« VorigeDoorgaan »
ing to his own avowal (for who does not splendid achievements, he committed some remember the veiled reproaches against a stupendous mistakes—his bootless combat certain statesman-colleague with which he with invincible Rome included—in the began his lamentations and recriminations course of his life ; but, perhaps, his at Friedrichsruh ?), found bis native But- crowning error of judgment was his mislers, his Devereux, his Leslies, and his conception of the moment when Germany, Gordons. He suffered the inevitable pen- through his efforts, might now be said to alty of all who have ever risen to tran- be firmly seated in the saddle and be left scendent heights of influence and power. to ride of herself. Bismarck bas freIn the course of his table-talk, during the quently expressed himself an admirer of French war, the ex-Chancellor once re- the character of George Washington, marked that, though the Prussian people boasting that Prussia was the first Eurohuzza'd and beclapped their great Freder- pean State to recognize the great Republic ick when alive, they secretly rubbed their of his creating ; but his admiration would hands in glee when finally the old tyrant have assumed a much more flattering form had breathed his last. And the same re
had he ben careful to select the proper mark applies, to some extent, to Bis- time for imitating the Cincinnatus of the marck's own official death, which cer
Nor is it too much to assert that tainly excited surprise throughout Ger- bis grand historical figure would have gone many, and sentimental sorrow, but com- down to posterity in more majestic and paratively little real regret and no great unmutilated shape had he, like Ariel, recapprehension for the future. As a finan- ognized when his “ task was fairly donc,' cial journal well expressed it at the time, and voluntarily surrendered the 'helin of
even the aspen-leaves of the Bourse never the ship of State into other hands, reso much as quivered at the news of the solved to spend the evening of his life in mighty Chancellor's fall." His country- dignity and silence. men adored him, vowing to be eternally There is no reason to doubt that, when grateful for the great things he had done, penning the telegram before quoted with and were intensely proud of him as part reference to his assumption of the post of of their national greatness ; but, to speak officer of the watch on this ship, the Emthe honest truth, they were beginning to peror was perfectly sincere in saying that, groan under the weight of his personal in parting with Bismarck, he had suffered authority and will, which overshadowed as much as if he had again lost his grandevery walk of their public life ; and this father. Yet there is just as little reason was more especially the case with bis col- to doubt that, from a particular date, it leagues and immediate subordinates, with was His Majesty's fixed purpose to effect whom the Iron Chancellor enjoyed as lit- a divorce between himself and his Chantle official popularity as was inspired by cellor, even as it was the set determination Wellington in the hearts of the troops of Nelson to get rid of his own wife after whom he so often led to victorious battle. he had become infatuatedly attached to Every one felt that Bismarck's life-work Lady Hamilton. Not that Lady Nelson was done, and that there would now be had ceased to command the respect and no great danger—nay : that there would even the love of her husband. On the be a positive advantage-in his leaving contrary,” said her capricious lord, “I the further pursuit and development of call God to witness, there is nothing in his task to younger and fresher hands. you, or your conduct, that I wish otherIn the oft-quoted words of Schiller, wise.” And so it was pretty much with
the maker of the German Empire, who " Der Mohr hat seine Schuldigkeit gethan, Der Mohr kann gehen.”
