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Pestalozzi: his life and work online

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with us so long as we ask them to stay. There are also
mighty lords of the Junta, who have not been satisfied merely
to spy out our weaknesses, bnt who have taken their part
in the firing at us. Fortunately, many of our enemies are
bad marksmen ; but their shooting, though wide of the mark,
makes a great noise. Most of these shots are directed
against the general of our engineers, your countryman ; not
he of Gais, but he of Wolfhalden. 1 But the general is a
deuce of a fellow, who, whilst the enemy are firing at him
from all sides, continues to cast cannon of the heaviest
calibre, with gun-carriages that, like the tower of Babel,
reach nearly to the skies. You will think I am speaking a
strange language ; but our circumstances are so peculiar that,
as schoolmasters, we cannot express all we feel any more
than you, in your position, can always say what you would.

1 i.e.. not Krusi, but Niederer.


" I am very well in health, thank God ; and yet my strength
is failing me. The good old times are gone by. I have an
inexpressible longing for rest, even though it should be in
the grave.

" Take care of yourself, my dear Knusert, and let us hear
from you soon.

" Your friend, PESTALOZZI."

Since the installation of the institute at Yverdun there
had been numerous and important changes in the teaching

Pestalozzi had lost many of the best of his former helpers:
Tobler, Buss, Knusert, then Steiner, Muralt, Mieg, and Hoff-
mann. Most of these left him to make the principles of his
method more widely known. Later on Schmidt had left,
harbouring a bitter feeling of resentment against his
colleagues, who would neither adopt his ideas, nor submit
to his overbearing manner ; on leaving, he had gone to
Vienna, where he published a pamphlet against the institute,
calling it " a disgrace to humanity." The establishment
had also lost several other masters of less note.

Those who had left had been gradually replaced by a
much larger number of teachers, many of whom were men
of far higher attainments than their predecessors. Amongst
the most distinguished were :

Ramsauer, whom we know already, and who had become
an excellent master in arithmetic, elementary geometry, and
especially drawing.

Goldi, from canton Saint Gallen, who, first a pupil of Pesta-
lozzi, then an assistant-master, was zealous and earnest in
his work, and taught mathematics with clearness and
success ; he had quite mastered the spirit of the method,
and never gave it up. Later on, he became professor of
mathematics and physics at the College of Saint Gallen ; he
also published a treatise on geometry.

Weilenmann, of Eglisau, canton Zurich, was a tall, strong
man, but had lost one arm. He took charge of the ele-
mentary class, which was very numerous ; and with his one
hand, which often shook with fatigue, he set copies, ruled
copy-books, and made and mended pens for all the children,
He was everywhere and always with his pupils, not only in
their games and walks, but in the dormitories, where he


often sat up 'part of the night, and was always the first
to rise. Everybody loved him. He attended to the little
ones and to those who were ailing like a mother ; in this
respect, indeed, he was like Krusi. Those of his old pupils
living to-day are still grateful for all the trouble this excellent
man took for them.

Baumgartner was a handsome young man from canton
Glarus, quick and intelligent, but gentle and modest ; he had
a decided talent for teaching beginners mathematics, know-
ing how to put things clearly and inspire a taste for the
subject. He left Yverdun to join the institute founded by
Hoffmann at Naples, where he died of fever very shortly

Leuenzinger, of Glarus, was a short, thick-set man, with
a dark complexion and large head. His heavy body pre-
vented him from joining in the games of the pupils. He had
a remarkable taste for mathematics. His great happiness
was to attack complicated problems, after solving which he
would walk about the room rubbing his hands and talking
to himself. He was full of rustic simplicity.

Amongst the masters who arrived after the departure of
Schmidt, we must mention :

Schacht, of Brunswick, of gentlemanly bearing, and with a
good influence on the character and conduct of the scholars.
He had a fine face, sharp and full of animation, and talked
well. He taught history, and captivated his hearers by his
dramatic manner ; he also lectured on chemistry. He after-
wards returned to Brunswick, where he became a member
of the Council of State and of the superior Council of Educa-
tion. He also published a treatise on geography, according
to the principles of Pestalozzi.

