The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz/Volume One/03 The Gymnasium in Cologne
|←Volume One: Chapter II: School Days in Liblar||The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz by
Volume One: Chapter III: The Gymnasium in Cologne
|Volume One: Chapter IV: University Days in Bonn→|
|Translated from the original German by Eleonora Kinnicutt and Carl Schurz.|
I WAS ten years old when my father took me to the gymnasium at Cologne, usually called the "Jesuit Gymnasium," although it had no connection with that religious order. In those days Cologne had about ninety thousand inhabitants, and was, as I supposed, one of the finest cities in the world. My grandfather had taken me there several years before on a visit, and well do I remember the two things that then interested me most: the cathedral tower with the huge crane on top, and the convict chain-gangs sweeping the streets — sinister-visaged fellows in clothes striped dark gray and yellow, with heavy iron chains on their feet that rattled and clanked dismally on the pavement stones, one or more soldiers standing guard close by, gun in hand. I remember also how my grandfather reproved me for taking off my cap to everybody whom we met in the streets, as was the custom in our little village at home; for he said there were so many people in Cologne that were one to attempt to bow to them all there would be no time left for anything else; that one could never become acquainted with all those persons, and many of them were not worth knowing; and finally, that such deference on my part would mark me at once as a country boy and make me appear ridiculous.
This "making myself ridiculous" was something I greatly dreaded, and I would have taken any pains to avoid it; yet it happened that my first appearance at the gymnasium was an occasion of amusement to others and of mortification to myself. In the schools at Liblar and Brühl we had been in the habit of using slates for our arithmetic and dictation exercises. Not dreaming that a slate was incompatible with the dignity of a ten-year-old pupil at the gymnasium, I carried mine under my arm into the class-room and thus unwittingly exposed myself to the scoffs and giggles of the boys, not one of whom I knew. There was a loud burst of laughter when one boy shouted: "Look at that fellow; he has got a slate!" I should have liked to reply to this remark with my fists, but just at that moment the instructor entered, and all was respectful silence.
My scale of living at Cologne was, of necessity, extremely modest. Board and lodging had been provided for me by my parents at the house of a locksmith. I slept in the same bed with the locksmith's son, who was also a mechanic, and took my meals at the family table with the journeymen and apprentices. Severe decorum was exacted of all; the master led the conversation, and only the foreman occasionally took part in it. I had no social intercourse whatever with persons of good education outside of school; but within school many helpful influences surrounded me.
At the present day the question "What should be the course of study in an educational institution of the rank of a gymnasium?" is being much discussed. This I shall return to later. But the question what the course of study should be seems to me by no means the only important, nor even the most important, one. What we learn in school is naturally but little, only a small portion of that which we have to learn for fruitful activity in after life. It is therefore of especial consequence that the things learned in school, whatever they may be, should be taught in such a manner as to awaken and encourage in the pupil the desire and enjoyment of learning more, and to enable him to seek and find for himself the means of further instruction, and to use them to the greatest possible advantage — in one word, that the pupil in school should learn how to learn. This requires not only appropriate methods of teaching, but also individual ability of the teacher to judge of the capacities of his pupil, to put those capacities into activity and to guide and inspire them. And just in these respects I was uncommonly fortunate in my years at the gymnasium.
The head master of the lowest class was, in my time, a young Westphalian, Heinrich Bone, whom I remember with especial gratitude. At a later period he became widely known as a teacher of exceptional ability. He instructed us not only in Latin, but also in German; and he strictly held to the principle that clearness and directness of expression are the fundamental requisites of a good style. Instead of wearying his pupils with dry grammatical rules, he gave them at once short compositions to write, not upon subjects like "The Beauty of Friendship," or "The Uses of Adversity," but simple descriptions of things actually seen — a house, a group of people, a picture, and the like. He required these compositions to be rendered in the simplest possible sentences, without any complication or ornament. The most important rule, however, which he enforced with especial emphasis was this: every noun, every adjective, every verb, must express some object or some quality, or some act perceptible to the senses. All that was vague or abstract or not perceptible to the senses was at first severely forbidden. In this manner he accustomed his pupils to see clearly whatever was before their eyes, and then to set forth the impression received in words so concise and clear-cut that their meaning was unmistakable.
When we had attained a certain degree of efficiency in this very simple exercise, we were allowed to enlarge the form of our sentences, but only for the purpose of presenting more clearly and fully some vivid picture. Thus we were led step by step to the construction of some complicated periods. Narrative compositions followed the descriptive ones, the teacher's requirement still being the utmost clearness of expression; and not until the pupil had proved himself competent to grasp and to present the actual, the sensually perceptible, was he permitted to indulge in abstractions and reflections. This method taught us not only to form correct sentences, but to exercise the faculty of correct observation, which, strange to say, is developed in a comparatively small number of people.
The fundamental idea underlying this method, applicable to all instruction, is that the principal aim of teaching should be to fit, equip and stimulate the mind of the scholar with a view to independent action. Herein lies the secret of all successful mental education. This is the way to learn how to learn. To be sure, the pursuit of this method demands teachers of ability and thorough training, to whom their calling is something more than a mere routine business.
I count it among the special favors of fortune in my life that such a man as Professor Bone continued to be my principal teacher in the three lowest classes of the gymnasium. The instruction I received from him in the class room was supplemented by frequent private conversations, for I was among those favored with his personal friendship. My first little composition attracted his attention and won his approval. I vividly remember my proud satisfaction when once he read one of my writings to the class. He invited me to visit him in his quarters. At that time he was occupied in compiling a reader, to be used at the higher institutions of instruction, and for this book he himself wrote a series of little descriptions and stories, as illustrations of his method. Several of them he read to me and asked me, probably to assure himself of the impression made upon the simple mind of a pupil, to criticise them, which privilege I exercised with frankness. He did me the honor of putting two or three of my little compositions, without essential change, into his book, as examples of his rules faithfully followed. From the thirty-fifth edition of Bone's "Lesebuch," received by me from Germany some years ago, I will quote one of them as illustrating the principles fixed by him for the beginner. It is a "Hunting Scene."
"The mountains and meadows were covered with glistening snow. The sky shone red with the rising of dawn. I saw three huntsmen standing under a tall oak. The large branches on the tree bore a heavy weight of snow; the small twigs sparkled with icicles. The huntsmen were clad in light green jackets, adorned with shining buttons. At their feet lay a large stag; its red blood colored the white snow. Three brown dogs stood beside the dead body, their tongues hanging quivering out of their mouths."
