THERE flourished, in the heart of the Swiss Republic, during some twenty or twenty-five years, commencing about the year 1810, an educational institution, in the nature of a private college, which, though it attracted much public attention at the time, being noticed with commendation, as I remember, in a report made by the Count Capo d’ Istria to the Emperor Alexander of Russia, yet has never, I think, been appreciated at its full deserts, nor generally recognized for the admirable institution it was,— unparalleled, in the character of the spirit which pervaded it, and in many of the practical results obtained, by any establishment for learning that has ever come under my observation.
I was educated there, from the age of sixteen or seventeen to twenty. Passing into its tranquil scenes from the quiet of home and the hands of a private tutor, with the sunny hopes and high ideal and scanty experience of youth, much that I found there appeared to me at the time but natural and in the ordinary course of things, which now, by the light of a life’s teachings, and by comparison with the realities as I have found them, seems to me, as I look back, rather in the nature of a dream of fancy, tinged with the glamour of optimism, than like the things one really meets with in the work-a-day world. I say this, after making what I think due allowance for the ClaudeLorraine tints in which youth is wont to invest its early recollections.
It was one of several public institutions for education founded by the benevolent enterprise of a very remarkable man. EMANUEL VON FELLENBERG was born of a patrician family of Bern. His father had been a member of the Swiss Government, and a friend of the celebrated Pestalozzi, —a friendship which descended to the son. His mother was a descendant of the stout Van Tromp, the Dutch admiral, who was victor in more than thirty engagements, and whose spirit and courage she is said to have inherited. To this noble woman young Fellenberg owed ideas of liberty and philanthropy beyond the age in which he lived and the aristocratic class to which he belonged.
Educated at Colmar and Tubingen, the years immediately succeeding his college life were spent in travels, which brought him, at the age of twenty-three, and just after the death of Robespierre, to Paris, where he had an opportunity of studying men in the subsiding tumult of a terrible revolution.
The result appears to have been a conviction that the true element of human progress was to be found less in correction of the adult than in training of the youth. His mind imbued with the two great ideas of freedom and education, he returned to his native Bern ; but taking part there against the French, he was banished, remaining in Germany an exile for several years, and during that period planning emigration, with several friends, to the United States. This intention he abandoned, on being recalled to his native country, and there offered important diplomatic and military service. In the latter capacity he quelled an insurrection of the peasantry in the Oberland ; but, prompted by that sympathy for the laboring classes which was a strong element in his character, he granted these people terms so liberal that his Government refused to ratify them, whereupon he threw up his commission, recurring to his favorite educational projects, and serving for a time on the Board of Education in Bern.
But it soon became apparent that the ideas of his colleagues and himself differed too widely to permit united action. They were thinking of the commonplace routine of school instruction, — reading, writing, arithmetic, and the like. He looked to education as the regenerating agent of the world, — that agent without the aid of which liberty runs into license, and the rule of the many, as he had witnessed it in terror-stricken France, may become one of the worst forms of despotism. He looked beyond mere pedagogical routine or formal learning, to the living spirit,—to the harmonious development of every human faculty and affection, intellectual, moral, spiritual.
Resigning his situation on the Bernese Board of Education, Fellenberg expended a large fortune in the purchase of the estate of HOFWYL, about two leagues from Bern, and the erection there of the buildings necessary to carry into effect his own peculiar views.
It was a favorite idea of his, that society can be most effectually influenced for good by training its extremes in social position : those, on the one hand, who are born to wealth and station, whence are usually chosen lawgivers, statesmen, leaders of public opinion ; and those, on the other hand, born to a heritage of ignorance and neglect, and too often trained even from tender age to vice and violence. He sought to bring these extremes of European society into harmonious relation with each other, — to raise the one from hereditary dependence and degradation, to imbue the other with healthy ideas of true nobility in place of the morbid prejudices of artificial rank. In both these efforts he was eminently successful, — in the latter, more so, in my judgment, than any educator of his age.
