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Title: Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature, Vol. II (of 6): The Romantic School in Germany
Author: Brandes, Georg
Language: English
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In Six Volumes Illustrated



London: William Heinemann
New York: The Macmillan Company

[Illustration: A. W. SCHLEGEL]



"Allen Gewalten
Zum Trutz sich erhalten,
Nimmer sich beugen ..."

"Philosophiren ist dephlegmatisiren, ist vivissciren."





The task of giving a connected account of the German Romantic School
is, for a Dane, an arduous and disheartening one. In the first
place, the subject is overwhelmingly vast; in the second, it has
been treated again and again by German writers; and, lastly, these
writers, in their division of labour, have entered so learnedly into
every detail, that it is impossible for a foreigner, one, moreover,
to whom the sources are not always accessible, to compete with
them in exhaustive knowledge. From their childhood they have been
familiar with a literature with which he first makes acquaintance at
an age when assimilation, in any quantity, has become a much more
difficult process. What the foreigner must rely on is, partly the
decision with which he takes up and maintains his personal standpoint,
partly the possibility that he may display qualities which are not
characteristic of the native author. Such a quality in the case in
point is the artistic faculty, the faculty, I mean, of representation,
of externalisation. The German nature is so intense and profound that
this faculty is comparatively rare. The foreigner has, moreover, this
advantage over the native, that it is easier for him to detect the mark
of race--that in the German author which stamps him as a German. The
German critic is too apt to consider "German" synonymous with "human
being," for the reason that the human beings he deals with are almost
always Germans. The foreigner is struck by characteristics which are
overlooked by the native, sometimes because he is so accustomed to
them, more frequently because he himself possesses them.

There are many works to be criticised and classified, many
personalities to describe. My aim will be to present these
personalities and works in as firm and sharp outline as possible,
and, without giving undue attention to detail, to throw light upon
the whole in such a manner that its principal features will stand out
and arrest the eye. I shall endeavour, on the one hand, to treat the
history of literature as humanly as possible, to go as deep down as
I can, to seize upon the remotest, innermost psychological movements
which prepared for and produced the various literary phenomena; and
on the other hand, I shall try to present the result in as plastic
and tangible a form as possible. If I can succeed in giving shape,
clear and accurate, to the hidden feeling, the idea, which everywhere
underlies the literary phenomenon, my task will be accomplished. By
preference, I shall always, when possible, embody the abstract in the

First and foremost, therefore, I everywhere trace the connection
between literature and life. This is at once proved by the fact that,
whereas earlier Danish literary controversies (that between Heiberg
and Hauch, for example, or even the famous one between Baggesen and
Oehlenschläger) were kept entirely within the domain of literature and
dealt exclusively with literary principles, the controversy aroused
by the first volume of this work has entailed, quite as much from the
nature of the work as from the irrationality of its opponents, the
discussion of a multitude of moral, social, and religious questions.
The Danish reaction, feeling itself to be akin to the one I am about
to depict and unmask, has attempted to suppress the movement which
it recognised to be antagonistic to itself--but so far with little
prospect of success. A French proverb says: _Nul prince n'a tué son

When, however, the connection between literature and life is thus
emphasised, the delineations and interpretations of men and their
books by no means produce what we may call drawing-room history of
literature. I go down to the foundations of real life, and show how
the emotions which find their expression in literature arise in the
human heart. And this same human heart is no still pool, no idyllic
mountain lake. It is an ocean, with submarine vegetation and terrible
inhabitants. Drawing-room history of literature, like drawing-room
poetry, sees in human life a drawing-room, a decorated ball-room--the
furniture and the people alike polished, the brilliant illumination
excluding all possibility of dark corners. Let those who choose to
do so look at things thus; it is not my point of view. Just as the
botanist must handle nettles as well as roses, so the student of
literature must accustom himself to look, with the unflinching gaze
of the naturalist or the physician, upon all the forms taken by human
nature, in their diversity and their inward affinity. It makes the
plant neither more nor less interesting that it smells sweet or stings;
but the dispassionate interest of the botanist is often accompanied by
the purely human pleasure in the beauty of the flower.

As I follow the more important literary movements from country to
country, studying their psychology, I attempt to condense the fluid
material by showing how, from time to time, it crystallises into one
or other definite and intelligible type. The attempt is attended
with extraordinary difficulty in this particular period of German
literature, from the fact that the chief characteristic of the period
is an absence of distinctly typical forms. This literature is not
plastic; it is musical. French Romanticism produces clearly defined
figures; the ideal of German Romanticism is not a figure, but a melody,
not definite form, but infinite aspiration. Is it obliged to name the
object of its longing? It designates it by such terms as "ein geheimes
Wort," "eine blaue Blume," "der Zauber der Waldeinsamkeit" (a mystic
word--a blue flower--the magic of the lonely woods). These expressions
are, however, definitions of moods, and each mood has a corresponding
psychological condition, my task is to trace back each mood, emotion,
or longing to the group of psychological conditions to which it
belongs. This group in combination constitutes a soul; and such a
soul, with strongly marked individuality, represents in literature the
many who were unable to depict their own character, but who recognised
it when thus placed before them. I may possibly succeed in proving
that the type does not escape us because the author may have chosen to
paint landscape after landscape in place of delineating characteristic
personalities, or because he confounds literature with music to the
extent of at last entitling his poems simply _Allegro_ or _Rondo_;
but that, on the contrary, the distinctly peculiar qualities of these
landscapes and the character of this word-music are symptomatic of
a psychological condition which may be determined with considerable

In the general introduction to this work I have sketched the plan which
I have proposed to myself. It is my intention to describe the first
great literary movement of the century, the germinating and growing
reaction, first elucidating its nature, then following it to its
climax. Afterwards I shall show how this reaction was met by a breeze
of liberalism blowing from the eighteenth century, which swells into a
gale and sweeps away all opposition. Not that the liberal views of the
nineteenth century are ever identical with those of the eighteenth, or
that its literary forms or scientific ideas ever bear the eighteenth
century stamp. Neither Voltaire, nor Rousseau, nor Diderot, neither
Lessing nor Schiller, neither Hume nor Godwin, rise from the dead; but
they are one and all avenged upon their enemies.

Regarded as a whole, German Romanticism is reaction. Nevertheless,
as an intellectual, poetico-philosophical reaction, it contains many
germs of new development, unmistakable productions of that spirit of
progress which, by remoulding the old, creates the new, and by altering
boundaries gains territory.

The older Romanticists begin, without exception, as the apostles of
"enlightenment." They introduce a new tone into German poetry, give
their works a new colour, and, in addition to this, revive both the
spirit and the substance of the old fairy-tale, Volkslied, and legend.
They exercise at first a fertilising influence upon German science;
research in the domains of history, ethnography, and jurisprudence,
the study of German antiquity, Indian and Greek-Latin philology, and
the systems and dreams of the _Naturphilosophie_ all receive their
first impulse from Romanticism. They widened the emotional range of
German poetry, though the emotions to which they gave expression were
more frequently morbid than healthy. As critics, they originally,
and with success, aimed at enlarging the spiritual horizon. In their
social capacity they vowed undying hatred to all dead conventionality
in the relations between the sexes. The best among them in their youth
laboured ardently for the intensification of that spiritual life which
is based upon a belief in the supernatural. In politics, when not
indifferent, they generally began as very theoretical republicans;
who, however, in spite of their cosmopolitanism, strove to elevate and
strengthen German patriotism.

Unfortunately, their pursuit of all these worthy aims ended in
comparative failure. Of all that the German Romanticists produced,
little will endure--some masterly translations by A. W. Schlegel, a
few of Tieck's productions, a handful of Hardenberg's and another of
Eichendorff's lyrics, some of Friedrich Schlegel's essays, a few of
Arnim's and Brentano's smaller works, a select number of Hoffmann's
tales, and some very remarkable dramas and tales from the pen of
that eccentric but real genius, Heinrich von Kleist. The rest of the
life-work of the Romanticists has disappeared from the memory of
the present generation. Looking back on it from this distance, most
of their endeavour seems to have ended in smoke. In the matter of
language, with their intangible imagery, their misuse of words in
expressing the strange, weird, and mysterious, their archaisms, and
their determination to be unintelligible to the ordinary reader, they
rather diminished than enriched the poetic vocabulary, rather corrupted
than improved literary style. In the domain of poetry, Romanticism
ended in hysterical piety and vapouring. In the social domain it
occupied itself with only one question, that of the relations between
the sexes; and its ideas on this subject were, for the most part, so
abnormal and morbidly unhealthy, that most of its passionate blows
were dealt in the air. In dealing them, it was not humanity at large
that the Romanticists had in view, but a few favoured, aristocratic,
artistic natures. In religious matters, these men, whose moral and
poetical theories were at first so revolutionary, bowed their necks
to the yoke the moment they saw it. And in politics it was they who
directed the proceedings of the Congress of Vienna and prepared its
manifestoes, abolishing liberty of thought in the interval between a
religious festival in St. Stephen's and an oyster supper with Fanny

I shall touch but seldom and briefly upon Danish literature, only now
and again piercing in the canvas of the panorama I am unrolling a hole
through which the situation in Denmark may be seen. Not that I forget
or lose sight of Danish literature. On the contrary, it is ever present
with me. Whilst trying to present to my readers the inner history of
a foreign literature, I am all the time making indirect contributions
to the history of our own. I am painting the background which is
required to throw its characteristics into relief. I am working at
the foundation upon which, according to my conviction, the history of
modern Danish literature rests. My method may be indirect, but it is
the more thorough for that. I should like, however, in a few words, to
indicate the general conclusion to which a comparison between Danish
and foreign literature at this period has led me.

The relative positions of Germany and Denmark may be defined as
follows: German literature is at this period comparatively original in
its aims and its productions; Danish literature either continues the
working out of a peculiarly Scandinavian vein, or builds upon German
foundations. The Danish authors have, as a rule, read and assimilated
the German; the German authors have neither read nor been in any way
influenced by the Danes. Steffens, through whom we receive the impetus
from Germany, is the devoted disciple of Schelling. Witness the
following passage from one of his letters to that philosopher: "I am
your pupil, absolutely and entirely your pupil. All that I produce was
originally yours. This is no passing feeling; it is my firm conviction
that such is the case, and I do not think the less of myself for it.
Therefore, when once I have produced a really great work which I should
gladly call mine, I shall, as soon as it has been recognised, publicly,
enthusiastically, proclaim you to be my teacher, and hand over to you
my laurel wreath."[1]

In German literature there is more life, in the corresponding Danish
literature more art. It is Germany which produces, which unearths,
the material. That literature of which Romanticism is the first
development, lives and moves and revels in intense emotions, struggles
with problems, creates forms which it dashes to pieces again. Danish
literature takes German material and ideas, instinct with life, and
often succeeds in moulding them more artistically, giving them clearer
expression than their German producers do. (Note, for example, the case
of Tieck and Heiberg.) The Danes apply and remodel, or they embody
kindred ideas in more favourable and more plastic material, such, or
instance, as that provided by the Scandinavian mythology and legends.

The result, as I have elsewhere shown, is that Romanticism acquired
more lucidity and clearer contours on Danish soil. It became less a
thing of the night; it ventured, veiled, into the light of the sun.
It felt that it had come to a sedate, sober-minded people, a people
who were not yet quite sure that moonlight was not unnatural and
sentimental. It came up from the deep mine shafts from which Novalis
had been the first to conjure it, and, with Oehlenschläger's Vaulundur,
hammered on the mountain-side till the mountain burst open and laid
all its treasures bare to the light of day. It felt that it had come
to another, a more serene and idyllic clime; it shook off all its
weirdness; its thick, shapeless mists condensed into slender river
nymphs; it forgot the Harz and the Blocksberg, and took up its abode
one beautiful Midsummer Eve in the Deer Park near Copenhagen.[2]

_Aladdin_ is a finer and more intelligible literary work than Tieck's
_Kaiser Oktavianus_, but Oehlenschläger could not deny that _Aladdin_
would never have been written if _Oktavianus_ had not been in
existence. Heiberg's _Julespög og Nytaarslöjer_ is to the full as witty
as Tieck's Aristophanic satires, but the whole idea--the play within
the play, the literary satire, and the blending of the sentimental
with the ironical--is borrowed from Tieck, and, what is worse, is
only comprehensible from Tieck's standpoint. In short, there is in
Oehlenschläger, Hauch, and Heiberg more form than in Novalis, Tieck,
and Fr. Schlegel, but less substance--that is to say, less direct
connection with real life. German literature has too often formed the
connecting link. We Danes have too often refused to occupy ourselves,
in literature, with the great problems of life, have simply dismissed
them when we could not succeed in giving them correct literary form.

Looked at from the psychological point of view, the position may be
described as follows. The Danish Romantic authors have, generally
speaking, been the superiors of the Germans as regards art, their
inferiors as regards intellect. As a rule, every production of the
German author, however small, though it be formless, weak, nay,
actually a failure, yet expresses a whole philosophy of life, and
that no fanciful philosophy, but one evolved and matured by personal
experience, and stamped with the whole astonishingly many-sided
culture which distinguishes the educated German. A poem by Novalis,
a tale by Tieck or Hoffmann, or a play by Kleist, contains a
poetico-philosophical theory of life; and it is the theory not only of
a poet, but of a man. A tragedy by Oehlenschläger again, or a fairy
tale by Andersen, or a vaudeville by Hostrup, will almost invariably
be distinguished by such distinctly poetical qualities as fancy,
feeling, whimsicality, gaiety, youthful freshness and aplomb, but the
philosophy is too often as primitive as a child's. Heiberg is almost
the only writer in whose works there is any sign of a philosophy based
upon science, and acquiring ever more profundity from the experiences
of life. Of real development there are often only faint traces.
The youthful works of such authors as Oehlenschläger, Winther, and
Andersen are as perfect as those of their maturity. Sometimes, as in
the case of Oehlenschläger, advancing years produce in the talent a
suspicion of corpulence, of unctuousness. Sometimes, as in the case of
Paludan-Müller, the ideal grows more and more attenuated. When a change
does take place, it rarely signifies that the author has gradually
evolved for himself a new philosophy of life; no--after treading the
narrow path of poetry for a time, he strikes into one of the two great
highroads, either the road of middle-class respectability or the road
of orthodox piety. The dressing-gown or the cassock--one or other of
these garments almost inevitably supersedes the Spanish cloak of poetic

It may, then, generally speaking, be asserted that, in those cases
where it is possible to compare the German Romanticists with the
Danish, the former have the more original philosophy of life, and are
greater as personalities, whatever they may be as poets.

Let us look at the subject from a third point of view. To the Danish
authors, as a body, may be attributed the merit of avoiding the
fantastic, tasteless extravagances of which the Germans are frequently
guilty. The Danes stop in time; they avoid paradox or do not carry it
to its logical conclusion; they have the steadiness due to naturally
well-balanced minds and naturally phlegmatic dispositions; they
are hardly ever indecent, audacious, blasphemous, revolutionary,
wildly fantastic, utterly sentimental, utterly unreal, or utterly
sensual; they seldom run amuck, they never tilt at the clouds, and
they never fall into a well. This is what makes them so popular
with their own countrymen. Unerring taste and elegance, such as
distinguish Heiberg's poetry and Gade's music, vigorous, healthy
originality, such as characterises Oehlenschläger's and Hartmann's
best works, will always be prized by Danes as the expression of
noble and self-controlled art. What a contrast is presented by the
overstrained, extravagant personalities peopling the Romantic hospital
of Germany! A phthisical Moravian Brother with the consumptive's
sensuality and the consumptive's mystic yearnings--Novalis. A
satirical hypochondriac, subject to hallucinations and with morbid
leanings to Catholicism--Tieck. A genius, impotent to produce, but
with the propensity of genius to revolt and the imperative craving
of impotence to subject itself to outward authority--Friedrich
Schlegel. A dissipated fantast with the half-insane imagination of the
drunkard--Hoffmann. A foolish mystic like Werner, and a genius like
the suicide Kleist. Think of Hoffmann, and his pupil, Hans Andersen,
and observe how sane, but also how sober and subdued, Andersen appears
compared with his first master.

It is, then, certain that there is more of the quality of harmony among
the Danes. And it is easy to understand that those who regard harmony,
even when meagre, as the highest quality of art, will inevitably rank
the Danish literature of the first decades of this century above the
German. It has, however, to a great extent attained to this harmony by
means of caution, by lack of artistic courage. The Danish poets never
fell, because they never mounted to a height from which there was
any danger of falling. They left it to others to ascend Mont Blanc.
They escaped breaking their necks, but they never gathered the Alpine
flowers which only bloom on the giddy heights or on the brink of
precipices. The quality in literature which, it seems to me, we Danes
have never sufficiently prized, is boldness, that quality in the author
which incites him, regardless of consequences, to give expression
to his artistic ideal. The daring development of what is typical in
his literary tendency, often constitutes the beauty of his work; or,
to put it more plainly, when a literary tendency like Romanticism
develops in the direction of pure fancy, that author seems to me the
most interesting, who rises to the most daring heights of fantastic
extravagance--as, for instance, Hoffmann. The more madly fantastic he
is, the finer he is, just as the poplar is finer the taller it is,
and the beech finer the more stately and wide-spreading it is. The
fineness lies in the daring and vigour with which that which is typical
is expressed. He who discovers a new country may, in the course of his
explorations, be stranded on a reef. It is an easy matter to avoid the
reef and leave the country undiscovered. The Danish Romanticists are
never insane like Hoffmann, but neither are they ever dæmonic like him.
They lose in thrilling, overpowering life and energy what they gain
in lucidity and readableness. They appeal to a greater number and a
more varied class of readers, but they do not enthral them. The more
vigorous originality alarms the many, but fascinates the few. In Danish
Romanticism there is none of Friedrich Schlegel's audacious immorality,
but neither is there anything like that spirit of opposition which in
him amounts to genius; his ardour melts, and his daring moulds into
new and strange shapes, much that we accept as unalterable. Nor do
the Danes become Catholic mystics. Protestant orthodoxy in its most
petrified form flourishes with us: so do supernaturalism and pietism;
and in Grundtvigianism we slide down the inclined plane which leads
to Catholicism; but in this matter, as in every other, we never take
the final step; we shrink back from the last consequences. The result
is that the Danish reaction is far more insidious and covert than
the German. Veiling itself as vice does, it clings to the altars
of the Church, which have always been a sanctuary for criminals of
every species. It is never possible to lay hold of it, to convince
it then and there that its principles logically lead to intolerance,
inquisition, and despotism. Kierkegaard, for example, is in religion
orthodox, in politics a believer in absolutism, towards the close of
his career a fanatic. Yet--and this is a genuinely Romantic trait--he
all his life long avoids drawing any practical conclusions from his
doctrines; one only catches an occasional glimpse of such a feeling as
admiration for the Inquisition, or hatred of natural science.

Let us take, by way of contrast, another supporter of orthodoxy and
absolutism, Joseph de Maistre, as high-minded and sincere a believer
as Kierkegaard, and equally philanthropic. De Maistre pursues all his
theories to their clear conclusions, shirking nothing which must be
regarded as a direct consequence of his beliefs. Like Kierkegaard, he
is a man of brilliant parts and solid culture, but whereas Kierkegaard,
when it comes to practical applications, is as afraid of "public
scandal" as any old maid, De Maistre boldly accepts all necessary
consequences. The famous passage in praise of the executioner in the
sixth conversation of the _Soirées de Saint-Petersbourg_, leaves
nothing to be desired in the matter of plain speaking. The executioner
is a "sublime being," "the corner-stone of society;" along with him
"all social order disappears." According to De Maistre's theory,
two powers are required to quell the rebellious spirits--the spirit
of unbelief and the spirit of disobedience--let loose by the French
Revolution, and these two are the Pope and the executioner. The
Pope and the executioner are the two main props of society; the one
crushes the revolutionary thought with his bull, the other cuts off
the revolutionary head with his axe. It is a pleasure to read such
argument. Here we have vigour and determination, effectual expression
of a clear thought, energetic and undisguised reaction. And De Maistre
is the same in everything. He is not, like Danish reactionaries who
call themselves Liberals, reactionary in social matters and religion,
and liberal or half-liberal in politics. He loathes political liberty;
he jeers (in his letters) at the emancipation of women; in a special
essay he deliberately and warmly defends the Spanish Inquisition;
and in all trueheartedness and manly seriousness he desires the
reinstitution of the _auto-da-fé_, and is not ashamed to say it,
seeing that he thinks it. Look well at such a man as this--gifted and
eminent, great as a statesman, great as an author, who sacrifices his
whole fortune sooner than make the least concession to the Revolution,
which he abhors, or to Napoleon, whom he detests; who frankly adores
the executioner as the indispensable upholder of order; who gives the
gallows the most important place in his statute-book, and counsels
the Church to have recourse to the axe and the faggot--there is a
figure worthy of note; a proud, bold countenance, which expresses an
unmistakable mental bent, and which one does not forget. This is a
type one takes pleasure in, as the naturalist takes pleasure in a fine
specimen of a species of which he has hitherto only met with imperfect
and unsatisfactory examples. Looking at the matter from a practical
point of view, it may be considered fortunate that such personalities
are not to be found in Danish literature, but their absence gives a
less plastic character to its history.

It is all very well to say that we Danes only assimilated the good and
healthy elements of German Romanticism. When we see how the German
Romanticists end, we comprehend that from the very beginning there was
concealed in Romanticism a reactionary principle which prescribed the
course--the curve--of their careers.

Friedrich Schlegel, the author of _Lucinde_, the free-thinking admirer
of Fichte, who, in his _Versuch über den Begriff des Republikanismus_
(Essay on the Idea of Republicanism), called the democratic republic,
with female suffrage, the only reasonable form of government, is
converted to Catholicism, becomes a mystic and a faithful servant
of the Church, and in his later writings endeavours to promote the
cause of reactionary absolutism. Novalis and Schleiermacher, who in
their early writings display a mixture of pantheism and pietism, of
Spinoza and Zinzendorf, steadily drift away from Spinoza and approach
orthodoxy. In his later life Schleiermacher recants those _Letters
on Lucinde_ which he had written in a spirit of the purest youthful
enthusiasm. Novalis, who in his youthful letters declares himself
"prepared for any sort of enlightenment," and hopes that he may live
to see "a new massacre of St. Bartholemew, a wholesale destruction of
despotisms and prisons," who desires a republic, and who, at the time
when Fichte is prosecuted for atheism, remarks, "Brave Fichte is really
fighting for us all,"--this same Novalis ends by looking on the king
in the light of an earthly Providence, condemning Protestantism as
revolutionary, defending the temporal power of the Pope, and extolling
the spirit of Jesuitism. Fouqué, the knight without fear and without
reproach, becomes in the end a pietist Don Quixote, whose great desire
is a return to the conditions of feudalism. Clemens Brentano, in his
youth the most mettlesome of poets, who both in life and literature
made war upon every species of convention, becomes the credulous
secretary of a nun, a hysterical visionary; does nothing for the space
of five years but fill volume after volume with the sayings of Anna
Katharina Emmerich. Zacharias Werner is a variant of the same Romantic
type. He starts in his career as a friend of "enlightenment"; but soon
a process of moral dissolution begins; he first extols Luther, then
turns Roman Catholic and recants his eulogy; in the end he becomes a
priest, and as such displays, both in his life and in his sentimentally
gross writings and sermons, a combination of coarse sensuality and
priestly unction.

And Steffens--he who stormed the heaven of German Romanticism, carried
the sacred fire to Denmark, and set men's minds in such violent uproar
that he was compelled to leave his country--what of him? what was
he? An upright, weak character, with a brain charged with confused
enthusiasms; all feeling and imitative fancy; no lucidity of thought
or pregnant concision of style. It is literally impossible to read the
so-called scientific writings of his later period; one runs the risk of
being drowned in watery sentimentality or smothered by ennui. "When,"
says Julian Schmidt, "he expounded the _Naturphilosophie_ in his broken
German from the professorial chair, his mathematical calculations came
out wrong and his experiments failed, but his audience was carried
away by his earnestness, his almost religious solemnity, his naïve,
child-like enthusiasm." Naïveté was a quality that the Northerner of
those days seldom lacked. In his best days, Steffens, captivated by
the theories of the _Naturphilosophie_, took an innocent pleasure in
tracing the attributes of the human mind in minerals, in humanising
geology and botany. But the Revolution of July turned his head.
Inflamed by pietism, that elderly lady who for the last thirteen
years had been the object of his affections, and for whose sake he
had already more than once entered the lists, he closed his literary
career with a series of feeble attacks upon the young writers of
post-revolutionary Germany.

In this he was only following in the footsteps of his master,
Schelling. Schelling, who, in marked contrast to Fichte with his clear
doctrine of the Ego, dwells upon the mysterious nature of the mind,
and bases not only philosophy, but also art and religion, upon the
perception of genius, the so-called "intellectual intuition," displays
both in his doctrine and in his want of method the arbitrariness, the
lawlessness, which is the kernel of Romanticism. As early as 1802, in
his _Bruno_, he used the significant expression and future catchword,
"Christian philosophy," though he still maintained that, in genuine
religious value, the Bible is not to be compared with the sacred books
of India--a theory which even Görres champions in the early stage of
his literary career. Having, like Novalis, at Tieck's instigation,
made a close study of Jakob Böhme and the other mystics, Schelling
began to philosophise mystically on the subject of "Nature in God," an
expression appropriated by Martensen in his _Spekulative Dogmatik_. But
when, shortly afterwards, a patent of nobility was conferred on him
(as professor at the University of Munich), and he was made President
of the Academy of Science in Catholic and clerical Bavaria, the
famous "Philosophy of Revelation" (Offenbarungsphilosophie) commenced
to germinate in his mind. Soon the transformation was complete; the
fiery enthusiast had become a courtier, the prophet a charlatan. With
his mysteries, his announcements of a marvellous science, "which
had hitherto been considered impossible," his refusal to print his
wisdom, to do anything but communicate it verbally, and even then not
in its entirety, he qualified himself for being called, after Hegel's
death, to Berlin, to lend a helping hand to State religion in the
"Christian-Germanic" police-governed Prussia of the day, and to teach a
State philosophy, for which, as he himself said, the only suitable name
is Christology. Here it was that the young generation, the Hegelians
of the Left, fell upon him and tore his mystic cobweb into a thousand

Yet Schelling is the least irrational of the Romantic philosophers. He
is vehemently accused of heresy by Franz Baader, the reincarnated Jakob
Böhme, the object of Kierkegaard's admiration, who reproaches him with
setting the Trinity upon a logical balance-pole, and, still worse, with
daring to deny the existence of a personal devil. The utterances of
the others are in keeping with this. Schubert writes _The Symbolism of
Dreams_--was not the dream the ideal of Romanticism?--occupies himself
in all seriousness with interpreting them, happy in his persuasion
that clairvoyance and visions are the highest sources of knowledge.
The vision-seer of Prevorst, whom Strauss, characteristically enough,
begins his public career by exposing, plays an important part in those
days. Then there is Görres, who at the time of the great Revolution was
"inspired to triumphal song by the fall of Rome and the dissolution
of the Holy Roman Empire," and who afterwards took an active and
honourable part in rousing German patriotic spirit during the struggle
against Napoleon; this same Görres becomes the author of _Christian
Mysticism_ (a book which Kierkegaard read with shudders of awe),
revels in the blood of martyrs, gloats over the agonies and ecstasies
of the saints, enumerates the different aureoles, nail-prints, and
wounds in the side by which they are distinguished, and prostrates
himself in the dust, he, the old Jacobin, before the one true Catholic
Church, chanting the praises of the Holy Alliance. To these add the
politicians: Adam Müller, who, as Gotschall has aptly said, pursues
in politics the quest of Novalis's "blue flower," who would fain fuse
State, Science, Church, and Stage into one marvellous unit; Haller,
who concealed his conversion to Catholicism in order to retain his
appointments, and who, in his _Restauration der Staatswissenschaften_
(Revival of the Science of Statesmanship), bases this science upon
theocracy; Leo (scathingly criticised by Ruge), who, in the same
spirit, inveighs against the humanity of the age and its reluctance
to shed the blood of Radicals; and Stahl, who, in his _Philosophy of
Law_, compares marriage to the relation between Christ and the Church,
the family to the Trinity, and the earthly right of succession to
man's right to the heavenly inheritance. Taking all this together, one
feels as if Romanticism ended in a sort of witches' Sabbath, in which
the philosophers play the part of the old crones, amidst the thunders
of the obscurantists, the insane yells of the mystics, and the shouts
of the politicians for temporal and ecclesiastical despotism, while
theology and theosophy fall upon the sciences and suffocate them with
their caresses.

[1] G. L. Plitt: _Aus Schelling's Leben_, i. 309.

[2] G. Brandes: _Samlede Skrifter_, i. 464.



Any one who makes acquaintance with the Germany of to-day, either by
travelling in the country or by reading about it, and then compares it
with the Germany of the beginning of the century, is astounded by the
contrast. What a distance between then and now! Who would believe that
this Realistic Germany had ever been a Romantic Germany!

Public utterances, private conversation, the very physiognomy of the
towns, bear in our days a distinct stamp of realism. Walk along any
street in Berlin, and you meet men in uniform, officers and privates,
erect, decorated. The literature in the windows of the bookshops
has for the most part a practical tendency. Even the furniture and
ornaments are influenced by the new spirit. One cannot imagine anything
more prosaic and warlike than the shop of a Berlin dealer in fancy
articles. On the clocks, where of old a knight in armour knelt and
kissed his lady's finger-tips, Uhlans and Cuirassiers now stand in
full uniform. Conical bullets hang as trinkets from watch-chains,
and piled muskets form candelabra. The metal in fashion is iron.
The word in fashion is also iron. The present occupation of this
nation of philosophers and poets is assuredly not poetry-writing
and philosophising. Even highly cultured Germans know little about
philosophy now-a-days--not one German student in twenty has read a word
of Hegel; interest in poetry, as such, is practically dead; political
and social questions rouse a hundred times more attention than problems
of culture or psychical conundrums.

And this is the people which once was lost in Romantic reveries and
speculations, and saw its prototype in Hamlet! Hamlet and Bismarck!
Bismarck and Romanticism! Unquestionably the great German statesman
succeeded in carrying all Germany with him chiefly because he offered
to his country in his own person the very qualities of which it had
so long felt the want. Through him politics have been substituted for
æsthetics. Germany has been united; the military monarchy has swallowed
up the small States, and with them all their feudal idylls; Prussia
has become the Piedmont of Germany, and has impressed its orderly and
practical spirit upon the new empire; and simultaneously with this,
natural science has supplanted or metamorphosed philosophy, and the
idea of nationality has superseded or modified the "humanity" ideal.
The War of Liberation of 1813 was pre-eminently a result of enthusiasm;
the victories of 1870 were pre-eminently a result of the most careful

The idea which is the guiding star of the new Germany is the idea of
organising itself as a whole. It pervades both life and literature.
The expression "In Reih' und Glied"--In Ordered Ranks--(the title of
a novel by Spielhagen) might be the universal watchword. The national
aim is to gather together that which has been scattered, to diffuse
the culture which has been the possession of too few, to found a great
state, a great society; and it is required of the individual that he
shall sacrifice his individuality for the sake of adding to the power
of the whole, of the mass. The power of the mass! This idea may be
traced in all the most remarkable phenomena of the age. Belief in it
underlies the calculations of Bismarck, the agitation of Lassalle, the
tactics of Moltke, and the music of Wagner. A desire to educate the
people and unite them in a common aim is the mainspring of the literary
activity of the prose authors of the period. A common feature of all
the works which most clearly reflect the times is that they keep to the
subject, to the matter in hand. The influence of the great idea, "the
power of the mass," makes itself felt here too. In the new literature
the relation of the individual to the State, the sacrifice of personal
volition and originality entailed by the yoking of the Ego to the
State chariot, presents itself in marked contrast to the Romanticist
worship of the talented individual with all his peculiarities, and
the Romanticist indifference to everything historical and political.
Romantic literature was always pre-eminently drawing-room literature,
the ideal of Romanticism being intellectual society and æsthetic
tea-parties (_vide_ the conversations in Tieck's _Fantasus_).

How different everything was in those old days! In both life and
literature the detached Ego, in its homeless independence, is
omnipresent. The guiding star here is, indeed, nought else but the
free, unhistorical Ego. The country is divided into a multitude of
small States, ruled by three hundred sovereigns and fifteen hundred
semi-sovereigns. In these States the so-called "enlightened" despotism
of the eighteenth century prevails, with its narrow, petrified social
conditions and relations. The nobleman is lord and master of his serfs,
the father, lord and master of his family--everywhere stern justice,
but no equity. There are in reality no great tasks for the individual,
hence there is no room for genius. The theatre is the only place where
those who are not of princely birth can gain any experience of all the
manifold phases of human life, hence the stage mania of literature.
Lacking any social field in which to work, all activity necessarily
takes the form either of war with reality or flight from it. Flight
is prepared for by the influence of the rediscovered antique and of
Winckelmann's writings; war, by the influence of the sentimentally
melancholy English writers (Young, Sterne) and of Rousseau, reverenced
as the apostle of nature, who, as Schiller expressed it, "would fain
out of Christians make men."

Our first proceeding must be to trace the rising of this star, the
genesis of this free, Romantic Ego, to whom, be it remembered, all the
greatest intellects of Germany stood sponsor.

It was Lessing who laid the foundations of the intellectual life of
modern Germany. Clear of thought, strong of will, indefatigably active,
he was a reformer in every matter in which he interested himself.
With perfect consciousness of what he was doing, he enlightened and
educated the German mind. He was the embodiment of manly independence
and vigorous, tireless militancy. His personal ideal, as it is revealed
in his life and writings, was proud independence in combination with a
wise love of his fellow-men, which overcame all differences of creed.
Hence, solitary as he stood in his own day, his Ego became a source of
light. He was the "Prometheus of German prose." His great achievement
was that of freeing German culture for all time from the swaddling
bands of theology, as Luther had freed it from those of Catholicism.
His life and his criticism were action, and to him the essence of
poetry too was action. All his characters are instinct with dramatic
passion. In opposition to the theological doctrine of punishment and
reward, he maintained that to do right for the sake of doing right
is the highest morality. And for him the history of the world became
the history of the education of the human race. To a certain extent
the word "education" is employed by him merely as a concession to his
readers, who, he knew, could not conceive of any development without a
divine educator; but, all the same, the idea of natural development is
not an idea with which he was familiar. To him, history is the record
of "enlightenment." The Ego to him is not nature, but pure mind.

In reality, all that was best in Lessing was entirely unsympathetic
to the new group of Romanticists; they had less in common with
him than with any other of the great German authors, Schiller not
excepted. Nevertheless, it was natural enough that they should
refuse to acknowledge any connection between Lessing and those of
his disciples (men such as Nicolai, Engel, Garve, and Schütz), who
were, from the "enlightenment" standpoint, their bitter enemies and
ruthless persecutors. This was done by Friedrich Schlegel in an essay
in which, while praising the power and the width of Lessing's grasp,
he lays chief stress upon everything in him that is irregular, boldly
revolutionary, unsystematic, and paradoxical, dwells on his bellicose
wit, and draws attention to everything that can be construed into
cynicism. The Romanticists could not possibly claim a champion of
reason, pure and simple, as their forerunner, hence they attempted
to characterise the nutritive element in Lessing's works as mere
seasoning, as the salt which preserves from corruption.

They owed far more to Herder. They evidence their descent from him both
by their continuation of the _Sturm und Drang_ period and by their
capacity of understanding and reproducing the poetry of all countries.
In Herder the new century germinated, as in Lessing the old had come
to its close. Herder sets genesis and growth above thought and action.
To him the true man is not only a thinking and moral being, but a
portion of nature. He loves and sets most store by the original; he
prefers intuition to reason, and would overcome narrow-mindedness, not
by reason, but by originality. The man of intuitions is to him the
most human. His own genius was the genius of receptivity. He expanded
his Ego until it comprehended every kind of originality, but it was by
virtue of feeling that he comprehended, that he absorbed into his soul
a wealth of life, human and national.

From Herder the Romanticists derive that which is most valuable in
their literary criticism--the universal receptivity which finds
expression in the impulse to translate and explain; from him they
derive the first stimulus to a scientific study of both European and
Asiatic languages; from him comes their love for what is national in
both their own and foreign literature, their love of Spanish romance
and of Shakespeare's plays. Herder grasped things in their entirety
as did Goethe after him. His profound comprehension of national
peculiarities becomes in Goethe the genius's intuition of the typical
in nature, and is exalted by Schelling under the name of "intellectual
intuition." The objection of the Romanticists to the idea of aim or
purpose may be traced back to Herder. His theory of history excluded
the idea of purpose: what happens has a cause and is subject to laws,
but cannot be explained by anything which has not yet happened, i.e. by
a purpose. The Romanticists transferred this theory into the personal,
the psychical domain. To them purposelessness is another name for
Romantic genius; the man of genius lives without a definite purpose;
purposelessness is idleness, and idleness is the mark and privilege
of the elect. In this caricature of a philosophy there is not much
resemblance to Herder's. But he is the originator of a new conception
of genius, of the belief, namely, that genius is intuitive, that it
consists in a certain power of perceiving and apprehending without
any resort to abstract ideas. It is this conception which, with the
Romanticists, becomes scorn of experimental methods in science, and
approbation of extraordinary vagaries in art.

Goethe was the fulfilment of all that Herder had promised. To him man
was not merely theoretically the last link in nature's chain; the men
in his works were themselves natures; and in his scientific research
he discerned with the eye of genius the universal laws of evolution.
His own Ego was a microcosm, and produced the effect of such on the
most discerning of his younger contemporaries. "Goethe and life are
one," says Rahel. So profound was his insight into nature, so entirely
was he a living protest against every supernatural belief, that he
did what in him lay to deprive genius of its character of apparent
incomprehensibility and contrariety to reason, by explaining (in his
autobiography, _Wahrheit und Dichtung_) his own genius, the most
profound and universal of the age, as a natural product developed by
circumstances--thereby creating the type of literary criticism to which
the Romanticists were strongly opposed.

From Goethe the young generation derived their theory of the rights
and the importance of the great, free personality. He had always lived
his own life, and had always lived it fully and freely. Without making
any attack whatever on the existing conditions of society, he had
remoulded, according to his own requirements, the social relations in
which he found himself placed. He becomes the soul of the youthful
and joyous court of Weimar, with the audacity of youth and genius
drawing every one with him into a whirl of gaiety--fêtes, picnics,
skating expeditions, masquerades--animated by a wild joy in nature,
which is now "lightened," now "darkened" by love affairs of a more or
less dubious character. Jean Paul writes to a friend that he can only
describe the morals of Weimar to him by word of mouth. When we hear
that even skating was a scandal to the worthy Philistines of that town,
we are not surprised by old Wieland's ill-natured remark, that the
circle in question appeared to him to be aiming at "brutalising animal
nature." Thus it was that the sweet, refined coquette, Frau von Stein,
became Goethe's muse for ten whole years, the original of Leonore and
Iphigenia; and later he created a still greater scandal by taking into
his house Christiane Vulpius (the young girl whose presence had become
a necessity to him, and who, in spite of her faults, never embittered
his life by making any demands upon him), and living with her for
eighteen years before obtaining the sanction of the Church to their

Goethe's as well as Schiller's youthful works had been inspired by
what the Germans call the "Freigeisterei" of passion, its demand
for freedom, its instinct of revolt. Both breathe one and the same
spirit, the spirit of defiance. Goethe's _Die Geschwister_ treats of
the passion of brother for sister. The conclusion of _Stella_, in its
original form, is a justification of bigamy; and Jean Paul, too, in
his _Siebenkäs_, treats of bigamy as a thing perfectly permissible
in the case of a genius to whom the first tie has become burdensome.
_Götz_ represents the tragic fate of the man of genius who rises in
revolt against a lukewarm and corrupt age. Schiller's _Die Räuber_,
with its device _In Tyrannos_, and its motto from Hippocrates, "That
which medicine cannot cure iron cures, and that which iron cannot cure
fire cures," is a declaration of war against society. Karl Moor is the
noble-hearted idealist, who in "the castrated century" is inevitably
doomed to perish as a criminal. Schiller's robbers are not highwaymen,
but revolutionaries. They do not plunder, but punish. They have
separated themselves from society to revenge themselves upon it for the
wrongs it has done them. Schiller's defiance is still more personally
expressed in those poems of his first period which were written under
the influence of his relations with Frau von Kalb, poems re-written and
entirely altered in the later editions. In the one which ultimately
received the title _Der Kampf_, but which was originally called
_Freigeisterei der Leidenschaft_, he writes:--

    "Woher dies Zittern, dies unnennbare Entsetzen,
    Wenn mich dein liebevoller Arm umschlang?
    Weil Dich ein Eid, den auch nur Wallungen verletzen,
    In fremde Fesseln zwang?

    "Weil ein Gebrauch, den die Gesetze heilig prägen,
    Des Zufalls schwere Missethat geweiht?
    Nein--unerschrocken trotz ich einem Bund entgegen,
    Den die erröthende Natur bereut.

    "O zittre nicht--Du hast als Sünderin geschworen,
    Ein Meineid ist der Reue fromme Pflicht,
    Das Herz war mein, das Du vor dem Altar verloren,
    Mit Menschenfreuden spielt der Himmel nicht."[1]

Comical as this naïve sophistry sounds, and unreliable as is the
assurance that Heaven will not permit itself now and again to play
with human happiness, the spirit of the verses is unmistakable; and,
as Hettner aptly observes, Don Carlos uses almost the same words: "The
rights of my love are older than the ceremonies at the altar."

The model for Schiller's young Queen Elizabeth was Charlotte von Kalb.
This lady, the passion of the poet's youth, had been unwillingly forced
into matrimony by her parents. She and Schiller met in 1784, and in
1788 they were still meditating a permanent union of their destinies.
Soon after Schiller left her, she became Jean Paul's mistress.
(Caroline Schlegel jestingly calls her Jeannette Pauline.) Jean Paul
characterises her thus: "She has two great possessions: great eyes (I
never saw their like) and a great soul." He himself confesses that it
is she whom he has described in one of his principal works as the
Titaness, Linda. In _Titan_ (118 Zykel) we are told of Linda that she
must be tenderly treated, not only on account of her delicacy, but
also in the matter of her aversion to matrimony, which is extreme.
She cannot even accompany a friend to the altar, which she calls the
scaffold of woman's liberty, the funeral pyre of the noblest, freest
love. To take, she says, the best possible view of it, the heroic
epic of love is there transformed into the pastoral of marriage. Her
sensible friend vainly insists that her aversion to marriage can have
no other ground than her hatred of priests; that wedlock only signifies
everlasting love, and all true love regards itself as everlasting; that
there are as many unhappy free-love connections as marriages, if not
more, &c.

Frau von Kalb herself writes to Jean Paul: "Why all this talk about
seduction? Spare the poor creatures, I beg of you, and alarm their
hearts and consciences no more. Nature is petrified enough already.
I shall never change my opinion on this subject; I do not understand
this virtue, and cannot call any one blessed for its sake. Religion
here upon earth is nothing else than the development and maintenance
of the powers and capacities with which our natures have been endowed.
Man should not submit to compulsion, but neither should he acquiesce
in wrongful renunciation. Let the bold, powerful, mature human nature,
which knows and uses its strength, have its way. But in our generation
human nature is weak and contemptible. Our laws are the outcome of
wretchedness and dire necessity, seldom of wisdom. Love needs no laws."

A vigorous mind speaks to us in this letter. The leap from this to
the idea of _Lucinde_ is not a long one, but the fall to the very
vulgar elaboration of _Lucinde_ is great. We do not, however, rightly
understand these outbursts until we understand the social conditions
which produced them, and realise that they are not isolated and
accidental tirades, but are conditioned by the position in which the
majority of poetic natures stood to society at that time.

Weimar was then the headquarters and gathering-place of Germany's
classical authors. It is not difficult to understand how they came
to gather in this little capital of a little dukedom. Of Germany's
two great monarchs, Joseph the Second was too much occupied with his
efforts at reform, too eager for the spread of "enlightenment," to have
any attention to spare for German poetry; and the Voltairean Frederick
of Prussia was too French in his tastes and intellectual tendencies
to take any interest in German poets. It was at the small courts that
they were welcomed. Schiller lived at Mannheim, Jean Paul at Gotha,
Goethe at Weimar. Poetry had had no stronghold in Germany for many a
long year, but now Weimar became one. Thither Goethe summoned Herder;
Wieland had been there since 1772. Schiller received an appointment
in the adjacent Jena. Weimar was, then, the place where passion,
as poetical, compared with the prosaic conventions of society, was
worshipped most recklessly and with least prejudice, in practice as
well as theory. "Ah! here we have women!" cries Jean Paul when he comes
to Weimar. "Everything is revolutionarily daring here; that a woman is
married signifies nothing." Wieland "revives himself" by taking his
former mistress, Sophie von la Roche, into his house, and Schiller
invites Frau von Kalb to accompany him to Paris.

We thus understand how it was that Jean Paul, when in Weimar, and under
the influence of Frau von Kalb's personality, exclaimed: "This much is
certain; the heart of the world is beating with a more spiritual and
greater revolution than the political, and one quite as destructive."

What revolution? The emancipation of feeling from the conventions
of society; the heart's audacious assumption of its right to regard
its own code of laws as the new moral code, to re-cast morals in
the interests of morality, and occasionally in the interests of
inclination. The Weimar circle had no desire, no thought for anything
beyond this, had neither practical nor social reforms in view. It is
a genuinely German trait that outwardly they made deep obeisance to
the laws which they privately evaded. In conversation, Goethe, in
his riper years, invariably maintained that the existing conventions
regulating the relations of the sexes were absolutely necessary in the
interests of civilisation; and in their books authors gave expression
to revolutionary sentiments which were more or less their own, only to
recant at the end of the book. The hero either confesses his error,
or commits suicide, or is punished for his defiance of society, or
renounces society altogether (Karl Moor, Werther, Tasso, Linda). It is
exactly the proceeding of the heretical authors of the Middle Ages, who
concluded their books with a notice that everything in them must of
course be interpreted in harmony with the doctrines and decrees of Holy
Mother Church.

Into this Weimar circle of gifted women Madame de Staël, "the whirlwind
in petticoats," as she has been called, is introduced when she comes to
Germany. In the midst of them she produces the effect of some strange
wild bird. What a contrast between her aims and their predilections I
With them everything is personal, with her by this time everything is
social. She has appeared before the public; she is striking doughty
blows in the cause of social reform. For such deeds even the most
advanced of these German women of the "enlightenment" period are of
much too mild a strain. Her aim is to revolutionise life politically,
theirs to make it poetical. The idea of flinging the gauntlet to a
Napoleon would never have entered the mind of any one of them. What a
use to make of a lady's glove, a pledge of love! It is not the rights
of humanity, but the rights of the heart which they understand; their
strife is not against the wrongs of life but against its prose. The
relation of the gifted individual to society does not here, as in
France, take the form of a conflict between the said individual's
rebellious assertion of his liberty and the traditional compulsion of
society, but of a conflict between the poetry of the desires of the
individual and the prose of political and social conventions. Hence the
perpetual glorification in Romantic literature of capacity and strength
of desire, of wish; a subject to which Friedrich Schlegel in particular
perpetually recurs. It is in reality the one outwardly directed power
that men possess--impotence itself conceived as a power.

We find the same admiration of wish in Kierkegaard's _Enten-Eller_
(Either-Or). "The reason why Aladdin is so refreshing is that we feel
the childlike audacity of genius in its wildly fantastic wishes. How
many are there in our day who dare really wish?" &c. The childlike,
for ever the childlike! But who can wonder that _wish_, the mother of
religions, the outward expression of inaction, became the catchword of
the Romanticists? _Wish_ is poetry; society as it exists, prose. It is
only when we judge them from this standpoint that we rightly understand
even the most serene, most chastened works of Germany's greatest poets.
Goethe's _Tasso_, with its conflict between the statesman and the poet
(i.e. between reality and poetry), its delineation of the contrast
between these two who complete each other, and are only unlike "because
nature did not make one man of them," is, in spite of its crystalline
limpidity of style and its keynote of resignation, a product of the
self-same long fermentation which provides the Romantic School with
all its fermentative matter. The theme of _Wilhelm Meister_ is in
reality the same. It, too, represents the gradual, slow reconciliation
and fusion of the dreamed of ideal and the earthly reality. But only
the greatest minds rose to this height; the main body of writers of
considerable, but less lucid intellect never got beyond the inward
discord. The more poetry became conscious of itself as a power, the
more the poet realised his dignity, and literature became a little
world in itself with its own special technical interests, the more
distinctly did the conflict with reality assume the subordinate form
of a conflict with philistinism (see, for instance, Eichendorff's
_Krieg den Philistern_). Poetry no longer champions the eternal rights
of liberty against the tyranny of outward circumstances; it champions
itself as poetry against the prose of life. This is the Teutonic, the
German-Scandinavian, that is to say, the narrow literary conception of
the service that poetry is capable of rendering to the cause of liberty.

"We must remember," says Kierkegaard (_Begrebet Ironi_, p. 322), "that
Tieck and the entire Romantic School entered, or believed they entered,
into relations with a period in which men were, so to speak, petrified,
in final, unalterable social conditions. Everything was perfected
and completed, in a sort of divine Chinese perfection, which left
no reasonable longing unsatisfied, no reasonable wish unfulfilled.
The glorious principles and maxims of 'use and wont' were the objects
of a pious worship; everything, including the absolute itself, was
absolute; men refrained from polygamy; they wore peaked hats; nothing
was without its significance. Each man felt, with the precise degree of
dignity that corresponded to his position, what he effected, the exact
importance to himself and to the whole, of his unwearied endeavour.
There was no frivolous indifference to punctuality in those days; all
ungodliness of that kind tried to insinuate itself in vain. Everything
pursued its tranquil, ordered course; even the suitor went soberly
about his business; he knew that he was going on a lawful errand,
was taking a most serious step. Everything went by clockwork. Men
waxed enthusiastic over the beauties of nature on Midsummer Day; were
overwhelmed by the thought of their sins on the great fast-days; fell
in love when they were twenty, went to bed at ten o'clock. They married
and devoted themselves to domestic and civic duties; they brought up
families; in the prime of their manhood notice was taken in high places
of their honourable and successful efforts; they lived on terms of
intimacy with the pastor, under whose eye they did the many generous
deeds which they knew he would recount in a voice trembling with
emotion when the day came for him to preach their funeral sermon. They
were friends in the genuine sense of the word, _ein wirklicher Freund,
wie man wirklicher Kanzleirat war_."

I fail to see anything typical in this description. Except that we wear
round hats instead of peaked ones, every word of it might apply to the
present day; there is nothing especially indicative of one period more
than another. No; the distinctive feature of the period in question is
the gifted writer's, the Romanticist's, conception of philistinism.
In my criticism of Johan Ludvig Heiberg's first Romantic attempts, I
wrote: "They (the Romanticists) looked upon it from the philosophical
point of view as finality, from the intellectual, as narrow-mindedness;
not, like us, from the moral point of view, as contemptibility. With
it they contrasted their own infinite longing.... They confronted its
prose with their own youthful poetry; we confront its contemptibility
with our virile will" (_Samlede Skrifter_, i. p. 467). As a general
rule, then, they, with their thoughts and longings, fled society and
reality, though now and again, as already indicated, they attempted,
if not precisely to realise their ideas in life, at least to sketch
a possible solution of the problem how to transform reality in its
entirety into poetry.

Not that they show a spark of the indignation or the initiative which
we find in the French Romantic author (George Sand, for instance); they
merely amuse themselves with elaborating revolutionary, or at least
startling fancies.

That which Goethe had attained to, namely, the power of moulding his
surroundings to suit his own personal requirements, was to the young
generation the point of departure. In this particular they from their
youth saw the world from Goethe's point of view; they made the measure
of freedom which he had won for himself and the conditions which had
been necessary for the full development of his gifts and powers, the
average, or more correctly the minimum, requirement of every man
with talent, no matter how little. They transformed the requirements
of his nature into a universal rule, ignored the self-denial he had
laboriously practised and the sacrifices he had made, and not only
proclaimed the unconditional rights of passion, but, with tiresome
levity and pedantic lewdness, preached the emancipation of the senses.
And another influence, very different from that of Goethe's powerful
self-assertion, also made itself felt, namely, the influence of Berlin.
To Goethe's free, unrestrained humanity there was added in Berlin an
ample alloy of the scoffing, anti-Christian spirit which had emanated
from the court of Frederick the Great, and the licence which had
prevailed at that of his successor.

But both Goethe and Schiller paved the way for Romanticism not only
positively, by their proclamation of the rights of passion, but also
negatively, by the conscious attitude of opposition to their own
age which they assumed in their later years. In another form, the
Romanticist's aversion to reality is already to be found in them.
I adduce two famous instances of the astonishing lack of interest
shown by Goethe, the greatest creative mind of the day, in political
realities; they prove at the same time how keen was his interest in
science. Writing of the campaign against France during the French
Revolution, a campaign in which he took part, he mentions that he spent
most of his time in observing "various phenomena of colour and of
personal courage." And after the battle of Jena Knebel writes: "Goethe
has been busy with optics the whole time. We study osteology under his
guidance, the times being well adapted to such study, as all the fields
are covered with preparations." The bodies of his fallen countrymen did
not inspire the poet with odes; he dissected them and studied their

Such instances as these give us some impression of the attitude of
aloofness which Goethe as a poet maintained towards the events of his
day. But we must not overlook the fine side of his refusal to write
patriotic war-songs during the struggle with Napoleon. "Would it be
like me to sit in my room and write war-songs? In the night bivouacs,
when we could hear the horses of the enemy's outposts neighing, then
I might possibly have done it. But it was not my life, that, and not
my affair; it was Theodor Körner's. Therefore his war-songs become him
well. I have not a warlike nature nor warlike tastes, and war-songs
would have been a mask very unbecoming to me. I have never been
artificial in my poetry." Goethe, like his disciple Heiberg, was in
this case led to refrain by the strong feeling that he only cared to
write of what he had himself experienced; but he also tells us that he
regarded themes of a historical nature as "the most dangerous and most

His ideal, and that of the whole period, is humanity pure and
simple--a man's private life is everything. The tremendous conflicts
of the eighteenth century and the "enlightenment" period are all, in
consonance with the human idealism of the day, contained in the life
story, the development story, of the individual. But the cult of
humanity does not only imply lack of interest in history, but also a
general lack of interest in the subject for its own sake. In one of his
letters to Goethe, Schiller writes that two things are to be demanded
of the poet and of the artist--in the first place, that he shall rise
above reality, and in the second, that he shall keep within the bounds
of the material, the natural. He explains his meaning thus: The artist
who lives amidst unpropitious, formless surroundings, and consequently
ignores these surroundings in his art, runs the risk of altogether
losing touch with the tangible, of becoming abstract, or, if his mind
is not of a robust type, fantastic; if, on the other hand, he keeps to
the world of reality, he is apt to be too real, and, if he has little
imagination, to copy slavishly and vulgarly. These words indicate, as
it were, the watershed which divides the German literature of this
period. On the one side we have the unnational art-poetry of Goethe and
Schiller, with its continuation in the fantasies of the Romanticists,
and on the other side the merely sensational or entertaining literature
of the hour (Unterhaltungslitteratur), which is based on reality, but
a philistine reality, the literature of which Lafontaine's sentimental
bourgeois romances, and the popular, prosaic family dramas of Schröder,
Iffland, and Kotzebue, are the best known examples. It was a misfortune
for German literature that such a division came about. But, although
the rupture of the better literature with reality first showed itself
in a startling form in the writings of the Romanticists, we must not
forget that the process had begun long before. Kotzebue had been the
antipodes of Schiller and Goethe before he stood in that position to
the Romanticists. Of this we get a vivid impression from the following

One day in the early spring of 1802, the little town of Weimar was
in the greatest excitement over an event which was the talk of high
and low. It had long been apparent that some special festivity was
in preparation. It was known that a very famous and highly respected
man, President von Kotzebue, had applied privately to the Burgomaster
for the use of the newly decorated Town Hall. The most distinguished
ladies of the town had for a month past done nothing but order and
try on fancy dresses. Fräulein von Imhof had given fifty gold guldens
for hers. Astonished eyes had beheld a carver and gilder carrying
a wonderful helmet and banner across the street in broad daylight.
What could such things be required for? Were there to be theatricals
at the Town Hall? It was known that an enormous bell mould made of
pasteboard had been ordered. For what was it to be used? The secret
soon came out. Some time before this, Kotzebue, famous throughout
Europe as the author of _Menschenhass und Reue_, had returned, laden
with Russian roubles and provided with a patent of nobility, to his
native town, to make a third in the Goethe and Schiller alliance. He
had succeeded in gaining admission to the court, and the next thing was
to obtain admission to Goethe's circle, which was also a court, and a
very exclusive one. The private society of intimates for whom Goethe
wrote his immortal convivial songs (Gesellschaftslieder) met once a
week at his house. Kotzebue had himself proposed for election by some
of the lady members, but Goethe added an amendment to the rules of
the society which excluded the would-be intruder, and prevented his
even appearing occasionally as a guest. Kotzebue determined to revenge
himself by paying homage to Schiller in a manner which he hoped would
thoroughly annoy Goethe. The latter had just suppressed some thrusts
at the brothers Schlegel in Kotzebue's play, _Die Kleinstädter_, which
was one of the pieces in the repertory of the Weimar theatre; so, to
damage the theatre, Kotzebue determined to give a grand performance in
honour of Schiller at the Town Hall. Scenes from all his plays were to
be acted, and finally _The Bell_ was to be recited to an accompaniment
of tableaux vivants. At the close of the poem, Kotzebue, dressed as
the master-bellfounder, was to shatter the pasteboard mould with a
blow of his hammer, and there was to be disclosed, not a bell, but a
bust of Schiller. The Kotzebue party, however, had reckoned without
their host, that is to say, without Goethe. In all Weimar there was
only one bust of Schiller, that which stood in the library. When, on
the last day, a messenger was sent to borrow it, the unexpected answer
was given, that never in the memory of man had a plaster cast lent
for a fête been returned in the condition in which it had been sent,
and that the loan must therefore be unwillingly refused. And one can
imagine the astonishment and rage of the allies when they heard that
the carpenters, arriving at the Town Hall with their boards, laths, and
poles, had found the doors locked and had received an intimation from
the Burgomaster and Council that, as the hall had been newly painted
and decorated, they could not permit it to be used for such a "riotous"

This is only a small piece of provincial town scandal. But what is
really remarkable, what constitutes the kernel of the story, is the
fact that the whole company of distinguished ladies who had hitherto
upheld the fame of Goethe (Countess Henriette von Egloffstein; the
beautiful lady of honour and poetess Amalie von Imhof, at a later
period the object of Gentz's adoration, whose fifty gold guldens had
been wasted, &c., &c.) took offence, and deserted his camp for that of
Kotzebue. Even the Countess Einsiedel, whom Goethe had always specially
distinguished, went over to the enemy. This shows how little real hold
the higher culture had as yet taken even on the highest intellectual
and social circles, and how powerful the man of letters still was
who concerned himself with real life and sought his subjects in his

There had, most undoubtedly, been a time when Goethe and Schiller
themselves were realists. To both, in their first stage of restless
ferment, reality had been a necessity. Both had given free play to
nature and feeling in their early productions, Goethe in _Götz_ and
_Werther_, Schiller in _Die Räuber_. But after _Götz_ had set the
fashion of romances of chivalry and highway robbery, _Werther_ of
suicide, both in real life and in fiction, and _Die Räuber_ of such
productions as _Abällino, der grosse Bandit_, the great writers,
finding the reading world unable to discriminate between originals and
imitations, withdrew from the arena. Their interest in the subject was
lost in their interest in the form. The study of the antique led them
to lay ever-increasing weight upon artistic perfection. It was not
their lot to find a public which understood them, much less a people
that could present them with subjects, make demands of them--give them
orders, so to speak. The German people were still too undeveloped. When
Goethe, at Weimar, was doing what he could to help Schiller, he found
that the latter, on account of his wild life at Mannheim, his notoriety
as a political refugee, and especially his pennilessness, was regarded
as a writer of most unfortunate antecedents. During the epigram war
(Xenienkampf) of 1797, both Goethe and Schiller were uniformly treated
as poets of doubtful talent. One of the pamphlets against them is
dedicated to "die zwei Sudelköche in Weimar und Jena" (the bunglers
of Weimar and Jena). It was Napoleon's recognition of Goethe, his
wish to see and converse with him, his exclamation: "Voilà un homme!"
which greatly helped to establish Goethe's reputation in Germany. A
Prussian staff-officer, who was quartered about this time in the poet's
house, had never heard his name. His publisher complained bitterly of
the small demand for the collected edition of his works; there was a
much better sale for those of his brother-in-law, Vulpius (author of
_Rinaldo Rinaldini_). _Tasso_ and _Iphigenia_ could not compete with
works of such European fame as Kotzebue's _Menschenhass und Reue_;
Goethe himself tells us that they were only performed in Weimar once
every three or four years. Clearly enough it was the stupidity of the
public which turned the great poets from the popular path to glory;
but it is equally clear that the new classicism, which they so greatly
favoured, was an ever-increasing cause of their unpopularity. Only two
of Goethe's works were distinct successes, _Werther_ and _Hermann und

What were the proceedings of the two great poets after they turned
their backs upon their surroundings? Goethe made the story of his
own strenuous intellectual development the subject of plastic poetic
treatment. But finding it impossible, so long as he absorbed himself
in modern humanity, to attain to the beautiful simplicity of the old
Greeks, he began to purge his works of the personal; he composed
symbolical poems and allegories, wrote _Die Natürliche Tochter_, in
which the characters simply bear the names of their callings, King,
Ecclesiastic, &c.; and the neo-classic studies, _Achilleis, Pandora,
Palæophron und Neoterpe, Epimenides_, and the _Second Part of Faust_.
He began to employ Greek mythology much as it had been employed in
French classical literature, namely, as a universally understood
metaphorical language. He no longer, as in the _First Part of Faust_,
treated the individual as a type, but produced types which were
supposed to be individuals. His own _Iphigenia_ was now too modern
for him. Ever more marked became that addiction to allegory which led
Thorvaldsen too away from life in his art. In his art criticism Goethe
persistently maintained that it is not truth to nature, but truth to
art which is all-important; he preferred ideal mannerism (such as is to
be found in his own drawings preserved in his house in Frankfort) to
ungainly but vigorous naturalism. As theatrical director he acted on
these same principles; grandeur and dignity were everything to him. He
upheld the conventional tragic style of Calderon and Alfieri, Racine
and Voltaire. His actors were trained, in the manner of the ancients,
to stand like living statues; they were forbidden to turn profile or
back to the audience, or to speak up the stage; in some plays, in
defiance of the customs of modern mimic art, they wore masks. In spite
of public opposition, he put A. W. Schlegel's _Ion_ on the stage--a
professedly original play, in reality an unnatural adaptation from
Euripides, suggested by _Iphigenia_. Nay, he actually insisted, merely
for the sake of exercising the actors in reciting verse, on producing
Friedrich Schlegel's _Alarkos_, an utterly worthless piece, which might
have been written by a talentless schoolboy, and was certain to be
laughed off the stage.[3] To such an extent as this did he gradually
sacrifice everything to external artistic form.

It is easy, then, to see how Goethe's one-sidedness prepared the way
for that of the Romanticists; it is not so easy to show that the same
was the case with Schiller. Schiller's dramas seem like prophecies of
actual events. The French Revolution ferments in _Die Räuber_ (the
play which procured for "Monsieur Gille" the title of honorary citizen
of the French Republic), and, as Gottschall observes, "the eighteenth
Brumaire is anticipated in _Fiesko_, the eloquence of the Girondists
in _Posa_, the Cæsarian soldier-spirit in _Wallenstein_, and the Wars
of Liberation in _Die Jungfrau von Orleans_ and _Wilhelm Tell_." But
in reality it is only in his first dramas that Schiller allows himself
to be influenced, without second thought or ulterior purpose, by his
theme. In all the later plays the competent critic at once feels how
largely the choice of subject has been influenced by considerations of
form. Henrik Ibsen once drew my attention to this in speaking of _Die
Jungfrau von Orleans_; he maintained that there is no "experience" in
that play, that it is not the result of powerful personal impressions,
but is a composition. And Hettner has shown this to be the relation
of the author to his work in all the later plays. From the year
1798 onwards, Schiller's admiration for Greek tragedy led him to be
always on the search for subjects in which the Greek idea of destiny
prevailed. _Der Ring des Polykrates, Der Taucher_, and _Wallenstein_
are dominated by the idea of Nemesis. Maria Stuart is modelled upon the
_Œdipus Rex_ of Sophocles, and this particular historical episode
is chosen with the object of having a theme in which the tragic end,
the appointed doom, is foreknown, so that the drama merely gradually
develops that which is inevitable from the beginning. The subject
of the _Jungfrau von Orleans_, in appearance so romantic, is chosen
because Schiller desired to deal with an episode in which, after the
antique manner, a direct divine message reached the human soul--in
which there is a direct material interposition of the divinity, and
yet the human being who is the organ of the divinity can be ruined, in
genuine Greek fashion, by her human weakness.

It was only in keeping with his general unrealistic tendency that
Schiller, though he was not in the least musical, should extol the
opera at the expense of the drama, and maintain the antique chorus to
be far more awe-inspiring than modern tragic dialogue. In _Die Braut
von Messina_ he himself produced a "destiny" tragedy, which to all
intents and purposes is a study in the manner of Sophocles. Not even in
_Wilhelm Tell_ is his point of view a modern one; on the contrary, it
is in every particular purely Hellenic. The subject is not conceived
dramatically, but epically. The individual is marked by no special
characteristic. It is merely an accident that raises Tell above the
mass and makes him the leader of the movement. He is, as Goethe says,
a "sort of Demos." Hence it is not the conflict between two great,
irreconcilable historical ideas that is presented in this play; the men
of Rütli have no sentimental attachment to liberty; it is neither the
idea of liberty nor the idea of country that produces the insurrection.
Private ideas and private interests, encroachments on family rights and
rights of property, here provide the mainspring of action, or rather of
event, which in the other dramas is provided by personal or dynastic
ambition. It is explicitly signified to us that the peasants do not aim
at acquiring new liberties, but at maintaining old inherited customs.
On this point I may refer the reader to Lasalle, who develops the same
view with his usual ingenuity in the interesting preface to his drama,
_Franz von Sickingen_.

Thus, then, we see that even when Schiller, the most political
and historical of the German poets, appears to be most interested
in history and politics, he is dealing only to a limited extent
with reality; and therefore it may be almost considered proved,
that distaste for historical and present reality--in other words,
subjectivism and idealism--were the characteristics of the whole
literature of that day.

But the spirit of Herder, Goethe, and Schiller is only one of the
motive powers of Romanticism. The other is the philosophy of Fichte.
It was the Fichtean doctrine of the Ego which gave to the Romantic
individuality its character and force. The axioms: All that is, is for
us; What is for us can only be through us; Everything that is, both
natural and supernatural, exists through the _activity of the Ego_,
received an entirely new interpretation when transferred from the
domain of metaphysics to that of psychology. All reality is contained
in the Ego itself, hence the absolute Ego demands that the non-Ego
which it posits shall be in harmony with it, and is itself simply the
infinite striving to pass beyond its own limits. It was this conclusion
of the _Wissenschaftslehre_ (Doctrine of Knowledge) which fired the
young generation. By the absolute Ego they understood, as Fichte
himself in reality did, though in a very different manner, not a divine
being, but the thinking human being. And this new and intoxicating idea
of the absolute freedom and power and self-sufficiency of the Ego,
which, with the arbitrariness of an autocratic monarch, obliges the
whole world to shrink into nothing before itself, is enthusiastically
proclaimed by an absurdly arbitrary, ironical, and fantastic set of
young geniuses, half-geniuses, and quarter-geniuses. The _Sturm und
Drang_ period, when the liberty men gloried in was the liberty of
eighteenth--century "enlightenment," reappeared in a more refined and
idealistic form; and the liberty now gloried in was nineteenth-century

Fichte's doctrine of a world-positing, world-creating Ego was
at variance with "sound human reason." This was one of its
chief recommendations in the eyes of the Romanticists. The
_Wissenschaftslehre_ was scientific paradox, but to them paradox was
the fine flower of thought. Moreover, the fundamental idea of the
doctrine was as radical as it was paradoxical. It had been evolved
under the impression of the attempt made by the French Revolution to
transform the whole traditional social system into a rational system
(Vernunftstaat). The autocracy of the Ego was Fichte's conception of
the order of the world, and therefore in this doctrine of the Ego the
Romanticists believed that they possessed the lever with which they
could lift the old world from its hinges.

The Romantic worship of imagination had already begun with Fichte. He
explained the world as the result of an unconscious, yet to a thinker
comprehensible, act of the free, yet at the same time limited, Ego.
This act, he maintains, emanates from the creative imagination.
By means of it the world which we apprehend with the senses first
becomes to us a real world. The whole activity of the human mind,
then, according to Fichte, springs from the creative imagination; it
is the instinct which he regards as the central force of the active
Ego. The analogy with the imaginative power which is so mighty in
art is evident. But what Fichte himself failed to perceive is, that
imagination is by no means a creative, but only a transforming,
remodelling power, since what it acts upon is only the form of the
things conceived of, not their substance.

Fichte says that he "does not require 'things,' and does not make use
of them, because they prevent his self-dependence, his independence
of all that is outside of himself." This saying is closely allied to
Friedrich Schlegel's observation, "that a really philosophic human
being should be able to tune himself at will in the philosophical or
philological, the critical or poetical, the historical or rhetorical,
the ancient or modern key, as one tunes an instrument, and this at any
time and to any pitch."

According to the Romantic doctrine, the artistic omnipotence of the
Ego and the arbitrariness of the poet can submit to no law. In this
idea lies the germ of the notorious Romantic irony in art, the treating
of everything as both jest and earnest, the eternal self-parody, the
disturbing play with illusions alternately summoned up and banished,
which destroys all directness of effect in many of the favourite works
of the Romanticists.

The Romanticist's theory of art and life thus owes its existence to a
mingling of poetry with philosophy, a coupling of the poet's dreams
with the student's theories; it is a production of purely intellectual
powers, not of any relation between these powers and real life. Hence
the excessively intellectual character of Romanticism. Hence all the
selfduplication, all the raising to higher powers, in this poetry
about poetry and this philosophising on philosophy. Hence its living
and moving in a higher world, a different nature. This too is the
explanation of all the symbolism and allegory in these half-poetical,
half-philosophical works. A literature came into being which partook
of the character of a religion, and ultimately joined issue with
religion, and which owed its existence rather to a life of emotion than
a life of intellectual productiveness. Hence we understand how, as A.
W. Schlegel himself says, "it was often rather the ethereal melody of
the feelings that was lightly suggested than the feelings themselves
that were expressed in all their strength and fulness." It was not the
thing itself that the author wished to communicate to the reader, but a
suggestion of the thing. It is not in bright sunlight, but in twilight
or mysterious quivering moonlight, on a far horizon or in dreams, that
we behold the figures of Romanticism. Hence too the Romantic dilution
or diminution of the terms expressing what is perceived by the senses
(Blitzeln, Aeugeln, Hinschatten), and also that interchange of the
terms for the impressions of the different senses, which makes the
imagery confusedly vague. In _Zerbino_ Tieck writes of flowers:

    "Die Farbe klingt; die Form ertönt, jedwede
    Hat nach der Form und Farbe Zung' und Rede.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    Sich Farbe, Duft, Gesang Geschwister nennen."[4]

The essential element in this literature is no longer the passion
of the _Sturm und Drang_ period, but the free play of fancy, an
activity of the imagination which is neither restrained by the laws of
reason nor by the relation of feeling to reality. The higher, poetic
sequences of ideas now introduced declare war against the laws of
thought, ridicule them as philistine. Their place is taken by caprices,
conceits, and vagaries. Fancy determines to dispense with reality, but
despised reality has its revenge in the unsubstantiality or anæmia of
fancy; fancy defies reason, but in this defiance there is an awkward
contradiction; it is conscious and premeditated--reason is to be
expelled by reason. Seldom has any poetic school worked under such a
weight of perpetual consciousness of its own character as did this.
Conscious intention is the mark of its productions.

