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"I am at present at Richterswyl. Doctor Hotz has left home for some months, and during his absence I am staying in his house, with no business to attend to, and no one to disturb me. Rejoice, my friend, at the happiness which is to be mine for a time."
It was now that Pestalozzi began his correspondence with Fellenberg, the celebrated founder of the Hofwyl institutions. His letters give us valuable information as to the view he took of the French Revolution, and as to the hopes, and more especially the fears, with which it filled him for Switzerland. Fellenberg had just the qualities which Pestalozzi lacked; he was practical, prudent, firm, and a good administrator. Could these two men have worked steadily together, the success of the philanthropic enterprises in which they were both engaged would probably have been ensured; but even their great friendship was powerless to keep two such different natures long in harmony. Pestalozzi's generous enthusiasm was wounded by Fellenberg's cold reasoning, and the almost rustic simplicity of the Zurich democrat accorded but ill with the somewhat ostentatious dignity of the Bernese patrician. Fellenberg several times offered him help in his troubles, but the perfect sympathy and understanding which alone would have made it possible for the two men to undertake a work in common never existed between them.
The letters we are about to quote were written between the years 1792 and 1794. They have a special interest from the fact that no cloud having yet arisen between the two friends, Pestalozzi speaks quite openly of all that is in his mind.
PESTALOZZI TO FELLENBERG.
"Neuhof, September 15th, 1792. "Dear and noble friend! Thank you once more for the many proofs you have given me of your friendship. I am greatly rejoiced at the thought of spending a few weeks with you at the beginning of November. Between now and then the fate of France will be decided. If she is beaten, we shall be better able than now to judge of what is really important to humanity in her affairs; if she still resists, her very faults will be forgiven by those in whom they now excite such unreasonable fury. In either case the world will gain some
thing; and if France is worthy of liberty, she will certainly have it.
"I am informed that several members of the National Assembly have been told that, in the present passionate excitement of the French people, nobody could point out to them the truths they stand in need of better than I could; but I doubt whether I could do any good."
"Neuhof, October 4th, 1792.
"I agree with you entirely on the points you mention. And yet I think it very important to persuade France of the harm that would result to herself and the good cause from any hostile action against us; it would be much worse than she thinks, and than people, carried away by passion, care to tell her. You know I am not one of these. All my life I have ardently desired the emancipation of the people, and yet no one was ever more firmly convinced than I am that it can only be brought about by preserving all the conditions of public order.
"I can quite see that such manifestations by Switzerland as you speak of might do great good to the country; and after the last declarations of the French, I am inclined to think that something of the sort might be necessary. I very much wish we could talk the matter over. Be quite happy about me, my friend; I am more than prudent, I am innocent, and, in the face of my innocence, suspicions would only confound those who were suspicious. My country has no more faithful citizen than I, but my opinion in matters that concern the true welfare of humanity is to be bought by no man, either French or Swiss.
"My agriculture swallows up all my time. I am longing for winter, with its leisure. My time passes like a shadow, and though my experience may be ripening, I am prematurely losing the power of expressing my ideas. I impatiently long for rest, and a cell where I should be free from cares. Here I am never free from weariness and disturbance."
"Neuhof, November 19th, 1792.
"It is notorious, too, in my part of the country that I am a 'Nationalist,' and am going to Paris. A few women, friends of the clergy in the neighbourhood, cross themselves when
they meet the heretical democrat. I quietly await the result of the calumnies to which this will probably give rise. And yet Leonard and Gertrude will always be a proof that I almost wore myself out in my efforts to save the aristocracy,as much of it, that is, as was worth saving. My trouble, however, only excited ingratitude, so much so, indeed, that that excellent man, the Emperor Leopold, spoke of me before he died as a good Abbé de Saint Pierre. After all, nobody can help those who will not help themselves, and there is nothing commoner than to see people who have been the cause of their own ruin trying to save themselves by meanness and falsehood."
"Neuhof, December 5th, 1792.
"I want a talk with you very badly, and shall certainly come to Berne at the beginning of next year. I am already rejoicing at the prospect. I have decided to render France what assistance I can by writing on several points of legislation. The last news from Berne as to the danger of an attack on our country is more reassuring. I am all the more glad, because I fancy I am right in thinking that this war, especially at first, would bring about a split in the Confederation. We cannot, indeed, do too much for the sake of peace, for it is important that we should be in a position to give the people throughout Switzerland as much liberty as will ensure their warm support for all future governments.'