was involuntarily divorced from the office
which he had held with such distinction But it is a thousand times inore easy to for about a quarter of a century, and loaded wean one's self from the love of drink with valedictory honors, including his than from the love of power, and the lat- ducal title, which he has continued to deter was a species of intoxication in which, spise and ignore. as it had been his greatest passion through “ That will never do," the young Emlife, Bismarck desired to revel until the peror is reported to have said to the auday of his death. It is only affirming thor of the "Neue Herr" when attending that he is mortal to say that, with all his a rehearsal of that historical play last win
ter in the Schauspielhaus at Berlin. away from evening parties to revel in the “ Even when a Hohenzollern dismisses one scenes and dialogues of the “ Neue Herr," of his ministers he loads him with honors. On the literary merits of this play most You must change all that." This criti- of the critics were extremely hard, one of cism was said to have been addressed to them--and a very good one, too—charHerr von Wildenbruch, a Foreign Office acterizing it as " eine hyper-loyale Radauclerk—a soit of court poet, or unofficial Comödie,” which might be rendered " an laureate at Berlin—who might be called ultra-loyal drama of the rowdy-dowdy the would-be Wagner of the heroic rhymed type." But it was agreed by all that the verse drama in Germany. Certainly his author could not possibly feel hurt at plays, dealing by preference with subjects those adverse comments, seeing that the connected with the rise of the Hohen- achievement of political effect more than zollerns, and appealing to the popular of literary excellence must have been bis sense of melodramatic patriotism, are primary aimn. Certainly the parting scenes frightfully full of swashbuckler sound and between the Great Elector and his father's sword-clashing ; and nothing would con- old Chancellor, Schwarzenberg—who finaltent this aspiring dramatist but that he ly went off in a fit of apoplexy—were should produce a play entitled the “Neue felt by all who witnessed the piece to be
New Ruler"-a play, extremely suggestive and painful ; nor strange to say, about which, and the sen- was little other than disgust excited by sation it created, the English Correspond the picture of rude and ranting military ents at Berlin found remarkably little to nobles, with their repulsive immorality, in report at the time, though in the case of which the piece abounded. But it had at one of them, at least, this omission was least one redeeming scene—as softened simply due to the fact of his being under and touching as it was again suggestive. editorial orders to restrict the field of his This was an apartment in the royal castle observation and his comment. But who, at Berlin, where a wayworn and breaththen, was the “Neue Herr"? It was less courier, just arrived from distant the young Emperor's own ancestor, the Königsberg, enters, and on bended knee “Great Elector,' one of whose first acts, announces to the Kur-Prinz (i.e., heredion succeeding to the throne, was to dis- tary Prince) the death of his father, and miss from office Adam von Schwarzen- his consequent succession to the crown. berg, his predecessor's Chancellor, and Ou being left alone, and after overcoming virtually take all the reins of power into the first shocks of his grief, young Fredhis own reforming hands. This incident erick William (destined to become and be forms one of the main motives in Wilden- called the Great Elector) falls to solilobruch's play ; but who shall say whether quizing on the nature and duties of his the selection of this subject, with its ob- high sovereign office ; but from those revvious parallel between the past and the eries he is speedily aroused by the tumult present, was due to accident or to de- of a myriad-headed multitude of his peosign?
ple, who, catching wind of the change of Was the dramatist's subject suggested rulers, have already streamed from all to him, or did he select it himself, tak- quarters of the city to the Schloss to acing, perhaps, his “ master's humor for a claim their “ Neue Gerr.” Attracted by warrant”? I know not; but what was the sound, the young Elector (he was only patent to all the world was that the Em- eighteen) goes to the window and becomes peror himself took the very greatest inter- a prey to emotion as he gazes down on est in the matter and production of the this surging sea of his subjects-men, piece, that he attended several dress re- women, and children, with their weal and hearsals, and directed certain changes to woe all depending on him.
The sight of be made (as above referred to), that he them fills him with an almost crushing was foremost among the “ first-nighters, sense of responsibility, and he ends by and after the performance went behind registering holy vows to live for the good the scenes, where he decorated the drama- of his people and for nothing else, to be tist with the Red Eagle, besides showering a model ruler, beloved at home and fearstuds, sleeve-links, breast pins, and other ed abroad, to pull down the proud and selmarks of favor on the principal actors, and fish (Schwarzenberg, the Chancellor, inthat he afterward frequently hastened cluded), to raise up the lowly and oppressed, 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 Elec. would 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 bis 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,
scrutinized by the light of everything he And in your deeds I ll live again."
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 his life-time ;—but then it must be der a similar disadvantage, directing that admitted that, though his specches 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 thein, 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. secms 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 Auent 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 (thougb, 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 posthe time, the Emperor perceives—in spite sibility of a Sovereign lapsing into a literal of Carlyle's dictum as to the relative me. nistake 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 sovereigo 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 arc. This at the unveiling of a monument at Frank. habit 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 tbat, 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 mill- . the 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 wbich was fostered in rarely indulged this consuming passion these Corps, and which was steeled by without making an utter fool of bimself. 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. Ilis 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 courdress to a social circle of friends. IIe age was never more clearly and empbatitakes 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 " Radi. spur of the moment.
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 ?