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Title: From memory's shrine - the reminscences of Carmen Sylva
Author: Sylva, Carmen
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "From memory's shrine - the reminscences of Carmen Sylva" ***

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                         FROM MEMORY’S SHRINE

                     [Illustration: Carmen Sylva]

                            MEMORY’S SHRINE

                         THE REMINISCENCES OF
                             CARMEN SYLVA
                  (H. M. QUEEN ELISABETH OF ROUMANIA)

         _Translated from the German, by Her Majesty’s desire,
                       by her former Secretary_

                             EDITH HOPKIRK

                          WITH ILLUSTRATIONS


                         PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY


                         Published March, 1911

                        PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A.


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

INTRODUCTION                                                           9

I. CLARA SCHUMANN                                                     13

II. GRANDMAMMA                                                        30

III. ERNST MORITZ ARNDT                                               60

IV. BERNAYS                                                           69

V. TWO OLD RETAINERS                                                  85

VI. FANNY LAVATER                                                     97

VII. BUNSEN                                                          119

VIII. PERTHES                                                        139

IX. A FAITH-HEALER                                                   151

X. MARY BARNES                                                       175

XI. THE FAMILY VALETTE                                               181

XII. KARL SOHN, THE PORTRAIT-PAINTER                                 192

XIII. WEIZCHEN                                                       203

XIV. A GROUP OF HUMBLE FRIENDS                                       217

XV. MY TUTORS                                                        232

XVI. MARIE                                                           243

XVII. MY BROTHER OTTO                                                251



Carmen Sylva                                               _Frontispiece_

Madame Schumann                                                       16

H. M. King Charles of Roumania                                        28

Royal Palace at Bucarest                                              64

A Queen at Her Loom                                                   94

H. M. Queen Elisabeth of Roumania                                    140

H. M. Queen Elisabeth of Roumania                                    182

H. M. Queen Elisabeth of Roumania                                    218

Prince Otto zu Wied                                                  252




It has been said by a well-known German novelist of our day in one of
his most recent works that as we approach our fiftieth year our hearts
nearly always resemble a grave-yard, thronged with memories, a far
greater share of our affection belonging by that time to those who are
already at rest beneath the earth than may be claimed by those still
left here to wander with us on its surface. This remark of Rosegger’s is
above all true of such of us as have been accustomed from our earliest
youth to stand mourning beside new-made graves, and see our nearest and
dearest prematurely carried off in Death’s relentless grasp.

It is in this cemetery of mine, sacred to the memory of all whom I have
loved and lost, that I would linger this day, holding commune as is my
wont with my beloved dead; but for once I would not that my pilgrimage
were altogether a solitary one. As in thought I stand before each grave
in turn, gazing with the spirit’s eyes on the dear form so clearly
recognisable under the flowers I have strewn above it, I would fain
retrace for others than myself every line of the features I know so
well, that all you to whom I speak may learn to know and love them
also. Even the best are all too soon forgotten in this busy, restless
world, but it may be that my words, coming from the depths of my heart,
will strike a responsive chord in the hearts of those who read them, and
kindling in their breasts a feeling like my own, will keep alive for a
little space these figures I call back from the shadowy Past. My aim
will be achieved if I can but convey to other souls something of the
impression my own received from the noble and beautiful lives with whom
I have come in contact, and which my pen will now strive with the utmost
fidelity to portray.

I am about, then, to throw open the sanctuary I have so long jealously
guarded from the world--the private chapel within whose niches my
Penates are enshrined. Those to whom I pay a constant tribute of love
and gratitude were either the idols of my early youth or the friends of
riper years. I shall try to show them as they appeared to me on earth,
in every varying aspect, according to season and circumstance, and to
the changes of my own mood and habits of thought during the different
stages of my mental development. To my youthful enthusiasm many of them
became types of perfection, in whom I could discern no human
weakness--to have known them was my pride and happiness. All that was
best in myself I attributed to their influence, and their presence has
never ceased to dwell with me since they have been removed to higher
spheres. They, on whose lips I hung with such rapt attention, drinking
in every word that fell from them, very possibly paid but small heed to
the silent, earnest-eyed child, nor guessed how fondly those lessons of
wisdom and holiness were being treasured up in that little heart. For to
none of us is it ever given to know the precise hour in which our own
soul has spoken most clearly and forcibly to another soul, nor to fathom
the full import of the message with which we are entrusted towards our
brethren. We cast our bread upon the waters of life, not knowing its
destination, and the seed we scatter with a lavish hand is borne in all
directions by the winds to take root it may be in the soil we should
have deemed least fit for culture. Children often observe more keenly
and reflect more thoughtfully than their elders would give them credit
for. We need but look back each of us to our own childhood, in order
rightly to understand how deep and lasting are the impressions then
received, and how they may colour the whole after-current of our lives.
Now, as I recall those days, I feel myself, as it were, suddenly
transported into the midst of an enchanted garden, among whose rare and
luxuriant blossoms I would fain gather together the fairest specimens
for a garland. But they spring up around me in such wild profusion, and
their beauty is so radiant, their colours so rich, their fragrance so
intense, that I am embarrassed in my choice, and only stretch out my
hand timidly and hesitatingly towards them, fearing lest in plucking I
should injure the least of these fairest works of Creation. Well,
indeed, may I feel diffident as to my own skill in selecting and
grouping them aright.

Yet, though the skill be lacking, goodwill and sincerity I may at least
claim to bring with me in full measure to my labour of love. It is no
mixture of Fact and Fiction I would here compile, nothing but the
simple, unadorned Truth, things I have myself seen and heard. Not that I
would have these pages resemble memoirs, in the ordinary sense of the
word, for what are memoirs at the best but a superior sort of
gossip--when they are not, that is to say, simply gossip of a despicable
kind! No mysteries will be here unveiled, no scandalous secrets dragged
to light. I do but propose to draw back the curtain from before the
picture-gallery within whose sacred precincts I have until now allowed
no other footsteps than my own to stray, so that all who will may render
homage with me to the moral and intellectual value of the lives these
portraits strive to commemorate.



It is but fitting and natural that I should open with this revered name
the series of my reminiscences, as my childish recollections hardly go
further back than the date of the first time I heard her, when I was
only eight years old, at my very first concert in Bonn. That was so
great an event in my life, and I was so impatient for the evening to
come, that I hardly know how I got through the whole day that preceded
it. Seldom has any day since appeared so interminably long. Still, the
evening did come at last, and I remember accompanying my mother to the
concert-room, into which she was wheeled in her invalid-chair, for,
although still quite young, she had been for many years in ill-health
and unable to walk. But whether I walked by her side, or how I got
there, I no longer know, for I have only a sort of confused recollection
of having been brought there without any effort on my own part, as
though I had been borne thither on wings! My first concert! My heart
still beats loud when I think of it.

It was a big, crowded room we entered. But I did not see the people. I
paid no attention to anybody. I saw nothing but the estrade on which the
piano was placed. Our seats were so far to the right that, small as I
was, I should not have seen the pianist at all had I not obtained my
mother’s permission to establish my diminutive person in the passage
left between the two rows of seats, where I had a full view of the
keyboard. I was all eyes, all ears, quivering from head to foot with
intense nervous expectation. At last Madame Schumann came in, and,
advancing swiftly to the instrument, sat down before it. She was dressed
in black velvet, with a single deep-red rose stuck low behind one ear in
her dark hair, which was very thick and inclined to curl, and which she
wore plainly parted and flat to the head, instead of having it according
to the fashion of those days twisted to stand out on each side of the
face. What struck me at once was something harmonious in her whole
appearance; it always seemed to me afterwards as if her dress must have
been crimson too, to match the rose in her hair. Her hands were small,
firm and plump, the touch full, healthy and vigorous, almost of virile
strength. I carried the rich, clear tones away with me, to ring in my
ears for long afterwards. But that which went straight to my heart, and
haunted me longer still, was the pathetic look in her eyes.

Leaning a little forward, bending as it were over the keys, as if to be
alone with her own music and the better to hear herself, apparently
utterly oblivious of the rest of the world, the player kept her
magnificent, melancholy eyes persistently cast down. But I could see
those wonderful eyes, and her sadness impressed me so much that it
almost spoilt my pleasure in the music, for I was wondering all the time
how it could be that anyone who played so divinely could all the same
look so unutterably sad. I did not then know her unhappy story; I had
not heard how her husband had gone out of his mind, leaving her
penniless, with a large family to provide for, and that it was, indeed,
to provide her children’s daily bread that she thus played in public. It
did not occur to me that anyone could be poor who wore a velvet dress.
Besides it was impossible to my childish mind to conceive that any
artist could be poor. On the contrary, I looked upon them all as being
fabulously rich, as having all the treasures of the universe at their
disposal. Those beliefs were natural to my age, for in childhood Romance
is Reality, and Reality a very poor sort of Romance! Have we not been
all of us the heroes of our own fairy-tales?--either Aladdin or Robinson
Crusoe, and more often Crusoe on his island than Aladdin in the magic
cave, since at that time of life the riches of this world appeal very
feebly to our imagination.

But for the pathetic expression of a pair of dreamy eyes my mind was
sufficiently receptive, sorrow and heartache being already only too
familiar to me. My mother, as I have mentioned, was at that time an
invalid, my younger brother had been a sufferer from his birth, and my
father was slowly dying of consumption. The daily spectacle of pain and
illness may well open a child’s eyes to the expression of suffering in
other human faces. But as I was always a very reserved child, accustomed
to keep all puzzling problems to myself and brood over them in silence,
I asked no questions, and consequently learnt nothing about my new idol
nor even suspected the existence of a domestic tragedy. Schumann’s
works were at that time a sealed book for me, with the exception of a
few simple pieces, intended for children. And children’s pieces were not
what I cared about. I only wanted Beethoven!

After that I did not see her again for many years--till I was grown up,
a girl of twenty, in St. Petersburg. I was just recovering from an
illness, and it was whilst I was still so weak that I could hardly
stand, that I had the sudden news of my dear father’s death. The blow
was such an overwhelming one, I felt at first as if everything in life
were over for me, and that I should never take pleasure in anything
again. And just then Mme. Schumann arrived with her daughter Marie. The
Grand Duchess Hélène, in whom so many artists had found a true friend
and enlightened patroness, hastened to place rooms in her palace at the
disposal of the celebrated pianist. So mother and daughter, to my
unspeakable joy and consolation, took up their abode with us for seven
weeks, and were lodged in the suite of apartments just above my own.
Whenever she was going to practice, Mme. Schumann would send word to me,
and then I would manage to drag myself upstairs, and let myself be
propped up by cushions in a corner of the room, where I could listen
undisturbed. It was as if I were being slowly awakened from a deathlike
trance, and being brought back to an interest in life again by the
strains of that exquisite music. Better still, my aunt very soon
arranged for me to take some piano-lessons of this great artist, and
these mark quite an epoch in my life. They were certainly quite

[Illustration: By kind permission of Messrs. Breitkopf & Hartel, 54
Great Marlborough Street, London, W.


lessons in every way, altogether unlike everything else of that nature,
for at first I was almost too feeble to hold my fingers on the keys. But
my dear professor soon found something for me, to which my strength was
just equal--Schumann’s delicious “Scenes of Childhood”--and from these
we went on little by little to higher flights. But it was not alone for
the progress in my music that these hours were of inestimable value; I
look back to them as having left their mark on the whole course of my
life ever since, for I was roused from my own lethargy and despondency
by learning the trials through which my new friend had passed. This
noble-minded woman could, indeed, have hit upon no better lesson in
fortitude than that which was contained in the simple story of her own
youth, as calmly and unaffectedly she told her young companion of the
catastrophe which had wrecked her life. It was, indeed, a revelation to
me, this glimpse into the workings of another soul, whose sufferings I
had never even suspected. The simple words in which the tale was told
wrung my heart more than any studied eloquence could have done, and I
blushed to think that I had dared to wrap myself up in my own sorrow, as
if I were the only sufferer in the world. I learnt from her how much
another had borne silently, uncomplainingly, and I understood how duty
may often call upon us to take up our burden and resume the daily
struggle before our wounds are yet healed, instead of giving ourselves
up to the luxury of grief. I will try, as far as I can, to give Clara
Schumann’s story in her own words, as she told it to me, in the long
conversations we held in those unforgettable hours. She spoke of her
childhood, for her troubles began early; her parents were separated, and
the little girl never knew a really happy home. In spite of the slight
deafness, with which she was troubled from her earliest years, her
father insisted on having her trained as a musician, and she was
prepared to make her appearance in public when she was only twelve years
old. “It was all very hard,” she related, “for I adored my mother, whom
I hardly ever saw. I remember my father once taking me to Berlin to pay
her a visit, and the way in which he flung the door open, with the
words: ‘Here, madam, I have brought your daughter to see you!’ Yes,
those were hard circumstances for me, and the more so, as he had married
again, and my stepmother was anything but kindly disposed towards me.”

There was a pause, and her expression changed as she went on to tell of
her love-idyl and early marriage. This was a dreamy look in her eyes,
and an arch smile on her lips that made her face quite young again,
while she spoke of those bygone days of short-lived happiness.

“It was when I was only fourteen,” she said, “that Robert Schumann first
became a visitor at our house. He was then just eighteen years of age,
and very soon we two young people had fallen in love, and even become
secretly engaged. Secretly, I need hardly say, so frightened was I of my
father, who, for his part, had constantly announced that he had his own
quite fixed plans for my future.”

Again she paused, and seemed for a moment plunged in memories of the
past. I did not disturb her with questions, but waited for her to go on
with her narrative, and it was with merriment once more rippling over
her face that she related some of the more amusing scenes in the drama.

“Four years later it had come to open war between my affianced husband
and my father, and I remember having to appear between them in the court
of law, in which the struggle for my person was being decided. Schumann
proved to the entire satisfaction of the court that he was of age, and
perfectly well able to support a wife, whilst my father, having no just
ground for his refusal, simply loaded him with insult. The decision was
accordingly given in our favour, and we were legally authorised to
become man and wife. At this my father’s rage literally knew no bounds.
Had he not often sworn that his daughter should never marry a beggarly
musician, that he would hardly consider a prince good enough for her! So
he turned me out of the house, refusing even to let me take my own few
possessions with me, my stepmother going so far as to tear off my finger
a little ring I always wore, as it had been my mother’s, but which she
now gave to her own daughter. Thus was I cast out of my father’s house,
and from the moment the door closed behind me I never saw his face
again, nor ever heard a word more from him. It was as if I were really
dead to him henceforth. But I did not grieve. It was by my husband’s
side that I wandered forth, happy for the first time in my life, in the
consciousness of our mutual affection.

“The ten years that followed were years of happiness indeed, of such
happiness as it is rarely given to mortals to know on earth. I lived for
my husband alone, entirely wrapt up in him. I watched every change in
his countenance, I studied his every mood, and had so thoroughly
identified myself with him that my own brain was on the verge of
becoming affected too, when his began to give way. I did not understand
at first that there was anything the matter with him, and continued to
take pride as ever in following and participating in every phase through
which his mind passed. But that mind was darkening, although I knew it
not. His fits of melancholy grew more frequent and of longer duration,
as though a baleful shadow had fallen across his soul. One night he
suddenly awakened me, begging me to get up, to leave him, to stay no
longer in the room. Astonished and alarmed, but accustomed to obey his
lightest wish in all things, I complied with the strange request. Next
day he told me that it was his fears for me, for my safety, which had
induced him to send me from him. ‘I feared lest I should hurt you!’ he
groaned. For he felt that he was gradually losing all control over his
own actions, that something outside himself was continually urging him
to violence against those whom he loved best in the world. Musical
phantasies mixed themselves with the rest. Thus he was for ever
imagining that he heard sounds, sometimes just one note of music
perpetually repeated, and then again the tones would be modulated, and
vary, and combine and weave themselves into melody! And these snatches
of melody he still noted down. But worse was at hand, for the day soon
came, the terrible day, which put an end to all my earthly happiness,
and after which it was no longer possible to conceal the truth from
myself and others. My dear, unfortunate husband had managed to steal out
of the house unperceived, and had attempted to drown himself in the
Rhine! He was saved, but I was not allowed to see him again. It was said
that it would be dangerous for him, for both of us. But he sent me a
most touching message, begging me to forgive him the pain which he knew
he must have caused me, and explaining how it was that he could not have
acted otherwise--he felt that it was the only means of saving us both
much trouble and sorrow. It almost broke my heart to hear this.

“Indeed, at first I could do nothing but sit and cry my eyes out at the
immensity of the misfortune which had come upon me. I was alone in the
world, with my helpless little ones, for he who had been our protection
and support was himself now the most helpless of all. But it was the
very immensity of my misfortune which roused me out of the apathy into
which I had fallen, as I realised the necessity of an effort on my part
for all these weak and helpless ones, who now depended solely on me. To
my father I did not dare to appeal, and even now, in my dire distress,
he gave no sign, sent me no word of kindness. But other friends took
active steps to help me, and with their assistance, thanks to the sums
they collected for me, I was able to put my affairs in order, and start
giving concerts to support my family. So things went on for the next
three years; I travelled about, playing in all the principal towns in
Europe, and my husband remained under the care of a doctor in Bonn. All
this time I never once saw him, although I was always entreating to be
allowed to do so.

“Then one day, just as I was about to give a concert in London, I
suddenly received a letter, informing me that my husband had only a few
days more to live, that I must hurry back if I wished to be in time to
see him once more! And like this I had to let myself be taken to the
concert-room, and like this I played! People have since told me that I
never played so well in my whole life. Of that I know nothing. I went
through my work mechanically, feeling half dazed, neither knowing nor
caring what or how I played, and not a note of the music reaching my own
ears. At the end the whole room seemed to spin round before my eyes, but
I made my way out somehow, and in a very few minutes was already on my
way to Bonn.

“When I arrived I was at first refused entrance to the room. But my mind
was fully made up. I was determined that no power on earth should now
keep us longer apart. I simply said: ‘If he is really dying, then my
presence can harm him no longer, and I insist upon being admitted!’ So
they let me in. But it was a terrible shock to see him, so changed that
at first I should hardly have known him. Only his eyes, those dear,
loving eyes, were still the same, and as they fixed themselves on me I
had the happiness of seeing the full light of recognition come back to
them. ‘Ah! my own!’ he exclaimed, stretching out his arms toward me. He
was frightfully weak, having of late refused all nourishment, under the
delusion that the attendants wished to poison him. I could, however,
prevail on him to take a little food when I brought it to him, and his
eyes never left me, following my every movement. In the midst of my
sorrow I yet felt a contentment at my heart that I had not known during
these last years, whilst I was separated from him. I might almost say I
was happy once more, just in being with him, and in feeling that his
affection was unchanged. But it could not last long--his strength was
ebbing fast--soon came the last parting, and then all was over, and I
was really alone in the wide world, with my poor, fatherless children!”

She broke down completely on these last words, and for some minutes we
sat together in perfect silence, my tears flowing in sympathy, for I was
deeply moved at witnessing her grief. Her story was made the more
touching by the simplicity with which it was told; this went to my heart
more surely than the most studied eloquence. And it was ever the one
theme--always of _him_ she spoke! She came back constantly to this one
period of life, as if all the rest--everything that had taken place
since--did not count at all. Evidently her own life had come to an end
for her when her husband died. If she lived on at all it was simply in
the idea of contributing to raise a monument to his fame. She was
really quivering with indignation when she related how on one occasion,
after one of her recitals, a lady had actually asked her if her husband
had not also been a pianist? But my contemptuous exclamation, “Oh, the
poor thing!” made her smile in spite of herself. I remember, too, how I
could never satisfy her with my rendering of the little piece called
“Happiness enough.” She was always entreating me to put more fullness
and softness into it, to make it overflow, so to say, with happiness.
And in the depths of her eyes I read the triumphant certitude that this
music told the happiness that had once been hers, and that to none other
would it ever be given to express it as she could. Ah! those were
precious hours, indeed, which I passed with her, and the lessons were
something much more to me than mere music-lessons, for even greater and
nobler than the _artist_ was the _woman_ I learnt to know in them.

In the month of May we went to Moscow, and it was there I heard
Schumann’s Variations for two pianos played by Mme. Schumann and Nicolas
Rubinstein. The latter was an admirable pianist, gifted with great
delicacy and depth of feeling, and if without the fiery, almost
demoniacal, inspiration that distinguished his brother’s playing, this
for the duet on two pianos was rather an advantage than otherwise.

After that several years passed before I saw Mme. Schumann again, and
then it being announced that she would appear at a concert in Cologne
with Stockhausen, my mother and I went over for it. We went early in the
day, so as to be in time for the last rehearsal, but at this we had the
disappointment of not hearing Mme. Schumann, for she had met with a
slight accident, which obliged her to rest till the evening, and her
place at the piano was taken by Brahms. In spite of her absence, it was
all the same a most interesting rehearsal. I had the pleasure of hearing
Brahms play and Stockhausen sing, and enjoyed everything immensely. I
could not help noticing, however, that my mother’s thoughts were
entirely elsewhere, and it annoyed me that she should let anything
distract her attention from the glorious music. Nor did we stay quite to
the end, much to my disappointment, but drove off to the Flora-garden,
and lunched there. And as we sat there, I could not help noticing that
we seemed to attract the attention of a little group of gentlemen,
strangers, as I thought them, who were walking up and down, and one of
whom at last seated himself at a little table quite close to ours,
looking at me so hard, that I slightly turned away from him. But when we
rose to leave, they all three came up to us, and we recognised Herr von
Werner, whose acquaintance we had made at Prince Hohenzollern’s whilst
his two companions were none other than the young Prince of Roumania,
and the latter’s representative in Paris, the last mentioned being the
gentleman who had just been observing me so closely. But I was sincerely
glad to meet the young Prince again, for I had seen much of him in
Berlin some years before, and was full of admiration for the adventurous
spirit and strong sense of duty in which he had entered on his task in
his new country. So I welcomed with pleasure the opportunity of talking
to him again, and walked on ahead with him, discussing all sorts of
things, my mother following with the two other gentlemen. We wandered
from the “Flora” to the Zoological Gardens, and after a long hunt for
the monkey house, found the little creatures already installed in their
winter quarters. I remember holding out my hand to one of them, rather
to the horror of the Prince, who protested against seeing my finger
clasped in the rough little brown paw. But the time had passed so
quickly, and I found my companion’s conversation so interesting,--(he
said afterwards that I told him his political views were quite
Machiavellian!)--two hours had gone by before we got into the carriage
again, and as we drove away, I exclaimed:--“There is somebody with whom
one can enjoy talking! He is really a charming young man!” My mother
said nothing at all. We stopped at Mme. Schumann’s, for I was determined
to have a little talk with her before the evening,--merely to see her at
the concert would not have satisfied me at all. The dear old days in St.
Petersburg were a little brought back to me, as I sat holding her hand,
and listening to all she had to tell us of what had happened since we
last met. But she was somewhat depressed, having just parted with her
third daughter who had recently married an Italian Count, and unable to
resign herself to the separation. “Only think what it means,” she said
to my mother,--“to have brought up one’s child, loved and cared for her
all these years, and then some stranger comes along, and carries her
off, one knows not to what!” Again my mother kept silence, but I could
not help thinking that there was quite a strange expression on her face.
When we left, there was only just time to dress for the concert. My
toilette was very hurriedly made, in spite of the satisfaction I felt in
the very pretty and becoming dress--a white flowered silk over a pale
blue underskirt--which I was to wear, for my one fear was of missing any
of the music! But whilst I was dressing, the Prince of Roumania had been
announced, and stayed, and stayed, and I could hardly control my
impatience, till at last I heard him leave, and rushed to my mother, to
hurry her. But the serious look with which she met me checked the
impatient exclamation on my lips. Taking my arm in hers, she began to
pace the room with me, saying, “The Prince of Roumania was here just now
to ask you to be his wife.” She stopped and looked at me, half expecting
the decided refusal, with which all such proposals had hitherto been
met. But instead,--“Already?” was the only word I brought out. I said to
myself,--he hardly knows me, he cannot love me, he happens to have heard
how well and carefully I have been brought up, he thinks I may prove the
suitable companion, the fittest helpmate for him in the work he has set
himself. And a thousand similar thoughts flashed like lightning through
my brain. But through it all I heard my mother telling me of the high
and noble mission awaiting me, should I accept the Prince’s hand, of the
wide field in which my energies might find scope, and the honour she
accounted it that his choice should have fallen on me. As she went on
talking, my hesitation seemed to fade away, and it was not long before
I said to her,--“Let him come! He is the right one!” In a very short
time the Prince had returned, I was summoned to the room, and remember
going towards him with my hand outstretched, which he raised to his
lips, and I remember too the words he spoke; but my words to him I do
not recall, though my mother treasured them in her heart, and had them
engraved below my portrait she sent him. She had already sent a little
word in all haste to Mme. Schumann, telling her of my betrothal, and
that she must not count on us for that evening. The rest of it passed
quickly indeed, the Prince having only a very few hours to spend with
us, as he had to return to Paris that same night. As long as he was with
us, telling me of the work we should accomplish together, of the
difficulties we must encounter and overcome, so far, all was well, I had
caught the fire of his enthusiasm, and felt equal to all that might be
demanded of me. But no sooner was he gone, than doubts and hesitations
once more assailed me. Had I not been too hasty, too precipitate, in
making up my mind on a question of such importance, on which depended
all the happiness of my future life? I was no longer so young, very
nearly six-and-twenty, and that would perhaps make it all the harder for
me, to give up my freedom and independence, resigning myself as it were
to another’s control. One of whom, after all, I knew so little, beyond
what everyone else knew and could read of him in the newspapers! Was
that a sufficient guarantee of happiness, I asked myself, that his
chivalrous character pleased me, that I knew him to be the soul of
honour, and that his mother had


ever been one of the idols of my girlhood? Unluckily too, the photograph
which he had given me made him look very stern, and that quite alarmed
me. I thought, if he can ever look like that, I shall be frightened to
death! But I took comfort in looking at the little opal cross he had
also given me, finding in the soft pure flame of the beautiful
milk-white stones, a sort of presage of everything that is good and
noble, and my fears gradually quieted down. Not altogether, though. They
came back often during the four weeks of my engagement, and only left me
entirely when I stood with my affianced husband before the altar.

With all this, alas! I never saw my dear Mme. Schumann again. I had
little thought when we left her that eventful day, looking forward to
meeting again the same evening at the concert, that it was the very last
time we should meet on earth! I wonder if she ever guessed the extent of
my affection and veneration. Two days before the wedding a concert was
given in honour of the bridegroom and myself, and for this my brother
tried to arrange for Mme. Schumann to come, but she was unfortunately
prevented. After that I was myself so far away, plunged heart and soul
in the new duties that were now to be my lifework, and so much absorbed
by these, that I only returned twice to my old home in the course of the
next ten years. Besides, in the meantime I had become a mother--that
unspeakable happiness was mine, and then--and then it was taken from me,
and all was dark around me, nevermore to become light for me henceforth
on earth!



I cannot rightly remember any of my grandparents, for grandmamma, as we
all called her, whom I learnt to know and love in my childhood, was in
reality only my mother’s stepmother, my grandfather, the Duke of
Nassau’s second wife. She was a daughter of the terrible Prince Paul of
Wurtemberg, so notorious for the violence of his temper, and her mother
was one of the lovely Princesses of Altenburg, another of whom had been
my grandfather’s first wife, and died in giving birth to my mother, her
eighth child. As their mother was a Princess of Mecklenburg, sister to
Queen Louisa of Prussia, my grandmother and the old Emperor William were
first cousins.

Five years had passed since the death of his first wife, before my
grandfather could be persuaded to think of marrying again, so deeply did
he regret this good and amiable woman, and so happy had he been with
her. But then, hearing so much said in praise of this young niece of
hers, he suddenly determined to see and judge for himself, whether the
good looks and other good qualities with which she was credited, should
seem sufficient to compensate for the slight deafness from which she
suffered. So he set off for Stuttgart incognito, even taking the
precaution to disguise himself and muffle up his face, and watching his
opportunity, he followed the young princess home from church, and
taking up his stand under her window, listened to her conversation with
her companions, in order to find out whether her infirmity prevented her
taking part in it to advantage. Her beauty and grace so enchanted him,
his mind was made up at once, and throwing off the muffler that
concealed his features, he stepped forth in full view of the astonished
little group. There was a cry of--“Uncle Wilhelm!” from some of the
young people, and then the next moment the intruder had vanished, as
quickly as he came, only to re-appear a little later with all due
formality, in the character of suitor for the hand of the fair young
girl, whom he carried off as his bride. It was no such easy matter for
her, the scarce eighteen-year-old wife, to enter her new home and take
up her position there, in the house in which, but a short time since,
she the young cousin had played, a child herself, with the other
children. Three of these were about her own age; the two elder sons,
Adolphus and Maurice, now almost grown up, and Thérèse, the eldest
daughter, although only fifteen, very much spoilt and very independent,
and too much accustomed to play the part of mistress of the house and
have her own way in everything, to feel disposed to part with these
privileges in favour of anyone else. It was therefore the very greatest
comfort to the youthful stepmother to find herself warmly welcomed by
the youngest member of the family, a real child still, my mother, then a
little girl of five with her long fair hair falling in curls below her
waist. The very warmest affection sprang up at once between them, and
lasted throughout their whole lives.

Grandmamma’s own life had been anything but smooth and untroubled from
her earliest years, and it is no wonder that when she one day later on
sat down to write her recollections, she should have done so under the
title--_Histoire de mes Peines_. Her parents’ married life had been
excessively unhappy; her father having even, in order to rid himself of
a wife he detested, gone to the length on one occasion of actually
hiding a man in her bedroom, and then bursting in upon her followed by
the whole Court, in the hope that his unsuspecting victim’s confusion
might lend her an appearance of guilt! But his diabolical plot fell
through, for, all helpless and defenceless as she was, the poor lady’s
innocence was perfectly evident, and her accuser’s character only too
well known for anyone to put faith in anything he said. It was shortly
after this charming exploit that Prince Paul determined to send his
daughters to school in France. I am not sure when it was exactly,
whether at an earlier or later date, that he gave them into the care of
such an ill-natured governess, that they had to suffer for the rest of
their lives from the effects of her petty tyranny, grandmamma’s deafness
having been caused, she always believed, from her having been forced by
her tormentor to stand sometimes for a couple of hours at a time,
barefoot in her nightdress on the cold stone floor, whilst her sister
Charlotte’s digestion was ruined by her never being allowed to satisfy
the cravings of her healthy young appetite. They were no better off
during their schooldays in France. In the establishment in which their
father placed them, the spirit of the Revolution still prevailed to such
an extent, that everyone of aristocratic birth was looked upon with
suspicion, and as for the title of princess, to bear that was little
less than a crime! So that the poor little Wurtemberg princesses had a
hard time of it, mistrusted and shunned by their schoolfellows, who
refused even to let them join in their games, and played all sorts of
mischievous tricks on them, whilst the governesses for their part vented
their dislike in imposing on them the most unsuitable tasks--even of a
menial description. Not only from grandmamma herself, but also from her
sister, afterwards the Grand Duchess Hélène of Russia, with whom much of
my own girlhood was spent, did I hear all about this. It was she who
told me how often in her sadness and loneliness she would seat herself
on the stairs, to watch the movements of the hands of the big clock
opposite, as if that were her only friend and companion, listening
through the long dreary hours to its melancholy ticking, and counting
the slow monotonous swinging of the pendulum backwards and forwards.

When the sisters returned to the Wurtemberg Court, they were as lonely
as ever, for they had become strangers to everyone, including the King
and Queen, during their exile. But soon, the Emperor Nicholas having
seen the one, asked for her hand in marriage for his brother Michael;
and thus it was that the Princess Charlotte was sent to Russia in
charge of a governess--for she was only fourteen years old--to finish
her education and be received under the name of Hélène into the Orthodox
Church as a preliminary to the wedding.

And so grandmamma was left alone and but for the occasional society of
her two brothers, more forsaken and disconsolate than ever. It was when
she was eighteen, as I have said, that a change came into her life also,
with her marriage. But the husband with whom she entered her new home
was no young man, he was the widower of her aunt, and she had been
accustomed to regard him in the light of an uncle,--one of the older
generation, rather to be respected and looked up to than to be treated
as an equal. So that my grandfather need have been at no pains to
inspire her with awe for his person and frighten her into
submissiveness. However, that there might be no mistake at all as to the
position he intended to assume, the wedding-ceremony was no sooner over,
and the newly-married couple alone in their travelling carriage, than he
proceeded to light his pipe, and closing the windows, smoked hard in her
face for a few hours, just to see if she would venture to remonstrate or
complain! Needless to say, she was too well broken in by a long course
of severity, to dare to utter a word of protest, and it seems to me that
had her husband but known how joyless her youth had hitherto been, he
must have tried rather to cheer her and raise her spirits, than to crush
her still more by the assumption of so brutal an attitude. Unfortunately
in Germany the custom still prevails, of trying to keep women in
subjection. A foolish notion survives among us, that women ought to keep
silence, and thus, while our wiser French neighbours demand of their
women-folk to take the lead in all conversation, which they enliven and
stimulate with their wit and brilliancy, the German on the other hand
expects members of the other sex to be content to listen in silent
admiration, needle in hand, while he holds forth ponderously on whatever
subject he pleases. The natural reaction from this absurd tyranny is a
sort of revolt of womankind, attended by exaggeration in the opposite
direction--a tendency that certainly deprives its adherents of much of
their former grace and charm, whilst it is to be questioned whether
there be any compensating gain in strength. In all this we have
undoubtedly fallen behind our ancestors, for in the old Germanic tribes
not only was the entire rule and management of the household given up to
women, but our rude forefathers also reverenced in them their best
friends and counsellors, priestesses of the hearth and altar, superior
beings in fact. It was only when Roman institutions had the supremacy,
that the contrary opinion came into force, and was carried to the utmost
extremes, it being found convenient to ascribe inferior brain-power to
those who were to be reduced to subjection. I wonder if it never struck
any of the wiseacres who propounded this ludicrous theory, that as the
propagation of the human race can only be carried on by the co-operation
of the female portion, it must, if the latter be in reality so wofully
inferior, necessarily in course of time deteriorate altogether! Surely,
if they were not blinded by their own vanity, each one of these superior
beings must be aware that his first youthful health and physical vigour,
together probably with much of the mental and moral force on which he
prides himself, were in the first instance derived from one of the sex
he so looks down upon, and imbibed with his mother’s milk! What is
strangest of all is that women should so long have put up with being
treated in this manner. Was it that they did not think it worth their
while to protest, that for all these centuries they have smilingly seen
through the unwarrantable pretensions of their husbands, brothers and
sons, calm and confident in their own quiet strength, which must, if
they but chose to put it forth, prevail against irrational blustering?
To me, in any case, it would appear rather a confession of weakness on
the part of some of my sisters, when I hear them clamouring for their
so-called rights. Which of the old Roman legislators was it, who in
helping to frame the laws which press so hardly on our sex, gave it as
his reason, that unless women were firmly kept down, they would soon get
the upper-hand altogether, being, as he had the courage and honesty to
confess--“so much stronger and cleverer than men!”

My mother has very often told me of her joy at the arrival of the pretty
new mamma, who looked so sweet, and took her in her arms so kindly, as
if she felt it a real comfort to find this little one prepared to love
her, and to whom she might try to be a real mother. Not quite as she
would have wished though, as she soon found out, for that would not
have fallen in with my grandfather’s views. He wanted his wife for
himself, and expected her to be constantly in her own rooms awaiting his
good will and pleasure, and not that he should perhaps be told if he
went to look for her there, that she had gone upstairs to the schoolroom
or nursery. It was for this reason that my mother in her turn had to
continue leading a lonely life in her childhood, only seeing her parents
at stated hours, and ever in the greatest dread of her father, who, if
he were annoyed at anything, generally, I regret to say, laid about him
with his riding-whip pretty freely. Such energetic modes of enforcing
obedience or expressing disapproval were already somewhat going out of
fashion in my childhood, and I am glad to think how many children there
now are who have never received a blow, and are wholly free from the
terrorising influences under which earlier generations grew up.

My mother’s first impression of her stepmother was, as I have said, one
of pure enthusiasm. She was old enough to feel the charm of a pretty
face, and to observe the pride her father took in his young wife’s
beauty, and the intense satisfaction he felt in witnessing the
admiration she excited. He was rather fond of teasing his little
daughter with the prospect of very soon finding a husband for her, to
which the little girl would reply quite gravely--“No, I do not mean ever
to get married!” And her father would cast an enquiring glance at his
wife, as if wondering whether she had the air of a victim of the
marriage yoke, to be however promptly reassured by her smile of
unaffected amusement at the child’s ingenuousness. Grandmamma’s first
baby did not live, but she had in course of time four other children,
who were to the little elder sister a source of unfailing delight. She
would amuse them for hours, telling them the most wonderful stories,
which she made up herself, and the little ones simply adored her. For
her own elder brothers my mother had, as I shall have occasion to
relate, an almost passionate attachment. I must speak of them in their
own place, but in this sort of family history, the lives are all so
mixed up together, and have so many points of contact, one must from
time to time let a side-light fall on some, whose turn to be treated at
length has not yet come.

The occasional visits which the terrible Prince Paul paid his daughter
were rather like the explosion of a bomb in the household. As an
instance of the alarm which his presence inspired, my mother used to
relate with amusement the story of her step-mother’s consternation at
finding her one day alone with him for a few minutes, imitating the tone
of commiseration with which she said to her:--“What, all alone, poor
child! Go upstairs and rest!” It was the only time that she ever heard
grandmamma say a word that could imply the slightest dislike to her
father. Her manner towards him was always perfect, and she never
criticised his conduct.

My mother was just fourteen, grandmamma therefore only twenty-seven,
when my grandfather suddenly died. Grandmamma was so inconsolable, that
for the first week she shut herself up in her own room, refusing to see
anyone, and shedding floods of tears. And yet her married life cannot
have been a very cheerful one. What dreary evenings those must have
been, on which her husband came home tired from his shooting, and fell
asleep on the sofa directly after dinner, his wife and daughters not
daring to speak a word, for fear of disturbing his slumbers! Nor was it
perhaps much better, to have at other times to stand the whole evening
beside the billiard-table, looking on at the interminable games he
played with his chamberlains. As for the visits from other Courts, these
were mostly terribly stiff and formal affairs, and if, as was sometimes
the case, the Rhine-steamers bringing the expected guests were delayed,
then it meant several hours of tedious waiting. Standing about waiting
was part of the daily business of Court life, and children were not
spared, they had to do just like the rest. As for asking them if they
were tired or bored, that occurred to nobody; it was the proper thing
and had to be done, and that was enough.

It was only much later that I could at all appreciate what infinite tact
must have been requisite on grandmamma’s part, to enable her, the young
widow with her little children, to take up exactly the right position
towards her stepson, now Duke of Nassau, so little younger than herself.
But her innate sense of the fitness of things pointed out to her exactly
the right line of conduct, and it was with the most perfect womanly
dignity and grace that she settled down at once into the part of the
middle-aged, one might say the elderly woman, which she had decided
should henceforth be hers. She had a stately way of receiving visitors,
nearly always standing, and with the doors on all sides thrown wide
open. Even her doctor was accustomed to stand and talk to her, or else
would walk up and down with her, hat in hand, through the rooms with
their big folding-doors opening one into the other. All this perpetual
living on view as it were, this lack of privacy, seemed to us then
perfectly natural--one is always inclined to take the difficulties in
the lives of others as a matter of course, especially if they themselves
accept them unmurmuringly. So that it never even occurred to me how
frightfully dull and monotonous was the life grandmamma led--just the
same little round of duties and occupations day by day, a drive to the
same spot at the same hour, varied only by a little walk while the
carriage waited for her, and just the same set of people received in
audience over and over again. There could of course never be any
pleasure to her in receiving visitors, on account of her deafness, but
she never let this interfere with the enjoyment of others, and nothing
pleased her so much as to sit, smiling and serene, in the midst of a
crowd of gay and laughing young people, whose words she could not hear,
but whose bright laughing faces enabled her to share in their mirth. It
is in looking back on them now, that such details throw fresh light for
me on the inner meaning of that beautiful and serene, yet in reality
solitary existence, and I reflect on the amount of silent endurance, the
long practice in self-restraint and self-sacrifice, all the
disappointments and disenchantments, by which in the end that appearance
of placid content, of sweet and smiling resignation, had been acquired.

