Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V.: hannover—hamburg. - Travels in the North of Germany, vol. 1
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CHAPTER V.: hannover—hamburg. - 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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A mode of salutation.—Effects of mockery on character.—Appearance of country.—Freedom of German manners.—Queen Matilda.—Zucht-house.—Treatment of mad people; of criminals; prisoners of state.—A farmer chief-judge.—A wax manufactory.—Agricultural society.—Institutions.—Country.—Shepherds.—Uelzen.—Paper-mill.—Cloth manufactory.—Regulation of police.—Landlady and Pastor.—Specimen of education.—Specimen of opinions.—Lüneburg.—Nobleman farmer.—An Amt Voght.—Main chaude.—Harburg.—Bridge built by Marshal Davoust.
The German poet Goethe mentions how pleased he was when his beloved Fredericka publicly kissed him amongst her other friends and relations as they took their leave from the family.∗ This is an ancient mode of salutation in Germany, which modern refinement has not yet banished from all classes. I once saw a young woman on a visit, who, when she came down stairs in the morning, saluted in this way the whole of the persons who were assembled. In 1817 I went to see the widow of the murdered Hofer, the Tyrolese patriot. After spending a large part of the day, and dining with this respected lady, when I took my leave she gave me a mother’s kiss, and I had nothing to regret but the want of more power to assuage the sorrow of the aged, and care-worn, and neglected matron. It was given to me in part, for I felt assured she was consoled by the visit of a solitary Englishman, which was occasioned by esteem for the memory of her husband. When I left the town of Hannover, on the 28th of May, with an intention of visiting most of the provinces of the kingdom, all the females of the family in which I had lived gave me an affectionate kiss. Such a mode of salutation is perhaps dangerous without that purity of heart to which all things are pure, and which, in its faith, can drink of the well whose waters are poison to the unbelieving.
It is a long time before a sufficiency of philosophy or apathy is obtained, “unmoved to sever or to meet,” and had not the females of this family mocked at their own sorrow, real or pretended, they would have made parting more painful. Sporting with affliction may lighten momentary care, but it has a pernicious influence on the general character. It allows no emotion to be permanent and sacred, and there are some we ought to indulge, or, at least, leave time to alter and assuage them. Always to laugh is rather more absurd than always to cry, and to assume the propriety of doing either as a general rule of conduct, is to proceed on a false theory of human nature, which produces affectation, and often deprives men of all claim to the virtues of open-heartedness and sincerity. They act a part so often, that at length they lose all character but what they derive from their theory. There are few of our emotions which do not deserve, from their importance, to be observed and remembered, and they who endeavour to suppress them exclude themselves from a source of wisdom. The Germans are a good deal tinged with a sort of false theory, though it takes in them a different shape, according to the temperament of the individual; some will laugh all sorrows away, and others always indulge melancholy.
I reached the town of Celle at five o’clock in the evening, after a dreary tramp of twenty-four miles. The country was chiefly heath and morass, a nursery for frogs and beautiful insects, in which a patch of cultivation round a miserable village, and a herd of cattle, were now and then seen. The brown heath was mixed with large white spots of the common rush in bloom, which glanced on the horizon, and dazzled and bewildered the eye. There was almost as many royal tolls as villages, the collectors of which had given the travellers good advice, by inscribing on their boards, “Hutet euch vor Strafe, und bezahlet Zoll,”—Beware of punishment, and pay the tolls.
At an inn I met a family travelling to Hannover, in their own carriage, and forming part of them was a young couple, who were either recently married, or were going to be married. They caressed each other, in the public room, in a manner that we should call indecent, but which I had before discovered to be a part of German manners. Franklin has said, “Men have more pride, and even pleasure, in killing than in begetting one another; for, without a blush, they assemble in great armies at noon-day to destroy, and when they have killed as many as they can, they exaggerate the number to augment the fancied glory; but they creep into corners, or cover themselves with the darkness of night, when they mean to beget, as being ashamed of a virtuous action.” The Germans, in this respect, may approach to wisdom, for they seldom betray any shame at exchanging in public the signs and the endearments of legitimate love. I am not disposed to take seriously the remark of Franklin, and can readily imagine why our joys should be secret. They excite the envy or the desire of less happy people, and those who display them have no right to complain if they are exposed to sarcasm or libertine attacks, since they betray a want of delicacy and of respect for others.
Before reaching Celle, some people were breaking up a piece of ground, in consequence of the common lands in this neighbourhood having recently been divided and appropriated. The spot was claimed by the sovereign, as lord-paramount, and the people had to pay him a small rent for the privilege of labouring it. There was a great want of a drain for the whole, which might easily have been made, if the exertions of each individual had been properly directed. They had not, and the consequence was, that the land lay so wet, it was impossible to sow it with winter corn. The practice was to sow it with oats, buck-wheat, barley, or potatoes.
In the evening I visited the old ruined castle, once the habitation of the dukes of Lüneburg, and last inhabited by the unfortunate Queen Matilda of Denmark. She died here in 1775. A monument, which is at present very much defaced, and almost destroyed, was erected to her memory, in a place called “the French Garden,” a little out of the town. It is surrounded with trees and shrubs, and has a gloomy sentimental air, somewhat in unison with the taste of the Germans.
