1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/German Literature
GERMAN LITERATURE. Compared with other literatures, that of the German-speaking peoples presents a strangely broken and interrupted course; it falls into more or less isolated groups, separated from each other by periods which in intellectual darkness and ineptitude are virtually without a parallel in other European lands. The explanation of this irregularity of development is to be sought less in the chequered political history of the German people—although this was often reason enough—than in the strongly marked, one might almost say, provocative character of the national mind as expressed in literature. The Germans were not able, like their partially latinized English cousins—or even their Scandinavian neighbours—to adapt themselves to the various waves of literary influence which emanated from Italy and France and spread with irresistible power over all Europe; their literary history has been rather a struggle for independent expression, a constant warring against outside forces, even when the latter—like the influence of English literature in the 18th century and of Scandinavian at the close of the 19th—were hailed as friendly and not hostile. It is a peculiarity of German literature that in those ages when, owing to its own poverty and impotence, it was reduced to borrowing its ideas and its poetic forms from other lands, it sank to the most servile imitation; while the first sign of returning health has invariably been the repudiation of foreign influence and the assertion of the right of genius to untrammelled expression. Thus Germany’s periods of literary efflorescence rarely coincide with those of other nations, and great European movements, like the Renaissance, passed over her without producing a single great poet.
This chequered course, however, renders the grouping of German literature and the task of the historian the easier. The first and simplest classification is that afforded by the various stages of linguistic development. In accordance with the three divisions in the history of the High German language, there is an Old High German, a Middle High German and a New High German or Modern High German literary epoch. It is obvious, however, that the last of these divisions covers too enormous a period of literary history to be regarded as analogous to the first two. The present survey is consequently divided into six main sections:
I. The Old High German Period, including the literature of the Old Saxon dialect, from the earliest times to the middle of the 11th century.
II. The Middle High German Period, from the middle of the 11th to the middle of the 14th century.
III. The Transition Period, from the middle of the 14th century to the Reformation in the 16th century.
IV. The Period of Renaissance and Pseudo-classicism, from the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th.
V. The Classical Period of Modern German literature, from the middle of the 18th century to Goethe’s death in 1832.
VI. The Period from Goethe’s death to the present day.
I. The Old High German Period (c. 750–1050)
Of all the Germanic races, the tribes with which we have more particularly to deal here were the latest to attain intellectual maturity. The Goths had, centuries earlier, under their famous bishop Ulfilas or Wulfila, possessed the Bible in their vernacular, the northern races could point to their Edda, the Germanic tribes in England to a rich and virile Old English poetry, before a written German literature of any consequence existed at all. At the same time, these continental tribes, in the epoch that lay between the Migrations of the 5th century and the age of Charles the Great, were not without poetic literature of a kind, but it was not committed to writing, or, at least, no record of such a poetry has come down to us. Its existence is vouched for by indirect historical evidence, and by the fact that the sagas, out of which the German national epic was welded at a later date, originated in the great upheaval of the 5th century. When the vernacular literature began to emerge from an unwritten state in the 8th century, it proved to be merely a weak reflection of the ecclesiastical writings of the monasteries; and this, with very few exceptions, Old High German literature remained. Translations of the liturgy, of Tatian’s Gospel Harmony (c. 835), of fragments of sermons, form a large proportion of it. Occasionally, as in the so-called Monsee Fragments, and at the end of the period, in the prose of Notker Labeo (d. 1022), this ecclesiastical literature attains a surprising maturity of style and expression. But it had no vitality of its own; it virtually sprang into existence at the command of Charlemagne, whose policy with regard to the use of the vernacular in place of Latin was liberal and far-seeing; and it docilely obeyed the tastes of the rulers that followed, becoming severely orthodox under Louis the Pious, and consenting to immediate extinction when the Saxon emperors withdrew their favour from it. Apart from a few shorter poetic fragments of interest, such as the Merseburg Charms (Zaubersprüche), an undoubted relic of pre-Christian times, the Wessobrunn Prayer (c. 780), the Muspilli, an imaginative description of the Day of Judgment, and the Ludwigslied (881), which may be regarded as the starting point for the German historical ballad, the only High German poem of importance in this early period was the Gospel Book (Liber evangeliorum) of Otfrid of Weissenburg (c. 800–870). Even this work is more interesting as the earliest attempt to supersede alliteration in German poetry by rhyme, than for such poetic life as the monk of Weissenburg was able to instil into his narrative. In fact, for the only genuine poetry of this epoch we have to look, not to the High German but to the Low German races. They alone seemed able to give literary expression to the memories handed down in oral tradition from the 5th century; to Saxon tradition we owe the earliest extant fragment of a national saga, the Lay of Hildebrand (Hildebrandslied, c. 800), and a Saxon poet was the author of a vigorous alliterative version of the Gospel story, the Heliand (c. 830), and also of part of the Old Testament (Genesis). This alliterative epic—for epic it may be called—is the one poem of this age in which the Christian tradition has been adapted to German poetic needs. Of the existence of a lyric poetry we only know by hearsay; and the drama had nowhere in Europe yet emerged from its earliest purely liturgic condition. Such as it was, the vernacular literature of the Old High German period enjoyed but a brief existence, and in the 10th and 11th centuries darkness again closed over it. The dominant “German” literature in these centuries is in Latin; but that literature is not without national interest, for it shows in what direction the German mind was moving. The Lay of Walter (Waltharilied, c. 930), written in elegant hexameters by Ekkehard of St Gall, the moralizing dramas of Hrosvitha (Roswitha) of Gandersheim, the Ecbasis captivi (c. 940), earliest of all the Beast epics, and the romantic adventures of Ruodlieb (c. 1030), form a literature which, Latin although it is, foreshadows the future developments of German poetry.
II. The Middle High German Period (1050–1350)
(a) Early Middle High German Poetry.—The beginnings of Middle High German literature were hardly less tentative than those of the preceding period. The Saxon emperors, with their Latin and even Byzantine tastes, had made it extremely difficult to take up the thread where Notker let it drop. Williram of Ebersberg, the commentator of the Song of Songs (c. 1063), did certainly profit by Notker’s example, but he stands alone. The Church had no helping hand to offer poetry, as in the more liberal epoch of the great Charles; for, at the middle of the 11th century, when the linguistic change from Old to Middle High German was taking place, a movement of religious asceticism, originating in the Burgundian monastery of Cluny, spread across Europe, and before long all the German peoples fell under its influence. For a century there was no room for any literature that did not place itself unreservedly at the service of the Church, a service which meant the complete abnegation of the brighter side of life. Repellent in their asceticism are, for instance, poems like Memento mori (c. 1050), Vom Glauben, a verse commentary on the creed by a monk Hartmann (c. 1120), and a poem on “the remembrance of death” (Von des todes gehugede) by Heinreich von Melk (c. 1150); only rarely, as in a few narrative Poems on Old Testament subjects, are the poets of this time able to forget for a time their lugubrious faith. In the Ezzolied (c. 1060), a spirited lay by a monk of Bamberg on the life, miracles and death of Christ, and in the Annolied (c. 1080), a poem in praise of the archbishop Anno of Cologne, we find, however, some traces of a higher poetic imagination.
The transition from this rigid ecclesiastic spirit to a freer, more imaginative literature is to be seen in the lyric poetry inspired by the Virgin, in the legends of the saints which bulk so largely in the poetry of the 12th century, and in the general trend towards mysticism. Andreas, Pilatus, Aegidius, Albanius are the heroes of monkish romances of that age, and the stories of Sylvester and Crescentia form the most attractive parts of the Kaiserchronik (c. 1130–1150), a long, confused chronicle of the world which contains many elements common to later Middle High German poetry. The national sagas, of which the poet of the Kaiserchronik had not been oblivious, soon began to assert themselves in the popular literature. The wandering Spielleute, the lineal descendants of the jesters and minstrels of the dark ages, who were now rapidly becoming a factor of importance in literature, were here the innovators; to them we owe the romance of König Rother (c. 1160), and the kindred stories of Orendel, Oswald and Salomon und Markolf (Salman und Morolf). All these poems bear witness to a new element, which in these years kindled the German imagination and helped to counteract the austerity of the religious faith—the Crusades. With what alacrity the Germans revelled in the wonderland of the East is to be seen especially in the Alexanderlied (c. 1130), and in Herzog Ernst (c. 1180), romances which point out the way to another important development of German medieval literature, the Court epic. The latter type of romance was the immediate product of the social conditions created by chivalry and, like chivalry itself, was determined and influenced by its French origin; so also was the version of the Chanson de Roland (Rolandslied, c. 1135), which we owe to another priest, Konrad of Regensburg, who, with considerable probability, has been identified with the author of the Kaiserchronik.
The Court epic was, however, more immediately ushered in by Eilhart von Oberge, a native of the neighbourhood of Hildesheim who, in his Tristant (c. 1170), chose that Arthurian type of romance which from now on was especially cultivated by the poets of the Court epic; and of equally early origin is a knightly romance of Floris und Blancheflur, another of the favourite love stories of the middle ages. In these years, too, the Beast epic, which had been represented by the Latin Ecbasis captivi, was reintroduced into Germany by an Alsatian monk, Heinrich der Glichezære, who based his Reinhart Fuchs (c. 1180) on the French Roman de Renart. Lastly, we have to consider the beginning of the Minnesang, or lyric, which in the last decades of the 12th century burst out with extraordinary vigour in Austria and South Germany. The origins are obscure, and it is still debatable how much in the German Minnesang is indigenous and national, how much due to French and Provençal influence; for even in its earliest phases the Minnesang reveals correspondences with the contemporary lyric of the south of France. The freshness and originality of the early South German singers, such as Kürenberg, Dietmar von Eist, the Burggraf of Rietenburg and Meinloh von Sevelingen, are not, however, to be questioned; in spite of foreign influence, their verses make the impression of having been a spontaneous expression of German lyric feeling in the 12th century. The Spruchdichtung, a form of poetry which in this period is represented by at least two poets who call themselves Herger and “Der Spervogel,” was less dependent on foreign models; the pointed and satirical strophes of these poets were the forerunners of a vast literature which did not reach its highest development until after literature had passed from the hands of the noble-born knight to those of the burgher of the towns.
(b) The Flourishing of Middle High German Poetry.—Such was the preparation for the extraordinarily brilliant, although brief epoch of German medieval poetry, which corresponded to the reigns of the Hohenstaufen emperors, Frederick I. Barbarossa, Henry VI. and Frederick II. These rulers, by their ambitious political aspirations and achievements, filled the German peoples with a sense of “world-mission,” as the leading political power in medieval Europe. Docile pupils of French chivalry, the Germans had no sooner learned their lesson than they found themselves in the position of being able to dictate to the world of chivalry. In the same way, the German poets, who, in the 12th century, had been little better than clumsy translators of French romances, were able, at the beginning of the 13th, to substitute for French chansons de geste epics based on national sagas, to put a completely German imprint on the French Arthurian romance, and to sing German songs before which even the lyric of Provence paled. National epic, Court epic and Minnesang—these three types of medieval German literature, to which may be added as a subordinate group didactic poetry, comprise virtually all that has come down to us in the Middle High German tongue. A Middle High German prose hardly existed, and the drama, such as it was, was still essentially Latin.
The first place among the National or Popular epics belongs to the Nibelungenlied, which received its present form in Austria about the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries. Combining, as it does, elements from various cycles of sagas—the lower Rhenish legend of Siegfried, the Burgundian saga of Gunther and Hagen, the Gothic saga of Dietrich and Etzel—it stands out as the most representative epic of German medieval life. And in literary power, dramatic intensity and singleness of purpose its eminence is no less unique. The vestiges of gradual growth—of irreconcilable elements imperfectly welded together—may not have been entirely effaced, but they in no way lessen the impression of unity which the poem leaves behind it; whoever the welder of the sagas may have been, he was clearly a poet of lofty imagination and high epic gifts (see Nibelungenlied). Less imposing as a whole, but in parts no less powerful in its appeal to the modern mind, is the second of the German national epics, Gudrun, which was written early in the 13th century. This poem, as it has come down to us, is the work of an Austrian, but the subject belongs to a cycle of sagas which have their home on the shores of the North Sea. It seems almost a freak of chance that Siegfried, the hero of the Rhineland, should occupy so prominent a position in the Nibelungenlied, whereas Dietrich von Bern (i.e. of Verona), the name under which Theodoric the Great had been looked up to for centuries by the German people as their national hero, should have left the stamp of his personality on no single epic of the intrinsic worth of the Nibelungenlied. He appears, however, more or less in the background of a number of romances—Die Rabenschlacht, Dietrichs Flucht, Alpharts Tod, Biterolf und Dietlieb, Laurin, &c.—which make up what is usually called the Heldenbuch. It is tempting, indeed, to see in this very unequal collection the basis for what, under more favourable circumstances, might have developed into an epic even more completely representative of the German nation than the Nibelungenlied.
While the influence of the romance of chivalry is to be traced on all these popular epics, something of the manlier, more primitive ideals that animated German national poetry passed over to the second great group of German medieval poetry, the Court epic. The poet who, following Eilhart von Oberge’s tentative beginnings, established the Court epic in Germany was Heinrich von Veldeke, a native of the district of the lower Rhine; his Eneit, written between 1173 and 1186, is based on a French original. Other poets of the time, such as Herbort von Fritzlar, the author of a Liet von Troye, followed Heinrich’s example, and selected French models for German poems on antique themes; while Albrecht von Halberstadt translated about the year 1210 the Metamorphoses of Ovid into German verse. With the three masters of the Court epic, Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach and Gottfried von Strassburg—all of them contemporaries—the Arthurian cycle became the recognized theme of this type of romance, and the accepted embodiment of the ideals of the knightly classes. Hartmann was a Swabian, Wolfram a Bavarian, Gottfried presumably a native of Strassburg. Hartmann, who in his Erec and Iwein, Gregorius and Der arme Heinrich combined a tendency towards religious asceticism with a desire to imbue the worldly life of the knight with a moral and religious spirit, provided the Court epic of the age with its best models; he had, of all the medieval court poets, the most delicate sense for the formal beauty of poetry, for language, verse and style. Wolfram and Gottfried, on the other hand, represent two extremes of poetic temperament. Wolfram’s Parzival is filled with mysticism and obscure spiritual significance; its flashes of humour irradiate, although they can hardly be said to illumine, the gloom; its hero is, unconsciously, a symbol and allegory of much which to the poet himself must have been mysterious and inexplicable; in other words, Parzival—and Wolfram’s other writings, Willehalm and Titurel, point in the same direction—is an instinctive or, to use Schiller’s word, a “naïve” work of genius. Gottfried, again, is hardly less gifted and original, but he is a poet of a wholly different type. His Tristan is even more lucid than Hartmann’s Iwein, his art is more objective; his delight in it is that of the conscious artist who sees his work growing under his hands. Gottfried’s poem, in other words, is free from the obtrusion of those subjective elements which are in so high a degree characteristic of Parzival; in spite of the tragic character of the story, Tristan is radiant and serene, and yet uncontaminated by that tone of frivolity which the Renaissance introduced into love stories of this kind.
