Clement Theodore Perthes.

Memoirs of Frederick Perthes, or, Literary, religious, and political life in Germany, from 1789 to 1843 (Volume 2) online

. (page 5 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

dashed again. No one, who knew as I did, the weight of the
fetters that a weary body imposed upon so active and intense
a spirit as hers, could believe that she could long endure it.
She has suffered much for a long time, and it is a hard
struggle for one so excitable and energetic, to feel herself con-
stantly bound. It was only her genuine Christianity, and the
consideration of the sufferings of our Lord, that supported her
and kept her patient, yea cheerful, and preserved her sym-
pathies to the last. I alone knew how weak she was, and how
much she suffered ; her friends and acquaintance saw only her
kindness and her mental energ3^"

On Friday, 24th August, frequent and violent attacks of
inward cramp placed her life in immediate danger, and from
this time she alternated between wild delirium and exhaus-
tion, struggles for breath, and profound sleep ; but there were
occasional hours of freedom from pain, and of perfect consci-
ousness, and then the peace of faith, the assurance of hope, and
the joy of love, were victorious over suffering and death. Dur-
ing these last days, Perthes enjoyed the most perfect resigna-
tion and peace. " Your mother is very ill," he says in a letter



LAST DAYS OF CAROLINE. 5o

to his sons-in-law, written on the 28th August ; " we are in
God's hand, and may hope, although we have more cause for
fear : I find my comfort and support in submission ; Thy will he
done, Lord. If God has ordained the death of your pious
mother, His will be done : I could not count much on my
own strength, — the rending of such ties is terrible ; it is ter-
rible to be left without the only creature who entirely knows
me, — sad, desolate loneliness, long or short, is all that remains,
no more comfort of mutual co-operation, no helper in all joys
and sorrows. I cannot and dare not hope ; it is only when I
realize the worst that I find comfort and support." On the
evening of the day on which this letter was written, on 28th
August 1821, shortly after nine o'clock, a stroke of j)aralysis put
an end to Caroline's life so suddenly, that no pressure of the
hand, no word or look of love, gave token of farewell to those
around her. Without making any unnatural efforts, without
constrained resignation, Perthes gave himself up to the sorrow
so natural on such a loss, but which yet is found only in con-
nexion with Christianity, because it presupposes the necessity
of submission and hope. " Here I am with my poor children,''
wrote Perthes on the following morning to his son-in-law,
" and life looks empty and desolate ; we seek for the overflow-
ing affection that has been so richly granted to us ; and yet,
since we could have it onl}' by bringing back my Caroline and
your mother, could we wish that her free and pious spirit
should be again imprisoned in the body ? My poor little chil-
dren, — you older ones have had the benefit of your mother's
mind, — but the younger ones must for ever miss her love and
her watchful spirit : God help them and me. It breaks my heart
to see the little ones seeking up and down for their mother



56 I'IFE OF PERTHES.

everywhere, and to hear their sohs when the}- do not find lier.
The corpse is inexpressibly beautiful, from the height of the
forehead and the sweet loving smile that plays about the
mouth." In a letter written on the same day to his son Mat-
thias, Perthes says, — " Her love can no longer bless us here
below ; she is at rest with God, while wo mourn her loss : weep
as much as you can, then compose and command yourself, and
come to us." — " My sorrow does not make me idle," wrote
Perthes, a few days afterwards, to his daughter, " it rather
rouses my affections, and excites me to be helpful to all around
me, as far as I can ; I have abundant cause of thankfulness,
that for four-and-twenty years God permitted me to enjoy this
treasure of affection, energy, and intelligence, and I would
render thanks to Him for this. Now she knows how and
wherein I sinned, as she could not know here below, but now
she also realizes the full measure of my affection. How many
are the hindrances, and limitations, and circumstances, great
and small, that oppose our recognition of the love that is in
other men's hearts ! That she now knows me thoroughly, and
helps me to cleave to God and to walk before Him, I am fully
persuaded, though I am aware that Ptevelation gives no express
countenance to this belief" In a subsequent letter Perthes
says, — " All that I have done and planned, that was not imme-
diately connected with business, has for four-and-twenty years
been solely in reference to your mother ; she never knew, at
least in full, how dependent I was on her ; she only thought,
through the depth of her love for me, what sacrifices I had
made. But now all this is over, I am no longer bound, I can
do what I will, and next to the yearning after her, I am most
oppressed in my solitude by the consciousness of freedom. I



