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CHAPTER II.: leipsic—berlin - Thomas Hodgskin, Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1 
Travels in the North of Germany, describing the Present State of the Social and Political Institutions, the Agriculture, Manufactures, Commerce, Education, Arts and Manners in that Country, particularly in the Kingdom of Hannover, (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1820). Vol. 1.
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Displeasing politeness.—Grotesque market-place.—Churches.—A picture.—Ceremony of communion.—Funeral of a student.—A beggar.—Leipsic fairs.—A peculiar privilege.—A difference of manners.—A dirty custom.—Leave Leipsic.—A rencontre.—Cause for German indolence.—Want of roads.—Wittenberg, the seat of the Reformation.—A companion.—Trauenbritzen.—Belitz.—Weakness of German children.—Royal roads.—Potsdam.—Statues in gardens.—Arrive at Berlin.
It is customary in Germany for the innkeepers to keep a book in which the names and conditions of their guests, where they come from, and where they are going to, must be written. Exclusive of passports being inspected at the police, this book, or extracts from it, must be regularly sent there; and the landlords are therefore particular in requesting every stranger to fill up its columns with all the proper information. At Leipsic, the waiter, on coming to me for this purpose, was extremely slow to believe that I was an Englishman. He would rather believe me to be a Pole, an Hungarian, or a Swede. For this I was not sorry, for I know of no appearance which subjects a man to more unreasonable demands than that of an Englishman. At length he was persuaded, and he thought he was doing me a service while he mortified me by placing me, at the table d’hote, at dinner time, by the side of an English gentleman, who had come, some little time before, from Liverpool, with the intention of learning the German language at Leipsic, and who had yet learnt nothing, either of the language or of the people, but how to ask for segars, and how to smoke them, both of which things he did tolerably well.
From reading the work of Mad. de Stael on Germany, I expected to see there strange old towns, but nothing had hitherto realised the expectation. The market-place at Leipsic did it fully. Goethe described the houses of this city well when he called them “extraordinary shining buildings, with a front to two streets, inclosing courts, and containing every class of citizens, within heaven-high buildings, that resemble large castles, and are equal to half a city.” Roofs, which alone contained six stories of windows, with small steeples on their tops; circular houses, diminishing at every story, resembling the pictures of the tower of Babel; two or three towers, placed by the sides of houses, as if a staircase separate from the building had been provided for it; some fronts which had been modernized, and disfigured by a multitude of pillars and pilasters above pillars and pilasters; and the ancient gaol-like, but fantastical town-house,—made the market-place of Leipsic one of the most grotesque-looking spots I ever saw.
As it was Christmas-day, every place, even the bankers, was shut; the churches were crowded; and nothing was to be sold but spirits and medicines. At church, the music and singing seemed the most attractive part of the performance, and so soon as these were done, many of the congregation went away. The men generally stood, and the women sat. Amongst the uncovered heads of the former some emblems of German genius might be traced. The hair of the old men was smoothed down on the fronts and sides, as if it were ironed, while that of the young ones, combed up with their fingers à la François, was standing out in a circle, like a well-trundled mop. The former resembled the old plodding German; the latter was the type of the present German, flying off from most of the restraints of reason and of common sense.
Pictures are still allowed in the Lutheran churches, though no longer worshipped or prayed to, and one that I observed here, in St Paul’s church, deserves to be mentioned, as having one feature of common sense more than is usually seen in religious pictures. Many of their absurdities are truly ludicrous, and among them may be enumerated that the mother of the Saviour is always painted young. When she looks on her son on the cross, and when Jesus tells her, “Woman, behold thy son,” she is even then often represented as a blooming young woman. In this picture, and it was the only time I ever noticed the circumstance, she was represented as an elderly matron. The painter had not worked a second miracle, and bestowed with his pencil perpetual youth.
The manner in which the sacrament was administered was different from the manner of administering it in the church of England. A clergyman stood at each side of the altar; the persons intending to communicate were placed in a row on one side, and when the previous prayers had been recited, they walked, one after another, first to one clergyman, who had the consecrated wafers, and who repeated some words while he gave a wafer to the communicant. He received it standing, but bowing, and then passing behind the altar, came in front of the other clergyman, from whom he received the cup, and he then retired. The organ played and the choristers sang during the whole of the ceremony.
The university of Leipsic is at present chiefly famous for it medical studies, but the most celebrated man then there I understood to be a Professor Platner,∗ who, though now old, had been formerly much distinguished as a moral philosopher, and as a very decided opponent of Kant. To a person without party feelings, it is difficult to decide which possesses least sense, the aphorisms of Platner or the categories of his opponent. This university was formerly much more famous than at present, and, under the guidance of the celebrated German poet Gellert, who was professor of belles lettres, it almost rivalled Göttingen. Its fame is much diminished. Gellert is buried here, and there is a monument erected in the church of St John to his memory.
