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Imperial Germany; a critical study of fact and character online

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saitimentalit>' often fills them with far too many illusions
to meet the realities of life. For it is an instance of the
strange double nature of the German character that.

lVoma)ikvid and Family Life.

o -^ "^


Anybody can J"^??^',?,

daily life.

while their poetry is so sentimental, their conduct in
daily life is in such marked contrast
con\ince himself of this by a glance at the numberless
ad\'ertisements with offers of marriage {^Heirathsgesiiche')
which are to be found in almost exerj' newspaper, not
only at the present time, for the custom dates back oyer
a hundred years. These productions are strangely

The Waktblrg, where Lcther Translaicu* iHc Ijidi.c.

matter-of-fact, sober, and sensible in tone, the princi-
pal points in request being usually a little money and
domestic yirtues of manifold description.

To our mind, German girls lack that freedom English

... 11-11/- -J Lack of free-

girls enjoy, and, while the (jermans are neycr tired dom.

of vaunting the virtue of their women, the slightest
intimacy with the other se.x, unless followed by immedi-
ate betrothal, is sufficient for gossip to lay hold of and
discredit them. English women are said to be prudish,
but in the art of feeling shocked Gretchen outdoes her


Imperial Germany.

Aiixiely to

Objection to

P^nglish sister. At parties you can hardly dance several
times with a young lady, or show a little preference for
her, without gossip at once busying itself with its being
a case of engagement.

This is a great pity, and is one of the reasons girls
are not brought up in greater independence of thought
and character, and taught to look to their own energy
as offering a possible career in life, outside wedlock. It
is not only with us that women of the present day are
often too anxious to get married to enable them to dis-
criminate and choose wisely. On the other hand, we
must admit that German girls are much less influenced
by the hope of marrying money and position than the
daughters of our well-to-do classes. This is all the more
to their credit when we bear in mind that their men are
much more anxious to marry money than our own.

The daughters of the poor aristocracy have a far
greater horror of marrying beneath them than our aris-
tocracy, for even money and luxury fail to overcome
their traditional objection to trade. They will marry
poverty in almost any form sooner than that. But, side
by side with this prejudice, they possess the virtues of
order and economy in a rare degree, and, as a class,
they have contributed their share to the present great-
ness of Germany by being the mothers of the great
majority of German officers.




While we, perhaps, carry too little sentiment into our
every-day life, German women have a longing for more
than they usually get, and it is one of their good points
that their disappointment rarely takes an aggressive
form. They soon get reconciled to the reality, and
make excellent wives and mothers. In fact, if only half-

]Voma7ikind and Family Life. 235

way well treated, no truer, no more dutiful or better

woman can be found. She may not rise to that inde- Mildness of

■' disposition.

pendente of thought and conduct we now and then meet
in our own country, but neither are her faults colored by
the qualities she lacks. If she be not noted for that sub-
lime union of breadth and boldness of character added
to womanliness we behold in some of Shakespeare's
heroines, neither is she the fiery termagant, the secret
drinker, to be met with elsew-here. Even if not par-
ticularly happy at home, her unselfish love of her family
makes her submit to many things against which the
women of other countries rebel, and instances of moral
depravity are rarer than in almost any other country ;
for, if we are to believe tradition, Irish women in this
respect carry the palm.

The circumstances of the German woman's life are
not of a kind to produce those extraordinary instances
of strong-willed initiative we meet with among Eng-
lish women. Her education is more homely, her life
more restricted ; the organization of German society
does not give her a sphere of action such as many
English women have found and shone in. Her life is
comparativelv uneventful, not to say monotonous, so Narrowness of

, , ' . -11 • '^'-■'' sphere.

that even her virtues, not to mention her shortcommgs,
are tinged with the idiosyncrasies of her surroundings.
But if she is inclined to gossip, if she often exasperates
her husband by her exacting pettiness, and fails to im-
press him with that tact or dignity which the French
I)osscss so preeminently, at the bottom she is honest,
self-res[)ecting, and reliable to a rare degree.

