George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 6) online

. (page 61 of 126)
Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 6) → online text (page 61 of 126)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and from his mouth came the famous
couplet :

" Who loves not women, wine and song
Liveth a fool his whole life long."

He was a complete man, we may say an

absolute man, in whom spirit and matter
are not separated. To call him a spirit-
ualists were as erroneous as to call him
a sensualist. How shall we express it?
There was in him a something original,
incomprehensible, miraculous, as we find
in all providential men ; a simplicity
that startled one, an unstudied v^'isdom, a
sublimity in his bigotry, an invincible
demoniac night. Honor to Luther ! Eter-
nal honor to the loved man, to whom we
owe the rescuing of our noblest posses-
sions and from whose benefit we this day
live. Ill does it become us to complain
of the contractedness of his views. The
dwarf, standing on the giant's shoulders,
can indeed see further than the giant, es-
pecially if he wear spectacles; but in
our high position we want the lofty
feeling, the giant heart, which we cannot
make our own. " Even Luther's faults
are preferred to other's merits, and there
is a degree of truth in the paradox. The
refinement of Erasmus and the gentleness
of Melancthon would have been many a
time insufficient, when the rude violence
of Brother Martin came in g:ood stead."
The Reformation was a good movement
in the time of it. Religion again became
true, the priest, no longer isolated, became



320



More Gossip from a New Contributor.



[Sept.,



a man, men became more virtuous, more
noble. " Among the Protestant clergy
we not rarely find the most virtuous men,
whom even the old stoics would have re-
spected." The Protestant clergy doubt-
less feel complimented when they read
this : " One must traverse on foot as a
poor student through the northern part of
Germany if he would learn how much
virtue is to be found in many a poor pas-
tor's dwelling. How oflen, in a winter's
night, have I met in such a one with a
hospitable reception ! 1, a stranger, bring-
ing no other introduction than fatigue
and hunger. And then, when I had eat-
en well and slept well, and would go on
my way in the morning, the old pastor
came in his nightgown, and gave me a
blessing on my journey, which never
brought me ill luck, and the kind-hearted,
loquacious wife slipped some biscuit in
my pocket, which never failed to relish,
and silently in the back ground stood the
pretty daughters, with their blushing
cheeks and violet eyes, whose modest
fire, barely in recollection, warmed my
heart the whole winter's day through."

" I have shown, above, how through
him we have attained to the greatest in-
tellectual freedom, but this Martin Luther
gave us the means as well as liberty of
movement. To the spirit he added a
body, to thought he gave the word. He
created the German language." High
praise is bestowed on Luther's translation
of the Bible and its extraordinary merit
as a literary performance in the then state
of the language, and on his original prose
writings; but, "More remarkable and
significant than these are Luther's po-
ems, the songs which he composed amid
struggle and trial. Oftentimes they are.
like a flower that grows upon a rock,
often like a moonbeam flickering over a
stormy sea. Luther loved music, and
composed a treatise on the art, and his
songs are thence singularly melodious.
In this respect the name of Swan of
Eisleben befits him, but he was anything
rather than that gentle swan in many of his
lines, where he e.xcites the courage of
his party and rouses himself to the wild-
est spirit of battle ;a war song was that
defiant hymn with which he and his at-
tendants entered Worms. The old cathe-
dral trembled at such novel sounds, and
the ravens were frightened in their dark
nests in the tower. That song, the
Marselloise of the Reformation, has pre-
served its inspiriting virtue to our day."
And how admirable has Carlyle, through



that faculty by which he can transfer him-
self to ])ast and foreign scenes, making
Luther's situation his own, rendered it to
English readers !

Now comes a series of portraits of the
leading writers on Philosophy, and com-
ments on their systems. 1 can only give
here and there a trait or a sentence. Rene
Descartes, and not Bacon, as we are gen-
erally told, is the father of Modern Phi-
losophy. Though a Fienchman by birth,
hefoundnoisy, bustling, chattering France
no fit soil for philosophy, and went to
write in Holland, the still, quiet land of
Frechschuits and Dutchmen. Spinoza is
lauded of course — pity that the followers
of his doctrine were not more practical ad-
mirers of his life. Frederick the Great,
you would hardly think to find in such
company: he is mentioned incidentally
and denominated " Crowned Material-
ism." " You know that he wrote French
verses, played very well on the flute,
won the baltle of Rosback, took a great
deal of snuff, and believed only in can-
nons. You know him, the royal philo-
sopher, whom you French have named
the Solomon of the North. France was
the Ophir of this northern Solomon,
and thence he obtained his poets of phi-
losophy, for whom he had a great fancy;
like the Solomon of the South, who, as
you may read in the tenth chapter of the
Book of Kings, ordered, through his
friend Hiram, whole ship-loads of gold,
ivory, poets and philosophers froraOphir."
Mendelsohn, whom his contemporaries
have named the German Socrates, was
the hump- backed son of a poor sexton
of the Depau Synagogue. He overthrew
the Talmud, as Luther had overlhrow-n
papacy. The Talmud was of worth
while Catholicism lasted, and by it the
Jew svvere enabled to resist — nay, to con-
quer — Christian, as Ihey had resisted
heathen Rome. " The poor Rabbi of
Nazareth, above whose dying head the
heathen Romans in mockery wrote,
'King of the Jews' — this same thorn-
crowned, mock king of the Jews, finally
became the God of the Romans, before
whom they must kneel — as heathen
Rome, so Christian Rome was conquered,
and even became tributary. If, dear
reader, you will repair to No. 15, Rue
Lafitte, you will see before the high
entrance a clumsy coach, and a stout man
alighting from it. He ascends the stairs,
and enters a little chamber, where sits a
fiir complexioned young man — older per-
haps than he looks — in whose manner



1847.]



More Gossip from a I^ew Conlribulor.



321



there is mingled, with the nonchalance
of high nobiiity, a something so solid,
so positii^e, so absolute, as if he had all
the money of this world in his pocket.
And he really has all the money of this
world in his pocket, and he is Monsieur
James de Rothschild, and the stout gen-
tleman is Monsignor Giimhaldi, repre-
sentative of his Holiness the Pope, bring-
ing in his name the interest of the Roman
loan — the tribute of Rome."

Since Luther, Germany has produced
no better nor greater man than Gotthold
Ephraim Lessing. Lessing died at Bruns-
wick in the year 1781, misapprehended,
abused, hated. In the same year there
appeared at Konigsburg the critique of
pure reason by Immanuel Kant. With
this book, a spiritual revolution begins in
Germany, that offers the most curious
analogies to the material revolution in
France, and that to the profound thinker
must appear of equal importance. It
develops itself under the same phases,
and a remarkable parallelism reigns be-
tween the two. On both sides of the
Rhine do we see the same rupture with
the past ; all respect for tradition is re-
nounced. As in France, every privilege,
so in Germany, every thought must be
justified ; and as here falls monarchy, the
key-stone of the old social order, so there
falls deism, the key-stone of the spiritual
old regime. It is difficult to describe the
history of Kant's life, for he can hardly
he said to have had one or the other.
He led a mechanically regular, abstract
bachelor's life, in a quiet, retired street of
Konigsburg, an old city on the north-east-
ern limits of Germany. I do not believe that
the great clock of the cathedral there per-
formed its day's-work more coldly or
more accurately than its compatriot Im-
manuel Kant. Rising, coffee drinking,
writiniT, lecturing, dining, walking — all
had their appropriated time; and the
neighbors knew that it was piecisely
half-past three, when Immanuel Kant,
in his gray body-coat, with his Spanish
stick in his hand, came out of his door
and walked to the little Linden alley,
which is still called from him the phi-
losopher's walk. Eight times did he
pace it up and down, through all sea-
sons of the year, and if the weather was
bad, and the dull clouds threatened rain,
old Lampe, his servant, was seen moving
anxiously behind him with a large um-
brella under his arm, like an image of
Providence. What a strange contrast be-
tween the outward life of the man, and



his destructive, world -crushing thoughts.
Verily, had the citizens of Konigsburg
guessed the whole significance of that
thinking, they would have felt a far
deeper dread of that man, than of an
executioner — an executioner who kills
men only ; but the good people saw in
him nothing but a professor of ))hilo.so-
phy, and when he passed by at the fixed
hour, they gave a friendly greeting, and
s^t their watches by him.

But if this great destroyer in the realm
of thought far surpassed Maximilian Ro-
bespierre in terrorism, there are still many
points of similarity between them. We
meet in both wiih the same inexorable,
trenchant, unpoetical, cold honesty; the
same suspicion, only that one exercises
it on thoughts, and entitles it cr?iique,
while the other applies it to men, and de-
nominates it republican virtue. In both
is displayed the highest type of cockney-
ism. Nature had intended them to weigh
out coffee and sugar, but fate willed that
they should weigh other things, and laid
in the scale of one a king, ot the other a
God." I will not shock you with the
blasphemous line that follows. After-
ward. Heine resents, with no good in-
tention indeed, quite ingloriously,a com-
mon sense argument against his own
hopeless belief, or rather disbelief, for his
Pantheism is no better than Atheism,
whatever it might have been to Old Ger-
many or to Spinoza. " The critique of
pure reason was the sword with which
deism was executed in Germany. Hith-
erto Kant has played the inexorable phi-
losopher : he has stormed heaven, he has
put the whole garrison to the sword —
there is no more boundless mercy, no
fatherly kindness, no future reward, no
present forbearance, the immortality of
the soul lies at its last gasp, — it groans —
you hear the death-rattle — and old Lampe
stands by with his umbrella under his
arm, a sorrowful spectator, while sweat
of anguish and tears run down his cheeks.
Then Immanuel Kant takes pity, and
shows that he is not only a great phi-
losopher, but also a good man ; and he
deliberates, and says, half good-naturedly,
half ironically — " Old Lampe must have
a God, otherwise the poor man cannot
be happy; but man should be happy in
the world — so says practical reason ; for
all that 1 care, practical reason may an-
swer for the existence of a God." In
pursuance of this train, he distinguishes
between the theoretical reason and the
practical reason, and with the latter, as



322



More Gossip from a New Contributor.



[Sept.,



with a magic, wand, he reanimated the
corpse of deism, which the theoretical
reason had killed."

Poor Heine ! I pass over what is said
of Fichte, a portraiture of Goethe, that
contains many discriminating touches
and that would offend his extravagant
admirers, Hegre and the comments on
him, and leave the book. "Our philo-
sophical revolution is ended. Hegre has
closed its great circle."

The first part of the first volume treats
of French painters, politics, and religion ;
then comes " Poems," which should not be
translated, nor read in the original; then
Memoirs of Von Schnabelwopski, the
opening of which — 1 do not know what
its esoteric sense may he — furnishes a
valuable mode! for biographers. " My
father's name was Schnabelwopski ; my
mother's Schnabelwopska; I was born
in lawful wedlock, April 1st, 1795, at
Schnabelwops (in Poland, as you have
discovered, if you have read aloud).

" My grandaunt, the old Frau Pifit-
zha, watched over my early childhood,
and told me many entertaining stories,
and often sang me to sleep with a song,
the words and air of which have slipped
my memory. But I shall never forget
the solemn way that she wagged her
trembling head while singing, and how
melancholy the great, solitary tooth, the
hermit of her jaws, then looked. I also
often think of the parrots, over whose
death she wept so bitterly. The old
great-aunt is now dead herself, and I am
perhaps the only one in the wide world
who still gives a thought to her dear
parrot. The cat was named Mimi, and
our dog loli. Our man-servant was
Preschtzztuitsch. To pronounce this
correctly you must sneeze twice. Our
maid was Sarutszka. Besides these, two
bright black eyes ran about the house,
that they called Seraphine. She was my
dear, good little nurse, and we played
together in the garden, and watched the
house-thrift of the ants, and caught but-
terflies, and planted flowers. She laugh-
ed like mad, when I planted my little
stockings in the ground, thinking that a
great pair of hose for my father would
grow up from them ! My paternal grand-
father was the old Von Schnabelwopski.
I know nothing of him, except that he
was a man, and that my father was his
son. My grandfather on the mother's
side, was the old Von VVIrfTruski ; he is
painted in a scarlet-red velvet coat and
a long sword. My mother used to tell



me that he had a friend, who wore a
green silk coat, rose-colored silk breeches
and white silk stockings, and twirled
his chapeau bras fiercely, when he spoke
of the king of Prussia."

Have you learned more, Lem.,from
the first chapters of half the lives, me-
moirs and biographies that you have
ever read, than from ihe above ? I think
that with change of names — or without
—it might be substituted for the first ten,
fifty, or hundred pages of many a book
that only becomes of interest when it be-
gins to tell us of the man about whom
we desire to know. What is it to you
or I, whether some man's great-grand-
father were a shoemaker in full standing,
or only a cobbler, or whether or not he
had any discoverable great-grandfather
at all ? Great-grandfathers are no great
rarities. Schnabelwopski, who, in the
second chapter, apparently becomes
Heine himself, is obliged to leave home.
On his way to Leyden, he stops at Ham-
burg.

" The city of Hamburg is a good city.
Not the wicked Macbeth, but Banquo
reigns here. The ghost of Banquo rules
throughout this free city, whose visible
head is an ancient and worshipful senate.
The Hambilrgers are good people, and
eat well. Their opinions concerning re-
ligion, politics and science, are discord-
ant, but the finest harmony prevails in
regard lo the table. Hamburg was built
by Charles the Great, and is inhabited by
80,000 little people, none of whom would
change places with Charles the Great,
who lies buried at Aix la Chapelle. The
population may amount to an 100,000;
I cannot speak with accuracy, for though
I passed whole days in the street, to see
the people, I must have overlooked many
a man, while my attention was more par-
ticularly directed to the ladies." These
are represented as rather material than
spiritual in appearance, but not unat-
tractive. As for the men, they were
mostly thick-set bodies, with cold, calcu-
lating eyes, low foreheads, loosely pend-
ent cheeks, the edacious organs won-
derfully developed. They wore their
hats as if nailed to their heads, and their
hands in their pockets, as who should
say — What's to pay .' Having treated
somewhat at large of certain unvirtuous
characters, he, by way of apology and
counterpoise, introduces to the reader
two very correct ladies whom he became
acquainted with. I think I have seen in
my travels — of course there are none such



1847.]



31ore Gossip from a New Contributor.



323



here at home — near relatives of Madame
Pieper and of Madame Schnieper. " The
first was a handsome woman of mature
years. She had large, dark eyes, a high,
white forehead, false black hair, a bold
Roman nose, and a mouth that was a
guillotine to a good reputation. Verily,
for the execution of a fair name, no ma-
chine ever worked more deftly than
Madame Pieper's mouth. She did not
suflTer it to sprawl and struggle long ; she
did not waste time in tediou.s preparation.
When the best name had once fallen un-
der her lips, she only smiled; but this
smile was like the sinking of the axe,
and honor was cut off and fell into the
sack. She was a model of decorum,
propriety, virtue, and devotion. The
same may be said to the praise of Mad-
ame Schnieper. She was a dehcate,
vertical woman, usually dressed in a
thin, pensive muslin; had light fair hair,
light-blue eyes, that looked out from her
face with fearful shrewdness. It was
said that her foot-fall was never heard ;
and that before one was aware, she would
be at his side, and then vanish as noise-
lessly. Her smile, too, was fatal; but
in its mode of operation, less like an axe
than that poisonous wind of Africa,
■whose breath withers the flowers. Any
good name on which she but slightly
smiled, faded away miserably. She was
always a model of decorum, propriety,
devotion, and virtue."

" I remark for the benefit of readers
unacquainted with Hamburg — and there
may be some such in China and Upper
Bavaria — that the finest promenade for
the sons and daughters of Harmonia,
bears the name of Jungfernsteig ; that it
is shaded with lindens, and bounded on
one side by a row of buildings, on the
other by the great Alster basin ; and that,
before the latter, built out over the water,



are two tent-like coffee-houses, called
the Pavilions. In front of one of these,
the Swiss pavilion, it is especially pleas-
ant to sit in summer time, when the af-
ternoon sun burns not too fiercely, but
pours its milder splendor on the lindens,
the houses, the men, the Alster, and the
swans cradled on its bosom, till all looks
like an enchanted scene. There is it
pleasant to sit — and there I sat pleasantly
many a summer afternoon, and thought
— what a young man is accustomed to
think — of nothing; and contemplated —
what a young man is accustomed to con-
template — the young maidens who were
passing. And there they fluttered past,
those graceful beings, with their little
winged caps and their covered baskets —
there tripped they along, the blithe Vier-
landerins, who supply all Hamburg with
berries and milk — there paraded by the
fair merchant's daughters, with whose
love one receives so much money. There
goes a nurse with a rosy boy in her arms,
that she kisses ever and anon, when she
thinks of her sweetheart — there wanton
along the priestesses of the foam-born
goddesses. Alas ! that was very long
ago. Then I was young and foolish;
now I am old and foolish. Many a
flower has meantime withered — many a
one been crushed." And, returning to
the city — " How was it changed! And
the Jungfensteig ! The snow was lying
upon the roofs, and it seemed as if the
very houses had grown old and hoary-
haired. The lindens of the Jungfensteig
were nothing but dead trees, and their
dry branches waved ghost-like in the cold
wind."

