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CHAPTER XI. The German Tributary

Up to the last decade of the eighteenth century the romantic movement in Great Britain had been self-developed and independent of foreign influence, except for such stimulus as it had found, once and again, in the writings of continental scholars like Sainte Palaye and Mallet. But now the English literary current began to receive a tributary stream from abroad. A change had taken place in the attitude of the German mind which corresponds quite closely to that whose successive steps we have been following. In Germany, French classicism had got an even firmer hold than in England. It is well-known that Frederick the Great (1740-86) regarded his mother-tongue as a barbarous dialect, hardly fit for literary use. In his own writings, prose and verse, he invariably employed French; and he boasted to Gottsched that from his youth up he had not read a German book.[1]

But already before the middle of the century, and just about the time of the publication of Thomason's “Seasons,” the so-called Swiss school, under the leadership of the Zuericher, Johann Jacob Bodmer, had begun a national movement and an attack upon Gallic influences. Bodmer fought under Milton's banner, and in the preface to his prose translation of “Paradise Lost” (1732), he praised Shakspere as the English Sophocles. In his “Abhandlung von dem Wunderbaren” (“Treatise on the Marvelous,” 1740) he asserted the claims of freedom, nature, and the inspired imagination against the rules of French critics, very much as the Wartons and Bishop Hurd did a few years later in England. Deutscheit, Volkspoesie, the German past, the old Teutonic hero-age, with the Kaiserzeit and the Middle Ages in general, soon came into fashion. “As early as 1748 Bodmer had published specimens from the Minnesingers, in 1757 he had brought out a part of the Nibelungenlied, in 1758 and 1759 a more complete collection of the Minnesingers, and till 1781, till just before his death, he continued to produce editions of the Middle High-German poems. Another Swiss writer, Christian Heinrich Myller, a pupil of Bodmer's . . . published in 1784 and 1785 the whole of the Nibelungenlied and the most important of the chivalrous epics. Lessing, in his preface to Gleim's 'War-songs,' called attention to the Middle High German poets, of whom he continued to be throughout his life an ardent admirer. Justus Moeser took great interest in the Minnesingers. About the time when 'Goetz' appeared, this enthusiasm for early German poetry was at its strongest, and Buerger, Voss, Miller, and Hoeltz wrote Minnesongs, in which they imitated the old German lyric poets. In 1773 Gleim published 'Poems after the Minnesingers,' and in 1779 'Poems after Walther von der Vogelweide.' Some enthusiasts had already hailed the Nibelungenlied as the German Iliad, and Buerger, who vied hard with the rest, but without much success, in turning Homer into German, insisted on dressing up the Greek heroes a little in the Nibelungen style. He and a few other poets loved to give their ballads a chivalrous character. Fritz Stolberg wrote the beautiful song of a German boy, beginning, 'Mein Arm wird stark und gross mein Muth, gib, Vater, mir ein Schwert'; and the song of the old Swabian knight—'Sohn, da hast du meinen Speer; meinem Arm wird er zu schwer.' Lessing's 'Nathan,' too, appealed to this enthusiasm for the times of chivalry, and must have strengthened the feeling. An historian like the Swiss, Johannes Mueller, began to show the Middle Ages in a fairer light, and even to ascribe great merits to the Papacy. But in doing so, Johannes Mueller was only following in Herder's steps. Herder . . . had written against the self-conceit of his age, its pride in its enlightenment and achievements. He found in the Middle Ages the realization of his aesthetic ideas, namely, strong emotion, stirring life and action, everything guided by feeling and instinct, not by morbid thought: religious ardor and chivalrous honor, boldness in love and strong patriotic feeling.”[2]

When the founders of a truly national literature in Germany cut loose from French moorings, they had an English pilot aboard; and in the translations from German romances, dramas, and ballads that were made by Scott, Coleridge, Taylor, Lewis, and others, English literature was merely taking back with usury what it had lent its younger sister. Mention has already been made of Buerger's and Herder's renderings from Percy's “Reliques,”[3] an edition of which was published at Goettingen in 1767; as well as of the strong excitement aroused in Germany by MacPherson's “Ossian.”[4] This last found—besides the Viennese Denis—another translator in Fritz Stolberg, who carried his medievalism so far as to join the Roman Catholic Church in 1800. Klopstock's “Kriegslied,” written as early as 1749, was in the meter of “Chevy Chase,” which Klopstock knew through Addison's Spectator papers. Through Mallet, the Eddaic literature made an impression in Germany as in England; and Gerstenberg's “Gedicht eines Skalden" (1766), one of the first-fruits of the German translation of the “Historire de Dannemarc,” preceded by two years the publication—though not the composition—of Gray's poems from the Norse.

But the spirit which wrought most mightily upon the new German literature was Shakspere's. During the period of French culture there had been practically no knowledge of Shakspere in Germany. In 1741 Christian von Borck, Prussian ambassador to London, had translated “Julius Caesar.” This was followed, a few years later, by a version of “Romeo and Juliet.” In 1762-66 Wieland translated, in whole or in part, twenty-two Shakspere's plays. His translation was in prose and has been long superseded by the Tieck-Schlegel translation (1797-1801-1810). Goethe first made acquaintance with Shakspere, when a student at Leipsic, through the detached passages given in “Dodd's Beauties of Shakspere.”[5] He afterward got hold of Wieland's translation, and when he went to Strassburg he fell under the influence of Herder, who inspired him with his own enthusiasm for “Ossian,” and the Volkslieder, and led him to study Shakspere in the original.

Young Germany fastened upon and appropriated the great English dramatist with passionate conviction. He became an object of worship, an article of faith. The Shakspere cultus dominated the whole Sturm-und Drangperoide. The stage domesticated him: the poets imitated him: the critics exalted him into the type and representative (Urbild) of Germanic art, as opposed to and distinguished from the art of the Latin races, founded upon a false reproduction of the antique.[6] It was a recognition of the essential kinships between the two separated branches of the great Teutonic stock. The enthusiastic young patriots of the Goettinger Hain,—who hated everything French and called each other by the names of ancient bards,—accustomed themselves to the use of Shaksperian phrases in conversation; and on one occasion celebrated the dramatist's birthday so uproariously that they were pounced upon by the police and spent the night in the lockup. In Goethe's circle at Strassburg, which numbered, among others, Lenz, Klinger, and H. L. Wagner, this Shakspere mania was de rigueur. Lenz, particularly, who translated “Love's Labour's Lost,” excelled in whimsical imitations of “such conceits as clownage keeps in pay.”[7] Upon his return to Frankfort, Goethe gave a feast in Shakspere's honor at his father's house (October 14, 1771), in which healths were drunk to the “Will of all Wills,” and the youthful host delivered an extravagant eulogy. “The first page of Shakspere's that I read,” runs a sentence of this oration, “made me his own for life, and when I was through with the first play, I stood like a man born blind, to whom sight has been given by an instant's miracle. I had a most living perception of the fact that my being had been expanded a whole infinitude. Everything was new and strange; my eyes ached with the unwonted light.”[8]

Lessing, in his onslaught upon the French theater in his “Hamburgische Dramaturgie” (1767-69), maintained that there was a much closer agreement between Sophocles and Shakspere in the essentials of dramatic art than between Sophocles and Racine or Voltaire in their mechanical copies of the antique. In their own plays, Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller all took Shakspere as their model. But while beginning with imitation, they came in time to work freely in the spirit of Shakspere rather than in his manner. Thus the first draught of Goethe's “Goetz von Berlichingen” conforms in all externals to the pattern of a Shaksperian “history.” The unity of action went overboard along with those of time and place; the scene was shifted for a monologue of three lines or a dialogue of six; tragic and comic were interwoven; the stage was thronged with a motley variety of figures, humors, and conditions—knights, citizens, soldiers, horse-boys, peasants; there was a court-jester; songs and lyric passages were interspersed; there were puns, broad jokes, rant, Elizabethan metaphors, and swollen trunk-hose hyperboles, with innumerable Shakesperian reminiscences in detail. But the advice of Herder, to whom he sent his manuscript, and the example of Lessing, whose “Emilia Galotti” had just appeared, persuaded Goethe to recast the piece and give it a more independent form.

