Edward Edgeworth.

Human German online

. (page 8 of 20)
Online LibraryEdward EdgeworthHuman German → online text (page 8 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of six distinctly cultured ladies from Zehlendorf,
Berlin, S.

Five hundred thousand leave the World-City in
summer ; the saying is that only house-porters,
brewers, and burglars stay at home. The porters
stay to look after the flats ; the brewers to look
after the brew ; the burglars to look after the
silver. The porters profit most. The porter has
charge of the whole empty house, which has two
dozen flats. To him, before leaving, you hand your
door-keys ; if not, you are liable for losses when a


fire or a barrel breaks out, and the porter can't enter
to extinguish it or drink it up. This trust of your
property puts responsibihty on the porter ; and when
you get back you give him correspondingly *' drink-
gold." But that is only one thing among many
duties and tips. His highest office is Zoo-Curator.
To him you entrust your dog, your cat, your canary,
your gold-fish, your Hanschen's white mice ; and
he stores them with the dogs, cats, canaries, gold-
fish, and white mice of others in one room which
he shares with his wife, seven children, and niece.
You pay him to feed them. He feeds them usually,
and if he forgets the cat there are openings for its
own initiative. When you return he hands you an
opulent cat, and the canary's cage with memorial
feathers. You tip him for taking care of your
letters, and once more for losing them ; and you
tip him for keeping the prowling burglars out ; and
a second time for letting them in.

The burglar's lot is bettered. In winter days he
lives still worse than in England, where he climbs
easily in through ground-floor windows. But the
World-City's five-storied houses are fortresses. Their
doors, back and front, are double-locked at night ;
and when the burglar breaks through, and gets
to the general staircase, he has yet to tackle the
hall-door of your flat. So for eleven months there
are no burglaries at all ; the burglar decays to a


mere ingenious thief, who enters by saying he's
come to mend the gas, or to collect pfennigs for
Pensions for Postmen with Wens on their Necks.

Summer brings the burglar a transient Golden
Age. People are at Heringsbucht or Schellfischdorf,
and if once he enters a fiat he may stay for weeks,
and write monographs. And to get in is easy. The
porter is disarmed by beer, heat, and work. He is
watering your balcony flowers, or feeding Mizzi
the dachshund ; his wife is busy feeding the gold-
fish ; his children are busy feeding the white mice ;
the canary is busy feeding the cat. That makes
clear why nine-eyed summer sees threefold more
burglaries than dark, propitious winter. So the
burglar profits, the citizen who stays at home and
the brewer in the saying also profit. They enter-
tain no burglars ; bribe no porters ; feed their
own animals ; take in their own letters ; and water
their own flowers and beer.

Newspapers find in German holidays a vicious
change. Luxury, they say, is guilty. In olden
days all men did as decent Gamradt does : took
their families to tedious holes by the sea ; and
yawned virtuously. This habit decays. Husbands,
corrupted by world-city ism, send their wives and
infants early to the seaside ; and take their holidays
later, and alone. This, say scaremakers, is spoiling
Germany ; and they point each August to a waxing


crop of murdered husbands, beaten wives, litigious
servants, medical poisoning, and — worst of human
torments — the dilemma of choice between a weak
and human wife and a triumphant, immortal cook.
The fact is, mamma, squat Julius, Gustav, and pasty
Aennchen make for Schellfischdorf ; while papa,
swearing like us he has lost money in Schantungs,
stays spartanly at home ; and later (because of
overwork) starts for curative Ostend on pain of

Hence the insidious institution, the Strohwitwerzug,
the Straw- (which means the Grass-) Widow Train.
German straw- widow trains are tires omely full of
dames and maids without cavaliers, and babes
without papas. Some console themselves at Schell-
fischdorf ; not for nothing is the damp British word
" grass-widow " inflammably Germanised to straw.
The ignition point is ten degrees below.

This leads to family dissension. The fact is, while
gracious lady starves on shellfish at Schellfischdorf,
her straw-widower husband is being spoiled by
regenerated servants. When freckled gracious-
lady comes back, she finds unexampled bills, un-
exampled paunches, unexampled dyspepsia, and
unexampled cookish grins, the grins of menials
who have been told for weeks on end that they
keep house fiftyfold better than gracious lady.