The establishments of Hofwyl proper 1 were, accordingly, two in number, quite distinct from each other: the Vehrli-Knaben, (Vehrli’s boys.) as they were called, from the name of their admirable young teacher, Vehrli, essentially an agricultural school, on the manuallabor principle ; and the college, of which it is my chief object to sketch the plan and its results. To this latter institution, in consequence of the numerous and expensive branches taught and the great number of professors employed, (about one to each four students,) those only, with few exceptions, could obtain admission whose parents possessed ample means, — the exceptions being the sons of a few of Fellenberg’s Swiss friends, in moderate circumstances, whom, when they showed great promise, he admitted with little or no charge. It was by associating these with his own children in their studies that the nucleus of this college was originally formed.
From their very inception, these projects met with discouragement and opposition, especially from the patrician class, to which Fellenberg belonged. Even in republican Switzerland, these men held that their rank exonerated them from any occupation that savored much of utility ; and it was with a feeling almost of dishonor to their order that they saw one of their number stoop (it was thus they phrased it) to the ignoble task of preceptor. It need hardly be said that Fellenberg held on his way, undisturbed by the idle noise of prejudice like this.
Into the Vehrli school were received destitute orphans, foundlings, and those whose parents were too indigent to provide for their education. Their time was divided nearly equally between the labors of the field and the lessons of the school. They were trained as farmers and teachers. Besides the ordinary branches, they were well grounded in botany and drawing, and made great proficiency in vocal music. Vehrli devoted himself, heart and soul, to the instruction of these children. He worked with them, studied with them, wore the same homely dress, partook of the same plain fare, slept in the same dormitory, — in short, spent his life wholly among them. After a time his pupils were in great request throughout Europe, both as teachers and as agricultural superintendents. I found one of them, when many years since I visited Holland, intrusted with the care of a public seminary supported by the Dutch Government, and his employers highly appreciated his character and abilities. The children remained till they were of age, repaying by their labor in the latter years a portion of the expenses of their early education. Ultimately this school became nearly self-supporting.
Between Vehrli’s children, as we used to call them, and ourselves there was not much communication. We met occasionally only; but when we did meet, there existed the most friendly relations between us. I saw but little of the internal arrangements of that establishment, and am unable, at this distance of time, to furnish detailed information regarding it. I proceed to give some account of the college, of which, for three years, 1 was a student.
Of that little republic it can truly be said, that its tranquillity was never disturbed by one dividing prejudice of rank, of country, or of religion. We had among our number (usually amounting to one hundred students) dukes and princes, some of them related to crowned heads ; and we had the recipients, already alluded to, of Fellenberg’s bounty; but not in word or bearing was there aught to mark difference of artificial rank. We had Swiss, Germans, Russians, Prussians, Dutch, French, Italians, English, and I know not what other nationalities ; but not one unkindly sentiment or illiberal prejudice arose among us on account of birthplace. We had Protestants, Catholics, members of the Greek Church, and members of no church at all ; but never, in language or feeling, did I perceive any shade of coldness or aversion that had its rise in theological differences. Fellenberg had succeeded in instilling into our little community his own noble principles of republican dignity, cosmopolitan amity, and religious toleration.
No one was addressed by his title ; and to the tuft-hunters of English universities it will appear scarcely credible that I lived several weeks as a student at Hofwyl before I accidentally learned who were the princes and other nobles, and who the objects of M. de Fellenberg’s charity. It was, I think, some six weeks or two months after my arrival that I was conversing with a goodnatured fellow - student, with whom I had become well acquainted under his familiar nickname of Stösser. I remarked to him that before I reached Hofwyl I had heard that there were several noblemen there, and I asked what had become of them.
“Why,” said he, smiling, “they are here still.”
“Indeed!” said I; “which are they ? ”
He requested me to guess. I named several of the students who had appeared to me to have the greatest consideration among their fellows. He shook his head, and laughed. “ These are all merchants and commoners. Try again.” I did so, but with no better success ; and at last he named, to my surprise, several young men who had seemed to me to have but an indifferent share of influence or respect, — among the rest, one who was slightingly treated, and avoided rather than sought, by his companions. He was the nephew of the King of Wiirtemberg.
A day or two afterwards I chanced to learn that the young man whom I had thus questioned was himself a Russian prince, grandson of the noted Suwaroff, — Catharine’s Suwaroff. He had charge of our flock of goats, of which I shall by-and-by have occasion to speak; and he took to the office very kindly.
