At first my father obstinately persisted in carrying out his plan; but when at last even the roof was partly removed, and the rain reached our beds, in spite of the carpets that had been taken up, converted into tarpaulin, and stretched over as a defense, he determined, though reluctantly, that the children should be intrusted for a time to some kind friends, who had already offered their services, and sent to a public school.
This transition was rather unpleasant; for, when the children, who had all along been kept at home in a secluded, pure, refined, yet strict manner, were thrown among a rude mass of young creatures, they were compelled unexpectedly to suffer every thing from the vulgar, bad, and even base, since they lacked both weapons and skill to protect themselves.
It was properly about this period that I first became acquainted with my native city, which I strolled over with more and more freedom, in every direction, sometimes alone, and sometimes in the company of lively companions. To convey to others in any degree the impression made upon me by these grave and revered spots, I must here introduce a description of my birthplace, as in its different parts it was gradually unfolded to me. What I liked more than any thing was, to promenade on the great bridge spanning the Main. Its length, its firmness, and its fine appearance, rendered it a notable structure; and it was, besides, almost the only memorial left from ancient times of the precautions due from the civil government to its citizens. The beautiful stream above and below bridge attracted my eye; and, when the gilt weathercock on the bridge-cross glittered in the sunshine, I always had a pleasant feeling. Generally I extended my walk through Sachsenhausen, and for a /Kreutzer/ was ferried comfortably across the river. I was now again on this side of the stream, stole along to the wine-market, and admired the mechanism of the cranes when goods were unloaded.
But it was particularly entertaining to watch the arrival of the market- boats, from which so many and such extraordinary figures were seen to disembark. On entering the city, the Saalhof, which at least stood on the spot where the castle of Emperor Charlemagne and his successors was reported to have been, was greeted every time with profound reverence. One liked to lose one's self in the old trading-town, particularly on market-days, among the crowd collected about the church of St. Bartholomew. From the earliest times, throngs of buyers and sellers had gathered there; and the place being thus occupied, it was not easy in later days to bring about a more roomy and cheerful arrangement. The booths of the so-called /Pfarreisen/ were very important places for us children, and we carried many a /Batzen to them in order to purchase sheets of colored paper stamped with gold animals; though one could but seldom make his way through the narrow, crowded, and dirty market-place. I call to mind, also, that I always flew past the adjoining meat-stalls, narrow and disgusting as they were, in perfect horror. On the other hand, the Roman Hill (/Romerberg/) was a most delightful place for walking. The way to the New-Town, along by the new shops, was always cheering and pleasant; yet we regretted that a street did not lead into the Zeil by the Church of Our Lady, and that we always had to go a roundabout way by the /Hasengasse/ or the Catherine Gate. But what chiefly attracted the child's attention, were the many little towns within the town, the fortresses within the fortress; viz., the walled monastic enclosures, and several other precincts, remaining from earlier times, and more or less like castles,—as the Nuremberg Court, the Compostella, the Braunfels, the ancestral house of the family of Stallburg, and several strongholds, in later days transformed into dwellings and warehouses. No architecture of an elevating kind was then to be seen in Frankfort; and every thing pointed to a period long past and unquiet, both for town and district. Gates and towers, which defined the bounds of the old city,—then, farther on again, gates, towers, walls, bridges, ramparts, moats, with which the new city was encompassed,—all showed, but too plainly, that a necessity for guarding the common weal in disastrous times had induced these arrangements, that all the squares and streets, even the newest, broadest, and best laid out, owed their origin to chance and caprice, and not to any regulating mind. A certain liking for the antique was thus implanted in the boy, and was specially nourished and promoted by old chronicles and woodcuts, as, for instance, those of Grave relating to the siege of Frankfort. At the same time a different taste was developed in him for observing the conditions of mankind in their manifold variety and naturalness, without regard to their importance or beauty. It was, therefore, one of our favorite walks, which we endeavored to take now and then in the course of a year, to follow the circuit of the path inside the city-walls. Gardens, courts, and back buildings extend to the /Zwinger/; and we saw many thousand people amid their little domestic and secluded circumstances. From the ornamental and show gardens of the rich, to the orchards of the citizen, anxious about his necessities; from thence to the factories, bleaching-grounds, and similar establishments, even to the burying-grounds,—for a little world lay within the limits of the city,—we passed a varied, strange spectacle, which changed at every step, and with the enjoyment of which our childish curiosity was never satisfied. In fact, the celebrated Devil-upon-two-sticks, when he lifted the roofs of Madrid at night, scarcely did more for his friend than was here done for us in the bright sunshine and open air. The keys that were to be made use of in this journey, to gain us a passage through many a tower, stair, and postern, were in the hands of the authorities, whose subordinates we never failed to coax into good humor.
But a more important, and in one sense more fruitful, place for us, was the city-hall, named from the Romans. In its lower vault-like rooms we liked but too well to lose ourselves. We obtained an entrance, too, into the large and very simple session-room of the council. The walls as well as the arched ceiling were white, though wainscoted to a certain height; and the whole was without a trace of painting, or any kind of carved work; only, high up on the middle wall, might be read this brief inscription:—
"One man's word is no man's word: Justice needs that both be heard."
After the most ancient fashion, benches were ranged around the wainscoting, and raised one step above the floor for the accommodation of the members of the assembly. This readily suggested to us why the order of rank in our senate was distributed by benches. To the left of the door, on the opposite corner, sat the /Schoeffen/; in the corner itself the /Schultheiss/, who alone had a small table before him; those of the second bench sat in the space to his left as far as the wall to where the windows were; while along the windows ran the third bench, occupied by the craftsmen. In the midst of the hall stood a table for the registrar (/Protoculfuehrer/).
Once within the /Roemer/, we even mingled with the crowd at the audiences of the burgomasters. But whatever related to the election and coronation of the emperors possessed a greater charm. We managed to gain the favor of the keepers, so as to be allowed to mount the new gay imperial staircase, which was painted in fresco, and on other occasions closed with a grating. The election-chamber, with its purple hangings and admirably fringed gold borders, filled us with awe. The representations of animals, on which little children or genii, clothed in the imperial ornaments and laden with the insignia of the empire, made a curious figure, were observed by us with great attention; and we even hoped that we might live to see, some time or other, a coronation with our own eyes. They had great difficulty to get us out of the great imperial hall, when we had been once fortunate enough to steal in; and we reckoned him our truest friend, who, while we looked at the half- lengths of all the emperors painted around at a certain height, would tell us something of their deeds.
We listened to many a legend of Charlemagne. But that which was historically interesting for us began with Rudolph of Hapsburg, who by his courage put an end to such violent commotions. Charles the Fourth also attracted our notice. We had already heard of the Golden Bull, and of the statutes for the administration of criminal justice. We knew, too, that he had not made the Frankforters suffer for their adhesion to his noble rival, Emperor Gunther of Schwarzburg. We heard Maximilian praised, both as a friend to mankind, and to the townsmen, his subjects, and were also told that it had been prophesied of him he would be the last emperor of a German house, which unhappily came to pass, as after his death the choice wavered only between the king of Spain (/afterwards/), Charles V., and the king of France, Francis I. With some anxiety it was added, that a similar prophecy, or rather intimation, was once more in circulation; for it was obvious that there was room left for the portrait of only one more emperor,—a circumstance which, though seemingly accidental, filled the patriotic with concern.
Having once entered upon this circuit, we did not fail to repair to the cathedral, and there visit the grave of that brave Gunther, so much prized both by friend and foe. The famous stone which formerly covered it is set up in the choir. The door close by, leading into the conclave, remained long shut against us, until we at last managed, through the higher authorities, to gain access to this celebrated place. But we should have done better had we continued as before to picture it merely in our imagination; for we found this room, which is so remarkable in German history, where the most powerful princes were accustomed to meet for an act so momentous, in no respect worthily adorned, and even disfigured with beams, poles, scaffolding, and similar lumber, which people had wanted to put out of the way. The imagination, for that very reason, was the more excited and the heart elevated, when we soon after received permission to be present in the city-hall, at the exhibition of the Golden Bull to some distinguished strangers.
The boy then heard, with much curiosity, what his own family, as well as other older relations and acquaintances, liked to tell and repeat; viz., the histories of the two last coronations, which had followed close upon each other; for there was no Frankforter of a certain age who would not have regarded these two events, and their attendant circumstances, as the crowning glory of his whole life. Splendid as had been the coronation of Charles Seventh, during which particularly the French ambassador had given magnificent feasts at great cost and with distinguished taste, the results were all the more afflicting to the good emperor, who could not preserve his capital Munich, and was compelled in some degree to implore the hospitality of his imperial towns.
Although the coronation of Francis First was not so strikingly splendid as the former one, it was dignified by the presence of the Empress Maria Theresa, whose beauty appears to have created as much impression on the men as the earnest and noble form and the blue eyes of Charles Seventh on the women. At any rate, both sexes vied with each other in giving to the attentive boy a highly favorable opinion of both these personages. All these descriptions and narratives were given in a serene and quiet state of mind; for the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle had, for the moment, put an end to all feuds: and they spoke at their ease of past contests, as well as of their former festivities,—the battle of Dettingen for instance, and other remarkable events of by-gone years; and all that was important or dangerous seemed, as generally happens when a peace has been concluded, to have occurred only to afford entertainment to prosperous and unconcerned people.
Half a year had scarcely passed away in this narrow patriotism before the fairs began, which always produced an incredible ferment in the heads of all children. The erection, in so short a time, of so many booths, creating a new town within the old one; the roll and crush, the unloading and unpacking of wares,—excited from the very first dawn of consciousness an insatiable active curiosity, and a boundless desire for childish property, which the boy with increasing years endeavored to gratify, in one way or another, as far as his little purse permitted. At the same time, he obtained a notion of what the world produces, what it wants, and what the inhabitants of its different parts exchange with each other.
These great epochs, which came round regularly in spring and autumn, were announced by curious solemnities, which seemed the more dignified because they vividly brought before us the old time, and what had come down from it to ourselves. On Escort Day, the whole population were on their legs, thronging to the /Fahrgasse/, to the bridge, and beyond /Sachsenhausen/; all the windows were occupied, though nothing unusual took place on that day; the crowd seeming to be there only for the sake of jostling each other, and the spectators merely to look at one another; for the real occasion of their coming did not begin till nightfall, and was then rather taken upon trust than seen with the eyes.
The affair was thus: in those old, unquiet times, when every one did wrong according to his pleasure, or helped the right as his liking led him, traders on their way to the fairs were so wilfully beset and harassed by waylayers, both of noble and ignoble birth, the princes and other persons of power caused their people to be accompanied to Frankfort by an armed escort. Now, the burghers of the imperial city would yield no rights pertaining to themselves or their district: they went out to meet the advancing party; and thus contests often arose as to how far the escort should advance, or whether it had a right to enter the city at all. But as this took place, not only in regard to matters of trade and fairs, but also when high personages came, in times of peace or war, and especially on the days of election; and as the affair often came to blows when a train which was not to be endured in the city strove to make its way in along with its lord,—many negotiations had from time to time been resorted to, and many temporary arrangements concluded, though always with reservations of rights on both sides. The hope had not been relinquished of composing once for all a quarrel that had already lasted for centuries, inasmuch as the whole institution, on account of which it had been so long and often so hotly contested, might be looked upon as nearly useless, or at least as superfluous.
Meanwhile, on those days, the city cavalry in several divisions, each having a commander in front, rode forth from different gates, and found on a certain spot some troopers or hussars of the persons entitled to an escort, who, with their leaders, were well received and entertained. They staid till towards evening, and then rode back to the city, scarcely visible to the expectant crowd, many a city knight not being in a condition to manage his horse, or keep himself in the saddle. The most important bands returned by the bridge-gate, where the pressure was consequently the strongest. Last of all, just as night fell, the Nuremberg post-coach arrived, escorted in the same way, and always containing, as the people fancied, in pursuance of custom, an old woman. Its arrival, therefore, was a signal for all the urchins to break out into an ear-splitting shout, though it was utterly impossible to distinguish any one of the passengers within. The throng that pressed after the coach through the bridge-gate was quite incredible, and perfectly bewildering to the senses. The houses nearest the bridge were those, therefore, most in demand among spectators.
Another more singular ceremony, by which the people were excited in broad daylight, was the Piper's Court (/Pfeifergericht/). It commemorated those early times when important larger trading-towns endeavored, if not to abolish tolls altogether, at least to bring about a reduction of them, as they increased in proportion with trade and industry. They were allowed this privilege by the emperor, who needed their aid, when it was in his power to grant it, but commonly only for one year; so that it had to be annually renewed. This was effected by means of symbolical gifts, which were presented before the opening of St. Bartholomew's Fair to the imperial magistrate (/Schultheiss/), who might have sometimes been the chief toll-gatherer; and, for the sake of a more imposing show, the gifts were offered when he was sitting in full court with the /Schoeffen/. But when the chief magistrate afterwards came to be no longer appointed by the emperor, and was elected by the city itself, he still retained these privileges; and thus both the immunities of the cities from toll, and the ceremonies by which the representatives from Worms, Nuremberg, and old Bamberg, once acknowledged the ancient favor, had come down to our times. The day before Lady Day, an open court was proclaimed. In an enclosed space in the great Imperial Hall, the Schoeffen took their elevated seats; a step higher, sat the /Schultheiss/ in the midst of them; while below, on the right hand, were the procurators of both parties invested with plenipotentiary powers. The /Actuarius/ begins to read aloud the weighty judgments reserved for this day: the lawyers demand copies, appeal, or do whatever else seems necessary. All at once a singular sort of music announces, if we may so speak, the advent of former centuries. It proceeds from three pipers, one of whom plays an old /shawm/, another a /sackbut/, and the third a /pommer/, or oboe. They wear blue mantles trimmed with gold, having the notes made fast to their sleeves, and their heads covered. Having thus left their inn at ten o'clock, followed by the deputies and their attendants, and stared at by all, natives and strangers, they enter the hall. The law proceedings are stayed, the pipers and their train halt before the railing, the deputy steps in and stations himself in front of the /Schultheiss/. The emblematic presents, which were required to be precisely the same as in the old precedents, consisted commonly of the staple wares of the city offering them. Pepper passed, as it were, for every thing else; and, even on this occasion, the deputy brought a handsomely turned wooden goblet filled with pepper. Upon it lay a pair of gloves, curiously slashed, stitched, and tasselled with silk,—a token of a favor granted and received,—such as the emperor himself made use of in certain cases. Along with this was a while staff, which in former times could not easily be dispensed with in judicial proceedings. Some small pieces of silver money were added: and the city of Worms brought an old felt hat, which was always redeemed again; so that the same one had been a witness of these ceremonies for many years.
After the deputy had made his address, handed over his present, and received from the /Schultheiss/ assurance of continued favor, he quitted the enclosed circle, the pipers blew, the train departed as it had come, the court pursued its business, until the second and at last the third deputy had been introduced. For each came some time after the other, partly that the pleasure of the public might thus be prolonged, and partly because they were always the same antiquated /virtuosi/ whom Nuremburg, for itself and its co-cities, had undertaken to maintain, and produce annually at the appointed place.
We children were particularly interested in this festival, because we were not a little flattered to see our grandfather in a place of so much honor; and because commonly, on the self-same day, we used to visit him, quite modestly, in order that we might, when my grandmother had emptied the pepper into her spice-box, lay hold of a cup or small rod, a pair of gloves, or an old /Raeder Albus/. [Footnote: An old silver coin.] These symbolical ceremonies, restoring antiquity as if by magic, could not be explained to us without leading us back into past times, and informing us of the manners, customs, and feelings of those early ancestors who were so strangely made present to us by pipers and deputies seemingly risen from the dead, and by tangible gifts which might be possessed by ourselves.
These venerable solemnities were followed, in the fine season, by many festivals, delightful for us children, which took place in the open air, outside the city. On the right shore of the Main, going down, about half an hour's walk from the gate, there rises a sulphur-spring, neatly enclosed, and surrounded by aged lindens. Not far from it stands the Good-People's-Court, formerly a hospital erected for the sake of the waters. On the commons around, the herds of cattle from the neighborhood were collected on a certain day of the year; and the herdsmen, together with their sweethearts, celebrated a rural festival with dancing and singing, with all sorts of pleasure and clownishness. On the other side of the city lay a similar but larger common, likewise graced with a spring and still finer lindens. Thither, at Whitsuntide, the flocks of sheep were driven: and, at the same time, the poor, pale orphan children were allowed to come out of their walls into the open air; for the thought had not yet occurred that these destitute creatures, who must some time or other help themselves through the world, ought soon to be brought in contact with it; that, instead of being kept in dreary confinement, they should rather be accustomed to serve and to endure; and that there was every reason to strengthen them physically and morally from their infancy. The nurses and maids, always ready to take a walk, never failed to carry or conduct us to such places, even in our first years; so that these rural festivals belong to the earliest impressions that I can recall.
Meanwhile, our house had been finished, and that too in tolerably short time; because every thing had been judiciously planned and prepared, and the needful money provided. We now found ourselves all together again, and felt comfortable; for, when a well-considered plan is once carried out, we forget the various inconveniences of the means that were necessary to its accomplishment. The building, for a private residence, was roomy enough, light and cheerful throughout, with broad staircases, agreeable parlors, and a prospect of the gardens that could be enjoyed easily from several of the windows. The internal completion, and what pertained to mere ornament and finish, was gradually accomplished, and served at the same time for occupation and amusement.
