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ON THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF “ all honour lies in acting well,” it JUSTUS MÆSER.
may, perhaps, appear, that the time, THERE arose in Germany, during
and place, and under what circumthose wars in which it was involved by
stances any individual was born, are the ambition of Frederick the Great,
inatters of no importance. But to the though not nursed into excellence
greater part of mankind, the minutest by his patronage, a number of au
information relative to every person thors, destined by their productions who may have had a sensible, though to gain immortality for themselves,
remote, influence on their welfare, is and to confer lasting honour on in general welcome. We shall theretheir country. Amongst them few fore begin by stating that Moser's are more conspicuous than Justus father was President of the Consistoa Moeser: and to him belongs the ry, and Kansley Director (Chief Jusextraordinary merit of never being tice) of the Bishoprick of Osnabrück, mentioned, without the highest come and that Justus was born there on mendation. Goethe, in his own Me
he in his own Me the 14th of December 1720. The moirs, * styles him the noble, the in- situations which his father held were comparable Justus Moeser, and places some of the most exalted, and though him first in the list of those great men not noble, he was considered as highwhose friendship, as a young man, he ly respectable. In Germany, where eagerly sought to obtain. Nicolai, the every man has an appointed rank, biographer of Moeser, compares him this is a matter of considerable imto dew which falls so softly that it is portance. Justus was educated for only known by its fertilizing and re
the law, and afterwards filled some freshing effects : and to honey which of its highest offices. His earliest ina retains the odours of the sweetest struction was received at home, unAowers, is pure as innocence, and der the eye of his parents, and he strengthens and nourishes life. He afterwards studied first at Jena and has also been compared to Frank.
then at Göttingen. At that period, lin for the power of his understand. 1740, nothing was taught at the uniing and the homeliness of his wisdom. versities of Germany but an abstruse and to Addison for his situation in life, and for the elegance of his style and his
relation to the affairs of life, Or if taste. His fame led us to examine any one of them
any one of them had then begun to his writings, and to inquire into the teac
teach what was useful in the world, particulars of his life ; and we trust
mist it was Göttingen. Founded by a The following account of both will
will British monarch, George II. and not be unacceptable :
fashioned by a minister, .MunchauTo the philosopher who thinks
sen, well acquainted with our modes
of thinking, Göttingen led the way * Aus Meinem Leben, Vol. III. p. 363,
in introducing a more rational mode et seg.
of study into Germany; and it has always maintained a high reputation, French. It was most probably from among German universities, for plain her, therefore, that he acquired much manly sense, slow to adopt unproved of that wisdom which afterwards imtheories, and anxious to promote the proved the houses and manners of the knowledge of truth and the best in- peasants of Westphalia. We believe terests of science. “ Since its foun- that more than one 'celebrated modation," says a German author," it dern poet have been sung into inspihas been the enemy of every arbitra- ration by the enthusiastic voice of a ry hypothese, of all learned pedantry mother. And we willingly add this and useless innovation. The atten- example of Mæser, as a proof that the tion of its pupils has been chiefly di- most humble amongst us may have a rected to history, and to the fountain- considerable influence on the destiny heads of science and literature. Those of all. The heart of many a mother numerous absurd theories, which are may expand to the delightful hope, à reproach to us amongst other nam that, in educating her children to virtions, never took root in its soil. The tue, she may be enabling them to recharlatanism of learning the idola- form, enlighten, or delight mankind. try of momentary prodigies—the On Moser's return from the uniworship of wild and wasting genius, versity, he inscribed his name in the found no harbour in any of its gates list of advocates, and married, in 1746, or temples, and against its rocks the a lady of the name of Brouning, worwayes of false science have foamed in thy of him both in knowledge and vain.” This high reputation was nei- kindly affections. In 1747, he was ther acquired nor merited when Mæ- appointed to the honourable and imger studied ; and he could scarcely portart post of Advocatus Patria, acquire, at a German university, that which imposed on him the task of plain manly wisdom which, at a sub- conducting every process in which sequent period, flowed 80 richly the state was concerned. Soon after through the greater part of his writ- he was appointed secretary and synings. He never was distinguished by dicus to the noble branch of the estates any extensive knowledge of what was of the Bishoprick, (Ritterschaft.) In then taught, and probably employed these situations he distinguished himthe time he was at the university more self by a steady opposition to every in appreciating what he heard, than thing arbitrary and unjust. He was in committing it to memory. His was the advocate of the poor and the helpnot one of those common minds which less, and the strongest support of the greedily imbibe, without distinction, Protestant party against the superior every thing classed as learning. There power, which the Catholics then posis, on the contrary, evidence in his sessed in Osnabrück. The usual obworks that he despised and ridiculed ject of an advocate's ambition is to besome of the useless pursuits of learn- come a judge, but to this Mæser had ed bodies. He weighed what was a great aversion. In our country, taught in the balance of reason-held where public pleading leads to the fast only by that which he deemed highest honours of the state, and useful and necessarily contemned all where a noble ambition may, perhaps, the minute verbal distinctions which be better gratified by displaying, as were then called science. He wanted, an advocate, the talents of a popular as he himself said, patience to serve orator, than delivering, as a judge, out his apprenticeship, so that he the sentences of the laws, we can might be admitted a member of any readily conceive why a man should learned corporation.
