight into its essence. This idea has returned to me during my life in many a varied guise, and I have often been indebted to its influence for peace, firmness, perseverance, and courage.
Towards the end of this epoch, my eldest brother, already spoken of, was at the university, and studied theology. Philosophic criticism was then beginning to elucidate certain Church dogmas. It was therefore not very surprising that father and son often differed in opinion. I remember that one day they had a violent dispute about religion and Church matters. My father stormed, and absolutely declined to yield; my brother, though naturally of a mild disposition, flushed deep-red with excitement; and he, too, could not abandon what he had recognised as true. I was present also on this as on many other occasions, an unobserved witness, and can still see father and son standing face to face in the conflict of opinion. I almost thought I understood something of the subject in dispute; I felt as if I must side with my brother, but there seemed at the same time something in my father's view which indicated the possibility of a mutual understanding. Already I felt in a dim way that every illusion has a true side, which often leads men to cling to it with a desperate firmness. This conviction has become more and more confirmed in me the longer I have lived; and when at any time I have heard two men disputing for the truth's sake, I have found that the truth is usually to be learnt from both sides. Therefore I have never liked to take sides; a fortunate thing for me.
Another youthful experience which also had a decided influence in forming my cast of character, was the following:—There are certain oft-repeated demands made upon the members of our Established Church; such as, to enter upon the service of Christ, to show forth Christ in one's life, to follow Jesus, etc. These injunctions were brought home to me times without number through the zeal of my father as a teacher of others and a liver himself of a Christian life. When demands are made on a child which are in harmony with child nature, he knows no reluctance in fulfilling them; and as he receives them entirely and unreservedly, so also he complies with them entirely and unreservedly. That these demands were so often repeated convinced me of their intense importance; but I felt at the same time the difficulty, or indeed, as it seemed to me, the impossibility of fulfilling them. The inherent contradiction which I seemed to perceive herein threw me into great depression; but at last I arrived at the blessed conviction that human nature is such that it is not impossible for man to live the life of Jesus in its purity, and to show it forth to the world, if he will only take the right way towards it.
This thought, which, as often as it comes into my mind, carries me back even now to the scenes and surroundings of my boyhood, may have been not improbably amongst the last mental impressions of this period, and it may fitly close, therefore, the narrative of my mental development at this age. It became, later, the point whereon my whole life hinged.
From what I have said of my boyish inner life, it might be assumed that my outer life was a happy and peaceful one. Such an assumption would, however, not be correct. It seems as if it had always been my fate to represent and combine the hardest and sharpest contrasts. My outer life was really in complete contrast with my inner. I had grown up without a mother; my physical education had been neglected, and in consequence I had acquired many a bad habit. I always liked to be doing something or another, but in my clumsy way I made mistakes as to choice of materials, of time, and of place, and thus often incurred the severe displeasure of my parents. I felt this, being of a sensitive disposition, more keenly and more persistently than my parents; the more so as I felt myself generally to blame in form rather than in substance, and in my inmost heart I could see there was a point of view from whence my conduct would seem, in substance at all events, not altogether wrong, still less blameworthy. The motives assigned to my actions were not those which actuated me, so far as I could tell; and the consciousness of being misjudged made me really what I had been believed to be before, a thoroughly naughty boy. Out of fear of punishment I hid even the most harmless actions, and when I was questioned I made untruthful answers.
In short, I was set down as wicked, and my father, who had not always time to investigate the justice of the accusations against me, remembered only the facts as they were represented to him. My neglected childhood called forth the ridicule of others; when playing with my step-brother, I was always, according to my mother, the cause of anything that went wrong. As the mind of my parents turned more and more away from me, so on my side my life became more and more separated from theirs; and I was abandoned to the society of people who, if my disposition had not been so thoroughly healthy, might have injured me even more than they did. I longed to escape from this unhappy state of things; and I considered my elder brothers fortunate in being all of them away from home. Just at this melancholy time came home my eldest brother. He appeared to me as an angel of deliverance, for he recognised amidst my many faults my better nature, and protected me against ill-treatment. He went away again after a short stay; but I felt that my soul was linked to his, thenceforth, down to its inmost depths; and indeed, after his death, this love of mine for him turned the whole course of my life.
The boon was at last vouchsafed me, and that at my greatest need, to leave my father's house. Had it been otherwise, the flagrant contradiction between my outer and inner life must necessarily have developed the evil inclinations which had begun in earnest to fasten upon me. A new life entirely different from the former now opened before me. I was ten years and nine months old. But I pause yet another moment in the contemplation of this period before I pass to its narration. In order to be clearly understood by your serene Highness, which is very necessary to me if I am to attain my object, I will compare, with your permission, my former life with my present. I shall endeavour to show how I trace the connection of my earlier and my later life; how my earlier life has proved for me the means of understanding my later; how, in general, my own individual life has become to me a key to the universal life, or, in short, to what I call the symbolic life and the perpetual, conditioned, and unbroken chain of existence.
Since, throughout the period which I have just described, my inner self, my life and being, my desires and endeavours, were not discerned by my parents, so is it with me now with regard to certain German Governments. And just as my outward life then was imperfect and incomplete, through which incompleteness my inner life was misunderstood, so also now the imperfection and incompleteness of my establishment prevent people from discerning the true nature, the basis, the source, the aim and purpose, of my desires and endeavours, and from promoting them, after recognising their value, in a right princely and patriotic spirit.
The misapprehension, the oppression under which I suffered in my early years, prepared me to bear similar evils later on, and especially those which weigh upon me in the present circumstances of my life. And as I see my present private and public life and my destiny reflected in a part of my former life, just so do I read and trace the present universal life in my former individual life. Moreover, in the same way as I tried as child or boy to educate myself to be a worthy man according to those laws which God had implanted, unknown to me, within my nature, so now do I strive in the same way, according to the same laws, and by the same method, to educate the children of my country. That for which I strove as a boy, not yet conscious of any purpose; the human race now strives for with equal unconsciousness of purpose, but for all that none the less truly. The race is, however, surrounded by less favourable circumstances than those which influenced me in my boyhood.
Life in its great as well as in its small aspects, in humanity and the human race as well as in the individual (even though the individual man often wilfully mars his own existence)—life, in the present, the past, and the future, has always appeared to me as a great undivided whole, in which one thing is explained, is justified, is conditioned and urged forward by the other.
In order that, if it be possible, there should remain no obscurity whatever in my actions, thoughts, and life, I shall proceed to consider them all, down to the very latest event which has happened to me; that is, the writing-down of this statement of my life for your Highness. My life experience it is which urges me to do this; not any whim or caprice. Common worldly wisdom would challenge such a step if it were known; no one would desire to take it, no one would dare to take it. I dare it, and I do it, because my childhood has taught me that where for trust we find distrust, where for union we find division, where for belief we find doubt, there but sad fruit will come to the harvest, and a burdensome and narrow life alone can follow.
I return again to the narrative of the development of my inner and outer life.
A new existence now began for me, entirely opposed to that which I had hitherto led. An uncle on my mother's side came to visit us in this year; he was a gentle, affectionate man. His appearance among us made a most agreeable impression upon me. This uncle, being a man of experience, may have noticed the adverse influences which surrounded me; for soon after his departure he begged my father by letter to turn me over to him entirely. My father readily consented, and towards the end of the year 1792 I went to him. He had early lost both wife and child, and only his aged mother-in-law lived in his house with him. In my father's house severity reigned supreme; here, on the contrary, mildness and kindness held sway. There I encountered mistrust; here I was trusted. There I was under restraint; here I had liberty. Hitherto I had hardly ever been with boys of my own age; here I found forty schoolfellows, for I joined the upper class of the town school.
The little town of Stadt-Ilm is situated in a somewhat wide valley, and on the banks of a small limpid stream. My uncle's house had gardens attached, into which I could go if I liked; but I was also at liberty to roam all over the neighbourhood, if only I obeyed the strict rule of the house to return punctually at the time appointed. Here I drank in fresh life-energy in long draughts; for now the whole place was my playground, whereas formerly, at home, I had been limited to our own walls. I gained freedom of soul and strength of body.
The clergyman who taught us never interfered with our games, played at certain appointed playgrounds, and always with great fun and spirit. Deeply humiliating to me were the frequent slights I received in our play, arising from my being behind boys of my age in bodily strength, and more especially in agility; and all my dash and daring could not replace the robust, steady strength, and the confident sureness of aim which my companions possessed. Happy fellows! they had grown up in continual exercise of their youthful boyish strength. I felt myself exceedingly fortunate when I had at length got so far that my schoolfellows could tolerate me as a companion in their games. But whatever I accomplished in this respect by practice, by continual effort of will, and by the natural course of life, I always felt myself physically deficient in contrast with their uncramped boyish powers. Setting aside that which I had been robbed of by my previous education, my new life was vigorous and unfettered by external restraint; and they tell me I made good use of my opportunity. The world lay open before me, as far as I could grasp it. It may indeed be because my present life was as free and unconstrained as my former life had been cramped and constrained, anyhow the companions of my youth have reminded me of several incidents of that time which make me think that my good spirits led me to the borders of wildness and extravagance; although as a boy I considered my demeanour quieter by far than that of my companions of my own age. My communion with Nature, silent hitherto, now became freer and more animated. And as, at the same time, my uncle's house was full of peace and quiet contemplation, I was able as I grew up to develop that side of my character also; thus on every side my life became harmoniously balanced.