It is only among the German aristocracy and plutoc-
racy that we meet with anything like the independence
of English women. Also, the women of the aristocracy
arc more cosmopolitan and less nationalK- tvpical than

236 Imperial Gcniiany.

others. They are more free from the trixial quahties
referred to al)o\e ; but, although superior in manner,
they do not show so high a percentage of happiness in
married Hfe. Where the women of the middle classes
gossip and sulk, those of the aristocracy rebel and in-
trigue. Divorces are very common, and it is not un-
.ofd?vo"cZ usual to meet half-a-dozen divorced men and women at

evening parties in large towns. The faults of the middle
class are trivial and on the surface ; beneath it the body
is healthy, and a little more self-control and attention to
details of manner would considerably add to their sum
of happiness. All in all, the average of married happi-
ness seems to be higher in Germany than in England,
and several conditions seem partly answerable for it. Of
these, perhaps the most prominent are the longer dura-
tion of engagement, enabling a better prior mutual
acquaintance ; the later age at which Germans marry ;
and, lastly, the greater aptitude of average German
women for household work and occupation.

In Germany the woman's place is at home : there she
shines preeminent, self-sacrificing, devoted to her family.
theTomen^ °^ ^^^ '^ morc domcsticated than the women of any other
nation. It must have been an ungrateful, dyspeptic
German husband who invented the saying, "Women
and dogs should be kept indoors."

Although in our days of luxury and pleasure-seeking
the exceptions are many and daily increasing in number,
yet, as a rule, German homes are centers of rare order,
economy, and general comfort and happiness. And the
words of Schiller still apply to the German housewife :

And therein reigns
The prudent wife,
The tender mother ;
In wisdom's ways

Womankind and 1-aniily I^ife. 237

Her house she sways,
Instructeth the girls,
ControUeth the boys,
With dihgent liands
She works and commands,
Increases the gains
And order maintains.'

And even more than that, for although German hus-
bands do not grant their wixes that equahty of com-
panionship we witness in England and America, yet
they share more of their husband's interests than the Pr|n"ll'',vomen'!
wives of those countries, and in this more resemble their
P'rench sisters. If her husband be deficient in the small
considerations of every-day life, yet he turns to her for
advice and moral support in all matters concerning the
education of the children and affairs of business. She is a
true mother to her children, and wields an influence over
them which is, perhaps, only met with again in France.
Rising almost as early as her servants, she sets them
an excellent example, she superintends their work, is in-
variably an excellent cook herself, and finds her happi-
ness in her home activity. Although she exacts more
of her dependents than we are accustomed to do, yet
she asks her servants to do little she is not able and will-
ing to d<i herself, although her education fits her for the

. 1 ■ 1 Treatment of

society of the best. Even if her servants i)e poorly paid, servants.
and only too often meagerly fed, they are made to feel a
greater interest in tlie family than is common in England,
and family festivities invariably in( hide a greater recog-
nition of the domestics than in our country.

Hence her innucncc is decidedly beneficial on her de-
pendents, the morality and haj^piness of whom arc, we
believe, above the average of the same class in England.
That the circumstances of life are happier with them is

1 Schiller, "The Song of the Bell."

238 Imperial Germany.

seen b\' the few German servants that go to England
Character who Can be induccd to stay, as high wages cannot make

III l.ernian , ^ •' .

seivaiiis. m) for their isolation. The habits of thrift and industr)'

and cleanliness of person and the sense of self-respect
among them are very strong, and lead to their becoming
the useful wives of the working classes later on. As
such they are in every way far superior to the same class
at home. It is very unusual for a German ser\'ant girl
not to have saved a snug little sum of money toward
starting housekeeping, and it is nothing very unusual to
find them enter the married state with a trousseau of linen
worth over $250. Thus, it is not surprising to find a far
smaller percentage of the female lower classes engulfed
in the pitiless waves of social ruin than in England.

If to our mind German wives may in many instances
be considered little better than servants, on the other
hand, they hold that English women incline to lux-
ury and laziness. There is certainly less of outward

Absence of out- pretense in German families than in English, and a far

ward pretense. ^ '^

greater percentage of people in the middle classes who
live well within their income with something to spare.

