6 MARCH 1880, Page 19

PAUL HEYSE'S NEW STORIES.* Das Ding an Sick, is a

formidable subject, if the title of a book is to indicate its subject, for a story ; but Paul Heyse likes fax- reaching subjects and titles, and has the faculty of making a story on any theme. In fact, the more unusual, heterodox, and.

• Das Ding an Sfr,h, and anderv Newnan. Von Paul Heine. Berlin. Wilhelm Hertz. 1879.

abnormal it is, the greater delight he seems to take in it, and nothing can make a story so fascinating as an infusion into it of the author's own enthusiasm. Heyse is no painter of manners and customs ; he is no votary of the social psychology now the fashion among novelists. He is certainly a psychologist; every novelist must be, if he expects to be read at all now-a-days. But he is a psychologist who, as far as possible, fashions mortals for his own designs. He plays with psychology. He says,— Given such and such very out-of-the-way characters, and such and such very out-of-the-way circumstances, what would these out-of-the-way characters do ? Then he evolves and evolves, just as a composer "of the music of the future" will evolve his strange harmony, now confusing the reader, now vexing him, but always fascinating him.

Heyse's stories, like Wagner's music, are no productions for the drawing-room or the recreation of youthful innocence. To all such ephemeral considerations as morality and etiquette he bids defiance, and he soars with his perfectly free-acting and free-thinking heroes and heroines into an atmosphere where

innocence and what is right have little place. This fact, indeed, makes it rather difficult to afford a correct idea of his writings. The new volume contains four stories, but only one is unim- peachable and susceptible of description, namely, Das Ding an Bich. Apart from its title, however, it is really the least characteristic of the four.

It is the story of an adventure which occurred to the author a quarter of a century ago,—that is, when metaphysics were still cultivated at the German Universities. He was then, he tells us, entered as a student of philosophy at Bonn. His tastes, however, were diffuse, and the drama and literature occupied him more than his regular studies. He had a friend, in the good-looking and youthful hostess of a country inn, facing the romantic outlines of the Siebengebirge ; and to this interesting young person, by name Gretchen, whose mysterious antecedents, it is to be hoped, will be revealed in a forthcoming story, he used to lay bare his nearer and remoter aspirations. The relations between them, however, were of a perfectly brother- and-sisterly character. Our student was but twenty years of

age, and the lady, who was five years older, was well known, unmarried as she was, to be fiercely repugnant to any attempt

at courtship with her. But she and the student are in reality only by the way, for the heroine is another young person, whom 'the student met one evening at Gretchen's, when a party of

-honest Godesbergers were celebrating some quiet little event, to the music of a lame cobbler; and the real hero is among the dancers. The busy young hostess ushers in our author, and leaves him introduced to and at the side of the heroine, Friiulein Trina, a pretty but rather misanthropic-looking damsel, whose disdainful glances keep the timid little Philisters at a distance. "She no sooner learns that philosophy is young Heyse's study, than she plunges into a confession of her metaphysical yearnings. She had hitherto only met medical, theological, and legal students, and when she had sought to peer into the mysteries of their studies, she had always found them dreadfully tiresome. At home she had read her father's few books—he was a school- master—and after she had read them through again and again, and almost knew them by heart, she had begun thinking for herself. Often a puzzle had occurred to her, and she had asked her excellent old papa for a solution; but he had simply looked scared at her questions, and thought she had parted with her vita. Did not our student of philosophy think most people treated life as a mere matter of course ? Wonderful and mysterious things were daily passing around us ; yet nobody asked what was at the bottom of it all. Wherefore existence, wherefore our strivings and yearnings ? Heyse was puzzled. He says :— " I have forgotten now what, in my astonishment, I answered. Really, thought I, there are more kinds of girls between Heaven and earth than a twenty-years-old studiosas philosophice dreams of. This was indeed a queer specimen, immediately after making one's ac- quaintance to present a pistol at one's breast, with the alternative of the universal mystery, or contempt for all so-called philosophy. I took a side-glance at the girl, quite prepared to see traces of latent insanity in her features. I could just then take a good look at her, for she was at that moment intensely watching the evolutions of a -yetuig Pole, who purposely seemed to take no notice of her. The longer I looked at her face, the stranger it seemed to get. It was at once old and young, attractive and repellent. I likewise remarked low restless her largo but beautifully shaped hands were, how her delicately-chiselled fingers seemed everlastingly untwisting some- thing. Suddenly she turned to me again ; she had divined my thoughts:: you think me half mad, as my father does, I suppose; or

