SCHILLER'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH HAMNER.
Tuts correspondence affords a pretty thorough insight into the workings of Schiller's mind during the lapse of not the least interesting period of his intellectual development. The earlier letters of the series present him to us as still in a great measure the moody dreamer who shaped The Robbers out of his fancy's anticipations of man and society, and broke loose from Wurtemberg confident of finding support in a world of which he knew nothing. The last leaves him with matured experience and the manliness of a formed character, on the eve of his appointment as Pro- fessor of History at Jena. And this complete transformation was effected in the brief space of four years 1 Stronger testimony to the power and greatness of Schiller's character could not be given. The first two letters in the volume before us are almost unmixed exaggerated sentiment. KUrner, his betrothed and her sister, with a young man of the name of Huber, who appears to have kept up a Platonic flirta- tion with the sister, although she was four years his senior, address an (apparently anonymous) letter to Schiller, then in Mannheim, enclosing the music composed by Korner to one of Schiller's songs, the portraits of the four, and a portfolio the handiwork of Korner's betrothed. "At a time," so begins the epistle, "when art ever more and more lowers it- self to be the slave of rich and powerful sensualists, it is refreshing to see a great man arise and show what human nature is capable of." And it then proceeds to declare that the better portion of society are anxious " to press the hand of their benefactor, and let him see the tears of joy and inspiration in their eyes." Korner, who holds the pen, concludes by saying, " When I shall have shown, in a different department from yours, that I too belong to the salt of the earth, then you shall learn my name ; at present it is of no moment." This letter is dated June 1784: Schil- ler remained silent till the 7th December of that year. We are left in ignorance as to how he learned their names. His answer, which is pretty long, consists of apologies for his silence and reciprocation of their en- thusiasm. A brief letter from Kiirner, about the middle of January 1785, says—" We know that our overtures have had the effect which we wished upon you, and our correspondence might now close. If it is to be con- tinued, we must be friends; otherwise it will be more troublesome than attractive to both parties. We know enough of you from your letter to offer you our unreserved friendship." In a letter begun on the 10th and ended on the 22d of February, Schiller announces that he has broken up all his connexions in Mannheim, and is on the eve of setting off for Leipzig to join their circle.
In all this there is not a little of the heroine of Canning's German play —"A sudden thought strikes me; let us swear eternal friendship.' There is nothing in the letters from which we have been quoting to in- dicate intellectual power or depth of character on either side. The exaggerated sentiment is of that ephemeral kind of which the emptiest even more then the richest minds are capable. But beneath this effervescence there was not only in Kiirner and Schiller, but in the two ladies, (Huber scarcely appears in the present volume,) qualities of more sterling and enduring valve. And thus the hazardous step of Schiller's throwing himself into the arms of entire strangers, who had been roused to a fanatical admiration of his genius by The Robbers, was the com- mencement of one of the most lasting, uninterrupted, sad intellectually beautiful friendships on record.
libruer's letters from Dresden of the 2d and 8th of May 1785 already afford ground for confidence that the connexion begun with so much of fantastic passion will " ran itself clear," to use Addison's simile of the rain-swollen brook, and be fruitful of good for both parties. In the former he describes his earliest intellectual efforts. It is a beautiful picture of a young man of great mental activity thrown for the first time among books and students, ambitions of distinction, conscious of power, but as yet quite at sea with respect to the peculiar pursuit for which the con- stitution of his mind qualified him. " My first youthful projects were directed to literary activity. My propensity was to take any place where there ap d to be a scarcity of labourers. The- occupation which had lately en me lost all attraction as soon as a new one
presented itself. I flew from one department to another. My teachers had iM- res:ed.me_withia profound respect for critical labours: I resolved to edit authors. The time came on when I must choose a profession. Divinity would have attracted me, but philosophy had already inspired doubts. The disagree- able position of a practising physician disgusted me with medicine. Law alone remained. I chose it for my trade: but I recoiled from the variegated web of arbitrary maxims which notwithstanding their incoherence must be impressed on the memory; I endeavoured to treat legal subjects systematically, to develop prin- ciples, to trace historically the origin of certain laws; and found nothing satisfac- tory except in Patten's Staatsrecht. • • • I next threw myself upon mathe- matics, and their practical application to the wants and pursuits of men. • • * They supplied my chief occupation at Gottingen in 1776 and 1777. On my return to Leipzig, I took my degree; and in preparing for it, fell into speculations on the law of nature," &c. The letter of the 8th May depicts his feelings respecting art and the man- ner in which he had cultivated them. We learn here incidentally, that his parents entertained those narrow and stern notions of religion which cha- racterized the English Puritans, and that they had endeavoured to im- press the boy with the notion that all amusements are sinful. This had long held him aloof from art : but he had a decided genius for music, and nature in the long run proved stronger then education. Both the father and sister of his betrothed were accomplished designers and engravers; and they appear to have opened his eyes to the importance of their own art. We may here observe, that though the stern and narrow-minded asceticism of such persons as the parents of Kdmer is incompatible with the full development of human talents and virtues, yet a temporary sub- jection to it in early youth has often proved beneficial. Franklin is one illustrious instance. Schiller and Korner are examples of the same kind:
for the great defect in Goethe and his school appears mainly referable to his not having been in boyhood subjected to the same Puritanical in- struction and discipline as Schiller and Kerner.
Schiller's intuitive genius at once discovered, what Korner was himself as yet unaware of—that the latter's especial field of usefulness was active life combined with occasional efforts in the field of criticism. Accordingly, we find Kamer gradually rising in the civil service of his prince, assist- ing Schiller with invaluable criticisms and suggestions, filling up his leisure hours with important though somewhat desultory studies, and oc- casionally contributing valuable papers to the periodicals conducted by his friend.
Schiller, the greater and more creative intellect, is longer in discovering his real vocation : and here the friendly discrimination of Korner renders Schiller the same service he had received from him. From the time of his completing Don Carlos (at Dresden) till about the middle of 1788, Schiller engaged in no work of imagination, unless we are to give that designation to his huddling up the Geisterscher, and some other minor pieces previously commenced. An extended acquaintance with the world had let him feel how much others surpassed himself in learning ; and the difficulty in producing new works of art for want of materials had ac- celerated the discovery. From the drama to history was a natural transition ; and he threw himself with all the impetuosity of his character into historical inquiries. The immediate fruits of this were his frag- mentary History of the Revolt of the United Provinces, some historical and biographical sketches, and some dissertations on the spirit and prin- ciples of historical investigation. This novel pursuit was not that for which nature had fitted him; but even here we discern the instinctive struggles of a great mind to know thoroughly, even when labouring invitfi Minerva. Khmer knew his friend as well as that friend knew him. He warned him incessantly, that imaginative creation, not critical examination of evidence, was his forte. In one thing only was Khmer mistaken—in thinking that the time devoted by Schiller to historical studies was lost. It was no more lost than that which Khmer had himself spent in fluttering from one department of intellectual activity to another. Such excursiveness in minds of real stamina not only serves to make them ascertain with more certainty their own powers and vo- cation, it stores the mind with images, and suggests general views more profound and comprehensive than by any other means they could attain to. Without his historical studies Schiller never could have produced his Wallenstein.
It is in and through these occupations of the two friends, their studies of each other, and general interchange of ideas, that the change of cha- racter in both, especially in Schiller, to which we alluded at the outset, is effected. On more than one occasion they remark upon their singular good luck in having been prompted by an ephemeral state of excitement to form a friendship which had proved so rational, calm, and enduring. In April 1788, Schiller relates as a good joke an incident that is scarcely a oaricature of their first acquaintance.
• "Some weeks ago, an inquiry reached me, by a fourth hand, from the free town Schweinfurt in Franconia, if I would accept an appointment as Councillor there, with a tolerable salary and the hand of a lady, in intellect and beauty not unworthy of me. The appointment, it was said, would keep me busy only two or three hours in the week. My answer yon can easily conjecture: but I should like to know the rights of the matter. As the project is avowedly that of pri- vate individuals alone, who say that an application for the post on my part would be certain of success, I can only attribute the idea to the lady it was meant I should marry. She has probably read enough to become dissatisfied with the people among whom she lives, and imagines that her money may be a bait for a man of more intelligence. Chance has possibly thrown some of my books in her way, and she may imagine I am a lawyer. So I read the riddle; and this is Wieland's opinion also."
Highly characteristic of Schiller is his liaison with Charlotte—the Frau von Kalb. This lady, a sentimentalist of the first water, with a real live husband, had fallen in love with Schiller at Mannheim, and appears to have been the originator of his call to Weimar. Her youth, beauty, and impassioned liveliness, had induced him to fancy that he loved her in return. It is, however, apparent from their first meeting at Weimar, that, to use Schiller's own words, "the connexion is more essential to her happiness than mine." His purer imagination revolted instinctively at an equivocal relation in which the fancy of Goethe would have revelled. With gentle, scarce perceptible efforts, he works himself free from the entangle- ment ; and at the close of the volume before us, we see the near and sure approach of his connexion, by ties which might proudly be avowed to all the world, with the Demoiselle Lengenfeldt.
Inevitably we have felt ourselves drawn to dwell exclusively on the characters of Schiller and Khmer, and their reciprocal action on each other as developed in this correspondence. It reveals Schiller's character more entirely than any previous publication; and it heightens our love and reverence for him, and scarcely if at all in a less degree our veneration for Khmer. But there is much varied interest of another kind in the book. Goethe is beautifully portrayed ; Wieland and Herder, more cha- racteristically and truly than they have ever been before ; and the Dutehess Dowager of Weimar more truthfully, if less poetically. For literary men, those letters which relate to Schiller's connexion with the Deutsche Mercur are extremely important. They almost exhaust the practical philosophy of literary journalism.