Page images

upon awakening and directing all our national energies to national ends. It was never our intention to deny, that in many branches of learning the Germans were infinitely superior to ourselves; our object was merely to warn our readers against too hasty a condemnation of the English University system, and, if possible, to strike out a balance of truth from between two conflicting parties, each of which appeared, in its zeal, likely to outstrip the bounds of justice. In the prosecution of this object we shall continue our inquiry into one particular branch of learned pursuit at home and abroad.

The peculiar eminence of our German contemporaries in all that comes under the description of learning and research, may be explained without resorting to any hypothesis of a difference in the character of German and English mind. That this exists we shall assuredly not deny, any more than we shall deny the difference in our physical conformation, a difference as apparent now as it was to Tacitus eighteen hundred years ago. But different circumstances and a different direction will, in process of time, produce what is at least equivalent to an original diversity; and these circumstances have existed in ample degree in Germany.

In that vast collection of various nations and kingdoms whose interests are divided, if not hostile, society presents an aspect very unlike ours. There has been no such fusion of classes as the insular position and manufacturing genius of England have given birth to. Here the gigantic power of steam has battered down the barriers between caste and caste, and the sons of the cotton-spinner or the hardware-man meet as equals the scions of the proudest baronial houses. The floor of the House of Commons levels the distinctions of rank; and for those with whom rank was not hereditary, the floor of the House of Commons may lay the foundations of nobility. Moreover, the younger sons of lordly families are Commoners in England, and primogeniture, which retains the coronet for one, allows of no minute subdivision of estates. Primogenitura facit appanagium is true enough, but appanage is not here of a nature to remove the receiver from amongst the great class which makes the strength and solidity of England. Nor is it to be forgotten that our aristocracy, in some respects the most clear-seeing of the world, have never failed to call up into their own ranks those whose talents and commanding position might have made them dangerous leaders of a hostile force. From the highest therefore to the lowest there is one unbroken chain; nor can the point be ascertained where this class begins and that ends : set aside the ermined baron and the proletarian, and all the rest is Middle Class,-a name and a thing known here alone.

In Germany these things are very different. An eternal and almost impassable barrier rises between man and man: nobility, heritable without primogeniture, floods thirty petty courts with titled aspirants for place and pension; as many sons and daughters, so many multiplications of the paternal coronet, so many equal claimants of the paternal wealth, till rank, and the means of supporting it, bear miserable proportion to one another. Hence the army and the host of places which a German court has to dispense become, in most states of the confederation, the sole resort of an impoverished aristocracy, who look with jealous eyes upon all interlopers from the ranks of the non-noble. Nor is it common in Germany for the aristocracy to recruit among the wealthy of the mercantile class : a wary tradesman will look twice ere he render himself liable to feed a regiment of hungry barons, his cousins by marriage; and in some states a mésalliance is fatal to the blood.

The states of the confederation are sovereign, and diplomacy is as much an adjunct of sovereignty as a brigade of guards. Hence thirty ministries, thirty corps diplomatiques, in which alone the noble and non-noble meet. But we who, if not born statesmen, (a title which the Germans generally refuse to us who have not regularly learnt state-craft,) are at least born politicians, see nothing strange in a country gentleman or successful manufacturer becoming a minister: practical sense, habits of business, political predilections (if not political principles,) sucked in with the air we breathe, are our education for public life; nor is any excluded whose weight or talent on the hustings or in the House, can fight his way to the uneasy height of office. Not so in Germany: statecraft there is a profession, statesmen are a class. Here and there, it is true, we find privy-councillors in the universities, and ministers selected from the distinguished names of literature; but the geheimer rath generally enjoys only a title of honour, and the literary minister is an avis rarissima in the land. Practically, and for all the purposes of our present inquiry, the statesmen form a separate class, having separate studies, separate interests, and almost a separate existence from all others. In fact, men of distinction in other walks of life, are apt, in Germany, to look upon ministerial dignity as something less attractive than we, who see in it the pledge of power. It is one thing, in a free community, to be a prime minister or secretary of state; another, in a paternal despotism, to be valet de chambre the first, or valet de chambre the second.

The clergy in Germany, especially the Protestant part of it, are again very differently situated from our own.

There is no wealthy church rejoicing in its connection with the state, and the goods which spring from that connection ; for the theologians of the universities are rarely clergymen,-a circumstance which, in some cases, will tend to explain if not to excuse the heterodoxy for which they stand in such bad odour here. The church, as a profession, is neither rich nor noble, hardly even gentle; and the bonds which link our clergy to the general body of the well-born and educated are, for the most part, wanting there. Dispersed over a poor country, and, in the main, not a literary class of men, the clergymen of Germany are little brought in contact with the other divisions of society; so little, in short, as to require no particular notice for the purposes of our present argument.

Again, the manufacturing and the labouring classes are confined within limits stricter than we can well conceive; there is no House of Commons, no influence of property, to give a public interest to the career of the successful trader or wealthy farmer. Even in the constitutional states, the duty of a deputy is no very effective education for a parliamentary life; and though formally abolished, the spirit of the Guilds of the Middle Ages yet lingers in the old haunts of commerce.

One class remains to be noticed, the class or profession of the learned, congregated in their several universities and gymnasia, the garrisons of the republic of letters, sole warders of science and literature, from the most abstruse to the most trifling of its walks. These men, be it remembered, are those

to whom the education of all is confided : they exist for that end; and as they are set apart, so do they live apart from all other interests and all other pursuits. The German professor is a professor and no more; he is a theologian only because he belongs to the theological faculty; a politician only because it is his business to teach politics,-in a university. His is a noble and generous career; he values it as such, and neither departs from it to mix in the world, nor to interfere with subjects which are the acknowledged aim and business of other classes. Moreover, most German universities are located in small towns which almost depend for existence upon the university. In these towns the professor is the haute noblesse; his two thousand dollars or so per annum allow him to live well; he is rich, privileged, honoured; why should he seek farther? Accordingly, he rarely does seek farther ; but having attained that great object of ambition, a professor's chair, he lives and dies a professor.

Our readers will now be able to judge of the circumstances which exert so favourable an influence upon study in Germany, and which compel so many minds to give all their energies to its pursuit. Upwards of a dozen large universities, (comprising some four hundred professors,) and a proportionate number of preparatory institutions, are continually occupied in adding to a class, all whose hopes are centred in literature and the large rewards which it holds out. Distinction is secure of employment, employment is secure of honourable competence. The object is undivided, the class clearly defined; there is no struggle to pass beyond its limits. A strong professional feeling is called into existence; and hence all the stimulus which ambition, wish for competence and esprit de corps can supply, is brought to bear in one direction and on one object. The student tries to qualify himself for a chair ; become a private teacher, (privat docent,) he yearns to be an extraordinary professor (ausserordentlicher professor); having attained this elevation, he still aspires to be made ordinary professor (ordentlicher professor) in his own university, or to receive a call to another; while even when arrived at this, the loftiest point, he may hope for a Hofrath's, (aulic councillor,) or even a Geheimer Rath's (privy councillor) title, and an increase of salary. Besides, his reputation will in

crease the number of his hearers, and this again the amount of his income*.

These circumstances, thus favourable to all intellectual exertion, when coupled with the peculiar character and tendency of the German mind, have given rise to a historical school of great eminence, and produced some of the most remarkable books which ever issued from the press.

It is a great mistake to imagine that the mere collecting and even accurate judging of facts is all that is required to constitute a historian. These faculties, namely, of industry and common sense, are, no doubt, necessary conditions of success; but they are a portion only, and that a small one, of the historian's armoury. To the acuteness of analysis which detects truth amidst conflicting testimony, must be added that lofty synthetic quality of imagination which fuses the fragmentary and disjointed parts into one consistent, harmonious and artistic whole. In this respect the historian resembles any other great artist; and even as the sculptor, when contemplating the torso or the single limb of a beautiful statue, can at once frame to himself the conception of the whole figure, whose necessary and proportionate part he is examining ;--so also must the historian, when contemplating isolated facts, (and all recorded facts, as facts, are such,) be able at once to conceive the feeling, habits, laws, government and state of society which made up such a general condition of a people as would allow of the existence of the given fact. And


* We do not mean to assert that this state of things is without drawbacks. Its worst result is that very confined and isolated existence which is allotted to each

Class interests and class pursuits are essentially destructive of the broad, wise, practical views which make men,--and Germans, unhappily, are not often men; they are Staatsdiener, Amptmänner, Professoren, Militär, Herzöge, Könige and Kayser, but they are rarely men, in the only sense in which it is worth one's while to be able to say homo sum !, that is, in the bold, uncompromising exertion of a free will.

To Literature, however, and especially learning, (whose province is more, perhaps, the head than the heart,) this state of society is not unfavourable. The very confinement of the intellectual stadium renders the efforts made within it more vigorous; the rays are concentrated till they burn. Division of labour produces here the results which we look for even in the most mechanical employ. ments. No man does more than one thing, but he does that one thing well; and putting aside the small wits of Leipzig, Berlin and Vienna, the literateurs à la rose, the compounders of periodicals for the most part below contempt, there is no class of people in Germany whose business it is to know a little, and only a little, of everything. If this renders the Germans peculiarly liable to be imposed upon in all that does not immediately concern their own fach, profession or pursuit, on the other hand it eminently qualifies them for distinction in their peculiar path.

« PreviousContinue »