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Pestalozzi: his life and work online

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his gratitude and the interests of his work. Already in his
discourse of the 12th of January, 1818, he had admitted that
he was well aware of Schmidt's faults, and often suffered
from them.

One would imagine that so much misfortune and so many
disappointments would have broken the old man's courage,
and crushed the activity and originality of his genius. But
it was not so, for he had no sooner reached Neuhof than he
eagerly took up his pen again, writing first his Song of the
Swan, one of his most remarkable works, and as it were hid
dying instructions to posterity in the matter of education ;
and then the Experiences of My Life, a book in which he
gives an account of his whole career, blaming himself for
all his misfortunes, and endeavouring to exculpate Schmidt,


sometimes even at the expense of Niederer. Besides these
two publications, of which we shall have more to say pre-
sently, he was also working at a fifth part to Leonard and
Gertrude y a new manual i'or mothers, with instructions for
the education of children up to the age of seven, to supple-
ment the Book for Mothers already published, with which
he was not entirely satisfied ; and lastly, a series of elementary
exercises for teaching children Latin as they learn their

All this literary work did not in the least interfere with
his plans for a poor-school, which he now looked forward to
establishing in the very spot where he had made his first
unsuccessful attempt fifty years before. With this end in
view, he gave orders, almost immediately after his arrival,
for the necessary buildings to be commenced. As the work
proceeded, much too slowly for the impatient old man, he
would go and spend hours teaching in the village school at
Birr. He also took great delight in visiting his old acquaint-
ances the peasants, talking over their affairs with them, and
giving them advice and encouragement.

On going back to his grandson at Neiihof with Schmidt,
Pestalozzi had been followed by four of his pupils, two 01
whom had been sent to him from Cadiz. He was so eager
to spread his method in France, England, Spain, and
Portugal, that he sent Schmidt to both Paris and London in
furtherance of this object, and even meditated the publica-
tion of a periodical in French.

We owe these details to Henning, a former Yverdun
pupil, who had become the director of a training school,
and who visited Pestalozzi at Neuhof, in August, 1825.
His account of his visit is as follows :

" I had not seen him for thirteen years, and found him
looking older certainly, but on the whole very little changefl.
He was still active and strong, simple and open ; his face
still wore the same kindly, plaintive expression ; his zeal
for human happiness, and especially for the education of
poor and little children, was as keen as thirteen years before.
. . . In spite of the heat he accompanied me to Lenzburg,
and valiantly mounted the two or three hundred steps
leading to the Castle. . . . The vivacity of his speech
and the vigour of all his movements inspired me with the


hope that the term of his earthly existence was still far off.
My heart was full when I took leave of the kind old man.
I shall never forget the time that it was my good fortune to
spend with him."

It is evident then that in these last days, Pestalozzi,
though still controlled by Schmidt in material affairs, freely
carried on the philanthropic work to which his life had been

On the 3rd of May, 1825, Pestalozzi was present at a
meeting of the Helvetian Society, at Schinznach. He was
welcomed with every demonstration of respect, and chosen
as president for the following year. At the banquet which
followed the meeting, he proposed a toast to " the Society
that does not bruise the broken reed or quench the smoking

On the 26th of April, 1826, the Society met at Langenthal.
Pestalozzi had prepared an address, which was read by
Schuler, of Aerlisbach, and which was afterwards printed
in Cotta's edition of his works. In the next chapter we
shall give some account of this interesting document, in
which the author touches on many social questions that are
still burning to-day.

In the summer of the same year, Pestalozzi and Schmidt
paid a visit to the institute for orphans founded by Zeller,
at Beuggen, near Rheinfelden. Zeller managed his estab-
lishment with much zeal and talent, and in most respects
followed Pestalozzi's method. Being one of those Christians,
however, who think that a child's natural tendencies are all
bad, he blamed Pestalozzi for looking on education as a mere
development of what is by nature good. In his religious
ardour Zeller loved dogmatism no less than Pestalozzi
feared it.

