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Masterpieces of German Literature







Life of Schiller. By Calvin Thomas


To the Ideal
The Veiled Image at Saïs
The Ideal and The Actual Life
Votive Tablets (Selections)
The Maiden from Afar
The Glove
The Diver
The Cranes of Ibycus
Thee Words of Belief
The Words of Error
The Lay of the Bell
The German Art
Commencement of the New Century
Rudolph of Hapsburg


Introduction to Wallenstein's Death. By William H. Carruth

The Death of Wallenstein. Translated by S. T. Coleridge

Introduction to William Tell. By William H. Carruth

William Tell. Translated by Sir Theodore Martin, K.C.B.

Homage of the Arts. Translated by A. I. du P. Coleman


The Thirty Years' War - Last Campaigns of Gustavus Adolphus. Translated
by Rev. A. J. W. Morrison

On the Use of the Chorus in Tragedy. Translated by A. Lodge

Schiller's Correspondence with Goethe. Translated by L. Dora Schmitz


Milton and His Daughters. By Michael von Munkacsy

Schiller. By C. Jäger

Schiller's Father and Mother

Schiller's House in Weimar and Birthplace in Marbach

Monument to Schiller in Berlin. By Reinhold Begas

Military Academy in Stuttgart and the Theatre in Mannheim, 1782

Church in which Schiller was married

Schiller at the Court of Weimar

The Knight scorns Cunigonde. By Eugen Klimsch

The Diver. By Carl Gehrts

The Lay of the Bell. By Julius Benezur

Cassandra. By Ferdinand Keller

The Count gives up his Horse to the Priest. By Alexander Wagner

Wallenstein and Seni

Wallenstein and Terzky

Wallenstein hears of Octavio's Treason

Wallenstein warned by his Friends

The Death of Wallenstein. By Karl von Piloty

Stauffacher and his Wife Gertrude

The Oath on the Rütli

Tell takes Leave of his Family

Tell and Gessler

The Death of Attinghausen. By Wilhelm von Kaulbach

The Homage of the Arts. By Hermann Wislicenus

Gustavus Adolphus

Wallenstein. By Van Dyck

Monument to Goethe and Schiller in Weimar. By Ernst Rietschel

Goethe on Schiller. From the _Ford Collection_, New York Public Library

Schiller on Goethe. From the _Ford Collection_, New York Public Library

Schiller Reciting from his Works to his Weimar Friends. By Theobald
von Oer

The Goethe and Schiller Archives in Weimar

Facsimile of Leaf from the Album of Schiller's Letters to Charlotte
von Lengefeld



Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Columbia University

He kept the faith. The ardent poet-soul,
Once thrilled to madness by the fiery gleam
Of Freedom glimpsed afar in youthful dream,
Henceforth was true as needle to the pole.
The vision he had caught remained the goal
Of manhood's aspiration and the theme
Of those high luminous musings that redeem
Our souls from bondage to the general dole
Of trivial existence. Calm and free
He faced the Sphinx, nor ever knew dismay,
Nor bowed to externalities the knee,
Nor took a guerdon from the fleeting day;
But dwelt on earth in that eternity
Where Truth and Beauty shine with blended ray.[2]

Friedrich Schiller, the greatest of German dramatic poets, was born
November 10, 1759, at Marbach in Swabia. His father was an officer in
the army which the Duke of Württemberg sent out to fight the Prussians
in the Seven Years' War. Of his mother, whose maiden name was Dorothea
Kodweis, not much is known. She was a devout woman who lived in the
cares and duties of a household that sometimes felt the pinch of
poverty. After the war the family lived a while at the village of
Lorch, where Captain Schiller was employed as recruiting officer. From
there they moved, in 1766, to Ludwigsburg, where the extravagant duke
Karl Eugen had taken up his residence and was bent on creating a sort
of Swabian Versailles. Here little Fritz went to school and was
sometimes taken to the gorgeous ducal opera, where he got his first
notions of scenic illusion. The hope of his boyhood was to become a
preacher, but this pious aspiration was brought to naught by the offer
of free tuition in an academy which the duke had started at his Castle
Solitude near Stuttgart.

