A short sketch oft the Life of Friedrich Froebel
by Emily Shirreff, Author of "The Kindergarten", "Principles of Fröbel's System
(mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Winfried Müller)
Whenever we have learned to take interest in a man's opinions, or his public action and influence, we naturally desire to know more about his life - to see what circumstances went to form his character, what peculiar impulses or purposes shaped his destiny; and thus we may concluce that members of a Fröbel Scoiety, persons associated to aid in carrying into effect the views of this man Fröbel on a subject of the highest importance, must be interested in tracing out the history of his life.
That history is so closely connected with his opinions, that a fervent disciple of his, Alexander Hanschmann, felt he could not so well analyse his theory in any other way as by analysing his life - looking back to all the circumstances which helped to make him what he was, and step by step prompted or facilitated the growth and gradual unfolding of his educational theory. That book of Hanschmann's has been so interesting and so useful to myself, that I feel I cannot do better than take him for my guide in my attempt to give some Idea of what the creator fo the Kindergarten system of education was, while living and working among his fellow-men.
Friedrich Fröbel was born in 1782, in the village of Oberweißbach in Thuringia. His father, the minister of the parish, was a man gifted with those qualities which win the love and respect of children, even when, as in the case of our hero, he had experienced from him scant justice and less tendernessk. Friedrich lost his mother before he was a year old, but although he had never known her influence, he believed himself to have inherited from her his imaginative and artistic spirit. His father married again, and the second wife proved a real step-mother to the poor child who was thrown so peculiarly on her care.
Under this hard woman's rule little Friedrich was neglected and often unkindly treated, until, when he was ten years old, his mother's brother
This uncle, who occupied a post of some dignity in the Church at Stadtilm, was a widower, who had lost his only son, and was glad to find an object of affection in his sister's child. Under his roof, amid plenty and kindness, Friedrich throve and prospered for five happy years; went to the high school in the town, and enjoyed for the first time the healthy delight of companionship with others of his own age.
In this new life his whole nature expanded; he remained delicate and was somewhat dreamy, but he looked back to this period in after years as to one of great enjoyment. He showed no great aptitude at school except for arithmetic; but he began to be - what he never ceased being while he lived - an observer of nature; and in his great delight in watching plants and animals, as well as in his appreciation of companionship, we find the source of two of his strong opinions respecting the education of children. It is to his own retrospective account of his early life, given in later years to his brother Christopher, and on another occasion to a friend, that we owe these particulars, and are able to trace how early his mind received the impression which influenced him so strongly, of the analogy of the human being to the other organisms existing in the world, and the consequent belief that he should grow and develop harmoniously and completely as they do.
Fröbel in many ways may be called self-educated, for his school-teaching was most superficial; and his aims, and the view he took of what knowledge was essential for attaining them, were entirely original. Unconscious as yet of his inborn power as an educator, he exercised it on himself, and felt continually the failure of all instruction he received by its want of completeness, its absence of harmony with the outward workings of nature, its inferiority to the ideal he had formed. He early felt that there was a world for him to take posession of, to grow and develop in; and a little bit of grammar, a little mechanical arithmetic and geography an geometry, which made up the sum total of his school instruction, seemed all disjointed and purposeless. The geography especially, towards which his outdoor studies gave him a strong bent, seemed, as he expressed it, "in the air", without root or meaning.
Another leading feature of his mind showed itself early; this was a strong religious feeling, and a sensitive conschiousnes with regard to duty. His mind worked much upon these question towards the time of his confirmation, which took place at fifteen, and at the hands of his uncle. After this ceremony, which very commonly closes school life in Germany, it became necessary to decide whether he should be removed, as he ardently desired, to some place of higher instruction, or commence practical life in some shape not requiring this additional expense. Not only had his elder brothers been sent to the University, but the youngest also, the second wife's son, was destined to share the same privilege; it was therefore peculiarly hard upon Friedrich that his step-mother was allowed to prevail, and to fix his future course at a lower level. She considered study too expensive a privilege for a poor man's sons, and had decided that the family income should not further be lessened by such indulgence.
It was proposed to put Friedrich into some kind of office where his work would have been among accounts and inferior law business; and an opening for this offered itself, but was relinquished by his father as a concession to the boy's own feelings. He shrank with horror from this mechanical town life, and, impelled by his intense love of nature, entreated to be allowed to become a farmer; thinking that, living on and by the land, he would be in daily communion with all that appealed so strongly to his loving spirit.
He was accordingly apprenticed for three years, at some distance from home, to a Förster, or manager of forest land, who, he soon found, neglected him and all the practical part of his work, and taught his pupil nothing. But he had books, works on natural history and mathematics, and these the boy stuidied assiduously. His ideal of a farmer's vocation comprised every kind of knowledge that country life could require - natural science, geometry to be applied in surveying, and many other subjects which seemed necessary to make that harmonious whole complete in itself and in its relations with surrounding things, which was essential even then to his idea of life in any position.
He felt, though dimly perhaps, even at that early period, that this or that kind of knowledge should never be merely an instrument requisite for a certain use, butthe rounding off of the human being's own development, the self-culture for a purpose higher than any worldly purpose, for which he was responsible to God and his conscience. This is one of the points that illustrate how important it is with a thinker like Fröbel to know his life; for these actual self-questioning and struggles of his own early youth give the key to what was most characteristic in his later theories.
When his three years' apprenticeship ended, it became evident to all that Fröbel had acquired nothing of what he had been sent to learn; and his master, to save his own reputation, wrote a shameful report of him to his father. This was exultingly received by his step-mother, who now at last thought he would remain at home, her useful drudge and victim. Fortunately, he had been wise enough to secure for himself the Förster's testimonial at the close of his apprenticeship, and this set him right with his father, though it did little to lessen his penance under Frau Fröbel's government of home affairs. All entreaties that he might be allowed to continue his sutdies were set aside, and it was only a casual circumstance that led him to visit one of his brothers at Jena; once there, however, with his brother's help, arrangements were soon made with the trustee of som small property of his mother's that enabled him to attend the University lectures for two terms.
But his very small resources were soon exhausted; with a boy's thoughtlessness, he got into debt, was thrown into the University prison, and only by relinquishing all future claim to the paternal inheritance could he obtain from his father the sum necessary to free himself. The amount of his debts appears to have been very small; the largest item was thirty thalers to the landlord of an eating-house, and some of his lecture fees had been left unpaid.
Nine weeks' imprisonment seems a hard measure of punishment; but he did not waste them. Having felt his dificiencies in Latin, he worked hard at it during this period, besides reading whatever books he could get access to. He was by this time nineteen, and still adhering to his wish to become a farmer, after an unpleasant interval at home, he was sent to a man who seems to have been the agent for certain large estates.
Here he entered into all the practical work of his calling, and, as might have been expected from a mind so contemplative, found practical life, with all its outward activity, far from satisfying. Before, however, he had formed any new plans, he was called home to assist his father, who had fallen into feeble health; and thus he had the consolation of more intimate communion with one whose intense energy, and unfailing steadfastness when he had grasped a truth, commanded his deepest reverence. After his death, the long misunderstood son could say, "May his now enlightened spirit look down upon me with calm blessing; may he now be satisfied with the son who loved him so truly."
Fröbel was now, at the age of twenty, entirely independet of control. He left Oberweisbach, and obtained employment successively in the forest department at Bamberg, and on private estates as landsurveyor and farmer; still devoting his spare hours to natural history and other studies, reading Schlegel, Novalis, and ever earnest in self-culture in every direction. At this time, also, he made acquaintance with a physician and others who seem to have perceived something of his rare nature, and afforded him the opportunity of higher companionship than he had yet enjoyed. They also provided him with introductions at Frankfort, where he was desirous of studying architecture, some knowledge of which he felt to be neccessary to perfect gitness for a land agent's business, in which much building was occasionally required.
This journey to Frankfort was the turning-point of his life. He there, after a time, made acquaintance with Grüner, the director of the Normal School; and this man, with evident penetration of character, suddenly proposed to him to give up his study of architecture and to become a teacher, promising him a post as assistant at once.
How he might have decided had been altogether free we cannot tell; but what seemed at the moment a serious misfortune, namely, the loss of all the certificates he had received from different employers, coinceded fortunately with this new turn given to his thoughts: he resolved to accept Grüner's proposal, and speedily recognised his true vocation.
When he first found himself before a class of from thirty to forty boys, he felt, as he afterwards expressed it, well and happy - as if restored to his proper element, as a bird to the air, and a fish to the water. In speaking of this first experience in a letter to his brother, dated 1805, he says that "it was strange that he had felt at first as if he had long been a teacher, and born to that special employment ... as if he had never lived in any other relation;" and yet he adds, "I had never thought to enter a public school as teacher."
In this position he realised the possibility of working for that ideal which had gradually become the conscious purpose of his life - the ennobling of humanity. It had come over him painfully before this, that neither through architecture nor any other labour belonging to his chosen path in life, was he likely to effect anything in that direction; but education had this for its direct purpose, and won him heart aund soul to its laborious duties.
He took advantage of the first holiday time to visit Pestalozzi in Switzerland. This great educator, the forerunner of Fröbel in some of his principles and methods, was then at the height of his fame. After many vicissitudes he had settled at Yverdun, on the shore of the Lake of Neuchatel, in the building appropriated to his use by the Government of Canton. Here Fröbel first saw the practical working of views that had more or less taken possession spontaneously of his own mind; and he was full of reverent admiration for the man who had struggled against so many difficulties, supported by the conviction that a sounder system of education, more true to human nature, offered the surest hope for the regeration of society.
On Fröbel's return to Frankfort, his marked success as a teacher fully justified Grüner's choice. His class became the model class of the model school, and he had full opportunity to let teachers and parents see the advantage of his method of instruction by drawing out the pupils' own faculties. The first examination that took place marked his position; but he himself dwelt rather upon the deficiencies of his own knowledge, of which his work as a teacher made him more and more painfully conscious. His ideal was a high one, and he felt his need of more study, and especially of going more deeply into methods of instruction and education; and after two years spent in the Normal School, he obtained from Grüner his release from the engagement he had made to work three years with him, and devoted his time to private study. Soon after this he was offered the charge of three boys, the sons of Herr von Holzhausen, whose mother had learned during two years' intercourse to know and appreciate him, and now entreated him to save her sons, who had suffered so severely from bad management that she was utterly miserable about them.
The attachment this able and noble-hearted woman felt for him was the first of those female friendships which, in later years, exercised so much influence over and added so much charm to his life. In her house he enjoyed social intercourse, which helped to draw out his nature; and her earnest request that he would undertake the care of her sons at once proved her confidence, and confirmed him in his resolve to give himself wholly to the noble work of education. His view that the whole nature of each child must be drawn out to form the perfect man, and that only by such education (which alone deserved the name) could the race be improved, was already clear in his mind. His view of the knowledge required by the educator was as large as his ideal purpose was high. He himself ardently wished to return to study at a university. What he felt he needed, as a teacher, besides languages and philosophy, was a study of anthropology, physiology, ethics, theoretical pedagogy, history, and geography; but this wish for wider culture was necessarily set aside for the time, in great measure because his scanty means were again exhausted, and he became tutor in the Holzhausen family in 1807.
Without being acquainted at that time with the works of Rousseau, he so far held the same views that he isolated his pupils from the world. He obtained leave to inhabit with them a country place a short distance from Frankfort; and probably his task of uprooting the evil caused by former mismanagement was thereby facilitated. He had all the influence of a free healthy nature to assist him, and no dangerous counteraction to dread from association; but after awhile he felt that such a system was cramped and one-sided. He was conscious also of the deficiency of his own knowledge in many branches, and, with their parents' consent, he carried off his pupils to Yverdun, and worked with them in Pestalozzi's school for three years.
This long familiarity with the master's method, and with its practical results, doubtless helped to ripen his own educational views. Points of agreement and points of difference were brought out into strong relief; and when in 1810 he determined to withdraw, it was with undiminished respet for Pestalozzi, but with a strong feeling that his system, even if it worked with the completeness which it never could attain under that original but most erratic genius, could never be a complete education, could never draw out and blend harmoniously the whole faculties of the child. An immense improvement on previous methods, it still did not deserve to stand as the new education destined to regenerate the race. He returned to Frankfort with his pupils; and feeling more than ever his own deficiency both in classical and scientific knowlege, in the following year, having saved a little money, he gave up his work as a teacher for a time, to become a learner again at the University of Göttingen, to which he repaired in July, 1811.