Scherer[9] says that the pronunciamento of the new national movement in German letters was the “small, badly printed anonymous book" entitled “Von Deutscher Art und Kunst, einige fliegende Blaetter" (“Some Loose Leaves about German Style and Art"), which appeared in 1773 and contained essays by Justus Moeser, who “upheld the liberty of the ancient Germans as a vanished ideal”; by Johann Gottfried Herder, who “celebrated the merits of popular song, advocated a collection of the German Volkslieder, extolled the greatness of Shakspere, and prophesied the advent of a German Shakspere”; and Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who praised the Strassburg Minster and Gothic architecture[10] in general, and “asserted that art, to be true, must be characteristic. The reform, or revolution, which this little volume announced was connected with hostility to France, and with a friendly attitude toward England. . . This great movement was, in fact, a revulsion from the spirit of Voltaire to that of Rousseau, from the artificiality of society to the simplicity of nature, from doubt and rationalism to feeling and faith, from a priori notions[11] to history, from hard and fast aesthetic rules to the freedom of genius. Goethe's 'Goetz' was the first revolutionary symptom which really attracted much attention, but the 'Fly-sheets on German Style and Art' preceded the publication of 'Goetz,' as a kind of programme or manifesto.” Even Wieland, the mocking and French-minded, the man of consummate talent but shallow genius, the representative of the Aufklaerung ( Eclaircissement, Illumination) was carried away by this new stream of tendency, and saddled his hoppogriff for a ride ins alte romantische Land. He availed himself of the new “Library of Romance” which Count Tressan began publishing in France in 1775, studied Hans Sachs and Hartmann von Aue, experiments with Old German meters, and enriched his vocabulary from Old German sources. He poetized popular fairy tales, chivalry stories, and motives from the Arthurian epos, such as “Gandalin” and “Geron der Adeliche” (“Gyron le Courteois"). But his best and best-known work in this temper was “Oberon” (1780) a rich composite of materials from Chaucer, “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” and the French romance of “Huon of Bordeaux.”[12]

From this outline—necessarily very imperfect and largely at second hand—of the course of the German romantic movement in the eighteenth century, it will nevertheless appear that it ran parallel to the English most of the way. In both countries the reaction was against the Aufklaerung, i.e., against the rationalistic, prosaic, skeptical, common-sense spirit of the age, represented in England by deistical writers like Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Bolingbroke, and Tindal in the department of religious and moral philosophy; and by writers like Addison, Swift, Prior, and Pope in polite letters; and represented most brilliantly in the literatures of Europe by Voltaire. In opposition to this spirit, an effort was now made to hark back to the ages of faith; to recover the point of view which created mythology, fairy lore, and popular superstitions; to believe, at all hazards, not only in God and the immortal soul of man, but in the old-time corollaries of these beliefs, in ghosts, elves, demons, and witches.

In both countries, too, the revolution, as it concerned form, was a break with French classicism and with that part of the native literature which had followed academic traditions. Here the insurrection was far more violent in Germany than in England,[13] partly because Gallic influence had tyrannized there more completely and almost to the supplanting of the vernacular by the foreign idiom, for literary uses; and partly because Germany had nothing to compare with the shining and solid achievements of the Queen Anne classics in England. It was easy for the new school of German poets and critics to brush asideperruques like Opitz, Gottsched, and Gellert—authors of the fourth and fifth class. But Swift and Congreve, and Pope and Fielding, were not thus to be disposed of. We have noted the cautious, respectful manner in which such innovators as Warton and Percy ventured to question Pope's supremacy and to recommend older English poets to the attention of a polite age; and we have seen that Horace Walpole's Gothic enthusiasms were not inconsistent with literary prejudices more conservation than radical, upon the whole. In England, again, the movement began with imitations of Spenser and Milton, and, gradually only, arrived at the resuscitation of Chaucer and medieval poetry and the translation of Bardic and Scaldic remains. But in Germany there was no Elizabethan literature to mediate between the modern mind and the Middle Age, and so the Germans resorted to England and Shakspere for this.

In Germany, as in England, though for different reasons, the romantic revival did not culminate until the nineteenth century, until the appearance of the Romantische Schule in the stricter sense—of Tieck, Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, Wackenroder, Fouque, Von Arnim, Brentano, and Uhland. In England this was owing less to arrested development than to the absence of genius. There the forerunners of Scott, Coleridge, and Keats were writers of a distinctly inferior order: Akenside, Shenstone, Dyer, the Wartons, Percy, Walpole, Mrs. Radcliffe, “Monk” Lewis, the boy Chatterton. If a few rise above this level, like Thomason, Collins, and Gray, the slenderness of their performance, and the somewhat casual nature of their participation in the movement, diminish their relative importance. Gray's purely romantic work belongs to the last years of his life. Collins' derangement and early death stopped the unfolding of many buds of promise in this rarely endowed lyrist. Thomson, perhaps, came too early to reach any more advanced stage of evolution than Spenserism. In Germany, on the contrary, the pioneers were men of the highest intellectual stature, Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Schiller. But there the movement was checked for a time by counter-currents, or lost in broader tides of literary life. English romanticism was but one among many contemporary tendencies: sentimentalism, naturalism, realism. German romanticism was simply an incident of the sturm-und Drangperiode, which was itself but a temporary phase of the swift and many-sided unfolding of the German mind in the latter half of the last century; one element in the great intellectual ferment which threw off, among other products, the Kantian philosophy, the “Laocooen,” “Faust,” and “Wilhelm Meister”; Winckelmann's “Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums" and Schiller's “Wallenstein” and “Wilhelm Tell.” Men like Goethe and Schiller were too broad in their culture, too versatile in their talents, too multifarious in their mental activities and sympathies to be classified with a school. The temper which engendered “Goetz” and “Die Raeuber” was only a moment in the history of their Entwickelung ; they passed on presently into other regions of thought and art.

In Goethe especially there ensued, after the time of his Italienische Reise, a reversion to the classic; not the exploded pseudo-classic of the eighteenth-century brand, but the true Hellenic spirit which expressed itself in such work as “Iphigenie auf Tauris,” “Hermann und Dorothea,” and the “Schoene Helena” and “Classische Walpurgis-Nacht” episodes in the second part of “Faust.” “In his youth,” says Scherer, “a love for the historical past of Germany had seized on the minds of many. Imaginative writers filled the old Teutonic forests with Bards and Druids and cherished an enthusiastic admiration for Gothic cathedrals and for the knights of the Middle Ages and of the sixteenth century. . . In Goethe's mature years, on the contrary, the interest in classical antiquity dwarfed all other aesthetic interests, and Germany and Europe were flooded by the classical fashion for which Winckelmann had given the first strong impulse. The churches became ancient temples, the mechanical arts strove after classical forms, and ladies affected the dress and manners of Greek women. The leaders of German poetry, Goethe and Schiller, both attained the summit of their art in the imitation of classical models.”[14] Still the ground recovered from the Middle Age was never again entirely lost; and in spite of this classical prepossession, Goethe and Schiller, even in the last years of the century, vied with one another in the composition of romantic ballads, like the former's “Der Erlkonig,” “Der Fischer,” “Der Todtentanz,” and “Der Zauberlehrling,” and the latter's “Ritter Toggenburg,” “Der Kampf mit dem Drachen,” and “Der Gang nach dem Eisenhammer.”

On comparing the works of a romantic temper produced in England and in Germany during the last century, one soon becomes aware that, though the original impulse was communicated from England, the continental movement had greater momentum. The Gruendlichkeit, the depth and thoroughness of the German mind, impels it to base itself in the fine arts, as in politics and religion, on foundation principles; to construct for its practice a theoria, an aesthetik. In the later history of German romanticism, the medieval revival in letters and art was carried out with a philosophic consistency into other domains of thought and made accessory to reactionary statecraft and theology, to Junkerism and Catholicism. Meanwhile, though the literary movement in Germany in the eighteenth century did not quite come to a head, it was more critical, learned, and conscious of its own purposes and methods than the kindred movement in England. The English mind, in the act of creation, works practically and instinctively. It seldom seeks to bring questions of taste or art under the domain of scientific laws. During the classical period it had accepted its standards of taste from France, and when it broke away from these, it did so upon impulse and gave either no reasons, or very superficial ones, for its new departure. The elegant dissertations of Hurd and Percy, and the Wartons, seem very dilettantish when set beside the imposing systems of aesthetics propounded by Kant, Fichte, and Schelling; or beside thorough-going Abhandlungen like the “Laocooen,” the “Hamburgische Dramaturgie,” Schiller's treatise “Ueber naive and sentimentalische Dichtung,” or the analysis of Hamlet's character in “Wilhelm Meister.” There was no criticism of this kind in England before Coleridge; no Shakspere criticism, in particular, to compare with the papers on that subject by Lessing, Herder, Gerstenberg, Lenz, Goethe, and many other Germans. The only eighteenth-century Englishman who would have been capable of such was Gray. He had the requisite taste and scholarship, but even he wanted the philosophic breadth and depth for a fundamental and eingehend treatment of underlying principles.

Yet even in this critical department, German literary historians credit England with the initiative. Hettner[15] mentions three English critics, in particular, as predecessors of Herder in awakening interest in popular poetry. These were Edward Young, the author of “Night Thoughts,” whose “Conjectures on Original Composition” was published in 1759: Robert Wood, whose “Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer” (1768) was translated into German, French, Spanish, and Italian; and Robert Lowth, Bishop of Oxford, who was Professor of Poetry at Oxford delivered there in 1753 his “Praelectiones de Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum,” translated into English and German in 1793. The significance of Young's brilliant little essay, which was in form a letter addressed to the author of “Sir Charles Grandison,” lay in its assertion of the superiority of genius to learning and of the right of genius to be free from rules and authorities. It was a sort of literary declaration of independence; and it asked, in substance, the question asked in Emerson's “Nature”: “Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?” Pope had said, in his “Essay on Criticism,”[16] “follow Nature,” and in order to follow Nature, learn the rules and study the ancients, particularly Homer. “Nature and Homer were the same.” Contrariwise, Young says: “The less we copy the renowned ancients, we shall resemble them the more. . . Learning . . . is a great lover of rules and boaster of famed examples . . . and sets rigid bounds to that liberty to which genius often owes its supreme glory. . . Born originals, how comes it to pass that we die copies?. . . Let not great examples or authorities browbeat thy reason into too great a diffidence of thyself. . . While the true genius is crossing all public roads into fresh untrodden ground; he [the imitative writer], up to the knees in antiquity, is treading the sacred footsteps of great examples with the blind veneration of a bigot saluting the sacred toe.” Young asserts that Shakspere is equal in greatness to the ancients: regrets that Pope did not employ blank verse in his translation of Homer, and calls Addison's “Cato” “a piece of statuary.”

