Billeder på siden

"18. Marianne Mynth, their sister, 8; a pretty child, intelligent, very sensitive, and as whimsical and self-willed as her sisters; she is not strong enough for heavy work.

"19. Babeli Baechli, 17; has been here three years; she is very inattentive and thoughtless, and only useful for running errands; of very little intelligence, but strong and healthy.

"20. Jacob Baechli, her brother, 15; here three years; is also inattentive and thoughtless; spent his childhood in begging and idleness; weaves fairly well, and is beginning to write, but has no taste for French; discontented and hard to satisfy.

"21. Rudi Baechli, 10; here three years; remarkable for his taste for figures, good-nature, and calm earnestness in his religious duties.

"22. Maria Baechli, his sister, 8; weak both in mind and body. But it will be very interesting for humanity to see that imbecile children, who, badly brought up, would have had nothing but the madhouse before them, may by tender care be saved from this sad end, and taught to earn a modest and independent livelihood.

"23. George Vogt, of Mandach, 11; here two years; a very promising boy; takes pains with everything; kind, intelligent, lively, healthy, and useful in the fields and in the house.

"24. Henri Fuchsli, of Brugg, 7; has only been here a few weeks; seems intelligent.

"25. Jean Maurer, of Stettlen, 15; here six months; strong, and very useful in the fields, weaves well, is fairly diligent, and has some power; but I am sometimes afraid that his simplicity and amiability are only a pretence.

"26. Anni Maurer, his sister, 12; of most uncouth manners, especially at meals; very slow and lazy, lies most unblushingly; spins well, but slowly and with much labour; is strong and healthy.

"27. Louis Schroeter, 15; very able boy, but unfortunately very deceitful, as he writes well, and has made great pro gress with arithmetic and French, he is very useful to me; has an exceptionally good ear for music.

28. Babette Schroeter, his sister, 14; sews, spins, and reads fairly well, is beginning to write.

"29. Nanette Henri, 9; brother and sister.

"30. Gatton Henri, 8;

"These children have lately been sent to me from Schenken.

berg by the head of the French colony, who generously provided them with many necessaries. They are well-behaved and good-tempered; Gatton is very capable and vivacious, Nanette less so. They have never been accustomed to do any thing, and their open and affectionate natures make it hard to set them to steady work so soon. But I am quite sure they will get on well, especially Gatton.

"31. Suzanne Dattwyler, of Elfingen, 10; her unfortunate father is in prison; she came to me half dead from want and trouble, but her bodily strength is returning in a surprising manner. She spins well; is very quick, especially at singing.

"32. Suzanne de Tallheim, 10; natural child; has been in the habit of running away; is intelligent, but deceitful and capricious. Likes singing, spins well, has good health. 66 33. Conrad Meyer, 10;

"34. Lisbeth Meyer, 9; of Rohrdorf, near Baden. "35. Maurice Meyer, 4

"Came to me quite recently after a life of vagrancy. Conrad is healthy; Lisbeth's nature promises well; Maurice was in a terrible condition from want, but is beginning to regain strength. He seems intelligent.

36. George Hediger, 4; this child and the one last mentioned are the only two children in the house who are still too young to earn anything by their work.

"37. Henry Hirsbrunner, of Sumiswald, 12; this boy is very clever and attentive. I expect very much from him, if only, after having been a servant in the town, he can reconcile himself to our mode of life. He makes rapid progress, and has learned to write better in a few days than others who have been learning for months.

"In the management of the establishment and care of the children, I get very valuable help from Miss Madelon Spindler, of Strasburg, who is both highly gifted and of untiring activity. I have, besides, a master to teach weaving, and two skilled weavers; a mistress to teach spinning, and two good spinners; a man who winds for the weavers and teaches reading at the same time; and two men and two women who are almost always employed on the land."

These quotations give an exact and complete idea of what the establishment at Neuhof was like till the spring of 1778, when Pestalozzi considerably increased the number of his

children, hoping in that way to improve the financial condition of his undertaking. But the step had just the contrary effect, or rather, it had no effect in stopping the ruin which was already imminent.

At this time, the grave evil that Pestalozzi was attempting to cure was very widespread in the district, as is evident from the large number of children brought to him (at one time he had as many as eighty), and from the utter demoralization of both children and parents.

To many of the children their vagrant, idle life had be come more than a habit, it had become almost a necessity; they hated the steady, hardworking life to which they were now called; nor did the simple, frugal fare make up to them for the dainties that had sometimes fallen to their share, and so they became rebellious and dissatisfied, and only thought of escaping.

The parents, who had expected to be more than compensated for the loss of what their children had been able to beg, encouraged them in their discontent, and threatened to take them away from Pestalozzi in order to profit by their earnings themselves.

Yet these were children, who had arrived covered with rags and vermin, whom Pestalozzi had made clean and tidy, and with whom he shared his meals, "giving them the best potatoes, and keeping the worst for himself."

"Every Sunday," he said, "my house was filled with a set of beggarly parents, who, not finding their children's position answer to their expectations, and as if to encourage them in their discontent, treated me with such insolent high-handedness as was only possible in an establishment having neither official support nor imposing exterior."

To make matters worse, many children ran away, escaping in the night, and carrying off the Sunday clothes that Pestalozzi had given them. Soon, too, the complaints of the parents reached the ears of the supporters of the work, subscriptions fell off, and public interest in the establishment considerably lessened. Pestalozzi, however, was not discouraged, but worked on almost beyond his strength, daily adding sacrifice to sacrifice, and in ill health and misfortune faithfully supported by his noble-hearted wife. But he felt at last, though

too late, the absolute necessity of calling in the help of able and experienced men to make up for his own deficiencies.

The heroic struggle was prolonged for two years, but at last, in 1780, resources and credit being alike exhausted, an enterprise, to which the husband and wife had devoted their last strength and their last shilling, had to be finally abandoned.

Of the experiment which ended thus unhappily, nobody will deny the importance, seeing that the sore it was intended to cure is still open and smarting to-day. Pestalozzi's work at Neuhof serves better than anything else, perhaps, to show the character of the man. The idea was his own, and was not only the dream of his youth, but remained throughout his life the favourite subject of his thoughts; even at eighty years of age he still had hopes of renewing the experiment, and carrying it to a successful issue.

How much good has the experiment done? Alas, very little! And yet there have been men in Switzerland who, following the principles of the master, but avoiding his mistakes, have applied his methods to the education of orphans and the regeneration of vicious children, with very considerable success.

The reader will not have forgotten the state of misery and corruption of the country district round Neuhof, when Pestalozzi opened his house to the vagrant children. When in 1869 we visited the spot, still free from railways and unknown to tourists, we found the land well cultivated, the people hard-working and comfortable, no beggars, and good schools. The immense improvement which had taken place in those ninety years proves that although Pestalozzi had failed in his practical attempt to raise the people, the influence of his ideas, and of the principle which inspired him, had not remained without result. There are some ruins whose dust is fertile.

Pestalozzi was now as poor as the beggars who had excited his pity; he had absolutely nothing left He had acted like one who, without thinking whether his strength will suffice, plunges into the water to save a drowning man, and sinks with him. His friends, however, came to his rescue, and kept his home together for him.

We have not been able to find any trace of the arrangement which must then have been made between the ruined

philanthropist and his creditors. The bare facts are that the land, with the exception of an acre or two, was let for the benefit of the creditors, but that Pestalozzi still remained the owner of Neuhof, and still lived in the house. His wife's bad health, however, rendered her incapable of attending to her household duties, and he himself, disheartened, awkward, and worn out in mind and body, was hardly able to provide the barest necessaries; indeed, before very long, they were without food, fuel, or money, and suffering from cold and want.

But while in this state of terrible distress, the sad family at Neuhof happily received the most providential help, thanks to an act of devotion that is worthy of being told in all countries and in all ages. It is once more a poor servant who sacrifices herself this time, however, without having even been asked for help, and for people who are almost strangers.

Elizabeth Naef, of Kappel, belonged to a family that had won distinction in the religious wars, and had obtained the right of citizenship in Zurich. She had known something of Pestalozzi through having been in the service of one of his relations, and now, her master being dead, she no sooner heard of the disaster and distress at Neuhof than she hurried to the assistance of the afflicted family.

At first Pestalozzi refused her offers of help, being unwilling to involve in his own trouble a woman who, though possessing nothing, would easily find some light work elsewhere, and be sure of a comfortable, quiet life. He was afraid, too, that she would be scandalized by finding his habits in religious matters somewhat different from her own, she being accustomed to pray or sing hymns all day long, a practice with which Pestalozzi had no sympathy. But he was unable to shake Elizabeth's determination, and at last consented, saying, "Well, you will find, after all, that God is in our house too."

The devoted woman found Neuhof in the most terrible state of disorder, and lost no time in setting to work. She saw to the garden, dug up a bit of land with her own hands, everywhere restored cleanliness, order, and productivity and in this way provided Pestalozzi and his family with the means of subsistence they lacked.

It was Elizabeth who served as the type for the character of the brave, active, clever, gentle and devoted woman in Leonard and Gertrude. Councillor Nicolovius, of Berlin, in

« ForrigeFortsæt »