« ForrigeFortsæt »
improvement of agriculture which at that time found acceptance with the younger generation in Zurich.
The cultivation of the soil was making marked progress in different countries, and was held in great honour by moralists and philosophers. Stimulated by Bodmer's teaching and Rousseau's writings, the young men of Zurich saw in the improvement of this important art the salvation of the poor and a remedy for every evil. Schulthess, of Zurich, who had seen Rousseau in Geneva, used to relate that the philosopher had said to him: "Agriculture is the best and happiest of all occupations. In countries which are not free, men are compelled to become mechanics, but in free countries it is better to be an agriculturist."
In the autumn of 1765, Bodmer wrote as follows to Sulzer at Winterthur:
"The love of the country is very strong in Füssli, and still stronger in his friend Meiss, the son of the colonel, who is anxious to be a thoroughly capable farmer, and already knows more than the peasants. It is surprising how many of our best students have taken a fancy to farm-work; they have already learned to mow, and to bear heat and rain like the peasants. I am only afraid that they have begun too late. Their young friend Van Hausen began earlier, and his skill in field-work has been much admired."
To this Sulzer replied:
"My wish for Winterthur, as well as for Zurich, would be that only a small number of the leading magistrates, merchants and manufacturers should remain in the town, and that the rest of the citizens should settle in the country on small holdings, where they would live by their work on the land and lead a life, not indeed like that of our peasants, but still simple and unpretending. I think those parents who are so perplexed to know what to do with their sons, would do well to buy for each of them a small quantity of land in the country, and let them live by cultivating it. I am sorry not to have set the example myself when I was able; I think I may safely say that in a few years I should have been in a very good position." 1
1 Were not these wild schemes suggested by a vague feeling of danger?
Such were the ideas that were current amongst the students of Zurich when Pestalozzi gave up the study of law and turned his attention to agriculture. His hope was that by setting an example of an improved method to the Swiss peasants, he would enable them not only to live in comfort, but provide for their children that intellectual and moral training which is so necessary for the citizens of a republic.
Already in the manufacturing districts, the peasants, tempted by the prospect of larger wages, were flocking to the towns and joining that large class of workers who have no direct interest in the land of the country, who have nothing to fall back upon when work is slack, and who from their rapid increase have been called the proletariat.
PESTALOZZI THE AGRICULTURIST.
Engaged to Anna Schulthess; after studying agriculture with Tschiffeli, he buys land near Birr; during the building of his house at Birr he lives at Muligen; his marriage; birth of his son; he settles in his new house: Neuhof. Failure of his enterprise.
AT the time that Pestalozzi turned his attention to agriculture, he was engaged to be married; and it is in his correspondence with his future wife that we find the most valuable information as to the thoughts and plans that now occupied him. The reader will not have forgotten the young Anna Schulthess, who gave such good advice to Pestalozzi, when, as a child, he wanted to buy sweetmeats in the shop adjoining his mother's house. The girl had great natural intelligence, and had received an unusually good education.
When her father, J. J. Schulthess, started in business at the sign of The Plough, he had already travelled much and observed much, and had everywhere sought the society of educated people. In spite of his commercial pursuits, his devotion to art and literature remained unchanged, and his house became one of the favourite resorts of men of taste and learning. The poet Klopstock himself was his guest during his visit to Zurich.
Though Anna was only a child, all this made a lasting impression on her, for at a very early age she had understood and enjoyed both the intellectual and emotional pleasure of the study of literature and the fine arts. Her diary, from which we shall often have occasion to quote, and which, like her father, she kept all her life, is a proof of the nobleness of her nature. She was both musician and poet, and even in her old age retained her freshness of imagination. Some verses that she wrote when quite an old woman in imitation of Wordsworth's "We are seven" have been preserved.
Among the men of taste and education who frequented
Schulthess's house, there was an intimate friend of Pestalozzi's called Bluntschly, a young man of remarkable intelligence and high character. Only four years older than Pestalozzi, he was in the last stage of consumption, and knew, as everybody else knew, that he must soon die. This circumstance lent a strange seriousness and sadness to the literary friendship which had sprung up between him and the young Anna. She afterwards spoke of him as follows:
"Before I can forget him I must forget myself; I can indeed never forget the charm and energy of his conversation; I did nothing without consulting him; he was gay, gentle and kind. We were in the habit of talking over the best ways of helping the poor. One day I asked his opinion of some ribbons I had to choose from.' 'They are beautiful,' he said, 'but so long as your poor neighbour has more need of a few shillings than you of those ribbons
" And at once I decided to do without the ribbons and everything that was not really necessary."
Pestalozzi and Bluntschly had the same ideas and feelings and the same projects. But Bluntschly had a better knowledge of men and things; he was more prudent, his mind was more matured, and he saw how little his friend was suited for practical life. When he felt his end drawing near, he called Pestalozzi to him and said:
"I am going and you will be left alone. Avoid any career in which you might become the victim of your own goodness and trust, and choose some quiet life in which you will run no risk. Above all, do not take part in any important undertaking without having at your side a man who, by his cool judgment, knowledge of men and things, and unshakable fidelity, may be able to protect you from the dangers to which you will be exposed."
Bluntschly died on the 24th of May, 1767, leaving Pestalozzi and Anna in deep grief. The friend they had just lost had already taught these two young people to appreciate each other, and now their common grief brought them nearer. A warm-hearted eulogy of Bluntschly that Pestalozzi wrote and offered to Anna touched her deeply and filled her with gratitude. It was by meeting every day and comparing
sorrowful memories, that they at last came to love each other, so that it was in a certain sense to Bluntschly that Pestalozzi owed the admirable and devoted wife who was his support for forty-six years.
Pestalozzi was small and ugly. His health, never good, had been broken by work and study, and the doctors had advised him to take a long rest in the country. He was entirely careless of his appearance and was, indeed, incapable of dressing properly; he was clumsy and awkward in everything he did, and in his absent-mindedness often forgot part of his dress. He was, in short, without any of those qualities which are supposed to inspire a woman with liking for a man. But Anna saw deeper. "Such nobleness," she said, "such elevation of character, reach my very soul." Their hearts were one then, and they exchanged vows.
As soon as they were formally affianced, they began a correspondence, and from the end of the summer of 1767 to the autumn of 1769, when they were married, exchanged frequent letters. Of these letters nearly three hundred of Pestalozzi's and two hundred of Anna's have been preserved.
The celebrated letter that has been quoted in so many biographies is missing from this collection, but the young girl's answer is there, and this answer seems to prove that the letter as quoted does not exactly agree with the original. At any rate, it was not in this letter that he asked her to marry him.
The most striking and authentic part of this letter, which was published for the first time in 1828, in a German newspaper, runs as follows:
"I will not speak to you of my carelessness in dress and manner; it is indeed great, and is but too well known. I am reproached with having too many subjects of distraction. I have friends everywhere, it is true, and subjects which interest me, but I have only given attention to them in the hope of making myself useful. I also know and appreciate the sweets of solitude, the peace of the domestic fireside; it will be my happiness to enjoy it more in the future. I no longer want a large circle of friends, but I do not regret the years I have given to social intercourse. I have learned to know my countrymen, and this knowledge will be useful to me by and by. As my health is not very good, I think it