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Chapter 14

LETTER XIV.

Boulevards of Frankfort.—Political Disturbances in the town.—Le petit Savoyard.—Distant glimpse of Homberg.—Darmstadt.—The Bergestrasse.—Heidelberg.—Noisy Market-place.—The Ruins and Gardens.—An old Campaigner.—Valley of the Neckar.—Heilbronn.—Ludwigsberg.—Its Palace.—The late Queen of Wurtemberg.—The Birthplace of Schiller.—Comparative claims of Schiller and Goethe.—Stuttgart.—Its Royal Residences.—The Princess of Hechingen.—German Kingdoms.—The King and Queen of Wurtemberg.—Sir Walter Scott.—Tubingen.—Ruin of a Castle of the middle ages.—Hechingen.—Village of Bahlingen.—The Danube.—The Black Forest.—View from a mountain on the frontier of Baden.—Enter Switzerland.


Dear ——,

I have little new to tell you of Frankfort. It appeared to be the same busy, clean, pretty, well-built town, on this visit, as it did at the two others. We examined the boulevards a little more closely than before, and were even more pleased with them than formerly. I have already explained to you that the secret of these tasteful and beautiful walks, so near, and sometimes in the very heart (as at Dresden) of the large German towns, is in the circumstance of the old fortifications being destroyed, and the space thus obtained having been wisely appropriated to health and air. Leipsig, in particular, enjoys a picturesque garden, where formerly there stood nothing but grim guns, and frowning ramparts.

Frankfort has been the subject of recent political disturbances, and, I heard this morning from a banker, that there existed serious discontents all along the Rhine. As far as I can learn, the movement proceeds from a desire in the trading, banking, and manufacturing classes, the nouveaux riches, in short, to reduce the power and influence of the old feudal and territorial nobility. The kingly authority, in our time, is not much of itself, and the principal question has become, how many or how few, or, in short, who are to share in its immunities. In this simple fact lies the germ of the revolution in France, and of reform in England. Money is changing hands, and power must go with it. This is, has been, and ever will be the case, except in those instances in which the great political trust is thrown confidingly into the hands of all; and even then, in half the practical results, money will cheat them out of the advantages. Where the pressure is so great as to produce a recoil, it is the poor against the rich; and where the poor have rights to stand on, the rich are hard at work to get the better of the poor. Such is the curse of Adam, and man himself must be changed before the disease can be cured. All we can do, under the best constructed system, is to mitigate the evil.

We left Frankfort at eleven, declining the services of a celebrated voiturier, called le petit Savoyard, whom François introduced, with a warm recommendation of fidelity and zeal. These men are extensively known, and carry their soubriquets, as ships do their names. The little Savoyard had just discharged a cargo of miladies, bound to England, after having had them on his charter-party eighteen months, and was now on the look-out for a return freight. As his whole equipments were four horses, the harness, and a long whip, he was very desirous of the honour of dragging my carriage a hundred leagues or so, towards any part of the earth whither it might suit my pleasure to proceed. But it is to be presumed that miladies were of full weight, for even François, who comes of a family of voituriers, and has a fellow-feeling for the craft, is obliged to admit that the cattle of le petit appear to have been overworked. This negotiation occupied an hour, and it ended by sending the passport to the post.

We were soon beyond the tower that marks the limits of the territory of Frankfort, on the road to Darmstadt. While mounting an ascent, we had a distant glimpse of the town of Homberg, the capital and almost the whole territory of the principality of Hesse Homberg; a state whose last sovereign had the honour of possessing an English princess for a wife. Truly there must be something in blood, after all; for this potentate has but twenty-three thousand subjects to recommend him!

Darmstadt is one of those towns which are laid out on so large a scale as to appear mean. This is a common fault, both in Germany and America; for the effect of throwing open wide avenues, that one can walk through in five minutes, is to bring the intention into ludicrous contrast with the result. Mannheim is another of these abortions. The disadvantage, however, ends with the appearance, for Darmstadt is spacious, airy, and neat; it is also well-built.