My own happiest hours were those spent with grandmamma. Oh! how we loved
everything about her!--her house,--that pretty house, standing on a hill
covered with rose-trees, so that it was a perfect bower of roses during
the summer months, and inside fragrant the whole year round with the
perfume of the flowers that filled it everywhere! She had at first taken
another house in Wiesbaden, for she insisted on moving from Biebrich
directly after her husband’s death, in order to give up the Castle to
his eldest son, who then had this house built on purpose for her, and in
it she lived the whole of her widowed life. It was called after her the
“Paulinenpalais,” and bore that name still for many years after her
death. But now it has been sold, has passed into other hands, and
retains nothing of the charm that belonged to it in grandmamma’s time.
How well I remember every nook and corner of it, each one endeared to me
by some special association, and with grandmamma’s presence pervading it
all,--the drawing-room we thought so lovely, with its oriental
decorations, in imitation of the Alhambra, and her dear little boudoir,
with its soft blue hangings, and the delicately scented note-paper on
her writing-table, of the special pale green tint she always used, for
the sake of her somewhat weak eyes.

And what lovely fine crochet-work was done by those beautiful hands of
hers, gloved or ungloved. One wore gloves much more in those days, it
was considered a duty to take care of one’s hands, and would have been
condemned as a mark of excessive ill-breeding, to hold out a hand that
was not beautifully cared for, for others to kiss. Very rarely though
did one give one’s hand at all. It is very different now-a-days, when
young princes content themselves with a silent shake of the hand, and
young princesses too find nothing to say, and put it on the ground of
their shyness. My mother knew what it meant to suffer from shyness, she
hardly ever entered the drawing-room in her youth without having shed
tears beforehand, so terrible an ordeal was it to her, but she knew what
would have awaited her had she not at once gone round the circle of
guests speaking to each in turn. Nor did grandmamma’s deafness ever
prevent her from entering into conversation with each person presented
to her, finding the right thing to say to each one, whilst only her
heightened colour betrayed to those who knew her well, the torture it
was to her to go on talking thus, without hearing more than a chance
word here and there of the other’s replies. It was in her drawing-room
that I took unconsciously my first lessons in deportment, her way of
holding a reception seeming to me so gracious and so natural, I felt
that no better model could be found. To me she was invariably of the
most exquisite kindness, but I should never have taken it into my head
to be otherwise than extremely respectful towards her. I was never
happier than when sitting at her feet, playing with the tips of her
delicate tapering fingers, which she left in my clasp, whilst she went
on conversing with the others. Sometimes she took me out for a drive,
and I felt very proud at being alone with her in the carriage. “Sit very
upright,” she used to say, “and then people will think you are

But the greatest delight of all was to be allowed to be present at
grandmamma’s toilet, to watch her hair being dressed, and see her
arrange her curls, as she always did herself, with her own hands. Her
hair was coiled round at the back, and a piece of black lace hung over
it, and then in the front the mass of soft little curls shaded her
forehead most becomingly, after the fashion of her youth, to which she
always clung. Nor did she ever change the style of her dress, during all
the years of her widowhood. Her dressing-room seemed to me quite a
little sanctuary, so dainty and sweet, with the delicious smell of the
rose-water she used to bathe her eyes, and all the beautiful
glass-stoppered bottles set out on the toilet-table, and yet there were
no toilet arts or mysteries at all, nothing that need be concealed from
a child’s gaze.

Grandmamma often stayed with us for months together, for my mother and
she were intensely fond of one another, and there was even a great
likeness between them, which was not surprising, as they were first
cousins. She wrote a great deal, had a special facility with her pen,
and many a document for the use of her stepson was drawn up by her.
French she wrote with perhaps even greater ease, always employing that
language for any notes she made for her own reference, for it was of
course the language of her youth, being spoken exclusively at the
German Courts in the old days. My mother also spoke it before she could
speak German, hardly knowing a word of the latter language at the time
of her father’s second marriage.

The year 1848, so full of unrest throughout Europe, did not pass unfelt
in Nassau. My uncle, the Duke, was absent when the revolution broke out,
and an angry mob collected round grandmamma’s palace in Wiesbaden, and
even began piling faggots at every corner, with the evident intention of
setting it on fire. Then when popular excitement was at the highest
pitch, two or three delegates of the revolutionary party came up to
demand of any members of the ducal family the signing of the new
constitution. There was no time for reflection; grandmamma had to sign
the paper herself, and let her son Nicholas, a boy of fourteen, do the
same, and then she took up her stand on the balcony, with what outward
calm she might, but in her heart longing for her stepson to return and
restore order. At last, to her relief, she perceived the plumes of his
helmet on the other side of the square, and soon could recognise him, in
full uniform, making his way quietly on foot through the thickest of the
crowd. He had heard the news of the revolution at Frankfort, and jumping
on the first railway-engine that left, came back with all speed. In her
joy grandmamma waved her handkerchief as a signal, and in a moment, from
all the houses round, whose inmates had been watching the course of
events behind closed windows, countless handkerchiefs were waving also,
notwithstanding the danger of thus attracting to oneself a shot from the
insurgents. There was an anxious pause whilst the Duke came forward to
the edge of the balcony, and leaning over, called down into the crowd
below, in a clear and decided if not very well-pleased tone of
voice,--“The engagement my mother and brother have entered into for me,
I will fulfil!” The last syllable echoing across the square with cutting
emphasis, as I have often been told by those who were present at the

Nassau was a gem among the states of Germany. There was an alliterative
saying about the sources of the country’s wealth: from _water_, in the
first place, for besides the Rhine flowing through it, there were all
the magnificent mineral and medicinal springs; then its _wine_, the very
best in Germany, and in the whole world! Next, the _woods_, of such
splendid and luxuriant growth, and the home of innumerable _wild_
creatures,--feathered and four-footed game of all sorts! As for _wheat_,
there were corn-fields in abundance, enclosed by fruit trees, whose
branches were drooping with their load; and last, though not least, the
_ways_, those roads for which the land was famous,--the so-called
vicinal ways,--were as good as the finest highways elsewhere. With all
this, rates and taxes were things unknown, in that fortunate country, in
those halcyon days. The state was prosperous, the reigning family
wealthy, and any deficit in the revenue was supplied by the
gaming-tables at Wiesbaden. As these were only open to foreigners,
neither the townspeople nor the innocent countryfolk around were ever
exposed to the temptations and dangers so eloquently set forth in
certain pamphlets. There, the misery of the peasantry is depicted in
moving terms,--honest families reduced to the direst poverty after
losing their little all in the gambling-saloons! But it so happened that
no peasant was ever admitted inside the doors, or had he succeeded in
gaining entrance, he would very speedily have been turned out, before he
had time even to watch the play, much less stake his own money! An
officer in the army seen there would have been immediately cashiered,
nor was access to the tables granted to any magistrate or functionary,
or to anyone belonging to the territory. It is not that I wish to
undertake the defence of gambling, but, apart from the question of its
intrinsic immorality, so much that is erroneous has been written on the
subject and has come to my own notice, that I cannot refrain from
stating here the facts of the case, as they are known to me. For Nassau
it may emphatically be said, that the institution only benefited the
country, very materially adding to its prosperity, without doing it any
harm at all.

On rainy days, our favourite walk was under the arcades, where we
wandered up and down, looking in at the shop windows, that seemed to me
an Eldorado, with all the treasures they displayed. And never shall I
forget my sensations, the day that for the first time I possessed a
whole thaler of my own, to spend as I liked! I drove with grandmamma to
the Arcade, and we got out there, that I might make my purchase. Now I
had long since set my heart on the loveliest little basket, lined with
pink silk, which I had often gazed at with longing eyes, thinking it
quite an unattainable object. “That costs a gulden,” said the
shopkeeper, in answer to my somewhat embarrassed question, for it seemed
to me rather an indelicate thing to ask the price of anything, a feeling
I have not altogether got over to this day. A gulden! my spirits sank.
“Ah! I have only a thaler!” “But that is a great deal too much,” replied
the friendly shopman, with whom I was delighted, as in addition to my
purchase, he handed me back numberless little coins, with which I at
once bought several other charming knicknacks. For I could not tolerate
the idea of taking a single pfennig home with me. To have money in one’s
pocket seemed to me already then a real misfortune, and I have never
changed in that respect. How should one change? Does one not remain the
same from the cradle to the grave? And what a number of pretty little
things I had for my money! Some of them I have to this day, for I could
not bear to part with them, and brought them with me to Roumania.

The year 1856 saw us for the last time all assembled round grandmamma,
in the month of February, to celebrate her forty-fifth birthday. I was
just twelve years old, but already so familiar with the outward signs of
ill-health and sickness, that the change in her appearance at once
astonished and even disquieted me. It was the strange bright patch of
red on each cheek that struck me especially. Her complexion had always
remained brilliant, and her cheeks rosy, but now they were much redder,
and seemed to be encircled by a hard line that made the skin around look
whiter than ever. I think she had also a little dry hacking cough. It
soon became evident that her lungs were attacked, her fits of coughing
were accompanied by hemorrhage, and the doctors pronounced her to be in
a decline. We saw but little of my mother that spring and summer, as she
was constantly in Wiesbaden, the invalid always asking for her, and
liking no other nursing so well as hers. Already early in July it was
announced that there was no longer any hope, and my mother, whose
perpetual dread it was that my naturally impulsive nature should gain
more and more the upper hand, counting on the solemn impressions of such
a scene to sober me for life, resolved to take me with her to the

Such an experience was indeed well calculated to damp a child’s high
spirits, and it remains with me as the most vivid recollection of my
youth. For accustomed as I was to sickness and suffering, death I was
yet unacquainted with. And now, all at once, I was to see someone die!
But what a radiant, blissful death that was! The evening before she
passed away, grandmamma seemed positively transfigured. A rapturous
expression was on her face, as she lay there stretching out her arms
towards something that was seen by her alone, and repeating with marked
emphasis the words “at four o’clock!” For many hours we all sat or knelt
round her bed, until at last my mother sent me away to get a little
sleep, promising to have me awakened when the end approached. I stopped
to press my lips once more to the dear wasted hand, and at that
grandmamma opened her eyes, looked at me and smiled, and her lips shaped
themselves as if to give me a kiss. My eyes were running over with
tears, as I stooped over her for that last kiss. Even then, almost in
her death-agony, her natural sweetness and affability never deserted her
for a moment, and as with her failing eyes she caught sight of a doctor
who had been summoned in haste, with one of her own peculiarly graceful
gestures she pointed to a chair by her bedside, begging him to be

Meanwhile, in the next room, still, in my little dressing-gown I had
thrown myself on a camp-bedstead that had been placed there for anyone
able to snatch a few minutes’ rest, and had fallen into an uneasy sleep,
until a little before four o’clock my mother woke me, everyone thinking
that the end must come then.

In these few hours I found that a great change had taken place,--still
the same hot flush on the cheeks, but the eyes sunken, and without the
slightest look of consciousness, and her breath coming in short quick
gasps. I trembled all over. Through the door open into the boudoir
beyond, I could see the old clergyman, Pastor Dilthey, who had
officiated both at my mother’s confirmation and at her marriage, sitting
there in his full canonicals, grave and imposing, waiting to perform the
last solemn rites. The room was left in darkness, only the first rays of
morning stealing in through the closed shutters flickered strangely here
and there, and fell over the old pastor’s silvery hair, making his pale
serious face look still more grave and pale. I watched him from the
doorway, but felt in too great awe to go up and speak to him, so I stole
up quietly to grandmamma’s writing-table, and looked once more at all
the little articles standing on it, with which I had sometimes been
allowed to play and all of which had the scent of the filagree
vinaigrettes she kept among them. The hands of the little clock there
already pointed to four,--when she suddenly began to breathe a little
more freely, and the danger seemed no longer so imminent. We knelt round
her bed, without a sound, except when one or other of her daughters,
unable to control her sobs, was immediately called to order by my mother
lest the calm of the death-bed should be disturbed.

And so the hours passed. I grew more and more tired. Then, between one
and two o’clock that afternoon, a terrific storm broke out. The open
windows banged to and fro, the rain splashed and dashed against the
window-panes, the thunder rolled, and grandmamma’s breath came in fitful
gasps. She could no longer swallow even the few drops of water that were
held to her lips. So the storm raged on, and her breathing grew more
painful and irregular, and I knelt on like the rest at her bedside, when
suddenly I knew no more, all grew dark before my eyes, and I had fallen
forward, my dark curls streaming across my mother’s feet, fast asleep.
Or was it perhaps in reality faintness that had overcome me, and that
then passed into the sound sleep of childhood, worn out as I was with
the unwonted hours of watching and fasting I had gone through? It is
very possible, for I had eaten nothing for the last four-and-twenty
hours, and was exhausted with kneeling and with all the tears I had
shed. When I came to myself again, the storm had spent its fury, the
flashes of lightning were less frequent, the thunder only went on
rumbling in the distance, the rain had stopped, and a ray of sunshine
streamed into the room and right across the face of the dying woman,
whose breathing was still slower and feebler. At last, as the big belfry
clocks in the town began to strike the hour, one after the other, there
were still longer pauses between the gasps for breath. I saw then for
the first time what it means to smile from sheer despair. Good old Dr.
Fritze, who had attended grandmamma all her life, and who literally
idolised her, had seated himself on the bed and lifted her in his arms,
to try to ease her breathing a little. When the clocks began striking,
he smiled, and said aloud,--“one more breath!” and then,--“one more!”
And again:--“and just one more!” And after that there was a deathly
silence, whilst the old Black Forest clock above her head struck four.
Her daughters hid their faces in the pillows to stifle their sobs, and
the deep rich voice of the old pastor rang out in words of solemn
prayer. Then the head of the family, the Duke of Nassau, rose to his
feet, and stretching out his hand across the sleeping form, called on
his brother and sisters to unite with him in the vow, that her dear
memory should hold them together in all things henceforth, just as if
she were still living in their midst. Their tears fell fast over the
still white face, so unmoved in death, as they joined hands with him in
answer to his appeal. The one daughter, the Princess of Waldeck, was so
beside herself with grief, that it took all my mother’s firmness to
enable her to regain her composure, the latter being indeed a tower of
strength to them all in that sad hour.

After a little while we were all sent away, in order that the laying out
of the corpse might be attended to, before too great rigidity should
have set in, and once more I became sadly conscious of the shortcomings
of human nature, at least in my own person, as the pangs of hunger began
to assert themselves, after this prolonged fast. It was perhaps not very
astonishing, considering my youth, that I should have been able to enjoy
even at such a moment the repast which was now provided for me, but I
felt terribly ashamed of myself, above all that the servants waiting on
me should see me eating with such hearty appetite, and I wondered if
everyone thought me very hard-hearted! Had I not fallen asleep just at
the wrong moment too? I felt thoroughly small, and there was no one to
comfort me with the assurance that it was not my heart that was in
fault, but only my poor little body demanding its rights!

In the one drawing-room, that which was known as the “sisters’-room,” as
it had specially belonged to my aunts, three beds were put up, and here
my mother and I were to sleep together with her youngest sister, for the
house was so overfull that proper accommodation was wanting, the
dining-room, the largest room of all, being converted into a _chapelle
ardente_. Of this last detail I knew nothing. I had been so simply
brought up, the ways of a Court were unfamiliar and even quite
distasteful to me. Next morning I was up betimes, and without disturbing
anyone I crept out into the garden, taking with me the first tablecloth
that came to hand, and this I filled with all the roses I could gather,
fresh fragrant roses, still wet with dew, to take to grandmamma. Without
a word to anyone, I made my way upstairs very softly to her room, and
began placing my roses in a big garland round her. I did not feel at all
afraid at first, but in course of time the intense stillness began to
affect me, so that I was quite glad when Fräulein von Preen,
grandmamma’s lady-in-waiting, came into the room with one or two of the
maids and helped me to arrange my flowers. The day passed slowly,
chiefly taken up with giving orders for mourning, bonnets of the correct
shape, with the point coming very low down on the forehead, and long
crape veils, falling right over the heavy folds of the black woollen
dresses with their long trains. I too was to have a little black woollen
dress, and that made me sadder than ever, it seemed to me such a
melancholy garb. The following morning I again got up as early as
possible, feeling rather impatient to see my aunt go on sleeping so
soundly, for she was never an early riser, and had not yet made up for
the rest she had lost. But I hardly knew what to do with myself, having
been told that I could not go to see grandmamma to-day, and I turned and
twisted about restlessly in the room. All at once I caught sight of a
sheet of grandmamma’s own special pale green note-paper, with something
written on it in her hand-writing, lying on a table. Young as I was, I
quite understood that one must not read every paper one sees lying
about, my mother never even opened a letter addressed to me, so as to
set me the example of the respect due to private correspondence. But
this paper lay spread wide open for every one to see, and was evidently
not a letter at all, that much was clear to me, notwithstanding my
short-sight. It was certainly allowable, I told myself, to look at dear
grandmamma’s hand-writing once more. It turned out to be a translation
of some English verses,--a poem of Longfellow’s, which is known to
everybody, but with which I first made acquaintance then, through the
medium of grandmamma’s German version. The first verse of the original

    The day is cold, and dark, and dreary,
    It rains, and the rain is never weary;
    The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
    And at every gust the dead leaves fall,
        And the day is dark and dreary.

Quick as thought I had made a copy of the verses, and leaving the paper
where I found it, I was reading my treasure through once more when my
aunt awoke and called her sister, and it was only then that I noticed
that my mother must have been up and dressed before me, as she had
already left the room. Thrusting my beloved verses back in my pocket, I
softly approached my aunt’s bedside, wishing her good morning.--“Good
morning!” she replied, continuing with a sigh:--“to-day is my
birthday!”--“Oh!” I said, and could find no more to say. I felt
perfectly well how unkind and unfeeling I must appear, I quite
understood how tragic it was for her, to celebrate her eighteenth
birthday beside her mother’s open coffin, I was simply choking with
affection and sympathy--but I could not get out a single word to express
what I felt. And what indeed could a small child say to help and
console! Myself I had just found great comfort in those beautiful
verses, and I longed to show her these, but was not quite sure whether I
had done right in copying them, and so my poor aunt and I just went on
looking at one another in silence, when fortunately my mother came in,
breaking the ice with the warmth of her presence, and, finding exactly
the right thing to say, in the fewest words possible, as she folded her
sister in her arms. I withdrew, very quietly, leaving them together, and
that was perhaps the only sensible thing that I did, or could have done,
under the circumstances.

The next few days were the most gloomy and depressing of all, with the
lying in state in the _chapelle ardente_, in which grandmamma seemed to
have become something so distant and removed from me, all shrouded in
lace, and with tapers burning round her, high up and scarcely to be seen
from the steps of the catafalque on which we could only kneel and
pray--no longer my own dear grandmamma round whom I might strew roses,
but something cold and strange, and far-off, at which crowds came to
stare--a mere show! I wanted to think of her still as I had seen her
the evening before her death, glorified, as it were, and already
belonging to that other and better world, on the threshold of which she
stood; it was on this picture my thoughts loved to dwell, and on the
memory of her last kiss, and of the magnificent storm which raged while
she was drawing her last breath. Everything that had come afterwards was
dull and commonplace in comparison--a pageant, out of which the
loftiness and sanctification had departed! Out of this chilling
atmosphere I withdrew then more and more into myself, cherishing these
sacred recollections, and above all musing over my priceless treasure,
the poem I had discovered, and which seemed to me like a message from
grandmamma herself; so much must the words have meant to her, I fancied
I could hear her voice speaking through them; and so little heed did I
in consequence pay to what was going on around me, that of the actual
funeral ceremonies, at some portion of which in any case I must have
been present, I have no remembrance at all. I must have passed through
it all as if in a dream, and there is altogether a blank in my mind
concerning it.

Aunt Sophie, the youngest sister of my mother, returned with us to
Monrepos, and took up her abode with us for a time. She became
betrothed, still in her deep mourning, to the Prince of Sweden, who
suddenly made his appearance in our midst, I could not at all make out
why. And I was just as much puzzled to know why, one evening when my
aunt and Fräulein von Bunsen were playing Haydn’s “Seven Words from the
Cross,” as arranged by Neukomm for piano and organ, the prince should
so persistently have kept his eyes fixed on my aunt, who was only
playing the piano, whilst as everyone knows, the organ, which Fräulein
von Bunsen was playing, is the far more important part! He, however,
never took his gaze off my aunt, who certainly looked very interesting
with her well cut profile thrown up by the long black veil. Later on I
understood a little better what it meant, after I had heard him sing
“Adelaïde” to my aunt’s accompaniment, with all the power of his fine
tenor voice, and with a fervour of expression which I have never heard

Life seemed to go on again then just as before, only dear grandmamma’s
place was empty. I remember too, being present when the question of her
tombstone was being discussed. It had been her especial desire, not to
be put inside a vault, but to be buried under the open sky, and it
seemed to me that it was a very poor way of carrying out her wish, if
after all a great heavy stone monument were to be raised above her, on
which no flowers could ever grow, nor the sunshine and the rains of
heaven penetrate it. Only of course my opinion was not asked, and I kept
it to myself, not at all convinced by the explanation given, that the
grave, if left open to the sky, and not covered by any sort of
tombstone, would in course of time look very neglected and uncared for.
What a much better plan it were, to keep the houses, or at any rate the
rooms, which people have lived in, sacred to their memory, by leaving
them just as they were when they inhabited them, filled with the spirit
of the past! That would be a true and living monument, and would speak
with far greater eloquence than all the epitaphs and inscriptions, so
soon effaced and forgotten.

With regard to myself, my mother had certainly accomplished the purpose
she had in view, perhaps even more fully than she had intended, my
natural tendency to melancholy, which seldom showed itself on the
surface, being fostered and encouraged by events of such gravity. The
poetic impulse grew stronger, but was kept just as secret as all the
rest of my inner life. I was always writing verses, trying my hand even
at a novel, and now to all the old ideals stirring confusedly within me,
new visions from without came flashing across my brain, suggested by the
scenes of death and mourning I had just passed through. I saw again the
dimly lighted chamber, the first rays of dawn stealing through upon the
silvery hair and motionless form of the old pastor, and playing over all
the inanimate objects, that seemed to take no part in what was going on.
And yet--had not her own little clock stood still at the hour of four?
_That_ then had known and understood! But I told no one my impressions
and sensations, my deepest and strongest feelings I had ever been
accustomed to keep to myself, it being impossible to me to overcome the
reserve that, unfortunately for me, accompanied so highly-strung and
impulsive a temperament. The effort to unlock my soul would have cost me
too much, and I felt instinctively that to impart its tumult, even had I
been able to do so, would have been by no means a welcome proceeding to
those around me. It was all too strong, too wild, too violent. So I
shut myself up as before, and went on living in a world of my own, very
much more true and real, it seemed to me, than the outer world, in which
most of my fellow-creatures were content to live.

Before the year was over, my father’s mother was also dead. But I had
never known her,--her mind had been affected for many years, and none of
us ever saw her. So that I could not mourn for her, as for the
grandmamma I had known and loved, and it was to the latter my thoughts
flew back once more, as I knelt beside the coffin of her who had once
ruled, as wife and mother, in the home to which she now only returned
for her last long slumber. It was for her I wept again, rather than for
this unknown grandmother, sorrow for whom was also somewhat crushed by
the funeral pomp and ceremony. It left me merely a little sadder and
more thoughtful than before, as having had yet another lesson in the
vanity of all earthly things.



A more fiery soul than that of Ernst Moritz Arndt can surely never have
lived upon this earth. He must have been fully eighty years old at the
time when I knew him, but age seemed to count for nothing with him. His
eye was as bright, his voice as clear and ringing, his gait as quick and
elastic as had he still been in the prime of life, and the most
impassioned speech from youthful lips would have seemed tame and cold
beside the lava-flood of eloquence that poured forth inexhaustibly from
his kindly and expressive, although perfectly toothless mouth. The loss
of his teeth was indeed the only real sign of age Arndt bore on his
person, and it was apparently a matter of so little moment to him, that
I have often wondered since, whether our modern practice of repairing by
artificial means the ravages of time, be after all so unquestionable an
advantage as some would pretend. The mouth which nature alone has
moulded year by year seems to me to retain in any case much more
character and expression than that which has been fitted out and shaped
anew by the dentist’s skill. However that may be, it is certain that
Arndt at all events felt not in the least inconvenienced by the loss,
nor did it detract from our pleasure in listening to him.

It was during our stay in Bonn, whither we had migrated in order to be
near a celebrated doctor, that we saw the venerable poet so constantly.
Two years of my childhood were spent in the charming little University
town, in the hope that my younger brother, an invalid from his birth,
and my mother, whose health then gave much cause for anxiety, might both
of them derive great and lasting benefit from the treatment of the great
specialist. And if these hopes were doomed to disappointment,--and it
seemed indeed, as an old friend of our family afterwards remarked, as if
the very best efforts of medical skill must here for ever prove
unavailing,--there were on the other hand certain compensations
attendant on our stay, in the shape of the opportunities for intercourse
it afforded with so many highly interesting people. And first and
foremost among these Arndt must be reckoned, as the most constant and
ever welcome guest. His visits were indeed of quite unconventional
length, for he would often stay for hours at a time, now reading aloud
to my mother one of her favourite Swedish books, now relating to us
children some thrilling episode of the War of Liberation, in which he
had played so conspicuous a part.

He was of such exuberant vivacity, that he talked till he literally
foamed at the mouth, and gesticulated wildly, sometimes enforcing what
he said by a little friendly tap on my mother’s shoulder, that made her
shrink,--for in her weak condition, the merest touch sufficed to bring
on one of her nervous attacks,--sometimes contenting himself with
pressing a heavy finger on my forehead, as I sat on his knee, and gazed
up in his face. I was all eyes and ears, drinking in his words with
that undivided attention that only children can give, and myself all on
fire with excitement. For he talked and talked, working himself up into
as burning a fever as if the French had still been in the land, and
Germany smarting under a foreign yoke, and poor Queen Louisa still
fretting her heart out for her country’s misfortunes! It was all so
real, so present for him! He lived back in those days once more, and
fought the old campaigns over again, and was for ever contriving some
new plan for his country’s salvation and welfare,--now inventing some
marvellous new weapon that should rid her of all her foes,--now devising
some infallible means of making her strong and united! For the dream of
German Unity never abandoned him, and there was nothing made him so wild
with indignation as for anyone to dare to assert that Germany was a mere
geographical expression.

Small wonder that we children listened with beating hearts and cheeks
aflame to the story of the stirring times, still so near to the elder
generation, members of our family too being yet alive, great-aunts and
great-uncles among us to that day, who had also lived through them, and
the very walls of our castle at Neuwied still bearing the marks of the
bullets, fired against it by the soldiers of General Hoche. But better
still, Arndt would often recite to us some of his own poems, both from
the earlier ones, written during the war, and from those of more recent
date, all of them glowing with the same patriotic fervour, and kindling
a like enthusiasm in the minds of his youthful hearers.

There were, however, fortunately other influences at work, to combat
what might have been a somewhat one-sided teaching, and prevent us from
believing that our old friend possessed a monopoly of patriotism. In the
first place, there was Monsieur Monnard, the very interesting French
professor at the university, whose refinement of speech and quiet manner
were in their way quite as effective and convincing as Arndt’s stormy
vehemence, and lent a peculiar charm to his conversation. To his
daughter too, a most charming creature, I owed a debt of gratitude for
one of the chief joys of my childhood, that delightful book “Augustin,”
in which she had told the story, as I afterwards heard, of her own child
whom she had lost. When I made her acquaintance, I had read her book a
hundred times, and almost knew it by heart! And besides these two, whose
love of their country was none the less intense, I felt, for being very
calmly expressed, there was another frequent guest in whom that
sentiment was evidently the ruling passion and guiding principle in
life. The last-mentioned, Demetrius Stourdza, was a slight, spare, very
dark young man, who had come from a far-off, and to me then quite
unknown country, to pursue his studies at the university, whilst his two
younger brothers followed the classes at the gymnasium or public school.
When he spoke of his home on the distant Moldau, of his oppressed,
unhappy country, it was in terms of the same ardent affection, the same
irrepressible emotion, as were Arndt’s in telling the story of Germany’s
wrongs; only the ills of which the young student had to tell dated much
further back and were so deeply rooted as to appear well nigh incurable.
Not only had his country groaned for centuries under foreign tyranny,
but she was also torn by internal feuds, split into two provinces,
Moldavia and Wallachia, constantly warring one with the other, so that
there seemed little prospect of national independence being attained. He
spoke with great enthusiasm of his mother-tongue, the beautiful
Roumanian language, common heritage of the two provinces, and I remember
how, at my mother’s request, he one day spoke a few words of Roumanian,
to let us hear the soft melodious sounds. Years after, on my first
arrival in Roumania, when the train drew up in the station at Bucarest,
the first person to step forward from the crowd waiting on the platform
to greet me, was Demetrius Stourdza, my old acquaintance in his student
days at Bonn, afterwards to be more than once Prime Minister. I
certainly, at the time I am speaking of, little foresaw this second
meeting, but what did strike me then was the strength and depth of this
stranger’s attachment to his country, perhaps all the stronger and
deeper for being coupled with such hopelessness. All these things made a
profound impression on my childish mind, and gave me much to reflect
upon. For even then I was already dreaming,--wild heedless creature as I
was generally supposed to be, and as I had come to consider myself. So
strong a hold had this belief taken of me, that nothing could well equal
my surprise, when some forty years later, meeting one of the companions
of these early days, and asking


Photo by Photochrome Co.]

her to tell me how I had appeared to her then, she replied without
hesitation,--“Most terribly serious!” For the moment I was perfectly
amazed; but, looking back once more on the past, and taking into account
the lively recollection I have retained, not merely of scenes and
events, but also of persons whom I met, and above all of the
conversations that went on around me from my eighth to my tenth year,
the conviction is forced upon me, that I must have brought to bear on
them very close attention, and an amount of discernment hardly
compatible with the character of careless high spirits with which I was
usually credited.

To return to Arndt: it was only natural that, whatever might arrest our
attention elsewhere, his personality remained the dominating one and was
invested for us with a sort of halo. Had he not himself taken part in
the deeds he told us of, and known and immortalised the heroes by whom
the best of these were accomplished,--in songs we knew by heart and sang
almost before we could speak plainly? At that time, I had never heard of
the tragedy which darkened his domestic life,--that he had known little
happiness in his own family, and had on one occasion treated one of his
sons with such harshness, that the young man went out and threw himself
into the Rhine, his body being afterwards sought for in vain for three
days and nights by the distracted parents. Of all this I knew nothing
then,--I saw in him only the patriot, the poet, the magician who could
work such marvels with words. It was a revelation to me, this of the
wondrous power of language, and of all the lessons I unconsciously
learned at that early age it was perhaps the one that I most readily and
thoroughly assimilated, being the most congenial to my own nature, and
corresponding to its potential needs. It is a pity that children are
generally so reserved and reticent, for a child of enquiring mind would
learn much more, could it but impart its own thoughts and enquire about
the things that puzzle it. But a sensitive child broods in silence over
its own imaginings, very often perplexed by some very simple matter
which a word might explain. And who indeed could have guessed that these
were the first stirrings of the poetic temperament within me, called
into life by the personality of the aged poet, towards whom I felt
myself irresistibly drawn? Poetry was certainly my native element. I
could already recite Schiller’s _Diver_ and the _Fight with the Dragon_,
and the other principal ballads; I learnt by heart with the greatest
facility, and to hear a short poem read over once was enough, I could
repeat it without a mistake. It was so much inflammable material, one
might say, collected within my brain, and awaiting but the approach of
the lighted match to ignite, and kindle to a blaze.

I wish I could remember some of Arndt’s own words to quote here. But of
that verbal brilliancy, that inexhaustible flow of speech, it is
necessarily the general impression that remains, rather than the exact
form in which it was cast, and I would not dare attempt to render this.
Some of his more humorous sayings, however, I have preserved textually,
and need therefore not hesitate to give the following specimen:--“When
I write to the King,” he one day explained,--“I do not trouble my head
with all that rubbish of humbly and dutifully, and most gracious this
and most gracious that, but simply say Your Majesty, and then plain you
and your, and afterwards perhaps just one more Majesty to wind up
with--for all the absurd rigmarole of Court lingo is more than I can

To the very last Arndt was busy and eager, as I have said, for the cause
of German Unity, and we were all heart and soul with him in wishing well
to that cause. The year 1848 had not long gone past, with all its
unrest, and with the high hopes and dazzling day dreams it had brought,
and from one of those dreams we had hardly awakened yet,--that which we
dreamt as we saw folk going about wearing their black, red and yellow
cockades, as if by so doing they could bring all Germany under one flag
and place the Imperial crown on the head of the Prussian king. From the
balcony at Heidelberg my little four-year-old brother had helped to give
the word of command to the volunteers mustered in the square below, but
all that excitement had died out again, and things had drifted back into
the old well-worn grooves. The times were not yet ripe, and much water
would have to flow down the Rhine to the sea, ere that fair dream should
become reality. Clever and interesting as the Prussian king undoubtedly
was, it was not in his person that the traditions of the German Empire
were to be revived; that was to be the work of another, of whom at that
period no one thought,--the exile who was then looking down sadly and
wearily from his window upon a London street.

To conclude this brief sketch of Arndt, I can hardly do better than
transcribe the verses which about this time he wrote in my mother’s

    In God’s own image thou wast made;
    Of Heaven’s pure light an emanation,
    That down to this dark world has strayed.
    ’Tis this Heaven’s truest revelation.

    Nor for thyself alone was lent
    Yon ray that lights thy path thus kindly;
    Each as the other’s guide was meant,
    Here where all grope and struggle blindly.

    Still to thy dream of Heaven hold fast!
    For then, whatever ills assail thee,
    Though every earthly joy fly past,
    This one sure hope shall never fail thee!
           _Bonn, 23. of the May-month, 1853._



Another much valued friend of ours was the great scholar Bernays. He
also was a constant visitor whilst we were living in Bonn, often sitting
for hours beside my mother’s invalid couch, talking to her. But he never
partook of a meal in our house, and my childish mind was much troubled
at this. His explanation was, that being a Jew, he must avoid being
drawn into anything contrary to the customs and observances of his race.
For his conscientious scruples, no less than for his profound learning
and the breadth and liberality of his views, my parents entertained the
very highest respect and admiration, my mother in particular never
wearying of hearing him discourse on one or other of those deeper
problems that will forever occupy men’s minds, rejoicing meanwhile to
feel her own store of knowledge increase and her intelligence expand in
this congenial atmosphere.

Bernays was not merely well-read in the Jewish Scriptures, but seemed to
know the New Testament also better than we did ourselves, and his ideas
on religious topics were always striking and impressive. I did not then
know of his intimate friendship with Ernest Renan, and of the
correspondence they kept up. I was indeed at this time considered much
too young to be admitted even as a listener to the long and serious
conversations--of such absorbing interest to both my parents--that took
place between them and Bernays. The latter, I have since heard, felt it
a great hardship that he should be excluded, on account of his
nationality, from holding a professorship at the University, and this in
spite of his being in his own line probably the finest scholar Bonn has
ever produced. As for my own childish impression, I confess that it was
chiefly one of awe at the solemn, rather severe-looking personage, whose
eyes seemed to wear an expression of such unchanging gravity behind
their dark spectacles. He was in point of fact much too short-sighted to
see other faces clearly, and thus no ray of recognition ever lit up his

It was on account of his short-sightedness, and the nervousness that
arose from it, that my mother always insisted on sending a manservant,
carrying a lantern, to accompany Bernays home, whenever he had spent the
evening with us. For the streets of Bonn were by no means brilliantly
illuminated in those days. Whenever full moon was down in the almanack,
then very few street lamps were lit. But certainly the moonlit nights
were of exceptional loveliness. Our villa, which was called the Vinea
Domini, had a beautiful big garden, sloping right down to the banks of
the Rhine. Many and many an evening was spent on the terrace in the
moonshine, watching the boats glide past, and it was hardly ever before
the last steamer came puffing along, that the party broke up. “Here
comes the late boat!” was a sort of standing joke, used as a signal for
departure by more intimate friends, towards guests inclined to tarry
perhaps all too long. On such occasions, when the conversation
threatened to spin itself out into the small hours of the night, and my
mother began to look tired out, someone--and more often than not it was
Prince Reuss, the future ambassador, then young and full of high
spirits--would call out: “Here is the evening boat,” and the assembly
would at last disperse. To the minds of all who took part in those
pleasant gatherings, the remembrance of the pretty house, with its sweet
garden, must have been endeared. But they, alas, no longer exist; have
long since disappeared, and the ground has been cut up and built over.

I was too young at that time, as I have said, to be allowed to hear much
of the discussions that went on, and I have often thought since that it
was a pity that I should have missed the chance of profiting by them.
For, child as I was, I was studious and thoughtful beyond my years, and
being of a naturally devout temperament, which was fostered by our pious
training, I would have given much to hear my parents’ learned friend,
whom they held in such unbounded veneration, expound his views on
religion. It would have been worth still more, I have often said to
myself since, to hear one so remarkable discourse, could they but have
been brought together, with those kindred spirits, Renan and Tolstoi! As
it was, of the rich spiritual feast set forth in such profusion, it was
but a few crumbs that fell to my share. I cannot therefore profess to
quote from memory Bernays’s precise words on any occasion, and should
be the more diffident of the attempt, since he is no longer in this
world, to correct any mistake I might inadvertently make. But very many
of his arguments and inferences remained with me, together with a very
clear apprehension of their general scope and tendency. Of the dogmatic
value attaching to these, it is not for me to decide; but it would have
been impossible for me, in chronicling these memories of my childhood,
not to give full prominence to the striking personality whose teaching
exercised so unbounded an influence over the minds of my parents, whilst
in my own its mere echoes may possibly have aroused the first interest
in the philosophy of religion, which I have retained throughout my life.
For long years his opinion was constantly cited in our family
circle;--“Bernays said this,” or, “Bernays would have thought so and
so,” were phrases of daily recurrence, and carried with them the
authority of an oracle.

It was a favourite assertion of Bernays, that the Jewish is the only
religion which has kept itself free from any taint of fetichism;
Christianity, like every other religion which is bent on proselytising,
having been powerless to avoid contamination from the beliefs and
practices of heathen nations, among whom its first converts were made.
Is there not perhaps some truth in this contention? Is it not the weak
point in the armour of every Faith that lays itself out for propaganda,
that it is insensibly betrayed into making concessions, and thereby
inevitably in the long run falls away from its lofty ideals!
Christianity, we must own with shame, has lowered its standard since
the days when its first teachings flowed, pure and untarnished, from the
lips of its Divine Founder. And were we, who call ourselves Christians,
to measure our thoughts and actions by the pattern set before us in the
Sermon on the Mount, must we not blush at our own short-comings?

It was certainly by no means incomprehensible to me, that our friend
should have taken it so ill, when his own brother became a Christian. On
that point I have always had, I own, very much the feeling of the
Roumanians, whose dislike to any change of religion is so thorough and
intense, that they use the same expression--“s a’ turcit,”--_i.e._, “he
has become a Turk, a Mahomedan,” indiscriminately to denote any change
of faith, whether on the part of one becoming a Christian or a
Mussulman. Quite different in this from their Russian brethren of the
Orthodox Church, the Roumanians view with absolute disfavour the action
of those who join their communion. To them such an act is always simply
apostasy, and their language possesses no other term by which to
designate it. In this, as I was saying, I am much in sympathy with them.
Is it not an admission of weakness, to say the least, deliberately to
abandon the Faith of our Fathers and enter another fold? Since all
Churches are in a sense human institutions, what advantage have we in
leaving the one in which we were born and brought up, only to find that
of our choice equally fallible and imperfect! Should we not content
ourselves with doing our very best, in all honesty and sincerity of
purpose, within the community in which our lot is cast, striving to
raise its aims and purify its ordinances, rather than impatiently to
fling aside fetters that have perhaps become irksome, only by so doing
to burden ourselves with other and perchance heavier chains, and from
which we must no longer seek to free ourselves, seeing that they are of
our own choosing? Is then the outward form under which we worship God,
of so much importance after all? Some form undoubtedly there must be, as
long as human beings meet together for prayer and praise, feeling
themselves thereby more fitly disposed for their orisons and
thanksgiving; but let us not forget that the essence of all service
consists in its being performed “in spirit and in truth!” The rest
matters little.

In the home that is now mine, Nathan the Wise might be welcomed daily,
he would find here members of widely differing confessions dwelling
together in harmony in one family. Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox,
each respects the other’s faith, and never has the slightest discord
arisen. As for the children, they have certainly never had occasion to
feel, that the creed in which they are being brought up in any way
differs from that of their elders. And in our household there is an
Israelite to be reckoned among our secretaries, and he it is who is my
most faithful auxiliary in all charitable work. So that of religious
intolerance or narrow-mindedness it can surely never be question among
us, and I have been able to live on here true to the lessons and
traditions of my youth. Nor can any accusation of having recently
either sanctioned or connived at the so-called persecution of the Jews,
be equitably brought against the Roumanian government. What really took
place was this. In this sparely populated country, in which all
industries and manufactures are in the hands of foreigners,--notably of
the Jews,--a succession of bad harvests, after causing indescribable
suffering in agricultural districts, at length made itself felt in the
commercial centres also. There had been no crops, and consequently no
food for man or beast, no work done on the land for years, and there was
no money forthcoming; as a result trade naturally suffered, and to such
an extent that numbers of the traders--not merely Jews, but Catholics
and Protestants also--left the land. They were not driven away, except
by the same untoward circumstances that pressed so heavily on the whole
nation; they emigrated voluntarily from a land which could no longer
afford them the means of subsistence. As long as it was merely the
peasantry who were starving, all Europe looked on with the greatest
indifference, perhaps even in ignorance of what was going on; but
directly the consequences of those years of famine began to affect the
commercial and industrial classes, then all Europe was in an uproar.

If, however, to this last story of persecution an emphatic denial may be
given, it by no means follows that I would condone the cruel treatment
to which in bygone centuries Jews have constantly been subjected, at the
hands of their Christian brethren. Perhaps those very persecutions have
served a little to make them what they are,--so strong, so united, so
self-reliant. Another source of strength has lain in the absence of all
missionary zeal that characterises Judaism. Never have its followers
either desired or sought to induce other nations to espouse their
belief. The hatred therefore with which they often inspire these others
has less its origin in religious fanaticism than in instinctive
antagonism of race. Religious wars have often been but a name and a
pretext under which the stronger, fundamental, racial antagonism has
asserted itself, and in this case their bitterness has been intensified
by the quiet tenacity, the unfailing resource, the indomitable energy
and absolute cohesion of the numerically weaker and disadvantageously
situated party. No nation can enjoy seeing the stranger within its gates
flourishing to the detriment of the children of the soil, and the
jealousy, suspicion and dislike which the prosperity of the former
excites, has perhaps not infrequently been in direct ratio to the
inability of the latter to turn their own natural advantages to equally
good account. Were it not wiser on our part, instead of pursuing
senseless animosities, to learn from the people we have too long
despised and perhaps unduly mistrusted, the secret of their success, the
lesson of courage, endurance, of steadfast faith in God, which has
preserved them through all dangers, as living witnesses to His power and

If to this end we study with renewed attention the history of the Jewish
race, we find all the qualities that constitute their strength
concentrated and carried to the highest pitch in the person of one man,
the wisest and greatest perhaps of whom any nation can boast, and to
whose almost superhuman talents and energies the very survival of his
nation must be attributed. The debt owed to Moses by his
fellow-countrymen can hardly be over-estimated. Lawgiver and judge,
physician and priest, their leader in war and peace, where has there
ever been the monarch who could compare with this marvellously gifted
individual, founder of a religion, of a Code, of a nation, that has
victoriously withstood all perils, and outlived the mighty empires by
which it was overthrown and oppressed. Cæsar, Charlemagne and
Haroun-al-Rashid, wise and powerful as they may have been, must each
yield the palm to Moses, for their work has left no trace, the ideals to
which they devoted their lives are but an empty name, whilst the Hebrew,
born in servitude, has left his mark on the thought, the action, and the
religion of the whole Gentile world, and made of the wretched tribes,
whom he led forth out of bondage, a nation increasing daily in number
and in strength, wealthy beyond all others, and rapidly spreading over
the face of the earth. It would seem indeed as if the evils engendered
by too great riches and prosperity were the sole danger seriously
threatening the Jewish race. Already in bygone days it was against this
rock that they more than once well-nigh suffered shipwreck; and had not
the salutary school of adversity called them back from their foolish
pride to saner counsels, humanity might have been the poorer by the
loss of these foremost champions of monotheism.

That loss indeed we could ill afford. We are only too apt to forget,
that it is to this despised race that we owe one priceless treasure, the
book of books, the Bible, in which scarce out of infancy we were taught
to read, and which remains our chief comfort throughout life. In it the
highest wisdom stands revealed in so noble a form, truth and poetry are
blended together to such perfect harmony, the result is a masterpiece
whose like no other literature in the whole world can match. Does not
the finest work of all other great poets sink into insignificance beside
the sublime utterances of the Hebrew prophets? In long dark dreary
sleepless nights, I know not where such solace for weary souls may be
found, as in the magnificent imagery, the impassioned language of Isaiah
and Jeremiah. All the sorrow and suffering of the human heart since the
beginning of Time seem to cry aloud with their voice, and it were vain
to seek help in other books of devotion, whilst the words of these
grandest spirits are there, to speak for us and bring us more than
earthly consolation. Surely none has ever steeped his soul in these
writings, and not risen from their perusal strengthened and refreshed.
We might do without all other books, provided only this one, the source
of life, the Revelation of God to man, were left us. For, together with
the sublime poetry of the Psalms and the prophetic books, what wisdom
and learning, rules of conduct for all seasons and under all
circumstances, are stored up here! The Jew, who follows the letter of
the Law, need never be at a loss as to the right course to take; the
pathway of duty is clearly marked for him, and under whatever
vicissitudes of fortune he will have in his own Scriptures as sure a
guide as was the Ark of the Covenant to the footsteps of his fathers. As
to the historic books of the Old Testament, their simplicity and
directness are a strong testimony in favour of the veracity of the
writers; and I was much struck once by the suggestive remark of a Jew of
high culture, who in discussion with a Christian, smilingly retorted:
“All I can say is, that I wish for you that the history of your nation
may one day be written with equal honesty, and that you may then be able
to have it read out aloud for general edification in your churches, as
we do ours!”

How comes it that by no other people has the attempt been made? Is it
that we instinctively feel that in the Hebrew Scriptures the history of
mankind has been told once and for all,--that for this, as for all other
needs, the Bible may suffice? Otherwise, might not Christ Himself have
wended His way to Persia, India or China, to bring to one or other of
those nations the Gospel of peace and goodwill, framed in accordance
with their own sacred books? The fact is certainly not without
significance. For, maintain as we may that the men of greatest genius
belong to no special age or country, that Dante, Shakespeare, Sophocles,
Michelangelo and Goethe are the common property of mankind, it is all
the same of no trivial import, that just this nation, and no other,
should have been selected in each case for the honour of bringing them
forth. And where else, save among a people cast down from its former
high estate, conquered, humiliated and oppressed, could the apotheosis
of Suffering be so fitly preached, the message of Hope be brought to the
poor and humble, and the erring be led back to the fold? Alas! that in a
proud and vain-glorious spirit, expecting the promised Messiah in all
the pomp of earthly power, they should have rejected the New Covenant of
Mercy by which the uncompromising severity of the Mosaic dispensation
was to be attenuated and made perfect!

I have wandered away somewhat from my theme. Perhaps however more in
semblance than in reality, for as I pursue my own personal reflections,
insensibly much is incorporated with them, which in the old days in the
Vinea Domini was constantly being discussed, and may be said to have
vaguely permeated the whole atmosphere. Judaism, as we then learned to
know it, was presented less under an aspect of formality and
exclusiveness, than as a leaven of righteousness, whereby the whole
world should be regenerated. And possibly, could the other nations of
the world have been brought to accept the Mosaic Code, much misery might
have been spared them. For the great Lawgiver was wise in advance of his
age, and many of the preventive measures, for instance, with which we
now seek to ward off sickness from our flocks and herds, were foreseen
and prescribed by Moses, long before Bacteriological Institutes were
dreamt of! What profound knowledge too of human nature, what
psychological intuitions were his, who dared to let four generations of
his weakened and demoralised followers perish, and merely serve as
stepping-stones to the one destined to enter the Land of Promise and to
settle down there in peace and plenty. What indomitable strength of
purpose, what iron resolution must the man have possessed, who could
wait thus calmly for results! Well might he feel that he had power to
bid water flow from the barren rock, nay more, that in his righteous
indignation he was justified in breaking the Tables of the Law, which he
had just received, since it lay with him to inscribe them again. The
light that flashed from his eyes was of more than mortal brilliancy, it
was the sacred fire of enthusiasm, the glory that might illumine his
face alone, who knew himself to be in direct communication with the
Deity. And well and wisely has that kindred soul, Italy’s greatest
sculptor, portrayed him thus, with the aureole of genius and titanic
strength encircling his brow. Across the centuries these two, mystically
allied by their superhuman energies and achievements, have met and
understood one another, and the real Moses stands forever revealed to us
in the form and features lent him here. It is strength in its highest
manifestation which Michelangelo has symbolised, and we feel ourselves
in presence of something that transcends our puny human faculties,--that
springs from Faith, unswerving and unshaken.

Whence comes it that such faith is no longer ours? The fault is our own.
God has never yet forsaken the least of us. And surely if there be a
Creator of this marvellous universe, it behooves Him to watch over and
uphold His creation. That much is sure. Every day brings with it a
further proof of the insufficiency of so-called scientific explanations
of the mystery of Being, every hour some highly praised and loudly
welcomed discovery sinks into oblivion,--how many new theories of the
universe, how many philosophic systems have I seen come and go, how many
new prophets and teachers arise and pass away, in the course of the
half-century I can look back upon! And if these apodictic truths are
become naught, these theories discarded, these preachers turned into
ridicule, well may I feel more and more disposed to cling to the simple
childlike faith of my early years, and hold fast to this one sure anchor
in a shifting world! Let the prophets of old serve as our example and
guide. They were neither ignorant nor inexperienced, and their path was
often beset by the Powers of Darkness, but their simple unquestioning
faith brought them triumphantly through the greatest perils. Can we do
better than imitate them? They are our spiritual fore-fathers, for our
religion sprang forth out of Judaism,--we would deny it in vain.

Would that we resembled them more! Had we their faith, we should also
have the same freedom from superstition that goes hand in hand with it,
and which these heroes of the Old Testament have bequeathed to their
natural heirs, to the representatives of the Jewish people among us now.
It may be that it is a mere question of race, of constitutional
temperament, but the fact none the less remains, that the Jew possesses
a positive aversion to every form of superstition--that outcome of
weakness and helplessness, the last refuge of despairing souls. It is
not in his nature to give way to despair; from that the dictates of his
strong common-sense would in a measure guard him, but his absolute
security comes from his trust in the God of Israel. The love of riches,
and of the ease and luxury that riches bring, this, it cannot be too
often said, the besetting sin of our age, is the one peril that menaces
the Jewish race. Not only for their own sake, but for the services
rendered to humanity, must we not pray that the curse be averted, and
that they who proudly term themselves God’s chosen people may avoid the
gilded snare, and return to the simplicity and moderation of patriarchal

Someone--I have forgotten who it was--once called this earth _l’Ile du
Diable_, and there are moments when it might seem almost to merit the
name. And yet, quite so bad it surely need not be, if only each and all
of us strive, in all single-mindedness and honesty of purpose, to make
it something better--not by indulging in foolish vanities and useless
luxuries--but, by the exercise of forbearance, gentleness and Christian
charity, by the effort to bring light into dark places, and to brighten
with some ray of joy the saddest lot. Were we but to act thus, Earth
need be no Hell--it lies in our power to make it into a Paradise for
ourselves and others. The Temple of Jerusalem will not be raised from
its ruins in our days; there is no Zion on earth for the Children of
Israel, for the Holy Places once laid waste may not be restored by
human hands until long years of expiation have gone by. That truth,
Judah’s best and noblest spirits are the first to acknowledge. Something
of the ideas of one of them I have tried to recall in these pages, which
I dedicate to his memory. They can give but a vague image of the picture
in my mind, and the unavailing regret comes over me once more, that of
the wisdom and learning once so near me, I have been able to preserve
but so dim a recollection. I could envy the pupils of Bernays, the
students who enjoyed the privilege of listening to his exposition of the
Greek Testament, on which all the wealth of research, the critical
insight of a true scholar were brought to bear. Deeper and further than
most of us he surely saw!



Faithful servants are no less important in a household than the members
of the family itself. Are we not every moment beholden to them for our
ease and comfort, so much in the routine of our daily lives depending on
them, that we can never be grateful enough for the pains they are at to
make its machinery run well and smoothly. In our family this was
certainly the case, very many of the old servants I remember in my
childhood being regarded by us as true and valued friends. Talking of
this one day to one of my cousins, he exclaimed, “Ah, indeed! what would
ever have become of us poor children, had it not been for the dear good
old servants!”

It was still the fashion in those days, to bring children up with great
severity, and for poor little princes and princesses in particular a
Spartan system of education was enforced. Under these circumstances it
was very often thanks to the servants that we escaped the Draconian
penalties attached to every trifling misdeed; they were always ready to
come to our aid in all our troubles, and by their adroitness and
good-nature helped us out of many of our worst scrapes. There were two,
in particular, who were our personal attendants, and can never be
dissociated from our family history, accompanying us on all our travels,
and literally sharing in all our joys and sorrows. The one was my
father’s valet, Masset, a dear old fellow, with a round smiling face
like a full moon, as good-natured as a big playful dog, always ready
with some amusing story or harmless piece of fun, if he saw that one’s
spirits were low and that one wanted cheering. Lang, on the contrary,
was a most dignified personage, tall, and speaking French beautifully,
and with well-cut features and a certain stiffness of manner, which we
felt to be rather imposing. But he was no less devoted to us, and I can
recall many an instance of his zeal in rendering us service. To give one
little example, one day, when in the Isle of Wight, my brother’s kite,
which he was flying, got caught in a tree; it was Lang who in a moment
had climbed the tree, and set free the kite, almost before the little
boy had time to distress himself about it. Lang told me about it
afterwards, and of the bad fall he had in coming down from the tree,
being really so badly shaken that he could not get up for a few minutes,
though luckily no bones were broken. “And what did Wilhelm do?” I asked.
“Oh! he ran off with his kite as fast as he could!” was the smiling
reply. I very much fear that we were often extremely thoughtless in the
way in which we took for granted that we should always find our wishes
carried out by either of these two trusty allies, and that we did not
always trouble ourselves to thank them afterwards. We have often laughed
since to think of the artful devices of good old Masset, on one
occasion, when my brother was shut up in his room for three weeks on a
diet of dry bread and water, taking care to cut such very thick slices
of bread, that inside each both butter and meat could be concealed; and
this he carried with the most innocent face in the world to the poor
hungry little prisoner, whose sole diversion, meanwhile, consisted in
dragging his table up to the attic window, so that by placing a chair on
it he could succeed in climbing out on the roof, to shoot at the
sparrows with his little crossbow!

In our house the servants always said “we,” in speaking of the family;
they quite felt that they belonged to it, and they were indeed fully
justified in feeling thus by their devotion to us all. We might well be
fond of them, though we certainly did not go quite so far as my mother,
who, as a very small child was so much attached to the funny little
wizened old man-servant who was her special attendant, that she was
heard to say: “Ce cher Rupp! ce cher Rupp! je voudrais tant l’embrasser!
je l’aime beaucoup plus que Papa!” But we liked ours quite as well as
all but our very nearest relations, perhaps rather better than some!
Masset, as his name shows, was of French extraction, descended from
Huguenot refugees. Another servant had one of those names with a Latin
termination not infrequently to be found in the Rhineland; he was called
Corcilius. Our great-uncle, the traveller, whose delight it was to give
nicknames to every one, amused himself with twisting and turning the
servants’ names. Thus Lang (Long) became Kurz (Short), Schäfer
(Shepherd) was transformed into Haas (Hare), and Corcilius was nicknamed
“Garcilaso de la Vega.” Many of these good people had been in our
service from father to son for several generations. One of our
game-keepers belonged to a family who had been keepers with us for a
couple of centuries. Many of our people lived to celebrate the jubilee
of their fiftieth year in our service. Alas, not all!

But these two, as I said, Lang and Masset, were our special friends, we
always felt so safe and sure with them, as if no danger could harm us. I
should never stop, if I began relating everything, the fatherly way in
which they took care of us, how often they carried us in their arms, all
they did to please us, when we were quite small. For I was only two
years old, when, the Rhine being frozen over for the first time for many
years, they carried us across, my little brother and myself, in order
that we might have a recollection of the unusual occurrence. And I do
remember it quite distinctly, and many another little incident of like
nature. I cannot think of these without emotion, but there was very much
also that had its purely comic side. Whilst we were staying in Baden,
later on, installed in the simplest, most modest fashion, with very few
servants, some one happened one day to ring at the front door, just at
the moment when Masset was summoned to my father. “Let me go,” I said;
“I will open the door!” But very firmly though gently, I was pushed on
one side. “No, dear child,--that cannot be, that would never do!” I was
eighteen at the time, but for both Lang and Masset I always remained a

One amusing little scene, though it has not to do with them, but with
another old servant, I cannot help relating here. In my mother’s
bedroom hung a lamp with a pink shade, giving a very agreeable light
whenever it chose to burn, but more often than not a source of infinite
trouble and annoyance. Now-a-days with the comfort and convenience of
electricity or even of ordinary petroleum lamps, people can little
imagine the nuisance of the old-fashioned oil-lamps. Two or three times
in the course of an evening they had to be wound up with a sort of big
key--and even then they would not burn! All the same everyone was agreed
as to their being a most admirable invention! One evening when my poor
little invalid brother was being put to bed, as he happened for once to
be free from pain, my mother came away and joined us others at the
tea-table. For she felt safe in leaving Otto to the care of his devoted
attendant, a very old man, quite a relic of the past, as he had been in
my grandmother’s service and had been handed on to us. Suddenly the door
opened, and a wrinkled old face, crowned with snow-white hair, peeped
in.--“Your Highness, the lamp is going out!” My mother jumped up. To
rush into the other room, pull down the lamp, and carry it outside
before its feeble light was entirely extinguished and had poisoned the
atmosphere with its fumes--all this was the work of an instant. But how
we all laughed! till the tears ran down our cheeks. And we were laughing
still when my mother came back to the tea-table, quite astonished at our
merriment, and asking its cause. To her it had seemed just the most
natural thing in the world that the old servant should appeal to her,
and that she should run to his assistance.

I should like to mention each and every one of those whose faithful
service was so invaluable to our family during the years in which we
were tried by sickness and suffering; many were admirable in their
untiring devotion, but the two I have spoken of above and beyond all the
rest. No words could do justice to the tact, the discretion, the
unwearied patience, with which their duties were fulfilled. Never did
they utter a word of complaint, on any of those long and fatiguing
journeys, all the responsibility of whose arrangements fell on them, and
which had to be performed under circumstances of exceptional difficulty,
with my mother in her crippled condition, having to be carried in and
out of train and boat, and my father and brother also helpless invalids.
To say nothing of the amount of luggage that was required for the whole
party, nurse and lady’s maid, tutor, governess, and lady-in-waiting! And
travelling was by no means so simple and easy a matter in those days.
But Lang and Masset were equal to the circumstances, and managed it all
without a hitch. For our journey from Bonn to Paris a whole
railway-carriage had to be reserved, so that my mother, whose convulsive
fits at that time followed one another in swift succession, barely
giving her time between to recover consciousness, might rest undisturbed
in the hammock put up for her. As for the preceding journey, that from
Neuwied to Bonn, however difficult it may have been to plan, it was so
successfully carried out, that to us children it was all unalloyed
enjoyment, like a page out of a fairy tale! As my mother could not stand
the shaking of the steamer, one of the Rhenish coal-barges had been
chartered, thoroughly cleaned and fitted out with mats and awnings, and
the deck strewn with fresh flowers everywhere, and in order that the
little journey should not take too long, the barge was taken in tow by
one of the Rhine-steamers. It was all too delightful, so Wilhelm and I
thought, this novel style of travelling, and everything so amusing--the
little cabin with its sky-light, and above all the lovely little dancing
waves in the wake of the steamer. We were quite lost in the enjoyment of
the hour, and had but a faint understanding of the cares weighing on the
elders of our party, though those were brought before us again, when we
reached the landing-stage, and saw our mother carried unconscious ashore
by Lang and Masset. As in spite of all their care and the excellent
arrangements made, she had lain in convulsions the whole time, they
might well feel somewhat discouraged at this first step in the
pilgrimage undertaken in quest of health and solace for our invalids.
But such grave thoughts cannot altogether quell the natural high spirits
of youth, and I remember the peals of laughter that greeted us from my
Uncle Nicholas, my mother’s youngest brother, who was awaiting our
arrival in the garden of the villa at Bonn, and who declared that he had
known we were coming long before the boats were in sight, our approach
having been heralded by the smell of ether and chloroform which
surrounded us like an atmosphere as we glided along! That strong smell
of ether and all the other medicaments used--and used in vain--to still
those fearful paroxysms of pain, this remains for me so indissolubly
associated with certain scenes and memories of my childhood, that as my
pen traces these words, the air I breathe is pervaded with them once

I suppose it was the spectacle of suffering constantly before my eyes,
and of the utter inefficacy of the remedies prescribed, that gave me,
already as a child, the conviction of the absolute helplessness of
doctors in certain cases. Of course I know the immense strides medical
science has made since those days, but after all I wonder if to us it
would have brought much help! That which did, however, most undeniably
contribute to our comfort, and often helped to procure the sufferers
some moments’ ease and rest, that was the quiet unobtrusive service of
these two faithful souls. It was only natural that Masset’s devotion to
my father should outweigh all else; it literally knew no bounds, and a
very few months after his master’s death, his old servant was missing
too. He had thrown himself into the Rhine, seeking a grave there between
the blocks of ice with which the river was covered. His body was never
found. It was only by the print of his footsteps in the snow
(recognisable by the turning in of the toes), that some of the keepers
traced him down to the riverside, and that we learned his fate. He
simply could not live without the beloved master, to whom he belonged,
body and soul. But the shock was a terrible one to us all; we mourned
him most sincerely. Lang remained for years after my father’s death in
my mother’s service, and was with her when she came to see me in
Roumania. To the end he was the same invaluable, trustworthy servant,
with such sound judgment that my mother often asked his advice, always
receiving excellent counsel from the clear-headed, much experienced old

I must not forget our old coachman, Lindner, who at my father’s funeral
drove the hearse, that none but himself might have the honour of
performing that last service for his master. It was a touching sight, so
uncontrollable was the grief of the fine old man, who, till then, had
often been the life and soul of every rustic gathering. He it was who
was generally the principal solo singer at every village festival.
Unless, indeed, it so happened that I was there to take my part! There
was always a sort of rivalry between us, as to which had the larger
store of songs, Lindner or I! And at last, I believe, I bore away the
palm; I knew even more than he did!

I am proud to think how sad all these good people were when I left my
old home on my marriage. The day when I had to take my leave of the
Ladies’ Nursing Union, I said to Lang as I stepped into the
carriage:--“Lang, je dois tenir un discours aujourd’hui.” And struggling
with his emotion, he replied: “Il doit être d’autant plus beau, qu’il ne
sera jamais oublié!”

I was missed by all the good country-folk. They had always called me
“our little princess!” And much nicer, prettier names still! The first
time I came back on a visit after my marriage, through the streets of
Neuwied and in the villages round about, they ran shouting:--“Our
Lisbeth is coming! Our Lisbeth is here again!”

With every workman and mechanic in the neighbourhood we had a personal
acquaintance, it was as if quite peculiar ties of very long standing
united them to us, for had not their fathers and grandfathers worked for
ours, for centuries past? So that we felt interested in all that
concerned them, and ourselves took great pride in the fact, that the
town of Neuwied had given birth to the celebrated wood-carver,
Rœntgen, specimens of whose beautiful artistic wood-mosaics found
their way to all the capitals of Europe, and decorate castles and
manor-houses in every land.

But it was the book-binder, Lesser, a Moravian, who was our special
favourite, and every week we spent several hours learning his craft of
him, till we were ourselves able to do some very pretty work. I have
still books in my possession, which I bound myself, fifty years ago, and
which are in perfectly good condition now. It would be a good thing if
all children were taught something of the sort, to amuse them in their
play-hours, instead of letting them run wild. There would be no
constraint needed; it would be merely giving a sensible and useful
outlet for those energies with which all children are naturally brimming
over, and which, misdirected, too often lead them into mischief. We were
always encouraged to look on at all events, whenever there were workmen
in the house or grounds, and we watched them with the greatest

[Illustration: A QUEEN AT HER LOOM]

interest, perhaps observing and learning more than was thought. And we
often talked to them too, so that there was really nothing so very much
to wonder at in those “Songs of the Crafts,” which I was one day to
write, nor in the intimate knowledge of each special kind of work which
they revealed. Quite young we thus learned to use our hands, and they
were never idle. I could give first-rate sewing lessons; here in
Roumania even I have taught many a young girl to embroider. But it was
the smith above all whom we were never tired of watching at his work.
Everything pertaining to the forge has a special fascination for
children--the bellows, and the tongs, and the sparks that fly, and the
blackened faces--it is all too delightful! One should allow children to
familiarise themselves with all these things, with the beauty and
dignity of human toil in its every aspect, that they may learn to have
the right feeling of respect both for the work itself, and for the

Nor can one too early impress on the minds of children the debt of
gratitude they owe to all those whose lives are passed in their service.
The young can certainly not be expected to realise all the
unselfishness--the utter forgetfulness and disregard of self, I should
rather say,--which are implied in the term of “good and faithful
servant.” But they can be taught to show thoughtfulness and
consideration towards all with whom they are brought into daily contact
in these relations.

Servants of the type of those whom I have tried to describe here, are
perhaps becoming more and more rare. In any case, where we do come
across them, we must look upon them as a gift from heaven, and it is in
heaven, too, that they will have their reward. For no earthly master,
however thoroughly he may recognise their merit, can ever hope to
requite or repay such services as theirs. My little tribute of words is
poor indeed to express the magnitude of such a debt. May they have found
their reward in a better world, united to the master they served so
faithfully on earth!



This angel in human form was a grand-niece of the celebrated Swiss
philosopher and physiognomist, Johann Caspar Levater. She was one of a
family of ten children, the father a member of the little
French-speaking Protestant community at Hanau, and the mother an

When Fräulein Lavater came as governess to my mother the latter was just
six years old, and she herself a mere girl of eighteen, with big brown
eyes and black hair. She was, however, already remarkably well-read in
the literature of several languages, and this she always declared she
owed in a great measure to the circumstance that the nonsense called
children’s books did not exist in her childhood, she and her brothers
and sisters being consequently obliged to have recourse for such
amusement as they sought in reading, to the little collection of the
best poets and prose-writers, of whose works their mother’s library was
composed. It was thus that she had read nearly all Shakespeare’s plays
when she was eight years old. In order to indulge their taste for
reading, without always having to be guided by the choice of their
elders, these young people had, she told us, discovered a most ingenious
method of quietly pushing open a panel of the bookcase, making an
aperture just wide enough to introduce the smallest arm among them, with
which several coveted volumes would be fetched down from the shelves,
and carried off to some safe hiding-place, to be brought out and
devoured at leisure afterwards.

It was not considered necessary in those days to pass a public
examination in order to give a proof of one’s knowledge and abilities,
and in the person of our “Fräulchen,” as she was affectionately called,
we had a striking example of the high degree of intellectual culture
that may be attained by careful and intelligent home training and a
liberal course of general reading. It was in the latter respect, above
all, that the superiority of independent study over the modern cramming
system, was in this instance so abundantly proved. A very few minutes’
conversation sufficed to show how much more solid information was
possessed by the quiet little bookworm than by many a paragon of the
latest methods of instruction, however much the latter might be
advertised by the diploma conferred on her by the State. It would almost
seem indeed as if no time were left for original thought or true mental
culture in the schemes of our newest educational oracles, which
apparently aim at reducing all mankind to one dull level of mediocrity,
forcing all into the selfsame groove, and trying to make one pattern
serve for all of us, utterly regardless both of our aptitudes and our
requirements. I fancy that before long there must come a reaction from
this unlucky craze, and that women at any rate will once more content
themselves with cultivating their mental powers to the utmost, feeling
therein a higher satisfaction than is to be derived from the noisier
successes of a public examination.

The home in which Fräulein Lavater had grown up, in happy companionship
of her brothers and sisters, under the guidance of their excellent
mother, was a comfortable old-fashioned house in Hanau, surrounded by a
pretty garden of considerable size. A genial and healthy spirit animated
the whole household; the inhabitants of the little town prided
themselves on the literary and artistic interests which they considered
had been wafted over to them from Frankfort, the Frankfort of Goethe’s
days; they read much, and were fond of meeting together for philosophic
discussion as well as for amateur acting. Those were still the good old
honest simple times in which living was so cheap that an excellent
mid-day meal, a slice of a roast joint with vegetables, bread and ale,
could be had for three kreuzers, and in which young girls made their own
simple white muslin ball-dresses, and embroidered them in coloured
wools, wearing the same dress contentedly for a dozen dances; and
assuredly they looked just as pretty and attractive in their modest
attire as do the young women of the present day in the extravagant
toilettes on which such preposterous sums are spent, often bringing ruin
on a whole family. That so-called period of stagnation at which it is so
easy to sneer, was in reality but the necessary reaction after the too
great tension, the strain and stress of the War of Liberation, a rest
after the storm, in which the nation might recuperate its energies,
exhausted by the long conflict. No one talked then of national
antipathies or hereditary enmities; and religious strife was also
unknown. It was, at all events, a peaceful happy existence which people
led in Hanau, as in many another of the smaller German towns, in which
little colonies of French Protestants, driven out of their own country
by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had settled down. There was
something so distinctive about these worthy people, something that
seemed to differentiate them from their compatriots of the Catholic
Faith, and that has sometimes set me wondering as to what other possible
turn affairs might have taken for France and for Europe in consequence,
had Henry IV instead of hearing his first Mass thrown the whole weight
of his influence into the other side of the scale, and brought his
countrymen over to his religion! However that may be, it is certain that
the presence of these foreigners gave Hanau something cosmopolitan, that
the tone of thought and feeling which prevailed there was exceptionally
liberal and enlightened. Anglophobia had not yet been invented in
Germany, on the contrary, one admired and imitated everything English,
looking up to the English nation as the most highly civilised of all.

Before Fanny Lavater’s first day in Biebrich was over, her little pupil
was already sitting on her knee, and telling her:--“Je vous aime déjà
beaucoup!” “Vraiment?” said the young governess, somewhat surprised. “Je
vous aime déjà beaucoup plus que ma sœur Thérèse!” “Oh!” and this
time there was something not merely incredulous, but almost of protest
in the tone. “C’est que je n’aime pas beaucoup ma sœur Thérèse!” The
elder sister had, after the mother’s death, at once assumed the reins of
government, and carried it on in so high-handed a manner, that she had
by no means increased the affection in which she was held by her younger
brothers and sisters.

The very next evening there was a big reception at the Castle, at which
Fräulein Lavater, young and timid and unknown to everyone, had to
appear. As she shyly entered the room, nobody made way for her, or took
any notice of her at all, and my grandfather, observing this, strode
through the room to the place where she stood, offered her his arm, and
conducted her in this manner through the whole assembly, everyone
falling back as they passed along. Needless to say, that her position in
society was from that hour assured, and that she never required to
assert herself in any way. And this little anecdote shows my
grandfather, then a handsome dignified man in the prime of life, in the
light in which he must have always appeared to the outside world;
towards strangers he was affable, courteous and charming, reserving his
ill-temper for his own family, his treatment of his children not
allowing them to see in him aught but a pitiless tyrant.

For my mother a happy time now began, in which she and her dear
governess lived quite by themselves in the rooms set apart for them in
one wing of the castle, where they had their own little
establishment--maid, footman and housemaids, all to themselves. Only
once or twice a day did the children have to appear before their
parents, kiss their hands and be dismissed again at once. Pupil and
governess were all in all to one another, and the former had already
made up her mind that no circumstances which she could control, should
ever separate them. Fräulein Lavater must come and live with her, the
little girl explained, when she got married. “But if your husband does
not want me?” “Alors, je dirai; mon homme, tu peux rester dans ta
chambre, et moi je resterai dans la mienne!” My mother kept her word,
insisting, to our unspeakable happiness, on Fräulein Lavater remaining
with her for weeks, sometimes months together, throughout her married
life, and afterwards, during her widowhood, altogether.

The saddest day in her whole childhood was that in which her dear
governess was dismissed. The latter had often defended her little pupil
when she saw her unjustly accused, as not infrequently occurred, her
otherwise admirable and dearly-loved stepmother having the weakness--it
was the only fault that could be laid to her charge--sometimes to try to
shield her own children from their father’s severity, at the expense of
the others. And Fräulein Lavater’s zealous efforts to exculpate the poor
child, on an occasion when she knew her to be the victim of a most cruel
injustice, simply led to her own dismissal. It was for both of them a
cruel blow, and my mother has often told me how she wandered next day
heartbroken through the empty desolate rooms, throwing herself at last
on a sofa to cry her eyes out, with no one to care what had become of

My mother had hardly been able to speak a word of German at the time
when Fräulein Lavater came to her. Nassau belonged to the Confederation
of the Rhine and had decidedly French sympathies, so that everything was
new to my mother, when she came to Neuwied, marrying into a family that
had been mediatised for having drawn the sword for Germany. She was
simply shocked at the brutality of one of my great-uncles, who related
how he had ridden about on the field of Waterloo, in the hope of finding
Napoleon and making an end of him. “That fellow Bonaparte! if I could
but have got at him!” Uncle Max would say, clenching his fist; and my
mother turned away in horror at such savage sentiments.

There had been, quite unknown to herself, another marriage planned for
her, with the heir to the throne of Russia, whose father, the Emperor
Nicholas, was a great friend of my grandfather. But the match, on which
both fathers were so bent, fell through after my grandfather’s death,
the Emperor’s expressed desire merely having the effect of driving his
son into opposition to his wishes. But my mother was ignorant of all
this; all she knew of or cared for in Russia was the family of the
Grand-Duchess Hélène, her own first cousin and sister to her stepmother.
To her, the Grand-Duchess, and her daughters, she was deeply attached.

I cannot insist enough on the benefit resulting for us all from the
presence of Fräulein Lavater in our midst. She came among us as a true
angel of peace, bringing harmony into the strange mass of heterogeneous
elements--sometimes most conflicting and discordant--of which our
household was composed. Never were we so happy, either as children or a
little later on, as when sitting with her, close up beside her chair,
listening to all she had to tell us. Her memory was so excellent and had
been so assiduously cultivated, that her mind was a perfect
treasure-house of all that is best and noblest in the literature of the
world. She was never idle; her fingers always occupied with some pretty
piece of needlework whilst she talked, and when alone, they worked on
indefatigably, her eyes meanwhile fixed on the book that lay open before
her. It was owing to this praiseworthy habit, that in the course of
completing some beautiful piece of lace or embroidery, that looked as if
wrought by fairy fingers, she had at the same time committed whole pages
of her favourite authors to memory, and would therefore not only relate
to us the substance of her reading, but even recite long passages of
poetry or prose by the hour together, in her soft agreeable voice, and
with most admirable elocution. Her needlework was truly artistic; much
of it would have been worthy to find a place in a museum. Her
tapestry-work was as if painted, and an artist friend of ours once said
of her groups and landscapes, that whilst the paintings done by some
young ladies of his acquaintance looked as if worked in cross-stitch,
Fräulein Fanny’s needlework was so fine that it might have been painted!
“Look at that grey horse,” he went on, pointing to a little group, “so
delicately is it shaded, that Wouwerman might have acknowledged it as
the product of his brush!”

Her own harmonious and well balanced disposition enabled our dear
“Fräulchen” to play the part of peace-maker among stormier natures, and
her influence was ever used for good. Never in thirty years of the
closest intimacy did I hear a single word fall from her lips, by which I
could possibly have felt hurt; and I was as ultra-sensitive and liable
to take offence, as are most children, who are too harshly brought up.
With others I was always looking out for blame,--a scolding seemed the
natural thing to expect,--never with her! She could find fault, too,
when it was needful, but with so much tact and kindness, and
accompanying her criticism with reflections that took away all its
bitterness and made it sound almost like indirect praise; and then when
I looked up at her, half in alarm, with her soft little hand she would
stroke mine and say smiling:--“There was the horrid little serpent
concealed beneath the roses, was it not?” She was for ever pouring oil
on the troubled waters, making life better and happier for everyone, and
most of all for us poor children, who had in many respects a very hard
time, in an atmosphere so little conducive to our healthy and happy
development. We were accustomed to say among ourselves that we were a
three-leaved shamrock of ill-luck, our initials--(of all our names,
Otto, Wilhelm, and Elizabeth),--forming together the sound Oweh, or Woe!