The intellectual inheritance to which the Romanticists succeeded was
overpoweringly great. The School came into existence when literature
stood at its zenith in Germany. This explains the early maturity of
its members; their way was made ready for them. They assimilated
in their youth an enormous amount of literary knowledge and of
artistic technique, and thus started with an intellectual capital
such as no other young generation in Germany had ever possessed. They
clothed their first thoughts in the language of Goethe, Schiller,
and Shakespeare, and, beginning thus, proceeded to create what
Goethe called "the period of forced talents." For the study of real
human character and the execution of definite artistic ideas they
substituted the high-handedness of turbulent fancy. Common to all the
very dissimilar endeavours and productions of the Romanticists--to
Wackenroder's _Klosterbruder_, with its spiritual enthusiasm for art
and ideal beauty, to _Lucinde_, with its sensual worship of the flesh,
to Tieck's melancholy romances and tales, in which capricious fate
makes sport of man, and to Tieck's dramas and Hoffmann's stories, in
which all form is lost and its place supplied by the caprices and
arabesques of whimsical fancy--common to them all, is that law-defying
self-assertion or assertion of the absolutism of the individual, which
is a result of war with narrowing prose, of the urgent demand for
poetry and freedom.

The absolute independence of the Ego isolates. Nevertheless these men
soon founded a school, and after its speedy disintegration several
interesting groups were formed. This is to be ascribed to their
determination to make common cause in procuring the victory, insuring
the universal dominion, of the philosophy of life which had been
evolved by the great minds of Germany. They desired to introduce this
philosophy of the geniuses into life itself, to give it expression in
criticism, in poetry, in art theories, in religious exhortation, in the
solution of social, and even of political problems; and their first
step towards this was violent literary warfare. They were impelled
partly by the necessity felt by great and strong natures to impart
one will and one mind to a whole band of fellow-combatants, and partly
by the inclination of men of talent, whose talent is attacked and
contested, to confront the overwhelming numbers of their opponents
with a small but superior force. In the case of the best men, the
formation of a school or a party was the result of exactly that lack
of state organisation which was the first condition of their isolating
independence. The consciousness of belonging to a people without unity
as a nation, and without collective strength, begot the endeavour to
imbue the leading spirits of the aristocracy of intellect with a new
rallying principle.

[1] Whence this trembling, this nameless horror, when thy loving arms
encircle me? Is it because an oath, which, remember, even a thought is
sufficient to break, has forced strange fetters on thee?

Because a ceremony, which the laws have decreed to be sacred, has
hallowed an accidental, grievous crime? Nay--fearlessly defy a covenant
of which blushing nature repents.

O tremble not!--thine oath was a sin; perjury is the sacred duty of the
repentant sinner; the heart thou gavest away at the altar was mine;
Heaven does not play with human happiness.

[2] Goethe, _Tag- und Jahreshefte_, 1802; G. Waitz, _Caroline_, ii.
207; _Goethe-Jahrbuch_, vi. 59, &c.

[3] "Your opinion of _Alarkos_ is mine; nevertheless I think that
we must dare everything, outward success or non-success being of no
consequence whatever. Our gain seems to me to lie principally in the
fact that we accustom our actors to repeat, and ourselves to hear, this
extremely accurate metre."--_Goethe_.

[4] "Their colours sing, their forms resound; each, according to its
form and colour finds voice and speech.... Colour, fragrance, song,
proclaim themselves one family."



Outside the group which represents the transition from the Hellenism
of Goethe and Schiller to Romanticism stands a solitary figure, that
of Hölderlin, one of the noblest and most refined intellects of the
day. Although their contemporary, he was a pioneer of the German
Romanticists, in much the same way as Andre Chenier, another Hellenist,
was a pioneer of French Romanticism. He was educated with the future
philosopher of the Romantic School, Schelling, and with Hegel, the
great thinker, who came after Romanticism, and he was the friend of
both of these, but had made acquaintance with none of the Romanticists
proper when insanity put an end to his intellectual activity.

Hölderlin was born in 1770, and became insane in 1802. Hence, although
he survived himself forty years, his life as an author is very little
longer than Hardenberg's or Wackenroder's.

That enmity to Hellenism, which to posterity appears one of the chief
characteristics of the Romantic movement, was not one of its original
elements. On the contrary, with the exception of Tieck, who certainly
had no appreciation of the Hellenic spirit, all the early Romanticists,
but more especially the Schlegel brothers, Schleiermacher, and
Schelling, were enthusiastic admirers of ancient Greece. It was their
desire to enter into every feeling of humanity, and it was among the
Greeks that they at first found humanity in all its fulness. They
longed to break down the artificial social barriers of their time and
escape to nature, and at first they found nature among the Greeks
alone. To them the genuinely human was at the same time the genuinely
Greek. Friedrich Schlegel, for example, embarks on his career with
the hope of being for literature all that Winckelmann has been for
art. In his essays "On Diotima" and "On the Study of Greek Poetry,"
he proclaims the superiority of Greek culture and Greek poetry to all
other. There is an indication of the later Schlegel in the attempt
made to combat the false modesty of modern times, and to prove that
beauty is independent of moral laws, which in no way concern art.
Characteristic also is his demonstration of Aristotle's lack of
appreciation of the Greek _Naturpoesie_.

A similar but more enduring enthusiasm for ancient Greece was the
very essence of Hölderlin's being; and this enthusiasm did not find
its expression in studies and essays, but took lyric form, in prose
as well as verse. Even as dramatist and novelist, Hölderlin was the
gifted lyric poet, that and nothing else. Haym has aptly observed of
his romances: "Joy in the ideal, the collapse of the ideal, and grief
over that collapse, constitute the theme which the Letters of Hyperion
develop with a force which never weakens and a fervour which is always
alike intense.... It is the irretrievable that is the cause of his
suffering." And since the ideal was embodied for him in Greek life,
such as he dreamed it to have been, his whole literary production is
one longing lament over lost Hellas. Nothing could be less Greek or
more Romantic than this longing; it is of exactly the same exaggerated
character as Schack Staffeldt's enthusiasm for ancient Scandinavia and
Wackenroder's devotion to German antiquity. Hölderlin's landscapes are
as un-Greek as his modern Greeks in _Hyperion_, who are noble German
enthusiasts, strongly influenced by Schiller. We cannot doubt that he
was aware of this himself. But the lot of the solitary chosen spirits
in Germany seemed to him a terrible one. Although he shows himself in
his poems to be an ardent patriot, and although he sings the charms
of romantic Heidelberg in antique strophes, yet Germany and Greece to
him represent barbarism and culture. Concerning his own position to
the Greeks he writes to his brother: "In spite of all my good-will, I
too, in all that I do and think, merely stumble along in the track of
these unique beings; and am often the more awkward and foolish in deed
and word because, like the geese, I stand flat-footed in the water of
modernity, impotently endeavouring to wing my flight upward towards
the Greek heaven." And at the close of _Hyperion_ he says of the
Germans: "They have been barbarians from time immemorial, and industry,
science, even religion itself, has only made them still more barbarous,
incapable of every divine feeling, too utterly depraved to enjoy the
happiness conferred by the Graces. With their extravagances and their
pettinesses, they are insupportable to every rightly constituted mind,
dead and discordant as the fragments of a broken vase." Of German poets
and artists he writes, that they present a distressing spectacle. "They
live in the world like strangers in their own house ... they grow up
full of love and life and hope, and twenty years later one sees them
wandering about like shadows, silent and cold."

Therefore Hölderlin rejoices over the victories of the French, over the
"gigantic strides of the Republic," scoffs at all "the petty trickeries
of political and ecclesiastical Würtemberg and Germany and Europe,"
derides the "narrow-minded domesticity" of the Germans, and bewails
their lack of any feeling of common honour and common property. "I
cannot," he exclaims, "imagine a people more torn asunder than are the
Germans. You see artisans, but not men, philosophers, but not men,
priests, but not men, servants and masters, young and old, but not men."

The conception of the State which we find in _Hyperion_ is also quite
in harmony with the spirit of the age, and quite un-Hellenic. "The
State dare not demand what it cannot take by force. But what love and
intellect give cannot be taken by force. It must keep its hands off
that, else we will take its laws and pillory them! Good God! They who
would make the State a school of morals do not know what a crime they
are committing. The State has always become a hell when man has tried
to make it his heaven."

Utterly un-Greek, wholly Romantic, is the love which Hyperion cherishes
for his Diotima. It is the same deep and tragic feeling which bound
Hölderlin, the poor tutor, to the mother of his pupils, Frau Susette
Gontard, and determined his fate. No Greek ever spoke of the woman
he loved with the religious adoration which Hölderlin expresses for
his "fair Grecian." "Dear friend, there is a being upon this earth
in whom my spirit can and will repose for untold centuries, and then
still feel how puerile, face to face with nature, all our thought and
understanding is." And exactly the same Romantic, Petrarchian note is
struck by Hyperion when he speaks of Diotima. Diotima is "the one thing
desired by Hyperion's soul, the perfection which we imagine to exist
beyond the stars." She is beauty itself, the incarnation of the ideal.
Love is to him religion, and his religion is love of beauty. Beauty is
the highest, the absolute ideal; it belongs, as a conception, to the
world of reason, and as a symbol, to the world of imagination. From
his æsthetic point of view, Hölderlin does not perceive that boundary
line drawn by Kant between the domains of reason and imagination. His
theory, a species of poetic--philosophic ecstasy, having points in
common with both Schiller's Hellenism and Schelling's transcendental
idealism, is Romantic before the days of Romanticism.

Germinating Romanticism is also to be traced in the gleam of Christian
feeling which tinges his half-modern pantheism. He had been originally
destined for the Church, and had suffered much from the severe
discipline of the monastery where he was educated. In spite, however,
of the many evidences of a pious disposition which we find in his
letters, he was a pagan in his poems. He disliked priests, and steadily
withstood his family's desire that he should become one. In his
_Empedokles_ we come upon the following significant reply of the hero
to the priest Hermokrates:--

    "Du weisst es ja, ich hab es dir bedeutet,
    Ich kenne dich und deine schlimme Zunft.
    Und lange Avar's ein Räthsel mir, wie euch
    In ihrem Runde duldet die Natur.
    Ach, als ich noch ein Knabe war, da mied
    Euch Allverderber schon mein frommes Herz,
    Das unbestechbar, innig liebend hing
    An Sonn' und Aether und den Boten allen
    Der grossen ferngeahndeten Natur;
    Denn wohl hab ich's gefühlt in meiner Furcht,
    Dass ihr des Herzens freie Götterliebe
    Bereden möchtet zu gemeinem Dienst,
    Und dass ich's treiben sollte so, wie ihr.
    Hinweg! ich kann vor mir den Mann nicht sehn,
    Der Göttliches wie ein Gewerbe treibt,
    Sein Angesicht ist falsch und kalt und todt,
    Wie seine Götter sind."[1]

There is not a trace in Hölderlin of the sanctimonious piety developed
by the other Romanticists, who, to begin with, were far more decided
free-thinkers than he. Yet his Hellenism is not pagan in the manner of
Schiller's and Goethe's. There is a fervency in it which is akin to
Christian devotion; his poetic prayers to the sun, the earth, and the
air are those of a believer; and when, as in _Empedokles_, he handles a
purely pagan subject, the spirit of the treatment is such that we feel
(as we do in a later work, Kleist's _Amphitryon_) the Christian legend
behind the heathen. The position of Empedokles to the Pharisees of his
day and country is exactly that of Jesus to the Pharisees of Judea.
Empedokles, like Jesus, is the great prophet, and both his willing
sacrificial death and the worship of which he is the object awake
feelings which remotely resemble those of the devout Christian.

In Hölderlin we find in outline, light and delicate as if traced by
a spirit, symbols and emotions which the Romantic School develops,
exaggerates, caricatures, or simply obliterates.


    "'Tis nothing new; this I have told you oft;
    I know you well, you and your evil kind.
    And long it was a mystery to me
    How Nature could endure you in her realm.
    Corrupters of mankind! Even as a child,
    My guileless heart shrank from you with distrust--
    That honest, fervent heart, that loved the sun,
    The cool fresh air, and all the messengers
    Of Nature, dimly discerned and great.
    For even then I timidly perceived
    How ye would take our true love of the gods
    And make it serve some baser, selfish end--
    And that in this ye would that I should follow you.
    Begone! I cannot look upon the man
    Who practises religion as a trade;
    His countenance is false and cold and dead,
    As are his gods."



In 1797, August Wilhelm Schlegel, then aged thirty, published the first
volume of his translation of Shakespeare. Rough drafts of several of
the plays in this edition have been found, and these faded, dusty
manuscripts not only enable us to follow the persevering, talented
translator in his self-imposed task, but, when carefully read, give us
direct insight into his and his wife's spiritual life, and indeed into
the intellectual life of the whole period.[1]

Even apparently insignificant details are suggestive. The manuscripts
are not always in A. W. Schlegel's handwriting. He set to work upon
_Romeo and Juliet_ in the winter of 1795-96; in 1796 he married
Caroline Böhmer; and we have a complete copy of the first rough draft
of the play in Caroline's handwriting, with corrections in Schlegel's.
In September 1797, as her letters show, she copied _As You Like It_
from an almost illegible manuscript. And she was more than a mere
copyist. She collaborated with Schlegel in his essay on _Romeo and
Juliet_, which ranks next to Goethe's disquisitions on _Hamlet in
Wilhelm Meister_ as the best Shakespeare criticism produced in Germany
up to that time. We recognise her now and again in some outburst
of womanly feeling, or in a greater freedom of style than we are
accustomed to in Schlegel. She had a far truer understanding than her
contemporaries of the full significance of a work, the aim of which was
the incorporation of Shakespeare in his unalloyed entirety into German
literature. But her interest in the work and the labourer did not, as
the manuscripts show us, survive the first year of her married life. At
first it is her handwriting which predominates, and, though it is less
frequently to be seen alongside of her husband's in the manuscripts of
those plays with which he was occupied during the years 1797-98, her
collaboration is still apparent. We find the last traces of her pen in
the manuscript of the _Merchant of Venice_, which dates from the autumn
of 1798. In October of that year, Schelling joined the Romanticist
circle in Jena. Thenceforward no more of Caroline's handwriting is

Among the manuscripts in question, two give us a very distinct idea
of the progress of Schlegel's intellectual development. They are two
different texts of the _Midsummer Night's Dream_.

Before A. W. Schlegel's time no one in Germany, or elsewhere, had
attempted to translate Shakespeare line for line. The two tame prose
translations by Wieland and Eschenburg were, in fact, all that
existed. As a student in Göttingen, Schlegel made the first attempt
to reproduce in German verse parts of the _Midsummer Night's Dream_.
From childhood he had been "an indefatigable verse-maker." His talent
was obviously inherited. Half a century before he and his brother made
their appearance, two brothers Schlegel had made a name for themselves
in literature--Johann Elias, who lived for many years in Copenhagen,
was a friend of Holberg, and, in everything connected with the stage, a
forerunner of Lessing, and Johann Adolph, father of August Wilhelm and
Friedrich, who, without much originality, possessed decided linguistic
and plastic talent.

As a young student, August Wilhelm, already distinguished by his
impressionableness as a stylist and opinionativeness as an author,
ardently desired to make the acquaintance of Bürger, who was leading a
lonely and unhappy life as professor at the University of Göttingen.
Bürger's fame as a poet procured him no consideration in a place where
learning alone was valued; his social position had, moreover, been
injured by the discovery of his relations with his wife's sister. With
the feelings of an exile, he warmly welcomed the distinguished and
talented young disciple, whose taste was more correct and whose stores
of knowledge were better ordered than his own. At this time Bürger was
still considered to be Germany's best lyric poet and most accomplished
versifier. Schlegel placed himself under his tuition, and learned all
his linguistic and metrical devices, all the methods of producing
artistic effects by careful choice and arrangement of words and use of
rhythm and metres. With his natural gift of imitation, he appropriated
as many of Bürger's characteristics as were at all compatible with his
entirely different temperament. His poem _Ariadne_ might have been
written by Bürger. Bürger had been particularly successful in the
sonnet, a form of poetry which had lately come into vogue in Germany.
So closely did the pupil follow in the footsteps of his master, that
when, many years later, a complete edition of Schlegel's works was
published, two of Bürger's sonnets were accidentally included among

The master did homage to his remarkably promising pupil in a fine
sonnet, beginning:--

    "Junger Aar, dein königlicher Flug
    Wird den Druck der Wolken überwinden,
    Wird die Bahn zum Sonnentempel finden,
    Oder Phöbus' Wort in mir ist Lug,"[2]

and ending with the charmingly modest lines:--

    "Dich zum Dienst des Sonnengotts zu krönen
    Hielt ich nicht den eignen Kranz zu wert,
    Doch--dir ist ein besserer beschert."[3]

Schlegel responded with a criticism of Bürger's frigidly grand _Das
hohe Lied von der Einzigen_, which he praises as a magnificent epic.
In collaboration with Bürger he now began a translation of the
_Midsummer Night's Dream_, of which he did the greater part, Bürger
merely revising. He was still completely under his master's influence;
the manuscripts show that he always accepted Bürger's corrections and
deferred to his predilection for sonority and vigour. As a translator,
Bürger took no pains to reproduce Shakespeare's peculiarities as
closely as possible; he only manifested his own peculiarities, by
making all the coarse, wanton speeches, and the passages in which
misguided passions run riot, as prominent as possible; he emphasised
and exaggerated everything that appealed to his own liking for a coarse
jest, and destroyed the magic of the light and tender passages. In
spite of his own great and natural love of refinement, young Schlegel
strove in this matter also to follow in his master's steps, with the
result that he was not infrequently coarse and awkward where he meant
to be natural and vigorous.

A better guide would have been Herder, who, long before this, in the
fragments of Shakespeare plays in his _Stimmen der Völker_, had given
an example of the right method of translating from English into German.
If Schlegel had taken lessons from Herder in Shakespeare-translating,
he would never have rendered five-footed iambics by Alexandrines,
nor changed the metre of the fairy-songs. No one had realised the
inadequacy of Wieland's translation more clearly than Herder. And
now the spirit in which the latter aimed at Germanising Shakespeare
descended upon Schlegel, who, in spite of the faults of his first
attempts, soon surpassed Herder himself.

He was not long in shaking himself free from Bürger's influence. To
Bürger the highest function of art was to be national and popular.
In 1791, Schlegel, now no longer in Bürger's vicinity, but a tutor
in Amsterdam, devoted much attention to the works of Schiller. His
poetical attempts were henceforth more in the style of that master;
he wrote a sympathetic criticism of _Die Künstler_; and he was led
to a higher conception of art by the perusal of Schiller's æsthetic
writings. His metrical style began to acquire greater dignity. But
Schiller was almost as incapable as Bürger of developing in Schlegel
a true and full understanding of Shakespeare--Schiller, who, in his
translation of Macbeth, had transformed the witches into Greek Furies,
and changed the Porter's coarsely jovial monologue into an edifying
song. If Bürger's realism was one danger, Schiller's pomposity was

But at the same time that Schiller enlightened Schlegel as to the
high significance of art, the newly-published Collected Works of
Goethe, whom he only now began to appreciate, stimulated his natural
inclination to study, interpret, and make poetical translations. As
already mentioned, this first edition of Goethe's collected works
met with but a poor reception. The chief reason of this was that
the public, understanding nothing of the poet's mental development,
had expected new works in the style of _Werther_ or _Götz_. But to
Schlegel's critical intellect, Goethe's wonderful many-sidedness was
now revealed. He understood and appreciated the artist's capacity of
forgetting himself for the moment, of surrendering himself entirely to
the influence of his subject, which in Goethe's case produced forms
that were never arbitrarily chosen, but invariably demanded by the
theme. He understood that he himself, as a poetical translator, must
practise the same self-abnegation and develop a similar capacity of
intellectual re-creation. Two things were required of the translator, a
feminine susceptibility to the subtlest characteristics of the foreign
original, and masculine capacity to re-create with the impression of
the whole in his mind; and both of these requirements were to be found
in Goethe; for his nature was multiplicity, his name "Legion," his
spirit Protean.

There still remained the technical, linguistic difficulties to
overcome; and in this, above all, Goethe was an epoch-making model. He
had remoulded the German language. In passing through his hands it had
gained so greatly in pliability and compass, had acquired such wealth
of expression both in the grand and the graceful style, that it offered
Schlegel exactly the well-tuned instrument of which he stood in need.
While under Bürger's influence he had looked upon technical perfection
as a purely external quality, which could be acquired by indefatigable
polishing; he now realised that perfect technique has an inward origin,
that it is in reality the unity of style which is conditioned by the
general cast of a mind. And he began to see that his life task was a
double one, namely, to reproduce the masterpieces of foreign races in
the German language, and to interpret critically for his countrymen
the best literary productions both of Germany and other lands.

Now, too, Schlegel acquired a quite new understanding of Fichte, the
friend and brother-in-arms whom the Romanticists had so quickly won for
their cause. He realised that Fichte's doctrine of the Ego contained
in extremely abstract terms the idea of the unlimited capacity of the
human mind to find itself in everything and to find everything in
itself. Round this powerful fundamental thought of Fichte's, August
Wilhelm's pliable mind twined itself.

At this time he was much influenced by the correspondence which he kept
up regularly with his younger brother. Friedrich had been drawn by
August Wilhelm into the stream of the new literary movement, and his
militant disposition made him the most reckless champion of the new
principles as soon as he felt assured of their truth. The brothers had
very different characters. The elder, in spite of the audacity of his
literary views, had the better regulated mind. He had early developed a
sense of form and of beauty. His chief gift was a capacity for moulding
language; and accuracy, dexterity, and the sense of proportion were
qualities he was born with. Except in cases of strong provocation,
he showed moderation in scientific and artistic controversy; he knew
comparatively early what he desired and what he was capable of; and
his determination and perseverance made him a successful pioneer of
the ideas and principles of which he had chosen to make himself the
spokesman. He became the founder of the Romantic School, an achievement
for which he possessed every qualification--this man whom his brother
jestingly called "the divine schoolmaster" or "the schoolmaster of the

Friedrich Schlegel was the more restless spirit, the genuine
sect-founder. He himself tells us, in one of his letters, that it was
his life-long desire "not only to preach and dispute like Luther, but
also, like Mohammed, to subjugate the spiritual realms of the earth
with the flaming sword of the word." He did not lack initiative, and
abounded in plans so colossal that there was a jarring disproportion
between them and his ability to carry them out. Eternally wavering,
without tenacity or fundamental conviction, fragmentary in the
extreme, but rich in both suggestive and disconcerting ideas and in
witty conceits, he was constantly beset by the temptation to silence
his opponents with mysterious terminology, and constantly liable to
relapse into platitudes and meaningless verbiage. What Novalis once
wrote to him was more correct than any one suspected: "The King of
Thule, dear Schlegel, was your progenitor; you are related to ruin." As
a critic, he was more impulsive and less impartial than August Wilhelm;
as a poet, he was only once or twice in his life genuinely natural,
and in his _Alarkos_ he plunged into an abyss of bathos into which
his brother, with his more correct taste, could never have fallen.
The elder brother had started the younger in his literary career; the
younger now drove the elder onward, and in the process put an end, by
his unamiability, to the latter's friendly relations with Schiller,
and, ultimately, even to his valued and long maintained friendship with

August Wilhelm now put his translation of Shakespeare aside for a time,
and turned his attention to the poets of the South. He experimented in
all directions, translated fragments of Homer, of the Greek elegiac,
lyric, dramatic, and idyllic poets, of almost all the Latin poets and
many of the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. At a later period he even
translated Indian poetry, his aim being to make the German language
a Pantheon for the divine in every tongue. He lingered longest over
Dante, although he did not possess the mastery of form required to
render the _terza rima_; he rhymed only two lines of each triplet,
thus altering the character of the verse and doing away with the
intertwining of the stanzas.

After this he turned to _Romeo and Juliet_ and _Hamlet_, sending
fragments of his translations to Friedrich, who showed them to
Caroline. Her judgment was favourable on the whole, but she found
fault with the style as being rather antiquated; this she ascribed to
Wilhelm's having been lately employed in translating Dante, his ear
having thereby become accustomed to obsolete words and expressions. The
fact was, that shortly before this he had awakened to the necessity of
being on his guard against the elaborate polish which he had made his
aim after giving up Bürger's style; he now fell into the other extreme,
became archaic, rugged, and hard.

In 1797 Schlegel sent the first samples of _Romeo and Juliet_ to
Schiller. They were printed in _Die Horen_; and in the same periodical
there presently also appeared his essay, _Etwas über William
Shakespeare bei Gelegenheit Wilhelm Meisters_. In _Wilhelm Meister_
Goethe had proclaimed the endeavour to understand Shakespeare to be an
important element in German culture. In its conversations on _Hamlet_
he had refuted the foolish theory that the great dramatist was an
uncultivated natural genius, destitute of artistic consciousness. Had
such been the case, the exact reproduction of his style would not have
been a matter of vital importance in a German translation. But with
so great an artist as the Shakespeare presented to us in _Wilhelm
Meister_, it was plain that the harmony between subject and form must
not be deranged. And yet even Goethe himself had, without any feeling
of unsuitability, given his quotations from _Hamlet_ in the old prose
translation; even he had not realised how inseparably matter and manner
are connected.

Slowly and laboriously Schlegel progresses. His judgment is still so
defective that he fancies it impossible to dispense with Alexandrines;
in _Romeo and Juliet_, he retains the five-footed iambics only "as far
as possible"; the scene between Romeo and Friar Laurence he renders in
Alexandrines, excusing himself with the remark that this metre is less
detrimental in speeches garnished with maxims and descriptions than in
the dialogue proper of the drama. The result is the loss of Romeo's
lyric fervour.

He feels this himself, and with iron industry and determined enthusiasm
sets to work again, rejects the Alexandrines, and compels himself, in
spite of the verbosity of the German language, to say in ten or eleven
syllables what he had said before in twelve or thirteen. For long it
appears to him an impossible task to reproduce each line by one line.
The translation swells in his hands as it did in Bürger's. Fourteen
English lines become nineteen or twenty German. It seems to him that it
is impossible to do with less; until at last he gains true insight, and
sees, from the very foundation, how Shakespeare raises the edifice of
his art. Now he renounces all amplitude and all redundancy that is not
in Shakespeare. Each line is rendered by a single line. He curses and
bewails the prolixity and inadequacy of German: his language has such
different limits, such different turns of expression from the English
language; he cannot reproduce Shakespeare's style; what he produces
is a stammer, a stutter, without resonance or fire--but he coerces
himself, he coerces the language, and produces his translation.

There is no great exaggeration in Scherer's dictum: "Schlegel's
Shakespeare takes its place beside the works given to the world by
Goethe and Schiller during the period when they worked in fellowship;
there is the inevitable distance between reproductive and productive
art, but there is the nearness of the perfect to the perfect."

Having acquired complete mastery of the style, Schlegel now began to
reap the fruits of his labour. He, the master, opened his hand, and
between the years 1797 and 1801 let fall from it into the lap of the
German people sixteen of Shakespeare's dramas, which, in spite of
occasional tameness or constraint of style, might, in their new form,
have been the work of a German poet of Shakespeare's rank.

Let us consider what this really means. It means not much less than
that Shakespeare, as well as Schiller and Goethe, saw the light in
Germany in the middle of last century. He was born in England in 1564;
he was born again, in his German translator, in 1767. _Romeo and
Juliet_ was published in London in 1597; it reappeared in Berlin as a
new work in 1797.

When Shakespeare thus returned to life in Germany, he acted with
full force upon a public which was in several ways more capable of
understanding him than his original public, though it was spiritually
less akin to him and though they were not the battles of its day
which he fought. He now began to feed the millions who did not
understand English with his spiritual bread. Not until now did
Central and Northern Europe discover him. Not until now did the whole
Germanic-Gothic world become his public.

But we have also seen how much went to the production of an apparently
unpretending literary work of this high rank. In its rough drafts and
manuscripts we may read great part of the intellectual history of a
whole generation. Before it could come into existence nothing less was
required than that Lessing's criticism and Wieland's and Eschenburg's
attempts should prepare the soil, and that a genius like Herder should
concentrate in himself all the receptivity and ingenuity of surmise
belonging to the German mind, and should, with the imperiousness
characteristic of him, oblige young Goethe to become his disciple. But
Goethe in his prose _Götz_ only imitated a prose Shakespeare. There
had to be born a man with the unique talent of A. W. Schlegel, and
he, with his hereditary linguistic and stylistic ability, had to be
placed in a position to acquire the greatest technical perfection of
the period. Then he had to free himself, by the influence of Schiller's
noble conception of art, from the tendency to coarseness which was the
result of Bürger's influence, and at the same time to steer clear of
Schiller's tendency to pomposity and dislike of wanton joviality, had
to gain a complete understanding of Goethe, to enter into possession,
as it were, of the language which Goethe had developed, and to attain
to an even clearer conviction than his of the essentiality of the
harmony of subject and style in Shakespeare. It was necessary, too,
that he should be stimulated by the ardour of a kindred talent and
assisted by the keen criticism of a woman. Hundreds of sources had to
flow into each other, hundreds of circumstances to coincide, of people
to make each other's acquaintance, of minds to meet and fertilise each
other, before this work, in its modest perfection, could be given to
the world; a small thing, the translation of a poet who had been dead
for two hundred years, it yet provided the most precious spiritual
nourishment for millions, and exercised a deep and lasting influence on
German poetry.

[1] M. Bernays: _Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Schlegelschen

[2] "In thy kingly flight, young eagle, thou wilt pierce the thickness
of the clouds, and find the way to the temple of the sun-god--else his
word, spoken through me, is false."

[3] "I held not my own wreath too precious to crown thee with it to the
service of Apollo; but--a better is thy destiny."



An apprehensive disposition, predisposing to hallucinations, congenital
melancholy, at times verging on insanity, a clear, sober judgment, ever
inclined to uphold the claims of reason, and a very unusual capacity
for living in and producing emotional moods--such were the principal
characteristics of Ludwig Tieck. He was the most productive author of
the Romantic School, and, after its disruption, he wrote a long series
of excellent novels, depicting past and present more realistically than
Romantic writers were in the habit of doing.

The son of a ropemaker, he was born in Berlin in 1773. Even as a
school-boy he was profoundly influenced by classic writers like
Goethe, Shakespeare, and Holberg. He early succeeded in imitating both
Shakespeare's elfin songs and Ossian's melodious sadness; but during
one period of his youth he weakly allowed himself to be exploited by
elder men of letters, at whose instigation he produced quantities of
carelessly written, unwholesome literature. Though the spirit and
tendency of his writings were prescribed for him, his characteristic
qualities are, nevertheless, discernible even in these valueless early
works. Under the direction of his teacher, Rambach, he wrote, or
re-modelled in the spirit of the "enlightenment" period, sentimental
tales of noble brigands, and invented gruesome episodes in the style
of the death-scene of Franz Moor. But now and again, in some ironical
aside, we get a glimpse of his own more advanced ideas.

A little later we find the future Romanticist writing precocious
stories for the almanacs published by Nicolai, that old firebrand of
the "enlightenment" period--stories in which superstition is held
up to ridicule, and in which we only very occasionally come upon a
touch of irony, such as the selection of a particularly inane old man
to express contempt for "the stupid Middle Ages" and "Shakespeare's
ghosts." No doubt Tieck wrote these compositions principally because he
had sold his pen; still they none the less betray the weariness of the
desponder, who is so exhausted by his long struggle with questions and
doubts of every kind, that he can, without any great reluctance, side
with those who depreciate genius and sing the praises of the sensible,
bourgeois golden mean. His unsettled mental condition is shown no
less clearly in his rationalistic tales than in the supernaturalism,
the voluptuous cruelty, and the cold cynicism of the novels and plays
dating from the beginning of the Nineties, in which he seems to give us
more of himself.

Tieck's first work of any importance is _William Lovell_. The first
part of this novel, which he wrote at the age of twenty, appeared in
1795. In it, when treating of art, he already occasionally touched the
strings upon which the Romantic School subsequently played.

William Lovell goes to Paris (which Tieck at that time had not seen),
and is, of course, disgusted with everything there. "The town is a
hideous, irregular pile of stones. One has the feeling of being in a
great prison.... People chatter and talk all day long without so much
as once saying what they think.... I occasionally went to the theatre,
simply because time hung so heavily on my hands. The tragedies consist
of epigrams, without action or passion, and tirades which produce much
the same effect as the words issuing from the mouths of the figures in
old drawings.... The less natural an actor is, the more highly is he
esteemed. In the great, world-renowned Paris Opera--I fell asleep."
Such are the impressions made upon Lovell (an Englishman) by Paris at
the time of the Revolution. It is nothing but an expression of the
prevalent German contempt for the French character and French art,
doubly unreasonable in this case because it has simply been learned by
rote out of books. In the Théâtre Français, however, Lovell ejaculates:
"O Sophocles! O divine Shakespeare!" and he characteristically
observes: "I hate the men who, with their little imitation sun (namely,
reason), light up all the pleasant twilight corners and chase away the
fascinating shadow phantoms which dwelt so securely under the leafy
canopies. There is, undoubtedly, a kind of daylight in our times, but
the night and morning light of romance were more beautiful than this
grey light from a cloudy sky."

[Illustration: LUDWIG TIECK]

With the exception of a few such touches, this work seems at the
first glance to be distinguished by none of the peculiarities one is
accustomed to associate with a Romantic production; but, as a matter
of fact, there is no book which reveals to us more distinctly the
foundations on which the Romantic movement rests. The main idea and the
form of _William Lovell_ (it is written in letters) were both borrowed
from a French novel, _Le Paysan Perverti_, by the materialistic
writer, Rétif de la Bretonne. The fact that we are able to trace
the origin of a Romantic work directly to French materialism is not
without significance; it is in reality from this materialism that the
Romanticists derive their gloomy fatalism. _Lovell_ is an extremely
tedious book to read nowadays; the style is tiresomely diffuse, the
characters are as if lost in mist. Some of the subordinate figures,
the devoted old man-servant, for instance, are weak imitations of
Richardson--there is not a trenchant trait nor a dramatic situation in
the whole book. Its merit, which is as German as are its defects, lies
in its psychology. The hero is a youth who is led, slowly and surely,
to do away, as far as he himself is concerned, with all authority, to
disregard every one of the traditional, accepted rules of life, until
at last he is leading the life, not only of a confirmed egotist, but of
a criminal.

It is a mistake to feel surprised that so young a man as Tieck could
depict such a being. Is it not precisely at this early age, when his
spiritual eyesight does not yet enable him to look abroad, that the
youth is constantly occupied with all the strange things he sees when
he looks into his own heart? Is it not then that he is impelled to
unravel himself, to examine his own condition, to look at himself
perpetually in the mirror held out to him by his own consciousness?
With men of a certain disposition there is no more self-critical age
than twenty or thereabouts. There is still so much of life before
one then, so much time to do one's work in; one spends the days in
learning to know the instrument upon which one is to play for the
rest of one's life, in tuning it, or finding out how it is already
tuned. The time is still distant when the mature man will seize upon
that instrument, which is himself, and use it--as a violin or as a
sledge-hammer, according to the requirements of the situation. And if
surrounding circumstances offer neither tasks nor sustenance, and the
Ego is obliged to go on living upon its own substance, the result will
inevitably be the exhaustion, the demolition of the personality.

What is peculiarly characteristic of author, tendency, and period, is
the sentimental extravagance to which this introspection leads. In all
seriousness the individual dares to make his fortuitous Ego, which
has disorganised everything that established custom requires men to
respect, the standard of everything, the source of all laws. Here we
have unmistakably a distortion of Fichte's fundamental idea. Read the
following verses from _Lovell_ and the succeeding reflection:--

    "Willkommen, erhabenster Gedanke,
    Der hoch zum Gotte mich erhebt.

    Die Wesen sind, weil wir sie dachten,
    In trüber Ferne liegt die Welt,
    Es fällt in ihre dunkeln Schachten
    Ein Schimmer, den wir mit uns brachten.
    Warum sie nicht in wide Trümmer fällt?
    Wir sind das Schicksal, das sie aufrecht hält!

    Den bangen Ketten froh entronnen
    Geh' ich nun kühn durchs Leben him,
    Den harten Pflichten abgewonnen,
    Von feigen Thoren nur ersonnen.
    Die Tugend ist nur, weil ich selber bin,
    Ein Wiederschein in meinem innem Sinn.

    Was kümmern mich Gestalten, deren matten
    Lichtglanz ich selbst hervorgebracht?
    Mag Tugend sich und Laster gatten!
    Sie sind nur Dunst und Nebelschatten,
    Das Licht aus mir fällt in die finstre Nacht.
    Die Tugend ist nur, weil ich sie gedacht."[1]

"My outer self thus rules the material, my inner self the spiritual
world. Everything is subject to my will; I can call every phenomenon,
every action what I please; the animate and the inanimate world are in
leading-strings which are controlled by my mind; my whole life is only
a dream, the many forms in which I mould according to my will. I myself
am the only law in all nature, and everything obeys this law."

When Friedrich Schlegel exclaims, "Fichte is not a sufficiently
absolute idealist ... I and Hardenberg (Novalis) are more what
idealists ought to be," we remember that ten years previously, and long
before there was any talk of Romanticism and Romanticists, Tieck had
perceived what were to be the characteristics of the new school, i.e.
personal lawlessness, and the glorification of this lawlessness, under
the name of imagination, as the source of life and art. Lovell is an
extravagant personification of these characteristics. Kierkegaard's
Johannes the Seducer, the most perfect and the last example of the
type in Danish literature, always keeps within certain bounds; he
evades ethical questions, looking upon morality as a tiresome,
troublesome power, and never attacking it directly; but Lovell, the
more many-sided, the more boldly planned, if less skilfully worked-out
character, recoils neither from treachery, nor bloodshed, nor poison.
He is one of this period's many variations of the Don Juan-Faust type,
with a touch of Schiller's Franz Moor. Satiety of self-contemplation
has, in his case, led to a boundless contempt for mankind, to a
ruthless sweeping away of all illusions; the one and only consolation
being that thus hypocrisy is unveiled and the ugly truth seen. There
is a close analogy with much that the Romanticists subsequently wrote
in such an utterance as this: "Voluptuousness is undoubtedly the
great mystery of our being; even the purest and most fervent love
dives into this pool.... Only ruthlessness, only a clear perception
of the illusion can save us; Amalie is, therefore, nothing to me, now
that I see that poetry, art, and even love, are only draped and veiled
sensuality.... Sensuality is the driving-wheel of the whole machinery
... voluptuousness is the inspiration of music, of painting, of all
the arts; all human desires flutter round this magnetic pole, like
moths round a candle;... hence it is that Boccaccio and Ariosto are
the greatest poets, and that Titian and the wanton Correggio stand
high above Domenichino and pious Raphael. Even religious devotion I
consider to be only a diverted course of that sensual instinct which
is refracted in a thousand different colours." One would expect this
Lovell, in whose meditations sensuality plays so great a part, to be
represented as a man whose instincts lead him far astray. Not at all!
He is as cold as ice, as cold as Kierkegaard's shadow of a seducer,
whom he in this particular anticipates. He does not commit his excesses
with his flesh and blood, but with his fantastically excited brain. He
is a purely intellectual being, a North German of the purest water. And
there is one particular in which he is, in anticipation, astonishingly
Romantic. When he has, so to speak, burned himself out, when every
spark of conviction is extinguished in his mind, and all his feelings
lie "slain and dead" around him, he seeks refuge in the supernatural
and places his trust in mystic revelations, of which an old impostor
has held out the prospect. This trait, which, significantly enough, is
not to be found in his French prototype, was necessary to complete the

The personality here is so hollow, weighs so light in its own
estimation, that the impression it produces on itself is, that it is
both real and unreal; it has become unfamiliar to itself, and has as
little confidence in itself as in any exterior power. It stands outside
its own experiences, and when it acts, feels as if it were playing a
part. Lovell tells us how he seduced a young girl, Emily Burton: "I
suddenly cast myself at her feet, and confessed that it was nothing
but my passionate love for her which had brought me to the castle; I
declared that this was to be my last attempt to learn if there were
any human heart that would still come to my aid and reconcile me to
life and fate. She was beautiful, and I acted my part with wonderful
inspiration, exactly as if it were a congenial rôle in a play; every
word I said told; I spoke with fire and yet without affectation."
And later he remarks: "She has herself to reproach for any temporary
loss of home happiness; I am not to blame because, in accordance with
conventional ideas, she is at present disgraced in the eyes of many. I
played one part, she answered with another; we acted the play of a very
stupid writer with great seriousness, and now we regret having wasted
our time." The whole was nothing but a scene from a play.

In this fictitious character there are already developed those
qualities which we find later in real characters, such as Friedrich
Schlegel and Gentz; and in this one man's habit of mind we have
all that, which, transferred to art, became the notorious irony of
Romanticism. Here, in the character, is the undisguised egotism which
looks upon life as a rôle; there, in art, the misconception and
exaggeration of Schiller's idea that artistic activity is "a game," a
play, i.e. an activity without any outward aim--in short, the belief
that true art is that which perpetually shatters its own edifice,
renders illusion impossible, and ends, like Tieck's comedies, in
self-parody. There is the very closest resemblance between the manner
in which the hero acts and the manner in which the comedy is written.
The irony is one and the same; it may all be traced back to the same
egotism and unreality.[2]

In order really to understand the psychological condition depicted in
Lovell, we must not only see its ultimate consequences, but must also,
as in the case of René, see how it originates and what conditions
it. It is conditioned by the ferment of lawlessness distinctive of
the period. Hence the most diverse creative minds co-operate in the
production of the type. As a Titan of satiety, of _tædium vitæ_, Lovell
is only one of a race of Titans.

Two years before _Lovell_ was planned, Jean Paul, who was ten years
older than Tieck and four years younger than Schiller, began a
description of this race in his so-called "Faustiade," the novel
_Titan_. Jean Paul is in many ways the forerunner of Romanticism;
in the Romantic School Hoffmann recalls him to us, as Tieck recalls
Goethe. He is a thorough Romanticist in the absolute arbitrariness with
which, as an artist, he sets to work. As Auerbach says, he has "in
readiness studies of men, moods, traits of character, psychological
complications, and miscellaneous imagery, which he introduces at
random, adjusting them to given characters or situations." He thrusts
all kinds of irrelevant matter into the elastic framework of his story.
He is, further, a Romanticist in his absorption in self--for it is
himself, always himself, who speaks by the mouth of his characters,
whatever they may be; in the famous humour which with him lords it
over all else, respecting none of the conventions of style; and,
finally, in the fact that he is the antipodes of classical culture.
But, whatever he may have been in art, in life he was not the defender
of lawlessness, but the ardent champion of liberty, Fichte's equal in
enthusiastic persistence. He was neither the foe of enlightenment,
nor of reason, nor of the Reformation, nor of the Revolution; he was
convinced of the historical value and the full validity of the ideas
which it is the glory of the eighteenth century to have produced and
championed. Therefore he uplifted a warning voice against the futile,
demoralising fantasticality of the Romanticists.

_Titan_ contains the most powerful of Jean Paul's ideal characters,
Roquairol. His strength did not lie in the delineation of ideal
characters; he was first and foremost the admirable, realistic

Roquairol is a prototype of the form in which the age moulded its
passion and its despair. He is burning, conscious desire, which
develops into fantastic eccentricity, because circumstances have
no use for it, and because it does not possess the power to take
hold of reality, re-mould it and subject it to itself; it becomes a
disease, which strikes inwards and leads to morbid self-contemplation
and suicide. Roquairol describes himself in a letter (_Titan_, iii.
_Zykel_, 88)

"Look at me when I take off my mask! My face twitches convulsively,
like the face of a man who has taken poison. I have indeed taken
poison; I have swallowed the great poison ball, the ball called
Earth.... I am like a hollow tree, charred by a _fantastic fire_. When
the worms in the intestines of the Ego--anger, ecstasy, love, and the
like--begin to crawl about in me and devour each other, I look down
upon them from the height of my Ego, I cut them in pieces as if they
were polypi and fasten them into each other. Then I look on at myself
looking on. This repeats itself _ad infinitum_. What is the use of it
all? Mine is not the usual idealism, the idealism of faith; mine is _an
idealism of the heart_, peculiar to those who have often experienced
all the emotions, on the stage, on paper, or in real life. But of what
good is it?... I often look upon the mountains and the rivers and the
ground round about me, and feel as if at any moment they might dissolve
and disappear, and I with them.... There is in man a callous, bold
spirit, which asserts its independence of everything, even of virtue.
Man chooses virtue if he will; he is its creator, not its creature. I
once experienced a storm at sea, when the raging, foaming waters lashed
themselves into great crested billows, while from a calm sky the sun
serenely looked on. So be it with you! The heart is the storm, the sky
the Ego!... Do you believe that the authors of tragedies and novels,
or at any rate the geniuses among them, who a thousand times over have
aped everything human and divine, are different from me? What really
sustains them and the others is their hunger for money and renown....
The apes are the geniuses amongst the beasts, and geniuses are apes
in their æsthetic mimicry, in heartlessness, malignity, sensuality,

He relates how an inclination which was simply the result of ennui had
led him to seduce his friend's sister. "I lost nothing; in me there is
no innocence. I gained nothing, for I hate sensual pleasure. The broad
black shadow which some call remorse quickly blotted out the fleeting
bright picture of the magic-lantern; but is the black worse for the
eyes than the bright?"

He who reflects carefully upon even these short extracts from Jean
Paul's huge four-volume novel will see how here again a connecting
line is drawn between life and art. Without premeditation, but very
significantly, Roquairol takes the nature of the productive artist
as an image of his own, and the expressions "charred by fantastic
fire" and "the idealism of the heart" are as accurate as scientific
definitions. There was no doubt in the author's mind as to what it
was he wished to delineate. Roquairol, after committing his last and
most abominable crime, namely, visiting Linda by night, disguised as
his friend and her lover, Albano, is made to die by his own hand on
the stage. He is playing a part which ends in suicide, and he shoots
himself dead. He lives to the last moment in a world of appearances
and make-believe, confusing or blending the real with the imaginary.
And this determination to make reality fantastic or poetical is the
distinguishing feature of the succeeding generation, the task to which
it set itself, the problem which all its productions were attempts to
solve. To understand this is to understand and excuse the blunders it
makes in its schemes for the remoulding of reality, such a scheme, for
instance, as we find in Friedrich Schlegel's _Lucinde_.

The great question of the relation of poetry to life, despair over the
deep, bitter discord between them, the unwearied struggle to bring
about a reconciliation--this is what lies at the foundation of the
whole of German literature from the _Sturm und Drang_ period to the
death of Romanticism. In order, therefore, to understand _Lucinde_,
as well as _Lovell_, it is necessary to look back. We understand both
better by the help of Jean Paul's _Titan_. Lovell's predecessor is the
Titan Roquairol, Lucinde's the Titaness Linda.

[1] "Welcome, sublime thought, that makes of me a god! Things are,
because we have thought them.--In the dim distance lies the world;
into its dark caverns falls a ray of light, which we brought with us.
Why does this world not fall into atoms? Because the power of our
will holds it together!--Glad at heart because I have escaped from my
chains, I now go boldly forward in the path of life, absolved from
those irksome duties which were the invention of cowardly fools. Virtue
is, because I am; it is but the reflection of my inner self.--What
care I for forms which borrow their dim splendour from myself? Let
virtue wed with vice! They are but shadows in the mist. The light that
illumines the dark night comes from me. Virtue is, because I have
thought it."

[2] Tieck: _William Lovell_, i. 49, 52, 172, 178, 212; ii. 110.



At the University of Jena, in June 1801, a young candidate for the
degree of doctor stood on the rostrum delivering his thesis. Everything
possible was done to put him out and annoy him; the unprecedented step
was taken of providing opponents. One of these, a somewhat inept young
man, desiring to distinguish himself, began: "_In tractatu tuo erotico
Lucinda dixisti_," &c., &c. To this the candidate shortly responded
by calling his opponent a fool. A regular uproar ensued, and one of
the professors indignantly declared that it was thirty years since
the platform of the school of philosophy had been profaned by such
disgraceful behaviour. The candidate retorted that it was thirty years
since any one had been so disgracefully treated. This candidate was
Friedrich Schlegel, in those days so much dreaded on account of his
terrible opinions that he was sometimes refused permission to spend
a night in a town. In a rescript from the _Universitets-Kuratorium_
of the Electorate of Hanover to the Pro-Rector of Göttingen, dated
September 26, 1800, we read: "Should the Professor's brother, Friedrich
Schlegel, notorious for the immoral tendency of his writings, come to
Göttingen, purposing to stay there for any time, this is not to be
permitted; you will be so good as to intimate to him that he must leave
the town."

Somewhat harsh justice this--and all the to-do was on account of

It is not the creative power displayed in it which makes _Lucinde_ one
of the most important works of the Romantic School, for, in spite of
all the "fleshly" talk in the book, there is no flesh and blood in it,
no real body. Neither is it depth of thought. There is more philosophy
in the few paradoxical pages written by Schopenhauer under the title
_Metaphysik der Liebe_ than in pretentious _Lucinde_ from beginning to
end. It is not even a bacchantic joy in nature, in life. If we compare
it with Heine's _Ardinghello_, a book glowing with genuine Southern
joy of life, we see clearly how anæmic and theoretic _Lucinde_ is. It
is as a manifesto and programme that the book is valuable. Its main
idea is to proclaim the unity and harmony of life as revealed to us
most clearly and most comprehensibly in the passion of love, which
gives a sensual expression to the spiritual emotion, and spiritualises
the sensual pleasure. What it aims at depicting is the transformation
of real life into poetry, into art, into Schiller's "play" of powers,
into a dreamy, imaginative existence, with every longing satisfied,
a life in which man, acting with no aim, living for no purpose, is
initiated into the mysteries of nature, "understands the plaint of
the nightingale, the smile of the new-born babe, and all that is
mysteriously revealed in the hieroglyphics of flowers and stars."

This book is totally misunderstood by those who, like Kierkegaard,
arm themselves with a whole set of dogmatic principles, and fall
upon it, exclaiming: "What it aims at is the unmitigated sensuality
which excludes the element of spirituality; what it combats is the
spirituality which includes an element of sensuality." One can scarcely
realise the blindness implied by such an utterance--but there are no
better blinders than those provided by orthodoxy. Nor is it possible
really to understand _Lucinde_ so long as, like Gutzkow, we only see in
it a vindication of the doctrine of free love, or, like Schleiermacher,
a protest against incorporeal spirituality, a denunciation of the
affected foolishness that denies and explains away flesh and blood. The
fundamental idea of the book is the Romantic doctrine of the _identity
of life and poetry_. This serious thought, however, is presented in
a form expressly calculated to win the laurels of notoriety. Our
admiration is aroused by the bold, defiant tone of the author's
challenge, by the courage, born of conviction, with which he exposes
himself to personal insult, and to public, ill-natured discussion of
his private life.

[Illustration: F. SCHLEGEL.]

Worthy of admiration, too, is the skill with which the different
views and watchwords of Romanticism are collected and presented to
us in small compass; for all the various tendencies of the movement,
developed by so many different individuals, are to be seen in this one
book, spreading fan-wise from a centre. But we are disgusted by the
artistic impotence to which the so-called novel, in reality a mere
sketch, bears witness, by its many beginnings that end in nothing,
and by all the feeble self-worship which seeks to disguise barrenness
by producing an artificial and unhealthy heat in which to hatch its
unfertile eggs. Caroline Schlegel has preserved for us the following
biting epigram, written soon after the book came out--

    "Der Pedantismus bat die Phantasie
    Um einen Kuss, sie wies ihn an die Sünde;
    Frech, ohne Kraft, umarmt er die,
    Und sie genas mit einem todten Kinde,
    Genannt Lucinde."[1]

Beyond considering the word "sin" inappropriate--for _Lucinde_ only
sins against good taste and true poetry--I have no fault to find with
this cruel satire.

At the very core of _Lucinde_ we have once again subjectivity,
self-absorption, in the form of an arbitrariness which may develop into
anything--revolution, effrontery, bigotry, reaction--because it is not
from the beginning associated with anything that is a power, because
the Ego does not act in the service of an idea which could give to its
endeavour stability and value; it acts neither in the service of civil
nor of intellectual liberty. This arbitrariness or lawlessness, which,
in the domain of art, becomes the Friedrich Schlegelian "irony," the
artist's attitude of aloofness from his subject, his free play with it
(resulting, as far as poetry is concerned, in the dictatorship of pure
form, which mocks at its own substance and destroys its own illusions),
becomes in the domain of real life an irony which is the dominant
feature in the characters and lives of the gifted few, the aristocracy
of intellect. This irony is a riddle to the profane, who "lack the
sense of it." It is "the freest of all licences," because by its means
a man sets himself outside of and above himself; yet it is also the
most subject to law, being, we are told, unqualified and inevitable. It
is a perpetual self-parody, incomprehensible to "the harmonious vulgar"
(_harmonisch Platten_--the name bestowed by the Romanticists on those
who live contentedly in a trivial, common-place harmony), who mistake
its earnest for jest and its jest for earnest.

It is not merely in name that this irony bears a fundamental
resemblance to Kierkegaard's, which also aristocratically "chooses
to be misunderstood." The Ego of genius is the truth, if not in the
sense in which Kierkegaard would have us understand his proposition,
"Subjectivity is the truth," still in the sense that the Ego has every
externally valid commandment and prohibition in its power; and, to the
astonishment and scandal of the world, invariably expresses itself in
paradoxes. Irony is "divine audacity." In audacity thus comprehended
there are endless possibilities. It is freedom from prejudice, yet it
suggests the possibility of the most audacious defence of all possible
kinds of prejudices. It is more easily attainable, we are told, by
woman than by man. "Like the feminine garb, the feminine intellect
has this advantage over the masculine, that its possessor by a single
daring movement can rise above all the prejudices of civilisation
and bourgeois conventionality, at once transporting herself into the
state of innocence and the lap of Nature." The lap of Nature! There
is an echo of Rousseau's voice even in this wanton tirade. We seem to
hear the trumpet-call of revolution; what we really hear is only the
proclamation of reaction. Rousseau desired to return to the state of
nature, when men roamed naked through the pathless forests and lived
upon acorns. Schelling wished to turn the course of evolution back to
the primeval ages, to the days before man had fallen. Schlegel blows
revolutionary melodies on the great romantic "wonder-horn." But, as
we read in _Des Knaben Wunderhorn_: "Es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein
Horn--Und Alles was er blies, das war verlorn."[2] The result is not
intellectual emancipation, but simply a refinement of pleasure. The
whole wide domain of love is transformed into the domain of art. As
Romantic poetry is poetry to the second power, poetry about poetry,
refined and chastened poetry, so the love of the Romanticists is
refined and chastened love, "the art of love." The different degrees
of the higher sensuality are described and classified. I refer the
reader to _Lucinde_, which does not, like _Ardinghello_, present us
with voluptuous descriptions, but merely with dry, pedantic theory,
the empty framework of which it is left to the reader's experience
and imagination to fill. Romantic audacity is, in one of its aspects,
idleness, the indolence of genius. Idleness is described as "the
life-atmosphere of innocence and inspiration." In its highest
expression it is pure passivity, the life of the plant. "The highest,
most perfect life is a life of pure vegetation." The Romanticists
return to nature to such good purpose that they revert to the plant.
Passive enjoyment of the eternally enduring moment would be their idea
of perfection. "I meditated seriously," says Julius to Lucinde, "upon
the possibility of an eternal embrace." As genius, which is independent
of toil and trouble, and voluptuous enjoyment, which in itself is
passive bliss, have nothing to do with aim, action, or utility, so
idleness, _dolce far niente_, comes to be regarded as the best that
life can offer, and purpose, which leads to systematic action, is
denounced as ridiculous and philistine. The principal utterance to
this effect in _Lucinde_ is the following: "_Industry and utility_
are the angels of death with the flaming swords, who stand in the way
of man's return to Paradise." Yes, that is exactly what they are!
Industry and utility bar the way back to all the Paradises which lie
behind us. Therefore we hold them sacred! Utility is one of the main
forms of good; and what is industry but the renunciation of distracting
pleasures, the enthusiasm, the power, whereby this good is attained!

_Return_ to perfection is, in art, a return to the lawlessness of
genius, to the stage at which the artist may do one thing, or may do
another which is exactly the opposite. In life it is the retrogression
of idleness, for he who is idle goes back, back to passive pleasure.
In philosophy it is the return to intuitive beliefs, beliefs to which
Schlegel applies the name of religion; which religion in its turn leads
back to Catholicism. As far as nature and history are concerned, it
is retrogression towards the conditions of the primeval Paradise.[3]
Thus it is the central idea of Romanticism itself--retrogression--which
explains how it was that even the heaven-storming _Lucinde_, like all
the other heaven-stormers of the Romanticists, had not the slightest
practical outcome.

[1] "Pedantry asked Fancy for a kiss; she sent him to Sin; audaciously
but impotently he embraces Sin; she bears him a dead child, by name

[2] "A hunter blew into his horn, and all that he blew the wind carried

[3] A. Ruge: _Gesammelte Schriften_, i. 328, &c.



In _Lucinde_, then, as in a nutshell, are to be found all the
theories which, later in the history of Romanticism, are developed
and illustrated by examples. In such an essay as that on the Instinct
of Change by the Æsthete in Kierkegaard's _Enten-Eller_ ("Either-Or")
idleness is systematised. "Never adopt any calling or profession.
By so doing a man becomes simply one of the mob, a tiny bolt in the
great machinery of the state; he ceases to be master.... But though
we hold aloof from all regular callings, we ought not to be inactive,
but to attach great importance to occupation which is identical with
idleness.... The whole secret lies in the independence, the absence
of restraint. We are apt to believe that there is no art in acting
unrestrained by any law; in reality the most careful calculation is
required, if we are not to go astray, but to obtain enjoyment from

Idleness, lawlessness, enjoyment! This is the threeleaved clover which
grows all over the Romanticist's field. In such a book as Eichendorff's
_Das Leben eines Taugenichts_ ("Life of a Ne'er-do-Well") idleness is
idealised and exalted in the person of the hero. And purposelessness is
another important item, which must on no account be overlooked. It is
another designation for the genius of Romanticism. "To have a purpose,
to act according to that purpose, artificially to combine purpose with
purpose, and thereby create new purposes, is a bad habit, which has
become so deeply rooted in the foolish nature of godlike man, that he
is obliged, when for once it is his desire to float aimlessly upon the
stream of constantly changing images and emotions, to do even this
of settled purpose.... It is very certain, my friend, that man is by
nature a serious animal." (Julius to Lucinde.)

On the subject of this utterance, even that orthodox Christian,
Kierkegaard, says: "In order not to misjudge Schlegel, we must bear
in mind the perverted ideas which had insinuated themselves into
men's minds in regard to many of the relations of life, and which
had specially and indefatigably striven to make love as tame, well
broken-in, heavy, sluggish, useful, and obedient, as any other
domestic animal--in short, as unerotic as possible.... There is a very
narrow-minded morality, a policy of expediency, a futile teleology,
which many men worship as an idol, an idol that claims every infinite
aspiration as its legitimate offering. Love is considered nothing in
itself; it only acquires importance from the purpose it is made to
serve in the paltry play which holds the stage of family life." It is
perhaps admissible to conclude that what Kierkegaard says about "the
tame, well broken-in, sluggish, and useful domestic animal, love,"
found its most apt application in Germany, which at that time was
undoubtedly the home of the old-fashioned womanliness. The satirical
sallies in Tieck's comedies occasionally point in the same direction.
In his _Däumling_ ("Hop-o'-my-thumb") a husband complains of his wife's
craze for knitting, which gives him no peace; a complaint which,
perhaps, can only be understood in Germany, where to this day ladies
are to be seen knitting even in places of public entertainment--at
the concerts on the Brühlsche Terrasse in Dresden, for example. Herr
Semmelziege says:--

    "Des Hauses Sorge nahm zu sehr den Sinn ihr ein,
    Die Sauberkeit, das Porzellan, die Wäsche gar:
    Wenn ich ihr wohl von meiner ew'gen Liebe sprach,
    Nahm sie der Bürste vielbehaartes Brett zur Hand,
    Um meinem Rock die Fäden abzukehren still.
    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    Doch hätt' ich gern geduldet Alles, ausser Eins:
    Dass, we sie stand, und we sie ging, auswärts, im Haus,
    Auch im Concert, wenn Tongewirr die Schöpfung schuf,
    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    Da zaspelnd, haspelnd, heftig rauschend, nimmer still,
    Ellnbogen fliegend, schlagend Seiten und Geripp,
    Sie immerdar den Strickstrumpf eifrig handgehabt."[1]

The most comical part of this satire is the passage which, whether
intentionally or unintentionally on the author's part, reads like
a parody of the well-known Roman Elegy in which Goethe drums the
hexameter measure, "leise mit fingernder Hand," upon his mistress's

    "Einst als des Thorns heilig Lager uns umfing,
    Am Himmel glanzvoll prangte Lunas keuscher Schein,
    Der goldnen Aphrodite Gab' erwünschend mir,
    Von silberweissen Armen ich umflochten lag.
    Schon denkend, welch ein Wunderkind so holder Nacht,
    Welch Vaterlandserretter, kraftgepanzert, soll
    Dem zarten Leib entspriessen nach der Horen Tanz,
    Fühl' ich am Rücken hinter mir gar sanften Schlag:
    Da wähn ich, Liebsgekose neckt die Schulter mir,
    Und lächle fromm die süsse Braut und sinnig an:
    Bald naht mir der Enttäuschung grauser Höllenschmerz
    Das Strickzeug tanzt auf meinem Rücken thätig fort;
    Ja, stand das Werk just in der Ferse Beugung, wo
    Der Kundigste, ob vielem Zählen, selber pfuscht."[2]

When the cult of the useful is carried as far as this, we can
understand advocacy of purposelessness.

But purposelessness and idleness are inseparable. "Only Italians," we
are told, "know how to walk, and only Orientals how to lie; and where
has the mind developed with more refinement and sweetness than in
India? And in every clime it is idleness which distinguishes the noble
from the simple, and which is, therefore, the essence of nobility."

This last assertion is outrageous, but its very audacity is
significant. It shows the attitude of Romanticism towards the masses.
To have the means to do nothing is, in its estimation, the true patent
of nobility. Its heroes are those who cultivate the unremunerative
arts, and are supported by others--kings and knights like those in
Fouqué's and Ingemann's books, artists and poets like those in Tieck's
and Novalis's. It separates itself from humanity, will do nothing for
it, but only for the favoured few. The hero and heroine in _Lucinde_
are the gifted artist and the woman of genius; it is not the ordinary
union, but the "nature-marriage" or the "art-marriage" (_Naturehe,
Kunstehe_) for which our interest is claimed. Observe how Julius at
once asks Lucinde whether her child, if a girl, shall be trained as a
portrait or as a landscape painter. Only as a member of the fraternity
of artists do her parents take any interest in her. Only authors and
artists have part and lot in the poetry of life.

It is not difficult to understand how it was that _Lucinde_ was barren
of any social results. But though the book had no practical outcome,
though it was too feeble to effect any kind of reform, there was,
nevertheless, something practical underlying it.

Let us cast a glance at the principal characters. They stand out in
strong relief upon a background of the profoundest scorn for all the
prose of real life and all the conventions of society. The book is in
no wise ashamed of its erotic theories; in its conscious purity it
feels itself elevated above the judgment of the vulgar: "It is not only
the kingly eagle which dares to scorn the screaming of the ravens; the
swan, too, is proud, and pays as little heed. Its only care is that its
white wings shall not lose their brightness; its only desire, to cling,
unruffled, to Leda's breast, and breathe forth all that is mortal in it
in song."

The image is pretty and daring, but is it true? The story of Leda and
the swan has been treated in so many ways.

Julius is a pessimistic (_zerrissener_) young man, an artist, of
course. We are told in the _Lehrjahre der Männlichkeit_, the chapter
containing what Flaubert has called _l'éducation sentimentale_, that
it was strikingly characteristic of him that he could play faro with
apparently passionate eagerness, and yet in reality be absent-minded
and careless; he would dare everything in the heat of the moment, and
as soon as he had lost would turn indifferently away. Such a trait
may not excite our admiration, but it at all events produces a pretty
distinct impression of a pleasure-loving, _blasé_ young man, who,
feeling no powerful impulse towards action, seeks for excitement while
leading a life of careless, coldly despairing idleness. The history of
his development is indicated, as is often the case with quite young
men, simply by a succession of female names.

Of the women in question we have only very slight sketches, like the
pencil-drawings in an album. One of these introductory portraits is
rather more elaborated than the rest, that of a _dame aux camélias_
sunk in Oriental indolence, who, like the original _dame aux camélias_,
is raised above her position by a true passion, and dies when she
is neither understood nor believed. She dies by her own hand, makes
a brilliant exit from life, and seems to us, as she is described
sitting in her boudoir with her hands in her lap, surrounded by great
mirrors and inhaling perfumes, like a living image of the æsthetic
stupor of self-contemplation and self-absorption, which was the final
development of Romanticism. After passing through numbers of erotic
experiences, all equally and exceedingly repulsive, Julius finally
makes the acquaintance of his feminine counterpart, Lucinde, whose
impression is never effaced. "In her he met a youthful artist" (Of
course!), "who, like himself, passionately worshipped beauty and loved
nature and solitude. In her landscapes one felt a fresh breath of real
air. She painted not to gain a living or to perfect herself in an art"
(On no account any purpose or utility!) "but simply for pleasure"
(Dilettantism and irony!). "Her productions were slight water-colour
sketches. She had lacked the patience and industry required to learn
oil-painting." (No industry!) ... "Lucinde had a decided leaning
towards the romantic" (Of course she had; she is romance incarnate!).
"She was one of those who do not live in the ordinary world, but in
one created by themselves.... With courageous determination she had
broken with all conventions, cast off all bonds, and lived in perfect
freedom and independence." From the time when Julius meets her, his art
too becomes more fervid and inspired. He paints the nude "in a flood
of vitalising light;" his figures "were like animated plants in human

With Julius and Lucinde life flows on smoothly and melodiously, "like
a beautiful song," in perpetually aroused and satisfied longing. The
action passes, as it were, in a studio where the easel stands close
to the alcove. Lucinde becomes a mother, and their union is now the
"marriage of nature" (_die Naturehe_). "What united us before was
love and passion. Now nature has united us more closely." The birth
of the child gives the parents "civic rights in the state of nature"
(probably Rousseau's), the only civic rights they seem to have valued.
The Romanticists were as indifferent to social and political rights as
Kierkegaard's hero, who was of opinion that we ought to be glad that
there are some who care to rule, thereby freeing the rest of us from
the task.


    "Her mind was occupied with household cares--
    The washing, and the china, and the cook:
    Did I begin to speak of endless love,
    She took the bristled clothes-brush in her hand,
    And calmly turned me round and brushed my coat.

    All this I bore quite placidly, but not
    That, sitting, standing, everywhere we went,
    Yes, even at concerts, when sweet strains beguiled,

    Entwining, clicking, rustling, never still,
    Her elbows flying, thumping on her side,
    Her knitting-needles vigorously she plied."

"The sacred hymeneal couch had received us; Luna's chaste beams
illumined our chamber. Encircled by white arms I lay, praying for
Aphrodite's favour, dreaming of the marvellous child that needs must
be the offspring of a night like this, the mighty hero who in fulness
of time shall see the light. Soft taps upon my shoulder rouse me from
my dream; 'tis my sweet bride caressing me; I thank her silently,
with tender, meaning smile. One moment later, and my heart is torn by
hellish pangs of disillusionment; it is her knitting that is dancing
on my back; worse still--she is at the turning of the heel, that point
when the most skilful, despite their counting, often blunder."



Behind this indistinct picture lay a far more definitely outlined
reality. The youthful life of the hero corresponded pretty accurately,
as Friedrich Schlegel's letters show, with that of the author. In
those days Berlin had not yet become pious, but was, according to
the evidence of contemporaries, a species of Venusberg, which none
approached with impunity. The example of the throne sanctioned every
species of moral licence. Enthusiasm for art and literature superseded
the official morality which a short time before had been so powerful,
but from which men were rapidly emancipating themselves.

In the autumn of 1799, the year in which _Lucinde_ was published,
Friedrich Schlegel wrote to Schleiermacher: "People here have been
behaving so outrageously that Schelling has had a fresh attack of his
old enthusiasm for irreligion, in which I support him with all my
might. He has composed an epicurean confession of faith in the Hans
Sachs-Goethe style." This was _Der Widerporst_.

    "Kann es fürwahr nicht länger ertragen,
    Muss wieder einmal um mich schlagen,
    Wieder mich rühren mit allen Sinnen,
    So mir dachten zu entrinnen
    Von den hohen, überirdischen Lehren,
    Dazu sie mich wollten mit Gewalt bekehren
    Darum, so will auch ich bekennen
    Wie ich in mir es fühle brennen,
    Wie mir's in allen Adern schwillt,
    Mein Wort so viel wie anderes gilt,
    Da ich in bös' und guten Stunden
    Mich habe gar trefflich befunden,
    Seit ich gekommen in's Klare,
    Die Materie sei das einzig Wahre.
    Halte nichts vom Unsichtbaren,
    Halt' mich allein am Offenbaren,
    Was ich kann riechen, schmecken, fühlen,
    Mit allen Sinnen drinnen wühlen.
    Mein einzig' Religion ist die,
    Dass ich liebe ein schönes Knie,
    Volle Brust und schlanke Hüften,
    Dazu Blumen mit süssen Düften,
    Aller Lust volle Nährung,
    Aller Liebe süsse Gewährung.
    D'rum, sollt's eine Religion noch geben
    (Ob ich gleich kann ohne solche leben),
    Könnte mir vor den andern allen
    Nur die katholische gefallen,
    Wie sie war in den alten Zeiten,
    Da es gab weder Zanken noch Streiten,
    Waren alle ein Mus und Kuchen,
    Thäten's nicht in der Ferne suchen,
    Thäten nicht nach dem Himmel gaffen,
    Hatten von Gott'nen lebend'gen Affen,
    Hielten die Erde für's Centrum der Welt,
    Zum Centrum der Erde Rom bestellt,
    Darin der Statthalter residirt
    Und der Welttheile Scepter führt,
    Und lebten die Laien und die Pfaffen
    Zusammen wie im Land der Schlaraffen,
    Dazu sie im hohen Himmelhaus
    Selber lebten in Saus und Braus,
    War ein täglich Hochzeithalten
    Zwischen der Jungfrau und dem Alten."[1]

Such a poem from such a hand is a genuine proof of the spirit of the
times; and it is instructive to observe that when Wilhelm Schlegel
(acting upon Goethe's advice) refuses to publish the poem in the
_Athenæum_, Novalis, against whom it was especially directed, writes:
"I cannot understand why _Der Widerporst_ should not be printed. Is it
on account of its atheism? Just think of _Die Götter Griechenlands_!"

The fashions were revolutionary--uncovered bosoms, orientally flowing
garments. The tone of the most notable young women of the day was
excessively free. No one was more talked of for her beauty at this
time than Pauline Wiesel. She was the wife of a highly intellectual
man, whose scepticism and satirical, cynical wit made a deep and
disturbing impression upon young Tieck (he was the model for Abdallah
and William Lovell); and she was one of Prince Louis Ferdinand's many
mistresses. The attachment of the dashing young prince, in this case
a real passion, still glows in his letters. A contemporary wrote of
her: "I look upon her in the light of a phenomenon of Greek mythology."
Alexander von Humboldt walked more than thirty miles to see her. It is
characteristic of the times that the connection by which Pauline Wiesel
compromised herself roused no disapprobation among her more advanced
women friends. The irreproachable Rahel, for example, has not a word
of blame for it; one might almost imagine that she envied Pauline. As
a young girl she writes despondently: "Every means, every possible
preparation for living, and yet one must never live; I never shall,
and those who dare to do so have the wretched world, the whole world,
against them."

The original of Lucinde, however, was certainly superior to her
portrait, a woman of an altogether nobler type. She belonged to Rahel's
circle, that group of clever young Jewesses who then represented the
noblest, freest intellectual life of Berlin--a circle historically
important from the fact that it was the only one in which as yet
Goethe's fame was really established and true homage paid him.[2]
The lady in question was Moses Mendelssohn's clever, self-reliant
daughter, Dorothea, who, to please her parents, had bestowed her hand
upon the well-known banker, Veit. It was not by beauty but by her wit
and her keen intellectuality that she captivated Friedrich Schlegel.
He was at the time twenty-five years of age, she thirty-two. There was
nothing sensuous or frivolous in either her appearance or manner; she
had large piercing eyes and a masculine severity of expression. In
his letters to his brother Wilhelm, Friedrich Schlegel praises "her
sterling worth." "She is," he says, "very straightforward, and cares
for nothing but love, music, wit, and philosophy." In 1789 Dorothea was
divorced from her husband and followed Schlegel to Jena. The latter
writes at this time: "It has never been our intention to bind ourselves
to each other by any marriage contract, though I have long considered
it impossible that anything but death should part us. The calculation
and adjustment of present and future is antipathetic to me, yet if the
detested ceremony were the necessary condition of inseparableness, I
should act according to the requirement of the moment and sacrifice my
most cherished opinions."

In the arranging of their relations, none of their intimates helped
Friedrich and Dorothea more than their clerical friend, Schleiermacher.
On none of Schlegel's friends had _Lucinde_ had such a powerful effect.
Schleiermacher was at this time chaplain of the Charité Church in
Berlin. He had long followed Friedrich's emancipatory endeavours with
warm sympathy, and even admiration. In his essay _On Diotima_, as well
as in his harsh criticism of Schiller's _Würde der Frauen_, Friedrich
had attacked the traditional conception of woman's position in society.
He had held up to contempt the ordinary marriage, in which the wedded
pair "live together with a feeling of mutual contempt, he seeing in
her only her sex, she in him his social position, and both in their
children their own production and property." What he desired was the
moral and intellectual emancipation of women. Intellect and culture,
combined with enthusiasm, were the qualities which in his eyes made
a woman lovable. The ordinary ideal of womanliness he scorned. He
writes with bitterness of the stupidity and criminality of the men
who demand ignorance and innocence in women, thereby compelling them
to be prudish. Prudery is false pretence of innocence. True innocence
in woman he maintains to be perfectly compatible with intellectual
culture. It exists wherever there is religion, i.e. capacity for
enthusiasm. The idea that noble, enlightened free-thought is less
becoming in the case of women than of men is only one of the many
generally accepted platitudes set in circulation by Rousseau. "The
thraldom of woman" is one of the curses of humanity. His highest
desire as an author was, as he naively puts it, "to found a system of
morality" (eine Moral zu stiften). He calls opposition to positive law
and conventional ideas of right, "the first moral impulse" felt by man.

In his _Vernunftkatechismus für edle Frauen_ ("Catechism of Reason for
Noble-minded Women"), a fragment which appeared in the _Athenæum_,
Schleiermacher writes in exactly the same strain, calling upon women to
free themselves from the bonds of their sex. Nay, incredible as it may
sound, it is quite possible (as Haym has proved) that the frequently
quoted saying of Friedrich Schlegel, that there is nothing of serious
importance to be urged against a _marriage à quatre_, really emanated
from Schleiermacher. It is levelled at the many degrading and unreal
marriages, at the "unsuccessful attempts at marriage," which the State
in its foolishness makes binding, and which prevent the possibility
of a true marriage. The writer of the fragment in which the saying
occurs observes that most marriages are only preparatory and distant
approximations to the true marriage; and Schleiermacher, in his
Letters, writes that many attempts are necessary, and that "if four or
five couples were taken together, really good marriages might result,
provided they were allowed to exchange."

The underlying reason for the warm personal interest taken by
Schleiermacher in Friedrich and Dorothea is, no doubt, to be found in
his own position and circumstances at that time. A devoted attachment
existed between him and Eleonore Grunow, the childless and most unhappy
wife of a Berlin clergyman.

It seemed to Schleiermacher that the popular indignation roused
by _Lucinde_ was largely compounded of philistine and Pharisaical
ignorance. The very people who abused it were revelling in Wieland's
and Crébillon's immoral tales. "It reminds me," he says, "of the trials
for witchcraft, where malice formulated the charge, and pious stupidity
carried out the sentence." But what especially led to his ardent
championship of the persecuted pair was, he tells us himself, the fact
that most of those who complained loudly of offended morality were
simply seeking a pretext for a private personal attack on Schlegel.

An invincible spirit dwelt in Dorothea's frail body. She bore
unfalteringly all that her violation of conventional morality brought
upon her--private condemnation and public defamation in the shape
of innuendoes in the attacks on _Lucinde_. She displayed the most
enduring devotion and the most self-sacrificing faithfulness to the
man she had chosen. She not only shares his interests and aims, but
bears with his unreasonableness and resigns herself uncomplainingly
to the caprices of the most capricious of lovers. Nay, more than
this, her good sense and cheerfulness scatter all the clouds of
despondency that gather round herself and others. Her merry laughter
brings relief from Schleiermacher's subtle argumentativeness and
Friedrich's transcendental irony. Free in every other respect from
feminine sentimentality, she is completely engrossed in admiration of
the man she loves, and, with touching modesty, centres all her pride
in him. When her novel _Florentin_ is published, a book in which,
in spite of its many weaknesses, there is more creative power than
in any of Friedrich Schlegel's productions, what makes her happiest
and proudest is that his name (as editor) stands on the title-page.
She jests merrily on the subject of her literary activity. Blushing
and with a beating heart, she sends the first volume of her book to
Schleiermacher, and she smiles at the numerous red strokes which adorn
the returned manuscript. "There is always the deuce in it where the
dative and accusative ought to be." The fact that she too felt impelled
to write at the time (about the year 1800) when all the Romanticists,
even Schleiermacher and Schelling, were committing literary sins,
marks her as one of the German Romantic literary circle; and, moreover,
her novel is, in reality, an expression of all the prevailing ideas,
an imitation of _Wilhelm Meister_ and _Franz Sternbald_, an exaltation
of the harmoniously cultivated few at the expense of the vulgar crowd,
a glorification of the free Bohemian life, of idleness and admirable
frivolity, of purposelessness in the midst of the prose of reality.

Dorothea has endowed her hero with characteristics which obviously
correspond to Friedrich's as they appeared to her admiring woman's
eyes. "In spite of a peculiar and often repellent manner, he has the
gift of making himself popular, and wins all hearts without caring
whether he does or not. It is of no avail to arm one's self against
him with all one's pride; somehow or other he gains entire possession
of one. It is often most exasperating not to be able to withstand him,
as he himself is not to be won. At times it seems as if he attached
another meaning to his words than their obvious one; sometimes when the
most flattering things are said to him, he looks utterly indifferent,
as if it were a matter of course; at other times, quite unexpectedly,
some chance word, let fall without any special intention, affords him
the greatest pleasure; he either finds in it or puts into it some
peculiar meaning.... But you can imagine how often he gives offence in

Florentin's confessions, too, especially those relating to his
wild life as a youth in Venice, remind us of Friedrich's youthful
experiences in Leipzig. Although Florentin is an Italian, he feels
himself strongly attracted by German art and German artists. He teaches
himself to draw and paint, and makes his living, now as the gifted
Romantic dilettante artist, now as the no less Romantic musician,
roaming from village to village. His birth is wrapt in mystery. He is,
as he himself says, "the solitary, the outcast, the child of chance.
Something indescribable, which I can only call my destiny, drives me
on." He avoids all ties of affection: "Alone will I bear the curse
which has been laid upon me."[3]

It is unnecessary to criticise this characterisation in detail and
point out how naïve and excessively Romantic it is. None the less, its
writer is in many ways superior to her surroundings. Not for nothing
was she the daughter of the sober, sagacious Moses Mendelssohn.

She would like, she says, to see Friedrich the literary artist, but she
would love him better still if she could see in him the worthy citizen
of a well-ordered state; it seems to her, indeed, that the character
and desires of all her revolutionary friends make literary occupations,
reviewing and such-like, as unsuitable for them as a child's cradle for
a giant: her ideal is Götz von Berlichingen, who only took up the pen
as a rest from the sword.[4]

Here again we are impressed by what strikes us in reading of Frau von
Kalb, namely, that the women of this period display more virile and
more concentrated power than the men, and that they persist in treating
from the social standpoint questions which the men desire to treat only
from the literary. They feel the oppression of existing circumstances
more strongly, are less enervated by overmuch book-learning, and look
at things more practically than the men.

The first important event in the life of the young couple was Fichte's
coming to live with them. Fichte had been accused of teaching atheism,
and his position as a professor was in jeopardy. Caroline Schlegel
writes to a friend: "I must answer your questions about the Fichte
affair, though it is a very painful one to me and to all admirers of
honourable, frank behaviour. You know pretty well yourself what to
think of the first accusation, made by a bigoted sovereign and his
counsellors, half of them Catholics, the rest Moravian Brethren....
But Fichte is so exasperated by all sorts of reports from Weimar,
about things looking bad for him there, &c. &c., that he declares
he will resign if they reprimand him, or put any restriction on his
teaching.... All who would stand well at court, and the professors whom
Fichte has outshone, denounce his boldness and precipitancy. He is
abandoned, actually avoided."

In a letter written jointly by Friedrich, Schleiermacher, and Dorothea,
the last-mentioned says: "Things are going well with Fichte here; he
is left in peace. Nicolai has intimated that no notice whatever will be
taken of him so long as he does not attempt to give public lectures;
this would not be well received.... I get on excellently with Fichte,
and feel as much at home in this gathering of philosophers as if I
had never been accustomed to anything inferior. Though I am still a
little timid, this has nothing to do with Fichte personally, but rather
with my own position to the world and to Friedrich--I am afraid--yet
possibly I am mistaken. I cannot write another word, dear, for my
philosophers are pacing up and down the room so incessantly that I am
quite giddy."

Here we have a little domestic scene from Dorothea's life in Berlin.
The three were so comfortable together that Fichte was desirous to make
the arrangement permanent. He writes to his wife that he is trying to
persuade Friedrich to remain in Berlin, and August Wilhelm and his wife
to remove there. "If my plan succeeds, the two Schlegels, Schelling,
who must also be persuaded to come, and we ourselves will form one
family, take a large house, have only one cook, &c., &c."[5] The plan
was not carried out. The wives of the two Schlegels did not get on with
each other. But is it not like a breath from another world to come,
in the midst of all this solicitude for Fichte and indignation at the
wrong done him, upon such a passage in one of Dorothea's letters as
the following: "I heartily thank your mother for the sweet picture of
the saint. I keep it where I can always see it. She is the very saint
I should have chosen for myself; she suits me exactly. These pictures
and the Catholic music touch me so, that I am determined, if I become
a Christian, to be a Catholic."[6] Nowhere is the religious confusion
which distinguishes the Romantic School more plainly displayed.

But Dorothea is not the only female portrait in _Lucinde_. During the
course of his development Julius makes the acquaintance of an admirable
woman, who is described as follows: "This disease was cured, was
expelled, by the very first sight of a woman who was quite unique, and
who was the first to exercise complete influence over his mind.... She
had made her choice, and had given herself to one who was his friend as
well as hers, and who was worthy of her love. Julius was the confidant.
He knew exactly what it was that made him unhappy, and sternly judged
his own baseness.... He forced all his love back into his inmost heart
and let passion rage and burn and consume there. But his outward
man was quite changed. So successful was he in counterfeiting the
most childlike frankness and innocence, and in assuming a sort of
fraternal brusqueness to prevent his melting into tenderness, that
she never entertained the slightest suspicion. She was gay and genial
in her happiness; suspecting nothing, she shunned nothing, but gave
her mood and wit free play when she found him unamiable. All the
nobility and all the grace, all the divinity and all the waywardness
of the feminine character found in her their most refined, their most
womanly expression. Each quality was allowed to develop as freely
and vigorously as if it were the only one; and the daring mixture of
dissimilar elements did not produce confusion, for a spirit inspired
it which was a living breath of harmony and love. In the course of
the same hour she would reproduce some comic episode with the refined
abandon of the accomplished actress, and read a great poem with
simple, touching dignity. At one time it pleased her fancy to shine
and trifle in society, at another she was all enthusiasm and ardour,
and presently she would be assisting others by word and deed, serious,
unassuming, and gentle as a tender mother. Her manner of relating it
made any trifling incident as entertaining as a delightful fairy tale.
She embellished everything with feeling and wit; she had a power of
comprehending everything, and of ennobling everything she touched.
Nothing great or good was too holy or too common for her passionate
sympathy. She understood the slightest suggestion, and answered even
the question that was not asked. It was not possible to make long
speeches to her; they turned naturally into interesting conversations,
during which an ever-varying music of intelligent glances and sweet
expressions played over her delicate features. One seemed to see
these glances and expressions while reading her letters, so lucidly
and genially did she write, as if talking with her correspondent.
Those who only knew this side of her might think that she was merely
lovable, that she would make an enchanting actress, that nothing but
metre and rhyme were wanting to make her winged words exquisite poetry.
But this same woman showed on every occasion that called for it the
most astonishing courage and energy; and it was from this side of her
character, by her own heroic standard, that she judged men."

There is more praise than art in this portrait. Sainte-Beuve would have
given us a very different delineation. The original of the picture
is a woman who, after the publication of her letters under the title
Caroline, was known, as if she had been a queen, only by this, her
Christian name. It simplified matters, too, to designate her thus, for
she had had so many surnames that it was difficult to know by which
to call her. She was a daughter of the well-known German philologist,
Michaelis; her first husband was a Dr. Böhmer; after his death she
married A. W. Schlegel, and her third husband was Schelling. These two
last marriages placed her in the centre of the Romantic circle, which
seems naturally to group itself round her. She was its own special
muse. Grier, the gifted translator of Calderon and Ariosto, says of
her that she is by far the cleverest woman he has known. Steffens
and Wilhelm von Humboldt use similar expressions. A. W. Schlegel
writes of several of his essays, that they are "in part the work of
a highly gifted woman, who possessed all the qualifications of a
successful author, but whose ambition did not lie in that direction."
Schelling writes at the time of her death: "Even had she not been to
me what she was, I should mourn the human being, should lament that
this intellectual paragon no longer exists, this rare woman, who
to masculine strength of soul and the keenest intellect united the
tenderest, most womanly, most loving heart. We shall never see her like
again." Her portrait is very striking--fascinating, refined, roguish,
and yet tender. She is quite in Leonardo's style. Dorothea is far less

Caroline was born in 1763, and was twenty-one at the time of her first
marriage. A. W. Schlegel made her acquaintance whilst he was a student
at Göttingen, and fell in love with her, but she refused to marry him.
Intercourse between them was broken off for a time, but was carried on
by correspondence while Schlegel was at Amsterdam, where he went as a
tutor in 1791. Here various amorous episodes, amongst them one serious
love affair, threw Caroline for a time into the shade. Meanwhile, she
was entangling herself in a net of the strangest relations. In 1799
she had gone to Mainz, where she lived in the house of Georg Forster,
Humboldt's teacher, a man equally distinguished as a scientist and
an author. When this gifted and admirable, but far too sanguine man,
embarked on revolutionary enterprises and attempted to extend French
republicanism to the Rhine districts, Caroline enthusiastically
aided and abetted him. She was in communication with the members
of the Republican Club in Mainz, and she was unjustly suspected of
communicating with the enemy through her brother-in-law, G. Böhmer,
who was Custine's secretary. When Mainz was reconquered by the German
troops, she was arrested, and spent several months in barbarous
imprisonment, sharing a room with seven other people. From prison she
wrote to A. W. Schlegel for assistance.

Her position was even worse than it appeared to be. In Mainz, in
desperation at the disappointment of her dearest hopes (she had
expected that the manly, energetic Tatter would offer her his hand),
she had thrown herself into the arms of her adorer for the moment,
a Frenchman, and the results of this connection would inevitably
compromise her for ever, if she were not freed from prison in time.
Schlegel's influence and her own brother's unremitting endeavours
procured her release. With quiet chivalry August Wilhelm placed
Caroline, now forsaken by all her other friends, under the protection
of his younger brother, Friedrich. It was in these singularly
unpropitious circumstances that Friedrich made her acquaintance. He was
by no means prepossessed in her favour, in fact, was inclined to look
upon her with contempt; yet this is how he writes: "I had certainly
not expected simplicity and a positively divine truthfulness.... She
made a profound impression upon me. I longed to be in a position to
win her confidence and friendship; but the moment she showed some
return of the feeling I saw very clearly that the bare attempt would
lead to the most painful struggles, and that if a friendship between
us were possible at all, it could only be the fruit of much that was
unjustifiable.... Thenceforward every selfish desire was abandoned.
The relation in which I stood to her was perfectly innocent and
simple. In my behaviour there was the reverence of a son, the candour
of a brother, the frankness of a child, and the unobtrusiveness of a

In 1796 A. W. Schlegel married his somewhat deeply compromised friend.
Her circle soon included all the leading men of the day. She was in
constant intercourse with Goethe, Herder, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel,
Tieck, Schleiermacher, and Hardenberg. This was the time of Goethe's
intimate connection with the young school. It was in the process of
formation, and its members held their first meetings at Jena. Caroline
breakfasts with Goethe, dines with Fichte, and is soon only too
inseparable from Schelling.

The following extract from one of her letters to Schelling (March
1, 1801) affords an example of the vigour and the subtlety of this
remarkable woman's criticism: "You surely do not expect me, dearest
friend, to enlighten you as to the compass of Fichte's mind, though
you almost express yourself as if you did. It has always seemed to me
as if, in spite of his incomparable reasoning powers, the soundness
of his deductions, his lucidity and accuracy, his direct intuition of
the Ego, and his discoverer's enthusiasm--as if in spite of all this
he were limited. My explanation of the matter is, that the divine
spark is lacking in him; and if you have broken through a circle from
which he has not been able to escape, I believe that you have done it
not so much as the philosopher--don't scold me if I am using the word
wrongly--but rather because there is poetry in you and none in him.
Poetical inspiration led you directly to productiveness; keenness
of apprehension led him to knowledge. He has light, the clearest and
brightest, but you have warmth as well; and light can only illuminate,
while warmth produces. Now, have I not seen all this cleverly?--just as
one sees a boundless landscape through a keyhole."

In another letter we find an amusing reference to Hegel, which shows
us that philosopher in a novel light: "Hegel is playing the beau and
general gallant" (Hegel macht den Galanten und allgemeinen Cicisbeo).[8]

Caroline shares enthusiastically in all the efforts of the Romantic
School; she revises, reviews anonymously, writes herself, influences
other writers directly and indirectly. She is obliged to expend that
politico-revolutionary ardour, of which she possesses a far larger
share than the men, on literary skirmishes and intrigues. We find
her, for instance, writing an anonymous and tolerably sharp review of
Schlegel's _Ion_; Schlegel replies, also anonymously, criticising her
criticism; then Caroline calls Schelling to her assistance, and he,
acting as her champion, falls upon Schlegel still more heavily in a
third anonymous article, written in an extremely polished manner--at
the same time writing privately to him that he hopes he will not take
it amiss. It is to Caroline that the misunderstanding and final rupture
between Schiller and Schlegel is due; she sets the brothers against
the poet by her extremely witty but unfair mockery of his style;
Schiller, on his side, cannot be acquitted of having treated them with
considerable haughtiness at the beginning of their literary career. His
name for Caroline is "Dame Lucifer."

Caroline's worst side was displayed in her small-minded hatred of poor
Dorothea Veit, whom she positively persecuted. This hatred disturbed
the beautiful relation between August Wilhelm and Friedrich, who
were intimate friends as well as brothers. At one time it threatened
to separate them altogether. Observe the way in which she speaks of
Dorothea: "Friedrich was present at the performance of _Alarkos_, and
immediately afterwards got into a post-chaise and set off for France,
where it is his intention to be married in republican fashion.
Under Robespierre, drowning in the Loire went by the name of _noces
republicaines_; such a wedding for one half of the couple I should not
object to."

Her best qualities were called forth by her daughter, that remarkable
child, Auguste Böhmer, whose name, although she died at the age of
fifteen, has a place in the history of German literature. All who
read this child's criticism of Friedrich or of Dorothea, or her
rhymed letters to Tieck and Schleiermacher, are astounded by her
precociousness. Her death was a turning-point in Caroline's life.
Schelling, who very possibly had been first attracted by the daughter,
drew nearer to the mother in her sudden and sad bereavement. He was
then quite young, labouring ardently at his earliest works, glowing
with passion, sparkling with genius, the favourite of Goethe. Caroline
and he had a great common sorrow and need of consolation. Their
feeling for each other soon assumed the character of passionate love.
The publication by the unscrupulous opponents of the Romanticists of
a pamphlet in which it was asserted that Schelling, with his crazy
_Naturphilosophie_ and the treatment he had recommended, had shortened
the child's life, only drew them closer together. The charge was a pure
fabrication. It was in his reply to this pamphlet that Schelling made
use of the violent language quoted in the introduction to Lassalle's
_Capital and Labour_. Caroline's relations with Schlegel had long been
of the coldest; he and she lived in different towns. Had she been of a
jealous disposition, she would have found abundant cause for complaint.
After his separation from Caroline, Schlegel formed a connection with
Tieck's sister, Sophie Bernhardi, who divorced her husband for his
sake. His last attempt at marriage, with the daughter of Paulus, the
rationalist, was not a success, and ended in a divorce.

When Schelling and Caroline had become so indispensable to each other
that it was necessary to break the tie which bound her to Schlegel,
the latter, with perfect chivalry, gave his consent. Writing of the
divorce, Caroline says: "We broke a tie which neither of us had ever
considered permanently binding."[9] Her new marriage was a perfectly
happy one.

The way in which Schlegel takes Caroline's decision enlightens us not
only as to the theories of the Romanticists, but as to the manner
in which the leaders of the school applied them in their own lives.
August Wilhelm not only gives his consent, but continues to keep up a
friendly correspondence with Schelling, and in literary matters the two
men render each other valuable assistance. Caroline herself maintains
the friendliest relations with Schlegel long after he is aware of the
relation in which she stands to Schelling. She writes to him in May
1801: "Will you, please, decide a dispute between Schelling and me?
Are these hexameters (Schelling's) worth anything? I consider the last
lines awkward, but he maintains that they are good." Schlegel actually
visited the couple at Munich, in company with Madame de Staël.

Thus even very serious personal disagreements and ruptures could
not divide those whom fellowship of ideas and a common endeavour to
promote them, united. The Romanticists considered personal liberty an
inalienable right, and respected it in others while demanding it for

But we learn something else besides the fact that the Romanticists were
very changeable in their loves, and perfectly regardless of social
ties; and that something is, that their women were superior to them
in everything but talent, and that what the men did was to drag them
down to their own level. We see the strong-minded, energetic Dorothea,
who is so keenly sensible of the pettiness of the purely literary
endeavours of the Romanticists, slowly change, see her reluctantly
admire _Lucinde_, then write novels herself in the prescribed style,
and finally follow Friedrich to Vienna and become a Catholic along
with him. Or look at the high-spirited, enthusiastic, resolute
Caroline, who, as a young widow not much over twenty, attempts to
revolutionise the Rhineland. So unflinching is she then, that she
compromises herself recklessly, and risks the life and well-being of
those dearest to her with absolute regardlessness. Friedrich writes
to August Wilhelm: "I shall never forgive her heartlessness in being
ready to beguile you, her friend, into that vortex of ignoble dangers
and worthless characters." Only a few years later we see this same
woman writing anonymous reviews, favourable or unfavourable, of her
husband's wretched dramas, and entirely absorbed in literary intrigues.
Ever and anon her spirit is momentarily stirred by a breath wafted
from the old times. Then we feel how changed she is. Writing to her
daughter in October 1799, after giving her a quantity of family news,
the last item of which is: "Hofrath Hufeland has returned, with wife
and children," she exclaims: "But what sorry trash is all this!
_Buonaparte is in Paris!_ Think of that, child! All will go well again.
The Russians have been driven out of Switzerland; they and the English
will be obliged to capitulate with disgrace in Holland; the French
are making way in Swabia; and now comes Buonaparte. Rejoice with me,
or I shall think that you are entirely taken up with frivolities and
have no serious thoughts at all." Then, almost in the same breath,
literary gossip: "Tieck is here and we are much together. You would
never believe all that these men take it into their heads to do. I
will send you a sonnet on Merkel. He has been running about Berlin,
telling that the Schlegels have received a reprimand from the Duke on
account of the _Athenæum_, &c. So Wilhelm and Tieck set to work the
other evening and wrote a wicked sonnet in his honour. It was splendid
to see the two pairs of brown eyes flashing at each other, and the wild
merriment with which the perfectly justifiable squib was concocted.
Dorothea and I almost rolled on the floor with laughter. She knows
how to laugh, which will recommend her to you. Merkel is done for; he
will never recover it. There will be a terrible uproar.... Schelling
is attacking the _Allgemeine Litteraturzeitung_ with all his might.
_These quarrels, however, are of no importance to you; but Buonaparte
and the Russians most certainly are_." It is as though she strove to
keep the larger interests alive in her daughter, feeling that they were
dying in herself. Soon she marries Schelling, and conforms to all the
established conventions of that great clerical stronghold, Bavaria.

Many great men have vainly attempted to teach the women they loved to
share their interests. To my mind no worse accusation can be brought
against gifted men, no surer sign of their weakness adduced than this,
that, far from raising the women who have given themselves to them
and followed them, they have dragged them down, taken from them their
highest interests and noblest sympathies, and given them small and
mean ones in exchange. From such a charge the Romanticists cannot free
themselves. They treated the great women given them by the gods as they
did the great ideas which were their own heritage; they took from them
the noble, liberal-minded social and political enthusiasm by which
they were naturally characterised, and made them, first Romantic and
literary, then remorseful, and finally Catholic.

[1] Plitt: _Aus Schelling's Leben_, i. 282. "I can bear it no longer; I
must live once more, must let my senses have free play--these senses of
which I have well-nigh been robbed by the grand transcendental theories
to which they have done their utmost to convert me. But I too will now
confess how my heart leaps and the hot blood rushes through my veins;
my word is as good as any man's; and of good cheer have I been, in fair
weather and in foul, since I became persuaded that there is nothing
real but matter. I care not for the invisible; I keep to the tangible,
to what I can taste and smell, and feel, and satisfy all my senses
with. I have no religion but this, that I love a well-shaped knee, a
fair, plump bosom, a slender waist, flowers with the sweetest odours,
full satisfaction of all desires, the granting of all sweet love can
ask. If I am obliged to have a religion (though I can live most happily
without it), then it must be the Catholic, such as it was in the olden
days, when there was no scolding and quarrelling, when all were kneaded
of one dough. They did not trouble about the far-off, did not look
longingly up to heaven; they had a living image of God. The earth they
held to be the centre of the universe, and the centre of the earth was
Rome. There the great vicegerent sat enthroned, and wielded the sceptre
of the world; and priests and laity lived together as they live in the
land of Cocagne; and in the house of God itself high revelry was held."

[2] Köpke: _Tieck's Leben_, i. 193.

[3] Florentin, pp. 65, 80, 170, 195, 230, 310.

[4] Haym, _Die romantische Schule_, 509, 525, 663, &c.

[5] _Caroline_, i. 254, 259, 261.

[6] _Caroline_, i. 393.

[7] _Caroline_, i. 347, 348.

[8] _Caroline_, ii. 2.

[9] _Caroline_, ii. 237.



The Romanticists themselves were by no means satisfied with _Lucinde_.
Novalis has most to say in its favour. He is of opinion that there are
few such personal books; it seems to him that in it all the workings
of the author's mind may be observed as distinctly as the play of
chemical forces during the dissolution of a lump of sugar in a glass of
water. He is somewhat disturbed by the species of delusion prevailing
throughout the work, which makes man, the thinking being, a mere
natural force, and which takes such possession of the reader that he
finds himself deeply interested in what is simply sensual instinct.
Moreover, the whole is not simple enough, not sufficiently free from
pedantry. Yet "Romantic chords" are not lacking, and it is not so much
the matter as the form to which he objects.

He writes at once to Caroline Schlegel: "There is nothing to object to
in the ideas, but in the manner of expressing them there is a good deal
which strikes me as being borrowed from Krates [the cynic]. The cry,
'Be cynical!' is not yet heard among us, and even really advanced women
will blame the beautiful Athenian for having made the market-place her
bridal chamber."

Quite true; only it was not the luckless Dorothea who was to blame for
the profanation, even though she did not feel incensed by the public
exhibition, as we do on her behalf; her lord and master was alone to

We have seen that Caroline soon allowed her satirical wit free play in
writing of _Lucinde_; and A. W. Schlegel, Schelling, Steffens, and the
others privately regarded it as an _enfant terrible_, whatever their
public utterances may have been. A. W. Schlegel indeed wrote, in a
sonnet to Friedrich:--

    "Dich führt zur Dichtung Andacht brünst'ger Liebe,
    Du willst zum Tempel dir das Leben bilden,
    Wo Götterrecht die Freiheit lös' und binde.
    Und dass ohn' Opfer der Altar nicht bliebe,
    Entführtest Du den himmlischen Gefilden,
    Die hohe Gluth der leuchtenden Lucinde."[1]

And when Kotzebue published the comedy, _Der hyperboräische Esel_,
which satirises Friedrich and his book, August Wilhelm responded with
the witty satire, _Ehrenpforte für den Präsidenten von Kotzebue_;
but privately he called the book a "foolish rhapsody." Tieck called
it "eine wunderliche Chimäre," and even Schleiermacher attempted to
disavow his authorship of the _Letters on the Subject of Lucinde_,
after his inclination to a species of sensual mysticism had given place
to a Protestant-rationalistic tendency. Nevertheless, or rather, for
this very reason, it is of importance that we should inquire into the
nature of these letters, which were written with the aim of proving
_Lucinde_ to be, not merely an innocent, but a good and holy book, the
worth of which is testified to by the delight which high-minded women
take in it. On the letters of two such women, his sister, Ernestine,
and his friend, Eleonore Grunow, Schleiermacher's own are based.

There is little of general interest for us nowadays in these letters,
so we shall only notice their salient points. As _Lucinde_ is the
solitary contribution of Romanticism towards the solution of a social
problem, and as marriage is almost the only social question grappled
with by literature generally at the beginning of the century (Goethe's
_Wanderjahre_ alone, in the manner of Rousseau's romances, occupying
itself with a wider range of such questions), it will be of interest to
compare the utterances of the different European literatures on this

Schleiermacher's book is an attack upon prudery. At the very beginning
he writes: "I was almost inclined to believe that you had become a
prude; if you had, I should have entreated you to go and settle in
England, to which country I should like to banish the whole genus."
And one division of the book is entirely devoted to an analysis of
that false modesty which precludes true modesty, and causes so much
unnecessary misery.

"The anxious and narrow-minded modesty by which society at the present
day is characterised, has its root in the consciousness of a great and
general wrongheadedness and depravity. But where is it to end? It is
bound to spread farther and farther. If people are perpetually on the
lookout for what is immodest, they will end by discovering it in every
domain of thought, and all conversation and social intercourse must
cease.... utter depravation and the perfect education by which man
returns to innocence, both do away with modesty; in the first case true
modesty, as well as false, is destroyed; in the second, it ceases to be
a thing to which much attention is paid or much importance attached.[2]

"Is it not the case, dear child, that everything spiritual in man has
its beginning in an instinctive, vague, inward impulse, which only the
action of the individual, frequently repeated, develops into definite,
conscious will and a perfected faculty. Not until they have developed
so far can there be any question of a lasting connection between these
inward impulses and definite objects. Why should love be different from
everything else? Is it reasonable to expect the highest faculty of man
to be perfect from the first? Should it be easier to love than to eat
and drink? Surely in love too there must be preparatory attempts, from
which nothing permanent results, but which all tend to make the feeling
more distinct and more noble. The connection of these attempts with any
definite object is merely accidental, at first often purely imaginary,
and always ephemeral--as ephemeral as the feeling itself, which soon
gives place to one more clearly defined and intense. Inquire of the
most mature and highly cultivated men and women; you will find that
they smile at the thought of their first love as at any other laughable
childish performance, and often live in complete indifference side by
side with the object of it. According to the nature of things it must
be so, and to insist upon faithfulness and a lasting connection is as
dangerous as it is foolish."

Schleiermacher naturally warns his correspondent against what he
calls the chimera of the holiness of first love: "Do not believe
that everything depends upon something coming of it. The novels
which support this idea, and make love between the same two beings
develop uninterruptedly from its first raw beginning to its highest
perfection, are as hurtful as they are silly; and their authors, as
a rule, have as little understanding of love as they have of art....
When the more or less indefinite love longing settles upon a definite
object, there necessarily arises a definite connection, and a point
of closest approach. When this point has been reached and you feel
that it is not the right one, not one that can be held, what is there
left for you to do but to part again? Only after such an attempt has
been completed as an attempt, that is to say, after the connection has
been broken off, can the memory of it and reflection upon it produce a
truer understanding of the longing and feeling, and thus prepare for
another and better attempt. Is there any obligation to make the next
with the same person? Upon what can such an obligation be founded? _I,
for my part, consider this more unnatural than love between brother and
sister_. Allow yourself perfect liberty, then; endeavouring only to
preserve a pure-minded, clear feeling that it is merely an experiment,
so that you may be prevented from sanctioning and perpetuating that
which is not intended to be more, by that self-surrender which, from
its nature, ought to mark the end of experiments and the beginning of
a true and lasting love. Such a mistake, which is both the consequence
and the cause of the most miserable delusions, you must regard as the
most terrible thing that can happen to you; I would have you understand
that this is in reality allowing one's self to be seduced. When you
have found true love, and feel yourself to have reached the point at
which you can perfect your character and make your life beautiful
and worthy, diffidence and fear of the last and most precious seal of
union will seem to you pure affectation. The only danger lies in the
fact that every attempt, from its very nature, aims at reaching this
point. The point of sufficiency can only be discovered by satiety. But
if you are healthy in mind and heart, you will, as often as one of
these attempts to love approaches this point, feel an aversion which is
something far higher and holier than any law, or than what generally
goes by the name of modesty and chastity."

[Illustration: SCHLEIERMACHER]

Sound and sensible reflections, one and all, but neither exhaustive
nor applicable to what are the real difficulties of the case.
Schleiermacher warns against mistakes, but cannot remedy them, without
infringing upon the sanctity of marriage, which he never calls
in question. For what is to be done when the mistake has already
been made? And what when it has been on one side only, when only
the love of the one has grown cold, while that of the other still
endures? And he does not give a word or a thought to the fact that
marriage, as a social institution, does not exist for the sake of
the lovers, that its original intention was to secure the father's
property for the children, and that it has continued to exist
because it seemed to society the only means of protecting the rising
generation. Schleiermacher, the idealist, would fain discover a new
moral foundation, and entirely overlooks the real, the practical
difficulties. How characteristic of the nation to which the author
belongs is all this pondering over feeling! An Italian once said to me:
"What astonishes us most in the emotional life of the Teutonic nations
is their conception and cult of love. With them love is positively a
religion, something in which a good man is bound to believe. And this
religion has its theology, and its philosophy, and what not. We simply
love, and no more about it." I thought of this speech when reading
Schleiermacher. How much ingenuity he exhibits in proving that men
should not allow themselves to be disturbed by false theories when they
love, and what a steadfast belief in the love which is to "complete
and perfect the character," lies at the foundation of it all! It is
instructive to compare with Schleiermacher's some utterances by great
authors of other nations on the same subject; they throw what is
peculiarly national in his into more marked relief.

George Sand, whose first novels are the expression of the same movement
in France which _Lucinde_ inaugurates in Germany, says, by the mouth of
the principal characters in _Jacques_ and _Lucrezia Floriani_: "Paul
and Virginia were able to love each other steadily and undisturbedly;
for they were children brought up by the same mother. Our surroundings
have been too utterly unlike.... If two beings are to understand
each other always, and to be united by an unchangeable love, their
characters as children must have been formed by a similar education,
they must have the same beliefs, the same turn of mind, even the same
manners and habits. But we, the distressed offspring of a turbulent
and corrupt society, which behaves to her disunited children like a
stepmother, and is more cruel in her periods of savagery than actual
savages are, how can we wonder, after such great outward divisions,
at the perpetual divisions of hearts and the impossibility of inward

Obviously George Sand is considerably less persuaded than
Schleiermacher of the probability or possibility of the individual's
meeting with that "right one," love for whom perfects. Jacques says:
"I am still persuaded that marriage is one of the most barbarous
institutions of society. I doubt not that it will be abolished when
the human race makes further progress towards justice and reason; a
more human and not less sacred tie will take its place and will ensure
the well-being of the children without fettering the freedom of the
parents. But as yet men are too barbarous and women too cowardly to
demand a nobler law than the iron one by which they are now ruled.
Beings destitute of conscience and virtue need heavy chains. The
improvements of which some generous spirits dream, cannot be realised
in such an age as ours; these spirits forget that they are a hundred
years in advance of their contemporaries, and that before they change
the law, they must change mankind." Jacques says to his bride on their
wedding day: "Society is about to dictate an oath to you. You are about
to swear to be faithful and obedient to me, that is to say, never to
love any one but me, and to obey me in all things. One of these vows is
an absurdity, the other a disgrace."

The idea expressed by George Sand in all these books is, that to
preserve the outward semblance of love, by caresses, &c., after it has
ceased to exist, is what constitutes real immorality in love. Jacques
says: "I have never forced my imagination to rekindle or reanimate a
feeling in my soul which I no longer found there. I have never looked
upon love as a duty, constancy as a rôle. When I have felt that love
was extinguished in my soul I have said so, without being either
ashamed or conscience-stricken." And _Lucrezia Floriani_ says, still
more emphatically: "Not one of all the passions to which I have yielded
naively and blindly, seemed to me so guilty as the one which I was
endeavouring, contrary to my feeling, to make lasting."

The French authoress looks upon unchangeable love for one and the same
person as a possibility only, dependent upon certain conditions; and
her idea of love is not, like Schleiermacher's, that it is the highest
educational force, but that, as an irresistible natural force, a
possessing passion, it is beautiful, the most beautiful thing in life.
Institutions must adapt themselves to it, since it cannot change its
nature to suit institutions. A disciple of Rousseau, she champions the
cause of nature.

Let us now glance at one of the works of a contemporary English writer
of the same tendencies, at Shelley's _Queen Mab_. In the notes he has
appended to this poem we come upon a third variation of the opposition
to prevailing opinions. Shelley says: "Love is inevitably consequent
upon the perception of loveliness. Love withers under constraint: its
very essence is liberty: it is compatible neither with obedience,
jealousy, nor fear: it is there most pure, perfect, and unlimited,
where its votaries live in confidence, equality, and unreserve.... A
husband and wife ought to continue so long united as they love each
other: any law which should bind them to cohabitation for one moment
after the decay of their affection would be a most intolerable tyranny,
and the most unworthy of toleration. How odious an usurpation of the
right of private judgment should that law be considered which should
make the ties of friendship indissoluble, in spite of the caprices,
the inconstancy, the fallibility, and capacity for improvement of the
human mind. And by so much would the fetters of love be heavier and
more unendurable than those of friendship, as love is more vehement
and capricious, more dependent on those delicate peculiarities of
imagination, and less capable of reduction to the ostensible merits
of the object.... Love is free: to promise for ever to love the same
woman is not less absurd than to promise to believe the same creed....
The present system of constraint does no more, in the majority of
instances, than make hypocrites or open enemies. Persons of delicacy
and virtue, unhappily united to one whom they find it impossible to
love, spend the loveliest season of their life in unproductive efforts
to appear otherwise than they are, for the sake of the feelings of
their partner or the welfare of their mutual offspring: those of less
generosity and refinement openly avow their disappointment, and linger
out the remnant of that union, which only death can dissolve, in a
state of incurable bickering and hostility. The early education of
their children takes its colour from the squabbles of the parents;
they are nursed in a systematic school of ill-humour, violence, and
falsehood.... The conviction that wedlock is indissoluble holds out
the strongest of all temptations to the perverse: they indulge without
restraint in acrimony, and all the little tyrannies of domestic life,
when they know that their victim is without appeal.... Prostitution
is the legitimate offspring of marriage and its accompanying errors.
Women, for no other crime than having followed the dictates of a
natural appetite, are driven with fury from the comforts and sympathies
of society. It is less venial than murder.... Has a woman obeyed the
instincts of unerring nature (_sic_!), society declares war against
her, pitiless and eternal war: she must be the tame slave, she must
make no reprisals; theirs is the right of persecution, hers the duty
of endurance. She lives a life of infamy: the loud and bitter laugh
of scorn scares her from all return. She dies of long and lingering
disease: yet _she_ is in fault, she is the criminal, and society the
pure and virtuous matron, who casts her as an abortion from her
undefiled bosom!... Young men, excluded by the fanatical idea of
chastity from the society of modest and accomplished women, associate
with these vicious and miserable beings.... Chastity is a monkish and
evangelical superstition, a greater foe to natural temperance even
than unintellectual sensuality; it strikes at the root of all domestic
happiness, and consigns more than half of the human race to misery,
that some few may monopolise according to law. A system could not well
have been devised more studiously hostile to human happiness than
marriage. I conceive that from the abolition of marriage the fit and
natural arrangement of sexual intercourse would result. I by no means
assert that the intercourse would be promiscuous: on the contrary,
it appears, from the relation of parent to child, that this union is
generally of long duration, and marked above all others with generosity
and self-devotion.... In fact, religion and morality, as they now
stand, compose a practical code of misery and servitude: the genius of
human happiness must tear every leaf from the accursed book of God ere
man can read the inscription on his heart. How would morality, dressed
up in stiff stays and finery, start from her own disgusting image,
should she look in the mirror of nature!"

Here again we have appeals to nature; but the standpoint is an
entirely different one. Shelley, the enthusiastic atheist, attributes
the principal miseries of social humanity to traditional religion.
"Unerring" nature is the divinity he substitutes for the God of the
Bible. He considers that man has the right to demand happiness, and,
like a true Englishman, contends, without troubling much about the
psychology of the matter, for the freedom of the individual from the
compulsion of external law. Schleiermacher warns against what is
_foolish_, because, once the foolish step is taken, it is binding;
but he, the Protestant pastor, only indirectly incites to revolt.
George Sand rebels against what is _dishonourable_. In the ethical
creed of the French authoress honour plays the same part that wisdom
does in Schleiermacher's; it is by the mouth of Jacques, her ideal
of manly honour, that she protests in the name of the honour of
humanity. Shelley stands forth as the champion of personal liberty;
it is _thraldom_ that he desires to abolish. The English apostle of
liberty, soon to be an exile, unhesitatingly attacks the institutions
of society. George Sand never directly attacked marriage. She actually
says in the introduction to _Mauprat_: "It is husbands I have attacked,
and if I am asked what I propose to substitute for them, I answer
--marriage." But Shelley, who takes cognisance of all evils from the
social and political standpoint, proposes to improve humanity by
legislation, being persuaded that the state is bound to secure as much
liberty of action as possible to the individual as citizen.

It is obvious that, of these three representatives of the same idea,
Schleiermacher is the most profound thinker and the most reserved. In
his estimation character is of the first importance, in George Sand's,
the heart, and in Shelley's, happiness. These three great writers are
the spokesmen of three great nations, and by comparing them we are
better able to understand the character of the whole movement which
begins at the beginning of the century, but which can neither settle
into shape nor produce good and tranquillising results until the
intellectual and social emancipation of woman has advanced so far that
she is independent of social prejudices, knows her own needs, and is in
a position to supply them.

[1] It is the sacred ardour of love that makes of thee a poet; thou
aimest at transforming life into a temple, where divine right binds and
looses. And that the altar may not lack a victim, thou hast stolen from
heaven the noble ardour of the glorious Lucinde.

[2] _Briefe über die Lucinde_, pp. 64, 83.



In his _Letters on Lucinde_, Schleiermacher, the high-minded and
honourable, brought all his intelligence to bear upon the task of
finding something complete, something sensible, in the book. He read
his personal opinions into it. But his position was a false one. He
was trying, by means of the discussion of an unreal book, to settle a
real question, trying to base a freer, higher moral code upon a work
which, instead of doing what it professed to do, namely, proving the
possibility of transforming life into poetry, simply retailed the
fantastic performances of a few talented individuals, interspersing
reflections on the poetry in a wild, extravagant reality.

_Lucinde_ was hollow at the core. And this hollow, empty idealism is a
feature common to all the many ramifications of Romanticism. Goethe's
Prometheus cries to Zeus: "Didst thou imagine that I would loathe life,
that I would flee into the wilderness, because all my dream-blossoms
did not mature?" Thus speaks a Prometheus, thus a Goethe. But it was
only natural that this emotional, inactive young generation should
produce a group of authors who, just because "all their dream-blossoms
did not mature," in desperate dissatisfaction with reality grasped at
empty air and pursued shadows, which they obstinately persisted in
trying to endow with corporeal existence, maintaining that art and
poetry and their element and organ, imagination, are alone essential
and living, but that all else (in other words, real life) is, as vulgar
prose, meaningless, nay evil, in the eyes of genius.[1]

And yet the earliest preachers of this new doctrine were far from
being wild or defiant. The first countenance which meets our gaze is,
on the contrary, peculiarly gentle, one of the purest and mildest in
all modern literature--the pale, noble face of Wackenroder.

The Romantic enthusiasm for art first found expression in a delicate
little work from the pen of an ardent youth, whose life was shortened
by the conflict between his burning desire to live for art, and the
obligation laid upon him by his father to pursue a practical calling.
He died, his powers entirely exhausted, in his twenty-fifth year. His
life was like the mild, gentle breeze, which on a day in the early
spring warms the air, and tempts forth the first flowers. His letters
to Tieck, who was his intimate friend, and for whom he had an unbounded
admiration, reveal an almost girlish affection for that more virile and
notable man.

In every library of any importance one is sure to find a small,
beautifully printed and bound book, published in 1797, entitled
_Herzensergiessungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders_ ("Heart
Outpourings of an Art-Loving Friar"). The author's name is not given.
As vignette there is a head of Raphael, who, with the great eyes,
full lips, and slender neck given him in this portrait, looks like
some highly intellectual Christian devotee of Venus, far advanced in
consumption. The inscription below the picture is not simply Raphael,
but "the divine Raphael," i.e. the Raphael of the Romanticists. This
dainty little book is, as it were, the primary cell of the whole
Romantic structure; round it the later productions group themselves.
Though not the offspring of a vigorous creative power, its germinative
force proved wonderfully great. It is a book which contains nothing
but ivy-like, twining ideas, nothing but passive impressions; but
the wax upon which these impressions are stamped is so pure that the
impressions are firm and clear. The title does not mislead; the author
pours out his heart in a stream of fervent and religious enthusiasm for
art, giving expression to a few simple ideas in a simple, untheoretical
manner. The book is not the product of a great or epoch-making mind;
but it has one great virtue, it is original. To the Friar the only
allowable attitude towards art is that of devotion; great artists are
in his eyes blessed, holy saints. His admiration for them is that of an
adoring child.

More than once in the course of the book Tieck has collaborated with
Wackenroder; but the simple autobiography of the young musician, Joseph
Berglinger, is entirely Wackenroder's work. The delicate refinement of
Berglinger's character reminds us of Joseph Delorme, the fictitious
personage in whom the young, Romantic, Sainte-Beuve described
himself. Berglinger is Wackenroder. Like Wackenroder he opposes the
determination of his father that he is not to become an artist, and
simultaneously carries on an even harder struggle with himself in the
matter of his position towards art. What troubles him is a fear, which
curiously enough meets young Romanticism here on the very threshold,
like the shadow of its fate, the fear of being incapacitated for real
life by too entire absorption in art. Rückert has given masterly
expression to the idea in the following lines:--

    "Die Kinder, lieber Sohn, der Gaukelschwertverschlucker
    In Madras üben sich nicht an Confekt und Zucker,
    Von Bambus lernen sie die Spitzen zu verschlingen,
    Um wachsend in der Kunst es his zum Schwert zu bringen.
    Willst Du als Mann das Schwert der Wissenschaft verdaun,
    Musst Du als Jüngling nicht Kunstzuckerbrödchen kaun."[2]

Joseph expresses it thus: Art is a tempting, forbidden fruit; he who
has once tasted its sweet, innermost juice is irrevocably lost to the
acting, living world. The soul which art has enervated is perplexed and
helpless face to face with reality. Joseph himself is only delivered
from this distressing mental condition when glorious music raises him
high above the troubles of this earth. But he is at the mercy of his
moods, and fittingly likens his soul to the "Æolian harp, whose strings
vibrate to a breath that comes one knows not whence, and on which the
changing breezes play at will." Music was the art Wackenroder loved
and understood best; in his posthumous _Fancies on the Subject of Art_
he places it above all the others.

Wackenroder resembled Novalis in constitution, but had even less
capacity for resistance to the storms of life. He was good-natured
and credulous to a degree, with a genuine Romantic credulity, which
saw mysteries and miracles everywhere. This inclination of his led
to practical jokes being played upon him by his comrades--though
they too were all more or less liable to hallucinations and disposed
to put faith in miracles. An account of one such trick has been
preserved, such an anecdote as only the biography of a Romanticist
could supply. Indeed, to understand the theories of the Romanticists,
it is necessary to see the men themselves in their everyday life
and at their desks.--Wackenroder was a diligent student, and never
willingly missed a lecture. Two of his less conscientious friends went
to his room during the hour of a certain lecture, knowing that he
would be absent, and tied a dog, in a sitting posture, to the chair
in front of the writing-table. Both paws were carefully placed on a
huge folio which lay open on the table. The clever animal, accustomed
to such performances, sat quietly in this ludicrous position while
the two friends hid in an adjoining room to watch the development of
their plot. Returning earlier than usual to fetch some papers he had
forgotten, Wackenroder stood motionless with astonishment, gazing at
the dog and its learned occupation. Fearful of neglecting his duty,
and unwilling to put an end to the marvellous apparition, he gently
lifted his papers from the table and left the room. In the evening,
no one else seeming inclined to talk, he suddenly broke the silence
by saying impressively: "Friends, I must tell you a most marvellous
thing. Our Stallmeister (the dog) can read."[3] Does not this read
like a scene from Tieck's _Puss in Boots_ or Hoffmann's story of the
dog Berganza? Do not these books, grotesquely unreal as they are, seem
actual transcripts from the private lives of the Romanticists? In
_Kater Murr_, the cat says: "Nothing in my master's room attracted me
more than the writing-table, which was strewn with books, manuscripts,
and all manner of remarkable instruments. I might call this table
the magic circle into which I was irresistibly drawn, all the time
feeling a kind of holy awe, which prevented me from at once yielding
to my inclination. At last, one day, when my master was absent, I
overcame my fear and sprang upon the table. What joy to sit in the
midst of the papers and books and rummage about amongst them!" Then
the cat dexterously opens a large book with its paws and endeavours
to comprehend the printed signs. At the very moment, however, when
it seems to feel a wonderful spirit taking possession of it, it is
surprised by its master who, with the cry: "Confounded animal!" rushes
at it with uplifted stick. But he immediately starts back, exclaiming:
"Cat! cat! you are reading! Nay, that I may not and will not forbid.
What a marvellous desire for knowledge you have been born with!"

Such a scene cannot strike us as unnatural in a purely fanciful tale,
when we have learned what could happen in real life. We seem to see
the rainbow of fantastic imagination stretching its arch over the
whole Romantic movement, from its first mild, though earnest, herald
to its last weird, mannered exponent, from Wackenroder to Hoffmann.
When, in the Life of Tieck, we find innumerable records of similar
hallucinations, we begin to suspect that there is nothing, however
fantastic, to be found in the Romanticists' writings which their
fevered vision did not persuade them that they saw in real life.

It is exceedingly interesting to observe, not only the influence which
Wackenroder's moods and emotions exercise upon Tieck, but also the part
which the latter, thus influenced, takes in Wackenroder's work. The
first thing which strikes one is, that Tieck, hitherto able only during
the emancipating moments of production to rouse himself out of dark,
William Lovell-like moods and give his rich talent free play, learns
from Wackenroder to believe in imagination and art as mighty powers in
human life, thereby arriving at the only firm basis for a philosophy
of life to which he ever attained. The second is, that he, the less
independent spirit of the two, following in Wackenroder's footsteps,
accentuates all his tendencies, carrying them to wildly fantastic, yet
natural conclusions.

It is in those portions of the _Herzensergiessungen_ in which Tieck
collaborated, that the Roman Catholic tendency appears undisguisedly.
It was Tieck who made the painter Antonio worship, not art alone, but
also "the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Apostles"; and Tieck's is the
dictum, that true love of art must be a "religious love or a beloved
religion." But most remarkable of all as a biographical document is a
letter, which, though repudiated by Tieck, was certainly written by
him, the letter in which a young man, a disciple of Albert Dürer, who
has come to Rome to study art, describes his conversion to Catholicism.
It takes place in St. Peter's. "The sonorous Latin chants, which,
rising and falling, penetrated the swelling waves of music like ships
making their way through the waves of the sea, raised my soul higher
and ever higher. When the music had pervaded my entire being and was
flowing through all my veins, I roused myself from inward contemplation
and looked around me, and the whole temple seemed to me to be alive, so
intoxicated was I with the music. At this moment it ceased; a priest
advanced to the high-altar, and with impressive gesture lifted high the
Host in view of the assembled multitude. All sank upon their knees, and
trumpets and I know not what mighty instruments crashed and boomed the
spirit of adoration into my very soul. Then all at once it seemed to me
as though that whole kneeling multitude were praying for the salvation
of my soul, and I mingled my prayer with theirs."

This passage is of peculiar importance because it contains a conclusive
proof (one overlooked by that most thorough of observers and critics,
Hettner) that the tendency to Catholicism had its root in the very
first principle of the Romantic movement. Both Hettner and Julian
Schmidt attach too much importance to the fact that Schlegel, as an old
man, in his well-known letter to a French lady, ascribes this Catholic
tendency simply to a _prédilection d'artiste_. For the reason, the
origin, of the artistic predilection is to be found in the original
revulsion from the rational.

But the tendency in the direction of Catholicism was not the only one
of Wackenroder's tendencies which was immediately seized upon and
exaggerated by Tieck and his school. In the _Fantasien über die Kunst_
Wackenroder praises music as the art of arts, the art which above all
others is capable of condensing and preserving the emotions of the
human heart, of teaching us "to feel feeling." What else, what more,
did the Romanticists feel? This exactly suited Tieck. Wackenroder
proclaims the superiority of music over poetry, and affirms that the
language of music is the richer of the two. To whom could this appeal
as much as to the man whose poems are rather an expression of the moods
in which poetry is written than poetry itself, rather moods of art than
works of art?

Tieck goes further than Wackenroder, and from music selects
instrumental music as that in which alone art is really free,
emancipated from all the restraints of the outer world. Hoffman too,
musician as well as poet, calls instrumental music the most romantic
of all the arts; and it may be mentioned as a striking instance of
the coherence which invariably exists between the great intellectual
phenomena of an age, as a proof of the fact that the Romanticists, with
all their supposed and all their real independence and spontaneity,
were unconsciously yielding to and following an inevitable general
tendency, that it is just at this time that Beethoven emancipates
instrumental music, and raises it to its highest development.

Enthusiasm for musical intensity and fervour having thus found its
way into literature, Tieck soon arrives at the point of regarding
emotional, melodious sound as the only true, the only pure poetry. His
_Love Story of Fair Magelone_ is a good example of this. Even in the
prose portions of the tale everything rings and resounds--the hero's
emotions and the landscape which serves as a background for them. The
Count hears none of the sounds around him; for "the music within him
drowned the rustling of the trees and the splashing of the fountains."
But this inward music in its turn is drowned by the sweet strains of
real instruments. "The music flowed like a murmuring brook, and he saw
the charm of the Princess come floating upon the silver stream, saw its
waves kiss the hem of her garment.... Music was now the only movement,
the only life in nature." Then the music dies away. "Like a stream
of blue light" it disappears into the void; and forthwith the knight
himself begins to sing.

In the "Garden of Poesy," of which we read in _Zerbino_, roses and
tulips, birds and the azure of the skies, fountains and storms, streams
and spirits, all sing. We read in _Bluebeard_ that "the flowers
kissed each other melodiously." In this literature everything has its
music--the moonlight, scents, painting; and then on the other hand we
read of the beams, the fragrance, and the shapes of music: "They sang
with melodious throats, keeping time with the music of the moonbeams."
The Romanticists had turned their backs upon material reality.
Definite, corporeal form, nay, even a distinct representation of mental
conditions was impossible to them. This was not what they aimed at. In
their eyes tangibility was coarse and vulgar. Every distinct feature
melts away in a sort of dissolving view. They are afraid of losing in
profundity and infinity what they might possibly gain in restraint and
plastic power.

All the masters of the school agree on this point. First and foremost
we have Novalis. His _Hymns to Night_, and indeed all his lyrics, are
night and twilight poetry, in the dusk of which no distinct outlines
are possible. His psychological aim was, as he himself says, to fathom
the nameless, unconscious powers of the soul. Therefore his æsthetic
theory is, that language ought to become musical, to become song again;
and he also maintains that in a poetical work there need be no unity
except that of spirit, that unity of idea or action is unnecessary.
"One can imagine," he says, "tales without more coherence than the
different stages of a dream, poems which are melodious and full of
beautiful words, but destitute of meaning or connection; at most,
comprehensible stanzas here and there, like fragments of perfectly
unrelated things. This true poetry can of course only have a general
allegorical significance and an indirect effect, like music."

How entirely this harmonises with the theories of Friedrich Schlegel!
Schlegel, whose nature was a series of moods, who had not strength of
will to carry out any plan, whose own career resembles an arabesque
beginning with a thyrsus and ending with a cross composed of a knife
and fork, says: "The arabesque, the simple musical swaying of the line
itself, is the oldest, the original form in which human imagination
takes shape. Its contours are no more definite than those of the clouds
in the evening sky."

The saying is apt when applied, not to imagination in general, but to
the imagination of the Romanticists. Tieck's lyrics resemble Goethe's
as the clouds on the horizon resemble snow-clad mountains. Our attitude
to the lyric poetry of the Romanticists resembles that of Polonius
to the cloud: "Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a
camel?--By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.--Methinks it is
like a weasel.--It is backed like a weasel.--Or like a whale?--Very
like a whale." In Novalis, in the poems at any rate, we have still
tangible, distinct artistic form, in Tieck's writings everything floats
in a sort of mist or vapour of form supposed to correspond to the
mysterious, expectant fervour of the theme. The work of art is stayed
and fixed in its first, embryonic, vapour-ball stage. This elementary
product of the imagination is designated primitive poetry. In order
to reduce clearly defined poetic art once more to primeval poetry,
all definite forms must be dissolved and kneaded together. Tieck
preferred those works of the great poets which they wrote before their
style was developed, or which they chose to leave tolerably formless
(he confesses that not one of Shakespeare's plays produced such an
impression on him as _Pericles_, only part of which is genuine), and
he himself, following in the track of _Pericles_, produced such works
as _Genoveva_ and _Octavian_, in which the epic, lyric, and dramatic
styles are all minced up together.

This medley of styles was adopted in Denmark. It was well suited to the
subject of Oehlenschläger's _St. Hans Aßen Spil_ and fairly so to that
of his _Aladdin_; sometimes it produced very unsuccessful results, as
in the case of Hauch's _Hamadryaden_.

So great is Tieck's formlessness, so impossible is it to him (in his
Romantic period) to condense, that he is inefficient even in pure
lyric poetry. He may talk much of music and of the music of words, but
he is wanting in the gift of rhythm; he does not seem to have had a
correct ear. A. W. Schlegel was infinitely Tieck's superior in this
respect, as is proved by his admirable translations of the songs in
_As You Like It_. But of Tieck and most of the Romanticists it is true
that, in spite of all their talk of melodious style, they themselves
were only melodious when they reverted to those southern measures, to
the exact rules of which they were obliged to conform. They filled
in the framework of sonnet and canzonet as ladies fill in with
embroidery an outline designed upon canvas, crowding in rhymes in such
superabundance that the meaning was often swamped by them. Tieck writes
in _Magelone_:--

    Von Lieb ist das Glück,
    Die Stunden,
    Sie fliehen zurück;
    Und selige Lust
        Sie stillet,
    Die trunkene, wonneklopfende Brust."

In Baggesen's _Faust_ we find the following rather overdone parody of
this Romantic jingle:--

    "Mit Ahnsinn Wahnsinn, lächelndweinend,
    Mit Schiefe, Tiefe, dunkelmeinend,
    Der Enge Läng' entflammt in weiten Breiten,
    Muss licht der Dichter durch die Zeiten gleiten."

And it was not only metres that the Romanticists borrowed from the
Spaniards and Italians, but all kinds of technical tricks. They
naively set to work to produce a lyrical picture with the assistance
of assonances and tragic vowel sounds. Every vowel and consonant in
the alphabet was pressed into the service in turn. Forty sonorous
as in succession are supposed to induce a cheerful frame of mind in
the reader, and a score or so of sombre, mournful us make his flesh
creep. Take as an example Tieck's melancholy U-Romance of old Sir
Wulf, who is carried off by the devil. In it he goes the length of
using _begunnte_ instead of _begann_ for the sake of tragic effect.
When the reader's nerves have been narcotised for half-an-hour by
such terminations as Unke--Sturme--hinunter--begunnte--verdunkeln
--verschlungen--Wulfen--Münze gulden--grossen Kluften-rucke,
Drucke--thuen, Zünften--lugen--bedunken--tiefen Brünsten--vielen
Unken, die heulten und wunken--zu dem Requiem des todten Wulfen, den
der dunkle Satan mit vielen Wunden--erschlüge--when nothing but u-tu-tu
is sounding in his ears, he has reached the climax, language has become
music, and he floats off on the stream of an emotional mood. It is in
drama that this vowel-music is most comical. In Friedrich Schlegel's
_Alarkos_, that arsenal of assonances and alliterations, the hero
sometimes for two or three pages in succession ends every line with the
same vowel:--

    "Ihr Männer all', Pilaster dieser alten Burg,
    Genossen, Tapfre! die umkränzt mein Ritterthum,
    Dess Glorie wir oft neu gefärbt mit hoher Lust
    In unsres kühnen Herzens eignem heissen Blut--
    Die alte Ehr' in tiefer Brust, der lichte Ruhm,
    Dem festen Aug' in Nacht der einzig helle Punkt,
    So folgten Einem Stern wir all' vereint im Bund;
    Der Bund ist nun zerschlagen durch den herben Fluch,
    Der mich im Strudel fortreisst fremd' und eigner Schuld.--
    Mich zwingt, von hier zu eilen, ein geheimer Ruf,
    Nach fernen Orten muss ich in drei Tagen, muss
    Ein gross Geschäft vollenden, und die Frist ist kurz."

And on it goes--Burg, Lust, Muth, Schutz, Kund, Brust, Furcht, und,
Ruhms, thun, Bund, uns, &c., &c. One derives quite as much satisfaction
from the assonances alone as from the complete lines. When _Alarkos_
was performed in Weimar and the audience burst into uproarious
laughter, Goethe rose from his place in the stalls, cried in a voice of
thunder: "Man lache nicht!" and signalled to the police that all who
continued to laugh were to be turned out. We who read _Alarkos_ now,
are thankful that no one has the right to turn us out.

The reason why the Romanticists subjected themselves to all this
metrical restraint is not far to seek. These compulsory, cold metres
exactly suit writers in whom metrical skill is combined with a complete
lack of inventive power. But _terza rima, ottava rima_, and sonnets are
an insufficient disguise for the formlessness of their matter. When the
mist is so thick that it can be cut with a knife, the Romanticists cut
it into fourteen pieces and call it a sonnet.

In the unrestricted metres, formlessness and prosiness reach a climax.
What, for instance, can be said for such lines as the following, from
Tieck's _Römische Reise_?--

    "Weit hinter uns liegt Rom,
    Auch mein Freund ist ernst,
    Der mit mir nach Deutschland kehrt,
    Der mit allen Lebens Kräften
    Sich in alte und neue Kunst gesenkt,
    Der edle Rumohr,
    Dess Freundschaft ich in mancher kranken Stunde
    Trost und Erheiterung danke."[4]

That well-known drastic critic of the Romanticists, Arnold
Ruge, supplied an appendix to this, which runs:--

    "Hochgeehrter Herr Hofrath!
    Dieser unmittelbaren Lyrik,
    Das verzeihn Sie gütigst, weiss ich
    Mit dem besten Willen,
    Sowohl in alter als in neuer Poesie,
    Nichts zur Seite zu stellen,
    Als etwa diesen
    Schwachen Versuch einer freien Nachbildung."[5]

But the attempt to make away with language in favour of music reaches
a climax when Tieck goes so far as to endow music itself, or musical
instruments, with the power of speech. Occasionally the result is
comical, as in _Sternbald_ (first edition), where the instruments all
talk, the flute saying:--

    "Unser Geist ist himmelblau,
    Führt Dich in die blaue Ferne.
    Zarte Klänge locken Dich,
    Ein Gemisch von andern Tönen.
    Lieblich sprechen wir hinein,
    Wenn die ändern munter singen,
    Deuten blaue Berge, Wolken,
    Lieben Himmel sänftlich an,
    Wie der letzte leise Grund
    Hinter grünen frischen Baümen."[6]

This train of thought received its most classic expression in the poem
with which _Phantasus_ ends, the theme of which is, in the manner of
Calderon, repeated with innumerable variations:--

    "Liebe denkt in süssen Tönen,
    Denn Gedanken stehn zu fern,
    Nur in Tönen mag sie gern
    Alles, was sie will, verschönen.

    Drum ist ewig uns zugegen,
    Wenn Musik mit Klängen spricht,
    Ihr die sprache nicht gebricht,
    Holde Lieb' auf allen Wegen;
    Liebe kann sich nicht bewegen,
    Leihet sie den Odem nicht."[7]

This superhuman love, which differs from ordinary human love in being
unable to employ language as an organ, finds absolutely appropriate
expression in music; language is only employed to condemn itself and to
declare that it cedes its place to music. To such a degree of subtlety
and ultrarefinement does the Romantic spirit gradually lead.

The next step is that which Tieck takes in his comedy, _Die verkehrte
Welt_ ("The Topsy-Turvy World"), namely, the employing of language
exclusively on account of its musical qualities. To this comedy there
is prefixed as overture a symphony, which, in its essentially musical
vagueness, displays really classic originality. Music had never been
paraphrased into words in this manner before; hence the experiment is
to this day regarded as distinctly typical. The man who has the courage
to carry his madness to its final consequence, by doing so endows this
madness, in which there is method, with living vigour.


Andante in D Major.

"If we desire to enjoy ourselves, it is not of so much consequence how
we do it, as that we really do it. From gravity we turn to gaiety;
then, weary of gaiety, return to gravity; but let us observe ourselves
too closely, in either case have our aim too constantly in view, and
there's an end as well to real seriousness as to unaffected gaiety."


"But are reflections such as these appropriate in a symphony? Why
begin so sedately? No! no indeed! I will rather at once set all the
instruments to play together."


"I have only to will, but to will with intelligence; for the storm does
not rise all at once, in a moment; it announces itself, it grows, thus
awaking sympathy, awe, fear, and joy; otherwise it would but occasion
empty amazement and fright. It is difficult to read at sight, how much
more difficult, then, to hear at sight. But now we are right in the
midst of the tumult. Bang, ye kettle-drums! Trumpets, crash!"


"Ha! the turmoil, the onslaughts, the desperate strife of sounds!
Whither are ye rushing? Whence do ye come? They plunge like heroes into
the thickest of the fray; these fall, and expire; those return, wounded
and faint, seeking consolation and friendship. Hark, the galloping,
snorting horses! The organ rolls, like thunder among the mountains.
There is a rush and a roar as when a cataract, despairingly seeking its
own destruction, flings itself over the naked ledge and rages down,
deeper and ever deeper down, into the bottomless abyss."


_Violino Primo Solo._

"What! It is not permissible, not possible, to think in sounds, and to
make music in words and thoughts? Were it so, how hard would be the
fate of us artists! What poor language, and still poorer music! Do ye
not think many thoughts so delicate, so spiritual, that in despair they
take refuge in music, there at last to find rest? How often does a
whole day spent in racking thought leave nought behind but a buzz and a
hum, which time alone changes into melody?"



All is in order, the stage is arranged, the prompter in his place, the
audience has arrived. Expectation is aroused, curiosity stirred; but
few think of the end of the piece, and how they will then say, "Was it
anything out of the ordinary?" Give good heed! You must, or 'twill all
be confusion. Yet be not too eager, lest you should see and hear more
than is meant! Hear and give heed! But give heed as you ought! O hark!
Hark! Hark!! Hark!!![8]

One sees that Kierkegaard, in his well-known essay on _Don Juan_ (in
the concluding chorus of which we seem to hear the footsteps of the
Commandant--"Hör, hör, hör Mozart's Don Juan!"), is merely going a
little farther in the direction indicated by Tieck; and it is very
evident how close the relation is between Tieck's first conception of
the romantic ideal and Hoffmann's transformations of music into the
emotional outbursts and weird visions of _Kreisleriana_.

But Hoffmann, who possessed such great and original musical gifts
that he can hardly be considered an author pure and simple, but must
be treated as a poet-musician, was far more in earnest than Tieck in
this matter of making music in words. He lived and moved and had his
being in music; he was as fertile a composer as he was an author, and
many of his writings are fantasies on the subject of music or of the
great composers. When ill he was wont, in his feverish wanderings,
to confuse his attendants with musical instruments. Of one who had a
soft, languishing voice, he said: "I have been tormented to-day by the
flute." Of another, with a deep bass voice: "That insufferable bassoon
has been plaguing me the whole afternoon."

When he introduces Gluck into his _Fantasiestücke_, he makes him speak
of the intervals as if they were living beings. "Once again it was
night. Two giants in shining cuirasses rushed upon me--the Keynote
and the Fifth! They seized me, but their eyes beamed mildly on me: 'I
know what fills thy breast with longing; that gentle, winning youth,
the Third, will soon appear among the giants.'" Kreisler too is made
to talk of stabbing himself with a gigantic Fifth. What in the other
Romanticists is fantastic sentimentality, in Hoffmann becomes weird

In the sketch entitled _Kreisler's musikalisch poetischer Klub_, he
gives to the characteristic qualities of certain notes the names of
colours, and thereby produces a picture of a connected series of mental
impressions. He had the keen perception peculiar to certain delicately
organised, nervous temperaments, of the relationship which undoubtedly
exists between sounds and colours.

As an example of Hoffmann's advance on Tieck's attempts to express pure
music in words, note the passage which describes how, after Kreisler
has played, a marvellous rush of magnificent chords and runs is heard
within the pianoforte itself. There is a genuinely Romantic blending
of the impressions of the different senses in the attempt made to
give some idea of this music: "Its fragrance shimmered in flaming,
mysteriously interwoven circles." On this follows a representation, in
emotional language, of the various keys and chords, a thing hitherto

_Chord of A Flat Minor_ (_mezzo forte_).

"Ah!--they bear me away to the land of eternal longing; but as they lay
hold of me, anguish awakes and rends my breast."

_E Major Sixth_ (_ancora piu forte_).

"Stand steadfast, my heart! Break not, struck by the scorching ray that
has pierced my breast. Be of good courage, my soul! Mount high into the
element which gave thee birth and is thy home!"

_E Major Third_ (_forte_).

"They have crowned me with a glorious crown, but the sparkles and
flashes of its diamonds are the thousand tears I have shed, and in
its gold gleam the flames that have consumed me. Courage and power,
confidence and strength befit him who is called to reign in the
spiritual realm."

_A Minor_ (_harpeggiando dolce_).

"Why wouldst thou flee, lovely maiden? Thou canst not, for thou art
held fast by invisible bands. Nor canst thou tell what it is that has
taken up its abode in thy breast. 'Tis like a gnawing pain, yet it
makes thee tremble with joy. But thou wilt know all when I talk to
thee fondly in that spirit language which I can speak and thou canst

_E Flat Major_ (_forte_).

