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mediately formed by foreigners upon the merits of a class of writers that have been known at home for little more than fifty years. It is generally known, that the authors of Germany after the revival of letters, composed for some centuries chief. ly in the Latin tounge, and neglected their own. In these circumstances, they could not easily become popular; and although they displayed astonishing perseverance and great learning and acuteness, together with as much invention, perhaps, as any of their neighbours who devoted themselves to similar ftudies, their labours appear to have been rewarded by the general derision of Europe. A German or Dutch commentator became proverbial for dulness. When they at last became ambitious of the higher rewards of literature, and began to compose original works in their vernacular tongue, they had innu. merable difficulties to encounter. During the earlier part of the last century, and the whole of the foregoing, every circle or petty principality had its peculiar dialect, scarcely intelligible to the inhabitants of the adjacent territories, and full of phrases completely foreign to the more remote provinces. The two grand divisions of Roman Catholic and Protestant, or Austrian and Pruflian, opposed a strong bar to the internal intercourse of the nation, and to the cultivation of its language. No common metropolis existed, no national theatre, parliainent, church or law court. Each nation detested the political and religious eitabli . ment of its rival, and communicated to the individuals of which it was composed, a degree of hatred, greater even than that which has so long divided the English and French. The smaller states, nearly three hundred in number, adopted the animosities as well as the politics of their superiors; and it is so far from being wonderful that Germany should be behind the other great European states in the cultivation of its language, that our astonishment should rather be excited by the view of the improvements which the last fifiy years have produced. We. must not, however, compare the German style in the middle of last century, with the style of England, France, or Italy, at the same period, but rather with the French in the reign of Henry IV., the English in that of King James I., and the Italian in the fifteenth century, when their first great poetical compofi. rions, which usually fix the language of nations, had just begun to produce their effect. The works of Haller, Klopftock, and Wieland, did this for the language of Germany; and established, for their succeffors, a standard of classic vigour and elegance only about half a century ago.
The Germans now, however, write as correctly as any other nation. Some of their classical authors do great honour to mo
dern literature, and prove that the opinion of the great Prussian Monarch was fallacious, when he declared it impossible to compose a work of taste in his native to gue *. Had he been as familiar with the volumes of Wieland, Goethe, Garve, and Herder, as with those of Voltaire or D'Alembert, he would scarcely have made this affertion. The difficulty of their language, and their unhappy practice of translating every publi. cation that became popular among their neighbours, made it generally believed, that the Germans poffeffed no stores but what were borrowed either from the ancients, or from Britain or France; and that neither instruction nor amusement were to be derived from their original compositions. Some admirable effays of Mr Lesing, however, found their way to England, and conduced, along with the illustrious names of Haller and Klopstock, to convince the few who could read the originals, that the Germans could not only translate, but write what was worthy of being translated. During the American war, the intercourse with Britain was strengthened by many well known causes. The German officers in our service communicated the knowledge of their books and language. Pamphlets, plays, no. vels, and other light pieces, were circulated in America, and found their way, after the peace, into England. The name of Lefsing, revered by every well-educated German, became almost as familiar, as that of Addison or Fielding, and paved the way for the less respectable works of Schiller, Kotzebue, and Imand. These authors, perhaps the most popular dramatic writers of the present day in Germany, are well known over the North of Eu. rope ; and the works of the two former are at least fufficiently known and admired by the inhabitants of this country. Sheridan has condescended to be the imitator of Kotzebue ; and Schiller, unquestionably a man of uncommon genius, is the avowed model of those poets, novellists, and playwrights, who, without any genius at all, have succeeded in captivating the public attention, by an engaging display of furious lovers, frantic heroines, blaiphemers, fatalists, and anarchists of every description.
It is curious to observe the vicillitudes of literary fashion, and the alternation of national invitation. The Germans were llavish translators of our belles lettres, philosophy, and history, for a century. A fimilarity of national taste prompted them not only to admire Shakespeare, Milton, Shaftesbury, and Locke, and our historians Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon, who are as well known, and as much relished in Germany as in Britain, but also to adopt the prejudices which have bestowed a certain degree of reputation
* Essai sur la litterature Allemande.
on the affectation of Sterne, and the flowery fanaticism of Her. vey. When it was our business to translate, however, we scarcely succeeded so well. When the scarcity of domestic genius compelled us to have recourse to importation, we carefully picked out all the drofs, and as cautiously threw away the valuable ore ; so that, for these fifteen years, it has been a common and a reasonable opinion in that country, that profligate plays, forbidden to be acted in their most cultivated provinces, and no els inculcat. ing suicide or adultery, constitute, in the opinion of the British nation, the most valuable part of German literature. Among ourselves it has sometimes been supposed to form the whole of it; and hence the odium thrown upon it, and the belief which has prevailed, of the atrocities, political and moral, of the principles of German literature. We poffess, indeed, very few translations of respectable German works; and the mischief that was reasonably apprehended from the contagion of those we have had the folly to receive, has been sufficient to induce many to reject, in the lump, the productions of that country. The Germans complain of us on this account, and with some appearance of reason.
