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From Bentley's Miscellany.
THE SALONS OF VIENNA AND BERLIN.
At the time when Rahel's salon sprang into existence war had ceased, and literary and intellectual questions were beginning to take the place of political debates. Philosophers, poets, and artists were congregating at Berlin. Schelling, the two Schlegels, and Tieck were already there, and were taking possession of the field, either by their persons or their works. The reputation of
persons who were gathered around her by the force of her charms and her griefs. She THE first symptoms of the awakening of possessed, besides, all those feminine qualisociety in Berlin in the commencement of ties that are so particularly attractive to the present age, correspond to the era of men. Endowed with marvellous perspicuity, French domination. That epoch is one of she could see in a moment what was passing those which, morally speaking, is the great- in the mind of other persons, and could act est in the history of Prussia. She must be with them, and counsel them accordingly. contemplated at that moment, if we wish to enjoy the always agreeable spectacle of a nation working all its energies and all its resources, even to the last available, to effect its deliverance. Berlin replied to the vigorous literary impulse of Weimar by a patriotic rising in mass, and it is thus that the two capitals complete themselves the one by the other. The influence of the salon in this movement of Berlin has been depicted Thorwaldsen extended from Rome to the by M. Schmidt Weissenfels, in a work entitled “Rahel und ihre Zeit ;" but, according to the author of "Les Salons de Vienne et de Berlin," this influence has been much exaggerated. The salon he declares not to be understood in Germany as it is in France. To be at home in company is opposed, he avers, alike to the character and the habits of the German-a statement which, being purely Gallican, may be taken at its just worth.
It is to M. Varnhagen d'Ense, author, soldier, and diplomatist, and to his clever and amiable spouse Rahel, that Berlin is accredited with its first salon. There had been plenty of gatherings before. Queen Sophia Charlotte had gathered round her at Lutzelburg, the Charlottenburg of the present day, the Leibnitzes, and other eminent men of the day; the great Frederick had also his meetings of philosophers; but it was not till Rahel, whilst still unmarried, assembled at her house all that was cultivated and refined in court and city, and at the head of whom were Prince Louis Ferdinand and Charles of Mecklenburg Strelitz, that the salon, in the Parisian acceptation of the word, was really founded. Rahel is said to have begun life with sad trials. She is said to have loved twice, and twice to have been disappointed. Naturally frail, of slight frame and delicate constitution, she would have sunk under those trials, but that the spirit that animated so tender a frame, and which bore her up, enabled her to live, as it were, no longer for herself, but for the group of poets, artists, and titled
Baltic, and the Rhine rocks echoed the complaints of Overbeck. Then there were the two Humboldts, M. de Raumer, and a host of others, who united to render Berlin a kind of metropolis of science, letters, fine arts, and of the genius of all Germany.
M. de Varnhagen was a native of Dusseldorf, and he studied at Hamburg, Halle, and Strasburg, till his young imagination was carried to Berlin by the Arnims, Chamisso, and Novalis. The wars of the empire gave an entirely new turn to his thoughts. He entered the service of Austria, and fought at Wagram. He visited Paris in the suite of Prince Schwarzenberg, and he afterwards entered the service of Russia, under General Tettenborn, whose memoirs he subsequently indited. Accident having brought him into relation with Hardenberg, he gave up the turmoil of the camp for the more congenial pursuit of diplomacy. He was present at the Congress of Vienna, where he became noted for the constitutional tendency of his ideas. He was afterwards appointed minister at Carlsruhe, but dismissed at the same time as William de Humboldt. He does not appear to have taken office again. It was proposed that he should be sent to the United States, but he declined the expatriation; he preferred spending his latter days at the head of all that was most polished, most intellectual in Berlin. It is not that Berlinese society at that epoch had not its faults, its intrigues, its hatreds, and its passions, but it was that, under the dominion of M. and Madame de Varnhagen, it never forgot "les
convenances." It never tolerated an impro- | Napoleon into the world, the full bearing of
priety, and this, after all, is the best test of good society. M. de Varnhagen had the advantage, also, of having graduated in the salons of Vienna and of Paris; but so entirely was his mind filled up by the necessities and conveniences of a society made up of forms and ceremonies, that he could not afford to admire any thing that did not exist in its powdered and perfumed circle. Thus, speaking of the great Napoleon, he says, "His manners were embarrassed, the struggle of a will in a hurry to obtain its objects, at the same time that he despised the means employed, was to be detected in all his actions. It would, perhaps, have been gratifying to him to possess a less repulsive physiognomy; but then it would have required some little exertion on his part, and he could not condescend to it. I say condescend to it, for in his own nature there was nothing agreeable. There was nothing but a mixture of negligence and haughtiness, that betrayed itself in a kind of uneasiness and agitation. His gloomy and half-closed eyes were habitually fixed on the ground, and only cast sharp and rapid glances around. If he smiled or laughed, only the mouth and lower part of the face took part in it, the eyes and forehead remained unmoved; and when he did bring them into play, as I had occasion to observe at a later period, his face only assumed a more grimacing aspect. The alliance there of the serious and the comic had something in it that was hideous and frightful. I have never, for my part, been able to understand how some people pretend to have discovered traces of goodness and mildness in that face. His features, of incontestable plastic beauty, were cold and hard as marble, strangers to all sympathy, and to all cordial emotion. What he said at least to judge by what I have heard over and over again-was almost always insignificant (mesquin) in its nature, as well as in its mode of expression, without wit, without philosophy-utterly valueless. In the world of conversation-in which he had the weakness to wish to be admired-he had worse than no success."
