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Mr. Howitt unlucky in his German Experiences.


mere statement as in matters of feeling and judgment, presented by these two books. When the first book appeared, Mr. Howitt was absolutely attacked for its Germanic enthusiasm and antiEnglish tendency. The impression made by the second is precisely the reverse. How is this?

Mr. Howitt was singularly unfortunate in his location. He got into a house where the people were prying, curious, gossiping, designing, and roguish. They seem to have entered into a regular system of annoyances, and to have taken extraordinary pains to make him and his family uncomfortable. This was an unpropitious beginning, and its effects appear to have lingered with him to the last hour of his residence at Heidelberg. He never quite got rid of the feeling of distrust and vexation with which that intriguing landlady inspired him in the first instance. The conclusion at which he arrives, drawn of course from his own experience and observation, is not only that the German lodginghouse keepers constitute a genus of sharpers, but that they are actually sustained, assisted, and protected in their rogueries by an extensive combination amongst the surrounding population! The wholesale imposition is accomplished in this way. Arriving a stranger in one of these German towns, and requiring lodgings, you are supplied with a commissionaire, who takes you round from house to house where lodgings are to be let. This fellow is in the pay either of the lodging-house keepers, or the hotel keepers, and he will inevitably deceive you; that is to say, he will try to secure you for his own client, who may in all human probability be just as respectable and as honest as any body else. So far as this part of the commissionaire's scheme is concerned, it does not go for much. It is nothing more than happens every day in the year in every town in Europe. But Mr. Howitt adds, that the commissionaire carries the deception still further. He not only cries up his direct employer, but never cries down any body else. There is a sort of national pride in the fellow (we suppose) which will not allow him to betray even the worst of his countrymen. No matter how notorious the character of a lodging-house keeper may be, the unsuspicious stranger is sure never to hear of it. The commissionaire, says Mr. Howitt, is bribed to silence; from which we are left to infer that in fact the commissionaire is bribed by all the lodging-house keepers, in addition to that particular member of the fraternity whom it is his especial duty to recommend.

"In the second place," continues our author, "it is the interest of too many other people for any stranger to receive a warning. The shopkeepers will, of course, say nothing, because they wish you to settle and be customers, and many of them hope to fleece you well too. Even you have letters to German families, they will not breathe a word.


It is not their business; and it is a part of German caution not to offend their townsmen, especially the knavish, who may do them mischief."Experiences.

The last important part of this machinery of deception is supplied by the domestic servants, who are in league with all the rest to keep their employers in utter ignorance of the true state of things around them; so that, according to Mr. Howitt, the moment a stranger enters a German town for the purpose of going into lodgings, the commissionaire of the hotel, with the hotelkeeper himself in the background, the servants of the house, the owners of the house, the tradespeople of every kind and degree, and even the private families, however respectable they may be, to whom the stranger may happen to carry letters of introduction, instantly confederate and become engaged in a mysterious conspiracy to cheat him.

If we were to treat statements of this description as Mr. Howitt himself treats most of his German topics, we might make a descent upon some of the bye-streets of London, and draw a picture of an English lodging-house keeper, which would show how far inferior in skill, boldness, and magnitude of ambition, these poor German combinators are in comparison with the same genus in this country. It takes a whole town in Germany, private families and all, to cheat a single lodger; while in London a single lodginghouse keeper is quite enough to cheat a whole colony of lodgers. The London scale of profit, too, is considerably higher, and, we need not add, that the London mode of extortion is considerably more systematic. But as we do not see how the case of the Germans would be improved, by establishing the undeniable fact that the case of the English is worse, we will not waste time with the useless contrast.

Personal experience is the test people usually apply to matters of this nature. No test can be much more fallacious; but it affords a popular, conventional, and easy escape from the responsibility of any graver method of procedure. In this very town of Heidelberg then, we can confidently assert that we have known sundry instances of the utmost honesty, frankness, and cordiality on the part of lodging-house keepers towards their inmates. The town is not very large. It occupies only a single street running between the river and the hills. There would be no great difficulty in acquiring in a couple of months a passing acquaintance with the character of every individual in the town; and we assume at once that this circumstance is in itself an abundant protection against the class of frauds indicated by Mr. Howitt. There are people who have resided in Heidelberg, and who speak of the inhabitants in terms the very reverse of those employed by Mr.

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Howitt. We state this simply as a piece of common justice. Here are two opinions founded on opposite experiences. Both may, both must be right up to a certain point; but that part of the inquiry in which alone the public at large, either of Germany or England, can be supposed to be interested, lies beyond the limits of individual instances, and can only be reached by the more philosophical process of generalisation.

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What is the national character of the Germans? Is it that of a sordid, knavish, over-reaching race? No. Mr. Howitt himself explicitly asserts that they are not slavishly devoted to moneygetting. He even admits in this very book that they are honest. The Germans,' he says, as a as a people, are a very honest people.'-Experiences, p. 11. Now it is only as a people we have any interest in the investigation of their character. Let pettifogging chicanery thrive in Heidelberg, and, if our author will have it so, in all the small university towns; let the tradespeople and the servants conspire to the crack of doom; the Germans, as a people, are a very honest people—and we take that to be a very complete and sufficient answer to all the accusations in detail that may be brought against them. It is much to the purpose that this answer should be furnished by the author of these books; since, however, we may differ from him on some points, or he may differ from himself on others, Mr. Howitt is an unexceptionable witness.

