Educational laws—Statistics—Cost of instruction to the State—(Note: Comparison with Great Britain)—- Backward condition of education—Imperfect state of university instruction—Roumanian youth in Paris and elsewhere—Impolicy of the system—Pecuniary loss to the country—Moral drawbacks—Edgar Quinet's views—Conflicting opinions in Roumania—Need for the encouragement of home instruction—The Asyle Hélène—A remarkable institution for girls—Its foundation and history—Dr. Davila again—Princess Elena—Constitution of the school—Classes and subjects taught—High standard for the training of teachers—Proficiency of the higher pupils—Marriages from the Asyle—How negotiated—Wretched payment of state teachers—Other schools and institutions—A few ethnographical considerations—Descent illustrated philologically—Latin roots in the Roumanian language—Examples—Their significance—Magyar roots, indicative of foreign domination—Examples—Roumanian music, perpetuates the old days of oppression—Dances—Gerando's description of an historical dance—(Note: Reference to works on the subject).


Theoretically education in Roumania is everything that can be desired; practically it is still far otherwise. The Constitution of 1866, article 23, declares that primary instruction shall be compulsory and gratuitous, and that primary schools shall, by degrees, be established in every commune.

In 1877-8 there were two universities (Bucarest and Jassy), 96 private schools, 55 secondary and normal, 26 technical and special; 1,242 boys', 265 girls', and 628 mixed primary schools. The total number of scholars set down as attending all these institutions was 119,015 (95,765 boys and 23,250 girls), and the total number of teachers 4,486. The whole amount of money expended on education in that year, from State, religious, municipal, district, and commercial sources, was rather over 260,000l. In 1881 the total amount set aside by the State for all purposes of education and public worship during 1882 was 450,000l. These figures show, in a population exceeding five millions, 2,412 schools with an average attendance of nearly 50 scholars each, who were being educated at a cost of about 2l. 3s. per head, including those in universities, training, and all schools of every description; but the actual cost of the children taught in primary schools only was about 1l. 8s. per head.