The ancient Landgraves of Hesse Darmstadt have become Grand Dukes, with a material accession of territory, the present sovereign ruling over some 700,000 subjects. The old castle is still standing in the heart of the place, if a town which is all artery can be said to have any heart, and we walked into its gloomy old courts, with the intention of examining it; but the keeper of the keys was not to be found. There is a modern palace of very good architecture near it, and, as usual, extensive gardens, laid out, so far as we could perceive from the outside, in the English taste.

A short distance from Darmstadt, the Bergestrasse (mountain road) commences. It is a perfect level, but got its name from skirting the foot of the mountain, at an elevation to overlook the vast plain of the Palatinate; for we were now on the verge of this ancient territory, which has been merged in the Grand Duchy of Baden by the events of the last half century. I may as well add, that Baden is a respectable state, having nearly 1,300,000 subjects.

The Bergestrasse has many ruins on the heights that overlook it, though the river is never within a league or two of the road. Here we found postilions worthy of their fine track, and, to say the truth, of great skill. In Germany you get but one postilion with four horses, and, as the leaders are always at a great distance from those on the pole, it is an exploit of some delicacy to drive eight miles an hour, riding the near wheel-horse, and governing the team very much by the use of the whip. The cattle are taught to travel without blinkers, and, like men to whom political power is trusted, they are the less dangerous for it. It is your well-trained animal, that is checked up and blinded, who runs away with the carriage of state, as well as the travelling carriage, and breaks the neck of him who rides.

It was quite dark when we crossed the bridge of the Neckar, and plunged into the crowded streets of Heidelberg. Notwithstanding the obscurity, we got a glimpse of the proud old ruin overhanging the place, looking grand and sombre in the gloom of night.

The view from the windows next morning was one of life in the extreme. The principal market-place was directly before the inn, and it appeared as if half the peasants of the grand duchy had assembled there to display their fruits and vegetables. A market is always a garrulous and noisy place; but when the advantage of speaking German is added to it, the perfection of confusion is obtained. In all good society, both men and women speak in subdued voices, and there is no need to allude to them; but when one descends a little below the élite, strength of lungs is rather a German failing.[31]

We went to the ruins while the fogs were still floating around the hill-tops. I was less pleased with this visit than with that of last year, for the surprise was gone, and there was leisure to be critical. On the whole, these ruins are vast rather than fine, though the parts of the edifice that were built in the Elizabethan taste have the charm of quaintness. There is also one picturesque tower; but the finest thing certainly is the view from the garden-terrace above. An American, who remembers the genial soil and climate of his country, must mourn over the want of taste that has left, and still leaves, a great nation (numerically great, at least) ignorant of the enjoyment of those delicious retreats! As Nelson once said, "want of frigates" would be found written on his heart were he to die, I think "want of gardens" would be found written on mine. Our cicerone, on this occasion, was a man who had served in America, during the last war, as one of the corps of De Watteville. He was born in Baden, and says that a large portion of the corps were Germans. He was in most of the battles of the Niagara, and shook his head gravely when I hinted at the attack on Fort Erie. According to his account, the corps suffered exceedingly in the campaign of 1814, losing the greater portion of its men. I asked him how he came to fight us, who had never done him any harm; and he answered that Napoleon had made all Europe soldiers or robbers, and that he had not stopped to examine the question of right.

