Bertha von Suttner.

Ground arms! The story of a life online

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A. D. 1892.


The author of " Ground Arms!", Baroness von Suttner,
is an Austrian of the upper class, the daughter of an Aus-
trian general. Before the appearance of this work she
had written several witty and tender society novels she
is a sentimentalist of the German type but she had given
no evidence of greater power. She is a handsome, brill-
iant woman of the world, who has become thoroughly
imbued with the importance of the higher education of
women. In " Ground Arms! ", where she stepped at once
upon a higher plane than she had occupied in any pre-
vious work, she emphasizes the necessity of this better
training for women if the highest degree of civilization is
to be attained by the world at large. She reasons, like
Mr. Herbert Spencer, though she does not clothe the
thought in his words, that if woman is to perform all the
duties of her station, the era of universal peace, secured
by international arbitration, must first be secured.

To hastening the advent of the rule of justice obtained
without force she seems now to have largely devoted her
life. Recently, as Vice-President of the International
Peace Congress at Rome, she stood on the rostrum to
address a most brilliant and distinguished assembly the
first woman since Corinna, whose voice has been heard
within the walls of the famous capitol.

The success of " Ground Arms! " in Germany has been
amazing. In the Austrian Parliament grave ministers of
finance have commended its reading; all ranks of life


have been profoundly impressed by it, and able critics
have compared its influence in Germany to that of
" Uncle Tom's Cabin " in the United States.

This effect is largely due to the terrible tension of the
public mind in Europe, caused by the daily and hourly
anticipation of war. Baroness von Suttner is keenly
alive to the spirit of the times, and she has written this
book with a hot heart and a burning pen. Naturally she
has not escaped the attacks of the believers in the jus-
tice and prudence of the present condition of things, and
is accused of belonging to the sentimental company of
apostles and owners of patent rights to reform and regen-
erate the world. The book is a crusade against war, and
its whole object is to present the claims of the individual
and the family as superior to those of the state; as an
individualist she presses the claim of every human being
to the ownership and control of his own life. Then,
regarding the family as the social unit, she emphasizes
the claim of wife and child as far superior to that of
church or state.

Though " Ground Arms! " is apparently a very simple
story, its philosophy is profound; but so quietly and un-
pretendingly is it unfolded, that we are continually sur-
prised by the strength of the author's logic. We are
sometimes oppressed by her method, which is often pain-
fully realistic, and in other respects is similar to that of
many of the noblest spirits of our time the method
prompted by the Weltschmerz, the groan of the world,
which too often cripples our efforts because of its good-by
to hope, but in her case inspires to work of a very noble

This cry of a weeping, passionate woman is but an echo
of the conscience of the times. So long as it remains
true that, in the main, diplomatists and kings plot wars,


not always with the special aim, but certainly with the
result of arresting the social development of humanity
it being with them a struggle to ignore as long as possible
the individual rights of man so long must such books as
this aid in the advance of justice. It may not be to-day
or to-morrow that this influence will prevail, but it is
certainly in the trend of modern thought, and tends to
aid the tremendous social and moral revolution which all
reflecting minds must see approaching.

Any progress in the development of states through
war and revolution our author regards as entailing such
heavy misfortune, retrogression, and demoralization to
the individual as seriously to retard the general welfare
of humanity. This is the natural standpoint of the evolu-
tionist, who applies his principle to sociological prob-
lems, and in so doing antagonizes the revolutionary ideas
of radical socialism.

There may be some who will be offended at the half-
cynical way in which Baroness von Suttner exposes the
egotism of man, in ascribing to the Christian God con-
venient sympathy with conditions which are relics of bar-
barism ; but such should bear in mind that she has no
contention with the principles of the founder of Chris-
tianity, only a very serious quarrel with the misinter-
pretation of these principles, and with the practical
neglect of their application. In this countless numbers,
within and without the pale of the church, will agree
with her. Everywhere society is rebelling against the
abuse of the principles of Christian philosophy. Among
all sects, keen-eyed clergy are despairing of past methods,
and from them comes often enough an arraignment of
the church for its failure in the practical application of
the principles of its faith. Even the non-believer in the
miraculous origin of the Christian religion is sturdily


fighting for the application of its ethics while stemming
the force of time honored precedents. The main feature
of Christ's life and teaching, it is now everywhere
acknowledged, is to fit man to live with man, not to
prepare him for the hereafter unless the doing of the
one may be considered an assurance of the other. The
author of " Ground Arms ! " is right when she practically
asserts that when in the development of society Christ's
tender philosophy controls the world, there will be an
end of war.