On the following day I visited the Zucht-house, Penitentiary,—which is situated in a suburb called Wester-Celle. Permission to do so was requested from the chief of the establishment, who immediately granted it. He had formerly been a captain in the German Legion, and remarked, that there was nothing to admire if I had seen similar establishments in other countries. The Burghauptman, who can only be considered as the turnkey, though he has the fine name of Captain of the Castle, accompanied me, and we first visited the cells for mad people. Here, as in other countries, the mad and the criminal are confined together. Why should guilt and misfortune be confounded in the minds of the society, by the unfortunate being condemned to live with the criminal? Is it merely that both must be subjected by force? Or, is it that state-doctors regard crime as insanity, and therefore shut both into the same building? This plan is objectionable, not on account of the mad people, who do not feel it, but on account of the sane, but unreflecting part of the society, who may be taught by it to believe that criminality and insanity are alike unavoidable.
There were about eighty mad people and idiots. All that are in any manner furious are shut up in cells. The idiots are left at large in the building, but remain under the same guardianship as the felons. The cells, or, as they may rather be called from their size, little apartments, were all on the ground-floor, and were well aired, and well lighted. There was a great want, however, of discrimination in the treatment; those who were absolutely furious, and those whose greatest folly was continually reading the Bible aloud, were constantly confined in similar cells. This was very different from the regulations of a benevolent physician of a mad-house at Pirna, near Dresden, whom I remember to have seen, but whose name I have unfortunately forgotten. He made himself intimately acquainted with the dispositions and characters of every one of his patients, and judiciously adapted his means of cure accordingly. Neither of the medical men who belonged to the establishment at Celle lived in the house; its management was entrusted to an officer of the army, and the keeper of the mad people was also the gaoler. My conductor was a very stupid fellow, who knew nothing whatever of the methods followed in order to cure these unfortunates, he only knew they were fed once a day.
From the cells for madness we went to the apartments for the criminals. From fifty to sixty persons were in each working apartment, the males and females each by themselves. All the women, and some men, were employed spinning either wool or flax. The different buildings formed three sides of a square, and on the fourth side was a wall, and the gates. The ground enclosed by the building is the place in which the prisoners are allowed to go for exercise, and the inhabitants of each room take their turns to walk. A certain time is allotted them every day. Each prisoner has a separate bed, but there are so many as forty or fifty beds in a room. Formerly, more than one person slept in the same bed, which it had been found prudent to alter.
Many of the men, unable to spin, were idling about, but there was neither noise nor confusion amongst them. All the women were patiently and quietly at work, and were all tidily and decently dressed. There was no other keeper present in each of the apartments for the females during the whole day than an elderly woman, who gave the prisoners flax, and took back the yarn, and she was perfectly at her ease, as if she were among children, instead of people confined for transgressing the laws. Fifty English females, under similar circumstances, would, even after the benevolent labours of Mrs Fry, present a very different spectacle. The evil of confinement is not to be remedied by outrage, but it is so great an evil, that it looks like tameness or apathy to be perfectly resigned to it. It marks a want of energy of character, rather than an exalted virtue. It was a better sign in the females, who were employed, than in the men, who were idle, and yet contented.
The spinning is done for merchants, who deliver a certain quantity of flax or wool, and receive back a certain quantity of yarn, for spinning which they pay. The prisoners sometimes, when they are very industrious, earn enough to pay for their keep, and to acquire a small sum of money. The keeper did not know the exact number of mad people and of criminals confined, but he believed there was nearly 500. The whole of this establishment, without being guided by any philosophical views of reforming criminals, and without intending more than to confine them, and find them employment during their confinement, was decent, clean, and well ordered.
My conductor knew what had excited the curiosity of most visitors, and therefore he took great care to inform me of five persons who were confined in secresy as prisoners of state. They were of a better condition of life than the rest of the prisoners, had separate apartments, and were not shewn to the public. One of them had killed some person in a duel, and he was undoubtedly punished according to law. Another was a civil servant of the government, whose accounts had been found out of order. For what the others were confined was unknown. It is most probable that they were all justly confined, but some people believed they were innocent or persecuted men. The government, therefore, gets by this measure a worse character than it deserves. The world rightly judges that nothing but wrong is perpetrated in secret, and the government that wishes for a good reputation should court publicity.
Further from Celle than the Penitentiary, but lying in the same direction, is a farm belonging to the President of the chief court of appeal, Herr von Schlepegrell. It was formerly a waste, and has been brought under cultivation by him, but has cost more money than it is worth, or will sell for. There is no other rational criterion of the value of such improvements but their produce, and the cultivation of this waste, however good the intention, cannot be praised. It is a good sign for a country when persons in the situation of the President turn their attention to agriculture, their success encourages imitation, and their failures are not followed by ruin. Lord Kaimes, whose writings did much for the improvement of the husbandry of Scotland, was also a judge, and when I remarked the analogy between him and the Herr von Schlepegrell, I wished the labours of the latter might also be successful.
The farm is situated about two miles below Celle, on the banks of the Aller, and the whole of it is a light sandy soil. Nearly 400 morgen, about 320 acres, are constantly cultivated, under the following rotation of crops, rye or wheat, and then oats, barley, buck-wheat, or potatoes, for two years. In general, no part of it is left fallow, but after some years it becomes so foul, that it is obliged to lie a summer to kill the weeds. Oxen are used for working, principally because there is a right belonging to the farm to feed on large commons, and oxen can be turned out better than horses. A small flock of about eighty sheep was kept, but none bred; fifty cows were also kept, and fed on the commons. The East Friezland or Dutch breed of these cattle was preferred.
The province of Lüneburg is famous for bees, and much of the wax is bleached and manufactured at Celle. I visited one of the wax manufactories, and was very civilly conducted through every part by the owner. He was full of that attention and politeness I have now often experienced from Germans. They are always ready to oblige. The wax is bleached by simply watering it, and exposing it to the sun. No sort of chemical agents are employed, and it requires nearly a summer to finish the bleaching. A person had visited the owner, offering to shew him a more ready way to bleach, but that he said would have required him to alter his premises, and he was then too old. The manufactory had been established by his great-grandfather, had been continued unaltered by his grandfather and father, and he meant it should remain unaltered till his death. He complained that the concern was no longer profitable, the price of wax had fallen too low, which he attributed to unfair dealers mixing it with cheaper ingredients, and he would not allow that it could be occasioned by a cheaper mode of bleaching. There is a water communication from here to Bremen, from where his candles were exported to Russia and other places. He complained of some restrictions, of which I was ignorant, on the importation of wax into England.
There is another farm in the neighbourhood, also situated on the Aller, but above the town, and favoured by a much better soil, which is celebrated from having formerly been the residence of Mr Thaer, the Fallenberg, or the Young of Germany. He may perhaps be called both. He was formerly a medical practitioner in Celle, he then hired this farm; he has translated many of our agricultural works; he has long edited journals of agriculture, and he has done a great deal by his writings to diffuse a knowledge of this art over Germany. He is now Professor of Agriculture at Berlin. The King of Prussia has given him an extensive tract of land, which was formerly a waste, at Mögelin, in Brandenburg, where he unites a practical school of agriculture with accommodations for boarding pupils, in some respects similar to the establishment at Hofwyl. The farm is of less consequence to the present owner than a large spirit distillery. There were some very fine teams of oxen, all of the East Friezland breed, and being all regularly harnessed, they looked admirably. The owner was occupied, and I visited under the guidance of one of his servants, his distillery, and fattening-house. He had not more than twenty oxen; the premises are capable of holding forty,—they were all clean, and in good order. Uniting a farm with a distillery, and fattening cattle, is a frequent speculation, and succeeds very well. All the spirit is made from wheat, generally brought from Brunswick by water. One of the workmen, who had possibly heard of a steam-engine being employed to mash, to pump, and to perform all the work of the distillery, imagined it could also produce the spirit, and he inquired if brandy were not made in England by a steam-engine.
I had a long conversation with the keeper of the orphan and work-house, who explained all his labours to me. He had had much experience in the management of poor; the object of the institution over which he presided was to relieve distress, to encourage industry, and to prevent begging, and, accordingly, the funds were more devoted to employing people, though at a loss, than in giving them relief in any other way, and he thought begging had been prevented, if not destroyed. There was still, however, much distress.
Celle is the seat of a royal agricultural society, “Königliches landes Oeconomie Collegium,” whose principal business is to superintend and conduct a general inclosure of all the common lands. A Mr Meyer devoted the greater part of his life to this business, and wrote a large work on the subject, which served as the basis of the law and regulations which have since been made, but which I was unable to comprehend.
The Hannoverian ministry are extremely solicitous to promote agriculture, and they are taking great pains not only to divide the common lands, but, by exchanges and compensations, to give a connected piece of land to each peasant, equal in value to that land which he now cultivates, and which is very often separated into fields at different places. Most assuredly it is desirable that the land belonging to each person should be all in one place, but it may be doubted if authorizing a commission of gentlemen, however impartial and disinterested, to bring this about, can ever effect it so well as merely allowing and encouraging the parties to do it by exchanges and purchases. It is an immense power that of disturbing the property of others, and its exercise will not be followed by content. This is an example of men governing too much, though from good motives. Some reliance ought to be placed on the self-interest, if not on the wisdom of mankind. It is fully adequate to produce those public benefits, which the rulers of the world seem to suppose can only be produced by their interference.
There is no account published of the transactions of this society; it publishes lists of the premiums which it offers for particular discoveries. It is only praised as useful for dividing common lands, to promote a better system of cultivation, by any other means, is hardly within its sphere. Arthur Young somewhere observes such societies do not promote improvements in agriculture. His opinion is probably correct, and, above all, it is correct when they are appointed and paid, as this society is, by government. The funds that pay them are funds taken from agriculture, or some other productive labour, and the more numerous such societies are, the larger must the funds be which are required to support them, and in that same proportion they are pernicious to the real productive industry of the country.
In Celle there is a college, or large school, where medicine and surgery are taught, which possesses a good library and an anatomical theatre, and with which a school for the instruction of midwives is united. No midwife is allowed to practise who has not been instructed. There is also a good Latin, or High School. The Marstall, or Harass, belonging to the sovereign, has been useful in improving the breed of horses. Lists may be procured, for such are kept, of all the mares which have been brought to the royal stallions in any year or number of years. They ought to be glorious beasts of whom men think it right to number and record the embraces. They degrade themselves by attention to such trifles. Their labour in recording, of which they are sometimes so proud, is not productive labour, and where the whole wealth, manufactures, and commerce of any country are known in all their parts, it does not follow, that it is either wealthy or prosperous; it probably possesses more accountants than productive labourers.
All around Celle, like most other German towns, there are little gardens, which belong to the various inhabitants, who cultivate in them their own cabbages and potatoes. The women are the principal gardeners, and at this time of the year they were all busied, till it was dark, digging and sowing. Another common, or rather universal feature of German towns was also visible at Celle. This is, that, with the town-house, a wine-house, called the Raths Kellar, is always united. This curious union may have orginated in the quantity of persons who had business with the magistrates, and who wanted amusement and refreshment while waiting. Celle was formerly the residence of that branch of our royal family, who were Dukes of Lüneburg before this province was united to the others, by the marriage of the only daughter of the last duke with George I. and it has ever since been the favourite abode of such of the nobility of Lüneberg as have not chosen to live in the town of Hannover. It is also the seat of the chief court of appeal for the whole of the kingdom, and is inhabited by a great number of genteel families. It is altogether a well built and well paved little town, and with its institutions for learning, with the accuracy of the language which is spoken, and the polished manners of its inhabitants, it presents a good specimen of improvement. Its advantages of situation are all derived from the Aller, a little river, which, running through Celle, connects Brunswick with Bremen.
Between Celle and Eschede, a distance of 12 miles, there were but two small villages, the land being for the greater part heath, the soil sandy, and in many places mixed with loose stones. At the second village was a nobleman’s property, or an “Adeliche Hof,” which was in a most ruined state. It was a wretched house falling to decay, and most of the houses on noble estates are in the same ruinous condition. In this country, a very small breed of sheep—Heyde Schnucken—is numerous. They are the heath sheep of Britain. They are a hardy race of animals, which feed and nourish themselves on the few plants and short grass that are intermixed with the heather. They are the true wealth of the farmers, supplying them with both food and clothing. They require no other care than to be housed at night. For this purpose, sheds are built in many parts of this otherwise unbuilt land. Every peasant has a large flock, and most of the labourers, servants, and shepherds, have some few. The flocks generally consist of 200 head; each animal weighs from 25 to 30 lbs. its fleece about 2 lbs. the wool is coarse, and sells from ninepence to a shilling a pound. Rye, oats, and buck-wheat, are principally cultivated. The ground is ploughed for a few years, and then allowed to rest for a few years, during which time the sheep are turned on it. Oxen are also here used for the same reason as at Celle.
The farms here are from twenty to sixty-four acres of land each. Each farmer keeps a shepherd, and one or two servants, who are generally the younger branches of the family. The heath, or rather the surface of the soil, is cut off in flakes, and, thrown into the stables and yards, forms the greater part of the manure in use. The instrument for cutting it resembles a carpenter’s adze, but is larger, and is very expeditiously used, in the same manner as that instrument is used. This was a beautiful still summer’s night. The men were unyoking their cattle, and turning them out to graze on the stunted heaths; the women, followed by one or two children, were bringing home their last loads; and I did not retire to the close and dirty inn till the disappearance of all the people, and the shutting all the doors, warned me of the lateness of the hour.
After leaving Eschede, there were no villages for four hours, but several flocks of sheep, attended either by shepherds or shepherdesses. I expected to hear music and singing; never were they more requisite to relieve a loneliness and sterility of country. But the shepherdess was long past the gallant season of life, and nobody was either playing or singing to her. She was reading, not love sonnets, but the Bible, which she shewed me, with some sort of distaste, deeming it but sorry amusement compared with her week-days avocation of knitting stockings. The inhabitants of the towns of Germany knit on Sundays, those of the country will not on that day touch a needle. Fortunately they all can, and do read. A shepherd, who was lying on his belly with his heels in the air, was of opinion that he ought not to knit on a Sunday, and he was reading meditations, Betrachtungen, for every day in the year, on life, death, and immortality, published by some clergyman of Magdeburg; he left his book very readily to gossip with me. He had forty sheep of his own, while he was the shepherd of another man, who paid him by giving him yearly two sheaves of corn, two shirts, and coarse cloth for a jacket and trowsers. He received no money wages.
Two or three houses standing together, surrounded by trees, sometimes relieved the desolation of the otherwise barren waste. The people spoke of these precisely as the Indians speak of their habitations. In that bush, said a shepherd, there are three houses; in that other two; and in that one still farther off there are two more. It is curious to reflect on that alteration in society by which a Herr von dem Busche, whose family probably took their name from such a house as that I saw last night, placed in such a situation as was here described as a bush, has become one of the privileged nobility of the present day.
Uelzen, where I dined and slept, is a nice little town. Most of the inhabitants were enjoying themselves in their summer-houses, of which there was one in every garden, and the town is surrounded with gardens. At the entrance to most of the houses were two stone benches, on some of which people were seated smoking, who exchanged the afternoon salutation with every passing neighbour. The upright stones at the end of these benches were shaped in an ornamented manner, like common tombstones, which they otherwise greatly resembled; and they disposed me at first to think that every family was buried under its own door sill.
The river Ilmenau is navigable from the Elbe to Uelzen, and the English and the Hamburgers are said to have formerly carried on with it a considerable commerce. Much of the commerce from Hamburg to southern Germany still passes through it. In the town itself much spirit is distilled, wax bleached, and cloth and paper made. I visited a paper-mill. It is one of the largest in the whole of Hannover, and employs twenty-eight persons. It was not badly erected, but it was small and incomplete compared with the establishments for the same use in England.
The owner seemed much attached to the promised freedom of Germany, and he hoped much from constitutional governments, while he deplored that they were not yet established. He delivered his opinion freely on the new constitution which Hannover had received, and on the conduct of the Hannoverian government, which, he said, neglected the commercial interest. He employed people to collect rags, and he thought the government did wrong in allowing any of this raw material to go out of the land. In fact, like other men, in the blind pursuit of his own interest, he blamed the government for not doing what it ought not to do. All which every individual can justly demand of a government, is to allow him to follow his own interest undisturbed; but he wanted to hinder other people, such as rag-collectors, and the merchants who sent rags out of the land, from seeking their interest. Thus it is in every branch of society; all men wish to be themselves free, but they are willing to bind chains on others. He complained, and perhaps with justice, of the jealousy and narrow-mindedness of some of our manufacturers. He had friends who had been in England, but not one of them, although they had made it their business, had ever been able to see the inside of a paper-mill. The liberality of people on the Continent is certainly on this point great. There are but very few establishments which a stranger is not permitted to visit on asking permission. The fear of having inventions and improved methods stolen by foreigners, is perhaps extended to illiberality amongst the manufacturers of Britain.
