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PT 107


The following Introductory Lectures are submitted to the test of public judgment in that unaltered form in which they were delivered last session at the University of London, in order to enable the public to appreciate the spirit in which the lecturer, when opening his Course of Lectures on German Literature for the present session, is likely to treat his subject, and the views from which he proceeds in contemplating an important branch of the literary history of Germany.

Although this Introduction does not claim the merit of exclusive novelty in historical views, and in those notions on matters of taste, which sometimes are termed “ aesthetical," nor that of a perfect and adequate develop

ment of ideas; yet the Author hopes that his exertions for correctness in his conceptions and statements, and for perspicuity in the mode of expressing them, will meet with a favourable reception and an indulgent criticism on the part of the public; and he trusts that, at all events, the difficulty under which he labours in conveying his ideas in a language, which is not his vernacular tongue, will be taken into account on his behalf.

An Introduction of this kind ought not to bé viewed in any other light than in that of a slight sketch, since it merely purports to convey the outlines of a general survey and cursory view of that ground, where the point is to be chosen from which the Lecturer intends to start. General results, of course, have been broached, while the details of investigation leading to such results remain untouched.

University of London,

January 1, 1830.




THE term “German Literature” is so very vague and indefinite, that you may reasonably require of me some explanation, as to the sense in which I

use it.

It would appear to be somewhat difficult to define strictly the signification of the word literature, since almost every writer on the subject extends, or confines, the limits of this signification. But we may, perhaps, come to a clearer idea thereof, by considering literature, firstly, in a wider, and secondly, in a more confined sense. In the former, it represents all those productions of the human mind, which are the work of reason and intellect, of fancy and feeling; and, in this sense, it comprehends the wide field of the sciences, and that of poetry, and constitutes the principal superstructure of the national mind,

In its latter, or more confined sense, literature seems not to comprise the sciences. Thus, jurisprudence, theology, medicine, philology, mathematics, and those branches of science comprehended under

the general denomination of natural philosophy—in a word, all sciences which are taught and studied according to certain systematic rules, and especially occupy the intellect, are excluded from literature. In this, its confined sense, literature seems to comprise, on the one hand, history, speculative philosophy, and rhetorick, constituting the prose style; and, on the other hand, poetry,–because, in these branches of literature, the intuitive power of the human mind, and the activity of the fancy, are the prevailing elements.

The lectures which I shall have the honour of delivering to you on German literature will treat of only a branch of that literature, in the more confined sense, as just described. I must restrict myself to reviews of the leading authors in poetry. These reviews will be chronologically arranged, beginning with the sixteenth century, and will, thus, form a prominent portion of a history of German literature, as proposed by me in the second statement of the council of this University.

Such a course appears to me to be the best calculated to afford an acquaintance with this branch of German literature, since literature must be considered an essential part of history. The literature of a people is the great repository of their ideas, and contains the leading features of the national mind. Without it, the history of a people cannot be understood; that is, if we consider history as something more than an enumeration of battles lost and gained,

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