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singular and noble nature; and to our readers, a few words on this man, certainly one of the most remarkable of his age, will not seem thrown away.
Except by name, Jean Paul Friedrich Richter is little known. out of Germany. The only thing connected with him, we think, that has reached this country, is his saying, imported by Madame de Stael, and thankfully pocketed by most newspaper critics :“ Providence has given to the French the empire of the land, to the English that of the sea, to the Germans that of_the air !" Of this last element, indeed, his own genhus might easily seem to have been a denizen: so fantastic, many-coloured, far-grasping, everyway perplexed and extraordinary, is his mode of writing, that to translate him properly is next to impossible; nay, a dictionary of his works has actually been in part published for the use of German readers! These things have restricted his sphere of action, and may long restrict it, to his own country: but there, in return, he is a favourite of the first class; studied through all his intricacies with trustful admiration, and a love which tolerates much. During the last forty years, he has been continually before the public, in various capacities, and growing generally in esteem with all ranks of critics; till, at length, his gainsayers have been either silenced or convinced; and Jean Paul, at first reckoned half-mad, has long ago vindicated his singularities to nearly universal satisfaction, and now combines popularity with real depth of endowment, in perhaps a greater degree than
any other writer; being second in the latter point to scarcely more than one of his contemporaries, and in the former second to none.
The biography of so distinguished a person could scarcely fail to be interesting, especially his autobiography; which accordingly we wait for, and may in time submit to our readers, if it seem worthy: meanwhile, the history of his life, so far as outward events characterise it, may be stated in few words. He was born at Wunsiedel in Bayreuth, in March 1763. His father was a subaltern teacher in the Gymnasium of the place, and afterwards promoted to be clergyman at Schwarzbach on the Saale. Richter's early education was of the scantiest sort; but his fine faculties and unwearied diligence supplied every defect. Unable to purchase books, he borrowed what he could come at, and transcribed from them, often great part of their contents,—a habit of excerpting which continued with him through life, and influenced, in more than one way, his mode of writing and study To the last, he was an insatiable and universal reader; so that his extracts accumulated on his hands, “ till they filled whole
“chests.” In 1780, he went to the University of Leipzig; with the highest character, in spite of the impediments which he had struggled with, for talent and acquirement. Like his father, he was destined for Theology; from which, however, his vagrant genius soon diverged into Poetry and Philosophy, to the neglect, and, ere long, to the final abandonment, of his appointed profession. Not well knowing what to do, he now accepted a tutorship in some family of rank; then he had pupils in his own house —which, however, like his way of life, he often changed; for by this time he had become an author, and, in his wanderings over Germany, was putting forth,—now here, now there,—the strangest books, with the strangest titles : For instance—“Green“ land Lawsuits;"-"Biographical Recreationsunder the Cranium “ of a Giantess;”—“ Selection from the Papers of the Devil;" — and the like. In these indescribable performances, the splendid faculties of the writer, luxuriating as they seemed in utter riot, could not be disputed; nor, with all its extravagance, the fundamental strength, honesty, and tenderness of his nature. Genius will reconcile men to much. By degrees, Jean Paul began to be considered not a strange, crackbrained mixture of enthusiast and buffoon, but a man of infinite humour, sensibility, force, and penetration. His writings procured him friends and fame; and at length a wife and a settled provision. With Caroline Mayer his good spouse, and a pension (in 1802) from the King of Bavaria, he settled in Bayreuth, the capital of his native province; where he lived thenceforth, diligent and celebrated in many new departments of literature; and died on the 14th of November 1825, loved as well as admired by all his countrymen, and most by those who had known him most intimately.
A huge, irregular man, both in mind and person (for his portrait is quite a physiognomical study), full of fire, strength, and impetuosity, Richter seems, at the same time, to have been, in the highest degree, mild, simple-hearted, humane. He was fond of conversation, and might well shine in it: he talked, as he wrote, in a style of his own, full of wild strength and charms, to which his natural Bayreuth accent often gave additional effect. Yet he loved retirement, the country, and all natural things : from his youth upwards, he himself tells us, he may almost be said to have lived in the open air; it was among groves and meadows that he studied-often that he wrote. Even in the streets of Bayreuth, we kave heard, he was seldom seen without a flower in his breast, A man of quiet tastes, and warm, compassionate affections ! His friends he must have loved as few do. Of his poor and humble mother he often speaks by allusion, and never without reverence and overflowing tenderness. “ Unhappy is the man,” says he, “ for whom his own mother has not made all other mothers venera“ble!” and elsewhere :-“O thou who hast still a fatherand a mo“ther, thank God for it in the day when thy soul is full of joyful “tears, and needs a bosom wherein to shed them !” –We quote the following sentences from Doering, almost the only memorable thing he has written in this volume :
“ Richter’s studying or sitting apartment offered, about this 6 time (1793), a true and beautiful emblem of his simple and “ noble way of thought, which comprehended at once the high “ and the low. Whilst his mother, who then lived with him, “ busily pursued her household work, occupying herself about “ stove and dresser, Jean Paul was sitting in a corner of the same “ room, at a simple writing-desk, with few or no books about “ him, but merely with one or two drawers containing excerpts “ and manuscripts. The jingle of the household operations seem“ ed not at all to disturb him, any more than did the cooing of “ the pigeons, which fluttered to and fro in the chamber,-a place, “ indeed, of considerable size.”—p. 8.
