« AnteriorContinuar »
DARK SIDE OF THE PICTURE.
insisted with her on securing the few fragments that remained of her fortune, and his estate on the Neuhof, so far as it was not mortgaged, against the danger of being swallowed up by an establishment which, in any other hands than his, would have yielded ample profits; and which was now preserved from utter ruin only by the zealous exertions of some of the most respectable inhabitants of the town, who formed, with Pestalozzi's concurrence, a finance committee for the administration of the pecuniary concerns of the institution.
These external embarrassments, however, great as they were, could not have materially injured the progress of his cause, had Pestalozzi possessed that rare heavenly gift,
“ Alteram sortem bene præparatum
The intoxicating incense of popularity, by which many a great man has been deprived of the sense of what is truly great, assailed his heart with temptations of vanity to which after a long struggle he fell a victim. The unaffected benevolence of his disposition, the youthful animation of his countenance in the age of decrepitude, the appearance of indigence in his dress, and the rustic simplicity of his manner, in singular contrast with his European fame, rendered him the idol of the multitude; while his disciples were, by their enthusiastic admiration of his views and their filial resspect for his person, betrayed into the dangerous weakness of “calling him Rabbi,” and claiming for him, as the bearer of a divine mission to man, in his house, and afterwards even before the public, an authority similar to that which Jesus Christ exercised over his disciples and over the world at large. “The Pestalozzian idea” was spoken of as a new sort of gospel, of which he was the personal representative, and every difference of feeling or opinion that occurred in the house converted into an opportunity of discussing in abstruse and scholastic language the respective limits of mastership and discipleship. The consequences of this injudicious and,
in a certain sense, profane presumption became soon apparent in Pestalozzi's conduct; and those who had taken such pains to place him on a superhuman elevation, had the humiliating discovery to make that their “master” was but a weak mortal, liable to be subdued by the common frailties of our nature. A struggle now ensued, in which the more earnest and conscientious amongst them, with Niederer at their head, endeavoured to vindicate the true dignity of Pestalozzi's character and position against an arrogance which they themselves had helped to nurture up in his heart; whilst others, more anxious to share his fame than jealous of its purity, seized every opportunity, by flattering his growing passions, to drown the voice of his conscience, and by instilling into his bosom the venom of suspicion, to render him deaf to the warnings and entreaties of those of his friends who remained faithful to him even when he was no longer true to himself. The most prominent among those who sided with Pestalozzi's evil genius, was Joseph Schmid, in earlier years a pupil of the establishment, who soon obtained an eminent rank among its teachers by his decided talent for the mathematical branches of the method. Educated in the gross superstitions by which Romanism has beguiled the single-hearted inhabitants of the Tirolese mountains, his mind was hardened against the purer and more spiritual form under which, in Pestalozzi's institution, Christianity was presented to his mind; and when by a cultivation of those sciences for which the natural bias of his faculties gave him a predilection, his intelligence was developed to a point at which it was no longer possible for him to remain under the bondage of his rosary, the pride of life took possession of his soul. He who in the first weeks after his arrival was often seen kneeling in the corners of the house imploring the Virgin Mary to “make him the first pupil of the institution,” became afterwards lavish of coarse invective against what he termed “the Catholic nonsense;" and the sneering infidelity of his maturer years proved infinitely worse than the superstitious ignorance of his boyhood. His
EXPELLED AND RECALLED.
conduct, under the influence of such an unsanctified and uncontrolled spirit, became, in spite of all the efforts that were made to lead him into a better path, so offensive, that it was found necessary to dismiss him from the institution as early as 1810, a disgrace which he resented by presenting the public with one of the crudest productions ever issued from the press, in a pamphlet entitled : “My Experience and Ideas on Education, Establishments and Schools,” and chiefly intended to lampoon Pestalozzi and his elder disciples. The forbearance with which this step was treated by those against whom it was levelled, abated his animosity to a certain degree; and, after four years lost in the vain pursuit of ambitious projects, he gladly availed himself of an invitation to return, which was given him, in Pestalozzi's name, by Niederer, on the guarantee of his repeated professions of repentance and humility of heart. His decided talent, not only for the conduct of the mathematical classes, but also for the administration of the financial department, rendered him particularly valuable in the eyes of Pestalozzi at a period when he had grown heartily tired of the guardianship of the Finance Committee, whose control over his house, while it shackled his freedom of action, made his pecuniary affairs the common topic of discussion in all the little coteries of a small country town; and Niederer, who, from a conviction of the pernicious tendency of Schmid's influence, had chiefly insisted upon his dismissal, allowed himself to be duped by his fair promises into a hope that the experience he had since made, would lead him to turn his second stay in the establishment to a more profitable account than he had done the first.
