Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

pressed, to put a chicken (so to speak) the Great Elector's ruling descendant, who into every poor man's pot, and to be, in burns with a high desire to walk in the the highest sense of the word, a true footsteps of his forefathers. Of these, Landesvater of his Vaterland.

the greatest were the vanquisher of the It is doubtful whether Frederick the Swedes, the victor of the Austrians in Great, with all his cultivated tastes and alliance with the half of Europe, and the his abhorrence of transparent adulation, conqueror of the French—the Great Elecwould have discovered much literary merit tor, Frederick the Great, and William the in Wildenbruch's dramatic attempt to imi- Victorious. These three figures form the tate the manner of Plutarch in drawing trinity of the new Emperor's historical historic parallels ; but we have it on the worship, the chief objects of his emulaauthority of the new Emperor himself tion ; and it may, therefore, be well to that the Great Elector, and not the Great consider how far the qualities which flis King, is the exemplar of this preference Majesty has hitherto displayed give promin the annals of his own house ; and it ise of his filling up as large and luminous was, therefore, no wonder that last winter a page in the annals of his nation. he seized the 250th anniversary of Freder William II. has only occupied the throne ick William's accession to the throne to for a little over three years, and it cannot celebrate the occasion with gorgeous mili- be said that during this period his charactary pomp, and to eulogize, in the most ter has been slow of development. Since glowing terms, the extraordinary virtues General Boulanger's beclouded star sank of his favorite ancestor. Ancestor-wor- —seemingly forever-beneath the politiship is certainly a very marked note in the cal horizon, that of the young German Emperor's character; nor does he ever Emperor has been the cynosure of all speak with greater force and enthusiasm eyes. Society must have a saviour of some than when pointing a moral by. reference kind ; and at present His Majesty is the to the deeds done by his predecessors. only candidate in the field for this honor, The jus imaginum is the private right in among the occupants of thrones at least. the exercise of which His Majesty takes It is, therefore, only natural that all eyes. most delight ; and every statue or portrait should be bent upon him, and that his of his sires seems to apostrophize and in claims—unmistakable enough, if unexspire him, in the words of Burns : pressed—to be regarded as the leading

Sovereign of his time should be closely “Remember, sons, the deeds I've done, And in your deeds I ll live again."

scrutinized by the light of everything he

says and does. It might be argued that The Emperor has confessed that when hitherto his sayings, on the whole, have at school, in Cassel, his historical educa- rather preponderated over his doings, and tion, as far as his own country was con- that he is thus incurring a very grave recerned, was shamefully neglected in favor sponsibility by flying so many drafts on of useless classical lore, and that at this the future. But it must be remembered period, consequently, the Great Elector that youth is the period of impetuosity, was to him a "very nebulous personage;" and, therefore, of privilege. Within the but he has by this time rectified with a brief period of his reign, the Emperor has vengeance all those errors of his upbring- certainly spoken a great deal-nearly as ing, and, moreover, taken care that none much, indeed, as his grandfather did durof his subjects shall henceforth labor un- ing all bis life-time ;-but then it must be der a similar disadvantage, directing that admitted that, though his speeches are in future the youth of Germany shall learn often very bold and startling, they are their world-history by a process the re- never witless or absurd. Bismarck once verse of that hitherto pursued-namely, said that, when first introduced among by working their studious way back from the dull old diplomatists at the Diet in Sedan and Gravelotte, via Rossbach, Frankfort, he acted among ther, with his Leuthen, and Fehrbellin, to Mantinea and unconventional and audacious ways, like Thermopylæ. Wildenbruch's portrait of so much cayenne pepper ; and a similar the “Neue Herr” soliloquizing on the effect has now been produced by the presduties and responsibilities of his sovereign ent Emperor in the circle of his fellowoffice, and registering pious vows in re- sovereigns, who still cling to the old tradigard to the future, was really copied from tions as to the nature and uses of a throne.

