Chapter 13: Revolution on the horizon

1791 aged 55

7th Jan. "Our farmers, youths and girls, are for the most part nowhere so happy as in company where adventure romances are acted or related. The youth of a higher class receives the same romances to read in print, and all dressed up in covers fit for a wedding, and devour them greedily. And in this way they waste time all their lives. One must often be astounded that often learned men of whom one would have to believe that they possess a good share of knowledge of the world and mankind, yet nourish this addiction in their bosoms. O humanity, when wilt thou learn to follow in the traces of pure, simple Nature!" [Voellmy, v 2 p 104]

Surely the inclination towards strange and wonderful things must be woven into human nature. For most varieties of religion base themselves more on wonderful revelations than on straightforward Nature, and still today every enthusiast, of no matter what brand, finds his hangers-on, and the more extraordinary things he does, the more hangers-on he finds." [Voellmy, v 2 pp 106-107]

9th Jan. "The thirst for knowledge is one of mankind's blessings. Of course one often goes astray thereby, as with other gifts of fortune. Poor country-dwellers like us, in our isolated and rough mountains of the Toggenburg, where a ray of novelty from outside seldom reaches us, must then, admittedly, limit our thirst for knowledge to that which we encounter every day, to the weather, the fertility of our valleys and hills, healthy and unhealthy seasons, and such like.

People are at work to give us a new and improved calendar, to abolish all prophecies, correct days for farm work


, favourable days for bleeding, and the like, and instead to fill up a new calendar with nothing but the precise rules of Nature, moral subjects, and the like. The latter will not sell. Stick with the old things, is the word, and all will go well." [Voellmy, v 2 p 103]

18th - 23rd Jan. "[Written] on a journey"

"Four o'clock in the morning. The elements roar and bellow. And I am in no fit state for walking. Yet in God's name, it must be so. O my creditors - my creditors! How much hardship in travelling, how many sleepless nights you have already caused me! I would not for all the world anger you, nor cheat you, for my life. One would think it impossible. An evil demon seems to stop all ways for me, and cut off all means of escape. But I will keep my word. Now be on your way, weary feet. Though the elements rage and grey snow-clouds and Egyptian darkness surround me, I will yet rouse that honest youth in L[ichtensteig], as I have promised to do. He follows the same course in the same trade as I, but he has more doubloons to trade with than I have pennies, he is a very lively, handsome, well-spoken youth who has not half the burden of my years on his shoulders. He may do something to set my mind in order, drive away my dark and blasphemous thoughts.

(In L.) "Hey, wake up, dear Egli! The clock has already struck four. - Hey, hey!" Ah the fellow's still sleeping like a log - but now he's coming - ah, he is still half asleep, ill-tempered and sulky - he needs me to cheer him up - "Hey, cookmaid, make some coffee to liven Egli up!" I came out fasting - "come on, Herr Egli, get your clothes on, rub the sleep from your eyes - it's dark and dreary outside - but that doesn't matter - once we're outside we'll trit-trot away. By eight o'clock we'll be in Herisau."

So we set out on our way through rain and snow, in dirt and muck. When we came to the mountains we had to wade for some time in snow, and my Egli needed cheering up as much as I. More silent than sociable we came to Herisau, somewhat weary and not at eight but at nearly ten


"Bauernregeln" - a calendar telling farmers the best times for planting, harvesting, etc.