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The Childhood and Youth of a Prussian Nobleman in the Late 18th Century. From the Memoirs of Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz (Retrospective Account)

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Education (1785-1790)

My tutor, Mr. Rosa, was a virtuous man, a lover of order, who did not find any fault with me and taught his lessons diligently. Other than that he was an ignoramus, however, from whom one could learn nothing by today’s standards. He taught me Latin by having me learn the declinations and conjugations by heart and later gave me Gediken’s text book (a novelty at the time) for translation, and I had to find the vocabulary myself. [ . . . ] Once we had finished with Gediken, we started on Eutrup’s text book. Six years went by, I entered the regiment, and things came to an end. [ . . . ]

I learned religion, history, and geography from him together with my sisters. For religion, he had us read the Bible, the New Testament, the psalms, Solomon’s proverbs, Jesus Sirach, and the historical books one by one. He explained it quite well and this was the only lesson where he really contributed something himself. I owe my good knowledge of the Bible and my preparation for solid religious instruction to him. – In history, he read Schröck’s general world history to us and when he had finished, that was after about a year, he started over again. We were supposed to write down what we had heard, but it was impossible to put to paper everything that had been read for an hour almost every day from a work that was so dense already. On Saturdays he did repetitions so we had to recount. [ . . . ] What I gained from this was the ability to speak freely and coherently and I knew the course of world history by heart. [ . . . ]

When I was about eleven my father engaged a teacher of mathematics for me. His name was Lange and he was a friend of my tutor who knew only a little more than he did. His mathematics was limited to drawing plans, drawing geometric figures, and calculating their contents, without any argument and that was it! He also lectured me in fortification and architecture. He first taught me the names and context of all fortification structures according to all known systems, and I learned to draw them. Why and for what purpose they were built in this way, though, was never explained. I was supposed to study architecture so that I wouldn’t be cheated on agricultural construction in the future. Mr. Lange, however, dictated a kind of academic treatise on architecture to me through which I learned to draw floor plans, vertical sections and profiles of buildings as well as all about Roman mortar and the classification of columns. Of the things I was supposed to learn, such as understanding an estimate, construction, or the bearing capacity of different woods, I heard nothing. This and reaching the age of thirteen ended my education, for I now entered military service. [ . . . ]

We also had a dance instructor and since I was not too clumsy I subsequently became a good dancer. – I was not strong enough yet for the fencing lessons that I received since I was about twelve; [ . . . ]

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