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in society is inexcusable if he does not attempt to add his segment to others, until together they embrace the whole subject."— pp. 22, 23.
To which we add, from the same letter, another admirable passage.
“Do not you think that the parents' want of confidence is communicated to the pupils and chills the master? You know in our society cultivated and uncultivated women mingle on an equal footing, a slight covering of grace and manner concealing from one another, and even from themselves, wherein they differ. The ignorant among these are perhaps quite as ambitious for their daughters as the wellinformed, and, having heard a certain study or practice recommended, insist on it, to the great injury of the pupil and teacher.
“ I have so much faith in the maternal feeling, that I have no doubt, if pains were taken to ascertain the best studies for girls at each age, mothers would adopt them. After doing all in their power for a daughter, they are frequently disappointed; she leaves school wholly ignorant of some important branches, and regrets that no wise friend stood by to urge them; or she feels that her school hours have been wasted in accommodating to one change after another.
“ How are we to inspire parents with this confidence ? There is in this country no authority, not even experience, to create it. We must deserve it. We must survey the whole ground, and lay it out with our best wisdom. We must gain insight into the subject, and consider the circumstances peculiar to our country; and we shall not then complain of want of confidence. If we are faithful, mothers will soon find it out; there is no want of seeking, and reflecting, and toiling on their part. Their wasted exertion is one of the most melancholy features of the present mode of education. How often have I seen a mother foregoing all social enjoyment, devoting her weary evenings to the grammar and the Latin lesson, wasting herself and her children in fruitless attempts to accomplish what they have never been trained to attain. I have been tempted to say, 'It is too late, habits of observation, of examining any little phenomenon, of persevering, of proceeding step by step, — some such natural lesson given ten years since, and this would have been an intellectual sport. Begin early, - this is the great secret of all undertakings. Do not let children lead the life of vagabonds until they present themselves to the unfortunate master. No matter for teaching this or that branch; but teach thein to observe, to reflect, to apply, to persevere; in short, to live earnestly, and according to intellectual laws; and they will be prepared for all we can set before them.''
We must give one extract more. It is upon the peculiarities of the female character, and the attention they require in the education of girls.
“I must now consider how far organization guides us in the education of girls. Its first indication is one in which all experience, and I should say each person's consciousness, agree, to cultivate the feelings rather than the intellect. Were the powers of man and woman precisely alike, it would be an anomaly in nature. The difference is
pp. 25, 26.
one of the wisest provisions of the All-wise, and must be kept in sight in all attempts to unfold woman in her true proportions. We observe at once that all beings claim her love, that her heart is always ready to answer the demands on her intellect. Whatever she sees, knows, touches, she loves. Her love is not only more universal, than that of man, but more fervent, particularly her religious feeling Let us follow the leadings of nature, and call forth and strengthen feeling in all its forms. She must cherish at the bottom of her heart, deep central fires, inaking the surface luxuriant. She must have sensibility, hearty sympathy with all human feelings, swift compassion for the afflicted, a heart wide enough to embrace the world, yet delighting to overflow the few with its treasures. When we recall the many occasions on which feeling makes woman seem to us almost divine, we feel that her intellectual developement is far less iinportant. In these hours she beams upon man, far, far above him; but how often, how constantly, does she fall below him! How often is her sweetness turned to gall! She sheds poison where she would pour balm; trifles appear to her mountains, and the mightiest interests take no hold on her light and fickle nature; she cannot understand nor express herself; she moves as in a dream, scattering her precious gifts wiib sealed eyes. Feeling alone cannot secure her bappiness, – it may make her wretched, – and we turn to the enlightening and saving power of the intellect. We would cultivate it for those who are heloved, because it increases, a thousand fold, their delight in loving, we would cultivate it for the lonely, because it is a safe resource.
