1902 Encyclopedia > Germany > [German Literature] The Classical Period

Germany
(Part 38)




GERMAN LITERATURE (cont.)

The Classical Period


At the close of the Seven Years’ War the conditions of public life were very unfavourable to literature. The country was impoverished, and Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa were almost the only sovereigns who showed the least regard for the welfare of their subjects. But the mind of the nation had been thoroughly aroused from its long slumber. It had been startled into patriotism by Frederick’s unsurpassed energy, while the labours of he chief writers had imbued the better part of the middle class with a desire for a more varied and interesting life. As political freedom was still a dream of the future, they turned more and more to books for refreshment and stimulus. Multitudes of young men who in other circumstances would have occupied themselves solely with practical duty became authors, and they urged each other to an activity without parallel in any previous period.
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Most of these young writers were deeply influenced by the men of the older generation—Lessing, Wieland, and Klopstock. They were also ardent students of Shakespeare, Ossian, and Dr Young, poets who were oddly supposed to be on the same level and to share the same tendencies. Rousseau excited almost as much enthusiasm in Germany as in France, and the criticism of Diderot found many warm admirers. Under these diverse influences a curious movement began which is known as that of "Sturm und Drang" ("Storm and Pressure"). It lasted, from about 1770, for then or twelve years, and included nearly all the writers who still had fame to win. Their most prominent quality was discontent with the existing world. They detested not only tyranny and superstition by everything which prevented, or seemed to prevent, the free exercise of any powerful impulse. To break down conventionalities appeared to the "Sturm and Drang" poets their true function ; but even this did not satisfy them. They longed for some knowledge deeper and more intimate than that attained by science, philosophy, or history, for some emotion intenser than arise from any known human relation. All these conflicting feelings they expressed in their writings. From slavish submission to French critical laws they were of course completely emancipated. Most of tehm despised laws of every kind in literature as well as in life, and continually proclaimed that the duty of a man of genius was to write precisely as nature dictated. By "genius" they meant vehement sensations, by "nature" a free use of vigorous epithets.

The writer who formed the connecting link between Lessing on the one hand and Goethe and Schiller on the other, and whom the best writers of the "Sturm und Drang" movement regarded as their critical guide, was Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). Herder is sometimes compared with Lessing, but while Lessing has a cosmopolitan touch which makes him intelligible and attractive to all the world, Herder is in the strictest sense a German, and is only slightly studied beyond his own nation. He was less boldly original than his older contemporary, and never attained the clearness, force, and classic beauty of Lessing’s style. Nevertheless he is justly ranked among the most distinguished spirits Germany had produced. His mind was respective in many different directions, and what he absorbed he made his own by independent thought, giving it out in new and suggestive forms. As an original poet, Herder does not rank high ; yet genuine poetic impulses are visible in the poem in which he gave shape to the Spanish legends of the Cid. The literature in which he looked for the highest manifestation of thought and feeling was that which appeals to popular sentiment and has its root in popular life. Lessing had already called attention to the songs and ballads of the people ; but herder was the first German who decisively followed the impulse which led in England to the publication of Percy’s Reliques. In his Stimmen der Völker ("Voices of the Peoples") he brought together an admirable collection of the lyrical ulterances of many races ; and it would be difficult to overrate the service he thus rendered, for he conducted his countrymen to a source of imaginative pleasure and revival in which their literature is exceptionally rich. By far his most important prose work was his Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit ("Ideas towards the Philosophy of the History of Humanity"), in which, working to some extent on the lines laid down in the brief paragraphs of Lessing’s Education of the Human Race, he develops the conception of progress, and indicates that we can fully understand any single element of history only by seeing it in the light of human evolution as a whole. This excellent book elevated the aims and enlarged the scope of historic inquiry in Germany ; and it still produces a powerful moral effect by its noble spirit of humanity. To the end of his days herder was animated by a fine enthusiasm for human happiness, and it lights up his pages even when his subject does not lead to its direct expression.

To Herder belonged the high honour of stimulating and directing, at critical stage, the young genius of Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832). In naming Goethe we mention the writer who holds in German literature the place held by Shakespeare in the literature of England, and by Dante in that of Italy. He towers high above even the greatest of his contemporaries, predecessors, and successors,—Schiller himself, who is most worthily associated with him, being far inferior inbreadth of sympathy and splendour of creative impulse. Goethe, indeed, is one of the few writers who, while marked by strongly national characteristics, belongs to the world rather than to a particular country. The special phases of his age have begun to pass away, but his best work has lost none of its freshness ; it cannot become old, since it is rooted elements of human life that eternally endure.

All things co-operated to render worthy of his destiny this favoured child of fortune. During his long life he enjoyed almost uninterrupted physical vigour ; he was born into a family of prosperous circumstances, although not so hightly placed as to satisfy his ambition ; he received the best intellectual training his epoch could afford ; in Weimar he was free to adapt the plan of his life to his inclinations ; and he appeared at the very time when, by an era of sincere poetic endeavours and unparalleled critical labour, the mind of the nation had been prepared for the boldest efforts of genius. Nature has seldom lavished so may advantages on the greatest of her men.

