Page images
PDF
EPUB

Latin. That the modern languages, and among them German in the first place, are capable of being made a very efficient medium of “classical” training, in any sense in which this is of real general value, will hardly be any longer doubted, when but a tithe of the time and labour so freely expended on the ancient languages has been given to the elaboration of adequate apparatus for the thorough study of the modern. An early attempt like the present must necessarily be very imperfect. Notes rendered necessary by the lack of other available help, such as is at the command of every learner of Greek and Latin, occupy so much space, that those addressed to the more careful student are liable to suffer from obscurity or incompleteness, because they must necessarily be brief. Any hints or criticisms from persons engaged in the study or teaching of modern languages will be gratefully welcomed.

My warm thanks are due to several friends in Germany for substantial assistance in the notes, and to the Rev. J. W. Cartmell, Fellow and Tutor of Christ's College, for valuable critical aid in revising the MS. for the press.

H. J. W.

CAMBRIDGE,

November, 1880.

INTRODUCTION.

.

KARL FERDINAND GUTZKOW1 was born in Berlin, March 17,

1811. Though his parents were people in Life of Gutzkow.

humble circumstances, he received a good education, first at one of the Gymnasien, or grammarschools, and afterwards at the university, of his native town. Under Hegel and Schleiermacher he studied philosophy and theology with some distinction; but his natural tastes early inclined him to the life of a literary man and publicist. The Paris Revolution of July, 1830, produced a deep impression upon him, and decided his course. Expecting a serious movement in Germany for the establishment of political freedom, and believing it to be thé duty of every German to prepare himself for taking some part in it, he went to Heidelberg and Munich to study jurisprudence and Staatswissenschaft, or the theory of government. Previously to this he had already begun in Stuttgart his career as a journalist, under Wolfgang Menzel, the editor of Cotta's Literaturblatt, who was at that time a sort of literary dictator in Germany. He now travelled in Austria and North Italy, and henceforth led a somewhat chequered life of restless literary activity.

1 Pronounced Gůteko. The w is silent in German proper names in ow, Rochow, Virchow, &c. Most of them are probably of Slavonic origin.

He was the ablest of a group of young writers, who gave

expression to the dissatisfaction which many Young Germany.

felt, with the existing political and social institutions, and to the ideas and tendencies, in some respects misguided and even pernicious, which the events of 1830 had served to stimulate among the younger generation in Germany. Their writings, and especially some of Gutzkow's early essays in fiction, crude and audacious, but showing signs of power, were pursued by Wolfgang Menzel with the persistent denunciations of a jealous rival. This at length led to the prohibition by an arbitrary decree of the Bundestag, and by edicts from the various German governments, of all the writings of so-called “Young Germany." Gutzkow was sentenced in Baden to a brief imprisonment. Neither intimidated nor embittered by this treatment, he continued steadily, though with more of the temperance of experience, and a considerable modification of some of his views, on his course as a public critic and a political and social reformer. He may be regarded as the chief among the founders of modern journalism in Germany.

In spite of the difficulties occasioned by the high-handed censorship of the press, Gutzkow continued to publish a number of influential works, and edited, 1837—42, the Telegraph für Deutschland, removing from Frankfort to Hamburg, where he could venture to act somewhat more freely than was possible in the immediate vicinity of the German Diet. His success in dramatic composition, which he here began to cultivate, induced him to relinquish journalism, and devote himself for a time wholly to the theatre. The change was however rather in the form than in the primary aims of his literary activity. After a visit of some length to Paris, he lived again in Frankfort until 1847, when he was appointed “Dramaturg," or critic and instructor in the dramatic art, in connection with the courttheatre of Dresden. After having held this post for but a brief period, he passed some of the best years of his life still in Dresden, where he wrote his two most considerable novels. But he was not spared the difficulties and cares proverbially associated with the pursuit of literature as a profession. In 1861 he went to Weimar as chief secretary of the “Schillerstiftung," which he had helped to found. The acceptance by a popular and prolific author like Gutzkow of a burdensome office, with a salary of 500 thalers (about £75), is a significant illustration of the material condition of literary men in Germany as late as twenty years ago. Overwork, anxiety, and the chafing occasioned by the petty cares and humiliations of his position, induced a morbid nervous condition, which culminated in an attempt upon his own life. After a time he became both physically and mentally restored, and received the expression of public sympathy in the form of a liberal subscription for his benefit. He henceforth lived in private, constantly engaged in literary work. The recurrence, however, of pecuniary anxieties, necessitating hasty production, and his almost morbid sensitiveness to the opposition and criticism which a public man cannot escape, tended both to throw a shadow over his declining days, and to detract from the value of his latest works. He died in 1878, at Sachsenhausen, suffocated by the smoke and flame of a fire which broke out in his bedroom, while he was under the influence of a strong dose of chloral, taken as a remedy against sleeplessness. A public subscription is at present being raised in Germany for the erection of a monument to his memory. A new, complete edition of Gutzkow's numerous works is

now in course of publication, although not a Works.

few of them may be supposed, as regards the general public, to have served their purpose and had their day. For almost all Gutzkow's writings have a more or less consciously defined purpose; they belong to the class of Tendenzschriften, in which literary and poetic art is employed, under a more or less skilful disguise, in the service of the politician or social moralist. This is true even of his plays and novels, by which he is most widely and popularly known. Notwithstanding a vein of reflective sentiment, they show in general more of critical observation, of the reformer's practical interest in the study of human nature and social conditions, than of poetic warmth of imagination or artistic power. Yet both as a play-writer and as a novelist, Gutzkow holds an important position in the development of modern German literature. Forsaking the dramatic traditions of his time, its

chamber-drama and conventional themes, he Plays.

wrote for the stage, and with a careful study of dramatic effect. He chose subjects, and a mode of treat

ng m, which reflected more or less directly the life of his own time, and the ideas that were stirring his contemporaries. He thus contributed more than any other writer to the reanimation of the national theatre. Many of his plays had brilliant success, and some of them still retain considerable popularity on the stage. The best of his tragedies, Uriel Acosta (1846), is founded on the story which had already formed the subject of one of the best of his shorter novels, Der Sadducäer von Amsterdam, of the uncle and teacher of the great Spinoza. In the hero is portrayed the struggle between fidelity to the cause of free thought under the persecutions of Jewish fanaticism, and attachment to family and people ; a struggle in which the vacillation of the hero somewhat checks our sympathy; and hardly allows us to regard his sad fate as in the highest sense tragic. Among Gutzkow's other tragedies may be mentioned Patkul, Pugatschef, and Wullenweber. Superior to these, and perhaps Gutzkow's most successful and popular works, are his historical comedies. Besides Zopf und Schwert, which ranks first, two others may

be mentioned. In Das Urbild des Tartuffe (1844), the circumstances under which the representation of Molière's celebrated play was for a time prohibited, are used with some skill to suggest the groundwork of a comedy of similar aim and tendency. Der Königsleutenant (1849) is founded on an episode in the youth of Goethe, the scene being laid in Frankfort during the French occupation in the Seven Years' War. It is a spirited and amusing piece of light comedy, full of lively dialogue, with many humorous touches, telling points, and biographical references skilfully interwoven ; but it makes no pretension to any higher literary merit. It is still, however, one of the most popular pieces on the German stage.

« PreviousContinue »