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dolenco, a blameable incuriosity to all products of foreign genius : for what more do we know of recent Spanish or Italian literature than of German; of Grossi and Manzoni, of Campomanes or Jovellanos, than of Tieck and Richter? Wherever German art, in those forms of it which need no interpreter, has addressed us immediately, our recognition of it has been prompt and hearty; from Dürer to Mengs, from Händel to Weber and Beethoven, we have welcomed the painters and musicians of Germany, not only to our praise, but to our affections and beneficence. Nor, if in their literature we have been more backward, is the literature itself without share in the blame. Two centuries ago, translations from the German were comparatively frequent in England: Luther's Table-Talk is still a venerable classic in our language; nay Jacob Böhme has found a place among us, and this not as a dead letter, but as a living apostle to a still living sect of our religionists. In the next century, indeed, translation ceased; but then it was in a great measure because there was little worth translating. The horrors of the
Thirty Years' War, followed by the conquests and conflagrations of Louis Fourteenth, had desolated the country; French influence, extending from the courts of princes to the closets of the learned, lay like a baleful incubus over the far nobler mind of Germany; and all true nationality vanished from its literature, or was heard only in faint tones, which lived in the hearts of the people, but could not reach with any effect to the ears of foreigners.* And now that the genius of the country has awaked
* Not that the Germans were idle; or altogether engaged, as we too loosely suppose, in the work of commentary and lexicography. On the contrary, they rhymed and romanced with due vigour as to quantity; only the quality was bad. Two facts on this head may deserve mention: In the year 1749, there were found in the library of one virtuoso no fewer than 300 volumes of devotional poetry, containing, says Horn, “ a treasure of 33,712 German hymns;" and much about the same period, one of Gottsched's scholars had amassed as many as 1500 German novels, all of the 17th century. The hymns we understand to be much better than the novels, or rather, perhaps, the novels to be much worse than the hymns. Neither was critical study neglected, nor indeed honest endeavour on all hands to attain improvement: witness the strange books from time to time put forth, and the still stranger institutions established for this purpose. Among the former, we have the “ Poetical Funnel” (Poetische Trichter), manufactured at Nürnberg in 1650, and professing, within six hours, to pour in the whole essence of this difficult art into the most unfurnished head. Nürnberg also was the chief seat of the famous Meisterin its old strength, our attention to it has certainly awakened also: and if we yet know little or nothing of the Germans, it is not because we wilfully do them wrong, but in good part because they are somewhat difficult to know.
In fact, prepossessions of all sorts naturally enough find their place here. A country which has no national literature, or a literature too insignificant to force its way abroad, must always be, to its neighbours, at least in every important spiritual respect, an unknown and misestimated country. Its towns may figure on our maps ; its revenues, population, manufactures, political connexions, may be recorded in statistical books : but the character of the people has no symbol and no voice; we cannot know them by speech and discourse, but only by mere sight and outward observation of their manners and procedure. Now, if both sight and speech, if both travellers and native literature, are found but ineffectual in this respect, how incalculably more so the former alone! To seize a character, even that of one man, in its life and secret mechanism, requires a philosopher; to delineate it with truth and impressiveness, is work for a poet. How then shall one or two sleek clerical tutors, with here and there a tedium-stricken esquire, or speculative half-pay captain, give us views on such a subject? How shall a man, to whom all cha
sänger and their Sängerzünfte, or Singer-guilds, in which poetry was taught and practised, like any other handicraft, and this by sober and well-meaning men, chiefly artisans, who could not understand why labour, which manufactured so many things, should not also manufacture another. Of these tuneful guild-brethren, Hans Sachs, by trade a shoemaker, is greatly the most noted and most notable. His father was a tailor; he himself learned the mystery of song under one Nunnebeck, a weaver. He was an adherent of his great contemporary Luther, who has even deigned to acknowledge his services in the cause of the Reformation: how diligent a labourer Sachs must have been, will appear from the fact that in his 74th year (1568), on examining his stock for publication, he found that he had written 6048 poetical pieces, among which were 208 tragedies and comedies; and this besides having all along kept house, like an honest Nürnberg burgher, by assiduous and sufficient shoe-making! Hans is not without genius, and a shrewd irony; and above all, the most gay, childlike, yet devout and solid character. A man neither to be despised nor patronised, but left standing on his own basis, as a singular product, and a still legible symbol, and clear mirror, of the time and country where he lived. His best piece known to us, and many are well worth perusing, is the Fastnachtsspiel (Shrovetide Farce) of the Narrenschneiden, where a Doctor cures a bloated and lethargic patient by cutting out half a dozen Fools from his interior!
dolence, a blameable incuriosity to all products nius : for what more do we know of recent S
we sees literature than of German; of Grossi and Y
wheeled manes or Jovellanos, than of Tieck and
le couraGerman art, in those forms of it which
us to be inaddressed us immediately, our recogni
a to be good, and hearty; from Dürer to Mengs,
so, with a few Beethoven, we have welcomed t
ugh it may not Germany, not only to our praise
en are to take for neficence. Nor, if in their lite
y detected: for the ward, is the literature itself
uy of aspect, that even centuries ago, translations
s, not perhaps after long ly frequent in England:
garding it. From his, only ble classic in our langy
gure stands before him like the among us, and this
-a mass of mere random lines, and to a still living sec"
strokes, out of which a lively fancy may indeed, translati because there w
odlage But the image he brings along with Thirty Years' of Louis Fo ence, exte
veti in confident tones, though it may be with a secret
und a second voucher now testifies its correctness. learned, Germa or was
esger dining repeats his precursor; the hundred times repeated cars in the end to be believed; the foreign nation is now once dance the thousandth writes of it like dunce the first.
all understood, decided on, and registered accordingly; and peop reis
With the aid of literary and intellectual intercourse, much of sound judgment is far from easy; and most national characters
this falsehood may, no doubt, be corrected: yet even here, popular prejudice than of philosophic insight. That the Ger
are still, as Hume long ago complained, the product rather of mans, in particular, have by no means escaped such misrepretimes of Opitz and Flemming, to those of Klopstock and Les
of it, cannot, in their circumstances, surprise us. From the middle of the eighteenth century,—they had scarcely any litesing,--that is, from the early part of the seventeenth to the rature known abroad, or deserving to be known: their political condition, during this same period, was oppressive and every way unfortunate externally; and at home, the nation, split into so many factions and petty states, had lost all feeling of itself as of a nation; and its energies in arts as in arms were manifested only in detail, too often in collision, and always under foreign influence. The French, at once their plunderers and their scoffers, described them to the rest of Europe as a semibarbarous people; which comfortable fact the rest of Europe was willing enough to take on their word. During the greater part of last century, the Germans, in our intellectual survey of
·ld, were quietly omitted ; a vague contemptuous igno-
few sparks did glimmer, it was but so as to testify
at the Germans are something; something
part from others; nay, something deep, imut admirable, wonderful. What that something is still undecided; for this gifted lady's Allemagne,
much to excite curiosity, has still done little to satisfy ven direct it. We can no longer make ignorance a boast, wut we are yet far from having acquired right knowledge; and cavillers, excluded from contemptuous negation, have found a resource in almost as contemptuous assertion. Translators are the same faithless and stolid race that they have ever been : the particle of gold they bring us over is hidden from all but the most patient eye, among shiploads of yellow sand and sulphur. Gentle Dulness too, in this as in all other things, still loves her joke. The Germans, though much more attended to, are perhaps not less mistaken than before.
Doubtless, however, there is in this increased attention a progress towards the truth ; which it is only investigation and discussion that can help us to find. The study of German literature has already taken such firm root among us, and is spreading so visibly, that by and by, as we believe, the true character of it must and will become known. A result, which is to bring us into closer and friendlier union with forty millions of civilized men, cannot surely be otherwise than desirable. If they have precious truth to impart, we shall receive
* So late as the year 1811, we find, from Pinkerton's Geography, the sole representative of German literature to be Gottshed with his name wrong spelt), 'who first introduced a more refined style.?Gottsched has been dead the greater part of a century; and for the last
ranks among the Germans, somewhat as Prynne or Alexander Ross does
ourselves. A man of a cold, rigid, perseverant character, who mistook himself for a poet and the perfection of critics, and had skill to pass current during the greater part of his literary life for such. On the strength of his Boileau and Batteux, he long reigned supreme; but it was like Night, in rayless majesty, and over a slumbering people. They awoke, before his death, and hurled him, perhaps too indignantly, into his native Abyss.
racters of individual men are like sealed books, of which he sees only the title and the covers, decipher, from his four-wheeled vehicle, and depict to us, the character of a nation? He courageously depicts his own optical delusions; notes this to be incomprehensible, that other to be insignificant; much to be good, much to be bad, and most of all indifferent; and so, with a few flowing strokes, completes a picture which, though it may not even resemble any possible object, his countrymen are to take for a national portrait. Nor is the fraud so readily detected : for the character of a people has such complexity of aspect, that even the honest observer knows not always, not perhaps after long inspection, what to determine regarding it
. From his, only accidental, point of view, the figure stands before him like the tracings on veined marble-a mass of mere random lines, and tints, and entangled strokes, out of which a lively fancy may shape almost any image. But the image he brings along with him is always the readiest; this is tried, it answers as well as another; and a second voucher now testifies its correctness. Thus each, in confident tones, though it may be with a secret misgiving, repeats his precursor; the hundred times repeated comes in the end to be believed; the foreign nation is now once for all understood, decided on, and registered accordingly; and dunce the thousandth writes of it like dunce the first.
With the aid of literary and intellectual intercourse, much of this falsehood may, no doubt, be corrected: yet even here, sound judgment is far from easy; and most national characters are still, as Hume long ago complained, the product rather of popular prejudice than of philosophic insight. That the Germans, in particular, have by no means escaped such misrepresentation, nay perhaps have had more than the common share of it, cannot, in their circumstances, surprise us. From the times of Opitz and Flemming, to those of Klopstock and Lessing,—that is, from the early part of the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century,—they had scarcely any literature known abroad, or deserving to be known: their political condition, during this same period, was oppressive and every way unfortunate externally; and at home, the nation, split into so many factions and petty states, had lost all feeling of itself as of a nation; and its energies in arts as in arms were manifested only in detail,
too often in collision, and always under foreign influence. The French, at once their plunderers and their scoffers, described them to the rest of Europe as a semibarbarous people; which comfortable fact the rest of Europe was willing enough to take on their word. During the greater part of last century, the Germans, in our intellectual survey of