In like manner, it might have puzzled me, after a three-years’ residence, to call to mind whether those with whom I was as intimate as with my own brother were Protestants or Catholics or neither; and at this distance of time I have forgotten. The reason is simple : we never debated on theological subjects at all. M. de Fellenberg read to us occasional lectures on religion ; but they were practical, not doctrinal, — embracing those essentials which belong to all Christian sects, thus suiting Protestant and Catholic alike. The Catholics, it is true, had from time to time a priest to confess them, who doubtless enjoined the regular weekly fast ; yet we of the Protestant persuasion used, I believe, to eat as much fish and as many frogs on Fridays as they.
A striking feature in our system of instruction was the absence of all punishment, except such as was self-inflicted, under a code of laws of our own, hereafter to be noticed. Twice, or perhaps three times, during the term of my residence, one of the pupils, on account of repeated inattention, or for similar venial cause, was requested by the professor, during the course of the recitation, to leave the room. But this was quite an event, to be talked of for a week, so contrary was it to the regular, quiet, uncoercing routine of the institution. No expulsion ever occurred. I do not myself remember to have received, either from M. de Fellenberg or from any of his professors, one harsh word during the three happy years I spent at Hofwyl.
The mildness with which the students were treated by their instructors reacted upon them in their intercourse with each other. Duels, so common among the students of German universities, were an unheard-of absurdity, though we had a fencing-master, and took regular lessons in the use of the small sword, skill in the management of which was considered an indispensable item in the education of a gentleman. Quarrels such as elsewhere terminate in blows were scarcely known among us. I recall but two, both of which were immediately arrested by the spectators, who felt their college dishonored by such an exhibition of evil passion and violence. One of these was commenced by a youth coming only two weeks before from an English school. The other occurred, one evening when a small party of us had assembled in a private room, between a fiery young Prussian count and a sturdy, unbending Swiss. The dispute grew warm, and was about to proceed to extremities, when we who were by-standers made no scruple to terminate it in our own way. We pounced upon the disputants without warning, carried them off, each to his own room, on our shoulders, and there, with a hearty laugh at their folly, set them down to cool. All this was done so suddenly and so good-naturedly that they themselves could not refrain from joining in the merriment which so whimsical a conclusion to their quarrel had elicited.
I have heard and read much of the pluck and manliness that are supposed to grow out of the English habit of settling school quarrels by boxing, after the fashion of prize-fighters in the ring. But I do not think it would have been a very safe experiment for one of these pugilistic young gentlemen to offer an insult to a Hofwyl student, even though the manhood of this latter had never been tested by pounding another’s face with his fist. Brutality and cowardice are often close allies ; and his anger, when roused, is most to be dreaded, who so bears himself as to give no one just cause of offence. Boxing-matches and duels are becoming, as they ought to be, like the ordeal by combat, antiquated modes of testing the courage or settling the disputes whether of boys or men, among the civilized portion of mankind.
But though little prone to quarrel, our indignation, I must confess, was sometimes readily enough roused, when occasion called It forth. I remember an instance in which, perhaps, the conservative portion of my readers may think we carried matters somewhat to an extreme.
It happened that three officers of distinction from the Court of Wiirtemberg arrived, one day, on a visit to M. de Fellenberg. They desired to see their sovereign’s nephew, the same Prince Alexander of Würtemberg to whom I have already alluded as being no favorite among us. He was accordingly sent for ; and the interview took place in an open space in front of M. de Fellenberg’s Schloss, where four or five students, of whom I was one, happened to be at the time, not more than eight or ten steps distant. The officers, as they approached the Prince, uncovered, and stood, during the conversation which ensued, with their plumed hats in their hands. The young man, on the Contrary, whose silly airs had been a chief cause of his unpopularity among us, did not remove the little studentcap he wore, but remained covered, without any intimation to his visitors to resume their hats.
This was too much for us, “ Do look!” said one of our group, — “if there is n't that fellow Alexander standing with his cap on, and letting these officers talk to him bareheaded ! ” And then, raising his voice so as to be heard by the parties concerned, he said, — “ Alexander, take off your cap ! ”
But the cap did not stir. We took a step or two nearer, and another of our party said, —
“ Alexander, if you don't take that cap off, yourself, I 'l1 come and take it off for you.”
This time the admonition had effect. The cap was slowly removed, and we remained to make sure that it was not resumed, until the officers, bowing low, took their leave, — carrying, I fear, to their royal master no very favorable report touching the courtly manners of Hofwyl.
