There was nothing in the Emperor's youth to show the existence of deeply religious conviction, but as soon as he mounted the throne, and all through the reign up to the close of the century, indeed some years beyond it, his speeches, especially when he was addressing his soldiery, were filled with expressions of religious fervour. "Von Gotten Gnaden," he writes as a preface for a Leipzig publication appearing on January 1, 1900,
"is the King; therefore to God alone is he responsible. He must choose his way and conduct himself solely from this standpoint. This fearfully heavy responsibility which the King bears for his folk gives him a claim on the faithful co-operation of his subjects. Accordingly, every man among the people must be thoroughly persuaded that he is, along with the King, responsible for the general welfare."
It may be noted in passing that Cromwell and the Emperor are alike in being the founders of the great war navies of their respective countries.
On the date mentioned (New Year's Day), in the Berlin arsenal when consecrating some flags, he addressed the garrison on the turn of the year:
"The first day of the new century finds our army, that is our folk in arms, gathered round its standards, kneeling before the Lord of Hosts—and certainly if anyone has reason to bend the knee before God, it is our army."
"A glance at our standards," the Emperor continued,
"is sufficient explanation, for they incorporate our history. What was the state of our army at the beginning of the century? The glorious army of Frederick the Great had gone to sleep on its laurels, ossified in pipeclay details, led by old, incapable generals, its officers shy of work, sunk in luxury, good living, and foolish self-satisfaction. In a word, the army was no longer not only not equal to its task, but had forgotten it. Heavy was the punishment of Heaven, which overtook it and our folk. They were flung into the dust, Frederick's glory faded, the standards were cast down. In seven years of painful servitude God taught our folk to bethink itself of itself, and under the pressure of the feet of an arrogant usurper (Napoleon) was born the thought that it is the highest honour to devote in arms one's life and property to the Fatherland—the thought, in short, of universal conscription."
The word for conscription, it may be here remarked, is in German Wehrpflicht, the duty of defence. To most people in England it means simply "compulsory military service." It is important to note the difference, as it explains the German national idea, and the Emperor's idea, that all military and naval forces are primarily for defence, not offence. This is, indeed, equally true of the British, or perhaps any other, army and navy; but how many Englishmen, when they think of Germany, can get the idea into the foreground of their thoughts or accustom themselves to it?
However, we have not yet done with the Emperor's baffling character. There was a third element that now developed in it—the modern, the twentieth-century, the American, the Rockefeller element. It is intimately connected with his Weltpolitik, as his Weltpolitik is with his foreign policy in general—indeed one might say his Weltpolitik is his foreign policy—a policy of economic expansion, with a desperate apprehension of losing any of the Empire's property, and a determination to have a voice in the matter when there is any loose property anywhere in the world to be disposed of. To the Hebraic element and the warrior element (an entirely un-Christlike combination, as the Emperor must be aware) there now began to be added the mercantile, the modern, the American element—the interest in all the concerns of national material prosperity, in the national accumulation of wealth, the interest in inventions, in commercial science, in labour-saving machinery, the effort to win American favour, to facilitate intercourse and establish close and profitable relations with that wealthy land and people.
We know that the Emperor has English blood in him, greatly admires England, and is immensely proud of being a British admiral. We have seen him exhibiting traits of character that remind one of Lohengrin or Tancred. He has played many parts in the spirit of a Hebrew prophet and patriarch, of a Frederick the Great, a Cromwell, a Nelson, a Theodore Roosevelt. Preacher, teacher, soldier, sailor, he has been all four, now at one moment, now at another. We shall find him anon as art and dramatic critic, to end—so far as we are concerned with him—as farmer. Is it any wonder if such a man, mediaeval in his nature and modern in his character, defies clear and definite portrayal by his contemporaries?
Taking the year 1900 as the first year of the new century, not as some calculators, and the Emperor among them, take it, as the last year of the old, the twentieth century may be said to have opened with a dramatic historical episode in which the Emperor and his Empire took very prominent parts—the Boxer movement.
Little notice has been taken in our account of Germany's spacious days of her relations to China and the Far East generally. They were, nevertheless, all through that period intimately connected with her expansion or dreams of expansion. About 1890 the Flowery Land awoke to the benefits of European civilization and in particular of European ingenuity; and in 1891, for the first time in Chinese history, foreign diplomatists were granted the privilege of an annual reception at the Chinese Court. So exclusive was the Manchu dynasty—the Hohenzollerns of China in point of antiquity; yet not a score of years later the Manchu monarchy had been quietly removed from its five-thousand-year-old throne, and China, apparently the most conservative and monarchical people on earth, proclaimed itself a republic—a regular modern republic!—an operation that among peoples claiming infinite superiority to the Chinese would have cost thousands of lives and a vast expenditure of money.
Naturally, once China showed a willingness to abandon its axenic attitude towards foreign devils and all things foreign-devilish, the European Powers turned their eyes and energies towards her, and a strenuous commercial and diplomatic race after prospective concessions for railways, mines, and undertakings of all kinds began. Each Power feared that China would be gobbled up by a rival, or that at least a partition of the vast Chinese Empire was at hand. Consequently, when China was beaten in her war with Japan, and made the unfavourable treaty of Shimonoseki, the European Powers were ready to appear as helpers in time of need. Russia, Germany, and France got the Shimonoseki Treaty altered, and the Laotung Peninsula with Port Arthur given back, and in return Russia acquired the right to build a railway through Manchuria (the first step towards "penetration" and occupation), French engineers obtained several valuable mining and railway concessions, and Germany got certain privileges in Hankow and Tientsin.
Meantime the old, deeply-rooted hatred of the foreign devil, the European, was spreading among the population, which was still, in the mass, conservative. Missionaries were murdered, and among them, in 1897, two German priests. Germany demanded compensation, and in default sent a cruiser squadron to Kiautschau Bay. Russia immediately hurried a fleet to Port Arthur and obtained from China a lease of that port for twenty-five years. England and France now put in a claim for their share of the good things going. England obtained Wei-hai-Wei, France a lease of Kwang-tschau and Hainan. China was evidently throwing herself into the arms of Europe, when, in 1898, the Dowager Empress took the government out of the hands of the young Emperor and a period of reaction set in. The appearance of Italy with a demand for a lease of the San-mun Bay in 1899 brought the Chinese anti-foreign movement to a head, and the Boxer conspiracy grew to great dimensions.
The movement was caused not merely by religious and race fanaticism, but by the popular fear that the new European era would change the economic life of China and deprive millions of Chinese of their wonted means of livelihood. The Dowager Empress and a number of Chinese princes now joined it. Massacres soon became the order of the day, and it is calculated that in the spring of 1900 alone more than 30,000 Christians were barbarously done to death. Among the victims were reckoned 118 English, 79 Americans, 25 French, and 40 of other nationalities. The Ambassadors and Ministers of all nations, conscious of their danger, applied to the Tsungli Yamen (Foreign Office), demanding that the Imperial Government should crush the Boxer movement. The Government took no steps, the diplomatists were beleaguered in their embassies, and were only saved by friendly police from being murdered.
This, however, was but a temporary respite, and it became necessary to bring marines from the foreign ships of war lying at the mouth of the Pei-ho River just out of range of the formidable Taku Forts. These troops, 2,000 in all, were led by Admiral Seymour. They tried to reach Pekin, but failed owing to the destruction of the railway, and retired to Tientsin, from whence, however, on June 16th, a detachment set out to capture the Taku Forts. The capture was effected, the German gunboat Iltis, under Captain Lans, playing a conspicuously brave part. Tientsin was now in danger from the Boxer bands, but was relieved by a mixed detachment of Russians and Germans under General Stoessel, the subsequent defender of Port Arthur.
The alarm meantime at Pekin was intense. The Chinese Government, throwing off all disguise, ordered the diplomatists to leave the city. They refused, knowing that to leave the shelter of the embassies meant torture and death. One of them, however, the German Minister, Freiherr von Ketteler, ventured from his Legation and was killed in broad daylight on his way to the Chinese Foreign Office. Only one of the Minister's party escaped, to stagger, hacked and bloody, into the British Legation with the news. This Legation, as the strongest building in the quarter, became the refuge of the entire diplomatic corps, with their wives, children, and servants. It was straightway invested and bombarded by the Boxers, and as the days and weeks went on the other Legation buildings were burned, and the refugees in the British Legation had to look death at all hours in the face.
The murder of von Ketteler excited anger and horror throughout the world, and in no breast, naturally, to a stronger degree than in that of the German Emperor. All nations hastened to send troops to Pekin. Japan was first on the scene with 16,000 men under General Yamagutschi. Russia followed next with 15,000 under General Lenewitch, then England with 7,500 under General Gaselee, then France with 5,000 under General Frey, then America with 4,000 under General Chaffee, Germany with 2,500 under von Hopfner, Austria and Italy with smaller contingents—in all more than 50,000 men, with 144 guns. A little later the expeditionary corps from Germany, 19,000 strong, under General von Lessel, and that from France, 10,000 strong, arrived. At the suggestion, it is said, of Russia, and by agreement among the European Powers, united by a common sympathy and in face of a common danger, the German Field-Marshal, Count Waldersee, was appointed to the supreme command of all the European forces. At the same time naval supports were hurried by all maritime nations to the scene, and within a short period 160 warships and 30 torpedo boats were assembled off the Chinese coast.
The march to Pekin and the relief of the imprisoned Europeans are incidents still fresh in public memory. In the crowded British Legation fear alternated with hope, and hope with fear, until, on the forenoon of August 14th, a boy ran into the Legation crying that "black-faced Europeans" were advancing along the royal canal in the direction of the building. In a few minutes a company of Sikh cavalry, part of some Indian troops diverted on their way to Aden, galloped up, all danger was over, and the refugees were saved.
The Boxer troubles ended on May 13, 1901, with the signature by Li Hung Chang in the name of the Emperor of China of a treaty of peace, the main conditions of which were the payment by China within thirty years of a war indemnity to the Powers of 450 million taels (L66,000,000) and an agreement to send a mission of atonement to the Courts of Germany and Japan—for among the foreign victims of the Boxers in the previous year had been the Japanese representative in China, Baron Sugiyama.
For two or three weeks the action of the Emperor with regard to the Chinese mission of atonement brought him into universal ridicule. Prince Chun, a near relative of the Chinese Emperor, who had been appointed to conduct the mission, reached Basle in September, 1901, on his way to Berlin. Here he lingered, and it soon became known that a hitch had occurred in his relations with Germany. It then transpired that the delay was caused by the Emperor's having suddenly intimated that he expected Prince Chun to make thrice to him, as he sat on his throne at Potsdam, the "kotow" as practised in the Court of China. In view of the surprise, laughter, and criticism of Europe, the Emperor modified his demand for the "kotow" to its symbolic performance by three deep bows. Prince Chun thereupon resumed his journey. An impressive, if theatrical, scene was prepared in the New Palace at Potsdam, where the Emperor, seated on the throne, his marshal's baton in his hand, and flanked by Ministers and the officers of his household, received the bearer of China's expressions of regret. Whatever one may think of the scenic effect provided, the reply the Emperor made to Prince Chun, after the three bows arranged upon had been made, is a model of its kind—general not personal, sorrowful rather than angry, warning rather than reproachful. The Emperor said—
"No pleasing nor festive cause, no mere fulfilment of a courtly duty, has brought your Imperial Highness to me, but a sad and deeply grave occurrence. My Minister to the Court of his Majesty the Emperor of China, Freiherr von Ketteler, fell in the Chinese capital beneath the murderous weapons of an imperial Chinese soldier, who acted by the orders of a superior, an unheard-of outrage condemned by the law of nations and the moral sense of all countries. From your Imperial Highness I have now heard the expression of the sincere and deep regret of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China regarding the occurrence. I am glad to believe that your Imperial Highness's royal brother had nothing to do with the crime or with the further acts of violence against inviolable Ministers and peaceful foreigners, but all the greater is the guilt which attaches to his advisers and his Government. Let these not deceive themselves by supposing that they can make atonement and receive pardon for their crime through this mission alone, and not through their subsequent conduct in the light of the prescriptions of international law and the moral principles of civilized peoples. If his Majesty the Emperor of China henceforward directs the government of his great Empire in the spirit of these ordinances, his hope that the sad consequences of the confusion of last year may be overcome, and permanent, peaceful and friendly relations between Germany and China may exist as before, will be realized to the benefit of both peoples and the whole of civilized humanity. In the sincere wish that it may be so, I welcome your Imperial Highness."
The Emperor's other speeches referring to the Boxer movement at this period have been adversely commented on as showing him in the light of a cruel and blood-thirsty seeker after revenge. This is an unjust, at least a hard, judgment. A passage in his address at Bremerhaven to the expeditionary force when setting out for China is the main proof of the charge—in which, after referring to the murder of von Ketteler, he said:
"You know well you will have to fight with a cunning, brave, well-armed, cruel foe. When you come to close quarters with him remember—quarter ('Pardon' is the German word the Emperor used) must not be given: prisoners must not be taken: manage your weapons so that for a thousand years to come no Chinaman will dare to look sideways at a German. Act like men."
It is difficult, of course, to reconcile such an address with Christian humanity practised, so far as humanity can be practised, in modern war, but it should be remembered that the Emperor was speaking in a state of great excitement, and that, according to Chancellor Prince Buelow's statement in the Reichstag subsequently, confirmation of the news of the murder of his Minister to China had only reached the Emperor ten minutes before he delivered the speech.
There is one incident, however, though not a very important one, in connexion with the troubles, which may fairly be made a matter of reproach to the Emperor—the seizure, on his order, of the ancient astronomical instruments at Pekin and their transference to Sans Souci, in Potsdam, where they are to be seen to the present day. The troops of all nations, it is known, looted freely at Pekin; but the Emperor might have spared China and his own fair fame the indignity of such public vandalism.
While writing of China it may not be superfluous to add that the Emperor's foreign policy in the Orient cannot be expected to present exactly the same features, or proceed quite along the same lines, as his foreign policy in Europe. By far the greater part of Europe is now as completely parcelled out and as permanently settled as though it were a huge, well-managed estate. The capacities of its high roads, its railways, its great rivers, with their commercial and strategic values and relations are perfectly ascertained; and the knowledge, it is not too much to say, is the common property of all important Governments. It is not so, or not nearly to the same extent, in the Orient. In Europe there is little or no difficulty in distinguishing between enterprises that are political and those that are commercial, or in recognizing where they are both; and if a difficulty should arise it can be arranged by diplomatic conversations, by a conference of the Powers interested, or in the last resort—short of war—by arbitration. This is not so simple a matter in the Orient, where conditions are at once old and new, where interests of possibly great magnitude are as yet undetermined or unappropriated, where possibly great mineral sources are undeveloped and the capacities of new markets unascertained; where, in short, the decisive factors of the problem are undiscovered, it may be unsuspected.
In such cases there is often no certain and readily recognizable line of demarcation between the two kinds of enterprise; and an undertaking that may present all the appearance of being a purely commercial scheme, and be solemnly asseverated to be such by the Power or Powers promoting it, may turn out on closer examination to be one of great political significance and incalculable political consequence. Of such enterprises two immediately spring to mind, the Cape to Cairo railway and the Baghdad railway, not to mention a score of problematic undertakings in other parts of Africa or Asia. It will be useful to keep this general consideration in view when forming an opinion regarding the Emperor's Oriental policy. That policy is, so far, almost entirely commercial. Long ago wars used to be made for the sake of religion, then for the sake of territory. Now they are made for the sake of new markets.
Yet the Far East is changing with the change in conditions everywhere in modern times, and it is evident that the premises for any conclusion as to German foreign policy there may, at any given moment, be subject to modification. Partly owing to the growth of Germany's European influence, and to the increase in her navy which has helped her to it, she is to be found of recent years playing a role in the Far East which would have been unintelligible to the German of the last generation. There are many Germans to-day, as in Bismarck's time, who ridicule the notion that the possibilities of trade in Oriental countries justify the national risk now run for it and the national expenditure now made upon it; but it is sometimes forgotten that, apart from the chance of obtaining concessions for the building of railways, for the establishment of banks, for the leasing of mines and working of cotton plantations, there is a large German export of beads, cloth, and, in short, of hundreds of articles which appeal to barbarian or only semi-civilized tastes.
Germany, too, looks hopefully forward to a future in which she will be supplied with the raw material of her manufactures by her colonies, or failing that by her subjects trading abroad in the colonies of other nations. This is one of the main objects of her Weltpolitik. As Prince von Buelow said: "The time has passed when the German left the earth to one neighbour and the sea to another, while he reserved heaven, where pure doctrines are enthroned, to himself;" and again: "We don't seek to put anybody in the shade, but we demand our place in the sun;" and the idea finds technical expression in the phrase on which Germany lays so much stress, the "maintenance of the open door." Her policy in the Far East, as in Europe, is thus on the whole a commercial one; she seeks there as elsewhere new markets, not new territory. Accordingly she supports the principle of the status quo in China, and therefore raised no objection to the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 1902 which, among other objects, secured it.
In January, 1901, the Emperor was called to England by the sudden, and, as it was to prove, fatal illness of his grandmother, Queen Victoria. His journey to Osborne, where he arrived just in time to be recognized by the dying Queen, and his abandonment of the idea, impressive and almost sacred to a Prussian King and the Prussian people, of being present on his birthday, January 27th, at the bicentenary celebration of the foundation of the Prussian Kingdom, made a deep and sympathetic impression on the people of England. Usually on State occasions the Emperor does not display a countenance of good humour, or indeed of any sentiment save perhaps that of a sense of dignity; but on the occasion in question, as he rode in the uniform of a British Field-Marshal beside Edward VII, his looks were those of genuine sorrow. Public sympathy was not lessened when it became known that he had mentioned the pride he felt in being privileged to wear the uniform of two such soldiers of renown as the Duke of Wellington and Lord Roberts; and added that the privilege would be highly estimated by the whole German army. It was a chivalrous remark, the offspring of a chivalrous disposition.