The author, whose works we are now to review, and who made a considerable figure in the literary circles of Germany for many years, wished to remove those prejudices, by opening the eyes of the liberal-minded of both nations. He had passed Tome time in England, and been admitted to the best company in the metropolis and the country. He was intimately acquainted with ancient and modern literature, and pofTeffed much critical acumen, and taste, and humour. The innovations he condemned in his own country have since become ridiculous, and have owed their repression, in some degree, to his exertions; for he was indefatigable in assailing them in his writings, which, in the forms of Almanacks, Magazines, and Reviews, had an extensive circulation through the whole German empire for thirty-six years. He refided in Göttingen during the greater part of his long literary career, and witnelled the rapid advancement, together with the dangers and aberrations of the literature of his country. Many of ihe charges brought against it by the King of Prusia and the French Literati, as well as those which we are accustomed to repeat from hearsay, he has examined in a very skilful manner, and with such exemplary impartiality, that if he had not written in the language of the country, he might have been mistaken for a native of France or of England. His dispute with Zimmerman, on the subject of Lavater's physiognomy, made some noise in Germany, between the years 1771 and 1778. The merits of that controversy are amply discussed in the 3d volume of this work, which, with the 4th and 5th, contains a republication of detach
learned men into which they hy worthy of beimporary interest
ed papers, printed at different periods, and in various forms, by the author. They relate chiefly to matters of temporary interest; and many of them seem scarcely worthy of being snatched from the oblivion into which they were ready to sink. Like many learned men in Germany, M. Lichtenberg devoted his talents and pen to miscellaneous literature,—writing, upon all subjects, with much induitry, and with little connexion. · His largest work is his · Illustrations of Hogarth's Prints,' which is not included in this compilation ; nor do we find in it his defence of the hygrometer, and De Luc's theory of rain, occafioned by Mr Zylius's dissertation on those subjects, published at Berlin in 1795.
The two first volumes of the collection before us, contain miscellaneous remarks on the German literature, of which our read. ers may be curious to acquire some knowledge. These are found in detached memoranda, kept by the author during the greater period of his life, and are printed with scarcely any regard to dates or arrangement. The editor, however, gives the posthumous pieces under different heads, in the following series : 1. Philosophical remarks. 2. Psychological remarks. 3. Moral remarks. 4. Obfervations on man. 5. Physiognomical remarks. 6. Political, literary, satirical, &c. remarks and obfervations. Mr Lichtenberg appears to have projected a long satyrical poem, the topics of which we shall enumerate, merely to show our readers the opinion of an acute and experienced man, respecting the actual condition of German morality and taste.
Objects of satire in my poem.-Fashions and dresses. Bad theatre. Foreign law. Irreverence for old age. Indifference of our MagiArates. Affectation of students. Cringing of professors to rich pupile. Forced marriages. Situation of battards. Low marriages. Senbbility. Novels. Lunacy. Trifling causes of wars. Soldiers. Bad roads. Games of chance. Forgetfulness of original equality. Newspaper advertisements. Canonization. Ignorance in cloyiters. Monks. Exclusive right of the nobility 1o the higher offices. Anglo-mania in gardening. "Inquisition. Superstition of the rabble,' Vol. 11. Introd. p. 12.
This intended poem was never finished, and probably never begun.
In the beginning of his work, M. Lichtenberg describes the sympioms of a volunt intellectual epidemic, that committed great ravages up the taste of the Germans about thirty years ago, and threatened its abilille veilruction : he terms it the rage der empfind'. 19en und krafigenies, i. p. the foi-disant men of genius, who is innded is excitlive sensibility, originality, and force. Thíc o nages boalted of being íuperior to the trammels of Tu es biit the pajudices or alvantages of education. They affc?: font sciunt eiery sentiment from their works, which
was found in any former writer on similar subjects. No law of the drama, no order in reasoning, no confistency of parts, no method, symmetry, or precision, were defired or admitted. A wildness of language, confused gigantic imagery, conveyed in the most bombastic, or perhaps in the most gross and familiar terms, were made the vehicles of Gilly and pernicious doctrines. Germany was pestered, for upwards of twenty years, with the effusions of these Geniufes (Genies); many of their writings ftill continue to be admired, and influence, in some measure, the philofophy and language of the national writers. Our author describes their first appearance with some humour. (Vol. I. p. 67.)
• Before the battle of Rosback, the idlers were in great want of novels. We read English ones indeed, insomuch that we knew every Atreet in London, and the gallows at Tyburn, as well as our own *. We ogled in the Park, and did our best in Covent-Garden, and so gave you, o German readers, many a novel. “ But,” said you, “ this is nothing; we must have German original characters!” We were tempt. ed to answer, somewhat rudely, “ Go to those who sent into the world and educated our dear countrymen-such as they are—and don't blame us for defcribing the creatures we see and hear. Can we help the want of originality?"-" Then give us poems!”-“ Do we not give you tons of them, from the breadth of an inch to that of half a foot, and of every possible length ?” All would not do. You gave the word of command ; and although we poor fellows have ever had one eye turned to the left bank of the Rhine, and the other to the west of the English Channel, something original must positively be produced to you. You infilt on our throwing away our old quills.— There they go-they Ay from our hands like the leaves in autumn. Pehold at once thirty Yoricks ftarting up, riding their hobby-horses round a point which they might have reached at one ftep the day before : and the man who formerly was conscious of no inspiration from contemplating the ocean or the fany heavens, now pours forth sentimental and devotional er. elamations on a souff-box. Shakespeares rise up in dozens ; if not all at once in tragedies, at least in reviews and there you see a.combija. tion of ideas which never met before out of Bedlam. Space and time are clapped up in a nut-shell, and shot forth into eternity. In the twinkling of an eye, we looked deep into the human heart : goflipping filly histories become profound knowledge of human nature. Even in Baotia, I yonder a Shakespeare arises, who, like Nebuchadnezzar, eats
* In Germany, every town has a small cleration close to the principal gate, on which a gibbet is creacd, for breaking malefactors on the whel.
I The south and eastern parts of Germany are so called by the Protr:ants of the northern cucles.