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Telling Tales

David Blamires

5. Discovering Germany

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1The earliest connexions between England and Germany were to do with trade rather than with culture. Not only did Germans from the Hanse towns settle in London, but Englishmen and their families also established communities in cities such as Hamburg and Danzig. The main contact was with northern Germany. With the Reformation religion made further connexions, as many of the English reformers visited or took refuge in Protestant Germany, and the newly founded University of Wittenberg attracted scholars anxious to pursue their studies with such men as Luther, Melanchthon and Karlstadt. Wittenberg is where Shakespeare had Hamlet study. Germany now became a country for gentlemen such as Thomas Coryat (c. 1577-1617) and Fynes Moryson (1566-1630) to visit and describe for the benefit of their compatriots. In 1613 the marriage of Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James VI and I, to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, brought into being the dynastic connexion between Britain and Germany that ultimately led to the Hanoverian monarchs of the eighteenth century. It was through the marriage of Elizabeth’s daughter Sophia to Ernst August of Braunschweig-Lüneburg that their son succeeded to the throne of Great Britain as George I.

2One of the earliest indications of increasing interest in Germany was the production of the first English-language grammar of German, The High Dutch Minerva, first published in 1680 and reissued in 1685. Nonetheless, it took almost another hundred years for a more active British interest in German language and culture to develop. This was brought about, not by the dynastic connexion with Hanover, but rather because of the impact that German thinkers of the Enlightenment and German writers of the Sturm und Drang were making outside their own country. All the same, it would be true to say that knowledge of Germany as a geographical and political entity was rudimentary at the close of the eighteenth century. It had none of the pull of France and Italy as a cultural phenomenon for the well-to-do traveller. The discovery of the magnificent scenery of the Rhine and Germany’s many fashionable spas had to wait for the early nineteenth century and the spirit of Romanticism, in which Wordsworth and Coleridge, Southey and especially Byron had a crucial role to play.

3What, then, did British children learn about Germany from the late eighteenth century onwards? There were, of course, geography textbooks, in which Germany figured along with other European countries. There were also travel books and stories in which travel played an important role. In addition, we find passing allusions to Germany in things such as alphabet books and rhymes. The textbooks are, on the whole, the most systematic sources of information, but they vary immensely in what they offer. The later the book, the more detailed, wide-ranging and analytical the information is likely to be. Not only can one see how, through developments in transportation and communication, more factual material becomes available, but one can see how geography as a subject develops from bald and often arbitrary remarks at second hand into a scientific discipline. But the travel books and stories should not be ignored, since they are sources of popular information too.

4All these books have one question to confront at the outset, namely, what is meant by the term ’Germany’? It is not exactly the same as the Holy Roman Empire, which included such predominantly non-German-speaking territories as Bohemia and Hungary and which creaked to an end with Francis II’s renunciation of the title of Holy Roman Emperor and adoption of that of hereditary Emperor of Austria in 1804. In any case, the Holy Roman Empire was little more than a nominal entity for many years before its collapse, political power being located not only in Austria, but also in the kingdom of Prussia and the many other separate states. Prussia, in any case, straddled the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire, since its eastern part with its many non-German-speaking inhabitants was not part of the Empire. ’Germany’ was not a self-evident entity such as France, Spain or England. Consequently, many of the early textbooks devote most of their space to listing its various constituent political parts. The 1791 edition of Lenglet du Fresnoy’s Geography for Children (first English edition 1737) deals with Prussia and Germany separately over about eight pages. It explains the difference between Prussia Royal or Polish Prussia and Brandenburg or Ducal Prussia before going on to ’Germany’, which it identifies as ’the holy Roman empire’ with boundaries ’on the north, the Baltic sea, Denmark, and the German ocean; on the east, Prussia, Poland, and Hungary; on the south, Italy and Switzerland; and on the west, France, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Dutch seven United Provinces’ (p. 57). At this time Germany was divided into a multiplicity of states, which the textbook proceeds to list in summary form. What is given for Lower Saxony may serve as a typical offering:

Lower Saxony has part of Denmark and the Baltic sea on the north; Westphalia on the west; it borders to the southward on the Upper Rhine and Upper Palatinate; and contains the duchy and electorate of Hanover, the duchies of Brunswick, Lunenburgh, Holstein, Mechlenburgh, Saxe Lawenburgh, Magdeburgh, and Bremen, with the principality of Halberstad, and bishoprics of Hildesheim and Lubec (p. 59).