In so rapid a sketch as I am able to give here, it is impossible to enter into the subject of his studies; and yet their nature and extent bear witness to the earnestness of his preparation for what he felt was the superior work of his life, and show likewise how in proportion as he pondered the truly sublime object he had before himself, the more he felt the need of als the power that a thorough grasp of knowledge could give him. He believed himself led by heaven to be an educatior, and was inspired with an earnest hope that, through the reform in the whole scope of education which he felt to be so necessary, he might be the chosen instrument to work out the regeneration of the nation; but he had no weak enthusiast's faith in the all-sufficiency of such a call to fit him for the task. It was ever remarkable in him that, side by side with the mystic enthusiasm of the most exalted piety, he had the sober practical sense given by experience and scientific study; and thus, although the cool rationalist would feel no sympathy with one part of his nature, and that the part which perhaps exercised the most influence on those who loved him, he could look only with respect on the profound conviction which gave the dignity and earnestness of a lofty aim to the hard labour of a life spent in acquiring and imparting knowledge.
To Fröbel the universe was the living expression of God's thought; the study of nature's laws, therefore, was the study of God's will; and the complete harmony between the developed human faculties and external nature was the great purpose of human existence; at once he work of education and the life of religion. It is on account of these views, which interpenetrated all he said and did and purposed, that the study of Fröbel's life is so important. If we studied his theories alone, we might fail to understand, or perhaps be half offended by, the tone that pervades them; but when we follow the man through his labours and his struggles, when we see him building up his own life as he would have built up the national life, seeking knowledge for himself as he sought to give it to others, because it was needed to satisfy some thirst of the soul, to round off some incompleteness in that perfecting of the whole being, which was the reasonable offering of man to his Creator - then we understand him, and each portion of his system becomes clear to us, not as a piece of mechanism that might be altered here or improved there, but as a living organism that can work and grow only when complete in all its parts.
The study of mineralogy had a special attraction for him, and he was very desirous to pursue it under Weiss at Berlin, and likewise to join the class of jurisprudence under Savigny. He hoped also to find there an opening for increasing his own scanty means, which could no longer suffice for his student's life at Göttingen. Accordingly, in the summer of 1812, he removed to Berlin, and there, as he had hoped found employment in a school of the same kind as the learned institute at Frankfort which had been founded by Plamann, an earnest admirer of Pestalozzi, whose principles he had determined to extend from the middle-class schools to the higher.
Fröbel was thus occupied when the French disasters in Russia struck the hour of deliverance for Germany, and Prussia, so heavily oppressed, and so steadily pursuing the means of revenge, called upon every man to take up arms against the oppressor. The king's proclamation, the personal call "To my people," was responded to with an enthusiasm which willever mark this as one of the grandest moments in German history. Then, as many have said, did the consciousness of the existence of a German nation first arise. Fröbel, who like other men of peaceful pursuit - students, poets, and artists - was stirred by this call to a new duty, was also thrilled for the first time by this feeling of patriotism, coloured in his mind, as all things were, with the sense of his duty as an education.
"I had," he said, "a home, a land of my birth, but no fatherland. My own home made no call upon me. I was no Prussian, and so it happened that in my retired life the call to arms stirred me little. But something else there was which stirred me, if not with enthusiasm, yet with most steadfast determination, to take my place among German soldies, and this was the pure feeling, the consciousness of being a German, which I honoured as something noble and sacred in my own mind, and desired that it might be unfettered and able to make itself everywhere felt. Besides this feeling, I was also moved by the earnestness with which I embraced my mission as an educator.
"I could, indeed, truly say that I had no fatherland; yet I could not but feel that every lad, every child who later should be educated by me, would have a fatherland, and one that required to be defended now when those children could not defend it. It was hardly possible for me to conceive how any young man capable of bearing arms could think of becoming an educator of children whose country he would not defend with his blood or his life. It was impossible for me to imagine how a young man who should not be ashamed then to hang back like a coward, could later, without shame, and without incurring the scorn and derision of his pupils, stir them to any great thing, to any action requiring effort of selfsacrifice.
This was the second consideration that weighted in my decision. Thirdly, the call to arms seemed a token of unversal need of the men, of the country, and the times in which I lived, and I felt that it was unworthy and unmanly not to struggle for such a universal necessity, not to bear one's own share of peril in the thrusting back of a general danger. Before all these considerations, then, every opposing view gave way, even that which belonged to the fact of the unfitness of my weak constitution for the trials of such a life."
Thus in April, 1813, Fröbel joined the other Berlin students, led by Jahn, and entered the famous volunteer corps of Lützow's "Black Riflemen," and served with them to the end of the war.
With his brief career as a soldier we have no concern. The great events of that war are known to all; its ultimate results have been worked out before our own eyes. But while Fröbel was following the fortunes of the field, he was forming intimacies which were to endure through all the peaceful labour of his after life.
Two Berlin students, much younger than himself, William Middendorff and Henry Langethal, became his comraes, and were irresistibly attracted by his character and conversation, and here by the camp fires of the wild volunteer corps was knit a friendship that bound these three men together for weal of woe in the pursuance of the highest purpose of the practical philosopher. In the younger men this feeling was mixed with a reverence which made them ever ready to follow where Fröbel led.
It became that high and noble thing, loyalty; which, even in its lowest phases, excites the admiration due to generous devotion, but which given to the leader who impersonates a lofty ideal of achtion, stands foremost amoung the noblest things on earth. The whole power of a man's nature then goes out in love and service to one in whom he recognises his guide to whatever is highest and best in human life. Trial and difficulty do but make the devotion more ardent; and in hours of failure, perhaps of such weakness or error as are inseparable from all human enterprise, it seems reasonable even to abdicate for a time the independent exercise of reason, and still to follow without faltering the leader's banner.
All the moral and intellectual worth of these two men, and of Middendorff in particular, was thus given to the service of the fried they revered as well as loved; and the affection born then, amid the free intercourse of an adventurous life, amid youthful excitement and daily peril, had but grown stronger and more tender when, after nearly forty years of struggle and labour, and often weary disappiontment, Middendorff pronounced his touching oration over Fröbel's grave, and turned from it to continue his work.
The three friends were differently placed at that period, and seemed destined to different careers; yet after a time Fröbel's enthusiasm for education drew the others to his side. But this is anticipating. After the close of the war, Fröbel claimed the fulfilment of the promise made to him of an appointment in the mineralogical museum at Berlin, and resumed his studies there, but always with the object of completing his own fitness for an educator, and when offered a valuable post as mineralogist at Stockholm, he declined it as foreign to his educational purpose.
This purpose was suddenly forced to take a practical form by the death of his brother Christopher, pastor of Griesheim, who was one of the many victims of a malignant typhoid fever that spread widely over Germany after the battle of Leipzig. He left a widow and children ill provided for; and Friedrich Fröbel felt at once that this was the occasion heaven sent to him to put his system of education into practice by undertaking the charge of his nephews. The widow gladly consented, and to her sons were subsequently joined those of the other brother, Christian Fröbel, and other lads from the neighbourhood.
Thus in a peasant's house in the village of Griesheim, and later in the neighbouring village of Keilhau, was opened the first school upon that new method which its founder hoped would become the vivifying influence to regenerate the German nation, and which we still trust may transform the education of the future. It was the dream of years that Fröbel was beginning to realise. In 1807 he had, in a letter to his brother Christopher, laid down his cherished plan of a school: "Not to be announced with trumpet tongue to the world, but to win for itself in a small circle, perhaps only among the parents whose children should be entrusted to his care, the name of a happy family institution; ... and then at last he would live in the country the selfennobling life which had been his earliest, brightest, dearest wish."
It would lead us beyond our limits to attempt to examine how far his system may justly bear the name of the "New Education", which has been given to it by some German writers: I will only mention two points, that characterise it so essentially as almost alone to warrant its claim to the title. These are, the recognition of practical activity as an integral part of education, and the parallel of the mental growth of the human being with the development of all other organisms in nature.
With regard to the first, Pestalozzi had attached much value to manual exercise and handicraft of various kinds, but rather as parts of physical training and technical preparation for life, especially among the lower classes; but with Fröbel all outward training had an inward co-relative; some mental faculty was always to be consciously brought into play, to be strenghtened and directed aright, while the limbs were gaining vigour or dexterity. He did not value manual work for the sake merely of making a better workman, but for the sake of making a more complete human being.
"His teaching rested", says Hanschmann, "on this fundamental principle, that the starting point of all that we see, know, or are conscious of is action, and therefore that education or human development must begin in action. Through what a man works out, is his inward being developed. Life, action, and knowledge were to him the tree notes of one harmonious chord. Book study is ever in his system postponed to the strengthening and discipline of the mental and physical powers through observation and active work. The young creature must be at home in its surroundings - learn to live, seek to understand outer and visible things, and to exercise its own creative faculty, before it is introduced to the inner world of thought, to symbols and abstractions, and made to gather up the fruit of other men's labour and experience.