In turning the pages of this reader, many delightful evening hours passed with my teacher arise in my memory. In many of those conversations he sought to guide my reading and especially to make me acquainted with the beauty of old German poetry. He also encouraged me to read historical works. I possessed Becker's Universal History. This I read from beginning to end, and reread what had especially interested me. Through the extracts given in Becker's work I first became acquainted with Homer. Those extracts in fluent prose stimulated my desire to learn more of that poet so much that I procured the translation of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," by Johann Heinrich Voss. Never until then, and I believe never since, has poetry moved me so tremendously as in the great passages describing Hector's leave-taking from Andromache at the city gate, when the hero lifts little Astyanax upon his arm and invokes the gods for him; or the prostration of old King Priam in the tent of Achilles as he implores the cruel victor for the dead body of his heroic son; or the meeting of Odysseus and Nausikaa, and the departure of the god-like sufferer from the house of the Phaiakian king, when Nausikaa, sad and bashful, hides behind a column and gazes after the departing stranger; or, after the terrible battle with the suitors, the meeting of Odysseus with the faithful Penelope, or the scene where the returning hero reveals himself in the garden to his old, sorrow-stricken father, Laertes. The reason why these scenes moved me so much more deeply than the descriptions of the battles in the "Iliad" and the fabulous adventures in the "Odyssey," although these, too, were most fascinating, I only learned to appreciate later; it is because they touch within us the purely human feeling which depends neither on time nor place; which is neither ancient nor modern, but universal and eternal.
After reading Homer in translation I began to long impatiently for the study of Greek, and the ease with which I acquired that language afterwards was undoubtedly due to my desire to meet Homer in the full beauty of the original form.
Of course I was early introduced to the kings and to the republican heroes and sages of Roman history, and learned, through my own experience, to appreciate how greatly the study of a language is facilitated by studying the history of the country to which it belongs. This applies to ancient tongues as well as to modern. When the student ceases to look upon the book which he is translating as a mere pile of words to be brought into accord with certain rules of grammar; when that which the author says stimulates him to scrutinize the true meaning, relation and connection of the forms of expression and the eager desire to learn more of the story or the argument urges him on from line to line, and from page to page, then grammar becomes to him a welcome aid, and not a mere drudgery, and he acquires the language almost without knowing how.
I fully experienced this when under Bone's guidance I read Cornelius Nepos and Cæsar's Gallic wars, and still more in translating Cicero's Orations. Most of these appear to the student at first rather difficult. But if he begins each time by examining the circumstances under which the oration was delivered, the purpose it was to serve, the points upon which special stress was to be laid, and the personalities which were involved in the proceeding, he will be imperceptibly hurried along by the desire to discover with what representations and arguments, what attacks and defenses, what appeals to reason, honor, or passion, the orator has sought to carry his cause, and the quickened interest in the subject will soon overcome all the linguistic difficulties. I remember that, so stimulated, I usually exceeded in my translations the task set to me for the next recitation, and, besides, by this zealous reading a sense was created for what I may call the music of the language, which later greatly helped me in the idiomatic construction of my Latin compositions.
Professor Bone ceased only too soon to be my teacher, for his extraordinary capacities attracted wide attention outside of the gymnasium, and he received a call to undertake the directorship of an educational institution founded by some Rhenish noblemen for the education of their sons. He left the gymnasium in compliance with this call. I did not see him again for many years. When traveling in 1888 through Germany I heard from an old school fellow that Bone, in failing health, had retired to Wiesbaden. I resolved at once to seek him out. I found him living in a very modest house, the interior of which looked almost like a convent — for Bone had always been a devout and strict Roman Catholic. An elderly nun-like person ushered me into a small parlor hung with pictures of saints and adorned with crucifixes. She carried my card into an adjoining room, from which instantly issued a cry of delight; and the next moment, dragging himself hurriedly along, my good old teacher appeared. Time had changed him from a vigorous young man into a shriveled, fragile little body, clad in a long dressing gown, his feet in large gray felt slippers, and a black skull-cap covering his thin white hair. We embraced, and the dear old man seemed beside himself with joy.
"There, I knew I was right," he exclaimed: "I heard that you had come to Germany, and I was sure that if you went to see the great people in Berlin you would certainly also come to see me. I recognized your voice at the front door; yes, yes, I knew it at once, although I have not heard it for more than forty years."
We sat down close together, and there was much asking and answering of questions. His eyes shone with pleasure when I told him that I had sent to Germany for the latest edition of his reader; that I had often explained to my children and friends the method by which he taught me how to write German, whereupon he reminded me of our evenings in Cologne and how he had liked me as a boy, and so forth. Thus a few delightful hours slipped by. When finally I rose to go, he exclaimed:
"What, not going already! We must have a glass of wine together. Good heavens! there isn't a drop of wine in the house. What shall I do?"
Then he added, thoughtfully:
"I have some excellent stomach bitters; shall we drink one another's health in bitters?"
I was quite content. The bottle was taken from the cupboard, the black liquor poured out, we drank one another's health in stomach bitters, and the glasses rang. Another embrace, and we parted never to meet again.
[Max Hasak, Der Dom der heiligen Petrus zu Köln am Rhein, 1911, Bild 22]
THE COLOGNE CATHEDRAL [IN 1824]
When Carl Schurz was a ten-year-old boy in Cologne in 1840, this cathedral, now the admiration of the world, had stood unfinished and decaying for centuries. Mr. Schurz tells how one day he saw a man jump from the top of the old crane tower, seen dimly [at the left].
But to return to my school days. The quiet life of the first years in Cologne was not without its excitements. Two occurrences of this time made a deep impression upon me. My daily walk to school led past the great Cathedral, which, now in its finished state the admiration of the world, looked in those days much like a magnificent ruin. Only the choir had been nearly finished. The great central part between the choir and the towers stood under a temporary roof and was built partly of brick. One of the two towers was not more than some sixty feet above the ground, while the other, surmounted by the famous century-old crane, had reached perhaps three or four times that height. The tooth of time had gnawed the medieval sculptures on the walls and arches and turrets, and the whole hoary pile, still unfinished, yet decaying, looked down, sad and worn, upon the living generation at its feet.
One morning when I was wending my accustomed way to school I saw fall from the top of the crane tower an object which looked like a cloak, and from which in its descent something detached itself and floated away in the breeze. The cloak shot straight down and struck with a heavy thud upon the stone pavement below. The passers-by ran to the spot; the cloak proved to contain a man, who, without doubt, had sought his death by jumping down. He had fallen upon his feet, and lay there in a little heap; the bones of the legs had been pressed into the body; the head, encircled by a fringe of gray hair, was much disfigured; the face, pale and distorted, was that of an elderly man. The object which had floated away in falling proved to be a wig. When the winds had played with it for a while it settled down quietly beside its dead owner.
This shocking spectacle filled my mind with uncanny imaginings. I made every effort to discover who the unfortunate man was, and what the cause could have been to drive him to such desperation; but all rumors were uncertain and contradictory. Then fancy conjured up to my mind all possible turns of fortune and conditions of life which could drive a human being into self destruction — hopeless poverty; lost honor; disappointed affections; torments of conscience — and soon my head was filled with plots of stories or tragedies, all of which ended with the self-destructive plunge from the cathedral tower.
Another tragic scene which agitated my mind in a similar way is photographed upon my memory. A young man in Cologne had murdered his sweetheart and been condemned to death. The execution, by the guillotine — for the left bank of the Rhine was still under the "Code Napoleon" — was to take place at dawn of day on a public square between the Cathedral and the Rhine, and before the eyes of all who might choose to witness it. The trial had excited the whole population to a high degree; now the people looked forward to the final catastrophe with almost morbid interest. My locksmith guardian was of the opinion that neither he nor I should miss the opportunity of beholding so rare a spectacle. Long before sunrise he awoke me, and together we went to the place of execution in the gray morning light. We found there a dense crowd, numbering thousands, of men, women and children; above them loomed the black scaffold of the death machine. Deep silence reigned; only a low buzz floated over the multitude when the condemned man appeared on the scaffold, and then all was silence again. My sturdy locksmith held me up in his arms, so that I might look over the heads of the crowds in front. The unfortunate culprit stepped forward; the assistant of the executioner strapped him to a board which extended from his feet to his shoulders, leaving his neck free; the victim glanced up at the ax, suspended from a cross beam; the next instant he was pushed down so that his neck lay under the gleaming blade; the ax fell like a flash of lightning, severing the head from the shoulders at a whisk. A stream of blood spurted into the air, but the hideous sight was quickly concealed from the gaze of the public by a dark cloth. The whole deed was done with the rapidity of thought. One scarcely became conscious of the terrible shock before it was over. A dull murmur arose from the onlooking throngs, after which they silently dispersed; the scaffold was taken down and the blood on the ground covered with sand before the first rays of the morning sun shone brightly upon the Cathedral towers. I remember walking home shuddering and trembling, and finding it impossible to eat my breakfast. Nothing could have induced me to witness another execution.
The good locksmith was an enthusiastic play-goer, and allowed me sometimes to accompany him to the theater — to be sure only on the topmost gallery, where a seat cost five groschen (twelve and a half cents). The theater of Cologne occupied, as I learned later, in the world of art a very respectable place. To me it was a dream of the marvelous and magnificent. I was beside myself with astonished delight when, for the first time, I saw, before the lifting of the curtain, the painted ceiling over the auditorium part in the middle and through this mysterious opening a brilliantly lighted chandelier slowly descend, the ceiling thereupon closing again. The performances I witnessed also moved me powerfully.
Indeed I did not follow them with the same naïve illusions with which I had lived through the adventures of the fair Genovefa; but what I saw in the theater in Cologne was on so much higher a level that I could surrender myself again to full enjoyment. Thus I saw one or two knight dramas, popular at the time; also "Wallenstein." These pleasures did not come in rapid succession, for frequent visits to the theater could hardly have accorded with the principle of economy that governed my locksmith as well as myself. But the drama took profound hold upon me, and what I saw of it created an almost irresistible desire to write a play myself. I searched through Beckers' Universal History for a good subject, and finally fell upon the Anglo-Saxon King Edwy, who ruled in England in the middle of the tenth century and who brought upon himself, through his love for the beautiful Elgiva, a struggle with Saint Dunstan, and an unhappy fate. It seemed to me that if I took some liberties with history, as dramatic poets not seldom do, this subject — a royal lover battling with the power of the church — might be capable of being worked up into a fine tragedy. Of course the play as I wrote it amounted to nothing; but in weaving the plot through successive scenes, and in writing out some of the dialogues, I enjoyed the full bliss of literary creation. Never to have tasted this delight is never to have known one of the greatest joys of life.
Lyric poems and ballads also figured among my "early works." One of my ballads originated in this wise: Under a clump of tall trees not far from the castle at Liblar were some crumbled ruins of masonry that had an uncanny look. Nobody seemed to know their history. Imagination pictured to me a variety of possibilities, out of which I wove a romantic tale. The Knights of the Gracht had on this spot kept wild animals in a big pit. A beautiful maiden had somehow got into this pit and had been rescued by a noble youth after a heroic fight with the monstrous beasts. This adventure, not very original to be sure, I worked up in pompous eight-line stanzas, the sound of which delighted me so much that I could not refrain from sending a copy of my poem to my father. He, even prouder of it than I, hastened to show the verses to Count Metternich. The count, who probably took little interest in any kind of poetry, pronounced them fine, but said that he had never heard of this occurrence as a part of his family history — which did not surprise me in the least.
At prose, too, I tried my hand. Once, after having written a composition on "Schiller's Maid of Orleans," which struck me as especially good, I found it difficult to resist the ambitious desire of seeing myself in print. I made a clean copy of the composition and carried it to the office of the Cologne Gazette, with a letter addressed to Levin Schücking, a well-known novelist of the time, and the literary editor of that great journal. In my letter I begged the privilege of a personal interview. A courteous answer fixed the day and hour of my visit, and soon I stood, with loud heart-beats, at the great man's door, who, so I believed, held my literary future in the hollow of his hand. I found in him an amiable gentleman, with pleasant features, and large, blue, benevolent eyes. He received me very kindly, talked upon a variety of subjects and finally returned my manuscript to me with the remark that it contained much that was excellent, but that I would do well to regard it only as a "study." I departed completely crushed with disappointment and mortification; but after all I lived to become sincerely grateful to good Mr. Schücking for his timely counsel. Much that I have since written has, in pursuance of his sound advice, been quietly treated as a "study" by myself.
When I had reached the "Tertia" of the gymnasium, fortune favored me again by bringing me into close relations with another admirable instructor, Professor Pütz, who had become distinguished as the compiler of excellent historical text-books. He could not boast of great historical researches made by himself, but he possessed a rare skill in exciting the interest of the pupils in the subjects of instruction, and in pointing out the way to further studies. His method of teaching history was to devote the greater part of the hour to a presentation, in free speech, of the particular period with which he wished to make us familiar. He enlivened his subject by exhibiting it in a variety of lights and by adding sufficient detail to make his lecture not only instructive, but also dramatic and picturesque, and thus easily remembered. In the next lesson the pupils were expected, whenever called upon, to reproduce, out of themselves, in their own language, what they had learned in the previous lessons, the short recitals of the hand-book serving as a framework to the historical structure. From time to time the professor would deliver a comprehensive discourse, grouping together the events of certain historic periods, and thus giving us bird's-eye views over wide fields. In this way history was impressed upon our memory as well as our understanding, not in the form of tabulated statements or columns of figures, nor merely by means of anecdotes, but in panoramic views and prospects full of life and philosophical light. To me, the class lesson and the study connected with it, for which I had always an especial liking, became, instead of hard, dry labor, a genuine joy which could not repeat itself too often. It was largely owing to these methods of instruction that, when a few years later at my final examination Professor Pütz asked me whether I thought I could from my memory describe the conquests of Alexander the Great and draw a map thereof on the blackboard, I felt myself able to undertake the task, and accomplished it satisfactorily.