But as everything has its drawbacks, so with the
household work of the German wife. It is often the case
that when you make your morning call and are told that
the gnddi£-e Fran — the gracious lady — will be with you
at once, you have to wait half-an-hour till she appears ;
or the "gracious lady" has a headache, or is engaged
at her toilet, which often means that she is so hopelessly
involved in household affairs that she cannot receive
you at all.


Of German husbands, the poet Heine, in one of
his vicious moods, said: "German married life is no

WofnaiikiJid and Family Life.

true wedlock. The husband has no wife, but a servant,

and he continues to live on in spirit his isolated bachelor

life even in the family circle. " We cannot agree with

this, for in many respects the German husband is a jJ^^g'-b^^^JI"''"

model of a family man. He upholds the sanctity of the

family tie in all its most important bearings, and as an

Courtyard of the VVartburg.

an.xious, conscientious father of his children he has feu-
equals. P3nglishmen, who so often lose sight of their
sons in their teens, can form little idea of the moral in-
fluence a German father exercises over his children,
even after they have reached manhood.

On the other hand, in the small matters of cvery-day
life, he is not alvvavs as appreciative of his cons(jrt's a|)i)reci.-ition.
qualities as he might be. In fact, he is often uncon-
scious of them, for, being brought uj) to e.vpect so
much, he has rarely the sad exjierience of what a curse
a lazy, pleasure-seeking woni.m may become. And

Lack of

240 Imperial Germany.

thus Bismarck's remark that "our wives are the only-
ladies we are rude to ' ' has more than a passing

Notwithstanding the many ethereal qualities love-sick

Germans credit their women with, once married they

M;uter-of-fact crenerallv become wonderfuliy sober and matter-of-fact.

nature. is y J

They know they are the stronger, and, except in rare
cases of good breeding, do not scruple to show it when
their sensitive nerves are irritated. They are slightly
inclined to bully and domineer, and direct contradiction,
such as " That is not true " (^Das ist 7iicht wahr) , is not
at all uncommon, and is thought nothing of. Nor do
they like to be told that they are often responsible
for the petty weaknesses of their women. On the con-
trary, they are nervously anxious that their helpmates
should behold in their august countenances the efful-
gence of Jupiter the thunderer, and recognize it to be
their supreme function to serve and to obey.

There is a certain restlessness in the temperament of
Germans that bids them devote much of their time to
Restlessness of the cxclusivc socicty of their own sex, which they do in
the beer-houses, of which the number and the extensive
patronage is beyond belief. Germans of almost every
position of life frequent these beer-houses, and those
who are married invariably justify this habit by telling
their indulgent wives that it is necessary for the broader
intellect of man to seek sweet converse and animation in
the society of their own kind, that interchange of ideas
is important to keep themselves abreast of the great
questions of the day. Those who have enjoyed the
privilege of German beer-house society are likely to
hold a different opinion of the breadth and wealth of
ideas that permeate the smoky atmosphere. However,
the fact remains that German husbands spend more of

Womankmd and Family Life. 241

their spare time in men's company without their wives

than we do, and hence their women are much restricted L<ick of com-

to the company of their own sex. This is the more to
be regretted when we bear in mind that the education of
women in Germany is so excellent that it only requires
such social fostering as they often seek in vain, in order
to make their society the most interesting one could
wish, ten times more healthy and entertaining than that
of any beer-house. As it is, ladies' tea-parties, so-called
" Kaffee Klatsch," restrict them to small-talk and petty
gossip, and thus cause a want of breadth of view and
feeling entirely unworthy of the excellent education they
have received.

In this respect German husbands are often selfish, and
rarely fight out that victory over their meaner nature by
which an Englishman conquers his longing to spend an
evening at his club, and submissively hurries home to a Selfishness.
fireside, where he does not always receive an adequate
welcome. For the male type of the silent sufferer {^der
stille Didder) is much more common with us than in
Germany. These remarks, however, apply more to the
so-called better middle-class; to the honor of the masses
it must be said that their wives share more of their com-
pany. In fact, they usually take their amusements,
such as theater-going, country outings, beer-drinking,
together. This, indeed, is one of the reasons why,
though rather heavy drinkers, they so seldom get in-
toxicated. However humble the means, there are few
workingmen's families that do not set aside a little week
by week for common amusement.

