J. M. (James Morgan) Hart.

German universities: a narrative of personal experience, together with recent statistical information, practical suggestions, and a comparison of the German, English and American systems of higher education online

. (page 7 of 26)
Online LibraryJ. M. (James Morgan) HartGerman universities: a narrative of personal experience, together with recent statistical information, practical suggestions, and a comparison of the German, English and American systems of higher education → online text (page 7 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

he went over it anew, going back directly to the authors
or originals themselves, eschewing intermediate works
of criticism, and reading in extenso. His tone and his
views, accordingly, have something about them inde-
scribably fresh and genial. As Professor Grein observed,
the composition bears evident tokens of the " powerful
impression got directly from the sources themselves."


It is not surprising, then, that Vilmar should have suc-
ceeded in portraying so artistically and vividly the
growth of the German mind. His work contains errors,
not a few of them grave ones. For minuteness and
accuracy it is surpassed by the works of Gervinus, Kober-
stein, Kurz, and others. But taken all in all, as a genial,
animated and animating, continuous flow of description
and reflection, it is still unsurpassed. By the side of it,
the other treatises are as dry as dust. It is a work that
might be introduced with profit in the most advanced
German classes of our colleges.

But interest in a novel subject, and the fascination
exerted by Vilmar's style, were not the only ties that
attached me to the History. More than any other work,
more than Faust itself, it awakened me to the full sense
of the mastery that I had gained hitherto uncon-
sciously over the German language. Vilmar's style is
difficult, that is- to say, while the range of words is not
large and the words themselves are graphic and easily
understood, the sentences are complicated in the extreme.
It is the German style nar fgoxrfv. I cannot recall
another author who uses habitually such long sentences,
who detaches the separable particle from the verb by
such daring flights of direct and indirect object, adverbs,
qualifying, explanatory, parenthetical clauses. One who
can read Vilmar's History rapidly, say eight or ten pages
an hour, taking in at a glance the grammatical relations
of all the words in the complete sentence, seizing uner-
ringly the separable particle two, or four, or even eight


lines below the verb to which it belongs, retaining the
sense of the whole and its parts while looking out an
occasional word in the dictionary, not baffled by length
or variety of expression, but seeing through it as through
a transparent tissue : one who can do this is absolved
from his apprenticeship. He is henceforth a master-
workman ; he has many things still to learn> but he can
learn them one by one for himself ; the drudgery is over.
It was this sense of mastery, then, that gave me such
pleasure. I had at last the satisfaction for many an hour
of dry study. From that time on, grammar and dic-
tionary were merely books of reference, not daily
chains.* The work that gave me most trouble to read
was, strange to say, the one in which the style is the
simplest, Freytag's Pictures of the German Past. The
vocabulary is very rich, and the numerous citations from
old authors, although modernized in spelling, give the
work an archaic tinge.

In this way, occupying myself exclusively with the
master-pieces of German thought, I passed the spring
and summer. My mode of life was very simple. At the

* A? a specimen of Vilmar's style, permit me to cite untranslated the fol-
lowing passage from the analysis of Gottfried v. Strassburg's Tristan und
holt : " So FLIGHT er (the poet) bei tier Stelle, ivo er erzahlt^ dass endlich dent
betrogenen Gatten Marke die Augen aufgegangen seien^ under (Mark, the
husband) der ungetreuen Isolde kiinftig besser zu huten beschlossen, aber ihre
Schonheit ihn dennoch blind gemacht habe^ und Isolde auch der strengen Hut
zu spotten verstanden habe, undzwar um so besser, je strenger die Hut ivurde
eine Betrachtting EIN uber die bei der Minne (love) ubel angewandte Hut^in
ivelcher er an den spitzigsten Tadel das zarteste Lob der Frauen auf die
%eschickteste Weise ankniipft" (p. 146, ed. of 1862.)

The entire passage turns on FLIGHT, line 3, and EIN, line 8, which, together,
form the compound verb einflechten^ to interweave, insert.


beginning of the summer semester I took, pro forma*
a course of lectures by Professor Lotze, on Natur-Philos-
ophie. This is anything but our natural philosophy ; it is
rather the philosophy of nature, a general speculative
discussion of the laws of the material world in their rela-
tions to the human spirit, something between physics and
psychology. I feel bound to confess that, although the
professor was interesting, I cut him rather shabbily.
Goethe and Lessing were still more interesting. The
weather being fine, I spent nearly all my afternoons in
the open air, exploring the vicinity of Gottingen, until
every village and by-path and Garten became a familiar
haunt. Usually unaccompanied on these excursions, I
always made provision for spiritual diversion by having a
book or two in my pocket to read whenever the inclina-
tion came over me and a pleasant resting-place offered
itself. It was not my practice to carry a pocket-diction-
ary. When an unfamiliar word occurred in reading, I sim-
ply underscored it, tried to think out its meaning, and then
consulted the dictionary after returning to my room. It
has always seemed to me that pocket-dictionaries are a
hindrance rather than a help. Being necessarily small,
they are also necessarily incomplete, are not seldom inac-
curate, and have the provoking trick of omitting the
precise word or idiom that one wishes to find. Besides,
it is no loss, but a gain, to carry a word or an idiom for a
few hours in the mind without knowing its exact mean-

* Erery student is compelled to take at least one course of lectures pei


ing. It seems to lodge itself better in the memory, and
the mind turns it over and over in the effort to find an
explanation, so that the explanation, when it comes at
last, takes root in soil well prepared. Whereas words
looked up' as fast as they occur are apt to resemble seed
scattered by the wayside. So far as my observation
extends, those who go through life abroad with a dic-
tionary in one pocket and a phrase-book in the other, are
invariably slipshod conversationists.

I trust that the reader will not regard this digression
upon the subject of German literature as superfluous.
My personal experience is not offered as a model for
imitation, but rather as a hint for reflection, and also in
the hope of aiding in the correction of what seem to me
certain grave errors in the accepted plan of learning for-
eign languages. In language more than in any other
study, the tone-giving element, to borrow a Germanism,
is quantity. One must read not by tens of pages, but by
hundreds, must read rapidly, and above all must read
authors entire. Permit me to cite one or two authorities.
Matthew Arnold says : " Ask a good Greek scholar in the
ordinary English acceptation of that term, who at
the same time knows a modern literature let us say
the French literature well, whether he feels himself
to have most seized the spirit and power of French liter-
ature, or of Greek literature. Undoubtedly he has most
seized the spirit and power of French literature, simply
because he has read so very much more of it. But if,
instead of reading work after work of French literature,


he had read only a few works or parts of works in it, and
had given the rest of his time to the sedulous practice of
French composition and to minutely learning the struc-
ture and laws of the French language, then he would
know the French literature much as he knows the Greek ;
he might write very creditable French verse, but he
would have seized the power and spirit of the French
literature not half so much as he has seized them at

The other quotation is this : " During those secluded
years, before the call to the New York University, he
(i. e., Professor Tayler Lewis) read the Hebrew Bible
through annually, for fourteen years ; the Iliad and
Odyssey, entire, almost as often ; the whole of the Greek
drama, forty-five extant plays, twice over, and many of
them oftener; all the dialogues of Plato, some of them
frequently; nearly all of Aristotle his Physica, Meta-
physica, and his more special physical treatises, and also
his ethical and political writings ; a large part of the
lesser hexameter poets, such as Apollonius Rhodius
and Aratus ; also Pindar and the pastoral poets ; all of
Thucydides ; all of Herodotus ; all of Xenophon ; nearly
all of Plutarch, Longinus, Lucian, Diodorus Siculus, and
the Gnomic and Epic poetry ; all of Virgil, Horace
and Ovid; and all of Cicero, except his orations."!

These citations will make my position clear and
warrant me in asserting that there is only one way

* Higher Schools and Universities of Germany. Ed. of 1874, p. 181.
+ Hart's Manual of American Literature, p. 578.


of learning a language, for literary purposes, and that
way consists in reading. After the student has mastered
the forms so that he is no longer under their thraldom,
he has only to approach the master-minds and listen to
all that they have to say; he will thus, as Matthew
Arnold expresses it, seize the power and spirit of the

Our collegiate and school instruction in French and
German is faulty both in conception and in execution.
The schools attempt nothing more than a superficial
glibness of conversation and composition, which is rarely
acquired and, when acquired, is never retained, and the
colleges, which should exact a knowledge of French
and German grammar for admission, make the course in
modern languages little more than a tedious additional
drill in paradigms and exercises ; they overlook the real
object of learning a language, namely the ability to read
a book fluently and understand it both in itself and in its
relations to kindred books. As 'for French literature
and German literature, as representing the body of
thought of those nations, the historic growth of the spirit
of each, they never seem to have occurred to the minds
of those who frame our college curriculum.



P^HE spring and summer of 1862 were spent as I
* have described, pleasantly and profitably. Not
so the following winter. For want of a better term, I
have entitled the present chapter as above. It treats of
the most dreary and discouraging part of my life in
Germany, a period of many months spent in forced
inactivity. I shall be as brief as possible.

The early summer was warm and agreeable. But in
August the weather changed, and we had a succession
of cold rain-storms. Not having succeeded in finding a
traveling companion, I remained in Gottingen through
the long vacation, and kept up my reading. In the early
part of September, ill luck came upon me in the shape
of a violent cold, that seemed to be satisfied with noth-
ing short of running through the entire system. Every
organ was affected more or less, the head, eyes, ears,
stomach. By the end of the month, after suffering in
every conceivable way and congratulating myself on the
prospect of recovery, symptoms of rheumatism showed
themselves. I became lame and unable to walk, and the
right knee was badly swollen. The disease finally took


the form of water in the knee.* It was an obstinate
case, not yielding for weeks and months to the most
persistent treatment. The disease itself did not occa-
sion much pain, but the cure was extremely disagreeable.
I was obliged to keep the leg stretched but oh the
sofa, to wear a heavy linen banda'ge wrapped/ 'tightiy
around the knee, and to paint the knee three' or 'four
times a day with a solution of iodine. The attack kept
me a prisoner in my room from September until the
first week in January. This close confinement became
toward the last very depressing. The bandage was at
times an almost insupportable burden, I lost my appe-
tite, sleep came only fitfully and was seldom refreshing.
So far as study, or even reading was concerned, I may
admit that I did none. There was no energy, no
" brains " for anything of a higher order than the aver-
age Roman or Novelle. The only literary works that I
remember reading during this period were Schiller's
short stories in prose and his Thirty Years' War. This
last was a doleful infliction, it must be - confessed, but
then it tallied with the invalid's mood.

Fortunately kind friends stood by me patiently.
Thanks to their unselfish devotion, I succeeded in
weathering the trial without more serious loss than that
of time. There were not many Americans in Gottingen
during the winter, only five besides myself, and four of
the five were new comers from over the water and con-

* The foundation for the trouble was probably laid the year before, by
excessive indulgence in Alpine climbing and other violent exercises.



sequently had to look after themselves. Still, they did
what they could. My German friends also visited me
regularly. But my chief comforters were John I. Harvey
(from Virginia), David Swan (from Scotland), and Paul
'Chris'iofle, the son of the founder and at present head of
the well known house of Christofle & Cie., in Paris.
Harvey dropped in at my rooms regularly every morning
and afternoon ; the other two, who were generally busy
in the laboratory during the day, came in the evening.
As I had nothing to do but let myself be entertained in
the best way possible, my room became a sort of head-
quarters for any one who might have an idle hour, and
was ready to take a smoke or a hand at ecarte or " sixty-

From beginning to end, the winter of 1862-3 was f r
me a strange episode. Thousands of miles from home,
without a single person who was directly responsible for
my welfare, in a foreign land, practically helpless, I
nevertheless succeeded in outliving the trial uninjured.
Everybody who came in contact with me seemed to take
an interest in me, the owner of the house and the ser-
vants were obliging and good-natured, and my friends,
especially the three whom I have mentioned, left literally
no wish ungratified. Should these lines ever reach them,
I hope that they will not be displeased at such a public
acknowledgment. It is the only way that I can find of
expressing the sense of gratitude still undimmed for
valuable hours spent and services paid at the altar of


Soon after New Year, the surgeon pronounced me
cured, and gave me permission to go out to dinner.
The prospect of escaping from the confinement of four
walls, even if only for an hour a day, was enchanting;
but the permission, when I attempted to act upon it, was
almost a mockery. The long continued bandaging had
relaxed the muscles so much that I could scarcely stand.
For the first day or two it seemed as if all my time and
energy were consumed in limping up and down the two
flights of stairs between the room and the street.

Thus the winter passed in slow recuperation, and
spring came once again. I met it with feelings very dif-
ferent from those of the year before. Seven months had
gone for nothing, or almost nothing. I had of course
learned some additional German, but the gain was slight
in proportion to the time. My reading had been broken
up, and the plans of study that I had formed in the
summer were not even begun. Everything in a univer-
sity goes by semesters ; to lose half a semester is to
lose all. Even had my health permitted, I could not
have begun any course of study after New Year. There
was nothing left but to wait for the next semester, and in
the meanwhile recover all the strength possible.

Removal to Berlin Umsatteln.

Y the close of the winter semester (the middle of
March, 1863), my health and spirits were restored.
One or two friends kept me company in a visit of a fort-
night in Berlin. I had seen the capital of Prussia before,
for a few days in the summer of 1862, while making a
sort of flying trip through a part of North Germany.
But it had been then the saison morte, and the city pre-
sented anything but an inviting aspect. It was hot,
deserted, and dusty as only Berlin in July can be.
During the present visit, on the contrary, the city was all
life and bustle. For three or four days there was inces-
sant parading and flying of flags. It was the occasion
of the dedication of Bliicher's monument and the com-
memoration of Prussia's uprising fifty years before, in
1813, against the first Napoleon. The display of troops,
especially of cavalry, was very handsome, but the most
interesting event in the ceremonies was the parade of the
veterans of '13. Tfte survivors of the German War of
Independence, wearers of the Iron Cross, had been
invited to Berlin at the express request of the King, and
many thousands had responded to the call. Every
veteran had been declared by special orders to rank as


officer for the while and to be entitled to an officer's
salute. The sentries on guard at the gates and other
prominent points in the city had consequently little rest ;
it was one incessant presenting arms. In the grand
parade unter den Linden, the veterans marched in a body,
by companies, in between the dismounted Gardes du
Corps > and, as well as I can remember, the Garde-Fusi-
liere. It was an impressive sight, to contrast the feeble,
tottering gait, the old, battered and outlandish looking
uniforms, the broken ranks of the men of 1813 with the
solid tread and massive forms of the Body-Guard, or the
quick, lithe swing of the Fusiliers. On that occasion
and during my subsequent stay in Berlin, I received an
impression of Prussia's military power that later events
have only confirmed. Even the best troops of France,
the Paris garrison, which I had seen some time before,
were far from being the powerful, well disciplined men
of the Prussian Guard. Any one who visited Berlin in
1863 and 1864, at the inauguration of the Army Reform,
could not fail to be struck as I was with the energy, I
might say the agony of preparation. Yet no one could
have predicted what it meant or what it was to accom-
plish only three years later. The air was full of military
bustle, and the city resembled a huge camp even more
than it does now.

For various reasons I decided to remove to Berlin for
the coming summer-semester. As the reader can readily
understand, Gottingen, once pleasant and inviting, had
become associated with disagreeable remembrances of


illness and confinement. A change of air might do my
health good; besides, being about to alter my plan
of studies, or rather to adopt a plan where none had
previously existed, I deemed it only proper to start de
novo, by changing as well my place of residence.

After some hesitation, I had resolved to study law with
a view of obtaining, if possible, the degree of doctor.
Three semesters had already gone, one in learning the
language, one in studying its literature, the third in
enforced idleness. It was now time to settle upon
something definite in the way of study. A German
university, I had discovered, did not pretend to give
a so called general education.' There were lectures on
every conceivable subject, on theology, medicine, the
natural sciences, philology, history, but there was no gen-
eral curriculum ; the university evidently expected each
student to take up one particular line of study and follow
it to the end. I selected the law, as being the one most
suited to my taste and disposition.

I obtained from the University-secretary the necessary
Abgangszeugniss (honorable dismissal), and removed to
Berlin about the middle of April. The ceremony of
re-matriculation was very simple. Coming as a regular
student from another German university, I had only to
deposit the Abgangszeugniss with the Berlin secretary, pay
a small fee, and give the customary pledge, the hand-
shake, to the Rector. I then matriculated in the legal
faculty. This transferring one's self from one faculty to
another is called expressively by the students Umsatteln^


changing saddles. One can meet students who have
performed the operation three or four times ; failing in
every attempt at a degree, they are content to drift along
from semester to semester and bear the sarcastic title of
bemooste Haupter, moss-grown heads.