We drove up the valley of the Neckar, after a late breakfast, by an excellent road, and through a beautiful country, for the first post or two. We then diverged from the stream, ascended into a higher portion of undulating country, that gradually became less and less interesting, until, in the end, we all pronounced it the tamest and least inviting region we had yet seen in Europe. I do not say that the country was particularly sterile, but it was common-place, and offered fewer objects of interest than any other we had yet visited. Until now, our destination was not settled, though I had almost decided to go to Nuremberg, and thence, by Ratisbonne and the Danube, to Vienna; but we all came to the opinion that the appearance of things towards the east was too dreary for endurance. We had already journeyed through Bavaria, from its southern to its northern end, and we wished to vary the scene. A member of its royal family had once told me that Wurtemberg offered but little for the traveller, at the same time saying a good word for its capital. When one gets information from so high authority it is not to be questioned, and towards Stuttgart it was determined to turn our faces. At Heilbronn, therefore, we changed direction from east to south. This Heilbronn was a quaint old German town, and it had a few of its houses painted on the exterior, like those already described to you in Switzerland. Weinsberg, so celebrated for its wives, who saved their husbands at a capitulation, by carrying them out of the place on their backs, is near this town. As there are no walled towns in America, and the example could do no good, we did not make a pilgrimage to the spot. That night we slept at a little town called Bessingheim, with the Neckar, which we had again met at Heilbronn, murmuring beneath our windows.

The next morning we were off betimes to avoid the heat, and reached Ludwigsberg to breakfast. Here the scene began to change. Troops were at drill in a meadow, as we approached the town, and the postilion pointed out to us a portly officer at the Duke of Wurtemberg, a cadet of the royal family, who was present with his staff. Drilling troops, from time immemorial, has been a royal occupation in Germany. It is, like a Manhattanese talking of dollars, a source of endless enjoyment.

Ludwigsberg is the Windsor, the St. Denis, of the Princes of Wurtemberg. There an extensive palace, the place of sepulture, and a town of five or six thousand inhabitants. We went through the former, which is large and imposing, with fine courts and some pretty views, but it is low and Teutonic—in plain English, squat—like some of the old statues in armour that one sees in the squares of the German towns. There is a gallery and a few good pictures, particularly a Rembrandt or two. One of the latter is in the same style as the "Tribute-money" that I possess, and greatly encourages me as to the authenticity of that picture. The late Queen of Wurtemberg was the Princess Royal of England, and she inhabited this palace. Being mistaken for English, we were shown her apartments, in which she died lately, and which were exactly in the condition in which she left them. She must have had strong family attachments, for her rooms were covered with portraits of her relatives. The King of England was omnipresent; and as for her own husband, of whom, by the way, one picture would have been quite sufficient for any reasonable woman, there were no less than six portraits of him in a single room!

As one goes north, the style of ornamenting rooms is less graceful, and the German and English palaces all have the same formal and antiquated air. Ludwigsberg does not change the rule, though there was an unusual appearance of comfort in the apartments of the late Queen, which had evidently been Anglicised.

While we were standing at a balcony, that overlooks a very pretty tract of wooded country and garden, the guide pointed to a hamlet, whose church tower was peering above a bit of forest, in a distant valley, or rather swell. "Does Mein Herr see it?" "I do—it is no more than a sequestered hamlet, that is prettily enough placed."—It was Marbach, the birth-place of Schiller! Few men can feel less of the interest that so commonly attaches to the habits, habitations, and personal appearance of celebrated men, than myself. The mere sight of a celebrity never creates any sensation. Yet I do not remember a stronger conviction of the superiority enjoyed by true over factitious greatness, than that which flashed on my mind, when I was told this fact. That sequestered hamlet rose in a moment to an importance that all the appliances and souvenirs of royalty could not give to the palace of Ludwigsberg. Poor Schiller! In my eyes he is the German genius of the age. Goethe has got around him one of those factitious reputations that depend as much on gossip and tea-drinking as on a high order of genius, and he is fortunate in possessing a coddled celebrity—for you must know there is a fashion in this thing, that is quite independent of merit—while Schiller's fame rests solely on its naked merits. My life for it, that it lasts the longest, and will burn brightest in the end. The schools, and a prevalent taste and the caprice of fashion, can make Goethes in dozens, at any time; but God only creates such men as Schiller. The Germans say, we cannot feel Goethe; but after all, a translation is perhaps one of the best tests of genius, for though bad translations abound, if there is stuff in the original, it will find its way even into one of these.

From Ludwigsberg to Stuttgart it is but a single post, and we arrived there at twelve. The appearance of this place was altogether different from what we had expected. Although it contains near 30,000 inhabitants, it has more the air of a thriving Swiss town, than that of a German capital, the abodes and gardens of the royal family excepted. By a Swiss town, I do not mean either such places as Geneva, and Berne, and Zurich, but such towns as Herisau and Lucerne, without including the walls of the latter. It stands at the termination of an irregular valley, at the base of some mountains, and, altogether, its aspect, rustic exterior, and position, took us by surprise. The town, however, is evidently becoming more European, as they say on this side the Atlantic, every day; or, in other words, it is becoming less peculiar.

At and around the palaces there is something already imposing. The old feudal castle, which I presume is the cradle of the House of Wurtemberg, stands as a nucleus for the rest of the town. It is a strong prison-like looking pile, composed of huge round towers and narrow courts, and still serves the purposes of the state, though not as a prison, I trust. Another hotel, or royal residence, is quite near it on one side, while the new palace is close at hand on another. The latter is a handsome edifice of Italian architecture, in some respects not unlike the Luxembourg at Paris, and I should think, out of all comparison the best royal residence to be found in the inferior states of Germany, if not in all Germany, those of Prussia and Austria excepted.

We took a carriage, and drove through the grounds to a new classical little palace, that crowns an eminence at their other extremity, a distance of a mile or two. We went through this building, which is a little in the style of the Trianons, at Versailles; smaller than Le Grand Trianon, and larger than Le Petit Trianon. This display of royal houses, after all, struck us as a little dis portioned to the diminutive size and poverty of the country. The last is nothing but a maison de plaisance, and is well enough if it did not bring taxation with it; nor do I know that it did. Most of the sovereigns have large private fortunes, which they are entitled to use the same as others, and which are well used in fostering elegant tastes in their subjects.

There is a watering-place near the latter house, and preparations were making for the King to dine there, with a party of his own choosing. This reminded us of our own dinner, which had been ordered at six, and we returned to eat it. While sitting at a window, waiting the service, a carriage that drove up attracted my attention. It was a large and rather elegant post chariot, as much ornamented as comported with the road, and having a rich blazonry. A single female was in it, with a maid and valet in the rumble. The lady was in a cap, and, as her equipage drove up, appeared to be netting. I have frequently met German families travelling along the highway in this sociable manner, apparently as much at home as when they were under the domestic roof. This lady, however, had so little luggage, that I was induced to enquire who it might be. She was a Princess of Hechingen, a neighbouring state, that had just trotted over probably to take tea with some of her cousins of Wurtemberg.

These quasi kingdoms are so diminutive that this sort of intercourse is very practicable, and (a pure conjecture) it may be that German etiquette, so notoriously stiff and absurd, has been invented to prevent the intercourse from becoming too familiar. The mediatising system, however, has greatly augmented the distances between the capitals, though, owing to some accidental influence, there is still here and there a prince, that might be spared, whose territories have been encircled, without having been absolutely absorbed, by those who have been gainers by the change. Bavaria has risen to be a kingdom of four millions of souls, in this manner; and the Dukes of Wurtemberg have become kings, though on a more humble scale, through the liberality or policy of Napoleon. The kingdom of the latter contains the two independent principalities of Hohenzollern (spared on account of some family alliances, I believe) in its bosom. One of the princes of the latter family is married to a Mademoiselle Murat, a niece of Joachim.

