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Comenius at Elbing.
on teaching, in which the principles of the Didactica Magna should be worked out with especial reference to teaching languages. Notwithstanding the remonstrances of his English friends, to which Comenius would gladly have listened, he was kept by Oxenstiern and De Geer strictly to his agreement, and thus, much against his will, he was held fast for eight years in what he calls the "miry entanglements of logomachy."
§ 12. Elbing, where, after a journey to Leszna to fetch his family (for he had married again), Comenius now settled, is in West Prussia, thirty-six miles south-east of Dantzic. From 1577 to 1660 an English trading company was settled here, with which the family of Hartlib was connected. This perhaps was one reason why Comenius chose this town for his residence. But although he had a grant of £300 a year from Parliament, Hartlib, instead of assisting with money, seems at this time to have himself needed assistance, for in October, 1642, Comenius writes to De Geer that he fears Fundanius and Hartlib are suffering from want, and that he intends for them £200 promised by the London booksellers; he suggests that De Geer shall give them £30 each meanwhile. (Benham, p. 63.)
§ 13. The relation between Comenius and his patron naturally proved a difficult one. The Dutchman thought that as he supported Comenius, and contributed something more for the assistants, he might expect of Comenius that he would devote all his time to the scholastic treatise he had undertaken. Comenius, however, was a man of immense energy and of widely extended sympathies and connections. He was a "Bishop" of the religious body to which he belonged, and in this capacity he engaged in controversy, and attended some religious conferences. Then
At Leszna again.
again, pupils were pressed upon him, and as money to pay five writers whom he kept at work was always running short he did not decline them. De Geer complained of this, and supplies were not furnished with wonted regularity.
1647 Comenius writes to Hartlib that he is almost overwhelmed with cares, and sick to death of writing beggingletters. Yet in this year he found means to publish a book On the Causes of this (ie., the Thirty Years) War, in which the Roman Catholics are attacked with great bitterness—a bitterness for which the position of the writer affords too good an excuse.
§14. The year 1648 brought with it the downfall of all Comenius' hopes of returning to his native land. The Peace of Westphalia was concluded without any provision being made for the restoration of the exiles. But though thus doomed to pass the remaining years of his life in banishment, Comenius, in this year, seemed to have found an escape from all his pecuniary difficulties. The Senior Bishop, the head of the Moravian Brethren, died, and Comenius was chosen to succeed him. In consequence of this, Comenius returned to Leszna, where due provision was made for him by the Brethren. Before he left Elbing, however, the fruit of his residence there, the Methodus Linguarum Novissima, had been submitted to a commission of learned Swedes, and approved of by them. The MS. went with him to Leszna, where it was published.
§ 15. As head of the Moravian Church, there now de
exiles, and his situations for
volved upon Comenius the care of all the widespread reputation enabled him to get many of them in all Protestant countries. now so much connected with the science of education, that ever. his post at Leszna did not prevent his receiving and
But he was
Saros-Patak. Flight from Leszna.
accepting a call to reform the schools in Transylvania. A model school was formed at Saros-Patak, where there was a settlement of the banished Brethren, and in this school Comenius laboured from 1650 till 1654. At this time he wrote his most celebrated book, which is indeed only an abridgment of his Janua with the important addition of pictures, and sent it to Nürnberg, where it appeared three years later (1657). This was the famous Orbis Pictus.
§ 16. Full of trouble as Comenius' life had hitherto been, its greatest calamity was still before him. After he was again settled at. Leszna, Poland was invaded by the Swedes, on which occasion the sympathies of the Brethren were with their fellow-Protestants, and Comenius was imprudent enough to write a congratulatory address to the Swedish King. A peace followed, by the terms of which, several towns, and Leszna among them, were made over to Sweden; but when the King withdrew, the Poles took up arms again, and Leszna, the headquarters of the Protestants, the town in which the chief of the Moravian Brethren had written his address welcoming the enemy, was taken and plundered.
Comenius and his family escaped, but his house was marked for special violence, and nothing was preserved. His sole remaining possessions were the clothes in which he and his family travelled. All his books and manuscripts were burnt, among them his valued work on Pansophia, and a Latin-Bohemian and Bohemian-Latin Dictionary, giving words, phrases, idioms, adages, and aphorisms-a book on which he had been labouring for forty years. "This loss," he writes, "I shall cease to lament only when I cease to breathe."
§ 17. After wandering for some time about Germany,
Last years at Amsterdam.
and being prostrated by fever at Hamburg, he at length came to Amsterdam, where Lawrence De Geer, the son of his deceased patron, gave him an asylum. Here were spent the remaining years of his life in ease and dignity. Compassion for his misfortunes was united with veneration for his learning and piety. He earned a sufficient income by giving instruction in the families of the wealthy; and by the liberality of De Geer he was enabled to publish a fine folio edition of all his writings on Education (1657). His political works, however, were to the last a source of trouble to him. His hostility to the Pope and the House of Hapsburg made him the dupe of certain "prophets" whose soothsayings he published as Lux in Tenebris. One of these prophets, who had announced that the Turk was to take Vienna, was executed at Pressburg, and the Lux in Tenebris at the same time burnt by the hangman. Before the news of this disgrace reached Amsterdam, Comenius was no more. He died in the year 1671, at the advanced age of eighty, and with him terminated the office of Chief Bishop among the Moravian Brethren.
§ 18. His long life had been full of trouble, and he saw little of the improvements he so earnestly desired and laboured after, but he continued the struggle hopefully to the end. In his seventy-seventh year he wrote these memorable words: "I thank God that I have all my life been a man of aspirations. . . . For the longing after good, however it spring up in the heart, is always a rill flowing from the Fountain of all good-from God."* Labouring in
• Unum Necessarium, quoted by Raumer.
Compare George Eliot: "By desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is, and cannot do what we would, we
Comenius sought true foundation.
this spirit he did not toil in vain, and the historians of education have agreed in ranking him among the most influential as well as the most noble-minded of the Re formers.
§ 19. Before Comenius, no one had brought the mind of a philosopher to bear practically on the subject of education. Montaigne and Bacon had advanced principles, leaving others to see to their application. A few able schoolmasters, Ascham, e.g., had investigated new methods, but had made success in teaching the test to which they appealed, rather than any abstract principle. Comenius was at once a philosopher who had learnt of Bacon, and a schoolmaster who had earned his livelihood by teaching the rudiments. Dissatisfied with the state of education as he found it, he sought for a better system by an examination of the laws of Nature. Whatever is thus established is indeed on an immovable foundation, and, as Comenius himself says, "not liable to any ruin." It will hardly be disputed, when broadly stated, that there are laws of Nature which must be obeyed in dealing with the mind, as with the body. No doubt these laws are not so easily established in the first case as in the second, nor can we find them without much "groping" and some mistakes but whoever in any way assists or even tries to assist in the discovery, deserves our gratitude; and greatly are
are part of the Divine power against evil-widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."—Middlemarch, bk. iv, p. 308 of first edition.