perhaps you think me a bore, to overwhelm you with questions like that. Don't be alarmed ; I am pretty conscious of my actions, and as to my inquisitiveness, it is only an inquisitiveness about existence itself, and not about any of my good neighbours. Ask Gretchen ! I only know about her what other people know, and I have never asked for more. It is just because nobody seems to know her history that I like her so much, for you see that is my nature ; when I can see a thing through and through, I cease to care for it. I must have some- thing still to guess.' "

Thus the young lady rattles on about her character and mental career. Young Heyse replies You want to get

behind things, to realise a wherefore, whence, and whither, for all you see and feel. Why, that is just the most desperate problem

there is, and the wisest man that ever dealt with it never got nearer a solution than you or I; only he had the cleverness to devise a name for it,— and a name goes a great way, with the multitude."

Hence Des Ding an Skit. The expression suits Trina's fancy

for mystery, and she gives it her own meaning. The young Kantian protests, but Trina settles him with the reply that if Kant did not patent the expression, nobody can prevent her from using it as she thinks fit. Conversation flows on, and the evening is divided between dancing and metaphysics. In the course of conversation, Trina's attention often wanders to the before-mentioned Polish student, a tall, pale-faced young fellow, with a rather impenetrable mien, who seems the adored of the Godesberg damsels, and who dances with them all except Trina,

—a young fellow whom our studio/3a8 detests, who is friendless among his fellow-students, and whose mission, as he mys- teriously calls the object of his sojourn at a German University, has made him ridiculous in the eyes of men, and interesting in

those of the less critical sex. Heyse conducts Trina to her aunt's, where she has taken refuge, she tells him, to escape the courtship of a young vine-grower, her father's neighbour. He was a nice enough suitor, but she had known him from her infancy, and knew him through and through, and had no further interest in him. He had solicited her hand four or five years before, and on her declining his offer, had married another lady. This lady had since died, and the vine-grower was again a suitor for her hand. He was an excellent man, and all that, but what was there in him to get in love with ? Would anybody buy a book he had read through again and again, and knew by heart?

She had not told Heyse everything, however. The Polish stripling had wound his mysterious mission round Trina's heart.

Some months elapse before Heyse meets her again. She makes a second confession to him. Things meanwhile have come to a crisis, and preparations had been made for an elopement with the Polish "missionary," as he was called in Bonn. For- tunately she had discovered in the nick of time that he was a rather common-place Don Juan, with a side-affection for a neighbouring barmaid. In despair and in dread of his threatened revenge and exposure, for he had declared he would publish some letters she had written to him, as a feuilleton in the local paper, if she cast him off, and in perplexity at the vine-grower's renewed suit, she was on the point of com- mitting suicide. Heyse taxes her with her intention, persuades her to wait a few hours, and tells the vine-grower how things stand. The latter, like a good man of business, soon finds out that the Pole's mission occasionally needs a little cash. He thus obtains possession of the letters, saves the unhappy Trina, and the sequel, as the reader can imagine, is to the satis- faction of all parties. Our young lady, in fact, finds that the vine-grower, after all, has something more impenetrable than even the Pole's mission. The persistency of his love is a "Ding an Sich " for her.

The other stories, as already mentioned, are perhaps more characteristic of Heyse than Das Ding an Sieh but it is scarcely

possible to describe stories of which the subject might be said to be that apparently excellent persons can be guilty of a great deal of appalling wickedness. Throughout the stories there is the same light, rounded, blameless form. Nothing unnecessary is forced into them, there is no co-solution of social medicine in them, no infusion of the author's crotchets, no needless digression at a happy thought. They are free, moreover, from that sore of German composition, the unwieldy sentence. The more, there- fore, is it to be regretted that this great writer has been unable to steer clear of a class of incidents and a morality which will always prevent his stories from obtaining in England even the doubtful popularity which, despite his unquestioned genius, they enjoy in Germany.