But Schmid was hardly re-settled in his old position before he discovered that to stand first in the house, the only way for him was to stand alone, and embraced the opportunity which Pestalozzi's own state of mind afforded him, of gaining an overbearing influence and defeating his competitors on a ground on which they disdained to meet him. At first his operations were all covert; but after the death of Mrs. Pestalozzi, in 1815, he threw off the mask
MISS ROSETTA KASTHOFER.
completely, and set himself in open opposition to all Pestalozzi's earliest and most faithful friends. The first place among these was occupied by Miss Rosetta Kasthofer, a woman equally distinguished for her accomplished education, and the elevation of her character and sentiments, to whom Pestalozzi, in the fond enthusiasm of friendship, had given, over his heart, the rights of a daughter. In consequence of an old connexion existing between him and her family, he had known her almost from her infancy, and fully appreciating her value, he invited her repeatedly to Yverdon, in order to enlist her in the service of an establishment for female education, which was annexed to the great institution in the castle, and which, after she had conducted it for more than four years in his name, she was obliged from 1813 to continue on her own responsibility, Pestalozzi's pecuniary embarrassments rendering it impossible for him to contribute any longer to its support. Considering the intimacy of her relation to Pestalozzi, and the influence which she exercised over him, her marriage with Dr. Niederer, which was celebrated in summer 1814, seemed well calculated to cement more firmly the union which subsisted between the two men, in spite of the great disparity of their tastes and characters. She was, and had the wisdom to remain, a stranger to their struggles, confining herself to the more womanly task of healing the wounds that were inflicted. Every discord, that arose in the strifes and contentions of the men, was resolved by her delicate hand; and, had it been in her power to maintain her influence uninterrupted to the last, she would no doubt have preserved her paternal friend from the sad catastrophe which overtook him on the brink of the grave. Of this Schmid was perfectly aware, and against her, therefore, his intrigues were chiefly directed. After he had driven away from Pestalozzi's side one after the other of his first disciples, after Kruesi had taken his leave in 1816, with the voice of sorrow, and Niederer the year after with the voice of warning, Mrs. Niederer was assailed by the basest calumny. Her long
continued and successful services in Pestalozzi's cause were attributed to motives of the most sordid avarice; and, after years of uninterrupted sacrifices on her part, she was represented as if she had abused his benevolence for the
purpose of filling her purse.
From this moment the struggle which had hitherto been carried on for the moral interests that were at stake, assumed a purely personal aspect, and Schmid, thinking himself screened, as under a magic mantle, by Pestalozzi's personal protection, heaped indignity upon indignity with the most daring boldness, till, at last, his nefarious practices procured him a decree of banishment from the government of the canton de Vaud. But neither this pointed mark of disgrace, nor the public execrations that followed him wherever his tale was known, could deter him from pursuing his former course; he dragged Pestalozzi away from his establishment, which had gradually sunk into complete ruin, to the Neuhof, from whence the controversy, which had been terminated in 1824 by a sentence of umpire, setting forth most unequivocally the groundlessness of the insinuations thrown out against Mrs. Niederer's character, was re-opened by the publication of a volume, long announced in the tone of menace, and purporting to give an account of the events of Pestalozzi's life since the establishment of his institution at Burgdorf.
“By misfortune was his life prolong'd
Of all that was put forth on either side in this unfortunate feud, which began with newspaper articles and ended with volumes, may nothing be recorded on the page of biography except the declaration which Pestalozzi gave of his own accord to one of his earlier disciples, * who had taken no part in the subsequent contests, and in which he
• Mr. Nabholz, director of the Teachers' Seminary at Aarau, a man whose well known integrity fully merited the confidence placed in him by Pestalozzi.