After dinner we went again to the garden, where we accidentally were witnesses of the return of the royal party from their pic-nic. The King drove the Queen in a pony phaeton, at the usual pace of monarchs, or just as fast as the little animals could put foot to the ground. He was a large and well-whiskered man, with a strong family likeness to the English princes. The attendants were two mounted grooms, in scarlet liveries. A cadet, a dark, Italian-looking personage, came soon after in full uniform, driving himself, also, in a sort of barouche. After a short time we were benefited by the appearance of the cooks and scullions, who passed in a fourgon, that contained the remnants and the utensils. Soon after we got a glimpse of the Queen and three or four of the daughters, at a balcony of the palace, the lady of the net-work being among them. They all appeared to be fine women.

At the inn I heard with regret that Sir Walter Scott, had passed but two days before. He was represented as being extremely ill; so much so, indeed, as to refuse to quit his carriage, where he kept himself as much as possible out of view.

We left Stuttgart early the following morning, and as the carriage wound up the mountain that overlooks the town, I thought the place one of singular incongruities. The hill-sides are in vineyards; the palace, in excellent keeping, was warm and sunny; while the old feudal-looking towers of the castle, rudely recalled the mind to ancient Germany, and the Swissish habitations summoned up the images of winter, snows, and shivering February. Still I question, if a place so sheltered ever endures much cold. The town appears to have been built in the nook it occupies, expressly to save fuel.

We met the Neckar again, after crossing a range of wooded mountain, and at Tubingen we once more found a city, a university, the remains of feodality, redoutes, pipes, and other German appliances. Here we breakfasted, and received a visit from a young countryman, whose parents, Germans, I believe, had sent him hither to be educated. He will, probably return with a good knowledge of Greek, perfect master of metaphysics and the pipe, extravagant in his political opinions, a sceptic in religion, and with some such ideas of the poetry of thought, as a New England dancing-master has of the poetry of motion, or a teacher of psalmody, of the art of music. After all, this is better than sending a boy to England, whence he would come back with the notions of Sir William Blackstone to help to overturn or pervert his own institutions, and his memory crammed with second-hand anecdotes of lords and ladies. We labour under great embarrassments on this point of education, for it is not easy to obtain it, suited equally to the right, and to our own peculiar circumstances, either at home or abroad. At home we want science, research, labour, tone, manners, and time; abroad we get the accumulated prejudices that have arisen from a factitious state of things; or, what is perhaps worse, their reaction, the servility of castes, or the truculence of revolution.

About a post beyond Tubingen, a noble ruin of a castle of the middle ages appeared in the distance, crowning the summit of a high conical eminence. These were the finest remains we had seen in a long time, and viewed from the road, they were a beautiful object, for half an hour. This was the castle of Hohenzollern, erected about the year 980, and the cradle of the House of Brandenburg. This family, some pretend, was derived from the ancient Dukes of Alsace, which, if true would give it the same origin as those of Austria and Baden; but it is usual, and probably much safer, to say that the Counts of Hohenzollern were its founders. We must all stop somewhere short of Adam.

I was musing on the chances that have raised a cadet, or a younger branch, of the old feudal counts who had once occupied this hold, to the fifth throne in Europe, when we entered an irregular and straggling village of some 3000 souls, that was not, by any means, as well built as one of our own towns of the same size. A sign over a door, such as would be occupied by a thriving trader with us, with "Department of War" on it, induced me to open my eyes, and look about me. We were in Hechingen, the capital of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, an independent state, with a prince of its own; who is the head of his family, in one sense, and its tail in another; there being, besides the King of Prussia, a Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen adjoining, who is his junior in rank, and his better in power; having some 40 or 50,000 subjects, while he of Hechingen has but 15,000. On ascending a hill in the place itself, we passed an unfinished house, all front, that stood on the street, with no grounds of any beauty near it, and which certainly was not as large, nor nearly as well constructed, as one of our own principal country-houses. This building, we were told, was intended for the town residence of the heir-apparent, who is married to a daughter of Eugene Beauharnois, and of course to a niece of the King of Bavaria.

