Billeder på siden

If the book were merely polemical, we should have nothing more to say about it; but happily Pestalozzi often forgets that he is pleading for Schmidt, and becomes the educational enthusiast again, and at these times he is admirable.

On the very first page he says:

"At Burgdorf I soon had a very great number of pupils, and unfortunately a hundred times as many belauders. Today all this praise and success seems to have been the work of enchantment. Intoxicated with pleasure, joy, honour, and hope, we lived in a sort of paradise, with little fear of the serpent that in every earthly paradise lays snares for the ruin of poor humanity, so weak, so vain, and so easily misled."

Pestalozzi then refers to his proved incapacity to direct or manage an institution, and declares that his own weakness and mistakes have been the cause of all his misfortunes. He also points out that such an educational establishment as he had dreamed of was, by its very nature, an impossibility,1 and that those he had founded were, from the very first, doomed to destruction. This being so, it seems strange that he should ever have attributed his failure to the opposition which, almost from the beginning, had manifested itself between Niederer and Schmidt.

But however this may be, Pestalozzi does himself an injustice when he speaks of being utterly incapable. Was he not pre-eminently successful every time that, unchecked by material obstacles, he was able to act freely? And with regard to the education of children, were not his efforts at Neuhof in his youth, at Stanz and Burgdorf in his maturity, and even at Clendy in his old age, crowned with marvellous success?

He is also unfair to his schools when he says that they did no good. From the point of view of the elementary method, they brought about undeniable and important improvements in most branches of teaching, improvements which, carried into different countries by his pupils, gave the first impetus to a general reform of the old mechanical methods.

When Pestalozzi comes to the foundation of the poor-school

1 The reasons of this impossibility have been pointed out in chapter

at Clendy, he entirely forgets his polemical aim, and lovingly describes this last undertaking, the beginnings of which had so fully satisfied his longings. Then, after giving a few admirable precepts for the early education of the poor, and for the training of primary schoolmasters, he deplores the deviation from his principles to which he was obliged to consent at Clendy, and which finally resulted in the ruin of the establishment. This part of the book at least is full of Pestalozzi himself, and is not likely to be forgotten.

At the end of the book, Pestalozzi gives the letter he had written to the Niederers in 1823, in which he implored them to forget the past and be reconciled to him, that he might die in peace. He concludes by saying that though the letter has had no effect, he is still of the same mind.

Before leaving the Experiences, we must quote the opinion of the book expressed by Blochmann, who was an assistant of Pestalozzi's from 1810 to 1816, and to whom, in a great measure, Saxony owes the excellence of her public educational establishments. The passage is taken from a memoir of Pestalozzi. We translate literally:

"In his Experiences he enunciates many great and striking truths. Those who have lived with him and watched his career will, I am certain, be convinced of the general soundness of his views and judgments, in spite of the two great illusions running through the book; on the one hand, that is, his injustice to himself and to the value and results of the Yverdun institute; on the other, the blind obstinacy with which he persistently over-estimates the value of Schmidt's work, and refuses to recognize the true character of the man behind his mask of fidelity and affection."

Discourse delivered at Langenthal on the 26th of April, 1826.1

The Helvetian Society had been formed with the threefold object of cementing the different parts of the Swiss Confederation, encouraging those virtues upon which the liberty and happiness of nations depend, and restoring some of the simplicity of former times.

Pestalozzi's work had long kept him absent from the meet

1 In the fifteenth volume of both Cotta's and Seyffarth's editions.

ings of the Society, but he still entirely sympathized with the spirit of its aim and efforts. He was, besides, one of the last survivors of that knot of enlightened and devoted patriots who, long before the French Revolution, might have carried out useful reforms in Zurich, had they but had more practical views and a better knowledge of human nature.

This conformity between the objects of the Helvetian Society, and those which he had so enthusiastically worked for in his youth, was the source of Pestalozzi's inspiration for his address at Langenthal, which is written with extraordinary force and spirit for an old man of eighty, suffering under the effects of a heavy and recent misfortune.

The author begins by painting the happiness Switzerland enjoyed after the wars that gave her her independence. At that time she was tranquil at home and respected abroad; the needs of her inhabitants were proportionate to their resources; religion, love of country, kindliness and moderation reigned in every heart; there was a certain practical equality too in the conditions, manners, and habits of life of her people, in spite of the inequality of rights that resulted from the feudal system. At that time, also, there were few very rich people and few very poor, by far the greater number of her inhabitants being peasant-proprietors.

Pestalozzi then shows the changes that this state of things gradually underwent under the influence of closer contact with foreign nations, the Reformation, and especially the introduction into Switzerland of that industrial life which draws so much capital into a country.

Wherever the larger industries have flourished, there has always been an increase of wealth and of general comfort, accompanied however by a still greater increase in the general needs, and an enormous inequality in the distribution of the wealth.

On the one hand, a few colossal fortunes have been rapidly amassed, and have given us an example of the luxurious life of great cities; on the other hand, the numbers of those who have but their hands, and are so often wanting in wisdom, foresight, and economy have been steadily increasing. As to the small proprietors that were formerly so numerous, how many of them, attracted by the golden bait of industry, have forsaken the work of the fields and no longer possess any

After showing that this state of things is growing worse from day to day, and is likely soon to constitute an imminent danger to social order and civilization, the author, as the only means of fighting the evil and slowly curing it, urges that elementary education shall be brought within the reach of all, since it alone can give a natural development to all a child's powers, especially his moral powers, in their application to the practical life for which he is intended.

Such, in substance, is the last work we have of Pestalozzi's We know, it is true, that on the 21st of November of the same year, a paper of his, on the early education of children in the home, was read before the Society of Friends of Education at Brugg, but this paper has not been preserved.



IN relating the history of a great man to whom we are indebted for so many useful ideas, I have felt until now a very natural repugnance to speak of my own impressions, formed during the nine years that I was his pupil. Not only was I afraid of interrupting my narrative or of unduly prolonging it, but I wished first of all to place before my readers authentic documents, my master's own words, and the opinions of distinguished men far better qualified to judge of him than myself.

At the same time, the numerous publications I have had to consult would not always have enabled me to arrive at the truth, if my own personal recollections had not helped me to estimate the relative value of all these documents, at times so contradictory. Especially in writing the sad story of the decline and fall of the Yverdun institute was it important to have had a near view of men and things, so as to be able to pass over the many slanderous imputations into which passion dragged the men who were quarrelling round Pestalozzi, to the misfortune of the honourable old man.

Moreover, as I have to sum up the views, teaching, and lasting work of this extraordinary man, and as what I shall have to say will not always conform to the generally received ideas on the subject, I feel very strongly that my readers have a right to know something of the personal experience which entitles me as it were to their confidence. I not only happened to be in an exceptionally favourable position for becoming acquainted with the master's ideas and those of his principal coadjutors, but I am to-day, probably, the last survivor of those who enjoyed the like privilege; and feeling that I have in my possession a most sacred trust, I hold it to be my duty not to let it perish with me. Born in 1802, at Yverdun, where my father, a French

« ForrigeFortsæt »