"Follow him! follow him! His raiment is green like the green of the
forest; the sweet tones of the horn echo in his wistful words! List to
the rustling in the bushes, list to the horn blasts, full of rapture
and pain! It is he! Let us hasten to meet him!"

Then finally we have the parody of all this in _Kater Murr_, where
Hoffmann reproduces caterwauling in verse, a glossary of the different
sounds being provided.

It is in this entirely musical poetry that Wackenroder's idea of
art attains to its truest and highest expression. The vigorous
pantheism which in Goethe's case is plastic, and finds expression
in the creation of the _Diana der Epheser_, here becomes musical. In
all Tieck's early works, with their piety, their sensuality, their
reminiscences of Wackenroder and of Goethe, we feel the rush of a
strong, broad wave of Romantic pantheism. In _Sternbald_, for example,
he writes: "We often listen intently and peer into the future, in
eager expectation of the new phenomena that will soon pass before us
in motley, magic garb. At such times we feel as if the mountain stream
were trying to sing its melody more clearly, as if the tongues of the
trees were loosened, that their rustling might be to us intelligible
song. Soon the flute-like notes of love are heard in the distance; our
hearts beat high at his coming; time stands still as if arrested by
a magic word; the shining moments dare not flee. We are enclosed, as
it were, in a magic circle of melody, and rays of a new, transfigured
existence penetrate like mysterious moonlight into our actual life."
And again: "O impotent Art! how stammering and childish are thine
accents compared with the full swelling organ tones that well forth
from the inmost depths, from mountain and valley, forest and stream!
I hear, I feel how the eternal World Spirit sweeps all the strings of
the terrible harp with constraining fingers, how all the most diverse
forms are born of his playing and speed throughout nature upon spirit
wings. My little human heart in wild enthusiasm takes up the contest
and fights itself weary and faint in its rivalry with the highest....
The eternal melody, jubilant and exultant, storms past me."

Both life and poetry are here resolved into music.

In all ages, and in every domain of art, the artist has at times been
tempted to display his mastery over his material by defying it while
using it. In the history of sculpture came a period when, irritated
by the heaviness of stone, sculptors endeavoured to compel it to
express lightness and airiness; or else, like the mannerists of the
rococo period, imitated the art of the painter. In like manner the
Romanticists would fain have language regarded only as a thing akin to
music; their endeavour is to use words more for their sound than their
meaning. They tried to make word-music, much as the prose authors of
our own day try, with more or less success, to make word-pictures. It
is not difficult to see what led to this particular crotchet. Their
antipathy to purpose, their devotion to irony, naturally induced the
desire not to be bound by, not to be responsible for, their words. They
use them ironically, in such a manner that they can retract them. They
will not have them standing solidly before them, indicating an aim, a
purpose. Just as, by conceiving of liberty as licence, they succeeded
in returning to a point where it was possible for them to do this, or
to do that, as the fancy took them, so they succeeded, by conceiving of
language simply as sound, in making it the vehicle of emotion without
tendency, that is, without relation to life and action. They did not
really escape tendency; that is an impossibility; but, as theirs was
not the tendency upwards and onwards, they gravitated downwards and
backwards. And, since they were perpetually compelling words to declare
themselves incompetent and to abdicate in favour of music, it was only
natural that the musical composers also, influenced by the spirit of
the times, should endeavour to express the Romantic ideal in their art,
with those means to which the poets in their impotence had constantly
attempted to recur.

Tieck's dramatised fairy-tales, of which _Bluebeard_ may be taken as a
specimen, have a great resemblance to opera libretti. The fantastic,
legend-like productions of the Romanticists are, indeed, precisely
the sort of thing demanded by opera. There would have been a future
for Tieck as a writer of opera libretti. As a matter of fact, he
only wrote one, and that one was never set to music. The theories
of Romanticism nevertheless found due expression in music. E. T. A.
Hoffmann represents the transition from Romantic authorship to Romantic
musical composition. As an operatic composer, he is not only the
musical interpreter of Calderon, the poet of past days most admired by
the Romanticists, but also collaborates fraternally with contemporary
Romanticists. He writes music for Brentano's _Die lustige Musikanten_
and Zacharias Werner's _Das Kreuz an der Ostsee_, and bases an
excellent three-act opera on Fouqué's _Undine_.

As an operatic writer he is, however, less the musical genius than the
gifted translator of poetry into the language of music. In the opinion
of the most competent judges, he was only thoroughly successful with
subjects which harmonised with his own literary leaning to the terrible
and the supernatural. We have him at his best, for instance, in the
songs of the wild, inhuman Teutons in _Das Kreuz an der Ostsee_, with
their expression of untamable passions, and in the fairy tale-like,
supernatural scenes of _Undine_, which produce a feeling of agreeable

No less an authority than Karl Maria von Weber bestowed hearty praise
upon the last-mentioned opera. And Weber himself is, beyond comparison,
the greatest of the composers who succeeded in giving expression in
music to the Romantic theory of art. In his choice of themes he follows
closely in the track of the Romanticists. In _Preciosa_ the joys of a
free, vagabond life are extolled, just as they are in Tieck's _Franz
Sternbald_ and Eichendorff's _Leben eines Taugenichts_ ("Life of a
Ne'er-Do-Well"). In _Oberon_ we are transported into the fairy world
of Shakespeare's _Midsummer Night's Dream_, the play which served as
the point of departure for all Tieck's fantastic comedies. And in _Der
Freischütz_, Weber, like the Romanticists in their later periods, has
recourse to the popular in his art, makes use of national, popular
melodies, just as the Romanticists of Germany and Denmark made use
of national, popular songs, and, like them, introduces popular
traditions and superstitions. No one witnessing a performance of
_Der Freischütz_ in a German theatre could be for a moment in doubt,
even though he were deaf, of its being a Romantic opera. He sees the
gloomy ravine where the spirits of nature dwell, the weird moonlight
dance (scenes that remind one of the temptations of St. Anthony in
old Dutch paintings), and, finally, the wild chase in which, with
a marvellously illusive effect, shadows projected by a species of
magic lantern pursue each other through the air. But to the listening
connoisseur the real interest lies in the attitude of the composer to
all these external conditions. He feels that Weber treats his subject
much as the Romanticists do theirs, only with greater genius. He
too drives his art to one of its extremes. Just as the Romanticists
are inclined to conceive of speech as only sound and rhythm, he is
inclined to treat music as if it were simply rhythm. Samiel's _Motiv_,
for example, is more rhythmic than melodic, and consequently produces
a coarser, more realistic, but also more picturesque effect. The
Romanticists write musical poetry; Weber composes pictorial music.
While Beethoven presents us with a purely psychological picture,
represents nothing tangible, nothing but his own soul, Weber gives
us physical characterisation. He always relies upon unmistakable
outward phenomena, on something of which his audience already have a
preconceived idea, as, for instance, fairies. Except in the Pastoral
Symphony, Beethoven only paints the impression; Weber paints the thing
itself. He imitates the sounds of nature. He makes the violins moan to
represent the moaning of the trees; the rising of the moon is announced
and depicted by a chord. When he gives us a rhythmic succession of
non-resonant beats instead of waves of sound, i.e. makes a perfectly
arbitrary abstract use of the vehicle of his art; when he confines
himself to song and the simplest of harmonies, i.e. elects to be naïve
and popular; or when, in order to obtain a grotesque, wild, or spectral
effect, he gives instruments parts which lie outside their natural
province and compass (for instance deep tones to the clarinets), i.e.
employs the mediums of his art in a more strange and eccentric manner
than they had ever been employed before--in all these cases he is
a thorough-going Romanticist, one who, with his greater genius and
far more suitable medium, supplies the shortcomings of which we are
invariably conscious in the works of the Romantic poets.[9]

[1] Hettner, _Die romantische Schule_, 48.

[2] "The children of those Indian jugglers who swallow swords do not,
my son, learn the art by gulping down confectionery; they are trained
to swallow the sharp points of the bamboo, and by degrees arrive at
swords. If it be your desire, as a man, to digest the sword of science,
you must not, as a youth, feed on art confectionery."

[3] Köpke: _Tieck's Leben_, i. 177.


    "Far behind us lies Rome.
    My friend too is grave,
    The friend who returns with me to Germany,
    After devoting all his powers
    To the study of ancient and modern art--
    The noble Rumohr,
    To whose friendship I have owed comfort and cheer
    In many a suffering hour."


    "Honoured Herr Hofrath!
    I pray you to excuse me, but,
    With the best will in the world
    I cannot find,
    In ancient or in modern poetry,
    Anything to match this lyric outburst
    Except perhaps
    My own weak imitation of the same."

[6] "Our spirit, which is azure blue, transports thee to blue
distances. Sweet tones allure thee, a mingling of many sounds. When
the others sing bravely, we chime sweetly in, telling softly of blue
mountains, clouds, fair skies; we are like the faint, clear background
behind fresh green leaves."

[7] "Love thinks in melodious sounds; thoughts are too far to seek;
'tis with sweet sounds it beautifies its longings. Therefore love is
ever present with us when sweet music speaks; it needs no language, but
is helpless till it borrows the voice of music."

[8] Tieck, v. 285.

[9] Cf. George Sand: Introduction to _Mouny Robin_.



Wackenroder's book, which, as it were, indicates the attitude of
Romanticism to music, also indicates what its attitude is to be towards
art. Just as Winckelmann, with his first enthusiastic writings, had
awakened the desire to study antique art, now Wackenroder enlists men's
sympathies for medievalism.

In his naïve enthusiasm he begins by translating and paraphrasing
those portions of Vasari's old biographies of the famous painters
which describe the greatness and nobility of mind of the Italian
masters. Amongst others he extols Leonardo; but he neither grasps the
characteristics of the man nor gives us intelligent criticism of his
art; he simply eulogises him under the heading: _Das Muster eines
kunstreichen und dabei tiefgelehrten Malers, vorgestellt in dem Leben
des Leonardo da Vinci_ (The Gifted and Erudite Painter, as exemplified
in the Life of Leonardo da Vinci). The essay begins with the following
impulsive assertion: "The period of the resurrection of the art of
painting in Italy produced men to whom the generation of to-day
should look up as to glorified saints." The fact, actually chronicled
by Vasari, that the great painters of the Italian Renaissance led
singularly unsaintly lives, is entirely ignored. In its very germ
the Romantic conception of art is poisoned by the reaction towards
sentiment. The critic folds his hands to worship, and forgets to open
his eyes to see.

Amongst the translated fragments Wackenroder introduces a short
original essay, entitled _Longing for Italy_, in which we have the
first appearance of that enthusiasm for Italy which afterwards becomes
not only general, but almost obligatory. Love and longing for Italy
was nothing new in Germany. Goethe's father, who was no enthusiast,
had known this feeling; but now idolatry of an Italy which had no
resemblance to the real one became a necessary clause in the creed
of every genuine Romanticist. In poetry the longing for Italy found
expression in a profusion of lyrical poems, dilutions and attenuations
of that divine song of Mignon's, which is a picture as well as a poem.
Mignon is content with saying:

"Die Myrthe _still_ und _hoch_ der Lorbeer steht"; the Romantic poets
express themselves in superlatives. The Italy of literature in general
may perhaps be best and most briefly defined as the Italy of Leopold
Robert (though even this definition is too exact), a country which
never existed on any map but that of the Romanticists. The real Italy,
with its bright colours and its cheerful life, is not to be found.
Colour is replaced by ideal forms; movement is petrified, that it may
not disturb an interplay of beautiful waving lines. To the Romanticists
Italy became what Dulcinea was to Don Quixote, an ideal of which they
knew almost nothing beyond what was conveyed by a few general, vapid
descriptive phrases. When a definite, real country is advanced to be
the object of men's longings, the home of beauty, it gradually loses,
in their depictions of it, all its real, living beauty. But it never
was the real, living beauty of Italy which the later Romanticists
loved; it was Italy as a ruin; it was Catholicism as a mummy; it was
the dwarfed and stunted spirit of the people (Volksgeist), which,
hermetically sealed up by a partly ignorant, partly ambitious and
designing priesthood, has remained unenlightened and naïve. What they
admired here, as elsewhere, was the feeble, lifeless poetry of a day
that was dead and gone.

But this cult of Italy and of the pious, or seemingly pious Italian
painters, is only the stepping-stone by which the "Friar" passes
to the worship of his own particular idol, Albert Dürer. With his
enthusiasm for this apostle of German art is combined enthusiasm for
ancient Nuremberg. When Tieck and Wackenroder travelled together
through Germany in 1793, Nuremberg was their chief place of pilgrimage.
The oftener they saw the town, the more affection, nay devotion, did
they conceive for it. "The art life of Germany revealed itself to
them there in all its fulness. That of which they had hitherto only
divined the possibility, had here long been a living reality. How rich
in monuments of all the arts was this town, with its churches of St.
Sebald and St. Lorenz, its works by Albert Dürer, Vischer, and Krafft!
Artistic feeling and ardent industry had here elevated handicraft
to the rank of art. Every house was a monument of the past; every
well, every bench, bore witness to the citizens of the quiet, simple,
thoughtful life of their forefathers. No whitewash had as yet reduced
the houses to uniformity. There they stood in all their stateliness,
each with its carven imagery, borrowed from poem and legend. Ottnit,
Siegenot, Dietrich, and other old heroes, were to be seen above the
doors, guarding and protecting the home. Over the old imperial city,
with its marvels and its oddities, hung a fragrance which in other
places had long ago been blown away by the winds of political change
and enlightenment."[1] Nuremberg is, in very deed, a splendid old town,
but it is easy to understand the special attraction there must have
been for two budding Romanticists in its medievalism, its old Catholic
churches, its old houses with the Nibelungen heroes above the doors.
Their enthusiasm over the treasures of beautiful Nuremberg is, truth
to say, far more natural than the long blindness of the eighteenth
century to them. As to Lessing the word "Gothic" had simply meant
"barbaric," so to Winckelmann the German Renaissance had been a closed
book. Now the splendours of Nuremberg were gazed on by eager eyes.
In a species of æsthetic intoxication the friends wandered round the
churches and the churchyards; they stood by the graves of Albert Dürer
and Hans Sachs; a vanished world rose before their eyes, and the life
of ancient Nuremberg became to them the romance of art. The chapter
in the _Herzensergüsse_ entitled _In Memory of Albert Dürer_ is the
first-fruits of these sentiments, and at the same time an expression
of the warm patriotic feeling of the young author. "In the days when
Albert was wielding the brush, the German still played a distinctly
characteristic and notable part on the stage of the world; and Dürer's
pictures faithfully reproduce the serious, straightforward, strong
German character, its spirit as well as its outward lineaments. In our
days this vigorous German character has vanished, in art as well as
in life.... The German art of those days was a pious youth, who had
received a homely upbringing in a small town, amongst his relations--it
has now become the conventional man of the world, who has lost the
stamp of the small town, and along with it his originality."

Yet this patriotic feeling in art is not Wackenroder's fundamental
feeling; it is based upon a more comprehensive one. The little book
inveighs throughout against all intolerance in art. Freedom from every
compulsory rule, a freedom based upon deep and genuine love of beauty,
is proclaimed in language which betrays the mimosa-like sensitiveness
of this prophet of the new gospel of art. "He," says Wackenroder,
"whose more sensitive nerves are keenly alive to the mysterious
attraction which lies hidden in art, will often be deeply moved by
what leaves another callous. He has the good fortune to have more
frequent opportunities than other men for healthy mental excitement and

Such excitement and activity were, as we have seen, most easily and
most naturally called forth by the musical treatment of poetry and by
music itself--much less naturally by clearly defined corporeal forms of

If our supposition that Wackenroder's theory of art finds its true
and highest development in the distinctively musical type of poetry
be correct, it is easy to foretell what will be the result of Tieck's
determination to write (with the assistance of his friend's posthumous
papers) a tale embodying the "Friar's" longings and theories. The
letters written by the German painter in Rome to his friend in
Nuremberg became the germ of the new art-romance, _The Wanderings of
Franz Sternbald, a Story of Olden Germany_. The book takes its name
from its hero, a painter of the days of Albert Dürer. The delineation
of character is vague and weak; the action is swamped in dialogue;
events play as freely and fantastically as in dreams (and of dreams
we have any number) with the feeble talking figures who do duty
for heroes and heroines; and even the sequence of these events is
constantly interrupted by the insertion of songs improvised to order,
which may be best described by quoting a saying of Sternbald's friend,
Florestan, namely, that it ought to be possible to construct in words
and verse a whole conversation consisting of nothing but sound. When
the thread of event is most attenuated and the silk of the verse most
thinly spun, music proper is called in. The primitive strains of horn
or pipe are so frequently introduced that the author himself in a later
work, _Zerbino_, jests at this superfluity of horn music.

In one of Caroline Schlegel's letters we find Goethe's apt criticism
of the book. He said that it ought by rights to have been called
_Musical Wanderings_; that there was everything imaginable in it except
a painter; that if it were intended for an art-romance, art should
have received quite different and more comprehensive treatment; that
there was no real substance in the book, and that its artistic tendency
was an erroneous one; that there were beautiful sunsets in it, but
that they were repeated too often. Much severer, however, and more
penetrating is Caroline's own criticism. She writes: "As to Part First,
I shall only say that I am still in doubt whether Tieck did not intend
to represent Sternbald's devotion to art as something regrettable, a
mistaken, fruitless devotion, like Wilhelm Meister's. If this be the
case, then there is another fault, namely, the want of _human_ interest
in the story. Part Second throws no light on the matter. In it there is
the same vagueness, the same want of power. One is always hoping for
something decisive, always expecting Franz to make notable progress
in one direction or another; but he never does. Once more we read of
beautiful sunrises, the charms of spring, the alternation of day and
night, the light of sun, moon, and stars, the singing of birds. It
is all very charming, but there is a want of substance in it, and a
certain paltriness both in Sternbald's moods and emotions and in the
delineation of them. There are almost too many poems, and they have as
little connection with each other as have the loosely strung together
events and anecdotes, in many of which latter, moreover, one detects
all sorts of imitation."

But if there be no action in this book, what does it contain?
Reflections--in the first instance upon art, in the second upon nature.

First we have endless meditations and quantities of aphorisms on art
and poetry, interspersed with feeble lyric poems, which are hardly
distinguishable one from the other. Only one among the number, a
longish poem on Arion, is at all remarkable. It indicates the spirit
of the book. The three leaders of Romanticism, A. W. Schlegel, Tieck,
and Novalis, all sang the praises of Arion, and somewhat later he was
hymned in Danish by P. L. Möller. It was natural that the hearts of
the Romanticists should be stirred by the legend of the poet-subduer
of nature, who roused the enthusiasm of the very monsters of the sea,
rode upon dolphins, was invulnerable, invincible, of immortal fame.
He was their symbol, their hero. All their poetry is, in a certain
sense, an attempt to expound the legend of Arion; and what else are
all the echoes and imitations of their works, the books which glorify
poets, artists, actors, troubadours, heroic and irresistible tenors?
The figure of Narcissus would be the fitting frontispiece for all these
innumerable volumes.

As a matter of fact the main ingredients of _Sternbald_ are trite
refutations of the trite objection to art, that it is useless, trivial
reasons for art being national ("since we are not Italians, and an
Italian can never feel as a German does"), and hymns in praise of
Albert Dürer. It is their admiration for Dürer that first brings the
two lovers together, just as Werther and Lotte were first united
by their common enthusiasm for Klopstock. The same ideas found
expression in Danish in Sibbern's _Gabrielis_ and Oehlenschläger's
_Correggio_. Parts of the plot of _Correggio_ are anticipated; we
have, for instance, the artist painting his own wife as the Madonna,
and his grief at having to part with his work. A long word-symphony
in honour of Strasburg Cathedral is followed by bitter thrusts at
the "uncouth masses of stone in Milan and Pisa, and that disjointed
building, the Cathedral of Lucca." Then we have admiration and praise
of Till Eulenspiegel and Hans Wurst (these gentlemen being supposed to
represent fancy and irony), and great enthusiasm for Dürer's stag with
the cross between its antlers, and for the "simple-hearted, pious, and
touching" manner in which the knight in front of it bends his knees.
The picture in question is undoubtedly a beautiful, simple-minded
production, but we cannot help smiling at the serious attempt made to
prove that of all the ways in which the legs of a kneeling man can be
bent, this is by far the most Christian.

Again and again the idea recurs that all true art must be allegorical,
that is to say, marrowless and bloodless. Most of the poems are
allegories. The principal one is the long allegory of Phantasus,
wretched verse without one spark of imagination:

    "Der launige Phantasus,
    Ein wunderlicher Alter,
    Folgt stets seiner närrischen Laune.
    Sie haben ihn jetzt festgebunden,
    Dass er nur seine Possen lässt,
    Vernunft im Denken nicht stört,
    Den armen Menschen nicht irrt," &c., &c.[2]

Reminiscences of this satire upon the attacks made on imagination
by the prosaic are to be found here and there in Andersen's _Fairy
Tales_. The poem, which is recited in the moonlight, indicates as an
ideal subject for the painter a pilgrim in the moonlight, the emblem
of humanity: "For what are we but wandering, erring pilgrims? Can
aught but the light from above illumine our path?" There are distinct
traces of this same tendency in our own poet, Hauch, with his perpetual
pointing "upwards" and his partiality for pilgrims and hermits.

But in Romanticism at this stage, in spite of all its bloodless
spirituality, sensuality still wells up strong and unrestrained. Franz
Sternbald, the trained artist, maintains the superiority of Titian
and Correggio to all other painters. Of Correggio, whom he especially
favours, he says: "Who would dare to vie with him, at least in the
representation of voluptuous love? To no other human spirit has there
been granted such a revelation of the glories of the realm of the

This standpoint was, as every one knows, soon relinquished, consistency
leading to the adoption of another. The brothers Sulpice and Melchior
Boisserée of Cologne were in Paris in 1802, when Friedrich Schlegel was
studying there, and they had private lectures from him. The old German
pictures in the Louvre reminded the young men of old paintings in their
native town, which the prevailing academic taste had consigned to
oblivion. In consequence of Napoleon's systematic pillage of pictures,
there was a good collection of German ones in Paris, which made the
study of them an easy matter.

The best idea of what the German medieval artists had produced was to
be obtained from the quantities of paintings and wood and stone carving
which came into the market after the suppression of monasteries and
charitable foundations. At that time men had lost all appreciation for
monuments of art; with the utmost indifference they saw churches turned
into quarries, and the most precious artistic treasures dispersed to
the four winds. Masterpieces were sold for a trifle, and the purchasers
of the supposed old rubbish were actually pitied. Altar-pieces
were made into window-shutters, dovecots, tables, and roofing; the
caretakers in the monasteries often used old paintings on wood as fuel,
for as a rule even the best were unrecognisable, from taper-smoke,
dust, and dirt.[3]

After Friedrich Schlegel, in his periodical, Europa, had drawn
attention to the wealth of old German paintings, the brothers Boisserée
began to collect the scattered treasures, travelling up and down the
Rhine and throughout the Netherlands to track out the long-despised
works. By 1805 a collection of Flemish and German masters had been
made, which exercised great influence on the history of art.

The revival of enthusiasm for early German art led to predilection for
the pre-Raphaelite Italian painters. All honour to the pre-Raphaelites!
From Fiesole and Giotto to Masaccio, Botticelli, Ghirlandajo, Luca
Signorelli, Perugino, and Pinturicchio, all Europe pays them the
homage that is their due. But Friedrich Schlegel, in his article in
_Europa_ on Raphael, exalts the pre-Raphaelite at the expense of the
succeeding period. He says: "With this newer school, typified by such
names as Raphael, Correggio, Giulio Romano, and Michael Angelo, begins
the decay of art." And this is considered to be so patent a fact that
Schlegel does not think it necessary to offer any justification of his
assertion; nay, two pages later he actually confesses that he has not
seen any of Michael Angelo's works. Here we have the perfection of
Romantic insolence. This paragon of an art critic, who, in order the
better to exalt the old monkish pictures, dates the decay of art from
Raphael, Correggio, Titian, and Michael Angelo, admits without the
slightest feeling of shame that he has not seen so much as one of the
works of the greatest of these men. Despising such a paltry thing as
knowledge, he judges him with his inner consciousness.

But it is unnecessary to anticipate; for in _Sternbald_ itself monkish
piety, with all its languishing fanaticism, has already come to life
again in an unctuousness without parallel. This it was which so
irritated Goethe. The idea that piety lies at the foundation of all
true art, a theory which was speedily adopted by the whole school
of neo-German "Nazarenic" painters, he constantly jeered at. An
expression he often used in speaking of the "Nazarenes" was, that they
Sternbaldised (_sternbaldisierten_).

The essay on Winckelmann which Goethe published about this time was a
direct attack upon the Romanticists. In it he writes: "This description
of the antique mind, with its concentration upon this world and its
blessings, leads directly to the reflection that such advantages
are only compatible with a pagan spirit. That self-confidence, that
living and acting in the present, that simple reverence for the
gods as ancestors and admiration for them as if they were works of
art, that resignation to an inevitable fate, and that belief in a
future of highly prized posthumous fame, all these things together
constitute such an indivisible whole, unite in such a manner to form
the human existence designed by nature herself, that those pagans show
themselves alike robust and sane in the supreme moment of enjoyment
and in the dread moment of self-sacrifice or annihilation. This pagan
spirit is apparent in all Winckelmann's actions and writings.... And
we must keep this frame of mind of his, this remoteness from, nay,
this actual antipathy to the Christian standpoint, in view when we
judge his so-called change of religion. Winckelmann felt that, in
order to be a Roman in Rome, in order really to live the life of the
place, it was necessary that he should become a member of the Catholic
Church, subscribe to its beliefs, and conform to its usages.... The
decision came all the more easily to him in that, born pagan as he
was, Protestant baptism had not availed to make a Christian of him....
There is no doubt that a certain opprobrium, which it seems impossible
to avoid, attaches to every man who changes his religion. This shows
us that what men set most store by is steadfastness; and they value it
the more because, themselves divided into parties, they have their own
peace and security always in view. Where destiny rather than choice
has placed us, there we are to remain.... So much for a very serious
side of the question; there is a much lighter and more cheerful one.
Certain positions taken up by others, of which we do not approve,
certain of their moral offences, have a peculiar attraction for our
imagination.... People whom we should otherwise think of as merely
notable, or amiable, now seem to us very mysterious, and it cannot be
denied that Winckelmann's change of religion has added greatly to the
_romance_ of his life and character."

We can fancy how such an utterance enraged the Romanticists, who
at that time were all on the point of going over to Catholicism.
Thenceforward there was no more worship of Goethe. Tieck was in Rome,
and the report spread that he was about to embrace the Catholic faith,
to which his wife and daughter had become converts. Friedrich Schlegel
was preparing to take the final step. He was lecturing at Cologne,
but making application for a regular appointment in every likely
quarter--Cologne, Paris, Würzburg, Munich, &c. "Given really tempting
conditions," he wrote in June 1804, "I should have gone even to Moscow
or Dorpat. But," he adds, "my preference was for the Rhine district."
Was this because it was a Catholic district? Not at all. "The salmon
here is unequalled, so are the crayfish, not to speak of the wine."
It was Metternich's pecuniary offer which finally induced him to take
the decisive step and join the Church of Rome. He was furious at the
essay on Winckelmann, though he expressed unbounded contempt for it.
What is most amusing of all, however, is to see how this little work
fell like a bomb among the genuine political reactionaries in Vienna.
Gentz was already approaching the stage which he had reached when
he wrote to Rahel (in 1814) that he had become terribly old and bad
(unendlich alt und schlecht), describing his condition thus: "I must
give you an idea of the form which my cynicism and egotism have taken.
As soon as I can throw down my pen, all my thoughts and time are given
to the arrangement of my rooms; I am constantly planning how to procure
more money for furniture, perfumes, and every refinement of so-called
luxury. My appetite, alas! is gone. Breakfast is the only meal I take
any interest in."

In 1805 Gentz writes to his worthy friend, Adam Müller: "What struck
me most in your letter was your criticism of Goethe's two latest
productions. I know them both, but should never have dared to write
as you do; though I will not deny that my opinion of them is the
same as yours, only still less favourable. The notes on _Rameau_ are
simply prosy and commonplace. To write such twaddle nowadays about
Voltaire and D'Alembert is really inexcusable in a Goethe. The essays
on Winckelmann are atheistic. I should never have credited Goethe with
such a bitter and perfidious hatred of Christianity, though I have long
suspected him of culpability in this matter. What indecent, cynical,
faun-like joy he seems to have felt on making the grand discovery that
it was really because Winckelmann was a "born pagan" that the different
forms of the Christian religion were a matter of such indifference to
him! No! even Goethe will not easily rise again in my estimation after
these two books!"[4]

Goethe's essay, we observe, had gone straight to the mark; the
Romanticists felt as if they had received a slap in the face, when he
declared himself hostile to their theory of art.

We must now dwell a little on the conception of nature which
corresponds to this conception of art. In _Sternbald_, as both Goethe
and Caroline indicate, the reader's interest is distracted from the
characters and the action by descriptions of scenery.

We have seen that it was Rousseau who rediscovered the feeling for
nature. As Sainte-Beuve says somewhere, playing upon Rousseau's own
words about the swallow which had built its nest under the eaves of
his first home: "He was the swallow that foretold the coming of summer
in literature." The same feeling for nature, as has also been shown,
reappears in _Werther_. The transformation which it now underwent
was this: Rousseau's point of view had been _emotional_, that of the
Romanticists was _fantastic_. Hence their return to legends and fairy
tales, to the elves and kobolds of popular superstition. Goethe had

    "Natur hat weder Kern noch Schale,
    Alles ist sie mit einem Male."[5]

The Romanticists were determined to have to do only with the
kernel, with the mysterious inmost substance, which they attempted
to extricate, after having themselves inserted it. The mystic mind
mirrored itself in nature and saw in it nothing but mysteries. Tieck,
as every one knows, coined the word _Waldeinsamkeit_ (his friends
maintained that it ought to be _Waldeseinsamkeit_). Romanticism shouted
with quavering voice into the Waldeinsamkeit (forest solitude), and
echo returned quavering answers.

Alexander von Humboldt has pointed out how the ancients really only saw
beauty in nature when she was smiling, friendly, and _useful_ to man.
With the Romanticists it is the reverse. To them nature is unbeautiful
in proportion as she is useful, and most beautiful in her wildness, or
when she awakens a feeling of vague fear. They rejoice in the darkness
of night and of deep ravines, in the utter loneliness which produces a
shudder of terror; and Tieck's full moon shines as unchangeably over
the landscape as though it were a theatrical one of oiled paper with
a lamp behind it. I call it Tieck's moon, because it is incontestably
Tieck who is the originator of the Romantic moonlit landscape. Nor
is it difficult to understand how it should be he, rather than any
other of the young writers, who originates such expressions as "forest
solitude," "magic moonlit nights," &c., &c. Tieck was born in Berlin,
perhaps of all large towns the one whose surroundings possess the
fewest natural attractions. Those sandy heaths of Brandenburg, with
their tall, spare firs standing stiffly in rows like Prussian soldiers,
form as meagre a landscape as one could well find. Whilst Rousseau,
living amidst scenery of paradisaic beauty (the neighbourhood of
Geneva and Mont Blanc), was strongly, directly impressed by nature,
Tieck, in his unlovely surroundings, was seized by the city-dweller's
morbid longing for wood and mountain; and this longing gave birth to a
fantastic conception of nature. The cold daylight glare of Berlin, and
its modern, North German rationalism awoke longings for the primeval
forests and an inclination towards primitive poetry.

To prove the truth of this assertion, one has only to read such a
passage in the biography of Tieck as the following account of his stay
in Halle in 1792: "How entirely different was the nature which met
his eyes here in the green valley of the Saale, how much richer and
more friendly than the flat heaths surrounding Berlin! The feeling of
infinite longing seized him with redoubled force, and filled his heart
with almost painful excitement as he wandered through the woods in the
springtime. Once more he became intoxicated with nature; a mysterious
power seemed to drive him onwards. His favourite resting-place was the
Hölty bench near Giebichenstein, from which he overlooked the river and
the valley. How often did he watch the sun sink beneath the clouds and
the moon mirror herself with a thousand golden beams in the rippling
water, or gleam dreamily through the branches! Here he lay many a
summer night, drinking in nature in ample draughts."

Is not this the longing for nature of the man who is an exile from it,
the view of nature which has the city pavement as its background?

In the description given of the evening after a tiring walk taken
by Tieck and Wackenroder in the Fichtelgebirge, Tieck's conception
of nature is still more distinctly associated with his personal
impressions: "Wackenroder, unaccustomed to such fatigue, flung himself
at once upon the bed, but Tieck was too excited. He could not sleep
after all the experiences of that day. The spirits of nature awoke. He
opened the window. It was the mildest, most magnificent summer night.
The moon shed her soft, clear beams upon him. There it was before his
eyes, the moonlit, witching night, nature with her ancient, yet ever
new marvels and magic! His heart once again swelled high. To what far,
unknown goal was he being drawn with irresistible force? Softly and
soothingly the clear tones of a horn came floating through the night. A
feeling of sadness stole over him, and yet he was intensely happy."[6]

Observe that not even the horn is wanting. What is wanting, what
Tieck is destitute of, is any definite aim. We have the same thing
in _Sternbald_, where the wandering artist, led only by his longings
and his prophetic enthusiasm, is always, as he himself confesses,
forgetting his real aim. "It is not possible," says one of the
characters in the book, "to forget one's aim, for this reason, that the
sensible man arranges matters so that he has no aim." No one can fail
to see the close connection between this particular species of feeling
for nature and Romantic arbitrariness, nor how they mutually develop
each other.

Let us see the kind of landscapes which Franz Sternbald understands and
paints, and how he understands and paints them.

In one part of the book we read: "This was the landscape which Franz
intended to paint; but the real scene seemed very prosaic to him,
compared with its reflection in the water." Clear outlines, definite
forms, are dry prose; but the reflection in the water, the picture
as it were to its second power, is Romantic refinement, duplication,
glorification. In another part Franz says: "I should choose to paint
lonely, terrible scenes--ruinous, crumbling bridges spanning the space
between two precipitous rocks, with a foaming torrent raging in the
abyss below; strayed travellers whose cloaks flap in the wet wind;
horrid brigands rushing from their caves, stopping and plundering
carriages, and fighting with travellers." Real stage scenery this, with
melodrama into the bargain!

And in what spirit is nature apprehended? "Sometimes," says Franz, "my
imagination sets to work and will not rest until it has thought out
something quite unheard of. It would have me paint strange objects, of
complicated and almost incomprehensible construction--figures composed
of parts of all kinds of animals, their lower extremities being plants;
insects and reptiles with a strange humanness about them, expressing
human moods and passions in a wonderful and horrible manner."

What a picture! what a jumble of monstrosities! Can you not hear
Hoffmann fast approaching with his caravan of monsters? The elephant
stands on his head, and has a trunk which ends in a garfish; the cat
writes its memoirs; the door-knocker is really an old market-woman,
&c., &c. Are we not reminded here again, as in _Der Freischütz_, of the
temptations of St. Anthony, as painted by Teniers, or, better still,
by Höllen-Breughel, with a regular witches' Sabbath. To the genuine
Romanticist, nature, with all her myriads of living forms and beings,
seems a great toy-cupboard, and all the toys babble and chatter like
those in Andersen's fairy tale.

Read this description of a romantic landscape taken from Novalis's
_Heinrich von Ofterdingen_: "From a height they looked down upon a
romantic country, strewn with towns and castles, with temples and
tombs, a country which united the gentle charms of inhabited plains
with the terrible charms of deserts and precipitous mountains. The
most beautiful colours were happily blended. Mountain peaks gleamed
like fireworks in their coverings of ice and snow. The smiling plain
was clothed in the freshest of green. The distance decked itself in
every shade of blue, and the deep blue of the sea threw into relief the
innumerable bright pennons waving from the masts of numerous fleets.
In the background we could see a shipwreck, in the foreground a merry
country feast; far off the terribly beautiful eruption of a volcano
and the desolation wrought by an earthquake, and near at hand a pair
of lovers exchanging the sweetest caresses under sheltering trees. On
one side of this scene a frightful battle was raging, and at no great
distance from the battle was to be seen a theatre with a ludicrous play
going on. Upon the other side, in the foreground, the corpse of a young
girl lay upon a bier, with an inconsolable lover and weeping parents
kneeling by its side; in the background sat a sweet mother with her
child at her breast, angels nestling at her feet, and peeping through
the branches above her head."

What a pot-pourri! And over it all is shed the indispensable pale,
yellow light of that friend and well-wisher, protector and betrayer of
lovers, that supreme comforter and divinity of the Romanticists--the
man in the moon. He is their salvation. His round face and his profile
have exactly the degree of distinctness permissible or possible in a
Romantic countenance. All the knights of Romanticism wear his yellow
livery. And a truer knight of the moon than Franz Sternbald is not to
be found.

"I would," he says, "that I could fill the whole world with my song of
love, that I could move the moonlight and the rosy dawn, so that they
should echo my grief and happiness, until trees, branches, leaves,
and grass all took up the melody, repeating it as with millions of
tongues." Hereupon he sings a "moonlight song":

    "Hinter'm Wasser wie flimmernde Flammen,
    Berggipfel oben mit Gold beschienen,
    Neigen rauschend und ernst die grünen
    Gebüsche die blinkenden Häupter zusammen.

    Welle, rollst du herauf den Schein,
    Des Mondes rund freundlich Angesicht?
    Es merkt's und freundlich bewegt sich der Hain,
    Streckt die Zweig' entgegen dem Zauberlicht.

    Fangen die Geister an auf den Fluthen zu springen,
    Thun sich die Nachtblumen auf mit Klingen,
    Wacht die Nachtigall im dicksten Baum,
    Verkündigt dichterisch ihren Traum.
    Wie helle, blendende Strahlen die Töne nieder fliessen,
    Am Bergeshang den Wiederhall zu grüssen."[7]

Here we have it all! The glittering flames of the moon, bushes with
twinkling heads, rolling billows bearing onwards the face of the full
moon, spirits dancing upon waves, night as described by Novalis, night
flowers, and a nightingale whose song flows like clear, dazzling

And exactly the same thing recurs again and again. Franz has a dream:
"Unperceived, he painted the hermit and his devotion, the forest and
its moonlight; he even succeeded, he himself knew not how, in getting
the nightingale's song into his picture." Oh, that musical pictorial
art! Was not Goethe right in saying that there is more music than
painting in the book?

It is very significant that the man who revelled thus in the fantastic
suggestions of a district where nature was poor and sterile, should
have altogether failed to appreciate the richness and luxuriance, the
abundance of healthy sap and vigour, which distinguish the south of
England. Shakespeare has had few such fervent admirers as Tieck; and
Tieck naturally had the desire to see with his own eyes the natural
surroundings amidst which his great teacher and master had spent his
life, and from which he had derived his earliest impressions. He
expected much. But, oh! what a disappointment! That mind which fancied
itself akin to Shakespeare's found nothing congenial in the scenery
round Shakespeare's home. The chief characteristic of these counties
is an almost incredible luxuriance and vigour of growth. But this
wealth of vegetation is unpoetical to the Romanticist, because it is
useful, because it has a purpose. Only the blossom which bears no
fruit is romantic. We understand his disappointment. Nowhere else does
one see such mighty, spreading oaks, nowhere such high and succulent
grass. As far as the eye can reach, the green carpet spreads over the
undulating fields and the rich meadows, where magnificent cattle graze
and ruminate. Quantities of white, yellow, and blue meadow and field
flowers break the monotony of colour, and breathe a perfume which the
moisture of the air keeps so fresh that it never palls. This vegetation
is above all else fresh, not, like that of the south, striking in its
contours. The watery, juicy plant does not live long; life streams
through it and is gone. The moist air envelops trees and plants in a
sort of luminous vapour which catches and tempers the sunbeams; and, as
in Denmark, banks of clouds constantly traverse the pale blue sky. When
this sky happens to be for a short time perfectly clear, and the sun
reaches the earth without passing through mist, the rain and dewdrops
sparkle on the green grass and upon the silken and velvet petals of
the myriads of gay flowers more brilliantly than diamonds. What matter
that the grass is destined to be eaten? Does not part of its beauty
lie in its nutritious look? What matter that the fruitful fields
are cultivated with the assistance of all the newest agricultural
machinery, or that the cattle are tended with the most intelligent
solicitude? Is not this the very reason why both animals and plants
look so strong, so well nourished, and so nourishing? What we have here
is certainly not the imposing beauty of the desert or the ocean, or of
Swiss scenery. But has not this landscape a poetry of its own? Who can
have spent an evening in Kew Gardens without mentally placing the elfin
dance from _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, or _The Merry Wives of Windsor_
in exactly this scenery, these beautiful parks, with their gigantic old
oaks? It was in these surroundings that Shakespeare wrote them. We can
divine with what eyes he looked upon the landscape. With what eyes does
Tieck look upon it? "Having seen London," says Köpke, "he wished to
make acquaintance with some other part of England. Where should he turn
his steps, if not to Shakespeare's birthplace? On the way he visited
Oxford. But neither was this scenery to his taste. The country they
drove through was luxuriantly green, splendidly cultivated; but it was
too well ordered, too artificial (No primitive poetry!); it had lost
its originality. It lacked that simplicity, that holiness, as he called
it, which touches the heart, and by which he had so often been moved in
the most sterile parts of his native land. Here industry had destroyed
the poetic aroma."

It is clear, then, that there must have been something in the scenery
of his own country which appealed to Tieck's personal predispositions.
The fantastic conception of nature would not have been carried to such
an extreme in this particular country, if there had not been something
fantastic in the scenery of the country. It is very evident that German
scenery must have met the fantastic spectator half way.

In the first volume of this work, I attempted, by means of a
description of Italian scenery, to show how unromantic even the
most beautiful of it is. Nor, in spite of the Black Forest and the
Blocksberg, can German scenery be called really fantastic; for, as
Taine says, it is only the beauty of art which is fantastic; that of
nature is more than fantastic; the fantastic does not exist except
in our human brain. Still, nature does provide excuses for a certain
amount of fantasy. It is especially to be born in mind that in
characteristically German scenery the sea is absent, and with it the
feeling of wideness and freeness which it alone gives. In river and
mountain scenery there is never the wide, open horizon to which we
Danes are accustomed.

But, not to lose myself in generalisations, let me give an idea of the
scenery amidst which Tieck himself lived longest--that district in the
neighbourhood of Dresden which goes by the name of Saxon Switzerland.
I shall describe in a few words how it impresses me, and then proceed
to show what impression it produces on a Romantic poet. This I can
do reliably and exactly, for I have personally known several Romantic
poets, and have recently travelled through the district in question in
company with an old poet of Romantic tendencies.

We had spent some days in the clear mountain air, looking out over the
high open country and rocky peaks of Bohemia, which resemble a sea,
with sharply outlined mountains emerging like islands--an interminable
stretch of fields and pine-clad rocks. We went through the Uttenwalder
Grund up to the Bastei. The valley is shut in by high, fantastic
sandstone rocks, piled up in layers, with pine trees clustering in
every crevice. The upper part of the rock often projects threateningly
over the lower, seeming as though about to fall. One sees many strange
freaks of nature--gateways, even triple gateways. In climbing up to
the Bastei, one has on the left that remarkable landscape with the
steep rocks standing out like giant gravestones--tragic, awe-inspiring
scenery, that would make a fitting background for the dance of the dead
nuns in _Robert le Diable_. Standing on the Bastei, one looks over
the great plain with its precipitous mountain islands (the fortress
of Königstein is built upon one of these), straight, hard lines,
absolutely unpicturesque. Kuhstall is an enormous dome of rock. The
whole scenery has the appearance of being designed by man, of being a
fantastic art production. The last time I saw it, in glorious sunlight,
the view was marvellously imposing. Over the great pine-forest which
clothed the lower heights, its tree-tops looking like felt or wool,
lay a bluish green haze, which spread up the sides of the surrounding
hills. The Bohemian villages lay in groups, shining like windows in the
sun--in the distance were basaltic mountains, nearer at hand pyramidal,
square, or obelisk-shaped rocks. Wherever a single deciduous tree stood
among the pines, its yellow autumnal leaves shone amidst their dark
surroundings like patches of gold. The only other yellow was that of
the lichen upon some of the rocks. These rocks looked as though giants
in the morning of time had pelted each other with them, as children
pelt each other with stones, or had played at heaping them one on the
top of another.

From the Wintersberg the hills look like the remains of a Cyclopean
city. An enormous rock, steep and smooth as a wall, stands, decked with
firs, in the centre of a wide landscape. Of all one sees, Prebischthor
is perhaps what strikes one as being most beautiful. Here again the
rocks have taken a fantastic shape, that of a gateway. A gigantic,
beam-like rock has laid itself like a lintel across two rock towers.
Sitting under it, one looks down upon two separate landscapes, one
through the arch to the left, the other an open one upon the right. As
I sat there in the evening, the first was hard, cold, austere; over the
other the sun was setting, red and glowing. The one was, as it were,
in a major, the other in a minor key; the one was like a face without
eyes, the other glowed and beamed.

Such was this scenery in the eyes of an ordinary, sober-minded
traveller. The Romanticist who was my companion seemed to me to be
less moved by the spectacle than I was; at least he said very little
about it during the course of the day. But when, towards night, we were
making our way down the mountain, his imagination was suddenly fired.
It was quite dark, and the darkness acted upon his nerves. It seemed
to him as if more and more of the spirits of nature came forth, the
darker it grew. And when, in the distance, we saw the first points of
light coming from the windows of houses on the mountain side, houses
which we could not distinguish on account of the darkness, he had the
feeling that these windows must be in the rock itself, and that we
could see in if we were only near enough. The illuminated panes were to
him great eyes, with which the spirit of the mountain looked out at us;
he felt as if the wooded hillside were watching us. He was in a weird,
eccentric, genuinely Romantic mood, and I could not follow him. But on
this occasion I had the opportunity of learning by personal observation
how a German Romanticist of the good old days viewed nature; how it
was not until night that it really became nature to him; how he did
not look at it, but to one side of it or behind it; and by observing
how much more, and yet how much less, my companion felt face to face
with nature than I did, I arrived at an understanding of the legitimacy
and the narrowness, the unnaturalness and the poetry of the Romantic
conception of nature.[8]

[1] Köpke: _Ludwig Tieck_, i. 139.


    "Capricious Phantasus,
    A strange old man,
    Follows his foolish, wayward bent;
    But now they have fettered him,
    That he may cease from his trickery,
    No longer confuse reasonable thought,
    Nor lead poor man astray."

[3] Sepp: _Görres und seine Zeit_, 89, 90.

[4] _Briefwechsel zwischen Gentz und Adam Müller_, 48.

[5] "Nature has neither kernel nor shell, she is everything at one and
the same time."

[6] Köpke, i. 139, 163.

[7] "Beyond the lake there's a glittering and flaming; the
mountain-tops are tipped with gold; gravely the bushes rustle and bend,
and lay their twinkling green heads together. Wave, art thou rolling to
us the reflection of the round, friendly face of the moon? The trees
recognise it, and joyfully stretch forth their branches towards the
magic light. The spirits begin to dance on the waves; the flowers of
the night unfold their petals with melodious sound; where the leaves
are thickest the nightingale awakes and tells her dream; her notes flow
forth like clear, dazzling beams, to greet the echo on the mountain

[8] The above is a faithful account of the effect produced by this
scenery upon the Danish poet M. Goldschmidt in the autumn of 1872.



Those among my readers who have stood in a room lined with mirrors, and
seen themselves and everything else reflected _ad infinitum_, above,
below, on every side, have some idea of the vertigo which the study of
Romantic art at times produces.

Every one who has read Holberg's _Ulysses von Ithacia_ remembers how
droll the effect is when the characters, as they are perpetually doing,
make fun of themselves and what they represent--when, for example,
Ulysses exhibits the long beard which has grown during the ten years'
campaign, or when we read upon a screen, "This is Troy," or when, at
the close, the Jews rush in and tear off the actor's back the clothes
which he had borrowed to play Ulysses in. Histrionic art, as every
one knows, depends for its effect upon illusion. And illusion is an
aim common to many of the arts. A statue and a painting deceive quite
as much as a play, the illusion being contingent upon our momentarily
taking the stone for a human being, and the painted flat surface for
receding reality, in exactly the same way as we forget the actor in
his rôle. This illusion, however, is only complete for a moment. It
is, indeed, possible for the perfectly uneducated man to be entirely
deceived. An Indian soldier in Calcutta shot an actor who was playing
the part of Othello, exclaiming: "It shall never be said that a
negro murdered a white woman in my presence!" But in the case of the
educated man, the illusion comes and goes; it comes at the moment when
the tragedy brings tears into his eyes, and goes at the moment when
he draws out his pocket-handkerchief and looks at his neighbour. The
effect of the work of art is, as it were, focussed in this illusion.
The illusion is the reflection of the work of art in the spectator's
mind--the appearance, the play, by means of which the unreal becomes
reality to the spectator.

In the simple, straightforward work of art no special attention is
devoted to illusion; it is not aimed at; nothing is done to strengthen
it or to give it piquancy; but still less is anything done to destroy

It is not difficult, however, to understand how a certain piquant
quality may be communicated to the illusion produced by any art. When,
for instance, a Hermes, or any idol, is represented on a bas-relief,
when a picture represents a studio or a room with pictures hanging on
the walls, a strong indication is hereby conveyed that the bas-relief
itself is not intended to affect us as statuary, nor the pictures as
painting. And the same sort of effect is produced when one or other of
the characters in a comedy cries: "Do you take me for a stage-uncle?"

The theatrical illusion is still further heightened, or, to be quite
correct, is still more entirely forgotten, when some of the characters
in a play themselves perform a play, as in _Hamlet_ or _A Midsummer
Night's Dream_. It seems extraordinary or impossible that the
spectators of this second play should also be acting. The illusion here
is artificially strengthened, and yet at the same time weakened, by
attention being drawn to it. It is plain that this play with illusions
had an immense attraction for Tieck; it was inevitable that it should
have. Since it is illusion which makes art serious reality to the
spectator, it is by the destroying of the illusion that he is made to
feel strongly that art is free, fanciful play.

So Tieck mocks ironically at things which are usually ignored in order
not to disturb the illusion. In _Puss in Boots_ the King says to Prince
Nathaniel: "But do tell me; how is it that you who live so far away can
speak our language so fluently?" Nathaniel: "Hush!" The King: "What?"
Nathaniel: "Hush, hush! For any sake be quiet, or the audience too
will be finding out how unnatural it is." And, sure enough, one of
the spectators presently remarks: "Why in the world can't the prince
talk a foreign language and have it translated by his interpreter?
What utter nonsense it all is!" This last speech is of course sarcasm,
aimed at that demand for realism in art of which Iffland and Kotzebue
were advocates. We have one expression of the demand in question in
the French misconception of the Aristotelian doctrine of the unity of
time and place. Writing on this subject, Schlegel, following Lessing's
example, remarked that, after one had taken the great plunge and agreed
to regard the stage as the world, it was surely easy to take the
lesser one and sometimes permit the said stage to represent different
localities. And the Romanticists were never weary of extolling the old
Shakespearian theatre (where the place represented was simply intimated
by a label attached to the scenes) as a higher development of art than
that of their own day. The champions of realism in art were at that
time advocating the substitution of solid walls for scenes; Schlegel
maintained that those who insisted on having three walls on the stage
were logically obliged to go a step farther and have a fourth wall, on
the side towards the audience.

It is out of pure defiance of the philistine conception of art that
Tieck amuses himself by seating an audience upon the stage and having
the play within the play performed to the accompaniment of their
critical remarks. They censure, they praise, now condemning a scene as
superfluous, now approving the author for his courage in introducing
horses upon the stage. While the learned man and the fool are disputing
in the palace before the king upon his throne, the former says: "The
gist of my argument is, that the new play _Puss in Boots_ is a good
play." "That is exactly what I deny," says the fool; whereupon one of
the audience cries in amazement: "What! the play itself is mentioned in
the play!"

A still more extraordinary state of matters prevails in _Die Verkehrte
Welt_ ("The Topsy-turvy World"). As Scaramouch is riding through
the forest on his donkey, a thunderstorm suddenly comes on. One
naturally expects him to take shelter. Not at all. "Where the deuce
does this storm come from?" he cries; "there's not a word about it in
my part. What absurd nonsense! My donkey and I are getting soaked.
Machinist! machinist! hi! in the devil's name stop it!" The machinist
enters and excuses himself, explains that the audience had expressed
a desire for stage-thunder, and that he had consequently met their
wishes. Scaramouch entreats the audience to change its mind, but to
no purpose; thunder they will have. "What! in a sedate historical
play?" It thunders again. "It's a very simple matter," says the
machinist; "I blow a little pounded colophony through aflame; that
makes the lightning; and at the same moment an iron ball is rolled
overhead, and there you have the thunder." Play with illusion cannot
be carried further than this except by introducing in the play which
the performing audience is witnessing, another play acted before
yet another audience. "How extraordinary it is!" says Scävola, the
blockhead; "we are an audience, and yonder sit people who are an
audience too." The plays are fitted into one another like puzzle-boxes.

The madness reached its climax when, within this new inmost play, there
appears yet another play. It is confusion worse confounded. "Nay, this
is too much," cries Scävola. "Just think of it, good people all! Here
we sit as an audience and watch a play; in that play sits another
audience watching a third play, and for the actors in that third play
yet another play is being acted." And he goes on to explain, like a
true Romanticist: "One often has _dreams_ like this, and they are
terrible; and thoughts, too, sometimes spin themselves in this fashion
ever farther and farther into the heart of things. And both the one and
the other are enough to drive a man crazy."

But the music between the acts contains the key to the whole work.
The lively Allegro says: "Do ye indeed know what ye desire, ye who
seek for coherence in all things? When the golden wine gleams in the
glass and ye are animated by its good spirit, when ye feel doubly full
of life and soul, and all the floodgates of your being are opened,
what do ye think of then? Can ye order and regulate then? Ye enjoy
yourselves and the harmonious confusion." And the Rondo says: "Whenever
the philosopher is surprised by a thing, and cannot understand it, he
exclaims: 'There is no reason in it.' Nay, when reason penetrates to
the heart of itself, when it has investigated its own inmost being and
carefully observed itself, it says: 'In this, too, there is no reason.'
... But the man who with reason despises reason, is a reasonable man.
Much poetry is prose gone mad, much prose is only crippled poetry; that
which lies between poetry and prose is not the best either. O music!
whither tend thy steps? Neither is there any reason in thee."

In his critical writings Tieck himself gives us the clue to his
procedure by averring that the aim of Romantic comedy is to lull the
spectator into a dreamy mood. "In the midst of a dream," he says, "the
soul often does not believe firmly in its visions; but if the dreamer
sleeps on, the endless succession of new magic appearances restores the
illusion, keeps him in a charmed world, makes him lose the standard
of reality, delivers him up at last completely to the dominion of the

Music is the formless deep to which the wearied imagination of the
Romanticist returns after contemplating itself reflected _ad infinitum_
in its mirror chamber. And the work of art may be likened to one of
those carved ivory balls which enclose a whole set of ivory balls, one
within the other.

This style of drama was amusingly parodied by J. L. Heiberg in his
witty satirical play, _Julespög og Nytaarslöjer_ ("Christmas Fun
and New Year's Drollery"). There is less freedom and originality in
Hoffmann's imitation, _Prinzessin Blandina_, in which, in scenes laid
behind the scenes, the Stage Manager and the Director discuss the
play. The Stage Manager says: "Machinist, give the signal for night."
Director: "Why, you are surely not going to have night already? It
will disturb the illusion. It is hardly three minutes since Roderick
breakfasted in the desert." Stage Manager: "It is the direction given
in the book." Director: "Then it is the book that is crazy, and the
play is written without the slightest understanding of dramatic art."

In a different department of literature, in the writings of our Danish
philosopher, Kierkegaard, we come upon the mirror chamber with its
repeated reflections psychologically applied. As the German Romanticist
ironically hovers above his own play, with its Chinese puzzle-box
scenes and figures, so the Danish psychologist draws further and
further away from his subject by putting one author, as it were, inside
another. Listen to his explanation in the _Afsluttende Efterskrift_
("Concluding Postscript"): "My position is even a more external one
than that of any author whose characters are imaginary, but who
appears personally in his preface. A prompter, impersonal, or personal
in the third degree, I have created authors whose prefaces, nay,
whose very names are their own production. In the pseudonymous books
there is not a word of my own; I judge them as an uninterested third
party, have no knowledge of their meaning except that of the ordinary
reader, and not the most remote private connection with them, as is
indeed impossible in the case of a doubly reflected communication.
A single word from me personally, in my own name, would be a piece
of presumptuous self-forgetfulness, and would, from the dialectical
point of view, destroy the pseudonymous character of the work. I am
no more the publisher, Victor Eremita, than I am the Seducer or the
Assessor in _Enten-Eller_; Eremita is the poetically real subjective
thinker, whom we meet again in _In Vino Veritas_. In _Frygt og Bæven_
("Fear and Trembling") I am no more Johannes de Silentio than I am the
Knight of Faith whom he depicts; and just as little am I the author
of the preface to the book, it being a characteristic utterance of a
poetically-real subjective thinker. In that tale of woe, Skyldig?--Ikke
Skyldig? ("Guilty or not Guilty?"), I am no more the experimenter
than I am the subject of the experiment, since the experimenter is
a poetically-real subjective thinker, and the being he experiments
on is his psychologically inevitable production. I am a negligeable
quantity, i.e. it is immaterial what I am.... I have all along been
sensible that my personality was an obstruction which the Pseudonymi
must involuntarily and inevitably long to be rid of, or to have made as
insignificant as possible, yet which they at the same time, regarding
the matter from the ironical and reflective standpoint, must desire to
retain as repellant opposition; for I stand to them in the ironically
combined relation of secretary and dialectically reduplicated author of
the author or authors."

However different the causes of the reduplication may be in this case,
the phenomenon itself is of near kin to the foregoing one. To keep
the general public at a distance, to avoid laying bare his heart,
and, most important of all, to avoid the tiresome responsibility
entailed by speaking in his own name, Kierkegaard places as many
authors between himself and the public as possible. Even taking his
reasons into consideration, I confess that to me the proceeding seems
super-subtle, a sort of reminiscence of the Romantic irony. For
although Kierkegaard, as regards his matter, is in many ways ahead
of Romanticism, he is still connected with it by his style. It is
natural enough that he cannot, or will not, bear the responsibility
for what his imaginary characters, the Assessor and the Seducer, say;
but it is pure imagination on his part to suppose himself capable of
producing his authors at second hand, to suppose, for instance, that
he has created the hero in the Engagement Story exactly as Frater
Taciturnus would have created him. Several of his would-be authors,
Constantin Constantius and Frater Taciturnus, for example, are scarcely
to be distinguished from one another, and there is nothing peculiarly
characteristic about their productions. The third part of Stadierne
("Stages on the Road of Life") was, as Kierkegaard's own memoranda
show, originally intended to form part of _Enten-Eller_. When he
remarks (in _Afstuttende Efterskrift_, p. 216) that the most attentive
reader will hardly succeed in finding in that work, either in language
or turn of thought, a single reminiscence of Enten-Eller, he betrays
great capability of self-deception. Both works show in every line that
they are written by the same author; in both we come upon the same
thoughts, often expressed in almost the same words. The Assessor in
_Stadierne_ judges Aladdin exactly as he is judged by the Æsthete in
_Enten-Eller_: "What makes Aladdin so great is the strength of his

Along with all this duplication and reduplication we have in the case
of the Romanticists the wildest caprices in the matter of the order
of presentation. _The Topsy-turvy World_ begins with the epilogue
and ends with the prologue; by such pranks imagination proclaims its
independence of all law. Frater Taciturnus records what happened to him
last year along with what is happening to him this year; every day at
noon he notes down what happened that day a year ago (What a memory!),
and at midnight what has occurred during the day. Naturally, it is
almost impossible to separate the two threads of event. In Hoffmann's
_Kater Murr_, the cat writes its memoirs on sheets of paper which have
its master's, Kapellmeister Kreisler's, memoranda on the other side.
Both sides of the sheets are printed, the one following the other, so
that we read two utterly unconnected manuscripts mixed up with each
other, often with interruptions in the middle of sentences or words.
Wilfulness, caprice, play with one's own production could scarcely
be carried farther. Yet the dissolution of established form did go
further, much further. The Romanticists did not rest content with
having shattered the conventions of art; they proceeded to decompose
the Human personality, and that in many different manners.

It was Novalis who led the way. In _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_ the hero
seems to have a foreknowledge of everything that happens to him. "Each
new thing that he saw and heard seemed only to shove back bolts, to
open secret doors in his soul." But the strangest impression of all is
produced on him by his discovery of a mysterious book in the cave of
the hermit Count of Hohenzollern, a book in which, although he is as
yet unable to interpret it, he finds the enigma of his existence, an
existence beginning before his birth and stretching into the future
after his death. Novalis's romance being an allegory and myth, his
design being to make a single individual represent the whole eternal
story of the soul, he turns to his purpose one of the oldest hypotheses
of humanity, the idea that the individual reappears generation after
generation. Thus the past and the future take part in the present,
in the shape of memory and prophetic intuition. He does not actually
believe in the transmigration of souls, but to him, the Romanticist who
lives in the contemplation of the eternal, time is of such subordinate
significance that, just as he recognises no difference between a
natural and a supernatural event, so he sees none between past,
present, and future. In this way the individual existence is extended
throughout an unlimited period of history.

In Danish literature we find this Romantic use of the idea of a
previous existence in Heiberg's _De Nygifte_. The mother is telling her
adopted son about the death of her real son:--

    "Den Morgen, da ban led sin skrækkelige Dom,
    Endnu var det neppe daget--
    Traadte Slutteren ind og sagde: 'Kom!
    Klokken er nu paa Slaget.'

    "Da sank ban for sidste Gang til mit Bryst
    Og udbröd: 'Et Ord du mig give,
    Et kräftigt Ord, som kan vaere min Tröst
    Paa min sidste Gang i Live!"

    "Og jeg sagde ...
        Men, Fredrik, du skræmmer mig! sig ...
    Du rejser dig ... hvad bar du i Sinde?
    Du stirrer paa mig saa bleg som et Lig ...


    "O Moder! Moder! hold inde!

    Du sagde: 'Naar du for din Frelser staar,
    Da sig: Min Gud og min Broder,
    Tilgiv mig for dine Martyrsaar,
    For min Anger og for min Moder.'


    "Ha! hvoraf ved du det?


    "Mig det var,
    Forst nu mig selv jeg fatter.
    Det er din virkelige Sön, du har,
    Og nu lever han Livet atter."[1]

Heiberg here makes a beautiful and ingenious use of the idea. But the
Romanticists are not content with this. It is not enough for them to
transpose the personality into the past, or to deck it with the bright
peacock's tail of future existences. They split the Ego into strips,
they resolve it into its elements. They scatter it abroad through
space, as they stretch it out through time. For the laws of space and
time affect them not.

Self-consciousness is self-duplication. But it is an unhealthy self
which cannot overcome and master this selfduplication. This we saw in
the case of Lovell and of Roquairol. There is no greater misery than
morbid self-contemplation. He who indulges in it separates himself from
himself, observes himself from the point of view of a spectator, and
ere long experiences the horrible feeling of the prisoner who, when he
looks up, sees the eye of the warder at the little glass pane in the
door of his cell. His own eye has become quite as terrible to him as
another man's. What tends to make this condition permanent is partly
the religious and moral feeling that one ought never to lose sight of,
but to be always labouring at and improving one's self, and partly
natural curiosity regarding the unknown; one looks upon one's self as
a country, the coast of which is known, but the interior of which is
still to be explored.

In the case of the man who is healthy in mind and body, this
exploration goes on slowly, almost imperceptibly. One fine day the poor
prisoner, looking up from his work, finds that the eye has disappeared
from the peep-hole. Only now does he begin to breathe, to live. Whether
his work be important or unimportant, divine or merely useful, whether
he be a Michael Angelo or a cork-cutter, from that moment there is
a feeling of balance and unity in his mind; he feels that he is an
entire being. In the case of sickly, inactive natures, the eye is never
removed from the peep-hole, and a long continuation of this condition
leads the individual to the verge of madness. But it is to this very
condition that the Romanticists cling. It is this which gives birth to
the Romantic idea of the "Doppelgänger,"[2] an idea which finds its
first expression in Jean Paul's _Leibgeber-Schoppe_ (in the meditation
on Fichte's Ego), and is to be found in almost all Hoffmann's tales,
reaching its climax in his chief work, _Die Elixire des Teufels_.
It crops up in the writings of all the Romanticists; we have it in
Kleist's _Amphitryon_, in Achim von Arnim's _Die beiden Waldemar_, in
Chamisso's poem, _Erscheinung_, and Brentano treats it comically in
_Die mehreren Wehmüller_. To Hoffmann the Ego is simply a disguise
worn on the top of another disguise, and he amuses himself by peeling
off these disguises one by one. He carries out what Roquairol only

Theodor Hoffmann's life explains the peculiar form which Romantic
self-duplication took in his case. He was born in Königsberg in 1776,
the son of parents whose inharmonious union was soon dissolved. His
mother belonged to a painfully well-regulated and conventional family;
his father was as eccentric as he was clever, and had irregular habits
which were a great affliction to his wife's relations. Theodor lost his
mother early, and the pedantic severity with which his uncle brought
him up only made the gifted boy's occasional wild outbursts wilder and
madder. He found vent for his feelings in peculiar musical compositions
and remarkably clever caricatures. He studied law as a profession,
but at the same time devoted much attention to music. At an early age
he fell in love with a young married woman. Feeling that the violence
of this passion was undermining his reason, he cured himself of it by
tearing himself away from his native town, at the age of twenty.

Soon after this he received a government appointment in Posen. The
wild dissipation which prevailed in Poland in those days carried him
completely off his feet and materially altered his character. For
caricaturing one of his superiors he was removed to Plozk, where he led
a more regular life.

[Illustration: HOFFMANN]

In 1804 he was transferred to Warsaw, at that time a Prussian town;
and it was the full, varied, and, to a German, quite foreign life of
this important city which gave Hoffmann's literary tendencies their
decisive, final bent. Much that is mad and strange in his writings
may be attributed to the wild, reckless joviality of the Warsaw days.
In Warsaw he met Zacharias Werner, another author who was distinctly
influenced by the social life of Poland in the beginning of the
century. And here, whilst conscientiously fulfilling the duties of
his appointment, he not only found time to cultivate his favourite
art, music, and to frequent the society of other musical devotees,
but also managed to decorate several halls with frescoes, to ornament
a library with alto-reliefs executed in bronze, and to paint a room
in the Egyptian style, adroitly introducing amongst the extraordinary
representations of Egyptian gods, caricatures of his acquaintances,
whom he provided with tails and wings. It was in Warsaw too that he
conducted concerts for the first time.

In 1806, as every one knows, Prussian rule in Warsaw came to an end.
Hoffmann saw the streets of the town crowded, first with the vanguard
of the Russian army--Tartars, Cossacks, and Bashkirs--then with Murat's
troops, watched the migrations of the races set in motion by Napoleon's
campaign, and at last saw Napoleon himself, whom he, the good German,
abhorred as a tyrant. In Dresden, in 1813, he was eye-witness of
several small skirmishes and one battle; he walked over a battlefield,
lived through a famine and a species of plague which followed in the
train of the war--in short, his imagination was fertilised by all the
horrors of the period, the first result being, characteristically
enough, merely a set of funny caricatures of the French.

When still quite a young man, he had married a beautiful Polish lady,
who made him a devoted and patient wife; it was probably thanks to her
that, in spite of his overstrained nerves, he lived as long as he did.
His marriage by no means precluded many passionate attachments to other
women, but all these seem to have had their root rather in imagination
than in any real feeling. Three days after a young lady with whom he
was madly in love had engaged herself to another, he was perfectly
happy, having cured himself of his passion by satirising it. He was
helped to bear his woe by the pleasure of caricaturing it.

After figuring as a theatrical architect in Bamberg and conductor
of an orchestra in Dresden, he went to Berlin, where he spent the
last years of his life as a member of the Kammergericht (one of the
principal courts of justice). As was natural, the astonishingly gifted
man who could write books, improvise on the piano, compose operas, draw
caricatures, and scintillate wit when he was in the humour, became
a lion in social circles and a fêted frequenter of the taverns. He
devoted a great share of his energy and talent to the observation of
his own moods, which he watched closely and described day by day in a
kind of diary.

Wine, which he only regarded as an exciting stimulant, was in reality
much more than this to him. To it he owed much of his inspiration, his
visions, those hallucinations which at first were fanciful, but became
ever more serious. In his case intoxication actually produced a new
kind of fantastic poetry. When under the influence of alcohol, he saw
the darkness suddenly illuminated by phosphorescent light, or saw a
gnome rise through the floor, or saw himself surrounded by spectres and
terrible grimacing figures, which went on disappearing and reappearing
in all kinds of grotesque disguises.

It was almost inevitable that this painstaking observer of his own
moods and of the external peculiarities, more especially the oddities,
of other men, should care little about nature. If he took a walk in
summer, it was only to reach some place or other where he would be
certain to meet human beings; and he seldom passed a pastry-cook's or
a tavern without dropping in to see what kind of people frequented it.
This explains the striking want of any feeling for fresh, open-air
nature in his books. His mind was at home in a tavern, not in forest
solitudes. But if his sense of the beauties of nature was weak, his
enthusiasm for art was so much the more intense; genuine Romanticist
that he is, half of his productions treat of art.

The peculiar, Romantic theory of human personality held by a
poet of this temperament and this development was a product of
over-impressionable and over-strained nerves and of irregular living.
In his diary I find the following memoranda:--

"1804.--Drank Bischof at the new club from 4 to 10. Frightfully
agitated in the evening. Nerves excited by the spiced wine. Possessed
by thoughts of death and Doppelgänger.

"1809.--Seized by a strange fancy at the ball on the 6th; I imagine
myself looking at my Ego through a kaleidoscope--all the forms moving
round me are Egos, and annoy me by what they do and leave undone.

"1810.--Why do I think so much, sleeping and waking, about madness?"

It was a settled conviction with Hoffmann that when anything good
befalls a man, an evil power is always lurking in the background
to paralyse the action of the good power. As he expresses it: "The
devil thrusts his tail into everything." He was haunted, says his
biographer, Hitzig, by a fear of mysterious horrors, of "Doppelgänger"
and spectral apparitions of every kind. He used to look anxiously
round while writing about them; and if it was at night, he would often
wake his wife and beg her to keep him company till he had finished. He
imparted his own fear of ghosts to the characters he created; he drew
them "as he himself was drawn in the great book of creation." It does
not surprise us to learn that of his own works, he preferred those
which contain the most gruesome pictures of madness or the weirdest
caricatures--_Brambilla_, for instance.

He relies for effect, in a manner which soon becomes mannerism, upon
the sharp contrasts with which he ushers in his terrific or comical
scenes. From the commonest, most prosaic every-day life we are
suddenly transported into a perfectly distorted world, where miracles
and juggling tricks of every kind so bewilder us that in the end no
relation, no species of life, no personality, seems definite and
certain. We are always in doubt as to whether we are dealing with a
real person, with his spectre, with his essence in another form or
other power, or with his fantastic "Doppelgänger."

In one of the lighter tales of Hoffmann's last period, _Der
Doppelgänger_, the two principal characters resemble each other so
closely that one is constantly being taken for the other; the one
is wounded instead of the other; the betrothed of the one cannot
distinguish him from the other, &c., &c. All kinds of absurd mistakes
are made possible, and the dread of "Doppelgängerei" is turned to good
account. The common-sense explanation of the matter is insisted on
(much as it is in Brentano's _Die mehreren Wehmüller_), simply because
Hoffmann for once, by way of a change, fancied making some attempt at
explanation. The explanation, as a matter of fact, explains nothing.
All Hoffmann really cared for was the fantastically gruesome effect,
just as all Brentano cared for was the fantastically comical one. _Der
Doppelgänger_ possesses no artistic merit.

