A GENIUS AT ‘SCHOOL’
Another fragment of his early education Goethe describes in words that must be quoted in order to do justice to the strength of the impression made on the little boy’s mind—
“In the house, my gaze was chiefly attracted by a row of Roman views with which my father had decorated an ante-room. Here I daily saw the Piazza del Popolo, the Colosseum, the Piazza of St Peter’s, St Peter’s, exterior and interior, the Castle of St Angelo, and much else. These pictures made a deep impression on me, and my father, otherwise a very laconic man, was often pleased to volunteer descriptions of the subjects. His love for the Italian language, and for everything concerning that land, was very outspoken. He often showed us a little collection of marbles and natural objects which he had brought away with him, and he spent a great part of his time in writing up a diary of his travels.”
Here we get a hint as to what may be done for a child by the pictures we surround him with. This row of engravings and his father’s talk about them gave Goethe practically a second fatherland. The
speech of Italy, the sun of Italy, the past of Italy, became a home for his thoughts; and we know how profoundly his late long sojourn in Italy affected his style as a poet—for good or ill.
Our first idea is that all we can do for children is to give them a correct feeling for art; to surround them, for example, with the open spaces and simple, monumental figures we get in Millet’s pictures: we cannot do better, but we can do more. Some, at any rate, of our pictures should be like the little windows, showing a landscape beyond, which the Umbrian Masters loved to introduce. That is just what the children want, an outlook. Every reminiscence of travel in the way of post-card or photograph will almost certainly bring about some preoccupation of a child’s mind with the country his parents have seen and known; and will, as certainly, end in the child’s seeking these same places when he becomes a man, not so much because his parents have been there, as because his own childish imagination has been there, and because, there, he has furnished a home for his thoughts.