The cloth manufactory at Uelzen was a specimen of that destruction which changes in political relations cause. Twenty-eight looms were formerly kept at work; at this time there were only, in general, eight or ten, and at the moment even these were idle. The owner dyes, bleaches, and weaves. With the exception of spinning, the cloth is made fully ready in the same premises. Here also were complaints. When a man finds his property decaying, and his hopes destroyed, it is natural to complain, only it is wrong in men to complain of any one act of government rather than of their own veneration for it, by which alone it has the power to vex and disturb them. The same principle operated on this gentleman as on the other. He wanted a tax on the exportation of wool, and a prohibition to bring foreign-made cloths into the country. For Hannover it is of much greater consequence that the farmer should have a good price for his wool, than that the capitalist should be able to make a profit on manufacturing cloth.
In the evening I walked to a village called Bienenbüttel. The country was, as usual, nearly a flat sand, with much heath, and cultivated only where there was water. This was the case at Bienenbüttel, where there was a rude oil and a rude corn mill, and the usual concomitant of fertility, either a nobleman’s house or an ancient convent. This was a nobleman’s house, belonging to a Herr von Hartwig, at present a ruin. An idea of what is here regarded as wealth may be known from this, that a man ploughing described two farmers of his village as great farmers, grosse Bauer, and very rich, who cultivated about forty acres of land each, and had nearly 200 head of common sheep, and kept one shepherd betwixt them.
On asking at Bienenbüttel for a bed, I was told permission to lodge me must first be obtained “from the Baumeister,” or chief man of the village; my passport was sent to him, and the permission obtained in due course. This officer is charged, among other things, with the police of the village, but submitting passports to his inspection was a new regulation. It was customary to make the innkeeper responsible, who was obliged to see the passport of each stranger, and record his name in a book kept for that purpose. This extension of the power of the police is a proof of the progress which statesmen are making in the craft of government. Through controlling the press, they guard our understandings from being bewildered by too strong a glare of truth. Their passports serve to check our wanderings, and, at the same time, to register us, that, for the comfort of our friends, we may always be found; and they secure our sleep by placing us under the care of the magistrates. Those who have watched the progress of this benevolent craft, cannot doubt that in time its professors will take the health of their subjects under their own special care, and will preserve in perfect order all the organs of the body. For the benefit of the suffering and diseased, may that time speedily arrive.
The landlady of the post-house where I slept had been divorced from her husband, on account of unfaithfulness, but it had brought no degradation on her. She had then two very decent young women living with her to learn housekeeping. She was a fine fat dame, about fifty years of age, a ruling wife, under whose eye no hand but her own was idle, and who was evidently addicted to entertain her company with conversation. She told me, in a short time, so much of her own history as did her honour, and was expatiating very warmly on some slight she had that morning received from the village pastor, when he entered, and she received him with a profusion of smiles and welcomes, which he amply repaid. Leading her to the sofa he seated himself by her side, and looked all sweetness. She became immediately gentle, reproached him in a very endearing way for not using her chaise that morning, when she had prepared it for him, and regarded him with as much tenderness as it was possible to give to a countenance accustomed during thirty years to keep post-boys and maids in order by its frowns. She had that morning been fatigued by a walk round her farm, and tempted by the warm weather she had remained en déshabille the whole day. Her clothes, tied close round her neck, and connected at her immense waist, formed at the bottom a circle of several feet in diameter; as she stood up she had the appearance of a cone with a very large base. Her head was closely pinned in a morning cap, and there was nothing to conceal the dimensions of her red cheeks.
The pastor was a dark complexioned healthy-looking man, about the same age as the lady, and was also, I understood, separated from his wife. He was either naturally stately, solemn, and grave, or had assumed these appearances for the sake of his profession. He had that day been at a feast given by some neighbouring Amtman, and the wine he had drunk seemed to give loudness and pomp to his words, and to add something to his vivacity. So soon as the first compliments were over, he began an accurate description of his day’s adventures, which he easily arranged like one of his sermons, under three heads; 1. His journey there; 2. His stay; and 3. His journey back. The feast was the most important part of it, and was most minutely described. The number of dishes, the manner in which they were placed on table, the skill of Mrs Amtman in exciting rather than in satisfying the appetite, the wines, the company, with their behaviour, and remarks, were all taken in turns, as a first and second division, and so on of the principal heads. Every word was measured and spoken deliberately, and the tobacco puffed forth to make a full stop at every short sentence. Politeness, the respect due to the pastor, and perhaps a tenderer feeling which lived in, I will not say filled, the mighty space which the robes of the lady inclosed, kept her attentive, yet she was much more accustomed to talk than to listen, and she could hardly preserve herself from sleeping. As the history went on, the pastor hitched himself on the sofa close to the lady; his hand rested first on the shoulder nearest him, it then glided softly over the broad back, on the other, his face came almost in contact with hers, his hand returned, it sunk slowly over the swelled bosom, till it rested above her knee. His voice assumed a more tender and less positive tone; the lady regarded him with looks of much complacency, and they appeared ready to sink to rest in each other’s arms. As this was going on, the two young women and the son of the landlady retired one after another. The scene was no longer fit for the participation of a third person, and I sought refuge in one of the arbours of the garden to laugh heartily at the loves of the little pastor and the fat landlady. This was a little in caricature, but otherwise a fair specimen of the manner in which the Germans indulge in the tender emotions in presence of other people.
A tutor had been kept in this family. The son of the landlady, who was intended to succeed her in the post-house, and who was then a collector of taxes for the village, and managed the farm, played on the pianoforte, and sung during the evening. He had been in to Mecklenburgh, where the soil is stiff and fertile, to learn farming, and had brought back with him a sufficient knowledge of the methods practised in that country, heartily to despise his own sand, and the means employed to cultivate it. Learning is very often blind, and he wanted to carry into practice here the methods of Mecklenburgh, though he was not persuaded they would answer; and the obvious and only means of making his sand fertile by artificial irrigation, or mixing other soils with it, had never occurred to him. It is by such means as these, however, that the land is any where made fertile, and probably they are the only ones which can render it productive.
I was fortunate, the following day, to have the schoolmaster and parish-clerk of a neighbouring village as a companion to Lüneburg. The people here, he said, did not like learning much; they were sensible of the value of reading and writing, and calculating a money account, and they encouraged their children to learn them, but they did not comprehend what was the use of geography or natural history, and all his laudable attempts to teach them to the children failed, because they were laughed at by the parents. One old peasant had heard something of his opinions as to the moon’s being inhabited, and as to the stars being not mere shining sparks, but other suns giving light to other worlds, containing millions of beings like ourselves, and he had come to him and questioned him very magisterially if such were his belief. The schoolmaster said he had not seen the inhabitants himself, but that such opinions were entertained by very great and wise men, and therefore he verily believed them. On this the old man cried out against him as a heathen, who wanted to destroy the religion of the land, made complaints against him, and endeavoured to get him dismissed. He had not succeeded, and had only made the schoolmaster form an unfavourable opinion of the Bauers.
Something may be learnt of the character of a people from their common phrases. The schoolmaster described an old woman of his parish, who was obliged to have some support given her, because her only son had remained on the field of battle. Erist geblieben is the common German phrase for expressing that a man has been killed in war. It is also a phrase which is in ordinary use for remaining or staying, and is totally unconnected with any emotion either of glory or honour. Its use shews accurately how the feelings of these people on this important subject have been degraded to the most perfect indifference by a long series of wars, and by the practice of selling them to fight the battles of other nations.
The town of Lüneburg is a very ancient place, as may be learnt not only from the appearance of the buildings, but also from a short description and history of it, written by the Zöllner, Toll-gatherer, at Lüneburg, Mr Urb. Friedr. Christoph. Manecke, who, with true compiling German diligence, gives a list of no less than 46 works, which had supplied materials for his book of 150 pages. The steeples are all built of red brick, and have an ugly, and indeed frightful appearance. There is not one which does not give the idea of danger from being apparently ready to fall. Mr Manecke says they have been exposed to various accidents, owing to their weight, and the ground not being very firm on which they are built. They have also been struck with lightning, and have been burnt. It is an heterodox taste not to admire steeples. Yet, after having seen some of the finest of the world, I confess my heretical eyes have never discovered any beauty in the modern Babels. And I may be allowed to hope, for the benefit of all nervous people, that no Babel taste will be suffered to waste the grant which has been made to build new churches on building new steeples.
Lüneburg is going to decay, and from the immense quantity of bricks which have been employed in the buildings, it promises to be at some future day what Rome has before been, a quarry, though a small one, out of which materials will be dug for other buildings. Several circumstances, such as the situation of Lüneburg, on a navigable river, and the salt and the lime which are found in its neighbourhood will always preserve it from total destruction; but it has now less commerce and wealth than formerly. The town once took part in the herring-fishery, had twice as many brewers as there are at present, and not one of the present ones are rich; it had formerly several manufactories of frieze, woollen and cotton cloths, all of which have decayed. The lime-burning and salt-making remain, but one great source of the prosperity of the town, the trade from Hamburg, is much diminished. Nearly 50 vessels were formerly employed, there are not above 30 at present. I shall endeavour to explain the causes of the diminution of the commerce of Hannover, generally at a later period, and therefore only here observe, that one cause why the trade of Lüneburg is diminished, is some new tolls which the King of Prussia has laid on all things coming into his dominions, or passing through them by land, in order to force the commerce of Germany so much as possible by the Elbe and by Magdeburg. It would hardly be supposed that a toll on land-carriage was necessary to make the people prefer water-carriage, but so it is in this country, even where the roads are in such an execrable state, that, on entering Lüneburg, I saw two waggons, each with ten horses, to draw a load that, on good roads, would require four.
In its history, Lüneburg resembles the other towns of the north of Germany. In early days, it was united with the Hanse towns, had a magistracy independent of the crown, and a flourishing trade. It gradually fell more under the power of the sovereign, who took the great sources of its trade into his own hands, and subjected the whole of it to his regulations. Its magistracy became dependent on him, and its trade decayed.
A limestone rock, close to the town, may be considered as a curiosity. There are two other spots in the neighbourhood where limestone is broken, but this rock, rising to the height of 150 feet above the sandy flat country, and perfectly isolated, seems brought there, according to a German author, by enchantment. It is, I believe, a sulphat of lime. The strata lie in confused and broken masses, and contain very fine crystals. Like most of what is useful in this country, except air and light, it is the property of the sovereign, but he lets it for a certain sum per year. The services of a certain number of condemned persons are also let with it, who are employed in breaking, burning, and grinding, the lime. It forms a considerable article of trade, and much of it goes to Hamburg.
