vol II date / index
S[t]. Ceolfrid, Abbot, A. D. 716. St. Barr, or Finbarr, first Bp. of Cork, 6th Cent. St. Firmin, Bp. of Amiens, 3d Cent. St. Aunaire, Bp. of Auxerre, A. D. 605
A late distinguished senator said in parliament, "man is born to labour as the sparks fly upwards." This observation is founded on a thorough knowledge of the destiny from which none can escape. The idle are always unhappy, nor can even mental vigour be preserved without bodily exercise. Neither he who has attained to inordinate wealth, nor he who has reached the greatest heights of human intellect is exempt from the decree, that every man must "work for his living." If the "gentleman" does not work to maintain his family, he must work to maintain his life; hence he walks, rides, hunts, shoots, and travels, and occupies his limbs as well as his mind; hence noblemen amuse themselves at the turning lathe, and the workman's bench, or become mail coachmen, or "cutter-lads:" and hence sovereigns sometimes "play at being workmen," or, what is worse, at the "game" of war.
Without exercise the body becomes enfeebled, and the mind loses its tension. Corporeal inactivity cannot be persisted in even with the aid of medicine, without symptoms of an asthenic state. From this deliquium the patient must be relieved in spite of his perverseness, or he becomes a maniac or a corpse. Partial remedies render him "a nervous man;" his only effectual relief is bodily exercise.
Exercise in the open air is indispensable, and many who walk in the wide and rapidly extending wilderness of the metropolis have sufficient; but, to some, the exercise of walking is not enough for carrying on the business of life; while others, whose avocations are sedentary, scarcely come under the denomination of sesquipedalians. These resort to stretching out the arms, kicking, hopping, what they call "jumping," running up and down a pair of stairs, sparring, or playing with the dumb bells: these substitutes may assist, but, alone, they are inadequate to the preservation of health.
Some years ago a work on gymnastics, by Salzmann, was translated from the German into English. Its precepts were unaided by example; it produced a sensation, people talked about it at the time, and agreed that the bodily exercises it prescribed were good, but nobody took them, and gymnastics, though frequently thought upon, have not until lately been practised. In the first sheet of the Every-Day Book public attention was called to this subject, and since them [sic] Mr. Voelker, a native of Germany, has opened a gymnasium at No. 1, Union-place, in the New-road, near the Regent's-park; and another at Mr. Fontaine's riding-school, Worship-street, Finsbury-square. The editor of this work has visited Mr. Voelker's gymnasium in the New-road; and with a view to public benefit, and because they will operate a new feature in manners, he promulgates the information that such institutions are established.
Mr. Voelker's prospectus of his establishment is judicious. He contends that while education has been exclusively directed to the developement [sic] of the mental faculties, the bodily powers have been entirely neglected. "The intimate connection between mind and body has not been sufficiently considered; for who does not know, from his own experience, that the mind uniformly participates in the condition of the body; that it is cheerful, when the body is strong and healthy; and depressed, when the body is languid and unhealthy?"
Mr. Voelker refers to Xenophon, and to the great promoters of education in modern times, namely, Locke, Rousseau, Campe, Basedow, Pestalozzi, and Fellenberg, as authorities for the use of gymnastics; but he says it was reserved for professor Jahn to be the restorer of this long-lost art. In 1810, he established a gymnasium at Berlin; and the number of his pupils, consisting of boys, youth and men, soon increased to several thousands. His ardent zeal and indefatigable exertion, and his powerful and persuasive appeals to his pupils, had such an effect, that all vied with each other in endeavouring to render their bodies strong and active. But the rising of the German people, in 1813, suddenly changed the cheerful game into a serious combat. Professor Jahn, and such of his pupils as were capable of bearing arms, (many of these being but fourteen years of age,) joined the volunteers of Lutzen. But few lived to revisit the place, where they had prepared themselves for enduring the hardships of war. Most of these young heroes covered the fields of battle with their corpses from the gates of Berlin to the capital of their enemies. The exercises, however, were resumed at Berlin, and had spread through several other towns, when the campaign of 1815 caused a new, but short interruption.
"As a pupil of Jahn's," says Mr. Voelker, "I also had the honour of serving among the volunteers. The campaign being finished, I returned to my studies: and when I thought myself sufficiently qualified for the duties of a teacher, I commenced them in 1818. At first I established gymnastic exercises at the academy of Eisenach, and in the university of Tubingen. In these establishments, as in all others where similar exercises had been introduced by professor Jahn or his pupils, a new vigour was imparted to the scholars. Boys, youths, and men, soon found more pleasure in exercises which strengthened the powers of their body, than in pleasures which render it effeminate and weak. By the consciousness of increased vigour, the mind, too, was powerfully excited, and strove for equal perfection; and each of the pupils had always before his eyes, as the object of his exertions, mens sana in corpore sano. Even men indolent by nature were irresistibly carried away by the zeal of their comrades. Weakly and sick persons, too, recovered their health; and these exercises were, perhaps, the only effectual remedy that could have been found for their complaints. The judgment of physicians, in all places where these exercises were introduced, concurred in their favourable effect upon health; and parents and teachers uniformly testified, that by them their sons and pupils, like all other young men who cultivated them had become more open and free, and more graceful in their deportment. Fortune led me to the celebrated establishment of M Von Fellenberg; and this great philosopher, and at the same time practical educator, gave the high authority of his approbation to the gymnastic science. It would not become me to state how I have laboured in the academy of that gentleman; but the recommandations with which he and others have favoured me, and also the testimonials, for which I am indebted to them, sufficiently prove that I do not set too high a value upon the utility of this branch of education. After I had established this system of education there, I accepted an invitation as professor at the Canton school at Chur, which I received from the government of the Canton. My exertions there had the same result as in other establishments, as is fully shown by the testimonials or the government. The thanks which I received from so many of my pupils, the testimonials from the directors of those establishments in which I have taught, my own consciousness of not having worked in vain, and the invitations of some friends, emboldened me to come forward in England, also, with gymnastics, on the plan of professor Jahn, and animate me with the confidence that here, too, my endeavours will not be fruitless."
The subscription to professor Voelker's gymnasium in the New-road and at Worship-street is, for one month, 1l.; for three months, 2l. 10s.; for six months, 4l.; for a twelvemonth, six guineas: or an association of twenty gentlemen may pay each 2l. for three, and 3l. for six months. Pupils from boarding-schools pay each 2l. for three, and 3l. for six months; but a number together pay each 1l. 10s. for three, 2l. 10s. for six, and 4l. for twelve months. Pupils not taking lessons with the other pupils, pay a guinea for every lesson. Twelve lessons may be had when convenient for 1l. 10s.
I. The preliminary exercises serve principally to strengthen the arms and legs, and to increase their activity, to give the body a graceful carriage, to accustom it to labour, and thus prepare it for the other exercises.
II. Running for a length of time, and with celerity. If the pupil follows the prescribed rules, and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first six lessons, he will soon be able to run three English miles in from twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some of Mr. V.'s pupils have been able to run for two hours incessantly, and without being much out of breath.
III. Leaping in distance and height, with and without a pole. Every pupil will soon convince himself to what degree the strength of the arms, the energy of the muscles of the feet, and good carriage of the body, are increased by leaping, particularly with a pole. Almost every one learns in a short time to leap his own height, and some of the pupils have been able to leap ten or eleven feet high. It is equally easy to learn to leap horizontally over a space three times the length of the body; even four times that length has been attained.
IV. Climbing up masts, ropes, and ladders. Every pupil will soon learn to climb up a mast, rope, or ladder of twenty-four feet high; and after six months' exercise, even of thirty-four or thirty-six feet. The use of this exercise is very great in strengthening the arms.
V. The exercises on the pole and parallel bars, serve in particular to expand the chest, to strengthen the muscles of the breast and small of the back, and to make the latter flexible. In a short time, every pupil will be enabled to perform exercises of which he could not have thought himself capable, provided that he do not deviate from the prescribed course and rules.
VI. Vaulting, which is considered one of the principal exercises for the increase of strength, activity, good carriage of the body, and courage, which employs and improves the powers of almost all parts of the body, and has hitherto always been taught as an art by itself, is brought to some perfection in three months.
VII. Fencing with the broad sword throwing lances, wrestling, and many other exercises.
All these exercises so differ from one another, that generally those parts of the body which are employed in one, rest in another. Every lesson occupies from one hour and a half to two hours, its length depending on the degree of labour required for the exercises practised in it.
In the New-road, lessons are given on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, from six to eight o'clock, A. M., or on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, from six to eight o'clock, P. M. Young pupils are instructed every day from eight to nine o'clock, A. M.
At Worship-street, the lessons are given on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from seven to nine o'clock in the evening.
