Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: brunswick—hannover. - Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1
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CHAPTER IV.: brunswick—hannover. - 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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Helmstädt university.—Brunswick.—Tombs of the sovereigns.—Number killed in battle.—Different characters of the former Duke.—Former state of Brunswick.—For what now remarkable.—Traits of character.—Extent of territory.—Population.—Carolina college.—Roads.—Appropriate inscription.—Hildesheim.—Hannover buildings.—Monument to Leibnitz.—Library.
The university of the ancient town of Helmstädt, in the territories of Brunswick, was founded in 1574, by Julius, the then Duke of Wolfenbüttel, the great patron of learning, and the great reformer and legislator of that period. The church, the police, and education, were all objects of his care, but, above all, he appears to have protected the peasantry in their rights and privileges. To him they were chiefly indebted for those regulations which are called the Meyer Law, which secure to the peasant the possession of his little farm, on paying to the lord a certain rent, and do not allow the rent to be increased. He was both a religious and a learned prince. Under his patronage, and the patronage of his successors, supported by grants from the states, the university long flourished. Caprice, perhaps, or vanity, latterly directed the patronage of the dukes of Brunswick to their new-founded college of Carolina, and the university of Göttingen, supported by a more powerful sovereign, deprived Helmstädt of much of its lustre. The latter university was abolished when the French took possession of the country, and then all the importance of the town was destroyed. It contains about 5000 inhabitants, but has nothing except a pleasant country to render it in the least worthy of notice.
Many curious stories are told of the late Professor Beireis and his extensive museum of natural and artificial curiosities. His purchases were so extensive, and he vaunted so much of the sums he gave for them, that it was a common belief amongst the people, that he could only acquire the wealth necessary to make these purchases, and to outbid empresses and kings, by making gold himself. If he possessed the art of doing this, it died with him. His museum is sold; but he is yet remembered as a “strange old man, and perhaps a sorcerer.”
I arrived at Helmstädt at ten o’clock on the following day. Many marks of its antiquity still remain. Its streets are crooked; its houses face every corner of the heavens,—some of them protrude into the street, some of them have large courts before them, and they are all of an indescribable shape, but seem to have been built from the corners of other buildings; they had all high roofs, and every storey, as it rose above another, projected beyond it, so that the roof was the largest and most conspicuous part of the house. The general building materials were timber, filled in with clay whitewashed, or with bricks. All the beams were covered with inscriptions carved on them, generally taken from Scripture. The doors were all of oak, very often highly polished, and always ornamented with nice shining brass handles and knockers; and numerous small windows were decorated with white curtains. Helmstädt was another example of the grotesque old towns of Germany.
I reached the town of Brunswick at six o’clock. It was quite dark, and I was indebted to a civil stranger for conducting me to an inn, where I found a good supper and clean bed. The road was again very bad till I arrived at Helmstädt, when a new and a good road conducted to Brunswick. It had now thawed for two days; walking was become heavy and tiresome. There was nothing to be seen or remarked, and I had no other amusement but to while away the time with idle dreams.
Brunswick possesses the characteristics of other old German towns, particularly crooked streets and strange built houses. A practised eye may, no doubt, discover a great many differences in each of these, but to an unpractised one they are all alike; and a stranger needs a guide if he but go abroad. The sovereigns of Brunswick have sometimes been extravagant, but no one of them has left any monument of very good taste. There are no buildings that are beautiful, but several that are picturesque, from the little gilded turrets and balconies that grow out of their corners and sides. The tombs of the sovereigns, and a statue of their renowned ancestor, Henry the Lion, are placed in the principal church of the town, and are objects of general curiosity. But the clerk, or Cantor, who is the showman, was also a teacher of music, and as he was employed in the forenoon giving lessons, it was necessary, to gratify my curiosity, that I should return after dinner. There can be no doubt that the reflections made on visiting the abodes of the dead depend entirely on previous associations. When we look on sovereigns as something more than men, which seems to be very natural, for even their bodies are preserved for veneration, we are apt to feel great sympathy for their misfortunes, and almost to regret that these objects of admiration should be subject to death. The pomp of their life seems to follow them to the tomb, and we may be as awe-struck by the stately shew of glittering coffins, as by the ceremonies of an introduction to kiss the hand of living majesty. There was something, however, either in the vanity of thus making a shew of frail dust, or in the circumstance that several of these princes had fallen as soldiers in a foreign service, which deprived me of all particular respect for the illustrious bones I was amongst. Even the superb coffin of the last duke, who fell at Waterloo, pure and heroic as his conduct is sometimes described to have been, could not restore this feeling. I considered him more like a soldier of fortune than a generous prince sacrificing his life for his people.