This academy was Schiller's world from his fourteenth to his
twenty-first year. It was an educational experiment conceived in a
rather liberal spirit as a training-school for public service. At
first the duke had the boys taught under his own eye at Castle
Solitude, where they were subjected to a strict military discipline.
There being no provision for the study of divinity, Schiller was put
into law, with the result that he floundered badly for two years. In
1775 the institution was augmented by a faculty of medicine and
transferred to Stuttgart, where it was destined to a short-lived
career under the name of the Karlschule. Schiller gladly availed
himself of the permission to change from law to medicine, which he
thought would be more in harmony with his temperament and literary
ambitions. And so it proved. As a student of medicine he made himself
at home in the doctrines and practices of the day, and for several
years after he left school he thought now and then of returning to the
profession of medicine.

For posterity the salient fact of his long connection with the
Karlschule is that he was there converted into a fiery radical and a
banner-bearer of the literary revolution. Just how it came about is
hard to explain in detail. The school was designed to produce docile
and contented members of the social order; in him it bred up a savage
and relentless critic of that order. The result may be ascribed
partly, no doubt, to the natural reaction of an ardent, liberty-loving
temperament against a system of rigid discipline and petty espionage.
The _élèves_ - French was the official language of the school - were not
supposed to read dangerous books, and their rooms were often searched
for contraband literature. But they easily found ways to evade the
rule and enjoy the savor of forbidden fruit.


So it was with Schiller: he read Rousseau more or less, the early
works of Goethe, Lessing's _Emilia Galotti_, and plays by Klinger,
Leisewitz, Lenz and Wagner - all more or less revolutionary in spirit.
He also made the acquaintance of Shakespeare and steeped himself in
the spirit of antique heroism as he found it in Plutarch.

Perhaps this reading would have made a radical of him even if he had
just then been enjoying the normal freedom of a German university
student. Be that as it may, the time came - it was about 1777 - when the
young Schiller, faithfully pursuing his medical course and doing loyal
birthday orations in praise of the duke or the duke's mistress, was
not exactly what he seemed to be. Underneath the calm exterior there
was a soul on fire with revolutionary passion.

It was mainly in 1780 - his last year in the Karlschule - that Schiller
wrote _The Robbers_, altogether the loudest explosion of the Storm and
Stress. The hero, Karl Moor, was conceived as a "sublime criminal."
Deceived by the machinations of his villainous brother Franz, he
becomes the captain of a band of outlaws and attempts by murder, arson
and robbery to right the wrongs of the social order. For a while he
believes that he is doing a noble work. When he learns how he has been
deluded he gives himself up to the law. The effect of the play is that
of tremendous power unchecked by any of the restraints of art. The
plot is incredible, the language tense with turbulent passion, and the
characters are extravagantly overdrawn. But the genius of the born
dramatist is there. It is all vividly seen and powerfully bodied
forth. What is more important, the play marks the birth of a new
type - the tragedy of fanaticism. We are left at the end with a
heightened feeling for the mysterious tangle of human destiny which
makes it possible for a really noble nature such as Karl Moor to go
thus disastrously wrong.

Toward the end of 1780 Schiller left the academy and was made doctor
to a regiment of soldiers consisting largely of invalids. He dosed
them with drastic medicines according to his light, but the service
was disagreeable and the pay very small. To make a stir in the world
he borrowed money and published _The Robbers_ as a book for the
reader, with a preface in which he spoke rather slightingly of the
theatre. The book came out in the spring of 1781 - with a rampant lion
and the motto _in Tirannos_ on the title-page. Ere long it came to the
attention of Dalberg, director of the theatre at Mannheim, who saw
its dramatic qualities and requested its author to revise it for the
stage. This Schiller readily consented to do. To please Dalberg he set
the action back from the eighteenth to the sixteenth century and made
many minor changes. The revised play was performed at Mannheim on
January 12, 1782, with ever-memorable success. The audience, assembled
from far and near, went wild with enthusiasm. No such triumph had been
achieved before on a German stage. The author himself saw the
performance, having come over from Stuttgart without leave of absence.
For this breach of discipline, or rather for a repetition of the
offense in May, he was sent to the guardhouse for a fortnight and
forbidden to write any more plays. The consequence was a clandestine
flight from a situation that had become intolerable. In September,
1782, he escaped from Stuttgart with his loyal friend Streicher and
took his way northward toward the Palatinate. He had set his hopes on
finding employment in Mannheim.


Before leaving his native Swabia he had virtually completed a second
play dealing with the conspiracy of Count Fiesco at Genoa in the year
1547. He had also won his spurs as a poet and a critic. His _Anthology
for 1782_ contains a large number of short poems, some of them
evincing a rare talent for dramatic story-telling, others
foreshadowing the imaginative sweep and the warmth of feeling which
characterize the best poetic work of the later Schiller. Such,
notably, are the poems to Laura, in which the lover's raptures are
linked with the law of gravitation and the preestablished harmony of
the world. He also contributed several papers to the Württemberg
_Repertorium_, especially a review of _The Robbers_ in which,
dissecting his own child with remorseless impartiality, he anticipated
nearly everything that critics were destined to urge against the play
during the next hundred years. Having left his post of duty and
being a military officer, Schiller was technically a deserter and had
reason to fear pursuit and arrest. At Mannheim his affairs went badly.
The politic Dalberg was not eager to befriend a youth who had offended
the powerful Duke of Württemberg; so _Fiesco_ was rejected and its
author came into dire straits. Toward the close of the year he found a
welcome refuge at Bauerbach, where a house was put at his disposal by
his friend Frau von Wolzogen. Here he remained several months,
occupied mainly with a new play which came to be known as _Cabal and
Love_. He also sketched a historical tragedy, _Don Carlos_, being led
to the subject by his reading of St. Réal's historical novel _Don
Carlos_. During the first part of his stay at Bauerbach Schiller went
by the name of Dr. Ritter and wrote purposely misleading letters as to
his intended movements. By the summer of 1783, however, it had become
apparent that the Duke of Württemberg was not going to make trouble.
Relieved of anxiety on this score, and not having had very good
success of late with his theatre, Dalberg reopened negotiations with
Schiller, who was easily persuaded to emerge from his hiding-place and
become theatre-poet at Mannheim under contract for one year.

During this year at Mannheim _Fiesco_ and _Cabal and Love_ were put on
the stage and published. The former is a quasi-historical tragedy of
intriguing ambition, ending - in the original version - with the death
of Fiesco at the hands of the fanatical republican Verrina. While
there is much to admire in its abounding vigor and its picturesque
details, _Fiesco_ lacks artistic finality and is the least interesting
of Schiller's early plays. Much more important is _Cabal and Love_, a
domestic tragedy that has held the stage to this day and is generally
regarded as the best of its kind in the eighteenth-century German
drama. Class conflict is the tragic element. A maid of low degree and
her high-minded, aristocratic lover are done to death by a miserable
court intrigue. Far more than in _The Robbers_ Schiller was here
writing with his eye on the facts. Much Württemberg history is thinly
disguised in this drastic comment on the crimes, follies and
banalities of German court life under the Old Régime.

Notwithstanding his success as a playwright and his receipt of the
honorable title of Councilor from the Duke of Weimar, Schiller was
unhappy at Mannheim. Sickness, debt and loneliness oppressed him,
making creative work well-nigh impossible. In June, 1784, when the sky
was looking very black, he received a heartening letter from a quartet
of unknown admirers in Leipzig, one of whom was Gottfried Körner.
Schiller was deeply touched. In his hunger for sympathy and friendship
he resolved to leave Mannheim and seek out these good people who had
shown such a kindly interest in him. Fortunately Körner was a man of
some means and was able to help not only with words but with cash. So
it came about that in the spring of 1785 Schiller forsook Mannheim,
which had become as a prison to him, and went to Leipzig. Thence,
after a short sojourn, he followed Körner to Dresden. The relation
between the two men developed into a warm and mutually inspiring
friendship. A feeling of jubilant happiness took possession of
Schiller and soon found expression in the _Song to Joy_, wherein a
kiss of love and sympathy is offered to all mankind.



