Of all the services that Frau von Marenholtz Bülow has rendered to Fröbel's cause, not the least certainly is the publication of her personal recollections. They, or large portions of the at least, appeared first in the "Erziehung der Gegenwart", the journal of the Universal Education Union (Allgemeiner Erziehungs-Verein), which, founded by the untiring zeal of Madame von Marenholtz, has for some years laboured so stenguously and so ably for the propagation of Fröbel's system; and to whose Fröbel Institution for the training of poor students the proceeds of the book are generously dedicated. It is a book that should be in the hands of every person who really cares for the system, or for its author. Some of the conversations and dissertations ar not fitted, as the writer remarks, for beginners, but for those who, having in some measure mastered the principles, are able to seize the philosophical aspect of the question, and to apprehend both its application to present social needs and its immense reach in the future. But if young students are unable to do this, all can feel the charm of the picture presented to us of the hind, genial old man, with his loving heart and unflagging zeal. Unprepossessing in appearance, but making even hostile observers forget all outward circumstances when the inner man was revealed - equally ready to play with children - to instruct the inquirer - to discuss with the learned - defending his system with the simplicity of genius, as proudly confident in the power of his theories as he was humble in his personal pretensions.
Frau von Marenholtz, who had been such an unwearied apostle of Fröbel, knew him personally for a short time only. Four years, or rather protions of four years, prepared her for twenty-five years of devoted labours. Fröbel on returning to his native province of Thuringen, to devote himself to the Kindergarten and training of teachers, had chosen a spot in close proximitiy to the baths of Liebenstein, and it was in the course of a visit to those baths, in the spring of 1847, that Frau von Marenholtz became acquainted with him and with his work. He had but lately settled there in a peasant's house that he had built, and the account given of him by the woman with whom Frau von Marenholtz lodged was that he was called "the old fool," because he played and danced with the village children. In the course of a walk a few days later, she met him, "a tall thin man with long gray hair, leading a troop of village children of from three to eight years old, mostly bare-footed and but scantily clothed, marching in time, two and two, up to a neighbouring hill, where he set them to a game with an appropriate song." "The loving unselfishnes and patience with which he conducted this," contiues Frau von Marenholtz, "and the whole bearing of the man while he made the chrildren play several games under his guidance, had something in them so touching that tears stood in my eyes and in those of my companion; and I said to the latter, 'This man may be called an old fool by those around him, but perchance he is one of those whom their contemporaries despise, or cast stones at, and to whom future generations erect monuments.'"
Such keen insight at the first moment leaves no room for surprise that the acquaintance which began that day soon ripened into intimacy, and that the same discernment turned to the sutdy of the system, made this new disciple very soon fit to become a teacher. Fröbel was enchanted to find one who so rapidly and fully understood and sympathised with him, who was so used to be misunderstood and neglected; and thus day by day conversations became more and more intimate, entering into all parts of his views both practical and philosophical, till they gradually absorbed a large protion of such time as he could spare from his active work, which was divided between the children and the young women he was training either for Kindergarten mistresses or for the charge of children at home.
Portions of these conversations and of the reflections they gave rise to at the time, which were duly recorded, and often talked over again with the master, form the bulk of the present volume; and they are a treasure-house of educational wisdom, touching upon all the points of greatest interest and of most originality in his system - the importance of infant training, the mission of women, religious education, the formation of character, study of Nature, and the Welt-Anschauung (idea of the universe), which formed the groundwork of all his views of education. For he did not, as ordinary educators do, look first at society and then consicer how a child could be so instructed as to take a fitting place therein; but looking at universal Nature as the visible manifestation of Divine thought - at Nature's laws as the revealed will of the Creator - he viewed man as one object in Nature subject to those laws, certain to be moulded by them, but bound to obey them willingly, as the free service of a reasonable moral being. To train the child for this, which will include all else, is the educator's work. Evidently mere instruction that aims at fitting a man for the work of the world is a secondary affair in such a comprehensive view of education, and can fitly come in only when the mental, moral, and physical development has reached the point when the child can exercise his own faculties freely and with some accuracy, and feels at home in the outer world, and hence the reproach of indifference to knowledge that has been so freely levelled at Fröbel.
Frau von Marenholtz had the great privilege of being able to introduce Fröbel to persons whom, in his retired, almost obscure position, he would have had no means of knowing, and thus of opening an avenue by which he might become known to a larger and especially a more influential circle. He had lectured in great cities, in Dresden especially, but he had little gift of speech; and though he won individual converts, he made no wide impression, and few of those whom Madame von Marenholtz sought to interest in his cause seem to have had any idea of the importance af the reform he was inaugurating. His new friend was a welcome and honoured guest of the ducal families of Meiningen and of Weimar, and the Duchess Ida of Weimar, who resided during the summer at Liebenstein, was soon won over to take earnest interest in Fröbel's work, and to visit him frequently. She also invited him to her table, and on one of these occasions the Grand Duke, then heir apparent only, who came in with some other exalted personages to pay a visit, was so fascinated by him that he said, "He speaks like a prohet."
An amusing anecdote is given which illustrates the difficulties und which Fröbel was then carrying on his work. He was dining with the Duchess, when a painful smell of stables invaded her Highness's room, and, after all possible remedies had been sought, Madame von Marenholtz suggested that doubtless the offence was caused by Fröbel's coat, which, in the wretched peasant's house he inhabited, was hung up in close proximity to the stable; and she took occasion to infer how necessary it was that the master should be better lodged, and how desirable a certain unused ducal villa at Marienthal would be for his training institution. The good-natured Duchess seized the suggestion, and after a time the Kindergarten and training classes were removed to this charming locality.
But Frau von Marenholtz not only introduced her friend to persons in high station, she also brought to see and hear him men of ability and influence in the public service or in literature - members of school councils, directors gymnasiums, writers on education, schoolmen, to use the word which the Germans have preserved and use in a modern sense, though it has so crystallised in its old meaning with us, that it is hardly intelligible as applied to the men of to-day. Of them, Diesterweg was one of the first who came, and one of the best known; he arrived prejudiced against Fröbel, and begged Madame von Marenholtz to spare him any talk about the man who mixed up play and teaching. But he allowed himself to be taken to see him, and was converted.
The first time he went, Fröbel had already begun his morning class; thus Diesterweg heard him while his own presence was unknown. "He came to scoff, and stayed to revere." Hiss remark afterwards was, "The man has something of the prophet about him." Twice this expression is recorded to have been used. The fervour of conviction and of desire to carry other minds with him seems to have combined with the lofty tone of his views, to transform his usually halting and somewhat confused speaking into what seemed like inspiration, and subdued to reverence men who had neither interest nor sympathy for him before. The acquaintance thus begun was warmly cultivated, and Disterweg became his earnest supporter. In the following summer a daughter of his was among Fröbel; pupils.
Dr. Kühne was the next example of the same kind. He was an admirer of Pestalozzi, and did not believe that Fröbel had done morre than imitate his predecessors; but he soon changed his opinion, and was not only convinced, but charmed, as indeed were all, with the old man's earnest enthusiasm, his self-devotion to the cause of humanity, joined to the child-like simplicity and affectionate geniality of his intercourse, especially with children and with the children he was training. Dr. Kühne, who was editor of the Europa, shortly after advocated the system in that journal.
The comparision between Fröbel's and Pestalozzi's methods is one of the points of great interest recorded in a conversation which took place at that time, but space will not allow of reproducing it. This comparison belongs to a yet larger subject, to Fröbel's claim to have founded a new education, which is of the utmost interest, but the discussion of which cannot be entered into here.
It soon became a custom among many of the frequenters of the baths to walk out to Marienthal to visit the institution. If Fröbel was engaged in teaching, he took no notice of visitors; afterwards he would enter into real discussion with such as cared to do so, and many doubtless went from real wish to learn, others from mere désoeuvrement with that ludicrous contempt for what they do not understand which characterises the frivolous. Others, aganin, took pleasure in the mere superficial aspect of his method, and were indifferent to the truth that lay beneath. But on the whole the effect produced by the evident enjoyment of the children, by their intelligence and docility, and by their intense fondness for Fröbel, converted many to the Kindergarten who could not have understood the views of which it was the exponent.
Madame von Marenholtz speaks of the "truly fatherly love with which Fröbel regarded his teacher-pupils, who in like manner bore the strongest affection and veneration for him. These affectionate relations within the institution made the most pleasing impressions on all who came within the Marienthal circle, and awoke the sympathy even of outsiders. This feeling," she continues, "was much kept up by the long walks together which we often took in the lovely neighbourhood of Liebenstein. When I once remarked to Fröbel, how happy this feeling of common interest and companionship made me feel, he replied, 'Yes, but that is only possible where one idea rules and binds us together. And idea alone can produce truly spiritual harmony.' How true this has been in politics, in religion, in philanthropy! Stronger, thank God, thand all ties of interest, has ever been the tie forged by acknowledging One Ideal worthy to live and die for."
This community of feeling and interst Fröbel loved to express in outer form by days set apart for enjoyment, family festivals, birthdays, long expeditions that would end with a sunset hymn, as the fading of a glorious summer day was watched from some neighbouring hill. The same feeling prompted the Spielfest, held during the summer of 1850 in the park of the old castle of Altenstein, the accaount of which is one of the most interesting episodes of Madame von M. Bülow's narrative. It had been planned in concert with Middendorff, whose presence was felt to be absolutely necessary on such an occasion. More than 300 children from four neighbouring villages were assembled; there were flowers, garlands, songs, all appropriate and symbolical expressions of harmony and joy, such as Fröbel loved. The many young women, trained by him as teachers, accompanied the children, and Kindergarten games and dances, in all of which Fröbel and Middendorff joined unweariedly, were carried on through several happy hours, to the delight of the children and also of a large assembly of spectators. Among the latter was the Duchess Ida, who sent refreshments for the children.
The Spielfest was not, like an ordinary school feast, an interruption of educational work or a mere reward in the shape of pleasure; it was part of the education itself, part of that which was to raise and civilise the young creatures while folowing the laws of Nature. "It is a great educational mistake;" Fröbel maintained, " to deprive childhood and youth of innocent enjoyment. For Nature has put in the heart the desire for and the striving after it. As it would do injury to physical development if real natural wants were denied, so is the soul made to suffer, and is stunted in its development, when the craving for recreation and enjoyment is repressed."
It was not only for children, but for all, that Fröbel held enjoyment to be a valuable part of life, and considered the united expression of enjoyment as a part of religion. As the Olympian games were to the Greeks, so, he thought, national feasts celebrating great deeds, heroic memories, national events, should find place among us; and children's play-feasts, which seem a natural expression of the feeling kindled by the training in common in the Kindergarten, would prepare the way. Thus, as with everything in his mind, small things were the symbols of great things; childish steps lead to the path which shall be trodden by the man, and all parts of life are connected in links binding the whole forward progress of the race together.
One of the strangest accusations that the enemies of Fröbel have brougt against him was that of irreligion, whereas religion was to him so completely the all in all of life that none can understand his system who do not bear in mind his conviction of the all-pervading presence of the Most High, in which literally all created things "live and move and have their being." To vivify Christianity by training new generations to understand it better was the earnest hope of his life.
Madame von Marenholtz's "recollections" abound with evidence of this ever-present sense of religion in Fröbel's life and opinions. It was in his old age that she knew him, when the struggles, the too ardent hopes and too bitter disappiontments of long laborious years were over, and he was calmly, though ceaselessly, working out his latest and most cherished schemes. His utterances then wer from the fulness of long experience and thought; and most remarkable among them is the habitual religious fervour, the earnest struggling after union with God in ervery effort he made, in ervery hope he entertained for the human race.
Fröbel's religious views were not separate from his educational views, they were parts of one whole: there was indeed, so to speak, no one section of his opinions that could be taken out for separate discussion or criticism, to be accepted or ejected alone. His method of viewing and studying Nature was part of his religion. His religion was bound up with the observation of Nature in which he read the laws of God. And his views of education are founded both on religion and reverence for Nature which meet in the contemplation of the human being, whose wonderful gifts and capabilities have to be trained to serve and love God amid the wonders of His creation; who is destined from generation to generation to obtain more complete empire over the outer world in which he is placed, and to work in a higher moral sphere as he more and more recognises the laws of his own moral being.
Thus, while Fröbel deprecates all teaching of creeds and formulas to little children, he would have their life impregnated, so to speak, with religion. Admiration awakened by observation of Nature; desire for knowledge first stirring among unknown wonders and mysteries, the sense of dependence, the certainty of lov and protection; all these things were ceaselessly to minister to the awakening and fostering of the religious feeling in the child. The time for words and abstractions comes after.
"We must open the eyes of our children," he says, "that they may learn to know the Creator through His creation. Only then, when they have found God the Creator through the help of visible things, or seen Him foreshadowed in them, will they be able to apprehend the meaning of the term God in spirit and in truth, and learn to be Christians. First comes the visible world, and then the invisible truth, the idea. These opposites, visible and invisible, must for the young child be united by concrete images, not by words, which at most give him only a vague impression. My 'Mother's Songs' show how this work may be begun ..."
Without religous preparation in childhood no true religion, no
transformation after the likeness of God is possible for man. Belief in God
is indeed born in every human creature, it has only to be awakened rightly;
but it must be awakened, or it remains without life.2)
"It is a great fault in the religious instruction of the present day," he says again, "that the opposition between nature and the spirit has been most dwelt upon, instead of leading the childish mind rather to see the harmony between them, and that the cessation of discord is God's purpose." This would be more consonant with nature, "For," he continues, "the eye of the child first perceives similiarity, connections, and binding links, and afterwards only difference and contrasts."
"In these days," he says in another place, "men while dwelling upon the spirit have forgotten nature and objects in abstractions. Words are separated from things, and as mere words are mostly misundrstood."
Madame von Marenholtz quotes with approbation Middendorff's opinion that the long perverted and misunderstood spirit of Christianity will kindle with new and higher light among men whenever Fröbel's system of education shall have found its full application. But how, she asks, with some discouragement, is this to come to pass? And Middendorff replies, "It can only be if we patiently nourish small beginnings, and cast abroad the seed which perhaps long after we are gone will spring up." Truly it is no small thing to cultivate the human seed by ever better and higher methods at each succeeding stage ofhuman development. Rather is it the greatest and most momentous work each generation has to perform.3)
As with religion, so with the study of Nature; it was not in Fröbel's view a mere branch of knowledge that might or might not be taken up; it was the necessary initiation into all other knowledge, as affording at once the direct manifestation of God's laws in the universe, and the field of practical training for all those faculties whereby man takes possession of the world of matter, lives in it and by it, and makes it subserve the higher law of his spiritual being. Fröbel ever contended, as we have seen above, against the mischievous opposition between nature and spirit, for to his apprehension the spirit of the Most High still brooded over the world of matter, and informed its every part; but the conviction that man, the moral being, owes highest allegiance to the moral law, that his spiritual nature is what lifts him to a region above mere earthly things, however grand or beautiful - this, it need hardly be said, was in one sense the very pivot of his system. "Nature, man, and God", he would say, "these are all we can know of the universe, and man is the link, the central point in which the natural and the spiritual unite."
To separate them, therefore, is to be as false to philosophy as to religion. It is impossible to choose among the many passages in Madame von Marenholtz's recollections that give evidence of this conviction; it runs throughout his system of education; the latter would fall to the ground without it. On nothing, therefore, is it more important for teachers to meditate than on this point; for they must remember that when a certain elementary knowledge of natural science is required of them, it is far less for the sake of the few facts they can gather than for the spirit of such knowledge, which they should in some measure make their own. They must, indeed, be able to direct the child's attention to certain facts, and to help him to observe and understand them; but far more must they have imbibed a love of Nature, a babit of observing her, of realising the unfailing presence of law through every change. They must have cultivated through every change. They must have cultivated through natural objects the sense of the beautiful - the sense of the great harmonies of the universe that proclaim it God's world through all the mysteries and obscurities which dim our vision while hemmed in by the condition of earthly life.
