Life and Times of Stein: Or, Germany and Prussia in the Napoleonic Age - Vol. 1

By Sir J. R. Seeley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I.
STEIN'S EARLY YEARS.

NOTHING is so well known to English tourists as the ruined castles that are scattered over the banks of the Rhine where those banks are most mountainous and picturesque. Of the former owners of these castles, most of us are content to believe that they were the robber-knights whose adventures have furnished so much material to romancers, and have given almost all of us amusement in Anne of Geierstein, if not in Götz von Berlichingen. Whether those knights left any descendants behind them who still own the ruins of the castles in which they passed their warlike lives, and if so what is the position of their descendants in our modern society, and what part they have played in German history since the misrule of the Middle Ages came to an end, are inquiries which the tourist has commonly neither time to enter upon, nor means to prosecute.

One of these ruined castles, not precisely on the Rhine but on the Lahn which runs into the Rhine just above Coblenz, is called the Burg Stein, and was inhabited by the ancestors of the statesman whose life I am about to write. In this instance at least that turbulent knighthood produced a descendant to whom, as these pages will show, Germany owes a debt which she has acknowledged but tardily, and Europe one which has been left unacknowledged.

The scenery of the river Lahn is very like that of the Rhine. Its banks are as lofty and as richly clothed with wood, and the hills confine the stream as closely. The railway from Coblenz after entering the valley brings you first to the Baths of Ems, so well known to tourists, and since July, 1870, so well known to history. After Ems, the next notable station is Nassau. This is now a very quiet country town, with a Water-cure Establishment, and besides that only one conspicuous building. A hand

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