“We inay infer that the developement of the feelings is of more importance than intellectual culture, because God has not left it to chance or choice. Women, particularly, he surrounds from infancy with all that can excite feeling. They are the cherished objects; they live in the very heart of life, — in the scene where all great events occur, where great griefs are borne, and where all outward action has its rise. Birth, death, sickness, all wounded feelings, seek shelter in home, and through sympathy develope the hearts of wives and daughters. The play of social life, the sweet intercourse of families, the helplessness of infancy and of age, the sufferings of others, all excite and deepen feeling. The daily life of woman derives its interest from the hold which persons have on her feelings; that she may please them, she cultivates the graces and embellishments of life, - she seeks all womanly gifts, her charnied hands would smooth the pillow, her sweet discourse drive care from the knotted brow; at her approach the little child should cease its wailing. Happy the woman who finds in her own family sufficient objects for such cares, who knows the delight of blessing, and seeks books only to return, laden with spoils, to well-attuned hearts. But we cannot anticipate such a lot for all children, and it is the part of wisdom to prepare for the most lonely and dreary one.” — pp. 38-40.
We have not selected these passages as the best in the book ; they are only a few out of a great many, that fixed our attention during a delightful reading. We hope a pen of such rare powers will not be suffered to remain unemployed. VOL. LIV.
- No. 114.
15. — Egmont ; a Tragedy in Five Acts. Translated from the
German of Goethe. Boston : James Munroe & Co. 1841. 8vo.
The Tragedy of Egmont has been much praised by the admirers of Goethe. It is an attempt to work up historical events and characters into the dramatic form, and is classed with productions of what has been called the Romantic school. moreover, a tragedy in prose. How far it is entitled to the applause it has received, may perhaps admit of a doubt. Has a poet the right to depart from historic truth in his delineations ? Is he justified in taking an historic personage, and materially changing his character, perverting the facts of his life, and placing him amidst circumstances which we know could never have existed? We think not, though the practice of Sir Walter Scott may be pleaded in justification. The poet's art is not lawless and omnipotent. With the creatures of his brain he may do what he pleases ; but, when he chooses to bring a real character into the circle of his airy beings, he cannot change him, by the touch of his wand, into an unsubstantial form, and extend over him the laws of his own poetical creation. He walks among
them, an historical character still. The utmost the poet can do is to invent other actions and different situations from those in which the hero is known to have moved, but not opposite and contradictory ones. The poet has no right to claim for his work the advantage of his hero's historic fame, and at the same time load him with a fictitious infamy. He has no right to excite our interest by a great and brilliant name, and then to stain that name with vices, of which its possessor was never guilty ; to attribute to a real person acts which he never did, and never could have done, and to place him in situations which it is morally impossible he should ever have occupied. But what has Goethe done in the Ro
ntic drama of Egmont ? Let us look at the leading facts in Count Egmont's life.
Lamoral, Count von Egmont, and Prince of Gavre, was a descendant of the warlike line of the Dukes of Gueldres. His ancestors had been distinguished in the history of the country ; one of them had been Stadtholder of Holland, as early as the reign of Maximilian. The Count was born in 1522, and entered the military service early in life under Charles the Fifth, who invested him, in 1546, with the dignity of a Knight of the Golden Fleece. Under that Emperor's successor, Philip the Second, he distinguished himself as a general of cavalry in the famous battles of St. Quentin, 1557, and Gravelines, 1558. “These battles,” says Schiller, "made him the hero of his age.