The first thing brought into order was my father's collection of books, the best of which, in calf and half-calf binding, were to ornament the walls of his office and study. He possessed the beautiful Dutch editions of the Latin classics, which, for the sake of outward uniformity, he had endeavored to procure all in quarto; and also many other works relating to Roman antiquities and the more elegant jurisprudence. The most eminent Italian poets were not wanting, and for Tasso he showed a great predilection. There were also the best and most recent Travels, and he took great delight in correcting and completing Keyssler and Nemeiz from them. Nor had he omitted to surround himself with all needful aids to learning, such as dictionaries of various languages, and encyclopaedias of science and art, which, with much else adapted to profit and amusement, might be consulted at will.
The other half of this collection, in neat parchment bindings, with very beautifully written titles, was placed in a separate attic. The acquisition of new books, as well as their binding and arrangement, he pursued with great composure and love of order; and he was much influenced in his opinion by the critical notices that ascribed particular merit to any work. His collection of juridical treatises was annually increased by some volumes.
Next, the pictures, which in the old house had hung about promiscuously, were now collected, and symmetrically hung on the walls of a cheerful room near the study, all in black frames set off with gilt mouldings. It was my father's principle, to which he gave frequent and even passionate utterance, that one ought to employ the living masters, and to spend less upon the departed, in the estimation of whom prejudice greatly concurred. He had the notion that it was precisely the same with pictures as with Rhenish wines, which, though age may impart to them a higher value, can be produced in any coming year of just as excellent quality as in years past. After the lapse of some time, the new wine also becomes old, quite as valuable and perhaps more delicious. This opinion he chiefly confirmed by the observation that many old pictures seemed to derive their chief value for lovers of art from the fact that they had become darker and browner, and that the harmony of tone in such pictures was often vaunted. My father, on the other hand, protested that he had no fear that the new pictures would not also turn black in time; though whether they were likely to gain any thing by this he was not so positive.
In pursuance of these principles, he employed for many years the whole of the Frankfort artists,—the painter Hirt, who excelled in animating oak and beech woods, and other so-called rural scenes, with cattle; Trautmann, who had adopted Rembrandt as his model, and had attained great perfection in enclosed lights and reflections, as well as in effective conflagrations, so that he was once ordered to paint a companion piece to a Rembrandt; Schutz, who diligently elaborated landscapes of the Rhine country, in the manner of Sachtlebens; and Junker, who executed with great purity flower and fruit pieces, still life, and figures quietly employed, after the models of the Dutch. But now, by the new arrangement, by more convenient room, and still more by the acquaintance of a skilful artist, our love of art was again quickened and animated. This artist was Seekatz, a pupil of Brinkmann, court-painter at Darmstadt, whose talent and character will be more minutely unfolded in the sequel.
In this way the remaining rooms were finished, according to their several purposes. Cleanliness and order prevailed throughout. Above all, the large panes of plate-glass contributed towards a perfect lightness, which had been wanting in the old house for many causes, but chiefly on account of the panes, which were for the most part round. My father was cheerful on account of the success of his undertaking; and if his good humor had not been often interrupted because the diligence and exactness of the mechanics did not come up to his wishes, a happier life than ours could not have been conceived, since much good partly arose in the family itself, and partly flowed from without.
But an extraordinary event deeply disturbed the boy's peace of mind for the first time. On the 1st of November, 1755, the earthquake at Lisbon took place, and spread a prodigious alarm over the world, long accustomed to peace and quiet. A great and magnificent capital, which was at the same time a trading and mercantile city, is smitten without warning by a most fearful calamity. The earth trembles and totters; the sea foams; ships dash together; houses fall in, and over them churches and towers; the royal palace is in part swallowed by the waters; the bursting land seems to vomit flames, since smoke and fire are seen everywhere amid the ruins. Sixty thousand persons, a moment before in ease and comfort, fall together; and he is to be deemed most fortunate who is no longer capable of a thought or feeling about the disaster. The flames rage on; and with them rage a troop of desperadoes, before concealed, or set at large by the event. The wretched survivors are exposed to pillage, massacre, and every outrage; and thus on all sides Nature asserts her boundless capriciousness.
Intimations of this event had spread over wide regions more quickly than the authentic reports: slight shocks had been felt in many places; in many springs, particularly those of a mineral nature, an unusual receding of the waters had been remarked; and so much the greater was the effect of the accounts themselves, which were rapidly circulated, at first in general terms, but finally with dreadful particulars. Hereupon the religious were neither wanting in reflections, nor the philosophic in grounds for consolation, nor the clergy in warnings. So complicated an event arrested the attention of the world for a long time; and, as additional and more detailed accounts of the extensive effects of this explosion came from every quarter, the minds already aroused by the misfortunes of strangers began to be more and more anxious about themselves and their friends. Perhaps the demon of terror had never so speedily and powerfully diffused his terrors over the earth.
The boy, who was compelled to put up with frequent repetitions of the whole matter, was not a little staggered. God, the Creator and Preserver of heaven and earth, whom the explanation of the first article of the creed declared so wise and benignant, having given both the just and the unjust a prey to the same destruction, had not manifested himself by any means in a fatherly character. In vain the young mind strove to resist these impressions. It was the more impossible, as the wise and scripture-learned could not themselves agree as to the light in which such a phenomenon should be regarded.
The next summer gave a closer opportunity of knowing directly that angry God, of whom the Old Testament records so much. A sudden hail-storm, accompanied by thunder and lightning, violently broke the new panes at the back of our house, which looked towards the west, damaged the new furniture, destroyed some valuable books and other things of worth, and was the more terrible to the children, as the whole household, quite beside themselves, dragged them into a dark passage, where, on their knees, with frightful groans and cries, they thought to conciliate the wrathful Deity. Meanwhile, my father, who was the only one self- possessed, forced open and unhinged the window-frames, by which we saved much glass, but made a broader inlet for the rain that followed the hail; so that, after we were finally quieted, we found ourselves in the rooms and on the stairs completely surrounded by floods and streams of water.
These events, startling as they were on the whole, did not greatly interrupt the course of instruction which my father himself had undertaken to give us children. He had passed his youth in the Coburg Gymnasium, which stood as one of the first among German educational institutions. He had there laid a good foundation in languages, and other matters reckoned part of a learned education, had subsequently applied himself to jurisprudence at Leipzig, and had at last taken his degree at Giessen. His dissertation, "Electa de aditione Hereditatis," which had been earnestly and carefully written, is still cited by jurists with approval.
It is a pious wish of all fathers to see what they have themselves failed to attain realized in their sons, as if in this way they could live their lives over again, and at last make a proper use of their early experience. Conscious of his acquirements, with the certainty of faithful perseverance, and distrusting the teachers of the day, my father undertook to instruct his own children, allowing them to take particular lessons from particular masters only so far as seemed absolutely necessary. A pedagogical /dilettantism/ was already beginning to show itself everywhere. The pedantry and heaviness of the masters appointed in the public schools had probably given rise to this evil. Something better was sought for, but it was forgotten how defective all instruction must be which is not given by persons who are teachers by profession.
My father had prospered in his own career tolerably according to his wishes: I was to follow the same course, only more easily, and much farther. He prized my natural endowments the more, because he was himself wanting in them; for he had acquired every thing only by means of unspeakable diligence, pertinacity, and repetition. He often assured me, early and late, both in jest and earnest, that with my talents he would have deported himself very differently, and would not have turned them to such small account.
By means of a ready apprehension, practice, and a good memory, I very soon outgrew the instructions which my father and the other teachers were able to give, without being thoroughly grounded in any thing. Grammar displeased me, because I regarded it as a mere arbitrary law: the rules seemed ridiculous, inasmuch as they were invalidated by so many exceptions, which had all to be learned by themselves. And if the first Latin work had not been in rhyme, I should have got on but badly in that; but, as it was, I hummed and sang it to myself readily enough. In the same way we had a geography in memory-verses, in which the most wretched doggerel best served to fix the recollection of that which was to be retained; e.g.,—
"Upper-Yssel has many a fen, Which makes it hateful to all men."
The forms and inflections of language I caught with ease; and I also quickly unravelled what lay in the conception of a thing. In rhetoric, composition, and such matters, no one excelled me; although I was often put back for faults of grammar. Yet these were the attempts that gave my father particular pleasure, and for which he rewarded me with many presents of money, considerable for such a lad.
My father taught my sister Italian in the same room in which I had to commit Cellarius to memory. As I was soon ready with my task, and was yet obliged to sit quiet, I listened with my book before me, and very readily caught the Italian, which struck me as an agreeable softening of Latin.
Other precocities, with respect to memory and the power to combine, I possessed in common with those children who thus acquire an early reputation. For that reason, my father could scarcely wait for me to go to college. He very soon declared that I must study jurisprudence in Leipzig, for which he retained a strong predilection; and I was afterwards to visit some other university and take my degree. As for this second one he was indifferent as to which I might choose, except that he had for some reason or other a disinclination to Goettingen, to my disappointment, since it was precisely there that I had placed such confidence and high hopes.
He told me further, that I was to go to Wetzlar and Ratisbon, as well as to Vienna, and thence towards Italy; although he repeatedly mentioned that Paris should first be seen, because after coming out of Italy nothing else could be pleasing.