At the foot of this rock there is a salt well, which could supply 4400 tons of salt per week; but as a market can only be found for about 20,000 tons in a year, the well is not very actively worked, and much of the water is allowed to run away. The manner in which Germany has always been a prey to its numerous governments, is explained by the fact, that when this country was occupied by the Prussians, his majesty of Prussia had no objection to his good town of Lüneburg supplying the rest of his dominions with cheap salt, and Lüneburg then exported 21,622 tons of salt in a year. Before that period, and since, its exports have not exceeded 7000 tons. Throughout Germany salt is a royal monopoly, and every monarch, anxious to sell his own, rarely allows that of any other royal trader to be sold within his dominions. The process of making it is very simple. The water is pumped up and evaporated by boiling till the salt remains, which is then dried, and it is fit for sale. Eighteen boilers are employed. As it is a royal manufactory, however, it has several inspectors and overseers, two or three salt-commissioners, and secretaries, besides clerks and accountants, and all that numerous class of servants, which always make royal monopolies the most expensive of all monopolies.
Close to Lüneburg a Herr von Meding lives on his own property, and cultivates it under his own direction. He has fine plantations of oak; sows wheat, and rye, and clover, like an experienced good farmer; pays his workmen by the piece; and has an improving estate.
I walked to a village called Pattenson to sleep. At a public-house called Einen Hof, where I stopped in my way, where every member of the family was ragged and dirty, where the house appeared never to be swept, and where there was no sign of either cleanliness or neatness; yet even there a person was kept partly to instruct the children. He had been a soldier and a servant, and taught the boys and girls reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography. He also assisted in the labours of the farm.
I expected to find a good inn at Pattenson, but, after seeking through the whole place, a deaf and dumb man, who, by his signs, would have done no dishonour to the Abbe Sicard, but who had never been out of his own village, explained to me that there was no other than the one at the door of which he was standing, and which had all the appearance of a very miserable ale-house. The woman could give me a bed, but it was first necessary to have the permission of the Amts-Vogt to lodge me. This is the title of a servant of the crown, who has a portion of its land to administer, and who is charged with the police and administration of justice in a certain district. We have no corresponding officers in England by whose title his can be translated. I had no objection to see an Amts-Vogt, and therefore went myself to obtain his permission. He was in a small chamber, surrounded with books and papers, and he either wished to practise or shew the little learning he had. He persisted in speaking French, though he could not make out a sentence without using German words, and it was then difficult to understand him. He understood it so little, that, after reading my passport, which was in French, he supposed I was Mr Gordon, our minister at Vienna, who had given it to me. This was a rare instance of presumption and ignorance. Pretension is common amongst the Germans, but it is generally combined with a portion of knowledge. Every German knows how to display and to make good, in the estimation of the world, all the talents he may possess, but there are very few whose pretensions are supported by so little as this gentleman’s were. He gave me permission to sleep.
The landlady was a mere peasant, but a civil well-behaved woman, and talked to me about tithes and taxes, and made many reflections on the calamities of life and the miseries of old age, as she placed before me a wooden trencher and the raw ham, Schinken, I was to have for supper. I have on many occasions found the women of this country, in her situation of life, more intelligent than the men, when the latter are neither schoolmasters nor magistrates. They are in all things the great managers, both of the house and of the farm, and therefore know more about them than the men. She described very accurately the ancient land-tax, of which the quota to be paid by each parish having been apportioned by the States, the individuals of the parish assessed themselves so as to make up this quota. She knew that the country had been examined and measured to levy a new land-tax; and she was perfectly sensible of what she suffered by tithes being taken in kind, and by a tax on persons, which, together, hardly allowed her to procure a subsistence. Yet she and her husband were at no time idle. In summer they cultivated their land together; in winter he dug and carried peat into the town for sale, while she, with the servants, spun and wove.
At ten o’clock, when the people should all have gone to bed, I was rather surprised to see a dozen young men and women, and amongst them the servants of the house, collected at the door and playing main chaude.∗ It was a beautiful night, and this amusement lasted, with much laughter, and some very hearty slaps, till midnight. The last time I had played at this game was with the family of the public-house at the village of Simplon. I should have joined in it here with great pleasure, but I was not sure that my patience was equal to the pain inflicted by the hard hands of the peasantry. People who, after a day’s labour, can thus amuse themselves, and be happy, assuredly find a compensation in their own minds for the sterility of the land, and the disadvantages of their situation.
Part of the town of Harburg was destroyed by the French, with a village about a mile distant from it; but both are now rebuilt. It was Harburg which the French in a manner united to Hamburg, while Marshal Davoust governed the latter, by means of a very long wooden bridge and two flying bridges, over the two branches of the Elbe. The bridge was built over a swamp, close to Hamburg, and, with about two miles of road and the flying bridges, reached from one town to the other, a distance of at least six miles. It was all built of wood, but very strongly and substantially built, and capable of supporting the heaviest waggons. It was constructed in the short space of sixty-two days. Wherever Davoust’s power reached, from there he brought artizans, mechanics, labourers, and materials; he made every body work who could work, and for whom he could find an employment. No view of lasting utility could ever have persuaded the people of the country to have built it, but, when it was built, it ensured Hamburg so ready a communication with the dominions of Hannover, that it was probably worth preserving. The materials were, however, thought of more value than the bridge; it made boatmen less useful, and men were breaking it up. The present means of crossing from Harburg to Hamburg is a large sailing boat, which leaves Harburg every morning at seven o’clock, and Hamburg every evening at four. To cross at any other time by this route, that is direct from one town to the other, a boat must be hired expressly, which is rather expensive. There is a small boat ferries across a little distance above Harburg, but lands at a considerable distance from Hamburg. I crossed by it, and reached Hamburg at three o’clock. I was surprised to observe, as I crossed the Elbe, a steam-boat with English colours flying, on board of which was a band of music, and which occasionally fired salutes. It was a party of Britons celebrating in this manner the birth-day of their sovereign, and strengthening their loyalty by the joys of friendship and good cheer.