"Richterswyl, November 15th, 1793.
"Thank you for a letter in which your love of good carries you certainly too far. I am but a feeble old man; there are immense gaps in my knowledge, my intellectual strength is comparatively small, and perhaps my only merit is that in most things my will is not governed by my interests. The little I have done for truth and the happiness of men makes you, in your love for humanity, esteem me more than I deserve. Do not think me ungrateful; but I know, and indeed ought to know, how weak I am.
"Ah, my friend, I have lived many years in a state of indescribable misery, and my experience has taught me much; amongst other things, that Nature herself bids a man look to his own interests and those of his family. My own early education, unfortunately, did not in any way prepare me for
this duty, and the harm is irreparable. Nor is my son, in this respect, any better off than I am, for I only arrived at a clear and exact idea of the importance of special training for this end when it was too late. But now I have made up my mind that, so long as I am capable of doing so, I shall devote my remaining strength to completing the writings I have begun, and endeavour to make profit by their publication.
But, my friend, this will not be an easy matter. In my desire for simplicity, I destroy whole pages of my manuscripts for every few lines I keep. You would not believe what long and painful efforts many of the passages that seem so simple have cost me. I shall never be quite repaid then for all my trouble, but, thank God, I have never stooped to letting a word stand simply for the sake of being paid for it. It is certain that, from a pecuniary point of view, my system is a very bad one; but I hope that some day, when I have sufficiently sacrificed myself in this way, a way indeed which is likely to find few imitators amongst my moneyloving brethren, I hope, I say, that after a time I shall at last realize some small profit from a complete collection of my writings, which will then have been made as perfect as possible. When that time comes, I shall rely principally upon my friends for co-operation and support. But how can I talk to you at this length on a mere question of money!
"And yet, my friend, the happiness of the world largely depends upon its wisdom in these questions, in which I personally have always been one of the greatest fools in the universe. But God grant that in higher matters I may be able to render the services you expect of me. When the book I am at present engaged on is finished, I will come to you. I know that you will be all the better pleased that in my way of treating my subject all personal interest disappears, whether in the democracy, the aristocracy, or the monarchy, just as in a statement of the principles of pure Christianity all personal interest in a particular sect should disappear.
"If you should hear anything certain as to the possibility of peace, I entreat you to send me a line; for if the war continues, we shall go back at least a generation. In the meantime let us comfort ourselves by doing our work as if we were ignorant of what is taking place."
"Richterswyl, January 16th, 1794. "The times in which we live are like those hot summer days in which fruits ripen amid thunder and hail, to the_gain of the whole, but to the detriment of certain parts. I am most anxious to see you this spring; if you do not come here, I shall come to Berne.
"I am actively engaged in thinking out my new work. What do you think of this: Who are those who suffer most, and run the greatest danger in the present state of things? Is it not those who possess most? And ought you not chiefly to comfort those who suffer most?' Striking words; but before giving you their history, I should like to have your opinion of them.
Fichte is making a commentary on Leonard and Gertrude, from the point of view of Kant's philosophy. Baggesen urges me to go to Denmark. I often wish I were ten years younger, or rather, that I were still as strong as I was ten years ago. But I mean to make the fullest use of the flying hours, and am grateful to you and to all others who are helping me gather up the crumbs of my wasted life.
"I am very glad to have satisfied myself, from a conversation with Fichte, that my experience has led me to many of the same results as Kant."
These letters give us an insight into Pestalozzi's life and thought during those ten years of seclusion, when there were neither published writings nor practical undertakings to bear witness to his activity.
In this correspondence he no longer speaks of his favourite idea of a school for poor children, the failure of his experiment being still too recent to allow him to see any possibility of ever meeting with complete success; his thoughts turn rather to politics and the coming reforms in the institutions of his country, in which he sees help for the realization of his plans for the happiness of the people.
We see that he even hopes sometimes to induce France to listen to him, and by the influence of his ideas make measures for the reform of public education one of the fruits of the Revolution. This hope would seem presumptuous did we not know that it was to some extent justified by a decree of the National Assembly, which, on Sunday, the 27th of August, 1792, had solemnly declared citizens of the French Republic