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CHILDHOOD OF JEAN PAUL.
Thus while the sun sinks down to rest
While reverting to these early records of our poet's life, we have not been able to forbear some comparison with two other Autobiographies. We have regretted the very scanty materials we have for knowing the mind life of our author at that day. The history of the child related by the man we turn to and read with avidity, when it is written as it usually must be with intense delight and love. One of those ineffable gems of egotistic beauty is the fragment we have of the early life of Jean Paul, who preceded Wordsworth in his entrance into the world only by six years. His picture of his child life in the mountains of the Fichtelberge is one of the most sweetly natural paintings the fancy can conceive. With the humour and truth of Hogarth, and the homeliness of Wilkie, it unites the spiritual fancy of Maclise. It is impossible to read the first pages without feeling how much that is said of the Pine Mountain was true of Hawkshead, when the schoolboy days of Wordsworth were spent there, but it did not come in our poet's design to paint these. Richter has given to us a perfect German Idyl, interesting us exceedingly in the delineation of his good father's character, who was of so excellent a nature as to be able “to carve a haven out of an iceberg." We cannot avoid remembering the comparative sameness of the boys in their solitude-in their education for the service and priesthood of thought, though in Richter there was this great difference, that he had a home; and well and deeply does he interest us in that home, with its summer and winter evenings, while the vesper bell was devoutly chaunting “Die finstre Nacht bricht stark herein,” (The gloomy night is gathering in) how touchingly and truthfully does he describe that home, when the shutters were closed and bolted, and Knecht Ruprecht was howling and grumbling without. Richter describes home a focus of love the superstitions of that mountain region,—the amusements of that primitive household—all these stand out so beautiful and real; we are reminded of them only in Wordsworth's Prelude by their oppositeness to it, for Richter was but little of an artist, and he contemplated those subjects of his memoirs less through the eye of philosophy, than that of love.
Another autobiography of which Wordsworth's Prelude reminds us is Goethe's. He also may be regarded as a contemporary, but the point of likeness here is only in the strongly marked Individuality of the portrait. An education and early life passed in an old imperial city of Germany would invest the young associations with very difforent ideas to those induced by a residence among simple villagers and mountains, But again we aro compelled to seo that as compared with Goethe's autobiography Wordsworth's Preludo is only a record of emotions, strippod of that narrative dress which gives interest to the story of the mind. The mind of Goethe
CHILDHOOD OF GOETHE.
was so constituted as to regard man in his relation to art more fully and completely than Wordsworth. And we shall turn aside to notice from time to time how he contrasts with our author in this particular. In the Prelude, “the history of the growth and developement of an individual mind,” the influences which work around are few, all influences work from within. Goethe drew all nature into his nature, he attracted all things to himself. Not so Wordsworth, he had not those universal sympathies which would impel to all societies, and find a home in all. The medium through which both regarded objects was remarkably and wonderfully clear; but the mind of Wordsworth magnified and made sublime all subjects on which he gazed, Goethe, on the contrary saw things mostly with the eye of sense, beheld them in their mediocrity and simplicity.
The following is one of many of these traces of the same spirit as that we meet in Wordsworth's Prelude characterising Goethe's childhood. “In the second floor in his father's house) was a room which was called the garden-room, because they had there endeavoured to supply the want of a garden by means of a few plants placed before the window. As I grew older, it was there that I made my favourite, not melancholy but somewhat sentimental retreat. Over these gardens, beyond the city's walls and ramparts, might be seen a beautiful and fertile plain; the same which stretches towards Höchst. In the summer season I commonly learned my lessons there, and watched the thunder-storms, but could never
look my fill at the setting sun, which went down directly opposite my windows. And when, at the same time, I saw the neighbours wandering through their gardens taking care of their flowers, the children playing, parties of friends enjoying themselves, and could hear the bowls rolling and the nine pins dropping, it early excited within me a feeling of solitude, and a sense of vague longing resulting from it, which, conspiring with the seriousness and awe implanted in me by nature, exerted its influence at an early age, and shewed itself more distinctly in after years. The old, many cornered, and gloomy arrangement of the house was moreover adapted to awaken dread and terror in childish minds. Unfortunately, too, the principle of discipline that young persons should be early deprived of all fear for the awful and invisible, and accustomed to the terrible, still prevailed. We children, therefore, were compelled to sleep alone, and when we found this impossible, and softly slipped from our beds to seek the society of the servants and maids, our father, with his dressing-gown turned inside out, which disguised him sufficiently for the purpose, placed himself in the way, and frightened us back to our resting-places. The evil effect of this any one may imagine. How is he who is encompassed with a double terror to be emancipated from fear? My mother, always cheerful and gay, and willing to render others so, discovered a much better pedagogical expent. She managed to gain her end by rewards. It the season for peaches, the plentiful enjoyment of
which she promised us every morning if we overcame our fears during the night. In this way she succeeded, and both parties were satisfied."*
We have quoted these interesting cases as illustrating the idiosyncracies of Genius in Childhood, and we have cited the two instances of Richter and Goethe from Wordsworth's close relationship to them both, by the marriage in him of the tenderness and fancy of the one, with the iron art and imagination of the other. But Wordsworth could not have written in lively and interesting prose the narrative of his early days by Esthwaite lake; His memory did not linger over the impressions which make autobiography delightful to the general reader: He does not mention incidents, and particularize days, but he generalises boldly the individualities of scenery. We think he erred greatly in not making the Prelude to partake more of the character of the Excursion; His own narrative of his childhood and boyhood wants more objective and actual interest. We are grieved to see that at this time his nurse, his schoolmaster, his playmates were not objects of great interest to him; it is true they were grouped into artistic relationship afterwards, they became furniture for the Poet's study by and by; we would have had them occupying a more human place now. But neither then nor at any time could he glide easily into the peculiar humours and individualities of people around him. He speaks of his being alone, and being a trouble to the peace that dwelt among his companions. Every
* Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit, p. p. 3, 4.