Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

school professed to build up upon a child a complete structure of knowledge and morality; the new contents itself with merely giving the necessary support, direction, and means of activity to the child's faculties, which, left to develop by themselves, will produce a perfect man.

After 1787, Pestalozzi remained ten years without publishing anything. The chief reason of this silence was the necessity for providing food for his family, for, notwithstanding the success of his first book, his writing did not enable him to live. In the first place, he was writing for an idea, and not for the public taste; and, in the second, if a man is to make money, even as a writer, he must possess a certain commercial aptitude, which, as we know, Pestalozzi was entirely without Lavater was perfectly right when he said to Mrs. Pestalozzi: "If I were a prince, I would consult your husband on everything connected with the improvement and happiness of my people, but I would not entrust him with a single farthing to spend." Indeed, after publishing all the books we have mentioned, Pestalozzi was just as poor as ever. He had, however, recovered his health and strength, and now, for the sake of his wife and child, he set to work again on his land, with his wonted energy and enthusiasm. But his attention was soon diverted by the French Revolution which had just burst upon the world, and which he was inclined at first to consider a fortunate circumstance, and likely to remove many an obstacle to the reforms he was meditating. A short essay on the causes of the Revolution which he wrote at this time remained unpublished till 1872, when it was discovered by Seyffarth and printed at the end of the sixteenth and last volume of his edition of Pestalozzi's works. Pestalozzi had given the manuscript to Mrs. Niederer, who, at her husband's death, had given it to Krusi, whose son, Doctor G. Krusi, entrusted it to Seyffarth. Mrs. Niederer herself had originally intended to publish it, and in 1846 had written an introduction, in the course of which occurs the following striking passage:

"Pestalozzi, the enthusiast and prophet, whose whole long and troubled life was spent in the cause of education, once said to me:

"In another fifty years, when these times have passed away and a new generation has taken our place, when Europe

has been so undermined by a repetition of the same mistakes, and by the terrible consequences of the ever-increasing misery of the people, that the very foundations of society are shaken, then perhaps will the lesson of my life at last be understood, then will the wisest come to see that it is only by ennobling men that an end can be put to the discontent and suffering of the people, and to the abuses of despotism, whether on the part of the many or the few.'

"For twenty years now the earth has covered the mortal remains of this remarkable man, and more than half a century has elapsed since he wrote down his inmost convictions in

this essay.

"If he did not publish it in his lifetime, it must undoubtedly have been because there was then some danger in speaking thus openly, and because he was unwilling to imperil in the least degree the educational work to which he was devoting his life."

An analysis of the Causes of the French Revolution would take us too far. Pestalozzi's own words, as quoted by Mrs. Niederer, must suffice to show the aim and importance of this short work.

But although Pestalozzi was attracted to the Revolution at the outset, he was soon shocked by the wild crimes perpetrated in France in the name of the principles of 1789. În his youth he had thrown himself into the local reforms at Zurich with all the ardour of a revolutionary, but now his horror of violent revolutions was no less great than his enthusiasm for peaceful progress. He thus found himself in rather a false position between the opponents and friends of the Revolution, so he merely looked on in silence, and devoted all his energy to the cultivation of his land.

During this long period Pestalozzi only left Neuhof twice. In 1792 he went to Leipsic to see his sister married, and turned the occasion to advantage by visiting several German Training Schools, with which, however, he was not at all satisfied. It was at this time also that he made the acquaintance of Klopstock, Goethe, Wieland, Herder, and Jacobi. About a year later he passed a few months at Richterswyl with his mother's brother, Doctor Hotz, from whose house he addressed to his friend Nicolovius, of Berlin, the letter which has so often been quoted to prove that he was not a Christian.

This friend of the poor and destitute, who had ruined himself at Neuhof in his attempt to come to their rescue, found in Nicolovius a man who, being in thorough sympathy with his views, and warmly attached to the cause that he himself had so vainly sought to help, seemed likely to render him valuable assistance. The two men thus became great friends, Pestalozzi telling the other all that was in his heart.

We translate the whole of Pestalozzi's letter, as much oi it that is, as has ever been published. It will be seen that in his simple-mindedness and extreme conscientiousness he judges himself with unnecessary severity. This, however, is not the only occasion on which he did himself a similar injustice.

"Richterswyl, October 1st, 1793.

"My friend! Lost in the torrent of my life, I have drunk but little at those pure sources whence the wisest and best men draw such Divine strength when they make the sanctification of their being the first concern of their lives. My work, alas! is all sullied by love of self and vulgar desires.