The Berlin university at that time was in its glory.
The medical faculty was uncommonly strong. In theol-
ogy there were such men as Dorner, Hengstenberg,
Niedner, and Twesten, in philosophy Trendelenburg,
Helfferich, Michelet, in the natural sciences Dove, Rose,
Braun, in political economy Helwing and Hanssen, in
history Droysen, Ranke, Jaffe, Kopke, Kiepert, in phil-
ology Steinthal, Bopp, Bdckh, Bekker, Haupt, Weber.
Many of these illustrious men have been called to their
rest ; their places have been taken, we can scarcely say
filled, by their successors. In law there were Bruns,
Gneist, Holtzendorff, Rudorff, Richter, Beseler, Homeyer,
Heffter, and many others ; I have named only the most
illustrious. Gneist is the well known politician and lead-
ing debater in the Prussian Parliament and the Imperial
Diet. Holtzendorff is now professor in Munich ; Rudorff,
and, I believe, Homeyer and Richter are deceased. The
brightest stars of the Berlin legal faculty Savigny and
Puchta had already set; in fact, as I afterward dis-
covered, I might have done better for the first semester
or two by going to Heidelberg, where Vangerow was then
in his prime. Yet the loss was not great. In fact I may
say, once for all, that a student cannot go very far out
of his way in selecting any one of the leading univer


sities. Two of the most delightful and most profitable
months of my life were once passed in even a very small
university, the name and fame of which have scarcely
reached America. I mean Marburg, about half way
between Frankfort and Cassel. The number of students,
all told, did not exceed four hundred, and the profes-
sors were correspondingly few. Yet I was surprised at
the comparatively large number of eminent men and the
general breadth of culture. The reader may be assured
that the smaller universities, such as Marburg, Rostock,
Greifswald, Tubingen, differ from the larger ones in
extent, in quantity, rather than in quality. Unless the
student be engaged in the pursuit of some very limited
specialty, he can do well almost anywhere.

To decide upon the study of the law is one thing ; to
carry out the decision is another. By consulting the list
still in my possession of Berlin lectures for the sum-
mer of 1863, I find that there were announced no less
than 59 courses of lectures on legal topics, covering 183
hours per week! That the reader, if of a legal turn
of mind, may form some idea of what a legal faculty in
Germany is and what it accomplishes, I give the list entire :

Encyclopczdy and Methodology of the Science of Law, by
Professors Heydemann and Holtzendorff and Dr. Schmidt.

Naturrecht, or Philosophy of Law, by Professor Heyde-

Institutes, by Professors Bruns and Gneist.

History and Archaeology of the Roman Law, the same.

History of Civil Procedure among tfic Romans ^ the s.ime.


Institutes, by Drs. Rivier and Degenkolb.

Select Cases in Roman Law, explained by Dr. Degen-

Pandects, by Professor Rudorff.

Erbrecht (Doctrine of Inheritance), by Dr. Baron.

Pandects and Erbrecht, by Dr. Witte.

Select Passages from the Pandects, explained by Profes-
sor Rudorff and Dr. Witte.

JDe Sohitionibus (D. xlvi, 3), explained by Dr. Schmidt.

Practical Exercises in Roman Law (a sort of Moot
Court), by Dr. Baron.

Ecclesiastical Law, Catholic and Protestant, by Professor
Richter and Drs. Friedberg and Hinschius.

Law of Matrimony, by Dr. Friedberg.

Practical Exercises in Ecclesiastical Law, by Professor
Richter and Drs. Friedberg and Hinschius.

History of German Constitutional Law, by Professors
Beseler and Daniels and Dr. Kuhns.

History of the Decline of the Roman-German Empire, by '
Professor Lancizolle.

German Common Law, by Professor Homeyer.

Law of Promissory Notes, by Dr. Kiihns.

Practical Exercises in German Law, by Professor Beseler.

Public and Private Rights of German Sovereigns, by
Professors Beseler and Holtzendorff.

German Constitutional Law, by Professor Daniels.

Church and State, by Dr. Friedberg.

Practical Exercises in State Law, by Professor 'Holt-


International Law, by Professors Heffter and Holt-

Online LibraryJ. M. (James Morgan) HartGerman universities: a narrative of personal experience, together with recent statistical information, practical suggestions, and a comparison of the German, English and American systems of higher education → online text (page 7 of 26)