Robert Wood, who visited and described the ruins of Balbec and Palmrya, took his Iliad to the Troad and read it on the spot. He sailed in the track of Menelaus and the wandering Ulysses; and his acquaintance with Eastern scenery and life helped to substitute a fresher apprehension of Homer for the somewhat conventional conception that had prevailed through the classical period. What most forcibly struck Herder and Goethe in Wood's essay was the emphasis laid upon the simple, unlettered, and even barbaric state of society in the heroic age: and upon the primitive and popular character (Urspruenglichkeit, Volksthuemlichkeit) of the Homeric poems.[17] This view of Homer, as essentially a minstrel or ballad-maker, has been carried so far in Professor Newman's translations as to provoke remonstrance from Matthew Arnold, who insists upon Homer's “nobility" and “grand style.”[18] But with whatever exaggeration it may have latterly been held, it was wholesomely corrective and stimulating when propounded in 1768.

Though the final arrival of German romanticism, in its fullness, was postponed too late to modify the English movement, before the latter had spent its first strength, yet the prelude was heard in England and found an echo there. In 1792 Walter Scott was a young lawyer at Edinburgh and had just attained his majority.

    “Romance who loves to nod and sing 
    With drowsy head and folded wing, 
    To him a painted paroquet 
    Had been—a most familiar bird— 
    Taught him his alphabet to say, 
    To lisp his very earliest word.”[19]

He had lain from infancy “in the lap of legends old,” and was already learned in the antiquities of the Border. For years he had been making his collection of memorabilia; claymores, suits of mail, Jedburgh axes, border horns, etc. He had begun his annual raids into Liddesdale, in search of ballads and folk lore, and was filling notebooks with passages from the Edda, records of old Scotch law-cases, copies of early English poems, notes on the “Morte Darthur,” on the second sight, on fairies and witches; extracts from Scottish chronicles, from the Books of Adjournal, from Aubrey, and old Glanvil of superstitious memory; tables of the Moeso-Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, and Runic alphabets and transcripts relating to the history of the Stuarts. In the autumn or early winter of that year, a class of six or seven young men was formed at Edinburgh for the study of German, and Scott joined it. In his own account of the matter he says that interest in German literature was first aroused in Scotland by a paper read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh in April, 1788, by Henry Mackenzie, the “Addison of the North,” and author of that most sentimental fictions, “The Man of Feeling.” “The literary persons of Edinburgh were then first made aware of the existence of works of genius in a language cognate with the English, and possessed of the same manly force of expressions; they learned at the same time that the taste which dictated the German compositions was of a kind as nearly allied to the English as their language; those who were from their youth accustomed to admire Shakspere and Milton became acquainted for the first time with a race of poets who had the same lofty ambition to spurn the flaming boundaries of the universe and investigate the realms of Chaos and old Night; and of dramatists who, disclaiming the pedantry of the unities, sought, at the expense of occasional improbabilities and extravagance, to present life on the stage in its scenes of wildest contrast, and in all its boundless variety of character. . . Their fictitious narratives, their ballad poetry, and other branches of their literature which are particularly apt to bear the stamp of the extravagant and the supernatural, began also to occupy the attention of the British literati.” Scott's German studies were much assisted by Alexander Frazer Tytler, whose version of Schiller's “Robbers” was one of the earliest English translations from the German theater.[20]

In the autumn of 1794 Miss Aikin, afterward Mrs. Barbauld, entertained a party at Dugald Stewart's by reading a translation of Buerger's ghastly ballad “Lenore.” The translation was by William Taylor of Norwich; it had not yet been published, and Miss Aikin read it from a manuscript copy. Scott was not present, but his friend Mr. Cranstoun described the performance to him; and he was so much impressed by his description that he borrowed a volume of Burger's poems from his young kinswoman by marriage, Mrs. Scott of Harden, a daughter of Count Bruehl of Martkirchen, formerly Saxon ambassador at London, who had a Scotchwoman for his second wife, the dowager Countess of Egremont. Scott set to work in 1795 to make a translation of the ballad for himself, and succeeded so well in pleasing his friends that he had a few copies struck off for private circulation in the spring of 1796. In the autumn of the same year he published his version under the title “William and Helen,” together with “The Chase,” a translation of Buerger's “Der Wilde Jaeger.” The two poems made a thin quarto volume. It was printed at Edinburgh, was anonymous, and was Walter Scott's first published book. Meanwhile Taylor had given his rendering to the public in the March number of the Monthly Magazine, introducing it with a notice of Burger's poems; and the very same year witnessed the appearance of three other translations, one by J. T. Stanley (with copperplate engravings), one by Henry James Pye, the poet laureate, and one by the Hon. William Robert Spencer,—author of “Beth Gelert.” “Too Late I Stayed,” etc.,—with designs by Lady Diana Beauclerc. (A copy of this last, says Allibone, in folio, on vellum, sold at Christie's in 1804 for L25 4s.) A sixth translation, by the Rev. James Beresford, who had lived some time in Berlin, came out about 1800; and Schlegel and Brandl unite in pronouncing this the most faithful, if not the best, English version of the ballad.[21]

The poem of which England had taken such manifold possession, under the varied titles “Lenore,” “Leonore,” “Leonora,” “Lenora,” “Ellenore,” “Helen,” etc., was indeed a noteworthy one. In the original, it remains Buerger's masterpiece, and in its various English dresses it gained perhaps as many graces as it lost. It was first printed at Goettingen in Boie's “Musen Almanach” in 1773. It was an uncanny tale of a soldier of Frederick the Great, who had perished in the Seven Years' War, and who came at midnight on a spectral steed to claim his ladylove and carry her off a thousand miles to the bridal bed. She mounts behind him and they ride through the phantasms of the night till, at cock-crow, they come to a churchyard. The charger vanishes in smoke, the lover's armor drops from him, green with the damps of the grave, revealing a skeleton within, and the maiden finds that her nuptial chamber is the charnel vault, and her bridegroom is Death. “This poem,” says Scherer, “leaves on us, to some degree, the impression of an unsolved mystery; all the details are clear, but at the end we have to ask ourselves what has really happened; was it a dream of the girl, a dream in which she died, or did the ghost really appear and carry her away?”[22] The story is managed, indeed, with much of that subtle art which Coleridge used in “The Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel”; so that the boundary between the earthly and the unearthly becomes indefinite, and the doubt continually occurs whether we are listening to a veritable ghost-story, or to some finer form of allegory. “Lenore” drew for its materials upon ballad motives common to many literatures. It will be sufficient to mention “Sweet William's Ghost,” as an English example of the class.

Scott's friends assured him that his translation was superior to Taylor's, and Taylor himself wrote to him: “The ghost nowhere makes his appearance so well as with you, or his exit so well as with Mr. Spencer.” But Lewis was right in preferring Taylor's version, which has a wildness and quaintness not found in Scott's more literal and more polished rendering, and is wonderfully successful in catching theGrobheit, the rude, rough manner of popular poetry. A few stanzas from each will illustrate the difference:

    [From Scott's “William and Helen.”]

    “Dost fear? dost fear? The moon shines clear:— 
      Dost fear to ride with me? 
    Hurrah! Hurrah! the dead can ride”— 
      “O William, let them be!”

    “See there! see there! What yonder swings 
       And creaks 'mid whistling rain?” 
    “Gibbet and steel, the accursed wheel; 
       A murd'rer in his chain.

    “Halloa! Thou felon, follow here: 
      To bridal bed we ride; 
    And thou shalt prance a fetter dance 
      Before me and my bride.”

    And hurry! hurry! clash, clash, clash! 
      The wasted form descends,[23] 
    And fleet as wind through hazel bush 
      The wild career attends.[23]

    Tramp, tramp! along the land they rode, 
      Splash, splash! along the sea: 
    The scourge is red, the spur drops blood, 
      The flashing pebbles flee.

    [From Taylor's “Lenora.”]

    Look up, look up, an airy crewe 
      In roundel dances reele. 
    The moone is bryghte and blue the night, 
      May'st dimly see them wheel.[24]

    “Come to, come to, ye ghostlie crewe, 
      Come to and follow me. 
    And daunce for us the wedding daunce 
      When we in bed shall be.”

    And brush, brush, brush, the ghostlie crew 
      Come wheeling o'er their heads, 
    All rustling like the withered leaves 
      That wyde the whirlwind spreads.

    Halloo! halloo! Away they goe 
      Unheeding wet or drye, 
    And horse and rider snort and blowe, 
      And sparkling pebbles flye.

    And all that in the moonshine lay 
      Behynde them fled afar; 
    And backward scudded overhead 
      The skye and every star.

    Tramp, tramp across the land they speede, 
      Splash, splash across the sea: 
    “Hurrah! the dead can ride apace, 
      Dost fear to ride with me?”

It was this stanza which fascinated Scott, as repeated from memory by Mr. Cranstoun; and he retained it without much change in his version. There is no mention of the sea in Buerger, whose hero is killed in the battle of Prague and travels only by land. But Taylor nationalized and individualized the theme by making his William a knight of Richard the Lion Heart's, who had fallen in Holy Land. Scott followed him and made his a crusader in the army of Frederic Barbarossa. Buerger's poem was written in an eight-lined stanza, but Taylor and Scott both chose the common English ballad verse, with its folkloreish associations, as the best vehicle for reproducing the grewsome substance of the story; and Taylor gave an archaic cast to his diction, still further to heighten the effect. Lewis considered his version a masterpiece of translation, and, indeed, “far superior, both in spirit and in harmony, to the German.” Taylor showed almost equal skill in his rendering of Buerger's next most popular ballad, “Des Pfarrer's Tochter von Taubenhain,” first printed in the Monthly Magazine for April, 1796, under the somewhat odd title of “The Lass of Fair Wone.”

Taylor of Norwich did more than any man of his generation, by his translations and critical papers in the Monthly Magazine and Monthly Review, to spread a knowledge of the new German literature in England. When a lad of sixteen he had been sent to study at Detmold, Westphalia, and had spent more than a year (1781-82) in Germany, calling upon Goethe at Weimar, with a letter of introduction, on his way home to England. “When his acquaintance with this literature began,” wrote Lucy Aikin, “there was probably no English translation of any German author but through the medium of the French, and he is very likely to have been the first Englishman of letters to read Goethe, Wieland, Lessing, and Buerger in the originals.”[25] Some years before the publication of his “Lenora” he had printed for private distribution translations of Lessing's “Nathan der Weise” (1791) and Goethe's “Iphigenie auf Tauris” (1793). In 1829-30 he gathered up his numerous contributions to periodicals and put them together in a three-volume “Historic Survey of German Poetry,” which was rather roughly, though not disrespectfully, handled by Carlyle in the Edinburgh Review. Taylor's tastes were one-sided, not to say eccentric; he had not kept up with the later movement of German thought; his critical opinions were out of date, and his book was sadly wanting in unity and a proper perspective. Carlyle was especially scandalized by the slight space accorded to Goethe.[26] But Taylor's really brilliant talent in translation, and his important service as an introducer and interpreter of German poetry to his own countrymen, deserve always to be gratefully remembered. “You have made me hunger and thirst after German poetry,” wrote Southey to him, February 24, 1799.[27]

The year 1796, then, marks the confluence of the English and German romantic movements. It seems a little strange that so healthy a genius as Walter Scott should have made his debut in an exhibition of the horrible. Lockhart reports him, on the authority of Sir Alexander Wood, as reading his “William and Helen” over to that gentleman “in a very slow and solemn tone,” and then looking at the fire in silence and presently exclaiming. “I wish to Heaven I could get a skull and two crossbones.” Whereupon Sir Alexander accompanied him to the house of John Bell, surgeon, where the desired articles were obtained and mounted upon the poet's bookcase. During the next few years, Scott continued to make translations of German ballads, romances, and chivalry dramas. These remained for the present in manuscript; and some of them, indeed, such as his versions of Babo's “Otto von Wittelsbach" (1796-97) and Meier's “Wolfred von Dromberg” (1797) were never permitted to see the light. His second publication (February, 1799) was a free translation of Goethe's tragedy, “Goetz von Berlichingen mit der Eisernen Hand.” The original was a most influential work in Germany. It had been already twenty-six years before the public and had produced countless imitations, with some of which Scott had been busy before he encountered this, the fountain head of the whole flood of Ritterschauspiele.[28] Goetz was an historical character, a robber knight of Franconia in the fifteenth century, who had championed the rights of the free knights to carry on private warfare and had been put under the ban of the empire for engaging in feuds. “It would be difficult,” wrote Carlyle, “to name two books which have exercised a deeper influence on the subsequent literature of Europe”—than “The Sorrows of Werther” and “Gotz.” “The fortune of 'Berlichingen with the Iron Hand,' though less sudden”—than Werther's—“was by no means less exalted. In his own country 'Goetz,' though he now stands solitary and childless, became the parent of an innumerable progeny of chivalry plays, feudal delineations, and poetico-antiquarian performances; which, though long ago deceased, made noise enough in their day and generation; and with ourselves his influence has been perhaps still more remarkable. Sir Walter Scott's first literary enterprise was a translation of 'Goetz von Berlichingen'; and if genius could be communicated, like instruction, we might call this work of Goethe's the prime cause of 'Marmion' and 'The Lady of the Lake,' with all that has since followed from the same creative hand. . . How far 'Goetz von Berlichingen' actually affected Scott's literary destination, and whether without it the rhymed romances, and then the prose romances of the author of Waverly, would not have followed as they did, must remain a very obscure question; obscure and not important. Of the fact, however, there is no doubt, that these two tendencies, which may be named Goetzism and Wertherism, of the former of which Scott was representative with us, have made and are still in some quarters making the tour of all Europe. In Germany, too, there was this affectionate, half-regretful looking-back into the past: Germany had its buff-belted, watch-tower period in literature, and had even got done with it before Scott began.”[29]

Elsewhere Carlyle protests against the common English notion that German literature dwells “with peculiar complacency among wizards and ruined towers, with mailed knights, secret tribunals, monks, specters, and banditti. . . If any man will insist on taking Heinse's 'Ardinghello' and Miller's 'Siegwart,' the works of Veit Weber the Younger, and above all the everlasting Kotzebue,[30] as his specimens of German literature, he may establish many things. Black Forests and the glories of Lubberland, sensuality and horror, the specter nun and the charmed moonshine shall not be wanting. Boisterous outlaws also, with huge whiskers and the most cat-o'-mountain aspect; tear-stained sentimentalists, the grimmest man-haters, ghosts and the like suspicious characters will be found in abundance. We are little read in this bowl-and-dagger department; but we do understand it to have been at one time rather diligently cultivated; though at present it seems to be mostly relinquished. . . What should we think of a German critic that selected his specimens of British literature from 'The Castle Specter,' Mr. Lewis' 'Monk,' or the 'Mysteries of Udolpho,' and 'Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus'?. . . 'Faust,' for instance, passes with many of us for a mere tale of sorcery and art magic. It would scarcely be more unwise to consider 'Hamlet' as depending for its main interest on the ghost that walks in it.”[31]

Now for the works here named, as for the whole class of melodramas and melodramatic romances which swarmed in Germany during the last quarter of the century and made their way into English theaters and circulating libraries, in the shape of translations, adaptations, imitations, two plays were remotely responsible: Goethe's “Goetz" (1773), with its robber knights, secret tribunal, imperialist troopers, gypsies, and insurgent peasants; and Schiller's “Die Raeuber” (1781), with its still more violent situations and more formidable dramatis personae. True, this spawn of the Sturm-und Drangzeit, with its dealings in banditti, monks, inquisitors, confessionals, torture and poison, dungeon and rack, the haunted tower, the yelling ghost, and the solitary cell, had been anticipated in England by Walpole's “Castle of Otranto” and “Mysterious Mother”; but this slender native stream was now quite overwhelmed in the turbid flood of sensational matter from the Black Forest and the Rhine. Mrs. Radcliffe herself had drunk from foreign sources. In 1794 she made the tour of the Rhine and published a narrative of her journey in the year following. The knightly river had not yet become hackneyed; Brentano had not invented nor Heine sung the seductive charms of the Luerlei; nor Byron mused upon “the castled crag of Drachenfels.” The French armies were not far off, and there were alarums and excursions all along the border. But the fair traveler paused upon many a spot already sacred to legend and song: the Mouse Tower and Rolandseck and the Seven Mountains. She noted the peasants, in their picturesque costumes, carrying baskets of soil to the steep vineyard terraces: the ruined keeps of robber barons on the heights, and the dark sweep of the romantic valleys, bringing in their tributary streams from north and south.

Lockhart says that Scott's translations of “Goetz” should have been published ten years sooner to have had its full effect. For the English public had already become sated with the melodramas and romances of Kotzebue and the other German Kraftmaenner; and the clever parody of “The Robbers,” under the title of “The Rovers,” which Canning and Ellis had published in the Anti-Jacobin, had covered the entire species with ridicule. The vogue of this class of fiction, the chivalry romance, the feudal drama, the robber play and robber novel, the monkish tale and the ghost story (Ritterstueck, Ritteroman, Raeuberstuck, Raeuberroman, Klostergeschichte, Gespensterlied) both in Germany and England, satisfied, however crudely, the longing of the time for freedom, adventure, strong action, and emotion. As Lowell said of the transcendental movement in New England, it was a breaking of windows to get at the fresh air. Laughable as many of them seem today, with their improbable plots and exaggerated characters, they met a need which had not been met either by the rationalizing wits of the Augustan age or by the romanticizing poets who followed them with their elegiac refinement, and their unimpassioned strain of reflection and description. They appeared, for the moment, to be the new avatar of the tragic muse whereof Akenside and Collins and Warton had prophesied, the answer to their demand for something wild and primitive, for the return into poetry of the Naturton, and the long-absent power of exciting the tragic emotions, pity and terror. This spirit infected not merely the department of the chivalry play and the Gothic romance, but prose fiction in general. It is responsible for morbid and fantastic creations like Beckford's “Vathek,” Godwin's “St. Leon” and “Caleb Williams,” Mrs. Shelley's “Frankenstein,” Shelley's “Zastrozzi” and “St. Irvine the Rosicrucian,” and the American Charles Brockden Brown's “Ormond” and “Wieland,” forerunners of Hawthorne and Poe; tales of sleep-walkers and ventriloquists, of persons who are in pursuit of the elixir vitae, or who have committed the unpardonable sin, or who manufacture monsters in their laboratories, or who walk about in the Halls of Eblis, carrying their burning hearts in their hands.

Lockhart, however, denies that “Goetz von Berlichingen” had anything in common with the absurdities which Canning made fun of in the Anti-Jacobin. He says that it was a “broad, bold, free, and most picturesque delineation of real characters, manners, and events.” He thinks that in the robber barons of the Rhine, with “their forays upon each other's domains, the besieged castles, the plundered herds, the captive knights, the brow-beaten bishop and the baffled liege-lord,” Scott found a likeness to the old life of the Scotch border, with its moss-troopers, cattle raids, and private warfare; and that, as Percy's “Reliques” prompted the “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,” so “Goetz" prompted the “Lay of the Last Minstrel” and “Marmion.” He quotes the passage from “Goetz” where Selbiss is borne in, wounded, by two troopers who ascend a watch-tower and describe to their leader the further progress of the battle; and he asks “who does not recognize in Goethe's drama the true original of the death scene in 'Marmion' and the storm in 'Ivanhoe'?”

A singular figure now comes upon our stage, Matthew Gregory Lewis, commonly nicknamed “Monk” Lewis, from the title of his famous romance. It is a part of the irony of things that so robust a muse as Walter Scott's should have been nursed in infancy by a little creature like Lewis. His “Monk” had been published in 1795, when the author was only twenty. In 1798 Scott's friend William Erskine meet Lewis in London. The latter was collecting materials for his “Tales of Wonder,” and when Erskine showed him Scott's “William and Helen” and “The Wild Huntsman,” and told him that he had other things of the kind in manuscript, Lewis begged that Scott would contribute to his collection. Erskine accordingly put him in communication with Scott, who felt highly flattered by the Monk's request, and wrote to him that his ballads were quite at his service. Lewis replied, thanking him for the offer. “A ghost or a witch,” he wrote, “is a sine qua non ingredient in all the dishes of which I mean to compose my hobgoblin repast.” Later in the same year Lewis came to Edinburgh and was introduced to Scott, who found him an odd contrast to the grewsome horrors of his books, being a cheerful, foppish, round-faced little man, a follower of fashion and an assiduous tuft-hunter. “Mat had queerish eyes,” writes his protege: “they projected like those of some insects, and were flattish on the orbit. His person was extremely small and boyish—he was indeed the least man I ever saw, to be strictly well and neatly made. . . This boyishness went through life with him. He was a child and a spoiled child, but a child of high imagination; and so he wasted himself on ghost stories and German romances. He had the finest ear for rhythm I ever met with—finer than Byron's.”

Byron, by the way, had always a kindly feeling for Lewis, though he laughed at him in “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers”:

    “O wonder-working Lewis, Monk or Bard, 
    Who fain would'st make Parnassus a churchyard; 
    Lo! wreaths of yew, not laurel, bind thy brow; 
    Thy muse a sprite, Apollo's sexton thou; 
    Whether on ancient tombs thou tak'st thy stand, 
    By gibbering specters hailed, thy kindred band, 
    Or tracest chaste descriptions on thy page, 
    To please the females of our modest age— 
    All hail, M. P.,[32] from whose infernal brain 
    Thin-sheeted phantoms glide, a grisly train; 
    At whose command grim women thron in crowds, 
    And kings of fire, of water and of clouds, 
    With 'small gray men,' wild yagers and what not, 
    To crown with honor thee and Walter Scott!”

In 1816, while on his way to Italy, Lewis sojourned for a space with Byron and Shelley in their Swiss retreat and set the whole company composing goblin stories. The most remarkable outcome of this queer symposium was Mrs. Shelley's abnormal romance, “Frankenstein.” The signatures of Byron and Shelley are affixed, as witnesses, to a codicil to Lewis' will, which he drew at this time and dated at Maison Diodati, Geneva; a somewhat rhetorical document in which he provided for the protection of the slaves on his Jamaica plantations. It was two years after this, and on his return voyage from a visit to these West Indian estates, that Lewis died of yellow fever and was buried at sea. Byron made this note of it in his diary:

    “I'd give the lands of Deloraine 
    Dark Musgrave were alive again,”

that is,

    “I would give many a sugar cane 
    Monk Lewis were alive again.”

Scott's modesty led him to depreciate his own verses as compared with Lewis', some of which he recited to Ballantyne, in 1799, speaking of their author, says Lockhart, “with rapture.” But however fine an ear for rhythm Lewis may have had, his verse is for the most part execrable; and his jaunty, jiggling anapaests and pragmatic manner are ludicrously out of keeping with the horrors of his tale, increasing the air of bathos which distinguishes his poetry:

    “A toad still alive in the liquor she threw, 
    And loud shrieked the toad as in pieces it flew: 
    And ever, the cauldron as over she bent, 
    She muttered strange words of mysterious intent:”

or this from the same ballad:[33]

    “Wild laughing, the Fiend caught the hand from the floor, 
    Releasing the babe, kissed the wound, drank the gore; 
    A little jet ring from her finger then drew, 
    Thrice shrieked a loud shriek and was borne from their view.”

Lewis would appear to have inherited his romantic turn from his mother, a sentimental little dame whose youthful looks caused her often to be taken for Mat's sister, and whose reading was chiefly confined to novels. The poor lady was something of a blue-stocking and aspired, herself, to literary honors. Lewis' devotion to her is very charming, and the elder-brotherly tone of his letters to her highly amusing. But he had a dislike of “female authorship”: and the rumor having reached his ear that his mother had written a novel and a tragedy and was preparing to print them, he wrote to her in alarm, begging her to stay her hand. “I hold that a woman has no business to be a public character, and that, in proportion as she acquires notoriety, she loses delicacy. I always consider a female author as a sort of half-man.” He was also, quite properly, shocked at some gossip which attributed “The Monk,” to his mother instead of to his mother's son.

We read in the “Life and Correspondence of Matthew Gregory Lewis” (2 vols., London, 1839), that one of Mrs. Lewis' favorite books was “Glanvil on Witches.” Glanvil was the seventeenth-century writer whose “Vanity of Dogmatizing,”[34] and “Sadduceismus Triumphatus” rebuked the doubter and furnished arguments for Cotton Mather's “Wonders of the Invisible World” (1693), an apology for his share in the Salem witchcraft trials; and whose description of a ghostly drum, that was heard to beat every night in a Wiltshire country house, gave Addison the hint for his comedy of “The Drummer.” Young Lewis gloated with a pleasing horror over Glanvil's pages and the wonderful copperplates which embellished them; particularly the one which represents the devil beating his airy tympanum over Mr. Mompesson's house. In the ancient mansion of Stanstead Hall, belonging to a kinsman of his father, where the boy spent a part of his childhood, there was a haunted chamber known as the cedar room. “In maturer years,” says his biographer, “Lewis has frequently been heard to declare that at night, when he was conducted past that gloomy chamber, on the way to his dormitory, he would cast a glance of terror over his shoulder, expecting to see the huge and strangely carved folding doors fly open and disclose some of those fearful shapes that afterward resolved themselves into the ghastly machinery of his works.”