We refrain from criticising these figures, for they do not represent the present state of education. Many of the village schools, we were told on undoubted authority, are closed, and the attendance at others is largely increased. Besides collecting the most authentic information, we visited schools of every kind, some more than once, sometimes alone and unexpectedly, at others accompanied by persons in authority, normal, primary, secondary, commercial, and district schools, and the conclusion arrived at was by no means favourable to the present general state of education, although there is no doubt that there are many schools, well conducted by able and zealous teachers, and that the system will become developed and improved in the course of time. A few facts will suffice to confirm this statement. In regard to higher education, there are said to have been in 1878 in the two universities 61 teachers and 508 students. The Roumanian youth do not, however, as a rule receive their higher education in their own country, and it is computed that from seven hundred to a thousand of them are always being educated abroad, and chiefly in Paris. This is not to be wondered at, for there are no suitable facilities at home, and amongst thoughtful men it is a source of great anxiety for the future welfare of the country. Looking at the matter first in a pecuniary light, and taking the lowest estimate, the cost of educating seven hundred young men such as those who are sent abroad must be at the least 80,000l. or 90,000l. annually—we are sure this is considerably below the mark—whilst the total expenditure of the two universities in Roumania was, in 1878, about 22,000l.! If, instead of sending this large sum of money to Paris and other educational centres, it were expended at home, it would be the means of attracting to Roumania a class of teachers very different from many of those who are at present dignified with the title of professors. This was the opinion expressed to us by men of sound judgment and discrimination in the country, and we are not prepared to differ from them. But there is another and a still graver danger to the country arising out of the system. To send a youth from home, withdrawing him from the watchful care of his parents at the most dangerous period of his life, namely, between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one, is of itself a doubtful proceeding; to send him to Paris is in many cases certain ruin. This is not a mere hastily formed opinion, and probably the expression of it may not find a welcome in every quarter. But it is historically true. No one has written a more flattering account of the Roumanians than Edgar Quinet. Writing in 1857, he touches with as much delicacy as possible upon their defects and shortcomings, and hints that their vices are copied from the French; and he goes on to say: 'The sons of the boyards come to complete their education with us.... The danger for these young minds, which are exposed without control to so great a fascination, is that even our vices appear to them to be sanctioned' (consacrés). It is true he does not discountenance a system which brings grist to the mill of the French academical institutions, but warning them against the pitfalls of Paris life he says: 'Let them continue to visit us.' Well, they have continued to visit them for twenty-five years longer, and if the reader would know the result he must enquire of the Roumanians themselves. No doubt opinions differ. There are persons whose views are entitled to great respect, and who approve of this sending of the youth abroad in preference to letting them obtain an imperfect education at home, speaking with satisfaction of sacrifices which are made by persons with straitened means to secure a polite education for their children. On the other hand the views of professional men and of men of the world largely predominate in the opposite direction. Omitting what were doubtless exaggerations, such as that 80 per cent. of the youths who go to Paris return with a perfect acquaintance with the French language, the cancan, and nothing more, we are assured that a large proportion fail to derive such an amount of benefit as to justify the outlay; that they acquire French vices and luxurious habits; and that on their return they do not hesitate to express their distaste for home and home occupations. Education abroad, we were told, is incompatible with true patriotism. As already stated, these views may be exaggerated; but when the drain upon the country which necessarily results from the system is borne in mind, and the way in which it militates against the engagement of suitable instructors in Roumania, it is well worth the consideration of all true patriots (and the Roumanians pride themselves upon being so) whether they should not in future encourage their own educational institutions in preference to those of other countries; and this we say, notwithstanding the fact that of late years youths have in some cases been sent to our English universities and public schools rather than to those of the gay city. In England these considerations weigh so seriously with the heads of families that the movement is progressing rapidly for bringing the highest form of education as closely as possible to the doors of the parents, as witness the recent establishment of universities and colleges in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Wales. And should there be any doubt as to the feasibility of such a reform, it can be solved without going beyond the limits of the Roumanian capital, where there is an educational establishment for girls which is as unique as it is well conducted.


The 'Asyle Hélène' at Bucarest, although it is nominally a foundling institution, really presents many educational advantages which are only to be found in the ladies' colleges of England and the United States. A large proportion of the scholars are foundlings or orphans; but many pay for their instruction, and some of the girls are the daughters of parents of acknowledged position in society. The school was originally what it still professes to be, an asylum for foundlings, which was conducted in a private house belonging to Dr. Davila, who is still the active spirit in the institution. At that time only forty children were educated in it. In 1862 the Princess Elene Cuza, a lady of great virtue and benevolence, placed herself at the head of the institution, and in 1869 the present building was erected. If the Agricultural College with its grounds is to be admired, much more so is the Asyle Hélène. It is a palatial building which stands upon an eminence, is surrounded by beautiful plantations, and approached by fine avenues, whilst its educational arrangements are as excellent as the institution is beneficent. The Queen is its patroness, and she takes great interest in its success. It accommodates 230 girls from nine to nineteen years of age, most if not all of whom live in the institution, and twenty little children who are educated on the 'Froebel system.' The pupils attend four primary classes, and then proceed either to the five higher girls' classes, or to a technical school (atelier), also in the same building, whilst a good many are trained as teachers. The ordinary course of instruction lasts five years, to which one year is added for the last-named class of scholars. The subjects taught in the four primary classes are Roumanian language and history, writing, arithmetic, drawing, music, the elements of physical science, sewing, and embroidery, whilst the instruction advances further and further until in the fifth girls' class (the ninth in the school) the girls are taught Roumanian, French and German literature, universal history and geography, drawing from nature and models, designs for embroidery, geometry and perspective, natural history, mineralogy, chemistry, vocal music, needlework, bookkeeping, &c., and in the highest class of all (that for teachers) there are added geology, physiology, cosmography, and Italian, in addition to French and German. The collections and appliances to facilitate instruction in these subjects are excellent, consisting of chemical and physical laboratories, a small museum of natural history, geology, &c., a library, workrooms, an artists' studio, a theatre where the children give performances and recitations, and a simple gymnastic apparatus. No doubt many of the pupils limit the range of subjects in which they try to excel, but what we can vouch for after twice visiting the school with Dr. Davila, and seeing the pupils at the Asyle as well as in their summer quarters, a convent in the Carpathians, is that they are well taught, and that some of them would be a credit to the most advanced students in any school we have visited. The readiness with which they answer all questions, whether of a practical or theoretical nature, in a language which is not their own, is as surprising as it is creditable. Many of course belong to a humble rank in life, and their limited intelligence renders them fit only to become domestic servants, the avocation for which therefore they are trained; others go out as teachers in State and other schools, whilst several already referred to become ornaments to the society in which they afterwards move. All are well fed and clothed, and appeared to be happy and grateful for their benefits. Many of the girls are married from the institution, the mode of proceeding being one which is not quite consonant with our English notions on the subject. A teacher or some other young man applies to the committee for an introduction to a suitable girl, and if they are satisfied with his respectability and his means of maintaining a wife, they ascertain which of the girls desires to be married, and after the young couple have met twice or three times, if they like each other a marriage is negotiated (just as in the case of the royal families of Europe)! The marriage takes place in the Asyle, the bride receiving her trousseau and a very respectable little dowry, and the event is always the occasion of great rejoicing, in which Dr. Davila does not fail to take a prominent part. These marriages, he told us, have in nearly every case turned out happy ones, far more frequently in proportion to their number than similar events outside of the institution.

