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ART. VIII.-1. Essais Littéraires et Historiques. (Literary and
Historical Essays.) Par A. W. de SCHLEGEL. Bonn. 1842. 2. Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Literatur. (Lectures
on Dramatic Art and Literature.) By A. W. SCHLEGEL.
1809-11. 3. A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. By
A. W. SCHLEGEL. Translated from the German by John
BLACK. Second Edition. 1840. The reputation of A. W. SCHLEGEL is not undeservedly European.
He has done the state some service ;' he has stimulated the minds of many thinking, men, directing their attention to points of literary history which had before been overlooked ; and he has been useful to the science of criticism, by his paradoxes which have roused discussion, no less than by his principles which have received assent. His works are distinguished amongst their class by a splendour of diction, a felicity of illustration, and attractiveness of exposition rarely equalled; nor has their popularity been injured by the affectation of philosophic depth of which they are guilty. Although more Rhetorician than Critic, his writings contain some valuable principles luminously expressed, much ingenuity and acuteness, and are, in spite of all their drawbacks, worthy of serious attention. But in merits and in faults he is essentially a popular writer, and stands, with us, in the very false position of an oracle. As a popular writer he is efficient, and merits all the applause he has received; but as an oracle--as a rational, serious, philosophic critic—he is one of the most dangerous guides the student can consult. Freely admitting that his influence in England has not been on the whole without good result, we are firmly convinced that it has been in many things pernicious. And while we are constantly deploring the evils he has caused, we as constantly see him held up to our admiration and respect as the highest authority on Dramatic Art.* Whatever benefit it was in his power to confer has been already reaped ; and now it is important that his errors should be exposed. We beg the reader therefore to understand this article as polemical rather than critical: not as an estimate of Schlegel's work, but as a protest against his method, and examination of his leading principles.
In the preface to his recently collected volume of Essays he comColeridge.
* Ex uno disce omnes. “We consider the Dramatic Lectures every way worthy of that individual whom Germany venerates as the second, and whom Europe has classed among the most illustrious of her characters.”-Quarterly Review.
161 plains that his countrymen have forgotten him; but rejoices in the conviction that in other lands his name is mentioned with respect. This is true. In Germany he has no longer any influence because he can no longer teach: the new generations have left him far behind, and all his best ideas have become commonplaces. Gossip, , not Fame, is busy with him; his coxcombry is sometimes mentioned, to be laughed at; his writings have not even the honour of detraction. Yet must he always occupy an honourable place in the literary annals of his country, both on account of what he has done and the men he has been connected with. As the translator of Shakspeare and Calderon he will deserve the gratitude of his countrymen. Nor can literary history forget that he was one of the chiefs of the Romanticists, whose wit and eloquence came to celebrate the victory that Lessing, Herder, and Winckelman had won; that he was the friend of the hectic Novalis, that strange, mystic, unhealthy soul; of Tieck, whose light and sunny spirit takes such glorious revenge of his misshapen form; of Wackenroder, who died in his promise; of Schleiermacher, whose unceasing activity was ennobled by so lofty and so generous a purpose; and of Madame de Staël, who terrified Napoleon,—and talked.
He will also long be honourably mentioned amongst us as one of the first who taught us to regard Shakspeare as the reverse of a wild, irregular genius.' The precedence we know is claimed by Coleridge, and many of his admirers admit the claim ; while others wonder at the singular coincidences.' As a point of literary history this is worth settling. Every one is aware of the dispute respecting the originality of certain ideas promulgated by Coleridge, but no one we believe has sifted the evidence on which the matter rests. The facts are these. Schlegel lectured in Vienna in 1808; five years afterwards, in 1813, Coleridge lectured on the same subject in London. On examining the printed lectures we find the most singular resemblances : not, be it observed, mere general resemblances, such as two writers might very easily exhibit—not mere coincidences of thought, but also of expression ; the doctrines are precisely the same, the expression so similar as to be a translation of one language into the other, the citations are the same, the illustrations are the same, and the blunders are the same. On so large a topic as that of the Greek Drama, coincidence of opinion is extremely probable; but coincidence of expression is in the highest degree improbable; and if we add thereto coincidence of illustration, citation, and blunders in point of fact, the conclusion is irresistible that one of the writers has plagiarised from the other. We would beg attention to the following examples:
VOL. XXXII. NO. LXIII.
Whatever is most intoxicating in the With Juliet love was all that is tenodour of a southern spring, languishing der and melancholy in the nightingale, in the song of the nightingale, or vo- all that is voluptuous in the rose, with luptuous on the first opening of the rose, whatever is sweet in the freshness of is breathed into this poem.
spring. SCHLEGEL-on "Romeo and Juliet.'
COLERIDGE. The Pantheon is not more different And as the Pantheon is to York Minfrom Westminster Abbey, or St. Ste- ster or Westminster Abbey, so is Sophen's at Vienna, than the structure of phocles compared with Shakspeare. a tragedy of Sophocles from a drama of
In the Old Comedy the form was In the Old Comedy the very form sportive, and was characterized by an itself is whimsical; the whole work is apparent whim and caprice. The whole one great jest, comprehending a world production was one entire jest, on a of jests within it, among which each large scale, comprehending within itself maintains its own place, without seema world of separate jests, and each oc- ing to concern itself as to the relation cupied its own place without appearing in which it may stand to the rest. to have any concern with the rest.
The subdued seriousness of the New The Entertainment or New Comedy, Comedy, on the other hand, remains on the other hand, remained within the always within the circle of experience. circle of experience. Instead of the The place of Fate is supplied by Acci- tragic Destiny, it introduced the power dent.
of Chance. SCHLEGEL.
