We notice with pleasure a lively taste for facts in the little Boy; which continued to be the taste of the Man, in an eminent degree. Fictions he also knows; an eager extensive reader of what is called Poetry, Literature, and himself a performer in that province by and by: but it is observable how much of Realism there always is in his Literature; how close, here as elsewhere, he always hangs on the practical truth of things; how Fiction itself is either an expository illustrative garment of Fact, or else is of no value to him. Romantic readers of his Literature are much disappointed in consequence, and pronounce it bad Literature;--and sure enough, in several senses, it is not to be called good! Bad Literature, they say; shallow, barren, most unsatisfactory to a reader of romantic appetites. Which is a correct verdict, as to the romantic appetites and it. But to the man himself, this qualityof mind is of immense moment and advantage; and forms truly the basis of all he was good for in life. Once for all, he has no pleasure in dreams, in parti-colored clouds and nothingnesses. All his curiosities gravitate towards what exists, what has being and reality round him. That is the significant thing to him; that he would right gladly know, being already related to that, as friend or as enemy; and feeling an unconscious indissoluble kinship, who shall say of what importance, towards all that. For he too is a little Fact, big as can be to himself; and in the whole Universe there exists nothing as fact but is a fellow-creature of his.
That our little Fritz tends that way, ought to give Noltenius, Finkenstein and other interested parties, the very highest satisfaction. It is an excellent symptom of his intellect, this of gravitating irresistibly towards realities. Better symptom of its quality (whatever QUANTITY there be of it), human intellect cannot show for itself. However it may go with Literature, and satisfaction to readers of romantic appetites, this young soul promises to become a successful Worker one day, and to DO something under the Sun. For work is of an extremely unfictitious nature; and no man can roof his house with clouds and moonshine, so as to turn the rain from him.
It is also to be noted that his style of French, though he spelt it so ill, and never had the least mastery of punctuation, has real merit. Rapidity, easy vivacity, perfect clearness, here and there a certain quaint expressiveness: on the whole, he had learned the Art of Speech, from those old French Governesses, in those old and new French Books of his. We can also say of his Literature, of what he hastily wrote in mature life, that it has much more worth, even as Literature, than the common romantic appetite assigns to it. A vein of distinct sense, and good interior articulation, is never wanting in that thin-flowing utterance. The true is well riddled out from amid the false; the important and essential are alone given us, the unimportant and superfluous honestly thrown away. A lean wiry veracity (an immense advantage in any Literature, good or bad!) is everywhere beneficently observable; the QUALITY of the intellect always extremely good, whatever its quantity may be.
It is true, his spelling--"ASTEURE" for "A CETTE HEURE"--is very bad. And as for punctuation, he never could understand the mystery of it; he merely scatters a few commas and dashes, as if they were shaken out of a pepper-box upon his page, and so leaves it. These are deficiencies lying very bare to criticism; and I confess I never could completely understand them in such a man. He that would have ordered arrest for the smallest speck of mud on a man's buff-belt, indignant that any pipe-clayed portion of a man should not be perfectly pipeclayed: how could he tolerate false spelling, and commas shaken as out of a pepper-box over his page? It is probable he cared little about Literature, after all; cared, at least, only about the essentials of it; had practically no ambition for himself, or none considerable, in that kind;--and so might reckon exact obedience and punctuality, in a soldier, more important than good spelling to an amateur literary man: He never minded snuff upon his own chin, not even upon his waistcoat and breeches: A merely superficial thing, not worth bothering about, in the press of real business!--
That Friedrich's Course of Education did on the whole prosper, in spite of every drawback, is known to all men. He came out of it a man of clear and ever-improving intelligence; equipped with knowledge, true in essentials, if not punctiliously exact, upon all manner of practical and speculative things, to a degree not only unexampled among modern Sovereign Princes so called, but such as to distinguish him even among the studious class. Nay many "Men-of-Letters" have made a reputation for themselves with but a fraction of the real knowledge concerning men and things, past and present, which Friedrich was possessed of. Already at the time when action came to be demanded of him, he was what we must call a well-informed and cultivated man; which character he never ceased to merit more and more; and as for the action, and the actions,-- we shall see whether he was fit for these or not.
One point of supreme importance in his education was all along made sure of, by the mere presence and presidence of Friedrich Wilhelm in the business: That there was an inflexible law of discipline everywhere active in it; that there was a Spartan rigor, frugality, veracity inculcated upon him. "Economy he is to study to the bottom;" and not only so, but, in another sense of the word, he is to practise economy; and does, or else suffers for not doing it. Economic of his time, first of all: generally every other noble economy will follow out of that, if a man once understand and practise that. Here was a truly valuable foundation laid; and as for the rest, Nature, in spite of shot-rubbish, had to do what she could in the rest.
But Nature had been very kind to this new child of hers. And among, the confused hurtful elements of his Schooling, there was always, as we say, this eminently salutary and most potent one, of its being, in the gross, APPRENTICESHIP TO FRIEDRICH WILHELM the Rhadamanthine Spartan King, who hates from his heart all empty Nonsense, and Unveracity most of all. Which one element, well aided by docility, by openness and loyalty of mind, on the Pupil's part, proved at length sufficient to conquer the others; as it were to burn up all the others, and reduce their sour dark smoke, abounding everywhere, into flame and illumination mostly. This radiant swift-paced Son owed much to the surly, irascible, sure-footed Father that bred him. Friedrich did at length see into Friedrich Wilhelm, across the abstruse, thunderous, sulphurous embodiments and accompaniments of the man;--and proved himself, in all manner of important respects, the filial sequel of Friedrich Wilhelm. These remarks of a certain Editor are perhaps worth adding:--
"Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, did not set up for a Pestalozzi; and the plan of Education for his Son is open to manifold objections. Nevertheless, as Schoolmasters go, I much prefer him to most others we have at present. The wild man had discerned, with his rugged natural intelligence (not wasted away in the idle element of speaking and of being spoken to, but kept wholesomely silent for most part), That human education is not, and cannot be, a thing of VOCABLES. That it is a thing of earnest facts; of capabilities developed, of habits established, of dispositions well dealt with, of tendencies confirmed and tendencies repressed:--a laborious separating of the character into two FIRMAMENTS; shutting down the subterranean, well down and deep; an earth and waters, and what lies under them; then your everlasting azure sky, and immeasurable depths of aether, hanging serene overhead. To make of the human soul a Cosmos, so far as possible, that was Friedrich Wilhelm's dumb notion: not to leave the human soul a mere Chaos;--how much less a Singing or eloquently Spouting Chaos, which is ten times worse than a Chaos left MUTE, confessedly chaotic and not cosmic! To develop the man into DOING something; and withal into doing it as the Universe and the Eternal Laws require,--which is but another name for really doing and not merely seeming to do it:--that was Friedrich Wilhelm's dumb notion: and it was, I can assure you, very far from being a foolish one, though there was no Latin in it, and much of Prussian pipe-clay!"