• JEAN PAUL'S "TITAN."*
IT may seem strange at first sight that it should have taken sixty years for the greatest work of one of the greatest of German writers to get translated into English. The matter would be inexplicable, indeed, were the work in question any other than Titan, and the author other than Jean Paul Friedrich Richter. In Jean Paul, German idealism and sentimentalism reach their culminating point, which really is a good and valid reason why the author and his books will never be liked in this country. Jean Paul published in the course of his strictly literary career between fifty and sixty goodly quartos and octavos, and yet the only thing known of him in England to the present moment is his celebrated saying imported by Madame de Stael, that the French have the empire of the land, the English that of the sea, and the Germans that of— the clouds. To deserve this characteristic, Jean Paul did more than any other German writer, ancient or modern. As he tells us in his autobiography, when he was only a boy of ten, looking one night out of his father's manse up to the stars, he was over- whelmed by the sudden idea of being an animated I among other I;—" irk kin sin ich"—and the consciousness of this great fact did not leave him all his life long, but became the groundwork of his fifty and odd volumes of philosophical romances. A more genial writer than Jean Paul never drew breath in Germany ; yet worse novels, as far as style, conception, and outward arrangement are concerned, were never written, even in the Teutonic language. Jean Paul has often been called a German Shakespeare, and is by no means unworthy of the title, taking the measure of high thoughts and the most lofty imagination. Comparing, however, the form in which these thoughts and dreams are clothed, the author of Titan sinks far below, not only Shakespeare, but almost the poorest novelist who ever composed fiction for the Minerva press. Jean Paul's hyper- sentimentalism—Schwarmerei, the Germans call it ; but Henry Heine termed it Eselei—never got out of the weeping mood, everlastingly in want of the wet pocket-handkerchief. Jean Paid cries over human joys, and cries over human wretchedness, and wants to scale the very heavens on a ladder of tears. Then, again, in his wild idealism, he soars up into the skies at one moment, and the next throws away the highest treasures of his genius upon the description of the every-day miseries of a cock- ney existence. Worst of' all, in every one of Jean Paul's works there is an atrocious mannerism; simile heaped upon simile, hyperbole upon hyperbole, and metaphor upon metaphor ; history, mythology, physiology, and theology thrown together into one heap, and the whole covered under such a mountain of flowery sentences, eloquent speeches, and glowing epithets, that the more prosaic reader trembles under the idealistic world brought to bear upon him as under the incubus of a nightmare. Lucky almost when, as it often happens, the author gets so deep into the realm of sentiment as to become utterly" incomprehensible—at least, without the assistance of' the cele- brated "Lexicon for Jean Paul's works, or explanation of all the foreign words and unusual modes of speech which occur in his writings, with plain versions of the dark passages." This wonderful dictionary was never finished, for to complete it, as it is stated, some twenty volumes would be required, so numerous are the "dark passages." It is a striking proof of the intrinsic value of Jean Paul, that with all these gigantic faults and short- comings as an author, he yet maintains not only his rank and position in the German world of literature, but even his popularity among the masses. At this moment, a" people's edition," at less • Titan: a Romance. From the German of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter. Trans- lated by Charles T. Brooke, Two Vole. London : Trilbner and Co. 18e8. than a shilling a volume, of the works of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, is in course of publication in Germany, succeeding numerous other issues of greater or less pretension. But we here in England, notwithstanding the Edinburgh Review and Mr. Carlyle, who recommended Jean Paul more than thirty years ago, have but now received his masterpiece, the Titan, into our literature. It seems a bad omen even now for the chef d'auvre that Mr.. Mudie, as we are informed, has only subscribed for eight copies.
The romance of Titan possesses to a high degree all the merits and all the defects of Jean Paul's writings. There are countless passages full of striking and imperishable beauty; the ever present traces of an imagination as boundless as the uni- verse; and here and there chapters worthy of a Shakespeare, Milton, or Dante. But then, on the other hand, there is no story whatever; no attempt at unity, or even order, in the marshalling of characters and of incidents, but the whole work, from beginning to end, constitutes a very deluge of chaotic grandeur and beauty. To call Titan a romance does not give the faintest idea of the work ; it might as well be denominated a history, or a book on science, an elegy, a drama, a satire, a philosophical disquisition, or a religious essay. For a long time the author—who spent ten years, the best of his life, on the work—was undecided whether he should call it Titan or "Anti-Titan," and he decided finally for the former, as being the shortest name, justly con- sidering that there was not the slightest reference to the romance in either of the titles. Jean Paul's exponents and commentators have made out that the "age of extravagance" in which we live is meant to be the Titan ; in which case the weak struggling individual, the shadowy hero of the tale, with a large heart, fine eyes, but no cash, becomes the Anti-Titan. The object of Jean Paul, according to his annotators, was that of representing a pure and noble-minded man at the side of a reprobate, and having left them both to struggle with the Titanic elements, to lead finally the good people into the haven of happi- ness and matrimony, and to send the wicked—no matter where. 'The idea, which can scarcely claim the merit of novelty, has been embodied in the following main story, as far as it is possible to speak of a story in Titan. Albano de Ctesaro, a splendid young prince, very tall and good-looking, but much given to weeping, to moonlight promenades, and the use of the words "Ace Gott,' is treacherously kept from the inheritance of his principality by several scampish fellows, chief among them a Captain Roquirol and a Baron de Bouverot. The parties being fairly engaged, there takes place a tremendous struggle between the royal house of Hohenflies and Haarhaar, ending in the sub- jection of the latter, and the arrival of a great number of fresh rogues. All these people, an endless list of queer characters, with the oddest names, fight for a long time, and having been defeated at last, in one hundred and forty-two chapters, or so- called "cycles," the Titanic forces gradually vanish from the scene, after which the royal line of Hohenflies rises and that of Haarhaar sinks, and magnificent Albano finds a wife in the un- rivalled Idoine, the pearl of bas bleu, past, present, and to come. In the one hundred and forty-sixth and last "cycle," when "the mountain ridges of the linden city, the eternal goal of his youthful days; were snowed over by the moon, and the constellations stood upon them gleaming and .great "—further particulars as to date and place not given—then they were married. And after they were married, " from all of them there wept but one joy- enraptured heart ; " which means probably that they all wept together into one big pocket-handkerchief, expressly prepared for the solemn occasion.
To British readers, unaccustomed to the " lch bin em n ich," and the too frequent use of the mouchoir, Jean Paul can scarcely prove very appetitizing; nevertheles.s we venture to predict a moderate success to the Titan in its present English form. Mr. Charles T. Brooks's translation is a most admirable one in every respect ; as good probably as it is possible to give. Con- sidering the fact, already mentioned, that the Germans them- selves require a dictionary to understand their great author, Mr. Brooks must not be accused of inefficiency when sometimes the road runs a little rough, and when there are more stumbling- stones in the path than seem pleasant to walk over. After all, the fatigue thus given is well rewarded by the thousand beauties met with in the journey, and by flashes of truth and novel views of life so striking that no compound of heavy phrases and pon- derous hyperboles can efface them from the memory. But in order to truly enjoy Titan, the work must not be read as ordinary books are, but be studied in all seriousness. Microscopic at one
time, and telescopic at another, the world of thought and im- agination which lies deep within the fold of all the writings of Jean Paul must be sought for with perseverance to be appreciated in all its fulness. It has been truly said by Mr. Carlyle, one of his most fervent admirers, that "without great patience, and some considerable catholicism of disposition, no reader is likely to prosper much with Jean Paul."