The Emperor had hardly returned to Germany when, on February 6th, the only attack ever made on his person occurred in Bremen. He had been at a banquet in the town hall, and was being driven through the illuminated streets to the railway station to return to Berlin, when a half-witted locksmith's apprentice of nineteen, Dietrich Weiland by name, flung a piece of railway iron at him with such good aim that it struck him on the face immediately under the right eye, inflicting a deep and nasty, but not dangerous wound. The Emperor proceeded with his journey, the doctors attending to his injury in the train, and in a few weeks he was well again. Weiland was sent to a criminal lunatic asylum. The attempt had, apparently, nothing to do with Anarchism or Nihilism or the Social Democracy. When the Emperor alluded to it afterwards in his speech to the Diet, he referred it to a general diminution of respect for authority.
"Respect for authority," he said to the Diet,
"is wanting. In this regard all classes of the population are to blame. Particular interests are looked to, not the general well-being of the folk. Criticism of the measures of the Government and Throne takes the coarsest and most injurious forms—and hence the errors and demoralization of our youth. Parliament must help here, and a change must be made, beginning with the schools."
It was natural enough that a few days after, addressing the Alexander Regiment of Guards, who were taking up quarters in a new barracks near the palace in Berlin, he should tell them the barracks were like a citadel to the palace, and that, as a sort of imperial bodyguard, the regiment "must be ready, day and night as once before"—he was referring to the "March Days"—"to meet any attack by the citizens on the Emperor."
At Bonn in April the Emperor attended the matriculation (immatriculation, the Germans call it) of his eldest son, the Crown Prince, at the university. He was in civil dress, one of the rare public occasions during the reign when he has not been in uniform, but this did not prevent him delivering a martial address to the Borussians. "I hope and expect from the younger generation," he said to the students,
"that they will put me in a position to maintain our German Fatherland in its close and strong boundaries and in the congeries of German races—doing to no one favour and to no one harm. If, however, anyone should touch us too nearly, then I will call upon you and I expect you won't leave your Emperor sitting."
A great shout of "Bravo!" went up when the Emperor ceased, and the students doubtless all thought what a fine thing it would be if he would only lead them straightway against those cheeky Englanders.
At the end of June, on board the Hamburg-American pleasure-steamer Princess Victoria Luise, the Emperor pronounced the famous sentence—"Our future lies on the water." The year before he had said something like it, and it is worth quoting as the Emperor's first explicit allusion to Weltpolitik. "Strongly," he exclaimed,
"dashes the beat of ocean at the doors of our people and compels it to preservation of its place in the world, in a word, to Weltpolitik. The ocean is indispensable for Germany's greatness. The ocean testifies that on it and far beyond it no important decision will be taken without Germany and the German Emperor."
His words on the present occasion were:
"My entire task for the future will be to see that the undertakings of which the foundations have been laid may develop quietly and surely. We have, though as yet without the fleet as it should be, achieved our place in the sun. It will now be my task to hold this place unquestioned, so that its rays may act favourably on trade and industry and agriculture at home inside, and on our sail-sports on the coast—for our future lies on the water. The more Germans go on the sea—whether travelling or in the service of the State—the better. When the German has once learned to look abroad and afar he will lose that 'hang' towards the petty, the trivial, which now so often seizes him in daily life."
And he closed: "We must now go out in search of new spots where we can drive in nails on which to hang our armour."
Early in August the Emperor was called to the death-bed of his mother, the Empress Frederick, at her castle in Cronberg. She died on the afternoon of her son's arrival, on August 5th. The Emperor ordered mourning throughout the Empire for six weeks, and forbade all "public music, entertainments, theatrical or otherwise" until after the funeral. The Empress was buried in the mausoleum attached to the Friedenskirche in Potsdam on the 13th of the month.
The delivery of a famous speech on art by the Emperor in December brings the chronicle of 1901 to a close, but perhaps it will not displease the reader if a new chapter is opened for the purpose of quoting it and of considering the Emperor in what is a traditional Hohenzollern relationship.
THE EMPEROR AND THE ARTS
Art is a favourite subject of conversation on the Continent, where it is more popularly discussed than in England and where authorities of all kinds are more alive to its educative capabilities. It is eminently "safe" ground, does not savour of gossip, and no one need leave the field of discussion with the feeling that he has been driven from it. Hence it is the salvation of diplomatists who are apprehensive of committing their Governments or themselves when mixing in general society, and it doubtless does good service for the Emperor also upon occasion. Indeed it is a topic on which he speaks willingly and well.
Unfortunately for precision of thought and speech, though useful for the man in the street, the word "art" has been pressed into the service of metaphor more than almost any other word in language. We are told in turn that everything is an art—hair-dressing, salad-dressing (a different kind), lying, flying, dying. The Germans are trying to make an art of life. Whistler wrote about the "Gentle Art of Making Enemies." One hears of "artful hussies" and "artful dodgers." People are described as "artful" in the small diplomacies of intercourse. Jugglers, acrobats, sword-swallowers, "supers" at the theatre, the men who play the elephant in the pantomime would all be mortified if they were not addressed as "artists," In short, everything may be called an art.
But what, truly, is art? The question is as hard to answer satisfactorily as the questions what is truth or what is beauty? The notion "art" usually occurs to the mind as contrasted with the notion "nature"; the word is derived from the Sanskrit root ar, to plough, to make, to do; and accordingly art may be taken to be something made by man, as contrasted with something made, or grown, or given by God. How art came into existence it is of course impossible to do more than conjecture. The necessities of primitive man may have stimulated his inventive powers into originating and developing the useful arts for his physical comfort and convenience; and his desire for recreation after labour, or the mere ennui of idleness, may have urged the same powers into originating and developing the fine and plastic arts for the entertainment of his mind. Or, lastly, if no better reason can be found, and though Sir Joshua Reynolds laid it down that all models of perfection in art must be sought for on the earth, it may be that seeing and feeling instinctively the glory and beauty of the Creation, mankind began gradually, as its intelligence improved, to burn with a longing to imitate, reproduce, and represent them.
However art arose, it seems true to say, as a German writer has well said, that when a work of art, whether a poem or a picture or a statue, causes in us the thought that so, and in no other way, would we ourselves have expressed the idea, had we the talent, then we may conclude that true art is speaking to us, whatever the idea to be expressed may be. Everything demands thought, but our thoughts are an unruly folk, which never keep long on the same straight road, and love to wander off to left and right, here finding something new and there throwing away something old. The artist, when he conceives a plan, has to fight with the host of his thoughts and find a way through them. They often threaten to divert him from it, but on the other hand they often lead him to his goal by novel paths along which he finds much that is new and valuable.
This is a doctrine that, sensible though it is, would hardly be subscribed to by the Emperor, to whom no new movement in art strongly appeals, and who thinks that such movements, unless founded on the old classical school, the Greek and Roman school of beauty, ought, in the public interest, to be discouraged. However, let him speak for himself. He set forth his art creed in a speech which he delivered on December 18, 1901, to the sculptors who had executed the Hohenzollern statues in the famous Siegesallee at Berlin, and which ran substantially as follows:—
"I gladly seize the occasion, first of all, to express my congratulations and then my thanks for the manner in which you have assisted me to carry out my original plan. The preparation of the plan for the Siegesallee has occupied many years, and the learned historiographer of my House, Professor Dr. Poser, is the man who put me in a position to set the artists clear and intelligible tasks. Once the historic basis was found the work could be proceeded with, and when the personalities of the princes were established it was possible to ascertain those who had been their most important helpers. In this manner the groups originated and, to a certain extent, conditioned by their history, the forms of them came into existence.
"The next most difficult question was—Was it possible, as I hoped it was, to find in Berlin so many artists as would be able to work together harmoniously to realize the programme?
"As I came to consider the question, I had in view to show the world that the most favourable condition for the successful achievement of the work was not the appointment of an art commission and the establishment of prize competitions, but that in accord with ancient custom, as in the classical period, and later during the Middle Ages, was the case, it lay in the direct intercourse of the employer with the artists.
"I am therefore especially obliged to Professor Reinhold Begas for having assured me, when I applied to him, that there was absolutely no doubt there could be found in Berlin a sufficiency of artists to carry out the idea; and with his help, and in consequence of the acquaintances I have made by visiting exhibitions and studios in Berlin, I succeeded in getting together a staff, the majority of whom I see around me, with whom to approach the task.
"I think you will not refuse me the testimony that, in respect of the programme I drew up I have made the treatment of it as easy as possible, that while I ordered and defined the work I gave you an absolute freedom not only in the combination and composition, but precisely the freedom to put into it that from himself which every artist must if he is to give the work the stamp of his own individuality, since every work of art contains in itself something of the individual character of the artist. I believe that this experiment, if I may so call it, as made in the Siegesallee, has succeeded.
"... I have never interfered with details, but have contented myself with simply giving the direction, the impulse.
"But to-day the thought that Berlin stands there before the whole world with a guild of artists able to carry out so magnificent a project fills me with satisfaction and pride. It shows that the Berlin school of art stands on a height which could hardly have been more splendid in the time of the Renaissance.
"Here, too, one can draw a parallel between the great artistic achievements of the Middle Ages and the Italians—that, namely, the head of the State, an art-loving prince, who offered their tasks to the artists also found the master round whom a school of artists could gather.
"How is it, generally speaking, with art in the world? It takes its models, supplies itself from the great sources of Mother Nature, who, spite of her apparently unfettered, limitless freedom, still moves according to eternal laws which the Creator ordained for himself and which cannot be passed or violated without danger to the development of the world.
