LESSING, WIELAND, HEINSE.*
Dn. PRi5HLE is known in Germany for several excellent mono- graphs illustrative of German history in the last century, and particularly of the beginnings of that literary movement which re- united in such high national distinction. The present volume is an addition to his previous contributions in the same line. We do not expect that it can have interest for any large number of readers in this country, but it deserves to be brought to the notice of whoever makes German literature a special study, of who- ever cares to understand the men and minds that influenced the early course of the intellectual current which culminated in the great literary stars that found their fixed seats around the Weimar Court. The value of Dr. Prohle's work lies in the fact that it is • Leming, Wieland, Heinse, nach hansischrifilichen Qusilen in Gleim* Aiwa= 4argestelu. Von H. Faille. Berlin: Vereinebuchtiandlung. 1877. not another of the already too many commentaries and over- ingenious disquisitions on the writings of this or that literary luminary, but like his former publications, it is the embodiment of new and solid biographical material. He has given here, as he has done before, letters and other data, which he has been so lucky as to get access to, and which illustrate in a very direct manner some portions of the last-century life. The material in the present instance has been derived from the hitherto unsifted mass of correspondence accu- mulated during a long life by one whose literary reputation has become quite obscured even in Germany, but who, though but a feeble poet, was deservedly remarkable for the force of sympathies in advance of his age, and for the warm and generous interest he took in coming to the assistance of struggling talents. The person in question was the now forgotten lyric poet Gleim, author of the once popular Songs of a Grenadier. These poems were inspired by admiration for the Great Frederick's military achievements over the French. The noteworthy feature to be remembered about Gleim is that he, of all German literary men, first manifested a decided political bias, and was moved in his compositions with enthusiasm for the Prussian monarch as the triumphant assertor of the national element over that of France. Gleim was a German patriot when German patriotism was a yet unrecognised sentiment, and he, curiously enough, expressed it in lyric praises of a hero who had the profoundest contempt for German efforts at culture, and openly professed his unbounded admiration for the literature of the nation his victories over which were for Gleim his special claim to admiration. There is hardly to be found a more singular example of historical irony than the unconscious action exercised by Frederick the Great, as regards moral effect, on the German people. Amongst the letters in the present volume is one where Gleim, in his later days, when the glory of the Weimar school had already become a great fact, discourses of Frederick, in reply to animadversions on his indif- ference to everything German, and points out with truth how little reason he had to rate highly any German productions which existed in his day, and how at the close of his life words dropped from him that indicated his shrewd perception of a force pre- viously unguessed having shown itself on the German horizon. The immediate subject of this volume is not, however, to exem- plify Gleim the politician, but the genial and kindly man of literary affinities—habitually spoken of as " Father Gleim "- who stood in close and abiding relations for so many years with the torch-bearers of German culture. His influence was not that derived from a productive mind, but from a singularly generous and kindly nature, which happily was enabled, by fortunate pecuniary circumstances, to give practical effect to its hearty instincts. At the Reformation a few ecclesiastical foundations were preserved in a secular form for Protestants. Thus one of George ILL's sons was titular Bishop of Osnabruck. In the ancient city of Halberstadt there existed a
like lay chapter, of which Gleim was a canon and the secretary, —a comfortable sinecure. Here he resided, and made of Halber- stadt a sort of intellectual centre, periodically visited by many men of literary distinction ; the Jacobis, with all that at one time clung around them, being specially frequent comers. Bruns• wick, with its pomp-loving Court and pretensions to literary patronage, was at no distance, and so it came about that Gleim was known to, and found favour, that had consequences, with the
Princess who became the celebrated Duchess Amelia, of Weimar*
and as Regent trained up her son to be the subsequent Miecenag of Goethe and Schiller. The action of Father Gleim was not conspicuous or ostentatious ; it was that of an honoured coun- sellor,—of an unfaltering friend, whose word was listened to with sincere respect, and whose genial sympathies commanded
enhanced attention from the recognised intellectual qualities of his singularly modest nature ; in a word, he was all over, and in all the relations of life, a lovable and much-loved patriarch,— emphatically, Father Gleim.
