Page images
[graphic][merged small][merged small]


"Custom is most perfect, when it beginneth in young years: this we call education, which is, in effect, but an early custom."-LORD BACON.

Hamburgh "The king of booksellers"-His cradle-An orphan-Boyish tastes-School-Leipzig-"Too shy"-The apprentice-New home-Discipline-Frost-bitten-The attic-chamber-Frederika-Apprenticeship to life.

In the busy town of Hamburgh, some sixty years since, there might be seen, in a book-shop in one of the busiest of its streets, a slender, but firmly-knit German, whose genial heart draws around him the sympathies, as his energetic decision in business secures the respect, of the most worthy of its citizens. "Little Perthes," they will say, "has the most manly spirit of us all." "He is the king of booksellers," remarks one day the historian Niebuhr. And another writes: "Perthes is a man to whom I feel marvellously attracted: I could not withdraw my eyes from him—the charm of his outward appearance I could not but regard as the true expression of his inner nature."

This soul-so firm, yet so delicately strung-has been reared amidst rude storms.

Born at Rudolfstadt, April 21, 1772, FREDERICK PERTHES finds himself, at the early age of seven, a solitary orphan. A maternal uncle-kind, but poor -welcomes the boy to his humble home. Till the age of fourteen, his chief mental food is such books as "Don Quixote," and some quarto volumes of Travels, which captivate his boyish fancy, but nearly unnerve his native energy of intellect. Two years spent at the close of that period at school leave him in possession of little more than the store of miscellaneous ideas and fancies gathered at his own hand in his passionate zest for reading.

In his fourteenth year, resolved that, come what may, he and his beloved books must be companions through life, he sets out for Leipzig book-fair in search of a master. The tall, gaunt figure of the bookseller, to whom the printer of his native town, who has him in charge, conducts him, so alarms the boy, that, not being able to utter a word, he is pronounced to be "too shy for the book-trade." After some tossings to and fro, he is at last engaged by another; but "he must go home for a year—he is too delicate yet for work."

On September, 11, 1787, he arrives again in Leipzig-to begin life's earnest struggle. The youthful apprentice though welcomed kindly enough in his new home-especially by Frederika, one of his master's daughters, a girl of twelve, who has the art of "driving away his fancies and whims"-finds the discipline and labor not a little trying. Beginning

work in the morning at seven, he is on his feet till eight at night, with an interval of half an hour at mid-day for dinner; and, during his first winter, he has to stand so long on the cold stone-flags, collecting orders, that his feet are frost-bitten; and for nine weeks he lies in his bed in his little attic-chamber. This is stern training; but, like the stormy blast which fixes the rising oak more firmly in the soil, it inures his spirit for the sharper struggles which are yet before him.

The years of apprenticeship, however, are not an unmixed misery. His vivacious and kindly temperament turns them into "happy years of earnest striving." They expire in 1793; and he betakes himself to a wider and more congenial sphere in Hamburgh -his apprenticeship to the book-trade finished, but not his apprenticeship to life.


"Can a life thus spent

Lead to the bliss she promises the wise,

Detach the soul from earth, and speed her to the skies ?"

Inner life-Moral martyrdom-"A philosopher"-Human perfectibility" My dignity"-The dark shadow-The struggle-Longings— “A friend"—The seven Swabians-Goethe-Schiller-"Enthusiasm in me"-Sunday-trips-" A necessity"-Three friends-"Verge of



IN these early years, Perthes knows but little of the struggles of the inner life. Shrinking sensitively from all impurity and coarseness, he has found himself, among his fellow-apprentices of Leipzig, a sort of martyr; for "men here," he wrote, must live like others, or make up their minds to be persecuted." But his spiritual cravings have not yet intenseness enough to rise above the earth. The order of the day in Germany for all young men is "philosophy." Perthes must be in his turn a "philosopher;" and deeply does he study the favorite books of the day, till at last, in his nineteenth year, after poring for months during his hours of leisure over a translation of Cicero "De Officiis," he believes he has found true satisfaction."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »