By Arianne Baggerman
A diary saved by way of a boy within the 1790s offers the root for a breathtaking view of the Age of Enlightenment and democratic revolution in Europe, highlighting the emergence of recent principles on schooling, nature, time, house, faith and politics.
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Extra resources for Child of the Enlightenment: Revolutionary Europe Reflected in a Boyhood Diary
Having been expelled from paradise and finding themselves at the mercy of a much larger and more complex world, they are usually left with a strange sensation of vaguely recollected pain, forgotten joy, and nostalgia for what is no longer theirs. When Otto was growing up, the first experiments in arousing this feeling of nostalgia were being carried out, and it is no coincidence that attempts were being made to evoke a childhood idyll for adults by means of subtly composed gardens containing reflecting ponds, meandering brooks, hidden huts, Chinese pagodas, poplar-fringed isles of the dead, picturesque farmhouses, Swiss bridges and waterfalls.
The new director, Guillaume Daubenton, was in the process of adding volumes to a mammoth reference work begun by his predecessor, the Histoire naturelle, which Lambert had on his bookshelves at home. On 11 June, Van Eck visited the school for the blind, the first of its kind in Europe. Educating the blind was one of the spearheads of the Enlightenment, because it proved that even children with a serious handicap – who had previously been doomed to beggary – could find their rightful place in society.
In the afternoon there was always a cup of tea, but even then, they went on playing as usual: ‘during tea I fired Papa’s gun’. Otto’s diary contains similar descriptions of wondrous catches of fish and fowl, walks and ramblings, meetings with tenant farmers, adventurous games involving climbing and jumping, and dreamy afternoons spent lying in the grass. If he had had the chance to outgrow this land of milk and honey, he would probably have been overcome by the same melancholy that seized Maurits, who picked up his 1802 diary nearly 42 prologue Fig.