Egmont was married to the Duchess Sabina of Bavaria, and by this brilliant connexion greatly increased the immense influence he already possessed. After the return of Philip to Spain, and while the Netherlands were under the regency of Margaret of Parma, an illegitimate daughter of Charles the Fifth, the troubles broke out in that country, which cost the Count his life. The beautiful and noble qualities of his character made him the object of the ardent love of his countrymen. He was generous, open-hearted, unsuspecting, and magnificent. He possessed in the highest degree the sense of honor, the courtesy, and the noble bearing of knighthood in its most brilliant days; and his martial fame was a spell upon the hearts of all. “Every public appearance of Egmont was a triumph ; at the chivalrous pastimes, mothers pointed him out to their children. His religion was gentle and humane, but little enlightened, because it received its light from his heart and not from his understanding. He looked upon men as either good or bad ; in his morality, there was no reconciliation between virtue and vice.” William, Prince of Orange, was the only man who rivalled Count Egmont in the hearts of his countrymen ; and when the violent encroachments of the gloomy tyranny of Spain upon their constitutional rights, and hereditary liberties, awakened the passions of the Netherlanders, all eyes were turned to these two illustrious
William saw deeper than his friend into the real state of affairs. He was a man of calmer temperament, and divined at once the peril that threatened when the ferocious Duke of Alva was sent by the Spanish despot to quell the restless spirit of the nobility of the Netherlands. He escaped the snare, but nothing could alarm the too confident spirit of Egmont. He, and Philip of Montmorency, Count von Hoorn, were treacherously seized by the Duke of Alva, brought to trial before a tribunal constituted of creatures of his own, and, notwithstanding the great influence of their family connexions, and their privileges as Knights of the Golden Fleece, were sentenced to be beheaded. The sentence was carried into execution at Brussels on the 5th of June, 1563, when Egmont was in the forty-sixth year of his age. All the details of this most tragical event are narrated by Schiller, in his usual interesting style, in the appendix to the “Geschichte des Abfalls der vereinigten Niederlande von der Spanischen Regierung.” (pp. 509 et seq. ed. 1818.)
Here are materials for a noble historical tragedy, without drawing largely upon the poet's invention. We have strongly contrasted characters, generous and mighty passions, honor, patriotism, and the charities of home, with a fearful tragical termination, dreadful in itself and dreadful in all its accessories. What a drama would the genius of Shakspeare have wrought out of such events, such passions, such characters, and such
It must be admitted, that Goethe has happily conceived and represented the spirit of popular discontent; that the inferior personages in his drama are brought before us with a lively reality. The lower and more showy qualities of Egmont's character, too, are painted not without some truth of coloring. The bloody Alva is also well drawn, and the effects of his terrible presence among the Netherlanders are represented with all the vigor of Goethe's better genius. But what shall we say of the moral sense or intellectual perceptions of the poet or of his regard for historic truth, who represents Egmont,
the husband of an illustrious wife, and (like John Rogers) the father of nine children ; the patriot, the hero, and statesman, the admired and beloved of a whole nation, as the licentious lover of a low-born girl, whom he has himself :educed ; and who thinks to heighten the tragic effect of a great and bloody historical catastrophe by adding to it the self-poisoning of a fictitious paramour ? It was bad enough for poor Egmont to have his head cut off by Alva ; but it is far worse to have his character murdered by Goethe. What a conception of the romantic poetry must Goethe have formed, if he thought it necessary to intermingle lust and suicide with the shedding of patriotic blood, to give his drama the romantic stamp. The true romantic spirit, made up of honor, courtesy, chastity, and the Christian virtues, appears to have been lightly esteemed by Goethe, either as a source of poetical effect, or as the controlling principle of life. A romantic hero, in his estimation, was a man who showed his lofty spirit by seduction and licentiousness. A rake and his mistress and his mistress's mother were to him a highly “æsthetic” group and the very incarnation of romantic poetry.
We think, then, this drama has moral faults which are fatal to its claims as a work of lofty excellence; and that these faults imply a failure in intellectual perception and artistic skill. It is by no means a favorable specimen of the genius of Goethe. The translator has performed his task with spirit and general fidelity. We notice occasionally an erroneous translation of an idiomatic phrase ; but this is not surprising in a drama so abounding in popular phraseology and racy idiomatic terms. The translation represents the original with uncommon accuracy, on the whole ; but we hope the modest translator will next turn his hand to some work free from the objections, in point of morals and of art, which are justly chargeable upon "Egmont.”