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The education Pestalozzi received from his mother left ineffaceable memories in his heart. Mothers, to him, were the ideal educators; it was to them he addressed his advice and exhortations, and on them that he relied for the regeneration of the people. And is not he himself an example of how much a man's childhood may be influenced by the care, love, and devotion of a good mother? And may we not think that if Rousseau had been brought up by a good mother, his genius might have been entirely beneficent?
But however excellent Pestalozzi's early education may have been in all the most important points, and especially in the development of his affections, it was bound to be incomplete. The boy, puny from his birth, always indoors, brought up entirely by women, deprived of a father's influence, of all contact with boys of his own age, and of outdoor games and interests, remained all his life small and weak, shy and awkward, changeable and impressionable. As Niederer, who afterwards became his friend and helper, once said: "In Pestalozzi there was as much of the woman as of the man."
The springs of young Pestalozzi's life were in the heart and imagination alone; his thought, swift to perceive the relations between things, and often turned in on itself, left him absent-minded, inattentive, and careless about mere formalities, and, as a general rule, about the material conditions of life. He was unaware of the exceptional character of the family-life he had enjoyed, and ignorant of what the society of men in general was like. It is easy to judge from this how many bitter disappointments were in store for him.
They commenced as soon as he went to school. Although he often gave proof of penetration, he was unsuccessful with most of his work; indeed, he wrote and spelt so badly that his master judged him to be utterly incapable. His companions liked him for his good disposition and obliging nature, but they took advantage of his good qualities to make a butt of him. Pestalozzi speaks of himself at this period of his life as follows:
"The failures which would have sadly troubled other children hardly affected me. However much I might have desired or dreaded anything, when it was once over, and I
had had two or three nights of good sleep after it, if it concerned me alone, it was just as though it had never been. From my childhood I have been everybody's plaything. My education, which gave food to all the dreams of my fancy, left me alike incapable of doing what everybody does, and of enjoying what everybody enjoys. From the very first, little children, my schoolfellows, sent me where they would rather not go, and I went; in short I did all they wanted. The day of the earthquake at Zurich,1 when masters and boys rushed pell-mell downstairs, and nobody would venture back into the class-room, it was I who went to fetch the caps and books. But, in spite of all this, there was no intimacy between my companions and myself. Although I worked hard, and learned some things well, I had none of their ability for the ordinary lessons, and so I could not take it amiss that they dubbed me Harry Oddity of Foolborough.2
"More than any other child, I was always running my head against the wall for mere trifles; but it did not trouble I thought I could do many things which were quite beyond me; I measured the whole world by my mother's house and my schoolroom, and the ordinary life of men was almost as unknown to me as if I had lived in another world." 3
From the time that he was nine years old, young Pestalozzi was invited every summer to spend a few weeks with his grandfather, Andrew Pestalozzi, the pastor at Höngg, a village about three miles from Zurich.
This village is magnificently situated; the hills on which it lies, on the right bank of the Limmat, slope rapidly on the south to the river, on the other side of which the ground is lower and covered with houses. The land at Höngg is rich and divided into fields, vineyards, and large orchards. The parsonage, which is close to the church, is still the same as a hundred years ago, though parts of it have been restored and modernized. The gardens which surround it were formerly narrow terraces built on the side of the hill. The dining-room, which is in the south-east corner of the
building, and has large windows looking east and south commanding a beautiful view of the basin of the Limmat, is unchanged, save that a small stove, in white porcelain, has replaced the enormous green structure that formerly stood there.
It was in this place that Pestalozzi, the schoolboy, passed his happy holidays; here that he learned to love Nature and the work of the fields; and here that he first conceived the noble idea to which he was destined to devote his whole life.
Already at that time the peasants of this canton had begun to combine industry with agriculture. As yet there were neither factories nor machinery, it is true, but in every family there was a certain amount of spinning done by hand.
By accompanying his grandfather on his daily visits to the schools, the sick and the poor of his parish, the child was initiated into the realities of the life of the people; and although this was his first acquaintance with their sufferings, he was touched with profound compassion for them, and from that moment there burned in his heart an unquenchable desire to find some remedy for the evil.