which may not even yet be fully understood. It is not, however, surprising to find the polished representative of the aristocratic salons of Vienna and Berlin, the practised diplomatist who piqued himself upon the restraint placed upon all his motions and attitudes, and his conversational powers of giving to airy nothings a local habitation and a name, underrating the impetuous agitation of the great devastator, with neither time nor inclination for the effeminacies of language or the pedantry of forms. If what Napoleon said was ever "mesquin," it must have been in contempt of those by whom he was surrounded. But the polish of an hereditary aristocracy could not be expected in the representative of Revolution, nor would the manner of a "petit maitre" have precisely tallied with the idea which we form to ourselves of the man who overran Europe.
At the outbreak of the Revolution the Germans were without nationality or patriotism, disinherited of all that constitutes honor and vitality. They had given up the defence of the country to the soldiery, and the labor of negotiations to the diplomatists; they were so thoroughly prostrated by centuries of despotism that they did not care even to think or to interfere in governmental matters, and if the defence was badly managed, or the negotiations turned out disastrous, the public philosophically left the shame and the remorse to their rulers. We now know what long days of humiliation and mourning this state of things cost Germany; we now know how much it costs to nations that permit their vitality to be prostrated and their honor trampled under foot; and even the devastations of a Napoleon might have a beneficial result, could they but awaken the Fatherland to a sense of national honor and integrity, and, binding it in one common brotherhood, render all further Napoleonisms impossible.
Unfortunately at the time in question, just as in our own days, that element of rancor and discord, which has been so fatal to Germany and so favorable to France, which is so much dwelt upon at the time in It is a pity, perhaps, for the repose of the question in the "Correspondences" of Baron world that Napoleon was not equally unsuc- de Stein, as well as in the "Fragments cessful in other spheres, but that is a point Historiques" of Gentz, the "Souvenirs" of which is not so easy to determine, for Prov- Immermann, as well as in those of M. de idence must have had an object in sending a Varnhagen, the old standing antagonism of
the north and south, the irreconcilable antipathy of Protestant and Catholic Germany, was in full operation, and the disasters of Austria on the Rhine or on the Danube were, strange to say, looked upon with the same indifference on the Weser, the Elbe, and the Oder, as in our days were the disasters on the Po. Constitutionalism in Italy may have a wondrous friend in the antagonism of parties in Germany, but France knows best how to avail herself of it.
The sentiment of nationality and of patriotism cannot be extemporized. It was so utterly extinct in Germany at the epoch of the Revolution, that it was at the very time that the existence of Germany was cast into the scale that the passion ran highest for the poetry of Goethe and Schiller, that minds were most occupied with the theories of Kant, Fichte, and Schelling, that the brothers Schlegel were best listened to in their explanations of Shakspeare, Calderon, and Dante, and that people most took refuge in the romances of Jean Paul. Just as we have in our bosom "patriots" who would lull the nation into a supine and ruinous confidence, so at such a crisis the people of one of the petty sovereignties of Germany disavowed the remainder, and declared that they would not take part in the defence of the nation, as the interests of Germany did not concern her in the most remote degree! And so we have seen the same thing repeated in the present day; and thus it is that in every succeeding epoch we see all Central Europe sacrificed to purely dynastic interests.
and became personally acquainted with a host of celebrities, and in his old age he was a master in the art of inditing those memoirs, revelations, and correspondences, which have alike an important biographical and historical interest.
