15 MAY 1880, Page 18


Mr. BARING-GOULD has given us a most interesting repository of facts about Germany and German life, leaving out little that

could yield either light or shade to his picture. He is never dry; he is never tedious. He is seldom wrong in his facts, still seldomer wrong in his inferences. If you let him take you by the hand, and follow his lead confidingly, you will get a very good bird's-eye view of a vast subject. But it is, after all, only a bird's-eye view, and his method has its disadvantages. One thing is apt to glide into another in a rather surprising manner, and the mountains are not always seen separately de- fined and in their true elevations. That is one of the con- comitants of the method adopted,—perhaps the only method that is likely to attract such attention of English readers to the subject as Mr. Baring-Gould anxiously desires. But it is just and right that we should, by an instance or two, point out clearly what we mean, before proceeding to exhibit the elements for which Mr. Baring-Gould deserves our highest praise. There s no more interesting and suggestive chapter in the book than that which is headed "Women." Mr. Baring-Gould shows a touch of unwonted enthusiasm—for he is often slightly cynical —in contrasting the amalgam of many races, the "compound substance" represented by Englishwomen, with the simple

and unmixed individuality which is presented. to us in German women, and in following up his thesis with many admirable illustrations, among them the great Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. But when he proceeds to speak of the Duchess Amelia a Weimar, his tone at first is too highly pitched. She was, in some respects, a good and politic woman, but too much of an indiferentiote ; and Mr. Baring-Gould hardly brings out the fact with sufficient clearness that the later corruption of the Weimar Court was mainly due to her over-tolerance in certain directions. Of course, he tells us that she judged badly when she brought the licentious Wieland to Weimar to teach her son, and goes on to remark generally that whilst the Duchess was sur- rounding herself with those who were to cast a blaze of light through the intellectual world, she was creating also "a great cloaca of moral corruption." And truly, such she did ; and as it is impossible to dissociate altogether the intellectual light from the moral dirt and darkness, a very difficult problem is raised, as well as a fact enunciated. It did not fall in with Mr. Baring-Gould's purpose to deal severely with this ; but it was not all accident, and was due to specific traits in the Grand Duchess. A careful analysis of her character would show how inevitably every seed bears its proper fruit, and no other. We come, however, to our more definite fault-finding. As we read on, we find, to our surprise, that Herder is gradually drawn in, as if he furnished some kind of illustration of the main thesis ; as if the sentimental love-letters which had passed between him and Caroline Flachsland (afterwards his wife), and their little, very temporary, and, on the whole, innocent domestic differences, had something to do with, or formed some kind of illustration of that moral cloaca affair. Herder's temper was not always good, and those in close asso- ciation with him must have had a good deal to bear, now and then ; and it was not improved by the peculiarity of his position at Wehnar. He was in constant protest, morally, against the spirit and the doings of those who had placed him there. He was faithful to his bourgeoisie up-bringing; scandal was never breathed regarding the purity of his life ; and to eite early letters in such a way that they might be taken as evidence of the overstrained sentimentality that garnished the 4' moral cloaca," is hardly fair to his memory. Goethe tried to do a certain End of justice to Herder, but, in one respect, he was not, and could not be, wholly just to him ; and for this simple reason, Goethe had rather mournfully to admit that Herder's personal influence was so great, that in the interests of morality it was efficient against him. We find Goethe pathetically acknowledging to Eckermann in after-years that Wieland, who

• Germany, Praeat mut Past. By .7. BarIng-clould, M.A., Author of the "Vicar of Morwenatow," to. In 2 yob. London ; 0. Regan Paul and 00.

had long been so subservient, was taken away from him by Her-. der ; and surely that was a remarkable triumph! Mr. Baring-Gould, when he so referred to Herder's letters, ought to have distinctly intimated this. We have read faithfully Herder's" Nachlass," as well as the collection of letters, &c., edited by Dr. Emile Gottfried von Herder, and though we think that Herder might have shown more of the wisdom of the serpent in following Frau von Stein's shrewd example, and have burned those silly, high-flown epistles that too often passed in early days between him and his bride ; yet seldom have we found in the case of any man of his type a more constant or a more beautiful testimony in later life to the self-denial and sympathy of married life. And it may be noted, as not a little significant, that the mother of Goethe in so many points should have shared the over-tolerance and selfish- ness of nature that so marked the Duchess Amelia. What Goethe owed to his mother had not a little to do with the traits that linked him so closely to the Duke, and so efficiently helped to create and to maintain that "moral cloaca" at Weimar.