Soon after I had become his pupil Professor Pütz drew me nearer to him, and something like relations of confidential friendship grew up between us. He had traveled much during his long vacations, had seen many foreign countries and made acquaintance with many remarkable personalities. Thus he had widened his mental horizon beyond the limits of that of the ordinary teacher of the gymnasium. There was something cosmopolitan in his conceptions, and in regard to theological, as well as political things, he passed for a man of advanced ideas.
In addition to history, he also taught us German composition, and as in my writings he discovered something akin to his own views, he treated me almost like a young comrade, whom he permitted in his presence to forget the schoolboy for the moment. He liked to tell me about his travels and about the social and political institutions and affairs of the world; and when our conversation turned upon church and state, he talked not seldom with a certain touch of irony, which was to make me understand that in his opinion many things ought to be different from what they were. He also encouraged expressions of opinion on my part, and it gave him pleasure to see that I had thought of this and that which was not just within the circle of a schoolboy's ideas; and when, so encouraged, I gave expression to my boyish criticisms of existing conditions, he would sometimes listen with an approving smile, at the same time remarking that we might talk unreservedly between ourselves, but that it would be advisable for us to be more circumspect in conversation with others.
In other ways also he enlarged my horizon. From his private library he lent me several volumes of Goethe and of works of writers of more recent times. Even foreign literatures he opened to me; he gave me, for instance, the translations of Shakespeare by Schlegel and Tieck, which I devoured with avidity, and he made me acquainted with Cervantes and Calderon. He also taught me some Italian, and read with me the "Prisons" of Silvio Pellico in the original, and parts of Tasso and Ariosto in translation. Thus he disclosed to me a new world; and I think of him with gratitude, as one of the benefactors of my youth. It was a great pleasure to me to meet Professor Pütz again in later life. It must have been in 1873, when I was a member of the Senate of the United States, that I received one day, by European mail, a package containing a letter from Professor Pütz, with some printed pages. "I have frequently corrected your tasks," he wrote, "and now you have to correct mine." Then he informed me that he was preparing a new edition of his historical handbooks, and wished to have my judgment about that part which treated of the latest events in America. And this he laid before me on the proofsheets that accompanied the letter. With pleasure I complied with his request, and found his work so correct in every detail that it did not call for the slightest amendment. On my next journey to Germany I sought him out in Cologne. He had retired from his office, and lived in comfortable surroundings. I found him, to be sure, very much aged; but still young in spirit. Our meeting was a hearty joy to us both, and we celebrated it with a delightful supper.
When I entered the higher classes of the gymnasium the influence of youthful friendship came powerfully into my life. I gave up my quarters at the locksmith's because there was no piano there for daily practice, and moved into more suitable lodgings. It now became possible for me to receive visitors and to lead a somewhat freer life. Among my schoolmates I always had friends of my own age, but none whose endeavors and ambitions accorded much with my own tastes. Now I became acquainted with a circle of youths who, like myself, wrote verses, and read them, and encouraged each other in the study of literature. The two with whom I came into closest intimacy were Theodore Petrasch, the son of a secretary of the provincial government, and Ludwig von Weise, a descendant of a patrician family of Cologne. Petrasch was an uncommonly bright youth of a most-amiable, cheerful and exuberant nature. Weise, while possessing excellent abilities and a strong character, had developed rather the critical than the productive faculties of his mind. Both discussed political, as well as religious, subjects with far more freedom and assurance than I had dared to do, and their liberal utterances had already attracted the notice of the gymnasium authorities. Petrasch had been called to account by the instructor of religion and had made certain heretical confessions with such frankness that the shocked schoolmaster suspended him from all religious observances until a new light should break in upon him, and he invited him to further talks upon sacred subjects.
To me, questions of religious faith had for some time caused many hours of most serious reflection. I have already narrated how in earliest childhood my belief in the everlasting punishment of the heterodox, and in the infallibility and moral perfection of the priesthood, had been severely shaken. Since then I had pondered much upon kindred subjects, and the time had now come for me to be "confirmed." In preparation for this rite, the Roman Catholic priest, our instructor, especially indoctrinated us in the tenets of the church. I threw myself into this study with an earnest desire to overcome all doubts. It even seemed to me at times that this had been accomplished, and I went through the act of the "First Communion" in a state of religious exaltation. But very soon the old scruples and doubts returned stronger than before. What was most repugnant to me was the claim of the church to be not merely the only true church, but also the only saving one, and that there was absolutely no hope of salvation outside of its pale, but only damnation and eternal hell-fire. That Socrates and Plato; that all the virtuous men among the heathen; that even my old friend, the Jew, Aaron; nay, that even the new-born babe, if it happened to die unbaptized, must forever burn in unquenchable fire — yes, that I too, were I so much as to harbor the slightest doubt concerning their terrible fate, must also be counted among the eternally lost — against such ideas rebelled not only my reason, but my innermost instinct of justice. Such teachings seemed to me so directly to contradict the most essential attributes of the all-just Deity, that they only served to make me suspicious of other tenets of the creed. High authorities in the church have indeed not maintained teachings so extreme, but assigned to unbaptized, innocent infants and to virtuous heathen after death a mysterious state intermediate between heaven and hell. Yet certain it is that the religious teachings of my youth held to the immoderate tenets I have described, thus enforcing with a rude and relentless logic the dogma of original sin and the necessity of infant baptism. What a blessing it would have been to the church and to all within reach of its influence, if, not only some, but all of its teachers had opened its whole heaven, with the full countenance of God, not only to its believers, but to all innocent and virtuous human souls.
I was distressed beyond measure. Often I prayed fervently for light, but in answer to my prayers only the old doubts came back. I went to my teacher of religion and confided to him the condition of my mind with perfect frankness. We had a series of conversations, in which, however, he had little to say to me that I had not heard before. I confessed to him with the utmost candor, that while I should be glad to be convinced by what he said, he had not so convinced me; whereupon I also was relieved of the obligation of attending religious observances until I myself felt an urgent desire to resume them. I zealously studied ecclesiastical history and dogmatic writings, and availed myself of every opportunity to listen to preachers of renown; but the longer and more earnestly I continued those studies the less could I find my way back to the articles of faith which were so repugnant to my sense of justice. There remained, however, within me a strong religious want, a profound respect for religious thought. I have never been able to listen to a light-minded scoffer about religious subjects without great repugnance.