With regard to the second point - the unfolding of the human powers according to inner, or, as we may call them, organic laws - it lay at the core of his whole theory of education. He had watsched development and gradual formation by the action of inward laws through all the realms of nature - in plants, in animals, and, lastly, in the forms of crystals, which seized powerfully on his imagination; and that the human creature was destined by the law of its being to develop in like manner possessed his mind as a revelation of Divine truth. Hence all systems of education that aimed mainly or solely at outward accretion, that trusted to pouring in instruction on the undisciplined mind, were to him false, and the only real system was that which assisted natural growth, which cultivated and strengthened the opening faculties, placing mental food within reach, and aiding the effort of the young creature to grasp it. The true educators's care was to study the nascent powers, and so to frame the surroundings that the active use of each and all in harmonious work should become a necessity and a pleasure."
All who have any acquaintance with ordinary school methods will appreciate from these few words the immense chasm that separated and still separates them from Fröbel, and may perhaps understand better than he did, in his unworldly simplicity, the opposition, or the indifference more deadly than opposition, with which the educational authorities of the country met his efforts. He fondly believed himself called to be the apostle of a new era, and the world knew him not, and the new era has scarcely yet reached its dawn.
The primitive condition of the village of Keilhau so lat as 1815 seems strange enough to us. "Although not poor," says Dr. Chr. Langethal, "the peasants had remained in the condition of the Middle Ages. Three houses retained the old form of Thuringian village architecture, and the date of 1532 was to be seen over the door of one of them. The church, with a pretty tower, was nevertheless more like a cellar than the house of God. In the midst oft the village a water-course marked the street, and five springs kept the road always wet. Water lizards and other creatures abounded. The living of the peasants was very simple. As had been done 500 years before, the mayor still counted off on a notsched stick the number of measures of wheat which each man was bound to pay as corn tax, or tithe.
He gave forth orally to the peasants any new regulation of the Government; and in order to keep up a military appearance, a day watchman paraded the village with a broad halberd over his shoulder. The dress of the old man was what he had worn in his youth, and that of the women descended from mother to daughter." This antique simplicity in his surroundings fell in right well with Fröbel's plans; simple fare, hardy habits, life in the midst of nature, was what he wished for his boys. Much of his teaching was given in the fields. Love for natural history and physical science was inspired, as the first knowledge was put within the children's own reach and their own minds led to observe and seek for more. The heavens and the earth thus become the boundless text-book in which the learner is taught to read Middendorff was the first of Fröbel's friends to join him. He had been a private tutor for a time while finisching his theological studies, and now they were completed he announced to his parents that their cherished wish of seeing him devote himself to the ministry could never be accomplished. It was a severe disappointment, but the young man was follwing his true vocation, and overcame all opposition. After a time, Langethal, whose distination had also been the University, followed the same course. Somewhat later, Barop, a friend and brother-in-law of Middendorff, joined them, and became a mainstay of the whole enterprise. The friendship between the masters produced a marked influence on the school. Hanschmann quotes an intersting letter describing the perfect harmony that reigned, and the affection and respect inspired among the boys, which seemed to render all outward forms of discipline needless.
It was a loving family, as Fröbel had desired it should be; and his own marriage with a lady warmly devoted to his views, and, later on, the marriage of Middendorff and Langethal to two of his own nieces, drew the ties yet closer, and gave that feminine element to their whole life which was necessary to complete and harmonise it.
As an educational experiment the school was in great measure a real success, though it did not reach Fröbel's ideal. All mental equirements were richly provided for, and his own views of education carried out as far as time would allow, considering the imperative necessity of preparing the boys for the University; but the material wants were met with great difficulty, and in the poorest fashion. The friends cast in their lot together without stint or reserve, and Christian Fröbel also gave help; but even so, affairs did not prosper either at Griesheim or at Keilhau, whither they removed as soon as a house had been prepared. Fröbel was by nature a man in whose hands material interests could not prosper. He had no practical ability of that kind; and being at that time engrossed with the interest of carrying views which had become a part of his very life, he was probably less fit than ever to calculate and to dwell upon prudential and economical considerations.