The road from Hannover to Hamburg traverses the province of Lüneburg, and such a short description of this province will here be subjoined as may enable the reader to form an idea of the German dominions of our sovereign.
Lüneburg is the largest, and, with one exception, the worst part of all the territories of Hannover. Its general character is flatness; its surface is drift sand, mixed with granite blocks; its produce is a stinted heather, on which a small but hardy race of sheep pick up a scanty nutriment. These, with their guardians, male and female, knitting brown worsted stockings, are very often the only inhabitants seen in this Arcadia of the north for many miles. The southern part of this province, where it touches on Hildesheim, is fertile. In the neighbourhood of the Elbe there are good marshes, and the land on the banks of many of the little streams is tolerably fertile. Wherever the hand of man has laboured and watered the soil, there it is not absolutely sterile; and the fine trees of various kinds which grow round all the houses and villages give reason to suppose that the sand is but on the surface, and that not far beneath it there is a congenial and a fruitful soil. There are many bogs and morasses in this province; and in many places, particularly where streams have forced their way to a considerable depth, a bright yellow marl is found, which, spread on the surface, binds and fertilizes the sand.
The principles of vegetation are not yet so thoroughly known that it may be positively asserted, that the only reason why sand is not productive is its incapacity to retain moisture. There are, however, some reasons to believe this is the principal cause. For example—wherever men have artificially watered it, there it becomes fruitful; wherever it lies so low that the water cannot leave it, there vegetation takes place; and, probably, it is nothing but this vegetation alternating with its destruction, occasioned by a large quantity of stagnant water, that has produced all those beds of peat or bogs which are found in this province, as well as in many other neglected parts or the world. Without industry, man has nothing; and until labour, directed by extensive knowledge, and stimulated by private interest, shall have been carefully applied to this province, it ought not to be affirmed that it is unproductive. It cannot be cultivated with the same expence as some other soils; but that it has been cultivated in places, in spite of the many disadvantages the people now labour under, and cultivated many years since when men were much more ignorant than they are now, are proofs, that, under the spur of that increasing population which ought to spread itself over Europe, these deserts might bloom into gardens. There can be little doubt that the now fertile Holland was once a morass like much of Lüneburg, and that the plains of Lombardy are indebted for all their fertility to that system of artificial irrigation at which the feeble descendants of the men who executed it are lost in wonder.
In the province of Lüneburg, and also generally all over the northern part of Germany, large masses of granite are found, which excite much surprise, and even wonder. Rude blocks lie on the surface, or are buried in the sand. Smaller pieces are found deeper buried, all the angles of which are worn away by the violent action of water; but there are no granite mountains in the neighbourhood. Amongst the persons who have attended to the subject there is a difference of opinion as to what cause brought and scattered these stones all over the country. There is a traditional opinion that there formerly existed to the southward of the Erzgebirge, or Saxon and Bohemian Alps, an immense lake, which at length forced an opening for itself in what is now the channel of the Elbe, and through the neighbouring broken and destroyed rocks of the Switzerland of Saxony. It is said that these waters carried with them all those stones and sands which now cover the surface of the north of Germany. It is at least certain that the sand and the stones have been brought by the same cause, for the latter are found buried at a considerable depth in the former. It is one occupation of the peasants, when all the larger stones have been cleared away from the surface, to seek for them under it by means of an iron probe. When any are discovered, they are dug up, and employed to mend the roads, and to build walls and houses.
The professor of mineralogy at Göttingen, Mr Hauseman, however, thinks they must have had a different origin. He has examined them attentively, and affirms, I believe, that there is no granite rocks similar to these stones to be found in the neighbourhood of the Alps above mentioned, and that similar rocks are only to be found on the coast of Scandinavia. Hence he is inclined to suppose these stones and sand must have been conveyed from Norway to Germany. It is not for me to decide between tradition and learning, but only to remark, that, whatever might have been the cause of this phenomenon, it is one proof of those numerous and mighty changes which have taken place on the surface of the earth.
To support the tradition, it may, however, be mentioned, that to this day the Weser, the Elbe, the Ems, and nearly all the other rivers of the north of Germany, bring down, in great floods, large quantities of sand, which they deposit in their course, and which, as it dries, is often blown over the land. It is also a fact, that all the land at the mouths of these rivers, and in Holland, which has been embanked from the sea, is more clay than sand, and is extremely fertile. It seems, therefore, more rational to attribute the sand which covers the north of Germany to the action, but at some former period more violent action than at present, of its own waters, than to the action of the ocean, or to suppose that this sand has grown out of, or has been left by, the sea.
[∗]Aus meinem Leben, Vol. III. p. 34.
[∗]Perhaps the reader may not be acquainted with this game, and it may therefore be proper to describe it. A female sits down, one of the company kneels down, and lays his head in her lap, so that he can for the moment see nothing. He lays one of his hands behind him, flat on his back, and all those who choose to play give him smart strokes on this hand, till he guesses who hit him, when the person who is discovered must take his turn on his knees. In this instance, however, they neither sat nor kneeled down, but one person stooped down and hid his face in the apron of one of the maidens. If I recollect right, there is a good description of this game, with many of its agreeable et ceteras, as it is played in decent circles in France, in the Hermit de la Chausse d’Antin.