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Telling Tales

David Blamires

16. Learning about German History

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1Alongside the many German children’s books that were translated into English during the nineteenth century we find a variety of books by British authors that presented aspects of German history to children and young people. Some of these deal with important historical figures. Maria Elizabeth Budden wrote Hofer, the Tyrolese (London: John Harris and Sons, 1824) and Charlotte Maria Tucker, who wrote under the initials A.L.O.E. (’A Lady Of England’), produced The Life of Luther (London: The Book Society, 1873). This was followed by The Boyhood of Martin Luther by Henry Mayhew (London and Edinburgh: Gall & Inglis, c. 1890). Other writers wrote historical fiction set in such crucial periods of German history as the Thirty Years War, the reign of Frederick the Great and the Franco-Prussian War. G. A. Henty was the most notable of these authors, but there were many others. A number of eminent historians concerned themselves with particular periods of German history. Samuel Rawson Gardiner wrote The Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1874) and L. Cecil Jane From Metternich to Bismarck (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910). James Bryce’s The Holy Roman Empire (Oxford: T. & G. Shrimpton, 1864) covers a large range of German history, but it is hardly aimed at school pupils, so it is outside our purview.

2All of these books merit attention, but what is more interesting in the present context is the fairly small corpus of books for children that cover the full range of German history from the period of the Roman Empire onwards. This includes textbooks designed for different age-groups as well as more general works. The books that I have chosen for examination were first published in the period from 1841 to 1913, and several were reprinted many times, often being brought up to date in the process. They are as follows:

Julia Corner, A History of Germany, and the Austrian Empire, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, Adapted for Youth, Schools, and Families (London: Thomas Dean & Co., 1841. Illustrated)

[Robert B. Paul], A History of Germany, from the Invasion of Germany by Marius to the Battle of Leipzic, 1813. On the Plan of Mrs. Markham’s Histories. For the Use of Young Persons (London: John Murray, 1847. Illustrated)

Wilhelm Pütz, Handbook of Modern Geography and History. Part III. Translated from the German by the Rev. R. B. Paul (London: Francis and John Rivington, 1850. Not illustrated)

Anonymous, Scenes and Narratives from German History (London: SPCK, and New York: Pitt, Young, & Co., c. 1858-60. Illustrated)

James Sime, History of Germany (London: Macmillan & Co., 1874. Not illustrated)

Charlotte M. Yonge, Aunt Charlotte’s Stories of German History for the Little Ones (Belfast and New York: Marcus Ward & Co., 1878. Illustrated)

S. Baring-Gould, with the collaboration of Arthur Gilman, Germany (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1886. Illustrated)

H. E. Marshall, A History of Germany, with illustrations in colour by A. C. Michael (London: Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton, 1913. Illustrated)

3Corner, Paul, Pütz and Sime are clearly textbooks. The little SPCK book consists largely of potted biographies, taken from a whole range of German history and aimed at younger children; it reflects an overt Christian moral purpose. Yonge seems to have been marketed as a children’s book, and this is also the case with Marshall. Baring-Gould is a popular history that would also appeal to an intelligent young person. Since each of these books takes the narrative up to the time of writing, it seems appropriate to deal with them in chronological order. As most of them are not readily accessible, I have adopted a descriptive-cum-interpretative mode in considering their content, methodology and underlying philosophy.

4All of the books provide a chronological survey from the period at which the ancient Germanic peoples impinge on the Roman Empire right through to just before the date of publication. The emphasis by and large is on kings, battles and the struggle for power, but each author also finds space for occasional anecdotes and comments on aspects of social, cultural and, especially, religious history. All the books except those by Pütz and Sime are illustrated and thus made attractive to children in a way that Lewis Carroll’s Alice would have approved, even though she might have found the content hard going.

5The history of Germany is not easy to write. The geographical territory claimed for ’Germany’ changes from period to period, and in the Middle Ages the Empire struggled in its fateful involvement with Italy. Both modern France and modern Germany include the Merovingian kings, Charlemagne and Lewis the Pious as part of their respective histories, while the title of Corner’s book, A History of Germany, and the Austrian Empire, adumbrates some of the problems at the modern end. Corner in fact contains separate sections on Hungary and Bohemia in relation to Austria. Similar problems arise with earlier periods: writing about the Reformation, the Thirty Years War or the Napoleonic era demands a perspective that views Germany as part of Europe and not as a separate country on its own. In any case, despite the existence of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany was for centuries politically fragmented until in the nineteenth century Austria was separated off and Germany was united under Prussia. We need now to look at how our chosen authors tackled these problems.

6Julia Corner (1798-1875) produced a barrage of children’s history books in the early 1840s. Not only was there one dealing with Germany, but others on England, France, Greece, Rome, Scriptural history, China and India, Holland and Belgium, Poland and Russia, Spain and Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The 1854 edition of A History of Germany takes the story to 1851 and covers in some 270 pages material from the ancient Germans onwards. Corner has a generous view of history, including a considerable amount of social, economic and religious history, many illustrative anecdotes and, for the modern period, geographical descriptions. There is a useful map, a ten-page chronological table of principal events and, as a kind of appendix, forty-one pages of questions related directly to the text. The inclusion of questions of this kind derives from Richmal Mangnall’s Questions for the Use of Young People (1800), generally known as ’Mangnall’s Questions’. Corner herself wrote Questions on the History of Europe, which she designated ’a sequel to Mangnall’s Historical Questions’.

7As is the case with most books dealing with Germany, several of the proper names Corner uses are misspelt. Because English-speakers tend to pronounce the German ’berg’ and ’burg’ in exactly the same way, we find Weinsberg, Nuremberg, Wurtemberg and Königsberg all wrongly given the suffix ’burg’. ’Schelstadt’on the banks of the Rhine, where Charlemagne had a castle (p. 16), is presumably what the Germans call Schlettstadt and the French (since it is in Alsace) Séléstat. Maximilian is spelt in the French way as Maximilien, which suggests that Corner may have been using a French source here. (There is no indication in her preface as to what she used as source material.) She uses the then current English form Ratisbon for the German Regensburg, but the old German form Mentz for what is now called Mainz (French Mayence). From time to time Corner interrupts her chronological narrative with chapters of social history. Thus, we find the feudal system dealt with in ’Germany in the tenth and eleventh centuries’. In the section on ’Germany in the sixteenth century’ the extent of material achievement is illustrated with the famous anecdote about the banker Fugger entertaining the Emperor Charles V and demonstrating his wealth by burning a large fire consisting of cinnamon and consigning the Emperor’s bonds to the flames. (The motif of burning spices instead of wood as a demonstration of fantastic wealth is also found in the German Volksbuch of Fortunatus, first published in 1509 and widely reprinted up to the nineteenth century.)

8When Corner comes to the post-Napoleonic period, she outlines the many states which made up the Germany of her day, paying particular attention to the British connexion with Hanover and Saxe-Coburg. She notes the fact that Frederick the Great was the grandson of our George I. She mentions the visit of George IV to his kingdom of Hanover in 1821, and also the Duke of Cumberland’s accession to the throne of Hanover in 1837 as Ernest Augustus I. She remarks on the latter’s revocation of the constitution granted to Hanover by William IV and on the fact that a liberal constitution was not restored until the revolution of 1848. Three pages are devoted to the House of Saxe-Coburg as the principality from which Prince Albert came and married Queen Victoria in 1840.

9Corner’s book contains far too much information to analyse in detail. Reasonably enough, about two-thirds of the book is devoted to the period from Charles V to the mid-nineteenth century, but the Reformation is oddly dismissed in less than a page while simultaneously being described as ’the most important event that took place in the time of Maximilien the First’ (p. 92). ’Secret tribunals of Westphalia’, a sensational, but less important topic, then occupies more than four pages. Corner is not always accurate: she has King Conrad I fight against the Huns (p. 25), when she means the Hungarians. She also wrongly declares the Emperor Frederick II to have founded, in addition to the University of Naples, another one at Vienna; but this latter university was not founded until 1365 by Charles V, the second German university after Prague (1348). Just occasionally Corner adopts a rather reprovingly governessy tone. Commenting on the cruelty of the usurper Henry V towards his father Henry IV – the one who stood a penitent in the snow outside the castle of Canossa, waiting to be absolved by Pope Gregory VII – she says: ’We cannot, however, be surprised that a man [Henry V], who could forget his duty towards his aged parent [Henry IV], should also be capable of insulting a minister of religion’ (p. 47). The minister of religion she is referring to was the Pope.

10Julia Corner’s book continued to be reprinted and brought up to date for many years, but it gained a rival as early as 1847 in A History of Germany... On the plan of Mrs. Markham’s Histories, written by the Rev. Robert B. Paul, who identified himself solely by his initials at the end of his introduction. The ’Mrs. Markham’ whose name he gives as providing a model for his work was the pseudonym of Elizabeth Penrose (1780-1837), the successful author of, inter alia, histories of both England and France. Paul’s book enjoyed considerable success: there were new editions in 1853, 1869 and 1882. The 1847 edition ends with the final defeat of Napoleon and his death on St. Helena, but says nothing about the next twenty-five years.

11Paul’s history is about twice the length of Corner’s. With the same chronological spread he has a pretty even weighting of periods and events, i.e., more recent history is not dealt with at noticeably greater length than earlier periods. Although the structure of the book is formed by the sequence of rulers and struggles for power, there is plenty of room for description of other topics, especially religious matters and occasionally art and literature. Each of the sixty-four chapters is followed by a supplement giving information that does not fit straightforwardly into the chronological narrative.

12The ideological viewpoint from which Paul looks at German history is more clearly focussed than is the case with Corner. He writes from an Anglican, anti-Catholic position – the Catholic Emancipation Act was as recent as 1829 – and he gives extensive coverage to religious questions. This can be seen in his treatment of Pope Gregory VII (pp. 93-96) compared with the highly positive account of the Emperor Frederick II (pp. 141-44, 146-49, 156-61). In contrast to Corner’s perfunctory treatment of the Reformation, Paul provides an extensive coverage of Luther and the Reformation, including a four-page summary of the articles of the Confession of Augsburg. A further indication of the author’s sympathies occurs in the couple of pages he devotes to the persecution of the peasants in the mountains of Salzburg in the early eighteenth century who, in this Catholic territory, wished to be ’evangelical’, and were thus banished by the Archbishop. The end of the book points in the same direction, as Paul eulogizes the accomplishments of Blücher and his role in the defeat of Napoleon. He concludes with Blücher’s words to a flatterer whose immoderate praise deeply offended him: ’For what do you commend me? It was my recklessness, Gneisenau’s cautiousness, AND THE GREAT GOD’S LOVING KINDNESS’ (p. 471).

25. Copper-engraving by Davenport, after Gilbert in Julia Corner, The History of Germany and the Austrian Empire. New edition, Revised and Enlarged (c. 1854).

13Paul was also involved as the translator of the German historian Wilhelm Pütz’s Handbook of Modern Geography and History, of which Part III covers European history from the discovery of America to 1848. The book contains nothing to do with geography; it does not even have a map. Germany is treated as part of the inter-state warfare and politics that characterize so much of European history. No country’s existence can be dealt with without reference to others. While this is mainly a political history, reflecting rulers, wars, conquests and treaties, there are two sections that give accounts of religion, arts, sciences and the like, mainly in the shape of lists of names. The aim of the book is to provide objective facts, events and dates with little attention to analysis. Unlike all the other history books under discussion, this one eschews all anecdotes or illustrative examples. Personal prejudice breaks through, however, in comments on the most recent times. Pütz remarks that lyric poetry ’during the last ten years has assumed a polemical character, in the disgraceful writings of Heine, Anastasius Grün, Hoffman (sic) of Fallersleben, Freiligrath, K. Beck and Herwegh’ (p. 299). All of these were political poets with aims that rendered them inimical to Germany and Austria’s rulers. Heine lived in Paris from 1831 until his death in 1856, while Freiligrath fled to England in 1846 and resided there permanently from 1851 to 1867. Hoffmann von Fallersleben is perhaps best known nowadays as the author of ’Deutschland, Deutschland, über Alles’, written in 1841, but more famous since German unification in 1870.

