The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Max Pauli: The Story of a Man's Life
by Heinrich Hoffman.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
The little fracas with Kieger did no harm. Max threw himself heartily into the business of the shop, was too busy for several evenings to seek his friends, and when he did go to their Thursday meeting he was surprised to find himself out of touch with their thought. Kieger's attack--the first, too--had been a little brutal, and though Max was too generous and too just to resent the reproof he deserved, that fount of resentment which springs eternal in the human breast would have course; the cause of his humiliation was an offence to him, and Beauty, her fair self, became, for the time, unlovely in his eyes.
Beauty, say we? Nay, Beauty was more beautiful than ever; but not Beauty spread abroad through the earth in tint and shape, in sound and sentiment; but Beauty gathered together, heaped up, so to speak, in one exquisite human being. The passion of his youth came upon him again, as a storm which gathers force in a lull. All the talk they had held together, he and his friends, of beauty and grace--at the time, it meant anything, everything; now, he knew its name: "Hedwig," "Hedwig," beat in his pulses, rang in his ears, danced before his eyes. It was the contemplation, not of picture or statue, but of his human love that should fill him also with grace and beauty, and with the virtue which is of these. How blind had he been! How blind were they all! No doubt the subtle essence is diffused, here a little, there a little, some everywhere, perhaps, had we eyes to discern, for the uplifting and blessing of men; but what can compare with the upgathered beauty of a beautiful woman? "Hedwig!" "Hedwig!" his heart half moaned in sad fulness of her sweetness. For she came upon him now as more than his love--she was his religion. It was through her and the love of her he should attain that fulness of perfected being he had wearied himself in the search after.
But what of Bruhm? His interests were nowise affected--at least, so Pauli thought--by this access of passion. The "brothers" kept up a very full, if not, by reason of cost of postage, very frequent correspondence. Bruhm poured out a lover's rhapsodies and despairs, remembering all the time that he was bound by vow not to prosecute his suit. And, you who have not measured the Quixotic chivalry of a young man who still keeps faith with himself, think of this odd thing--an extraordinary triangular correspondence was kept up between these three young persons, Hedwig and her two adopters, Pauli wrote long letters--Hedwig found them dull, sometimes--of Beauty and of Duty, of his friends and his work and his hopes, but hardly could the quick eyes of the maiden discern hint of passion in his closely-written, many-sheeted epistles. Think of wading through sheets and sheets of improving epistles with hardly a hint of the personal feeling which, somebody says, is the whole raisin d'être of a letter; because, is not everything else under the sun written in a book? Hedwig was aware of the glow underneath, but thought Pauli prosy with his talk of books and men and thought, and all manner of heavy things that a girl does not want to hear of in a letter; but had she guessed the reason of his reticence, would she have sent him those charming replies, guarded as his own, but full of grace and sparkle? Alas! for a man's one-sided notion of honour. Think of it! Pauli believed himself in honour bound to send for Bruhm's perusal a copy of every letter he wrote to Hedwig, and the original of the racy little reply; and this without ever asking Hedwig what she thought of this remarkable pact. Do you wonder that his letters were dull as ditch-water?
"Fantastic idiot!" say you? "Fantastic!" yes. Has not every lover a right to be fantastic? Some if us believe that the fantastic notions of a lover do but show his reversion to a higher estate. But "idiot"? No; our Max is no idiot. Wise, or otherwise, we will not stop to argue. But thus it came to pass that the true "love letters" passed between Bruhm and Pauli, and little Hedwig, the source of all the glow, was herself left out in the cold. We call her little just out of love for her, she liked it. "Call me a pig if you like," she said to her father one day, "but let it be a little pig;" but little she was not, having grown into as stately and gracious a maid as any in Saxon-land.
"Oh, my Bruhm," wrote Max, "don't attempt to disguise the true state of your heart from me. Do I not feel passion throbbing in every line of your letter? Even when you attempt to criticize her coldly, to show up her faults--and who denies that she has faults?--why, confess; is it not that you would rather say anything bad of her, even, than not talk of her at all? But I? am I tired of Dulcibel that you should play such poor ruse upon me? Be her friend, counsel the poor dear noble girl where you think she needs it. But oh, foolish Bruhm! do not throw dust in your own eyes. Your last letter shows that you are given up to the intoxication of passion. How can you help it? No; be sick with love if you must, but don't forget our old struggle after a higher life."