"Even so it is in art; and at the sight of the beautiful remains of old classical times comes again over one the feeling that here too reigns an eternal law that is always true to itself, the law of beauty and harmony, of the aesthetic. This law is given expression to by the ancients in so surprising and overpowering a fashion, in so thoroughly complete a form that we, with all our modern sensibilities and with all our power, are still proud, when we have done any specially fine piece of work, to hear that it is almost as good as it was made nineteen hundred years ago.
"But only almost! Under this impression I would earnestly ask you to lay it to heart that sculpture still remains untainted by so-called modern tendencies and currents—still stands high and chastely there! Keep her so, don't let yourselves be misled by human criticism or any wind of doctrine to abandon the principles on which she has been built up.
"An art which transgresses the laws and limits I have indicated is art no more. It is factory work, handicraft, and that is a thing art should never be. Under the often misused word 'freedom' and her flag one falls too readily into boundlessness, unrestraint, self-exaggeration. For whoever cuts loose from the law of beauty, and the feeling for the aesthetic and harmonious, which every human breast feels, whether he can express it or not, and in his thought makes his chief object some special direction, some specific solution of more technical tasks, that man denies art's first sources.
"Yet again. Art should help to exercise an educative influence on the people. She should offer the lower classes, after the hard work of the day, the possibility of refreshing themselves by regarding what is ideal. To us Germans great ideals have become permanent possessions, whereas to other peoples they have been more or less lost. Only the German people remain called to preserve these great ideas, to cultivate and continue them. And among these ideals is this, that we afford the possibility to the working classes to elevate themselves by beauty, and by beauty to enable them to abstract themselves and rise above the thoughts they otherwise would have.
"When Art, as now often occurs, does nothing more than represent misery as still more unlovely than it is already, by so doing she sins against the German people. The cultivation of the ideal is at the same time the greatest work of culture, and if we wish to be and remain an example in this to other nations the whole people must work together to that end; if Culture is to fulfil her task she must penetrate to the lowest classes of society. That she can only do when art comes into play, when she raises up, instead of descending into the gutter.
"As ruler of the country I often find it extremely bitter that art, through its masters, does not with sufficient energy oppose such tendencies. I do not for a moment fail to perceive that many an aspiring character is to be found among the partisans of these tendencies, who are perhaps filled with the best intentions but who are on the wrong path. The true artist needs no advertisement, no press, no patronage. I do not believe that your great protagonists in the domain of science, either in ancient Greece or in Italy or in the Renaissance period ever had recourse to a reclame such as nowadays is often made in the press in order to bring their ideas into prominence, but worked as God inspired them and let others do the talking.
"And so must an honest, proper artist act. The art which descends to reclame is no art be it lauded a hundred or a thousand-fold. A feeling for what is beautiful or ugly has every one, be he ever so simple, and to educate this feeling in the people I require all of you. That in the Siegesallee you have done a piece of such work, I have specially to thank you.
"This I can even now tell you—the impression which the Siegesallee has made on the foreigner is quite an overpowering one; everywhere respect for German sculpture is making itself perceivable. May you always remain on these heights, may such masters stand by my sons and sons' sons, should they ever come into existence! Then, I am convinced, will our people be in a position to love the beautiful and honour lofty ideals."
At the Berlin Art Museum next year, after praising the devotion of his parents to art, and especially of his mother, "a nature," he said, "about which poesy breathed," he continued:—
"The son of both stands before you as their heir and executor: and so I regard it as my task, according to the intention of my parents, to hold my hand over my German people and its growing generation, to foster the love of beauty in them, and to develop art in them; but only along the lines and within the bounds drawn strictly by the feelings in mankind for beauty and harmony."
The Emperor's speech to the sculptors, if it contains some questionable statements, is a thoughtful address by one who is himself an artist, though not perhaps an artist of a high class. His artistic endowments, transmitted from his parents, have been already indicated. In reference to them he said to the official conducting him over the Marienburg in later years, when the official expressed surprise at the Emperor's art-knowledge:—
"There is nothing wonderful in it. I was brought up in an artistic atmosphere. My mother was an artist, and from my earliest youth I have been surrounded by beautiful things. Art is my friend and my recreation."
The highest praise of a work of art is to say of it that it pleased, or would have pleased; his mother. Of her he said, "Every thought she had was art, and to her everything, however simple, which was meant for the use of life, was penetrated with beauty." When giving his sanction to a plan, a park, a statue or a building he always thinks—"Would it have pleased my parents—what would they have said about it?" The Kaiser Friedrich Museum and the Kaiser Friedrich Memorial Church, both in Berlin, testify to the Emperor's gratitude to his parents for their artistic legacy.
He went, as we have seen, through the ordinary art drudgery of the school, recognizing, no doubt, with Michael Angelo, with all good artists, that correct drawing is the foundation of every art into which drawing enters and applying himself industriously to it. As a young soldier at Potsdam he spent a good deal of his time, during the three years from 1880 to 1883, practising oil-painting under the guidance of Herr Karl Salzmann, a distinguished Berlin painter. Among the results of this instruction was a picture which the princely artist called "The Corvette—Prince Adalbert in the Bay of Samitsu," now hanging in the residence of his brother, Prince Henry, at Kiel; and two years later, as his interest in the navy grew, a "Fight between an Armoured Ship and a Torpedo-boat." Innumerable aquarelles and sketches, chiefly of marine subjects, were also the fruit of this period.
The Emperor has constantly cultivated free and friendly intercourse with the best artists of his own and other nations, and been continually engaged devoting time and money to the art education of his people. The admirable art exhibitions in Berlin of the best examples of painting by English, French, and American artists, which he personally promoted and was greatly interested in, may be recalled as instances. If his efforts in encouraging art among his people have not been so successful as his imperial activities in other directions, the reason is not any fault on his part, but simply that art refuses to be, in Shakespeare's phrase, "tongue-tied by authority."
This was shown by the chorus of unfavourable criticism which the speech to the sculptors drew forth. No one questioned the sincerity of the Emperor or the magnanimity of his aims, nor was the criticism wholly caused by the suspicion that it savoured of the "personal regiment" under which the people were growing impatient; but many thought he was pushing the dynastic principle too far and unduly interfering with liberty of thought and judgment, and that there was something Oriental as well as selfish in occupying with a gallery of his ancestors, the majority of whom were, after all, very ordinary people, one of the fairest spots in the capital. Perhaps, however, what was most objected to was his trying to drive the art of the nation into a groove, the direction given by himself: in trying to inspire it with a particular spirit and that an ancient not a modern spirit, when he ought to let the spirit come of its own accord out of the mind of the people—the mind of many millions, not the mind of one man, however high his rank. Politics and government might be things in which he had a right to an authoritative voice, but art, like religion, the people considered to be a matter for individual taste and judgment.
Yet something may be advanced in favour of the Emperor. His recommendation, for in fact it was and could be only that, was quite in keeping with the traditions of his office and the people's own view of royal government. The speech, as was admitted, was suggested by no mere dilettante's vanity, but, as is evident from his words at the Art Museum, by the conviction that just as it is the imperial duty to provide an efficient army and navy, so it is the imperial duty to use every personal and private, as well as every public and official, effort to provide the people with an art as efficient, as honest, and as clean; and it was inevitable that the art the Emperor recommended was that which he believed, and still believes, to be in conformity with the ideals, as he interprets them, or would have them to be, of the Germanic race.
The speech itself is interesting as showing the Emperor's attitude towards art and artists and his personal conception of art and its nature. His attitude is evidently that of the art-loving prince of whom he speaks in the address, a royal Maecenas or di Medici, who gathers artists round him; but he means to use them, not so much perhaps for art's sake, as for the instruction and elevation of his folk. A very laudable aim; only, as it happens, the folk in this matter desire themselves to decide what is improving and elevating for them and what is not. They are not willing to leave the exclusive choice to the Emperor.
The Emperor, again, would give the artist the freedom to put into his work "that from himself which any artist must, if he is to give the work the stamp of his own individuality." This attitude, too, is admirable, but on the other hand lies the danger, such is poor human nature, that the individuality will be that which the Emperor wishes it to be, not the artist's independent individuality To the foreign eye all the Hohenzollern statues in the Siegesallee, with the exception possibly of two or three, seem to have much the same individuality, though that again may be due to the nature of the subject and the foreigner's inherent and ineradicable predispositions.
Thirdly, art, the Emperor says, can only be educative when it elevates instead of descending into the gutter. Hogarth descended into the gutter. Gustav Dore depicts the horrors of hell. Yet both Hogarth and Dore were great artists, and educative too. The Emperor was here thinking of the Berlin Secession, a school just then starting, eccentric indeed and far from "classical," but which nevertheless has since produced several fine artists. The Emperor, it would appear, thinks that the antique classical school is the true and only good school for the artist. Very likely most artists will agree with him— at least as a foundation; but the belief, it also appears, is not considered in Germany, or outside of it, to justify the Emperor, as Emperor, in discouraging all other schools and particularly the efforts of modern artists in their non-classical imaginings.
The Emperor says art "takes its models, supplies itself from the great sources of Mother Nature." With all courtesy to the Emperor one may suggest that art, and sane art, takes its models not only from Mother Nature, but also from an almost as prolific a maternal source, namely imagination; and that imagination is limited by no eternal laws we know of, or can even suspect. Accordingly it is useless to check, or try to check, the imagination by telling it to work in a certain direction—so long, naturally, as the imagination is not obviously indecent or insane.