We have dwelt on the typical shortcomings, which, as
everywhere, mark the majority. The exceptions are also
distinctly typical, and nowhere reach a higher ideal of H^ppy family
happy family life than in < k rniaiiy. 1 1 ere we find sym-

242 Imperial Germany.

An illustration.

pathetic feeling blended with rare breadth of philosophic
education and culture, skill in the arts, and delicate ten-
derness of heart.

An illustration of this is brought near to us, and in the
loftiest social sphere, as all know who have read the
journals of our queen. The little touches therein con-
tained of family gatherings at Christmas, and on other
occasions, are quite in the ideal German spirit ; no less
than the prince's custom of allotting to each child a
garden to be cultivated by its own hand, with the festi-
\al which was held when the jiroducts were by them-
selves cooked and eaten. This is simply an instance of
the idea of the Prussian prince learning a trade applied
to the female side.

The late princess Bismarck was indeed one of those
Princess Bis- typical German women, whose whole life was unremit-
tingly centered in her family, her home. Those who
enjoyed the privilege of her acquaintance and were per-
mitted to visit at her home cannot but ever remember
her kindness, her excellent qualities of heart and mind.
Few women in exalted station were less worldly or more
simple of heart. Her devotion to her husband, her
children, was truly German, it was unique. She lived
only for them and their happiness.



Arrogance is a plebeian vice.


We have endeavored to describe qualities that excited
the admiration of Carlyle and many others. It is but
meet to point to shadows, if only to set off the light.

Those who have heard of the national self-sufficiency
of the Entjlish after the battle of Waterloo, and those English and

'^ 1 • r 1 Eri-'nch conceit.

who can remember the truculent l)umptiousness of the
French chauvinist element after the Italian campaign of
1859, ought not to be surprised at any manifestation of
national conceit in Germany after the victories of 1870.
But it must be noted as one of the brightest sides of the
German character that their best intellect seems to have
remained wonderfully sober in the midst of into.xicating
success. This is particularly the case in the army and
in diplomatic circles, while here and there it is surprising
to see a knot of university professors showing more of
chauvinistic ardor than of < ;ilm philosopln-. hvvn thr iisabsencein
occasional big words of a Bismarck have l)een invariably
uttered with a purpose — as a means to an em\. For
though he has told us that the Germans only fear (iod,
we know that they fear a few other things besides —
notably, social democracy and the Philistine spirit.

We can remember tlie rebuke administered to a man
of letters who llioiigiit that the ( iermans would l)eat tlie



Iinpoial GomcDiy.



French again. "You must not say that, " remarked a
high Prussian officer present; "that is in God's hand."

Unfortunately, this liumihty does not cliaracterize the
German PhiHstine, who is largely represented in the
community. In him the Germans originally typified the
small citizen-class which has had no higher education ;
but his cast of mind is found to be present in other
circles as well. His is that narrow, carping spirit, the
existence and growth of which may be regarded as
largely owing to the unhappy political condition of the
past reacting on the weak sides of the national character.

German unity was never his ideal, nor has its attain-
ment yet shown many signs of ennobling him. When
the advantages enjoyed by other countries only served
to instruct and urge on the efforts of Germany's best
intellect and character, the Philistine mingled his hatred
{^Schadenfreude^ and envy with a cringing deference to
foreign superiority ; and when that did not suffice, he
had a little of those qualities to spare for the best
men of his own country. The speciality of hatred
termed Schadenfreude is essentially a Philistine German
quality, and is untranslatable. It means the gratifica-
tion of pent-up envy — the joy over the misfortune of
those we had previously cringed to and envied. It is
allied to a craze for grumbling {das Rlisonniren^ , which
was ever a Philistine virtue. And yet, strange to say,
while indulging in these feelings with regard to every-
thing around him, the Philistine has ever been the sup-
porter of the old fossilized order of things.

When Aristides was being ostracized, an Athenian,
who did not know him, asked him to mark his shell
for him. "What has he done to you that you should
wish him to be banished?" Aristides inquired. "Oh, I
am tired of hearing him called the Just," the Athenian

The PJiilistine.


Philistine replied. Neither does his German representa-
tive of to-dav like to hear any one praised.

