And there is another deeper thing to be remarked: the notion of "teaching" religion, in the way of drill-exercise; which is a very strange notion, though a common one, and not peculiar to Noltenius and Friedrich Wilhelm. Piety to God, the nobleness that inspires a human soul to struggle Heavenward, cannot be "taught" by the most exquisite catechisms,or the most industrious preachings and drillings. No; alas, no. Only by far other methods,--chiefly by silent continual Example, silently waiting for the favorable mood and moment, and aided then by a kind of miracle, well enough named "the grace of God,"--can that sacred contagion pass from soul into soul. How much beyond whole Libraries of orthodox Theology is, sometimes, the mute action, the unconscious look of a father, of a mother, who HAD in them "Devoutness, pious Nobleness"! In whom the young soul, not unobservant, though not consciously observing, came at length to recognize it; to read it, in this irrefragable manner: a seed planted thenceforth in the centre of his holiest affections forevermore!
Noltenius wore black serge; kept the corners of his mouth well down; and had written a Catechism of repute; but I know not that Noltenius carried much seed of living piety about with him; much affection from, or for, young Fritz he could not well carry. On the whole, it is a bad outlook on the religious side; and except in Apprenticeship to the rugged and as yet repulsive Honesties of Friedrich Wilhelm, I see no good element in it. Bayle-Calvin, with Noltenius and Catechisms of repute: there is no "religion" to be had for a little Fritz out of all that. Endless Doubt will be provided for him out of all that, probably disbelief of all that;--and, on the whole, if any form at all, a very scraggy form of moral existence; from which the Highest shall be hopelessly absent; and in which anything High, anything not Low and Lying, will have double merit.
It is indeed amazing what quantities and kinds of extinct ideas apply for belief, sometimes in a menacing manner, to the poor mind of man, and poor mind of child, in these days. They come bullying in upon him, in masses, as if they were quite living ideas; ideas of a dreadfully indispensable nature, the evident counterpart, and salutary interpretation, of Facts round him, which, it is promised the poor young creature, he SHALL recognize to correspond with them, one day. At which "correspondence," when the Facts are once well recognized, he has at last to ask himself with amazement, "Did I ever recognize it, then?" Whereby come results incalculable; not good results any of them;--some of them unspeakably bad! The ease of Crown-Prince Friedrich in Berlin is not singular; all cities and places can still show the like. And when it will end, is not yet clear. But that it ever should have begun, will one day be the astonishment. As if the divinest function of a human being were not even that of believing; of discriminating, with his God-given intellect, what is from what is not; and as if the point were, to render that either an impossible function, or else what we must sorrowfully call a revolutionary, rebellious and mutinous one. O Noltenius, O Panzendorf, do for pity's sake take away your Catechetical ware; and say either nothing to the poor young Boy, or some small thing he will find to be BEYOND doubt when he can judge of it! Fever, pestilence, are bad for the body; but Doubt, impious mutiny, doubly impious hypocrisy, are these nothing for the mind? Who would go about inculcating Doubt, unless he were far astray indeed, and much at a loss for employment!
But the sorest fact in Friedrich's schooling, the forest, for the present, though it ultimately proved perhaps the most beneficent one, being well dealt with by the young soul, and nobly subdued to his higher uses, remains still to be set forth. Which will be a long business, first and last!
CROWN-PRINCE FALLS INTO DISFAVOR WITH PAPA.
Those vivacities of young Fritz, his taste for music, finery, those furtive excursions into the domain of Latin and forbidden things, were distasteful and incomprehensible to Friedrich Wilhelm: Where can such things end? They begin in disobedience and intolerable perversity; they will be the ruin of Prussia and of Fritz!--Here, in fact, has a great sorrow risen. We perceive the first small cracks of incurable divisions in the royal household; the breaking out of fountains of bitterness, which by and by spread wide enough. A young sprightly, capricions and vivacious Boy, inclined to self-will, had it been permitted; developing himself into foreign tastes, into French airs and ways; very ill seen by the heavy-footed practical Germanic Majesty.
The beginnings of this sad discrepancy are traceable from Friedrich's sixth or seventh year: "Not so dirty, Boy!" And there could be no lack of growth in the mutual ill-humor, while the Boy himself continued growing; enlarging in bulk and in activity of his own. Plenty of new children come, to divide our regard withal, and more are coming; five new Princesses, wise little Ulrique the youngest of them (named of Sweden and the happy Swedish Treaty), whom we love much for her grave staid ways. Nay, next after Ulrique comes even a new Prince; August Wilhelm, ten years younger than Friedrich; and is growing up much more according to the paternal heart. Pretty children, all of them, more or less; and towardly, and comfortable to a Father;--and the worst of them a paragon of beauty, in comparison to perverse, clandestine, disobedient Fritz, with his French fopperies, flutings, and cockatoo fashions of hair!--
And so the silent divulsion, silent on Fritz's part, exploding loud enough now and then on his Father's part, goes steadily on, splitting ever wider; new offences ever superadding themselves. Till, at last, the rugged Father has grown to hate the son; and longs, with sorrowful indignation, that it were possible to make August Wilhelm Crown-Prince in his stead. This Fritz ought to fashion himself according to his Father's pattern, a well-meant honest pattern; and he does not! Alas, your Majesty, it cannot be. It is the new generation come; which cannot live quite as the old one did. A perennial controversy in human life; coeval with the genealogies of men. This little Boy should have been the excellent paternal Majesty's exact counterpart; resembling him at all points, "as a little sixpence does a big half-crown:" but we perceive he cannot. This is a new coin, with a stamp of its own. A surprising FRIEDRICH D'OR this; and may prove a good piece yet; but will never be the half-crown your Majesty requires!--