It is in this manner that Kindergarten teachers need to study science; a poor alphabet of science only can it be, but enough to give to an intelligent mind conceptions, views, and pleasures of a new order, which are specially fitted to draw out the capacities and sympathies of young children.
The study of Nature serves also another purpose in Fröbel's system; it is the field in which the active faculties of children are to be occupied. The Kindergarten occupations train active pover and dexterity, according to an natural order; some facht of Nature, some law is made manifest to the childish understanding at the same moment that he has acquired a new power. The exercise of thought and the exercise of the hand and the senses are thus combined and associated with a new sense of enjoyment. The creative faculty in man - one of the highest marks of the God-like in his nature - can only in childhood be exercised among the objects of the material world of which it is his privilege to take possession. Man is not destined only to think and to know; he must act, and produce; his thoughts must be expressed in outward form, his concictions in conduct; and practical activity and ability give to such expression both power and independence.
Madame von Marenholtz, who has so admirably interpreted the views of Fröbel in former works, reports in repeated conversations his earnest conviction of the necessity of correction by active work the one-sided intellectual culture givven in school education. One whole class of human faculties is in such education set aside and neglected, the logical faculty is cultivated at the expense of observation, accuracy of the senses, practical judgments, and originality. It is through the study of natural phenomena and laws, and through work in which those laws must be obeyed, that this valuable part of human culture is achieved, and also that the disire for knowledge ca be awakened. Rarely indeed can it be kindled in children save through external objects.
Doubtles the impulse to seek knowledge is inborn in man, but to cultivate and direct it is the main work of education. ""ould," said Fröbel, "that we could open the way for this one conviction, that the pure impulse to seek truth is the only real grounkd for mental culture; that love of truth is the only real ground for mental culture; that love of truth alone makes knowledge fruitful, which without it remains lifeless." 4)
It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that the idea of utilising, for the purpose of methodical eductaion, not only the earliest childhood, but even the first unconscious period of infancy, is the fundamental and original idea of Fröbel's system. Again and again in this volume does the subject recur. He was never ewary of repeating that the mother's training must precede the Kindergarten, as this must precede the school; they are the natural steps in a natural process of development. "The infant soul;" as he said, "awaking in this world does not wait till school-time to use its senses, its natural organs ... the unfolding of the spiritual faculties begins with the first breath, and ends with the last; and the assistance given according to nature to this development is education." 5)
In another place he says, "What then can we do towards the right unfolding of this germ of the future life, which contains the whole future man with all his highest and finest capabilities? We must give the child from its birth the free and multifarious use of its powers; and such is the prupose of my games and occupations, which exercise in ervery way the yet veiled faculties of the infant. But we must not, as it has often been erroneously understood, train at first the bodily faculties only through exercises of the limbs and senses, and then later, when school-time is come, bring the mental faculties alone into exercise; but at all times and through the whole period of childhood must both be exercised and trained together. The mind unfolds with and through its physical organs, which during the earthly life are inseparably bound up with it. The play of childish years will strengthen both the powers of the mind as well as of the body, when we know how to transform the first activity of the child to a free-productive, or creating activity. The will is strengthened trough free achtion, the moral disposition developes thorugh the effort to search and to produce good and beautiful things, and the mind is fashioned as it gradually learns to think and to act according to law. Such free activity, however, sets aside the direct instruction and training by others which is not in harmony with this stage of development, and places selftraining and self-teaching in their places ..."
In Fröbel's view of harmony throughout the universe and of the supremacy of the moral law, it is natural that the destruction of selfishness should become the highest object of the educatior. For selfishness isolates the individuals from the community and kills the living principle of love. Thus to learn to love is one of the highest results of a right education; to break the selfishness of the individual, and to lead him from the first stage of social life in the family, to all successive stages up to the love of mankind, or to the highest self-denial; through which he rises to harmony with God.