Again, the Emperor says that in classical art there reigns an eternal law, the "law of beauty and harmony, of the aesthetic" which is expressed in a "thoroughly complete form" by the ancients. It is admittedly a delightful and admirable form, but is it thoroughly complete? Is it the last and only form; and may not the very same law be found by experiment to be at work in future art that cannot be called classical, as it was found to be at work in the various noble schools since classical times? One must agree with the Emperor that the Greeks and Romans illustrated the "law of beauty and harmony, of the esthetic, in a wonderful manner." But it was wonderfully done for their age and intellect. They did not exhaust the beautiful and harmonious: far from it.
Neither the world nor mankind has been standing still ever since; certainly the mind of man has not, even though his senses have undergone no elemental change. Paganism was succeeded by Christianity, and with Christianity came a new art canon, new forms of beauty and harmony—the Early Italian. The age of reason followed, bringing with it the Baroque and Rococo canons: and as time went on, and the world's mind kept working, came other canons still. The most recent canon appears to be that of naturalism (the Emperor's "gutter ") with which artists are now experimentalizing. None of the canons, be it noticed, destroyed the canon that preceded, because beauty and harmony are indestructible and imperishable. "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."
But not only the mind of man kept changing: the world itself and its civilization—by war, by treaty, by science, by invention, by art itself—kept changing, and is changing now. Development, physical as well as social, has been constant, and the changes accompanying it have inspired, and are inspiring, artists with new ideas to which they are always trying to give expression. The subjects of art have enormously multiplied. Those introduced by sport of all kinds, by the development of the theatre, by the newly-found effects of light and colour, need only be mentioned as examples capable of suggesting beauties and harmonies unknown to and unsuspected by the ancients. Hence, in addition to the classical art of the day, there is room for the "new art," the secessionist, the futurist, the impressionist, even the cubist, or whatever the experimental movement may call itself. And any day any of these movements may lead to the establishment of a new and admirable school of genuine art as beautiful as the classical, if in a different manner. The world has no idea of the surprises in all directions yet in store for it.
The Emperor, too, is at one with all the world in assuming that art, to deserve the name, must possess the quality of beauty. He speaks of "beauty and harmony," but let it be taken that he understands beauty to include harmony. Now, as has been suggested, to answer the question, what is beauty, satisfactorily, is no easy matter. In immediate proximity to it lies the question, what is ugliness? It might be argued that nothing in nature is ugly, and that the word was introduced to express what is merely an inability on the part of mankind to perceive the beauty which constitutes nature; and it certainly is possible that, were man endowed with the mind of God, instead of with only some infinitesimal and mysterious emanation of it, he would find all things in creation, all art included, beautiful. The author of the Book of Genesis asserts that when God had finished making the world He looked upon His handiwork and saw that it was good. There is one advantage in adopting this view, and no small one, that a belief in its truth must impel us to look for beauty and goodness in all things, whether in art or nature—and even in the Secession. Perhaps, however, we shall not be far from the truth in saying, as regards art, that all things in creation are beautiful, that there are degrees in beauty of which ugliness is the lowest, and that the truly inspired artist can make all things, ugliness included, beautiful.
The Emperor thinks the appreciation of beauty is one of our innate ideas, like the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, which we call conscience. There is no agreement among thinkers on the point, and it may be that both beauty and conscience are relative, and simply the result of environment and education. Certainly there is no standard of beauty, and more certainly still, not of feminine beauty. The Mahommedan admires a woman who has the nose of the parrot, the teeth of the pomegranate seed, and the tread of the elephant.
But though there is no complete standard of beauty about which all people, at all times, in all countries, are agreed, there are two elements of beauty which may be said to have been standardized, at least for the civilized world, by the early Greeks and Romans. These elements are simplicity and harmony, simplicity being the forms of things most directly and pleasingly appealing to the eye and most easily reaching the common understanding, while harmony is the combination of parts most nearly identical with the lines, contours, and proportions of nature. These are two essentials of good sculpture, and the Emperor was talking to sculptors and perhaps thinking only of sculpture.
Yet simplicity and harmony alone do not constitute beauty, while on the other hand beauty may take very complicated forms. A third element one may suggest is essential, and its indescribable nature causes all the difficulty there is in defining beauty. This third element is—charm. A work of art, to be beautiful, must charm, and to different people different things are charming. Plato's theory is that the sense of beauty is a dim recollection of a standard we have seen in a heavenly pre-existence. Accepting it as as good an explanation of charm as we can get, we may conclude by defining beauty as, in its highest form, a combination of simplicity and harmony, resulting in charm.
The Emperor says: "To us Germans great ideals have become permanent possessions, whereas to other peoples they have been more or less lost." The remark is not one of those best calculated to promote friendly feelings on the part of other peoples towards Germany or its Emperor. It is like his declaration that Germans are the "salt of the earth," and of a piece with the aggressive attitude of intellectual superiority adopted by many Germans towards other nations—one reason, by the way, for German unpopularity in the world. But is it true? Germany has great ideals in permanent possession, but are they more or less lost to other peoples? It is at least doubtful. Great ideals are the permanent possession of every great people; it is these ideals that have made them great; and they are no less great if they differ according to the nature and conditions of each great people. One might go further, indeed, and say that great ideals are the common property and permanent possession of all great peoples. It is a hard saying that any one people has a monopoly of them. The contribution of every great nation to the common stock of great ideals is incalculable, and it would be interesting to investigate which nation is most successfully working out its great ideals in practice.
The truth is the German ideal of beauty in art is not, generally speaking, the same as that of the Anglo-Saxon or Latin foreigner. The art ideals of the Anglo-Saxon and Latin races in this respect are for the most part Greek, while those of the German race are for the most part Roman; and in each case the ideals are the outcome of the spirit which has had most influence on the mind and manners of the different races. The Greek philosophic and aesthetic spirit has chiefly influenced Anglo-Saxon and Latin art ideals: the Roman spirit, particularly the military spirit and the spirit of law, have chiefly influenced German ideals: and, as a result, arrived at through ages during which events of epoch-making importance caused many successive modifications, while the Anglo-Saxon and Latin races are most impressed by such qualities as lightness and delicacy of outline, round and softly-flowing curves and elegance of ornamentation, the German appears, to the Anglo-Saxon and Latin, to be more impressed by the elaborate, the gigantic, the Gothic, the grotesque, the hard, the made, the massive, and the square. In both styles are to be found "beauty and harmony, the aesthetic," to quote the Emperor, but they appeal differently to people of different national temperaments. To the Anglo-Saxon and Latin in general, therefore, German art, and particularly German sculpture and architecture, while impressive and admirable, lack for most foreigners the entirely indescribable quality we have called "charm."
The true artist, the Emperor says, needs no advertisement, no press, no patronage. The Emperor is right. The true artist, once he begins to produce first-rate work, will obtain instant recognition, and his work will begin to sell, not perhaps at prices the same kind of work may bring later, but at prices sufficient to support the artist and his family in reasonable comfort. If it does not, he is not producing good work and had better turn his attention to something else. As a matter of fact very few true artists do advertise, use the press, or seek patronage. The artist does not go to the press or the patron, for nowadays, the moment the artist does excellent work, the press and the patron go to him, and, when he is very exceptionally good, he is advertised and patronized until he is sick of both advertisement and patronage.
Naturally it is different in the case of the artist who is not excellently good, but the Emperor was not considering such. These artists too, however, insist on living and must find a market for their wares. It is an age of advertisement, the growth of new economic conditions, for advertisement creates as well as reveals new markets. Hence the vast host of mediocrities, not only in art but in almost every field of human activity, nowadays advertise and seek patronage because only in this way can they find purchasers and live. These artists, often men of talent, dislike having to advertise; they would rather work for art's sake, but having to do so need not hinder them from working for art's sake, since all that is meant by that much misused phrase is that while the artist is working he shall not think of the reward of his work, but simply and solely of how to do the best work he can.
Before leaving the Emperor's speech one is tempted to inquire what should be the attitude of a sovereign towards art and artists. For the Englishman the doctrine of Individualism—the thing he is so apt to make a fetish of—gives an answer, and, it may be, the right one. The Englishman will probably say that if in any one province of life more than in another freedom should be allowed to originality of conception regarding the form as well as the substance, the manner as well as the matter, it is in the province of art, always provided, of course, that the artist is sane and not guilty of indecency. The artist, like the poet, is born not made; you cannot make an artist, you can only make an artisan. The artist, who represents the Creator, the creative faculty, can influence man: man cannot, and should not try to, influence the artist, but can, and should only, offer him the materials for his art, smooth the way for his endeavour, encourage him in it by sympathetic yet candid criticism, and above all, when he can afford it, by buying the result of his endeavour when it is successful.
This should be the attitude of both monarch and Maecenas: it is an attitude of benevolent neutrality. "I know," such a Maecenas might say to the artist,
"that your artistic faculties move in an atmosphere above as well as on the earth, as I know that above the atmosphere of oxygen and hydrogen which envelops the earth there is an ethereal, a rarefied atmosphere, which stretches to worlds of which all we know is that they exist. If your spirit can soar above this earthly atmosphere, well and good. I, for one, shall do nothing to limit or hinder it: I shall only welcome and applaud and reward whatever effort you make to bring our inner being a step, long or short, nearer to the source of celestial light. Consequently, I offer you no instructions and put no fetters on your imagination."
It takes all sorts of art to make an artistic world, as it takes all sorts of people to make the human world: a world with only classic art in it would be as uninteresting and unthinkable as a world in which every one was of the same character, occupation, and dress.
But it is time to consider the Emperor a little more in detail in relation to his connexion with the arts. If he were not a first-rate monarch he would probably be a first-rate artist. He said once that if he were to be an artist, he would be a sculptor. But if he is not a professional artist he is a connoisseur, a dilettante in the right sense, a lover of the arts, an art-loving prince. The painter Salzmann tells us how he used to go to the Villa Liegnitz in Potsdam to give Prince William lessons, and how the Empress, then Princess William, used to sit with the pupil and his teacher, discussing technical and art questions. A result of the teaching, in addition to the pictures mentioned elsewhere, was an oil-painting, a sea-fight, which still hangs in the Ravene Gallery in Berlin.
In the spring of 1886 the Prince sent his teacher a sketch for criticism. Salzmann wired his opinion to Potsdam, and a telegram came back, "What does 'wind too anxious' mean? is it so stormily painted that you shuddered at it, or is it not stormy enough?" Salzmann is also authority for the statement that the Prince sent in a sea-piece to the annual Berlin Art Exhibition. It was placed ready to be judged, but suddenly disappeared. The Emperor William, it appeared, had decided that it would not do for a future Emperor to compete with professional artists or run the risk of sarcastic public criticism. Naturally since he came to the throne the Emperor has never had time to cultivate his talent as a painter, but has always fed his eyes and mind on the best kind of painting, and brings his sense of form and colour to bear on everything he does or has a voice in.
That the Emperor's own taste in painting is of a "classical" kind in a very catholic sense was shown by the personal interest he took in getting together and having brought to Berlin the exhibition of old English masters in 1908. At his request the English owners of many of these treasures agreed to lend them for exhibition in Germany, submitting thereby to the risk of loss or damage, displaying an unselfish disposition to aid in elevating the taste of a foreign people, and at the same time giving Germans a better and more tangible idea of the nation which could produce artists of such nobility of feeling and marvellous technical capacity. The Emperor paid several visits to the exhibition and thousands of Berlin folk followed his example, so that the beauty of the works of Gainsborough, Raeburn, Lawrence, Hoppner, and Romney was for months a topic of enthusiastic conversation in the capital.
Encouraged by this success, the Emperor next caused a similar exhibition of French painters to be arranged. The Rococo period was now chosen, many lovely specimens of the art of Watteau, Lancret, David, Vigee, Lebrun, Fragonnard, Greuze, and Bonnat were procured, and again the Berliner was given an opportunity not only of enjoying an artistic treat of a delightful kind, but of comparing the impressions made on him by the art spirits of two other nations. The opening of this French exhibition was made by the Emperor the occasion of emphasizing his conciliatory feelings towards France, for he attended an evening entertainment at the French Embassy given specially in honour of the occasion.
A third art exhibition followed in 1910—that of two hundred American oil paintings brought to Berlin and shown in the Royal Academy of Arts on the Panser Platz. They included works by Sargent, Whistler, Gari Melchior, Leon Dabo, Joseph Pennell, and many others. The suggestion for this exhibition did not proceed from the Emperor, but in all possible ways he gave the exhibition his personal support. On returning from inspecting it he telegraphed to the American Ambassador in Berlin, Dr. D. J. Hill, to express the pleasure he had derived from what he had seen. Nor was such a mark of admiration surprising. The exhibition was nothing short of a revelation, going far to dissipate the German belief—perhaps the English belief also—that America possesses no body of painters of the first rank.
Again we have recourse to the marine painter, Herr Salzmann. Wired for by the Emperor, the painter got to the palace at 10.15 PM. When he arrived the Emperor cried out, "So, at last! Where have you been hiding yourself? I have had Berlin searched for you." The Emperor and Empress and suite had just returned from the theatre and were standing about the room. It turned out that the Emperor wanted the painter to help him sketch a battleship of a certain design he had in mind, to see how it would look on the water. In the middle of the room an adjutant stood and read out a speech made by a Radical deputy in the Reichstag that day, and the Emperor made occasional remarks about it, though at the same time he was engaged with the ship. The painter does not forget to add that he "was provided with a good glass of beer."
The Emperor is reported to be a capital "sitter." He had the French painter Borchart staying with him at Potsdam to paint his portrait. Borchart describes him as an ideal model, so still and patiently did he sit, and this at times for more than two hours. He talked freely during the sittings. "I don't want to be regarded as a devourer of Frenchmen," was a remark made on one of these occasions; on another he praised President Loubet; and on a third he had a good word even for the Socialist Jaures. When Borchart had finished and naively expressed satisfaction with his own work the Emperor said, "Na, na, friend Borchart, not so proud; it is for us to criticize."
As the Emperor is a lover of the "classical" in painting and sculpture, it is not strange to find him an admirer of the classical in music and recommending it to his people as the best form of musical education. He holds that there is much in common between it and the folk-songs of Germany. At Court he revived classical dances like the minuet and the gavotte. He is devoted to opera and never leaves before the end of the performance. Concerts frequently take place in the royal palaces at Potsdam and Berlin, items on the programme for them being often suggested by the Emperor. The programme is then submitted to him and is rarely returned without alteration. Not seldom the concert is preceded by a rehearsal, which the Emperor attends and which itself has been carefully rehearsed beforehand, as the Emperor expects everything to run smoothly. At these rehearsals he will often cause an item to be repeated. Bach and Handel are his prime favourites. He is no admirer of Strauss. Wagner he often listens to with pleasure, and especially the "Meistersinger," which is his pet opera. Of Italian operas Verdi's "Aida" and Meyerbeer's "Huguenots" are those he is most disposed to hear.
He has been laughed at for once attempting musical composition. The "Song to Aegir," which he composed in 1894 at the age of thirty-five (when he should have known better), was, he told the bandmaster of a Hannoverian regiment, suggested to him by the singing of a Hannoverian glee society. It is a song twenty-four lines long, with the inevitable references to the foe, and the sword and shield, and whales and mermaids, and the God of the waves, who is called on to quell the storm. The lady-in-waiting who wrote the "Private Lives of the Emperor and His Consort" tells with much detail how the song was really written, not by the Emperor, but almost wholly by a musical adjutant. It does not greatly matter, but it is likely that the Emperor is responsible for the text if he did not compose the music.
One of the best and most interesting descriptions of his kindly and characteristic way of treating artists is that given by the late Norwegian composer, Eduard Grieg.
"The other day," writes the composer,
I had a chance to meet your Kaiser. He had already expressed a desire last year to meet me, but I was ill at that time. Now he has renewed his wish, and therefore I could not decline the invitation. I am, as you know, little of a courtier. But I said to myself, 'Remember Aalesund' (for which the Emperor had sent a large sum after a great fire), and my sense of duty conquered. Our first meeting was at breakfast at the German Consul's house. During the meal we spoke much about music. I like his ways, and—oddly enough—our opinions also agreed. Afterwards he came to me and I had the pleasure of talking with him alone for nearly an hour. We spoke about everything in heaven and earth—about poetry, painting, religion, Socialism, and the Lord knows what besides.
"He was fortunately a human being, and not an Emperor. I was therefore permitted to express my opinions openly, though in a discreet manner, of course. Then followed some music. He had brought along an orchestra (!), about forty men. He took two chairs, placed them in front of all the others, sat down on one, and said, 'If you please, first parquet'; and then the music began—Sigurd Jorsalfar, Peer Gynt, and many other things.
"While the music was being played he continually aided me in correcting the tempi and the expression, although as a matter of course I had not wanted to do such a thing. He was very insistent, however, that I should make my intentions clear. Then he illustrated the impression made by the music by movements of his head and body. It was wonderful (goettlich) to watch his serpentine movements a la Orientalin while they played Anitra's dance, which quite electrified him.
"Afterwards I had to play for him on the piano, and my wife, who sat nearest him, told me that here too he illustrated the impression made on him, especially at the best places.
"I played the minuet from the pianoforte sonata which he found 'very Germanic' and powerfully built: and the 'Wedding Day at Troldhaugen,' which piece he also liked.
"On the following day there was a repetition of these things on board the Hohenzollern, where we were all invited to dinner at eight o'clock. The orchestra played on deck in the most wondrously bright summer night while many hundreds—nay, I believe thousands—of rowboats and small steamers were grouped about us. The crowd applauded constantly and cheered enthusiastically whenever the Kaiser became visible. He treated me like a patient: he gave me his cloak and sent to fetch a rug, with which he covered me carefully.
"I must not forget to relate that he grew so enthusiastic over 'Sigurd Jorsalfar,' the subject of which I explained to him as minutely as possible, that he said to von Hiilsen, the intendant of the royal theatres, who sat next to him: 'We must produce this work! (This was not done, however.)
"I then invited von Hiilsen to come to Christiania to witness a performance of it, and he said he was very eager to so. All in all this meeting was an event and a surprise in the best sense. The Kaiser, certainly, is a very uncommon man, a strange mixture of great energy, great self-reliance, and great kindness of heart. Of children and animals he spoke often and with sympathy, which I regard as a significant thing."