But Williain II. seems determined to The banquet at the Guildhall was the break with those traditions, deeming that only occasion where I ever saw the Ema throne might very well be made to serve peror read a speech, not being one from the purposes of a pulpit, and Delphic the throne ; but then, be it remembered, tripod, as well as of a silent and serene he had to express himself in a language Olympus-top. And what, indeed, is the which, with all his fluent power over it, use of a father (or pater patriæ) if he was not exactly his own. And the rules rarely or never addresses to his children of dignity forbid an Emperor froin makwords of encouragement, correction, and ing a slip of grammar or syntax (though, guidance? It is the only means he has indeed, one of His Majesty's predecessors of keeping in touch with them, and pro- on the throne of the Cæsars was super moting a mutual understanding between grammaticam), just as the laws of public them. A keen observer of the spirit of safety are equally opposed to the bare pos. the time, the Emperor perceives-in spite sibility of a Sovereign lapsing into a literal of Carlyle's dictuin as to the relative me. mistake which might have the conceivable tallic value of speech and silence—that free effect of perverting his meaning to the perand frequent utterance is in barmony with turbation and panic-terror of all the the rapid methods of the age, and its bourses of Europe. In all the Emperor's wire-hung whispering gallery of a shrunk- after-dinner and ceremonial speeches there en world. Estrangement between subject is ever a fine manly ring of resolution and and sovereign is generally due to mere of originality, and sometimes they are misunderstanding ; and to obviate this, at positively aflame with patriotic fervor, least, His Majesty is resolved that no one albeit now and again dashed with a forneed be in doubt as to what his thoughts midable spirit of "dourness," as when, and plans and impulses really are. This at the unveiling of a monument at Frankhabit of speech upon favorable occasion is fort-on-the-Oder to Prince Frederick one which the Emperor has borrowed from Charles, the captor of Metz, His Majesty the statesmen of England, as indeed he is in the first year of his reign declared that, otherwise very much more English in his rather than surrender back to the French tastes and sympathies than is, or was, at one single inch of Alsace-Lorraine, the least, generally supposed ; and, in spite of eighteen Army Corps then guarding the all that has been said and suspected on Fatherland, as well as its forty-eight millthe subject, I am very much mistaken if ion inhabitants, would shed the very last he has not inherited from his mother the drop of their blood. Moreover, it must predilections which made Bismarck once also be admitted that sometimes, too, the write from Frankfort to his foreign Office young Emperor is apt to let bimself be chief Manteuffel, at Berlin, that, after his carried away by the enthusiasm of the moown countrymen, he liked the English and ment, as when, last spring, at Bonn, when their ways best. Our own William IV., presiding over a Beer-Commers, he extuo, had a peculiar mania for after-dinner pressed the bope that, “ as long as there speeches ; though, if the evidence of the were German Corps (or fighting-club) stuingenious Mr. Greville may be trusted, he dents, the spirit which was fostered in rarely indulged this consuming passion these Corps, and which was steeled by without making an utter fool of himself. strength and courage, would be preserved, But not so his German relative and name- and that they would always take delight sake, whose matter is always good even if in handling the duelling-blade"—the exhis manner is indifferent, for he affects pression of a hope in which many oldernone of the orator's arts save those of headed Germans were sorry to discover a strength and straightforwardness. Hlis direct incitement to a breach of the antivoice is rather barsh and rasping, jagged duelling laws prevailing in Prussia. and jerky, while his delivery is slightly But there are few men who have the more suggestive of a stern command to a courage of their convictions in a greater battalion than of a bland and gracious ad- degree than the Emperor, and this cours dress to a social circle of friends. Ile age was never more clearly and emphatitakes little thought of preparation, and in cally evinced than when he lectured the the selection and arrangement of his mat- municipality of Berlin---which Prince ter trusts less to premeditation than to the Bismarck had once denounced as a "Radispur of the moinent.

cal nest”-on the licentious and libellous

spirit of the Press that he assumed to be iam II. is also eager to play the part of a under its immediate inspiration and con Mæcenas of the Muses. I was once at a trol. This was just after his return from dinner-party in Berlin which included his first trip to Russia, when a civic depu- some of the chief authors of the capital ; tation, beaded by the Burgomaster, waited and afterward, in the smoking-room, the upon His Majesty to offer him the erection talk was of Literature and its relation to of a fountain (by a master-band) as a token the Crown. Said one of these writers—a of loyalty as well as of joy at his safe re- novelist whose personal modesty is scarcely turn home. This otfer the Emperor was equal to his European reputation, —“ But, graciously pleased to accept ; but at the gentlemen, just consider my case. Here same time he profited by the occasion to am I, one of the foremost writers in Gerread the astounded deputation a most cut- many, and I have never yet beep bidden ting lecture on the sins of its supposititious to court : what think you of that, meine organs, which had been guilty of meddling Herren ?”! It must be admitted, in all with the private affairs of his family, and candor, that German authors, as a rule, which, therefore, the city fathers ought to are a most uncourtly class of creatures ; whistle into heel, as yelping bounds who but very few of them, indeed, are ever adwere preparing to set upon an illegitimate mitted even to a back seat in the social quarry. Perhaps it was this first unfor- assemblages which, in the winter season, tunate experience of his with the Press of gather round the Throne, though the arBerlin, which for some time after his ac- tists, as being a more innocuous racecession was full of painful Court scandals less prone, that is to say, to taint their and controversies--that inspired the young creations with the hue of party politics Emperor with a deep aversion from jour- are slightly favored in this respect. The nalists, to whom he contemptuously re- Emperor will go to a theatre, and ask the ferred in his opening speech at the Con- manager or a leading actor round to his ference on Educational Reform, as Press- box, to discuss with him, in the face of scamps” (Press-Bengel); and apparently all the house, “some necessary question this feeling of contempt was uppermost in of the play,” and even send him a decoraHis Majesty's heart when he decreed, in tion now and then. But when a Berlin opposition to the practice observed by his actor hears that prominent members of grandfather, that no foreign Correspond- his own guild in England are occasionally ent could be received at his Court, even invited to Marlborongh House, he simply though he had been previously presented rolls his eyes and clasps his hands in petrito his own Sovereign. At the same time, fied astonishment. The worst of it (or His Majesty, like his father, is a diligent, the best of it, according to fancy) is that and indeed voracious, reader of news most of the leading authors and actors in papers ; and one of the first things he Germany are of Semitic origin : a fact does of a morning is to peruse the ex that tends to complicate the question of tracts from the Press of Germany and Eu- their social status in the eyes of a proud rope, which are selected for him and aristocratic community, which reasons that gummed on to folio-pages by the officials equality before the law need not carry of the Press Bureau-an institution of with it the privilege of equality before the which this is now the main, if not, in- social lord or lady. Here, in England, deed, the only function, but concerning I have heard expressions of some little which more downright nonsense has been astonishment that the Emperor did not written than about any other part of the try to widen the field of his experience, organism of the Prussian State. These during his recent visit to us, by inviting extracts the Emperor frequently annotates the acquaintance of some of our most repin this or that sense, and it is such mar- resentative men in art, science, and literginal remarks which serve as the basis of ature. But can a man, even when enmany a semi-official démenti or rectifica- dowed with all the Emperor's surpassing tion.

energy, do everything? And how, inFrom journalism to literature there is deed, could English Science and Literature but one step—or call it a stride ;-but hope to fare well at his hands, when His there is nothing to show that, while de- Majesty found it impossible to pay even siring in many other ways to emulate the so much as a flying visit to the Exhibition example set by Frederick the Great, Will- of his own country's art and industry ?

One of the most interesting objects in less, this exhibition brought anything but all this Exhibition-picture gallery section jubilation to a lady artist from Hungary, -is the copy of a fine battle-ship, of the Madame P by name, whose achieveold three-decker type, from the hand of ments with the brush entitled her to bethe Emperor himself (when Prince Will- lieve that she had a splendid future before iam), which proves that, apart from the her and an easy triumph in Berlin. Now, other splendid qualities of heart and head among her other chefs d'auvre, this lady bequeathed to him by his English mother claimed to reckon a portrait of Count (and he has much more of his mother's Moltke, who, when Madame had expressed than his father's character and tempera- her joy at having been able thus to delinement), he has inherited her love of, and ate a man so famous for the making of capacity for art. It has long been a tradi- Weltgeschichte (world-history), capped tion of the House of Hohenzollern that the compliment by saying that this poreach of its sons should learn some handic trait of his decidedly seemed to mark an craft or other, and it is clear that the era in Kunstgeschichte (history of art). present head of that House might have What, therefore, was the surprise and become a very respectable artist instead mortification of the fair artist to find that of an artisan. As it is, he loses no op- the Hanging Committee of the Exhibition portunity of promoting the interests of affected to consider her presentment of Art as a necessary element in national cul- the great strategist as beneath the standture, while his accession to the Throne ard of excellence necessary to admit it to proved a perfect godsend to the portrait their art-show! Rage and protest, natupainters and sculptors of Berlin-a very rally enough, on the part of Madame. numerous class. For there are few of P-, who vowed that she had been them, at the top of their profession, to made the victim of professional jealousy whom His Majesty has not himself re and intrigue ; but nothing would avail peatedly sat. Frederick the Great was against the decision of the jury, who very chary of having himself reproduced, firmly closed its doors in the face of the and, indeed, he left behind him but few Hungarian lady and her “ epoch-making" original portraits of himself-you might portrait of Moltke. But she bided her nuinber them all on the fingers of one time, and had her revenge. For the Emhand. But the various counterfeit pre- peror, returning to town from one of his sentments of his reigning descendant, al- excursions, was struck by the violence of ready in existence, would fill a goodly pic- the storm that was raging, and made haste ture gallery by themselves. One reason to send for Madame and her picture, with for this artistic multiplication of himself the excellence of which Ilis Majesty was on such an extensive scale is that the Em so deeply impressed that he there and then peror is chief of so many regiments, native gave a handsome price for it, and, exerand foreign, in the mess-rooms of which cising his royal privilege, sent it straight he naturally enough desires bis portrait, to the Exhibition with instructions that it in the appropriate uniform, to be hung; should be hung at once in the Salle while, again, his numerous visits to the d'honneur, and after that in the National Courts of Europe, where they load bin Gallery ! Then we had abashed looks with honors, entails upon him the obliga- and bated breath on the part of the Hangtion of counter favors, which generally ing Committee, as well as rude awakening take the shape of his own speaking like- from the complacent dream that they

