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Berlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends online

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girls who passed them from time to time, or peeped rather
impertinently under the silk hoods of the burgher maidens; his
companion blushed and took no part in these bold pastimes.

"Truly," said Joseph, "if I did not have in my pocket a letter from
my former room-mate at Halle, introducing you as a manly, brave boy,
and a future light in the world of science, I should suspect you
were a disguised maiden; you blush like a girl, and are as timid as
a lamb which has never left its mother's side."

"I am a villager, a poor provincial," said the youth, in a somewhat
maidenly voice. "The manners of your great city embarrass me. I
admire but cannot imitate them. I have been always a recluse, a
dusty book-worm."

"A learned monster!" cried Joseph, mockingly, "who knows and
understands every thing except the art of enjoying life. I
acknowledge that you are greatly my superior, but I can instruct you
in that science. You have been so strongly commended to me that I
will at once commence to unfold to you the real, satisfying duties
and pleasures of life."

"I fear," said the youth. "your science is beyond my ability. I have
no organ for it. My father is a celebrated physician in Quedlinburg;
he would be greatly distressed if I should occupy myself with any
thing else than philosophy and the arts. I myself have so little
inclination and so little ability for the enjoyment of mirth and
pleasure, that I dare not exchange the world of books for the world
of men. I do not understand their speech, and their manners are
strange to me."

"But, without doubt, you have come to Berlin to learn something of
these things?"

"No, I have come to visit the medical college, and to speak with the
learned and renowned Euler."

"Folly and nonsense!" said Fredersdorf, laughing; "keep your dry
pursuits for Halle, and give your time and attention to that which
you cannot find there, gayety and amusement. I promise to be your
counsellor and comrade. Let us begin our studies at once. Do you see
that little theatre-bill fastened to the wall? Eckhof appears as
Cato to-night."

"Go to the theatre!" said Lupinus, shrinkingly. "How! I go to the

"And why not, friend?" said Joseph. "Perhaps you belong to the
pietists, who look upon the stage as the mother of blasphemy and
sin, and who rail at our noble king because he will not close these

"No, I do not belong to the pietists," said the youth, with a sad
smile, "and I try to serve God, by understanding and admiring His
works: that is my religion."

"Well, it seems to me that this faith does not forbid you to enter
the theatre. If it pleases you to study God's master-work, I promise
to show you this night on the stage the noblest exemplar. Eckhof
plays this evening."

"Who, then, is Eckhof?"

Joseph looked at the young man with surprise, and shrugged his
shoulders contemptuously.

"You have, indeed, been greatly neglected, and it was high time you
should come to me. You do not know, then, that Eckhof is the first
tragedian who has dared to set aside the old and absurd dress and
manners of the stage, and introduce real, living, feeling men, of
like passions with ourselves, and who move and speak even as we do.
Now we must certainly enter the theatre; look there, at that great
crowd entering the dark and lowly entrance. Let us remove our hats
reverentially; we stand before the temple of art." So saying, he
drew the young man, who had no longer courage to resist, into the
house. "This is Eckhof's benefit. You see the great tragedian has
many admirers; it seems to me that half of Berlin has come to bring
him tribute this evening."

Lupinus sat silent and confused in the parterre, near Joseph. There
was a row of seats slightly elevated and made of common plank,
called loges; one of these nearest the stage was adorned by a golden
eagle, from which some pitiful drapery was suspended; this was
called the king's loge, but, I am constrained to say, it had never
been visited by the king or any member of the royal family. The
royal loge was indeed empty, but the great body of the house was
fearfully crowded, and many an expression of pain was heard from
those who were closely pressed and almost trampled upon.

"It is fortunate for you that Eckhof appears as Cato tonight: it is
his best role. Perhaps your learned soul may be somewhat reconciled
to such vanities when you see a drama of Gottsched, and a hero of
the old and classic time."

"Yes, but will not your Eckhof make a vile caricature of the noble
Roman?" sighed Lupinus.

"You are a pedant, and I trust the Muses will revenge themselves
upon you this night," said Joseph, angrily. "I prophesy that you
will become this evening a wild enthusiast for Eckhof: that is
always the punishment for those who come as despisers and doubters.
If you were a girl, I should know that you would be passionately in
love with Eckhof before you slept; you have taken the first step, by
hating him."

