Page images

to taste the comely—the sweet—the exquisite fruit, however hard to pluck, of regular industry. He was a politician by trade; a professional statesman. There is no such craft recognised in this state ; all our institutions are ignorant of it—all our habits averse to it; nor is there one of a British statesman's functions which may not be conjoined with the cares of an industrious life.

We have said that this Collection contains two letters from the late Duke of Portland. One of them is extremely interesting, and does infinite honour to that distinguished person. It is an answer apparently (for here, as usual, the editor renders us no help) to the letter afterwards published by Mr Burke, when a surreptitious copy had got abroad, and entitled Observations on the Conduct of the Minority. The letter was sent to his Grace with those Observations ; they reflected severely on Mr Fox and his friends; they extolled the Duke, and his family, and party, to the skies; their burden was an accusation brought against Mr Fox and his friends, of ill behaviour towards the Duke and his party, and, in particular, his relations; yet, let the reader mark and admire the high-minded candour, the truly generous spirit, with which that noble person gently, and yet firmly, rebukes his partizan’s forward zeal, and avows his love and respect for the man whom he no longer could act with, but had never seen cause to distrust.

• In conformity with the principles I have ever professed, in this great cause, and indeed in all its appendages, my support, such as it may be, will be given completely and unreservedly to those, be they who they may, who appear to conduct it to the best of their abilities. Farther than this I cannot go—and so far seems to me to be advancing no farther than I have done, and should consider it my duty to do, in any occasion of peril or importance to my country. In this I may be mistaken, as I may have been in other instances. But I must acknowledge that where I have been in long habits of intimacy and friendship, where I have observed many and striking instances of very superior talents and judgment, the most incorruptible integrity, the most perfect disinterestedness, I am much disinclined to impute to bad motives a conduct, however different and opposite it may be to that which I feel myself obliged to hold. This may be a great weakness, but it is a weakness I am not ashamed of confessing, and less so to you than to any friend I have.'

Let it be recollected that this was a private letier, written during the utmost heat of those political contentions, and that it never was meant to see the light, nor in fact has for the third of a century afterwards been disclosed, when all the persons concerned have long slept in their graves.

Art. II.-1. Die Poesie und Eeredsamkeit der Deutschen, von

Luthers Zeit bis zur Gegenwart. Dargestellt von Franz Horn. (The Poetry and Oratory of the Germans, from Luther's Time to the Present. Exhibited by Franz Horn). Berlin,

1822–23–24. 3 vols. 8vo. 2. Umrisse zur Geschichte und Kritik der schönen Litteratur

Deutschlands während der Jahre 1790-1818. (Outlines for the History and Criticism of Polite Literature in Germany, during the Years 1790–1818). By Franz Horn. Berlin, 1819. 8vo.

THESE two books, notwithstanding their diversity of title,

are properly parts of one and the same; the Outlines, though of prior date in regard to publication, having now assumed the character of sequel and conclusion to the larger work,-of fourth volume to the other three. It is designed, of course, for the home market; yet the foreign student also will find in it a safe and valuable help, and, in spite of its imperfections, should receive it with thankfulness and good-will. Doubtless we might have wished for a keener discriminative and descriptive talent, and perhaps for a somewhat more Catholic spirit, in the writer of such a history; but in their absence we have still much to praise. Horn's literary creed would, on the whole, we believe, be acknowledged by his countrymen as the true one; and this, though it is chiefly from one immovable station that he can survey his subject, he seems heartily anxious to apply with candour and tolerance. Another improvement might have been a deeper principle of arrangement, a firmer grouping into periods and schools; for, as it stands, the work is more a critical sketch of German Poets, than a history of German Poetry.

Let us not quarrel, however, with our author: his merits as a literary historian are plain, and by no means inconsiderable. Without rivalling the almost frightful laboriousness of Bouterwek or Eichhorn, he gives creditable proofs of research and general information, and possesses a lightness in composition, to which neither of these erudite persons can well pretend. Undoubtedly he has a flowing pen, and is at home in this province; not only a speaker of the word, indeed, but a doer of the work; having written, besides his great variety of tracts and treatises biographical, philosophical, and critical, several very deserving works of a poetic sort. He is not, it must be owned, a very strong man, but he is nimble and orderly, and goes through his work with a certain gaiety of heart; nay, at times, with a froJiesome alacrity which might even require to be pardoned. His

character seems full of susceptibility; perhaps too much so for its natural vigour. His Novels, accordingly, to judge from the few we have read of them, verge towards the sentimental. In the present Work, in like manner, he has adopted nearly all the best ideas of his contemporaries, but with something of an undue vehemence; and he advocates the cause of religion, integrity, and true poetic taste, with great heartiness and vivacity, were it not that too often his zeal outruns his prudence and insight. Thus, for instance, he declares repeatedly, in so many words, that no mortal can be a poet unless he is a Christian. The meaning here is very good : but why this phraseology? Is it not inviting the simple-minded (not to speak of scoffers, whom Horn very justly contemns) to ask, when Homer subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles ? or whether Sadi and Hafiz were really of the Bishop of Peterborough's opinion? Again, he talks too often of representing the Infinite in the Finite,' of expressing the unspeakable, and such high matters. In fact, Horn's style, though extremely readable, has one great fault: it is, to speak it in a single word, an affected style. His stream of meaning, uniformly clear and wholesome in itself, will not flow quietly along its channel; but is ever and anon spurting up into epigram and antithetic jets. Playful he is, and kindly, and we do believe, honest-hearted; but there is a certain snappishness in him, a frisking abruptness ; and then his sport is more a perpetual giggle, than any dignified smile, or even any sufficient laugh with gravity succeeding it. This sentence is among the best we recollect of him, and will partly illustrate what we mean. We submit it, for the sake of its import likewise, to all superfine speculators on the Reformation, in their future contrasts of Luther and Erasmus. • Erasmus,' says Horn, belongs to that species of writers who have all the de* sire in the world to build God Almighty a magnificent church, . -at the same time, however, not giving the Devil any of• fence; to whom, accordingly, they set up a neat little chapel • close by, where you can offer him some touch of sacrifice at a time, and practise a quiet household devotion for him without disturbance. In this style of witty and conceited mirth,' considerable part of the book is written.

