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Art. I.-Wahrheit aus Jean Paul's Leben. (Biography of

Jean Paul); Istes, 2tes, 3tes Bändchen. Breslau, 1826,

27,428. IT T is some six years since the name “Jean Paul Friedrich

Richter' was first printed with English types; and some sixand-forty since it has stood emblazoned and illuminated on all true literary Indicators among the Germans; a fact, which, if we consider the history of many a Kotzebue and Chateaubriand, within that period, may confirm the old doctrine, that the best celebrity does not always spread the fastest; but rather, quite contrariwise, that as blown bladders are far more easily carried than metallic masses, though gold ones, of equal bulk, so the Playwright, Poetaster, Philosophe, will often pass triumphantly beyond seas, while the Poet and Philosopher abide quietly at home. Such is the order of nature: a Spurzheim flies from Vienna to Paris and London, within the year; a Kant, slowly advancing, may, perhaps, reach us from Königsberg within the century: Newton, merely to cross the narrow Channel, required fifty years ; Shakspeare, again, three times as many. It is true there are examples of an opposite sort; now and then, by some rare chance, a Goethe, a Cervantes, will occur in literature, and Kings may laugh over Don Quixote while it is yet unfinished, and scenes from Werter be painted on Chinese tea-cups, while the author is still a stripling. These, however, are not the rule, but the exceptions ; nay, rightly interpreted, the exceptions which confirm it. In general, that sudden tumultuous popularity comes more from partial delirium on both sides, than from clear insight; and is of evil omen to all concerned with it. How many loud Bacchus-festivals of this sort have we seen prove to be Pseudo-Bacchanalia, and end in directly the inverse of Orgies! Drawn by his team of lions, the jolly god advances as a real gud, with all his thyrsi, cymbals, Phallophori, and Mænadic women; the air, the earth is giddy with their clangour, their Evohes: but, alas ! in a little while, the lion-team shows long ears, and becomes too clearly an ass-team in lionskins; the Mænads wheel round in amazement; and then the jolly god, dragged from his chariot, is trodden into the kennels as a drunk mortal, VOL. V.-NO. IX.



That no such apotheosis was appointed for Richter in his own country, or is now to be anticipated in any other, we cannot but regard as a natural, and nowise unfortunate circumstance. What divinity lies in him requires a calmer worship, and from quite another class of worshippers. Neither, in spite of that forty years' abeyance, shall we accuse England of any uncommon blindness towards him: nay, taking all things into account, we should rather consider his actual footing among us as evincing not only an increased rapidity in literary intercourse, but an intrinsic improvement in the manner and objects of it. Our feeling of foreign excellence, we hope, must be becoming truer: our Insular taste must be opening more and more into a European one. For Richter is by no means a man whose merits, like his singularities, force themselves on the general eye; indeed, without great patience, and some considerable catholicism of disposition, no reader is likely to prosper much with him. He has a fine, high, altogether unusual talent; and a manner of expressing it perhaps still more unusual. He is a Humourist heartily and throughout; not only in low provinces of thought, where this is more common, but in the loftiest provinces, where it is well-nigh unexampled; and thus, in wild sport, 'playing bowls with the sun and moon,' he fashions the strangest ideal world, which at first glance looks no better than a chaos. The Germans themselves find much to bear with in him; and for readers of any other nation, he is involved in almost boundless complexity; a mighty maze, indeed, but in which the plan, or traces of a plan, are nowhere visible. Far from appreciating and appropriating the spirit of his writings, foreigners find it in the highest degree difficult to seize their grammatical meaning. Probably there is not, in any modern language, so intricate a writer; abounding, without measure, in obscure allusions, in the most twisted phraseology; perplexed into endless entanglements and dislocations, parenthesis within parenthesis; not forgetting elisions, sudden whirls, quips, conceits, and all manner of inexplicable crotchets : the whole moving on in the gayest manner, yet nowise in what seem military lines, but rather in huge party-coloured mob-masses. How foreigners must find themselves bested in this case, our readers may best judge from the fact that a work with the following title was undertaken some twenty years ago, for the benefit of Richter's own countrymen : K. Reinhold's Lexicon for Jean Paul's works, or explanation of all the foreign words and unusual modes of speech which occur in his writings ; with short notices of the historical persons and facts therein alluded to; und plain German versions of the more difficult passages in


the context:-a necessary assistance for all who would read those works with profit!' So much for the dress or vehicle of Richter's thoughts: now let it only be remembered farther, that the thoughts themselves are often of the most abstruse description; so that not till after laborious meditation, can much, either of truth or of falsehood, be discerned in them and we have a man, from whom readers with weak nerves, and a taste in any degree sickly, will not fail to recoil, perhaps with a sentiment approaching to horror. And yet, as we said, notwithstanding all these drawbacks, Richter already meets with a certain recognition in England; he has his readers and admirers; various translations from his works have been published among us; criticisms, also, not without clear discernment, and nowise wanting in applause; and to all this, so far as we can see, even the un-German part of the public has listened with some curiosity and hopeful anticipation. From which symptoms we should infer two things, both very comfortable to us in our present capacity: First, that the old strait-laced, microscopic sect of Belles-lettres-men, whose divinity was ' Elegance, a creed of French growth, and more admirable for men-milliners than for critics and philosophers, must be rapidly declining in these Islands; and secondly, which is a much more personal consideration, that, in still farther investigating and exhibiting this wonderful Jean Paul, we have attempted what will be, for many of our readers, no unwelcome service.