The quality in Goethe which immediately arrests attention is the extraordinary range of his activity. Hardly any aspect of human existence was strange to him. He possessed in an unsurpassed degree the faculty of dramatically thinking himself into phases of life to which his personal impulses would not have led him ; and he deliberately enlarged his experience by exercising this power at every stage of his career. It was his prevailing conviction that all ideals which fascinate or have fascinated humanity mush have a touch of vitality ; and none was so remote from him but he sought to penetrate to its meaning. He could be just to Hellenic culture without doing wrong to mediaevalism ; he appreciated the spirit of Christianity without being indifferent to the faith of the Parsees or the Buddhists ; he presented the ascetic aspirations of a "beautiful soul," while setting forth the gaiety of the brightest and most careless tempers; he felt the charm of art at the same time that he carried on profound researches in science ; he loved his country, and yet, even when it was overrum by Napoleon’s troops, he would not join the patriots in saying a harsh word of France. This absolute universality destroyed enthusiasm for special practical movements ; but it gave astonishing variety to his literary achievements. Goethe’s was in every respect a thoroughly poetic nature. He could not pass through a profound experience, an image of beauty could not cross his vision, without an accompanying impulse to find for is emotion an adequate sensuous representation. So vast a body of writings as his inevitably includes much that is tedious, but in his happiest moments his genius moved with the ease, the certainty, the calmness of the great forces of nature ; he could be as perfect in the lightest stroke of delicate feeling as in the grandest flight of soaring imagination. The world he reflects is the world we actually know ; but he is not, therefore, in any narrow sense, a realist. The facts he images are shaped and coloured by his thought and feeling ; he breathes into them a life by which they are made of universal significance. This combination of realism and idealism is one of the chief secrets of his power. His art aims at producing the most general effects, yet it is kept fresh, vivid, and true by incessant contact with the concrete life of men.

Heine relates that he felt inclined to address Goethe in Greek, so like was the calm dignified old man to an earthly Zeus ; and this is probably the image suggested to most minds by his name. But in youth he was full of eager life, restless, and passionate, and his early works bear the impress of turbulent feeling. Of these the first published was Götz von Berlichingen, which instantly established his fame as one of the chief writers of the sturm and Drang" school. It is almost as formless as their inartistic writings. The language is sometimes excessively rude, and there is no attempt to combine the different scenes into an harmonious picture. Yet it is sharply separated off from the tasteless plays with which it was compared, for everywhere we find traces of immature power. The characters are alive ; they act and react upon each other as we should expect men and women to do in a stormy troubled epoch ; and by a few touches of apparently unconscious art we are made to realize the vital change through which the society of the age of the Reformation was passing. Die Leiden des jungen Wethers ("The Sufferings of Young Wether") gave Goethe a European reputation. Much of its sentimentalism now excites smiles instead of tears ; but with al its fault it has an enduring fascination. It breathes a warm love of nature, of which it presents vivid pictures ; it conveys a powerful impression of the mingled force, sweetness, and unreasonableness of early passion ; and it express with deep pathos that weariness of life which forms one of the moods of poetic youth, and the manifestation of which was favourite pastime of the less sincere "Sturm und Drang" versifiers. The promise of Götz and Wether was not sustained by all the works produces in the first part of his career. Clavigo is only a fairly good acting play ; and Stella has even more than the extravagant sentimentalism of Wether, with only a occasional touch of its poetry. On the other hand, it was now that Goethe began Faust ; and the fragment, Prometheus, express a grand defiance that is the more impressive because of the deep philosophic thought which may be traced in the background. It was, however, in his lyrics that the richly varied life of Goethe’s youth most perfectly revealed itself. There are no German lyrics, if we except Heine’s which deserve to be compared with Goethe’s ; perhaps none in any literature have a more subtle charm. Profiting by the teaching of Herder, he studied the artless beauty of the best songs of the people, to some of which he gave new form, while retaining their primitive simplicity. His own lyrics are at once popular and artistic ; he takes as his themes the joys, the longings, the regrets which all men understand, and weds, them to melodies of delightful ease and grace. Almost every poem was suggested by some passing emotion of his own ; yet his feeling is so purified that his words become the voice rather of humanity than of an individual man. His ballads are not, as a rule so powerful as his songs, but both have one quality in common—without elaborate descriptions they continually call up by an apparently accidental word or phrase a clear vision of some natural object or scene. He is equally master of himself in rendering nature as a mirror in which we see the reflection of our own experience, or as a power moving on in calm indifference to our hopes and fears.

In 1775 Goethe settled in Weimar, where Wieland already was, and whither he was ultimately followed by Herder and Schiller, so that the little town became the centre of the intellectual life of Germany. After an interval of ten years, during which he published nothing, he paid his famous visit to Italy. Here his genius was kindled anew, and a close study of sculpture and painting suggested to him the necessity of submitting more fully than he had yet done to the permanent laws of art. The fruits of this experience were Iphigenia, Tasso, and Egmont, all of which he took with him to Italy in an unfinished form. The first two of these dramas were accepted as imitations of the antique ; but they are so only in the sense that in each the parts are rigidly subordinated to the intention of the whole, that there is an orderly sequence in the development of the action, and that they are marked by elevation and simplicity of style. While incomparably more finished as works of art than any of than greater works he had before produced, they indicated no falling off in energy of imagination. Iphigenia, although its subject is Greek, is in tone and motive altogether Christian ; and it would be difficult to name a more attractive picture of a modern lady than the pure and high-minded Heroine. In Tasso Goethe draws in strong and sure outlines the sorrows of a poetic nature which will not sharply discriminate the real from its own ideal world. This dramatic poem is hardly more remarkable for the truth and vividness of its conceptions than for the charm of its versification and the wealth and beauty of its language. Egmont, however, has more movement, and touches human experience at deeper points. Most readers agree with Shiller’s criticism, that is too much melodrama in the closing scene, in which Clärchen appear to the hero as the spirit of freedom, and that, notwithstanding the liberties taken with history, Goethe has hardly succeeded in making Egmont the type of an enemy of despotism. But Clärchen is a beautiful study a mind stirred by love to great resolves ; and there is splendid portraiture in the characters of Alva, William of Orange, and the Princess of Parma.