No less than ten of this royal family have been slain in battle; nine are deposited at Brunswick, and one sleeps at Ottensen, near Altona. Had they been killed in defending any of the sacred rights of men, any of the principles of morality, or any hallowed truths, they might have been justly admired and honoured; but one had been a major-general in the Austrian service, and another in the Prussian service, and, however they might for a moment have been ornamented by the wreaths of victory, sound philosophy, sound morality, and sound feeling, can only regard them as having sold their lives for a title or a star.
The younger branches of the nobility of Germany, whether belonging to a sovereign family or any other, can find no other situations to fill than the higher ones of the army or the priesthood, and there are no offices in the Protestant church that are worthy their acceptance. Their own opinions will not allow them to be advocates, physicians, agriculturists, or merchants, and whenever they are not so rich as they wish to be, they unfortunately can only become richer by selling themselves for soldiers to the highest bidder. The life of man ought to be sacred. Perhaps all the reasons which have been urged to justify taking it away, under any circumstances, are false and inconclusive. Every good man shudders at the necessity of doing it, and he can never honour those who make doing it a trade, whether they are titled soldiers or common executioners. The statue of Henry the Lion is a rude memorial of the time in which it was executed, the twelfth century, and resembles the figures seen on the top of the oldest tombs of some of our kings.
We know little more of that Duke of Brunswick who was buried by Altona, than that he was the general of the army of the coalition, and that his last appearance in the field was as commander-in-chief of the Prussian armies at the battle of Jena; but in his own country he is known, according to party opinions, either “as one of the noblest of princes, who ranks in history second to Frederick the Great, as a hero and a friend of humanity, as the patron of the arts, and as the father of his people;” or “as a man of a good heart, but of wild and unbridled passions, who might have been a good man, had not his situation given him flatterers for his lusts. He felt well, but judged ill. His earnest desire was to be a great man. He thought himself far before the age in which he lived, when he possessed but a small portion of its wisdom. And he sacrificed the real prosperity of his country to the vanity of filling a page in history.” Such are the differences of opinion relative to this prince. The poor old man was to be pitied when he found himself compelled, by the necessity of supporting his pretensions to greatness and talents, to take the command of an army at the advanced age of seventy one, and to stake his reputation and his life against the greatest military man of that time. He lost both, and the half-contested battle of Jena, while it was lost chiefly by divisions among his troops, and among his generals, which he could not control, only shews how ill he had appreciated himself, when he undertook, with so ill-formed an army, to contend against so powerful an opponent.
Brunswick, which is now only known as the residence of the sovereign, and only famous for good sausages, chicoree coffee, and mumm, was once a powerful town, independent of its prince. It then carried on more trade than any town in the north of Germany, except Hamburg and Lubeck. It was a member of the Hanseatic league, and was a pattern and protectress to all the smaller towns of the north. Its fate has been like that of many others;—industry and ingenuity brought wealth and power; with wealth and power came pride and indolence, and neither the same abilities nor the same care were employed to preserve power and wealth which had been used to obtain them. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Brunswick possessed money, fortifications, and courts of justice, of its own; at the end of the fifteenth century it was fully free from all actual control of the prince, often resisted his wishes and his armies, and refused him homage till he had promised not to violate its privileges. Quarrels amongst the citizens ensued; the magistracy fell into the hands of some few families; it was no longer chosen from the body of citizens, but only from the jurisconsults, and by the jurisconsults. The power of the sovereign was increased by the Reformation, by having lawyers for counsellors. The different sovereigns united, in the seventeenth century, to destroy the freedom of the towns, and Brunswick, like the rest, was, towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, reduced to bow its neck to the yoke of the prince. It is now very quietly governed by magistrates, who must be confirmed by him, and is a good obedient town.