Our enquiry naturally divides itself into two departments, the Biographical and the Critical; concerning both of which, in their order, we have some observations to make; and what, in regard to the latter department at least, we reckon more profitable, some rather curious documents to present.

It does not appear that Richter's life, externally considered, differed much in general character from other literary lives, which, for most part, are so barren of incident: the earlier portion of it was straitened enough, but not otherwise distinguished; the later and busiest portion of it was, in like manner, altogether private; spent chiefly in provincial towns, and apart from high scenes or persons; its principal occurrences the new books he wrote, its whole course a spiritual and silent one. He became an author in his nineteenth year; and with a conscientious assiduity, adhered to that employment; not seeking, indeed carefully avoiding, any interruption or disturbance therein, were it only for a day or an hour. Nevertheless, in looking over those sixty volumes of his, we feel as if Richter's history must have another, much deeper interest and worth, than outward incidents could impart to it. For the spirit which



shines more or less completely through his writings, is one of perennial excellence; rare in all times and situations, and perhaps nowhere and in no time more rare than in literary Europe, at this era. We see in this man a high, self-subsistent, original, and, in many respects, even great character. He shows himself a man of wonderful gifts, and with, perhaps, a still happier combination and adjustment of these : in whom Philosophy and Poetry are not only reconciled, but blended together into a purer essence, into Religion; who with the softest, most universal sympathy for outward things, is inwardly calm, impregnable ; holds on his way through all temptations and afflictions, so quietly, yet so inflexibly; the true literary man, among a thousand false ones, the Apollo among neatherds; in one word, a man understanding the nineteenth century, and living in the midst of it, yet whose life is, in some measure, an heroic and devout one. No character of this kind, we are aware, is to be formed without manifold and victorious struggling with the world; and the narrative of such struggling, what little of it can be narrated and interpreted, will belong to the highest species of history. The acted life of such a man, it has been said, 'is itself a Bible;' it is a Gospel of Freedom,' preached abroad to all men; whereby, among mean unbelieving souls, we may know that nobleness has not yet become impossible; and, languishing amid boundless triviality and despicability, still understand that man's nature is indefeasibly divine, and so hold fast what is the most important of all faiths, the faith in ourselves.

But if the acted life of a pius Vates is so high a matter, the written life, which, if properly written, would be a translation and interpretation thereof, must also have great value. It has been said that no Poet is equal to his Poem, which saying is partially true; but, in a deeper sense, it may also be asserted, and with still greater truth, that no Poem is equal to its Poet. Now, it is Biography that first gives us both Poet and Poem; by the significance of the one, elucidating and completing that of the other. That ideal outline of himself, which a man unconsciously shadows forth in his writings, and which, rightly deciphered, will be truer than any other representation of him, it is the task of the Biographer to fill up into an actual coherent figure, and bring home to our experience, or at least clear, undoubting admiration, thereby to instruct and edify us in many ways. Conducted on such principles, the Biography of great men, especially of great Poets, that is, of men in the highest degree noble-minded and wise, might become one of the most dignified and valuable species of composition. As matters stand,


indeed, there are few Biographies that accomplish any thing of this kind; the most are mere Indexes of a Biography, which each reader is to write out for himself, as he peruses them; not the living body, but the dry bones of a body, which should have been alive. To expect any such Promethean virtue in a common Life-writer were unreasonable enough. How shall that unhappy Biographic brotherhood, instead of writing like Indexmakers and Government-clerks, suddenly become enkindled with some sparks of intellect, or even of genial fire; and not only collecting dates and facts, but making use of them, look beyond the surface and economical form of a man's life, into its substance and spirit? The truth is, Biographies are in a similar case with Sermons and Songs: they have their scientific rules, their ideal of perfection and of imperfection, as all things have; but hitherto their rules are only, as it were, unseen Laws of Nature, not critical Acts of Parliament, and threaten us with no immediate penalty : besides, unlike Tragedies and Epics, such works may be something without being all: their simplicity of form, moreover, is apt to seem easiness of execution; and thus, for one artist in those departments, we have a thousand bunglers.

With regard to Richter, in particular, to say that his biographic treatment has been worse than usual, were saying much ; yet worse than we expected it has certainly been. Various Lives of Jean Paul,' anxiously endeavouring to profit by the public excitement, while it lasted, and communicating, in a given space, almost a minimum of information, have been read by us, within the last four years, with no great disappointment. We strove to take thankfully what little they had to give; and looked forward, in hope, to that promised • Autobiography,' wherein all deficiencies were to be supplied. Several years before his death, it would seem, Richter had determined on writing some account of his own life; and with his customary honesty, had set about a thorough preparation for this task. After revolving many plans, some of them singular enough, he at last determined on the form of composition; and with a half-sportful allusion to Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit aus meinem Leben, had prefixed to his work the title Wahrheit aus meinem Leben (Truth from my Life); having relinquished, as impracticable, the strange idea of writing, parallel to it, a Dichtung (Fiction) also, under cover of ‘Nicolaus Margraf, certain Apothecary, existing only as hero of one of his last Novels ! In this work, which weightier avocations had indeed retarded or suspended, considerable progress was said to have been made ; and on Richter's decease, Herr Otto, a man of



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