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German Literature since Goethe (1832-1906)
Written by: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition
(a) Young Germany.—With Goethe’s death a great age in German poetry came to a close. Long before 1832 Romanticism had, as we have seen, begun to lose ground, and the July revolution of 1830, the effects of which were almost as keenly felt in Germany as in France, gave the movement its death-blow. Meanwhile the march of ideas in Germany itself had not been favourable to Romanticism. Schelling had given place to G. W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), now the dominant force in German philosophy, and the Hegelian metaphysics proved as unfruitful an influence on literature as that of Fichte and Schelling had been fruitful. The transference of Romantic ideas to the domain of practical religion and politics had proved reactionary in its effects; Romanticism became the cloak for a kind of Neo-catholicism, and Romantic politics, as enunciated by men like F. von Gentz (1764-1832) and Adam M?ller (1779-1829), served as an apology for the Metternich r?gime in Austria. Only at the universities—in G?ttingen, Heidelberg and Berlin—did the movement continue, in the best sense, to be productive; German philology, German historical science and German jurisprudence benefited by Romantic ideas, long after Romantic poetry had fallen into decay. The day of Romanticism was clearly over; but a return to the classic and humanitarian spirit of the 18th century was impossible. The social condition of Europe had been profoundly altered by the French Revolution; the rise of industrialism had created new economic problems, the march of science had overturned old prejudices. And in a still higher degree were the ideas which lay behind the social upheaval of the July revolution incompatible with a reversion in Germany to the conditions of Weimar classicism. There was, moreover, no disguising the fact that Goethe himself did not stand high with the younger generation of German writers who came into power after his death.
“Young Germany” did not form a school in the sense in which the word was used by the early Romanticists; the bond of union was rather the consequence of political persecution. In December 1835 the German “Bund” issued a decree suppressing the writings of the “literary school” known as “Young Germany,” and mentioned by name Heinrich Heine, Karl Gutzkow, Ludolf Wienbarg, Theodor Mundt and Heinrich Laube. Of these men, Heine (1797-1856) was by far the most famous. He had made his reputation in 1826 and 1827 with Die Harzreise and Das Buch der Lieder, both of which books show how deeply he was immersed in the Romantic traditions. But Heine felt perhaps more acutely than any other man of his time how the ground was slipping away from beneath his feet; he repudiated the Romantic movement and hailed the July revolution as the first stage in the “liberation of humanity”; while ultimately he sought in France the freedom and intellectual stimulus which Germany withheld from him. Heine suffered from having been born in an age of transition; he was unable to realize in a wholehearted way all that was good in the new movement, which he had embraced so warmly; his optimism was counteracted by doubts as to whether, after all, life had not been better in that 795old Romantic Germany of his childhood for which, to the last, he retained so warm an affection. Personal disappointments and unhappiness added to the bitterness of Heine’s nature, and the supremely gifted lyric poet and the hardly less gifted satirist were overshadowed by the cynic from whose biting wit nothing was safe.
Heine’s contemporary and—although he was not mentioned in the decree against the school—fellow-fighter, Ludwig B?rne (1786-1837), was a more characteristic representative of the “Young German” point of view; for he was free from Romantic prejudices. B?rne gave vent to his enthusiasm for France in eloquent Briefe aus Paris (1830-1833), which form a landmark of importance in the development of German prose style. With Karl Gutzkow (1811-1878), who was considerably younger than either Heine or B?rne, the more positive aspects of the “Young German” movement begin to be apparent. He, too, had become a man of letters under the influence of the July revolution, and with an early novel, Wally, die Zweiflerin (1835), which was then regarded as atheistic and immoral, he fought in the battle for the new ideas. His best literary work, however, was the comedies with which he enriched the German stage of the ’forties, and novels like Die Ritter vom Geiste (1850-1851), and Der Zauberer von Rom (1858-1861), which have to be considered in connexion with the later development of German fiction. Heinrich Laube (1806-1884), who, as the author of lengthy social novels, and Reisenovellen in the style of Heine’s Reisebilder, was one of the leaders of the new movement, is now only remembered as Germany’s greatest theatre-director. Laube’s connexion (1850-1867) with the Burgtheater of Vienna forms one of the most brilliant periods in the history of the modern stage. Heine and B?rne, Gutzkow and Laube—these were the leading spirits of “Young Germany”; in their train followed a host of lesser men, who to the present generation are hardly even names. In the domain of scholarship and learning the “Young German” movement was associated with the supremacy of Hegelianism, the leading spirits being D.F. Strauss (1808-1874), author of the Leben Jesu (1835), the historians G.G. Gervinus (1805-1871) and W. Menzel (1798-1873), and the philosopher L.A. Feuerbach (1804-1872), who, although a disciple of Hegel, ultimately helped to destroy the latter’s influence.
Outside the immediate circle of “Young Germany,” other tentative efforts were made to provide a substitute for the discredited literature of Romanticism. The historical novel, for instance, which Romanticists like Arnim had cultivated, fell at an early date under the influence of Sir Walter Scott; Wilhelm Hauff, Heinrich Zschokke (1771-1848) and K. Spindler (1796-1855) were the most prominent amidst the many imitators of the Scottish novelist. The drama, again, which since Kleist and Werner had been without definite principles, was, partly under Austrian influence, finding its way back to a condition of stability. In Germany proper, the men into whose hands it fell were, on the one hand, undisciplined geniuses such as C.D. Grabbe (1801-1836), or, on the other, poets with too little theatrical blood in their veins like K.L. Immermann (1796-1840), or with too much, like E. von Raupach (1784-1852), K. von Holtei (1798-1880) and Adolf M?llner (1774-1829)—the last named being the chief representative of the so-called Schicksalstrag?die. In those years the Germans were more seriously interested in their opera, which, under C.M. Weber, H.A. Marschner, A. Lortzing and O. Nicolai, remained faithful to the Romantic spirit. In Austria, however, the drama followed lines of its own; here, at the very beginning of the century, H.J. von Collin (1771-1811) attempted in Regulus and other works to substitute for the lifeless pseudo-classic tragedy of Ayrenhoff the classic style of Schiller. His attempt is the more interesting, as the long development that had taken place in Germany between Gottsched and Schiller was virtually unrepresented in Austrian literature. M. von Collin (1779-1824), a younger brother of H.J. von Collin, did a similar service for the Romantic drama. Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872), Austria’s greatest poet, began in the school of M?llner with a “fate drama,” but soon won an independent place for himself; more successfully than any other dramatist of the century, he carried out that task which Kleist had first seriously faced, the reconciliation of the classicism of Goethe and Schiller with the Romantic and modern spirit of the 19th century. It is from this point of view that works like Das goldene Vliess (1820), K?nig Ottokars Gl?ck und Ende (1825), Der Traum, ein Leben (1834) and Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen (1831) must be regarded. As far as the poetic drama was concerned, Grillparzer stood alone, for E.F.J. von M?nch-Bellinghausen (1806-1871), his most promising contemporary, once so popular under the pseudonym of Friedrich Halm, soon fell back into the trivial sentimentality of the later Romanticists. In other forms of dramatic literature Austria could point to many distinguished writers, notably the comedy-writer, E. von Bauernfeld (1802-1890), while a host of playwrights, chief of whom were F. Raimund (1790-1836) and J. Nestroy (1801-1862), cultivated the popular Viennese farce and fairy-play. Thus, in spite of Metternich’s censorship of the drama, the Viennese theatre was, in the first half of the 19th century, in closer touch with literature than that of any other German centre.
The transitional character of the age is best illustrated by two eminent writers whom outward circumstances rather than any similarity of character and aim have classed together. These were K.L. Immermann, who has been already mentioned, and A. von Platen-Hallermund (1796-1835). Immermann’s dramas were of little practical value to the theatre, but one at least, Merlin (1832), is a dramatic poem of great beauty. In his novels, however, Die Epigonen (1836) and M?nchhausen (1838-1839), Immermann was the spokesman of his time. He looked backwards rather than forwards; he saw himself as the belated follower of a great literary age rather than as the pioneer of a new one. The bankruptcy of Romanticism and the poetically arid era of “Young Germany” left him little confidence in the future. Platen, on the other hand, went his own way; he, too, was the antagonist both of Romanticism and “Young Germany,” and with Immermann himself he came into sharp conflict. But in his poetry he showed himself indifferent to the strife of contending literary schools. He began as an imitator of the German oriental poets—the only Romanticists with whom he had any personal sympathy—and with his matchless Sonette aus Venedig (1825) he stands out as a master in the art of verse-writing and as the least subjective of all German lyric poets. In the imitation of Romance metres he sought a refuge from the extravagances and excesses of the Romantic decadence.