Parzival and Tristan are the two poles of the German Court epic, and the subsequent development of that epic stands under the influence of the three poets, Hartmann, Wolfram and Gottfried; according as the poets of the 13th century tend to imitate one or other of these, they fall into three classes. To the followers and imitators of Hartmann belong Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, the author of a Lanzelet (c. 1195); Wirnt von Gravenberg, a Bavarian, whose Wigalois (c. 1205) shows considerable imaginative power; the versatile Spielmann, known as “Der Stricker”; and Heinrich von dem Türlin, author of an unwieldy epic, Die Krone (“the crown of all adventures,” c. 1220). The fascination of Wolfram’s mysticism is to be seen in Der jüngere Titurel of a Bavarian poet, Albrecht von Scharfenberg (c. 1270), and in the still later Lohengrin of an unknown poet; whereas Gottfried von Strassburg dominates the Flore und Blanscheflur of Konrad Fleck (c. 1220) and the voluminous romances of the two chief poets of the later 13th century, Rudolf von Ems, who died in 1254, and Konrad von Würzburg, who lived till 1287. Of these, Konrad alone carried on worthily the traditions of the great age, and even his art, which excels within the narrow limits of romances like Die Herzemoere and Engelhard, becomes diffuse and wearisome on the unlimited canvas of Der Trojanerkrieg and Partonopier und Meliur.
The most conspicuous changes which came over the narrative poetry of the 13th century were, on the one hand, a steady encroachment of realism on the matter and treatment of the epic, and, on the other, a leaning to didacticism. The substitution of the “history” of the chronicle for the confessedly imaginative stories of the earlier poets is to be seen in the work of Rudolf von Ems, and of a number of minor chroniclers like Ulrich von Eschenbach, Berthold von Holle and Jans Enikel; while for the growth of realism we may look to the Pfaffe Amis, a collection of comic anecdotes by “Der Stricker,” the admirable peasant romance Meier Helmbrecht, written between 1236 and 1250 by Wernher der Gartenaere in Bavaria, and to the adventures of Ulrich von Lichtenstein, as described in his Frauendienst (1255) and Frauenbuch (1257).
More than any single poet of the Court epic, more even than the poet of the Nibelungenlied, Walther von der Vogelweide summed up in himself all that was best in the group of poetic literature with which he was associated—the Minnesang. The early Austrian singers already mentioned, poets like Heinrich von Veldeke, who in his lyrics, as in his epic, introduced the French conception of Minne, or like the manly Friedrich von Hausen, and the Swiss imitator of Provençal measures, Rudolf von Fenis appear only in the light of forerunners. Even more original poets, like Heinrich von Morungen and Walther’s own master, Reinmar von Hagenau, the author of harmonious but monotonously elegiac verses, or among immediate contemporaries, Hartmann von Aue and Wolfram von Eschenbach, whose few lyric strophes are as deeply stamped with his individuality as his epics—seem only tributary to the full rich stream of Walther’s genius. There was not a form of the German Minnesang which Walther did not amplify and deepen; songs of courtly love and lowly love, of religious faith and delight in nature, patriotic songs and political Sprüche—in all he was a master. Of Walther’s life we are somewhat better informed than in the case of his contemporaries: he was born about 1170 and died about 1230; his art he learned in Austria, whereupon he wandered through South Germany, a welcome guest wherever he went, although his vigorous championship of what he regarded as the national cause in the political struggles of the day won him foes as well as friends. For centuries he remained the accepted exemplar of German lyric poetry; not merely the Minnesänger who followed him, but also the Meistersinger of the 15th and 16th centuries looked up to him as one of the founders and lawgivers of their art. He was the most influential of all Germany’s lyric poets, and in the breadth, originality and purity of his inspiration one of her greatest (see Walther von der Vogelweide).
The development of the German Minnesang after Walther’s death and under his influence is easily summed up. Contemporaries had been impressed by the dual character of Walther’s lyric; they distinguished a higher courtly lyric, and a lower more outspoken form of song, free from the constraint of social or literary conventions. The later Minnesang emphasized this dualism. Amongst Walther’s immediate contemporaries, high-born poets, whose lives were passed at courts, naturally cultivated the higher lyric; but the more gifted and original singers of the time rejoiced in the freedom of Walther’s poetry of niedere Minne. It was, in fact, in accordance with the spirit of the age that the latter should have been Walther’s most valuable legacy to his successors; and the greatest of these, Neidhart von Reuental (c. 1180–c. 1250), certainly did not allow himself to be hampered by aristocratic prejudices. Neidhart sought the themes of his höfische Dorfpoesie in the village, and, as the mood happened to dictate, depicted the peasant with humorous banter or biting satire. The lyric poets of the later 13th century were either, like Burkart von Hohenfels, Ulrich von Winterstetten and Gottfried von Neifen, echoes of Walther von der Vogelweide and of Neidhart, or their originality was confined to some particular form of lyric poetry in which they excelled. Thus the singer known as “Der Tannhäuser” distinguished himself as an imitator of the French pastourelle; Reinmar von Zweter was purely a Spruchdichter. More or less common to all is the consciousness that their own ideas and surroundings were no longer in harmony with the aristocratic world of chivalry, which the poets of the previous generation had glorified. The solid advantages, material prosperity and increasing comfort of life in the German towns appealed to poets like Steinmar von Klingenau more than the unworldly ideals of self-effacing knighthood which Ulrich von Lichtenstein and Johann Hadlaub of Zürich clung to so tenaciously and extolled so warmly. On the whole, the Spruchdichter came best out of this ordeal of changing fashions; and the increasing interest in the moral and didactic applications of literature favoured the development of this form of verse. The confusion of didactic purpose with the lyric is common to all the later poetry, to that of the learned Marner, of Boppe, Rumezland and Heinrich von Meissen, who was known to later generations as “Frauenlob.” The Spruchdichtung, in fact, was one of the connecting links between the Minnesang of the 13th and the lyric and satiric poetry of the 15th and 16th centuries.
The disturbing and disintegrating element in the literature of the 13th century was thus the substitution of a utilitarian didacticism for the idealism of chivalry. In the early decades of that century, poems like Der Winsbeke, by a Bavarian, and Der welsche Gast, written in 1215–1216 by Thomasin von Zirclaere (Zirclaria), a native of Friuli, still teach with uncompromising idealism the duties and virtues of the knightly life. But in the Bescheidenheit (c. 1215–1230) of a wandering singer, who called himself Freidank, we find for the first time an active antagonism to the unworldly code of chivalry and an unmistakable reflection of the changing social order, brought about by the rise of what we should now call the middle class. Freidank is the spokesman of the Bürger, and in his terse, witty verses may be traced the germs of German intellectual and literary development in the coming centuries—even of the Reformation itself. From the advent of Freidank onwards, the satiric and didactic poetry went the way of the epic; what it gained in quantity it lost in quality and concentration. The satires associated with the name of Seifried Helbling, an Austrian who wrote in the last fifteen years of the 13th century, and Der Renner by Hugo von Trimberg, written at the very end of the century, may be taken as characteristic of the later period, where terseness and incisive wit have given place to diffuse moralizing and allegory.
There is practically no Middle High German literature in prose; such prose as has come down to us—the tracts of David of Augsburg, the powerful sermons of Berthold von Regensburg (d. 1272), Germany’s greatest medieval preacher, and several legal codes, as the Sachsenspiegel and Schwabenspiegel—only prove that the Germans of the 13th century had not yet realized the possibilities of prose as a medium of literary expression.
III. The Transition Period (1350–1600)
(a) The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.—As is the case with all transitional periods of literary history, this epoch of German literature may be considered under two aspects: on the one hand, we may follow in it the decadence and disintegration of the literature of the Middle High German period; on the other, we may study the beginnings of modern forms of poetry and the preparation of that spiritual revolution, which meant hardly less to the Germanic peoples than the Renaissance to the Latin races—the Protestant Reformation.
By the middle of the 14th century, knighthood with its chivalric ideals was rapidly declining, and the conditions under which medieval poetry had flourished were passing away. The social change rendered the courtly epic of Arthur’s Round Table in great measure incomprehensible to the younger generation, and made it difficult for them to understand the spirit that actuated the heroes of the national epic; the tastes to which the lyrics of the great Minnesingers had appealed were vitiated by the more practical demands of the rising middle classes. But the stories of chivalry still appealed as stories to the people, although the old way of telling them was no longer appreciated. The feeling for beauty of form and expression was lost; the craving for a moral purpose and didactic aim had to be satisfied at the cost of artistic beauty; and sensational incident was valued more highly than fine character-drawing or inspired poetic thought. Signs of the decadence are to be seen in the Karlmeinet of this period, stories from the youth of Charlemagne, in a continuation of Parzival by two Alsatians, Claus Wisse and Philipp Colin (c. 1335), in an Apollonius von Tyrus by Heinrich von Neuenstadt (c. 1315), and a Königstochter von Frankreich by Hans von Bühel (c. 1400). The story of Siegfried was retold in a rough ballad, Das Lied von hürnen Seyfried, the Heldenbuch was recast in Knittelvers or doggerel (1472), and even the Arthurian epic was parodied. A no less marked symptom of decadence is to be seen in a large body of allegorical poetry analogous to the Roman de la rose in France; Heinzelein of Constance, at the end of the 13th, and Hadamar von Laber and Hermann von Sachsenheim, about the middle of the 15th century, were representatives of this movement. As time went on, prose versions of the old stories became more general, and out of these developed the Volksbücher, such as Loher und Maller, Die Haimonskinder, Die schöne Magelone, Melusine, which formed the favourite reading of the German people for centuries. As the last monuments of the decadent narrative literature of the middle ages, we may regard the Buch der Abenteuer of Ulrich Füetrer, written at the end of the 15th century, and Der Weisskönig and Teuerdank by the emperor Maximilian I. (1459–1519) printed in the early years of the 16th. At the beginning of the new epoch the Minnesang could still point to two masters able to maintain the great traditions of the 13th century, Hugo von Montfort (1357–1423) and Oswald von Wolkenstein (1367–1445); but as the lyric passed into the hands of the middle-class poets of the German towns, it was rapidly shorn of its essentially lyric qualities; die Minne gave place to moral and religious dogmatism, emphasis was laid on strict adherence to the rules of composition, and the simple forms of the older lyric were superseded by ingenious metrical distortions. Under the influence of writers like Heinrich von Meissen (“Frauenlob,” c. 1250–1318) and Heinrich von Mügeln in the 14th century, like Muskatblut and Michael Beheim (1416–c. 1480) in the 15th, the Minnesang thus passed over into the Meistergesang. In the later 15th and in the 16th centuries all the south German towns possessed flourishing Meistersinger schools in which the art of writing verse was taught and practised according to complicated rules, and it was the ambition of every gifted citizen to rise through the various grades from Schüler to Meister and to distinguish himself in the “singing contests” instituted by the schools.
Such are the decadent aspects of the once rich literature of the Middle High German period in the 14th and 15th centuries. Turning now to the more positive side of the literary movement, we have to note a revival of a popular lyric poetry—the Volkslied—which made the futility and artificiality of the Meistergesang more apparent. Never before or since has Germany been able to point to such a rich harvest of popular poetry as is to be seen in the Volkslieder of these two centuries. Every form of popular poetry is to be found here—songs of love and war, hymns and drinking-songs, songs of spring and winter, historical ballads, as well as lyrics in which the old motives of the Minnesang reappear stripped of all artificiality. More obvious ties with the literature of the preceding age are to be seen in the development of the Schwank or comic anecdote. Collections of such stories, which range from the practical jokes of Till Eulenspiegel (1515), and the coarse witticisms of the Pfaffe vom Kalenberg (end of 14th century) and Peter Leu (1550), to the religious and didactic anecdotes of J. Pauli’s Schimpf und Ernst (1522) or the more literary Rollwagenbüchlein (1555) of Jörg Wickram and the Wendunmut (1563 ff.) of H. W. Kirchhoff—these dominate in large measure the literature of the 15th and 16th centuries; they are the literary descendants of the medieval Pfaffe Amis, Markolf and Reinhart Fuchs. An important development of this type of popular literature is to be seen in the Narrenschiff of Sebastian Brant (1457–1521), where the humorous anecdote became a vehicle of the bitterest satire; Brant’s own contempt for the vulgarity of the ignorant, and the deep, unsatisfied craving of all strata of society for a wider intellectual horizon and a more humane and dignified life, to which Brant gave voice, make the Narrenschiff, which appeared in 1494, a landmark on the way that led to the Reformation. Another form—the Beast fable and Beast epic—which is but sparingly represented in earlier times, appealed with peculiar force to the new generation. At the very close of the Middle High German period, Ulrich Boner had revived the Aesopic fable in his Edelstein (1349), translations of Aesop in the following century added to the popularity of the fable (q.v.), and in the century of the Reformation it became, in the hands of Burkard Waldis (Esopus, 1548) and Erasmus Alberus (Buch von der Tugend und Weisheit, 1550), a favourite instrument of satire and polemic. A still more attractive form of the Beast fable was the epic of Reinke de Vos, which had been cultivated by Flemish poets in the 13th and 14th centuries and has come down to us in a Low Saxon translation, published at Lübeck in 1498. This, too, like Brant’s poem, is a powerful satire on human folly, and is also, like the Narrenschiff, a harbinger of the coming Reformation.
A complete innovation was the drama (q.v.), which, as we have seen, had practically no existence in Middle High German times. As in all European literatures, it emerged slowly and with difficulty from its original subservience to the church liturgy. As time went on, the vernacular was substituted for the original Latin, and with increasing demands for pageantry, the scene of the play was removed to the churchyard or the market-place; thus the opportunity arose in the 14th and 15th centuries for developing the Weihnachtsspiel, Osterspiel and Passionsspiel on secular lines. The enlargement of the scope of the religious play to include legends of the saints implied a further step in the direction of a complete separation of the drama from ecclesiastical ceremony. The most interesting example of this encroachment of the secular spirit is the Spiel von Frau Jutten—Jutta being the notorious Pope Joan—by an Alsatian, Dietrich Schernberg, in 1480. Meanwhile, in the 15th century, a beginning had been made of a drama entirely independent of the church. The mimic representations—originally allegorical in character—with which the people amused themselves at the great festivals of the year, and more especially in spring, were interspersed with dialogue, and performed on an improvised stage. This was the beginning of the Fastnachtsspiel or Shrovetide-play, the subject of which was a comic anecdote similar to those of the many collections of Schwänke. Amongst the earliest cultivators of the Fastnachtsspiel were Hans Rosenplüt (fl. c. 1460) and Hans Folz (fl. c. 1510), both of whom were associated with Nuremberg.
(b) The Age of the Reformation.—Promising as were these literary beginnings of the 15th century, the real significance of the period in Germany’s intellectual history is to be sought outside literature, namely, in two forces which immediately prepared the way for the Reformation—mysticism and humanism. The former of these had been a more or less constant factor in German religious thought throughout the middle ages, but with Meister Eckhart (? 1260–1327), the most powerful and original of all the German mystics, with Heinrich Seuse or Suso (c. 1300–1366), and Johannes Tauler (c. 1300–1361), it became a clearly defined mental attitude towards religion; it was an essentially personal interpretation of Christianity, and, as such, was naturally conducive to the individual freedom which Protestantism ultimately realized. It is thus not to be wondered at that we should owe the early translations of the Bible into German—one was printed at Strassburg in 1466—to the mystics. Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg (1445–1510), a pupil of the humanists and a friend of Sebastian Brant, may be regarded as a link between Eckhart and the earlier mysticists and Luther. Humanism was transplanted to German soil with the foundation of the university of Prague in 1348, and it made even greater strides than mysticism. Its immediate influence, however, was restricted to the educated classes; the pre-Reformation humanists despised the vernacular and wrote and thought only in Latin. Thus although neither Johann Reuchlin of Pforzheim (1455–1522), nor even the patriotic Alsatian, Jakob Wimpfeling (or Wimpheling) (1450–1528)—not to mention the great Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536)—has a place in the history of German literature, their battle for liberalism in thought and scholarship against the narrow orthodoxy of the Church cleared the way for a healthy national literature among the German-speaking peoples. The incisive wit and irony of humanistic satire—we need only instance the Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1515–1517)—prevented the German satirists of the Reformation age from sinking entirely into that coarse brutality to which they were only too prone. To the influence of the humanists we also owe many translations from the Latin and Italian dating from the 15th century. Prominent among the writers who contributed to the group of literature were Niklas von Wyl, chancellor of Württemberg, and his immediate contemporary Albrecht von Eyb (1420–1475).
