Calvin Thomas.

The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller online

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Calvin Thomas

Professor in Columbia University


Eleanor Allen Thomas

Herzelibe frouwe min,
Got gebe dir hiute und iemer guot!
Kunde ich bas gedenken din,
Des haete ich willeclichen muot.


I have wished to give a trustworthy account of Schiller and his works on
a scale large enough to permit the doing of something like justice to
his great name, but not so large as in itself to kill all hope and
chance of readableness. By a trustworthy account I mean one that is
accurate in the matters of fact and sane in the matters of judgment.
That there is room for an English book thus conceived will be readily
granted, I imagine, by all those who know. At any rate Schiller is one
of those writers of whom a new appreciation, from time to time, will
always be in order.

I have thought it important that my work, while taking due note of
recent German scholarship, should rest throughout on fresh and
independent study. Accordingly, among all the many books that have aided
me more or less, I have had in hand most often, next to the works of
Schiller, the collection of his letters, as admirably edited by Jonas.
Among the German biographers I owe the most to Minor, Weltrich and
Brahm, for the period covered by their several works; for the later
years, to Wychgram and Harnack. Earlier biographers, notably Hoffmeister
and Palleske, have also been found helpful here and there.

Of course I have not flattered myself, in writing of a man whose
uneventful career has repeatedly been explored in every nook and cranny,
with any hope of adding materially to the tale of mere fact. One who
gleans after Minor and Weltrich and Wychgram will find little but chaff,
and I have tried to avoid the garnering of chaff. One of my chief
perplexities, accordingly, has been to decide what to omit. If there
shall be those who look for what they do not find, or find what they did
not expect, I can only say that the question of perspective, of the
relative importance of things, has all along received my careful
attention. Thoroughness is very alluring, but life is short and some
things must be taken for granted or treated as negligible. Otherwise one
runs a risk, as German experience proves, of beginning and never

My great concern has been with the works of Schiller - to interpret them
as the expression of an interesting individuality and an interesting
epoch. It is now some twenty years since I first came under the
Weimarian spell, and during that time my feeling for Schiller has
undergone vicissitudes not unlike those described by Brahm in a passage
quoted at the very end of this volume. At no time, indeed, could I
truthfully have called myself a "Schiller-hater", but there was a time,
certainly, when it seemed to me that he was very much overestimated by
his countrymen; when my mind was very hospitable to demonstrations of
his artistic shortcoming. Time has brought a different temper, and this
book is the child of what I deem the wiser disposition.

For the poet who wins the heart of a great people and holds it for a
century is right; there is nothing more to be said, so far as concerns
his title to renown. The creative achievement is far more precious and
important than any possible criticism of it. This does not mean that in
dealing with such a poet the critic is in duty bound to abdicate his
lower function and to let his scruples melt away in the warm water of a
friendly partisanship; it means only that he will be best occupied,
speaking generally, in a conscientious attempt to see the man as he was,
to "experience the savor of him", and to understand the national
temperament to which he has endeared himself.

This, I hope, defines sufficiently the spirit in which I have written.
In discussing the plays I have endeavored to deal with them in a large
way, laying hold of each where it is most interesting, and not caring
to be either systematic or exhaustive. Questions of minute and
technical scholarship, such as have their proper place in a learned
monograph, or in the introduction and notes to an edition of the text,
have been avoided on principle. Everywhere - even in the difficult
thirteenth chapter - my aim has been to disengage and bring clearly into
view the essential, distinctive character of Schiller's work; and where
I have had to fear either that the professional scholar would frown at
my sins of omission, or that the mere lover of literature would yawn at
my sins of commission, I have boldly accepted the first-named horn of
the dilemma.

New York, Nov. 6, 1901.



Parentage and Schooling

Captain Schiller and his wife - Sojourn at Lorch - Traits of
Friedrich's childhood - Removal to Ludwigsburg - Karl Eugen, Duke of
Württemberg - Impressions from court, theater and school - Poetic
beginnings - Duke Karl's change of heart - Franziska von Hohenheim - The
Academy at Solitude - Schiller at the Academy - School exercises - From law
to medicine - Early poems and orations - An ardent friend - Books read and
their effect - Dramatic plans - Dissertation rejected - Genesis of 'The
Robbers' - Morbid melancholy - Release from the Academy - Value of the
education received.


The Robbers

General characterization - The Schubart story - Schiller and
Schubart - The contrasted brothers - Comparison with Klinger and
Leisewitz - Influence of Rousseau and Goethe - Unlike earlier attacks
on the social order - Outlawry in the eighteenth century - The
noble bandit in literature - Karl Moor's crazy ambition - His
sentimentalism - Schiller's sympathy with his hero - Character of
Franz - Influence of Shakespeare - Ethical attitude of Franz - A dull
villain - Character of Amalia - The subordinate outlaws - A powerful
stage-play - Defects and merits.


The Stuttgart Medicus

Schiller's position at Stuttgart - Personal appearance - Convivial
pleasures - Visits at Solitude - Revision of 'The Robbers' for
publication - The two prefaces - Reception of 'The Robbers' - A stage-version
prepared for Dalberg - Changes in the stage-version - Popularity of
the play - Medicus and poet - The 'Anthology' of 1782 - Character
of Schiller's youthful verse - Various poems considered - The songs
to Laura - Poetic promise of the 'Anthology' - Journalistic
enterprises - Schiller as a critic of himself - Quarrel with Duke
Karl - The Swiss imbroglio - The duke implacable - Flight from Stuttgart.


The Conspiracy of Fiesco at Genoa

General characterization - The historical Fiesco - Influence of
Rousseau - The conflicting authorities - Fact and fiction in the play - Not
really a republican tragedy - Character of Fiesco - Of Verrina - Schiller's
vacillation - Fiesco's inconsistency - Lack of historical lucidity - The
changed conclusion - Weak and strong points - Fiesco and the Moor - The
female characters - Extravagant diction.


The Fugitive in Hiding

Reception at Mannheim - An elocutionary failure - 'Fiesco' rejected by
Dalberg - Refuge sought in Bauerbach - A new friend - Relations
with outside world - Interest in Lotte von Wolzogen - Literary
projects and employments - Beginnings of 'Don Carlos' - Friendly
overtures from Dalberg - Work upon 'Louise Miller' - Jealousy and
resignation - Flutterings of the heart - Departure from Bauerbach
with new play completed.


Cabal and Love

General characterization - English Beginnings of bourgeois
tragedy - 'Miss Sara Sampson' - Development of the tragedy
of social conflict - Love in the age of sentimentalism - Rousseau
and the social conflict - Wagner and Lenz - Diderot's 'Father
of the Family' - Gemmingen's 'Head of the House' - Evolution
of Schiller's plan - Debt to predecessors - Hints from Wagner
and Lessing and 'Siegwart' - Weakness of the tragic conclusion - Character
of Louise - Her religious sentimentalism - Fearsomeness - Lack of
mother-wit - A cold heroine - Character of Ferdinand - Sentimental
extravagance - Father and son - Prototypes of President von Walter.


Theater poet in Mannheim

Mannheim in 1783 - Dalberg and his theater - The situation on Schiller's
arrival - Letter to Frau von Wolzogen - Contract with Dalberg - Illness and
disappointments - Pecuniary troubles - 'Fiesco' on the stage - Triumph of
'Cabal and Love' - Critical notices - Discourse on the theater - Contract
with Dalberg not renewed - Disappointments and distractions - Relations to
women - Charlotte von Kalb - The poems 'Resignation' and 'Radicalism of
Passion' - A friendly message from Leipzig - Project of the _Rhenish
Thalia_ - Honored by the Duke of Weimar - Unhappiness and longing for
friendship - Escape from Mannheim.


The Boon of Friendship

Gottfried Körner and the Stock sisters - Huber - Schiller's arrival in
Leipzig - A proposal of marriage - Sojourn at Gohlis - Schiller and
Körner - An enthusiastic letter - Körner's helpfulness - With the new
friends in Dresden - Influence of Körner - A poetic 'Petition' - The 'Song
to Joy' - Contributions to the _Thalia_ - Quickened interest in
history - Letters of Julius and Raphael - 'The Ghostseer'
begun - Unwillingness to leave Dresden - A dramatic skit - Affair with
Henriette von Arnim - From Dresden to Weimar.


Don Carlos

Poetic merit of 'Don Carlos' - Its slow genesis - Schiller's
explanation - St. Réal's 'Dom Carlos' - The original plan - Ripening
influences - Decision in favor of verse - Change of attitude toward Carlos
and Philip - Influence of Körner - Completion of the play - Character of
Prince Carlos - The Marquis of Posa - Posa and the king - Posa's heroics in
the last two acts - Character of Philip - General estimate.