M. de Varnhagen carried the formularies of the salon into his literature. With him history presents nothing but a succession of individualities, who are studied or portrayed without any regard to generalizations. "I have always preferred," Rahel used to say, "reading the human heart than books; it is easier and more convenient." And M. de Varnhagen seems to have adopted, to a certain extent, the opinions of his wife. The interest of his "Memoirs " are entirely of a personal character. His portrait of Metternich is almost as good as that of Napoleon. He had met the great diplomatist in early life when all was fine weather; he met him again at Baden, near Vienna, after the disasters of the great wars, and after he had taken to himself a third wife. "As to his exterior," he relates, "he appeared to me to be changed, but less aged than I had been told. Time, without bending him, had made him very serious; the grace and elegance of early years had become haughtiness and dignity, although now and then a movement of the head would remind one of olden times. What struck me most was the sound of his voice, which, never having had anything remarkable in it, had contracted a drawling, nasal sound, which put all vivacity of conversation out of the question. His features always preserved the impression of that sub
M. de Varnhagen, aristocrat by birth, ed-lime impassibility so much admired by some ucation, manners, and associations, was still and so much criticised by others, and a full too much of a patriot, and his intelligence sense of his own importance, which he used was too much expanded, not to see the ruin- formerly to disguise a little, now openly ous influences that corrupted the country. manifested itself. His eyes, around which His youth-that is to say, from 1785, the time had worn deep furrows, showed, by an epoch of his birth, to 1814, the epoch of his occasional want of expression, the progresmarriage with the famous Rahel-was passed sive failure of the physical faculties." M. in the utmost activity. He was alternately de Metternich was, like some other great soldier, diplomatist, and author; he was al- and little men, very proud of his impassibilways a kind of adjutant-he had been so to ity. 'My imperturbable calm, my invinGeneral Tettenborn in the campaign of cible, immovable stability," he used to say 1814, of which he afterwards penned a his- himself, "have won for me the confidence of tory; he had been so to Prince Hardenberg the whole world." This impassibility, howat the Congress of Vienna, and was just as ever much assumed, and, therefore, conmuch to "his Excellency Marshal Goethe." stantly in danger of breaking down, served He thus participated in a multitude of stir-him well on great occasions. Napoleon ring events, visited the courts of all Europe, seized him by the button-hole on a public
occasion, and apostrophized him in anger: moment. Hence they have an instinctive "Mais enfin, que veut votre empereur ?" abhorrence of what we also designate as a (What does your master really want ?) M. bore, and they look upon the paroxysmal de Metternich, without being in the slight- attempts of a Frenchman to be always witty est degree disconcerted, replied, "What as a kind of gymnastic exercise of the mind, does he want? he wishes you to respect his which must be as fatiguing and exhausting ambassador." Princess Melanie was a Zichy, to the performer as it is to the listener. a family renowned in Vienna for its pride," Ce Molière est de mauvais goût," said one petulance, originality, and exclusiveness. day Marie Antoinette to Louis XVI. "Vous The old Countess of Zichy, mother of the princess, was admitted by the Viennese to have been the most excessive type of this ferocious spirit-"l'esprit des Zichy," as the Viennese termed it. Princess Melanie was no less independent, only she loved to domineer with some grace and seductiveness. But she never could condescend to keep her likes and her dislikes to herself. She so far insulted the ambassador of Louis Philippe, Marshal Maison, that he appealed to the prince. "What would you have me do?" replied the latter. "I did not bring her up." It was thus that the old fox used often, by an offhand, bantering reply, screen himself from unpleasant official explanations.
Viennese society is well known generally for its exclusiveness; it does not travel much, and, as a natural result, abides by its prejudices. But if it dislikes demonstrativeness, so also it is especially regardful of the courtesies of life. It disregards forms, and there is nothing more repulsive to it than not to be at ease or to live for however short a time upon the stilts of pretensions. People who lay store by such pretensions are very soon left by it in the lurch. Among themselves the Viennese aristocrats are alike familiar and offhand, using all kinds of nicknames, and treating one another with the most unconstrained familiarity. This renders it all the more difficult for a stranger to accommodate himself to a kind of freemasonry to which he has not previously been initiated. But once known and accepted, once your particular cast of nose, twist of head, or style of address has become familiar, you get your nickname too, and are admitted for once and forever. This amiable spirit of family coteries is never roughed by conversations on politics, literature, or travels: the Viennese are like the English, they keep the intellectual treasures of their minds in reserve, and cannot be troubled with the exertion of bringing such forward at every
vous trompez, madame," the king replied; "on peut reprocher à Molière d'être quelquefois de mauvais ton, mais il n'est jamais de mauvais goût." Now to be witty in the salons of Vienna is not only considered as bad taste, but also as bad manners—harlequinade or pedantry, according as the centre of gravity carried the auditors in preference on the side of Paris or Berlin.