Universal moral progress depends greatly, he felt, upon the early creation of pure associations in little children, upon the effort made from the very dawn of life to awaken and set free the ideal side of the human being, in order to give a counterpoise to the imperious wants of the senses, and as far as possible to hinder the springing up of lower desires. The awakening of the sense of beauty offers the means best adapted for this purpose, so long as thought still slumbers in the childish soul. For this reason, from the earliest years the child's eyes, through form, colour and the play of light, and his ears through sounds, should be opened to all lovely things, and the feeble, childish powers thus used and prepared to receive the perception of the beautiful.
Closely connected with the subject of infant training is that of the fitness of women to undertake it; and no subject comes more frequently forward in the conversation recorded by Madame Marenholtz than the sacred character of women's mission as the educators of the race. Vain must be every hope of reform, if they do not rise to the height of the duties they have too long but half understood.
"Women," said Middendorff, "must learn to look upon their educational mission as a sacred, priestly office."
Fröbel repeated continually: "The fate of nations lies far more in the hands of women-of-mothers- than in those of rulers, or of the numerous innovators who are scarcely intelligible to themselves. We must train the educators of the human race, for without them the new generations cannot fulfil their mission."
Middendorff said one evening, as the friends werer conversing in Fröbel's room, "You, Frau von Marenholtz, must found a union of women who shall look upon the holy cause of human education as their Apostolate, and shall apprehend the mission which falls to women in our days. No greater one exists than that of perfecting the human race through a truly worthy education." Fröbel took up the word. "Women," said he, "must learn that childhood and womanhood, the care of children and women's life, are inseparably bound together; that they make one, and that God and Nature have placed in the hands of women the nurture of the tender human plant. Hitherto the femal sex could play only a more or less subordinate part in human history, because great struggles were going on, and the political organisation of nations was not ready for her action; but the present state of civilisation requires nothing more imperatively than culture - the culture of every human power for the work of peace, for the labour of a higher civilisation. The culture of the individual, however, and therewith the culture of a whole people, depends mostly on the earliest training of the infant. For this reason women have to undertake the most important half of the problems of our time, a half which men are not able to solve. As educators of mankind, women, who till now have been only the physical mothers of the race, have the highest task yet ot accomplish." Madame von Marenholtz objected one day, with only too much truth, that "The greater number of women have not received the culture that fits them to apprehend the ideas that lie at the root of your system of education. The bare practical exercise of the thing, without the idea (the principle), is not fitted to draw out great mental power, of to satisfy the lively imaginations of women. Their minds must first grasp the conception of how their own education, if conducted according to Nature and the wants of their own being, will be the means of unloosing the fetters of centuries, and will make them capable of admirable work such as we have no idea of now." 6)
The delight that Fröbel's pupils took in their Kindergarten work was expressed often and warmly in letters that came to him on his birthday, and the words were often repeated, "I can hardly express how happy I am in the midst of my children." 7)
In later years it was, says Madame von Marenholtz, the same with her scholars. One of them said, "How difficult it was for me formerly to manage children, to make them obedient, while now, with Fröbel's occupations and with his educational principles, I succeed with the greatest facility, and can soon win and improve the most spoilt and unruly children." Another said, "If only mothers would learn Fröbel's method of education, and practise it simultaneously with us, how they would improve, and how much trouble, care, and struggle would be spared on both sides!"
Another theory, which is indeed the central point of Fröbel's system of instruction, namely the law of contrast and their connections, holds a large place in the converations recorded by Frau von Marenholtz; but I refrain from entering into it here, as too long and too abstruse for this slight notice of a book that deserves serious study. It would indeed be impossible in these few pages to touch, however briefly, on many subjects of gravest importance and interest which Frau von Marenholtz has brought together. One more trait only of Fröbel's mind I must mention, as characteristic of the true philosophical reformer; this was his calm patience under misunderstanding, his willingness to bide the proof of time, his unshaken belief in ultimate success, never to gladden his own eyes indeed, but to lighten the work of life for other generations.
