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Childhood Professional Studies - Change of Views

Farming Establishment - Marriage. HENRY PESTALOZZI, or as his name originally ran, John HENRY PESTALUTZ,* was born at Zurich, in the German part of Switzerland, on the 12th of January, 1745. The family from which he was descended, belonged to the “honoratiores,i. e. the gentry of his native town. From his earliest age he shared the fate of most men of genius, in being deprived of those advantages of fortune which, while they seem essential to the success of common minds, are easily dispensed with by those whom nature has enriched with her choicest gifts. By the premature death of his father, an able physician, whose ignorance of the insinuating arts of life is attested both by the reputation which he left behind him, and the mediocrity of his finances, poor Henry was made an orphan

Pestalutz is the German Swiss corruption of the Italian family name of his ancestors, who are said to have sought refuge in Switzerland, with many others, during the persecutions to which the first dawn of the Reformation gave rise in their native country. There are still several families at Zurich, no doubt of the same descent, who bear the name of Pestalutz, while the subject of this volume preferred the more classic original Pestalozzi. The omission of John is agreeable to German custom, according to which generally only one, and that the last, of the baptismal names is kept in use.


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at that very period of childhood, when the influence of a father becomes so essential to give nerve to a boy's education. The widow, though reduced to very limited means, was yet not unsupported in the discharge of the arduous task which had devolved upon her. The advice and interest of the more prosperous branches of the Pestalutz family relieved her desolate condition, and ensured to the growing youth those facilities for entering upon an honourable career, which in the small aristocracies of Switzerland are almost entirely dependant on parentage and connexions. A more immediate benefit was derived by Henry from the fostering care of one of those faithful servants of good old patriarchal style, whose character is known in our times as a matter of romance rather than of experience. To defend the gentility of the widow's household against the contempt which fortune seemed willing to throw upon it, was Barbara's great ambition, the motive of indefatigable activity in her service; and to see "young master” grow up, to assume in society the rank which his father had held in it, and of which the external evidences were carefully kept up in the interval of his minority, was the object of her tender solicitude and of her anxious hope. Thus were the piety and affection of a mother combined with the generous attachment of a servant, to watch over the early years of a man destined by Providence to vindicate the importance, and ensure the efficacy, of maternal influence, and to stand up as the warm friend and powerful advocate of the lower orders. The experience of his own heart, traced back beyond the period of self-consciousness or distinct recollection, taught him that the mother's law is, indeed, “an ornament of grace" to the head of the child, and “a chain about his neck;" whilst the disinterested attentions he received from one whom the caprice of rank had placed below his level in society, imposed upon him a debt of gratitude, of which he nobly acquitted himself by vindicating for the neglected classes those moral and intellectual rights, of which they have been despoiled by the ignorant pride of their fellow men.


The comparative obscurity into which his mother's circumstances obliged her to retire, has deprived us, no doubt, of many a characteristic trait of his boyhood; so, at least, we may conclude from the fact, that the genius which escaped the notice of his masters, was quaintly acknowledged by his more discriminating companions in the nickname of Harry Oddity. The influence which he enjoyed at home, operated powerfully upon the growth of his feelings, and in the absence of an equally efficacious cultivation of his intellect, gave to his character that intense energy, uncontrolled by clearness of judgment, which, while it prepared for him many a grievous disappointment in the long course of his philanthropic career, gave also to his soul that unabated elasticity which caused him to rise, after every downfall, with renovated strength. In the unripe years of boyhood these indications of future greatness lay concealed under the appearance of a gentle and almost feminine disposition, which made him, among his school-fellows, at once the object of general affection, and the unvindictive butt of their heedless sports. The dull routine of a grammar-school was not calculated to rouse him from the reveries in which his active imagination indulged; and the world could have but few attractions for the mind of a boy, who was shut out by town-life from the enjoyments of nature, and by poverty from those of the town. In the bustling games, in the eager pursuits of school-boys, he seldom joined; his taste would have kept him back, even if he had not been excluded from them by a certain slowness and want of dexterity, which was the natural consequence

of the turn which his mind had taken. Yet he was not one of those sour and selfish characters, who, unable to feel happiness themselves, hate to witness that of others; he was frank, kindhearted, and always ready to oblige. His seclusion was not one of moroseness, but of indifference; and therefore, while he had not even a wish to participate in what gave his companions the greatest delight, he was often and easily induced to take upon himself the burdens which they were unwilling to bear. So when, by the terrible earthquake

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of 1755, the shock of which was severely felt in several parts of Switzerland, the school-house was shaken, and, as Pestalozzi himself relates, the teachers ran down stairs “almost over the heads of their boys;” after the first terror had subsided, all wishing for the books, hats, and other property which they had left behind, but being afraid to enter the building, Harry Oddity was the person employed on the perilous adventure.

Of a boy of this disposition it was not to be expected that he would evince any decided taste or predilection, while kept under the bondage of rigorous discipline and of uninteresting lesson tasks. But when he arrived at the age at which, according to the custom of his native town, he left the inferior schools and entered those more liberal institutions in which the patricii Turicenses are prepared for the learned professions, his mind, under the stimulating influence of emancipation, began to unfold its latent energies. Taste as well as talent inclined him to the study of languages; and philological attainments being then, as they still are, the indispensable condition of the pursuit of any professional career, his gifts and likings seemed, so far, in happy accordance with the wishes of his relatives, who had destined him for the ministry, as the most direct way for a youth of good extraction to obtain, though not a' fat" living, a thing unknown in the church founded by Zwingli, at least a regular income, and a respectable station in society. The straitness of his circumstances and the rank held by his family were not, however, his only qualifications for an office which, if it were undertaken and administered in the spirit in which it was instituted, would exclude every, even the slightest, admixture of earthly motives. His heart, early initiated in the feelings as well as the doctrines of religion, under the most efficient and most sacred of all human priesthoods, that of maternal love, was glowing with that unaffected piety, which, while it shrinks from the profaning eye of vulgar publicity, expands itself, unseen to the world, in speechless adoration before Him who “knoweth the mind of the spirit.” The childlike sim

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