5Given the considerable space that such accounts occupy, Lenglet du Fresnoy contents himself with adding only the names of just under twenty important towns, the chief rivers (Danube, Rhine, Elbe, Oder, Maes and Moselle) and the predominant forms of religion. On physical geography, agriculture, manufacture, commerce and population he is utterly silent.

6Changes in the political structure of Germany and the geographical dimensions of its constituent parts meant that textbooks frequently had to be updated on this account. There are considerable differences between, for example, the fifth and the nineteenth editions of Geography and History, selected by a Lady for the Use of her own Children (1803 and 1843 respectively). (The Lady identifies herself only by her initials E.R. at the end of her preface; the first edition of her book appeared in 1790.) The 1843 edition, naturally enough, deals separately with the kingdoms of Hanover, Saxony, Bavaria, Wirtemburg (sic) and the duchy of Baden. Prussia is dealt with in a separate section in each edition, while Austria is separated from Germany only in the later edition. About Saxony the 1803 edition declares:

The electorate of Saxony is the richest country in Germany. Dresden is the capital, and a most beautiful city; famous for its mirrors, founderies of bells and cannon, and particularly for the porcelain manufacture called Dresden. It contains about one hundred and ten thousand inhabitants (p. 76).

7The 1843 edition elaborates considerably on the kingdom of Saxony, mentioning the related states of Saxe-Weimar, Schwartzenburg, Saxe-Cobourg, Hildeburghausen (sic), Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Meiningen and adding Hesse-Cassel and Nassau for good measure. It then proceeds:

Dresden is one of the finest cities in Germany; the houses are built of free-stone, and generally of the same height; the streets and broad and well paved, the squares spacious, and the palaces and public buildings numerous and elegant. Here are manufactures of gold and silver lace, jewellery, porcelain, paper-hangings, and dyed stuffs; and it has extensive foundries for balls (sic, presumably a misprint for bells) and cannon. The inhabitants amount to 63,000 (p. 100).

8In its concluding remarks on Germany the 1843 edition gives the principal rivers as the Danube, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Oder, the Weser, the Moselle and the Mayn. The naming of the most noted lakes as ’those of Constance, Bregentz, and the Chilm-see (sic, presumably the Chiemsee), or the lake of Bavaria’ allows one, perhaps, a glimpse of the paper foundations of geography textbooks of this period. How much, I wonder, of what is purveyed rests on secure knowledge or personal observation? Updating the text occasionally leads to errors. When the author writes in the 1843 edition: ’This country is said to contain more mineral waters than all Europe besides; those of Spa, Pyrmont, and Aix-la-Chapelle, are well known for their medicinal virtues’ (p. 104), she omits to note that Spa is now in Belgium, although she mentions elsewhere the establishment in 1830 of the new kingdom of Belgium.

9A number of other geography textbooks circulated during the first half of the nineteenth century. Particularly popular was A Grammar of General Geography for the Use of Schools and Young Persons, written by Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) using the pseudonym of the Revd. J. Goldsmith (possibly recalling the much more famous Oliver Goldsmith). The book was first published in 1803, but, with later revisions, it continued to be reprinted up to the middle of the century. The information is a little more basic than that provided by A Lady, but the book contains brief descriptions of Berlin, Dresden, Munich and Vienna and engravings of Berlin and Vienna. Even more compact are the accounts offered by John Guy in his Geography for Children, on a Perfectly Easy Plan adapted for the Use of Schools and Private Families, first published in 1840 and reaching a 75th edition by 1869. The information given on Germany, Prussia and Austria is very general, but the author permits himself some comments on the people. ’The Prussians in their wars have proved themselves a brave people; the higher classes are well-informed and courteous, while the peasantry and artisans are industrious and well-taught’. Then a contrast: ’The Austrian nobility are considered haughty and oppressive, but the middle classes are moral and industrious, and greatly attached to reading and music’.

10Remarks such as these crop up in other books too. They add a human touch to the otherwise rather dry accounts of states and boundaries, principal towns, rivers and mountains, but they represent British attitudes and perceptions rather than objective facts. A chapbook of c. 1825-30 entitled A Peep at the Various Nations of the World; with a Concise Description of the Inhabitants (Dean and Munday; and A. K. Newman & Co.) includes ’Prussian’ in its mainly alphabetical sequence of nationalities (there is no ’German’ or ’Austrian’) and declares: ’The Prussians were originally an idolatrous and cruel people; but since their elevation [to a kingdom in 1701], they have become more civilized, and at the present day hold a respectable rank among the nations of Europe’. The sloppy juxtaposition of the original pagan inhabitants of Prussia and the later German colonists is misleading, but is typical of the unreliability of chapbooks. A later textbook, John Olding Butler’s A New Introduction to Geography: in a Series of Lessons for Youth (London: William Walker, eighteenth edition, 1860), writes simply of the Germans (not dealing separately with Austrians or Prussians):

The Germans unite gravity and cheerfulness in their character; they are honest and fair in their dealings, hospitable and kind in temper; they have a genius for the sciences and mechanics, and are famous for some singular inventions, among which is the gun (p. 49).

11While many attempts at describing national characteristics are vacuous, misguided or off-beam, Butler here is more specific. He actually seems to know something factually and not to be simply reproducing the rhetoric of the conventional testimonial. Elsewhere in his comments he notes the invention of printing about the year 1440 in Mentz (Mainz) and mentions that ’Hockheim (sic), seated in the heart of the wine country of Germany, gives name to the wine called Hock’.

12The textbooks considered so far present compact information clearly designed to be learnt by heart. To them we can add Familiar Geography by the Abbé Gaultier (1746?-1818), first published by John Harris in 1826 and following on the author’s earlier Complete Course of Geography, by Means of Instructive Games, published by E. Newbery in 1795. Familiar Geography consists of a rather dreary catechism of questions and answers about the most basic material, and it is all too easy to imagine the anxious schoolboy trying to memorize its dry lists of states and principalities, chief towns, rivers and so on.

13In an attempt counter this dryness Barbara Hofland (1770-1844), the author of very many storybooks for children, wrote The Panorama of Europe; or, a New Game of Geography, first published in 1813. It was reprinted several times, with updated material as required. The book centres on a family of several children and their friends who each take on the role of a particular country, dress up and present an account of it to their father, who asks them further questions. The children’s friend Maria appears ’in a large hoop, with a petticoat of rich silk, surrounded by nine rows of ribbons’ – these symbolize the nine circles of Upper Saxony, Lower Saxony, Westphalia, Upper Rhine, Lower Rhine, Franconia, Austria, Bavaria and Swabia. She declares her identity as ’Germany, a most magnificent empire, composed of various principalities, dukedoms, and states, combined under one great head, of which Austria is chief’. She is then catechized by the father about her divisions, rivers, medicinal waters, mountains, principal cities, Bohemia, Hungary and other contiguous countries, mines, vines and other products, both natural and manufactured. Previous to this, thirteen-year-old Edward had appeared ’dressed like a Prussian hussar, but with a black crape veil thrown over him’. He declares himself ’really so awkwardly situated, I scarcely know how to describe myself, for if I throw off my cloak, you would see that my arms were chopped off by France within a few years’. He then proceeds to give a history and geography of Prussia up to the Battle of Jena in 1806. In response to his father’s query about commerce he lists the manufacture of glass, iron-work, paper, gunpowder, camblet, linen, silk stockings and cloth as well as the export of naval stores, linseed, hempseed, fish, mead, tallow, amber and caviare. Mrs Hofland’s presentation of geographical material within the domestic narrative of children’s games is part of a didactic tradition that goes back to such eighteenth-century educators as Sarah Fielding, Madame de Beaumont and Madame de Genlis, the latter’s Tales of the Castle being alluded to in the presentation of France (p. 54). Joachim Heinrich Campe used a similar technique in his Robinson Crusoe and elsewhere. Barbara Hofland’s narrative costuming of the geographical material is slight, but it certainly makes the information more readily memorable.

