The Project Gutenberg eBook of Chips from a German Workshop, Volume 3

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Title: Chips from a German Workshop, Volume 3

Author: F. Max Müller

Release date: September 10, 2008 [eBook #26572]

Language: English











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There is no country where so much interest is taken in the literature of Germany as in England, and there is no country where the literature of England is so much appreciated as in Germany. Some of our modern classics, whether poets or philosophers, are read by Englishmen with the same attention as their own; and the historians, the novel-writers, and the poets of England have exercised, and continue to exercise, a most powerful and beneficial influence on the people of Germany. In recent times, the literature of the two countries has almost grown into one. Lord Macaulay's History has not only been translated into German, but reprinted at Leipzig in the original; and it is said to have had a larger sale in Germany than the work of any German historian. Baron Humboldt and Baron Bunsen address their writings to the English as much as to the German public. The novels of Dickens and Thackeray are expected with the same [pg 002] impatience at Leipzig and Berlin as in London. The two great German classics, Schiller and Goethe, have found their most successful biographers in Carlyle and Lewes; and several works of German scholarship have met with more attentive and thoughtful readers in the colleges of England than in the universities of Germany. Goethe's idea of a world-literature has, to a certain extent, been realized; and the strong feeling of sympathy between the best classes in both countries holds out a hope that, for many years to come, the supremacy of the Teutonic race, not only in Europe, but over all the world, will be maintained in common by the two champions of political freedom and of the liberty of thought,—Protestant England and Protestant Germany.

The interest, however, which Englishmen take in German literature has hitherto been confined almost exclusively to the literature of the last fifty years, and very little is known of those fourteen centuries during which the German language had been growing up and gathering strength for the great triumphs which were achieved by Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe. Nor is this to be wondered at. The number of people in England, who take any interest in the early history of their own literature, is extremely small, and there is as yet no history of English literature worthy of that name. It cannot be expected, therefore, that in England many people will care to read in the original the ancient epic poems of the “Nibelunge” or “Gudrun,” or acquire a grammatical knowledge of the Gothic of Ulfilas and the Old High-German of Otfried. Gothic, Old High-German, and Middle High-German are three distinct languages, each possessing its own grammar, each differing from the others and from Modern [pg 003] German more materially than the Greek of Homer differs from the Greek of Demosthenes. Even in Germany these languages are studied only by professional antiquarians and scholars, and they do not form part of the general system of instruction in public schools and universities. The study of Gothic grammar alone (where we still find a dual in addition to the singular and plural, and where some tenses of the passive are still formed, as in Greek and Latin, without auxiliary verbs), would require as much time as the study of Greek grammar, though it would not offer the key to a literature like that of Greece. Old High-German, again, is as difficult a language to a German as Anglo-Saxon is to an Englishman; and the Middle High-German of the “Nibelunge,” of Wolfram, and Walther, nay even of Eckhart and Tauler, is more remote from the language of Goethe than Chaucer is from Tennyson.

But, without acquiring a grammatical knowledge of these ancient languages, there are, I believe, not a few people who wish to know something of the history of German literature. Nor is this, if properly taught, a subject of narrow or merely antiquarian interest. The history of literature reflects and helps us to interpret the political history of a country. It contains, as it were, the confession which every generation, before it passed away, has made to posterity. “Without Literary History,” as Lord Bacon says, “the History of the World seemeth to be as the Statue of Polyphemus with his eye out; that part being wanting which doth most shew the spirit and life of the person.” From this point of view the historian of literature learns to value what to the critic would seem unmeaning and tedious, and he is loath to miss the works even of mediocre [pg 004] poets, where they throw light on the times in which they lived, and serve to connect the otherwise disjointed productions of men of the highest genius, separated, as these necessarily are, by long intervals in the annals of every country.

Although there exists no literature to reward the student of Gothic, yet every one who cares for the history of Germany and of German thought should know something of Ulfilas, the great Bishop of the Goths, who anticipated the work of Luther by more than a thousand years, and who, at a time when Greek and Latin were the only two respectable and orthodox languages of Europe, dared for the first time to translate the Bible into the vulgar tongue of Barbarians, as if foreseeing with a prophetic eye the destiny of these Teutonic tribes, whose language, after Greek and Latin had died away, was to become the life-spring of the Gospel over the whole civilized world. He ought to know something of those early missionaries and martyrs, most of them sent from Ireland and England to preach the Gospel in the dark forests of Germany,—men like St. Gall (died 638), St. Kilian (died 689), and St. Boniface (died 755), who were not content with felling the sacred oak-trees and baptizing unconverted multitudes, but founded missionary stations, and schools, and monasteries; working hard themselves in order to acquire a knowledge of the language and the character of the people, and drawing up those curious lists of barbarous words, with their no less barbarous equivalents in Latin, which we still possess, though copied by a later hand. He ought to know the gradual progress of Christianity and civilization in Germany, previous to the time of Charlemagne; for we see from the German translations of the Rules of the Benedictine [pg 005] monks, of ancient Latin hymns, the Creeds, the Lord's Prayer, and portions of the New Testament, that the good sense of the national clergy had led them to do what Charlemagne had afterwards to enjoin by repeated Capitularia.2 It is in the history of German literature that we learn what Charlemagne really was. Though claimed as a saint by the Church of Rome, and styled Empereur Français by modern French historians, Karl was really and truly a German king, proud, no doubt, of his Roman subjects, and of his title of Emperor, and anxious to give to his uncouth Germans the benefit of Italian and English teachers, but fondly attached in his heart to his own mother tongue, to the lays and laws of his fatherland: feelings displayed in his own attempt to compose a German grammar, and in his collection of old national songs, fragments of which may have been preserved to us in the ballads of Hildebrand and Hadubrand.

After the death of Charlemagne, and under the reign of the good but weak King Ludwig, the prospects of a national literature in Germany became darkened. In one instance, indeed, the king was the patron of a German poet; for he encouraged the author of the “Heliand” to write that poem for the benefit of his newly converted countrymen. But he would hardly have approved of the thoroughly German and almost heathen spirit which pervades that Saxon epic of the New Testament, and he expressed his disgust at the old German poems which his great father had taught him in his youth. The seed, however, which Charlemagne had sown had fallen on [pg 006] healthy soil, and grew up even without the sunshine of royal favor. The monastery of Fulda, under Hrabanus Maurus, the pupil of Alcuin, became the seminary of a truly national clergy. Here it was that Otfried, the author of the rhymed “Gospel-book” was brought up. In the mean time, the heterogeneous elements of the Carlovingian Empire broke asunder. Germany, by losing its French and Italian provinces, became Germany once more. Ludwig the German was King of Germany, Hrabanus Maurus Archbishop of Mayence; and the spirit of Charlemagne, Alcuin, and Eginhard was revived at Aachen, Fulda, and many other places, such as St. Gall, Weissenburg, and Corvey, where schools were founded on the model of that of Tours. The translation of the “Harmony of the Gospels,” gives us a specimen of the quiet studies of those monasteries, whereas the lay on the victory of Louis III. over the Normans, in 881, reminds us of the dangers that threatened Germany from the West at the same time that the Hungarians began their inroads from the East. The Saxon Emperors had hard battles to fight against these invaders, and there were few places in Germany where the peaceful pursuits of the monasteries and schools could be carried on without interruption. St. Gall is the one bright star in the approaching gloom of the next centuries. Not only was the Bible read, and translated, and commented upon in German at St. Gall, as formerly at Fulda, but Greek and Roman classics were copied and studied for educational purposes. Notker Teutonicus is the great representative of that school, which continued to maintain its reputation for theological and classical learning, and for a careful cultivation of the national language, nearly to the close of [pg 007] the eleventh century. At the court of the Saxon Emperors, though their policy was thoroughly German, there was little taste for German poetry. The Queen of Otto I. was a Lombard, the Queen of Otto II. a Greek lady; and their influence was not favorable to the rude poetry of national bards. If some traces of their work have been preserved to us, we owe it again to the more national taste of the monks of St. Gall and Passau. They translate some of the German epics into Latin verse, such as the poem of the “Nibelunge,” of “Walther of Aquitain,” and of “Ruodlieb.” The first is lost; but the other two have been preserved and published.3 The stories of the Fox and the Bear, and the other animals,—a branch of poetry so peculiar to Germany, and epic rather than didactic in its origin,—attracted the attention of the monks; and it is owing again to their Latin translations that the existence of this curious style of poetry can be traced back so far as the tenth century.4 As these poems are written in Latin, they could not find a place in a German reading-book; but they, as well as the unduly suspected Latin plays of the nun Hrosvitha, throw much light on the state of German civilization during the tenth and eleventh centuries.

The eleventh century presents almost an entire blank in the history of literature. Under the Frankish or Salic dynasty, Germany had either to defend herself against the inroads of Hungarian and Slavonic armies, or it was the battle-field of violent feuds between the Emperors and their vassals. The second half of that century was filled with the struggles between [pg 008] Henry IV. and Pope Gregory VII. The clergy, hitherto the chief support of German literature, became estranged from the German people; and the insecurity of the times was unfavorable to literary pursuits. Williram's German had lost the classical correctness of Notker's language, and the “Merigarto,” and similar works, are written in a hybrid style, which is neither prose nor poetry. The Old High-German had become a literary language chiefly through the efforts of the clergy, and the character of the whole Old High-German literature is preëminently clerical. The Crusades put an end to the preponderance of the clerical element in the literature of Germany. They were, no doubt, the work of the clergy. By using to the utmost the influence which they had gradually gained and carefully fomented, the priests were able to rouse a whole nation to a pitch of religious enthusiasm never known before or after. But the Crusades were the last triumph of the clergy; and with their failure the predominant influence of the clerical element in German society is checked and extinguished.

From the first beginning of the Crusades the interest of the people was with the knight,—no longer with the priest. The chivalrous Emperors of the Hohenstaufen dynasty formed a new rallying point for all national sympathies. Their courts, and the castles of their vassals, offered a new and more genial home to the poets of Germany than the monasteries of Fulda and St. Gall. Poetry changed hands. The poets took their inspirations from real life, though they borrowed their models from the romantic cycles of Brittany and Provence. Middle High-German, the language of the Swabian court, became the language of poetry. The [pg 009] earliest compositions in that language continue for a while to bear the stamp of the clerical poetry of a former age. The first Middle High-German poems are written by a nun; and the poetical translation of the Books of Moses, the poem on Anno, Bishop of Cologne, and the “Chronicle of the Roman Emperors,” all continue to breathe the spirit of cloisters and cathedral towns. And when a new taste for chivalrous romances was awakened in Germany; when the stories of Arthur and his knights, of Charlemagne and his champions, of Achilles, Æneas, and Alexander, in their modern dress, were imported by French and Provençal knights, who, on their way to Jerusalem, came to stay at the castles of their German allies, the first poets who ventured to imitate these motley compositions were priests, not laymen. A few short extracts from Konrad's “Roland” and Lamprecht's “Alexander” are sufficient to mark this period of transition. Like Charlemagne, who had been changed into a legendary hero by French poets before he became again the subject of German poetry, another German worthy returned at the same time to his native home, though but slightly changed by his foreign travels, “Reinhard the Fox.” The influence of Provence and of Flanders is seen in every branch of German poetry at that time; and yet nothing can be more different than the same subject, as treated by French and German poets. The German Minnesänger in particular were far from being imitators of the Trouvères or Troubadours. There are a few solitary instances of lyric poems translated from Provençal into German;5 as there is, on the other hand, one poem translated from German into [pg 010] Italian,6 early in the thirteenth century. But the great mass of German lyrics are of purely German growth. Neither the Romans, nor the lineal descendants of the Romans, the Italians, the Provençals, the Spaniards, can claim that poetry as their own. It is Teutonic, purely Teutonic in its heart and soul, though its utterance, its rhyme and metre, its grace and imagery, have been touched by the more genial rays of the brilliant sun of a more southern sky. The same applies to the great romantic poems of that period. The first impulse came from abroad. The subjects were borrowed from a foreign source, and the earlier poems, such as Heinrich von Veldecke's “Æneid,” might occasionally paraphrase the sentiments of French poets. But in the works of Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Gottfried von Strassburg, we breathe again the pure German air; and we cannot but regret that these men should have taken the subjects of their poems, with their unpronounceable names, extravagant conceits, and licentious manners, from foreign sources, while they had at home their grand mythology, their heroic traditions, their kings and saints, which would have been more worthy subjects than Tristan and Isold, Schionatulander and Sigune. There were new thoughts stirring in the hearts and minds of those men of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. A hundred years before Dante, the German poets had gazed with their eyes wide open into that infinite reality which underlies our short existence on earth. To Wolfram, and to many a poet of his time, the human tragedy of this world presented the same unreal, transitory, and transparent aspect which we find again in Dante's “Divine Comedy.” Everything [pg 011] points to another world. Beauty, love, virtue, happiness,—everything, in fact, that moves the heart of the poet,—has a hidden reference to something higher than this life; and the highest object of the highest poetry seems to be to transfer the mind to those regions where men feel the presence of a Divine power and a Divine love, and are lost in blissful adoration. The beginning of the thirteenth century is as great an era in the history of German literature as the beginning of the nineteenth. The German mind was completely regenerated. Old words, old thoughts, old metres, old fashions, were swept away, and a new spring dawned over Germany. The various branches of the Teutonic race which, after their inroads into the seats of Roman civilization, had for a time become separated, were beginning to assume a national independence,—when suddenly a new age of migration threatened to set in. The knights of France and Flanders, of England, Lombardy, and Sicily, left their brilliant castles. They marched to the East, carrying along with them the less polished, but equally enthusiastic, nobility of Germany. From the very first the spirit of the Roman towns in Italy and Gaul had exercised a more civilizing influence on the Barbarians who had crossed the Alps and the Rhine, whereas the Germans of Germany proper had been left to their own resources, assisted only by the lessons of the Roman clergy. Now, at the beginning of the Crusades, the various divisions of the German race met again, but they met as strangers; no longer with the impetuosity of Franks and Goths, but with the polished reserve of a Godefroy of Bouillon and the chivalrous bearing of a Frederick Barbarossa. The German Emperors and nobles opened their courts to receive their guests with [pg 012] brilliant hospitality. Their festivals, the splendor and beauty of their tournaments, attracted crowds from great distances, and foremost among them poets and singers. It was at such festivals as Heinrich von Veldecke describes at Mayence, in 1184, under Frederick I., that French and German poetry were brought face to face. It was here that high-born German poets learnt from French poets the subjects of their own romantic compositions. German ladies became the patrons of German poets; and the etiquette of French chivalry was imitated at the castles of German knights. Poets made bold for the first time to express their own feelings, their joys and sufferings, and epic poetry had to share its honors with lyric songs. Not only France and Germany, but England and Northern Italy were drawn into this gay society. Henry II. married Eleanor of Poitou, and her grace and beauty found eloquent admirers in the army of the Crusaders. Their daughter Mathilde was married to Henry the Lion, of Saxony, and one of the Provençal poets has celebrated her loveliness. Frenchmen became the tutors of the sons of the German nobility. French manners, dresses, dishes, and dances were the fashion everywhere. The poetry which flourished at the castles was soon adopted by the lower ranks. Travelling poets and jesters are frequently mentioned, and the poems of the “Nibelunge” and “Gudrun,” such as we now possess them, were composed at that time by poets who took their subjects, their best thoughts and expressions, from the people, but imitated the language, the metre, and the manners of the court poets. The most famous courts to which the German poets resorted, and where they were entertained with generous hospitality, were the court of Leopold, Duke of [pg 013] Austria (1198-1230), and of his son Frederick II.; of Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia, who resided at the Wartburg, near Eisenach (1190-1215); of Berthold, Duke of Zähringen (1186-1218); and of the Swabian Emperors in general. At the present day, when not only the language, but even the thoughts of these poets have become to most of us unintelligible and strange, we cannot claim for their poetry more than an historical interest. But if we wish to know the men who took a leading part in the Crusades, who fought with the Emperors against the Pope, or with the Pope against the Emperors, who lived in magnificent castles like that of the Wartburg, and founded cathedrals like that of Cologne (1248), we must read the poetry which they admired, which they composed or patronized. The subjects of their Romances cannot gain our sympathy. They are artificial, unreal, with little of humanity, and still less of nationality in them. But the mind of a poet like Wolfram von Eschenbach rises above all these difficulties. He has thoughts of his own, truly human, deeply religious, and thoroughly national; and there are expressions and comparisons in his poetry which had never been used before. His style, however, is lengthy, his descriptions tiresome, and his characters somewhat vague and unearthly. As critics, we should have to bestow on Wolfram von Eschenbach, on Gottfried von Strassburg, even on Hartman von Aue and Walther von der Vogelweide, as much of blame as of praise. But as historians, we cannot value them too highly. If we measure them with the poets that preceded and those that followed them, they tower above all like giants. From the deep marks which they left behind, we discover that they were men of creative genius, men who had looked at [pg 014] life with their own eyes, and were able to express what they had seen and thought and felt in a language which fascinated their contemporaries, and which even now holds its charm over all who can bring themselves to study their works in the same spirit in which they read the tragedies of Æschylus, or the “Divina Commedia” of Dante.

But the heyday of German chivalry and chivalrous poetry was of short duration. Toward the end of the thirteenth century we begin to feel that the age is no longer aspiring, and hoping, and growing. The world assumes a different aspect. Its youth and vigor seem spent; and the children of a new generation begin to be wiser and sadder than their fathers. The Crusades languish. Their object, like the object of many a youthful hope, has proved unattainable. The Knights no longer take the Cross “because God wills it;” but because the Pope commands a Crusade, bargains for subsidies, and the Emperor cannot decline his commands. Walther von der Vogelweide already is most bitter in his attacks on Rome. Walther was the friend of Frederick II. (1215-50), an Emperor who reminds us, in several respects, of his namesake of Prussia. He was a sovereign of literary tastes,—himself a poet and a philosopher. Harassed by the Pope, he retaliated most fiercely, and was at last accused of a design to extirpate the Christian religion. The ban was published against him, and his own son rose in rebellion. Germany remained faithful to her Emperor, and the Emperor was successful against his son. But he soon died in disappointment and despair. With him the star of the Swabian dynasty had set, and the sweet sounds of the Swabian lyre died away with the last breath of Corradino, the last of the Hohenstaufen, [pg 015] on the scaffold at Naples, in 1268. Germany was breaking down under heavy burdens. It was visited by the papal interdict, by famine, by pestilence. Sometimes there was no Emperor, sometimes there were two or three. Rebellion could not be kept under, nor could crime be punished. The only law was the “Law of the Fist.” The Church was deeply demoralized. Who was to listen to romantic poetry? There was no lack of poets or of poetry. Rudolf von Ems, a poet called Der Stricker, and Konrad von Würzburg, all of them living in the middle of the thirteenth century, were more fertile than Hartmann von Aue and Gottfried von Strassburg. They complain, however, that no one took notice of them, and they are evidently conscious themselves of their inferiority. Lyric poetry continued to flourish for a time, but it degenerated into an unworthy idolatry of ladies, and affected sentimentality. There is but one branch of poetry in which we find a certain originality, the didactic and satiric. The first beginnings of this new kind of poetry carry us back to the age of Walther von der Vogelweide. Many of his verses are satirical, political, and didactic; and it is supposed, on very good authority, that Walther was the author of an anonymous didactic poem, “Freidank's Bescheidenheit.” By Thomasin von Zerclar, or Tommasino di Circlaria, we have a metrical composition on manners, the “Italian Guest,” which likewise belongs to the beginning of the thirteenth century.7 Somewhat later we meet, in the works of the Stricker, with the broader satire of the middle classes; and toward the close of the century, [pg 016] Hugo von Trimberg, in his “Renner,” addresses himself to the lower ranks of German society, and no longer to princes, knights, and ladies.

How is this to be accounted for? Poetry was evidently changing hands again. The Crusades had made the princes and knights the representatives and leaders of the whole nation; and during the contest between the imperial and the papal powers, the destinies of Germany were chiefly in the hands of the hereditary nobility. The literature, which before that time was entirely clerical, had then become worldly and chivalrous. But now, when the power of the emperors began to decline, when the clergy was driven into taking a decidedly anti-national position, when the unity of the empire was well-nigh destroyed, and princes and prelates were asserting their independence by plunder and by warfare, a new element of society rose to the surface,—the middle classes,—the burghers of the free towns of Germany. They were forced to hold together, in order to protect themselves against their former protectors. They fortified their cities, formed corporations, watched over law and morality, and founded those powerful leagues, the first of which, the Hansa, dates from 1241. Poetry also took refuge behind the walls of free towns; and at the fireside of the worthy citizen had to exchange her gay, chivalrous, and romantic strains, for themes more subdued, practical, and homely. This accounts for such works as Hugo von Trimberg's “Renner,” as well as for the general character of the poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Poetry became a trade like any other. Guilds were formed, consisting of master-singers and their apprentices. Heinrich Frauenlob is called the first Meistersänger; and during the fourteenth, [pg 017] the fifteenth, and even the sixteenth centuries, new guilds or schools sprang up in all the principal towns of Germany. After order had been restored by the first Hapsburg dynasty, the intellectual and literary activity of Germany retained its centre of gravitation in the middle classes. Rudolf von Hapsburg was not gifted with a poetical nature, and contemporaneous poets complain of his want of liberality. Attempts were made to revive the chivalrous poetry of the Crusades by Hugo von Montfort and Oswald von Wolkenstein in the beginning of the fifteenth century, and again at the end of the same century by the “Last of the German Knights,” the Emperor Maximilian. But these attempts could not but fail. The age of chivalry was gone, and there was nothing great or inspiring in the wars which the Emperors had to wage during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries against their vassals, against the Pope, against the precursors of the Reformation, the Hussites, and against the Turks. In Fritsche Closener's “Chronicle” there is a description of the citizens of Strassburg defending themselves against their bishop in 1312; in Twinger's “Chronicle” a picture of the processions of the Flagellants and the religious enthusiasm of that time (1349). The poems of Suchenwirt and Halbsuter represent the wars of Austria against Switzerland (1386), and Niclas von Weyl's translation gives us a glimpse into the Council of Constance (1414) and the Hussite wars, which were soon to follow. The poetry of those two centuries, which was written by and for the people, is interesting historically, but, with few exceptions, without any further worth. The poets wish to amuse or to instruct their humble patrons, and they do this, either by giving them the dry bones of [pg 018] the romantic poetry of former ages, or by telling them fables and the quaint stories of the “Seven Wise Masters.” What beauty there was in a Meistergesang may be fairly seen from the poem of Michael Beheim; and the Easter play by no means shows the lowest ebb of good taste in the popular literature of that time.

It might seem, indeed, as if all the high and noble aspirations of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had been lost and forgotten during the fourteenth and fifteenth. And yet it was not quite so. There was one class of men on whom the spirit of true nobility had descended, and whose works form a connecting chain between the great era of the Crusades and the still greater era of the Reformation. These are the so-called Mystics,—true Crusaders, true knights of the Spirit, many of whom sacrificed their lives for the cause of truth, and who at last conquered from the hands of the infidels that Holy Sepulchre in which the true Christian faith had been lying buried for centuries. The name of Mystics, which has been given to these men, is apt to mislead. Their writings are not dark or unintelligible, and those who call them so must find Christianity itself unintelligible and dark. There is more broad daylight in Eckhart and Tauler than in the works of all the Thomists and Scotists. Eckhart was not a dreamer. He had been a pupil of Thomas Aquinas, and his own style is sometimes painfully scholastic. But there is a fresh breeze of thought in his works, and in the works of his disciples. They knew that whenever the problems of man's relation to God, the creation of the world, the origin of evil, and the hope of salvation come to be discussed, the sharpest edge of logical reasoning will turn, and the best defined terms of metaphysics die away into mere music. [pg 019] They knew that the hard and narrow categories of the schoolmen do greater violence to the highest truths of religion than the soft, and vague, and vanishing tones with which they tried to shadow forth in the vulgar language of the people the distant objects which transcend the horizon of human understanding. They did not handle the truths of Christianity as if they should or could be proved by the syllogisms of our human reasoning. Nevertheless these Mystics were hard and honest thinkers, and never played with words and phrases. Their faith is to them as clear and as real as sunshine; and instead of throwing scholastic dust into the eyes of the people, they boldly told them to open their eyes and to look at the mysteries all around them, and to feel the presence of God within and without, which the priests had veiled by the very revelation which they had preached. For a true appreciation of the times in which they lived, the works of these Reformers of the Faith are invaluable. Without them we should try in vain to explain how a nation which, to judge from its literature, seemed to have lost all vigor and virtue, could suddenly rise and dare the work of a reformation of the Church. With them we learn how that same nation, after groaning for centuries under the yoke of superstition and hypocrisy, found in its very prostration the source of an irresistible strength. The higher clergy contributed hardly anything to the literature of these two centuries; and what they wrote would better have remained unwritten. At St. Gall, toward the end of the thirteenth century, the monks, the successors of Notker, were unable to sign their names. The Abbot was a nobleman who composed love-songs, a branch of poetry at all events out of place in the monastery founded by St. Gall. [pg 020] It is only among the lower clergy that we find the traces of genuine Christian piety and intellectual activity, though frequently branded by obese prelates and obtuse magistrates with the names of mysticism and heresy. The orders of the Franciscans and Dominicans, founded in 1208 and 1215, and intended to act as clerical spies and confessors, began to fraternize in many parts of Germany with the people against the higher clergy. The people were hungry and thirsty after religious teaching. They had been systematically starved, or fed with stones. Part of the Bible had been translated for the people, but what Ulfilas was free to do in the fourth century, was condemned by the prelates assembled at the Synod of Trier in 1231. Nor were the sermons of the itinerant friars in towns and villages always to the taste of bishops and abbots. We possess collections of these discourses, preached by Franciscans and Dominicans under the trees of cemeteries, and from the church-towers of the villages. Brother Berthold, who died in 1272, was a Franciscan. He travelled about the country, and was revered by the poor like a saint and prophet. The doctrine he preached, though it was the old teaching of the Apostles, was as new to the peasants who came to hear him, as it had been to the citizens of Athens who came to hear St. Paul. The saying of St Chrysostom that Christianity had turned many a peasant into a philosopher, came true again in the time of Eckhart and Tauler. Men who called themselves Christians had been taught, and had brought themselves to believe, that to read the writings of the Apostles was a deadly sin. Yet in secret they were yearning after that forbidden Bible. They knew that there were translations, and though these translations had [pg 021] been condemned by popes and synods, the people could not resist the temptation of reading them. In 1373, we find the first complete version of the Bible into German, by Matthias of Beheim. Several are mentioned after this. The new religious fervor that had been kindled among the inferior clergy, and among the lower and middle classes of the laity, became stronger; and, though it sometimes degenerated into wild fanaticism, the sacred spark was kept in safe hands by such men as Eckhart (died 1329), Tauler (died 1361), and the author of the German Theology. Men like these are sure to conquer; they are persecuted justly or unjustly; they suffer and die, and all they thought and said and did seems for a time to have been in vain. But suddenly their work, long marked as dangerous in the smooth current of society, rises above the surface like the coral reefs in the Pacific, and it remains for centuries the firm foundation of a new world of thought and faith. Without the labors of these Reformers of the Faith, the Reformers of the Church would never have found a whole nation waiting to receive, and ready to support them.

There are two other events which prepared the way of the German Reformers of the sixteenth century: the foundation of universities, and the invention of printing. Their importance is the same in the literary and in the political history of Germany. The intellectual and moral character of a nation is formed in schools and universities; and those who educate a people have always been its real masters, though they may go by a more modest name. Under the Roman Empire public schools had been supported by the government, both at Rome and in the chief towns of the Provinces. We know of their existence in Gaul and [pg 022] parts of Germany. With the decline of the central authority, the salaries of the grammarians and rhetors in the Provinces ceased to be paid, and the pagan gymnasia were succeeded by Christian schools, attached to episcopal sees and monasteries. Whilst the clergy retained their vigor and efficiency, their schools were powerful engines for spreading a half clerical and half classical culture in Germany. During the Crusades, when ecclesiastical activity and learning declined very rapidly, we hear of French tutors at the castles of the nobility, and classical learning gave way to the superficial polish of a chivalrous age. And when the nobility likewise relapsed into a state of savage barbarism, new schools were wanted, and they were founded by the towns, the only places where, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, we see any evidence of a healthy political life. The first town schools are mentioned in the beginning of the fourteenth century, and they were soon followed by the high schools and universities. The University of Prague was founded in 1348; Vienna, 1366; Heidelberg, 1386; Erfurt, 1392; Leipzig, 1408; Basle, 1460; Tübingen, 1477; Mainz, 1482. These universities are a novel feature in the history of German and of European civilization. They are not ecclesiastical seminaries, not restricted to any particular class of society; they are national institutions, open to the rich and the poor, to the knight, the clerk, the citizen. They are real universities of learning: they profess to teach all branches of knowledge,—theology and law, medicine and philosophy. They contain the first practical acknowledgment of the right of every subject to the highest education, and through it to the highest offices in Church and State. Neither Greece [pg 023] nor Rome had known such institutions: neither the Church nor the nobility, during the days of their political supremacy, were sufficiently impressed with the duty which they owed to the nation at large to provide such places of liberal education. It was the nation itself, when forsaken by its clergy and harassed by its nobility, which called these schools into life; and it is in these schools and universities that the great men who inaugurate the next period of literature—the champions of political liberty and religious freedom—were fostered and formed.

The invention of printing was in itself a reformation, and its benefits were chiefly felt by the great masses of the people. The clergy possessed their libraries, where they might read and study if they chose; the castles contained collections of MSS., sacred and profane, illuminated with the most exquisite taste; while the citizen, the poor layman, though he might be able to read and to write, was debarred from the use of books, and had to satisfy his literary tastes with the sermons of travelling Franciscans, or the songs of blind beggars and peddlers. The art of printing admitted that large class to the same privileges which had hitherto been enjoyed almost exclusively by clergy and nobility: it placed in the hands of the third estate arms more powerful than the swords of the knights, and the thunderbolts of the priests: it was a revolution in the history of literature more eventful than any in the history of mankind. Poets and philosophers addressed themselves no longer to emperors and noblemen, to knights and ladies, but to the people at large, and especially to the middle classes, in which henceforth the chief strength of the nation resides.

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The years from 1450 to 1500 form a period of preparation for the great struggle that was to inaugurate the beginning of the sixteenth century. It was an age “rich in scholars, copious in pedants, but poor in genius, and barren of strong thinkers.” One of the few interesting men in whose life and writings the history of that preliminary age may be studied, is Sebastian Brant, the famous author of the famous “Ship of Fools.”

With the sixteenth century, we enter upon the modern history and the modern literature of Germany. We shall here pass on more rapidly, dwelling only on the men in whose writings the political and social changes of Germany can best be studied.

With Luther, the literary language of Germany became New High-German. A change of language invariably betokens a change in the social constitution of a country. In Germany, at the time of the Reformation, the change of language marks the rise of a new aristocracy, which is henceforth to reside in the universities. Literature leaves its former homes. It speaks no longer the language of the towns. It addresses itself no longer to a few citizens, nor to imperial patrons, such as Maximilian I. It indulges no longer in moral saws, didactic verses, and prose novels, nor is it content with mystic philosophy and the secret outpourings of religious fervor. For a time, though but for a short time, German literature becomes national. Poets and writers wish to be heard beyond the walls of their monasteries and cities. They speak to the whole nation; nay, they desire to be heard beyond the frontiers of their country. Luther and the Reformers belonged to no class,—they belonged to the people. The voice of the people, which during [pg 025] the preceding periods of literature could only be heard like the rolling of distant thunder, had now become articulate and distinct, and for a time one thought seemed to unite all classes,—emperors, kings, nobles, and citizens, clergy and laity, high and low, old and young. This is a novel sight in the history of Germany. We have seen in the first period the gradual growth of the clergy, from the time when the first missionaries were massacred in the marshes of Friesland to the time when the Emperor stood penitent before the gates of Canossa. We have seen the rise of the nobility, from the time when the barbarian chiefs preferred living outside the walls of cities to the time when they rivaled the French cavaliers in courtly bearing and chivalrous bravery. Nor were the representatives of these two orders, the Pope and the Emperor, less powerful at the beginning of the sixteenth century than they had been before. Charles V. was the most powerful sovereign whom Europe had seen since the days of Charlemagne, and the papal see had recovered by diplomatic intrigue much of the influence which it had lost by moral depravity. Let us think, then, of these two ancient powers: the Emperor with his armies, recruited in Austria, Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Burgundy, and with his treasures brought from Mexico and Peru; and the Pope with his armies of priests and monks, recruited from all parts of the Christian world, and armed with the weapons of the Inquisition and the thunderbolts of excommunication: let us think of their former victories, their confidence in their own strength, their belief in their divine right: and let us then turn our eyes to the small University of Wittenberg, and into the bleak study of a poor Augustine monk, and see that monk [pg 026] step out of his study with no weapon in his hand but the Bible,—with no armies and no treasures,—and yet defying with his clear and manly voice both Pope and Emperor, both clergy and nobility: there is no grander sight in history; and the longer we allow our eyes to dwell on it, the more we feel that history is not without God, and that at every decisive battle the divine right of truth asserts its supremacy over the divine right of Popes and Emperors, and overthrows with one breath both empires and hierarchies. We call the Reformation the work of Luther; but Luther stood not alone, and no really great man ever stood alone. The secret of their greatness lies in their understanding the spirit of the age in which they live, and in giving expression with the full power of faith and conviction to the secret thoughts of millions. Luther was but lending words to the silent soul of suffering Germany, and no one should call himself a Protestant who is not a Lutheran with Luther at the Diet of Worms, and able to say with him in the face of princes and prelates, “Here I stand; I can not do otherwise; God help me: Amen.”

As the Emperor was the representative of the nobility, as the Pope was the representative of the clergy, Luther was the head and leader of the people, which through him and through his fellow-workers claimed now, for the first time, an equality with the two old estates of the realm. If this national struggle took at first an aspect chiefly religious, it was because the German nation had freedom of thought and of belief more at heart than political freedom. But political rights also were soon demanded, and demanded with such violence, that during his own life-time Luther had to repress the excesses of enthusiastic theorists and of a violent peasantry. Luther's great influence on the literature [pg 027] of Germany, and the gradual adoption of his dialect as the literary language, were owing in a great measure to this, that whatever there was of literature during the sixteenth century, was chiefly in the hands of one class of men. After the Reformation, nearly all eminent men in Germany—poets, philosophers, and historians—belonged to the Protestant party, and resided chiefly in the universities.

The universities were what the monasteries had been under Charlemagne, the castles under Frederick Barbarossa,—the centres of gravitation for the intellectual and political life of the country. The true nobility of Germany was no longer to be found among the priests,—Alcuin, Hrabanus Maurus, Notker Teutonicus; nor among the knights,—Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and their patrons, Frederick II., Hermann von Thüringen, and Leopold of Austria. The intellectual sceptre of Germany was wielded by a new nobility,—a nobility that had risen from the ranks, like the priests and the knights, but which, for a time at least, kept itself from becoming a caste, and from cutting away those roots through which it imbibed its vigor and sustained its strength. It had its castles in the universities, its tournaments in the diets of Worms and Augsburg, and it counted among its members, dukes and peasants, divines and soldiers, lawyers and artists. This was not, indeed, an hereditary nobility, but on that very ground it is a nobility which can never become extinct. The danger, however, which threatens all aristocracies, whether martial, clerical, or municipal, was not averted from the intellectual aristocracy of Germany. The rising spirit of caste deprived the second generation of that power which men like Luther [pg 028] had gained at the beginning of the Reformation. The moral influence of the universities in Germany was great, and it is great at the present day. But it would have been greater and more beneficial if the conceit of caste had not separated the leaders of the nation from the ranks whence they themselves had arisen, and to which alone they owed their position and their influence. It was the same with the priests, who would rather form a hierarchy than be merged in the laity. It was the same with the knights, who would rather form a select society than live among the gentry. Both cut away the ground under their feet; and the Reformers of the sixteenth century fell into the same snare before they were aware of it. We wonder at the eccentricities of the priesthood, at the conceit of the hereditary nobility, at the affectation of majestic stateliness inherent in royalty. But the pedantic display of learning, the disregard of the real wants of the people, the contempt of all knowledge which does not wear the academic garb, show the same foible, the same conceit, the same spirit of caste among those who, from the sixteenth century to the present day, have occupied the most prominent rank in the society of Germany. Professorial knight-errantry still waits for its Cervantes. Nowhere have the objects of learning been so completely sacrificed to the means of learning, nowhere has that Dulcinea,—knowledge for its own sake,—with her dark veil and her barren heart, numbered so many admirers; nowhere have so many windmills been fought, and so many real enemies been left unhurt, as in Germany, particularly during the last two centuries. New universities have been founded: Marburg, in 1527; Königsberg, in 1547; Jena, in 1558; Helmstädt, in 1575; Giessen, in 1607. [pg 029] And the more the number and the power of the professors increased, the more they forgot that they and their learning, their universities and their libraries, were for the benefit of the people; that a professor might be very learned, and very accurate, and very laborious, yet worse than useless as a member of our toiling society. It was considered more learned and respectable to teach in Latin, and all lectures at the universities were given in that language. Luther was sneered at because of his little German tracts which “any village clerk might have written.” Some of the best poets in the sixteenth century were men such as Eoban Hessius (1540), who composed their poetry in Latin. National poems, for instance, Brant's “Ship of Fools,” were translated into Latin in order to induce the German professors to read them. The learned doctors were ashamed of their honest native names. Schwarzerd must needs call himself Melancthon; Meissel Celtes, Schnitter Agricola; Hausschein, Œcolampadius! All this might look very learned, and professorial, and imposing; but it separated the professors from the people at large; it retarded the progress of national education, and blighted the prospects of a national policy in Germany. Everything promised well at the time of the Reformation; and a new Germany might have risen before a new France, if, like Luther, the leaders of the nation had remained true to their calling. But when to speak Latin was considered more learned than to speak German, when to amass vast information was considered more creditable than to digest and to use it, when popularity became the same bugbear to the professors which profanity had been to the clergy, and vulgarity to the knights, Luther's work was undone; and two more [pg 030] centuries had to be spent in pedantic controversies, theological disputes, sectarian squabbles, and political prostration, before a new national spirit could rise again in men like Lessing, and Schiller, and Fichte, and Stein. Ambitious princes and quarrelsome divines continued the rulers of Germany, and, towards the end of the sixteenth century, everything seemed drifting back into the Middle Ages. Then came the Thirty Years' War, a most disastrous war for Germany, which is felt in its results to the present day. If, as a civil and religious contest, it had been fought out between the two parties,—the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Germany,—it would have left, as in England, one side victorious; it would have been brought to an end before both were utterly exhausted. But the Protestants, weakened by their own dissensions, had to call in foreign aid. First Denmark, then Sweden, poured their armies into Germany, and even France—Roman Catholic France—gave her support to Gustavus Adolphus and the Protestant cause. England, the true ally of Germany, was too weak at home to make her influence felt abroad. At the close of the war, the Protestants received indeed the same rights as the Roman Catholics; but the nation was so completely demoralized that it hardly cared for the liberties guaranteed by the treaty of Westphalia. The physical and moral vigor of the nation was broken. The population of Germany is said to have been reduced by one half. Thousands of villages and towns had been burnt to the ground. The schools, the churches, the universities, were deserted. A whole generation had grown up during the war, particularly among the lower classes, with no education at all. The merchants of Germany, who formerly, as Æneas Sylvius said, lived more handsomely [pg 031] than the Kings of Scotland, were reduced to small traders. The Hansa was broken up. Holland, England, and Sweden had taken the wind out of her sails. In the Eastern provinces, commerce was suspended by the inroads of the Turks; whilst the discovery of America, and of the new passage to the East Indies, had reduced the importance of the mercantile navy of Germany and Italy in the Mediterranean. Where there was any national feeling left, it was a feeling of shame and despair, and the Emperor and the small princes of Germany might have governed even more selfishly than they did, without rousing opposition among the people.

What can we expect of the literature of such times? Popular poetry preserved some of its indestructible charms. The Meistersänger went on composing according to the rules of their guilds, but we look in vain for the raciness and honest simplicity of Hans Sachs. Some of the professors wrote plays in the style of Terence, or after English models, and fables became fashionable in the style of Phædrus. But there was no trace anywhere of originality, truth, taste, or feeling, except in that branch which, like the palm-tree, thrives best in the desert,—sacred poetry. Paul Gerhard is still without an equal as a poet of sacred songs; and many of the best hymns which are heard in the Protestant churches of Germany date from the seventeenth century. Soon, however, this class of poetry also degenerated on one side into dry theological phraseology, on the other into sentimental and almost erotic affectation.

There was no hope of a regeneration in German literature, unless either great political and social events should rouse the national mind from its languor, [pg 032] or the classical models of pure taste and true art should be studied again in a different spirit from that of professorial pedantry. Now, after the Thirty Years' War, there was no war in Germany in which the nation took any warm interest. The policy pursued in France during the long reign of Louis XIV. (1643-1708) had its chief aim in weakening the house of Hapsburg. When the Protestants would no longer fight his battles, Louis roused the Turks. Vienna was nearly taken, and Austria owed its delivery to Johann Sobiesky. By the treaty of Ryswick (1697), all the country on the left side of the Rhine was ceded to France, and German soldiers fought under the banners of the Great Monarch. The only German prince who dared to uphold the honor of the empire, and to withstand the encroachments of Louis, was Frederick William, the great Elector of Prussia (1670-88). He checked the arrogance of the Swedish court, opened his towns to French Protestant refugees, and raised the house of Brandenburg to a European importance. In the same year in which his successor, Frederick III., assumed the royal title as Frederick I., the King of Spain, Charles I., died; and Louis XIV., whilst trying to add the Spanish crown to his monarchy, was at last checked in his grasping policy by an alliance between England and Germany. Prince Eugene and Marlborough restored the peace and the political equilibrium of Europe. In England, the different parties in Parliament, the frequenters of the clubs and coffee-houses, were then watching every move on the political chess-board of Europe, and criticising the victories of their generals and the treaties of their ambassadors. In Germany, the nation took but a passive part. It was excluded from all real [pg 033] share in the great questions of the day; and, if it showed any sympathies, they were confined to the simple admiration of a great general, such as Prince Eugene.

While the policy of Louis XIV. was undermining the political independence of Germany, the literature of his court exercised an influence hardly less detrimental on the literature of Germany. No doubt, the literature of France stood far higher at that time than that of Germany. “Poet” was amongst us a term of abuse, while in France the Great Monarch himself did homage to his great poets. But the professorial poets who had failed to learn the lessons of good taste from the Greek and Roman classics, were not likely to profit by an imitation of the spurious classicality of French literature. They heard the great stars of the court of Louis XIV. praised by their royal and princely patrons, as they returned from their travels in France and Italy, full of admiration for everything that was not German. They were delighted to hear that in France, in Holland, and in Italy, it was respectable to write poetry in the modern vernacular, and set to work in good earnest. After the model of the literary academies in Italy, academies were founded at the small courts of Germany. Men like Opitz would hardly have thought it dignified to write verses in their native tongue had it not been for the moral support which they received from these academies and their princely patrons. His first poems were written in Latin, but he afterwards devoted himself completely to German poetry. He became a member of the “Order of the Palm-tree,” and the founder of what is called the First Silesian School. Opitz is the true representative of the classical poetry of the [pg 034] seventeenth century. He was a scholar and a gentleman; most correct in his language and versification; never venturing on ground that had not been trodden before by some classical poet, whether of Greece, Rome, France, Holland, or Italy. In him we also see the first traces of that baneful alliance between princes and poets which has deprived the German nation of so many of her best sons. But the charge of mean motives has been unjustly brought against Opitz by many historians. Poets require an audience, and at his time there was no class of people willing to listen to poetry, except the inmates of the small German courts. After the Thirty Years' War the power of these princes was greater than ever. They divided the spoil, and there was neither a nobility, nor a clergy, nor a national party to control or resist them. In England, the royal power had, at that time, been brought back to its proper limits, and it has thus been able to hold ever since, with but short interruptions, its dignified position, supported by the self-respect of a free and powerful nation. In France it assumed the most enormous proportions during the long reign of Louis XIV., but its appalling rise was followed, after a century, by a fall equally appalling, and it has not yet regained its proper position in the political system of that country. In Germany the royal power was less imposing, its prerogatives being divided between the Emperor and a number of small but almost independent vassals, remnants of that feudal system of the Middle Ages which in France and England had been absorbed by the rise of national monarchies. These small principalities explain the weakness of Germany in her relation with foreign powers, and the instability of her political constitution. Continental wars gave [pg 035] an excuse for keeping up large standing armies, and these standing armies stood between the nation and her sovereigns, and made any moral pressure of the one upon the other impossible. The third estate could never gain that share in the government which it had obtained, by its united action, in other countries; and no form of government can be stable which is deprived of the support and the active coöperation of the middle classes. Constitutions have been granted by enlightened sovereigns, such as Joseph II. and Frederick William IV., and barricades have been raised by the people at Vienna and at Berlin; but both have failed to restore the political health of the country. There is no longer a German nobility in the usual sense of the word. Its vigor was exhausted when the powerful vassals of the empire became powerless sovereigns with the titles of king or duke, while what remained of the landed nobility became more reduced with every generation, owing to the absence of the system of primogeniture. There is no longer a clergy as a powerful body in the state. This was broken up at the time of the Reformation; and it hardly had time to recover and to constitute itself on a new basis, when the Thirty Years' War deprived it of all social influence, and left it no alternative but to become a salaried class of servants of the crown. No third estate exists powerful enough to defend the interests of the commonwealth against the encroachments of the sovereign; and public opinion, though it may pronounce itself within certain limits, has no means of legal opposition, and must choose, at every critical moment, between submission to the royal will and rebellion.

Thus, during the whole modern history of Germany, [pg 036] the political and intellectual supremacy is divided. The former is monopolized by the sovereigns, the latter belongs to a small class of learned men. These two soon begin to attract each other. The kings seek the society, the advice, and support of literary men; whilst literary men court the patronage of kings, and acquire powerful influence by governing those who govern the people. From the time of Opitz there have been few men of eminence in literature or science who have not been drawn toward one of the larger or smaller courts of Germany; and the whole of our modern literature bears the marks of this union between princes and poets. It has been said that the existence of these numerous centres of civilization has proved beneficial to the growth of literature; and it has been pointed out that some of the smallest courts, such as Weimar, have raised the greatest men in poetry and science. Goethe himself gives expression to this opinion. “What has made Germany great,” he says, “but the culture which is spread through the whole country in such a marvelous manner, and pervades equally all parts of the realm? And this culture, does it not emanate from the numerous courts which grant it support and patronage? Suppose we had had in Germany for centuries but two capitals, Vienna and Berlin, or but one; I should like to know how it would have fared with German civilization, or even with that general well-being which goes hand in hand with true civilization.” In these words we hear Goethe, the minister of the petty court of Weimar, not the great poet of a great nation. Has France had more than one capital? Has England had more than one court? Great men have risen to eminence in great monarchies like France, and [pg 037] they have risen to eminence in a great commonwealth such as England, without the patronage of courts, by the support, the sympathy, the love of a great nation. Truly national poetry exists only where there is a truly national life; and the poet who, in creating his works, thinks of a whole nation which will listen to him and be proud of him, is inspired by a nobler passion than he who looks to his royal master, or the applause even of the most refined audience of the dames de la cour. In a free country, the sovereign is the highest and most honored representative of the national will, and he honors himself by honoring those who have well deserved of his country. There a poet laureate may hold an independent and dignified position, conscious of his own worth, and of the support of the nation. But in despotic countries, the favor even of the most enlightened sovereign is dangerous. Germany never had a more enlightened king than Frederick the Great; and yet, when he speaks of the Queen receiving Leibnitz at court, he says, “She believed that it was not unworthy of a queen to show honor to a philosopher; and as those who have received from heaven a privileged soul rise to the level of sovereigns, she admitted Leibnitz into her familiar society.”

The seventeenth century saw the rise and fall of the first and the second Silesian schools. The first is represented by men like Opitz and Weckherlin, and it exercised an influence in the North of Germany on Simon Dach, Paul Flemming, and a number of less gifted poets, who are generally known by the name of the Königsberg School. Its character is pseudo-classical. All these poets endeavored to write correctly, sedately, and eloquently. Some of them aimed at a certain [pg 038] simplicity and sincerity, which we admire particularly in Flemming. But it would be difficult to find in all their writings one single thought, one single expression, that had not been used before. The second Silesian school is more ambitious; but its poetic flights are more disappointing even than the honest prose of Opitz. The “Shepherds of the Pegnitz” had tried to imitate the brilliant diction of the Italian poets; but the modern Meistersänger of the old town of Nürnberg had produced nothing but wordy jingle. Hoffmannswaldau and Lohenstein, the chief heroes of the second Silesian school, followed in their track, and did not succeed better. Their compositions are bombastic and full of metaphors. It is a poetry of adjectives, without substance, truth, or taste. Yet their poetry was admired, praised not less than Goethe and Schiller were praised by their contemporaries, and it lived beyond the seventeenth century. There were but few men during that time who kept aloof from the spirit of these two Silesian schools, and were not influenced by either Opitz or Hoffmannswaldau. Among these independent poets we have to mention Friedrich von Logau, Andreas Gryphius, and Moscherosch. Beside these, there were some prose writers whose works are not exactly works of art, but works of original thought, and of great importance to us in tracing the progress of science and literature during the dreariest period of German history. We can only mention the “Simplicissimus,” a novel full of clever miniature drawing, and giving a truthful picture of German life during the Thirty Years' War; the patriotic writings of Professor Schupp; the historical works of Professor Pufendorf (1631-94); the pietistic sermons of Spener, and of Professor Franke (1663-1727), the [pg 039] founder of the Orphan School at Halle; Professor Arnold's (1666-1714) Ecclesiastical History; the first political pamphlets by Professor Thomasius (1655-1728); and among philosophers, Jacob Böhme at the beginning, and Leibnitz at the end of the seventeenth century.

The second Silesian school was defeated by Gottsched, professor at Leipzig. He exercised, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the same dictatorship as a poet and a critic which Opitz had exercised at the beginning of the seventeenth. Gottsched was the advocate of French models in art and poetry, and he used his wide-spread influence in recommending the correct and so-called classical style of the poets of the time. After having rendered good service in putting down the senseless extravagance of the school of Lohenstein, he became himself a pedantic and arrogant critic; and it was through the opposition which he roused by his “Gallomania” that German poetry was delivered at last from the trammels of that foreign school. Then followed a long literary warfare; Gottsched and his followers at Leipzig defended the French, Bodmer and his friends in Switzerland the English style of literature. The former insisted on classical form and traditional rules; the latter on natural sentiment and spontaneous expression. The question was, whether poets should imitate the works of the classics, or imitate the classics who had become classics by imitating nobody. A German professor wields an immense power by means of his journals. He is the editor; he writes in them himself, and allows others to write; he praises his friends, who are to laud him in turn; he patronizes his pupils, who are to call him master; he abuses his adversaries, and asks his [pg 040] allies to do the same. It was in this that Professor Gottsched triumphed for a long time over Bodmer and his party, till at last public opinion became too strong, and the dictator died the laughing-stock of Germany. It was in the very thick of this literary struggle that the great heroes of German poetry grew up,—Klopstock, Lessing, Wieland, Herder, Goethe, and Schiller. Goethe, who knew both Gottsched and Bodmer, has described that period of fermentation and transition in which his own mind was formed, and his extracts may be read as a commentary on the poetical productions of the first half of the eighteenth century. He does justice to Günther, and more than justice to Liscow. He shows the influence which men like Brockes, Hagedorn, and Haller exercised in making poetry respectable. He points out the new national life which, like an electric spark, flew through the whole country when Frederick the Great said, J'ai jeté le bonnet pardessus les moulins;” and defied, like a man, the political popery of Austria. The estimate which Goethe forms of the poets of the time, of Gleim and Uz, of Gessner and Rabener, and more especially of Klopstock, Lessing, and Wieland, should be read in the original, as likewise Herder's “Rhapsody on Shakspeare.” The latter contains the key to many of the secrets of that new period of literature, which was inaugurated by Goethe himself and by those who like him could dare to be classical by being true to nature and to themselves.

My object in taking this rapid survey of German literature has been to show that the extracts which I have collected in my “German Classics” have not been chosen at random, and that, if properly used, they can be read as a running commentary on the political [pg 041] and social history of Germany. The history of literature is but an applied history of civilization. As in the history of civilization we watch the play of the three constituent classes of society,—clergy, nobility, and commoners,—we can see, in the history of literature, how that class which is supreme politically shows for the time being its supremacy in the literary productions of the age, and impresses its mark on the works of poets and philosophers.

Speaking very generally, we might say that, during the first period of German history, the really moving, civilizing, and ruling class was the clergy; and in the whole of German literature, nearly to the time of the Crusades, the clerical element predominates. The second period is marked by the Crusades, and the triumph of Teutonic and Romantic chivalry, and the literature of that period is of a strictly correspondent tone. After the Crusades, and during the political anarchy that followed, the sole principle of order and progress is found in the towns, and in the towns the poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries finds its new home. At last, at the time of the Reformation, when the political life of the country assumed for a time a national character, German literature also is for a short time national. The hopes, however, which had been raised of a national policy and of a national literature were soon blighted, and, from the Thirty Years' War to the present day, the inheritance of the nation has been divided between princes and professors. There have been moments when the princes had to appeal to the nation at large, and to forget for a while their royal pretensions; and these times of national enthusiasm, as during the wars of Frederick the Great, and during the wars against Napoleon, have not [pg 042] failed to tell on the literature of Germany. They produced a national spirit, free from professorial narrowness, such as we find in the writings of Lessing and Fichte. But with the exception of these short lucid intervals, Germany has always been under the absolute despotism of a number of small sovereigns and great professors, and her literature has been throughout in the hands of court poets and academic critics. Klopstock, Lessing, and Schiller are most free from either influence, and most impressed with the duties which a poet owes, before all, to the nation to which he belongs. Klopstock's national enthusiasm borders sometimes on the fantastic; for, as his own times could not inspire him, he borrowed the themes of his national panegyrics from the distant past of Arminius and the German bards. Lessing looked more to his own age, but he looked in vain for national heroes. “Pity the extraordinary man,” says Goethe, “who had to live in such miserable times, which offered him no better subjects than those which he takes for his works. Pity him, that in his ‘Minna von Barnhelm,’ he had to take part in the quarrel between the Saxons and the Prussians, because he found nothing better. It was owing to the rottenness of his time that he always took, and was forced to take, a polemical position. In his ‘Emilia Galotti,’ he shows his pique against the princes; in ‘Nathan,’ against the priests.” But, although the subjects of these works of Lessing were small, his object in writing was always great and national. He never condescended to amuse a provincial court by masquerades and comedies, nor did he degrade his genius by pandering, like Wieland, to the taste of a profligate nobility. Schiller, again, was a poet truly national and truly liberal; and although a [pg 043] man of aspirations rather than of actions, he has left a deeper impress on the kernel of the nation than either Wieland or Goethe. These considerations, however, must not interfere with our appreciation of the greatness of Goethe. On the contrary, when we see the small sphere in which he moved at Weimar, we admire the more the height to which he grew, and the freedom of his genius. And it is, perhaps, owing to this very absence of a strongly marked national feeling, that in Germany the first idea of a world-literature was conceived. “National literature,” Goethe says, “is of little importance: the age of a world-literature is at hand, and every one ought to work in order to accelerate this new era.” Perhaps Goethe felt that the true poet belonged to the whole of mankind, and that he must be intelligible beyond the frontiers of his own country. And, from this point of view, his idea of a world-literature has been realized, and his own works have gained their place side by side with the works of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare. But, so long as there are different languages and different nations, let each poet think and work and write for his own people, without caring for the applause of other countries. Science and philosophy are cosmopolitan; poetry and art are national: and those who would deprive the Muses of their home-sprung character, would deprive them of much of their native charms.

[pg 044]


Fourth Century after Christ.


Ulfilas, Translation of the Bible; the Lord's Prayer.

Seventh Century.

Old High-German:

Vocabulary of St. Gall.

Eighth Century.

Old High-German:

Interlinear Translation of the Benedictine Rules.
Translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Exhortation addressed to the Christian Laity.
Literal Translations of the Hymns of the Old Church:—
1. Deus qui cordi lumen es.
2. Aurora lucis rutilat.
3. Te Deum laudamus.
The Song of Hildebrand and his son Hadubrand,—in alliterative metre.
The Prayer from the Monastery of Wessobrun,—in alliterative metre.
The Apostolic Creed.

Ninth Century.

Old High-German:

From Einhard's Life of Charlemagne,—the German names of the Months and the Winds fixed by the Emperor.
Muspilli, or on the Last Judgment,—alliterative poem.
The Oaths of Lewis the German and Charles the Bald,
and their armies at Strassburg, 842, in Old
Frankish and Old French; from the History of
Nithard, the grandson of Charlemagne.
The Heliand, or the Saviour,—old Saxon poem, in alliterative metre.
The Krist, or the Gospel-book,—poem in rhyme by Otfried, the pupil of Hrabanus Maurus, dedicated to Lewis the German.
[pg 045]
Translation of a Harmony of the Gospels.
Lay on St. Peter.
Song on the Victory gained by King Lewis III. at Saucourt, in 881, over the Normans.

Tenth Century.

Old High-German:

Notker Teutonicus of St. Gall,—
1. Translation of the Psalms.
2. Treatise on Syllogisms.
3. Translation of Aristotle.
4. Translation of Boëthius de Consolatione.

Eleventh Century.

Old High-German:

Williram's Explanation of the Song of Solomon.
Merigarto, or the Earth,—fragment of a geographical poem.

Twelfth Century.

Middle High-German:

The Life of Jesus,—poem by the Nun Ava.
Poetical Translation of the Books of Moses.
Historical Poem on Anno, Bishop of Cologne.
Poetical Chronicle of the Roman Emperors.
Nortperti Tractatus de Virtutibus, translated.
The poem of Roland, by Konrad the Priest.
The poem of Alexander, by Lamprecht the Priest.
Poem of Reinhart the Fox.
Dietmar von Aist,—lyrics.
The Spervogel,—lyrics.
The Kürenberger,—lyrics.
The Eneid, by Heinrich von Veldecke.

Thirteenth Century.

Middle High-German:

Hartmann von Aue; extracts from his “Iwein,”—a heroic poem.
The Old Reinmar,—lyrics.
Walther von der Vogelweide,—lyrics.
Freidank's Bescheidenheit,—didactic poem.
[pg 046]
Wolfram von Eschenbach,—
1. Extracts from his “Parcival,”—a heroic poem.
2. Extracts from his “Titurel,”—a heroic poem.
Gottfried von Strassburg; extracts from his “Tristan,”—a heroic poem.
The poem of the “Nibelunge,”—epic poem.
Thomasin von Zerclar; extracts from his poem on manners, called “The Italian Guest.”
Neidhart von Reuenthal,—lyrics.
Otto von Botenlaube,—lyrics.
Gudrun,—epic poem.
The Stricker,—extract from his satirical poem, “Amis the Priest.”
Rudolf von Ems,—extract from his “Wilhelm von Orleans.”
Christian von Hamle,—lyrics.
Gottfried von Neifen,—lyrics.
Ulrich von Lichtenstein,—lyrics.
Sermon of Friar Berthold of Regensburg.
Reinmar von Zweter,—lyrics.
Master Stolle,—satire.
The Marner,—lyrics.
Master Konrad of Würzburg,—
1. Poem.
2. Extract from the Trojan War.
Anonymous poet,—extract from the life of St. Elizabeth.
Herman der Damen.
Anonymous poet,—extract from the “Wartburg Krieg.”
Marcgrave Otto von Brandenburg,—lyrics.
Heinrich, Duke of Breslau,—lyrics.
Hugo von Trimberg,—extract from the “Renner.”

Fourteenth Century.

Middle High-German:

Heinrich Frauenlob,—lyrics.
Master Johann Hadlaub,—lyrics.
The Great Rosegarden,—popular epic poem.
Master Eckhart,—homily.
Hermann von Fritzlar,—life of St. Elizabeth.
Dr. Johann Tauler,—sermon.
Heinrich Suso.
[pg 047]
Heinrich der Teichner,—fable.
Peter Suchenwirt,—on the death of Leopold, Duke of Austria, 1386.
Halbsuter's poem on the Battle of Sempach, 1386.
Fritsche Closener's Strassburg Chronicle.
Jacob Twinger's Chronicle,—on the Flagellants.

Fifteenth Century.

Middle High-German:

Hugo von Montfort,—lyrics.
Oswald von Wolkenstein,—lyrics.
Hans von Bühel's Life of Diocletian, or The Seven Wise Masters.
Popular Songs.
Sacred Songs.
The Soul's Comfort,—didactic prose.
Michael Beheim,—Meistergesang.
An Easter Mystery.
Popular Rhymes.
Caspar von der Roen's Heldenbuch,—Hildebrand and his Son.
Niclas von Weyl's Translations,—Hieronymus at the Council of Constance.
Veit Weber's poem on the Victory of Murten, 1476.
Heinrich Steinhöwel's Fables.
Sebastian Brant's “Ship of Fools.”
Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg,—sermon.
Emperor Maximilian,—extract from the “Theuerdank.”

Sixteenth Century.

Modern High-German:

Martin Luther,—
1. Sacred Song.
2. Letter on the Diet of the Jackdaws and Crows.
3. His Last Sermon.
Ulrich Zwingle:—
1. A Poem on his Illness.
2. Criticism on Luther.
Philipp Nicolai,—sacred songs.
Justus Jonas,—sacred songs.
[pg 048]
Ulrich von Hutten,—
1. Letter to Franz von Sickingen.
2. Political poem.
Sebastian Frank,—
1. Preface to his Germania.
2. Rudolf von Hapsburg.
3. Maximilian der Erste.
4. Fables.
Burkard Waldis,—fables.
Hans Sachs,—
1. Sacred Song.
2. Poem on the Death of Martin Luther.
3. Poem on the War.
Petermann Etterlin's Chronicle,—William Tell and Rudolf von Hapsburg.
Ægidius Tschudi's Chronicle,—William Tell.
Paulus Melissus Schede.
Johann Fischart,—
1. Exhortation addressed to the German people.
2. Das glückhafte Schiff.
Georg Rollenhagen,—fable.
Popular Books,—
1. Tyll Eulenspiegel.
2. Dr. Faust.
Popular Songs.

Seventeenth Century.

Modern High-German:

Martin Opitz, and the First Silesian School.
Georg Rudolf Weckherlin.
Anonymous Poem,—“O Ewigkeit.”
Michael Altenburg's Camp-song (Gustavus Adolphus).
Johannes Heermann,—sacred song.
Popular Songs.
Johann Arndt,—
1. Sacred Song.
2. On the Power and Necessity of Prayer.
Jacob Böhme, Mysterium Magnum.
Johann Valentin Andreæ.
Friedrich Spee.
Julius Wilhelm Zinegreff.
[pg 049]
Friedrich von Logau.
Simon Dach and the Königsberg School.
Paul Flemming.
Paul Gerhard.
Georg Philipp Harsdörffer and the Nürnberg School.
Johannes Rist.
Andreas Gryphius,—
1. Sonnets.
2. From the Tragedy “Cardenio and Celinde.”
Joachim Rachel,—satire.
Johann Michael Moscherosch,—satires.
Christoph von Grimmelshausen, Simplicissimus,—novel.
Johann Balthasar Schupp,—on the German Language.
Angelus Silesius.
Hoffmannswaldau and Lohenstein,—Second Silesian School.
Abraham a Santa Clara,—sermon.
Philipp Jacob Spener,—on Luther.
Gottfried Arnold,—sacred poem.
Christian Weise.
Hans Assmann von Abschatz.
Friedrich R. L. von Canitz.
Christian Wernicke.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz,—on the German Language.

Eighteenth Century.

Modern High-German:

Johann Christoph Gottsched,—Cato.
Johann Jacob Bodmer,—Character of German Poetry.
Barthold Heinrich Brockes.
Johann Christian Günther.
Nicolaus Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf.
Christian Ludwig Liscow.
Friedrich von Hagedorn.
Albrecht von Haller.
Gottlieb Wilhelm Rabener.
Ewald Christian von Kleist.
Christian Fürchtegott Gellert.
Johann Ludwig Gleim.
Johann Peter Uz.
[pg 050]
Justus Möser.
Klopstock. See below.
Salomon Gessner.
Johann Winckelmann.
Lessing. See below.
Johann Georg Hamann.
Immanuel Kant.
Johann August Musæus.
Wieland. See below.
Gottlieb Konrad Pfeffel.
Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart.
Matthias Claudius.
Johann Caspar Lavater.
Herder. See below.
Heinrich Jung, Stilling.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.
Gottfried August Bürger.
Johann Heinrich Voss.
Friedrich Leopold und Christian Grafen zu Stollberg.
Das Siebengestirn der Dichter des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts,—
1. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock.
2. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.
3. Christoph Martin Wieland.
4. Johann Gottfried von Herder.
5. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
6. Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.
7. Jean Paul Friedrich Richter.
[pg 051]


Seven hundred years ago! What a long time it seems! Philip Augustus, King of France; Henry II., King of England; Frederic I., the famous Barbarossa, Emperor of Germany! When we read of their times, the times of the Crusades, we feel as the Greeks felt when reading of the War of Troy. We listen, we admire, but we do not compare the heroes of St. Jean d'Acre with the great generals of the nineteenth century. They seem a different race of men from those who are now living, and poetry and tradition have lent to their royal frames such colossal proportions that we hardly dare to criticise the legendary history of their chivalrous achievements. It was a time of heroes, of saints, of martyrs, of miracles! Thomas à Becket was murdered at Canterbury, but for more than three hundred years his name lived on, and his bones were working miracles, and his soul seemed as it were embodied and petrified in the lofty pillars that surround the spot of his martyrdom. Abelard was persecuted and imprisoned, but his spirit revived in the Reformers of the sixteenth century, [pg 052] and the shrine of Abelard and Héloise in the Père La Chaise is still decorated every year with garlands of immortelles. Barbarossa was drowned in the same river in which Alexander the Great had bathed his royal limbs, but his fame lived on in every cottage of Germany, and the peasant near the Kyffhäuser still believes that some day the mighty Emperor will awake from his long slumber, and rouse the people of Germany from their fatal dreams. We dare not hold communion with such stately heroes as Frederick the Red-beard and Richard the Lion-heart; they seem half to belong to the realm of fable. We feel from our very school-days as if we could shake hands with a Themistocles and sit down in the company of a Julius Cæsar, but we are awed by the presence of those tall and silent knights, with their hands folded and their legs crossed, as we see them reposing in full armor on the tombs of our cathedrals.

And yet, however different in all other respects, these men, if they once lift their steel beaver and unbuckle their rich armor, are wonderfully like ourselves. Let us read the poetry which they either wrote themselves, or to which they liked to listen in their castles on the Rhine or under their tents in Palestine, and we find it is poetry which a Tennyson or a Moore, a Goethe or Heine, might have written. Neither Julius Cæsar nor Themistocles would know what was meant by such poetry. It is modern poetry,—poetry unknown to the ancient world,—and who invented it nobody can tell. It is sometimes called Romantic, but this is a strange misnomer. Neither the Romans, nor the lineal descendants of the Romans, the Italians, the Provençals, the Spaniards, can claim that poetry as their own. It is Teutonic poetry,—purely [pg 053] Teutonic in its heart and soul, though its utterance, its rhyme and metre, its grace and imagery, show the marks of a warmer clime. It is called sentimental poetry, the poetry of the heart rather than of the head, the picture of the inward rather than of the outward world. It is subjective, as distinguished from objective poetry, as the German critics, in their scholastic language, are fond of expressing it. It is Gothic, as contrasted with classical poetry. The one, it is said, sublimizes nature, the other bodies forth spirit; the one deifies the human, the other humanizes the divine; the one is ethnic, the other Christian. But all these are but names, and their true meaning must be discovered in the works of art themselves, and in the history of the times which produced the artists, the poets, and their ideals. We shall perceive the difference between these two hemispheres of the Beautiful better if we think of Homer's “Helena” and Dante's “Beatrice,” if we look at the “Venus of Milo” and a “Madonna” of Francia, than in reading the profoundest systems of æsthetics.

The work which has caused these reflections is a volume of German poetry, just published by Lachmann and Haupt. It is called “Des Minnesangs Frühling,”“the Spring of the Songs of Love;” and it contains a collection of the poems of twenty German poets, all of whom lived during the period of the Crusades, under the Hohenstaufen Emperors, from about 1170 to 1230. This period may well be called the spring of German poetry, though the summer that followed was but of short duration, and the autumn was cheated of the rich harvest which the spring had promised. Tieck, one of the first who gathered the flowers of that forgotten spring, describes it in glowing [pg 054] language. “At that time,” he says, “believers sang of faith, lovers of love, knights described knightly actions and battles; and loving, believing knights were their chief audience. The spring, beauty, gayety, were objects that could never tire: great duels and deeds of arms carried away every hearer, the more surely, the stronger they were painted; and as the pillars and dome of the church encircle the flock, so did religion, as the highest, encircle poetry and reality; and every heart, in equal love, humbled itself before her.” Carlyle, too, has listened with delight to those merry songs of spring. “Then truly,” he says, “was the time of singing come; for princes and prelates, emperors and squires, the wise and the simple, men, women, and children, all sang and rhymed, or delighted in hearing it done. It was a universal noise of song, as if the spring of manhood had arrived, and warblings from every spray—not, indeed, without infinite twitterings also, which, except their gladness, had no music—were bidding it welcome.” And yet it was not all gladness; and it is strange that Carlyle, who has so keen an ear for the silent melancholy of the human heart, should not have heard that tone of sorrow and fateful boding which breaks, like a suppressed sigh, through the free and light music of that Swabian era. The brightest sky of spring is not without its clouds in Germany, and the German heart is never happy without some sadness. Whether we listen to a short ditty, or to the epic ballads of the “Nibelunge,” or to Wolfram's grand poems of the “Parcival” and the “Holy Grail,” it is the same everywhere. There is always a mingling of light and shade,—in joy a fear of sorrow, in sorrow a ray of hope, and throughout the whole, a silent wondering [pg 055] at this strange world. Here is a specimen of an anonymous poem; and anonymous poetry is an invention peculiarly Teutonic. It was written before the twelfth century; its language is strangely simple, and sometimes uncouth. But there is truth in it; and it is truth after all, and not fiction, that is the secret of all poetry:—

“It has pained me in the heart,
Full many a time,
That I yearned after that
Which I may not have,
Nor ever shall win.
It is very grievous.
I do not mean gold or silver;
It is more like a human heart.
“I trained me a falcon,
More than a year.
When I had tamed him,
As I would have him,
And had well tied his feathers
With golden chains,
He soared up very high,
And flew into other lands.
“I saw the falcon since,
Flying happily;
He carried on his foot
Silken straps,
And his plumage was
All red of gold....
May God send them together,
Who would fain be loved.”

The key-note of the whole poem of the “Nibelunge,” such as it was written down at the end of the twelfth, or the beginning of the thirteenth century, is “Sorrow after Joy.” This is the fatal spell against which all the heroes are fighting, and fighting in vain. And as Hagen dashes the Chaplain into the waves, in order to belie the prophecy of the Mermaids, but the Chaplain rises, and Hagen rushes headlong into destruction, so Chriemhilt is bargaining and playing with [pg 056] the same inevitable fate, cautiously guarding her young heart against the happiness of love, that she may escape the sorrows of a broken heart. She, too, has been dreaming “of a wild young falcon that she trained for many a day, till two fierce eagles tore it.” And she rushes to her mother Ute, that she may read the dream for her; and her mother tells her what it means. And then the coy maiden answers:—

“No more, no more, dear mother, say,
From many a woman's fortune this truth is clear as day,
That falsely smiling Pleasure with Pain requites us ever.
I from both will keep me, and thus will sorrow never.”

But Siegfried comes, and Chriemhilt's heart does no longer cast up the bright and the dark days of life. To Siegfried she belongs; for him she lives, and for him, when “two fierce eagles tore him,” she dies. A still wilder tragedy lies hidden in the songs of the “Edda,” the most ancient fragments of truly Teutonic poetry. Wolfram's poetry is of the same sombre cast. He wrote his “Parcival” about the time when the songs of the “Nibelunge” were written down. The subject was taken by him from a French source. It belonged originally to the British cycle of Arthur and his knights. But Wolfram took the story merely as a skeleton, to which he himself gave a new body and soul. The glory and happiness which this world can give is to him but a shadow,—the crown for which his hero fights is that of the Holy Grail.

Faith, Love, and Honor are the chief subjects of the so-called Minnesänger. They are not what we should call erotic poets. Minne means love in the old German language, but it means, originally, not so much passion and desire, as thoughtfulness, reverence, and remembrance. In English Minne would be “Minding,” and [pg 057] it is different therefore from the Greek Eros, the Roman Amor, and the French Amour. It is different also from the German Liebe, which means originally desire, not love. Most of the poems of the “Minnesänger” are sad rather than joyful,—joyful in sorrow, sorrowful in joy. The same feelings have since been so often repeated by poets in all the modern languages of Europe, that much of what we read in the “Minnesänger” of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries sounds stale to our ears. Yet there is a simplicity about these old songs, a want of effort, an entire absence of any attempt to please or to surprise; and we listen to them as we listen to a friend who tells us his sufferings in broken and homely words, and whose truthful prose appeals to our heart more strongly than the most elaborate poetry of a Lamartine or a Heine. It is extremely difficult to translate these poems from the language in which they are written, the so-called Middle High-German, into Modern German,—much more so to render them into English. But translation is at the same time the best test of the true poetical value of any poem, and we believe that many of the poems of the Minnesängers can bear that test. Here is another poem, very much in the style of the one quoted above, but written by a poet whose name is known,—Dietmar von Eist:—

“A lady stood alone,
And gazed across the heath,
And gazed for her love.
She saw a falcon flying.
“O happy falcon that thou art,
Thou fliest wherever thou likest;
Thou choosest in the forest
A tree that pleases thee.
Thus I too had done.
I chose myself a man:
Him my eyes selected.
[pg 058]
Beautiful ladies envy me for it.
Alas! why will they not leave me my love?
I did not desire the beloved of any one of them.
Now woe to thee, joy of summer!
The song of birds is gone;
So are the leaves of the lime-tree:
Henceforth, my pretty eyes too
Will be overcast.
My love, thou shouldst take leave
Of other ladies;
Yes, my hero, thou shouldst avoid them.
When thou sawest me first,
I seemed to thee in truth
Right lovely made:
I remind thee of it, dear man!’ ”

These poems, simple and homely as they may seem to us, were loved and admired by the people for whom they were written. They were copied and preserved with the greatest care in the albums of kings and queens, and some of them were translated into foreign languages. The poem which we quoted first was translated as an Italian sonnet in the thirteenth century, and has been published in Franc Trucchi's “Poesie Italiane Inedite:”

“Tapina me, che amava uno sparviero;
amaval tanto ch'io me ne moria:
a lo richiamo ben m'era maniero
ed unque troppo pascer no' l dovia.
or è montato e salito sì altero,
assai più altero che far non solia;
ed è assiso dentro a un verziero,
e un'altra donna l'averà in balìa.
isparvier mio, ch'io t'avea nodrito;
sonaglio d'oro ti facea portare,
perchè nell'uccellar fossi più ardito.
or sei salito siccome lo mare,
ed hai rotti li getti, e seì fuggito
quando eri fermo nel tuo uccellare.”

One of the most original and thoughtful of the “Minnesänger” is the old Reinmar. His poems are given now for the first time in a correct and readable [pg 059] text by Lachmann and Haupt, and many a difficult passage has been elucidated by their notes. His poems, however, are not easy to read, and we should have been thankful for some more help than the editors have given us in their notes. The following is a specimen of Reinmar's poetry:—

“High as the sun stands my heart;
That is because of a lady who can be without change
In her grace, wherever she be.
She makes me free from all sorrow.
“I have nothing to give her, but my own life,
That belongs to her: the beautiful woman gives me always
Joy, and a high mind,
If I think of it, what she does for me.
“Well is it for me that I found her so true!
Wherever she dwell, she alone makes every land dear to me;
If she went across the wild sea,
There I should go; I long so much for her.
“If I had the wisdom of a thousand men, it would be well
That I keep her, whom I should serve:
May she take care right well,
That nothing sad may ever befall me through her.
“I was never quite blessed, but through her:
Whatever I wish to her, may she allow it to me!
It was a blessed thing for me
That she, the Beautiful, received me into her grace.”

Carlyle, no doubt, is right when he says that, among all this warbling of love, there are infinite twitterings which, except their gladness, have little to charm us. Yet we like to read them as part of the bright history of those by-gone days. One poet sings:—

“If the whole world was mine,
From the Sea to the Rhine,
I would gladly give it all,
That the Queen of England
Lay in my arms,” etc.
[pg 060]

Who was the impertinent German that dared to fall in love with a Queen of England? We do not know. But there can be no doubt that the Queen of England whom he adored was the gay and beautiful Eleanor of Poitou, the Queen of Henry II., who filled the heart of many a Crusader with unholy thoughts. Her daughter, too, Mathilde, who was married to Henry the Lion of Saxony, inspired many a poet of those days. Her beauty was celebrated by the Provençal Troubadours; and at the court of her husband, she encouraged several of her German vassals to follow the example of the French and Norman knights, and sing the love of Tristan and Isolt, and the adventures of the knights of Charlemagne. They must have been happy times, those times of the Crusades! Nor have they passed away without leaving their impress on the hearts and minds of the nations of Europe. The Holy Sepulchre, it is true, is still in the hands of the Infidels, and the bones of the Crusaders lie buried in unhallowed soil, and their deeds of valor are well-nigh forgotten, and their chivalrous Tournaments and their Courts of Love are smiled at by a wiser generation. But much that is noble and heroic in the feelings of the nineteenth century has its hidden roots in the thirteenth. Gothic architecture and Gothic poetry are the children of the same mother; and if the true but unadorned language of the heart, the aspirations of a real faith, the sorrow and joy of a true love, are still listened to by the nations of Europe; and if what is called the Romantic school is strong enough to hold its ground against the classical taste and its royal patrons, such as Louis XIV., Charles II., and Frederick the Great,—we owe it to those chivalrous poets who dared for the first [pg 061] time to be what they were, and to say what they felt, and to whom Faith, Love, and Honor were worthy subjects of poetry, though they lacked the sanction of the Periclean and Augustan ages.

The new edition of the Poems of the “Minnesänger” is a masterpiece of German scholarship. It was commenced by Lachmann, the greatest critic, after Wolf, that Germany has produced. Lachmann died before the work was finished, and Professor Haupt, his successor at Berlin, undertook to finish it. His share in the edition, particularly in the notes, is greater than that of Lachmann; and the accuracy with which the text has been restored from more than twenty MSS., is worthy of the great pupil of that great master.


[pg 062]


The critical periods in the history of the world are best studied in the lives of a few representative men. The history of the German Reformation assumes a living, intelligible, and human character in the biographies of the Reformers; and no historian would imagine that he understood the secret springs of that mighty revolution in Germany without having read the works of Hutten, the table-talk of Luther, the letters of Melancthon, and the sermons of Zwingle. But although it is easy to single out representative men in the great decisive struggles of history, they are more difficult to find during the preparatory periods. The years from 1450 to 1500 are as important as the years from 1500 to 1550,—nay, to the thoughtful historian, that silent period of incubation is perhaps of deeper interest than the violent outburst of the sixteenth century. But where, during those years, are the men of sufficient eminence to represent the age in which they lived? It was an age of transition and preparation, of dissatisfaction and hesitation. Like the whole of the fifteenth century, “It was rich in scholars, copious in [pg 063] pedants, but poor in genius, and barren of strong thinkers.” We must not look for heroes in so unheroic an age, but be satisfied with men if they be but a head taller than their contemporaries.

One of the most interesting men in whose life and writings the history of the preliminary age of the German Reformation may be studied, is Sebastian Brant, the famous author of the famous “Ship of Fools.” He was born in the year 1457. The Council of Basle had failed to fulfill the hopes of the German laity as to a reformatio ecclesiæ in capite et membris. In the very year of Brant's birth, Martin Meyer, the Chancellor of Mayence, had addressed his letter to his former friend, Æneas Sylvius,—a national manifesto, in boldness and vigor only surpassed by the powerful pamphlet of Luther, “To the Nobility of the German Nation.” Germany seemed to awaken at last to her position, and to see the dangers that threatened her political and religious freedom. The new movement which had taken place in Italy in classical learning, supported chiefly by Greek refugees, began to extend its quickening influence beyond the Alps. Æneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II., 1458, writes in one of his letters, that poets were held in no estimation in Germany, though he admits that their poetry is less to be blamed for this than their patrons, the princes, who care far more for any trifles than for poetry. The Germans, he says, do not care for science nor for a knowledge of classical literature, and they have hardly heard the name of Cicero or any other orator. In the eyes of the Italians, the Germans were barbarians; and when Constantine Lascaris saw the first specimen of printing, he was told by the Italian priests that this invention had lately been made apud barbaros in urbe [pg 064] Germaniæ. They were dangerous neighbors—these barbarians, who could make such discoveries as the art of printing; and Brant lived to see the time when Joh. Cæsarius was able to write to a friend of his: “At this moment, Germany, if she does not surpass Italy, at least need not, and will not, yield to her, not so much on account of her empire, as for her wonderful fecundity in learned men, and the almost incredible growth of learning.”

This period of slow but steady progress, from the invention of printing to the Council of Worms, is bridged over by the life of Sebastian Brant, who lived from 1457 to 1521. Brant was very early the friend of Peter Schott, and through him had been brought in contact with a circle of learned men, who were busily engaged in founding one of the first schools of classical learning at Schlettstadt. Men like Jac. Wimpheling, Joh. Torrentinus, Florentius Hundius, and Johannes Hugo, belonged to that society. Brant afterwards went to Basle to study law. Basle was then a young university. It had only been founded in 1459, but it was already a successful rival of Heidelberg. The struggle between the Realists and Nominalists was then raging all over Europe, and it divided the University of Basle into two parties, each of them trying to gain influence and adherents among the young students. It has been usual to look upon the Realists as the Conservative, and upon the Nominalists as the Liberal party of the fifteenth century. But although at times this was the case, philosophical opinions, on which the differences between these two parties were founded, were not of sufficient strength to determine for any length of time the political and religious bias of either school. The Realists were chiefly supported [pg 065] by the Dominicans, the Nominalists by the Franciscans; and there is always a more gentle expression beaming in the eyes of the followers of the seraphic Doctor, particularly if contrasted with the stern frown of the Dominican. Ockam himself was a Franciscan, and those who thought with him were called doctores renovatores and sophistæ. Suddenly, however, the tables were turned. At Oxford, the Realists, in following out their principles in a more independent spirit, had arrived at results dangerous to the peace of the Church. As philosophers, they began to carry out the doctrines of Plato in good earnest; as reformers, they looked wistfully to the early centuries of the Christian Church. The same liberal and independent spirit reached from Oxford to Prague, and the expulsion of the German nation from that university may be traced to the same movement. The Realists were at that time no longer in the good odor of orthodoxy; and, at the Council of Constanz, the Nominalists, such as Joh. Gerson and Petrus de Alliaco, gained triumphs which seemed for a time to make them the arbiters of public opinion in Germany, and to give them the means of securing the Church against the attacks of Huss on one side, and against the more dangerous encroachments of the Pope and the monks on the other. This triumph, however, was of short duration. All the rights which the Germans seemed to have conquered at the Councils of Constanz and Basle were sacrificed by their own Emperor. No one dared to say again what Gregory von Heimburg had said to the Italian clergy,—“Quid fines alienos invaditis? quid falcem vestram in messem alienam extenditis?” Under Æneas Sylvius, the power of the Pope in Germany was as absolute as ever. The Nominalist party lost all [pg 066] the ground which it had gained before. It was looked upon with suspicion by Pope and Emperor. It was banished from courts and universities, and the disciples of the Realistic school began a complete crusade against the followers of Ockam.

Johannes Heynlin a Lapide, a former head of a house in Paris, migrated to Basle, in order to lend his influence and authority to the Realist party in that rising university. Trithemius says of him: “Hic doctrinam eorum Parisiensium qui reales appellantur primus ad Basiliensium universitatem transtulit, ibidemque plantavit, roboravit et auxit.” This Johannes Heynlin a Lapide, however, though a violent champion of the then victorious Realist party, was by no means a man without liberal sentiments. On many points the Realists were more tolerant, or at least more enlightened, than the Nominalists. They counted among themselves better scholars than the adherents of Ockam. They were the first and foremost to point out the uselessness of the dry scholastic system of teaching grammar and logic, and nothing else. And though they cherished their own ideas as to the supreme authority of the Pope, the divine right of the Emperor, or the immaculate conception of the Virgin (a dogma denied by the Dominicans, and defended by the Franciscans), they were always ready to point out abuses and to suggest reforms. The age in which they lived was not an age of decisive thought or decisive action. There was a want of character in individuals as well as in parties; and the points in which they differed were of small importance, though they masked differences of greater weight. At Basle, the men who were gathered round Johannes a Lapide were what we should call Liberal Conservatives, and it is among [pg 067] them that we find Sebastian Brant. Basle could then boast of some of the most eminent men of the time. Besides Agricola, and Wimpheling, and Geiler von Kaisersberg, and Trithemius, Reuchlin was there for a time, and Wessel, and the Greek Kontablacos. Sebastian Brant, though on friendly terms with most of these men, was their junior; and, among his contemporaries, a new generation grew up, more independent and more free-spoken than their masters, though as yet very far from any revolutionary views in matters of Church or State. Feuds broke out very soon between the old and the young schools. Locher, the friend of Brant,—the poet who had turned his “Ship of Fools” into Latin verse,—published a poem, in which he attacked rather petulantly the scholastic philosophy and theology. Wimpheling, at the request of Geiler of Kaisersberg, had to punish him for this audacity, and he did it in a pamphlet full of the most vulgar abuse. Reuchlin also had given offense, and was attacked and persecuted; but his party retaliated by the “Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum.” Thus the Conservative, or Realistic party became divided; and when, at the beginning of a new century and a new era in the history of the world, Luther raised his voice in defense of national and religious freedom, he was joined not only by the more advanced descendants of the Nominalistic school, but by all the vigor, the talent, and the intellect of the old Conservatives.

Brant himself, though he lived at Strassburg up to 1521, did not join the standard of the Reformation. He had learned to grumble, to find fault, to abuse, and to condemn; but his time was gone when the moment for action arrived. And yet he helped toward the [pg 068] success of the Reformation in Germany. He had been one of the first, after the discovery of printing, to use the German language for political purposes. His fly-sheets, his illustrated editions, had given useful hints how to address the large masses of the people. If he looked upon the world, as it then was, as a ship of fools, and represented every weakness, vice, and wickedness under the milder color of foolery, the people who read his poems singled out some of his fools, and called them knaves. The great work of Sebastian Brant was his “Narrenschiff.” It was first published in 1497, at Basle, and the first edition, though on account of its wood-cuts it could not have been a very cheap book, was sold off at once. Edition after edition followed, and translations were published in Latin, in Low-German, in Dutch, in French, and English. Sermons were preached on the “Narrenschiff;” Trithemius calls it Divina Satira, Locher compares Brant with Dante, Hutten calls him the new lawgiver of German poetry. The “Narrenschiff” is a work which we may still read with pleasure, though it is difficult to account for its immense success at the time of its publication. Some historians ascribe it to the wood-cuts. They are certainly very clever, and there is reason to suppose that most of them were, if not actually drawn, at least suggested by Brant himself. Yet even a Turner has failed to render mediocre poetry popular by his illustrations, and there is nothing to show that the caricatures of Brant were preferred to his satires. Now his satires, it is true, are not very powerful, nor pungent, nor original. But his style is free and easy. Brant is not a ponderous poet. He writes in short chapters, and mixes his fools in such a manner that we always meet [pg 069] with a variety of new faces. It is true that all this would hardly be sufficient to secure a decided success for a work like his at the present day. But then we must remember the time in which he wrote. What had the poor people of Germany to read toward the end of the fifteenth century? Printing had been invented, and books were published and sold with great rapidity. People were not only fond, but proud, of reading books. Reading was fashionable, and the first fool who enters Brant's ship is the man who buys books. But what were the books that were offered for sale? We find among the early prints of the fifteenth century religious, theological, and classical works in great abundance, and we know that the respectable and wealthy burghers of Augsburg and Strassburg were proud to fill their shelves with these portly volumes. But then German aldermen had wives, and daughters, and sons, and what were they to read during the long winter evenings? The poetry of the thirteenth century was no longer intelligible, and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had produced very little that would be to the taste of young ladies and gentlemen. The poetry of the “Meistersänger” was not very exhilarating. The romances of “The Book of Heroes” had lost all their native charms under the rough treatment they had experienced at the hand of their latest editor, Casper von der Roen. The so-called “Misteries” (not mysteries) might be very well as Christmas pantomimes once a year, but they could not be read for their own sake, like the dramatic literature of later times. The light literature of the day consisted entirely in novels; and in spite of their miserable character, their popularity was immense. Besides the [pg 070] “Gesta Romanorum,” which were turned into German verse and prose, we meet with French novels, such as “Lother and Maler,” translated by a Countess of Nassau in 1437, and printed in 1514; “Pontus and Sidonia,” translated from the French by Eleanor of Scotland, the wife of Sigismund of Austria, published 1498; “Melusina,” equally from the French, published 1477. The old epic poems of “Tristan,” and “Lancelot,” and “Wigalois,” were too long and tedious. People did not care any longer for the deep thoughts of Wolfram von Eschenbach, and the beautiful poetry of Gottfried von Strassburg. They wanted only the plot, the story, the dry bones; and these were dished up in the prose novels of the fifteenth century, and afterwards collected in the so-called “Book of Love.” There was room, therefore, at that time for a work like the “Ship of Fools.” It was the first printed book that treated of contemporaneous events and living persons, instead of old German battles and French knights. People are always fond of reading the history of their own times. If the good qualities of their age are brought out, they think of themselves or their friends; if the dark features of their contemporaries are exhibited, they think of their neighbors and enemies. Now, the “Ship of Fools” is just such a satire which ordinary people would read, and read with pleasure. They might feel a slight twinge now and then, but they would put down the book at the end, and thank God that they were not like other men. There is a chapter on Misers,—and who would not gladly give a penny to a beggar? There is a chapter on Gluttony,—and who was ever more than a little exhilarated after dinner? There is a chapter on Church-goers,—and who ever went to [pg 071] church for respectability's sake, or to show off a gaudy dress, or a fine dog, or a new hawk? There is a chapter on Dancing,—and who ever danced except for the sake of exercise? There is a chapter on Adultery,—and who ever did more than flirt with his neighbor's wife? We sometimes wish that Brant's satire had been a little more searching, and that, instead of his many allusions to classical fools (for his book is full of scholarship), he had given us a little more of the chronique scandaleuse of his own time. But he was too good a man to do this, and his contemporaries no doubt were grateful to him for his forbearance.

Brant's poem is not easy to read. Though he was a contemporary of Luther, his language differs much more from modern German than Luther's translation of the Bible. His “Ship of Fools” wanted a commentary, and this want has been supplied by one of the most learned and industrious scholars of Germany, Professor Zarncke, in his lately published edition of the “Narrenschiff.” This must have been a work of many years of hard labor. Nothing that is worth knowing about Brant and his works has been omitted, and we hardly know of any commentary on Aristophanes or Juvenal in which every difficulty is so honestly met as in Professor Zarncke's notes on the German satirist. The editor is a most minute and painstaking critic. He tries to reëstablish the correct reading of every word, and he enters upon his work with as much zeal as if the world could not be saved till every tittle of Brant's poem had been restored. He is, however, not only a critic, but a sensible and honest man. He knows what is worth knowing and what is not, and he does not allow himself to be carried [pg 072] away by a desire to display his own superior acquirements,—a weakness which makes so many of his colleagues forgetful of the real ends of knowledge, and the real duties of the scholar and the historian.

We have to say a few words on the English translation of Brant's “Ship of Fools.” It was not made from the original, but from Locher's Latin translation. It reproduces the matter, but not the manner of the original satire. Some portions are added by the translator, Alexander Barclay, and in some parts his translation is an improvement on the original. It was printed in 1508, published 1509, and went through several editions.

The following may serve as a specimen of Barclay's translation, and of his original contributions to Brant's “Navis Stultifera:”

“Here beginneth the ‘Ship of Fooles,’ and first of unprofitable books:—

“I am the first foole of all the whole navie,
To keep the Pompe, the Helme, and eke the Sayle:
For this is my minde, this one pleasure have I,
Of bookes to have great plentie and apparayle.
I take no wisdome by them, not yet avayle,
Nor them perceave not, and then I them despise:
Thus am I a foole, and all that sue that guise.
“That in this Ship the chiefe place I governe,
By this wide Sea with fooles wandring,
The cause is plaine and easy to discerne,
Still am I busy, bookes assembling,
For to have plentie it is a pleasant thing
In my conceyt, and to have them ay in hande:
But what they meane do I not understande.
“But yet I have them in great reverence
And honoure, saving them from filth and ordure,
By often brusshing and much diligence,
Full goodly bounde in pleasant coverture,
Of Damas, Sattin, or els of Velvet pure:
I keepe them sure, fearing least they should be lost,
For in them is the cunning wherein I me boast.
[pg 073]
“But if it fortune that any learned men
Within my house fall to disputation,
I drawe the curtaynes to shewe my bokes then,
That they of my cunning should make probation:
I kepe not to fall in alterication,
And while they comment, my bookes I turne and winde,
For all is in them, and nothing in my minde.”

In the fourth chapter, “Of newe fassions and disguised garmentes,” there is at the end what is called “The Lenvoy of Alexander Barclay,” and in it an allusion to Henry VIII.:—

“But ye proude galants that thus your selfe disguise,
Be ye ashamed, beholde unto your prince:
Consider his sadness, his honestie devise,
His clothing expresseth his inwarde prudence,
Ye see no example of such inconvenience
In his highness, but godly wit and gravitie,
Ensue him, and sorrowe for your enormitie.”
[pg 074]


The hundredth anniversary of the birthday of Schiller, which, according to the accounts published in the German newspapers, seems to have been celebrated in most parts of the civilized, nay, even the uncivilized world, is an event in some respects unprecedented in the literary annals of the human race. A nation honors herself by honoring her sons, and it is but natural that in Germany every town and village should have vied in doing honor to the memory of one of their greatest poets. The letters which have reached us from every German capital relate no more than what we expected. There were meetings and feastings, balls and theatrical representations. The veteran philologist, Jacob Grimm, addressed the Berlin Academy on the occasion in a soul-stirring oration; the directors of the Imperial Press at Vienna seized the opportunity to publish a splendid album, or “Schillerbuch,” [pg 075] in honor of the poet; unlimited eloquence was poured forth by professors and academicians; school children recited Schiller's ballads; the German students shouted the most popular of his songs; nor did the ladies of Germany fail in paying their tribute of gratitude to him who, since the days of the Minnesängers, had been the most eloquent herald of female grace and dignity. In the evening torch processions might be seen marching through the streets, bonfires were lighted on the neighboring hills, houses were illuminated, and even the solitary darkness of the windows of the Papal Nuncio at Vienna added to the lustre of the day.11 In every place where Schiller had spent some years of his life, local recollections were revived and perpetuated by tablets and monuments. The most touching account of all came from the small village of Cleversulzbach. On the village cemetery, or, as it is called in German, the “God's-acre,” there stands a tombstone, and on it the simple inscription, “Schiller's Mother.” On the morning of her son's birthday the poor people of the village were gathered together round that grave, singing one of their sacred hymns, and planting a lime-tree in the soil which covers the heart that loved him best.

But the commemoration of Schiller's birthday was not confined to his native country. We have seen, in the German papers, letters from St. Petersburg and Lisbon, from Venice, Rome, and Florence, from Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Christiana, from Warsaw and Odessa, from Jassy and Bucharest, from Constantinople, Algiers, and Smyrna, and lately from America and Australia, all describing the festive gatherings which were suggested, no doubt, by Schiller's cosmopolitan [pg 076] countrymen, but joined in most cheerfully by all the nations of the globe. Poets of higher rank than Schiller—Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe—have never aroused such world-wide sympathies; and it is not without interest to inquire into the causes which have secured to Schiller this universal popularity. However superlative the praises which have lately been heaped on Schiller's poetry by those who cannot praise except in superlatives, we believe that it was not the poet, but the man, to whom the world has paid this unprecedented tribute of love and admiration. After reading Schiller's works we must read Schiller's life,—the greatest of all his works. It is a life not unknown to the English public, for it has been written by Carlyle. The last festivities, however, have given birth to several new biographies. Palleske's “Life of Schiller” has met with such success in Germany that it well deserved the honor which it has lately received at the hands of Lady Wallace, and under the special patronage of the Queen, of being translated into English. Another very careful and lucid account of the poet's life is due to the pen of a member of the French Institute, M. A. Regnier, the distinguished tutor of the Comte de Paris.

In reading these lives, together with the voluminous literature which is intended to illustrate the character of the German poet, we frequently felt inclined to ask one question, to which none of Schiller's biographers has returned a satisfactory answer: “What were the peculiar circumstances which brought out in Germany, and in the second half of the eighteenth century, a man of the moral character, and a poet of the creative genius, of Schiller?” Granted that he was endowed by nature with the highest talents, how did he grow [pg 077] to be a poet, such as we know him, different from all other German poets, and yet in thought, feeling, and language the most truly German of all the poets of Germany? Are we reduced to appeal to the mysterious working of an unknown power, if we wish to explain to ourselves why, in the same country and at the same time, poetical genius assumed such different forms as are seen in the writings of Schiller and Goethe? Is it to be ascribed to what is called individuality, a word which in truth explains nothing; or is it possible for the historian and psychologist to discover the hidden influences which act on the growing mind, and produce that striking variety of poetical genius which we admire in the works of contemporaneous poets, such as Schiller and Goethe in Germany, or Wordsworth and Byron in England? Men grow not only from within, but also from without. We know that a poet is born,—poeta nascitur,—but we also know that his character must be formed; the seed is given, but the furrow must be ploughed in which it is to grow; and the same grain which, if thrown on cultivated soil, springs into fullness and vigor, will dwindle away, stunted and broken, if cast upon shallow and untilled land. There are certain events in the life of every man which fashion and stamp his character; they may seem small and unimportant in themselves, but they are great and important to each of us; they mark that slight bend where two lines which had been running parallel begin to diverge, never to meet again. The Greeks call such events epochs, i.e. halts.

We halt for a moment, we look about and wonder, and then choose our further way in life. It is the duty of biographers to discover such epochs, such halting-points, in the lives of their heroes; and we shall [pg 078] endeavor to do the same in the life of Schiller by watching the various influences which determined the direction of his genius at different periods of his poetical career.

The period of Schiller's childhood is generally described with great detail by his biographers. We are told who his ancestors were. I believe they were bakers. We are informed that his mother possessed in her trousseau, among other things, four pairs of stockings,—three of cotton, one of wool. There are also long discussions on the exact date of his birth. We hear a great deal of early signs of genius, or rather, we should say, of things done and said by most children, but invested with extraordinary significance if remembered of the childhood of great men. To tell the truth, we can find nothing very important in what we thus learn of the early years of Schiller, nor does the poet himself in later years dwell much on the recollections of his dawning mind. If we must look for some determinating influences during the childhood of Schiller, they are chiefly to be found in the character of his father. The father was not what we should call a well-educated man. He had been brought up as a barber and surgeon; had joined a Bavarian regiment in 1745, during the Austrian war of succession; and had acted as a non-commissioned officer, and, when occasion required, as a chaplain. After the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle he had married the daughter of an innkeeper. He was a brave man, a God-fearing man, and, as is not unfrequently the case with half-educated people, a man very fond of reading. What he had failed to attain himself, he wished to see realized in his only son. The following prayer was found among the papers of the father: “And Thou, Being of all beings, [pg 079] I have asked Thee after the birth of my only son, that Thou wouldst add to his powers of intellect what I from deficient instruction was unable to attain. Thou hast heard me. Thanks be to Thee, bounteous Being, that Thou heedest the prayers of mortals.” A man of this stamp of mind would be sure to exercise his own peculiar influence on his children. He would make them look on life, not as a mere profession, where the son has only to follow in the steps of his father; his children would early become familiar with such ideas as making one's way in life,” and would look forward to a steep path rather than to a beaten track. Their thoughts would dwell on the future at a time when other children live in the present only, and an adventurous spirit would be roused, without which no great work has ever been conceived and carried out.

When his children, young Frederick and his sisters, were growing up, their father read to them their morning and evening prayers; and so fond was the boy of the Old and New Testament stories that he would often leave his games in order to be present at his father's readings. In 1765 the family left Marbach on the Neckar. The father was ordered by the Duke of Wurtemberg to Lorch, a place on the frontier, where he had to act as recruiting officer. His son received his education in the house of a clergyman, began Latin at six, Greek at seven; and as far as we are able to see, he neither seems to have considered himself, nor to have been considered by his masters, as very superior to other boys. He was a good boy, tenderly attached to his parents, fond of games, and regular at school. There are but two marked features which we have an opportunity of watching in him as [pg 080] a boy. He knew no fear, and he was full of the warmest sympathy for others. The first quality secured him the respect, the second the love, of those with whom he came in contact. His parents, who were poor, had great difficulty in restraining his generosity. He would give away his school-books and the very buckles off his shoes. Both his fearlessness and universal sympathy are remarkable through the whole of his after-life. Not even his enemies could point out one trait of cowardice or selfishness in anything he ever did, or said, or wrote. There are some pertinent remarks on the combination of these two qualities, sympathy with others and courage, by the author of “Friends in Council.”

If greatness, he writes, can be shut up in qualities, it will be found to consist in courage and in openness of mind and soul. These qualities may not seem at first to be so potent. But see what growth there is in them. The education of a man of open mind is never ended. Then with openness of soul a man sees some way into all other souls that come near him, feels with them, has their experience, is in himself a people. Sympathy is the universal solvent. Nothing is understood without it.... Add courage to this openness, and you have a man who can own himself in the wrong, can forgive, can trust, can adventure, can, in short, use all the means that insight and sympathy endow him with.

A plucky and warm-hearted boy, under the care of an honest, brave, and intelligent father and a tender and religious mother,—this is all we know and care to know about Schiller during the first ten years of his life. In the year 1768 there begins a new period in the life of Schiller. His father was settled at Ludwigsburg, the ordinary residence of the reigning Duke of Wurtemberg, the Duke Charles. This man was destined to exercise a decisive influence on Schiller's character. Like many German sovereigns in the middle of [pg 081] the last century, Duke Charles of Wurtemberg had felt the influence of those liberal ideas which had found so powerful an utterance in the works of the French and English philosophers of the eighteenth century. The philosophy which in France was smiled at by kings and statesmen, while it roused the people to insurrection and regicide, produced in Germany a deeper impression on the minds of the sovereigns and ruling classes than of the people. In the time of Frederick the Great and Joseph II. it became fashionable among sovereigns to profess Liberalism, and to work for the enlightenment of the human race. It is true that this liberal policy was generally carried out in a rather despotic way, and people were emancipated and enlightened very much as the ancient Saxons were converted by Charlemagne. We have an instance of this in the case of Schiller. Duke Charles had founded an institution where orphans and the sons of poor officers were educated free of expense. He had been informed that young Schiller was a promising boy, and likely to reflect credit on his new institution, and he proceeded without further inquiry to place him on the list of his protégés, assigning to him a place at his military school. It was useless for the father to remonstrate, and explain to the Duke that his son had a decided inclination for the Church. Schiller was sent to the Academy in 1773, and ordered to study law. The young student could not but see that an injustice had been done him, and the irritation which it caused was felt by him all the more deeply because it would have been dangerous to give expression to his feelings. The result was that he made no progress in the subjects which he had been commanded to study. In 1775 he was allowed to give up law, not, however, to [pg 082] return to theology, but to begin the study of medicine. But medicine, though at first it seemed more attractive, failed, like law, to call forth his full energies. In the mean time another interference on the part of the Duke proved even more abortive, and to a certain extent determined the path which Schiller's genius was to take in life. The Duke had prohibited all German classics at his Academy; the boys, nevertheless, succeeded in forming a secret library, and Schiller read the works of Klopstock, Klinger, Lessing, Goethe, and Wieland's translations of Shakespeare with rapture, no doubt somewhat increased by the dangers he braved in gaining access to these treasures. In 1780, the same year in which he passed his examination and received the appointment of regimental surgeon, Schiller wrote his first tragedy, “The Robbers.” His taste for dramatic poetry had been roused partly by Goethe's “Goetz von Berlichingen” and Shakespeare's plays, partly by his visits to the theatre, which, under the patronage of the Duke, was then in a very flourishing state. The choice of the subject of his first dramatic composition was influenced by the circumstances of his youth. His poetical sympathy for a character such as Karl Moor, a man who sets at defiance all the laws of God and man, can only be accounted for by the revulsion of feeling produced on his boyish mind by the strict military discipline to which all the pupils at the Academy were subjected. His sense of right and wrong was strong enough to make him paint his hero as a monster, and to make him inflict on him the punishment he merited. But the young poet could not resist the temptation of throwing a brighter light on the redeeming points in the character of a robber and murderer by pointedly placing him [pg 083] in contrast with the even darker shades of hypocritical respectability and saintliness in the picture of his brother Franz. The language in which Schiller paints his characters is powerful, but it is often wild and even coarse. The Duke did not approve of his former protégé; the very title-page of “The Robbers” was enough to offend his Serene Highness,—it contained a rising lion, with the motto In tyrannos.” The Duke gave a warning to the young military surgeon, and when, soon after, he heard of his going secretly to Mannheim to be present at the first performance of his play, he ordered him to be put under military arrest. All these vexations Schiller endured, because he knew full well there was no escape from the favors of his royal protector. But when at last he was ordered never to publish again except on medical subjects, and to submit all his poetical compositions to the Duke's censorship, this proved too much for our young poet. His ambition had been roused. He had sat at Mannheim a young man of twenty, unknown, amid an audience of men and women who listened with rapturous applause to his own thoughts and words. That evening at the theatre of Mannheim had been a decisive evening,—it was an epoch in the history of his life; he had felt his power and the calling of his genius; he had perceived, though in a dim distance, the course he had to run and the laurels he had to gain. When he saw that the humor of the Duke was not likely to improve, he fled from a place where his wings were clipped and his voice silenced. Now, this flight from one small German town to another may seem a matter of very little consequence at present. But in Schiller's time it was a matter of life and death. German sovereigns were accustomed [pg 084] to look upon their subjects as their property. Without even the show of a trial the poet Schubart had been condemned to life-long confinement by this same Duke Charles. Schiller, in fleeing his benefactor's dominions, had not only thrown away all his chances in life, but he had placed his safety and the safety of his family in extreme danger. It was a bold, perhaps a reckless step. But whatever we may think of it in a moral point of view, as historians we must look upon it as the Hegira in the life of the poet.

Schiller was now a man of one or two and twenty, thrown upon the world penniless, with nothing to depend on but his brains. The next ten years were hard years for him; they were years of unsettledness, sometimes of penury and despair, sometimes of extravagance and folly. This third period in Schiller's life is not marked by any great literary achievements. It would be almost a blank were it not for the “Don Carlos,” which he wrote during his stay near Dresden, between 1785-87. His “Fiesco” and “Cabale und Liebe,” though they came out after his flight from Stuttgard, had been conceived before, and they were only repeated protests, in the form of tragedies, against the tyranny of rulers and the despotism of society. They show no advance in the growth of Schiller's mind. Yet that mind, though less productive than might have been expected, was growing as every mind grows between the years of twenty and thirty; and it was growing chiefly through contact with men. We must make full allowance for the powerful influence exercised at that time by the literature of the day (by the writings of Herder, Lessing, and Goethe), and by political events, such as the French Revolution. But if we watch Schiller's career carefully, we see that his [pg 085] character was chiefly moulded by his intercourse with men. His life was rich in friendships, and what mainly upheld him in his struggles and dangers was the sympathy of several high-born and high-minded persons, in whom the ideals of his own mind seemed to have found their fullest realization.

Next to our faith in God, there is nothing so essential to the healthy growth of our whole being as an unshaken faith in man. This faith in man is the great feature in Schiller's character, and he owes it to a kind Providence which brought him in contact with such noble natures as Frau von Wolzogen, Körner, Dalberg; in later years with his wife; with the Duke of Weimar, the Prince of Augustenburg, and lastly with Goethe. There was at that time a powerful tension in the minds of men, and particularly of the higher classes, which led them to do things which at other times men only aspire to do. The impulses of a most exalted morality—a morality which is so apt to end in mere declamation and deceit—were not only felt by them, but obeyed and carried out. Frau von Wolzogen, knowing nothing of Schiller except that he had been at the same school with her son, received the exiled poet, though fully aware that by doing so she might have displeased the Duke and blasted her fortunes and those of her children. Schiller preserved the tenderest attachment to this motherly friend through life, and his letters to her display a most charming innocence and purity of mind.

Another friend was Körner, a young lawyer living at Leipzig, and afterwards at Dresden—a man who had himself to earn his bread. He had learned to love Schiller from his writings; he received him at his house, a perfect stranger, and shared with the poor [pg 086] poet his moderate income with a generosity worthy of a prince. He, too, remained his friend through life; his son was Theodore Körner, the poet of “Lyre and Sword,” who fell fighting as a volunteer for his country against French invaders.

A third friend and patron of Schiller was Dalberg. He was the coadjutor, and was to have been the successor, of the Elector of Hesse, then an ecclesiastical Electorate. His rank was that of a reigning prince, and he was made afterwards by Napoleon Fürst-Primas—Prince Primate—of the Confederation of the Rhine. But it was not his station, his wealth, and influence, it was his mind and heart which made him the friend of Schiller, Goethe, Herder, Wieland, Jean Paul, and all the most eminent intellects of his time. It is refreshing to read the letters of this Prince. Though they belong to a later period of Schiller's life, a few passages may here be quoted in order to characterize his friend and patron. Dalberg had promised Schiller a pension of 4,000 florins (not 4,000 thalers, as M. Regnier asserts) as soon as he should succeed to the Electorate, and Schiller in return had asked him for some hints with regard to his own future literary occupations. The Prince answers: “Your letter has delighted me. To be remembered by a man of your heart and mind is a true joy to me. I do not venture to determine what Schiller's comprehensive and vivifying genius is to undertake. But may I be allowed to humbly express a wish that spirits endowed with the powers of giants should ask themselves, ‘How can I be most useful to mankind?’ This inquiry, I think, leads most surely to immortality, and the rewards of a peaceful conscience. May you enjoy the purest happiness, and think sometimes of your [pg 087] friend and servant, Dalberg.” When Schiller was hesitating between history and dramatic poetry, Dalberg's keen eye discovered at once that the stage was Schiller's calling, and that there his influence would be most beneficial. Schiller seemed to think that a professorial chair in a German university was a more honorable position than that of a poet. Dalberg writes: “Influence on mankind” (for this he knew to be Schiller's highest ambition) “depends on the vigor and strength which a man throws into his works. Thucydides and Xenophon would not deny that poets like Sophocles and Horace have had at least as much influence on the world as they themselves.” When the French invasion threatened the ruin of Germany and the downfall of the German sovereigns, Dalberg writes again, in 1796, with perfect serenity: “True courage must never fail! The friends of virtue and truth ought now to act and speak all the more vigorously and straightforwardly. In the end, what you, excellent friend, have so beautifully said in your ‘Ideals’ remains true: ‘The diligence of the righteous works slowly but surely, and friendship is soothing comfort. It is only when I hope to be hereafter of assistance to my friends that I wish for a better fate.’ ” The society and friendship of such men, who are rare in all countries and in all ages, served to keep up in Schiller's mind those ideal notions of mankind which he had first imbibed from his own heart, and from the works of philosophers. They find expression in all his writings, but are most eloquently described in his “Don Carlos.” We should like to give some extracts from the dialogue between King Philip and the Marquis Posa; but our space is precious, and hardly allows us to do more than just to glance at those other friends [pg 088] and companions whose nobility of mind and generosity of heart left so deep an impress on the poet's soul.

The name of Karl August, the Duke of Weimar, has acquired such a world-wide celebrity as the friend of Goethe and Schiller that we need not dwell long on his relation to our poet. As early as 1784 Schiller was introduced to him at Darmstadt, where he was invited to court to read some scenes of his “Don Carlos.” The Duke gave him then the title of “Rath,” and from the year 1787, when Schiller first settled at Weimar, to the time of his death, in 1804, he remained his firm friend. The friendship of the Prince was returned by the poet, who, in the days of his glory, declined several advantageous offers from Vienna and other places, and remained at the court of Weimar, satisfied with the small salary which that great Duke was able to give him.

There was but one other Prince whose bounty Schiller accepted, and his name deserves to be mentioned, not so much for his act of generosity as for the sentiment which prompted it. In 1792, when Schiller was ill and unable to write, he received a letter from the Hereditary Prince of Holstein-Augustenburg and from Count Schimmelmann. We quote from the letter:—

Your shattered health, we hear, requires rest, but your circumstances do not allow it. Will you grudge us the pleasure of enabling you to enjoy that rest? We offer you for three years an annual present of 1,000 thalers. Accept this offer, noble man. Let not our titles induce you to decline it. We know what they are worth; we know no pride but that of being men, citizens of that great republic which comprises more than the life of single generations, more than the limits of this globe. You have to deal with men,—your brothers,—not with proud princes, who, by this employment of their wealth, would fain indulge but in a more refined kind of pride.
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No conditions were attached to this present, though a situation in Denmark was offered if Schiller should wish to go there. Schiller accepted the gift so nobly offered, but he never saw his unknown friends.12 We owe to them, humanly speaking, the last years of Schiller's life, and with them the master-works of his genius, from “Wallenstein” to “William Tell.” As long as these works are read and admired, the names of these noble benefactors will be remembered and revered.

The name of her whom we mentioned next among Schiller's noble friends and companions,—we mean his wife,—reminds us that we have anticipated events, and that we left Schiller after his flight in 1782, at the very beginning of his most trying years. His hopes of success at Mannheim had failed. The director of the Mannheim theatre, also a Dalberg, declined to assist him. He spent the winter in great solitude at the country-house of Frau von Wolzogen, finishing “Cabale und Liebe,” and writing “Fiesco.” In the summer of 1783 he returned to Mannheim, where he received an appointment in connection with the theatre of about £40 a year. Here he stayed till 1785, when he went to Leipzig, and afterwards to Dresden, living chiefly at the expense of his friend Körner. This unsettled kind of life continued till 1787, and produced, as we saw, little more than his tragedy of “Don Carlos.” In the mean time, however, his taste for history had been developed. He had been reading more systematically at Dresden, and after he had gone to Weimar in 1787 he was able to publish, in 1788, his “History of the Revolt of the [pg 090] Netherlands.” On the strength of this he was appointed professor at Jena in 1789, first without a salary, afterwards with about £30 a year. He tells us himself how hard he had to work: “Every day,” he says, “I must compose a whole lecture and write it out,—nearly two sheets of printed matter, not to mention the time occupied in delivering the lecture and making extracts.” However, he had now gained a position, and his literary works began to be better paid. In 1790 he was enabled to marry a lady of rank, who was proud to become the wife of the poor poet, and was worthy to be the “wife of Schiller.” Schiller was now chiefly engaged in historical researches. He wrote his “History of the Thirty Years' War” in 1791-92, and it was his ambition to be recognized as a German professor rather than as a German poet. He had to work hard in order to make up for lost time, and under the weight of excessive labor his health broke down. He was unable to lecture, unable to write. It was then that the generous present of the Duke of Augustenburg freed him for a time from the most pressing cares, and enabled him to recover his health.

The years of thirty to thirty-five were a period of transition and preparation in Schiller's life, to be followed by another ten years of work and triumph. These intermediate years were chiefly spent in reading history and studying philosophy, more especially the then reigning philosophy of Kant. Numerous essays on philosophy, chiefly on the Good, the Beautiful, and the Sublime, were published during this interval. But what is more important, Schiller's mind was enlarged, enriched, and invigorated; his poetical genius, by lying fallow for a time, gave promise of [pg 091] a richer harvest to come; his position in the world became more honorable, and his confidence in himself was strengthened by the confidence placed in him by all around him. A curious compliment was paid him by the Legislative Assembly then sitting at Paris. On the 26th of August, 1792, a decree was passed, conferring the title of Citoyen Français on eighteen persons belonging to various countries, friends of liberty and universal brotherhood. In the same list with Schiller were the names of Klopstock, Campe, Washington, Kosciusko, and Wilberforce. The decree was signed by Roland, Minister of the Interior, and countersigned by Danton. It did not reach Schiller till after the enthusiasm which he too had shared for the early heroes of the French Revolution had given way to disappointment and horror. In the month of December of the very year in which he had been thus honored by the Legislative Assembly, Schiller was on the point of writing an appeal to the French nation in defense of Louis XVI. The King's head, however, had fallen before this defense was begun. Schiller, a true friend of true liberty, never ceased to express his aversion to the violent proceedings of the French revolutionists. “It is the work of passion,” he said, “and not of that wisdom which alone can lead to real liberty.” He admitted that many important ideas, which formerly existed in books only or in the heads of a few enlightened people, had become more generally current through the French Revolution. But he maintained that the real principles which ought to form the basis of a truly happy political constitution were still hidden from view. Pointing to a volume of Kant's “Criticism of Pure Reason,” he said, “There they are, and [pg 092] nowhere else; the French republic will fall as rapidly as it has risen; the republican government will lapse into anarchy, and sooner or later a man of genius will appear (he may come from any place) who will make himself not only master of France, but perhaps also of a great part of Europe.” This was a remarkable prophecy for a young professor of history.

The last decisive event in Schiller's life was his friendship with Goethe. It dates from 1794, and with this year begins the great and crowning period of Schiller's life. To this period belong his “Wallenstein,” his “Song of the Bell,” his Ballads (1797-98), his “Mary Stuart” (1800), the “Maid of Orleans” (1801), the “Bride of Messina” (1803), and “William Tell;” in fact, all the works which have made Schiller a national poet and gained for him a worldwide reputation and an immortal name.

Goethe's character was in many respects diametrically opposed to Schiller's, and for many years it seemed impossible that there should ever be a community of thought and feeling between the two. Attempts to bring together these great rivals were repeatedly made by their mutual friends. Schiller had long felt himself drawn by the powerful genius of Goethe, and Goethe had long felt that Schiller was the only poet who could claim to be his peer. After an early interview with Goethe, Schiller writes, “On the whole, this meeting has not at all diminished the idea, great as it was, which I had previously formed of Goethe; but I doubt if we shall ever come into close communication with each other. Much that interests me has already had its epoch with him; his world is not my world.” Goethe had expressed the same feeling. He saw Schiller occupying the very [pg 093] position which he himself had given up as untenable; he saw his powerful genius carrying out triumphantly “those very paradoxes, moral and dramatic, from which he was struggling to get liberated.” “No union,” as Goethe writes, “was to be dreamt of. Between two spiritual antipodes there was more intervening than a simple diameter of the spheres. Antipodes of that sort act as a kind of poles, which can never coalesce.” How the first approach between these two opposite poles took place Goethe has himself described, in a paper entitled “Happy Incidents.” But no happy incident could have led to that glorious friendship, which stands alone in the literary history of the whole world, if there had not been on the part of Schiller his warm sympathy for all that is great and noble, and on the part of Goethe a deep interest in every manifestation of natural genius. Their differences on almost every point of art, philosophy, and religion, which at first seemed to separate them forever, only drew them more closely together, when they discovered in each other those completing elements which produced true harmony of souls. Nor is it right to say that Schiller owes more to Goethe than Goethe to Schiller. If Schiller received from Goethe the higher rules of art and a deeper insight into human nature, Goethe drank from the soul of his friend the youth and vigor, the purity and simplicity, which we never find in any of Goethe's works before his “Hermann and Dorothea.” And, as in most friendships, it was not so much Goethe as he was, but Goethe as reflected in his friend's soul, who henceforth became Schiller's guide and guardian. Schiller possessed the art of admiring, an art so much more rare than the art of criticising. His eye was so absorbed in all that was [pg 094] great, and noble, and pure, and high in Goethe's mind, that he could not, or would not, see the defects in his character. And Goethe was to Schiller what he was to no one else. He was what Schiller believed him to be; afraid to fall below his friend's ideal, he rose beyond himself until that high ideal was reached, which only a Schiller could have formed. Without this regenerating friendship it is doubtful whether some of the most perfect creations of Goethe and Schiller would ever have been called into existence.

We saw Schiller gradually sinking into a German professor, the sphere of his sympathies narrowed, the aim of his ambition lowered. His energies were absorbed in collecting materials and elaborating his “History of the Thirty Years' War,” which was published in 1792. The conception of his great dramatic Trilogy, the “Wallenstein,” which dates from 1791, was allowed to languish until it was taken up again for Goethe, and finished for Goethe in 1799. Goethe knew how to admire and encourage, but he also knew how to criticise and advise. Schiller, by nature meditative rather than observant, had been most powerfully attracted by Kant's ideal philosophy. Next to his historical researches, most of his time at Jena was given to metaphysical studies. Not only his mind, but his language suffered from the attenuating influences of that rarefied atmosphere which pervades the higher regions of metaphysical thought. His mind was attracted by the general and the ideal, and lost all interest in the individual and the real. This was not a right frame of mind, either for an historian or a dramatic poet. In Goethe, too, the philosophical element was strong, but it was kept under by the practical tendencies of his mind. Schiller looked for [pg 095] his ideal beyond the real world; and, like the pictures of a Raphael, his conceptions seemed to surpass in purity and harmony all that human eye had ever seen. Goethe had discovered that the truest ideal lies hidden in real life; and like the master-works of a Michael Angelo, his poetry reflected that highest beauty which is revealed in the endless variety of creation, and must there be discovered by the artist and the poet. In Schiller's early works every character was the personification of an idea. In his “Wallenstein” we meet for the first time with real men and real life. In his “Don Carlos,” Schiller, under various disguises more or less transparent, acts every part himself. In “Wallenstein” the heroes of the “Thirty Years' War” maintain their own individuality, and are not forced to discuss the social problems of Rousseau, or the metaphysical theories of Kant. Schiller was himself aware of this change, though he was hardly conscious of its full bearing. While engaged in composing his “Wallenstein,” he writes to a friend:—

I do my business very differently from what I used to do. The subject seems to be so much outside me that I can hardly get up any feeling for it. The subject I treat leaves me cold and indifferent, and yet I am full of enthusiasm for my work. With the exception of two characters to which I feel attached, Max Piccolomini and Thekla, I treat all the rest, and particularly the principal character of the play, only with the pure love of the artist. But I can promise you that they will not suffer from this. I look to history for limitation, in order to give, through surrounding circumstances, a stricter form and reality to my ideals. I feel sure that the historical will not draw me down or cripple me. I only desire through it to impart life to my characters and their actions. The life and soul must come from another source, through that power which I have already perhaps shown elsewhere, and without which even the first conception of this work would, of course, have been impossible.

How different is this from what Schiller felt in [pg 096] former years! In writing “Don Carlos,” he laid down as a principle, that the poet must not be the painter but the lover of his heroes, and in his early days he found it intolerable in Shakespeare's dreams that he could nowhere lay his hand on the poet himself. He was then, as he himself expresses it, unable to understand nature, except at second-hand.

Goethe was Schiller's friend, but he was also Schiller's rival. There is a perilous period in the lives of great men, namely, the time when they begin to feel that their position is made, that they have no more rivals to fear. Goethe was feeling this at the time when he met Schiller. He was satiated with applause, and his bearing towards the public at large became careless and offensive. In order to find men with whom he might measure himself, he began to write on the history of Art, and to devote himself to natural philosophy. Schiller, too, had gained his laurels chiefly as a dramatic poet; and though he still valued the applause of the public, yet his ambition as a poet was satisfied; he was prouder of his “Thirty Years' War” than of his “Robbers” and “Don Carlos.” When Goethe became intimate with Schiller, and discovered in him those powers which as yet were hidden to others, he felt that there was a man with whom even he might run a race. Goethe was never jealous of Schiller. He felt conscious of his own great powers, and he was glad to have those powers again called out by one who would be more difficult to conquer than all his former rivals. Schiller, on the other hand, perceived in Goethe the true dignity of a poet. At Jena his ambition was to have the title of Professor of History; at Weimar he saw that it was a greater honor to be called a poet, and the friend of Goethe. [pg 097] When he saw that Goethe treated him as his friend, and that the Duke and his brilliant court looked upon him as his equal, Schiller, too modest to suppose he had earned such favors, was filled with a new zeal, and his poetical genius displayed for a time an almost inexhaustible energy. Scarcely had his “Wallenstein” been finished, in 1799, when he began his “Mary Stuart.” This play was finished in the summer of 1800, and a new one was taken in hand in the same year,—the “Maid of Orleans.” In the spring of 1801 the “Maid of Orleans” appeared on the stage, to be followed in 1803 by the “Bride of Messina,” and in 1804 by his last great work, his “William Tell.” During the same time Schiller composed his best ballads, his “Song of the Bell,” his epigrams, and his beautiful Elegy, not to mention his translations and adaptations of English and French plays for the theatre at Weimar. After his “William Tell” Schiller could feel that he no longer owed his place by the side of Goethe to favor and friendship, but to his own work and worth. His race was run, his laurels gained. His health, however, was broken, and his bodily frame too weak to support the strain of his mighty spirit. Death came to his relief, giving rest to his mind, and immortality to his name.

Let us look back once more on the life of Schiller. The lives of great men are the lives of martyrs; we cannot regard them as examples to follow, but rather as types of human excellence to study and to admire. The life of Schiller was not one which many of us would envy; it was a life of toil and suffering, of aspiration rather than of fulfillment, a long battle with scarcely a moment of rest for the conqueror to enjoy his hard-won triumphs. To an ambitious man the [pg 098] last ten years of the poet's life might seem an ample reward for the thirty years' war of life which he had to fight single-handed. But Schiller was too great a man to be ambitious. Fame with him was a means, never an object. There was a higher, a nobler aim in his life, which upheld him in all his struggles. From the very beginning of his career Schiller seems to have felt that his life was not his. He never lived for himself; he lived and worked for mankind. He discovered within himself how much there was of the good, the noble, and the beautiful in human nature; he had never been deceived in his friends. And such was his sympathy with the world at large that he could not bear to see in any rank of life the image of man, created in the likeness of God, distorted by cunning, pride, and selfishness. His whole poetry may be said to be written on the simple text, “Be true, be good, be noble!” It may seem a short text, but truth is very short, and the work of the greatest teachers of mankind has always consisted in the unflinching inculcation of these short truths. There is in Schiller's works a kernel full of immortal growth, which will endure long after the brilliant colors of his poetry have faded away. That kernel is the man, and without it Schiller's poetry, like all other poetry, is but the song of sirens. Schiller's character has been subjected to that painful scrutiny to which, in modern times, the characters of great men are subjected; everything he ever did, or said, or thought, has been published; and yet it would be difficult, in the whole course of his life, to point out one act, one word, one thought, that could be called mean, untrue, or selfish. From the beginning to the end Schiller remained true to himself; he never acted a part, he never bargained with the world. We [pg 099] may differ from him on many points of politics, ethics, and religion; but though we differ, we must always respect and admire. His life is the best commentary on his poetry; there is never a discrepancy between the two. As mere critics, we may be able to admire a poet without admiring the man; but poetry, it should be remembered, was not meant for critics only, and its highest purpose is never fulfilled, except where, as with Schiller, we can listen to the poet and look up to the man.


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V. WILHELM MÜLLER.13 1794-1827.

Seldom has a poet in a short life of thirty years engraven his name so deeply on the memorial tablets of the history of German poetry as Wilhelm Müller. Although the youthful efforts of a poet may be appreciated by those few who are able to admire what is good and beautiful, even though it has never before been admired by others, yet in order permanently to win the ear and heart of his people, a poet must live with the people, and take part in the movements and struggles of his age. Thus only can he hope to stir and mould the thoughts of his contemporaries, and to remain a permanent living power in the recollections of his countrymen. Wilhelm Müller died at the very moment when the rich blossoms of his poetic genius were forming fruit; and after he had warmed and quickened the hearts of the youth of Germany with the lyric songs of his own youth, only a short span of time was granted him to show the world, as he did more especially in his “Greek Songs” and “Epigrams,” [pg 101] the higher goal toward which he aspired. In these his last works one readily perceives that his poetry would not have reflected the happy dreams of youth only, but that he could perceive the poetry of life in its sorrows as clearly as in its joys, and depict it in true and vivid colors.

One may, I think, divide the friends and admirers of Wilhelm Müller into two classes: those who rejoice and delight in his fresh and joyous songs, and those who admire the nobleness and force of his character as shown in the poems celebrating the war of Greek independence, and in his epigrams. All poetry is not for every one, nor for every one at all times. There are critics and historians of literature who cannot tolerate songs of youth, of love, and of wine; they always ask “why?” and “wherefore?” and they demand in all poetry, before anything else, high or deep thoughts. No doubt there can be no poetry without thought, but there are thoughts which are poetical without being drawn from the deepest depths of the heart and brain, nay, which are poetical just because they are as simple and true and natural as the flowers of the field or the stars of heaven. There is a poetry for the old, but there is also a poetry for the young. The young demand in poetry an interpretation of their own youthful feelings, and first learn truly to understand themselves through those poets who speak for them as they would speak for themselves, had nature endowed them with melody of thought and harmony of diction. Youth is and will remain the majority of the world, and will let no gloomy brow rob it of its poetic enthusiasm for young love and old wine. True, youth is not over-critical; true, it does not know how to speak or write in learned phrases of the merits of its favorite [pg 102] poets. But for all that, where is the poet who would not rather live in the warm recollection of the never-dying youth of his nation than in voluminous encyclopædias, or even in the marble Walhallas of Germany? The story and the songs of a miller's man who loves his master's daughter, and of a miller's daughter who loves a huntsman better, may seem very trivial, commonplace, and unpoetical to many a man of forty or fifty. But there are men of forty and fifty who have never lost sight of the bright but now far-off days of their own youth, who can still rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep, and love with those that love,—aye, who can still fill their glasses with old and young, and in whose eyes every-day life has not destroyed the poetic bloom that rests everywhere on life so long as it is lived with warm and natural feelings. Songs which, like the “Beautiful Miller's Daughter” and the “Winter Journey,” could so penetrate and again spring forth from the soul of Franz Schubert, may well stir the very depths of our own hearts, without the need of fearing the wise looks of those who possess the art of saying nothing in many words. Why should poetry be less free than painting to seek for what is beautiful wherever a human eye can discover, wherever human art can imitate it? No one blames the painter if, instead of giddy peaks or towering waves, he delineates on his canvas a quiet narrow valley, filled with a green mist, and enlivened only by a gray mill and a dark brown mill-wheel, from which the spray rises like silver dust, and then floats away, and vanishes in the rays of the sun. Is what is not too common for the painter, too common for the poet? Is an idyl in the truest, warmest, softest colors of the soul, like the [pg 103] “Beautiful Miller's Daughter,” less a work of art than a landscape by Ruysdael? And observe in these songs how the execution suits the subject; their tone is thoroughly popular, and reminds many of us, perhaps too much, of the popular songs collected by Arnim and Brentano in “Des Knaben Wunderhorn.” But this could not be helped. Theocritus could not write his idyls in grand Attic Greek; he needed the homeliness of the Bœotian dialect. It was the same with Wilhelm Müller, who must not be blamed for expressions which now perhaps, more than formerly, may sound, to fastidious ears, too homely or commonplace.

His simple and natural conception of nature is shown most beautifully in the “Wanderer's Songs,” and in the “Spring Wreath from the Plauen Valley.” Nowhere do we find a labored thought or a labored word. The lovely spring world is depicted exactly as it is, but over all is thrown the life and inspiration of a poet's eye and a poet's mind, which perceives and gives utterance to what others fail to see, and silent nature cannot utter. It is this recognition of the beautiful in what is insignificant, of greatness in what is small, of the marvelous in ordinary life,—yes, this perception of the divine in every earthly enjoyment,—which gives its own charm to each of Wilhelm Müller's smallest poems, and endears them so truly to those who, amidst the hurry of life, have not forgotten the delight of absorption in nature, who have never lost their faith in the mystery of the divine presence in all that is beautiful, good, and true on earth. We need only read the “Frühlingsmahl,” or “Pfingsten” to see how a whole world, aye, a whole heaven, may be mirrored in the tiniest drop of dew.

And as enjoyment of nature finds so clear an echo [pg 104] in the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, so also does the delight which man should have in man. Drinking songs and table songs do not belong to the highest flights of poetry; but if the delights of friendly meetings and greetings belong to some of the brightest moments of human happiness, why should a poet hold them to be beneath his muse? There is something especially German in all drinking songs, and no other nation has held its wine in such honor. Can one imagine English poems on port and sherry? or has a Frenchman much to tell us of his Bordeaux, or even of his Burgundy? The reason that the poetry of wine is unknown in England and France is, that in these countries people know nothing of what lends its poetry to wine, namely, the joyous consciousness of mutual pleasure, the outpouring of hearts, the feeling of common brotherhood, which makes learned professors and divines, generals and ministers, men once more at the sound of the ringing glasses. This purely human delight in the enjoyment of life, in the flavor of the German wine, and in the yet higher flavor of the German Symposium, finds it happiest expression in the drinking songs of Wilhelm Müller. They have often been set to music by the best masters, and have long been sung by the happy and joyous. The name of the poet is often forgotten, whilst many of his songs have become popular songs, just because they were sung from the heart and soul of the German people, as the people were fifty years ago, and as the best of them still are, in spite of many changes in the Fatherland.

It is easy to see that a serious tone is not wanting even in the drinking songs. The wine was good, but the times were bad. Those who, like Wilhelm Müller, had shared in the great sufferings and the great [pg 105] hopes of the German people, and who then saw that after all the sacrifices that had been made, all was in vain, all was again as bad or even worse than before, could with difficulty conceal their disaffection, however helpless they felt themselves against the brutalities of those in power. Many, who like Wilhelm Müller had labored to reanimate German popular feeling; who like him had left the university to sacrifice as common soldiers their life and life's happiness to the freedom of the Fatherland, and who then saw how the terror felt by the scarcely rescued princes of their deliverers, and the fear of foreign nations of a united and strong Germany, joined hand in hand to destroy the precious seed sown in blood and tears,—could not always suppress their gloomy anger at such faint-hearted, weak-minded policy. On the first of January, 1820, Wilhelm Müller wrote thus, in the dedication of the second part of his “Letters from Rome” to his friend Atterbom, the Swedish poet, with whom he had but a short time before passed the Carnival time in Italy joyously and carelessly: “And thus I greet you in your old sacred Fatherland, not jokingly and merrily, like the book, whose writer seems to have become a stranger to me, but earnestly and briefly; for the great fast of the European world, expecting the passion, and waiting for deliverance, can endure no indifferent shrug of the shoulders and no hollow compromises and excuses. He who cannot act at this time, can yet rest and mourn.” For such words, veiled as they were, resigned as they were, the fortress of Mayence was at that time the usual answer.

“Deutsch und frei und stark und lauter
In dem deutschen Land
Ist der Wein allein geblieben
An der Rheines Strand.
[pg 106]
Ist der nicht ein Demagoge,
Wer soll einer sein?
Mainz, du stolze Bundesfeste,
Sperr ihn nur nicht ein.”14

That Wilhelm Müller escaped the petty and annoying persecutions of the then police system, he owed partly to the retired life he led in his little native country, partly to his own good spirits, which prevented him from entirely sinking the man in the politician. He had some enemies in the little court, whose Duke and Duchess were personally so attached to him. A prosperous life such as his could not fail to attract envy, and his frank, guileless character gave plenty of occasion for suspicion. But the only answer which he vouchsafed to his detractors was:—

“Und lasst mir doch mein volles Glass,
Und lasst mir meinen guten Spass,
Mit unsrer schlechten Zeit!
Wer bei dem Weine singt und lacht,
Den thut, ihr Herrn, nicht in die Acht!
Ein Kind ist Fröhligkeit.”15

Wilhelm Müller evidently felt that when words are not deeds, or do not lead to deeds, silence is more worthy of a man than speech. He never became a political poet, at least never in his own country. But when the rising of the Greeks appealed to those human sympathies of Christian nations which can never be [pg 107] quite extinguished, and when here, too, the faint-hearted policy of the great powers played and bargained over the great events in the east of Europe instead of trusting to those principles which alone can secure the true and lasting well-being of states, as well as of individuals, then the long accumulated wrath of the poet and of the man burst forth and found utterance in the songs on the Greek war of independence. Human, Christian, political, and classical sympathies stirred his heart, and breathed that life into his poems, which most of them still possess. It is astonishing how a young man in a small isolated town like Dessau, almost shut out from intercourse with the great world, could have followed step by step the events of the Greek revolution, seizing on all the right, the beauty, the grandeur of the struggle, making himself intimately acquainted with the dominant characters, whilst he at the same time mastered the peculiar local coloring of the passing events. Wilhelm Müller was not only a poet, but he was intimately acquainted with classic antiquity. He knew the Greeks and the Romans. And just as during his stay in Rome he recognized at all points the old in what was new, and everywhere sought to find what was eternal in the eternal city, so now with him the modern Greeks were inseparably joined with the ancient. A knowledge of the modern Greek language appeared to him the natural completion of the study of old Greek; and it was his acquaintance with the popular songs of modern as well as of ancient Hellas that gave the color which imparted such a vivid expression of truth and naturalness to his own Greek songs. It was thus that the “Griechen Lieder” arose, which appeared in separate but rapid numbers, and found great favor with the people. But [pg 108] even these “Griechen Lieder” caused anxiety to the paternal governments of those days:—

“Ruh und Friede will Europa—warum hast du sie gestört?
Warum mit dem Wahn der Freiheit eigenmächtig dich bethört?
Hoff' auf keines Herren Hülfe gegen eines Herren Frohn:
Auch des Türkenkaisers Polster nennt Europa einen Thron.”16

His last poems were suppressed by the Censor, as well as his “Hymn on the Death of Raphael Riego.” Some of these were first published long after his death; others must have been lost whilst in the Censor's hands.

