صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

CARLYLE'S

MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS.

JEAN PAUL FRIEDRICH RICHTER.

[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1827.]

DR. JOHNSON, it is said, when he first heard | monger, whose grand enterprise, however, is of Boswell's intention to write a life of him, his Gallery of Weimar Authors; a series of announced, with decision enough, that, if he strange little biographies, beginning with Schilthought Boswell really meant to write his life, ler, and already extending over Wieland and he would prevent it by taking Boswell's! That Herder,-now comprehending, probably by great authors should actually employ this pre- conquest, Klopstock also, and lastly, by a sort ventive against bad biographers is a thing we of droit d'aubaine, Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, would by no means recommend; but the truth neither of whom belonged to Weimar. Auis, that, rich as we are in biography, a well- thors, it must be admitted, are happier than the written life is almost as rare as a well-spent old painter with his cocks: for they write, naone; and there are certainly many more men turally and without fear of ridicule or offence, whose history deserves to be recorded than the name and description of their work on the persons willing and able to furnish the record. title-page; and thenceforth the purport and But great men, like the old Egyptian kings, tendency of each volume remains indisputable. must all be tried after death, before they Doering is sometimes lucky in this privilege; can be embalmed: and what, in truth, are for his manner of composition, being so pecuthese "Sketches," "Anas," "Conversations," liar, might now and then occasion difficulty, "Voices," and the like, but the votes and plead- but for this precaution. His biographies he ings of the ill-informed advocates, and jurors, works up simply enough. He first ascertains, and judges, from whose conflict, however, we from the Leipzig Conversationslexicon or Jörshall in the end have a true verdict? The worst den's Poetical Lexicon, Flögel, or Koch, or other of it is at the first; for weak eyes are precisely such Compendium or Handbook, the aate and the fondest of glittering objects. And, accord-place of the proposed individual's birth, his ingly, no sooner does a great man depart, and parentage, trade, appointments, and the titles leave his character as public property, than a of his works; (the date of his death you alcrowd of little men rushes towards it. There ready know from the newspapers ;) this serves they are gathered together, blinking up to it with as a foundation for the edifice. He then goes such vision as they have, scanning it from afar, through his writings, and all other writings hovering round it this way and that, each cun- where he or his pursuits are treated of, and ningly endeavouring, by all arts, to catch some whenever he finds a passage with his name in reflex of it in the little mirror of himself; it, he cuts it out, and carries it away. In this though, many times, this mirror is so twisted manner a mass of materials is collected, and with convexities and concavities, and, indeed, the building now proceeds apace. Stone is so extremely small in size, that to expect any laid on the top of stone, just as it comes to true image, or any image whatever from it, is hand; a trowel or two of biographic mortar, if out of the question. perfectly convenient, being perhaps spread in here and there, by way of cement; and so the strangest pile suddenly arises; amorphous, pointing every way but to the zenith,-here a block of granite, there a mass of pipe-clay; till the whole finishes, when the materials are finished, and you leave it standing to posterity, like some miniature Stonehenge, a perfect architectural enigma.

Richter was much better-natured than Johnson; and took many provoking things with the spirit of a humorist and philosopher; nor can we think that so good a man, even had he foreseen this work of Doering's, would have gone the length of assassinating him for it. Doering is a person we have known for several years, as a compiler, and translator, and ballad

* Jean Paul Friedrich Richter's Leben, nebst Characteristik seiner Werke; von Heinrich Doering (Jean Paul Friedrich Richter's Life, with a Sketch of his Works; by Heinrich Doering.) Gotha. Hennings, 1826. 12mo.

np. 208.

To speak without figure, this mode of lifeWriting has its disadvantages. For one thing. the composition cannot well be what the critics call harmonious; and, indeed, Herr Doering's transitions are often abrupt enough. His hero

T

changes his object and occupation from page | rating (decidedly in bombast) over the grave. to page, often from sentence to sentence, in the most unaccountable way; a pleasure journey, and a sickness of fifteen years, are despatched with equa! brevity; in a moment you find him married, and the father of three fine children. He dies no less suddenly;-he is studying as usual, writing poetry, receiving visits, full of life and business, when instantly some paragraph opens under him, like one of the trapdoors in the Vision of Mirza, and he drops, without note of preparation, into the shades below. Perhaps, indeed, not for ever: we have instances of his rising after the funeral, and winding up his affairs. The time has been, that when the brains were out the man would die; but Doering orders these matters ferently.

Then, it seems, there were meetings held in various parts of Germany, to solemnize the memory of Richter; among the rest, one in the Museum of Frankfort on the Maine; where a Doctor Börne speaks another long speech, if possible in still more decided bombast. Next come threnodies from all the four winds, mostly on very splay-footed metre. The whole of which is here snatched from the kind oblivion of the newspapers, and "lives in Settle's numbers one day more."