Meanwhile the political side of the “Young German” movement, which the German Bund aimed at stamping out, gained rapidly in importance under the influence of the unsettled political conditions between the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. The early ’forties were in German literature marked by an extraordinary outburst of political poetry, which may be aptly compared with the national and patriotic lyric evoked by the year 1813. The principles which triumphed in France at the revolution of 1848 were, to a great extent, fought out by the German singers of 1841 and 1842. Begun by mediocre talents like N. Becker (1809-1845) and R.E. Prutz (1816-1872), the movement found a vigorous champion in Georg Herwegh (1817-1875), who in his turn succeeded in winning Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876) for the revolutionary cause. Others joined in the cry for freedom—F. Dingelstedt (1814-1881), A.H. Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1874), and a number of Austrians, who had even more reason for rebellion and discontent than the north Germans. But the best Austrian political poetry, the Spazierg?nge eines Wiener Poeten, 1831, by “Anastasius Gr?n” (Graf A.A. von Auersperg, 1806-1876), belonged to a decade earlier. The political lyric culminated in and ended with the year 1848; the revolutionists of the ’forties were, if not appeased, at least silenced by the revolution which in their eyes had effected so little. If Freiligrath be excepted, the chief lyric poets of this epoch stood aside from the revolutionary movement; even E. Geibel (1815-1884), the representative poet of the succeeding age, was only temporarily interested in the political 796movement, and his best work is of a purely lyric character. M. von Strachwitz’s (1822-1847) promising talent did not flourish in the political atmosphere; Annette von Droste-H?lshoff (1797-1848), and the Austrian, Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850), both stand far removed from the world of politics; they are imbued with that pessimistic resignation which is, more or less, characteristic of all German literature between 1850 and 1870.
(b) Mid-Century Literature.—When once the revolution of 1848 was over, a spirit of tranquillity came over German letters; but it was due rather to the absence of confidence in the future than to any hopefulness or real content. The literature of the middle of the century was not wanting in achievement, but there was nothing buoyant or youthful about it; most significant of all, the generation between 1848 and 1880 was either oblivious or indifferent to the good work and to the new and germinating ideas which it produced. Hegel, who held the earlier half of the 19th century in his ban, was still all-powerful in the universities, but his power was on the wane in literature and public life. The so-called “Hegelian Left” had advanced so far as to have become incompatible with the original Hegelianism; the new social and economic theories did not fit into the scheme of Hegelian collectivism; the interest in natural science—fostered by the popular books of J. Moleschott (1822-1893), Karl Vogt (1817-1895) and Ludwig B?chner (1824-1899)—created a healthy antidote to the Hegelian metaphysics. In literature and art, on which Hegel, as we have seen, had exerted so blighting an influence, his place was taken by the chief exponent of philosophic pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). Schopenhauer’s antagonism to Hegelianism was of old standing, for his chief work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, had appeared as far back as 1819; but the century was more than half over before the movement of ideas had, as it were, caught up with him, before pessimism became a dominant force in intellectual life.
The literature produced between 1850 and 1870 was preeminently one of prose fiction. The beginnings which the “Young German” school had made to a type of novel dealing with social problems—the best example is Gutzkow’s Ritter vom Geiste—developed rapidly in this succeeding epoch. Friedrich Spielhagen (born 1829) followed immediately in Gutzkow’s footsteps, and in a series of romances from Problematische Naturen(1860) to Sturmflut (1876), discussed in a militant spirit that recalls Laube and Gutzkow the social problems which agitated German life in these decades. Gustav Freytag (1816-1895), although an older man, freed himself more successfully from the “Young German” tradition; his romance of German commercialism, Soll und Haben (1855), is the masterpiece of mid-century fiction of this class. Less successful was Freytag’s subsequent attempt to transfer his method to the milieu of German academic life in Die verlorene Handschrift (1864). As was perhaps only natural in an age of social and political interests, the historical novel occupies a subordinate place. The influence of Scott, which in the earlier period had been strong, produced only one writer, Wilhelm H?ring (“Willibald Alexis,” 1798-1871), who was more than a mere imitator of the Scottish master. In the series of six novels, from Der Roland von Berlin to Dorothe, which Alexis published between 1840 and 1856, he gave Germany, and more particularly Prussia, a historical fiction which might not unworthily be compared with the Waverley Novels. But Alexis had no successor, and the historical novel soon made way for a type of fiction in which the accurate reproduction of remote conditions was held of more account than poetic inspiration or artistic power. Such are the “antiquarian” novels of ancient Egyptian life by Georg Ebers (1837-1898), and those from primitive German history by Felix Dahn (born 1834). The vogue of historical fiction was also transferred to some extent, as in English literature, to novels of American life and adventure, of which the chief German cultivators were K.A. Postl, who wrote under the pseudonym of Charles Sealsfield (1793-1864) and Friedrich Gerst?cker (1816-1872).
Of greater importance was the fiction which owed its inspiration to the Romantic traditions that survived the “Young German” age. To this group belongs the novel of peasant and provincial life, of which Immermann had given an excellent example in Der Oberhof, a story included in the arabesque of M?nchhausen. A Swiss pastor, Albrecht Bitzius, better known by his pseudonym “Jeremias Gotthelf” (1797-1854), was, however, the real founder of this class of romance; and his simple, unvarnished and na?vely didactic stories of the Swiss peasant were followed not long afterwards by the more famous Schwarzw?lder Dorfgeschichten (1843-1854) of Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882). Auerbach is not by any means so na?ve and realistic as Gotthelf, nor is his work free from tendencies and ideas which recall “Young German” rationalism rather than the unsophisticated life of the Black Forest; but the Schwarzw?lder Dorfgeschichten exerted a decisive influence; they were the forerunners of a large body of peasant literature which described with affectionate sympathy and with a liberal admixture of dialect, south German village life. With this group of writers may also be associated the German Bohemian, A. Stifter (1805-1868), who has called up unforgettable pictures and impressions of the life and scenery of his home.
Meanwhile, the Low German peoples also benefited by the revival of an interest in dialect and peasant life; it is to the credit of Fritz Reuter (1810-1874) that he brought honour to the Plattdeutsch of the north, the dialects of which had played a fitful, but by no means negligible r?le in the earlier history of German letters. His Mecklenburg novels, especially Ut de Franzosentid (1860), Ut mine Festungstid (1863) and Ut mine Stromtid (1862-1864), are a faithful reflection of Mecklenburg life and temperament, and hold their place beside the best German fiction of the period. What Reuter did for Plattdeutsch prose, his contemporary, Klaus Groth (1819-1899), the author of Quickborn (1852), did for its verse. We owe, however, the best German prose fiction of these years to two writers, whose affinity with the older Romanticists was closer. The north German, Theodor Storm (1817-1888) is the author of a series of short stories of delicate, lyric inspiration, steeped in that elegiac Romanticism which harmonized so well with mid-century pessimism in Germany. Gottfried Keller (1819-1890), on the other hand, a native of Z?rich, was a modern Romanticist of a robuster type; his magnificent autobiographical novel, Der gr?ne Heinrich (1854-1855), might be described as the last in the great line of Romantic fiction that had begun with Wilhelm Meister, and the short stories, Die Leute von Seldwyla (1856-1874) and Z?richer Novellen (1878) are masterpieces of the first rank.
In the dramatic literature of these decades, at least as it was reflected in the repertories of the German theatres, there was little promise. French influence was, in general, predominant; French translations formed the mainstay of the theatre-directors, while successful German playwrights, such as R. Benedix (1811-1873) and Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer (1800-1868), have little claim to consideration in a literary survey. Gustav Freytag’s admirable comedy, Die Journalisten (1852), was one of the rare exceptions. But the German drama of this epoch is not to be judged solely by the theatres. At the middle of the century Germany could point to two writers who, each in his way, contributed very materially to the development of the modern drama. These were Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863) and Otto Ludwig (1813-1865). Both of these men, as a later generation discovered, were the pioneers of that dramatic literature which at the close of the century accepted the canons of realism and aimed at superseding outward effects by psychological conflicts and problems of social life. Hebbel, especially, must be regarded as the most original and revolutionary German dramatist of the 19th century. Unlike his contemporary Grillparzer, whose aim had been to reconcile the “classic” and the “romantic” drama with the help of Spanish models, Hebbel laid the foundations of a psychological and social drama, of which the most modern interpreter has been Henrik Ibsen. Hebbel’s first tragedy, Judith, appeared in 1840, his masterpieces, Herodes 797und Marianne, Agnes Bernauer, Gyges und sein Ring, and the trilogy ofDie Nibelungen between 1850 and 1862.