Two of the Greek songs, “Mark Bozzaris,” and “Song before Battle,” may help the English reader to form his own opinion both of the poetical genius and of the character of Wilhelm Müller:—

Oeffne deine hohen Thore, Missolunghi, Stadt der Ehren,
Wo der Helden Leichen ruhen, die uns fröhlich sterben lehren,
Oeffne deine hohen Thore, öffne deine tiefen Grüfte,
Auf, und streue Lorberreiser auf den Pfad und in die Lüfte;
Mark Bozzari's edlen Leib bringen wir zu dir getragen.
Mark Bozzari's! Wer darf's wagen, solchen Helden zu beklagen?
Willst zuerst du seine Wunden oder seine Siege zählen?
Keinem Sieg wird eine Wunde, keiner Wund' ein Sieg hier fehlen.
Sieh auf unsern Lanzenspitzen sich die Turbanhäupter drehen,
Sieh, wie über seiner Bahre die Osmanenfahnen wehen,
Sieh, o sieh die letzten Werke, die vollbracht des Helden Rechte
In dem Feld von Karpinissi, wo sein Stahl im Blute zechte!
In der schwarzen Geisterstunde rief er unsre Schar zusammen.
Funken sprühten unsre Augen durch die Racht wie Wetterflammen,
Uebers Knie zerbrachen wir jauchzend unsrer Schwerter Scheiden,
Um mit Sensen einzumähen in die feisten Türkenweiden;
Und wir drückten uns die Hände, und wir strichen uns die Bärte,
[pg 109]
Und der stampfte mit dem Fusze, und der rieb an seinem Schwerte.
Da erscholl Bozzari's Stimme: “Auf, ins Lager der Barbaren!
Auf, mir nach! Verirrt euch nicht, Brüder, in der Feinde Scharen!
Sucht ihr mich, im Zelt des Paschas werdet ihr mich sicher finden.
Auf, mit Gott! Er hilft die Feinde, hilft den Tod auch überwinden!
Auf!” Und die Trompete risz er hastig aus des Bläsers Händen
Und stiesz selbst hinein so hell, dasz es von den Felsenwänden
Heller stets und heller muszte sich verdoppelnd widerhallen;
Aber heller widerhallt' es doch in unsern Herzen allen.
Wie des Herren Blitz und Donner aus der Wolkenburg der Nächte,
Also traf das Schwert der Freien die Tyrannen und die Knechte;
Wie die Tuba des Gerichtes wird dereinst die Sünder wecken,
Also scholl durchs Türkenlager brausend dieser Ruf der Schrecken:
“Mark Bozzari! Mark Bozzari! Sulioten! Sulioten!”
Solch ein guter Morgengrusz ward den Schläfern da entboten.
Und sie rüttelten sich auf, und gleich hirtenlosen Schafen
Rannten sie durch alle Gassen, bis sie aneinander trafen
Und, bethört von Todesengeln, die durch ihre Schwärme gingen,
Brüder sich in blinder Wuth stürzten in der Brüder Klingen.
Frag' die Nacht nach unsern Thaten; sie hat uns im Kampf gesehen—
Aber wird der Tag es glauben, was in dieser Nacht geschehen?
Hundert Griechen, tausend Türken: also war die Saat zu schauen
Auf dem Feld von Karpinissi, als das Licht begann zu grauen.
Mark Bozzari, Mark Bozzari, und dich haben wir gefunden—
Kenntlich nur an deinem Schwerte, kenntlich nur an deinen Wunden,
An den Wunden, die du schlugest, und an denen, die dich trafen—
Wie du es verheiszen hattest, in dem Zelt des Paschas schlafen.
Oeffne deine hohen Thore, Missolunghi, Stadt der Ehren,
Wo der Helden Leichen ruhen, die uns fröhlich sterben lehren,
Oeffne deine tiefen Grüfte, dasz wir in den heil'gen Stätten
Neben Helden unsern Helden zu dem langen Schlafe betten!—
Schlafe bei dem deutschen Grafen, Grafen Normann, Fels der Ehren,
Bis die Stimmen des Gerichtes alle Gräber werden leeren.
Open wide, proud Missolonghi, open wide thy portals high,
Where repose the bones of heroes, teach us cheerfully to die!
Open wide thy lofty portals, open wide thy vaults profound;
Up, and scatter laurel garlands to the breeze and on the ground!
Mark Bozzaris' noble body is the freight to thee we bear,—
Mark Bozzaris'! Who for hero great as he to weep will dare?
Tell his wounds, his victories over! Which in number greatest be?
Every victory has its wound, and every wound its victory!
See, a turbaned head is grimly set on all our lances here!
See, how the Osmanli's banner swathes in purple folds his bier!
[pg 110]
See, O see the latest trophies, which our hero's glory sealed,
When his glaive with gore was drunken on great Karpinissi's field!
In the murkiest hour of midnight did we at his call arise;
Through the gloom like lightning-flashes flashed the fury from our eyes;
With a shout, across our knees we snapped the scabbards of our swords,
Better down to mow the harvest of the mellow Turkish hordes;
And we clasped our hands together, and each warrior stroked his beard,
And one stamped the sward, another rubbed his blade, and vowed its wierd.
Then Bozzaris' voice resounded: “On, to the barbarian's lair!
On, and follow me, my brothers, see you keep together there!
Should you miss me, you will find me surely in the Pasha's tent!
On, with God! Through Him our foemen, death itself through Him is shent!
On!” And swift he snatched the bugle from the hands of him that blew,
And himself awoke a summons that o'er dale and mountain flew,
Till each rock and cliff made answer clear and clearer to the call,
But a clearer echo sounded in the bosom of us all!
As from midnight's battlemented keep the lightnings of the Lord
Sweep, so swept our swords, and smote the tyrants and their slavish horde;
As the trump of doom shall waken sinners in their graves that lie,
So through all the Turkish leaguer thundered his appalling cry:
“Mark Bozzaris! Mark Bozzaris! Suliotes, smite them in their lair!”
Such the goodly morning greeting that we gave the sleepers there.
And they staggered from their slumber, and they ran from street to street,
Ran like sheep without a shepherd, striking wild at all they meet;
Ran, and frenzied by Death's angels, who amidst their myriads strayed,
Brother, in bewildered fury, dashed and fell on brother's blade.
Ask the night of our achievements! It beheld us in the fight,
But the day will never credit what we did in yonder night.
Greeks by hundreds, Turks by thousands, there like scattered seed they lay,
On the field of Karpinissi, when the morning broke in gray.
Mark Bozarris, Mark Bozarris, and we found thee gashed and mown
By thy sword alone we knew thee, knew thee by thy wounds alone;
By the wounds thy hand had cloven, by the wounds that seamed thy breast,
Lying, as thou hadst foretold us, in the Pasha's tent at rest!
Open wide, proud Missolonghi, open wide thy portals high,
Where repose the bones of heroes, teach us cheerfully to die!
Open wide thy vaults! Within their holy bounds a couch we'd make,
Where our hero, laid with heroes, may his last long slumber take!
Rest beside that Rock of Honor, brave Count Normann, rest thy head,
Till, at the archangel's trumpet, all the graves give up their dead!
[pg 111]
Wer für die Freiheit kampft und fällt, desz Ruhm wird blühend stehn,
Solange frei die Winde noch durch freie Lüfte wehn,
Solange frei der Bäume Laub noch rauscht im grünen Wald,
Solang' des Stromes Woge noch frei nach dem Meere wallt,
Solang' des Adlers Fittich frei noch durch die Wolken fleugt,
Solang' ein freier Odem noch aus freiem Herzen steigt.
Wer für die Freiheit kämpft und fällt, desz Ruhm wird blühend stehn,
Solange freie Geister noch durch Erd' und Himmel gehn.
Durch Erd' und Himmel schwebt er noch, der Helden Schattenreihn,
Und rauscht um uns in stiller Nacht, in hellem Sonnenschein,
Im Sturm, der stolze Tannen bricht, und in dem Lüftchen auch,
Das durch das Gras auf Gräbern spielt mit seinem leisen Hauch,
In ferner Enkel Hause noch um alle Wiegen kreist
Auf Hellas' heldenreicher Flur der freien Ahnen Geist;
Der haucht in Wunderträumen schon den zarten Säugling an
Und weiht in seinem ersten Schlaf das Kind zu einem Mann;
Den Jüngling lockt sein Ruf hinaus mit nie gefühlter Lust
Zur Stätte, wo ein Freier fiel; da greift er in die Brust
Dem Zitternden, und Schauer ziehn ihm durch das tiefe Herz,
Er weisz nicht, ob es Wonne sei, ob es der erste Schmerz.
Herab, du heil'ge Geisterschar, schwell' unsre Fahnen auf,
Beflügle unsrer Herzen Schlag und unsrer Füse Lauf;
Wir ziehen nach der Freiheit aus, die Waffen in der Hand,
Wir ziehen aus auf Kampf und Tod für Gott, fürs Vaterland!
Ihr seid mit uns, ihr rauscht um uns, eu'r Geisterodem zieht
Mit zauberischen Tönen hin durch unser Jubellied;
Ihr seid mit uns, ihr schwebt daher, ihr aus Thermopylä,
Ihr aus dem grünen Marathon, ihr von der blauen See,
Am Wolkenfelsen Mykale, am Salaminerstrand,
Ihr all' aus Wald, Feld, Berg und Thal im weiten Griechenland!
Wer für die Freiheit kampft und fällt, desz Ruhm wird blühend stehn,
Solange frei die Winde noch durch freie Lüfte wehn,
Solange frei der Bäume Laub noch rauscht im grünen Wald,
Solang' des Stromes Woge noch frei nach dem Meere wallt,
Solang' des Adlers Fittich frei noch durch die Wolken fleugt,
Solang' ein freier Odem noch aus freiem Herzen steigt.
Whoe'er for freedom fights and falls, his fame no blight shall know,
As long as through heaven's free expanse the breezes freely blow,
As long as in the forest wild the green leaves flutter free,
As long as rivers, mountain-born, roll freely to the sea,
[pg 112]
As long as free the eagle's wing exulting cleaves the skies,
As long as from a freeman's heart a freeman's breath doth rise.
Whoe'er for freedom fights and falls, his fame no blight shall know,
As long as spirits of the free through earth and air shall go;
Through earth and air a spirit-band of heroes moves always,
'Tis near us at the dead of night, and in the noontide's blaze,
In the storm that levels towering pines, and in the breeze that waves
With low and gentle breath the grass upon our fathers' graves.
There's not a cradle in the bounds of Hellas broad and fair,
But the spirit of our free-born sires is surely hovering there.
It breathes in dreams of fairy-land upon the infant's brain,
And in his first sleep dedicates the child to manhood's pain;
Its summons lures the youth to stand, with new-born joy possessed,
Where once a freeman fell, and there it fires his thrilling breast,
And a shudder runs through all his frame; he knows not if it be
A throb of rapture, or the first sharp pang of agony.
Come, swell our banners on the breeze, thou sacred spirit-band,
Give wings to every warrior's foot, and nerve to every hand.
We go to strike for freedom, to break the oppressor's rod,
We go to battle and to death for our country and our God.
Ye are with us, we hear your wings, we hear in magic tone
Your spirit-voice the pæan swell, and mingle with our own.
Ye are with us, ye throng around,—you from Thermopylæ,
You from the verdant Marathon, you from the azure sea,
By the cloud-capped rocks of Mykale, at Salamis,—all you
From field and forest, mount and glen, the land of Hellas through!
Whoe'er for freedom fights and falls, his fame no blight shall know,
As long as through heaven's free expanse the breezes freely blow,
As long as in the forest wild the green leaves flutter free,
As long as rivers, mountain-born, roll freely to the sea,
As long as free the eagle's wing exulting cleaves the skies,
As long as from a freeman's heart a freeman's breath doth rise.

When we remember all that was compressed into this short life, we might well believe that this ceaseless acquiring and creating must have tired and weakened and injured both body and mind. Such, however, was not the case. All who knew the poet agree in stating that he never overworked himself, and that he accomplished all he did with the most perfect ease and enjoyment. Let us only remember how his life as a student was broken into by his service during the war, how his journey to Italy occupied several years of his life, [pg 113] how later in Dessau he had to follow his profession as teacher and librarian, and then let us turn our thoughts to all the work of his hands and the creations of his mind, and we are astonished, not only at the amount of work done, but still more at the finished form which distinguishes all his works. He was one of the first who with Zeune, Von der Hagen, and the brothers Grimm, labored to reawaken an interest in ancient and mediæval German literature. He was a favorite pupil of Wolf, and his “Homerische Vorschule” did more than any other work at that time to propagate the ideas of Wolf. He had explored the modern languages of Europe,—French, Italian, English, and Spanish; and his critiques in all these fields of literature show how intimately acquainted he was with the best authors of these nations. Besides all this, he worked regularly for journals and encyclopædias, and was engaged co-editor of the great “Encyclopædia of Arts and Sciences,” by Ersch and Gruber. He also undertook the publication of a “Library of the German Poets of the Seventeenth Century,” and all this, without mentioning his poems and novels, in the short space of a life of thirty-three years.

I almost forget that I am speaking of my father; for indeed I hardly knew him, and when his scientific and poetic activity reached its end, he was far younger than I am now. I do not believe, however, that a natural affection and veneration for the poet deprives us of the right of judging. It is well said that love is blind, but love also strengthens and sharpens the dull eye, so that it sees beauty where thousands pass by unmoved. If one reads most of our critical writings, it would almost appear as if the chief duty of the reviewer were to find out the weak points and faults of [pg 114] every work of art. Nothing has so injured the art of criticism as this prejudice. A critic is a judge; but a judge, though he is no advocate, should also be no prosecutor. The weak points of any work of art betray themselves only too soon; but in order to discover its beauties, not only a sharp, but an experienced eye is needed; and love and sympathy are necessary above anything else. It is the heart that makes the critic, not the nose. It is well known how many of the most beautiful spots in Scotland, and Wales, and Cornwall, were not many years ago described as wastes and wildernesses. Richmond and Hampton Court were admired, people travelled also to Versailles, and admired the often admired blue sky of Italy. But poets such as Walter Scott and Wordsworth discovered the beauties of their native land. Where others had only lamented over bare and wearisome hills, they saw the battle-fields and burial-places of the primeval Titan struggles of nature. Where others saw nothing but barren moors full of heather and broom, the land in their eyes was covered as with a carpet softer and more variegated than the most precious loom of Turkey. Where others lost their temper at the gray cold fog, they marveled at the silver veil of the bride of the morning, and the gold illumination of the departing sun. Now every cockney can admire the smallest lake in Westmoreland or the barest moor in the Highlands. Why is this? Because few eyes are so dull that they cannot see what is beautiful after it has been pointed out to them, and when they know that they need not feel ashamed of admiring it. It is the same with the beauties of poetry, as with the beauties of nature. We must first discover what is beautiful in poetry, and, when it is discovered, communicate it; [pg 115] otherwise the authors of Scotch ballads are but strolling singers, and the Niebelungen songs are, as Frederick the Great said, not worth powder and shot. The trade of fault-finding is quickly learnt; the art of admiration is a difficult art, at least for little minds, narrow hearts, and timid souls, who prefer treading broad and safe paths. Thus many critics and literary historians have rushed by the poems of Wilhelm Müller, just like travellers, who go on in the beaten track, passing by on the right hand and on the left the most beautiful scenes of nature, and who only stand still and open both eyes and mouth when their “Murray” tells them there is something they ought to admire. Should an old man who is at home here meet them on their way, and counsel the travellers to turn for a moment from the high road in order to accompany him through a shady path to a mill, many may feel at first full of uneasiness and distrust. But when they have refreshed themselves in the dark green valley with its lively mill stream and delicious wood fragrance, they no longer blame their guide for having called somewhat loudly to them to pause in their journey. It is such a pause that I have tried in these few introductory lines to enforce on the reader, and I believe that I too may reckon on pardon, if not on thanks, from those who have followed my sudden call.


[pg 116]


After all that has been written about the Schleswig-Holstein question, how little is known about those whom that question chiefly concerns,—the Schleswig-Holsteiners! There may be a vague recollection that, during the general turmoil of 1848, the German inhabitants of the Duchies rose against the Danes; that they fought bravely, and at last succumbed, not to the valor, but to the diplomacy of Denmark. But, after the treaty of London in 1852 had disposed of them as the treaty of Vienna had disposed of other brave people, they sank below the horizon of European interests, never to rise again, it was fondly hoped, till the present generation had passed away.

Yet these Schleswig-Holsteiners have an interest of their own, quite apart from the political clouds that have lately gathered round their country. Ever since we know anything of the history of Northern Europe, we find Saxon races established as the inhabitants of that northern peninsula which was then called the Cimbric Chersonese. The first writer who ever mentions the name of Saxons is Ptolemy,18 and he speaks of them as settled in what is now called Schleswig-Holstein.19 [pg 117] At the time of Charlemagne the Saxon race is described to us as consisting of three tribes: the Ostfalai, Westfalai, and Angrarii. The Westphalians were settled near the Rhine, the Eastphalians near the Elbe, and the intermediate country, washed by the Weser, was held by the Angrarii.20 The name of Westphalia is still in existence; that of Eastphalia has disappeared, but its memory survives in the English sterling. Eastphalian traders, the ancestors of the merchant princes of Hamburg, were known in England by the name of Easterlings; and their money being of the purest quality, easterling, in Latin esterlingus, shortened to sterling, became the general name of pure or sterling money. The name of the third tribe, the Angrarii, continued through the Middle Ages as the name of a people; and to the present day, my own sovereign, the Duke of Anhalt, calls himself Duke of Sachsen, Engern, und Westphalen.” But the name of the Angrarii was meant to fulfill another and more glorious destiny. The name Angrarii or Angarii21 is a corruption of the older name, Angrivarii, the famous German race mentioned by Tacitus as the neighbors of the Cherusci. These Angrivarii are in later documents called Anglevarii. The termination varii22 represents the same word which exists in A.-S. as ware; for instance, in Cant-ware, inhabitants of Kent, or Cant-ware-burh, Canterbury; burh-ware, inhabitants of a town, burghers. It is derived from werian, to defend, to hold, and may be connected with wer, a man. [pg 118] The same termination is found in Ansivarii or Ampsivarii; probably also in Teutonoarii instead of Teutoni, Chattuari instead of Chatti.

The principal seats of these Angrarii were, as we saw, between the Rhine and Elbe, but Tacitus23 knows of Anglii, i.e. Angrii, east of the Elbe; and an offshoot of the same Saxon tribe is found very early in possession of that famous peninsula between the Schlei and the Bay of Flensburg on the eastern coast of Schleswig,24 which by Latin writers was called Anglia, i.e. Angria. To derive the name of Anglia from the Latin angulus,25 corner, is about as good an etymology as the kind-hearted remark of St. Gregory, who interpreted the name of Angli by angeli. From that Anglia, the Angli, together with the Saxons and Juts, migrated to the British Isles in the fifth century, and the name of the Angli, as that of the most numerous tribe, became in time the name of Englaland.26 In the Latin laws ascribed to King Edward the Confessor, a curious supplement is found, which states “that the Juts (Guti) came formerly from the noble blood of the Angli, namely, from the state of Engra, and that the English came from the same blood. The Juts, therefore like the Angli of Germany, should always be received in England as brothers, and as citizens of the realm, because the Angli of England and Germany had always intermarried, and had fought together against the Danes.”27

[pg 119]

Like the Angli of Anglia, the principal tribes clustering round the base of the Cimbric peninsula, and known by the general name of Northalbingi or Transalbiani, also Nordleudi, were all offshoots of the Saxon stem. Adam of Bremen (2, 15) divides them into Tedmarsgoi, Holcetae, and Sturmarii. In these it is easy to recognize the modern names of Dithmarschen, Holtseten or Holsten, and Stormarn. It would require more space than we can afford, were we to enter into the arguments by which Grimm has endeavored to identify the Dithmarschen with the Teutoni, the Stormarn with the Cimbri, and the Holsten with the Harudes. His arguments, if not convincing, are at least highly ingenious, and may be examined by those interested in these matters, in his “History of the German Language,” pp. 633-640.

For many centuries the Saxon inhabitants of those regions have had to bear the brunt of the battle between the Scandinavian and the German races. From the days when the German Emperor Otho I. (died 973) hurled his swift spear from the northernmost promontory of Jutland into the German Ocean to mark the true frontier of his empire, to the day when [pg 120] Christian IX. put his unwilling pen to that Danish constitution which was to incorporate all the country north of the Eider with Denmark, they have had to share in all the triumphs and all the humiliations of the German race, to which they are linked by the strong ties of a common blood and a common language.

Such constant trials and vicissitudes have told on the character of these German borderers, and have made them what they are, a hardy and determined, yet careful and cautious race. Their constant watchings and struggles against the slow encroachments or sudden inroads of an enemy more inveterate even than the Danes,—namely, the sea,—had imparted to them from the earliest times somewhat of that wariness and perseverance which we perceive in the national character of the Dutch and the Venetians. But the fresh breezes of the German Ocean and the Baltic kept their nerves well braced and their hearts buoyant; and for muscular development the arms of these sturdy ploughers of the sea and the land can vie with those of any of their neighbors on the isles or on the Continent. Holsten-treue, i.e. Holstein-truth, is proverbial throughout Germany, and it has stood the test of long and fearful trials.

There is but one way of gaining an insight into the real character of a people, unless we can actually live among them for years; and that is to examine their language and literature. Now it is true that the language spoken in Schleswig-Holstein is not German,—at least not in the ordinary sense of the word,—and one may well understand how travellers and correspondents of newspapers, who have picked up their German phrases from Ollendorf, and who, on the [pg 121] strength of this, try to enter into a conversation with Holstein peasants, should arrive at the conclusion that these peasants speak Danish, or, at all events, that they do not speak German.

The Germans of Schleswig-Holstein are Saxons, and all true Saxons speak Low-German, and Low-German is more different from High-German than English is from Lowland Scotch. Low-German, however, is not to be mistaken for vulgar German. It is the German which from time immemorial was spoken in the low countries and along the northern sea-coast of Germany, as opposed to the German of the high country, of Swabia, Thuringia, Bavaria, and Austria. These two dialects differ from each other like Doric and Ionic; neither can be considered as a corruption of the other; and however far back we trace these two branches of living speech, we never arrive at a point when they diverge from one common source. The Gothic of the fourth century, preserved in the translation of the Bible by Ulfilas, is not, as has been so often said, the mother both of High and Low German. It is to all intents and purposes Low-German, only Low-German in its most primitive form, and more primitive therefore in its grammatical framework than the earliest specimens of High-German also, which date only from the seventh or eighth century. This Gothic, which was spoken in the east of Germany, has become extinct. The Saxon, spoken in the north of Germany, continues its manifold existence to the present day in the Low-German dialects, in Frisian, in Dutch, and in English. The rest of Germany was and is occupied by High-German. In the West the ancient High-German dialect of the Franks has been absorbed in French, while the German spoken from [pg 122] the earliest times in the centre and south of Germany has supplied the basis of what is now called the literary and classical language of Germany.

Although the literature of Germany is chiefly High-German, there are a few literary compositions, both ancient and modern, in the different spoken dialects of the country, sufficient to enable scholars to distinguish at least nine distinct grammatical settlements; in the Low-German branch, Gothic, Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, Frisian, and Dutch; in the High-German branch, Thuringian, Frankish, Bavarian, and Alemannish. Professor Weinhold is engaged at present in publishing separate grammars of six of these dialects, namely, of Alemannish, Bavarian, Frankish, Thuringian, Saxon, and Frisian: and in his great German Grammar Jacob Grimm has been able to treat these, together with the Scandinavian tongues, as so many varieties of one common, primitive type of Teutonic speech.

But although, in the early days of German life, the Low and High German dialects were on terms of perfect equality, Low-German has fallen back in the race, while High-German has pressed forward with double speed. High-German has become the language of literature and good society. It is taught in schools, preached in church, pleaded at the bar; and, even in places where ordinary conversation is still carried on in Low-German, High-German is clearly intended to be the language of the future. At the time of Charlemagne this was not so; and one of the earliest literary monuments of the German language, the “Heliand,” i.e. the Saviour, is written in Saxon or Low-German. The Saxon Emperors, however, did little for German literature, while the Swabian Emperors were proud of being the patrons of art and poetry. [pg 123] The language spoken at their court being High-German, the ascendency of that dialect may be said to date from their days, though it was not secured till the time of the Reformation, when the translation of the Bible by Luther put a firm and lasting stamp on what has since become the literary speech of Germany.

But language, even though deprived of literary cultivation, does not easily die. Though at present people write the same language all over Germany, the towns and villages teem everywhere with dialects, both High and Low. In Hanover, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, the Free Towns, and in Schleswig-Holstein, the lower orders speak their own German, generally called Platt-Deutsch, and in many parts of Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, Ostfriesland, and Holstein, the higher ranks too cling in their every-day conversation to this more homely dialect.28 Children frequently [pg 124] speak two languages: High-German at school, Low-German at their games. The clergyman speaks High-German when he stands in the pulpit; but when he visits the poor, he must address them in their own peculiar Platt. The lawyer pleads in the language of Schiller and Goethe; but when he examines his witnesses he has frequently to condescend to the vulgar tongue. That vulgar tongue is constantly receding from the towns; it is frightened away by railways, it is ashamed to show itself in parliament. But it is loved all the more by the people; it appeals to their hearts, and it comes back naturally to all who have ever talked it together in their youth. It is the same with the local patois of High-German. Even where at school the correct High-German is taught and spoken, as in Bavaria and Austria, each town still keeps its own patois, and the people fall back on it as soon as they are among themselves. When Maria Theresa went to the Burgtheater to announce to the people of Vienna the birth of a son and heir, she did not address them in high-flown literary German. She bent forward from her box, and called out: Hörts! der Leopold hot án Buebá: “Hear! Leopold has a boy.” In German comedies, characters from Berlin, Leipzig, and Vienna are constantly introduced speaking their own local dialects. In Bavaria, Styria, and the Tyrol, much of the poetry of the people is written in their patois; and in some parts of Germany sermons even, and other religious tracts, continue to be published in the local vernaculars.

[pg 125]

There are here and there a few enthusiastic champions of dialects, particularly of Low-German, who still cherish a hope that High-German may be thrown back, and Low-German restored to its rights and former dominion. Yet, whatever may be thought of the relative excellences of High and Low German,—and in several points, no doubt, Low-German has the advantage of High-German,—yet, practically, the battle between the two is decided, and cannot now be renewed. The national language of Germany, whether in the South or the North, will always be the German of Luther, Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe. This, however, is no reason why the dialects, whether of Low or High German, should be despised or banished. Dialects are everywhere the natural feeders of literary languages; and an attempt to destroy them, if it could succeed, would be like shutting up the tributaries of great rivers.

After these remarks it will be clear that, if people say that the inhabitants of Schleswig-Holstein do not speak German, there is some truth in such a statement, at least just enough of truth to conceal the truth. It might be said, with equal correctness, that the people of Lancashire do not speak English. But, if from this a conclusion is to be drawn that the Schleswig-Holsteiners, speaking this dialect, which is neither German nor Danish, might as well be taught in Danish as in German, this is not quite correct, and would deceive few if it were adduced as an argument for introducing French instead of English in the national schools of Lancashire.

The Schleswig-Holsteiners have their own dialect, and cling to it as they cling to many things which, in other parts of Germany, have been discarded as old-fashioned [pg 126] and useless. Oll Knust hölt Hus,”“Stale bread lasts longest,”—is one of their proverbs. But they read their Bible in High-German; they write their newspapers in High-German, and it is in High-German that their children are taught, and their sermons preached in every town and in every village. It is but lately that Low-German has been taken up again by Schleswig-Holstein poets; and some of their poems, though intended originally for their own people only, have been read with delight, even by those who had to spell them out with the help of a dictionary and a grammar. This kind of homespun poetry is a sign of healthy national life. Like the songs of Burns in Scotland, the poems of Klaus Groth and others reveal to us, more than anything else, the real thoughts and feelings, the every-day cares and occupations, of the people whom they represent, and to whose approval alone they appeal. But as Scotland, proud though she well may be of her Burns, has produced some of the best writers of English, Schleswig-Holstein, too, small as it is in comparison with Scotland, counts among its sons some illustrious names in German literature. Niebuhr, the great traveller, and Niebuhr, the great historian, were both Schleswig-Holsteiners, though during their lifetime that name had not yet assumed the political meaning in which it is now used. Karsten Niebuhr, the traveller, was a Hanoverian by birth; but, having early entered the Danish service, he was attached to a scientific mission sent by King Frederick V. to Egypt, Arabia, and Palestine, in 1760. All the other members of that mission having died, it was left to Niebuhr, after his return in 1767, to publish the results of his own observations and of those of his companions. His “Description of Arabia,” and [pg 127] his “Travels in Arabia and the Adjoining Countries,” though published nearly a hundred years ago, are still quoted with respect, and their accuracy has hardly ever been challenged. Niebuhr spent the rest of his life as a kind of collector and magistrate at Meldorf, a small town of between two and three thousand inhabitants, in Dithmarschen. He is described as a square and powerful man, who lived to a good old age, and who, even when he had lost his eyesight, used to delight his family and a large circle of friends by telling them of the adventures in his Oriental travels, of the starry nights of the desert, and of the bright moonlight of Egypt, where, riding on his camel, he could, from his saddle, recognize every plant that was growing on the ground. Nor were the listeners that gathered round him unworthy of the old traveller. Like many a small German town, Meldorf, the home of Niebuhr, had a society consisting of a few government officials, clergymen, and masters at the public school; most of them men of cultivated mind, and quite capable of appreciating a man of Niebuhr's powers. Even the peasants there were not the mere clods of other parts of Germany. They were a well-to-do race, and by no means illiterate. Their sons received at the Gymnasium of Meldorf a classical education, and they were able to mix with ease and freedom in the society of their betters. The most hospitable house at Meldorf was that of Boie, the High Sheriff of Dithmarschen. He had formerly, at Göttingen, been the life and soul of a circle of friends who have become famous in the history of German literature, under the name of “Hainbund.” That “Hainbund,” or Grove-club, included Bürger, the author of “Lenore;” Voss, the translator of Homer; the Counts Stolberg, Hölty, and [pg 128] others. With Goethe, too, Boie had been on terms of intimacy, and when, in after life, he settled down at Meldorf, many of his old friends, his brother-in-law Voss, Count Stolberg, Claudius, and others, came to see him and his illustrious townsman, Niebuhr. Many a seed was sown there, many small germs began to ripen in that remote town of Meldorf, which are yielding fruit at the present day, not in Germany only, but here in England. The sons of Boie, fired by the descriptions of the old, blind traveller, followed his example, and became distinguished as explorers and discoverers in natural history. Niebuhr's son, young Barthold, soon attracted the attention of all who came to see his father, particularly of Voss; and he was enabled by their help and advice, to lay, in early youth, that foundation of solid learning which fitted him, in the intervals of his checkered life, to become the founder of a new era in the study of Ancient History. And how curious the threads which bind together the destinies of men! how marvelous the rays of light which, emanating from the most distant centres, cross each other in their onward course, and give their own peculiar coloring to characters apparently original and independent! We have read, of late, in the Confessions of a modern St. Augustine, how the last stroke that severed his connection with the Church of England was the establishment of the Jerusalem bishopric. But for that event, Dr. Newman might now be a bishop, and his friends a strong party in the Church of England. Well, that Jerusalem bishopric owes something to Meldorf. The young schoolboy of Meldorf was afterwards the private tutor and personal friend of the Crown-Prince of Prussia, and he thus exercised an influence both on the political and the religious views of King Frederick [pg 129] William IV. He was likewise Prussian Ambassador at Rome, when Bunsen was there as a young scholar, full of schemes, and planning his own journey to the East. Niebuhr became the friend and patron of Bunsen, and Bunsen became his successor in the Prussian embassy at Rome. It is well known that the Jerusalem bishopric was a long-cherished plan of the King of Prussia, Niebuhr's pupil, and that the bill for the establishment of a Protestant bishopric at Jerusalem was carried chiefly through the personal influence of Bunsen, the friend of Niebuhr. Thus we see how all things are working together for good or for evil, though we little know of the grains of dust that are carried along from all quarters of the globe, to tell like infinitesimal weights in the scales that decide hereafter the judgment of individuals and the fate of nations.

If Holstein, and more particularly Dithmarschen, of which Meldorf had in former days been the capital, may claim some share in Niebuhr the historian,—if he himself, as the readers of his history are well aware, is fond of explaining the social and political institutions of Rome by references to what he had seen or heard of the little republic of Dithmarschen,—it is certainly a curious coincidence that the only worthy successor of Niebuhr, in the field of Roman history, Theodore Mommsen, is likewise a native of Schleswig. His History of Rome, though it did not produce so complete a revolution as the work of Niebuhr, stands higher as a work of art. It contains the results of Niebuhr's critical researches, sifted and carried on by a most careful and thoughtful disciple. It is, in many respects, a most remarkable work, particularly in Germany. The fact that it is readable, and has become a popular book, has excited the wrath of many critics, who evidently [pg 130] consider it beneath the dignity of a learned professor that he should digest his knowledge, and give to the world, not all and everything he has accumulated in his note-books, but only what he considers really important and worth knowing. The fact, again, that he does not load his pages with references and learned notes has been treated like a crimen lœsæ majestatis; and yet, with all the clamor and clatter that has been raised, few authors have had so little to alter or rectify in their later editions as Mommsen. To have produced two such scholars, historians, and statesmen as Niebuhr and Mommsen, would be an honor to any kingdom in Germany: how much more to the small duchy of Schleswig-Holstein, in which we have been told so often that nothing is spoken but Danish and some vulgar dialects of Low-German!

Well, even those vulgar dialects of Low-German, and the poems and novels that have been written in them by true Schleswig-Holsteiners, are well worth a moment's consideration. In looking at their language, an Englishman at once discovers a number of old acquaintances: words which we would look for in vain in Schiller or Goethe. We shall mention a few.

Black means black; in High-German it would be schwarz. De black is the black horse; black up wit is black on white; gif mek kil un blak, give me quill and ink. Blid is blithe, instead of the High-German mild. Bottervogel, or botterhahn, or botterhex, is butterfly, instead of schmetterling. It is a common superstition in the North of Germany, that one ought to mark the first butterfly one sees in spring. A white one betokens mourning, a yellow one a christening, a variegated one a wedding. Bregen or brehm is used instead of the High-German gehirn; it is the English brain. [pg 131] People say of a very foolish person, that his brain is frozen, de brehm is em verfrorn. The peculiar English but, which has given so much trouble to grammarians and etymologists, exists in the Holstein buten, literally outside, the Dutch buiten, the Old-Saxon bi-ûtan. Buten in German is a regular contraction, just as binnen, which means inside, within, during. Heben is the English heaven, while the common German name is Himmel. Hückup is a sigh, and no doubt the English hiccough. Düsig is dizzy; talkig is talkative.

There are some curious words which, though they have a Low-German look, are not to be found in English or Anglo-Saxon. Thus plitsch, which is used in Holstein in the sense of clever, turns out to be a corruption of politisch, i.e. political. Krüdsch means particular or over nice; it is a corruption of kritisch, critical. Katolsch means angry, mad, and is a corruption of catholic, i.e. Roman Catholic. Kränsch means plucky, and stands for courageux. Fränksch, i.e. Frankish, means strange; Flämsch, i.e. Flemish, means sulky, and is used to form superlatives; Polsch, i.e. Polish, means wild. Forsch means strong and strength, and comes from the French force. Klür is a corruption of couleur, and Kunkelfusen stands for confusion or fibs.

Some idiomatic and proverbial expressions, too, deserve to be noted. Instead of saying, “The sun has set,” the Holsteiners, fond as they are of their beer, particularly in the evening after a hard day's work, say, De Sünn geiht to Beer,” “The sun goes to beer.” If you ask in the country how far it is to some town or village, a peasant will answer, 'n Hunnblaff,” “A dog's bark,” if it is quite close; or 'n Pip Toback,” “A pipe of tobacco,” meaning about half an hour. Of a conceited [pg 132] fellow they say, Hê hört de Flégn hosten,” “He hears the flies coughing.” If a man is full of great schemes, he is told, In Gedanken fört de Bur ôk in't Kutsch.” “In thought the peasant, too, drives in a coach.” A man who boasts is asked, Pracher! häst ôk Lüs, oder schuppst di man so? “Braggart! have you really lice, or do you only scratch yourself as if you had?”

Holstein singt nicht,” “Holstein does not sing,” is a curious proverb; and if it is meant to express the absence of popular poetry in that country, it would be easy to convict it of falsehood by a list of poets whose works, though unknown to fame beyond the limits of their own country, are cherished, and deservedly cherished, by their own countrymen. The best known among the Holstein poets is Klaus Groth, whose poems, published under the title of “Quickborn,” i.e. quick bourn, or living spring, show that there is a well of true poetical feeling in that country, and that its strains are all the more delicious and refreshing if they bubble up in the native accent of the country. Klaus Groth was born in 1819. He was the son of a miller; and, though he was sent to school, he had frequently to work in the field in summer, and make himself generally useful. Like many Schleswig-Holsteiners, he showed a decided talent for mathematics; but, before he was sixteen, he had to earn his bread, and work as a clerk in the office of a local magistrate. His leisure hours were devoted to various studies: German, Danish, music, psychology, successively engaged his attention. In his nineteenth year he went to the seminary at Tondern to prepare himself to become a schoolmaster. There he studied Latin, French, Swedish; and, after three years, was appointed teacher at a girls' school. Though he had to give forty-three lessons a week, he [pg 133] found time to continue his own reading, and he acquired a knowledge of English, Dutch, Icelandic, and Italian. At last, however, his health gave way, and in 1847 he was obliged to resign his place. During his illness his poetical talent, which he himself had never trusted, became a source of comfort to himself and to his friends, and the warm reception which greeted the first edition of his “Quickborn” made him what he was meant to be,—the poet of Schleswig-Holstein.

His political poems are few; and, though a true Schleswig-Holsteiner at heart, he has always declined to fight with his pen when he could not fight with his sword. In the beginning of this year, however, he published “Five Songs for Singing and Praying,” which, though they fail to give an adequate idea of his power as a poet, may be of interest as showing the deep feelings of the people in their struggle for independence. The text will be easily intelligible with the help of a literal English translation.



Frühling, 1848.

Dar keemn Soldaten æwer de Elf,
Hurah, hurah, na't Norn!
Se keemn so dicht as Wagg an Wagg,
Un as en Koppel vull Korn.
Gundag, Soldaten! wo kamt jü her?
Vun alle Bargen de Krüz un Quer,
Ut dütschen Landen na't dütsche Meer—
So wannert un treckt dat Heer.
Wat liggt so eben as weert de See?
Wat schint so gel as Gold?
Dat is de Marschen er Saat un Staat,
Dat is de Holsten er Stoet.
[pg 134]
Gundag jü Holsten op dütsche Eer!
Gundag jü Friesen ant dütsche Meer!
To leben un starben vær dütsche Ehr
So wannert un treckt dat Heer.

German Honor and German Earth.

Spring, 1848.

There came soldiers across the Elbe,
Hurrah, hurrah, to the North!
They came as thick as wave on wave,
And like a field full of corn.
Good day, soldiers! whence do you come?
From all the hills on the right and left,
From German lands to the German sea,—
Thus wanders and marches the host.
What lies so still as it were the sea?
What shines so yellow as gold?
The splendid fields of the Marshes they are,
The pride of the Holsten race.
Good day, ye Holsten on German soil!
Good day, ye Friesians, on the German sea
To live and to die for German honor,—
Thus wanders and marches the host.


Sommer, 1851.

Dat treckt so trurig æwer de Elf,
In Tritt un Schritt so swar—
De Swalw de wannert, de Hatbar treckt—
Se kamt wedder to tokum Jahr.
Ade, ade, du dütsches Heer!
“Ade, ade, du Holsten meer!
Ade op Hoffen un Wiederkehr!”
Wi truert alleen ant Meer.
De Storch kumt wedder, de Swalw de singt
So fröhlich as all tovær—
Wann kumt de dütsche Adler un bringt
Di wedder, du dütsche Ehr?
[pg 135]
Wak op du Floth, wak op du Meer!
Wak op du Dunner, un week de Eer!
Wi sitt op Hæpen un Wedderkehr—
Wi truert alleen ant Meer.

Summer, 1851.

They march so sad across the Elbe,
So heavy, step by step,—
The swallow wanders, the stork departs,—
They come back in the year to come.
Adieu, adieu, thou German host!
“Adieu, adieu, thou Holsten sea!
Adieu, in hope, and to meet again!”
We mourn alone by the sea.
The stork comes back, the swallow sings
As blithe as ever before,—
When will the German eagle return,
And bring thee back, thou German honor!
Wake up, thou flood! wake up, thou sea!
Wake up, thou thunder, and rouse the land!
We are sitting in hope to meet again,—
We mourn alone by the sea.


Winter, 1863.

Dar kumt en Brusen as Værjahswind,
Dat dræhnt as wær dat de Floth,—
Will't Fröhjahr kamen to Wihnachtstid?
Hölpt Gott uns sülb'n inne Noth?
Vun alle Bargen de Krüz un Quer
Dar is dat wedder dat dütsche Heer!
Dat gelt op Nu oder Nimmermehr!
So rett se, de dütsche Ehr!
Wi hört den Adler, he kumt, he kumt!
Noch eenmal hæpt wi un harrt!
Is't Friheit endlich, de he uns bringt?
ls't Wahrheit, wat der ut ward?
Sunst hölp uns Himmel, nu geit't ni mehr!
Hölp du, un bring uns den Herzog her!
[pg 136]
Denn wüllt wi starben vær dütsche Ehr!
Denn begravt uns in dütsche Eer!

30 December, 1863.

Winter, 1863.

There comes a blast like winter storm;
It roars as it were the flood.
Is the spring coming at Christmas-tide?
Does God himself help us in our need?
From all the hills on the right and left,
There again comes the German host!
It is to be now or never!
O, save the German honor!
We hear the eagle, he comes, he comes!
Once more we hope and wait!
Is it freedom at last he brings to us?
Is it truth what comes from thence?
Else Heaven help us, now it goes no more!
Help thou, and bring us our Duke!
Then will we die for German honor!
Then bury us in German earth!

December 30, 1863.

It is not, however, in war songs or political invective that the poetical genius of Klaus Groth shows to advantage. His proper sphere is the quiet idyl, a truthful and thoughtful description of nature, a reproduction of the simplest and deepest feelings of the human heart, and all this in the homely, honest, and heartfelt language of his own “Platt Deutsch.” That the example of Burns has told on Groth, that the poetry of the Scotch poet has inspired and inspirited the poet of Schleswig-Holstein, is not to be denied. But to imitate Burns, and to imitate him successfully, is no mean achievement, and Groth would be the last man to disown his master. The poem “Min Jehann” might have been written by Burns. I shall give a free metrical translation of it, but should advise the reader [pg 137] to try to spell out the original; for much of its charm lies in its native form, and to turn Groth even into High-German destroys his beauty as much as when Burns is translated into English.


Ik wull, wi weern noch kleen, Jehann,
Do weer de Welt so grot!
We seten op den Steen, Jehann,
Weest noch? by Nawers Sot.
An Heben sell de stille Maan,
Wi segen, wa he leep,
Un snacken, wa de Himmel hoch,
Un wa de Sot wul deep.
Weest noch, wa still dat weer, Jehann?
Dar röhr keen Blatt an Bom.
So is dat nu ni mehr, Jehann,
As höchstens noch in Drom.
Och ne, wenn do de Scheper sung—
Alleen in't wide Feld:
Ni wahr, Jehann? dat weer en Ton—
De eenzige op de Welt.
Mitünner inne Schummerntid
Denn ward mi so to Mod,
Denn löppt mi't langs den Rügg so hitt,
As domals bi den Sot.
Den dreih ik mi so hasti um,
As weer ik nich alleen:
Doch Allens, wat ik finn, Jehann,
Dat is—ik stah un ween.


I wish we still were little, John,
The world was then so wide!
When on the stone by neighbor's bourn
We rested side by side.
We saw the moon in silver veiled
Sail silent through the sky;
Our thoughts were deeper than the bourn,
And as the heavens high.
You know how still it was then, John;
All nature seemed at rest;
[pg 138]
So is it now no longer, John,
Or in our dreams at best!
Think when the shepherd boy then sang
Alone o'er all the plain,
Aye, John, you know, that was a sound
We ne'er shall hear again.
Sometimes now, John, the eventides
The self-same feelings bring,
My pulses beat as loud and strong
As then beside the spring.
And then I turn affrighted round,
Some stranger to descry;
But nothing can I see, my John,—
I am alone and cry.

The next poem is a little popular ballad, relating to a tradition, very common on the northern coast of Germany, both east and west of the peninsula, of islands swallowed by the sea, their spires, pinnacles, and roofs being on certain days still visible, and their bells audible, below the waves. One of these islands was called Büsen, or Old Büsum, and is supposed to have been situated opposite the village now called Büsen, on the west coast of Dithmarschen. Strange to say, the inhabitants of that island, in spite of their tragic fate, are represented rather in a comical light, as the Bœotians of Holstein.


Ol Büsum.

Ol Büsen hggt int wille Haff,
De Floth de keem un wöhl en Graff.
De Floth de keem un spöl un spöl,
Bet se de Insel ünner wöhl.
Dar blev keen Steen, dar blev keen Pahl,
Dat Water schæl dat all hendal.
Dar weer keen Beest, dar weer keen Hund,
De ligt nu all in depen Grund.
Un Allens, wat der lev un lach,
Dat deck de See mit depe Nach.
[pg 139]
Mitünner in de holle Ebb
So süht man vunne Hüs' de Köpp.
Denn dukt de Thorn herut ut Sand,
As weert en Finger vun en Hand.
Denn hört man sach de Klocken klingn,
Denn hört man sach de Kanter singn;
Denn geit dat lisen dær de Luft:
“Begrabt den Leib in seine Gruft.”


Old Büsum.

Old Büsen sank into the waves;
The sea has made full many graves;
The flood came near and washed around,
Until the rock to dust was ground.
No stone remained, no belfry steep;
All sank into the waters deep.
There was no beast, there was no hound;
They all were carried to the ground.
And all that lived and laughed around
The sea now holds in gloom profound.
At times, when low the water falls,
The sailor sees the broken walls;
The church tower peeps from out the sand,
Like to the finger of a hand.
Then hears one low the church bells ringing
Then hears one low the sexton singing;
A chant is carried by the gust:
“Give earth to earth, and dust to dust.”

In the Baltic, too, similar traditions are current of sunken islands and towns buried in the sea, which are believed to be visible at certain times. The most famous tradition is that of the ancient town of Vineta,—once, it is said, the greatest emporium in the north of Europe,—several times destroyed and built up again, till, in 1183, it was upheaved by an earthquake and swallowed by a flood. The ruins of Vineta are believed to be visible between the coast of Pomerania and the island of Rügen. This tradition has suggested one of Wilhelm Müller's—my father's—lyrical songs, published in his “Stones and Shells from the Island of [pg 140] Rügen,” 1825, of which I am able to give a translation by Mr. J. A. Froude.



Aus des Meeres tiefem, tiefem Grunde
Klingen Abendglocken dumpf und matt,
Uns zu geben wunderbare Kunde
Von der schönen alten Wunderstadt.


In der Fluthen Sehooss hinabgesunken
Blieben unten ihre Trümmer stehn,
Ihre Zinnen lassen goldne Funken
Wiederscheinend auf dem Spiegel sehn.


Und der Schiffer, der den Zauberschimmer
Einmal sah im hellen Abendroth,
Nach derselben Stelle schifft er immer,
Ob auch rings umher die Klippe droht.


Aus des Herzens tiefem, tiefem Grunde
Klingt es mir, wie Glocken, dumpf und matt:
Ach, sie geben wunderbare Kunde
Von der Liebe, die geliebt es hat.


Eine schöne Welt ist da versunken,
Ihre Trümmer blieben unten stehn,
Lassen sich als goldne Himmelsfunken
Oft im Spiegel meiner Träume sehn.


Und dann möcht' ich tauchen in die Tiefen,
Mich versenken in den Wiederschein,
Und mir ist als ob mich Engel riefen
In die alte Wunderstadt herein.



From the sea's deep hollow faintly pealing,
Far off evening bells come sad and slow;
[pg 141]
Faintly rise, the wondrous tale revealing
Of the old enchanted town below.


On the bosom of the flood reclining,
Ruined arch and wall and broken spire,
Down beneath the watery mirror shining,
Gleam and flash in flakes of golden fire.


And the boatman who at twilight hour
Once that magic vision shall have seen,
Heedless how the crags may round him lour,
Evermore will haunt the charméd scene.


From the heart's deep hollow faintly pealing,
Far I hear them, bell-notes sad and slow,
Ah, a wild and wondrous tale revealing
Of the drownéd wreck of love below.


There a world, in loveliness decaying,
Lingers yet in beauty ere it die;
Phantom forms, across my senses playing,
Flash like golden fire-flakes from the sky.


Lights are gleaming, fairy bells are ringing,
And I long to plunge and wander free,
Where I hear the angel-voices singing
In those ancient towers below the sea.

I give a few more specimens of Klaus Groth's poetry, which I have ventured to turn into English verse, in the hope that my translations, though very imperfect, may, perhaps on account of their very imperfection, excite among some of my readers a desire to become acquainted with the originals.



He sä mi so vel, un ik sä em keen Wort,
Un all wat ik sä, weer: Jehann, ik mutt fort!
[pg 142]


He sä mi vun Lev un vun Himmel un Eer,
He sä mi vun allens—ik weet ni mal mehr!


He sä mi so vel, un ik sä em keen Wort,
Un all wat ik sä, weer: Jehann, ik mutt fort!


He heeld mi de Hann, un he be mi so dull,
Ik schull em doch gut wen, un ob ik ni wull?


Ik weer je ni bös, awer sä doch keen Wort,
Un all wat ik sä, weer: Jehann, ik mutt fort!


Nu sitt ik un denk, un denk jümmer deran
Mi düch, ik muss seggt hebbn: Wa geern, min Jehann!


Un doch, kumt dat wedder, so segg ik keen Wort,
Un hollt he mi, segg ik: Jehann, ik mutt fort!



Though he told me so much, I had nothing to say,
And all that I said was, John, I must away!


He spoke of his true love, and spoke of all that,
Of honor and heaven,—I hardly know what.


Though he told me so much, I had nothing to say,
And all that I said was, John, I must away!


He held me, and asked me, as hard as he could,
That I too should love him, and whether I would?


I never was wrath, but had nothing to say,
And all that I said was, John, I must away!
[pg 143]


I sit now alone, and I think on and on,
Why did I not say then, How gladly, my John!


Yet even the next time, O what shall I say,
If he holds me and asks me?—John, I must away!


Se is doch de stillste vun alle to Kark!
Se is doch de schönste vun alle to Mark!
So weekli, so bleekli, un de Ogen so grot,
So blau as en Heben un deep as en Sot.
Wer kikt wul int Water, un denkt ni sin Deel?
Wer kikt wul nan Himmel, un wünscht sik ne vel?
Wer süht er in Ogen, so blau un so fram,
Un denkt ni an Engeln, un allerhand Kram?


In church she is surely the stillest of all,
She steps through the market so fair and so tall,


So softly, so lightly, with wondering eyes,
As deep as the sea, and as blue as the skies.


Who thinks not a deal when he looks on the main?
Who looks to the skies, and sighs not again?


Who looks in her eyes, so blue and so true,
And thinks not of angels and other things too?



Keen Graff is so brut un keen Müer so hoch,
Wenn Twe sik man gut sünd, so drapt se sik doch.


Keen Wedder so gruli, so düster keen Nacht,
Wenn Twe sik man sehn wüllt, so seht se sik sacht.
[pg 144]


Dat gif wul en Maanschin, dar schint wul en Steern,
Dat gift noch en Licht oder Lücht un Lantern.


Dar fiunt sik en Ledder, en Stegelsch un Steg:
Wenn Twe sik man leef hebbt—keen Sorg vaer den Weg.


No ditch is so deep, and no wall is so high,
If two love each other, they'll meet by and by.


No storm is so wild, and no night is so black,
If two wish to meet, they will soon find a track.


There is surely the moon, or the stars shining bright,
Or a torch, or a lantern, or some sort of light;


There is surely a ladder, a step, or a stile,
If two love each other, they'll meet ere long while.



Jehann, nu spann de Schimmels an!
Nu fahr wi na de Brut!
Un hebbt wi nix as brune Per,
Jehann, so is't ok gut!


Un hebbt wi nix as swarte Per,
Jehann, so is't ok recht!
Un bün ik nich uns Weerth sin Sœn,
So bün'k sin jüngste Knecht!


Un hebbt wi gar keen Per un Wag',
So hebbt wi junge Been!
Un de so glückli is as ik,
Jehann, dat wüll wi sehn!
[pg 145]



Make haste, my John, put to the grays,
We'll go and fetch the bride,
And if we have but two brown hacks,
They'll do as well to ride.


And if we've but a pair of blacks,
We still can bear our doom,
And if I'm not my master's son,
I'm still his youngest groom.


And have we neither horse nor cart,
Still strong young legs have we,—
And any happier man than I,
John, I should like to see.


Wenn Abends roth de Wulken treckt,
So denk ik och! an di!
So trock verbi dat ganze Heer,
Un du weerst mit derbi.
Wenn ut de Böm de Blaeder fallt,
So denk ik glik an di:
So full so menni brawe Jung,
Un du weerst mit derbi.
Denn sett ik mi so truri hin,
Un denk so vel an di,
Ik et alleen min Abendbrot—
Un du büst nich derbi.


When ruddy clouds are driving past,
'Tis more than I can bear;
Thus did the soldiers all march by,
And thou, too, thou wert there.
When leaves are falling on the ground,
'Tis more than I can bear;
[pg 146]
Thus fell full many a valiant lad,
And thou, too, thou wert there.
And now I sit so still and sad,
'Tis more than I can bear;
My evening meal I eat alone,
For thou, thou art not there.

I wish I could add one of Klaus Groth's tales (“Vertellen,” as he calls them), which give the most truthful description of all the minute details of life in Dithmarschen, and bring the peculiar character of the country and of its inhabitants vividly before the eyes of the reader. But, short as they are, even the shortest of them would fill more pages than could here be spared for Schleswig-Holstein. I shall, therefore, conclude this sketch with a tale which has no author,—a simple tale from one of the local Holstein newspapers. It came to me in a heap of other papers, fly-sheets, pamphlets, and books, but it shone like a diamond in a heap of rubbish; and, as the tale of “The Old Woman of Schleswig-Holstein,” it may help to give to many who have been unjust to the inhabitants of the Duchies some truer idea of the stuff there is in that strong and staunch and sterling race to which England owes its language, its best blood, and its honored name.

“When the war against Denmark began again in the winter of 1863, offices were opened in the principal towns of Germany for collecting charitable contributions. At Hamburg, Messrs. L. and K. had set apart a large room for receiving lint, linen, and warm clothing, or small sums of money. One day, about Christmas, a poorly clad woman from the country stepped in and inquired, in the pure Holstein dialect, whether contributions were received here for Schleswig-Holstein. [pg 147] The clerk showed her to a table covered with linen rags and such like articles. But she turned away and pulled out an old leather purse, and, taking out pieces of money, began to count aloud on the counter: ‘One mark, two marks, three marks,’ till she had finished her ten marks. ‘That makes ten marks,’ she said, and shoved the little pile away. The clerk, who had watched the poor old woman while she was arranging her small copper and silver coins, asked her,—‘From whom does the money come?’

“ ‘From me,’ she said, and began counting again, ‘One mark, two marks, three marks.’ Thus she went on emptying her purse, till she had counted out ten small heaps of coin, of ten marks each. Then, counting each heap once over again, she said: ‘These are my hundred marks for Schleswig-Holstein; be so good as to send them to the soldiers.’

“While the old peasant woman was doing her sums, several persons had gathered round her; and, as she was leaving the shop, she was asked again in a tone of surprise from whom the money came.

“ ‘From me,’ she said; and, observing that she was closely scanned, she turned back, and looking the man full in the face, she added, smiling: ‘It is all honest money; it won't hurt the good cause.’

“The clerk assured her that no one had doubted her honesty, but that she herself had, no doubt, often known want, and that it was hardly right to let her contribute so large a sum, probably the whole of her savings.

“The old woman remained silent for a time, but, after she had quietly scanned the faces of all present, she said: ‘Surely it concerns no one how I got the [pg 148] money. Many a thought passed through my heart while I was counting that money. You would not ask me to tell you all? But you are kind gentlemen, and you take much trouble for us poor people. So I'll tell you whence the money came. Yes, I have known want; food has been scarce with me many a day, and it will be so again, as I grow older. But our gracious Lord watches over us. He has helped me to bear the troubles which He sent. He will never forsake me. My husband has been dead this many and many a year. I had one only son; and my John was a fine stout fellow, and he worked hard, and he would not leave his old mother. He made my home snug and comfortable. Then came the war with the Danes. All his friends joined the army; but the only son of a widow, you know, is free. So he remained at home, and no one said to him, “Come along with us,” for they knew that he was a brave boy, and that it broke his very heart to stay behind. I knew it all. I watched him when the people talked of the war, or when the schoolmaster brought the newspaper. Ah, how he turned pale and red, and how he looked away, and thought his old mother did not see it! But he said nothing to me, and I said nothing to him, Gracious God, who could have thought that it was so hard to drive our oppressors out of the land? Then came the news from Fredericia! That was a dreadful night. We sat in silence opposite each other. We knew what was in our hearts, and we hardly dared to look at each other. Suddenly he rose and took my hand, and said, “Mother!”—God be praised, I had strength in that moment—“John,” I said, “our time has come; go in God's name. I know how thou lovest me, and what thou hast suffered. God knows what will become [pg 149] of me if I am left quite alone, but our Lord Jesus Christ will forsake neither thee nor me.” John enlisted as a volunteer. The day of parting came. Ah, I am making a long story of it all! John stood before me in his new uniform. “Mother,” he said, “one request before we part—if it is to be”“John,” I said to him, “I know what thou meanest,—O, I shall weep, I shall weep very much when I am alone; but my time will come, and we shall meet again in the day of our Lord, John! and the land shall be free, John! the land shall be free!” ’

“Heavy tears stood in the poor old woman's eyes as she repeated her sad tale; but she soon collected herself, and continued: ‘I did not think then it would be so hard. The heart always hopes even against hope. But for all that’—and here the old woman drew herself up, and looked at us like a queen—‘I have never regretted that I bade him go. Then came dreadful days; but the most dreadful of all was when we read that the Germans had betrayed the land, and that they had given up our land with all our dead to the Danes! Then I called on the Lord and said, “O Lord, my God, how is that possible? Why lettest Thou the wicked triumph and allowest the just to perish?” And I was told that the Germans were sorry for what they had done, but that they could not help it. But that, gentlemen, I could never understand. We should never do wrong, nor allow wrong to be done. And, therefore, I thought, it cannot always remain so; our good Lord knows his own good time, and in his own good time He will come and deliver us. And I prayed every evening that our gracious Lord would permit me to see that day when the land should be free, and our dear dead [pg 150] should sleep no more in Danish soil. And, as I had no other son against that day, I saved every year what I could save, and on every Christmas Eve I placed it before me on a table, where, in former years, I had always placed a small present for my John, and I said in my heart, The war will come again, and the land will be free, and thou shalt sleep in a free grave, my only son, my John! And now, gentlemen, the poor old woman has been told that the day has come, and that her prayer has been heard, and that the war will begin again; and that is why she has brought her money, the money she saved for her son. Good morning, gentlemen,’ she said, and was going quickly away.

“But, before she had left the room, an old gentleman said, loud enough for her to hear, ‘Poor body! I hope she may not be deceived.’

“ ‘Ah,’ said the old woman, turning back, ‘I know what you mean; I have been told all is not right yet. But have faith, men! the wicked cannot prevail against the just; man cannot prevail against the Lord. Hold to that, gentlemen; hold fast together, gentlemen! This very day I—begin to save up again.’

“Bless her, good old soul! And, if Odin were still looking out of his window in the sky as of yore, when he granted victory to the women of the Lombards, might he not say even now:—

“ ‘When women are heroes,
What must the men be like?
Theirs is the victory;
No need of me.’ ”


[pg 151]


Our attention was attracted a few months ago by a review published in the “Journal des Débats,” in which a new translation of Joinville's “Histoire de Saint Louis,” by M. Natalis de Wailly, a distinguished member of the French Institute, was warmly recommended to the French public. After pointing out the merits of M. de Wailly's new rendering of Joinville's text, and the usefulness of such a book for enabling boys at school to gain an insight into the hearts and minds of the Crusaders, and to form to themselves a living conception of the manners and customs of the people of the thirteenth century, the reviewer, whose name is well known in this country as well as in France by his valuable contributions to the history of medicine, dwelt chiefly on the fact that through the whole of Joinville's “Mémoires” there is no mention whatever [pg 152] of surgeons or physicians. Nearly the whole French army is annihilated, the King and his companions lie prostrate from wounds and disease, Joinville himself is several times on the point of death; yet nowhere, according to the French reviewer, does the chronicler refer to a medical staff attached to the army or to the person of the King. Being somewhat startled at this remark, we resolved to peruse once more the charming pages of Joinville's History; nor had we to read far before we found that one passage at least had been overlooked, a passage which establishes beyond the possibility of doubt the presence of surgeons and physicians in the camp of the French Crusaders. On page 78 of M. de Wailly's spirited translation, in the account of the death of Gautier d'Autrèche, we read that when that brave knight was carried back to his tent nearly dying, “several of the surgeons and physicians of the camp came to see him, and not perceiving that he was dangerously injured, they bled him on both his arms.” The result was what might be expected: Gautier d'Autrèche soon breathed his last.

Having once opened the “Mémoires” of Joinville, we could not but go on to the end, for there are few books that carry on the reader more pleasantly, whether we read them in the quaint French of the fourteenth century, or in the more modern French in which they have just been clothed by M. Natalis de Wailly. So vividly does the easy gossip of the old soldier bring before our eyes the days of St. Louis and Henry III., that we forget that we are reading an old chronicle, and holding converse with the heroes of the thirteenth century. The fates both of Joinville's “Mémoires” and of Joinville himself suggest in fact many reflections apart from mere mediæval history; and a few of [pg 153] them may here be given in the hope of reviving the impressions left on the minds of many by their first acquaintance with the old Crusader, or of inviting others to the perusal of a work which no one who takes an interest in man, whether past or present, can read without real pleasure and real benefit.

It is interesting to watch the history of books, and to gain some kind of insight into the various circumstances which contribute to form the reputation of poets, philosophers, or historians. Joinville, whose name is now familiar to the student of French history, as well as to the lover of French literature, might fairly have expected that his memory would live by his acts of prowess, and by his loyal devotion and sufferings when following the King of France, St. Louis, on his unfortunate crusade. When, previous to his departure for the Holy Land, the young Sénéchal de Champagne, then about twenty-four years of age, had made his confession to the Abbot of Cheminon; when, barefoot and in a white sheet, he was performing his pilgrimages to Blehecourt (Blechicourt), St. Urbain, and other sacred shrines in his neighborhood, and when on passing his own domain he would not once turn his eyes back on the castle of Joinville, pour ce que li cuers ne me attendrisist dou biau chastel que je lessoie et de mes dous enfans (“that the heart might not make me pine after the beautiful castle which I left behind, and after my two children”), he must have felt that, happen what might to himself, the name of his family would live, and his descendants would reside from century to century in those strong towers where he left his young wife, Alix de Grandpré, and his son and heir Jean, then but a few months old. After five years he returned from his crusade, full of honors and [pg 154] full of wounds. He held one of the highest positions that a French nobleman could hold. He was Sénéchal de Champagne, as his ancestors had been before him. Several members of his family had distinguished themselves in former crusades, and the services of his uncle Geoffroi had been so highly appreciated by Richard Cœur de Lion that he was allowed by that King to quarter the arms of England with his own. Both at the court of the Comtes de Champagne, who were Kings of Navarre, and at the court of Louis IX., King of France, Joinville was a welcome guest. He witnessed the reigns of six kings,—of Louis VIII., 1223-26; Louis IX., or St. Louis, 1226-70; Philip III., le Hardi, 1270-85 ; Philip IV., le Bel, 1285-1314; Louis X., le Hutin, 1314-16 ; and Philip V., le Long, 1316-22. Though later in life Joinville declined to follow his beloved King on his last and fatal crusade in 1270, he tells us himself how, on the day on which he took leave of him, he carried his royal friend, then really on the brink of death, in his arms from the residence of the Comte d'Auxerre to the house of the Cordeliers. In 1282 he was one of the principal witnesses when, previous to the canonization of the King, an inquest was held to establish the purity of his life, the sincerity of his religious professions, and the genuineness of his self-sacrificing devotion in the cause of Christendom. When the daughter of his own liege lord, the Comte de Champagne, Jeanne de Navarre, married Philip le Bel, and became Queen of France, she made Joinville Governor of Champagne, which she had brought as her dowry to the grandson of St. Louis. Surely, then, when the old Crusader, the friend and counselor of many kings, closed his earthly career, at the good age of ninety-five, he might have looked forward to an [pg 155] honored grave in the Church of St. Laurent, and to an eminent place in the annals of his country, which were then being written in more or less elegant Latin by the monks of St. Denis.

But what has happened? The monkish chroniclers, no doubt, have assigned him his proper place in their tedious volumes, and there his memory would have lived with that kind of life which belongs to the memory of Geoffroi, his illustrious uncle, the friend of Philip Augustus, the companion of Richard Cœur de Lion, whose arms were to be seen in the Church of St. Laurent, at Joinville, quartered with the royal arms of England. Such parchment or hatchment glory might have been his, and many a knight, as good as he, has received no better, no more lasting reward for his loyalty and bravery. His family became extinct in his grandson. Henri de Joinville, his grandson, had no sons; and his daughter, being a wealthy heiress, was married to one of the Dukes of Lorraine. The Dukes of Lorraine were buried for centuries in the same Church of St. Laurent where Joinville reposed, and where he had founded a chapel dedicated to his companion in arms, Louis IX., the Royal Saint of France; and when, at the time of the French Revolution, the tombs of St. Denis were broken open by an infuriated people, and their ashes scattered abroad, the vaults of the church at Joinville, too, shared the same fate, and the remains of the brave Crusader suffered the same indignity as the remains of his sainted King. It is true that there were some sparks of loyalty and self-respect left in the hearts of the citizens of Joinville. They had the bones of the old warrior and of the Dukes of Lorraine reinterred in the public cemetery; and there they now rest, mingled with the dust of [pg 156] their faithful lieges and subjects. But the Church of St. Laurent, with its tombs and tombstones, is gone. The property of the Joinvilles descended from the Dukes of Lorraine to the Dukes of Guise, and, lastly, to the family of Orleans. The famous Duke of Orleans, Egalité, sold Joinville in 1790, and stipulated that the old castle should be demolished. Poplars and fir-trees now cover the ground of the ancient castle, and the name of Joinville is borne by a royal prince, the son of a dethroned king, the grandson of Louis Egalité, who died on the guillotine.

Neither his noble birth, nor his noble deeds, nor the friendship of kings and princes, would have saved Joinville from that inevitable oblivion which has blotted from the memory of living men the names of his more eminent companions,—Robert, Count of Artois; Alphonse, Count of Poitiers; Charles, Count of Anjou; Hugue, Duke of Burgundy; William, Count of Flanders, and many more. A little book which the old warrior wrote or dictated,—for it is very doubtful whether he could have written it himself,—a book which for many years attracted nobody's attention, and which even now we do not possess in the original language of the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth centuries—has secured to the name of Jean de Joinville a living immortality, and a fame that will last long after the bronze statue which was erected in his native place in 1853 shall have shared the fate of his castle, of his church, and of his tomb. Nothing could have been further from the mind of the old nobleman when, at the age of eighty-five, he began the history of his royal comrade, St. Louis, than the hope of literary fame. He would have scouted it. That kind of fame might have been good enough for monks [pg 157] and abbots, but it would never at that time have roused the ambition of a man of Joinville's stamp. How the book came to be written he tells us himself in his dedication, dated in the year 1309, and addressed to Louis le Hutin, then only King of Navarre and Count of Champagne, but afterwards King of France. His mother, Jeanne of Navarre, the daughter of Joinville's former liege lord, the last of the Counts of Champagne, who was married to Philip le Bel, the grandson of St. Louis, had asked him “to have a book made for her, containing the sacred words and good actions of our King, St. Looys.” She died before the book was finished, and Joinville, therefore, sent it to her son. How it was received by him we do not know; nor is there any reason to suppose that there were more than a few copies made of a work which was intended chiefly for members of the royal family of France and of his own family. It is never quoted by historical writers of that time; and the first historian who refers to it is said to be Pierre le Baud, who, toward the end of the fifteenth century, wrote his “Histoire de Bretagne.” It has been proved that for a long time no mention of the dedication copy occurs in the inventories of the private libraries of the Kings of France. At the death of Louis le Hutin his library consisted of twenty-nine volumes, and among them the History of St. Louis does not occur. There is, indeed, one entry, “Quatre caiers de Saint Looys;” but this could not be meant for the work of Joinville, which was in one volume. These four cahiers or quires of paper were more likely manuscript notes of St. Louis himself. His confessor, Geoffroy de Beaulieu, relates that the King, before his last illness, wrote down with his own hand some salutary counsels in French, of [pg 158] which he, the confessor, procured a copy before the King's death, and which he translated from French into Latin.

Again, the widow of Louis X. left at her death a collection of forty-one volumes, and the widow of Charles le Bel a collection of twenty volumes; but in neither of them is there any mention of Joinville's History.

It is not till we come to the reign of Charles V. (1364-80) that Joinville's book occurs in the inventory of the royal library, drawn up in 1373 by the King's valet de chambre, Gilles Mallet. It is entered as “La vie de Saint Loys, et les fais de son voyage d'outre mer;” and in the margin of the catalogue there is a note, “Le Roy l'a par devers soy,”“The King has it by him.” At the time of his death the volume had not yet been returned to its proper place in the first hall of the Louvre; but in the inventory drawn up in 1411 it appears again, with the following description:30

Une grant partie de la vie et des fais de Monseigneur Saint Loys que fist faire le Seigneur de Joinville; très-bien escript et historié. Convert de cuir rouge, à empreintes, à deux fermoirs d'argent. Escript de lettres de forme en françois à deux coulombes; commençant au deuxième folio et porceque, et au derrenier en tele maniere. ”

This means, “A great portion of the life and actions of St. Louis which the Seigneur de Joinville had made, very well written and illuminated. Bound in red leather, tooled, with two silver clasps. Written in formal letters in French, in two columns, beginning on the second folio with the words et porceque,’ and on the last with en tele maniere.’ ”

During the Middle Ages and before the discovery [pg 159] of printing, the task of having a literary work published, or rather of having it copied, rested chiefly with the author; and as Joinville himself, at his time of life, and in the position which he occupied, had no interest in what we should call “pushing” his book, this alone is quite sufficient to explain its almost total neglect. But other causes, too, have been assigned by M. Paulin Paris and others for what seems at first sight so very strange,—the entire neglect of Joinville's work. From the beginning of the twelfth century the monks of St. Denis were the recognized historians of France. They at first collected the most important historical works of former centuries, such as Gregory of Tours, Eginhard, the so-called Archbishop Turpin, Nithard, and William of Jumièges. But beginning with the first year of Philip I., 1060-1108, the monks became themselves the chroniclers of passing events. The famous Abbot Suger, the contemporary of Abelard and St. Bernard, wrote the life of Louis le Gros; Rigord and Guillaume de Nangis followed with the history of his successors. Thus the official history of St. Louis had been written by Guillaume de Nangis long before Joinville thought of dictating his personal recollections of the King. Besides the work of Guillaume de Nangis, there was the “History of the Crusades,” including that of St. Louis, written by Guillaume, Archbishop of Tyre, and translated into French, so that even the ground which Joinville had more especially selected as his own was preoccupied by a popular and authoritative writer. Lastly, when Joinville's History appeared, the chivalrous King, whose sayings and doings his old brother in arms undertook to describe in his homely and truthful style, had ceased to be an ordinary mortal. He had become [pg 160] a saint, and what people were anxious to know of him were legends rather than history. With all the sincere admiration which Joinville entertained for his King, he could not compete with such writers as Geoffroy de Beaulieu (Gaufridus de Belloloco), the confessor of St. Louis, Guillaume de Chartres (Guillelmus Carnotensis), his chaplain, or the confessor of his daughter Blanche, each of whom had written a life of the royal saint. Their works were copied over and over again, and numerous MSS. have been preserved of them in public and private libraries. Of Joinville one early MS. only was saved, and even that not altogether a faithful copy of the original.

