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seem to be established in Germany, and chiefly from a want, on the part of the middle classes, of a permanent, steadfast, and intelligent appreciation of themselves; at least so we gather.
In executing his purpose the author sets before us two picturesthe merchant, his domestic life and his honourable activity; and the nobleman and his family, with their elegance and instability. The representative of nobility, as might be expected, is a very weak man. He is not, however, portrayed here in the dark colours in which the condemned aristocrat is often made to figure. The Baron Von Rothsattel is a man of honourable sentiments, courteous, urbane, attached to his wife and children he has rather the weaknesses than the vices attributed to his class. He would have passed through life very creditably if some demon had not whispered to himthat he too might get rich and make money. And here the observation will occur to the reader that the Baron is brought into disadvantageous comparison with the merchant, by becoming himself a man of commerce, for which career his previous education had unfitted him. He makes a wretched man of business; in plain words, acts like a fool; and, from acting like a fool, is led, as is generally the case, to act dishonourably. It is the nobleman building a factory, and under the influence of crafty men who take advantage of his ig norance and his love of gain to lead him into ruin, that is here portrayed. The character is natural enough, but it is hardly a fair representative of the class. If we wish to portray the bourgeois, we take him in his own element; we do not paint him as the bourgeois gentilhomme, If we would describe a nobleman, we do not seize the moment when he has allied himself with usurers, and is building a tall brick chimney under the windows of his countryseat.
But before we proceed further either with the Baron or the merchant, we must introduce the young hero of the piece (Anton), who acts as the link of connection between the two. Anton is a good youth, gen
erous, intelligent, industrious; but in order that he should act the part here assigned to him, he has more of the Master Pliable in his composition than is consistent with so much good sense and resolution as he in general displays, and is at all times accredited with. He is a clerk in the merchant's counting-house, and not indifferent to the merchant's young sister, Sabine, the sweet domestic spirit who presides over his well-ordered household; but he is also introduced to the family of the Baron, and falls under the influence of that charm of manner which distinguishes refined society. The sister of the merchant and the daughter of the Baron exercise an alternate and apparently an equal influence over his affections. Prompted by a generous impulse, he, for a time, forsakes his career as a merchant to become the agent of a bankrupt nobleman. It will be seen at once that Anton is one of those heroes who is in some measure sacrificed to the exigencies of the plot. He is as good and consistent as the story permits, and no reasonable hero could require more than this of the novelist who creates him.
"Ostrau "-it is thus our novel opens -" is a small town near the Oder, celebrated even as far as Poland for its gymnasium and its gingerbread. In this patriarchal spot had dwelt for many years the accountant-royal, Wohlfart, an enthusiastically loyal subject, and a hearty lover of his fellow-men-with one life, and his wife and he lived in a small or two exceptions. He married late in house, the garden of which he himself kept in order. For a long time the happy pair were childless; but at length came a day when the good woman, having smartened up her white bed-curtains with a broad fringe and heavy tassels, disappeared behind them amidst the ap probation of all her female friends. It
was under the shade of those white bedcurtains that the hero of our tale was born."
Never surely was hero ushered into the world in a more delicate and mysterious manner. We ought to be thankful for this new formula for the expression of so old-fashioned an event.
"To disappear behind the fringed curtains and the heavy tassels!"-we recommend the phrase
to all our euphuistic friends. But the progeny thus delicately introduced upon the scene is destined, before he comes to man's estate, to lose both parents. We see him about the age of eighteen an orphan lad, on his way to the capital of the province, provided with a letter of introduction to one Schröter, a merchant.
As he travels on foot, he is tempted to diverge from the highway, and finds that the meadow-path he has chosen conducts to the private grounds of the Baron Von Rothsattel.
"He now found himself in a plantation with neatly-gravelled paths. As he went on, it more and more assumed the character of a garden; a sudden turn, and he stood on a grass plot, and saw a gentleman's seat, with two side-towers and a balcony, rise before him; vines and climbing roses ran up the towers, and beneath the balcony was a vestibule
well filled with flowers. In short, to our Anton, brought up as he had been in a small town, it all appeared beauteous and stately in the extreme. He sat down behind a bushy lilac, and gave himself up to the contemplation of the scene. How happy the inhabitants must be! how noble, how refined! A certain respect for everything of acknowledged distinction and importance was innate in the son of the accountant ; and when, in the midst of the beauty around him, his thoughts reverted to himself, he felt utterly insignificant-a species of social pigmy scarcely visible to the naked eye. "For some time he sat and looked in perfect stillness; at last the picture shifted. A lovely lady came out on the balcony, clad in white summer attire, with white lace sleeves, and stood there like a statue. When a gay paroquet flew out of the room and lighted on her hand, Anton's admiration went on increasing. But when a young girl followed the bird, and wound her arms round the lovely lady's neck, and the paroquet kept wheeling about them, and perching, now on the shoulder of one, and then on that of the other, his feeling of veneration became such that he blushed deeply, and drew back further into the lilac trees' shadows. Then, with his imagination filled by what he had seen, he went with elastic step along the broad walk, hoping to find a way of exit."
He had not proceeded far before the younger of these ladies overtook
him, mounted on a black pony, and using her parasol as a whip. This is Lenore, the Baron's daughter. She had seen Anton from the balcony; and when he stole away from the lilac-trees, she, by way of sport, had given chase. She accosts our youth, and is pleased with the ingenuous delight and admiration he exhibits; shows him the garden, plucks strawberries for him, rows him across a little lake in her own boat, and leaves him in a state of ecstatic bewilderment.
His ecstasy is interrupted by the harsh voice of a youth of his own age, Veitel Itzig, a Jew, who plays a conspicuous part in the drama that follows. follows. Itzig also is journeying from Ostrau to the capital (Breslau, of Silesia) to make his fortune. He we presume, capital of the province has rather peculiar ideas how a fortune is to be made. He does not dream that the capital is paved with gold, but he has dreams of old cupboards, in which forgotten title-deeds have been stowed away, or of mysterious secrets which, if once discovered, will put the owners of large estates in your power. Some secret there must be for getting rich, or how have men risen from poverty like his own he means to learn in the capital; and to enormous wealth? Such secret if the devil is there to teach and sell it upon the old terms, it is plain that Veitel Itzig is prepared to purchase; and it is equally plain that if young Itzig's soul is to be the purchasemoney, the devil will have a very sorry bargain: he will be buying what is already his own. We shall afterwards see that Itzig_does_learn the secret of getting rich, and that the devil appears to him in the form of an old villanous broken-down lawyer, who teaches him the mysteries of bill-broking, and how to commit every sort of fraud, without coming under the jurisdiction of the criminal law. Cunning, utter absence of every kind of scruple, untiring that neither of them ever ache-this energy in fraud, a heart and a head is the infallible recipe for wealth which the devil now sells to those who are disposed to purchase.
The two youths enter the capital together; Anton to tread a quite
different path to wealth-that of cheerful industry, which is as constantly profitable to society as to him who practises it. He is installed in Schröter's counting-house and warehouse. He is surrounded by huge stores of groceries, collected from all parts of the world, to be distributed to the various shopkeepers of Germany. He finds even some scope for his imagination-for that spirit of poetry which every generous youth bears in his bosom-in his highlyuseful employment.
"The hours that he first spent in the warehouses, amidst the varied produce of different lands, were fraught with a certain poetry of their own, as good, perhaps, as any other. There was a large, gloomy, vaulted room on the groundfloor, in which lay stores for the traffic of the day. Tuns, bales, chests, were piled on each other, which every land, every race, had contributed to fill. The floating palace of the East India Company, the swift American brig, the patriarchal ark of the Dutchman, the stoutribbed whaler, the smoky steamer, the gay Chinese junk, the light canoe of the Malay-all these had battled with winds and waves to furnish this vaulted room. A Hindoo woman had woven that matting; a Chinese had painted that chest ; a Congo negro, in the service of a Virginian planter, had looped those canes over the cotton bales; that square block of zebra-wood had grown in the primeval forests of the Brazils, and monkeys and bright-hued parrots had chattered among its branches. Anton would stand long in this ancient hall, after Mr Jordan's lessons were over, absorbed in wonder and interest, till roof and pillars seemed transformed to broad-leaved palm-trees, and the noise of the streets to the roar of the sea-a sound he only knew in his dreams; and this delight in what was foreign and unfamiliar never wore off, but led him to become, by reading, intimately acquainted with the countries whence all these stores came, and with the men by whom they were collected."
The poetical aspect which trade may be made to assume is a favourite topic with our author, and the translator has fully entered into the spirit of the original, as may be seen by the passage we have just quoted. A little further on, Anton is talking with a young friend.
