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out of ten, after having read a poem 'the most insignificant of their oppoor play, have scarcely any notion nents, and almost persuade themselves, whether the general design has been that those Germans who are dissatiswell conducted or not. Most readers fied with the state of affairs in their go forward blindly, and have not suf- country, resemble the vulgar, illiterate, ficient comprehension of mind to per- and despicable crew who are the preceive the relation of one scene or inci- sent advocates of reform in England. dent to another. They must therefore If ever Britain needs a reform, I hope be furnished with temporary excite- in God she will not listen to the adments for the faculties, as they pro- vice of such men as recommend it to ceed. Every person has seen a boy her now. But it argues the most deusing the same stratagem to make a plorable ignorance on the part any goose or other wild animal follow Englishman to suppose, that the dishim. He takes a handful of pease, contented party in Germany bears any we shall suppose, and drops them one resemblance to that nest of croakers by one to the greedy bird, which is with which London is infested. We thus led on, step after step, to the once needed a revolution, and we had place to which he means to conduct it. it: it was brought about by such men But the continued fulness of ideas, in as Hampden, Sidney, Fairfax, and a book, is a very different thing from Milton. Germany needs a revolution the vile affection of saying fine things now; and she is likely to obtain the at every turn, which is the mere rest- accomplishment of her wishes by lessness of pretension, and not a proof means of men who are not unworthy either of fecundity or of compilatory of being named with those illustrious judgment.
Englishmen,-or who at least would scorn to be considered as having any sympathy, either of opinions or of wishes, with your paltry rabble of Hunts, Hones, and Waithmans. England is fallen indeed, if she, whose
ministers are subject to the inspection LETTER I.
of an enlightened senate, and who Dusselsdorf, April 1, 1818.
possesses, in all her provinces, abun
dance of honourable, high-minded, MY DEAR FRIEND,
and patriotic gentlemen,-is to be Your letter has indeed astonished me. schooled into political wisdom by the The questions you ask, and the lan- noisy ravings of ambitious and designguage of such English newspapers as ing shopkeepers. With what conI have lately met with, convince me tempt would those lofty, devout, and that, amused and occupied with do- heroic spirits, that opposed the cause mestic trifles, the nation remains in a of Charles, look down upon the venostate of utter ignorance concerning mous and unprincipled plebeians who many things that should at present presume to call themselves their sucrivet the attention of all European pol- cessors. With what disgust would iticians. The Whigs and the Tories are, one of them contemplate the impure I doubt not, alike to blame. The for- and senseless orgies of the Common mer know nothing about the thoughts, Council room or of Moorfields. Be feelings, sufferings, and intentions, of satisfied, that Germany does not covet the Germans; and the latter are afraid or dread any such outrageous and ac to promote any discussion about these bominable manifestations of democrathings, from a mistaken view of their cy. It is indeed well that it should own interests,—from fears that have, I be so; for ours is the only country in am persuarled, their foundation in any the world wherein they can be both thing but the truth. One small party despised and tolerated. among you say, that they hope Ger- However we may differ in opinion many is on the eve of a revolution, about its causes, or whatever may and insinuate that England is, or be our hopes or our fears with reought to be, in a similar condition. spect to its probable effects, the exThe adherents of the ministry suffer istence of a great ferment in the themselves to be too much wrought national mind of the Germans, is, upon by the foolish babbling of these at this moment, a fact which none
LETTERS ON THE PRESENT STATE
will be inclined to call in ques- there might indeed be great reason for tion, who either have lately visited wonder ;-the same that there was of their country, or are familiar with the old, when the traveller contemplated present complexion of their popular the strange spectacle of Greeks, who literature. I have travelled upon the had Homer and Demosthenes in their Rhine, the Elbe, and the Danube, -I hands, submitting, without resistance, have conversed with the subject of to the oppressions of a Roman prætor; empire, republic, and principality, or who saw, somewhat later, the Roa with Austrian nobles, Hamburgl mer- mans themselves, nourished as they chants, and Saxon professors,--and I were in their youth by the noble enhave had no difficulty in perceiving, thusiasm of their Sallust and their that, by every German capable of Tacitus, bowed down, with scarcely thinking upon political events, the one self-reproaching murmur, beneath present situation of his country is the deadening tyranny of their milie viewed as one into which all the ele- tary Cæsars : -the same, or very nearments of future agitation are abun- ly the same, reason for wonder, which dantly infused. To one who is accus- perhaps at some distant, some very tomed to the calm and unexpecting distant day, the inhabitant of some demeanour of Englishmen, it appears free and happy land beyond the Atquite evident that some great commo- lantic may feel, should he come to surtion is at hand. The symptoms of vey England out of a love for departed the future crisis are not indeed violent glory, and find them slaves that speak and convulsive: that would ill accord the language of Milton. with the habits and constitution of The triumph of human intellect over those in whose persons they are mani- the sway of despotism was never made fested. We see no madmen dancing more manifest than it has been within with red caps,-we hear no Marseilles the last fifty years among the Germans. hymns chanted in the public gar- Their princes bound them allover withdens,-we read of no princes insulted, in the small links of a pervading and nor chateaux pillaged;
but he is blind lethargic chain: they left only one owho cannot discover hints to the full pening free, and that has been suffias unequivocal as these of some ap- cicnt. They burdened them with improaching struggle ; and they who are posts, privileges, and oppressions—but acquainted with the character of the they permitted them to read and to Germans (whether that acquaintance write; and although over literature has been gained from themselves or too they have successfully attempted from their books), will readily ac- to establish some control, that which knowledge, that with them the "note they left free has been enough to work of preparation" is not the less ominous the future enlargement of all that ever because it is low.
was enslaved. They permitted their No one who knows any thing of people to rear up a national poetrythe present state of Germany,—who to embalm, in imperishable materials, is aware, that in that country, ruled the faded recollections of ancient glory as it almost every where is by a set of and independence. After Locke and arbitrary despots, there prevails, upon Milton had been naturalized, and every subject but one, the utmost pos- Millar and Schiller had arisen, the sible liberty of thought and writing, progress of the public mind was a -no one who is acquainted with the thing no longer within the control of simple fact, that (if we except politics) external power. The giant of literathe Germans are in truth very much ture had touched the soil, and, like the same sort of people with the Eng- Antæus, he was irresistible. lish,—that their ancestry is the same, Frederick the Great employed all -that their ancient institutions, their the weapons of contemptuous ridicule religious habits, and, above all, the against the rising literature of his tone and complexion of their litera- country, with a zeal and a perseverture, bear the strongest resemblance ance which might almost induce one to ours,—that their favourite authors to suspect that he had foreseen the nae are, in truth, the intellectual children ture of its future progress, and anticia of our own;- no one who knows this, pated, among some other of its consea can be surprised with the general fact, quences, the present perplexities of that the Germans are at present a dis- his successor. It was reserved for contented people. Were it otherwise, after years to discover, that he might Vol. III.
perhaps have acted wisely, both for his obstructed by thorns and brambles, did own fame and for the safety of his spring up, and the crop, if not abundant, children, had he been less munificent was at least a crop. Year after year in his patronage of French encyclope- the grain shed itself around, and the diasts, and devoted the pensions he harvest grew. The Germans opposed squandered on Maupertuis and Di- indeed the tyrannies of Bonaparte, but derot, to sustain the neglected man- they began to know and feel that hood of Klopstock, or the rising genius foreign oppressions (however necesof Wieland and Goethe. The nobles sary it might be to throw these off of Germany may live to rue the day first), were not the only oppressions; that they ever insulted their country and it became the universal belief by banishing her language. In the throughout the country, that as soon days of Frederick, German literature as no danger should remain from wanted patronage, and in vain expect- abroad, there was much to be seen to ed it from his hands. It has since at home. The excess of cruelty to grown and thriven 'without any royal which they were subjected during the assistance, and is likely to repay, with ten years which elapsed after the terrible vengeance, upon the monarchs French despotism was established of the present age, the injury it re- over their country, filled them with ceived from the hostility or coldness an enthusiasm for liberty, far more of those of the last. Whatever faults settled, and far more universal, than may be found with the great authors that which had been kindled within of Germany, since the days of Klop- their breasts by the distant spectacle stock they have been uniformly free of the infant Revolution. Long faof that indifference of external events, miliarity had rendered them less senwhich gave an air so tame and ener- sible to the inflictions of their native getic to all the works of their prede- princes, but the tyranny of Napoleon cessors. No literature ever made such shewed itself in new forms of outrage, rapid strides to perfection as that of and roused unmingled aversion. They Germany has done within the last fif. were well prepared for an eruption ty years: it is equally certain, that no long before the actual moment of opliterature of any country,-even of portunity arrived. They had full Greece, Spain, or England, -was ever leisure to speculate upon the true namore thoroughly imbued and animated ture of those causes, which had subwith the spirit of nationality.. jected a people so numerous, and natu
How far this national literature, rally so powerful, as they knew themeven if left entirely to itself, might selves to be, to insults thus atrocious have in time succeeded in breaking and intolerable. The petty tricks, the bonds of Germany—this is a ques- ambitions, and jealousies, of their tion to which, but for some late events, sovereigns; the disunion of their great it might have been in the power of country; the absurd privileges of the our children to supply an answer. nobility ;-all these things appeared But the French Revolution produced to them in quite a new point of view. a convulsive effect over the whole of Necessity was once more the mother cultivated Europe, and imparted a of wisdom ; every strong place in the more than natural velocity of action to midst of Germany was in the hands the awakening national spirit of the of the French, and most of the petty Germans. The horrible enormities of princes were, by every tie of inclinathose bloody demagogues into whose tion and intent, their allies; but one hands the work of the Revolution fell, sentiment had become diffused in ungave rise, indeed, to no inconsiderable extinguishable zeal throughout all the reaction. The calm and rational Ger- population of that part of Germany, mans were disgusted with the pro- which has long given its form and spect of procuring even good to them- pressure to the general intellect of the selves at such a price; and with cor- nation. The conduct of Napoleon diality assisted their feeble and trem- shewed that he perceived the danger bling sovereigns in their endeavours long before the explosion took place; to suppress the progress of the treach- but he was far too proud and confiderous contagion. By degrees, how, ent to adopt any of those measures ever, there is no doubt that the seed by which alone it must have been preof liberal sentiment, even although it vented. To no prince who ever abushad been scattered by the way side, and ed the kindness of his early destiny,
were the words of the Greek poet so diers to do before its close. The spirit applicable as to him,
which had been conjured up was one
too powerful to be controlled by those jogos, no
who had evoked it. The course of τελλων υπερπλησθη ματα», , "Α μη 'πικαιρα μηδε συμφεροντα,
events proceeded. The spectacle which
Germany exhibited in the year 1813, Ακροτασαν σαναίας αποτομον
has never been equalled since the days Armerly us aveyxav.
of Marathon and Salamis. It was not The humiliation of Prussia has been suspected by the sovereigns of the the most profound; her prince had country, that the future results of the been degraded into a mere cipher; enthusiasm should bear so near a reher cities unremittingly spoiled by a semblance to that of those first strugsuccession of brutal generals; and gles of Athenian patriotism. They every sentiment, national as well as who presided at the great national manly, which could pave the way to conflicts of Lutzen, Leipsic, and Havengeance, had been rivetted in the nau, will learn ere long, that on those heart of every subject, by Napoleon's terrible days the Germans fought for unworthy treatment of the queen. It themselves as well as for their princes. was fitting that in Prussia also the Among the motley multitude who first manifestation of these feelings crowded in those animating days to should break forth. When, after an the standards of their country, the unequalled series of calamities, defeats, most remarkable and grotesque, and and degradations, it at last became certainly not the least efficient, convisible to the people of Germany, that sisted of the students of the German their governments might yet, by one universities. For the first time in bold and simultaneous struggle, ac- modern ages, professors became the complish that which, in spite of them, military leaders of their pupils, and had been so well begun, an appeal Körner and Wolfe performed the same was made, first tacitly and then open- part among the Landwehr, which Æsly, to the King of Prussia, which, to chylus did at Salamis, and Socrates at his eternal shame be it spoken, he did Platæa. Who can wonder to hear that not hear with that promptness and the survivors did not return to their decision of purpose, which suited alike academic bowers the same beings as his own interest and the inclination they left them? Their souls had been of his people. It is well known that moved in the strong current of the his person was in danger at Berlin, world. To the spirit of enthusiasm before he yielded to the popular voice wherewith they had of old been imand put himself at the head of the bued, there was now added the sense army of Silesia. By the influence of of power, and the commanding energy the memorable society of virtue (the of will. They have learned what they Tugend-bund), and now by the art- can do themselves. They have acquired ful, though energetic, proclamations the still more important knowledge, of Frederick-William, a sentiment of that they are not an isolated set of beenthusiasm, equal to that which fires ings, cut off from men, and devoted the bosoins of religious martyrs, was to books—that they are in truth the kindled in the breast of noble, mer- same people with those around them; chant, and peasant. The old barriers that their interests, their wishes, their of custom, precedence, and dignity, passions, and their powers, are the same. fell away, like gossamer webs, before În the retirement to which they have the strong breath of necessity. Armies returned, they can no longer muster were to be made, and the sovereign by beat of drum, and mingle in the tuhad it no longer in his power to criti- mults of the real battle; but they who dise in his war-office, the quarterings have seen the warlike aspect of their of those who were willing to assume persons and amusements, their beards, his uniform. A time was come in their sabres, and their fencing-schools, which barons, burghers, and Jews, will have no difficulty in perceiving became aware that, as their cause was that these men do not look upon themthe same, their exertions should be selves as for ever done with war. He equal. What Frederick-William did, will observe in them the determination at the opening of the campaign, the to wait till the moment come, and then, sovereigns of Baden, Wurtemberg, and rising as before with one irresistible Bavaria, were compelled by their sol- impulse, to drive every thing before