In two places, alike centres of education, I found myself as before quite at home, even though I was more frequently than ever the victim of absence of mind—I mean the church and the school. In the latter I especially enjoyed the hours devoted to religious instruction. As with my uncle himself, and with his life, so was it also with his sermons; they were gentle, mild, and full of lovingkindness. I could follow them quite readily, and in the Monday repetition at school I was able to give a good account of them. But the religious instruction of our own school-teacher responded best to my needs; all that I had worked out for myself was placed by him in a fuller light, and received from him a higher confirmation. Later in life, when I had grown to manhood, I spoke with my uncle on the excellence of this teaching, and he made reply that it was indeed very good, but was too philosophical and abstruse for those to whom it was addressed; "for thee," continued he, "it may have been well suited, since thou hadst already received such unusually good instruction from thy father." Let that be as it may, this teaching enlightened, animated, and warmed me,—nay, glowed within me till my heart was completely melted, especially when it touched upon the life, the work, and the character of Jesus. At this I would burst into tears, and the longings to lead in future a similar life took definite form, and wholly filled my soul. When I now hear tales of the ebullitions of my youthful spirit occurring in that period of my life, I cannot help thinking that they must have led superficial observers to the erroneous opinion that the monitions and teachings of religion swept over my spirit without leaving a trace of their passage. And yet how wrongly would such observers have judged the true state of my inner life!
The subjects best taught in the school of Stadt-Ilm were reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. Latin was miserably taught, and still worse learnt. Here, as in so many similar schools, the teaching utterly lacked the elucidation of first principles. The time spent on Latin was therefore not wasted upon me, in so far that I learnt from it that such a method of teaching could bear no fruit among the scholars. Arithmetic was a very favourite study of mine; and as I also received private tuition in this subject, my progress was so rapid that I came to equal my teacher both in theory and practice, although his attainments were by no means despicable. But how astonished was I when, in my twenty-third year, I first went to Yverdon, and found I could not solve the questions there being set to the scholars! This was one of the experiences which prepossessed me so keenly in favour of Pestalozzi's method of teaching, and decided me to begin arithmetic myself from the very beginning over again, according to his system. But more of this later.
In physical geography we repeated our tasks parrot-wise, speaking much and knowing nothing; for the teaching on this subject had not the very least connection with real life, nor had it any actuality for us, although at the same time we could rightly name our little specks and patches of colour on the map. I received private tuition in this subject also. My teacher wished to advance further with me; he took me to England. I could find no connection between that country and the place and country in which I dwelt myself, so that of this instruction also I retained but little. As for actual instruction in German, it was not to be thought of; but we received directions in letter-writing and in spelling. I do not know with what study the teaching of spelling was connected, but I think it was not connected with any; it hovered in the air. I had lessons, furthermore, in singing and in pianoforte playing, but without result. I merely mention all this now, in order to be able to refer to it later on.
My life the whole time of my stay with my uncle had three aspects: the religious life developing and building up my moral being; the external life made up of boyish play, into which I threw my whole energy; and the life of thought quietly showing itself within my uncle's peaceful home. To this last influence also I yielded myself with equal earnestness, and felt no suspicion of the apparent contradiction which my outward life exhibited to such a mood. Like my school-fellows, I lived without control; as far as I saw or felt, I was untrammelled; and yet I do not call to mind that any of us ever committed a seriously culpable action.
Here I am obliged to mention something which as an educationist I can by no means pass lightly by. We received instruction from two schoolmasters: one was pedantic and rigid; the other, more especially our class-teacher (conrector), was large-hearted and free. The first never had any influence over his class; the second could do whatever he pleased with us, and if he had but set his mind to it, or perhaps if he had been aware of his power, he might have done some thoroughly good sound work with his class. In the little town of Stadt-Ilm were two ministers, both ephors of the school. My uncle, the principal minister, was mild, gentle, and kind-hearted, impressive in daily life as in his sacred office or in the pulpit; the other minister was rigid even to sternness, frequently scolding and ordering us about. The first led us with a glance. A word from him, and surely few were so brutish as to refuse that word admittance to their heart. The long exhortations of the other went, for the most part, over our heads, leaving no trace behind. Like my father, my uncle was a true shepherd of his flock; but a gentle lovingkindness to all mankind reigned in him. My father was moved by the conviction of the rectitude of his actions; he was earnest and severe. Both have been dead over twenty years; but how different is the spirit they have left behind amongst their congregations. Here, they are glad at being released from so strict a control, and, if I am rightly informed, unbridled license has sprung up amongst them; there, the little town raises itself to higher and ever higher prosperity, and all things are made to serve towards mental culture, as well as towards a right citizen-like business activity. I permit myself this digression, because these results were paralleled as a life-experience in my own life.
In this manner I lived, up to my confirmation; all but a few weeks, that is, which I spent at my parents' house during the long holidays. Here, too, everything seemed to take a gentler turn, and the domestic, thrifty activity which filled the place, and always struck me anew in my periodical visits home, wrought upon me with most beneficial effect. The copper-plate engravings in my father's library were the first things I sought out, especially those representing scenes in the history of the world. A table showing our (German) alphabet in its relations with many others made a surprising impression upon me. It enabled me to recognise the connection and the derivation of our letters from the old Phoenician characters. This gave me a dim conception of the inner connection of all those languages of which, as my brother had studied and was still studying them, I often heard, and saw in print. Especially the Greek language lost much of its strangeness in my eyes, now that I could recognise its characters in the German alphabet. All this, however, had no immediate consequence in my life; these things, as echoes from my youth, produced their effect upon me at a later time.