But it waxes late in the night ; this
missive will keep you in candle-lighters
till my next. Schlafen sic u-ohl, dear
Lemuel. C. R. B.



324



Foreign Miscellany.



[Sept.,



FOREIGN xMISCELLANY



It will be difficult for our posterity to
believe, that in the middle of the 19th
century, Europe was in a chaos of minis-
terial intrigues ; of civil and religious wars :
that the gnod time of St. Bartholomew had
to be celebrated once more with all its bloody
accompaniments, and above all, in the holy
city of Rome ! We believed that religious
wars had ceased with the century of the
Reformation — that we had arrived at the
epoch of popular brotherhood and unity;
but, alas ! how are we fallen back ! It
seems at the present political events that
this is a century of ignorance, slavery,
and of national contentions. The Holy
Alliance of 1S15, believed that it had
established a perpetual statu quo, in all
the world. They thought to magnetize
whole nations with their monstrous and
terrible policy, and they seemed to them-
selves to have subjugated body and soul of
the European millions. But we thank
God for the certainty that their diabolical
plots to divide nations, and excite civil
wars, will turn one day against their own
bosoms.

A year ago, Galicia was excited to a
general revolution, and desolated by bands
of robbers and human butchers, excited
against the rich families, to plunder, to
murder, and to destroy. The iron hands
of Austria and Metternich were the true
causes. Metternich would put under his
pillow another national murder, and leave
it to posterity as one of his noble lega-
cies. The ancient and rich republic of
Cracovia had to disappear for ever from
the rank of nations ; it was the last and
mortal blow directed against the Polish na-
tionality. By incorporating Cracovia with
Austria, Metternich believed that he had
annihilated Poland, that the hope of her
first independence and liberty was extin-
guished. Such an infamous robbery was
accomplished in the year of our Lord,
1846 ! But now it is not our intention to
review a past year of troubles ; let us speak
of the present.

Europe is threatened by a general revo-
lution, its people and kings are in open
war, there is no more understanding be-
tween them ; people will cease to be slaves,
and the crowned heads must fall, or grant
the necessary reforms. Italy and Switzer-
land are the two countries who have ap-
proached nearest to the first reaction. For
in Italy, since the election of the new Pope,
Austria has not ceased to excite the people
against him — to use the most disgusting
and treacherous means, to employ Jesuits
with their wicked intrigues, and assassins



in friars' dress. Three months ago a
frightful secret — a conspiracy of monks,
Jesuits and Austriar.s — was contrived for
the murder of Pius IX., the great, the be-
nevolent, the father of his land ! There
was to be no more a merely private com-
plot ; not only one life was demanded to
fall, but thousands — and to be murdered by
their own friends. Hundreds of innocent
victims were to be sacrificed by Austria,
by a combination among the Jesuits and
five cardinals, with other powerful men.
It is impossiljle to have an idea of the
spirit of liberty spread over all Italy, by
the reforms of the new Pope. In all parts
of this peninsula there is a want of unity
of understanding, a desire of independ-
ence and nationality, and every one looks
on the new Pope, as the true rock of
emancipation and salvation. Never before
had there been a Pope so young, so benev-
olent, and so liberal. When raised to the
Papacy, he began to illustrate his reign by
a general amnesty to all the political of-
fenders of his states, and with a decree that
he should never prosecute any one for
his political opinions. More than that,
he gave orders to establish public in-
stitutions, asylums of infancy, evening
and daily schools for workmen, in all
the Roman states. For Rome he for-
bade public beggary, and founded at
his own expense a splendid alms-house
for the destitute. Once a week, he
gives public audience to every person,
without distinction of rank or situation.
In the hall of the Vatican, there is a
private bo?: for letters directed to him
alone. He adopts orphans as his own
children, and sends them to be taught
in colleges. He does justice to the poor
as well as to the rich — he protects the
Roman Academy De Lincei, the most an-
cient and scientifical of Italy, and grants
favors to the congressed of the Scienziati
Italiani, a commission of learned and
eminent men — established by him for the
construction of railroads and canals. By
order of Pius IX., every town sends a
delegate to Rome to report concerning
the wants of the people, and the neces-
sary reforms ; while a private congress is
established to grant all the necessary im-
y)rovements. Learned men are invited
by him to establish a new civil and
criminal code, and he gives orders to
reform the army, and to advance the
situation of the merchant and war navy.
The national guard is established — the po-
lice is composed no longer of robbers and



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 6) → online text (page 61 of 126)