A. A. A.



FIRST BOOK 1859, - - n

SECOND BOOK Time of Peace, - 42

THIRD BOOK 1864, - 86

FOURTH BOOK 1866, - - 129

FIFTH BOOK Time of Peace, 212

SIXTH BOOK 1870-71, - - 244

EPILOGUE 1889, - - 272



AT seventeen I was a curiously overwrought
being. It would be impossible for me at this
date to comprehend my girlish peculiarities, were
it not for the diffuse and pretentious diaries which
have been carefully laid away, thus marking the
progressive stages of my life. There lie, cruelly
impaled, my long-lost enthusiasms, convictions of
which not a shadow remains, views no longer in-
telligible, sympathies dead and buried and gone
to judgment. I am thus, though somewhat bewil-
dered, able to get some inkling of the character
of the vacuity of the silly, pretty head writing all
this rubbish. Even of this beauty I now find but
little trace, anxiously as I may study my mirror,
though old portraits are my surety for its existence.
I can well imagine what an enviable creature
this Countess Martha Althaus must have been.
Young, handsome, popular and petted. But sin-
gularly enough these red-bound diaries indicate
more melancholy than joy in life. Can I actually
have been so silly as not to realize the advantages
of my position, or only so unbalanced as to believe
that these sorrowful sentimentalities were interest-
ing and particularly valuable if expressed in some-
what poetical prose ? My lot appeared unsatisfac-
tory, for I find in one of these precious documents:
"Ah, Joan of Arc! heaven-blessed heroic virgin,
could I but wave the oriflamme of France, crown
my king, and die for country my dear country!"


The opportunity to gratify these modest ambi-
tions appears to have failed me. The noble army
of Christian martyrs seems next to have been re-
garded as worthy of emulation (date, 19 Septem-
ber, 1853), though this r^also proved to be equally
difficult of imitation. I evidently was forced to the
realization that all these glorious opportunities
for action, after which my soul thirsted, were
forever closed to me, that therefore my life was a

"Oh, why did I not come into the world a boy"
(this was a frequent form of denunciation of fate,
delivered in melodious measure at spasmodic
intervals). Then fortune would have been kind
and opportunity golden. Of feminine heroism his-
tory inscribes but few examples. How few of us
appear to have Gracchi for sons! How seldom it is
our mission to carry our husbands through the
Weinsberg Gates, or to cause fierce, saber-swinging
Magyars to shout: " Long live Maria Theresa, our
king! "

But when one has the advantage of masculinity
one can buckle on the sword and dash abroad to
win fame and laurels, capture a throne, like Crom-
well, or an empire, like Napoleon. I remember
distinctly that the very highest type of manhood
seemed to me embodied in a military hero. For
learned men, poets, and adventurous discoverers of
new countries I had some slight respect, but
admiration, simon-pure adoration, I laid at the feet
of the military hero and winner of battles. Such
are the makers of history, the leaders of the fate
of empires. In grandeur of character, in nobleness
of motive, in all but god-like attributes, these ex-
celled all other human beings as Alpine or Hima-
layan peaks tower above the grass and wild flow-
ers of the valley. From all of which it appears
that I possessed what is popularly considered an
heroic nature; while the truth was simply this: I
was enthusiastic and passionate, and these pecul-
iarities were naturally diverted into this channel


by the character of my education and my environ-

My father was an Austrian general, who had
fought at Custozza under " Father Radetzky,"
whom he absolutely adored. What have I not
heard in the way of stories of camp and field. He
was so tremendously proud of his military advent-
ures, and so thoroughly enjoyed the relation of
his campaigns, that I actually pitied other men who
lacked a similar experience. What a fearful dis-
advantage to woman that she is forever cut off
from the opportunity of such service to her country,
to honor and duty. At that period we heard but
little of the emancipation of women, and though
the precious little we did hear was coupled with a
covert sneer, I grasped the emancipation idea from
one side only. I was determined women should
have the right to go to war. How enchanted I was
with the story of Semiramis or Catherine II: "She
made war upon this or that neighboring power
she conquered this or that kingdom."