Blochmann, of Dresden, no less distinguished by his nobility
of character than by his knowledge and talent for teaching.
He came to Yverdun to know more of Pestalozzi. He only
taught geography in the institute, but his influence was valu-
able in many t/ays, and he was liked by everybody. After
leaving Yverdun he established an educational institute in
Dresden, and became the king's trusted adviser in all educa-
tional matters.

Ackermann, a young Saxon, full of vivacity and zeal, and
as eager to learn as to teach. He taught gymnastics, and
was the constant companion of the children. He afterwards


became headmaster of the model school at Frankfort-on

Lehmann had a scholarly knowledge of French and
German ; he taught the two languages. His heart was
thoroughly in his work, but he was a little wanting, perhaps,
in the firmness and practical skill that help to make a good
master. Later on, he was employed in the public educa-
tional establishments at Berne; afterwards he and his wife,
who was a talented woman, established at Basle a school for

In the summer of 1811, a man came to Yverdun who was
destined to exercise a large influence on the state of the
institute for some time. This was Jullien, of Paris, a Knight
of the Legion of Honour, a school-inspector, a member of
several learned societies, and the author of A General Essay
on Physical, Moral, and Intellectual Education, and An
Essay on the Employment of Time, etc.

Juliien soon recognized the merit and importance of the
practical educational reform that was taking place before
his eyes, and he determined to make a thorough study of
the doctrine of Pestalozzi and its various applications.
Protracting his stay therefore at Yverdun, he held continual
discussions with Pestalozzi and his coadjutors, and though
much hampered by his own ignorance of German and the
bad French of his interlocutors, persevered with admirable
patience until he thought himself in possession of the
requisite knowledge. The year after, he published, in the
royal press at Milan, a pamphlet of some hundred pages,
entitled, A Sketch of the Educational Institute of Yverdun^
and two large octavo volumes on The Spirit of Pestalozzi's
Educational Method.

By placing his sons with Pestalozzi, and by his own per-
sonal influence and that of his writings, Jullien was the
cause of a large number of French pupils and some few
French masters going to Yverdun, so that the institute was
no longer so entirely German.. We shall show, later on,
how this affected the establishment.

The year 1811 seemed to- Pestalozxi to have been a happier
one; his discourse of January 1st, 1812, therefore, is full of
joy and gratitude. We give the most characteristic portions :

" The year just ended has been a blessed one for ua , it


has brought me nearer the aim of my life. What matters,
now, that it has been a hard one ? The hours of trouble
have passed, and there remains nothing but the strength
they have developed in us. Dangers have disappeared aa
completely as if they had never existed ; but the courage
they have aroused remain, and its foundations are now more
solid than ever.

" What we want to do, what we have to do, we can now
do better than ever. The road we have been looking for
lies open before us. Peace reigns in our paths ; great
obstacles have vanished, and we feel that the strength and
means necessary for reaching our goal are slowly ripen-
ing. . . .

"Friends and brothers! Whilst I rejoice at the good
fortune with which we have surmounted all dangers, I also
look into the past, and think of all we might have done to
make ourselves more worthy of this blessing, and to enjoy
it with a purer and nobler satisfaction. . . ,

" God has allowed our work to remain in our hands. He
has blessed it and strengthened it ; but the joy which we
feel cannot be pure and complete unless we are conscious
of having worked with fidelity, zeal, and a pure heart. . . .

" With what joy I thank God for having kept us faithful
to the precious mission which unites us, for having increased
your strength and zeal in the pursuit of our aim ! "

Festal ozzi next addresses himself personally to his two
oldest collaborators, Niederer and Krusi ; to Weilenmann,
Heussy, Baumgartner, Schneider and Leuenberger, who have
already been with him for some years ; to Schacht, Bloch-
mann, Ackermann and Lehmann, who have joined him more
recently; to the Prussian student-teachers, Kaverau, Ken-
ning, Dreist, Patzig, Kratz and Benschmidt ; and lastly, to
his daughter-in-law's second husband, Mr. Kuster, the steward
and bursar of the institute. He then continues :

