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vulgarity; on the other hand, vulgarity de- due support of the social and literary dignity grades any language it employs, no matter how of all twigs of the great Teutonic or Gothic noble it may have been in origin. Tuscan has, branch of articulate speech, whether written or ever since Dante and Boccaccio, been the cul- unwritten. And, in one respect at least, I would tivated language of Italy; but, for all that, the suggest an advantage which the German has proud Venetian retained his own soft dialect. over the English limb of the Teutonic tree: It accompanied him everywhere; even in his when High German wears out in spots, as all courts, where the pleadings were entered in languages are fated to do, by constant use, the Tuscan, the arguments of the advocates were High German has a choice lot of archaic matein Venetian; and it proved the chief feature of rial at hand, in the shape of Plattdeutsch, with as bright a period of the drama as Italy ever which he can mend his tongue-expressions, saw, when Goldoni wrote down his plays in his phrases, constructions known to the elder Cethnative idiom. Under such circumstances, no egi of the race, which can be used without viospeech, or phase of speech, could be anything lence to taste. But when our English tongue but dignified. Broad Scotch has never been rusts out, we have nothing wherewith to patch relegated to an inferior social position. It has it, except chunks of slang, or euphuistic softbeen the garb of lyric and elegiac poetry; it has solder, imported from Gaul. It is interesting been the solvent for wit in the drawing-room; to notice the dainty efforts of the Laureate, now it has intensified the humorous sally of the ad- and then, to substitute an ancient word in lieu vocate, and has furnished its harmony to the of a trite modern phrase, like old tiles set in a lecture-room of the professor. So much for the new chimney-piece; but it is evidence that the dignity of dialect, provided, of course, we take language is disintegrating. dialect in its scientific and good sense, and do not confound it with disintegrating language. In the former article I undertook to treat of A bronze medal may not be of greater intrinsic thought worked into a quaint and novel lanbullion value than a debased coin; but, in that guage, under peaceful auspices, in “a land it is genuine, it is meritorious, which the greasy where all things always seemed the same," and coin is not. Chinook is a tatter fit only for the where the poet would appear to have drawn the worst days of Babel; Pigeon English is dis- georgic tranquillity into his blood, and to have gusting-Confucius himself would be con- reinfused it into his verse and prose-a sort of temptible if he attempted to converse in it. Teutonic Theocritus, in fact. If ever a Chinese admiral blockades our har- Now, I must speak of a widely different charbor, and dictates a surrender in Pigeon Eng- acter, laboring, if not in the same field, at least lish (and who can say what is in store for us?), just over the hedge, and obtaining a different he would probably be listened to with inex- success, although reaching it by the same tinguishable laughter.
paths. Slang is distorted metaphor and corrupt Groth's Quickborn is a felicitous chain of speech at the same time, both of which vices, lyrics; and the work may fairly be placed as like a pair of bow legs, give it a harlequin, pig- the first serious employment of the dialect in eon-toed air. Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee” which it was composed for two centuries, if we is simply a well arranged chain of slang; and leave out of consideration the dilettant efforts he ought to have been ashamed to offer it in of Voss and a few others, who, in times past, pawn for fame, when he had far better stuff in
for amusement, noted the possible capacity of his scrip at the time. James Russell Lowell's the common tongue for literary effort.
in Groth has written prose tales; but these efthe light of dialect, partly as an attempt to rep- forts, so far as concerns the matter of them, resent a peculiar local pronunciation, and partly might as well have been idyls; for verse would as the angular wit of one class of American so- have suited eminently their pastoral character. ciety-not precisely slang, and yet which looks On the other hand, Fritz Reuter first apat times very like the boldest order of slang. peared as a writer of verse. But though his Artemus Ward wrote the patois of the billiard Laüschen un Rimels won great success, and room and country hotel-an argot that would, brought him a degree of provincial fame, I conand did, enable him to discuss the broadest sider that collection as no evidence of brillianquestions of philosophy, politics, and art with cy that would give promise of his future work. the average crowd for which one has the bar
It was, as he says, an "assembly of street urkeeper “set up the drinks."
chins," amusing from their dirty faces and mirthBut I must return to my subject, having an- ful ways, but with nothing to indicate what they nounced that my platform (a vile Americanism, would be when grown to manhood. They were mein kieler Freund) contains a plank for the I like tavern signs, on which a great painter may
have labored before his genius had been hailed by both burgher and peasant, and of his wife, a by the world of culture.