The teachers in the Asyle Hélène are fairly well paid, the higher class receiving about 50l. per annum, board and lodging; but this is by no means the case with school-teachers generally in Roumania. We closed our ears to a great many things that savoured of scandal during our visit to the country, but this was one thing which it was impossible to ignore. So wretched indeed is the pay of the State teachers that they push on the children of those parents who give them employment as private tutors in order to eke out a livelihood, to the neglect of the other scholars.

The Asyle Hélène is supported partly by endowments and partly by State aid, and is managed by a committee. In connection therewith is also a boys' school at Penteleimon, founded by the Ghika family, and remodelled by King Charles in 1868, to which a hospital of invalids is attached.

The girls' training school of the State at Bucarest is an admirable institution, presided over by an accomplished and energetic lady, who expressed great regret that the want of sufficient funds prevented them from competing with the Asyle Hélène, which is acknowledged to be of a higher order.

There is also a German 'Realschule' in Bucarest, founded by a benevolent German, at which the teaching is all that can be desired; but as to the State normal school for young men intended as country teachers—well, we refrain from expressing any opinion of our own. A learned friend hinted something about the application of dynamite to the whole concern; and if it could be done without injury to human life, perhaps that would be the best course to adopt.

The one fact in connection with the state of education in Roumania, however, which forces itself upon our notice, is the question of teaching the youth of the country at home.

Primary instruction is sure to progress; it rests to a large extent with the Government, and in the course of time teachers will be forthcoming to carry out the excellent system in its integrity; but as to applied science and higher education generally, that depends upon parents themselves; and, modifying a well-known saying, it resolves itself into the question of 'Roumanians for Roumania, or Roumanians for France?'


And this reminds us of a matter to which we must make a brief reference, though it will be more fully treated hereafter, namely, the ethnographical character of the people of Roumania; for whilst it is unfortunate that in practical everyday life and in politics they do not at present rely sufficiently upon their own internal resources, there is no doubt that theoretically they are very sensitive and proud of their nationality. To a stranger visiting the country for a brief period this is the most perplexing question of all; but the perusal of its history, and a careful consideration of the opinions of well-known writers, bring into prominence certain facts which cannot fail to be interesting. From the number of tribes and nationalities by which the country has at various times been overrun, it is impossible for an unprejudiced thinker to come to any other conclusion than that, like ourselves, the Roumanians are a mixed race, although the Latin undoubtedly predominates; and to the evidence of history may be added that of the language and customs of the country. The language not only presents a variety arising out of the domination of the various races, but in some respects indicates the nature of that domination, and the customs have a like significance. As a general rule the Roumanian language is derived from the Latin, but there are many words of Turkish, modern Greek, Polish, and Hungarian or Magyar origin. Amongst the Latin words are the names of many localities and towns which have evidently existed since the Roman period, as witness:—

