Then Why Aren’t There Slovaks Everywhere?

Thanks be to Project Gutenberg, I’m reading this charming little guide to Austria (really, the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire from Aš to Braşov, which isn’t just the cute little Austria we now know all snuggly in mitteleuropa) — Austria; Containing a Description of the Manners, Customs, Character and Costumes of the People of That Empire by one Frederick Schoberl, published in 1828. It’s a charming little book, filled with the certainties of the educated Englishman (or Anglicized German, as Schoberl likely is), for whom the Magyar and the Wend are as much foreign and exotic people — and separate “races” of human beings — as were the Zulu, the Bengali and the Mongol.

Case in point, this little bit from his brief overview chapter early in the book. On Slovaks, which he spells (following, I think, the Polish, but I’m probably mistaken there) “Slowack,” which sounds like the kind of thing that might happen at a baseball game on a particularly hot afternoon. He is praising either their fecundity, or their pushiness, or quite possibly both. And it makes me wonder — why aren’t there more Slovaks?

The Slowacks, the relics of the Moravian monarchy, which comprehended Moravia and the north-western part of Hungary, are nearly confined to those two countries. There are nevertheless some of them in Bohemia. To those people particularly applies the observation of Schwartner, who remarks, that of all the inhabitants of Hungary the Slowacks multiply fastest. Wherever they settle, the Germans and Magyares gradually disappear. Thus in the 14th century the mountainous part of the county of Gömör was entirely inhabited by Germans, whereas at present the population consists exclusively of Slowacks.

I suspect many Slovaks wonder this as well (and probably dispute Schoberl’s and Schwartner’s assertion, given how persistent German settlement was and what a problem that would be in the 20th century). But Schoberl didn’t live in that world. He lived in that era between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Revolutions of 1848, of which I know little about save that lots of educated Englishmen and women traveled the continent, staying and studying in Germany and Italy and elsewhere, and then wrote a ghastly number of books about it all. Schoberl might not have even lived to see 1848. I don’t know.

The Schwartner in question might be this man, Marton Schwartner, a Magyar academic from the 18th century. No, I do not read Magyar, and the Google translation of the Magyar is a mess. He was a teacher, a protestant, wrote some books (including one excellent statistical volume on the Kingdom of Hungary) and left his personal library of some 12,000 volumes to a high school somewhere. Probably in Magyarország. Or quite possibly Slovakia.

Sorry, “Slowackia.” You’re out!

Progressives, Behold Your Forebears!

Gosh, but it’s been too long since I’ve posted here.

I have been downloading and reading books from Project Gutenberg. It’s a wonderful site, and you should explore what they have. Mostly old books, and some of them are gems (I’m currently reading Samuel Johnson’s rendering of The Illiad.). It’s how we’re keeping Jennifer in reading material right now. I download books and then put them on her Kindle for her. And she reads 40 or so in the span of about three weeks.

Me? I don’t read so fast. Today, however, I found this little book from 1899, Chicago, Satan’s Sanctum, by one L. O. Curon. The book doesn’t say who he is, but if I have to guess, I’d say he’s a Methodist or Presbyterian minister. And he spends the book railing against all sorts of things. Mostly, he is convinced that the City of Chicago is one giant den of iniquity, vice and corruption. I’ve not gotten to Curon’s conclusion, but if I had to guess, I would think he is in favor of the civil service act, good government, women’s suffrage, regular church attendance, prohibition, social and moral uplift, honesty, decency and good Christian living. I think he’s in favor of those things. So far, he’s more against than for.

Because it’s clear what he’s against: drunkenness, prostitution, bars open after midnight, houses of ill repute, gambling, dishonest policing (he spends a whole chapter, and a not so interesting one, on the corruption of the Chicago Police Department), dancing, street life, lesbianism, cockfighting (described as “the national pastime of the Filipinos”), and that constant threat to proper Christian life in America, negro music:

Strolling bands of negro musicians, scraping the violin and strumming the guitar and mandolin, or the home orchestra, composed of these dusky minstrels, add their alleged harmonies to the occasion, and, with nasal expression, roll of coon songs in the popular rag time, with their intimations of free love, warmth of passion and disregard of moral teachings. At times, with assumed pathos and mock dignity they warble a sentimental song with some allusion to “Mother,” “Home,” or “Just Tell Them That You Saw Me.” The spree goes on, with fresh additions from the bagnios. Women with the most repulsive signs of prolonged dissipation, of advanced disease, with the upper parts of the body exposed, not perhaps more than is customary at a fashionable charity ball, join in with salacious abandon.

(Perhaps Curon would have felt differently about “alleged harmonies” had they been singing “Nearer My God to Thee” accompanied by a harmonium in a church somewhere…)

My guess is Curon is probably opposed to race mixing, too. And if he’s the late-19th/early 20th century pastor I full expect him to be, he’s probably a progressive, in the way Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were progressives, believers in clean government, social uplift, labor laws, imperialism, and eugenics. Yes, liberals and progressives, these are your forebears. You may not have a problem with the “scraping of the violin and the strumming of the guitar and mandolin” by “strolling bands of negro musicians,” but this kind of prissy nonsense — that sought the eradication of anything remotely interesting in city life, and instead its replacement with “alleged” small town virtue (later combined with scientific management concocted at leading universities) — is part and parcel of the striving for a state-centered society in America.