Meanwhile, a new literary force had revealed itself in the life of Germany : Shiller (1759-1805), Goethe’s great rival, had began to divide with him the public attention and interest. The names of these two poets, in virtue of whose labours their period deserves to be called classical, are indissolubly connected, yet they were marked off from each other by profound distinctions. Goethe is often called the poet of culture, and it is true that he never ceased to subject his powers to syntematic discipline. He was also one of the keenest critics of modern times. But the charm of his best writings is not dependent on criticism or culture ; it springs from the spontaneous movement of a great imaginative faculty. Schiller, on the other hand, while also endowed with imagination, possessed it in a much less degree. His poetry would probably have lived even if he had not had the advantage of a thorough grasp of aesthetic laws ; but it would certainly have had no claim to the distinguished place it now holds in European literature. He did not attempt so wide a range as Goethe, and within his scope he was not, like Goethe, a disinterested observer ; he flung himself intot he midst of the struggle of his time, and fought valiantly as the champion of a side. Fortunately for Germany, his side was always that of a truly chivalrous mind ; for Schiller was one of the most unselfish of men, with lofty aspiration for the race, and a generous confidence in its essential goodness. These qualities determined the character of his conceptions. Goethe presents us with idealized pictures of the world ; Schiller’s creations are not so much pictures of the world as the figures of a realm distinct from actual life. His supreme aim was to express great sentiments and ideas, and as the medium for their utterance he conceived characters which are to be found only in a poet’s dreams.

Schiller began his literary career as a youth of two-and-twenty inspired by revolutionary ardour, detesting every conventionally of society, dreaming of a world in which will and passion should have absolute licence. He relieved himself of his vehement emotions in his first three plays, Die Räuber ("The Robbers"), Fieso, and Cabale und more Titanic energy against an unsympathetic world than in these dramas ; the impulse of the "Sturm und Drang" period, as it was about to die away, spoke in them it wildest, most passionate word. Don Carlos, his next drama, still manifested inability to form an organic whole; it contains scenes which have no bearing on the central action, and there is hardly an attempt to explain deeds by natural and intelligible motives. But we are no longer in the presence of one who merely raises an outery against the existing world ; furious resistance to despotism has become enlightened enthusiasm for freedom, humanity, and progress. Although the part of Marquis Posa is imperfectly worked into the scheme of the play, he is a nobly ideal creation ; through him Schiller pours forth his own aspirations for the welfare of mankind. There is admirable are in the momentary elevation caused by is greatness of soul even in the dark and selfish Philip and the restless and wayward Don Carlos.





After he settled in Jena in 1789 as professor of history, Schiller was often in Weimar ; but for a time he and Goethe held apart. By and by they began to approach each other, and from about 1794 their acquaintance ripened into fast friendship. The friendship of Goethe and Schiller in one of the most beautiful in the history of literature. It made no essential change in Goethe’s modes of thought or expression, but it spurred him to the highest activity of which his genius was capable. His friend, he himself declared, "created for him a second youth, and again made him a poet, which he had almost ceased to be." On the other hand, in contact with Goethe’s larger intellectual life, Schiller was raised to new points of view, and he acquired for him his highest triumphs. He now became as remarkable for the perfection of his form as for the depth and warmth of his feeling.

The two friends worked harmoniously in connexion with Schiller’s journal Die Horen, and wrote in common the Xenien, a number of epigrammatic versed meant to wound their literary enemies. On the whole, it is surprising that comparatively so few of the arrows in this rather large quiver are delicately pointed and feathered. A very different stage of excellence is reached by Schiller’s well-known ballads, which were written during the period of his intimacy with Goethe. Nearly all of them are marked by force of conception and by purity and dignity of style. In lyrical poetry he had acquired some distinction before he knew Goethe, but it was in competition with his friend that he achieved his masterpiece, Des Lied von der Glocke ("The Song of the Bell"), in which within a small compass he presents an impressive picture of the course of human life, varying his melody with subtle art to suit the changing aspects of his theme. Less artistically perfect than the Glocke, other lyrics, such as Der Genius, Die Ideale, Der Spaziergang, have the power which belongs to deeper personal emotion. In ease and spontaneity none of Schiller’s lyrics equal Goethe’s in which, as Heine says, "the word embraces you while the thought kisses you." But they express in clear and noble language some of the highest feelings excited in a poetic mind by contemplation of human life and destiny.


In his dramatic writings Schiller was influenced by Goethe even more than in his lyrics and ballads. The whole series of tragedies which he now wrote have historic or legendary themes, and he displays remarkable skill in unfolding through the past his greatest ideas respecting the future. At the same time he evokes from it a company of finely ideal figures, whose qualities are revealed by the systematic development of large and carefully conceived schemes. Wallenstein, the earliest of the series, consists of two plays, the Piccolomini and Wallenstein’s Death, the former of which is preceded by a number of scenes presenting a vivid picture of Wallenstein’s camp. The tragic motive of this great work is somewhat obscure. We are made conscious by many artful touches of the ultimate issue ; but Schiller does not fully intelligible the plays of the influences which result in disaster. There is, however, high imaginative faculty in his conception of Wallenstein’s powerful, dark, and wavering character ; and every reader feels the charm of the love passages between Max Piccolomini and Thekla. In Maria Stuart Schiller triumphs over an obvious difficulty by admitting the heroine’s guilt, while he stirs our pity for her sufferings and our admiration for the spirit of endurance with which they are met. In the Jungfrau von Orleans, "The Maid" would have given purer pleasure if she had not been represented as loving one of the English commanders ; but this only slightly mars the splendid picture of her patriotic devotion. As a work of art, the Braut von Messina is the least successful of the later dramas, for it attempts to combine romantic and classic elements which are irreconcilable ; it contains, however, some of the most brilliantly rhetorical in the German language. The last of his completed works, and in some respects the best, was Wilhelm Tell. Here his love of freedom shaped for itself forms of immortal beauty. At a time when the French emperor threatened the independence of all Europe, men felt the power of the play more keenly than can be done in a calmer period ; but it has permanently enriched the life of humanity by its conception of a character dominated by high, ideal passions. Schiller never saw Switzerland, yet in this powerful drama he renders with astonishing vividness the grander effects of Alpine scenery.

During his friendship with Schller Goethe wrote in competition with him many lyrics and ballads. In works of the latter class, as Goethe himself thought, he was surpassed by his friend. He is incomparably more subtle and suggestive than Schiller ; but for this very reason he is less effective. A ballad does not deserve its name if it is not popular ; and we hear the voice of the people themselves in Schiller’s free, bold, and simply harmonious verses. One of the longer works published by Goethe during this period was Hermann und Dorothea. His delicately chosen language and dignified hexameters are not always in keeping with the some what prosaic life they are here used to portray ; but the poem is the nearest approach that has been made to the successful epic treatment of an ordinary theme. And it rises to a high level of imaginative power in the contrast it suggests between the still life of the humble village, with its little idyll of satisfied love, and the far-off desolation of the revolutionary wars, of which we are reminded by the band of emigrants. The genius of Goethe moves more freely in Wilhelm Meister, of which the first part was now published. This work has perhaps given rise to more contradictory criticism than any other book in modern literature. We many safely disregard the opinion of those who find in it all the excellence that can be combined in a prose romance, for it is without plan, and its style is singularly unequal. When Goethe himself admitted that he did not possess the key to its full significance, his warmest admirers may allow that perhaps there is no key to possess. Yet few of his writings present more striking evidence of the fertility of his power. He interests us equally—to recall only a few of the characters—in the gay and wordly Phillina, in the romantic Mariana, and in that most mysterious, lovely, and fascinating of creations, Mignon, whose Kennst du das land is perhaps the noblest of those pathetic poems in which a soul in an uncongenial world calls up a momentary vision of its true home. It is not only in its dramatic conceptions that Wilhelm Meister is great ; it contains some of Goethe deepest thoughts on life and literature.

After the death of Schiller Goethe turned his attention more and more to science, his achievements in which have been fully appreciated only since the growth of the doctrine of evolution. Still, it was in his latest period that he completed evolution. Still, it was in his least period that he completed the most famous and the greatest of his works, Faust, a poem which he began in youth and did not finish until nearly his last birthday. The Faust of legend was a vulgar magician ; Goethe so conceive the character that it indicates the deepest mysteries of human existence. The second part, in which the problem of the poem is solved, can hardly be regarded as a work of art ; it is, or seems to be, confused and dark. And the individual elements of the first part are not completely welded ; they form rather a series of poems than a single creation. In these individual elements, however, we find the grandest sweep of imaginative thought by the German genius. The episode of Gretchen reflects with perfect art the most alluring and the most sorrowful facts of life ; and philosophy and religion in their highest meet in Faust’s aspirations and struggles.

It might have been supposed that at the age of seventy Goethe had no new imaginative worlds to conquer ; yet he then published his Westöstlicher Divan, representing, with dramatic sympathy and lyric force almost unabated, the combined mysticism and sensuousness of Oriental life. Ten years before, he had issued Wahlverwandtschaften ("Elective Affinities"), a powerful picture of impulses which law cannot control, and in which are concealed the germs of tragic issues. It has, less charm then another prose work, Dichtung und Wahrheit ("Poetry and Truth"), in which he draws a slightly idealized sketch of his early life. This fascinating book has made the figure of young Goethe as familiar as his chief dramatic characters ; and no creations of the fancy are better known than the Frederikas and the Lilis, who had long before occasioned his sweetest lyrics, and the memory of whom in old age gave delicacy and music to his style.

While Goethe and Schiller were in the midst of their career, Europe was startled by the French Revolution. At first it stirred as much interest in Germany as in England. The aged Klopstock greeted it with odes full of the fiery energy of youth, and for a time Schiller almost fancied that his loftiest hopes were about to be realized. Sympathy, however, was transformed into bitter opposition by the Reign of Terror; and when Germany was trodden under foot by Napoleon, she turned more and more from every kind of French influence. Thus it happened that, although the ideas of the Revolution have indirectly affected the literature of Germany as deeply as that of the rest of Europe, their immediate effect was slight and transitory.

An event of the highest importance in the intellectual growth of Germany was the publication, in 1781, of Kant’s Kritik der Reinen Vernunft. It is hard for men of a later time, accustomed to metaphysical speculation, to realize the impression produced by this great book. Its effect in philosophy was not unlike that caused in our own day in science by Mr Darwin’s Origin of Species. Everywhere among thoughtful men, at the universities especially, philosophy became the absorbing subject of study ; and it was taken up at a point from which its whole past development was for the first time intelligible. Goethe, without neglecting the movement, was perhaps less stirred by it than any other prominent writer ; Schiller became one of Kant’s most enthusiastic students, and traces of the new systems are to be found in many of his later lyrics and dramas. He also applied it principles to aesthetics in several admirable critical writings. By and by, dissatisfied with the gulf left by Kant between mind and matter as "things in themselves," philosophers started in search of some principle which should harmonize all the elements of existence ; and thus grew up, one after the other, the systems of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. For more than a generation these thinkers excited deeper interest than imaginative writers ; the most serious minds were fascinated by speculations which placed in new lights all the greatest questions relating to human thought and action.