Lewis' first and most celebrated publication was “Ambrosio, or the Monk” (1795), a three-volume romance of the Gothic type, and a lineal descendant of Walpole and Mrs. Radcliffe. He began it at Oxford in 1792, describing it in a letter to his mother as “a romance in the style of 'The Castle of Otranto.'“ But in the summer of the same year he went to Germany and took up his residence at Weimar, where he was introduced to Goethe and made eager acquaintance with the bizarre productions of the Sturm-und Drangperiode. For years Lewis was one of the most active intermediaries between the German purveyors of the terrible and the English literary market. He fed the stage with melodramas and operas, and stuffed the closet reader with ballads and prose romances.[35] Meanwhile, being at The Hague in the summer of 1794, he resumed and finished his “Monk,” in ten weeks. “I was induced to go on with it,” he wrote to his mother, “by reading the 'Mysteries of Udolpho,' which is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting books that has ever been published. . . When you read it, tell me whether you think there is any resemblance between the character given of Montoni . . . and my own. I confess that it struck me.” This innocent vanity of fancying a likeness between Anne Radcliffe's dark-browed villain and his own cherubic personality recalls Scott's story about the picture of Lewis, by Saunders, which was handed round at Dalkeith House. “The artist had ingeniously flung a dark folding-mantle around the form, under which was half-hid a dagger, a dark lantern, or some cut-throat appurtenance; with all this, the features were preserved and ennobled. It passed from hand to hand into that of Henry, Duke of Buccleuch, who, hearing the general voice affirm that it was very like, said aloud, 'Like Mat Lewis! Why, that picture's like a man.'“ “The Monk” used, and abused, the now familiar apparatus of Gothic romance. It had Spanish grandees, heroines of dazzling beauty, bravoes and forest banditti, foolish duennas and gabbling domestics, monks, nuns, inquisitors, magic mirrors, enchanted wands, midnight incantations, sorcerers, ghosts, demons; haunted chambers, wainscoated in dark oak; moonlit castles with ruined towers and ivied battlements, whose galleries rang with the shrieks and blasphemies of guilty spirits, and from whose portals issued, when the castle clock tolled one, the specter of a bleeding nun, with dagger and lamp in hand. There were poisonings, stabbings, and ministrations of sleeping potions; beauties who masqueraded as pages, and pages who masqueraded as wandering harpers; secret springs that gave admittance to winding stairs leading down into the charnel vaults of convents, where erring sisters were immured by cruel prioresses and fed on bread and water among the loathsome relics of the dead.

With all this, “The Monk” is a not wholly contemptible work. There is a certain narrative power about it which puts it much above the level of “The Castle of Otranto.” And though it partakes of the stilted dialogue and false conception of character that abound in Mrs. Radcliffe's romances, it has neither the excess of scenery nor of sentiment which distinguishes that very prolix narrator. There is nothing strictly mediaeval about it. The knight in armor cuts no figure and the historical period is not precisely indicated. But the ecclesiastical features lend it a semblance of mediaevalism; and one is reminded, though but faintly, by the imprisonment of the offending sister in the sepulcher of the convent, of the scene in “Marmion” where Constance is immured in the vaults of Lindisfarne—a frank anachronism, of course, on Scott's part, since Lindisfarne had been in ruins centuries before the battle of Flodden. The motto from Horace on the title page of “The Monk” sums up its contents, and indeed the contents of most of its author's writings, prose and verse—

    “Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas, 
    Nocturnos lemures portentaque.”

The hero Ambrosio is the abbot of St. Francis' Capuchin monastery in Madrid; a man of rigid austerity, whose spiritual pride makes him an easy prey to the temptations of a female demon, who leads him by degrees through a series of crimes, including incest and parricide, until he finally sells his soul to the devil to escape from the dungeons of the Inquisition and the auto da fe, subscribing the agreement, in approved fashion, upon a parchment scroll with an iron pen dipped in blood from his own veins. The fiend, who enters with thunder and lightning, over whose shoulders “waved two enormous sable wings,” and whose hair “was supplied by living snakes,” then snatches up his victim and soars with him to a peak of the Sierra Morena, where in a Salvator Rosa landscape of torrents, cliffs, caverns, and pine forests, by the light of an opera moon, and to the sound of the night wind sighing hoarsely and “the shrill cry of mountain eagles,” he drops him over a precipice and makes an end of him.

A passage from the episode of Agnes de Medina, the incarcerated nun, will illustrate Lewis' wonder-working arts: “A faint glimmering of light which strained through the bars permitted me to distinguish the surrounding horrors. I was oppressed by a noisome, suffocating smell; and perceiving that the grated door was unfastened, I thought that I might possibly effect my escape. As I raised myself with this design, my hand rested upon something soft. I grasped it and advanced it toward the light. Almighty God! what was my disgust! my consternation! In spite of its putridity and the worms which preyed upon it, I perceived a corrupted human head, and recognized the features of a nun who had died some months before. . . A sepulchral lamp was suspended from the roof by an iron chain and shed a gloomy light through the dungeon. Emblems of death were seen on every side; skills, shoulder-blades, thigh-bones and other relics of mortality were scattered upon the dewy ground. . . As I shrunk from the cutting wind which howled through my subterraneous dwelling, the change seemed so striking, so abrupt, that I doubted its reality. . . Sometimes I felt the bloated toad, hideous and pampered with the poisonous vapors of the dungeon, dragging his loathsome length along my bosom; sometimes the quick, cold lizard roused me, leaving his slimy track upon my face, and entangling itself in the tresses of my wild and matted hair. Often have I, at waking, found my fingers ringed with the long worms which bred in the corrupted flesh of my infant.”

“The Monk” won for its author an immediate and wide celebrity, assisted no doubt by the outcry against its immorality. Lewis tried to defend himself by pleading that the outline and moral of his story were borrowed from “The History of Santon Barsisa” in the Guardian (No. 148). But the voluptuous nature of some of the descriptions induced the Attorney General to enjoin the sale of the book, and Lewis bowed to public opinion so far as to suppress the objectionable passages in later editions. Lewis' melodrama “The Castle Specter” was first performed December 14, 1797, at Drury Lane, ran sixty nights and “continued popular as an acting play,” says the biographer, “up to a very recent period.”[36] This is strong testimony to the contemporary appetite for nightmare, for the play is a trumpery affair. Sheridan, who had a poor opinion of it, advised the dramatist to keep the specter out of the last scene. “It had been said,” explains Lewis in his preface, “that if Mr. Sheridan had not advised me to content myself with a single specter, I meant to have exhibited a whole regiment of ghosts.” The prologue, spoken by Mr. Wroughton, invokes “the fair enchantress, Romance”:

    “The moonstruck child of genius and of woe,”


    ”—Loathes the sun or blazing taper's light: 
    The moonbeamed landscape and tempestuous night 
    Alone she loves; and oft with glimmering lamp 
    Near graves new opened, or midst dungeons damp, 
    Drear forests, ruined aisles and haunted towers, 
    Forlorn she roves and raves away the hours.”

The scene of the drama is Conway Castle in Wales, where abides Earl Osmond, a feudal tyrant of the “Otranto” type, who is planning an incestuous marriage with his own niece, concerning which he thus soliloquizes: “What though she prefer a basilisk's kiss to mine? Because my short-lived joy may cause her eternal sorrow, shall I reject those pleasures sought so long, desired so earnestly? That will I not, by Heaven! Mine she is, and mine she shall be, though Reginald's bleeding ghost flit before me and thunder in my ear 'Hold! Hold!'—Peace, stormy heart, she comes.” Reginald's ghost does not flit, because Reginald is still in the flesh, though not in very much flesh. He is Osmond's brother and Angela's father, and the wicked Earl thought that he had murdered him. It turns out, however, that, though left for dead, he had recovered of his hurts and has been kept unbeknown in solitary confinement, in a dungeon vault under the castle, for the somewhat long period of sixteen years. He is discovered in Act V., “emaciated, in coarse garments, his hair hanging wildly about his face, and a chain bound round his body.”

Reginald's ghost does not flit, but Evelina's does. Evelina is Reginald's murdered wife, and her specter in “white and flowing garments, spotted with blood,” appears to Angela in the oratory communicating with the cedar room, which is furnished with an antique bedstead and the portrait of a lady on a sliding panel. In truth, the castle is uncommonly well supplied with apparitions. Earl Herbert rides around it every night on a white horse; Lady Bertha haunts the west pinnacle of the chapel tower; and Lord Hildebrand may be seen any midnight in the great hall, playing football with his own head. So says Motley the jester, who affords the comedy element of the play, with the help of a fat friar who guzzles sack and stuffs venison pasties, and a soubrette after the “Otranto” pattern.

A few poems were scattered through the pages of “The Monk,” including a ballad from the Danish, and another from the Spanish. But the most famous of these was “Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene,” original with Lewis, though evidently suggested by “Lenore.” It tells how a lover who had gone to Palestine presented himself at the bridal feast of his faithless fair one, just as the clock struck one and the lights burned blue. At the request of the company, the strange knight raises his visor and discloses a skeleton head:

    “All present then uttered a terrified shout; 
      All turned with disgust from the scene; 
    The worms they crept in and the worms they crept out, 
    And sported his eyes and his temples about 
      While the spectre addressed Imogene.”

He winds his arms about her and sinks with his prey through the yawning ground; and

    “At midnight four times in each year does her sprite, 
      When mortals in slumber are bound. 
    Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white, 
    Appear in the hall with a skeleton knight 
      And shriek as he whirls her around.

    “While they drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave, 
      Dancing round them pale spectres are seen. 
    Their liquor is blood, and this horrible stave 
    They how: 'To the health of Alonzo the Brave 
      And his consort, the Fair Imogene!'”

Lewis' own contributions to his “Tales of Terror” and “Tales of Wonder,” were of his same raw-head and bloody-bones variety. His imagination rioted in physical horrors. There are demons who gnash with iron fangs and brandish gore-fed scorpions; maidens are carried off by the Winter King, the Water King, the Cloud King, and the Sprite of the Glen; they are poisoned or otherwise done to death, and their wraiths revisit their guilty lovers in their shrouds at midnight's dark hour and imprint clammy kisses upon them with livid lips; gray friars and black canons abound; requiem and death knell sound through the gloom of the cloisters; echo roars through high Gothic arches; the anchorite mutters in his mossy cell; tapers burn dim, torches cast a red glare on vaulted roofs; the night wind blows through dark aisles; the owl hoots in the turret, and dying groans are heard in the lonely house upon the heath, where the black and tattered arras molders on the wall.

