Page images
PDF
EPUB

AMERICAN

ANNALS OF EDUCATION.

APRIL, 1839.

Art. I.—THE LIFE OF HEYNE.*

Heyne's Life is not without an intrinsic, as well as an external interest ; for he had much to struggle with, and he struggled with it manfully; thus his history has a value independent of his fame. Some account of his early years we are happily enabled to give in his own words : we translate a considerable part of this passage, autobiography being a favorite sort of reading with us.

He was born at Chemnitz, in Upper Saxony, in September, 1729; the eldest of a poor weaver's family, poor almost to the verge of destitution.

My good father, George Heyne,' says he, 'was a native of the principality of Glogau, in Silesia, from the liule village of Gravenschütz. His youth had fallen in those times when the Evangelist party of that province were still exposed to the op. pressions and persecutions of the Romish Church. His kindred, enjoying the blessing of contentment in an humble but independent station, felt, like others, the influence of this proselyting bigotry, and lost their domestic peace by means of it. Some went over to the Romish faith. My father left his native vil. lage, and endeavored, by the labor of his hands, to procure a

*This sketch of an eminent classical scholar and editor is taken from Carlyle's Miscellanies, with the omission of some particulars which have little relation to his literary merits. The writer is distinguished for the tact with which he seizes the elements of character, and for the clearness with which he sets them forth. He has not done Heyne full justice, we think, nor assigned the due rank to his peculiar scholarship; yet his representation is true, in the main, and full of interest and instruction,

livelihood in Saxony. “What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul!" was the thought which the scenes of his youth had stamped the most deeply on his mind; but no lucky chance favored his enterprises or endeavors to better his condition, ever so little. On the contrary, a series of perverse incidents kept him continually below the limits even of a moderate sufficiency. His old age was thus left a prey to poverty, and to her companions, timidity and depression of mind. Manufactures, at that time, were visibly declining in Saxony; and the misery among the working classes, in districts concerned in the linen trade, was unusually severe. Scarcely could the labor of the hands suffice to support the laborer himself, still less his family. The saddest aspect which the decay of civic society can exhibit has always appeared to me to be this, when honorable, honor-loving, conscientious diligence cannot, by the utmost efforts of toil, obtain the necessaries of life, or when the working man cannot even find work ; but must stand with folded arms, lamenting his forced idleness, through which himself and his family are verging to starvation, or it may be, actually suffering the pains of hunger.

It was in the extremest penury that I was born and brought up. The earliest companion of my childhood was Want; and my first impressions came from the tears of my mother, who had not bread for her children. How often have I seen her on Saturday-nights, wringing her hands and weeping, when she had come back with what the hard toil, nay, often the sleepless nights, of her husband had produced, and could find none to buy it! Sometimes a fresh attempt was made through me or my sister : I had to return to the purchasers with the same piece of ware, to see whether we could not possibly get rid of it. In that quarter, there is a class of so called merchants, who, however, are in fact nothing more than forestallers, that buy up the linen made by the poorer people at the lowest price, and endeavor to sell it in other districts at the highest. Often have I seen one or other of these petty tyrants, with all the pride of a satrap, throw back the piece of goods offered him, or imperiously cut off some trifle from the price and wages required for it. Necessity constrained the poorer to sell the sweat of his brow at a groschen or two less, and again to make good the deficit by starving. It was the view of such things that awakened the first sparks of indignation in my young heart. The show of pomp and plenty among these purse-proud people, who fed themselves on the extorted crumbs of so many hundreds, far from dazzling me into respect or fear, filled me with rage against them. The first time I heard of tyrannicide at school, there rose vividly before me the project to become a Brutus on all those

oppressors of the poor, who had so often cast my father and mother into straits; and here, for the first time, was an instance of a truth, which I have since had frequent occasion to observe, that, if the unhappy man, armed with feeling of his wrongs, and a certain strength of soul, does not risk the utmost, and become an open criminal, it is merely the beneficent result of those circumstances in which Providence has placed him, thereby fettering his activity, and guarding him from such destructive attempts. That the oppressing part of mankind should be secured against the oppressed was, in the plan of inscrutable wisdom, a most important element of the present system of things.

• My good parents did what they could, and sent me to a child's school in the suburbs; I obtained the praise of learning very fast, and being very fond of it. My schoolmaster had two sons, lately returned from Leipsic, a couple of depraved fellows, who took all pains to lead me astray; and, as I resisted, kept me for a long time, by threats and mistreatment of all sorts, extremely miserable. So early as my tenth year, to raise the money for my school wages, I had given lessons to a neighbor's child, a little girl, in reading and writing. As the common school-course could take me no farther, the point now was to get a private hour and proceed into Latin. But for that purpose a guter groschen weekly was required ; this my parents had not to give. Many a day I carried this grief about with me: how. ever, I had a godfather, who was in easy circumstances, a ba. ker, and my mother's half-brother. One Saturday I was sent to this man to fetch a loaf. With wet eyes I entered his house, and chanced to find my godfather himself there. Being questioned why I was crying, I tried to answer, but a whole stream of tears broke loose, and scarcely could I make the cause of my sorrow intelligible. My magnanimous godfather offered to pay the weekly groschen out of his own pocket; and only this condition was imposed on me, that I should come to him every Sunday, and repeat what part of the Gospel I had learned by heart. This latter arrangement had one good effect for me, it exercised my memory, and I learned to recite without bashfulness.