prefer the bar to the bench,why Moser's mother was one of the Erskine should regret that he accepte most notable of Westphalian women, ed the office of Chancellor, and Curwho are distinguished above other ran repine at being made Master of German women for attention to their the Rolls ;-why they should both household. And Møser was the fa- have felt their powers benumbed vourite of his mother, delighting by changing the sun-beams of public much more to help her in gathering admiration for the chilling honours of apples, than to sit poring over books. office, and the freezing respect which She instructed all her children in the artificial dignities inspire. But it is principles of household economy, and more difficult to account for this diswas Moser's guide in his study of position in Moeser, because pleadings
are not public and verbal in Ger- any one of the Princes of his house. many, and an advocate there is never The Duke of York, though then an an object of public interest. His bio- infant, was accordingly made Bishop grapher attributes it to a love of inqui- of Osnabrück. Another dispute then ry, and a desire of examining every side ensued as to the right of guardianship of a question, and an aversion to come during the minority of the Prince, to a decision. But the two former which was claimed by the Chapter, reasons apply more to a judge than but retained by the King. The ad an advocate. And we should rather vice of Mæser was found useful, and be disposed to ascribe this dislike to before he left London, he had gained that modesty which ever accompanies the entire confidence of his Majesty genius, and which might render Mom and his Hanoverian minister. On his ser, in such weighty matters as life return to Osnabrück, after eight and property, fearful of deciding months residence in London, he was wrong, though he only delivered the commissioned by the King to exam sentence of the laws. Perhaps, also, mine every measure of Government, his impassioned mind required con- and give his opinion concerning it be stantly to express its feelings, and he fore it was carried into execution. found a suitable means of doing And during the whole minority of this in defending other people. IIis the Duke of York, Meser was in fact clients were to him what fictitious the chief counsellor of the crown for beings are to the poet; whom he the bishoprick. He retained his other creates, that he may invest them with situation of secretary to the estates; all the cheerfulness, melancholy, or and thus the servant both of the nohorror, which reigns in each fitful bility and the bishop, and, at the mood of his own checquered mind. same time, the friend of the people,
Mæser was appointed in 1757 to he preserved, through a long series of the very delicate situation of com- years, the esteemi and respect of all. missioner, to regulate with the allied He had no sinister views to answer ; army, which had entered Osnabrück, he neither courted popularity, nor the manner in which supplies were was greedy of the honours and wealth to be obtained, and contributions le- which the Sovereign could bestow. vied. The inhabitants, suffering from His conduct was open and upright, the presence of the troops, and their never stooping to flatter either party, exactions, were ready enough to com- and his high honours were purchaplain ; but the conduct of Moser so sed by no sacrifice of principles : he obyiously saved them from many kept the plain way of honesty, and vexations, that he was universally yet was a favourite with the powerful. praised and esteemed. He gained the He was appointed in 1768 Secret friendship of Prince Ferdinand and Referendary to the Government, and the rest of the generals of the allied received, unasked, an addition to his army ; and won still more than before pension. The letter which he wrote the confidence of his own government on this occasion to the Hanoverian and the love of his fellow-citizens. Minister in London, and the answer
In 1763 he was sent to England to of the latter, merit that we should regulate with the English commis here transcribe them. The former sariat the liquidation of the debts in- shews Mæser's peculiar manner of curred for the supplies of the allied thinking and of expression, and the army in Osnabrück. His residence latter how highly he was respected. in London raised him to still higher Mæser wrote, “I have often deconsideration. At that time, it was clared, on being sounded by the Couna question with his Majesty, whether cil of Government, that I had enough he should make his son or his brother of every thing, and would only bring Bishop of Osnabrück. The former, as one pudding on my table, if I were the temporalities of the see were held ten times as rich as I am. Yet you alternately by a prince of the houses have given me an addition to my penof Hanover and Brandenburg, was sion, not only without my asking it, considered as most advantageous for but almost in opposition to my desire. our royal family, but it was strongly In the same manner, as I learn from opposed by the Chapter ; and Mæser M. De Busch, you had an intention stood forth as the defender and cham- to procure me a higher rank and title. pion of the King's right to nominate But when I wrote to the minister to
thank him, I begged he would spare seized him, he resigned himself pame with titles, which are like horns, tiently, bearing the pain with as much and I never wished to exchange for fortitude as he could. He took no them my right of creeping through a means of curing or relieving them. hedge."
In the beginning of 1794 he caught a Mr De Behr answered, “ The opi. cold, which was soon followed by nion I have always entertained of your such cramps. He laid himself in bed, noble manner of thinking, honourable believing they would soon pass, but à Sir, was confirmed by your letter of death sweat came on, and he perceiv. this month. I beg you will look on ed his end was approaching. Then what the King, in the name of the alluding to his struggles and his paBishop, has given you, not as an en- tience, he said, “I have lost my cause." couragement to greater labours for the He gave some directions relative to public, but as a token of the good will his worldly affairs, thanked his only borne towards you. As to the title, and his affectionate daughter for her I agree with you, that it is a matter tender cares, said he was tired and of great indifference to a meritorious desired to sleep, and so sank gently, man, but as far as regards it, you will as he had lived, into the arms of always have liberty to please yourself. death. This event took place on the At the same time, it gave me pleasure 8th of January 1794. His funeral to find my knowledge of your opi- was solemn and even splendid, from nions more correct than that of Mr the vast concourse of people of every R. R. de B. It is well for any coun- description who followed unbidden to try, when the places of distinction in his grave. it are conferred according as indivi- Mæser was considerably above the duals have promoted the public wel- middle stature, and his father was fare."
long afraid to send him to a UniverIn this respectable and dignified sity, because Frederick William, the situation, Moser passed the remainder First of Prussia, believed he had a die of his life. He resided constantly at vine right to incorporate every youth Osnabrück, but visited Pyrmont an- above five feet eight inches with his nually, for the sake of there meeting grenadiers. He was proportionately some literary friends. His occupa- stout and well made, enjoying, through tions, either as an advocate or states the greater part of his life, that free man, were at all times numerous, and and pleasant use of all his bodily fahe was accustomed to perform all his culties which contributesso essenduties without the assistance of a de- tially to a cheerful, healthy mind. puty. The small and unimportant His countenance was open and dignicountry over which his official influ. fied, inviting confidence, and strongly ence extended, could not make him expressive of his unassuming merits. known to the world as a statesman. Seriousness was united with kindness Osnabrück is only an appendage to in his whole deportment; he seldom Hanover, which is of itself only known laughed, but a cheerful smile like that from its connection with England. which Homer has made characteristic Moser might have shared that ne- of his gods, played for ever on his glect with which many of the mini- countenance. He was sincere, patristers of the petty sovereigns of Ger- otic, hospitable, kind, and friendly, many, who, however, perform their ready to promote any good work, but parts ably, are suffered to pass to the inflexible in his opposition to evil. grave, had not his talents as an author In his youth he had deserted from redeemed his name from obscurity. school, and had been relieved, when It was during this dignified and oc- at a distance from home, by the chacupied period of his life that most of rity of a stranger. From this circumhis works were written. But to them stance, he had adopted a resolution we shall hereafter refer, when all the never to refuse alms when asked of particulars of his life have been stated. him, and was frequently seen at
Mæser had long been afflicted with Pyrmont surrounded with beggars, to cramps, which he supposed, according each of whom he gave, like some to a particular theory he had formed, ancient and benevolent Abbot, some were violent but benevolent exertions trifle and a friendly salutation. In of nature to restore the equilibrium company he rather excited others to of the nervous system. When they converse, than engrossed the whole
conversation himself, taking occasion earliest inhabitants of North and to bring forth every body to the best South Germany. Those of the south advantage. Yet he was never reser- were united under military leaders ; ved or unsocial, but always ready to those of the north dwelt in isolated take a part in whatever society he houses, were independent of every might be thrown. He was free from thing like rulers, and met as equal and pride and vanity, and conversed there- free men when any thing was to be fore only for pleasure or instruction, resolved on for the common good. and not to exult in a victory over an The situation of Mæser led him to opponent, or to triumph in a display consider the subject of property most of pedantic knowledge. He was hap- frequently; the whole work was at py in his domestic circle, blessed with first only written for his own use, and a partner adorned with every female it is not, therefore, surprising, that it virtue. Her death, in 1787, appeared should have assumed a form more only to give his daughter an oppor. welcome to jurisconsults and statestunity of shewing her love ; during men, than to general readers. Moser the rest of his life she was devoted only brought the history down to the entirely to him. His only son died thirteenth century, and it was then at Göttingen at the age of twenty. undoubtedly the best work on the Thus beloved by relations, friends, early inhabitants of the North of Gerand dependents, honoured by his sue many. It excited a desire amongst periors, respected by his immediate his countrymen to pry into the subneighbours, and admired as an author ject more narrowly, and though later by the greater part of his country, and more extensive researches have men, Moser passed a quiet, dignified, thrown a clearer light on the matter, and happy life. Amongst the Ger- and a more agreeable manner of demans he is a singular instance of a scribing it, has given modern histoliterary man, with a strong, plain, un- rians a great advantage over Mæser, sophisticated understanding, directing yet his work is still much read, and his efforts to promote useful know. will always be looked on and referred ledge. He resembled his country- to as an admirable guide. men, however, in his kindly affece. A second volume contains his misa tions, and in his gentle accommodat- cellaneous works, in which he has ing spirit; and when they are in ge treated in a happy, sometimes serious, neral accused of admiring too fondly sometimes comic manner, a great vam whatever is visionary, we must here riety of subjects. Among them we record to their honour, that they have shall only particularise his tale of the long respected and esteemed the calm Poor Freeman, and his Essay on the and wise Justus Maser.
German Language and Literature. We have hitherto confined our at. The former was written to ridicule tention to Moser as a man; we now the indecent haste with which the come to speak of him as an author. French began to abolish all their anHis works were collected and pub- cient institutions, and appears quite lished by his friend and biographer, equal to the novels of Voltaire, but Nicolai, in 1798. They consist of written with a greater respect for truth. eight parts, bound up into four thick The latter was an answer to the celeoctavo volumes, of between 700 and brated letter of Frederick the Great, 800 pages each. The first volume on the literature of Germany, and was contains what Mæser modestly called considered as the best of the numeran Introduction to the History of Os- ous productions to which that gave nabrück. It was first published in rise. We shall quote a passage or two 1765, and is considered as having of this, because Mæser appears to have made an epoch in the manner of writ- judged very correctly, both the growing history in Germany. Before then, ing literature and language of his it was only a chronicle of kings and country.
Country: battles. Meser wrote a History of 6 Sublime feelings,” he says, " which Property, of the changes it had un
1* are the pårents of every noble expression, dergone, and of the corresponding alo can only be produced by great events. teration in the manners of his country- Danger makes heroes, and the ocean makes men. He first noticed, so as to make bold men of those who would have been it useful for the purposes of history, the cowards on land. The mind demands difa great political distinction between the ficulties to conquer before it evinces its own