The trefoil of names on Dr. Prohle's title-page, being those of as many friends, sufficiently exemplifies the range of Gleim's inti- macies. Leasing, Heinse, Wieland, in their natures and the tone of their minds, represent the widest diversities. The first alone will be at all familiar to English readers, and that mainly in corn• sequence of the two excellent biographies recently come from the pen of Mr. Sims and Miss Zimmern. Gleim's connection with Leasing was due to that interesting figure the gallant soldier. poet Kleist, whose death from wounds at the battle of Kuners., dorf was mourned with deep pathos by Leasing. The point of interest is how this friendship with a knot of Prussians en- thusiasts influenced the career of Leasing. Though the Great Frederick refused to have him as a librarian, Leasing so ardently sympathised with his action that he sacrificed his interests in Saxony. It was through Gleim, as is now first ascertained, that he obtained the only political appointment be ever held, that of secretary to the Governor of Silesia. Gleim looked on Leasing as a kind of legacy, bequeathed to him by the departed Kleist, and to the end of his life kept up with Leasing a corre- spondence that is stamped with feelings of intense affection. That either of the other names can have any pretension to be put on anything like the same intellectual level as Leasing is, of course, out of the question, yet it is in reference to them that Dr. Prohle's volume contains really new matter. Of Heinse's existence hardly any one in this country has ever heard ; in Germany itself, he is remembered only as a literary curiosity. This is due, no doubt, much to his questionable characteristics. Heinse is the Bohemian of German letters. The latitude in regard to principles allowed in Germany is great ; Schlegel's Lucinde, Goethe's Wohlverwandschafien, and many more works, attest this. There has, however, always been a severity of taste in regard to treatment. Heinse was an offender against the latter. His genius—for he did possess undeniable genius—was undisguisedly licentious and erotic. His highly remarkable novel, Ardinghello, is disfigured by an amount of overcharged voluptuous colouring which is the expression of a morbid sensuousness, and has a certain affinity with productions like Mr. Swinburne's. His career was as erratic as his mind was eccentric. Art, wine, women were his cher- ished objects, and Italy was his goal, as the land of artistic enjoy- ment. He seemed to have no thought for the day or the morrow, and lived on with reckless confidence in luck bringing him the means for defraying the indulgences he never scrupled to embark in. That Heinse possessed an unusual eye for art, especially its technicalities, is certain. He was a born connoisseur, with an instinctive appreciation of what was realistically good in work- manship. His criticisms on paintings are striking and fresh,— only in contrast to the general tone of German criticism on such subjects, they are thoroughly realistic in feeling, and dwell with sensuous glow on what is voluptuous in form and colour. Yet this literary vagrant was a pet of the staid and mild old Halber- stadt lay canon, whose purse the former with unabashed audacity preyed upon for advances which there is no evidence he ever repaid. Gleim helped him to several appointments, but Heinse never could stay anywhere. So he set off one day to Italy to satisfy his craving, where he spent several years. In this volume are a number of letters which vividly de- scribe the devil-may-care life he led in that land. Professedly he had an engagement for a book with a publisher, on which he reckoned for means, but though Heinse did at this time work at a novel that afterwards made him celebrated,he virtually depended almost wholly on Gleim's loans, which he wrote for with a coolness eminently characteristic. Some of these letters from Italy are highly amusing. It was probably due only to incontrollable waywardness that Heinse did not get domiciled with some art-loving Italian grandee, like Winckelmann. What is strange is, that this Bohemian, on whom religion and morals sat most lightly, became the librarian and secretary of the Bishop-Elector of Mayence. It is true there was much which must be pronounced incongruous in the composition of this Episcopal Court. The representative of all that was most antiquated in the dying Germanic Empire, the choicest specimen of a dignity resting on the strictest aristocratic and ecclesiastical exclusiveness, like the French monarchy, ignor- antly courted the society of spirits whose essence was radically hostile, and displayed the entire absence of moral worth by an unblushing exhibition of levity and indecorum. There was many a German prince who might have done himself honour by giving to Heinse a competent subsistence, but that this, to say the least, glaringly licentious writer should have been selected by the highest ecclesiastical dignitary of Germany for his confidential servant, is a circumstance to be put by the side of what history records of the characters who were deemed to figure with honour in the Papal Court in the days of Leo X. It is not wonderful that when the French Revolution flooded neighbouring countries, Mayence distinguished itself by the enthusiasm wherewith the Republican hosts were welcomed.
The other name on the list, Wieland, though not so unknown, is still also of rather obscured fame. His glory has become super- annuated by that of more distinguished successors. His Oberon is, however, a poem of original merit ; it was the first striking German composition inspired by the elements of popular mythology,—of the Volksmahrchen, which afterwards produced a plentiful literature from the pens of the Romantic school. What, however, secured for Wieland his reputation were his classical romances—Agathon, Aristippus, and others—which exhibit a French polish, and notwithstanding much ancient study, an un-
mistakably modern treatment of the antique subjects. More- over, there is an undeniable laxness in the moral tone, which is a reflex from the French eighteenth-century romance. Still, Wieland as a litterateur exceeded in accomplishment and in ease of style all who yet had written in German, though the grand genius of Leasing, in its robustness, towered far above him, as regards real force of intellect. Wieland was the admired high- priest of the Graces—of that literary refinement which recom- mended itself to salons and to Courts—and as such he was singled out by the Duchess Amelia to direct the education of her son in taste and letters. How Duke August, when still but a lad, was fired with romantic enthusiasm for the youthful Goethe, and insisted on bringing him to Weimar, is known. But Goethe was then in the flush of his impetu- ous spring-tide, overboiling with the buoyancy of genius,. and prone to give vent to sallies of wild humour. Wieland's old- fashioned, rococo manner had been made the butt of his satire, notably the Gallic conventionalisms of his would-be Hellenic. romances ; and so when Goethe arrived as the Duke's favourite at Weimar, it was not without misgivings on the part of Gleim that his old and respected friend was doomed to receive affront at the hand of one who then was spoken of by envious gossip. as the very pink of reckless humour. The strangest reports were afloat about the wild ways of the erratic meteor that had just flashed forth in the literary firmament, and in a most unusual manner had been made the object of unprecedented honour by a ruling German Sovereign. Of this early stage of Goethe's Weimar life there is curious record in this volume- Gleim, with his true instinct, from the beginning doubted the truth of current rumours. He wrote that " his desire to see the angel Goethe face to face was great." Soon he was relieved by what he heard from Wieland,—" Many thanks, my esteemed, my dear Wieland, for the tidings that I am not to attach credence to the painfully unpleasant report about your doings at Weimar.
God be praised, dearest brother of my soul, that it is all a pack of lies, what is being said, and talked, and piped, and trumpeted abroad about you." And again he writes :—
" In spring I hope to see all my beloved ones in Weimar, and especially that noble and splendid young fellow, about whom Dame Fame keeps blowing into the wide world a deal of evil, of which I indeed believe nothing, though I cannot quite drive out of my head, what once was greatly in it, namely, that he had on one occasion affronted my Wieland. If you, my dear friend, would only once in two lines tell the evil-minded that Goethe is such a splendid, noble youth, as you have said it to the heart of your Gleim in that hearty letter, of a truth it would do a deal of good ; also in reference to your young ruler, against whom it has everywhere been made a matter of reproach that be has put so impetuous a young man amongst the Patres Conscripti,—I mean in the Council of State, where, according to the asseveration and calumnies of the evil-minded, he gives occasion by his fieriness to so much altercation and discussion. I have heard this said in many places, and last Monday again at Dessau."
Of the life at Weimar, and the distinguished men who frequented the Court, many traits well deserving preservation will be found scattered through this volume. It is a collection of anecdote, desultory indeed, but none the less valuable for that, the ex- pression of living impressions that bring before us the features of notable men as they presented themselves to their contemporaries,.
and of a notable age. For in these pages there are many glimpses at others besides the great heroes of the period, so that they will afford not a little amusing reading in the way of curious bio- graphical scraps.