Refined and thoughtful as the Frau Riithin Goethe was, she did not shrink from such an acknowledgment of poor Christiane Vulpius at the first as was calculated only to encourage such alliances ; and we are compelled in charity to suppose that Christiane was more cultivated than some would have it, else the Frau Rathin would not have cared so obtrusively to treat her as a daughter before she was a wife. Either this ; or, it is all the worse for the Frau Riithin. Mr. Baring-Gould has missed a good opportunity, we take it, for more fully, decisively, and seriously bringing out what so well deserves to be brought out,—the peculiar combination of traits in such women as these, and the circumstances that produced them, as well as the mischief that they did to society and to morals, a mischief which in results yet remains to witness for them. Christiane Vnlpius, if ignorant and uneducated, deserves far less of reproach than they do ; and certainly of her, Mr. Baring-Gould, following the "crowd of witnesses," speaks only too unfeelingly and contemptuously.

Another little point. Surely that slightly-laughable incident of the big and brawny, but really refined and high-minded soldier, Count Schaumburg-Lippe, carrying the small., deformed Jew philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, over the ditch, in his arms, hardly exhibits anything of the true relationship between them, and should have been qualified by a little more of sympa- thetic relief. When we remember that the Count and his wife had been so affected by the death of their only child (a sorrow which neither of them ever got over), and that they had begged this visit at Biickeberg from the author of the Plundon,in the hope, perhaps, of some comfort to their bereaved souls, the grotesque might have been a little relieved by the pathetic, and a nearer approach also made to an exhibition of the better aide of the German life of the time, which surely so much needed it. The same defect meets us elsewhere. Mr. Baring-Gould's injustice to Protestantism and his exaggeration of the value of everything Catholic, is a vital error; only his bias is so transparent, that he has in part provided the antidote himself.

And now comes the pleasanter task of praise. Mr. Baring- Gould has wisely begun at the beginning, in a most clear and efficient way exhibiting the peculiar elements which go to make the German nobility a very mixed as well as a very " select " order. The "mediate" and " immediate " in certain ranks is admirably explained and illustrated. Much that he has to say will be new and even amusing to many English readers, who will deeply feel the contrast between the "order of going" in Germany and in our own country. In Germany, in spite of a pre- tentious aristocracy—the one part of which formally and really lords it over the other—precedence is, in fact, regulated by military rank, a circumstance which leads to many unexpected complications. Novalis's father, grand, upright old Harden- berg, the salt-mine surveyor (who felt it no degradation faith- fully to serve his office, as his forefathers, no doubt, had belonged to that order which ploughed their own lands, and could take their place of precedence, too), we remember, was very emphatic in saying that he vastly preferred the old Baron to the new-baked Count. Some of the reason that lay in his little epigram may, perhaps, be found in this passage from Mr.

Baring-Gould's second chapter :—

" In Schiller's letters we get a picture of the old landed gentry as they were, and as they were being made. On December 8th, 1787, he wrote from Schwarzburg-Itudolstadt :—` I have met in this neigh- bourhood with some interesting families. For instance, in the village of Hochheim is a noble family, consisting of five young ladies—in all, ten persons,—living in the old patriarchal way, or reviving old

Knights' manners. No one in the family wears anything which is not of home manufacture. Shoes, cloth, silk, all the furniture, all the necessaries of life, and almost all its luxuries, are grown or manufactured on the property, many by the hands of the ladies, as in patriarchal days and in the times of chivalry. The greatest exterior cleanliness and order, and even display and beauty, please the eye ; of the ladies, some are young, and all are simple and true, like the nature in which they live. The father is a sturdy, honour- able landed noble, a famous sportsman and a generous host, and, I must add, an inveterate smoker. Two hours distant, in a village, I have met with a house the reverse of this. There lives the Chamber- lain von Stein, with his wife and nine children, on an extravagant, princely footing. In place of a house, they have a castle ; in place of society, they hold a court ; instead of plain dinner, a dress dinner, in French fashion. The wife is a vaporous, false, intriguing creature, and hideous as falsehood, but all in the best Parisian ton. The young lady is very pretty, but the Devil rules the mother, and would not let her permit the young girl to travel with us. Herr von Stein is a dignified man, of many good and shining qualities, fall of entertain- ment and propriety, but a libertine to the highest degree."

Such was the effect of the French influence on the German nobility. Mr. Baring-Gould has many good remarks on the patriarchal elements in the widely-extending caste which does so much to divide German society, in spite of the commonalty that should be infused by universal military service, in which the sons of counts and princes stand and fight alongside of the sons of peasants and burghers, as was the case, for example, with the sons of Prince Bismarck in the recent war. Still, as Mr. Baring-Gould says," the German soldier is the German Bauer in uniform," and stolidly stands apart, wherever you place him.

