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Talks with Leipzig Scholars

Talks with Leipzig Scholars In the history of British Labour the institution of the wanderschaft by journeymen is hardly known, while in German lands and in France in has been traditional for young craftsmen (gesellen, compagnons) to leave their master and rove a year or two through their country, working for short spells in various towns in order to get familiar with the best methods of their craft. English readers may have learned something about this custom from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, where his Lehrjahre and Wanderjahre are described. The absence of that custom in Britain may be due partly to the I,aw of Settlement, which tied the workman to his parish, and partly to the early decay of handicrafts through the rise of the factory system, which absorbed all available labour and did away with craftsmanship. A good deal of that wanderschaft is woven into the German Lieder and romantic poetry of the first half of the nineteenth century. The gesellen had their jargon, catchwords, passwords, by which they took cognizance of one another. Most towns had Gesellen-herbergen (hostels)> According to custom the gesellen called in the towns upon their respective workshops, gave the particular pass word, and received the viaticum, a few marks for food and lodging, and sometimes also employment. In the summer of 1892, in the course of my wanderschaft,

I lived for a few weeks in Leipzig, the centre of German printing and publishing; but in my search for knowledge I was interested only in two men who lived there, Professor Dr. Wilhelm Roscher, the famous economist, and Dr. Paul Barth, a young University lecturer. The latter had published in 1890 a short, but very stimulating book, Hegel und Marx, which I read at the beginning of 1892 in Remscheid, though it left me, I must confess, dazzled rather than enlightened.