Ik spite of these differences, the old man was received at
Beuggen with every expression of esteem and respect. The
children sang a poem of Goethe's, quoted in Leonard and
Gertrude, and peculiarly applicable to the sad circumstances
of their guest; they then offered him a crown of oak, which,
however, he refused to accept, saying, with tears in his
eyes, " I am not worthy of this crown ; leave it for inno-
cence ! "

On the 21st of November of the same year, 1826, the



Society of Friends of Education assembled at Brugg.
Pestalozzi, who was present at the meeting, had prepared
a paper on " The simplest means of educating children at
home, from the cradle to the age of six." After this paper
had been read by his friend and neighbour, the pastor of
Birr, Pestalozzi himself rose to add a few new developments,
and spoke with such warmth, such zeal for his idea, such
passionate love for children, that he seemed to have recovered
all his old strength.

The same compassion for the poor that had inspired
Pestalozzi's earliest efforts continued to inspire him to the
end. As winter approached he was troubled to see that the
rise in the price of firewood would prevent many of his
neighbours from laying in a sufficient stock for the severe
weather. Fearing that this would entail a terrible amount
of suffering and disease on many families, he tried to find
some means of prevention. The poor people, he thought,
would spend their winter tinder much healthier conditions
if the bare ground on which their cottages stood was covered
with a layer of gravel, to keep the damp away, and then
with two or three layers of straw-matting. It seemed to
him that such a simple thing as this would be within every-
body's reach. But not satisfied with merely advising the
peasants what to do, he sought to set them the example by
making the experiment himself.

With this object he selected in his still unfinished house
a room on the ground-floor, where the flooring had not yet
been laid, and, having filled his pocket with small stones,
proceeded to throw them in through the open window.
Seeing this, his grandson had a few loads of gravel shot
before the house, and offered to help him, but the old man
would not accept any further assistance, and even in the
month of December was still to be seen kneeling in the snow,
with trembling hands throwing the gravel into the room.
At last, however, the severity of the weather and his ever
increasing weakness interrupted the work, which he was
destined never to resume. Long after his death the heap of
gravel was still to be seen before the window, last token, as
it were, of his compassion for the poor.

We give these last facts, on the authority of Mr. Lippe,
of Lenzburg, who, at this time, paid frequent visits to
Pestalozzi at Neuhof.


But there was still another sorrow in store for the old
man, a sorrow more poignant than all the rest, and one which
was to deal him his death-blow.

In writing the Experiences, Pestalozzi, influenced by
Schmidt, whom he was seeking to defend, had allowed him-
self tr be led into many unfortunate exaggerations, and had
been very unjust to those of his old collaborators who had
forsaken him. Niederer especially had been deeply hurt,
and had vented his indignation in Yverdun with his character-
istic energy. His grievances had been eagerly taken up
by a man named Edward Biber, of Wurtemberg, who was
employed in the school lately founded by Krusi. This man
had arrived at Yverdun after Pestalozzi's departure, had
stayed but one year there, and had then gone to Saint Grallen,
where he wrote, in Niederer's justification, a pamphlet,
entitled : Notes for the biography of Henry Pestalozzi^ and
for the better understanding of his late work : Experiences
of my Life.

Biber was entirely devoid of tact or feeling ; his pamphlet
is little more than a long insult to the venerable philan-
thropist who, after devoting himself for eighty years to the
service of humanity, was ending his days in misfortune.
Pestalozzi's character, religion and educational doctrine, were
alike attacked, and as the pamphlet contained expressions
which were known to have been used by Niederer in his
anger, people readily enough believed that he, if not actually
the writer, was at least the instigator of it, whereas no one
was more genuinely indignant with the infamous production.
In spite of the differences which had arisen between Pestalozzi
and Niederer, the latter had never ceased to express respect
and admiration for his former master, and yet he was the
man most deeply wronged by Biber's pamphlet, for which,
indeed, certain recent biographers still hold him responsible.

Pestalozzi's grief was naturally very great when he found
the work he held so dear thus spitefully attacked ; but when,
in a notice of Biber's work in a Zurich paper, he read : " It
seems that Pestalozzi is like certain animals who hide at
sight of the stick ; otherwise he would reply to these attacks,"
he was almost beside himself with indignation, crying, " I
can bear this no longer."