Latin Roumanian English
Danubius Dunărea Danube
Porata Prutu Pruth
Ardiscus Argesu Ardges
Alutus Oltu Olto
Turris Severi Turnu-Severinu Turn Severin
Nicopolis Nicopolu Nicopolis
Caracalla Caracalu Caracal
Dravus Drava Drave
Carpates Carpati Carpathians

Then, again, amongst common names of things and qualities there are objects which could not change, such as parts of the body, well-known animals of all ages, &c., as for example:—

Latin Roumanian English
Aqua Apa Water
Aurum Auru Gold
Ferrum Fer Iron
Barbatus Bărbatu A (bearded) man
Caput Cap Head
Manus Mână Hand
Nasus Nas Nose
Vena Vina Vein
Os Os Bone
Oculus Ochiu Eye
Digitus Deget Finger
Pes Picior Foot
Pectus Pept Breast
Canis Câne Dog
Piscis Pesce Fish
Dominus Domnu Lord
Umbra Umbră Shade
Frigidus Frigu Cold
Calidus Caldu Warm
Albus Alb White
Niger Negru Black
Casa Casa A cottage

and so on through the whole vocabulary of common things and attributes.

On the other hand, when we come to examine the words of barbarian origin, we find that they relate to the character of the dominant race and their rule over the natives. If we take, for example, the words of Magyar or Hungarian origin, we find them to denote war, conquest, mining, taxation, punishment, &c., such as baia, mine; bănui, repent, rue; bereǔ, a wood; bicao, fetters (on the feet); *bir, poll-tax; birâu, a judge; bitangu, wandering about; bucni, to strike; buzdugány, war-club; cătănie, soldiers, soldiers' habits; cheltúi, to give or spend lavishly; făgădău, drink-shop; giulus, the Reichstag, or national assembly; hodnogiǔ, lieutenant (from had, war); hotar, boundary; *lanțĭǔ, chain; odorbireu, headsman; *tábără, camp, war, army; varda, watch-house; and so on.

Besides these words and phrases derived from the Latin and barbarian languages, there are others relating to ecclesiastical matters imported from the Greek; indeed, an examination of the language is itself an interesting historical study, and if now we turn to the arts and customs of the Roumanians, we find the same interesting relations with her past history.

Of the music of the Laoutari we have already spoken. It is weird and plaintive, and no one who has listened attentively to the airs played by some of those bands can have failed to be struck with their 'telling' character, how they give vent alternately to feelings of joy and sorrow, of mourning and rejoicing, and, like the music of Poland, &c., call to mind the conquered condition of the people in the past. As with the music, so with the dances. A writer, to whom we shall refer later on, M. Opitz, described the 'Hora,' the national dance of the Roumanians, as being illustrative of their conquered condition, and a recent acute observer has left us his impressions on the same subject.

'I remember one dance (says he) of which I forget the name, but which pleased me exceedingly. After the dancers had gone one or two paces in pairs in a circle, the men separated from the women. The latter moved singly round the men, as though they were seeking some object dear to them. The men then drew together and moved their feet like marching soldiers; next using their long sticks, they made irregular springs and uttered loud cries, as though they were engaged in battle. The women wandered about like shadows. At last the men with joyful gestures rushed towards them as though they had found them after great danger, led them back into the circle, and danced with joy and animation. Here we see how mighty is tradition. This dance is a complete poem! Who knows of what long-forgotten incursion of the barbarians it is a reminiscence?'

From those few illustrations it will be seen how the language and customs of Roumania are interwoven with her past history. We have but touched the fringe of the subject; but that it is a fertile source of interesting study and research we are convinced, and therefore recommend those who are able to follow it up to give it their attention.