It was small marvel that an institution of practice so democratically heterodox should awaken the jealousy of European legitimacy. And it was probably with feelings more of sorrow than surprise, that Fellenberg, about the year 1822, received from the Austrian authorities a formal intimation that no Austrian subject would thereafter be allowed to enter the college, and an order that those who were then studying there should instantly return home. Than this tyrannical edict of the Austrian autocrat,2 the same who did not blush to declare “ that he desired to have loyal subjects, not learned men, in his dominions,” no greater compliment could have been paid to Fellenberg or his institutions.
The course of instruction pursued at Hofwyl included the study of the Greek, Latin, French, and German languages, the last of which was the language of our college, — history, geography, chemistry, mechanics,— mathematics, in a thorough course, embracing the highest branches, — drawing, and music, vocal and instrumental, — and, finally, riding, fencing, and gymnastics. The recitations (Stunden, that is, hours, we called them, for each lasted a single hour only) were essentially conversational. The lessons in drawing, however, extended to two consecutive hours, and included copying from the antique. There was a riding-school and a considerable stud attached to the college ; and the highest class were in the habit of riding out once a week with M. de Fellenberg, many of whose practical lifelessons, given as I rode by his side during these pleasant excursions, I well remember yet.
The number of professors was large, compared to that of the taught, being from twenty-five to thirty, though the college seldom contained more than one hundred students. The number in each class was small, usually from ten to fifteen.
Latin and Greek, though thoroughly taught, did not engross the same proportion of time which in many other colleges is devoted to them. Not more time was given to each than to ancient and modern history, and less than to mathematics. This last was a special object of study. It was taught, as was history, by extempore lectures, while the students took notes in short-hand ; and we seldom employed any printed work to aid us, in the evening, in making out from recollection, aided by these notes, a written statement ot the propositions and their solution, to be handed, next day, to the professor. This plan impressed on our minds, not indeed the exact form of words or the particular set of phrases of the books, but the essential principles of the science,— so that, when, in after years, amid the business of life, details and demonstrations had faded from my memory, I have never found difficulty in working these out afresh, and recalling and rearranging them, without aid tram books.
One little incident connected with my mathematical studies still comes back to me with a pleasant impression. My chief college friend was young De Saussure, grandson of the naturalist of that name, who, the first with a single exception, reached the summit of Mont Blanc. The subject of our lecture was some puzzling proposition in the differential calculus, and De Saussure propounded to the professor a knotty difficulty in connection with it. The professor replied unsatisfactorily. My friend still pressed his point, and the professor rejoined very learnedly and ingeniously, but without really meeting the case ; whereupon De Saussure silently assented, as if quite satistied.
“ You were not satisfied with that explanation,” said I to De Saussure, as we walked to our rooms.
“ Of course not,” was his reply ; “but would you have had me before the class shame the good man who takes so much pains with us and is usually so clearheaded ? We must work it out ourselves to-night.”
This trifle may afford a glimpse of the relation between professor and student at Hofwyl. There was no antagonism between them. The former was regarded, not as a pedagogue, from whom to stand aloof, — not, because of his position of authority, as a natural enemy, to be resisted, so far as resistance was safe, —but as an elder friend, whom it was a privilege (and it was one often enjoyed) to converse with, out of college hours, in a familiar way. During the hours of recreation, the professors frequently joined in our games. Nor did I observe that this at all diminished the respect we entertained for them or the progress we made under their care.
Emulation was limited among us to that which naturally arises among young men prosecuting the same studies. It was not artificially excited. There were no prizes ; there was no taking rank in classes ; there was not even the excitement of public examinations. Many may think this a hazardous experiment. I am not sure whether classical proficiency did not, to a certain extent, suffer from it. I am not sure whether some sluggards did not, because of it, lag behind. Yet the general proficiency in learning was satisfactory ; and the student, when he entered the world, missed no college excitants, but bore with him a love and a habit of study needing no spur, and which insured the continuance of education far beyond the term of his college years. For he had learned to seek knowledge for itself, for the pleasing occupation it brings, for the power it gives, for the satisfaction it leaves behind ; and he required no more highly seasoned inducements to continue the search through life.