At this time, too, I read all sorts of boys' books. The story of Samuel Lawill impressed me most vividly; I, too, longed for such a ring, which by its warning pressure on my finger could hinder my hand from effecting unworthy purposes, and I was very angry with the youthful owner of the ring in the story, who threw it away in irritation because it pressed him right hard at a moment when he wished to commit a passionate deed.
My confirmation, and the preparation for it, all conducted by my uncle, was over. I had received from it the most impressive and the most far-reaching influence in my whole life, and all my life-threads found in it their point of union and repose. I had now to be prepared for some business calling, and the question was raised, for which? That I should not study at the university had already been decided long before by the express determination of my step-mother. For since two of my brothers had devoted themselves to study, she feared that the further additional expense would be too heavy a burden upon my father's means. It may be that this intention had already influenced and limited my whole course of instruction; and probably only the little narrow circle of future business aims had been considered; the eye had not looked upon the boy as a future man. Possibly from this cause I was kept so little to Latin; it was enough if I learnt, as our mode of expression ran, to "state a Casus" (that is, to decline a noun). From my own experience it was thus shown to me how eminently injurious it is in education and in instruction to consider only a certain circle of future activities or a certain rank in life. The wearisome old-fashioned education ad hoc (that is, for some one special purpose) has always left many a noble power of man's nature unawakened.
A career in our country frequently chosen by the worthiest and most anxious parents for their sons is that of a post in the Treasury and Exchequer. Aspirants to such a post have two means of entering and two starting-points in this career; either they become a clerk to one of the minor officials in the Treasury or Exchequer, or the personal servant of one of the highest officials. As my knowledge of writing and figures seemed to my father satisfactory and sufficient for such a post, and as he knew well that it might lead, not merely to a life free from pecuniary cares, but even to wealth and fortune, he chose this career as mine. But the minor Treasury official who might have found employment for such a young man, showed various reasons why he could not or would not as yet receive me as a clerk. There was something in my nature which revolted against the second mode I have mentioned of entering this career; something which I never afterwards experienced, but which at the time absolutely prevented me from choosing such a mode of starting in my future profession, and that in spite of the most alluring hopes that were held out to me. My father meant well and honestly by me, but fate ruled it against him. Strangely enough, it happened that in my later capacity of schoolmaster, I became the educator and teacher of two of the nephews of that very man into whose service my father had meant to have sent me; and I hope to God that I have been of greater service to that family by filling the heart and brain of these young people with good and useful notions than if I had brushed the clothes and shoes of their uncle, and spread his table with savoury dishes. In the latter case, very likely an externally easy and happy existence might have been mine, whereas now I wage a constant fight with cares and difficulties.
Suffice it to say, this career was closed to me; a second was proposed by my mother, but from this my father delivered me by expressing a decided disapproval.
My own desires and inclinations were now at last consulted. I wanted to be an agriculturist in the full meaning of the word; for I loved mountain, field, and forest; and I heard also that to learn anything solid in this occupation one must be well acquainted with geometry and land-surveying. From what I had learnt of the latter by snatches now and then, the prospect of knowing more about it delighted me much; and I cared not whether I began with forestry, with farming, or with geometry and land-surveying. My father tried to find a position for me; but the farmers asked too high a premium. Just at this time he became acquainted with a forester who had also a considerable reputation as land-surveyor and valuer. They soon came to terms, and I was apprenticed to this man for two years, to learn forestry, valuing, geometry, and land-surveying. I was fifteen years and a half old when I became an apprentice to the forester, on Midsummer Day 1797.
It was two days' journey from my home to the forester's, for his district was not in our country. The man often gave me proofs of his thorough and many-sided knowledge; but he did not understand the art of conveying his knowledge to others, especially because what he knew he had acquired only by dint of actual experience. Further, some work of timber-floating with which he had been entrusted hindered him from devoting to me the stipulated time necessary for my instruction.
As soon as I saw this quite clearly, my own activity of mind urged me to make use of the really excellent books on forestry and geometry which I found lying to my hand. I also made acquaintance with the doctor of a little town near by, who studied natural science for his amusement; and this friend lent me books on botany, through which I learnt also about other plants than just those of the forest. A great deal of my time during the absence of the forester (when I was left quite to myself) I devoted to making a sort of map of the neighbourhood I lived in; but botany was my special occupation. My life as forester's apprentice was a four-fold one: firstly, there was the homelier and more practical side of life; then the life spent with Nature, especially forest-nature; then also a life of the study, devoted to work at mathematics and languages; and lastly, the time spent in gaining a knowledge of plants. My chosen profession and the other circumstances of my position might have brought me into contact with many kinds of men; but nevertheless my life remained retired and solitary. My religious church life now changed to a religious communion with Nature, and in the last half-year I lived entirely amongst and with my plants, which drew me towards them with fascination, notwithstanding that as yet I had no sense of the inner life of the plant world. Collecting and drying specimens of plants was a work I prosecuted with the greatest care. Altogether this time of my life was devoted in many various ways to self-education, self-instruction, and moral advancement. Especially did I love to indulge my old habit of self-observation and introspection.
I must mention yet another event of the greatest importance from the point of view of my inner life. An hour's walk from where I then lived was a small country town. A company of strolling actors arrived there, and played in the prince's castle in the town. After I had seen one of their performances, hardly any of those which followed passed without my attendance. These performances made a deep and lively impression upon me, and this the more that I felt as if my soul at last received nourishment for which it had long hungered. The impressions thus gained lasted so much the longer, and had so much the greater influence on my self-culture, in that after each performance my hour's walk home by dark or in the starlight allowed me to recapitulate what I had heard, and so to digest the meaning of the play. I remember especially how deeply a performance of Iffland's Huntsmen moved me, and how it inspired me with firm moral resolutions, which I imprinted deep in my mind under the light of the stars. My interest in the play made me seek acquaintance with the actors, and especially with one of them, an earnest young man who attracted my attention, and to whom I spoke about his profession. I congratulated him on being a member of such a company, able to call up such ennobling sentiments in the human soul; perhaps even expressed a wish that I could become a member of such a company. Then the honest fellow described the profession of an actor as a brilliant, deceitful misery, and confessed to me that he had been only forced by necessity to adopt this profession, and that he was soon about to abandon it. Once again I learned by this to divide cause from effect, internal from external things. My visits to the play brought upon me a most unpleasant experience, for my father, when I spoke to him without concealment of my playgoing, reproached me very bitterly for it. He looked upon my conduct as deserving the highest punishment, which was in absolute contradiction with my own view; for I placed the benefit I had derived from my attendance at the play side by side with what I had received by my attendance at church, and expressed something of the kind to my father. As often happened in later life, so also on this occasion it was my eldest brother who was the mediator between my father and myself.
On Midsummer Day 1799 my apprenticeship came to an end. The forester, who could now have made my practical knowledge of service to himself, wished to keep me another year. But I had by this time acquired higher views; I wished to study mathematics and botany more thoroughly, and I was not to be kept back from my purpose. When my apprenticeship was over I left him, and returned to my father's house.
My master knew well that he had not done his duty towards me, and with this probably humiliating consciousness before him, and in spite of the thoroughly satisfactory testimonial that he gave me, he committed a very mean action against me. He did not know anything about my private study; for instance, my completely working through some elementary mathematical books, which I had found myself quite well able to understand. Besides, he was dissatisfied that I would not stay another year with him. He therefore sent a letter to my father, in which he complained bitterly of my conduct, and shifted the blame of my ignorance of my calling entirely on to my shoulders. This letter actually arrived at home before I did; and my father sent it on to my eldest brother, who was minister in a village through which I had to pass on my way home. Soon after I reached my brother's house he communicated to me the contents of this inculpatory letter. I cleared myself by exposing the unconscientious behaviour of my master, and by showing my private work. I then wrote a reply to my master, clearly refuting all his accusations, and exhibiting on the other hand his behaviour towards me; and with this I satisfied my father and my brother. But the latter reproached me for having suffered wrongdoing so long without complaint. To that I gave the simple answer, that my father, at the beginning of my apprenticeship, had told me not to come to him with any complaint, as I should never be listened to, but should be considered as wrong beforehand. My brother, who knew my father's severity and his views on such points, was silent. But my mother saw in one declaration of the forester the confirmation of her own opinion about me. The forester declared, that if ever anything was made of me, the same good fortune might be told of the first-comer without further trouble, and my mother assented heartily to his opinion.
Thus disappeared once more the light, the sunshine, which had gladdened me with its warmth, especially in the more recent part of my life. The wings of my mind, which had begun to flutter of themselves, were again bound, and my life once more appeared all cold and harsh before me. Then it happened that my father had to send some money to my brother (Traugott), who was studying medicine in Jena. The matter pressed; so, as I had nothing to do, it was decided that I should be the messenger.
When I reached Jena I was seized by the stirring intellectual life of the place, and I longed to remain there a little time. Eight weeks of the summer half-year's session of 1799 yet remained. My brother wrote to my father that I could fill that time usefully and profitably in Jena, and in consequence of this letter I was permitted to stay. I took lessons in map and plan-drawing, and I devoted all the time I had to the work. At Michaelmas I went home with my brother, and my step-mother observed that I could now fairly say I had passed through the university. But I thought differently; my intelligence and my soul had been stimulated in many ways, and I expressed my wish to my father to be allowed to study finance there, thus returning to my previous career. My father was willing to give his permission if I could tell him how to find the means. I possessed a very small property inherited from my mother, but I thought it would be insufficient. However, after having conferred with my brother, I talked it over with my father. I was still a minor, and therefore had to ask the consent of my trustee to realise my property; but as soon as I had obtained this I went as a student to Jena, in 1799. I was then seventeen years and a half old.