I wished to have learned something more of the university, but it was holiday time, and there were no lectures then giving. As there was nothing particular to be seen in the town, had it not been that I had some business with a banker, I should have immediately pursued my journey, but I was obliged to wait till the morning of the 27th, and in the meantime to amuse myself as I could. In Dresden I had more money than I liked to carry with me, and I there wanted the banker to give me a bill on Hannover for the amount, but there was no communication between the two towns, and I was obliged to take a bill on Leipsic, and exchange that for one on Hannover. It was to procure this I was obliged to wait.
After dining, walking about the town, and looking at the lottery-house, as a decent little building near the market-place is called; at the old castle; at the statue of the present king of Saxony, standing on the former glacis; and after admiring the beautiful walk which has been made on the former walls of the town, I sought out one of the best coffee-houses, and found a large quantity of men assembled playing at billiards, drafts, and a game called locatelli, resembling, in some of its parts, our backgammon; but, to my surprise, there were no women present. In all such places I had seen before, some were in general present.
Chance afterwards made me a spectator of the funeral of a student, which was followed by nearly all the equipages of Leipsic. It was something extraordinary even for the inhabitants, and the severe cold did not prevent the people from looking out of their windows, while they leaned on the little cushions, which are placed on most German window-frames, for the more comfortable gratification of curiosity. Owners of carriages allow their servants to let them on such occasions as this, and the students, wishing to do honour to their departed comrade, had hired a vast number. The body, covered with a pall, was carried on men’s shoulders; a company of soldiers,—the deceased had also been in the army,—and a band of music playing slow and solemn tunes, preceded the corpse. The carriages and a great crowd of people followed it. I did also, but was not fortunate to get sufficiently near the grave to hear all the eulogium that was pronounced. It was delivered by one of the students with great solemnity, and reminded me of the eulogiums which are spoken in France over the graves of distinguished men. All that I learned was, that the dead man had served his country both with his pen and his sword, and that he would long be remembered by his brother students as an example of industry in his studies, and of urbanity and politeness in his conduct. His whole history was also given, but this was done in so low a tone of voice, that I could hear very little of it. He was of the middling ranks, not rich, and the present respect was paid only to his merit. Hymns were sung over the grave, music played; there was more than one speaker, and the student was, in all things, honoured as if he had been some respected chief. This is a specimen of the brotherhood and enthusiasm which prevails amongst the students of Germany;—no son of study in any other country could possibly expect such a convoy to his grave as accompanied this young man.
Most of the tomb-stones had crowns of laurel or flowers hung on them, and garlands decorated them, as is usual in German burial-grounds. Small shrubs and flowers were planted on the graves; some were carefully watered and cherished, and others were decaying or decayed, like the affections which planted them. A widower may attend his daughters to the grave of their mother, and a husband his wife to the tomb of their child, but it is chiefly women who thus honour the dead, and who always, at least, display most gracefully all our better affections.
In the evening, although it was Christmas-day, I went to the theatre, to hear some declamation, and to see one of those representations of pictures or statues, which are now become common in Germany. A sufficient number of performers, dressed in proper costume, place themselves at the end of the stage, in the attitudes in which the figures of any picture are placed. The stage is lighted in such a manner, on this occasion, as to throw on the performers that quantity of light and shade which the picture requires, or indeed possesses. Curtains or scenes proper for the perspective of the picture are used, so that a very accurate copy is represented in a short time. This mode is even adopted to realize the ideas of a painter. He imagines any subject, and he brings it at once to the test of proof by letting it be represented as a picture by living beings. The pictures pleased me; the declamation was not good. In Germany persons recite or declaim favourite pieces of poetry very frequently in public. On this occasion, the applause was immoderate, and I pitied a very good actress, and a very fine woman, a Miss Böhler, who was called forth to be thanked, because she was likely to mistake the vociferations of the students, who formed a large part of the spectators, for the impartial judgment of a discerning public.
It is not very amusing to walk about the almost deserted streets of a town, and, as the Germans consecrate three days to Christmas holidays, the 26th was also a festival, which kept me at the inn. As I was writing, a man entered my room, and begged something for the poor of Leipsic. The names of the donors, and the donations, were all inscribed in a book he brought with him, and he seemed to think it ought to induce me to give, that my name would then be written in the same book with the names of kings and princes. Gifts from their Majesties of Prussia and Denmark were recorded, and the name of the last person who had given any thing was that of a Polish prince. I was deaf to the charm. The man was displeased, and he put away his book with something like an expression of contempt for a person who refused to buy, on such cheap terms, the honour of letting his name be recorded in company with the names of monarchs. This manner of begging is practised in most of the large towns.
There are four fairs, small and large, held at Leipsic in the year, and, as I could not see one, nor get any valuable information as to the quantity of goods annually sold, I reasoned on them. Nothing but custom, and some original privileges, can have made Leipsic the seat of the commerce of the north of Germany, and of the fairs, particularly book fairs, for which it is famous. It has no advantages of situation like Magdeburgh, Dresden, or Berlin. The two former towns lying on the Elbe, and, therefore, having a water communication from Bohemia to the North Sea, and the latter connected with the North Sea, the Baltic, and Bohemia, by means of canals that join the Oder and the Elbe, have some local advantages much superior to those of Leipsic. Neither does it possess any superiority in literature. Where roads are bad, and communication difficult, and where land-carriage is impeded and uncertain, it is necessary men should be sure of finding a market for their goods before they send them away, and equally necessary that they who want to buy, should be sure to find what they want at some particular spot. Fairs were convenient for both parties, and certain privileges, such as “that all merchandize passing within sixty miles of Leipsic, was obliged to be carried through that town, that the merchants there might have the first offer of it;”∗ and a central situation, when water carriage was little used, made Leipsic be selected. Warehouses once built, and capital collected there, it continued to be the resort of merchants when the conveniences of its situation were surpassed by those of other places. In Britain, where a facility of communication allows an immediate and rapid circulation of commodities, fairs, except those of mere amusement, are no longer numerous, and, wherever they are numerous, as in Germany, they are proofs of a backward state of commerce. As the means of communication are facilitated, fairs must diminish, and this is probably the cause why Leipsic is not now so prosperous as formerly, and why several people with large capitals are withdrawing themselves to other places.
In the evening I was disappointed at seeing, in the theatre, a sort of melo-dramatic version of the Tancred of Voltaire, in which there was nothing good but some splendid scenery; it gained the author, however, who was called for, very great applause. The spectators were prodigal of their thanks. Two performers were also called forth, probably from a wish to hear the neat ready-made speeches with which the honour conferred is most humbly acknowledged.
There is a great difference in the manners of the inhabitants of Leipsic and Dresden. Here no women are admitted into the pit; there this part of the theatre was chiefly occupied by them; there it was impossible to speak to any person who was not perfectly acquainted with most of the theatrical pieces and performers; here I addressed myself to two or three persons, without getting the little articles of information I wanted. There the occasional presence of the royal family prevented any thing like noise; here the pit had some resemblance to the same place in an English theatre; stamping with the feet, and striking with sticks, with other marks of impatience, were frequent. The mercantile pursuits of the inhabitants of one town, and the almost want of any other pursuit but amusement in the inhabitants of the other, gives a marked difference to their characters which the most casual observer may see. Those are more bustling, more busy, more energetic,; these more polite, more soft, and better informed in all the elegant parts of the literature of their country.
I observed also a marked difference in the conversation of the people at the table d’hote. They were mostly mercantile travellers, or merchants of the town, and we sat down, a large party, of at least sixty people. The conversation related chiefly to their amusements, and their engagements for other amusements, but mixed with this were matters of commerce, and some remarks on politics. In Dresden the conversation was more literary. With one or two young men I had some conversation about the German language; and when they knew I was going to Hannover, they said, in their Frankfort dialect, they should like to go also, for there people spoke the German language better than in any other part of Germany. The inn was a splendid one, and among the company I remarked some who sat in boxes at the theatre, and used an opera-glass, and drove their own carriage, yet they practised the dirty custom of picking their teeth with the table forks; one of them even used one to scratch his head. The former is a general custom, but it is done with some sort of shame, for the people who do it turn their heads on one side, and conceal their mouths with their other hand.
I left Leipsic on the following morning, December 27, at half past six o’clock. It had now frozen very hard for three days, and it then blew very cold from the north-west. The sky was all covered with a dense hazy sort of clouds, except on the western side, where a streak of silvery light lay on the horizon; it gradually became, as the day advanced, of a fiery red colour, and when the sun rose, it was lost in the general brightness. I had been told the road was good, but I soon found that I was indebted to nothing but the frost for clean walking. It was a mere track, and froze so hard in ridges and lumps, that it was like uneven stones. Close to the town, all the tracks that led to the neighbouring villages were equally well trodden with the principal track, and I very soon took a wrong one. I was obliged to call some people up, at a cottage, to shew me my way, which they did very civilly. As I got farther from the town, the bye-roads were no longer so good as the principal road, and all difficulty vanished. An easier way of travelling than walking soon suggested itself. At the side of the road ditches had been cut, which were then filled with ice, and on this I slid along gaily some miles.