them that opposes right. From the been more distressing than in any other intercourse of those campaigns, the of the great German States; their freehussar derived illumination, and the dom from all imposts amounting to a scholar firmness. The chief defect of terrible piece of oppression on all the German minds was supplied by the other orders of society. Frederickfortuitous reunion of those too long se- William was obliged to throw his army parated powers-reflection and ardour. open to every one in the year 1813, The late tumults of rejoicing patriot, and he promised at that time, that neiism, with which the day of the reform- ther the military, nor any other of the ation was celebrated at Jena, at Leip- offensive parts of their privileges, should sic, and at Berlin, is proof sufficient of ever be restored. It is distressing to a secret understanding, and a good relate, that a virtual recall of all these omen of what may yet be done, when promises has since taken place ; for the day, not for words, but for action, an edict has been uttered, preventing shall arrive.
the rise of any man, not nobly born, Of all the oppressions by which the to any rank higher than that of a subspirit of the enlightened and manly lieutenant. But the most disagreeable Germans are irritated, the most galling narrative to British ears is that which and insufferable is that occasioned by details the situation of Hanover. So the preposterous privileges of the no- far from the state of the nobility being bility. A class such as this nume- altered in conformity to the spirit of rous without limit, idle, and excluded the age, whatever alterations have ocfrom most of the useful professions to curred in that country have all tended a liberal and generous nation, even the exactly the other way. Till the prelower orders of whose society are dis- sent reign, one place in the supreme tinguished by very excellent education council was always open to all Hanoand by universal habits of reading, is a verian subjects; in the days of George nuisance beyond imagination intoler. III. it, like all the other six, has been able, insulting, and absurd. The finan. declared to belong exclusively to the cial distresses of Austria have produced noblesse. Hanover is a small, and by at least one happy effect, by rendering no means a rich country, but its init absolutely necessary for the imperial habitants are among the best educagovernment to redeem the profession ted and most moral people in the of the merchant from that disgraceful world ; and as the soil is in every part situation, in which, throughout the excellent, the greatest possible facility other monarchies of Germany, it is is by nature afforded to every sort of placed. In Bavaria and Saxony also, agricultural and political improvement. some approximations have of late been But so long as the whole gentry of the made to the introduction of a more li- country are prevented from occupying beral state of affairs,-in consequence, themselves, without degradation, in I suppose, in the former of these coun- commerce ; so long as the predilections tries, of the great acuteness and pene- of the reigning family render necessary tration of the reigning monarch; and in the maintenance of the present enorthe latter, of the flourishing condition mously disproportionate military force, of the trade of Saxony, and the secret a complete stop is put to every rational wishes of the nobles themselves to par- prospect of good. I am unwilling to ticipate, without degradation, in the say much upon this subject, for I gladprofits which it affords. Count Bühl, ly acquit our Royal Family of having the descendant of the celebrated prime any seriously bad intentions. But minister of the last Polish Augustus, surely their residence in our free and is at this moment understood (al- happy country might have been exthough his name is suppressed in every pected to produce impressions on their firm) to be one of the first merchants minds, sufficient to prevent them from in the wool trade; by which wise mea- pursuing a system of conduct which sure he has, in a great degree, restored renders their native prorince, at this the dilapidated wealth of his illustrie moment, the worst cultivated, and, ous family; and it is expected, that in without any exception, the most noblea few years the Saxon gentlemen will ridden district of Northern Germany. be legally permitted to engage in trule, Compare Hanover with Weimar, Gówithout forfeiting any of the lustre tha, or even with the kingdom of Sasof their birth. In Prussia, the privi- ony, and it is impossible not to lament leges of the nobility have at all times over the iniserable contrast.