As a fact, although the number of scholars increased, the school never became a prosperous one while Fröbel administered its affairs; and he had also the disappointment of feeling that his hope of exercising a powerful influence on national education was fallacious. Envy and misrepresentation did their work here as verywhere, when new light and new enthusiasm meet old abuses and pedantic routine. The school held its ground, but it showed no signs of becoming the beginning of a wide reform. Fröbel diligently exposed his views in writing; pamphlets, articles in periodicals, were circulated among the public; his great work on "The Education of Mankind" was also published towards the end of this period, but although the attention of many was roused, and some powerful friends were gained, that was all.
Never, however, did leader or disciples lose heart of hope. Devoted to a great idea, they belived in its power to prevail ultimately, and every privation was endured, every sacrifice made, with cheerful alacrity. The more Fröbel struggled against opposition, and was forced to express his views in anser to opponents or to convince the indifferent, the more firmly did he grasp his central idea of education as development from within, following the course of all progress in nature and in the long education of mankind through the ages of the world's history. And the longer he was engaged practically in education, the more was he convinced that this development of human capacity could not be effected through a learned education alone, but that the active powers must be exercised productively in due proportion with the exercise of the receptive faculties in acquiring knowledge; and that without this simultaneous training a one-sided or a stunted growth must be the result.
It was in order to win over some friends to his views that he went in 1831 to Frankfort, and there was induced to turn his attention to Switzerland as affording more hopeful ground for a reform of popular education than Germany, where official pedantry was too strong. The influence which swayed him most in this matter was that of Schneider, a man wll known as a composer, but who had begun life as a teacher under Pestalozzi, and who was possessed of a property on the little Wartensee near Sempach, of which he offered the use to Fröbel for the purpose of founding a school. They went to Switzerland together; the Government of Lucerne, then under the influence of the Liberal Revolution of 1830, gave the necessary authorisation; and soon the mother establishment at Keilhau had a promising daughter at Wartensee. We cannot here enter into the history of the struggle - the partial success, the persecution of fanatics, the disappointment as regards popular education - that assailed Fröbel there and at Willisau, to which place the school was transferred later: We can only just glance at the new devotion of his friends Middendorff and Barop, whose exertions in this fresh field alone made it possible for the new school to hold its ground.
When Barop, whom he had first called to his assistance, returned to Keilhau after a long absence from wife and child, Middendorff came to Willisau; not without counting the cost of the separation from home, but strong in his determination to work for the idea; and the separation lasted four years "I stood," so he said later, "as at a dangerous post during a campaing, and dared not fail. The Catholic clergy pressed powerfully upon us. How could I, out of love for my own, fly before their big guns? Yet now I hardly understand how I could do as I did!"
It was in Switzerland that Fröbel began to train teachers and to work among little chrilderen - both directions in which his influence was to be the most felt. Some of his games and exercises date from this period; and at one time sixty teachers, some sent by the Government of Berne, were training under him at Burgdorf.
It was next decided to found a similar institution near the parent school at Keilhau, and Fröbel was full of joyful activity over this scheme, when the failure of his wife's health determined their final return to Germany in 1836, and business connected with her mother's death fixed their residence in Berlin and Dresden. Being thus separated from his fellowworkers, he devoted himself to the study of infant schools, and to an active apostleship of his theory of education, bothe in writing and lecturing. It was in the midst of the growing success which attended his labours that the heavy blow of his wife's death fell upon him in 1839.
At first he seemed cruched, but again he plunged with new enthusiasm into his work, and there found the best healing for his sorrow. The attention Fröbel had given for a long time to infant schools indicates the point towards which his mind was ever turning. Through all his labour as a teacher he had been baffled by the impossibility of crowding into the years a boy spends at school the instruction necessary for his after success in the world, together with that training of all the faculties, that harmonious development of the whole nature, which he held more important than any knowledge. He had thought that better trained teachers would attain this object, but the result proved that the difficulty lay deeper still. It was in the condition of the children themselves, who came to school with undeveloped or misdirected faculties; and, henceforth, he devoted himself to the subject of early education, which gradually absorbed him more and more. For years he had tried the education of boys through men, and had failed in reaching his ideal; he now turned his attention to preparing for school education by training the infant faculties through the hands of women.