The chapter on "Marriage" is one of the most valuable. Besides many statistics presented in the most condensed form, Mr. Baring-Gould has some very suggestive inferences. The purely secular character of marriage has not been found to favour morality ; and what is of equal interest, efforts to circum- scribe marriage by State enactments and conditions has, in some respects, been disastrous :—

"The teaching of Malthus was taken up by a shoal of advocates on the platform and in the press ; and the German Government became uneasy and alarmed at the rapid increase of population. Bavaria, a poor land of mountains, sandy flats, and forest, became most anxious to arrest the growth. Laws were passed throwing every conceivable impediment in the way of marriage, making it a privilege of the rich and an impossibility for the poor. Candidates for hymeneal happiness were required to appear before official Boards, and prove that they had fortunes which could dower daughters, and set up sons in life. They had not merely to count their chickens before they were hatched, but also to satisfy the village vestry that they had barley on which to feed and fatten them. How these laws acted common-sense will tell. In 1870, the pastor of the Evangelical German Church at Paris stated that there were in the Preach capital 10,000 from Darmstadt alone occupied as street- sweepers, who had fled their country to escape compulsory celibacy. That these laws should enormously increase the per-centage of ille- gitimate births is not to be wondered at. Bavaria has hardly yet recovered the demoralising effect of Malthusian legislation. The proportion now is 13.70 per cent., the same as in Berlin, but it is de- clining annually. Prussia alone of the States of the Blind placed no impediments in the way of marriage. In Mecklenburg, on the contrary, the 3falthusian laws were in full force ; the population de- creased, and the price of labour rose. After a while, the North German Band followed the example of Prussia, and later these laws were cancelled everywhere in South Germany."

The present military system, so much praised from some points of view, has its own drawbacks, viewed in relation to this point :—

" What has been given with the one hand," says Mr. Baring-Gould, "has been taken away with the other. The first and beat years of a man's life are taken from him, and it is rarely possible for him now to found a household before he is forty. Universal military service, Malthusian legislation under another name, it is equally ruinous to the welfare of a country. Prosperity is to be found in burying the dragon's teeth, that men may spring up, not in rooting them out of the soil and converting them into murderous fangs."

We wish we could have found space to speak of the peasant proprietors and their burdens, of which our author has so well spoken ; but we must pass on, to note the admirable practical points that present themselves in the chapter on education, the gist of which is that the intellectual and systematic side is overdone, and physical development neglected, —a matter about which our own institutions and School Boards cannot be too well warned. Our author writes :—

"If the child be taken, and for ten hours in the day be made to focus its eyes on tiny characters six inches off its nose, and this pro- cess be prolonged for twelve or fifteen years, then the eye is educated to short-sightedness. It is not given time for exercise in focussing itself en distant objects. Naturally calculated to see what is distant, as well as what is near, by our school exigencies we rob it of its faculty to see what is afar, and screw it to a focus six inches beyond the tip of the nose. Curtail the hours of school, or in school use oral teaching, instead of books, and rigidly forbid a child a book out of school, and it will not grow up to use spectacles."

And yet the help of the parents in the preparation of the tasks is rightly deemed by wise educationists an essential matter, and the Scotch are as well educated as they are greatly on this account, and yet are not, as a nation, short-sighted. Dr.

Boginsky says that the day's schooling in Germany

"Leaves the boys in the evening prostrate, listless, and without. appetite. They are apathetic to everything that encourages health, and at night suffer from want of sleep or toss in their beds, and are

afllicted with headaches The school system is such a strain on the vital energies of youths that their physical health would be permanently deteriorated, did not the year of military service come in, like the jubilee, to give the exhausted frame rest and time for re- covery, by emancipating it for a twelvemonth from the exactions of the brain."

And yet other authorities lay all the blame on the military service, which must be kept in the eye from the outset, and everything crushed into a definite period, that each one may be ready for it. The chapters on "The Army," "The Kultur- kampf," "The Stage," "Music," "The Labour Question," and " Democracy " are full of information, and each would justify an article to itself. We can but repeat what we have already said, that the book is valuable, both as an addition to the litera- ture of knowledge and to the literature of power, and it cannot. but do much to lead to a better understanding among us of German institutions and of German habits and customs, and must therefore aid in developing a truer sympathy on our part.

towards a great and nearly-related people.