" Friends and brothers, do not forget that I am leaving
you, and that you are to remain behind ! What a great
thing completion is ! How glorious to approach the mark
where the victor is crowned. I have not reached the mark,
and my course is run. I can no longer strive towards it ;
all I could do I have done. I see that for me action is at


an end, though the work in hand is not completed. Man-
kind, that I have loved so well, will, with grateful acknow-
ledgment of my efforts, complete my task. But it will also
see in you, friends and brothers, the first and worthiest
labourers in this reform. You will therefore remain my
sons, and not fail that posterity for which I have lived. It
is this hope that consoles me, when I see that the work I
have neither time nor strength to finish, rudely torn from
my hands by the natural course of events, is really mine no
longer. But it is still in God's hands. friends, be true,
and fail not 1 "

In the words which Pestalozzi now addresses to his wife,
we find the confirmation of a fact hitherto unverified,
namely, that the old man, after neglecting money matters
all his life, nevertheless took certain necessary precautions
to secure for his wife, and after her for his grandchild
Gottlieb, a sum of money representing the increased value
of the Neuhof estate, which was all that remained of the
fortune she had brought him.

His words were as follows :

" I now address myself to you, faithful companion of my
life ! Do not take as indifference tha calmness with which
I regard my fate ; it is God who gives it me. . . . The
year just gone first brought me this peace, the present year
will complete it. The past year has also been blessed for
you, my dear and noble wife, for your health has been
restored. God permits you, then, to see the end I have so
nearly reached ; joy shall still be yours, for you have
deserved it ! You have indeed suffered much for my sake
in the times of struggle and preparation which have been
so unduly prolonged in my life; you have greatly feared for
the future of our grandson, compromised by my fault. But
God, who fashions our lives, has witnessed your agony ; His
Fatherly hand has sent you an unexpected succour ; our dear
child is saved, so that, in this respect too, we may go down
to the grave in peace. Our child will be your heir. As for
me, I shall die poor, as I have always intended. To devote
myself and my all to my work has been, as you know, my
only desire. But God is good, dearest ! May our faith in
Him remain unshaken ! "


After this, Pestalozzi addresses himself first to his own
children, then to the young girls of the neighbouring insti-
tute, then to the directress, Mrs. Kuster, and her chief
assistant, Miss Rosette Kasthoffer. He speaks to them
all of his gratitude and trust, and to all utters words of
encouragement. He finally concludes by invoking God's
blessing upon everybody, including his absent friends, for
the year which has just begun.

This year, 1812, begun under such happy auspices, was
soon to bring Pestalozzi a fresh trial a painful, serious and
long illness.

One day, as he was walking up and down Mrs. Krusi's
room, preoccupied and restless, as was his wont, having
taken up a knitting-needle to scratch his ear, he suddenly
knocked against the high earthenware stove with such force
that the needle was driven into his head. According to
the doctor who attended him, and who was amazed beyond
measure that such an old man should recover from so severe
an accident, the needle must have penetrated, not the tym-
panum, but the bony part of the ear.

His recovery, however, was very slow. For a long time
he was confined to his bed, and suffered much pain. He
could not bear the slightest noise, and for four months his
life was despaired of. At times he thought he was dying,
and seemed glad ; at other times he would say, " I should
like to live a little longer, for I have still much to do." His
convalescence was long and painful. But the old man could
not give up work, and even in the midst of his sufferings,
and when parched by fever, he continued to dictate to one
of his assistants, for he never ceased to occupy himself with
the elaboration of his " method." When he was well enough
to be placed on a sofa, he began to write a little himself ;
he also put into execution a project which had occupied his
mind for some time past.