History is responsible for this training of youth
to the idea of the glory of war. From baby days
it is stamped 'upon the impressionable childish
mind that the God of Battles has ordained wars,
and that this divine ordinance regulates the history
of nations; that these are engaged in the fulfill-
ment of immutable decree, a law of nature, like
tornadoes and earthquakes, which from time to-
time will not be stemmed; that though atroci-
ties and wickedness, sorrow and heart-breaking
anguish are bound up therewith, these cannot be
avoided, and must be recognized as a portion of
the inevitable. The magnitude of the result
attained for the advantage of the many justifies
the sacrifice of the happiness, the interests, or the
very life of the individual. Is there a nobler death
than comes in the line of duty on the field of honor
a more enviable immortality than that of the
heroic soldier?

Lo! There it all stands clear as sunlight in all


the primers and readers for the use of schools,
where, instead of a genuine history of the devel-
opment of nations and humanity there are only
long lists of battles, and wonderful and entrancing
stories of the military prowess of individual heroes.
It all belongs to what is popularly considered a
necessary system for the development of patriot-
ism. That every child shall be made a fit and
willing defender of his country, his enthusiasm for
this first duty of the citizen is most carefully cul-
tivated. His natural sympathy with humanity,
his instinctive horror of inflicting suffering upon
others must be as carefully repressed. The inborn
divine impulse of hatred for the barbarism and
inhumanity of war becomes so warped by careless
and superficial treatment of this part of the story
that only the impression of the old national ideals,
so useful for the aggrandizement of nations, can
remain. And we succeed thereby in building up
a valorous and war loving race.

The girls who are not allowed to go into camp
being drilled out of the same books and sub-
jected to the same system, develop a like admir-
ation for war and the military service. Delightful
pictures for gentle women for we are told we must
be tender and gentle are delivered to us in fright-
ful stories of carnage and rapine of all the battles
of the earth from the Biblical and Macedonian and
Punic down to those of the Thirty Years' and the
Napoleonic wars. Naturally through such repe-
tition one's perception of the horrors of the thing
become calloused. Everything which according to
the rubrics of war must be expected is no longer
judged from the standpoint of humanity, but re-
ceives a quite special, mystical, historical, political
sanctification. It must be it is the source of
highest dignity and honor. The girls have not
learned all the military odes by heart for nothing.
And so we hear of that stronger race, the Spartan
mothers, and the women who present battle flags
and regimental colors, and the numerous admirers


of brass buttons, who make the officers' corps play
the role of happy belles by their invitations during
the " German."

I was not educated in a convent, as is generally
the case in my rank of life, but had tutors and a
governess at home. I lost my mother early and
her place was in a measure filled to the children
there were four of us by an aunt. We spent our
winters in Vienna, our summers on the family es-
tate in Lower Austria. Being an ambitious scholar,
blessed with a good memory, I was the joy of my
teachers. Since I could not attain the coveted
career of an heroic female warrior, I excited the
admiration of all around by my enthusiastic essays
upon those of either sex who had thus made the
world's history. French and English I acquired
perfectly. Of natural history, astronomy, and
physics I mastered all that was then considered
adapted to the feminine comprehension, but to the
history of nations there was no limitation, and I
devoured everything within reach in my father's
library. But for piano playing I had an uncon-
querable aversion. Long and earnestly I pleaded
to be excused from such a waste of precious time,
and finally by my obstinacy induced my father to
grant me immunity from this torment contrary to
the scandalized conviction of my aunt, that in so
doing I ignored the chief and most important part
of education.