During his two years' sojourn in Dresden Schiller was mainly occupied
with the editing of a magazine, the _Thalia_, and with the completion
of _Don Carlos_, the first of his plays in blank verse. Hitherto he
had written with his eye on the stage, and in the savage spirit of the
Storm and Stress. Now, however, the higher ambition of the dramatic
poet began to assert itself. His views of life were changing, and his
nature craved a freer and nobler self-expression than was possible in
the "three hours' traffic of the stage." He had begun _Don Carlos_ at
Bauerbach, intending to make it a love-tragedy in a royal household
and incidentally to scourge the Spanish inquisition. Little by little,
however, the centre of his interest shifted from the lovesick Carlos
to the quixotic dreamer Posa, and the result was that the love-tragedy
gradually grew into a tragedy of political idealism with Posa for its
hero. As finally completed in the summer of 1787, _Don Carlos_ had
twice the length of an ordinary stage-play and, withal, a certain lack
of artistic unity. But its sonorous verse, its fine phrasing of large
ideas, and its noble dignity of style settled forever the question of
Schiller's power as a dramatic poet. The third act especially is
instinct with the best idealism of the eighteenth century.

After _Don Carlos_ Schiller wrote no more plays for some nine years,
being occupied in the interval chiefly with history and philosophy.
His dramatic work had interested him more especially in the sixteenth
century. At Dresden he began to read history with great avidity and
found it very appetizing. What he most cared for, evidently, was not
the annals of warfare or the growth of institutions, but the
psychology of the great man. He was an ardent lover of freedom, both
political and intellectual, and took keen delight in tracing its
progress. On the other hand, play-writing had its disadvantages. Thus
far it had brought him more of notoriety than of solid fame, and his
income was so small that he was dependent on Körner's generosity. To
escape from this irksome position he decided to try his fortune in
Thuringia. Going over to Weimar, in the summer of 1787, he was well
received by Herder and Wieland - Goethe was just then in Italy - and
presently he settled down to write a history of the Dutch Rebellion.
His plan looked forward to six volumes, but only one was ever written.
It was published in 1788 under the title of _The Defection of the
Netherlands_ and led to its author's appointment as unsalaried
professor of history at the University of Jena. He began to lecture in
the spring of 1789.

Meanwhile he had taken up the study of the Greek poets and found them
very edifying and sanative - just the influence that he needed to
clarify his judgment and correct his earlier vagaries of taste. He was
fascinated by the _Odyssey_ and in a mood of fleeting enthusiasm he
resolved to read nothing but the ancients for the next two years.
He translated the _Iphigenia in Aulis_ of Euripides and a part of _The
Phenician Women_. Out of this newborn ardor grew two important poems,
_The Gods of Greece_ and _The Artists_; the former an elegy on the
decay of Greek polytheism conceived as a loss of beauty to the world,
the latter a philosophic retrospect of human history wherein the
evolutionary function of art is glorified. At the same time he revived
the dormant _Thalia_ and used its columns for the continued
publication of _The Ghost-seer_, a pot-boiling novel which he had
begun at Dresden. It is Schiller's one serious attempt at prose
fiction. His initial purpose was to describe an elaborate and
fine-spun intrigue, devised by mysterious agents of the Church of
Rome, for the winning over of a Protestant German prince. The story
begins in a promising way, and the later portions contain fine
passages of narrative and character-drawing. But its author presently
began to feel that it was unworthy of him and left it unfinished.

[Illustration: MONUMENT TO SCHILLER (Berlin) _Sculptor, Reinhold

On the 22d of February, 1790, Schiller was married to Lotte von
Lengefeld, with whom he lived most happily the rest of his days. His
letters of this period tell of a quiet joy such as he had not known
before. And then, suddenly, his fair prospects were clouded by the
disastrous breakdown of his health. An attack of pneumonia in the
winter of 1790-1791 came near to a fatal ending, and hardly had he
recovered from that before he was prostrated by a second illness worse
than the first. He bade farewell to his friends, and the report went
abroad that he was dead. After a while he rallied, but never again to
be strong and well. From this time forth he must be thought of as a
semi-invalid, doomed to a very cautious mode of living and expectant
of an early death. It was to be a fourteen years' battle between a
heroic soul and an ailing body.