This is Hedwig's vengeance. For eleven months


of despotism and unearned flouts she pays herself in
four ecstatic weeks. When gracious lady departs,
the comfortless flat flashes into a palace. Hedwig,
who wouldn't learn to boil water, is found reading
Grimod de la Reyniere. Formerly there was no
flower on the table, but much flour in the soup ; the
sole was like lemon sole, and the beef like boot-sole ;
the potatoes like sponges and the pears like potatoes.
All this miraculously changes when gracious lady

Not only with LucuUus feats does the reptile cook
silently condemn her mistress ; but for the first
time in the flat is felt the touch of a woman's hand.
Everyone seems to think of gracious Herr. When
exhausted gracious Herr returns at five a.m. from
a board-meeting (at the Palais de danse), he finds
in his room a dish of peaches, three bottles of seltzer,
and — provident Hedwig overlooks nothing — a spoon
and bicarbonate of soda. And naturally gracious
Herr, who reasons lucidly (next morning), sees that
gracious lady is a heartless, incompetent hussy,
whose one function as wife is to check an all-provident
cook. When gracious lady gets back she finds
gracious Herr fat, rosy, and bright of eye, but
inexplicably complaining of overwork (at the Palais
de danse). He is packing his bag for a fortnight in
curative Ostend — the one alternative to final nervous
collapse. And next evening one more straw- widow-


train steams from Friedrichstrasse, packed with
nervous wrecks for Ostend, town of good, un-
German inns, crisp dinners, and melting pears and
maids. The while at home diabolical Hedwig
regains her congenial baseness ; there is flour in
the soup but no flowers on the table, the sole tastes
like boot-sole ; and gracious lady . . .



Turn him to any cause of policy,

The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,

Familiar as his garter {Kitt^ Henry V).

GERMAN lawmaking mechanism, compared
with Britain's, looks remarkably effective ;
but Britain's reviled lawmakers have more
business-like ways and do more work. That is our
judgment after hearing seven debates on Reduced
Veal Duties in Wallet's sugar-sweet Itahan-Renais-
sance pile at Konigsplatz, " which cost over a
milhon pounds," says Herr Gamradt ; "which is
worth under a milhon marks," says Letitia.

It is a well-arranged building. There is a sessions
hall actually made for sitting in, with room for
everyone, without any possibility of a struggle for
seats. It is the usual continental amphitheatre ;
and there are desks for members, each with its
human label. There is, high up, a President's
table ; lower, the Speaker's tribune ; lower still,
the shorthand table ; and on both sides seats for
Bundesrat members and bureaucrats. The Chan-
cellor sits to the right. The gallery is for princes,



diplomats, pressmen, and lookers-on. You may see
there the Crown Prince booing pusillanimous Chan-
cellors ; the British Ambassador hearing the truth
about Britain ; distinguished and infamous corre-
spondents ; and the citizens Metzing, Stockmann,
Kruger, Gropius, and Kutchinski, all up from
Nassau to hear their member speak. Their wives sit
near them — even in the restaurant you will not find
a grille.

Seen from our seats, the Reichstag breathes a
decent bourgeois air. Its note is mild. The aristo-
cratic handful does not look aristocratic ; the rest
does not look professional, commercial, literary, or
proletarian — it looks bourgeois. The many Social-
Democrats who war on bourgeoisie look most
bourgeois of all. Ten members would pass the Tailor
and Cutter. Uniforms, on Government representa-
tives, appear when Defence questions come up.
The Tories (Konservative) have some washed es-
quires ; their tail, the Imperial Party, has diplomats
in retreat whose clothes reflect Bond Street ; the
National Liberals are redeemed socially by a prince ;
the Radical People's Party is indiscriminately
intellectual ; and the Socialists, who ought to be
fierce and flame-eyed, look like ill-paid, pale-
tempered clerks.

The Reichstag is not literary. When Excellency
Herr State-Secretary Privy Councillor Posadowsky


introduced a Bill against Phthisis with the words :
" In Schiller's incomparable Werther ..." seven
members grinned ; the other three hundred and
ninety telephoned their booksellers to send up
Schiller's Werther, with a list of Herr Schiller's other
recent books. Such a Reichstag differs from the
Reichstag of Frankfurt, which provoked Heine's
brightest gibe ; from later Reichstags also, which
had Mommsen, Treitschke, Gneist, Beseler, and

Reichstag work is dry. Long speeches and long
sessions are rare ; and obstruction is unknown.
But many parties mean many speeches. Often each
puts up two speakers on everything. No man
knows how many parties there are. Official Election-
returns name sixteen, not counting the Savages —
the non-party Wilde. There are five parties worth
mentioning. The practice is to accept as an inde-
pendent " fraction " any group with fifteen members
or more. A fraction has its own committee and
chairman ; and a servant paid by the Reichstag.
Members are independent, and often a party vote is
split ; the fractions, in fact, are fractious, though
rarely — even Letitia says — vulgar fractions.