On the New Year's Day following the Emperor sent the composer a telegram reading: "To the northern bard to listen to whose strains has always been a joy to me I send my most sincere wishes for the new year and new creative activity." In 1906, Grieg, having once more been the Emperor's guest, writes to a friend:
"He was greatly pleased with having become once more a grandfather. He called to me across the table (referring to 'Sigurd'), 'Is it agreeable if I call the child Sigurd?' It must be something Urgermanisch."
The following anecdote may remind the reader of the amusing scene in Offenbach's "Grand Duchesse of Gerolstein," where the Grand Duchess, talking to the guardsman whose athletic proportions she admires, addresses him with a rising scale of "corporal" ... "sergeant" ... "lieutenant" ... "captain" ... "colonel," and so on, as she talks, only, however, later cruelly to re-descend the scale to the very bottom when her courtship is ineffectual. The Emperor is at an organ recital in the Kaiser William Memorial Church; the recital is over and the Court party are about to go when he greets the organist, Herr Fischer: "My cordial thanks for the great pleasure you have given us, Herr Professor." "Pardon, your Majesty," replies the organist, with commendable presence of mind: "May I venture to thank your Majesty for the great mark of favour?" "What mark of favour?" asks the Emperor, a little puzzled. "The fact is your Majesty has more than once addressed me as 'professor,' although—" "Why, that's good," exclaims the Emperor, with a great laugh, "very good indeed;" and striking his forehead in self-reproach with the palm of his hand: "so forgetful of me! Then you are not professor, after all! Well, no matter; what is not, may be—what I said, I said. Adieu, Herr Professor" and goes off smiling. The very same evening—need it be added?—Herr Fischer had his patent as Professor in his pocket.
The Emperor is particularly fond of "my Americans" among his operatic artists. A good deal of jealousy has at times been shown by the German employees of the opera towards the American artists entertained there and a deputy has more than once protested in the Reichstag against the number employed; but the jealousy rarely results in harm, and on the whole harmony—as it should—prevails.
Every year brings hundreds of American girl students to Berlin, Munich, or Dresden to learn singing and perhaps carry off the great prize of a "star" engagement at one or the other of the German royal opera houses. The experiences of some of these students are tragedies on a small scale, and in one or two instances have been known to end in death, destitution, or dishonour. The explanation is simple. Such students, filled with the high hopes inspired by artistic ambition and the artist's imagination, fail to ask themselves before going abroad if nature has endowed them with the qualities and powers requisite for one of the most laborious and, for a girl, exposed professions in the world; and do not learn until it is too late that they lack the resolute character, the robust health, and the talent which, not singly but all three combined, are essential to success.
Such a girl often starts on her enterprise poorly supplied with means to pay for her board, lodging, clothes, recreation, and instruction; she changes from the dearer sort of pension to the cheaper, finding her company and surroundings at each remove more doubtful and more dangerous; she grows disappointed and disheartened, perhaps physically ill; comes under bad influences, male or female; until finally the curtain falls on a sufferer rescued at the last moment by relatives or friends, or on a young life blasted. Such tragic cases, it should be said, are far from common, but they occur, and the possibility of their occurrence ought to be taken into account at the outset by the intending music or art student.
Happily there is another and brighter side to the picture, and the intending student with money and friends will enjoy and gain advantage from a few years of continental life, even though exceptional strength and genuine talent be wanting. Perhaps this is the experience of the great majority of art students in Germany. Freedom from the restraints and conventions of life at home compensates for the inconveniences arising from narrow means. Novelty of scenery and surroundings has a charm that is constantly recurring. The kindness and helpfulness of fellow-countrymen and countrywomen make the wheels of daily life roll smoothly. The freemasonry of art, its optimism and hope, and the pleasure and interest of its practice, investigation, and discussion wing the hours and spur to effort.
But to return to the Emperor. As a lad at Cassel he was fond of playing charades, and is reported to have had a knack of quickly sketching the scenario and dramatis personae of a play which he and his young companions would then and there proceed to act. One of these plays had Charlemagne for its subject, with a Saxon feudatory, whose lovely daughter, Brunhilde, scorns her father for his submission. A banquet, ending in a massacre of Charlemagne's followers, is one of the scenes, and as Brunhilde is in love with Charlemagne's son she helps him to escape from the massacre. The Play ends with the suicide of Brunhilde. As he grew up the Emperor's interest in the theatre increased, and, as has been seen, when he succeeded to the throne he resolved to make use of it for educating and elevating the public mind. As patriotism consists largely in knowing and properly appreciating history he has always encouraged dramatists who could portray historic scenes and events, particularly those with which the Hohenzollerns were connected. Hence his support of Josef Lauff, Ernst von Wildenbruch and Detlev von Liliencron. Not long ago he arranged a series of performances at Kroll's Theatre intended for workmen only. The performances were chiefly of the stirring historical kind—Schiller's "Wilhelm Tell," Goethe's "Goetz von Berlichingen," Kleist's "Prince von Hornburg," and others that require huge processions and a crowded stage. The general public were not supposed to attend the performances, but tickets were sent to the factories and workshops for sale at a low price.
In 1898 the Emperor publicly stated his views about the theatre. "When I mounted the throne ten years ago," he said,
"I was, owing to my paternal education, the most fervent of idealists. Convinced that the first duty of the royal theatres was to maintain in the nation the cultivation of the idealism to which, God be thanked, our people are still faithful, and of which the sources are not yet nearly exhausted, I determined to myself to make my royal theatres an instrument comparable to the school or the university whose mission it is to form the rising generation and to inculcate in them respect for the highest moral traditions of our dear German land. For the theatre ought to contribute to the culture of the soul and of the character, and to the elevation of morals. Yes, the theatre is also one of my weapons.... It is the duty of a monarch to occupy himself with the theatre, because it may become in his hands an incalculable force."
If the Emperor has any special gift it is an eye for theatrical effect in real life as well as on the stage. He had a good share of the actor's temperament in his younger years, and until recently showed it in the conduct of imperial and royal business of all kinds. He still gives it play occasionally in the royal opera houses and theatres. The Englishman, whose ruler is a civilian, is not much impressed by pageantry and pomp, except as reminding him of superannuated, though still revered, historical traditions and events that are landmarks in a great military and maritime past. He would not care to see his King always, or even frequently, in uniform, as he would be apt to find in the fact an undue preference for one class of citizens to another. His idea is that the monarch ought to treat all classes of his subjects with equal kingly favour. In Germany it is otherwise. The monarchy relies on military force for its dynastic security, as much, one might perhaps say, as for the defence of the country or the keeping of the public peace, and consequently favours the military. Moreover, the peoples that compose the Empire have been harassed throughout the long course of their history by wars; a large percentage of their youth are serving in the standing army or in the reserves, the Landwehr and the Landsturm; finally the Germans, though not, as it appears to the foreigner, an artistic people, save in regard to music, enjoy the spectacular and the theatrical.
Accordingly we find the Emperor artistically arranging everything and succeeding particularly well in anything of an historical and especially of a military nature. The spring and autumn parades of the Berlin garrison on the Tempelhofer Field—an area large enough, it is said, to hold the massed armies of Europe—with their gatherings of from 30,000 to 60,000 troops of all arms, serve at once to excite the Berliner's martial enthusiasm, while at the same time it obscurely reminds him that if he treats the dynasty disrespectfully he will have a formidable repressive force to reckon with. Hence at manoeuvres the Emperor is accompanied by an enormous suite; whenever he motors down Unter den Linden it is at a quick pace, which impresses the crowd while it lessens the chances of the bomb-thrower or the assassin. The scene of the reception of Prince Chun at the New Palace was a great success as an artistic performance, and the pageants at the restoration of the Hohkoenigsburg and at the Saalburg festival were of the same artistic order.
The Emperor's theatrical interest and attention when in Berlin are concentrated on the Berlin Royal Opera and the Berlin Royal Theatre (Schauspielhaus), and when in Wiesbaden on the Royal Festspielhaus at that resort. When in his capital he goes very rarely to any other place of theatrical entertainment. His interest in the royal opera and theatre both in Berlin and Wiesbaden is personal and untiring, and he has done almost as much or more for the adequate representation of grand opera in his capital as the now aged Duke of Saxe-Meiningen did, through his famous Meiningen players, for the proper presentation of drama in Germany generally. The revivals of "Aida" and "Les Huguenots" under the Emperor's own supervision are accepted as faultless examples of historical accuracy in every detail and of good taste and harmony in setting.
In a well-informed article in the Contemporary Review Mr. G. Valentine Williams writes:
"Once the rehearsals of a play in which the Emperor is interested are under way he loses no time in going to the theatre to see whether the instructions he has appended to the stage directions in the MS. are being properly carried out. Some morning, when the vast stage of the opera is humming with activity, the well-known primrose-coloured automobile will drive up to the entrance and the Emperor, accompanied only by a single adjutant, will emerge. In three minutes William II will be seated at a big, business-like table placed in the stalls, before him a pile of paper and an array of pencils. When he is in the house there is no doubt whatever in anyone's mind as to who is conducting the rehearsal. His intendant stands at his side in the darkened auditorium and conveys his Majesty's instructions to the stage, for the Emperor never interrupts the actors himself. He makes a sign to the intendant, scribbles a note on a sheet of paper, while the intendant, who is a pattern of unruffled serenity, just raises his hand and the performance abruptly ceases. There is a confabulation, the Emperor, with the wealth of gesture for which he is known, explaining his views as to the positions of the principals, the dresses, the uniforms, using anything, pencil, penholder, or even his sword to illustrate his meaning. Again and again up to a dozen times the actors will be put through their paces until the imperial Regisseur is entirely satisfied that the right dramatic effect has been obtained.