Poor little woful shamrock in truth it was! We often stood in need of
someone to protect us, our parents’ ill-health placing us so entirely
in the hands of our first governesses and nursery-governesses, who
unfortunately happened to be anything but fitted for a position of such
trust. We should have suffered still more from their harsh treatment and
rough ways, had not Fräulein Lavater constantly stepped in, to interpose
calmly and gently on our behalf. My gratitude towards her knew no
bounds, and can find but scant expression in the words I write, which
seem cold and colourless beside the feelings that dictate them. She
alone understood the restless workings of my imagination, its insatiable
thirst of beauty, not to be stilled by the daily portion of dull dry
fact, which was alone provided by our earliest instruction, she alone
cared to satisfy the intense longing for poetry, for literature, for
some other knowledge than was contained in the little scholastic manuals
of science and history on which our young minds were almost exclusively
fed. Thanks to her, when I was eight years old, I was liberated from the
very disagreeable young governess who had tyrannised over me since my
fourth year, and a friend of her own substituted, an amiable and
highly-instructed woman, with whom I at once made great progress, my
studies becoming from that moment a real delight to me. Grammar, and
French grammar above all, was a real passion with me, and unconsciously
I was already then, in my love of languages and of language itself,
cultivating and preparing the instrument that was one day to be my own,
to be played on as others play on the strings of a harp or violin. But
clever and accomplished as Fräulein Josse was, and much as I enjoyed my
lessons with her, the hours spent with Fräulein Lavater were worth even
more, for her knowledge had a still wider range, her judgment was more
calm and clear, being utterly unbiased by any personal considerations.
She possessed a special gift for calming the tumult--a tumult of thought
unsuspected by everyone else--which my lively imagination sometimes set
up in my brain. As she was the only person who could sympathise with my
flights of fancy, perhaps the only one who did not consider absolutely
culpable and reprehensible the tendency to indulge in them, it was only
natural that she should be the sole confidante of my dreams and
aspirations. With her too I could give vent to my natural liveliness, to
the perpetual flow of high spirits, so sadly out of place in the
atmosphere of the sick-room. My youthful health and strength drew down
on me all sorts of uncomplimentary epithets from some of the elder
members of the family, to whom, more even than to the invalids, my
liveliness must have been a trial; Whirlwind, Flibbertigibbet,
Will-o’-the-wisp, these were a few of the names showered on me by Uncle
Max, and more or less acquiesced in by the rest. It must have been the
sensation of exuberant, irrepressible vitality within me which made me
one day exclaim--“Mamma, I feel as if I could carry away a mountain!”
Alas! I have sometimes thought since that my heedless words must have
been overheard by Fate!

When I came back from St. Petersburg everything was changed, my dear
father dead, and quite a different way of living to be entered on by my
mother and myself, she being restricted henceforth to her dower for her
own use, the estates of course passing into my brother’s hands, and
simply being administered by her until his coming of age. We could now
no longer keep open house as in the old days, in which the carriage had
scarcely departed that took away one party of guests, when already and
perhaps quite unexpectedly another would appear round the corner
bringing a fresh relay. It was a quiet and rather lonely life that began
thus suddenly for us three women, but no less full of interest, thanks
to the one of us, to our dear Fräulein Lavater! We were hardly an hour
of the day apart from one another, she and I; when the weather made it
impossible for us to go out, if the wind was raging or the snow falling
fast, then we contented ourselves with walking up and down indoors,
pacing the rooms sometimes for hours, subjects of conversation never
failing, her well-stored mind always ready to provide some fresh topic,
and her marvellous swiftness of intuition enabling her to place herself
at another’s point of view, and participate in phases of thought and
feeling quite new to her. I had but just returned home after a lengthy
absence, in which I had travelled much, seen many new countries, and met
numbers of celebrated and interesting people. She meanwhile had remained
quietly at home, surrounded daily by the same scenes, the same faces.
And yet, how infinitely richer and fuller she had contrived to make her
life, that inner life, which is in truth independent of and superior to
all influences from without!

I could wish that many another young girl might go through the
experience that then was mine, that she might enjoy and profit by days
like our winter-days in Monrepos, provided, of course, that she had such
a companion as Fräulein Lavater to share in them. And better still were
the long winter evenings, when we sat round the lamp, the immense deep
stillness of the mighty woods reigning outside and a like feeling of
calm, of aloofness from the world dwelling within our souls. Of
inestimable value was that time for me, after all the bustle and fatigue
of the long journeys, of the rapid succession of events, of all the
changing, shifting phantasmagoria of the busy, restless world, stamped
in almost bewildering variety on my brain. The impressions had been so
vivid, so multitudinous, they bade fair to grow confused or distorted,
crowding on and threatening to efface each other. But now, in this quiet
uneventful existence, I could look through the rich collection I had
brought home with me, could examine each treasure undisturbed, and range
them all in order, could bring myself into harmony with all I had so
recently acquired. How quickly those evenings passed! Our fingers were
busy all the time; my mother spinning, and I already making all sorts of
new inventions in tatting,--that pretty work of which I have always been
so fond, and which I have gone on elaborating of late years into
something resembling old-fashioned ecclesiastical embroideries. We
talked at intervals, or else read aloud by turns,--from some author
whose high and noble thoughts we might meditate on for long after.

It was the sensation of being enfolded and shut off from the rest of the
world by the woods around us, that lent those evenings their peculiar
charm. Often during the day I had wandered for hours through my beloved
woods, with the sole companionship of the faithful St. Bernard dogs, my
trusty guardians. We did not keep to the beaten path, but plunged into
the deepest thickets, threading our way through the most tangled growth
of brushwood. And on my return, my first care was to note down the songs
which the trees had whispered in my ear as I passed beneath them. I was
the wild rose, the wood rose, for all my friends. They had christened me
thus, because of the roses on my cheeks, which I never lost, although so
much of my youth had been spent in the atmosphere of the sick-room. I
might indeed pass as a living contradiction to every sort of theory of
infection, my magnificent health would have given the lie to all stories
of germs and microbes,--I was really never ill in my life, and never had
occasion to see a doctor, until the attack of typhoid fever I had while
in St. Petersburg. That was perhaps in a great measure the result of the
long anxiety, the sadness of years, but it did not come on till
afterwards, not in the least as an immediate consequence of the
unhealthy atmosphere in which I had grown up.

The drawback to the life we were now leading, lay of course in its
natural tendency to encourage mere dreaming, almost at the expense
perhaps of one’s active duties, of all practical work. For me this
might have been a special danger, had I not been preserved from it by
the good sense, the clearsightedness, the spirit of self-sacrifice of my
Mentor. Of herself she never thought at all. Therein lay the secret of
her great power, of her unbounded influence. On her deathbed she could
say:--“How good it is, when one’s whole life has been filled by one
great affection!”

For those who knew her best, her whole existence was summed up in those
words. But did they also contain a hidden meaning, the key to a secret
none had ever guessed, some page of quite unsuspected romance, an
attachment which death or circumstances had cut short? I had sometimes
wondered that she alone of all her sisters had remained unmarried, had
therefore never known the happiness of having a home, a family of her
own; but, like everyone else, I had grown accustomed to the idea that
her devotion to my mother was so all-absorbing as to leave no room for
any other affection in her heart. Most probably was it so, and that her
last words did but refer to the friendship, the affection, to which she
had devoted her whole life, identifying herself so entirely with the
feelings, the hopes, the interests and aims of the family of which in
the truest sense she had become a member, that she found within that
circle ample scope for the exercise of all her energy, the satisfaction
of all her wishes, nor ever for one moment regretted having formed no
other ties. She died in the year 1877, after the Balkan war, that war on
which hung the destinies of Roumania, and out of which the country came
forth victorious and independent, and before her death she had come to
pay me a visit there, appearing in her old character of an angel of
peace and consolation. For it was in the saddest, darkest hour of my
whole existence, that in which its whole joy and happiness, granted to
me for so short a time, had been torn from me forever, and when my only
wish was to be allowed myself to die also. In that moment of utter
hopelessness, none knew as did this old friend of mine, in what manner
alone to strive to reconcile me with life. Hers were the gentle words,
the gentle touch, that can never hurt, that one can bear, even when
one’s whole heart seems to be an open wound. “Bun de pus pe
rana,”--“good enough to be put on a wound,” is a Roumanian proverb, that
always recurs to me, in thinking of Fräulein Lavater, for it exactly
describes the feeling one had when with her. Her hands were soft as
satin, and in the moral or spiritual sphere, she had just the same
exquisite softness of touch. Whilst others, even with the very best
intentions, seemed only too often to bear heavily on a spot too
sensitive to be breathed upon, every word and action of hers was like
balm to the soul. Instead of making the vain attempt to offer
consolation for a sorrow beyond redress, she understood at once that in
such utter bereavement one can only be reconciled to the world by the
effort to live for others. And that lesson she was best fitted to teach,
who had for so many years practised it in her own person, putting
herself so entirely on one side, and only thinking how she could help
and comfort those around her. One felt sure of never being misunderstood
or misjudged by her, since her readiness of sympathy enabled her at all
times to put herself in another’s place, and look at the situation from
another point of view. Witty and amusing in conversation, her modesty
made her draw back more and more from general society as she grew older,
under the plea that old people are always dull, but this did not prevent
a proper sense of her own dignity, of that which was due to herself. She
once said to me with a smile, in relating an incident from which it
appeared that she had scarce been treated with due consideration--“Well,
if the place allotted me at table did me no honour, I must suppose that
I did honour to the place by accepting it!” Impartial and dispassionate
in her judgment of men and events, she was equally unbiased in her
literary criticisms, paying absolutely no heed to the voice of public
opinion in such matters, but thinking and judging for herself. No one I
have known ever possessed in the same degree the gift of rapid and
unerring discernment: she would glance through a volume, and in a moment
her mind was made up as to its contents; she seemed able to take in, and
digest and assimilate them, in less time than it would take most people
to read the headings of the chapters. It was a real pleasure to see her,
when a big parcel of books arrived from a library; sometimes a peep into
the uncut pages of a volume sufficed for it to be put on one side to be
returned as not worthy of further attention, whilst over others she
hovered, paper-knife in hand, glancing now here, now there, and
choosing the best for more serious perusal, like a bee, we used to tell
her, that darts from one plant to the other, sipping honey from the
choicest blossoms!

Like the bees too, who are not content each to gather honey for itself
alone, but bring it all to the common store, the treasures culled by
Fräulein Lavater from her reading were not intended solely for her own
pleasure and profit, but were ever destined to more unselfish purposes.
She could enliven the dullest society, revive the most languishing
conversation with some apposite remark, some reference to a topic so
well chosen that even the most listless felt their interest aroused. And
best of all, her soft low voice was like a charm for mental fatigue or
overstrung nerves. It was as if she could wile away headache or worry
with her gentle tones, she brought comfort to every sick-bed, and in the
long weary day of convalescence, when the work of taking up again the
burden of existence is perchance almost too great an effort for the
weakened frame, who was there could ever, like Fräulchen, cheer and
rouse one from one’s apathy, who else possessed such an inexhaustible
fund of delightful stories, or could relate them as she did? How often,
in later days, in the long slow recovery from illness, have I not sighed
for her presence, feeling that she could beguile my pain and weariness
with one of the stories or legends she told so well. She it was who
first encouraged in me the taste for literature, the love of poetry, in
which others saw only a weakness and a danger. It was her guiding hand
that directed my youthful talent into the right path, treating it as a
plant worthy of cultivation, and not as a dangerous or perhaps even
poisonous weed, to be rooted up or trodden under foot! For it was to
many quite a shocking idea, that a princess should not merely have the
misfortune to be born a poet, but that she should actually take no pains
to conceal so terrible a fact! That sort of talent really could not be
considered suitable to one’s station, and where there was no possibility
of extirpating, it must at least be hidden away out of sight! But
Fräulein Lavater, in her quiet unobtrusive way, saying no word to hurt
prevailing prejudices and thereby expose me to still greater
disapprobation, found the means of lending just the aid and sheltering
care so requisite to my first timid attempts at giving poetic form to
the emotional and intellectual chaos over which I brooded. The sure and
refined taste of the elder woman rendered invaluable service to the
somewhat headlong and indiscriminating enthusiasm of youth, in pointing
out to me, at the same time with the best models for admiration and
imitation, errors to be avoided, excesses and weaknesses to be
condemned. Then, as later, it was the certainty that one’s efforts and
aspirations, one’s failures and mistakes would meet in her, not merely
with justice, but with that indulgence which is perhaps the highest form
of human justice, this it was which inspired one with confidence in
seeking her verdict, and spared one the excessive discouragement some
criticisms invariably leave behind. A sense of justice is very strong
in most children, and they suffer more acutely than is generally
supposed, in the consciousness of being unjustly treated. Misjudged as
in my childhood I felt myself to be by the iron disciplinarians whose
aim it was to crush out all originality, it was a comfort to know that
to one person I never appeared wilful or headstrong, and it was perhaps
scarce possible to experience a greater satisfaction than was mine in
later years, in hearing Fräulchen’s affectionate tribute to “our
sunbeam,” as she was fond of calling me:--“She was always a dear good
child, only wishing to make everyone happy!”

To this very day, in those moments of disappointment and lassitude by
which all of us are at times beset, I have but to think of Fräulein
Lavater, for the old feeling of peace and calm to come over me, and the
physical pain is at once stilled, and the cares and troubles that seemed
overpowering shrink into insignificance. More than once, in times gone
by, when the burden laid upon my shoulders seemed greater than I could
bear, her adroit touch adjusted it and turned it into a feather-weight,
and recalling this, I rouse myself again to the struggle, to find as
before my strength and courage increase, in proportion to the
difficulties of the situation. I was in good truth Fräulchen’s pupil,
her spiritual child, and it was as much for her as for myself that I was
indignant, when of recent years an absurd report came to my knowledge,
of a nervous complaint from which I was said to be suffering! As soon
might one have credited _her_, the best-balanced person in the world,
with an hysterical or nervous attack, since, like herself, I have always
had my nerves under perfect control, and sharing in her somewhat
contemptuous feeling for neurasthenia, neurosis, or any other such
new-fangled disorder, I should consider it something degrading, of which
to be ashamed, to be justly ranged among its victims. I have given, I
think, sufficient proof to the contrary, and have shown of what
well-tempered steel my nerves are made, by continuing my work
uninterruptedly during long years of ill-health, and in spite of severe
and almost unremitting pain, of which the doctors only much later
discovered the cause. Well may I claim to disdain nerves and all who
suffer from them, considering that they only too often serve as a mask,
behind which selfishness and hypocrisy are hidden. Fräulein Lavater, at
any rate, did not plead nerves if ever her equanimity were disturbed;
she would own quite candidly:--“I am so irritable to-day!”

In one of the little albums--“Books of Confessions,” as they were
called,--that at one time had so much vogue, among a host of silly
questions, this one was asked: “Of all human qualities which do you
prize most highly?” Without a moment’s hesitation, my father wrote down:
“Enlightened goodness of heart!” No better description could be given of
our Fräulein. Hers was the kindness, the goodness of heart, that may be
truly said to be “illuminated” by the understanding; not that mere
unthinking, easy good nature, blind in perception and indiscriminate in
action, but the sympathy that springs from deepest insight, the
indulgence that is born of comprehension--in a word, the charity that
“beareth and endureth all things.” In each family circle, ever a little
world in itself, with its sometimes incongruous elements and oft
divergent and conflicting interests, and wherein the little rift may so
soon be widened to an irreparable breach, the trifling dissension
develop into implacable enmity, the presence of one person endowed with
this rarest of human attributes will ever be the harmonising medium, the
spirit of conciliation, the factor indispensable to the cohesion of the

Would that there were more like Fräulchen in this weary world! Fate is
hard enough towards most of us. No need that we should ever strive to
place a stumbling-block in another’s path, or make it darker by one
shadow the more. Let us at least cherish the memory of all, whose
“irradiating kindliness” for a moment brightened the gloom.

Wherever great intelligence and true culture combine, as in the person
of Fanny Lavater, with moral strength and sweetness to the formation of
a character, the result is like the harmonious blending of rich hues in
some beautiful old cathedral window, through which the daylight
streaming, transforms into new and unwonted loveliness even the
commonest objects on which it falls!



It was at the time when this learned and accomplished friend of the
highly gifted King Frederick William IV. was the representative of
Prussia at the Court of St. James, that I first visited England in my
childhood. We came over twice, on the first occasion to stay in the Isle
of Wight, whilst our second visit was divided between Hastings and
London. A sincere and lasting friendship then sprang up between my
family and that of this remarkable man, continuing to this day among the
members of a younger generation.

Bunsen loved to be the Mecænas of men of talent, and many were the
interesting people whom we met at his house. The whole family was
musical; two of the sons, just then students at the University of Bonn,
sang most delightfully; “Kathleen Mavourneen” was first made known to me
by the pleasing tenor of the one, and the other gave the famous “Figaro
quà, Figaro là,” of the “Barber of Seville,” with great effect in his
agreeable baritone. I had the pleasure of hearing the organ in
Westminster Abbey played by the eldest daughter, whose professor, the
celebrated organist, Neukomm, became from that moment a most welcome
guest in our house, sometimes staying with us for weeks at a time. It
was from this fine old musician that in my twelfth year I began learning
the harmonium, and became moreover an enthusiast like himself for the
sweet plaintive tones of the Æolian harp. It was his delight to fix one
of these simple instruments in the crack of an open door, and seat
himself in the full draught, to listen for and note down the weird
melodies played by the wind. Often on a lovely summer’s evening,--in the
moonlight of Monrepos that has been sung of among us from generation to
generation,--we would have the harmonium brought out on the terrace, and
letting his fingers stray over the keys, Neukomm would imitate the
sighing of the breeze in the strings of the harp, catching up the echo
of some murmuring sound, and repeating and improvising on it for hours.

Our stay in the Isle of Wight was delightful, and I look back on the
pretty little island as a sort of earthly paradise, fit scene for a
happy, idyllic life. Our little villa was smothered in the clustering
roses that climbed over it everywhere, and on all sides stretched a lawn
of beautiful soft green grass, perfectly kept, but upon which we
children could fling ourselves and play to our hearts’ content; such a
relief after the perpetual injunctions to refrain from stepping on the
grass, to which we were accustomed in Germany. Then we had the good luck
too, to be by the sea during a spring-tide, a novel experience, that
gave us a most glorious excitement, as we happened to be taking our
daily sea-bath, and there was the very greatest difficulty in getting
the bathing-machine safely back to the beach again. The ropes with which
the poor horse was harnessed gave way, and the man, who was pale with
fright, had hard work to rescue the little house-on-wheels with its
occupants, whilst my brother and I were simply delighted to see the
waves dash over it, rejoicing at last to encounter something that was
like a real adventure!

Our second visit to England was in the year 1851, and we were in London
just at the closing of the first great International Exhibition, at
which I remember seeing immense crowds of people standing bare-headed
and cheering, as “God save the Queen!” was played. That spectacle made
more impression on me than anything in the Exhibition itself, unless it
was perhaps the splendid trees, one giant oak-tree in particular, which
had been built in with the edifice, completely roofed over by the big
glass dome. Other contemporary events I did not witness myself, but only
heard of them from our friends,--the funeral of the Duke of Wellington,
for instance,--which they described to us passing their house, the
Embassy in Carlton Terrace, in an endless procession rolling on for
hours, like wave on wave in swift succession, to the mournful strains of
the Dead March from the Eroica Symphony. As the sounds of one military
band died away in the distance, the next one had already come up in step
to the melancholy cadence of the selfsame march. Just like the rising
and sinking of ocean waves was the impressive yet monotonous grandeur of
the nation’s tribute to its great soldier.

The Prussian Embassy was at that time frequented by almost every one of
talent or high intellectual culture to be found in London, Bunsen
possessing in a remarkable degree the gift of attracting clever people
to himself. He was quick too to discern the promise of future eminence
in others, and many might relate how in that genial atmosphere their
talent was discovered and encouraged and obtained its first recognition.
Mendelssohn and Max Müller were amongst those who quite young there
found themselves at once prized at their true value. The conversational
powers of the master of the house himself, the young people so gifted
and versatile, the open hospitality, the excellent music,--all these
things were so many magnets, that drew strangers within the charmed
sphere. I was of course not capable then of appreciating the depth of
Bunsen’s learning or his intellectual worth, but his marvellous command
of language and rhetorical facility impressed me greatly. In the fluency
of his speech, the ease and elegance with which on all occasions he
expressed himself, he resembled his royal friend, Frederick William IV.
And his handsome face recalled that of the great Goethe at an advanced
age, the likeness being especially striking on his deathbed.

But it was only natural that at that time Bunsen’s children and
grandchildren should interest me much more than he did himself. The lame
daughter, above all, like my mother at that time, being always wheeled
about in her chair and unable to walk a step, and in whose features I
also discovered something of a likeness to my mother, that perhaps lay
in the kind gentle smile. The sympathy they felt for one another was
naturally strengthened by their common misfortune, in each case the
lameness appearing to be absolutely incurable. During the summer we
spent in the Isle of Wight, my mother could still go about on crutches,
then after the birth of my younger brother her condition grew far worse,
complete atrophy of the one leg having apparently set in, and the pain
hardly allowing her any sleep at night. Fräulein von Bunsen’s lameness
proceeded from an attack of coxalgia as an infant, and since her sixth
year all hope had been abandoned of her ever being able to walk. We
children were meantime quite at home in the house of one of her
brothers, playing with his children, with whom we continued on
affectionate terms our whole life long. It is a satisfaction to be able
to look back on fifty years of uninterrupted friendship such as this.
Very specially did it exist between myself and Bunsen’s daughter-in-law,
Elizabeth, so dear to me, that it was almost as if ties of blood had
united us. Only quite recently did I bid a last farewell to this sweet
and lovable woman, death having called her away. But she lives on in my
remembrance, and I have an agreeable recollection also of her father,
the Quaker, Gurney, and of his greeting, warm and courteous in spite of
his keeping his hat on his head, as he met us on the threshold of his
house with the words--“Be welcome to my home!”

I observed and learned a great deal more than anyone at that time
suspected! It was my first stay in a great city, and the first lesson it
brought home to me was that of complete acquiescence in my own
limitations, or rather in those imposed on me by circumstances, my very
modest supply of pocket-money making quite unattainable all the
splendours I saw exhibited in the shop windows. There was one lovely
doll-shop, with the most exquisite dolls, as big as real babies, and
directly I had a small sum to spend, I made my way thither, quite happy
to have a close view of all these treasures, even if I should be unable
to purchase any of them. And in truth, it was just the tiniest wax-doll
of all that the contents of my small purse could buy--but such a lovely
one, in a dear little tiny bed with curtains of rose-coloured silk,
through which the rosy light streamed over the delicate little wax face.
How I loved that doll! It looked just like a little princess in a fairy
tale, or a fairy itself, sleeping there in the beautiful rose-coloured
light. None of the bigger, grander dolls could have appealed to my
imagination as did this little one. After all it is on _that_--on the
part played by their own imagination, that chiefly depends the amount of
pleasure children get out of their toys, and those that are in
proportion to their own diminutive scale and on a level with their
simple requirements, appeal to them far more than others, chiefly
remarkable for their magnitude and costliness. Lively as I was, I took
the very greatest care of all my toys, treating them as if they were
animate, sentient objects, so that I was in despair if any of them got
broken or hurt. Demonstrations of affection never being encouraged, in
fact being rather sternly repressed in our family, all my pent up
tenderness poured itself out on my dolls and also on my little
horse-hair pillow which I used to hug and kiss in gratitude every night
before going to sleep. It was all the dearer to me, because it was not
taken with us on our journeys, and as I was not allowed to sleep on a
down pillow, I generally, when we were away from home, had to do without
altogether, which was by no means pleasant. Notwithstanding--or perhaps
in consequence of this severe training,--having always been accustomed
in my youth to sleep on a rather hard thin mattress stretched on a very
narrow camp bedstead, I have grown somewhat more luxurious in that
respect in my later years, and can hardly now be too softly pillowed in
order to rest at ease. It is as if there were a sort of reaction,--a
revolt of human nature against unnecessary and useless hardships
imposed,--a lassitude of the whole frame to which some slight measure of
indulgence must be accorded. Not in the matter of the palate though!
Naturally abstemious, the habits of my youth still prevail with me there
to such an extent, that to this day I prefer a slice of good wholesome
black bread to all the daintiest, most skilfully prepared dishes in the
world! We children knew too by experience the relish that the
imagination may impart to the simplest fare, unconsciously resembling
one of the creations of the great English novelist as we “made believe”
to spread a little butter on the bread which the hygienic theories of
the age insisted on our eating dry! But everything has its compensation,
and who knows if those pleasures of the imagination, which were our
chief resource, are not denied to the younger generation, from whom we
scarcely seem to exact even needful self-restraint and self-denial,
much less to call upon them for any exceptional sacrifice of their own
comfort. Where every whim is gratified from the outset, there remains
neither the necessity nor the inclination to seek refuge from unpleasant
realities in a fairer world, to spread one’s wings and take flight for
the realms of Fancy. Do the children of the present day even rightly
believe in the possibility of thus spreading their wings? Would not some
of these little sceptics laugh at the idea? Poor little things! Can it
really be that there is no fairyland for them, no enchanted isles in the
distant ocean, no kingdoms to conquer, no heroic deeds to be performed,
that their souls find complete satisfaction in the prosaic details of
everyday life, and never soar beyond the region of dull commonplace fact
of their dreary school-hours? They little know of what they are
deprived! They could never guess the joy we knew in the possession of
this wondrous secret, this magic key, which unlocked the gates of
fairyland, of the world of dreams, of noble adventure, wherein we could
wander at will. What battles we fought, what gallant deeds we performed,
what wrongs we redressed with the aid of those invisible armies, always
at hand to come to our assistance and conduct us to victory, when the
odds seemed too overpowering! But we had not invariably such exalted
ambitions as these, it was not even always the discovery of some lonely
desert island on which we were bent, but a much simpler, more modest lot
satisfied us, provided it were but sufficiently removed from that which
in truth was ours! Thus it was one of my favourite ideas from the time
I was four years old, to be a village schoolmistress, but I could not
persuade my brother to promise that he would settle down beside me as
the schoolmaster. That would have clashed with his dream of being a
soldier, so it was settled that I should be the “daughter of the
regiment,” the _vivandiére_, and accompany it everywhere so that we
might not be separated. Ah! what marvellous adventures, what hairbreadth
escapes, what glorious triumphs were ours! Sometimes we were sold as
slaves, at others we were bold sea-farers and again quiet peasant-folk
carrying our spades and milk-cans. It was by this means that we kept up
our spirits, and preserved our good humour successfully, in spite of all
that was irksome in our actual surroundings. Thanks to my lively
imagination, I did not succumb to the persistent onslaught of the
educational efforts destined to turn the current of my thoughts into a
perfectly alien channel. In vain was I tied down to science and
mathematics, logarithms and equations will forever be to me lifeless,
meaningless abstractions, and it took me much less time than I had spent
in acquiring it, to forget the velocity of a body falling through space!
As for doing a simple sum in addition, I might as well never have
learned the process at all for the little I know about it now. But the
art of inventing a story, of calling up imaginary beings, of following
them through the vicissitudes of their career, and weaving all this
together to a plot--that was mine then and is still mine,
notwithstanding all that was done to crush it out of me. What should I
have done on the long tedious journeys, had I not been able to amuse
myself by the delightful stories I thought out. Sitting cramped in my
corner of the travelling-carriage or railway compartment, afraid even to
stretch my limbs lest the movement should disturb one or other of the
invalids, I owe it to my imagination alone, that child as I was, I did
not fall into hopeless melancholy.

It was this same happy faculty of creating for myself an ideal
atmosphere, and peopling this new world with my best-beloved heroes, and
the no less heroic creations of my own brain,--this it was which lent so
great a charm to many of our resorts,--standing us in good stead for
instance, in investing with beauty the rather tame, stiff garden of a
London square, so unsuited for the abode of mystery or romance. Apart
from our intimacy with the Bunsen family, our stay in London possessed
indeed few attractions for us. There was no relaxation of the customary
strictness with which we were treated, on the contrary, there seemed to
be an accumulation of wearisome restrictions and petty annoyances
attendant on the stay in strange houses. Even when there was a garden,
we might hardly play there, certainly not dig in it, nor run across the
lawn, and as for venturing to gather a flower, I was haunted by visions
of angry men pursuing us with thick sticks, ever since the day when the
landlord had shaken his finger at us, just for touching his
orange-trees! It was a little better in Hastings, where we had the
beautiful open sea, and the beach on which we could play undisturbed.
But our pleasure there was damped by our perpetual anxiety and sadness
on my mother’s behalf, whose illness had already entered then on its
most distressing stage. From the window I could see her carried in and
out of the sea, sometimes alas! to lie in convulsions on the beach, the
servants standing round holding up umbrellas to protect her from the
gaze of inquisitive onlookers. I stood sad and helpless at the window,
unable to understand the unfeeling curiosity of these strangers. It was
not quite so bad on their part though, as the behaviour of two Germans
on the steamer that brought us over from Ostend, who kept pushing
against my mother’s lame foot as she sat on deck, and even complained at
her, for taking up so much room. It hurt her most of all, that it should
be her own countrymen who were thus rude and heartless. Let us hope that
it was merely sea-sickness which made them so inhuman! And the lady
resembled them who, when my mother had dragged herself on her crutches
to a railway-carriage and was preparing to enter it, shut the door in
her face, saying:--“there is no room here!” What a contrast to the good
old bathing-man at Hastings, who used to carry her in and out of the
water, and was so sorry to see how she suffered, that he would pat her
cheek gently, and talk to her as if he were comforting a small
child:--“There, there, poor dear! it will be better soon!”

That journey from Ostend belongs to the most painful experiences of my
childhood, it was nothing but discomfort and sadness, and I shall never
forget the wailing of my poor little baby brother Otto, suffering all
night long in one of the frightful paroxysms of pain, for which in vain
relief was sought. His devoted English nurse, our good Barnes, sat
rocking him in her arms the whole time, and every now and then she cast
a sympathetic glance my way, but she could do nothing to help or comfort
me, she was entirely taken up with her poor little charge. Had there
been anyone there who could have told me a story to distract my
thoughts, to take me for a moment out of myself, and away from the
unhappiness which I was helpless to console! How often may not some
pretty well-told tale, some little snatch of song, help a child to
forget the misery of its weary limbs and aching head, and soothe it to

One of my best and happiest experiences belongs however here, and must
not be forgotten. It relates to that very Fräulein von Bunsen, the lame
daughter, Emilie, “Aunt Mim,” as we afterwards called her, of whom I
have already spoken. And the incident was called forth by some childish
misdeed of mine, one of those trivial offences many would deem scarce
worth noticing, but for which with us a punishment utterly
disproportionate to the enormity of the crime was invariably inflicted.
I was thus on this occasion condemned to be left behind alone, while the
others set off joyously in five or six carriages to spend a day among
the hop-pickers,--a treat to which I had been looking forward for weeks
past. As they drove off, and I stood watching them sadly from the
balcony, seeing their happy faces and listening to their gay laughter,
feeling myself to be an outcast from the paradise towards which they
were setting forth,--it was then that the lame Fräulein von Bunsen,
happening to look up, caught sight of me, and before I could hide
myself, had waved her hand to me with a friendly smile that went far to
reconcile me with my lot and the world in general. The greeting, the
smile, fell on my wounded heart like balm. Up to that moment I had felt
somewhat like a condemned criminal, fearing that I must be looked down
upon and shunned by every member of that happy party, since it was known
to them all that I was deprived by my own fault of the pleasure of
joining them. But the kind thought, the kind smile, took away all the
bitterness of my reflections, and were treasured piously in my memory.
Years after, when I reminded dear Aunt Mim of the occurrence, I was
still more pleased to hear from her that my absence had been much
regretted, not by her alone, but by all the others, on that day. They
were all so sorry for me, she said, and missed the wonderful stories,
which I was never tired of telling on all such excursions. I had
forgotten all about that, my best stories being always made up for
myself alone, as I lay in bed in the morning, awake with the birds and
listening to their singing, and feeling the spirit of song just as alive
in me, while the rest of the house was still fast asleep. I only
remembered her kindness and the comfort it gave me, and until she
reminded me of it, had never thought again of that other unlucky day on
which the wheel of the little donkey-carriage, with her mother and
youngest sister sitting in it, passed over my foot, at which I took
care not to cry out or even make a face, and was only betrayed by the
torn condition of my shoe, which led to my being scolded and sent home
to have my foot bathed, instead of being allowed to continue my walk.

What a pretty picture Fräulein von Bunsen made in those days with her
sweet expression, and pink and white complexion, leaning back in her
bath-chair in her pink dress and hat with pink roses, pink veil and
sunshade, looking a very rosebud herself! She was like my mother in this
also, that the same treatment by which the latter was restored to health
was very effective in her case too, and after undergoing it she spent
many years in our house. Very intelligent, she possessed in a high
degree the riper wisdom peculiar to those who have watched from afar the
waves of life go surging by, themselves untouched by their tumult. An
invalid looks on at the spectacle of human existence with something of
the aloofness of a recluse, and is able to preserve the same childlike
candour and crystalline purity of soul. No passion had ever stirred the
depths of hers. It was like a deep transparent lake, in which earth and
sky are reflected, clouds and sunshine, night and storm, and which yet
remains unchanged through all. She reached her eightieth year in the
same untroubled harmony of thought and feeling, her features very little
altered by age, and her voice as sweet and clear as ever. Music was the
very centre of her being, round which her whole existence revolved. I
played duets with her for hours together, learning to know all the best
works of the great classic composers so thoroughly and well, it was as
if the glorious floods of melody had passed into my veins, to flow there
mingled with my blood for evermore. How often did we thus succeed in
flinging away all sorrow and care, feeling our troubles ooze out at the
finger-tips, and our souls grow lighter as we played! All the days of my
youth seem to pass before me, whenever I hear Beethoven’s Symphonies:
certain of them,--the second, and that in C minor,--represent for me, as
do Schubert’s Quartet and Mozart’s Symphony in G minor, very special
phases of my existence, storms that were laid to rest by their potent
spell. Our piano was a very old instrument whose keys were yellow with
age, but to us it had the fulness of tone of a whole orchestra. And to
strengthen the illusion, my father would often join us and hum or
whistle some special passage as it is written for the different
instruments, to try to give me some faint idea of the orchestral effect.
In our enthusiasm we had soon forgotten the limitations of the means at
our command, above all we forgot our own imperfections, we felt the
whole orchestration, and in the grandeur of the conception the
inadequacy of the performance was quite swallowed up. Is that not the
best way to enjoy these divine masterpieces, the safest method of
interpretation? It would not suffice, I am well aware, for the
exigencies of a modern audience, incapable of drawing on the imagination
to supply the deficiencies of execution. The hurry and bustle of the
century leave no room for the modest efforts of a dilettante, imbued
though these may be with the spirit of truest adoration. Ours was the
purest hero-worship, unmixed with aught of personal vanity or ambition.
We simply thanked God, in the fulness of our hearts, that He had sent
Beethoven to enrich and beautify the world!

At other times Aunt Mim would sit quietly at work in the library, whilst
I wandered restlessly to and fro, like a caged lion, as she always said,
telling her all that passed through my brain. It was just her unruffled
calm that encouraged me to let loose on her the flood-gates of my soul.
Surely those human beings come nearest perfection, who have preserved
through life their angelic innocence, and it is perhaps to further this
that such are often afflicted with some bodily infirmity, whereby the
soul has power to raise itself above this earth.

By her perfect submission to the Divine Will, her firm faith which no
doubt had ever clouded, no less than by her unswerving fidelity in
friendship, and the cheerful, sunny temperament that had in it something
of the playfulness and simplicity of a child, Aunt Mim was the pearl of
her whole family and became invaluable and indispensable to ours. In
those hours of greatest suffering, when words of good cheer could no
more avail, then her quiet sympathy would yet often find means of making
life a little more endurable to the poor sick child, of distracting my
father’s thoughts from present sadness. Only one so utterly detached
from all thought of self could have refreshed and lightened that
atmosphere of gloom. So heavily did it press at times on my childish
mind, and so thoroughly had my mother inculcated the belief in death as
the supreme good to be wished and desired by us all, as the sole release
from pain and suffering for ourselves and others, that during the weeks
in which, after my brother Otto’s birth, she lay between life and death,
my governess often heard me praying that God would take her to Himself!
It caused some perplexity, I believe, to her who overheard this singular
prayer, to hit on the right method of bringing me to desist from it,
without disturbing the effect of the maternal teaching, and she wisely
contented herself with telling me that although it would doubtless be
for Mamma’s happiness to go to heaven, I need not ask for this, as God
would take her to Himself in His own good time, and that moreover I
should then see her no more. I was very much astonished at this, never
having for a moment contemplated the possibility of being deprived of my
mother’s presence by death. My idea of heaven was of something so real
and near, that whenever I gazed up into the blue sky, I felt sure that
were my beloved ones there, I might at any moment see a little window
opening to let me through to join them! Well is it with us if we can
keep this belief through life, if like children, who have left their
heavenly home too recently to accustom themselves to this earth, and
could depart again from it without a pang, we can but bear in mind
during the whole course of our dreary pilgrimage, that we have here no
abiding place, and keep our hopes fixed on the life beyond!

If I appear to dwell overmuch on my inner life in childhood, it is for
the sake of other children, many of whom are perhaps as liable to be
misunderstood as I was myself. Who was there, of the grown-up people
around me, who could ever guess what was really passing in my mind?
Taught that it was my duty to enliven and gladden others, I had schooled
my face to an expression of perpetual cheerfulness, and should have
considered myself eternally disgraced, had anyone ever surprised me in
tears. It is only by the utmost kindness and tenderness, that we can
hope to win the confidence of a proud and sensitive child, and break
down the wall of reserve behind which it early learns to intrench

Among the many agreeable recollections I retain of the house in Carlton
Terrace, that of the entrance and staircase is especially vivid, both
being carpeted, as was the passage leading to the rooms above, with soft
green felt, while book-shelves lined every available space along the
walls. Such a friendly, home-like impression was thus at once created,
intensified by the habit of making of the entrance-hall, on which the
doors of all the rooms opened, a favourite resort for reading or
conversation. That green carpeting, of just the tint of the green baize
of a billiard-table, on which one’s eyes rested with so much pleasure,
was no less agreeable to the ears, every sound being deadened, and the
wheeled chairs of the invalids passing over it quite noiselessly.

Under Bunsen’s auspices, a literary society was founded in Bonn, whose
members--generally under pseudonyms--submitted their work for his
approval. Among the translators, my mother distinguished herself by a
version of the magnificent Paternoster in Dante’s _Purgatorio_, and
another of Longfellow’s _Song of the Old Clock_, with its mournful

Needless to say, though it is perhaps the proper place to insist upon it
here, that I cannot pretend to describe the persons I have known,
otherwise than just as they appeared to me at the time itself, these
reminiscences being but the faithful transcription of the impressions
received at different periods of my life, starting from my earliest
childhood. Not for one moment can I profess to have been competent at
the early age that then was mine, to form a correct idea of Bunsen’s
literary merits. Of his books, the “Signs of the Times” and others, the
titles were all that was known to me, but my respect for the career of
letters was innate and unbounded, and the fact that he was an author
impressed me immensely. Sometimes I have vaguely wondered since, whether
with him intellectual brilliancy in the best meaning of the word may not
have outweighed depth of thought. But this is a mere conjecture, on
which it would be unfair to base a judgment. One talent, that was
indisputably his, and which since I have been able rightly to appreciate
it I have often envied him, was Bunsen’s marvellous facility for
skimming through a book, and acquiring by that rapid survey a sufficient
knowledge of its contents, to be able to discuss it afterwards, most
minutely in all particulars with the author, as if he had read every
word of it!

Another gift, which is sometimes denied to people of commanding
intellect, but which invariably renders its possessor beloved, was also
his in a supreme degree: the aptitude for drawing out all that was best
and worthiest of notice in others, of making those around him feel, as
if it were not merely _his_ wit alone, but theirs also that made the
conversation brilliant. A rare gift indeed! For all will agree, that
pleasant as it is to be in the society of clever people, pleasantest of
all is to have to do with those, who make us feel cleverer ourselves
while we talk to them!



Our stay in Bonn was, as I have already pointed out, enriched by the
intercourse into which we were thrown with many clever and interesting
people, some of whom became true and trusted friends. Thus it happened
that in a peculiarly dark and trying hour, we found in Clement Perthes
the best and wisest counsellor, an unfailing source of help and comfort.
It was to his special care that my father had confided us all, when he
set out on that ill-advised journey in pursuit of health, from which he
was only to return far more seriously ill than before. The doctors
counted on the complete change, on the pleasurable excitement of travel,
above all on his withdrawal from depressing surroundings, on his being
for a time removed from the sad spectacle of daily suffering in his own
household, as the best means of insuring his complete recovery. It was a
well-meant, and carefully debated plan; but like many another issue of
mere human wisdom, was not justified by events. However, after long
deliberation and with many misgivings, my father was prevailed on to
agree to the separation from wife and children for a whole year, setting
out for America, accompanied by his young brother-in-law, Nicholas of
Nassau. Brave as everyone struggled to be at parting, it was a most
frightful wrench, and I remember seeing the tears stream from my
mother’s eyes, directly she fancied herself unobserved. From that
moment, it was on Perthes that devolved the task of cheering the anxious
hearts and raising the sinking spirits of those who had stayed behind.
And well and wisely did he set to work. Not merely with his practical
good sense and strong understanding, but above all according to the
dictates of his good heart and warm human sympathies, did he fulfil the
mission confided to him, and his kindness and tact, more even than his
cleverness and knowledge, have the first claim on our gratitude.

There was something exhilarating in the good humour that pervaded the
whole person of Clement Perthes, a youthful, almost boyish love of
mischief and fun, that was not belied by the expression of his eyes,
narrow and obliquely set in the head, giving him somewhat of a Japanese
cast of countenance. This fantastic appearance was increased by the
strange fold or wrinkle beneath the eyes, deepening as he laughed and
joked, while another line above the eyebrows seemed to impart a softer,
almost feminine touch to the face, that was, however, neutralised by the
determined expression of the thin lips. Everything seemed to furnish him
with matter for a jest, and he used to call me the “hundred-and-first,”
insisting upon it that out of a hundred other little girls of my age,
not one could be found who was the least like myself.

His children were our dearest playfellows. There were four sons and only
one daughter, all of them good and amiable like their mother and


but all of them dying young, to the unspeakable grief of the poor
parents. It was hard indeed for them, to see their darlings go from them
to the grave so young, but for these, for the children themselves, must
they not afterwards often have blessed heaven in their hearts, that they
should have been spared the misery inevitable to a longer sojourn on
earth! The sons came often to us, and shared my brother’s games, but he
could not join them at their studies, as they were so much older than
himself and naturally much more advanced. A little companion was found,
the son of Professor Dorner, to learn Latin with him, but he also was
older and had the start, my brother being only just seven, rather young
perhaps for such serious studies. It is true that Otto was able to begin
Greek when he was seven, but then he was altogether exceptional, having
a love of study, in addition to his excellent abilities. Besides the
sister of the young Perthes, I had another favourite companion in a
daughter of Professor Sell, a young girl so versed in the Rhineland
folk-lore, she had an unfailing supply of the most delightful tales and
legends, all of which were instantly turned into impromptu plays, and
acted by us with the greatest spirit and zest.

Nor was that special form of amusement confined to our school-room and
our play hours; amateur theatricals of a more ambitious kind were a
constant source of entertainment at the Vinea Domini, and afforded an
opportunity for the display of some rather remarkable talent. In the
first place there was my mother herself, an admirable performer, and at
the same time the most severe, most merciless of stage-managers. She
would think nothing of having a scene rehearsed sixty times, till it
went to her satisfaction. She was admirably seconded by the bevy of
charming young girls that gathered round her--her own younger sisters,
her niece of Solms-Laubach, the daughter of an intimate friend, the
diplomatist, Heinrich von Arnim, and the two sisters von Preen, of whom
the one was her own and the other her step-mother’s lady-in-waiting. All
these thronged, happy and light-hearted, round my mother, vying with one
another in the effort to win her approbation. Sometimes there were most
amusing scenes, that were not played on the mimic stage, as for instance
that which I myself witnessed, of my cousin and Else Arnim sitting on
the floor, one on each side of my mother’s chair, disputing till they
cried, as to which of them loved her best! And my mother cried too, with
laughter! But whatever her own mood, well or ill herself, she never
relaxed her efforts to provide wholesome and interesting entertainment
for all these young people, and in everything she undertook Perthes was
the most efficient auxiliary, as well as the surest adviser in any
dilemma. Himself a professor at the university and resident in Bonn for
many years, he was well acquainted with every section of society, and
none could have been more competent than he, to advise her as to the
selection of the elements from which her own circle should be composed.
It was her desire to admit to her house every one possessing any claim
to personal distinction, above all to pre-eminence in the world of
science, of letters and art. Among the younger men, those who were at
that time studying at the university, how many there were who have since
played a conspicuous part in the drama of European history! For the
moment they were content to display their talents in the little theatre
of the Vinea Domini. The drawing-room was divided, the one-half being
converted into a stage, while in the other sat an audience composed in
great part of scholars of note, all the learned dons and doctors of the
university,--no mean tribunal certainly to sit in judgment on the
performance. The actors had, however, little to fear even if judged by
the most exacting standard, the histrionic ability of some of these
young people being of a very high order, and they were well drilled in
their parts, and the rehearsals superintended by the mistress of the
house, until everything reached an unwonted pitch of perfection. In the
pretty comedy of the “King’s Lieutenant” the leading part was played by
George Bunsen in a style that left no room for criticism. Years after I
saw the famous actor, Haase, as Thorane, but I cannot see that the
professional comedian in any way excelled the amateur in the part. That
of Goethe, the youthful Goethe, in the same play, was taken by Prince
Reuss, who looked the sixteen-year-old poet to the life, and the parents
were impersonated by Prince Frederick William of Prussia as
Privy-Councillor Goethe and Fräulein von Preen as the majestic
Privy-Councilloress. The future Emperor Frederick was just a little
stiff in his acting, hence the staid part of the elderly man had been
given him, but all played delightfully, the younger Fräulein von Preen
also making a most successful entrance as the girl who runs in with her
market basket on her arm. Some evenings only charades were represented,
and on others tableaux vivants, in both of which the commanding officer
of the Hussars, Count Oriola, a remarkably handsome man, was generally
the most striking figure. I remember how splendid he looked as a
brigand-chief, with one of my young aunts, afterwards Princess Waldeck,
as his wife. He had married one of the daughters of Bettina von Arnim,
but it is in some cases little more than a name or the vague outline of
some person seen in my mother’s drawing-room that I can call to mind. It
may even appear surprising, that I should remember so much, as I was
only eight years old at the time I speak of, but my recollections do in
truth go much further back, as the following incident will show:

It concerns the departure of my little brother’s wet-nurse, which took
place when I could not have been more than two years and a half old. She
was so unhappy at leaving, and wept so bitterly while being shown the
big pile of house-linen which my mother gave her as a present, I thought
I would find something better to console her, and rushing off to the
nursery, I returned with one of my dearest possessions, a little doll’s
tea-kettle, which I tried to thrust into her hand. I can see distinctly
her look of amazement, as she smiled through her tears, and hear the
tone of my mother’s voice, saying,--“But what good can that be to her?”
I felt as if I had had a bucket of cold water thrown over me, and I
turned away with my treasure, disappointed and mortified at the
fruitlessness of my good intentions. So I kept my poor little
tea-kettle, and in course of time my own child played with it, as with
many of my dolls and other playthings, with such affection had they been
preserved. I may surely claim to have ever shown fidelity to the past,
and as for my memory, I might liken it to lava, on which every
impression from without, stamping itself at white-heat, is indelibly
engraven for all time.

How well I remember the melancholy Christmas we spent that year in Bonn
without my father, his absence taking all the joy out of the festival,
in spite of my mother’s efforts to prevent the happiness of others being
dimmed by her own sadness. It was the very moment when the American mail
was due, and on Christmas Eve we waited and waited, everyone hoping that
at least the amount of gladness a letter could give might still be hers.
And the last post did bring the expected missives, the well-known thin,
pale blue envelopes, which Fräulein von Preen quickly tied on with red
ribbons to the Christmas-tree. But at the sight of the handwriting my
mother fairly broke down, and it was some time before she had recovered
her composure sufficiently to collect, as was her habit, the whole
household, children, friends, and the old servants round her, to listen
with rapt attention to the interesting description of scenes in the New
World which those pages contained.

Simple as it might at first sight appear, there is perhaps nothing so
difficult as clearly to convey by words a picture of any human
existence. Difficult enough it must be in any case, oneself to gain a
clear conception of the real person, but how much more so to make the
written portrait a true likeness. So indomitable was my mother’s
courage, so thoroughly did the natural elasticity of her temperament
enable her to rise superior to every trial, many of her acquaintance
might well see in her only the charming, clever and accomplished woman,
the life and soul of the brilliant society she loved to gather round
her, and which her own personality seemed so happily fitted to lead and
dominate. But there was another, sadder side to her existence, no less
real for being revealed alone to the members of her family and more
intimate friends.

Exercising the same powers of attraction alike on young and old, and in
her own person combining the keenest interest in every intellectual
problem with a remarkable capacity for entering into any form of
innocent mirth, the young mistress of the Vinea Domini was able to
control and blend the different elements of her little society, to a
harmony complete and pleasing to all. Representative men in science and
art, in literature and politics, met there to discuss topics of gravest
import; every talent found welcome recognition. What pretty water-colour
sketches were made by the young Prince Reuss, whose long and eventful
diplomatic career none yet foresaw! When, later on, I came across the
drawings he had made of us children, I had a surprise similar to that
told in a preceding chapter, to see the melancholy expression I wore,
but was assured by my mother that I did indeed often look thus. I
struggled so perpetually to appear cheerful, I could hardly believe that
anyone could have seen me looking sad; we keep count of the efforts we
make, but cannot judge of the results we achieve. Of the Shakespeare
readings, and lectures upon Shakespeare, given by Professor Löbell at
our house, I can only speak from hearsay, for I was not present, but all
the hearers pronounced them admirable, and I was sorry to be excluded,
my curiosity being stimulated by the passages my mother had read to me
from some of the plays, and I had wept bitterly over the pathetic scenes
concerning poor little Prince Arthur. I was, however, sometimes allowed
to make one of the party in the excursions down the Rhine, and I
listened, now with delight to the melodious part-songs, now wondering,
and storing up in my mind fragments of the animated discourse--on every
subject, it seemed to me, of highest interest in heaven or earth--with
which the boat’s joyous passengers filled up the intervals of their
singing. To draw others into conversation and lead them to impart their
deepest thoughts, was one of my mother’s special gifts. Young as she
was, her mind had been early matured by sorrow, and she could associate
herself as easily with the aims and aspirations of artists and scholars
as with the plans of statesmen and politicians. The speculative
curiosity of men of science ever had a peculiar fascination for her, and
she was no less receptive for schemes of benevolence and philanthropy.
All phases of contemporary thought, all shades of opinion, were
represented in her drawing-room, together with the harmless mirth, the
love of amusement of the junior portion of the assembly. Never, however,
in their moments of most reckless high spirits, did any of these young
folk overstep the bounds of the strictest decorum and good taste. Had
there been any such danger, a word, a look from my mother--nay, the mere
presence of my grandmother, in her quiet stately dignity, would have
sufficed to call the offender to order. The power can scarcely be
over-rated, which well-bred and high-minded women may exercise over
their surroundings. Nor had it yet been admitted as a possibility in
good society, for young men to allow themselves to take the liberties of
which in a modern drawing-room, they are too often guilty towards their
hostesses. Once, on a lovely summer’s night, two or three scions of
princely houses among the students took it into their heads to serenade
my mother from the river; but when next day, to their timid enquiry how
she had liked the music, they received the chilling reply that she had
certainly heard a noise, but thought it must be some drunken people
returning home, their crestfallen looks showed that they would not
venture to repeat the experiment.

In this light then, of the woman of varied interests and far-reaching
influence did my mother appear to the world at large. It was reserved
for her intimates, for her children and attendants, to see her in the
hours of despondency, racked with pain, and tortured still more by the
gravest fears for the safety of her distant husband and of the child
whose life seemed ever but to hang upon a thread. To those who knew of
her sleepless nights, of her own bodily sufferings, and anxiety on
behalf of others, she might well appear rather under the aspect of a
martyr, bowed down by a load of physical and mental anguish, that must
in time wear out her powers of resistance. She believed herself
constantly to be at the point of death, and those around her often
shared her fears.--“Let yourself cry, you have only too good reason for
your tears!” was all our good old doctor could find to say to her by way
of comfort, one day when he surprised her sobbing in despair.

In every emergency, whether he were called upon for practical advice, or
simply to cheer and console when the cloud of sorrow seemed well-nigh
overpowering, Perthes proved himself, as my father had foreseen, the
kindest and most invaluable of friends. Even friendship, however, was
powerless to soften the blow, when after the long separation, the months
of weary waiting and intense anxiety, the travellers returned, for it
but to become evident to my mother at the first glance at my father’s
pale face and wasted form, that the good results hoped for from the
voyage were far from being realised. It seemed indeed at first sight to
have only done him harm, for he was thinner than ever, with hollow
cheeks and sunken eyes, suffering moreover from temporary surdity,
after-effect of an acute attack of inflammation of the ear, by which he
had been laid up at New Orleans. To him the shock, the disappointment
can have been no less severe, to find poor little Otto’s condition so
much worse, whilst my mother’s state of health seemed also well nigh
past hope. It was a melancholy return home. As the travellers approached
the porch, towards which my mother’s chair had been wheeled to meet
them, the shouts of welcome sent up by the men-servants assembled on the
steps, the waving of their plumed caps in the air at their master’s
approach, all this semblance of rejoicing died away in a general feeling
of consternation, in the mute exchange of glances of dismay, in the
unspoken dread of that which should come next.

Had we but known then, in that darkest, saddest hour, that help was
already at hand, standing there ready to cross the threshold, when the
need should be greatest!



It was in those days that there suddenly came wafted to us across the
ocean the tidings of a wondrous discovery, a strange new pursuit for
pastime,--I scarce know what to call it,--a new method of healing and
new branch of scientific research, some would say, though certainly in
this last particular it has not yet justified its claims to be admitted
to rank as a science, but has like that other dark mysterious agent,
electricity, of which we also know so little, to this day advanced but
little beyond the infantile stage. Animal magnetism, table-turning,
spirit-rapping, thought-reading and psychography, each and all of these
names have been used in turn to designate the various manifestations of
this hitherto unknown, or it may be merely neglected and forgotten

Now with regard to the phenomena I am about to describe, there could
perhaps scarce be a more accurate and trustworthy witness than a child
of nine years, absolutely healthy in mind and body, and bringing the
quick observation and clear untroubled gaze of childhood to bear on
these strange occurrences, without preconceived leanings towards belief
or doubt, and even probably with a little less curiosity than might have
belonged to one a few years older. To so young a child, the whole world
is a subject of perpetual awe and wonder, nearly every incident in its
daily experience being startling and inexplicable, yet all accepted
alike in the same spirit of implicit good faith. Was there then after
all, in these new occurrences that set everyone talking, anything so
much more wonderful than in a hundred others with which we were already
familiar? Were we not acquainted with the miracle of the caterpillar’s
metamorphosis to the butterfly, of the transformation of the blossom
into fruit? And could there be anything at once more natural and more
terrible than those frightful spasms that racked my mother’s whole
frame, paralysing every movement of her limbs? That this never struck us
as anything unusual or uncommon was shown by my answer to another little
girl, who had asked me to suggest a new game.--“Let us play at being
mother and child,” I promptly replied, “and you shall be the mother, and
must sit still in this chair, as you cannot walk about.” And I was
honestly surprised both at my little companion’s astonishment and also
to hear my mother’s voice calling to me from the next room, enquiring if
I thought that a nice sort of game, to be making fun of my mother’s
ill-health? I was dreadfully discomfited, but I had meant no harm at
all, it simply arose from the impossibility of dissociating in my own
mind the idea of one’s mother from that of being lame. I had seen too
how completely medical science had been at fault, just with those of my
own family who had been obliged to have recourse to the doctors’ skill,
one celebrated practitioner after another having tried in vain to bring
about some improvement in my father’s health, or to find out a course
of treatment that should alleviate my mother’s sufferings, and bring
some relief to the constant pain that made my younger brother’s life a
martyrdom. It was perhaps the reiterated failure of any of the old
recognised methods to work a cure, that rendered us all quite free from
prejudice against the pretensions of outsiders, and hearing so much said
of the wonderful cures wrought by magnetism, I felt no surprise when I
learnt that it was to be tried in my mother’s case. Soon the
professional magnetiser appeared upon the scene, in the person of a very
stout Englishwoman with beady black eyes, to whom my brothers and I
immediately took an intense dislike, on account of her appearance and
her very disagreeable manner towards us. Her skill did procure for my
mother a little of the rest she stood so much in need of, as the
operator could by means of the magnetic passes, or even by merely laying
her hand on the patient’s forehead, send her for hours into a deep
sleep, from which she could not awake of her own accord. But the fact
that the magnetiser had, as she boasted, herself brought fifteen
children into the world, had not apparently imbued her with very tender
feelings towards children in general, and the influence she was not slow
in acquiring over her patient she so thoroughly abused in tyrannising
over us, that we three cordially detested her, and were thankful when a
too glaring usurpation of authority led to her summary dismissal. Her
brief stay in our midst had, however, awakened among us all the desire
to ascertain by similar experiments, what latent magnetic power might
possibly reside in some of us, and it was very soon shown that my uncle,
Nicholas of Nassau, was possessed of a quite exceptional degree of the
mesmeric or hypnotic force, which he, a lively, thoughtless youth of
twenty, did not scruple to use for all sorts of practical jokes. A
favourite one was to prevent his sister’s governess from getting up out
of her chair; do what she would, she was as if nailed down to it
whenever he chose to forbid her to rise, and he would even sometimes
mount his horse and ride away for a couple of hours, deaf to the
entreaties and adjurations of his victim. Another time he ordered her to
put out her tongue, in the midst of a ceremonious Court dinner, and
almost crying with indignation, she was forced to obey. His sisters
found it equally impossible to disobey whatever extravagant commands he
might lay on them, such as forcing my mother to stand still holding out
her hand whilst he threatened to aim a heavy blow at it with his
riding-whip. Such displays of his extraordinary and inexplicable powers
afforded great amusement to himself and others, above all to the child
spectators, who laughed heartily to see their elders for once reduced to
such submissiveness. It was therefore a sad disappointment to us when,
in consequence of the fits of hysterics into which one or two ladies had
been thrown by some of my uncle’s pranks, he was obliged to desist from
them. We little ones had enjoyed them the more, that he never tried them
on us, from whom it would indeed have been superfluous to exact
obedience in this fashion, trained as we were to carry out
unquestioningly and with military promptness and exactitude, whatever
orders were given us. For this was in the old days, when it seemed to be
a recognised thing, that children had come into the world just to do
what they were told, and learn whatever was taught them! Nobody thought
of asking them if they found it a tedious restraint to behave properly,
nor were they consulted as to whether their lessons bored them. If in my
youthful days, for instance, I played badly in my piano-lesson, it was
so much the worse for me, as I soon found out, when the music-master had
gone. As for over-pressure, the word had not been invented then, and
nervous fatigue, hysteria and neurasthenia, with all of which the modern
child is familiar, had not yet been heard of. Our elders certainly
themselves set us a good example in all such respects, and I can
remember the severe animadversion passed on the poor degenerate
creatures who first indulged in the above unbecoming weaknesses. All
through her married life my grandmother had to stand every evening with
her ladies, in full dress upright beside the billiard-table, to watch
her lord and master’s play, and neither she nor anyone else dared to be
tired or feel bored, until the match was finished. Or perhaps it would
be more correct to say that people in those days knew how to be bored to
death with the utmost decorum! There were no comfortable easy-chairs to
lean back in; if one sat down at all, it was bolt upright on a chair of
most uncompromising severity. For our lessons we had very hard high
wooden chairs, from which our poor little legs dangled till they ached,
very different from the nice comfortable schoolroom chairs with their
foot-rest, which children have now. And worst of all, there was the
dreadful invention for deportment, a horrible heart-shaped contrivance,
of iron covered with leather, into which we were strapped to make us
hold ourselves upright. To my indescribable humiliation, I was sometimes
obliged to go for a walk with the odious machine fastened to my back.
Even this seemed quite mild though, compared to the means employed in a
former generation, one of my great-aunts being able to tell of the
spiked collar, which in addition to the iron back-board, she was forced
to wear, to prevent her from ever allowing her head to droop. Was it the
effect of this instrument of torture, that in her ninetieth year, she
had never been known to lean back in her chair?

Out of this hard training, of this undue repression, and as a natural
consequence too of the incessant cupping and bleeding, practised on the
former generation as a remedy for all existent and non-existent
maladies, there came forth another, debilitated, unnerved, an easy prey
to the whole host of nervous disorders lying in wait for it. I have
lived through and looked on at every phase of the transformation.
Healthy as I was, I should hardly have escaped the drastic measures to
which the so-called plethoric were subjected, had it not been
sufficiently proved that their application had been injurious rather
than beneficial to my mother. The immense strides made by medical
science of recent years, make it difficult to judge rightly the mental
attitude of those, who in their impatience of the inanity and futility
of orthodox treatment, seem formerly to have welcomed and blindly
followed the advice of every quack, calling himself a mesmeriser. We
should be slower to condemn them, had we also suffered from the
ignorance and incompetence of the regular practitioner, and perhaps be
equally willing to sign a pact with the Evil One and his agents, in
order to regain the blessing of health! It was this tendency that led to
the first great disappointment of my life, which I experienced when I
was only five years old, in the following manner:

I had a little birth-mark on my left cheek, which was a great source of
vexation to my parents, nobody understanding in those days how to remove
anything of the sort. They were therefore all the more readily disposed
to put faith in the assertion of a wandering charlatan, of his ability
to make it disappear. I was fetched from my lessons by my father, placed
in a chair, and the stranger proceeded to apply a dark fluid from a
little phial to the spot, assuring my parents that when this had dried
up, they would find on its removal no trace of the mole left. Somehow or
other I had understood that by means of this magical process, I should
never be naughty again. As might be expected, when the stain of the
fluid was washed away, the mole was there just as before, with a slight
scar into the bargain, and I was as naughty as ever! That was my first
real big disappointment. The next came when I was six, with my first
glimpse of the sea. When we reached the shore to go on board the boat,
it was low tide, and instead of the wide far-reaching plain of water I
was prepared to see, there was nothing but sand, with a few pools. To my
mother’s apostrophe,--“Look, Elizabeth! there is the sea!” I could not
find a word to say in reply, I was too bitterly disappointed. I had
expected to behold a great towering wall of water, like that I was
familiar with in the pictures of the crossing of the Red Sea by the
Children of Israel. And here was nothing but sand, with a few wretched
pools! Afterwards I saw the great expanse of water, always in movement,
and stretching out far away, but it was too late then, the first
impression was over and all was spoilt. The third disappointment came
much later, at first sight of Rome, and does not belong here.

To return to my story. In one of my uncle’s letters from America, he
told us of his visit to a house, where the guests were all amusing
themselves by setting a table in motion by simply letting their hands
rest lightly on it, as they stood round. It had interested him, but he
had not been able to induce my father to take any part in the
proceedings, the latter declining even to countenance such nonsense,
declaring himself the enemy of every sort of humbug. At home, on the
contrary, curiosity was immediately aroused, our former experience with
the magnetiser and the discovery of my uncle’s marvellous powers, having
to a certain extent initiated us into the mysteries of the occult. Young
and old, children and grown-up people, we were all pressed into the
service, and were soon all standing in a ring round a very big table,
our hands resting on it, so that one’s little finger touched that of
one’s neighbour on either side. Thus we stood and waited, with some
impatience, and a good deal of inward merriment, to see what would
occur. Just as we were getting thoroughly disheartened and tired out, a
tiny tremor was felt in the table, which then, in spite of its great
weight, actually began to move from the spot. Naturally, each one
accused the other of pushing, but that explanation would have been
neither satisfactory nor admissible, standing as we were with our hands
in full view of one another, so that no attempt at cheating could have
passed unperceived. And our astonishment was increased when we observed
how when my mother was wheeled into the room, she had but to lay her
finger ever so lightly on the table, for it at once to begin to move
quicker, even setting off to rush about in all directions, so that she
had to be pushed after it in her chair. We all followed, with peals of
laughter at the strange sight, the ungainly movements of this new sort
of dancing-bear, and so much amusement did this afford, that we set to
work at once to experiment on all sorts of other inanimate objects. We
soon found that all were not in the same degree susceptible of
locomotion, nor were all human beings equally endowed with the latent
force by which automatic movement could be imparted to things usually
inert. Count Oriola proved to be the possessor of a quite exceptional
degree of this psychic or magnetic force; he had only to stretch out
his hand within a few paces of a small table, and it immediately came
marching towards him, apparently with great glee, to our inexpressible
delight, but to the unspeakable horror of my governess, from whose
sitting-room the table had been borrowed, and who energetically refused
to receive such an impish piece of furniture back again!

Not only tables, but chairs, sofas, all sorts of things seemed now
suddenly to have become capable of walking about; it was even told of a
young girl staying in our house, that holding her hand over a big glass
shade that covered a clock, to her surprise the shade lifted itself up
in the air to reach her hand, and remained for a time firmly fixed to
it. Naturally enough, the thing being once admitted in principle, its
possibility established beyond a doubt, there were no bounds, no limits
to our curiosity, and every other form of amusement was cast into the
background by this. It was much more interesting than simple
mesmerising, and instead of being like that confined to an experiment on
one person at a time, in this all could take part. We moreover obtained
the proof that the force by which these results were obtained, was not
entirely confined to certain more highly-favoured individuals, but lay
in some degree latent in everyone, and could be immensely developed by
practice. Nor was this ever attended with the least inconvenience to the
experimenter, an effort of the will, a certain tension and concentration
of mind, being the chief conditions of success. It was, however, also of
great moment that such experiments should be undertaken in a proper
spirit, _i.e._, seriously, with a real desire to investigate their
nature and to turn them to the advantage of one’s fellow-beings, for we
soon noticed that those who treated the matter as a mere joke,
approaching it in a frivolous mood, generally failed in all they
attempted. As might be expected, the persons whose fund of magnetism was
most considerable, proved also to be those who could most easily induce
in others the magnetic trance. All seemed to resolve itself into that
one process of mental concentration, and someone remarked that this word
“concentration” was the one most often heard, and that formulated the
rule of life and scheme of education in our family. Perhaps I owe it to
the habit acquired then, that I am never absent-minded, but always able
to concentrate my thoughts on the matter in hand, and taking into
consideration my lively imagination, I think this may be looked upon as
an educational triumph!

Whilst “concentration” was thus the order of the day among us, it
happened that my mother heard of the marvellous cures, recalling those
told of in the Bible, being worked in Paris by a “Faith-healer,” as we
should certainly now call him, since they were effected by no other
means than the simple laying-on of hands. One of the patients then under
treatment, and making rapid progress, was Schleiermacher’s daughter,
Countess Schwerin, whose case so nearly resembled my mother’s own, that
the latter could not refrain from writing to tell my father all she had
heard, with the result that on his way home from America he stopped in
Paris, to make further enquiries. He called on the magnetiser, whose
name was Count Szápary, and begged him to undertake my mother’s case.
This request met at first with a decided refusal, it being impossible
for him, the Count stated, to abandon for a new patient the many now
being treated by him, these being, moreover, already so numerous that he
could not think of adding to them. He did, however, in the end so far
modify his refusal, as to promise that in the course of a journey he was
about to take, and which should lead him Rhinewards, he would certainly
pay my mother a visit, and see what could be done for her.

Three days had not yet passed over our heads in Bonn since my father’s
return, when the little garden gate was suddenly flung open by a
stranger of distinguished presence--in spite of a slight limp (the
result, we afterwards learned, of a carriage accident, some time
previous, in Hungary)--and in whose thick dark moustache the first
silvery threads were beginning to appear, though not yet in the rather
long and wavy thick dark hair, a lock of which, escaping, was
continually falling over his forehead. My father went forward to meet
this gentleman, whom he introduced as Count Szápary, and who brought the
scrutinising glance of his big black eyes to bear on our little group,
with but little, at first sight it seemed, of the kindly smile which on
better intimacy lit up his face so constantly. His own wonderful powers,
which he was now bent on using for the good of mankind, had been
revealed to him by chance, some might call it, in reality by his
despairing efforts to procure by mesmerism the boon of sleep and respite
from pain for an invalid daughter, given up by the regular doctor. To
his glad astonishment, not only did the magnetic passes send the patient
into a refreshing slumber, but a repetition of the experiment was
equally successful, and, being persevered with, in time restored her to
health. In his gratitude for his child’s life being spared, the father
determined to use his gift henceforth for the benefit of others, and in
order to cultivate it systematically, he went to Paris to study medicine
for a time, and establishing himself there, the cures wrought by him
were very soon widely talked of. There was a minute of suspense as the
thoughtful, enquiring glance rested on my mother, and we trembled lest
the objections urged against my father’s pleadings in Paris should still
be maintained. But at that critical moment, poor little Otto happened to
join us, and again the sharp restless eyes travelled from the sorely
tried young mother to the unhappy child, and back again to the pale,
emaciated father, already in a rapid decline, and all hesitation was at
an end. The spectacle of so much suffering was decisive for the man
whose whole life was given up to alleviating human misery. Without
further demur he agreed to devote his time, his skill, to the case
before him. “But,” he hastened to add, after a rapid examination of his
patient, “your life I can perhaps save, more I cannot say, I cannot
promise that you will ever recover the use of your limbs!” And indeed at
that time it looked as if the one leg were completely atrophied, it was
as if withered--literally reduced to skin and bone. When our new friend
took his leave, it was with the promise to return in a very few weeks’
time, to accompany us himself to Paris, as he feared that without him my
mother might not even survive the journey.

So we set out for Paris, my brother Wilhelm and I in one railway
compartment with tutor and governess, Otto in another for himself with
his faithful attendant, our good old nurse, and my mother in hers, in
the hammock slung for her, with my father and Fräulein von Preen close
at hand, and Count Szápary standing beside her, steadying the hammock
with the one hand, whilst with the other he continued uninterruptedly
making the mesmeric passes, to still the frightful paroxysms of pain,
which almost threatened to prove fatal during the journey. Terrible as
it was, it yet differed from former journeys undertaken under like
circumstances, in the absence of the overpowering smell of chloral,
ether, and other medicaments, for all such were from this moment
abolished and never heard of more. It was not astonishing, when we did
arrive safely and were installed in the house taken for us in the Champs
Elysées, that directly he had seen his patient carried upstairs and put
to bed, Count Szápary should have sought his own room, and falling
exhausted on his bed, have slept on without waking for ten hours.

Next day began the treatment--no easy matter, as my mother’s extreme
weakness made it necessary to proceed with the utmost precaution, and
Count Szápary afterwards owned that he had more than once feared that
she might die while undergoing it. But he persevered, and was rewarded
at the end of six months by perceiving a faint twitching in the toes of
the till then apparently lifeless foot. “Ah! you will be able to walk
again after all!” he exclaimed in his delight, and continued the massage
so vigorously and to such good purpose, that life seemed to return
gradually to the whole of the paralysed limb, and in the course of a few
weeks the patient could actually take a few steps. Only a very few at
first, leaning on her companion’s arm, and with the tears streaming down
her cheeks with the effort and the pain, sometimes severe enough to make
her faint away before it was over. But through it all she could see us
watching her, the first time she was taken into the garden, and she told
us afterwards of our anxious faces, mine flushed with excitement as I
ran towards her, whilst Wilhelm turned deadly pale as he tried to move
away every little pebble in her way in the path. Then, a few days later,
Otto also was allowed to look on, and for him it was something even more
solemn and wonderful, for it was the first time in his life that he had
seen his mother able to walk a step. Without a word he went up to her,
took her by the hand, and walked slowly beside her the whole time, in
perfect silence. For all of us it was the grandest and most impressive
event of our whole childhood, something that seemed to partake of the
nature of a miracle, and that brought the stories of miraculous cures in
times of old quite near to us, making them a more living reality than to
most people, since we had ourselves with our own eyes witnessed
something similar in the person of one so near and dear to us. It will
readily be believed, that our admiration and gratitude for him who had
wrought this marvel knew no bounds. To say that we looked upon him as a
saint, seems but a feeble expression of the feeling of veneration with
which we regarded him.

Of the actual working of the cure, of the mode of treatment, we saw
nothing, and heard but little; I only know that little by little, the
terrible convulsions were transformed into regular exercise of the
muscles, in fact into an involuntary process of therapeutic gymnastics.
In course of time, not only was the cure complete, but her own fund of
natural magnetism had been discovered to be so exceptional, that my
mother was anxious to celebrate her restoration to health by performing
a like good work for others, and began visiting Count Szápary’s other
patients with him, undertaking a portion of the treatment. At her
pressing invitation the lame Fräulein von Bunsen came to stay with us,
and thanks to the combined efforts of my mother and Count Szápary, she
also was set on her feet again and able to walk after being for
five-and-twenty years considered beyond all hope of recovery!

For my mother it was the beginning of a new life in more meanings than
one, for it was now her turn, after her own miraculous cure, to
cultivate and turn to account in the service of humanity, the gift
bestowed upon her unawares. She perhaps never became quite so strong as
had been at first hoped, and, in fact, she often felt far from well,
but the lameness never returned. And it very soon became clearly
established, that the possession of magnetic force by no means
corresponds to our physical strength or indeed to our bodily health.
Concerning this, very thorough investigations were made by my father,
who would not have tolerated the idea of anything being done by his wife
which could possibly have been harmful to her own health. On that point
there could be no shadow of doubt; our experiments in mesmerising and
table-turning furnishing constant examples of the presence of these
powers in a transcendent degree in persons of specially fragile build
and constitutional delicacy. It was just by these that feats were
accomplished, which would not merely have taxed their ordinary strength,
but would have been impossible to the strongest man. All this will no
longer seem so very surprising at the present day, but the period I deal
with is of fifty years ago, when these marvels were not yet subjects of
common parlance. No Charcot had yet made his experiments with suggestion
and hypnotism; indeed, the very names were scarcely known. My father,
who was so little inclined to credulity that friends and relations had
dubbed him the unbelieving Thomas, gave himself up to the serious study
of the question. His naturally philosophic bent found here ample matter
for reflection. “I have not the dogmatic arrogance,” he was accustomed
to say, “which would enable me to deny the existence of phenomena,
simply because I fail to comprehend them!” Investigating them in this
spirit, from the purely scientific point of view, he acquired the
conviction that they were manifestations of an inner life, the proof of
a persistence of thought independent of cerebral cognition, and he
therefore gave to the book he wrote on the subject, the title,
“Subconscious Mental Life.” I am aware that the theory he upheld is now
much contested, that there are those who, while they do not dispute the
genuineness of the manifestations, would ascribe them to quite another
cause, looking upon them as of purely objective nature, and entirely
independent of the medium. Time alone can decide which of these two
schools of psychical research is the better justified. Then, at all
events, it had not yet occurred to any of us to seek the explanation of
these phenomena from without, everything appearing sufficiently to
demonstrate their origin in our own mentality; a belief which did not,
however, in the least preclude our full recognition of the superiority
of the results achieved, to all similar performances by the same
individual in the normal state. Our experiments were now no longer
confined to mere spirit-rapping or observations made on subjects during
the mesmeric trance; they were henceforth specially directed to
psychography, and with the most gratifying results. It was perhaps the
manifestations in this higher sphere which overcame the last barriers of
my father’s incredulity; the simple manner in which they were obtained,
by means of a pencil, passed through a large woollen ball, on which two
persons placed their hands, absolutely preventing any possibility of
fraud. Very often he made the experiment himself, together with one
other person, generally a young girl whose store of magnetism was known
to be above the average, and he was able thus to convince himself that
the movements of the pencil, tracing characters with lightning rapidity
in its course across the paper, were entirely independent of human

Questions of deepest import were asked, answers on subjects either of
private or of general interest obtained, and many a philosophic doubt
laid to rest, by this spirit-writing. And these messages, I cannot
sufficiently repeat, seemed to have as a rule little in common with the
mental powers or culture of the person through whom they were
transmitted, being on an altogether different plane, a higher
intellectual level than that of society in general. Certainly no means
was neglected of raising the tone of conversation among the
ever-widening circle of friends who assembled for these _séances_; all
frivolous chatter was banished, gossip was a thing utterly unknown, and
it is hardly too much to say, that it was in a well-nigh religious
spirit that most of us gathered round the table on which the
manifestations took place. Among the guests in our house, was the aged
musician, Neukomm, and very often, as a preliminary to the evening’s
proceedings, he would seat himself at the organ, and by a soft and
solemn prelude would induce in all present a frame of mind suitable to
the solemnity of the occasion. As I was now in my twelfth year, and my
mind unusually developed for my age, I was allowed to participate in all
that went on. Above all, I loved to hear my father talk of those
philosophic questions that occupied his own thoughts, and it was from
this time that dated the delightful long walks we took together, in
which he instructed me in the history of philosophy, explaining to me
the various philosophic systems, and reading to me passages from his own
writings, thereby giving me my first insight into the metaphysical
problems in which his soul took refuge from the noise and bustle of the
world. His dream it doubtless was, to make of me a philosopher like
himself, and his enthusiasm and earnestness could not fail to arouse my
interest in the themes on which he waxed so eloquent; but my own bent
was a different one--the field of metaphysical speculation, as thrown
open to me by my beloved and revered father, might well entice my spirit
awhile,--my sojourn there could be but brief, it was in another
dreamland I was eventually to find my home, and already, unknown to
everyone, I had made my first excursions, my first timid flights within
those realms. Everything I heard, everything I saw, each fresh addition
to my store of knowledge, each wonderful revelation of the world above
and beyond the perception of the senses, into which it was our privilege
to obtain a glimpse by the marvellous experiences chronicled above--all
this did but furnish material for my active imagination, and was
absorbed, and pondered over, and woven into the intangible,
unsubstantial fabric of many a future song. Meantime, the influences of
the hour were naturally all-powerful in magnifying the veneration in
which I held my parents. It was in truth no ordinary every-day
existence which they led; and that which was most remarkable was the
perfect harmony in aim and action of these two so dissimilar natures,
and their admirable co-operation in furthering the well-being of their
fellow-creatures, the special gifts of each being employed to the same
end, my father’s theoretically, my mother’s in the direction of
practical utility. Of the cures which the latter was enabled to work, I
shall tell elsewhere; suffice it to say in this place, that they were
effected with a swiftness, and attended with circumstances so remarkable
as to surpass if anything those of Szápary himself. In later years, when
the extraordinary cures wrought by Metzger and other masseurs were
spoken of in my mother’s presence, it did not astonish anyone who knew
her that she should calmly remark, with a pitying smile--“That is all
very well, but it is nothing to what I could do! I had but to stretch
out my hand and say--Rise up, thou art healed!”

The somnambulistic experiments I witnessed were perhaps more marvellous
than all the rest. It would almost seem as if in the case of the
somnambulist the law of gravitation were abolished, so entirely free
from the trammels of material existence does the human body appear to be
while in this state. Certainly my mother often appeared to us no longer
to tread the earth, she seemed to float rather than walk, and any
further and more complete abolition of what we are accustomed to term
the laws of nature, would assuredly have occasioned among us no surprise
at all. No amount of familiarity, on the other hand, could ever do away
with the feeling of awe, with which my mother’s ecstatic trance
invariably inspired us. Unconscious of all around, she sang and
prayed--the words and melody alike of her own composition; it was a
deeply moving spectacle.

Brought up in an atmosphere so highly charged with the marvellous, it
has ever been impossible to me to assume a sceptical attitude towards
mysteries which elude my comprehension. The word supernatural seems to
me to be an absolute contradiction in terms. Who are we that we should
dare to set limits to the forces of nature, and to decide that this or
that occurrence is beyond her control? Did we but understand such events
aright, we must needs acknowledge them to be perfectly natural. Egyptian
priests of old, and Indian fakirs of the present day may alike laugh us
to scorn, that in our ignorance and impotence we presume to question the
existence of forces whose workings they have fathomed and turned to such
good account. Recourse to the supernatural is but a return to nature.
For this reason it may well be that outside the domain of surgery,
wherein such incontestable triumphs have been achieved, of the whole of
our modern medical practice the so-called nature-cures will in the end
alone survive. They rest indeed on a purely rational basis, the
treatment being none other than the art of transforming pathological
phenomena into therapeutical processes.

I refer of course to the treatment I have myself seen practised and to
the examples quoted here. The system made considerable demands on the
goodwill and concurrence of the patient, these being, in the opinion of
Count Szápary, indispensable conditions of its success. An entirely
different principle is acted upon, I am aware, by those who practise
massage at the present day. With them the patient remains entirely
passive, and the massage itself is alone supposed to work the cure. I
will not enter into the question of the respective merits of the two
systems, I would merely point out the benefit that accrued to the
patient from the independence to which he was encouraged by the earlier
one. All who had sufficient energy to follow the prescribed path, were
able in course of time to continue the treatment alone, whilst such as
were found incapable of making the necessary effort for recovery, and
disposed to fall into a morbid state of dependence on the doctor, were
dismissed as a hindrance to the others. Every phase of illness was
treated as a stepping-stone to progress, every symptom turned to
account; the somnambulistic trance, for instance, was made use of as a
stage in the transition from sickness to health, a state of repose
deeper and more refreshing than ordinary sleep, during which by no other
means than the rest prescribed by nature, the weakened frame and
overstrung nerves might recover their equilibrium. Every step in the
treatment was accompanied by prayer; it bore indeed from first to last a
markedly religious character. All the members of our little circle felt
themselves lifted above the common wants and desires of humanity by the
nobler prospects which the wider horizon opened out before them; we
were as neophytes whom some rite of initiation sets apart for holier
purposes. It was difficult to live invariably on that exalted level, the
circumstances might not always be propitious, and on myself they seemed
sometimes to bear too heavily. It was the sight of so much suffering,
the perpetual intercourse with invalids, that preyed on my spirits and
against which my own youthful health and strength could at times scarce
react. But at such moments my mother’s iron discipline stood me in good
stead. I had been so well drilled, and had my feelings under such
perfect control, that neither to her nor anyone else, and scarce even to
myself would I ever have acknowledged that life had sometimes become a
burden to me. I knew that for the sake of others I must keep a smiling
face, and do my best to cheer them, whatever my own sadness.

Count Szápary was always cheerful, or at any rate always wore an
appearance of cheerfulness, laughing and singing with the joviality of a
true Hungarian, and rejoicing in magnificent health and strength. This
doubtless aided him to give confidence to his patients, who must have
been trying at times with their whims and caprices. It has been given to
few to benefit their fellow-creatures to a like extent, or to reap the
harvest of benedictions that will forever blossom round his name.



I see her still, in her plain black dress, coming towards the castle
from the landing-stage of the steamer, and crossing the quadrangle with
soft, noiseless tread, as gentle and calm as the breath of the evening
breeze, bringing with her an atmosphere of comfort and peace of which we
became conscious even before she had crossed the threshold.

We were looking out for her with impatience and some misgivings, my
brother Wilhelm and I, for the advent of a new nurse is an event of no
small importance in children’s lives, and already, scarce three and four
years of age as we were respectively, we had undergone the trial of
parting with the dear old one who had made herself so justly beloved,
and whose place was taken by a younger woman, whom we detested with
equal vehemence and on equally good grounds. So we ensconced ourselves
firmly in the broad window-sill to have a better view of the new-comer,
wondering to ourselves which of her two predecessors she would resemble.
Our doubts were dispelled even before Barnes entered the house; the
quick, unerring instinct of childhood told us that many happy days were
in store for us in the care of this good, kind soul, who came along as
noiselessly as a leaf wafted hither by the wind. I do not think she was
at all beautiful--in point of fact rather a plain-featured elderly
woman, with at times a decided squint; but our eyes had quickly
discerned the beauty of the soul under that homely exterior, and lovely
she ever remained to us. We saw in her a sort of guardian angel,
shielding us from every peril that might beset the path of childhood,
watching over our health with untiring zeal, and entirely wrapped up in
our happiness. For herself she seemed to ask nothing, to want nothing,
to have no wishes or desires beyond those that affected the well-being
of her little charges. That the motherly instinct should be so strong in
her, and should, so to say, pervade her whole person, was the less
surprising considering that she had, as she herself told us, from the
age of ten played the part of the mother they had lost to her own
younger brothers and sisters. She was the ideal nurse; scrupulous in the
fulfilment of all her duties, and her honest simplicity coupled with
such innate delicacy of feeling as to lend a certain refinement to her
whole person. She was at her happiest as she sat, needle in hand,
watching our games, and from time to time laying down her work, the more
thoroughly to enter into our merriment; we might laugh and romp to our
heart’s content, her calm was unruffled, her patience inexhaustible. Our
childish intuition had not been at fault in foreseeing that under her
kindly sway our nursery would once more become a little paradise, the
dearest corner for us in the whole house. We should have asked nothing
better than to be left there as long as possible; but alas! the
governess was already on the way to whom I was to be handed over, and
who was antipathetic to me from the very first, her cleverness availing
nothing to conceal that she was both underbred and ill-tempered. I fled
as often as I could from her harshness and bad manners, back to the dear
old nursery--back to the good angel, Barnes! I was surely somewhat young
to have been removed at all from those gentle influences, but the step
had been judged a wise one by my parents, in order to turn to account as
early as possible the magnificent health and excellent abilities with
which I was blessed. To this young, but physically fragile couple--the
valetudinarian father, pale, melancholy, of sedentary and studious
habits, and the mother, whose own natural liveliness was being
undermined by the attacks of an insidious and baffling malady--to them
there may well have been something disconcerting and almost alarming in
the temperament of such a child, the quintessence of health, restless as
quicksilver and blithe as a bird, in whose young limbs the joy of living
pulsed wildly and on whose lips snatches of song were forever
alternating with ringing laughter! It cannot be wondered at if they only
saw in my high spirits a sure sign of frivolity, and that on every
occasion on which my indomitable will showed itself, I should simply
have been condemned as headstrong and obstinate.

I seized, then, every possible opportunity to rush off to the nursery,
to shake myself free of all fetters and restraint--to breathe freely
once more! I kept up the habit for some time of going every now and then
to spend a quiet hour with Barnes, helping her with her mending and
sewing, for her needle was never idle, and it was so soothing to sit
and talk with her. I have said how she watched over us, tending us with
such admirable care that my brother’s health improved from the day she
entered our house. But all that was nothing compared to the superhuman
devotion, the heroic self-sacrifice of the life which began for her from
the moment of poor little Otto’s birth. She it was who first discovered
what was wrong with the unfortunate child, and with tenderness and
loving care that are beyond all praise and which words are inadequate to
describe, she gave herself up heart and soul to his service, mitigating
as far as might be the terrible sufferings that made a martyrdom of his
short life. Day and night she was at her post, indefatigable,
uncomplaining, holding him in her arms for hours at a time to ease his
pain and enable him to breathe with a little less difficulty, her whole
thought how to bring some relief to the poor tortured little frame. What
those tortures were, none knew so well as the faithful Barnes, and I
have therefore chiefly borrowed her own simple words, when I have tried
to tell the story of my poor little brother’s life. He did not live to
complete his twelfth year, but in that short space of time he had
suffered so unutterably and with so little respite, one could not have
wished the trial to be prolonged. Hardest of all it was to his devoted
nurse to leave him before the end, but even that sacrifice was demanded
of her, my mother believing it to be for the boy’s good and all
important for the formation of his character that he should not be left
too long under feminine control. Just as she had never complained of
fatigue or discomfort during all the sleepless nights and weary days in
which she had watched beside him, so now this hardest trial brought no
murmur to her lips. She accepted it with the same pious resignation,
bravely hiding under a smiling face her own aching heart, in order to
soften the pangs of separation to her beloved foster-child. Otto had
always called her Nana, and Nana she remained for us, even after she had
left us altogether to take charge of the nursery of the Grand Duchess of
Baden, in whose service she died.

But before the end came for Otto, Barnes was sent for once more, and
stayed with him some days, days unspeakably precious to both, until all
was over. And again she had the courage, the supreme courage of true
affection, to smile as she bade him that last farewell!

Were it not for my profound conviction, that in publishing these
reminiscences, I am but extending to a larger circle of friends and
sympathisers the confidence already reposed in some, I should never have
the courage to throw open the sacred precincts of the Past. But the
lesson of these lives may be useful thus, and bring hope and comfort to
souls still fainting under their heavy burden.

Above all do I feel it a duty, when I hear so much said of the
worthlessness of human nature, to tell of the good which I have
witnessed and experienced. Fate has perhaps in this dealt more kindly
with me than with most, for I have met far more good than evil, and have
seldom been disappointed and deceived where I have bestowed affection
and trust.

Can one even believe in absolute malevolence? May not those who appear
animated by ill-will sometimes be simply mistaken? Surely the
noble-minded Lamartine was right, when he spoke of “les pauvres
méchants!” With some of them it is perhaps sheer clumsiness; they think
to show their affection, but its object is crushed to death by it, as
surely as the victim of a bear’s uncouth embrace!

How should those who are born with a bear’s ungainly paws, bear the
branch of palm or scatter lilies throughout the world! There are a few,
like our good Barnes, whose hands were made to carry lilies. Wherever
she turned, balsam sprang forth. Her own life was joyless, but for the
comfort it brought to others, and therein she found abiding happiness.

Barnes lies buried in the church at Meinau, and a tablet with a most
touching and beautiful inscription is put up to her memory. But what is
that beside the tablet on which her memory is engraved within my
heart!--I still see her with her eyes riveted on Otto’s face, following
every change in it with an expression of the deepest concern, and the
words, “that poor child!” ever and anon breaking involuntarily from her
lips. Of herself, her own sufferings, her own fatigue, never a word; it
was always of _him_ she spoke, of his marvellous patience, his
unexampled fortitude. Surely she must be rewarded now, in seeing him no
longer writhing with pain, but radiant in health and youthful beauty,
having shuffled off this mortal coil, to live on triumphant with the
life of the spirit.



It was on my governess, Fräulein Josse, that devolved the pleasing task
of bringing a little innocent amusement into our lives. She lent herself
the more willingly to this, I fancy, that she was often in her inmost
soul distressed to see us thus early initiated into so much sorrow and
suffering, such painful daily experiences naturally robbing us of the
healthy unthinking lightheartedness, befitting our age. Nor was she in
the least a partisan of the uncompromisingly matter-of-fact system of
education on which we were brought up. She actually read some _Mährchen_
aloud to us, and we absolutely revelled in the enchantments of that
delicious fairy-world, whose gates were thus thrown open to us. This was
the beginning of a quite new sort of game, in which even poor little
Otto could take part, these delightful stories being acted over and over
again by us, and we grew quite inventive in devising characters for him,
which he could impersonate sitting in his chair, and thus have the
illusion of playing his part. It was kind Fräulein Josse too, who gave
me the “Wide, Wide World,” the only book in the least resembling a novel
which I was allowed to read while in my teens. I was so fond of it, that
I used to hide it under a chair, whence I could fetch it out and devour
a few pages, in the hours when I ought, perhaps, to have been committing
lines of Horace or Ovid to memory, or writing an essay on some period
of Church history.

The “Wide, Wide World” thus became, with “Augustin,” the story I have
already mentioned, the favourite reading of my childhood, and those two
simple books were my inseparable companions all through my schooldays.
My own pleasure in them had been so great, I would have liked to share
it with others, and one of the very first things I did on arriving in
Roumania, was to have “Augustin” translated into the language of my new
country. Unfortunately, the translator’s knowledge of Roumanian was
insufficient, a circumstance of which I was then unable to judge, so my
plan did not succeed.

During my first stay in Paris, whither Fräulein Josse had accompanied
us, in 1853-54, I made the acquaintance of her best friends there, a
family called Valette. My governess and Madame Valette had known one
another as young girls, the latter being the daughter of the Pasteur
Affiat, pastor of the French Protestant community in Hanau, so that both
were delighted at thus meeting again. And now, Madame Valette’s husband
being pastor of the little Protestant chapel in the Marais, it became
our delight, Wilhelm’s and mine, to wander over there with our
governess, to spend our weekly half-holiday with the Valette children.
Every Thursday then, we set out on foot from our house in the Champs
Elysées, for the picturesque little dwelling in the Rue Pavée, that
quaint old-fashioned street, whose very name conjures up such pleasant
memories for


me after all these years. What happy hours we passed, playing in the
beautiful garden, which our friends shared in common with several other
families, whom we also learned to know. It was such a delicious new
sensation to us, of freedom from all restraint and supervision, our
elders always remaining together talking, leaving us children to race
unmolested through house and garden, exercising our active young limbs
and our sound young lungs, and clearing away the cobwebs from our tired
brains. Staircase, passages, basement, how well I remember it all, and
the pastor himself, whom we thought at first rather stiff, but who
occasionally unbent to joke with us. And his dear good wife, who let us
do just whatever came into our heads, never interfering with our wildest
play, as we tore through the rooms, springing down the stairs two or
three steps at a time, and hiding in dark corners, whence we could
spring out and frighten one another. On cold dull days we stayed
indoors, acting charades, or sitting contentedly round the big
dining-room table covered with oil-cloth, telling stories in turn,
laughing and chattering, so perfectly happy and at our ease in these
modest surroundings, and learning more French in half-an-hour than in a
whole week’s lessons.

The eldest daughter, Marie, was almost grown up, but I was especially
fond of her, she was the leader in all our games, and told us most
delightful stories. Her next sister, Minna, was more reserved, and did
not care to join in our play, but then came two, just of our own age,
Cècile and Charlotte. The last-named, who died quite young, was the
sweetest little creature, and I still see her flying to meet us, with
her long fair curls streaming behind her, and flinging her arms round us
both in her joy to welcome us. The only son, a gentle, dreamy lad, of a
serious turn of mind, afterwards became a pastor. Marie afterwards
married the son of the celebrated preacher, Adolphe Monod, whose sermons
were so much talked of, that it was a great disappointment to me not to
be taken to hear him, but my mother would not consent to our going to
church before we had attained our twelfth year.

The French Protestants gave me the impression at the time of being
rather stiff and formal people, austere and almost morose in their
religious views, though I really hardly know what it was made me think
so, as we never heard them discuss religious matters at all. We simply
came there to play, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and if the gloomy
appearance of the parents was sometimes in striking contrast to the high
spirits of our little companions, that may of course have been due to
quite other causes than a depressing creed, and I have often thought
since that with the large family and very small means, there were
probably material cares whose existence we did not even suspect. Of
cares of that nature we knew nothing; we had others, in our own home
life, of which of course we never spoke to our little friends, and they
very likely used equal discretion concerning their family troubles
towards us. Children who have never been encouraged to chatter, nor had
the evil example of gossip before their eyes, are naturally discreet,
and very great reserve was always impressed on us by our parents.

The good custom of the weekly half-holiday, with which we became
acquainted in Paris, was found to be so beneficial, sending us back
refreshed and invigorated to our lessons next day, that, once
introduced, it was not given up on our return to Neuwied, but became
firmly established with us. The afternoon then was, however, no longer
entirely devoted to play, but a part of it employed for those delightful
lessons in book-binding--only another form of recreation, and perhaps,
of more lasting enjoyment than the running wild, good as that was at the

Every Saturday I attended a class in the rue des Saints Pères, _le cours
de l’Abbé Gaultier_, it was called, and to this also I walked,
accompanied by Fräulein Josse. The professor, the Abbé Gaultier, sat at
a green table, round which all the young girls were ranged, behind each
one her mother or governess sitting, and then we were questioned on the
lessons done during the week and our written work was examined, and
fresh subjects given to prepare for the following week. It was rather an
ordeal for me, with my invincible shyness, and accustomed as I had
always been to learning alone, to have to speak out before all these
strangers, and in a language that after all was not my mother-tongue.
And some of the other little girls were so bright and clever, they
always had something to say and turned their answers so prettily, the
poor little German envied them their readiness and brilliancy, and felt
quite dull and awkward in their midst. Only once did I bear off the
honours, but that was not in the least by my cleverness or presence of
mind, but simply by sheer honest stupidity.

We had just been told in the grammar lesson to form a sentence in the
imperfect tense, to show that we understood the right use of the
imperfect. Here I was on my own ground, for I at once made a sentence
bringing in _two_ imperfects, and waited in burning impatience for it to
be my turn to reply, feeling this time sure of my _jeton_. These
“counters” or good-marks were given for every correct answer, and twenty
of them made up what was called a _présidence_, twenty of which again
entitled to a _brevet_, or certificate with a seal attached, the highest
honour of all. I was in two classes, for certain subjects with little
girls of my own age, but had been put into a higher one for history, in
order that I might learn French history very thoroughly, and this it was
that stood in my way, for history was my aversion and dates a
stumbling-block to me--I never could remember a single one!--My failures
in this field I however made up for in the grammar lesson, which was
already my passion, and my lips were quivering with impatience to bring
out my example of the imperfect tense. At last the Abbé Gaultier looked
in my direction. “Quand j’étais petite, je ne réfléchissais pas!” The
good priest came close up to me:--“Et maintenant?” I turned crimson, but
blurted out quite honestly: “Maintenant je ne réfléchis pas non
plus!”--The whole room burst out laughing, but the professor quietly
placed one of the much-coveted red counters before me with the words:
“Tenez, mon enfant; violà dix jetons, pour votre jolie phrase et pour
votre naïve réponse!” And thanks to this I really did get the brevet at
last, of which I had again nearly been deprived by the unlucky

My painful timidity made the classes somewhat of a trial to me; I felt
ill beforehand at the thought of having to answer questions in public as
it were, I hated to have to play the piano before people, and as for an
examination, I should never have been able to pass even a very easy one!
I have been the same my whole life long, and I laughed heartily one day
at the perspicacity of one of our Ministers, who after accompanying me
on a visit to some school, told me with a smile, when the inspection,
speech-making, and prize-giving were all happily over, that he believed
there had been only one person who felt intimidated in the whole
assembly, and that was myself! It was quite true; I was afraid to put
any questions to the children lest they should answer wrong, and was
much too anxious on their behalf, to pay any attention to what they did
say. On such occasions I always remember my own troubles with those
wretched chronological tables, with which my poor memory was to be
burdened! And then the horrors of arithmetic! The cells, whose function
it should be to deal with numbers and calculations, must be altogether
lacking in my brain! Perhaps if such dreary subjects could have been
taught me in verse, I might have learnt something, for it is hard for me
to forget any little tag of verse I have ever heard, and I remember
every one of those that formed a summary of the chapters in our first
simple little books of history. If only they had thought of teaching me
dates in rhyme, I should not be so shockingly ignorant as I have
remained to this day!

It was I suppose, because of my intense love of poetry, and that I felt
so perfectly in my native element there, that my shyness always left me
directly I had to read aloud or recite. I felt sure of myself then, and
threw myself with passion into the verses I declaimed. We learned long
poems by heart, “The Prisoner of Chillon,” Schiller’s “Lay of the Bell,”
whatever we liked, and in whatever language we preferred, and recited
them every Sunday to our parents, to our own great delight. My mother
declaimed so admirably herself, that she was by no means easy to please,
she insisted on good elocution, and showed us how by modulation of the
voice to give the right expression to the words. We were all apt pupils,
I fancy; what delicious drollery poor little Otto put into Bürger’s
poem, “Emperor and Abbot,” when he was only five years old!

For all my shyness I had, before we left Paris, grown quite reconciled
to the lessons in a big class, feeling how much more easily one learns
together with companions of one’s own age, even if the incentive of
rivalry, perhaps too active with some of these, played a very small part
in my own case. This little taste of school-life made my lonely lessons
seem so dull to me afterwards, that I was always longing to have a peep
at a real school, not this time a fashionable _cours_, like that I had
attended in Paris, but a simple village school, full of little peasant
children. So one morning I actually managed to steal out of the house
unseen, and running away as hard as I could, I joined the children from
the home-farm on their way to school. Oh! how I enjoyed myself! I sat on
the bench between the farmer’s little boy and girl, and joined in the
singing with the whole strength of my lungs, though the small girl kept
trying to put her hand before my mouth, for she thought it highly
improper that a princess should be singing with peasant children! It was
a glorious day; but the most glorious day must come to an end, and this
one ended sadly for me, for when I was missed, my parents were
frightened to death, and the hue and cry was raised, and servants and
game-keepers sent out in all directions, till at last I was found,
seated in triumph in the midst of the village school, and putting my
whole heart and soul into the singing! I was shut up in my room for the
rest of the day, as a punishment for the alarm I had given, and I was in
such disgrace for some time afterwards, that I was terribly ashamed of
my escapade, and hardly liked to think of it any more, much less to plan
another; but now, when I look back, it is a satisfaction to me that for
once in my childhood I did break through my fetters and emancipate
myself so thoroughly!

That was the year after our return from Paris. The next year, Marie
Valette came on a visit to us, and we spent many pleasant hours
together, reading and working. I was very busy at needlework just then,
principally plain sewing, for our hospital, and very proud I was at my
contribution, all of useful things I had made myself, underclothing for
the poor people, which I was able to take them. While Marie and I sat at
work, Fräulein Jose read aloud to us, and that somewhat recalled the
pleasant days in Paris, when we met at her parents’ house, and all sat
round the big table, while one of the party told or read a story to the
rest. And these simple pleasures of my youth are still those I
prefer--beautiful needlework with agreeable conversation, or a good book
read aloud, in a sympathetic circle. I am still very fond of reading
aloud myself, and can do that to a very large audience. It is perhaps
the only time when I quite forget my shyness!

But I did forget it as a child too, at times, and above all in the
society of good, kind, simple people like the Valettes, who just left us
to ourselves, to amuse ourselves in our own way. For that reason, it
would have been ungrateful indeed, if I had not given a corner among my
Penates to Marie and her family. The whole remembrance is a pleasant
one, beginning with the long walk through the streets of Paris, which we
learned to know so well, we could almost have found our way through them
blindfold. And the merry party round the dinner-table, for we dined
there, and only returned home quite late in the evening. Our garden was
too small for the other children to come to play in it with us, and then
it would have disturbed the invalids, who had, of course, to be
considered first. Both for the sake of the sick people, and of my
father’s work, it was no place for noisy games and joyous laughter; we
had to creep about like little mice, and it was indeed a relief to us to
get away, to escape into a fresher atmosphere, and shake off all the
sadness that oppressed our young souls. To have been aided to this was
an inestimable boon, and I still think with affection and gratitude of
those, to whom we owed those happy hours.



If ever a face on this earth may be said to have been irradiated and
illumined by the light of genuine kindliness--of the pure goodness of
heart that transcends all other human qualities--it was the countenance
of our beloved friend, Karl Sohn, the Düsseldorf artist. His features
were not regular, but were refined and spiritualised by the beauty of
the soul that shone through, the gentleness of his physiognomy being
only enhanced by the commanding character of the lofty, well-chiselled
brow, shaded as this was by soft masses of thick fair hair. He was tall
of stature, well proportioned and of dignified bearing, his step light
and easy, in spite of his great height, and with something almost
willowy in his gait; every movement was impregnated with grace and
harmony. There was a peculiar charm in his conversation, and this may
probably have been in great measure due to the soft deep tones of his
finely modulated voice, as clear and caressing as the sound of a silver
bell, wrapt in velvet. But much of the fascination doubtless lay in the
graceful and appropriate gestures with which he accompanied his words,
and which lent singular force to his graphic descriptions. Thus, in
expatiating on the beauties of some landscape, words and action seemed
to go together to call it up before our eyes, one broad sweep of his
well-shaped hand making the undulating line of the distant
mountain-range visible to everyone.

What a pleasure it was to listen to that mellow voice, and to the low
laugh with which he sometimes interrupted his own stories. Sohn was one
of those exceptional, happily constituted beings, themselves so
perfectly harmonious, that their presence seems to diffuse an atmosphere
of peace and contentment, into which as each one enters he feels on
better terms with himself and others. The world was full of beauty for
him, as it is for few of us, and the joy he felt in every aspect of the
beautiful--in Nature, in children, in the human form divine, and in
pleasant companionship--was, like the whole nature of the man, at once
ingenuous and profound. He had laid out for himself a little garden
round his house in Düsseldorf, with so much skill, that the small space
really looked like a miniature park. The effect was charming; but the
proprietor seemed almost to find it necessary to apologise for such a
display of luxury, saying deprecatingly,--“The beautiful is a necessary
condition of existence to us poor artists! So indispensable is it to us,
that we would willingly make every other sacrifice, just to be able to
surround ourselves with things of beauty!”

It was through his pupil, my great-uncle Charles, that we first became
acquainted with Sohn. My uncle, who had been a musical dilettante for
the first fifty years of his life, attaining I believe a certain
proficiency on the French horn, had recently turned his attention to
painting, in which art he was still a mere tyro at the time of my
parents’ marriage. At first he was always sending for Sohn, to ask his
criticism and advice, and by sheer hard work and perseverance he
succeeded in the end in painting very good portraits. There was one of
my mother, for which she declared she sat to him no less than
seventy-five times. To beguile the tedium of those long sittings, she
learned by heart the parts she was going to play in private theatricals,
repeating the lines aloud without fear of disturbing the artist, who was
quite absorbed in his work, and very hard of hearing into the bargain.
But in the one play occurred a phrase so singularly appropriate, that
she could not resist raising her voice for it to reach the ears of the
deaf old man, who peeped out astonished from behind his easel and shook
his finger at her, as she exclaimed:--“Dear Uncle! must I then really be
bored to death!” And her subsequent assurance that this was only in her
part only half mollified him. In spite of the long sittings, the
portrait was not a success; it however brought Sohn to our house, and
two admirable pictures of my mother by him represent her in all her
youthful bloom at that period. The one is in a red velvet dress, her
face framed in a mass of fair curls; the other in her riding-habit, just
as he had seen her jump down from her horse, flushed with the exercise
of a long ride.

These were the first two pictures Sohn painted in our family, but he was
henceforth every year a welcome visitor, often making a stay of many
weeks among us, and painting more than one portrait of each member of
the family. He was inspired to his finest work, one of his many
portraits of my mother--by seeing her in the ecstatic trance. So deeply
had this impressed him, that it was almost under similar conditions that
he worked, altogether removed from this earthly plane, blind and deaf to
all that went on around him, and entirely absorbed in the contemplation
of the radiant, transfigured countenance of his model, and in the
feverish effort to transfer to his canvas some faint reflection of the
wondrous radiance diffused over her whole person. In his despair of
obtaining this effect from the ordinary resources of his palette, he was
forever seeking some new means, devising some new combination of colour,
he would fain have dipped his brush in pure light, have steeped the
whole picture in unclouded sunshine! Something of this has been felt by
all those who have striven, with like fidelity and with the same gross
materials, to copy the dazzling hues even of some simple flower; has one
but tried, with such poor pigments, with our muddy bismuths and dingy
ochres, to reproduce the lily’s transparent whiteness or the rich gold
of the humble buttercup, we can the better appreciate the vanity of all
attempts at imitating on so feeble and limited a scale, the radiant
tints and subtle, endless gradations of Nature’s colour-box, employed by
the Divine Artist! We must needs perforce, for lack of the clear strong
light, throw up our dim half-lights and faded colours by deeper shadows.
But Sohn for this once would none of such artifice. Disdaining every
expedient of contrast, he laid on the colours simply and boldly, after
the manner of the Early Masters, painting with the pious enthusiasm, the
sacred fire that was theirs, and borrowing something of their technical
methods to impart the expression of holy rapture to the face, a
diaphanous delicacy to the folded hands, to give to the kneeling figure
the semblance of a martyr at the stake, a saint to whose beatific vision
the gates of Heaven are flung open wide!

Sohn made a picture of my brother Wilhelm and myself, at four and five
years of age, hand in hand; such a speaking likeness, that as we stood
beside it holding a big wreath of flowers, when it was given to my
father on his birthday, he kept looking from the painting to us, and
then back again to the picture--quite puzzled for a moment, he assured
us, as to which were the real children and which their portrait! Such
restless beings as small children can never be very easy to paint; but
Sohn succeeded wonderfully in catching the expression on each little
face,--my brother’s serious and dreamy, with an almost stolid
determination to keep quiet, and mine, all life and movement, with
sparkling eyes and a dancing smile, that betokened anything but the
requisite immobility of _pose_. It was an amusing contrast; Wilhelm
stood firm as a rock, whilst all my efforts to keep still as I was
bidden only made me tremble from head to foot with impatience, and at
one sitting resulted in my fainting away after I had actually
accomplished the feat of keeping in the same position for five
consecutive minutes! I remember how alarmed the artist was, when I
suddenly fell from my chair to the floor, in a dead faint, and how
concerned he was about me, reproaching himself with the unnatural
constraint imposed on my mercurial nature by the sittings. But what
surprised him most of all, was to witness the means employed to bring me
round; as I recovered consciousness, a sip of cold water, a little piece
of black bread were given me by my mother to revive me, and Sohn, who
was not then so well acquainted with the Spartan simplicity of our
bringing up, felt amazed, as he afterwards told us, at the homeliness of
the measures. Little princesses, he thought, were always fed on
dainties, and would not condescend to eat anything less appetising than

The torture those sittings were to me, I hope he never knew. He was so
good and kind, and did so much to make them bearable, whiling away the
time by talking to us and telling us amusing stories, or getting someone
else to read an entertaining book aloud to us while he painted. But it
was all no good. Outside I could see the sun shining, and hear the birds
singing and the wind whistling through the trees, and I--who longed to
be out there in the sunshine, singing with the birds, and running races
with the wind,--I must be cooped up within four walls, in a room that
instead of the fragrance of the flowers, smelt of nasty oil-colours! It
was not to be borne. As well try to imprison the wild west wind, or stop
the dancing mountain-stream in its course! I was just as wild and free,
and my mother sometimes asked if any power on earth could be found to
tame me. Had she but known! All too soon a spell would be worked,
transforming the wayward child into a quiet gentle maiden, grave-eyed
and serious. It was by the discipline of sorrow that the change should
be wrought--in the sick-room that the lesson must be learnt; there I
could sit for hours, silent and motionless, dreading lest a movement, a
whisper should disturb the dear sufferer beside whose pillow I watched.

But already then, in my wildest, most reckless mood, and however my
spirit might chafe at the enforced immobility of the lengthy sittings, I
felt the soothing influence of the artist’s gentle voice, and the deep
full tones could lull my feverish impatience. Nor did the impression
wear off as time went on; echoes of that sympathetic voice live in my
memory, calling up many a bygone scene--long talks as we rambled through
the forest, dreams and aspirations, hopes and fears, all the joys and
sorrows of those vanished days,--Sohn’s memory is inseparably associated
with all of these. The portraits he painted extend over a long series of
years. One of Otto was done just before the poor boy’s death--my
father’s also, at a time when we knew that he had not long to live among
us--my mother he depicted at all times and seasons, and under all
possible circumstances, from ecstasy to the deepest mourning. He used to
say, that he hoped to live long enough to make one more portrait of her
with snow-white hair. But this wish remained unfulfilled, for my
mother’s hair had not yet turned grey, when he was called away from us.

One autumn Sohn came to us accompanied by his friend, the great artist,
Lessing. The latter, a very handsome man, like so many of the followers
of Art, was extremely taciturn. He was a good sportsman, shooting his
deer almost daily. Much as I dislike all sport, my admiration of the
artist induced me to bring him the proverbial good luck, by meeting him
as if by chance when he set out in the early morn with his gun. As I
passed with a smiling though silent greeting, I thought to myself that
had he but known my horror of the slaughter of innocent dumb creatures,
the great painter would have been still more flattered by this attention
on the part of the daughter of the house. This was after Otto’s death,
and Lessing made a sketch of the grave for my mother, with the wonderful
precision in rendering every detail that characterised him. Every branch
of the trees overshadowing the tomb was portrayed with lifelike
fidelity; Lessing’s scrupulous exactitude refusing to sanction the
slightest deviation from the original. Every bough, every twig must be
in its place; even in a landscape his veracity would not tolerate any
suppression or addition. His realism, his close copying of Nature, was
coupled with a fear of accepting any other teacher; and he had always
been afraid to visit Italy, lest he should sacrifice something of his
own originality to the involuntary imitation of the Old Masters.

When I grew up, Sohn wished to make a portrait of me, as he often saw
me, sitting in the shadow of a tree, a straw hat on my head, in my
simple morning attire. But it was unfortunately quite another picture
that was wanted--in evening dress, in the drawing-room--just something
that I hated, and that seemed to me so little like myself. Sohn, who had
known me from a child, understood this, and his idea was the true one. I
shall always regret that picture that never was painted, it would have
shown me exactly as I was, at that period of my life. I was the child of
the forest, the forest-song, and have never wished to be aught else. The
untamed and untamable in my nature, from which some good folk shrank in
alarm, was just what pleased our kind artist-friend. Others might find
my high spirits fatiguing, they were never so to him. My spontaneity, my
frankness, refreshed him, and his heart melted towards this poor little
child of Nature, who was to be forced against her will to become
conventional--and even, without her knowing it, was being already
educated to fit her for a throne! Anything rather than that, I should
have said--for choice, a cottage, a little house hidden away in a
wood--for I was not ambitious, at least my ambition took quite another
direction. What could all worldly pomp mean to me, who had revelled in
the forest-splendours, in the glories of Nature! The beeches of our
lofty avenues would dwarf the finest columns ever reared to support a
roof, and how poor and insignificant the hubbub of the crowd must sound,
to ears accustomed to the mighty music of the storm-wind, making the
tall trees bend and quiver in its path! In all this Sohn was of my way
of thinking, and he had quick perceptions of the quieter beauties of
Nature too, and never missed pointing out to me a single blossom
sprouting, or an effect of sunlight through the intertwining branches.
And he led me on to talk and pour out my confidences to him, and often
broke into a hearty laugh at some unexpected sally. I was well willing,
I told him, to devote myself to the service of my fellow-creatures, but
not from a throne; I would live in their midst, to tend and comfort
them. And the thought of marriage was hateful to me, for a husband, it
seemed to me, must be a master, a sort of tyrant, but children I loved,
and wished that I might have a dozen!

How heartily Sohn would laugh at all this, and then grow serious again,
and crown my hair with glow-worms, as we strolled home through the
twilight. I sang like the birds in those days, in the truest sense of
the word, for every verse I made I sang to myself, in the joy of my
heart. My life was full of poetry indeed--of poetry fostered by the
surroundings. I have always thought that the happiest lot on earth is
that of the mediatised princes. They are like little kings, but without
the cares of government, enjoying the same liberty as people in private
life, yet with a patriarchal interest in the weal and woe of all their
people. Such happy mortals are generally beloved from their birth, their
fortune suffices for their needs without awakening envy in others, and
they have opportunities for indulging intellectual and artistic tastes,
such as few others possess. Their country seat is generally some old
castle, to which historic memories attach, probably with a fine library
or picture gallery, and archeological treasures perhaps beneath the
soil. As patrons of Art, as hosts to a company of well-chosen guests,
as friends of scholars and men of letters, as descendants of forefathers
renowned for talents and virtues, they are privileged beyond all others.
And friends like Sohn must be counted among their best treasures!

A portrait-painter, worthy of the name, must generally be a good
psychologist, for he must study his models well, and learn their
character through the physiognomy.

I shall never forget a day Sohn spent with us at Altwied, the lovely old
ruined castle, which was the cradle of our family. It stands shut in by
high hills on a little peninsula formed by the meanderings of the
Wiedbach, the mountain stream. Many a dream have I dreamt within those
crumbling walls, of which much more was standing then, but on the day in
question we came, I know not how, to speak of the opera, “la Dame
Blanche,” and as we all lay stretched on the grass, Sohn related the
story. So poetically, so touchingly did he tell of the young man’s
return to the castle of his ancestors, and of the long-forgotten song
that stirs in his memory as he crosses the threshold--I was carried away
by it, and the actual performance of the opera, which I witnessed some
years later, fell very flat in comparison. The glare of the foot-lights,
the painted scenery, the stiffness of the acting, destroyed the beauty
of the story as first revealed to me through the medium of an artist’s
soul, and on the picturesque site to which it seemed naturally to



In former days nurses and waiting-women in the princely families were
themselves gentlewomen. It was rightly deemed all-essential for
children, only to come in contact with people of good breeding, that
they might never incur the danger of acquiring bad manners. It was thus
that the sister of General Weiz, a young and accomplished woman, became
my mother’s nurse soon after my grandmother’s death, and stayed on in
charge of the younger children for many years after my grandfather’s
second marriage. Later on, when these also were growing up, Fräulein
Weiz accompanied my mother to Neuwied, where she remained as housekeeper
for many years, and where we all grew much attached to her.

Weizchen, as she was always affectionately called in both families, was
young and very pretty when she entered the ducal household, blest
moreover with a very fine voice, which my grandmother had had carefully
cultivated, but which its possessor had never felt the slightest wish to
display on the stage or in the concert-room, contenting herself with the
pleasure her talent was able to bestow in a smaller circle. She soon
made herself beloved in her post in Biebric, but just at first my mother
was simply inconsolable at the parting with her dear old _bonne_, Mlle.
Clausel, by whom she had been petted and made much of since her birth,
and from whom she had just been separated. Weizchen’s beautiful voice
had therefore for the moment no charm for the little girl, although it
excited such general admiration, as would also at the present day the
singer’s magnificent red hair, that set off the dazzling whiteness of
her skin, but which was then looked upon with such disfavour, that she
was quite glad to hide it under a light sprinkling of powder, according
to prevailing etiquette, whenever she appeared in low dress, with the
children, in the drawing-room.

As far back as my recollections go, Weizchen was always an inmate of my
paternal home, having very soon followed my mother there after the
latter’s marriage. From the very first my mother was accompanied by
Louise von Preen, as lady-in-waiting, and very amusing tales were told
afterwards of the home-sickness of the two young things--barely eighteen
years of age either of them--in their new surroundings. When my mother
in a moment of loneliness rushed to Louise’s room for comfort, she found
the poor girl seated among her boxes, which she had not yet had the
heart to have unpacked, crying her eyes out. They sobbed together,
sighing as they gazed at the distant hills, beyond which lay their old
home. And yet that home was not in reality so very far away, and at the
present day could easily be reached in a couple of hours, though to
their romantic feelings they seemed to be pining for it in distant
exile! Very soon, however, the young bride was cheered by a visit from
her brothers, and after that gay days began for Neuwied, the castle
often resounding with the happy voices and ringing laughter of the merry
young people assembled within its walls.

But it was from Weizchen that we loved to hear anecdotes of my mother’s
childhood. When she was only three years old her life was saddened by
the loss of the little brother, just a year older than herself, who had
been her constant companion. During his illness it was the poor little
boy’s one delight to make his sister dance to the accompaniment of a toy
harmonica he played, propped up among the pillows in his bed, and
Weizchen said it was the prettiest sight to see the little girl, whose
movements had already all the lightness and natural grace which
afterwards earned for her the sobriquet of the Rhineland Fairy at the
court of Berlin, dancing away indefatigably for the pleasure of the poor
sick child, whose eyes wore a most pathetic expression as they watched
her. Sad and lonely the little girl was, when the brother had gone. The
lives of little princes were indeed lonely enough at the best of times
in those days, for once out of the nursery they saw but little of one
another, not even having their meals in common, but each child brought
up quite apart from the rest with a special tutor or governess, with
whom the repasts were taken, _tête-à-tête_, and to whose tender mercies
the pupil was somewhat ruthlessly abandoned. In my own early childhood
we still experienced the inconveniences of this system of education, but
the transition to more rational and humane treatment of the young was
already taking place, and children even of the highest rank now-a-days
lead happy natural lives, associating with others of their age and
constantly seeing their parents, of whom they no longer stand in dread.
Quite early we came to table with our parents, but that was very
uncommon, and in an older generation still would have been thought
impossible. Of course in very many cases the instruction children
received suffered from the lack of supervision, and some of these young
people grew up deplorably ignorant, notwithstanding very fair natural
abilities. My highly gifted uncle Maurice, for instance--artist,
musician, and adept at surgery--capable it seemed of learning anything
to which he turned his attention, was yet never able to pen the shortest
note without making some mistake in spelling. But he painted and
composed, as a mere dilettante it is true, but with very decided talent,
and with the same grace and brilliancy that he brought into everything
else, whether losing his money to his male friends at cards, or creating
havoc among female hearts at the Viennese Court, whither he had been
sent at the age of seventeen, and where he soon showed himself
proficient in the various accomplishments supposed to be befitting a
young man of his rank, very handsome and well-endowed endowed with
worldly goods. He was my mother’s idol, and made the little sister his
confidant--even of his love affairs--at a very early age! Very early
indeed he had begun practising his seductive arts on the other sex, if
it be true that at the age of ten, seeing one of his mother’s young
maids-of-honour in tears, he sidled up to her in his most caressing,
most coaxing way, looking up in her face with all the melting
tenderness of which his big blue eyes were capable, and murmuring
persuasively:--“Do not cry, Louise; you know I shall always be your

But it was a little later, when the gay handsome youth had really begun
to turn female heads, that his confidences to the younger sister must
often have assumed a very amusing character. Fräulein Lavater once found
her little pupil dissolved in tears, and it was only after reiterated
promises of secrecy on the part of the governess, that the child at last
sobbed out:--“Maurice is in love--in love! And she whom he loves can
never be his, for she is a married woman!” That Fräulein Lavater had
some difficulty in restraining her laughter, may be easily imagined; but
she succeeded, and had moreover the good sense and good feeling to
respect her promise and keep the story of this comic episode to herself,
until a time when its being made known could no longer be prejudicial to
anyone. She was rewarded for her discretion by being also made the
recipient of some of the young man’s confidences--glimpses of the
innumerable adventures of which he was the hero in the gay Austrian

The idolising affection my mother bestowed on her elder brother, was
felt for her in turn by her younger brothers and sisters. She was never
tired of playing with them and of telling them the wonderful stories
which she made up for their amusement. The announcement of their
step-sister’s engagement and approaching marriage was received with
characteristic comments by these little ones. The nine-year-old Helene
wept bitterly, affirming that it was utterly impossible for her to live
without Marie; Nicholas, a year younger, but always practical and
reasonable, consoled himself with the thought of the beautiful gardens
and fine collection of stuffed animals of which his sister would become
possessor by her marriage to a Prince of Wied; and little Sophie,
frankly indignant, exclaimed:--“It is too bad! I will tell mamma at
once, and see if she will allow such a thing!”

Those were bright and happy days that dawned on Neuwied, soon after my
parents’ marriage, when my mother, herself in the heyday of youth, led
the revels, supported by her young brothers, the gayest of the gay.
Dances, shooting-parties, amateur theatricals, followed one another in
rapid succession, and the woods echoed with song and laughter of the
happy light-footed young people who scampered through them from morn
till night. All this has been told in a family chronicle, written and
illustrated by my father himself, and carefully preserved in our
archives. But the story does not go beyond the year 1847; there it
suddenly breaks off. The festival was over; the lights had all burnt
out; the fun and frolic had come to an end, and a great cloud of sadness
seemed to descend on us and envelop everything. My mother’s lameness;
Uncle Maurice’s death; the dangerous illness of my brother Wilhelm; all
these misfortunes, occurring almost simultaneously, plunged our whole
household in gloom, and the gaiety and merry-making of those early days
was never to return.

Then began, with our journey to Heidelberg attended with so much
discomfort and disappointment, the long series of those pilgrimages to
consult the most renowned oracles of medical science, which entirely
occupied our lives during several years. The celebrated Dr. Chelius,
whose advice we now sought, certainly did restore my brother to health
by the treatment he prescribed, but to my mother he could do no good at
all. With the illogical prejudice of childhood, I took a great dislike
to the famous doctor on that account, looking upon him as a most cruelly
disposed individual, who was putting my mother to great pain for his own
pleasure, but an anecdote I heard of him in later years invested him
with a certain interest in my eyes and made me regret my hasty judgment.

It appears that when, after a very hard struggle in his youth, Dr.
Chelius had at last become celebrated, he one day received a message
from King Maximilian of Bavaria, to the effect that he was the latter’s
son, and that the King wished to know if he could do anything for him.
With proper spirit Chelius replied, that having done without a father
for all these years, he thought that he could get on without one very
well in future!

We spent the year ’48 in Heidelberg, coming in for all the excitement of
the Revolution, with which we children were vastly pleased; it amused us
to see bands of men wearing red caps, and armed with scythes, go past
shouting and singing, and above all we were delighted with the exploits
of the “Free Companions,”--volunteers who apparently found our garden
the most convenient place for their rifle-practice. We felt no alarm,
even when someone, who was just then standing close beside me, kindly
helping me to arrange my doll’s wig, was struck on the forehead,
fortunately, as it happened, by a spent bullet, which glanced off
without inflicting any real injury.

But we were warned at last that we had better leave without further
delay, and the return journey was not accomplished without peril. The
name of the demagogue, Hecker, was scrawled everywhere in the dust that
covered our travelling-carriage, on the box of which my father,
disguised as a servant, sat beside the coachman. In Mannheim the
carriage was surrounded by a noisy group of men in red caps, who tore
open the door, and contemptuously exclaiming:--“Nothing but women!”
banged it again. When we reached Biebrich, we found the castle empty.
Everyone had left in haste, and we had to go to an hotel to spend the
night. This was a cold and comfortless reception indeed--no one
expecting us, or even seeming to know or care who we were--in the place
where a welcome as warm as it was ceremonious usually awaited
us--servants lining the steps, sentries presenting arms, and the Duke,
surrounded by his courtiers, advancing to meet his sister and her
family. The contrast was so complete and chilling, I might well feel
shocked and hurt and dazed, as if the solid ground had suddenly given
way under my feet, to find myself so small, so unimportant, so utterly
unrecognised--and just in my dear Biebrich, the paradise of my
childhood, where, as in Wiesbaden, I had spent my happiest days, made
much of and enjoying the nearest approach to being petted and spoilt
that I had ever known. This sensation of bewilderment, as of one walking
in a topsy-turvy world, was carried to its height by the familiar
address of the chamber-maid in the inn, whom I watched preparing our
beds. Altogether I received a lesson on the insignificance of worldly
honours and distinction, and perhaps even on the instability of all
mundane things, more to the point in teaching me humility than any of my
mother’s homilies on the subject.

A great change came over our household after the year ’48, whose events
had swept away half our revenues, our style of living was much
simplified, the little court disbanded, even some of the servants--among
them my mother’s first waiting-maid--dismissed, and everything
reorganised on a much smaller, more modest scale. And to what purpose
had been henceforth pomp and lavish expenditure, in a house in which
sorrow and sickness had taken up their abode! The diminished retinue,
the cessation of open-handed hospitality, those were as naught beside
the weightier cares that combined to crush the gay spirits of the
revellers, and in the first place, of the young châtelaine herself. The
death of her beloved brother Maurice was a blow from which my mother
never recovered, and the shock much accelerated the morbid symptoms that
had just begun to declare themselves. Never shall I forget the
heartrending expression on her face, as bathed in tears, she made her
appearance in the nursery to tell us children, that the bright,
handsome, gallant Uncle Maurice was dead! So small was I at the time,
that I could not help finding a little consolation in the black and
black and white striped dresses made for me on this occasion--it was a
change from the perpetual white! But the gloom of mourning did not pass
away; my mother’s health had begun to fail. I remember her listless
gait, how she seemed each day to find greater difficulty in going about,
holding on to every piece of furniture for support, and then how, all at
once, she could no longer walk at all. It seemed doubly hard that this
should be her fate, who had been the gayest of the gay, blithe as a lark
and lightfooted as a gazelle, out-tiring all her partners in the dance,
and out-stripping every one of her young companions in their mad races
through the woods, bounding up and down the hills as if she scarcely
touched the ground!

Throughout those mirthful days, in their maddest pranks and most
reckless fun, it was always to Weizchen that the young folk turned for
help to carry out their most extravagant devices. They knew they might
count on her to aid and abet them in every harmless plot, indeed her own
inventive genius sometimes furnished invaluable hints, as in the
memorable birthday reception prepared by my mother for Uncle Maurice, in
retaliation for a practical joke he had played on her a short time
before. Remembering his sister’s fondness for the Nassau bonbons, a
sweetmeat her father’s cooks excelled in preparing, the young man had
sent her a magnificent box of these, which she handed round with delight
to her guests one evening, only discovering by the wry faces or
half-smothered ejaculations of disgust of those who partook of the
confectionery, that the interior of these well-sugared delicacies by no
means corresponded with their tempting outside! It was to punish him for
this sorry trick--a little too much resembling, it must be owned, the
“merrie jestes” with which Louis XI is credited--that my mother planned
the following revenge. During the gala dinner being given in my uncle’s
honour, a servant suddenly made the announcement that the three Graces
begged for a moment’s audience, to present their congratulations to the
Prince. Amused and smiling the young man left his seat and advanced to
the door, where he was met by a trio, resembling the Three Furies, or
the witches in “Macbeth”--anything rather than the vision of feminine
loveliness to have been expected. Three of the most gaunt and
ill-favoured washerwomen of the district had been selected by the
malicious Weizchen, crowned with roses, and clad in snow-white
draperies, through which their bony necks and red arms looked only the
more frightful, and primed with champagne in order that they might enact
their part with the greater zest, they surrounded their victim, whose
short-sight prevented him from seeing them distinctly until at quite
close quarters. Poor Maurice, whose susceptibility to female charms was
only equalled by his aversion for every form of ugliness, promptly
turned and fled; but the ladies, nothing daunted, pursued and again
drew him into their midst, executing a wild bacchanalian dance while
they tried to imprison and bind fast the fugitive with the long green
garlands they carried. At last, breaking away from his tormentors, and
jumping over chairs and tables which he upset in his flight, the young
man sank, breathless and exhausted, behind a sofa in one corner of the
room, whilst at a sign from my mother, the Mænads vanished. The hero of
the adventure only came forth from his hiding-place, when a few minutes
later Weizchen entered the room, to ask my mother demurely if she were
content with the way her orders had been executed. Then, springing to
his feet, he seized Weizchen round the waist, and kissed her so
heartily, that all present who were not in the secret believed that this
also was a part of the masquerade.

I should never have finished if I were to try to tell of all the amusing
scenes that then took place, of some of which I retain a faint
recollection, while others are only known to me by hearsay. One of the
beautifully illuminated pages of my father’s “Chronicle of Monrepos,”
depicts the mock solemnities of the reception awaiting my mother and
himself on one of their visits to the castle of Braunfels. The customary
bevy of white-robed maidens, deputed to hand my mother a bouquet with an
address of welcome, was on this occasion represented by all the elderly
gentlemen present in the castle--the Prince’s old bachelor uncles and
their friends--who attired themselves in the traditional white muslin
frocks and wreaths of roses, and with well-simulated bashfulness
recited verses in honour of the visitor.

The amateur theatricals too, what delight they gave, and how many
diverting incidents sprang from these performances! One of them must
find a place here. An aunt of mine, whose height would very well enable
her to pass for a man, had agreed to enact a male character in some
comedy, and for this she was to wear a suit of my father’s clothes,
stipulating, however, that neither he nor any other of the opposite sex
were to know of this,--the impersonation was to remain a profound secret
to the audience. But unfortunately on the evening in question, as my
father sat quietly smoking with a few friends, his valet appeared, and
without the slightest circumlocution, bluntly requested “the loan of the
brocaded breeches, for Her Serene Highness, Princess Solms!”
Inextinguishable laughter broke forth from all present, and I really
doubt whether my aunt’s success in the part itself, which she now threw
up, would have been as great, or have provoked such hilarity.

In nearly all such episodes Weizchen was mixed up. It was to her that
one turned, in every emergency, and not merely in our own household, but
on both sides of the family, she came to be looked upon as a sort of
institution, something belonging to us all, and firmly rooted in the
past, but no less indispensable to the present. The Duchess of
Oldenburg, my mother’s eldest sister, never came back to the Rhineland
without at once sending for Weizchen, in order to revive old memories,
and live bygone scenes over again with her, who was herself a piece of
family history, the repository of so many a family secret.

It is on the lighter side of her nature that I have chiefly dwelt, on
the easier duties of those happier days. But in the hour of trial,
Weizchen proved herself no less true and devoted, standing firmly at her
post, as unwearied in her nursing, in her care and attendance on my
mother, as she had formerly been in contributing to every scheme of
amusement. All her best qualities were shown during those years of
sorrow, and it was perhaps the large share of the burden which she took
upon her own shoulders, by which she was herself prematurely aged and
saddened. She lived with us till I was about fourteen, and then retired
with a pension to rooms assigned her in grandmamma’s pretty house. Her
memory is bound up with some of the happiest recollections of my
childhood, and still at times I fancy I hear her voice ring out in one
or other of the dear old melodies--the plaintive ballad of “Emma and
Eginhard,” or Mozart’s graceful “Lullaby,” which she sang so often to us
in the bygone days, in the old home by the Rhine.



Of these there are so many--kind honest hearts, whose worth I learnt to
recognise in bygone days, and whom it would be impossible for me to
leave unnoticed here. I cannot name them all, but all are in my
thoughts, as I select just a few from their number to inscribe among my

The one I would mention first, the truly excellent women who when
Weizchen retired undertook the management of our household, was with us
through those especially trying years in which my parents’ ill-health
and poor Otto’s constant sufferings made the interior of our house more
resemble that of a hospital than of an ordinary home. Frau Baring was a
gentle-voiced, mild-eyed woman past middleage, who had herself
experienced much sorrow, and this very fact made her more fitted for the
surroundings than a younger, livelier person would have proved. Not that
there was anything morose or depressing about our new housekeeper, of
whom I happened to see a good deal, it being my mother’s wish now that
my more serious studies were finished, that I should gain some practical
knowledge of the matters under her control. So I was duly initiated into
some of the mysteries of her domain, watching her at her work of
superintending, and giving orders, learning the art of book-keeping and
even making an occasional inspection with her of larders, pantry and
linen-closet. As for the results achieved, I cannot look back on these
with very great satisfaction, as all such commonplace details of daily
life seemed to me scarcely worth the time and trouble bestowed on them,
and I by no means relished being called upon to waste any thought on
such dry and prosaic matters. Entering the daily or weekly expenditure
in an account-book appeared to me the most cruel trial of human patience
that could possibly have been devised, but the very horror with which
the sight of these dreary ledgers inspired me, did but increase my
admiration and respect for all those whose duty compels them to pass
their days in the contemplation of dull columns of meaningless figures!
In my personal distaste for all the petty details pertaining to the
direction of a household, I was therefore but the more disposed to feel
sympathy for good Frau Baring, and indeed for all her myrmidons, having
often had occasion to observe the conscientious zeal with which all of
these, every maid-servant and laundress down to the meanest scullion,
performed the duties laid on them. So many instances have I known of
these humblest functions patiently and punctiliously discharged, that I
for one can never join in the complaints too often raised against the
servant-class. Every service rendered us seemed always to be a labour of
love, and this experience can surely not have been confined to ourselves

I have often thought that I perhaps owed my magnificent health in a
certain measure to my nurse, the simple peasant-woman picked out for her


fine _physique_ and sound constitution to be my foster-mother. In any
case it must have been from her that I derived my simple tastes in
matters gastronomic, and this has doubtless much contributed to my
well-being my whole life long. As a young girl I exulted frankly in my
health and strength, nor was I in the least ashamed of my rosy cheeks
and plumpness, the pallid and enervated type of woman not being then
proposed as a model, and no one having the slightest desire to look like
a ghost. But I thought little enough of such matters--I was better
employed, with my books, my work, my music, and whenever our own dear
invalids did not demand my special care, in paying visits to the sick
people on our estates.

A dull sad existence, some might say, for a growing girl, but it had its
joys, and deeper and holier ones than can ever spring from the mere
quest of happiness. Moments of depression and discouragement at times
were mine, for who is there has not known such, but the natural buoyancy
of youth prevailed, and already in the exercise of my pen, I had a
source of comfort ever at hand.

And certainly the example of the good faithful souls around me, of their
untiring devotion, contributed not a little to nerve and strengthen me
whenever my own courage seemed like to fail. How weak and faint-hearted
must I account myself, when I looked in Frau Baring’s face, to read
there the tale of bygone suffering--of struggles valiantly fought out,
despair triumphantly lived down. Little by little I won her confidence,
and she told me the story of her life--of the grim fight sustained with
direst poverty, since the day when her husband, a government
under-official, had lost his post through ill-health, and the task of
providing for him as well as for their child had devolved on her alone.
She could speak quite calmly of her bereavement, could take comfort in
the thought that the husband and daughter she had loved so dearly and
tended so well, were both at rest at last, and could suffer no more, but
when she told of the privations they had endured, her lips quivered
uncontrollably, and the tears trickled down her faded cheeks. No sermon
preached me on the duty of resignation could have been half as effective
as this living testimony to the severity of the hardships borne thus
uncomplainingly. And this woman, herself so sorely tried, was full of
sympathy for the troubles that pressed so heavily on my young life. Of
these we never spoke, but I saw that she understood, and felt for me,
and the knowledge made my burden lighter.

For several years we lived as if on an island, shut off from the rest of
the world, and out of reach of even most intimate friends. It was better
so. There seemed to be no leisure then for the pleasures of social
intercourse. They only who themselves were suffering or in need of help,
were encouraged to draw near. Besides the serious view of life which
solitude thus engendered in us, it had another salutary effect, in
preventing any comparison between our lot and that of others, in keeping
far from us the faintest suspicion that there was aught unusual in our
existence. From our parents’ example, as well as from their precepts, we
learned a lesson of deep import, that of the absolute subordination of
bodily to spiritual needs--we were taught to regard our bodies as mere
servants and ministers to the nobler half of our nature, and to treat
any mere physical suffering or inconvenience as a matter of but small
moment. Any of the little ailments or accidents which weaker parents are
inclined to bemoan as real misfortunes to their offspring, were put on
one side by my mother as wholly unworthy of attention, with the remark
that such things might happen to anyone, that few people had not
something more to complain of! Her own fear was of being betrayed into
any weakness, and I still remember the tone in which she murmured--“I
must not give way!” when in watching by her side the protracted agony of
poor Otto’s death-struggle, I had given vent to a cry of anguish and
despair. So I learnt from her to smother my feelings, and I told myself
how thankful I ought to be, in being blest with parents so exceptionally
endowed, that I could but look up to them with reverence, and strive to
follow in their steps.

Another lesson in contentment was constantly given us by our humble
friends, by the poor folk round about, whom from my earliest years I was
allowed to visit. One dear old woman I have spoken of elsewhere; the
little sketch I entitled “German Happiness” is but a reproduction of a
conversation held with her, for I felt that no better specimen could be
given of that peculiar form of contentment with one’s lot in life that
is typical of the German people. “Hans in Luck” is perhaps the truest
piece of folk-lore that exists--the earliest form in which we find the
national characteristic depicted. All happiness, it is well known, lies
in ourselves, and to the cheerful temperament I speak of, it is to be
found everywhere. In every misfortune such people as my dear old
peasant-woman can see some cause for thankfulness; instead of shedding
tears over a broken arm they rejoice in the one left sound, and comfort
themselves in the direst straits by the thought that things might have
been much worse still! The charm of my old friend’s simple words, so
faithfully reproduced by me on a former occasion, lies chiefly in the
raciness of the Rhenish dialect, and would not lend itself to
translation. But I am glad to think that her last moments were
brightened by the flowers I sent her, for faithful to the promise I had
once given, I took care that these should surround her before she
breathed her last, as an earnest that on the coffin and grave they
should not be lacking. There were many others, men and women alike, in
whom the habit of making the best of things had become a second nature,
and the uncomplaining, even cheerful simplicity with which their load of
misery was borne, can surely be accounted little less than heroic.

Much suffering was always caused by the inundations, which in certain
years spread havoc throughout the whole region. Boats were sent out to
carry food from house to house, and I remember going in one of these
with Baron Bibra, steward of the domain, and one of our oldest friends,
and others of the gentlemen composing our little court, to assist in
distributing coffee, bread, and soup, to the poor people in their
flooded habitations. In one of these about forty human beings were
crowded together in two tiny rooms in which they had taken refuge, and
in their midst a corpse--for the churchyard was under water also, like
the bakers’ shops and everything else. It was a terrible sight. And
another year, somewhat later, much damage was done by a hurricane of
exceptional violence that broke out at the same moment, devastating the
beautiful park behind the castle. There was one avenue of magnificent
linden-trees, which was almost entirely swept away during that terrible
night, hardly one out of the scores of fine old trees of many hundred
years’ growth being left standing next morning. For the moment my
brother was too much occupied in bringing help to his poorer neighbours,
many of whose lives were saved by his personal exertions, to have time
to mourn the loss of his trees, but afterwards it was a grief to all of
us to behold the destruction of our beloved park. An enormous quantity
of wood, about eight thousand cubic feet in measurement, was carted away
from the wreckage. I wept for my dear old trees. They had been planted
by our forefathers in centuries gone by, and had looked on at the good
and evil fortunes of our family for all those years. To me they were
especially dear. They had been the confidants of my inmost thoughts. How
often have I leant out from my window and talked to them! There was one
white poplar to which I told all my secrets, and I listened to its
murmured replies, as its leaves rustled, gently stirred by the night
breeze that came sighing across the rippling Rhine.

That was before the great storm, the one I have just told of, in the
year 1876. But long before that, in my childhood and early youth, I had
witnessed some only less terrible. The position of Neuwied exposed us to
the full force of every gale that swept up the Rhine, each gust of wind
being caught as it were in the bend of the river wherein the little town
lies, and eddying round and round the castle with pitiless rage, seemed
in a trap from which it sought to break away. With the howling of the
wind, and the crashing sound of the tiles torn off the roof, we could
often scarce hear ourselves speak in the rooms inside, and very often
too it was hardly possible to open the doors, so great was the draught.
On the river itself, with its waves lashed to fury, the spectacle was
one of mingled terror and grandeur. And I was well situated to have a
full view of it on each such occasion, my windows directly overlooking
the Rhine. I used to watch the boats and rafts, could see them
distinctly and hear the rowers sing out, as they dipped their oars in
cadence. Those big rafts were most picturesque, and there was
something poetic, in harmony with the scene, in the cry of the
rowers:--“Hesseland, France!” instead of right and left. “Hesseland,
France!”--the sound still rings in my ears.

But one day the wind was wilder than its wont, the sky was murky, the
Rhine chocolate-brown, with breakers like the sea, and the rain beat
against our window-panes, down which it then streamed in torrents.
Suddenly a fearful shriek went up from the river, and looking out I saw
a very big raft going to pieces, having been dashed against the
landing-stage. The crew shouted for help, as one by one they were washed
off their planks and swallowed up by the waves, and boat after boat put
off to their assistance, succeeding in rescuing many of their number.
But some must have been drowned before my eyes. And I was alone to see
it, for mine were the only rooms that looked out that way, and the whole
terrible little drama took place so quickly, I had no time to summon

My beloved Rhine did not, however, always appear under this tragic
aspect, nor are all my memories of the old home steeped in such
melancholy hues. How beautiful it was, and the grounds how lovely in
those old days, before the cyclone had laid low the tallest trees. Some
of the finest specimens were quite near the house, and towered above it,
white poplars whose silvery foliage contrasted strikingly with the ruddy
hue of the copper-beeches, and the soft delicate verdure of the lindens.
The world looked lovely and smiling indeed, as I gazed from my window
and saw them bathed in sunshine, with the shadows of their waving
branches dancing backwards and forwards on the grass. But there were
other seasons;--sometimes of long duration,--when the gloom within doors
was so great, it seemed as if the sun never shone at all, and I sat
alone in my room over my books, listening to the roaring of the wind in
the chimney, roaring as it only roars in old and half empty houses, as
if the Spirit of the Storm were imprisoned there! Something of this
Paganini must surely have one day heard and have borne in mind when he
composed those strange, weird variations for the violin, in which the
strings sob and moan with more than mortal anguish. Quite recently, when
that melody was played before me by our gifted young musician, George
Enesco, so vividly did it recall the wailing sound, as of a soul in
distress, by which my childhood had been haunted, that I leant over to
my young niece, who happened to be present, and whispered, “Do you hear
the voice of the wind in the chimneys of the old home?”--and she burst
into tears. Ah! how often have I cried too in the old days, when that
dismal sound rang in my ears, and all that I looked out upon was a
sullen swollen flood carrying along huge blocks of ice, or else tossing
its angry foaming waves aloft, beneath a sky that seemed itself weighted
with lead and borne down to the earth, unmindful of its true mission to
stand arched above our heads to cheer us! And I had no amusing books to
distract my thoughts; nothing but grammars and histories! And the latter
I abhorred, for they seemed to me to be but a record of human misery on
a larger scale, of which I had only seen too much in my own small way,
quite at close quarters. I did not want to hear of the wretched
squabbles that had gone on all over the earth, of how men hated and
vilified one another, how they quarrelled and fought. History is nothing
but glorified misery after all! I knew of course that these were
frightful heresies, and was very much ashamed of my own deficient
powers of admiration, but it was perhaps not very much to be wondered
at, considering the way in which historic facts had been rammed down my
throat in my lesson-hours. It was natural enough that my thoughts should
wander in any other direction, and that I should seize my pen, and try
to give them form. These first products of my Muse were surely very poor
stuff, but at least I had the good sense to consign the whole of my
early verses to the flames. The same fate befell--a little later on--my
first dramatic venture, a long play with six-and-twenty characters, and
a highly sensational plot, involving murder and madness, arson and
similar attractions. I did not destroy this at once, but coming across
it a few years later, I enjoyed a good laugh over it, before I burnt it.

I must not forget to mention our town musicians, an institution that was
a relic of olden times. Many of these had been in service in the castle,
where, as in many another of the smaller German courts, they had formed
a most excellent orchestra, trained under their master’s orders. Such an
orchestra, composed entirely of servants,--footmen, lackeys, valets,
grooms,--existed still when my father married, and both he and his young
wife often played quartets and quintets with their own domestics. The
service may perhaps sometimes have suffered a little in consequence; it
has happened that the flute-player, standing behind my mother’s chair,
would begin humming his part, forgetting that he was waiting at table.
But if the waiting was indifferent, the music, on the other hand, was
very good! After the year 1848, when our whole establishment was so
reduced, several of these old servants established themselves as
musicians in the town, and not only my brother and I, but his children
since, took lessons from some of them.

Connected with our hospital in Neuwied were a number of worthy,
kind-hearted people--mostly ladies belonging to the town, who were
themselves busy enough in their own households, but who yet found time
to work for the poor, and to visit the families in greatest distress.
And of all those charitable souls Frau Hachenberg, for nearly forty
years president of the Ladies Nursing Union, was the most active and
zealous. She was the very essence of Christian charity, and withal of
such strong commonsense and so practical in all her methods, that every
undertaking flourished in her hands. It was she who founded the hospital
with but a thaler to commence building. Her confidence never wavered;
she knew the funds would be forthcoming. And the faith and trust which
were hers she managed to impart to others in turn; so that her work has
continued growing, and has increased to three times its original size.
The good deaconesses of Kaiserswerth have been attached to the hospital
from the first, and to them also a large share of honour is due.

Immense capability of self-sacrifice must be theirs who would devote
themselves to the service of suffering humanity. In Frau Hachenberg the
spirit of self-sacrifice knew no bounds. And her talent for organisation
was on the same scale. She was no sentimentalist, nor in the least given
to the use of pious phraseology. Quiet, determined, straightforward, her
simplicity and directness were more improving than the elegant manners
of many a more fashionable woman, who would indeed have been at a loss
to control the heterogeneous elements which Frau Hachenberg dealt with
so skilfully. With a single glance she seemed to survey a whole
situation, and grasp all its contingencies. I could never cease admiring
her, and it was from her I learnt nearly all that in my youth I knew
respecting the management of benevolent institutions. So strongly did
she set the seal of her own remarkable personality on every department
of our nursing home--for that modest appellation would better befit our
little hospital at its start--that her spirit seems to preside and
dominate it still, to this day. Whenever on one of my visits to my old
home, I attend a meeting of the Union, I feel as if I must find Frau
Hachenberg there, in her accustomed place, coming forward to receive me,
and it is as if the fifty years had gone past like a single day, for
there, at all events, everything seems unchanged.

Unchanged--but grown and developed. From those small beginnings great
things have sprung, round that centre a whole wide scheme of benevolent
institutions has grouped itself. On its fiftieth anniversary, at the
jubilee of the hospital, my thoughts flew back to its founders, and a
quaint old rhyme that Baron Bibra, one of them, was fond of repeating,
came into my head, telling how--“On each grey grimy town, as the angels
look down,”--they weep over the blindness and folly of poor human
beings, toiling and struggling to raise mighty monuments here on earth,
where we are but passing guests,--“While we build not in Heaven, and
scarce have a care for Eternity’s mansions, awaiting us there!” I know
not whence he had the homely verses, but they always went to my heart.
How few of us build for Eternity, and yet how easy it were to take a
small piece of Heaven into the earthly habitations we are at such pains
to construct!

Yet those earthly abodes are very dear to us at times, and rightly so,
for the sake of all those who have lived in them. I love every corner,
every stone of my dear Neuwied. And not merely the castle of my fathers,
not merely the cradle of my race, but the little town itself, so bright,
and clean and well-kept, the very model of the picturesque Rhenish town,
whose simplicity I would not exchange for all the luxury of Cosmopolis,
and whose modest dwellings, and narrow, old-fashioned streets may surely
compare favourably at all events on æsthetic grounds with the
sky-scrapers of the noisy, over-crowded cities of the New World! So dear
was ever to me my childhood’s home, in weal and woe, even the
inundations seemed something to be proud of, and I knew that I was not
alone in this, but that many of the good townsfolk of Neuwied shared in
the feeling that made me wind up one of my Rhine-songs with the words:

     If in our town the river
      Is a more frequent guest,
    ’Tis surely that he loves us
      Better than all the rest!

Seriously enough, it will ever seem to me a favoured spot, and I would
have it as it is, and tremble when I hear the schemes discussed--it may
be half in jest--of throwing a big bridge across the Rhine and giving to
the industries of the quiet little place such development as would soon
convert it into an important commercial town. It were a thousand pities!
There is little fear, I think, of our seeing such changes, and come what
may, the Past is ours. I can still say my Rhine and my Neuwied, for my
strong attachment to my birthplace and my native land will be with me to
the last.



I use the word advisedly, the direction of my studies, after my twelfth
year, being almost entirely taken out of female hands, my mother feeling
more confidence in the competence of persons of the other sex to impart
to me the sound and thorough instruction she insisted on and which must
moreover be in accordance with her own views, and not in the least on
the pattern of the ordinary curriculum for girls. Religious instruction
she had always been in the habit of giving us herself and she kept up
the practice until within a few weeks of my confirmation, preparing over
night with great pains the subject of the lesson which she gave us every
morning at six o’clock, and which was sometimes a theological
disquisition, sometimes a survey of ecclesiastical history. For these,
as for all my other lessons, I had to write essays, rather for the
purpose of obliging me to summarise and recapitulate systematically all
that I had learnt, than as an encouragement to the expression of my own
ideas; this exercise was, notwithstanding, probably of the greatest
value to me as enabling me to acquire very early great facility with my
pen. Already at quite an early age I had my own very decided views about
style, and I remember as quite a child coming into conflict with the
very first of my male teachers--one of the masters from the Neuwied
Grammar-school, engaged to give me German lessons--concerning an essay
on “Springtime,” I had written for him. Inspired by so congenial a
theme, I had simply let myself go, and the pages I handed to Herr Nohl
were probably more remarkable for originality than for academic
correctness of form. Whether he laid too much stress on negligencies of
styles, which in my youthful impetuosity I was too little inclined to
heed, I can no longer say; but I know that his unsparing criticism of my
work struck me as unjust, and that the corrections he proposed did not
seem to me to improve it at all.

Latin I was taught by my brother’s tutor, joining Wilhelm at his
lessons, a plan adopted partly in order to give him the stimulant of
emulation, but which became a source of unspeakable pleasure and profit
to myself. I had such delight and displayed so much facility in the
acquisition of a new language, that linguistic talent was supposed to be
my special gift. No one understood, nor was I myself until long after
aware, that it was language, and not languages, that was my real
concern. Unconsciously, I was forging for my own use the weapon that was
to serve me later on, and this peep into the beauties of the Latin
tongue--for a mere peep it was, since I laboured under the disadvantage
of having to plunge into its mysteries at the point at which my brother
had arrived,--was yet of immense service to me, in enlarging my horizon,
and affording me a cursory inspection of the treasures of another world.
The grammar of that noble idiom I never rightly mastered, it is true,
conscientiously as I battled with it. Many and many a night have I
fallen asleep over my books, my head resting on the ponderous old
dictionary in which I was seeking the key to some involved construction
in the verse, whose majestic cadence enchanted my ear, even before I had
fully apprehended its true significance. My brother’s tastes were very
different from my own; it was not languages that interested him, but
mathematics and the exact sciences. Inventions of all sorts were his
special hobby, every new kind of machine had a special fascination for
him, and he would have loved to be an engineer. The other course of
lessons given us by Professor Preuner, on classic art, was perhaps of
even greater efficiency in opening my eyes to the glories of the ancient
world, since here there were no technical obscurities to interpose
themselves between my vision and the masterpieces revealed. In a series
of excellent drawings these were displayed to us, and their perfection
pointed out and explained with so much enthusiasm by our professor,
himself an ardent devotee of Grecian art, that we in turn learned to
know and love these treasures of antiquity so thoroughly and well, my
subsequent visits to the great European galleries containing the
originals had nothing of strangeness or surprise,--it was but as if I
were renewing acquaintance with old and well-loved friends, of whom I
had lost sight for a while.

An equal meed of gratitude, though on other grounds, is due from me to
the old mathematician, Henkel, who had been my father’s tutor in former
days, and who now laboured hard, though with but poor results, to
introduce the rudiments of his to me most dismal science into my very
refractory brain! What endless trouble the dear old man took, and what
inexhaustible patience he displayed in the attempt to initiate me into
the mysteries of progressions and equations, or even the simple
extraction of a square root! Under his kindly tuition I filled many
note-books, covered whole pages with figures supposed to calculate the
logarithm of a number, without even knowing what a logarithm was! Euclid
I never understood at all; I can just remember that in every
right-angled triangle the square on the hypothenuse is equal to the sum
of the squares on the other two sides; but why? Ah! that is a very
different matter! As for algebra, it was utterly incomprehensible to me,
so I contented myself with learning a few of the formulæ by heart. Just
as in a cousin of mine,--a man of great learning, considerable literary
culture, and possessed of a fine taste in painting,--the musical sense
is entirely wanting, so to me the properties pertaining to number and
quality will forever remain a sealed book.

To my French governesses I owe thanks for having so thoroughly grounded
me in their language, that I could employ it for my literary work as
well as my mother-tongue, one of my books being written originally in
French. They too were my guides on my first incursions in the glorious
domain of French literature, whose vast treasure-house I ransacked
greedily, dwelling with special delight on the matchless beauty of the
great prose-writers, my ear, accustomed to the more marked cadence of
German verse, having always, I confess, been slightly deaf to the
melody of the Alexandrine couplet. To the earlier poets of course this
restriction does not apply, and Villon and Clément Marot became each in
his own way dear to me, as were Ronsard and the other illustrious
members of the Pléïade.

Then came a moment, on which I can look back with a certain special
satisfaction, during which I was left without either governess or
preceptor of any sort to pursue my studies entirely on my own account,
save for the advice given me for my reading by my parents. Those were
the months which I devoured with avidity every book that came in my
way--even history, I remember, and not only such works as Schiller’s
“Thirty Years’ War” and “Revolt of the Netherlands,” rendered
fascinating by their literary style, but, to please my mother, the drier
pages of Becker’s great Universal History, in its fourteen volumes, were
all waded through, rather more perfunctorily, I fear, than some of my
lighter reading! Still, the hours spent thus were surely not altogether
lost, and the habit of independent study, once acquired, never left me.

But this course of independent study could not of course be allowed to
go on indefinitely, and with the professor on whom, after much
deliberation, my parents’ choice ultimately fell, they, like myself, had
every reason to be satisfied. This was a very young _savant_, named
Sauerwein, a protégé of the Prince Consort’s friend, Baron Stockmar, by
whom he was recommended to my parents, as being capable of undertaking
the entire direction of my studies, from the stage at which I had now
arrived. He was a man of quite remarkable attainments, his linguistic
talent in particular having gained for him the reputation of a second
Mezzofanti, with such apparent ease did he apply himself to acquiring
each new language to add to his already goodly store--about thirty, it
seems to me, he spoke quite fluently at the time when I knew him. To
myself the charm of Sauerwein’s teaching lay in his having no cut and
dried pedagogic method; not considering it the chief object of education
to alter the direction towards which his pupil’s tastes and abilities
naturally turned, he had no wish to force my mind into a groove into
which it could never fit itself, but rather made it his aim to adapt
himself to the exigencies of the situation. In after years my tutor
owned to me how great his amazement had been, when in the place of the
child of thirteen he believed his future pupil to be, he found a young
girl, tall for her years and very self-composed, who in a few
well-chosen words thanked him for the trouble he was about to give
himself. And his surprise reached its height when the following morning
he heard the “Prisoner of Chillon” very dramatically recited by the
pupil who was to learn English from him!

It was well for me that I was so thoroughly prepared, as to be the
better able to profit by the unusual and really admirable course of
instruction Herr Sauerwein now entered on. Its range was wide
and varied, history--and English constitutional history in
particular--occupying a very considerable part of it, an exhaustive
knowledge of the political development of that country being deemed
essential, at a moment when all other nations seemed bent on blindly
copying English customs and institutions, however little compatible
these might be with their own mind and character. Many a State has since
had to learn to its cost, the mistake of transplanting growths of
foreign culture upon their soil, and the impossibility of amalgamating
these alien elements with the national life. But at that time, in
Germany as elsewhere, the admiration for all things English made
historians like Macaulay and Carlyle extremely popular, and also
encouraged the study of English literature. That part of the programme
was pure delight to me. Under my new preceptor’s guidance I obtained a
comprehensive survey of the whole vast field, from Chaucer to modern
times. The Scottish dialect was no bar to my appreciation of Burns; many
of his poems I learnt by heart, and can remember still. But the
literature of my own country was not neglected, and here also we started
reviewing it from its origins, deciphering early Gothic fragments,
continuing our quest through Eddas and Nibelungen, and lingering with
joyful pride among the heroes sung of by Gottfried and by Wolfram, in
the poems that are so glorious a national heritage. So well did I love
them, the noble knights of King Arthur’s Court, and the doughty
champions of the Holy Grail, that I can hardly forgive Wagner the
liberties he has taken with these fine old stories, in order to suit
them to the requirements of his music, glorious though that be. The
versions of these sublime legends given by Wagner came doubtless as a
revelation to those to whom they were as yet unknown;--but to us, who
had lived among them and loved them from our birth, his arbitrary mode
of treatment was rather of the nature of a sacrilege. The term is
perhaps too strong, but I cannot forget my keen disappointment at
certain features of the representations at Bayreuth. It is on this
account that I prefer the _Meistersinger_ to all Wagner’s other works,
since he had here no legend to alter or spoil, but simply a material
which he could turn and twist as he pleased, and which could only gain
by his skilful handling and by the musical atmosphere which his genius
conjured up around the personages of his drama.