worthy counterpart. Then there is an “Uncle And although Fritz Reuter wrote poems, and Herse,” who, however, was no uncle at all, but long ones, too, it is as the prose sketch-writer who had that make-up of character and habits that he is to be deemed most successful. This which brings the child inevitably to claim some is not to disparage his poetic talent, which blos- irresponsible relationship with him-a man who soms out of everything he said or wrote. It is was clever, who knew what the birds said, and simply an attempt to establish an approxima- could answer them-a treasure to any commutive standpoint from which to consider him in nity of children anywhere. Then there was discussion. If Burns were to be taken as a Fritz's mother's sister, “Tante Christiane;" Scotch type of Groth, the Ettrick Shepherd there was Mademoiselle Westphalen ; there might bear some resemblance to Reuter. was the "Watchmaker Droz," a real French
man (aus Neufchâtel), employed to teach Fritz Fritz Reuter was born in Stavenhagen, Meck- a proper accent. lenburg-Schwerin, November 7, 1810. In the Fritz did not, for his first years, attend the Rathhaus, where Fritz first saw light, the en- public school, but took his lessons with his sisthusiastic burghers, in 1873, placed a commem- ter, Lisette, and his two cousins, Ernst and Auorative tablet to his honor, having, in 1865, al- gust. Finally, he went to a girl's school, “an ready planted a “Reuter Oak.”
owl among the crows." Uncle Herse taught The town is in the midst of a flat country, him arithmetic and drawing; the town apothehere and there a bit of rising ground called cary, Latin and history; his father, geography; ostentatiously a mountain, with little lakes as and so his training went on, in a straggling resting places for the sluggish streams. The way, until a theological student appeared in the inhabitants, both gentle and simple, have their house as a regular pedagogue. When Fritz was interests mainly centered in the crops, wheat fifteen, he lost his mother by death, and, at being the staple-a land of slow-moving, re- about the same time, was placed at school in flective, perhaps a little sly, peasantry--men the little town of Friedland, Mecklenburg-Strelloath to grasp at new ideas, with a ponderously itz. Of his life there (it lasted three years), careful tread, as if progress were being made there is a quaint picture drawn in “Dörchover wide furrows, with constant danger to the läuchting.” grain below.
At this time Fritz had thoughts of becoming Stavenhagen (plattd. Stemhagen) was ruled a painter; his more prosaic father preferred the in those days, and for generations thereafter law. Neither was right; but Fritz gave to art (1805-45), by Fritz's father, as Burgermeister a better chance than to jurisprudence. He was (a sort of mayor, with certain criminal and other sent to the gymnasium at Parchim. In 1831 conciliatory jurisdiction.) Fritz's mother was he went to the University at Rostock, “the upone of those typical, patient invalids, full of and-down jump for every true Mecklenburger," kindness and cultivation, a queen fainéante in as he terms it. In half a year he left Rostock her household, carrying for scepter her knit- for Jena, and became an altogether too gay ting needles, regarded by all, high and low, member of the Burschenschaft there. It was with affection and chivalrous courtesy, elicited here that he committed the offense which led by her helplessness and bodily suffering. It to his subsequent conviction of an attempt at was probably to her nature that Fritz owed his high treason, sentence to death, followed by literary leanings, his powers of humorous ob- commutation to imprisonment for life, then servation, and his tact and gentle charity in softened to thirty years, and finally remitted, expression. It certainly was not from his fa- after he had served seven years of misery, and ther that he drew any of these gifts. His father had lost the flower of his days in aimless triwas a shrewd, common-sense official, full of fling within prison walls. plans which he carried out with success, bound It was the misfortune of the young man that up in his daily life and duties, and conscientious in those days the German governments comprein performance, a man of stalwart power and hended so little the radical leaven which must, passions, filling his part in life amply and cred at a certain age, work into a ferment in the itably.
