Chapter 12: Further journeys and conversations

1790 aged 54

1st Jan. Bräker prefaces his diary with the words "To the public", first thanking them for their kind reception of his autobiography (a very favourable review had been published in the "Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek" [General German Library] vol.92, part 1, 1790, in which the reviewer said that he could not put it down till he had read it to the end, "so attractive to him were these scenes of simple nature and humble domestic life, described with so much simplicity, so much genuine unstudied wit,... made to interest both head and heart".) He promises them another volume dating from his past, also that his diary for the previous year will be published in due course. The Chronik [p 360] confirms that Füssli was preparing to publish selections from Bräker's diaries from 1770-1782. Bräker asks the public to buy his books and he will always be grateful to them, admitting frankly that he needs the money: "... So, my dear readers, give the Poor Man of Tockenburg his bread in exchange for the product of his brain."

2nd Jan. "Everywhere a horrifying swarm of beggars, there has never been such a crowd of them. It is just the consequence of a time of high prices and no wages, or, if you prefer, the consequence of frivolity and bad housekeeping, I think it is both at once. ...

Last week I saw the place in St. Gallen where they were giving out the dole


to several thousand at once. There were certainly apprentices and farm-servants and maids among them. They were all shut up in three alms-houses, to prevent disorder. I was told that in only one of them, the largest, there were fifteen hundred of them. I never saw such a spectacle in my life. So with many others I peeped in at the barred windows. What a motley mob they were! So crowded and pressed together that many could hardly get their breath. And drops of sweat - what a steam, what a stench of beggars steamed out of the gratings to one's nose, so that any tender young gentleman might have died of sticking his nose in there. There was a great exchange of boxes on the ear and cracks of the whip, for each one wanted to be the first and nearest to the bars, to be let out the first. Then many were seen to come out with torn hair and bloody noses. A well-dressed apprentice came out with them, streaming with sweat and nearly breathless. He looked at the eighteen kreutzer in his hand and said: "Devil take these eighteen kreutzer! For that much I'll never go into such a prison again, never in my life! I had to sweat with fear for two hours, and got such a stink in my nose and caught devil knows what vermin besides".

As far as I could see, sums of 15, 18, 24 to 30 kreutzer were being given out, which may have made a total of nearly 3000 guilders. That would have gladdened a poor honest farmer and to this ragamuffin tribe it was of little use. For most of them it would have made a happy afternoon and no more. I would wager that by evening half of them had not a halfpenny left. I myself saw that evening some of that ragged crew who were raving drunk and could hardly stand upright. Indeed, some of them may have made good use of it, and to them I wished the whole sum, the rest to do penance in dust and ashes." [Voellmy, v 3 pp 179-180]

3rd Jan. "St. Gallen lies between the Alte Landschaft [Old Estate] and the Appenzell country, near also to the Rhine valley and Thurgau, where beggars are tolerated everywhere, and has many poor people of its own. No wonder that on such a day and in such a place, where alms are being publicly distributed, the congregation of poor people must be great. And when so many come from all quarters, people not known here, the undeserving and the genuinely needy are not easily distinguished. From Appenzell Inner Rhoden I heard said, in jest, that all the inhabitants including the Landammann had come and taken alms. No wonder that such a rabble of beggars made an example of the brave Landammann Suter


by way of murdering him. (I can never read his story or hear people tell of it, that my blood does not boil, so that I would wish to go after that nest of


This was probably a charitable dole from the Prince-Abbot. [Chronik, p 360]


Bräker regarded Suter's death as murder because he was unjustly accused (see entry for 18th March 1784), but it was not beggars but members of the aristocracy who had him killed.