The thieving propensities of the Germans appear to have struck Mr. Howitt most forcibly on board the Ludwig steam boat plying on the Rhine. He says that the Ludwig 'was a regular den of thieves;' that his carpet-bag was cut open on board and plundered, and that several of the people connected with that vessel were afterwards sentenced for similar depredations to six years' imprisonment. He tell us, also, that at Cologne a case of eau-deCologne, which he had left on the table at his hotel, was rifled during his absence, and that the landlord, treating the affair, strangely enough, as a matter of course, replaced it at his own charge. It is pleasant to perceive in all these cases that, if there be robbery in the country, there is also a compensatory principle resident somewhere; that the law overtakes the depredators on the steam boats, and that, although theft is a matter of course in the hotels, it is also a matter of course on the part of the landlord to make restitution in full for the inevitable wrongs committed in his premises. So far, therefore, no great harm is done. The river rogues carry on their speculations under the wholesome fear of six years' imprisonment, and the hotel-keepers are always ready to make good the losses to which their guests are unavoidably exposed. We know no country where the evil of

misappropriation of private property is more successfully grappled


But we owe it too many delightful recollections, not to say of the Rhine that we never heard of these numerous and daring robberies until we read of them in Mr. Howitt's books. Many thousands of strangers traverse the Rhine daily during the fine season in these steamers. The deck is piled up with trunks and carpetbags, and writing-cases and hat-boxes. We confess we often wondered that where there was so much temptation, there should be so little theft; and we were not very much surprised to find that some thefts were committed at last. But is it fair to draw these items into the indictment against Germany? It is all very well for Mr. Hood to call out to the travellers on the Rhine to 'take care of their pockets.' Mr. Hood is a humorist, and has the licence of a motley; but it is only right to advertise such of his readers as do not happen to know better, that the whole region of the Rhine is much more English than German. It is the frontier where various races mingle; it is the high-way where extravagant foreigners are always to be found setting an example of dissipation and vice of every kind; it is the last place where one looks for German virtue or German simplicity; it is in fact repudiated by the Germans themselves, as being no longer distinguished by the German character in its native integrity. The best vindication of the people from the imputations which these malpractices might seem to cast upon them is furnished with his invariable candour by Mr. Howitt himself.

"Vast numbers of our country people flock into the Rhine country, because it is easy of access, because it is a very charming country so far as nature goes; but it is, at the same time, with the exception of Prussia, the very dearest part of Germany, and what is worse, it is the most corrupt and demoralised. It is not in the cities of the Rhine that you will find the genuine German character in its primitive truth and simplicity. It is a great thoroughfare of tourists, and that of itself is enough to stamp it as corrupt and selfish. True, it is a lovely country, and if you are content with the charms of nature you cannot well have a pleasanter. But if you seek either the highest state of German social culture in the purest state of its moral simplicity, you must go farther."-Experiences.

All this while then we have been looking at the Germans through the glasses of our own deformities. It is clear enough that the genuine German character' is something very different from the German character which is brought into contact with tourists and migratory lodgers; and that if we would ascertain what that genuine character is, we must go farther.' So that, after all, it is we, the tourists, who are to blame for all the

National Character of the Germans.


chicanery and fraud; we who introduce the temptation, we who diffuse around us a taste for profusion and luxury, who inspire the simple and plain-dealing tradesman with new desires, and open to him new vistas of acquisition: it is, in fact, our more highly refined civilisation, with its attendant train of hypocrisies and intrigues, which is begetting in Germany all these fraudulent practices, against which Mr. Howitt so eloquently warns the innocent English public!

We sincerely believe this to be the exact truth-neither more nor less. We sincerely believe that our civilisation has been working in Germany much the same sort of results-making the necessary allowance for difference of circumstances-which it has worked in a more frightful excess amongst the aborigines of our colonies. If we would see the people in their true national development, we must go farther,' as Mr. Howitt says; we must go beyond the reach of these blighting and pernicious inAuences.

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And what do we find in those remote districts? A primitive. and laborious race-simple in their manners, calm, persevering, affectionate, unostentatious. A people free from the vices of a false refinement-placing no stress upon money, even as a means to an end-intellectual and grave, earnest and independent. We hardly understand this sort of character, it is so unlike any thing to which we are accustomed. We can hardly comprehend a whole people without some strong, low, worldly motive power stirring up their passions, and agitating them into action. We are apt to disbelieve in the phenomenon, or to turn it into ridicule. We recognise, it is true, in the absence of frivolity, in the weight and seriousness of the Germans, something more closely resembling our Saxon qualities than we can discover in any other part of Europe. German temperance, German phlegm, German industry, are perfectly intelligible to us; but we have no notion of a solid man who places poetry and metaphysics above worldly substance, above the daily struggle for riches and personal ambition. This puzzles us, and so by way of getting out of the difficulty, we turn him into a joke. We pitch upon his dull routine of habits, and secure a laugh at the expense of his simplicity. His cookery is atrocious, sauer kraut is a species of elaborate barbarianism, dawn-of-day breakfasts, twelve o'clock dinners, long evenings, and suppers of sliced sausages and potato salads, make up a tableau of human life which may well excite the risible muscles of an Englishman. It is impossible to conceive or invent any thing more completely opposed to his notions of the art of living. He is scarcely at breakfast when the German has done dinner-he has hardly sat down to dinner when the German has done supper! What sort of humanity can reside in these people? Let us see.

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