LAST DAYS OF CAROLINE. 57

know "by long experience the instability of man wlien lie is left
alone, and if humility can bring down help from above, I may
venture to hope that it will not be denied. If it were not for
you, children, my wish would be to depart, but my course is
not yet ended, and I must continue to struggle and to act."
In a letter to his son at Tubingen, he says, — " In my heart all is
dark and desolate ; I long for communication with some loving
soul, as if communion with the Invisible were not enough, and to
this disquiet is added the anxious fear, lest when time shall have
cooled down my burning sorrow, my affection for your mother
should also suffer some diminution." Again, after a few weeks,
he wrote, — '' I am now more reconciled to the transition from
that yearning which arises from bereavement, and neither can
nor should be permanent, to a continued life with the beloved
one in the immediate presence of God and our Saviour : I
trust I have found that peace of God, which is the only rest of
the soul."

In a letter to Helena, the sister of F. H. Jacobi, who had
been a motherly friend to Caroline from her girlhood, Perthes
gave a lively picture of the great blessing which he had pos-
sessed in Caroline. " You, indeed, early appreciated the worth
of my Caroline, but, removed as you were from her in these last
years, you could not see the development of her mind ; her
piety and loveliness, and the simplicity of her character, were
untouched by years, and her affection, while it retained all its
strength and depth, expanded in every direction, and showered
blessings and benefits on all within her reach. She had coun-
sel, comfort, and help for all who approached her, and won
love, and an esteem bordering on reverence from persons of the
most opposite character and circumstances. Caroline's ima-



58 LIFE or TERTHES.

ginatioii was of unparalleled vivacity, and originated the deep-
est sympathy with all that was passing in the world. She had
much experience of human nature, but her judgment w^as
always loving and pitiful, her faith was free from the narrow-
ness of the letter, and great as was her affection for me, she
was perfectly independent in mind. For four-and-twenty years
we have lived together through cares and anxieties, sometimes
through sorrow and trouble, but in all she was happy, for every
moment was filled with love and lively sympathy ; always
resigned to the inevitable, she preserved her heroic spirit in
great events. That poverty of spirit, so extolled by Taulerus
and Thomas-a-Kempis, was hers ; she had acquired it in strug-
gling with a vigorous nature, to which passion, impetuosity,
and ambition were not unknown. From her earliest youth she
had lived in continual intercourse with God, and she was sin-
cere as I have known few besides. And now this great and
rare blessing is lost to me in the grave, — in vain I stretch out
my arms ; humanly speaking, I am alone, and yet I have a
foretaste of a previously unknown blessedness, since our souls
may now meet unfettered ; but this may not be put into
words, since once uttered it becomes untrue."

After Caroline's death, Perthes felt the constant bustle of
business more painfully than ever, while for the motherless
children a quieter life and a simpler style of living seemed in-
dispensable. He had long planned the transfer of the Ham-
burgh business to Besser, and the removal of his own residence
to Gotha. There, in the centre of Germany, he proposed to
establish a publishing business, and henceforward exclusively
to devote himself to this quieter and less wearing vocation.
After Caroline's death, he resolved on carrying out the long



LAST DAYS OF CAROLINE. 59

cherished purpose with as little delay as possible. " Next
Easter we shall come to you, and, if it please God, stay with
you; this resolution is not forced on me by excited feelings,
but has been carefully considered, and is wise and necessary."
— " The househeeping can be carried on as usual," he says in
a subsequent letter ; " Matilda is active and sensible, and has
conducted it with discretion and judgment beyond her years,
durino- her mother's illness. She still continues to take care
of the younger children ; but apart from all other considera-
tions, I should be doing injustice to Matilda, if by remaining
here I were to oppress her youthful spirit of seventeen, by
leaving so much under her charge."

