Page images
PDF
EPUB

and versification of German poetry. So that the period of their association may be considered as forming a grand epocha in the history of this department of German literature.

Besides the poets already mentioned, a number of others have been long celebrated throughout Europe. Among these are GESNER and WIELAND, distinguished in epic poetry; KASTNER, Uz, and Dusch, in didactic poetry; KLEIST, Voss, and GOETHE, in descriptive poetry; SCHLEGEL, HERDER, WEISSE, and RAMLER, in lyric; and Canitz and STOLBERG, in satirical poetry: Gesner and Voss, in pastoral; and LichtwEHR, LESSING, and others, in fable. Nor have the dramatic poets of Germany, in the last age, been inferior in genius and taste to those of any other country. CRUGER, SCHROEDER, IFFLAND, GROSSMAN, LESSING, ENGEL, GOETHE, and KOTZEBUE, in comedy; and WEISSE, LESSING, LEISEWITZ, KLOPSTOCK, SCHILLER, GOETHE, BABO, and others, in tragedy, are well known to have raised the German drama to a very high degree of reputation, if not for moral purity, at least for spirit, force, and natural delineation of characters.

Germany has also abounded, within the last twenty years, beyond any country on earth, in miscellaneous publications on philology, criticism, education, and every branch of polite literature. It ought, further, to be mentioned, to the honour of Germany, that although classic literature has much declined in that country, especially since the practice of delivering lectures in Latin, and speaking that language, in many of her seminaries of learning, has been discontinued ; yet this kind of knowledge has declined, probably, less in Germany than in any other part of the literary world; and the literati of that empire may be considered as, on the whole, the best classic scholars that row adorn the republic of letters. The names of

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

KUSTER, REISKE, ERNESTI, HEYNE, RUHNKEN, MATTHÆI, SCHNEIDER, Voss, HEEREN, F. A.' Wolf, BOTTIGER, and HEÚSINGER, with a much greater number, of nearly equal eminence, would do the highest honour to any country, or any age.

Oriental literature eminently flourished in Germany during the eighteenth century. It may be questioned whether the oriental learning, and critical skill of the MICHAELISES, EICHHORN, and REISKE, were ever before equalled. To which illustrious names, it would be improper not to add those of REINECIUS, LUDOLF, HEZEL, SCHRỜDER, WAHL, Hirt, Tychsen, Paulus, and HASSE, who have rendered important services to the cause of eastern learning, and biblical criticism.

No country has ever produced so great a number of authors within a similar period, as Germany, in the eighteenth century; and there is no country where a taste for reading more generally prevails, especially in the Protestant provinces. Printing is carried to an excess truly wonderful. Almost every man of letters is an author. Books are multiplied to an incredible extent. Between six and seven thousand new works are annually published, besides smaller controversial pieces; for no one can become a graduate in their universities unless he has published at least one controversial treatise.

In Germany the authors by profession amount to about fifteen thousand! It is true, the greater part of these are chiefly occupied in translating from other languages, especially the French and English. But their translations are generally accompanied with large bodies of learned notes, which, if well executed, require all the judgment and labour of original composition. It is further to be observed, that, of their prodigious number of books, Novels make a considerable part. But they also make a large annual emission of important works on the most interesting subjects in literature and science.

The book-trade of England and France is almost entirely confined to their capitals, while the other great towns have few booksellers; and even the greater part of these only act as factors or agents to those who reside in the grand centre of business. But the German empire has no capital city, which, like London or Paris, forms a kind of literary vortex, that absorbs the whole produce of the country, and out of which few books are to be found. For this reason literature is more generally diffused in Germany. The residence of many a petty prince is more fertile in literary productions, than some large cities in England or France. Hence the book-trade is more equally distributed through the country; and small towns, otherwise of little importance, are furnished with respectable and independent booksellers, each of whom, perhaps, will carry to the Leipsic and Frankfort Fairs, a dozen new works published by him, to be distributed not only in his own immediate neighbourhood, but also in every province of the empire.

The mode of disposing of books by resorting to Fairs for the purpose, is peculiar to Germany, and

has been established in that country for many • years. To these great literary marts the book

sellers flock in crowds from every part of the country, with bales of books, and with complete catalogues of the works which they have to sell. Here an amount of sales, and especially of barter, is effected, which has no parallel in the world. This plan is attended with many advantages. Booksellers, by having so extensive and ready a sale, are enabled to strike off much larger impressions of good works, and to afford them at a lower price. He who wishes to procure a book in that country, instead of being condemned to a long and tedious

search for what is only sold by one bookseller, has every publication of value brought to his door with the greatest certainty and expedition. And the frequent return of these extensive scenes of sale and exchange, has a tendency to keep up the public attention to literary objects, and to give a degree of life and interest to the commerce in books, which we look for in vain in other countries.

The zeal and enterprize of German bookselİers are incredible. They frequently have agents and correspondents in every literary part of Europe, who send them, with the utmost speed, all useful intelligence, and procure for them the proof-sheets of new and important works as they are printing. Whence it often happens that the originals and the German translations are offered for sale at the same time. To this it may be added, that the ready and extensive sales of books which the fairs enable them to effect, give such manifest advantages, that they can more easily afford, and are more cheerfully disposed to pay a liberal price for literary services, than the same class of men in most other countries. It is said that between three and four hundred booksellers regularly attend the literary fairs, and that their number is rapidly increasing

In Great Britain and Ireland there are seven Universities. In Germany there are thirty-nine;" each of which may be considered as a grand focus from which the rays of light are thrown over the whole adjacent country, thus illuminating the empire, and bringing the means of knowledge to almost

every door.

Within a few years past a taste for the acquisition of living languages has remarkably prevailed in Germany. Perhaps the inhabitants of no coun

z Six of these Universities were founded during the eighteenth century, viz. those of Göttingen, Erlanger, Fulda, Bonn, Butzow, and Stutgard.

try are so much disposed as those of the German empire to learn the languages of other nations. Be. sides the English and French, which have a very general currency, being read and spoken by a very large portion of their literary men, the Italian, Spanish, and Swedish are taught in many of their seminaries of learning. The great increase of this taste is one of the circumstances which preeminently distinguish German literature in the eighteenth century.

The interests of letters and science have seldom received very extensive or permanent governmental aid in Germany. The constitution of the empire prevents any material aid of this kind from being rendered, especially on a large scale. A few of the subordinate princes have distinguished themselves by their efforts for the advancement of knowledge; and though FREDERICK II. of Prussia, was no friend to the German language, yet his accession to the throne may be considered as a favourable era to German literature; because, by collecting so many foreigners, and especially Frenchmen, at his court, he excited a spirit of emulation among his native subjects; introduced much of the literature and science of other countries into his dominions; and thus indirectly promoted the general interests of knowledge in Germany.

Public Libraries were greatly enlarged and multiplied in Germany in the course of the eighteenth century. To this circumstance, and also to the great multiplication of literary and scientific Societies, may be ascribed no small share of that astonishing progress in literature and science by which every part of the country, and especially the nor

a Frederick II. among his numerous freaks and errors, was a great enemy to the German language. He ordered the Transactions of the Royal Society of Berlin to be published in French; by which, as many supposed, he meant to cast undeserved reproach on his native tongue, and to discourage the study and cultivation of it, though it had then become so fashionable.

« PreviousContinue »