On the tenth of March, 1857, I celebrated my
seventeenth birthday. " Already seventeen," I find
set down under this date. This "already" is a
poem. Without further commentary it seems to
signify "and nothing done for immortality."

It was arranged that during the approaching
carnival I should be introduced to society. This
gave me no such pleasure as is generally felt by
girls. I had some higher aims than ball-room con-
quests. What were these ? I had frequently
asked myself this question without being able to


answer it. Possibly it was love I was unknowingly,
blindly waiting for. All these glowing aspirations
and ambitious dreams which swell the human
heart during the youth of either sex, and which
under all forms thirst for knowledge, for travel,
for action seek gratification, are mostly only the
unrecognized struggles of an awakening desire for

During the summer my aunt was ordered to try
the springs at Marienbad. She found it conven-
ient to take me with her. Although my official
recognition in the social world was not to take
place until the following winter, I was allowed to
attend several small dancing parties as a sort of
practice in behavior, so that I should not appear too
shy and awkward when that time came. But what
happened at the very first of these "re-unions?"
A serious, impassioned attachment. Of course the
object was an officer of the Hussars. Naturally I
had no eyes for civilians when the military were so
largely represented. Among the most brilliant of
this dashing branch of the service Count Arno
Dotzky was the leading star. Over six feet in
height, with black, curly hair, gleaming teeth, dark
eyes, piercing and tender in short, upon the
question: "Can you give me the cotillion, Count-
ess?" I was satisfied there were triumphs as
glowing as waving the oriflamme of France or
carrying the sceptre of Catherine II. And he, the
two-and-twenty years old lieutenant, dancing with
the prettiest girl in the room (after thirty years one
may be allowed to say so), flying down the hall in
waltzing time, doubtless thought: " For you, my
sweetheart, I would not exchange a marshal's

" But Martha, Martha! " scolded my aunt, as I
sank breathless upon the sofa at her side, covering
her with the swaying clouds of tulle of my dress.

" Oh pardon, pardon, Auntie," I exclaimed. " I
cannot help it."

" How can you conduct yourself in such a man-


ner with that Hussar and to look at a man in such
a way!" she exclaimed. I reddened deeply. Had
I behaved immodestly? And what would the in-
comparable creature himself think about it.

From these dismal doubts I was relieved during
the evening when my adorer whispered anxiously :

"You must hear me now, this evening: I love

That sounded rather different from the famous
voices heard by Joan of Arc. But we were dancing
and I could not answer him. He led me into a
corner and eagerly continued:

"Answer, Countess, what have I to hope for."

" I do not understand you," I replied.

" Do you not really believe in love at first sight?"

Up to the present I had had grave doubts upon
this subject.

" I throw myself upon your mercy," he exclaimed;
"you or no other. Decide for life or death. Life is
not worth having without you. Will you marry me? "

To such a furious and direct attack I was forced
to answer. I should have liked to invent some
diplomatic, dignified reply, which might leave him
a fragment of hope and yet preserve my dignity,
but could master nothing more than a very abashed

" Then I can call upon your aunt in the morning
and write to Count Althaus."

Again " yes " this time more courageously.

"What a happy man I am! So you loved me at
first sight?"

This time I answered only with my eyes, which,
however, uttered an unmistakable "yes."

We were betrothed on my eighteenth birthday,
after which I was presented at court. Upon our
marriage we undertook an Italian journey, for
which purpose Arno was granted a long leave of
absence. Of retirement from the army there was
never a thought. True, we each possessed a hand-
some fortune, but my husband loved the service,


as I also did. I was proud of my elegant Hussar
and looked forward to his certain promotion to
be a captain, then of course a colonel, possibly a
military governor, or, who knew but he might be-
come a field-marshal should glorious war give him
the opportunity to serve his country.