In this period of somewhat confused literary striving, there is, however, one body of writers who might be grouped together as a school, although the designation must be regarded rather as an outward accident of union than as implying conformity of aims. This is the group which Maximilian II. of Bavaria gathered round him in Munich between 1852 and 1860. A leading spirit of the group was Emanuel Geibel, who, as we have seen, set a model to the German lyric in this age; F. von Bodenstedt (1819-1892), the popular author of Mirza Schaffy; and J.V. von Scheffel (1826-1886), who, in his verse-romance, Der Trompeter von S?ckingen (1854), broke a lance for a type of literature which had been cultivated somewhat earlier, but with no very conspicuous success, by men like O. von Redwitz (1823-1891) and G. Kinkel (1815-1882). The romance was, in fact, one of the favourite vehicles of poetic expression of the Munich school, its most successful exponents being J. Wolff (b. 1834) and R. Baumbach (1840-1905); while others, such as H. Lingg (1820-1905) and R. Hamerling (1830-1889) devoted themselves to the more ambitious epic. The general tone of the literary movement was pessimistic, the hopelessness of the spiritual outlook being most deeply engrained in the verse of H. Lorm (pseudonym for Heinrich Landesmann, 1821-1902) and H. Leuthold (1827-1879). On the whole, the most important member of the Munich group is Paul Heyse (b. 1830), who, as a writer of “Novellen” or short stories, may be classed with Storm and Keller. An essentially Latin genius, Heyse excels in stories of Italian life, where his lightness of touch and sense of form are shown to best advantage; but he has also written several long novels. Of these, Kinder der Welt (1873) and, in a lesser degree, Im Paradiese (1875), sum up the spirit and tendency of their time, just as, in earlier decades, Die Ritter vom Geiste, Problematische Naturen and Soll und Haben were characteristic of the periods which produced them.
(c) German Literature after 1870.—In the years immediately following the Franco-German War, the prevailing conditions were unfavourable to literary production in Germany, and the re-establishment of the empire left comparatively little trace on the national literature. All minds were for a time engrossed by the Kulturkampf, by the financial difficulties—the so-called Gr?ndertum—due to unscrupulous speculation, and, finally, by the rapid rise of social democracy as a political force. The intellectual basis of the latter movement was laid by Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864) and Karl Marx (1818-1883), author of Das Kapital (vol. i, 1867). But even had such disturbing elements been wanting, the general tone of German intellectual life at that time was not buoyant enough to inspire a vigorous literary revival. The influence of Hegel was still strong, and the “historical” method, as enunciated in Der alte und der neue Glaube (1872) by the Hegelian D.F. Strauss, was generally accepted at the German universities. To many the compromise which H. Lotze (1817-1881) had attempted to establish between science and metaphysics, came as a relief from the Hegelian tradition, but in literature and art the dominant force was still, as before the war, the philosophy of Schopenhauer. In his Philosophie des Unbewussten (1869), E. von Hartmann (1842-1906) endeavoured to bring pessimism into harmony with idealism. In lyric poetry, the dull monotony was broken by the excitement of the war, and the singers of the revolution of 1848 were among the first to welcome the triumph and unification of Germany. At the same time, men of the older generation, like Herwegh, Freiligrath and Geibel could ill conceal a certain disappointment with the new r?gime; the united Germany of 1871 was not what they had dreamed of in their youth, when all hopes were set on the Frankfort parliament.
The novel continued to be what it was before 1870, the most vigorous form of German literature, but the novelists who were popular in the early ’seventies were all older men. Laube, Gutzkow and Auerbach were still writing; Fritz Reuter was a universal favourite; while among the writers of short stories, Storm, who, between 1877 and 1888, put the crown to his work with his Chroniknovellen, and Paul Heyse were the acknowledged masters. It was not until at least a decade later that the genius of Gottfried Keller was generally recognized. The historical novel seemed, in those days, beyond hope of revival. Gustav Freytag, it is true, had made the attempt in Die Ahnen (1872-1881), a number of independent historical romances linked together to form an ambitious prose epic; but there was more of the spirit of Ebers and Dahn in Freytag’s work than of the spacious art of Scott, or of Scott’s disciple, Willibald Alexis.
The drama of the ’seventies was in an even less hopeful condition than during the preceding period. The classical iambic tragedy was cultivated by the Munich school, by A. Wilbrandt (b. 1837), A. Lindner (1831-1888), H. Kruse (1815-1902), by the Austrian F. Nissel (1831-1893), and A. Fitger (b. 1840); but it was characteristic of the time that Halm was popular, while Hebbel and Grillparzer were neglected, it might even be said ignored. The most gifted German dramatist belonging exclusively to the decade between 1870 and 1880 was an Austrian, Ludwig Anzengruber (1839-1889), whose Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (1870) recalled the controversies of the Kulturkampf. This was Anzengruber’s first drama, and it was followed by a series of powerful plays dealing with the life of the Austrian peasant; Anzengruber was, indeed, one of the ablest exponents of that village life, which had attracted so many gifted writers since the days of Gotthelf and Auerbach. But the really popular dramatists of this epoch were either writers who, like Benedix in the older generation, cultivated the bourgeoise comedy—A. L’Arronge (b. 1838), G. von Moser (1825-1903), F. von Sch?nthan (b. 1849) and O. Blumenthal (b. 1852)—or playwrights, of whom P. Lindau (b. 1839) may be regarded as representative, who imitated French models. The only sign of progress in the dramatic history of this period was the marked improvement of the German stage, an improvement due, on the one hand, to the artistic reforms introduced by the duke of Meiningen in the Court theatre at Meiningen, and, on the other hand, to the ideals of a national theatre realized at Bayreuth by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The greatest composer of the later 19th century is also one of Germany’s leading dramatists; and the first performance of the trilogy Der Ring der Nibelungen at Bayreuth in the summer of 1876 may be said to have inaugurated the latest epoch in the history of the German drama.