While my friends could not tell me much that was soothing on religious topics, they opened to me vistas in German literature — especially the political part of it — which were new and fascinating. Of Heine, my teacher, Professor Pütz, had told me, but I knew of him little more than his name; of Freiligrath, only a few of his pictures of the tropics; of Gutzkow, Laube, Herwegh, and so on, nothing at all.
Petrasch lent me Heine's "Book of Songs." This was to me like a revelation. I felt almost as if I had never before read a lyric poem; and yet many of Heine's songs sounded to me as if I had always known them, as if the fairies had sung them to me at my cradle. All the verses that I myself had written until then, and which were mostly of the declamatory kind, went at once into the fire, and I saw them burn with genuine relief. The reading and the rereading of the "Book of Songs" was to me an indescribable revelry. Then I read the pictures of travel, the various political poems, and "Atta Troll," with its acrid political satire, the wit of which did not do good to the heart, but sharply turned one's thoughts upon the condition of the fatherland. I read also with my friends the poems of such revolutionary stormers as Herwegh, Hoffmann von Fallersleben and others, most of which we possessed and circulated among us only in written copies.
The revolutionary passions expressed in many of those poems were in fact foreign to us, but their attacks upon the existing governments, especially upon the Prussian, struck a responsive chord which easily reverberated in the breast of every Rhinelander. Our Rhine country, with its gay, light-hearted people, had, within a comparatively short period, passed through a series of multi-colored experiences. Before the time of the French Revolution it had been under the easy-going, loose rule of the Archbishop Electors; then, conquered and seized by the French, it belonged for a time to the French Republic and the Empire. At last, after the French wars, it was annexed to Prussia. Of these three rulerships, following one another in too rapid succession for any sentiments of allegiance to take firm root, the Rhine folk liked the Prussian rule the least, although it was undoubtedly the best. The abrupt, stiff, exacting character of Prussian officialdom, with its rigid conceptions of duty and order, was uncongenial to the careless and somewhat too pleasure-loving Rhenish people. Besides, the population was throughout Roman Catholic, and the word Prussian was synonymous with Protestantism. Prussian officers in considerable numbers came to help govern the Rhine people, which of course created bad blood. All these things made Prussian rule on the Rhine appear like a sort of foreign rule, which was very repugnant to the feelings of the natives. In the course of time they recognized that the honest, orderly methods of administration by the Prussian officers possessed great merit; but the spirit of opposition, characteristic of the Rhenish population, once aroused, could not be easily overcome. The word Prussian served for an opprobrious invective, and when one schoolboy flung it at another it was difficult to find a more stinging epithet to fling back. All this was to become entirely changed in consequence of the revolutionary movement toward national unity in 1848; but at the time when I was a student at the gymnasium the hatred of Prussia was still in fullest flower on the banks of the Rhine.
We young people were indeed free from provincial, and especially religious, narrowness of sentiment, but we shared the prevailing impression that great changes were necessary; that it was scandalous to withhold from the people the freedom of speech and press; that the old Prussian absolutism must yield to a new constitutional form of government; that the pledges made to the German nation by the German princes in 1813 had been shamefully violated, and that the disintegrated fatherland must be molded into a united empire with free political institutions. The fermenting restless spirit permeating the minds of the educated classes, and finding expression in the literature of the day, aroused in us boys the warmest enthusiasm. By what means the dreams of liberty and unity were to be accomplished — whether, as Herwegh advised in one of his poems, which we all knew by heart, we were to tear the iron crucifixes out of the ground and forge them into swords, or whether there was a peaceable way of reaching the goal — we were not at all clear in our thoughts. But we eagerly read newspapers and pamphlets to keep ourselves informed of the occurrences and tendencies of the day. Neither could we altogether refrain from occasionally uttering our sentiments. I was in the Upper Secunda when our professor of German — it was no longer my friend Pütz — gave us, as the subject of a composition, a memorial oration on the battle of Leipzig. Believing it to be my duty to write exactly what I thought about that event, I expressed with entire frankness my feelings about the ill-treatment the German people had suffered after their heroic efforts on that battlefield, and my hope of a complete regeneration of the German fatherland. I was profoundly in earnest. I wrote that memorial oration, so to speak, with my heart's blood. When the professor, at one of the next lessons, returned the papers to us in the class room, with critical remarks, he handed mine to me in silence. It bore this footnote: "Style good; but views expressed nebulous and dangerous." After the adjournment of the class he called me to his side, put his hand upon my shoulder and said, "What you wrote has a fine sound; but how can such things be allowed at a royal Prussian gymnasium? Take care that it does not happen again." From that time on he refrained from giving subjects to the class which might tempt us to political discussion.
In the meantime I continued zealously my literary studies, and my creative impulses were constantly stimulated by the applause of intimate friends. I wrote a large number of short poems, and also some tragedies on historic subjects. No record of these sins of my youth have remained in existence to embitter my subsequent life — or perhaps also to contribute to its merriment. We are easily ashamed of our premature productions and of the sublime conceit that must have inspired them. But I cannot look back without a certain feeling of tender emotion upon the time when I surrendered myself to those poetic impulses with the hope, certainly with the desire, to give in the course of time, to my fatherland, something valuable and lasting.
It is needless to say that these literary efforts absorbed much of the time that should have been devoted to other studies. In the first years at the gymnasium I had always received, in the semi-annual examinations, the highest marks. I sacrificed these to my literary work, inasmuch as in some branches of instruction, especially in mathematics and natural science, I did only what was rigorously exacted of me.
My life outside of school was simple in the extreme and afforded me every opportunity to practise the virtue of frugality. My pocket-money allowance was very small; sometimes I had none at all; neither can I remember ever to have asked my parents for any money. They thought of it themselves and put a pittance into my pocket when, after my vacation, I returned to Cologne, or when they visited me there. Frequently I managed to get along for weeks with the sum of five groschen (twelve and a half cents). The occasional possession of a thaler (seventy-two cents) gave me the sensation of wealth. Even when I had nothing, which sometimes happened, I never felt poor. This mental habit, acquired early in life without much reflection, has subsequently proved of great value to me. It has spared me much heart-burning. I have always had to associate with persons possessing more than myself of the so-called good things of life — persons that could allow themselves many enjoyments that I had to do without. To this I accustomed myself, and I did it without the slightest self-depreciation or envy. Among all human passions envy is the one that makes a man the most miserable. Of course I do not mean by envy the mere wish to possess desirable things which we see others possessing, for such wishes are legitimate and not foreign to the noblest ambition. The envy I speak of is that jealous ill-will which begrudges others what they possess, and which would destroy their enjoyment of it. A long life has convinced me that the truest and most beautiful happiness of the human soul consists in the joyous contemplation of the happiness of others. The envious, consciously or unconsciously, wish to deprive others of that which makes them happy; and this is, of all imaginable dispositions of the mind and heart, the most wretched. Education can render young people no better service than to teach them how to make their pleasures independent of money. This is far easier than we commonly suppose. It requires only that we learn to appreciate the various good things which cost nothing and some of which are offered by almost every environment. In this way we discover how many enjoyments there are in life which usually remain hidden to those who are in the habit of purchasing their pleasures with silver and gold.
Although during my boyhood my means were extremely limited, my opportunities for enjoyment, even in æsthetic directions, were by no means few. I have already told how I went to the theater, not very often, but finding all the more pleasure in it the few times I could go. There were other opportunities no less valuable. On Sunday mornings sometimes I spent hours in the Walraff Gallery, some rooms of which were filled with pictures of the old Cologne school. Although I was then unable to appreciate their historic and artistic value, they attracted me greatly by their splendor of color and naïveté of composition. Particularly I recall a "Last Judgment," in which the humorous grimaces and sardonic smiles of a number of fantastic red, blue, and green devils amused me immensely. For many an hour I stood in dreamy contemplation before the "Sorrowing Jews on the Waters of Babylon," by Bendemann, a celebrated painter of the Düsseldorf school. As is usual, the boy in me was first fascinated by the subject of the picture, until repeated scrutiny gradually stirred my critical faculty and developed my taste as to composition and execution.
Nor were opportunities for musical delight wanting. On Sunday morning the so-called "Musical Mass" was celebrated in the cathedral, at which frequently the archbishop officiated and the church displayed its splendor. The principal charm of the service was the music, which attracted not alone the devout, but also the art-loving public. A full orchestra and a choir of selected voices rendered a Mass by some celebrated composer. These performances were sometimes of singularly marvelous effect. I have already mentioned that the cathedral at that period resembled a ruin as to its exterior. This was also true in great measure of the inside. Upon passing through the time-worn portals into the middle nave one was confronted at a distance, just beyond the transept, by a bare, gray wall shutting off the choir from the rest of the cathedral; this was the back of the great organ, placed temporarily in this position because the choir was the only really completed portion of the edifice. The organ therefore stood, so to speak, with its back to the larger part of the church. On the platform in front of the organ, facing the choir, were placed the orchestra and the singers. Thus the people standing in that part of the church between the back of the organ and the portals heard the music not directly, but as an echo wonderfully broken. The forest of pillars and the arches high as heaven, carried it back as from a far distance, aye, as from another world. It was a mysterious waving and weaving and surging and rolling of sound; the violins and 'cellos, and flutes and oboes, like the whispering and sighing of the spring winds in the treetops; the trumpets and trombones and the mighty chorus now and then like the roaring of the storm and the raging of the sea. Sometimes the echoes seemed to be silent for a moment and a melody or a succession of harmonies would ring clear through the immense space; or a soprano solo would detach itself from the magic confusion and float upon the air like an angel's voice. The effect was indescribably touching, and I remember how, not seldom, I stood leaning against one of the gigantic columns and something like devout tremors passed over me, and my eyes filled with tears. This, I thought, must be what I had heard called the "Music of the Spheres," or the "Concert of the Children of Heaven," as I had seen depicted on the old canvases of the Walraff Museum.
Sunday noon afforded still another treat. A part of the garrison paraded on the Neumarkt, and its excellent band played martial strains for the changing guard, afterwards entertaining the public with a well-selected programme. Their repertoire being large, these military concerts helped not a little to increase my musical knowledge.
The talks with my much traveled friend, Professor Pütz, together with books on architecture lent by him, excited in me an interest in ancient and medieval architecture, and many happy hours were spent in studying the middle-age structures of religious and secular character of which Cologne is justly proud. My artistic studies were therefore by no means inconsiderable, although I had to confine myself to such as were accessible without cost.
Free afternoons were usually passed with my friends. Besides reading aloud, we philosophised together on everything above and below with that gravity characteristic of young, ardent and somewhat precocious persons. Sometimes I went to my uncle's house at Lind, a half-hour's walk from Cologne, to visit two cousins of about my own age. They were dear comrades. As they were not to prepare themselves for any learned profession, but were to be farmers, like their father, I had not so many interests in common with them as with my other friends; but they were boys of mental activity, excellent disposition and chivalrous spirits, and we amused ourselves together to our hearts' content. When the weather was bad we now and then resorted to a game of cards. And here, in order to be entirely faithful to truth, I must mention an occurrence which will prove that my youth was by no means free from serious blemish.
At first we played cards merely for the sake of passing time. Then as the taste for it grew, we staked small sums of money to increase the interest and excitement, which it did most effectually. The stakes were very small indeed, but the changing fortune in winning and losing stimulated the gambling passion until finally a catastrophe occurred. One particular afternoon I happened to have the money in my pocket with which to pay my tuition fees, which were due in a few days. I lost steadily in the game and was so carried away that at last I took out of my pocket the money entrusted to me by my parents. Of course, with it I expected to win back all that I had lost. We played on feverishly, but luck would not turn, and at last the entire sum of the tuition fee was swept away. It amounted only to a very few thalers, and my cousins helped me out of my immediate embarrassment; but my horror at what had happened was so great, my consciousness of guilt so painful, and the sense of mortification so acute — for I considered myself, and with reason, to be a criminal — that the inward suffering of those days, especially when I made a confession to my parents, has ever remained in my memory as a terrible lesson. I had gone through a very serious experience with myself. In playing for stakes the desire to win money had really not been my impelling motive, but the evil fascination which the demon of fortune always possesses had led me to commit an act which, committed under less favorable circumstances, and upon a larger scale, might have ruined my character irretrievably. Card-playing for money is often classed among the aristocratic passions; but I believe there is no form of amusement which, when it becomes a real passion, is so dangerous even to nobly cast natures. It was perhaps very fortunate in my own case that this lesson came so early in life and appeared in so drastic a shape.