I had nearly reached Duben, about twenty-two miles from Leipsic, and had seen no person on the road, when I met a man and woman, who both seemed so fond of talking, that one would never let the other speak without interruption. After the usual salutation of good-day, they immediately told me they were clothmakers, and were going to Leipsic fair. This sort of communicativeness is an apology for curiosity. It gives a right to demand, in return, some information of the person to whom it is addressed. My loquacious acquaintance were not slow in using this right, and I was obliged to tell them exactly who and what I was, where I came from, and where I was going to. They then both complained of the badness of the times; the woman exclaimed; the man reasoned; one said the raw material was dear, the other that cloth was cheap; and both agreed it was impossible to live. The man asked, was trade bad in England? Yes. He then took hold of the button of my great-coat, with all the familiarity of an old acquaintance, observing, at the same time, it was a very handsome Saxon brown, and whispered in my ear, as if he were afraid his wife might hear him, that all the evil was owing to machinery. I was of a different opinion, and, unwilling to lose an opportunity of opposing a prejudice,—for who does not think his own opinions true, and the opinions of other persons prejudices?—I began, in bad German, a description of a machine, and the effects of machinery; but though they were ready to talk, they were not ready to listen; and, allowing me to say but very few words, they asked me, had I found the road from Leipsic good? The woman said she was tired, and was fearful she should not be able to reach it. I pitied her, and we wished each other a safe journey, and parted.
The bitterest enemies, if they were to meet each other in a desert, and had not seen any other human being for some hours or days, would probably be enemies no more. There is a weaker feeling of this kind which makes strangers address each other on an unfrequented road. They ask some question which they could very well answer themselves, in order to begin a conversation, and they talk of any trifles rather than pass by a person without being friendly with him. I have often done this myself, particularly when bad weather, or a more unfrequented road than usual has made me see in every person a sort of companion. My clothmaking gossips had scarcely left me, when a tired man, who seemed to need rest, yet was afraid to take it, detained me a few moments to ask me half a dozen questions, and to tell me he was a Pole by birth, a barber or servant by profession, and that he was going to Leipsic to seek a situation. I told him how far he had yet to walk, encouraged him by telling him the roads were good, but counselled him not to walk to Leipsic that day. Foot travellers get many good wishes for safe journeys, which the people who ride in coaches never hear; and these wishes seem efficacious, for they give pleasure, and possibly make the journey good, by causing resignation to unavoidable evils.
I eat and rested at Duben, and had left it but little more than half an hour, when it began to snow. The road lay through a forest, and as it was little more than a track, I repented leaving Duben. As I marched slowly and carefully forward, deliberating if I should not turn back, I was overtaken by a woman, whose example, while she served me in some measure as a guide, shamed me out of my fears. We walked together, and I heard her history also, what family she had, what her employments were, and what she gained. She also lamented the hardness of the times, and particularly, that she had received no Christmas gifts from her husband. She soon left me to continue my journey alone.
Till I reached Duben, I had found the country open, and generally under the plough. It was now nothing but forests; and I resolved, in order not to lose my road, to take up my quarters at the first public-house I met with. The landlord, however, who, I understood from a man I met there, merely lived with the woman, who was the owner of the house, and had not put himself to the expence of buying the sanction of the priest, received me very uncivilly; and as I, at the same time, and by the same means, learnt there was another public-house which was much better, and not very far off, I set out to seek it, and got there safe before it was dark. My informant arrived shortly afterwards; he had met with a return carriage going to Berlin, and he had taken a seat in it, and wished to persuade me to accompany him. But I was clothed for walking, not for sitting still in a carriage on a snowy night. The roads were rugged and difficult to find, and I resolved to stay where I was.
In the course of the day I met a great many carriages and waggons going to Leipsic, and all the travellers, wrapped up in two or three great-coats, with their faces buried in caps and handkerchiefs, remained sitting in a sort of stupid indifference, just preserving animation enough to keep their tobacco burning, and their pipes from falling out of their mouths. Not one of them attempted to walk, though they might all have walked faster than their carriages, and might have kept themselves comfortably warm; but bodily exertion of all kinds is most certainly avoided by the richer classes of the Germans. This indolence may be partly accounted for thus: Their sleeping-rooms are generally heated, and the feather-beds, which are used as covers, always kept me—though, whenever it was practicable, I stripped myself to my shirt—in a constant state of profuse perspiration. The Germans, in addition to covering themselves with these beds, very generally sleep in night-dresses of flannel. In fact, they take nothing off but their upper garments, which are not unfrequently exchanged for some sort of jacket or gown. The beds and the rooms together make a sort of sweating bath, more enfeebling, probably, than a frequent use of warm bathing. The effects on myself were always refreshing, but weakening; they did away stiffness and fatigue, but sleep did not give me strength; and it is probable that the effects are the same on the Germans, and even much more powerful. The body is kept in a state of languid health, but all that freshness and vigour of limb which belongs to youth and a hardy people are destroyed. The Germans have no need of exertion, which we find so necessary, to promote perspiration, and therefore they have no wish for it, and do not take it. The character of men is the result of all they feel; and this state of the bodies of the Germans is undoubtedly a cause for some part of their character—for the placidness, stillness, and want of energy, which distinguish them from the other nations of Europe. It does not hinder them from thinking, writing, and compiling, day after day, week after week; in fact, it permits them to do all these more than any other people can, for they can do them constantly, and with little fear of injury to their health; but it deprives them of the need and of the wish for active exertion.
There were several other travellers collected in this inn besides myself, who were generally merchants or traders going to Leipsic. Some of them were Prussians, and resident at Berlin, who did not therefore listen with any patience to our landlord’s many complaints. Men complain much too often without reason, and those sufferings which an accurate observer may trace to have been caused by themselves, they attribute to the last remarkable event,—the appearance of a comet, the momentary passage of an army, or a change in the government. This country had been Saxon, and was part of that which the sovereign of Prussia took to himself; and our landlord, therefore, attributed all his sufferings to the change in his sovereign. Certainly his taxes being doubled was a just cause of complaint. He had served his country, he said, meaning Saxony, as a soldier, and his reward now was, that when his son was sixteen years of age, he would be taken for the Prussian armies. He could neither breed nor buy a good horse with security, for if the government wanted horses, it would take his. In short, he paid double the price for protection which he had formerly paid, and was now oppressed rather than protected. His complaints did not please our Berlin companions, and they soon turned the conversation on the marches and victories and glories of the Prussian armies. I then ceased to attend to it, or participate in it, and began nursing a child for my amusement. Its smiles and prattlings were more pleasing to me than all the thrice told, and trebly augmented, feats of Blucher.
German beds are generally small, without curtains, and several of them may therefore be conveniently placed in the same room; and not unfrequently there is, in small inns, but one apartment, as in this house, for several guests. On more than one occasion I have seen decent female travellers sleep in the same room with gentlemen, and from they never remarking that the practice was curious or offensive, it may be inferred that it is general. When I came into the house, the maid was dirty, and her clothes much neglected; I observed she was afterwards smartly dressed, and clean washed; her cheeks were glowing, and her eyes sparkling with animation and ardour. It was then ten o’clock,—I asked the reason of the change,—and was informed she was then going to a dance. I saw her again at four o’clock in the morning; she told me she had walked half a league, had danced till two o’clock, had then walked home, and had not been in bed. I regretted then and since I could not waltz, and that I did not know of the dance a little earlier, or I should certainly have asked permission to accompany her, to see if the joys of the German peasantry were not like those of other people.
In the course of the evening I saw a letter addressed to the landlord, inviting him to attend the baptism of a child, which I understood was born out of marriage. It excited my curiosity, and it was given me. The direction was, “To the well-esteemed and well-reputed Mr——my highly prized cousin, at Köplitz.” The letter began, “Well-esteemed and highly reputed Sir,—As it has pleased God to give us joy by sending us a son,” &c. It invited him to be godfather, and to participate in the feast which was to be given after the religious ceremony was over. And it ended by the lady subscribing herself, for it was sent by the mother only. “The very humble servant of her most honourable cousin.” Such a ceremonious mode of addressing people must be common, because the letter was partly printed. They are kept ready, and are filled up when wanted.
Much may be inferred from this little circumstance. Isolated instances of morals may deceive the traveller, but the opinions which are avowed with regard to them never can. When a married man with a family is invited to be the godfather of a child without any acknowledged father, when he accepts such an invitation, and speaks of having done so as a matter of common courtesy, and no extraordinary thing, it may with certainty be inferred, that to have an illegitimate child is no matter of reproach. With such opinions, it is not at all surprising that men and women should live together without the sanction of the priest. An instance was mentioned a few pages back. When such is the conduct of the middling and lower classes of society, it is a certain sign that it has long formed a part of the manners of the whole. In this part of the country, there were no great towns to corrupt the morals of the people, and such as they are, so they must have been, from the natural inertia of the peasants, for ages. Their manners only change with centuries.
The morning of the 28th was moonlight and clear, and I left the inn at five o’clock. The road was a mere track, through forests and in sand; and it was not very long before I became doubtful if I were going right, and applied at some cottages, where the people were just up, for directions. The woman gave me them very correctly and minutely, and, so far as they extended, I found my way very well. Women generally do this office of kindness better than men. The latter tell you to go straight forward, but the former always describe the road, the turnings you must take, and the marks you must attend to. This may be occasioned by their possessing a greater sensibility to little wants; by their more correct observation; or, by that less amiable propensity attributed to the sex, of loving to hear themselves talk. It is more likely, however, that their own difficulties have taught them the wants of others. They are accustomed to go from village to village, and from town to town, carrying loads, and till they have become thoroughly acquainted with the whole of the country, they must often have occasion to ask their way, and hence they learn accurately to inform other persons. Before reaching a little town called Kemberg, five miles from where I slept, I had again lost my way. It had snowed a little during the night, but not enough to hide the road, had one ever been properly made. An old man, who was sitting by his stove, mending his breeches, sent his son to put me in the right track. It was rather solitary to be thus wandering alone through forests and something like deserts; but the clouds, as they were blown swiftly past the moon, appeared almost company, and I was pleased it was the commencement rather than the close of day. At Kemberg I found a paved road, which lasted to Wittenberg, where I arrived at eight o’clock.