He considered the best means of teaching a foreign lan-
guage to be that which Nature employs in teaching a child
to speak its mother-tongue, that is to say, constant prac-
tice in the spoken language. It was thus that, with the
addition of a little grammar, the Germans at Yverdun
learned French, and the French German, with complete
success. Pestalozzi thereupon asked himself if it would
not be possible to employ similar means to teach a dead


language, and he resolved to try the experiment. Every day
some six or seven children who had not yet begun Latin,
amongst them the writer of these lines, were brought to his

Pestalozzi had with much care selected from Caesar's
Commentaries a number of short passages and isolated
phrases, all bearing on the same subject, and nearly all
containing the same words ; with these selections he had,
in his illegible hand, filled several sheets. As we stood by
the couch, where he lay weak and suffering, he would give
us a phrase, which we all had to repeat until we knew it by
heart ; he would then explain the different words, and point
out some of the changes they undergo when it is required
to modify the sense of the sentence. In this way the study
of syntax and accidence went hand in hand. We were
soon able to make certain changes for ourselves, and con-
struct sentences of such elements as were known to us ;
that is to say, with a very limited vocabulary, and a very
narrow range of subjects, we spoke Latin like Csesar !

These lessons were continued during the whole period of
the old man's convalescence, but after that they were dropped.
We have never been able to ascertain whether Pestalozzi
gave them up because he was not satisfied with the success
of the experiment, or merely because he was carried away
by new ideas.

At the beginning of 1813, Niederer married Miss Kast-
hoffer, and Pestalozzi made over to them the girls' school,
which had been originally established in a large house near
the Castle, where it remained for the next twenty-five years.
Mrs. Kuster thus saw herself supplanted by her head-
assistant, to whom she resigned her position without the
least complaint. The establishment certainly profited by
the change, and, owing to the unusual capacity of Mrs.
Niederer, enjoyed a very long period of prosperity.

The finances of the institute were at this time in a very
unsatisfactory condition. Since 1810 the number of the
pupils had been falling off, but that of the masters steadily
increasing. Young men came from far and near to learn
the method, and on the understanding that they would
afterwards do their best to spread it, were admitted by
Pestalozzi for nothing. The old man's credulity in this
respect was unbounded. He refused nobody, and received


all sorts of unfit persons into the institute, sometimes even
deliberately dishonest people, who, after staying a few
months, made off, leaving debts behind them which Pesta-
lozzi felt it his duty to pay. The mode of life was simple,
it is true, and the faithful Lisbeth Krusi did her best as
housekeeper ; but in her desire that there should be no
stint, she fell into the opposite extreme, with the result
that there was much waste. The printing press, too, cost
a great deal of money, especially now that the polemical
publications were so frequent. 'The effect of all this was
already making itself felt, as we have said, though the final
financial disaster did not come till afterwards.

After the departure of Schmidt, Ramsauer became Pesta-
lozzi's favourite, and did for the practical application of the
'' method " very much what Niederer did for the theory. It
is to be regretted that at this time Ramsauer could not, or
would not, take in hand the administration of the finances
of the establishment ; had he done so, he might perhaps
have saved the institute. But he confined his activity to
his relations with the pupils, and to the improvement of the
system of instruction in the elementary branches.

Mechanical and perspective drawing, in which he excelled,
were his favourite subjects ; it is to him that we owe the
rational and graduated course which made it possible to
introduce that particular branch of teaching into the primary
schools. Very often foreigners, who were passing through
the country, would beg for a collection of his models to take
home to their respective countries, and thus his practical
method spread in all directions. It was almost the same
collection as that afterwards published in Paris by Boniface
and Rivail.

Ramsauer'a own account of his relations with Pestalozzi
is as follows :

" It was not at all rare in summer to see foreigners at the
Castle four or five times a day, who interrupted our lessons,
and expected us to explain our method. During the years
1812, 1813, and 1814, in addition to my ordinary occupa-
tions, I so often had to give the necessary explanations in
a very loud voice, that my chest suffered. When, at last,
I was quite ill, Pestalozzi reproached himself with being the
cause ; he knew he had worked me too much, and waa


anxious to nurse me himself, as a father would nurse his
child. But he was more incapable and awkward than I
could have believed possible if I had not seen him.