Gay days we had during our summer vacations at home in Liblar. A crowd of cousins from various places found themselves together, reinforced by friends from Cologne. That was the time for merry pranks, which, as it seemed, gave as much pleasure to the old members of the family as to the young. One occurrence of my vacation life has remained especially vivid in memory. In a German village the "studying" boy, as he is called, is always regarded with interest and wonder, and upon the occasion of his visits family and friends are apt to take a pardonable pride in displaying his attainments. So it was with me. My father, who could not produce much effect upon his villagers with my Latin and Greek, took great delight in showing off my musical proficiency, especially my ability to improvise. He succeeded in persuading the old organist, a feeble musician, but one free from all artistic jealousy, to allow me to play a voluntary at the Sunday morning service. Once on a festive day when Count Metternich and his family occupied their private chapel attached to the church, and the congregation happened to be exceptionally large, I felt it incumbent upon me to do something extraordinary. So at the close of the mass I pulled out all the stops and played a military march that I had heard at one of the parades at Cologne with such effect that the departing congregation stood still in astonishment. Even the count stepped out from his chapel to see what was the matter. This was the climax of my musical career as an organist, which soon came to an abrupt end. One Sunday at vesper service I accompanied the choir, consisting of the sacristan and four other singers. It was the organist's custom to play a short interlude between the alternate verses of the hymn. This gave me an opportunity to give my faculty of improvising full swing. Beginning in the key in which the hymn was being sung, I moved up a tierce, intending to return to the original key by means of a bold transition. But the sacristan and the choir were not accustomed to such antics. They resumed their song in the higher key, shrieking themselves red in the face until the veins of their foreheads and temples threatened to burst. At the close of the service the sacristan declared with unmistakable emphasis that he would have no more improvising and thorough bass; that this nonsense must stop, and that for his part he liked the old organist far the better of the two. Thus was my glory as a performer on the organ in Liblar forever gone.
In another field an ambitious wish of mine found its fulfillment. I became a member of the Sanct Sebastianus Society, and resolved to take part in the annual bird-shooting. Having learned very early how to handle a rifle, I had myself inscribed in the list, and offered to several members, male and female, to shoot for them; and the offers were accepted. The casting of bullets on the Saturday before Whitsuntide was one of the most solemn acts of my life; and when I woke with sunrise on Whitsun Monday I felt as if for me a day of great decision had dawned. I have already described the different features of that popular festival. With profound seriousness on this occasion I marched behind the old bow-legged drummer and the master-tailor, our color-bearer, in the ranks of the marksmen to what my heroic enthusiasm called "the field of honor"; and when, after marching three times around the tree bearing the pole with the wooden bird, we knelt down for prayer I was one of the most devout. Not one of my first shots missed. The bow-legged drummer rewarded me with the customary roll, and I suspect I sometimes looked around with eyes that sought admiration. Only one shot more was mine, but the wooden bird was already much splintered, and with every moment it became more uncertain whether my last chance would yet be reached. My heart beat high; my last turn was really reached, and on the top of the pole there was only a little strip of wood left which a well-aimed bullet would surely bring down. I raised the rifle to my shoulder with the feeling as if this shot would determine the current of my future. With a mighty effort I kept cool, so that my eye should be clear and my hand firm. But when I had pressed the trigger I felt myself as if in a dense fog; I only heard how the drummer furiously belabored his instrument and how the surrounding multitude shouted. The great deed, therefore, was done. I had "shot down the bird." I was king. Not far from me stood my father; he laughed aloud and evidently was extremely proud. Now the great chain with the silver shields was put upon my shoulder, a tall hat with the old tinsel crown and flowers on top was fixed upon my head. It was a great moment; but I had won the prize merely as a substitute for another person, not for myself. Who was that person? A Sanct Sebastianus sister, an old washerwoman. She was brought forward and also adorned with ribbons and flowers. I was obliged to offer her my arm as my queen, and so we marched solemnly behind drum and flag back into the village. The riflemen made every possible noise with their guns; the children shouted, and the old people stood in their doorways, greeted me with their hands, and called out: "See the Schurz Karl!" But I felt as if we two, the old washerwoman and myself, presented a decidedly grotesque spectacle in that triumphant procession, which in my imagination had always been such a solemn affair. I thought I even saw some people indulge in a mocking smile about our unquestionably ridiculous appearance. But worse than this — I noticed on the faces of some of the old marksmen something like an expression of disapproval; my ear caught a remark that it was, after all, not quite proper to make the Schützenfest of the venerable old Sanct Sebastianus Society a boy's play. I could not deny within myself that this view of the case was not unjustified; and thus in the hour of that triumph which I had so often pictured in my dreams, a heavy drop of bitterness fell into the cup. It was the old, old experience, at that time still new to me, that we seldom are blessed with success or joy without some bitter admixture, and that the fulfillment of a wish usually looks very different from anticipation; and this experience has been repeated in my life again and again.
In the meantime dark clouds were gathering over our home. My grandfather's retirement from the Burg had been followed by evil consequences; it was as if the firm ground had been taken from under our feet. The proceeds of the sale of the inventory had been entrusted to my youngest uncle for investment. He groped about for a considerable time and finally hit at the idea of trading in grain. In connection with this plan my father, who was in need of a larger income than his little hardware business yielded, decided to erect a building of which the ground floor was to be a large amusement hall and the upper story a granary. In one of his many books he had read the description of some new method of construction which caught his fancy and which had the charm of novelty. The building was successfully erected, but it cost far more than had been anticipated. It appeared also that the festive occasions proved too few to make the letting of the amusement hall profitable, and the granary yielded even less. My uncle's grain business soon became highly speculative and he promised himself mountains of gold from it. When he drifted into embarrassment, of course his brothers and brothers-in-law came to the rescue, thus involving themselves also in affairs of which not one of them had any knowledge. My uncle Jacob, the burgomaster of Jülich, had indeed good qualities as a merchant; he was painstaking, orderly and exact, but the quick calculation of chance, the instinct of the trader, he, too, lacked entirely. So with my father; he was far more interested in his scientific books than in his ledger. Often I recall seeing him at his desk with a disorderly pile of papers before him and a helpless, impatient expression on his face. Sometimes he would then rise abruptly, push the papers into the desk, crowd them down with both elbows, and drop the lid upon their wild confusion. The various members of our family came to one another's financial assistance so often that after a little while not one of them knew accurately the condition of his own or of their common affairs. To bring order out of chaos they would occasionally meet at Liblar for the purpose of talking over business matters and "settling up." But this would have required the saying of many disagreeable things from which each in his amiability and brotherly affection recoiled. By way of beginning they would sit down together to a comfortable repast and recall happy bygone times; gradually the proposed business conference faded out of view; they ate and drank and were so happy together that it would have been a pity to disturb all by alluding to unpleasant subjects. After this had gone on for a day, or even a few days, they remembered that it was high time for them to return home; then they took leave in the most touching manner, kissed one another, sometimes even shedding tears at the parting, and each one went his way without having talked of the business matters which had brought them together. Of course their affairs drifted from worse to worse, and some further daring grain speculations only served to hasten on the final disaster.