veins of most educated youth. Had Fritz playFritz has, in “Ut de Franzosentid,” given us ed the same class of political pranks at an Enga vivid picture of life at Stavenhagen in his in- lish university, perhaps the college dons would fancy. With a masterly hand, he has drawn have looked after him with some degree of nervfor us an outline of the Amtshauptmann (Pre-ousness, and would have given him an admofect of District) Weber, a grand old figure, nition now and then; but to have ranked him something of a tyrant in his way, looked up to as a criminal would have been, in their eyes,
downright absurdity. In an American college, In those days broke out the 1848 excitement. such talk or conduct might have brought a joc-Of course the old Freiheit must began to efferular criticism from the rhetorical professor, who, vesce in the veins of Reuter, and he attempted with his gibes, would have patronized the sopho- what we Americans would call “going into polmoric reformer into conservatism. Dilettant itics.” He was a deputy at the Town's Diet at radicalism has long been regarded by English Güstrow, and then a delegate to the Assembly and American professors as an amiable drone for both Mecklenburgs; but the movement nevbee in the youthful bonnet, that must finish up er came to anything, and, indeed, that sort of a certain amount of buzzing before it assumes a business was not in Reuter's vein, as an inciduly conservative torpidity, or is kicked out of dent would seem to show: He was acting as the hive altogether by ideas of a honey-gather- President of a Reform League established at ing class.
Stavenhagen. Of course, the members had an The Germanic authorities in those days had, agricultural slowness of comprehension. This however, the blood of Kotzebue in their eyes, was too much for the patience of so nervous a and they fancied every top-booted, velvet-coat politician as Fritz, and, amid the regrets of the ed, be- ribboned student to be a possible Karl assembly, he laid down the gavel. He was Sand. They make cabinet ministers out of such pressed to give his reasons for declining the stuff nowadays. Witness Baron Haymerle. office. The good-natured burghers desired, if
The prominent facts of Fritz's trouble are possible, to conform to his views, and retain these: There was found to be a student conspir- | him. But Fritz made for the door, and reachacy ramifying all the universities. Some silly | ing it, shouted, “You wish to know why I fellows did actually commit an overt riot and leave?” There was a general stillness of exsedition at Frankfurt. Fritz was captured in pectation. “Ji sid mi all tau dumm, ji SchapsBerlin (he had left Jena, and had gone thither köpp” (you are all too stupid for me, you sheepto study law), was tried, and commenced his heads), and vanished. Such a man was not seven years' life in the different military prisons stuff for a popular orator; at least, he would (Festungen) to which he was relegated, finally make small headway here in a Sand-lot demwinding up, as an act of grace, at Dömitz, onstration. under his own Grand Duke; and, at last, being At this time he started in vocation as a prifreed altogether, on the death of the King of vate teacher. Still the old trouble. His bride Prussia—a broken young man, with a passion then married him, in hopes to reform him, and for strong drink (Trunksucht) that never again in 1851 they commenced life together at Trepentirely forsook him, but was the vampire of his tow. The wife seems to have been a real helplife and powers.
mate and sympathizer. She never was able to In 1840, at the instance of his father, he went say that she had driven off the arch enemy, but to Heidelberg to study jurisprudence; but, her presence probably kept the demon at bay owing to his unhappy tendency to alcoholism, most of the time. he was recalled, and started afresh on a new
w Now it was that the poor fellow commenced career as a farmer. Herein he might have suc- his work as an author; and, to do so in the ceeded but for his disease. At this time he met projected manner, it became almost necessary his future wife, Luise Kuntze. In 1844 he com- for him to relearn his Plattdeutsch. The trifles pleted his education as a farmer; but his he had hitherto produced, of a doubtful merit “Stromtid” was still a failure, for the old rea- and merely local interest, were in High Gerson; and in 1845 his father died, having finally man. Klaus Groth's Quickborn had but just despaired of his son's reform, and making in appeared, and it struck the needy pedagogue his will a guarded testamentary trust, by the that something of a similar character in the terms of which Fritz was not to touch his share Mecklenburg dialect would be popular, at least of the succession until he had shown signs of within the boundaries of the duchies. In that freedom from the drink trouble for a term of country there is a great degree of popularity years. Fritz never abstained for the period, given to what we might call “yarns,” for the and was never let into the possession of the want of a better word (Geschichte). Fritz had fund.
been in the habit of versifying these, and, havHe had one good friend, however, who held ing collected a quantity, launched out with him patiently up during this period of his life, great rashness in business, as both publisher one Fritz Peters, to whose sympathy and care and author. These first endeavors he styled he probably owed his life, and to whom the Laüschen un Rimels—"a mob of little street public possibly owe his works. At this time he urchins, who, in ruddy health, tumble over one commenced to write-trifles, maybe, but it was a another, unrestrained as to æsthetic poses training for success.
jolly faces, laughing out from under tow locks, and finding, at times, their fun in the world's the pair should have a legal abode, and he, emfolly.” The success of this venture was won- ployment. He is prevented from this by the derful. The edition, consisting of twelve hun- ln machinations of the young Squire, who has cast dred copies, was sold off briskly, and, though covetous eyes on the poor girl. The impatient his reputation did not yet pass beyond his na- desires of the peasant lovers getting the better tive Plattdeutsch land, yet his success ass an of their prudence, the time approaches when author was established. This work has a quaint their indiscretion becomes known. The young dedication to his old, well-tried friend, Fritz Pe- aristocrat and the peasant have a dispute; the ters.
peasant strikes the gentleman dead, and disapDe Reis' nah Belligen followed-a story, in pears as an outlaw; the young mother becomes verse, of the adventures of Vadder Witt and
an outcast, and goes crazy, and her infant boy, Vadder Swart, two respectable peasants, who at her death, falls to the protection of the old with their sons, Corl and Fritz, project and par- servant, once the friend of the father. The tially make a journey to Belgium, for purposes father returns from America, and hears the of culture and traveled experience. The excur- story of his bride's death, and takes the child sion is one of ludicrous misfortune, winding up with him to his new home. The moral of the in the police station in Berlin, whence the party tale is the working of a quasi system of villeinreturn home to be tongue-castigated by their age, which takes from the serf his freedom less adventurous and more conservative wives. while he is practically at least adscriptus gleba. There is the thread of a love story, with Fritz While it is a possible, yet it can hardly be a typiand the sexton's daughter for hero and hero- cal, state of affairs, even in Mecklenburg. ine, which terminates happily on the arrival Ut de Franzosentid next followed. This is in home of the traveled party.
prose; and for freshness and delicacy of charAt about this time (1855) our author began acter drawing there can be nothing superior in the publication of a weekly journal, Unterhal sketch writing. Each person stands out as tungsblatt für beiden Mecklenburg und Pom- plain as if morally photographed, and there is mern. It was in this that he first introduced to variety enough, there are people enough, and his readers his most distinct and remarkable material enough, to furnish up a three-volume character, the jovial “immeritirter Entspekter novel. Bräsig," who wrote characteristic letters to the There are no finer gentlemen in all Thackjournal about matters and things of interest to eray than Amtshauptann Wewer and Colohimself and the public. To any admirer of Dick- nel von Toll. Uncle Herse would add a charm ens, who has not also read Reuter, it would be to Pickwick, if he only could be posthumousa pleasure worth a whole philological journey ly inserted, as binders sometimes insert a rare through High German, Low German, and Mes plate in a work for which it was not originally singsch, to shake hands with the Inspector. It meant. is impossible to give, in any language but his, Mademoiselle Westphalen is as sweet a the cream of his utterances. His style is his woman as ever was; and the peasant characters, own. However, the character was, at this pe- headed by the miller, the rear brought up by the riod, only outlined, and it was not until some “Uhrmacher Droz,” in his French regimentals, some time later that Bräsig became an active are wonderful in their way. The miller's daughmover in Reuter's fiction. On the German ter is a gem. In short, Fritz has cast a halo stage he became, eventually, a leading charac- | about the picture of his childhood; and in the ter--as marked, as definite, as our American center of it he has placed his sick mother, "Joshua Whitcomb."
knitting away and receiving the chivalrous The journal lived but a year. The publisher homage of the old Amtshauptmann. left his affairs in disorder, and decamped for Hanne Nüte (short for Master Johann Snut), America. Fritz at this time took up his resi- or de lütte Pudel, is "ine Vagel un Minschenidence in New Brandenburg.
geschicht,” or tale of men and birds, which, if His next production was a tragic sort of properly read to children, with becoming attenidyl, Kein Hüsing (No Housing. Anglice, no tion to dramatic recitation and onomatopy, in right of settlement in the parish.) It was, in giving the human dialogue and the bird busihis own estimation, his chief work. A young ness, would prove a genuine delight to any peasant, desirous of marrying the girl whom healthy crowd of young persons we know-prohe loves, is thwarted in procuring the legal sol- vided, of course, they knew the tongue. emnization of the marriage, for the reason that The “Little Poodle" (so called on account he is unable to furnish the necessary evidence of her curly head) is a good little child of a that they will not become a charge on the public, poverty-stricken family, the station in life of it being necessary, under the local laws, that I which puts her socially beneath Hanne, the son of the village smith. She is out with the chil- looks down the chimney of the newly married dren, tending the geese, when the old gray gan- | pair, der takes it into his head to bite the baker, a well-to-do, but bad man. The surly baker, in
"Dunn seggt hei: 'So is dit
Adjüs! Wenn't Frühjöhr wedder kihrt dignant at the laughter excited, visits his wrath
Denn bring' ich Jug wat mit. upon the innocent Little Poodle, when Hanne
Passt up! Dat sall vör Allen appears as her defender, and intervenes with a Grossmutter Schnutsch gefallen,'" blow to the discomfitted baker. Hanne “gets it," on his return home, for his heroism. The it being the custom in North Germany (as also course of true love is broken by the disparity of detailed by Hans Andersen) for the storks to social status, and by Hanne's departure on his supply any call for babies, they, as importers, Wandering Year as apprentice.
having a “corner” in that trade. He takes leave of his friends, and, among He also wrote at this period (1858–63), Ut them, of the old rector, with whom he has a mine Festungstid. This pathetic comic history glass of wine, and who breaks into a spasm of of his prison life shows the man in a charming enthusiasm over his own student life at Jena, light. There is no bitterness in it-nothing to the great terror of his wife, who fears he may but gentleness and humor. The military offihave taken a drop too much.
cers with whom he came in contact are all Hanne sets out. The birds convene; the du- treated with fairness. There is no petty grumties are assigned as may best befit the different bling, and, while the account of the manly Colfeathered families; and under the leadership of onel, a compatriot who was so thoughtful of the solemn Adebor (stork), a general campaign the poor boy's situation, as related in the first of observation is entered upon for the protec- part of his story, has something tragic in it, the tion of the Little Poodle's love interests. Han- scene of the kind, superannuated old commandne is exposed to various trials. Among his ex- ant in charge of Dömitz, and his lovely family, periences, he is employed by a buxom young would strike any one as the perfection of homely widow, who tempts him to stop and take up humor. It is quite likely that perhaps the milthe abandoned sledge of her good man. She itary officers of that day were not as apprehenattacks him, after the manner of her sex, with sive of political danger as the civilians, and good eatables; she pours out for him the most were, therefore, possibly less given to cruelty in enticing cups of chocolate; she potters about the line of their duty. him as he drinks it.
The Olle Camellen series is probably the
most pretentious of all Fritz Reuter's produc“Un leggt vör idel Trurigkeit
tions; and whatever criticisms might be thrown Sick sacht in Hannern sinen Arm
out as to the "sketchiness" of the stories, they Un de oll Jung'; de tröst't un ei't
are no weaker in that respect than the correUn dorbi ward em gor tau warm
sponding period in the labors of Dickens and 'T is mäglich von de Schockelor."
Thackeray. It is on a plane with these two (And leans, her sorrow moving her,
authors that we would place Fritz. His career So gently back on Hanne's arm:
did not extend as far, but his efforts are worthy And he-he plays the comforter,
the same order of praise. Ut mine Stromtid And grows, unwitting, all too warm- has in it the germ of a new Vicar of Wakefield. Quite likely 'twas the chocolate. )
There is purity of delineation in every character.
Dickens could never draw a gentleman well, But he is reminded by a sudden strain of the Thackeray found it hard to color up his lady nightingale, who is in the bird conspiracy in portraitures with proper intensity, but poor Fritz in favor of the Poodle, of his sweetheart at had a tact in both lines, which, if developed, home, and, forthwith, he starts up, tells the would have made his books something wonwidow the truth, and quits her with just as lit- derful. tle resentment in her heart as it is possible for After reading De Olle Camellen, one cannot a true woman to have, under the circumstances. but feel that in those little villages of MecklenHe reaches the Rhine, and there he comes to burg there are people the equal of any Scotch grief. He is arrested for the murder of a poor Covenanter or New England Puritan for rabid Jew peddler, on the circumstance that some of devotion to principle, and that throughout the the Jew's property is found on him. How the wheat fields, and along the little ponds they call birds turn in and help him; how the widow be- | lakes, there is enough kindness of heart and friends him; how the rich baker is found to be delicacy of feeling to civilize all Russia and the murderer; and how Hanne and the Poodle Turkey, if it could only be distilled into them. become united, and how the stately Adebor | Germany will never drop to pieces as long as
Vol. II.- 9.