Utterly prostrated by this terrible blow, he fell seriously
ill. To his doctor. Doctor Stsebli of Brugg, he said: "I


feel that I am going to die ; but I must have six weeks
longer to refute these shameful calumnies."

The doctor sought to reassure him, but strictly forbade him
to work in the state in which he then was. The old man,
however, took no notice of his orders, and forthwith set to
work to write his answer. But the little strength he had
left soon failed him, and the pen fell from his hands.

The following lines, written during these last days of
Buffering, were found on his table :

" My sufferings are inexpressible ; no man could under-
stand the sorrow of my soul. People despise me as a feeble,
infirm old man ; they no longer think me good for anything ;
I do but excite their derision. It is not, however, for myself
that I am tnnibled, but for my idea, which shares my fate.
My most sacred possession, the belief that has inspired the
whole of my long and painful life, is scornfully trodden
under foot. To die is nothing ; I even welcome death, for
I am weary, and would fain be at rest ; but to have lived a
life of sacrifice and to have failed, to see my work destroyed
and go down with it to the grave, this is frightful, more
frightful than I can express. Would that I could weep, but
my tears refuse to flow.

" And you, my poor ones, the oppressed, despised and
rejected of this world ; you too, alas ! will be forsaken and
ridiculed, even as I am. The rich, in their abundance, care
nothing for you ; "they may, indeed, cast you a morsel of
bread, but nothing more, since they too are poor, having
nothing but their gold. As for inviting you to the spiritual
banquet, and making men of you, the world has not yet
thought of it, nor will it for a long time. But God who Is
in heaven, God who cares even for His sparrows, God will
not forget you, but will comfort you, even as He will com-
fort and not forget me."

By thus insisting on writing in spite of his weakness and
suffering, the old man had several times taken cold, and
thus considerably increased the gravity of his symptoms.
His complaint was gravel, and as the excessive pain neces-
sitated frequent surgical aid, the doctor wished to have his
patient near him at Brugg.

Gottlieb Pestalozzi accordingly hired a small room l in the

1 The room in which Pestalozzi died is now the post-office.


principal street of the little town, and when everything was
prepared, although there was thick snow on the ground,
took the old man there, well wrapped up, in a closed sledge.
This was on the 15th of February, 1827.

The next day Mr. Lippe arrived from Lenzburg to see his
old friend, but found him unconscious. In the morning a
paroxysm of frightful pain had been followed by delirium,
which had ceased about noon, since when he had not spoken.

By four o'clock the next morning the crisis was past, and
the old man regained consciousness. He seemed easy and
composed, helped to arrange his bed, and talked to those
about him for nearly an hour.

" My children," he said, " you cannot carry out my work,
but you can do good to those about you, you can give land
to the poor to cultivate. As for me, I am soon to read in the
book of truth. I forgive my enemies ; may they find peace,
even as I am now about to find the peace which is eternal.
I should have been glad to live six weeks longer to finish
my writing, and yet I thank God for taking me away from
this earthly life. You, my children, remain quietly at
Neuhof, and look for your happiness in your home.' : l

About six o'clock Doctor Stsebli arrived. There was no
fever, no pain, but he saw that the end was near ; indeed,
little more than an hour afterwards, Pestalozzi, with a smile
on his lips, quietly breathed his last. " He seemed to be
smiling at the angel who had come to fetch him," was the
testimony of those who were present. His grandson's wife
had watched over him tenderly to the last.

Pestalozzi's great-grandson, Colonel Charles Pestalozzi,
of the Zurich Polytechnic School, who at this time was not
more than three years old, relates that he has often heard
his mother talk of his great-grandfather's last days. Always
kind and thoughtful, patient when suffering most keenly,
cheerful and affectionate the moment he was free from pain,
grateful for the least attention, and calmly happy even at
the moment of death, he had borne his sufferings with a
fortitude that she never wearied of recalling.

1 Several biographers place this speech before the removal from
Nenhof. It is an open question. \Ve have taken the view which seemed,'
after careful investigation, to be the best.


On the 19th, the mortal remains of the great philosopher
and philanthropist were committed to the ground in the
village of Birr, near Neuhof. The news of his death had
scarcely reached Aarau, and people did not expect the inter-
ment to take place so soon j the communications, moreover,
were almost interrupted by the snow. The consequence was
that many who loved and respected Pestalozzi were absent
from the ceremony, though the inhabitants of the neighbour-
hood were there in great numbers.

The coffin was borne by schoolmasters, and was followed
by Gottlieb and a few relations and friends, villagers and
children being the only other mourners. As this simple
procession entered the churchyard, it was met by some
eighty village schoolmasters of the district chanting a psalm.
In the course of his address, Pastor Steiger said: "If ever
Pestalozzi was truly great, it was in his last days. Why
could we not all be witnesses of his patience and resignation,
of the calm trust with which he relinquished the world and
all his earthly hopes ? " The simple, touching ceremony
closed with a hymn that had been expressly composed for
the occasion by Pastor Fnehlich.

When Pestalozzi had been asked what sort of monument
should be raised to him, he had replied : " A rough, unhewn
stone, such as I myself have always been." He had asked
to be buried at Birr, near the school, without pomp, and
followed by children and peasants. This last wish at least
had been fulfilled. His grave was in a narrow strip of the
churchyard, lying between the church and the school, and
for nineteen years was marked by a single rose-tree. As it
had then become necessary to rebuild the school, the Great
Council of Aargau, feeling that the country still owed a debt
to the memory of its immortal benefactor, decided to honour
him by some more fitting memorial. A side of the' new
school was chosen for the purpose, and as the buildings still
adjoined the churchyard, although a new grave was neces-
sary, it was only a few steps distant from the old one.

The inauguration took place on the 12th of January, 1846,
the hundredth anniversary of Pestalozzi's birth, in the
presence of delegates from the Council of Public Instruction,
the various school-commissions, and many other public
bodies. A great crowd of other people were also present.
The singing of several choral societies alternated with the


sound of the church bells, whilst the coffin was being raised
from its original resting-place, and lowered, covered with
wreaths, into the new tomb. 1

The memorial is plain and suitable : above the grave is
a paved space enclosed by an iron railing, and in the middle
of the wall a niche containing the bust of Pestalozzi, be-
low which is the following inscription :

Here Rests

Born at Zurich, the 12th of January, 1746,
Died at Brugg, the 17th of February, 1827.

Saviour of the poor at Neuhof, at Stanz the father of
orphans, at Burgdorf and Munchenbuchsee founder of the
popular school, at Yverdun the educator of humanity ; man.
Christian, and citizen. All for others, nothing for himself,
Peace to his ashes.

Grateful Aargau.

1 The same day witnessed the inauguration of a still worthier memorial
to this faithful friend of the poor.

Pestalozzi's friends had thought that the best way of celebrating his
jubilee would be to found at last at Neuhof the poor-school he had so long
di earned of. A printed appeal, circulated in Switzerland and abroad,
had at once brought in a considerable sum of money, but unfortunately
this first generous impulse had soon been checked by the political and
religious discords which were at that time troubling the Confederation.
Not being in a position then to purchase Neuhof, the committee had
been obliged to begin operations on some land at Olsberg, near Khein-
felden, the property of the State. There, under the name of the Pexta-
lzzi Foundation, a poor-school was established for children of both sexes,
with separate divisions for Catholics and Protestants. It has lately been
proposed to enlarge this foundation by the addition of a training-school
for forming teachers for similar institutions, and of an establishment for
reforming vicious children.

French Switzerland ought also to have had her Pestalozzi Foundation.
An appeal sent out from Yverdun had been everywhere well received,
and success seemed certain ; in consequence, however, of the revolution
of 1845, and the resignation of the Protestant ministers, party feeling
ran so high in the canton that each side, dreading the political and
religious tendency of the other, insisted on having the direction of the
establishment in its own hands, and this being impossible, the enterprise
had to be abandoned.