Martin Luther (1483–1546), Germany’s greatest man in this age of intellectual new-birth, demands a larger share of attention in a survey of literature than his religious and ecclesiastical activity would in itself justify, if only because the literary activity of the age cannot be regarded apart from him. From the Volkslied and the popular Schwank to satire and drama, literature turned exclusively round the Reformation which had been inaugurated on the 31st of October 1517 by Luther’s publication of the Theses against Indulgences in Wittenberg. In his three tracts, An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae, and Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (1520), Luther laid down his principles of reform, and in the following year resolutely refused to recant his heresies in a dramatic scene before the Council of Worms. Luther’s Bible (1522–1534) had unique importance not merely for the religious and intellectual welfare of the German people, but also for their literature. It is in itself a literary monument, a German classic, and the culmination and justification of that movement which had supplanted the medieval knight by the burgher and swept away Middle High German poetry. Luther, well aware that his translation of the Bible must be the keystone to his work, gave himself endless pains to produce a thoroughly German work—German both in language and in spirit. It was important that the dialect into which the Bible was translated should be comprehensible over as wide an area as possible of the German-speaking world, and for this reason he took all possible care in choosing the vocabulary and forms of his Gemeindeutsch. The language of the Saxon chancery thus became, thanks to Luther’s initiative, the basis of the modern High German literary language. As a hymn-writer (Geistliche Lieder, 1564), Luther was equally mindful of the importance of adapting himself to the popular tradition; and his hymns form the starting-point for a vast development of German religious poetry which did not reach its highest point until the following century.
The most powerful and virile literature of this age was the satire with which the losing side retaliated on the Protestant leaders. Amongst Luther’s henchmen, Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560), the “praeceptor Germaniae,” and Ulrich von Hutten (1488–1523) were powerful allies in the cause, but their intellectual sympathies were with the Latin humanists; and with the exception of some vigorous German prose and still more vigorous German verse by Hutten, both wrote in Latin. The satirical dramas of Niklas Manuel, a Swiss writer and the polemical fables of Erasmus Alberus (c. 1500–1553), on the other hand, were insignificant compared with the fierce assault on Protestantism by the Alsatian monk, Thomas Murner (1475–1537). The most unscrupulous of all German satirists, Murner shrank from no extremes of scurrility, his attacks on Luther reaching their culmination in the gross personalities of Von dem lutherischen Narren (1522). It was not until the following generation that the Protestant party could point to a satirist who in genius and power was at all comparable to Murner, namely, to Johann Fischart (c. 1550–c. 1591); but when Fischart’s Rabelaisian humour is placed by the side of his predecessor’s work, we see that, in spite of counter-reformations, the Protestant cause stood in a very different position in Fischart’s day from that which it had occupied fifty years before. Fischart took his stand on the now firm union between humanism and Protestantism. His chief work, the Affentheuerlich Naupengeheurliche Geschichtklitterung (1575), a Germanization of the first book of Rabelais’ satire, is a witty and ingenious monstrosity, a satirical comment on the life of the 16th century, not the virulent expression of party strife. The day of a personal and brutal type of satire was clearly over, and the writers of the later 16th century reverted more and more to the finer methods of the humanists. The satire of Bartholomaeus Ringwaldt (1530–1599) and of Georg Rollenhagen (1542–1609), author of the Froschmeuseler (1595), was more “literary” and less actual than even Fischart’s.
On the whole, the form of literature which succeeded best in emancipating itself from the trammels of religious controversy in the 16th century was the drama. Protestantism proved favourable to its intellectual and literary development, and the humanists, who had always prided themselves on their imitations of Latin comedy, introduced into it a sense for form and proportion. The Latin school comedy in Germany was founded by J. Wimpfeling with his Stylpho (1470) and by J. Reuchlin with his witty adaptation of Maître Patelin in his Henno (1498). In the 16th century the chief writers of Latin dramas were Thomas Kirchmair or Naogeorgus (1511–1563), Caspar Brülow (1585–1627), and Nikodemus Frischlin (1547–1590), who also wrote dramas in the vernacular. The work of these men bears testimony in its form and its choice of subjects to the close relationship between Latin and German drama in the 16th century. One of the earliest focusses for a German drama inspired by the Reformation was Switzerland. In Basel, Pamphilus Gengenbach produced moralizing Fastnachtsspiele in 1515–1516; Niklas Manuel of Bern (1484–1530)—who has just been mentioned—employed the same type of play as a vehicle of pungent satire against the Mass and the sale of indulgences. But it was not long before the German drama benefited by the humanistic example: the Parabell vam vorlorn Szohn by Burkard Waldis (1527), the many dramas on the subject of Susanna—notably those of Sixt Birck (1532) and Paul Rebhun(1535)—and Frischlin’s German plays are attempts to treat Biblical themes according to classic methods. In another of the important literary centres of the 16th century, however, in Nuremberg, the drama developed on indigenous lines. Hans Sachs (1494–1576), the Nuremberg cobbler and Meistersinger, the most productive writer of the age, went his own way; a voracious reader and an unwearied storyteller, he left behind him a vast literary legacy, embracing every form of popular literature from Spruch and Schwank to complicated Meistergesang and lengthy drama. He laid under contribution the rich Renaissance literature with which the humanistic translators had flooded Germany, and he became himself an ardent champion of the “Wittembergisch Nachtigall” Luther. But in the progressive movement of the German drama he played an even smaller rôle than his Swiss and Saxon contemporaries; for his tragedies and comedies are deficient in all dramatic qualities; they are only stories in dialogue. In the Fastnachtsspiele, where dramatic form is less essential than anecdotal point and brevity, he is to be seen at his best. Rich as the 16th century was in promise, the conditions for the development of a national drama were unfavourable. At the close of the century the influence of the English drama—brought to Germany by English actors—introduced the deficient dramatic and theatrical force into the humanistic and “narrative” drama which has just been considered. This is to be seen in the work of Jakob Ayrer (d. 1605) and Duke Henry Julius of Brunswick (1564–1613). But unfortunately these beginnings had hardly made themselves felt when the full current of the Renaissance was diverted across Germany, bringing in its train the Senecan tragedy. Then came the Thirty Years’ War, which completely destroyed the social conditions indispensable for the establishment of a theatre at once popular and national.
The novel was less successful than the drama in extricating itself from satire and religious controversy. Fischart was too dependent on foreign models and too erratic—at one time adapting Rabelais, at another translating the old heroic romance of Amadis de Gaula—to create a national form of German fiction in the 16th century; the most important novelist was a much less talented writer, the Alsatian Meistersinger and dramatist Jörg Wickram (d. c. 1560), who has been already mentioned as the author of a popular collection of anecdotes, the Rollwagenbüchlein. His longer novels, Der Knabenspiegel (1554) and Der Goldfaden (1557), are in form, and especially in the importance they attach to psychological developments, the forerunners of the movement to which we owe the best works of German fiction in the 18th century. But Wickram stands alone. So inconsiderable, in fact, is the fiction of the Reformation age in Germany that we have to regard the old Volksbücher as its equivalent; and it is significant that of all the prose writings of this age, the book which affords the best insight into the temper and spirit of the Reformation was just one of these crude Volksbücher, namely, the famous story of the magician Doctor Johann Faust, published at Frankfort in 1587.
IV. The Renaissance (1600–1740)
The 17th century in Germany presents a complete contrast to its predecessor; the fact that it was the century of the Thirty Years’ War, which devastated the country, crippled the prosperity of the towns, and threw back by many generations the social development of the people, explains much, but it can hardly be held entirely responsible for the intellectual apathy, the slavery to foreign customs and foreign ideas, which stunted the growth of the nation. The freedom of Lutheranism degenerated into a paralyzing Lutheran orthodoxy which was as hostile to the “Freiheit eines Christenmenschen” as that Catholicism it had superseded; the idealism of the humanists degenerated in the same way into a dry, pedantic scholasticism which held the German mind in fetters until, at the very close of the century, Leibnitz set it free. Most disheartening of all, literature which in the 16th century had been so full of promise and had conformed with such aptitude to the new ideas, was in all its higher manifestations blighted by the dead hand of pseudo-classicism. The unkempt literature of the Reformation age admittedly stood in need of guidance and discipline, but the 17th century made the fatal mistake of trying to impose the laws and rules of Romance literatures on a people of a purely Germanic stock.
There were, however, some branches of German poetry which escaped this foreign influence. The church hymn, continuing the great Lutheran traditions, rose in the 17th century to extraordinary richness both in quality and quantity. Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676), the greatest German hymn-writer, was only one of many Lutheran pastors who in this age contributed to the German hymnal. On the Catholic side, Angelus Silesius, or Johann Scheffler (1624–1677) showed what a wealth of poetry lay in the mystic speculations of Jakob Boehme, the gifted shoemaker of Görlitz (1575–1624), and author of the famous Aurora, oder Morgenröte im Aufgang (1612); while Friedrich von Spee (1591–1635), another leading Catholic poet of the century, cultivated the pastoral allegory of the Renaissance. The revival of mysticism associated with Boehme gradually spread through the whole religious life of the 17th century, Protestant as well as Catholic, and in the more specifically Protestant form of pietism, it became, at the close of the period, a force of moment in the literary revival. Besides the hymn, the Volkslied, which amidst the struggles and confusion of the great war bore witness to a steadily growing sense of patriotism, lay outside the domain of the literary theorists and dictators, and developed in its own way. But all else—if we except certain forms of fiction, which towards the end of the 17th century rose into prominence—stood completely under the sway of the Latin Renaissance.
The first focus of the movement was Heidelberg, which had been a centre of humanistic learning in the sixteenth century. Here, under the leadership of J. W. Zincgref (1591–1635), a number of scholarly writers carried into practice that interest in the vernacular which had been shown a little earlier by the German translator of Marot, Paul Schede or Melissus, librarian in Heidelberg. The most important forerunner of Opitz was G. R. Weckherlin (1584–1653), a native of Württemberg who had spent the best part of his life in England; his Oden und Gesänge (1618–1619) ushered in the era of Renaissance poetry in Germany with a promise that was but indifferently fulfilled by his successors. Of these the greatest, or at least the most influential, was Martin Opitz (1597–1639). He was a native of Silesia and, as a student in Heidelberg, came into touch with Zincgref’s circle; subsequently, in the course of a visit to Holland, a more definite trend was given to his ideas by the example of the Dutch poet and scholar, Daniel Heinsius. As a poet, Opitz experimented with every form of recognized Renaissance poetry from ode and epic to pastoral romance and Senecan drama; but his poetry is for the most part devoid of inspiration; and his extraordinary fame among his contemporaries would be hard to understand, were it not that in his Buch von der deutschen Poeterey (1624) he gave the German Renaissance its theoretical textbook. In this tract, in which Opitz virtually reproduced in German the accepted dogmas of Renaissance theorists like Scaliger and Ronsard, he not merely justified his own mechanical verse-making, but also gave Germany a law-book which regulated her literature for a hundred years.
The work of Opitz as a reformer was furthered by another institution of Latin origin, namely, literary societies modelled on the Accademia della Crusca in Florence. These societies, of which the chief were the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft or Palmenorden (founded 1617), the Elbschwanenorden in Hamburg and the Gekrönter Blumenorden an der Pegnitz or Gesellschaft der Pegnitzschäfer in Nuremberg, were the centres of literary activity during the unsettled years of the war. Although they produced much that was trivial—such as the extraordinary Nürnberger Trichter (1647–1653) by G. P. Harsdörffer (1607–1658), a treatise which professed to turn out a fully equipped German poet in the space of six hours—these societies also did German letters an invaluable service by their attention to the language, one of their chief objects having been to purify the German language from foreign and un-German ingredients. J. G. Schottelius (1612–1676), for instance, wrote his epoch-making grammatical works with the avowed purpose of furthering the objects of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft. Meanwhile the poetic centre of gravity in Germany had shifted from Heidelberg to the extreme north-east, to Königsberg, where a group of academic poets gave practical expression to the Opitzian theory. Chief among them was Simon Dach (1605–1659), a gentle, elegiac writer on whom the laws of the Buch von der deutschen Poeterey did not lie too heavily. He, like his more manly and vigorous contemporary Paul Fleming (1609–1640), showed, one might say, that it was possible to write good and sincere poetry notwithstanding Opitz’s mechanical rules.
In the previous century the most advanced form of literature had been satire, and under the new conditions the satiric vein still proved most productive; but it was no longer the full-blooded satire of the Reformation, or even the rich and luxuriant satiric fancy of Fischart, which found expression in the 17th century. Satire pure and simple was virtually only cultivated by two Low German poets, J. Lauremberg (1590–1658) and J. Rachel (1618–1669), of whom at least the latter was accepted by the Opitzian school; but the satiric spirit rose to higher things in the powerful and scathing sermons of J. B. Schupp (1610–1661), an outspoken Hamburg preacher, and in the scurrilous wit of the Viennese monk Abraham a Sancta Clara (1644–1709), who had inherited some of his predecessor Murner’s intellectual gifts. Best of all are the epigrams of the most gifted of all the Silesian group of writers, Friedrich von Logau (1604–1655). Logau’s three thousand epigrams (Deutsche Sinngedichte, 1654) afford a key to the intellectual temper of the 17th century; they are the epitome of their age. Here are to be seen reflected the vices of the time, its aping of French customs and its contempt for what was national and German; Logau held up to ridicule the vain bloodshed of the war in the interest of Christianity, and, although he praised Opitz, he was far from prostrating himself at the dictator’s feet. Logau is an epigrammatist of the first rank, and perhaps the most remarkable product of the Renaissance movement in Germany.
Opitz found difficulty in providing Germany with a drama according to the classic canon. He had not himself ventured beyond translations of Sophocles and Seneca, and Johann Rist (1607–1667) in Hamburg, one of the few contemporary dramatists, had written plays more in the manner of Duke Heinrich Julius of Brunswick than of Opitz. It was not until after the latter’s death that the chief dramatist of the Renaissance movement came forward in the person of Andreas Gryphius (1616–1664). Like Opitz, Gryphius also was a Silesian, and a poet of no mean ability, as is to be seen from his lyric poetry; but his tragedies, modelled on the stiff Senecan pattern, suffered from the lack of a theatre, and from his ignorance of the existence of a more highly developed drama in France, not to speak of England. As it was, he was content with Dutch models. In the field of comedy, where he was less hampered by theories of dramatic propriety, he allowed himself to benefit by the freedom of the Dutch farce and the comic effects of the English actors in Germany; in his Horribilicribrifax and Herr Peter Squentz—the latter an adaptation of the comic scenes of the Midsummer Night’s Dream—Gryphius has produced the best German plays of the 17th century.
The German novel of the 17th century was, as has been already indicated, less hampered by Renaissance laws than other forms of literature, and although it was none the less at the mercy of foreign influence, that influence was more varied and manifold in its character. Don Quixote had been partly translated early in the 17th century, the picaresque romance had found its way to Germany at a still earlier date; while H. M. Moscherosch (1601–1669) in his Gesichte Philanders von Sittewald (1642–1643) made the Sueños of Quevedo the basis for vivid pictures of the life of the time, interspersed with satire. The best German novel of the 17th century, Der abenteurliche Simplicissimus (1669) by H. J. Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (c. 1625–1676), is a picaresque novel, but one that owed little more than its form to the Spaniards. It is in great measure the autobiography of its author, and describes with uncompromising realism the social disintegration and the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. But this remarkable book stands alone; Grimmelshausen’s other writings are but further contributions to the same theme, and he left no disciples worthy of carrying on the tradition he had created. Christian Weise (1642–1708), rector of the Zittau gymnasium, wrote a few satirical novels, but his realism and satire are too obviously didactic. He is seen to better advantage in his dramas, of which he wrote more than fifty for performance by his scholars.
The real successor of Simplicissimus in Germany was the English Robinson Crusoe, a novel which, on its appearance, was immediately translated into German (1721); it called forth an extraordinary flood of imitations, the so-called “Robinsonaden,” the vogue of which is even still kept alive by Der schweizerische Robinson of J. R. Wyss (1812 ff.). With the exception of J. G. Schnabel’s Insel Felsenburg (1731–1743), the literary value of these imitations is slight. They represented, however, a healthier and more natural development of fiction than the “galant” romances which were introduced in the train of the Renaissance movement, and cultivated by writers like Philipp von Zesen (1619–1689), Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick (1633–1714), A. H. Buchholtz (1607–1671), H. A. von Ziegler (1653–1697)—author of the famous Asiatische Banise (1688)—and D. C. von Lohenstein (1635–1683), whose Arminius (1689–1690) is on the whole the most promising novel of this group. The last mentioned writer and Christian Hofmann von Hofmannswaldau (1617–1679) are sometimes regarded as the leaders of a “second Silesian school,” as opposed to the first school of Opitz. As the cultivators of the bombastic and Euphuistic style of the Italians Guarini and Marini, and of the Spanish writer Gongora, Lohenstein and Hofmannswaldau touched the lowest point to which German poetry ever sank.
But this aberration of taste was happily of short duration. Although socially the recovery of the German people from the desolation of the war was slow and laborious, the intellectual life of Germany was rapidly recuperating under the influence of foreign thinkers. Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694), Christian Thomasius (1655–1728), Christian von Wolff (1679–1754) and, above all, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646–1716), the first of the great German philosophers, laid the foundations of that system of rationalism which dominated Germany for the better part of the 18th century; while German religious life was strengthened and enriched by a revival of pietism, under mystic thinkers like Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705), a revival which also left its traces on religious poetry. Such hopeful signs of convalescence could not but be accompanied by an improvement in literary taste, and this is seen in the first instance in a substitution for the bombast and conceits of Lohehstein and Hofmannswaldau, of poetry on the stricter and soberer lines laid down by Boileau. The so-called “court poets” who opposed the second Silesian school, men like Rudolf von Canitz (1654–1699), Johann von Besser (1654–1729) and Benjamin Neukirch (1665–1729), were not inspired, but they had at least a certain “correctness” of taste; and from their midst sprang one gifted lyric genius, Johann Christian Günther (1695–1723), who wrote love-songs such as had not been heard in Germany since the days of the Minnesang. The methods of Hofmannswaldau had obtained considerable vogue in Hamburg, where the Italian opera kept the decadent Renaissance poetry alive. Here, however, the incisive wit of Christian Wernigke’s (1661–1725) epigrams was an effective antidote, and Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680–1747), a native of Hamburg, who had been deeply impressed by the appreciation of nature in English poetry, gave the artificialities of the Silesians their death-blow. But the influence of English literature was not merely destructive in these years; in the translations and imitations of the English Spectator, Tatler and Guardian—the so-called moralische Wochenschriften—it helped to regenerate literary taste, and to implant healthy moral ideas in the German middle classes.
The chief representative of the literary movement inaugurated by the Silesian “court poets” was Johann Christoph Gottsched (1700–1766), who between 1724 and 1740 succeeded in establishing in Leipzig, the metropolis of German taste, literary reforms modelled on the principles of French 17th-century classicism. He reformed and purified the stage according to French ideas, and provided it with a repertory of French origin; in his Kritische Dichtkunst (1730) he laid down the principles according to which good literature was to be produced and judged. As Opitz had reformed German letters with the help of Ronsard, so now Gottsched took his standpoint on the principles of Boileau as interpreted by contemporary French critics and theorists. With Gottsched, whose services in purifying the German language have stood the test of time better than his literary or dramatic reforms, the period of German Renaissance literature reaches its culmination and at the same time its close. The movement of the age advanced too rapidly for the Leipzig dictator; in 1740 a new epoch opened in German poetry and he was soon left hopelessly behind.
V. The Classical Period of Modern German Literature (1740–1832)
(a) From the Swiss Controversy to the “Sturm und Drang.”—Between Opitz and Gottsched German literature passed successively through the various stages characteristic of all Renaissance literatures—from that represented by Trissino and the French Pléiade, by way of the aberrations of Marini and the estilo culto, to the art poétique of Boileau. And precisely as in France, the next advance was achieved in a battle between the “ancients” and the “moderns,” the German “ancients” being represented by Gottsched, the “moderns” by the Swiss literary reformers, J. J. Bodmer (1698–1783) and J. J. Breitinger (1701–1776). The latter in his Kritische Dichtkunst (1739) maintained doctrines which were in opposition to Gottsched’s standpoint in his treatise of the same name, and Bodmer supported his friend’s initiative; a pamphlet war ensued between Leipzig and Zürich, with which in 1740–1741 the classical period of modern German literature may be said to open. The Swiss, men of little originality, found their theories in the writings of Italian and English critics; and from these they learned how literature might be freed from the fetters of pseudo-classicism. Basing their arguments on Milton’s Paradise Lost, which Bodmer had translated into prose (1732), they demanded room for the play of genius and inspiration; they insisted that the imagination should not be hindered in its attempts to rise above the world of reason and common sense. Their victory was due, not to the skill with which they presented their arguments, but to the fact that literature itself was in need of greater freedom. It was in fact a triumph, not of personalities or of leaders, but of ideas. The effects of the controversy are to be seen in a group of Leipzig writers of Gottsched’s own school, the Bremer Beiträger as they were called after their literary organ. These men—C. F. Gellert (1715–1769), the author of graceful fables and tales in verse, G. W. Rabener (1714–1771), the mild satirist of Saxon provinciality, the dramatist J. Elias Schlegel (1719–1749), who in more ways than one was Lessing’s forerunner, and a number of minor writers—did not set themselves up in active opposition to their master, but they tacitly adopted many of the principles which the Swiss had advocated. And in the Bremer Beiträge there appeared in 1748 the first instalment of an epic by F. G. Klopstock (1724–1803), Der Messias, which was the best illustration of that lawlessness against which Gottsched had protested. More effectively than Bodmer’s dry and uninspired theorizing, Klopstock’s Messias, and in a still higher degree, his Odes, laid the foundations of modern German literature in the 18th century. His immediate followers, it is true, did not help to advance matters; Bodmer and J. K. Lavater (1741–1801), whose “physiognomic” investigations interested Goethe at a later date, wrote dreary and now long forgotten epics on religious themes. Klopstock’s rhapsodic dramas, together with Macpherson’s Ossian, which in the ’sixties awakened a widespread enthusiasm throughout Germany, were responsible for the so-called “bardic” movement; but the noisy rhapsodies of the leaders of this movement, the “bards” H. W. von Gerstenberg (1737–1823), K. F. Kretschmann (1738–1809) and Michael Denis (1729–1800), had little of the poetic inspiration of Klopstock’s Odes.
The indirect influence of Klopstock as the first inspired poet of modern Germany and as the realization of Bodmer’s theories can, however, hardly be over-estimated. Under Frederick the Great, who, as the docile pupil of French culture, had little sympathy for unregulated displays of feeling, neither Klopstock nor his imitators were in favour in Berlin, but at the university of Halle considerable interest was taken in the movement inaugurated by Bodmer. Here, before Klopstock’s name was known at all, two young poets, J. I. Pyra (1715–1744) and S. G. Lange (1711–1781), wrote Freundschaftliche Lieder (1737), which were direct forerunners of Klopstock’s rhymeless lyric poetry; and although the later Prussian poets, J. W. L. Gleim (1719–1803), J. P. Uz (1720–1796) and J. N. Götz (1721–1781), who were associated with Halle, and K. W. Ramler (1725–1798) in Berlin, cultivated mainly the Anacreontic and the Horatian ode—artificial forms, which kept strictly within the classic canon—yet Friedrich von Hagedorn (1708–1754) in Hamburg showed to what perfection even the Anacreontic and the lighter vers de société could be brought. The Swiss physiologist Albrecht von Haller (1708–1777) was the first German poet to give expression to the beauty and sublimity of Alpine scenery (Die Alpen, 1734), and a Prussian officer, Ewald Christian von Kleist (1715–1759), author of Der Frühling (1749), wrote the most inspired nature-poetry of this period. Klopstock’s supreme importance lay, however, in the fact that he was a forerunner of the movement of Sturm und Drang. But before turning to that movement we must consider two writers who, strictly speaking, also belong to the age under consideration—Lessing and Wieland.
As Klopstock had been the first of modern Germany’s inspired poets, so Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) was the first critic who brought credit to the German name throughout Europe. He was the most liberal-minded exponent of 18th-century rationalism. Like his predecessor Gottsched, whom he vanquished more effectually than Bodmer had done, he had unwavering faith in the classic canon, but “classic” meant for him, as for his contemporary, J. J. Winckelmann (1717–1768), Greek art and literature, and not the products of French pseudo-classicism, which it had been Gottsched’s object to foist on Germany. He went, indeed, still further, and asserted that Shakespeare, with all his irregularities, was a more faithful observer of the spirit of Aristotle’s laws, and consequently a greater poet, than were the French classic writers. He looked to England and not to France for the regeneration of the German theatre, and his own dramas were pioneer-work in this direction. Miss Sara Sampson (1755) is a bürgerliche Tragödie on the lines of Lillo’s Merchant of London, Minna von Barnhelm (1767), a comedy in the spirit of Farquhar; in Emilia Galotti (1772), again with English models in view, he remoulded the “tragedy of common life” in a form acceptable to the Sturm und Drang; and finally in Nathan der Weise (1779) he won acceptance for iambic blank verse as the medium of the higher drama. His two most promising disciples—J. F. von Cronegk (1731–1758), and J. W. von Brawe (1738–1758)—unfortunately died young, and C. F. Weisse (1726–1804) was not gifted enough to advance the drama in its literary aspects. Lessing’s name is associated with Winckelmann’s in Laokoon (1766), a treatise in which he set about defining the boundaries between painting, sculpture and poetry, and with those of the Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) and the Berlin bookseller C. F. Nicolai (1733–1811) in the famous Literaturbriefe. Here Lessing identified himself with the best critical principles of the rationalistic movement—principles which, in the later years of his life, he employed in a fierce onslaught on Lutheran orthodoxy and intolerance.
To the widening and deepening of the German imagination C. M. Wieland (1733–1813) also contributed, but in a different way. Although no enemy of pseudo-classicism, he broke with the stiff dogmatism of Gottsched and his friends, and tempered the pietism of Klopstock by introducing the Germans to the lighter poetry of the south of Europe. With the exception of his fairy epic Oberon (1780), Wieland’s work has fallen into neglect; he did, however, excellent service to the development of German prose fiction with his psychological novel, Agathon (1766–1767), which may be regarded as a forerunner of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, and with his humorous satire Die Abderiten (1774). Wieland had a considerable following, both among poets and prose writers; he was particularly looked up to in Austria, towards the end of the 18th century, where the literary movement advanced more slowly than in the north. Here Aloys Blumauer (1755–1789) and J. B. von Alxinger (1755–1797) wrote their travesties and epics under his influence. In Saxony, M. A. von Thümmel (1738–1817) showed his adherence to Wieland’s school in his comic epic in prose, Wilhelmine (1764), and in the general tone of his prose writings; on the other hand, K. A. Kortum (1745–1824), author of the most popular comic epic of the time, Die Jobsiade (1784), was but little influenced by Wieland. The German novel owed much to the example of Agathon, but the groundwork and form were borrowed from English models; Gellert had begun by imitating Richardson in his Schwedische Gräfin (1747–1748), and he was followed by J. T. Hermes (1738–1821), by Wieland’s friend Sophie von Laroche (1730–1807), by A. von Knigge (1752–1796) and J. K. A. Musäus (1735–1787), the last mentioned being, however, best known as the author of a collection of Volksmärchen (1782–1786). Meanwhile a rationalism, less materialistic and strict than that of Wolff, was spreading rapidly through educated middle-class society in Germany. Men like Knigge, Moses Mendelssohn, J. G. Zimmermann (1728–1795), T. G. von Hippel (1741–1796), Christian Garve (1742–1798), J. J. Engel (1741–1802), as well as the educational theorists J. B. Basedow (1723–1790) and J. H. Pestalozzi (1746–1827), wrote books and essays on “popular philosophy” which were as eagerly read as the moralische Wochenschriften of the preceding epoch; and with this group of writers must also be associated the most brilliant of German 18th-century satirists, G. C. Lichtenberg (1742–1799).
Such was the milieu from which sprang the most advanced pioneer of the classical epoch of modern German literature, J. G. Herder (1744–1803). The transition from the popular philosophers of the Aufklärung to Herder was due in the first instance to the influence of Rousseau; and in Germany itself that transition is represented by men like Thomas Abbt (1738–1766) and J. G. Hamann (1730–1788). The revolutionary nature of Herder’s thought lay in that writer’s antipathy to hard and fast systems, to laws imposed upon genius; he grasped, as no thinker before him, the idea of historical evolution. By regarding the human race as the product of a slow evolution from primitive conditions, he revolutionized the methods and standpoint of historical science and awakened an interest—for which, of course, Rousseau had prepared the way—in the early history of mankind. He himself collected and published the Volkslieder of all nations (1778–1779), and drew attention to those elements in German life and art which were, in the best and most precious sense, national—elements which his predecessors had despised as inconsistent with classic formulae and systems. Herder is thus not merely the forerunner, but the actual founder of the literary movement known as Sturm und Drang. New ground was broken in a similar way by a group of poets, who show the results of Klopstock’s influence on the new literary movement: the Göttingen “Bund” or “Hain,” a number of young students who met together in 1772, and for several years published their poetry in the Göttinger Musenalmanach. With the exception of the two brothers, Ch. zu Stolberg (1748–1821) and F. L. zu Stolberg (1750–1819), who occupied a somewhat peculiar position in the “Bund,” the members of this coterie were drawn from the peasant class of the lower bourgeoisie; J. H. Voss (1751–1826), the leader of the “Bund,” was a typical North German peasant, and his idyll, Luise (1784), gives a realistic picture of German provincial life. L. H. C. Hölty (1748–1776) and J. M. Miller (1750–1814), again, excelled in simple lyrics in the tone of the Volkslied. Closely associated with the Göttingen group were M. Claudius (1740–1815), the Wandsbecker Bote—as he was called after the journal he edited—an even more unassuming and homely representative of the German peasant in literature than Voss, and G. A. Bürger (1748–1794) who contributed to the Göttinger Musenalmanach ballads, such as the famous Lenore (1774), of the very first rank. These ballads were the best products of the Göttingen school, and, together with Goethe’s Strassburg and Frankfort songs, represent the highest point touched by the lyric and ballad poetry of the period.