My father was not directly implicated in those speculations, but he could not keep from getting entangled in the difficulties which sprung from them. Although youth is inclined to take matters of business lightly, I became gradually aware that my parents were often in pressing need of money, and I began to share their anxieties. I myself raised the question whether it would be possible for them to keep me any longer at the gymnasium. This was quickly answered by my obtaining a fellowship which covered a large part of my expenses; and besides I resolved to tutor junior pupils, thus earning the rest of the money needed. I threw myself into this new task with eagerness. The tuition fees amounted to about six and a half cents per hour, but they were sufficient to enable me to work my way up to the highest class but one.
Suddenly my parents were cheered by apparently more hopeful prospects. My father found an opportunity for selling his property in Liblar at a price which would enable him to discharge his obligations and furnish the means for a new livelihood. As soon as the sale was concluded he removed with the family to Bonn, where I was to go to the university after having absolved the gymnasium. In Bonn my father made arrangements with an old friend which put him in possession of a spacious house, the lower part of which was used as a restaurant for students, while in the upper stories were several rooms to be let. My friend Petrasch, who meantime had been matriculated in the university, took one of them. All this promised very satisfactorily.
But then a great misfortune fell upon us. The purchaser of the property in Liblar, with whom my father had made a very imperfect contract, declared that he had become dissatisfied with the arrangement and that he proposed to forfeit the little sum paid in advance, and not take the property. This was a hard blow. My father tried, unsuccessfully, to hold the purchaser to the bargain, and no other purchaser could be found. To return to Liblar was impossible, as my father was then bound to his new arrangements in Bonn. Now the bills of exchange became due, which in anticipation of the money coming to him from the sale in Liblar he had given to his creditors. He could not meet them; the bills were protested, and suddenly I received in Cologne the news that some of the creditors had thrown my father into the debtors' prison. This struck me like a clap of thunder. I ran to the prison house and saw my father behind an iron bar. It was a distressing meeting, but we endeavored to encourage one another as best we could. He explained to me his circumstances, and we considered what might best be done to extricate him from this humiliating situation.
I was then seventeen years old and on the point of passing into the highest class of the gymnasium, but evidently I could no longer remain in Cologne. I hurriedly took leave of my teachers and friends, and devoted myself entirely to the affairs of the family. My uncles would have been glad to assist us, but they themselves were involved in grievous embarrassments. Business matters were entirely foreign and repugnant to me; but necessity is a wonderful schoolmaster, and I felt as if in a day I had grown many years older. After much traveling to and fro I succeeded in making arrangements sufficiently satisfactory to the creditors to induce them to release my father. Those were very dark days.
When my father was thus enabled again to take our affairs into his own hands, the question arose, what was to become of me. Was I to abandon my studies and enter upon a new course of life? This idea was rejected at once; but circumstances did not permit my return to Cologne. I had to remain with my family. We therefore formed the bold plan that I should begin at once as an irregular student to attend lectures at the university, and at the same time to pursue those studies which would make it possible for me to pass the graduation examination in Cologne the next year. This plan was bold in so far as it was generally understood that when a young man left the gymnasium without having completed the course and then came back to pass the examination required for regular standing at the university, that examination was often made exceptionally severe in order to discourage like practice. But there was no hesitation in attempting the difficult task. Meanwhile, my mind had also settled upon a calling. I was fond of historic and linguistic studies, and believed I possessed some literary capacity. I therefore resolved to prepare myself for a professorship of history, and so began to attend philological and historical lectures.
My passing from the gymnasium to the university brings me back to the question already mentioned, whether the classical curriculum at the German gymnasium, as well as at corresponding institutions in other countries, has not become antiquated and unpractical. Is it wise to devote so large a part of the time and of the learning-strength of boys to the study of the Latin and the Greek languages and the classical literatures? Would it not be of greater advantage to a young generation to put in place of the Latin and Greek the study of modern languages and literatures, the knowledge of which would be much more useful in the practical business of life? This question is certainly entitled to serious consideration. Latin is no longer what it was in most of the countries of the so-called civilized world down to the beginning of the eighteenth century, and, in some of them, even to a much more recent period, the language of diplomacy, of jurisprudence, of philosophy, and of all science. Not even the ability to quote Horace in conversation is any longer required to give one the stamp of an educated man. The literatures of classical antiquity are no longer the only ones in which great creations of poetry in perfect beauty of form are found, or models of historical writing, or of oratorical eloquence, or of philosophical reasoning. Of all these things modern literatures contain rich treasures, and there is also an abundance of excellent translations to make the masterpieces of antiquity accessible to those who do not understand the classical tongues.
And yet, when I now in my old days, and after multifarious experiences of life, ask myself which part of the instruction I received in my youth I would miss with the most regret, my answer would not be doubtful for a single moment. Indeed, I have, I am sorry to say, lost much of the Latin and Greek that I knew when I was at the gymnasium. But the asthetic and moral impulses that such studies gave me, the ideal standards they helped me in erecting, the mental horizons they opened to me, I have never lost. Those studies are not a mere means for the acquisition of knowledge, but, in the best sense of the word, an element of culture. And thus they have remained to me during my whole life an inexhaustible source of elevating enjoyment and inspiration.
If once more I had to choose between the classical studies and the so-called useful ones in their place, I would, for myself at least, undoubtedly on the whole elect the same curriculum that I have gone through. I would do this the more readily as in all probability I should never have been able to begin or resume the classical studies had I not enjoyed them in my youth, and as the knowledge of the ancient languages has been of inestimable value to me in acquiring the modern ones in later life. He who understands Latin will not only learn French, and English, and Spanish, and Italian, and Portuguese much more easily, but also much better. I can say of myself that I have in fact studied only the Latin grammar quite thoroughly, but that this knowledge has divested my grammatical studies in modern Latin and Germanic languages of all wearisome difficulty. Therefore, while I recognize the title of the utility argument, now so much in vogue, to our serious consideration, I cannot but confess that I personally owe to the old classical courses very much that was good and beautiful, and that I would not forego.
To be a student at the university is the most entrancing dream of the German gymnasium boy. It had been mine. Now I was at the university. But how? As a mere intruder who had still to win his right to academic citizenship through a difficult examination still to pass; as a person of questionable standing hardly relieved of a most humiliating situation, troubled by bitter cares, with very uncertain prospects before me. Thus it happened to me that what I had hoped for came to me in depressing form. The wish could hardly be recognized in the appearance of the fulfillment.