The first edition of Joinville was printed at Poitiers in 1547, and dedicated to François I. The editor, Pierre Antoine de Rieux, tells us that when, in 1542, he examined some old documents at Beaufort en Valée, in Anjou, he found among the MSS. the Chronicle of King Louis, written by a Seigneur de Joinville, Sénéchal de Champagne, who lived at that time, and had accompanied the said St. Louis in all his wars. But because it was badly arranged or written in a very rude language, he had it polished and put in better order, a proceeding of which he is evidently very proud, as we may gather from a remark of his friend Guillaume de Perrière, that “it is no smaller praise to polish a diamond than to find it quite raw” (toute brute).

This text, which could hardly be called Joinville's, remained for a time the received text. It was reproduced in 1595, in 1596, and in 1609.

In 1617 a new edition was published by Claude Menard. He states that he found at Laval a heap of old papers, which had escaped the ravages committed [pg 161] by the Protestants in some of the monasteries at Anjou. When he compared the MS. of Joinville with the edition of Pierre Antoine de Rieux, he found that the ancient style of Joinville had been greatly changed. He therefore undertook a new edition, more faithful to the original. Unfortunately, however, his original MS. was but a modern copy, and his edition, though an improvement on that of 1547, was still very far from the style and language of the beginning of the fourteenth century.

The learned Du Cange searched in vain for more trustworthy materials for restoring the text of Joinville. Invaluable as are the dissertations which he wrote on Joinville, his own text of the History, published in 1668, could only be based on the two editions that had preceded his own.

It was not till 1761 that real progress was made in restoring the text of Joinville. An ancient MS. had been brought from Brussels by the Maréchal Maurice de Saxe. It was carefully edited by M. Capperonnier, and it has served, with few exceptions, as the foundation of all later editions. It is now in the Imperial Library. The editors of the “Recueil des Historiens de France” express their belief that the MS. might actually be the original. At the end of it are the words, “Ce fu escript en l'an de grâce mil CCC et IX, on moys d'octovre.” This, however, is no real proof of the date of the MS. Transcribers of MSS., it is well known, were in the habit of mechanically copying all they saw in the original, and hence we find very commonly the date of an old MS. repeated over and over again in modern copies.

The arguments by which in 1839 M. Paulin Paris proved that this, the oldest MS. of Joinville, belongs [pg 162] not to the beginning, but to the end of the fourteenth century, seem unanswerable, though they failed to convince M. Daunou, who, in the twentieth volume of the “Historiens de France,” published in 1840, still looks upon this MS. as written in 1309, or at least during Joinville's life-time. M. Paulin Paris establishes, first of all, that this MS. cannot be the same as that which was so carefully described in the catalogue of Charles V. What became of that MS. once belonging to the private library of the Kings of France, no one knows, but there is no reason, even now, why it should not still be recovered. The MS. of Joinville, which now belongs to the Imperial Library, is written by the same scribe who wrote another MS. of “La Vie et les Miracles de Saint Louis.” Now, this MS. of “La Vie et les Miracles” is a copy of an older MS., which likewise exists at Paris. This more ancient MS., probably the original, and written, therefore, in the beginning of the fourteenth century, had been carefully revised before it served as the model for the later copy, executed by the same scribe who, as we saw, wrote the old MS. of Joinville. A number of letters were scratched out, words erased, and sometimes whole sentences altered or suppressed, a red line being drawn across the words which had to be omitted. It looks, in fact, like a manuscript prepared for the printer. Now, if the same copyist who copied this MS. copied likewise the MS. of Joinville, it follows that he was separated from the original of Joinville by the same interval which separates the corrected MSS. of “La Vie et les Miracles” from their original, or from the beginning of the fourteenth century. This line of argument seems to establish satisfactorily the approximate date of the oldest MS. of Joinville as belonging to the end of the fourteenth century.

[pg 163]

Another MS. was discovered at Lucca. As it had belonged to the Dukes of Guise, great expectations were at one time entertained of its value. It was bought by the Royal Library at Paris in 1741 for 360 livres, but it was soon proved not to be older than about 1500, representing the language of the time of François I. rather than of St. Louis, but nevertheless preserving occasionally a more ancient spelling than the other MS. which was copied two hundred years before. This MS. bears the arms of the Princess Antoinette de Bourbon and of her husband, Claude de Lorraine, who was “Duc de Guise, Comte d'Aumale, Marquis de Mayence et d'Elbeuf, and Baron de Joinville.” Their marriage took place in 1513; he died in 1550, she in 1583.

There is a third MS. which has lately been discovered. It belonged to M. Brissart-Binet of Rheims, became known to M. Paulin Paris, and was lent to M. de Wailly for his new edition of Joinville. It seems to be a copy of the so-called MS. of Lucca, the MS. belonging to the Princess Antoinette de Bourbon, and it is most likely the very copy which that Princess ordered to be made for Louis Lasséré, canon of St. Martin of Tours who published an abridgment of it in 1541. By a most fortunate accident it supplies the passages from page 88 to 112, and from page 126 to 139, which are wanting in the MS. of Lucca.

It must be admitted, therefore, that for an accurate study of the historical growth of the French language, the work of Joinville is of less importance than it would have been if it had been preserved in its original orthography, and with all the grammatical peculiarities which mark the French of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century. There may be [pg 164] no more than a distance of not quite a hundred years between the original of Joinville and the earliest MS. which we possess. But in those hundred years the French language did not remain stationary. Even as late as the time of Montaigne, when French has assumed a far greater literary steadiness, that writer complains of its constant change. “I wrote my book,” he says in a memorable passage (“Essais,” liv. 3, c. 9)—

For few people and for a few years. If it had been a subject that ought to last, it should have been committed to a more stable language (Latin). After the continual variation which has followed our speech to the present day, who can hope that its present form will be used fifty years hence? It glides from our hands every day, and since I have lived it has been half changed. We say that at present it is perfect, but every century says the same of its own. I do not wish to hold it back, if it will fly away and go on deteriorating as it does. It belongs to good and useful writers to nail the language to themselves (de le clouer à eux).

On the other hand, we must guard against forming an exaggerated notion of the changes that could have taken place in the French language within the space of less than a century. They refer chiefly to the spelling of words, to the use of some antiquated words and expressions, and to the less careful observation of the rules by which in ancient French the nominative is distinguished from the oblique cases, both in the singular and the plural. That the changes do not amount to more than this can be proved by a comparison of other documents which clearly preserve the actual language of Joinville. There is a letter of his which is preserved at the Imperial Library at Paris, addressed to Louis X. in 1315. It was first published by Du Cange, afterwards by M. Daunou, in the twentieth [pg 165] volume of the “Historiens de France,” and again by M. de Wailly. There are, likewise, some charters of Joinville, written in his chancellerie, and in some cases with additions from his own hand. Lastly, there is Joinville's “Credo,” containing his notes on the Apostolic Creed, preserved in a manuscript of the thirteenth century. This was published in the “Collection des Bibliophiles Français,” unfortunately printed in twenty-five copies only. The MS. of the “Credo,” which formerly belonged to the public library of Paris, disappeared from it about twenty years ago; and it now forms No. 75 of a collection of MSS. bought in 1849 by Lord Ashburnham from M. Barrois. By comparing the language of these thirteenth century documents with that of the earliest MS. of Joinville's History, it is easy to see that although we have lost something, we have not lost very much, and that, at all events, we need not suspect in the earliest MS. any changes that could in any way affect the historical authenticity of Joinville's work.31

[pg 166]

To the historian of the French language, the language of Joinville, even though it gives us only a picture of the French spoken at the time of Charles V. or contemporaneously with Froissart, is still full of interest. That language is separated from the French of the present day by nearly five centuries, and we may be allowed to give a few instances to show the curious changes both of form and meaning which many words have undergone during that interval.

Instead of sœur, sister, Joinville still uses sereur, which was the right form of the oblique case, but was afterwards replaced by the nominative suer or sœur. Thus, p. 424 E, we read, quant nous menames la serour le roy, i.e. quand nous menâmes la sœur du roi; but p. 466 A, l'abbaïe que sa suer fonda, i.e. l'abbaïe que sa sœur fonda. Instead of ange, angel, he has both angle and angre, where the r stands for the final l of angele, the more ancient French form of angelus. The same transition of final l into r may be observed in apôtre for apostolus, chapitre for capitulum, chartre for cartula, esclandre for scandalum. Instead of vieux, old, Joinville uses veil or veel (p. 132 C, le veil le fil au veil, i.e. le vieux fils du vieux); but in the nom. sing., viex, which is the Latin vetulus (p. 302 A, li Viex de [pg 167] la Montaingne, i.e. le Vieux de la Montagne; but p. 304 A, li messaige le Vieil, i.e. les messagers du Vieux.) Instead of coude, m., elbow, we find coute, which is nearer to the Latin cubitus, cubit. The Latin t in words like cubitus was generally softened in old French, and was afterwards dropped altogether. As in coude, the d is preserved in aider for adjutare, in fade for fatuus. In other words, such as chaîne for catena, roue for rota, épée for spatha, aimêe for amata, it has disappeared altogether. True is voir, the regular modification of verum, like soir of serum, instead of the modern French vrai; e.g., p. 524 B, et sachiez que voirs estait, i.e. et sachez que c'était vrai. We still find ester, to stand (Et ne pooit ester sur ses pieds,” “He could not stand on his legs”). At present the French have no single word for “standing,” which has often been pointed out as a real defect of the language. “To stand” is ester, in Joinville; “to be” is estre.

In the grammatical system of the language of Joinville we find the connecting link between the case terminations of the classical Latin and the prepositions and articles of modern French. It is generally supposed that the terminations of the Latin declension were lost in French, and that the relations of the cases were expressed by prepositions, while the s as the sign of the plural was explained by the s in the nom. plur. of nouns of the third declension. But languages do not thus advance per saltum. They change slowly and gradually, and we can generally discover in what is, some traces of what has been.

Now the fact is that in ancient French, and likewise in Provençal, there is still a system of declension more or less independent of prepositions. There are, so to [pg 168] say, three declensions in old French, of which the second is the most important and the most interesting. If we take a Latin word like annus, we find in old French two forms in the singular, and two in the plural. We find sing. an-s, an, plur. an, ans. If an occurs in the nom. sing. or as the subject, it is always ans; if it occur as a gen., dat., or acc., it is always an. In the plural, on the contrary, we find in the nom. an, and in all the oblique cases ans. The origin of this system is clear enough, and it is extraordinary that attempts should have been made to derive it from German or even from Celtic, when the explanation could be found so much nearer home. The nom. sing. has the s, because it was there in Latin; the nom. plur. has no s, because there was no s there in Latin. The oblique cases in the singular have no s, because the accusative in Latin, and likewise the gen., dat., and abl., ended either in vowels, which became mute, or in m, which was dropped. The oblique cases in the plural had the s, because it was there in the acc. plur., which became the general oblique case, and likewise in the dat. and abl. By means of these fragments of the Latin declension, it was possible to express many things without prepositions which in modern French can no longer be thus expressed. Le fils Roi was clearly the son of the King; il fil Roi, the sons of the King. Again we find li roys, the King, but au roy, to the King. Pierre Sarrasin begins his letter on the crusade of St. Louis by A seigneur Nicolas Arode, Jehan-s Sarrasin, chambrelen-s le roy de France, salut et bonne amour.

But if we apply the same principle to nouns of the first declension, we shall see at once that they could not [pg 169] have lent themselves to the same contrivance. Words like corona have no s in the nom. sing., nor in any of the oblique cases; it would therefore be in French corone throughout. In the plural indeed there might have been a distinction between the nom. and the acc. The nom. ought to have been without an s, and the acc. with an s. But with the exception of some doubtful passages, where a nom. plur. is supposed to occur in old French documents without an s, we find throughout, both in the nom. and the other cases, the s of the accusative as the sign of the plural.

Nearly the same applies to certain words of the third declension. Here we find indeed a distinction between the nom. and the oblique cases of the singular, such as flor-s, the flower, with flor, of the flower; but the plural is flor-s throughout. This form is chiefly confined to feminine nouns of the third declension.

There is another very curious contrivance by which the ancient French distinguished the nom. from the acc. sing., and which shows us again how the consciousness of the Latin grammar was by no means entirely lost in the formation of modern French. There are many words in Latin which change their accent in the oblique cases from what it was in the nominative. For instance, cantátor, a singer, becomes cantatórem, in the accusative. Now in ancient French the nom., corresponding to cantator, is chántere, but the gen. chanteór, and thus again a distinction is established of great importance for grammatical purposes. Most of these words followed the analogy of the second declension, and added an s in the nom. sing., dropped it in the nom. plur., and added it again in the oblique cases of the plural. Thus we get—

[pg 170]
Singular. Plural.
Nom.Oblique Cases. Nom.Oblique Cases.
chántere chanteór chanteór chanteórs
From baro, baronis baron baron barons
(O. Fr. ber)
latro, latronis larron larron larrons
(O. Fr. lierre)
senior, senioris seignor seignor seignors
(O. Fr. sendre) (sire)

Thus we read in the beginning of Joinville's History:—

A son bon signour Looys, Jehans sires de Joinville salut et amour;

and immediately afterwards, Chiers sire, not Chiers seigneur.

If we compare this old French declension with the grammar of modern French, we find that the accusative or the oblique form has become the only recognized form, both in the singular and plural. Hence—

[Corone][Ans] [Flors][Chántere] le chantre.
CoroneAn FlorChanteór le chanteur.
[Corones][An] [Flors][Chanteór].
CoronesAns FlorsChanteórs.

A few traces only of the old system remain in such words as fils, bras, Charles, Jacques, etc.

Not less curious than the changes of form are the changes of meaning which have taken place in the French language since the days of Joinville. Thus, la viande, which now only means meat, is used by Joinville in its original and more general sense of victuals, the Latin vivenda. For instance (p. 248 D), Et nous requeismes que en nous donnast la viande,” “And we asked that one might give us something to eat.” And soon after, Les viandes que il nous donnèrent, ce furent begniet de fourmaiges qui estoient roti au soliel, pour ce que li ver n'i venissent, et oef dur [pg 171] cuit de quatre jours ou de cinc,” “And the viands which they gave us were cheese-cakes roasted in the sun, that the worms might not get at them, and hard eggs boiled four or five days ago.”

Payer, to pay, is still used in its original sense of pacifying or satisfying, the Latin pacare. Thus a priest who has received from his bishop an explanation of some difficulty and other ghostly comfort se tint bin pour paié (p. 34 C), he “considered himself well satisfied.” When the King objected to certain words in the oath which he had to take, Joinville says that he does not know how the oath was finally arranged, but he adds, Li amiral se tindrent lien apaié,” “The admirals considered themselves satisfied” (p. 242 C). The same word, however, is likewise used in the usual sense of paying.

Noise, a word which has almost disappeared from modern French, occurs several times in Joinville; and we can watch in different passages the growth of its various meanings. In one passage Joinville relates (p. 198) that one of his knights had been killed, and was lying on a bier in his chapel. While the priest was performing his office, six other knights were talking very loud, and Faisoient noise au prestre,” “They annoyed or disturbed the priest; they caused him annoyance.” Here noise has still the same sense as the Latin nausea, from which it is derived. In another passage, however, Joinville uses noise as synonymous with bruit (p. 152 A), Vint li roys à toute sa bataille, à grant noyse et à grant bruit de trompes et nacaires, i.e. vint le roi avec tout son corps de bataille, à grand cris et à grand bruit de trompettes et de timbales. Here noise may still mean an annoying noise, but we can see the easy transition from that to noise in general.

[pg 172]

Another English word, “to purchase,” finds its explanation in Joinville. Originally pourchasser meant to hunt after a thing, to pursue it. Joinville frequently uses the expression par son pourchas (p. 458 E) in the sense of “by his endeavors.” When the King had reconciled two adversaries, peace is said to have been made par son pourchas. Pourchasser afterwards took the sense of “procuring,” “catering,” and lastly, in English, of “buying.”

To return to Joinville's History, the scarcity of MSS. is very instructive from an historical point of view. As far as we know at present, his great work existed for centuries in two copies only, one preserved in his own castle, the other in the library of the Kings of France. We can hardly say that it was published, even in the restricted sense which that word had during the fourteenth century, and there certainly is no evidence that it was read by any one except by members of the royal family of France, and possibly by descendants of Joinville. It exercised no influence; and if two or three copies had not luckily escaped (one of them, it must be confessed, clearly showing the traces of mice's teeth), we should have known very little indeed either of the military or of the literary achievements of one who is now ranked among the chief historians of France, or even of Europe. After Joinville's History had once emerged from its obscurity, it soon became the fashion to praise it, and to praise it somewhat indiscriminately. Joinville became a general favorite both in and out of France; and after all had been said in his praise that might be truly and properly said, each successive admirer tried to add a little more, till at last, as a matter of course, he was compared to Thucydides, and lauded for the graces of [pg 173] his style, the vigor of his language, the subtlety of his mind, and his worship of the harmonious and the beautiful, in such a manner that the old bluff soldier would have been highly perplexed and disgusted, could he have listened to the praises of his admirers. Well might M. Paulin Paris say, “I shall not stop to praise what everybody has praised before me; to recall the graceful naïveté of the good Sénéchal, would it not be, as the English poet said, ‘to gild the gold and paint the lily white?’ ”

It is surprising to find in the large crowd of indiscriminate admirers a man so accurate in his thoughts and in his words as the late Sir James Stephen. Considering how little Joinville's History was noticed by his contemporaries, how little it was read by the people before it was printed during the reign of François I., it must seem more than doubtful whether Joinville really deserved a place in a series of lectures, “On the Power of the Pen in France.” But, waiving that point, is it quite exact to say, as Sir James Stephen does, “that three writers only retain, and probably they alone deserve, at this day the admiration which greeted them in their own,—I refer to Joinville, Froissart, and to Philippe de Comines?” And is the following a sober and correct description of Joinville's style?—

Over the whole picture the genial spirit of France glows with all the natural warmth which we seek in vain among the dry bones of earlier chroniclers. Without the use of any didactic forms of speech, Joinville teaches the highest of all wisdom—the wisdom of love. Without the pedantry of the schools, he occasionally exhibits an eager thirst of knowledge, and a graceful facility of imparting it, which attest that he is of the lineage of the great father of history, and of those modern historians who have taken Herodotus for their model. (Vol. ii. pp. 209, 219.)
[pg 174]

Now, all this sounds to our ears just an octave too high. There is some truth in it, but the truth is spoilt by being exaggerated. Joinville's book is very pleasant to read, because he gives himself no airs, and tells us as well as he can what he recollects of his excellent King, and of the fearful time which they spent together during the crusade. He writes very much as an old soldier would speak. He seems to know that people will listen to him with respect, and that they will believe what he tells them. He does not weary them with arguments. He rather likes now and then to evoke a smile, and he maintains the glow of attention by thinking more of his hearers than of himself. He had evidently told his stories many times before he finally dictated them in the form in which we read them, and this is what gives to some of them a certain finish and the appearance of art. Yet, if we speak of style at all,—not of the style of thought, but of the style of language,—the blemishes in Joinville's History are so apparent that one feels reluctant to point them out. He repeats his words, he repeats his remarks, he drops the thread of his story, begins a new subject, leaves it because, as he says himself, it would carry him too far, and then, after a time, returns to it again. His descriptions of the scenery where the camp was pitched, and the battles fought, are neither sufficiently broad nor sufficiently distinct to give the reader that view of the whole which he receives from such writers as Cæsar, Thiers, Carlyle, or Russell. Nor is there any attempt at describing or analyzing the character of the principal actors in the crusade of St. Louis, beyond relating some of their remarks or occasional conversations. It is an ungrateful task to draw up these indictments against a man whom one [pg 175] probably admires much more sincerely than those who bespatter him with undeserved praise. Joinville's book is readable, and it is readable even in spite of the antiquated and sometimes difficult language in which it is written. There are few books of which we could say the same. What makes his book readable is partly the interest attaching to the subject of which it treats, but far more the simple, natural, straightforward way in which Joinville tells what he has to tell. From one point of view it may be truly said that no higher praise could be bestowed on any style than to say that it is simple, natural, straightforward, and charming. But if his indiscriminate admirers had appreciated this artless art, they would not have applied to the pleasant gossip of an old general epithets that are appropriate only to the masterpieces of classical literature.

It is important to bear in mind what suggested to Joinville the first idea of writing his book. He was asked to do so by the Queen of Philip le Bel. After the death of the Queen, however, Joinville did not dedicate his work to the King, but to his son, who was then the heir apparent. This may be explained by the fact that he himself was Sénéchal de Champagne, and Louis, the son of Philip le Bel, Comte de Champagne. But it admits of another and more probable explanation. Joinville was dissatisfied with the proceedings of Philip le Bel, and from the very beginning of his reign he opposed his encroachments on the privileges of the nobility and the liberties of the people. He was punished for his opposition, and excluded from the assemblies in Champagne in 1287; and though his name appeared again on the roll in 1291, Joinville then occupied only the sixth instead of the first place. In [pg 176] 1314 matters came to a crisis in Champagne, and Joinville called together the nobility in order to declare openly against the King. The opportune death of Philip alone prevented the breaking out of a rebellion. It is true that there are no direct allusions to these matters in the body of Joinville's book, yet an impression is left on the reader that he wrote some portion of the Life of St. Louis as a lesson to the young prince to whom it is dedicated. Once or twice, indeed, he uses language which sounds ominous, and which would hardly be tolerated in France, even after the lapse of five centuries. When speaking of the great honor which St. Louis conferred on his family, he says “that it was, indeed, a great honor to those of his descendants who would follow his example by good works, but a great dishonor to those who would do evil. For people would point at them with their fingers, and would say that the sainted King from whom they descended would have despised such wickedness.” There is another passage even stronger than this. After relating how St. Louis escaped from many dangers by the grace of God, he suddenly exclaims, “Let the King who now reigns (Philip le Bel) take care, for he has escaped from as great dangers—nay, from greater ones—than we; let him see whether he cannot amend his evil ways, so that God may not strike him and his affairs cruelly.”

This surely is strong language, considering that it was used in a book dedicated to the son of the then reigning King. To the father of Philip le Bel, Joinville seems to have spoken with the same frankness as to his son; and he tells us himself how he reproved the King, Philip le Hardi, for his extravagant dress, and admonished him to follow the example of his [pg 177] father. Similar remarks occur again and again; and though the Life of St. Louis was certainly not written merely for didactic purposes, yet one cannot help seeing that it was written with a practical object. In the introduction Joinville says, “I send the book to you, that you and your brother and others who hear it may take an example, and that they may carry it out in their life, for which God will bless them.” And again (p. 268), “These things shall I cause to be written, that those who hear them may have faith in God in their persecutions and tribulations, and God will help them, as He did me.” Again (p. 380), “These things I have told you, that you may guard against taking an oath without reason, for, as the wise say, ‘He who swears readily, forswears himself readily.’ ”

It seems, therefore, that when Joinville took to dictating his recollections of St. Louis, he did so partly to redeem a promise given to the Queen, who, he says, loved him much, and whom he could not refuse, partly to place in the hands of the young princes a book full of historical lessons which they might read, mark, and inwardly digest.

And well might he do so, and well might his book be read by all young princes, and by all who are able to learn a lesson from the pages of history; for few kings, if any, did ever wear their crowns so worthily as Louis IX. of France; and few saints, if any, did deserve their halo better than St. Louis. Here lies the deep and lasting interest of Joinville's work. It allows us an insight into a life which we could hardly realize, nay, which we should hardly believe in, unless we had the testimony of that trusty witness, Joinville, the King's friend and comrade. The legendary lives of St. Louis would have destroyed in the eyes of [pg 178] posterity the real greatness and the real sanctity of the King's character. We should never have known the man, but only his saintly caricature. After reading Joinville, we must make up our mind that such a life as he there describes was really lived, and was lived in those very palaces which we are accustomed to consider as the sinks of wickedness and vice. From other descriptions we might have imagined Louis IX. as a bigoted, priest-ridden, credulous King. From Joinville we learn that, though unwavering in his faith, and most strict in the observance of his religious duties, the King was by no means narrow in his sympathies, or partial to the encroachments of priestcraft. We find Joinville speaking to the King on subjects of religion with the greatest freedom, and as no courtier would have dared to speak during the later years of Louis XIV.'s reign. When the King asked him whether in the holy week he ever washed the feet of the poor, Joinville replied that he would never wash the feet of such villains. For this remark he was, no doubt, reproved by the King, who, as we are told by Beaulieu, with the most unpleasant details, washed the feet of the poor every Saturday. But the reply, though somewhat irreverent, is, nevertheless, highly creditable to the courtier's frankness. Another time he shocked his royal friend still more by telling him, in the presence of several priests, that he would rather have committed thirty mortal sins than be a leper. The King said nothing at the time, but he sent for him the next day, and reproved him in the most gentle manner for his thoughtless speech.

Joinville, too, with all the respect which he entertained for his King, would never hesitate to speak his mind when he thought that the King was in the [pg 179] wrong. On one occasion the Abbot of Cluny presented the King with two horses, worth five hundred livres. The next day the Abbot came again to the King to discuss some matters of business. Joinville observed that the King listened to him with marked attention. After the Abbot was gone, he went to the King, and said, “ ‘Sire, may I ask you whether you listened to the Abbot more cheerfully because he presented you yesterday with two horses?’ The King meditated for a time, and then said to me, ‘Truly, yes.’ ‘Sire,’ said I, ‘do you know why I asked you this question?’ ‘Why?’ said he. ‘Because, Sire,’ I said, ‘I advise you, when you return to France, to prohibit all sworn counselors from accepting anything from those who have to bring their affairs before them. For you may be certain, if they accept anything, they will listen more cheerfully and attentively to those who give, as you did yourself with the Abbot of Cluny.’ ”

Surely a king who could listen to such language is not likely to have had his court filled with hypocrites, whether lay or clerical. The bishops, though they might count on the King for any help he could give them in the great work of teaching, raising, and comforting the people, tried in vain to make him commit an injustice in defense of what they considered religion. One day a numerous deputation of prelates asked for an interview. It was readily granted. When they appeared before the King, their spokesman said, “Sire, these lords who are here, archbishops and bishops, have asked me to tell you that Christianity is perishing at your hands.” The King signed himself with the cross, and said, “Tell me how can that be?” “Sire,” he said, “it is because people care so little [pg 180] nowadays for excommunication that they would rather die excommunicated than have themselves absolved and give satisfaction to the Church. Now, we pray you, Sire, for the sake of God, and because it is your duty, that you command your provosts and bailiffs that by seizing the goods of those who allow themselves to be excommunicated for the space of one year, they may force them to come and be absolved.” Then the King replied that he would do this willingly with all those of whom it could be proved that they were in the wrong (which would, in fact, have given the King jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters). The bishops said that they could not do this at any price; they would never bring their causes before his court. Then the King said he could not do it otherwise, for it would be against God and against reason. He reminded them of the case of the Comte de Bretagne, who had been excommunicated by the prelates of Brittany for the space of seven years, and who, when he appealed to the Pope, gained his cause, while the prelates were condemned. “Now then,” the King said, “if I had forced the Comte de Bretagne to get absolution from the prelates after the first year, should I not have sinned against God and against him?”

This is not the language of a bigoted man; and if we find in the life of St. Louis traces of what in our age we might feel inclined to call bigotry or credulity, we must consider that the religious and intellectual atmosphere of the reign of St. Louis was very different from our own. There are, no doubt, some of the sayings and doings recorded by Joinville of his beloved King which at present would be unanimously condemned even by the most orthodox and narrow-minded. Think of an assembly of theologians in the monastery [pg 181] of Cluny who had invited a distinguished rabbi to discuss certain points of Christian doctrine with them. A knight, who happened to be staying with the abbot, asked for leave to open the discussion, and he addressed the Jew in the following words: “Do you believe that the Virgin Mary was a virgin and Mother of God?” When the Jew replied, “No!” the knight took his crutch and felled the poor Jew to the ground. The King, who relates this to Joinville, draws one very wise lesson from, it—namely, that no one who is not a very good theologian should enter upon a controversy with Jews on such subjects. But when he goes on to say that a layman who hears the Christian religion evil spoken of should take to the sword as the right weapon of defense, and run it into the miscreant's body as far as it would go, we perceive at once that we are in the thirteenth and not in the nineteenth century. The punishments which the King inflicted for swearing were most cruel. At Cesarea, Joinville tells us that he saw a goldsmith fastened to a ladder, with the entrails of a pig twisted round his neck right up to his nose, because he had used irreverent language. Nay, after his return from the Holy Land, he heard that the King ordered a man's nose and lower lip to be burnt for the same offense. The Pope himself had to interfere to prevent St. Louis from inflicting on blasphemers mutilation and death. “I would myself be branded with a hot iron,” the King said, “if thus I could drive away all swearing from my kingdom.” He himself, as Joinville assures us, never used an oath, nor did he pronounce the name of the Devil except when reading the lives of the saints. His soul, we cannot doubt, was grieved when he heard the names which to him were the most sacred, [pg 182] employed for profane purposes; and this feeling of indignation was shared by his honest chronicler. “In my castle,” says Joinville, “whosoever uses bad language receives a good pommeling, and this has nearly put down that bad habit.” Here again we see the upright character of Joinville. He does not, like most courtiers, try to outbid his sovereign in pious indignation; on the contrary, while sharing his feelings, he gently reproves the King for his excessive zeal and cruelty, and this after the King had been raised to the exalted position of a saint.

To doubt of any points of the Christian doctrine was considered at Joinville's time, as it is even now, as a temptation of the Devil. But here again we see at the court of St. Louis a wonderful mixture of tolerance and intolerance. Joinville, who evidently spoke his mind freely on all things, received frequent reproofs and lessons from the King; and we hardly know which to wonder at most, the weakness of the arguments, or the gentle and truly Christian spirit in which the King used them. The King once asked Joinville how he knew that his father's name was Symon. Joinville replied he knew it because his mother had told him so. “Then,” the King said, “you ought likewise firmly to believe all the articles of faith which the Apostles attest, as you hear them sung every Sunday in the Creed.” The use of such an argument by such a man leaves an impression on the mind that the King himself was not free from religious doubts and difficulties, and that his faith was built upon ground which was apt to shake. And this impression is confirmed by a conversation which immediately follows after this argument. It is long, but it is far too important to be here omitted. The Bishop of Paris had [pg 183] told the King, probably in order to comfort him after receiving from him the confession of some of his own religious difficulties, that one day he received a visit from a great master in divinity. The master threw himself at the Bishop's feet and cried bitterly. The Bishop said to him,—

“ ‘Master, do not despair; no one can sin so much that God could not forgive him.’

“The master said, ‘I cannot help crying, for I believe I am a miscreant: for I cannot bring my heart to believe the sacrament of the altar, as the holy Church teaches it, and I know full well that it is the temptation of the enemy.’

“ ‘Master,’ replied the Bishop, ‘tell me, when the enemy sends you this temptation, does it please you?’

“And the master said, ‘Sir, it pains me as much as anything can pain.’

“ ‘Then I ask you,’ the Bishop continued, ‘would you take gold or silver in order to avow with your mouth anything that is against the sacrament of the altar, or against the other sacred sacraments of the Church?’

“And the master said, ‘Know, sir, that there is nothing in the world that I should take; I would rather that all my limbs were torn from my body than openly avow this.’

“ ‘Then,’ said the Bishop, ‘I shall tell you something else. You know that the King of France made war against the King of England, and you know that the castle which is nearest to the frontier is La Rochelle, in Poitou. Now, I shall ask you, if the King had trusted you to defend La Rochelle, and he had trusted me to defend the Castle of Laon, which is in the heart of France, where the country is at peace, to [pg 184] whom ought the King to be more beholden at the end of the war,—to you who had defended La Rochelle without losing it, or to me who kept the Castle of Laon?’

“ ‘In the name of God,’ said the master, ‘to me who had kept La Rochelle with losing it.’

“ ‘Master,’ said the Bishop, ‘I tell you that my heart is like the Castle of Laon (Montleheri), for I feel no temptation and no doubt as to the sacrament of the altar; therefore, I tell you, if God gives me one reward because I believe firmly and in peace, He will give you four, because you keep your heart for Him in this fight of tribulation, and have such goodwill toward Him that for no earthly good, nor for any pain inflicted on your body, you would forsake Him. Therefore, I say to you, be at ease; your state is more pleasing to our Lord than my own.’ ”

When the master had heard this, he fell on his knees before the Bishop, and felt again at peace.

Surely, if the cruel punishment inflicted by St. Louis on blasphemers is behind our age, is not the love, the humility, the truthfulness of this Bishop,—is not the spirit in which he acted toward the priest, and the spirit in which he related this conversation to the King, somewhat in advance of the century in which we live?

If we only dwell on certain passages of Joinville's memoirs, it is easy to say that he and his King, and the whole age in which they moved, were credulous, engrossed by the mere formalities of religion, and fanatical in their enterprise to recover Jerusalem and the Holy Land. But let us candidly enter into their view of life, and many things which at first seem strange and startling will become intelligible. Joinville does not relate many miracles; and such is his good faith [pg 185] that we may implicitly believe the facts, such as he states them, however we may differ as to the interpretation by which, to Joinville's mind, these facts assumed a miraculous character. On their way to the Holy Land it seems that their ship was windbound for several days, and that they were in danger of being taken prisoners by the pirates of Barbary. Joinville recollected the saying of a priest who had told him that, whatever had happened in his parish, whether too much rain or too little rain, or anything else, if he made three processions for three successive Saturdays, his prayer was always heard. Joinville, therefore, recommended the same remedy. Seasick as he was, he was carried on deck, and the procession was formed round the two masts of the ship. As soon as this was done, the wind rose, and the ship arrived at Cyprus the third Saturday. The same remedy was resorted to a second time, and with equal effect. The King was waiting at Damietta for his brother, the Comte de Poitiers, and his army, and was very uneasy about the delay in his arrival. Joinville told the legate of the miracle that had happened on their voyage to Cyprus. The legate consented to have three processions on three successive Saturdays, and on the third Saturday the Comte de Poitiers and his fleet arrived before Damietta. One more instance may suffice. On their return to France a sailor fell overboard, and was left in the water. Joinville, whose ship was close by, saw something in the water; but, as he observed no struggle, he imagined it was a cask. The man, however, was picked up; and when asked why he did not exert himself, he replied that he saw no necessity for it. As soon as he fell into the water he commended himself to Nostre Dame, and she supported him by his shoulders [pg 186] till he was picked up by the King's galley. Joinville had a window painted in his chapel to commemorate this miracle; and there, no doubt, the Virgin would be represented as supporting the sailor exactly as he described it.

Now, it must be admitted that before the tribunal of the ordinary philosophy of the nineteenth century, these miracles would be put down either as inventions or as exaggerations. But let us examine the thoughts and the language of that age, and we shall take a more charitable, and, we believe, a more correct view. Men like Joinville did not distinguish between a general and a special providence, and few who have carefully examined the true import of words would blame him for that. Whatever happened to him and his friends, the smallest as well as the greatest events were taken alike as so many communications from God to man. Nothing could happen to any one of them unless God willed it. “God wills it,” they exclaimed, and put the cross on their breasts, and left house and home, and wife and children, to fight the infidels in the Holy Land. The King was ill and on the point of death, when he made a vow that if he recovered, he would undertake a crusade. In spite of the dangers which threatened him and his country, where every vassal was a rival, in spite of the despair of his excellent mother, the King fulfilled his vow, and risked not only his crown, but his life, without a complaint and without a regret. It may be that the prospect of Eastern booty, or even of an Eastern throne, had some part in exciting the pious zeal of the French chivalry. Yet if we read of Joinville, who was then a young and gay nobleman of twenty-four, with a young wife and a beautiful castle in Champagne, giving up everything, [pg 187] confessing his sins, making reparation, performing pilgrimages, and then starting for the East, there to endure for five years the most horrible hardships; when we read of his sailors singing a Veni, Creator Spiritus, before they hoisted their sails; when we see how every day, in the midst of pestilence and battle, the King and his Sénéchal and his knights say their prayers and perform their religious duties; how in every danger they commend themselves to God or to their saints; how for every blessing, for every escape from danger, they return thanks to Heaven,—we easily learn to understand how natural it was that such men should see miracles in every blessing vouchsafed to them, whether great or small, just as the Jews of old, in that sense the true people of God, saw miracles, saw the finger of God in every plague that visited their camp, and in every spring of water that saved them from destruction. When the Egyptians were throwing the Greek fire into the camp of the Crusaders, St. Louis raised himself in his bed at the report of every discharge of those murderous missiles, and, stretching forth his hands towards heaven, he said, crying, “Good Lord God, protect my people.” Joinville, after relating this, remarks, “And I believe truly that his prayers served us well in our need.” And was he not right in this belief, as right as the Israelites were when they saw Moses lifting up his heavy arms, and they prevailed against Amalek? Surely this belief was put to a hard test when a fearful plague broke out in the camp, when nearly the whole French army was massacred, when the King was taken prisoner, when the Queen, in childbed, had to make her old chamberlain swear that he would kill her at the first approach of the enemy, when the small remnant of that [pg 188] mighty French army had to purchase its return to France by a heavy ransom. Yet nothing could shake Joinville's faith in the ever-ready help of our Lord, of the Virgin, and of the saints. “Be certain,” he writes, “that the Virgin helped us, and she would have helped us more if we had not offended her, her and her Son, as I said before.” Surely, with such faith, credulity ceases to be credulity. Where there is credulity without that living faith which sees the hand of God in everything, man's indignation is rightly roused. That credulity leads to self-conceit, hypocrisy, and unbelief. But such was not the credulity of Joinville or of his King, or of the Bishop who comforted the great master in theology. A modern historian would not call the rescue of the drowning sailor, nor the favorable wind which brought the Crusaders to Cyprus, nor the opportune arrival of the Comte de Poitiers miracles, because the word “miracle” has a different sense with us from what it had during the Middle Ages, from what it had at the time of the Apostles, and from what it had at the time of Moses. Yet to the drowning sailor his rescue was miraculous; to the despairing King the arrival of his brother was a godsend; and to Joinville and his crew, who were in imminent danger of being carried off as slaves by Moorish pirates, the wind that brought them safe to Cyprus was more than a fortunate accident. Our language differs from the language of Joinville, yet in our heart of hearts we mean the same thing.

And nothing shows better the reality and healthiness of the religion of those brave knights than their cheerful and open countenance, their thorough enjoyment of all the good things of this life, their freedom in thought and speech. You never catch Joinville [pg 189] canting, or with an expression of blank solemnity. When his ship was surrounded by the galleys of the Sultan, and when they held a council as to whether they should surrender themselves to the Sultan's fleet or to his army on shore, one of his servants objected to all surrender. “Let us all be killed,” he said to Joinville, “and then we shall all go straight to Paradise.” His advice, however, was not followed, because, as Joinville says, “we did not believe it.”

If we bear in mind that Joinville's History was written after Louis has been raised to the rank of a saint, his way of speaking of the King, though always respectful, strikes us, nevertheless, as it must have struck his contemporaries, as sometimes very plain and familiar. It is well known that an attempt was actually made by the notorious Jesuit, le Père Hardouin, to prove Joinville's work as spurious, or, at all events, as full of interpolations, inserted by the enemies of the Church. It was an attempt which thoroughly failed, and which was too dangerous to be repeated; but, on reading Joinville after reading the life and miracles of St. Louis, one can easily understand that the soldier's account of the brave King was not quite palatable or welcome to the authors of the legends of the royal saint. At the time when the King's bones had begun to work wretched miracles, the following story could hardly have sounded respectful: “When the King was at Acre,” Joinville writes, “some pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem wished to see him. Joinville went to the King, and said, ‘Sire, there is a crowd of people who have asked me to show them the royal saint, though I have no wish as yet to kiss your bones.’ The King laughed loud, and asked me to bring the people.”

[pg 190]

In the thick of the battle, in which Joinville received five wounds and his horse fifteen, and when death seemed almost certain, Joinville tells us that the good Count of Soissons rode up to him and chaffed him, saying, “Let those dogs loose, for, par la quoife Dieu,”—as he always used to swear,—“we shall still talk of this day in the rooms of our ladies.”

The Crusades and the Crusaders, though they are only five or six centuries removed from us, have assumed a kind of romantic character, which makes it very difficult even for the historian to feel towards them the same human interest which we feel for Cæsar or Pericles. Works like that of Joinville are most useful in dispelling that mist which the chroniclers of old and the romances of Walter Scott and others have raised round the heroes of these holy wars. St. Louis and his companions, as described by Joinville, not only in their glistening armor, but in their everyday attire, are brought nearer to us, become intelligible to us, and teach us lessons of humanity which we can learn from men only, and not from saints and heroes. Here lies the real value of real history. It makes us familiar with the thoughts of men who differ from us in manners and language, in thought and religion, and yet with whom we are able to sympathize, and from whom we are able to learn. It widens our minds and our hearts, and gives us that true knowledge of the world and of human nature in all its phases which but few can gain in the short span of their own life, and in the narrow sphere of their friends and enemies. We can hardly imagine a better book for boys to read or for men to ponder over; and we hope that M. de Wailly's laudable efforts may be crowned with complete success, and that, whether in France or in England, [pg 191] no student of history will in future imagine that he knows the true spirit of the Crusades and the Crusaders who has not read once, and more than once, the original Memoirs of Joinville, as edited, translated, and explained by the eminent Keeper of the Imperial Library at Paris, M. Natalis de Wailly.


[pg 192]


For a hundred persons who, in this country, read the “Revue des Deux Mondes,” how many are there who read the “Journal des Savants?” In France the authority of that journal is indeed supreme; but its very title frightens the general public, and its blue cover is but seldom seen on the tables of the salles de lecture. And yet there is no French periodical so well suited to the tastes of the better class of readers in England. Its contributors are all members of the Institut de France; and, if we may measure the value of a periodical by the honor which it reflects on those who form its staff, no journal in France can vie with the “Journal des Savants.” At the present moment we find on its roll such names as Cousin, Flourens, Villemain, Mignet, Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, Naudet, Prosper Mérimé, Littré, Vitet—names which, if now and then seen on the covers of the “Revue des Deux Mondes,” the “Revue Contemporaine,” or the “Revue Moderne,” confer an exceptional lustre on these fortnightly or monthly issues. The articles which are [pg 193] admitted into this select periodical may be deficient now and then in those outward charms of diction by which French readers like to be dazzled; but what in France is called trop savant, trop lourd, is frequently far more palatable than the highly spiced articles which are no doubt delightful to read, but which, like an excellent French dinner, make you almost doubt whether you have dined or not. If English journalists are bent on taking for their models the fortnightly or monthly contemporaries of France, the “Journal des Savants” might offer a much better chance of success than the more popular revues. We should be sorry indeed to see any periodical published under the superintendence of the “Ministre de l'Instruction Publique,” or of any other member of the Cabinet; but, apart from that, a literary tribunal like that formed by the members of the “Bureau du Journal des Savants” would certainly be a great benefit to literary criticism. The general tone that runs through their articles is impartial and dignified. Each writer seems to feel the responsibility which attaches to the bench from which he addresses the public, and we can of late years recall hardly any case where the dictum of “noblesse oblige” has been disregarded in this the most ancient among the purely literary journals of Europe.

The first number of the “Journal des Savants” was published more than two hundred years ago, on the 5th of January, 1655. It was the first small beginning in a branch of literature which has since assumed immense proportions. Voltaire speaks of it as “le père de tous les ouvrages de ce genre, dont l'Europe est aujourd'hui remplie.” It was published at first once a week, every Monday; and the responsible editor was M. de Sallo, who, in order to avoid the [pg 194] retaliations of sensitive authors, adopted the name of Le Sieur de Hedouville, the name, it is said, of his valet de chambre. The articles were short, and in many cases they only gave a description of the books, without any critical remarks. The Journal likewise gave an account of important discoveries in science and art, and of other events that might seem of interest to men of letters. Its success must have been considerable, if we may judge by the number of rival publications which soon sprang up in France and in other countries of Europe. In England, a philosophical journal on the same plan was started before the year was over. In Germany, the “Journal des Savants” was translated into Latin by F. Nitzschius in 1668, and before the end of the seventeenth century the “Giornale de' Letterati” (1668), the “Bibliotheca Volante” (1677), the “Acta Eruditorum” (1682), the “Nouvelles de la République des Lettres” (1684), the “Bibliothèque Universelle et Historique” (1686), the “Histoire des Ouvrages des Savants” (1687), and the “Monatliche Unterredungen” (1689), had been launched in the principal countries of Europe. In the next century it was remarked of the journals published in Germany, “Plura dixeris pullulasse brevi tempore quam fungi nascuntur unâ nocte.”

Most of these journals were published by laymen, and represented the purely intellectual interests of society. It was but natural, therefore, that the clergy also should soon have endeavored to possess a journal of their own. The Jesuits, who at that time were the most active and influential order, were not slow to appreciate this new opportunity for directing public opinion, and they founded in 1701 their famous journal, the “Mémoires de Trévoux.” Famous indeed it [pg 195] might once be called, and yet at present how little is known of that collection! how seldom are its volumes called for in our public libraries! It was for a long time the rival of the “Journal des Savants.” Under the editorship of Le Père Berthier it fought bravely against Diderot, Voltaire, and other heralds of the French Revolution. It weathered even the fatal year of 1762, but, after changing its name, and moderating its pretensions, it ceased to appear in 1782. The long rows of its volumes are now piled up in our libraries likes rows of tombstones, which we pass by without even stopping to examine the names and titles of those who are buried in these vast catacombs of thought.

It was a happy idea that led the Père P. C. Sommervogel, himself a member of the order of the Jesuits, to examine the dusty volumes of the “Journal de Trévoux,” and to do for it the only thing that could be done to make it useful once more, at least to a certain degree, namely, to prepare a general index of the numerous subjects treated in its volumes, on the model of the great index, published in 1753, of the “Journal des Savants.” His work, published at Paris in 1865, consists of three volumes. The first gives an index of the original dissertations; the second and third, of the works criticised in the “Journal de Trévoux.” It is a work of much smaller pretensions than the index to the “Journal des Savants;” yet, such as it is, it is useful, and will amply suffice for the purposes of those few readers who have from time to time to consult the literary annals of the Jesuits in France.

The title of the “Mémoires de Trévoux” was taken from the town of Trévoux, the capital of the principality of Dombes, which Louis XIV. had conferred on the Duc de Maine, with all the privileges of a sovereign. [pg 196] Like Louis XIV., the young prince gloried in the title of a patron of art and science, but, as the pupil of Madame de Maintenon, he devoted himself even more zealously to the defense of religion. A printing-office was founded at Trévoux, and the Jesuits were invited to publish a new journal, “où l'on eût principalement en vûë la défense de la religion.” This was the “Journal de Trévoux,” published for the first time in February, 1701, under the title of “Mémoires pour l'Histoire des Sciences et des Beaux Arts, recueillis par l'ordre de Son Altesse Sérénissime, Monseigneur Prince Souverain de Dombes.” It was entirely and professedly in the hands of the Jesuits, and we find among its earliest contributors such names as Catrou, Tournemine, and Hardouin. The opportunities for collecting literary and other intelligence enjoyed by the members of that order were extraordinary. We doubt whether any paper, even in our days, has so many intelligent correspondents in every part of the world. If any astronomical observation was to be made in China or America, a Jesuit missionary was generally on the spot to make it. If geographical information was wanted, eye-witnesses could write from India or Africa to state what was the exact height of mountains or the real direction of rivers. The architectural monuments of the great nations of antiquity could easily be explored and described, and the literary treasures of India or China or Persia could be ransacked by men ready for any work that required devotion and perseverance, and that promised to throw additional splendor on the order of Loyola. No missionary society has ever understood how to utilize its resources in the interest of science like the Jesuits; and if our own missionaries may on many points take [pg 197] warning from the history of the Jesuits, on that one point at least they might do well to imitate their example.

Scientific interests, however, were by no means the chief motive of the Jesuits in founding their journal, and the controversial character began soon to preponderate in their articles. Protestant writers received but little mercy in the pages of the “Journal de Trévoux,” and the battle was soon raging in every country of Europe between the flying batteries of the Jesuits and the strongholds of Jansenism, of Protestantism, or of liberal thought in general. Le Clerc was attacked for his “Harmonia Evangelica;” Boileau even was censured for his “Epître sur l'Amour de Dieu.” But the old lion was too much for his reverend satirists. The following is a specimen of his reply:—

“Mes Révérends Pères en Dieu,
Et mes confrères en Satire.
Dans vos Escrits dans plus d'un lieu
Je voy qu'à mes dépens vous affectés de rire;
Mais ne craignés-vous point, que pour rire de Vous,
Relisant Juvénal, refeuilletant Horace,
Je ne ranime encor ma satirique audace?
Grands Aristarques de Trévoux,
N'allés point de nouveau faire courir aux armes,
Un athlète tout prest à prendre son congé,
Qui par vos traits malins au combat rengagé
Peut encore aux Rieurs faire verser des larmes.
Apprenés un mot de Régnier,
Notre célèbre Devancier,
Corsaires attaquant Corsaires
No font pas, dit-il, leurs affaires.”

Even stronger language than this became soon the fashion in journalistic warfare. In reply to an attack on the Marquis Orsi, the “Giornale de' Letterati d'Italia” accused the “Journal de Trévoux” of menzogna and impostura, and in Germany the “Acta Eruditorum Lipsiensium” poured out even more violent [pg 198] invectives against the Jesuitical critics. It is wonderful how well Latin seems to lend itself to the expression of angry abuse. Few modern writers have excelled the following tirade, either in Latin or in German:—

Quæ mentis stupiditas! At si qua est, Jesuitarum est.... Res est intoleranda, Trevoltianos Jesuitas, toties contusos, iniquissimum in suis diariis tribunal erexisse, in eoque non ratione duce, sed animi impotentia, non æquitatis legibus, sed præjudiciis, non veritatis lance, sed affectus aut odi pondere, optimis exquisitissimisque operibus detrahere, pessima ad cœlum usque laudibus efferre: ignaris auctoribus, modo secum sentiant, aut sibi faveant, ubique blandiri, doctissimos sibi non plane pleneque deditos plus quam canino dente mordere.

What has been said of other journals was said of the “Journal de Trévoux:”

Les auteurs de ce journal, qui a son mérite, sont constants à louer tous les ouvrages de ceux qu'ils affectionnent, et pour éviter une froide monotonie, ils exercent quelquefois la critique sur les écrivans à qui rien ne les oblige de faire grâce.

It took some time before authors became at all reconciled to these new tribunals of literary justice. Even a writer like Voltaire, who braved public opinion more than anybody, looked upon journals, and the influence which they soon gained in France and abroad, as a great evil. “Rien n'a plus nui à la littérature,” he writes, “plus répandu le mauvais goût, et plus confondu le vrai avec le faux.” Before the establishment of literary journals, a learned writer had indeed little to fear. For a few years, at all events, he was allowed to enjoy the reputation of having published a book; and this by itself was considered a great distinction by the world at large. Perhaps his book was never noticed at all, or, if it was, it was only criticised in one of those elaborate letters which the learned men of the [pg 199] sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used to write to each other, which might be forwarded indeed to one or two other professors, but which never influenced public opinion. Only in extreme cases a book would be answered by another book, but this would necessarily require a long time; nor would it at all follow that those who had read and admired the original work would have an opportunity of consulting the volume that contained its refutation. This happy state of things came to an end after the year 1655. Since the invention of printing, no more important event had happened in the republic of letters than the introduction of a periodical literature. It was a complete revolution, differing from other revolutions only by the quickness with which the new power was recognized even by its fiercest opponents.

The power of journalism, however, soon found its proper level, and the history of its rise and progress, which has still to be written, teaches the same lesson as the history of political powers. Journals which defended private interests, or the interests of parties, whether religious, political, or literary, never gained that influence which was freely conceded to those who were willing to serve the public at large in pointing out real merit wherever it could be found, and in unmasking pretenders, to whatever rank they might belong. The once all-powerful organ of the Jesuits, the “Journal de Trèvoux,” has long ceased to exist, and even to be remembered; the “Journal des Savants” still holds, after more than two hundred years, that eminent position which was claimed for it by its founder, as the independent advocate of justice and truth.


[pg 200]


History is generally written en face. It reminds us occasionally of certain royal family pictures, where the centre is occupied by the king and queen, while their children are ranged on each side like organ-pipes, and the courtiers and ministers are grouped behind, according to their respective ranks. All the figures seem to stare at some imaginary spectator, who would require at least a hundred eyes to take in the whole of the assemblage. This place of the imaginary spectator falls generally to the lot of the historian, and of those who read great historical works; and perhaps this is inevitable. But it is refreshing for once to change this unsatisfactory position, and, instead of always looking straight in the faces of kings, and queens, and generals, and ministers, to catch, by a side-glance, a view of the times, as they appeared to men occupying a less central and less abstract position than that of the general historian. If we look at the Palace of Versailles from the terrace in front of the edifice, we are impressed with its broad magnificence, but we are soon tired, and all that is left in our memory is a vast expanse of windows, columns, statues, and wall. But let us retire to some of the bosquets on each side of the main [pg 201] avenue, and take a diagonal view of the great mansion of Louis XIV., and though we lose part of the palace, the whole picture gains in color and life, and it brings before our mind the figure of the great monarch himself, so fond of concealing part of his majestic stateliness under the shadow of those very groves where we are sitting.

It was a happy thought of M. Kurd von Schlözer to try a similar experiment with Frederic the Great, and to show him to us, not as the great king, looking history in the face, but as seen near and behind another person, for whom the author has felt so much sympathy as to make him the central figure of a very pretty historical picture. This person is Chasot. Frederic used to say of him, C'est le matador de ma jeunesse,—a saying which is not found in Frederic's works, but which is nevertheless authentic. One of the chief magistrates of the old Hanseatic town of Lübeck, Syndicus Curtius,—the father, we believe, of the two distinguished scholars, Ernst and Georg Curtius,—was at school with the two sons of Chasot, and he remembers these royal words, when they were repeated in all the drawing-rooms of the city where Chasot spent many years of his life. Frederic's friendship for Chasot is well known, for there are two poems of the king addressed to this young favorite. They do not give a very high idea either of the poetical power of the monarch, or of the moral character of his friend; but they contain some manly and straightforward remarks, which make up for a great deal of shallow declamation. This young Chasot was a French nobleman, a fresh, chivalrous, buoyant nature,—adventurous, careless, extravagant, brave, full of romance, happy with the happy, and galloping [pg 202] through life like a true cavalry officer. He met Frederic in 1734. Louis XV. had taken up the cause of Stanislas Lesczynski, King of Poland, his father-in-law, and Chasot served in the French army which, under the Duke of Berwick, attacked Germany on the Rhine, in order to relieve Poland from the simultaneous pressure of Austria and Russia. He had the misfortune to kill a French officer in a duel, and was obliged to take refuge in the camp of the old Prince Eugène. Here the young Prince of Prussia soon discovered the brilliant parts of the French nobleman, and when his father, Frederic William I., no longer allowed him to serve under Eugène, he asked Chasot to follow him to Prussia. The years from 1735 to 1740 were happy years for the prince, though he, no doubt, would have preferred taking an active part in the campaign. He writes to his sister:—

J'aurais répondu plus tôt, si je n'avais été très-affligé de ce que le roi ne veut pas me permettre d'aller en campagne. Je le lui ai demandé quatre fois, et lui ai rappelé la promesse qu'il m'en avait faite; mais point de nouvelle; il m'a dit qu'il avait des raisons très-cachées qui l'en empêchaient. Je le crois, car je suis persuadé qu'il ne les sait pas lui-même.

But, as he wished to be on good terms with his father, he stayed at home, and travelled about to inspect his future kingdom. “C'est un peu plus honnête qu'en Sibérie,” he writes, “mais pas de beaucoup.” Frederic, after his marriage, took up his abode in the Castle of Rheinsberg, near Neu-Ruppin, and it was here that he spent the happiest part of his existence. M. de Schlözer has described this period in the life of the king with great art; and he has pointed out how Frederic, while he seemed to live for nothing but [pg 203] pleasure,—shooting, dancing, music, and poetry,—was given at the same time to much more serious occupations,—reading and composing works on history, strategy, and philosophy, and maturing plans which, when the time of their execution came, seemed to spring from his head full-grown and full-armed. He writes to his sister, the Markgravine of Baireuth, in 1737:—

Nous nous divertissons de rien, et n'avons aucun soin des choses de la vie, qui la rendent désagréable et qui jettent du dégoût sur les plaisirs. Nous faisons la tragédie et la comédie, nous avons bal, mascarade, et musique à toute sauce. Voilà un abrégé de nos amusements.

And again, he writes to his friend Suhm, at Petersburg:—

Nous allons représenter l'Œdipe de Voltaire, dans lequel je ferai le héros de théâtre; j'ai choisi le rôle de Philoctéte.

A similar account of the royal household at Rheinsberg is given by Bielfeld:—

C'est ainsi que les jours s'écoulent ici dans une tranquillité assaisonneé de tous les plaisirs qui peuvent flatter une âme raisonnable. Chère de roi, vin des dieux, musique des anges, promenades délicieuses dans les jardins et dans les bois, parties sur l'eau, culture des lettres et des beaux-arts, conversation spirituelle, tout concourt à repandre dans ce palais enchanté des charmes sur la vie.

Frederic, however, was not a man to waste his time in mere pleasure. He shared in the revelries of his friends, but he was perhaps the only person at Rheinsberg who spent his evenings in reading Wolff's “Metaphysics.” And here let us remark, that this German prince, in order to read that work, was obliged to have the German translated into French by his friend Suhm, the Saxon minister at Petersburg. Chasot, who had no very definite duties to perform at [pg 204] Rheinsberg, was commissioned to copy Suhm's manuscript,—nay, he was nearly driven to despair when he had to copy it a second time, because Frederic's monkey, Mimi, had set fire to the first copy. We have Frederic's opinion on Wolff's “Metaphysics,” in his “Works,” vol. i. p. 263:—

Les universités prosperaient en même temps. Halle et Francfort étaient fournies de savants professeurs: Thomasius, Gundling, Ludewig, Wolff, et Stryke tenaient le premier rang pour la célébrité et faisaient nombre de disciples. Wolff commenta l'ingénieux système de Leibnitz sur les monades, et noya dans un déluge de paroles, d'arguments, de corollaires, et de citations, quelques problèmes que Leibnitz avait jetées peut-être comme une amorce aux métaphysiciens. Le professeur de Halle écrivait laborieusement nombre de volumes, qui, au lieu de pouvoir instruire des hommes faits, servirent tout au plus de catéchisme de didactique pour des enfants. Les monades ont mis aux prises les métaphysiciens et les géomêtres d'Allemagne, et ils disputent encore sur la divisibilité de la matière.

In another place, however, he speaks of Wolff with greater respect, and acknowledges his influence in the German universities. Speaking of the reign of his father, he writes:—

Mais la faveur et les brigues remplissaient les chaires de professeurs dans les universités; les dévots, qui se mêlent de tout, acquirent une part à la direction des universités; ils y persécutaient le bon sens, et surtout la classe des philosophes: Wolff fut exilé pour avoir dèduit avec un ordre admirable les preuves sur l'existence de Dieu. La jeune noblesse qui se vouait aux armes, crût déroger en étudiant, et comme l'esprit humain donne toujours dans les excès, ils regardèrent l'ignorance comme un titre de mérite, et le savoir comme une pédanterie absurde.

During the same time, Frederic composed his “Refutation of Macchiavelli,” which was published in 1740, and read all over Europe; and besides the gay parties of the court, he organized the somewhat [pg 205] mysterious society of the Ordre de Bayard, of which his brothers, the Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, the Duke Wilhelm of Brunswick-Bevern, Keyserling, Fouqué, and Chasot, were members. Their meetings had reference to serious political matters, though Frederic himself was never initiated by his father into the secrets of Prussian policy till almost on his death-bed. The king died in 1740, and Frederic was suddenly called away from his studies and pleasures at Rheinsberg, to govern a rising kingdom which was watched with jealousy by all its neighbors. He describes his state of mind, shortly before the death of his father, in the following words:—

Vous pouvez bien juger que je suis assez tracassé dans la situation où je me trouve. On me laisse peu de repos, mais l'intérieur est tranquille, et je puis vous assurer que je n'ai jamais été plus philosophe qu'en cette occasion-ci. Je regards avec des yeux d'indifférence tout ce qui m'attend, sans désirer la fortune ni la craindre, plein de compassion pour ceux qui souffrent, d'estime pour les honnêtes gens, et de tendresse pour mes amis.

As soon, however as he had mastered his new position, the young king was again the patron of art, of science, of literature, and of social improvements of every kind. Voltaire had been invited to Berlin, to organize a French theatre, when suddenly the news of the death of Charles VI., the Emperor of Germany, arrived at Berlin. How well Frederic understood what was to follow, we learn from a letter to Voltaire:—

Mon cher Voltaire,—L'événement le moins prévu du monde m'empêche, pour cette fois, d'ouvrir mon âme à la vôtre comme d'ordinaire, et de bavarder comme je le voudrais. L'empereur est mort. Cette mort dérange toutes mes idées pacifiques, et je crois qu'il s'agira, au mois de juin, plutôt de poudre à canon, de soldats, de tranchées, que d'actrices, de ballets et de théâtre.
[pg 206]

He was suffering from fever, and he adds:—

Je vais faire passer ma fièvre, car j'ai besoin de ma machine, et il en faut tirer à présent tout le parti possible.

Again he writes to Algarotti:—

Une bagatelle comme est la mort de l'empereur ne demande pas de grands mouvements. Tout était prévu, tout était arrangé. Ainsi il ne s'agit que d'exécuter des desseins que j'ai roulés depuis long temps dans ma tête.

We need not enter into the history of the first Silesian war; but we see clearly from these expressions, that the occupation of Silesia, which the house of Brandenburg claimed by right, had formed part of the policy of Prussia long before the death of the emperor; and the peace of Breslau, in 1742, realized a plan which had probably been the subject of many debates at Rheinsberg. During this first war, Chasot obtained the most brilliant success. At Mollwitz, he saved the life of the king; and the following account of this exploit was given to M. de Schlözer by members of Chasot's family: An Austrian cavalry officer, with some of his men, rode up close to the king. Chasot was near. “Where is the king?” the officer shouted; and Chasot, perceiving the imminent danger, sprang forward, declared himself to be the king, and sustained for some time single-handed the most violent combat with the Austrian soldiers. At last he was rescued by his men, but not without having received a severe wound across his forehead. The king thanked him, and Voltaire afterwards celebrated his bravery in the following lines:—

“Il me souvient encore de ce jour mémorable
Où l'illustre Chasot, ce guerrier formidable,
Sauva par sa valeur le plus grand de nos rois.
O Prusse! élève un temple à ses fameux exploits.”

Chasot soon rose to the rank of major, and received [pg 207] large pecuniary rewards from the king. The brightest event, however, of his life was still to come; and this was the battle of Hohenfriedberg, in 1745. In spite of Frederic's successes, his position before that engagement was extremely critical. Austria had concluded a treaty with England, Holland and Saxony against Prussia. France declined to assist Frederic, Russia threatened to take part against him. On the 19th of April, the king wrote to his minister:—

La situation présente est aussi violente que désagréable. Mon parti est tout pris. S'il s'agit de se battre, nous le ferons en désespérés. Enfin, jamais crise n'a été plus grande que la mienne. Il faut laisser au temps de débrouiller cette fusée, et au destin, s'il y en a un, à décider de l'événement.

And again:—

J'ai jeté le bonnet pardessus les moulins; je me prépare à tous les événements qui peuvent m'arriver. Que la fortune me soit contraire ou favorable, cela ne m'abaissera ni m'enorgueillira; et s'il faut périr, ce sera avec gloire et l'épée à la main.

The decisive day arrived—“le jour le plus décisif de ma fortune.” The night before the battle, the king said to the French ambassador—“Les ennemis sont où je les voulais, et je les attaque demain;” and on the following day the battle of Hohenfriedberg was won. How Chasot distinguished himself, we may learn from Frederic's own description:—

“Muse dis-moi, comment en ces moments
Chasot brilla, faisant voler des têtes,
De maints uhlans faisant de vrais squelettes,
Et des hussards, devant lui s'echappant,
Fandant les uns, les autres transperçant,
Et, maniant sa flamberge tranchante,
Mettait en fuite, et donnait l'épouvante
Aux ennemis effarés et tremblants.
Tel Jupiter est peint armé du foudre,
Et tel Chasot réduit l'uhlan en poudre.”

In his account of the battle, the king wrote:—

[pg 208]
Action inouie dans l'histoire, et dont le succès est dû aux Généraux Gessler et Schmettau, au Colonel Schwerin et au brave Major Chasot, dont la valeur et la conduite se sont fait connaître dans trois batailles également.

And in his “Histoire de mon Temps,” he wrote:—

Un fait aussi rare, aussi glorieux, mérite d'être écrit en lettres d'or dans les fastes prussiens. Le Général Schwerin, le Major Chasot et beaucoup d'officiers s'y firent un nom immortel.

How, then, is it that, in the later edition of Frederic's “Histoire de mon Temps,” the name of Chasot is erased? How is it that, during the whole of the Seven Years' War, Chasot is never mentioned? M. de Schlözer gives us a complete answer to this question, and we must say that Frederic did not behave well to the matador de sa jeunesse. Chasot had a duel with a Major Bronickowsky, in which his opponent was killed. So far as we can judge from the documents which M. de Schlözer has obtained from Chasot's family, Chasot had been forced to fight; but the king believed that he had sought a quarrel with the Polish officer, and, though a court-martial found him not guilty, Frederic sent him to the fortress of Spandau. This was the first estrangement between Chasot and the king; and though after a time he was received again at court, the friendship between the king and the young nobleman who had saved his life had received a rude shock.

Chasot spent the next few years in garrison at Treptow; and, though he was regularly invited by Frederic to be present at the great festivities at Berlin, he seems to have been a more constant visitor at the small court of the Duchess of Strelitz, not far from his garrison, than at Potsdam. The king employed him on a diplomatic mission, and in this also Chasot was [pg 209] successful. But notwithstanding the continuance of this friendly intercourse, both parties felt chilled, and the least misunderstanding was sure to lead to a rupture. The king, jealous perhaps of Chasot's frequent visits at Strelitz, and not satisfied with the drill of his regiment, expressed himself in strong terms about Chasot at a review in 1751. The latter asked for leave of absence in order to return to his country and recruit his health. He had received fourteen wounds in the Prussian service, and his application could not be refused. There was another cause of complaint, on which Chasot seems to have expressed himself freely. He imagined that Frederic had not rewarded his services with sufficient liberality. He expressed himself in the following words:—

Je ne sais quel malheureux guignon poursuit le roi: mais ce guignon se reproduit dans tout ce que sa majesté entrepend ou ordonne. Toujours ses vues sont bonnes, ses plans sont sages, réfléchis et justes; et toujours le succès est nul ou très-imparfait, et pourquoi? Toujours pour la même cause! parce qu'il manque un louis à l'exécution! un louis de plus, et tout irait à merveille. Son guignon veut que partout il retienne ce maudit louis; et tout se fait mal.

How far this is just, we are unable to say. Chasot was reckless about money, and whatever the king might have allowed him, he would always have wanted one louis more. But on the other hand, Chasot was not the only person who complained of Frederic's parsimony; and the French proverb, “On ne peut pas travailler pour le roi de Prusse,” probably owes its origin to the complaints of Frenchmen who flocked to Berlin at that time in great numbers, and returned home disappointed. Chasot went to France, where he was well received, and he soon sent an intimation to the king that he did not mean to return to Berlin. In [pg 210] 1752 his name was struck off the Prussian army-list. Frederic was offended, and the simultaneous loss of many friends, who either died or left his court, made him de mauvaise humeur. It is about this time that he writes to his sister:—

J'étudie beaucoup, et cela me soulage réellement; mais lorsque mon esprit fait des retours sur les temps passés, alors les plaies du cœur se rouvrent et je regrette inutilement les pertes que j'ai faites.

Chasot, however, soon returned to Germany, and probably in order to be near the court of Strelitz, took up his abode in the old free town of Lübeck. He became a citizen of Lübeck in 1754, and in 1759 was made commander of its militia. Here his life seems to have been very agreeable, and he was treated with great consideration and liberality. Chasot was still young, as he was born in 1716, and he now thought of marriage. This he accomplished in the following manner. There was at that time an artist of some celebrity at Lübeck,—Stefano Torelli. He had a daughter whom he had left at Dresden to be educated, and whose portrait he carried about on his snuff-box. Chasot met him at dinner, saw the snuff-box, fell in love with the picture, and proposed to the father to marry his daughter Camilla. Camilla was sent for. She left Dresden, travelled through the country, which was then occupied by Prussian troops, met the king in his camp, received his protection, arrived safely at Lübeck, and in the same year was married to Chasot. Frederic was then in the thick of the Seven Years' War, but Chasot, though he was again on friendly terms with the king, did not offer him his sword. He was too happy at Lübeck with his Camilla, and he made himself useful to the king by sending him recruits. [pg 211] One of the recruits he offered was his son, and in a letter, April 8, 1760, we see the king accepting this young recruit in the most gracious terms:—

J'accepte volontiers, cher de Chasot, la recrue qui vous doit son être, et je serai parrain de l'enfant qui vous naîtra, au cas que ce soit un fils. Nous tuons les hommes, tandis que vous en faites.

It was a son, and Chasot writes:—

Si ce garçon me ressemble, Sire, il n'aura pas une goutte de sang dans ses veines qui ne soit à vous.

M. de Schlözer, who is himself a native of Lübeck, has described the later years of Chasot's life in that city with great warmth and truthfulness. The diplomatic relations of the town with Russia and Denmark were not without interest at that time, because Peter III., formerly Duke of Holstein, had declared war against Denmark in order to substantiate his claims to the Danish crown. Chasot had actually the pleasure of fortifying Lübeck, and carrying on preparations for war on a small scale, till Peter was dethroned by his wife, Catherine. All this is told in a very comprehensive and luminous style; and it is not without regret that we find ourselves in the last chapter, where M. de Schlözer describes the last meetings of Chasot and Frederic in 1779, 1784, and 1785. Frederic had lost nearly all his friends, and he was delighted to see the matador de sa jeunesse once more. He writes:—

Une chose qui n'est presque arrivée qu'à moi est que j'ai perdu tous mes amis de cœur et mes anciennes connaissances; ce sont des plaies dont le cœur saigne long-temps, que la philosophie apaise, mais que sa main ne saurait guérir.

