From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 2, pages 85-90


other things, which would be amassed by collectors and dilittantes. From time to time he invited people of rank to lunch and he was particularly involved in acts of charity. He provided the poor with clothing in his own home, taking in return their old rags. He also gave them a weekly financial contribution under the condition that each week they present themselves to him cleanly and properly dressed in the donated clothing. I have only a vague recollection of him as a friendly and well-educated man but I clearly remember his auction, to which I contributed portions of my wardrobe from start to finish partly at my father's behest and partly for my own reasons.

Even earlier, and I can scarcely picture him now, Johann Michael von Loen had a good reputation in the literary world as well as in Frankfurt. He was not born in Frankfurt but had settled here. He married the sister of my grandmother Textor, a native of Lindheim. He was well known in court and state circles and with a renewed noble title he gained the credentials and the courage to mix in various levels of church and state. He was the author of the "Count from Rivera," a didactic novel with content discernible through its subtitle, "or, the honorable man at court." * This work was well-received because it demanded morality from the courts rather than mere jurisprudence. His work brought him much acclaim and financial reward. A second work became more dangerous for him. He wrote "The One True Religion," a book aimed at tolerance especially between Lutherans and Calvinists.


With this work he came into contention with the theologians, especially Dr. Benner in Giessen, who wrote against him. Von Loen responded and the dispute became heated and personal. As a result of these unpleasantries the author accepted the position of President at Lingen. The post was offered to him by Friedrich II, who believed he had found an enlightened man free of prejudice and inclined to make even further innovations than those adopted in France. His fellow citizens, vexed by his departure, maintained that he would not be happy there. How could he be happy when a place such as Lingen could never compare with Frankfurt. My father had his doubts about the president's conduct. He asserted that it would have been better for my uncle not to align himself with the King. It could be dangerous to get too close to him no matter how extraordinary a gentleman he might be. People had seen how shamefully the celebrated Voltaire was treated. By warrant from the Prussian Diet he was arrested in Frankfurt even after having stood in favor as the King's tutor in French poetry. There were more stories and examples giving warning against service to the court and the aristocracy than the native of Frankfurt could imagine. *

I think here of an excellent man, Dr. Orth, and I mention him not so much to remind the people of Frankfurt but because his profession and his character had direct influence on my early life. Dr. Orth was a rich man and he was among those who had never


gone into the government even though his knowledge and insight would have qualified him to do so. The Germans and especially the Frankfurt residents of old owe him much. He wrote the annotations for the so-called "Frankfurt Reformation," a work upon which the royal city's statutes are established. I diligently studied the history chapters in my youth.

Von Ochsenstein, the eldest of the three brothers whom I mentioned were neighbors, lived a solitary and unremarkable life however in his own way he became remarkable in death. He left an order that his corpse was to be carried to the graveyard by tradesmen early in the morning without entourage or ceremony. * This was done and it created quite a stir in a city accustomed to elaborate funeral processions. All those, who gained a hefty profit from such occasions, were in an uproar against this new arrangement. However the brave patrician found imitators in every class, and although people scornfully called this procedure an Ochsen [or oxen] burial, the practice became the best option for less financially secure families and the elaborate funeral procession forever became a thing of the past. I mention this fact because it exemplifies one of the early symptoms for the sentiments of humility and social equality, which manifested in so many ways from the upper castes down in the second half of the 18th Century and forged so many unexpected consequences.

There was no lack of amateur students of antiquity. There were cabinets for paintings and collections of engravings. Curiosities of the old fatherland were zealously sought out and prized. The ancient orders


and mandates of the Imperial city had never been assembled into one collection. Printed and hand-written copies were carefully sought after, ordered by date and respectfully preserved as treasures of the fatherland's legal heritage. Even the portraits of Frankfurt citizens, great in number, were brought together and placed under the auspices of a ministerial department.

My father seemed to have taken these men for role models. He certainly didn't lack any of the accoutrements of a proper and distinguished citizen. Once he built his house he put all his possessions in order. An excellent collection of maps from Schenk and other fine papers on geography, examples of old orders and mandates as mentioned earlier, portraits, a chest full of old weapons, another chest filled with marvelous Venetian glassware, goblets and loving cups, natural history specimens, ivory pieces, bronzes and a hundred other things were sorted and displayed. Whenever there was an auction I never failed to contribute a few pieces to the collection.

I think of yet another family, which seemed quite exceptional to me in my youth. I witnessed marvelous things from certain members in particular of the Senckenberg family. The father, of whom I know little, was a wealthy man. He had three sons, who even as youngsters were marked as odd. Their kind would never be well received in a small city where no one should stand out as good or evil. Weird names and odd people elicit memories


of old fairytales as the fruit of such peculiarities. The father lived on the corner of the Hasengasse [the Hare Street.] It was the sign on the house, which gave the street its name. It represented one if not three hares. People called the three brothers the three hares and it was a long time before they could escape the joking nicknames. As is so often the case in youth, special distinction leads to wondrous and unexpected events in later life and this is what happened here. The eldest became the famous Imperial Counsel von Senckenberg. The second brother became a member of the municipal council and he showed remarkable talent, however he used it in such a pettifogging and devious manner that, if not to the harm of the citizens of his father city, it caused damage to many of his colleagues. The third brother, a physician and man of great integrity, practiced medicine in only a few of the most noble houses and until his old age he had a rather remarkable appearance. He was always well dressed and people never saw him on the streets without shoes and stockings and a well-powdered curly-haired wig. He carried his hat under his arm. He walked quickly in a faltering gait going from one side of the street to the other creating a zigzag pattern. Jokesters said he walked this irregular pattern to avoid departed souls, who might wish to pursue him and he imitated those who were afraid of crocodiles. In the end all their jokes and puns turned to respect for him when he turned his beautiful house on the Eschenheimergasse with courtyard, garden and all furnishings into a medical facility. Next to it he built a hospital specifically for the citizens of Frankfurt,


which included a botanical garden, an anatomical theater, a chemistry laboratory, a fine library and a residence for the director. In its own way it was a facility any academy would have been proud to have. *

Karl Friedrich von Moser was another excellent man whose work in the neighborhood and writings had a more profound influence on me than his personality. He was often mentioned because of his business dealings in our district. He possessed a basically moral character and because the flaws in human nature gave him so much to do he became a member of the Pietist movement. Just as von Loen had reformed court life he wished to bring ethical practices to the world of business. The large number of small German estates represented the two social classes of masters and servants, the former requiring unconditional obedience and the latter working and performing services only to the extent of their convictions. An eternal conflict developed quickly and explosively because changes in operations of smaller scale are more noticeable and decisive than those on larger enterprises. Many houses fell into debt and an Imperial Debt Commission was appointed. Sooner or later others found themselves in the same circumstance as workers either unconsciously took advantage of the situation or conscientously made themselves disagreeable and contentious. Moser wanted to be a statesman and businessman and here his innate talent found its outlet. However he also wanted to conduct business in a humanistic and civic manner and trade off as little of his moral values as possible. His "Master and Servant,"


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Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks