He had a Man’s Soul in him;
To which anarchy, mutiny and the other fruits of temporary Mercenaries were intolerable:
He had never been a Baron otherwise…
He felt it precious,
And at last it became
Habitual and his fruitful enlarged existence
Included it as a necessity,
To have those around him who in heart loved him;
Whose lives he watched over with rigor yet with love;
Who were prepared to give their lives for him,
If need came.
The task will be hard; but no noble task was ever easy.
The task will wear away your lives, and the lives
Of your sons and grandsons;
But for what purpose, if not for tasks like this,
Were lives given to men?
Thomas Carlyle, 1843...
From Thomas Carlyle’s “German Romance: Specimens of its Chief Authors; with Biographical and Critical Notices.” Vol. II, 1827. Excerpt: “The Golden Pot” by E.T. A. Hoffmann.
The Spirit looked upon the water, and the water moved itself, and chafed in foaming billows, and plunged thundering down into the Abysses, which opened their black throats, and greedily swallowed it. Like triumphant conquerors, the granite Rocks lifted their cleft peaky crowns, protecting the Valley, till the Sun took it into its paternal bosom, and clasping it with its beams as with growing arms, cherished it and warmed it.
Then a thousand germs, which had been sleeping under the desert sand, awoke from their deep slumber, and stretched out their little leaves and stalks toward the Sun their father’s face; and the smiling infants in green cradles, the flowrets rested in their buds and blossoms, til they too, awakened by their father, decked themselves in lights, which their father, to please them, tinted in a thousand varied hues.
But in the midst of the Valley was a black Hill, which heaved up and down like the breast of man when warm longing swells it. From the Abysses mounted steaming vapours, and rolled themselves together into huge masses, striving malignantly to hide the father’s face: but he called the Storm to him, which rushed thither, and scattered them away; and when the pure sunbeam rested again on the bleak Hill, there started from it, in the excess of its rapture, a glorious Fire-Lily, opening its fair leaves like gentle lips to receive the kiss of its father.
And now came a gleaming Splendour into the Valley; it was the youth Phosphorus; the Lily saw him, and begged, being seized with warm longing love: “Be mine for ever, fair youth! For I love thee, and must die if thou forsake me!” Then spake the youth Phosphorus: “I will be thine, thou fair flower; but then wilt thou, like a naughty child, leave father and mother; thou wilt know thy playmates no longer, wilt strive to be greater and stronger than all that now rejoices with thee as thy equal.
The longing which now beneficently warms thy whole being, will be scattered into a thousand rays, and torture and vex thee; for sense will bring forth senses; and the highest rapture, which the Spark I cast into thee kindles, will be the hopeless pain wherein thou shalt perish, to spring up anew in foreign shape. This spark is Thought!”
“Ah!” mourned the Lily, “Can I not be thine in this glow, as it now burns in me; not still be thine? Can I love then more than now; could I look on thee as now, if thou wert to annihilate me?” Then the youth Phosphorus kissed the Lily; and as if penetrated with light, it mounted up in flame, out of which issued a foreign Being, that hastily flying from the Valley, roved forth into endless Space, no longer heeding its old playmates, or the youth it had loved.
This youth mourned for his lost beloved; for he too loved her, it was love to the fair Lily that had brought him to the lone Valley; and the granite Rocks bent down their heads in participation of his grief.
But one of these opened its bosom, and there came a black-winged Dragon flying out of it, and said: “My brethren, the Metals are sleeping in there; but I am always brisk and waking, and will help thee.”
Dashing up and down on its black pinions, the Dragon at last caught the Being which had sprung from the Lily; bore it to the Hill, and encircled it with his wing; then was it the Lily again; but Thought, which continued with it, tore asunder its heart; and its love for the youth Phosphorus was a cutting pain, before which, as if breathed on by poisonous vapours, the flowrets which had once rejoiced in the fair Lily’s presence, faded and died.
The youth Phosphorus put on a glittering coat of mail, sporting with the light in a thousand hues, and did battle with the Dragon, who struck the cuirass with his black wing, till it rung and sounded; and at this loud clang the flowrets again came to life, and like variegated birds fluttered round the Dragon, whose force departed; and who, thus being vanquished, hid himself in the depths of the Earth.
The Lily was freed; the youth Phosphorus clasped her, full of warm longing, of heavenly love; and in triumphant chorus, the flowers, the birds, nay even the high granite Rocks, did reverence to her as the Queen of the Valley.”
Excerpt from Thomas Carlyle’s “German Romance: Specimens of its Chief Authors; with Biographical and Critical Notices.” Vol. I, 1827.
By Johann Karl August Musäus
DEEP in the Bohemian forest, which has now dwindled to a few scattered woodlands, there abode, in the primeval times, while it stretched its umbrage far and wide, a spiritual race of beings, airy and avoiding light, incorporeal also, more delicately fashioned than the clay-formed sons of men ; to the coarser sense of feeling imperceptible, but to the finer, half-visible by moonlight ; and well known to poets by the name of Dryads, and to ancient bards by that of Elves. From immemorial ages, they had dwelt here undisturbed ; till all at once the forest sounded with the din of warriors, for Duke Czech of Hungary, with his Sclavonic hordes, had broken over the mountains, to seek in these wild tracts a new habitation.
The fair tenants of the aged oaks, of the rocks, clefts and grottos, and of the flags in the tarns and morasses, fled before the clang of arms and the neighing of chargers : the stout Erl-King himself was annoyed by the uproar, and transferred his court to more sequestered wildernesses. One solitary Elf could not resolve to leave her darling oak ; and as the wood began here and there to be felled for the purposes of cultivation, she alone undertook to defend her tree against the violence of the strangers, and chose the towering summit of it for her residence.
Among the retinue of the Duke was a young Squire, Krokus by name, full of spirit and impetuosity ; stout and handsome, and of noble mien, to whom the keeping of his master’s stud had been entrusted, which at times he drove far into the forest for their pasture. Frequently he rested beneath the oak which the Elf inhabited : she observed him with satisfaction ; and at night, when he was sleeping at the root, she would whisper pleasant dreams into his ear, and announce to him in expressive images the events of the coming day. When any horse had strayed into the desert, and the keeper had lost its tract, and gone to sleep with anxious thoughts, he failed not to see in vision the marks of the hidden path, which led him to the spot where his lost steed was grazing.
The farther the new colonists extended, the nearer came they to the dwelling of the Elf ; and as by her gift of divination, she perceived how soon her life-tree would be threatened by the axe, she determined to unfold this sorrow to her guest. One moonshiny summer evening, Krokus had folded his herd somewhat later than usual, and was hastening to his bed under the lofty oak. His path led him round a little fishy lake, on whose silver face the moon was imaging herself like a gleaming ball of gold; and across this glittering portion of the water, on the farther side, he perceived a female form, apparently engaged in walking by the cool shore. This sight surprised the young warrior : What brings the maiden hither, thought he, by herself, in this wilderness, at the season of the nightly dusk ? Yet the adventure was of such a sort, that, to a young man, the more strict investigation of it seemed alluring rather than alarming.
He redoubled his steps, keeping firmly in view the form which had arrested his attention ; and soon reached the place where he had first noticed it, beneath the oak. But now it looked to him as if the thing he saw were a shadow rather than a body ; he stood wondering and motionless, a cold shudder crept over him, and he heard a sweet soft voice address to him these words : “Come hither, beloved stranger, and fear not ; I am no phantasm, no deceitful shadow : I am the Elf of this grove, the tenant of the oak, under whose leafy boughs thou hast often rested. I rocked thee in sweet delighting dreams, and prefigured to thee thy adventures ; and when a brood-mare or a foal had chanced to wander from the herd, I told thee of the place, where thou wouldst find it.
Repay this favour by a service which I now require of thee ; be the Protector of this tree, which has so often screened thee from the shower and the scorching heat ; and guard the murderous axes of thy brethren, which lay waste the forest, that they harm not this venerable trunk.”
The young warrior, restored to self-possession by this soft still voice, made answer : “Goddess or mortal, whoever thou mayest be, require of me what thou pleasest ; if I can, I will perform it. But I am a man of no account among my people, the servant of the Duke my lord. If he tell me today or tomorrow, Feed here, feed there, how shall I protect thy tree in this distant forest? Yet if thou commandest me, I will renounce the service of princes, and dwell under the shadow of thy oak, and guard it while I live.”
“ Do so,” said the Elf: “thou shalt not repent it.”
Hereupon she vanished ; and there was a rustling in the branches above, as if some breath of an evening breeze had been entangled in them, and had stirred the leaves. Krokus, for a while, stood enraptured at the heavenly form which had appeared to him. So soft a female, of such slender shape and royal bearing, he had never seen among the short squat damsels of his own Sclavonic race. At last he stretched himself upon the moss, but no sleep descended on his eyes ; the dawn overtook him in a whirl of sweet emotions, which were as strange and new to him as the first beam of light to the opened eye of one born blind.
With the earliest morning he hastened to the Court of the Duke, required his discharge, packed up his war-accoutrements, and, with rapid steps, his burden on his shoulders, and his head full of glowing enthusiasm, hied him back to his enchanted forest-hermitage.
Meanwhile, in his absence, a craftsman among the people, a miller by trade, had selected for himself the round straight trunk of the oak to be an axle, and was proceeding with his mill-men to fell it. The affrighted Elf sobbed bitterly, as the greedy saw began with iron tooth to devour the foundations of her dwelling. She looked wildly round, from the highest summit, for her faithful guardian, but her glance could find him nowhere ; and the gift of prophecy, peculiar to her race, was in the present case so ineffectual, that she could as little read the fate that stood before her, as the sons of Aesculapius, with their vaunted prognosis, can discover ways and means for themselves when Death is knocking at their own door.
Krokus, however, was approaching, and so near the scene of this catastrophe, that the screeching of the busy saw did not escape his ear. Such a sound in the forest boded no good : he quickened his steps, and beheld before his eyes the horror of the devastation that was visiting the tree which he had taken under his protection. Like a fury he rushed upon the woodcutters, with pike and sword, and scared them from their work ; for they concluded he must be a forest-demon, and fled in great precipitation.
By good fortune, the wound of the tree was still curable ; and the scar of it disappeared in a few summers.
In the solemn hour of evening, when the stranger had fixed upon the spot for his future habitation ; had meted out the space for hedging round as a garden, and was weighing in his mind the whole scheme of his future hermitage ; where, in retirement from the society of men, he purposed to pass his days in the service of a shadowy companion, possessed apparently of little more reality than a Saint of the Calendar, whom a pious friar chooses for his spiritual paramour the Elf appeared before him at the brink of the lake, and with gentle looks thus spoke: “Thanks to thee, beloved stranger, that thou hast turned away the wasteful arms of thy brethren from ruining this tree, with which my life is united.
For thou shalt know that Mother Nature, who has granted to my race such varied powers and influences, has combined the fortune of our life with the growth and duration of the oak. By us the sovereign of the forest raises his venerable head above the populace of other trees and shrubs ; we further the circulation of the sap through his trunk and boughs, that he may gain strength to battle with the tempest, and for long centuries to defy destructive Time.
On the other hand, our life is bound to his : when the oak, which the lot of Destiny has appointed for the partner of our existence, fades by years, we fade along with him ; and when he dies, we die, and sleep, like mortals, as it were a sort of death-sleep, till, by the everlasting cycle of things, Chance, or some hidden provision of Nature, again weds our being to a new germ ; which, unfolded by our enlivening virtue, after the lapse of long years, springs up to be a mighty tree, and affords us the enjoyment of existence anew.
From this thou mayest perceive what a service thou hast done me by thy help, and what gratitude I owe thee. Ask of me the recompense of thy noble deed ; disclose to me the wish of thy heart, and this hour it shall be granted thee.”
Krokus continued silent. The sight of the enchanting Elf had made more impression on him than her speech, of which, indeed, he understood but little. She noticed his embarrassment ; and, to extricate him from it, plucked a withered reed from the margin of the lake, broke it into three pieces, and said : “Choose one of these three stalks, or take one without a choice. In the first, lie Honour and Renown ; in the second, Riches and the wise enjoyment of them ; in the third is happiness in Love laid up for thee.”
The young man cast his eyes upon the ground, and answered: “Daughter of Heaven, if thou wouldst deign to grant the desire of my heart, know that it lies not in these three stalks which thou offerest me ; the recompense I aim at is higher. What is Honour but the fuel of Pride ? what are Riches but the root of Avarice? and what is Love but the trap-door of Passion, to ensnare the noble freedom of the heart?
Grant me my wish, to rest under the shadow of thy oak-tree from the toils of warfare, and to hear from thy sweet mouth the lessons of wisdom, that I may understand by them the secrets of the future.”
“Thy request,” replied the Elf, “is great ; but thy deserving towards me is not less so : be it then as thou hast asked.
Nor, with the fruit, shall the shell be wanting to thee ; for the wise man is also honoured ; he alone is rich, for he desires nothing more than he needs, and he tastes the pure nectar of Love without poisoning it by polluted lips.”
So saying, she again presented him the three reed-stalks, and vanished from his sight.
The young Eremite prepared his bed of moss, beneath the oak, exceedingly content with the reception which the Elf had given him. Sleep came upon him like a strong man ; gay morning dreams danced round his head, and solaced his fancy with the breath of happy forebodings. On awakening, he joyfully began his day’s work ; ere long he had built himself a pleasant hermit’s-cottage ; had dug his garden, and planted in it roses and lilies, with other odoriferous flowers and herbs ; not forgetting pulse and cold, and a sufficiency of fruit-trees.
This Elf never failed to visit him at twilight ; she rejoiced in the prospering of his labours ; walked with him, hand in hand, by the sedgy border of the lake ; and the wavering reeds, as the wind passed through them, whispered a melodious evening salutation to the trustful pair. She instructed her attentive disciple in the secrets of Nature ; showed him the origin and cause of things ; taught him their common and their magic properties and effects ; and formed the rude soldier into a thinker and philosopher.
In proportion as the feelings and senses of the young man grew refined by this fair spiritual intercourse, it seemed as if the tender form of the Elf were condensing, and acquiring more consistency; her bosom caught warmth and life ; her brown eyes sparkled with the fire of love ; and with the shape, she appeared to have adopted the feelings of a young blooming maiden.
The sentimental hour of dusk, which is as if expressly calculated to awaken slumbering feelings, had its usual effect ; and after a few moons from their first acquaintance, the sighing Krokus found himself possessed of the happiness in Love, which the Third Reed-stalk had appointed him ; and did not repent that by the trap-door of Passion the freedom of his heart had been ensnared. Though the marriage of the tender pair took place without witnesses, it was celebrated with as much enjoyment as the most tumultuous espousals ; nor were speaking proofs of love’s recompense long wanting.
The Elf gave her husband three daughters at a birth ; and the father, rejoicing in the bounty of his better half, named, at the first embrace, the eldest infant, Bela ; the next born, Therba ; and the youngest, Libussa. They were all like the Genies in beauty of form;, and though not moulded of such light materials as the mother, their corporeal structure was finer than the dull earthy clay of the father. They were also free from all the infirmities of childhood ; their swathings did not gall them ; they teethed without epileptic fits, needed no calomel taken inwardly, got no rickets ; had no small-pox, and, of course, no scars, no cum-eyes, or puckered faces : nor did they require any leading-strings ; for after the first nine days, they ran like little partridges ; and as they grew up, they manifested all the talents of the mother for discovering hidden things, and predicting what was future.
Krokus himself, by the aid of time, grew skillful in these mysteries also. When the wolf had scattered the flocks through the forest, and the herdsmen were seeking for their sheep and horses ; when the woodman missed an axe or bill, they took counsel from the wise Krokus, who showed them where to find what they had lost. When a wicked prowler had abstracted naught from the common stock ; had by night broken into the pinfold, or the dwelling of his neighbour, and robbed or slain him, and none could guess the malefactor, the wise Krokus was consulted.
He led the people to a green ; made them form a ring ; then stept into the midst of them, set the faithful sieve a-running, and so failed not to discover the misdoer. By such acts his fame spread over all the country of Bohemia ; and whoever had a weighty care, or an important undertaking, took counsel from the wise Krokus about its issue. The lame and the sick, too, required from him help and recovery ; even the unsound cattle of the fold were driven to him ; and his gift of curing sick kine by his shadow, was not less than that of the renowned St. Martin of Schierbach.
By these means the concourse of the people to him grew more frequent, day by day, no otherwise than if the Tripod of the Delphic Apollo had been transferred to the Bohemian forest : and though Krokus answered all inquiries, and cured the sick and afflicted, without fee or reward, yet the treasure of his secret wisdom paid him richly, and brought him in abundant profit ; the people crowded to him with gifts and presents, and almost oppressed him with testimonies of their good-will. It was he that first disclosed the mystery of washing gold from the sands of the Elbe ; and for his recompense he had a tenth of all the produce.
By these means his wealth and store increased ; he built strongholds and palaces ; had vast herds of cattle ; possessed fertile pasturages, fields and woods ; and thus found himself imperceptibly possessed of all the Riches which the beneficently foreboding Elf had enclosed for him in the Second Reed.
One fine summer evening, when Krokus with his train was returning from an excursion, having by special request been settling the disputed marches of two townships, he perceived his spouse on the margin of the sedgy lake, where she had first appeared to him. She waved him with her hand ; so he dismissed his servants, and hastened to clasp her in his arms.
She received him, as usual, with tender love ; but her heart was sad and oppressed ; from her eyes trickled down ethereal tears, so fine and fugitive, that as they fell they were greedily inhaled by the air, and not allowed to reach the ground. Krokus was alarmed at this appearance ; he had never seen his wife’s fair eyes otherwise than cheerful, and sparkling with youthful gaiety. “ What ails thee, beloved of my heart ?” said he ; “ black forebodings overcast my soul. Speak, say what mean those tears.”
The Elf sobbed, leaned her head sorrowfully on his shoulder, and said : “Beloved husband, in thy absence I have looked into the Book of Destiny ; a doeful chance overhangs my life-tree ; I must part from thee forever. Follow me into the Castle, till I bless my children ; for from this day you will never see me more.”
“ Dearest wife,” said Krokus, “ chase away these mournful thoughts. What misfortune is it that can harm thy tree ? Behold its sound boughs, how they stretch forth loaded with fruit and leaves, and how it raises its top to the clouds. While this arm can move, it shall defend thy tree from any miscreant that presumes to wound its stem.”
“Impotent defense,” replied she, “which a mortal arm can yield ! Ants can but secure themselves from ants, flies from flies, and the worms of Earth from other earthly worms.
But what can the mightiest among you do against the workings of Nature, or the unalterable decisions of Fate ? The kings of the Earth can heap up little hillocks, which they name fortresses and castles ; but the weakest breath of air defies their authority, blows where it lists, and mocks at their command. This oak-tree thou hast guarded from the violence of men ; canst thou likewise forbid the tempest that it rise not to disleaf its branches ; or if a hidden worm is gnawing in its marrow, canst thou draw it out, and tread it under foot ?”
Amid such conversation they arrived at the Castle. The slender maidens, as they were wont at the evening visit of their mother, came bounding forth to meet them ; gave account of their day’s employments, produced their needlework, and their embroideries, to prove their diligence : but now the hour of household happiness was joyless. They soon observed that the traces of deep suffering were imprinted on the countenance of their father ; and they looked with sympathising sorrow at their mother’s tears, without venturing to inquire their cause.
The mother gave them many wise instructions and wholesome admonitions ; but her speech was like the singing of a swan, as if she wished to give the world her farewell. She lingered with her husband, till the morning-star went up in the sky; then she embraced him and her children with mournful tenderness; and at dawn of day retired, as was her custom, through the secret door, to her oak-tree, and left her friends to their own sad forebodings.
Nature stood in listening stillness at the rising sun ; but heavy black clouds soon veiled his beaming head. The day grew sultry and oppressive ; the whole atmosphere was electric.
Distant thunder came rolling over the forest ; and the hundred-voiced Echo repeated, in the winding valleys, its baleful sound.
At the noontide, a forked thunderbolt struck quivering down upon the oak ; and in a moment shivered with resistless force the trunk and boughs, and the wreck lay scattered far around it in the forest. When Father Krokus was informed of this, he rent his garments, went forth with his daughters to deplore the life-tree of his spouse, and to collect the fragments of it, and preserve them as invaluable relics. But the Elf from that day was not seen any more.
To be continued…
Excerpt: “Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: “Jean Paul Friedrich Richter” by Thomas Carlyle, 1827.
O then arose his inner Coliseum
Full of silent godlike forms of spiritual antiques,
And the torch-gleam of Fancy
Glanced round upon them like the
Play of a Magic Life
And there he saw among the gods
And a loved one … reposing.
John Paul’s “Titan”
Except by name, Jean Paul Friedrich Richter is little known outside of Germany. The only thing connected with him, we think, that has reached this country, is his saying, imported by Madame de Staël, and, thankfully pocketed by most newspaper critics: “Providence has given to the French the empire of the land, to the English that of the sea, to the Germans that of — the air.” Of this last element, indeed, his own genius might easily seem to have been a denizen; so fantastic, many-colored. far-grasping, every way perplexed and extraordinary to his mode of writing.
To translate him properly is next to impossible; nay, a dictionary of his works has actually been in part published for the use of German readers! These things have restricted his sphere of action, and may long restrict it, to his own country; but there, in return, he is a favorite of the first class; studied through all his intricacies with trustful admiration, and a love which tolerates much. During the last forty years, he has been continually before the public, in various capacities, and growing generally in esteem with all ranks of critics; till, at length his gainsayers have either been silenced or convinced; and Jean Paul, at first reckoned half-mad, has long ago vindicated his singularities to nearly universal satisfaction, and now combines popularity with depth of endowment, in perhaps a greater degree than any other writer; being second in the latter point to scarcely more than one of his contemporaries, and in the former second to none.
The biography of such a distinguished person could scarcely fail to be interesting, especially his autobiography; which, accordingly we wait for, and may in time submit to our readers, if it seems worthy. Meanwhile, the history of his life, so far as outward events characterize it, may be stated in a few words. He was born in Wunsiedel in Bayreuth in March 1763. His father was a subaltern teacher in the Gymnasium of the place, and was afterwards promoted to clergyman at Schwarzbach on the Saale. Richter’s early education was of the scantiest sort; but his fine faculties and unwearied diligence supplied every defect.
Unable to purchase books, he borrowed what he could come at, and transcribed from them, often a great part of their contents – a habit of excerpting which continued with him throughout life, and influenced, in more ways than one, his mode of writing and study. To the last, he was an insatiable and universal reader, so that his excerpts accumulated and “filled whole chests.” In 1780, he went to the University of Leipsic; with the highest character, in spite of the impediments which he had struggled with, for talents and acquirement. Like his father, he was destined for Theology; from which, however, his vagrant genius soon diverged into Poetry and Philosophy, to the neglect, and, ere long, to the final abandonment of his appointed profession.
Not well knowing what to do, he accepted a tutorship in some family of rank; then he had pupils in his own house — which, however, like his way of life, he often changed; for by this time he had become an author, and, in his wanderings over Germany, was putting forth, now here, now there, the strangest books, with the strangest titles. For instance, “Greenland Lawsuits” – “Biographical Recreations under the Cranium of a Giantess” – “Selections from the Papers of a Devil” – and the like! In these describable performances, the splendid faculties of the writer, luxuriating as they seem in utter riot, could not be disputed; nor, with all its extravagance, the fundamental strength, honesty and tenderness of his nature. Genius will reconcile men to much.