14Scenes and Narratives from German History was published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge sometime between 1858 and 1860, to judge from the content. This was designed for younger readers than the previously mentioned books and confines itself to dealing with eight personages or events – Hermann, or Arminius; Otho, the Lion (i.e. Otto the Great); Henry IV; Frederic (sic) Barbarossa; Martin Luther; Wallenstein and the Thirty Years War; the Siege of Magdeburg; and Frederic (sic) the Great. The siege of Magdeburg by Tilly, one of the most terrible devastations of the Thirty Years War, in which the city was razed to the ground and its inhabitants slaughtered, is dealt with through the depiction of the fate of an imaginary family, but the other chapters follow the usual pattern of historical narrative.

15The text contains a few odd statement. One edition talks about Hermann (Arminius), victor over the Romans in AD 9 in the Teutoburg Forest, as belonging to ’the great Gothic race to which our Anglo-Saxon forefathers belonged’ (p. 9), which a later edition corrects to his being ’one of the direct ancestors of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers’. (The Goths were, in fact, just one of the many Germanic tribes of peoples that rubbed up against the Roman Empire, and Hermann was not a Goth.) Rather bizarrely, the author claims that ’the descendants of Hermann’s tribe ... brought the worship of Hermann with them’. False etymologies are adduced to link the ancient road from London to Lincoln known as Ermine Street with both Hermann and the worship of the Saxon sacred pagan statue known as the ’Irmin-sul’ (pillar of Irmin). This is sheer fantasy: the name Ermine Street is derived from that of the tribe of the Earningas, who have left no other trace of their name.

26. A History of Germany, ... to the Battle of Leipzig, 1813. On the Plan of Miss Markham’s Histories. For the Use of Young Persons (1847).

16In a number of places the actions of historical figures are directly related to the expectations placed on the children reading the book. The chapter on Frederic the Great concentrates on his youth and pays less attention to his period as a monarch. The childhood of Henry IV is regarded as a warning: children ’should remember that nothing will help them to become good and useful men and women, so much as learning, while they are young, to do those things which are right, although not pleasant, and learning also to do them because they are right, and in a cheerful manner’ (p. 37). Wallenstein is characterized as ’not a good man, and you will soon see that his conduct from this time grew worse and worse. The fact is, that his mind was full of ambition’ (p. 124). Frederic the Great is castigated for ’never seeming to think anything of breaking his promise’ with regard to Maria Theresa. His promises to other nations were broken too: ’Deliberate, open lying, this was, and it happened no less than four times during the course of the war, in which Prussia was engaged for about five years. Here was the fruit of that friendship with Voltaire, who had taught him to neglect his Bible’ (pp. 199-200). History here is seen in terms of examples of good and bad behaviour to be emulated or avoided as appropriate. This is not history as a chronology of supposedly objective facts, but as moral education.

17In 1874, in the immediate wake of the Franco-Prussian War, we have the third of the books examined here that was written by a professional historian rather than a writer of children’s books or a popular author. James Sime’s History of Germany forms volume 5 of a ’Historical Course for Schools’ edited by Edward A. Freeman. Lucidly written and superbly organized, it presents in twenty chapters the history of Germany from the earliest times right up to the unification under Prussia. The chapters are subdivided into small numbered sections, each with a summary heading for ease of understanding. The period up to the death of Maximilian I occupies just under half of the text, while that from the Reformation to the present has slightly more space. The three chapters dealing with ’The struggle with Buonaparte’, ’Revolutionary movements’ and ’Recent events’ are more detailed in their coverage. There is a six-page chronological table at the beginning of the book, but no illustrations or maps. The reader has the sense that Sime is not merely presenting a series of discrete facts, but documenting and interpreting processes. He marks changes and turning points, and in his account of the nineteenth century he is particularly good at uncovering the real reasons rather than the pretexts for action underlying Prussia’s ascendancy. Only three years after the Franco-Prussian War he sums up the feelings of the Germans:

The German people were displeased that France was allowed to keep Belfort; but on the whole they regarded the results of the war with pride and pleasure. The ancient military fame of Germany had been more than maintained; the Fatherland had been united; and the national sentiment was gratified by the conquest of the long lost provinces of Elsass and Lorraine, which would henceforth form a defence against French attacks. The Austro-Prussian war had raised Prussia to the first place in Germany; the present war raised Germany to the first place in Europe (p. 267).

18Sime was obviously writing for an older readership, not requiring the sugared pill of illustrations. Furthermore, he is extremely sparing in his use of anecdote. He refers only to the wives of Weinsberg (pp. 73-74) and Frederick Barbarossa and the Kyffhäuser (pp. 77-78), both briefly (see below). While the thrust of his narrative is concerned with political struggles and developments, he finds space at the end of several chapters for comments on literature, the visual arts and music. Sime is surer of himself in dealing with recent events than are most of the other authors. As a professional historian he outclasses both Paul and Pütz. The book was reprinted in 1898 and 1909.

27. Scenes and Narratives from German History (n.d.). ’Gustavus Kneeling in front of his Army’.

  • 1 By Jonathan Birch (1848); W. H. Lettsom (1850); A. Forestier [A. A. Woodward] (1877). See Francis (...)

19Our next author, Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901), was, like Julia Corner, the author of several history books for children. ’Aunt Charlotte’s Stories’ covered English, French, Greek, Roman and American as well as Bible history ’for the little ones’. The German history was first published in 1878 and appeared in an updated edition in 1893. It is a strange and unsatisfactory book. Its opening chapters on ’The ancient Germans’ and ’Valhall’ are a jumble of German and Norse material. Then we have ’The German Romans’, followed by another farrago entitled ’The Nibelonig heroes’, based chiefly on the Nibelungenlied,1 of which three English translations were available by this time. Garbled names are a special feature of Yonge’s book: she attempts to use German forms, so we get Karl the Great instead of the usual Charlemagne, but many of her names are wretchedly misspelt. However, the use of German forms is deeply significant as indicating a closer feeling towards Germany in the period of the new united monarchy.

20The pattern of the book follows the reigns of one or more monarchs at a time, giving facts rather than explaining processes. As no map is provided, the reader is often at a loss to know where the various places are that are mentioned in the text. The hectic unfolding of event after event, often oddly juxtaposed with other titbits of information, is accompanied with nudging emotive adjectives or comments. Since Yonge follows the sequence of Austrian monarchs for her structure, Prussia is not adequately treated. Yonge was, of course, much better known as a novelist than as a historian, and this spills over into her book, which seems to have been written without the proper care for accuracy. As just one example, she describes Tilly, the commander of the Imperial army in the early stages of the Thirty Years War, as ’a Hungarian of peasant birth, brave and honest, but very fierce and rude’ (p. 239), whereas Julia Corner, correctly, refers to him as ’a native of Brussels’ (p. 120).

21The next book to concern us is Sabine Baring-Gould’s Germany, published in Fisher Unwin’s ’History of the Nations’ series in 1886. Baring-Gould (1834-1924) was one of the most prolific writers on popular subjects in the Victorian period, and this history of Germany was written as much for the general reading public as for young people. The preface is revealing of the author’s brisk, no-nonsense stance:

The story of such a people as the Germans could not fail to possess intense interest for anyone; but for us of another branch of the Teutonic family, it has the additional charm that it is the history of our blood-relations. On their experience we have built, and to the light of their example we look for guidance; in their triumphs we rejoice; to the grandeur of the genius of their poets and prose-writers, of their scientists and theologians, we look with pride and admiration, congratulating ourselves that we, too, are Teutons (p. iv).

22Baring-Gould was an Anglican clergyman of wide, if not always exact learning, self-confident in his judgements and opinions. Following the Franco-Prussian War, Baring-Gould, like Sime and Charlotte M. Yonge, refers to Alsace as Elsass, though Aix-la-Chapelle remains in its French form. He is a great Germanophile, but he can still write in conclusion: ’... though the empire of Germany is a splendid power, it is also a very crushing power to the people, and though the nation has escaped from one set of difficulties, it has plunged into another’ (p. 421). This comment relates to the three-year military training required of Germany’s young men.

23Baring-Gould was trenchant in his opinions. He viewed the crowning of Charlemagne as emperor as ’the greatest mischief [Pope Leo III] could do to Germany’ (p. 79), and he described Pope Gregory VII as ’a carpenter’s son, whose head had been turned by his elevation to the Papacy, and who was puffed up with pride and love of power’ (p. 99). He thought Zwingli ’a man of more daring mind than Luther; his equal in intrepidity, and his superior in learning’ (p. 22). There is much praise of Frederick the Great, a detailed account of the ’Battle of the Nations’, near Leipzig, in 1813, but – as the present day is approached – Bismarck is mentioned only when he meets the defeated Napoleon III at Donchéry, though a fine portrait of him graces the opposite page (pp. 406-07). The immediate past does not appear in such sharp focus as, say, fifty or a hundred years previously.

24The last book to claim our attention is Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall’s large volume, brought out in 1913 in a style comparable with the gift-book editions of the Grimms, Andersen and The Arabian Nights and illustrated by such artists as Rackham, Nielsen and Dulac. Her illustrator, A. C. Michael, is, however, hardly in the same category. H. E. Marshall (born 1876), who concealed her gender behind the use of initials, was also the author of A History of France, Our Island Story and Scotland’s Story and skilled in the art of popular history. Hers is not a textbook, any more than Baring-Gould’s book is, but it was aimed at children in the absence of there being ’outside school books (and there are a few of these) no simple history of the German Empire ... in the English language’ (preface). Given what was to happen a year after her book appeared, her final paragraph in retrospect has an ironic tinge:

In this time of peace and unity Germany has grown great. In commerce and manufacture it is now among the foremost countries in the world. In learning and science it has no equal. Peace has done for Germany far more than all the wars and conquests of the Holy Roman Emperors, and the Germans who love their country well know the value of that peace, and pray that it may long continue (pp. 448-49).

25Like other writers, Marshall points out the dynastic connexions between Britain and Germany, noting with regard to Henry the Lion in the twelfth century that King George V was descended from him (p. 217). Her coverage of the varied aspects of German history is measured and seems to have no axes to grind. To a modern reader it may seem strange that the period up to 1493 occupies two-thirds of the book, whereas for the same period Baring-Gould uses about two-fifths of his space. Marshall has a narrower range of reference (for example, to literature, the arts and music) than Baring-Gould, but she provides a fluent narrative adapted to the interests of children.

26One thing that stands out in all the histories apart from Pütz is the use of anecdotes and legends as keys to meaning. Several are quoted by more than one author; two were extremely popular. First comes the story of the women of the besieged castle of Weinsberg, whom Conrad III grants permission to leave unharmed with as much as they can personally carry; each of the women then appears carrying her husband on her back, whereupon peace terms are immediately proposed. This story is given by Corner (pp. 52-53), Paul (p. 115), SPCK (p. 61), Sime (pp. 73-74), Yonge (pp. 83-85), Baring-Gould (pp. 117-18), Marshall (pp. 198-99). The second concerns the legend that Frederick Barbarossa is asleep inside a mountain waiting for the moment at which he should awake and come once more to his country’s aid. The legend has a certain appropriateness since Barbarossa died on the Third Crusade attempting to cross a river in Asia Minor. The mountain is usually stated to be the Kyffhäuser in the Harz (Paul (p. 129), Sime (pp. 77-78), Yonge (pp. 97-98), Baring-Gould (p. 124), Marshall (p. 219), but the SPCK book situates it in the Salzburg area, probably confusing it with a similar legend about the Emperor Charlemagne (p. 12).

  • 2 This anecdote was so popular that it found its way into Joe Miller’s Jest-Book, with Additions (Lo (...)

27Two of the authors cite the anecdote illustrating Fugger’s wealth in burning a fire of spices and setting alight the bonds owed to him by the Emperor Charles V (Corner (p. 105), Yonge (p. 203)). Four refer to William Tell (Paul (pp. 184-86), Yonge (pp. 140-41), Baring-Gould (p. 151), Marshall (pp. 256-57)), though the latter two query the historicity of the apple-shooting episode. In more modern times the largest number of anecdotes focus on Frederick William I of Prussia and his son Frederick the Great. Perhaps the most striking of these is one about Frederick the Great and a soldier who wore chains and a seal attached to a bullet in place of a watch, which he could not afford. Frederick challenges him on the supposed watch, judging it to be foppery, and asks him the time. The embarrassed soldier replies: ’Sire, my watch points only to one hour – that in which I am ready to die for your majesty’. Frederick is so pleased at this reply that he gives the soldier his own watch (Paul (p. 411); Baring-Gould (p. 299)).2

28These are not the only anecdotes and legends to make an appearance in the various histories, but they encapsulate some of the key values that are presented – woman’s devotion to her husband, the willingness of the soldier to sacrifice his life or his money to the king or emperor; the monarch as the guardian, even in death, of his people.

29It is interesting, too, to observe the attention paid to the stories of the Nibelungs in three of the histories. Paul mentions ’the famous ”Niebelungenlied” in his brief account of medieval literature (p. 170), just a year before the publication of the first English translation of Germany’s passionate and bloodthirsty heroic epic (followed by a second translation in 1850). Charlotte M. Yonge, with Wagner’s Ring published in 1863, provides a story combining the youth of Siegfried taken from Norse (or Wagnerian) sources together with a summary of the Nibelungenlied, in order to fill the period between the end of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Franks (pp. 31-38). Baring-Gould mentions the poem first in connexion with Attila (pp. 26-27) and summarizes the plot in his account of medieval literature. As was common at the time, he claims that this ’grand epic ... may take rank beside the Iliad’ (p. 143).

30All the home-grown histories of Germany except Sime contain illustrations, Corner beginning modestly with four engravings by Davenport after paintings by Gilbert. These are narrative illustrations, focussing on dramatic episodes of history: the forced abdication of Henry IV, the murder of Albert I, Maria Theresa presenting her infant son to the assembled states. Paul’s history offers fifty-six engravings that document places and personages, the latter usually on the basis of contemporary funeral monuments, statues and portraits. These are not nineteenth-century re-creations, but for the most part pictures of buildings and artefacts. That is true also of the 103 illustrations in Baring-Gould, which are largely taken from L. Stacke’s Deutsche Geschichte. Yonge’s history, again, is equipped with 86 illustrations, but these tend more to the imaginative than the documentary, so we find such subjects as ’St. Boniface felling the oak’, ’Friedrich II. Putting on the crown of Jerusalem’, ’Huss at Constance’, ’Luther at Wartburg’, ’Death of Wallenstein’, ’Metternich and Napoleon’.

31The SPCK’s Scenes and Narratives reverts to the narrative dramatic style of Corner’s book. There are just six anonymous engravings including ’Luther before Charles V’ and ’Gustavus kneeling in front of his army’. The ten colour-plates in Marshall are rather a disappointment, since A. C. Michael was not a distinctive artist. The plates are badly placed in relation to the text, and those depicting Wallenstein and Frederick the Great (patronizingly referred to in the text as ’the plucky little Prussian king’) are in the wrong chronological order. Marshall, Baring-Gould and Yonge all have depictions of the new Kaiser Wilhelm I, bringing their story up to date. The focus on monarchs in all the histories reflects Germany’s slowness to change in the exercise of political power. However, Baring-Gould at least does provide a picture of Bismarck.