• Drunk with joy, I started off with my loaf; tossing it up time after time into the air, and barefoot as I was, I capered aloft after it. But hereupon my loaf fell into a puddle. This misfortune again brought me a little to reason; my mother heartily rejoiced at the good news; my father was less content. Thus passed a couple of years; and my schoolmaster intimated what I myself had long known, that I could now learn no more from him.

· This then was the time when I must leave school, and betake me to the handicraft of my father. Were not the artisan under oppressions of so many kinds, robbed of the fruits of his hard toil, and of so many advantages to which the useful citizen has a natural claim; I should still say,–Had I but continued in the station of my parents, what thousandfold vexation would at this hour have been unknown to me! My father could not but be anxious to have a grown-up son for an assistant in his labor, and looked upon my repugnance to it with great dislike. I again longed to get into the grammar school of the town; but for this, all means were wanting. Where was a gulden of quarterly fees, where were books and a blue cloak to be come at: how wistfully my look often hung on the walls of the school when I learned it!

• A clergyman of the suburbs was my second godfather ; his name was Sebastian Seydel ; my schoolmaster, who likewise belonged to his congregation, had told him of me; I was sent for, and after a short examination, he promised me that I should go to the town-school; he himself would bear the charges. Who can express my happiness, as I then felt it! I was despatched to the first teacher, examined, and placed with approbation in the second class. Weakly from the first, pressed down with sorrow and want, without any cheerful enjoyment of childhood or youth, I was still of very small stature; my class-fellows judged by externals, and had a very slight opinion of me. Scarcely by various proofs of diligence, and by the praises I received, could I get so far that they tolerated my being put beside them.

"And certainly my diligence was not a little hampered! Of his promise, the clergyman, indeed, kept so much that he paid my quarterly fees, provided me with a coarse cloak, and gave me some useless volumes that were lying on his shelves; but to furnish me with school-books he could not resolve. I thus found myself under the necessity of borrowing a class-fellow's books, and daily copying a part of them before the lesson. On the other hand, the honest man would have some hand himself in my instruction, and gave me from time to time some hours in Latin. In his youth he had learned to make Latin verses : scarcely was Erasmus de Civilitate Morum got over, when I too must take to verse-making; all this before I had read any authors, or could possibly possess any store of words. The man was withal passionate and rigorous; in every point repulsive; with a moderate income he was accused of avarice ; he had the stiffness and self-will of an old bachelor, and at the same time the vanity of aiming to be a good Latinist, and what was more, a Latin verse-maker, and consequently a literary clergyman. These qualities of his, all contributed to overload my youth, and nip away in the bud every enjoyment of its pleasures.

In this plain but somewhat leaden style does Heyne proceed, detailing the crosses and losses of his school-years. We cannot pretend that the narrative delights us much; nay, that it is not rather bald and barren for such a narrative ; but its fidelity may be relied on ; and it paints the clear, broad, strong, and somewhat heavy nature of the writer, perhaps better than description could do. It is curious, for instance, to see with how Jittle of a purely humane interest he looks back to his childhood; how Heyne the man has almost grown into a sort of teachingmachine, and sees in Heyne the boy little else than the incipi. ent Gerund-grinder, and tells us little else but how this wheel after the other was developed in him, and he came at last to grind in complete perfection. We could have wished to get some view into the interior of that poor Chemnitz hovel, with its unresting loom and cheerless hearth, its squalor and devotion, its affection and repining; and the fire of natural genius struggling into flame amid such incumbrances, in an atmosphere so damp and close! But of all this we catch few farther glimpses; and hear only of Fabricius and Owen and Pasor, and school-examinations, and rectors that had been taught by Ernesti.

Heyne continued to be much infested with tasks from Sebastian, and sorely held down by want, and discouragement of every sort. The school-course, moreover, he says, was bad; nothing but the old routine ; vocables, translations, exercises ; all without spirit or purpose. Nevertheless, he continued to make what we must call wonderful proficiency in these branches; especially as he had still to write every task before he could learn it. For he prepared 'Greek versions,' he says; also Greek verses; and by and by could write down in Greek prose, and at last, in Greek as well as Latin verses, the discourses he heard in church! Some ray of hope was beginning to spring up within his mind. A certain small degree of self-confidence had first been awakened in him, as he informs us, by a pedantic adventure.'

• There chanced to be a a school-examination held, at which the superintendent, as chief school-inspector, was present. This man, Dr Theodor Krüger, a theologian of some learning for his time, all at once interrupted the rector, who was teaching ex cathedra, and put the question : who among the scholars could tell him what might be made per anagramma from the word Austria. This whim had arisen from the circumstance that the first Silesian war had just begun; and some such anagram, reckoned very happy, had appeared in a newspaper.*

*As yet, Saxony was against Austria, not, as in the end, allied with her.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »