ePub 版

I could not help muttering to myself, when the good pastor this morning told me, that Klopstock was the German Milton—" 8 very German Milton indeed!!!”- -Heaven preserve you, and S. T. COLERIDGE.

[These disenchanters put one in mind of the ratcatchers, who are said and supposed to rid houses of rats, and yet the rats, somehow or other, continue to swarm. The Kantean, rats were not aware, I believe, when Klopstock spoke thus of the extermination that had befallen them; and, even to this day, those acute animals infest the old house, and steal away the daily bread of the children,-if the old notions of Space and Time, and the old proofs of religious verities by way of the understanding and speculative reason, must be called such. Whether or no these are their true spiritual sustenance, or the necessary guard and vehicle of it, is, perhaps, a question.

But who were Nicolai and Engel, and what did they against the famous enchanter? The former was born in 1733, at Berlin, where he carried on his father's business of book-selling, pursued literature with marked success, and attained to old age, full of literary honors. By means of three critical journals (the Literatur-Briefe, the Bibliothek der Schönen Wissenschaften, and the Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek), which he conducted with the powerful co-operation of Lessing, and of his intimate friend, Mendelssohn, and to which he contributed largely himself, he became very considerable in the German world of letters, and so continued for the space of twenty years. Jördens, in his Lexicon, speaks highly of the effect of Nicolai's writings in promoting freedom of thought, enlightened views in theology and philosophy, and a sound taste in fine literature-describes him as a brave battler with intolerance, hypocrisy, and confused conceptions in religion; with empty subtleties, obscurities, and terminologies, that can but issue in vain fantasies, in his controversial writings on the "so-named critical philosophy." He engaged with the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, on its appearance in 1781, in the Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek, first explained his objections to it in the 11th vol. of his Reisebeschreibung (Description of a Journey through Germany and Switzerland, in the year 1781), and afterwards, in his romance entitled The Life and Opinions of Sempronius Gundibert, a German philosopher, sought to set forth the childish crotchets and abuses imputable to many disciples of this philoso phy in their native absurdity. The ratsbane alluded to by Klopstock, was doubtless contained in the above-named romance, which the old poet probably esteemed more than Nicolai's more serious polemics.

Gundibert has had its day; but, in a fiction destined to a day of longer duration-Goethe's Faust-the Satirist is himself most effectively satirized There he is, in that strange yet beautiful temple, pinned to the wall in a ridiculous attitude, to be laughed at as long as the temple itself is visited and admired. This doom came upon him, not so much for his campaign

against the Kanteans, as for his Joys of Werter,-because he had dared to ridicule a book, which certainly offered no small temptations to the parodist. Indeed, he seems to have been engaged in a series of hostilities with Fichte, Lavater, Wieland, Herder, and Goethe.* In the Walpurgisnacht of the Faust, he thus addresses the goblin dancers:

Ihr seyd noch immer da! Nein das ist unerhört!
Verschwindet doch ! Wir haben ja aufgeklärt!

Vanish! Unheard-of impudence! What, still there!
In this enlightened age, too, when you have been
Proved not to exist?"-Shelley's Translation.

Do we not see the doughty reviewer before us magisterially waving his hand, and commanding the apparitions to vanish ?—then, with despondent astonishment, exclaiming :

Das Teufelspack es fragt nach keiner Regel.

Wir sind so klug und dennoch spukt's in Tegel.

So wise we are! yet what fantastic fooleries still stream forth from my con. temporary's brains; how are we still haunted! The speech of Faust concerning him is mis-translated by Shelley, who understood the humor of the piece, as well as the poetry, but not the particular humors of it. Nothing can be more expressive of a conceited, narrow-minded reviewer. "Oh, he-he is absolutely everywhere,-What others dance, he must decide upon. If he can't chatter upon every step, 'tis as good as not made at all. Nothing provokes him so much as when we go forward. If you'd turn round and round in a circle, as he does in his old mill, he'd approve of that, perhaps; especially if you'd consult him about it "

"A man of such spirited habitudes," says Mr. Carlyle, after affirming that Nicolai wrote against Kant's philosophy without comprehending it, and judged of poetry, as of Brunswick Mum, by its utility," is now, by the Germans, called a Philister. Nicolai earned for himself the painful preeminence of being Erz Philister, Arch Philistine." "He, an old enemy of Goethe's," says Mr. Hill, in explanation of the title in which he appears in the Walpurgisnacht, "had published an account of his phantasınal illusions, pointing them against Fichte's system of idealism, which he evidently confounded with what Coleridge would have called Subjective Idolism."

Such was this wondrous disenchanter in the eyes of later critics than Klopstock: a man strong enough to maintain a long fight against genius, not wise enough to believe in it and befriend it. How many a controversialist seems a mighty giant to those who are predisposed to his opinions, while, in the eyes of others, he is but a blind, floundering Polyphemus,

* [See Mr Hayward's excellent translation of Faust, of which I have heard a literary German say that it gave a better notion of the original than any other which he had seen.]

who knows not how to direct his heavy blows; if not a menacing scars. crow, with a stake in his hand, which he has no power to drive home! I remember reading a thin volume in which all metaphysicians that had ever left their thoughts behind them were declared utterly in the wrong-all up to, but not including, the valiant author himself. The world had lain in darkness till he appeared; like a new Phoebus, on the scene. This great man despatched Kant's system-(never having read a syllable of any work of Kant's)—in a page and a quarter; and the exploit had its celebraters and admirers. Yet, strange to say, the metaphysical world went on just as if nothing had happened!-after the sun was up, it went groping about, as if it had never been enlightened, and, actually, ever since has continued to talk as if Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and other metaphysicians understood the nature of the things they wrote about rather more than the mass of mankind, instead of less! Verschwindet doch! might this author say, as Nicolai said to the spectres of the Brocken and the phantoms of literature,

Verschwindet doch ! Wir haben ja aufgeklärt.

Engel opposed Kant in philosophical treatises, one of which is entitled Zwei Gorpräche den Werth der Kritik betreffend. He, too, occupied a considerable space in literature-his works fill twelve volumes, besides a few other pieces. "To him," says Jördens, "the criticism of taste and of art, speculative, practical, and popular philosophy, owe many of their later advances in Germany." Jördens pronounces his romance, entitled Lorenz Stark, a master-piece in its way, and says of his plays, that they deserve a place beside the best of Lessing's. He was the author of a miscellaneous work, entitled The Philosopher for the World, and is praised by Cousin as a meritorious anthropologist. Engel was born September 11, 1741, at Parchim, of which his father was pastor, in Mecklenburg-Schwerin; died June 28, 1802. Neither Nicolai nor Engel is noticed by Cousin among the adversaries of Kant's doctrine; the intelligent adversaries, who assailed it with skill and knowledge, rather proved its strength than discovered its weakness. Fortius acri ridiculum; but this applies only to transient triumphs, where the object of attack, though it furnishes occasion for ridi cule, affords no just cause for it. S. C.]


Quid quod præfatione præmunierim libellum, quâ conor omnem offendiculi ansum præcidere? Neque quicquam addubito, quin ea candidis omnibus faciat satis. Quid autem facias istis, qui vel ob ingenii perti naciam sibi satisfieri nolint, vel stupidiores sint, quam ut satisfactionem intelligant? Nam quemadmodum Simonides dixit, Thessalos hebetiores esse, quam ut possint a se decipi, ita quosdam videas stupidiores, quam ut placari queant. Adhæc, non mirum est invenire quod calumnietur, qui nihil aliud quærit, nisi quod calumnietur.

ERASMUS ad Dorpium, Theologum.

IN the rifacimento of THE FRIEND, I have inserted extracts from the CONCIONES AD POPULUM, printed, though scarcely published, in the year 1795, in the very heat and height of my anti-ministerial enthusiasm: these in proof that my principles of politics have sustained no change. In the present chapter, I have annexed to my Letters from Germany, with particular reference to that which contains a disquisition on the modern drama, a critique on the Tragedy of BERTRAM, written within the last twelve months in proof, that I have been as falsely charged with any fickleness in my principles of taste. The letter was written to a friend: and the apparent abruptness with which it begins, is owing to the omission of the introductory sentences.

You remember, my dear Sir, that Mr. Whitbread, shortly before his death, proposed to the assembled subscribers of Drury Lane Theatre, that the concern should be farmed to some respon sible individual under certain conditions and limitations: and that his proposal was rejected, not without indignation, as subversive of the main object, for the attainment of which the enlightened and patriotic assemblage of philo-dramatists had been induced to risk their subscriptions. Now this object was avowed

1 Præcludere calumniam, in the original.

to be no less than the redemption of the British stage not only from horses, dogs, elephants, and the like zoological rarities, but also from the more pernicious barbarisms and Kotzebuisms in morals and taste. Drury Lane was to be restored to its former classical renown; Shakspeare, Jonson, and Otway, with the expurgated muses of Vanbrugh, Congreve, and Wycherley, were to be re-inaugurated in their rightful dominion over British audiences; and the Herculean process was to commence by exterminating the speaking monsters imported from the banks of the Danube, compared with which their mute relations, the emigrants from Exeter 'Change, and Polito (late Pidcock's) showcarts, were tame and inoffensive. Could an heroic project, at once so refined and so arduous, be consistently intrusted to, could its success be rationally expected from, a mercenary manager, at whose critical quarantine the lucri bonus odor would conciliate a bill of health to the plague in person? No! As the work proposed, such must be the work-masters. Rank, fortune, liberal education, and (their natural accompaniments, or consequences) critical discernment, delicate tact, disinterestedness, unsuspected

2 [My eldest brother says of Congreve's comedies, after declaring them "considerably more decorous than those of his predecessors," "They are too cold to be mischievous: they keep the brain in too incessant action to allow the passions to kindle. For those who search into the powers of intellect, the combinations of thought which may be produced by volition, the plays of Congreve may form a profitable study. But their time is fled -on the stage they will be received no more; and of the devotees of light reading such as could read them without disgust would probably peruse them with little pleasure."-Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire, by Hartley Coleridge, p. 693.

My father says, in a marginal note on the Life from which I quote, "Wickedness is no subject for Comedy. This was Congreve's great error, and almost peculiar to him. The Dramatis Persona of Dryden, Wycherley, and others, are often vicious, indecent, but, not like Congreve's, wicked."

Speaking of The Way of the World, my brother says, "It has no moral interest. Vice may be, and too often has been, made interesting; but cold-hearted, unprincipled villany, never can. It is impossible to read this comedy without wonder and admiration; but it is an admiration altogether intellectual, by which no man is made better." My father remarks, in the margin, "Virtue and Wickedness are not sub eodem genere The absence of Virtue is no deficiency in a genuine comedy: but the pre sence of Wickedness a great defect." S. C.]

« 上一頁繼續 »