Anchored in Thuringia

Weimar in Schiller's time - Renewal of relations with Charlotte von
Kalb - First meeting with Herder and Wieland - Visit to Jena - Pleased with
Weimar - New literary pursuits - Visit to Meiningen and introduction to
the Lengefeld family - Charlotte von Lengefeld - A summer idyl - Awakening
interest in the Greeks - First meeting with Goethe - Appointed professor
at Jena - Bitterness toward Goethe - Love, betrothal and marriage - 'The
Gods of Greece' - 'The Artists' - 'The Ghostseer' - The 'Letters on Don
Carlos' - Review of 'Egmont' - 'The Misanthrope' - Translations from
Euripides and other minor writings.


Historical Writings

Schiller's merit as a historian - Genesis of 'The Defection of the
Netherlands' - The author's self-confidence - His readableness - Freedom
the animating idea - Attitude toward past and present - Position as a
historian - Too little regard for the fact - First lecture at
Jena - Influence of Kant - Theory of the Fall - The 'Historical
Memoirs' - Inchoate Romanticism - 'History of the Thirty Years'
War' - Skill in narrating - Conception of the war as a struggle for
freedom - View of Gustav Adolf.


Dark Days Within and Without

A happy year - Disastrous illness in January, 1791 - Feud with
Bürger - Interest in epic poetry - Second illness and desperate
plight - Help from Denmark - Resolution to master Kant's philosophy - Visit
to Suabia - Enterprise of the _Horen_ - Attitude toward the
Revolution - Sympathy for Louis XVI. - Prediction of Napoleon - Made a
citizen of the French Republic - Disgust with politics - Program of the
_Horen_ - Genius and vocation.


Aesthetic Writings

Value of philosophy to a poet - Goethe's opinion - Schiller's early
philosophizing - The essays on Tragedy - Plan of 'Kallias' - Kant's
aesthetics - Schiller's divergence from Kant - Beauty identified with
freedom-in-the-appearance - Explication of the theory - Essay on
'Winsomeness and Dignity' - Essay on 'The Sublime' - Remarks on
Schiller's general method - Letters to the Duke of Augustenburg - The
'Letters on Aesthetic Education' - Some minor papers - Essay on 'Naïve
and Sentimental Poetry'.


The Great Duumvirate

Goethe and Schiller - Six years of aloofness - Beginning of intimacy - The
'happy event' - Campaign for the conquest of Goethe - -Schiller, on
Goethe's genius - A friendly relation established - Comparison of the
duumvirs - Fortunes of the _Horen_ - Return to poetry - Significance of the
essay on 'Naive and Sentimental Poetry' - Goethe on Schiller's
theory - Enemies assail the _Horen_ - The Xenia planned in retaliation - A
militant league formed - The fusillade of the Xenia - Effect of the
Xenia - Return to the drama - Further relations of Goethe and Schiller.


Later Poems

General character of Schiller's poetry - 'The Veiled Image at Sais' - 'The
Ideal and Life' - Idealism of Goethe and Schiller - 'The Walk' - Poems of
1796 - 'Dignity of Women' - 'The Eleusinian Festival' - The
ballads - Attitude toward the present - Lyrics of thought - 'The Maiden's
Lament' - Popularity of Schiller's cultural poems - 'The Song of the
Bell' - Latest poems.



General characterization - Preparatory studies - Difficulties of the
subject - Study of Sophocles and Aristotle - Decision in favor of
verse - Completion of the play - 'Wallenstein's Camp' - The historical
Wallenstein - Schiller's artistic achievement - Character of
the hero - His impressiveness - Effect of contrast - Octavio
Piccolomini - Max Piccolomini - Max and Thekla - Lyrical passages - Absence
of humor and irony.


Mary Stuart

Genesis of the play - Schiller's removal to Weimar - 'Mary Stuart'
characterized - The fundamental difficulty - Unhistorical
inventions - Effect of these - The meeting of the queens - Character of
Elizabeth - Romantic tendencies - Mary conceived as a purified
sufferer - Pathos of the conclusion - Ugly portrait of Elizabeth
accounted for - The historical background - Dramatic qualities - Character
of Mortimer.


The Maid of Orleans

Variety in Schiller's work - Genesis of 'The Maid of Orleans' - Schiller's
Johanna - Miraculous elements - Attitude of the critics - Difficulty of the
subject - Johanna's tragic guilt - Her supernatural power - The scene with
Lionel - Schiller's poetic intention - A drama of patriotism - The
subordinate characters - Excellence of the composition.