Reichstag work is done in fraction meetings and
committees. In the committees the fractions are
represented. The chief committee, the " Senior
Convention," arranges work. The Reichstag itself


judges the validity of elections. The test Com-
mittee counts fourteen members, who divide the
work. No member reports on the case of a party
friend. The Reichstag Plenum speaks a final
decision. Challenged members sit. In contested
elections tons of papers are read, months are taken
to decide : one contest lasted five years ; and the
challenged member sat, voted, travelled at the
nation's cost, and drew his £150.

The Budget Committee stands highest. It hears
in closed session declarations on policy and arma-
ments. It is sharp on economy. Government
speakers are heckled for days over squandered
pfennigs. A Commission of twenty-eight handles
petitions. Each session brings fifteen thousand,
mostly demands for pensions, complaints by un-
promoted postmen, and rhetoric against boracic
acid preservatives. The private citizen holds that
the public citizen should work.

The Reichstag is bare of comedy. Good-humour
prevails, but no humour : sitting on a hat would
sooner provoke a challenge than a laugh. There are
no Suffragists. During a debate on oxen (a theme
which always crowds Reichstag benches) a farmer
cast down pamphlets, shouting, " Votes for Cows'
Rights, not Women's." Once a wretch scattered
patent medicine advertisements. The Reichstag
has no tradition ; and most of its hoariest tales were


made last week. Sometimes you hear of the hat-
trick, a tale genuinely dating from years when no
wage was paid. In those days counts-out were daily ;
so Herr President, instead of tediously counting
members, sent a lackey to the cloak-room to count
their hats. The Opposition, which needed a quorum,
brought twenty duplicate hats ; and with them
made laws for months. And then the Bavarian
member who rescued sixty marks. The clever man
ingeminated twenty times a single speech and
delayed a division until the Munich train brought
along three colleagues, who must each have paid
twenty marks had they missed the division.

Twenty-marks' fines are almost the only meat in
the soup of Reichstag wit. The fines arc imposed
because Reichstag members, being paid and privi-
leged, are under compulsion to work. Their privilege
is juristic immunity. During the session civil actions
against members lie dormant, even if the members
want them tried. During the session, and eight days
before and after, the member travels free. In order
to get full value from this privilege the patriot
Reichstag adjourns itself instead of letting itself be
prorogued ; and in this way it gets free traveUing
practically all the time. The wage (Marks 3000) is
called " compensation for outlay." For years the
Reichstag asked in vain for wages ; and since the
Constitution forbids wages, the Bundesrat opposed.


But as unpaid members would not attend, and no
work was done, compulsion was put on members
in the shape of M.3000 a year, and M.20 fine on
absentees. The Reichstag sits about 150 days a
year ; so the M.20 is one day's wage. In the couloir
stand lectern desks with lists for signature. Members
are fined even for missing divisions ; were they not,
say writers on Reichstag ethics, they would drop in
once a day, sign the list, and then patriotically flee.
Socially the Reichstag member is no great shakes.
Not even to his constituents in Schmutzendorf-
Klein-Schonhauser-Galtz. He keeps no position,
feeds no parasites, bribes no football clubs. Periodi-
cally he is entertained by an hospitable Chancellor —
asked, that is, to a " beer evening " or "a cup of
tea " — Eine Tasse Thee. The President holds parlia-
mentary evenings. There are no town houses.
Members live in furnished lodgings or in bad hotels,
patronised, like Ulster shebeens, on party lines.
The Centre Party formerly kept alive a whole hotel.
Parties keep a decent union — except when dividing.
Each has its wine-shop or beer-hall, where colleagues
meet of an evening to explain why they voted
against the party and to drink to party unity.
Socialists alone condemn this party levity ; they
show justly ascetic, righteously reproachful scowls ;
and they make merry either not at all or somewhere
unknown to anyone mysteriously on the sly.


