Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

that I could not say, but respecting which our hearts understood each other. In the mental dominion of thought and poetry, inaccessible to worldly power, the Germans, who are separated in so many ways from each other, still feel their unity: and in this feeling, whose interpreter the writer and orator must be, amidst our clouded prospects we may still cherish the elevating presage of the great and immortal calling of our people, who from time immemorial have remained unmixed in their present habitations.

GENEVA, February, 1809.

OBSERVATION PREFIXED TO PART OF THE WORK

PRINTED IN 1811. The declaration in the Preface that these Lectures were, with some additions, printed as they were delivered, is in so far to be corrected, that the additions in the second part are much more considerable than in the first. The restriction, in point of time in the oral delivery, compelled me to leave more gaps in the last half than in the first. The part respecting Shakspeare and the English theatre, in particular, has been almost altogether re-written. I have been prevented, partly by the want of leisure and partly by the limits of the work, from treating of the Spanish theatre with that fulness which its importance deserves.

MEMOIR

OF

THE LITERARY LIFE

OF

AUGUSTUS WILLIAM VON SCHLEGEL

AUGESTUS WILLIAM Vox SCHLEGEL, the author of the following Lectures, was, with his no-less distinguished brother, Frederick, the son of John Adolph Schlegel, a native of Saxony, and descended from a noble family. Holding a high appointment in the Lutheran church, Adolph Schlegel distinguished himself as a religious poet, and was the friend and associate of Rabener, Gellert, and Klopstock. Celebrated for his eloquence in the pulpit, and strictly diligent in the performance of his religious duties, he died in 1792, leaving an example to his children which no doubt had a happy influence on them.

Of these, the seventh, Augustus William, was born in Hanover, September 5th, 1767. In his early childhood, he evinced a genuine susceptibility for all that was good and noble; and this early promise of a generous and virtuous disposition was carefully nurtured by the religious instruction of his mother, an amiable and highly-gifted woman. Of this parent's pious and judicious teaching, Augustus William had to the end of his days a grateful remembrance, and he cherished for her throughout life a sincere and affectionate esteem, whose ardour neither time nor distance could diminish. The

8

THE LITERARY LIFE OF

filial affection of her favourite son soothed the declining years of his mother, and lightened the anxieties with which the critical and troubled state of the times alarmed her old age. His further education was carried on by a private tutor, who prepared him for the grammar-school at Hanover, where he was distinguished both for his unremitting application, to which he often sacrificed the hours of leisure and recreation, and for the early display of a natural gift for language, which enabled him immediately on the close of his academic career to accept a tutorial appointment, which demanded of its holder a knowledge not only of the classics but also of English and French. He also displayed at a very early age a talent for poetry, and some of his juvenile extempore effusions were remarkable for their easy versification and rhythmical flow. In his eighteenth year he was called upon to deliver in the Lyceum of his native city, the anniversary oration in honour of a royal birthday. His iddress on this occasion excited an extraordinary sensation both by the graceful elegance of the style and the interest of the matter, written in hexameters. It embraced a short history of poetry in Germany, and was relieved and animated with many judicious and striking illustrations from the earliest Teutonic poets.

He now proceeded to the University of Göttingen as a student of theology, which science, however, he shortly abandoned for the more congenial one of philology. The propriety of this charge he amply attested by his Essay on the Geography of Homer, which displayed both an intelligent and comprehensive study of this difficult branch of classical archæology.

At Göttingen he lived in the closest intimacy with Heyne, for whose Virgil, in 1788 he completed an index; he also became acquainted with the celebrated Michaelis. here too that he formed the friendship of Bürger, to whose Academie der Schönen Redekünste, he contributed his A riadne,

It was

AUGUSTUS WILLIAM VON SCIILEGEL.

9

aud an essay on Dante. The kindred genius of Bürger favourably influenced his own mind and tastes, and moved him to make the first known attempt to naturalize the Italian sonnet in Germany.

Towards the end of his university career he combined his own studies with the private instruction of a rich young Englishman, born in the East Indies, and at the close of it accepted the post of tutor to the only son of Herr Muilmann, the celebrated Banker of Amsterdam. In this situation he gained universal respect and esteem, but after three years he quitted it to enter upon a wider sphere of literary activity. Ou his return to his native country he was elected Professor in the University of Jena. Schlegel's residence in this place, which may truly be called the classic soil of German literature, as it gained him the acquaintance of his eminent contemporaries Schiller and Goethe, marks a decisive epoch in the formation of his intellectual character. At this date he contributed largely to the Horen, and also to Schiller’s MusenAlmanach, and down to 1799 was one of the most fertile writers in the Allgemeinen Literatur-Zeitung of Jena. It was here, also, that he commenced his translations of Shak speare, (9 vols., Berlin, 1797–1810,) which produced a salutary effect on the taste and judgment of his countrymen, and also on Dramatic Art and theatrical representation in Germany. Notwithstanding the favourable reception of this work he subsequently abandoned it, and on the publication of a new edition, in 1825, he cheerfully consigned to Tieck the revision of his own labours, and the completion of the yet untranslated pieces.

Continuing attached to the University of Jena, where the dignity of Professorship was associated with that of Member of the Council, he now commenced a course of lectures on Æsthetics, and joined his brother Frederick in the editorship of the Athenæum, (3 vols., Berlin, 1796-1800,) an

10

THE LITERARY LIFE OF

Æsthetico-critical journal, intended, while observing a rigorous but an impartial spirit of criticism, to discover and foster every grain of a truly vital development of mind. It was also during his residence at Jena that he published the first edition of his Poems, among which the religious pieces and the Sonnets on Art were greatly admired and had many imitators. To the latter years of his residence at Jena, which may be called the political portion of Schlegel's literary career, belongs the Gate of Honour for the Stage-President VonKotzebue, (Ehrenpforte fur den Theater Präsidenten von Kotzebue, 1800,) an ill-natured and much-censured satire in reply to Kotzebue's attack, entitled the Hyperborean Ass (Hyperboreischen Esee). At this time he also collected several of his own and brother Frederick's earlier and occasional contributions to various periodicals, and these, together with the hitherto unpublished dissertations on Bürger's works, make up the Characteristiken u Kritiken (2 vols., Kænigsberg, 1801). Shortly afterwards he undertook with Tieck the editorship of Musen-Almanach for 1802. The two brothers were now leading a truly scientific and poetic life, associating and co-operating with many minds of a kindred spirit, who gathered round Tieck and Novalis as their centre.

His marriage with the daughter of Michaelis was not a happy one, and was quickly followed by a separation, upon which Schlegel proceeded to Berlin. In this city, towards the end of 1802, he delivered his Lectures on the Present State of Literature and the Fine Arts, wbich were afterwards priuted in the Europa, under his brother's editorship. The publication in 1803 of his Ion, a drama in imitation of the ancients, but as a composition unmarked by any peculiar display of vigour, led to an interesting argument between himself, Bernhardi, and Schilling. This discussion, wbich ex. tended from its original subject to Euripides and Dramatic Representation in general, was carried on in the Journal for

« VorigeDoorgaan »