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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: April 2018

8 - Early incentives for the practice of law

from Contents of Volume One


Two experiences from my early years may have contributed to planting the importance, indeed the holiness of the practice of law in my soul, though I was always inclined by nature and upbringing more toward the purely spiritual. If you consider these events to be of little weight, I cannot contradict it. That they, however, were not entirely without influence in the process of development of my soul, is evidenced by the lively recollection, indeed, continuing sensation of these important moments. I could still paint Jakob Aelteste today, if I had the manual dexterity.— In my earliest boyhood I had once found a little table-knife in the garden, and, enchanted, brought it to my father, so that he could enjoy my treasure with me. That was a mistake. Because shortly before a friend of my fa-ther's had come to visit, and had now come back, with the question: Might it be that we had found a pocketknife? He had lost his when he had come to visit us. My father became suspicious that I had not found the knife in the garden, but that it was the one that his friend had lost, and that I had lied, in order to keep my possession, and avoid punishment. The friend had already gone away again. My father pressed me to confess, and hit me hard in order to force my confession. I maintained what I had claimed to begin with, and was taken crying to bed by my pitying mother, where, for the first time in my life I could not fall asleep.

My father was extremely disturbed by what had happened and my alleged guilt. Late in the evening he went with the knife I had found to his friend, and the friend gave him the news: his knife had been found - it had slipped out through a hole in his pocket into the inner lining. Both men went back to our house (after ten p.m.); they declared my innocence, and everything that was possible to make it up to me took place. In vain. It was not the pain of the punishment, but rather the powerful injustice that had been done to me, that I could not get over. I recognize that for many long years I could not think of this without bitterness.