These tales of my future youthful travels, often as they were repeated, I listened to eagerly, the more so as they always led to accounts of Italy, and at last to a description of Naples. His otherwise serious and dry manner seemed on these occasions to relax and quicken, and thus a passionate wish awoke in us children to participate in the paradise he described.
Private lessons, which now gradually multiplied, were shared with the children of the neighbors. This learning in common did not advance me: the teachers followed their routine; and the rudeness, sometimes the ill nature, of my companions, interrupted the brief hours of study with tumult, vexation, and disturbance. Chrestomathies, by which learning is made pleasant and varied, had not yet reached us. Cornelius Nepos, so dry to young people; the New Testament, which was much too easy, and which by preaching and religious instructions had been rendered even common-place; Cellarius and Pasor,—could impart no kind of interest: on the other hand, a certain rage for rhyme and versification, a consequence of reading the prevalent German poets, took complete possession of us. Me it had seized much earlier, as I had found it agreeable to pass from the rhetorical to the poetical treatment of subjects.
We boys held a Sunday assembly where each of us was to produce original verses. And here I was struck by something strange, which long caused me uneasiness. My poems, whatever they might be, always seemed to me the best. But I soon remarked that my competitors, who brought forth very lame affairs, were in the same condition, and thought no less of themselves. Nay, what appeared yet more suspicious, a good lad (though in such matters altogether unskilful), whom I liked in other respects, but who had his rhymes made by his tutor, not only regarded these as the best, but was thoroughly persuaded they were his own, as he always maintained in our confidential intercourse. Now, as this illusion and error was obvious to me, the question one day forced itself upon me, whether I myself might not be in the same state, whether those poems were not really better than mine, and whether I might not justly appear to those boys as mad as they to me? This disturbed me much and long, for it was altogether impossible for me to find any external criterion of the truth: I even ceased from producing, until at length I was quieted by my own light temperament, and the feeling of my own powers, and lastly by a trial of skill,—started on the spur of the moment by our teachers and parents, who had noted our sport,—in which I came off well, and won general praise.
No libraries for children had at that time been established. The old had themselves still childish notions, and found it convenient to impart their own education to their successors. Except the "Orbis Pictus" of Amos Comenius, no book of the sort fell into our hands; but the large folio Bible, with copperplates by Merian, was diligently gone over leaf by leaf; Gottfried's "Chronicles," with plates by the same master, taught us the most notable events of universal history; the "Acerra Philologica" added thereto all sorts of fables, mythologies, and wonders; and, as I soon became familiar with Ovid's "Metamorphoses," the first books of which in particular I studied carefully, my young brain was rapidly furnished with a mass of images and events, of significant and wonderful shapes and occurrences; and I never felt time hang upon my hands, as I always occupied myself in working over, repeating, and reproducing these acquisitions.
A more salutary moral effect than that of these rude and hazardous antiquities was produced by Fenelon's "Telemachus," with which I first became acquainted in Neukirch's translation, and which, imperfectly as it was executed, had a sweet and beneficent influence on my mind. That "Robinson Crusoe" was added in due time, follows in the nature of things; and it may be imagined that the "Island of Falsenberg" was not wanting. Lord Anson's "Voyage round the Globe" combined the dignity of truth with the rich fancies of fable; and, while our thoughts accompanied this excellent seaman, we were conducted over all the world, and endeavored to follow him with our fingers on the globe. But a still richer harvest was to spring up before me, when I lighted on a mass of writings, which, in their present state, it is true, cannot be called excellent, but the contents of which, in a harmless way, bring near to us many a meritorious action of former times.
The publication, or rather the manufacture, of those books, which have at a later day become so well known and celebrated under the name Volkschriften, Volksbucher (popular works or books), was carried on in Frankfort. The enormous sales they met with led to their being almost illegibly printed from stereotypes on horrible blotting-paper. We children were so fortunate as to find these precious remains of the Middle Ages every day on a little table at the door of a dealer in cheap books, and to obtain them at the cost of a couple of Kreutzer. "The Eulenspiegel," "The Four Sons of Haimon," "The Emperor Octavian," "The Fair Melusina," "The Beautiful Magelone," "Fortunatus," with the whole race down to "The Wandering Jew," were all at our service, as often as we preferred the relish of these works to the taste of sweet things. The greatest benefit of this was, that, when we had read through or damaged such a sheet, it could soon be reprocured, and swallowed a second time.
As a family picnic in summer is vexatiously disturbed by a sudden storm, which transforms a pleasant state of things into the very reverse: so the diseases of childhood fall unexpectedly on the most beautiful season of early life. And thus it happened with me. I had just purchased "Fortunatus with his Purse and Wishing-hat," when I was attacked by a restlessness and fever which announced the small-pox. Inoculation was still with us considered very problematical; and, although it had already been intelligibly and urgently recommended by popular writers, the German physicians hesitated to perform an operation that seemed to forestall Nature. Speculative Englishmen, therefore, had come to the Continent, and inoculated, for a considerable fee, the children of such persons as were opulent, and free from prejudices. Still, the majority were exposed to the old disease: the infection raged through families, killed and disfigured many children; and few parents dared to avail themselves of a method, the probable efficacy of which had been abundantly confirmed by the result. The evil now invaded our house, and attacked me with unusual severity. My whole body was sown over with spots, and my face covered; and for several days I lay blind and in great pain. They tried the only possible alleviation, and promised me heaps of gold if I would keep quiet, and not increase the mischief by rubbing and scratching. I controlled myself, while, according to the prevailing prejudice, they kept me as warm as possible, and thus only rendered my suffering more acute. At last, after a woeful time, there fell, as it were, a mask from my face. The blotches had left no visible mark upon the skin, but the features were plainly altered. I myself was satisfied merely with seeing the light of day again, and gradually putting off my spotted skin; but others were pitiless enough to remind me often of my previous condition, especially a very lively aunt, who had formerly regarded me with idolatry, but in after-years could seldom look at me without exclaiming "The deuce, cousin, what a fright he's grown!" Then she would tell me circumstantially how I had once been her delight, and what attention she had excited when she carried me about; and thus I early learned that people very often subject us to a severe atonement for the pleasure which we have afforded them.
I escaped neither measles nor chicken-pox, nor any other of the tormenting demons of childhood; and I was assured each time that it was a great piece of good luck that this malady was now past forever. But alas! another again threatened in the background, and advanced. All these things increased my propensity to reflection; and as I had already practised myself in fortitude, in order to remove the torture of impatience, the virtues which I had heard praised in the stoics appeared to me highly worthy of imitation, and the more so, as something similar was commended by the Christian doctrine of patience.
While on the subject of these family diseases, I will mention a brother about three years younger than myself, who was likewise attacked by that infection, and suffered not a little from it. He was of a tender nature, quiet and capricious; and we were never on the most friendly terms. Besides, he scarcely survived the years of childhood. Among several other children born afterwards, who, like him, did not live long, I only remember a very pretty and agreeable girl, who also soon passed away; so that, after the lapse of some years, my sister and I remained alone, and were therefore the more deeply and affectionately attached to each other.
These maladies, and other unpleasant interruptions, were in their consequences doubly grievous; for my father, who seemed to have laid down for himself a certain calendar of education and instruction, was resolved immediately to repair every delay, and imposed double lessons upon the young convalescent. These were not hard for me to accomplish, but were so far troublesome, that they hindered, and, to a certain extent, repressed, my inward development, which had taken a decided direction.
From these didactic and pedagogic oppressions, we commonly fled to my grandfather and grandmother. Their house stood in the Friedberg Street, and appeared to have been formerly a fortress; for, on approaching it, nothing was seen but a large gate with battlements, which were joined on either side to the two neighboring houses. On entering through a narrow passage, we reached at last a tolerably wide court, surrounded by irregular buildings, which were now all united into one dwelling. We usually hastened at once into the garden, which extended to a considerable length and breadth behind the buildings, and was very well kept. The walks were mostly skirted by vine-trellises: one part of the space was used for vegetables, and another devoted to flowers, which from spring till autumn adorned in rich succession the borders as well as the beds. The long wall, erected towards the south, was used for some well-trained espalier peach-trees, the forbidden fruit of which ripened temptingly before us through the summer. Yet we rather avoided this side, because we here could not satisfy our dainty appetites; and we turned to the side opposite, where an interminable row of currant and gooseberry bushes furnished our voracity with a succession of harvests till autumn. Not less important to us was an old, high, wide-spreading mulberry-tree, both on account of its fruits, and because we were told that the silk-worms fed upon its leaves. In this peaceful region my grandfather was found every evening, tending with genial care, and with his own hand, the finer growths of fruits and flowers; while a gardener managed the drudgery. He was never vexed by the various toils which were necessary to preserve and increase a fine show of pinks. The branches of the peach-trees were carefully tied to the espaliers with his own hands, in a fan-shape, in order to bring about a full and easy growth of the fruit. The sorting of the bulbs of tulips, hyacinths, and plants of a similar nature, as well as the care of their preservation, he intrusted to none; and I still with pleasure recall to my mind how diligently he occupied himself in inoculating the different varieties of roses. That he might protect himself from the thorns, he put on a pair of those ancient leather gloves, of which three pair were given him annually at the Piper's Court; so that there was no dearth of the article. He wore also a loose dressing-gown, and a folded black velvet cap upon his head; so that he might have passed for an intermediate person between Alcinous and Laertes.
All this work in the garden he pursued as regularly and with as much precision as his official business; for, before he came down, he always arranged the list of cases for the next day, and read the legal papers. In the morning he proceeded to the city-hall, dined after his return, then took a nap in his easy-chair, and so went through the same routine every day. He conversed little, never exhibited any vehemence; and I do not remember ever to have seen him angry. All that surrounded him was in the fashion of the olden time. I never perceived any alteration in his wainscoted room. His library contained, besides law-works, only the earliest books of travels, sea-voyages, and discoveries of countries. Altogether I can call to mind no situation more adapted than his to awaken the feeling of uninterrupted peace and eternal duration.
But the reverence we entertained for this venerable old man was raised to the highest degree by a conviction that he possessed the gift of prophecy, especially in matters that pertained to himself and his destiny. It is true he revealed himself to no one distinctly and minutely, except to my grandmother; yet we were all aware that he was informed of what was going to happen by significant dreams. He assured his wife, for instance, at a time when he was still a junior councillor, that, on the first vacancy, he would obtain the place left open on the bench of the /Schoeffen/; and soon afterwards, when one of those officers actually died of apoplexy, my grandfather gave orders that his house should be quietly got ready prepared on the day of electing and balloting, to receive his guests and congratulators. Sure enough, the decisive gold ball was drawn in his favor. The simple dream by which he had learned this, he confided to his wife as follows: He had seen himself in the ordinary full assembly of councilmen, where all went on just as usual. Suddenly the late /Schoeff/ rose from his seat, descended the steps, pressed him in the most complimentary manner to take the vacant place, and then departed by the door.
Something similar occurred on the death of the /Schultheiss/. They make no delay in supplying this place; as they always have to fear that the emperor will, at some time, resume his ancient right of nominating the officer. On this occasion, the messenger of the court came at midnight to summon an extraordinary session for the next morning; and, as the light in his lantern was about to expire, he asked for a candle's end to help him on his way. "Give him a whole one," said my grandfather to the ladies: "he takes the trouble all on my account." This expression anticipated the result,—he was made /Schultheiss/. And what rendered the circumstance particularly remarkable was, that, although his representative was the third and last to draw at the ballot, the two silver balls first came out, leaving the golden ball at the bottom of the bag for him.
Perfectly prosaic, simple, and without a trace of the fantastic or miraculous, were the other dreams, of which we were informed. Moreover, I remember that once, as a boy, I was turning over his books and memoranda, and found, among some other remarks which related to gardening, such sentences as these: "To-night N. N. came to me, and said,"—the name and revelation being written in cipher; or, "This night I saw,"—all the rest being again in cipher, except the conjunctions and similar words, from which nothing could be learned.
It is worthy of note also, that persons who showed no signs of prophetic insight at other times, acquired, for the moment, while in his presence, and that by means of some sensible evidence, presentiments of diseases or deaths which were then occurring in distant places. But no such gift has been transmitted to any of his children or grandchildren, who, for the most part, have been hearty people, enjoying life, and never going beyond the actual.
While on this subject, I remember with gratitude many kindnesses I received from them in my youth. Thus, for example, we were employed and entertained in many ways when we visited the second daughter, married to the druggist Melber, whose house and shop stood near the market, in the midst of the liveliest and most crowded part of the town. There we could look down from the windows pleasantly enough upon the hurly-burly, in which we feared to lose ourselves; and though at first, of all the goods in the shop, nothing had much interest for us but the licorice, and the little brown stamped cakes made from it, we became in time better acquainted with the multitude of articles bought and sold in that business. This aunt was the most vivacious of all the family. Whilst my mother, in her early years, took pleasure in being neatly dressed, working at some domestic occupation, or reading a book, the other, on the contrary, ran about the neighborhood to pick up neglected children, take care of them, comb them, and carry them about in the way she had done with me for a good while. At a time of public festivities, such as coronations, it was impossible to keep her at home. When a little child, she had already scrambled for the money scattered on such occasions; and it was related of her, that once when she had got a good many together, and was looking at them with great delight in the palm of her hand, it was struck by somebody, and all her well-earned booty vanished at a blow. There was another incident of which she was very proud. Once, while standing on a post as the Emperor Charles VII. was passing, at a moment when all the people were silent, she shouted a vigorous "Vivat!" into the coach, which made him take off his hat to her, and thank her quite graciously for her bold salutation.
Every thing in her house was stirring, lively, and cheerful; and we children owed her many a gay hour.
In a more quiet situation, which was, however, suited to her character, was a second aunt, married to the Pastor Stark, incumbent of St. Catharine's Church. He lived much alone, in accordance with his temperament and vocation, and possessed a fine library. Here I first became acquainted with Homer, in a prose translation, which may be found in the seventh part of Herr Von Loen's new collection of the most remarkable travels, under the title, "Homer's Description of the Conquest of the Kingdom of Troy," ornamented with copperplates in the theatrical French taste. These pictures perverted my imagination to such a degree, that, for a long time, I could conceive the Homeric heroes only under such forms. The incidents themselves gave me unspeakable delight; though I found great fault with the work for affording us no account of the capture of Troy, and breaking off so abruptly with the death of Hector. My uncle, to whom I mentioned this defect, referred me to Virgil, who perfectly satisfied my demands.
It will be taken for granted, that we children had among our other lessons a continued and progressive instruction in religion. But the Church-Protestantism imparted to us was, properly speaking, nothing but a kind of dry morality: ingenious exposition was not thought of, and the doctrine appealed neither to the understanding nor to the heart. For that reason, there were various secessions from the Established Church. Separatists, Pietists, Herrnhuter (Moravians), Quiet-in-the-Land, and others differently named and characterized, sprang up, all of whom are animated by the same purpose of approaching the Deity, especially through Christ, more closely than seemed to them possible under the forms of the established religion.
The boy heard these opinions and sentiments constantly spoken of, for the clergy as well as the laity divided themselves into /pro/ and /con/. The minority were composed of those who dissented more or less broadly; but their modes of thinking attracted by originality, heartiness, perseverance, and independence. All sorts of stories were told of their virtues, and of the way in which they were manifested. The reply of a pious master-tinman was especially noted, who, when one of his craft attempted to shame him by asking, "Who is really your confessor?" answered with great cheerfulness, and confidence in the goodness of his cause, "I have a famous one,—no less than the confessor of King David."
Things of this sort naturally made an impression on the boy, and led him into similar states of mind. In fact, he came to the thought that he might immediately approach the great God of nature, the Creator and Preserver of heaven and earth, whose earlier manifestations of wrath had been long forgotten in the beauty of the world, and the manifold blessings in which we participate while upon it. The way he took to accomplish this was very curious.
The boy had chiefly kept to the first article of belief. The God who stands in immediate connection with nature, and owns and loves it as his work, seemed to him the proper God, who might be brought into closer relationship with man, as with every thing else, and who would take care of him, as of the motion of the stars, the days and seasons, the animals and plants. There were texts of the Gospels which explicitly stated this. The boy could ascribe no form to this Being: he therefore sought him in his works, and would, in the good Old-Testament fashion, build him an altar. Natural productions were set forth as images of the world, over which a flame was to burn, signifying the aspirations of man's heart towards his Maker. He brought out of the collection of natural objects which he possessed, and which had been increased as chance directed, the best ores and other specimens. But the next difficulty was, as to how they should be arranged and raised into a pile. His father possessed a beautiful red-lacquered music-stand, ornamented with gilt flowers, in the form of a four-sided pyramid, with different elevations, which had been found convenient for quartets, but lately was not much in use. The boy laid hands on this, and built up his representatives of nature one above the other in steps; so that it all looked quite pretty and at the same time sufficiently significant. On an early sunrise his first worship of God was to be celebrated, but the young priest had not yet settled how to produce a flame which should at the same time emit an agreeable odor. At last it occurred to him to combine the two, as he possessed a few fumigating pastils, which diffused a pleasant fragrance with a glimmer, if not with a flame. Nay, this soft burning and exhalation seemed a better representation of what passes in the heart, than an open flame. The sun had already risen for a long time, but the neighboring houses concealed the east. At last it glittered above the roofs: a burning-glass was at once taken up and applied to the pastils, which were fixed on the summit in a fine porcelain saucer. Every thing succeeded according to the wish, and the devotion was perfect. The altar remained as a peculiar ornament of the room which had been assigned him in the new house. Every one regarded it only as a well-arranged collection of natural curiosities. The boy knew better, but concealed his knowledge. He longed for a repetition of the solemnity. But unfortunately, just as the most opportune sun arose, the porcelain cup was not at hand: he placed the pastils immediately on the upper surface of the stand; they were kindled; and so great was the devotion of the priest, that he did not observe, until it was too late, the mischief his sacrifice was doing. The pastils had burned mercilessly into the red lacquer and beautiful gold flowers, and, as if some evil spirit had disappeared, had left their black, ineffaceable footprints. By this the young priest was thrown into the most extreme perplexity. The mischief could be covered up, it was true, with the larger pieces of his show materials; but the spirit for new offerings was gone, and the accident might almost be considered a hint and warning of the danger there always is in wishing to approach the Deity in such a way.