Joseph said this thoughtlessly, and did not remark the deep
impression his words made upon the stranger. His face flushed, and
his head sank upon his breast. Joseph saw nothing of this. At this
moment the curtain rose and the piece began.

A breathless silence reigned throughout the vast crowd; every eye
was fixed upon the stage; and now, with a stately step and a Roman
toga falling in artistic folds from his shoulders, Eckhof as Cato
stood before them. Every thing about him was antique; his noble and
proud bearing, his firm and measured step, his slow but easy
movements, even the form of his head and the expression of his
finely-cut features, were eminently classic. He was the complete and
perfect picture of an old Roman; nothing was forgotten. The sandals,
laced with red over the powerful and well-formed leg; the white
under-garment and leathern girdle, the blue toga, the cut of his
hair, every thing brought before you the noble Roman, the son of
Liberty, imposing in his majesty and power.

Eckhof was the first who had the courage to clothe his characters in
the costume of the time they represented, to make them move and
speak simply as men. Eckhof did that for the German stage which some
years later Talma introduced on the French boards. Talma was only a
copyist of Eckhof, but this fact was not acknowledged, because at
that time the German stage had not won for itself the sympathy and
consideration of other nations.

As I have said, silence reigned, and from time to time the rapture
of applause, which could not be altogether suppressed, was evidenced
by thundering bravos. Then again all was still; every eye and every
ear were open to the great actor, true to himself and true to
nature; who, glowing with enthusiasm, had cast his whole soul into
his part; who had forgotten the line separating imagination from
reality; who had, indeed, ceased to be Eckhof, and felt and thought
and spoke as Cato. At the close of an act, Eckhof was forced to come
forward and show himself by the wild the stormy applause and loud
cries of the audience.

"Do you not find him beyond all praise?" said Fredersdorf.

Lupinus gazed steadily at the stage; he had only soul, breath,
hearing, for Eckhof. His old world had passed away like a misty
dream - a new world surrounded him. The olden time, the olden time to
which he had consecrated years of study and of thought, to which he
had offered up his sleep and all the pleasures of youth, had now
become a reality for him. He who stood upon the stage was Cato; that
was the Roman forum; there were the proud temples, and the dwelling-
houses consecrated by their household gods. There was, then, outside
of the world of books and letters, another world of light and
gladness! What was it, which made his heart beat and tremble so
powerfully? why did his blood rush so madly through his veins? A
dark veil had fallen from his face; all around him were life, light,
gladness, and rapture. With trembling lips and silent tears he said
to himself: "I will live; I will be young; I will turn to Eckhof; he
shall counsel me, and I will follow his advice as I would a holy
gospel. - Did you not say that you knew Cato?" said he, suddenly
awaking from his dream and turning to his companion.

"Cato?" said Fredersdorf. "Do you mean the drama, or that wearisome
old fellow himself? or Eckhof, who plays the part of Cato?"

"So it is Eckhof," said Lupinus, to himself; "he is called Eckhof?"

The play was at an end; the curtain fell for the last time, and now
the long-suppressed enthusiasm burst forth in wild and deafening
applause. The young stranger was silent, his eyes were full of
tears; and yet he was perhaps the happiest of them all, and these
rapturous tears were a loftier tribute to the great actor than the
loudest bravos. The people had passed a happy evening, and common
cares and sorrows had been forgotten; but Lupinus felt as if his
heart had risen from the dead: he was changed from old age to sunny
youth; he had suddenly discovered in himself something new,
something never suspected - a glowing, loving heart.

"Well, now I am resolved, wholly resolved," said Joseph, as they
forced their way through the crowd. "I no longer hesitate; I give up
to you your dry learning and philosophy; you are welcome to your
dusty books and your imposing cues. I will be an actor."

"Ha! an actor?" said Lupinus, awaking from his dream and trembling

"Why are you shocked at my words? I suppose you despise me because
of this decision; but what do I care? I will be an artiste; I shall
not be disturbed by the turned-up noses and derisive shrugs of you
wise ones. I will be a scholar of Eckhof; so despise me, my learned
Lupinus - I give you permission."

"I am not laughing," said Lupinus. "Each one must walk in that path
at the end of which he hopes to find his ideal."

"Yes, truly, and so I will go to Eckhof," said Fredersdorf, waving
his hat triumphantly in the air.

"Do you know where he dwells?" said the youth.

"Certainly. We are standing now just before his door. See there in
the third story, those two lighted windows? That is Eckhof's home."

"What is the name of this street?"

"What is that to you? Has my prophecy really come true, and are you
in love with the great actor? Do not let go my arm; do not turn away
from me angrily. The Post Strasse is a long way off from where you
dwell; you will lose yourself. Let us go together. I will risk no
more unseemly jests with you. Come!"

"He lives in the Post Strasse; he is called Eckhof," said Lupinus to
himself, as he took Joseph's arm and walked through the dark
streets. "I must see Eckhof; he shall decide my fate."



It was the morning after Eckhof's benefit. The usually quiet
dwelling of the actor resounded with the ringing of glasses and
merry songs after the toils and fatigues of the evening. He wished
to afford to himself and his comrades a little distraction; to give
to the hungry sons of the Muses and Graces a few hours of simple
enjoyment. Eckhof's purse was full and he wished to divide its
contents with his friends.

"Drink and be merry," said he to his gay companions. "Let us forget
for a few hours that we are poor, despised German actors. We will
drink, and picture to ourselves that we belong to the cherished and
celebrated artistes of the French stage, on whom the Germans so
willingly shower gold, honor, and even love. Raise your glasses, and
drink with me to the success of German art!"

"We will drink also to Eckhof," cried one of the youthful company,
raising his glass. "Yes, to the father of the now school of German

"You are that, Eckhof, and you are also our benefactor," said
another. "We thank you, that for some months we have not suffered
from hunger and thirst; that the good people of Berlin take an
interest in the German stage, and treat us with some consideration.
Let us, then, drink to our preserver, to the great Eckhof!"

Every glass was raised, and their shouts rang out merrily. Eckhof
alone was sad and troubled, and his great dreamy eyes gazed
thoughtfully in the distance. His friends observed this, and
questioned him as to the cause of his melancholy.

"I am not melancholy, though a German actor has always good reason
to be so; but I have some new plans which I wish to disclose to you.
You greet me as your benefactor. Alas! how suffering, how pitiful
must your condition be, if such a man as I am can have been useful
to you! You are all artistes, and I say this to you from honest
conviction, and not from contemptible flattery. You are greater in
your art than I am, only you had not the courage to break through
the old and absurd customs of your predecessors. That I have done
this, that I have dared to leave the beaten paths, is the only
service I have rendered. I have tried to banish from the stage the
crazy fools who strutted from side to side, and waved their arms
from right to left; who tried to play the orator by uttering their
pathetic phrases in weird, solemn sounds from the throat, or
trumpeted them through the nose. I have placed living men upon the
boards, who by natural speech and action lend truth and reality to
the scenes they wish to portray. You, comrades, have assisted me
faithfully in this effort. We are in the right path, but we are far
from the goal. Let us go forward, then, bravely and hopefully. You
think yourselves happy now in Berlin; but I say to you that we dare
not remain in Berlin. This vegetation, this bare permission to live,
does not suffice, will not satisfy our honor. I think, with Caesar,
it is better to be the first in a village than the second or third
in a great city. We will leave Berlin; this cold, proud, imperious
Berlin, which cherishes the stranger, but has no kind, cheering word
for her own countrymen. Let us turn our backs upon these French
worshippers, and go as missionaries for the German drama throughout
our fatherland."

A long pause followed this speech of Eckhof; every eye was
thoughtful, every face was troubled.

"You do not answer? I have not, then, convinced you?"

"Shall we leave Berlin now," said the hero and lover of the little
company, "even now, when they begin to show a little interest, a
little enthusiasm for us?"

"Alas, friend! the enthusiasm of the Berliners for us is like a fire
of straw - it flashes and is extinguished; to-day, perhaps, they may
applaud us, to-morrow we will be forgotten, because a learned
sparrow or hound, a French dancer, or an Italian singer, occupies
their attention. There is neither endurance nor constancy in the
Berliners. Let us go hence."

"It seems to me that we should make use of the good time while it
lasts," said another. "At present, our daily bread is secured for
ourselves and our families."