The drawing for this article was made by Mr. George Cruikshank, after his personal observation of Mr. Voelker's gymnasium in the New-road: it was engraved by Mr. H. White[.]
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
You, who have so long and so ably instructed us in the amusements of our ancestors, will not, I hope, neglect to give publicity to a new species of amusement which is not only pleasant in itself, but absolutely necessary in this overgrown metropolis. I allude to the gymnastic exercises which have lately been introduced from Germany into this country. They are as yet but little known, and some portion of that prejudice exists against them which invariably attends a new discovery: fortunately, however, it is in the power of the Editor of the Every-Day Book to combat the former by a simple notice, while the latter will be much shaken if it be known that these exercises are approved by him.
An inhabitant of London need only look out of his own window to see practical illustrations of the necessity of these exercises. How often do we see a young man with an intelligent but very pale countenance, whose legs have hardly strength to support the weight of his bent and emaciated body. He once probably was a strong and active boy, but he came to London, shut himself up in an office, took no exercise because he was not obliged to take any; grew nervous and bilious; took a great deal of medical advice and physic; took every thing in fact but the true remedy, exercise; and may probaby [sic] still linger out a few years of wretched existence, when death will be welcomed as his best friend. This, though an extreme case, is a very common one, and the unfortunate beings who approximate it in a considerable degree are still more numerous. Many of the miseries and diseases of young and old, male and female, in this city, may be traced eventually to want of exercise. Give us pure air, and we can exist with comparatively little exercise; but bad air and no exercise at all, are poisons of a very active description.
These exercises are so contrived that they exert equally every part of the body without straining or tiring any; and I speak from my own experience, when I say that after two hours' practice in professor Voelker's gymnasium, opposite Mary-le-bone church in the new Paddington-road, I am not more fatigued than when I entered it, and feel an agreeable glow of body, and flow of spirits, which walking or riding does not create. I, as well as some other pupils, have two or three miles to walk to the gymnasium; we have the option of going morning or evening, and we do not find the walk and two hours of the exercises before breakfast, fatigue us or incapacitate us in the slightest degree from going through our customary avocations. I should also add that in bodily strength I am under, rather than above, par.
It is not easy to describe these exercises to those who have not seen them. They consist: First, Of preliminary exercises of the hands and legs, which give force and agility to those members, and prepare the body for the other exercises. Secondly, Horizontal parallel bars, from three to five feet high, according to the size of the pupil, on which he raises his body by the arms, and swings his legs over in a variety of directions: this exercise opens the chest, and gives great strength to the muscles of the arms and body. Thirdly, The horizontal round pole supported by posts from five to eight feet high, according to the height of the performer. An endless variety of exercises may be performed on this pole, such as raising the body by the arms, going from one end to the other by the hands alone, vaulting, swinging the body over in all directions, &c. &c. Fourthly, The horse, a large wooden block shaped like the body of a horse—the pupils jump upon and over this much-enduring animal in many ways. Fifthly, Leaping in height and distance with and without poles. Sixthly, Climbing masts, ropes, and ladders of various heighths. Seventhly, Throwing lances, running with celerity and for a length of time, hopping, &c. &c. &c. It is, moreover, in our option to take whatever portion of the exercises we may find most agreeable.
The improvement which the gentlemen who practise these exercises experience in health (not to mention strength, agility, and grace,) is very considerable, and altogether wonderful in several who have entered in a feeble and sickly state. This, one would think, would be sufficient to prove that the exercises are not attended with danger, even were I not to mention that I have not seen a single accident. Neither is their utility necessarily confined to boyhood, as several gentlemen upwards of forty can clearly testify; nor does the pleasure of practising them depart with the novelty, but always increases with proficiency and time.
The expense the professor has already incurred in providing implements and adequate accommodation has been very considerable, and his terms are so moderate that a small number of pupils cannot possibly remunerate him; it is therefore to be hoped, no less for his sake than for our own, that he should meet with encouragement in this city.
With respect to the professor himself he has every quality that can recommend him to his pupils. The grace with which he performs the exercises is only equalled by his attention and care, and his mild and unassuming manners have won the hearts of all who know him. His pupils feel grateful not only for the benefits they have themselves received, but for the advantage that is likely to accrue to the country from the introduction of these wholesome, athletic amusements.
I am, &c.
Great Boletus. Boletus Bovinus.
Dedicated to St. Ceolfrid.