Of the poets or versifiers who began their career with Goethe, the one who for some time attracted most notice was Klinger (1753-1831), whose play, Sturm und Drang, is at least memorable through its title. Other plays of his were Conradin and Medea ; and he also wrote romances, of which the best known were Faust’s Leben, Thaten, und Höllenfahrt and Der Weltmann und der Dichter. His writings are violent and noisy, without a touch of true art ; what he mistook for imagination was a power of crude and unmeasured declamation. His later works express the bitterness of a deeply disappointed man. Lenz (1750-92), whose name is usually connected with that of Klinger, did not make even so distant an approach to imagination as his rival ; his plays are the wild outgrowths of a mind which has made no sincere observation of life, and has submitted neither to intellectual nor to moral discipline. A man of much greater talent than either was Daniel Schubart (1739-91), the restless, licentious, and unfortunate poet who, for publishing a piece of false news, are confined for ten years in a fortress, where he suffered incredible hardships. In his attempts to portray the horrible he is sometimes extremely grotesque, but his verses have both music and pathos, and they had the good fortune to exercise some influence on Schiller. He was one of the earliest publicists of Germany, and his hatred of despotism was the real cause of the infamous act which deprived him of freedom. Writers who shared the spirit of "Sturm und Drang," and applied it in new directions, were Lavater enjoyed the friendship of nearly every distinguished men of his day, yet he was vain and fanatical. His Physiognomische Fragments ("Frangments on Physiognomy") were supposed by thousands of readers to find in the relations of mind and body the materials of a new and mysterious science ; but the pretended science was in reality a mixture of commonplace and extravagance. Basedow, although with too passionate a faith in the power of education to effect an immediate transformation of the race, did excellent service by advocating, after Rousseau, a more human and natural system of mental training than had before prevailed. The same cause was more temperately prevailed. The same cause was more admirable books for the young ; and the Swiss educational reformer, Pestalozzi, set forth methods of instruction in earnest didactic works which had some effect in nearly every country in Europe.

The excitement of the "Sturm und Drang" writers was shared by a band of young poets who in other respects displayed a wholly different temper. Most of them were students at Göttingen, where they gathered round Boie, editor of the Musenalmanach, a journal he had started in imitation of Le Mercure de France, and to which Goethe and many of the best of the younger men of the day contributed. They called themselves the "Hainbund" ("Grove Confederation") because of their dancing one night by moonlight round an oak tree, swearing eternal friendship, and vowing to devote themselves to their native land. The god of their idolatry was Klopstock, whose somewhat fantastic enthusiasm for primitive Germany they fully shared, and whose labours on behalf of virtue they never ceased to celebrate, while they loathed and despised Wieland. Several members of the "Hainbund" afterwards acquired distinction, and all of them were more or less remarkable for the genuinely popular tone of their writings. By far the greatest of them was Bürger (1748-94), who, although he never did full justice to himself, gave evidence of an original and adventurous genius. His Lenore, a translation of which was Scott’s first published work, is full of weird power, and his sonnets are among the most perfect in German literature. His faculty of meeting the popular taste was possessed by Hölty ( 1748-76), who, however, delighted in mild and calm expression, while the best of Bürger’s poems are full of stir and action. Johann Martin Miller (1750-1814) became known chiefly as the author of the romance Siegwart, a rather weak imitation of Werther. Some irreverent spirits ventured to laugh at its tedious pathos, but it was welcomed by the majority of the middle class, who took especial delight in the songs it includes. Christian Count Stolberg, and his brother, Frederick Leopold, were also members of the Göttingen school. Besides imitations of Greek plays, they issued odes, ballads, and songs. Of the two the most powerful was Frederick Leopold (1750-1819), in some of whose briefer pieces there is true feeling nature. He continually verges, however, on extravagance, and often takes the fatal step from the sublime. A stronger writer was Johann Heinrich Voss (1751-1826), author of a famous idyll, Louise, which was received by Schiller as a poem of first-rate importance, and suggested to Goethe the idea of his Hermann und Dorothea. Its homeliness of style is perhaps more in keeping with its simple and commonplace themes than the classic grace of Goethe’s verses. Voss acquired a better title to fame by an admirable translation of Homer, which did for the Iliad in Germany what Pope’s translation did in England. Voss’s rendering is less polished than Pope’s, but incomparably more faithful. Matthias Claudius (1740-1815), although not a member of the "Hainbund," is usually associated with it because of his general sympathy with its tone. The Wandsbecker Bote ("Wandsbeck Messenger"), in which he brought together all his writings, contains much simple poetic feeling, and some of his songs are still popular favourites.





While these writers attached themselves to Klopstock, others showed traced of Wieland’s influence. The most important of this class was William Heinse 91749-1803), whose chief work was Ardinghello, a prose romance. He shares Wieland’s general theory of life, but, instead of expressing it in the calm, ironical style of his matter, he is vehement, tumultuous, and enthusiastic. Amid his wild exaggerations he displays a remarkable power of describing physical beauty. He was an ardent student of art, was the first German writer who succeeded in reproducing in glowing language the impression produced him by pictures and music. Other imitators of Wieland were Aloys Blumauer, who mistook vulgar burleque for satire ; Alxinger, whose Doolin von Mainz may be taken to represent a large class of tiresome poems of chivalry ;and Von Thümmel, who, with considerably more ability than these writers, spoiled his good qualities by cynical grossness. An indefinite number of mediaeval plays were written in imitation of Goethe’s Götz, and robber romances in imitation of Schiller’s Räuber. Of the latter the earliest and most famous was the Rinaldo Rinaldini of Vulpius. Jung Stilling (1740-1817) continued the sentimental tone of Wether in a number of curious autobiographic tales, which acquired extraordinary popularity, and threw much light on the inner tendencies of the later pietists. Among imitators of Schiller’s lyrical poetry the best were Matthison and Salis-Seewis ; but they were more successful in reproducing his moral feeling than in rivalling his high art. For many years the stage was in he possession of Iffland (1759-1814) and Kotzebue (1761-1819). The former, who was a distinguished actor, wrote dramas chiefly of domestic interest. They are without genius, but had the merit of almost displacing the foolish mediaeval plays of Goethe’s imitators. Kotzebue was a most prolific writer ; and although he had no imagination, and wrote merely to catch the applause of the moment, his comedies still deserve to be named among the few works of this class which have hitherto been produced in Germany.