"If you are not willing to endure suffering and want," said Eckhof,
sadly, "you will never be true artistes. Poverty and necessity will
be for a long time to come the only faithful companions of the
German actor; and he who has not courage to take them to his arms,
would do better to become an honest tailor or a shoemaker. If the
prosperity of your family is your first consideration, why have you
not contented yourselves with honest daily labor, with being
virtuous fathers of families? The pursuit of art does not accord
with these things; if you choose the one, you must, for a while at
least, be separated from the other."

"That will we do," cried Fredersdorf, who had just entered the room;
"I, for my part, have already set you all a good example. I have
separated from my family, in order to become the husband of Art,
whose sighing and ardent lover I have long been; and now, if the
noble Eckhof does not reject me as a scholar, I am wholly yours."

Eckhof seized his hand, and said, with a soft smile, "I receive you
joyfully; you have the true fire of inspiration. From my heart I say
you are welcome."

"I thank you for the word - and now let us be off. The German actor
is in Germany no better than the Jew was to the Romans. Let us do as
the Jews: we have also found our Moses, who will lead us to the
promised land, where we shall find liberty, honor, and gold."

"Yes," they cried, with one voice, "we will follow Eckhof, we will
obey our master, we will leave Berlin and seek a city where we shall
be truly honored."

"I have found the city," said Eckhof; "we will go to Halle. The wise
men who have consecrated their lives to knowledge are best fitted to
appreciate and treasure the true artiste; we will unite with them,
and our efforts will transform Halle into an Athens, where knowledge
and art shall walk hand-in-hand in noble emulation."

"Off, then, for Halle!" said Fredersdorf, waving his hat in the air,
but his voice was less firm, and his eye was troubled. "Will the
director, Schonemein, consent?"

"Schonemein has resolved to go with us, provided we make no claim
for salaries, but will share with him both gains and losses."

"If the undertaking fails in Halle, we must starve, then," said a
trembling voice.

Eckhof said nothing; he crossed the room to his writing-table, and
took out a well-filled purse. "I do not say that we shall succeed in
Halle, that is, succeed as the merchants and Jews do; we go as
missionaries, resolved to bear hunger and thirst, if need be, for
the cause we love and believe in. Look, this purse contains what
remains of my profits from the last two months and from my benefit
last night. It is all I have; take it and divide it amongst you. It
will, at least, suffice to support you all for one month."

"Will you accept this?" said Joseph, with glowing cheeks.

"No, we will not accept it; what we do we will do freely, and no man
shall fetter us by his generosity or magnanimity, not even Eckhof."

Eckhof was radiant with joy. "Hear, now - I have another proposition
to make. You have refused my offer for yourselves, but you dare not
refuse it for your children; take this money and divide it equally
amongst your wives and children. With this gold you shall buy
yourselves free for a while from your families."

After a long and eloquent persuasion, Eckhof's offer was accepted,
and divided fairly. He looked on with a kindly smile.

"I now stand exactly as I did when I resolved two years ago to be an
actor. Before that I was an honest clerk; from day to day I
vegetated, and thanked God, when, after eight hours' hard work, I
could enjoy a little fresh air and the evening sunshine, and declaim
to the fields and groves my favorite lines from the great authors.
It is probable I should still have been a poor clerk and a dreamer,
if my good genius had not stood by me and given me a powerful blow,
which awakened me from dreaming to active life. The justice of the
peace, whose clerk I was, commanded me to serve behind his carriage
as a footman; this aroused my anger and my self-respect, and I left
him, determined rather to die of hunger than to submit to such
humiliation. My good genius was again at hand, and gave me courage
to follow the promptings of my heart, and become an actor. He who
will be great has the strength to achieve greatness. Let us go
onward, then, with bold hearts." He gave his hand to his friends and
dismissed them, warning them to prepare for their journey.

"You are determined to go to Halle?" said Frederedorf, who had
remained behind for the last greeting.

"We will go to Halle; it is the seat of the Muses, and belongs,
therefore, to us."

Joseph shook his head sadly. "I know Halle," said he. "You call it
the seat of the Muses. I know it only as the seat of pedantry. You
will soon know and confess this. There is nothing more narrow-
minded, jealous, arrogant, and conceited than a Halle professor. He
sees no merit in any thing but himself and a few old dusty Greeks
and Romans, and even these are only great because the professor of
Halle has shown them the honor to explain and descant upon them.
But, you are resolved - I would go with you to prison and to death;
in short, I will follow you to Halle."

"And now I am at last alone," said Eckhof; "now I must study my new
role; now stand by me, ye gods, and inspire me with your strength;
give me the right tone, the right emphasis to personate this rare
and wonderful Hippolytus, with which I hope to win the stern
professors of Halle!"

Walking backward and forward, he began to declaim the proud and
eloquent verses of Corneille; he was so thoroughly absorbed that he
did not hear the oft-repeated knock upon the door; he did not even
see that the door was softly opened, and the young Lupinus stood
blushing upon the threshold. He stood still and listened with
rapture to the pathetic words of the great actor; and as Eckhof
recited the glowing and innocent confession of love made by
Hippolytus, a burning blush suffused the cheek of the young student,
and his eyes were filled with tears. He overcame his emotion, and
advanced to Eckhof, who was now standing before the glass, studying
the attitude which would best accord with this passionate

"Sir," said he, with a low and trembling voice, "pardon me for
disturbing you. I was told that I should find Eckhof in this room,
and it is most important to me to see and consult with this great
man. I know this is his dwelling; be kind enough to tell me if he is

"This is his home, truly, but he is neither a great nor a wise man;
only and simply Eckhof the actor."

"I did not ask your opinion of the distinguished man whom I honor,
but only where I can find him."

"Tell me first what you want of Eckhof."

"What I want of him, sir?" said the youth, thoughtfully; "I scarcely
know myself. There is a mystery in my soul which I cannot fathom.
Eckhof has age, wisdom, and experience - perhaps he can enlighten me.
I have faith in his eyes and in his silver beard, and I can say
freely to him what I dare not say to any other."

Eckhof laughed merrily. "As to his white beard, you will find that
in his wardrobe; his wisdom you will find in the books of the
authors, to whose great thoughts he has only given voice; he is
neither old, wise, nor experienced. In short - I, myself, am Eckhof."

"You are Eckhof!" said Lupinus, turning deadly pale, and, stepping
back a few paces, he stared with distended eyes at the actor, whose
noble and intellectual face, glowing with youthful fire, was turned
toward him.

"I am Eckhof, and I hope you will forgive me for being a little
younger, a little browner, and somewhat less wise than the great
Cato, in which character you no doubt saw me last night. I dare hope
that my confession will not shake your confidence in me; with my
whole heart I beg you will tell me how I can be useful to you and
what mystery you wish to have explained."

"No, no! I cannot explain," cried the youth; "forgive me for having
disturbed you. I have nothing more to say." Confused and ashamed,
Lupinus left the room. The actor gazed after him wonderingly,
convinced that he had been closeted with a madman.

With trembling heart, scarcely knowing what he thought or did, the
student reached his room and closed the door, and throwing himself
upon his knees, he cried out in tones of anguish: "Oh, my God! I
have seen Eckhof: he is young, he is glorious in beauty, unhappy
that I am!" With his hands folded and still upon his knees, he gazed
dreamily in the distance; then springing up suddenly, his eyes
glowing with energy and passion, he cried: "I must go, I must go! I
will return to Halle, to my books and my quiet room; it is lonely,
but there I am at peace; there the world and the voice of Eckhof
cannot enter. I must forget this wild awakening of my youth; my
heart must sleep again and dream, and be buried at last under the
dust of books. Unhappy that I am, I feel that the past is gone
forever. I stand trembling on the borders of a new existence. I will
go at once - perhaps there is yet time; perhaps I may yet escape the
wretchedness which threatens me. Oh! in my books and studies I may
forget all. I may no longer hear this voice, which is forever
sounding in my enraptured ears, no longer see those fearful but
wondrous eyes."

With feverish haste and trembling hands he made up his little
parcel. A few hours later the post-wagon rolled by Eckhof's
dwelling. A young man with pale, haggard face and tearful eyes gazed
up at his windows.

"Farewell, Eckhof," murmured he; "I flee from you, but may God bless
you! I go to Halle; there I shall never see you, my heart shall
never thrill at the sound of your eloquent voice."

Lupinus leaned sadly back in the carriage, comforting himself with
the conviction that he was safe; but fate was too strong for him,

Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 8 of 42)