This town now belongs to Prussia: it formerly belonged to Saxony, and its fortifications have been repaired and strengthened as a frontier town to the former country. Its situation on the Elbe gives it advantages in this point of view, and ought to give it great trading advantages, but these are not known, or not profited by. Situated in a country that wants only industry to make it fertile, with both iron and coal in its neighbourhood, and with the high road from Berlin to Leipsic passing through it; it contains only 5000 inhabitants, and has no commerce whatever. It is fast sinking into ruin, and nothing about it looked neat or in repair, but the nicely formed mathematical angles of the new fortifications by which the ruins are protected.
This town was the first seat, and the very high place of the Reformation. At its once famous university Luther began his celebrated career. Here he was professor, and from the pulpits and desks of Wittenberg he thundered his masculine and powerful eloquence against the corruptions of Rome. The university is now forsaken and suppressed. The tombs of Luther, of Melancthon, and of their friend Frederick the Wise, are still in the castle-church, but this venerable cradle of one of the best children of improving knowledge is passing fast into oblivion. All that was sacred, so well as all that was grand, has decayed, and man should cease to venerate what time and nature have not spared; while his life is fresh, and his reason strong,—while his sense of enjoyment is unfaded, he should be happy in these gifts; he should regard them as holy, and they should be the themes of his admiration. It may, perhaps, be absurd to venerate buildings that, however they might once have been sacred as the abodes of piety, learning, and genius, are now mouldering to decay. Yet it would have done honour to the Germans, while they are so enthusiastic in reviving every memorial of their ancient glory, if they had resented, as a slight to their national reputation, the recent destruction of the university where Luther and Melancthon had been teachers. I arrived too early at Wittenberg to see their tombs without waiting longer than was pleasant to me, and therefore I did not remain. My walk was nearly solitary the whole day, but not cheerless. At a village I found boys sliding; I slid with them. The village dogs barked at me as they all do at strangers, and as if I were animated by the proverb, that with wolves a man must howl, I made a noise at them in return, and amused myself pelting them with stones, and chasing them. It is thus possibly that a solitary traveller may best amuse himself, and may save himself from being unemployed, and almost from being alone.
In travelling, one does not always know where best to stop, nor do tired legs and worn-out spirits always come at the same point of time with the most comfortable inn. In this desolate country it was some time after I was tired and hungry before I reached either a public-house or a village. At length I got to a place called Kropstadt, but found no other refreshment there but bread and cheese, and sour beer. This bad fare, and a ragged landlady, from whose torn finery I concluded she had made several campaigns, and a stifling dirty room, were not temptations to make me linger over my repast, and I had soon finished, ready to accompany a soldier and his wife, who I found journeying on foot the way I was going. He was a Prussian, who had just received his dismission from his regiment, which was at Mayence. He had there married his wife, and was now conducting her into East Prussia, where he had himself been born. For him to marry, it was necessary for him to have the permission both of his parents and of the government. It began to blow strong, and to snow, and though we walked within a few yards of each other, till we reached Trauenbritzen, we were too much engaged with umbrellas to allow of much conversation. I inquired here after the best inn, and the soldier, who said he knew the place well, pointed one out to me, which I soon found could have little claim to the title, and which seemed to be recommended to him by the fine sign of Marshal Blucher. The extent of my day’s walk was probably somewhat more than thirty miles. The greater part of the country was of a sandy soil, and covered with forests of pines. There were few villages, and not much cultivation. This, with bad weather, it snowing occasionally, and the snow covering the ground, gave me an idea that the country was more desolate than possibly it is. The road, however, till within a short distance of Trauenbritzen, where a new one was made, that is to be extended to Leipsic, was in general nothing but a track through openings in the forest, and where carriages and travellers not unfrequently lose their way. Such is the state of communication in some of the most enlightened parts of Germany. Bad as this is, it has been improved very much within thirty years.