One day full of generous sympathy with his friend's passion, the next his own bursts from him:--
"And you, lucky wretch, happy ingrate, you--you live under the eyes of my Hedwig! Yes, my! Come what may, a part of her soul is mine, and will be mine for ever. There is a fir copse outside the city here, and the pines know my secret. It is a lonely place at night, where the happy lovers do not come; but the sombre trees know me well! I come and lean my face sorely against the stem of some dark pine, and moan 'My Hedwig! my Hedwig!' so that its wooden heart must ache for pity. Are you laughing at a lover's conceits? Alas! poor Bruhm, I know thou canst not laugh, and I may talk my folly out to thee; for thou, too, art the fool of love! But, Bruhm, 'tis true thou art a fool! It has cost me a hard battle to confess it, but I know she loves thee best; I have known it for long. How could woman doubt who had to choose between us two? My modest Bruhm, you little know how much more noble, how much stronger, is your character than mine, or you would be certain as I of your happiness! Happy fellow, whom the gods love! But pity me, my friend! I try not to hate you indeed that horrid battle was fought out long ago. But think how it is with me. Hedwig begins everything with me; Hedwig is with me whilst I do it; Hedwig ends it with me. Night or day, sleeping or waking, Hedwig is in all my thoughts. Don't you see? To tear her out is like tearing out my life."
Max was having a bad time: but, save for these letters to Bruhm, he kept his pains to himself. Kieger had administered an effectual tonic, and he worked with good will in hours and out of hours. Besides, he had reasons of his own for devoting himself to the details of this great book business. Companionship, even that of Winndt, was irksome to him in his present mood; but in Nature he found a friend. The brooks babbled, the leaves whispered, the violets breathed--Hedwig!
A GARDEN PARTY.
In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
Pauli listened with delight to the clear modulated tones of his companion; every step, every movement of hand and eye delighted him; the very way she held her fan--the day was warm--was a revelation of grace and breeding. The Countess Von Hielberg was not young; she was old, perhaps; but that is it; in the presence of wit and genius and the quick intuition that comes of the habit of society, you do not question of young or old, especially if you meet all this for the first time.
"A bookseller; what opportunities!"
Max had blurted out that he was a bookseller's man by way of confession, thinking this stately lady would no more of him when she knew his condition. But Amalie, Countess Von Hielberg, was democrat of the democrats, and a charming young man distinctly of the people was a great find. Besides, for her, as for other democrat-aristocrats, the world was divided into two classes--"ourselves" and everybody else--and to visit these rich Winndts and to talk on equal terms with a journeyman were all as one to her, both a part of the coming out of her set on which she prided herself. Then, here was opportunity to give inspiration to a young man who might do much. So Max unfolded, with a freedom which surprised himself, his hopes and plans for serving the world through this book business of his, and got hints which proved of use.
"Why not begin at once?"
"I am too young, and I have no capital."
"Young! 'Tis the young who do things. I wish I had money to lend you, but I am quite poor; my husband will not trust me with a purse. Can't you borrow?"
And Max, reticent as he was, found himself drawn into a free discussion of his friends and their means, and there and then a scheme of partnership was suggested--suggested itself to him, he would have said--which really worked and was the means of his launch into "independent" life. When he came to think this conversation over he was amazed at his own want of delicacy.
"The room is stuffy. Let us go out."
So Pauli found himself the cavalier of the great lady of the day.
"These gardens are ravishing; quite in the English style. Only with us and in England do they understand gardening."
Herr Winndt's particular pride and glory was his garden. They passed from the terrace into a narrow alley of closely-clipped laurels, and came out on a sunny lawn, brilliant with tulip beds; tulips were the fashion, as orchids are to-day, and fabulous sums were paid for unique specimens.
"Our friend Herr Winndt must spend a fortune on tulips; that 'black beauty' has not cost him less than two thousand francs."
"Two thousand francs! and you might buy two thousand plants as lovely for the price! Is it right?"
"Ah, you still ask, Is it right? But what does not that plunge you into? What is right?"
"Surely duty is right; but who can do even what he sees? Tell me, madam; you know everything; how is one to live one's life?"
Led by the strains of an AEolian harp, whose chords were stretched to catch the breezes across the opening into a grotto, itself smothered in roses--so that the air was doubly laden, with sweet odour and sweet sounds--they followed a path between beds where were hollyhocks, sunflowers, gillyflowers, mignonette; and the lady took the head of a sunflower and gazed into its tubes. "Is not here a parable?"
"You mean the sunflower turns ever one way? I, too, have set my face towards virtue so long as I can remember, but I gain nothing; I am like your sunflower; I look that way and am rooted; there is no advance. Is that your parable, lady?"
"By no means. My sunflower follows the sun and glows. Do you read Klopstock?"
"No; no more than to glance through uncut pages. Remember my trade."
"You must. I am no sunflower, but I love the flower that dares to fix its eye on the eternal brightness. I, for my poor part, like to see many things; when you gaze on the sun, you see but one thing with desire. Since his boyhood, Klopstock has had a single aim--to sing the Messiah in a great epic. He has spent many years on the work, has grown old with his poem, and now, Psalmist of the New Testament that he is, he finishes with, 'My heart is flooded with joy, for, have I not sung my God?' But there is the beloved poet himself; let us go."
The genial old man was surrounded by a crowd of ladies, and the bright maidens sparkled the more for his joy in their beauty and for the quaint compliments he paid them, each carrying a hint of spiritual counsel like a rhyme in a bonbon. Max's friend made opportunity to present him, but he got no chance of talk with the poet, who loved the society of ladies, and found great refreshment in innocent play of wits. Herr Winndt had collected a brilliant assembly of eighty or a hundred guests for this Sunday afternoon, and amongst them some distinguished émigrés already well known to the Countess, and too glad to seize on their old acquaintance. Anna Winndt went about amongst her father's guests, and knew how, out of the kindliness of her warm German nature, to make Neumuhlen--beautifully situated on the banks of the Elbe--a charming resort for the interesting society accustomed to gather there week by week.
This society, in which Max found himself for the first time, needless to say by the invitation of Rudolph Winndt, was not without political significance. Hamburg was the nature centre of many interests, if only as the first sea-port and the chief commercial city of Germany, and therefore the resort of foreigners of all nations. But from the beginning of the Revolution, Hamburg had identified itself with France, establishing with it an alliance, not altogether disinterested, for the impulse this alliance gave to trade was felt by all classes. As a consequence, the keenest interest was shown in the progress of events in France, and you might learn more minute and exact details in such gatherings as this of Herr Winndt's than you could, perhaps, in either of the great cabinets of Europe. At this moment, for example, Mademoiselle Winndt, who, quick to perceive that he was left alone, had joined Max, said eagerly, "Oh, see! there is M. Dumourier; how people are listening! Let us go and hear the news. He arrived only yesterday."
"What, Dumourier the Jacobin minister?"
"The same; he has played a difficult part. People here think he was equally loyal and equally zealous for the King and for the nation. Just think, how impossible to side with both! For my part, all my heart is given to the poor Queen, and I love Dumourier because he was kind to her. But let us hear what he has to say. He talks freely because, as he says, the more people know of their majesties the more they must lament them."
They joined the little crowd gathered round the late minister, whose narrative was interrupted, now by the sobs of his audience, now by his own emotion; and Max watched with curious interest tears rolling down faces too proud to own their weeping by the least movement of muscle.
"And did you see the Queen herself?"
"Yes, ah, yes; she summoned me to her presence. She was alone, flushed, agitated, suffering; the sight of the Queen in such distress made me forget myself to tears."
"Did you see her again?"
"Yes, and her words haunt me. She said, 'I am quite overcome; I can't even show myself at the window. It was but yesterday I did so to get a little air, when one of the canonniers told me it would be a pleasure to him to have my head on the point of his bayonet. That terrible garden there! On one side I see a man mounted in a chair, reading aloud all sorts of terrible things against us; on the other, some officer or abbé dragged into one of the basins with abuse and blows; and all the time I see others playing at football, quite unconcerned. What a residence, and what a people!' What could I answer? It was all true; and I tell you, my friends, that sympathy, in such a case, amounts to anguish." "Did you see much of the King?"
The speaker chanced to turn, and Max caught no more; but to listen to a man who had been in touch with the fallen King and Queen, to witness his emotion and that of his audience had a profound effect upon Pauli. It was not only the French Revolution; it was the whole question of self-evident ideas, and of the irrefragable reason. But let sleeping dogs lie. Today he would think of nothing; he would see and hear and learn; and this was all the easier because he was a nobody, an outsider among the notable company now scattered in groups upon the lawns or strolling by the river.