The common, or rather universal, use of sausages, as food in Germany, for which it has just been mentioned Brunswick is famous, has suggested to students, who have a slang language amongst themselves, to call every thing that is perfectly indifferent, or approaching to nauseous, Wurst, sausages. Chicoree coffee is made from endive, and is much used in the north of Germany. There are several large manufactories of it at Brunswick and Magdeburgh. The use of this plant is not owing to the continental system; it was adopted more than fifty years ago. Mumm, also mentioned as now giving some celebrity to Brunswick, is a thick disagreeable sort of beer, whose inventor was a native of this town. It is held in high repute. Brunswick has still a considerable portion of trade, particularly of the trade between Hamburgh and southern Germany. It contains rather more than 20,000 people. There are manufactories of cloths, papier maché, porcelain, and colours. The inhabitants are famous for making furniture, and their turnery-ware is much esteemed.
The landlord of the inn and his wife were an example of an adherence to engagements that is frequent in Germany. They had been betrothed six years before they were married, but he was called into military service, and, while he was in the army, her friends would not consent to their union. They seem to have struggled cheerfully for better days. He had at length procured his discharge, had married, and recently taken this house. Both he and his wife were models of industry. He brewed his own beer, looked after both his guests and their horses, and was an active intelligent man. The wife was a pretty cleanly woman, who kept her house in good order, and had something pleasing to say to every person. She was industrious, like other German women, but she added the virtues of towns, cleanliness and agreeableness to her industry.
The inhabitants, particularly the peasantry, or Brunswick, are remarkable amongst the Germans for personal beauty. The Saxons and Prussians, with all the inhabitants of the north, except the inhabitants of Hannover, are a better-looking race than those of the south. And there is something either in the general fertility and varied nature of their country, or in origin, that has caused the inhabitants of Brunswick to be distinguished even from the natives of the other favoured countries. The men hold themselves more upright, are cleaner dressed, and more active than the peasants of Germany generally are. Laws have given to them great security for their property, and more than half a century ago writers complained of their luxury. They were accused of wearing glass and silver buttons; their wives indulged in the use of lace, and their children were ornamented with silken ribbons. Some attempts which were then made to repress these indulgences are said to have made them suspicious, spiteful, and cunning. The laws were found useless, and the peasantry of Brunswick have again acquired their good character and their taste for enjoyment.
The territories of the Duke of Brunswick are scattered, and some parts of them are separated from the other parts by the territories of other sovereigns. The whole are, however, in some respects similar as to soil, surface, and productions; and they may be numbered amongst the most fertile of northern Germany. The surface is a mixture of hill and dale, approaching in Wolfenbüttel to mountainous; the soil is generally a good clay. The vallies produce corn, and the mountains forests and minerals. The extent of the country is 1188 square geographical miles, the number of inhabitants is 209,527: Brunswick is one of the best peopled states in northern Germany. The greater part of the inhabitants, that is, 205,000, are Lutherans, the remainder are Catholics, Calvinists, Moravians, and Jews. The German language is said to be better spoken in Brunswick than in any other part of Germany, except in the towns of Hannover and Celle.
Brunswick is divided into twenty-one city or war circuits, in each of which is a court for the administration of justice, and of the police. The Landesgericht, or court of justice for the whole country at Wolfenbüttel is a court of appeal in second instance, and at the same place there is a chief court of appeal. The circuits are united into districts, of which there are six, and over each one of these a chief captain, Oberhauptman, is placed, who has the military business, the high police, and such other duties to perform. These persons are placed immediately under the ministry. The present Duke is a minor.