COLERIDGE. Not to tire the reader, let these examples suffice, although we could cite twenty others equally striking. Most of what is said in the Remains' of Coleridge on the subject of the Greek Drama and respecting Shakspeare (pages 12 to 83 of the second volume), is to be found in the Lectures' of Schlegel. This passes the possibility of casual coincidence. Yet Coleridge, accused of plagiarism, boldly declared that “ there is not a single principle in Schlegel's work (which is not an admitted drawback from its merits.) that was not established and applied in detail by me.”
Unfortunately Coleridge, with all those great and admirable powers which we are far from wishing to depreciate, was notoriously a plagiarist, and not a very honest one. He did not simply appropriate the ideas of others, but always endeavoured to prove that he was but recovering his own property. It is worthy here to be remarked that many of the opinions and happy illustrations of certain topics, to which Coleridge, gave currency, and for which he daily receives the credit, are plagiarisms. His famous saying that all men are born either Aristotelians or Platonists is in Frederick Schlegel. His still more famous saying respecting Plato, is what Socrates uttered of Heraclitus. "The philosophy in his · Biographia Literaria,' is translated, often verbatim, from Schelling. If, therefore, with this knowledge of his Plagiarism.
163 literary honesty we examine the present question of plagiarism, we shall find little difficulty in detecting the culprit.
Coleridge lectured in 1813, five years after Schlegel ; and by this time the German's ideas were pretty well known over Europe, for Madame de Staël had then published her · De l'Allemagne.' On the other hand Coleridge, by an artful assertion, throws a difficulty in the way. He says that his rival did not lecture till two years after he did; referring to the lectures at the Surrey Institution in 1806. We call it an artful assertion, and the artifice is this: the fact that he lectured in 1806 is brought forward as a proof of his originality, implying that in those lectures of 1806 he delivered the same opinions as in those of 1813. His friends have taken the implication as if it were a necessary consequence of his having lectured. But it is by no means a necessary consequence: indeed we have his own express testimony against it: for he says that he always made a point of so altering the matter of his discourses that two on the same subject differed as much as if they had been by two different individuals. These lectures of 1806 have perished; no trace of them remains to support his assertion; the only remains are of those of 1813; and, until it can be proved that the resemblances were in those of 1806, he must be accused of the theft by all impartial judges. For (and the case is remarkable as a specimen of boldness) in one place Coleridge calls Sir George Beaumont, Sir Humphrey Davy, and Hazlitt to witness that he delivered his views upon • Hamlet' two years before Schlegel. The fact is indubitable; but he forgot, in the anxiety for his "moral reputation,' to add this other fact-that in his criticism on Hamlet there are no resemblances to the criticism of Schlegel. Let the reader compare * Remains,' vol. ii., pp. 204—234, with · Dramatic Lectures ïi., pp. 199–204, and he will appreciate the importance of Coleridge's witnesses.
We here quit this topic, to confine ourselves to the · Dramatic Lectures. Schlegel's method we regard as the most injurious portion of his work; the more so as it dignifies itself with lofty names, and wishes to pass off easy theorizing for philosophic judgment. We owe the jargon of modern criticism, which styles itself “philosophic,' principally to Schlegel; for the Solgers, Rötschers, Hegels, &c., are but little read. Every body knows that the criticism of the last century was bad, but at any rate it was positive; it was intelligible; it treated of the matter in hand, and measured it according to standards which were appreciable, if limited. Bad as it was, it was more satisfactory, more instructive than much of what passes as philosophic in the present day. Ridiculous though it be to talk of the elegance and sublimity' of Homer, or the “irregularity of Shakspeare, we prefer it to the rhapsodies of Schlegel on Calderon, wherein he defends the glittering nonsense of his favourite upon the ground that it is a sense of the mutual attraction of created things to one another on account of their common origin, and this is a refulgence of the eternal love which embraces the universe.' If there is better criticism in the present day than in the last century, it is because knowledge of art is greater and taste more catholic; not because analysis has given place to synthesis,' as many people maintain.
In the eloquent introduction to the last edition of the translation of the Lectures,' Mr. Horne deems it worthy of especial and enthusiastic praise that Schlegel eschewed analysis.'* Mr. Horne has an angry contempt for analysis; deems truth and appreciation solely on the side of synthesis; will see no danger in wholesale judgment. In this respect we may take his introduction as the expression of an opinion prevalent with a large class. Opposed to this class is another which sneers with unlimited contempt at philosophic criticism' as vague, dreamy, and fantastic. Both parties are right in what they mean by these terms; but neither of them aflix the right meaning. One scorns analysis, meaning incomplete analysis. Another scorns philosophy, meaning bad philosophy.
Though ranging under neither banner, we confess our inclinations lean towards analysis. Bad analytical criticism is better than mediocre philosophy. A review of a poem, which consists in quoting a few passages, may not be satisfactory, but it at least selects something whereby the reader may form an opinion. A dissertation on the philosophic or artistic import of that poem must be excellent to be endurable; and at the best it is an essay, not a judgment. Mr. Horne thinks analysis akin to the taking an inventory of furniture in an edifice as a means of calculating the abstract spirit of its master:' as we said, he means incomplete analysis. He has also described his favourite method thus:
“It is the synthetic principle to work with nature and art, and not against them; collaterally and not in the assumed superiority of the contemplative and investigating power over the productive power and the things it produces.”
In other words, the synthetic critic is an advocate, and not a judge: an accurate description of Schlegel himself.
The greatest of modern critics, Lessing and Winckelman, were men of great analytic power, and it is to them that we owe the best appreciation of works of art. They were not declaimers. They studied patiently, and reasoned profoundly. One aspect,