But the Göttingen “Bund” stood somewhat aside from the main movement of literary development in Germany; it was only a phase of Sturm und Drang, and quieter, less turbulent than that on which Goethe had set the stamp of his personality. Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832) had, as a student in Leipzig (1765–1768), written lyrics in the Anacreontic vein and dramas in alexandrines. But in Strassburg, where he went to continue his studies in 1770–1771, he made the personal acquaintance of Herder, who won his interest for the new literary movement. Herder imbued him with his own ideas of the importance of primitive history and Gothic architecture and inspired him with a pride in German nationality; Herder convinced him that there was more genuine poetry in a simple Volkslied than in all the ingenuity of the German imitators of Horace or Anacreon; above all, he awakened his enthusiasm for Shakespeare. The pamphlet Von deutscher Art und Kunst (1773), to which, besides Goethe and Herder, the historian Justus Möser (1720–1794) also contributed, may be regarded as the manifesto of the Sturm und Drang. The effect on Goethe of the new ideas was instantaneous; they seemed at once to set his genius free, and from 1771 to 1775 he was extraordinarily fertile in poetic ideas and creations. His Götz von Berlichingen (1771–1773), the first drama of the Sturm und Drang, was followed within a year by the first novel of the movement, Werthers Leiden (1774); he dashed off Clavigo and Stella in a few weeks in 1774 and 1775, and wrote a large number of Singspiele, dramatic satires and fragments—including Faust in its earliest form (the so-called Urfaust)—not to mention love-songs which at last fulfilled the promise of Klopstock. Goethe’s lyrics were no less epoch-making than his first drama and novel, for they put an end to the artificiality which for centuries had fettered German lyric expression. In all forms of literature he set the fashion to his time; the Shakespearian restlessness of Götz von Berlichingen found enthusiastic imitators in J. M. R. Lenz (1751–1792), whose Anmerkungen übers Theater (1774) formulated theoretically the laws, or defiance of laws, of the new drama, in F. M. von Klinger (1752–1831), J. A. Leisewitz (1752–1806), H. L. Wagner (1747–1779) and Friedrich Müller, better known as Maler Müller (1749–1825): The dramatic literature of the Sturm und Drang was its most characteristic product—indeed, the very name of the movement was borrowed from a play by Klinger; it was inspired, as Götz von Berlichingen had been, by the desire to present upon the stage figures of Shakespearian grandeur impelled and tortured by gigantic passions, all considerations of plot, construction and form being regarded as subordinate to the development of character. The fiction of the Sturm und Drang, again, was in its earlier stages dominated by Werthers Leiden, as may be seen in the novels of F. H. Jacobi (1743–1819) and J. M. Miller, who has been already mentioned. Later, in the hands of J. J. W. Heinse (1749–1803), author of Ardinghello (1787), Klinger, K. Ph. Moritz (1757–1793), whose Anton Reiser (1785) clearly foreshadows Wilhelm Meister, it reflected not merely the sentimentalism, but also the philosophic and artistic ideas of the period.
With the production of Die Räuber (1781) by Johann Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805), the drama of the Sturm und Drang entered upon a new development. Although hardly less turbulent in spirit than the work of Klinger and Leisewitz, Schiller’s tragedy was more skilfully adapted to the exigencies of the theatre; his succeeding dramas, Fiesco and Kabale und Liebe, were also admirable stage-plays, and in Don Carlos (1787) he abandoned prose for the iambic blank verse which Lessing had made acceptable in Nathan der Weise. The “practical” character of the new drama is also to be seen in the work of Schiller’s contemporary, O. von Gemmingen (1755–1836), the imitator of Diderot, in the excellent domestic dramas of the actors F. L. Schröder (1744–1816) and A. W. Iffland (1759–1814), and even in the popular medieval plays, the so-called Ritterdramen of which Götz von Berlichingen was the model. Germany owes to the Sturm und Drang her national theatre; permanent theatres were established in these years at Hamburg, Mannheim, Gotha, and even at Vienna, which, as may be seen from the dramas of C. H. von Ayrenhoff (1733–1819), had hardly then advanced beyond Gottsched’s ideal of a national literature. The Hofburgtheater of Vienna, the greatest of all the German stages, was virtually founded in 1776.
(b) German Classical Literature.—The energy of the Sturm und Drang, which was essentially iconoclastic in its methods, soon exhausted itself. For Goethe this phase in his development came to an end with his departure for Weimar in 1775, while, after writing Don Carlos (1787), Schiller turned from poetry to the study of history and philosophy. These subjects occupied his attention almost exclusively for several years, and not until the very close of the century did he, under the stimulus of Goethe’s friendship, return to the drama. The first ten years of Goethe’s life in Weimar were comparatively unproductive; he had left the Sturm und Drang behind him; its developments, for which he himself had been primarily responsible, were distasteful to him; and he had not yet formed a new creed. Under the influence of the Weimar court, where classic or even pseudo-classic tastes prevailed, he was gradually finding his way to a form of literary art which should reconcile the humanistic ideals of the 18th century with the poetic models of ancient Greece. But he did not arrive at clearness in his ideas until after his sojourn in Italy (1786–1788), an episode of the first importance for his mental development. Italy was, in the first instance, a revelation to Goethe of the antique; he had gone to Italy to find realized what Winckelmann had taught, and here he conceived that ideal of a classic literature, which for the next twenty years dominated German literature and made Weimar its metropolis. In Italy he gave Iphigenie auf Tauris (1787) its final form, he completed Egmont (1788)—like the exactly contemporary Don Carlos of Schiller, a kind of bridge from Sturm und Drang to classicism—and all but finished Torquato Tasso (1790). Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–1796) bears testimony to the clear and decisive views which he had acquired on all questions of art and of the practical conduct of life.
Long before Wilhelm Meister appeared, however, German thought and literature had arrived at that stability and self-confidence which are the most essential elements in a great literary period. In the year of Lessing’s death, 1781, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), the great philosopher, had published his Kritik der reinen Vernunft, and this, together with the two later treatises, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788) and Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790), placed the Germans in the front rank of thinking nations. Under the influence of Kant, Schiller turned from the study of history to that of philosophy and more especially aesthetics. His philosophic lyrics, his treatises on Anmut und Würde, on the Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen (1795), and Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung (1795) show, on the philosophic and the critical side, the movement of the century from the irresponsible subjectivity of Sturm und Drang to the calm idealism of classic attainment. In the same way, German historical writing had in these years, under the leadership of men like Justus Möser, Thomas Abbt, I. Iselin, F. C. Schlosser, Schiller himself and, greatest of all, Johannes von Müller (1752–1809), advanced from disconnected, unsystematic chronicling to a clearly thought-out philosophic and scientific method. J. G. A. Forster (1754–1794), who had accompanied Cook round the world, and Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), gave Germany models of clear and lucid descriptive writing. In practical politics and economics, when once the unbalanced vagaries of undiluted Rousseauism had fallen into discredit, Germany produced much wise and temperate thinking which prevented the spread of the French Revolution to Germany, and provided a practical basis on which the social and political fabric could be built up anew, after the Revolution had made the old régime impossible in Europe. Men like Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) and the philosopher J. G. Fichte (1762–1814) were, in two widely different spheres, representative of this type of intellectual eminence.
Meanwhile, in 1794, that friendship between Goethe and Schiller had begun, which lasted, unbroken, until the younger poet’s death in 1805. These years mark the summit of Goethe and Schiller’s classicism, and the great epoch of Weimar’s history as a literary focus. Schiller’s treatises had provided a theoretical basis; his new journal, Die Horen, might be called the literary organ of the movement—although in this respect the subsequent Musenalmanach, in which the two poets published their magnificent ballad poetry, had more value. Goethe, as director of the ducal theatre, could to a great extent control dramatic production in Germany. Under his encouragement, Schiller turned from philosophy to poetry and wrote the splendid series of classic dramas beginning with the trilogy of Wallenstein and closing with Wilhelm Tell and the fragment of Demetrius; while to Goethe we owe, above all, the epic of Hermann und Dorothea. Less important were the latter’s severely classical plays Die natürliche Tochter and Pandora; but it must not be forgotten that it was chiefly owing to Schiller’s stimulus that in those years Goethe brought the first part of Faust (1808) to a conclusion.
Although acknowledged leaders of German letters, Goethe and Schiller had considerable opposition to contend with. The Sturm und Drang had by no means exhausted itself, and the representatives of the once dominant rationalistic movement were particularly arrogant and overbearing. The literature associated with both Sturm und Drang and rationalism was at this period palpably decadent; no comparison could be made between the magnificent achievements of Goethe and Schiller, or even of Herder and Wieland with the “family” dramas of Iffland, still less with the extraordinarily popular plays of A. von Kotzebue (1761–1819), or with those bustling medieval Ritterdramen, which were especially cultivated in south Germany. There is a wide gap between Moritz’s Anton Reiser or the philosophic novels which Klinger wrote in his later years, and Goethe’s Meister; nor can the once so fervently admired novels of Jean Paul Richter (1763–1825) take a very high place. Neither the fantastic humour nor the penetrating thoughts with which Richter’s books are strewn make up for their lack of artistic form and interest; they are essentially products of Sturm und Drang. Lastly, in the province of lyric and epic poetry, it is impossible to regard poets like the gentle F. von Matthisson (1761–1831), or the less inspired G. L. Kosegarten (1758–1818) and C. A. Tiedge (1752–1841), as worthily seconding the masterpieces of Goethe and Schiller. Thus when we speak of the greatness of Germany’s classical period, we think mainly of the work of her two chief poets; the distance that separated them from their immediate contemporaries was enormous. Moreover, at the very close of the 18th century a new literary movement arose in admitted opposition to the classicism of Weimar, and to this movement, which first took definite form in the Romantic school, the sympathies of the younger generation turned. Just as in the previous generation the Sturm und Drang had been obliged to make way for a return to classic and impersonal principles of literary composition, so now the classicism of Goethe and Schiller, which had produced masterpieces like Wallenstein and Hermann und Dorothea, had to yield to a revival of individualism and subjectivity, which, in the form of Romanticism, profoundly influenced the literature of the whole 19th century.
(c) The Romantic Movement.—The first Romantic school, however, was founded, not as a protest against the classicism of Weimar, with which its leaders were in essential sympathy, but against the shallow, utilitarian rationalism of Berlin. Ludwig Tieck (1773–1853), a leading member of the school, was in reality a belated Stürmer und Dränger, who in his early years had chafed under the unimaginative tastes of the Prussian capital, and sought for a positive faith to put in their place. Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843), one of the most gifted poets of this age, demonstrates no less clearly than Tieck the essential affinity between Sturm und Drang and Romanticism; he, too, forms a bridge from the one individualistic movement to the other. The theoretic basis of Romanticism was, however, established by the two brothers, August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel (1767–1845 and 1772–1829), who, accepting, in great measure, Schiller’s aesthetic conclusions, adapted them to the needs of their own more subjective attitude towards literature. While Schiller, like Lessing before him, insisted on the critic’s right to sit in judgment according to a definite code of principles, these Romantic critics maintained that the first duty of criticism was to understand and appreciate; the right of genius to follow its natural bent was sacred. The Herzensergiessungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders by Tieck’s school-friend W. H. Wackenroder (1773–1798) contained the Romantic art-theory, while the hymns and fragmentary novels of Friedrich von Hardenberg (known as Novalis, 1772–1801), and the dramas and fairy tales of Tieck, were the characteristic products of Romantic literature. The universal sympathies of the movement were exemplified by the many admirable translations—greatest of all, Schlegel’s Shakespeare (1797–1810)—which were produced under its auspices. Romanticism was essentially conciliatory in its tendencies, that is to say, it aimed at a reconciliation of poetry with other provinces of social and intellectual life; the hard and fast boundaries which the older critics had set up as to what poetry might and might not do, were put aside, and the domain of literature was regarded as co-extensive with life itself; painting and music, philosophy and ethics, were all accepted as constituent elements of or aids to Romantic poetry. Fichte, and to a much greater extent, F. W. J. von Schelling (1775–1854) were the exponents of the Romantic doctrine in philosophy, while the theologian F. E. D. Schleiermacher (1768–1834) demonstrated how vital the revival of individualism was for religious thought.
The Romantic school, whose chief members were the brothers Schlegel, Tieck, Wackenroder and Novalis, was virtually founded in 1798, when the Schlegels began to publish their journal the Athenaeum; but the actual existence of the school was of very short duration. Wackenroder and Novalis died young, and by the year 1804 the other members were widely separated. Two years later, however, another phase of Romanticism became associated with the town of Heidelberg. The leaders of this second or younger Romantic school were K. Brentano (1778–1842), L. A. von Arnim (1781–1831) and J. J. von Görres (1776–1848), their organ, corresponding to the Athenaeum, was the Zeitung für Einsiedler, or Tröst-Einsamkeit, and their most characteristic production the collection of Volkslieder, published under the title Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1805–1808). Compared with the earlier school the Heidelberg writers were more practical and realistic, more faithful to nature and the commonplace life of everyday. They, too, were interested in the German past and in the middle ages, but they put aside the idealizing glasses of their predecessors and kept to historic truth; they wrote historical novels, not stories of an imaginary medieval world as Novalis had done, and when they collected Volkslieder and Volksbücher, they refrained from decking out the simple tradition with musical effects, or from heightening the poetic situation by “Romantic irony.” Their immediate influence on German intellectual life was consequently greater; they stimulated and deepened the interest of the German people in their own past; and we owe to them the foundations of the study of German philology and medieval literature, both the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm (1785–1863 and 1786–1859) having been in touch with this circle in their early days. Again, the Heidelberg poets strengthened the national and patriotic spirit of their people; they prepared the way for the rising against Napoleon, which culminated in the year 1813, and produced that outburst of patriotic song, associated with E. M. Arndt (1769–1860), K. Th. Körner (1791–1813) and M. von Schenkendorf (1783–1817).
The subsequent history of Romanticism stands in close relation to the Heidelberg school, and when, about 1809, the latter broke up, and Arnim and Brentano settled in Berlin, the Romantic movement followed two clearly marked lines of development, one north German, the other associated with Württemberg. The Prussian capital, hotbed of rationalism as it was, had, from the first, been intimately associated with Romanticism; the first school had virtually been founded there, and north Germans, like Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) and Zacharias Werner (1768–1823)had done more for the development of the Romantic drama than had the members of either Romantic school. These men, and more especially Kleist, Prussia’s greatest dramatic poet, showed how the capricious Romantic ideas could be brought into harmony with the classic tradition established by Schiller, how they could be rendered serviceable to the national theatre. At the same time, Berlin was not a favourable soil for the development of Romantic ideas, and the circle of poets which gathered round Arnim and Brentano there, either themselves demonstrated the decadence of these ideas, or their work contained elements which in subsequent years hastened the downfall of the movement. Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777–1843), for instance, shows how easy it was for the medieval tastes of the Romanticists to degenerate into mediocre novels and plays, hardly richer in genuine poetry than were the productions of the later Sturm und Drang; and E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822), powerful genius though he was, cultivated with preference in his stories, a morbid super-naturalism, which was only a decadent form of the early Romantic delight in the world of fairies and spirits. The lyric was less sensitive to baleful influences, but even here the north German Romantic circle could only point to one lyric poet of the first rank, J. von Eichendorff (1788–1857); while in the poetry of A. von Chamisso (1781–1838) the volatile Romantic spirituality is too often wanting. Others again, like Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866), sought the inspiration which Romanticism was no longer able to give, in the East; still another group, of which Wilhelm Müller (1794–1827) is the chief representative, followed Byron’s example and awakened German sympathy for the oppressed Greeks and Poles.