Yet it was not the peculiar mode of imparting instruction, nor yet the variety, the extent, and the utility of the knowledge acquired, that chiefly characterized the institution of the Swiss patriot. It was the noble spirit of freedom, the purity of motive, the independence of purpose, the honesty of conduct, the kindness of intercourse, the union and forbearance and high-spirited republicanism, pervading alike our hours of study, of amusement, and of social converse. These it was that distinguished Hofwyl; and these it is that still cause its former pupils to look back on the years spent within its peaceful precincts as the best and the happiest of their lives.
To such results there mainly contributed a remarkable feature in the economy of the institution I have been describing,— a feature, so far as I know, not adopted in any similar institution, at least to the extent to which it was carried by us.
I have said that reward and punishment by the college authorities, or by M. de Fellenberg, their head, were virtually excluded from this system. Considering the heterogeneous materials that were collected together from half the nations of the world, some having been nursed and petted in the lap of aristocracy, and others, probably, sent thither because their parents could not manage them at home, — considering, too, the comparatively late age at which students enter such a college, many of them just from schools where severity was the rule and artificial reward the stimulant,— considering all this, I doubt whether the mild, uncoercing, paternal government of Hofwyl would have been a success, but for the peculiarity here referred to coming in aid of our teachers, and supplying motives and restraints to ourselves. It was in this wise.
Hofwyl was not only an institution for education, it was also an independent, self-governing community. It had its code of laws, its council of legislation, its court of judges, its civil and military officers, its public treasury. It had its annual elections, by ballot, at which each student had a vote,—its privileges, equally accessible to all, — its labors and duties, in which all took a share. It proposed and debated and enacted its own laws, from time to time modifying them, but not often nor radically. It acted independently of the professors, and of Fellenberg himself, except that our foster-father (Pflegevater, as we used to call him) retained a veto, which, however, like Queen Victoria, he never exercised. Never, I think, were laws framed with a more single eye to the public good, or more strictly obeyed by those who framed them.
Nor was this an unwilling obedience, an eye-service constrained by fear or force. It was given cheerfully, honestly. We had ourselves assisted in framing, and given our votes in enacting, our code of laws. We felt them to be our own, and as such it became a point of honor with us to conform to them in spirit as in letter.
I know not whether the idea of this juvenile self - regulating republic (Verein, we called it) originated with Fellenberg or with some of the students ; but, whatever its origin, I believe it to have been the chief lever that raised the moral and social character of our college to the height it ultimately attained. It gave birth to public spirit, and to social and civic virtues. It nurtured a conscious independence, that submitted with pleasure to what it knew to be the will of the whole, and felt itself bound to submit to nothing else. It created young republicans, and awakened in them that devotion to the public welfare and that zeal lor the public good, which we seek too often, alas, in vain, in older, but not wiser, communities.
When I said that we had no rewards at Hofwyl, I ought to have admitted that the annual election to the offices of our Verein acted indirectly as a powerful stimulus to industry and good conduct. At these elections was to be read, as on a moral thermometer, the graduated scale of public opinion. The result of each election informed us with certainty who had risen and who had fallen in the estimate of his fellows.
For it was felt that public opinion among us, enlightened and incorrupt, operated with strict justice. In that young commonwealth, to deserve well of the republic was to win its confidence and obtain testimonial of its approbation. There not one sinister motive swayed our votes, — neither favoritism, nor envy, nor any selfish inducement. There was not even canvassing for favorite candidates. There was quiet, dispassionate discussion of respective merits ; but the one question which the elector asked himself or his neighbor was, “Who can fill most efficiently such or such an office ? ” — the answer to that question furnishing the motive for decision. I cannot call to mind a single instance, during the three years I passed at Hofwyl, in which even a suspicion of an electioneering cabal or other factious proceeding attached to an election among us. It can scarcely be said that there were candidates for any office. Preferment was, indeed, highly valued, as a testimonial of public confidence ; but it was not sought, directly or indirectly, and was accepted rather as imposing duty than conferring privilege. The Lacedemonian, who, when he lost his election as one of the Three Hundred, went away rejoicing that there were found in Sparta three hundred better men than he, is extolled as a model of ideal virtue. Yet such virtue was matter of common occurrence and of little remark at Hofwyl. There were not only one or two, but many among us, who would have sincerely rejoiced to find others, more capable than themselves, preferred to office in their stead.
All this sounds, I dare say, Utopian and extravagant. As I write, it seems to myself so widely at variance with a five-and-twenty years’ experience of public life, that I should scruple at this distance of time to record it, had I not, thirty years ago, when my recollections were fresh, noted them down minutely and conscientiously. It avails nothing to tell me that such things cannot be,— for at Hofwyl they were. I describe a state of society which I witnessed, of which I was myself a part.
As partial explanation, I may state, that to office, among us, was attached no patronage and no salary.
The proceeds of our public treasury, (Armenkasse, we called it.) to which each contributed according to his means and inclination, went exclusively for the relief of the poor. We had a superintendent of the poor, and a committee whose duty it was to visit the indigent families in our neighborhood, ascertain their wants and their character, and afford them relief, especially in winter. This relief was given in the form sometimes of money, sometimes of food, clothing, or furniture ; to some we furnished goats, selected when in milk from a flock we had, and which were left with them for a longer or shorter period. Our fund was ample, and I think judiciously dispensed.
The laws and regulations of our Verein extended to the police and the moral government of our little community. The students were divided into six circles, (Kreise,) and for the government of each of these we elected a guardian or councillor (Kreisrath). These were our most important officers, — their province embracing the social life and moral deportment of each member of the Kreis. This, one might imagine, would degenerate into an inquisitorial or intermeddling surveillance; but in practice it never did. Each Kreis was a band of friends, and its chief was the friend most valued and esteemed among them. It had its weekly meetings ; and I remember, in all my life, no pleasanter gatherings than these. Myself a Kreisrath towards the close of my student life, I bore home with me no more valued memorial than a brief letter of farewell, expressive of affection and gratitude, signed by each member of the Kreis.
Our judiciary consisted of a bench of three judges, whose sessions were held in our principal hall with all due formality, — two sentinels, with swords drawn, guarding the doors. The punishments within its power to inflict were a vote of censure, fines, deprivation of the right of suffrage, declaration of ineligibility to office, and degradation from office. This last punishment was not inflicted on any student during my residence at Hofwyl. Trials were very rare ; and I do not remember one, except for some venial offence. The offender usually pleaded his own cause ; but, if he preferred it, he might procure a friend to act as his advocate.
The dread of public censure, thus declared by sentence after formal trial, was great and influential among us. Its power may be judged from the following example.
Two German princes, sons of a wealthy nobleman, the Prince of Tour and Taxis, having been furnished by their father with a larger allowance of pocket-money than they could legitimately spend at Hofwyl, conceived a somewhat irregular mode of disposing of part of it. They were in the habit of occasionally getting up late at night, after all their comrades had retired to rest, and proceeding to the neighboring village of Buchsee, there to spend an hour or two in a tavern, smoking and drinking lager-bier.
Now we had no strict college bounds, and no prohibition against entering a tavern, though we knew that M. de Fellenberg objected to our contracting the latter habit. Our practice on Sundays may illustrate this. That day was strictly kept and devoted to religious exercises until midday, when we dined. After dinner it was given up to recreation. And our favorite Sunday recreation was, to form into parties of two or three and sally forth, Ziegenhainer in hand, on excursions many miles into the beautiful and richly cultivated rolling country that surrounded us, usually ascending some eminence whence we could command a full view of the magnificent Bernese Alps, their summits covered with eternal snow. It sometimes happened that on these excursions we were overtaken by a storm, or perhaps, having wandered farther than we intended, were tired and hungry. In either case, we did not scruple to enter some country tavern and procure refreshments there. But whenever we did so, it was a custom— not a written law, but a custom sanctioned by all our college traditions —to visit, on our return, the professor who had charge of the domestic department of our institution, — a short, stout, middle-aged man, the picture of goodhumor, but not deficient in decision and energy when occasion demanded, — it was our uniform custom to call upon this gentleman, Herr Lippe, and inform him that we had visited such or such a tavern, and the occasion of our doing so. A benignant smile, and his usual “It is very well, my sons,” closed such interviews.
But the use of tobacco — passing strange, that, in a German college! — was forbidden by our rules ; so also was a departure, after the usual hour of rest, from the college buildings, except for good reason shown. Thus Max and Fritz Taxis (so the youths were called) had become offenders, amenable to justice.
The irregularity of which they had been guilty, the only one of the kind I recollect, became known accidentally to one of our number. There existed among us not even the name of informer ; it was considered a duty to give notice to the proper authorities of any breach of our laws. This was accordingly done in the present instance ; and the brothers were officially notified that on the following day their case would be brought up, and they would be heard in their own defence. The elder of the two, Max, held some minor office ; and the sentence would probably have been a vote of censure or a fine for both, and a forfeiture of the office in the case of the elder brother. But this was more than they could make up their minds to bear. Accordingly, the night previous to their trial, they decamped secretly, hired a carriage at a neighboring village, and, being well provided with money, returned to their parents.
We afterwards ascertained that M. de Fellenberg did not send after them, in pursuit or otherwise, — did not even write to their parents, but suffered the fugitives to tell their own story in their own way.
The result was, that in a few weeks the father came, bringing with him the runaways, and asking, as a favor, that M. de Fellenberg would once more make trial of them,—which he very willingly did. They were received by us with kindness, and no allusion was ever made to the cause of their absence. They remained several years, quiet and law-abiding members of our Verein, but neither attained to any office of trust again.
Our recreations consisted of public games, athletic exercises, gymnastics, and — what was prized above all —an annual excursion on foot, of about six weeks’ duration.
One of our most favorite amusements in the way of athletic exercise was throwing the lance (Lanzenwerfen). The weapons used were stout ashen spears, from six to seven feet long, heavily shod with iron, and sharp-pointed ; the target, a squared log of hard wood firmly set in the ground, about six feet high,—the upper portion, or head, which it was the chief object to hit, a separate block, attached to the trunk by stout hinges. This exercise required great strength as well as skill. A dozen or more engaged in it at a time, divided into two sides of supposed equal force ; and the points gained by each stroke were reckoned according to its power and accuracy, — double, if the head was struck, and one point added whenever the spear remained fixed in the wood without touching the ground. We attained great skill in this exercise.
We had fencing-lessons twice a week ; and there were many swordsmen in the elder classes who need not have feared any ordinary antagonist. Of this a fencing-master from a neighboring Canton, on occasion of a visit to our teacher, had one day tangible and somewhat mortifying proof.
Much has been said, sometimes in ridicule, sometimes in condemnation, of gymnastic exercises. We spent an hour a day, just before dinner, in the gymnasium. And my three-years’ experience induces me to regard these exercises, judiciously conducted, not only as beneficial, but indispensable to a complete system of education. They are to the body what intellectual labors are to the mind. They produce a vigor, an agility, an address, a hardihood, a presence of mind in danger, which I have never seen attained to the same extent under any other circumstances. They fortify the health and strengthen the nerves. Their mental and moral influence, also, is great. My observation convinces me that they equalize the spirits, invigorate the intellect, and calm the temper. I am witness to the fact that no one among the Hofwyl students was injured by them in any way, and that very many acquired a strength and an address that astonished themselves.
I myself had been in feeble health for several years before my arrival ; yet I left Hofwyl, not only perfectly well, but athletic ; and I have not had a serious illness since. I cannot believe, that, under a well-regulated system, gymnastics cause injury or expose to danger.
Our annual excursions, which were undertaken in the charming autumn of that bright and beautiful climate, by those among our students who, like myself, were too far from home to return thither during the holidays, were looked forward to, for weeks, with brilliant anticipations of pleasure, which, strange to say, were realized. Our favorite professor, Herr Lippe, accompanied us on these expeditions. Our number was commonly from thirty to thirty-five.
It was usually about the first of August, that, equipped in the plain studentcostume of the college, with knapsack on shoulder, and long, iron-shod mountain-staff in hand, we went forth, an exultant party, on “ the journey,” as we called it. Previously to our departure, Herr Lippe, at a public meeting of the intended excursionists, had chalked out for us the proposed route ; and when we found, as on two occasions we did, that it extended beyond the valleys and mountain-passes of Switzerland to the lakes of Northern Italy, our enthusiasm broke forth in bursts of applause.