" The hardest time I spent with Pestalozzi was from 1812
to 1815, when I so often had to write in his room from two
to six in the morning. Even when I retired to bed as late
as eleven or twelve, I was expected to be at his bedside by
two. If I was a few minutes late, he would impatiently
jump out of bed, both winter and summer, and with very
little clothing on, cross the courtyard, and, going through
the boys' dormitories, call me in a way that was not always
polite. But when I was punctual, or even when I made my
appearance after being called, he would express his approval
by embracing me, and then get back into bed and begin his
dictation. But it was very difficult to write down what he
said, for he not only spoke very indistinctly (he always had
the end of the sheet in his mouth), but generally changed
the form of his sentences two or three times. . . . When
Pestalozzi was talking, people were often obliged to guess
at what he meant from the expression of his face, his speech
being so much slower than his thought. In the same way
his secretary often had to guess at his words from the tone
of his voice. My task then, if interesting, was difficult,
and I sometimes felt a certain pity for the old man, though
without losing any of my love and respect. . . .

" During the years 1812, 1813, and 1814, the period when
Pestalozzi's friendliness and confidence in me were most
marked, he used to send for me every day after dinner to take
coffee or liqueur in Mrs. Pestalozzi's room, or in that of his
faithful housekeeper, Mrs. Krusi. On those occasions he
was generally very gay and full of wit ; and his wit was
often brilliant, for whatever he did, he did thoroughly,
giving himself up entirely to the feelings of the moment.
In the same half-hour he would be extremely happy and
extremely miserable, gentle and caressing or serious and
severe ; he did nothing without enthusiasm. . . .

" But, happily or unhappily, he soon forgot ; and so there
is little sequence in the history of his life. Nor did he
profit much by his experiences. Even in our study of peda-
gogics, he would not allow us to make use of the experience
of other times or other countries ; we were to read nothing,
but discover everything for ourselves. Hence the whole


strength of the institute was always devoted to experiment.
The fact remains, however, that whatever we learned in that
way, with so much trouble and toil, we learned well, and
the trouble was soon forgotten in the pleasure and confidence
that resulted from such well-grounded knowledge.

" Often when the masters had done something to displease
him, Pestalozzi would fly into a passion, and angrily leave
the room, slamming the door as if he would break it. But
if at that moment he happened to meet a young pupil, he
would instantly grow calm, and, after kissing the boy, return
to the room, exclaiming, ' I beg your pardon ! Forgive my
violence ! I was mad.' " *

We must here say a word about the letter to Mr. Delbruck,
which Pestalozzi published towards the end of April, 1813.
Mr. Delbruck, who was tutor to the Prince Royal of Prussia,
had been sent by the king to Yverdun, and had spent some
considerable time in the institute, studying the work and
doctrine of the master, whom he soon learned to love and
admire. After his return to Berlin, he had written to Pesta-
lozzi advising him to abandon polemics, and leave all the
attacks on the institute unanswered.

Pestalozzi, in a long letter, endeavours to show that an
educational institute cannot be silent when it is accused of
corrupting youth both in religion and politics ; he also tries
to excuse Niederer, who had been blamed for the violence
of his language. He then continues, with characteristic out-
spokenness :

" The remembrance of the past weighs heavy on my heart ;
my explanations do not satisfy me. I almost hate my own
words as I write them. When a man is struggling with
people with no nobleness of heart, he is almost sure to lose
some of the nobleness of his own heart. This is a very sad
thought to me. I would give up some of the days I have
still to live to blot out this portion of my life."

The end of this letter shows that the old man has again
relapsed into the illusions which he himself had once recog-
nized as such. He thinks that by the unceasing labour of
himself and his coadjutors, the institute will soon be in such

1 A Short. Sketch of my Pedagogical Life, by J. Ramsauer. Olden
burg, 1838.


a state that the application of his method to all branches of
instruction will at last be possible.

It was this same year, 1813, that witnessed all the
consequences of Napoleon the First's disastrous Russian

The Germans, seeing a favourable opportunity for deliver-
ing their country from the foreign power that had heaped
so many misfortunes and humiliations upon them, eagerly
prepared to fight. It was impossible that the young men
of German origin who were with Pestalozzi at this time
should remain untouched by this enthusiasm, and numbers
of them went and took up arms " for the deliverance of
Germany." The Prussian pupils, who had indeed just com-
pleted their studies, all went away too, some of the masters,
amongst whom were Schacht and Ackermann, following their

Pestalozzi entirely commended them, and made no effort

Online LibraryRoger de GuimpsPestalozzi: his life and work → online text (page 29 of 43)