We have too much reverence for the name of Richter to think of laughing over these unhappy threnodies and panegyrists; some of whom far exceed any thing we English can exdif-hibit in the epicedial style. They rather testify, however maladroitly, that the Germans have felt their loss,-which, indeed, is one to Europe at large; they even affect us with a certain melancholy feeling, when we consider how a heavenly voice must become mute, and nothing be heard in its stead but the whoop of quite earthly voices, lamenting, or pretending to lament. Far from us be all remembrance of Doering and Company, while we speak of Richter! But his own works give us some glimpses into his singular and noble nature; and to our readers a few words on this man, certainly one of the most remarkable of his age, will not seem thrown away.

We beg leave to say, however, that we really have no private pique against Doering: on the contrary, we are regular purchasers of his ware; and it gives us true pleasure to see his spirits so much improved since we first met him. In the Life of Schiller, his state did seem rather unprosperous: he wore a timorous, submissive, and downcast aspect, as if like Sterne's Ass, he were saying, "Don't thrash me ;-but if you will, you may!" Now, however, comforted by considerable sale, and praise from this and the other Literaturblatt, which has commended his diligence, his fidelity, and, strange to say, his method, he advances with Except by name, Jean Paul Friedrich Richerect countenance and firm hoof, and even re-ter is little known out of Germany. The only calcitrates contemptuously against such as do thing connected with him, we think, that has him offence. Glück auf dem Weg! is the worst reached this country, is his saying, imported we wish him. by Madame de Staël, and thankfully pocketed Of his Life of Richter, these preliminary ob- by most newspaper critics: "Providence has servations may be our excuse for saying but given to the French the empire of the land, to little. He brags much, in his preface, that it the English that of the sea, to the Germans that is all true and genuine; for Richter's widow, of-the air!" Of this last element, indeed, his it seems, had, by public advertisement, cau- own genius might easily seem to have been a tioned the world against it; another biography, denizen: so fantastic, many-coloured, far-grasppartly by the illustrious deceased himself, part-ing, every way perplexed and extraordinary in ly by Otto, his oldest friend and the appointed his mode of writing, that to translate him is next editor of his works, being actually in prepara- to impossible; nay, a dictionary of his works tion. This rouses the indignant spirit of Doer- has actually been in part published for the use ing, and he stoutly asseverates, that, his docu- of German readers! These things have rements being altogether authentic, this biogra- stricted his sphere of action, and may long rephy is no pseudo-biography. With greater truth strict it to his own country: but there, in rehe might have asseverated that it was no bio-turn, he is a favourite of the first class; studied graphy at all. Well are he and Hennings of through all his intricacies with trustful admiGotha aware that this thing of shreds and ration, and a love which tolerates much. Durpatches has been vamped together for sale ing the last forty years, he has been continually only. Except a few letters to Kunz, the Bam- before the public, in various capacities, and berg bookseller, which turn mainly on the pur-growing generally in esteem with all ranks of chase of spectacles, and the journeyings and critics; till, at length, his gainsayers have freightage of two boxes that used to pass and been either silenced or convinced; and Jean repass between Richter and Kunz's circulating Paul, at first reckoned half-mad, has long ago library; with three or four notes of similar im- vindicated his singularities to nearly universal portance, and chiefly to other booksellers, there satisfaction, and now combines popularity with are no biographical documents here, which real depth of endowment, in perhaps a greater were not open to all Europe as well as to Hein-degree than any other writer; being second in rich Doering. Indeed, very nearly one-half of the latter point to scarcely more than one of the Life is occupied with a description of the his contemporaries, and in the former second funeral and its appendages,-how the "sixty to none. torches, with a number of lanterns and pitch- The biography of so distinguished a person pans," were arranged; how this patrician or pro- could scarcely fail to be interesting, especialfessor followed that, through Friedrich-street, ly his autobiography; which, accordingly, we Chancery-street, and other streets of Bayreuth; wait for, and may in time submit to our readers, and how at last the torches all went out, as if it seem worthy: meanwhile, the history of Doctor Gabler and Doctor Spatzier were pero-his life, so far as outward events characterize