The winter of 1821-22 was occupied with preparations for
the transfer of the business and the removal to a new homo.
Mauke, who had long borne the burden and care of the vast
business with Perthes, was now taken in as a partner, and
things were put into such a train, that, if the Gotha plan suc-
ceeded, the final arrangements would not be difficult. But the
separation from the friends of his youth, and from all the
associations of his past life, was far more painful to Perthes
than the dissolution of his business relations ; with the former
he had experienced the full joy and the full sorrow of life ;
amid these he had learned and suffered, wrestled and enjoyed.
Thus he wrote in January : — " I will not tell you how I passed
Christmas and the New Year ; they were heavy, heavy days,
and heavy days are still before me. Every step, every stroke
of the pen vibrates in my heart, and seems to say, At last .'
Thirty years of my life have been passed in this neighbour-
hood ; here I have won all that was dear to me, a calling, in-
fluence, and consideration ; here I met ^vith Caroline, and here



60 LIFE OF PERTHES.

I found God. It is no light matter to leave a house and city,
men and associations, with which my own life has grown
up, and I feel it deeply ; but it is needful for me to keep
up my spirits, since I have not only to preserve my own com-
posure, but also to keep my heart for others, well-resolved
indeed, but not cold or insensible. I do my utmost to bridle
the outer man, and may God help me to overcome the weak-
ness that is within." At the close of February, Perthes
wrote : — " An hour ago, your Wandsbcck grandmother left
our house for the last time. How many days of joy and
trouble, of sorrow and anxiety, she has passed here ! Here
two of her grandchildren died ; from this house she saw us
driven out into the world as wanderers ; in this room she wit-
nessed the departure of her husband and daughter — and now,
in a few weeks, our place will no longer be found. When such
depths of feeling, usually fast sealed up, are opened, and a
heart that retains in advanced age all the energy of youth,
gives way to the profoundest grief, it is hard to preserve one's
calmness. It was one of the hardest and most painful trials
of my life." Just before he left Hamburgh, Perthes wrote a
few farewell lines to the Countess Louisa Stolberg : — " The
time is come when I must take leave of the home and place
where I have enjoyed so large a measure of happiness in affec-
tionate and intelligent communion ; my heart is oppressed
with sorrow, but I humbly trust that strength will be given
me ; to you, my dear maternal friend, for the sake of our old
associations and acquaintance, I send a parting greeting. How
often has my beloved Caroline taken up the pen to bid you
farewell — but she could not : deeply did she feel and return
your love ; of this you are well aware : let us cleave to each



LAST DAYS OF CAROLINE. 61

other in faith, till we too are gathered to the abodes of peace
and light/'

On Wednesday, the 22d of March 1822, Perthes, with his
four children, left Hamburgh, and on the following Monday
reached Goth a, where, as he had anticipated, a calm and
peaceful, but not inactive, life awaited him.



62 LIFE OF PERTHES.



CHAPTER V.

CONDITION OF GOTllA, AND PERTHES* FIRST SETTLEMENT
THERE 1822.

Perthes had lived exactly half a century, when called upon
to begin, as it were, a new life, under new circumstances. He
liad exchanged the bustle of a great seaport for a quiet retreat
containing about 12,000 inhabitants, an independent commer-
cial republic for a small German capital. Gotha cannot fail
favourably to impress all who visit it. It forms a crescent at
the foot of the Schlossberg, from whose summit the palace of
Friedenstein looks down on a green and fertile plain, and south-
wards to the glorious extent of the forest of Thuringia. Park-
like grounds, rich in old trees, grassy slopes, and flourishing
plantations, front the town on the opposite side, sheltering
the remarkably fine orangery of the ducal palace together
with many a pleasant pavilion, and giving to Gotha the appear-
ance of standing in the middle of a spacious park. On the
other hand, the narrow stream of the Leine, diverted with great
skill from the hills, rather displays than supplies the want of
water in the district, and the wide extent of treeless, level
ground, between the forest and the town, intersected, at the
period of which we speak, by no good roads, removes the
mountain range to a considerable distance. Although it be true
that Gotha is too small to possess any independent political