Our venerable Hooker, we remember, also enjoyed, "the jin“gle of household operations,” and the more questionable jingle of shrewd tongues to boot, while he wrote; but the good thrifty mother, and the cooing pigeons, were wanting. Richter came afterwards to live in finer mansions, and had the great and learned for associates; but the gentle feelings of those days abode with him : through life he was the same substantial, determinate, yet meek and tolerating man. It is seldom that so much rugged energy can be so blandly attempered--that so much vehemence and so much softness will go together.
The expected edition of Richter's works is to be in sixty volumes; and they are no less multifarious than extensive; embracing subjects of all sorts, from the highest problems of transcendental philosophy, and the most passionate poetical delineations, to Golden Rules for the Weather-Prophet, and instructions in the Art of Falling Asleep. His chief productions are novels: the Unsichtbare Loge (Invisible Lodge); Flegeljahre (Wild-Oats); Life of Fixlein ; the Jubelsenior (Parson in Jubilee); Schmelzli's Journey to Flätz ; Katzenberger's Journey to the Bath ; Life of Fibel ; with many lighter pieces; and two works of a higher order, Hesperus and Titan, the largest and the best of his novels. It was the former that first (in 1795) introduced him into decisive and universal estimation with his countrymen: the latter he himself, with the most judicious of his critics, regarded as his master-piece. But the name Novelist, as we in England must understand it, would ill describe so vast and discursive a genius : for with all his grotesque, tumultuous pleasantry, Richter is a man of a truly earnest, nay, high and solemn character; and seldom writes without a meaning far beyond the sphere of common romancers. Hesperus and Titan themselves, though in form nothing more than “ novels of real life,” as the Minerva Press would say, have solid metal enough in them to furnish whole circulating libraries, were it beaten into the usual filigree; and much which, attenuate it as we might, no quarterly subscriber could well carry with him. Amusement is often, in part almost always, a mean with Richter; rarely or never his highest end. His thoughts, his feelings, the creations of his spirit, walk before us embodied under wondrous shapes, in motley and ever-fluctuating groups: but his essential character, however he disguise it, is that of a Philosopher and moral Poet, whose study has been human nature, whose delight and best endeavour are with all that is beautiful, and tender, and mysteriously sublime in the fate or history of man. This is the purport of his writings, whether their form be that of fiction or of truth; the spirit that pervades and ennobles his delineations of common life, his wild wayward dreams, allegories, and shadowy imaginings, no less than his disquisitions of a nature directly scientific
But in this latter province also, Richter has accomplished much. His Vorschule der Aesthetik (Introduction to Aesthetics *) is a work on poetic art, based on principles of no ordinary depth and compass, abounding in noble views, and, notwithstanding its frolicsome exuberance, in sound and subtle criticism; esteemed even in Germany, where Criticism has long been treated of as a science, and by such persons as Winkelmann, Kant, Herder, and the Schlegels. Of this work we could speak long, did our limits allow. We fear, it might astonish many an honest brother of our craft, were he to read it; and altogether perplex and dash his maturest counsels, if he chanced to understand it.-Richter has also written on Education, a work entitled Levana; distinguished by keen practical sagacity, as well as generous sentiment, and a certain sober magnificence of speculation; the whole presented in that singular style which characterizes the man. Germany is rich in works on Education; richer at present than
* From aus dovoudi, to feel. A word invented by Baumgarten (some eighty years ago), to express generally the Science of the Fine Arts ; and now in universal use among the Germans. Perhaps we also might as well adopt it; at least if any such science should ever arise among us.
any other country: it is there only that some echo of the Lockes and Miltons, speaking of this high matter, may still be heard; and speaking of it in the language of our own time; with insight into the actual wants, advantages, perils, and prospects of this age. Among writers on this subject, Richter holds a high place; if we look chiefly at his tendency and aims, perhaps the highest.
- The Clavis Fichtiana is a ludicrous performance, known to us only by report; but Richter is said to possess the merit, while he laughs at Fichte, of understanding him; a merit among Fichte's critics, which seems to be one of the rarest. Report also, we regret to say, is all that we know of the Campaner Thal, a Discourse on the Immortalityʻof the Soul; one of Richter's beloved topics, or rather the life of his whole philosophy, glimpses of which look forth on us from almost every one of his writings. He died while engaged, under recent and almost total blindness, in enlarging and remodelling this Campaner Thal : the unfinished manuscript was borne upon his coffin to the burial vault; and Klopstock's hymn, Auferstehen wirst du, “ Thou shalt arise, my soul,” can seldom have been sung with more appropriate application than over the grave of Jean Paul.
We defy the most careless or prejudiced reader to peruse these works without an impression of something splendid, wonderful, and daring. But they require to be studied as well as read, and this with no ordinary patience, if the reader, especially the foreign reader, wishes to comprehend rightly either their truth or their want of truth. Tried by many an accepted standard, Richter would be speedily enough disposed of; pronounced a mystic-a German dreamer-a rash and presumptuous innovator; and so consigned, with equanimity, perhaps with a certain jubilee, to the Limbo appointed for all such wind-bags and deceptions. Originality is a thing we constantly clamour for, and constantly quarrel with; as if, observes our author himself, any originality but.our own could be expected to content us! In fact, all strange things are apt, without fault of theirs, to estrange us at first view, and unhappily scarcely anything is perfectly plain, but what is also perfectly common. The current coin of the realm passes into all hands; and be it gold, silver, or copper, is acceptable and of known value: but with new ingots, with foreign bars, and medals of Corinthian brass, the case is widely different.
There are few writers with whom deliberation and careful distrust of first impressions are more necessary than with Richter. He is a phenomenon from the very surface; he presents himself with a professed and determined singularity: his lan