The Bride of Messina

Genesis of the play - General characterization - Disagreement of the
critics - Relation to Sophocles - Substance of the plot - Ancients and
moderns - Fate and responsibility - Schiller's invention - Unnaturalness of
the action - Strange conduct of Don Manuel, Beatrice and the
mother - Lavish use of silence - Schiller's contempt of realism - Don
Cesar's expiatory death the real tragedy - Use of the fate idea - Apologia
for the chorus - Poetic splendor.


William Tell

'Tell' and 'The Robbers' - General characterization - Genesis - Attention
to local color - An interruption - Success on the stage - The theme of
'Tell' - A drama of freedom - The play intensely human - Goodness of the
exposition - Departures from usual method - Character of Tell - The
apple-shooting scene - The scene in the 'hollow way' - Tell's long
soliloquy - Introduction of Parricida - Bertha and Rudenz.


The End. - Unfinished Plays and Adaptations

A Russian theme chosen - Berlin negotiations - Work on 'Demetrius' - 'The
Homage of the Arts' - Last illness and death - The unfinished
'Demetrius' - The historical Dmitri - The original plan modified - Character
of the hero - Poetic promise of 'Demetrius' - 'Warbeck' - 'The Princess
of Celle' - 'The Knights of Malta' - Other unfinished plays - Adaptation
of 'Egmont' - Of 'Nathan the Wise' - Of 'Macbeth' - Of 'Turandot' - Interest
in the French drama - Adaptations from the French.


The Verdict of Posterity

Schiller a national poet - His idealized personality - Estimate of
Dannecker - Of Madame de Staël - Goethe's 'Epilogue' - Controversy over
Goethe and Schiller - Attitude of Schlegel - Of Menzel - Goethe's
loyalty to his friend - The mid-century epoch - Unreasonable
criticism - Interesting prophecy of Gervinus - Schiller's aesthetic
idealism often misunderstood - Schiller as a friend of the
people - Partisan misconceptions - The enthusiasm of 1859 - Epoch of the
philologers - Present opinion of Schiller - Conclusion.



Parentage and Schooling

Nur, Vater, mir Gesänge.

_From the poem 'Evening', 1776._

When the Austrian War of Succession came to an end, in the year 1748, a
certain young Suabian who had been campaigning in the Lowlands as army
doctor was left temporarily without employment. The man's name was
Johann Kaspar Schiller; he was of good plebeian stock and had lately
been a barber's apprentice, - a lot that he had accepted reluctantly when
the poverty of a widowed mother compelled him to shift for himself at an
early age. Having served his time and learned the trade of the
barber-surgeon, he had joined a Bavarian regiment of hussars. Finding
himself now suddenly at leisure, after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, he
mounted his horse and rode away to the land of his birth to visit his
relations. Reaching Marbach - it was now the spring of 1749 - he put up at
the 'Golden Lion', an inn kept by a then prosperous baker named Kodweis.
Here he fell in love with his landlord's daughter Dorothea, a girl of
sixteen, and in the course of the summer married her. He was at this
time about twenty-six years old. He now settled down In Marbach to
practice his crude art, but the practice came to little and Kodweis soon
lost his property in foolish speculation. So the quondam soldier fell
out of humor with Marbach, went into the army again, and when the Seven
Years' War broke out, in 1756, he took the field with a Württemberg
regiment to fight the King of Prussia. He soon reached the grade of
lieutenant, in time that of captain; fought and ran with his countrymen,
at Leuthen, floundered at peril of life in the swamps of Breslau and
otherwise got his full share of the war's rough-and-tumble. From time to
time, as the chance came to him, he visited his young wife in Marbach.

These were the parents of the poet Schiller, who was born November 10,
1759, ten years after Goethe, ten years before Napoleon. It is worth
remembering that he who was to be in his way, another great protestant
came into the world on an anniversary of the birth of Lather. He was
christened Johann Christoph Friedrich.