My note-books fail me entirely as to events dur-
ing our honeymoon. In truth, there are no notes
whatever of the happy periods of my life. I appear
in those long-lost years to have thought happiness
unworthy of record, while for every ail or peevish
humor of my past I found time to waste pen and
ink. As if when one went down into a rose garden,
one brought back naught but weeds and noxious

But I can remember it was a fairy story. I had
all that woman's heart could wish love, riches, rank
and health. We loved each other passionately, and,
as it chanced, my dashing Hussar was in addition
a manly, noble-hearted soul, with cultivated man-
ners and a merry nature. It would not have been
strange if he had turned out an evil and coarse man,
but heaven was kind. I, on my part, might have
proved the most peevish, discontented of my sex,
but fortunately I was a cheerful, loving woman. It
was not our own discretion which preserved us from
a mistake.

At last I find one happy event set down my
delight over my new dignity as mother. On the
first of January our son was born. Naturally this
event aroused as much astonishment and pride as
if we were the first pair to be so honored. For a
time my journal was full of comment upon the
mystical and sacred province of a mother. It is
the special aim of certain social rubrics entitled
"maternal love," "maternal happiness" and
"maternal pride," to magnify the office of a
mother. There is a class of literature and art care-
fully cultivated to this end, such as collections of
poems, baby songs, illustrated journals and picture
galleries, just as in another direction school books


are arranged for the fostering of an admiration and
love of war. Next to hero worship comes baby
worship. But ah! my son my manly, noble
Rudolph the love of your and my mature years as
far exceeds that baby worship as the character of
the developed man excels the nature of the nursling.
The young father was not a little proud of his
successor and planned the sunniest future. "What
shall he be?" Of course, a soldier. Sometimes the
mother would protest: "But he might be killed
in battle." " Nonsense; and if he were, one dies but
once, and where it is appointed one to die. We can-
not help it." Besides, we should have other sons.
Rudolph must be the soldier, like his father and his
grandfather before him. So it was settled. At
two months of age his vocation was marked out for
him. His father saluted whenever he was brought
into the room, and on his third monthly birthday
he was promoted to the rank of corporal. On that
same day a great anxiety darkened my life and I
flew to my note-book to mark how heavy my heart
had grown.

On the political horizon there had risen certain
suspicious, black clouds, commented on daily by
the press and wherever people congregated.

" There is going to be trouble with Italy," my
father, my husband, and their military friends had
frequently mentioned in my hearing. But I was
too much occupied to bother myself with politics.
But on that first of April Arno said to me:

" See here, Sweetheart it will soon break out."

" What will break out? "

"The war with Sardinia."

I was terrified.

"Gracious God that will be terrible! Must you

"I hope so."

" How can you say that ? Hope to leave your
wife and child?"

" When duty calls."

"Then we must be reconciled. But hope to
wish that such a bitter duty "


" Bitter? Why, such a dashing, jolly war will be
glorious. You are a soldier's wife do not forget

I threw myself into his arms.

"Yes, yes, I know. I can be brave. How often
I have envied the heroes of history; how I have
longed to go into battle. If I could only go with
you ! "

"All very fine, my wife, but impracticable. Your
place is here, at the cradle of our child, who must
grow up to be a defender of his country. Your
place is at the fireside. To protect this from the
attack of the enemy and secure peace for our
homes and wives we men must go to war."

I do not know why these words, which in similar
fashion I had read and admired, somehow this time
sounded like hollow phrases. There was no ad-
vancing army; no barbarous horde stood at the
door simply a political complication between two
cabinets. Though my husband insisted so enthu-
siastically upon going to war, there certainly was
no pressing necessity to protect wife, child, and
fatherland. It was mere love of adventure, ambi-
tion, justifiable ambition, a delight in bravely do-
ing one's duty. It was very fine in him if he must
go into the field, and one could still hope. This
and similar reasoning and lamentation fill several
pages of my note-book. Louis Napoleon is de-
nounced as an intriguer; Austria can not endure
it, and war will surely come, etc., etc.

The house was full of officers excitedly discuss-
ing the situation; my father was all fire and fury,
and his reminiscences became more diffuse. The
vital question, namely, what would be lost or won,

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Online LibraryBertha von SuttnerGround arms! The story of a life → online text (page 1 of 22)