« PreviousContinue »
The following stories, or “historical novelettes” (see Introduction), are here reprinted by the kind permission of their author, Professor Riehl of Munich, and of the publishers, the well-known firm of Messrs Cotta of Stuttgart, to whom I desire to make due acknowledgment of my obligations.
The appearance of a work in a modern language, annotated on a scale so extensive as the present, will probably be a matter of some surprise. This will hardly be diminished when it is found to be an edition, not of a difficult classic, but of a series of narrative sketches by a popular though learned writer of the present day. Some explanation therefore of its purpose and character may not seem uncalled for.
In the first place, the book is intended for students, in the proper sense of the term. It is more especially meant to meet their requirements in the earlier (though not the very earliest) stages of a course of study similar in
scope and character to that passed through by students of Greek and Latin who aim at becoming good classical scholars. It is hoped that it may be found useful in the preparatory course of candidates who intend to take honours in the coming Modern Languages Tripos at Cambridge, and more especially to those preparing to be teachers of Gernian, not simply as a “practical ” acquirement, but as a means of mental training.
The earlier part of an organized course of study such as I have referred to will of course be chiefly occupied with the systematic acquisition of the elements of the language, its constituent parts and general principles, before the classical literature is seriously approached. At this stage the student's powers of attention and retention are fully claimed by the details of inflection and signification, of 'word-composition, construction and idiom. The matter of what he reads is of secondary importance, provided it be sufficiently light and interesting; what is first required is a fitting supply of the staple material of the language. Plain narrative and conversational prose will be better than any classic, even where the sole final purpose is a thorough study of the literature. Where however a practical mastery of the language, for the purposes of speaking and writing, is a substantial part of the student's aim, it becomes doubly requisite that he should at first confine himself, in the main, to the best contemporary authors. These should be made the object of a close analytical study, followed by careful recapitulation, to impress the results on the memory, and convert Wissen into Können, knowledge into faculty. No doubt the student will learn much, as some learn all that they ever know of a modern language, by a half intuitive observation and association, aided by the fixing power of habit,—what is called the “picking up”. of a language. But it is upon a thorough mastery of a thousand and one small details and fine distinctions, peculiar modes of conception and expression, that the correctness and idiomatic character of the most ordinary conversation or of the plainest written style depend; and while these are the implicit and almost unconscious mental property of a native, they can be adequately acquired by a foreign student of the language only by a sustained exercise of analytic observation and thought. To a German Gymnasiast it might seem a waste of subtlety, or pedantic trifling, to analyse and formulate the uses of doch or ja, the difference between erst and nur, or the various phases of meaning combined in such words as wollen and mögen. But he would certainly hold other views with regard to ury or av, or the uses of the Greek optative; and if he undertook a careful study of English he would be grateful to any one (whom he would more probably find among his fellow-countrymen than among Englishmen) who could give him some theoretic hold upon the difference between "some" and "any," or the principles underlying the uses of “shall” and “will,” or the forms “I think" and “I am thinking.” It would indeed be untrue as well as useless to tell him that he might find in the analytic study of English as good a mental gymnastic as in that of Greek; but I do not think there would be much hardihood in maintaining that for the English youth the scientific study of a highly organized language like German may be made the medium of as thorough a mental training, and of as much real culture, as experience would lead us to expect in return for the same amount of time and labour devoted to the study of the “classical” languages.
It is as in some sort an introduction to such a study of German as I have endeavoured to indicate, so far as this is possible under the limitations of a commentary on a given text, that the present volume has been prepared. The notes are numerous and copious, but I trust they will commend themselves as not of the kind that paralyse the student's own mental activity by superseding the necessity for it'; but rather as stimulating it by presenting suitable material in a workable form, and furnishing guidance in such a way as to lead to future independence. The material has of course been supplied in the first place by the text itself. This has been to a small extent supplemented, but chiefly elucidated and illustrated, by matter drawn from sources many of them inaccessible to the English reader. A not inconsiderable element may lay some claim to originality, and perhaps this will be the most valuable part of the book to the real student, because treating from the objective standpoint of the foreigner, specially of the Englishman, matters of idiomatic difficulty upon which only scattered hints are to be found in sources English or German. I may refer particularly to the notes on the particles, on the exact force, as felt in the original, of words like erst, übrigens, vollends, &c., and of certain familiar but peculiar modes of conception and expression which are too completely ingrained in the consciousness of a native for him easily to make them the objects of analysis or of explanation to others.
In the disposition of the material in the notes I have endeavoured, by constant quotation of parallel passages in the text, and by a complete system of references backwards and forwards, making the book as far as possible self-illustrative,