Reichstag parties are not — in British sense —
patriotic. Their pocket-attachments are strong ;
they hate to vote an army corps or a Dreadnought ;
and they consider just taxes are taxes paid by
others. But though they grudge pfennigs for
slaughter, lawmakers are not Pacifist. Here they
faithfully represent the German people. There is
little war spirit about, but there is less peace spirit.
There are no German peace apostles. Frau Baroness
von Suttner and Herr Fried, who write in German,
are Austrians. Professors of internal law mostly
concentrate on the laws of war ; the most prominent,
Baron v. Stengel, represented Germany at the
Conference of Peace and went home and wrote books
glorifying war. England, France, and America have
scores of peace societies — even mild, Tripolitan
Italy has thirty-two — but Germany has a thin seven.
The Press is not Pacifist. Newspapers stand for
Peace because Peace means good business. They
are content to oppose war as bad business. They
print cartoons laughing at peacemakers and gibing
at the Cause of Christendom, the Conscience of
Europe, the Brotherhood of Burglars. The Sociahsts
themselves are no Peace-fiends. They attack Chau-
vinists and Navy Leagues because these are rascals
and spend the pfennigs of poor Herr Master- Plumber
Schultz ; but with denunciation their zeal ends.
Nowhere do you see a creative glorification and


deification of Peace. No one writes Peace romances
of Utopia, or draws Peace-virgins in diaphanous
smiles twitching ohve-twigs over a regenerate earth.

The cause is probably that Germans are not war-
Hke. Only a Jingo brood, like Britain's, know the
true passion for Peace. To exalt a heavenly principle
you must have earthy aims ; and the absence of
earthy aims marks off Germans from Europe.
Other nations want things. Frenchmen want lost
provinces ; Italians want to civilise — or plunder —
Libya ; Danes want the Duchies ; Englishmen want
everything. But Germany lacks a national objec-
tive. Her plots are mostly British chimeras. The
national brain is cold at the thought of Holland,
Denmark, the German domains of Austria. There
is no ideal of colonies, and steaming past Gravesend
with a broom at the masthead is a goal too far off.

Having no hungry ideals, Germans are depressed.
Their individual ideals — making money and looking
Tyrolean — are no good substitute for national
aspirations. They have " a low tide in soul," as
Shelley said. Their Government has a similar
stagnant mood. Its favourite theme is that nothing
will ever happen ; and that nothing need ever
happen. The Empire is glorious ; Bismarck is
great ; the Constitution has reached its last, un-
improvable development ; and all things, in the
way of Herr Dr. Phil. Leibniz and Herr Dr. Paed.


Pangloss, are for the best in the best of possible
Empires. Thus Germany is shorn of divine dis-
content, the fructifying stimulus of races and men.
This low tide in soul checks Peace enthusiasm, and
therewith checks War enthusiasm. The two go
together. " Peace societies know that," says Herr
Gamradt, " and that is why they condemn war
generally ; and alwa3'S praise their own country's
wars. For what would become of Peace prophets
were not war waged once a week to prove their
indispensabihty ? "

Also the thinness of sentiment on Peace, War, and
other high ideals comes from the national absorption
in local and sectional things. That explains the
threadbare party politics. Not politics, but religion
in shape of a Protestant-Catholic feud. Business in
shape of Protection and Socialism, Particularism in
shape of inter-State animosity are the dynamic
impulse of the so-called pohtical machine. These
unpohtic antagonisms show no abatement. The
Jesuit Law crops up to-day as furiously as in the
'seventies ; Protectionists and Free Traders fight as
in 1878 ; Socialism makes dissension — as all along ;
Land remains at strife with Finance ; Prussians
still condemn Bavarians as drones ; and Bavarians
believe that Prussians eat their children, and drink
their beer without radishes. In particular Socialism
and anti-Socialism rend the nation — they rend it


with a fissure deeper far than any mere Tory- Radical,
Repubhcan-Democrat cleft. This, mainly because of
panicky outbursts by Emperors, kings, policemen,
and retired photographers with three hundred a
year. Not, says Herr Gamradt, because of its
merits. Ideological basis it has none. Its passion
for schism has destroyed that ; and only by thinning
principles down to water does it get its heretics to
drink. The store of doctrinal purity is too small.
Millions — 4,259,000 — call themselves Sociahsts ; and
flop about in red ties and noses ; but when you start
to question, they answer : " We're most unyielding
Socialists, but naturally we don't accept the absurd
Socialistic doctrine." Hence the spread of Socialist
Revisionism under Herr Eduard Bernstein, who has
been telling Germans for fifteen years past that
Marx was a very great thinker, and was right in
everything except his premises, conclusions, and
prophecies. Herr Bernstein got himself proscribed,
and managed to tear the Socialist Party nearly in
twain ; but of late the Anti-Marx Marxians have
had the upper hand ; and the Pro-Marx Marxians,
though holding stoutly to all the founder's dogmas,
have been forced to surrender to Revisionism in the
matter of tactics.