The last fifteen or twenty years of the 19th century were distinguished in Germany by a remarkable literary activity. Among the younger generation, which was growing up as citizens of the united German empire, a more hopeful and optimistic spirit prevailed. The influence of Schopenhauer was on the wane, and at the universities Hegelianism had lost its former hold. The sponsor of the new philosophic movement was Kant, the master of 18th-century “enlightenment,” and under the influence of the “neo-Kantian” movement, not merely German school philosophy, but theology also, was imbued with a healthier spirit. L. von Ranke (1795-1886) was still the dominant force in German historical science, and between 1881 and 1888 nine volumes appeared of his last great work, Weltgeschichte. Other historians of the period were H. von Sybel (1817-1895) and H. von Treitschke (1834-1896), the latter a vigorous and inspiring spokesman of the new political conditions; while J. Burckhardt (1818-1897), author of the masterly Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860) and the friend of Nietzsche, exerted an influence on German thought which was not confined to academic circles. Literary criticism perhaps benefited most of all by the dethronement of Hegel and the more objective attitude towards Schopenhauer; it seemed as if in this epoch the Germans first formed definite ideas—and ideas which were acceptable and accepted outside Germany—as to the rank and merits of their great poets. A marked change came over the nation’s attitude towards Goethe, a poet to whom, as we have seen, neither the era of Hegel nor that of Schopenhauer had been favourable; Schiller was regarded with less national prejudice, and—most important of all—amends were made by the new generation for the earlier neglect of Kleist, Grillparzer, Hebbel and Keller.
The thinker and poet who most completely embodies the spirit 798of this period—who dealt the Hegelian metaphysics its death-blow as far as its wider influence was concerned—was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Nietzsche had begun as a disciple of Schopenhauer and a friend of Wagner, and he ultimately became the champion of an individualistic and optimistic philosophy which formed the sharpest possible contrast to mid-century pessimism. The individual, not the race, the Herrenmensch, not the slave, self-assertion, not self-denying renunciation—these are some of the ideas round which this new optimistic ethics turns. Nietzsche looked forward to the human race emerging from an effete culture, burdened and clogged by tradition, and re-establishing itself on a basis that is in harmony with man’s primitive instincts. Like Schopenhauer before him, Nietzsche was a stylist of the first rank, and his literary masterpiece, Also sprach Zarathustra (1883-1891), is to be regarded as the most important imaginative work of its epoch.
Nietzschean individualism was only one of many factors which contributed to the new literary development. The realistic movement, as it had manifested itself in France under Flaubert, the Goncourts, Zola and Maupassant, in Russia under Dostoievsky and Tolstoi, and in Norway under Ibsen and Bj?rnson, was, for a time, the dominant force in Germany, and the younger generation of critics hailed it with undisguised satisfaction; most characteristic and significant of all, the centre of this revival was Berlin, which, since it had become the imperial capital, was rapidly establishing its claim to be also the literary metropolis. It was the best testimony to the vitality of the movement that it rarely descended to slavish imitation of the realistic masterpieces of other literatures; realism in Germany was, in fact, only an episode of the ’eighties, a stimulating influence rather than an accepted principle or dogma. And its suggestive character is to be seen not merely in the writings of the young St?rmer und Dr?ngerof this time, but also in those of the older generation who, in temperament, were naturally more inclined to the ideals of a past age.
Of the novelists of the latter class, A. Wilbrandt, who has already been mentioned as a dramatist, has shown, since about 1890, a remarkable power of adapting himself, if not to the style and artistic methods of the younger school, at least to the ideas by which it was agitated; F. Spielhagen’s attitude towards the realistic movement has been invariably sympathetic, while a still older writer, Theodor Fontane (1819-1898), wrote between 1880 and 1898 a series of works in which the finer elements of French realism were grafted on the German novel. To the older school belong Wilhelm Jensen (b. 1837), and that fine humorist, Wilhelm Raabe (b. 1831), with whom may be associated as other humorists of this period, H. Seidel (1842-1906) and W. Busch (1832-1908). Some of the most interesting examples of recent German fiction come, however, from Austria and Switzerland. The two most eminent Austrian authors, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (b. 1830), and Ferdinand, von Saar (1833-1906), both excel as writers of Novellen or short stories—the latter especially being an exponent of that pessimism which is Austria’s peculiar heritage from the previous generation of her poets. Austrians too, are Peter Rosegger (b. 1843), who has won popularity with his novels of peasant life, K.E. Franzos (1848-1904) and L. von Sacher-Masoch (1835-1895). German prose fiction is, in Switzerland, represented by two writers of the first rank: one of these, Gottfried Keller, has already been mentioned; the other, Konrad Ferdinand Meyer (1825-1898), turned to literature or, at least, made his reputation, comparatively late in life. Although, like Keller, a writer of virile, original verse, Meyer is best known as a novelist; he, too, was a master of the short story. His themes are drawn by preference from the epoch of the Renaissance, and his method is characterized by an objectivity of standpoint and a purity of style exceptional in German writers.
The realistic novels of the period were written by H. Conradi (1862-1890), Max Kretzer (b. 1854), M.G. Conrad (b. 1846), H. Heiberg (b. 1840), K. Bleibtreu (b. 1859), K. Alberti (pseudonym for Konrad Sittenfeld, b. 1862) and Hermann Sudermann (b. 1857). A want of stability was, however, as has been already indicated, characteristic of the realistic movement in Germany; the idealistic trend of the German mind proved itself ill-adapted to the uncompromising realism of the French school, and the German realists, whether in fiction or in drama, ultimately sought to escape from the logical consequences of their theories. Even Sudermann, whose Frau Sorge (1887), Der Katzensteg (1889), and the brilliant, if somewhat sensational romance, Es war (1894), are among the best novels of this period, has never been a consistent realist. It is consequently not surprising to find that, before long, German fiction returned to psychological and emotional problems, to the poetical or symbolical presentation of life, which was more in harmony with the German temperament than was the robuster realism of Flaubert or Zola. This trend is noticeable in the work of Gustav Frenssen (b. 1863), whose novel J?rn Uhl (1901) was extraordinarily popular; it is also to be seen in the studies of child life and educational problems which have proved so attractive to the younger writers of the present day, such as Hermann Hesse (b. 1877), Emil Strauss (b. 1866), Rudolf Huch (b. 1862) and Friedrich Huch (b. 1873). One might say, indeed, that at the beginning of the 20th century the traditional form of German fiction, theBildungsroman, had come into its ancient rights again. Mention ought also to be made of J.J. David (1859-1907), E. von Keyserling (b. 1858), W. Hegeler (b. 1870), G. von Ompteda (b. 1863), J. Wassermann (b. 1873), Heinrich Mann (b. 1871) and Thomas Mann (b. 1875). Buddenbrooks (1902) by the last mentioned is one of the outstanding novels of the period. Some of the best fiction of the most recent period is the work of women, the most distinguished being Helene B?hlau (b. 1859), Gabriele Reuter (b. 1859), Clara Viebig (C. Cohn-Viebig, b. 1860) and Ricarda Huch (b. 1864). Whether the latest movement in German poetry and fiction, which, under the catchword Heimatkunst, has favoured the province rather than the city, the dialect in preference to the language of the educated classes, will prove a permanent gain, it is still too soon to say, but the movement is at least a protest against the decadent tendencies of naturalism.
At no period of German letters were literature and the theatre in closer touch than at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries; more than at any previous time has the theatre become the arena in which the literary battles of the day are fought out. The general improvement in the artistic, technical and economic conditions of the German stage have already been indicated; but it was not until 1889 that the effects of these improvements became apparent in dramatic literature. Before that date, it is true, Ernst von Wildenbruch (1845-1909) had attempted to revive the historical tragedy, but the purely literary qualities of his work were handicapped by a too effusive patriotism and a Schillerian pathos; nor did the talent of Richard Voss (b. 1851) prove strong enough to effect any lasting reform. In October 1889, however, Gerhart Hauptmann’s play, Vor Sonnenaufgang, was produced on the then recently founded Freie B?hne in Berlin; and a month later, Die Ehre by Hermann Sudermann met with a more enthusiastic reception in Berlin than had fallen to the lot of any German play for more than a generation.
