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it was, in short, a German-Swiss household transplanted into French Switzerland. Every one was obliged to speak French at certain hours of the day, at other times all had to speak German. In this way every pupil became more or less quickly accustomed to the use of a foreign tongue; but, on the other hand, there resulted a sort of mixture of the two languages which was not very good for either of them.
During my first four or five years at the institute, I was too young to observe anything of Pestalozzi's doctrine ; my childish impressions, which were very favourable, alone remain. I took pleasure in nearly all my lessons, especially in natural history, geography, mental arithmetic, elementary geometry, singing, and drawing. I have, moreover, preserved an affectionate and grateful remembrance not only of Pestalozzi, but of most of the other masters, who looked after us with so much kindness in our lessons, games, and walks, and especially in our mountain excursions.
These excursions in the Jura were a source of great delight to us. They were arranged to suit the ages of the different classes, and as soon as I was seven I began to take part in them. Our masters, of whom my favourites were Krusi and de Muralt, looked after us with almost motherly solicitude, making frequent halts to rest our little legs, refreshing us, when we were tired, with a few drops of spirit on a piece of sugar, and now and then, when the distance was too great, procuring some rustic conveyance for us, in which we would sing gaily as we passed through the villages, where the peasants often gave us fruit.
As soon as we got to the high mountain pastures under the pines, we lost our feeling of fatigne, and fell to playing games or collecting herbs and minerals. We often gathered at some good point of view to sing the wild, simple, Alpine melodies our masters loved to teach us. To-day, after more than sixty years, I can recall these songs as clearly as in those early days when I first sang them, and they still seem very beautiful to me.
On returning from these excursions, the pupils had to describe them, either orally or in writing, according to their ages. There was generally a great deal to say, as our attention was always carefully drawn to everything likely prove instructive. These excursions were, in fact, practical lessons in natural history and geography.
Pestalozzi took a singular pleasure in watching the games of his pupils, which he considered of very great importance, his idea being that children when not at work ought to enjoy themselves, and that a state of total inactivity is bad, both physically and morally. If he noticed a child taking no part in the games during play-time, he could seldom rest till he had tried to find him some other amusement.
In this connection an incident comes back to my memory which did not strike me particularly at the time, but which I now feel to have been exceedingly characteristic. One day, when a fire of sticks had been lighted in the garden, the elder pupils amused themselves by leaping over the flames through the smoke, Pestalozzi eagerly encouraging them. When the flames had died down, and little but hot embers and smoke remained, the little ones leaped in their turn. But the scene had other witnesses, for the little girls of the Niederer institute, the garden of which joined that of the Castle, were looking through the palings at the beautiful flames and happy leapers. No sooner did Pestalozzi see them than he went and fetched them, and they too were soon jumping over the remains of the fire. Never was delight so cheaply purchased!
As soon as I was twelve years old I began, thanks to a special combination of circumstances, to fix my attention on what was called “the method,” in which I betrayed an interest that was far beyond my years.
My parents, who were themselves admirers of Pestalozzi, kept up friendly relations not only with him and his wife, but with his principal assistants. My mother, who in her anxiety for my progress was anxious to be able to follow my lessons, set to work to learn German, and with such great zeal that she soon mastered its difficulties. She even published translations of several German works, partly to add something to our modest resources, and partly to have more to spend on my education. It was in this way that she came to translate Leonard and Gertrude.
Pestalozzi himself took great interest in her work, and used to come to our house nearly every day to examine it; for my mother never fair-copied anything without first consulting him. As she thoroughly understood the old man's Zurich dialect, she was able to act as interpreter for the many French visitors who wanted to discuss his views, and so he
was in the habit of bringing any body with him to whom he particularly wished to explain them. I remember, among others, Jullien of Paris, the author of two large volumes on Pestalozzi's Mind and Method.
About the same time Miss Rath, the distinguished painter to whom Geneva owes the museum which bears her name, came to Yverdun to paint Pestalozzi's portrait. As she was intimate with my mother's sister, she stayed with us, and it was in our house that Pestalozzi sat to her.
Also when Mr. Delbruck, the private tutor of the Prussian princes, came to stay at Yverdun, for the purpose of studying the method, my parents willingly consented to receive him into their house.
The result of all this was that for several years our drawing-room was one of the places where the Pestalozzian doctrine was most eagerly expounded and discussed, either by the master himself and his disciples, or by strangers who were generally well qualified to form an opinion.
I eagerly listened to these conversations and, although I did not of course understand all I heard, I can still recall a
A hundred times have I heard the master himself explain his doctrine, and each time with a different illustration. This profound philosopher had no love for philosophical language, with which he had never been familiar. Nor would he trust himself to use formulas, of which indeed he had almost a dread. His thought, which had been shaped in solitude and with no help from books, was simply the outcome of observation and reflection, and so he preferred to explain his views as he had formed them, and attached much more weight to concrete facts, particular examples, and comparisons, than to abstractions and general ideas.
On Pestalozzi's return from Basle, where he had been honoured with the gifts of princes, he at first took a child's pleasure in showing these gifts, not indeed from any feeling of personal vanity, but because they seemed to promise support to his doctrine and the plans by which he hoped to raise the condition of the people. About that time I was invited to accompany my parents to an evening gathering at his house. On that occasion, I remember, the old man wore the cross of Saint Vladimir, and we all had to taste the Austrian Emperor's Tokay; but a few days afterwards he
had ceased to think about it, and the cross lay forgotten in his cupboard. Sometimes, however, when visitors of distinction arrived, he allowed himself to be persuaded to take a little extra care with his toilette, and then some one would hastily dress him, and make him as presentable as possible. We children derived not a little enjoyment from seeing him enter the class-room in his black coat and white cravat, with the famous decoration at his button-hole. Mrs. Pestalozzi's death in 1815 has left a sad impression
Young as I was at the time, I was struck by the marked change it cansed in the internal life of the institute. Neither the high intellectual and moral worth of this remarkable woman, nor the value to her husband's work of her tact, advice, and devotion have been sufficiently appreciated. Although an invalid and confined to her room, she continued to be a centre of attraction, and every one was fond of coming to her, if only for a few moments, sure at least of a kind word.
Of the large number of people present at the sad and imposing ceremony of her funeral, there was not one but felt a personal regret; all felt instinctively, too, that the unfortunate old man had now lost his chief support.
When the fierce hostility broke out between Schmidt and his old colleagues, my parents were greatly grieved. They fully appreciated the many good qualities of Niederer and Krusi; but having no personal interest in the quarrel, they determined to remain true to Pestalozzi, whatever happened. One day Pestalozzi brought Schmidt to our house, saying that his friend had something to read to us. I rose to go, but Schmidt insisted on my staying
66 because it was good for me to hear it.” He then,read us a fable, in which he compared Pestalozzi to a man whose house is in ruins, and who is obliged to rebuild it. Several of his elder sons are ready to help him, but only on condition that the house be built after their plans and made to suit their own convenience; one only, a younger son, offers to carry out his father's plans and implicitly follow his directions, incurring in consequence his brothers' hate. This, then, was Schmidt's view of the deplorable struggle which finally ruined Pestalozzi and his establishment.
I did not leave the institute till September, 1817, when ( went with my parents to live at Versailles. My father's
intention had been to send me to the Polytechnic School; but I had the misfortune to lose him in 1819, and my
mother a few months afterwards. I stayed on at Versailles as a boarder in the house of one of the masters at Saint-Cyr ; and, thanks to the training I had received at Pestalozzi's, made rapid progress in mathematics. I was, however, very much behind in Latin, and could only be placed in the fifth class at school; but, by the help of some private lessons, I managed in two years to work my way into the first class, where I afterwards did fairly well.
After this I left Versailles for Paris, and till 1822 attended, as a day-scholar, the special mathematical classes at the school of Louis-le-Grand. I then entered the Polytechnic School, where I found several of my old Yverdun comrades, amongst whom were Beauchatton, Jullien, and Perdonnet, all distinguished by their aptitude for mathematics.
Once, during my holidays, I went back to Yverdun, where I found the institute still existing, it is true, but only the shadow of its former self. I was only able to see Pestalozzi in the presence of Schmidt, who never quitted him, and who was the only one of my old masters left. I was taken into the room formerly occupied by Mrs. Pestalozzi, and found some young girls, under the direction of one of Schmidt's sisters, speaking English and playing the piano; but whether this was the remnant of the poor-school of Clendy, or the beginning of a training-school for schoolmistresses, I do not know. It was profoundly sad to see those about Pestalozzi still encouraging the unhappy old man in his illusions.
At this time, and at Yverdun especially, the decline of the institute had very much shaken people's faith in the views of its founder. They still had respect for his devotion, his good intentions, and his misfortunes; but it was generally believed that his reason was entirely gone, a grave error in which I myself, led away by appearances and the current of public opinion, was very nearly sharing.
In 1824, owing to ill-health, I left the Polytechnic, and went to stay with my mother's family. Shortly afterwards I accompanied Biot on his scientific mission to Italy, and then returned to Yverdun, where I married and settled in