it, may be stated in fi w words. He was born the streets of Bayreuth, we have heard, he was at Wunsiedel in Bayreuth, in March, 1763. seldom seen without a flower in his breast. A His father was a subaltern teacher in the Gym- man of quiet tastes, and warm, compassionate nasium of the place, and was afterwards pro- affections! His friends he must have loved moted to be clergyman at Schwarzbach on the as few do. Of his poor and humble mother Saale. Richter's early education was of the he often speaks by allusion, and never without scantiest sort; but his fine faculties and un-reverence and overflowing tenderness. "Unwearied diligence supplied every defect. Un- happy is the man," says he, " for whom his own able to purchase books, he borrowed what he mother has not made all other mothers venercould come at, and transcribed from them, often able!" and elsewhere:-"O thou who hast great part of their contents,-a habit of ex- still a father and a mother, thank God for it in cerpting, which continued with him through the day when thy soul is full of joyful tears, life, and influenced, in more than one way, his and needs a bosom wherein to shed them!"mode of writing and study. To the last, he We quote the following sentences from Doerwas an insatiable and universal reader; so ing, almost the only memorable thing he has that his extracts accumulated on his hands, written in this volume :"till they filled whole chests." In 1780, he went to the University of Leipzig; with the highest character, in spite of the impediments which he had struggled with, for talent and acquirement. Like his father, he was destined for Theology; from which, however, his vagrant genius soon diverged into Poetry and Philosophy, to the neglect, and, ere long, to the final abandonment, of his appointed profession. Not well knowing what to do, he now accepted a tutorship in some family of rank; then he had pupils in his own house,-which, however, like his way of life, he often changed; for by this time he had become an author, and, in his wanderings over Germany, was putting forth, now here, now there, the strangest books, with the strangest titles: For instance,Greenland Lawsuits;-Biographical Recreations under the Cranium of a Giantess;-Selection from the Papers of the Devil;—and the like. In these indescribable performances, the splendid faculties of the writer, luxuriating as they seemed in utter riot, could not be disputed; nor, with all its extravagance, the fundamental strength, honesty, and tenderness of his nature. Genius will reconcile men to much. By degrees, Jean Paul began to be considered not a strange, crackbrained mixture of enthusiast and buffoon, but a man of infinite humour, sensibility, force, and penetration. His writings procured him friends and fame; and at length a wife and a settled provision. With Caroline Mayer, his good spouse, and a pension (in 1802) from the King of Bavaria, he settled in Bayreuth, the capital of his native province; where he lived thenceforth, diligent and celebrated in many new departments of literature; and died on the 14th of November, 1825, loved as well as admired by all his countrymen, and most by those who had known him most intimately.

A huge, irregular man, both in mind and person, (for his portrait is quite a physiognomical study,) full of fire, strength, and impetuosity, Richter seems, at the same time, to have been, in the highest degree, mild, simplehearted, humane. He was fond of conversation, and might well shine in it: he talked, as he wrote, in a style of his own, full of wild strength and charms, to which his natural Bayreuth accent often gave additional effect. Yet he loved retirement, the country, and all natural things; from his youth upwards, he himself tells us, he may almost be said to have lived in the open air; it was among groves and meadows that he studied,—often that he wrote. Even in

"Richter's studying or sitting apartment offered, about this time, (1793,) a true and beautiful emblem of his simple and noble way of thought, which comprehended at once the high and the low. Whilst his mother, who then lived with him, busily pursued her household work, occupying herself about stove and dresser, Jean Paul was sitting in a corner of the same room, at a simple writing-desk, with few or no books about him, but merely with one or two drawers containing excerpts and manuscripts. The jingle of the household operations seeined not at all to disturb him, any more than did the cooing of the pigeons, which fluttered to and fro in the chamber,-a place, indeed, of considerable size."-F. 8.

Our venerable Hooker, we remember, also enjoyed " the jingle of household operations," and the more questionable jingle of shrewd tongues to boot, while he wrote; but the good thrifty mother, and the cooing pigeons, were wanting. Richter came afterwards to live in finer mansions, and had the great and learned for associates; but the gentle feelings of those days abode with him: through life he was the same substantial, determinate, yet meek and tolerating man. It is seldom that so much rugged energy can be so blandly attempered;

that so much vehemence and so much softness will go together.

The expected edition of Richter's works is to be in sixty volumes: and they are no less multifarious than extensive; embracing subjects of all sorts, from the highest problems of transcendental philosophy, and the most passionate poetical delineations, to Golden Rules for the Weather-Prophet, and instructions in the Art of Falling Asleep. His chief productions are novels: the Unsichtbare Loge (Invisible Lodge); Flegeljahre (Wild-Oats); Life of Fixlein; the Jubelsenior (Parson in Jubilee); Schmelzle's Journey to Flätz; Katzenberger's Journey to the Bath; Life of Fibel; with many lighter pieces; and two works of a higher order, Hesperus and Titan, the largest and the best of his novels. It was the former that first (in 1795) introduced him into decisive and universal estimation with his countrymen: the latter he himself, with the most judicious of his critics, regarded as his master-piece. But the name Novelist, as we in England must understand it, would ill describe so vast and discursive a genius: for, with all his grotesque, tumultuous pleasantry, Richter is a man of a truly earnest, nay, high and solemn character

« السابقةمتابعة »