14Although several general textbooks of geography were issued in a large number of editions during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth century, they were not the only purveyors of geographical information to children. Travel books were also published, and pre-eminent among them were several written by Priscilla Wakefield. The Juvenile Travellers; containing the Remarks of a Family during a Tour through the Principal States and Kingdoms of Europe was first published in 1801 and reached a fourteenth edition by 1824. It was not a first-hand account of travel, but was based on the writings of several well-known travellers adapted for the benefit of children. In her preface Wakefield pointed out that the unsettled state of political affairs had often made it impossible to define the form of government, or even to point out to what sovereign particular states were subject. As is the case with the textbooks, only a small part of the book relates to Prussia, Germany and Austria.

15The structure of the book is formed by the journeys of the Seymour family, undertaken to assuage the grief of Mrs Seymour at the death of her own mother. Mr Seymour – naturally for someone able to engage in such extensive travel – is ’a gentleman of easy fortune’, and the couple have a son, Theodore, almost fourteen, and a daughter, Laura, who is twelve. Wakefield uses each of the characters adroitly to give different perspectives on their journeys, sometimes narrating in the third person, other times presenting the family’s travels in dialogue or epistolary form. The journey opens with their voyage to Hamburgh and brief stay there and in Lubec before going to Denmark. After travelling in Denmark, Sweden, Lapland and Norway they return to Copenhagen and then sail for Dantzic. Then follows a section that takes in Dantzic, Berlin, Wittemburg (sic), Dresden, Leipsic, Magdeburg, Brunswick and Hanover before moving to Holland. Holland is dealt with at much greater length, before the journey up the Rhine via Cologne, Coblentz, Mentz, Manheim, Carlshrue (sic), Strasburg and the Black Forest to Schaffhausen. Much the largest part of the book is taken up with Switzerland, Italy, Sicily, Spain, Portugal and France. Only at the end of the book, which deals with Moscow, Ukraine and Turkey, do we return via Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to German-speaking territory with a few pages on Vienna, Cracow and Breslaw. This latter section of the book involves only Theodore, travelling with a Dane named Steinbock, with whom he returns via Stettin to Copenhagen. The book is accompanied by a map, on which the various journeys are traced.

16Priscilla Wakefield concentrates her descriptions on the cities visited. Theodore comments on the wealth of Hamburgh, and his father responds:

An extensive trade is carried on here, [...] this city serves as a general warehouse, or market, for the natural produce and manufactured goods of all Germany, whence they are sent to different parts of Europe; and articles of various kinds are returned in lieu of them, to supply the Germans with those things which their own country does not afford (p. 6).

17The family enjoys the spacious streets and stately brick houses, boating on the Alster and walking on the city ramparts. They find Lubec dull in comparison, and when they get to Cologne they find it ’an ancient, gloomy, disagreeable city, and so dull, that it seemed as if it had been deserted by the inhabitants’ (p. 93). Dantzic is also described as having houses that are ’very antique in appearance’, and the rows of trees in the streets are declared ’unfavourable to the health and cleanliness of the place, by preventing a free circulation of air’ (p. 49). But the most notable point about the city is the use of ferocious dogs at night to secure the property lodged in the warehouses from fire or robbery. Both Berlin and Dresden are lauded, but Laura prefers Dresden and enjoys particularly the museum and the picture gallery. She is impressed by the dress of the postillions, which is smarter than she has seen elsewhere. The company visit the porcelain factory at Meissen and arrive at Leipsic on the first day of the Easter trade fair. Magdeburg is dismissed again as dull in comparison with Leipsic.

18After some months’ stay in the flat landscape of Holland the Rhine valley delights the travellers: ’Chestnut-groves, vineyards, pleasant villages, and ancient castles on the tops of rising hills, presented a new scene, so full of charms, that they arrived at Coblentz before they supposed they had reached half way’ (p. 94). Mr Seymour explains the construction of the ’Flying Bridge’, the pontoon between the town and the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, to Theodore. They admire the striking views, but find the streets of Coblentz narrow, crooked and lacking in footpaths. Mentz does not seem very agreeable, but Manheim is ’a magnificent city’ with a noble square, a fine palace belonging to the Elector Palatine, an elegant custom-house and jewellery shops. Carlsruhe impresses them enormously with its royal gardens bounded by a majestic forest. Strasburg’s cathedral tower is noted as the highest in Europe. The Black Forest then represents the period’s ideal of the picturesque, being ’wild and romantic: mountains rising in every part, and numerous cascades, of the clearest water, rolling down their sides, whilst their tops were covered with thick forest; the whole enlivened by scattered cottages and villages, delightfully situated’ (p. 97).

19It only remains, then, for Vienna to be celebrated at some length at the end of the book. The core of the city seems disappointing in comparison with the extremely magnificent suburbs, which are interspersed with gardens and splendid palaces. The cathedral, picture collections and the Prater are noted. The inhabitants, we are told, ’generally live in a splendid manner: their tables abound with wines of various kinds; and small chickens, cut into pieces and fried very dry, are a favourite dish’ (p. 417). Exhibitions of fire-works are a frequent occurrence.

20While Priscilla Wakefield’s Juvenile Travellers is clearly aimed at intelligent older children, containing a map, but no illustrations, the Rev. Isaac Taylor’s Scenes in Europe for the Amusement and Instruction of Little Tarry-at-home Travellers was obviously designed for a much younger age-group. It was first published in 1818 by John Harris and is equipped with a small engraving to each of the eighty-four short sections. It takes a quick canter through Europe, providing vignettes rather than structured accounts of the various countries. For Austria, therefore, we have a rather caustic account of a postillion, followed by brief comments on the Prater and Vienna. Germany merits sections on hunting the wild boar, the Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen, Aix-la-Chapelle and mineral waters, negative comments on the poor state of the peasantry, and a laudatory sketch of the Prussian capital, Berlin. There is also a chapter on timber floats on the Rhine, a phenomenon that crops up in most of these children’s books, being not only visually striking, but also indicating the importance of the timber trade for Germany and of the Rhine as a vital means of commercial transportation.

21A similar anecdotal approach to Isaac Taylor’s is taken by the American author Samuel Griswold Goodrich in Peter Parley’s Tales about Europe (c. 1839-40), a book that circulated widely in Britain. He too has paragraphs on the wild boar, Vienna and Berlin, but in addition he manages to take in Dantzic, the wild man discovered living naked in the forest (presumably Peter the wild boy found near Hamelin in 1725), Frederick the Great, the wretched state of German inns, the construction of mechanical toys, and gipsies. Clearly, no attempt is made at giving even a general picture of Germany, but particular items are picked out to capture the interest of young children.

22The early nineteenth century witnessed a great growth of English interest in actually visiting Germany. The main focus was the Rhine, especially the section between Cologne and Mainz, and also the various spa towns of central Germany. Frankfurt am Main and Heidelberg were also much visited. A considerable number of books were published in English in Frankfurt and Heidelberg as well as in London. Bubbles from the Brunnens of Nassau by Sir Francis Bond Head is specifically mentioned in a couple of children’s books, and on the back cover of the Frankfurt edition of 1845 are listed the titles of fifteen other books in English on aspects of German history, literature, culture and topography. These were books for adults eager to learn more about the places they were visiting. They were based on personal experience and study, so that we are presented with a more reliable picture of Germany. Neither Priscilla Wakefield nor Isaac Taylor ever visited the country, so they were simply transmitting book knowledge. The writers of the mid-century tell a more personal tale, and what they have to say is not systematic or general. Their scope is broader, describing not merely landscape and places, but also patterns of life, types of entertainment, differences in food and so on.

8. Isaac Taylor, Scenes in Europe, for the Amusement and Instruction of Little Tarry-at-Home Travellers. Second edition (1819). Copper-engravings.
Hunting the wild boar; timber floats; Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen.

23An excellent example of this new approach is given in the anonymously written Travels with Minna and Godfrey in Many Lands. The Rhine, Nassau, and Baden (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1839). This narrative focusses on two children, Minna and Godfrey, who travel up the Rhine valley from Emmerick to Basle with their father and aunt and are instructed in all kinds of useful knowledge as well as enjoying a great variety of towns and scenery. They learn about geology and viticulture, the mineral waters of Nassau, the different kinds of religion, the history of Germany, contemporary German art, and much more in addition to hearing many legends of the Rhine. Fascinating, too, is the description of the long dinner they have in their hotel in Cologne, which consists of soup, bouilli, melon, tongue, potatoes, cabbage, peas sweetened with sugar, cutlets, calf’s head, boiled salmon with custard for sauce, fish vol-au-vent, smoking hot craw-fish, roast fowl, salad, rabbit, stewed cherries, leg of roast mutton, joint of beef, fruit, confectionery and cakes of various kinds. The children are overwhelmed by it. At a much later stage in their journey they encounter a vegetable that they are then frequently offered and find disagreeable – Kohl-Rübe (kohlrabi): ’It is a species of cabbage; the part which is eaten being a bulb of the size of a moderate turnip, growing a few inches above the ground. This is very inferior to the turnip, more compact and of stronger flavour, without its sweetness. It is much prized in Germany as a valuable vegetable, and we believe is comparatively a new one’. Though the didactic element is strong throughout, the book is packed with lively detail about the German countryside and ways of life. It reflects a new kind of curiosity about Europe outside France and Italy, as the growing prosperity of the middle classes made extended travel possible. Despite their interest, it is worth noting that Mr Cavendish, Minna and Godfrey’s father, cannot really speak German, but has to rely on French in order to communicate. In this we can see him as typical of his class and period.

9. Travels with Minna and Godfrey in Many Lands. From the Journals of the Author. The Rhine, Nassau, and Baden (1839). Copper-engraving of the Drachenfels, Rolandseck and Nonnenfels.

24Twenty-odd years later, M. Betham Edwards covers a similar expedition in her Scenes and Stories of the Rhine (London: Griffith & Farran, 1863), in which two boys and two girls, their father and uncle journey from Cologne up the Rhine to Mentz, then to Frankfort, Heidelberg, Stuttgart and Worms. Murray’s Handbook for Travellers on the Continent, which had reached a thirteenth edition by 1860 and provides an amazing amount of topographical and historical information, is frequently referred to. Cologne Cathedral, though still incomplete (it was not finished until 1880), is marvelled at for its intricate architecture, but the city itself is dirty and poorly drained, though not as gloomy and disagreeable as Priscilla Wakefield described it. The Rhine voyage dwells on the traditional towns and sights – Bonn, Godesberg, Rolandseck, Andernach, Coblentz, Ehrenbreitstein, the Lurleiberg, Bingen and Mentz. Everything provides enjoyment, and the Germans are characterized as ’the cheeriest and most agreeable people in the world, if you only waive all ceremony with them; leave English coldness and fastidiousness behind, and take things good-temperedly as they do’. Frankfort provides copious interest with its toyshops, sausage shops and the Römerberg. The Jewish quarter is mentioned in most of the other books, but here we have a couple of pages devoted to the Rothschilds. When the travellers reach Worms at the end of the book, the 800-year-old synagogue and the history of the Jews in the city are given almost as much space as Luther and the Reformation.

25By this time in the second half of the nineteenth century the royal connexions between Britain and Germany were being strengthened, so Bonn is significant not only as the birthplace of Beethoven, but also because Prince Albert studied at its university. Victoria and Albert’s eldest daughter, the Princess Royal, had already married Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858, but the visit to Darmstadt focusses on the very recent marriage of Princess Alice, second daughter of Victoria and Albert, to Prince Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt in July 1862 and describes her sitting in deep mourning in the ducal chapel together with her husband and father-in-law. Her own father, Prince Albert, had died as recently as December 1861. Princess Alice herself died in 1878, while the Prussian connexion became increasingly fraught after the death of Kaiser Friedrich III.

26Neither Travels with Minna and Godfrey nor Scenes and Stories of the Rhine make any pretence of being systematic in their presentation of Germany. They are not textbooks, but rather story-books full of information and attentive to the details of German life. Scenes and Stories of the Rhine includes a good deal about German eating habits, and the children are particularly discountenanced by the simple breakfast of rolls and coffee, which contrasts strongly with the more robust meal they are used to in England. The real-life contact with Germany and German people that the two books recount feeds into the textbooks of the late nineteenth century, which are much more comprehensive and professional than those of the earlier period.

27George Gill’s geographical reader, no. 4, entitled Descriptive and Pictorial Europe, published in 1881, represents something of a compromise between the old kind of story-book and the more systematic approach to geography being developed at the time. The narrative is divided into three sections, the first consisting of a cruise from the Arctic Ocean to Constantinople and the Crimea, the second comprising a score of trips by road, rail and river across various parts of the continent, while the third gives brief descriptive sketches of the different countries. As we are now into the era of the separate German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, there is no separate treatment of Prussia. The trips encompass the Upper Rhine, Mayence (Mainz) to Coblentz, Coblentz to Cologne, the Lower Rhine, the Upper and Middle Danube and the Elbe and are presented in a similar form and of with similar content to the narratives of Travels with Minna and Godfrey and Scenes and Stories of the Rhine, though much more briefly. A number of maps allow these journeys to be traced, and there are engraved illustrations of the Drachenfels, Cologne Cathedral (still unfinished), boatmen and peasants on the Danube and Nuremberg. The account of the German Empire contains such stock features as the timber-rafts floating down the Rhine and the Germans’ fondness of the boar hunt, but there is also information about mining in the Erzgebirge and the Hartz, manufactures in the area including Dusseldorf, Elberfeld (misspelled Elberfield), Aix-la-Chapelle and Essen, amber fishing on the Baltic, and the development of the German army. This section concludes with a characterization of the Germans as part of ’the same great family’ that the British belong to: ’They are sociable, frank, and hospitable. We might call them a ”nation of readers,” for it would be difficult to find any people so fond of books. They are very fond of music, too, and every little town boasts an ”opera house,” and gardens, where the people assemble to listen to the band, and to smoke’. The positive attitude to the Germans is very marked.

28Perhaps the most systematic approach to geography of textbooks from the latter part of the nineteenth century is to be found in A School Geography by James Cornwell (1812-1902), which reached its seventieth edition in 1882. The author, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, acknowledges his indebtedness to several French and German geographers and obviously had to keep updating his work. The original work dates from 1847, but political changes and economic and demographic developments necessitated alterations in the statistics presented. In the 1882 edition Cornwell presents systematically arranged material for Germany, Prussia and Austria. There are slight variations between them because of their differences, but the underlying procedure is the same. For Germany, for example, he begins with physical features, dealing separately with extent or area, coast, mountains, plains, rivers, climate, soil, wild animals, forests, minerals, mineral springs and race. He then goes on to political facts, looking at divisions of the country, agriculture, manufactures, commerce, exports, ports, internal communications, population, army (fortresses and naval ports), religion, debt, revenue, education, universities, government and town populations. While most of the information is presented in summary form, a few sections are amplified to include historical, cultural or literary material. No other textbook that I have seen is as comprehensive in its coverage of Germany.

29The political and economic changes that affected Germany between the late eighteenth and the late nineteenth century are necessarily reflected in the geography textbooks of the period. But during that same period we can also see a growth in knowledge about Germany on the part of the British middle classes. No textbooks deal with Germany alone – conditions were not sufficiently developed for that. At the beginning of the period knowledge about Germany, Prussia and Austria was rudimentary and confined to the barest physical and political facts until improved means of transport through steamships and railways made travel to the Continent possible for much larger numbers of people. There were steamers on German rivers from 1816. People gradually became aware of Germany’s considerable achievements in literature, music and philosophy, science and technology as the nineteenth century progressed, but the appeal of the landscape and architecture seems to have been slender in comparison with the attractions of France, Italy and Switzerland. Few travellers were acquainted with more than the Rhine valley, Cologne Cathedral, the capital cities of Vienna, Dresden and Berlin and probably one or other of the famous spas of Ems, Langenschwalbach, Wiesbaden or Baden-Baden. By the end of the century, however, the political ascendancy of the German Empire under Prussia had made Germany a power to be reckoned with on the European scene, and the geography books reflected this in their increasingly detailed accounts of the country. While maps of the early nineteenth century displayed few place-names and very rarely any geographical features apart from the main rivers, being preoccupied instead with state borders, maps of the later period give much more information. In books the illustrations become more varied and less schematic. It is as though the century began with a view through a telescope and ended with one through binoculars.

Table des illustrations

Légende 8. Isaac Taylor, Scenes in Europe, for the Amusement and Instruction of Little Tarry-at-Home Travellers. Second edition (1819). Copper-engravings.Hunting the wild boar; timber floats; Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Légende 9. Travels with Minna and Godfrey in Many Lands. From the Journals of the Author. The Rhine, Nassau, and Baden (1839). Copper-engraving of the Drachenfels, Rolandseck and Nonnenfels.
Fichier image/jpeg, 439k


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