By degrees, Jean Paul began to be considered not a strange cracked-brained mixture of enthusiast and buffoon, but a man of infinite humor, sensibility, force and penetration. His writings procured him friends and fame; and at length a wife and a settled provision. With Caroline Mayer, his good spouse, and a pension in 1802 from the King of Bavaria, he settled in Bayreuth, the capitol of his native province; where he lived therefore, diligent and celebrated in many new departments of Literature; and died on the 14th of November, 1825, loved as well as admired by all his countrymen, and most of those who had known him most intimately.
A huge, irregular man, both in body and in person, full of fire, strength and impetuosity, Richter seems, at the same time, to have been, in the highest degree, mild, simple-hearted, humane. He was fond of conversation, and might well shine in it. He talked as he wrote, in a style of his own, full of wild strength and charms, to which his Bayreuth accent often gave additional effect. Yet he loved retirement, the country and all natural things; from his youth upwards, he himself tells us, he may almost be said to have lived in the open air; it was among groves and meadows that he studied — often that he wrote. Even in the streets of Bayreuth, he was seldom seen without a flower on his breast.
A man of quiet tastes, and warm compassionate affections! His friends he must have loved as few do. Of his poor and humble mother he often speaks by allusion, and never without reference and overflowing affection. Wrote Doring, “Richter’s studying or sitting apartment offered about this time (1793) a true and beautiful emblem of his simple and noble way of thought, which comprehended at once the high and low. Whilst his mother, who then lived with him, busily pursued her household work, occupying herself about stove and dresser, Jean Paul was sitting in the corner of the same room, at a simple writing desk, with few or no books about him, but merely one or two drawers containing excerpts and manuscripts.”
Richter came later to live in finer mansions, and had the great and learned for associates; but the gentle feelings of those days abode with him: Through life, he was the same substantial, determinate yet meek and tolerating man. It is seldom that so much rugged energy can be so blandly attempted; that so much vehemence and so much softness would go together.
The expected Edition of Richter’s Works is to be sixty volumes; and they are no less multifarious than extensive; embracing subjects of all sorts, from the highest problems of Transcendental Philosophy, and the most passionate poetical delineations, to Golden-Rules for the Weather Prophet, and instructions in the Art of Falling Asleep. His chief productions are Novels: the Unsichtbare Loge (Invisible Lodge); Flegeljahre (Wild-Oats); Life of Fixlein; the Jubelsenior (Parson in Jubilee); Schmelzle’s Journey to Flatz; Katzenberg’s Journey to the Bath; Life of Fibel; and many lighter pieces; and two works of a higher order: Hesperus and Titan, the largest and best of his Novels.
It was the former that first (in 1795) introduced him into decisive and universal estimation with his countrymen; the latter he himself, with the most judicious of his critics, regarded as his masterpiece. But the name Novelist, as we in England must understand it, would ill describe so vast and discursive a genius; for, with all his grotesque, tumultuous pleasantry, Richter is a man of a truly earnest, nay high and solemn character, and seldom writes without a meaning beyond the sphere of common romancers. Hesperus and Titan themselves, though in form nothing more than “novels of real life,” as the Minerva Press would say, have solid metal enough in them to furnish whole circulating libraries, were it beaten into the usual filigree; and much which, attenuate it as we might, no quarterly subscriber could well carry with him.
Amusement is often, in part almost always, a mean with Richter; rarely or never his highest end. His thoughts, his feelings, the creations of his spirit, walk before us embodied under wondrous shapes, in motley and ever-fluctuating groups. But his essential character, however he disguise it, is that of a Philosopher and a moral Poet, whose study has been human nature, whose delight and best endeavor are with all that are beautiful, and tender, and mysteriously sublime … in the fate or history of man.
This is the purport of his writings, whether their form be that of fiction or of truth; the spirit that pervades and ennobles his delineations of common life, his wild wayward dreams, allegories and shadowy imaginings, no less than his disquisitions of a nature directly scientific.