The “Tales of Wonder” included translations by Lewis from Goethe's “Fisher” and “Erl-King,” and from German versions of Runic ballads in Herder's “Stimmen der Voelker.” Scott's “Wild Huntsman,” from Buerger, was here reprinted, and he contributed, in addition, “Frederick and Alice,” paraphrased from a romance-fragment in Goethe's opera “Claudina von Villa Bella”; and three striking ballads of his own, “The Fire King,” a story of the Crusades, and “Glenfinlas” and “The Eve of St. John,” Scottish tales of “gramarye.” There were two or three old English ballads in the collection, such as “Clerk Colvin” and “Tam Lin”; a contribution from George Colman, Jr., the dramatist, and one from Scott's eccentric friend Leyden; and the volume concluded with Taylor's “Lenora.”[37]

It is comical to read that the Monk gave Scott lectures in the art of versification and corrected the Scotticisms and false rhymes in his translations from Buerger; and that Scott respectfully deferred to his advice. For nothing can be in finer contrast with Lewis' penny dreadful, than the martial ring of the verse and the manly vigor of the style in Scott's part of the book. This is how Lewis writes anapaests, e.g.:

    “All shrouded she was in the garb of the tomb, 
      Her lips they were livid, her face it was wan; 
    A death the most horrid had rifled her bloom 
      And each charm of beauty was faded and gone.”

And this is how Scott writes them:

    “He clenched his set teeth and his gauntleted hand, 
    He stretched with one buffet that page on the sand. . . 
    For down came the Templars like Cedron in flood, 
    And dyed their long lances in Saracen blood.”

It is no more possible to take Monk Lewis seriously than to take Horace Walpole seriously. They are both like children telling ghost-stories in the dark and trying to make themselves shudder. Lewis was even frivolous enough to compose paradies on his own ballads. A number of these facetiae—“The Mud King,” “Giles Jollup the Grave and Brown Sally Green,” etc.—diversify his “Tales of Wonder.”

Scott soon found better work for his hands to do than translating German ballads and melodramas; but in later years he occasionally went back to these early sources of romantic inspiration. Thus his poem “The Noble Moringer” was taken from a “Sammlung Deutscher Volkslieder" published at Berlin in 1807 by Busching and Von der Hagen. In 1799 he had made a rifacimento of a melodrama entitles “Der Heilige Vehme” in Veit Weber's “Sagen der Vorzeit.” This he found among his papers thirty years after (1829) and printed in “The Keepsake,” under the title of “The House of Aspen.” Its most telling feature is the description of the Vehm-Gericht or Secret Tribunal, but it has little importance. In his “Historic Survey,” Taylor said that “Goetz von Berlichingen” was “translated into English in 1799 at Edinburgh, by Wm. Scott, Advocate; no doubt the same person who, under the poetical but assumed name of Walter, had since become the most extensively popular of the British writers”! This amazing statement is explained by a blunder on the title-page of Scott's “Goetz,” where the translator's name is given as William Scott. But it led to a slightly acrimonious correspondence between Sir Walter and the Norwich reviewer.[38]

The tide of German romance had begun to ebb before the close of the century. It rose again a few years later, and left perhaps more lasting tokens this second time; but the ripple-marks of its first invasion are still discernible in English poetry and prose. Southey was clearly in error when he wrote to Taylor, September 5, 1798: “Coleridge's ballad, 'The Ancient Mariner' is, I think, the clumsiest attempt at German sublimity I ever saw.”[39] The “Mariner” is not in the least German, and when he wrote it, Coleridge had not been in Germany and did not know the language. He had read “Die Rauber,” to be sure, some years before in Tytler's translation. He was at Cambridge at the time, and one night in winter, on leaving the room of a college friend, carelessly picked up and took away with him a copy of the tragedy, the very name of which he had never heard before. “A winter midnight, the wind high and 'The Robbers' for the first time. The readers of Schiller will conceive what I felt.” He recorded, in the sonnet “To Schiller" (written December, 1794, or January, 1795), the terrific impression left upon his imagination by

               —“The famished father's cry 
    From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent,”

and wish that he might behold the bard himself, wandering at eve—

    “Beneath some vast old tempest-swinging wood.”

Coleridge was destined to make the standard translation of “Wallenstein”; and there are motives borrowed from “The Robbers” and “The Ghost-Seer” in his own very rubbishy dramas, “Zapolya”—of which Scott made some use in “Peveril of the Peak”—and “Osorio” (1797). The latter was rewritten as “Remorse,” put on at Drury Lane January 23, 1813, and ran twenty nights. It had been rejected by Sheridan, who expressed a very proper contempt for it as an acting play. The Rev. W. L. Bowles and Byron, who had read it in manuscript and strangely overvalued it, both made interest with the manager to have it tried on the stage. “Remorse” also took some hints from Lewis' “Monk.”

But Coleridge came in time to hold in low esteem, if not precisely “The Robbers” itself, yet that school of German melodrama of which it was the grand exemplar. In the twenty-third chapter of the “Biographia Literaria” (1817) he reviewed with severity the Rev. Charles Robert Maturin's tragedy “Bertram, or the Castle of St. Aldobrand,”[40] and incidentally gave the genesis of that whole theatric species “which it has been the fashion, of late years, at once to abuse and to enjoy under the name of the German Drama. Of this latter Schiller's 'Robbers' was the earliest specimen, the first-fruits of his youth. . . Only as suchdid the maturer judgment of the author tolerate the play.” Coleridge avows that “The Robbers” and its countless imitations were due to the popularity in Germany of the translations of Young's “Night Thoughts,” Hervey's “Meditations,” and Richardson's “Clarissa Harlowe.” “Add the ruined castles, the dungeons, the trap-doors, the skeletons, the flesh-and-blood ghosts, and the perpetual moonshine of a modern author[41] (themselves the literary brood of the 'Castle of Otranto,' the translations of which, with the imitations and improvements aforesaid, were about that time beginning to make as much noise in Germany as their originals were making in England), and, as the compound of these ingredients duly mixed, you will recognize the so-called German Drama,” which “is English in its origin, English in its materials, and English by readoption; and till we can prove that Kotzebue, or any of the whole breed of Kotzebues, whether dramatists or romantic writers or writers of romantic dramas, were ever admitted to any other shelf in the libraries of well-educated Germans than were occupied by their originals . . . in their mother country, we should submit to carry our own brat on our own shoulders.”

Germany, rather than Italy or Spain, became under these influences for a time the favored country of romance. English tale-writers chose its forests and dismantled castles as the scenes of their stories of brigandage and assassination. One of the best of a bad class of fictions, e.g., was Harriet Lee's “The German's Tale: Kruitzner,” in the series of “Canterbury Tales” written in conjunction with her sister Sophia (1797-1805). Byron read it when he was fourteen, was profoundly impressed by it, and made it the basis of “Werner,” the only drama of his which had any stage success. “Kruitzner” is conceived with some power, but monotonously and ponderously written. The historic period is the close of the Thirty Years' War. It does not depend mainly for its effect upon the time-honored “Gothic” machinery, though it makes a moderate use of the sliding panel and secret passage once again.

We are come to the gate of the new century, to the date of the “Lyrical Ballads” (1798) and within sight of the Waverly novels. Looking back over the years elapsed since Thomson put forth his “Winter,” in 1726, we ask ourselves what the romantic movement in England had done for literature; if indeed that deserves to be called a “movement” which had no leader, no programme, no organ, no theory of art, and very little coherence. True, as we have learned from the critical writings of the time, the movement, such as it was, was not all unconscious of its own aims and directions. The phrase “School of Warton” implies a certain solidarity, and there was much interchange of views and some personal contact between men who were in literary sympathy; some skirmishing, too, between opposing camps. Gray, Walpole, and Mason constitute a group, encouraging each other's studies in their correspondence and occasional meetings. Shenstone was interested in Percy's ballad collections, and Gray in Warton's “History of English Poetry.” Akenside read Dyer's “Fleece,” and Gray read Beattie's “Minstrel” in MS. The Wartons were friends of Collins; Collins a friend and neighbor of Thomson; and Thomson a frequent visitor at Hagley and the Leasowes. Chatterton sought to put Rowley under Walpole's protection, and had his verses examined by Mason and Gray. Still, upon the whole, the English romanticists had little community; they worked individually and were scattered and isolated as to their residence, occupations, and social affiliation. It does not appear that Gray ever met Collins, or the Wartons, or Shenstone or Akenside; nor that MacPherson, Clara Reeve, Mrs. Radcliffe, and Chatterton ever saw each other or any of those first mentioned. There was none of that united purpose and that eager partisanship which distinguished the Parisian cenacle Romantische Schule whose members have been so brilliantly sketched by Heine.