All that has been hitherto recorded indicates that happy and easy condition in which nations exist during a long peace. But nowhere probably is such a beautiful time enjoyed in greater comfort than in cities living under their own laws, and large enough to include a considerable number of citizens, and so situated as to enrich them by trade and commerce. Strangers find it to their advantage to come and go, and are under a necessity of bringing profit in order to acquire profit. Even if such cities rule but a small territory, they are the better qualified to advance their internal prosperity; as their external relations expose them to no costly undertakings or alliances.
Thus the Frankforters passed a series of prosperous years during my childhood; but scarcely, on the 28th of August, 1756, had I completed my seventh year, than that world-renowned war broke out which was also to exert great influence upon the next seven years of my life. Frederick the Second, King of Prussia, had fallen upon Saxony with sixty thousand men; and, instead of announcing his invasion by a declaration of war, he followed it up with a manifesto, composed by himself as it was said, which explained the causes that had moved and justified him in so monstrous a step. The world, which saw itself appealed to, not merely as spectator, but as judge, immediately split into two parties; and our family was an image of the great whole.
My grandfather, who, as /Schoeff/ of Frankfort, had carried the coronation canopy over Francis the First, and had received from the empress a heavy gold chain with her likeness, took the Austrian side along with some of his sons-in-law and daughters. My father having been nominated to the imperial council by Charles the Seventh, and sympathizing sincerely in the fate of that unhappy monarch, leaned towards Prussia, with the other and smaller half of the family. Our meetings, which had been held on Sundays for many years uninterruptedly, were very soon disturbed. The misunderstandings so common among persons related by marriage, found only now a form in which they could be expressed. Contention, discord, silence, and separation ensued. My grandfather, generally a cheerful, quiet man, and fond of ease, became impatient. The women vainly endeavored to smother the flames; and, after some unpleasant scenes, my father was the first to quit the society. At home we now rejoiced undisturbed at the Prussian victories, which were commonly announced with great glee by our vivacious aunt. Every other interest had to give way to this, and we passed the rest of the year in perpetual agitation. The occupation of Dresden, the moderation of the king at the outset, his slow but secure advances, the victory at Lowositz, the capture of the Saxons, were so many triumphs for our party. Every thing that could be alleged for the advantage of our opponents was denied or depreciated; and, as the members of the family on the other side did the same, they could not meet in the streets without disputes arising, as in "Romeo and Juliet."
Thus I also was then a Prussian in my views, or, to speak more correctly, a Fritzian; since what cared we for Prussia? It was the personal character of the great king that worked upon all hearts. I rejoiced with my father in our conquests, readily copied the songs of triumph, and almost more willingly the lampoons directed against the other party, poor as the rhymes might be.
Being their eldest grandson and godchild, I had dined every Sunday since my infancy with my grandfather and grandmother; and the hours so spent had been the most delightful of the whole week. But now I relished not a morsel, because I was compelled to hear the most horrible slanders of my hero. Here blew another wind, here sounded another tone, than at home. My liking and even my respect for my grandfather and grandmother fell off. I could mention nothing of this to my parents, but avoided the matter, both on account of my own feelings, and because I had been warned by my mother. In this way I was thrown back upon myself; and as in my sixth year, after the earthquake at Lisbon, the goodness of God had become to me in some measure suspicious: so I began now, on account of Frederick the Second, to doubt the justice of the public. My heart was naturally inclined to reverence, and it required a great shock to stagger my faith in any thing that was venerable. But alas! they had commended good manners and a becoming deportment to us, not for their own sake, but for the sake of the people. What will people say? was always the cry; and I thought that the people must be right good people, and would know how to judge of any thing and every thing. But my experience went just to the contrary. The greatest and most signal services were defamed and attacked; the noblest deeds, if not denied, were at least misrepresented and diminished; and this base injustice was done to the only man who was manifestly elevated above all his contemporaries, and who daily proved what he was able to do,—and that, not by the populace, but by distinguished men, as I took my grandfather and uncles to be. That parties existed, and that he himself belonged to a party, had never entered into the conceptions of the boy. He, therefore, believed himself all the more right, and dared hold his own opinion for the better one; since he and those of like mind appreciated the beauty and other good qualities of Maria Theresa, and even did not grudge the Emperor Francis his love of jewellery and money. That Count Daun was often called an old dozer, they thought justifiable.
But, now that I look more closely into the matter, I here trace the germ of that disregard and even disdain of the public, which clung to me for a whole period of my life, and only in later days was brought within bounds by insight and cultivation. Suffice it to say, that the perception of the injustice of parties had even then a very unpleasant, nay, an injurious, effect upon the boy; as it accustomed him to separate himself from beloved and highly valued persons. The quick succession of battles and events left the parties neither quiet nor rest. We ever found a malicious delight in reviving and resharpening those imaginary evils and capricious disputes; and thus we continued to tease each other, until the occupation of Frankfort by the French some years afterwards brought real inconvenience into our homes.
Although to most of us the important events occurring in distant parts served only for topics of hot controversy, there were others who perceived the seriousness of the times, and feared that the sympathy of France might open a scene of war in our own vicinity. They kept us children at home more than before, and strove in many ways to occupy and amuse us. With this view, the puppet-show bequeathed by our grandmother was again brought forth, and arranged in such a way that the spectators sat in my gable-room; while the persons managing and performing, as well as the theatre itself as far as the proscenium, found a place in the room adjoining. We were allowed, as a special favor, to invite first one and then another of the neighbor's children as spectators; and thus at the outset I gained many friends, but the restlessness inherent in children did not suffer them to remain long a patient audience. They interrupted the play; and we were compelled to seek a younger public, which could at any rate be kept in order by the nurses and maids. The original drama, to which the puppets had been specially adapted, we had learned by heart; and in the beginning this was exclusively performed. Soon growing weary of it, however, we changed the dresses and decorations, and attempted various other pieces, which were indeed on too grand a scale for so narrow a stage. Although this presumption spoiled and finally quite destroyed what we performed, such childish pleasures and employments nevertheless exercised and advanced in many ways my power of invention and representation, my fancy, and a certain technical skill, to a degree which in any other way could not perhaps have been secured in so short a time, in so confined a space, and at so little expense.
I had early learned to use compasses and ruler, because all the instructions they gave me in geometry were forthwith put into practice; and I occupied myself greatly with paste-board-work. I did not stop at geometrical figures, little boxes, and such things, but invented pretty pleasure-houses adorned with pilasters, steps, and flat roofs. However, but little of this was completed.
Far more persevering was I, on the other hand, in arranging, with the help of our domestic (a tailor by trade), an armory for the service of our plays and tragedies, which we ourselves performed with delight when we had outgrown the puppets. My playfellows, too, prepared for themselves such armories, which they considered to be quite as fine and good as mine; but I had made provision, not for the wants of one person only, and could furnish several of the little band with every requisite, and thus made myself more and more indispensable to our little circle. That such games tended to factions, quarrels, and blows, and commonly came to a sad end in tumult and vexation, may easily be supposed. In such cases certain of my companions generally took part with me, while others sided against me; though many changes of party occurred. One single boy, whom I will call Pylades, urged by the others, once only left my party, but could scarcely for a moment maintain his hostile position. We were reconciled amid many tears, and for a long time afterwards kept faithfully together.
To him, as well as other well-wishers, I could render myself very agreeable by telling tales, which they most delighted to hear when I was the hero of my own story. It greatly rejoiced them to know that such wonderful things could befall one of their own playfellows; nor was it any harm that they did not understand how I could find time and space for such adventures, as they must have been pretty well aware of all my comings and goings, and how I was occupied the entire day. Not the less necessary was it for me to select the localities of these occurrences, if not in another world, at least in another spot; and yet all was told as having taken place only to-day or yesterday. They therefore had to form for themselves greater illusions than I could have palmed off upon them. If I had not gradually learned, in accordance with the instincts of my nature, to work up these visions and conceits into artistic forms, such vain-glorious beginnings could not have gone on without producing evil consequences for myself in the end.
Considering this impulse more closely, we may see in it that presumption with which the poet authoritatively utters the greatest improbabilities, and requires every one to recognize as real whatever may in any way seem to him, the inventor, as true.
But what is here told only in general terms, and by way of reflection, will perhaps become more apparent and interesting by means of an example. I subjoin, therefore, one of these tales, which, as I often had to repeat it to my comrades, still hovers entire in my imagination and memory.
THE NEW PARIS.
A BOY'S LEGEND.