There has always been states or a parliament in Brunswick, which has taken an active part in making laws, and particularly in levying taxes. They were composed of elergy, nobles, and deputies from the cities, and were in possession of all their ancient privileges till the commencement of the French Revolution. The last general meeting was held in 1772; before and since that time their business was, in general, conducted by a committee of their own appointment. In 1772, their language was by no means that of unqualified submission; they remonstrated with the Duke on his expences, and did not grant him all his requests. He had no power to command. This assembly is now to be remodelled.
Much has been done in Brunswick for the cultivation of the people, so far as school learning goes. One of the most celebrated of the present institutions is the Carolina college. It seems to have been originally intended as a better school, something between common schools and universities, but it is now chiefly famous as a military school. This college was founded in 1745, under the patronage of the Duke Charles, and regulated by the then celebrated court chaplain, Jerusalem,∗ who, though distinguished in literature and science, yet merited from his contemporaries the better praise of being a good man. Since that period, there has been no deficiency in Brunswick of literary men and literary pursuits. At present a very good, perhaps one of the best, political journals of Germany is published there by Voss. After having derived much instruction from the history of this country, and of Hannover, written by Dr Carl Venturini, it would be unjust to pass Brunswick without mentioning his name as an historian, who deserves much praise for the care he has taken to pourtray the manners of his countrymen at different periods.
In nothing is the evil of the numerous governments of Germany so apparent, as when good roads are made in one country, which extend only to its boundaries, because the neighbouring country has no funds to complete it. On entering the territories of Brunswick, the change was from a brack to a good road, and there was a good road till I left them to go by Hildesheim to Hannover, and then I came to bogs, ploughed fields, and pieces of road. A new road is, however, making, and the wheel-tracks extending on each side for almost a quarter of a mile, shewed what a quantity of land had been injured by wanting a proper road, and how much one was needed. Yet this is the principal track between the manufacturing country in the neighbourhood of the Lower Rhine and Brunswick, at which there are two large commercial fairs held in the year. In fact, I met a great number of vehicles, particularly carts, loaded with goods come from Elberfeld and Sölingen, and going to Brunswick. They had much difficulty to get along, sometimes sinking almost to the nave of the wheel. It is also the principal track, it ought not to be called a military road, for the Prussians to pass from the eastern part of their country to their possessions on the Rhine. It has long been a much frequented route, but has never been a good one. Perhaps the reader may think this frequent mention of the condition of the roads wearisome, but it shews how much the Germans have suffered from the multiplicity of their governments, and it must also be remarked, that there is not one of these governments which has not a great many people employed as road engineers and inspectors; and yet the roads are much worse than in our country, where the government has nothing to do with them. The soil was in general good clay; the country was well peopled, and numerous hedge-rows, clumps of trees, and villages, gave it a resemblance to many parts of Kent. It required only better weather and better roads to make it pleasant.
On one of the cottages near the road side was an inscription admirably appropriate to the building, “I built not from pride, nor from hope, nor from lust, nor from a desire of ornament, but necessity compelled me thereto.”
I reached a village called Betmeer Pass, where I stopped for the night. It is in the former bishopric of Hildesheim, but which at present forms a part of the kingdom of Hannover. Under the government of the bishop, the landlord paid eighteen Thalers per year (about L. 2, 14s.) in taxes: under the government of Jerome Buonaparte, of whose kingdom of Westphalia Hildesheim formed a part, he paid eighty-three, and now he pays fifty-one. His house seemed to feel the difference. It was spacious, but in ruins; four beds with curtains were crowded into one room, because no other was weather-tight. The mistress was a good cook, and brought forth at supper time some seldom used remnants of better days, such as a gay table-cloth, and silver spoons, which contrasted strongly with the slovenliness, neglect, and dirt of herself and family, and with the rude fir planks which served as a table. Her clothes were good, but were negligently put on, her bosom was only half covered by the handkerchief that was thrown rather than pinned over it, her hair hung dishevelled about her head, and constantly intruded into her eyes and mouth. The husband was much better in his appearance, and talked sensibly on agriculture, and on a variety of topics. The wife, however, did all the domestic labour, he only drank drams, smoked his pipe, and spake with the guests; his labours were farm labours, but they were stopped by the season, and he did not apply himself to any thing else.
The people of this country all speak Low German with one another, not one word of which I could understand, and all the conversation which was carried on in that dialect was lost for me. The crucifixes by the road side were evidence enough of the Catholicism of the inhabitants. In the village was a nice house which belonged to a Catholic gentleman, who had the title of Finance Counsellor to the Protestant King of Hannover. I observed an alteration in the appearance and habits of the people. They were here shorter, fuller faced, and dirtier than the people of Brunswick.
The town of Hildesheim was once, like the rest of the towns of the north of Germany, almost an independent city. It was the capital of the bishopric, and the bishop still lives there, though the sovereignty now belongs to Hannover. The power of the town might have balanced that of the bishop, but it is as nothing when compared to that of its present powerful sovereign. Large steeples and the cathedrals make Hildesheim at a distance look like a much handsomer town than it is. Its situation is even good, but crooked and small streets, with high roofed houses, without any good buildings, and only one open square, make it rather a dismal looking place. The change in the government has had a pernicious effect on the city; the wealth that used to be dissipated in it is now partly dissipated in Hannover, and, as the general prosperity of a country is nothing to any individual when compared with his own prosperity, it was natural that the citizens should complain of the decay of their town and trade.
Before entering the town of Hannover, the eye is arrested by a very ugly pile of bricks. This is the steeple of what is called the Markt-Kirche, or market-church. It is like a blot on the air; it taught me to expect, in the rest of the buildings, every thing that was heavy and old-fashioned. I was, therefore, agreeably deceived when, on entering what is called the Egidian new town, I saw straight well paved streets, houses that appeared rather light and elegant, a handsome walk branching to the right and left, and one spacious house, with a place in front for a garden. This was, however, the best part of the town, and the crooked streets and old buildings, though neither so numerous nor grotesque as at Brunswick and Helmstädt, were sufficient to give it all the characteristics of the cities of the north. I had sent my trunk from Dresden to Hannover by the post-coach; its weight was sixty-five pounds, and it cost about L. 1, 2s. This conveyance is, however, perfectly safe. On going to the banker’s I found he was a Jew, and, consequently, as it was Saturday, his office was shut. I had, therefore, to wait till Sunday.
At various places on the road, as I approached Hannover, I saw new buildings, and something like decent farm-houses, which are marks of prosperity very rarely seen in any part of the Continent. The road from Hildesheim was good, and some hedge-rows, and nice gardens, and, above all, the G. R.s which glittered on the toll-houses, and on the road-menders’ caps, reminded me strongly of England. This was much augmented on entering the town. The soldiers were dressed like our own, and I heard the military music playing for the officers’ dinner “The Roast Beef of Old England.”
The town of Hannover is situated in a flat plain, at the very farthest extremity of the hills and fertile country I had just passed through, and at the very commencement of those sandy districts which extend, without interruption, from it to the Elbe, the Weser, and the sea. On the north-west side lies a hill called the Lindenberg, and in its neighbourhood the soil is fertile, and the country pleasant; on the other side the soil is generally sandy, and the country flat. A little river, called the Leine, divided into two streams, runs through it, but is in general so completely built over that it is not seen till the bridge over it is reached. In the vicinity of the Marstall, or royal stable, and by the palace, it is exposed to view, and there gives a little beauty to the whole. The town contains 20,000 inhabitants, and is increasing and improving. The Leine divides the old from the new town; and the former has as an appendage the Egidian new town, which is the best built and most agreeable part of the whole. There is not one good street, and but few good-looking houses, and, on the whole, the capital of his Majesty’s German dominions may, in point of buildings, be compared to some old fashioned third rate provincial town of Great Britain.
The only building which has the least claim to the character of elegance is the palace of the Duke of Cambridge. It was built by a nobleman in the year 1752, and afterwards purchased by the government. Even this, however, is nothing but a plain and elegant, though rather a large house. The royal palace, which has once been large, is partly in ruins. The chapel, the theatre, and some other of the old parts remain, and some new corners are built and building; the other parts have been burnt or pulled down, and present only a mixture of confusion and ruin. The house in which the ministerial business is conducted, die Regierung; the Parliament House, das landshaftliche Hause, at present repairing, the library, the Fürsten hof, which is the residence of the Duke of Clarence, may be mentioned as decent-looking places. The manner in which the other houses are built, even when they are large, with a frame of oak, filled in with bricks, the timber being still seen, gives them a mean and old fashioned appearance.
The town-house is one of those old Gothic, or, according to Goethe, German buildings, which have so many different corners and shapes, that no one particular shape belongs to it. In lightness and ornament it is far inferior to many of the old houses, similar to those of Helmstädt, which abound in Hannover, as well as in all the towns of this part of Germany. The fronts of many of them are entirely composed of little towers, extending all the way to the top, and being sometimes smartly painted and ornamented with a variety of figures and weathercocks, they look like gay summer-houses, or small antique castles. A similar mode of building may be traced in all the old farm-houses, whose gable ends, and ornaments of wood, which, in that situation, look natural enough, often reminded me of small Gothic chapels. The general prevalence in this country of what is called Gothic architecture, together with its prevalence and excellence in Britain; to which country it was carried by the early invaders from this part of Germany, make it probable that it had its origin here, and leave no room to doubt that this fantastical style, with its multiplicity of ornaments, was once the common style of building the farm-houses of this part of Germany.
There is one point in which most of the towns of Germany resemble one another. They have all once been fortified, the fortifications are no longer of any use, and they, or at least the walls of the towns, are converted into agreeable walks. Hannover has such a walk, and it extends round the whole town. On one part of this walk, not far from the library, and at the end of an open place which is used as a parade for soldiers, stands a little temple, whose cupola rests on twelve columns, and which contains a marble altar, supporting a bust of Leibnitz; on the bottom of the bust his name is inscribed; and the name of the artist, Hewetson, to whom it does no dishonour, is seen on the back part. On the frieze of the temple stands in large letters, “Genio Leibnitzii,” and no further inscription is required to tell who he was, and why he was thus honoured. Its situation, though naturally good, is bad from the things in its neighbourhood. It should have been in a garden, devoted to contemplation; Leibnitz has no connection with soldier-drilling, nor have the machines which are obedient to a corporal’s stick any thing to do with Leibnitz.
The design is chaste and simple, and does great credit to the taste of the gentlemen who planned and executed it. Amongst them I may mention Messrs Von Reden, Patje, Ramberg, Hoffner, and Brandes. They were the original proposers of the monument, which was erected by subscription. The government contributed liberally, and it was completed in the year 1787. The principal merit of the design belongs to Mr Ramberg. It is pleasing to record the modesty which did not allow these gentlemen to engrave their own names on the temple which they had raised to Leibnitz. To appropriate to ourselves a share of the honour we confer, in giving money to raise a memorial to an illustrious man, is often a great motive for giving it. And, if the names of artists, subscribers, and munificent princes, were not to be inscribed on the monument they raise to the dead, the dead would be often unhonoured.
Leibnitz is a name that already too well fills the world to leave me any room to speak of him. Much of his life was passed in Hannover, and many of his manuscripts are still preserved in the library. They are all shewn to strangers with unexampled goodness, by the librarian, Mr. Hofrath Feder. Amongst them are collections of proverbs, historical remarks, epigrams, fables, mostly written in French, something of every sort of literature. What remains of this great man’s works which are unknown, would give an ordinary man much reputation, but it is, perhaps, wise to withhold what Leibnitz himself never thought it right to give the world. He died in November 1716, and he was buried in the church of the new town of Hannover. The stone put up to his memory there is simple, and it remained for the present generation to pay him a proper tribute of respect.
The library is liberally open to the inspection of strangers. It is rich in historical works, and in works written in the Low German dialect. The inhabitants and strangers who are recommended are permitted to take books home to read. There are many reasons why it is to be wished that individuals or bodies of men should provide books for themselves, rather than that they should be provided by governments; but the difference is so great between collecting books and locking them up to be looked at or to rot, and collecting them for general use, and the advantages of the latter are so great, that, compared with the former, it is highly meritorious. The natural history society which exists in Hannover has also a library, and there are several private societies in which books, journals, and newspapers, may be read. There are several collections of natural curiosities belonging to individuals; but, compared to other German towns, Hannover is very poor in museums and collections of works of nature or art. In England it seems to be thought that much of our wealth goes to Hannover, and there it is thought much wealth is sent to England. Neither is true. Neither the palaces of the monarch in Hannover, nor his gardens; neither the splendour of the nobility, nor the patronage which is bestowed on the arts, betrays the influence of the riches of Britain.
The streets of Hannover are well paved, and the foot-paths are raised. This latter is a convenience so rarely seen out of England, that it is more than probable it was borrowed from us. Insurance companies are not common out of England, but there is one in Hannover, which, in all probability, was established in imitation of the English. It was begun in the year 1750, and was confined to the province of Calenberg, and is supported, I believe, by the states of this province. Combined with this institution there is a regulation relative to fires, which might be adopted in every town with advantage. In case of fire, all the citizens, according to their trades, have some particular stations and employments assigned them. The origin of such a regulation is said to have been the company of merchants engaging amongst themselves to assist in saving each other’s property in case of fire, and for this purpose they all provided themselves with sacks, to remove whatever was moveable out of danger. This is still their duty. Masons and carpenters have to pull down neighbouring buildings if necessary; smiths are engine-workers; and every thing which foresight can imagine as necessary to be done on such an emergency, has somebody appointed to do it. Every citizen, not otherwise stationed, has a numbered bucket, and no sooner is an alarm of fire given, than every one, like the sailors of a well-ordered ship, repairs to his station. From these precautions fires seldom take place in Hannover, and are soon extinguished.
The improvements since the fourteenth century have been very great. The most flourishing towns of this country, as described by the historian Spittler, were then most wretched. “After all their privileges, so little comfort could be found within their walls, that nothing but the greatest necessity could drive men to live in this manner. The miserable buildings were crowded together. The streets were not paved; the houses were thatched with straw, and if they were remarkably elegant, they had a wooden chimney. Before or behind the house was a large dunghill, where both men and animals, hardly separated within doors by a plank from one another, provided for the future manure of the field. What would have done people no harm if they were living separate in the country, became disease and pestilence when they were crowded together. Fire very seldom broke out without a third of the town being destroyed, and seldom came a sickness in the land which was not like a pestilence to the inhabitants of the towns.”∗ There are many of these features still visible in the small towns of this country, such as the wooden chimneys and the dunghills, and destructive fires are frequent. It may give some idea of the progress made in comfort, to add, that so late as the end of the sixteenth century some of the houses of Berlin were thatched with straw; wooden chimneys were used in 1708, and they remained in Brunswick till 1745. They are yet to be seen in the town of Münder, in Hannover, and many houses throughout the country are yet destitute of chimneys.
[∗]It was a son of this man who was the prototype of Goethe’s hero, Werter. See Aus meinem Leben, Vol. III. p. 337.
[∗]Geschichte des Fürstenthums, Hannover, Vol. I. p. 49.