M. de Varnhagen, speaking of the salons of Madame de Metternich, describes them as Austrian in the haughtiest sense of the word, replete with indolence, free and easy, the conversation that of a coterie, and, above all things, no politics. One day by accident, however, Count Zichy was complaining that he had not yet received a copy of the "Paroles d'un Croyant," which at that epoch had caused a great sensation. "Perchance," observed M. de Varnhagen, "the work is forbidden." "Forbidden?" interrupted M. de Metternich; "certainly and unquestionably so; forbidden in so far as it cannot be publicly announced and sold, but not in any way excluded from that class of readers to whom its perusal can do no harm. The Austrian censorship never forgets the respect due to persons." Prince Metternich then referred to the case of the well-known banker Eskeles, who openly received the National, and he added, with a sly smile, "I even believe that he finds the Parisian paper too moderate for him; but what matter is it to us? we know that he is a good Austrian." Among other sayings reported of the veteran diplomatist, one was to the effect that he detested the tribune, or, as we should say, the bar of the House of Commons, but that for motives which had nothing personal in them. As far as he was concerned, he courted argument and inquiry. He admired the institution of Jesuits, he also declared, as every impartial Protestant ought to do, but he detested Jesuitism as he would the plague. Another favorite sophism was that he was the irreconcilable enemy to liberalism, and
was remarkable for his extravagance. "It is a pity that we must live," Talleyrand is said to have observed," or one might really fall in love with virtue." M. de Gentz, too, might perchance have practised virtue, only that he had to live; he required hotels, and equipages, and he spent no end of money in intrigues and bribery. The ducats of the Wallachian and Moldavian hospodars, princely annuities, and the subsidies of France and England, were alike swallowed up in this tub of the Danaides. He was actually subsidized by M. Cotta, editor of the Gazette Universelle-four thousand florins per annum-for articles which seldom or ever made their appearance? When people had no ready money, he would accept valuable presents. Even snuff-boxes did not come amiss, especially if set with precious stones that he could detach to adorn the shoulders of some favorite sultaness.
yet he gloried in being liberal in the true ply was a shrug of the shoulders, and the sense of the word—that is, we suppose, just observation that M. de Gentz was a mere as much as he liked. M. de Metternich did publicist, and that he never could undernot go as far as Louis XIV., and say, “The | stand anything of diplomacy. M. de Gentz state, that is I," but in all his words and actions he let it be plainly perceived that he considered himself as the sole living and supreme incarnation of Austria. One day, a certain General de Gerzelles was soliciting him for an appointment, as he did not wish to be inactive. The prince suggested cards or dominoes, and that failing, fishing, boating, and shooting. The general, losing patience, said: “And you, prince, what would you do, if you were not in place?" "Oh!" replied the minister, "you admit a case there that is impossible." With a mind formed in the school of Diderot and Marmontel, Metternich had all the petty prejudices, the dissimulation, and pride of official life, weaknesses that men of a more vigorous stamp, as Stein and Blücher, did not fail to reproach him with. When only ambassador, he complained on one occasion to M. de Champagny that the emperor. no longer spoke to him. "It is because," the latter replied, "he has long ago perceived that it was utterly useless to do so, and that you have lost, by dint of lying, all the credit that can be given to an ambassador."
Behind the great man's chair was generally to be seen the intelligent but wily and vicious physiognomy of M. de Gentz, a species of Figaro, always ready for an intrigue or act of political dissimulation. A note of M. de Gentz was once shown to an old man, who, by dint of perusing autographs, declared that he could read a person's character by their writing. "A distinguished person," was the answer, "but with corrupt manners, a pusillanimous heart, bitter and envious." The only relieving point in this strange character was that, although himself aged, he was in his time almost the sole representative of the new spirit in the councils of feudal Austria. "Things no longer go on as they used to do," he would often repeat, and it is madness to fancy that such a struggle against ideas can be indefinitely prolonged. Humanity has its laws, which you altogether ignore; it marches, and you think it is stationary. Take care that one of these fine mornings the torrent does not carry you away, you and your institutions." The arch-chancellor's only re
Fanny Elssler imparted a last charm to M. de Gentz's latter days. Old, dull, faded, he first saw the graceful child when dressed as a genius in the "Arabian Nights Entertainments." She used to come with the torch of Eros in her hand to preside in front of a revolving sun, and an equally classical waterfall, over the nuptials of Harlequin and Columbine! The old man was won by the child; the veteran diplomatist and blasé of the court conquered by a mere girl. Fanny, on her side, is said to have been grateful; for, after all, the old man was M. de Gentz, the counsellor of potentates, and the right hand of ministers.
M. de Gentz was at this time upwards of sixty years of age. He had become painfully sensitive, could not bear loud conversation or laughter, or to be suddenly visited or approached, and he disliked even the countenance of a military man. So he took advantage of the new passion awakened in him to withdraw more and more from the court. The pen, of which the Baron d'Andlaw says, in his Souvenirs, "that it was something as prodigious as the sword of Napoleon, and will never be met with again," was laid aside, and the great diplomatist and publicist settled down into a mere Sybarite.