The childhood of little Fritz unfolded amid conditions that must have
given to life a rather somber aspect. After the close of the war Captain
Schiller moved his little family to Lorch, a village some thirty miles
east of Stuttgart, where he was employed by the Duke of Württemberg in
recruiting soldiers for mercenary service abroad. This hateful business,
which was in due time to form a mark for one of the sharp darts of
'Cabal and Love', seems to have been managed by him with a degree of
tact and humanity; for he won the esteem of all with whom he had to do.
At home, being of a pious turn and setting great store by the formal
exercises of religion, he presided over his household in the manner of
an ancient patriarch. Between him and his son no very tender relation
ever existed, though the poet of later years always revered his father's
character. The child's affections clung rather to his mother, whom he
grew up to resemble in form and feature and in traits of character. She
was a woman of no intellectual pretensions, but worthy of honor for her
qualities of heart.[1] Of education in the modern sense she had but
little. Her few extant letters, written mostly in her later years, tell
of a simple and lovable character, tenderly devoted to husband and
children. Tradition credits her with a certain liking for feeble poets
of the Uz and Gellert strain, but this probably did not amount to much.
Her sphere of interest was the little world of family cares and
affections. Her early married life had been darkened by manifold sorrows
which she bore at first with pious resignation, becoming with the flight
of time, however, more and more a borrower of trouble.[2] At Lorch her
trials were great, for Captain Schiller received no pay and the family
felt the pinch of poverty. Here, then, was little room for that merry
comradeship, with its _Lust zum Fabulieren_, which existed between the
boy Goethe and his playmate mother at Frankfurt-on-the-Main.

In after-time, nevertheless, Schiller was wont to look back upon the
three years at Lorch as the happiest part of his childhood. The village
is charmingly situated in the valley of the Rems, a tributary of the
Neckar, and the region round about is historic ground. A short walk
southward brings one to the Hohenstaufen, on whose summit once stood the
ancestral seat of the famous Suabian dynasty, and close by Lorch is the
Benedictine monastery in which a number of the Hohenstaufen monarchs are
buried. Here was the romance of history right at hand, but we can hardly
suppose that it meant much to the child. The Middle Ages were not yet in
fashion even for adults, and little Fritz had other things to think of.
With his sister Christophine, two years older than himself, he was sent
to the village school, where he proved so apt a pupil that his parents
became ambitious for him and sent him to the village pastor, a man named
Moser, to be taught Latin. The child looked up to his august teacher and
resolved to become himself some day a preacher of the word. Not much is
known of Moser, but to judge from his namesake in 'The Robbers', where
all passions and qualities are raised to the _n_th power, he must have
been a man for whom the reproof of sinners was not only a professional
duty but a personal pleasure. The plan of making their Fritz a man of
God was eagerly embraced by the pious parents and became a settled
family aspiration.

The boy himself was very susceptible at this time to religious
impressions. Sister Christophine carried with her through life a vivid
memory of his appearance at family worship, when the captain would
solemnly intone the rimed prayers that he himself had composed for a
private ritual. 'It was a touching sight', she says in her
recollections[3] of this period, 'to see the reverent expression on the
child's winsome face. The pious blue eyes lifted to heaven, the light
yellow hair falling about his forehead, and the little hands folded in
worship, suggested an angel's head in a picture.' From the same source
we learn that Fritz was very fond of playing church, with himself in the
role of preacher. Another reminiscence tells how he one day ran away
from school and, having unexpectedly fallen under the paternal eye in
his truancy, rushed home to his mother in tearful excitement, got the
rod of correction and besought her to give him his punishment before his
sterner parent should arrive on the scene. Still another, from a
somewhat later period, relates how the mother was once walking with her
children and told them a Bible story so touchingly that they all knelt
down and prayed. This is about all that has come down concerning
Schiller's early childhood. He may have seen the passion-play at Gmünd,
but this is uncertain. In any case it only added one more to the
religious impressions that already dominated his life.

Toward the end of the year 1766, having exhausted his private resources
at Lorch, Captain Schiller applied for relief and was transferred to
duty at Ludwigsburg, where the family remained under somewhat more
tolerable conditions for about nine years. At Ludwigsburg he began to
interest himself in agriculture and forestry. In 1769 he published
certain 'Economic Contributions', which exhibit him as a sensible,
public-spirited man, eagerly bent upon improving the condition of
Suabian husbandry. In 1775, having become known as an expert in
arboriculture, he was placed in charge of the ducal forests and
nurseries at Castle Solitude, and there he spent the remainder of his
days in peaceful and congenial activity. He died in 1796.

For the impressionable Fritz one can hardly imagine a more momentous
change of environment than this which took him from a quiet rural
village to the garish Residenz of a licentious and extravagant prince.
Karl Eugen,[4] Duke of Württemberg, whom men have often called the
curse, but the gods haply regard as the good genius, of Schiller's
youth, came to power in 1744 at the age of sixteen. The three preceding
years he had spent at the Prussian court, where Frederick the Second
(not yet the Great) had taken a deep interest in him and tried to teach
him serious views of a ruler's responsibility. But the youth had no
stomach for the doctrine that he was in the world for the sake of

Online LibraryCalvin ThomasThe Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller → online text (page 1 of 32)