The public-house, for it did not deserve the name of an inn, was full of people, who were collected to pass their Sunday evening in revelry and drinking. They were all traders or peasants, and smoked and talked loud, and constantly. One had brought his book to read, which he continued to do, except when he thought his superior wisdom enabled him to give information to the rest of the company; one of them said pithy things in a poetical tone of voice and manner. He had been a great speculator, though, as his neighbour informed me, all his schemes had failed. Yet he still believed he had schemes that could improve the world. When any other of the company complained, he told him, in an oracular manner, “Have patience, brother, and you will find in a little time all will go well. “Another appeared anxious to shew how stupid he was. He had been at school for three years, and had also had a private instructor, but he had not learnt to write, and could barely read. He attributed his ignorance to his teachers, and seemed to think teachers ought to be punished if scholars wanted brains and industry. Government, he said,—for from an unhappy frame of mind, the most ignorant of all beings think themselves fit for legislators, particularly to make restrictive laws,—ought to make some regulations for instructors. He appeared to think they ought to be compelled to make stupid people like him men of genius and talent. Thus it is, also, in many other cases, ignorance and imbecility attribute their wants and their failings to a want of laws, and imagine that political regulations can give knowledge, and wisdom, and wealth. They constantly demand this or that restrictive law, till the whole race of mankind are chained down to what ignorance, and imbecility, and avarice, have prescribed. The comfort of my inn did not compensate the privations of the day, and I went early to bed, tired from my walk, and unrefreshed from what I had enjoyed.
It snowed very much in the night, and in the morning a violent snow storm came on soon after I had set out on my journey. The snow froze as it fell, or drifted up in great heaps, and the icicles hung about my whiskers; fortunately the wind was behind me, which enabled me to protect my face and ears with my umbrella. Nothing was to be seen but the tops of the trees by the road side, and but for them, I might have wandered in some ditch or wild. After walking three hours, one of those trifling accidents happened, which, when not repaired in time, sometimes lead to serious misfortunes; the seam of my shoe burst, but as I remembered the old story of the nail and the shoe, and the horse and the rider, I prudently remained at Belitz till it was repaired. The people of the house pleased me; the man brought me slippers, an accommodation not always to be had, even when asked for. The eldest daughter was a very handsome brunette, but, though not above twenty years of age, had lost her teeth. The other children had black eyes and hair, which was rather extraordinary for the country, and they appeared very intelligent and gentle. German children are generally soft and gentle, even to weakness. They seldom appear robust, which may be owing to the general enfeebled nature of the parents, and to late marriages. If the evil influence of the latter cause were not more to be attributed to the system of libertinism pursued prior to marriage, than to the mere lateness, it would form one of the strongest objections I know to that moral restraint which is recommended by Mr Malthus. For a debilitated, an effeminate, and an imbecile race of men would be but a poor remedy for the evils of poverty, and a redundant population.
Towards noon the weather became better, but the wind had shifted, and blew in my face. I made a screen of my umbrella, and, thus protected, marched on. Whether it is that the Prussians are less friendly than the Saxons, or whether the cold was too great to allow them to speak, cannot be decided, but several people would hardly return my salutation. At length I overtook a man with a long white bag, which was filled at both ends, and thrown over his shoulder. A broad face, red cheeks, wide mouth, a short snub nose, and a sort of scattered white whiskers, gave him the air of good-natured simplicity. A large hat covered his brow,—a long blue coat reached almost to the ground,—trowsers and boots—made up his dress. He wore both a cross and a medal, having made several campaigns, and, like many of the peasants, had won all the honours of a soldier. We talked about the size of his father’s farm, how he held his property, and such things, and we arrived at Potsdam together. There were many fine buildings here, but none which pleased me so well at the moment as a comfortable inn, where beef-steaks for supper and a good bed were provided me.
This day’s walk did not exceed twenty-six miles, and the country appeared mostly uncultivated, with a very large proportion of forests. There were very few villages, and these were small, the houses were built of mud, and generally thatched.
The road was good throughout, the royal chaussee being here completed; and it is certainly a very fine one. It is paved in the middle, though the pavement is broad enough only for one carriage, while the road would allow of four passing a-breast. It is planted with trees on each side. It is not only useful, but magnificent;—perhaps too magnificent. The roads which branch off from it, though they lead only to a small collection of mud huts, are equally spacious with the main road, like that royal taste which builds a magnificent portico to a stable. Royal roads are less constructed with regard to their general utility than to their magnificence, and their utility to the monarch; and the roads of Great Britain, taken as a whole, are not only more numerous, but each road, merely because it is planned by individuals who are to reap a profit from it, is better calculated for public utility than any one of the magnificent royal roads of other countries.