A testimonial from my father attesting my capacity for the curriculum procured me matriculation without difficulty. My matriculation certificate called me a student of philosophy, which seemed very strange, because I had set before me as the object of my studies practical knowledge; and as to philosophy, of which I had so often heard, I had formed a very high idea of it. The word made a great impression upon my dreamy, easily-excited, and receptive nature. Although the impression disappeared almost as soon as conceived, it gave, however, higher and unexpected relations to my studies.
The lectures I heard were only those which promised to be useful in the career I had now again embraced. I heard lectures on applied mathematics, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, mineralogy, botany, natural history, physics, chemistry, accounts, cultivation of forest trees and management of forests, architecture, house-building, and land-surveying. I continued topographical drawing. I heard nothing purely theoretical except mathematics; and of philosophical teaching and thought I learnt only so much as the intercourse of university life brought with it; but it was precisely through this intercourse that I received in various ways a many-sided intellectual impulse. I usually grasped what had been taught; the more thoroughly since, through my previous life, I had become well acquainted with the principal subjects, and already knew their relation to practical work.
Some of the lectures were almost easy for me—for instance, those on mathematics. I have always been able to perceive with ease and pleasure relations of geometrical figures and of planes; so that it seemed inexplicable to me that every farmer should not be equally capable of understanding them. This I had said before to my brother, who tried to give me an explanation; but I did not yet grasp it. I had expected I don't know exactly what, but certainly something higher, something grandiose; very likely I had expected something with more life in it. The mathematical course, therefore, at first seemed to me unimportant; but later on I found that I, also, could not follow every detail. However, I did not think much of this, because I readily understood the general meaning, and I said to myself that particular cases would not cause me any mental fatigue if I found it necessary to learn them.
The lectures of my excellent teacher were not so useful to me as they might have been, if I could have seen in the course of instruction and in its progress somewhat more of necessary connection and less of arbitrary arrangement. This want of necessary connection was the reason of the immediate dislike I always took to every course of instruction. I felt it even in pure mathematics, still more was it the case in applied mathematics, and most of all in experimental physics. Here it seemed to me as if everything were arranged in arbitrary series, so that from the very first I found this study a fatigue. The experiments failed to arrest my attention. I desired and sought after some inner connection between the phenomena, deduced from and explained by some simple root principles. But that was the very point withheld from me. Mathematical demonstrations came like halting messengers; they only became clear to the mind's eye when the truth to be demonstrated lay before me already in all its living strength. On the other hand, my attention was riveted by the study of gravitation, of force, of weight, which were living things to me, because of their evident relation to actual facts.
In mechanics (natural philosophy) I could not understand why so many of the so-called "mechanical powers" were assumed, and why several of them were not reduced to cases of the inclined plane.
In mineralogy my previous education had left many gaps unfilled, especially as regards the powers of observation. I was fond of mineral specimens, and gave myself much trouble to comprehend their several properties; but in consequence of my defective preparation I found insuperable difficulties in my way, and perceived thereby that neglect is neither quickly nor lightly to be repaired. The most assiduous practice in observation failed to make my sight so quick and so accurate as it ought to have been for my purpose. At that time I failed to apprehend the fact of my deficient quickness of sight; it ought to have taught me much, but I was not prepared to learn the lesson.
Chemistry fascinated me. The excellent teacher (Goettling) always demonstrated the true connection of the phenomena under consideration; and the theory of chemical affinity took strong hold upon me.
Note-taking at these lectures was a thing I never thought of doing; for that which I understood forthwith became a part of me, and that which I failed to understand seemed to me not worth writing down. I have often felt sorry for it since. But as regards this point, I have always had through my whole life the perfectly clear conviction that when I had mastered a whole subject in its intimate relations I could go back upon, and then understand, details which at the time of hearing had been unintelligible to me.
In botany I had a clear-sighted, kind-hearted teacher (Batsch). His natural system of botany gave me great satisfaction, although I had always a painful perception of how much still remained for him to classify. However, my view of Nature as one whole became by his means substantially clearer, and my love for the observation of Nature in detail became more animated. I shall always think of him with gratitude. He was also my teacher in natural history. Two principles that he enunciated seized upon me with special force, and seemed to me valid. The first was the conception of the mutual relationship of all animals, extending like a network in all directions; and the second was that the skeleton or bony framework of fishes, birds, and men was one and the same in plan, and that the skeleton of man should be considered as the fundamental type which Nature strove to produce even in the lower forms of creation. I was always highly delighted with his expositions, for they suggested ideas to me which bore fruit both in my intelligence and in my emotional nature. Invariably, whenever I grasped the inter-connection and unity of phenomena, I felt the longings of my spirit and of my soul were fulfilled.
I easily understood the other courses I attended, and was able to take a comprehensive glance over the subjects of which they treated. I had seen building going on, and had myself assisted in building, in planting, etc.; here, therefore, I could take notes, and write complete and satisfactory memoranda of the lectures.