All this was an epitome of royalty I had never before witnessed. The Saxon duchies, and Bayreuth and Anspach, now merged in Bavaria, had been the subjects of curious contemplation to us, but they were all the possessions of potentates compared to this principality. I inquired for the abode of the prince, which could not well be far off, without being out of his own dominions. It lay behind a wood a mile distant, and was not visible from the inn where we stopped. Here was a capital mistake; had the old castle, which was but half a mile from the village, been kept up, and it seemed to be in good condition for a ruin, with the title of Count of Hohenzollern and the war and state departments been put in one of the towers, no one could have laughed at the pretension, let him try as hard as he pleased; but—

We had a strong desire to visit the ruin, which puts that of Habsburg altogether in the shade, but were prevented by a thunder-shower which shook the principality to its centre. The Knight's Hall, the chapel and the clock-tower are said to have been restored, and to be now in good condition. We could do no more, however, than cast longing eyes upward as we drove under the hill, the ground being still too wet for female accoutrements to venture. We had a Hechingen postilion in a Hechingen livery, and, although the man was sensible of his dignity and moved with due deliberation, we were just one hour in crossing his master's dominions.

Re-entering Wurtemberg, we slept that night at the village of Bahlingen. The country next morning was particularly tame, though uneven, until near noon, when it gradually took more interesting forms and spread itself in pretty valleys and wooded hills. The day was pleasant; and, as we trotted merrily through one of the vales, A—— pointed to a little rivulet that meandered through the meadows on our right, and praised its beauty. "I dare say it has a name; inquire of the postilion." "Wie ist diesen fluschen?" "Mein Herr, der Donau." The Danube! There was something startling in so unexpectedly meeting this mighty stream, which we had seen rolling its dark flow through cities and kingdoms, a rivulet that I could almost leap across. It was to us like meeting one we had known a monarch, reduced to the condition of a private man. I was musing on the particles of water that were gliding past us on their way to the Black Sea, when we drove up to the door of the inn at Tuttlingen.

This was in the Black Forest, and what is more, there were some trees in it. The wood was chiefly larches, whence I presume the name. Our host discovered from the servants that we were Americans, and he immediately introduced the subject of emigration. He told us that many people went from Wurtemberg to America, and gave us to understand that we ought to be glad of it—they were all so well educated! This was a new idea, certainly, and yet I will not take it on myself to say that the fact is otherwise.

While we were at breakfast, the innkeeper, who was also the postmaster, inquired where we meant to sleep, and I told him at Schaffhausen, on the Rhine. He then gave me to understand that there was a long, but not a steep mountain to ascend, which separated the waters of the Danube from those of the Rhine, and that two extra horses would add greatly to the facility of getting along. Taking a look at the road, I assented, so that we left the inn with the honours of a coach and six. The effect was evident from the start, and after entering Wurtemberg and travelling through it complaining of the dullness of the teams, we left it with éclat, and at the rate of ten miles the hour. The frontier of Baden met us again on the summit of the mountain. Here we got a line and extensive view, that included the lake of Constance in its sweep. The water looked dark and wild, and the whole scene had a tint that strongly reminded me of the character of Germanic mysteriousness. We must have been at a great elevation, though the mountains were not prominent objects; on the contrary, the eye ranged until it found the horizon, as at sea, in the curvature of the earth. The rills near us flowed into the Rhine, and, traversing half Europe, emptied themselves into the North Sea; while the stream that wound its way through the valley below, took a south-easterly direction towards the confines of Asia. One gets grand and pleasing images in the associations that are connected with the contemplation of these objects.

From this point we began to descend, shorn of our honours in the way of quadrupeds, for it was with a good deal of difficulty we got three horses at the next relay. Thus is it with life, in which at one moment we are revelling in abundance, and at the next suffering with want. We got along, however, as in life, in the best manner we could, and after driving through a pretty and uneven country, that gradually descended, we suddenly plunged down to the banks of the Rhine, and found ourselves once more before an inn-door, in Switzerland!




James Fenimore Cooper

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