Out of Britain most people conceive it to be one of the duties of government,—one which individuals cannot exercise,—to make roads. Remembering this, led me to speculate, as the snow fell, as to the real extent to which governments—considered, as some individuals different from, and separate from the mass of society, regulating the whole—are necessary for its good. I remembered, that what was considered formerly as one of their most important duties, the creation of a proper currency, had recently been performed in a much more commodious manner by individuals, as bankers, and that paper circulation had only become inconvenient through governments interfering with it; that, probably, all the now hateful duties of a police might be better performed by the individuals of the society taking on themselves, as every man now partially does, the duty of learning what his neighbour’s conduct is, and speaking of it freely and openly, and treating him according to his behaviour. It is very evident that every thing regulated by the opinion of the whole society, not directed by the previously formed opinions of some few men, must be always regulated, in the best possible manner, agreeable to the wisdom and knowledge of the whole society. What is directed by a few men, can only be regulated by the wisdom and knowledge they possess, and it must be better every society should be regulated by all its wisdom and knowledge, rather than by a part of these estimable qualities. I can hardly tell with what narrow bounds this speculation led me to circumscribe the duties of governments, nor how much the reverence which I, in common with every man, had been taught to pay them, dwindled in my imagination. I will not answer for the utility of such a speculation further than that it was a great pleasure to me on a cold snowy morning, when I was travelling alone in a strange country.
Potsdam is a well built town. Most of the streets are at right angles, and, though the houses are not regularly built with regard to one another, most of them were nicely painted, clean, splendid with gilt and decorations, and all looked well. There was a sort of meretricious splendour about sign-boards and gilded letters to tell you where coffee and tea were to be bought, or brandy and beer to be sold, that reminded me of England, and that differed from the modest inscriptions of the Saxons. It is very expensive to see all the shows of Potsdam, such as the picture gallery, the insides of the palaces, the tomb of the great Frederick, and others. They are, therefore, generally visited in parties, and as there happened, at that time of year, to be no persons visiting them, I was debarred from seeing them, without expending more Thalers than I thought them worth pence. I merely looked, therefore, at the gardens, and the outsides of the palaces. Truly, the lodgings which are here provided for one family, might almost serve a nation. There are not less than eight spacious palaces in Potsdam, or in its vicinity, belonging to the sovereign. I doubt if the profusion of the sovereigns of France, whatever their splendour might do, equalled the profusion of the sovereigns of Prussia.
The extensive gardens of these palaces are ornamented with a great number of statues and busts, all of which were then shapeless from the snow. Many of them were mutilated, and most of them were covered with moss. The climate of Greece and Rome, from which countries we have borrowed the practice of placing statues in gardens, was much more suitable to it than the cold and wet climate of the north. And when the Greeks and the Romans did not live entirely out of doors, they lived much more in public places, in their gardens, and amongst their statues, than we do, or can. We live in our houses, and it is them, therefore, which we ought to render convenient and to adorn. Statues in our garden accord neither with our climates, with our habits of life, nor with the best mode of making our gardens. The great expence of so many carved pieces of marble, is a mere absurd imitation of an ancient custom; it is unsanctioned by reason, and it is equally condemned by good taste and sage economy.
The most meritorious thing at Potsdam—always excepting the immense house which is there, so large as the celebrated rope-making house at Portsmouth, intended to protect men during rainy weather, while they are taught to stand upright, to thrust their breasts out and hold their bellies in, to march and countermarch with regularity and precision—is the canal which passes here, and which connects the Spree with the Havel, and thus affords a water communication from the Elbe to Berlin. But even this, like most royal works, the lover of utility would censure, as being much more magnificent than it ought to be, made more to gratify the vanity of the monarch than to improve the condition of the people. There is much water about Potsdam, and to see it in its beauty, the summer and a party are necessary. Both were wanting, and I left it, therefore, notwithstanding it snowed and blew a storm, to walk to Berlin. The wind was behind me, my umbrella protected me, and blew me, running, along. I went merrily forward, and got sweet greetings and smiles from some fine women, to whom I wished a better journey than they were likely to have in open carriages, exposed to the snow. It is a pity women do not always know the power which bright eyes and cheerful smiles have on men, or they might lead them to acquire many a gentle accomplishment, to do many a gentle deed, that would promote the happiness of both. When I now turn back on my peregrinations, I know nothing that leaves a stronger feeling of regret than the recollection of many of those sweet faces, that smiled on me for a moment, and have never been seen any more. This is one of the most painful of all the feelings of the traveller. He catches a momentary view of beings he thinks time would make him love, and then he loses them for ever. They seem to him like the angels of the world, and he is only consoled for their loss by reflecting, that it is that itself which makes him so regard them, and that, possibly, he would have ceased to adore had he known them better.
I reached Berlin at four o’clock, and took up my quarters at the Golden Angel. For some part of my walk I had an elderly woman, carrying a large loaded basket, for a companion; she was to carry it, in all, ten miles. She complained very bitterly of the sovereign, who she called a complete Buonaparte. She had been the mother of twelve children, and seven of these had been soldiers. Surely her labour was hard enough, yet she said she could not get enough to feed her well, and keep her warm. When absolute idleness wallows in riches, and industry has nothing, there is surely something wrong in the social regulations.
[∗]This gentleman is since dead.
[∗] Historische Entwickelung der heutigen Staatsverfassung, des Teutschen Reichs vom. Putter, Vol. III. 278.