My stay in Jena had taught me much; by no means so much as it ought to have taught me, but yet I had won for myself a standpoint, both subjective and objective. I could already perceive unity in diversity, the correlation of forces, the interconnection of all living things, life in matter, and the principles of physics and biology.
One thing more I have to bring forward from this period. Up till now my life had met with no sympathetic recognition other than the esteem which I had enjoyed of the country physician during my apprenticeship—he who encouraged me to study natural science, and smoothed away for me many a difficulty. But now such sympathy was destined to offer itself as a means of education and improvement. For there were in Jena just then two scientific associations, one for natural history and botany, the other for mineralogy, as it was then called. Many of the young students, who had shown living interest and done active work in natural science, were invited to become members by the President, and this elevating pleasure was also offered to me. At the moment I certainly possessed few qualifications for membership; the most I could say was that my faculty for arranging and classifying might be made of some use in the Natural History Society, and this, indeed, actually came to pass. Although my admission to this society had no great effect upon my later life, because it was dissolved at the death of its founder, and I did not keep up my acquaintance with the other members afterwards, yet it awakened that yearning towards higher scientific knowledge which now began to make itself forcibly felt within me.
During my residence at the university I lived in a very retired and economical way; my imperfect education, my disposition, and the state of my purse alike contributing to this. I seldom appeared at places of public resort, and in my reserved way I made my brother (Traugott) my only companion; he was studying medicine in Jena during the first year of my residence there. The theatre alone, of which I was still passionately fond, I visited now and then. In the second year of this first studentship, in spite of my quiet life, I found myself in an awkward position. It began, indeed, with my entrance into the university, but did not come to a head till my third half-year. When I went to the university, my father gave me a bank draft for a small amount to cover my expenses, not only for the first half-year, but for the entire residence, I think. My brother, who, as I said, was with me at Jena for the first year, wished me to lend him part of my allowance, all of which I did not then require, whereas he was for the moment in difficulties. He hoped soon to be able to repay me the money. I gladly gave him the greater part of my little draft; but unfortunately I could not get the money back, and therefore found myself in greater and greater difficulties. My position became terribly urgent; my small allowance had come to an end by the close of the first year, but I could not bring myself to leave the university, especially now that a yearning for scientific knowledge had seized me, and I hoped for great things from my studies. Besides, I thought that my father might be induced to support me at the university another half-year.
My father would hear nothing of this so far as he was concerned; and my trustee would not agree to the conditions offered by my father (to cover an advance); so I had to pay the penalty of their obstinacy.
Towards the end of my third half-year the urgency of my difficulties increased. I owed the keeper of an eating-house (for meals) thirty thalers, if I am not mistaken. As this man had caused me to be summoned for payment several times before the Senate of the University, and I had never been able to pay, and as he had even addressed my father, only to receive from him a sharp refusal to entertain the matter, I was threatened with imprisonment in the case of longer default of payment. And I actually had to submit to this punishment. My step-mother inflamed the displeasure of my father, and rejoiced at his inflexibility. My trustee, who still had the disposal of some property of mine, could have helped me, but did not, because the letter of the law was against any interference from his side. Each one hoped by the continuance of my sorry plight to break the stubbornness of the other. I served as scapegoat to the caprices of the obstinate couple, and languished as such nine weeks long in the university prison at Jena. At last my father consented to advance me money on my formally abandoning, before the university board, all claim on his property in the shape of inheritance; and so, in the end, I got free.
In spite of the gloom into which my position as a prisoner plunged me, the time of my arrest was not utterly barren. My late endeavours towards scientific knowledge had made me more and more conscious of my need of a solid foundation in my knowledge of Latin; therefore I now tried to supply deficiencies to the extent of my ability, and with the help of a friend. It was extremely hard to me, this working my way through the dead and fragmentary teaching of an elementary grammar. It always seemed to me as if the mere outer acquisition of a language could but little help forward my true inner desire for knowledge, which was deeply in earnest, and was the result of my own free choice. But wherever the knowledge of language linked itself to definite external impressions, and I was able to perceive its connection with facts, as, for instance, in the scientific nomenclature of botany, I could quickly make myself master of it. This peculiarity of mind passed by me unnoticed at the time; I knew and understood too little, nay, indeed, almost nothing of myself as yet, even as regards the actions of my every-day life.
A second occupation of this prison period was the preparation of an exercise (or academical thesis) in geometry, which I undertook that I might the sooner obtain an independent position in some profession.
Thirdly, I studied Winckelmann's "Letters on Art." Through them some germs of higher artistic feeling may have been awakened within me; for I examined the engravings which the work contains with intense delight. I could quite perceive the glow of pleasure that they aroused, but at the time I took little account of this influence, and indeed the feeling for art altogether was late in developing itself in me. When I now glance over the earlier and later, the greater and smaller, artistic emotions which have swayed me, and observe their source and direction, I see that it was with arts (sculpture as well as music) as it was with languages—I never succeeded in accomplishing the outward acquisition of them: yet I now feel vividly that I, too, might have been capable of something in art had I had an artistic education.