How pleasant for the king to find at least one man with whom he could talk of the old days of Rheinsberg,—of Fräulein von Schack and Fräulein von Walmoden, [pg 212] of Cæsarion and Jordan, of Mimi and le Tourbillon! Chasot's two sons entered the Prussian service, though, in the manner in which they are received, we find Frederic again acting more as king than as friend. Chasot in 1784 was still as lively as ever, whereas the king: was in bad health. The latter writes to his old friend, “Si nous ne nous revoyons bientôt, nous ne nous reverrons jamais;” and when Chasot had arrived, Frederic writes to Prince Heinrich, “Chasot est venu ici de Lübeck; il ne parle que de mangeaille, de vins de Champagne, du Rhin, de Madère, de Hongrie, et du faste de messieurs les marchands de la bourse de Lübeck.”

Such was the last meeting of these two knights of the Ordre de Bayard. The king died in 1786, without seeing the approach of the revolutionary storm which was soon to upset the throne of the Bourbons. Chasot died in 1797. He began to write his memoirs in 1789, and it is to some of their fragments, which had been preserved by his family, and were handed over to M. Kurd de Schlözer, that we owe this delightful little book. Frederic the Great used to complain that Germans could not write history:—

Ce siècle ne produisit aucun bon historien. On chargea Teissier d'écrire l'histoire de Brandebourg: il en fit le panégyrique. Pufendorf écrivit la vie de Frédéric-Guillaume, et, pour ne rien omettre, il n'oublia ni ses clercs de chancellerie, ni ses valets de chambre dont il put recueillir les noms. Nos auteurs ont, ce me semble, toujours péché, faute de discerner les choses essentielles des accessoires, d'éclaircir les faits, de reserrer leur prose traînante et excessivement sujette aux inversions, aux nombreuses épithètes, et d'écrire en pédants plutôt qu'en hommes de génie.

We believe that Frederic would not have said this [pg 213] of a work like that of M. de Schlözer; and as to Chasot, it is not too much to say that, after the days of Mollwitz and Hohenfriedberg, the day on which M. de Schlözer undertook to write his biography was perhaps the most fortunate for his fame.


[pg 214]


The city of Frankfort, the birthplace of Goethe, sends her greeting to the city of Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. The old free town of Frankfort, which, since the days of Frederick Barbarossa, has seen the Emperors of Germany crowned within her walls, might well at all times speak in the name of Germany. But to-day she sends her greeting, not as the proud mother of German Emperors, but as the prouder mother of the greatest among the poets of Germany; and it is from the very house in which Goethe lived, and which has since become the seat of “the Free German Institute for Science and Art,” that this message of the German admirers and lovers of Shakespeare has been sent, which I am asked to present to you, the Mayor and Council of Stratford-on-Avon.

When honor was to be done to the memory of Shakespeare, Germany could not be absent, for next to Goethe and Schiller there is no poet so truly loved by us, so thoroughly our own, as your Shakespeare. He is no stranger with us, no mere classic, like Homer, or Virgil, or Dante, or Corneille, whom we admire as we [pg 215] admire a marble statue. He has become one of ourselves, holding his own place in the history of our literature, applauded in our theatres, read in our cottages, studied, known, loved, “as far as sounds the German tongue.” There is many a student in Germany who has learned English solely in order to read Shakespeare in the original, and yet we possess a translation of Shakespeare with which few translations of any work can vie in any language. What we in Germany owe to Shakespeare must be read in the history of our literature. Goethe was proud to call himself a pupil of Shakespeare. I shall at this moment allude to one debt of gratitude only which Germany owes to the poet of Stratford-on-Avon. I do not speak of the poet only, and of his art, so perfect because so artless; I think of the man with his large, warm heart, with his sympathy for all that is genuine, unselfish, beautiful, and good; with his contempt for all that is petty, mean, vulgar, and false. It is from his plays that our young men in Germany form their first ideas of England and the English nation, and in admiring and loving him we have learned to admire and to love you who may proudly call him your own. And it is right that this should be so. As the height of the Alps is measured by Mont Blanc, let the greatness of England be measured by the greatness of Shakespeare. Great nations make great poets, great poets make great nations. Happy the nation that possesses a poet like Shakespeare. Happy the youth of England whose first ideas of this world in which they are to live are taken from his pages. The silent influence of Shakespeare's poetry on millions of young hearts in England, in Germany, in all the world, shows the almost superhuman power of human genius. If we [pg 216] look at that small house, in a small street of a small town of a small island, and then think of the world-embracing, world-quickening, world-ennobling spirit that burst forth from that small garret, we have learned a lesson and carried off a blessing for which no pilgrimage would have been too long. Though the great festivals which in former days brought together people from all parts of Europe to worship at the shrine of Canterbury exist no more, let us hope, for the sake of England, more even than for the sake of Shakespeare, that this will not be the last Shakespeare festival in the annals of Stratford-on-Avon. In this cold and critical age of ours the power of worshipping, the art of admiring, the passion of loving what is great and good are fast dying out. May England never be ashamed to show to the world that she can love, that she can admire, that she can worship the greatest of her poets! May Shakespeare live on in the love of each generation that grows up in England! May the youth of England long continue to be nursed, to be fed, to be reproved and judged by his spirit! With that nation—that truly English, because truly Shakespearian nation—the German nation will always be united by the strongest sympathies; for, superadded to their common blood, their common religion, their common battles and victories, they will always have in Shakespeare a common teacher, a common benefactor, and a common friend.

April, 1864.

[pg 217]


“If our German philosophy is considered in England and in France as German dreaming, we ought not to render evil for evil, but rather to prove the groundlessness of such accusations by endeavoring ourselves to appreciate, without any prejudice, the philosophers of France and England, such as they are, and doing them that justice which they deserve; especially as, in scientific subjects, injustice means ignorance.” With these words M. Kuno Fischer introduces his work on Bacon to the German public; and what he says is evidently intended, not as an attack upon the conceit of French, and the exclusiveness of English philosophers, but rather as an apology which the author feels that he owes to his own countrymen. It would seem, indeed, as if a German was bound to apologize for treating Bacon as an equal of Leibnitz, Kant, Hegel, and Schelling. Bacon's name is never mentioned by German writers without some proviso that it is only by a great stretch of the meaning of the word, or by courtesy, that he can be called a philosopher. His philosophy, it is maintained, ends where all true philosophy begins; and his style or method has frequently been described [pg 218] as unworthy of a systematic thinker. Spinoza, who has exercised so great an influence on the history of thought in Germany, was among the first who spoke slightingly of the inductive philosopher. When treating of the causes of error, he writes, “What he (Bacon) adduces besides, in order to explain error, can easily be traced back to the Cartesian theory; it is this, that the human will is free and more comprehensive than the understanding, or, as Bacon expresses himself in a more confused manner, in the forty-ninth aphorism, ‘The human understanding is not a pure light, but obscured by the will.’ ” In works on the general history of philosophy, German authors find it difficult to assign any place to Bacon. Sometimes he is classed with the Italian school of natural philosophy, sometimes he is contrasted with Jacob Boehme. He is named as one of the many who helped to deliver mankind from the thralldom of scholasticism. But any account of what he really was, what he did to immortalize his name, and to gain that prominent position among his own countrymen which he has occupied to the present day, we should look for in vain even in the most complete and systematic treatises on the history of philosophy published in Germany. Nor does this arise from any wish to depreciate the results of English speculation in general. On the contrary, we find that Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume are treated with great respect. They occupy well-marked positions in the progress of philosophic thought. Their names are written in large letters on the chief stations through which the train of human reasoning passed before it arrived at Kant and Hegel. Locke's philosophy took for a time complete possession of the German mind, and called forth some of the most important [pg 219] and decisive writings of Leibnitz; and Kant himself owed his commanding position to the battle which he fought and won against Hume. Bacon alone has never been either attacked or praised, nor have his works, as it seems, ever been studied very closely by Germans. As far as we can gather, their view of Bacon and of English philosophy is something as follows. Philosophy, they say, should account for experience; but Bacon took experience for granted. He constructed a cyclopædia of knowledge, but he never explained what knowledge itself was. Hence philosophy, far from being brought to a close by his “Novum Organon,” had to learn again to make her first steps immediately after his time. Bacon had built a magnificent palace, but it was soon found that there was no staircase in it. The very first question of all philosophy, “How do we know?” or, “How can we know?” had never been asked by him. Locke, who came after him, was the first to ask it, and he endeavored to answer it in his “Essay concerning Human Understanding.” The result of his speculations was, that the mind is a tabula rasa, that this tabula rasa becomes gradually filled with sensuous perceptions, and that these sensuous perceptions arrange themselves into classes, and thus give rise to more general ideas or conceptions. This was a step in advance; but there was again one thing taken for granted by Locke,—the perceptions. This led to the next step in English philosophy, which was made by Berkeley. He asked the question, “What are perceptions?” and he answered it boldly: “Perceptions are the things themselves, and the only cause of these perceptions is God.” But this bold step was in reality but a bold retreat. Hume accepted the results both of Locke and Berkeley. He [pg 220] admitted with Locke that the impressions of the senses are the source of all knowledge; he admitted with Berkeley that we know nothing beyond the impressions of our senses. But when Berkeley speaks of the cause of these impressions, Hume points out that we have no right to speak of anything like cause and effect, and that the idea of causality, of necessary sequence, on which the whole fabric of our reasoning rests, is an assumption; inevitable, it may be, yet an assumption. Thus English philosophy, which seemed to be so settled and positive in Bacon, ended in the most unsettled and negative skepticism in Hume; and it was only through Kant that, according to the Germans, the great problem was solved at last, and men again knew how they knew.

From this point of view, which we believe to be that generally taken by German writers of the historical progress of modern philosophy, we may well understand why the star of Bacon should disappear almost below their horizon. And if those only are to be called philosophers who inquire into the causes of our knowledge, or into the possibility of knowing and being, a new name must be invented for men like him, who are concerned alone with the realities of knowledge. The two are antipodes,—they inhabit two distinct hemispheres of thought. But German Idealism, as M. Kuno Fischer says, would have done well if it had become more thoroughly acquainted with its opponent:—

And if it be objected, he says, that the points of contact between German and English philosophy, between Idealism and Realism, are less to be found in Bacon than in other philosophers of his kind; that it was not Bacon, but Hume, who influenced Kant; that it was not Bacon, but Locke, who influenced Leibnitz; that Spinoza, if he received any impulse at all from [pg 221] those quarters, received it from Hobbes, and not from Bacon, of whom he speaks in several places very contemptuously,—I answer, that it was Bacon whom Des Cartes, the acknowledged founder of dogmatic Idealism, chose for his antagonist. And as to those realistic philosophers who have influenced the opposite side of philosophy in Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Kant, I shall be able to prove that Hobbes, Locke, Hume, are all descendants of Bacon, that they have their roots in Bacon, that without Bacon they cannot be truly explained and understood, but only be taken up in a fragmentary form, and, as it were, plucked off. Bacon is the creator of realistic philosophy. Their age is but a development of the Baconian germs; every one of their systems is a metamorphosis of Baconian philosophy. To the present day, realistic philosophy has never had a greater genius than Bacon, its founder; none who has manifested the truly realistic spirit that feels itself at home in the midst of life, in so comprehensive, so original and characteristic, so sober, and yet at the same time so ideal and aspiring a manner; none, again, in whom the limits of this spirit stand out in such distinct and natural relief. Bacon's philosophy is the most healthy and quite inartificial expression of Realism. After the systems of Spinoza and Leibnitz had moved me for a long time, had filled, and, as it were, absorbed me, the study of Bacon was to me like a new life, the fruits of which are gathered in this book.

After a careful perusal of M. Fischer's work, we believe that it will not only serve in Germany as a useful introduction to the study of Bacon, but that it will be read with interest and advantage by many persons in England who are already acquainted with the chief works of the philosopher. The analysis which he gives of Bacon's philosophy is accurate and complete; and, without indulging in any lengthy criticisms, he has thrown much light on several important points. He first discusses the aim of his philosophy, and characterizes it as Discovery in general, as the conquest of nature by man (Regnum hominis, interpretatio naturæ). He then enters into the means which it supplies for accomplishing this conquest, and which consist chiefly in experience:—

[pg 222]
The chief object of Bacon's philosophy is the establishment and extension of the dominion of man. The means of accomplishing this we may call culture, or the application of physical powers toward human purposes. But there is no such culture without discovery, which produces the means of culture; no discovery without science, which understands the laws of nature; no science without natural science; no natural science without an interpretation of nature; and this can only be accomplished according to the measure of our experience.

M. Fischer then proceeds to discuss what he calls the negative or destructive part of Bacon's philosophy (pars destruens),—that is to say, the means by which the human mind should be purified and freed from all preconceived notions before it approaches the interpretation of nature. He carries us through the long war which Bacon commenced against the idols of traditional or scholastic science. We see how the idola tribus, the idola specus, the idola fori, and the idola theatri, are destroyed by his iconoclastic philosophy. After all these are destroyed, there remains nothing but uncertainty and doubt; and it is in this state of nudity, approaching very nearly to the tabula rasa of Locke, that the human mind should approach the new temple of nature. Here lies the radical difference between Bacon and Des Cartes, between Realism and Idealism. Des Cartes also, like Bacon, destroys all former knowledge. He proves that we know nothing for certain. But after he has deprived the human mind of all its imaginary riches, he does not lead it on, like Bacon, to a study of nature, but to a study of itself as the only subject which can be known for certain, Cogito, ergo sum. His philosophy leads to a study of the fundamental laws of knowing and being; that of Bacon enters at once into the gates of nature, with the innocence of a child (to use his [pg 223] own expression) who enters the kingdom of God. Bacon speaks, indeed, of a Philosophia prima as a kind of introduction to Divine, Natural, and Human Philosophy; but he does not discuss in this preliminary chapter the problem of the possibility of knowledge, nor was it with him the right place to do so. It was destined by him as a “receptacle for all such profitable observations and axioms as fall not within the compass of the special parts of philosophy or sciences, but are more common, and of a higher stage.” He mentions himself some of these axioms, such as—Si inæqualibus æqualia addas, omnia erunt inæqualia; Quæ in eodem tertio conveniunt, et inter se conveniunt; Omnia mutantur, nil interit. The problem of the possibility of knowledge would generally be classed under metaphysics; but what Bacon calls Metaphysique is, with him, a branch of philosophy treating only on Formal and Final Causes, in opposition to Physique, which treats on Material and Efficient Causes. If we adopt Bacon's division of philosophy, we might still expect to find the fundamental problem discussed in his chapter on Human Philosophy; but here, again, he treats man only as a part of the continent of Nature, and when he comes to consider the substance and nature of the soul or mind, he declines to enter into this subject, because “the true knowledge of the nature and state of soul must come by the same inspiration that gave the substance.” There remains, therefore, but one place in Bacon's cyclopædia where we might hope to find some information on this subject,—namely, where he treats on the faculties and functions of the mind, and in particular, of understanding and reason. And here he dwells indeed on the doubtful evidence of [pg 224] the senses as one of the causes of error so frequently pointed out by other philosophers. But he remarks that, though they charged the deceit upon the senses, their chief errors arose from a different cause, from the weakness of their intellectual powers, and from the manner of collecting and concluding upon the reports of the senses. And he then points to what is to be the work of his life,—an improved system of invention, consisting of the Experientia Literata, and the Interpretatio Naturæ.

It must be admitted, therefore, that one of the problems which has occupied most philosophers,—nay, which, in a certain sense, may be called the first impulse to all philosophy,—the question whether we can know anything, is entirely passed over by Bacon; and we may well understand why the name and title of philosopher has been withheld from one who looked upon human knowledge as an art, but never inquired into its causes and credentials. This is a point which M. Fischer has not overlooked; but he has not always kept it in view, and in wishing to secure to Bacon his place in the history of philosophy, he has deprived him of that more exalted place which Bacon himself wished to occupy in the history of the world. Among men like Locke, Hume, Kant, and Hegel, Bacon is, and always will be, a stranger. Bacon himself would have drawn a very strong line between their province and his own. He knows where their province lies; and if he sometimes speaks contemptuously of formal philosophy, it is only when formal philosophy has encroached on his own ground, or when it breaks into the enclosure of revealed religion, which he wished to be kept sacred. There, he holds, the human mind should not enter, except in the attitude of the Semnones, with chained hands.

[pg 225]

Bacon's philosophy could never supplant the works of Plato and Aristotle, and though his method might prove useful in every branch of knowledge,—even in the most abstruse points of logic and metaphysics,—yet there has never been a Baconian school of philosophy, in the sense in which we speak of the school of Locke or Kant. Bacon was above or below philosophy. Philosophy, in the usual sense of the word, formed but a part of his great scheme of knowledge. It had its place therein, side by side with history, poetry, and religion. After he had surveyed the whole universe of knowledge, he was struck by the small results that had been obtained by so much labor, and he discovered the cause of this failure in the want of a proper method of investigation and combination. The substitution of a new method of invention was the great object of his philosophical activity; and though it has been frequently said that the Baconian method had been known long before Bacon, and had been practiced by his predecessors with much greater success than by himself or his immediate followers, it was his chief merit to have proclaimed it, and to have established its legitimacy against all gainsayers. M. Fischer has some very good remarks on Bacon's method of induction, particularly on the instantiæ prærogativæ which, as he points out, though they show the weakness of his system, exhibit at the same time the strength of his mind, which rises above all the smaller considerations of systematic consistency, where higher objects are at stake.

M. Fischer devotes one chapter to Bacon's relation to the ancient philosophers, and another to his views on poetry. In the latter, he naturally compares Bacon with his contemporary, Shakespeare. We recommend this chapter, as well as a similar one in a work on [pg 226] Shakespeare by Gervinus, to the author of the ingenious discovery that Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's plays. Besides an analysis of the constructive part of Bacon's philosophy, or the Instauratio Magna, M. Fischer gives us several interesting chapters, in which he treats of Bacon as an historical character, of his views on religion and theology, and of his reviewers. His defense of Bacon's political character is the weakest part of his work. He draws an elaborate parallel between the spirit of Bacon's philosophy and the spirit of his public acts. Discovery, he says, was the object of the philosopher; success that of the politician. But what can be gained by such parallels? We admire Bacon's ardent exertions for the successful advancement of learning, but, if his acts for his own advancement were blamable, no moralist, whatever notions he may hold on the relation between the understanding and the will, would be swayed in his judgment of Lord Bacon's character by such considerations. We make no allowance for the imitative talents of a tragedian, if he stands convicted of forgery, nor for the courage of a soldier, if he is accused of murder. Bacon's character can only be judged by the historian, and by a careful study of the standard of public morality in Bacon's times. And the same may be said of the position which he took with regard to religion and theology. We may explain his inclination to keep religion distinct from philosophy by taking into account the practical tendencies of all his labors. But there is such a want of straightforwardness, and we might almost say, of real faith, in his theological statements, that no one can be surprised to find that, while he is taken as the representative of orthodoxy by some, he has been attacked by others as the most dangerous and [pg 227] insidious enemy of Christianity. Writers of the school of De Maistre see in him a decided atheist and hypocrite.

In a work on Bacon, it seems to have become a necessity to discuss Bacon's last reviewer, and M. Fischer therefore breaks a lance with Mr. Macaulay. We give some extracts from this chapter (page 358 seq.), which will serve, at the same time, as a specimen of our author's style:—

Mr. Macaulay pleads unconditionally in favor of practical philosophy, which he designates by the name of Bacon, against all theoretical philosophy. We have two questions to ask: 1. What does Mr. Macaulay mean by the contrast of practical and theoretical philosophy, on which he dwells so constantly? and 2. What has his own practical philosophy in common with that of Bacon?
Mr. Macaulay decides on the fate of philosophy with a ready formula, which, like many of the same kind, dazzles by means of words which have nothing behind them,—words which become more obscure and empty the nearer we approach them. He says, Philosophy was made for Man, not Man for Philosophy. In the former case it is practical; in the latter, theoretical. Mr. Macaulay embraces the first, and rejects the second. He cannot speak with sufficient praise of the one, nor with sufficient contempt of the other. According to him, the Baconian philosophy is practical; the pre-Baconian, and particularly the ancient philosophy, theoretical. He carries the contrast between the two to the last extreme, and he places it before our eyes, not in its naked form, but veiled in metaphors, and in well-chosen figures of speech, where the imposing and charming image always represents the practical, the repulsive the theoretical, form of philosophy. By this play he carries away the great mass of people, who, like children, always run after images. Practical philosophy is not so much a conviction with him, but it serves him to make a point; whereas theoretical philosophy serves as an easy butt. Thus the contrast between the two acquires a certain dramatic charm. The reader feels moved and excited by the subject before him, and forgets the scientific question. His fancy is caught by a kind of metaphorical [pg 228] imagery, and his understanding surrenders what is due to it.... What is Mr. Macaulay's meaning in rejecting theoretical philosophy, because philosophy is here the object, and man the means; whereas he adopts practical philosophy, because man is here the object, and philosophy the means? What do we gain by such comparisons, as when he says that practical and theoretical philosophy are like works and words, fruits and thorns, a high-road and a treadmill? Such phrases always remind us of the remark of Socrates: They are said indeed, but are they well and truly said? According to the strict meaning of Mr. Macaulay's words, there never was a practical philosophy; for there never was a philosophy which owed its origin to practical considerations only. And there never was a theoretical philosophy, for there never was a philosophy which did not receive its impulse from a human want, that is to say, from a practical motive. This shows where playing with words must always lead. He defines theoretical and practical philosophy in such a manner that his definition is inapplicable to any kind of philosophy. His antithesis is entirely empty. But if we drop the antithesis, and only keep to what it means in sober and intelligible language, it would come to this,—that the value of a theory depends on its usefulness, on its practical influence on human life, on the advantage which we derive from it. Utility alone is to decide on the value of a theory. Be it so. But who is to decide on utility? If all things are useful which serve to satisfy human wants, who is to decide on our wants? We take Mr. Macaulay's own point of view. Philosophy should be practical; it should serve man, satisfy his wants, or help to satisfy them; and if it fails in this, let it be called useless and hollow. But if there are wants in human nature which demand to be satisfied, which make life a burden unless they are satisfied, is that not to be called practical which answers to these wants? And if some of them are of that peculiar nature that they can only be satisfied by knowledge, or by theoretical contemplation, is this knowledge, is this theoretical contemplation, not useful,—useful even in the eyes of the most decided Utilitarian? Might it not happen that what he calls theoretical philosophy seems useless and barren to the Utilitarian, because his ideas of men are too narrow? It is dangerous, and not quite becoming, to lay down the law, and say from the very first, You must not have more than certain wants, and therefore you do not want more than a certain philosophy! If we may judge from Mr. [pg 229] Macaulay's illustrations, his ideas of human nature are not very liberal. If we were forced, he says, to make our choice between the first shoemaker and Seneca, the author of the books on Anger, we should pronounce for the shoemaker. It may be worse to be angry than to be wet. But shoes have kept millions from being wet; and we doubt whether Seneca ever kept anybody from being angry. I should not select Seneca as the representative of theoretical philosophy, still less take those for my allies whom Mr. Macaulay prefers to Seneca, in order to defeat theoretical philosophers. Brennus threw his sword into the scale in order to make it more weighty. Mr. Macaulay prefers the awl. But whatever he may think about Seneca, there is another philosopher more profound than Seneca, but in Mr. Macaulay's eyes likewise an unpractical thinker. And yet in him the power of theory was greater than the powers of nature and the most common wants of man. His meditations alone gave Socrates his serenity when he drank the fatal poison. Is there, among all evils, one greater than the dread of death? And the remedy against this, the worst of all physical evils, is it not practical in the best sense of the word? True, some people might here say, that it would have been more practical if Socrates had fled from his prison, as Criton suggested, and had died an old and decrepit man in Bœotia. But to Socrates it seemed more practical to remain in prison, and to die as the first witness and martyr of the liberty of conscience, and to rise from the sublime height of his theory to the seats of the immortals. Thus it is the want of the individual which decides on the practical value of an act or of a thought, and this want depends on the nature of the human soul. There is a difference between individuals in different ages, and there is a difference in their wants.... As long as the desire after knowledge lives in our hearts, we must, with the purely practical view of satisfying this want, strive after knowledge in all things, even in those which do not contribute towards external comfort, and have no use except that they purify and invigorate the mind.... What is theory in the eyes of Bacon? A temple in the human mind, according to the model of the world. What is it in the eyes of Mr. Macaulay? A snug dwelling, according to the wants of practical life. The latter is satisfied if knowledge is carried far enough to enable us to keep ourselves dry. The magnificence of the structure, and its completeness according to the model of the world, is to him useless by-work, superfluous [pg 230] and even dangerous luxury. This is the view of a respectable rate-payer, not of a Bacon. Mr. Macaulay reduces Bacon to his own dimensions, while he endeavors at the same time to exalt him above all other people.... Bacon's own philosophy was, like all philosophy, a theory; it was the theory of the inventive mind. Bacon has not made any great discoveries himself. He was less inventive than Leibnitz, the German metaphysician. If to make discoveries be practical philosophy, Bacon was a mere theorist, and his philosophy nothing but the theory of practical philosophy.... How far the spirit of theory reached in Bacon may be seen in his own works. He did not want to fetter theory, but to renew and to extend it to the very ends of the universe. His practical standard was not the comfort of the individual, but human happiness, which involves theoretical knowledge.... That Bacon is not the Bacon of Mr. Macaulay. What Bacon wanted was new, and it will be eternal. What Mr. Macaulay and many people at the present day want, in the name of Bacon, is not new, but novel. New is what opposes the old, and serves as a model for the future. Novel is what flatters our times, gains sympathies, and dies away.... And history has pronounced her final verdict. It is the last negative instance which we oppose to Mr. Macaulay's assertion. Bacon's philosophy has not been the end of all theories, but the beginning of new theories,—theories which flowed necessarily from Bacon's philosophy, and not one of which was practical in Mr. Macaulay's sense. Hobbes was the pupil of Bacon. His ideal of a State is opposed to that of Plato on all points. But one point it shares in common,—it is as unpractical a theory as that of Plato. Mr. Macaulay, however, calls Hobbes the most acute and vigorous spirit. If, then, Hobbes was a practical philosopher, what becomes of Macaulay's politics? And if Hobbes was not a practical philosopher, what becomes of Mr. Macaulay's philosophy, which does homage to the theories of Hobbes?

We have somewhat abridged M. Fischer's argument, for, though he writes well and intelligibly, he wants condensation; and we do not think that his argument has been weakened by being shortened. What he has extended into a volume of nearly five hundred pages, might have been reduced to a pithy essay of [pg 231] one or two hundred, without sacrificing one essential fact, or injuring the strength of any one of his arguments. The art of writing in our times is the art of condensing; and those who cannot condense write only for readers who have more time at their disposal than they know what to do with.

Let us ask one question in conclusion. Why do all German writers change the thoroughly Teutonic name of Bacon into Baco? It is bad enough that we should speak of Plato; but this cannot be helped. But unless we protest against Baco, gen. Baconis, we shall soon be treated to Newto, Newtonis, or even to Kans, Kantis.


[pg 232]


A. D. 1598.

Lessing, when he was Librarian at Wolfenbüttel, proposed to start a review which should only notice forgotten books,—books written before reviewing was invented, published in the small towns of Germany, never read, perhaps, except by the author and his friends, then buried on the shelves of a library, properly labeled and catalogued, and never opened again, except by an inquisitive inmate of these literary mausoleums. The number of those forgotten books is great, and as in former times few authors wrote more than one or two works during the whole of their lives, the information which they contain is generally of a much more substantial and solid kind than our literary palates are now accustomed to. If a man now travels to the unexplored regions of Central Africa, his book is written and out in a year. It remains on the drawing-room [pg 233] table for a season; it is pleasant to read, easy to digest, and still easier to review and to forget. Two or three hundred years ago this was very different. Travelling was a far more serious business, and a man who had spent some years in seeing foreign countries, could do nothing better than employ the rest of his life in writing a book of travels, either in his own language, or, still better, in Latin. After his death his book continued to be quoted for a time in works on history and geography, till a new traveller went over the same ground, published an equally learned book, and thus consigned his predecessor to oblivion. Here is a case in point: Paul Hentzner, a German, who, of course, calls himself Paulus Hentznerus, travelled in Germany, France, England, and Italy; and after his return to his native place in Silesia, he duly published his travels in a portly volume, written in Latin. There is a long title-page, with dedications, introductions, a preface for the Lector benevolus, Latin verses, and a table showing what people ought to observe in travelling. Travelling, according to our friend, is the source of all wisdom; and he quotes Moses and the Prophets in support of his theory. We ought all to travel, he says,—“vita nostra peregrinatio est;” and those who stay at home like snails (cochlearum instar) will remain “inhumani, insolentes, superbi,” etc.

It would take a long time to follow Paulus Hentznerus through all his peregrinations; but let us see what he saw in England. He arrived here in the year 1598. He took ship with his friends at Depa, vulgo Dieppe, and after a boisterous voyage, they landed at Rye. On their arrival they were conducted to a Notarius, who asked their names, and inquired for what object they came to England. After they had satisfied [pg 234] his official inquiries, they were conducted to a Diversorium, and treated to a good dinner, pro regionis more, according to the custom of the country. From Rye they rode to London, passing Flimwolt, Tumbridge, and Chepsted on their way. Then follows a long description of London, its origin and history, its bridges, churches, monuments, and palaces, with extracts from earlier writers, such as Paulus Jovius, Polydorus Vergilius, etc. All inscriptions are copied faithfully, not only from tombs and pictures, but also from books which the travellers saw in the public libraries. Whitehall seems to have contained a royal library at that time, and in it Hentzner saw, besides Greek and Latin MSS., a book written in French by Queen Elizabeth, with the following dedication to Henry VIII.:—

A Tres haut et Tres puissant et Redoubte Prince Henry VIII. de ce nom, Roy d'Angleterre, de France, et d'Irlande, defenseur de la foy, Elizabeth, sa Tres humble fille, rend salut et obedience.

After the travellers had seen St. Paul's, Westminster, the House of Parliament, Whitehall, Guildhall, the Tower, and the Royal Exchange, commonly called Bursa,—all of which are minutely described,—they went to the theatres and to places Ursorum et Taurorum venationibus destinata, where bears and bulls, tied fast behind, were baited by bull-dogs. In these places, and everywhere, in fact, as our traveller says, where you meet with Englishmen, they use herba nicotiana, which they call by an American name Tobaca or Paetum. The description deserves to be quoted in the original:—

Fistulæ in hunc finem ex argillâ factæ orificio posteriori dictam herbam probe exiccatam, ita ut in pulverem facile redigi possit, immittunt, et igne admoto accendunt, unde fumus ab [pg 235] anteriori parte ore attrahitur, qui per nares rursum, tamquam per infurnibulum exit, et phlegma ac capitis defluxiones magnâ copiâ secum educit.

After they had seen everything in London—not omitting the ship in which Francis Drake, nobilissimus pyrata, was said to have circumnavigated the world,—they went to Greenwich. Here they were introduced into the presence-chamber, and saw the Queen. The walls of the room were covered with precious tapestry, the floor strewed with hay. The Queen had to pass through on going to chapel. It was a Sunday, when all the nobility came to pay their respects. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London were present. When divine service began, the Queen appeared, preceded and followed by the court. Before her walked two barons, carrying the sceptre and the sword, and between them the Great Chancellor of England with the seal. The Queen is thus minutely described:—

She was said (rumor erat) to be fifty-five years old. Her face was rather long, white, and a little wrinkled. Her eyes small, black, and gracious; her nose somewhat bent; her lips compressed, her teeth black (from eating too much sugar). She had ear-rings of pearls; red hair, but artificial, and wore a small crown. Her breast was uncovered (as is the case with all unmarried ladies in England), and round her neck was a chain with precious gems. Her hands were graceful, her fingers long. She was of middle stature, but stepped on majestically. She was gracious and kind in her address. The dress she wore was of white silk, with pearls as large as beans. Her cloak was of black silk with silver lace, and a long train was carried by a marchioness. As she walked along she spoke most kindly with many people, some of them ambassadors. She spoke English, French, and Italian; but she knows also Greek and Latin, and understands Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch. Those whom she addressed bent their knees, and some she lifted up with her hand. To a Bohemian nobleman of the name of Slawata, who had brought some letters to the Queen, she gave her right hand after [pg 236] taking off her glove, and he kissed it. Wherever she turned her eyes, people fell on their knees.

There was probably nobody present who ventured to scrutinize the poor Queen so impertinently as Paulus Hentznerus. He goes on to describe the ladies who followed the Queen, and how they were escorted by fifty knights. When she came to the door of the chapel, books were handed to her, and the people called out, “God save the Queen Elizabeth!” whereupon the Queen answered, “I thanke you myn good peuple.” Prayers did not last more than half an hour, and the music was excellent. During the time that the Queen was in chapel, dinner was laid, and this again is described in full detail.

But we cannot afford to tarry with our German observer, nor can we follow him to Grantbridge (Cambridge) or Oxenford, where he describes the colleges and halls (each of them having a library), and the life of the students. From Oxford he went to Woodstock, then back to Oxford, and from thence to Henley and Madenhood to Windsor. Eton also was visited, and here, he says, sixty boys were educated gratuitously, and afterwards sent to Cambridge. After visiting Hampton Court and the royal palace of Nonesuch, our travellers returned to London.

We shall finish our extracts with some remarks of Hentzner on the manners and customs of the English:—

The English are grave, like the Germans, magnificent at home and abroad. They carry with them a large train of followers and servants. These have silver shields on their left arm, and a pig-tail. The English excel in dancing and music. They are swift and lively, though stouter than the French. They shave the middle portion of the face, but leave the hair untouched on each side. They are good sailors and famous [pg 237] pirates; clever, perfidious, and thievish. About three hundred are hanged in London every year. At table they are more civil than the French. They eat less bread, but more meat, and they dress it well. They throw much sugar into their wine. They suffer frequently from leprosy, commonly called the white leprosy, which is said to have come to England in the time of the Normans. They are brave in battle, and always conquer their enemies. At home they brook no manner of servitude. They are very fond of noises that fill the ears, such as explosions of guns, trumpets, and bells. In London, persons who have got drunk are wont to mount a church tower, for the sake of exercise, and to ring the bells for several hours. If they see a foreigner who is handsome and strong, they are sorry that he is not an Anglicus,—vulgo Englishman.

On his return to France, Hentzner paid a visit to Canterbury, and, after seeing some ghosts on his journey, arrived safely at Dover. Before he was allowed to go on board, he had again to undergo an examination, to give his name, to explain what he had done in England, and where he was going; and, lastly, his luggage was searched most carefully, in order to see whether he carried with him any English money, for nobody was allowed to carry away more than ten pounds of English money: all the rest was taken away and handed to the royal treasury. And thus farewell, Carissime Hentzneri! and slumber on your shelf until the eye of some other benevolent reader, glancing at the rows of forgotten books, is caught by the quaint lettering on your back, Hentzneri Itin.”


[pg 238]


It is impossible to spend even a few weeks in Cornwall without being impressed with the air of antiquity which pervades that county, and seems, like a morning mist, half to conceal and half to light up every one of its hills and valleys. It is impossible to look at any pile of stones, at any wall, or pillar, or gate-post, without asking one's self the question, Is this old, or is this new? Is it the work of Saxon, or of Roman, or of Celt? Nay, one feels sometimes tempted to ask, Is this the work of Nature or of man?

“Among these rocks and stones, methinks I see
More than the heedless impress that belongs
To lonely Nature's casual work: they bear
A semblance strange of power intelligent,
And of design not wholly worn away.”Excursion.

The late King of Prussia's remark about Oxford, that in it everything old seemed new, and everything new seemed old, applies with even greater truth to Cornwall. There is a continuity between the present and the past of that curious peninsula, such as we seldom find in any other place. A spring bubbling up in a natural granite basin, now a meeting-place for Baptists [pg 239] or Methodists, was but a few centuries ago a holy well, attended by busy friars, and visited by pilgrims, who came there “nearly lame,” and left the shrine “almost able to walk.” Still further back the same spring was a centre of attraction for the Celtic inhabitants, and the rocks piled up around it stand there as witnesses of a civilization and architecture certainly more primitive than the civilization and architecture of Roman, Saxon, or Norman settlers. We need not look beyond. How long that granite buttress of England has stood there, defying the fury of the Atlantic, the geologist alone, who is not awed by ages, would dare to tell us. But the historian is satisfied with antiquities of a more humble and homely character; and in bespeaking the interest, and, it may be, the active support of our readers, in favor of the few relics of the most ancient civilization of Britain, we promise to keep within strictly historical limits, if by historical we understand, with the late Sir G. C. Lewis, that only which can be authenticated by contemporaneous monuments.

But even thus, how wide a gulf seems to separate us from the first civilizers of the West of England, from the people who gave names to every headland, bay, and hill of Cornwall, and who first planned those lanes that now, like throbbing veins, run in every direction across that heath-covered peninsula! No doubt it is well known that the original inhabitants of Cornwall were Celts, and that Cornish is a Celtic language; and that, if we divide the Celtic languages into two classes, Welsh with Cornish and Breton forms one class, the Cymric; while the Irish with its varieties, as developed in Scotland and the Isle of Man, forms another class, which is called the Gaelic or Gadhelic. [pg 240] It may also be more or less generally known that Celtic, with all its dialects, is an Aryan or Indo-European language, closely allied to Latin, Greek, German, Slavonic, and Sanskrit, and that the Celts, therefore, were not mere barbarians, or people to be classed together with Finns and Lapps, but heralds of true civilization wherever they settled in their worldwide migrations, the equals of Saxons and Romans and Greeks, whether in physical beauty or in intellectual vigor. And yet there is a strange want of historical reality in the current conceptions about the Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles; and while the heroes and statesmen and poets of Greece and Rome, though belonging to a much earlier age, stand out in bold and sharp relief on the table of a boy's memory, his notions of the ancient Britons may generally be summed up “in houses made of wicker-work, Druids with long white beards, white linen robes, and golden sickles, and warriors painted blue.” Nay, strange to say, we can hardly blame a boy for banishing the ancient bards and Druids from the scene of real history, and assigning to them that dark and shadowy corner where the gods and heroes of Greece live peacefully together with the ghosts and fairies from the dreamland of our own Saxon forefathers. For even the little that is told in “Little Arthur's History of England” about the ancient Britons and the Druids is extremely doubtful. Druids are never mentioned before Cæsar. Few writers, if any, before him were able to distinguish between Celts and Germans, but spoke of the barbarians of Gaul and Germany as the Greeks spoke of Scythians, or as we ourselves speak of the negroes of Africa, without distinguishing between races so different from each other as Hottentots and Kaffirs. Cæsar was [pg 241] one of the first writers who knew of an ethnological distinction between Celtic and Teutonic barbarians, and we may therefore trust him when he says that the Celts had Druids, and the Germans had none. But his further statements about these Celtic priests and sages are hardly more trustworthy than the account which an ordinary Indian officer at the present day might give us of the Buddhist priests and the Buddhist religion of Ceylon. Cæsar's statement that the Druids worshipped Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva, is of the same base metal as the statements of more modern writers that the Buddhists worship the Trinity, and that they take Buddha for the Son of God. Cæsar most likely never conversed with a Druid, nor was he able to control, if he was able to understand, the statements made to him about the ancient priesthood, the religion and literature of Gaul. Besides, Cæsar himself tells us very little about the priests of Gaul and Britain; and the thrilling accounts of the white robes and the golden sickles belong to Pliny's “Natural History,” by no means a safe authority in such matters.38

We must be satisfied, indeed, to know very little [pg 242] about the mode of life, the forms of worship, the religious doctrines, or the mysterious wisdom of the Druids and their flocks. But for this very reason it is most essential that our minds should be impressed strongly with the historical reality that belongs to the Celtic inhabitants, and to the work which they performed in rendering these islands for the first time fit for the habitation of man. That historical lesson, and a very important lesson it is, is certainly learned more quickly, and yet more effectually, by a visit to Cornwall or Wales, than by any amount of reading. We may doubt many things that Celtic enthusiasts tell us; but where every village and field, every cottage and hill, bear names that are neither English, nor Norman, nor Latin, it is difficult not to feel that the Celtic element has been something real and permanent in the history of the British Isles. The Cornish language is no doubt extinct, if by extinct we mean that it is no longer spoken by the people. But in the names of towns, castles, rivers, mountains, fields, manors, and families, and in a few of the technical terms of mining, husbandry, and fishing, Cornish lives on, and probably will live on, for many ages to come. There is a well-known verse:—

“By Tre, Ros, Pol, Lan, Caer, and Pen,
You may know most Cornish men.”39

But it will hardly be believed that a Cornish antiquarian, Dr. Bannister, who is collecting materials for a glossary of Cornish proper names, has amassed no less than 2,400 names with Tre, 500 with Fen, 400 with Ros, 300 with Lan, 200 with Pol, and 200 with Caer.

[pg 243]

A language does not die all at once, nor is it always possible to fix the exact date when it breathed its last. Thus, in the case of Cornish, it is by no means easy to reconcile the conflicting statements of various writers as to the exact time when it ceased to be the language of the people, unless we bear in mind that what was true with regard to the higher classes was not so with regard to the lower, and likewise that in some parts of Cornwall the vitality of the language might continue, while in others its heart had ceased to beat. As late as the time of Henry VIII., the famous physician Andrew Borde tells us that English was not understood by many men and women in Cornwall. “In Cornwal is two speeches,” he writes; “the one is naughty Englyshe, and the other the Cornyshe speche. And there be many men and women the which cannot speake one worde of Englyshe, but all Cornyshe.” During the same King's reign, when an attempt was made to introduce a new church service composed in English, a protest was signed by the Devonshire and Cornish men utterly refusing this new English:—

We will not receive the new Service, because it is but like a Christmas game; but we will have our old Service of Matins, Mass, Evensong, and Procession, in Latin as it was before. And so we the Cornish men (whereof certain of us understand no English) utterly refuse this new English.40

Yet in the reign of Elizabeth, when the liturgy was appointed by authority to take the place of the mass, the Cornish, it is said,41 desired that it should be in the English language. About the same time we are told [pg 244] that Dr. John Moreman42 taught his parishioners the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, in the English tongue. From the time of the Reformation onward, Cornish seems constantly to have lost ground against English, particularly in places near Devonshire. Thus Norden, whose description of Cornwall was probably written about 1584, though not published till 1728, gives a very full and interesting account of the struggle between the two languages:—

Of late, he says (p. 26), the Cornishe men have muche conformed themselves to the use of the Englishe tounge, and their Englishe is equall to the beste, espetially in the easterne partes; even from Truro eastwarde it is in manner wholly Englishe. In the weste parte of the countrye, as in the hundreds of Penwith and Kerrier, the Cornishe tounge is moste in use amongste the inhabitantes, and yet (whiche is to be marveyled), though the husband and wife, parentes and children, master and servantes, doe mutually communicate in their native language, yet ther is none of them in manner but is able to convers with a straunger in the Englishe tounge, unless it be some obscure people, that seldome conferr with the better sorte: But it seemeth that in few yeares the Cornishe language will be by litle and litle abandoned.

Carew, who wrote about the same time, goes so far as to say that most of the inhabitants “can no word of Cornish, but very few are ignorant of the English, though they sometimes affect to be.” This may have been true with regard to the upper classes, particularly in the west of Cornwall, but it is nevertheless a fact that, as late as 1640, Mr. William Jackman, the vicar of Feock,43 was forced to administer the sacrament in Cornish, because the aged people did not understand English; nay, the rector of Landewednak [pg 245] preached his sermons in Cornish as late as 1678. Mr. Scawen, too, who wrote about that time, speaks of some old folks who spoke Cornish only, and would not understand a word of English; but he tells us at the same time that Sir Francis North, the Lord Chief Justice, afterwards Lord Keeper, when holding the assizes at Lanceston in 1678, expressed his concern at the loss and decay of the Cornish language. The poor people, in fact, could speak, or at least understand, Cornish, but he says, “They were laughed at by the rich, who understood it not, which is their own fault in not endeavoring after it.” About the beginning of the last century, Mr. Ed. Lhuyd (died 1709), the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, was still able to collect from the mouths of the people a grammar of the Cornish language, which was published in 1707. He says that at this time Cornish was only retained in five or six villages towards the Land's End; and in his “Archæologia Britannica” he adds, that although it was spoken in most of the western districts from the Land's End to the Lizard, “a great many of the inhabitants, especially the gentry, do not understand it, there being no necessity thereof in regard there's no Cornish man but speaks good English.” It is generally supposed that the last person who spoke Cornish was Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1778, and to whose memory Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte has lately erected a monument in the churchyard at Paul. The inscription is:—

Here lieth interred Dorothy Pentreath, who died in 1778, said to have been the last person who conversed in the ancient Cornish, the peculiar language of this country from the earliest records till it expired in this parish of St. Paul. This stone is erected by the Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, in union with the Rev. John Garret, vicar of St. Paul, June, 1860.
[pg 246]

It seems hardly right to deprive the old lady of her fair name; but there are many people in Cornwall who maintain that when travellers and grandees came to see her, she would talk anything that came into her head, while those who listened to her were pleased to think that they had heard the dying echoes of a primeval tongue.44 There is a letter extant, written in Cornish by a poor fisherman of the name of William Bodener. It is dated July 3, 1776, that is, two years before the death of Dolly Pentreath; and the writer says of himself in Cornish:—

My age is threescore and five. I am a poor fisherman. I learnt Cornish when I was a boy. I have been to sea with my father and five other men in the boat, and have not heard one word of English spoke in the boat for a week together. I never saw a Cornish book. I learned Cornish going to sea with old men. There is not more than four or five in our town can talk Cornish now,—old people fourscore years old. Cornish is all forgot with young people.45

It would seem, therefore, that Cornish died with the [pg 247] last century, and no one now living can boast to have heard its sound when actually spoken for the sake of conversation. It seems to have been a melodious and yet by no means an effeminate language, and Scawen places it in this respect above most of the other Celtic dialects:—

Cornish, he says, is not to be gutturally pronounced, as the Welsh for the most part is, nor mutteringly, as the Armorick, nor whiningly as the Irish (which two latter qualities seem to have been contracted from their servitude), but must be lively and manly spoken, like other primitive tongues.

Although Cornish must now be classed with the extinct languages, it has certainly shown a marvelous vitality. More than four hundred years of Roman occupation, more than six hundred years of Saxon and Danish sway, a Norman conquest, a Saxon Reformation, and civil wars, have all passed over the land; but, like a tree that may bend before a storm but is not to be rooted up, the language of the Celts of Cornwall has lived on in an unbroken continuity for at least two thousand years. What does this mean? It means that through the whole of English history to the accession of the House of Hanover, the inhabitants of Cornwall and the western portion of Devonshire, in spite of intermarriages with Romans, Saxons, and Normans, were Celts, and remained Celts. People speak indeed of blood, and intermingling of blood, as determining the nationality of a people; but what is meant by blood? It is one of those scientific idols, that crumble to dust as soon as we try to define or grasp them; it is a vague, hollow, treacherous term, which, for the present at least, ought to be banished from the dictionary of every true man of science. We can give a scientific definition of a Celtic language; but no one has [pg 248] yet given a definition of Celtic blood, or a Celtic skull. It is quite possible that hereafter chemical differences may be discovered in the blood of those who speak a Celtic, and of those who speak a Teutonic language. It is possible, also, that patient measurements, like those lately published by Professor Huxley, in the “Journal of Anatomy and Physiology,” may lead in time to a really scientific classification of skulls, and that physiologists may succeed in the end in carrying out a classification of the human race, according to tangible and unvarying physiological criteria. But their definitions and their classifications will hardly ever square with the definitions or classifications of the student of language, and the use of common terms can only be a source of constant misunderstandings. We know what we mean by a Celtic language, and in the grammar of each language we are able to produce a most perfect scientific definition of its real character. If, therefore, we transfer the term Celtic to people, we can, if we use our words accurately, mean nothing but people who speak a Celtic language, the true exponent, aye, the very life of Celtic nationality. Whatever people, whether Romans, or Saxons, or Normans, or, as some think, even Phœnicians and Jews, settled in Cornwall, if they ceased to speak their own language and exchanged it for Cornish, they are, before the tribunal of the science of language, Celts, and nothing but Celts; while, whenever Cornishmen, like Sir Humphrey Davy or Bishop Colenso, have ceased to speak Cornish, and speak nothing but English, they are no longer Celts, but true Teutons or Saxons, in the only scientifically legitimate sense of that word. Strange stories, indeed, would be revealed, if blood could cry out and tell of its repeated mixtures since [pg 249] the beginning of the world. If we think of the early migrations of mankind; of the battles fought before there were hieroglyphics to record them; of conquests, leadings into captivity, piracy, slavery, and colonization, all without a sacred poet to hand them down to posterity,—we shall hesitate, indeed, to speak of pure races, or unmixed blood, even at the very dawn of real history. Little as we know of the early history of Greece, we know enough to warn us against looking upon the Greeks of Asia or Europe as an unmixed race. Ægyptus, with his Arabian, Ethiopian, and Tyrian wives; Cadmus, the son of Libya; Phœnix, the father of Europa,—all point to an intercourse of Greece with foreign countries, whatever else their mythological meaning may be. As soon as we know anything of the history of the world, we know of wars and alliances between Greeks and Lydians and Persians, of Phœnician settlements all over the world, of Carthaginians trading in Spain and encamped in Italy, of Romans conquering and colonizing Gaul, Spain, Britain, the Danubian Principalities and Greece, Western Asia and Northern Africa. Then again, at a later time, follow the great ethnic convulsions of Eastern Europe, and the devastation and re-population of the ancient seats of civilization by Goths, and Lombards, and Vandals, and Saxons; while at the same time, and for many centuries to come, the few strongholds of civilization in the East were again and again overwhelmed by the irresistible waves of Hunnish, Mongolic, and Tartaric invaders. And, with all this, people at the latter end of the nineteenth century venture to speak, for instance, of pure Norman blood as something definite or definable, forgetting how the ancient Norsemen carried their [pg 250] wives away from the coasts of Germany or Russia, from Sicily or from the very Piræus; while others married whatever wives they could find in the North of France, whether of Gallic, Roman, or German extraction, and then settled in England, where they again contracted marriages with Teutonic, Celtic, or Roman damsels. In our own days, if we see the daughter of an English officer and an Indian Ranee married to the son of a Russian nobleman, how are we to class the offspring of that marriage? The Indian Ranee may have had Mongol blood, so may the Russian nobleman; but there are other possible ingredients of pure Hindu and pure Slavonic, of Norman, German, and Roman blood,—and who is the chemist bold enough to disengage them all? There is, perhaps, no nation which has been exposed to more frequent admixture of foreign blood, during the Middle Ages, than the Greeks. Professor Fallmerayer maintained that the Hellenic population was entirely exterminated, and that the people who at the present day call themselves Greeks are really Slavonians. It would be difficult to refute him by arguments drawn either from the physical or the moral characteristics of the modern Greeks as compared with the many varieties of the Slavonic stock. But the following extract from “Felton's Lectures on Greece, Ancient and Modern,” contains the only answer that can be given to such charges, without point or purpose: “In one of the courses of lectures,” he says, “which I attended in the University of Athens, the Professor of History, a very eloquent man as well as a somewhat fiery Greek, took this subject up. His audience consisted of about two hundred young men from every part of Greece. His indignant comments on the learned [pg 251] German, that notorious Μισέλλην or Greek-hater, as he stigmatized him, were received by his hearers with a profound sensation. They sat with expanded nostrils and flashing eyes—a splendid illustration of the old Hellenic spirit, roused to fury by the charge of barbarian descent. ‘It is true,’ said the eloquent professor, ‘that the tide of barbaric invaders poured down like a deluge upon Hellas, filling with its surging floods our beautiful plains, our fertile valleys. The Greeks fled to their walled towns and mountain fastnesses. By and by the water subsided and the soil of Hellas reappeared. The former inhabitants descended from the mountains as the tide receded, resumed their ancient lands and rebuilt their ruined habitations, and, the reign of the barbarians over, Hellas was herself again.’ Three or four rounds of applause followed the close of the lectures of Professor Manouses, in which I heartily joined. I could not help thinking afterwards what a singular comment on the German anti-Hellenic theory was presented by this scene,—a Greek professor in a Greek university, lecturing to two hundred Greeks in the Greek language, to prove that the Greeks were Greeks, and not Slavonians.”46

And yet we hear the same arguments used over and over again, not only with regard to the Greeks, but with regard to many other modern nations; and even men whose minds have been trained in the school of exact science, use the term “bloods,” in this vague and thoughtless manner. The adjective Greek may connote many things, but what it denotes is language. People who speak Greek as their mother [pg 252] tongue are Greeks, and if a Turkish-speaking inhabitant of Constantinople could trace his pedigree straight to Pericles, he would still be a Turk, whatever his name, his faith, his hair, features, and stature—whatever his blood might be. We can classify languages, and as languages presuppose people that speak them, we can so far classify mankind, according to their grammars and dictionaries; while all who possess scientific honesty must confess and will confess that, as yet, it has been impossible to devise any truly scientific classification of skulls, to say nothing of blood, or bones, or hair. The label on one of the skulls in the Munich Collection, “Etruscan-Tyrol, or Inca-Peruvian,” characterizes not too unfairly the present state of ethnological craniology. Let those who imagine that the great outlines, at least, of a classification of skulls have been firmly established, consult Mr. Brace's useful manual of “The Races of the World,” where he has collected the opinions of some of the best judges on the subject. We quote a few passages:47

Dr. Bachmann concludes, from the measurements of Dr. Tiedemann and Dr. Morton, that the negro skull, though less than the European, is within one inch as large as the Persian and the Armenian, and three square inches larger than the Hindu and Egyptian. The scale is thus given by Dr. Morton: European skull, 87 cubic inches; Malay, 85; Negro 83; Mongol, 82; Ancient Egyptian, 80; American, 79. The ancient Peruvians and Mexicans, who constructed so elaborate a civilization, show a capacity only of from 75 to 79 inches.... Other observations by Huschke make the average capacity of the skull of Europeans 40.88 oz.; of Americans, 39.13; of Mongols, 38.39; of Negroes, 37.57; of Malays, 36.41.
Of the shape of the skull, as distinctive of different origin, [pg 253] Professor M. J. Weber has said there is no proper mark of a definite race from the cranium so firmly attached that it may not be found in some other race. Tiedemann has met with Germans whose skulls bore all the characters of the negro race; and an inhabitant of Nukahiwa, according to Silesius and Blumenbach, agreed exactly in his proportions with the Apollo Belvedere.

Professor Huxley, in his “Observations on the Human Skulls of Engis and Neanderthal,” printed in Sir Charles Lyell's “Antiquity of Man,” p. 81, remarks that “the most capacious European skull yet measured had a capacity of 114 cubic inches, the smallest (as estimated by weight of brain) about 55 cubic inches; while, according to Professor Schaaffhausen, some Hindu skulls have as small a capacity as 46 cubic inches (27 oz. of water);” and he sums up by stating that “cranial measurements alone afford no safe indication of race.”

And even if a scientific classification of skulls were to be carried out, if, instead of merely being able to guess that this may be an Australian and this a Malay skull, we were able positively to place each individual skull under its own definite category, what should we gain in the classification of mankind? Where is the bridge from skull to man in the full sense of that word? Where is the connecting link between the cranial proportions and only one other of man's characteristic properties, such as language? And what applies to skulls applies to color and all the rest. Even a black skin and curly hair are mere outward accidents as compared with language. We do not classify parrots and magpies by the color of their plumage, still less by the cages in which they live; and what is the black skin or the white skin but the mere outward covering, not to say the mere cage, in [pg 254] which that being which we call man lives, moves, and has his being? A man like Bishop Crowther, though a negro in blood, is, in thought and speech, an Aryan. He speaks English, he thinks English, he acts English; and, unless we take English in a purely historical, and not in its truly scientific, i.e. linguistic sense, he is English. No doubt there are many influences at work—old proverbs, old songs and traditions, religious convictions, social institutions, political prejudices, besides the soil, the food, and the air of a country—that may keep up, even among people who have lost their national language, that kind of vague similarity which is spoken of as national character.48 This is a subject on which many volumes have been written, and yet the result has only been to supply newspapers with materials for international insults or international courtesies, as the case may be. Nothing sound or definite has been gained by such speculations, and in an age that prides itself on the careful observance of the rules of inductive reasoning, nothing is more surprising than the sweeping assertions with regard to national character, and the reckless way in which casual observations that may be true of one, two, three, or it may be ten or even a hundred individuals, are extended to millions. However, if there is one safe exponent of national character, it is language. Take away the language of a people, and you destroy at once that powerful chain [pg 255] of tradition in thought and sentiment which holds all the generations of the same race together, if we may use an unpleasant simile, like the chain of a gang of galley-slaves. These slaves, we are told, very soon fall into the same pace, without being aware that their movements depend altogether on the movements of those who walk before them. It is nearly the same with us. We imagine we are altogether free in our thoughts, original and independent, and we are not aware that our thoughts are manacled and fettered by language, and that, without knowing and without perceiving it, we have to keep pace with those who walked before us thousands and thousands of years ago. Language alone binds people together, and keeps them distinct from others who speak different tongues. In ancient times particularly, “languages and nations” meant the same thing; and even with us our real ancestors are those whose language we speak, the fathers of our thoughts, the mothers of our hopes and fears. Blood, bones, hair, and color, are mere accidents, utterly unfit to serve as principles of scientific classification for that great family of living beings, the essential characteristics of which are thought and speech, not fibrine, serum, coloring matter, or whatever else enters into the composition of blood.

If this be true, the inhabitants of Cornwall, whatever the number of Roman, Saxon, Danish, or Norman settlers within the boundaries of that county may have been, continued to be Celts as long as they spoke Cornish. They ceased to be Celts when they ceased to speak the language of their forefathers. Those who can appreciate the charms of genuine antiquity will not, therefore, find fault with the enthusiasm of Daines [pg 256] Barrington or Sir Joseph Banks in listening to the strange utterances of Dolly Pentreath; for her language, if genuine, carried them back and brought them, as it were, into immediate contact with people who, long before the Christian era, acted an important part on the stage of history, supplying the world with two of the most precious metals, more precious then than gold or silver, with copper and tin, the very materials, it may be, of the finest works of art in Greece, aye, of the armor wrought for the heroes of the Trojan War, as described so minutely by the poets of the “Iliad.” There is a continuity in language which nothing equals, and there is an historical genuineness in ancient words, if but rightly interpreted, which cannot be rivaled by manuscripts, or coins, or monumental inscriptions.

But though it is right to be enthusiastic about what is really ancient in Cornwall,—and there is nothing so ancient as language,—it is equally right to be discriminating. The fresh breezes of antiquity have intoxicated many an antiquarian. Words, purely Latin or English, though somewhat changed after being admitted into the Cornish dictionary, have been quoted as the originals from which the Roman or English were in turn derived. The Latin liber, book, was supposed to be derived from the Welsh llyvyr; litera, letter, from Welsh llythyr; persona, person, from Welsh person, and many more of the same kind. Walls built within the memory of men have been admitted as relics of British architecture; nay, Latin inscriptions of the simplest character have but lately been interpreted by means of Cornish, as containing strains of a mysterious wisdom. Here, too, a study of the language gives some useful hints as to the proper method of disentangling the truly ancient from the more modern [pg 257] elements. Whatever in the Cornish dictionary cannot be traced back to any other source, whether Latin, Saxon, Norman, or German, may safely be considered as Cornish, and therefore as ancient Celtic. Whatever in the antiquities of Cornwall cannot be claimed by Romans, Saxons, Danes, or Normans, may fairly be considered as genuine remains of the earliest civilization of this island, as the work of the Celtic discoverers of Britain.

The Cornish language is by no means a pure or unmixed language,—at least we do not know it in its pure state. It is, in fact, a mere accident that any literary remains have been preserved, and three or four small volumes would contain all that is left to us of Cornish literature. “There is a poem,” to quote Mr. Norris, “which we may by courtesy call epic, entitled ‘Mount Calvary.’ ” It contains 259 stanzas of eight lines each, in heptasyllabic metre, with alternate rhyme. It is ascribed to the fifteenth century, and was published for the first time by Mr. Davies Gilbert in 1826.49 There is, besides, a series of dramas, or mystery-plays, first published by Mr. Norris for the University Press of Oxford, in 1858. The first is called “The Beginning of the World,” the second “The Passion of our Lord,” the third “The Resurrection.” The last is interrupted by another play, “The Death of Pilate.” The oldest MS. in the Bodleian Library belongs to the fifteenth century, and Mr. Norris is not inclined to refer the composition of these plays to a much earlier date. Another MS., likewise in the Bodleian Library, contains both the text and a [pg 258] translation by Keigwyn (1695). Lastly, there is another sacred drama, called “The Creation of the World, with Noah's Flood.” It is in many places copied from the dramas, and, according to the MS., it was written by William Jordan in 1611. The oldest MS. belongs again to the Bodleian Library, which likewise possesses a MS. of the translation by Keigwyn in 1691.50

These mystery-plays, as we may learn from a passage in Carew's “Survey of Cornwall” (p. 71), were still performed in Cornish in his time, i.e. at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He says:—

Pastimes to delight the minde, the Cornish men have Guary miracles and three mens songs; and, for the exercise of the body, hunting, hawking, shooting, wrastling, hurling, and such other games.
The Guary miracle—in English, a miracle-play—is a kind of enterlude, compiled in Cornish out of some Scripture history, with that grossenes which accompanied the Romanes vetus Comedia. For representing it, they raise an earthen amphitheatre in some open field, having the diameter of his enclosed playne some forty or fifty foot. The country people flock from all sides, many miles off, to heare and see it, for they have therein devils and devices, to delight as well the eye as the eare; the players conne not their parts without booke, but are prompted by one called the Ordinary, who followeth at their back with the booke in his hand, and telleth them softly what they must pronounce aloud. Which manner once gave occasion to a pleasant conceyted gentleman, of practising a mery pranke; for he undertaking (perhaps of set purpose) an actor's roome, was accordingly lessoned (beforehand) by the Ordinary, that he [pg 259] must say after him. His turn came. Quoth the Ordinary, Goe forth man and shew thy selfe. The gentleman steps out upon the stage, and like a bad Clarke in Scripture matters, cleaving more to the letter than the sense, pronounced those words aloud. Oh! (sayes the fellowe softly in his eare) you marre all the play. And with this his passion the actor makes the audience in like sort acquainted. Hereon the prompter falls to flat rayling and cursing in the bitterest termes he could devise: which the gentleman, with a set gesture and countenance, still soberly related, untill the Ordinary, driven at last into a madde rage, was faine to give all over. Which trousse, though it brake off the enterlude, yet defrauded not the beholders, but dismissed them with a great deale more sport and laughter than such Guaries could have afforded.51

Scawen, at the end of the seventeenth century, speaks of these miracle-plays, and considers the suppression of the Guirrimears,52 or Great Plays or Speeches,53 as one of the chief causes of the decay of the Cornish language.

These Guirrimears, he says, which were used at the great conventions of the people, at which they had famous interludes celebrated with great preparations, and not without shows of devotion in them, solemnized in great and spacious downs of great capacity, encompassed about with earthen banks, and some in part stone-work, of largeness to contain thousands, the shapes of which remain in many places at this day, though the use of them long since gone.... This was a great means to keep in use the tongue with delight and admiration. They had recitations [pg 260] in them, poetical and divine, one of which I may suppose this small relique of antiquity to be, in which the passion of our Saviour, and his resurrection, is described.

If to these mystery-plays and poems we add some versions of the Lord's Prayer, the Commandments, and the Creed, a protestation of the bishops in Britain to Augustine the monk, the Pope's legate, in the year 600 after Christ (MS. Gough, 4), the first chapter of Genesis, and some songs, proverbs, riddles, a tale and a glossary, we have an almost complete catalogue of what a Cornish library would be at the present day.

Now if we examine the language as preserved to us in these fragments, we find that it is full of Norman, Saxon, and Latin words. No one can doubt, for instance, that the following Cornish words are all taken from Latin, that is, from the Latin of the Church:—

Abat, an abbot; Lat. abbas.
Alter, altar; Lat. altare.
Apostol, apostle; Lat. apostolus.
Clauster, cloister; Lat. claustrum.
Colom, dove; Lat. columba.
Gwespar, vespers; Lat. vesper.
Cantuil, candle; Lat. candela.
Cantuilbren, candlestick; Lat. candelabrum.
Ail, angel; Lat. angelus.
Archail, archangel; Lat. archangelus.

Other words, though not immediately connected with the service and the doctrine of the Church, may nevertheless have passed from Latin into Cornish, either directly from the daily conversation of monks, priests, and schoolmasters, or indirectly from English or Norman, in both of which the same Latin words had naturally been adopted, though slightly modified according to the phonetic peculiarities of each. Thus:—

[pg 261]
Ancar, anchor; the Latin, ancora. This might have come indirectly through English or Norman-French.
Aradar, plough; the Latin, aratrum. This must have come direct from Latin, as it does not exist in Norman or English.
Arghans, silver; argentum.
Keghin, kitchen; coquina. This is taken from the same Latin word from which the Romance languages formed cuisine, cucina; not from the classical Latin, culina.
Liver, book; liber, originally the bark of trees on which books were written.
Dinair, coin; denarius. Seth, arrow; sagitta. Caus, cheese; caseus. Caul, cabbage; caulis.

These words are certainly foreign words in Cornish and the other Celtic languages in which they occur, and to attempt to supply for some of them a purely Celtic etymology shows a complete want of appreciation both of the history of words and of the phonetic laws that govern each family of the Indo-European languages. Sometimes, no doubt, the Latin words have been considerably changed and modified, according to the phonetic peculiarities of the dialects into which they were received. Thus, gwespar for vesper, seth for sagitta, caus for caseus, hardly look like Latin words. Yet no real Celtic scholar would claim them as Celtic; and the Rev. Robert Williams, the author of the “Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum,” in speaking of a list of words borrowed from Latin by the Welsh during the stay of the Romans in Britain, is no doubt right in stating “that it will be found much more extensive than is generally imagined.”

Latin words which have reached the Cornish after they had assumed a French or Norman disguise, are, for instance,—

Emperur, instead of Latin imperator (Welsh, ymherawdwr).
Laian, the French loyal, but not the Latin legalis. Likewise, dislaian, disloyal.
[pg 262]
Fruit, fruit; Lat. fructus; French, fruit.
Funten, fountain, commonly pronounced fenton; Lat. fontana; French, fontaine.
Gromersy, i.e. grand mercy, thanks.
Hoyz, hoyz, hoyz! hear, hear! The Norman-French, Oyez.

The town-crier of Aberconwy may still be heard prefacing his notices with the shout of “Hoyz, hoyz, hoyz!” which in other places has been corrupted to “O yes.”

The following words, adopted into Cornish and other Celtic dialects, clearly show their Saxon origin:—

Cafor, a chafer; Germ, käfer. Craft, art, craft. Redior, a reader. Storc, a stork. Let, hindrance, let; preserved in the German, verletzen.54
[pg 263]

Considering that Cornish and other Celtic dialects are members of the same family to which Latin and German belong, it is sometimes difficult to tell at once whether a Celtic word was really borrowed, or whether it belongs to that ancient stock of words which all the Aryan languages share in common. This is a point which can be determined by scholars only, and by means of phonetic tests. Thus the Cornish huir, or hoer, is clearly the same word as the Latin soror, sister. But the change of s into h would not have taken place if the word had been simply borrowed from Latin, while many words beginning with s in Sanskrit, Latin, and German, change the s into h in Cornish as well as in Greek and Persian. The Cornish hoer, sister, is indeed curiously like the Persian kháher, the regular representative of the Sanskrit svasar, the Latin soror. The same applies to braud, brother, dedh, day, dri, three, and many more words which form the primitive stock of Cornish, and were common to all the Aryan languages before their earliest dispersion.

What applies to the language of Cornwall, applies with equal force to the other relics of antiquity of that curious county. It has been truly said that Cornwall is poor in antiquities, but it is equally true that it is rich in antiquity. The difficulty is to discriminate, and to distinguish what is really Cornish or Celtic from what may be later additions, of Roman, Saxon, Danish, and Norman origin. Now here, as [pg 264] we said before, the safest rule is clearly the same as that which we followed in our analysis of language. Let everything be claimed for English, Norman, Danish, and Roman sources that can clearly be proved to come from thence; but let what remains unclaimed be considered as Cornish or Celtic. Thus, if we do not find in countries exclusively inhabited by Romans or Saxons anything like a cromlech, surely we have a right to look upon these strange structures as remnants of Celtic times. It makes no difference if it can be shown that below these cromlechs coins have occasionally been found of the Roman Emperors. This only proves that even during the days of Roman supremacy the Cornish style of public monuments, whether sepulchral or otherwise, remained. Nay, why should not even a Roman settled in Cornwall have adopted the monumental style of his adopted country? Roman and Saxon hands may have helped to erect some of the cromlechs which are still to be seen in Cornwall, but the original idea of such monuments, and hence their name, is purely Celtic.