In his temperament the querulous rowdy is ready-
made. Yet his is the nature that makes his countrymen
ridiculous by prizing and bowing to empty titles, while
true distinction is beyond his ken. He alternates be-
tween loud, aggressive arrogance and mean, cringing ser-
vility. To this class Goethe is a haughty aristocrat, and
even poor Schiller a prig. Formerly he would sneer at
Prince Bismarck as an unscrupulous political trickster,


■^ _ _ -^




^^^ BBl



4 ^ A^A^^I



■.l' ' ' '' '

Museum and Lustgarten, Berlin.

and to-morrow he may boast thai Bismarck is, after all,
only the mouthpiece, the exponent of the ideas of such
as he. Yesterday lie ridiculed the idea of ihe Ciermans
presuming to beat the Frenth, and to-day he talks of his
countrymen ousting the English from South Africa.

A trait of liis fretful sensitiveness leading to arrogance
was illustrated the other day, when one of the fraternity ArroRance.
received a communication from the imperial law courts
at Leipzig in which he was merely addressed as "w(ll
born," whereas Ik- thought that the title of "high ;iiid
well-born" was his dtp- lb immediately stigmatized

246 Imperial Germany.

the omission as a " colossal want of tact," and paternal
government, with an Argus-eyc for its own dignity, was
not long in returning the compliment in the form of a
fine of $30, or twelve days' imprisonment.

Another opposite manifestation of the Philistine spirit,
Servility. ^ygii known and tolerated in othei* countries, has hardly

done more than show its cloven foot in Germany. It
did so at the accession to the throne of the present
emperor, when the court shopkeepers of Berlin tried
to present an address emphasizing their loyalty and
devotion. Luckily, the attempt to gain signatures fell
very flat ; so that we may well hope this insidious form
of arrant Philistine flunky ism will not take root in Ger-


The patriotism of the Philistine is of a peculiarly
aggressive and arrogant kind, yet windy and empty

Philistine r „ , T , , • V ,

iiatriotisni. tor all that. It has not even the misdirected concen-

tration of French chauvinism, for indifference is mingled
with hatred and conceit. From this indifference, indeed,
arises the fact that he is not impressed, much less car-
ried away, by military glamor : he only suns himself in
it, as a cheap form of patriotism.

He speaks of the English as a nation of shopkeepers,,
yet conveniently forgets that no part of Bismarck's
policy has earned such unqualified approval in the
Fatherland as his endeavor to compete with the English
as traders beyond the sea.

The Philistine meets his boon companions in the beerr
house, and will enlarge on the enormous strides Cierman

Koastfulness. , 1 r . 1 • 11 11 t-

commerce has made or late, being able to laugh at Eng-
lish competition, etc. He probably is not aware that
the Germans still fail to outdistance the English, but he

The Philistine. 247

forgets what he ought to know and remember — that a
good many branches of German trade would often have
been in a sad plight if it were not for those very English
who supplied them with orders. While, on the other
hand, almost every English manufacturer's product is
kept out of the German market — or at least severely
handicapped — by strong protective tariffs, which con-
veniently assist the Teuton in competing successfully.

The Philistine boasts of the enterprising spirit of Ger-
man commerce, whereas the principal "enterpriser" in
Germany is the state, whose competition in many ways
cripples the initiative of the individual.

He rides home from his favorite beer-house in a tram-
way car, started and financed by an English company — inconsistency.
for several of the German tramways were started by
English enterprise and capital.' When he reads that
the English company has sold the concern at a good
j)rofit and it has been taken over by local capitalists, he
reviles the sordid instincts of the English and is dis-
gusted at the huge profit they have made out of the
poor Germans. Vet when this amiable individual in-
sures his house or his life, the chances are he will do so
with an English company, although the German institu-
tions are perhaps to be preferred.

A fa\orite war-horse of the Philistine is his hatred of
the Jews — a hatred based 011 envy, because the Jews suc-
ceed where he makes but a poor shift. Macaulay said tiujcws.
that the Puritans hated bear-baiting, not because of the
cruelty to the bear, but because of the i)leasure given to
the spectators. The German Philistine feels much in

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