On the night before Whitsunday, not long since, I dreamed that I stood before a mirror engaged with the new summer clothes which my dear parents had given me for the holiday. The dress consisted, as you know, of shoes of polished leather, with large silver buckles, fine cotton stockings, black nether garments of serge, and a coat of green baracan with gold buttons. The waistcoat of gold cloth was cut out of my father's bridal waistcoat. My hair had been frizzled and powdered, and my curls stuck out from my head like little wings; but I could not finish dressing myself, because I kept confusing the different articles, the first always falling off as soon as I was about to put on the next. In this dilemma, a young and handsome man came to me, and greeted me in the friendliest manner. "Oh! you are welcome," said I: "I am very glad to see you here."—"Do you know me, then?" replied he, smiling. "Why not?" was my no less smiling answer. "You are Mercury—I have often enough seen you represented in pictures."—"I am, indeed," replied he, "and am sent to you by the gods on an important errand. Do you see these three apples?" He stretched forth his hand and showed me three apples, which it could hardly hold, and which were as wonderfully beautiful as they were large, the one of a red, the other of a yellow, the third of a green, color. One could not help thinking they were precious stones made into the form of fruit. I would have snatched them; but he drew back, and said, "You must know, in the first place, that they are not for you. You must give them to the three handsomest youths of the city, who then, each according to his lot, will find wives to the utmost of their wishes. Take them, and success to you!" said he, as he departed, leaving the apples in my open hands. They appeared to me to have become still larger. I held them up at once against the light, and found them quite transparent; but soon they expanded upward, and became three beautiful little ladies about as large as middle-sized dolls, whose clothes were of the colors of the apples. They glided gently up my fingers: and when I was about to catch them, to make sure of one at least, they had already soared high and far; and I had to put up with the disappointment. I stood there all amazed and petrified, holding up my hands, and staring at my fingers as if there were still something on them to see. Suddenly I saw a most lovely girl dance upon the very tips. She was smaller, but pretty and lively; and as she did not fly away like the others, but remained dancing, now on one finger-point, now on another, I regarded her for a long while with admiration. And, as she pleased me so much, I thought in the end I could catch her, and made, as I fancied, a very adroit grasp. But at the moment I felt such a blow on my head that I fell down stunned, and did not awake from my stupor till it was time to dress myself and go to church.
During the service I often called those images to mind, and also when I was eating dinner at my grandfather's table. In the afternoon I wished to visit some friends, partly to show myself in my new dress, with my hat under my arm and my sword by my side, and partly to return their visits. I found no one at home; and, as I heard that they were gone to the gardens, I resolved to follow them, and pass the evening pleasantly. My way led towards the intrenchments; and I came to the spot which is rightly called the Bad Wall, for it is never quite safe from ghosts there. I walked slowly, and thought of my three goddesses, but especially of the little nymph, and often held up my fingers in hopes she might be kind enough to balance herself there again. With such thoughts I was proceeding, when I saw in the wall on my left hand a little gate which I did not remember to have ever noticed before. It looked low, but its pointed arch would have allowed the tallest man to enter. Arch and wall had been chiselled in the handsomest way, both by mason and sculptor; but it was the door itself which first properly attracted my attention. The old brown wood, though slightly ornamented, was crossed with broad bands of brass wrought both in relief and intaglio. The foliage on these, with the most natural birds sitting in it, I could not sufficiently admire. But, what seemed most remarkable, no keyhole could be seen, no latch, no knocker; and from this I conjectured that the door could be opened only from within. I was not in error; for, when I went nearer in order to touch the ornaments, it opened inwards; and there appeared a man whose dress was somewhat long, wide, and singular. A venerable beard enveloped his chin, so that I was inclined to think him a Jew. But he, as if he had divined my thoughts, made the sign of the holy cross, by which he gave me to understand that he was a good Catholic Christian. "Young gentleman, how came you here, and what are you doing?" he said to me, with a friendly voice and manner." I am admiring," I replied," the workmanship of this door; for I have never seen any thing like it, except in some small pieces in the collections of amateurs."—"I am glad," he answered, "that you like such works. The door is much more beautiful inside. Come in, if you like." My heart, in some degree, failed me. The mysterious dress of the porter, the seclusion, and a something, I know not what, that seemed to be in the air, oppressed me. I paused, therefore, under the pretext of examining the outside still longer; and at the same time I cast stolen glances into the garden, for a garden it was which had opened before me. Just inside the door I saw a space. Old linden-trees, standing at regular distances from each other, entirely covered it with their thickly interwoven branches; so that the most numerous parties, during the hottest of the day, might have refreshed themselves in the shade. Already I had stepped upon the threshold, and the old man contrived gradually to allure me on. Properly speaking, I did not resist; for I had always heard that a prince or sultan in such a case must never ask whether there be danger at hand. I had my sword by my side too; and could I not soon have finished with the old man, in case of hostile demonstrations? I therefore entered perfectly re-assured: the keeper closed the door, which bolted so softly that I scarcely heard it. He now showed me the workmanship on the inside, which in truth was still more artistic than the outside, explained it to me, and at the same time manifested particular good will. Being thus entirely at my ease, I let myself be guided in the shaded space by the wall, that formed a circle, where I found much to admire. Niches tastefully adorned with shells, corals, and pieces of ore, poured a profusion of water from the mouths of tritons into marble basins. Between them were aviaries and other lattice-work, in which squirrels frisked about, guinea-pigs ran hither and thither, with as many other pretty little creatures as one could wish to see. The birds called and sang to us as we advanced: the starlings, particularly, chattered the silliest stuff. One always cried, "Paris, Paris!" and the other, "Narcissus, Narcissus!" as plainly as a schoolboy can say them. The old man seemed to continue looking at me earnestly while the birds called out thus; but I feigned not to notice it, and had in truth no time to attend to him, for I could easily perceive that we went round and round, and that this shaded space was in fact a great circle, which enclosed another much more important. Indeed, we had actually reached the small door again, and it seemed as though the old man would let me out. But my eyes remained directed towards a golden railing, which seemed to hedge round the middle of this wonderful garden, and which I had found means enough of observing in our walk; although the old man managed to keep me always close to the wall, and therefore pretty far from the centre. And now, just as he was going to the door, I said to him, with a bow, "You have been so extremely kind to me that I would fain venture to make one more request before I part from you. Might I not look more closely at that golden railing, which appears to enclose in a very wide circle the interior of the garden?"—"Very willingly," replied he, "but in that case you must submit to some conditions."—"In what do they consist?" I asked hastily. "You must leave here your hat and sword, and must not let go my hand while I accompany you."—"Most willingly," I replied; and laid my hat and sword on the nearest stone bench. Immediately he grasped my left hand with his right, held it fast, and led me with some force straight forwards. When we reached the railing, my wonder changed into amazement. On a high socle of marble stood innumerable spears and partisans, ranged beneath each other, joined by their strangely ornamented points, and forming a complete circle. I looked through the intervals, and saw just behind a gently flowing piece of water, bounded on both sides by marble, and displaying in its clear depths a multitude of gold and silver fish, which moved about now slowly and now swiftly, now alone and now in shoals. I would also fain have looked beyond the canal, to see what there was in the heart of the garden. But I found, to my great sorrow, that the other side of the water was bordered by a similar railing, and with so much art, that to each interval on this side exactly fitted a spear or partisan on the other. These, and the other ornaments, rendered it impossible for one to see through, stand as he would. Besides, the old man, who still held me fast, prevented me from moving freely. My curiosity, meanwhile, after all I had seen, increased more and more; and I took heart to ask the old man whether one could not pass over. "Why not?" returned he, "but on new conditions." When I asked him what these were, he gave me to understand that I must put on other clothes. I was satisfied to do so: he led me back towards the wall into a small, neat room, on the sides of which hung many kinds of garments, all of which seemed to approach the Oriental costume. I soon changed my dress. He confined my powdered hair under a many-colored net, after having to my horror violently dusted it out. Now, standing before a great mirror, I found myself quite handsome in my disguise, and pleased myself better than in my formal Sunday clothes. I made gestures, and leaped, as I had seen the dancers do at the fair-theatre. In the midst of this I looked in the glass, and saw by chance the image of a niche which was behind me. On its white ground hung three green cords, each of them twisted up in a way which from the distance I could not clearly discern. I therefore turned round rather hastily, and asked the old man about the niche as well as the cords. He very courteously took a cord down, and showed it to me. It was a band of green silk of moderate thickness, the ends of which, joined by green leather with two holes in it, gave it the appearance of an instrument for no very desirable purpose. The thing struck me as suspicious, and I asked the old man the meaning. He answered me very quietly and kindly, "This is for those who abuse the confidence which is here readily shown them." He hung the cord again in its place, and immediately desired me to follow him; for this time he did not hold me, and so I walked freely beside him.