There is wittier and more audacious invention in the tale, _The
Latest Adventures of the Dog Berganza_. In the first place, we are
left uncertain whether the dog is a metamorphosed human being or not;
he himself says: "It is possible that I am really Montiel, who was
punished by being compelled to assume the shape of a dog; if so, the
punishment has been a source of pleasure and amusement." In the second
place, even the dog, as dog, sees himself duplicated, and is conscious
of the dissolution of the unity of his being. "Sometimes I actually saw
myself lying in front of myself like another Berganza, another which
yet was myself; and I, Berganza, saw another Berganza maltreated by the
witches, and growled and barked at him."

Still greater is the audacity, still more extravagant the whimsicality
in the tale of _The Golden Jar_. In it an ugly old Dresden apple-woman
is at the same time the beautiful bronze knocker on Registrar
Lindhorst's door. The metal face of the door-knocker occasionally
wrinkles itself up into the old crone's crabbed smile. In addition to
this, she is the odious fortune-teller, Frau Rauerin, and good old
Lise, the fond nurse of the young heroine of the tale. She can (like
the fortune-teller in _Der Doppelgänger_) suddenly change dress,
shape, and features. When the matter of her parentage is cleared up, we
learn that her papa was a "shabby feather broom," made of feathers from
a dragon's wing, while her mamma was "a miserable beetroot."

Lindhorst, the stolid Registrar, who never seems to feel at home except
when sitting in his library in his flowered dressing-gown, surrounded
by old manuscripts, is also a great magician, who, in the middle of
an ordinary conversation, suddenly begins to relate the most insane
occurrences as if they were the most natural in the world. He tells,
for instance, that he was once invisibly present at a party--quite a
simple matter--he was in the punch-bowl. On another occasion he takes
off his dressing-gown, steps without more ado into a bowl of blazing
arrack, vanishes in the flames, and allows himself to be drunk.

In creating these doubled and trebled existences, the character,
for instance, of the Archive Keeper, who is a Registrar by day
and a salamander at night, Hoffmann obviously had in his mind the
strange contrast between his own official life, as the conscientious
criminal judge, severely rejecting all considerations of sentiment or
æstheticism, and his free night life as king of the boundless realm of
imagination--a life in which reality, as such, had no part.

But of all Hoffmann's tales, it is _Die Elixire des Teufels_ ("The
Elixir of Satan") which makes the most powerful impression. Let us
dwell for a moment on the hero of this romance, Brother Medardus; for
he is a typical character. It is impossible in a brief summary to
convey any idea of the mysterious, weird horror of the book; to feel
this one must read it. A work more saturated with voluptuousness and
horrors the Romantic School, with all its long practice in the style,
never produced.--In a certain monastery is preserved a flask of Satanic
elixir, which had belonged to St. Anthony. This elixir is believed to
possess magic properties. A monk who has tasted it becomes so eloquent
that ere long he is the most famous preacher of the monastery. But his
eloquence is not of a pious or healthy, but of a carnal, strangely
exciting, dæmonic description. Brother Medardus drinks from the flask.
A charming woman, his penitent, falls in love with him, and a longing
for the pleasures and delights of the world impels him to leave the
monastery. He finds a young man, Count Viktorin, asleep in the forest
on the edge of a precipice, and half accidentally pushes him over. From
this time onwards every one takes him for the Count.

"My own Ego, the sport of a cruel accident, was dissolved into strange
forms, and floated helplessly away upon the sea of circumstances. I
could not find myself again. Viktorin is undoubtedly pushed over the
precipice by the accident which directed my hand, not my will--I step
into his place." And as though this were not marvellous enough, he
adds: "But Reinhold knows Father Medardus, the preacher of the Capuchin
Monastery; and thus to him I am what I really am. Nevertheless, I am
obliged to take Viktorin's place with the Baroness, for I am Viktorin.
I am that which I appear to be, and I do not appear to be that which I
am. At strife with my own Ego, I am an unanswerable riddle to myself."

Medardus, in his own form, now enters into relations with Viktorin's
mistress, the Baroness, who has no idea that he is not Viktorin. He
is possessed by carnal desires; women fall in love with him; he gives
himself up to sensual pleasures, and in order to attain the fulfilment
of his wishes, commits crimes of every kind, including murder. Horrible
visions haunt him and drive him from place to place. In the end he is
denounced and imprisoned. In prison the confusion of individualities
reaches a climax. "I could not sleep; in the strange reflections cast
by the dull, wavering light of the lamp upon the walls and ceiling, I
saw all kinds of distorted faces grinning at me. I put out the lamp and
buried my head in my pillow of straw, only to be still more horribly
tormented by the hollow groans of the prisoners and the rattling of
their chains." It seems to him that he is listening to the death-rattle
of his victims. And now he plainly hears a gentle, measured knocking
beneath him. "I listened, the knocking continued, and sounds of strange
laughter came up through the floor. I sprang up and flung myself upon
the straw mattress, but the knocking went on, accompanied by laughter
and groans. Presently, an ugly, hoarse, stammering voice began calling
gently but persistently: 'Me-dar-dus, Me-dar-dus!' An icy shiver ran
through my veins, but I took courage and shouted: 'Who is there? Who
is there?'" Then the knocking and stammering begins directly beneath
his feet: "He, he, he! He, he, he! Lit-tle brother, lit-tle brother
Me-dar-dus ... I am here, am here ... le-let me in ... we will g-g-go
into the woo-woo-woods, to the woo-woo-woods." To his horror he seems
to recognise his own voice. Some of the flagstones of the floor are
pushed up, and his own face, in a monk's cowl, appears. This other
Medardus is, like him, imprisoned, has confessed, and is condemned to
death. Now everything happens as if in a dream. He no longer knows
whether he is really the hero of the events which he believes to have
happened, or whether the whole is a vivid dream. "I feel as if I had
been listening in a dream to the story of an unfortunate wretch, the
plaything of evil powers, who have driven him hither and thither, and
urged him on from crime to crime."

He is acquitted; the happiest moment of his life is at hand; he is to
be united to the woman he loves. It is their wedding day. "At that
very moment a dull sound rose from the street below; we heard the
shouting of hollow voices and the slow rumbling of a heavy vehicle.
I ran to the window. In front of the palace, a cart, driven by the
headsman's apprentice, was stopping; in it sat the Monk and a Capuchin
friar who was praying loudly and fervently with him. Though the Monk
was disfigured by fear and by a bristly beard, the features of my
terrible Doppelgänger were only too easily recognisable. Just as the
cart, which had been stopped for the moment by the throng, rolled on
again, he suddenly glared up at me with his horrible glistening eyes,
and laughed loud, and yelled: Bridegroom! Bridegroom! Come up on to the
housetop! There we will wrestle with one another, and he who throws the
other down is king and has the right to drink blood!' I cried: 'You
monster! What have I to do with you?' Aurelia flung her arms round me
and drew me forcibly away from the window, crying: 'For God and the
Holy Virgin's sake!... It is Medardus, my brother Leonard's murderer,
whom they are taking to execution.' ... Leonard! Leonard! The spirits
of hell awoke within me, and exerted all the power they possess over
the wicked, abandoned sinner. I seized Aurelia with such fury that she
shook with fear: 'Ha, ha, ha! mad, foolish woman! I, I, your lover,
your bridegroom, am Medardus, am your brother's murderer. You, the
Monk's bride, would call down vengeance upon him? Ho, ho, ho! I am
king--I will drink your blood.'"

He strikes her to the earth. His hands are covered with her blood.
He rushes out into the street, frees the Monk, deals blows right and
left with knife and fist, and escapes into the forest. "I had but
one thought left, the hunted animal's thought of escape. I rose, but
had not taken many steps before a man sprang upon my back and flung
his arms round my neck. In vain I tried to shake him off; I flung
myself down; I rubbed myself against the trees--all to no purpose--the
man only chuckled scornfully. Suddenly the moon shone clear through
the dark firs, and the horrible, deathly pale face of the Monk, the
supposed Medardus, the Doppelgänger, glared at me with the same
appalling glance he had shot at me from the cart. 'He, he, he! little
brother! I am w-w-with you still; I'll n-n-never let you go. I can't
r-r-run like you. Y-you must carry me. They were go-go-going to break
me on the wh-wh-wheel, but I got away.'" This situation is spun out
_ad infinitum_, but I forbear. To the end of the book one is uncertain
of the real significance of the events, of the ethical tendency of
the actions, so completely in this case has imagination disintegrated

The Scandinavian author, Ingemann, has followed Hoffmann in this path.
He turns to account, for instance, the eeriness in the idea of loudly
calling one's own name in a churchyard at midnight; see his tale, _The
Sphinx_, and others in the so-called Callot-Hoffmann style.

But, as already observed, Romanticism is not content with stretching
out and splitting up the Ego, with spreading it throughout time and
space. It dissolves it into its elements, takes from it here, adds to
it there, makes it the plaything of free fancy. Here, if anywhere,
Romanticism is profound; its psychology is correct, but one-sided; it
is always on the night side or on the inevitability of things that it
dwells; there is nothing emancipating or elevating about it.

In the old days the Ego, the soul, the personality, was regarded as
a being whose attributes were its so-called capacities and powers.
The words "capacity" and "power," however, only signify that there is
in me the possibility of certain events, of my seeing, reading, &c.
My true being does not consist of possibilities, but of these events
themselves, of my actual condition. My real being is a sequence of
inward events. For me, my Ego is composed of a long series of mental
pictures and ideas. Of this Ego, I constantly, daily, lose some part.
Forgetfulness swallows up gigantic pieces of it. Of all the faces I
saw on the street yesterday and the day before, of all the sensations
which were mine, only one or two remain in my memory. If I go still
farther back, only an exceptionally powerful sensation or thought
here and there emerges, like a solitary rocky island, from the ocean
of forgetfulness. We only keep together the ideas and pictures that
remain to us from our past lives by means of the association of these
ideas, that is to say, by the aid of the peculiar power they have, in
virtue of certain laws, of recalling each other. If we had no numerical
system, no dates, no almanacs, wherewith to give some coherence to our
different memories, we should have an extremely slight and indistinct
idea of our Ego. But however substantial the long inward chain may seem
(and it is strengthened, it gains in tenacity, every time we run over
its links in our memory), it happens that we at times introduce into it
a link which does not belong to it, at times take a link from it and
place it in another chain.[3]

The first of these actions, the introducing of new, incongruous links
into the chain of memory, happens in dreams. We dream we have done
many things which we have never done. It also happens when we have a
false recollection. He who has seen a white sheet blowing about in the
dark, and believes he has seen a ghost, has such a false recollection.
Most myths and legends, especially religious legends, come into
existence in this way.

It frequently happens, however, that, instead of adding links to the
chain of the Ego, we withdraw them. Thus the sick man, when his mind
is wandering, supposes that the words he hears are spoken by a strange
voice, or endows his inward visions with an outward reality, as Luther
did when he saw the devil in his room in the Wartburg; and the madman
not only partly, but entirely confuses himself with some one else.

In a state of reason, then, the Ego is an artificial production, the
result of association of ideas. I am certain of my own identity--in the
first place, because I associate my name, that sound which I call my
name, with the chain of my inward experiences, and secondly, because I
keep all the links of this chain connected by the association of ideas,
by virtue of which they produce each other. But, since the Ego is thus
not an innate but an acquired conception, founded upon an association
of ideas which has to maintain itself against the constant attacks of
sleep, dreams, imaginations, hallucinations, and mental derangement, it
is by its nature exposed to manifold dangers. Just as disease is ever
lying in wait for our bodies, so madness lies in wait at the threshold
of the Ego, and every now and again we hear it knock.

It is of this correct psychological theory, originally propounded
by Hume, that the Romanticists, though they do not define it
scientifically, nevertheless have a presentiment. Dreams, dipsomania,
hallucinations, madness, all the powers which disintegrate the Ego,
which disconnect its links, are their familiar friends. Read, for
instance, Hoffmann's tale, _The Golden Jar_, and you will hear voices
issue from the apple-baskets, and the leaves and flowers of the
elder-tree sing; you will see the door-knocker make faces, &c., &c. The
strange, striking effect is here specially due to the way in which
the apparitions suddenly emerge from a background of the most humdrum,
ordinary description, from piles of legal documents, or from tureens
and goblets. All Hoffmann's characters (like Andersen's Councillor
in _The Galoshes of Fortune_, which is an imitation of Hoffmann) are
considered by their neighbours to be either drunk or mad, because they
always treat their dreams and visions as realities.

Hoffmann created most of his principal characters in his own image.
His whole life resolved itself into moods. We see from his diary
how anxiously and minutely he observed these. We come on such
entries as: "Romantically religious mood; excitedly humorous mood,
leading finally to those thoughts of madness which so often force
themselves upon me; humorously discontented, highly-wrought musical,
romantic moods; extremely irritable mood, romantic and capricious in
the highest degree; strange, excited, but poetic gloominess; very
comfortable, brusque, ironical, overstrained, morose, perfectly weak
moods; extraordinary, but miserable moods; moods in which I felt
deep veneration for myself and praised myself immoderately; _senza
entusiasmo, senza esaltazione_, every-day moods," &c., &c.

We seem to see the man's spiritual life spread and split itself up
fan-wise into musical high and low spirits. It is easy to guess from
this register of moods that Hoffmann, genuine lover of night as he was,
was in the habit of going to bed towards morning, after having spent
the evening and night in a tavern.

Romanticism having thus dissolved the Ego, proceeds to form fantastic
Egos, adding here, taking away there.

Take, for an example, Hoffmann's _Klein Zaches_, the little monster who
has been endowed by a fairy with the peculiarity "that everything good
that others think, say, or do in his presence is attributed to him;
the result being that in the society of handsome, refined, intelligent
persons he also is taken to be handsome, refined, and cultured--is
taken, in short, for a model of every species of perfection with
which he comes in contact." When the student reads aloud his charming
poems, it is Zaches who is credited with them; when the musician
plays or the professor performs his experiments, it is Zaches who
gets the honour and the praise. He grows in greatness, becomes an
important man, is made Prime Minister, but ends his days by drowning
in a toilet-basin. Without overlooking the satiric symbolism of the
story, I draw attention to the fact that the author has here amused
himself by endowing one personality with qualities properly belonging
to others, in other words, by dissolving individuality and disregarding
its limits. With the same satirical intention, the same idea is worked
out more ingeniously, though more roughly, by Hostrup, the Dane, in his
comedy, _En Spurv i Tranedans_ ("A Sparrow among the Cranes" = a dwarf
among the giants), in which each one of the other characters attributes
to the comical young journeyman tailor the qualities which he himself
values most.

Here we have Romanticism amusing itself by adding qualities to human
nature; but it found subtracting them an equally attractive amusement.
It deprives the individual of attributes which would seem to form an
organic part of it; and by taking these away it divides the human being
as lower organisms, worms, for example, are divided into greater and
smaller parts, both of which live. It deprives the individual, for
instance, of his shadow. In Chamisso's _Peter Schlemihl_, the man in
the grey coat kneels down before Peter, and, with admirable dexterity,
strips the shadow off him and off the grass, rolls it up and pockets
it--and the story shows us the misfortunes which are certain to befall
the man who has lost his shadow.

This same tale of _Peter Schlemihl_ shows how Romanticism, as a
spiritual force, succeeded in impressing a uniform stamp on the
most heterogeneous talents. It would be difficult to imagine two
natures more unlike than Chamisso's and Hoffmann's; hence the plot of
Chamisso's tale is as simple and readily comprehensible as the plots of
Hoffmann's are morbidly extraordinary.

Adalbert von Chamisso was a Frenchman born, who acquired the German
character remarkably quickly and completely, to the extent even of
developing more than one quality which we are accustomed to consider
essentially German. The son of a French nobleman, he was born in
1781 in the castle of Boncourt, in Champagne. Driven from France as
a boy during the Reign of Terror, he became one of Queen Louisa of
Prussia's pages, and later, at the age of twenty, a lieutenant in
the Prussian army. He was a serious, almost painfully earnest, but
absolutely healthy-minded man of sterling worth, brave and honourable,
with a little of the heaviness of the German about him and much of the
liveliness of the Frenchman.

The reverse of Hoffmann, he was no lover of social pleasures, but all
the more ardent a lover of nature. He longed on hot summer days to
be able to go about naked in his garden with his pipe in his mouth.
Modern dress, modern domestic life and social formalities he regarded
in the light of burdensome fetters. His love of nature led him to
circumnavigate the globe, enamoured him of the South Sea Islands, and
is expressed in much of his poetry.

Nevertheless, the imperceptible intellectual compulsion exercised by
the age caused him, as author, to adopt Romantic theories and write in
the Romantic style. It is characteristic, however, that when in such a
poem as _Erscheinung_ ("The Apparition") he treats the Romantic idea of
the "Doppelgänger," he does it with a certain moral force which leaves
on the reader's mind the impression of genuine despair. The narrator
comes home at night and sees himself sitting at his desk. "Who are
you?" he asks. "Who disturbs me thus?" returns the "Doppelgänger":--

    "Und er: 'So lass uns, wer du seist, erfahren!'
        Und ich: 'Ein solcher bin ich, der getrachtet
        Nur einzig nach dem Schönen, Guten, Wahren;
    Der Opfer nie dem Götzendienst geschlachtet,
        Und nie gefröhnt dein weltlich-eitlen Brauch,
        Verkannt, verhöhnt, der Schmerzen nie geachtet:
    Der irrend zwar und träumend oft den Rauch
        Für Flamme hielt, doch mutig beim Erwachen
        Das Rechte nur verfocht:--bist du das auch?'
    Und er mit wildem kreischend-lautem Lachen:
        'Der du dich rühmst zu sein, der bin ich nicht.
        Gar anders ist's bestellt um meine Sachen.
    Ich bin ein feiger, lügenhafter Wicht,
        Ein Heuchler mir und ändern, tief im Herzen
        Nur Eigennutz, und Trug im Angesicht.
    Verkannter Edler du mit deinen Schmerzen,
    Wer kennt sich nun? wer gab das rechte Zeichen?
        Wer soll, ich oder du, sein Selbst verscherzen?
        Tritt her, so du es wagst, ich will dir weichen!'
    Drauf mit Entsetzen ich zu jenem Graus:
        'Du bist es, bleib und lass hinweg mich schleichen!'
        Und schlich zu weinen, in die Nacht hinaus."[4]

The painful moral self-recognition endows the ghost story with
marvellous significance.

Chamisso's double nationality was a source of much unhappiness to
him in his younger days, when there was violent enmity between the
land of his birth and his adopted country. In one of his letters to
Varnhagen (December 1805) he writes: "'No country, no people--each man
for himself!' These words of yours seemed to come straight from my
own heart. They almost startled me; I had to wipe away the tears that
rolled down my cheeks. Oh! the same sentiment must have made itself
felt in all my letters, every one!"

When, in 1806, Napoleon began the war with Prussia, he issued an order
that every Frenchman serving in the enemy's ranks should, when taken
prisoner, be tried by court-martial and shot within twenty-four hours.
Hence Chamisso, who had in vain demanded to be allowed to resign his
commission, was exposed to the chance of a disgraceful death.

He visited France in the following year, but in Paris there was nothing
to attract him. "Wherever I am," he complains, "I am countryless. Land
and people are foreign to me; hence I am perpetually longing." He was
one of the bravest and most capable of German officers (his behaviour
on the occasion of the surrender of Hameln proves this), but, as a
Frenchman born and an admirer of Napoleon, he would have preferred not
to have taken part in the war against France and the Emperor.

After his resignation was actually accepted, he spent some time
at the court of Madame de Staël, and made the acquaintance of her
international circle of friends. The year 1813, the year of Prussia's
declaration of war against France, was the most trying of all for the
unfortunate young Franco-German. His heart was divided; he desired
the fall of Napoleon because he hated despotism, but at the same time
he felt every humiliation which befell the French troops during their
retreat from Russia, and every insulting word spoken of the Emperor, as
if the misfortune had happened, the insult been offered, to himself.
And with this very natural feeling his German associates showed no
forbearance. He often cried despairingly: "No, the times have no sword
for me." "Action and inaction," he writes in May 1813, "are equally
painful to me."

This was the mood which produced his most notable work, _Peter
Schlemihl_. The great historical events which harrowed his feelings
made him intellectually productive; the summer of 1813 was a
turning-point in his life. "I had no longer a country," he says, "or as
yet no country." And so the man without a country writes the tale of
the man without a shadow. In spite of its intangibility, a man's shadow
is, like his country, like his home, one of his natural possessions,
a thing which belongs to him from his birth, which is, as it were,
part of him. In ordinary circumstances it is regarded as so entirely
natural that a man should have a country, that it is hardly reckoned
as a special possession, but is, like his shadow, taken as a matter
of course. Chamisso gave expression to all his sadness, to the great
sorrow of his life, in his daringly imagined fable. And strangely
enough, he not only figuratively gave in it the essence of all his past
experiences, but also prophetically imaged his future, his voyage round
the world and his scientific labours. After Schlemihl has escaped from
the temptations of the devil, he accidentally comes into possession of
the seven-leagued boots, which take him to every country in the world,
and enable him to pursue his favourite study to the greatest advantage.
Schlemihl himself says: "My future suddenly showed itself clearly to
the eyes of my soul. Banished from human society by the misdemeanours
of my youth, I was thrown into the arms of Nature, whom I had always
loved. The earth was given to me as a rich garden, study as the
directing influence and strength of my life, knowledge as its aim."

The originality of its plot and the remarkable clearness of its style
(this last a characteristic of all Chamisso's writing, and evidently
his intellectual inheritance as a Frenchman) made _Peter Schlemihl_ an
extraordinary success. It was translated into nearly every language.
Ten years after its publication a new kind of lamp, which cast no
shadow, was named the Schlemihl lamp.

Chamisso's success naturally roused Hoffmann to emulation. In the
clever little _Story of the Lost Reflection_, the hero leaves his
reflection in Italy with the entrancing Giulietta, who has bewitched
him, and returns home to his wife without it. His little son,
discovering suddenly one day that his father has no reflection, drops
the mirror he is holding, and runs weeping from the room. The mother
comes in with astonishment and fright written on every feature. "What
is this Rasmus has been telling me about you?" she asks. "That I have
no reflection, I suppose, my dear," answers Spikher with a forced
laugh, and proceeds to try to prove that it is foolish to believe that
a man can lose his reflection, but that even if the thing be possible,
it is a matter of no importance, seeing that a reflection is simply an
illusion. Self-contemplation only leads to vanity, and, moreover, such
an image splits up one's personality into truth and imagination.

Here we have the mirror chamber developed to such a point that the
reflections move about independently, instead of following their
originals. It is very amusing, very original and fantastic, and, as one
is at liberty to understand by the reflection whatever one chooses, it
may even be said to be very profound. I express no opinion, but simply
draw attention to fact.

We have seen that the Romanticist is instinctively, inevitably, the
enemy of clearly defined form in art. We have seen Hoffmann mixing
up the different parts of his book to the extent of having part of
one story on the front, part of quite a different one on the back of
the same leaf; have seen Tieck composing dramas like so many puzzle
balls one within the other, to prevent the reader taking them too
_seriously_, and Kierkegaard fitting one author inside another in
the Chinese box fashion, on the strength of the theory that truth
can only be imparted indirectly, a theory which he ended by treating
with scorn--we have seen, in a word, that the artistic standpoint
of Romanticism is the exact opposite of the artistic standpoint of
the ancients. And when, with their leaning to the supernatural, the
Romanticists extend the personality of the individual throughout
several successive generations, representing him as living before his
birth and after his death, or represent him as a day-dreamer, half
visionary and half madman, or humorously endow him with other men's
attributes and despoil him of his own, fantastically filching now a
shadow, now a reflection, they show by all this fantastic duplication
and imagination that their psychological standpoint too, is an
absolutely different one; for in the days of old both the work of art
and the personality were whole, were of one piece. The movement is a
perfectly consistent one, regarded as the antipodes of classicism, in
short, as Romanticism.

But, granted that man is of necessity, by his very nature, a
divided, complex being, he is nevertheless, as the healthy, vigorous
personality, one. Aim, will, resolve, make him a complete unit. If, as
a natural product, the human being is only a group held more or less
firmly together by association of ideas, as a mind he is a complete
whole; in his will all the elements of the mind are united. Romanticism
only understood and depicted human nature with genius from the natural,
from the night side. It made no closer approach in this than in any
other of its endeavours to intellectual collectedness, unity, and

[1] "The morning he suffered his terrible sentence, ere yet it was
day, the warder entered and said: 'Come! the hour is about to strike.'
Then he fell on my breast for the last time, crying: 'Say a word, a
word of power, to strengthen me for the last steps I am to take on
earth!' And I said ... But, Fredrik, you frighten me. What is it? Why
do you rise and gaze on me thus, pale as a corpse? _Fredrik_--O mother!
mother! stop! You said: 'When you stand before your Creator, say: My
God and my Brother, forgive me for the sake of Thy passion, of my
repentance, and of my mother!' _Gertrud_--Oh, tell how you know this?
_Fredrik_--Because it was to me you spoke; not till this moment have I
understood myself; I am your own son, now living life over again."

[2] The apparition of a person, which appears to himself. There being
no exact English equivalent of "Doppelgänger" and "Doppelgängerei,"
these words are retained throughout in German.--_Transl_.

[3] Taine: _De l'Intelligence_, ii. 169.

[4] "_He_. Then tell who you are!

"_I_. I am a man whose one and only aim has been the beautiful, the
good, the true. I have never sacrificed to idols, never pandered to the
foolish requirements of fashion; the pain caused by misunderstanding
and scorn I have disregarded. In my wanderings, in my dreams, I have
indeed often taken smoke for flame, but the moment I awoke I upheld
what I knew to be the right. Can you say the same?

"_He_ (with a wild, loud, grating laugh). _I_ am not the man that you
boast yourself to be, but one of a very different character. I am a
cowardly, untruthful wretch, a hypocrite to myself and others; my heart
is the home of selfishness, deceit is on my tongue. You misunderstood
hero of the many sufferings, which of us is it that knows himself?
which of us has given the true description? which is the real man? Come
here and take my place if you dare? I am ready to make way for you.

"_I_ (with horrible conviction). You are the man! Stay here and let me
slink away!--And out into the night I went, to weep."



The traveller who visits a mine is let down into a subterranean shaft
in company with a man who carries a lamp, by the uncertain light of
which they explore the hidden depths. It is on such an expedition that
I now invite my readers to accompany me. The shaft to which we are
about to descend is that of the German "soul," a mine as deep, as dark,
as strange, as rich in precious metal and in worthless refuse as any
other. We shall note the imprint received by this soul in the days of
Romanticism, for this purpose dwelling at length on the Romanticist who
above all others is the poet of the soul--Novalis.

No word in any other language is the exact equivalent of the German
word "Gemüth," here translated "soul." "Gemüth" is something peculiarly
German. It is the inward flame, the inward crucible. In the famous
words of the "Wanderer's Sturmlied":--

    "Innre Wärme,
    Glüh entgegen
    Kalt wird sonst
    Sein Fürstenblick
    Ueber dich vorübergleiten,"

Goethe has described soul, and its significance in the poet's life.
With those who have soul, everything tends inwards; soul is the
centripetal force of the spiritual life. To the man who sets soul above
all else in human life, fervour becomes a patent of nobility. In their
conception of soul, as in everything else, the Romanticists rush to
extremes. They magnify all that is mysterious, dark, and unexplained
in the soul, at the expense of what is clear and beautiful. Goethe is
to them the greatest of all poets, not because of his plastic power,
but because of the obscurity, the dæmonic mystery, surrounding such
characters as the Harper and Mignon, and because of the pregnant
intensity of his smaller poems. Lessing and Schiller, on the other
hand, are not deemed poets at all, and are sneered at and disparagingly
criticised because of the outward direction taken by their keen,
energetic thought. For enthusiasm, strength of character, and all such
qualities are not soul. Soul remains at home when enthusiasm draws the
sword and goes forth to war. To the Romanticists the greatest poet is
he who has most soul.

The change which takes place in the case of the Romanticists is the
turning of Goethe's "Seelenwärme"--warmth of soul--into heat, a heat
which rises to the boiling or melting point, and in its intensity
consumes all established forms and ideas. The glory of the Romantic
poet is the heat and passion of the emotion which burns within him.
What Novalis does is done with the force of his whole being. Intense,
reckless feeling is his motto.

Friedrich von Hardenberg, a scion of an ancient house, was born at
Wiederstedt, in the County of Mansfeld, in May 1772. His father, a man
of a vigorous, ardent nature, had, after "leading a very worldly life,"
been converted at the age of thirty-one, when in great distress because
of his first wife's death, to the faith of the English Methodists. At
a later period he fell under the influence of the Moravian Brethren,
more particularly of Count Zinzendorf; and he was at all times strongly
influenced by his elder brother, a bigoted and somewhat ignorant
aristocrat of pietistic leanings. The elder brother's will was law in
the younger's household after the latter's second marriage; his strict
principles forbade the family all social intercourse, and the children
were obliged to keep their youthful amusements carefully concealed. In
1787 Novalis's father was appointed director of the saltworks in the
little town of Weissenfels.

[Illustration: NOVALIS]

Tieck became acquainted with the Hardenberg family in 1799, and they
made a profound impression on him. Köpke says: "It was a quiet,
serious life that they led, a life of unostentatious but sincere
piety. The family belonged to the sect of the Moravian Brethren, and
set forth its doctrines in their lives. Old Hardenberg, a high-minded,
honourable man, who had been a fine soldier in his day, lived like a
patriarch among his talented sons and charming daughters. Change and
enlightenment in any form were his detestation; he loved and lauded the
good old, misjudged days, and on occasion could express his views very
decidedly and defiantly, or blaze up in sudden anger."

The following little domestic scene speaks for itself: --one day heard
the old gentleman fuming and scolding in the adjoining room. "What has
happened?" he anxiously asked a servant who entered. "Nothing," was
the dry response; "it is only the master giving a Bible lesson." Old
Hardenberg was in the habit of conducting the devotional exercises of
the family, and at the same time examining the younger children on
religious subjects, and this not infrequently meant a domestic storm.

Such was Friedrich von Hardenberg's home. He was a dreamy, delicate
child, an intelligent, ambitious youth. In 1791 he went to Jena to
study law. Those were the palmy days of that university, which then
numbered amongst its professors such men as Reinhold, Fichte, and
Schiller. Novalis found Schiller's lectures specially spirit-stirring,
and the poet himself was to the young man "the perfect pattern of
humanity." Fichte, whose acquaintance he also made, he enthusiastically
called "the legislator of the new world-order." No one at that time
could have foreseen in young Hardenberg the future high priest of

We see him in those youthful days intensely absorbed in the study
of his own Ego. His plans are constantly changing; at one time
he determines to be the diligent, ardent student, at another to
throw up the pursuit of science and be a soldier. Strange as it
may sound, the men whom he at this time regards as his models are
those friends of freedom who were at the same time apostles of the
gospel of utilitarianism. He writes to his brother: "Buy Franklin's
autobiography, and let the genius of this book be your guide." We
occasionally hear of a little youthful folly; he is now and again
in trouble because of debts he has contracted; but he reasons very
sensibly with his father, when the latter is inclined to take his
peccadilloes too seriously.

Father and uncle naturally regarded the French Revolution with horror
and loathing, but Friedrich and his elder brother were its ardent

Things in Saxony being on too small a scale to suit Friedrich's
taste, his kinsman, the Prussian Minister (afterwards Chancellor) von
Hardenberg, offered him an appointment in Prussia; this, however, he
was unable to accept, owing to his father's unwillingness to allow him
to become a member of the liberal-minded Berlin cousin's household.
He was finally sent to Tennstedt, near Erfurt, to acquire practical
experience of the administration of the laws of the Electorate of
Saxony under the excellent district magistrate, Just.

Novalis's first friend among the Romanticists was Friedrich Schlegel,
whose acquaintance he made at Jena. The two had much in common,
and Novalis at once fell under Schlegel's influence. At the age of
twenty-five he writes to him: "To me you have been the high priest of
Eleusis; you have revealed heaven and hell to me; through you I have
tasted of the tree of knowledge." Young Hardenberg shows himself to
be entirely free from political prejudice; he takes a great fancy to
Schlegel's landlord, because of the man's "honest republicanism," and
jokes at Schlegel's severity in blaming him and the said landlord for
their loyalty to the princely house. He has an extremely high opinion
of Friedrich Schlegel as a critic, admires the fineness of the meshes
of his critical net, which allows no fish, however small, to escape,
and calls him "einen dephlogistisirten Lessing."

When, in 1797, Schlegel visited Hardenberg at his home, he found him
utterly broken down. A young girl, Sophie von Kühn, to whom he had been
passionately and absorbingly devoted, had just died. His despair took
the form of longing for death, and he fully believed that his body must
succumb to this desire and to his longing for the departed. Though he
had no definite plans of suicide, he called the desire for annihilation
by which he was possessed, "a firm determination, which would make of
his death a free-will offering." It was under the influence of these
thoughts that he wrote his _Hymns to Night_.

This excess of despair, and also the singular circumstance that Sophie,
who died at the age of fifteen, was only twelve years old when he fell
in love with her, seem to testify to something unhealthy and abnormal
in Novalis's character. The impression is strengthened when we find
him, only one year later, betrothed to a daughter of Von Charpentier,
superintendent of mines. It is quite true, as La Rochefoucauld says,
that the strength of our passions has no relation to their durability;
nevertheless it is strange that Hardenberg could suddenly console
himself with another, after finding his one pleasure for a whole year
in the thought of death, talking for a whole year as if the grave held
everything that was dear to him. It was a somewhat lame excuse that
Julie seemed to him a reincarnation of Sophie, though the fancy was not
a surprising one, considering how much the Romanticists dwelt on the
idea of a previous existence. But here, as elsewhere in Hardenberg's
life, much that is apparently unnatural is easily explainable when
the circumstances are rightly understood. Sophie von Kühn seems, like
Auguste Böhmer, to have been a most precocious child. When the youth of
twenty-three made her acquaintance, she possessed all the attractions
of the child combined with those of the maiden. Her features were fine,
her curly head was lightly poised, and there was a whole world in her
large, dark, expressive eyes. More impartial judges than Hardenberg
have called her "a heavenly creature."

Sophie's bright, hospitable home presented a striking contrast to young
Hardenberg's own; he was fascinated (as was his elder brother) by the
whole family; and the young girl, who, had she lived, would perhaps
have disappointed him by turning out worldly or insignificant, became
his muse, his Beatrice, his ideal. When we remember that, almost at
the same time with Sophie, Hardenberg lost his brother Erasmus, to
whom he was united by an intimate and beautiful friendship, we cannot
think it strange that life should have seemed to him to have lost all
its charms. He regarded death not merely in the light of a release;
his mystical tendency led him, as already mentioned, to speak of it
as "a free-will offering." He wrote in his diary at this time: "My
death will be a proof of my understanding and appreciation of what is
highest; it will be a real sacrifice, not a flight nor a makeshift."
It is at this crisis that he begins to turn in the direction of
positive Christianity. Not that he dreamed of declaring allegiance to
any particular Church, or belief in any particular set of dogmas, but
his pagan longing for death assumed a Christian colouring. His inmost
spiritual life had long been of such a nature that, had it not been
for the influence of the spirit of the times, he might just as easily
have become a determined opponent of all ecclesiastical doctrine. His
state of mind seems to have been that indicated by Friedrich Schlegel
when he wrote to him a year later: "Possibly you still have the choice,
my friend, between being the last Christian, the Brutus of the old
religion, or the Christ of the new gospel." Shortly after this his
choice was made.

In December 1798 he still feels, when he compares himself with his
friend Just, that he is only the apostle of pure spirituality. He does
not, like Just, rely "with childlike mind upon the unalterable words
of a mysterious ancient document;" he will not be bound by the letter,
and is inclined to find his own way to the primeval world; in the
doctrines of Christianity he sees an emblematic pre-figurement of the
coming universal religion. "You will not," he writes to Just, "fail to
recognise in this conception of religion one of the finest elements in
my composition--namely, fancy." In other words, he consciously admits
fancy to be at the source of his religious development.

In the same year (1798) he sent some fragments to Wilhelm Schlegel for
publication in the _Athenæum_, with the request that their author might
be known as NOVALIS, "which is an old family name, and not altogether

Tieck met Novalis for the first time when he visited Jena in the summer
of 1799. August Wilhelm Schlegel brought them together, and they were
soon devoted friends. The three spent the first evening in earnest
conversation, opening their hearts to each other At midnight they
went out to enjoy the splendour of the summer night. "The full moon,"
says Köpke, "was shedding a magic glory upon the heights round Jena."
Towards morning Tieck and Schlegel accompanied Novalis home. Tieck has
commemorated this evening in _Phantasus_.

It was under Tieck's influence that Novalis wrote his principal work,
_Heinrich von Ofterdingen_. While he was still engaged upon it, his
young life was put an end to by consumption. He died at the age of
twenty-nine, only two years after the meeting with Tieck and A. W.
Schlegel above described. This early death, a remarkable degree of
originality, and great personal beauty have combined to shed a poetic
halo round Novalis. The St. John of the new movement, he resembled the
most spiritual of the apostles in outward appearance also. His forehead
was almost transparent, and his brown eyes shone with remarkable
brilliance. During the last three years of his life it could be read in
his face that he was destined to an early death.

Novalis was seventeen when the French Revolution broke out. If one
were asked to give a brief definition of the main idea of that great
movement, one would say that it was the destruction of everything that
was merely traditional, and the establishment of human existence upon
a basis of pure reason, by means of a direct break with everything
historic. The thinkers and heroes of the Revolution allow reason,
as it were, to upset everything, in order that reason may put
everything straight again. Although Novalis is deaf to all the social
and political cries of the period, and blind to all its progressive
movements, and although he ends in the most grim and repulsive
reaction, he is, nevertheless, not merely influenced, but, all
unconsciously, completely penetrated by the spirit of his age. Between
him--the quiet, introspective, loyal Saxon assessor--and the poor
_sans-culottes_ who rushed from Paris to the frontiers, singing the
"Marseillaise" and waving the tricolour flag, there is this fundamental
resemblance, that they both desire the destruction of the whole
outward and the construction of an inward world. Only, their inward
world is reason, his is soul: for them, reason with its demands and
formulæ--liberty, equality, and fraternity; for him, the soul, with its
strange nocturnal gloom, in which he melts down everything, to find, at
the bottom of the crucible, as the gold of the soul--night, disease,
mysticism, and voluptuousness.[1]

Thus, in spite of his violent animosity to his age, Novalis belongs to
it; the direct opponent of all its enlightened and beautiful ideas, he
is, despite himself, possessed by its spirit.

What in Fichte and the men of the Revolution is clear reason,
comprehending and testing everything, is in Novalis an all-absorbing
self--perception, which becomes actual voluptuousness; for the new
spirit has taken such a hold upon him that it is, as it were, entwined
round his nerves, causing a species of voluptuous excitement. What
with them is abstract liberty, liberty to begin everything from the
beginning again, with him is lawless fancy, which changes everything,
which resolves nature and history into emblems and myths, in order
to be able to play at will with all that is external, and to revel
unrestrainedly in self-perception. As Arnold Ruge puts it: "Mysticism,
which is theoretical voluptuousness, and voluptuousness, which
is practical mysticism, are present in Novalis in equally strong

Novalis is himself thoroughly conscious that, in spite of all its
would-be spirituality, his hectic imagination inclines towards the
sensual. Writing to Caroline Schlegel on the subject of _Lucinde_, he
says: "I know that imagination (Fantasie) is most attracted by what
is most immoral, most animal; but I also know how like a dream all
imagination is, how it loves night, meaninglessness, and solitude." He
here affirms of imagination in general what applied particularly to his

Tieck writes with enthusiasm of music, as teaching us to _feel
feeling_. Novalis is a living interpretation of these words. He,
whose aim is feeling, unrestrained, irresponsible feeling, desires
to feel himself, and makes no secret of the fact that he seeks this
self-enjoyment. Therefore to him sickness is preferable to health. For
the sick man perpetually feels his own body, which the healthy man
does not. Pascal, and our own Kierkegaard, contented themselves with
defining sickness as the Christian's natural condition. Novalis goes
much further. To him the highest, the only true life, is the life of
the sick man. "_Leben ist eine Krankheit des Geistes_" ("Life is a
disease of the spirit"). Why? Because only in living individuals does
the world-spirit feel itself, attain to self-consciousness. And no less
highly than disease does Novalis prize voluptuousness, sensual rapture.
Why? Because it is simply an excited, and therefore in his eyes
diseased, self-consciousness, a wavering struggle between pleasure and
pain. "Could man," he says, "but begin to love sickness and suffering,
he would perhaps in their arms experience the most delicious rapture,
and feel the thrill of the highest positive pleasure.... Does not all
that is best begin as illness? Half-illness is an evil; real illness
is a pleasure, and one of the highest." And he writes elsewhere of a
mystic power, "which seems to be the power of pleasure and pain, the
enrapturing effect of which we observe so distinctly in the sensations
of voluptuousness." To Novalis's voluptuous feeling of sickness
corresponds the pietist's conviction of sin, that spiritual sickness
which is at the same time a voluptuous pleasure. Novalis himself
is perfectly aware of this correspondence. He says: "The Christian
religion is the most voluptuous of religions. Sin is the greatest
stimulant to love of the Divine Being; the more sinful a man feels
himself to be, the more Christian he is. Direct union with the Deity is
the aim of sin and of love." And again: "It is curious that the evident
association between sensuality, religion, and cruelty did not long ago
draw men's attention to their close kinship and common tendencies."

And just as Novalis now prefers sickness to health, so he prefers night
to day, with its "impudent light."

Aversion for day and daylight was general among the Romanticists.
I drew attention to it in _William Lovell_. Novalis simply gives
expression to a heightened degree of the general feeling in his famous
_Hymns to Night_. That he should love the night is easy to understand.
By hiding the surrounding world from it, night drives the Ego in
upon itself; hence the feeling of night, and self-consciousness, are
one and the same thing. The rapture of the feeling of night lies in
its terror; first comes the fear of the individual, when everything
round him disappears in the darkness, that he will himself disappear
from himself; then comes the pleasant shudder when, out of this fear,
self-consciousness emerges stronger than before.

In one of his fragments Novalis calls death a bridal night, a sweet
mystery, and adds:--

    "Ist es nicht klug, für die Nacht ein geselliges Lager zu suchen?
    Darum ist klüglich gesinnt, wer auch Entschlummerte liebt."[2]

So completely is this idea incorporated in the Romantic philosophy
of life, that in Werner's drama, _Die Kreuzesbrüder_, the hero,
immediately before he is led to the stake, says:--

                       "Den Neid verzeih' ich,
    Die Trauer nicht.--O unaussprechlich schwelg' ich
    In der Verwandlung Wonn', in dem Gefühl
    Des schönen Opfertodes!--O mein Bruder!
    Nicht wahr? es kommt die Zeit, we alle Menschen
    Den Tod erkennen--freudig ihn umarmen,
    Und fühlen werden, dass dies Leben nur
    Der Liebe Ahnung ist, der Tod ihr Brautkuss,
    Und sie, die mit der Inbrunst eines Gatten,
    Im Brautgemach, uns vom Gewand entkleidet--
    Verwesung, Gluterguss der Liebe ist!"[3]

Life and death are to Novalis only "relative ideas." The dead are half
alive, the living half dead. It is this thought which in his case
first gives zest to existence. In the first of his Hymns to Night he
writes: "I turn to thee, holy, ineffable, mysterious Night! Far off
lies the world, as if it had sunk into a deep grave; deserted and
lonely is its place. My heart-strings vibrate with sorrow.... Dost
thou find pleasure in us as we in thee, dark Night?... Costly balsam
drips from thy hand, from thy poppy-sheaf. Thou unfoldest the heavy
wings of the soul.... How poor, how childish seems the day, how joyful
and blessed its departing!... More heavenly than those sparkling stars
are the myriad eyes which Night opens in us. They see farther than the
palest of those countless hosts; without the aid of light, they see
into the depths of a loving soul, and its high places are filled with
unspeakable rapture. Praised be the Queen of the earth, the august
revealer of holy worlds, the guardian of blessed love! She sends me
thee, my beloved, sweet sun of the night. Now I wake, for I am thine
and mine. Thou hast proclaimed to me the life-giving gospel of Night,
hast made of me a human being. Consume my body with the glowing flame
of the spirit, that I may mingle yet more ethereally, yet more closely
with thee, and the bridal-night be eternal."

One feels the feverish desire of the consumptive in this outburst. The
parallel passage in _Lucinde_ is: "O infinite longing! But a time is
coming when the fruitless desire and vain delusions of the day will die
away and disappear, and the great night of love bring eternal peace."
The thoughts of these two Romantic lovers of the night meet in this
idea of an eternal embrace.

In this enthusiasm for night lies the germ of religious mysticism. In
the case of Justinus Kerner (which recalls that of Jung Stilling),
bias towards the mysterious becomes belief in apparitions and fear of
spirits. In certain of the writings of the later Romanticists, for
instance in Achim von Arnim's _Die schöne Isabella von Ægypten_, half
the characters are spirits. Mysticism is a fundamental element in the
art of Clemens Brentano, even when he is at his best, and it gives
charm and colour to his descriptions.

Novalis himself describes mysticism as voluptuousness--"ein
wollüstiges Wesen." To understand this expression aright, we must study
his hymns:--

    "Hinüber wall' ich
    Und jede Pein
    Wird einst ein Stachel
    Der Wollust sein.
    Noch wenig Zeiten
    So bin ich los,
    Und liege trunken
    Der Lieb' im Schoss."[4]

Still plainer expression is given to the ecstatic passion of the
sensual Ego in a sacramental hymn (No. vii. of the _Spiritual Songs_):
"Few know the secret of love, feel for ever unsatisfied, for ever
athirst. The divine significance of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper
is an enigma to the carnal mind. But he who even once has drunk in the
breath of life from warm, beloved lips, whose heart has melted in the
quivering flames of holy fire, whose eyes have been opened to fathom
the unfathomable depths of heaven--he will eat of His body and drink of
His blood for ever more. Who has yet discerned the transcendent meaning
of the earthly body? Who can say that he understands the blood? The day
is coming when all body will be one body; then the beatified pair will
float in heavenly blood. Oh! that the ocean were already reddening,
that the rocks were softening into fragrant flesh! The sweet repast
never ends, love is never satisfied. Never can it have the beloved near
enough, close enough to its inmost self. By lips that are ever more
tenderly amorous, the heavenly nutriment is ever more eagerly seized
and transformed. Hotter and hotter burns the passion of the soul,
thirstier, ever thirstier grows the heart; and so the feast of love
endures from everlasting to everlasting. Had those who abstain but once
tasted of it, they would forsake everything and seat themselves beside
us at the table of longing, which is ever furnished with guests. They
would comprehend the infinite fulness of love, and extol our feast of
the Body and the Blood."[5]

These lines give us an excellent idea of the nature and main
characteristics of mysticism. Mysticism retains all the old religious
forms, but it truly _feels_ their significance; it speaks the same
language as orthodoxy, but it changes a dead language into a living
one. Herein lay the secret of its victory in the Middle Ages over that
dry, formal scholasticism which it consumed in its glow. This made it
the precursor of the Reformation. The mystic needs no external dogma;
in his pious rapture he is his own priest. But, as his spiritual life
is altogether an inward life, he does not abolish external dogma, and
in the end actually becomes a sacerdotalist.

In mystically prophetic words Novalis foretells the coming of the new
kingdom of sacred darkness:--

    "Es bricht die neue Welt herein
    _Und verdunkelt den hellsten Sonnenschein_.
    Man sieht nun aus bemoosten Trümmern
    Eine wunderseltsame Zukunft schimmern,
    Und was vordem alltäglich war,
    Scheint jetzo fremd und wunderbar.
    Der Liebe Reich ist aufgethan,
    Die Fabel fängt zu spinnen an.
    Das Urspiel jeder Natur beginnt,
    Auf kräftige Worte jedes sinnt,
    Und so das grosse Weltgemüth
    Ueberall sich regt und unendlich blüht.
    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    Die Welt wird Traum, der Traum wird Welt,
    Und was man glaubt, es sei geschehn,
    Kann mann von weitem erst kommen sehn;
    Frei soll die Phantasie erst schalten,
    Nach ihrem Gefallen die Fäden verweben,
    Hier manches verschleiern, dort manches entfalten,
    _Und endlich in magischem Dunst verschweben_.
    _Wehmuth und Wollust, Tod und Leben
    Sind hier in innigster Sympathie,_--
    Wer sich der höchsten Lieb' ergeben,
    Genest von ihren Wunden nie."[6]

Night, death, sensual rapture, heavenly bliss--these ideas are still
more firmly interwoven in the verses above the churchyard gate, in
_Heinrich von Ofterdingen_. The dead say:--

    "Süsser Reiz der Mitternächte,
    Stiller Kreis geheimer Mächte,
    Wollust räthselhafter Spiele,
    Wir nur kennen euch.
    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    Leiser Wünsche süsses Plaudern
    Hören wir allein, und schauen
    Immerdar in sel'ge Augen,
    Schmecken nichts als Mund und Kuss.
    Alles was wir nur berühren,
    Wird zu heissen Balsamfrüchten,
    Wird zu weichen zarten Brüsten,
    Opfern kühner Lust.

    Immer wächst und blüht Verlangen
    Am Geliebten festzuhangen,
    Ihn im Innern zu empfangen,
    Eins mit ihm zu sein.
    Seinem Durste nicht zu wehren,
    Sich im Wechsel zu verzehren,
    Von einander sich zu nähren,
    Von einander nur allein.

    So in Lieb' und hoher Wollust
    Sind wir immerdar versunken,
    Seit der wilde trübe Funken
    Jener Welt erlosch;

    Seit der Hügel sich geschlossen
    Und der Scheiterhaufen sprühte,
    Und dem schauernden Gemüthe
    Nun das Erdgesicht zerfloss."[7]

This mysticism, which deems the dead happy because it supposes them
to be revelling in all sensual delights, becomes, in its practical
application, a sort of quietism, that is, preference for a vegetating,
plant-like life, the life extolled in _Lucinde_.

"The plants," says Novalis, "are the plainest speech of the earth;
every new leaf, every remarkable flower is some mystery which is trying
to reveal itself, and which remains motionless and dumb only because
from very joy and love it can neither move nor speak. If one chances
in solitude upon such a flower, does not everything around it seem
transfigured? do not the little feathered songsters seem to seek its
vicinity? One could weep for gladness, and, forgetting the world, could
bury one's hands and feet in the ground, take root, and never leave
that happy neighbourhood."

What an overdose of sentiment! It provides its own cruel parody in the
insane situation which reminds us Danes of one in Holberg's _Ulysses
von Ithacia_.

In another part of _Ofterdingen_ we read: "Flowers exactly correspond
to children ... like children they are found lowest down, nearest
the earth; the clouds, again, are possibly revelations of the
second, higher childhood, of Paradise regained; therefore it is that
they shed such refreshing dews upon the children of earth." In the
Romantic jargon there is even talk of the childlikeness of clouds.
Naïveté aspires, and is not satisfied until it has reached the sky.
O Polonius!--These naïve clouds are the true, the proper symbols of

But even in the plants and the clouds there is still too much endeavour
and unrest to satisfy the Romantic soul. Even vegetation is not perfect
abstraction, perfect quiescence; there is tendency upwards in the
straining of the plant towards the light. Therefore even the plant life
is not the highest. Novalis goes a step further than Friedrich Schlegel.

"The highest life is mathematics. Without enthusiasm no mathematics.
The life of the gods is mathematics. Pure mathematics is religion. It
is arrived at only by revelation. The mathematician knows everything.
All activity ceases when knowledge is attained. The state of knowledge
is bliss (Eudämonie), rapturous peace of contemplation, heavenly

Now we have reached the climax. All life is crystallised into dead
mathematical figures.

At this point the life of the soul is condensed to such a degree that
it comes to a standstill. It is as if the clock of the soul had ceased
to strike. Every noble aspiration, every tendency towards independent
action is forced back and stifled in the airless vaults of the soul.

It is at this point, therefore, that intense spirituality turns into
gross materialism. When all capacity of producing new outward forms
is not only despised, but actually destroyed, we have reached the
turning-point, the point at which all established outward forms are
recognised and accepted, and accepted the more gladly the more rigid
they are, the closer they approach to crystallised petrifaction,
the more certain it is that they only leave room for the life of
vegetation. The step is taken by Novalis in a remarkable essay,
_Christendom in Europe_, which Tieck by his erasures vainly tried
to nullify, and which Friedrich Schlegel, by leaving out one most
important passage, converted into a defence of Catholicism.

In this essay he writes as follows:--"These were happy, glorious days,
when Europe was still a Christian continent, the home of the one,
undivided Christian religion.... The wise head of the Church rightly
set himself against the bold cultivation of the human mind at the cost
of religious faith, and against untimely and dangerous discoveries
in the domain of science. Thus he forbade the scientists to maintain
openly that this earth is an insignificant planet, for he knew well
that men would lose, along with their respect for their earthly home,
respect for their heavenly home and their fellow-men, that they would
choose limited knowledge in preference to unlimited faith, and would
acquire the habit of despising everything great and wonderful, as being
simply the result of lifeless law."

We could almost suppose ourselves to be listening to the sermonising
of a parish-clerk of the eighteenth century. And yet we are sensible
of the poet's consistency. Poetry, which led Schiller back to Greece,
leads Novalis back to the Inquisition, and induces him, like Joseph de
Maistre, to side with it against Galileo.

Of Protestantism he says: "This great spiritual disruption, which was
accompanied by disastrous wars, was a notable proof of the harmfulness
of knowledge, of culture--or at least of the temporary harmfulness
of a certain degree of culture.... The schismatics separated the
inseparable, divided the indivisible Church, and presumptuously
dissociated themselves from the great Christian communion, in which,
and through which alone, true, lasting regeneration was possible....
A religious peace was concluded, based upon principles which were
as foolish as they were irreligious; for the continued existence of
so-called Protestantism was equivalent to the establishment of a
self-contradiction, namely, permanent revolutionary government....
Luther treated Christianity arbitrarily, mistook its spirit, and
introduced a new letter, a totally new doctrine, that of the sacred
and supreme authority of the Bible. This, unfortunately, meant the
interference in religious matters of a perfectly foreign, entirely
earthly science, namely, philology, the destructive influence of which
is thenceforward unmistakable.... The popularisation of the Bible was
now insisted upon, and its contemptible matter and the crude abstract
sketch of a religion provided by its books had a remarkable effect in
frustrating the inspiring, revealing activity of the Holy Spirit....
The Reformation was the death-blow of Christianity.... Fortunately for
the Church, there came into existence at this time a new religious
order, on which the expiring spirit of the hierarchy seemed to have
bestowed its last gifts. This order gave new life to the old forms, and
with wonderful intuition and determination set about the restoration of
the Papal power. Never before in the world's history had such a society
been known.... The Jesuits were well aware how much Luther owed to his
demagogic arts and his knowledge of the common people.... From of old,
the scholar has been the instinctive enemy of the priest; the learned
and the ecclesiastical professions must carry on a war of extermination
against each other so long as they are separated; for they are
struggling for the same position.... To the outcome of modern thought
men gave the name of philosophy; and under philosophy they comprehended
everything that was hostile to the old order of things, consequently
every attack upon religion. What was at first personal hatred of the
Roman Catholic Church became by degrees hatred of the Bible, of the
Christian faith, indeed of all religion."

We see how clearly Novalis understood that free-thought was a
consequence of Protestantism. He continues:--

"Nay, more; the hatred of religion developed naturally and inevitably
into a hatred of all enthusiasms, denounced imagination and feeling,
morality and love of art, the past and the future, barely acknowledged
man to be the highest among the animals, and reduced the creative
music of the universe to the monotonous whirr of an enormous mill,
driven by the stream of chance--a mill without a builder or miller,
a true _perpetuum mobile_.... One enthusiasm was magnanimously left
to mankind, enthusiasm for this glorious philosophy and its priests.
France had the good fortune to be the seat of this new faith, which
was patched together out of fragments of knowledge.... On account of
its obedience to the laws of mathematics and its audacity, light was
the idol of these men.... The history of modern unbelief is very
remarkable, and is the key to all the monstrous phenomena of these
later days. It only begins in this century, is little noticeable till
the middle of it, and then quickly develops with incalculable force
in every direction; a second, more comprehensive and more remarkable
Reformation was inevitable, and of necessity came first in the country
which was most modernised and had suffered longest from want of
freedom.... During this anarchy religion was born again, true anarchy
being its generating element.... To the reflective observer the
overthrower of the state is a Sisyphus. No sooner does he reach the
summit, where there is equipoise, than the mighty burden rolls down
on the other side. It will never remain up there unless it is kept in
position by an attraction towards heaven. All your supports are too
weak as long as your state has a tendency towards the earth."

He enthusiastically predicts the coming age of "soul." "In Germany
we can already point to sure indications of a new world.... Here
and there, and often in daring union, are to be found incomparable
versatility, brilliant polish, extensive knowledge, and rich and
powerful imagination. A strong feeling of the creative arbitrariness,
the boundlessness, the infinite many-sidedness, the sacred originality,
and the unlimited capacity of the human spirit is taking possession
of men.... Although these are only indications, disconnected and
crude, they nevertheless discover to the historic eye a universal
individuality, new history, a new humanity, the sweet embrace of a
loving God and a young, surprised Church, and the conception of a
new Messiah in the hearts of all the many thousands of that Church's
members. Who does not, with sweet shame, feel himself pregnant? The
child will be the express image of the father--a new golden age, with
dark, fathomless eyes; a prophetic, miracle-working, comforting age,
which will kindle the flame of eternal life; a great reconciler, a
saviour who, like a spirit taking up his abode amongst men, will only
be believed in, not seen, will appear to the faithful in innumerable
forms, will be consumed as bread and wine, embraced as the beloved,
inhaled as the air, heard as word and song, received as death with
voluptuous ecstasy and love's keenest pain, into the inmost recesses of
the dissolving body."

After occupying ourselves so long with voluptuous rapture, bliss,
religion, night, and death, do we not instinctively cry: "Air! light!"
We seem to be suffocating. This "soul" in truth resembles the shaft
of a mine. Novalis's love for the miner's life, in which smoky red
lanterns replace the light of day, is not without significance. And
what is the upshot of it all? What new being is the result of the
embraces of a loving God and a young, surprised Church? What but a
regenerated reaction, which in France restored Catholicism and (after
Napoleon's fall) the Bourbons, and in Germany led to that hateful
tyranny which gave pietism the same power there that Catholicism
exercised in France, cast young men into prison, and drove the best
writers of the day into exile.

Novalis relegated everything to the inner life, the inner world.
It engulfed everything, the forces of the Revolution and of the
counter-revolution; in it all the lions of the spirit lay bound; in
it the Titanic powers of history were shut up and hypnotised. Night
surrounded them; they felt the voluptuous joys of darkness and death;
the life they lived was the life of a plant, and in the end they turned
into stone. In the inner world lay all the wealth of the spirit, but it
was dead treasure, inert masses, ingeniously crystallized according to
mathematical laws. It was like the gold and silver in the inward parts
of the earth, and the poet was the miner who was spirited down into the
depths and rejoiced in all that he saw.

But while he stayed down below, things in the upper world pursued
their usual course. The outer world was not in the least disturbed
because the poet and the philosopher were employed in taking it to
pieces in the inner world. For they did not go to work in the rough,
material fashion of a Mirabeau or a Bonaparte; they only disintegrated
it inwardly in an inner world. When the poet, released by the spirits,
came up from the mine again, he found the outer world, which he
supposed he had resolved into its elements, exactly as it had been
before. All that he had melted in his heart stood there, hard and
cold; and, since the outer world had never really interested him, and
since it seemed to him almost as night-like, murky, and drowsy as his
inner world, he gave it his blessing and let it stand.

The prophetic quality in Novalis, his peculiar type of personal beauty,
his genuine lyric talent, and his early death, have led critics to
compare him with Shelley, who was born twenty years after him. Quite
lately, in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, Blaze de Bury drew attention to
the resemblance. He writes: "Shelley's poetry has a strong resemblance
to Novalis's, and the likeness between these two singular poets is
not only a physical one; common to them both are close observation of
nature, divination of all her little secrets, a choice combination of
sentiment with philosophical thought, an utter want of tangibility,
reflections, but no body, a mounting upwards, an aspiration, that leads

These resemblances, however, do not affect the great fundamental
unlikeness, the diametrically opposed spiritual standpoints of these
two poets of such an apparently similar cast of mind, one of whom lives
before, the other after the great spiritual revulsion of the beginning
of this century.

Think of Shelley's life in its main outlines. The son of a good family,
he was sent to an aristocratic school, where, while yet a child, he
was roused to wrath and opposition by the brutality of the boys and
the cruelty of the masters. What especially kindled his indignation as
he grew older was the hypocrisy with which those who gave free rein to
their bad passions perpetually talked of God and Christianity. During
his second year at Oxford, Shelley wrote an essay _On the Necessity
of Atheism_, of which, with naïve straightforwardness, he sent copies
to the Church and University authorities. He was summoned before
them, and, on refusing to retract what he had written, was expelled
for atheism. He went home, but his father received him with such
contemptuous coldness that he soon left again, never to return. His
whole life was a tissue of similar rebellions and similar misfortunes.
In his twentieth year he was threatened with consumption, and though
he recovered, he was thenceforward a delicate, nervously irritable
man. The Court of Chancery refused him the guardianship of his own
children (after the death of his first wife) on the ground that he had
propagated immoral and irreligious doctrines in _Queen Mab_. After this
he left England for ever, and lived in Italy in voluntary exile until
sudden death put an end to his sad and homeless existence. His boat was
capsized in a squall in the Gulf of Spezzia, and he was drowned, at the
age of twenty-nine.

In contrast with such a life as this, Hardenberg's is a true German
country-town idyll. At the age of twenty-five he received a Government
appointment, an auditorship at one of the state saltworks, and a year
or two later he was advanced to be "assessor" at the saltworks of
Weissenfels. His Romanticism in no way interfered with his fulfilment
of his duties as a good citizen. In his capacity of Government official
he was zealous, conscientious, and steady--one of the men who do
their duty and are guilty of no extravagances, and whose position
is consequently assured. His republicanism was short-lived, and he
is only saved by his naïveté from the charge of servility. He calls
Frederick William and Louisa of Prussia "ein klassisches Menschenpaar;"
in the revelation of these "geniuses" he sees an omen of a better
world. Frederick William is, he says, the first king of Prussia; he
crowns himself every day. A real "transubstantiation" has taken place;
for the court has been transformed into a family, the throne into a
sanctuary, a royal marriage into an eternal union of hearts. Only
youthful prejudice, he maintains, inclines to a republic; the married
man desires order, safety, quietness, a well-regulated household, a
"real monarchy." "A constitution has for us only the interest of a dead
letter. How different is the law which is the expression of the will
of a beloved and revered person! We have no right to conceive of the
monarch as the first officer of the state; he is not a citizen, and
cannot therefore be an official. The king is a human being exalted to
the position of an earthly providence."

If we compare such utterances as the above with those of Shelley's
poems which were inspired by the tyranny prevailing in his native
country, or those in which he glorifies the Italian revolutions and
the Greek war of liberation, we have the sharpest imaginable contrast.
And the same contrast meets us wherever we turn. Novalis sings the
praises of sickness. Shelley says: "It is certain that wisdom is not
compatible with disease, and that, in the present state of the climates
of this earth, health, in the true and comprehensive sense of the word,
is out of the reach of civilized man."

Novalis says: "We picture God to ourselves as a person, just as
we think of ourselves as persons. God is exactly as personal and
individual as we are." Shelley says: "There is no God! This negation
must be understood solely to affect a creative Deity. The hypothesis of
a pervading Spirit, co-eternal with the universe, remains unshaken....
It is impossible to believe that the Spirit which pervades this
infinite machine begat a son upon the body of a Jewish woman, or is
angered by the consequences of that necessity which is a synonym
of itself. All that miserable tale of the Devil, and Eve, and an
Intercessor, with the childish mummeries of the God of the Jews, is
irreconcilable with the knowledge of the stars. The works of his
fingers have borne witness against him."

Novalis sings the praises of the priesthood and of the Jesuits.
Shelley says: "During many ages of darkness and misery this story"
(the doctrine of the Bible) "gained implicit belief; but at length
men arose who suspected it was a fable and imposture, and that Jesus
Christ, so far from being a God, was only a man like themselves. But a
numerous set of men who derived, and still derive, immense emoluments
from this opinion, told the vulgar that if they did not believe in the
Bible they would be damned to all eternity; and burned, imprisoned, and
poisoned all the unbiassed and unconnected inquirers who occasionally
arose. They still oppress them, so far as the people, now become
more enlightened, will allow.... The same means that have supported
every popular belief have supported Christianity. War, imprisonment,
assassination, and falsehood, deeds of unexampled and incomparable
atrocity, have made it what it is. The blood shed by the votaries of
the God of mercy and peace, since the establishment of his religion,
would probably suffice to drown all other sectaries now on the
habitable globe."

From these extracts, to which innumerable others of the same tendency
might be added, we see how great was the distance between Novalis, with
his introspective soul-life, and Shelley, with his practical enthusiasm
for liberty.

These, then, are the two poets whom men have attempted to represent as
twin spirits. They both rank high as lyric poets, though Shelley is a
poetical genius of a far higher type than Novalis. But even if Novalis
were more on a level with Shelley as a poet, how small is the measure
of truth to be found in his works compared with that in Shelley's!

To Novalis, truth was poetry and dream; to Shelley, it was liberty. To
Novalis it was a firmly established and powerful Church; to Shelley a
struggling, sorely-pressed heresy; Novalis's truth sat on royal and
papal thrones; Shelley's was despised and powerless.

To make any real impression on humanity, a truth, however great, must
be made man, must become flesh and blood. In the early biographies
of Defoe, the author of _Robinson Crusoe_, we are told that in July
1703 he was condemned, as author of a certain pamphlet, first to have
his ears cut off and then to be pilloried. The day came, the sentence
was carried out, the man with the pale, mutilated face, dripping
with blood, stood in the pillory, facing the assembled multitude.
Then, strange to say, in place of the usual loud hooting, with its
accompaniment of showers of rotten apples, eggs, potatoes, &c., there
fell a dead silence; not an apple was thrown, not one abusive word was
heard--Defoe was far too dear to the hearts of the people. Presently
one of the crowd, hoisted on his neighbours' shoulders, placed a wreath
upon the mutilated head. I read this when I was a boy, and though I
know now that Defoe did not lose his ears, so that Pope was mistaken
when he wrote--

    "Earless on high stood unabashed Defoe;"

and though I also know that Defoe was not the pure character I took
him to be at that time, still the picture remains a grand one, and it
has burned itself into my soul. For it contains an eternal verity. As
a general rule, truth upon this earth presents much such an appearance
as did the condemned author in the pillory. And I remember thinking to
myself at the time: "If a man chanced to find such a poor, despised,
oppressed truth in the pillory, what a great moment in his life it
would be if he might draw near and place the wreath upon its brow!"
Shelley did this--Novalis did not.

[1] A. Ruge, _Werke_, i. 247, &c.

[2] "We deem that man wise who seeks a companion for his nightly couch;
then he also is wise who has a beloved among the dead."

[3] "I forgive envy; pity I cannot forgive. It is beyond my power to
tell how I revel in the thought of my approaching transfiguration, my
sacrificial death. O brother! the time is surely drawing nigh when all
men, truly understanding death, will welcome him with glad embrace,
will feel that life is but the anticipation of love, that death is the
bridal kiss, and dissolution, which with a bridegroom's ardour disrobes
us in the bridal chamber, the hottest fire of love."

[4] "Thither I go, and there every pain will be a thrill of rapture.
Ere long I shall be free, be lying, intoxicated with ecstasy, in the
bosom of love."


    "Wenige wissen
    Das Geheimnis der Liebe,
    Fühlen Unersättlichkeit
    Und ewigen Durst.
    Des Abendmahls
    Göttliche Bedeutung
    Ist den irdischen Sinnen Rätsel;
    Aber wer jemals
    Von heissen, geliebten Lippen
    Atem des Lebens sog,
    Wem heilige Glut
    In zitternden Wellen das Herz schmolz
    Wem das Auge aufging,
    Dass er des Himmels
    Unergründliche Tiefe mass,
    Wird essen von seinem Leibe
    Und trinken von seinem Blute
    Wer hat des irdischen Leibes
    Hohen Sinn erraten?
    Wer kann sagen
    Dass er das Blut versteht?
    Einst ist Alles Leib--
    Ein Leib,
    In himmlischem Blute
    Schwimmt das selige Paar.
    O! dass das Weltmeer
    Schon errötete,
    Und in duftiges Fleisch
    Aufquölle der Fels!
    Nie endet das süsse Mahl,
    Nie sättigt die Liebe sich;
    Nicht innig, nicht eigen genug
    Kann sie haben den Geliebten.
    Von immer zarteren Lippen
    Verwandelt wird das Genossene
    Inniglicher und näher.
    Heissere Wollust
    Durchbebt die Seele,
    Durstiger und durstiger
    Wird das Herz:
    Und so währet der Liebe Genuss
    Von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit.
    Hätten die Nüchternen
    Einmal gekostet,
    Alles verliessen sie,
    Und setzten sich zu uns
    An den Tisch der Sehnsucht,
    Der nie leer wird.
    Sie erkännten der Liebe
    Unendliche Fülle,
    Und priesen die Nahrung
    Von Leib und Blut."

[6] "The new world appears, _and darkens the brightest sunshine_. Among
moss-grown ruins one sees a marvellous future glistening; and what
used to be common and everyday, now seems miraculous. The kingdom of
love has come; the fable has begun to weave itself. Every soul is born
again; words of power are heard again; the great world-soul moves, and
puts forth bud and blossom without end....

"The world becomes a dream, our dream the world; and what we believed
to have happened long ago, we now see only coming, as yet far off.
Imagination must have free play, must weave her web as seems best to
her, here veiling, there discovering, at last dissolving all into
magic vapour. Sadness and rapture, death and life, are here by inmost
sympathy but one: he who has known the highest love never recovers from
its wounds."

[7] "Sweet joys of midnight, silent company of mysterious powers,
strange revelries of passion, 'tis we alone who know you....

"We alone hear the whispered prayers of sweet desire, and look for ever
into-blissful eyes, taste for ever mouth and kiss. All that we touch
turns into balsamic fruits, into soft and lovely breasts, ripe food for
our desire.

"Anew and ever anew awakes our longing to embrace, to be one with, the
beloved, to give him whate'er he asks, sweetly to consume each other,
to feed on each other, and on nought else.

"In this voluptuous passion we have revelled ever since the glaring
light of earthly life was extinguished, since the faggot flamed,
the grave closed on us, and the sights of earth were hidden from the
shuddering soul."



I have described Romantic "soul" as intensity, without endeavour or
desire, as the glowing furnace in which liberty was asphyxiated and
every tendency to outward action destroyed. But this is not the exact
truth. One outward tendency remained, that which is known by the
name of "longing" (Sehnsucht). Longing is the Romantic equivalent of
endeavour, and the mother of all Romantic poetry. What is longing? It
is a combination of lack and desire, without the determination or the
means to attain what one lacks and desires. And what is the object
of this longing? What but that which is the object of all longing
and desire, in however fine or hypocritical words it may clothe
itself--enjoyment and happiness. The Romanticist does not employ the
word happiness, but it is what he means. He does not say happiness, he
says "the ideal." But do not let us be deceived by words. The special
characteristic of the Romanticist, however, is not his search after
happiness, but his belief that it exists, that it must be in store for
him, and that it will come to him when he least expects it. And since
it is the gift of Heaven, since he himself is not its creator, he may
lead as aimless a life as he will, guided only by his vague longing.
All that is necessary is to preserve his faith that this longing will
be satisfied. And it is a faith easy to preserve, for everything around
him is full of omens and prophecies of the accomplishment of his desire.

It was Novalis who gave to the object of Romantic longing the famous,
mystic name of "the blue flower." The expression is, of course, not
to be understood literally. The "blue flower" is a mysterious symbol,
something of the nature of ΙΧθΥΣ, the Fish of the early Christians. It
is an abbreviation, a condensed formulation of all that infinitude of
bliss for which a languishing human heart is capable of longing. Hence
glimpses of it are caught long before it is reached; it is dreamed of
long before it is seen; it is divined now here, now there, in what
proves to be a delusion, is seen for a moment amongst other flowers,
only to vanish immediately; but its fragrance is perceptible, at times
only faint, at times strong, and the seeker is intoxicated by it.
Though, like the butterfly, he flutters from flower to flower, settling
now upon a violet, now upon some tropical plant, he is always seeking
and longing for the one thing--perfect, ideal happiness.

It is with this longing and its object that Novalis's principal work
deals. It is a work which we must study, and, to understand it aright,
we must first see how it came into existence.

Its germ is contained in Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister_, and we can clearly
trace the mental processes by which _Wilhelm Meister_ is slowly
transmuted into _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_. Wilhelm does not act,
he is acted upon. He does not strive, he longs. He pursues ideals,
seeking them first on the stage, then in real life. Wilhelm too, is
the offspring of "soul." The book is pervaded by soul. It is not only
that the characters, like those of many modern English novels (some
of Dickens's, for instance), are full of soul, but there is, as it
were, soul in the peculiar, hazy atmosphere which surrounds them. No
feature is realistically coarse or decided; the children of soul
have soft contours. Heiberg once summed up Goethe's philosophy, of
which he himself was a disciple, in the following sentence: "Goethe
is neither immoral nor irreligious, in the general acceptation of
the word, but he shows that there are no unconditional laws of duty,
and that we must place our religion on the same level as our poetry
and philosophy." We are struck in reading _Wilhelm Meister_ by the
manner in which rigid school or text-book ethics, the narrow-minded,
conventional ideas of morality and equity, are so re-moulded that
morality is no longer regarded as the absolute law of life, but
simply as an important principle of life, one among others all equally
legitimate and equally under control--just as the brain of the animal,
important as it is, is not, in the estimation of the physiologist,
the one part of consequence, but simply an organ, fulfilling its
task in association with the heart, the liver, and the other organs.
Hence sensuality is not abused as animal, but (in Philine) simply
and straightforwardly represented as pleasant and attractive. The
harmonious development of Wilhelm's nature is arrived at by the aid of
many doubtful experiences. In the female characters we are called on to
admire well-bred self-possession and the innate nobility of a beautiful
nature; the physical and mental superiority and freedom which are the
result of a highly favoured and assured position, are sympathetically
portrayed in the personages of rank. It may seem objectionable to us
nowadays that "noble" and "aristocratic" are evidently often regarded
as synonyms, but the reason for it is to be sought in the deplorable,
straitened social conditions of the Germany of Goethe's day. As the
tale is not the offspring of the union of imagination and reality,
but of imagination and "soul," there is something unreal in its
whole character; much is veiled, much refined away; everything is so
idealised that the material world stands, as it were, in the shadow of
the spiritual.

Only private circumstances and persons are dealt with. War is, indeed,
alluded to, and in such a manner that we are enabled to conclude that
the war following on the French Revolution is meant; but nothing
definite is said about it. As to the locality, we are led to the
conclusion that it is somewhere in Central Germany; but the landscape
possesses no marked features, it only chimes in like a faint musical
accompaniment to the mood. In the world depicted in the tale, art is
regarded, in the perverted fashion of the day, as the school of life,
instead of life as the school of art; national, historical events are
but "etwas Theatergeräusch hinter den Koulissen" (a little noise behind
the scenes).[1] None of the characters have any practical aim in view;
they are simply driven onward by the current of their longings and
moods; they wander about, untrammelled by circumstances, heedless of
the boundaries of countries, leading "planless" existences.

Goethe's avoidance of all psychological extremes is a significant
witness to the centripetal tendency of "soul." Such an extreme is
crime, conceived of as criminal. Even where Goethe touches upon the
horrible, as, for example, incestuous passion (the story of the
Harper), his desire is only that we should be powerfully affected, not
that we should judge; he does not bring the case before the moral,
much less before the legal tribunal. And the story loses some of its
painfulness from the manner in which it is communicated to us. We do
not hear it from the Harper himself; his lips are sealed; it is told us
after his death by a stranger.

It is in this highly idealised world, on which the poet's hand has set
the seal of beauty, that Wilhelm wanders about, without a plan, but not
without an aim. He is in pursuit of the ideal--an ideal profession,
an ideal woman, ideal culture. He is first a merchant, then an actor,
then a doctor; loves first Marianne, then the Countess, then Therese,
then Nathalie. His first ideal of culture is experience, his second
intellectual refinement; then he seeks it in renunciation; and he ends
with experiments in social reform which made the _Wanderjahre_, in its
day, one of the books to which socialistic revolutionaries most eagerly
appealed. But the main thing to be noted is, that Wilhelm is constantly
remoulding his ideal. He does not find it; he loses it, so to speak.
It is not so much that he becomes the bourgeois, the philistine
(Spiessbürger), as that the word loses its meaning for him.

It often happens to the young man who throws himself eagerly into the
study of philosophy in search of enlightenment as to God, eternity,
the aim of life, and the immortality of the soul, that, as he studies,
these words lose the meaning he at first attributed to them; he obtains
an answer to his questions, but an answer which teaches him that these
questions must be differently put. The same thing happens in life to
Wilhelm, with his longing for a preconceived ideal. Many have embraced
the cloud instead of Juno; Wilhelm lets the cloud go, and presses Juno
to his heart.

_Wilhelm Meister_ had almost as much share as _Die Herzensergiessungen
eines Klosterbruders_ in the production of Tieck's _Sternbald_, which
is throughout an echo of Goethe's great work. Immediately after the
appearance of _Wilhelm Meister_, Tieck sketched the plot of a very
interesting story, _Der junge Tischlermeister_ ("The Young Carpenter"),
which was not published until forty-one years later. The hero, an
almost too accomplished and artistic young carpenter, goes through
a process of development which exactly resembles Wilhelm Meister's,
as far as the influence of aristocratic acquaintances, of dramatic
art, and the theatre is concerned. A true Romanticist, he produces
Shakespeare's comedies in a private theatre which is an exact imitation
of the theatres of Shakespeare's day, and is the lover both on the
stage and behind the scenes.

This work was set aside in favour of _Sternbald_. The modern tradesman
had to give way to the artist of the Romantic period of Albert Dürer.
_Sternbald_ is the apotheosis of "soul," of pure soul, without
admixture of reason and lucidity. Hence the sum and substance of the
book is desire, pining desire; hence we are told of such an event
as the Reformation, that, instead of generating a divine fulness of
religion, it only generated the emptiness of reason, in which all
hearts languish; hence the mild sensuality of Goethe's romance becomes
brutal desire of the William Lovell type. The hero, when he looks
within himself, sees, like Lovell, "a fathomless whirlpool, a rushing,
deafening enigma." In the second edition Tieck thought it advisable to
cut out some of the too numerous wanton bathing and drinking scenes
amidst which the restless longing of the hero runs riot.

But the principal thing to which I would draw attention is, that
reality is here refined and distilled in a manner unknown to Goethe. It
is attenuated into vapour--emotional vapour; personality is drowned in
landscape, action in the music of the woodman's horn. In _Sternbald_
every day is a Sunday; a devotional feeling pervades the air; we
seem to hear the church bells ring and to know that the world is
at leisure. The following words of the hero contain the philosophy
of the book: "In this world we can only desire, we can only live
in intentions; real action belongs to the hereafter." Consequently
there is no action in the story; the characters wander about with as
little apparent purpose as comets; their lives consist of a series
of accidental, unsought adventures; they are always travelling in
search of the ideal, and as the ideal is generally supposed to have
taken up its abode somewhere in the neighbourhood of Rome, the book
ends there--the _story_ is not brought to a conclusion, and is never

It is precisely because of its dreaminess and disconnectedness that
Novalis prefers _Sternbald_ to _Wilhelm Meister_. "For," says he,
"the kernel of my philosophy is the belief that the poetical is the
absolutely real, and that the more poetical anything is, the truer it
is. Therefore, the task of the poet is not to idealise, but to cast a
spell. The poetry of the fairy tale is the true poetry. A fairy tale
is a disconnected dream-picture, and its strength lies in its being
exactly the reverse of the true world, and yet exactly like it." The
world of the future, according to Novalis, is rational chaos--chaos
which prevails. The genuine fairy tale must therefore, he maintains, be
not a mere tale, but also prophetic representation, ideal, inevitable.
The real fairy tale writer is the modern seer. The romance, the novel,
is, as it were, free history, the mythology of history. And love, being
the form of morality which implies the possibility of magic, is the
soul of the novel, the foundation of all romances, all novels. For
where true love is, there marvellous, miraculous things happen.

These obscure, yet in a manner unambiguous expressions of Novalis's
opinions on the subject of the true nature of poetry and romance, make
it easy for us to understand his judgment of _Wilhelm Meister_, a book
he had greatly admired in early youth. For in _Wilhelm Meister_, as
in _Torquato Tasso_, poetry has to give way to reality, the poetic
conception of life to the practical. Novalis could imagine nothing more
shameful than this; it was sin against the holy spirit of poetry. In
the novel, in fiction, poetry is not to be done away with, not even to
be restricted, but to be exalted and glorified.

So he determines to write a novel which shall be the direct antithesis
of _Wilhelm Meister_. He even takes thought of such small matters as
type and size, and determines that in them _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_
shall be the exact counterpart of the book, the worldly philosophy
of which it is to refute by its magic mysticism. He writes to Tieck:
"My novel is in full swing; it is to be a deification of poetry. In
the first part Heinrich von Ofterdingen ripens into a poet; in the
second he is the glorified poet. The story will have many points of
resemblance with your _Sternbald_ but will lack its lightness. This
want, however, may not be a disadvantage, considering the subject."

Goethe and _Wilhelm Meister_ Novalis criticises thus: "Goethe is
an altogether practical poet. His works are what English wares
are--simple, neat, suitable to their purpose, and durable.... He
has, like the Englishman, a natural sense of order and economy, and
an acquired sense of what is fine and noble.... _Wilhelm Meister's
Lehrjahre_ is, in a way, altogether modern and prosaic. Romance
perishes in it, and so does the poetry, the magic quality, of nature.
The book only deals with everyday human affairs; nature, and the belief
in her mysterious powers, are quite forgotten. It is a poetically
written story of bourgeois domestic life, in which the marvellous is
expressly treated as poetry and fancy. Artistic atheism is the spirit
of the book. _Wilhelm Meister_ is a _Candide_ directed against poetry."

Novalis's aim, then, is to produce a work exactly the opposite of this,
one in which everything is finally resolved into poetry, in which "the
world becomes soul." For everything is soul. "Nature is to the soul
what a solid body is to light. The solid substance stops light, breaks
it up into wonderful colours, &c., &c. Human beings are soul prisms."

His novel is, then, an allegory, the key to which is contained in the
fairy-tale introduced into the story. This fairy-tale is supposed
to show how the true eternal world comes into existence; it is a
description of the restoration of that kingdom of love and poetry in
which the great "world-soul expands and blooms everlastingly." Novalis
believes that, since the existing heaven and the existing earth are
of a prosaic nature, and since our age is an age of utilitarianism,
a poetical day of judgment must come, a spell must be broken, before
the new life can blossom forth.--Arcturus and his daughter slumber,
frozen in their palace of ice. They are released by Fable (i.e. Poetry)
and her brother, Eros. Eros is the child of the restless father,
Reason, and the faithful mother, the Heart. Fable owes her being to
unfaithfulness on the part of Reason; she is born of Fancy, daughter of
the Moon; her godmother is the guardian of the domestic altar, Sophia,
Heavenly Wisdom.

Against the good powers in this allegory a conspiracy is formed by the
Writer. The Writer is the spirit of prose, of narrow enlightenment; he
is depicted as constantly writing. When Sophia dips what he has written
into a bowl which stands upon the altar, a little of it sometimes
remains legible, but often it is all washed out. If drops from the
bowl happen to fall upon him, they fall from him again in the shape
of numbers and geometric figures, which he eagerly collects, strings
upon a thread, and wears round his neck as an ornament. The Writer is
Novalis's Nureddin. The result of his plot is the imprisonment of the
Father and Mother and the destruction of the altar.

But Fable has escaped. She descends into the realm of Evil, and
exterminates Evil by delivering up the Passions to the power of the
death-bringing Fates. Time and Mortality are now no more. "The last
thread of the flax is spun; the lifeless is reanimated; life reigns."
In a universal conflagration, the mother, the Heart, is burned to
death, the sun disappears, and the ice is melted round the palace of
Arcturus. Through a new, happy earth, stretching far and wide under a
new heaven, Eros and Fable pass into the palace. Fable has fulfilled
her mission; she has brought Eros to his beloved, the daughter of the
king. The kingdom of poetry and love is established.

    "Gegründet ist das Reich der Ewigkeit;
    In Lieb und Frieden endigt sich der Streit;
    Vorüber ging der lange Traum der Schmerzen;
    Sophie ist ewig Priesterin der Herzen."[2]

Sophia occupies the same place in this allegory that Beatrice does in
Dante's great poem.

The glorification of the old Meistersinger is, of course, intended as
a glorification of poetry in general, but his story, as told in the
novel, is really the story of Hardenberg's own life and endeavour.
Heinrich von Ofterdingen's home and quiet childhood remind us of
Hardenberg's. A dream, which seems doubly rich in omen because his
father as a youth had dreamed one like it, gives him a fore-feeling
of the mysterious happiness of the poet's life, and shows him, in the
form of a wonderful blue flower, the object of the poet's longing and

In order that he may acquire some knowledge of the world, it is decided
that Heinrich and his mother shall travel, in company with a number of
merchants, to Augsburg. The incidents of the journey and the tales of
his travelling companions enrich him with impressions, and fertilise
the germs of poetical productivity that lie latent in his soul. For all
their talk is of poetry and poets; they tell him the story of Arion,
and popular legends in which poets are the equals of kings, and they
philosophise on the subject of poetry and art, not like merchants of
the most barbarous period of the Middle Ages, but like Romanticists
of the year 1801. One of them, for example, gives the following
pantheistic explanation of the instinctive impulse of mankind towards
plastic art: "Nature, desiring to have some enjoyment of all the art
that there is in her, has metamorphosed herself into human beings. In
their minds, through them, she rejoices in her own glory, selects what
is most pleasant and lovely, and reproduces it in such a manner that
she may possess and enjoy it in manifold ways."

In a castle to which they come, Heinrich meets a captive Eastern girl,
whose touching plaint it is interesting to compare with the song of
the Oriental beauty (La Captive) in Victor Hugo's _Les Orientales_.
In a book belonging to a mysterious hermit (the original of the
charcoal-burner's book in Ingemann's _Valdemar Sejer_) he finds the
history of his own life.

The travellers arrive at Augsburg, and here Heinrich makes the
acquaintance of a poet and a fascinating young girl. In Klingsohr
he has a noble example of the fully developed poet, a poet whose
utterances in many ways remind us of Goethe's. Almost everything
that Klingsohr says is surprisingly rational and wise; we can
scarcely understand how Novalis himself failed to take any of it to
heart. The following are some of his remarks: "I cannot too strongly
recommend you to follow your natural inclination to penetrate into
the reason of things, to study the laws of causation. Nothing is
more indispensable to the poet than insight into the nature of every
event, and knowledge of the means whereby to attain every aim....
Enthusiasm without understanding is useless and dangerous, and the
poet will be able to effect few miracles if he is himself astonished
by miracles.... The young poet cannot be too calm, too thoughtful.
True, melodious eloquence demands a wide, calm, observing mind." Upon
one point, however, Klingsohr and Novalis are entirely agreed, namely,
that everything is, and must be, poetry. "It is a great misfortune
that poetry should have a special name, and that poets should form a
separate guild. There is nothing separate or special about poetry. It
is the mode of action characteristic of the human mind. Do not all men
aspire poetically every moment of their lives?"

All Heinrich's love longings are satisfied when he sees Klingsohr's
daughter, Mathilde. He feels once more as he felt when he saw the
vision of the "blue flower." But Mathilde is drowned. Heinrich loses
her as Novalis had lost Sophie von Kühn. Utterly broken down, he
leaves Augsburg. He is comforted in his sorrow by a vision (like the
visions Novalis had at Sophie's grave) in which he sees the departed
and hears her voice. In a distant monastery, the mission of whose monks
it is to keep alive the sacred fire in young souls, and which seems
to be a species of "spirit-colony," he lives "with the departed." He
experiences all the sensations to which Novalis has given expression in
the _Hymns to Night_. Then he returns from the spirit-world to life,
and falls in love with a being no less wonderful than the object of his
first passion. Mathilde's place is filled by Cyane.

The second part of the novel is only sketched. Heinrich wanders the
whole world round. After going through every earthly experience, "he
retires again into his soul, as to his old home." Things material now
become transformed into things spiritual. "The world becomes a dream,
the dream becomes the world." Heinrich finds Mathilde again, but she
is no longer distinguishable from Cyane--just as, in Novalis's own
life, Julie was not Julie, but Sophie come to life again. And now "the
festival of soul," of love and eternal fidelity, is celebrated. On
this occasion allegory reigns supreme. The principle of good and the
principle of evil appear in open competition, singing antiphonies;
the sciences do the same, even mathematics. We hear much about Indian
plants--probably the lotus-flower was made to play a part as partaking
of the nature of the "blue flower."

The end of the story is merely indicated. Heinrich finds the "blue
flower"--it is Mathilde. "Heinrich plucks the blue flower, and releases
Mathilde from the spell which has bound her, but loses her again.
Stunned by grief, he turns into a stone. Edda, who, besides being
herself, is also the 'blue flower,' the Oriental captive, and Mathilde
(fourfold 'Doppelgängerei'), sacrifices herself to the stone. It turns
into a singing tree. Cyane hews down the tree, and burns herself
along with it, upon which it turns into a golden ram. Edda-Mathilde
is compelled to sacrifice the ram, and Heinrich becomes a man once
more. During these transformations he has all manner of wonderful
conversations." This we can readily believe.

In Danish literature the work most allied to _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_
is Ingemann's _De Sorte Riddere_ ("The Black Knights"). We learn
from Ingemann's autobiography how exactly his frame of mind at the
time he was writing this book corresponded to that of the German
Romanticist. "I paid but little attention to all the great events that
were happening in the outer world. Even the conflagration of Moscow,
the destruction of the Great Army, and the fall of Napoleon were to me
ephemeral phenomena ... even in the German War of Liberation I only
saw a divided nation in conflict with itself, noble powers without
any principle of unity and concord. _Between the ideal life and human
life there lay a yawning abyss_, which only the heavenly rainbow of
love and poetry could bridge over.... I wrote myself into a fairy
labyrinth, in which love was my Ariadne-thread, and in which I hoped,
with the great harp of the poetry of life, the strings of which are
strung by genius from rock to rock over black abysses, _to lull the
monsters of existence to sleep_, resolve the dissonances in the great
world-harmony, and solve the world-mystery." The result of this attempt
was woeful.

It is certain that in _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_ Novalis succeeded
in producing something as unlike Wilhelm Meister as possible. The
"blue flower" was the emblem of the ideal. Here we have the real
forgotten in the ideal, and the ideal in its emblem. Poetry is entirely
separated from life. Novalis thinks that this is as it should be.
In _Ofterdingen_ he says of poets: "Many and important events would
only disturb them. A simple life is their lot, and they must make
acquaintance with the varied and numberless phenomena of the outer
world only by means of tales and books. Only seldom during the course
of their lives is it permissible for them to be drawn into the wild
eddy of some great event, in order that they may acquire a more
accurate knowledge of the position and character of men of action.
Their receptive minds are quite sufficiently occupied with near and
simple phenomena.... Here upon earth already in possession of the peace
of heaven, untormented by vain desires, only inhaling the fragrance of
earthly fruits, not devouring them, they are free guests, whose golden
feet tread lightly, and whose presence causes all involuntarily to
spread their wings.... If we compare the poet with the hero, we shall
find that the poet's song has many a time awakened heroic courage in
youthful hearts, but never that heroic deeds have called the spirit of
poetry to life in any soul."

The fundamental error could not have been defined more clearly.
According to this theory, poetry is not the expression of life and its
deeds; no, life and its deeds have poetry as their _origin_. Poetry
creates life. Undoubtedly there is poetry of which this may be true;
but if there be any one kind of poetry of which it could never be true,
it is the kind under consideration. To what possible deed could it
incite? To the changing of one's self into a singing tree or a golden
ram? There is no question of action in it at all, only of longing.

All the best of Novalis's work is simply an expression of this longing,
which includes every desire, from the purely natural ones to the
most transcendental aspiration. Perhaps the most beautiful things he
has written are two songs--the one giving expression to the sensuous
longings of the young girl, the other to the longing which is part and
parcel of the enthusiastic friendship of young men.

The song in which the young girls complain of the hardships of their
lot is charming. Here the "blue flower" is simply the forbidden
fruit. But the longing is expressed with bewitching roguishness. In
the poem "To a Friend," again, we have it expressed with fervency and

    "Was passt, das muss sich ründen,
    Was sich versteht, sich finden,
    Was gut ist, sich verbinden,
    Was liebt, zusammen sein,
    Was hindert, muss entweichen,
    Was krumm ist, muss sich gleichen,
    Was fern ist, sich erreichen,
    Was keimt, das muss gedeihn.

    "Gieb treulich mir die Hände,
    Sei Bruder mir und wende
    Den Blick vor Deinem Ende
    Nicht wieder weg von mir.
    Ein Tempel, wo wir knieen,
    Ein Ort, wohin wir ziehen,
    Ein Glück, für das wir glühen,
    Ein Himmel mir und Dir!"

The longing here is almost that of the Crusader--a seeking in the far
distance for something great and glorious. The "blue flower" melts into
the blue of the horizon. Its very colour betokens distance.

Let us dwell for a moment longer on this flower. In Spielhagen's
_Problematische Naturen_, one of the characters says: "You remember the
blue flower in Novalis's tale? Do you know what it is? It is the flower
which no mortal eye has seen, yet the fragrance of which fills the
world. Not every creature is delicately enough organised to perceive
its perfume; but the nightingale is intoxicated with it when she sings
and wails and sobs in the moonlight and the grey dawn; and so were,
and so are, all the foolish human beings who, in prose and verse, have
poured, and are pouring, forth their woes to Heaven; and so, too, are
millions more, to whom no God has granted the power to say what they
suffer, and who look up in dumb anguish to the Heaven which has no
mercy upon them. And alas! for this suffering there is no cure--none
except death. For him who has once inhaled the fragrance of the blue
flower there is not a peaceful hour left in life. Like a murderer,
or like one who has turned away the Lord from his door, he is driven
onward, ever onward, however much his tired limbs ache, and however
fervently he longs to lay down his weary head. When he is tormented by
thirst, he begs at some hut for a drink; but he hands back the empty
vessel without a word of thanks, for it was dirty, or there was an ugly
insect in the water--in any case, he had found no refreshment in it.
Refreshment! Where are the eyes which have taken from us the desire
ever to look into other, brighter, more ardent eyes? Where the breast
upon which we have rested with the certain knowledge that we should
never long to listen to the beating of a warmer, more loving heart?
Where? Can you tell me where?"

"Love," so runs the reply, "is the fragrance of the blue flower, which,
as you have said, fills the world; and in every being whom you love
with your whole heart you have found the blue flower."

"I fear that is not a solution of the riddle," says the hero
sorrowfully, "for this very condition, that we should love with our
whole hearts ... we can never fulfil. Which of us can love with his
whole heart? We are all so weary, so worn out, that we have neither the
strength nor the courage essential to true, serious love--that love
which does not rest until it has taken possession of every thought of
a man's mind, every feeling of his heart, every drop of blood in his

This interpretation is a beautiful one, and it is not incorrect, but it
is not exhaustive. It is not only in love, but in every domain of life
that the "blue flower" represents perfect, and hence to that extent
ideal, but still purely personal happiness. The longing for this, from
its nature unattainable, happiness is the constant, restless desire
depicted by all the Romanticists.

Perhaps not one of the regular German Romanticists is so completely the
poet of Romantic longing as Shack Staffeldt, who, though a German born,
wrote in Danish. But he does not depict the longing which produced
outward restlessness. His longing is far too deep to be satisfied by
wandering about the world. It is in the writings of certain of the
later Romanticists that longing appears as the restless desire which
drives man from place to place.

Of this it seems to me that we have the most typical description in
Eichendorff's novel, _Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts_ ("The Life of
a Ne'er-Do-Well"). Published in 1824, this book was written twenty
years after _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_, though by a man only ten years
Novalis's junior, a disciple of Tieck, an ultra-Romanticist of a pious,
amiable disposition.

Joseph, Baron von Eichendorff, the son of a nobleman of high position,
was born in Upper Silesia in 1788. His family being Catholic, his
early education was superintended by a Catholic ecclesiastic. In 1805
he went to the University of Halle to study law, and, amongst other
lectures, attended those of Professors Schleiermacher and Steffens, the
latter of whom had a special attraction for him. It was here that he
made his first acquaintance with Romantic literature; Novalis opened
to him a new dream-world, rich in promise. In his very first holidays
he went to Wandsbeck to visit old Claudius, whom he had loved from
his early boyhood. Claudius's paper, the _Wandsbecker Bote_, had been
his greatest comfort in the days when his tutor plagued him with
instructive children's books. There is something of Claudius's mild
humour in Eichendorffs own poetry.

The year 1807 found him at Heidelberg, where he made the acquaintance
of the Romanticists living there, Arnim, Brentano, and Görres being
the most notable. He assisted in editing _Des Knaben Wunderhorn_ (a
famous collection of popular songs and poetry), and collaborated with
Görres in his work on the old popular literature. In 1809 he met Arnim
and Brentano again in Berlin; here he also made the acquaintance of
Adam Müller, who exercised a considerable influence upon him. He was
strongly influenced, too, by Fichte's lectures.

As there seemed no prospect of a career for him in Prussia, he went
in 1810 to Vienna, intending to enter the service of the Austrian
Government. In Vienna he spent much of his time in the company of
Friedrich Schlegel, formed a close friendship with Schlegel's stepson,
Philipp Veit, the painter, and wrote his first, exaggeratedly Romantic
story, _Ahnung und Gegenwart_, which is nothing but a collection of
lyric dreams and fancies. Nevertheless, in this work, as well as in his
later productions, it was his desire to contrast the "fervent harmony
existing between healthy, fresh humanity and nature, in forest, stream,
and mountain, shining mornings and dreamy starlit nights, with the
empty pleasures of the great world, and the affected prudery or real
depravity of the period." As in all his works, adventure predominates.
As soon as he quits the domain of merry vagabond life and romantic
adventure, he is in danger of relapsing into the supernatural and

Instead of entering the Austrian Government service as he had intended,
he determined to take part in the war against Napoleon. He joined
Lützow's famous Free Corps, and was attached to a militia battalion. He
had just been discharged when the news came of Napoleon's return from
Elba. He immediately enlisted again, and entered Paris with the German

In course of time he received an appointment in the Prussian
Kultusministerium (department of religion and education), and
developed into a conscientious and capable official. In 1840, a
dispute between the Government and the Roman Catholic bishops produced
strained relations between him (the good Catholic) and the head of his
department. He sent in his resignation, but it was not immediately
accepted; he was commissioned to prepare a report on the restoration of
the castle of Marienburg.

Having made himself master of the Spanish language, he translated some
of Calderon's _Autos Sacramentales_. This pursuit led to a still closer
connection between him and the leaders of the Ultramontane party. In
his later years he criticised modern German literature in the spirit
of orthodox Catholicism, writing of the Catholic tendency of the
Romanticists as if it were the most important and best feature of the
school, and treating the change of opinion of some of the leaders in
regard to this matter as a falling away from the truth and a sign of
literary decadence. He looked with contempt upon Schiller's heroes,
with their "rhetorical ideality," and upon the symbolic "Naturpoesie"
of Goethe's shorter poems. "How different," he says, "is the great
idea of Romanticism, _homesickness_, longing for the lost home--that
is to say, for the universal, the Catholic Church." With these unsound
theories Eichendorff combined real and considerable lyrical talent.
No one has given, in a condensed form, better representations of the
longings and the ideals of Romanticism. In the little story, _Aus dem
Leben eines Taugenichts_, we seem to hear young Romanticism twittering
and singing as if he had caught it bodily and shut it up in a cage. It
is all there--the fragrance of the woods and the song of the birds;
longing for travel and delight in it, especially when Italy is the
goal; Sunday emotions and moonlight; genuine Romantic vagrancy and
idleness--such idleness that from want of use the limbs actually begin
to fall out of joint, and the hero begins to feel as though he "were
tumbling to pieces."

The Ne'er-Do-Well is a miller's son, young and poor, whose only
pleasure in life is to lie under the trees and look up into the sky,
or to roam aimlessly about the country with his zither, singing such
sad and beautiful songs that the hearts of all who hear him "long."
"Every one," he says, "has his allotted place upon this earth, his warm
hearth, his cup of coffee, his wife, his glass of wine of an evening,
and is content. But I am content nowhere." He, the humble gardener
(for such, when he does work, is his occupation), adores a high-born,
lovely lady whom he has only seen once or twice; he addresses her in a
beautiful and touching song:--

    "Wohin ich geh' und schaue
    In Feld und Wald und Thal,
    Vom Berg hinab in die Aue,
    Vielschöne, hohe Fraue,
    Grüss ich dich tausendmal.

    In meinem Garten find' ich
    Viel Blumen, schön und fein,
    Viel Kränze wohl draus wind' ich,
    Und tausend Gedanken bind' ich
    Und Grüsse mit darein.

    "Ihr darf ich keinen reichen,
    Sie ist zu hoch und schön;
    Sie müssen alle verbleichen,
    Die Liebe nur ohne Gleichen
    Bleibt ewig im Herzen stehn.

    "Ich schein' wohl froher Dinge
    Und schaffe auf und ab,
    Und ob das Herz zerspringe,
    Ich grabe fort und singe
    Und grab' mir bald mein Grab."[3]

Through his lady's influence he is promoted to the post of
rent-collector for the castle. He inherits from his predecessor a
magnificent dressing-gown, red with yellow spots, a pair of green
slippers, a nightcap, and some long-stemmed pipes.

Arrayed in his new splendour, and smoking the longest pipe he can find,
he lives a quiet, easy life for some time, digging up all the potatoes
and vegetables in his garden and planting flowers in their stead,
listening with rapture to a distant hunting or post horn, and placing
a bouquet every morning upon a stone table where his lady is certain
to find it. This goes on until she vanishes from his horizon. As he is
sitting alone one day over his account-book, his zither lying beside
him, a sunbeam falls through the window upon its dusty strings. "It
touched a string in my heart. 'Yes,' said I; 'come away, my faithful
zither! Our kingdom is not of this world!'" So he leaves behind his
account-book, dressing-gown, slippers, and pipe, and wanders out into
the wide world; to Italy first.

This Ne'er-Do-Well is the most comical, awkward, childlike creature
one can imagine; in mind he is about ten years old, and he never
grows any older. Like Andersen's heroes, the Improvisatore and O.T.,
he is repeatedly saved from temptation simply by his ignorance and
inexperience. He never realises what is going on around him. Things
happen to him without his doing anything to bring them about. He is the
central figure of a group of characters who all pursue callings which
leave them as free as he is himself--painters travelling to Italy, an
artist who runs away with his lady-love, musicians wandering from town
to town, and roaming students, who trudge along, singing student songs.
Compared with this life of wandering and seeking and expectation,
ordinary, every-day life naturally appears excessively monotonous. When
the hero returns to his native town, he finds the new rent-collector
sitting at his door, wearing the same spotted dressing-gown, the
same slippers, &c. After having spent his life seeking for his "blue
flower," he finds it at last at home. His first rapture is described
playfully, almost in Hans Andersen's manner, as follows: "It was such
a pleasure to hear her talk so brightly and trustfully to me, that I
could have listened to her till morning. I was as happy as I could be.
I took a handful of almonds, which I had brought all the way from
Italy, out of my pocket. She took some, and we sat and cracked them,
and looked contentedly out over the peaceful scene."

The Ne'er-Do-Well may be regarded as the representative, the spokesman,
of the ornamental, profitless arts, and of infinite longing. _Infinite
longing!_ Let us imprint these words in our memory, for they are the
foundation-stone of Romantic poetry.

The longing took curiously morbid forms in the less healthy Romantic
souls. The well-known German author, Franz Horn, informs us in his
autobiography that at the age of three or four he was already capable
of poetic longing and suffering, and of divining life in apparently
dead things. He goes on to say that the child-like mysticism of a
certain popular refrain had a perfectly magic attraction for him. He
quotes the verse in question, and it proves to be none other than the
good old rhyme: "Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home!"

    "Maikäfer flieg!
    Dein Vater ist im Krieg,
    Deine Mutter ist im Pommerland,
    Und Pommerland ist abgebrannt,
    Maikäfer flieg!"[4]

The other children were hard-hearted enough to laugh at this poem, but
to him it seemed most touching. The unhappy cockchafer was fatherless
and motherless. His father was in the wars, and "what might not come
of that?" And his mother? Of her "the news was still more uncertain."
She was in far-off Pomerania, and Pomerania was on fire! What scope for
fancy! And there was the poor cockchafer, too, borne on the wings of
his longing out into the wide, wide world, seeking, ever seeking.--We
positively feel as if we were turning into children again.

But let us return to the idea that underlies all this. The longing of
the individual for infinite happiness rests, as has already been said,
upon the belief that this infinite happiness is attainable by man.
But this belief, in its turn, rests upon the individual's Romantic
conviction of his own infinite importance. The doctrine of immortality
itself is only a result of belief in the cosmic importance of the
individual. And this belief in the infinite importance of each separate
individual is genuinely medieval. Whole sciences, such as astrology,
were founded upon it. The very stars of heaven were supposed to have
a close connection with the destinies of individual men, and actually
to occupy themselves with them. Heaven and earth and all that in them
is, revolved round man. The Romanticists naturally feel the want of
astrology, and would fain have the science restored. What they call the
"blue flower" is what in astrology was called a man's planet, and in
alchemy, the philosopher's stone.

In his lectures _Upon the Literature, Art, and Spirit of the Age_
(1802), A. W. Schlegel writes: "In the same sense in which we may
call Kepler the last astrologist, we may demand that _astronomy
should become astrology_ again. Astrology fell into disrepute because
it made pretensions to science which it could not sustain; but the
fact of its having made such pretensions does not take away the
idea, the imperishable truths, which lie at its foundation. There
is unquestionably something more sublime in the idea of the dynamic
influence of the stars, in the supposition that they are animated by
reason, and, like subordinate deities, exercise creative power in their
appointed spheres, than in the theory that they are dead, mechanically
governed masses." And in a letter to Buntzen, Heiberg writes: "It
must be allowed that the Middle Ages, with their alchemistic and
astrological superstitions, which, albeit superstitions, were based
upon a belief in the unity of nature and mind ... possessed more of
the _true scientific spirit than the present day_, with its deliberate
renunciation of the one thing which in the long run is of any account."
In the same strain (in his essay on Hveen) he praises astrology, as
"based upon the profound mysticism of the Middle Ages." When even
Heiberg could praise Tycho Brahe for his astrological bias, can we
wonder that Grundtvig defended his hypothesis of the earth being the
centre of the universe? O Romanticism! Romanticism!

The Romanticists aimed at founding a philosophy and a literature
upon want and longing--that is to say, upon the idea of the infinite
importance of the individual. The man who bases his philosophy of
life upon want is certainly more reasonable than the man who bases it
upon either present happiness or the pleasures and bliss of a future
existence; for all the happiness we know is undermined by sorrow and by
insufficiency, and thus it is on the whole better and safer to build
upon want and desire. But the Romanticists do not build upon desire
alone, but also upon its satisfaction; they yearn, they wander about in
longing quest of the "blue flower," which beckons to them from afar.

Longing, however, is inactivity, is nourished and thrives upon
inactivity. He who has left the Romantic philosophy behind him will not
base his life upon such a foundation.

Longing engenders the impotent wish. But the Romantic wish is so
instinct with genius, that its fulfilment is permitted--in the
Romantic world. What desire promises, life fulfils. Fortune comes
to the genuine Romantic hero while he sleeps. Romantic literature
consequently leaves the simple-minded reader with the impression of
a world where everything comes to those who know how to long and to
desire ardently enough, where all hindrances are swept aside without
labour, without understanding, without trouble.

It is eternally true that we long; and it is no less true that we must
build upon something certain. Amidst all the uncertainty, insecurity,
and doubt wherewith we are surrounded, there is one thing certain,
one thing which cannot be explained away, and that is suffering. And
equally certain is the good of the alleviation of suffering and of
release from it. It is certain that it is extremely disagreeable to
endure pain, to be fettered, or to be imprisoned; and it is equally
certain that it is a great relief to be cured, to have one's fetters
loosed, one's prison door flung wide open. _Hic Rhodus, hic salta_!
Here is a deed to be done, a stroke to be struck for liberty. We may
wander about, full of uncertainty and doubt, not knowing what to
believe or what to do; but from the moment we come upon a fellow-being
with his fingers jammed in some heavy door that has shut upon them,
there is no longer any doubt what we have to do. We must try to open
the door and release the hand.

And, fortunately or unfortunately, it so happens that there are
always plenty of human beings whose hands are caught fast, plenty who
suffer, plenty who sit in all manner of chains--chains of ignorance,
of dependence, of stupidity, of slavery. To free these must be the
object of our lives. The Romanticist egotistically pursues his personal
happiness, and believes himself to be of infinite importance. The child
of the new age will neither scan the heavens in search of his star nor
the far horizon in search of the "blue flower." Longing is inactivity.
He will act. He will understand what Goethe meant by making Wilhelm
Meister end his life as a physician.

If it is impossible to found a satisfactory philosophy of life upon
longing, it is equally impossible to found upon it a literature which
has any connection with life, and which is capable of satisfying
in the long run. The task of literature in all ages is to give
a condensed representation of the life of a people and an age.
Romanticism contemptuously refused this task. Novalis in Germany and
Shack Staffeldt in Denmark present the most typical examples of the
manner in which it turned its back on outward reality, to create a
poetico-philosophic system out of the mind and the poetical longing of
the author. It does not represent human life in all its breadth and
depth, but the dreams of a few highly intellectual individuals. The
cloud-city of Aristophanes, with its air-castles, is the sacred city
and goal of its longing.

[1] Auerbach: _Deutsche Abende_.

[2] "The everlasting kingdom is firmly established; strife ends in love
and peace; the long and painful dream is at an end; Sophia is priestess
of all hearts henceforward and for ever."

[3] "From wherever I am, field, forest, valley, meadow, or
mountain-top, I send a thousand greetings to my fair and noble lady. In
my garden I gather the loveliest flowers that blow; I bind them into
wreaths, and bind along with them a thousand thoughts and greetings.
I may not give her my flowers; she is too great and beautiful; they
wither, every one, but love lives eternally in my heart. In seeming
cheerfulness I go about my daily task; my heart is breaking, but I dig
and sing, and soon I'll dig my grave."

[4] "Fly, cockchafer, fly! Your father is in the wars; your mother is
in Pommerland, and Pommerland is on fire. Fly, cockchafer, fly!"



Herder's _Stimmen der Völker_ ("Voices of the Nations"), published in
1767, contained only twenty German "Volkslieder;" but at the time he
brought it out, he expressed the wish that he might live to see the
publication of a large collection of the old "Nationallieder," as he
called them. In 1806 L. A. von Arnim and Clemens Brentano published
the first volume of _Des Knaben Wunderhorn_; it contained 210 German
popular songs and ballads, and was followed in 1808 by two more
volumes of about the same size. This book was not only of the greatest
historical interest, but was epoch-making in German lyric poetry and
German literature generally. It struck that natural note which for
many years gave freshness and sonority to both the Romantic and the
ante-Romantic lyric poetry. Even when, in the case of Heine, the
entirely modern had supplanted the Romantic theme, rhythm and form and
many hardly noticeable turns of expression owed their simple charm to
the inspiration of the Volkslied. The superiority of German to French
lyric poetry in this century possibly lies chiefly in that absence of
everything rhetorical which it owes to the influence of Des Knaben

Though the two publishers of this great collection were of one accord
in their love for the old popular poetry of their country, and also as
to the slightly modernised and carefully expurgated form in which the
songs were to appear, and though both were thorough-going Romanticists
in principle, they were men of very different characters.

Ludwig Achim von Arnim was born in Berlin in 1781. He studied natural
science for some time in Göttingen, and then travelled all over
Germany, to make himself acquainted with the country and the people
and to collect popular songs and ballads. After this he settled for
a time in Heidelberg, where he met Clemens Brentano and Görres. In
company with them, in 1808, he started a literary periodical, the
Einsiedlerzeitung ("Hermit's Chronicle"), amongst the contributors to
which were Tieck, Uhland, Hölderlin, and Jacob Grimm. This periodical
he continued at a later time under the title _Trösteinsamkeit_
("Consolation in Solitude").

In 1811 he married Brentano's sister, the famous Bettina, and
thenceforward lived partly in Berlin and partly on his estate of
Wiepersdorf in Brandenburg. He kept his Romanticism out of his
private life; he was a sane, healthy human being, a clever farmer, a
sober Protestant and Prussian. Eichendorff describes him as follows:
"Handsome and distinguished looking, frank, ardent, and yet gentle,
honourable and reliable in all things, faithful to his friends even
when every one else deserted them, Arnim was in reality what others, by
dint of a sort of mediæval polish, strove to appear--a knightly figure
in the best sense of the word; but for this very reason it always
seemed to his contemporaries that there was something strange and out
of place about him."

Something strange there must certainly have been in his nature, for,
staid and sober, calm and harmonious as was his life, his writings give
us the impression of restlessness and complexity. He himself was cast
in one piece, his works never are.

Besides plays, now unreadable, he wrote two long novels and a number
of short tales, which all bear witness to the fantast in him. The
epithet "fantast" may be equally suitably applied to Brentano. The
first conspicuous difference between the two is, that, whereas
Brentano's strength lies in his naïveté and his childlike fancies,
Arnim is profoundly serious even in his wildest flights. With all his
love for the popular, with all his eagerness to open the eyes of the
cultured to the beauty of the simple and childlike, he remained the
dignified aristocrat in his own writings; he never let himself go as
Brentano did. When his muse has a paroxysm of madness, it is cold,
almost severe insanity, not a fiery, merry frenzy, like that to which
Brentano's muse is subject.

His power of plastic representation was great, but quickly exhausted.
It shows to advantage in some of his short stories, and in some still
shorter fragments of his long novels; but along with descriptions
and figures which evince real talent, we are presented with a mass
of padding--diffuse digressions from the subject, interpolated tales
which have little or no connection with the tale proper, fantastic,
impossible episodes, against which even the reader with the most
undeveloped sense of realism must protest. Sometimes he lays the
whole stock of popular superstitions under contribution, treating
them with the utmost seriousness--clay figures are magically endowed
with life; a mandrake develops into Field-Marshal Cornelius Nepos. At
other times he has recourse to the stock-in-trade of the old-fashioned
romances--fabulous parentage, recovery of long-lost children,
disguises, strange meetings after the lapse of many years. He is also
given to introducing ballads and songs, generally under the rather
flimsy pretext that they are the composition of one or other of his
characters: fluent, but not melodious, they interrupt the course of
the action, momentarily attract the attention of the reader, and are
immediately forgotten.

Arnim's principal novel with a modern plot, _Armuth, Reichthum, Schuld
und Busse der Gräfin Dolores: Eine wahre Geschichte zur lehrreichen
Unterhaltung armer Fräulein aufgeschrieben_ ("Poverty, Wealth, Sin, and
Penance of Countess Dolores: A True Story, Recorded for the Instruction
and Amusement of Poor Young Ladies"), is, taken as a whole, quite as
tedious as its title. This novel is another of _Wilhelm Meister's_
progeny. It describes the inner life of gifted and distinguished
individuals of very varied character, in very varied circumstances.
But there is a smooth, pious strain throughout the whole, which is
altogether unlike _Wilhelm Meister_.

The story opens with a description of a castle which has fallen almost
into ruins because of its owner's poverty. This description is striking
and good; it has its counterpart in French literature in the picture
of the Chateau de la Misère in Th. Gautier's _Capitaine Fracasse_.
We are made to feel all the melancholy associated with the idea of
former grandeur and present decay. The somewhat frivolous and selfish
character of the penniless young Countess Dolores is also drawn with
a masterly hand. This lady succeeds in engaging the affections of a
distinguished and rich young man, Count Karl, who falls passionately
in love with her and marries her, after overcoming various outward
and inward difficulties. In the character of Count Karl, Arnim
has succeeded in doing what had perhaps never been done in German
literature before, namely, depicting what the English call a _perfect
gentleman_, a conception for which other nations have no corresponding
expression. A _gentleman_ is a man of honour, manly, serious, born
to command; he is, moreover, a good Christian, conscientious,
unselfish, the protector of those around him, not only good by natural
disposition, but moral on principle. In this character Arnim seems to
have embodied much of what was best in his own nature. Unfortunately
he did not succeed in imparting to it sufficient life; a kind of
dream-haze surrounds this man of fine feelings, who is always writing
verses and who talks a language inspired by the spirit of romance.

The plot turns upon the seduction of the young Countess. She is
ensnared by a Spanish duke, who, under a false name and title, gains
admission to the house, flatters her vanity in every possible way,
and gradually, by the help of magnetism and romantic mysticism, gains
complete influence over her, and persuades her that he has some
mysterious connection with higher, nay, actually with divine, powers.
It seems almost as if Arnim must have had Zacharias Werner in his mind
when he drew this character. In Werner's writings we have exactly
this same mixture of impudent lust and sanctimonious mystery; and we
know that with Werner's mother it became a fixed idea that she was
the Virgin Mary and her son the Saviour of the world. We come upon a
similar idea in the following somewhat ineffective description of the
seduction of Dolores:--

"The Marquis looked up to the sky with an inspired gaze, held up his
hands, and appeared to salute some superior being. He said something,
but she could not hear what it was, and anxiously asked what he saw.
He answered that he saw the blessed Virgin, that she was pressing
her, Dolores, to his breast and placing a crown of roses on her head,
saying: 'Follow me!' Dolores, startled, went close up to him, imagining
that she felt herself pushed towards him; she felt his breath, imagined
it to be the divine breath, and cried: 'I feel her, I feel her breath;
it is warm as the sun of the East and as a mother's love.' Upon this,
exclaiming: 'And I am her son!' he seized her in his arms, trembling
convulsively. He had often talked to her before of a wonderful renewal
of the holy myth; she seemed almost unconscious as she stammered the
words: 'Yes, it is thou, the all-powerful, the most holy--who hast
been given to me in the weakness of our human nature.' 'And thou,' he
sobbed, 'art my eternal bride.'"

It would almost seem as though it had been Arnim's intention
to describe with the aid of these fictitious characters, the
mystic-sensual debaucheries of one of his fellow Romanticists, a Werner
or a Brentano. He himself was almost the only one of the school who, in
spite of the poetic attraction of Catholicism, remained all his life
a staunch Protestant. He seems to be attempting to explain exactly
that species of piety which mixed itself up with the licentiousness
of his Romantic contemporaries when he gives the following diagnosis
of the character of the hypnotising seducer: "We are not justified in
altogether doubting the piety of this nobleman, which to his truly
pious wife seemed so real. He too possessed the religious instinct;
and it was Clelia's natural piety which attracted him to her, though
the attraction did not last long.... Afterwards superstitious fear
took possession of him. He had outlived his vices. It was now not
merely his religious instinct which impelled him to visit all the
places of pilgrimage in Sicily and all the famous priests; he was
deluding himself into the piety which in his wife was genuine. It was
a new stimulant, the strength of which he was obliged constantly to
increase. Religion was to him a kind of opium; his nature craved for
more and more of it, till all craving was at an end." (Gräfin Dolores,
ii. 136, &c.)

But it is not only the excesses peculiar to the Romanticists
which Arnim reprehends; he also sharply and wittily castigates
the anti-Romanticist, Jens Baggesen. In Heidelberg, where he must
have met Arnim, Baggesen had written a series of satirical sonnets
directed against the Romanticists, "literary sansculottes on the
German Parnassus," as he called them. These he published in the same
year that _Dolores_ appeared, under the title, _Der Karfunkel- oder
Klingklingel-Almanack, ein Taschenbuch für vollendete Romantiker und
angehende Mystiker auf das Jahr der Gnade_ 1810. It was, however,
undoubtedly less Baggesen's verses than his extraordinary instability
of character which provoked Arnim's satire. The life of this enemy
of Romanticism was more planless and capricious than the life of any
one of the Romanticists; and Arnim, for whom everything strange and
improbable had an attraction, could not fail to be interested in such
a singular personality. In _Dolores_ he caricatures him wittily and
mercilessly in the person of the poet "Waller." But though, in this
instance, the weaknesses of a special individual are caricatured,
Arnim's general purpose unmistakably is to throw into salient relief
characteristics which exemplify the lawlessness and levity of the
emotional life of a whole generation.

His unfinished historical novel, _Die Kronenwächter_ ("The Guardians
of the Crown"), published in 1817, presents us, like _Dolores_, with
several well-conceived and ably elaborated characters along with a mass
of undigested mystic and lyric material. In the background of this tale
looms a huge, mysterious, enchanted castle, the seven towers of which
are absolutely transparent; they appear to be built of glass, for each
of them projects a brilliant rainbow upon black rocks and upon distant
water. In this castle the guardians of the crown of the Hohenstaufens
have their lonely retreat, and hence they sally forth into the world,
to act and to avenge. But it is not this mystical background which is
of importance. What one really remembers are one or two characters
portrayed with such virile force as probably no German author has
exhibited since, unless it be Gottfried Keller, in his historical

We have, for example, the hero's foster-mother, Frau Hildegard,
to whom we are thus amusingly introduced at the beginning of the
book:--"Martin, the new tower watchman, has to-day married his
predecessor's widow, because she has grown too stout to come down the
narrow corkscrew stair. We really could not pull the tower down for her
sake, so she had to make up her mind to this marriage, though she would
have preferred our clerk, Berthold. The priest has had to tie the knot
up there." This story of the widow's corpulence is of course nonsense,
but none the less it makes a very original beginning to the book.

The action passes in the days of Luther, and Luther's figure is seen in
the background. It is rare to find a Romanticist writing of him with
such warmth as this:--"As a mountain sends out streams to the east and
to the west, so this man combined opposites, things that in others are
never found together--humility and pride, conviction of the path he was
bound to tread and willing acceptance of the advice of others, clear
understanding and blind faith."

A prominent part in the action is taken by Dr. Faust, the Faustus of
popular legend, the famous doctor and alchemist. He is represented
with a fiery red face, white hair, and bald crown, wearing scarlet
trunk hose and ten orders. He is half-genius, half-charlatan, and works
miraculous cures.

The most beautifully drawn character is that of a woman, the hero's
betrothed, Anna Zähringer, daughter of Apollonia, the love of his
youth. She is the tall German maiden of powerful build and noble
carriage, but she also possesses the sensuous attraction which
Gottfried Keller has a special faculty of imparting to his young
women. The hero of the story, Berthold, the burgomaster, is another
personification of Arnim's personal ideal. He is of noble descent, but
having grown up in humble circumstances, is simple and plain in all his
ways, a good, upright, quiet citizen. Yet all the time he is at heart
an aristocrat, who longs for armour and weapons and tournaments, and
who actually, without previous training, wins the prize in the first
tournament in which he takes part.

Mystic incidents are, of course, not lacking. If Arnim could not forego
them in his modern novel, in which we read of a priest who, with one
look, imparted to childless wives the power of conception, they were
certain to occur much more frequently, and to be of an even more
surprising nature, in a tale of times long past. Faust, for instance,
cures Berthold by injecting into his veins some of the blood of a
stalwart young man, Anton by name, and ever after this, Berthold has
the feeling that Anton has somehow acquired a right of possession in
his, Berthold's, lady-love, Anna; and Anton himself immediately feels
mysteriously attracted to Anna. _Die Kronenwächter_, like all Arnim's
longer productions, is a piece of patchwork, though it must be allowed
that the patchwork does not lack poetic value.

It was only in his short tales that he succeeded in producing the
effect of unity. _Philander_ is a clever and pleasing imitation of the
style of Moscherosch, a writer who lived in the days of the Thirty
Years' War. In _Fürst Ganzgott und Sänger Halbgott_, we have a humorous
variation of the favourite Romantic "Doppelgänger" theme, based upon
an extraordinary likeness between two half-brothers who do not know
each other; the story is at the same time a travesty of the stiffness
and burdensome conventions of small courts. But Arnim's best and most
characteristic work is the short tale, _Der tolle Invalide auf dem Fort
Ratonneau_. In it we have all his quaint extravagance, without any
breach of the laws of possibility; and the central idea is touchingly

The story, like most of Arnim's, has a whimsically grotesque
introduction. The old Commandant of Marseilles, Count Durande, is
sitting in the evening by his crackling fire, shoving olive branches
into the flames with his wooden leg, and dreaming of the construction
of new kinds of fireworks, when he suddenly awakens to the fact that
his leg is on fire. He shouts for help, and a strange woman, who is
in the act of entering the room, rushes up to him and attempts to
stifle the flames with her apron; the burning wooden leg sets fire to
the apron, but the two are saved by people rushing in from the street
with buckets of water. The woman's errand is to present a petition on
behalf of her husband, whose behaviour has been peculiar ever since he
received a wound in the head. He is a most capable, deserving sergeant,
only at times so irritable that it is impossible to get on with him.
Partly out of compassion, partly because the case interests him, the
Commandant gives this sergeant charge of a fort which only requires a
garrison of three men, where, therefore, he runs no great danger of
falling out with those about him.

Hardly has he entered the fort before he has an attack of furious
madness; he turns out his good wife, refuses to admit his two
subordinates, declares war against the Commandant, and opens fire upon
Marseilles from his high, inaccessible nest upon the cliffs. For three
days he keeps the town in a state of terror. Preparations are made for
the storming of the fort, in spite of the certain prospect of loss of
life and the fear that the madman may blow up the powder magazine.
His brave wife, who loves him, mad as he is, begs that she may first
be allowed to try to get into the fort, and, if possible, disarm her
husband. He fires upon her, but, led by her love, she climbs undismayed
up the narrow rocky path at the top of which two loaded cannons face
her. And now, as the result of this terrible excitement, the old wound
in the madman's head bursts open again; he comes to his senses, totters
to meet his wife--he and she and the town are saved.

The effect of this little work is rather weakened by the introduction
of supernatural agencies; the whole calamity, namely, is explained to
be the result of a stepmother's foolish curse; still, the story in its
simplicity is a glorification of that strong, beautiful love which has
power to drive out even the devil himself.

And in this, as in several of his other tales, Arnim evinces a humane
sympathy with the lower classes which becomes the aristocratic
Romanticist well. It is the same feeling of affection for those who
are simple of heart as that which led him to collect and publish the
popular songs and ballads, and which finds expression in _Dolores_ in
the following words of the hero: "I swear to you that often, when I
had to pay a couple of thalers for a few lines containing some utterly
superfluous formality, I felt a furious desire to take up the inkpot
and knock in the lawyer's teeth with it. I should not have been the
least surprised to see a flash of lightning come straight from heaven
and burn up all his musty documents. And if I feel thus, how much more
grievous must such an outlay seem to the poor man who has perhaps
to work a whole week from morning till late at night to scrape the
money together." We come on this same idea again in his essay _Von
Volksliedern_, where he declares that the people have come "to look on
the law as they look upon a hurricane, or any other superhuman power,
against which they must defend themselves, or from which they must
hide, or which leaves them nothing to do but despair."

His aristocratic bias is perceptible in all his Romantic vagaries.

With Arnim's name is always coupled that of Clemens Brentano
(1778-1849), his partner in the work of collecting and publishing the
German popular songs and ballads. Brentano resembles Arnim in his
habit of giving free rein to a vivid imagination, but differs from
him in being an unstable, unreliable personality. His talent is more
sparkling and supple, he is more of an intellectual prodigy; but it is
as a psychological phenomenon that he awakens our interest, not as a
man. His only claim upon our sympathy is, that he does not, like his
spiritual kinsman, Zacharias Werner, degrade himself by sentimental
obscenity. He does not act basely, but he is never truthful in the
strictest sense of the word, until, intellectually dulled, he renounces
the calling of poet, or even of author, and lives entirely for his
religious enthusiasms. His case has a certain resemblance to that of
Hölderlin, who became insane at such an early age--the last twenty-five
years of his life are lost to literature.

In his young days Brentano is the jester of the Romanticists, the
wayward knave and wag who cannot refrain from doing what he knows will
cost him the friends he has made, nor from disturbing and destroying
the emotions and illusions which he himself has skilfully produced.
With the quality, rare among the Romanticists, of grace in art, he
combines a certain simple pathos. Like many other men of productive
intellect, when he took pen in hand he became more profound, more
serious, and, above all, more warm-hearted than he was in real life.
Hence he not unfrequently as an artist produces the impression of
genuineness, though he was insincere as a man.

As an intellectual personality he had no backbone. Destitute of firm
convictions, he could only conceive of two attitudes towards the
principle of authority in matters of belief--wild revolt or unqualified
submission. His intellect oscillated between these two extremes until
it found rest in submission.

Of all his gifts and capacities, he, the arch-Romanticist, had only
sought to develop that of imagination. Palpably true is the following
confession extracted from one of his letters: "Oh, my child! we had
nourished nothing but imagination, and it, in return, had half devoured
us." Unbridled imagination, developed without any counterbalancing
quality, is distinctly akin to mendacity; and, as a matter of fact,
Brentano in his youth was an incorrigible liar, whose favourite
amusement it was to move ladies to tears by accounts of his entirely
imaginary woes.

He was the _enfant perdu_ of the Romantic School. He might also be
called the prodigal son of poetry. Like the young man in the New
Testament, he was a spendthrift. He squandered all the many good and
witty ideas that occurred to him, all the fertile situations which
he invented, upon works destitute of definite plan and form, and
consequently destitute of the power to withstand time, which so soon
sweeps away everything formless. Before he was forty he had exhausted
his intellectual capital, had squandered his substance, and was
fain, like the young man of the Bible, "to fill his belly with the
husks that the swine did eat"--the husks that were the food of only
ignorant and superstitious human beings. In other words, he relapsed
into foolish bigotry. In the year 1817 he began to go to confession
again, as in the days of his earliest youth, and in the following
year withdrew from all intercourse with his fellows, to pass the next
six years of his life in devout contemplation by the sick-bed of
the nun, Catharina Emmerich, who bore on her body the marks of the
wounds of Christ. He regarded the bodily infirmities of this pious,
single-minded, but perfectly hysterical girl, as so many wonderful
signs of grace, believed in the miraculousness of the supposed imprints
of the Saviour's wounds, and with awe-strick'en compassion watched
them bleed from time to time. Catharina's words convinced him that
she possessed a mysterious, supernatural gift of second-sight, and
he carefully noted down every one of her visions and hallucinations.
He wrote the story of her life, edited her reflections, and wrote to
her dictation _The Life of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary_. After her
death, which happened in 1824, practically his only occupation was
the preparing for publication of the fourteen volumes of manuscript
containing her various utterances.

Brentano's life is a remarkable exemplification of the truth of the
words of Mephistopheles in Goethe's _Faust_:--

    "Verachte nur Vernunft und Wissenschaft,
    Des Menschen aller höchste Kraft,
    Lass nur in Blend- und Zauberwerken
    Dich von dem Lügengeist bestärken,
    So hab' ich dich schon unbedingt."[1]

Hallucinations and magic played no small part in his existence, and the
man who had begun by sneering at rationalism as dull and barren, fell a
prey to ideas far duller and more barren than the emptiest rationalism.
He was no more a hypocrite than the good soul, Catharina Emmerich, was
an impostor. But the craving for some firm, external support for his
weak, wavering Ego, now still farther enfeebled by remorse for the
recklessness of his youth, led him to cling with all the fanatical
enthusiasm of his soul to the Church and its miracles, just as he had
clung in earlier days to poetry with its fairy-tales and magic.

In his later years he was possessed by a kind of religious mania,
though on a rare occasion he showed a trace of his old inclination to
waggery. He declared, for instance, that he had drawn the apostles
who appeared to Catharina Emmerich in her visions exactly as she had
described them to him; but Bettina discovered that he had been unable
to resist hanging round the apostle Paul's neck, in lieu of a scrip,
a curious old tobacco pouch, which had belonged to himself in former
days, and about which many funny stories were in circulation among his

On his father's side Clemens Brentano was of Italian descent. His
grandfather, a successful Frankfort merchant, was a native of Tremezzo
on the Lake of Como. Through his mother he was descended from the
authoress Sophie Laroche, Wieland's friend.

In personal appearance he was the popular ideal poet, handsome, pale,
and slight, with a confusion of curly black hair. He had a Southern
complexion and sparkling, restless brown eyes shadowed by long lashes.
His voice was deep and beautiful, and he was fond of singing his own
songs, accompanying himself on the guitar.

He was apprenticed to a merchant, but the experiment proved totally
unsuccessful, and in 1797 he went to Jena, where he made the
acquaintance of the most famous of the Romanticists, Fr. Schlegel,
Steffens, and others. These friends often threatened to thrash him
for his mad tricks and "not unfrequently malicious boasts and lies,"
and the threat was more than once actually carried out. But he could
not refrain from offending; it was impossible to him to restrain a
caprice. While still quite young, he fell in love with a very gifted
woman, Sophie Mereau, wife of one of the Jena professors. In the course
of this love affair the couple had many wonderful adventures, some of
which we find reproduced in his first book, _Godwi, or the Mother's
Statue_. When, in 1802, Fr. Tieck executed a marble bust of Brentano,
Frau Mereau described the impression it produced on her in the
following beautiful sonnet, inspired by genuine admiration and love:--

    "Welch süsses Bild erschuf der Künstler hier?
    Von welchem milden Himmelsstrich erzeuget?
    Nennt keine Inschrift seinen Namen mir,
    Da diese todte Lippe ewig schweiget?

    Nach Hohem loht im Auge die Begier,
    Begeistrung auf die Stirne niedersteiget,
    Um die, nur von der schönen Locken Zier
    Geschmücket, noch kein Lorbeerkranz sich beuget.

    Ein Dichter ist es. Seine Lippen prangen
    Von Lieb' umwebt, mit wunderselgem Leben,
    Die Augen gab ihm sinnend die Romanze!

    Und schalkhaft wohnt der Scherz auf seinen Wangen;
    Den Namen wird der Ruhm ihm einstens geben,
    Das Haupt ihm schmückend mit dem Lorbeerkranze."[2]

Happiness came to Brentano before fame. In 1803 he married Sophie
Mereau, who had been divorced from her husband, and they lived most
happily together till 1806, when she died in childbirth.

In Heidelberg Brentano collaborated with Arnim in the publication
of _Des Knaben Wunderhorn_ and with Görres in _Die Geschichte des
Uhrmachers BOGS_ ("Story of Bogs, the Watchmaker"). He had already
published several works on his own account--_Ponce de Leon, die
lustigen Musikanten_ ("The Merry Musicians"), _Chronika eines fahrenden
Schülers_ ("Chronicles of a Roving Student"). In Frankfort he became
entangled in a love affair, which led to one of the many tragi-comic
episodes in his life. He ran away with a young girl who had fallen
violently in love with him, Auguste Busmann, a niece of the famous
banker, Bethmann. They went to Cassel, where he married her. It is
said that he tried to escape from her on the way to church, but that
the energetic bride held him fast. A few days after the ceremony she
threw her wedding-ring out of the window. One of her fancies was to
dash through the town on horseback, the long plumes of her hat and the
scarlet trappings of her horse floating in the wind. She plagued her
husband in many ways. We are told that one of the worst tortures he had
to endure was caused by her skill in beating a tattoo with her feet
against the footboard of the bed, a performance invariably followed by
a skilful _pizzicato_ played with her toe-nails upon the sheet.[3] This
and other things grew so unendurable that he ran away. The valiant lady
procured a divorce the same year, and was ere long married again.

Brentano settled in Berlin, and was soon in great request in social
circles there, on account of his powers of conversation, his
whimsicality, and his rocket-like sallies of wit. It was in Berlin that
he wrote his fairy-tales and most of his _Romanzen vom Rosenkranz_
("Romances of the Rosary"). His play, _The Founding of Prague_, was
written in Bohemia, where lay the family estate, Bukowan, of which the
younger brother, Christian, took charge. After his return to Berlin
in 1816, he wrote the famous tale, _Geschichte vom braven Kasperl und
der schönen Nannerl_ ("Story of Brave Kasperl and Fair Nannerl"), also
_Die mehreren Wehmüller_, and _Die drei Nüsse_ ("The Three Nuts"). Then
his conversion took place, and he no longer lived for literature. The
profits of anything he wrote subsequently were devoted to charitable

Steffens remarks of Brentano that he is the only one of the
Romanticists who seems to be thoroughly aware that he has no aim. He
calls him an ironical, sportive Kronos, who fantastically demolishes
every one of his definite utterances by means of its successor, in this
manner devouring his own children. Still, as a lyric poet, a writer of
fairy-tales, and a novelist, Brentano has produced works of art, few in
number, but of permanent value.

In his poetry there is something touching, simple, and caressingly
sweet. He understands the art of condensing an emotion, but he
generally dilutes it again, and spoils his effect by repetitions,
refrains, or the introduction of inarticulate sounds, such as "Ru, ku,
ku, kuh," and the like. Almost all his poems contain single verses of
great excellence, but almost all are too long. He has appropriated
the diffuseness of the Volkslied. He is distinctly original in such
untranslatable verses as the following, taken from the _Dichters
Blumenstrauss_ ("Poet's Garland"):--

    "Ein verstimmend Fühlgewächschen
    Ein Verlangen abgewandt,
    Ein erstarrend Zitterhexchen,
    Zuckeflämmchen, nie verbrannt.

    Offnes Räthsel, nie zu lösen,
    Steter Wechsel, fest gewöhnt,
    Wesen, wie noch keins gewesen,
    Leicht verhöhnt und schwer versöhnt.
    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    Auf dem Kehlchen wiegt das Köpfchen,
    Blumenglöckchen auf dem Stiel,
    Seelchen, selig Thaueströpfchen,
    Das hinein vom Himmel fiel."

The highly artificial style of this poem is very characteristic of
Brentano. Both as lyric poet and story-teller he is artificial; but his
mannerism seldom gives the impression of affectation, it only witnesses
to the almost morbid sensibility of his temperament.

In _Der Spinnerin Lied_ we have a simple and touching expression of the
pain of the long separation from Sophie Mereau. It begins:--

    "Es sang vor langen Jahren
    Wohl auch die Nachtigall,
    Das war wohl süsser Schall,
    Da wir zusammen waren.

    Ich sing und kann nicht weinen,
    Und spinne so allein
    Den Faden klar und rein,
    So lang der Mond wird scheinen.

    Da wir zusammen waren,
    Da sang die Nachtigall,
    Nun mahnet mich ihr Schall
    Dass du von mir gefahren.

    So oft der Mond mag scheinen
    Gedenk ich dein allein;
    Mein Herz ist klar und rein,
    Gott wolle uns vereinen."[4]

It is right to give Brentano all honour as the creator, in his ballad
"Loreley," of a figure which, under the treatment of other poets,
notably Heine, has become so living, so truly popular, that one can
hardly believe that it is not a genuine legendary figure. It is wrong
to do what Griesebach and Scherer have done, namely, turn this praise
into a depreciation of Heine's merits, credit him only with the greater
literary dexterity, Brentano with the greater capacity of invention.
It seems particularly unjust when we remember that Brentano's own
finest lyrics are adaptations of popular songs. Read, for example, his
beautiful _Es ist ein Schnitter, der heisst Tod._ The poem is to be
found under the name _Erntelied_ in _Des Knaben Wunderhorn_, and begins

    "Es ist ein Schnitter, der heisst Tod,
    Hat Gewalt vom höchsten Gott,
    Heut wetzt er das Messer,
    Es schneid't schon viel besser,
    Bald wird er drein schneiden,
    Wir müssen's nur leiden;
    Hüte dich, schön's Blümelein!"

Brentano's lines are more polished:--

    "Es ist ein Schnitter, der heisst Tod,
    Er mäht das Korn, wenn Gott's gebot,
    Schon wetzt er die Sense,
    Dass schneidend sie glänze;
    Bald wird er dich schneiden,
    Du musst es nur leiden;
    Musst in den Erntekranz hinein;
    Hüte dich, schönes Blümelein!"

In their original form the following lines are not only simpler, but
more beautiful than in Brentano's version:--

    "Viel hundert Tausend ungezählt,
    Was nur unter die Sichel fällt,
    Ihr Rosen, Ihr Liljen,
    Euch wird er austilgen.
    Auch die Kaiserkronen
    Wird er nicht verschonen.
    Hüte dich, schönes Blümelein!"

Brentano's run thus:--

    "Viel hunderttausend ohne Zahl,
    Ihr sinket durch der Sense Strahl;
    Weh' Rosen, weh' Lilien,
    Weh' krause Basilien!
    Selbst euch Kaiserkronen
    Wird er nicht verschonen.
    Ihr müsst zum Erntekranz hinein.
    Hüte dich, schönes Blümelein!"

He spins out the six verses of the old song to fourteen by the aid of
a long list of flowers and plants; we are out of breath before we get
to the end of them. The volume of poems entitled _Die Romanzen vom
Rosenkranz_ ("Romances of the Rosary") is a romantic variation of the
Faust legend, showing the evil of thirst for knowledge and pride of it.
Faust himself is transformed into the Mephistophelian evil principle.
In this work, as well as in "Loreley," Brentano prepares the way for
Heinrich Heine. The romances are written in four-footed trochees, which
in their cadence and whole character anticipate Heine's trochaic verse,
especially in the droll juxtaposition of light, graceful lines and
lines consisting of learned names, obscure legal matter, and scraps of
mediæval mystic jargon.

As a prose writer, Brentano began, with his _Godwi_, in the style
of _Lucinde_. The first part of the book assumes that true morality
consists in allowing the sensual instincts free play, and immorality
in repressing or ignoring them. With bacchantic wildness the heroine
preaches the gospel of free love, and denounces marriage and every
species of compulsory virtue. The second part, in genuine Romantic
fashion, satirises the first part and the characters delineated in it.
Godwi, the hero of the first volume, retires into the background, and
the author himself, under the pseudonym Maria, takes his place. We
learn that it was simply with the view of obtaining the hand of the
daughter of one of the personages in the first part of the book, that
the author managed to gain possession of the correspondence of which
that first part consists. He had hoped by publishing it to attain
this end. But, as the first volume is not approved of, he takes it to
Godwi, the principal character, and begs him to tell what other love
adventures he has had. The astounded Godwi reads his own story. Book
in hand, he conducts the author round his garden, and says, pointing
to a pond: "This is the pond into which I fall on page 266 of the
first volume." Thus in _Godwi_ we have Romantic sensual licence in
combination with Romantic irony and selfduplication.

The revulsion from revolutionary ardour and passion was even more
complete in Brentano's case than in Fr. Schlegel's; it became positive
renunciation of reason. And his conversion, like Zacharias Werner's,
was of the species accompanied by a tearful conviction of sin. In his
_Sketch of the Life of Anna Catharina Emmerich_ he tells, without
giving a thought to any possible physiological explanation of the fact,
that her longing for the Holy Sacrament was so great, that often at
night, feeling herself irresistibly drawn to it, she left her cell,
and was found in the morning kneeling with outstretched arms outside
the locked church door. It never occurred to him that her condition
might be a morbid one, not even when she told him all the particulars
of the appearance of the stigmata on her body as if the whole thing had
happened to another nun of the neighbourhood.