But our chief business at present is not with Franz Horn, or his book; of whom, accordingly, recommending his labours to all inquisitive students of German, and himself

to good estimation with all good men, we must here take leave. We have a word or two to say on that strange literature itself; concerning which, our readers probably feel more curious to learn what it is, than with what skill it has been judged of.

Above a century ago, the Père Bouhours propounded to himself the pregnant question : Si un Allemand peut avoir de l'ésprit ? Had the Père Bouhours bethought him of what country Kepler and Leibnitz were, or who it was that gave to mankind the three great elements of modern civilization, Gunpowder, Printing, and the Protestant Religion, it might have thrown light on his inquiry. Had he known the Niebelungen Lied; and where Reinecke Fuchs, and Faust, and the Ship of Fools, and four-fifths of all the popular mythology, humour, and romance, to be found in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries took its rise; had he read a page or two of Ulrich Hutten, Opitz, Paul Flemming, Logau, or even Lohenstein and Hoffmannswaldau, all of whom had already lived and written in his day; had the Père Bouhours taken this trouble,—who knows but he might have found, with whatever amazement, that a German could actually have a little ésprit, or perhaps even something better? No such trouble was requisite for the Père Bouhours. Motion in vacuo is well known to be speedier and surer than through a resisting medium, especially to imponderous bodies; and so the light Jesuit, unimpeded by facts or principles of any kind, failed not to reach his conclusion; and in a comfortable frame of mind, to decide, negatively, that a German could not have any literary talent.

Thus did the Père Bouhours evince that he had a pleasant wit;' but in the end he has paid dear for it. The French, themselves, have long since begun to know something of the Germans, and something also of their critical Daniel; and now it is by this one untimely joke that the hapless Jesuit is doomed to live; for the blessing of full oblivion is denied him, and so he hangs, suspended in his own noose, over the dusky pool which he struggles toward, but for a great while will not reach. Might his fate but serve as a warning to kindred men of wit, in regard to this and so many other subjects! For surely the pleasure of despising, at all times and in itself a dangerous luxury, is much safer after the toil of examining than before it.

We differ from the Père Bouhours in this matter, and must endeavour to discuss it differently. There is, in fact, much in the present aspect of German Literature not only deserving notice, but deep consideration from all thinking men, and far too complex for being handled in the way of epigram. It is always advantageous to think justly of our neighbours, nay, in mere common honesty, it is a duty'; and, like every other duty, brings its own reward. Perhaps at the present era this duty is more essential than ever ; an era of such promise and such threatening,—when so many elements of good and evil are everywhere in

conflict, and human society is, as it were, struggling to body itself forth anew, and so many coloured rays are springing up in this quarter and in that, which only by their union can produce pure light. Happily too, though still a difficult, it is no longer an impossible duty; for the commerce in material things has paved roads for commerce in things spiritual, and a true thought, or a noble creation, passes lightly to us from the remotest countries, provided only our minds be open to receive it. This, indeed, is a rigorous proviso, and a great obstacle lies in it; one which to many must be insurmountable, yet which it is the chief glory of social culture to surmount. For, if a man, who mistakes his own contracted individuality for the type of human nature, and deals with whatever contradicts him as if it contradicted this, is but a pedant, and without true wisdom, be he furnished with partial equipments as he may,-what better shall we think of a nation that, in like manner, isolates itself from foreign influence, regards its own modes as so many laws of nature, and rejects all that is different as unworthy even of examination ?

Of this narrow and perverted condition the French, down almost to our own times, have afforded a remarkable and instructive example; as indeed of late they have been often enough upbraidingly reminded, and are now themselves, in a manlier spirit, beginning to admit. That our countrymen have at any time erred much in this point, cannot, we think, truly be alleged against them. Neither shall we say, with some passionate admirers of Germany, that to the Germans in particular they have been unjust. It is true, the literature and character of that country, which, within the last half century, have been more worthy perhaps than any other of our study and regard, are still very generally unknown to us, or what is worse, misknown: but for this there are not wanting less offensive reasons.

That the false and tawdry ware, which was in all hands, should reach us before the chaste and truly excellent, which it required some excellence to recognise; that Kotzebue's insanity should have spread faster, by some fifty years, than Lessing's wisdom; that Kant's Philosophy should stand in the background as a dreary and abortive dream, and Gall's Craniology be held out to us from every booth as a reality ;-all this lay in the nature of the case. That many readers should draw conclusions from imperfect premises, and by the imports judge too hastily of the stock imported from, was likewise natural. No unfair bias, no unwise indisposition, that we are aware of, has ever been at work in the matter; perhaps, at worst, a degree of in

« PreviousContinue »