Our usual day’s journey was eighteen or twenty miles, sometimes twenty-five or even more. We breakfasted very early, walked till about midday, when we sought some shady nook where we could enjoy a lunch of bread and wine, with grapes, or goat’s-milk cheese, when these luxuries could be procured. Then we despatched, in advance, some of our best pedestrians, as commissariat of the party, to order supper preparatory to our arrival. How joyfully we sat down to that evening meal ! How we talked over the events of the day, the magnificent scenes we had passed through, the little adventures we had met with ! The small country taverns seldom furnished more than six or eight beds ; so that more than three fourths of our number usually slept in some barn well furnished with hay or straw. How soundly we slept, and how merry the awaking!
There were among us, as among German students there always are, excellent musicians, well-trained to sing their stirring national airs, or gems from the best operas, or the like, — duets, trios, quartets. After our frugal noonday meal in the shade, or perhaps when we had surmounted some mountain-pass, and came suddenly, as we reached the verge of the descent, upon some magnificent expanse of valley or champaign scenery stretching out far beneath us, it was our habit to call a halt for music. The fresh grass, dotted, perhaps, with Alpine roses, furnished seats ; and our vocalists drawing from their knapsacks the slender cahier containing melodies expressly selected for the occasion and arranged in parts, we had, under the most charming circumstances, an impromptu concert. I have heard much better music since, but never any that I enjoyed more.
On one of these excursions we passed by Napoleon’s wonderful road, the Simplon, into one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. The first night at Baveno was delicious. The soft Italian air, — the moonlight on the placid lake, on the softly rounded olive-clad hills, on the trellised vines, so picturesque, compared to the formal vineyards of France,
—all in such contrast to the giant mountain-peaks of granite, snow-covered, cutting through the clouds, the vast glacier, bristling with ice-blocks, sliding down, an encroacher on the valley’s verdure,—in such marvellous contrast to all that region of rock and ice and mountain-torrent and rugged path, and grand, rude, wild majesty of aspect, it seemed like passing in a single day into another and a gentler world.
Then came the quiet excursions on the lakes, — Lugano, Maggiore, Como : such a rest to our blistered feet ! Those blisters were a drawback; but what episode in human life has none ? We strayed through the lime-groves of the Isola Bella, where I exchanged the few words of Italian of which I was master with a fair and courteous madonna who crossed our path, — ascended, by clambering up within one of the folds of the Saint’s short mantle, the gigantic bronze statue of the holy Borromeo, sat down inside the head, and looked out through the eyebrows on the lake under whose waters lies buried the widebrimmed shovel-hat which once covered the shaven crown, but was swept off by the storm-wind one winter night.
Throughout the term of these charming excursions the strictest order was observed. And herein was evinced the power of that honorable party-spirit prevalent among us, which imposed on every one of us a certain charge as to the good conduct of the whole, — making each, as it were, alive to the faults and responsible for the misconduct of our little community. Rude noise, unseemly confusion, the least approach to dissipation at a tavern, or any other violation of propriety on the road, would have been considered as an insult to the college. And thus it happened that we established throughout Switzerland a character for decorum such as no other institution ever obtained.
Nor did influences thus salutary cease with the term of our college life. So far as I know anything of the after fortunes of my college mates, they did honor to their alma mater, — if older and more learned foundations will not grudge our institution that name. As a body, they were distinguished for probity and excellent conduct; some attained eminence. Even that Alexander of Würtemberg, whom we so lightly esteemed, I afterwards heard spoken of as one of the most estimable young princes of the court he graced. Seven years ago I met at Naples (the first time since I left Hofwyl) our quondam Master of the Goats, now an officer of the Emperor of Russia’s household, and governor of one of the Germano-Russian provinces. We embraced after the hearty German fashion, — still addressed each other, as of old, with the familiar du and dich, — sat down, forgetting the present, and were soon deep in college reminiscences, none the less interesting that they were more than thirty years old.
Over these old reminiscences I find myself lingering. Yet they have stretched already,perhaps, as far as may interest others. With me they have left a blessing, — a belief which existing abuses cannot shake nor worldly skepticisms destroy : an abiding faith in human virtue and in social progress.
- There was, besides, a primary school for boys up to the age of twelve or thirteen at Diemerswyl, some mites from Hofwyl; and there had been originally a normal school, which, though popular among the teachers of Switzerland, gave umbrage to the Government, and was merged in the Vehrli institution.↩
- Francis II., Metternich-led. His words were : “Je ne veux pus des savants dans mes Etats; je veux des bons sujets.”↩