Further, there came into my hands, during the time of my imprisonment, a bad translation of an abridgment of the Zendavesta. The discovery [in these ancient Persian Scriptures] of similar life-truths to our own, and yet coupled with a quite separate religious standpoint from ours, aroused my attention, and gave some feeling of universality to my life and thought; this, however, disappeared as quickly as it had come.
By the beginning of the summer term in 1801 I was at length set free from arrest. I at once left Jena and my academical career, and returned to my father's house. I was just nineteen years old. It was but natural that I should enter my parents' house with heavy heart, overclouded soul, and oppressed mind. But spring warmed and awakened all nature once more, and recalled to life, too, my slumbering desire for better things.
As yet I had busied myself but little with German literature, and the names of Schiller, Goethe, Wieland, and the rest I now, for the first time, began to learn. In this, too, it was with me as in so many other things; any mental influence that came before me I had either to fully interweave with my inner life, or else altogether to forego its acquisition.
With this peculiarity of temperament, I could master only a rather restricted amount of mental material. My father's library was once more ransacked. I found not much that was of any use to me, for it contained chiefly theological works; but I seized with the greatest enjoyment on a book which had come out some ten years before in Gotha, a general view of all the sciences and fine arts in their various ramifications, with a short sketch of the object of the several sciences and of the literature of each department. The arrangement was based upon the usual division of the faculties, but it served to give me a general outlook, long desired, over the whole of human knowledge, and I was right glad to have found this "Mappe du monde litteraire"—for that was its title. I resolved to turn this book to the best advantage I could, and set about putting my resolution into practice. In order to make a collection of comprehensive extracts of scientific matters from the several periodicals received by my father (who shared for that purpose in a joint subscription with other preachers and educated people), I had already begun a sort of diary. The form of this journal was shapeless—everything was put down as it came, one thing after the other; and thereby the use of it all was rendered very inconvenient. Now, however, I perceived the value of division according to a settled plan, and soon hit upon a scheme of procedure.
I aimed at collecting all that seemed worthy to be known, all that was necessary for cultured men in general, and for myself in my own calling in particular; and this rich treasure was to be brought out under favourable circumstances, or whenever need was, from its storehouse. Also I desired to acquire a general idea of those subjects which the craving for knowledge, growing ever more and more sharp within my soul, was always urging me thoroughly to work through over again. I felt happy in my work; and I had already been chained to my task for several days, from early morning till late at night, in my little distant chamber with its iron-barred windows, when my father suddenly and unexpectedly walked into the room. He looked over what I had done, and remarked the quantity of paper used over it, which indeed was not small. Upon this cursory inspection he held my work for a foolish waste of time and paper; and it would have been all over with my labour of love for that time, if my brother (Christoph), who had so often stood as protector by my side, had not just then been on a visit with us. He had become the minister of a place which lay a few hours' journey from Oberweissbach, and at this moment was staying with my parents. My father at once told him of what he considered my useless, if not indeed injurious occupation; but my brother saw it differently. I ventured, therefore, to continue, with the silent permission of my father. And indeed the work proved of actual service to me, for it brought a certain order, breadth, and firmness into my ideas which had the most beneficial effect upon me.
My father now strove to procure me a settled position in my chosen calling; or at all events to provide some active work which would bring me into nearer connection with it. And for this purpose a fortunate opportunity soon offered. Some of my father's relatives had property in the district of Hildburghausen, managed by a steward. The friendly footing on which my father stood with these relatives permitted me to study practical farming under this steward. There I took part in all the ordinary farming occupations. These, however, did not attract me greatly, and I ought to have at once discovered what an unsuitable career I had chosen, if I had but understood my own nature.
The thing that most painfully occupied my mind at this time was the absence of cordial understanding between me and my father. At the same time I could not help esteeming and honouring him. Notwithstanding his advanced age he was still as strong and as healthy in body as in mind, penetrating in speech and counsel, vigorous in fulfilment and actual work, earnest, nay, hard, in address. He had a firm, strong will, and at the same time was filled with noble, self-sacrificing endeavour. He never shirked skirmish nor battle in the cause of what he deemed the better part; he carried his pen into action, as a soldier carries his sword, for the true, the good, and the right. I saw that my father was growing old and was drawing near the grave, and it made me sorry to feel that I was yet a stranger to such a father. I loved him, and felt how much good resulted from that love; so I took the resolution to write to my father, and by letter to show him my true nature, so far as I could understand myself. Long did I revolve this letter in my mind; never did I feel strength nor courage to write it. Meanwhile a letter called me back home in November, after I had been some months engaged on the estate. I was called upon to help my father, now quite weak and almost bedridden; at all events I could assist him in his correspondence. Family and other cares and the activities of life absorbed my whole time. What I meant to have done in my letter now happily became possible in speech from man to man, in glances from eye to eye. My father was occupied by cares for my future prospects up till the end. He died in February 1802. May his enlightened spirit look down full of peace and blessing upon me as I write; may he now be content with that son who so loved him!