The feud of Socialists against Non-Socialists, of
Marxians against Marx is part of that universal
fissiparous Particularism which till lately made a


Germany of a hundred states, and still makes a
Germany of six-and-twenty. It has compensations.
SociaHst tyranny over Socialists is the joke of
politics ; and nothing lends brighter change to
morning journals than the passions of minor states.
Like poets, the states reject the predicate ; but you
can gallop through some before breakfast ; and in
hill-strewn Thuringia you can walk over six before
night. All have sovereigns, heirs, overceremony-
masters, debts. Court theatres. Court scandal, and
Court plaster : and most have implacable hate for
unresenting Prussia.

By malice of geography these cannot lose Prussia
from sight. Some, like Schaumburg-Lippe, Prussia
encloses and severs from civihsed parts. Others, like
Brunswick and Hesse, she merely chops into forlorn
slices. The unluckiest, like Waldeck, she at once
surrounds and permeates, for sprinkled miserably
on Waldeck's resentful inside are one-mile forests
and six-hectare meadows which own to Prussia's
sway. In Southern regions, when you think the
enemy far, you find yourself on a Prussian knife
which sticks in Wiirttemberg's vitals. There are
men who say they know a Prussian enclave by its
dreary neatness of landscape.

This is stretching Prussophobia ; but temperance
is no virtue of minor states. In zeal to punish
Prussia these states, says Herr Gamradt, have


contemplated war. Years back, when feeling ran
still stronger than now, Herr Lessing-Riicksack of
Schaumburg-Lippe proclaimed universal boycott.
He discovered that the foe owns twenty patches
inset ("paste gems," he said, "in gold") in more
honourable states, all remote from Prussia's parent
territory. The paste stones Prussia ruled through
tax-gatherers, school-inspectors, and other itinerant
oppressors, who travelled without hindrance through
the states of gold. The Lippe Hampden preached
that the golden countries must challenge the right
of way, and cause Prussia to rue her pilfered eminence
and Low-Dutch cheek. The boycott failed. On
day of outbreak Herr Lessing-Riicksack inherited
eighty marks from a dead cousin in Liegnitz, to be
paid only on condition he graced the funeral rites.
At Lippe frontier a Prussian gendarme sent him
imperatively home. " Prussia," said the gendarme,
" has proclaimed a boycott of Lippe." And he
opened a map. Only then did Herr Lessing-Riick-
sack, who had diligently studied other countries'
frontiers, learn that his native land is itself enclosed
by Prussia, and that without grace from the enemy
he must stay at home for ever.

In private matters grave dilemmas rise. Bruns-
wick has a schoolboy, blessed with considerable
wealth, who lives captive on territory which he
may leave only by sacrificing every mark. His


name is Fresser. The property comes from the
Hannoverian patriot Fresser, who fought Prussia at
Hohensalza. Fresser never forgave his country's
foe ; and he tied his lands with the hmitation that
no tenant for hfe should set foot on Prussian soil.
As Prussia encloses Brunswick young Fresser never
leaves home. What is worse, Prussia slices Bruns-
wick into sections ; and since luckless Fresser dwells
in the smallest section, he may never even visit
Brunswick town. The Kreishlatt says that Fresser
should fly with Count Zeppelin. But his guardians
fear that the airship might drop in a Prussian rye-
field, and transfer young Fresser 's riches to his
kinsman, Fresser zu Schmalz.

Unluckily, questions of policy cause discord not
only with Prussia. The quarrelhng states of
Thuringia have at times surpassed the Balkans.
Herr Gamradt says that in these conflicts Coburg
commonly wins, so much so that other Thuringian
states fear to give her offence. Her hegemony was
established by an adventurous stroke. She had an
outstanding dispute with Saxe-Meiningen over a
share in the salary of an assistant veterinary surgeon
who served both states. Meiningen was obdurate.
Coburg sought a weak spot in Meiningen's armour.
She discovered that a considerable part of Meinin-
gen's revenue came from the taxation of the pros-
perous beer-house, " The Glacier and Stocking,"


which hes near the frontier. Tourists from all parts
of Coburg and Meiningen came to a frontier seat in
Coburg which commanded a famous view ; rested,
and then made for the " Glacier and Stocking,"
where they quaffed deeply to the profit of the host
and of the state. In this situation Coburg scented

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEdward EdgeworthHuman German → online text (page 8 of 20)