As regarded his contemporaries, Fröbel was so conscious that his deepest views could not with advantage laid before the world in its present state of opinion, that he refused to speak of them even to those who were most devoted to him, even to Madame von Marenholtz herself, till long and intimate intercourse had proved the congeniality of their minds. "The last word of my theory I shall carry to my grave," he had said, "the time is not ripe for it." "If, three hundred years after my death," he said, "my system of education is completely, and, according to its real principle, carried out through Europe, I shall rejoice in heaven." "How little could the greatest reformers," he would say, "men even like Stein and Hardenberg, see of the fruits of their efforts during their own lifetime!" "The contemporary world," adds Madame von Marenholtz, most truly, "is never ripe for understanding the thoughts of minds that have outstripped their age; only after-times can comprehend these thoughts and work them out."
"If," said Fröbel, "we can in this generation win a small number of childish souls for what is right and good, the next will double that number, and so on through future generations, till all have been raised up to a new stage of human development, and shall then be fitted to reach a newer one."
Doubtless he was aided in this patient attitude of his mind by his habitual contemplation of human history as a whole. As he could not sever Nature, humanity and God in his philosophy, so neither did he dwell upon past, present and future as separate things, but as linked everlastingly by the unconscious operation of natural laws and the conscious action of man; the duty of each generation as of each individual being to gather up the ineritance of the past to serve the present, and to prepare better things for the future.
"I know," he said, "that centuries may yet pass before my view of the human creature as manifested in the child, and of the educational treatment it requires, may be universally received. But that no longer grieves me. If only the seed be cast abroad, its springing up will not fail, nor the fruit be wanting."
This hope supported him to the end, even through the bitter trial caused by the despotic imbecility of the Prussian Government. Sustained by confidence in the ultimate triumph of truth, he could afford to wait while men scorned and passed him by, leaving him to play with children and instruct the mothers, who should carry his teaching in their hearts for the good of a new generation.
Madame von Marenholtz again spent the summer of 1851 at Liebenstein, and had made arrangements to have a permanent summer dwelling under the same roof with the Kindergarten. She was thus with him when the news came of the Berlin decree forbidding any Kindergarten. She was thus with him when the news came of the Berlin decree forbidding any Kindergarten in the Prussian States. It was communicated to her by the Duke, and it seemed so incredible that she thought it was a joke, but too soon found that it was bitter earnest; and men of influence, whom she spoke and wrote to, said it was vain for the present to hope for any change. One small compensation came to Fröbel in the course of the following winter; he was asked for the first time to attend the German meeting of schoolmasters at Gotha, showing that his views were beginning to be known and to attract attention. He went, and his wife wrote to Frau von Marenholtz, "As Fröbel entered the room in the middle of a speech, the whole assembly rose. He was cordially greeted by the president, and later spoke amidst profound attention, and was loudly applauded."
In April, 1852, Frau von Marenholtz was preparing to join the circle of friends at Liebenstein to celebrate Fröbel's birthday, and to bring as her gift on that occasion the hardly-gathered proceeds of a subscription made to assist young women in attending the training institution; but shw was obliged by severe illness to forego this pleasure, nor did she ever see her revered friend again. The birthday festival was the last joyful gathering he lived to take part in. Through May his health failed, and in June that noble life ended after a fortnight's illness, during which his love for his friends and for humanity and his trust in God were frequently uttered in words that seemed to grow more solemn and pathetic as they were felt to be his last.
Middendorff wrote to Frau von Marenholtz a touching account of his death and of the funeral, at which the officiating minister was a descendant of Luther's whom Fröbel had rescued from poverty as a child and educated in his school. Middendorff afterwards published an account of these last days in a small tract, from which various passages are quoted. These, and quotations from the letters of friends and of ladies formerly pupils, complete this picture of the last years of a great and good man, given to us by one who, loving him, felt she could not better server the cause he had most at heart than by making his own noble nature better known.
1) They were largely translated into English for the Rev. G. Wigand.
2) Erinnerungen, see pp. 20, 21
3) Erinnerungen, p. 28
4) Erinnerungen, p. 141
5) Erinnerungen, p. 139
6) Erinnerungen, p. 113
7)Erinnerungen, p. 116