Apart from Eichendorff, the vital lyric poetry of the third and last phase of Romanticism must be looked for in the Swabian school, which gathered round Uhland. Ludwig Uhland (1787–1862) was himself a disciple of the Heidelberg poets, and, in his lyrics and especially in his ballads, he succeeded in grafting the lyricism of the Romantic school on to the traditions of German ballad poetry which had been handed down from Bürger, Schiller and Goethe. But, as was the case with so many other disciples of the Heidelberg Romanticists, Uhland’s interest in the German past was the serious interest of the scholar rather than the purely poetic interest of the earlier Romantic poets. The merit of the Swabian circle, the chief members of which were J. Kerner (1786–1862), G. Schwab (1792–1850), W. Waiblinger (1804–1830), W. Hauff (1802–1827) and, most gifted of all, E. Mörike (1804–1875) was that these writers preserved the Romantic traditions from the disintegrating influences to which their north German contemporaries were exposed. They introduced few new notes into lyric poetry, but they maintained the best traditions intact, and when, a generation later, the anti-Romantic movement of “Young Germany” had run its course, it was to Württemberg Germany looked for a revival of the old Romantic ideas.
Meanwhile, in the background of all these phases of Romantic evolution, through which Germany passed between 1798 and 1832, stands the majestic and imposing figure of Goethe. Personally he had in the early stages of the movement been opposed to that reversion to subjectivity and lawlessness which the first Romantic school seemed to him to represent; to the end of his life he regarded himself as a “classic,” not a “romantic” poet. But, on the other hand, he was too liberal-minded a thinker and critic to be oblivious to the fruitful influence of the new movement. Almost without exception he judged the young poets of the new century fairly, and treated them sympathetically and kindly; he was keenly alive to the new—and for the most part “unclassical”—development of literature in England, France and Italy; and his own published work, above all, the first part of Faust (1808), Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809), Dichtung und Wahrheit (1811–1814, a final volume in 1833), Westöstlicher Divan (1819), Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (1821–1829) and the second part of Faust (published in 1832 after the poet’s death), stood in no antagonism to the Romantic ideas of their time. One might rather say that Goethe was the bond between the two fundamental literary movements of the German classical age; that his work achieved that reconciliation of “classic” and “romantic” which, rightly regarded, was the supreme aim of the Romantic school itself.
VI. German Literature since Goethe (1832–1906)
(a) Young Germany.—With Goethe’s death a great age in German poetry came to a close. Long before 1832 Romanticism had, as we have seen, begun to lose ground, and the July revolution of 1830, the effects of which were almost as keenly felt in Germany as in France, gave the movement its death-blow. Meanwhile the march of ideas in Germany itself had not been favourable to Romanticism. Schelling had given place to G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), now the dominant force in German philosophy, and the Hegelian metaphysics proved as unfruitful an influence on literature as that of Fichte and Schelling had been fruitful. The transference of Romantic ideas to the domain of practical religion and politics had proved reactionary in its effects; Romanticism became the cloak for a kind of Neo-catholicism, and Romantic politics, as enunciated by men like F. von Gentz (1764–1832) and Adam Müller (1779–1829), served as an apology for the Metternich régime in Austria. Only at the universities—in Göttingen, Heidelberg and Berlin—did the movement continue, in the best sense, to be productive; German philology, German historical science and German jurisprudence benefited by Romantic ideas, long after Romantic poetry had fallen into decay. The day of Romanticism was clearly over; but a return to the classic and humanitarian spirit of the 18th century was impossible. The social condition of Europe had been profoundly altered by the French Revolution; the rise of industrialism had created new economic problems, the march of science had overturned old prejudices. And in a still higher degree were the ideas which lay behind the social upheaval of the July revolution incompatible with a reversion in Germany to the conditions of Weimar classicism. There was, moreover, no disguising the fact that Goethe himself did not stand high with the younger generation of German writers who came into power after his death.
“Young Germany” did not form a school in the sense in which the word was used by the early Romanticists; the bond of union was rather the consequence of political persecution. In December 1835 the German “Bund” issued a decree suppressing the writings of the “literary school” known as “Young Germany,” and mentioned by name Heinrich Heine, Karl Gutzkow, Ludolf Wienbarg, Theodor Mundt and Heinrich Laube. Of these men, Heine (1797–1856) was by far the most famous. He had made his reputation in 1826 and 1827 with Die Harzreise and Das Buch der Lieder, both of which books show how deeply he was immersed in the Romantic traditions. But Heine felt perhaps more acutely than any other man of his time how the ground was slipping away from beneath his feet; he repudiated the Romantic movement and hailed the July revolution as the first stage in the “liberation of humanity”; while ultimately he sought in France the freedom and intellectual stimulus which Germany withheld from him. Heine suffered from having been born in an age of transition; he was unable to realize in a wholehearted way all that was good in the new movement, which he had embraced so warmly; his optimism was counteracted by doubts as to whether, after all, life had not been better in that old Romantic Germany of his childhood for which, to the last, he retained so warm an affection. Personal disappointments and unhappiness added to the bitterness of Heine’s nature, and the supremely gifted lyric poet and the hardly less gifted satirist were overshadowed by the cynic from whose biting wit nothing was safe.
Heine’s contemporary and—although he was not mentioned in the decree against the school—fellow-fighter, Ludwig Börne (1786–1837), was a more characteristic representative of the “Young German” point of view; for he was free from Romantic prejudices. Börne gave vent to his enthusiasm for France in eloquent Briefe aus Paris (1830–1833), which form a landmark of importance in the development of German prose style. With Karl Gutzkow (1811–1878), who was considerably younger than either Heine or Börne, the more positive aspects of the “Young German” movement begin to be apparent. He, too, had become a man of letters under the influence of the July revolution, and with an early novel, Wally, die Zweiflerin (1835), which was then regarded as atheistic and immoral, he fought in the battle for the new ideas. His best literary work, however, was the comedies with which he enriched the German stage of the ’forties, and novels like Die Ritter vom Geiste (1850–1851), and Der Zauberer von Rom (1858–1861), which have to be considered in connexion with the later development of German fiction. Heinrich Laube (1806–1884), who, as the author of lengthy social novels, and Reisenovellen in the style of Heine’s Reisebilder, was one of the leaders of the new movement, is now only remembered as Germany’s greatest theatre-director. Laube’s connexion (1850–1867) with the Burgtheater of Vienna forms one of the most brilliant periods in the history of the modern stage. Heine and Börne, Gutzkow and Laube—these were the leading spirits of “Young Germany”; in their train followed a host of lesser men, who to the present generation are hardly even names. In the domain of scholarship and learning the “Young German” movement was associated with the supremacy of Hegelianism, the leading spirits being D. F. Strauss (1808–1874), author of the Leben Jesu (1835), the historians G. G. Gervinus (1805–1871) and W. Menzel (1798–1873), and the philosopher L. A. Feuerbach (1804–1872), who, although a disciple of Hegel, ultimately helped to destroy the latter’s influence.
Outside the immediate circle of “Young Germany,” other tentative efforts were made to provide a substitute for the discredited literature of Romanticism. The historical novel, for instance, which Romanticists like Arnim had cultivated, fell at an early date under the influence of Sir Walter Scott; Wilhelm Hauff, Heinrich Zschokke (1771–1848) and K. Spindler (1796–1855) were the most prominent amidst the many imitators of the Scottish novelist. The drama, again, which since Kleist and Werner had been without definite principles, was, partly under Austrian influence, finding its way back to a condition of stability. In Germany proper, the men into whose hands it fell were, on the one hand, undisciplined geniuses such as C. D. Grabbe (1801–1836), or, on the other, poets with too little theatrical blood in their veins like K. L. Immermann (1796–1840), or with too much, like E. von Raupach (1784–1852), K. von Holtei (1798–1880) and Adolf Müllner (1774–1829)—the last named being the chief representative of the so-called Schicksalstragödie. In those years the Germans were more seriously interested in their opera, which, under C. M. Weber, H. A. Marschner, A. Lortzing and O. Nicolai, remained faithful to the Romantic spirit. In Austria, however, the drama followed lines of its own; here, at the very beginning of the century, H. J. von Collin (1771–1811) attempted in Regulus and other works to substitute for the lifeless pseudo-classic tragedy of Ayrenhoff the classic style of Schiller. His attempt is the more interesting, as the long development that had taken place in Germany between Gottsched and Schiller was virtually unrepresented in Austrian literature. M. von Collin (1779–1824), a younger brother of H. J. von Collin, did a similar service for the Romantic drama. Franz Grillparzer (1791–1872), Austria’s greatest poet, began in the school of Müllner with a “fate drama,” but soon won an independent place for himself; more successfully than any other dramatist of the century, he carried out that task which Kleist had first seriously faced, the reconciliation of the classicism of Goethe and Schiller with the Romantic and modern spirit of the 19th century. It is from this point of view that works like Das goldene Vliess (1820), König Ottokars Glück und Ende (1825), Der Traum, ein Leben (1834) and Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen (1831) must be regarded. As far as the poetic drama was concerned, Grillparzer stood alone, for E. F. J. von Münch-Bellinghausen (1806–1871), his most promising contemporary, once so popular under the pseudonym of Friedrich Halm, soon fell back into the trivial sentimentality of the later Romanticists. In other forms of dramatic literature Austria could point to many distinguished writers, notably the comedy-writer, E. von Bauernfeld (1802–1890), while a host of playwrights, chief of whom were F. Raimund (1790–1836) and J. Nestroy (1801–1862), cultivated the popular Viennese farce and fairy-play. Thus, in spite of Metternich’s censorship of the drama, the Viennese theatre was, in the first half of the 19th century, in closer touch with literature than that of any other German centre.
The transitional character of the age is best illustrated by two eminent writers whom outward circumstances rather than any similarity of character and aim have classed together. These were K. L. Immermann, who has been already mentioned, and A. von Platen-Hallermund (1796–1835). Immermann’s dramas were of little practical value to the theatre, but one at least, Merlin (1832), is a dramatic poem of great beauty. In his novels, however, Die Epigonen (1836) and Münchhausen (1838–1839), Immermann was the spokesman of his time. He looked backwards rather than forwards; he saw himself as the belated follower of a great literary age rather than as the pioneer of a new one. The bankruptcy of Romanticism and the poetically arid era of “Young Germany” left him little confidence in the future. Platen, on the other hand, went his own way; he, too, was the antagonist both of Romanticism and “Young Germany,” and with Immermann himself he came into sharp conflict. But in his poetry he showed himself indifferent to the strife of contending literary schools. He began as an imitator of the German oriental poets—the only Romanticists with whom he had any personal sympathy—and with his matchless Sonette aus Venedig (1825) he stands out as a master in the art of verse-writing and as the least subjective of all German lyric poets. In the imitation of Romance metres he sought a refuge from the extravagances and excesses of the Romantic decadence.
Meanwhile the political side of the “Young German” movement, which the German Bund aimed at stamping out, gained rapidly in importance under the influence of the unsettled political conditions between the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. The early ’forties were in German literature marked by an extraordinary outburst of political poetry, which may be aptly compared with the national and patriotic lyric evoked by the year 1813. The principles which triumphed in France at the revolution of 1848 were, to a great extent, fought out by the German singers of 1841 and 1842. Begun by mediocre talents like N. Becker (1809–1845) and R. E. Prutz (1816–1872), the movement found a vigorous champion in Georg Herwegh (1817–1875), who in his turn succeeded in winning Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876) for the revolutionary cause. Others joined in the cry for freedom—F. Dingelstedt (1814–1881), A. H. Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798–1874), and a number of Austrians, who had even more reason for rebellion and discontent than the north Germans. But the best Austrian political poetry, the Spaziergänge eines Wiener Poeten, 1831, by “Anastasius Grün” (Graf A. A. von Auersperg, 1806–1876), belonged to a decade earlier. The political lyric culminated in and ended with the year 1848; the revolutionists of the ’forties were, if not appeased, at least silenced by the revolution which in their eyes had effected so little. If Freiligrath be excepted, the chief lyric poets of this epoch stood aside from the revolutionary movement; even E. Geibel (1815–1884), the representative poet of the succeeding age, was only temporarily interested in the political movement, and his best work is of a purely lyric character. M. von Strachwitz’s (1822–1847) promising talent did not flourish in the political atmosphere; Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797–1848), and the Austrian, Nikolaus Lenau (1802–1850), both stand far removed from the world of politics; they are imbued with that pessimistic resignation which is, more or less, characteristic of all German literature between 1850 and 1870.
(b) Mid-Century Literature.—When once the revolution of 1848 was over, a spirit of tranquillity came over German letters; but it was due rather to the absence of confidence in the future than to any hopefulness or real content. The literature of the middle of the century was not wanting in achievement, but there was nothing buoyant or youthful about it; most significant of all, the generation between 1848 and 1880 was either oblivious or indifferent to the good work and to the new and germinating ideas which it produced. Hegel, who held the earlier half of the 19th century in his ban, was still all-powerful in the universities, but his power was on the wane in literature and public life. The so-called “Hegelian Left” had advanced so far as to have become incompatible with the original Hegelianism; the new social and economic theories did not fit into the scheme of Hegelian collectivism; the interest in natural science—fostered by the popular books of J. Moleschott (1822–1893), Karl Vogt (1817–1895) and Ludwig Büchner (1824–1899)—created a healthy antidote to the Hegelian metaphysics. In literature and art, on which Hegel, as we have seen, had exerted so blighting an influence, his place was taken by the chief exponent of philosophic pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860). Schopenhauer’s antagonism to Hegelianism was of old standing, for his chief work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, had appeared as far back as 1819; but the century was more than half over before the movement of ideas had, as it were, caught up with him, before pessimism became a dominant force in intellectual life.
The literature produced between 1850 and 1870 was preeminently one of prose fiction. The beginnings which the “Young German” school had made to a type of novel dealing with social problems—the best example is Gutzkow’s Ritter vom Geiste—developed rapidly in this succeeding epoch. Friedrich Spielhagen (born 1829) followed immediately in Gutzkow’s footsteps, and in a series of romances from Problematische Naturen (1860) to Sturmflut (1876), discussed in a militant spirit that recalls Laube and Gutzkow the social problems which agitated German life in these decades. Gustav Freytag (1816–1895), although an older man, freed himself more successfully from the “Young German” tradition; his romance of German commercialism, Soll und Haben (1855), is the masterpiece of mid-century fiction of this class. Less successful was Freytag’s subsequent attempt to transfer his method to the milieu of German academic life in Die verlorene Handschrift (1864). As was perhaps only natural in an age of social and political interests, the historical novel occupies a subordinate place. The influence of Scott, which in the earlier period had been strong, produced only one writer, Wilhelm Häring (“Willibald Alexis,” 1798–1871), who was more than a mere imitator of the Scottish master. In the series of six novels, from Der Roland von Berlin to Dorothe, which Alexis published between 1840 and 1856, he gave Germany, and more particularly Prussia, a historical fiction which might not unworthily be compared with the Waverley Novels. But Alexis had no successor, and the historical novel soon made way for a type of fiction in which the accurate reproduction of remote conditions was held of more account than poetic inspiration or artistic power. Such are the “antiquarian” novels of ancient Egyptian life by Georg Ebers (1837–1898), and those from primitive German history by Felix Dahn (born 1834). The vogue of historical fiction was also transferred to some extent, as in English literature, to novels of American life and adventure, of which the chief German cultivators were K. A. Postl, who wrote under the pseudonym of Charles Sealsfield (1793–1864) and Friedrich Gerstäcker (1816–1872).