"All who have witnessed the imperial stage-manager at work agree that he has a remarkable flair for the dramatic. Very often one of his suggestions about the entrances or exits, a piece of 'business' or a pose, will be found on trial to enhance the effect of the scene. A story is told of the Emperor's insistence on accuracy and the minute attention he pays to detail at rehearsal. After his visit to Ofen-Pest some years ago for the Jubilee celebration, which had included a number of Hungarian national dances, the Emperor stopped a rehearsal of the ballet at the Berlin opera while a Czardas was in progress and pointed out to the balletteuses certain minor details which were not correct.
"In his attitude to the Court actors and actresses he displays the charm of manner which bewitches all with whom he comes in contact. He calls them 'meine Schauspieler,' which makes one think of 'His Majesty's Servants' of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. This practice sometimes has amusing results. Once when the Theatre Royal comedian, Dr. Max Pohl, was suddenly taken ill the Emperor said to an acquaintance, 'Fancy, my Pohl had a seizure yesterday;' and the acquaintance, thinking he was referring to a pet dog replied, commiseratingly: 'Ah, poor brute!' After rehearsal the Emperor often goes on to the stage and talks with the actors about their parts.
"A Hohenzollern must not be shown on the stage without the express permission of the Emperor, and in general, if politics are mixed up in an objectionable way with the action of the drama, the play will be forbidden. Above all the Emperor will not tolerate indecency, nor the mere suggestion of it, in the plays given at the royal theatres. An anecdote about Herr Josef Lauff's Court drama 'Frederick of the Iron Tooth,' dealing with an ancestor, an Elector of Brandenburg, and on which Leoncavallo, at the Emperor's request, wrote the opera 'Der Roland von Berlin,' shows the Emperor's strictness in this respect. Frederick of the Iron Tooth is a burgher of Berlin who leads a revolt against the Elector. In order to heighten Frederick's hate, Lauff wove in a love theme into the drama. The wife of Ryke, burgomaster of Berlin, figured as Frederick's mistress and egged on her lover against the Elector, because the latter had hanged her brothers, the Quitzows, notorious outlaws of the Mark Brandenburg. The Emperor cut out the whole episode when the play was submitted to him in manuscript. The marginal note in his big, bold handwriting ran: 'Eine Courtisane kommt in einem Hohenzollerstueck nicht vor' (A courtesan has no place in a Hohenzollern drama)."
The Emperor's constant change of uniform is often said to be a sign of his liking for the theatrical, and writers have compared him on this account with lightning-change artists like the great Fregoli. Rather his respect for and reliance on the army, a sense of fitness with the occasion to be celebrated, a feeling of personal courtesy to the person to be received, are the motives for such changes. The Paris Temps published the following incident apropos of the Emperor's visit to England in November, 1902. When, on arriving at Port Victoria, the royal yacht Hohenzollern came in view, the members of the English Court sent to welcome the Emperor saw him through their glasses walking up and down the captain's bridge wearing a long cavalry cloak over a German military uniform. When they stepped on board they found him in the undress uniform of an English admiral. They lunched with him, and in the afternoon, when he left for London, he was wearing the uniform of an English colonel of dragoons. Arrived in London, he left for Sandringham, and must have changed his dress en route, for he left the train in a frock-coat and tall hat.
Perhaps the most notable theatrical event of the reign hitherto was the production at the Royal Opera in 1908 of the historic pantomime "Sardanapalus." The Emperor's idea, as he said himself, was to "make the Museums speak," to which a Berlin critic replied, "You can't dramatize a museum." The ballet, for it was that as well as a pantomime, engrossed the Emperor's time and attention for several weeks. He spent hours with the great authority on Assyriology, Professor Friedrich Delitzsch, going over reliefs and plans taken from the Kaiser Friedrich Museum or borrowed from museums in Paris, London, and Vienna, decided on the costumes and designed the war-chariots to be used in the ballet. The notion was to rehabilitate the reputation of Asurbanipal, the second-last King of Assyria, whom the Greeks called "Sardanapalus," who reigned in Nineveh six hundred years before Christ, over Ethiopia, Babylon and Egypt, and whom Lord Byron, accepting the Greek story, represented as the most effeminate and debauched monarch the world had ever known.
Professor Delitzsch, with a wealth of recondite learning, showed, on the contrary, that Sardanapalus was a wise and liberal-minded monarch, who, rather than fall into the hands of the Medes, built himself a pyre in a chamber of his palace and perished on it with his wives, his children, and his treasure. The whole four acts, with the various ballets, gave a perfectly faithful representation of the period as described by Diodorus and Herodotus, and as plastically shown on the reliefs discovered at Nineveh by Sir Henry Layard and subsequently by German excavators. Over L10,000 was spent upon the production, and the public were worked up to a great pitch of curiosity concerning it. But it was a complete failure as far as the public were concerned. "Heavens!" exclaimed one critic, "what a bore!" This, however, was not the fault of the Emperor, but was due to want of interest on the part of a public whose enthusiasm for the events and characters of times so remote could only be kindled by a genius, and a dramatic one. The Emperor is no such genius, nor had he one at command.
THE NEW CENTURY (continued)
King George V has hardly been sufficiently long on the English throne for a contemporary to judge of the personal relations that exist between his Majesty and the Emperor as chief representatives of their respective nations. The King of England was, until June, 1913, hindered by various circumstances from paying a visit to the Court of Berlin, and rumours were current that relations between the two rulers were not as friendly as they might and should be. There is now every indication that though the relations of people to people and Government to Government vary in degrees of coolness or warmth, the two monarchs are on perfectly good terms of cousinship and amity.
A visit paid by King George, when Prince of Wales, to the Emperor in Potsdam at the opening of 1902 testified to the goodwill that then subsisted between them. It was the evening before the Emperor's birthday, when the Emperor, at a dinner given by the officers of King Edward's German regiment, the 1st Dragoon Guards, addressed the English Heir Apparent in words of hearty welcome. The address was not a long one, but in it the Emperor characteristically seized on the motto of the Prince of Wales, "Ich dien" (I serve), to make it the text of a laudatory reference to his young guest's conduct and career. In its course the Emperor touched on the Prince's tour of forty thousand miles round the world, and the effect his "winning personality" had had in bringing together loyal British subjects everywhere, and helping to consolidate the Imperium Britannicum, "on the territories of which," as the Emperor said, doubtless with an imperial pang of envy, "the sun never sets." The Prince, in his reply, tendered his birthday congratulations, and expressed his "respect" for the Emperor, the appropriate word to use, considering the ages and royal ranks of the Emperor and his younger first cousin.
With 1902 may be said to have begun the Emperor's courtship (as it is often called in Germany) of America. His advances to the Dollar Princess since then have been unremitting and on the whole cordially, if somewhat coyly, received.
The growth of intercourse of all kinds between Germany and the United States is indeed one of the features of the reign. There are several reasons why it is natural that friendly relationship should exist. It has been said on good authority that thirty millions of American citizens have German blood in their veins. Frederick the Great was the first European monarch to recognize the independence of America. German men of learning go to school in America, and American men of learning go to school in Germany. A large proportion of the professors in American universities have studied at German universities. The two countries are thousands of miles apart, and are therefore less exposed to causes of international jealousy and quarrel between contiguous nations. On the other hand, the new place America has taken in the Old World, dating, it may be said roughly, from the time of her war with Spain (1898); the increase of her influence in the world, mainly through the efforts of brave, benevolent, and able statesmen; the expansion of her trade and commerce; the increase of the European tourist traffic;—these factors also to some extent account for the growth of friendly intercourse between the peoples.
Nor should the bond between the two countries created by intermarriage be overlooked. If the well-dowered republican maid is often ambitious of union with a scion of the old European nobility, the usually needy German aristocrat is at least equally desirous of mating with an American heiress notwithstanding the vast differences in race-character, political sentiment, manners, and views of life—and especially of the status and privileges of woman—that must fundamentally separate the parties. Great unhappiness is frequently the result of such marriages, perhaps it may be said of a large proportion of international marriages, but cases of great mutual happiness are also numerous, and help to bring the countries into sympathy and understanding. Prince Buelow, when Chancellor, reminded the Reichstag, which was discussing an objection raised to the late Freiherr Speck von Sternburg, when German Ambassador to America, that he had married an American lady, that though Bismarck had laid down the rule that German diplomatists ought not to marry foreigners, he was quite ready to make exceptions in special cases, and that America was one of them. The Emperor is well known to have no objection to his diplomatic representative at Washington being married to an American, but rather to prefer it, provided, of course, that the lady has plenty of money.
A difficulty between Germany and Venezuela arose in 1902 owing to the ill-treatment suffered by German merchants in Venezuela in the course of the civil war in that country from 1898 to 1900.