This phase of his activity, which was the most important of all in its lasting results, I shall pass more lightly over, because it is the one we are best acquainted with in this country. As the founder of the Kindergarten system, Fröbel is wll known; I have rather wished to show what led him to the conviction of the supreme importance of early education, what were the circumstances acting upon a character of a rare stamp which led to the creation of a method at once so simple and so philosophical, so scientific and so religious. The Kindergarten was the work of his later years - after time and thought, suffering and labour, had matured his mind and harmonised the result of his experience.
About a year his wife's eath he remained in the peaceful Thuringian valleys to try his new experiment. Hanschmann gives an animated account of the high festival held in honour of the foundation of the first Kindergarten, the day for which was fixed on the anniversary of the birth of Gutenberg - the advent of a new education being linked with the discovery of the art which had been the greatest educational power in modern civilisation. This practical rapprochement was most characteristic of Fröbel, and the day was spent by him with the friends from Keilhau in a succession of religious services and popular rejoicings in the neighbouring villages. He was now exulting in the full hope of wide success and sympathy throughout the nation.
The most important feature of this new life was the gathering of women who flocked to hear his teaching. Some time before, he had issued his call to his countrywomen, in which he strove to rouse them to a sense of the holy mission of womanhood, not to be accomplished by mere tender care of children, but by intelligent educational culture. And nobly did many respond to his call; widows and maidens, the young and the middle-aged, those who had children, and those who sought to fit themselves to assist others in their heaven-appointed task, gathered round him in the village, and the village children were their pupils; and then his system of games and songs and exercises was gradually completed, and the old gray-haired man became the centre of a young and joyous life, full of hope and highest aspirations.
From some of those who knew him then, especially from Frau von Marenholtz Bülow, we have received many details of his life and work at this period, of his appearance and his manner, as well as of his opinions recorded in daily conversation; and if I had space I would willingly here have reproduced some of these recollections, but I must hasten on the the close. Fröbel's life is in fact more fitted to be the subject of many papers than of one, but I am of necessity forced to make a rapid sketsch of the whole, depriving myself of the help of the quotations and illustrations that would have given life to my scanty narrative.
Fröbel's second marriage took place in July, 1851; the lady he married had from early youth been a friend of Chr. Froebel's family at Keilhau, and had taken an earnest share in all his first wife's labours for the common cause. Her affection and sympathy shed a calm happiness over the close of his existence, which he has touchingly described himself.
But once more sorrow and disappointment awaited him. Just when public attention appeared to be roused, and his views to be gaining ground, the Government at Berlin, without assigning any reason, passed a decree in August, 1851, forbidding any Kindergartento be established within Prussian dominions; and so great was the influence of that power, and so easily were the fears of the lesser States exiceted when distant hints of democratic opinions were thrown out as the cause of the Berlin decree, that Fröbel soon met coldness or indifference where before he had received assistance and sympathy. This check may truly be said to have been his death-blow. Not all the peaceful content of his new married home, not the devotion of friends, or the practical success in his immediate surroundings, could bear him up against this destruction of his long-cherished hope that he might yet be the regenerator of national education.
The fervent lover of humanity saw his anticipations nipped in the bud, and age and tiol had left him no power to react against the blow, though he remained the same outwardly, and worked to the end with unflagging energy. His seventieth birthday was kept in April, 1852, as a joyful festival by all who loved him, and he felt and responded to their love. But this was almost the closing scene; two months later the great heart that was all the warmer for friends and family, because it ever kindled for country an humanity, had ceased to beat; the voice that had always been heard uttering words of loftiest counsel and encouragement was silent; his native hills, the fields, the woods he had loved from boyhood, and where he had learned to worship God in studying the forms of nature, knew him no more.
But true hearts an noble minds had caught up the echo of his words, the inspiration of his thoughts. One who had been loving and faithful from the first, and who survived him too short a time, Middendorff, spoke a funeral oration, which moves us deeply now as we read it, and from which I wish I had time to quote, since I fain would borrow words morre powerful than my own to aid me in leaving with you before we part a eeper impression of what that man was, who laboured ceaselessly, and never knew a selfish aim; who read the secrets of human nature in the child, that he might train a more perfect manhood; who roused women, in the name of the nation and the race, to realise what was the power and the duty trusted to them by heaven; the man who was too much in advance of his tim to be recognised as great while he lived, and whose work, now spreading in all lands, is the work which we have banded ourselves together to forward among our own homes, as a new hope for future generations of our own people.