My chief curiosity now was, to discover where the gate and bridge, for passing through the railing and over the canal, might be; since as yet I had not been able to find any thing of the kind. I therefore watched the golden fence very narrowly as we hastened towards it. But in a moment my sight failed: lances, spears, halberds, and partisans began unexpectedly to rattle and quiver; and the strange movement ended in all the points sinking towards each other just as if two ancient hosts, armed with pikes, were about to charge. The confusion to the eyes, the clatter to the ears, was hardly to be borne; but infinitely surprising was the sight, when, falling perfectly level, they covered the circle of the canal, and formed the most glorious bridge that one can imagine. For now a most variegated garden parterre met my sight. It was laid out in curvilinear beds, which, looked at together, formed a labyrinth of ornaments; all with green borders of a low, woolly plant, which I had never seen before; all with flowers, each division of different colors, which, being likewise low and close to the ground, allowed the plan to be easily traced. This delicious sight, which I enjoyed in the full sunshine, quite riveted my eyes. But I hardly knew where I was to set my foot; for the serpentine paths were most delicately laid with blue sand, which seemed to form upon the earth a darker sky, or a sky seen in the water: and so I walked for a while beside my conductor, with my eyes fixed upon the ground, until at last I perceived, that, in the middle of this round of beds and flowers, there was a great circle of cypresses or poplar-like trees, through which one could not see, because the lowest branches seemed to spring out of the ground. My guide, without taking me exactly the shortest way, led me nevertheless immediately towards that centre; and how was I astonished, when, on entering the circle of high trees, I saw before me the peristyle of a magnificent garden-house, which seemed to have similar prospects and entrances on the other sides! The heavenly music which streamed from the building transported me still more than this model of architecture. I fancied that I heard now a lute, now a harp, now a guitar, and now something tinkling which did not belong to any of these instruments. The door for which we made opened soon on being lightly touched by the old man. But how was I amazed when the porteress who came out perfectly resembled the delicate girl who had danced upon my fingers in the dream! She greeted me as if we were already acquainted, and invited me to walk in. The old man staid behind; and I went with her through a short passage, arched and finely ornamented, to the middle hall, the splendid, dome-like ceiling of which attracted my gaze on my entrance, and filled me with astonishment. Yet my eye could not dwell on this long, being allured down by a more charming spectacle. On a carpet, directly under the middle of the cupola, sat three women in a triangle, clad in three different colors,— one red, the other yellow, the third green. The seats were gilt, and the carpet was a perfect flower-bed. In their arms lay the three instruments which I had been able to distinguish from without; for, being disturbed by my arrival, they had stopped their playing. "Welcome!" said the middle one, who sat with her face to the door, in a red dress, and with the harp. "Sit down by Alerte, and listen, if you are a lover of music."
Now only I remarked that there was a rather long bench placed obliquely before them, on which lay a mandolin. The pretty girl took it up, sat down, and drew me to her side. Now also I looked at the second lady on my right. She wore the yellow dress, and had the guitar in her hand; and if the harp-player was dignified in form, grand in features, and majestic in her deportment, one might remark in the guitar-player an easy grace and cheerfulness. She was a slender blonde, while the other was adorned by dark-brown hair. The variety and accordance of their music could not prevent me from remarking the third beauty, in the green dress, whose lute-playing was for me at once touching and striking. She was the one who seemed to notice me the most, and to direct her music to me: only I could not make up my mind about her; for she appeared to me now tender, now whimsical, now frank, now self-willed, according as she changed her mien and mode of playing. Sometimes she seemed to wish to excite my emotions, sometimes to tease me; but, do what she would, she got little out of me; for my little neighbor, by whom I sat elbow to elbow, had gained me entirely to herself: and while I clearly saw in those three ladies the sylphides of my dream, and recognized the colors of the apples, I conceived that I had no cause to detain them. I should have liked better to lay hold of the pretty little maiden if I had not but too well remembered the blow she had given me in my dream. Hitherto she had remained quite quiet with her mandolin; but, when her mistresses had ceased, they commanded her to perform some pleasant little piece. Scarcely had she jingled off some dance-tune, in a most exciting manner, than she sprang up: I did the same. She played and danced; I was hurried on to accompany her steps; and we executed a kind of little ballet, with which the ladies seemed satisfied; for, as soon as we had done, they commanded the little girl to refresh me with something nice till supper should come in. I had indeed forgotten that there was any thing in the world beyond this paradise. Alerte led me back immediately into the passage by which I had entered. On one side of it she had two well- arranged rooms. In that in which she lived she set before me oranges, figs, peaches, and grapes; and I enjoyed with great gusto both the fruits of foreign lands and those of our own not yet in season. Confectionery there was in profusion: she filled, too, a goblet of polished crystal with foaming wine; but I had no need to drink, as I had refreshed myself with the fruits. "Now we will play," said she, and led me into the other room. Here all looked like a Christmas fair, but such costly and exquisite things were never seen in a Christmas booth. There were all kinds of dolls, dolls' clothes, and dolls' furniture; kitchens, parlors, and shops, and single toys innumerable. She led me round to all the glass cases in which these ingenious works were preserved.
But she soon closed again the first cases, and said, "That is nothing for you, I know well enough. Here," she said, "we could find building- materials, walls and towers, houses, palaces, churches, to put together a great city. But this does not entertain me. We will take something else, which will be amusing to both of us." Then she brought out some boxes, in which I saw an army of little soldiers piled one upon the other, of which I must needs confess that I had never seen any thing so beautiful. She did not leave me time to examine them in detail, but took one box under her arm, while I seized the other. "We will go," she said, "to the golden bridge. There one plays best with soldiers: the lances give at once the direction in which the armies are to be opposed to each other." We had now reached the golden, trembling floor; and below me I could hear the waters gurgle and the fishes splash, while I knelt down to range my columns. All, as I now saw, were cavalry. She boasted that she had the queen of the Amazons as leader of her female host. I, on the contrary, found Achilles and a very stately Grecian cavalry. The armies stood facing each other, and nothing could have been seen more beautiful. They were not flat, leaden horsemen like ours; but man and horse were round and solid, and most finely wrought: nor could one conceive how they kept their balance; for they stood of themselves, without a support for their feet.
Both of us had inspected our hosts with much self-complacency, when she announced the onset. We had found ordnance in our chests; viz., little boxes full of well-polished agate balls. With these we were to fight against each other from a certain distance; while, however, it was an express condition that we should not throw with more force than was necessary to upset the figures, as none of them were to be injured. Now the cannonade began on both sides, and at first it succeeded to the satisfaction of us both. But when my adversary observed that I aimed better than she, and might in the end win the victory, which depended on the majority of pieces remaining upright, she came nearer, and her girlish way of throwing had then the desired result. She prostrated a multitude of my best troops, and the more I protested the more eagerly did she throw. This at last vexed me, and I declared that I would do the same. In fact, I not only went nearer, but in my rage threw with much more violence; so that it was not long before a pair of her little centauresses flew in pieces. In her eagerness she did not instantly notice it, but I stood petrified when the broken figures joined together again of themselves: Amazon and horse became again one, and also perfectly close, set up a gallop from the golden bridge under the lime- trees, and, running swiftly backwards and forwards, were lost in their career, I know not how, in the direction of the wall. My fair opponent had hardly perceived this, when she broke out into loud weeping and lamentation, and exclaimed that I had caused her an irreparable loss, which was far greater than could be expressed. But I, by this time provoked, was glad to annoy her, and blindly flung a couple of the remaining agate balls with force into the midst of her army. Unhappily I hit the queen, who had hitherto, during our regular game, been excepted. She flew in pieces, and her nearest officers were also shivered. But they swiftly set themselves up again, and started off like the others, galloping very merrily about under the lime-trees, and disappearing against the wall. My opponent scolded and abused me; but, being now in full play, I stooped to pick up some agate balls which rolled about upon the golden lances. It was my fierce desire to destroy her whole army. She, on the other hand, not idle, sprang at me, and gave me a box on the ear, which made my head ring. Having always heard that a hearty kiss was the proper response to a girl's box of the ear, I took her by the ears, and kissed her repeatedly. But she uttered such a piercing scream as frightened even me. I let her go; and it was fortunate that I did so, for in a moment I knew not what was happening to me. The ground beneath me began to shake and rattle. I soon remarked that the railings again set themselves in motion; but I had no time to consider, nor could I get a footing so as to fly. I feared every instant to be pierced; for the partisans and lances, which had lifted themselves up, were already slitting my clothes. It is sufficient to say, that, I know not how it was, hearing and sight failed me; and I recovered from my swoon and terror at the foot of a lime-tree, against which the pikes in springing up had thrown me. As I awoke, my anger awakened also, and violently increased when I heard from the other side the gibes and laughter of my opponent, who had probably reached the earth somewhat more softly than I. Therefore I jumped up; and as I saw the little host with its leader Achilles scattered around me, having been driven over with me by the rising of the rails, I seized the hero first, and threw him against a tree. His resuscitation and flight now pleased me doubly, a malicious pleasure combining with the prettiest sight in the world; and I was on the point of sending all the other Greeks after him, when suddenly hissing waters spurted at me on all sides, from stones and wall, from ground and branches, and, wherever I turned, dashed against me crossways.