페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

II.

NUREMBERG.

NUREMBERG—with (its long, narrow, winding, involved streets, its precipitous ascents and descents, its completely gothic physiognomy-is by far the strangest old city I ever beheld; it has retained in every part the aspect of the middle ages. No two houses resemble each other; yet, differing in form, in colour, in height, in ornament, all have a family likeness; and with their peaked and carved gabels, and projecting central balconies, and painted fronts, stand up in a row, like so many tall, gaunt, stately old maids, with the toques and stomachers of the last century. In the upper part of the town, we find here and there a new house, built, or rebuilt, in a more modern fashion; and even a gay modern theatre, and an unfinished modern church; but these,

instead of being embellishments, look ill-favoured and mean, like patches of new cloth on a rich old brocade. Age is here, but it does not suggest the idea of dilapidation or decay, rather of something which has been put under a glass-case, and preserved with care from all extraneous influences. The buildings are so ancient, the fashions of society so antiquated, the people so penetrated with veneration for themselves and their city, that in the few days I spent there, I began to feel quite old too-my mind was wrinkled up, as it were, with a reverence for the past.

I wondered that people condescended to talk of any event more recent than the thirty years' war, and the defence of Gustavus Adolphus ;* and all names of modern date, even of greatest mark, were forgotten in the fame of Albert Durer, Han Sachs, and Peter Vischer: the trio of worthies, which, in the estimation or imagination of the Nurembergers, still live with the freshness of a yesterday's remembrance, and leave no room for the heroes of to-day. My enthusiasm for Albert Durer was already prepared, and warm as

* When the city was besieged by Wallenstein in 1632.

even the Nurembergers could desire; but I confess, that of that renowned cobbler and meistersinger, Hans Sachs, I knew little but what I had learnt from the pretty comedy bearing his name, which I had seen at Manheim; and of the illustrious Peter Vischer I could only remember that I had seen, in the academy at Munich, certain casts from his figures, which had particularly struck me.

Yet to visit Nuremberg without some previous knowledge of these luminaries of the middle ages, is to lose much of that pleasure of association, without which the eye wearies of the singular, and the mind becomes satiated with change.

Nuremberg was the gothic Athens: it was never the seat of government, but as a free imperial city it was independent and self-governed, and took the lead in arts and in literature. Here it was that clocks and watches, maps and musical instruments, were manufactured for all Germany; here, in that truly German spirit of pedantry and simplicity, were music, painting, and poetry, at once honoured as sciences, and cultivated as handicrafts, each having its guild, or corporation, duly chartered, like the other trades of this flourishing city, and requiring, by the institution of the magistracy, a regular apprenticeship. It was here that, on the first discovery of printing, a literary barber and meister-singer (Hans Foltz) set up a printing-press in his own house; and it was but the natural consequence of all this industry, mental activity, and social cultivation, that Nuremberg should have been one of the first cities which declared for the Reformation.

But what is most curious and striking in this old city, is to see it stationary, while time and change are working such miracles and transformations everywhere else. The house where Martin Behaim, four centuries ago, invented the sphere, and drew the first geographical chart, is still the house of a map-seller. In the house where cards were first manufactured, cards are now sold. In the very shops where clocks and watches were first seen, you may still buy clocks and watches. The same families have inhabited the same mansions from one generation to another for four or five centuries. The great manufactories of those toys, commonly called Dutch toys, are at Nuremberg. I visited the wholesale depôt of Pestelmayer, and it is true that it would cut a poor

figure compared to some of our great Birmingham show-rooms; but the enormous scale on which this commerce is conducted, the hundreds of waggon-loads and ship-loads of these trifles and gimcracks, which find their way to every part of the known world, even to America and China, must interest a thinking mind. Nothing gave me a more comprehensive idea of the value of the whole, than a complaint which I heard from a Nuremberger, (and which, though seriously made, sounded not a little ludicrous,) of the falling off in the trade of pill-boxes! he said that since the fashionable people of London and Paris had taken to paper pill-boxes, the millions of wooden or chip boxes which used to be annually sent from Nuremberg to all parts of Europe were no longer required; and he computed the consequent falling off of the profits at many thousand florins.

Nuremberg was rendered so agreeable to me by the kindness and hospitality I met with, that instead of merely passing through it, I spent some days wandering about its precincts; and as it is not very frequently visited by the English, I shall note a few of the objects which have dwelt

« 이전계속 »