On the whole, as we said, a youth needs good assimilating power, if he is to grow in this world! Noltenius aud Panzendorf, for instance, they were busy "teaching Friedrich religion." Rather a strange operation this too, if we were to look into it. We will not look too closely. Another pair of excellent most solemn drill-sergeants, in clerical black serge; they also are busy instilling dark doctrines into the bright young Boy, so far as possible; but do not seem at any time to have made too deep an impression on him. May we not say that, in matter of religion too, Friedrich was but ill-bested? Enlightened Edict-of-Nantes Protestantism, a cross between Bayle and Calvin: that was but indifferent babe's milk to the little creature. Nor could Noltenius's Catechism, and ponderous drill-exercise in orthodox theology, much inspire a clear soul with pieties, and tendencies to soar Heavenward.
Alas, it is a dreary litter indeed, mere wagon-load on wagon-load of shot-rubbish, that is heaped round this new human plant, by Noltenius and Company, among others. A wonder only that they did not extinguish all Sense of the Highest in the poor young soul, and leave only a Sense of the Dreariest and Stupidest. But a healthy human soul can stand a great deal. The healthy soul shakes off, in an unexpectedly victorious manner, immense masses of dry rubbish that have been shot upon it by its assiduous pedagogues and professors. What would become of any of us otherwise! Duhan, opening the young soul, by such modest gift as Duhan had, to recognize black from white a little, in this embroiled high Universe, is probably an exception in some small measure. But, Duhan excepted, it may be said to have been in spite of most of his teachers, and their diligent endeavors, that Friedrich did acquire some human piety; kept the sense of truth alive in his mind; knew, in whatever words he phrased it, the divine eternal nature of Duty; and managed, in the muddiest element and most eclipsed Age ever known, to steer by the heavenly loadstars and (so we must candidly term it) to FOLLOW God's Law; in some measure, with or without Noltenius for company. Noltenius's CATECHISM, or ghostly Drill-manual for Fritz, at least the Catechism he had plied Wilhelmina with, which no doubt was the same, is still extant. [Preuss, i. 15;--specimens of it in Rodenbeck.] A very abstruse Piece; orthodox Lutheran-Calvinist, all proved from Scripture; giving what account it can of this unfathomable Universe, to the young mind. To modern Prussians it by no means shines as the indubitablest Theory of the Universe. Indignant modern Prussians produce excerpts from it, of an abstruse nature; and endeavor to deduce therefrom some of Friedrich's aberrations in matters of religion, which became notorious enough by and by. Alas, I fear, it would not have been easy, even for the modern Prussian, to produce a perfect Catechism for the use of Friedrich; this Universe still continues a little abstruse!
And there is another deeper thing to be remarked: the notion of "teaching" religion, in the way of drill-exercise; which is a very strange notion, though a common one, and not peculiar to Noltenius and Friedrich Wilhelm. Piety to God, the nobleness that inspires a human soul to struggle Heavenward, cannot be "taught" by the most exquisite catechisms,or the most industrious preachings and drillings. No; alas, no. Only by far other methods,--chiefly by silent continual Example, silently waiting for the favorable mood and moment, and aided then by a kind of miracle, well enough named "the grace of God,"--can that sacred contagion pass from soul into soul. How much beyond whole Libraries of orthodox Theology is, sometimes, the mute action, the unconscious look of a father, of a mother, who HAD in them "Devoutness, pious Nobleness"! In whom the young soul, not unobservant, though not consciously observing, came at length to recognize it; to read it, in this irrefragable manner: a seed planted thenceforth in the centre of his holiest affections forevermore!
Noltenius wore black serge; kept the corners of his mouth well down; and had written a Catechism of repute; but I know not that Noltenius carried much seed of living piety about with him; much affection from, or for, young Fritz he could not well carry. On the whole, it is a bad outlook on the religious side; and except in Apprenticeship to the rugged and as yet repulsive Honesties of Friedrich Wilhelm, I see no good element in it. Bayle-Calvin, with Noltenius and Catechisms of repute: there is no "religion" to be had for a little Fritz out of all that. Endless Doubt will be provided for him out of all that, probably disbelief of all that;--and, on the whole, if any form at all, a very scraggy form of moral existence; from which the Highest shall be hopelessly absent; and in which anything High, anything not Low and Lying, will have double merit.
It is indeed amazing what quantities and kinds of extinct ideas apply for belief, sometimes in a menacing manner, to the poor mind of man, and poor mind of child, in these days. They come bullying in upon him, in masses, as if they were quite living ideas; ideas of a dreadfully indispensable nature, the evident counterpart, and salutary interpretation, of Facts round him, which, it is promised the poor young creature, he SHALL recognize to correspond with them, one day. At which "correspondence," when the Facts are once well recognized, he has at last to ask himself with amazement, "Did I ever recognize it, then?" Whereby come results incalculable; not good results any of them;--some of them unspeakably bad! The ease of Crown-Prince Friedrich in Berlin is not singular; all cities and places can still show the like. And when it will end, is not yet clear. But that it ever should have begun, will one day be the astonishment. As if the divinest function of a human being were not even that of believing; of discriminating, with his God-given intellect, what is from what is not; and as if the point were, to render that either an impossible function, or else what we must sorrowfully call a revolutionary, rebellious and mutinous one. O Noltenius, O Panzendorf, do for pity's sake take away your Catechetical ware; and say either nothing to the poor young Boy, or some small thing he will find to be BEYOND doubt when he can judge of it! Fever, pestilence, are bad for the body; but Doubt, impious mutiny, doubly impious hypocrisy, are these nothing for the mind? Who would go about inculcating Doubt, unless he were far astray indeed, and much at a loss for employment!
But the sorest fact in Friedrich's schooling, the forest, for the present, though it ultimately proved perhaps the most beneficent one, being well dealt with by the young soul, and nobly subdued to his higher uses, remains still to be set forth. Which will be a long business, first and last!
CROWN-PRINCE FALLS INTO DISFAVOR WITH PAPA.
Those vivacities of young Fritz, his taste for music, finery, those furtive excursions into the domain of Latin and forbidden things, were distasteful and incomprehensible to Friedrich Wilhelm: Where can such things end? They begin in disobedience and intolerable perversity; they will be the ruin of Prussia and of Fritz!--Here, in fact, has a great sorrow risen. We perceive the first small cracks of incurable divisions in the royal household; the breaking out of fountains of bitterness, which by and by spread wide enough. A young sprightly, capricions and vivacious Boy, inclined to self-will, had it been permitted; developing himself into foreign tastes, into French airs and ways; very ill seen by the heavy-footed practical Germanic Majesty.