32The incidence of illustration can probably be related to the age-range of the books’ target readerships. Thus, with their lack of illustration Paul, Pütz and Sime may be seen as aiming at the upper age-range. Paul was a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, before he became Vicar of St. Augustine’s, Bristol, and both he and Sime were university-trained historians. It is odd that Corner is the only publication to provide a map of Germany. Perhaps the other authors assumed that their readers had access to helpful atlases. It is a pity that the illustrations in Corner are not more plentiful, but they may have cost too much to reproduce. Cheaper methods of reproduction allowed Paul and Baring-Gould to have a greater number, the character of which enabled their readers to envisage important places, personages and events more easily. Marshall’s book, with its large format and colour-plates, was clearly designed for a privileged class of reader.

33These eight books dealing with the history of Germany represent a variety of approaches and target readerships. The little SPCK book addresses the youngest age-range and does not pretend to be a systematic history: its main aim is the provision of moral and religious instruction through historical examples. Corner, Paul, Pütz and Sime fit unambiguously into the category of textbook. Chronologically they demonstrate an increasing refinement in the historian’s craft. Sime may be regarded as the culmination in terms of accuracy, clarity, objectivity and analytical skill. Yonge may or may not have been intended as some kind of textbook. The advertisements appended to Sime list three further historical works by her – Cameos from English History, European History Narrated in a Series of Historical Selections from the Best Authorities, and A Parallel History of France and England – which are clearly textbooks, but she, like Corner, Baring-Gould and Marshall, is a popular writer rather than a professional historian.

34Each of these eight books is an earnest endeavour to present the history of Germany from the earliest times to the present day. There is no serious disagreement between them about the important personages and events. The emphasis at the beginning on Hermann/Arminius mirrors Germany’s need for a national hero who is successful in defending her against the threat of foreign powers. This focus goes back at least to the end of the seventeenth century with Lohenstein’s massive novel Grossmüthiger Feldherr Arminius, which was followed in the eighteenth century by works from the pens of Wieland and Klopstock. In the nineteenth century the theme is documented above all by Kleist’s anti-Napoleonic play Die Hermannsschlacht (1808, first published 1821) and the gigantic monument erected in the Teutoburg Forest and dedicated in 1875.

35Between Arminius and the Carolingian era there are only fitful gleams of light, but from Charlemagne onwards there is a continuous history of monarchs, with a dual pull on our attention from the establishment of Prussia as a monarchy at the beginning of the eighteenth century and its rivalry with Austria. The United Kingdom’s dynastic connexions with Germany do not appear to have brought about an engagement of strong British emotions with regard to the history of Germany. From the cultural point of view, the marriage of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Queen Victoria was of greater significance than the accession of George I. The middle decades of the nineteenth century show an increasing interest in Germany and things German. In the four decades from 1870 this grows into admiration and a sense of kinship, a state of affairs that was totally changed by the First World War.


1 By Jonathan Birch (1848); W. H. Lettsom (1850); A. Forestier [A. A. Woodward] (1877). See Francis E. Sandbach, The Nibelungenlied and Gudrun in England and America (London: David Nutt, 1904), pp. 39-54, 72-74.

2 This anecdote was so popular that it found its way into Joe Miller’s Jest-Book, with Additions (London: Charles Mason, 1836), no. 709, pp. 127-28.

Table des illustrations

Légende 25. Copper-engraving by Davenport, after Gilbert in Julia Corner, The History of Germany and the Austrian Empire. New edition, Revised and Enlarged (c. 1854).
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Légende 26. A History of Germany, ... to the Battle of Leipzig, 1813. On the Plan of Miss Markham’s Histories. For the Use of Young Persons (1847).
Fichier image/jpeg, 680k
Légende 27. Scenes and Narratives from German History (n.d.). ’Gustavus Kneeling in front of his Army’.
Fichier image/jpeg, 792k


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