But during the middle period of his literary career, Brentano produced
some prose works which are of more than merely historical literary
interest; for example, the fairy-tale, _Gockel, Hinkel, und Gackeleia_,
which he first wrote in a pithy, condensed form, but at a later period
diluted with holy water and greatly expanded. This tale gives us an
idea of the inexhaustible supply of amusing and grotesque conceits to
which his conversation doubtless owed its great charm. In it Brentano
reveals himself as a master of the prose which, while playing with
words and ideas and connecting things which have not the remotest
connection, nevertheless dexterously refrains from mixing metaphors,
and never breaks the link in the chain of ideas. It may be a perfect
trifle, some accidental reminiscence (Brentano's remembering, for
instance, that in his childhood he had heard Goethe's mother say: "Dies
ist keine Puppe, sondern nur eine schöne Kunstfigur"), which sets him
weaving the chain. But with the inexorable artistic severity of a
contrapuntist, he holds to his fugitive motive throughout the whole
length of his composition, varying and enriching it. As a specimen
of this style, take the following paragraph from _Gockel, Hinkelund
Gackeleia_, that tale in which, throughout several hundred pages, words
and ideas undergo a transformation which fits them for their place in
the hen-world:--

"Die Franzosen haben das Schloss so übel mitgenommen, dass sie es
recht abscheulich zurückliessen. Ihr König Hahnri hatte gesagt, jeder
Franzose solle Sonntags ein Huhn, und wenn keins zu haben sei, ein
Hinkel in den Topf stecken und sich eine Suppe kochen. Darauf hielten
sie streng, und sahen sich überall um, wie jeder zu seinem Huhn kommen
könne. Als sie nun zu Haus mit den Hühnern fertig waren, machten sie
nicht viel Federlesens und hatten bald mit diesem, bald mit jenem
Nachbarn ein Hühnchen zu pflücken. Sie sahen die Landkarte wie einen
Speisezettel an; we etwas von Henne, Huhn oder Hahn stand, das strichen
sie mit rother Tinte an und giengen mit Küchenmesser und Bratspiess
darauf los. So giengen sie über den Hanebach, steckten Gross- und
Kleinhüningen in den Topf, und dann kamen his in das Hanauer Land. Als
sie nun Gockelsruh, das herrliche Schloss der Raugrafen von Hanau, im
Walde fanden, statuirten sie ein Exempel, schnitten allen Hühnern die
Hälse ab, steckten sie in den Topf und den rothen Hahn auf das Dach,
das heisst, sie machten ein so gutes Feuerchen unter den Topf, dass die
lichte Lohe zum Dach herausschlug und Gockelsruh darüber verbrannte.
Dann giengen sie weiter nach Hünefeld und Hunhaun."

This fairy-tale style, with its perpetual farcical play upon words,
almost reminds one of the manner in which the young men in some of
Shakespeare's plays give vent to their overflowing humour.

Much graver, if not less mannered, is the style of Brentano's most
famous story, _Geschichte vom braven Kasperl und dem schönen Annerl_
("The Story of Brave Kasperl and Fair Annerl").

The subject is taken from _Des Knaben Wunderhorn_. In the second volume
of the collection, p. 204, is to be found a short ballad, _Weltlich
Recht_ ("Earthly Justice"), which tells the tale of the execution of
Fair Nanerl, who is glad to die and go to her child:--

    "Der Fähndrich kam geritten und schwenket seine Fahn:
    'Halt still mit der schönen Nanerl, ich bringe Pardon.'

    'Fähndrich, lieber Fähndrich, sie ist ja schon todt.
    'Gute nacht, meine schöne Nanerl, deine Seel ist bei Gott.'"[5]

In Brentano's version the whole story is told in the street, on
a long summer evening, by a poor old woman of eighty-eight, the
beautiful Annerl or Nanerl's grandmother. He has been so successful in
reproducing this aged, pious, and very superstitious woman's language,
that we seem to see her before us all the time. With consummate art, he
manages to keep the reader in constant suspense by the erratic manner
in which she tells her story, hurrying onward and then turning back to
catch up the thread she has let fall. We are never told enough during
the course of the narration to give us a clear understanding of the
whole position of affairs, but always enough to keep up our interest
and make us anxious to know the answer of the riddle, to get at the
explanation of the story-teller's mysterious hints. Seldom have the
veils concealing a series of incidents from the reader been raised so
skilfully, one by one.

Another of the merits of the tale is the vigour with which its main
idea, honour (the true and the false sense of honour, the shame of
wounded pride and the real shame and infamy to which ambition may
lead), is presented to us and developed in the actions and experiences
of the two principal characters. Kasperl, the brave Uhlan, whose sense
of honour is so keen that it amounts to sentimental weakness, is driven
to despair by the dishonourable conduct of his father and stepbrother.
He commits suicide, and is thereby saved the anguish of knowing the
fate of his sweetheart, fair Annerl. Annerl's whole life has been
controlled by a cruel fate. The poet, in his gloomy superstition, has
taken real pleasure in driving her onwards to calamity and death with
the irresistible, mysterious power of predestination. Annerl's mother
in her day had loved a huntsman. This huntsman is to be executed for
murder. When the child comes near the executioner, his sword trembles
in its scabbard--an unmistakable sign that it thirsts for her blood.
The huntsman's head, when it is cut off, flies towards her, and the
teeth grip her frock. Of the power that draws her on to wrong-doing and
misfortune we are constantly told: "It drew her with its teeth" ("Es
hat sie mit den Zähnen dazu gerissen"). Ambition leads to disgrace;
Annerl is seduced by a young officer under a false promise of marriage;
in her anguish and madness she strangles her new-born child, then gives
herself up to justice and pays the penalty of her crime with her young
life--her seducer, the ensign, arriving too late with a pardon.

This epitome of the tale shows to what extent Brentano, in this
particular case, has done homage to the doctrines of Romanticism.
Supernatural warnings play an important part. The career of the heroine
is regarded from the standpoint of Oriental fatalism; but at the same
time, and without any attempt to smooth away the contradiction, we
have the genuinely Catholic persuasion that a sin is being punished,
the sin committed by the chief character in setting the purely human
principle of honour above the Church's doctrine of heavenly grace.
Nevertheless, the little tale has both artistic style and a genuine
popular ring. The spirit of the popular ballad from which its theme is
borrowed hovers over it. And, what is still more worthy of note, it is
in so far an epoch-making work in German literature, that, long before
the appearance of Immermann's _Der Oberhof_ it heralds the age of the
peasant-story, striking in its naïve if somewhat artificial style the
chord of which we hear the echo so long afterwards in Auerbach and

[1] "Yes, despise reason and science, the highest possessions of
man, let yourself be persuaded by the spirit of lies to believe in
hallucinations and magic, and you are mine without fail."

[2] "What beautiful image is this that the artist has created? Under
what genial sky was this man born? Is there no inscription to tell me
his name, since these dead lips are dumb for ever? The eye glows with
noble desire; enthusiasm shines from that fair brow, surmounted only
by clustering curls, not yet by the laurel wreath. He is a poet. The
wondrous smile of love, of life, is on his lips; romance dwells in
these thoughtful eyes, drollery in the cheeks' roguish curves. Fame
will ere long proclaim his name, and set the crown of laurel on his

[3] Gödeke: _Grundriss zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung_, iii.,
Erste Abth., 31.

[4] "Long years ago the nightingale sang as she sings now. How sweet
it sounded! We were together then. I sit alone and spin and sing, and
cannot weep; clean and strong I spin my thread, as long as the moon
shines. The nightingale sang when we were together; now she but reminds
me that you have gone from me. It is of you alone that I think in the
moonlight; my heart is clean and strong as the thread I spin; may God
unite us again."


    "The ensign came riding, his white flag he waved;
    'Stop! here is the pardon--fair Nanerl is saved.'

    'O ensign, good ensign, fair Nanerl is dead.'
    'Thy soul is with God! Good night, Nanerl!' he said."



There is one form of literature in which men and women are, for the
most part, portrayed as essentially intellectual beings, endowed with
freedom of will and action. That form is the drama. In lyric poetry
emotion reigns; in epic the character is partly lost sight of in
the broad painting of the circumstances and powers which determine
it; but the subject of the drama is action; and because the human
character, acting and willing, is in itself something absolutely
definite, it compels the author to give clear, well-defined form to
his production. The drama demands lucidity and intellect; in it, where
there is a reason for everything, the forces of nature must be either
the servants or the masters of the mind; but, above all, they must
be comprehended; they cannot appear as dark, mysterious despots, who
are not expected to give any explanation of their nature or business.
Tieck's two Romantic dramas, the tragedy, _Leben und Tod der heiligen
Genoveva_ ("Life and Death of St. Genevieve"), and the ten act comedy,
_Kaiser Octavianus_, are really only dramas in name. His admiration of
Shakespeare's _Pericles_ and _Winter's Tale_ and Calderon's lyrical
and musical interludes betrayed him into a lyric-epic formlessness
unequalled in the history of literature. It would be difficult to find
dramatic works more destitute of plan and style. All their author's
care is lavished upon what he calls the "climate" of events, their
atmosphere and fragrance, tone and colour, the mood they inspire,
the shadow they cast, the light in which they are seen, which is
invariably that of the moon. His medieval characters are possessed by
the spirit which the study of old legends has induced in himself. It
was a kind of religious impression which imparted this tendency to
his productivity. Schleiermacher's _Reden über Religion_ ("Lectures on
Religion") had had a profound influence on him. He had begun to read
Jakob Böhme's _Morgenröthe_ ("Dawn"), expecting to find it a perfect
mine of absurdities, and from a scoffer had turned into an enthusiastic
disciple. It was about this time, too, that he met Novalis and fell
under his influence.

Nevertheless, if we read Genoveva observantly, we soon find what Tieck
himself admits, that its religion, the pious emotion which was intended
to give it artistic unity, is no more than the Romantic longing for
religion. Many traces of this longing are to be found in the play.
The old days, the days of faith, are represented as sighing, like
Tieck's own, for still older, far more believing days; their religion,
too, is but a longing for religion. Golo says to Sir Wolf, who to him
represents the good old times: "How could I dream of jeering at thy
childlike spirit!" Genoveva looks back to the past; like Tieck himself,
she spends her time reading old legends. She says, with a touch of
genuine Romanticism:--

    "Drum ist es nicht so Andacht, die mich treibt,
    Wie inn'ge Liebe zu den alten Zeiten,
    Die Rührung, die mich fesselt, dass wir jetzt
    So wenig jenen grossen Gläub'gen gleichen."[1]

The principal masculine character in the play, the whimpering, whining
villain Golo, is William Lovell over again, and William not in the
least improved by being dressed up as a dramatic figure in a medieval

_Octavianus_, the allegorical style of which has been strongly
influenced by _Heinrich von Ofterdingen_, is, if possible, still
more shapeless and incoherent than _Genoveva_. It strikes one as
resembling nothing so much as a splendid collection of samples of all
kinds of metres, those of Southern as well as of Northern Europe, and
is in reality simply a fatiguing succession of carefully elaborated
descriptions of impressions produced, moods inspired, by nature.

In the introduction to _Phantasus_, Tieck has himself described how all
definite impressions of the surrounding world blend in his mind into a
sort of mystic pantheism:--

    "Was ich für Grott' und Berg gehalten,
    Für Wald und Flur und Felsgestalten,
    Das war ein einzigs grosses Haupt,
    Statt Haar und Bart mit Wald umlaubt.
    Still lächelt er, dass seine Kind'
    In Spielen glücklich vor ihm sind
    Er winkt und ahndungsvolles Brausen
    Wogt her in Waldes heil'gem Sausen.
    Da fiel ich auf die Kniee nieder
    Mir zitterten in Angst die Glieder.
    Ich sprach zum Kleinen nur das Wort:
    Sag an, was ist das Grosse dort?
    Der Kleine sprach: Dich fasst sein Graun,
    Weil Du ihn darfst so plötzlich schaun,
    Das ist der Vater, unser Alter,
    Heisst Pan, von Allem der Erhalter."[2]

And Tieck looked at and apprehended human nature exactly as he looked
at and apprehended forest and mountain. In describing it, too, he
drowns all definiteness and character in the flood of mystic pantheism.
And this mystic pantheism in his plays paves the way for the Christian
mysticism distinguishing the Romantic drama.

Arnim and Brentano are hardly to be taken into account as dramatists.
The latter, in his mad comedy, _Ponce de Leon_, the dialogue of which
is loaded with wearisome play upon words, is the would-be disciple of
Shakespeare, who has only succeeded in imitating the affectations of
the master's youthful style. In his great Romantic drama, _Die Gründung
Prags_ ("The Founding of Prague"), he gives us sorcery and miracles,
visions and prophecies, magic rings and curses, instead of real human
beings and real action; the course of events is indicated by strange
forebodings and unerring second-sight.

There is some resemblance between the manner in which Brentano has
dramatised Slavonic legend in this play, and the Polish Romanticist
Slowacki's treatment (in _Lilla Weneda_, for instance) of similar
themes. Both, out of crude myths and traditions, have produced pictures
of Slavonic heathendom which display a certain gift of intuition. The
fact is that the Romantic authors of all lands had a keener sense for
religious mysticism than for dramatic truth and effect. This play of
Brentano's is actually declared to have influenced the mythological
theories of his contemporaries, the brothers Grimm.

Arnim's _Halle und Jerusalem_, the "tragedy in two comedies," as
he himself styled it, in which the legend of the Wandering Jew is
interwoven with the story of Cardenio and Celinde, is one of the most
intolerable productions of German Romanticism. It is a reading-drama
of four hundred large octavo pages, which begins as a wild student's
comedy in Halle, and develops into a pilgrim-mystery in Jerusalem. It
turns upon the medieval idea of the Holy Sepulchre being the centre
of the world; and it ends with an apparition of three crosses of fire
above the graves of the three principal characters.

In one of the scenes Celinde attempts in the dead of night to cut the
heart out of her dead lover's breast, that with its assistance she may
perform certain magic rites which will ensure her possession of the
heart of her living lover. The dead man, the blood pouring from his
breast, rises out of his coffin, and complains of her treatment in such
verse as:--

    "Geliebte, du durchbohrst mein Herz,
    Das ist bittrer als der Hölle Schmerz."[3]

Immediately after this, the sexton unmasks himself, reveals himself as
the devil, and carries off Celinde's wicked mother to be his bride.

In another scene Celinde is supposed to be about to give birth to a
child in a mountain cavern. A stork appears on the stage carrying a
child in its beak, and flies into the cavern. Then come a whole flight
of storks, which direct their course southwards, singing:--

    "Hast du schwer am Kind getragen,
    Musst sie mit den Flügeln schlagen,
    Hast du müssen lange reisen,
    Musst sie mit dem Schnabel beissen," &c.[4]

The child is born dead, and the wretched mother is in despair. This
fact also is communicated to us by a stork:--

    "In meiner Wut,
    In der Reiseglut,
    Hab ich das Kind erdrückt," &c., &c.[5]

Immediately on the head of this follow would-be pathetic, but in
reality revoltingly horrible scenes, like the one entitled "The
Temptation in the Desert," in which Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew, who
is starving, struggles against the temptation to eat a little boy, who
has been saved along with himself from shipwreck. Ahasuerus says: "How
terrible is my desire for his flesh! I already feel the juicy morsel
rolling between tongue and palate...." He is on the point of committing
the crime, when the child cries: "Father! father!" on which the old man
hastily absorbs himself in his book.

Almost at the end of the play, in the middle of a religious service
held by the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, an attack is suddenly made
upon those Romanticists whose piety is not sincere. A traveller says:
"I will deliver the Holy Sepulchre out of the hands of the Turks." One
of the author's favourite characters retorts: "Do it first, and then
speak of it." Hereupon follows this incredibly undramatic parenthesis:
"The traveller turns away ashamed; he goes out into the wide world and
pleads the cause of Christianity in thousands of words; but his words
have not the power of eternal life, for his is love without deeds.
From him are descended all the new, poetic Christians, those, I mean,
who are only Christians in their poems." When it comes the length of
the author's "I" appearing in a parenthesis in the middle of a play, we
may regard dramatic form as practically non-existent. Even Tieck and
Hoffmann never went as far as this.

German Romanticism produced only two real dramatists--Zacharias
Werner and Heinrich von Kleist. Of these, the latter is incomparably
the greater; indeed his poetic gifts are so great that one may
unhesitatingly assign him the highest place among all the poets of his
school. He has a clearer, more plastic style than any of them, and
pathos such as we do not find even in Goethe. His finest works are full
of soul, heart, and burning passion, and yet the style is simple and
lucid. Kleist is Germany's Mérimée; and a study of his characteristics
will show us what the German Romantic tendency could make of a Mérimée.
We shall see how the clearness, the definiteness, which was the natural
quality of his genius, was disturbed and deranged by the poetical
insanity of Romanticism.

Thirty steps from the Wannsee, a little lake near Berlin, and fifty
from the wayside inn, stands a gravestone bearing the inscription:
"Heinrich von Kleist."

Upon this spot, on the 20th of November, 1811, at the age of
thirty-four, the greatest German poet of the younger generation of
that day, shot, with unerring aim, first the woman he loved and then
himself. It was long believed that the two were united simply by a
calm, reasonable friendship. But when, in 1873, their correspondence
was published, its unhealthy passion made it evident that there was
extravagantly strong feeling on both sides, and that the reason of both
was undermined. Kleist addresses his friend, Frau Henriette Vogel,
in such terms as these: "My Jette, my all, my castle, land, meadows,
and vineyards, sun of my life, my wedding, baptism of my children, my
tragedy, my fame, my guardian angel, my cherub and seraph!" and she
replies: "My defence, my guard, my sword, my spear, my buckler, my
shield," &c.

Heinrich von Kleist was of noble birth, the scion of an old Prussian
military family, which in the eighteenth century had already produced a
poet. Heinrich had been through one campaign, as a young ensign, when
military life became distasteful to him, and a dim consciousness of his
unusual powers impelled him to turn to study. In 1799 he matriculated
at the university of his native town, Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and was
soon working hard at philosophy, mathematics, and classics, living, in
spite of his youth, a very sober life, entirely occupied with his own
ardent introspective thoughts. In an awkward, pedantic way he attempted
to educate his sister, and to cultivate the mind of his _fiancée_, so
that she might really understand him. In the course of a year he left
Frankfort to pursue his studies in Berlin. He early developed a fatal
inclination to stake everything on one card. His biographer, Wilbrandt,
has aptly compared his character to Werther's. He had Werther's gloomy
dissatisfaction and cynical reserve, his vivid imagination, his habit
of brooding and reasoning, and of dwelling upon everything painful, his
overpowering outbursts of emotion.

It was clear to Kleist himself that his was the poet's vocation long
before he dared confide the thought to his friends; he left them,
he isolated himself, until he was certain of his powers. When for
the first time he felt the plan of a work taking shape in his mind,
it seemed to him as though "something like earthly happiness" were
smilingly beckoning him on. Impetuous and audacious, he expected to
produce a masterpiece at once. The immature beginner's attempt was
unsuccessful. When, a year later, he planned _Robert Guiscard_, the
tragedy which occupied his thoughts throughout the rest of his youth,
it was with the distinct intention of surpassing the classical works
of Goethe and Schiller "by the aid of a new art principle." In his
art Æschylus and Shakespeare, the best qualities of antiquity and the
Renaissance, were to be fused together, the cult of the beautiful was
to be combined with truth to nature, and irreproachable style with the
extreme of tragic horror.

His powers were as yet inadequate to the task of producing a complete
work, and he was obliged to lay the tragedy aside.

In the discouragement produced by the failure of this attempt he turned
to philosophy. His desire was to find, not truths, but the truth. With
the naïve confidence of the self-taught man he expected to discover at
once the full, perfect truth which would guide him both in life and

It was the philosophy of Kant which he set himself to study, and the
impression it made upon him was distinctly depressing. He had expected
to find a religion in philosophy, and Kant's Theory of Cognition taught
him that we cannot attain to the truth, can never know what things
are in themselves, but only see them as our own organs show them to
us--that is to say, he who has green spectacles sees things green, and
he who has red, sees them red. When he recognised that knowledge of the
truth, as he had represented it to himself, was not possible, it seemed
to the young man as if his highest, his only aim were gone.

In this state of spiritual disorganisation he, like other Romanticists,
felt the inclination to seek the support of a system of dogmas,
either that of orthodox Protestantism or that of the older and more
authoritative Catholic Church. He writes from Dresden: "Nothing could
have been better calculated to entice me away from the melancholy
domain of science than the treasures of art collected in this town....
But nowhere did I feel so deeply moved as in the Catholic church, where
the most sublime music leagues itself with the other arts to touch the
heart. Our divine service is nothing at all in comparison; it only
appeals to cold reason, but a Catholic festival appeals to all the
senses.... Oh, for one drop of forgetfulness! then I should with joy
become a Catholic."

Though he overcomes these fancies, he is unable to force himself to
work, now that he has made the discovery that truth is not to be found
upon earth. To put an end to this painful aimlessness, he determines,
though with no particular object in view, to go to Paris. His letters
from Paris show how fruitless this new attempt at discovering his real
vocation in life proved. He breaks off his engagement, because his
_fiancée_ will not blindly and obediently follow him to Switzerland,
there to live the life of a peasant's wife. His pride will not permit
him to return to his native town before he has accomplished something
in the way of fulfilment of his ambitious projects. He goes to Weimar
with the intention of completing _Robert Guiscard_ there, is much in
Wieland's society, and finally takes up his abode in his house. The
old man's goodness and his daughter's quiet tenderness keep him there,
but he remains reserved and absent-minded. At last he confesses to the
lovable, sympathetic old poet that he is at work upon a tragedy, but
that his ideal is so high that he has as yet found it impossible to
transfer his conception to paper.

One afternoon Wieland, taking advantage of a favourable opportunity,
persuaded his guest to repeat some fragments of the principal scenes
from memory. The old poet's admiration knew no bounds; he asserted
that if it were possible for the spirits of Æschylus, Sophocles, and
Shakespeare to combine in creating a tragedy, it would be such a
tragedy as _Robert Guiscard_, provided that the whole fulfilled the
promise of the parts he had heard.

Kleist's joy was great, but short-lived. Circumstances soon unsettled
him again. He went first to Leipzig, then to Dresden. It was in
Dresden, to a girl who was in distress because of the supposed
indifference of her lover, that he first made the proposal (a proposal
which he afterwards often repeated to friends of both sexes), that he
should take a pistol and shoot her and himself. Not long afterwards
he made a similar offer to his faithful friend, Von Pfuel. Pfuel came
to the conclusion that travel would be the best thing possible for
Kleist and his tragedy. Kleist caught eagerly at the idea. Shortly
before he started for Switzerland he received a letter from Wieland
which gave him fresh courage, and was for a long time his greatest
comfort. Wieland wrote that it was impossible to him to believe that
any external hindrance could prevent the completion of Kleist's
masterpiece: "To the Holy Muse who inspires you nothing is impossible.
You must complete your _Guiscard_; yes, even if the whole Caucasus were
weighing you down."

During his travels in Switzerland and Northern Italy, which occupied
the summer and autumn of 1803, Kleist wrote nothing. Despairing of the
sufficiency of his powers, coming to the conclusion that he possessed
only a "half talent," he temporarily gave up all idea of literary
work. All the time tormented by thoughts of death, he travelled by
Lyons to Paris. There he burned _Guiscard_ and all his papers, and
determined to enter the army of France (a nation he hated) and take
part in the great expedition preparing at Boulogne, in the confident
hope that the undertaking would fail, and that he and the whole army
would find graves in England. He tried to enlist as a common soldier,
but was refused. An acquaintance whom he accidentally met, put him
in a position to return to Germany, where, after many mishaps and
disappointments, he obtained a small official appointment at Königsberg.

Kleist had announced his intention of competing with Goethe. "I will
tear the wreath from his brow," was early the burden of his confidences
and his dreams. It sounds like the utterance of a madman. And yet, when
we read the one fragment that remains to us of the never-completed
drama, _Guiscard_, we are filled with astonishment. It was as little
within the power of this work as of any other to remove the crown
of honour from the brow of the genius whose spirit dominates two
centuries; but the fact remains that the fragment of it which we
possess stands on a level with much of the best produced by Goethe.

Kleist has drawn on his imagination for the picture of a great man, a
great leader; and he at once successfully impresses us with his hero's
greatness by showing how much depends upon him, upon his life, how
thousands upon thousands look up to him as their ruler and only saviour.

The great adventurer, Robert Guiscard, son of Tancred de Hauteville, is
lying with his army before Constantinople, which city he has vowed to
take and keep. But fate is against him; the plague has broken out in
his camp and is committing terrible ravages.

Kleist himself had encountered just such overwhelming misfortune on the
path of victory which his imagination had painted; and his delineation
of a hero struggling against an overpowering destiny which he has long
borne consciously within himself is grand. For Guiscard himself is
plague-stricken; the mortal sickness is raging in his intestines; its
poison is consuming his very bones. He who till now has been everywhere
victorious, the conqueror of Southern Italy, of Rome, of Venice, and
of Greece, knows, feels, that his end is at hand. A crowd of Normans
are besieging his tent, calling on him to lead the army away from this
terrible camping-ground, where they feel the poisonous breath of the
plague blowing in their faces. A rumour that he is ill has already
begun to spread, but as yet the truth is not to be divulged; Guiscard
is too proud to let any one know what he is suffering.

His tent is thrown open, and the man in whose breast a consuming fire
is burning, whose throat is parched with unquenchable thirst, and whose
hand is so weak that all through the night he has not been able to lift
it, steps forth erect and proud, and shows himself to the crowd. So
strong and gay and masterful does he seem, that even those who before
were certain of the worst, no longer know what to believe.

And there is profound meaning as well as grandeur in this conception of
Kleist's. This Guiscard, who stands there erect and unflinching while
mortal disease is gnawing at his vitals, who is he but Kleist himself,
his whole unhappy life long? He himself is the great genius whose plans
are foiled by the pestilence without and within him.

Kleist soon resigned his Government appointment and returned to the
calling of literature. It is most interesting to observe the dramatic
characters now produced by a man in reality full of productive energy.
Our study of the psychological peculiarities and doctrines of the
Romanticists has shown us how their predilection for disintegrating
personality led them to lay special weight upon all that has a
disintegrating effect--dreams, hallucinations, and madness. What
distinguishes Kleist's characters from those of the other Romanticists
is that there is nothing blurred and vague about them; the essential
quality which his and theirs have in common is morbidity. In every
passion Kleist seizes upon that feature which betrays kinship with the
fixed idea or with helpless insanity; he probes every mind, however
sound, till he finds the diseased point where it loses control over
itself--somnambulistic tendency, overpowering animal appetites,
absent-mindedness, cowardice in the face of death. Take such a passion
as love; it is certainly not of a rational nature, but it has a side
from which it may be seen to be connected with reason and intellect.
Kleist almost invariably, and with admirable skill, depicts it as of
the nature of disease, as mania.

When Käthchen of Heilbronn sees Count Walter von Strahl for the first
time, she drops everything she is carrying, food, wine, and glasses,
and, pale as death, with folded hands, falls at his feet as if she
had been struck by lightning. The Count speaks a friendly word to
her. Presently, from her window, she sees him mounting his horse to
ride away. In her haste to follow him, she jumps from the window,
thirty feet high, on to the street, and breaks both her legs. Barely
recovered from six weeks' fever, she rises from her bed, collects a
small bundle of belongings, and deserts her home to seek the Count and
follow him in blind devotion from place to place, led "by the rays
which shine from his face and twine themselves round her heart like
a five-stranded cord." She wanders after him, her bare feet bleeding
on the stony roads, her scanty skirt fluttering in the wind, a straw
hat her only protection against the heat of the sun and the pelting of
the rain. Through mountain mists, across desert tracts scorched by the
sun, through the darkness of thick forests, she follows, like a dog on
its master's track; and she, who had been accustomed to lay her head
on soft pillows, disturbed by each little knot spun inadvertently by
herself into the thread of the sheets, now, when night comes, sleeps in
the Count's stables like the meanest servant, sinking exhausted upon
the straw spread for his horses.

There is the ring of truth in this description, given by her father, of
the young girl's flight. The Count, who knows that he is in no way to
blame, tries every method of alienating her. Coming upon her in his
stable one night, he thrusts her aside with his foot, and more than
once he threatens her with his dog-whip. He allows her to sacrifice
herself for his bride, who orders her to rush into a burning house
to save his miniature, and when she has brought it, sends her back
again for the case. With joy and deep humility she does and bears
all. The more refined, but weaker, representation of an overpowering,
unrequited passion given us by Henrik Hertz in The _House of Svend
Dyring_ is modelled upon Kleist's Käthchen. Side by side with much
that is ridiculous and repulsive, _Käthchen von Heilbronn_ contains
much that is really grand. It is plain enough that this passion,
which comes on as suddenly as a fit of apoplexy--which, moreover,
as a fixed idea, destroys every other idea, and, itself a miracle,
performs miracles with the aid of an angel--oversteps the bounds of the
natural and the healthy. Yet there is something fine in it. It gave
intense satisfaction to Kleist, who had such a rooted aversion for mere
phrases, to represent a loving woman, in whom everything was truth and
reality which in other women is mere words. It was thus that he himself
had desired to be loved by his Wilhelmine; and at a later period he had
demanded such excessive devotion from a young girl whose acquaintance
he had made at the Körners' house in Dresden, and who had become
attached to him, that all relations between them were broken off. Now
he had taken refuge with his ideal in poetry.

There is something satisfying and pleasing in the realisation of the
well-known phrases: To see and love was one and the same thing--to
follow the beloved to the ends of the earth--to be more devoted to
him than his dog--to go through fire and water for him. But yet all
this properly belongs to the domain of pathology; these are morbid
manifestations. Then, too, we have the Romantic reason of it all.
Käthchen's violent agitation when she sees the Count is explained by
the fact of his having previously appeared to her in a dream. At the
moment when she sees him in this dream, the Count is in reality lying
dangerously ill with typhus fever. Stretched like a corpse on his bed,
he himself has the feeling that he is entering Käthchen's room. And
when he hears of the strange coincidence, he cannot help exclaiming

    "Help me, ye gods! Now am I double!
    A spirit I, who wander in the night."

Here we have the favourite idea of Romanticism, "Doppelgängerei," in
close connection with somnambulism.

Somnambulism plays a similar part in _Der Prinz von Homburg_, the
finest of Kleist's dramas--probably the finest drama produced by
the Romantic School. In it all the important characters stand out
as if hewn in stone. The dialogue is vigorous and clear; every word
tells. The young cavalry leader commits an unpardonable breach of
discipline; he is victorious in an engagement which he has brought
about in a manner forbidden in his instructions. The Elector condemns
him to death. Not for a moment imagining that the sentence will be
carried out, the young hero treats it as a mere matter of form. When
it dawns upon him that it is sober earnest, a sudden fear of death
takes possession of him, and he abjectly begs for his life. Kleist's
genius shows itself in the delineation of the mental process by which
the Prince becomes himself again, and demands death as his right.
Here once more it is the night side of the mind to which attention is
drawn. The Prince is nervous, ill, and absent-minded. In the first
act he walks in his sleep. In the last we have the realisation of one
of his visions. He transgresses orders, not, like the son of Manlius
Torquatus, in youthful audacity and martial ardour, but because, in his
nervous, dreamy absent-mindedness he has not heard the orders given,
and consequently dashes recklessly on.

Kleist had been deeply interested by G. H. von Schubert's _Die
Nachtseite der Naturwissenschaft_ ("The Night Side of the Science of
Nature"). This book, written by the most popular "Naturphilosoph" of
the day, is one of the most extravagant works of the whole period.
The night side of a planet is that which is turned away from the sun,
and only glimmers faintly in the darkness, with a light destitute
of warmth, a light in which all objects look strange, and totally
different from what they do in the light of the sun. Schubert considers
that he succeeds, in his "Science of Nature," in demonstrating
the existence of such a night side. The first half of the work is
"Naturphilosophie," much as Steffens understood it. "This is certainly
not philosophy for the world," says the author, "but it is much older
than the world and all its philosophies, and will last much longer."
Most of it is on the same lines as the so-called occult sciences of
to-day. Man, like the nature which surrounds him, is a "prophetic
hieroglyph." In animal magnetism, in somnambulism, in presentiment, and
in so-called prescience, proofs are sought of a predestined harmony
between the life of the individual and that of the whole.

According to Schubert's theory, man originally had the power of
working miracles. Sin bereft him of his power over nature, and after
this there was always something dark and dæmonic connected with the
miracle-working gift--with the oracles of Greece, for instance, and
with all heathen sorcery. The old, natural miraculous power was
revived in Christ. In its dæmonic form it has reappeared among the
Rosicrucians and the Freemasons (the secret societies which played so
important a part in the imagination of Schubert's day); and it is also
observable in such phenomena as animal magnetism, clairvoyance, &c.
Adam Müller writes: "Schubert's book seems to me the best which the
'Naturphilosophie' has produced; its author, though not superior to
Schelling in polemical and critical talent, is certainly his superior
in feeling, in sincerity, and above all in erudition.... In Schubert's
writings I find a glorified, yet in all essentials accurate presentment
of an earlier stage of my development, when my one longing was, that
all that was human and personal in my power of achievement might, as
it were, dissolve into the smoke of a sweet incense, an offering to
the God I worshipped. How I longed to be able to divest myself of name
and personality, and become the most devoted of martyrs or the most
priestly of priests" (der geistlichste Geistliche). Every one read the
book, and even a mind like Kleist's allowed itself, as we have seen,
to be engrossed by all this pretentious foolishness. Mysticism was the
order of the day, and it is curious to see how the mystic element,
the strange trinity of sensuality, religion, and cruelty, insinuates
itself into all Kleist's dramas. Take, for example, that remarkable
tragedy, _Penthesilea_. The heroine is the wild queen of the Amazons,
who is waging a victorious war upon both the Greeks and the Trojans.
It is a law among the Amazons that each must capture in battle the man
who is to be her husband; then, when the war is over, she lives with
him in peace and happiness. Penthesilea has conceived quite as fatal a
passion for Achilles as Käthchen's for Count Strahl. But in Penthesilea
love shows itself in a different way; it takes the form of cruelty. In
every battle she pursues Achilles, thirsting for his blood. If Käthchen
loved like a dog, Penthesilea loves like a tigress escaped from a
Bacchanalian procession.

It is plain that it is his own temperament with which Kleist has
endowed the Amazon queen. She cares for nothing, will take nothing, but
Achilles, just as he refused to aim at anything, to be content with
anything, but the highest place of honour. Her wild haste to conquer
her beloved corresponds with his desire to attain his aim at one blow,
with his drama, _Robert Guiscard_. Like Kleist, she can only live when
she is striving after what her soul desires. She says, what her author
might have said:[6] "I should go mad if I did not attempt all that is
within the bounds of possibility."

She hates Achilles as fervently as Kleist in dark hours must have hated
and cursed the destiny which forbade his winning the highest fame.
She kills him in an access of detestation, as Kleist, in an access of
desperation, destroyed his beloved work, his _Guiscard_. Yet she loves
him, loves him helplessly, with a consuming passion.[6] When Achilles
has wounded her in battle, she complains in words which seem to refer
to the poet himself:--

    "Mir diesen Busen zu zerschmettern, Prothoe!
    Die Brust, so voll Gesang, Asteria!
    Ein Lied, jedweder Saitengriff auf ihn!"[7]

When she is on the point of giving up everything, she says, as Kleist
did in so many of his letters to his sister:--

    "Das Aeusserste, das Menschenkräfte leisten
    Hab ich gethan, Unmögliches versucht,
    Mein Alles hab ich an den Wurf gesetzt;
    Der Würfel, der entscheidet, liegt, er liegt:
    Begreifen muss ich's--und dass ich verlor!"[8]

We can readily understand how it was that Pfuel, Kleist's faithful
friend, found him sitting weeping after writing the description of
Penthesilea's death. Indeed, the poet himself wrote of the play to a
friend: "It is true; you have divined it with the glance of a seer; my
inmost self is in it, my soul in its glory and its anguish."

Yet this personal element does not preclude Romantic mysticism; the
story is impregnated with it. Penthesilea's love expresses itself in
such words as the following:--

    "Hetzt alle Hund' auf ihn! mit Feuerbranden
    Die Elephanten peitschet auf ihn los!
    Mit Sichelwagen schmettert auf ihn ein
    Und mähet seine üpp'gen Glieder ab!"[9]

This last repulsive wish, to see Achilles' limbs mowed off by the
scythes of the chariots, is, as we learn at the conclusion of the play,
no feigned desire. The Amazons are defeated, and their wearied and
wounded queen falls into Achilles' hands. He loves her, and, to keep
her from grieving and despairing, he attempts to make her believe that
she has been victorious, and that he is her captive. She soon, however,
discovers the truth. Then Achilles challenges her to single combat,
with the intention of allowing her to defeat him, and in this manner
becoming her husband. When Penthesilea receives the challenge, she does
not understand its meaning. She is seized by a sort of Berserker fury,
throws herself upon her horse, cries to her hounds, and dashes off. He
sees her coming and is afraid. She bends her bow "till the ends kiss,"
takes aim, and sends an arrow through his neck. He falls, but, with the
death rattle in his throat, struggles to rise again; then she urges on
her hounds to tear him to pieces, and, following their example, sets
her teeth in his breast and bites until the blood drips from her mouth
and hands.

    "Doch hetz! schon ruft sie: Tigris! hetz, Leäne!
    Hetz, Sphinx! Melampus! Dirke! hetz, Hyrkaon!
    Und stürzt--stürzt mit der ganzen Meut, o Diana!
    Sich über ihn, und reisst--reisst ihn beim Helmbusch
    Gleich einer Hündin, Hunden beigesellt,
    Der greift die Brust ihm, dieser greift den Nacken,
    Dass von dem Fall der Boden bebt, ihn nieder!
    Er, in dem Purpur seines Bluts sich wälzend,
    Rührt ihre sanfte Wange an, und ruft:
    Penthesilea! meine Braut! was thust du?
    Ist dies das Rosenfest, das du versprachst?
    Doch sie--die Löwin hätte ihn gehört,
    Die hungrige, die wild nach Raub umher
    Auf öden Schneegefilden heulend treibt--
    Sie schlägt, die Rüstung ihm vom Leibe reissend,
    Den Zahn schlägt sie in seine weisse Brust,
    Sie und die Hunde, die wetteifernden,
    Oxus und Sphinx den Zahn in seine rechte,
    In seine linke sie; als ich erschien,
    Troff Blut von Mund und Händen ihr herab."[10]

It is long before she comes to her senses and realises what she has
done. Her first feeling is utter despair, but presently she says:--

    "Wie manche, die am Hals des Freundes hängt,
    Sagt wohl das Wort: sie lieb'ihn, o so sehr,
    Dass sie vor Liebe gleich ihn fressen könnte;
    Und hinterher, das Wort geprüft, die Närrin!
    Gesättigt sein zum Ekel ist sie schon.
    Nun, du Geliebter, so verfuhr ich nicht;
    Sieh her: als ich an deinem Halse hing,
    Hab ich's wahrhaftig Wort für Wort gethan;
    Ich war nicht so verrückt, als es wohl schien."[11]

She is not so mad as she seems. It is the same here as in _Käthchen
von Heilbronn_--what with most women is only a figure of speech, is
in Penthesilea's case reality. Many a woman says she loves her lover
with a passion so wild that she could eat him; Penthesilea does it. She

    "Küsse, Bisse,
    Das reimt sich, und wer recht von Herzen liebt,
    Kann schon das eine für das andere greifen."[12]

But even this is not the complete explanation. As yet we have only the
two elements, sensuality and cruelty; the third, religion, is present
also. It appears as the supplementary colour when we look carefully at
the first two. Remember Novalis's words, already quoted: "The divine
significance of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is an enigma to the
carnal mind. But he who even once has drunk in the breath of life from
warm, beloved lips, whose heart has melted in the quivering flames of
holy fire ... he will eat of His body and drink of His blood for ever
more." The great Christian mystery was a subject occupying all minds
at this time, Kleist's among the rest. One of his intimate friends
was the most notable mystic of the day, the ingenious sophist, Adam
Müller. It may astonish us, or offend us, to find traces of Christian
mystic dogma in a pagan drama which has the Queen of the Amazons for
heroine; but to understand this, and many other kindred phenomena, we
must take the relative truth and justifiableness of this mysticism
into consideration. These men could not shut their religious ideas
into a cupboard, and keep them altogether apart from their lives and
actions. It was not only twice, or possibly three times, a year that
such a subject as the Lord's Supper occupied their minds; it pervaded
all their thoughts; they strove to see life in the light of this great
mystery. In the complete edition of Friedrich von Baader's collected
works (vol. iv. Anthropology), amongst a number of short essays, such
as: _On the Ecstatic Rapture of those who Talk in Magnetic Sleep, The
Vision Seer of Prevorst, Forty Tenets of Religious Love, &c., &c_.,
we find one entitled: _That, in the Spiritual, Good or Evil Meaning
of the Word, all Men are Anthropophagi_. It begins: "Man at heart,
or, to use the language of Scripture, the inner man, does not live on
tangible nourishment, on material bread; he lives, and that not in the
symbolical, but in the most real meaning of the word, entirely upon
other inner men, whose hearts and words are his food."

The great religious mystery ultimately became the centre round which
even philosophical thought revolved. Henrik Steffens may serve as an
example. This writer, in whose character, as Julian Schmidt[13] aptly
remarks, "there is an undeniable strain of innate servility," was
appointed to conduct the trial of the demagogues in Breslau. It was a
task which he accomplished in a spirit at variance with sound human
reason and the natural sense of justice, and during its performance
he gave expression to the most reactionary religious sentiments,
entirely forgetful of the pantheism of his youth. In the essay, _How
I Once More Became a Lutheran_, he writes: "The Holy Sacrament is
the chief individualising process in Christianity; by its means the
whole mystery of the redemption enters in all its fulness into the
receptive personality. The fertilising stream of grace, which, since
the day of the great regeneration, has flowed through all nature and
all history, and which matures us for a blessed future, here takes the
form of the Saviour, in order that that which is all in all may be
completely present.... By means of the satisfying personal presence
of the Saviour, that which the Christian truly believes, that which
pervades his whole life, and overcomes death, yet at the same time
forces him back into the domain of the senses, here becomes certainty,
enjoyment, nourishment. ... To me the communion of the Lord's Supper is
the highest, most important, most mysterious of all religious acts; so
important does it seem to me, that through it every doctrine acquires
unfathomable significance."

We see, then, how tremendously important a part this sacrament plays
in the Christian mysticism of the period under consideration. There
existed a tender, almost an erotic, relation between the faithful and
the consecrated elements. True believers were declared to be sensible
of the presence of these elements at an extraordinary distance. Read
what Görres writes on the subject in the second part of his _Mystik_.
"To begin with what is holiest--" he says, "all who have attained to
the higher spiritual life are aware, at a prodigious distance, of the
presence of the Host." A number of examples of this are given, and we
are told in the preface that all the facts instanced are vouched for
by numerous witnesses, that these witnesses were the most reliable
imaginable, either priests or pious laymen, and that they were
particularly favourably situated for making the necessary observations.
And we not only learn that saintly believers can detect the Host,
no matter where it may be hidden, but that the Host feels such an
attraction towards them, that it springs from the priest's hand into
their mouths. Sometimes the priest actually feels that it is violently
torn out of his hands, drawn like steel by a magnet; and the saintly,
in their turn, are so forcibly attracted to the holy substance that
they are carried through the air to it.

Nowhere in all Kleist's writings has mysticism taken such strange
possession of a perfectly pagan, not to say wanton, theme as in his
_Amphitryon_, which is an adaptation of Molière's well-known comedy.
The story, not a very easy one to treat, is as follows. During
Amphitryon's absence, Jupiter assumes his form and visits his wife,
Alcmene, who believes the god to be her husband. Amphitryon returns,
and a whole series of comical confusions ensue between the real and
the pretended husband, the real slave, Sosias, and Mercury as Sosias.
At last the true state of affairs is explained, and Amphitryon has
to console himself with the consideration that there is nothing
dishonourable in such a relationship with Jupiter,--a moral theory
which it must have been very much to the interest of Louis the
Fourteenth to defend and propagate.

    "Mon nom, qu'incessamment toute la terre adore,
    étouffe ici le bruit, qui pouvait éclater;
    Un partage avec Jupiter
    N'a rien du tout qui déshonore."

In genuine French fashion, Molière makes the collision between the
husband and the lover the main point in his play; and when Alcmene
upbraids Jupiter for the hard words he (i.e. Amphitryon) has used to
her, the god takes refuge in the following fine distinction:--

    "L'époux, Alcmène, a commis tout le mal;
    C'est l'époux qu'il vous faut regarder en coupable:
    L'amant n'a point de part à ce transport brutal,
    Et de vous offenser son cœur n'est point capable.
    Il a de vous, ce cœur, pour jamais y penser,
    Trop de respect et de tendresse;
    Et si de faire rien à vous pouvoir blesser
    Il avait eu la coupable faiblesse,
    De cent coups à vos yeux il voudrait le percer.
    Mais l'époux est sorti de ce respect soumis
    Ou pour vous on doit toujours être;
    A son dur procédé l'époux s'est fait connaître,
    Et par le droit d'hymen il s'est cru tout permis."

Jupiter expresses himself, we see, with the polished gallantry of a
courtier. At the close of the play the bystanders congratulate the
wretched Amphitryon, and Sosias recites an epilogue, in which the
whole matter is treated from the comical point of view, and the moral
pointed that the less said about such affairs the better.

Kleist naturally saw the subject in quite a different light. It is
obvious that his Romantic mind was attracted first and foremost by the
"Doppelgängerei;" then came the possibility of playing, faintly but
clearly, on one of the most important mysteries of the Christian faith.
Alcmene's husband is not the father of Hercules, yet the conception was
no violation of her marriage vow; it was immaculate; the being to which
she gives birth is not the child of a man, but of a god. Therefore, in
the most important scene between Jupiter and Alcmene, the former is
pantheistically exalted to the rank of the great world-spirit; he is
not the wanton Olympian of the Greeks, he is as divine and spiritual as
the "Absolute" of the _Naturphilosophie_. He says to Alcmene:--

    "Nimmst Du die Welt, sein grosses Werk, wohl wahr?
    Siehst Du ihn in der Abendröthe Schimmer,
    Wenn sie durch schweigende Gebüsche fällt?
    Hörst Du ihn beim Gesaüsel der Gewässer,
    Und bei dem Schlag der üpp'gen Nachtigall?
    Verkündigt nicht umsonst der Berg ihn Dir,
    Gethürmt gen Himmel, nicht umsonst ihn
    Der felszerstiebten Katarakten Fall?
    Wenn hoch die Sonn' in seinen Tempel strahlt,
    Und, von der Freude Pulsschlag eingeläutet,
    Ihn alle Gättungen Erschaff'ner preisen,
    Steigst Du nicht in des Herzens Schacht hinab
    Und betest Deinen Götzen an?"[14]

Therefore, also, Alcmene is repeatedly addressed as "Thou Holy One!"

    "Du bist, Du Heilige, vor jedem Zutritt
    Mit diamantnem Gürtel angethan.
    Auch selbst der Glückliche, den Du empfängst,
    Entlässt Dich schuldlos noch und rein."...[15]

Adam Müller wrote an enthusiastic, mystical preface to the play. And in
one of his letters to Gentz he writes: "Hartmann has painted a grand
picture, 'The Three Marys at the Sepulchre.' This and Amphitryon seem
to me to herald a new period in art. For Amphitryon unmistakably treats
of the immaculate conception of the Holy Virgin as well as of the
mystery of love in general." Even Goethe felt this. He said: "The play
contains nothing less than a new, Christian interpretation of the myth
as a parallel to the overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Ghost."

In 1806 Kleist had resigned his appointment and left Königsberg.
When the war broke out between France and Prussia, he was, from a
misunderstanding, imprisoned for a time by the French. In 1808 he
went to Dresden, where he became acquainted with Adam Müller. It was
now Müller's ambition, as it had previously been Fr. Schlegel's,
to influence men's minds in the capacity of prophet and apostle
of Romanticism. He professed ardent admiration for Kleist, and,
unfortunately, succeeded in gaining considerable power over him.
Müller was a phrasemonger, who had acquired some little knowledge of
several sciences, and was at this moment on the point of announcing
a new philosophy, in which there was (so he maintained) none of
the one-sidedness characteristic of all previous systems. Its
distinguishing doctrine was the doctrine of "opposites," of the
constantly changing, constantly renewed and superseded "opposite."
According to Müller, the spirit of the eighteenth century and the
spirit of Romanticism were only disguises of one and the same truth--
a truth of which he no doubt believed himself to have entered into
complete and enduring possession when he joined the Church of Rome in

For some time after his conversion to Catholicism, Müller's whole
intellectual life resolved itself into mysticism. He studied "the
mysterious life of the clouds," regarded his nervous fear of thunder
and lightning as a special gift bestowed on him by Heaven, and believed
himself able to foretell the intellectual development of genius by
mathematical calculations. In course of time, in fellowship with
Gentz, he entered the field of practical politics, beginning as a
Prussian progressive patriot, ending as a reactionary in the service of

In Dresden, in 1808, Müller and Kleist started the periodical,
_Phöbus_, in which several of Kleist's best works first saw the light.

It is characteristic that what pleased Müller most in _Amphitryon_ was
exactly that element of Pagan--Christian mysticism, already referred
to, which reveals itself in such a speech as the following almost
literal reproduction of the words announcing the birth of Christ:--

   "Dir wird ein Sohn geboren, dess Name Hercules."

He did not penetrate into the spirit of the work. The interest of the
play centres in the character of Alcmene, the interest of her character
in the vigour with which she refuses to allow her peace of mind to be
disturbed and her feelings confused, and the interest of her tragic
story in the anguish she suffers when, in spite of herself, her inmost
feelings are agitated and perplexed by the appearance of her husband in
different forms.

Goethe, whose genius enabled him, though he did not understand Kleist's
character, to understand much of the working of his mind, made the
profound remark that what he chiefly aimed at was "confusion of
feeling" (Verwirrung des Gefühls). Kleist was in an abnormal degree
dependent upon security of feeling. Confusion of feeling was to him the
truest tragedy.

His own strong, undivided feeling was unsettled and perplexed again
and again. In conformance with the custom of his family, he became
a Prussian officer; but family tradition and his own inclinations
were at variance; he could not endure the discipline, and left the
army. He fell in love and pledged himself. His feeling for Wilhelmine
was strong, but his instinct of self-preservation as an artist was
stronger; here, too, there was perplexity of feeling, and he broke off
the engagement. He had the feeling that he was a poet, a genius, but
the result of all his efforts was a conviction of his want of real
capacity, and in dire perplexity he determined to enlist in the French
army, hoping to find death in its next campaign. All this explains his
perpetual circling round the theme of perplexity of feeling. We have
the idea very plainly in the admirable little tale, _Die Marquise von
O_. The Marquise knows as little as Alcmene who it is that has embraced
her in the dark; her feelings, too, are perplexed and confused; her
nearest and dearest suspect her; and when the Russian officer, whom she
looks upon as her saviour, but who proves to be the delinquent, returns
to her, loving and repentant, her innocent soul is rent by alternate
paroxysms of hatred and love. In much the same manner, the sense of
justice, originally so strong in the soul of _Michael Kohlhaas_, is
confused by the wrongs he suffers.

Wounded pride led Kleist to quarrel with friends and acquaintances;
a wounded sense of justice tempted him to insult Goethe. He sent
his _Penthesilea_ to the great master, whom he envied as much as
he admired, and was bitterly disappointed when, as might have been
expected, it was entirely disapproved of. Goethe, who, unfortunately,
was only keen-sighted as regarded the repellent side of Kleist's
character, said of him: "In spite of my honest intention to be
sympathetic and judge mildly, Kleist aroused in me nothing but
shuddering aversion, resembling that produced by a body which nature
has made beautiful, but which is attacked by some incurable disease."
When the comedy, _Der zerbrochene Krug_ ("The Broken Jar"), failed
in Weimar, owing to Goethe's arbitrary rearrangement of its acts,
Kleist's feelings became entirely "confused," and he wrote epigrams
on the great man's private life, among others the low, ugly one on the
child, "the precocious genius," who wrote the epithalamium for his own
parents' wedding-day.

It is this same confusion of feeling which gives their morbidness to
all his productions. Even _Michael Kohlhaas_, that masterpiece of the
art of story-telling, at the beginning of which each character is drawn
with the precision of genius, ends in a kind of dream-like confusion.
Towards the close of the story there appear two spectral figures--the
sickly and at last half-insane Elector of Saxony, and an extraordinary
gipsy woman, who, we are given to understand, is possessed by the
spirit of Kohlhaas's dead wife--characters which contrast very forcibly
with the simple, sane personages introduced to us at the beginning.
_Die heilige Cäcilie_ (St. Cecilia) is a Catholic legend, with a moral
pointed against iconoclasm. The author revels here with a certain
satisfaction in superstitious ideas; he makes the saint punish the
haters and destroyers of the art treasures of the Church with sudden

Kleist early became addicted to indulgence in opium, a fact of which
some of these works remind us.

In the year 1809 the poet appears as an ardent political agitator.
Now, for a time, his voice sounds clear and full. He reproaches his
countrymen with not having sufficient confidence in the mysterious
power of the heart. He calls Napoleon a sinner, whose iniquity it is
beyond the power of human language to express. Such resistance as has
been offered to the French seems to him contemptibly weak. He dislikes
Fichte's _Addresses to the German Nation_, sneers at Fichte himself as
a pedant who talks but cannot act, and expresses unbounded contempt for
the members of the _Tugendbund_ and their puerile inactivity. He writes
a tragedy, _Die Hermannsschlacht_, with the object of inciting his
countrymen to treat Napoleon as Hermann (Arminius) treated Varus. The
following lines in it are aimed at the laggard youth of the day:--

    "Die schreiben, Deutschland zu befreien,
    Mit Chiffren, schicken mit Gefahr des Lebens
    Einander Boten, die die Römer hängen,
    Versammeln sich um Zwielicht--essen, trinken,
    Und schlafen, kommt die Nacht, bei ihren Frauen.
    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
    Die Hoffnung: morgen stirbt Augustus
    Lockt sie, bedeckt mit Schmach und Schande,
    Von einer Woche in die andere."[16]

So little care does he bestow on the historical colouring of this play
that he makes Hermann talk of a "bill" (of exchange), and Varus compare
the leader of the Cheruski to a Dervish.

He wanted such a war as the Spaniards used to wage, with murder and
perjury, burning villages and poisoned wells.

The battle of Wagram shattered all his hopes. Aghast, he asked if there
were no such thing as justice upon earth.

Things stood badly now with Kleist--no comfort in public life, no
prospects in private life, no money, no employment, no approbation, no
encouragement. His nearest and dearest did not appreciate him. Shortly
before his death he writes to a motherly friend: "I would rather die
ten times over than endure again what I lately endured in Frankfort,
sitting at the dinner-table between my two sisters. The thought that
what I have actually done, be it little or much, is not acknowledged
by them at all, that I am looked upon as an utterly useless member of
society, no longer worthy of the slightest sympathy, not only robs me
of the future, but poisons the past to me."

Unwilling as he was to return to a profession he had given up twelve
years before, it at last seemed to him that the only possible way in
which he could earn his bread was by re-entering the army. He did
not even own money enough to procure an officer's outfit. An appeal
to Hardenberg for assistance was left unanswered. It was exactly at
this time that Prussia was compelled to enter into an alliance with
Napoleon against Russia. Can one imagine greater "confusion of feeling"
than was now the lot of the unhappy patriot? The author of the
_Hermannsschlacht_, the mortal enemy of Napoleon, forced, as a Prussian
officer, to fight for the humiliator of his country!

This last collision of duties broke his heart. "My soul is so spent,"
he writes, "that I feel as if the very daylight that shines on me when
I put my head out at the window hurts me."

He was ripe for the irrevocable decision. Through Müller he had made
the acquaintance of Frau Henriette Vogel, a gifted woman, who, like
himself, suffered from melancholia, and who imagined that she had an
incurable disease. This lady reminded him one day, that in an early
stage of their friendship he had promised to do anything she might
require of him, let it be what it might. He replied that he was ready
at any moment to fulfil his promise. "Then kill me," she said. "My
sufferings are so great that I can no longer endure life. I don't
believe, though, for a moment that you will do it--the men of to-day
are not men at all." This was enough for Kleist. In November 1811
he and Henrietta drove together to a little inn on the shore of the
Wannsee, a small lake near Potsdam. They were apparently in the best
of spirits, full of jest and merriment all that day and until the
afternoon of the next, when they went down to a retired spot on the
shore, and Kleist shot his friend through the left breast and himself
through the head. They had previously written a strange, mournfully
humorous letter to Adam Müller's wife. It runs as follows:--

"Heaven knows, my dear, good friend, what strange feeling, half
sorrowful, half glad, moves us to write to you at this hour--when our
souls, like two lightsome aërial voyagers, are preparing to take flight
from the world. For you must know that we had determined to leave no
p.p.c. cards upon our friends and acquaintances. The reason probably
is, that we have thought of you a thousand times in as many happy
moments, and pictured to ourselves a thousand times how you would have
laughed good-naturedly if you had seen us together in the green or the
red room. Yes, the world is a strange place! It is not unfitting that
we two, Jette and I, two sorrowful, melancholy beings, who have always
complained of each other's coldness, should have come to love each
other dearly, the best proof of which is, that we are now about to die

"Farewell, our dear, dear friend! May you be happy here upon earth,
as it is doubtless possible to be! As for us, we have no desire for
the joys of this world; our dream is of the plains of heaven and the
heavenly suns, in whose light we shall wander with long wings upon our
shoulders. Adieu! A kiss from me, the writer, to Müller. Tell him to
think of me sometimes, and to continue to be a brave soldier of God,
fighting against the devil of foolishness, who holds the world in his

Postscript in Henriette's writing:--

    "Doch, wie dies alles zugegangen,
    Erzähl' ich euch zur ändern Zeit,
    Dazu bin ich zu eilig heut.[17]

"Farewell, my dear friends! And do not forget to think, in joy and in
sorrow, of the two strange beings who are now about to set out on the
great voyage of discovery." HENRIETTE."

(In Kleist's handwriting)--"Written in the green room, on the 21st of
November, 1811. H. v. K."

Kleist was the most intractable character in the intellectual world of
the Germany of that day; he had, moreover, too much heart, too strong
feelings. After he had given up all hope of attaining to a knowledge of
the truth, he tried to build upon the foundation of feeling. As author
he was able to do it; his _Michael Kohlhaas_ is based upon the feeling
of justice, _Käthchen von Heilbronn_ upon the feeling of absolute
devotion. But the real world to which he himself belonged had no use
for strong, unmixed feeling such as his. He did not find it in others,
and wherever he followed it himself, the consequences were disastrous.
Alas! no; nothing was quite certain on this earth, not even his own

No one could prize decision, unity of character, more than he did,
and never was there a more uncertain, divided, morbid man. He was
always despairing, always wavering between the highest endeavour and
the inclination to commit suicide. This explains how it is that we see
him, the greatest of the Romanticists, liable to almost all the errors
which distinguish his contemporaries. His own really fine, noble nature
was spoiled very much as are most of the characters in his works, by
sinister, disastrous peculiarities, which slacken the will and destroy
the elasticity of the mind. Yet Heinrich von Kleist has assured himself
a place in literature, like all others who have won places there, by
the vigour and the passion with which he lived and wrote.[18]

In the other notable dramatist of the Romantic School there was far
less to disintegrate. He was the genuine Romanticist from the very

Zacharias Werner was born in Königsberg in 1768. He was the son of
a professor at the University, who also held the post of dramatic
censor. Hence, even as a child, Zacharias had the opportunity of
seeing plays almost daily, and in his earliest youth he was able to
make himself acquainted with all the technicalities of the stage. His
mother, according to Hoffmann, "was richly endowed with both intellect
and imagination." Her mind inclined to earnest, highly imaginative
mysticism, and she exercised no inconsiderable influence upon her son's
ardent imagination; but in course of time she became insane, one of her
delusions being that she herself was the Virgin Mary, and her son the
Saviour of the world.

As a student, Zacharias, who was of a sanguine, sensual temperament,
led an exceedingly dissolute life. In his twentieth year he published
a volume of lyric poems, which, like the earliest writings of
Friedrich Schlegel and the other Romanticists, are entirely untouched
by mysticism; they inveigh, in the style of the eighteenth century,
against "sanctimoniousness, pious stupidity, hypocrisy, and Jesuitism."
Nevertheless, while still comparatively young, he himself adopted the
sanctimonious style. Though he continued to be dissipated, he cannot
exactly be called a hypocrite, for he sinned and repented alternately.
The distinguishing feature of his character was instability, as he
himself confesses in his last poem, _Unstäts Morgenpsalm_ ("The
Unstable Man's Morning Hymn"); and long before, in the prologue
to Söhne des Thals ("Sons of the Vale"), he had called himself an
inconstant creature, "perpetually erring, lamenting, warning."

Religious motives induced Werner to join the Freemasons; he believed
that this order would prove the means of diffusing throughout the whole
world a new and more sincere spirit of piety. Pecuniary motives induced
him to accept a Government secretaryship; and in 1795, not long after
addressing three enthusiastic poems (a war song, a call to arms, and a
lament) to the unfortunate Poles, he took up his abode in the capacity
of a Prussian Government official in the conquered city of Warsaw,
where he spent ten pleasant years. He married three times during the
course of those ten years. The first two marriages were so ill-advised
that in both cases the divorce promptly followed the wedding; the
third, with a particularly charming Polish lady, lasted for some years.
From her he was divorced in 1805. On this occasion Werner took all the
blame upon himself. "I am not," he writes to Hitzig at the time, "a
bad man, but I am in many ways a weakling, though in others God grants
me strength. I am timid, capricious, miserly, uncleanly. You know it
yourself." Not a flattering portrait.

Schleiermacher's _Lectures on Religion_ and, following on these, the
writings of Jakob Böhme made no small impression on him. Art and
religion now became to him one and the same thing. "Why," he writes to
Hitzig, "have we not one name for these two synonyms?" They signify
to him what he at one time calls the "vivid sense of the nearness of
great Nature," at another, "the simple, humble outpouring of the pure
soul into the pure stream (of Nature)." His literary opinions are, he
declares, "exactly those of Tieck." In Warsaw he still writes coldly of
the Catholic Church; he defends it, not as "a system of faith, but as a
newly reopened mine of mythology."

Death bereft him on one day, the 24th of February, 1804, of his mother
and his most intimate friend, Mnioch, a Pole--hence the title of his
fatalistic tragedy, _The Twenty-Fourth of February_, written ten years

Having solicited all his patrons and friends in turn to procure him an
appointment with as little work and as much remuneration as possible,
he finally obtained an easy and profitable post in Berlin, through the
influence of a minister who was deeply interested in both religion and
freemasonry. He gave himself up for a time to all the amusements and
dissipations of the capital; but, after the defeat of the Prussians by
Napoleon, he threw up his appointment and began to lead a wandering
life. He was alone and free, for all his marriages had been childless,
and he had inherited a fortune at his mother's death. He travelled
through Germany and Austria, that "blessed land," as he calls it,
made the acquaintance of Madame de Staël, and visited her at Coppet.
In Weimar he succeeded in obtaining a pension from the Prince-Primate
(Fürst-Primas) Dalberg. Professor Passow, who made his acquaintance in
Weimar, wrote to Voss: "I dislike Werner exceedingly, for the reason
that I have never seen him twice the same. This is the consequence of
his insufferable anxiety to please every one. It depends entirely upon
his company whether he is the low libertine or the pious devotee of the
most modern, most spiritual type." A clergyman named Christian Mayr
obtained great influence over him. Mayr was a fanatic and an eccentric.
In order to realise one of the visions in the Book of Revelations and
to attain heavenly wisdom, he swallowed the greater part of a Bible,
and was dangerously ill in consequence; he shot with a pistol at any
member of his congregation who fell asleep when he was preaching; and
he believed that he could, during the celebration of the sacrament,
produce real flesh and blood. This man was desirous that Werner should
join a great secret society, the "Kreuzesbrüder im Orient." At first
Werner was very enthusiastic in the matter, then he began to entertain
doubts, and these doubts partly led to his conversion to Catholicism.

In November 1809, after paying a visit at Coppet, he went to Rome,
where he spent several years. His conversion took place in 1810. During
his years of wandering he had led the maddest of lives, dividing each
day between low debauchery and religious excitement, between gross
sensual indulgence and solemn intercourse with the Deity. The fragments
of his diary, published in two small volumes by Schütz, betray a
coarse immorality, an obscenity of thought, and a shamelessness of
expression, which are rendered only the more repulsive by the outbursts
of miserable remorse and self-accusation which interrupt the detailed
descriptions of erotic experiences.

In a testamentary epistle to his friends (dated September 1812) he
mentions the two motives which withhold him from a public confession.
"The one is, that to open a plague pit is dangerous to the health
of the still uninfected bystanders; the other, that, in my writings
(for which God forgive me), among a wilderness of poisonous fungi and
noxious weeds there is to be found here and there a healing herb, from
which the poor sick people to whom it might be useful would assuredly
shrink back in horror if they knew the pestilential spot in which it
had grown."

When Werner had (characteristically enough _after_ his conversion)
studied theology and made himself acquainted with the Catholic ritual,
he was ordained priest. It was in Vienna, in 1814, at the time of the
Congress, that he made his first appearance as a preacher. He was most
successful. People were impressed by his tall, spare, ascetic figure
and his long thin face, with the prominent nose and the dark brown eyes
gleaming under heavy eyebrows. He preached to enormous crowds sermons
of which the Monk's sermon in _Wallenstein's Lager_ may serve to give
a faint idea. They were full of high-flown bombast and disgusting
obscenities, united wit and wisdom with ascetic nonsense and tiresome
twaddle, overflowed with denunciations of heretics and eulogies of the

Werner died in Vienna in 1823. He is the representative-in-chief of
mysticism in literature. His life is the key to his works--works
which profoundly impressed his contemporaries, but which interest us
chiefly from the pathological point of view. He undoubtedly possessed
considerable poetic gifts.

His verse is melodious and falls caressingly on the ear, like the
church music of southern lands. His characters are generally well
planned (take, for example, Franz von Brienne in the first and second
acts of _Die Templer auf Cypern_--"The Knights Templar in Cyprus"), and
the action interests and keeps us in suspense; but the core and kernel
of it all, the threefold kernel of sensuality, religion, and cruelty,
is ill-flavoured and unwholesome.

His first important work, _Die Söhne des Thals_, which is in two
parts, of six acts each, deals with the Order of the Templars. He was
obviously inspired to it by the ideas of freemasonry, ideas which had
impressed Schubert, had played a part in _Wilhelm Meister_, and had
considerably influenced his own private life.

In this work the encasing of one idea within another--from the very
beginning a favourite device of the Romanticists--takes the form of
everything circling round a central mystery, the mystery of the secret
society; we penetrate ever farther and farther in, but as we do so,
it seems to retreat from us. The Order of the Templars has its own
particular mysteries, and we witness every detail of the initiation of
the neophytes into these--in gloomy vaults, with all the paraphernalia
of colossal skeletons, cryptic books, curtains, swords, palms, &c.,
&c. The meaning underlying it all is: "_Aus Blut und Dunkel quillt
Erlösung_" (From blood and darkness issues redemption). But the order
of Knights Templar is only a branch order; the great mother-order,
"_das Thal_" (the Vale), is in possession, as we learn in the second
part of the work, of all the higher mysteries and the higher power.
But its inmost mystery, too, is only the purely negative idea of
renunciation and sacrifice. Hidden voices proclaim "in a hollow,
chanting tone"--

    "Alles ist zum Seyn erkoren,
    Alles wird durch Tod geboren,
    Und kein Saatkorn geht verloren.
    "Wer durch Blut und Nacht geschwommen,
    Ist den Aengsten bald entnommen,
    Blutiger, sei uns willkommen!"[20]

We gain some idea of the extent to which the mysteries are utilised
in the elaboration of stage decoration and costumes from the fact
that in the twelfth scene of the fifth act, which consists of
sixty-four lines, only six are dialogue, the remainder being devoted to
directions regarding "a great burial mound, covered with roses, with
transparencies of an angel, a lion, a bull, and an eagle, disposed at
the four corners"--the costumes to be worn by the dignitaries of the
"Vale," of which some are to be cloth of gold, some silver, some sky
blue, some blood red--and the incense, the harps, the bells, the crowns
and crowns of thorns, the banners, and the "colossal statue of Isis,"
required in the scene.

The Order of Knights Templar has degenerated. The mother-order
determines to abolish it altogether, and condemns its Grand Master,
the noble and heroic Molay, to be burned, although he is entirely
guiltless of the decadence of his order--has, in fact, striven hard
to arrest it. The Archbishop, who tries him, is convinced of the
injustice of the accusations brought against him, and loves and
admires him, but is compelled to obey orders. Molay faces death with
as great calm as Paludan-Müller's Kalanus; in fact, he longs for the
"purifying flames." The bystanders sympathise with him, and cry to him
to make his escape; but, like Kalanus, he resists all entreaties. The
Archbishop's feeling for him is shared by every one; he is surrounded
by a crowd of sentimental executioners, who consign him to the flames
with expressions of the utmost admiration and esteem. They are cruel,
sentimental fanatics, like Werner himself. Every character in the play
is tainted with repulsive sentimentality. Molay's old comrade in arms,
when prevented from rescuing him, says:--

    "Du böser Jakob Du!--Pfui! sterben will er,
    Verlassen seinen Waffenbruder!--Jakob!
    Du musst nicht sterben! hörst Du?"[21]

But the guiltless Molay dies. There is the same play upon the Christian
mystery here as in Kleist's drama. Molay is venerated like a second
Christ, even by his executioners. After his death a miracle happens.
"Sunlight gilds the scene. Above the entrance to the Vale cavern, below
the brightly illuminated name 'Jesus' there appear the names 'John,'
'J. B. Molay,' and 'Andrew,' also in bright transparencies." All the
crusaders fall upon their knees. "Long, solemn pause, during which
there come from the interior of the cavern the muffled sounds of the
'Holy! Holy! Holy!' sung by the elders of the Order of the Vale to the
usual tune, with an accompaniment of harps and bells."

Martyrdom is Werner's specialty. He is at home in such subjects as
beating to death with clubs, boiling in oil, and the tortures of the
rack. He revels in agonies, as does Görres, whose satisfaction we
almost seem to feel as we read of all the mysteries of martyrdom in the
first part of his _Christian Mysticism_. "The sacrificial victims are
stretched upon the rack or the wheel, and all their limbs are twisted
out of joint by means of screws ... while the lictors scorch their
sides with torches or tear them with iron claws. Chains are sometimes
drawn round their bodies until their ribs are broken; their chests and
eyes are pierced with pointed reeds; their jaws are broken with heavy
blows of the torturer's fist; and, though the victims are now hardly
drawing breath, nails are hammered through their feet and red-hot iron
rods are laid upon their tenderest parts and allowed to burn themselves
in," &c., &c.

In Werner's drama, _Attila_, a young man whom Attila loves is accused
of perjury and confesses his guilt. Attila, who is an emotional,
sentimental enthusiast, embraces him, shedding burning tears, and then
orders him to be torn asunder by horses. Cruel sentimentality, fanatic
brutality, is Romantic wont. Along with Attila we have Pope Leo,
another character who seems to have escaped from the pages of Görres'
_Mysticism_--this time undoubtedly from the chapter treating of the
height from the ground to which the enthusiast in his religious rapture
is at times raised; for, while he is praying, Leo "raises himself
higher and higher, until he is resting only on the tips of his toes."
He sympathises with Attila, and has a sort of magnetic influence over

In _Martin Luther, oder die Weihe der Kraft_ ("The Consecration of
Strength"), the mystery of religious consecration is the subject. The
play opens significantly with a scene of the Novalis type, miners going
down into and being drawn up from a mine. The representation of Luther
is more suggestive of a Catholic saint than of the Protestant reformer.
Of Katharina von Bora, too, a saintly character is made. Luther and she
are accompanied throughout the play by guardian angels, Luther by the
boy Theobald, who is really art in the shape of a seraph, and Katharina
by a girl named Therese, who represents faith. A few years after
Werner had thus sung the praises of the Reformation, he was converted;
whereupon he wrote a poem, _Die Weihe der Unkraft_, full of such
sentiments regarding his drama as: "Durch dies Gaukelblendwerk sprach
ich der Wahrheit Hohn!" (With this delusive mummery I set at nought the

The subject of his last tragedy, _Die Mutter der Makkabäer_, offered
glorious opportunities for introducing all the tortures described
in the legends of the martyrs; it abounds in physical suffering and
religious ecstasies. The sons of Salome must either eat of the flesh
of the sacrifice offered to Jupiter or die the most cruel death. The
comical idea of its being a matter of life and death whether children
taste certain food or not, is treated with the most overwhelming
solemnity. In a state of supernatural excitement, Salome entreats
her children, one by one, to allow themselves to be impaled, flayed,
burned, &c. The sentimental chief torturer, Antiochus, admires Salome
intensely; he actually falls upon his knees before her, crying--

    "Du bist kein irdisch Weib!--Solch Opfer spendet
    Kein menschlich Wesen!--Segne mich, Du, vom Olymp gesendet!"[22]

And the equally sentimental Salome blesses him. Her son Benoni, too,
blesses his murderer, immediately after which his hands and feet are
cut off, and he is boiled in oil. Presently two loud axe-strokes
are heard--Abir's feet have been cut off. Juda is tortured next; and
so on it goes. Antiochus, the barbarous king, or Werner, the equally
barbarous poet, has the children broken on the wheel joint by joint,
and their limbs torn off. The mother, who is compelled to witness it
all, feels nothing but the rapturous bliss of martyrdom; and when
Antiochus, in his insane sentimentality, bows before her a second time,
"deeply moved," crying: "Willst, grosse Niobe, Du Dich von mir im Zorne
trennen?" ("And must thou part from me in wrath, great Niobe?"), she
lays her right hand on his head, and says "very solemnly": "Ich weiss,
dass mein Erlöser lebt!--Lern' sterbend ihn erkennen!" ("I know that my
Redeemer liveth!--Ere death come, mayst thou know him too!").

In the last scene the background opens, and we see the instruments of
torture and the huge copper full of boiling oil, in which Benoni lies.
His wife is staring down into it. The flames of the stake are still
blazing. Salome's spirit appears above them and extinguishes them.

And there was a time when this was considered poetry! Goethe took a
warm interest in Werner, and had several of his plays performed in the
court theatre at Weimar. In 1808 he wrote of him to Jacobi: "It seems
strange to an old pagan like me, that I can see the cross planted on my
own territory, and hear Christ's blood and wounds preached poetically,
without its being actually offensive to me. The standpoint to which
philosophy has raised us makes this degree of tolerance obligatory. We
have learned to value the ideal, even when it manifests itself in the
strangest forms."

Few educated men will be inclined to take so mild and tolerant a view
of the matter to-day. The development is utterly repugnant to us. For
we have seen to what it led. We have seen that this "Christian poetry"
helped to bring about the worst intellectual reaction of modern times.
Men played so long with the idea of the purifying flames of the stake
that they began to extol them in sober earnest. It is but a step from
Werner to Görres, who ardently defends exorcism of evil spirits and
punishment of witchcraft; and the distance is no greater between
Görres and Joseph de Maistre, who writes: "In many a well-governed
country in Europe they say of a man who has set fire to an inhabited
house and been burned with it: 'It is only what he deserved.' Is
a human being who has been guilty of any amount of theoretical
and practical (i.e. religious) evil-doing less deserving of being
burned? When one reflects that it was undoubtedly in the power of the
Inquisition to have prevented the French Revolution, one cannot feel
certain that the sovereign who calmly discarded such a weapon did not
deal a fatal blow to humanity."

If Romantic Christianity is, as Ruge says, the Christianity which
cannot be resolved into humanitarianism, then Joseph de Maistre is a
genuine Romanticist.

The whole history of Romanticism substantiates Ruge's famous
definition: "A Romanticist is an author who, aided by all the
intellectual advantages of our day, assails the periods of
'enlightenment' and of revolution, and reprobates and combats the
principle of pure humanitarianism in the domains of science, art,
morality, and politics."

[1] "It is not, then, so much religion that influences me, as strong
affection for the olden times, and grief that we of to-day are so
unlike those heroes of the faith."

[2] "What I had taken to be ravine and mountain, wood, meadow, and
cliff, was one great head, the forest its hair and beard. The giant
smiles to see his children happy at their play. He beckons, and
straightway through the forest is heard a rustle of holy awe. I fell
upon my knees, trembling with fear. I whispered to the little child:
'What is that great being yonder?' The child replied: 'The fear of him
comes upon thee because thou hast been permitted to see him without
warning; that is our father, our preserver; his name is Pan.'"


     "Beloved, thou hast pierced my heart,
    Oh, bitterer this than hell's worst smart!"


    "The child, a heavy weight, you have borne;
    Flap your wings at the mother, all forlorn;
    A weary way you have had to bear it,
    Catch hold of her cheek with your bill, and tear it," &c., &c.


    "In my irritation,
    In the journey's agitation,
    I crushed the child," &c., &c.

[6] Cf. Otto Brahm, _Heinrich von Kleist_.

[7] This speech is taken from the early edition. "To think that he
could crush this breast, Prothoe! a breast so full of song, Asteria! At
every touch upon its strings it gave forth melody."

[8] "The utmost that human powers can do, I have done; setting my all
upon one throw of the dice, I have attempted the impossible. There
the dice lie--and I have lost, have lost; 'tis this that I must force
myself to understand."

[9] "Set all the dogs upon him! Drive on the elephants with firebrands,
that they may crush him under foot! Press on the chariots, that their
scythes may mow his lusty limbs!"

[10] "'At him, good dogs!' she cries, 'at him, good Tigris, Leäne,
Sphinx, Melampus, Dirke, and Hyrkaon!' and, shouting thus, she rushes
madly at him with the pack, and, like a dog among the dogs, catches him
by the plume of his helmet and pulls him down, the earth shuddering at
his fall. One has him by the neck, one by the breast. Weltering in his
blood, he touches her soft cheek and cries: 'Penthesilea! sweet love!
art thou beside thyself? Is this the bridal festival thou promisedst?'
The lioness, the hungry lioness roaring for her prey on the barren
plain, would have listened to him--but she--she tears the breastplate
from his breast, and sets her teeth deep in his flesh--she and her
hounds in rivalry; Oxus and Sphinx have him by the right breast, she by
the left. When I arrived, the blood was streaming from her mouth and

[11] "Many is the woman who, with her arms round her lover's neck, has
said: 'I love thee so, that I could eat thee.' If the fool tried, she
was disgusted. It was not so with me, beloved. When I hung upon thy
neck I said it not; I did it. I was not so mad as I seemed to thee to

[12] "Kisses and bites--the two words rhyme (in German); and when one
loves with all one's heart, it often happens that one confuses them."

[13] Jul. Schmidt, _Geschichte der deutschen Litteratur_, ii. 307.


    "Art thou not conscious of him in the world, his work?
    Dost thou not see him in the sunset glow
    That falls so softly on the silent woods?
    Dost thou not hear him in the rippling stream,
    And in the nightingale's melodious notes?
    Is it in vain the heaven-high mountains speak,
    And hissing foam of rock-torn waterfall?
    When bright the sun into his temple shines,
    And all created life pulsates with joy,
    And magnifies its great Creator's name,
    Dost thou not seek the shrine of thy pure heart
    And worship there thine idol?"

[15] "Thou art armed in adamant, thou holy one, against every approach
of evil. The highly-favoured one embraced by thee leaves thee still
innocent and pure."

[16] "They write their plans for liberating Germany in cipher, and send
them to each other by messengers whom the Romans catch and hang; they
meet in the dusk, they eat, they drink, and sleep, when night comes,
with their wives.... The hope that Augustus may die to-morrow leads
them to live on thus, covered with shame, from one week to another."

[17] "How it all happened I'll tell you again; to-day I'm in too great
a hurry."

[18] Adolf Wilbrandt, _Heinrich von Kleist_, 1863; Otto Brehm,
_Heinrich von Kleist_, 1884.

[19] Hitzig, _Lebens-Abriss Zacharias Werners_, 1823; Schütz,
_Zacharias Werner, Biographie und Charakteristik_, 1841.

[20] "Life is the destiny of everything; through death comes birth;
not one grain of seed is lost. He who has struggled through blood and
darkness has overcome. All hail, O bleeding knight!"

[21] "You wicked Jacques! What? Die and leave your old comrade? No, no,
Jacques--you must not do it."

[22] "Thou art not of this earth! No mortal offers such a sacrifice!
Bless me, thou daughter of Olympian gods!"



In its first period, Romanticism is distinctly non-political. It exalts
the established order of things (_vide_ Novalis), it submissively
acknowledges the authority of the king and of the Church, but in its
purely literary productions it is, generally speaking, politically

Take Tieck's satiric comedies. In their outward form there is something
Aristophanic; but their satire is never directed against any political
character or tendency. It is aimed at "enlightenment;" and from Tieck's
biographer we learn exactly what the poet understood by this word. At
that time, says Köpke, the most prominent and respected men in Berlin,
those who were still the leaders of public opinion, were of the school
of Frederick the Great. The prevailing opinions of the eighteenth
century had become their second nature. They were moral, conscientious
men, who, in all the different departments of administration,
science, and literature, devoted themselves zealously, and often
with extraordinary industry, to their duties. Whether government
officials, theologians, teachers, critics, popular philosophers, or
poets, they all aimed at making religion and science useful, and at
educating mankind by external provisions and rules. Intelligibility
and popularity being to them all-important, they naturally diluted
and levelled everything to one general plane of mediocrity. A certain
blameless philistinism became their moral ideal, an ideal which seemed
poor and tame in comparison with the old fervour of faith. Lessing was
their prophet, and they believed themselves to be perpetuating his
tradition. We can readily understand that they fell foul of Goethe,
which indeed Lessing himself had done, and that they had a narrow
conception of the significance and value of imagination. To them it was
only the handmaid of utility, and of no value except as an instrument
in the service of morality.

Everywhere throughout Tieck's writings we come upon mockery of this
moral literary tendency. Take, for instance, _Der Gestiefelte Kater_
("Puss in Boots").--Hinze, the cat, is taking an evening walk, absorbed
in melancholy thought. He begins to sing a hunting song. A nightingale
strikes up in a bush close at hand. "She sings magnificently, this
songstress of the groves," says Hinze; "but think how delicious she
must _taste_! Happy indeed are the great of the earth; they can eat as
many nightingales and larks as they fancy. We poor common people have
to be content with the song, with the beauty, with the indescribably
sweet harmony.--It is terrible that I cannot hear anything sing without
wanting to eat it."

Hisses from the pit. The worthy audience is shocked by the cat's
ignoble train of thought. So Hinze lets the nightingale alone; but
presently, when a rabbit comes bounding by, he catches him adroitly
and puts him into his bag. It is his intention, by the gift of this
rabbit, to win the king's heart for his master. "The creature," he
reflects aloud, "is a sort of cousin of mine; but it's the way of the
world nowadays--kinsman against kinsman, brother against brother!" He
is presently strongly tempted to eat the rabbit himself, but overcomes
the desire, and cries: "Fie! for shame, Hinze! Is it not the duty of
the truly noble to sacrifice themselves and their inclinations to the
happiness of their fellow-creatures? It is the end for which we were
created, and he who cannot do it--oh! it were better for him that he
had never been born!" He is about to retire, but loud applause and
cries of _Da Capo_! oblige him to repeat the last speech, after which
he bows, and goes off with the rabbit. The audience is in the seventh
heaven of delight--Hinze's speech is as effective as one of Iffland's

The satire in Tieck's _Däumling_ ("Hop o' my Thumb") is also of a
literary nature, being directed against the neo-classic tendency,
and in particular against Goethe. Such a theme, treated, as it
was in part, in the dignified metre of Greek tragedy, afforded
many opportunities for drollery. All the incidents of the medieval
fairy-tale are viewed from the antique standpoint. Of the seven-league
boots, for instance, we read: "Trust me; I see quite well that these
boots have come down to us from old Greek times. No man in our day
produces work like that--so strong, so simple, such noble lines, such
stitching! No, no! this is the work of Phidias, there is no doubt
about it. Look! When I place the one in this position--how noble, how
plastic, how grand in its simplicity! No superfluity, no ornament, no
Gothic detail, none of the romantic medley of our days--when sole,
leather, flaps, folds, blacking, varnish, must all contribute to
produce variety, brilliancy, a dazzling resplendence in which there is
nothing ideal. Nowadays the leather must shine, the sole must creak
when one sets one's foot down: wretched rhyming trickery of which
the ancients knew nothing." Several of Goethe's favourite words are
employed in this more sarcastic than witty description.

Tieck shows most wit in defending himself against the accusation of
exaggerated sentimentality. His satire might quite well apply to the
modern admirers of Prosper Mérimée. He revenges himself upon his
critics by placing their objections in the mouth of Leidgast, the
cannibal, who comes home, smells human flesh, and determines to eat Hop
o' my Thumb and his brothers and sisters for breakfast next morning.
In the meantime they are to be kept in the garret. "But what if your
own three little ones should awake?" objects his wife. "Well, what
then?" "The strange children would not be safe. Yours are so eager for
human flesh that they have lately actually tried to suck my blood."
"You don't say so? I should never have credited them with so much sense
and understanding." His wife weeps. "Be done with this sentimentality,
wife. I cannot bear an effeminate education. I have strictly forbidden
them all these prejudices, superstitions, and enthusiasms. Untutored,
unadulterated nature! that's the thing for me."

However varied the objects of Tieck's satire may be, it is always
literary satire; it never crosses the boundary between literature
and life. Iffland and Kotzebue, the bombastic classic style
and narrow-minded philistine criticism, the text of _The Magic
Flute_, Nicolai's travellers' tales, academic pedantry and the
_Litteraturzeitung_--these are the unfailing scapegoats.

Occasionally, in striking at "enlightenment" and everything thereto
pertaining, he has a half accidental thrust at the powers that be.
The king in _Puss in Boots_, for instance, who places the court
scientist on the same level with the court fool, who lives for military
parades, loves to listen to repetitions of the figures arrived at in
astronomical calculations, and bestows his favour in return for a tasty
rabbit, certainly does not represent royalty in the most advantageous
light. But this happened half accidentally. In the same play the law
goes by the name of Popanz (the bogey-man), is changed into a mouse,
creeps into a mouse-hole, and is eaten by Hinze, who, not long after,
shouts: 'Long live the Tiers Etat!' But this is no more nor less than a
specimen of real Romantic nonsense, with no meaning in it at all. The
only trace of real political satire to be found, is in one of Tieck's
early works, _Hanswurst als Emigrant_, Hanswurst being no other than
the Prince d'Artois, who, in his character of poor, stupid emigrant,
has to ride on his servant's back for want of a horse. But this work
remained unpublished during Tieck's lifetime.

It does not surprise us that Kotzebue failed in his attempts to get
Tieck into disgrace for writing political satire. Having succeeded,
in 1802, in gaining admission to the court, he, Kotzebue, endeavoured
to revenge himself on his adversary by reading the parade scene from
_Zerbino_ to the king, interspersing malicious hints. It was an
ineffectual endeavour, for the king took no notice. And Tieck was
pleased and proud to be able to prove his innocence--the play had
been written in 1790, under totally different conditions, and was
founded entirely upon youthful impressions. His satisfaction was so
far justifiable; for abusive personal satire is out of place in art.
Nevertheless, the anecdote affects us tragi-comically. The poetry
was harmless enough, heaven knows. There was no cause for any king or
government in the world to be in the least disturbed by such satire.
Unluckily, the best satirical poetry is not of the kind that leaves
every one unscathed. The comedies of Aristophanes, with which Tieck's
admirers thought his worthy of comparison, were considerably less
innocent and innocuous; and all the really great satirical works of
later days, such as Molière's _Tartuffe_ or Beaumarchais' _Figaro_,
have one characteristic in common--their action does not take place in
the moon; they make war on something besides inept poets and moralising

Romanticism, however, did not long maintain this aloofness from life
and politics.

The year 1806 was a critical year for Prussia and Germany.[1] The
country was entirely in the power of the foreign conqueror. But this is
the very reason why all the great reforms trace their origin to this
year. The depth of adversity reached was so great that an energetic
upward struggle had become imperative. The indefatigable Baron von
Stein began the reorganisation of Prussian public institutions;
Scharnhorst remodelled the army; the state of the universities was
inquired into; and as one result of this last proceeding Fichte was
called to Berlin in 1807. The appointment was a remarkable one in many
respects. It was intended to show that henceforth a new and different
spirit was to rule. When, in 1792, Fichte wrote his first work,
_Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung_ ("An Attempt at a Criticism
of all Revelation"), he was afraid to publish it otherwise than
anonymously. When, somewhat later, he brought out his _Zurückforderung
der Denkfreiheit_ ("Demand for the Restoration of Freedom of Thought"),
he dared not even name the town in which the book was printed. It
was published in "Heliopolis"--also anonymously. From his post of
professor at Jena he was dismissed on a charge of atheism. But now that
the day of need had come, he was suddenly appealed to, to rouse the
youth of Germany. As every one is aware, his _Reden an die Deutsche
Nation_ ("Addresses to the German Nation") surpassed all expectation.
It had been no bad idea, this thrusting of the German flag into the
hand of the persecuted philosopher. At the University of Berlin,
with French bayonets gleaming outside the windows and French drums
drowning his words, he delivered the memorable addresses which sounded
the _réveille_ in the ears of Germany, and did their part in driving
those drums and bayonets out of the country. For from these lectures
a general and powerful revulsion of feeling may be dated. In them
Fichte's philosophy became a kind of national poetry. And what wonder
that this poetry proved a torch, at which many other poetical torches
were kindled--Körner's, Schenkendorf's, and Arndt's among the rest?

The long-prepared-for war broke out in 1813, and ended, after various
vicissitudes, in the downfall of foreign rule. But the War of
Liberation, as it was called, has two aspects. It was a revolt against
a monstrous tyranny, but a tyranny which represented many of the ideas
of the Revolution. It was a war for hearth and home, but waged at the
command of the old dynasties. The revolutionary tyranny was opposed
in the interest of reactionary princes. Moreover, even in the ardour
with which the struggle was maintained, there were two very different
elements, which were so closely commingled that in the beginning it
occurred to no one to distinguish between them, but which soon betrayed
their opposite characters. The one element was national hatred of the
French people--the national prejudice which seems to be inseparably
connected with patriotism, and which led in this case to enthusiasm
for everything German and contempt for everything French. The other
element was pure love of freedom--the determination to attain political
independence, to fight, not only in the name of Germany, but in the
name of humanity, for human rights and privileges.

This dual feeling may be traced even in Fichte's addresses. He affirmed
that only a people that had been a people from of old, a people that
understood the depths of its own spirit, its own language, i.e. itself,
could be free, and the liberators of the world; "_and_" he added, "_the
Germans are such a people_." Teutonic national arrogance lay dormant
in these words. And the seed soon began to grow. The young, healthy
love of freedom found expression in Theodor Körner's bold lyrics. It
was Schiller's lyre that he touched, but the genius of a new era had
tuned its strings in a new key. The patriotism of a whole group of
other poets took the form of enthusiasm for the German Empire and a
German Emperor, that is to say, for the Germany of the Middle Ages; and
these made the glories of the past their theme. Max von Schenkendorf
sang mournfully and longingly of the days when--

    "Die hohen adligen Gestalten
    Am Rheinstrom auf und nieder wallten,"[2]

and when predatory nobles ruled town and country from their fortified
castles. He wrote odes to the old cathedrals, groped with tremulous awe
among the skeletons of saints and knights buried in their chapels.

One of the most famous of the patriotic poets was Ernst Moritz Arndt.
With Arndt hatred of everything French became a fixed idea. His _Geist
der Zeit_ ("Spirit of the Times"), the first part of which appeared in
1806, had a very powerful influence on the minds of his countrymen. And
while he was writing his manly, vigorous songs in praise of freedom, he
was also occupied in attacking the French language and French fashions;
he even went the length of attempting to introduce a German national
dress. At this same moment, Jahn, the famous introducer of gymnastics,
the "Turnvater," as he is called, was earnestly engrossed with the idea
of making the whole youth of Germany fit for war by means of physical
exercises. In 1811, at Hasenhaide, near Berlin, he started his school
of gymnastics; but previous to this, following Arndt's example, he
had published writings, in which, in affectedly violent language, he
tried to inflame the spirit of patriotism. The old German mythology and
heroic sagas, Hermann and the Teutoburgerwald, Wodan and the Druids,
the sacred oaks, the divine primitive German warrior in his boldness
and uncouthness, his unkempt hair flowing over his shoulders and a
club grasped in his gigantic fists, were anew elevated to the place of
honour. German uncouthness was supposed to testify to German morality.

It was not long till all these patriotic ideas and enterprises were
pressed into the service of reaction. The object of worship became,
not the freedom that was to be won, but Germany's vanished past. Men
began to study the history of their country with an ardour with which
it had never been studied before, and a keen eye for all peculiarly
German traits. With the brothers Grimm at their head, they turned their
attention to the history and grammar of their own language, and in this
domain, as in every other, fell foolishly in love with the past and its
childish naïveté. Important as the results of these investigations have
been to science, it is certain that in Germany they produced some of
the worst enemies of liberty, men who sided with the past against the

The patriotic and the religious party soon made common cause. French
immorality had been confronted with a peculiarly German morality;
now French free-thought was confronted with a peculiarly German
Christianity. Because the religion of Germany's enemies paid homage to
the human mind, with its lucidity and freedom, the religion of Germany
was to be ecclesiastical Christianity, with its obscurity and tyranny.
Believing that they were becoming more religious, they in reality
became less so. For it is an indisputable truth, one that holds good in
all ages and all countries, that, true religion being enthusiasm for
the living spirit and idea of the times, as yet unrealised by the many,
he who is filled with that living spirit will seem irreligious, but
really be religious, whilst he who is filled with the spirit or faith
of a bygone, a defunct age, will be most irreligious, but seem and be
called religious.

The immature intellects of the War of Liberation were caught in the
snares of Romanticism. It is significant that men who, like Arndt
and Görres, were regarded as the champions of liberty, soon began to
express most anti-liberal opinions. Arndt made a bitter attack upon
what he called industrialism, i.e., modern industrial conditions, as
opposed to the old guild system, and was loud in his condemnation of
machinery and steam, which robbed human feet of their right (to walk),
the labourer of his work, and mountain and valley of their meaning. He
was anxious that any future additions to the ranks of the aristocracy
should be prevented by the inscription of all noble names in a final
roll, a "golden book;" and he advocated entail and primogeniture as
the one sure defence against the general break-up of society by an
inundation of the proletariat. Görres, who for a time retained some
remembrance of the days when he edited _Das rothe Blatt_, ultimately
became the author of _Christian Mysticism_, and such a fierce
reactionary that he attacked the pietistic policy of Prussia as not
sufficiently thorough-going, and brought on himself a reproof from Leo

The Christian-Germanic reaction which was one of the results of the
War of Liberation found very characteristic literary expression in a
series of tales by a nobleman who had fought in the war as a cavalry
officer, Baron de la Motte Fouqué. Fouqué is principally known to the
reading world at large by his charming little story, _Undine_. As a
specimen of Romantic "Naturpoesie" at its best, this tale is only
inferior to Tieck's _Elfenmärchen_ ("The Elves"). But Undine is the
one really living figure which Fouqué has produced. The cause of his
success in this case probably lay in the fact that he was depicting
a being who was only half human, half an element of nature--a wave,
spray, the cool freshness and wild movement of water--a being without a
soul. Until Undine has given herself to the Knight, she stands in some
magic relationship to the restless, soulless sea; it is she who flings
its spray against the window, and makes it rise until the peninsula is
changed into an island, and the Knight is a captive in the fisherman's
hut. Fouqué, who was a poet without being a psychologist, found a
subject exactly suited to his imaginative talent in this being, which
corresponded to one of the elements, and hence itself consisted of
but one life-element. (It was in Undine's image that Hans Christian
Andersen created "The Little Mermaid.") The bridal night brings a soul
to Undine, and she is changed into the model German wife, obedient,
tender, and sentimental. Her husband's harshness kills her. In her
magnanimity she has caused the castle well to be covered with an
enormous stone, in order to block up the only way by which her uncle,
the water-spirit, Kühleborn, can enter the castle and avenge her. When,
despite every warning, the Knight is faithless and marries again, and
his arrogant bride has the stone removed from the well, inexorable
fate compels Undine to rise out of its depths and bring him death in
a kiss. Although the theme is genuinely medieval (borrowed, in fact,
from Paracelsus, whose theory of the elemental spirits is founded upon
old popular beliefs), and although in the course of its elaboration
the author often relapses into sentimental piety, yet, to its decided
advantage, a fresh pagan note is predominant in the story. Undine's
originality lies in her pagan nature, as it reveals itself before she
is baptized; and there is something genuinely Greek in the idea of its
not being the skeleton with the scythe which comes for the dying man,
but an elemental spirit which brings him death in a loving kiss.

But at the same time that Fouqué was embodying such originality and
genius as he possessed in this little tale, he was also, under the
influence of the great national movement, projecting the long series
of romances of chivalry which began with _Der Zauberring_ ("The Magic
Ring"), published in 1815. To the romantic reactionaries _The Magic
Ring_ became a sort of gospel. Nobles and squires saw themselves
reflected in all these old burnished shields and coats of mail, and
rejoiced at the sight. But it was not a faithful historical picture
which Fouqué exhibited. His age of chivalry is an imaginary age, in
which stately, high-born men, clad in armour of burnished silver or of
some dull metal inlaid with gold, and wearing silver helmets, plumed
or unplumed, or iron helmets surmounted by golden eagles' wings, the
visors sometimes raised, sometimes lowered, ride forth upon fiery
chargers of all breeds and all colours, shiver each other's lances, and
yet sit as if moulded in the saddle, or else fall to the earth only to
rise as quick as lightning and draw a two-edged sword. The knights
are proud and brave, the faithful squires give their lives for their
masters, the slender demoiselles award the prizes at the tourneys, and
love their knights "_minniglich_." Everything is ordered according to
the exact prescriptions of the book of the laws of chivalry.

Everything is conventional--first and foremost, the mawkish,
languishing style, supposed to be peculiarly adapted to the
glorification of this high-born society. Only examples can give any
idea of it. Bertha, sitting by a rivulet, sees her reflection in
the water. "Bertha blushed so brightly that it seemed as if a star
had been kindled in the water." "They sang a morning song so sweet
and pleasurable that it seemed as though the setting sun must rise
again, drawn by the yearning harmonies." There is a plentiful use of
embellishing adjectives: "The youth's heart burned with _charming_
(_anmutig_) curiosity." "Two crystal-clear drops fell from the eyes of
the old knight." Great importance is attached to the description of
splendid clothes and armour and ornaments: "He was beautiful to look
upon in his armour of the darkest blue steel, magnificently chased and
ornamented with gold; beautiful were his dark brown hair, his trim
moustache, and the fresh young mouth smiling below it, disclosing two
rows of pearly white teeth." A noble lady, pouring forth the tale of
her misfortunes, takes time to interlard it with descriptions like
the following: "I paced distractedly up and down my room, would hear
nothing of the games in which the other noble maidens invited me to
take part in the evening, and impatiently waved my maid away when she
brought me a beautiful fishing-rod, _inlaid with mother-of-pearl_, with
a _golden_ line and _silver_ hook." It is strange that the inhabitants
of a world where all utensils seem to be made of mother-of-pearl, gold,
and silver, should think it necessary specially to mention that the
gift offered her was composed of these peerless materials.

The emotions are of the same material, all mother-of-pearl and cloth of
gold--not one breath of unrestrained natural feeling, not one action
dictated by pure, unreflecting passion. All the emotions and passions
are as carefully trained as the knights' chargers. We know beforehand
how everything will happen. The knights talk to and treat each other
with that distinguished courtesy which is peculiar to the privileged
classes. One of them inadvertently lets fall a word (about a lady or
a joust) which makes it necessary for another to challenge him to
mortal combat. Without showing a trace of petty rancour or ill-feeling,
the two combatants arm and leap on their snorting chargers; their
attendants form a circle round them, holding torches if it is night,
and they thrust and hew at each other with all their might. When the
one sinks bleeding to the earth, the other throws himself down beside
him and binds his wounds with brotherly tenderness and practised
surgical skill; then he gives him his arm, and they march off together,
their armour clanking bravely.--It is an attempt to resolve the whole
rich life of the human soul into a few conventional elements--honour,
loyalty, devout and humble love.

In combination with these fine feelings we have the greatest contempt
for all except the privileged classes. The hero, Sir Otto, is at a
masquerade at the house of his friend, the young merchant, Tebaldo. A
troupe of mummers appear and give a performance. In one of the scenes
a warrior in armour comes on the stage, bows to Plutus, the god of
wealth, and repeats the following lines:--

    "Für Beulen Silber, Gold für Blut
    Herr, gieb Dein Gut, so schlag ich gut."[3]

"Plutus was about to give some ingenious answer, but Otto von
Trautwangen rose in wrath, laid his hand on his sword and cried:
'Yonder knave disgraces his armour, and I will prove it on his head,
if so be he has the courage to meet me.' Half amused, half alarmed,
the company gazed at the wrathful young knight, while Tebaldo angrily
dismissed the astounded mummers, upbraiding them with the baseness
of their shameful inventions, and forbidding them to enter his house
again. Hereupon, blushing with shame, he returned to Otto, and in
well-chosen, courtly words prayed his guest not to lay it to his charge
that the scurvy crew had thought to flatter the rich merchant by thus
_outrageously comparing_ his calling with that of arms." The same
evening Otto meets at his inn a certain Sir Archimbald, and is seized
by the fancy to exchange armour with him, "which, methinks, we may
readily do, since we are both of the old High-German heroic stature."
In exchange for his coat of silver mail Otto receives a black one. An
entire change comes over him with the change of armour, which does not
surprise us when we remember the important part dress plays throughout.
As a matter of fact, these knights are not much more than stuffed suits
of armour. They affect one much as do the figures one sees riding upon
armoured wooden horses in the Tower of London or the great armoury in

From the description of one of Otto's earliest single combats we gain
an idea of the extraordinary influence attributed to attire. His
opponent, Sir Heerdegen, wears a rusty suit of armour, and his rusty
voice shouts from behind the bars of his _rusty_ helmet: "Bertha!
Bertha!" while from Otto's _silver_ helmet comes in _silvery_ tones the
cry: "Gabriele! Gabriele!" When Otto goes back to Tebaldo in his new
armour, he has become so much handsomer and more manly, that the young
merchant, who happens at the moment to be measuring costly fabrics in
his storehouse, is almost ashamed to appear before him. "Then Otto von
Trautwangen raised his visor. Tebaldo, half affrighted, fell back,
exclaiming: 10 heavens! how you have gained in dignity even since
yesterday! And here must I stand before you with an ell-wand in my
hand!' Thereupon he flung his beautiful measuring rod against a pillar,
shattering it into fragments. It was made of ivory and gold, and his
servants could not but believe that this had happened by mischance."
They attempt to console their master, but he does not listen to them;
all his desire now is to give up his merchant's calling and be allowed
to follow Otto as his squire. May not something very like all this be
observed to-day in the mutual feelings and demeanour of a Prussian
cavalry officer and a Prussian merchant?

This literature is really literature for cavalry officers. The
horses are the only creatures in the book whose psychology Fouqué
has successfully mastered, and this for the same reason that he was
successful with Undine, namely, that it is elementary psychology. In
the romances of our Danish author, Ingemann, the milk-white palfrey
and the steel-clad black charger also play important parts. When the
Lord High Constable is shown us attired in a scarlet cloak edged with
ermine and a white-plumed hat, mounted on a tall iron-grey stallion,
his swarthy little squire standing beside him holding the bridle of
a nimble, restless Norwegian pony, the author has exhausted all his
capacity of character drawing. In the description of the tall iron-grey
stallion and the nimble little Norwegian pony we have life-like
portraits of the Lord High Constable and his squire.

It is exactly the same with Fouqué. Sir Folko's horse is described as a
slender-necked, light-footed, silver-grey stallion. "At a signal from
his rider he approached Gabriele and bent his forelegs, then leaped
into the air and caracoled so lightly back to his place that he seemed
to be flying, the golden bells on his harness ringing sweet chimes.
Perfectly still and obedient he stood, only turning his beautiful
head, under its rich trappings, to look caressingly and inquiringly at
his master, as if asking: 'Have I done well?'"--Gallantry, sense of
honour, loyalty! What more is there in the knights themselves?

"Sir Archimbald's steed presented a strange contrast. Flecked with
white foam, rearing and kicking, he seemed to be about to break the
silver chain by which two men-at-arms were holding him back with all
their might. His eyes flamed so fiercely that they might well be
likened to burning torches, and with his right forefoot he pawed the
earth as though he were digging a grave for his master's enemies."
--Audacious valour, ardent longing for the fight, indomitable strength!
What is there more in the knights?

Sir Otto's father presents him with a horse. "The youth, hastening
down, saw a crowd of men-at-arms collected round a bright brown horse
with golden trappings. 'Mount,' said his father, 'and make essay if so
noble an animal is content to be your property.' Then the young knight
Otto von Trautwangen, controlling the animal with a powerful hand,
put him through his paces in such a manner that the soldiers, filled
with astonishment, felt assured that the noble steed must recognise
his destined master, and that in the knight's power over him there lay
some strange significance. Sir Otto sprang from his horse and threw
himself into his father's arms. Then the charger snorted and kicked
wildly at the retainers who grasped at his bridle, and, breaking away
from them, followed his young master and laid his head caressingly
upon his shoulder."--Invincibility until the destined master, he whose
power over the heart is felt to be "of strange significance," appears,
and from that moment onwards absolute devotion and the most tender
caresses! What else, what more is there in Fouqué's young maidens of
high degree?

It was the fault of the sea-king Arinbjörn that, at the critical
moment, Otto lost his beloved and the magic ring. Arinbjörn is riding
along a solitary road. A wild bay stallion comes galloping up and
makes a furious attack upon the sea-king's horse, and throws him down
before his rider can spring from the saddle. Man and horse, lying in a
confused heap, are mercilessly kicked by the furious stallion. When we
know that the following extraordinary speech of Otto's is made of so
sagacious and devoted a horse as this, it does not astonish us so much
as it otherwise might: "My horse's colour makes him specially dear to
me. For this bright brown is in my eyes a colour of angelic beauty; my
blessed mother had great, bright brown eyes, and, as all heaven looked
out of them, the colour has always seemed to me like a greeting from

Thus does the psychology of the romance of chivalry
culminate--psychology of the patrician, or psychology of the horse,
call it which you will. In its portraiture of knights hailing from
all the ends of the earth, _The Magic Ring_, as Gottschall aptly
remarks, confines itself to primary types of humanity and the colouring
produced by the sun--we are able to distinguish a Moor from a Finn.
This book was followed by many others of the same description,
amongst which _Die Fahrten Thiodolfs des Isländers_ ("The Expeditions
of Thiodolf the Icelander") is the best known. Thiodolf had been
forecast by an earlier work of Fouqué's, the great trilogy, _Der Held
des Nordens_ ("The Hero of the North"), which consists of _Sigurd the
Serpent Slayer_, _Sigurd's Revenge_, and _Aslauga_. _Der Held des
Nordens_ is dedicated to Fichte, and is evidently inspired by the
enthusiasm which he had aroused for the olden days of Germany, and for
everything characteristically national. The three lyrical-rhetorical
"reading-dramas" of which it consists are written in iambics; and where
the language becomes particularly impressive or impassioned, short
lines are employed, the rhythm and alliteration of which are intended
to recall the old Northern metre. The general impression is much the
same as that produced by the texts of such of Richard Wagner's operas
as deal with the legends of the North.

The verse, though sometimes laboured, generally rings well, the
sentiments are noble and chivalrous, the greatness portrayed is
superhuman, yet puerile, the light is not the light of day. The hero's
bodily strength and endurance are prodigious. He splits an anvil with
one blow; he climbs the outer wall of a high tower, and, when he has
looked in at the topmost casement and seen all that he wishes to see,
jumps lightly down again. Intellectually he is less remarkable.

Of this dramatised version of the Volsung Saga Heine writes: "_Sigurd
the Serpent Slayer_ is a spirited work, in which the old Scandinavian
Saga, with its giants and its witchcraft, is reflected. The hero,
Sigurd, is a mighty figure. He is as strong as the Norwegian cliffs,
and as wild as the sea that breaks upon them. He has the courage of a
hundred lions and the wit of two asses." We may take this last remark
as applying to all Fouqué's knightly figures. They are all national
portraits, like those we read of in Brentano's story, _Die Mehreren
Wehmüller_, those thirty-nine Hungarian types, painted by the artist
before he went to Hungary, from amongst which every one afterwards
selected his own portrait. In Arnim's and Brentano's writings
everything is specialised and characteristic, the situations as well as
the personalities; here everything is generalised. A king is always a
hero or a stage-king; a queen is either dark and haughty or gentle and
fair, &c., &c. The general type is there once for all; the individual
features of the "national portraits" are added later.

The national type, of course, varies with the country. In Denmark,
under Frederick VI., the romance of chivalry is patriotic and loyal. In
Germany, after the War of Liberation, it is patriotic and aristocratic.
In _The Magic Ring_ we read: "The Stranger had seen much of the
world, but had remained a true, pious German; nay, it was in foreign
lands that he had become one; for distance had revealed to him what a
glorious country that old Germany was."

In both countries the political tendency of Romanticism is the same.

[1] Ruge, _Werke_, ii. 60, &c.

[2] "When men of noble, knightly mien trod the banks of the Rhine."

[3] "Silver for bruises, gold for blood! Pay me well, Plutus, and I'll
fight well for you."



In his _Christian Mysticism_ (ii. 39) Görres tells us that one of the
most noticeable characteristics of a body which, through regeneration,
has attained to higher harmony, is the fragrance it exhales. "Just as
a foul odour is indicative of diseased and discordant organic life, so
inward harmony is revealed by the fragrance which proceeds from it.
Therefore the expression, 'the odour of sanctity' is by no means merely
figurative; it is derived from countless well-established instances of
sweet odour emanating from persons who lead a holy life." And he quotes
numbers of authentic examples of this.

If Görres is right--and I cast no doubt on his assertion--then
the personages to whom, in conclusion, I would direct attention
for a moment must have exhaled a most fragrant odour, for they are
personages with whom both he and the Church were well pleased. All
that is now wanting to complete the picture of the Romantic group,
is a characterisation of the men who transferred the principles of
Romanticism from the domain of literature into that of practical life
and politics. Görres himself may be taken as the representative of
Romantic ecclesiasticism, and Friedrich Gentz as in all respects the
most interesting of the politicians proper.

Joseph Görres was born in the Rhine district in 1776. He sat on
the same school-bench with Clemens Brentano. At the time when the
French armies overran Germany he was completely carried away by the
revolutionary movement. Before he had even begun his university
studies, he became a member of the Jacobin Club in his native town,
Coblentz, distinguished himself by his championship of the ideas
of liberty, and, in _Das rothe Blatt_ ("The Red Journal"), provided
the German revolutionary party with an organ. To him the past was
detestable, France the promised land, and the rest of the world the
domain of slavery.

When, in 1798, the French army marched into Rome, Görres was loud
in his rejoicings over the fall of the city and the collapse of the
temporal power of the Pope. He writes in _The Red Journal_: "We
will tear the mask from ecclesiasticism, and set healthy ideas in
circulation everywhere. We too have sworn eternal hatred to priestcraft
and monasticism, and work for the good of the people. We at the same
time work for the monarchs, by proving their inutility and helping to
relieve them from the burden of government."

His style is youthfully audacious and witty, a genuine demagogue and
journalist style. But in his scorn we distinguish a certain fanaticism,
which, like all fanaticism, is significant of the possibility of a
complete revulsion. When the transactions of the Congress of Rastadt
had made it easy to forecast the abolition of the three spiritual
electorates, of bishoprics, abbacies, &c., Görres advertised in his
paper, under the heading of "For Sale," the following wares: "A whole
cargo of seed of the tree of liberty, the flowers of which make the
best bouquets for princes and princesses.... 12,000 human cattle, well
broken in, who can shoot, cut and thrust, wheel to the right and wheel
to the left. A splendid drilling with cudgel and lash, for twelve
years, has brought them to the point of allowing themselves to be shot
dead for their masters without so much as a grumble.... Three electoral
mitres of finely tanned buffalo hide. The croziers belonging to the
same are loaded with lead, conceal daggers, and are decorated with
artificial serpents. The eye of God on the top is blind."

In December 1799 the French occupied Mayence for the second time. When
the news reached Coblentz, Görres wrote his wild song of triumph over
the collapse of the Roman-German Empire: "At three o'clock in the
afternoon of the 30th December 1799, the day of the crossing of the
Maine, the Holy Roman Empire, of ever foolish memory, passed peacefully
away at the advanced age of 955 years, 5 months, and 28 days; the cause
of death was apoplexy and complete exhaustion, but the illustrious
deceased departed in full consciousness and comforted with all the
sacraments of the Church.... The deceased was born in Verdun, in June
842 (843). At the moment of his birth a comet (_Perrückenkomet_),
pregnant with disaster, was flaming in the zenith. The boy was brought
up at the courts of Charles the Simple, Louis the Child, and their
successors.... But his inclination to a sedentary life, combined with
an excess of religious ardour, weakened his already feeble constitution
... and at the age of about 250, at the time of the Crusades, he became
quite imbecile," &c., &c.

Görres here strikes the note which we hear again a generation later in
Börne's _Letters from Paris_.

He contemptuously opens and reads the will of the deceased, according
to which the French Republic inherits the left bank of the Rhine, His
Excellency, General Bonaparte, being appointed executor.

This was Görres' stormy youthful period. By the year 1800 he was
beginning to withdraw from active politics, a visit to Paris having
cured him of his sympathy with Frenchmen. But he was still an ardent
progressionist, dreading nothing so much as a return to the past,
which would mean a crushing tyranny (harsher after long abeyance and
partly justified by existing circumstances), the rehabilitation of
the priesthood, and combined political and religious reaction. The
oppression of foreign rule aroused his patriotic feeling. At the
university of Heidelberg he entered upon his Romantic period. He
lectured on the nature of poetry and philosophy, waxed enthusiastic
over the Nibelungenlied, studied ancient German history, poetry, and
legend. He met his old schoolfellow, Clemens Brentano, became intimate
with Arnim, and came into contact with Tieck and the brothers Schlegel
and Grimm. It was at Heidelberg that he published his _Kindermythen_
("Child Myths"), _Die Deutschen Volksbücher_ ("The National Literature
of Germany"), and his collection of old German Volkslieder and

It was not only national feeling which the Romantic movement aroused in
Görres; it induced an almost equally strong feeling of cosmopolitanism,
under the influence of which he took up the study of Persian, a
hitherto neglected language, and, almost unassisted, attained such
proficiency in it that he was able to produce a tasteful prose
translation of Firdusi's epic poetry.

In 1818 he went to Berlin as spokesman of a deputation from the town
of Coblentz. He boldly urged the king to fulfil the promise of a
constitution given at the time of the War of Liberation, and his daring
was rewarded with disgrace and several years of exile.

Until 1824 Görres continued to be, to all intents and purposes, the
Romantic German patriot. From that year until his death in 1848, he
is the champion of the clerical reaction. In his _Deutschland und die
Revolution_ (1820) the tendency to Catholicism is already distinct;
in it he characterises the Reformation as "a second Fall." He became
absorbed in the study of the history of the Middle Ages, and began to
regard the Church as the only power capable of satisfactorily defending
the liberty of the people from the encroachments of absolutism. Soon,
under the influence of Brentano and Franz Baader, he became a believer
in visions and bigotedly religious. Clemens Brentano was at this
time, like Apollonius of Tyana in days of old, exercising a powerful
influence upon a generation predisposed to theosophical extravagances;
and Mme. de Krüdener was founding the Holy Alliance.

As early as 1826, Joseph de Maistre declares that Görres, as author of
_Der Kampf der Kirchenfreiheit mit der Staatsgewalt in der Katholischen
Schweiz_ ("The Struggle of the Church with State Despotism in Catholic
Switzerland"), has championed the cause of the Church with both genius
and justice, and yet more boldly and effectually than it has ever been
done before. Such praise from such lips carries weight; it indicates,
moreover, that we have reached the point at which German Romanticism
passes into French, or rather, general European reaction.

In 1827 Görres published a work which is of interest as forming a
prelude to his _Mysticism_, namely, _Emanuel Swedenborg, his Visions
and his Relations to the Church_.

In 1833 Clemens Brentano moved to Munich, where Görres had already
settled. The old school friends met once more, and Brentano's influence
over Görres was great. Brentano was now entirely given over to
superstitious fanaticism. Even Schelling's new philosophy of revelation
was not pious enough for him. Talking with some young theologians, he
shouted: "It is of no use praising it to me! One drop of holy water
is more precious to me than the whole of Schelling's philosophy." He
had brought all his memoranda of Catharina Emmerich's visions and
outpourings to Munich with him; he no longer needed the Gospels; from
her he had learned more of Christ's sayings and journeyings than is
to be found in the Scriptures. The saint had even revealed a map of
Palestine to him. Görres was soon as firm a believer in miracles and
myths as Brentano. Between 1836 and 1842 he wrote the four volumes of
his _Mysticism_, the most insane book produced by German Romanticism.

The farther Görres penetrated into the mysteries of witchcraft and
sorcery, the more fanciful and peculiar did he himself become. He
believed that he was possessed by an evil spirit. On one occasion he
complained that the devil, provoked by his interference in Satanic
affairs, had stolen one of his manuscripts; it was, however, found some
time afterwards in his bookcase.

When the religious disturbances broke out in Cologne, Görres came
forward as the spokesman of the Ultramontanes in their dispute with the
Prussian Ministry. His passionate diatribes against Protestantism were
couched in Biblical language--his opponents were a brood of vipers, the
Prussian State was possessed by an evil spirit, &c. This particular
demon he describes as a horrible ghost, "whom it is honouring too much
to call a spirit;" it is, he says, the ghost of the demon which in the
Prussian army of our grandfathers' days handled the whip which flogged
seven backs at a time.

Görres won the admiration of Count Montalembert, the leader of the
French Catholics, by his polemical feats. In Catholic Germany he was
regarded as a father of the Church, and called "the Catholic Luther."
He succeeded in drawing the Bavarian Government into the movement; the
opponents of the Protestant Prussian Government were allowed to publish
their lucubrations unchecked in the Bavarian press, and it was Görres'
hope that Bavaria, as an important Catholic power, would openly take up
the contest.

No expression of politico-religious fanaticism was too outrageous for
him. He went the length of declaring that the Government, by permitting
mixed marriages, compelled the Catholic parent to bring up "twofold
bastards"--and this in the face of the fact that the King of Bavaria
was the son of a Protestant mother and had married a Protestant wife.

At the time of the violent dispute as to the authenticity of the
coat of the Saviour preserved at Trèves, Görres was highly delighted
with the success of a pilgrimage to Trèves, which was promptly
organised, and in which the Rhinelanders, to the number of a million,
took part, in order to annoy the Protestant Prussians. To him this
pilgrimage was "the triumph of the victorious Church." The argument
that the holy garment could not be genuine, seeing that several other
places possessed similar coats, he dismissed with a reference to the
miraculous multiplication of loaves recorded in the New Testament.[1]

The Romantic literary theory that manner is something absolutely
independent of matter, was a theory put into practice in politics
by Friedrich von Gentz. We called Kleist the German Mérimée; for
several reasons Gentz might be called the German Talleyrand. In his
mature years he might, like Metternich, have written under his own
portrait: "Nur kein Pathos!" ("Anything except pathos!") He is the
very embodiment of Romantic irony, the incarnate spirit of _Lucinde_.
He does not, however, become a typical figure until he is over
forty, at the time when a period of diplomatic activity succeeded to
revolutionary upheavals and the Napoleonic wars, the time when the
watchword was reaction, that is to say, quiet--quiet at any price,
extinction of all the European conflagrations, and rest, profound
rest for the sick, the weary, and the convalescent peoples; when
consequently, as in a sick room, the great aim was to get rid as
quietly as possible of disturbers of the peace and prevent all noise
and uproar. "Gentz," says Gottschall, "understood how to give to
the official publications that indescribable polish, that classic
smoothness, that Olympian dignity which, untouched by the fate of
mortals, allows no drop of nectar and ambrosia to be spilled from
the cup of the gods, though blood may be flowing in torrents in the
regions below. This distinguished manner of passing lightly over the
small shocks by which nations were shattered into fragments, gave a
complexion of mildness and grace to the despotic policy of the day. One
heard only a puff, not a report; it was the noiseless slaughter of the

To outward seeming, Legitimist principles were being vindicated; in
point of fact, their vindicators were not Legitimists when their
interests bade them be the reverse. In them Goethe's words were
fulfilled: "None are so Legitimist as those who can legitimise
themselves." The cause Gentz championed was a bad cause, but even the
champion of a bad cause is interesting if possessed of remarkable
talent. And Gentz was talented in an extraordinary degree. Varnhagen
rightly said of him: "Never has the dust of German scholarship been
stirred up with greater _éclat_; never has learning been displayed to
such advantage."

Friedrich von Gentz was born in Breslau in 1764. Both his parents
belonged to the middle classes; his future exalted position in society
he owed entirely to his own ability. At the University of Königsberg
he applied himself seriously to the study of Kant's philosophy, at
the same time cultivating an enthusiastic Platonic friendship for
an unhappy young married woman, Elisabeth Graun. In 1786 he went
to Berlin, obtained a Government appointment, and made a _mariage
de convenance_ with the daughter of a high official in the finance
department. He plunged into a course of unbridled dissipation, and took
part in all the foolish pleasures of a court "in which a repulsive
assemblage of roués and bigoted women surrounded the old king,
Frederick William II."

In the midst of such a life as this he was surprised by the French
Revolution. Its first effect was to fire him with youthful enthusiasm.
"If this revolution were to fail," he wrote, "I should deem it one
of the greatest misfortunes which has befallen mankind. It is the
first practical triumph of philosophy, the first example of a form
of government founded upon principles and a coherent system. It
is hope and comfort for our race, which is groaning under so many
ancient evils. Should this revolution fail, these evils will be more
irremediable than before. I can picture so clearly to myself how
the silence of despair would acknowledge, in defiance of reason,
that men can only be happy as slaves, and how all tyrants, great and
small, would take advantage of this dreadful acknowledgment to avenge
themselves for the terror caused them by the awakening of the French

But the horrors which the French Revolution brought in its train soon
caused him to change his mind. He suddenly became the ardent champion
of the good old days. To combat the supremacy of public opinion and the
follies of the masses became the object of his life. He was incapable
of seeing in the French Revolution the necessary outcome of centuries
of wrong and ferment; he declared the cause of its lawlessness to
be "enlightenment," the inordinate cultivation of cold reason--a
characteristically Romantic theory.

No doubt there was a species of real development at the root of this
change. The "rights of humanity," which he had so warmly defended
in his treatise _Ueber den Ursprung und die obersten Prinzipien des
Rechts_ ("On the Origin and Main Principles of Rights"), now seemed
to him only of importance to the statesman as "elementary preparatory
studies." The theory of these rights appeared to him to stand in
much the same relation to statecraft as the mathematical theory of
projectiles does to bomb-throwing. And now, by slow degrees, he arrives
at the narrow view that it is not the people, but the Government, which
is the chief power in the state. He regards the co-operation of the
people in legislation as a mere form; liberty has shrunk into willing,
glad obedience.

Intercourse with Wilhelm von Humboldt, and the influence of the
æsthetic ideas of the period on the need for harmony between private
and public life, somewhat softened the severity of these principles,
and the English constitution became Gentz's ideal. When Frederick
William III. ascended the throne, he actually felt impelled to present
a petition to his Majesty, in which, in eloquent language, he called
upon him to concede liberty of the press--the very liberty which he
described a few years later as the source of all evil. The loyal
Goethe was astounded by this attempt "to coerce" the sovereign, and as
the King took no notice of the appeal, Gentz at once let the matter
drop, and did his best to bury it in oblivion. From this time onward
he was in the pay of England; he did not exactly sell himself, but he
accepted regular and considerable monetary rewards for his political
activity in English interests. And Gentz needed money. He gambled for
high stakes, and lived a life of perpetual dissipation and revelry with
actresses and ballet-dancers. At times this was interrupted by fits
of extreme sentimentality, when, as he writes, he lived "a pleasant,
but still wild life" with his own wife. In April 1801 he notes in his
diary: "Profound emotion over the death of a dog." During a visit to
Weimar, where he met all the literary notabilities of the day, he
became desperately enamoured of the poetess, Amalie von Imhoff, and
made determined resolutions to lead a better life. But he had hardly
returned to Berlin before he wrote: "Result of my Weimar resolutions
--on December 23rd lost all I possessed at hazard." For a time he
went on writing letters of six or eight sheets to Amalie von Imhoff;
then he fell madly in love with the actress, Christel Eigensatz,
and forgot everything else. "_Maintenant c'est le délire complet_,"
he writes in his diary. In the midst of all this, his wife leaves
him and applies for a divorce. The evening she leaves, Gentz tries
to forget the unpleasantness in playing _trente et quarante_. When
Berlin had for many reasons become disagreeable, nay, impossible, he
accepted the offer of an Austrian Government appointment in Vienna.
Here he gradually surrendered all independence and became the tool of

But before this happened, Gentz had had his period of greatness. The
apathy with which the Viennese accommodated themselves to French
supremacy, to defeats and humiliations without end, roused all
that there was of energy and genius in him. The burning hatred of
Napoleon by which he was inspired made him for a short time, during
their misfortunes and deep depression, the Demosthenes of the German
people. But it was only independence that he so passionately desired,
not liberty. In Napoleon the whole Revolution seemed to him to be
concentrated. Against him he would not have hesitated to employ even
such a means as assassination. He strove with all his might to bring
about a union between the German powers and to rouse the German people.
But, true to his character, he appealed less to the people than to the
chosen few in whose hands it seemed to him that the destiny of the
people lay. His preface to the _Political Fragments_, his manifestoes
and proclamations of war, are written with passionate vigour, in a
fluent, magniloquent, and yet manly style, the rhetorical flourish of
which is never in bad taste. Even the defeats of Ulm and Austerlitz
did not crush him; but it was with deep dejection that he observed the
miserable condition of affairs in Prussia before the battle of Jena.
When Johannes von Müller, and others upon whom he had relied, allowed
themselves to be flattered and won over by Napoleon, Gentz remained
immovably firm. In the famous letter to Müller he makes scathing
allusion to those "whose lives are an incessant capitulation." But
when Austria gave up the struggle, and, as generally happens in such
cases, frivolity and pleasure-seeking increased in proportion to the
defeats and humiliations suffered by the country, Gentz too was soon
so deeply entangled in the wild whirl of stupefying dissipations that,
in his terrible pecuniary difficulties, he caught at an alliance with
Metternich as a drowning man at a plank. The influence on a character
like his of the man whom Talleyrand called the "weekly politician,"
because his range of vision never extended beyond that period, and
whom a distinguished Russian called "varnished dust," was no happy one.

Henceforward Gentz's letters are full of complaints of "such mental
lassitude, despondency, emptiness, and indifference" as he had hitherto
neither known nor imagined, and which he aptly describes as a "sort
of intellectual consumption." He calls himself "damnably blasé."
"Believe me," he writes to Rahel, "I am damnably blasé. I have seen
and enjoyed so much of the world that I am no longer influenced by its
illusive grandeur and rewards." "Nothing delights me; I am cold, blasé,
contemptuous, thoroughly persuaded of the folly of almost every one
else, unduly certain of my own--not wisdom--but clear-sightedness, and
inwardly devilish glad that the so-called great doings are coming to
such a laughable end." So indifferent has he become, that Napoleon's
downfall, which he had formerly so ardently desired, arouses no deeper
feeling in him than this. "I have become terribly old and bad," he
himself confesses with an amiable effrontery which reminds us of
Friedrich Schlegel, and which never deserted him.

It is about this time that he begins to be persistently haunted by the
fear of death; he now regularly notes in his diary the exact degree
to which the feeling is weighing upon him. His letters betray all the
weaknesses of a nervous woman. The correspondence between him and
Adam Müller is particularly ludicrous. We are never allowed to forget
that they are both afraid of thunder. But even a letter is sometimes
more than Gentz can bear. He writes to Müller: "Your letters shatter
my tender nerves." His fear of death most frequently took the form of
fear of being murdered. After the assassination of Kotzebue by Sand,
his terror lest he also might fall a victim to the hatred of the
Liberal youth of Germany reached such a climax that the sight of a
sharp knife was sometimes enough, as he himself confesses, to bring on
a fainting-fit. In 1814 he writes to Rahel: "Now, God be praised, all
is at an end in Paris. I am, thank God, very well. I live sometimes
at Baden, sometimes in Vienna, have sometimes brioches with exquisite
butter for breakfast, sometimes other heavenly cakes. I have come into
possession of furniture that makes my heart leap for joy, and I am far
less afraid of death."

He now looks to Görres as the only person who can write, he himself
being incapable of any kind of production. Yet at this very time he
occupies such an exalted position in society that he can deny himself
to crowned heads. On the 31st of October, 1814, he writes in his diary:
"_Refusé le prince royal de Bavière, le roi de Danemark_," &c. He
meets Talleyrand, and admires him excessively. To give this admiration
a practical direction, the astute French diplomatist presents him
with 24,000 florins in the name of the King of France. At the close
of 1814 Gentz writes in his diary: "The aspect of public affairs is
melancholy.... But, since I have nothing to reproach myself with, my
accurate knowledge of the pitiful doings of all these petty beings
who rule the world, so far from distressing, only serves to amuse me;
I enjoy it all like a play given for my private delectation." Is not
this like a speech of Jean Paul's Roquairol? Tired of life, whatever
disturbs his peace is objectionable to him. It is now his object to
maintain the existing condition of things at any price. In 1815, in
argument with Görres, he actually defends the Peace of Paris. He was
too sagacious and cold, too great a hater of phrases, not to sneer
at the "Burschenschaften" (students' leagues), the agitation for a
national German dress, the Teutoburgerwald enthusiasm, and others of
the same description; nevertheless, the assassination of Kotzebue was
made a pretext for forbidding the formation of patriotic societies, as
further assassinations and crimes were feared. It was owing to Gentz's
exertions that the universities were placed under control and that the
press was gagged. Of the liberty of the press he now writes: "I hold
to my opinion, that, to prevent abuse of the press, nothing should be
printed for a certain number of years. This as the rule, with a very
few exceptions permitted by a thoroughly competent court, would in a
short time lead us back to God and the truth."

His utterances on the occasion of the Greek war of liberation prove
that, in spite of his reactionary ardour, he had too much sense to
believe, like Adam Müller and the rest, in the principle of legitimacy
and the divine right of kings as revealed truths. He had written to
Müller in 1818: "You are the only man in Germany of whom I say: He
writes divinely when he chooses; and nothing in our audacious days
astonishes and exasperates me more than the audacity of those who dare
to measure themselves with you.... Your system is a completed, rounded
whole. It would be vain to attack it from any side. One can only be
entirely in it or entirely outside of it. If you can prove to us, make
comprehensible to us, that all real knowledge, all true understanding
of nature, all good laws and social regulations, nay, even history
itself (as you somewhere assert), are, and can only be, communicated to
us by divine revelation, then (as far as I am concerned at least) you
have gained the day. As long as you do not succeed in doing this, we
stand afar off, admire you, love you, but are separated from you by an
impassable gulf." It must be remembered that Adam Müller had gone the
length of asserting that the existence of the Holy Trinity sufficiently
proves that any national economical system based upon one single
principle must be a wrong system. It even proves to him the necessity
of the "Dreifelderwirthschaft" (triennal rotation of crops). Now,
when Greece revolts, Gentz writes that the principle of legitimacy,
being the production of time, must be modified by time, and makes the
following noteworthy assertion: "I have always been aware that, in
spite of the majesty and power of my employers, and in spite of all the
single victories gained by us, the spirit of the times would in the
long-run prove stronger than we are; that the press, contemptible as it
is in its excesses, would prove its superiority to all our wisdom; and
that neither diplomatic art nor violence would be able to hold back the
wheel of the world."

In his sixty-fifth year, the worn-out, gouty, suffering old man was
taken possession of by two passions strangely out of keeping with his
age and the bent of his mind. It was a momentary return of youth. The
one was for the famous ballet-dancer, Fanny Elsler, at that time a girl
of nineteen. His infatuation for her knew no bounds. He writes: "I have
won her simply and solely by the magic power of my love. Until she
knew me she did not know that such love existed.... Think of the bliss
of daily undisturbed intercourse with a being whose every attribute
enraptures me ... in whose eyes, and hands, and every separate charm I
can absorb myself for hours, whose voice bewitches me, and with whom
I can carry on endless conversations; for I am educating her with
fatherly solicitude, and she is the aptest of pupils, a pupil who is at
once my beloved and my child."

The other surprising passion was for Heine's _Buch der Lieder_, then
just published. It was all very well for the old reactionary to call
the audacious poet a "crazy adventurer;" he could not resist his
sorcery. "I am still," he writes, "refreshing myself with the _Buch der
Lieder_. Like Prokesch, I bathe for hours in these melancholy waters.
Even the poems which verge upon actual blasphemy I cannot read without
the most profound emotion; I sometimes blame myself that I so often and
gladly return to them." His receptive nature could not withstand them.
He has rightly described himself as a woman. In a strain which reminds
us of the hermaphroditic traits in _Lucinde_, he writes to Rahel: "Do
you know the reason why the relation between us is such a perfect one?
I will tell you. It is because you are an infinitely productive and I
am an infinitely receptive being: you are a great man; I am the first
of all the women who have ever lived."

He was now so nervous that a vigorous handclasp would alarm him;
even the sight of a martial moustache was enough to disquiet him. In
well-intentioned travellers who came to make his acquaintance he saw
assassins in disguise. In the last year of his life his back was bent,
his gait timorous and unsteady. The clear, sagacious eyes, for which he
had been remarkable as a youth, were now, as it were, veiled by their
furtive expression. In company he fortified himself by wearing large
black spectacles.

One day at a fête, Fanny Elsler, presenting him with a foaming glass
of champagne which she had tasted, said teasingly: "Der Krug geht so
lange zu Wasser, his er bricht" (German proverb--The pitcher goes often
to the well, but comes home broken at last). Gentz replied: "It will
anyhow last out my time and Metternich's." His standpoint is indicated
and judged in these words.

In religious matters Gentz was extraordinarily vacillating. At one time
he would declare that religion was to him simply a matter of politics;
at another, though he never actually went over to Catholicism, he
would, in Romantic fashion, make great concessions to it. He prostrated
himself at the feet of the Catholic mystic, Adam Müller, who literally
took Napoleon to be the devil incarnate (writing, for instance, to
Gentz in July 1806, that "as Christians we must subdue the Bonaparte
within us"); and, when petitioning the Emperor for an appointment
in Austria, he gave as one of his reasons for leaving Prussia, "my
long-felt enmity to Protestantism, in the original character and
increasingly evil tendencies of which I believe I have discovered,
after much and careful proving of the matter, _the root of all the
corruption of our times, and one of the main causes of the decay of

In politics he is the representative of unequivocal, conscious
reaction, and he does not, like some other hypocritical reactionaries,
fight shy of the word. In a letter written at Verona in 1822, he
relates that at a dinner-party at Metternich's he has just met
Chateaubriand, who has been extremely amiable and complimentary to
him. "In the course of conversation he mentioned it as a remarkable
phenomenon, one which could not possibly escape the notice of the
historian, that four or five years ago, when the condition of Europe
seemed quite hopeless, a mere handful of men--not more than could be
counted on one's fingers--had determined to combat the Revolution, and
that these men had been so successful that to-day they were taking the
field, with Governments and armies supporting them, against the common
enemy. As marking the most important moments in this _bold reaction_,
he mentioned the founding of _Le Conservateur_, and the Congress
of Karlsbad. He looks forward to the future with sanguine courage,
regarding the victory of the good cause as certain. All true power
and real talent are upon our side, contained in some ten or twelve
heads. Nothing could be more dangerous for us than to attach too much
importance to the attacks of the Revolutionaries, or to be in any way
afraid of these said Revolutionaries, who, for all their uproar, are
mere babblers. I could scarcely conceive, he added, how such men as
Benjamin Constant, Guizot, and Royer-Collard had sunk in the public
estimation. This and more he said, not with any fire and eagerness, but
calmly and coldly."

Gentz was far from guessing, when he penned these words, how great a
surprise this same man held in store for him. Two years later the event
occurred which forms the turning-point, the watershed, as it were,
in the spiritual history of the first half of the century, namely,
Chateaubriand's dismissal from the Ministry and entrance into the ranks
of the Liberal opposition, whose leader he became. It was this event
in combination with Byron's death, which happened about the same time,
that called Liberalism throughout the whole world to arms.

Gentz could not control his wrath. After the appearance of
Chateaubriand's article in the _Journal des Débats_ on the abolition of
the censorship, he wrote to a friend: "I subscribe to every word you
say about Chateaubriand. It is long since anything has agitated and
incensed me in the manner this really villainous article has done. It
is the work of a man who, because he has not succeeded in disturbing
the peace of his enemies with drums and pipes, grasps a torch and
sets fire to the roof over their heads. Not that there is anything
incomprehensible in such a performance, for Frenchmen are now at
liberty to do whatever they please; and the man who, in his vindictive
antagonism, could immediately violate every sense of duty, honour, and
decorum, as this monster did on the third day after his dismissal, was
bound in the end, irritated by the feeling of his own impotence, to go
as far as he could without running the risk of imprisonment--a risk
practically non-existent in his country." But all Gentz's wrath could
not check the current of events, and before long the reaction which he
represents was struggling in its death throes.

In a letter to Pilat, written in 1820, he writes: "What is Duller, what
is La Mennais, what (with the exception of Bonald) are all the writers
of our day in comparison with Maistre? His book _On the Pope_ is, to
my mind, the greatest and most important of the last half century. You
have not read it, or you could not have failed to mention it. Take
my advice--do not read it _à batons rompus_, amidst the noise and
distractions with which you are constantly surrounded, but keep it for
a time when you have unbroken quiet and can concentrate your thoughts.
Your so-called friends must know the book, but not a word do they say
of it. Such meat is too strong for these lukewarm, critical souls. It
has cost me some sleepless nights, but what enjoyment have they not
purchased me! Profundity of thought in combination with astonishing
erudition and with political insight superior to Montesquieu's, the
eloquence of a Burke, and an enthusiasm which at times rises to the
height of genuine poetry--to this add the characteristics of the man of
the world, adroitness, refinement, the knack of sparing the feelings
of the individual whilst treading his doctrines and opinions under
foot, a prodigious knowledge of men and things--and think of it all
employed in such a cause, to produce such results! Yes; now I fully and
firmly believe that the Church will never fall. If such a star made its
appearance in her sky but once in a century, she would not only stand,
but prevail. The book has _some_ weak points! I say this in order that
my admiration may not seem blind--but they are lost like spots in the
sun. Others before Maistre may have felt what the Pope is, but no other
writer has expressed it as he has done. This extraordinary book, which
the contemptible generation of to-day barely condescends to notice,
represents the labour of half a lifetime. The author, now a man of more
than seventy, has evidently been engaged upon it for twenty years. A
monument should be erected to him in one of the great churches of
Rome. Kings should take counsel with him. As a matter of fact, after
he has exhausted his private means, all that he has obtained from his
Government, and that not without difficulty, is the title of Minister,
and an income sufficient to live upon in Turin with the greatest
economy. Never has a human being had a better right to say to his

    'Disce puer virtutem ex me, verumque laborem,
    Fortunam ex aliis!'

What a man! and how few of our contemporaries even know that he exists!"

Here, again, we are at a point where the German reaction passes, as it
were, into the French.[2]

The German reaction is in its essence literary, the French political
and religious. The former gradually glides into Catholicism, the latter
is openly and consistently Catholic. In every domain, indeed, the
French reaction upholds the principle of traditional authority, and De
Maistre is its most earnest and most high-minded, as well as one of its
most gifted representatives. The witty and vigorous panegyrist of the
headsman and champion of the _auto da fé_ is the conscientious, ardent
antagonist of enlightenment and humanitarian ideals.

The German Romanticists loved twilight and moonshine. The blazing
daylight of rationalism and the lightning flashes of the French
Revolution had driven them to seek comfort in the dusk. But what is
even Novalis's love of night in comparison with Joseph de Maistre's
glorification of darkness!

Ancient legend tells that Phaëton, the son of Apollo, being allowed one
day to drive his father's chariot, guided it so carelessly that the sun
scorched the whole earth and set many of its cities on fire. The fable
adds, that a whole race of men were so terrified that they with one
accord cried to the gods to grant them eternal darkness. De Maistre is
a descendant of that race, and a man who has some claim to greatness
because of his gifts, his faith in Providence, and his contempt for his
fellow-men. And to this day there exist descendants of the race; but
these have degenerated into dwarfish figures, who assert themselves
the more the more insignificant and timid they are. Their cry, too, is
"Darkness! more darkness!" The more devoid they are of ideas and aims,
the louder they cry, and their only faith is faith in the power of

Those who, in studying the history of German Romanticism, pay
special attention to the growth of the reaction against the spirit
of the eighteenth century, are struck by the inferiority of the
German Romanticists in single-minded strength of character to such a
reactionary as De Maistre. It is to be remembered, however, that they
were not statesmen and politicians, but authors; even those among them
who, like Gentz, represent the transition from literature to politics,
have no real significance except as writers.

From the purely literary point of view the Romantic School in
Germany possesses permanent interest. One has but to compare it with
the equivalent groups in other lands to be fully impressed by the
originality and intellectual importance of its members.

A Romantic current is perceptible in the first decades of this century
in almost every country in Europe; but only in Germany, England, and
France is the movement a distinctly original and important one; only in
those countries is it a European "main current." What we observe in the
Slavonic countries is more or less an echo of English Romanticism.

The Romantic literature of Scandinavia is strongly influenced by that
of Germany.

In Sweden, where Romanticism was known by the name of "Phosphorism," or
"new school," it attacked (as was its wont) French taste in literature,
in this instance represented by the Swedish Academy. In 1807 the
"Aurora Society" was founded by Atterbom, Hammarsköld, and Palmblad.
The principles it proclaimed were in all essentials those of the German
Romantic School. Atterbom's symbolism reminds us of Tieck's; Stagnelius
has a certain resemblance to Novalis. The movement has, nevertheless,
distinctly national characteristics.

In Norway the lonely Wergeland, in spite of his highly susceptible,
enthusiastic temperament, is a living protest against the German
Romantic spirit; but Andreas Munch is a pronounced Romanticist of the
German type. And such undertakings as the re-writing and publication of
the Norwegian fairy tales (Asbjörnson and Moe) and the collecting of
the Norwegian national songs (Landstad) are due to the impulse which
the Romanticists' predilection for everything national communicated to
the minds of the men of the North.

In Denmark the connection between German and native Romanticism is of
a very complex nature. As a rule, the Danish poets receive their first
impulse from Germany, but afterwards strike out paths for themselves.
Oehlenschläger was awakened by Steffens and strongly influenced in the
early years of the century by Tieck. It was under the influence of
German Romanticism that Grundtvig renounced his youthful rationalism;
and his patriotism and nationalism have strong points of correspondence
with Arndt's and Jahn's. The influence of Fouqué and Hoffmann is
apparent in Ingemann; Hauch is an enthusiastic admirer of Novalis; J.
L. Heiberg, as the dramatiser of fairy tales, is a pupil of Tieck;
Hans Christian Andersen, as the fantastic story-teller, the pupil of
Hoffmann. Shack Staffeldt, German born, is a full-blown Romanticist, a
devout worshipper of "the blue flower."

But though foreign influence, as this work sufficiently shows, is
everywhere traceable, the independent, national and Scandinavian
characteristics of Danish Romanticism are, nevertheless, unmistakable
and strong.

[1] Sepp _Görres und seine Zeitgenossen_, Nordlingen, 1897.

[2] Cf. _Briefwechsel zwischen Friedrich Gentz und Adam Heinrich
Müller_. Stuttgart, 1857.--K. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: _Friedrich von
Gentz_. Leipzig, 1867.--_Aus dem Nachlasse Friedrich von Gentz_. Wien,




In Six Vols. illustrated.


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