For a while, owing to the forced cessation of the literary work on
which his small income depended, he was in great distress for lack of
money. His wife, while of noble family, had brought nothing but
herself to the marriage partnership. And then, just as in the dark
days at Mannheim in 1784, help seemed to come from the clouds. Two
Danish noblemen, ardent admirers quite unknown to him personally,
heard of his painful situation and offered him a pension of a thousand
thalers a year for three years. No conditions whatever were attached
to the gift; he was simply to follow his inclination, free from all
anxiety about a livelihood. Without hesitation he accepted the gift
and thus found himself, for the first time in his life, really free to
do as he chose. What he chose was to use his freedom for a grapple
with Kant's philosophy. Today this seems a strange choice for a sick
poet, but let Schiller himself explain what lay in his mind. He wrote
to Körner:

"It is precisely for the sake of artistic creation that I wish to
philosophize. Criticism must repair the damage it has done me. And it
has done me great damage indeed; for I miss in myself these many years
that boldness, that living fire, that was mine before I knew a rule.
Now I see myself in the act of creating and fashioning; I observe the
play of inspiration, and my imagination works less freely, since it is
conscious of being watched. But if I once reach the point where
artistic procedure becomes natural, like education for the
well-nurtured man, then my fancy will get back its old freedom and
know no bounds but those of its own making."

From these words we understand the nature of Schiller's enterprise - he
wished to fathom the laws of beauty. It seemed to him that beauty
could not be altogether a matter of changing taste, opinion, and
fashion; that somehow or other it must be grounded in eternal laws
either of the external world or of human nature. He felt, too, that a
knowledge of these laws, could it once become second nature, would be
very helpful to him as a dramatic poet. Whether he was right in so
thinking is a question too large to be discussed here, nor can we
follow him in the details of his esthetic speculation. The subject is
too abstruse to be dispatched in a few words. Suffice it to say that a
number of minor papers, the most important being _On Winsomeness and
Dignity (Über Anmut and Würde)_ and _On the Sublime_, prepared the way
for a more popular exposition of his views in the _Letters on Esthetic
Education_ and in the memorable essay _On Naïve and Sentimental
Poetry_, which deserves to be called, next to Lessing's _Laocoon_, the
weightiest critical essay of the eighteenth century. The Letters
contain a ripe and pleasing statement of Schiller's philosophy in its
relation to the culture-problems of his epoch.

Along with these philosophic studies Schiller found time for much work
more closely related to his professorship of history. To say nothing
of his minor historical writings, he completed, in 1793, his _History
of the Thirty Years' War_. It appeared in successive numbers of
Göschen's _Ladies' Calendar_, a fact which in itself indicates that it
was not conceived and should not be judged as a monument of research.
The aim was to tell the story of the great war in a readable style.
And in this Schiller succeeded, especially in the parts relating to
his hero, the Swedish king Gustav Adolf. Over Schiller's merit as a
historian there has been much debate, and good critics have caviled at
his sharp contrasts and his lack of care in matters of detail. But the
great fact remains that the _Defection of the Netherlands_ and the
_Thirty Years' War_ are the earliest historical classics in the German
language. Schiller was the first German to make literature out of

The year 1794 brought about a closer relation between Schiller and
Goethe, an event of prime moment in the lives of both. On Goethe's
return from Italy, in the summer of 1788, Schiller was introduced to
him, but the meeting had no immediate consequences. In fact, Schiller
had quietly made up his mind not to like the man whom, for a whole
year, he had heard constantly lauded by the Weimar circle. He thought
of Goethe as a proud, self-centred son of fortune, with whom
friendship would be impossible. Goethe, on the other hand, was not
drawn to the author of _The Robbers_. He looked on the popularity of
the detestable play as a shocking evidence of depraved public taste
and was not aware how its author had changed since writing it. So it
came about that, for some six years, the two men lived as neighbors in
space but strangers in the spirit. At last, however, an accidental
meeting in Jena led to an interchange of views and prepared the way
for the most memorable of literary friendships.

By this time Schiller had undertaken the editorship of a new literary
magazine to be called _Die Horen_, which was to be financed by the
enterprising publisher Cotta in Stuttgart. The plan was that it should
eclipse all previous undertakings of its kind. But it was to eschew
politics. Germany was just then agitated by the fierce passions of the

Online LibraryUnknownThe German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 03 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes → online text (page 1 of 36)