A writer who exercised some influence over the youth of Goethe was Frederick Jacobi (1743-1819). He was the author of two romances, Alwill and Woldemar, in both of which there is a little of Wether’s sentimentalism, although their main purpose is didactic. He also wrote a number of philosophical works. His main principle is that the sources of religion and morality are to be found in intuition ; and by a constant reiteration of this doctrine he worked in opposition to Spinoza, to Kant and to Schelling. There are occasional gleams of philosophical genius in Jacobi, and he is of some interest to English readers because of the attention Sir William Hamilton appears to have devoted to his writings. An author of a very different type, and of far greater eminence, was Jean Paul Richter, usually called Jean Paul (1763-1825). It is difficult to do justice to Jean Paul, for he commits almost every fault of which a writer of romance can be guilty ; he is at different times pedantic, extravagant, sentimental, and tedious. He prescribed for himself no limits ; everything that occurred to him at the moment of his writing went down exactly as it suggested itself. Yet it is impossible even to look into any of his innumerable books without recognizing his genius. The work which has maintained the strongest hold over the nation is perhaps his charming prose idyll, Die Flegeljahre ("the Years of Wild Oats") ; but his great romance, Titan, and the less ambitous Siebenkä, or "Flower, Fruits, and Thorn Pieces," have also kept their place as works of permanent excellence. The most admirable quality of Richter is his humour. No German writer plays with his subject more delightfully, and he produces his most striking effects in dealing with the simplest, most unpretending relations of life. He is usually very near the source of pathos when the smiles, and Jean Paul’s pathos, at its best, is full of power, awakening the deepest feeling by its obvious sincerity. Sometimes it is associated with lofty imagination, as in the famous dream in which he describes a universe without religion. His feeling for the periodic of season in nature is that of a poet in the highest sense, his description of spring being perhaps insurpassed for their glowing yet tender beauty. To his other excellences we must add the manly spirit which led him to scoff, occasionally without due measure, at every kind of vulgarity and pretence, and at same time preserved in its original freshness his sympathy with his fellow-men and his passion for their enlightenment and progress.

The most important literary movement which originated during the lifetime Goethe was that of the Romantic school, whose leading members at first attached themselves to him, but gradually diverged more from his spirit. The rise of the school was in some measure due to the philosophy of Fichte, whose theory of the ago as the principle which freely creates its own world gave new importance to the individual as opposed to law and convention. Schelling still more effectually prepared the way for the Romanticists by his poetic treatment of the relations between the mind and nature ; and several of his disciples, especially Steffens, worked in the same direction by dwelling on the possibilities of mystery in human life and in the external world. The aim of the Romantic school was to assert for modern feeling the right of a freer, more varied utterance than can be provided for it by the forms of classic literature. They were not in sympathy with their own time ; they found it tame, prosaic, colourless ; and to enrich it with new elements they went back mediaevalism, in which, as they conceived it, daily life had not been divorced from poetry. They drew enthusiastic pictures of the Middle Ages, of the charms of chivalry, of the loyalty of each class to the class above it and to society as a whole, of the devout piety which was supposed to regulate the conduct of prince and peasant alike, and which revealed itself in splendid architecture and a gorgeous ritual. With a like purpose the Romanticists pointed to Oriental life, and began the serious study of Sanskrit and Persian poetry. The chief writers whom they opposed to the classical poets both of antiquity and of modern times were Shakespeare and Calderon ; but they also brought to light many mediaeval authors who had previously been neglected, and stimulated the Germans to a systematic study of the whole of their past literature.

The Romanticists did not strike out a wholly original path, for there were in the writings of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller—especially of Goethe—elements in full harmony with all that was best in the new tendency. They were guilty of grotesque exaggeration in their descriptions of the superior happiness of mediaeval nations and Oriental peoples, and they did much harm by checking the rising appreciation of measure and order in literary form which had been encouraged by the great classical writers. In practical life, too, their labours led to results opposed to the progressive tendencies of the age ; for in the ease of many adherents of the Romantic school enthusiasm for the Middle Ages soon ceased to be a mere literary fancy,—they strove to reproduce obsolete ideas. Large numbers of them joined the Catholic Church, and became the most vehement opponents of spiritual and political freedom. Still the Romanticists gave prominence to certain vital principles. That we now feel the charm of what was great and beautiful in the Middle Ages, is in part the result of their teaching ;and to some extent we owe to them the recognition of deeper elements in the world than reason can formulate, and the conviction that the thought of each age must create for itself a medium of expression to its special nature.

