Page images
PDF
EPUB

A MERICAN

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 little 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 village, 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 bis rep. resentation 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 arins, 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 iny 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: however, I had a godfather, who was in easy circumstances, a baker, 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 be

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

No one of us knew so much as what an anagram was; even the rector looked quite perplexed. As none answered, the latter began to give us a description of anagrams in general. I set myself to work, and sprang forth with my discovery, Vastari! This was something different from the newspaper one: so much the greater was our superintendent's admiration, and the more as the successful aspirant was a little boy, on the lowest bench of the secunda. He growled out his applause to me, but at the same time set the whole school about my ears, as he stoutly upbraided them with being beaten by an infinus.

'Enough! this pedantic adventure gave the first impulse to the development of my powers. I began to take some credit to mysels, and in spite of all the oppression and contempt in which I languished, to resolve on struggling forward. This first struggle was in truth, ineffectual enough; was soon regarded as a piece of pride and conceitedness; it brought on me a thousand humiliations and disquietudes; at times it might degenerate on my part into defiance. Nevertheless, it kept me at the stretch of my diligence, ill-guided as it was, and withdrew me from the company of my class-fellows, among whom, as among childreu of low birth and bad nurture could not fail to be the case, the utmost coarseness and boorishness of every sort prevailed. The plan of these schools does not include any general inspection, but limits itself to mere intellectual instruction.

• Yet on all hands,' continues he, I found myself too sadly hampered. The perverse way in which the old parson treated me ; at home the discontent and grudging of my parents, especially of my father, who could not get on with his work, and still thought, that had I kept by his way of life, he might now have had some help ; the pressure of want, the feeling of being behind every other; all this would allow no cheerful thought, no sentiment of worth, to spring up within me. A timorous, bashful, awkward carriage shut me out still further from all exterior attractions. Where could I learn good manners, elegance, a right way of thought? where could I attain any culture for heart and spirit ?

• Upwards, however, I still strove. A feeling of honor, a wish for something better, an effort to work myself out of this abasement, incessantly attended me; but without direction as it was, it led me rather to sullenness, misanthropy, and clown. ishness.

* At length a place opened for me, where some training in these points lay within my reach. One of our senators took his mother-in-law home to live with him ; she had sull two children with her, a son and a daughter, both about my age. For the son private lessons were wanted ; and happily I was chosen for the purpose.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

' As these private hours brought me in a gulden monthly, I now began to defend myself a little against the grumbling of my parents. Hitherto I had been in the habit of doing work occasionally, that I might not be told how I was eating their bread for nothing; clothes, and oil for my lamp, I had earned by teaching in the house ; these things I could now relinquish; and thus my condition was in some degree improved. On the other hand, I had now opportunity of seeing persons of better education. I gained the good will of the family; so that besides the lesson-hours I generally, lived there. Such society afforded me some culture, extended my conceptions and opinions, and also polished a little the rudeness of my exterior.

In this senatorial house he must have been somewhat more at ease ; for he now very privately fell in love with his pupil's sister, and made and burnt many Greek and Latin verses in her praise ; and had sweet dreams of sometime rising 'so high as to be worthy of her. Even as matters stood, he acquired her friendship and that of her mother. But the grand concern for the present was how to get to college at Leipsic. Old Sebastian had promised to stand good on this occasion; and unquestionably would have done so with the greatest pleasure, had it cost him nothing ; but he promised and promised, without doing aught; above all, without putting his hand in his pocket; and elsewhere there was no hope or resource. At length, wearied perhaps with the boy's importunity, he determined to bestir himself; and so directed his assistant, who was just making a journey to Leipsic, to show Heyne the road; the two arrived in perfect safety : Heyne still longing after cash, for of his own he had only two gülden, about five shillings; but the assistant left him in a lodging house, and went his way, saying he had no farther orders !

The miseries of a poor scholar's life were now to be Heyne's portion in full measure. Ill-clothed, totally destitute of books, with five shillings in his purse, he found himself set down in the Leipsic university, to study all learning. Despondency at first overmastered the poor boy's heart, and he sunk into sickness, from which indeed he recovered ; but only, as he says, 'to fall into conditions of life where he became the prey of desperation. How he contrived to exist, much more to study, is scarcely apparent from this narrative. The unhappy old Sebastian did at length send him some pittance, and at rare intervals repeated the dole; yet ever with his own peculiar grace ; not till after unspeakable solicitations ; in quantities that were consumed by inextinguishable debt, and coupled with sour admonitions ; nay, on one occasion addressed externally, `A Mr

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »