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[Translated for the American Journal of Education, from the German of Karl von Raumer.)
JOHANN Amos Comenius was born at Comnia* in Moravia, in 1592. He early lost his parents, and his guardians so neglected him that he only began Latin in his seventeenth year. He says
this neglect of his instruction, by which he suffered so much, made him early sympathize with others in the like condition. He afterward studied in different places, especially at Herborn in the duchy of Nassau, where Alsted was his instructor. This man, a reformed theologian, and an adherent of the Synod of Dordrecht, was the author of many theological, philosophical, and pedagogical works; he was also a Millenarian, and must have had an influence upon Comenius in the most different directions. Returning to his native country in 1614, Comenius became rector of the school at Prerau, and in 1618 preached at Fulneck,ll which, since 1480, had been the chief seat of the Bohemian Brethren, and of the Waldenses who had fled to them. Here he busied bimself in overseeing the schools, and working upon school books; but lost his manuscripts when the Spaniards took Fulneck, in 1621.
In 1624 all the evangelical preachers in the Austrian dominions received an order to leave the country, by which Comenius lost his. place. He then remained in the mountain country of Bohemia with Baron Sadowski von Slaupna, whose children a certain Stadianus instructed, for whom Comenius wrote a brief methodology. When afterward the decree was issued, ordering all who would not become Catholics to leave the country, there left Bohemia thirty thousand families, of whom five hundred were of noble blood. I Comenius, with bis scattered flock, departed into Poland. Upon the range of mountains at the boundary, he paused, to look once more back to Moravia and Bohemia, fell, with his brethren, upon his knees, and prayed God, with many tears, that he would not suffer his word to be entirely destroyed out of those countries, but would preserve some seed of it there.
Comenius says that he places the beginning of his didactical studies
* Comnia is in Long. 330 30, lat. 490.
Works on didactics, I. 412. # Born 1588; died 1633, while Professor of theology and philosophy at Weissenberg in Transylvania
$ Thus, Comenius says that he copied his arrangement of school classes from Alsted.
I Didact. works, 1, 3. Prerau is south from Olmütz; Fulneck about midway botween Teschen and Olmütz. * Raumer, Hist. of Europe, 3, 451. No. 13.-[Vol. V., No. 1.)-17.
in the year 1627,* when he wrote the methodology above mentioned; but he might have gone back much further, namely, to the year 1614, in which appeared the report of the professors of Jena and Giessen, upon Ratich's method. Under the influence of these reports he had, while pastor in Prerau, worked out a milder method of teaching Latin, and, for the purpose, had written a short grammar, which was printed at Prague in 1616. In the unhappy year 1627, he had reflected upon the means of helping the people, at the return of better times, by the erection of schools in which instruction should be given by good school books and clearer methods. In like manner, in the years of the French servitude, Fichte cast his eye upon Pestalozzi, with the hope that at Yverdun a new generation would grow up, for a future time of freedom in Germany. Comenius settled at Lissa in Bohemia, where he taught Latin, and in the year 1631 published his Janua linguarum reserata, I a new method of teaching languages, especially Latin. This book was the basis of his fame. He himself, in the dedication to his didactic works, says of it, “ That happened which I could not have imagined ; namely, that this childish book, (puerile istud opusculum,) was received with universal approbation by the learned world. This was shown by the number of men, of different nations, who wished me heartily success with my new discovery, and by the number of translations into foreign languages. For not only was the book translated into twelve European languages, since I have myself seen these translations,—that is, into Latin, Greek, Bohemian, Polish, German, Swedish, Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Ilungarian,—but into the Asiatic languages, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, and even into the Mongolian, which is understood by all the East Indies."S
In Lissa he planned, as early as 1629, his Didactica magna seu omnes omnia docendi artificium. The great fame which his Janua had given him, brought him an invitation from the Swedish government, in 1638, to undertake the reformation of their schools. He did not accept it, but was induced by it to translate his Didactica, which had been written in German, into Latin. Some of his friends in England, to whom he had sent an extract from it, caused this to
* Didact, works, 1, 3.
t Besides him, Comenius names Campanella, Bacon, Rhenius, Joh. Valentin Andreä, &c., whose methods he had studied. He repeatedly applied to Ratich in vain by letter, during the year 1629, for informat upon his method. Works, 2, 2. See Ratich.
Didact, works, 1, 230.
$" Mogolicam toti orientali Indiae familiarem.” Bayle mentions the authors of several of these translations. The orientalist J. Golius, of Leyden, sent the Janua to his brother, P. Golius, in Aleppo, and the latter translated it into Arabic. It pleased the Mohammedans so much that they caused it to be translated into Turkish, Persian, and Movgolian. (?) J. Go. lius related this to Comenius in 1642, and adds, “Vides Comeni quam feliciter tibi Janua tua ad gentes aperiat Januam. Opp. did., 2, 268.
be printed. Upon receiving from England a like invitation, to undertake to reform their schools, he journeyed to London in 1641.* The matter was introduced into parliament; but the Irish disturbances, and the outbreaking of the civil wars, hindered his plans so much that he left England, and, upon an invitation from Ludwig de Geer, went to Sweden in 1642. In Stockholm he conversed with Chancellor Oxenstiern, and with Johannes Skyte, chancellor of the university of Upsala. “Oxenstiern, the Northern nobleman," says Comenius, examined me more severely than any learned man ever did.”+ “I observed, in my youth," said the chancellor, “ that the usual method of teaching was too harsh; but was unable to discern wherein the fault lay. When, afterward, my king, of glorious memory, sent me as ambassador to Germany, I spoke upon this subject with many persons. When I heard that Ratich had come out with a new method, I had no rest until I had seen the man himself; but, instead of a conversation, he gave me a thick quarto to read. I performed this tiresome work, and after I had read the whole book through, I found that he had well enough explained the defects of the schools ; but the remedy which he proposed seemed to me not adequate. What you bring forward is better founded." I replied, " that in this direction I had done as much as was possible, and that now I must go forward to something else.” To this Oxenstiern answered; “I know that you are contemplating a greater design, for I have read your Prodromus Pansophiae; we will speak of that tomorrow.” “The next day," relates Comenius further, Oxenstiern began to speak very plainly about the Prodromus, asking, to begin with, whether it would bear opposition ?” Comenius answering in the affirmative, he began to attack the great hopes expressed in the Prodromus, with profound political reasoning, urging, among other things, that the Holy Scriptures prophecy much more of unhappiness than happiness, toward the end of the world. Still, he recommended Comenius to pursue his undertaking, but first to care for the needs of the schools, and to work out the easier way to learn Latin, which would be a step forward in the greater design which he was looking to. It seems as if the clear-headed, practical Oxenstiern desired to recall Comenius from his boundless undertaking, into one more restricted, but for that reason more sure of success.
The Swedish government now established Comenius in Elbing, to compose a work upon his method. With this arrangement his Eng
* Opp. did. 2. introd. Congregatum interim Parlamentum, praesentiaque nostra coguita, jussit nos expectare. t Ib. Comp. above, under W. Ratich, where was given an extract from this conversation
lish friends were not pleased; they wished that others might be left to busy themselves in writing for boys, but that he should labor upon the greater work of the Pansophia. "Quo moriture ruis? minoraque viribus audes ?" they wrote to him. He was pleased at this call to him to return into the “ royal highway,"* and sent the English letters to Sweden, in sure hopes they would be persuaded by them. But the opposite happened; for he was urged much more on the part of the Swedes, to first finish his didactics. Things more excellent are to be preferred, it is true, they said. But what must be done first, should be first done. And men do not proceed from the greater to the less, but from the less to the greater.
So Comenius was obliged, whether he would or no, to return to making school books. After laboring four years he returned to Sweden in 1646. Three commissioners examined the work, and declared it proper for printing, when Comenius should have put the last touches to it. He returned to Elbing to do this, and thence, in 1648, to Lissa, where, in the same year, he brought out his work, the Novissima linguarum methodus. It was in this year that the peace of Westphalia put an end to the frightful thirty years' war. In allusion to this, Comenius thus addresses himself to the princes, in the book: “Ye have destroyed many things, O ye mighty; now rebuild many! In this matter, imitate bim who has given you the power of determining the fortunes of men; of him who destroys that he may build up; wbo roots up that he may plant."
In 1650, upon an invitation from Prince Ragozki, he went to Hungary and Transylvania, and remained there four years, during which time he organized a school at Patak. Here Comenius wrote, among others, bis second celebrated work, the Orbis Pictus. He was not, however, able to finish it in Hungary, for want of a skillful engraver on copper. For such a one he carried it to Michael Endter, the bookseller at Nuremberg, but the engraving delayed the publication of the book for three years more. In 1657 Comenius expressed the hopes that it would appear during the next autumn. With what great approbation the work was received at its first appearance is shown, by the fact that within two years, in 1659, Endter had published the second enlarged edition.
In 1654 Comenius returned to Lissa, where he remained until 1656, in which year the Poles burnt the city, by which be lost his
* Gavisus ego hac regiam in viam revocatione.
Patak, i e., river; also Saros Patak : according to Comenius, (Did. works, 3, 101,) from its muddiness. It is east of Bodrog, ia long. 290 east, lat. 430 north.
Did. works, 3, 830.
house, his books, and his manuscripts, the labor of many years. He fled into Silesia, thence to Brandenburg, and thence to Hamburg and Amsterdam. Here he remained until the end of his life, chiefly supported by wealthy merchants, whose children he instructed. He printed his Opera Didactica at Amsterdam, in 1657, at the expense of Lorenzo de Geer, son of Ludwig de Geer, mentioned above. He died Nov. 15th, 1671, in his eightieth year.
According to my promise, I have recorded especially the pedagogical labors of Comenius, although other writers* have made more prominent other facts in relation to this remarkable man, particularly his belief in several false prophets of the times, as Drabicius, Kotterus, and Poniatovia. Under the title Lux in tenebris, Comenius, in 1657, published their prophecies, which were chiefly directed against the Pope and the house of Austria. The Turks, they said, would make a successful invasion, take Vienna, and march thence, by way of Venice, against Rome, as against the new Babylon, and would destroy both cities. Afterward, it was hoped, Louis XIV., upon the destruction of the house of Austria, would become emperor, for the salvation of the world. The eyes of the prophets were also turned to Charles Gustavus of Sweden, Ragozki, and others; and they looked for the beginning of the reign of a thousand years, in 1672. Georg Müller
says with much truth, in relation to Comenius' Lux in tenebris, “ Is he so much to be blamed, when he saw truth and religious freedom, which lay so near his heart, everywhere put down by violence, for having insisted eagerly upon better hopes in the future, and, for having seen, in a lovely and hopeful dream, the time of salvation more nearly at hand than it was in the order of the providence of God ?" Similar hopes, remarks Müller, were entertained by the most intelligent men of the day.
An important object, besides pedagogy and prophecy, which Comenius pursued with much eagerness, was the vain undertaking of reconciling the various Protestant confessions. We
may obtain an insight into the great piety and heartfelt love of this valuable man, as well as into the varied direction of his restless activity, from the Confession, which he wrote in his seventyseventh year, in expectation of death ; from which I quote the extract at the end of this account.
Comenius left many pedagogical works.f The Operu Didactica alone fills more than a thousand folio pages, and is a most rich treasure of acute and profound thoughts. I hope I may be able to give a brief character of the pedagogy of this distinguished man, as disSee especially, Bayle, voc. Comenius.
+ See the list of them, appendix II.