The writer known as the prophet of the Romantic school was Frederick von Hardenberg, generally called Novalis (1772-1801). In his unfinished romance, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, he revealed a mystical and sensitive spirit, penetrated by religious aspiration, and feeling itself ill at ease in the hard rough world. These qualities are still more pathetically expressed in his poems, the best perhaps being those in which he directly utters spiritual emotions. The critical leaders of the school were the brothers August Wilhelm von Schlegel (`767-1845) and Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829). It is to be feared that many English readers have derived their impression of the former mainly from Heine’s malicious caricature. In reality, although destitute of creative power, he was a man of great intellectual distinction. His translations from Shakespeare are masterly, and his rendering of Calderon has also genuine merit. He did much to promote the scientific study of Sanckrit, and his lectures on dramatic art and literature, and on the theory and history of plastic art, contain many fruitful suggestions. Friedrich von Schlegel, who was a writer of greater depth and versatility than his brother, caused much scandal by his romance, Lucinde, in which the school appeared for the moment as a powerfully dissolving force in regard to the most sacred of human relations. His most in regard tot he most sacred of human relations. His most important work, however, is his History of Ancient and Modern Literature. Throughout his exposition he is a propagandist of his special ideas ; but the book is of lasting importance as the earliest attempt to present a systematic view of literary development as a whole. The period in which the brothers worked most effectually for their school was between 1796 and 1800, when they lived in Jena, and formed the centre of a brilliant circle which included Fichte, Schelling, Tieck, and Wilhelm von Humboldt. Here they edited the Athenaeum, in which they chastised feeble and pretentious writers, and awoke general interest in mediaeval art and literature, and in the systems of philosophy that harmonized with their special tendency.

The most productive, and for a time the most famous, writer of the Romantic school was Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853). Many of the smaller tales in his Phantasus have not yet lost their interest. They are, indeed, as far as possible from representing the real life of mediaevalism, but they have a mystic and fairy-like charm which is not the less powerful because it is purely imaginative in his later novels he took his themes from modern life, and they display a remakable talent for keen and searching satire. Most of them, however, are already practically forgotten, for Tieck was unable to give form to his ideas, and his imagination was wayward and eccentric. In his lyrical poetry he seldom touches a true note, and his dramas have no high qualities to make up for their utter and deliberate lack of plan. Yet his dramatic criticism, of which he wrote a great deal in Dresden,—where he lived for many years, the centre of an adoring body of disciples,—is often happy and suggestive; and his completion of Schlegel’s translation of Shakespeare is poetic in feeling, and indicates a rare mastery of language and versification. A writer of less importance, but who exercised considerable influence over Tieck at an early period of his career, was W. H. Wackenroder (1772-98), whose Phantasien über die Kunst ("Francies concerning Art") was published by Tieck after the writer’s early death. Both in this book and in his Overflowings from the Heart of an Art-loving Friar he expresses a deep feeling for Christian, especially allegoric, art. He was here in full sympathy with the whole Romantic school, which derived intense delight from the spiritual art of the early mediaeval painters, but cared little for the noble beauty of Greek art of the art of the Renaissance.

Among the authors who wrote in the spirit of the Romantic school, and who were for a long time extremely popular, one of the chief was E.T. A. Hoffman (1776-1822). His treatment of ghostly and horrible themes is often very grotesque ; but he has flashes of vivid narrative which indicate a deep appreciation of some of the more mysterious aspects of human nature. Clemens Brentano (1777-1842) was one of the most ambitious of the Romanticists, and he had originality both of thought and fancy ; but he was too confused, too indifferent to form, to produce more than a passing impression. Of far more enduring excellence than anything he himself wrote more was Des Dnaben Wunderhorn, a book of popular lyrics which he collected with his brother-in-law, Achim von Arnim. Arnim (1781-1831) revealed imagination and feeling in his Kronenwächter ("Guardians of the Crown") ; and his Kronenwächter ("Guardians of the Crown") ; and his Countess Dolores gives evidence of great natural power. His works, however, suffer the penalty which attaches to the total neglect of art. De la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843) does not, in the majority of his writings, rise above the level of his fellows ; like them, he usually lacks clearness, precision, and genuinely human interest. But in one little book, Undine, he achieved a masterpiece. This charming tale, criticism ; it pathos, and dream-like beauty, is now above criticism ; it has taken its place as one of the select class of creations which appeal to all the world, and do not depend for their popularity on the tendencies of a particular time. Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857) is an adherent of the Romantic school only in some of his tales ; his lyrics combine its depth of emotions with clear and musical expression, and his best stories are written in a frank and attractive style. Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838), although usually classed as to some extent a Romanticist, has none of the dreamines and mysticism of the school. He became a German both in thought and feeling ; but his ordered and vigorous style presents many traces of his French origin. He is now chiefly remembered by Peter Schlemihl, a tale of quaint and suggestive humour. The most distinguished dramatist of the Romantic school was Heinrich von Kleist (1776-1811), whose dramas were not represented till after his death, but have since then attracted much attention. Some of his characters are conceived with great vigour, but in his tragic motives he lacks inventions, and all his works are more or less marred by morbid sentimentalism. Allied to the Romantic school, although not directly connected with it, were the writers of the so-called fate-tragedies. The originator of this curious class of works was Werner (12768-1823). It would be difficult to imagine a more trivia conception of fate than that which he develops in his Twenty-Fourth of February, which represents a series of disaster as occuring at intervals on a particular day in consequence of a father’s curse. The notion, however, struck the popular fancy, and for ten years even Kotzebue could not contest the supremacy of the fate-tragedians. The chief followers of Werner were Müllner and Houwald. Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872) began his career with a play—Die Alhnfrau ("The Ancestress")—in the style of these writers, but in his later tragedies he strove to attain classic force and dignity ; and by at least one play, Sappho, he achieved a place among the most distinguished German dramatists.