Perthes' fiest settlement in gotha. 63

importance, yet, from time to time, it lias exercised a marked
and peculiar influence over tlie spiritual life of the nation.
During the period of the Thirty-years' war, Duke Ernest the
Pious impressed the religious character of the Reformation so
firmly on the forms of church and school, law and discipline,
that they retained it, even Avhen the spirit that first gave
them birth had passed away. We owe Veit, Ludwig von
Seckendorf, and August Hermann Franke, to the Gymnasium
of the pious Duke. The following century witnessed the utter
extinction of creative energy in the German nation, and all
that the best men of the time could do, was to collect and
preserve the works of happier days. This national collecting
tendency was specially exemplified in Gotha, where a library
and a cabinet of coins were formed, on so large a scale that they
still rank among the first in Germany. During the latter half
of the eighteenth century, however, the revival of literature
awoke new life in the land. A few years after Lessing had, in
1768, begun his dramatic works, it was the court theatre in
Gotha in which, of all German boards, they were first acted. It
was here that Eckhof found a refuge, Duke Ernest the Second
directed his attention to the new phenomenon, Fr. Wilhelm
Gotter poetized, Iffland and Beck played, and Reichardt began
his Theatrical Calendar in 1775. In short, the Gotha stage
assumed that prominent position occupied at a later period by
that of Mannheim, under the management of Ifiland ; of Ham-
burgh, under Schroder's ; and of Weimar, inidcr Goethe's.

Contemporaneous with this outbreak of theatrical activity,
was the change wrought in real life. The mass of the educated in
Germany was seized with the spirit of " Illumination," the more
or less practical human intellect deciding, that while free to lose



64 LIFE OF PERTHES.

itself at will, in external and internal experiences, as Goethe
expresses it, that only which was intelligible, that only which
appeared useful to every mind, should be authoritative in religion
or art, education or politics. The Duchy of Gotha was promi-
nent in carrying out this decision. Salzmann founded Schnep-
fenthal in 1784, and wrote his Carl von Carlsberg ; Rudolf
Zacharias Becker published in the same year the universally-
read National Advertisers, and in the following, his Noth und
HidfsbikJdein, of which a million copies were soon circulated.
Moritz August von Thiimmcl wrote from Gotha, and Weiss-
haupt, driven out of Bavaria in 1785 as the chief of the Illumi-
nati, was allowed, unmolested, to end his days in Gotha. So
strongly, indeed, had the new way of thinking stamped itself
upon this small State, that it remained dominant here, even
when in most other circles it had begun to yield, though only
in questions of art and philosophy, to the attacks of the heroes
of our literature. Gotha, meanwhile, appeared to have ended
its spiritual life, remaining in the same state of development
that it had reached in the last decade of the former century.

Together with the rest of Germany, Gotha was dragged into
the whirlpool consequent upon the first French Revolution ;
but however strongly the period, dating from Luneville to the
second peace of Paris, had convulsed the whole country, it
had not been able to overcome the tenacity inherent in Ger-
man character and outward circumstance. In many a small
state the good old times had passed over unchanged into a
new epoch, and in the Duchy of Gotha when Perthes first
settled there in 1822, both town and country aftbrded a picture
of manners, customs, and regulations, which carried one back
to the years immediately preceding the Revolution. Eveiy



Perthes' first settlement in gotha. 65

evening the streets of one-storied houses were filled with cattle
returning from pasture, and by night the only sound heard in
them was the loud horn of the watchman and his pious cau-
tion, — " Put out fire, and put out light, that no evil chance
to night, and praise we God the Lord." The streets were
lively only on the weekly marhet-days, when the robust form
of Thuringian peasants, with their gaily dressed, healthy-look-
ing wives and daughters, selling corn and wood, butter, flax,
fruit, and other country and forest produce, filled the square
in front of the old town-hall, on whose roof a greedy-looking
wooden head opened its mouth wide at the striking of the hour,
as if uncertain whether to speak or bite. There were a multi-
tude of strange relics of a past time which met the stranger at
every step, though the inhabitants of the place hardly remarked
them. Day by day a little man, in a blue coat with shining
buttons, mounted on a pony smaller still, might be seen wend-
ing his w'ay midst the confusion of heavily laden wagons,
which were wont to rest a night in Gotha on their way from
Frankfurt to Lcipsic. This functionary was the Weimar escort,
the terror of the wagoners, looking out for any defaulters among
them who had not paid the tax formerly levied in return for an
armed escort, which served as protection against the assaults of
knightly highwaymen. Long as this custom had become obso-
lete the fee was still rigidly exacted, as well as the town-toll,
from wagons which were not permitted to go through but only
around it. Not less notable to the youth of the place were
the giant forms of the guard, with their wide white cloaks down
to their heels, their great swords at their side, their heavy boots
and clattering spurs, though horses they had none. Peaceful,
friendly, obliging people they were, carpenters, locksmiths,