"But how poor in vivid sensations our civilised existence is,' rejoined
Bernhard. 'I am sure you must often feel business very prosaic.'
"That I deny,' was the eager reply; 'I know nothing so interesting as business. We live amidst a many-coloured web of countless threads, stretching across land and sea, and connecting man with man. When I place a sack of coffee in the scales, I am weaving an invisible link between the colonist's daughter in Brazil who has plucked the beans, and the young mechanic who drinks it for his breakfast; and if I take up a stick of cinnamon, I seem to see on one side, the Malay who has rolled it up, and on the other the old woman of our suburb who grates it over her pudding.'
"You have a lively imagination, and are happy in the utility of your calling. But if we seek for poetry, we must, like Byron, quit civilised countries to find it on the sea or in the desert.'
"Not so,' replied Anton, pertinaciously; 'the merchant has just as poetical experiences as any pirate or Arab. There was a bankruptcy lately. Could you have witnessed the gloomy lull before the storm broke, the fearful despair of the husband, the high spirit of his wife, who insisted upon throwing in her own fortune to the last dollar to save his
honour, you would not say that our calling is poor in passion or emotion.""
There is in the merchant's counting-house a certain Von Fink, a volunteer clerk, as he is called, an aristocrat by birth, who is in his present position for the sake of acquiring a knowledge of commerce. Von Fink's social status will appear an enigma to the English reader, for he emerges from the groceries of Schröter's warehouse to take a leading place in fashionable life. He is a prime favourite with the aristocratic circle. It is as if a young gentleman should step out of Fortnum and Mason's, where he had been plying the pen all the morning, to be the favourite companion of fashionable loungers in the clubs of St James's Street, or the most acceptable of visitors to those ladies whose balls and concerts are recorded in the Morning Post. But what may be an impossibility in London, may be an ordinary occurrence in Breslau; and the mysterious Von may render pardonable the ledger and the scales. It may give a certain caste, which, attaching to the person, cannot be lost, even if our social Brahmin
should become the most useful and industrious of men. We accept the account of this noble volunteer clerk with the modesty which a foreigner should display on such occasions. Whether Herr Von Fink, in this and some other peculiarities, is a probable personage, he is, at all events, an amusing one. He carries everything before him; even the heart of the gentle Sabine has not resisted his influence. Through his instrumentality, and by a manoeuvre which we cannot stop to explain, Anton is introduced to aristocratical society, and again encounters Lenore and the Baron and Baroness of Rothsattel. Under some vague impression that an interesting secret rests over the birth and prospects of our hero, a certain Frau Von Baldereck invites him to her party: he is soon dancing with Lenore.
“A distinguished-looking pair,' cried Frau Von Baldereck, as Anton and Lenore whirled past.
"She talks too much to him,' said the Baroness to her husband, who happened to join her.
"To him?" asked he; who is the young man? I have never seen the face before.'
"He is one of the adherents of Herr Von Fink-he is alone here-has rich relatives in Russia or America; I do not like the acquaintance for Lenore.'
"Why not?' replied the Baron; 'he looks a good innocent sort of youth, and is far better suited for this childs' play than the old boys that I see around. There is Bruno Tönnchen, whose only pleasure is to make the girls blush, or teach them to leave off blushing. Lenore looks uncommonly well to-night. I am going to my whist; send for me when the carriage is ready.'
"Anton heard none of these comments upon himself; and if the hum of the company around had been as loud as that of the great bell of the city's highest steeple, he would not have heard it better! For him the whole world had shrunk to the circle round which he and his partner revolved. The beautiful fair head so near his own that sometimes they touched, the warm breath that played on his cheek, the unspeakable charm of the white glove that hid her small hand, the perfume of her handkerchief, the red flowers fastened to her dress these he saw and felt; all besides was darkness, barrenness, nothingness.'"
VÓL. LXXXIII.—NO. DVII.
Our young merchant, it is evident, is in danger of being led astray by another kind of poetry than that which he had detected in the underground vaults of Schröter's warehouse. But he breaks manfully from the temptation, and betakes himself with renewed zeal to the business of the firm; and new events occur which enable him to render a great personal service to his principal-no less than that of saving his life.
One fine morning news is brought that there is a revolution in Poland, and that the bordering provinces are disturbed. Now the firm had lately despatched a very large quantity of goods, filling many waggons, into Gallicia, one of the disturbed districts. Schröter hears the news with great calmness, but he is resolved, nevertheless, to rescue his property, if possible, from the lawless hands of the insurgents. He starts the next day for Gallicia. He takes Anton with him. The "Polish question," we may remark, as viewed by a German merchant, is the question whether an industrious middle class shall arise in Poland by the immigration and influence of the German, or whether a Polish aristocracy shall continue to rule over a multitude of serfs and Jews. It is a very different question from what is sometimes agitated on our noisy platforms. As the two are riding together, the merchant observes to his young companion,
"There is no race so little qualified to make progress, and to gain civilisation and culture in exchange for capital, as the Slavonic. All that those people yonder have in their idleness acquired by the oppression of the ignorant masses, they waste in foolish diversions. us only a few of the specially privileged classes act thus, and the nation can bear with it if necessary. But there the privileged classes claim to represent the people. As if nobles and mere bondsmen could ever form a State! have no more capacity for it than that flight of sparrows on the hedge! The worst of it is that we must pay for their luckless attempt.'
"They have no middle class,' rejoined Anton proudly.
"In other words, they have no culture,' continued the merchant; and it is remarkable how powerless they are
to generate the class which represents civilisation and progress, and exalts an aggregate of individual labourers into a State. What is here called a city is a mere shadow of ours; and its citizens have hardly any of those qualities which with us characterise commercial menthe first class in the State.'
"The first?' said Anton doubtingly. "Yes, dear Wohlfart, the first. Originally, individuals were free, and, in the main, equal; then came the semibarbarism of the privileged idler and the labouring bondsman. It is only since the growth of our large towns that the world boasts civilised States-only since then is the problem solved, which proves that free labour alone makes national life noble, secure, and permanent.""
but of a most noble bearing," brave, and somewhat coxcombical withalproceeded to the inn.
"The young officer called for the landlord. A fat figure with a red face appeared.
"In the name of the government, rooms for myself and my companions!' said the young man. The host sullenly took up a bundle of rusty keys and a tallow candle, and led them to an upper floor, where he opened the door of a damp room, and morosely declared that he had no other for them.
'Bring us supper and a bottle of your best wine,' said the merchant; 'we pay well, and at once.
"This announcement occasioned a visible improvement in the mood of the fat landlord, who even made an unsuccessful attempt to be polite. The merchant next asked for the waggons and waggoners. These questions were evidently unwelcome. When At first, Boni
Here we have the key-note, as it were, of the whole work. The ride through the disturbed districts is very graphically described.
the travellers arrive at the town where they expect to find the waggons, they are led before the authorities of a provisional government. The heads of this provisional govern ment, concluding that the merchant was the bearer of some secret proposal from the Prussian Court, treat him with much respect, and when they hear that he positively comes only on private business of his own, and to recover his own property, they still, with the courtesy of gentlemen who are anxious that their political cause should not be degraded by the acts of a plundering mob, manifest a desire to serve him to the best of their power. A young Polish officer is deputed to accompany him in his search after the waggons and their valuable cargo. The description of this young Pole, and of the manner in which he domineers over the plebeian class, is very striking.
The waggons, it appeared, had arrived in the town the very day the insurrection had broken out, and they had been taken into the courtyard of an inn. The landlord of the inn, being resolved to take advantage of the disorder of the times, had bribed the waggoners, and had already begun to appropriate the contents of the waggons. The merchant and Anton, accompanied by the Polish officer-"a slight youth, with a large scarf, almost a child in years,
face pretended to know nothing about them, declaring that there were a great many waggons coming and going in his courtyard, and that there were several waggoners, too, but that he did not know them.
"It was in vain that the merchant tried to make him understand the ob
ject of his coming; the landlord remained obtuse, and was about to relapse into his former moroseness, when the young Pole came forward and informed Mr Schröter that this was not the way of dealing with such people. He then faced the landlord, called him all manner of hard names, and declared that he
would arrest and carry him off on the spot, unless he at once gave the most exact information.
"The landlord looked timidly at the officer, and begged to be allowed to retire, and send up one of the waggoners.
"Soon a lanky figure with a brown felt hat came lumbering up-stairs, started announced, with pretended cheerfulness, at the sight of the merchant, and at last
that there he was!