The whole life of Germany was to some extent influenced by the Romantic school. In politics it was represented, among other, by Joseph Görres, who agitated with constantly growing enthusiasm for the revival of mediaevalism both in church and state. In philosophy Franz Xaver von Baader followed a like tendency by entering deeply into the spirit of Jacob Boehme’s mystical philosophy, and interpreting its principles in accordance with Catholic doctrine. Frederick Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was a thorough Protestant, and his services to serious literature were incomparably higher than those of Baader. He was an admirable dialectician, and did not more than any other writer to promote in Germany a sympathetic study of Plato. Yet there is a touch of Romanticism in the vague, shadowy, and mystic language in which he presents the element of Christian thought and life. The love of the Romantic writers for previous epochs of German history and literature led to great researches of the brothers Grimn, who founded the scientific study of the German language and of German antiquities. They were followed by many devoted scholars, among whom may be named Beneke, Lachmann, Moritz Haupt, and Franz Pfeiffer. The Oriental studies of the Romanticists also promoted comparative philosophy, which acquired something of the character it now bears through the labours of the illustrious scholors, Wilhelm von Humboldt and Franz Bopp.

During the calamitous period when Germany was beaten and humbled by Napoleon the Romantic school, by continually recalling the past glories of the nation, contributed largely to the revival of patriotic feeling. A like result was achieved by Fichte, whose addresses to the German people, delivered in Berlin while it was occupied by French soldiers, are models of fervid yet thoughtful and dignified eloquence. In the war of liberation the popular excitement was expressed with great spirit by Theodor Körner (1791-1813) and Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769-1860). Of these two writers Arndt is them most poetic, but few even of his lyrics have much literary value. To judge them fairly we must think ourselves back into the epoch in which the nation spontaneously arose to avenge its wrongs and assert its independence. It was as a writer of patriotic war-songs that Frederick Rückert (1789-1866) opened his career. Afterwards he moved over a wide range, distinguishing himself especially as a translator of Oriental poetry. He was master of almost of every form of lyrical expression, and had hardly less facility in narrative and didactic verse. As regards the substance of his poetry, he is perhaps chiefly remarkable for the tone of calm resignation which he learned from his masters. In his preference for Oriental modes of thought he has been followed in recent times by Daumer, Bodenstedt, and other poets, who, however, chiefly aim at contrasting the ascetic ideals of Christianity with a gayer, brighter scheme of life. The whole movement had its origin, and was virtually exhausted, in Goethe’s Westöstlicher Divan.

Had the hopes of German patriots been realized after the war of liberation, literature might have profited by the growth of an intelligent national spirit. But the reward of the German people for their immense sacrifices was bitter opposition on the part of their Governments to every aspiration for freedom and unity. Arndt himself, who had done so much to kindle patriotic ardour, was dismissed in disgrace from his professorship at Bonn, which he did not regain till 1840, when Frederick William IV. mounted the Prussian throne. And the brothers Grimm with other scholars were ignominiously turned out of Göttingen. The mass of the people lost interest in high thought and endeavors, and nourished itself on weak poetry like the Uranis of Tiedge, and detestable novels like those of Clauren. Yet even in poetry the period was not destitute of important names. Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862), whose first volume of poems appeared in 1815, ranks with the greatest of modern lyrical writers. He is truly popular and patriotic in tone, yet his songs and ballads have an ease and grace of style which raise him far above any of the Romantic school. Uhland was the founder of the so-called Swabian school of poets, of whom the most cultivated was Gustav Schwab. Other Swabian poets were Justinus Kerner, who attempted, not unsuccessfully, to combine pathos and humour, and Eduard Mörike, whose poetry is generally of a melancholy tone, received, however, by touches which indicate a fine sympathy with nature. The theatre was dominated by Raupach (1784-1852) and Freiherr von Auffenberg (1798-1857), the former reigning in Berlin, the latter in Carlsruhe. Both had talent and knowledge of the stage, but there is neither genius nor art in their plays. Immermann (1796-1840), although not without poetic power, lacked the faculty of controlling his dramatic conceptions. He was more successful in romance—his Espigonen, and still more his Münchhausen, displaying vivid fancy and a quaintly original humour. Sir Walter Scott, who was deeply influenced by German literature, repaid his obligations by influencing it turn. One of the best of his imitators was Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827), who had the merit of nearly putting an end to Clauren’s popularity by satirizing his style. Hauff’s chief work was Lichtenstein, which excited hopes that were to soon extinguished by death. Wilhelm Häring, known as Wilibald Alexix (1798-1876), also began as an imitator of Scott, but he afterwards wrote more original historical romances, the scenes of which he laid in Brandenburg. Johanna Schopenhauer, mother of the philosopher, was considered in her day an attractive writer of romance, but she is now remembered only for the sake of her son She was surpassed in vigour of thought and style by Caroline Pichler (1769-1843), who wrote several well-known historical novels.

Throughout the whole of this period Germany maintained her eminence in classical study, contributions of the highest importance to the knowledge of ancient life being made by Wolf, Hermann, Boeckh, and Otfried Müller. In history she produced several writers of distinction. Spittler (1752-1810) was a worthy successor of Justus Möser in the free and artistic treatment of historical subjects ; in youth he was kindly treated by Lessing, whose clear style he appears to have taken us his model. Johannes von Müller (1752-1809), the historian of Switzerland, used to be considered by the Germans an eloquent writer, almost a prose poet, but he is now generally regarded as an affected rhetorician. Raumer, in his chief work, History of the Hohenstaufen, gave forth the results of deep research in an animated and vigorous narrative. Schlosser, author of a History of the Eighteenth Century, was also an historian who combined purity and strength of style with learning Niebuhr, in his Roman History, pushed his scepticism too far, but he profoundly modified opinion in regard to the tests of historic credibility.


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