"It is true that from my youth up I have always been eager and zealous for all that is good, but the mire of the world through which I had to make my way had another law that I knew not, and for which I was unprepared, so that at the critical moment of my maturity I was laden beyond my strength, unsettled and thrown out of harmony with myself. And so I followed the dead path of my century, wavering between my feeling, which led me to religion, and my judg ment, which kept me away, and letting my heart's religious ardour cool, without, however, deciding against religion.

"In the matter of God's relations with man, I like neither the poor wisdom of books, nor the observation of angles by which Lavater sought to supplement it. Truth, indeed, lay hidden within husks which repelled me, and as I did not find that it brought men any certain comfort or satisfaction, I gradually lost the essential strength that the fear of God lends to calm and noble souls. And so, feeling that I was lacking in all that most purifies our human powers, the stupefaction that followed my short-lived dream of education entirely destroyed my peace of mind, and deprived me of my inward strength. My mistakes in administration in this matter long kept me the slave of an error, or rather of a half-truth, of

which I had made an idol, and in the unspeakable sorrow which was the consequence of this idolatry, vanished what little strength of religious feeling I had ever had.

"I cannot then and must not hide the fact that truth, as I apprehend it, is founded upon the earth, and is far from reaching the sublime heights to which faith and love can raise humanity. You know Glulphi's opinion; it is also mine. I doubt, not because I look on doubt as the truth, but because the sum of the impressions of my life has driven faith, with its blessings, from my soul.

"Thus impelled by my fate, I see nothing more in Christianity than the purest and noblest teaching of the victory of the spirit over the flesh, the one possible means of raising our nature to its true nobility, or, in other words, of establishing the empire of the reason over the senses by the development of the purest feelings of the heart.

"That is what I take to be the essence of Christianity, but I do not think many men are capable, from their nature, of becoming true Christians; in fact, I believe men in general to be as incapable of reaching this true nobility as of worthily wearing an earthly crown.

"I believe Christianity to be the salt of the earth; but however highly I value this salt, I believe that gold, stone, sand, and pearls have an independent value, and that everything must be considered in itself. I believe even that the very mire of the earth has its laws and legitimate rights quite independently of Christianity; and though I am well aware of the narrowness of my point of view when, in my search for truth, I limit my investigations to these laws and these rights, my voice still seems to me like a voice crying in the wilderness to prepare a way for Him who is to come. Sometimes, indeed, I seem scarcely to know either what I am doing, or whither I tend, and yet I find myself irresistibly driven to say what I do; and however much I may suffer from the fatal circle which encompasses me, and from which there is no escape, everything I say is at least in earnest. I stop then. far short of the perfection of my own character, and know nothing of the heights to which I foresee that humanity may some day rise. But enough for the present, my friend, of the defects of my Christianity.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 In Leonard and Gertrude.

"I am at present at Richterswyl. Doctor Hotz has left home for some months, and during his absence I am staying in his house, with no business to attend to, and no one to disturb me. Rejoice, my friend, at the happiness which is to be mine for a time."

It was now that Pestalozzi began his correspondence with Fellenberg, the celebrated founder of the Hofwyl institutions. His letters give us valuable information as to the view he took of the French Revolution, and as to the hopes, and more especially the fears, with which it filled him for Switzerland. Fellenberg had just the qualities which Pestalozzi lacked; he was practical, prudent, firm, and a good administrator. Could these two men have worked steadily together, the success of the philanthropic enterprises in which they were both engaged would probably have been ensured; but even their great friendship was powerless to keep two such different natures long in harmony. Pestalozzi's generous enthusiasm was wounded by Fellenberg's cold reasoning, and the almost rustic simplicity of the Zurich democrat accorded but ill with the somewhat ostentatious dignity of the Bernese patrician. Fellenberg several times offered him help in his troubles, but the perfect sympathy and understanding which alone would have made it possible for the two men to undertake a work in common never existed between them.

The letters we are about to quote were written between the years 1792 and 1794. They have a special interest from the fact that no cloud having yet arisen between the two friends, Pestalozzi speaks quite openly of all that is in his mind.

PESTALOZZI TO FELLENBERG.

"Neuhof, September 15th, 1792. "Dear and noble friend! Thank you once more for the many proofs you have given me of your friendship. I am greatly rejoiced at the thought of spending a few weeks with you at the beginning of November. Between now and then

the fate of France will be decided. If she is beaten, we shall be better able than now to judge of what is really important to humanity in her affairs; if she still resists, her very faults will be forgiven by those in whom they now excite such unreasonable fury. In either case the world will gain some

« ForrigeFortsæt »