VOL. II. ^



66 LIFE OF PERTHES.

joiners, who, while following their respective trades, were ac-
customed to figure as warriors, so many times a month, for a
moderate compensation. There were only about six or eight
uniforms for the whole body, which were passed on from one
to the other. Any one crossing the town at mid-day, was sure
to meet an elder scholar, followed by ten or twelve smaller
boys, ]-unning in breathless haste through the streets, singing
a chorus the while, in hopes of thus collecting a few pence.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays the choristers of the Gymna-
sium stationed themselves, in their black cloaks and three-
cornered hats, before the doors of the wealthy, thus, by means of
their persevering quartetts, extracting enough to support them
during their school career.

As for family life and social intercourse, nothing could be
more simple. The men assembled in the evenings in groups,
composed of those of the same trade and condition, and en-
joyed their long pipe over a glass of beer, and even the woman-
kind of the more cultivated families made afternoon visits to
each other's spinning rooms. The theatre consisted of a large
room in a mill, where all classes, indiiferentl}'', might, for a zwan-
ziger, gain admission to benches from whence to contemplate
the strolling players. Any expensive outlay in eating and
drinking was reserved for extraordinary occasions ; the rooms
were, according to the old fashion, small and low, the furniture,
generally of deal, was at the very utmost of the cherry-wood of
the district, and, in short, unostentatious comfort and scrupulous
cleanliness everywhere prevailed. In trade and business too the
old customs still endured. The different guilds were assiduous in
preventing those who were not members of them from procuring
employment ; the saddler might not make a portmanteau, the



Perthes' first settlement in gotiia. 67

loclcsniitli was forbidden to interfere with his brotlier of the
anvil, and the tailors were sure to institute a crusade against any
needlewomen who might venture to overstep the limits of their
peculiar calling ; the right of brewing was confined to certain
firms, which, according to rule and precedent, supplied the citi-
zens with a beverage, thin and sour enough. All intercourse
with the small villages around was carried on by means of a
walking post, who indulged in a perpetual warfare with the
post-office authorities of Thurn and Taxis. The Thuringian
forest was only traversed by the Tambach and Schmalkalde
roads, and though the great highway through Gotha from
Leipsic to Frankfurt was kept alive all the year by count-
less wagons, it did not yet boast a mail ; and when in the
September of 1825, the first Diligence entered Gotha, the
whole town assembled to gaze upon the phenomenon, and for
months nothing was spoken of but the energy of the Post-
master-General, Nagler, who had actually brought seeming
impossibilities to pass. In other directions the roads were
impassable after rain, and journeys, whether of business or
pleasure, had to be postponed till dry weather.

Nor could any one have guessed from the political condition
of the Dukedom that it had belonged for long years to the
Rhenish Confederacy, and that Duke Augustus had been
one of the most fervent adherents of Napoleon. The law of
the land was still, and had been for ages, a heterogeneous
medley, which no one could understand, and yet which all
needed to understand in self-defence. The higher departments
of office were almost exclusively filled by the numerous nobles
of the small territory. Without an army in which to take
refuge, without state-diplomacy in which to entangle them-



68 LIFE OF PERTHES.

selves, and without extensive landed possessions to fill up their
minds, the nobility assumed, not indeed, a political but an ex-
clusive social position, partly because they themselves desired
it, but still more because the untitled classes pressed it upon
them. The State College was at once the chief tribunal and
the highest administrative power. Now, because in the solu-
tion of legal difficulties, it was obliged to decline all interfer-
ence from the Duke and his ministers, it grew impatient of their
control in affairs of civil government also, and assuming an atti-
tude of almost complete independence, became inactive through
very arbitrariness. The reigning Duke since 1804, Augustus
Emilius, had, in the days of Napoleon, averted many a misfortune
from his country, but later, his out of the way love-aifairs, strange
sallies, and w^ay ward fancies, had injured his reputation, and the
ministers, among whom was Ilerr von Lindenau, did not exer-
cise an elevating influence over the affairs of the community.
This state of things corresponds closely with the position of
the nobles and towns which, in the year 1809, united to form
the Rhenish Confederacy. In short, the epoch of the French
Revolution had passed away, scarcely leaving a trace behind,