Cromlêh in Cornish, or cromlech in Welsh, means a bent slab, from the Cornish crom, bent, curved, rounded, and lêh, a slab. Though many of these cromlechs have been destroyed, Cornwall still possesses some fine specimens of these ancient stone tripods. Most of them are large granite slabs, supported by three stones fixed in the ground. These supporters are likewise huge flat stones, but the capstone is always the largest, and its weight inclining towards one point, imparts strength to the whole structure. At Lanyon, however, where the top-stone of a cromlech was thrown down in 1816 by a violent storm, the supporters remained standing, [pg 265] and the capstone was replaced in 1824, though not, it would seem, at its original height. Dr. Borlase relates that in his time the monument was high enough for a man to sit on horseback under it. At present such a feat would be impossible, the cover-stone being only about five feet from the ground. These cromlechs, though very surprising when seen for the first time, represent in reality one of the simplest achievements of primitive architecture. It is far easier to balance a heavy weight on three uneven props than to rest it level on two or four even supporters. There are, however, cromlechs resting on four or more stones, these stones forming a kind of chamber, or a kist-vaen, which is supposed to have served originally as a sepulchre. These structures presuppose a larger amount of architectural skill; still more so the gigantic portals of Stonehenge, which are formed by two pillars of equal height, joined by a superincumbent stone. Here weight alone was no longer considered sufficient for imparting strength and safety, but holes were worked in the upper stones, and the pointed tops of the pillars were fitted into them. In the slabs that form the cromlechs we find no such traces of careful workmanship; and this, as well as other considerations, would support the opinion, that in Stonehenge we have one of the latest specimens of Celtic architecture. Marvelous as are the remains of that primitive style of architectural art, the only real problem they offer is, how such large stones could have been brought together from a distance, and how such enormous weights could have been lifted up. The first question is answered by ropes [pg 266] and rollers; and the mural sculptures of Nineveh show us what can be done by such simple machinery. We there see the whole picture of how these colossal blocks of stone were moved from the quarry on to the place where they were wanted. Given plenty of time, and plenty of men and oxen, and there is no block that could not be brought to its right place by means of ropes and rollers. And that our forefathers did not stint themselves either in time, or in men, or other cattle, when engaged in erecting such monuments, we know even from comparatively modern times. Under Harold Harfagr, two kings spent three whole years in erecting one single tumulus; and Harold Blatand is said to have employed the whole of his army and a vast number of oxen in transporting a large stone which he wished to place on his mother's tomb. As to the second question, we can readily understand how, after the supporters had once been fixed in the ground, an artificial mound might be raised, which, when the heavy slab had been rolled up on an inclined plane, might be removed again, and thus leave the heavy stone poised in its startling elevation.

As skeletons have been found under some of the cromlechs, there can be little doubt that the chambers inclosed by them, the so-called kist-vaens, were intended to receive the remains of the dead, and to perpetuate their memory. And as these sepulchral monuments are most frequent in those parts of the British Isles which from the earliest to the latest times were inhabited by Celtic people, they may be considered as representative of the Celtic style of public [pg 267] sepulture. Kist-vaen, or cist-vaen, means a stone-chamber, from cista, a chest, and vaen, the modified form of maen or mên, stone. Their size is, with few exceptions, not less than the size of a human body. But although these monuments were originally sepulchral, we may well understand that the burying-places of great men, of kings, or priests, or generals, were likewise used for the celebration of other religious rites. Thus we read in the Book of Lecan, “that Amhalgaith built a cairn, for the purpose of holding a meeting of the Hy-Amhalgaith every year, and to view his ships and fleet going and coming, and as a place of interment for himself.”55 Nor does it follow, as some antiquarians maintain, that every structure in the style of a cromlech, even in England, is exclusively Celtic. We imitate pyramids and obelisks: why should not the Saxons have built the Kitts Cotty House, which is found in a thoroughly Saxon neighborhood, after Celtic models and with the aid of Celtic captives? This cromlech stands in Kent, on the brow of a hill about a mile and a half from Aylesford, to the right of the great road from Rochester to Maidstone. Near it, across the Medway, are the stone circles of Addington. The stone on the south side is 8 ft. high by 7-½ broad, and 2 ft. thick; weight, about 8 tons. That on the north is 8 ft. by 8, and 2 thick; weight, 8 tons 10 cwt. The end stone, 5 ft. 6 in. high by 5 ft. broad; thickness, 14 in.; weight, 2 tons 8-¼ cwt. The impost is 11 ft. long by 8 ft. broad, and 2 ft. thick; weight, 10 tons 7 cwt. It is higher, therefore, than the Cornish cromlechs, but in other respects it is a true specimen of that class of Celtic monuments. The cover-stone of the cromlech at Molfra is 9 ft. 8 in. by 14 ft. 3 in.; its supporters [pg 268] are 5 ft. high. The cover-stone of the Chûn cromlech measures 12-½ ft. in length and 11 ft. in width. The largest slab is that at Lanyon, which measures 18-½ ft. in length and 9 ft. at the broadest part.

The cromlechs are no doubt the most characteristic and most striking among the monuments of Cornwall. Though historians have differed as to their exact purpose, not even the most careless traveller could pass them by without seeing that they do not stand there without a purpose. They speak for themselves, and they certainly speak in a language that is neither Roman, Saxon, Danish, nor Norman. Hence in England they may, by a kind of exhaustive process of reasoning, be claimed as relics of Celtic civilization. The same argument applies to the cromlechs and stone avenues of Carnac, in Brittany. Here, too, language and history attest the former presence of Celtic people; nor could any other race, that influenced the historical destinies of the North of Gaul, claim such structures as their own. Even in still more distant places, in the South of France, in Scandinavia, or Germany, where similar monuments have been discovered, they may, though more hesitatingly, be classed as Celtic, particularly if they are found near the natural high roads on which we know that the Celts in their westward migrations preceded the Teutonic and Slavonic Aryans. But the case is totally different when we hear of cromlechs, cairns, and kist-vaens in the North of Africa, in Upper Egypt, on the Lebanon, near the Jordan, in Circassia, or in the South of India. Here, and more particularly in the South of India, we have no indications whatever of Celtic Aryans; on the contrary, if that name is taken in its strict scientific meaning, it would be impossible to account for the presence [pg 269] of Celtic Aryans in those southern latitudes at any time after the original dispersion of the Aryan family. It is very natural that English officers living in India should be surprised at monuments which cannot but remind them of what they had seen at home, whether in Cornwall, Ireland, or Scotland. A description of some of these monuments, the so-called Pandoo Coolies in Malabar, was given by Mr. J. Babington, in 1820, and published in the third volume of the “Transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay,” in 1823. Captain Congreve called attention to what he considered Scythic Druidical remains in the Nilghiri hills, in a paper published in 1847, in the “Madras Journal of Literature and Science,” and the same subject was treated in the same journal by the Rev. W. Taylor. A most careful and interesting description of similar monuments has lately been published in the “Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,” by Captain Meadows Taylor, under the title of “Description of Cairns, Cromlechs, Kist-vaens, and other Celtic, Druidical, or Scythian Monuments in the Dekhan.” Captain Taylor found these monuments near the village of Rajunkolloor, in the principality of Shorapoor, an independent native state, situated between the Bheema and Krishna rivers, immediately above their junction. Others were discovered near Huggeritgi, others on the hill of Yemmee Gooda, others again near Shapoor, Hyderabad, and other places. All these monuments in the South of India are no doubt extremely interesting; but to call them Celtic, Druidical, or Scythic, is unscientific, or, at all events, exceedingly premature. There is in all architectural monuments a natural or rational, and a conventional, or, it may be, irrational element. A striking agreement in purely conventional [pg 270] features may justify the assumption that monuments so far distant from each others as the cromlechs of Anglesea and the “Mori-Munni” of Shorapoor owe their origin to the same architects, or to the same races. But an agreement in purely natural contrivances goes for nothing, or, at least, for very little. Now there is very little that can be called conventional in a mere stone pillar, or in a cairn, that is, an artificial heap of stones. Even the erection of a cromlech can hardly be claimed as a separate style of architecture. Children, all over the world, if building houses with cards, will build cromlechs; and people, all over the world, if the neighborhood supplies large slabs of stone, will put three stones together to keep out the sun or the wind, and put a fourth stone on the top to keep out the rain. Before monuments like those described by Captain Meadows Taylor can be classed as Celtic or Druidical, a possibility, at all events, must be shown that Celts, in the true sense of the word, could ever have inhabited the Dekhan. Till that is done, it is better to leave them anonymous, or to call them by their native names, than to give to them a name which is apt to mislead the public at large, and to encourage theories which exceed the limits of legitimate speculation.

Returning to Cornwall, we find there, besides the cromlechs, pillars, holed stones, and stone circles, all of which may be classed as public monuments. They all bear witness to a kind of public spirit, and to a certain advance in social and political life, at the time of their erection. They were meant for people living at the time, who understood their meaning, if not as messages to posterity, and, if so, as truly historical monuments; for history begins when the living begin [pg 271] to care about a good opinion of those who come after them. Some of the single Cornish pillars tell us little indeed; nothing, in reality, beyond the fact that they were erected by human skill, and with some human purpose. Some of these monoliths seem to have been of a considerable size. In a village called Mên Perhen, in Constantine parish, there stood, “about five years ago,”—so Dr. Borlase relates in the year 1769,—a large pyramidal stone, twenty feet above the ground, and four feet in the ground; it made above twenty stone posts for gates when it was clove up by the farmer who gave the account to the Doctor.56 Other stones, like the Mên Scrifa, have inscriptions, but these inscriptions are Roman, and of comparatively late date. There are some pillars, like the Pipers at Bolleit, which are clearly connected with the stone circles close by, remnants, it may be, of old stone avenues, or beacons, from which signals might be sent to other distant settlements. The holed stones, too, are generally found in close proximity to other large stone monuments. They are called mên-an-tol, hole-stones, in Cornwall; and the name of tol-men, or dol-men, which is somewhat promiscuously used by Celtic antiquarians, should be restricted to monuments of this class, toll being the Cornish word for hole, mên for stone, and an the article. French antiquarians, taking dol or tôl as a corruption of tabula, use dolman in the sense of table-stones, and as synonymous with cromlech, while they frequently use cromlech in the sense of stone circles. This can hardly be justified, and leads at all events to much confusion.

The stone circles, whether used for religious or judicial purposes,—and there was in ancient times very little [pg 272] difference between the two,—were clearly intended for solemn meetings. There is a very perfect circle at Boscawen-ûn, which consisted originally of nineteen stones. Dr. Borlase, whose work on the Antiquities of the County of Cornwall contains the most trustworthy information as to the state of Cornish antiquities about a hundred years ago, mentions three other circles which had the same number of stones, while others vary from twelve to seventy-two.

The figure of these monuments, he says, is either simple, or compounded. Of the first kind are exact circles; elliptical or semicircular. The construction of these is not always the same, some having their circumference marked with large separate stones only; others having ridges of small stones intermixed, and sometimes walls and seats, serving to render the inclosure more complete. Other circular monuments have their figure more complex and varied, consisting, not only of a circle, but of some other distinguishing properties. In or near the centre of some stands a stone taller than the rest, as at Boscawen-ûn; in the middle of others, a kist-vaen. A cromlêh distinguishes the centre of some circles, and one remarkable rock that of others; some have only one line of stones in their circumference, and some have two; some circles are adjacent, some contiguous, and some include, and some intersect each other. Sometimes urns are found in or near them. Some are curiously erected on geometrical plans, the chief entrance facing the cardinal points of the heavens; some have avenues leading to them, placed exactly north and south, with detached stones, sometimes in straight lines to the east and west, sometimes triangular. These monuments are found in many foreign countries, in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, as well as in all the isles dependent upon Britain (the Orkneys, Western Isles, Jersey, Ireland, and the Isle of Man), and in most parts of Britain itself.

Modern traditions have everywhere clustered round these curious stone circles. Being placed in a circular order, so as to make an area for dancing, they were naturally called Dawns-mên, i.e. dancing stones. [pg 273] This name was soon corrupted into dancemen, and a legend sprang up at once to account for the name, namely, that these men had danced on a Sunday and been changed into stones. Another corruption of the same name into Danis-mên led to the tradition that these circles were built by the Danes. A still more curious name for these circles is that of Nine Maidens,” which occurs at Boscawen-ûn, and in several other places in Cornwall. Now the Boscawen-ûn circle consists of nineteen stones, and there are very few “Nine Maidens” that consist of nine stones only. Yet the name prevails, and is likewise supported by local legends of nine maidens having been changed into stones for dancing on a Sunday, or some other misdeed. One part of the legend may perhaps be explained by the fact that mêdn would be a common corruption in modern Cornish for mên, stone, as pen becomes pedn, and gwyn, gwydn, etc., and that the Saxons mistook Cornish mêdn for their own maiden. But even without this, legends of a similar character would spring up wherever the popular mind is startled by strange monuments, the history and purpose of which has been forgotten. Thus Captain Meadows Taylor tells us that at Vibat-Hullie the people told him “that the stones were men who, as they stood marking out the places for the elephants of the king of the dwarfs, were turned into stone by him, because they would not keep quiet.” And M. de Cambry, as quoted by him, says in regard to Carnac, “that the rocks were believed to be an army turned into stone, or the work of the Croins,—men or demons, two or three feet high, who carried these rocks in their hands, and placed them there.”

A second class of Cornish antiquities comprises private buildings, whether castles or huts or caves. [pg 274] What are called castles in Cornwall are simple intrenchments, consisting of large and small stones piled up about ten or twelve feet high, and held together by their own weight, without any cement. There are everywhere traces of a ditch, then of a wall; sometimes, as at Chûn Castle, of another ditch and another wall; and there is generally some contrivance for protecting the principal entrance by walls overlapping the ditches. Near these castles barrows are found, and in several cases there are clear traces of a communication between them and some ancient Celtic villages and caves, which seem to have been placed under the protection of these primitive strongholds. Many of the cliffs in Cornwall are fortified towards the land by walls and ditches, thus cutting off these extreme promontories from communication with the land, as they are by nature inaccessible from the sea. Some antiquarians ascribed these castles to the Danes, the very last people, one would think, to shut themselves up in such hopeless retreats. Here, too, as in other cases, a popular etymology may have taken the place of an historical authority, and the Cornish word for castle being Dinas as in Castle-an-Dinas, Pendennis, etc., the later Saxon-speaking population may have been reminded by Dinas of the Danes, and on the strength of this vague similarity have ascribed to these pirates the erection of the Cornish castles.

It is indeed difficult, with regard to these castles, to be positive as to the people by whom they were constructed. Tradition and history point to Romans and Saxons, as well as to Celts; nor is it at all unlikely that many of these half-natural, half-artificial strongholds, though originally planned by the Celtic inhabitants, were afterwards taken possession of and strengthened by Romans or Saxons.

[pg 275]

But no such doubts are allowed with regard to Cornish huts, of which some striking remains have been preserved in Cornwall and other parts of England, particularly in those which, to the very last, remained the true home of the Celtic inhabitants of Britain. The houses and huts of the Romans were rectangular, nor is there any evidence to show that the Saxon ever approved of the circular style in domestic architecture.

If, then, we find these so-called bee-hive huts in places peculiarly Celtic, and if we remember that so early a writer as Strabo57 was struck with the same strange style of Celtic architecture, we can hardly be suspected of Celtomania, if we claim them as Celtic workmanship, and dwell with a more than ordinary interest on these ancient chambers, now long deserted and nearly smothered with ferns and weeds, but in their general planning, as well as in their masonry, clearly exhibiting before us something of the arts and the life of the earliest inhabitants of these isles. Let anybody who has a sense of antiquity, and who can feel the spark which is sent on to us through an unbroken chain of history, when we stand on the Acropolis or on the Capitol, or when we read a ballad of Homer or a hymn of the Veda,—nay, if we but read in a proper spirit a chapter of the Old Testament too,—let such a man look at the Celtic huts at Bosprennis or Chysauster, and discover for himself, through the ferns and brambles, the old gray walls, slightly sloping inward, and arranged according to a design that cannot be mistaken; and miserable as these shapeless clumps may appear to the thoughtless traveller, they will convey to the true historian a lesson which he could hardly learn anywhere else. The [pg 276] ancient Britons will no longer be a mere name to him, no mere Pelasgians or Tyrrhenians. He has seen their homes and their handiwork; he has stood behind the walls which protected their lives and property; he has touched the stones which their hands piled up rudely, yet thoughtfully. And if that small spark of sympathy for those who gave the honored name of Britain to these islands has once been kindled among a few who have the power of influencing public opinion in England, we feel certain that something will be done to preserve what can still be preserved of Celtic remains from further destruction. It does honor to the British Parliament that large sums are granted, when it is necessary, to bring to these safe shores whatever can still be rescued from the ruins of Greece and Italy, of Lycia, Pergamos, Palestine, Egypt, Babylon, or Nineveh. But while explorers and excavators are sent to those distant countries, and the statues of Greece, the coffins of Egypt, and the winged monsters of Nineveh, are brought home in triumph to the portals of the British Museum, it is painful to see the splendid granite slabs of British cromlechs thrown down and carted away, stone circles destroyed to make way for farming improvements, and ancient huts and caves broken up to build new houses and stables, with the stones thus ready to hand. It is high time, indeed, that something should be done; and nothing will avail but to place every truly historical monument under national protection. Individual efforts may answer here and there, and a right spirit may be awakened from time to time by local societies; but during intervals of apathy mischief is done that can never be mended; and unless the damaging of national monuments, even though they should stand [pg 277] on private ground, is made a misdemeanor, we doubt whether, two hundred years hence, any enterprising explorer would be as fortunate as Mr. Layard and Sir H. Rawlinson have been in Babylon and Nineveh, and whether one single cromlech would be left for him to carry away to the National Museum of the Maoris. It is curious that the willful damage done to Logan Stones, once in the time of Cromwell by Shrubsall, and more recently by Lieutenant Goldsmith, should have raised such indignation, while acts of Vandalism, committed against real antiquities, are allowed to pass unnoticed. Mr. Scawen, in speaking of the mischief done by strangers in Cornwall, says:—

Here, too, we may add, what wrong another sort of strangers has done to us, especially in the civil wars, and in particular by destroying of Mincamber, a famous monument, being a rock of infinite weight, which, as a burden, was laid upon other great stones, and yet so equally thereon poised up by Nature only, as a little child could instantly move it, but no one man or many remove it. This natural monument all travellers that came that way desired to behold; but in the time of Oliver's usurpation, when all monumental things became despicable, one Shrubsall, one of Oliver's heroes, then Governor of Pendennis, by labor and much ado, caused to be undermined and thrown down, to the great grief of the country; but to his own great glory, as he thought, doing it, as he said, with a small cane in his hand. I myself have heard him to boast of this act, being a prisoner then under him.

Mr. Scawen, however, does not tell us that this Shrubsall, in throwing down the Mincamber, i.e. the Mênamber, acted very like the old missionaries in felling the sacred oaks in Germany. Merlin, it was believed, had proclaimed that this stone should stand until England had no king; and as Cornwall was a stronghold of the Stuarts, the destruction of this loyal stone may have seemed a matter of wise policy.

[pg 278]

Even the foolish exploit of Lieutenant Goldsmith, in 1824, would seem to have had some kind of excuse. Dr. Borlase had asserted “that it was morally impossible that any lever, or indeed force, however applied in a mechanical way, could remove the famous Logan rock at Trereen Dinas from its present position.” Ptolemy, the son of Hephæstion, had made a similar remark about the Gigoman rock,58 stating that it might be stirred with the stalk of an asphodel, but could not be removed by any force. Lieutenant Goldsmith, living in an age of experimental philosophy, undertook the experiment, in order to show that it was physically possible to overthrow the Logan; and he did it. He was, however, very properly punished for this unscientific experiment, and he had to replace the stone at his own expense.

As this matter is really serious, we have drawn up a short list of acts of Vandalism committed in Cornwall within the memory of living man. That list could easily be increased, but even as it is, we hope it may rouse the attention of the public:—

Between St. Ives and Zennor, on the lower road over Tregarthen Downs, stood a Logan rock. An old man, perhaps ninety years of age, told Mr. Hunt, who mentions this and other cases in the preface to his charming collection of Cornish tales and legends, that he had often logged it, and that it would make a noise which could be heard for miles.

At Balnoon, between Nancledrea and Knill's Steeple, some miners came upon “two slabs of granite cemented together,” which covered a walled grave three feet square, an ancient kist-vaen. In it they found an [pg 279] earthenware vessel, containing some black earth and a leaden spoon. The spoon was given to Mr. Praed, of Trevethow; the kist-vaen was utterly destroyed.

In Bosprennis Cross there was a very large coit or cromlech. It is said to have been fifteen feet square, and not more than one foot thick in any part. This was broken in two parts some years since, and taken to Penzance to form the beds of two ovens.

The curious caves and passages at Chysauster have been destroyed for building purposes within living memory.

Another Cornishman, Mr. Bellows, reports as follows:—

In a field between the recently discovered Beehive hut and the Boscawen-ûn circle, out of the public road, we discovered part of a Nine Maidens, perhaps the third of the circle, the rest of the stones being dragged out and placed against the hedge, to make room for the plough.

The same intelligent antiquarian remarks:—

The Boscawen-ûn circle seems to have consisted originally of twenty stones. Seventeen of them are upright, two are down, and a gap exists of exactly the double space for the twentieth. We found the missing stone not twenty yards off. A farmer had removed it, and made it into a gate-post. He had cut a road through the circle, and in such a manner that he was obliged to remove the offending stone to keep it straight. Fortunately the present proprietress is a lady of taste, and has surrounded the circle with a good hedge to prevent further Vandalism.

Of the Mên-an-tol, at Boleit, we have received the following description from Mr. Botterell, who supplied Mr. Hunt with so many of his Cornish tales:—

These stones are from twenty to twenty-five feet above the surface, and we were told by some folks of Boleit that more than ten feet had been sunk near, without finding the base. The Mên-an-tol have both been displaced, and removed a considerable [pg 280] distance from their original site. They are now placed in a hedge, to form the side of a gateway. The upper portion of one is so much broken that one cannot determine the angle, yet that it worked to an angle is quite apparent. The other is turned downward, and serves as the hanging-post of a gate. From the head being buried so deep in the ground, only part of the hole (which is in both stones about six inches diameter) could be seen; though the hole is too small to pop the smallest, or all but the smallest, baby through, the people call them crick-stones, and maintain they were so called before they were born. Crick-stones were used for dragging people through, to cure them of various diseases.

The same gentleman, writing to one of the Cornish papers, informs the public that a few years ago a rock known by the name of Garrack-zans might be seen in the town-place of Sawah, in the parish of St. Levan; another in Roskestal, in the same parish. One is also said to have been removed from near the centre of Trereen, by the family of Jans, to make a grander approach to their mansion. The ruins, which still remain, are known by the name of the Jans House, although the family became extinct soon after perpetrating what was regarded by the old inhabitants as a sacrilegious act. The Garrack-zans may still be remaining in Roskestal and Sawah, but, as much alteration has recently taken place in these villages, in consequence of building new farm-houses, making new roads, etc., it is a great chance if they have not been either removed or destroyed.

Mr. J. T. Blight, the author of one of the most useful little guide-books of Cornwall, “A Week at the Land's End,” states that some eight or ten years ago the ruins of the ancient Chapel of St. Eloy, in St. Burian, were thrown over the cliff by the tenant of the estate, without the knowledge or permission of the owner of the property. Chûn Castle, he says, one of [pg 281] the finest examples of early military architecture in this kingdom, has for many years been resorted to as a sort of quarry. The same applies to Castle-an-Dinas.

From an interesting paper on Castallack Round by the same antiquarian, we quote the following passages, showing the constant mischief that is going on, whether due to downright Vandalism or to ignorance and indifference:—

From a description of Castallack Round, in the parish of St. Paul, written by Mr. Crozier, perhaps fourteen or fifteen years ago, it appears that there was a massive outer wall, with an entrance on the south; from which a colonnade of stones led to an inner inclosure, also formed with stones, and nine feet in diameter. Mr. Haliwell, so recently as 1861, refers to the avenue of upright stones leading from the outer to the inner inclosure.
On visiting the spot a few days ago (in 1865), I was surprised to find that not only were there no remains of an avenue of stones, but that the existence of an inner inclosure could scarcely be traced. It was, in fact, evident that some modern Vandal had here been at work. A laborer, employed in the field close by, with a complaisant smile, informed me that the old Round had been dug into last year, for the sake of the stones. I found, however, enough of the work left to be worthy of a few notes, sufficient to show that it was a kindred structure to that at Kerris, known as the Roundago, and described and figured in Borlase's Antiquities of Cornwall. ... Mr. Crozier also refers to a stone, five feet high, which stood within a hundred yards of the Castallack Round, and from which the Pipers at Boleit could be seen.
The attention of the Royal Institution of Cornwall has been repeatedly called to the destruction of Cornish antiquities, and the interference of landed proprietors has been frequently invoked in aid of their preservation; but it unfortunately happens, in most cases, that important remains are demolished by the tenants without the knowledge or consent of the landlords. On comparing the present condition of the Castallack Round with a description of its appearance so recently as in 1861, I find that the greater and more interesting part has been barbarously and irreparably destroyed; and I regret to say, I could draw up a [pg 282] long list of ancient remains in Cornwall, partially or totally demolished within the last few years.

We can hardly hope that the wholesome superstition which prevented people in former days from desecrating their ancient monuments will be any protection to them much longer, though the following story shows that some grains of the old leaven are still left in the Cornish mind. Near Carleen, in Breage, an old cross has been removed from its place, and now does duty as a gate-post. The farmer occupying the farm where the cross stood, set his laborer to sink a pit in the required spot for the gate-post, but when it was intimated that the cross standing at a little distance off was to be erected therein, the man absolutely refused to have any hand in the matter, not on account of the beautiful or the antique, but for fear of the old people. Another farmer related that he had a neighbor who “haeled down a lot of stoans called the Roundago, and sold 'em for building the docks at Penzance. But not a penny of the money he got for 'em ever prospered, and there wasn't wan of the hosses that haeld 'em that lived out the twelvemonth; and they do say that some of the stoans do weep blood, but I don't believe that.”

There are many antiquarians who affect to despise the rude architecture of the Celts, nay, who would think the name of architecture disgraced if applied to cromlechs and bee-hive huts. But even these will perhaps be more willing to lend a helping hand in protecting the antiquities of Cornwall when they hear that even ancient Norman masonry is no longer safe in that country. An antiquarian writes to us from Cornwall: “I heard of some farmers in Meneage (the Lizard district) who dragged down an ancient well and rebuilt it. When called to task for it, they said, ‘The [pg 283] ould thing was so shaky that a wasn't fit to be seen, so we thought we'd putten to rights and build'un up fitty.’ ”

Such things, we feel sure, should not be, and would not be, allowed any longer, if public opinion, or the public conscience, was once roused. Let people laugh at Celtic monuments as much as they like, if they will only help to preserve their laughing-stocks from destruction. Let antiquarians be as skeptical as they like, if they will only prevent the dishonest withdrawal of the evidence against which their skepticism is directed. Are lake-dwellings in Switzerland, are flint-deposits in France, is kitchen-rubbish in Denmark, so very precious, and are the magnificent cromlechs, the curious holed stones, and even the rock-basins of Cornwall, so contemptible? There is a fashion even in scientific tastes. For thirty years M. Boucher de Perthes could hardly get a hearing for his flint-heads, and now he has become the centre of interest for geologists, anthropologists, and physiologists. There is every reason to expect that the interest, once awakened in the early history of our own race, will go on increasing; and two hundred years hence the antiquarians and anthropologists of the future will call us hard names if they find out how we allowed these relics of the earliest civilization of England to be destroyed. It is easy to say, What is there in a holed stone? It is a stone with a hole in it, and that is all. We do not wish to propound new theories; but in order to show how full of interest even a stone with a hole in it may become, we will just mention that the Mên-an-tol, or the holed stone which stands in one of the fields near Lanyon, is flanked by two other stones standing erect on each side. Let any one go there to watch a sunset about the time of the [pg 284] autumnal equinox, and he will see that the shadow thrown by the erect stone would fall straight through the hole of the Mên-an-tol. We know that the great festivals of the ancient world were regulated by the sun, and that some of these festive seasons—the winter solstice about Yule-tide or Christmas, the vernal equinox about Easter, the summer solstice on Midsummer-eve, about St. John Baptist's day, and the autumnal equinox about Michaelmas—are still kept, under changed names and with new objects, in our own time. This Mên-an-tol may be an old dial erected originally to fix the proper time for the celebration of the autumnal equinox; and though it may have been applied to other purposes likewise, such as the curing of children by dragging them several times through the hole, still its original intention may have been astronomical. It is easy to test this observation, and to find out whether the same remark does not hold good of other stones in Cornwall, as, for instance, the Two Pipers. We do not wish to attribute to this guess as to the original intention of the Mên-an-tol more importance than it deserves, nor would we in any way countenance the opinion of those who, beginning with Cæsar, ascribe to the Celts and their Druids every kind of mysterious wisdom. A mere shepherd, though he had never heard the name of the equinox, might have erected such a stone for his own convenience, in order to know the time when he might safely bring his flocks out, or take them back to their safer stables. But this would in no way diminish the interest of the Mên-an-tol. It would still remain one of the few relics of the childhood of our race; one of the witnesses of the earliest workings of the human mind in its struggle against, and in its alliance with, the powers of nature; one of [pg 285] the vestiges of the first civilization of the British Isles. Even the Romans, who carried their Roman roads in a straight line through the countries they had conquered, undeterred by any obstacles, unawed by any sanctuaries, respected, as can hardly be doubted, Silbury Hill, and made the road from Bath to London diverge from the usual straight line, instead of cutting through that time-honored mound. Would the engineers of our railways show a similar regard for any national monument, whether Celtic, Roman, or Saxon? When Charles II., in 1663, went to see the Celtic remains of Abury, sixty-three stones were still standing within the intrenched inclosure. Not quite a hundred years later they had dwindled down to forty-four, the rest having been used for building purposes. Dr. Stukeley, who published a description of Abury in 1743, tells us that he himself saw the upper stone of the great cromlech there broken and carried away, the fragments of it making no less than twenty cart-loads. After another century had passed, seventeen stones only remained within the great inclosure, and these, too, are being gradually broken up and carted away. Surely such things ought not to be. Let those whom it concerns look to it before it is too late. These Celtic monuments are public property as much as London Stone, Coronation Stone, or Westminster Abbey, and posterity will hold the present generation responsible for the safe keeping of the national heirlooms of England.59

[pg 287]


There is hardly a book on Cornish history or antiquities in which we are not seriously informed that at some time or other the Jews migrated to Cornwall, or worked as slaves in Cornish mines. Some writers state this simply as a fact requiring no further confirmation; others support it by that kind of evidence which Herodotus, no doubt, would have considered sufficient for establishing the former presence of Pelasgians in different parts of Greece, but which would hardly have satisfied Niebuhr, still less Sir G. C. Lewis. Old smelting-houses, they tell us, are still called Jews' houses in Cornwall; and if, even after that, anybody could be so skeptical as to doubt that the Jews, after the destruction of Jerusalem, were sent in large numbers to work as slaves in the Cornish mines, he is silenced at once by an appeal to the name of Marazion, the well-known town opposite St. Michael's Mount, which means the “bitterness of Zion,” and is also called Market Jew. Many a traveller has no doubt shaken his unbelieving head, and asked himself how it is that no real historian should ever have mentioned the migration of the Jews to the Far West, whether it took place under Nero or under one of the later Flavian [pg 288] Emperors. Yet all the Cornish guides are positive on the subject, and the primâ facie evidence is certainly so startling that we can hardly wonder if certain anthropologists discovered even the sharply marked features of the Jewish race among the sturdy fishermen of Mount's Bay.

Before we examine the facts on which this Jewish theory is founded,—facts, as will be seen, chiefly derived from names of places, and other relics of language,—it will be well to inquire a little into the character of the Cornish language, so that we may know what kind of evidence we have any right to expect from such a witness.

The ancient language of Cornwall, as is well known, was a Celtic dialect, closely allied to the languages of Brittany and Wales, and less nearly, though by no means distantly, related to the languages of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Cornish began to die out in Cornwall about the time of the Reformation, being slowly but surely supplanted by English, till it was buried with Dolly Pentreath and similar worthies about the end of the last century.60 Now there is in most languages, but more particularly in those which are losing their consciousness or their vitality, what, by a name borrowed from geology, may be called a metamorphic process. It consists chiefly in this, that words, as they cease to be properly understood, are slightly changed, generally with the object of imparting to them once more an intelligible meaning. This new meaning is mostly a mistaken one, yet it is not only readily accepted, but the word in its new dress and with its new character is frequently made to support facts or fictions which could be supported by no [pg 289] other evidence. Who does not believe that sweetheart has something to do with heart? Yet it was originally formed like drunk-ard, dull-ard, and nigg-ard; and poets, not grammarians, are responsible for the mischief it may have done under its plausible disguise. By the same process, shamefast, formed like steadfast and still properly spelt by Chaucer and in the early editions of the Authorized Version of the Bible, has long become shamefaced, bringing before us the blushing roses of a lovely face. The Vikings, mere pirates from the viks or creeks of Scandinavia, have, by the same process, been raised to the dignity of kings; just as coat cards—the king, and queen, and knave in their gorgeous gowns—were exalted into court cards.

Although this kind of metamorphosis takes place in every language, yet it is most frequent in countries where two languages come in contact with each other, and where, in the end, one is superseded by the other. Robertus Curtus, the eldest son of the Conqueror, was by the Saxons called Curt-hose. The name of Oxford contains in its first syllable an old Celtic word, the well-known term for water or river, which occurs as ux in Uxbridge, as ex in Exmouth, as ax in Axmouth, and in many more disguises down to the whisk of whiskey, the Scotch Usquebaugh.61 In the name of the Isis, and of the suburb of Osney, the same Celtic word has been preserved. The Saxons kept the Celtic name of the river, and they called the place where one of the Roman roads crossed the river Ox, Oxford. The name, however, was soon mistaken, and interpreted as purely Saxon; and if any one should doubt that Oxford was a kind of Bosphorus, and meant a ford for [pg 290] oxen, the ancient arms of the city were readily appealed to in order to cut short all doubts on the subject. The Welsh name Ryt-yhcen for Oxford was a retranslation into Welsh of an original Celtic name, to which a new form and a new meaning had been given by the Saxon conquerors.

Similar accidents happened to Greek words after they were adopted by the people of Italy, particularly by the Romans. The Latin orichalcum, for instance, is simply the Greek word ὀρείχαλκος, from ὄρος, mountain, and χαλκός, copper. Why it was called mountain-copper, no one seems to know. It was originally a kind of fabulous metal, brought to light from the brains of the poet rather than from the bowels of the earth. Though the poets, and even Plato, speak of it as, after gold, the most precious of metals, Aristotle sternly denies that there ever was any real metal corresponding to the extravagant descriptions of the ὀρείχαλκος. Afterwards the same word was used in a more sober and technical sense, though it is not always easy to say when it means copper, or bronze (i.e. copper and tin), or brass (i.e. copper and zinc). The Latin poets not only adopted the Greek word in the fabulous sense in which they found it used in Homer, but forgetting that the first portion of the name was derived from the Greek ὄρος, hill, they pronounced and even spelt it as if derived from the Latin aurum, gold, and thus found a new confirmation of its equality with gold, which would have greatly surprised the original framers of that curious compound.62

In a county like Cornwall, where the ancient Celtic dialect continued to be spoken, though disturbed and [pg 291] overlaid from time to time by Latin, Saxon, and Norman, where Celts had to adopt certain Saxon and Norman, and Saxons and Normans certain Celtic words, we have a right to expect an ample field for observing this metamorphic process, and for tracing its influence in the transformation of names, and in the formation of legends, traditions, nay even, as we shall see, in the production of generally accepted historical facts. To call this process metamorphic, using that name in the sense given to it by geologists, may at first sight seem pedantic and far-fetched. But if we see how a new language forms what may be called a new stratum covering the old language; how the life or heat of the old language, though apparently extinct, breaks forth again through the superincumbent crust, destroys its regular features and assimilates its stratified layers with its own igneous or volcanic nature, our comparison, though somewhat elaborate, will be justified to a great extent, and we shall only have to ask our geological readers to make allowance for this, that, in languages, the foreign element has always to be considered as the superincumbent stratum, Cornish forming the crust to English or English to Cornish, according as the speaker uses the one or the other as his native or as his acquired speech.

Our first witness in support of this metamorphic process is Mr. Scawen, who lived about two hundred years ago, a true Cornishman, though he wrote in English, or in what he is pleased so to call. In blaming the Cornish gentry and nobility for having attempted to give to their ancient and honorable names a kind of Norman varnish, and for having adopted new-fangled coats of arms, Mr. Scawen remarks on the several mistakes, intentional or unintentional, that occurred in this [pg 292] foolish process. “The grounds of two several mistakes,” he writes, “are very obvious: 1st, upon the Tre or Ter; 2d, upon the Ross or Rose. Tre or Ter in Cornish commonly signifies a town, or rather place, and it has always an adjunct with it. Tri is the number 3. Those men willingly mistake one for another. And so, in French heraldry terms, they used to fancy and contrive those with any such three things as may be like, or cohere with, or may be adapted to anything or things in their surnames, whether very handsome or not is not much stood upon. Another usual mistake is upon Ross, which, as they seem to fancy, should be a Rose, but Ross in Cornish is a vale or valley. Now for this their French-Latin tutors, when they go into the field of Mars, put them in their coat armor prettily to smell out a Rose or flower (a fading honor instead of a durable one); so any three such things, agreeable perhaps a little to their names, are taken up and retained from abroad, when their own at home have a much better scent and more lasting.”

Some amusing instances of what may be called Saxon puns on Cornish words have been communicated to me by a Cornish friend of mine, Mr. Bellows. “The old Cornish name for Falmouth,” he writes, “was Penny come quick,63 and they tell a most improbable story to account for it. I believe the whole compound is the Cornish Pen y cwm gwic, ‘Head of the creek valley.’ In like manner they have turned Bryn uhella (highest hill) into Brown Willy, and Cwm ty goed (woodhouse valley) into Come to good.” To this might be added the common etymologies of Helstone and Camelford. The former name has nothing to do with the Saxon helstone, a covering stone, or with the infernal regions, [pg 293] but meant “place on the river;” the latter, in spite of the camel in the arms of the town, meant the ford of the river Camel. A frequent mistake arises from the misapprehension of the Celtic dun, hill, which enters in the composition of many local names, and was changed by the Saxons into town or tun. Thus Meli-dunum is now Moulton, Seccan-dun is Seckington, and Beamdun is Bampton.64

This transformation of Celtic into Saxon or Norman terms is not confined, however, to the names of families, towns, and villages; and we shall see how the fables to which it has given rise have not only disfigured the records of some of the most ancient families in Cornwall, but have thrown a haze over the annals of the whole county.

Returning to the Jews in their Cornish exile, we find, no doubt, as mentioned before, that even in the Ordnance maps the little town opposite St. Michael's Mount is called Marazion and Market Jew. Marazion sounds decidedly like Hebrew, and might signify Mârâh, “bitterness, grief,” Zion, “of Zion.” M. Esquiros, a believer in Cornish Jews, thinks that Mara might be a corruption of the Latin Amara, bitter; but he forgets that this etymology would really defeat its very object, and destroy the Hebrew origin of the name. The next question therefore is, What is the real origin of the name Marazion, and of its alias, Market Jew? It cannot be too often repeated that inquiries into the origin of local names are, in the first place, historical, and only in the second place, philological. To attempt an explanation of any name, without having first traced it back to the earliest form in which we can find it, is to set at defiance the plainest rules of the [pg 294] science of language as well as of the science of history. Even if the interpretation of a local name should be right, it would be of no scientific value without the preliminary inquiry into its history, which frequently consists in a succession of the most startling changes and corruptions. Those who are at all familiar with the history of Cornish names of places will not be surprised to find the same name written in four or five, nay, in ten different ways. The fact is that those who pronounced the names were frequently ignorant of their real import, and those who had to write them down could hardly catch their correct pronunciation. Thus we find that Camden calls Marazion Merkiu; Carew, Marcaiew. Leland in his “Itinerary” (about 1538) uses the names Markesin, Markine (vol. iii. fol. 4); and in another place (vol. vii. fol. 119) he applies, it would seem, to the same town the name of Marasdeythyon. William of Worcester (about 1478) writes promiscuously Markysyoo (p. 103), Marchew and Margew (p. 133), Marchasyowe and Markysyow (p. 98). In a charter of Queen Elizabeth, dated 1595, the name is written Marghasiewe; in another of the year 1313, Markesion; in another of 1309, Markasyon; in another of Richard, Earl of Cornwall (Rex Romanorum, 1257), Marchadyon, which seems the oldest, and at the same time the most primitive form.65 Besides these, Dr. Oliver has found in different title-deeds [pg 295] the following varieties of the same name:—Marghasion, Markesiow, Marghasiew, Maryazion, and Marazion. The only explanation of the name which we meet with in early writers, such as Leland, Camden, and Carew, is that it meant “Thursday Market.” Leland explains Marasdeythyon by forum Jovis. Camden explains Merkiu in the same manner, and Carew takes Marcaiew as originally Marhas diew, i.e. “Thursdaies market, for then it useth this traffike.”

This interpretation of Marhasdiew as Thursday Market, appears at first very plausible, and it has at all events far better claims on our acceptance than the modern Hebrew etymology of “Bitterness of Zion.” But, strange to say, although from a charter of Robert, Earl of Cornwall, it appears that the monks of the Mount had the privilege of holding a market on Thursday (die quintæ feriæ), there is no evidence, and no probability, that a town so close to the Mount as Marazion ever held a market on the same day.66 Thursday in Cornish was called deyow, not diew. The only additional evidence we get is this, that in the taxation of Bishop Walter Bronescombe, made August 12, 1261, and quoted in Bishop Stapledon's register of 1313, the place is called Markesion de parvo mercato,67 and that in a charter of Richard, King of the Romans and Earl of Cornwall, permission was granted to the prior of St. Michael's Mount that three markets, which formerly had been held in Marghasbigan, on ground not belonging to him, should in future be held on his own ground [pg 296] in Marchadyon. Parvus mercatus is evidently the same place as Marghasbigan, for Marghas-bigan means in Cornish the same as Mercatus parvus, namely, “Little Market.” The charter of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, is more perplexing, and it would seem to yield no sense, unless we again take Marchadyon as a mere variety of Marghasbigan, and suppose that the privilege granted to the prior of St. Michael's Mount consisted really in transferring the fair from land in Marazion not belonging to him, to land in Marazion belonging to him. Anyhow, it is clear that in Marazion we have some kind of name for market.

The old Cornish word for market is marchas, a corruption of the Latin mercatus. Originally the Cornish word must have been marchad, and this form is preserved in Armorican, while in Cornish the ch gradually sunk to h, and the final d to s. This change of d into s is of frequent occurrence in modern as compared with ancient Cornish, and the history of our word will enable us, to a certain extent, to fix the time when that change took place. In the charter of Richard, Earl of Cornwall (about 1257), we find Marchadyon; in a charter of 1309, Markasyon. The change of d into s had taken place during these fifty years.68 But what is the termination yon? Considering that Marazion is called the Little Market, I should like to see in yon the diminutive Cornish suffix, corresponding to the Welsh yn. But if this should be objected to, on the ground that no such diminutives occur in the literary [pg 297] monuments of the Cornish language, another explanation is open, which was first suggested to me by Mr. Bellows: Marchadion may be taken as a perfectly regular plural in Cornish, and we should then have to suppose that, instead of being called the Market or the Little Market, the place was called, from its three statute markets, “The Markets.” And this would help us to explain, not only the gradual growth of the name Marazion, but likewise, I think, the gradual formation of “Market Jew;” for another termination of the plural in Cornish is ieu, which, added to Marchad, would give us Marchadieu.69

Now it is perfectly true that no real Cornishman, I mean no man who spoke Cornish, would ever have taken Marchadiew for Market Jew, or Jews' Market. The name for Jew in Cornish is quite different. It is Edhow, Yedhow, Yudhow, corrupted likewise into Ezow; plural, Yedhewon, etc. But to a Saxon ear the Cornish name Marchadiew might well convey the idea of Market Jew, and thus, by a metamorphic process, a name meaning in Cornish the Markets would give rise in a perfectly natural manner, not only to the two names, Marazion and Market Jew, but likewise to the historical legends of Jews settled in the county of Cornwall.70

[pg 298]

But there still remain the Jews' houses, the name given, it is said, to the old, deserted smelting-houses [pg 299] in Cornwall, and in Cornwall only. Though, in the absence of any historical evidence as to the employment of this term Jew's house in former ages, it will be more difficult to arrive at its original form and meaning, yet an explanation offers itself which, by a procedure very similar to that which was applied to Marazion and Market Jew, may account for the origin of this name likewise.

The Cornish name for house was originally ty. In modern Cornish, however, to quote from Lhuyd's Grammar, t has been changed to tsh, as ti, thou, tshei; ty, a house, tshey; which tsh is also sometimes changed to dzh, as ol mein y dzkyi, “all in the house.” Out of this dzhyi we may easily understand how a Saxon mouth and a Saxon ear might have elicited a sound somewhat like the English Jew.

But we do not get at Jews' house by so easy a road, if indeed we get at it at all. We are told that a smelting-house was called a White-house, in Cornish Chiwidden, widden standing for gwydn, which is a corruption of the old Cornish gwyn, white. This name of Chiwidden is a famous name in Cornish hagiography. He was the companion of St. Perran, or St. Piran, the most popular saint among the mining population of Cornwall.

Mr. Hunt, who in his interesting work, “The Popular Romances of the West of England,” has assigned a separate chapter to Cornish saints, tells us how St. Piran, while living in Ireland, fed ten Irish kings and their armies, for ten days together, with three cows. Notwithstanding this and other miracles, some of these kings condemned him to be cast off a precipice into the sea, with a millstone round his neck. St. Piran, however, floated on safely to Cornwall, and he [pg 300] landed, on the 5th of March, on the sands which still bear his name, Perranzabuloe, or Perran on the Sands.

The lives of saints form one of the most curious subjects for the historian, and still more for the student of language; and the day, no doubt, will come when it will be possible to take those wonderful conglomerates of fact and fiction to pieces, and, as in one of those huge masses of graywacke or rubblestone, to assign each grain and fragment to the stratum from which it was taken, before they were all rolled together and cemented by the ebb and flow of popular tradition. With regard to the lives of Irish and Scotch and British saints, it ought to be stated, for the credit of the pious authors of the “Acta Sanctorum,” that even they admit their tertiary origin. “During the twelfth century,” they say, “when many of the ancient monasteries in Ireland were handed over to monks from England, and many new houses were built for them, these monks began to compile the acts of the saints with greater industry than judgment. They collected all they could find among the uncertain traditions of the natives and in obscure Irish writings, following the example of Jocelin, whose work on the acts of St. Patrick had been received everywhere with wonderful applause. But many of them have miserably failed, so that the foolish have laughed at them, and the wise been filled with indignation.” (“Bollandi Acta,” 5th of March, p. 390, B). In the same work (p. 392, A), it is pointed out that the Irish monks, whenever they heard of any saints in other parts of England whose names and lives reminded them of Irish saints, at once concluded that they were of Irish origin; and that the people in some parts of England, as they possessed no written acts of [pg 301] their popular saints, were glad to identify their own with the famous saints of the Irish Church. This has evidently happened in the case of St. Piran. St. Piran, in one of his characters, is certainly a truly Cornish saint; but when the monks in Cornwall heard the wonderful legends of the Irish saint, St. Kiran, they seem to have grafted their own St. Piran on the Irish St. Kiran. The difference in the names must have seemed less to them than to us; for words which in Cornish are pronounced with p, are pronounced, as a rule, in Irish with k. Thus, head in Cornish is pen, in Irish ceann, son is map, in Irish mac. The town built at the eastern extremity of the wall of Severus, was called Penguaul, i.e. pen, caput, guaul, walls; the English call it Penel-tun, while in Scotch it was pronounced Cenail.71 That St. Kiran had originally nothing to do with St. Piran can still be proved, for the earlier Lives of St. Kiran, though full of fabulous stories, represent him as dying in Ireland. His saint's day was the 5th of March; that of St. Piran, the 2d of May. The later Lives, however, though they say nothing as yet of the millstone, represent St. Kiran, when a very old man, as suddenly leaving his country in order that he might die in Cornwall. We are told that suddenly, when already near his death, he called together his little flock, and said to them: “My dear brothers and sons, according to a divine disposition I must leave Ireland and go to Cornwall, and wait for the end of my life there. I cannot resist the will of God.” He then sailed to Cornwall, and built himself a house, where he performed many miracles. He was buried in Cornwall on the sandy sea, fifteen miles from Petrokstowe, and twenty-five miles from Mousehole.72 [pg 302] In this manner the Irish and the Cornish saints, who originally had nothing in common but their names, became amalgamated,73 and the saint's day of St. Piran was moved from the 2d of May to the 5th of March. Yet although thus welded into one, nothing could well be imagined more different than the characters of the Irish and of the Cornish saint. The Irish saint lived a truly ascetic life; he preached, wrought miracles, and died. The Cornish saint was a jolly miner, not always very steady on his legs.74 Let us hear what the Cornish have to tell of him. His name occurs in several names of places, such as Perran Zabuloe, Perran Uthno, in Perran the Little, and in Perran Ar-worthall. His name, pronounced Perran, or Piran, has been further corrupted into Picras, and Picrous, though some authorities suppose that this is again a different saint from St. Piran. Anyhow, both St. Perran and St. Picras live in the memory of the Cornish miner as the discoverers of tin; and the tinners' great holiday, the Thursday before Christmas, is still called Picrou's day.75 The legend relates that St. Piran, when still in Cornwall, employed a heavy black stone as a part of his fire-place. The fire was more intense than usual, and a stream of beautiful white metal flowed out of the fire. Great was the joy of [pg 303] the saint, and he communicated his discovery to St. Chiwidden. They examined the stone together, and Chiwidden, who was learned in the learning of the East, soon devised a process for producing this metal in large quantities. The two saints called the Cornishmen together. They told them of their treasures, and they taught them how to dig the ore from the earth, and how, by the agency of fire, to obtain the metal. Great was the joy in Cornwall, and many days of feasting followed the announcement. Mead and metheglin, with other drinks, flowed in abundance; and vile rumor says the saints and their people were rendered equally unstable thereby. “Drunk as a Perraner” has certainly passed into a proverb from that day.

It is quite clear from these accounts that the legendary discoverer of tin in Cornwall was originally a totally different character from the Irish saint, St. Kiran. If one might indulge in a conjecture, I should say that there probably was in the Celtic language a root kar, which in the Cymbric branch would assume the form par. Now cair in Gaelic means to dig, to raise; and from it a substantive might be derived, meaning digger or miner. In Ireland, Kiran seems to have been simply a proper name, like Smith or Baker, for there is nothing in the legends of St. Kiran that points to mining or smelting. In Cornwall, on the contrary, St. Piran, before he was engrafted on St. Kiran, was probably nothing but a personification or apotheosis of the Miner, as much as Dorus was the personification of the Dorians, and Brutus the first King of Britain.

The rule, “noscitur a sociis,” may be applied to St. Piran. His friend and associate, St. Chiwidden, or St. Whitehouse, is a personification of the white-house, i.e. the smelting-house, without which St. Piran, the [pg 304] miner, would have been a very useless saint. If Chywidden, i.e. the smelting-house, became the St. Chywidden, why should we look in the Cornish St. Piran for anything beyond Piran, i.e. the miner?

However, what is of importance to us for our present object is not St. Piran, but St. Chywidden, the white-house or smelting-house. We are looking all this time for the original meaning of the Jews' houses, and the question is, how can we, starting from Chywidden, arrive at Jews'-house? I am afraid we can not do so without a jump or two; all we can do is to show that they are jumps which language herself is fond of taking, and which therefore we must not shirk, if we wish to ride straight after her.

Well, then, the first jump which language frequently takes is this, that instead of using a noun with a qualifying adjective, such as white-house, the noun by itself is used without any such qualification. This can, of course, be done with very prominent words only, words which are used so often, and which express ideas so constantly present to the mind of the speaker, that no mistake is likely to arise. In English, “the House” is used for the House of Commons; in later Latin “domus” was used for the House of God. Among fisherman in Scotland “fish” means salmon. In Greek λίθος, stone, in the feminine, is used for the magnet, originally Μαγνῆτις λίθος while the masculine λίθος means a stone in general. In Cornwall, ore by itself means copper ore only, while tin ore is called black tin. In times, therefore, when the whole attention of Cornwall was absorbed by mining and smelting, and when smelting-houses were most likely the only large buildings that seemed to deserve the name of houses, there is nothing extraordinary in tshey or dzhyi, [pg 305] even without widden, white, having become the recognized name for smelting-houses.

But now comes a second jump, and again one that can be proved to have been a very favorite one with many languages. When people speaking different languages live together in the same country, they frequently, in adopting a foreign term, add to it, by way of interpretation, the word that corresponds to it in their own language. Thus Portsmouth is a name half Latin and half English. Portus was the Roman name given to the harbor. This was adopted by the Saxons, but interpreted at the same time by a Saxon word, namely, mouth, which really means harbor. This interpretation was hardly intentional, but arose naturally. Port first became a kind of proper name, and then mouth was added, so that “the mouth of Port,” i.e. of the place called Portus by the Romans, became at last Portsmouth. But this does not satisfy the early historians, and, as happens so frequently when there is anything corrupt in language, a legend springs up almost spontaneously to remove all doubts and difficulties. Thus we read in the venerable Saxon Chronicle under the year 501, “that Port came to Britain with his two sons, Bieda and Maegla, with two ships, and their place was called Portsmouth; and they slew a British man, a very noble man.”76 Such is the growth of legends, aye, and in many cases the growth of history.

Formed on the same principle as Portsmouth we find such words as Hayle-river, the Cornish hal by itself meaning salt marsh, moor, or estuary; Treville or Trou-ville, where the Celtic tre, town, is explained by the French ville; the Cotswold Hills, where the Celtic word cot, wood, is explained by the Saxon wold or [pg 306] weald, a wood. In Dun-bar-ton, the Celtic word dun, hill, is explained by the Saxon bar for byrig, burg, ton being added to form the name of the town that rose up under the protection of the hill-castle. In Penhow the same process has been suspected; how, the German Höhe,77 expressing nearly the same idea as pen, head. In Constantine, in Cornwall, one of the large stones with rock-basins is called the Mên-rock,78 rock being simply the interpretation of the Cornish mên.

If, then, we suppose that in exactly the same manner the people of Cornwall spoke of Tshey-houses, or Dshyi-houses, is it so very extraordinary that this hybrid word should at last have been interpreted as Jew-houses or Jews' houses? I do not say that the history of the word can be traced through all its phases with the same certainty as that of Marazion; all I maintain is that, in explaining its history, no step has been admitted that cannot be proved by sufficient evidence to be in strict keeping with the well-known movements, or, if it is respectful to say so, the well-known antics of language.

Thus vanish the Jews from Cornwall; but there still remain the Saracens. One is surprised to meet with Saracens in the West of England; still more, to hear of their having worked in the tin-mines, like the Jews. According to some writers, however, Saracen is only another name for Jews, though no explanation is given why this detested name should have been applied to the Jews in Cornwall, and nowhere else. This view is held, for instance, by Carew, who writes: [pg 307] “The Cornish maintain these works to have been very ancient, and the first wrought by the Jews with pickaxes of holm, box, hartshorn; they prove this by the names of those places yet enduring, to wit, Attall-Sarazin (or, as in some editions, Sazarin); in English, the Jews' Offcast.”

Camden (p. 69) says: “We are taught from Diodorus and Æthicus that the ancient Britons had worked hard at the mines, but the Saxons and Normans seem to have neglected them for a long time, or to have employed the labor of Arabs or Saracens, for the inhabitants call deserted shafts, Attall-Sarazin, i.e. the leavings of the Saracens.”

Thus, then, we have not only the Saracens in Cornwall admitted as simply a matter of history, but their presence actually used in order to prove that the Saxons and Normans neglected to work the mines in the West of England.

A still more circumstantial account is given by Hals, as quoted by Gilbert in his “Parochial History of Cornwall.” Here we are told that King Henry III., by proclamation, let out all Jews in his dominions at a certain rent to such as would poll and rifle them, and amongst others to his brother Richard, King of the Romans, who, after he had plundered their estates, committed their bodies, as his slaves, to labor in the tin-mines of Cornwall; the memory of whose workings is still preserved in the names of several tin works, called Towle Sarasin, and corruptly Attall Saracen; i.e. the refuse or outcast of Saracens; that is to say, of those Jews descended from Sarah and Abraham. Other works were called Whele Etherson (alias Ethewon), the Jews' Works, or Unbelievers' Works, in Cornish.

[pg 308]

Here we see how history is made; and if our inquiries led to no other result, they would still be useful as a warning against putting implicit faith in the statements of writers who are separated by several centuries from the events they are relating. Here we have men like Carew and Camden, both highly cultivated, learned, and conscientious, and yet neither of them hesitating, in a work of historical character, to assert as a fact, what, after making every allowance, can only be called a very bold guess. Have we any reason to suppose that Herodotus and Thucydides, when speaking of the original abodes of the various races of Greece, of their migrations, their wars and final settlements, had better evidence before them, or were more cautious in using their evidence, than Camden and Carew? And is it likely that modern scholars, however learned and however careful, can ever arrive at really satisfactory results by sifting and arranging and rearranging the ethnological statements of the ancients, as to the original abodes or the later migrations of Pelasgians, Tyrrhenians, Thracians, Macedonians, and Illyrians, or even of Dorians, Æolians, and Ionians? What is Carew's evidence in support of his statement that the Jews first worked the tin-mines of Cornwall? Simply the sayings of the people in Cornwall, who support their sayings by the name given to deserted mines, Attall Sarazin. Now admitting that Attall Sarazin or Attall Sazarin, meant the refuse of the Saracens, how is it possible, in cold blood, to identify the Saracens with Jews, and where is there a tittle of evidence to prove that the Jews were the first to work these mines,—mines, be it remembered, which, according to the same Carew, were certainly worked before the beginning of our era?

[pg 309]

But leaving the Jews of the time of Nero, let us examine the more definite and more moderate statements of Hals and Gilbert. According to them, the deserted shafts are called by a Cornish name meaning the refuse of the Saracens, because, as late as the thirteenth century, the Jews were sent to work in these mines. It is difficult, no doubt, to prove a negative, and to show that no Jews ever worked in the mines of Cornwall. All that can be done, in a case like this, is to show that no one has produced an atom of evidence in support of Mr. Gilbert's opinion. The Jews were certainly ill treated, plundered, tortured, and exiled during the reign of the Plantagenet kings; but that they were sent to the Cornish mines, no contemporary writer has ever ventured to assert. The passage in Matthew Paris, to which Mr. Gilbert most likely alludes, says the very contrary of what he draws from it. Matthew Paris says that Henry III. extorted money from the Jews, and that when they petitioned for a safe conduct, in order to leave England altogether, he sold them to his brother Richard, “ut quos Rex excoriaverat, Comes evisceraret.”79 But this selling of the Jews meant no more than that, in return for money advanced him by his brother, the Earl of Cornwall, the King pawned to him, for a number of years, the taxes, legitimate or illegitimate, which could be extorted from the Jews. That this was the real meaning of the bargain between the King and his brother, the Earl of Cornwall, can be proved by the document printed in Rymer's “Fœdera,” vol. i. p. 543, “De Judæis Comiti Cornubiæ assignatis, pro solutione pecuniæ sibi a Rege debitæ.”80 Anyhow, there is not a single word about [pg 310] the Jews having been sent to Cornwall, or having had to work in the mines. On the contrary, Matthew Paris says, Comes pepercit iis,” “the Earl spared them.”

After thus looking in vain for any truly historical evidence in support of Jewish settlements in Cornwall, I suppose they may in future be safely treated as a “verbal myth,” of which there are more indeed in different chapters of history, both ancient and modern, than is commonly supposed. As in Cornwall the name of a market has given rise to the fable of Jewish settlements, the name of another market in Finland led to the belief that there were Turks settled in that northern country. Abo, the ancient capital of Finland, was called Turku, which is the Swedish word torg, market. Adam of Bremen, enumerating the various tribes adjoining the Baltic, mentions Turci among the rest, and these Turci were by others mistaken for Turks.81

Even after such myths have been laid open to the very roots, there is a strong tendency not to drop them altogether. Thus Mr. H. Merivale is far too good an historian to admit the presence of Jews in Cornwall as far back as the destruction of Jerusalem.82 He knows there is no evidence for it, and he would not repeat a mere fable, however plausible. Yet Marazion and the Jews' houses evidently linger in his memory, and he throws out a hint that they may find an historical explanation in the fact that under the Plantagenet kings the Jews commonly farmed or wrought the mines. Is there any contemporary evidence [pg 311] even for this? I do not think so. Dr. Borlase, indeed, in his “Natural History of Cornwall” (p. 190), says, “In the time of King John, I find the product of tin in this county very inconsiderable, the right of working for tin being as yet wholly in the King, the property of tinners precarious and unsettled, and what tin was raised was engrossed and managed by the Jews, to the great regret of the barons and their vassals.” It is a pity that Dr. Borlase should not have given his authority, but there is little doubt that he simply quoted from Carew. Carew tells us how the Cornish gentlemen borrowed money from the merchants of London, giving them tin as security (p. 14); and though he does not call the merchants Jews, yet he speaks of them as usurers, and reproves their “cut throate and abominable dealing.” He continues afterwards, speaking of the same usurers (p. 16), “After such time as the Jewes by their extreme dealing had worne themselves, first out of the love of the English inhabitants, and afterwards out of the land itselfe, and so left the mines unwrought, it hapned, that certaine gentlemen, being lords of seven tithings in Blackmoore, whose grounds were best stored with this minerall, grewe desirous to renew this benefit,” etc. To judge from several indications, this is really the passage which Dr. Borlase had before him when writing of the Jews as engrossing and managing the tin that was raised, and in that case neither is Carew a contemporary witness, nor would it follow from what he says that one single Jew ever set foot on Cornish soil, or that any Jews ever tasted the actual bitterness of working in the mines.

Having thus disposed of the Jews, we now turn to [pg 312] the Saracens in Cornwall. We shall not enter upon the curious and complicated history of that name. It is enough to refer to a short note in Gibbon,83 in order to show that Saracen was a name known to Greeks and Romans, long before the rise of Islam, but never applied to the Jews by any writer of authority, not even by those who saw in the Saracens “the children of Sarah.”

What, then, it may be asked, is the origin of the expression Attal Sarazin in Cornwall? Attal, or Atal, is said to be a Cornish word, the Welsh Adhail, and means refuse, waste.84 As to Sarazin, it is most likely another Cornish word, which by a metamorphic process, has been slightly changed in order to yield some sense intelligible to Saxon speakers. We find in Cornish tarad, meaning a piercer, a borer; and, in another form, tardar is distinctly used, together with axe and hammer, as the name of a mining implement. The Latin taratrum, Gr. τέρετρον, Fr. tarière, all come from the same source. If from tarad we form a plural, we get taradion. In modern Cornish we find that d sinks down to s, which would give us taras,85 and plural tarasion. Next, the final l of atal may, like several final l's in the closely allied language of Brittany, have [pg 313] infected the initial t of tarasion, and changed it to th, which th, again, would, in modern Cornish, sink down to s.86 Thus atal tharasion might have been intended for the refuse of the borings, possibly the refuse of the mines; but pronounced in Saxon fashion, it might readily have been mistaken for the Atal or refuse of the Sarasion or Saracens.


The essay on the presence of Jews in Cornwall has given rise to much controversy; and as I republish it here without any important alterations, I feel it incumbent to say a few words in answer to the objections that have been brought forward against it. No one, I think, can read my essay without perceiving that what I question is not the presence of single Jews in Cornwall, but the migration of large numbers of Jews into the extreme West of Britain, whether at the time of the Phœnicians, or at the period of the destruction of Jerusalem, or under the Flavian princes, or even at a later time. The Rev. Dr. Bannister in a paper on “the Jews in Cornwall,” published in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1867, does indeed represent me as having maintained “that one single Jew never set foot on Cornish soil!” But if my readers will refer to the passage thus quoted from my essay by Dr. Bannister, they will see that it was not meant in that sense. In the passage thus quoted with inverted commas,87 I simply argued that from certain words used by Carew, on which great stress had been laid, it would not even follow “that one single Jew ever set foot on Cornish soil,” which surely is very different from saying that I maintained that no single Jew ever set foot on Cornish soil. It would indeed [pg 314] be the most extraordinary fact if Cornwall had never been visited by Jews. If it were so, Cornwall would stand alone, as far as such an immunity is concerned, among all the countries of Europe. But it is one thing for Jews to be scattered about in towns,88 or even for one or two Jews to have actually worked in tin mines, and quite another to speak of towns receiving Hebrew names in Cornwall, and of deserted tin-mines being called the workings of the Jews. To explain such startling facts, if facts they be, a kind of Jewish exodus to Cornwall had to be admitted, and was admitted as long as such names as Marazion and Attal Sarazin were accepted in their traditional meaning. My own opinion was that these names had given rise to the assumed presence of Jews in Cornwall, and not that the presence of Jews in Cornwall had given rise to these names.

If, therefore, it could be proved that some Jewish families had been settled in Cornwall in very early times, or that a few Jewish slaves had been employed as miners, my theory would not at all be affected. But I must say that the attempts at proving even so much have been far from successful. Surely the occurrence of Old Testament names among the people of Cornwall, such as Abraham, Joseph, or Solomon (there is a Solomon, Duke of Cornwall), does not prove that their bearers were Jews. Again, if we read in the time of Edward II. that “John Peverel held Hametethy of Roger le Jeu,” we may be quite certain that le Jeu does not mean “the Jew,” and that in the time of Edward II. no John Peverel held land of a Jew. Again, if in the time of Edward III. we read of one “Abraham, the tinner, who employed 300 men in the stream-works of Brodhok,” it would require stronger proof than the mere name to make us believe that this Abraham was a Jew.

I had endeavored to show that there was no evidence as to the Earl of Cornwall, the brother of Henry III., having employed Jews in the Cornish mines, and had pointed out a passage from Rymer's “Fœdera” where it is stated that the Earl spared them (pepercit). Dr. Bannister remarks: “Though we are told that he spared them, might not this be similar to Joseph's brethren sparing him,—by committing their bodies as his slaves to work in the tin-mines?” It might be so, no doubt, but we do not know it. Again, Dr. Bannister remarks: “Jerome tells us [pg 315] that when Titus took Jerusalem, an incredible number of Jews were sold like horses, and dispersed over the face of the whole earth. The account given by Josephus is, that of those spared after indiscriminate slaughter, some were dispersed through the provinces for the use of the theatres, as gladiators; others were sent to the Egyptian mines, and others sold as slaves. If the Romans at this time worked the Cornish mines, why may not some have been sent here?” I can only answer, as before; they may have been, no doubt, but we do not know it.

I had myself searched very carefully for any documents that might prove the presence even of single Jews in Cornwall, previous to the time when they were banished the realm by Edward I. But my inquiries had not proved more successful than those of my predecessors. Pearce, in his “Laws and Customs of the Stanaries,” published in London, 1725, shares the common belief that the Jews worked in the Cornish mines. “The tinners,” he says (p. ii), “call the antient works by the name of the Working of the Jews, and it is most manifest, that there were Jews inhabiting here until 1291; and this they prove by the names yet enduring, viz. Attall Sarazin, in English, The Jews Feast.” But in spite of his strong belief in the presence of Jews in Cornwall, Pearce adds: “But whether they had liberty to work and search for tin, does not appear, because they had their dwellings chiefly in great Towns and Cities; and being great Usurers, were in that year banished out of England, to the number of 15,060, by the most noble Prince, Edward I.”

At last, however, with the kind assistance of Mr. Macray, I discovered a few real Jews in Cornwall in the third year of King John, 1202, namely, one Simon de Dena, one Deudone, the son of Samuel, and one Aaron. Some of their monetary transactions are recorded in the “Rotulus Cancellarii vel Antigraphum Magni Rotuli Pipæ de tertio anno Regni Regis Johannis” (printed under the direction of the Commissioners of the Public Records in 1863, p. 96), and we have here not only their names as evidence of their Jewish origin, but they are actually spoken of as prædictus Judens.” Their transactions, however, are purely financial, and do not lead us to suppose that the Jews, in order to make tin, condescended, in the time of King John or at any other time, to the drudgery of working in tin-mines.

July, 1867.

[pg 316]


St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall is so well known to most people, either from sight or from report, that a description of its peculiar features may be deemed almost superfluous; but in order to start fair, I shall quote a short account from the pen of an eminent geologist, Mr. Pengelly, to whom I shall have to refer frequently in the course of this paper.

“St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, he says, “is an island at very high water, and, with rare exceptions, a peninsula at very low water. The distance from Marazion Cliff, the nearest point of the mainland, to spring-tide high-water mark on its own strand, is about 1680 feet. The total isthmus consists of the outcrop of highly inclined Devonian slate and associated rocks, and in most cases is covered with a thin layer of gravel or sand. At spring-tides, in still weather, it is at high-water about twelve feet below, and at low-water six feet above, the sea level. In fine weather it is dry from four to five hours every tide; but occasionally, during very stormy weather and neap tides, it is impossible to cross from the mainland for two or three days together.”

[pg 317]

“The Mount is an outlier of granite, measuring at its base about five furlongs in circumference, and rising to the height of one hundred and ninety-five feet above mean tide. At high-water it plunges abruptly into the sea, except on the north or landward side, where the granite comes into contact with slate. Here there is a small plain occupied by a village.... The country immediately behind or north of the town of Marazion consists of Devonian strata, traversed by traps and elvans, and attains a considerable elevation.”

At the meeting of the British Association in 1865, Mr. Pengelly, in a paper on “The Insulation of St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall,” maintained that the change which converted that Mount from a promontory into an island must have taken place, not only within the human period, but since Cornwall was occupied by a people speaking the Cornish language. As a proof of this somewhat startling assertion, he adduced the ancient British name of St. Michael's Mount, signifying the Hoar rock in the wood. Nobody would think of applying such a name to the Mount in its present state; and as we know that during the last two thousand years the Mount has been, as it is now, an island at high, and a promontory at low tide, it would indeed seem to follow that its name must have been framed before the destruction of the ancient forest by which it was once surrounded, and before the separation of the Mount from the mainland.

Sir Henry James, in a “Note on the Block of Tin dredged in Falmouth Harbor,” asserts, it is true, that there are trees growing on the Mount in sufficient numbers to have justified the ancient descriptive name of “the Hoar rock in the wood;” but though there are traces of trees visible on the engravings published [pg 318] a hundred years ago, in Dr. Borlase's “Antiquities of Cornwall,” these are most likely due to artistic embellishment only. At present no writer will discover in St. Michael's Mount what could fairly be called either trees or a wood, even in Cornwall.

That the geographical change from a promontory into a real island did not take place during the last two thousand years, is proved by the description which Diodorus Siculus, a little before the Christian era, gives of St. Michael's Mount. “The inhabitants of the promontory of Belerium,” he says (lib. v. c. 22), “were hospitable, and, on account of their intercourse with strangers, eminently civilized in their habits. These are the people who work the tin, which they melt into the form of astragali, and then carry it to an island in front of Britain, called Ictis. This island is left dry at low tide, and they then transport the tin in carts from the shore. Here the traders buy it from the natives, and carry it to Gaul, over which it travels on horseback in about thirty days to the mouths of the Rhone.” That the Island of Ictis, described by Diodorus, is St. Michael's Mount, seems, to say the least, very probable, and was at last admitted even by the late Sir G. C. Lewis. In fact, the description which Diodorus gives answers so completely to what St. Michael's Mount is at the present day, that few would deny that if the Mount ever was a “Hoar rock in the wood,” it must have been so before the time of which Diodorus speaks, that is, at least before the last two thousand years. The nine apparent reasons why St. Michael's Mount cannot be the Ictis of Diodorus, and their refutation, may be seen in Mr. Pengelly's paper “On the Insulation of St. Michael's Mount,” p. 6, seq.

Mr. Pengelly proceeded to show that the geological [pg 319] change which converted the promontory into an island may be due to two causes. First, it may have taken place in consequence of the encroachment of the sea. This would demand a belief that at least 20,000 years ago Cornwall was inhabited by men who spoke Cornish. Secondly, this change may have taken place by a general subsidence of the land, and this is the opinion adopted by Mr. Pengelly. No exact date was assigned to this subsidence, but Mr. Pengelly finished by expressing his decided opinion that, subsequent to a period when Cornwall was inhabited by a race speaking a Celtic language, St. Michael's Mount was “a hoar rock in the wood,” and has since become insulated by powerful geological changes.

In a more recent paper read at the Royal Institution (April 5, 1867), Mr. Pengelly has somewhat modified his opinion. Taking for granted that at some time or other St. Michael's Mount was a peninsula and not yet an island, he calculates that it must have taken 16,800 years before the coast line could have receded from the Mount to the present cliffs. He arrived at this result by taking the retrocession of the cliffs at ten feet in a century, the distance between the Mount and the mainland being at present 1,680 feet.

If, however, the severance of the Mount from the mainland was the result, not of retrocession, but of the subsidence of the country,—a rival theory which Mr. Pengelly still admits as possible,—the former calculation would fail, and the only means of fixing the date of this severance would be supplied by the remains found in the forests that were carried down by that subsidence, and which are supposed to belong to the mammoth era. This mammoth era, we are told, is anterior to the lake-dwellings of Switzerland, and the [pg 320] kitchenmiddens of Denmark, for in neither of these have any remains of the mammoth been discovered. The mammoth, in fact, did not outlive the age of bronze, and before the end of that age, therefore, St. Michael's Mount must be supposed to have become an island.

In all these discussions it is taken for granted that St. Michael's Mount was at one time unquestionably a “hoar rock in the wood,” and that the land between the Mount and the mainland was once covered by a forest which extended along the whole of the seaboard. That there are submerged forests along that seaboard is attested by sufficient geological evidence; but I have not been able to discover any proof of the unbroken continuity of that shore-forest, still less of the presence of vegetable remains in the exact locality which is of interest to us, namely between the Mount and the mainland. It is true that Dr. Borlase discovered the remains of trunks of trees on the 10th of January, 1757; but he tells us that these forest trees were not found round the Mount, but midway betwixt the piers of St. Michael's Mount and Penzance, that is to say, about one mile distant from the Mount; also, that one of them was a willow-tree with the bark on it, another a hazel-branch with the bark still fat and glossy. The place where these trees were found was three hundred yards below full-sea mark, where the water is twelve feet deep when the tide is in.

Carew, also, at an earlier date, speaks of roots of mighty trees found in the sand about the Mount, but without giving the exact place. Lelant (1533-40) knows of “Spere Heddes, Axis for Warre, and Swerdes of Copper wrapped up in lynist, scant perishid,” that had been found of late years near the [pg 321] Mount, in St. Hilary's parish, in tin works; but he places the land that had been devoured of the sea between Penzance and Mousehole, i.e. more than two miles distant from the Mount.

The value of this kind of geological evidence must of course be determined by geologists. It is quite possible that the remains of trunks of trees may still be found on the very isthmus between the Mount and the mainland; but it is, to say the least, curious that, even in the absence of such stringent evidence, geologists should feel so confident that the Mount once stood on the mainland, and that exactly the same persuasion should have been shared by people long before the name of geology was known. There is a powerful spell in popular traditions, against which even men of science are not always proof, and is just possible that if the tradition of the “hoar rock in the wood” had not existed, no attempts would have been made to explain the causes that severed St. Michael's Mount from the mainland. But even then the question remains, How was it that people quite guiltless of geology should have framed the popular name of the Mount, and the popular tradition of its former connection with the mainland? Leaving, therefore, for the present all geological evidence out of view, it will be an interesting inquiry to find out, if possible, how people that could not have been swayed by any geological theories, should have been led to believe in the gradual insulation of St. Michael's Mount.

The principal argument brought forward by non-geological writers in support of the former existence of a forest surrounding the Mount, is the Cornish name of St. Michael's Mount, Cara clowse in cowse, which in Cornish is said to mean “the hoar rock in the wood.” [pg 322] In his paper read before the British Association at Manchester, Mr. Pengelly adduced that very name as irrefragable evidence that Cornish, i.e. a Celtic language, an Aryan language, was spoken in the extreme west of Europe about 20,000 years ago. In his more recent paper Mr. Pengelly has given up this position, and he considers it improbable that any philologer could now give a trustworthy translation of a language spoken 20,000 years ago. This may be or not; but before we build any hypothesis on that Cornish name, the first question which an historian has to answer is clearly this:—

What authority is there for that name? Where does it occur for the first time? and does it really mean what it is supposed to mean?

Now the first mention of the Cornish name, as far as I am aware, occurs in Richard Carew's “Survey of Cornwall,” which was published in 1602. It is true that Camden's “Britannia” appeared earlier, in 1586, and that Camden (p. 72), too, mentions “the Mons Michaelis, Dinsol olim, ut in libro Landavensi habetur, incolis Careg Cowse,90 i.e. rupis cana.” But it will be seen that he leaves out the most important part of the old name, nor can there be much doubt that Camden received his information about Cornwall direct from Carew, before Carew's “Survey of Cornwall” was published.

After speaking of “the countrie of Lionesse which the sea hath ravined from Cornwall betweene the lands end and the Isles of Scilley,” Carew continues (p. 3), “Moreover, the ancient name of Saint Michael's Mount was Cara-clowse in Cowse, in English, [pg 323] The hoare Rocke in the Wood; which now is at everie floud incompassed by the Sea, and yet at some low ebbes, rootes of mightie trees are discryed in the sands about it. The like overflowing hath happened in Plymmouth Haven, and divers other places.” Now while in this place Carew gives the name Cara-clowse in Cowse, it is very important to remark that on page 154, he speaks of it again as Cara Cowz in Clowze, that is, the hoare rock in the wood.”

The original Cornish name, whether it was Cara clowse in Cowse, or Cara Cowz in Clowze, cannot be traced back beyond the end of the sixteenth century, for the Cornish Pilchard song in which the name likewise occurs is much more recent, at least in that form in which we possess it. The tradition, however, that St. Michael's Mount stood in a forest, and even the Saxon designation, “the Hoar rock in the wood,” can be followed up to an earlier date.

At least one hundred and twenty-five years before Carew's time, William of Worcester, though not mentioning the Cornish name, not only gives the Mount the name of “hoar rock of the wood,” but states distinctly that St. Michael's Mount was formerly six miles distant from the sea, and surrounded by a dense forest: PREDICTUS LOCUS OPACISSIMA PRIMO CLAUDEBATUR SYLVA, AB OCEANO MILIARIBUS DISTANS SEX.” As William of Worcester never mentions the Cornish name, it is not likely that his statement should merely be derived from the supposed meaning of Cara Cowz in Clowze, and it is but fair to admit that he may have drawn from a safer source of information. We must therefore inquire more closely into the credibility of this important witness. He is an important witness, for, if it were not for him, I believe we should never [pg 324] have heard of the insulation of St. Michael's Mount at all. The passage in question occurs in William of Worcester's Itinerary, the original MS. of which is preserved in Corpus Christi College at Cambridge. It was printed at Cambridge by James Nasmith, in the year 1778, from the original MS., but, as it would seem, without much care. William Botoner, or, as he is commonly called, William of Worcester, was born at Bristol in 1415, and educated at Oxford about 1434. He was a member of the Aula Cervina, which at that time belonged to Balliol College. His “Itinerarium” is dated 1478. It hardly deserves the grand title which it bears, “Itinerarium, sive liber memorabilium Will. W. in viagio de Bristol usque ad montem St. Michaelis.” It is not a book of travels in our sense of the word, and it was hardly destined for the public in the form in which we possess it. It is simply a notebook in which William entered anything that interested him during his journey; and it contains not only his own observations, but all sorts of extracts, copies, notices, thrown together without any connecting thread. He hardly tells us that he has arrived at St. Michael's Mount before he begins to copy a notice which he found posted up in the church. This notice informed all comers that Pope Gregory had remitted a third of their penances to all who should visit this church and give to it benefactions and alms. It can be fully proved that this notice, which was intended to attract pilgrims and visitors, repeats ipsissimis verbis the charter of Leofric, Bishop of Exeter, who exempted the church and convent from all episcopal jurisdiction. This was in the year 1088, when St. Michael's Mount was handed over by Robert, Earl of Mortain, half-brother of William the Conqueror, to the Abbey of St. [pg 325] Michel in Normandy. This charter may be seen in Dr. Oliver's “Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis,” 1846. The passage copied by William of Worcester from a notice in the church of St. Michael's Mount occurs at the end of the original charter: Et omnibus illis qui illam ecclesiam suis cum beneficiis elemosinis expetierint et visitaverint, tertiam partem penitentiarum condonamus.

Though it is not quite correct to say that this condonation was granted by Pope Gregory, yet it is perfectly true that it was granted by the Bishop of Exeter at the command and exhortation of the Pope, Jussione et exhortatione domini reverentissimi Gregorii.” The date also given by William, 1070, cannot be correct, for Gregory occupied the papal throne from 1073-86. It was Gregory VII., not Gregory VI., as printed by Dr. Oliver.

Immediately after this memorandum in William's diary we meet with certain notes on the apparitions of St. Michael. He does not say from what source he takes his information on the subject, but we may suppose that he either repeated what he heard from the monks in conversation, or that he copied from some MS. in their library. In either case it is startling to read that there was an apparition of the Archangel St. Michael in Mount Tumba, formerly called the Horerock in the wodd. St. Michael seems indeed to have paid frequent visits to his worshippers, if we may trust the “Chronicon apparitionum et gestorum S. Michaelis Archangeli,” published by Mich. Naveus, in 1632. Yet his visits were not made at random, and even Naveus finds it difficult to substantiate any apparition of St. Michael so far north as Cornwall, except by invectives against the impudenta et ignorantia of Protestant heretics who dared to doubt such occurrences.

[pg 326]

But this short sentence of William contains one word which is of great importance for our purposes. He says that “the Hore-rock in the wodd” was formerly called Tumba. Is there any evidence of this?

The name Tumba, as far as we know, belonged originally to Mont St. Michel in Normandy. There a famous and far better authenticated apparition of St. Michael is related to have taken place in the year 708, which led to the building of a church and monastery by Autbert, Bishop of Avranches. The church was built in close imitation of the Church of St. Michael in Mount Garganus in Apulia, which had been founded as early as 493.91 If, therefore, William of Worcester relates an apparition of St. Michael in Cornwall at about the same date, in 710, it is clear that Mont St. Michel in Normandy has here been confounded by him with St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. In order to explain this strange confusion, and the consequences which it entailed, it will be necessary to bear in mind the peculiar relations which existed between the two ecclesiastical establishments, perched the one on the island rock of St. Michel in Normandy, the other on St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. In physical structure there is a curious resemblance between the two mounts. Both are granite islands, and both so near the coast that at low water a dry passage is open to them from the mainland. The Mount on the Norman coast is larger and more distant from the coast than St. Michael's Mount, yet for all that their general likeness is very striking. Now Mont St. Michel was called Tumba at least as far back as the tenth century. Mabillon, in his “Annales Benedictini” (vol. ii. p. 18), quotes from an ancient author the following explanation [pg 327] of the name. “Now this place, to use the words of an ancient author, is called Tumba by the inhabitants, because, emerging as it were from the sands like a hill, it rises up by the space of two hundred cubits, everywhere surrounded by the ocean; it is six miles distant from the shore, between the mouths of the rivers Segia and Senuna, six miles distant from Avranches, looking westward, and dividing Avranches from Brittany. Here the sea by its recess allows twice a passage to the pious people who proceed to the threshold of St. Michael the Archangel.” “Hic igitur locus, ut verbis antiqui autoris utar, Tumba vocitatur ab incolis, ideo quod in morem tumuli, quasi ab arenis emergens, ad altum SPATIO DUCENTORUM CUBITORUM porrigitur, OCEANO UNDIQUE CINCTUS, SEX MILLIBUS AB ÆSTU OCEANI, inter ostia situs, ubi immergunt se mari flumina Segia (Sée) et Senuna (Selure), ab Abrincatensi urbe (Avranches) sex distans millibus; oceanum prospectans, Abrincatensem pagum dirimit a Britannia. Illic mare suo recessu devotis populis desideratum bis præbet iter petentibus limina beati Michaelis archangeli.”

This fixes Tumba as the name of Mont St. Michel before the tenth century, for the ancient author from whom Mabillon quotes wrote before the middle of the tenth century, and before Duke Richard had replaced the priests of St. Michel by Benedictine monks. Tumba remained, in fact, the recognized name of the Norman Mount, and has survived to the present day. The church and monastery there were called in monte Tumba,” or ad duas Tumbas,” there being in reality two islands, the principal one called Tumba, the smaller Tumbella or Tumbellana. This name of Tumbellana was afterwards changed into [pg 328] tumba Helenæ, giving rise to various legends about Elaine, one of the heroines of the Arthurian cycle; nay, the name was cited by learned antiquarians as a proof of the ancient worship of Belus in these northern latitudes.

The history of Mont St. Michel in Normandy is well authenticated, particularly during the period which is of importance to us. Mabillon, quoting from the chronicler who wrote before the middle of the tenth century, relates how Autbert, the Bishop of Avranches, had a vision, and after having been thrice admonished by St. Michael, proceeded to build on the summit of the Mount a church under the patronage of the Archangel. This was in 708, or possibly a few years earlier, if Pagius is right in fixing the dedication of the temple in 707.92 Mabillon points out that this chronicler says nothing as yet of the miracles related by later writers, particularly of the famous hole in the Bishop's skull, which it was believed St. Michael had made when on exhorting him the third time to build his church, he gently touched him with his archangelic finger. In doing this the finger went through the skull, and left a hole. The perforated skull did not interfere with the Bishop's health, and it was shown after his death as a valuable relic. The new church was dedicated by Autbert himself, and the day of the dedication (xvii. Kalend. Novemb.) was celebrated, not only in France, but also in England, as is shown by a decree of the Synod held at Oxford in 1222. The further history of the church and monastery of St. Michel may be read with all its minute details in Mabillon, or in the “Neustria Pia” (p. 371), or in the “Gallia Christiana” (vol. ix. p. [pg 329] 517 E, 870 A). What is of interest to us is that soon after the Conquest, when the ecclesiastical property of England had fallen into the hands of her Norman conquerors, Robert, Earl of Mortain and Cornwall, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, endowed the Norman with the Cornish Mount. A priory of Benedictine monks had existed on the Cornish Mount for some time, and had been richly endowed in 1044 by Edward the Confessor. Nay, if we may trust the charter of Edward the Confessor, it would seem that, even at that time, the Cornish Mount and its priory had been granted by him to the Norman Abbey, for the charter is witnessed by Norman bishops, and its original is preserved in the Abbey of Mont St. Michel. In that case William the Conqueror or his half-brother Robert would only have restored the Cornish priory to its rightful owners, the monks of Mont St. Michel, who had well deserved the gratitude of the Conqueror by supplying him after the Conquest with six ships and a number of monks, destined to assist in the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline in England. After that time the Cornish priory shared the fate of other so-called alien priories or cells. The prior was bound to visit in person or by proxy the mother-house every year, and to pay sixteen marks of silver as an acknowledgment of dependence. Whenever a war broke out between England and France, the foreign priories were seized, though some, and among them the priory of St. Michael's Mount obtained in time a distinct corporate character, and during the reigns of Henry IV. and Henry V. were exempted from seizure during war.

Under these circumstances we can well understand how in the minds of the monks, who spent their lives [pg 330] partly in the mother-house, partly in its dependencies, there was no very clear perception of any difference between the founders, benefactors, and patrons of these twin establishments. A monk brought up at Mont St. Michel would repeat as an old man the legends he had heard about St. Michel and Bishop Autbert, even though he was ending his days in the priory of the Cornish Mount. Relics and books would likewise travel from one place to the other, and a charter originally belonging to the one might afterwards form part of the archives of another house.

After these preliminary remarks, let us look again at the memoranda which William of Worcester made at St. Michael's Mount, and it will appear that what we anticipated has actually happened, and that a book originally belonging to Mont St. Michel in Normandy, and containing the early history of that monastery, was transferred (either in the original or in a copy) to Cornwall, and there used by William of Worcester in the belief that it contained the early history of the Cornish Mount and the Cornish priory.

The Memorandum of William of Worcester runs thus: “Apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Tumba, antea vocata le Hore-rok in the wodd; et fuerunt tam boscus quarn prata et terra arabilis inter dictum montem et insulas Syllye, et fuerunt 140 ecclesias parochiales inter istum montem et Sylly submersse.

“Prima apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Gorgon in regno Apuliae fuit anno Christi 391. Secunda apparicio fuit circa annum domini 710 in Tumba in Cornubia juxta mare.

“Tertia apparicio Romæ fuit; tempore Gregorii papæ legitur accidisse: nam tempore magnæ pestilenciæ, etc.

[pg 331]

“Quarta apparicio fuit in ierarchiis nostrorum angelorum.

“Spacium loci mentis Sancti Michaelis est DUCENTORUM CUBITORUM UNDIQUE OCEANO CINCTUM, et religiosi monachi dicti loci. Abrincensis antistes Aubertus nomine, ut in honore Sancti Michaelis construeret ... predictus LOCUS OPACISSIMA PRIMO CLAUDEBATUR SYLVA, AB OCEANO MILIARIBUS DISTANS SEX, aptissimam prasbens latebram ferarum, in quo loco olim comperimus MONACHOS domino servientes.”

The text is somewhat corrupt and fragmentary, but may be translated as follows:—

“The apparition of St. Michael in the Mount Tumba, formerly called the Hore-rock in the wodd; and there were a forest and meadows and arable land between the said mount and the Syllye Isles, and there were 140 parochial churches swallowed by the sea between that mount and Sylly.

“The first apparition of St. Michael in Mount Gorgon in the Kingdom of Apulia was in the year 391. The second apparition was about the year 710, in Tumba in Cornwall by the sea.

“The third apparition is said to have happened at Rome in the time of Pope Gregory: for at the time of the great pestilence, etc.

“The fourth apparition was in the hierarchies of our angels.

“The space of St. Michael's Mount is 200 cubits; it is everywhere surrounded by the sea, and there are religious monks of that place. The head of Abrinca, Aubertus by name, that he might erect a church93 in [pg 332] honor of St. Michael. The aforesaid place was at first enclosed by a very dense forest, six miles distant from the ocean, furnishing a good retreat for wild animals. In which place we heard that formerly monks serving the Lord,” etc.

The only way to explain this jumble is to suppose that William of Worcester made these entries in his diary while walking up and down in the Church of St. Michael's Mount, and listening to one of the monks, reading to him from a MS. which had been brought from Normandy, and referred in reality to the early history of the Norman, but not of the Cornish Mount. The first line, “Apparicio Sancti Michaelis in monte Tumba,” was probably the title or the heading of the MS. Then William himself added, “antea vocata le Hore-rok in the wodd,” a name which he evidently heard on the spot, and which no doubt conveyed to him the impression that the rock had formerly stood in the midst of a wood. For instead of continuing his account of the apparitions of St. Michael, he quotes a tradition in support of the former existence of a forest surrounding the Mount. Only, strange to say, instead of producing the evidence which he produced afterwards in confirmation of St. Michael's Mount having been surrounded by a dense forest, he here gives the tradition about Lionesse, the sunken land between the Land's End and the Scylly Isles. This is evidently a mistake, for no other writer ever supposed the sunken land of Lionesse to have reached as far as St. Michael's Mount.

Then follows the entry about the four apparitions of St. Michael. Here we must read in monte Gargano instead of in monte Gorgon.” Opinions vary as to the exact date of the apparition in Mount Garganus [pg 333] in the South of Italy, but 391 is certainly far too early, and has to be changed into 491 or 493. In the second apparition, all is right, if we leave out “in Cornubia juxta mare,” which was added either by William or by the monk who was showing him the book. It refers to the well-known apparition of St. Michael at Avranches. The third and fourth apparitions are of no consequence to us.

As we read on, we come next to William's own measurements, fixing the extent of St. Michael's Mount at two hundred cubits. After that we are met by a passage which, though it hardly construes, can be understood in one sense only, namely, as giving an account of the Abbey of St. Michel in Normandy. I suppose it is not too bold if I recognize in Aubertus Autbertus, and in Abrincensis antistes, the Abrincatensis episcopus or antistes, the Bishop of Avranches.

Now it is well known that the Mont St. Michel in Normandy was believed to have been originally surrounded by forests and meadows. Du Moustier in the “Neustria Pia” relates (p. 371), “Hæc rupes antiquitus Mons erat cinctus sylvis et saltibus,” “This rock was of old a mount surrounded by forests and meadows.” But this is not all. In the old chronicle of Mont St. Michel, quoted by Mabillon, which was written before the middle of the tenth century, the same account is given; and if we compare that account with the words used by William of Worcester, we can no longer doubt that the old chronicle, or, it may be, a copy of it, had been brought from France to England, and that what was intended for a description of the Norman abbey and its neighborhood was taken, intentionally or unintentionally, as a description of the Cornish Mount. These are the words of the Norman chronicler, as [pg 334] quoted by Mabillon, compared with the passage in William of Worcester:—

Mont St. Michel. St. Michael's Mount.
“Addit idem auctor hunc locum OPACISSIMA OLIM SILVA CLAUSUM fuisse, et MONACHOS IBIDEM INHABITASSE duasque ad suum usque tempus exstitisse ecclesias quas illi scilicet monachi incolebant.” “Predictus LOCUS OPACISSIMA OLIM CLAUDEBATUR Sylva ab oceano miliaribus distans sex, aptissimam præbens latebram ferarum, in quo loco olim comperimus MONACHOS DOMINO SERVIENTES.

“The same author adds that this place was formerly inclosed by a very dense forest, and that monks dwelt there, and that two churches existed there up to his own time, which those monks inhabited.”

The words CLAUSUM OPACISSIMA SILVA are decisive. The phrase AB OCEANO MILIARIBUS DISTANS SEX, too, is taken from an earlier passage of the same author, quoted above, which passage may likewise have supplied the identical phrases OCEANO UNDIQUE CINCTUS, and the SPATIUM DUCENTORUM CUBITORUM, which are hardly applicable to St. Michael's Mount. The “two churches still existing in Mont St. Michel,” had to be left out, for there was no trace of them in St. Michael's Mount. But the monks who lived in them were retained, and to give a little more life, the wild beasts were added. Even the expression of antistes instead of episcopus occurs in the original, where we read, “Hæc loci facies erat ante sancti Michaelis apparitionem hoc anno factam religiosissimo Autberto Abrincatensi episcopo, admonentis se velle ut sibi in ejus montis vertice ecclesia sub ipsius patrocinio erigeretur. Hærenti ANTISTITI tertio idem intimatum,” etc.

Thus vanishes the testimony of William of Worcester, so often quoted by Cornish antiquarians, as to the dense forest by which St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall [pg 335] was once surrounded, and all the evidence that remains to substantiate the former presence of trees on and around the Cornish Mount is reduced to the name “the Hoar rock in the wood,” given by William, and the Cornish names of Cara clowse in Cowse or Cara Cowz in Clowze, given by Carew. How much or how little dependence can be placed on old Cornish names of places and their supposed meaning has been shown before in the case of Marazion. Carew certainly did not understand Cornish, nor did the people with whom he had intercourse; and there is no doubt that he wrote down the Cornish names as best he could, and without any attempt at deciphering their meaning. He was told that “Cara clowse in Cowse” meant the “Hoar rock in the Wood,” and he had no reason to doubt it. Even a very small knowledge of Cornish would have enabled Carew or anybody else at his time to find out that cowz might be meant for the Cornish word for wood, and that careg was rock. Clowse too might easily be taken in the sense of gray, as gray in Cornish was glos. Then why should we hesitate to accept Cara clowse in cowse as the ancient Cornish name of the Mount, and why object to Mr. Pengelly's argument that it must have been given at a time when the Mount was surrounded by a very dense forest, and that a fortiori at that distant period Cornish must have been the spoken language of Cornwall?

The first objection is that the old word for “wood” in Cornish was cuit with a final t, and that the change of a final t into z is a phonetic corruption which takes place only in the later stage of the Cornish language. The ancient Cornish cuit, “wood,” occurs in Welsh as coed, in Armorican as koat and koad, and is supposed to exist in Cornish names of places, such as Penquite, [pg 336] Kilquite, etc. Cowz, therefore, could not have occurred in a Cornish name supposed to have been formed at least 2,000 if not 20,000 years ago.

This thrust might, no doubt, be parried by saying that the name of the Mount would naturally change with the general changes of the Cornish language. Yet this is not always the case with proper names, as may be seen by the names just quoted, Penquite and Kilquite. At all events, we begin to see how uncertain is the ground on which we stand.

If we take the facts, scanty and uncertain as they are, we may admit that, at the time of William of Worcester, the Mount had most likely a Latin, a Cornish, and a Saxon appellation. It is curious that William should say nothing of a Cornish name, but only quote the Saxon one. However, this Saxon name, “the Hoar rock in the Wood” sounds decidedly like a translation, and is far too long and cumbrous for a current name. Michelstow is mentioned by others as the Saxon name of the Mount (Naveus, p. 233). The Latin name given to the Mount, but only after it had become a dependency of Mont St. Michel in Normandy, was, as we saw from William of Worcester's diary, Mons Tumba or Mons Tumba in Cornubia, and after his time the name of St. Michael in Tumbâ or in Monte Tumbâ is certainly used promiscuously for the Cornish and Norman mounts.94 Now tumba, after [pg 337] meaning hillock, became the recognized name for tomb, and the mediæval Latin tumba, too, was always understood in that sense. If, therefore, the name “Mons in tumba” had to be rendered in Cornish for the benefit of the Cornish-speaking monks of the Benedictine priory, tumba would actually be taken in the sense of tomb. One form of the Cornish name, as preserved by Carew, is Cara cowz in clowze; and this, if interpreted without any preconceived opinion, would mean in Cornish “the old rock of the tomb.” Cara stands for carak, a rock. Cowz is meant for coz, the modern Cornish and Armorican form corresponding to the ancient Cornish coth, old.95 Clowze is a modern and somewhat corrupt form in Cornish, corresponding to the Welsh clawdh, a tomb. Cladh-va, in Cornish, means a burying-place; and cluddu, to bury, has been preserved as a Cornish verb, corresponding to the Welsh cladhu. In Gaelic, too, cladh is a tomb or burying-place; and in Armorican, which generally follows the same phonetic changes as the Cornish, we actually find kleuz and klôz for tomb or inclosure. (See Le Gonidec, “Dict. Breton-Français,” s. v.) The en might either be the Cornish preposition yn, or it may have been intended for the article in the genitive, an. The old rock in the tomb, i.e. in tumbâ, or the old rock of the tomb, Cornish carag goz an cloz, would be intelligible and natural renderings of the Latin Mons in tumba.

But though this would fully account for the origin of the Cornish name as preserved by Carew, it would still leave the Saxon appellation the “Hore rock in the wodd” unexplained. How could William of Worcester [pg 338] have got hold of this name? Let us remember that William does not mention any Cornish name of the Mount, and that nothing is ever said at his time of the “Hore rock in the wodd” being a translation of an old Cornish name. All we know is that the monks of the Mount used that name, and it is hardly likely that so long and cumbrous a name should ever have been used much by the people in the neighborhood. How the monks of St. Michael's Mount came to call their place the “Hore rock in the wodd” at the time of William of Worcester, and probably long before his time, is, however, not difficult to explain, after we have seen how they transferred the traditions which originally referred to Mont St. Michel to their own monastery. Having told the story of the sylva opacissima by which their mount was formerly surrounded to many visitors, as they told it to William of Worcester, the name of the “Hore rock in the wodd” might easily spring up among them, and be kept up within the walls of their priory. Nor is there any evidence that in this peculiar form the name ever spread beyond their walls. But it is possible that here, too, language may have played some tricks. The number of people who used these names and kept them alive can never have been large, and hence they were exposed much more to accidents arising from ignorance and individual caprice than names of villages or towns which are in the keeping of hundreds and thousands of people. The monks of St. Michael's Mount may in time have forgotten the exact purport of “Cara cowz in clowze,” “the old rock of the tomb,” really the “Mons in tumba;” and their minds being full of the old forest by which they believed their island, like Mont St. Michel, to have been formerly surrounded, [pg 339] what wonder if cara cowz in clowze glided away into cara clowse in cowze, and thus came to confirm the old tradition of the forest. For cowz would at once be taken as the modern Cornish word for wood, corresponding to the old Cornish cuit, while clowse might, with a little effort, be identified with the Cornish glos, gray, the Armorican glâz. Carew, it should be observed, sanctions both forms, the original one, cara cowz in clowze, “the old rock of the tomb,” and the other cara clowse in cowze, meaning possibly “the gray rock in the wood.” The sound of the two is so like that, particularly to the people not very familiar with the language, the substitution of one for the other would come very naturally; and as a reason could more easily be given for the latter than for the former name, we need not be surprised if in the few passages where the name occurs after Carew's time, the secondary name, apparently confirming the monkish legend of the dense forest that once surrounded St. Michael's Mount, should have been selected in preference to the former, which, but to a scholar and an antiquarian, sounded vague and meaningless.

If my object had been to establish any new historical fact, or to support any novel theory, I should not have indulged so freely in what to a certain extent may be called mere conjecture. But my object was only to point out the uncertainty of the evidence which Mr. Pengelly has adduced in support of a theory which would completely revolutionize our received views as to the early history of language and the migrations of the Aryan race. At first sight the argument used by Mr. Pengelly seems unanswerable. Here is St. Michael's Mount, which, according to geological evidence, may formerly have been part [pg 340] of the mainland. Here is an old Cornish name for St. Michael's Mount, which means “the gray rock in the wood.” Such a name, it might well be argued, could not have been given to the island after it had ceased to be a gray rock in the wood; therefore it must have been given previous to the date which geological chronology fixes for the insulation of St. Michael's Mount. That date varies from 16,000 to 20,000 years ago. And as the name is Cornish, it follows that Cornish-speaking people must have lived in Cornwall at that early geological period.

Nothing, as I said, could sound more plausible; but before we yield to the argument, we must surely ask, Is there no other way of explaining the names Cara cowz in clowze and Cara clowse in cowze? And here we find—

(1.) That the legend of the dense forest by which the Mount was believed to have been surrounded existed, so far as we know, before the earliest occurrence of the Cornish name, and that it owes its origin entirely to a mistake which can be accounted for by documentary evidence. A legend told of Mont St. Michel had been transferred ipsissimis verbis to St. Michael's Mount, and the monks of that priory repeated the story which they found in their chronicle to all who came to visit their establishment in Cornwall. They told the name, among others, to William of Worcester, and to prevent any incredulity on his part, they gave him chapter and verse from their chronicle, which he carefully jotted down in his diary.96

[pg 341]

(2.) We find that when the Cornish name first occurs, it lends itself, in one form, to a very natural interpretation, which does not give the meaning of “Hore rock in the wodd,” but shows the name Cara cowz in clowze to have been a literal rendering of the Latin name “Mons in tumba,” originally the name of Mont St. Michel, but at an early date applied in charters to St. Michael's Mount.

(3.) We find that the second form of the Cornish name, namely, cara clowse in cowze, may either be a merely metamorphic corruption of cara cowz in clowze, readily suggested and supported by the new meaning which it yielded of “gray rock in the wood;” or, even if we accept it as an original name, that it would be no more than a name framed by the Cornish-speaking monks of the Mount, in order to embody the same spurious tradition which had given rise to the name of “Hore rock in the wodd.”

I need hardly add that in thus arguing against Mr. Pengelly's conclusions, I do not venture to touch his geological arguments. St. Michael's Mount may have been united with the mainland; it may, for all we know, have been surrounded by a dense forest; and it may be perfectly possible geologically to fix the date when that forest was destroyed, and the Mount severed, so far as it is severed, from the Cornish coast. All I protest against is that any one of these facts could be proved, or even supported, by the Cornish name of the Mount, whether cara cowz in clowze, or cara clowse in cowze, or by the English name, communicated by William of Worcester, “the [pg 342] Hore rock in the wodd,” or finally by the legend which gave rise to these names, and which, as can be proved by irrefragable evidence, was transplanted by mistake from the Norman to the Cornish coast. The only question which, in conclusion, I should like to address to geologists, is this: As geologists are obliged to leave it doubtful whether the insulation of St. Michael's Mount was due to the washing of the sea-shore, or to a general subsidence of the country, may it not have been due to neither of these causes, and may not the Mount have always been that kind of half-island which it certainly was two thousand years ago?


[pg 343]


Ours is, no doubt, a forgetful age. Every day brings new events rushing in upon us from all parts of the world; and the hours of real rest, when we might ponder over the past, recall pleasant days, gaze again on the faces of those who are no more, are few indeed. Men and women disappear from this busy stage, and though for a time they had been the radiating centres of social, political, or literary life, their places are soon taken by others,—“the place thereof shall know them no more.” Few only appear again after a time, claiming once more our attention through the memoirs of their lives, and then either flitting away forever among the shades of the departed, or assuming afresh a power of life, a place in history, and an influence on the future often more powerful even than that which they exercised on the world while living in it. To call the great and good thus back from the grave is no easy task; it requires not only the power of a vates sacer, but the heart of a loving friend. Few [pg 344] men live great and good lives; still fewer can write them; nay, often, when they have been lived and have been written, the world passes by unheeding, as crowds will pass without a glance by the portraits of a Titian or a Van Dyke. Now and then, however, a biography takes root, and then acts, as a lesson, as no other lesson can act. Such biographies have all the importance of an Ecce Homo, showing to the world what man can be, and permanently raising the ideal of human life. It was so in England with the life of Dr. Arnold; it was so more lately with the life of Prince Albert; it will be the same with the life of Bunsen.

It seems but yesterday that Bunsen left England; yet it was in 1854 that his house in Carlton Terrace ceased to be the refreshing oasis in London life which many still remember, and that the powerful, thoughtful, beautiful, loving face of the Prussian Ambassador was seen for the last time in London society. Bunsen then retired from public life, and after spending six more years in literary work, struggling with death, yet reveling in life, he died at Bonn on the 28th of November, 1860. His widow has devoted the years of her solitude to the noble work of collecting the materials for a biography of her husband; and we have now in two large volumes all that could be collected, or, at least, all that could be conveniently published, of the sayings and doings of Bunsen, the scholar, the statesman, and, above all, the philosopher and the Christian. Throughout the two volumes the outward events are sketched by the hand of the Baroness Bunsen; but there runs, as between wooded hills, the main stream of Bunsen's mind, the outpourings of his heart, which were given so freely and fully in his letters to his friends. When such materials exist, there can be no more satisfactory [pg 345] kind of biography than that of introducing the man himself, speaking unreservedly to his most intimate friends on the great events of his life. This is an autobiography, in fact, free from all drawbacks. Here and there that process, it is true, entails a greater fullness of detail than is acceptable to ordinary readers, however highly Bunsen's own friends may value every line of his familiar letters. But general readers may easily pass over letters addressed to different persons, or treating of subjects less interesting to themselves, without losing the thread of the story of the whole life; while it is sometimes of great interest to see the same subject discussed by Bunsen in letters addressed to different people. One serious difficulty in these letters is that they are nearly all translations from the German, and in the process of translation some of the original charm is inevitably lost. The translations are very faithful, and they do not sacrifice the peculiar turn of German thought to the requirements of strictly idiomatic English. Even the narrative itself betrays occasionally the German atmosphere in which it was written, but the whole book brings back all the more vividly to those who knew Bunsen the language and the very expressions of his English conversation. The two volumes are too bulky, and one's arms ache while holding them; yet one is loth to put them down, and there will be few readers who do not regret that more could not have been told us of Bunsen's life.

All really great and honest men may be said to live three lives: there is one life which is seen and accepted by the world at large, a man's outward life; there is a second life which is seen by a man's most intimate friends, his household life; and there is a third life, seen only by the man himself and by Him [pg 346] who searcheth the heart, which maybe called the inner or heavenly life. Most biographers are and must be satisfied with giving the two former aspects of their hero's life,—the version of the world, and that of his friends. Both are important, both contain some truth, though neither of them the whole truth. But there is a third life, a life led in communion with God, a life of aspiration rather than of fulfillment,—that life which we see, for instance, in St. Paul, when he says, “The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” It is but seldom that we catch a glimpse of those deep springs of human character which cannot rise to the surface even in the most confidential intercourse, which in every-day life are hidden from a man's own sight, but which break forth when he is alone with his God in secret prayer,—aye, in prayers without words. Here lies the charm of Bunsen's life. Not only do we see the man, the father, the husband, the brother, that stands behind the ambassador, but we see behind the man his angel beholding the face of his Father which is in heaven. His prayers, poured forth in the critical moments of his life, have been preserved to us, and they show us what the world ought to know, that our greatest men can also be our best men, and that freedom of thought is not incompatible with sincere religion. Those who knew Bunsen well, know how that deep, religious undercurrent of his soul was constantly bubbling up and breaking forth in his conversations, startling even the mere worldling by an earnestness that frightened away every smile. It was said of him that he could drive out devils, and he certainly could, with his solemn, yet loving voice, soften hearts that would yield to no other appeal, and see with one look through that mask [pg 347] which man wears but too often in the masquerade of the world. Hence his numerous and enduring friendships, of which these volumes contain so many sacred relics. Hence that confidence reposed in him by men and women who had once been brought in contact with him. To those who can see with their eyes only, and not with their hearts, it may seem strange that Sir Robert Peel, shortly before his death, should have uttered the name of Bunsen. To those who know that England once had prime ministers who were found praying on their knees before they delivered their greatest speeches, Sir Robert Peel's recollection, or, it may be, desire of Bunsen in the last moments of his life has nothing strange. Bunsen's life was no ordinary life, and the memoirs of that life are more than an ordinary book. That book will tell in England and in Germany far more than in the Middle Ages the life of a new saint; nor are there many saints whose real life, if sifted as the life of Bunsen has been, would bear comparison with that noble character of the nineteenth century.

Bunsen was born in 1791 at Corbach, a small town in the small principality of Waldeck. His father was poor, but a man of independent spirit, of moral rectitude, and of deep religious convictions. Bunsen, the son of his old age, distinguished himself at school, and was sent to the University of Marburg at the age of seventeen. All he had then to depend on was an exhibition of about £7 a year, and a sum of £15, which his father had saved for him to start him in life. This may seem a small sum; but if we want to know how much of paternal love and self-denial it represented, we ought to read an entry in his father's diary: “Account of cash receipts by God's mercy [pg 348] obtained for transcribing law documents between 1793 and 1814,—sum total 3,020 thalers 23 groschen,” that is to say, about £22 per annum. Did any English Duke ever give his son a more generous allowance,—more than two-thirds of his own annual income? Bunsen began by studying divinity, and actually preached a sermon at Marburg, in the Church of St. Elizabeth. Students in divinity are required in Germany to preach sermons as part of their regular theological training, and before they are actually ordained. Marburg was not then a very efficient university, and, not finding there what he wanted, Bunsen after a year went to Göttingen, chiefly attracted by the fame of Heyne. He soon devoted himself entirely to classical studies: and in order to support himself,—for £7 per annum will not support even a German student,—he accepted the appointment of assistant teacher of Greek and Hebrew at the Göttingen gymnasium, and also became private tutor to a young American, Mr. Astor, the son of the rich American merchant. He was thus learning and teaching at the same time, and he acquired by his daily intercourse with his pupil a practical knowledge of the English language. While at Göttingen he carried off, in 1812, a prize for an essay on “The Athenian Law of Inheritance,” which attracted more than usual attention, and may, in fact, be looked upon as one of the first attempts at Comparative Jurisprudence. In 1713 he writes from Göttingen:—

Poor and lonely did I arrive in this place. Heyne received me, guided me, bore with me, encouraged me, showed me in himself the example of a high and noble energy and indefatigable activity in a calling which was not that to which his merit entitled him; he might have superintended and administered and maintained an entire kingdom.
[pg 349]

The following passage from the same letter deserves to be quoted as coming from the pen of a young man of twenty-two:—

Learning annihilates itself, and the most perfect is the first submerged; for the next age scales with ease the height which cost the preceding the full vigor of life.

After leaving the university Bunsen travelled in Germany with young Astor, and made the acquaintance of Frederic Schlegel at Vienna, of Jacobi, Schelling, and Thiersch at Munich. He was all that time continuing his own philological studies, and we see him at Munich attending lectures on Criminal Law, and making his first beginning in the study of Persian. When on the point of starting for Paris with his American pupil, the news of the glorious battle of Leipzig (October, 1813) disturbed their plans, and he resolved to settle again at Göttingen till peace should have been concluded. Here, while superintending the studies of Mr. Astor, he plunged into reading of the most varied character. He writes (p. 51):—

I remain firm, and strive after my earliest purpose in life, more felt, perhaps, than already discerned,—namely, to bring over into my own knowledge and into my own Fatherland the language and the spirit of the solemn and distant East. I would for the accomplishment of this object even quit Europe, in order to draw out of the ancient well that which I find not elsewhere.

This is the first indication of an important element in Bunsen's early life, his longing for the East, and his all but prophetic anticipation of the great results which a study of the ancient language of India would one day yield, and the light it would shed on the darkest pages in the ancient history of Greece, Italy, and Germany. The study of the Athenian law of inheritance seems first to have drawn his attention to the ancient codes of Indian law, and he was deeply [pg 350] impressed by the discovery that the peculiar system of inheritance which in Greece existed only in the petrified form of a primitive custom, sanctioned by law, disclosed in the laws of Manu its original purport and natural meaning. This one spark excited in Bunsen's mind that constant yearning after a knowledge of Eastern and more particularly of Indian literature which very nearly drove him to India in the same adventurous spirit as Anquetil Duperron and Czoma de Körös. We are now familiar with the great results that have been obtained by a study of the ancient languages and religion of the East; but in 1813 neither Bopp nor Grimm had begun to publish, and Frederic Schlegel was the only one who in his little pamphlet, “On the Language and the Wisdom of the Indians” (1808), had ventured to assert a real intellectual relationship between Europe and India. One of Bunsen's earliest friends, Wolrad Schumacher, related that even at school Bunsen's mind was turned towards India. “Sometimes he would let fall a word about India which was unaccountable to me, as at that time I connected only a geographical conception with that name” (p. 17).

While thus engaged in his studies at Göttingen, and working in company with such friends as Brandis, the historian of Greek philosophy; Lachmann, the editor of the New Testament; Lücke, the theologian; Ernst Schulze, the poet, and others,—Bunsen felt the influence of the great events that brought about the regeneration of Germany; nor was he the man to stand aloof, absorbed in literary work, while others were busy doing mischief difficult to remedy. The princes of Germany and their friends, though grateful to the people for having at last shaken off with fearful sacrifices [pg 351] the foreign yoke of Napoleon, were most anxious to maintain for their own benefit that convenient system of police government which for so long had kept the whole of Germany under French control. “It is but too certain,” Bunsen writes, “that either for want of good-will or of intelligence our sovereigns will not grant us freedom such as we deserve.... And I fear that, as before, the much-enduring German will become an object of contempt to all nations who know how to value national spirit.” His first political essays belong to that period. Up to August, 1814, Bunsen continued to act as private tutor to Mr. Astor, though we see him at the same time, with his insatiable thirst after knowledge, attending courses of lectures on astronomy, mineralogy, and other subjects apparently so foreign to the main current of his mind. When Mr. Astor left him to return to America, Bunsen went to Holland to see a sister to whom he was deeply attached, and who seems to have shared with him the same religious convictions which in youth, manhood, and old age formed the foundation of Bunsen's life. Some of Bunsen's detractors have accused him of professing Christian piety in circles where such professions were sure to be well received. Let them read now the annals of his early life, and they will find to their shame how boldly the same Bunsen professed his religious convictions among the students and professors of Göttingen, who either scoffed at Christianity or only tolerated it as a kind of harmless superstition. We shall only quote one instance:—

Bunsen, when a young student at Göttingen, once suddenly quitted a lecture in indignation at the unworthy manner in which the most sacred subjects were treated by one of the professors. The professor paused at the interruption, and hazarded the remark that some one belonging to the Old Testament [pg 352] had possibly slipped in unrecognized. That called forth a burst of laughter from the entire audience, all being as well aware as the lecturer himself who it was that had mortified him.

During his stay in Holland, Bunsen not only studied the language and literature of that country, but his mind was also much occupied in observing the national and religious character of this small but interesting branch of the Teutonic race. He writes:—

In all things the German, or, if you will, the Teutonic character is worked out into form in a manner more decidedly national than anywhere else.... This journey has yet more confirmed my decision to become acquainted with the entire Germanic race, and then to proceed with the development of my governing ideas (i.e. the study of Eastern languages in elucidation of Western thought). For this purpose I am about to travel with Brandis to Copenhagen to learn Danish, and, above all, Icelandic.

And so he did. The young student, as yet without any prospects in life, threw up his position at Göttingen, declined to waste his energies as a schoolmaster, and started, we hardly know how, on his journey to Denmark. There, in company with Brandis, he lived and worked hard at Danish, and then attacked the study of the ancient Icelandic language and literature with a fervor and with a purpose that shrank from no difficulty. He writes (p. 79):—

The object of my research requires the acquisition of the whole treasures of language, in order to complete my favorite linguistic theories, and to inquire into the poetry and religious conceptions of German-Scandinavian heathenism, and their historical connection with the East.

When his work in Denmark was finished, and when he had collected materials, some of which, as his copy taken of the “Völuspa,” a poem of the Edda, were not published till forty years later, he started with Brandis for Berlin. “Prussia,” he writes on the [pg 353] 10th of October, 1815, “is the true Germany.” Thither he felt drawn, as well as Brandis, and thither he invited his friends, though, it must be confessed, without suggesting to them any settled plan of how to earn their daily bread. He writes as if he was even then at the head of affairs in Berlin, though he was only the friend of a friend of Niebuhr's, Niebuhr himself being by no means all powerful in Prussia, even in 1815. This hopefulness was a trait in Bunsen's character that remained through life. A plan was no sooner suggested to him and approved by him than he took it for granted that all obstacles must vanish, and many a time did all obstacles vanish, before the joyous confidence of that magician, a fact that should be remembered by those who used to blame him as sanguine and visionary. One of his friends, Lücke, writes to Ernst Schulze, the poet, whom Bunsen had invited to Denmark, and afterwards to Berlin:—

In the inclosed richly filled letter you will recognize Bunsen's power and splendor of mind, and you will also not fail to perceive his thoughtlessness in making projects. He and Brandis are a pair of most amiable speculators, full of affection; but one must meet them with the ne quid nimis.

However, Bunsen in his flight was not to be scared by any warning or checked by calculating the chances of success or failure. With Brandis he went to Berlin, spent the glorious winter from 1815 to 1816 in the society of men like Niebuhr and Schleiermacher, and became more and more determined in his own plan of life, which was to study Oriental languages in Paris, London, or Calcutta, and then to settle at Berlin as Professor of Universal History. A full statement of his literary labors, both for the past and for the future, was drawn up by him, to be submitted to Niebuhr, [pg 354] and it will be read even now with interest by those who knew Bunsen when he tried to take up after forty years the threads that had slipped from his hand at the age of four-and-twenty.

Instead of being sent to study at Paris and London by the Prussian government, as he seems to have wished, he was suddenly called to Paris by his old pupil, Mr. Astor, who, after two years' absence, had returned to Europe, and was anxious to renew his relations with Bunsen. Bunsen's object in accepting Astor's invitation to Paris was to study Persian; and great was his disappointment when, on arriving there, Mr. Astor wished him at once to start for Italy. This was too much for Bunsen, to be turned back just as he was going to quench his thirst for Oriental literature in the lectures of Sylvestre de Sacy. A compromise was effected. Bunsen remained for three months in Paris, and promised then to join his friend and pupil in Italy. How he worked at Persian and Arabic during the interval must be read in his own letters:—

I write from six in the morning till four in the afternoon, only in the course of that time having a walk in the garden of the Luxembourg, where I also often study; from four to six I dine and walk; from six to seven sleep; from seven to eleven work again. I have overtaken in study some of the French students who had begun a year ago. God be thanked for this help! Before I go to bed I read a chapter in the New Testament, in the morning on rising one in the Old Testament; yesterday I began the Psalms from the first.

As soon as he felt that he could continue his study of Persian without the aid of a master, he left Paris. Though immersed in work, he had made several acquaintances, among others that of Alexander von Humboldt, “who intends in a few years to visit Asia, where I may hope to meet him. He has been beyond [pg 355] measure kind to me, and from him I shall receive the best recommendations for Italy and England, as well as from his brother, now Prussian Minister in London. Lastly, the winter in Rome may become to me, by the presence of Niebuhr, more instructive and fruitful than in any other place. Thus has God ordained all things for me for the best, according to His will, not mine, and far better than I deserve.”

These were the feelings with which the young scholar, then twenty-four years of age, started for Italy, as yet without any position, without having published a single work, without knowing, as we may suppose, where to rest his head. And yet he was full, not only of hope, but of gratitude, and he little dreamt that before seven years had passed he would be in Niebuhr's place; and before twenty-five years had passed in the place of William von Humboldt, the Prussian Ambassador at the Court of St. James.

The immediate future, in fact, had some severe disappointments in store for him. When he arrived at Florence to meet Mr. Astor, the young American had received peremptory orders to return to New York; and as Bunsen declined to follow him, he found himself really stranded at Florence, and all his plans thoroughly upset. Yet, though at that very time full of care and anxiety about his nearest relations, who looked to him for support when he could hardly support himself, his God-trusting spirit did not break down. He remained at Florence, continuing his Persian studies, and making a living by private tuition. A Mr. Cathcart seems to have been his favorite pupil, and through him new prospects of eventually proceeding to India seemed to open. But, at the same time, Bunsen began to feel that the circumstances of his [pg 356] life became critical. “I feel,” he says, “that I am on the point of securing or losing the fruit of my labors for life.” Rome and Niebuhr seemed the only haven in sight, and thither Bunsen now began to steer his frail bark. He arrived in Rome on the 14th of November, 1816. Niebuhr, who was Prussian Minister, received him with great kindness, and entered heartily into the literary plans of his young friend. Brandis, Niebuhr's secretary, renewed in common with his old friend his study of Greek philosophy. A native teacher of Arabic was engaged to help Bunsen in his Oriental studies. The necessary supplies seem to have come partly from Mr. Astor, partly from private lessons for which Bunsen had to make time in the midst of his varied occupations. Plato, Firdusi, the Koran, Dante, Isaiah, the Edda, are mentioned by himself as his daily study.

From an English point of view that young man at Rome, without a status, without a settled prospect in life, would have seemed an amiable dreamer, destined to wake suddenly, and not very pleasantly, to the stern realities of life. If anything seemed unlikely, it was that an English gentleman, a man of good birth and of independent fortune, should give his daughter to this poor young German at Rome. Yet this was the very thing which a kind Providence, that Providence in which Bunsen trusted amid all his troubles and difficulties, brought to pass. Bunsen became acquainted with Mr. Waddington, and was allowed to read German with his daughters. In the most honorable manner he broke off his visits when he became aware of his feelings for Miss Waddington. He writes to his sister:—

Having, at first, believed myself quite safe (the more so as [pg 357] I cannot think of marrying without impairing my whole scheme of mental development, and, least of all, could I think of pretending to a girl of fortune), I thought there was no danger.

A little later he writes to Mrs. Waddington to explain to her the reason for his discontinuing his visits. But the mother—and, to judge from her letters, a high-minded mother she must have been—accepted Bunsen on trust; he was allowed to return to the house, and on the 1st of July, 1817, the young German student, then twenty-five years of age, was married at Rome to Miss Waddington. What a truly important event this was for Bunsen, even those who had not the privilege of knowing the partner of his life may learn from the work before us. Though little is said in these memoirs of his wife, the mother of his children, the partner of his joys and sorrows, it is easy to see how Bunsen's whole mode of life became possible only by the unceasing devotion of an ardent soul and a clear head consecrated to one object,—to love and to cherish, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part,—aye, and even after death! With such a wife, the soul of Bunsen could soar on its wings, the small cares of life were removed, an independence was secured, and, though the Indian plans had to be surrendered, the highest ambition of Bunsen's life, a professorship in a German university, seemed now easy of attainment. We should have liked a few more pages describing the joyous life of the young couple in the heyday of their life; we could have wished that he had not declined the wish of his mother-in-law, to have his bust made by Thorwaldsen, at a time when he must have been a model of manly beauty. But if we know less than we could wish of what Bunsen then was in the [pg 358] eyes of the world, we are allowed an insight into that heavenly life which underlay all the outward happiness of that time, and which shows him to us as but one eye could then have seen him. A few weeks after his marriage he writes in his journal:—

Eternal, omnipresent God! enlighten me with thy Holy Spirit, and fill me with thy heavenly light! What in childhood I felt and yearned after, what throughout the years of youth grew clearer and clearer before my soul, I will now venture to hold fast, to examine, to represent the revelation of Thee in man's energies and efforts: thy firm path through the stream of ages I long to trace and recognize, as far as may be permitted to me even in this body of earth. The song of praise to Thee from the whole of humanity, in times far and near,—the pains and lamentations of men, and their consolations in Thee,—I wish to take in, clear and unhindered. Do Thou send me thy Spirit of Truth, that I may behold things earthly as they are, without veil and without mask, without human trappings and empty adornment, and that in the silent peace of truth I may feel and recognize Thee. Let me not falter, nor slide away from the great end of knowing Thee. Let not the joys, or honors, or vanities of the world enfeeble and darken my spirit; let me ever feel that I can only perceive and know Thee in so far as mine is a living soul, and lives, and moves, and has its being in Thee.

Here we see Bunsen as the world did not see him, and we may observe how then, as ever, his literary work was to him hallowed by the objects for which it was intended. “The firm path of God through the stream of ages” is but another title for one of his last works, “God in History,” planned with such youthful ardor, and finished under the lengthening shadow of death.

The happiness of Bunsen's life at Rome may easily be imagined. Though anxious to begin his work at a German university, he stipulated for three more years of freedom and preparation. Who could have made the sacrifice of the bright spring of life, of the unclouded [pg 359] days of happiness at Rome with wife and children, and with such friends as Niebuhr and Brandis? Yet this stay at Rome was fraught with fatal consequences. It led the straight current of Bunsen's life, which lay so clear before him, into a new bed, at first very tempting, for a time smooth and sunny, but alas! ending in waste of energy for which no outward splendor could atone. The first false step seemed very natural and harmless. When Brandis went to Germany to begin his professorial work, Bunsen took his place as Niebuhr's secretary at Rome. He was determined, then, that nothing should induce him to remain in the diplomatic career (p. 130), but the current of that mill-stream was too strong even for Bunsen. How he remained as Secretary of Legation, 1818; how the King of Prussia, Frederick William III., came to visit Rome, and took a fancy to the young diplomatist, who could speak to him with a modesty and frankness little known at courts; how, when Niebuhr exchanged his embassy for a professorial chair at Bonn, Bunsen remained as Chargé d'Affaires; how he went to Berlin, 1827-28, and gained the hearts of the old King and of everybody else; how he returned to Rome and was fascinated by the young Crown Prince of Prussia, afterwards Frederick William IV., whom he had to conduct through the antiquities and the modern life of the world city; how he became Prussian Minister, the friend of popes and cardinals, the centre of the best and most brilliant society; how, when the difficulties began between Prussia and the Papal government, chiefly with regard to mixed marriages, Bunsen tried to mediate, and was at last disowned by both parties in 1838,—all this may now be read in the open memoirs of his life. His letters during these twenty years are [pg 360] numerous and full, particularly those addressed to his sister, to whom he was deeply attached. They are the most touching and elevating record of a life spent in important official business, in interesting social intercourse, in literary and antiquarian researches, in the enjoyment of art and nature, and in the blessedness of a prosperous family life, and throughout in an unbroken communion with God. There is hardly a letter without an expression of that religion in common life, that constant consciousness of a Divine Presence, which made his life a life in God. To many readers this free outpouring of a God-loving soul will seem to approach too near to that abuse of religious phraseology which is a sign of superficial rather than of deep-seated piety. But, though through life a sworn enemy of every kind of cant, Bunsen never would surrender the privilege of speaking the language of a Christian, because that language had been profaned by the thoughtless repetition of shallow pietists.

Bunsen has frequently been accused of pietism, particularly in Germany, by men who could not distinguish between pietism and piety, just as in England he was attacked as a freethinker by men who never knew the freedom of the children of God. “Christianity is ours, not theirs,” he would frequently say of those who made religion a mere profession, and imagined they knew Christ because they held a crosier and wore a mitre. We can now watch the deep emotions and firm convictions of that true-hearted man, in letters of undoubted sincerity, addressed to his sister and his friends, and we can only wonder with what feelings they have been perused by those who in England questioned his Christianity or who in Germany suspected his honesty.

[pg 361]

From the time of his first meeting with the King of Prussia at Rome, and still more, after his stay at Berlin in 1827, Bunsen's chief interest with regard to Prussia centred in ecclesiastical matters. The King, after effecting the union of the Lutheran and Calvinistic branches of the Protestant Church, was deeply interested in drawing up a new Liturgy for his own national, or, as it was called, Evangelical Church. The introduction of his Liturgy, or Agenda, particularly as it was carried out, like everything else in Prussia, by royal decree, met with considerable resistance. Bunsen, who had been led independently to the study of ancient liturgies, and who had devoted much of his time at Rome to the collection of ancient hymns and hymn tunes, could speak to the King on these favorite topics from the fullness of his heart. The King listened to him, even when Bunsen ventured to express his dissent from some of the royal proposals, and when he, the young attaché, deprecated any authoritative interference with the freedom of the Church. In Prussia the whole movement was unpopular, and Bunsen, though he worked hard to render it less so, was held responsible for much which he himself had disapproved. Of all these turbulent transactions there remains but one bright and precious relic, Bunsen's “Hymn and Prayer Book.”

The Prussian Legation on the Capitol was during Bunsen's day not only the meeting-place of all distinguished Germans, but, in the absence of an English embassy, it also became the recognized centre of the most interesting portion of English society at Rome. Among the Germans, whose presence told on Bunsen's life, either by a continued friendship or by common interests and pursuits, we meet the names of Ludwig, [pg 362] King of Bavaria; Baron von Stein, the great Prussian statesman; Radowitz, the less fortunate predecessor of Bismarck; Schnorr, Overbeck, and Mendelssohn. Among Englishmen, whose friendship with Bunsen dates from the Capitol, we find Thirlwall, Philip Pusey, Arnold, and Julius Hare. The names of Thorwaldsen, too, of Leopardi, Lord Hastings, Champollion, Sir Walter Scott, Chateaubriand, occur again and again in the memoirs of that Roman life which teems with interesting events and anecdotes. The only literary productions of that eventful period are Bunsen's part in Platner's “Description of Rome,” and the “Hymn and Prayer Book.” But much material for later publications had been amassed in the mean time. The study of the Old Testament had been prosecuted at all times, and in 1824 the first beginning was made by Bunsen in the study of hieroglyphics, afterwards continued with Champollion, and later with Lepsius. The Archæological Institute and the German Hospital, both on the Capitol, were the two permanent bequests that Bunsen left behind when he shook off the dust of his feet, and left Rome on the 29th of April, 1838, in search of a new Capitol.

At Berlin, Bunsen was then in disgrace. He had not actually been dismissed the service, but he was prohibited from going to Berlin to justify himself, and he was ordered to proceed to England on leave of absence. To England, therefore, Bunsen now directed his steps with his wife and children, and there, at least, he was certain of a warm welcome, both from his wife's relations and from his own very numerous friends. When we read through the letters of that period, we hardly miss the name of a single man illustrious at that time in England. As if to make up for the injustice [pg 363] done to him in Italy, and for the ingratitude of his country, people of all classes and of the most opposite views vied in doing him honor. Rest he certainly found none, while travelling about from one town to another, and staying at friends' houses, attending meetings, making speeches, writing articles, and, as usual, amassing new information wherever he could find it. He worked at Egyptian with Lepsius; at Welsh while staying with Lady Hall; at Ethnology with Dr. Prichard. He had to draw up two state papers,—one on the Papal aggression, the other on the law of divorce. He plunged, of course, at once into all the ecclesiastical and theological questions that were then agitating people's minds in England, and devoted his few really quiet hours to the preparation of his own “Life of Christ.” With Lord Ashley he attended Bible meetings, with Mrs. Fry he explored the prisons, with Philip Pusey he attended agricultural assemblies, and he spent night after night as an admiring listener in the House of Commons. He was presented to the Queen and the Duke of Wellington, was made a D.C.L. at Oxford, discussed the future with J. H. Newman, the past with Buckland, Sedgwick, and Whewell. Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell invited him to political conferences; Maurice and Keble listened to his fervent addresses; Dr. Arnold consulted the friend of Niebuhr on his own “History of Rome,” and tried to convert him to more liberal opinions with regard to Church reform. Dr. Holland, Mrs. Austin, Ruskin, Carlyle, Macaulay, Gaisford, Dr. Hawkins, and many more, all greeted him, all tried to do him honor, and many of them became attached to him for life. The architectural monuments of England, its castles, parks, and ruins, passed quickly through his field of vision [pg 364] during that short stay. But he soon calls out: “I care not now for all the ruins of England; it is her life that I like.”

Most touching is his admiration, his real love of Gladstone. Thirty years have since passed, and the world at large has found out by this time what England possesses in him. But it was not so in 1838, and few men at that early time could have read Gladstone's heart and mind so truly as Bunsen. Here are a few of his remarks:—

Last night, when I came home from the Duke, Gladstone's book was on my table, the second edition having come out at seven o'clock. It is the book of the time, a great event,—the first book since Burke that goes to the bottom of the vital question; far above his party and his time. I sat up till after midnight; and this morning I continued until I had read the whole, and almost every sheet bears my marginal glosses, destined for the Prince, to whom I have sent the book with all dispatch. Gladstone is the first man in England as to intellectual powers, and he has heard higher tones than any one else in this island.

And again (p. 493):—

Gladstone is by far the first living intellectual power on that side. He has left his schoolmasters far behind him, but we must not wonder if he still walks in their trammels; his genius will soon free itself entirely, and fly towards heaven with its own wings.... I wonder Gladstone should not have the feeling of moving on an inclined plane, or that of sitting down among ruins, as if he were settled in a well-stored house.

Of Newman, whom he had met at Oxford, Bunsen says:—

This morning I have had two hours at breakfast with Newman. O! it is sad,—he and his friends are truly intellectual people, but they have lost their ground, going exactly my way, but stopping short in the middle. It is too late. There has been an amicable change of ideas and a Christian understanding. Yesterday he preached a beautiful sermon. A new period of life begins for me; may God's blessing be upon it!
[pg 365]

Oxford made a deep impression on Bunsen's mind. He writes:—

I am luxuriating in the delights of Oxford. There has never been enough said of this queen of all cities.

But what as a German he admired and envied most was, after all, the House of Commons:—

I wish you could form an idea of what I felt. I saw for the first time man, the member of a true Germanic State, in his highest, his proper place, defending the highest interests of humanity with the wonderful power of speech-wrestling, but with the arm of the spirit, boldly grasping at or tenaciously holding fast power, in the presence of his fellow-citizens, submitting to the public conscience the judgment of his cause and of his own uprightness. I saw before me the empire of the world governed, and the rest of the world controlled and judged, by this assembly. I had the feeling that, had I been born in England, I would rather be dead than not sit among and speak among them. I thought of my own country, and was thankful that I could thank God for being a German and being myself. But I felt, also, that we are all children on this field in comparison with the English; how much they, with their discipline of mind, body, and heart, can effect even with but moderate genius, and even with talent alone! I drank in every word from the lips of the speakers, even those I disliked.

More than a year was thus spent in England in the very fullness of life. “My stay in England in 1838-39,” he writes at a later time, the 22d of September, 1841, “was the poetry of my existence as a man; this is the prose of it. There was a dew upon those fifteen months, which the sun has dried up, and which nothing can restore.” Yet even then Bunsen could not have been free from anxieties for the future. He had a large family growing up, and he was now again, at the age of forty-seven, without any definite prospects in life. In spite, however, of the intrigues of his enemies, the personal feelings of the King and the Crown Prince prevailed at last; and he was appointed [pg 366] in July, 1839, as Prussian Minister in Switzerland, his secret and confidential instructions being “to do nothing.” These instructions were carefully observed by Bunsen, as far as politics were concerned. He passed two years of rest at the Hubel, near Berne, with his family, devoted to his books, receiving visits from his friends, and watching from a distance the coming events in Prussia.

In 1840 the old King died, and it was generally expected that Bunsen would at once receive an influential position at Berlin. Not till April, 1841, however, was he summoned to the court, although, to judge from the correspondence between him and the new King, Frederick William IV., few men could have enjoyed a larger share of royal confidence and love than Bunsen. The King was hungering and thirsting after Bunsen, yet Bunsen was not invited to Berlin. The fact is that the young King had many friends, and those friends were not the friends of Bunsen. They were satisfied with his honorary exile in Switzerland, and thought him best employed at a distance in doing nothing. The King too, who knew Bunsen's character from former years, must have known that Berlin was not large enough for him; and he therefore left him in his Swiss retirement till an employment worthy of him could be found. This was to go on a special mission to England with a view of establishing, in common with the Church of England, a Protestant bishopric at Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the King hoped that the two principal Protestant churches of Europe would, across the grave of the Redeemer, reach to each other the right hand of fellowship. Bunsen entered into this plan with all the energy of his mind and heart. It was a work thoroughly congenial [pg 367] to himself; and if it required diplomatic skill, certainly no one could have achieved it more expeditiously and successfully than Bunsen. He was then a persona grata with bishops and archbishops, and Lord Ashley—not yet Lord Shaftesbury—gave him all the support his party could command. English influence was then so powerful at Constantinople that all difficulties due to Turkish bigotry were quickly removed. At the end of June, 1841, he arrived in London; on the 6th of August he wrote, “All is settled;” and on the 7th of November the new Bishop of Jerusalem was consecrated. Seldom was a more important and more complicated transaction settled in so short a time. Had the discussions been prolonged, had time been given to the leaders of the Romanizing party to recover from their surprise, the bill that had to be passed through both houses would certainly have been defeated. People have hardly yet understood the real bearing of that measure, nor appreciated the germ which it may still contain for the future of the Reformed Church. One man only seems to have seen clearly what a blow this first attempt at a union between the Protestant churches of England and Germany was to his own plans, and to the plans of his friends; and we know now, from Newman's “Apologia,” that the bishopric of Jerusalem drove him to the Church of Rome. This may have been for the time a great loss to the Church of England; it marked, at all events, a great crisis in her history.

In spite, however, of his great and unexpected success, there are traces of weariness in Bunsen's letters of that time, which show that he was longing for more congenial work. “O, how I hate and detest diplomatic life!” he wrote to his wife; “and how [pg 368] little true intellectuality is there in the high society here as soon as you cease to speak of English national subjects and interests; and the eternal hurricanes, whirling, urging, rushing, in this monster of a town! Even with you and the children life would become oppressive under the diplomatic burden. I can pray for our country life, but I cannot pray for a London life, although I dare not pray against it, if it must be.”

Bunsen's observations of character amidst the distractions of his London season are very interesting and striking, particularly at this distance of time. He writes:—

Mr. Gladstone has been invited to become one of the trustees of the Jerusalem Fund. He is beset with scruples; his heart is with us, but his mind is entangled in a narrow system. He awaits salvation from another code, and by wholly different ways from myself. Yesterday morning I had a letter from him of twenty-four pages, to which I replied early this morning by eight.
The Bishop of London constantly rises in my estimation. He has replied admirably to Mr. Gladstone, closing with the words, My dear sir, my intention is not to limit and restrict the Church of Christ, but to enlarge it. ”

A letter from Sir Robert Peel, too, must here be quoted in full:—

Whitehall, October 10, 1841.
My dear Mr. Bunsen,—My note merely conveyed a request that you would be good enough to meet Mr. Cornelius at dinner on Friday last.
I assure you that I have been amply repaid for any attention I may have shown to that distinguished artist, in the personal satisfaction I have had in the opportunity of making his acquaintance. He is one of a noble people distinguished in every art of war and peace. The union and patriotism of that people, spread over the centre of Europe, will contribute the surest guarantee for the peace of the world, and the most powerful check upon the spread of all pernicious doctrines injurious [pg 369] to the cause of religion and order, and that liberty which respects the rights of others.
My earnest hope is that every member of this illustrious race, while he may cherish the particular country of his birth as he does his home, will extend his devotion beyond its narrow limits, and exult in the name of a German, and recognize the claim of Germany to the love and affection and patriotic exertions of all her sons.
I hope I judge the feelings of every German by those which were excited in my own breast (in the breast of a foreigner and a stranger) by a simple ballad, that seemed, however, to concentrate the will of a mighty people, and said emphatically,—
They shall not have the Rhine.
They will not have it: and the Rhine will be protected by a song, if the sentiments which that song embodies pervade, as I hope and trust they do, every German heart.
You will begin to think that I am a good German myself, and so I am, if hearty wishes for the union and welfare of the German race can constitute one.
Believe me, most faithfully yours,
Robert Peel.