But call it a movement, or simply a drift, a trend; what had it done for literature? In the way of stimulus and preparation, a good deal. It had relaxed the classical bandages, widened the range of sympathy, roused a curiosity as to novel and diverse forms of art, and brought the literary mind into a receptive, expectant attitude favorable to original creative activity. There never was a generation more romantic in temper than that which stepped upon the stage at the close of the eighteenth century: a generation fed upon “Ossian” and Rousseau and “The Sorrows of Werther” and Percy's “Reliques” and Mrs. Radcliffe's romances. Again, in the department of literary and antiquarian scholarship much had been accomplished. Books like Tyrwhitt's “Chaucer" and Warton's “History of English Poetry” had a real importance, while the collection and preservation of old English poetry, before it was too late, by scholars like Percy, Ritson, Ellis, and others was a pious labor.

But if we inquire what positive additions had been made to the modern literature of England, the reply is disappointing. No one will maintain that the Rowley poems, “Caractacus,” “The Monk,” “The Grave of King Arthur,” “The Friar of Orders Gray,” “The Castle of Otranto,” and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” are things of permanent value: or even that “The Bard,” “The Castle of Indolence,” and the “Poems of Ossian” take rank with the work done in the same spirit by Coleridge, Scott, Keats, Rossetti, and William Morris. The two leading British poets of the fin du siecle, Cowper and Burns, were not among the romanticists. It was left for the nineteenth century to perform the work of which the eighteenth only prophesied.

[1] Scherer's “History of German Literature,” Conybeare's Translation, Vol. II, p. 26.

[2] Scherer, Vol. II. pp. 123-24.

[3] See ante, pp. 300-301.

[4] See ante, pp. 337-38.

[5] “The Beauties of Shakspere. Regularly selected from each Play. With a general index. Digesting them under proper heads.” By the Rev. Wm. Dodd, 1752.

[6] “Es war nicht blos die Tiefe der Poesie, welche sie zu Shakespeare zog, es war ebenso sehr das sichere Gefuehl, das hier germanische Art und Kunst sei.”—Hettner's Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, 3.3.1. s. 51. “Ist zu sagen, dass die Abwendung von den Franzosen zu den stammverwandten Englaendern . . . in ihrem geschichtlichen Ursprung und Wachsthum wesentlich die Auflehnung des erstarkten germanischen Volksnaturells gegen die erdrueckende Uebermacht der romanischen Formenwelt war,” etc.—Ibid. s. 47. See also, ss. 389-95, for a review of the interpretation of the great Shaksperian roles by German actors like Schroeder and Fleck.

[7] “Wir hoeren einen Nachklang jener froehlichen Unterhaltungen, in denen die Freunde sich ganz und gar in Shakepear'schen Wendungen und Wortwitzen ergingen, in seiner Uebersetzung von Shakespeare's 'Love's Labour's Lost'”—Hettner, s. 244.

[8] See the whole oration (in Hettner, s. 120,) which gives a most vivid expression of the impact of Shakspere upon the newly aroused mind of Germany.

[9] “German Literature,” Vol. II. pp. 82-83

[10] “Unter allen Menschen des Achtzehnten Jahrhunderts war Geothe wieder der Erste, weicher die lang verachtete Herrlichkeit der gothischen Baukunst empfand und erfasste.”—Hettner, 3.3.1., s. 120.

[11] Construirtes Ideal.

[12] Scherer, II. 129-31. “Oberon” was englished by William Sotheby in 1798.

[13] “Vor den classischen Dichtarten faengt mich bald an zu ekeln,” wrote Buerger in 1775. “Charakteristiken”: von Erich Schmidt (Berlin, 1886) s. 205. “O, das verwuenschte Wort: Klassisch!” exclaims Herder. “Dieses Wort war es, das alle wahre Bildung nach den Alten als noch lebenden Mustern verdrangte. . . Dies Wort hat manches Genie unter einen Schutt von Worten vergraben. . . Es hat dem Vaterland bluehende Fruchtbaeume entzogen!”—Hettner 3.3.1. s. 50.

[14] “German Literature,” Vol. II. p. 230.

[15] “Literaturegeschichte,” 3.3.1. s. 30-31.

[16] See ante, p. 48.

[17] “Our polite neighbors the French seem to be most offended at certain pictures of primitive simplicity, so unlike those refined modes of modern life in which they have taken the lead; and to this we may partly impute the rough treatment which our poet received from them”— Essay on Homer (Dublin Edition, 1776), p. 127.

[18] See Francis W. Newman's “Iliad” (1856) and Arnold's “Lectures on Translating Homer” (1861).

[19] “Romance,” Edgar Poe.

[20] “Lockhart's Life of Scott,” Vol. I. p. 163.

[21] For full titles and descriptions of these translations, as well as for the influence of Buerger's poems in England, see Alois Brandl: “Lenore in England,” in “Charakteristiken,” by Erich Schmidt (Berlin, 1886) ss. 244-48. Taylor said in 1830 that no German poem had been so often translated: “eight different versions are lying on my table and I have read others.” He claimed his to be the earliest, as written in 1790, though not printed till 1796. “Lenore” won at once the honors of parody—surest proof of popularity. Brandl mentions two—“Miss Kitty,” Edinburgh, 1797, and “The Hussar of Magdeburg, or the Midnight Phaeton,” Edinburgh, 1800, and quotes Mathias' satirical description of the piece (“Pursuits of Literature,” 1794-97) as “diablerie tudesque" and a “'Blue Beard' story for the nursery.” The bibliographies mention a new translation in 1846 by Julia M. Cameron, with illustrations by Maclise; and I find a notice in Allibone of “The Ballad of Lenore: a Variorum Monograph,” 4to, containing thirty metrical versions in English, announced as about to be published at Philadelphia in 1866 by Charles Lukens. Quaere whether this be the same as Henry Clay Lukens (“Erratic Enrico"), who published “Lean 'Nora” (Philadelphia, 1870; New York, 1878), a title suggestive of a humorous intention, but a book which I have not seen.

[22] “History of German Literature,” Vol. II. p. 123.

[23] These are book phrases, not true ballad diction.

[24] Cf. The “Ancient Mariner”:

    “The feast is set, the guests are met, 
    May'st hear the merry din.”

[25] “Memoir of Wm. Taylor of Norwich,” by J. W. Robberds (1843), Vol. II. p. 573.

[26] For Taylor's opinion of Carlyle's papers on Goethe in the Foreign Review, see “Historic Survey,” Vol. III. pp. 378-79.

[27] “Memoir of Taylor,” Vol. I. p. 255.

[28] Among the most notable of these was “Maler” (Friedrich) Mueller's “Golo und Genoveva” (written 1781; published 1811); Count Toerring's “Agnes Bernauerin” (1780); and Jacob Meyer's “Sturm von Borberg” (1778), and “Fust von Stromberg” (1782). Several of these were very successful on the stage.

[29] “Essay on Walter Scott.”

[30] Kotzebue's “The Stranger” (“Menschenhass und Reue") still keeps the English stage. Sheridan's “Pizarro”—a version of Katzebue's “Spaniards in Peru"-was long a favorite; and “Monk” Lewis made another translation of the same in 1799, entitled “Rolla,” which, however, was never acted.

[31] “State of German Literature.”

[32] Lewis sat in Parliament for Hindon, Wilts, succeeding Beckford of “Vathek” and Fonthill Abbey fame.

[33] “The Grim White Woman,” in “Tales of Wonder.”

[34] Matthew Arnold's lovely “Scholar Gypsy” was suggested by a passage in this.

[35] The following is a list of his principal translations: “The Minister” (1797), from Schiller's “Kabale and Liebe”; played at Covent Garden in 1803, as “The Harper's Daughter.” “Rolla” (1799), from Kotzebue's “Spaniards in Peru.” “Adelmorn, or the Outlaw” (1800), played at Drury Lane, 1801. “Tales of Terror” (1801) and “Tales of Wonder” (1801). (There seems to be some doubt as to the existence of the alleged Kelso editions of these in 1799 and 1800, respectively. See article on Lewis in the “Dict. Nat. Biog.”) “The Bravo of Venice" (1804), a prose romance, dramatized and played at Covent Garden, as “Rugantino,” in 1805. “Feudal Tyrants” (1807), a four-volume romance. “Romantic Tales” (1808), 4 vols. From German and French.

[36] The printed play had reached its eleventh edition in 1803.

[37] The “Tales of Terror,” and “Tales of Wonder” are reprinted in a single volume of “Morley's Universal Library,” 1887.

[38] See “Memoir of Wm. Taylor,” Vol. II. Pp. 533-38.

[39] “Memoir of Taylor,” Vol. I. p. 223.

[40] This was one of the latest successes of the kind. It was played at Drury Lane in 1816 for twenty-two nights, bringing the author 1000 pounds, and the printed play reached the seventh edition within the year. Among Maturin's other works were “The Fatal Revenge” (1807), “Manuel” (Drury Lane, 1817) “Fredolfo” (Covent Garden, 1817), and his once famous romance, “Melmoth the Wanderer” (1820), seeante, p. 249.

[41] Mrs. Radcliffe.