The " Song of the Swan." The " Experiences of My Life.*
Discourse read at Langenthal.

WE were unwilling to interrupt the sad story just concluded
to speak of the works written by Pestalozzi during the two
last years of his life.

The Song of the Swan and the Experiences were origin-
ally intended as parts of the same work, but the author
soon decided to keep them separate ; a.nd it was well that he
did so, for the first would certainly have suffered from being
connected with the second.

In the life of Pestalozzi by J. Paroz, there is an interest-
ing summary of the Song of the Swan in the form of a
discourse supposed to be spoken by Pestalozzi; but any such
reconstruction is necessarily too artificial and too arbitrary
to leave the reader's judgment thoroughly unbiassed. We
think it best not to attempt anything of the sort, but to give
the author's principal ideas in his own words. In this way,
by a series of quotations, we shall be able to convey some
idea of this supreme appeal, addressed by the octogenarian
to his contemporaries in vain, but from which posterity may
yet profit.


" For half a century I have been seeking with unwearied
activity to simplify the elementary instruction of the people,
and find for it such a path as Nature follows in developing
and perfecting a man's various powers. During all this
time, despite my many weaknesses, I have worked zealously
for this one end. My want of skill has indeed often shown

1 In both Cotta's and Sejffartb's editions.


itself in the conception and execution of my enterprises, and
has brought upon me endless sorrows ; but till now I have
borne them with unfailing patience, and without ever inter-
rupting my serious efforts towards my end.

" It is impossible that during such a life I should not have
made important experiments in the subject of my investi-
gations, and that I should not have arrived at certain results
to which the friends of humanity and education cannot be

" I am now eighty years old, an age at which a man is
wrong not to think of himself every day as on his death-bed.
I have felt this more than ever for some time past, and
hence I am unwilling any longer to put off publishing an
account of my experiments, an account which will be as
clear and precise as I can make it, and will tell not only of
what has succeeded, but also of what has failed. This will
explain the title of my work.

" Friends of humanity ! take it for what it is, and do not
expect more literary graces from me than I am able to give.
My life has produced nothing complete or perfect, nor can
my writing do so either. Such as it is, grant it an attentive
examination, and whenever you happen upon a truth that
you think likely to benefit mankind, do what you can for it,
less for my sake than for that of the end I have in view. I
ask nothing better than to be put on one side, and replaced
by others, in all questions that others understand better than
I, so that they may be enabled to serve humanity better than
I have ever been able to do.

" I know not if it be necessary to add that a man of my
age repeats himself often and deliberately, and that when
his end is near, nay, even on his death-bed, he cannot
repeat himself enough, nor weary of speaking of what he
has in his heart till his last breath. But nobody takes this
amiss ; most people indeed are touched by it. I hope then
that, considering my age and position, I shall be forgiven if
in the following pages I repeat myself too often, and forget
many important matters which in other circumstances I
should not have forgotten.

" As for those who might like to have a more complete
knowledge of my educational experiments and institutions,
I must beg them to read the history of my undertakings,
which is to appear with the present volume."


I. (Passages taken from pages 1 to 9.)

"Examine everything, and hold fast to that which is good!
If anything better has matured in you, add it in truth and
love t' what in truth and love I am attempting to give you
here !

" The idea of elementary education, to which I have
devoted my life, consists in re-establishing the course of
Nature, and in developing and improving the tendencies and
powers of humanity.

" But what is human nature ? "It is, at bottom, that which
distinguishes the man from the animal, that which should
predominate and control whatever they have in common.
Thus elementary education must aim at developing heart,
mind, and body in such a way as to bring the flesh into sub-
jection to the spirit.

" Now it is evident that this development must follow a
certain course, that this course must be the course of Nature,
and that it is regulated by immutable laws.

"Indeed, however .great the diversities of men may be,
they do not in any way aifect either the unity of human
nature or the universality of the laws which govern its

" These laws apply to the whole of a man's nature, and
serve to maintain the necessary harmony between his heart,

Online LibraryRoger de GuimpsPestalozzi: his life and work → online text (page 35 of 43)