From the study of our old Germanic legends in their epic form, we passed
on to the early poetic monuments of other lands, collections of
primitive songs and ballads being ransacked for their best specimens,
whilst the great national epics were made the object of more exhaustive
scrutiny. Throughout the whole of this vast field of exploration, my
tutor’s remarkable linguistic equipment made him the surest and best
qualified of guides; Sanscrit and Russian were as familiar to him as the
Neo-Latin tongues or Celtic idioms; snatches of Hungarian song
alternated on his lips with verses of the Persian and Arabic poets; and
his reading was as extensive as his literary taste was sound. Some of
the fine old poems with which I then became acquainted--the “Kalerala”
or “Ramayana” and “Mahalharata” for instance, in which the soul of a
whole race has been enshrined and preserved, have since by the talent
and industry of translators, and increased facilities of publication,
been made easily accessible to all; but in those days neither the
Finnish, nor the great epics of Hindustan, were popularly known, and it
was no mean privilege I enjoyed, in being led through these labyrinths
of delight by one to whom every step of the way was familiar.

It was Sauerwein’s aim, to give me something more than a superficial
acquaintance with all that is best in the literature of the whole world;
our course of reading was in consequence strangely diversified; Ossian
and the Minnesänger, Sakuntala and the “Gerusalemme Liberata,” these
were but a few of the multitudinous and bewildering contrasts forced
upon my youthful brain, to which some credit is perhaps due for having
borne without ill results so unusual a strain. On my progress in Italian
Herr Sauerwein laid special stress, and, as I afterwards learnt, from
the very kindest motives. He was well aware both of my poetic
proclivities and of the persistent attempts to stifle these, and,
thinking it a pity that my imaginative powers should not have fair play,
he quietly encouraged me under cover of the Italian essays set me and
into which no one else looked, to give my fancy the reins and write as
the spirit prompted. Long after, he showed me a whole pile of these
compositions, and told me of the satisfaction he had felt in watching
the dawn of a talent, of whose existence no one else, and I myself least
of all, was really cognisant at that time. Little did he think, when he
recited to me some of the old Welsh songs, that one day, in the
assembly of the bards, I should be acclaimed by them as one of their
number. Nor could my mother foresee, in the infinite pains she bestowed
on improving my handwriting, that the Gothic and ornamental letters she
set before me as models would become to me as a simple running-hand, and
that I should fill whole volumes with finely traced characters,
imitating the missals illuminated with such care and reverence by pious
monks of old.

I had as schoolroom a little room leading out of my mother’s, so that
she could be present at all my lessons, in the next room, even when she
was too ill to leave her bed. Few mothers I think can have taken their
duties more seriously. Our religious instruction, as I said, she always
gave us herself, assisted by my father. Her old clerical friend, Pastor
Dilthey, came and stayed with us at Monrepos just a few weeks before my
confirmation, to prepare me for it, but the real work of preparation had
been accomplished by my mother beforehand. The examination that precedes
the ceremony took place in Monrepos, in our own woods, in the presence
of more than a hundred people, members of our family on both sides and
many friends, and among the latter that most constant of friends, the
Empress Augusta, who never missed an opportunity of showing her
affection and regard. Never shall I forget that solemn moment of my
life, and my dear little Otto’s touching words, which he wrote for me in
the little volume of the “Imitation” he gave me in remembrance of the
day. For some time before the confirmation, in order that I might give
my whole thoughts to preparing for so serious an event, my
music-lessons had been stopped; I had not been allowed to practise at
all, so that it was with renewed energy that I returned to it
afterwards. The riding-lessons which I now had from one of my uncle’s
equerries, a most excellent riding-master, gave me less pleasure. This
exercise, like dancing, seemed dull to me, from lack of intellectual

But I should never have done if I tried to enumerate all those who
contributed to my education, and from whom at some time or other I have
learnt. It was not always from one’s regular professors that the most
useful lessons came. We are forever learning, for Life itself is a
school from which there is no playing truant, and whose teaching only
stops at the grave. As for educational systems and theories, Nature, the
greatest teacher of all, often laughs these to scorn. The best of them
is but a bed of Procrustes, to fit which human limbs are ruthlessly
lopped or stretched. Wiser were we to leave to Nature’s self the task of
fashioning each individual in youth. She has not made all on one
pattern, and diversity, not uniformity, is her aim.



Whenever my lips pronounce the beloved name, I am choked with the tears
that gather round my heart, and silently overflowing, suffuse my eyes.
She was the sunshine of my youth, illuminating it with her own radiant
brightness, with her affection, her irrepressible swiftness of
perception and joyful play of fancy, with the unspeakable tenderness
that was hers. As children we were always together, the three Bibras and
we three. There was a perpetual interchange of letters and messages,
little notes constantly making their way across the quadrangle that lay
between the castle and their house, with some such whimsically worded
invitation as the following: “The three little Widgeons request the
pleasure of the three little Bearers’ company to tea.” Or, it might be,
the other way round. We were all of about the same age, Marie being born
in the same year as my brother Wilhelm, her brother Berthold and I the
preceding year, whilst our poor Otto, had he lived, would be the same
age as her sister, Louise, Countess Bernstorff, sole survivor of that
trio. But death had already thinned the ranks of the Bibra family, two
dear children having been laid quite early in the tomb. These were the
baby Anna, who died in our house at Monrepos, and whose little waxen
face and cold white hands I well remember, and the little Max, Marie’s
darling, a fine manly little fellow, whose loss the elder sister never
ceased to deplore. Her beautiful eyes, soft and limpid as those of a
gazelle, ran over with tears at the mention of his name. Those tears
seemed always ready to flow, as if her heart were overfull, and it
needed but a word to stir the depths and bring them to the surface. How
quietly they coursed down the fair young cheeks, never reddening them or
distorting the delicate features, but giving her the appearance of a
blossom refreshed by rain. And those lovely lustrous eyes looked only
the more brilliant for the tears they had shed, lit up by a soft steady
radiance that I have never seen elsewhere.... But how can I find words
to tell of her sweetness, of all she was to me, my heart’s best friend,
the dear companion of my youth!

Thrown together as we were by circumstances, and with so much that was
sympathetic in our natures, we were drawn yet closer by the hand of
Fate, by a certain similarity in the fortunes--or rather in the
ill-fortune that befell our families. There is perhaps no stronger tie
than that which springs from an affliction borne in common, and the
friendship that united Marie von Bibra and myself, founded on the
sorrows we had shared, but little resembled that which ordinarily exists
between girls of our age. Young as she was, and naturally light-hearted,
she had known much sorrow. After the baby-sister, and the little brother
whom she loved so well, she was fated to see the only remaining one,
Berthold, called away one springtime in the bloom and pride of youth.
It was on a cold dull May day--how unlike the May mornings of poetry and
legend!--that I stood with her beside the coffin in which her brother
had just been laid, and together we afterwards wove the garlands that
went with him to the grave. And in all the anguish of the years of
Otto’s martyrdom it was she who supported and comforted me, when the
load of sorrow would otherwise have seemed too heavy to be borne. These
were no weak, no ordinary ties, that bound our souls together, and the
fellowship of sorrow rests on a firmer basis than any other fraternity.
But our joys were in common too, and how much increased, by being

Thus we grew up together, in joy and sorrow, until the day when, coming
from poor Otto’s deathbed, Baron Bibra said, as he wrung my father’s
hand, “Before the year is out, another of my dear children will lie
under the earth!”--“Yes, yes,” he continued, in answer to his friend’s
look of horror and amazement, “she coughs just like Berthold,--it is
only the beginning, but I know the tone,--she too must go!”

It was only too true. Marie, who was just sixteen, was taken away to the
sea by her parents; but scarcely six months later, a message was brought
me by a dear and trusted friend, to prepare me for the shock of seeing
her again. Far from deriving any benefit from the sea-air, she had come
back with inflammation of the lungs, and already all hope was given up.
My one wish was to fly to her bedside; but even then I had to wait some
days to see her, till she had rallied a little and had strength to talk
to me. Ah! how sad was that meeting! Death was in her face, in the
hectic flush on her cheeks, in the unnatural brilliancy of her eyes, in
the transparent whiteness of her hands, as she stretched them towards
me, lying in bed, with the magnificent tresses of her fair silky hair,
that usually crowned her head like an aureole, hanging in two heavy
braids across the pillow. She could not raise her voice above a whisper
as she told me: “I thought I should die, while we were away, at
Scheveningen! Oh! Lisi,--I did not want to die!”

After that, she seemed to rally a little, and each day I paid her a
visit, sitting beside her whilst with those skilful fingers of
hers--fingers that always seemed with a touch to accomplish marvels--she
executed a host of charming things, little cardboard objects that were
as pretty in their way as the beautiful ivory carvings that had formerly
been her delight, but for which her strength no longer sufficed. Feeble
as they were, those slender diaphanous fingers had lost nothing of their
dexterity, and her inventive faculty was still fertile as of yore. Never
was there a daintier toy than the miniature fortress she cut out in
cardboard,--a feudal castle, complete in every detail. But my heart grew
heavier with each visit, for the apparent improvement in her health was
but illusive,--the flicker of a dying candle ere it be extinguished.

When the last parting came, she was just seventeen, and so sweet and
pure, she looked fit for Heaven indeed, as she waited patiently for the
summons. Her eyes grew brighter every day, her nostrils, transparent as
alabaster, dilated and quivered with every breath she drew, and the
smile of unearthly sweetness on her lips was like a perpetual
leave-taking. Earlier in that very year, my poor brother’s sufferings
had at last ended, and now, with the knowledge that my father’s days
were numbered also, I must lose my one, my best-beloved friend!

Could I but have been with her to the last! But it has so often been my
lot to be condemned by circumstances to go from the side of those whom I
loved best on earth, with the full consciousness that I should see them
here no more. Then for the first time that bitter experience was mine.
My father was ordered to a milder climate for his health, so in October
we all set out for Baden-Baden, to pass the winter there. Once more,
before we parted, Marie and I resolved to be photographed together. I
held her fast by the hand, as if by so doing I could hold her back, for
the whole time while the photograph was being taken, my eyes were fixed
on her, and saw the ominous quivering of the nostrils, that betokened
how great the effort. Quite exhausted by it, she lay down again, and I
sat by her side for a while, until my mother fetched me. We said
goodbye; and then--“You will turn round, will you not,” she said, “my
Lisi, at the door, and look back at me once more!” And I did turn round,
and look back at her smiling, though my heart was like to break, and
once outside, I had to lean against the wall to steady myself, so shaken
was I by choking sobs. And there stood her poor mother, and looked at
me, with tearless eyes. Such silent misery I have never seen in any
other countenance. This was the fourth of her children whom Frau von
Bibra must see pass away, and since the death of Max she had been an
invalid herself. She might have been another Niobe, white as marble,
with all the life and light spent in her big dark eyes, of a velvety
softness, like rich brown pansies. Both parents were heroic, but whilst
the unhappy mother bore each fresh blow in perfect silence, the father’s
resignation even took the form of outer cheerfulness, that did not fail
him now, when Marie, his darling, was being torn from him. “Death,” Herr
von Bibra was accustomed to say, “should be a dear friend to me; he has
been such a frequent visitor in my house!”

All through that winter I wrote each day to my dear Marie. Then towards
the end of February came worse news, that she was suffering from
frightful headaches, ending in delirium. This lasted a whole fortnight,
during which she was always fancying she saw me, and calling me by name.
“Ah! she was there, my Lisi!” she would cry; “if we could but die, all
of us, together, and fly up to heaven where the others are waiting for
us!” And the gates of Paradise seemed to be already open to her, for she
told of all the wonders she saw, its undimmed glories, and the flowers
that never fade--and these raptures were reflected in her face. The last
thing I sent her was a little night-lamp in biscuit-china, like a tiny
chapel, so delicate and fragile. And one night Baron Bibra wrote me
these words:--“The little lamp, whose soft light seems to plunge our
souls in an atmosphere of prayer and holiness, sheds its gentle rays
over my child’s pale still face, as if whispering to her the loving
thoughts of her who sent it!” The tears rise once more to my eyes, as I
write this. As if the five-and-forty years that have passed since that
day counted for nothing! It was a heartbreaking meeting with the poor
father, when shortly after this he came to see us in Baden; and terrible
again was the return to Neuwied, to find their house desolate, and the
poor bereaved mother, more Niobe-like than ever, and her big velvety
eyes still strained and tearless! Meantime--hardest ordeal of all I went
through--during that winter of anxiety and anguish I had been obliged to
go to my first ball, in order that my father should for once see me
dance. It was with endless care and precautions that the short journey
to Karlsruhe was undertaken, and once there, everything that friendship
could do for him was done, by those truest and best of friends, the
Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Baden. Notwithstanding all their care,
he of course coughed for the rest of the night--but--he had had his
wish--he had seen his daughter at her first ball! And my feet felt like
lead--were as heavy as my heart, which ached so that I knew not how to
smile and look well pleased, and enter fittingly into the amiable
small-talk of my partners. How unhappy I was, and how the old
unhappiness comes over me once more, as I write this! For grief and joy
are both eternal, but grief so much more violent in its nature, that did
we but rightly consider it, our one aim should be, to bring some joy
into each other’s lives, to sweeten the bitterness that must needs be
the portion of all. It was the very violence of my grief that helped me
through the next few months, for I plunged headlong into work--there was
no other way for me--studying, practising--seven hours in the day
sometimes--till I was tired out--anything so as not to have to _think_!
But now I can look back with gratitude on the sympathy shown me by so
many friends, and remember the kind and feeling words of Monsieur de
Bacourt, Talleyrand’s former secretary, when he learnt the death of the
friend and companion of my youth:--“C’est bien dur de ne plus pouvoir
dire--te rappelles-tu?”

Next year, death was again busy in our midst. This time it was my father
who was called away. And now at last Baron Bibra’s fortitude gave way.
He who had seen with almost stoical endurance his children go before him
to the tomb, broke down completely after taking his last farewell of the
friend of a lifetime. To that long unbroken friendship, a striking
testimony was furnished in recent years by the simple perusal of all the
documents signed by both during Bibra’s tenure of office in my father’s
lifetime. From studying the contents of these dry deeds, my brother’s
steward, Baron von der Recke, had been able to gather an intimate
knowledge of his predecessor’s character, as also of my father’s, and of
their mutual affection and regard for one another. I marvelled indeed
when he imparted to me the result of his researches, and some of the
conclusions he had drawn, so correct were they in many minutest
particulars. I learnt from this, the truth that even archives may
contain, with their record of dull dry facts, and of the poetry that may
sometimes lurk in a stiffly worded deed!



In telling the story of my brother’s short life, I cannot do better than
employ in the first place the simple words of his faithful attendant,
Mary Barnes, who for seven years watched over him devotedly night and
day, by her untiring care doing much to alleviate the pain he suffered
from his birth. Her notes begin thus:--

“Friday, 22nd November, 1850, the anxiously expected treasure entered
this valley of sorrow. The event can be forgotten by none who were
present on that day. For some time past but small hopes had been
entertained of the child coming into the world alive, and we therefore
rejoiced the more, when after many hours of pain and danger, a fine boy
was born. New life, new hope sprang up; but the joy was of short
duration, to be transformed only too soon into lasting sorrow. Very
shortly after his birth, the poor infant’s laboured breathing showed
that all was not well with him, and this led to the discovery of a
serious organic defect. At first the doctors believed that this could be
remedied by a slight operation, and an eminent surgeon was sent for.
Unfortunately he arrived too late to operate that day, and the night
that followed was a terrible one. I did not think it possible for the
poor babe to last till morning; it was blue in the face, as I held it,
all night long, upright in my arms, to prevent it being suffocated. At
last morning came, and after due examination, the operation was fixed
for eleven o’clock. We moistened the poor child’s lips with a few drops
of milk, as it had not sufficient strength to take the breast. The
malformation was more serious, and the operation in consequence attended
with far greater difficulty, than the doctors had foreseen. It lasted so
long, and left the tiny patient so exhausted, we hardly thought he would
survive it many seconds. His whole appearance was changed; the skin had
taken a dull yellowish hue, and the little limbs were so cold, we
resorted to every possible means of restoring a little warmth. This
state of utter exhaustion lasted for twenty-four hours, during which we
kept moistening the lips with milk and with a few drops of a
resuscitating medicine, it being the opinion of the doctors that could
we but succeed in prolonging life for a few hours, all might be well in
the end.

“When at last the feeble flame of life seemed to burn a little more
steadily, I was indeed shocked to see, in performing the little
sufferer’s toilet, the awful change wrought in his poor little tortured
body. He seemed to have dwindled away, to have grown so small, so
fragile, that one feared that the lightest touch must hurt him. He did
succeed in getting a little sleep, but his sufferings were
indescribable, and caused him, when awake, to scream incessantly night
and day, till the little voice, worn out, became weak and hoarse, and
the cry ended in a feeble moan, whilst the baby face twitched with pain.
Early on the morning of the tenth day he

[Illustration: PRINCE OTTO ZU WIED]

seemed so near death, that the ceremony of christening was gone through
in haste. The name of Otto Nicholas was given him. All day long we
thought every breath must be his last; and yet again he rallied, and was
able after a few days to be nursed, which was the greatest comfort, as
it often soothed him to sleep.

“But when the pain was too violent, nothing was of the slightest avail,
and the fits of screaming it occasioned had other ill results. And so
the days passed; in alternations of more or less violent pain, for he
was seldom altogether free from it; and this of course retarded his
growth and prevented him from gaining strength. He remained very, very
small, with a sweet little pale face, and big blue eyes, full of
expression. In the spring I was able to take him out, and hoped that
might strengthen him. By the beginning of May we moved to Bonn, for him
to be under the observation of the surgeon who had performed the
operation; and there his condition became so far satisfactory, that he
seemed to begin at last to grow and develop in a normal manner. The
terrible fits of pain still continued, for although everything that
could be was done to alleviate them, they were of a nature that rendered
all human succour unavailing. When out of pain, he lay perfectly still;
one never heard him laugh or coo like other babies. And, although he
began to lift himself up and take notice of things, his growth was very
slow, and the cutting of each tooth almost cost him his life. When he
had to be weaned, there were fresh dangers, and a journey to England,
undertaken to give him the benefit of the sea air, very nearly proved
fatal. In London a celebrated physician was consulted, whose opinion
absolutely coincided with that of the doctor in Bonn, both affirming
that the child could never live to grow up, human skill being powerless
to aid in such a case. The asses’ milk, however, prescribed by the
London doctor, proved very beneficial, and for some time this with
arrowroot formed his diet. He remained a very small baby, and only took
his first few steps on his second birthday, having also made no attempt
at all to speak up to that time. But he was a dear sweet child, with
eyes that looked at one so pitifully, it was as if they were imploring
help. There was something in him quite different to all other children.
It must have been the fearful attacks of pain, in which several hours of
each night and day were passed, that gave him this heavenly expression.
In the summer of 1853, we went to Paris; and again the poor little thing
was at death’s door in a teething crisis. He was not yet three years
old, but the delirium was hardly over, when he insisted, as he lay
exhausted on his bed, that all the servants should come in to see him
for a moment, and it was touching to see him stretch out his tiny little
thin hand to each in turn, telling them how ill he had been, but that he
was getting better! It took some time after this for him to recover his
strength sufficiently to be able to walk again.”

I have followed thus far the narrative of our good Barnes, giving in her
own simple language an account of the first three years of the life over
which she watched so faithfully. It was at about the time when these
notes stop, that the letter of a friend staying with us in Paris,
describes the poor child in these words:--“Little Otto seems to grow
smaller and smaller, and he is always suffering. You cannot think what a
dear child it is,--much too good for this world!” And a little later she
wrote:--“Otto is marvellously precocious, his mental development is
quite extraordinary, he is altogether an ethereal little being!” On his
third birthday we had sent out a little table with all his presents, and
stood round it, eager to witness the expression of his delight. But he
could only say--“Is all that for me?” as he looked at each thing in turn
with big wondering eyes, and it was only a month later, that, looking
out from the window at the children walking and running happily in the
Champs Elysées, he asked:--“And have those little children really no
pain?” And when he heard that they had not:--“Oh! how glad I am!” he

When he was four years old, a little white rabbit was given him, which
became his greatest pet, his constant companion, following his little
master about everywhere like a dog, and licking his face and hands. The
only time I ever saw Otto give way to a real fit of despair, was on one
occasion when he believed that his dear Bunny had burnt itself. The poor
little fellow flung himself on the ground, with piercing screams,
tearing at his hair, and his heart still went on thumping like a hammer,
long after he had convinced himself that his beloved playfellow had
really met with no harm. The faithful little creature outlived its
master just a year.

Quite early the poor boy had begun to practise most marvellous
self-control. After a sleepless night, he would walk up and down in his
room, with his little fists clenched, saying from time to time--“now I
am ready--now I can go in!”--until he felt that he was sufficiently
prepared to appear among the rest of us at the breakfast-table, where he
would take his place, pale as death, but apparently quite calm. When he
was five years old, he began learning to read, and also to join Wilhelm
and myself in reciting poetry, as was our custom every Sunday. In this
he soon gave evidence of quite exceptional talent; from simple rhymes
and fables in verse passing on quickly to the ballads of Schiller and
Bürger, and these he declaimed with so much spirit and such a rare sense
of humour, that it was a treat to see and hear him.

In a friend’s letter of April, 1855, I find the following
passage:--“Otto is really touching; all day yesterday, after the doctor
had gone, he kept repeating--‘the good doctor says that if I ate no
bread, I should have less pain; how kind of him, to think of what would
be good for me!’--This is what he finds to say, instead of a word of
complaint at being deprived of the food he likes best.”

He very soon began to take the greatest pleasure in his lessons--history
and botany above all. His tiny fingers were very skilful in arranging
and pasting in an album the specimens of plants he collected. In this as
in everything else his keen sense of order was shown; everything
belonging to him had its right place, and was kept in perfect order. He
was very fond of flowers, and they flourished under his care; the
fuchsias that stood in his window were literally covered with blossoms.
He began Greek when he was seven years old, and Latin the next year.
Greek, however, always remained his favourite study, and he loved to
recite verses in that language. One day a lady asked him to let her hear
him say a Greek fable. “Why?” he asked rather drily. “You would not
understand it if I did!” “That is quite true, but I like to hear the
sound.” “Ah! that is another matter!” and he began reciting without more

In the autumn of the year 1858, we went for a little tour in Switzerland
and Northern Italy. Otto’s delight at all the wonders he saw was
unbounded, and his manner of expressing it caused general amazement.
“That cannot be a child!” people said, when they heard him reciting
verses of the “Diver” by the Falls of the Rhine, and again quoting
appropriate lines of Gœthe and Bürger in the valley of the Rhine, at
that moment still ravaged by recent floods. Everywhere guides and
cicerones turned to him with their chief explanations, his eager
questions and intelligent little face with the big bright eyes showing
the deep interest he felt. In Milan his enthusiasm was aroused by the
life of S. Charles Borromeo. Noticing this, the priest who was guiding
us round the cathedral, and who could speak a little English, took Otto
by the hand, and addressed all his remarks to him. Such examples of
human grandeur always excited his passionate admiration, and it was his
constant dream, one day to leave his mark in the world.

On our return to Germany that same year, we spent a month at Freiburg,
and it is from here that are dated some of my brother’s most
characteristic letters, to a little friend of his own age--simple,
childlike letters, by no means free from mistakes, but showing a most
remarkable depth of thought and precocious intelligence on the part of a
child who had not yet quite accomplished his eighth year.

The next year, up to the autumn of 1859, was the very best and happiest
of his short life, and during the summer we soon began to hope once more
that he might after all perhaps get well. He was much out of doors, able
to work in his own little garden, and the healthy exercise, the life in
the open air gave him for the moment quite a blooming appearance that
might well delude us with false hopes. None who saw him trot about, with
his gardening tools flung across his shoulder, his little face flushed
and glowing, beneath the straw hat perched jauntily on his fair
curls,--no one who saw him thus could have guessed what his sufferings
had hitherto been, nor have suspected how soon he was again to be their
victim. For that short period his appetite improved, and he seemed able
to satisfy it without becoming a prey to the agonising pains with which
the digestive process had for so long been almost invariably
accompanied. During the harvesting he was in his glory; sometimes out in
the fields for hours, taking an active part in the proceedings, and so
lively, and joyous, and full of fun, it did everyone good to see him.

Thus the summer went by, but all at once in October Otto was seized with
an attack of pain, even more violent and spasmodic than any of the
preceding ones, and this being repeated and becoming of very frequent
recurrence, a great specialist was consulted, who declared that an
operation was necessary. This, although attended with considerable
danger, was successfully performed in March, 1860, the long and painful
examinations that preceded it, and that were not always carried out
under anæsthetics, having been most heroically borne. But the results
were not such as had been anticipated. Hardly had the little patient
left his bed, before the attacks of pain began again with redoubled
violence, to the consternation of the doctors, who felt their skill
completely baffled by this unexpected occurrence.

The sympathy shown by the good townspeople at the time of the operation
was most touching. Sometimes there was quite a little throng gathered
all day in front of the iron railings before the Castle, to hear the
latest tidings.

I have told of the deep interest the dear boy took in my confirmation,
which took place that same summer. In the little volume of the
“Imitation,” which he gave me on that day, I asked him to write a few
words, and without a moment’s pause, he took his pen, and wrote in his
firm clear characters:--“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a
tinkling cymbal.”--Otto. The gospel of Love had passed into his flesh
and blood, had become part of his inmost being.

Directly it was possible, his lessons had begun again, for that was
indeed the best, the only means of abstracting his thoughts, diverting
them entirely from his own condition. The letters that I have from him,
during a few weeks’ absence from home about this time, point to the
extraordinary self-command he had attained, whilst they also display
most remarkable and varied intellectual interests. In some he tells me
of his botanical studies and the experiments in horticulture that
already so deeply interested him, in others, he spoke of the lectures on
Art and Literature, which it had been arranged for different professors
to give for his benefit. But Nature and her works he loved best of all,
and I treasure the tiny little album he gave me about this time, in
which specimens of various mosses were most beautifully arranged,
together with a charming little essay, “My Love for the Leaves,” a
complete dissertation on all his favourite plants and trees, carefully
enumerated, and their foliage described in every detail.

But his sufferings grew worse, the attacks of pain succeeding one
another more frequently, and on Ascension Day of that same year every
faint hope of his ultimate recovery was taken from us. The surgeon, by
whom the last operation had been performed, discovered, on examining him
again, in addition to the original organic trouble, the existence of a
very large internal tumour, and pronounced that in his opinion Otto
could not possibly last another year. At the same time, my father’s
lungs were subjected to thorough examination, with the alarming result
that in his case also the doctor declared no hope of recovery to exist,
and that he could hardly be expected to live more than two years longer.
Oh! that terrible Ascension Day! what a blight was cast over all our
hearts! And the fearful attacks of pain went on, increasing in duration
and in intensity, and giving the poor child an opportunity of displaying
almost superhuman courage and endurance, above all in his constant and
heroic efforts to hide some part of his sufferings from his beloved
mother, whose anguish was indeed almost unendurable. But between the
paroxysms, ever the same sweet serenity, even cheerfulness, and an
immediate resumption of the study or occupation interrupted just before.
His activity and energy were unbounded; he was always at work, either
carving, pasting or cutting out; his hands were never at rest.

That summer brought one great joy to the poor little invalid, the return
of his idolised elder brother, whose course of study had caused him to
absent himself from home for some years, and who had meanwhile developed
from a mere schoolboy into a tall youth. Otto’s excitement was so great,
that for the time being he felt no pain. Once more his laughter
resounded through the house, and even out into the woods, where we
lingered till quite late in those long, lovely summer days. Once more it
was quite a gay, lively, youthful party that collected round the
tea-table, and our merriment was so infectious that our elders would
often pause in their serious conversation to listen to the nonsense we
talked, and join in our peals of laughter. An exhibition of celebrated
pictures had just been opened in Cologne, and we all went over there one
day to see them. The cartoons by Cornelius attracted Otto’s attention
more than all the rest, and he stood for a long time contemplating the
one, concerning whose subject the rest of our party--although there were
several scholars and artists with us--could not be agreed. To their
astonishment, when the boy at last took his eyes off the picture, he
said very quietly--“I know what it is!” and proceeded to describe in
every detail the scene from the Odyssey, which it did indeed depict.

So long as his brother was in the house, Otto would not stir from his
side. His admiration for the big elder brother, for his health and
strength, was most touching, and it was refreshing to hear his generous
outburst of indignation at any remark he considered in the slightest
degree disparaging to his idol. Were there but the faintest hint of
criticism, he would blaze up: “Wilhelm has beautiful eyes and splendid
teeth, and is very, very clever!” In the warmth and sincerity of his
heart, he could understand no grudging affection, no measured qualified
praise. And this warm-heartedness was probably his greatest source of
happiness, providing him with more glad hours than might well have been
deemed possible in an existence so fraught with pain.

Very great pleasure he derived from the little farmhouse, built in the
style of a Swiss chalet, which my mother had originally planned as a
present to him, on his coming of age. We had passed many happy hours
there, but in the autumn of 1861, he was no longer able to ride or go
thither on foot, and soon even the movement of the little
donkey-carriage, in which for a time he drove there daily, also became
unbearable, and one evening we had to pull up in the middle of the wood
and wait till a litter was brought on which to carry him home. It was a
pitiable sight; the little motionless body, worn out with suffering,
stretched on the litter and borne along by grave silent men, while the
flickering moon-beams darting through the branches shed an unearthly
light over the small white face, and overhead night-hawks and
screech-owls, circling round the sad little procession, filled the air
with their jarring cries.

From the following October he could not walk at all, and was carried
about everywhere in a little arm-chair, which was fastened on a litter.
In this manner he was brought to table or taken out into the woods,
where he would lie for hours, resting on his right side, with the dead
leaves falling thickly round him. After this he was never again able to
lie either on his back or on the left side. The course of his illness
after this I find described in my letters to my absent brother Wilhelm,
a few extracts from which I give here.... “Otto suffered frightfully
yesterday all day long, and was almost beside himself at the slightest
movement in the room.... Sleep can only be obtained by means of
laudanum.... He seems to grow more and more loving towards us all; I
have never seen such depth of feeling in another; there is a strange
depth in the big serious eyes, that appear to be untouched by the
sufferings of the frail body. The other day, as I sat beside him in the
wood, he said many such touching things, winding up with accusing
himself of cowardice, in taking laudanum to procure relief from pain. I
could only comfort him by reminding him that it was not of his own free
will he took it, but to please others.... For the last two days Otto has
stayed in bed altogether.... The agony he has suffered is indescribable;
it wrings one’s heart to witness it.... Mamma has been letting him know
the truth about his condition, thinking that it must comfort him to know
that his suffering will soon be over. But at first he wept at the
thought of parting with her, saying that he could not bear it. Then he
grew calmer and discussed the matter quite quietly. He told mamma
yesterday that he wished to be buried in Monrepos, under the old trees,
with a white cross at the head of his grave, and quantities of flowers
planted on it. Then he went on to ask, if in the life beyond he should
see all the great men of antiquity, and Socrates above all--and also if
he should still see mamma--sitting in her chair, just as she was
then!--“I hope so, my child!” she told him.... Papa is a little better.
He came down yesterday for the first time for three weeks. The meeting
was a touching one; papa himself, worn to a shadow, looking down so
anxiously on the poor little pale face, that was gazing with rapture up
in his.... Otto suffers more and more. He begins to have hallucinations,
sees himself surrounded by hideous faces that threaten him.... He seems
to have reached a degree of pain, beyond which it is impossible to go.
His sufferings are indescribable. A little time ago, he said he had to
pray each day that he might welcome death, for the thought of the
parting was still too terrible to him; but now he begins to comfort
himself with the thought that there is no real separation, and to
rejoice that he may at last rest and be free from pain. And he has been
giving all his instructions, telling us his wishes, and always coming
back to the provision to be made for his own two special attendants....
Each new day is worse than the last.... Once he cried out:--“I cannot
bear it!” but when mamma said:--“Yes, we will bear it together!” he grew
quieter and murmured--“Father, Thy will be done!” ... Although the doses
of laudanum are constantly being increased, he sleeps very little, the
pain is too agonising.... Of mamma I say nothing. What she suffers, she
keeps to herself; she says sometimes she feels as if a saw were at her
heart, being slowly drawn backwards and forwards.”

Otto had always taken special pleasure in following the mental
development of the lives he read about. He found satisfaction in the
thought that the activity of the spirit can neither be blighted nor
repressed. Every fact or occurrence that seemed to bear on this theory
interested him; the story of Kasper Hauser was a case in point, and
delighted him greatly, whilst the inactive life of the poor young Duke
of Reichstadt was simply incomprehensible to him--“To live to be
twenty-two,--and have _done_ nothing!” he would exclaim, almost

There seemed at one moment to be danger of his being too severe in his
judgment of others, but directly my mother pointed this out to him, he
saw his mistake and took pains to avoid it.

To the last his spirit remained active, and in the intervals of pain he
was always busily employed. Close beside his pillow, near the little
Testament that never left him, lay a case of the different instruments
he used for painting and carving, and with them he fabricated all sorts
of pretty things for us all. His strong sense of the beautiful, of grace
and harmony, never deserted him, neither did the humour with which he
had so often enlivened us. After the fiercest attack of pain, whilst all
around him were still overcome by witnessing his struggles, he would
suddenly make some witty remark, and would not rest content till he had
brought us all to join in his laughter.

But the pain grew worse and worse, and he was so weakened by it, that on
his eleventh birthday we dared to hope, that before the day was over, he
would be keeping it in Paradise. We had brought him flowers, and some of
them we strewed over his bed, and wreathed around his pillow, and it
might have been in his last slumber that he was lying there, so silent
and still, and the sheets no whiter than his wan white face. But that
mercy was not yet granted him; there was still much more suffering in
store. A month later came my eighteenth birthday, and directly I came to
see him in the morning, he pulled out from under his pillow a tiny
marble slab, on which notwithstanding the awkward position in which he
lay, he had contrived to paint in water-colours the words: “God is
love.” When he gave it me, we could only throw our arms round one
another and cry together. The night before he had made the remark, that
whatever presents he now gave must be of a lasting nature.

For an account of the last few dreadful weeks, during which his illness
made rapid strides, I turn to letters written by me at the time, and
copy a few pages.

“_December, 1861._--Our preparations of Christmas are being made with
more than usual care, so that the festival may be kept with all due
solemnity,--for the last time, as we well know, that we shall all
celebrate it together on earth.... Papa is very weak, and the fits of
coughing are almost intermittent. With him, as with Otto, it is only a
question of time.... Christmas Eve was very solemn and peaceful and
beautiful: the few days preceding it had been exceptionally good and
free from pain, so that Otto could be wheeled into the room where the
Christmas-trees stood ready, and it was touching to see his little face,
beaming with happiness, when the trees were lighted up, and the
Christmas hymn sung as usual, by the whole household, led by me from my
accustomed place at the organ.... But since then he has had two very
disturbed nights, and the dreadful attacks of pain have begun again....
‘Keep calm!’ he called to mamma, after one of these,--‘it is only the
body that suffers, nothing of this can hurt the soul!’

“_January, 1862._--Yesterday he thought he was dying, and took leave of
us all, but when he saw mamma’s tears, he again found strength to
comfort her. The night that followed was a dreadful one; the sensation
of suffocation so intense that, exhausted as he was, he sometimes stood
upright in bed in the effort to breathe.... And through it all his
patience and resignation are inexhaustible, and his affection for mamma
and each one of us seems only to grow stronger.... The fits of pain are
now so frequent, even mamma no longer keeps count of them. Last night
she had to give him twenty-one drops of laudanum.... We pray that the
end may be near. To-day his eyes are quite dim, and he can only bear
that we speak in whispers.... But his first thought is still for mamma,
and he says she is much more to be pitied than he.... It was her
birthday yesterday, and Otto was in a great state of excitement. He gave
her a flower-stand and a little casket, which he had himself designed.
One could see the efforts he made to appear cheerful, whilst hardly for
one moment free from pain. (He gave orders at the time for another
present, for a surprise to his mother on her next birthday. She received
it eleven months after his death!)....

“_February._--His strength seems to be ebbing.... His one prayer is that
he may die in full consciousness. Another respite.... Then a new and
worse pain. The poor child is being slowly tortured to death....
Sometimes, in his agony, cries of despair are forced from him, and then
again he can talk with the utmost composure of the blessedness awaiting
him when the last struggle is over.... We had a visit from Professor
Perthes, who sat for some hours in Otto’s room, talking to him and Uncle
Nicholas. The Professor was so much struck by the invalid’s keen
interest in the subject being discussed, and his clear-headed practical
suggestions, that he exclaimed on coming away from him:--“That boy is
not going to die yet;--he thinks and feels like a grown-up man!” But a
little later, after witnessing one of the cruel paroxysms of pain, our
friend also was convinced that this matured intelligence he had just
been admiring, only betokened that the soul, purified and ennobled by
suffering, was already ripe for a better world.... The weakness
increased. All day yesterday and all night long, he lay with his hands
clasped in prayer, murmuring feebly:--“When will the hour of release
come? when will the Angel of Peace appear, to bear me away?” His piety
and resignation never fail him for one moment.... His hands are cold as
ice, his brow like marble, his eyes sunken, but still bright with
intelligence.... One evening he complained that he could no longer
rightly distinguish our faces. Over his poor little wasted face the
shadow of death is already creeping, but he is strangely beautiful with
it.... Yesterday, Monday, as we sat as usual round him, he slowly
stretched out his poor feeble arms, exclaiming joyfully:--“Well, then,
if this is to be the end, farewell to you all!” And his expression was
rapturous, as he bade us each good-night, and prayed for blessings on
us.... But even then it was not over....”

The agony lasted two days longer. He seemed to sleep, but woke from time
to time with a cry of anguish. He could no longer speak, though he still
saw and heard everything, and gave signs that he understood. Then, at
the very last, after a few broken accents, came the rattle in his
throat, and the one word “Help!” loud and clear. And then a deathly
silence. And mamma bent over him and murmured--“Thanks be to God! His
name be praised for evermore!”

The struggle was over. Peace and heavenly calm spread themselves over
the tired features, and a sweet smile played about his lips--the deep
line across the high forehead alone showing how dearly this peace had
been purchased.

Our dear Otto looked like an angel sleeping there; we could scarce tear
ourselves away from him. My mother kept saying--“How quietly he rests!”
and if anyone sobbed on coming into the room--“Hush! hush!” she said,
“do not disturb my child!” With our own hands we placed him in his last
little bed, and covered him over. The old clergyman from Biebrich, by
whom the benediction had been spoken at my parents’ marriage, now
pronounced the last blessing over their beloved child.

Otto’s best epitaph is contained in a letter from my father to an
intimate friend, which concluded thus: “ ...On a little rising-ground
not far from Monrepos, he sleeps his last sleep in the shade of the old
linden trees. But he lives on forever in our memory, and this living
remembrance, this communion with the dead, is our last best heritage, by
which in the midst of the heavy loss, we are yet made rich

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