Hauptmann (b. 1862), the most original of contemporary German writers, stands, more or less, alone. His early plays, the most powerful of which is Die Weber (1892), were written under the influence either of an uncompromising realism, or of that modified form of realism introduced from Scandinavia; but in Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1893) he combined realism with the poetic mysticism of a child’s dream, in Florian Geyer (1895) he adapted the methods of realism to an historical subject, and in the year 1896 he, to all appearance, abandoned realism to write an allegorical dramatic poem, Die versunkene Glocke. Hauptmann’s subsequent work has oscillated between the extremes marked out by these works—from the frank naturalism of Fuhrmann Henschel (1898) and Rose Berndt (1903), to the fantastic mysticism of Der arme Heinrich (1902) and Und Pippa tanzt!(1906).
The dramatic talent of Hermann Sudermann has developed 799on more even lines; the success of Die Ehre was due in the first instance to the ability which Sudermann had shown in adapting the ideas of his time and the new methods of dramatic presentation to the traditional German b?rgerliches Drama. This is the characteristic of the majority of the many plays which followed of which Heimat (1893), Das Gl?ck im Winkel (1896) and Es lebe das Leben! (1902) may be mentioned as typical. With less success Sudermann attempted in Johannes (1898) a tragedy on lines suggested by Hebbel. A keen observer, a writer of brilliant and suggestive ideas, Sudermann is, above all, the practical playwright; but it is unfortunate that the theatrical element in his work too often overshadows its literary qualities.
Since 1889, the drama has occupied the foreground of interest in Germany. The permanent repertory of the German theatre has not, it is true, been much enriched, but it is at least to the credit of contemporary German playwrights that they are unwilling to rest content with their successes and are constantly experimenting with new forms. Besides Hauptmann and Sudermann, the most talented dramatists of the day are Max Halbe (b. 1865), O.E. Hartleben (1864-1905), G. Hirschfeld (b. 1873), E. Rosmer (pseudonym for Elsa Bernstein, b. 1866), Ludwig Fulda (b. 1862), Max Dreyer (b. 1862), Otto Ernst (pseudonym for O.E. Schmidt, b. 1862) and Frank Wedekind (b. 1864). In Austria, notwithstanding the preponderant influence of Berlin, the drama has retained its national characteristics, and writers like Arthur Schnitzler (b. 1862), Hermann Bahr (b. 1863), Hugo von Hofmannsthal (b. 1874) and R. Beer-Hofmann (b. 1866) have introduced symbolistic elements and peculiarly Austrian problems, which are foreign to the theatre of north Germany.
The German lyric of recent years shows a remarkable variety of new tones and pregnant poetic ideas; it has, as is natural, been more influenced by the optimism of Nietzsche—himself a lyric poet of considerable gifts—than has either novel or drama. Detlev von Liliencron (1844-1909) was one of the first to break with the traditions of the lyric as handed down from the Romantic epoch and cultivated with such facility by the Munich poets. An anthology of specifically modern lyrics, Moderne Dichtercharaktere (1885) by W. Arent (b. 1864), may be regarded as the manifesto of the movement in lyric poetry corresponding to the period of realism in fiction and the drama. Representative poets of this movement are Richard Dehmel (b. 1863), K. Henckell (b. 1864), J.H. Mackay (b. 1864 at Greenock), G. Falke (b. 1853), F. Avenarius (b. 1856), F. Evers (b. 1871), F. D?rmann (b. 1870) and K. Busse (b. 1872). A later development of the lyric—a return to mysticism and symbolism—is to be seen in the poetry of Hofmannsthal, already mentioned as a dramatist, and especially in Stefan George (b. 1868). Epic poetry, although little in harmony with the spirit of a realistic age, has not been altogether neglected. Heinrich Hart (1855-1906), one of the leading critics of the most advanced school, is also the author of an ambitious Lied der Menschheit (vols. 1-3, 1888-1896); more conservative, on the other hand, is Robespierre (1894), an epic in the style of Hamerling by an Austrian, Marie delle Grazie (b. 1864). Attention may also be drawn to the popularity which, for a few years, the so-called ?berbrettl or cabaret enjoyed, a popularity which has left its mark on the latest developments of the lyric. Associated with this movement are O.J. Bierbaum (1865-1910), whose lyrics, collected in Der Irrgarten der Liebe (1901), have been extraordinarily popular, E. von Wolzogen (b. 1855) and the dramatist F. Wedekind, who has been already mentioned.
Whether or not the work that has been produced in such rich measure since the year 1889—or however much of it—is to be regarded as a permanent addition to the storehouse of German national literature, there can be no question of the serious artistic earnestness of the writers; the conditions for the production of literature in the German empire in the early years of the 20th century were eminently healthy, and herein lies the best promise for the future.