A village pastor has a sublime task, but a very difficult one; his duties are innumerable and unceasing. Obliged to be for ever fighting, and often single-handed, against the material, intellectual, and moral poverty that surrounds him, and which, in spite of all his efforts, seems ever the same, he would lose heart and courage if he were not supported by a sure and well-tried faith. Young Pestalozzi's grandfather was one of those men who devote their whole energy to the office they have chosen. His faith, which was simple and sincere, living and active, naturally made a strong impression on his grandchild, who used to say afterwards:
"The best way for a child to learn to fear God is to see and hear a real Christian."
At the same time, this life of active charity and sacrifice, corresponding with the boy's deeper feelings, and appealing strongly to his emotional nature, soon became his ideal and his ambition; and he made up his mind to be a pastor like his grandfather. It was therefore decided that he should study theology.
PESTALOZZI THE STUDENT.
Splendour of the University of Zurich in the middle of the eighteenth century; the spirit which reigned there, and its influence on Pestalozzi; he abandons_theology for law in order to reform abuses; he is condemned as a revolutionary; he abandons law, and burns his manuscripts. Al that remains of his first writings: "Agis." Carried away by the agricultural utopias of the time, he becomes an agriculturist in order to help the people.
In the middle of the last century, higher education in the town of Zurich had made remarkable progress, and was distinguished by a loftiness and originality which deserve to be better known. The philosophy of Wolff, who preached a return to Nature in everything, had stirred in the students a triple enthusiasm: for simple manners, for the revival of German literature, and for political liberty. It was this enthusiasm which impelled Pestalozzi to the enterprises of his youth, those first unfortunate attempts which only delayed the moment when he was to find his real vocation and become the reformer of education.
At that time, theology, medicine, and law were studied in Zurich in the Collegium humanitatis, which was open to students of fifteen years of age, and which three distinguished professors had brought into great repute. These men were Zimmerman, Professor of Theology (1736); Breitinger, Professor of Greek and Hebrew (1745); and Bodmer, Professor of History and Politics (1730). They had succeeded in arousing a burning zeal amongst the students, and in imparting to their work a particular tendency, some explanation of which will be necessary to the proper understanding of this history.
Zimmerman was firmly and sincerely religious, without being intolerant; he was quick, open, and calm, a friend of
mankind and a friend of truth. He had changed the old system of formality and severity at the Academy by making the relations between master and pupil kindly and pleasant. When Pestalozzi began his higher studies, however, Zimmerman had already been called to another post; but the influence of his past activity continued to make itself felt during the professorship of his successor.
Breitinger used to speak of Greek literature as being a source of wisdom for all other nations. He taught it in this spirit with remarkable power, and succeeded in making his pupils understand and appreciate it, and find not only keen pleasure in it, but valuable instruction. He loved his pupils as his own children, and looked after them individually with such care that they all loved and respected him as a father.
Bodmer was a Professor at Zurich for nearly fifty years, and it is to him particularly that the town owes the many talented men it has produced. His teaching was more especially concerned with the history and institutions of Switzerland, and its effect was to inspire his hearers with a passionate love for justice and liberty. His view was that the manners and social organization of the day were degenerating, and that a struggle must be made to bring back the old virtues. He taught that desires must be limited, and praised the simple joys of domestic life. We can form some opinion of his teaching from the following passage of his Dialogues of the Dead:
"What did you do on earth?-I sought for happiness. Did you find it?-Alas! much too late. Where did you seek it?-In Persia, in India, in Japan, at the ends of the earth. Where did you find it?-It had been in my own village, in my father's house, whilst I had been seeking it thousands of miles away; and when at last, after many dangers, I returned home, I found it there. My father, who had taken no step to find it, carried it in his heart. I just caught a glimpse of it and died."
But Bodmer was not content with teaching history and politics; he introduced his pupils to the masterpieces of modern literature, especially English. To him and Breit inger, Zurich owes the honour of having been, with Leipsic,