Of greater importance was the fiction which owed its inspiration to the Romantic traditions that survived the “Young German” age. To this group belongs the novel of peasant and provincial life, of which Immermann had given an excellent example in Der Oberhof, a story included in the arabesque of Münchhausen. A Swiss pastor, Albrecht Bitzius, better known by his pseudonym “Jeremias Gotthelf” (1797–1854), was, however, the real founder of this class of romance; and his simple, unvarnished and naïvely didactic stories of the Swiss peasant were followed not long afterwards by the more famous Schwarzwälder Dorfgeschichten (1843–1854) of Berthold Auerbach (1812–1882). Auerbach is not by any means so naïve and realistic as Gotthelf, nor is his work free from tendencies and ideas which recall “Young German” rationalism rather than the unsophisticated life of the Black Forest; but the Schwarzwälder Dorfgeschichten exerted a decisive influence; they were the forerunners of a large body of peasant literature which described with affectionate sympathy and with a liberal admixture of dialect, south German village life. With this group of writers may also be associated the German Bohemian, A. Stifter (1805–1868), who has called up unforgettable pictures and impressions of the life and scenery of his home.
Meanwhile, the Low German peoples also benefited by the revival of an interest in dialect and peasant life; it is to the credit of Fritz Reuter (1810–1874) that he brought honour to the Plattdeutsch of the north, the dialects of which had played a fitful, but by no means negligible rôle in the earlier history of German letters. His Mecklenburg novels, especially Ut de Franzosentid (1860), Ut mine Festungstid (1863) and Ut mine Stromtid (1862–1864), are a faithful reflection of Mecklenburg life and temperament, and hold their place beside the best German fiction of the period. What Reuter did for Plattdeutsch prose, his contemporary, Klaus Groth (1819–1899), the author of Quickborn (1852), did for its verse. We owe, however, the best German prose fiction of these years to two writers, whose affinity with the older Romanticists was closer. The north German, Theodor Storm (1817–1888) is the author of a series of short stories of delicate, lyric inspiration, steeped in that elegiac Romanticism which harmonized so well with mid-century pessimism in Germany. Gottfried Keller (1819–1890), on the other hand, a native of Zürich, was a modern Romanticist of a robuster type; his magnificent autobiographical novel, Der grüne Heinrich (1854–1855), might be described as the last in the great line of Romantic fiction that had begun with Wilhelm Meister, and the short stories, Die Leute von Seldwyla (1856–1874) and Züricher Novellen (1878) are masterpieces of the first rank.
In the dramatic literature of these decades, at least as it was reflected in the repertories of the German theatres, there was little promise. French influence was, in general, predominant; French translations formed the mainstay of the theatre-directors, while successful German playwrights, such as R. Benedix (1811–1873) and Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer (1800–1868), have little claim to consideration in a literary survey. Gustav Freytag’s admirable comedy, Die Journalisten (1852), was one of the rare exceptions. But the German drama of this epoch is not to be judged solely by the theatres. At the middle of the century Germany could point to two writers who, each in his way, contributed very materially to the development of the modern drama. These were Friedrich Hebbel (1813–1863) and Otto Ludwig (1813–1865). Both of these men, as a later generation discovered, were the pioneers of that dramatic literature which at the close of the century accepted the canons of realism and aimed at superseding outward effects by psychological conflicts and problems of social life. Hebbel, especially, must be regarded as the most original and revolutionary German dramatist of the 19th century. Unlike his contemporary Grillparzer, whose aim had been to reconcile the “classic” and the “romantic” drama with the help of Spanish models, Hebbel laid the foundations of a psychological and social drama, of which the most modern interpreter has been Henrik Ibsen. Hebbel’s first tragedy, Judith, appeared in 1840, his masterpieces, Herodes und Marianne, Agnes Bernauer, Gyges und sein Ring, and the trilogy of Die Nibelungen between 1850 and 1862.
In this period of somewhat confused literary striving, there is, however, one body of writers who might be grouped together as a school, although the designation must be regarded rather as an outward accident of union than as implying conformity of aims. This is the group which Maximilian II. of Bavaria gathered round him in Munich between 1852 and 1860. A leading spirit of the group was Emanuel Geibel, who, as we have seen, set a model to the German lyric in this age; F. von Bodenstedt (1819–1892), the popular author of Mirza Schaffy; and J. V. von Scheffel (1826–1886), who, in his verse-romance, Der Trompeter von Säckingen (1854), broke a lance for a type of literature which had been cultivated somewhat earlier, but with no very conspicuous success, by men like O. von Redwitz (1823–1891) and G. Kinkel (1815–1882). The romance was, in fact, one of the favourite vehicles of poetic expression of the Munich school, its most successful exponents being J. Wolff (b. 1834) and R. Baumbach (1840–1905); while others, such as H. Lingg (1820–1905) and R. Hamerling (1830–1889) devoted themselves to the more ambitious epic. The general tone of the literary movement was pessimistic, the hopelessness of the spiritual outlook being most deeply engrained in the verse of H. Lorm (pseudonym for Heinrich Landesmann, 1821–1902) and H. Leuthold (1827–1879). On the whole, the most important member of the Munich group is Paul Heyse (b. 1830), who, as a writer of “Novellen” or short stories, may be classed with Storm and Keller. An essentially Latin genius, Heyse excels in stories of Italian life, where his lightness of touch and sense of form are shown to best advantage; but he has also written several long novels. Of these, Kinder der Welt (1873) and, in a lesser degree, Im Paradiese (1875), sum up the spirit and tendency of their time, just as, in earlier decades, Die Ritter vom Geiste, Problematische Naturen and Soll und Haben were characteristic of the periods which produced them.
(c) German Literature after 1870.—In the years immediately following the Franco-German War, the prevailing conditions were unfavourable to literary production in Germany, and the re-establishment of the empire left comparatively little trace on the national literature. All minds were for a time engrossed by the Kulturkampf, by the financial difficulties—the so-called Gründertum—due to unscrupulous speculation, and, finally, by the rapid rise of social democracy as a political force. The intellectual basis of the latter movement was laid by Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864) and Karl Marx (1818–1883), author of Das Kapital (vol. i, 1867). But even had such disturbing elements been wanting, the general tone of German intellectual life at that time was not buoyant enough to inspire a vigorous literary revival. The influence of Hegel was still strong, and the “historical” method, as enunciated in Der alte und der neue Glaube (1872) by the Hegelian D. F. Strauss, was generally accepted at the German universities. To many the compromise which H. Lotze (1817–1881) had attempted to establish between science and metaphysics, came as a relief from the Hegelian tradition, but in literature and art the dominant force was still, as before the war, the philosophy of Schopenhauer. In his Philosophie des Unbewussten (1869), E. von Hartmann (1842–1906) endeavoured to bring pessimism into harmony with idealism. In lyric poetry, the dull monotony was broken by the excitement of the war, and the singers of the revolution of 1848 were among the first to welcome the triumph and unification of Germany. At the same time, men of the older generation, like Herwegh, Freiligrath and Geibel could ill conceal a certain disappointment with the new régime; the united Germany of 1871 was not what they had dreamed of in their youth, when all hopes were set on the Frankfort parliament.
The novel continued to be what it was before 1870, the most vigorous form of German literature, but the novelists who were popular in the early ’seventies were all older men. Laube, Gutzkow and Auerbach were still writing; Fritz Reuter was a universal favourite; while among the writers of short stories, Storm, who, between 1877 and 1888, put the crown to his work with his Chroniknovellen, and Paul Heyse were the acknowledged masters. It was not until at least a decade later that the genius of Gottfried Keller was generally recognized. The historical novel seemed, in those days, beyond hope of revival. Gustav Freytag, it is true, had made the attempt in Die Ahnen (1872–1881), a number of independent historical romances linked together to form an ambitious prose epic; but there was more of the spirit of Ebers and Dahn in Freytag’s work than of the spacious art of Scott, or of Scott’s disciple, Willibald Alexis.
The drama of the ’seventies was in an even less hopeful condition than during the preceding period. The classical iambic tragedy was cultivated by the Munich school, by A. Wilbrandt (b. 1837), A. Lindner (1831–1888), H. Kruse (1815–1902), by the Austrian F. Nissel (1831–1893), and A. Fitger (b. 1840); but it was characteristic of the time that Halm was popular, while Hebbel and Grillparzer were neglected, it might even be said ignored. The most gifted German dramatist belonging exclusively to the decade between 1870 and 1880 was an Austrian, Ludwig Anzengruber (1839–1889), whose Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (1870) recalled the controversies of the Kulturkampf. This was Anzengruber’s first drama, and it was followed by a series of powerful plays dealing with the life of the Austrian peasant; Anzengruber was, indeed, one of the ablest exponents of that village life, which had attracted so many gifted writers since the days of Gotthelf and Auerbach. But the really popular dramatists of this epoch were either writers who, like Benedix in the older generation, cultivated the bourgeoise comedy—A. L’Arronge (b. 1838), G. von Moser (1825–1903), F. von Schönthan (b. 1849) and O. Blumenthal (b. 1852)—or playwrights, of whom P. Lindau (b. 1839) may be regarded as representative, who imitated French models. The only sign of progress in the dramatic history of this period was the marked improvement of the German stage, an improvement due, on the one hand, to the artistic reforms introduced by the duke of Meiningen in the Court theatre at Meiningen, and, on the other hand, to the ideals of a national theatre realized at Bayreuth by Richard Wagner (1813–1883). The greatest composer of the later 19th century is also one of Germany’s leading dramatists; and the first performance of the trilogy Der Ring der Nibelungen at Bayreuth in the summer of 1876 may be said to have inaugurated the latest epoch in the history of the German drama.
The last fifteen or twenty years of the 19th century were distinguished in Germany by a remarkable literary activity. Among the younger generation, which was growing up as citizens of the united German empire, a more hopeful and optimistic spirit prevailed. The influence of Schopenhauer was on the wane, and at the universities Hegelianism had lost its former hold. The sponsor of the new philosophic movement was Kant, the master of 18th-century “enlightenment,” and under the influence of the “neo-Kantian” movement, not merely German school philosophy, but theology also, was imbued with a healthier spirit. L. von Ranke (1795–1886) was still the dominant force in German historical science, and between 1881 and 1888 nine volumes appeared of his last great work, Weltgeschichte. Other historians of the period were H. von Sybel (1817–1895) and H. von Treitschke (1834–1896), the latter a vigorous and inspiring spokesman of the new political conditions; while J. Burckhardt (1818–1897), author of the masterly Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860) and the friend of Nietzsche, exerted an influence on German thought which was not confined to academic circles. Literary criticism perhaps benefited most of all by the dethronement of Hegel and the more objective attitude towards Schopenhauer; it seemed as if in this epoch the Germans first formed definite ideas—and ideas which were acceptable and accepted outside Germany—as to the rank and merits of their great poets. A marked change came over the nation’s attitude towards Goethe, a poet to whom, as we have seen, neither the era of Hegel nor that of Schopenhauer had been favourable; Schiller was regarded with less national prejudice, and—most important of all—amends were made by the new generation for the earlier neglect of Kleist, Grillparzer, Hebbel and Keller.
The thinker and poet who most completely embodies the spirit of this period—who dealt the Hegelian metaphysics its death-blow as far as its wider influence was concerned—was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). Nietzsche had begun as a disciple of Schopenhauer and a friend of Wagner, and he ultimately became the champion of an individualistic and optimistic philosophy which formed the sharpest possible contrast to mid-century pessimism. The individual, not the race, the Herrenmensch, not the slave, self-assertion, not self-denying renunciation—these are some of the ideas round which this new optimistic ethics turns. Nietzsche looked forward to the human race emerging from an effete culture, burdened and clogged by tradition, and re-establishing itself on a basis that is in harmony with man’s primitive instincts. Like Schopenhauer before him, Nietzsche was a stylist of the first rank, and his literary masterpiece, Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–1891), is to be regarded as the most important imaginative work of its epoch.
Nietzschean individualism was only one of many factors which contributed to the new literary development. The realistic movement, as it had manifested itself in France under Flaubert, the Goncourts, Zola and Maupassant, in Russia under Dostoievsky and Tolstoi, and in Norway under Ibsen and Björnson, was, for a time, the dominant force in Germany, and the younger generation of critics hailed it with undisguised satisfaction; most characteristic and significant of all, the centre of this revival was Berlin, which, since it had become the imperial capital, was rapidly establishing its claim to be also the literary metropolis. It was the best testimony to the vitality of the movement that it rarely descended to slavish imitation of the realistic masterpieces of other literatures; realism in Germany was, in fact, only an episode of the ’eighties, a stimulating influence rather than an accepted principle or dogma. And its suggestive character is to be seen not merely in the writings of the young Stürmer und Dränger of this time, but also in those of the older generation who, in temperament, were naturally more inclined to the ideals of a past age.
Of the novelists of the latter class, A. Wilbrandt, who has already been mentioned as a dramatist, has shown, since about 1890, a remarkable power of adapting himself, if not to the style and artistic methods of the younger school, at least to the ideas by which it was agitated; F. Spielhagen’s attitude towards the realistic movement has been invariably sympathetic, while a still older writer, Theodor Fontane (1819–1898), wrote between 1880 and 1898 a series of works in which the finer elements of French realism were grafted on the German novel. To the older school belong Wilhelm Jensen (b. 1837), and that fine humorist, Wilhelm Raabe (b. 1831), with whom may be associated as other humorists of this period, H. Seidel (1842–1906) and W. Busch (1832–1908). Some of the most interesting examples of recent German fiction come, however, from Austria and Switzerland. The two most eminent Austrian authors, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (b. 1830), and Ferdinand, von Saar (1833–1906), both excel as writers of Novellen or short stories—the latter especially being an exponent of that pessimism which is Austria’s peculiar heritage from the previous generation of her poets. Austrians too, are Peter Rosegger (b. 1843), who has won popularity with his novels of peasant life, K. E. Franzos (1848–1904) and L. von Sacher-Masoch (1835–1895). German prose fiction is, in Switzerland, represented by two writers of the first rank: one of these, Gottfried Keller, has already been mentioned; the other, Konrad Ferdinand Meyer (1825–1898), turned to literature or, at least, made his reputation, comparatively late in life. Although, like Keller, a writer of virile, original verse, Meyer is best known as a novelist; he, too, was a master of the short story. His themes are drawn by preference from the epoch of the Renaissance, and his method is characterized by an objectivity of standpoint and a purity of style exceptional in German writers.
The realistic novels of the period were written by H. Conradi (1862–1890), Max Kretzer (b. 1854), M. G. Conrad (b. 1846), H. Heiberg (b. 1840), K. Bleibtreu (b. 1859), K. Alberti (pseudonym for Konrad Sittenfeld, b. 1862) and Hermann Sudermann (b. 1857). A want of stability was, however, as has been already indicated, characteristic of the realistic movement in Germany; the idealistic trend of the German mind proved itself ill-adapted to the uncompromising realism of the French school, and the German realists, whether in fiction or in drama, ultimately sought to escape from the logical consequences of their theories. Even Sudermann, whose Frau Sorge (1887), Der Katzensteg (1889), and the brilliant, if somewhat sensational romance, Es war (1894), are among the best novels of this period, has never been a consistent realist. It is consequently not surprising to find that, before long, German fiction returned to psychological and emotional problems, to the poetical or symbolical presentation of life, which was more in harmony with the German temperament than was the robuster realism of Flaubert or Zola. This trend is noticeable in the work of Gustav Frenssen (b. 1863), whose novel Jörn Uhl (1901) was extraordinarily popular; it is also to be seen in the studies of child life and educational problems which have proved so attractive to the younger writers of the present day, such as Hermann Hesse (b. 1877), Emil Strauss (b. 1866), Rudolf Huch (b. 1862) and Friedrich Huch (b. 1873). One might say, indeed, that at the beginning of the 20th century the traditional form of German fiction, the Bildungsroman, had come into its ancient rights again. Mention ought also to be made of J. J. David (1859–1907), E. von Keyserling (b. 1858), W. Hegeler (b. 1870), G. von Ompteda (b. 1863), J. Wassermann (b. 1873), Heinrich Mann (b. 1871) and Thomas Mann (b. 1875). Buddenbrooks (1902) by the last mentioned is one of the outstanding novels of the period. Some of the best fiction of the most recent period is the work of women, the most distinguished being Helene Böhlau (b. 1859), Gabriele Reuter (b. 1859), Clara Viebig (C. Cohn-Viebig, b. 1860) and Ricarda Huch (b. 1864). Whether the latest movement in German poetry and fiction, which, under the catchword Heimatkunst, has favoured the province rather than the city, the dialect in preference to the language of the educated classes, will prove a permanent gain, it is still too soon to say, but the movement is at least a protest against the decadent tendencies of naturalism.
At no period of German letters were literature and the theatre in closer touch than at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries; more than at any previous time has the theatre become the arena in which the literary battles of the day are fought out. The general improvement in the artistic, technical and economic conditions of the German stage have already been indicated; but it was not until 1889 that the effects of these improvements became apparent in dramatic literature. Before that date, it is true, Ernst von Wildenbruch (1845–1909) had attempted to revive the historical tragedy, but the purely literary qualities of his work were handicapped by a too effusive patriotism and a Schillerian pathos; nor did the talent of Richard Voss (b. 1851) prove strong enough to effect any lasting reform. In October 1889, however, Gerhart Hauptmann’s play, Vor Sonnenaufgang, was produced on the then recently founded Freie Bühne in Berlin; and a month later, Die Ehre by Hermann Sudermann met with a more enthusiastic reception in Berlin than had fallen to the lot of any German play for more than a generation.
Hauptmann (b. 1862), the most original of contemporary German writers, stands, more or less, alone. His early plays, the most powerful of which is Die Weber (1892), were written under the influence either of an uncompromising realism, or of that modified form of realism introduced from Scandinavia; but in Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1893) he combined realism with the poetic mysticism of a child’s dream, in Florian Geyer (1895) he adapted the methods of realism to an historical subject, and in the year 1896 he, to all appearance, abandoned realism to write an allegorical dramatic poem, Die versunkene Glocke. Hauptmann’s subsequent work has oscillated between the extremes marked out by these works—from the frank naturalism of Fuhrmann Henschel (1898) and Rose Berndt (1903), to the fantastic mysticism of Der arme Heinrich (1902) and Und Pippa tanzt! (1906).
The dramatic talent of Hermann Sudermann has developed on more even lines; the success of Die Ehre was due in the first instance to the ability which Sudermann had shown in adapting the ideas of his time and the new methods of dramatic presentation to the traditional German bürgerliches Drama. This is the characteristic of the majority of the many plays which followed of which Heimat (1893), Das Glück im Winkel (1896) and Es lebe das Leben! (1902) may be mentioned as typical. With less success Sudermann attempted in Johannes (1898) a tragedy on lines suggested by Hebbel. A keen observer, a writer of brilliant and suggestive ideas, Sudermann is, above all, the practical playwright; but it is unfortunate that the theatrical element in his work too often overshadows its literary qualities.
Since 1889, the drama has occupied the foreground of interest in Germany. The permanent repertory of the German theatre has not, it is true, been much enriched, but it is at least to the credit of contemporary German playwrights that they are unwilling to rest content with their successes and are constantly experimenting with new forms. Besides Hauptmann and Sudermann, the most talented dramatists of the day are Max Halbe (b. 1865), O. E. Hartleben (1864–1905), G. Hirschfeld (b. 1873), E. Rosmer (pseudonym for Elsa Bernstein, b. 1866), Ludwig Fulda (b. 1862), Max Dreyer (b. 1862), Otto Ernst (pseudonym for O. E. Schmidt, b. 1862) and Frank Wedekind (b. 1864). In Austria, notwithstanding the preponderant influence of Berlin, the drama has retained its national characteristics, and writers like Arthur Schnitzler (b. 1862), Hermann Bahr (b. 1863), Hugo von Hofmannsthal (b. 1874) and R. Beer-Hofmann (b. 1866) have introduced symbolistic elements and peculiarly Austrian problems, which are foreign to the theatre of north Germany.
The German lyric of recent years shows a remarkable variety of new tones and pregnant poetic ideas; it has, as is natural, been more influenced by the optimism of Nietzsche—himself a lyric poet of considerable gifts—than has either novel or drama. Detlev von Liliencron (1844–1909) was one of the first to break with the traditions of the lyric as handed down from the Romantic epoch and cultivated with such facility by the Munich poets. An anthology of specifically modern lyrics, Moderne Dichtercharaktere (1885) by W. Arent (b. 1864), may be regarded as the manifesto of the movement in lyric poetry corresponding to the period of realism in fiction and the drama. Representative poets of this movement are Richard Dehmel (b. 1863), K. Henckell (b. 1864), J. H. Mackay (b. 1864 at Greenock), G. Falke (b. 1853), F. Avenarius (b. 1856), F. Evers (b. 1871), F. Dörmann (b. 1870) and K. Busse (b. 1872). A later development of the lyric—a return to mysticism and symbolism—is to be seen in the poetry of Hofmannsthal, already mentioned as a dramatist, and especially in Stefan George (b. 1868). Epic poetry, although little in harmony with the spirit of a realistic age, has not been altogether neglected. Heinrich Hart (1855–1906), one of the leading critics of the most advanced school, is also the author of an ambitious Lied der Menschheit (vols. 1-3, 1888–1896); more conservative, on the other hand, is Robespierre (1894), an epic in the style of Hamerling by an Austrian, Marie delle Grazie (b. 1864). Attention may also be drawn to the popularity which, for a few years, the so-called Überbrettl or cabaret enjoyed, a popularity which has left its mark on the latest developments of the lyric. Associated with this movement are O. J. Bierbaum (1865–1910), whose lyrics, collected in Der Irrgarten der Liebe (1901), have been extraordinarily popular, E. von Wolzogen (b. 1855) and the dramatist F. Wedekind, who has been already mentioned.
Whether or not the work that has been produced in such rich measure since the year 1889—or however much of it—is to be regarded as a permanent addition to the storehouse of German national literature, there can be no question of the serious artistic earnestness of the writers; the conditions for the production of literature in the German empire in the early years of the 20th century were eminently healthy, and herein lies the best promise for the future.
Bibliography.—(a) General Histories, Anthologies, &c.: A. Koberstein, Grundriss der Geschichte der deutschen Nationalliteratur (1827; 5th ed. by K. Bartsch, 5 vols., 1872–1874; 6th ed., vol. i., 1884); G. G. Gervinus, Geschichte der poetischen Nationalliteratur der Deutschen (5 vols., 1835–1842; 5th ed. by K. Bartsch, 1871–1874); A. F. C. Vilmar, Geschichte der deutschen Nationalliteratur (1848; 25th ed., 2 vols., 1900, with a continuation by A. Stern); W. Wackernagel, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (1851–1855; 2nd ed. by E. Martin, 1879–1894); K. Goedeke, Grundriss zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung (3 vols., 1857–1881; 2nd ed. by E. Goetze and others, in 9 vols., 1884 ff.); W. Menzel, Deutsche Dichtung von der ältesten bis auf die neueste Zeit (1858–1859); H. Kurz, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur mit ausgewählten Stücken (3 vols., 1857–1859; 7th ed., 4 vols., 1876–1882); O. Roquette, Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung (2 vols., 1862; 3rd ed., 1878–1879); W. Scherer, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (1883; 10th ed., 1905). English translation by Mrs F. C. Conybeare (2 vols., 1885; new ed., 1906); Kuno Francke, German Literature as determined by Social Forces (1896; 6th ed., 1903); F. Vogt and M. Koch, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (1897; 2nd ed., 2 vols., 1903); J. G. Robertson, History of German Literature (1902); A. Bartels, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (2 vols., 1901–1902), with the accompanying bibliographical summary, Handbuch zur Geschichte der deutschen Literatur (1906). There are also histories of the literature of separate countries and districts, such as J. Bächtold, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur in der Schweiz (1887); R. Krauss, Schwäbische Literaturgeschichte (2 vols., 1897–1899); J. W. Nagl and J. Zeidler, Deutsch-Österreichische Literaturgeschichte (2 vols., 1899 ff.). The most comprehensive collection of German literature in selections is J. Kürschner, Deutsche Nationalliteratur (222 vols., 1882–1898). Of general anthologies mention may be made of W. Wackernagel, Deutsches Lesebuch (4 vols., 1835–1872; new ed., 1882 ff.), and F. Max Müller, The German Classics from the Fourth to the Nineteenth Century (1858; ed. by F. Lichtenstein, 2 vols., 1886; new ed., 1906). For illustrations to the history of German literature, see G. Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationalliteratur (1887; 2nd ed., 1895).
(b) Special Periods: i. Old High German and Middle High German Periods: R. Kögel and W. Bruckner, “Geschichte der althochdeutschen Literatur,” and F. Vogt, “Geschichte der mittelhochdeutschen Literatur,” in H. Paul’s Grundriss der germanischen Philologie (2nd ed., vol. ii. pt. i., 1901); F. Khull, Geschichte der altdeutschen Dichtung (1886); J. Kelle, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, i.-ii. (1892–1896); R. Kögel, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, i. (1894–1897); W. Golther, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur von den ersten Anfängen bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters (in Kürschner’s Deutsche Nationalliteratur, vol. 163, pt. i., 1892); W. Scherer, Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung im 11. und 12. Jahrhundert, and by the same author, Geistliche Poeten der deutschen Kaiserzeit (both works in Quellen und Forschungen, 1874–1875); O. Lyon, Minne- und Meistersang (1882). There are numerous series of editions of medieval texts: K. Müllenhoff and W. Scherer, Denkmäler deutscher Poesie und Prosa aus den 8.-12. Jahrhundert (2 vols., 3rd ed., 1892); M. Heyne, Bibliothek der ältesten deutschen Literaturdenkmäler (14 vols., begun 1858); F. Pfeiffer, Deutsche Klassiker des Mittelalters (12 vols., begun 1865), with the supplementary Deutsche Dichtungen des Mittelalters, edited by K. Bartsch (7 vols., 1872 ff.); K. Goedeke, Deutsche Dichtung im Mittelalter (2nd ed., 1871); J. Zacher, Germanistische Handbibliothek (9 vols., begun 1869); H. Paul, Altdeutsche Textbibliothek (16 vols., begun 1882); Deutsche Texte des Mittelalters, ed. by the Berlin Academy (1904 ff.). Convenient editions of the Minnesang are K. Lachmann and M. Haupt, Des Minnesangs Frühling (4th ed. by F. Vogt, 1888), and K. Bartsch, Deutsche Liederdichter des 12. bis 14. Jahrh. (4th ed. by W. Golther, 1903).
ii. From 1350–1700.—L. Geiger, Renaissance und Humanismus in Italien und Deutschland (1882; 2nd ed. 1899); K. Borinski, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters (in Kürschner’s Deutsche Nationalliteratur, vol. 163, ii., 1898); H. Palm, Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Literatur des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (1877); C. H. Herford, Studies in the Literary Relations of England and Germany in the Sixteenth Century (1886); C. Lemcke, Von Opitz bis Klopstock, i. (1871; 2nd ed. 1882); M. von Waldberg, Deutsche Renaissance-Lyrik (1888), and Die galante Lyrik (1885); F. Bobertag, Geschichte des Romans in Deutschland, i. (to 1700) (1877–1884); K. Borinski, Die Poetik der Renaissance und die Anfänge der literarischen Kritik in Deutschland (1886). A vast quantity of the literature of these centuries has been republished by the Stuttgarter literarischer Verein (founded in 1839), whose publications now number considerably over two hundred volumes; further, W. Braune, Neudrucke deutscher Literaturwerke des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (begun 1882); K. Goedeke and J. Tittmann, Deutsche Dichter des 16. Jahrhunderts (18 vols., 1867 ff.), and Deutsche Dichter des 17. Jahrhunderts (15 vols., 1869 ff.). A valuable anthology is K. Goedeke’s Elf Bücher deutscher Dichtung von Sebastian Brant bis auf die Gegenwart (2 vols., 1849). Since 1890 the Jahresberichte für neuere deutsche Literaturgeschichte have provided an exhaustive survey of all publications dealing with modern German literature. A useful practical bibliography for English readers, covering this and the succeeding periods, is J. S. Nollen, A Chronology and Practical Bibliography of Modern German Literature (1903).
iii. The Eighteenth Century.—J. Schmidt, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur von Leibniz bis auf unsere Zeit (4 vols., 1862–1867; 2nd ed. 1886–1890); J. Hillebrand, Die deutsche Nationalliteratur im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (3 vols., 1845–1846; 3rd ed. 1875); H. Hettner, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert (4 vols., 1862–1870; 4th ed. by O. Harnack, 1893–1895); J. W. Schäfer, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur des 18. Jahrhunderts (1855–1860; 2nd ed. by F. Muncker, 1881); J. K. Mörikofer, Die schweizerische Literatur des 18. Jahrhunderts (1861); J. W. Löbell, Entwickelung der deutschen Poesie von Klopstock bis zu Goethes Tod (3 vols., 1856–1865). There are also innumerable more special treatises, such as A. Eloesser, Das bürgerliche Drama (1898); O. Brahm, Das deutsche Ritterdrama des 18. Jahrhunderts (1880), &c. Of collections of the literature of this and the following century, reference need only be made to the Bibliothek der deutschen Nationalliteratur des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, published by Brockhaus (44 vols., 1868–1891), and Deutsche Literaturdenkmale des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, edited first by B. Seuffert (1882–1894), and subsequently by A. Sauer.
iv. The Nineteenth Century.—Th. Ziegler, Die geistigen und sozialen Strömungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (1899; 2nd ed. 1901); R. von Gottschall, Die deutsche Nationalliteratur des 19. Jahrhunderts (1854; 7th ed., 4 vols., 1900–1902); R. M. Meyer, Die deutsche Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts (1899; 4th ed. 1910); R. M. Meyer, Grundriss der neueren deutschen Literaturgeschichte (1902); C. Busse, Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (1901); R. Haym, Die romantische Schule (1870; 2nd ed. 1906); G. Brandes, “Den romantiske Skole i Tyskland” (1873), and “Det unge Tyskland” (1890), in Hovedströmninger i det 19de Aarhundredes Litteratur, vols. ii. and vi. (German translations, 1887 and 1891; several subsequent editions, Danish and German; English translations, ii. 1903, and vi. 1905); R. Huch, Die Blütezeit der Romantik (2nd ed. 1901), and Ausbreitung und Verfall der Romantik (1902); F. Wehl, Das junge Deutschland (1886); J. Proelss, Das junge Deutschland (1892); A. Bartels, Die deutsche Dichtung der Gegenwart (7th ed., 1907); A. von Hanstein, Das jüngste Deutschland (2nd ed., 1901); J. F. Coar, Studies in German Literature in the Nineteenth Century (1903); Ch. Petzet, Die Blütezeit der deutschen politischen Lyrik (1903); H. Mielke, Der deutsche Roman des 19. Jahrhunderts (4th ed., 1900); S. Friedmann, Das deutsche Drama des 19. Jahrhunderts (2 vols., 1900–1903); B. Litzmann, Das deutsche Drama in den literarischen Bewegungen der Gegenwart (4th ed., 1898). (J. G. R.)