When Bunsen was on the point of leaving London, he received the unexpected and unsolicited appointment of Prussian Envoy in England, an appointment which he could not bring himself to decline, and which again postponed for twelve years his cherished plans of an otium cum dignitate. What the world at large would have called the most fortunate event in Bunsen's life proved indeed a real misfortune. It deprived Bunsen of the last chance of fully realizing the literary plans of his youth, and it deprived the world of services that no one could have rendered so well in the cause of freedom of thought, of practical religion, and in teaching the weighty lessons of antiquity to the youth of the future. It made him waste his precious hours in work that any Prussian baron could have done as well, if not better, and did not set him free [pg 370] until his bodily strength was undermined, and the joyful temper of his mind saddened by sad experiences.

Nothing could have been more brilliant than the beginning of Bunsen's diplomatic career in England. First came the visit of the King of Prussia, whom the Queen had invited to be godfather to the Prince of Wales. Soon after the Prince of Prussia came to England under the guidance of Bunsen. Then followed the return visit of the Queen at Stolzenfels, on the Rhine. All this, no doubt, took up much of Bunsen's time, but it gave him also the pleasantest introduction to the highest society of England; for as Baroness Bunsen shrewdly remarks, “there is nothing like standing within the Bude-light of royalty to make one conspicuous, and sharpen perceptions and recollections.” (II. p. 8.) Bunsen complained, no doubt, now and then, about excessive official work, yet he seemed on the whole reconciled to his position, and up to the year 1847 we hear of no attempts to escape from diplomatic bondage. In a letter to Mrs. Fry he says:—

I can assure you I never passed a more quiet and truly satisfactory evening in London than the last, in the Queen's house, in the midst of the excitement of the season. I think this is a circumstance for which one ought to be thankful; and it has much reminded me of hours that I have spent at Berlin and Sans Souci with the King and the Queen and the Prince William, and, I am thankful to add, with the Princess of Prussia, mother of the future King. It is a striking and consoling and instructive proof that what is called the world, the great world, is not necessarily worldly in itself, but only by that inward worldliness which, as rebellion against the spirit, creeps into the cottage as well as into the palace, and against which no outward form is any protection. Forms and rules may prevent the outbreak of wrong, but cannot regenerate right, and may quench the spirit and poison inward truth. The Queen gives hours daily to the labor of examining into the claims of the numberless petitions addressed to her, among other duties to which her time of privacy is devoted.
[pg 371]

The Queen's name and that of Prince Albert occur often in these memoirs, and a few of Bunsen's remarks and observations may be of interest, though they contain little that can now be new to the readers of the “Life of the Prince Consort” and of the “Queen's Journal.”

First, a graphic description, from the hand of Baroness Bunsen, of the Queen opening Parliament in 1842:—

Last, the procession of the Queen's entry, and herself, looking worthy and fit to be the converging point of so many rays of grandeur. It is self-evident that she is not tall; but were she ever so tall, she could not have more grace and dignity, a head better set, a throat more royally and classically arching; and one advantage there is in her not being taller, that when she casts a glance, it is of necessity upwards and not downwards, and thus the effect of the eyes is not thrown away,—the beam and effluence not lost. The composure with which she filled the throne, while awaiting the Commons, was a test of character,—no fidget and no apathy. Then her voice and enunciation could not be more perfect. In short, it could not be said that she did well, but she was the Queen,—she was, and felt herself to be, the acknowledged chief among grand and national realities. (Vol. II. p. 10.)

The next is an account of the Queen at Windsor Castle on receiving the Princess of Prussia, in 1842:—

The Queen looked well and rayonnante, with that expression that she always has when thoroughly pleased with all that occupies her mind, which you know I always observe with delight, as fraught with that truth and reality which so essentially belong to her character, and so strongly distinguish her countenance, in all its changes, from the fixed mask only too common in the royal rank of society. (Vol. II. p. 115.)

After having spent some days at Windsor Castle, Bunsen writes in 1846:—

The Queen often spoke with me about education, and in particular of religious instruction. Her views are very serious, [pg 372] but at the same time liberal and comprehensive. She (as well as Prince Albert) hates all formalism. The Queen reads a great deal, and has done my book on The Church of the Future the honor to read it so attentively, that the other day, when at Cashiobury, seeing the book on the table, she looked out passages which she had approved in order to read them aloud to the Queen-Dowager. (Vol. II. p. 121.)

And once more:—

The Queen is a wife and a mother as happy as the happiest in her dominions, and no one can be more careful of her charges. She often speaks to me of the great task before her and the Prince in the education of the royal children, and particularly of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal.

Before the troubles of 1847 and 1848, Bunsen was enabled to spend part of his time in the country, away from the turmoil of London, and much of his literary work dates from that time. After his “Church of the Future,” the discovery of the genuine Epistles of Ignatius by the late Dr. Cureton led Bunsen back to the study of the earliest literature of the Christian Church, and the results of these researches were published in his “Ignatius.” Lepsius' stay in England and his expedition to Egypt induced Bunsen to put his own materials in order, and to give to the world his long-matured views on “The Place of Egypt in Universal History.” The later volumes of this work led him into philological studies of a more general character, and at the meeting of the British Association at Oxford, in 1847, he read before the brilliantly attended ethnological section his paper “On the Results of the recent Egyptian Researches in reference to Asiatic and African Ethnology, and the Classification of Languages,” published in the “Transactions” of the Association, and separately under the title, “Three Linguistic Dissertations, by Chevalier Bunsen, Dr. Charles Meyer, and Dr. Max Müller.” “Those three days at Oxford,” [pg 373] he writes, “were a time of great distinction to me, both in my public and private capacity.” Everything important in literature and art attracted not only his notice, but his warmest interest; and no one who wanted encouragement, advice, or help in literary or historical researches, knocked in vain at Bunsen's door. His table at breakfast and dinner was filled by ambassadors and professors, by bishops and missionaries, by dukes and poor scholars, and his evening parties offered a kind of neutral ground, where people could meet who could have met nowhere else, and where English prejudices had no jurisdiction. That Bunsen, holding the position which he held in society, but still more being what he was apart from his social position, should have made his presence felt in England, was not to be wondered at. He would speak out whenever he felt strongly, but he was the last man to meddle or to intrigue. He had no time even if he had had taste for it. But there were men in England who could never forgive him for the Jerusalem bishopric, and who resorted to the usual tactics for making a man unpopular. A cry was soon raised against his supposed influence at court, and doubts were thrown out as to his orthodoxy. Every Liberal bishop that was appointed was said to have been appointed through Bunsen. Dr. Hampden was declared to have been his nominee,—the fact being that Bunsen did not even know of him before he had been made a bishop. As his practical Christianity could not well be questioned, he was accused of holding heretical opinions, because his chronology differed from that of Jewish Rabbis and Bishop Usher. It is extraordinary how little Bunsen himself cared about these attacks, though they caused acute suffering to his family. He was not surprised [pg 374] that he should be hated by those whose theological opinions he considered unsound, and whose ecclesiastical politics he had openly declared to be fraught with danger to the most sacred interests of the Church. Besides, he was the personal friend of such men as Arnold, Hare, Thirlwall, Maurice, Stanley, and Jowett. He had even a kind word to say for Froude's “Nemesis of Faith.” He could sympathize, no doubt, with all that was good and honest, whether among the High Church or Low Church party, and many of his personal friends belonged to the one as well as to the other; but he could also thunder forth with no uncertain sound against everything that seemed to him hypocritical, pharisaical, unchristian. Thus he writes (II. p. 81):—

I apprehend having given the ill-disposed a pretext for considering me a semi-Pelagian, a contemner of the Sacraments, or denier of the Son, a perverter of the doctrine of justification, and therefore a crypto-Catholic theosophist, heretic, and enthusiast, deserving of all condemnation. I have written it because I felt compelled in conscience to do so.

Again (II. p. 87):—

In my letter to Mr. Gladstone, I have maintained the lawfulness and the apostolic character of the German Protestant Church. You will find the style changed in this work, bolder and more free.

Attacks, indeed, became frequent, and more and more bitter, but Bunsen seldom took any notice of them. He writes:—

Hare is full of wrath at an attack made upon me in the Christian Remembrancer—in a very Jesuitical way insinuating that I ought not to have so much influence allowed me. Another article execrates the bishopric of Jerusalem as an abomination. This zeal savors more of hatred than of charity.

But though Bunsen felt far too firmly grounded in [pg 375] his own Christian faith to be shaken by such attacks upon himself, he too could be roused to wrath and indignation when the poisoned arrows of theological Fijians were shot against his friends. When speaking of the attacks on Arnold, he writes:—

Truth is nothing in this generation except a means, in the best case, to something good; but never, like virtue, considered as good, as the good,—the object in itself. X dreams away in twilight. Y is sliding into Puseyism. Z (the Evangelicals) go on thrashing the old straw. I wish it were otherwise; but I love England, with all her faults. I write to you, now only to you, all I think. All the errors and blunders which make the Puseyites a stumbling-block to so many,—the rock on which they split is no other than what Rome split upon, self-righteousness, out of want of understanding justification by faith, and hovering about the unholy and blasphemous idea of atoning for our sins, because they feel not, understand not, indeed, believe not, the Atonement, and therefore enjoy not the glorious privileges of the children of God,—the blessed duty of the sacrifice of thanksgiving through Him who atoned for them. Therefore no sacrifice,—therefore no Christian priesthood,—no Church. By our fathers these ideas were fundamentally acknowledged; they were in abeyance in the worship of the Church, but not on the domestic altar and in the hymns of the spirit. With the Puseyites, as with the Romanists, these ideas are cut off at the roots. O when will the Word of God be brought up against them? What a state this country is in! The land of liberty rushing into the worst slavery, the veriest thralldom!

To many people it might have seemed as if Bunsen during all this time was too much absorbed in English interests, political, theological, and social, that he had ceased to care for what was passing in his own country. His letters, however, tell a different tale. His voluminous correspondence with the King of Prussia, though not yet published, will one day bear witness to Bunsen's devotion to his country, and his enthusiastic attachment to the house of Hohenzollern. From year to year he was urging on the King and his [pg 376] advisers the wisdom of liberal concessions, and the absolute necessity of action. He was working at plans for constitutional reforms; he went to Berlin to rouse the King, to shame his ministers, to insist in season and out of season on the duty of acting before it was too late. His faith in the King is most touching. When he goes to Berlin in 1844, he sees everywhere how unpopular the King is, how even his best intentions are misunderstood and misrepresented. Yet he goes on working and hoping, and he sacrifices his own popularity rather than oppose openly the suicidal policy that might have ruined Prussia, if Prussia could have been ruined. Thus he writes in August, 1845:—

To act as a statesman at the helm, in the Fatherland, I consider not to be in the least my calling: what I believe to be my calling is to be mounted high before the mast, to observe what land, what breakers, what signs of coming storm there may be, and then to announce them to the wise and practical steersman. It is the same to me whether my own nation shall know in my life-time or after my death how faithfully I have taken to heart its weal and woe, be it in Church or State, and borne it on my heart as my nearest interest, as long as life lasted. I give up the point of making myself understood in the present generation. Here (in London) I consider myself to be upon the right spot. I seek to preserve peace and unity, and to remove dissatisfaction, wherever it is possible.

Nothing, however, was done. Year after year was thrown away, like a Sibylline leaf, and the penalty for the opportunities that had been lost became heavier and heavier. The King, particularly when he was under the influences of Bunsen's good genius, was ready for any sacrifice. “The commotion,” he exclaimed, in 1845, “can only be met and overcome by freedom, absolute freedom.” But when Bunsen wanted measures, not words, the King himself seemed [pg 377] powerless. Surrounded as he was by men of the most opposite characters and interests, and quite capable of gauging them all,—for his intellect was of no common stamp,—he could agree with all of them to a certain point, but could never bring himself to go the whole length with any one of them. Bunsen writes from Berlin: “My stay will certainly not be a long one; the King's heart is like that of a brother toward me, but our ways diverge. The die is cast, and he reads in my countenance that I deplore the throw. He too fulfills his fate, and we with him.”

When, at last, in 1847, a Constitution was granted by the King, it was too late. Sir Robert Peel seems to have been hopeful, and in a letter of twenty-two pages to Bunsen he expressed an opinion that the Prussian government might still be able to maintain the Constitution if only sincere in desiring its due development, and prepared in mind for that development. To the King, however, and to the party at court, the Constitution, if not actually hateful, was a mere plaything, and the idea of surrendering one particle of his independence never entered the King's mind. Besides, 1848 was at the door, and Bunsen certainly saw the coming storm from a distance, though he could not succeed in opening the eyes of those who stood at the helm in Prussia. Shortly before the hurricane broke loose, Bunsen had once more determined to throw up his official position, and retire to Bonn. But with 1848 all these hopes and plans were scattered to the winds. Bunsen's life became more restless than ever, and his body was gradually giving way under the constant tension of his mind. “I feel,” he writes in 1848 to Archdeacon Hare, “that I have entered into a new period of life. [pg 378] I have given up all private concerns, all studies and researches of my own, and live entirely for the present political emergencies of my country, to stand or to fall by and with it.”

With his love for England he deeply felt the want of sympathy on the part of England for Prussia in her struggle to unite and regenerate the whole of Germany. “It is quite entertaining,” he writes, with a touch of irony very unusual in his letters, “to see the stiff unbelief of the English in the future of Germany. Lord John is merely uninformed. Peel has somewhat staggered the mind of the excellent Prince by his unbelief; yet he has a statesmanlike good-will towards the Germanic nations, and even for the German nation. Aberdeen is the greatest sinner. He believes in God and the Emperor Nicholas!” The Schleswig-Holstein question embittered his feelings still more; and in absence of all determined convictions at Berlin, the want of moral courage and political faith among those in whose hands the destinies of Germany had been placed, roused him to wrath and fury, though he could never be driven to despair of the future of Prussia. For a time, indeed, he seemed to hesitate between Frankfort, then the seat of the German Parliament, and Berlin; and he would have accepted the Premiership at Frankfort if his friend Baron Stockmar had accepted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But very soon he perceived that, however paralyzed for the moment, Prussia was the only possible centre of life for a regeneration of Germany; that Prussia could not be merged in Germany, but that Germany had to be resuscitated and reinvigorated through Prussia. His patriotic nominalism, if we may so call his youthful [pg 379] dreams of a united Germany, had to yield to the force of that political realism which sacrifices names to things, poetry to prose, the ideal to the possible. What made his decision easier than it would otherwise have been to a heart so full of enthusiasm was his personal attachment to the King and to the Prince of Prussia. For a time, indeed, though for a short time only, Bunsen, after his interview with the King in January, 1849, believed that his hopes might still be realized, and he seems actually to have had the King's promise that he would accept the crown of a United Germany, without Austria. But as soon as Bunsen had left Berlin, new influences began to work on the King's brain; and when Bunsen returned, full of hope, he was told by the King himself that he had never repented in such a degree of any step as that which Bunsen had advised him to take; that the course entered upon was a wrong to Austria; that he would have nothing to do with such an abominable line of politics, but would leave that to the Ministry at Frankfort. Whenever the personal question should be addressed to him, then would he reply as one of the Hohenzollern, and thus live and die as an honest man. Bunsen, though mourning over the disappointed hopes that had once centred in Frederick William IV., and freely expressing the divergence of opinion that separated him from his sovereign, remained throughout a faithful servant and a loyal friend. His buoyant spirit, confident that nothing could ruin Prussia, was looking forward to the future, undismayed by the unbroken succession of blunders and failures of Prussian statesmen,—nay, enjoying with a prophetic fervor, at the time of the deepest degradation of Prussia at Olmütz, the final [pg 380] and inevitable triumph of that cause which counted among its heroes and martyrs such names as Stein, Gneisenau, Niebuhr, Arndt, and, we may now add, Bunsen.

After the reaction of 1849 Bunsen's political influence ceased altogether, and as Minister in England he had almost always to carry out instructions of which he disapproved. More and more he longed for rest and freedom, for “leisure for reflection on the Divine which subsists in things human, and for writing, if God enables me to do so. I live as one lamed; the pinions that might have furthered my progress are bound,—yet not broken.” Yet he would not give up his place as long as his enemies at Berlin did all they could to oust him. He would not be beaten by them, nor did he altogether despair of better days. His opinion of the Prince of Prussia (the present King) had been raised very high since he had come to know him more intimately, and he expected much in the hour of need from his soldier-like decision and sense of honor. The negotiations about the Schleswig-Holstein question soon roused again all his German sympathies, and he exerted himself to the utmost to defend the just cause of the Schleswig-Holsteiners, which had been so shamefully misrepresented by unscrupulous partisans. The history of these negotiations cannot yet be written, but it will some day surprise the student of history when he finds out in what way public opinion in England was dosed and stupefied on that simple question. He found himself isolated and opposed by nearly all his English friends. One statesman only, but the greatest of English statesmen, saw clearly where the right and where the wrong was, but even he could only dare to be silent. On the 31st of July, 1850, Bunsen writes:—

[pg 381]
Palmerston had yielded, when in a scrape, first to Russia, then to France; the prize has been the protocol; the victim, Germany. They shall never have my signature to such a piece of iniquity and folly.

However, on the 8th of May, 1852, Bunsen had to sign that very piece of iniquity. It was done, machine like, at the King's command; yet, if Bunsen had followed his own better judgment, he would not have signed, but sent in his resignation. “The first cannon-shot in Europe,” he used to say, “will tear this Pragmatic Sanction to tatters;” and so it was; but alas! he did not live to see the Nemesis of that iniquity. One thing, however, is certain, that the humiliation inflicted on Prussia by that protocol was never forgotten by one brave soldier, who, though not allowed at that time to draw his royal sword, has ever since been working at the reform of Prussia's army, till on the field of Sadowa the disgrace of the London protocol and the disgrace of Olmütz were wiped out together, and German questions can no longer be settled by the Great Powers of Europe, “with or without the consent of Prussia.”

Bunsen remained in England two years longer, full of literary work, delighted by the success of Prince Albert's Great Exhibition, entering heartily into all that interested and agitated English society, but nevertheless carrying in his breast a heavy heart. Prussia and Germany were not what he wished them to be. At last the complications that led to the Crimean War held out to his mind a last prospect of rescuing Prussia from her Russian thralldom. If Prussia could have been brought over to join England and France, the unity of Northern Germany might have been her reward, as the unity of Italy was the reward of Cavour's alliance with the Western Powers. Bunsen used all his influence [pg 382] to bring this about, but he used it in vain, and in April, 1854, he succumbed, and his resignation was accepted.

Now, at last, Bunsen was free. He writes to a son:—

You know how I struggled, almost desperately, to retire from public employment in 1850. Now the cord is broken, and the bird is free. The Lord be praised!

But sixty-two years of his life were gone. The foundations of literary work which he had laid as a young man were difficult to recover; and if anything was to be finished, it had to be finished in haste. Bunsen retired to Heidelberg, hoping there to realize the ideal of his life, and realizing it, too, in a certain degree,—i.e. as long as he was able to forget his sixty-two years, his shaken health, and his blasted hopes. His new edition of “Hippolytus,” under the title of “Christianity and Mankind,” had been finished in seven volumes before he left England. At Heidelberg his principal work was the new translation of the Bible, and his “Life of Christ,” an enormous undertaking, enough to fill a man's life, yet with Bunsen by no means the only work to which he devoted his remaining powers. Egyptian studies continued to interest him while superintending the English translation of his “Egypt.” His anger at the machinations of the Jesuits in Church and State would rouse him suddenly to address the German nation in his “Signs of the Times.” And the prayer of his early youth, “to be allowed to recognize and trace the firm path of God through the stream of ages,” was fulfilled in his last work, “God in History.” There were many blessings in his life at Heidelberg, and no one could have [pg 383] acknowledged them more gratefully than Bunsen. “Yet,” he writes,—

I miss John Bull, the sea, The Times in the morning, and, besides, some dozens of fellow-creatures. The learned class has greatly sunk in Germany, more than I supposed; all behindhand.... Nothing appears of any importance; the most wretched trifles are cried up.

Though he had bid adieu to politics, yet he could not keep entirely aloof. The Prince of Prussia and the noble Princess of Prussia consulted him frequently, and even from Berlin baits were held out from time to time to catch the escaped eagle. Indeed, once again was Bunsen enticed by the voice of the charmer, and a pressing invitation of the King brought him to Berlin to preside at the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in September, 1857. His hopes revived once more, and his plans of a liberal policy in Church and State were once more pressed on the King,—in vain, as every one knew beforehand, except Bunsen alone, with his loving, trusting heart. However, Bunsen's hopes, too, were soon to be destroyed, and he parted from the King, the broken idol of all his youthful dreams,—not in anger, but in love, “as I wish and pray to depart from this earth, as on the calm, still evening of a long, beautiful summer's day.” This was written on the 1st of October; on the 3d the King's mind gave way, though his bodily suffering lasted longer than that of Bunsen. Little more is to be said of the last years of Bunsen's life. The difficulty of breathing, from which he suffered, became often very distressing, and he was obliged to seek relief by travel in Switzerland, or by spending the winter at Cannes. He recovered from time to time, so as to be able to work hard at the “Biblework,” and even to make short excursions to [pg 384] Paris or Berlin. In the last year of his life he executed the plan that had passed before his mind as the fairest dream of his youth: he took a house at Bonn, and he was not without hope that he might still, like Niebuhr, lecture in the university, and give to the young men the fruits of his studies and the advice founded on the experience of his life. This, however, was not to be, and all who watched him with loving eyes knew but too well that it could not be. The last chapter of his life is painful beyond expression as a chronicle of his bodily sufferings, but it is cheerful also beyond expression as the record of a triumph over death in hope, in faith,—nay, one might almost say, in sight,—such as has seldom been witnessed by human eyes. He died on the 28th of November, 1860, and was buried on the 1st of December in the same churchyard at Bonn where rests the body of his friend and teacher, Niebuhr.

Thoughts crowd in thick upon us when we gaze at that monument, and feel again the presence of that spirit as we so often felt it in the hours of sweet counsel. When we think of the literary works in which, later in life and almost in the presence of death, he hurriedly gathered up the results of his studies and meditations, we feel, as he felt himself when only twenty-two years of age, that “learning annihilates itself, and the most perfect is the first submerged, for the next age scales with ease the height which cost the preceding the full vigor of life.” It has been so, and always will be so. Bunsen's work, particularly in Egyptian philology and in the philosophy of language, was to a great extent the work of a pioneer, and it will be easy for others to advance on the roads which he has opened, and to approach nearer to the goal which [pg 385] he has pointed out. Some of his works, however, will hold their place in the history of scholarship, and particularly of theological scholarship. The question of the genuineness of the original Epistles of Ignatius can hardly be opened again after Bunsen's treatise; and his discovery that the book on “All the Heresies,” ascribed to Origen, could not be the work of that writer, and that most probably it was the work of Hippolytus, will always mark an epoch in the study of early Christian literature. Either of those works would have been enough to make the reputation of a German professor, or to found the fortune of an English bishop. Let it be remembered that they were the outcome of the leisure hours of a hard-worked Prussian diplomatist, who, during the London season, could get up at five in the morning, light his own fire, and thus secure four hours of undisturbed work before breakfast.

Another reason why some of Bunsen's works will prove more mortal than others is their comprehensive character. Bunsen never worked for work's sake, but always for some higher purpose. Special researches with him were a means, a ladder to be thrown away as soon as he had reached his point. The thought of exhibiting his ladders never entered his mind. Occasionally, however, Bunsen would take a jump, and being bent on general results, he would sometimes neglect the objections that were urged against him. It has been easy, even during his life-time, to point out weak points in his arguments, and scholars who have spent the whole of their lives on one Greek classic have found no difficulty in showing to the world that they know more of that particular author than Bunsen. But even those who fully appreciate the real importance [pg 386] of Bunsen's labors—labors that were more like a shower of rain fertilizing large acres than like the artificial irrigation which supports one greenhouse plant—will be first to mourn over the precious time that was lost to the world by Bunsen's official avocations. If he could do what he did in his few hours of rest, what would he have achieved if he had carried out the original plan of his life! It is almost incredible that a man with his clear perception of his calling in life, so fully expressed in his earliest letters, should have allowed himself to be drawn away by the siren voice of diplomatic life. His success, no doubt, was great at first, and the kindness shown him by men like Niebuhr, the King, and the Crown Prince of Prussia was enough to turn a head that sat on the strongest shoulders. It should be remembered, too, that in Germany the diplomatic service has always had far greater charms than in England, and that the higher members of that service enjoy often the same political influence as members of the Cabinet. If we read of the brilliant reception accorded to the young diplomatist during his first stay at Berlin, the favors showered upon him by the old King, the friendship offered him by the Crown Prince, his future King, the hopes of usefulness in his own heart, and the encouragement given him by all his friends, we shall be less surprised at his preferring, in the days of his youth, the brilliant career of a diplomatist to the obscure lot of a professor. And yet what would Bunsen have given later in life if he had remained true to his first love! Again and again his better self bursts forth in complaints about a wasted life, and again and again he is carried along against his will. During his first stay in England he writes (November 18, 1838):—

[pg 387]
I care no more about my external position than about the mountains in the moon; I know God's will will be done, in spite of them all, and to my greatest benefit. What that is He alone knows. Only one thing I think I see clearly. My whole life is without sense and lasting use, if I squander it in affairs of the day, brilliant and important as they may be.

The longer he remained in that enchanted garden, the more difficult it became to find a way out, even after he had discovered by sad experience how little he was fitted for court life or even for public life in Prussia. When he first appeared at the court of Berlin, he carried everything by storm; but that very triumph was never forgiven him, and his enemies were bent on “showing this young doctor his proper place.” Bunsen had no idea how he was envied, for the lesson that success breeds envy is one that men of real modesty seldom learn until it is too late. And he was hated not only by chamberlains, but, as he discovered with deepest grief, even by those whom he considered his truest friends, who had been working in secret conclave to undermine his influence with his royal friend and master. Whenever he returned to Berlin, later in life, he could not breathe freely in the vitiated air of the court, and the wings of his soul hung down lamed, if not broken. Bunsen was not a courtier. Away from Berlin, among the ruins of Rome, and in the fresh air of English life, he could speak to kings and princes as few men have spoken to them, and pour out his inmost convictions before those whom he revered and loved. But at Berlin, though he might have learnt to bow and to smile and to use Byzantine phraseology, his voice faltered and was drowned by noisy declaimers; the diamond was buried in a heap of beads, and his rays could not shine forth where there was no heavenly sunlight to call them out.

[pg 388]

King Frederick William IV. was no ordinary King: that one can see even from the scanty extracts from his letters given in “Bunsen's Memoirs.” Nor was his love of Bunsen a mere passing whim. He loved the man, and those who knew the refreshing and satisfying influence of Bunsen's society will easily understand what the King meant when he said, “I am hungry and thirsty for Bunsen.” But what constitution can resist the daily doses of hyperbolical flattery that are poured into the ears of royalty, and how can we wonder that at last a modest expression of genuine respect does sound like rudeness to royal ears, and to speak the truth becomes synonymous with insolence? In the trickeries and mimicries of court life Bunsen was no adept, and nothing was easier than to outbid him in the price that is paid for royal favors. But if much has thus been lost of a life far too precious to be squandered among royal servants and messengers, this prophet among the Sauls has taught the world some lessons which he could not have taught in the lecture-room of a German university. People who would scarcely have listened to the arguments of a German professor sat humbly at the feet of an ambassador and of a man of the world. That a professor should be learned, and that a bishop should be orthodox, was a matter of course; but that an ambassador should hold forth on hieroglyphics and the antiquity of man rather than on the chronique scandaleuse of Paris; that a Prussian statesman should spend his mornings on the Ignatian Epistles rather than in writing gossiping letters to ladies in waiting at Berlin and Potsdam; that this learned man “who ought to know,” should profess the simple faith of a child and the boldest freedom of a philosopher, was enough to startle society, both high [pg 389] and low. How Bunsen inspired those who knew him with confidence, how he was consulted, and how he was loved, may be seen from some of the letters addressed to him, though few only of such letters have been published in his “Memoirs.” That his influence was great in England we know from the concurrent testimony both of his enemies and his friends, and the seed that he has sown in the minds and hearts of men have borne fruit, and will still bear richer fruit, both in England and in Germany. Nor should it be forgotten how excellent a use he made of his personal influence in helping young men who wanted advice and encouragement. His sympathy, his condescension, his faith when brought in contact with men of promise, were extraordinary: they were not shaken, though they have been abused more than once. In all who loved Bunsen his spirit will live on, imperceptibly, it may be, to themselves, imperceptibly to the world, but not the less really. It is not the chief duty of friends to honor the departed by idle grief, but to remember their designs, and to carry out their mandates. (Tac. Ann. II. 71.)


[pg 393]


After hesitating for a long time, and after consulting both those who had a right to be consulted, and those whose independent judgment I could trust, I have at last decided on publishing the following letters of Baron Bunsen, as an appendix to my article on the Memoirs of his Life. They will, I believe, show to the world one side of his character which in the Memoirs could appear but incidentally,—his ardent love of the higher studies from which his official duties were constantly tearing him away, and his kindness, his sympathy, his condescension in his intercourse with younger scholars who were pursuing different branches of that work to which he himself would gladly have dedicated the whole energy of his mind. Bunsen was by nature a scholar, though not exactly what in England is meant by a German scholar. Scholarship with him was always a means, never in itself an object; and the study of the languages, the laws, the philosophies and religions of antiquity, was in his eyes but a necessary preparation before approaching the problem of all problems, Is there a Providence in the world, or is there not? “To trace the firm path of God through the stream of ages,” this was the dream of his youth, and the toil of his old age; and during all his life, whether he was studying the laws of Rome or the hieroglyphic inscriptions of Egypt, the hymns of the Veda or the Psalms of the Old Testament, he was always collecting materials for that great temple which in his mind towered high above all other temples, the temple of God in history. He was an architect, but he wanted builders; his plans were settled, but there was no time to carry them out. He therefore naturally looked out for younger men who were to take some share of his work. He encouraged them, he helped them, he left them no rest till the work which he wanted was done; and he thus exercised the most salutary influence on a [pg 394] number of young scholars, both in Rome, in London, and in Heidelberg.

When I first came to know Bunsen, he was fifty-six, I twenty-four years of age; he was Prussian ambassador, I was nobody. But from the very beginning of our intercourse, he was to me like a friend and fellow-student; and when standing by his side at the desk in his library, I never saw the ambassador, but only the hard-working scholar, ready to guide, willing to follow, but always pressing forward to a definite goal. He would patiently listen to every objection, and enter readily into the most complicated questions of minute critical scholarship; but he always wanted to see daylight; he could not bear mere groping for groping's sake. When he suspected any scholar of shallowness, pettiness, or professorial conceit, he would sometimes burst forth into rage, and use language the severity of which he was himself the first to regret. But he would never presume on his age, his position, or his authority. In that respect few men remained so young, remained so entirely themselves through life as Bunsen. It is one of the saddest experiences in life to see men lose themselves when they become ministers or judges or bishops or professors. Bunsen never became ambassador, he always remained Bunsen. It has been my good fortune in life to have known many men whom the world calls great,—philosophers, statesmen, scholars, artists, poets; but take it all in all, take the full humanity of the man, I have never seen, and I shall never see his like again.

The rule followed in editing these letters has been a very simple one. I have given them as they were, even though I felt that many could be of interest to scholars only or to Bunsen's personal friends; but I have left out whatever could be supposed to wound the feelings of any one. Unless this rule is most carefully observed, the publication of letters after the death of their writers seems to me simply dishonorable. When Bunsen speaks of public measures and public men, of parties in Church and State, whether in England or in Germany, there was no necessity for suppressing his remarks, for he had spoken his mind as freely on them elsewhere as in these letters. But any personal reflections written on the spur of the moment, in confidence or in jest, have been struck out, however strong the temptation sometimes of leaving them. Many expressions, too, of his kind feelings towards me have been omitted. If some have been left, I hope I may be forgiven for a pride not altogether illegitimate.

[pg 395]


London, Thursday, December 7, 1848, 9 o'clock.

My dear M.,—I have this moment received your affectionate note of yesterday, and feel as if I must respond to it directly, as one would respond to a friend's shake of the hand. The information was quite new to me, and the success wholly unexpected. You have given a home to a friend who was homeless in the world; may you also have inspired him with that energy and stability, the want of which so evidently depresses him. The idea about Pauli is excellent, but he must decide quickly and send me word, that I may gain over William Hamilton, and his son (the President). The place is much sought after; Pauli would certainly be the man for it. He would not become a Philister here, as most do.

And now, my very dear M., I congratulate you on the courageous frame of mind which this event causes you to evince. It is exactly that which, as a friend, I wish for you for the whole of life, and which I perceived and loved in you from the very first moment. It delights me especially at this time, when your contemporaries are even more dark and confused than mine are sluggish and old-fashioned. The reality of life, as we enter the period of full manhood, destroys the first dream of youth; but with moral earnestness, and genuine faith in eternal providence, and in the sacredness of human destiny in that government of the world which exists for all human souls that honestly seek after good,—with these feelings, the dream of youth is more than realized.

You have undertaken a great work, and have been rescued from the whirlpool and landed on this peaceful island that you might carry it on undisturbed, which you could not have done in the Fatherland. This is the first consideration; but not less highly do I rate the circumstances which have kept you here, [pg 396] and have given you an opportunity of seeing English life in its real strength, with the consistency and stability, and with all the energy and simplicity, that are its distinguishing features. I have known what it is to receive this complement of German life in the years of my training and apprenticeship. When rightly estimated, this knowledge and love of the English element only strengthens the love of the German Fatherland, the home of genius and poetry.

I will only add that I am longing to see you amongst us: you must come to us before long. Meanwhile think of me with as much affection as I shall always think of you. Lepsius has sent me his splendid work “On the Foundations of Egyptian Chronology,” with astounding investigations.

As to Germany, my greatest hopes are based on this,—that the King and Henry von Gagern have met and become real friends.


Sunday Morning, February 18, 1849.

My dear M.,—Having returned home last night, I should like to see you quietly to-day, before the turmoil begins again to-morrow. Can you and Mr. Trithen come to me to-day at five o'clock? I will ask Elze to dinner, but I should first like to read to you two my treatise “On the Classification of Languages,” which is entirely rewritten, and has become my fifth book in nuce.

I will at once tell you that I am convinced that the Lycians were the true Pelasgians, and I shall not give you any rest till you have discovered the Pelasgic language from the monuments existing here. It is a sure discovery. It must be an older form of Greek, much as the Oscan or the Carmen Saliare were of Latin, or even perhaps more so.


Totteridge Park, Monday Morning, February 19, 1849.

I landed yesterday, and took refuge here till this afternoon; and my first employment is to thank you for your affectionate and faithful letter, and to tell you that I am not only to be here as hitherto, but that, with the permission of the King, I am to fill the post of confidential accredited minister of the Reichsverweser, formerly held by Baron Andrian. During my stay here, be it long or short, it will always be a pleasure and refreshment [pg 397] to me to see you as often as you can come to us. You know our way of living, which will remain the same, except now and then, when Palmerston may fix his conferences for a Sunday.

Pertz is quite ready to agree to the proposal of a regular completion of the Chambers collection: the best thing would be for you to offer to make the catalogue. He is waiting your proposal. The dark clouds of civil war are lowering over our dear and mighty Fatherland. Prussia will go on its own way quietly as a mediating power.


Carlton Terrace, April 22, 1849.

Yesterday evening, and night, and this morning early, I have been reading Froude's “Nemesis of Faith,” and am so moved by it that I must write you a few lines. I cannot describe the power of attraction exercised upon me by this deeply searching, noble spirit: I feel the tragic nature of his position, and long have I foreseen that such tragical combinations await the souls of men in this island-world. Arnold and Carlyle, each in his own way, had seen this long before me. In the general world, no one can understand such a state of mind, except so far as to be enabled to misconstrue it.

In the shortcoming of the English mind in judging of this book, its great alienation from the philosophy of Art is revealed. This book is not comprehended as a work of Art, claiming as such due proportions and relative significance of parts; otherwise many individuals would at least have been moved to a more sparing judgment upon it, and in the first place they would take in the import of the title.

This book shows the fatal result of the renunciation of the Church system of belief. The subject of the tale simply experiences moral annihilation; but the object of his affection, whose mind he had been the means of unsettling in her faith, burst through the boundaries which humanity has placed, and the moral order of the world imposes: they perish both,—each at odds with self, with God, and with human society: only for him there yet remains room for further development. Then the curtain falls,—that is right, according to artistic rule of composition; true and necessary according to the views of those who hold the faith of the Church of England; and from a theological point of view, no other solution could be expected from the book than that which it has given.

[pg 398]

But here the author has disclosed the inward disease, the fearful hollowness, the spiritual death, of the nation's philosophical and theological forms, with resistless eloquence; and like the Jews of old, they will exclaim, “That man is a criminal! stone him!”

I wish you could let him know how deeply I feel for him, without ever having seen him; and how I desire to admonish him to accept and endure this fatality, as, in the nature of things, he must surely have anticipated it; and as he has pointed out and defended the freedom of the spirit, so must he now (and I believe he will) show in himself, and make manifest to the world, the courage, active in deed, cheerful in power, of that free spirit.

It is presumptuous to intrude into the fate and mystery of life in the case of any man, and more especially of a man so remarkable; but the consciousness of community of spirits, of knowing, and endeavoring after what is morally good, and true, and perfect, and of the yearning after every real disciple of the inner religion of Christians, impels me to suggest to you to tell him from me, that I believe the spasm of his spiritual efforts would sooner be calmed, and the solution of the great problem would sooner be found, if he were to live for a time among us; I mean, if he resided for a time in one of the German universities. We Germans have been for seventy years working as thinkers, inquirers, poets, seers, also as men of action, to pull down the old and to erect the new Zion; each great man with us has contributed his materials towards the sanctuary, invisible, but firmly fixed in German hearts; the whole nation has neglected and sacrificed political, individual existence and common freedom—to pursue in faith the search after truth. From us something may be learnt, by every spirit of this age. He will experience how truly the divine Plato spoke, when he said, “Seven years of silent inquiry were needful for a man to learn the truth, but fourteen in order to learn how to make it known to his fellow-men.”

Froude must know Schleiermacher's “Discourses on Religion,” and perhaps also his “Dogmatics.” In this series of developments this is perhaps, as far as the form is concerned, the most satisfactory work which immediately concerns religion and its reconciliation with philosophy on the basis of more liberal Christian investigation. But at all events we have not striven and suffered in vain: our philosophy, research, and poetry show [pg 399] this. But men, not books, are needed by such a mind, in order to become conscious of the truth, which (to quote Spinoza) “remoto errore nuda remanet.” He has still much to learn, and he should learn it as a man from man. I should like to propose to him first to go to Bonn. He would there find that most deeply thoughtful and most original of speculative minds among our living theologians, the Hamann of this century, my dear friend R. Rothe; also a noble philosopher and teacher of ethics, Brandis; an honest master of exegesis, Bleek; and young minds would soon attach themselves to him. In Halle he would find Erdmann, almost the only distinguished speculative follower of Hegel, and Tholuck, who has advanced much farther in the philosophical treatment of Christianity than is generally thought. I will gladly give him introductions to all of these. They would all willingly admit him into their world of thought, and enter with sympathy into his. It would be sure to suit him.... The free atmosphere of thought would do him good, as formerly the atmosphere of free England was good for Germans still struggling for political liberty. He certainly needs physical change and invigorating. For this the lovely Rhine is decidedly to be recommended. With £100 he could live there as a prince. Why go off to Van Diemen's Land? I should always be glad to be of the least service to him, still more to make his personal acquaintance. And now, my dear M., you can, if you wish, read out to him what I have written, but do not give the letter out of your own hands.


9 Carlton Terrace, Monday, May 22, 1849.

I thank you for two letters. I cannot tell how the first delighted and rejoiced me. The state of things in England is really as you describe it. As to what concerns the second, you will by this time know that I have seen Froude twice. With M., too, personal acquaintance has been made, and the point as to money is touched on. I must see him again alone before I give my opinion. At all events, he is a man of genius, and Germany (especially Bonn) the country for him.

I can well imagine the terrible scenes your dear mother has witnessed in Dresden. However, I believe we have, in the very midst of the storm, reached the harbor. Even in Frankfort every one believes in the complete success of Prussia's negotiations with the four Courts. We shall have the whole constitution [pg 400] of the empire, and now with all necessary improvements. As to matters of form, they must be arranged as between equals. Gagern and his friends are ready for this. The constitution is to be declared at Berlin on the 25th. The disturbances will then be quieted as by magic. George is aux anges over this unexpected turn of affairs. At all events I hope soon to see you.


London, Wednesday, July 14, 1849.

“Hurrah for Müller!”—so writes George, and as an answer I send you his note from Frankfort. Hekscher's proposal is quite reasonable. I have since then broken off all negotiations with the Danes. You will soon read the documents in the newspapers.

If the proposal of the parliamentary committee on the directory of the Bund passes, which admits of little doubt, the question of to be or not to be must be immediately decided.

I do not intend going to Frankfort for this, so pray come here; I am alone here with Charles.


9 Carlton Terrace, Friday Morning.99

My dear M.,—I did not thank you immediately for your delightful and instructive letter, because there were many points on which I wished to write fully. The last decisive crisis of the German-European business has at length arrived, and I have had the opportunity of doing my duty in the matter. But I have been doing nothing else since last Saturday, nothing Chinese even. I recommend the inclosed to you. The young man is a good and highly informed German bookseller. He has of course written just what I did not tell him, and omitted what he ought to have said, “that he had been here for five years with the first booksellers, and before that was trained under his father in Bonn; that he understands English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.” I have only heard what is good of him. How grateful I feel to you for having begun the Index of Egyptian words at once! We wanted one here for a special purpose, so our trouble has not been thrown away. I now perceive how impossible it is to understand the Egyptian language and history thoroughly without Chinese. In the chronology there is still much to be done.

[pg 401]

We have as yet held our own in London and Warsaw as against Vienna. But in the Schleswig-Holstein question we have the whole world, and unfortunately our own peace of July 2d, against us. Radowitz has worked most devotedly and honestly. When shall we see you again?


Prussian Legation, May 15, 1850.

By return of post thanks and greetings to my dear M. Your proposal as to Schütz is excellent. Let me know if I am to write to Humboldt. I draw a totally different lesson from your news of the loss of the Veda MS. Wait till a good copy arrives, and in the mean time pursue your philological studies in some other direction, and get on with your Introduction. You can work more in one day in Europe than in a week in India, unless you wish to kill yourself, which I could not allow. So come with bag and baggage here, to 9 Carlton Terrace, to one who longs to see you.

F. must have gone mad, or have been far more so politically than I imagined. The “Leader,” edited by him and N., is (as Mills says) red and raw! and, in addition, badly written. It is a pity for prophets and poets to meddle with realities, instead of devoting themselves to futurity and poetry. George is happy in the intellectual wealth of Paris life, and quite perplexed at the perverseness and follies of the political cliques. He promises to write about the acquaintance of Lamenais and George Sand. I am well, but fully use the right of a convalescent, and hardly go anywhere.

Friend Stockmar sends a report from Erfurt, where the Parliament meets on the 26th to receive the oaths of the Directory and the Ministers of the Union. Usedom, Pertz, and Co. are quite mad in their enthusiasm for the Black and White, as I have openly written to them.


Carlton Terrace, July 10, 1850.

Mr. Eastwick, the translator of Bopp's Grammar, tells me that he and Murray wish for an article on this work in the “Quarterly Review” for January, 1851; so it must be sent in in November. Wilson refuses, as he is too busy. I believe you could best write such a review, of about sixteen pages [pg 402] (£16). If you agree to this, write a line to me or direct to Eastwick, who would then get a letter from Lockhart with the commission for you. God help Schleswig-Holstein!


London, October 10, 1850.

You have given me the greatest pleasure, my dear M., by your beautiful present. Already, last night, I read the new “Greek Songs,” and others that were new to me, with the greatest delight. We have, at all events, derived one benefit from the great storm,—that the fetters have been taken off the press. It is a very charming edition, and a beautiful memorial.

As to F——, it seems to me contra rei naturam to arrange anything with the “Quarterly Review.” The channel for such things is now really the “Edinburgh;” in the “Quarterly” everything not English must be run down, at all events in appearance, if it is to be appreciated. And now “Modern German Poetry and F——,” and Liberal politics! I cannot understand how F—— could think of such a thing. I will willingly take charge of it for the “Edinburgh Review.” The editor is my political, theological, personal friend, and sympathizes with me in such things as I consider F——'s beautiful review will be. I have for years wished for such a one; epic-lyric poetry has made much greater advances since Goethe's time than people in Germany (with the one exception of Platen) seem to perceive. It seems to me, though, that one should begin with the flowers of the Romantic school of poetry, with Schenkendorf and Körner,—that is, with the whole romantic German national epoch, which found Goethe already a retired philosopher. The whole development, from that time till now, appears to me as one intimately united whole, even including the present day. Even 1848 to 1850 have furnished their contribution (Arndt's two inspired songs, for instance); and in 1843-44, Geibel shines as a star of the first magnitude. Heine is difficult to treat. In fact, I do not think that F—— has read enough of these poets. He spoke to me lately of an historical work that he had in view, and which he wished to talk over with me; he meant to come up to me from the country, but has not yet appeared. He is always welcome, for he is decidedly a man of genius, and I would willingly help him.

Now to something different. My Chinese work is tolerably [pg 403] far advanced. I have arranged the 214 keys alphabetically, and have examined about 100 of them historically—that is, I have separated the oldest (entirely hieroglyphic and ideographic) signs, and as far as possible fixed the relationship of identical or similarly sounding roots. Then I laid aside the work, and first began a complete list of all those pronominal, adverbial, and particle stems, arranged first alphabetically and then according to matter, in which I found the recognizable corpses of the oldest Chinese words. The result repays me even far more than I expected. I hope to have finished both works before Christmas; and at last, too, the alphabetical examination of the 450 words (of which about 150 are hidden in the 214 keys; the 64 others are similarly sounding roots). Naturally all this is only in reference to ancient Chinese, which is at least as different (grammatically) from modern Chinese as Egyptian is from Coptic.

At the same time, I am reading the translation of the three “Kings,” and transliterate some passages. And now I must ask you to examine the inclosed system of transliteration. I have devised it according to my best powers after yours and Lepsius' system. Secondly, I want you to tell me whether I ought to buy the Leipzig translation of Eichhoff's “Parallèle des Langues Sanscrites.” My own copy of the French edition has disappeared. Pauli works at an Index of the Egyptian hieroglyphics and words, which I can send you by and by.

“The days and times are hard,” says an old song.


Totteridge Park, Tuesday Morning, October 16, 1850.

My dear Friend,—So it seems that I am really not to see you this time. I am truly sorry, and count all the more on your calling on your return, if I am still in England. I should like to have thanked you at once for your affectionate letter for my birthday. But you know, if you altogether trust me, that a lifelong love for you lies deep in my heart.

I had expected more from the great programme of New Oxford. It is not, however, much more unsatisfactory than the article on Plato, the writer of which now avows himself. It is only possible to excuse the milk-and-watery treatment of the subject through the general mental cowardice and ignorance in intellectual matters which is so predominant in this country. I find [pg 404] a comfort in the hope that this article is the prologue to able exegetical works, combined with a concrete statement of the absurdity, the untruth, and untenableness of the present English conception of inspiration. Do not call me to account too sharply for this hope, or it is likely to evaporate simply in pious wishes. Moral earnestness is the only thing that pleases me in this matter; the important thing now is to prove it, in opposition to invincible prejudices. Your plan of publishing your Introduction after you have talked it over with Lassen and Burnouf, and drawn in fresh breath, and just in January too, pleases me very much. If I may, all in the dark, give you some good advice, try to make yourself clear on two points. First, as to the proper limits of language for the investigation of past and prehistoric times. As yet, no one has known how to handle these gigantic materials; what Jacob Grimm has lately attempted with them is child's play. It is no longer of any use, as a Titan in intention, but confused as to aim, and uncertain in method,—it is no longer of any use to put down dazzling examples which demonstrate nothing, or at most only that something ought to be there to be demonstrated. What you have told me entitles one to the highest hopes; and these will be realized, if you in the French, not the Teutonic manner, arrive at full understanding of what is at present a mere instinctive intuition, and thus arrive at the right method. You can do it. Only I have some anxiety as to the second point, the historical proofs of the beginnings of nations. That is the weak side, first of all etymologists and word-masters, and then especially of all “Indologues,” and of the whole Indian past itself. There is an enormous difference between what can have been, nay, according to certain abstract theoretic views must have been, and what has been. That, however, is the distinctive problem for historical investigation. And here, above all, much depends on philological knowledge and sagacity; but still more on that historical tact which understands how inferences should be drawn. This demands much acquaintance with what is real, and with purely historical material; much practice, and, as regards character, much self-denial. In this judicium subactum of the historian lies the difference between Niebuhr and O. Müller. To satisfy these demands, it is only necessary, with your gifts and your character, that you should wish to do so earnestly, and perseveringly wish it. Of course you will not separate the inquiry as to the oldest seat of the Sanskrit language from the [pg 405] surrounding problems. I am perhaps too strongly prejudiced against the idea that the family of which we are speaking must have wandered from the banks of the Upper Indus towards Bactria, and from thence founded Media and Persia. But I have for the present good grounds for this, and views which have long been tested by me. I can well imagine a migration of this family to and fro from the northern to the southern slopes of the Hindu-Kush and back again; in Egypt one sees most plainly how the Semitic, or the family which inclines towards Semitism, migrated frequently from the Mediterranean and the Euphrates to the Red Sea and back again. But this alters nothing in the theory, on the one hand, that it is one and the same family historically, and, on the other hand, that it is not originally African, but Asiatic. You will certainly not adopt Niebuhr's autochthonic theory, where such facts lie before you. But enough. Only receive these remarks as a proof of my lively interest in your researches, and in yourself; and may Minerva be your guide. I rejoice in the prize you have gained at the French Academy in Paris, both for you and the Fatherland.

The King has subscribed for twenty copies of your Veda, and you have received 500 thalers of it beforehand. The rest you will receive, according to the agreement then made, and which was communicated to you, as certainly after the revolution and constitution as before. I cannot have said a word with any other meaning. I may have recommended you not to demand future prepayment: there might have been difficulties. Examine, then, the communication made to you, take twenty copies of your first volume in your pocket, or rather in the ship, and hand them in, writing in any case to Humboldt, and beside him to the minister concerned, therefore to the Minister of Public Instruction. As to what concerns the King personally, ask Humboldt what you have to do. The thing itself is as clear and settled a matter of business as anything can well be; on this very account I have completely forgotten the particulars.

And now, God bless you, my dear friend. Greet all friendly minds and souls, and first, “though I have not the pleasure of her acquaintance,” your mother; and then Humboldt and Lepsius before any one else.


London, November 4, 1850.

I must tell you by return of post that your letter has frightened me by what you tell me respecting your strong impulse to [pg 406] go to Benares or to Bonn. This is the very worst moment for Bonn, and the very best for your publication of the Introduction to the Vedas. The crisis in our country disturbs everything; it will soon be over, and, as I have good reason to believe, without dishonor or bloodshed. They would do everything to make your stay in Bonn pleasant, as soon as they have recovered breath. Still, you must print that English book in England; and I should add, before you settle across the Channel. Or do you only intend to pay Lassen a visit? You knew that some time ago Lassen longed to see you, more than any other man. It would be a good idea if you settle to make an excursion to Germany. You are one of those who always arrange things best personally. At all events, you must come to us the day after to-morrow, and stay till the 9th. We shall have a house full of visitors that day (evening), but till then be quite alone. On the 7th you will give your presence to George as a birthday gift, a proof of great affection. Of Froude I have heard and seen nothing.

Empson has been here twice, without leaving his address. I have advanced as far in the astronomy and chronology of the Chinese as I can without an astronomer. They have begun with the beginning of the Chaldeans. With the language, too, I have reached firm soil and ground, through the 120 words which become particles. More by word of mouth.

The struggle is over. Open conferences will be held at Vienna, where Prussia will represent and securely maintain the principle of free opinion.

The 8,000 Bavarians will return home again. The new constitution of the Bund will include all Austria (except Italy), and will have a diet which has no legislative power in internal German affairs. Will Radowitz stay? Send a line in answer.


London, December 11, 1850.

In spite of the courier, who goes to-day, I must write a few words in answer to your friendly inquiries.

I am more and more convinced that you stake everything if you begin the important affair in Bonn without going there yourself; and on the other hand, that the business cannot fail if you go there; lastly, that you should go there at once, that Lassen and the government may not hit on something else. Once begun, the thing will, I hope, go exactly as you wish. But I [pg 407] should be very sorry if you were to leave Oxford before finishing the printing of the Introduction. That is your farewell to England, your greeting to the professoriate in Germany, both worthy and suited to you.

The Lectures at Oxford appear, by the side of this, as a secondary consideration. I cannot, however, restrain the wish that you should not refuse the thing. It is not expected that a deputy-professor should spend more time than is necessary on the charge committed to him. I should think you could arrange such a course very pleasantly, and feel certain of success, if you only bear in mind Lockhart's advice, to write as for ladies,—“Spartam quam nactus es orna,” as Niebuhr always told me, and I have always found it a good maxim. I await the sending in of your article for the “Edinburgh,” in order to make all preparations at once. I hope you will be back from Bonn by Christmas Eve, or else wait till after Christmas before you go.

As a friend of many years' standing, you will forgive me if I say that if the journey to Bonn is not financially convenient to you just now, I depend upon your thinking of me.


9 Carlton Terrace, January 2, 1851.

Most heartily do I wish you success and happiness in the new year. Stanley will have told you of our negotiations as to your beautiful article. He will have laid before you the sketch of a genuine English prologue and epilogue promised by him, and for which I gave him a few ideas. You can then choose between the “Quarterly” and “Edinburgh Review.”

Pertz has authorized me to pay you £20 on the 1st of January, as you wished. So send your receipt, that I may at once send you the £20 (in four bank-notes), unless you will fetch them yourself. If you can be here on Monday, you are invited to dinner with Macaulay, Mahon, and General Radowitz, otherwise any other day.

P. S. (Wednesday). No, my dear M., I will not send your article, but take it myself. Let me have it soon.


London, March 13, 1851.

It is such a delight to be able at last to write to you, to tell you that few events this year have given me such great pleasure as your noble success in Oxford. The English have shown [pg 408] how gladly they will listen to something good and new, if any one will lay it before them in their own halls and in their “gown.” Morier has faithfully reported everything, and my whole family sympathize in your triumph, as if it concerned ourselves.

I have heard from Empson that he will let your article appear in the third quarter (1st July). All space for the 1st of April had been promised since December. He will have it printed very early, that we may have time to read it comfortably, and see if it really wants a “head and tail.” He seems to think it is not wanted. So much the better, I answered him.

George writes diligently, De Nili fontibus, and revels in the scientific life of Bonn. He is coming at Easter for four weeks, and intends immediately after Whitsuntide to take his degree cum honore.

You have seen that Lachmann was obliged to have his foot amputated, as it was mortifying. The operation was very well performed; but the question is, whether the evil may not still spread. Haupt writes in great anxiety; he hurried off to his friend, to nurse him.

Theodore comes as early as the 7th of April, and goes to the University after Easter.

We have all had something of influenza, but not so that we were obliged to give up our Tuesday evenings, which are very well attended, as many as 300 people, who amuse themselves and us well. When are you coming to us?

I have come to the end of the third volume, in working over “Egypt,” and have already besides a third of the fourth volume ready for press. By the 1st of May the fourth volume must be sent to Gotha.


Carlton Terrace, Tuesday Morning, May 13, 1851, 7 o'clock.

(Olymp. I. i. i.) according to new German Chronology. See tables for “Egypt.”

I must at last take my early morning hour to write to you, instead of writing, or rather preparing, a chapter of my fifth volume. For I find the flood of business which begins with breakfast subsides now only after midnight, and I have many things I must say to you. First, my thanks and good wishes for the sketch of your lectures. You have rightly understood the importance of epic poetry in its historical bearing, and for the [pg 409] first time connected it with the earliest times of the epic nations, namely, the primitive period of their community of language.

This has given me indescribable pleasure, and daily roused a longing to see you again very soon, and to read to you some chapters out of my fifth volume, the writing of which has continued to be an excessive delight to me. I have attempted the restoration of the times of the patriarchs, in the full belief in their real existence and in my own method, and have been surprised at the great results. After I had finished this section I felt inspirited to add the Introduction to the Preface, written at Easter, “The History and Method of the Philosophy of History,” and then, as by a stroke of magic, I found myself again in the lost Paradise of the deepest philosophical and historical convictions of all my life, on the strength of which I consecrated my dim anticipations to definite vows in the holy vigils of 1810-13, and wrote them down in the last weeks of my German life (January, 1816) in Berlin in order to explain myself to Niebuhr. The little book which I then wrote comes back again, after the lapse of quite thirty-five years, into my thoughts. The journey to India has turned out a journey to Egypt, and the journey of life hastens towards its close. But though I, since 1816, never found the means and opportunity to fix my eyes on the first youthful ideal, after I had dedicated my life to investigate, to think, and to live for it; and though all the grand and elevated views had been hidden from me in the narrow valleys of life and of special research, except some blessed moments of intuition, I am now again raised by the flood of Egyptian research, after a quarter of a century, on to the heights of the same Ararat from whence, in the battle of life, I had to descend. I only wished to give an introductory survey of the manner of treating the world's history, and to my astonishment something else appears, to which I yield myself with fear as well as delight, with the old youthful ardor. I believe I owe something of my good fortune this time also to my enemies and enviers. For it is quite true, as the newspaper said, that my removal or recall was demanded from the King, not only by our Camarilla and its tool, the ministry, but by more than “flesh and blood,” that high demoniacal power, which would willingly crush Prussia and Germany in its unholy embrace. It has come to an avowed struggle. As yet the King has held fast to me as king and friend. Such attacks always fill me with courageous indignation and indignant courage, and God has graciously filled my heart [pg 410] with this courage ever since I, on the day of the news of our complete defeat (November 10), determined to finish “Egypt.” Never, since I projected the five books on Egypt, when besieged on the Capitol by the Pope and his followers, and abandoned by the ministry at Berlin, from January 6th till Easter Sunday, 1838,—never have I worked with such success. Even the Great Exhibition and the visit of the Prince and Princess of Prussia have not hindered me. Volume IV. was finished on Sunday evening, April 27; and Tuesday morning, the 29th, I wrote at Dover the first chapter of the “Traditions of Prehistoric Times,” after Easter Sunday had presented me with the above-mentioned Preface. On the 27th of May all that is entailed by the Prince's visit ceases again on the beach at Dover, and on the 1st June I hope to be able to begin with the “Methodology.” I have now arrived at Leibnitz in the historical survey, which is to close with Schelling and Hegel, Goethe and Schiller, and which began with Abraham. Don't be frightened, it will please you.

But now, if Oxford and the gods of the Veda allow it, you should come here. George will, before he returns to Bonn, sail up the waters of the Nile with me; he has written the first sketch of the dissertation, and can get through everything in Bonn in six weeks; I believe he returns at the end of the first week.

Think this over. I do so wish for him to see you before he leaves. Meanwhile I may tell you, sub rosa, that on Saturday morning he, with Colonel Fischer and the charming Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, will go to Oxford from Birmingham (12 o'clock), and, in strictest incognito, show the Benares of Europe to the future King of Prussia, who is enthusiastic about England. He will write to you beforehand; he is now asleep, resting himself, after running about all day yesterday with the Prince, and staying at a ball till morning.

But enough of the outpourings of my heart. I hasten to business.

First, Empson has sent me the proof-sheets of your article. I mean your article for the “Edinburgh Review.” Early this morning I read it through at last, and joyfully and heartily utter my Macte virtute. You have worked up the article since I first read it in MS. far more than I expected; and certainly with good and practical results. Your examples, and particularly your notes, will help and please the English reader very much. The introduction is as excellent (ad hominem and yet [pg 411] dignified) as the end. Many thanks for it. God will bless it. To-night I shall read out the article to my wife, children, and Neukomm, as I long ago promised, and to-morrow I will send it to the printer (with a few corrected misprints), and will write to Empson “what I think about it.” So far, so good.

Secondly, I find I cannot with honor shrink from some sort of comparison of my Egyptian forms and roots with the Semitic and Iranian forms and roots. The facts are so enormously great, that it does not in the least matter whether the proof can be thoroughly given in all its details. I have therefore in my need thought of Rödiger, and have sent a letter to him, of which I inclose a copy. You will see from it that I hold fast to your friendly promise, to stand by me in the matter of Iran. What I said on the certainty and satisfactory completeness of the tools contained in my English edition, is, I am firmly convinced, not too strong. Still, I do not mean to say that a comparison with rich results might not be instituted between such Coptic roots (I do not admit it of the grammatical forms) as have not yet been rediscovered among the hieroglyphics and the ancient Asiatic: some of them may be found again in ancient Egyptian, almost unformed and not yet ground down; but that is mere pedantry in most cases. We have enough in what lies before us in the oldest form in attested documents, to show us the right formula for the equation.

And now for a few words about my family, which is so truly attached to you, and watches your success with real affection. But no, I have something else to say first on the Niebelungen. Your delightful letter awoke a thought which has often crossed my mind, namely, that it does not appear to me that the historical and early national element, which is but thinly veiled under the poetical matter, has ever been sufficiently searched out and distinguished. Grimm hates the historical elements which lie beyond his “Beginnings of Nations,” and my late dear friend Lachmann occupied himself with them most unwillingly. When, in 1825, I wrote that little treatise in French for Chateaubriand, which he printed in his “Mélanges,” I went over what had been said on this point, as far as it concerned me, and I was surprised to see how little had been done in it. Since that time I have heard of no investigations of the kind. But who can now believe that the mention of Gunther and the Burgundians is the one isolated historical fact in the poem? Is it not evident, for instance, that the myth of the contemporaneousness of Attila and the great [pg 412] Theodoric of the Ostrogoths has its historical root in the fact that Theodoric, King of the Visigoths, fell in the great battle of Chalons, 451, fighting against Attila; but his son Thorismund, to revenge his father's death, defeated the barbarians in a last assault, and gained the victory, on which the Franks pursued the Huns even across the Rhine. From this arose the connection of Attila with Theodoric, the great King of the Ostrogoths, who lived forty years later, and was intimately connected with the royal family of the Visigoths, and with the kingdom of the Visigoths, but of course could never have had any dealings with Attila.

If one neglects such intimations, one arrives at last at the Görres and Grimm clairvoyance, where not only everything is everything, but also everything again is nothing. Etzel, though, is not really Attila to Grimm, but the fairy nature of the legend allows of no certain conclusions. But I find that everywhere, where the tools are not wanting, the fermentation and decomposition process of the historical element can be proved; from which organically and by a process exactly analogous to that of the formation of languages in the first ages of the world, the epic legend arises, which the genius of the epic poet lays hold of when the time comes, with a consciousness of an historical destiny; as the tragic poet does in later times.

If you have time, follow up this idea. This is the weak side of your generation and guild. The whole national element has been kept too much in the background in the conceit and high-stiltedness, not to say woodenness, of our critical researches. Instead of saying with the humorists of the eighteenth century, “Since Herman's death nothing new has happened in Germany,” one ought to say “since Siegfried's death.” The genius of the nation which mourned over Herman's fall and murder was the same that in its sorrow gave shape to the legend of Sigurd. Must not the hearts of our ancestors, whose blood flows in our veins, have felt as we do in like circumstances? The princes and their relatives have betrayed and sold and murdered the true prince of the German people, even to this day. And yet were there now but a Siegfried-Herman! “Exsurget aliquando istis ex ossibus ultor.”

I take this opportunity of calling your attention to a pamphlet by Bethman-Hollweg, which has just appeared, “The Ancient Germans before the Migration of Nations.” I send it to you to-day, and you must bring it back when you come. Send me word by George when you can and will come.

[pg 413]

The Exhibition is, and will continue to be, the poetical and historical event of the period. “Les Anglais ont fait de la poésie sans s'en douter,” as that excellent Jourdain said of his prose. Come and see it and us as soon as you can.


Thursday, May 15, 1851, 7 A. M.

George, in the hurry of his journey, begs you, through me, to be so kind as to be at the Oxford station when the Birmingham train arrives, Saturday (the day after to-morrow) at 12 o'clock, and then kindly to help him in showing Oxford to the princeps juventutis. They leave again at 8 o'clock in the evening. The party will of course want some rooms in the best hotel, to rest themselves. So it might be well to bespeak some rooms for the travellers as a pied à terre. The party travel under the name of Colonel Fischer or George Bunsen.

I talked over the whole plan of the forms and roots with that good Steinschneider yesterday, and requested him to ask you further about it. He willingly undertook to do the work in the course of the summer. Thus we have certainly got one, perhaps two, for the Semitic work. I have given him a copy of my “Egypt.” He seems to be getting tame.


London, February 3, 1852.

I have exactly a quarter of an hour before I must make myself grand for the opening of Parliament, and I will spend it in chatting with you.

I will write to Pococke notwithstanding. I cannot help believing that the German method of etymology, as applied to history by Schlegel, Lassen, and Humboldt, and of which I have endeavored to sketch the outline, is the only safe one.

You have opened my eyes to the danger of their laying such dry and cheap ravings to our account, unless we, “as Germans,” protest against it.

I am rejoiced at your delight with the “Church Poetry.” But Pauli never sent you what I intended; I wanted to send you the first edition of my Hymn Book (no longer to be had at the booksellers'), because it has historical and biographical notices about the composers, and contains in the Preface and Introduction the first attempt to render the features of continuity and the epochs more conspicuous. (It is my only copy, so [pg 414] please for this reason take great care of it.) Also I wish to draw your attention to two translations from my collection. First by Miss Cox (daughter of the Bedell in Oxford), c. 1840, small 8vo. Second by Arnold (Rugby), not Dr. Arnold. This last I can send you. It contains one translation by the great Arnold, first part. You will observe, among other points, that the most animated hymns of praise and thanksgiving were composed amid the sufferings of the Thirty Years' War. My attention has been directed to Hillebrand's “History of German Literature,” three volumes, as the best work, and to Vilmar's ditto, one volume, as the most popular. I myself only possess Gelzer's thoughtful “Lectures” (from Lessing to Goethe), a book which I prefer to Gervinus, as far as a just appreciation of the national character and sentiment is concerned. (With many extracts.) I rejoice at your cheerful spirit. But now be satisfied, and make more use of the Romance languages. Tutius ibis. You have already sufficient materials. We can and will benefit this hospitable land, even without their desiring it; but cautiously! You will laugh at this, and forgive me; but I know what I am about. Next Saturday Volume II., ready bound, will lie on my table. The plan of the doctrine of the Trinity, critical and reconstructive, is a bold undertaking: the restoration of the genuine substance of the Apostolical constitutions and canons (in the second half of Volume II.) will probably have at present more success. But Volume III., The Reconstruction and the Reform! “The two text-books of the Early Church, The Church and House-Book and The Law-Book,” in biblical phraseology and orthography, chiefly derived from documents never yet made known, is my pièce de résistance; the sauce for it, in the Introduction, contains three chapters (The Picture, The Mirror, The Practical Reconstruction) for each section (Baptism, School, Constitution, Worship, Life).

So far I had written everything in English, tant bien que mal, without hesitating a moment for thoughts or words. But here the Muse refused,—not a single idea would flow into my pen. After three days I discovered that the spirit would and could speak German. So I then hastily added the first half of the Introduction; and I hope that the first cast of the whole will be ready this week; and a week later Cottrell will have it for translation, whilst the text-book (about 140 pages) is being printed in slips. I am afraid the English edition will not appear before the end of March; of the second I have already received [pg 415] Volume II. I think you will approve of the offspring. May Apollo and the Muses enlighten people about Bernays. I might then hope that he would again come here to me in the summer.

George has not yet announced his dissertation as “sent in to the faculty:” till then he is wisely silent. He appears to me to be too much there in the fashion and in society. May the devil carry off all fashionable women!

John calls. God bless you.

Wednesday.Vivat Müller! I am just writing my congratulations to Bernays. Vivat Dean!

Pauli's book appears in English without his doing anything to it.

You may recommend in Oxford, even to the most refined ladies and most Christian evangelicals, “Spiritual Words” from Goethe, by Lancizolle, 120 pages, 12mo (3s. beautifully bound). That is a German Bible.

You know Wackernagel's “Anthology”? It is useful, but gives too much of second rate. I will make my daughters copy out Arndt's German song for his eighty-third birthday for you. Adieu.


Saturday, March 13, 1852.

What in all the world is this undertaking to which Vaux asks my aid, the new edition of Herbelot's “Bibliothéque Orientale”? It might be made a good work, although I hate the form, but everything depends on the management. It is otherwise a mere bookseller's speculation or Jesuit's trick. I have answered provisionally that in case biblical literature is to be taken up (which is highly necessary), Ewald, Freytag, Bernays, Rödiger, Hengstenberg, and Bernstein should be summoned to help. I don't quite trust the thing; but if it is possible to introduce the people to good ideas, I am ready to aid.

When are you coming? I have sent the last MS. to-day to the press, or rather to the translator. I have only now reached the point on which I can really speak in a practical tone. Volume III. will contain 600 pages.


London, November 13, 1852.

Though late, I send you my hearty greetings on your return to England. I heard from Wilson that you were well, and that you had left your mother well for the winter.

[pg 416]

Hippolytus lies here ready for you, on purpose that you may fetch it. I hope you will do so on the 18th, for which you have already received the invitation. You will find Morier also here. Is not that furious and ridiculous article in the “Morning Chronicle” on the second volume (the first article, as yet without a continuation) by the same man (of Jesus College?) on whose article in the “Ecclesiastic” on Hippolytus' book I have thrown some degree of light? The leading thought is exactly the same in both; the account of Calixtus' knavery is interpolated (by Novatianus), says the writer in the “Chronicle.” This is a proof that nothing can be said against my argument requiring a serious answer. Gladstone felt ashamed of the review. It has helped the book; but it would be read even without this and the recommendation of the “Guardian”—so Longman says. One circulating library here has taken twenty-five copies, and wants more. So the book cannot be ignored; and that is all I first of all wished for, aculeum reliqui. As the people of this country, with a few exceptions that one can count upon one's fingers, do not understand the book, not even the title, and have never had a conception of what it means, to reproduce the spirit of a century of which men as yet, with the exception of Irenæus, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Origen, know only the names and enigmas (of which latter Hippolytus was one), their fault-finding with the composition of the book does not affect me at all. In spite of the timidity of nearly all English theologians, inter muros academicos et extra, I have received very many hearty and manly letters from numerous an