And can a inonarch pay a higher were better critics than a young Emperor. personal conipliment than is embodied in It was in the same spirit of superior judghis bust or his portrait ?

ment that made His Majesty sweep away, But while speaking of portraits I may by one impatient motion of the hand, the as well recount an incident which sheds mountain of models which was the result not a little light on the character of the of the competition for the National MonuEmperor. One of the chief attractions at ment to be erected to his grandfather. Berlin this year is an International Exhibi- The jury had awarded the highest prizes tion of Art, which was got up by the So- to architects who, aiming only at effect, ciety of Berlin Artists to celebrate the and forgetful of the wherewithal that would jubilee of their existence—for is this not be necessary to realize their scheines, had an age of universal jubilees? Neverthe- embodied their ideas in stupendous piles

ness.

of a most grandiose character. But the all Europe. His passion for reviews (de. Emperor, with a sharp eye to all the prac filir-ium tremens, as the wanton wit of a tical as well as the patriotic aspects of the Frenchman called it) is absorbing ; and of question, brusquely turned his back upon all the great state functions of the year in all the colossal projects, declaring that the which he has to figure, that of the grand simpler work of a sculptor must suffice ; autumn manoeuvres pleases him best. On and since then the decision of the matter these occasions His Majesty generally has mainly rested with him. Thus, con- takes personal command of an Army trary to the original sense of Parliament, Corps. Last year he directed the movethe crection of the old Emperor's monu- ments of two, which he did with singular ment promises to be the final outcome ability. As I wrote at the time : “ This neither of representative opinion nor of is not mere flattery, but the clear and defree artistic competition.

liberate opinion of those who are best enMinerva is by no means distasteful to titled to judge, and who maintain that, the Emperor ; but he is fondest of this both as an active commander and as a goddess when she exerts herself in the ser critic of others in the field, the present vice of Mars. Military and naval pictures occupant of the Throne of Prussia, among are his chief delight ; and on all his jour. bis other sterling gifts, shows indications neys by sea he is accompanied by a marine of a military genius of the very highest painter (Herr Salzınann), whose duty it is promise." Even bis favorite diversions to transfer to canvas the chief scenes and are military, a game of Kriegspiel or a incidents of his master's devious wander lecture on some campaign ; but more atings. He hastens to buy up every mili tractive to him still than either of those tary piece of art he can lay his hands on; occupations is the serious pastime of takand thus it was that, when at Constanti. ing garrisons unawares.

In this respect nople, and hearing that Kaulbach's "Bat- the Emperor seems ubiquitous : like the tle of Salamis" was for sale, he telegraphed ghost in Hamlet, 'tis here, 'tis there, to the widow of that great artist begging 'tis gone;' so that, for miles around any her to name her own price for the piece. particular place where His Majesty chances It will still be fresh in memory how, on to be, the troops have learned the useful the death of Meissonier, the Emperor art of sleeping with one eye open and hastened to convey to the Academy of either ear attent. But of all these alarmFine Arts at Paris his grief at the loss of ings, the most sensational, because the this master, who was one of the greatest most surprising, happened on the day of glories of France and of the Art of the the last General Election to the Reichstag, whole world ;” but it is doubtful whether when the electors (and they have univerHis Majesty's encomiums would have been sal suffrage over there) were crowding in half so warm, or his sorrow so acute, had their thousands to the urns. One would Meissonier not been a painter of battles. have thought that the very shadow of su

I do not believe that, like Frederick perior power would have been withheld the Great,--whose own confession is the from the sight of the voters on such a justification of the statement—the Emperor day. But no ; for, as all over Berlin William would plunge his people into a they were trooping to the polls, their war merely in order to get himself talked paths were crossed and deflected by ten about, and to cull what is called glory. thousand troops of all arms, who had sudHis Majesty is not bellicose ; but, at the denly been called out by sound of bugle same time, his whole soul is wrapped up in and tuck of drum, and were racing, helsoldiering. As long as he is seated on ter-skelter, to meet their supreme the Throne, Germany will never be hurried Lord” on the trysting ground a remarkinto a heedless or unjust war. If she able spectacle, to be sure, and one welldraws the sword at all, it will only be in calculated (as it was doubtless intended) her own defence or that of her allies. Of to remind the electors that, after all, that the world may be absolutely sure, there was a very much higher power for though the French still affect, much to good in Germany than the ballot-box, and the discredit of their judgment, to have that the Fatherland owed far more to her their suspicions. But, while the Emperor ariny than to her Parliaments. is not aggressive, there is no more ardent It was characteristic of the two men and devoted student of the military art in that, whereas Frederick III., on succeed

War

« VorigeDoorgaan »