hopefully to examine. If the older Literary Iistory of Germany has the common attractions, which in a greater or a less degree belong to the successive epochs of other such Histories ; its newer Literature, and the historical delineation of this, has an interest such as belongs to no other.

It is somewhat in this way, as appears to us, that the growth of German Poetry must be construed and represented by the historian: these are the general phenomena and vicissitudes, which, if elucidated by proper individual instances, by specimens fitly chosen, presented in natural sequence, and worked by philosophy into union, would make a valuable book; on any and all of which the observations and researches of so able an inquirer as Mr. Taylor would have been welcome. Sorry are we to declare that of all this, which constitutes the essence of anything calling itself Historic Survey, there is scarcely a vestige in the Book before us. The question, What is the German mind; what is the culture of the German mind; what course has Germany followed in that matter; what are its national characteristics as manifested therein ? appears not to have presented itself to the Author's thought. No theorem of Germany and its intellectual progress, not even a false one, has he been at pains to construct for himself. We believe, it is impossible for the most assiduous reader to gather from these three Volumes any portraiture of the national mind of Germany, not to say in its successive phases and the historical sequence of these, but in any one phase or condition. The Work is made up of critical, biographical, bibliographical dissertations, and notices concerning this and the other individual poet; interspersed with large masses of translation; and except that all these are strung together in the order of time, has no historical 'feature whatever. Many literary lives as we read, the nature of literary life in Germany, what sort of moral, economical, intellectual element it is that a German writer lives in and works in, will nowhere manifest itself. Indeed, far from depicting Germany, scarcely on more than one or two

[ocr errors]

occasions does our Author eyen look at it, or so much as re-
mind us that it were capable of being depicted. On these
rare occasions too, we are treated with such philosophic io.
sight as the following: “The Germans are not an imitative,

but they are a listening people: they can do nothing without
• directions, and anything with them. As soon as Gottsched's
* rules for writing German correctly had made their appear-
“ance, everybody began to write German.' Or we have the-
oretic hints, resting on no basis, about some new tribunal of
taste which at one time had formed itself in the mess-rooms
of the Prussian officers !'

In a word, the connecting sections,' or indeed by what alchymy such a congeries could be connected into a Historic Survey, have not become plain to us. Considerable part of it consists of quite detached little Notices, mostly of altogether insignificant men; heaped together as separate fragments ; fit, had they been unexceptionable in other respects, for a Biographical Dictionary, but nowise for a Historic Survey. Then we have dense masses of Translation, sometimes good, but seldom of the characteristic pieces; an entire Iphigenia, an entire Nathan the Wise ; nay worse, a Sequel to Nathan, which when we have conscientiously struggled to peruse, the Author turns round, without any apparent smile, and tells that it is by a nameless writer, and worth nothing. Not only Mr. Taylor's own Translations, which are generally good, but contributions from a whole body of labourers in that department are given : for example, near sixty pages, very ill rendered by a Miss Plumtre, of a Life of Kotzebue, concerning whom, or whose life, death or burial, there is now no curiosity extant among men.

If in that English Temple of Fame, with its hewn and sculptured stones, those Biographical-Dictionary fragments and fractions are so much dry rubble-work of whinstone, is not this quite despicable Autobiography of Kotzebue a rood or two of mere turf; which, as ready-cut, our architect, to make up measure, has packed in among his marble ashlar; whereby the whole wall will the


sooner bulge? But indeed, generally speaking, symmetry is not one of his architectural rules. Thus, in Volume First, we have a long story translated from a German Magazine, about certain antique Hyperborean Baresarks, amusing enough, but with no more reference to Germany than to England; while in return the Nibelungen Lied is despatched in something less than one line, and comes no more to light. Tyll Eulenspiegel, who was not an “anonymous Satire, entitled the Mirror of Owls,' but a real flesh-and-blood hero of that name, whose tombstone is standing to this day near Lübeck, has some four lines for his share; Reineke de Fos about as many, which also are inaccurate. Again, if Wieland have his half-volume, and poor Ernst Schulze, poor Zacharias Werner, and numerous other poor men, each his chapter; Luther also has his two sentences, and is in these weighed against

Dr. Isaac Watts. Ulrich Hutten does not occur here; Hans Sachs and his Master-singers escape notice, or even do worse; the poetry of the Reformation is not alluded to. The name of Jean Paul Friedrich Richter appears not to be known to Mr. Taylor ; or, if want of rhyme was to be the test of a Prosaist, how comes Salomon Gesner here? Stranger still, Ludwig Tieck is not once mentioned ; neither is Novalis; neither Maler Müller. But why dwell on these omissions and commissions? Is not all included in this one wellnigh incredible fact, that one of the largest articles in the Book, a tenth part of the whole Historic Survey of German Poetry, treats of that delectable genius, August von Kotzebue ?

The truth is, this Historic Survey has not anything historical in it; but is a mere aggregate of Dissertations, Translations, Notices and Notes, bound together indeed by the circumstance that they are all about German Poetry, about it and about it ;' also by the sequence of time, and still more strongly by the Bookbinder's pack-thread; but by no other sufficient tie whatever. The authentic title, were not some mercantile varnish allowable in such cases, might be : 'Gen

eral Jail-delivery of all Publications and Manuscripts, orig• inal or translated, composed or borrowed, on the subject of • German Poetry ; by' &c.

To such Jail-delivery, at least when it is from the prison of Mr. Taylor's Desk at Norwich, and relates to a subject in the actual predicament of German Poetry among us, we have no fundamental objection: and for the name, now that it is explained, there is nothing in a name; a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. However, even in this lower and lowest point of view, the Historic Survey is liable to grave objections ; its worth is of no unmixed character. We mentioned that Mr. Taylor did not often cite authorities : for which doubtless he may have his reasons. If it be not from French Prefaces, and the Biographie Universelle, and other the like sources, we confess ourselves altogether at a loss to divine whence any reasonable individual gathered such notices as these. Books indeed are scarce; but the most untoward situation may command Wachler's Vorlesungen, Horn's Poesie und Beredsamkeit, Meister's Characteristiken, Koch’s Compendium, or some of the thousand-and-one compilations of that sort, numerous and accurate in German, more than in any other literature: at all events, Jördens's Lexicon Deutscher Dichter und Prosaisten, and the worldrenowned Leipzig Conversations-Lexicon. No one of these appears to have been in Mr. Taylor's possession ; Bouterwek alone, and him he seems to have consulted perfunctorily. A certain proportion of errors in such a work is pardonable and unavoidable: scarcely so the proportion observed here. The Historic Survey abounds with errors, perhaps beyond any book it has ever been our lot to review. Of these indeed many are harmless enough: as, for instance, where we learn that Görres was born in 1804 (not in 1776): though in that case he must have published his Shah-Nameh at the age of three years: or where it is said that Werner's epitaph.begs Mary Magdalene to pray for his soul,' which it does not do, if indeed any one cared what it did. Some are


[ocr errors]

of a quite mysterious nature; either impregnated with a wit which continues obstinately latent, or indicating that, in spite of Railways and Newspapers, some portions of this Island are still singularly impermeable. For example : 'It (Götz

von Berlichingen) was admirably translated into English, in • 1799, at Edinburgh, by William Scott, Advocate; no doubt, “the same person who, under the poetical but assumed name • of Walter, has since become the most extensively popular of • the British writers.' — Others again are the fruit of a more culpable ignorance; as when we hear that Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit is literally meant to be a fictitious narrative, and no genuine Biography ; that his Stella ends quietly in Bigamy (to Mr. Taylor's satisfaction), which, however the French translation may run, in the original it certainly does not. Mr. Taylor likewise complains that his copy of Faust is incomplete : so, we grieve to state, is ours. Still worse is it when speaking of distinguished men, who probably have been at pains to veil their sentiments on certain subjects, our Author takes it upon him to lift such veil, and with perfect composure pronounces this to be a Deist, that a Pantheist, that other an Atheist, often without any due foundation. It is quite erroneous, for example, to describe Schiller by any such unhappy term as that of Deist: it is very particularly erroneous to say that Goethe anywhere “avows himself an Atheist, that he “is a Pantheist; ' — indeed, that he is, was, or is like to be any ist to which Mr. Taylor would attach just meaning

But on the whole, what struck us most in these errors is their surprising number. In the way of our calling, we at first took pencil, with intent to mark such transgressions ; but soon found it too appalling a task, and so laid aside our blacklead and our art (cæstus artemque). Happily, however, a little natural invention, assisted by some tincture of arithmetic, came to our aid. Six pages, studied for that end, we did mark; finding therein thirteen errors: the pages are 167–173 of Volume Third, and still in our copy have their

[blocks in formation]
« ͹˹Թõ