"Why, a day in this company is an education. Now tell me, Rudolph, what could you, who have such friends as these, see in an ignorant fellow like me?"
"Ah, what indeed? Friends! But let that pass. You are right in one thing. The people who meet here are an education. There is hardly a phase of opinion they don't represent. You have been listening to Dumourier, and found him surrounded by the moderate party. Yonder is a set with which you and I have more in common--ardent revolutionists, every man of them. Are they not fine fellows too? Now that the French are threatening the Weser, we have a great influx of families of weight from Hanover, Oldenburg, East Friesland, and so on, who do not love the Revolution. And do you see that group of eager talkers under the maple? Guess what the are talking about?"
"Politics or religion certainly; nothing else moves men so much."
"Right; it's theology, on the line of the Wolfenbuttel Fragments. I do not know much about theology, but if there's anything to be said, Lessing has said it."
"If! I should like to talk that 'if' out, but not now. Why, isn't that Schroeder himself?"
"No less. You have seen him act? Now, his theatre is what I hold a theatre should be--a place of education for the people. So is the English theatre here when they do Shakespeare. I can't say much for the French company. Have you seen them? 'No?' I must present you to Schroeder; he's a splendid fellow, alive to all that's going on. Now, he is a friend, and the most delightful companion in the world."
"Who is that venerable-looking man with the benign face? Is he blind?"
"Nearly. That's Busch, our great man, the President of the Commercial Academy; he writes on political economy. I must get you to know him, too. All the wit and learning of Europe finds its way, at one time or other, to his table. Do you see those men--all men, notice, no ladies amongst them--squatting on that rockery?"
"You mean those fellows laughing with such gusto? Yes."
"Those two dark men are the brothers Unzer; Italian poetry is their cult, and they have secured a following. If you wish to hear sneers at our German poets and our strait-laced German morals I'll introduce you. Is it treason to say it?--I have a notion that our Goethe is tarred with that brush."
"How in the world have you got together people of such various views? Don't they clash?"
"Not a bit of it; we Hamburgers are like the Unzers in so far as that we are free-thinkers, not only in religion, but in politics, literature, philosophy. All my father asks of his guests is that every one should have views--something to distinguish him, no matter what. We are like the old Athenians, we like to hear and to tell some new thing."
Young Winndt spoke with an undertone of mingled sadness and contempt which did not escape Max.
"And the people who hold the views?"
"Ah, well, it is amusing to air your views amongst those they are likely to startle. It does no harm. No one thinks of proselytising. As for 'feelings,' we in Hamburg have none. If you want our popular cult, it is toleration. If a fellow choose to advance that every man should live with his neigh it's wife, and should extinguish his grandfather with a feather pillow, we are tolerant enough to hear him out. But there! don't let us vex our righteous souls. I daresay this universal tolerance does no harm."
"Pooh! Depth is in inverse ratio to extension. Your men who tolerate everything, care for nothing. Who is that?"
"Ah, that's a notable more to your mind--Gerstenberg of Altona: the author of 'Ugolino,' and a Kantian of the Kantians. He is president of the Kantian Verein here, which, indeed, he founded. Now, he is in earnest."
"What a kaleidoscope! And every change in the grouping means the mingling of new elements; but, you say, the fusion is only mechanical. There is a heavenly countenance, and how lovely the lady is!--there, that pair moving across the lawn."
"That is Jacobi, and the lady is Caroline, the daughter of his friend Hertz. You should know those families. Life has meaning for them. They do not often come here."
Max listened carelessly, with no internal monition of the fact that these two should, more than any he had ever met, affect his life in the future. A single glance satisfied his momentary interest, and then,
"Winndt, I want to talk things over with you. Is there a quiet spot anywhere?"
Winndt took his friend's arm, and led him by hall, staircase, corridors, which left a general impression of lofty space--the hall was open from roof to basement, with a gallery upon which the bedchambers opened--of space, and Eastern rugs, and gleaming statues, and tapestry hangings, and delicious luxury and taste everywhere. For a moment Max felt that here were the things to live for; that is, till he reached his friend's particular den. This was bare and spare enough for an anchorite--three or four high-backed, straight, black oak chairs, guiltless of cushion, an oak writing table with a lamp, and nothing else but books covering every wall of the room from floor ceiling. Here young Winndt spent much of his time a-preparing, on Miltonian lines of omnivorous reading, for the production of that great book which was to reconcile the philosophies.
"I have had a little talk with the Countess von Heilberg."
"I observed that 'Her Omniscience' had you in tow. It is pert, though, to laugh at so charming a woman. She must have seen something in you. She is an infallible guide to the best society--that is, to the people with stuff in them, smelling them out as a mouse smells cheese. I had a private bet of ten to one with myself that she would spot this modest Max."
"Much obliged to you and to her. I felt I was on my promotion."
"I hate to own it, but there are cads here who would have made themselves intolerable but for that; and I've no time to waste on sword-play. So you see I am indebted to her good taste."
"That is, you like this poor Max; ergo, to like him is good taste. Of course, I agree. But don't imagine I got off scot free.
'Let me see. I know your face. You're in Kieger's bookshop, aren't you? Come upon an errand for your master?' His highness turned on his heel with that and saved me an answer."
"You've hit off the tone to a T; that's Hochmann or nobody; depend on it he had been eyeing you in high confabulation, and is devoured with spite; why will nobody see his merits!"
"But you will be wanted before I have said my say; I'm going to prelect by the yard, and then hear you."
"Good. Go ahead."
"I don't suppose it has ever occurred to you to think seriously of my beloved book-trade. It's something more than a means of getting a living. The whole intellectual and moral life of the German people is affected by the bookseller's conception of his work. Where a man keeps a shop just to get a living, depend upon it, learning and art go down. On the other hand, I have known places where the people read not at all, cared nothing for books or thought, and now there is a real love of literature in these places, brought about by nothing more than the settlement there of an active and intelligent bookseller. You laugh and say, 'There's nothing like leather.' Of course I believe in leather. But isn't there reason in what I say? What could the divinest artist get out of an organ if there were no blower? We booksellers are the blowers who utter literature. Given a bookseller of educated taste, and works of a high class are in demand; but let your bookseller be a man of low taste and immoral character, and he will put a licentious and worthless literature into circulation. So you see the book-trade, and each individual bookseller, determines, far more than we suppose, the sort of mental food the public demands. Now, what do we see? Booksellers who sweat their authors and circulate the works of a miserable crew who hire out their wits for stabling and provender. Where, indeed, will you find a body of men more ignorant and more negligent than the booksellers? Germany is deluged with wretched and abominable publications, and the only cure is to make the booksellers care more for honour than for gain."
"All right; I agree with every word; but what are you coming to? Are you going on a preaching crusade amongst the booksellers?"
"Not I; but example is catching. Every honest man makes a hundred. I want to set up a book business on new lines, and who knows but I shall get a following?"
"Ah, now you're coming to the point. What did the countess say? No doubt you talked it over with her. She has a way of finding out people's private affairs."
"Oh, I was very glad of her advice. She says begin at once, and she said, or I said, I don't know which of us, 'Get young Winndt to join you.'"
"I know. She said it, and left you thinking you had. But where's the money to come from, Max, my dear? You don't suppose I'm a Croesus? And a book business--why, the stock-in-trade must cost a heavy fortune."
"No, it does not; at least it need not do so now. A great change is coming over the whole system, and a man with his wits to the front might carry all before him. In my Harzig days every publisher sold his own books and those of such other publishers as he chose to exchange with. No money passed; but then the publisher must have capital to bring out his works. We have changed all that. Booksellers and publishers are two trades now, not one. 'Tis your bookseller sells, but, mark you, he does not buy first. If the publishers believe in him they let him have their books on sale, to be returned if they don't sell; and I mean to have a bookshop which shall be the chief place of education in Hamburg on no capital at all."
"Hip! hip! But what have I to do?"
"Why, no capital is a comparative term. The place must be set up and fitted and all that sort of thing. I must have a few thousand dollars, and you and Zenf, Ranchen and Henschel shall put it in the business and be sleeping partners. How say you?"
"Good; I can do so much; but who is to help you in the work?"
"My old ally, Peter Bruhm. I have not spoken to him of it yet. But he's a capital business man, and we must get him. Only wait!"
Typed June 2013