The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. II
Editor-in-Chief: Kuno Francke

Part 6 out of 9

with the ideas of our time; but Shakespeare approaches these in his own
way; for, in making necessity ethical, he links, to our gratified
astonishment, the ancient with the modern. If anything can be learned
from him, it is this point that we should study in his school. Instead
of exalting our romanticism--which may not deserve censure or
contempt--unduly and exclusively, and clinging to it in a partisan
spirit, whereby its strong, solid, efficient side is misjudged and
impaired, we should strive to unite within ourselves those great and
apparently irreconcilable opposites--all the more that this has already
been achieved by the unique master whom we prize so highly, and, often
without knowing why, extol above every one. He had, to be sure, the
advantage of living at the proper harvest-time, of expending his
activity in a Protestant country teeming with life, where the madness of
bigotry was silent for a time, so that a man like Shakespeare, imbued
with a natural piety, was left free to develop his real self religiously
without regard to any definite creed.



If lovers and friends of art wish fully to enjoy a creation of any kind,
they delight in it as a whole, are permeated by the unity with which the
artist has endowed it. To a person, on the other hand, who wishes to
discuss such productions theoretically, to assert something about them,
and therefore, to inform and instruct, discrimination becomes a duty. We
believed we were fulfilling that duty in considering Shakespeare first
as a poet in general, and then comparing him with the ancient and the
most modern poets. And now we wish to complete our design by considering
him as a dramatist.

Shakespeare's name and worth belong to the history of poetry; but it is
doing an injustice to all the dramatists of earlier and later ages to
present his entire merit as belonging to the history of the theatre.

A person of universally acknowledged talent may make a doubtful use of
his endowments. Not everything produced by such a superior mind is done
in the most perfect way. Thus Shakespeare belongs essentially to the
history of poetry; in the history of the theatre he figures only
accidentally. Because we can admire him unqualifiedly in the first, we
must in the latter take into consideration the conditions to which he
submitted and not extol those conditions as either virtues or models.

We distinguish closely allied forms of poetic creation, which, however,
in a vivid treatment often merge into each other: the epic, dialogue,
drama, stage play, may be differentiated. An epic requires oral delivery
to the many by a single individual; dialogue, speech in private company,
where the multitude may, to be sure, be listeners; drama, conversation
in actions, even though perhaps presented only to the imagination; stage
play, all three together, inasmuch as it engages the sense of vision and
may be grasped under certain conditions of local and personal presence.

It is in this sense that Shakespeare's productions are most dramatic; he
wins the reader by his mode of treatment, of disclosing man's innermost
life; the demands of the stage appear unessential to him, and thus he
takes an easy course, and, in an intellectual sense, we serenely follow
him. We transport ourselves with him from one locality to another; our
imagination supplies all the intermediate actions that he omits; nay, we
are grateful to him for arousing our spiritual faculties in so worthy a
fashion. By producing everything in theatrical form, he facilitates the
activity of the imagination; for we are more familiar with the "boards
that mean the world" than with the world itself, and we may read and
hear the most singular things and yet feel that they might actually take
place before our eyes on the stage; hence the frequent failure of
dramatizations of popular novels.

Strictly speaking, however, nothing is dramatic except that which
strikes the eye as symbolic--an important action which betokens one
still more important. That Shakespeare could attain this height too is
evidenced in the scene where the son and heir takes the crown from the
side of the father slumbering on his deathbed, places it on his own
head, and struts off with it.[2] But these are only episodes, scattered
jewels separated by much that is undramatic. Shakespeare's whole mode of
procedure finds something unaccommodating in the actual stage; his great
talent is that of an epitomist, and since poets are, on the whole,
epitomists of Nature, we must here, too, acknowledge Shakespeare's great
merit; only we deny, at the same time, and that to his credit, that the
stage was a worthy sphere for his genius. It is precisely this
limitation of the stage, however, which causes him to restrict himself.

But he does not, like other poets, select particular materials for
particular works; he makes an idea the central point and refers the
earth and the universe to it. As he condenses ancient and modern
history, he can utilize the material of every chronicle, and often
adheres to it literally. Not so conscientiously does he proceed with the
tales, as _Hamlet_ attests. _Romeo and Juliet_ is more faithful to
tradition; yet he almost destroys its tragic content by the two comic
figures, Mercutio and the nurse, probably presented by two popular
actors--the nurse undoubtedly acted by a man. If we examine the
structure of the play very closely, we notice that these two figures and
the elements touching them, appear only as farcical interludes, which,
with our love of the logical and harmonious, must strike us as

But Shakespeare is most marvelous when he adapts and recasts plays
already in existence. We can institute a comparison in the case of _King
John_ and _Lear_; for the older dramas are still extant. But in these
instances, likewise, he is again rather a poet than a dramatist.

But let us, in conclusion, proceed to the solution of the riddle. The
imperfection of the English stage has been represented to us by
well-informed men. There is not a trace of those requirements of realism
to which we have gradually become used through improvements in
machinery, the art of perspective, the wardrobe, and from which it would
be difficult to lead us back into the infancy of those beginnings, to
the days of a stage upon which little was seen, where everything was
only _indicated_, where the public was satisfied to assume the chamber
of the king lying behind a green curtain, the trumpeter who sounded the
trumpet always at a certain spot, and many like things. Who at present
would permit such assumptions? Under those conditions Shakespeare's
plays were highly interesting tales, only they were recited by a number
of persons, who, in order to make somewhat more of an impression, were
characteristically masked as the occasion demanded, moved about, came
and went, but left it to the spectator's imagination to fancy at will
paradise and palaces on the empty stage.

How, indeed, did Schroeder achieve the great credit of putting
Shakespeare's plays upon the German stage but by epitomizing the
epitomizer? Schroeder confined himself entirely to what was effective; he
discarded everything else, indeed, even much that was essential, when it
seemed to him that the effect upon his nation, upon his time, would be
impaired. Thus it is true, for example, that by omitting the first scene
of _King Lear_ he changed the character of the piece; but he was right,
after all, for in that scene Lear appears so ridiculous that one can not
wholly blame his daughters. The old man awakens our pity, but we have no
sympathy for him, and it is sympathy that Schroeder wished to arouse as
well as abhorrence of the two daughters, who, though unnatural, are not
absolutely reprehensible.

In the old play which is Shakespeare's source, this scene is productive,
in the course of the play, of the most pleasing effects. Lear flees to
France; daughter and son-in-law, in some romantic caprice, make a
pilgrimage, in disguise, to the seashore, and encounter the old man, who
does not recognize them. Here all that Shakespeare's lofty, tragic
spirit has embittered is made sweet. A comparison of these dramas
affords ever renewed pleasure to the lover of art.

In recent years, however, the notion has crept into Germany that
Shakespeare must be presented on the German stage word for word, even if
actors and audience should fairly choke in the process. The attempts,
induced by an excellent, exact translation,[3] would not succeed
anywhere--a fact to which the Weimar stage, after honest and repeated
efforts, can give unexceptionable testimony. If we wish to see a
Shakespearean play, we must return to Schroeder's adaptation; but the
dogma that, in representing Shakespeare, not a jot or tittle may be
omitted, senseless as it is, is constantly being reechoed. If the
advocates of this view should retain the upper hand, Shakespeare would
in a few years be entirely driven from the German stage. This, indeed,
would be no misfortune; for the solitary reader, or the reader in
company with others, would experience so much the purer delight.

The attempt, however, in the other direction, on which we have dilated
above, was made in the arrangement of _Romeo and Juliet_ for the Weimar
stage. The principles upon which this was based, we shall set forth at
the first opportunity, and it will perhaps then be recognized why that
arrangement--the representation of which is by no means difficult, but
must be carried out artistically and with precision--had no success on
the German stage. Similar efforts are now in progress, and perhaps some
result is in store for the future, even though such undertakings
frequently fail at the first trial.



[To the Memory of the noble Poet, Brother, and Friend, Wieland.]

Most serene protector!
Right worshipful master I
Very honorable assembly I

Although under no circumstances does it become the individual to set
himself in opposition to ancient, venerable customs, or of his own will
to alter what our ancestors in their wisdom have deemed right and have
ordained, nevertheless, had I really at my bidding the magician's wand
which the muses in spirit intrusted to our departed friend, I should in
an instant transform all these sad surroundings into those of joy. This
darkness would straightway grow radiant before your eyes, and before you
there would appear a hall decked for a feast, with varied tapestries and
garlands of gaiety, joyous and serene as our friend's own life. Then
your eyes, your spirit, would be attracted by the creations of his
luxuriant imagination; Olympus with its gods, introduced by the Muses
and adorned by the Graces, would be a living testimony that he who lived
amid such glad surroundings, and who also departed from us in the spirit
of that gladness, should be counted among the most fortunate of mankind,
and should be interred, not with lamentation, but with expressions of
joy and of exultation.

And yet, what I cannot present to the outward senses, may be offered to
the inward. Eighty years, how much in how few syllables! Who of us dares
hastily to run through so many years and to picture to himself the
significance of them when well employed? Who of us would dare assert
that he could in an instant measure and appraise the value of a life
that was complete from every point of view?

[Illustration: MARTIN WIELAND]

If we accompany our friend step by step through all his days, if we
regard him as a boy and as a youth, in his prime and in his old age, we
find that to his lot fell the unusual fortune of plucking the bloom of
each of these seasons; for even old age has its bloom, and the happiest
enjoyment of this, also, was vouchsafed him. Only a few months have
passed since for him the brethren of our lodge crowned their mysterious
sphinx with roses, to show that, if the aged Anacreon undertook to adorn
his exalted sensuality with the rose's light twigs, the ethical
sensuousness, the tempered joy of life and wit which animated our noble
friend also merited a rich and abundant garland.

Only a few weeks have elapsed since this excellent man was still with
us, not merely present but active at our gatherings. It was through the
midst of our intimate circle that he passed from things earthly; we were
the nearest to him, even at the last; and if his fatherland as well as
foreign nations celebrate his memory, where ought this to be done
earlier and more emphatically than by us?

I have not, therefore, dared to disobey the mandates of our masters, and
before this honorable assembly I speak a few words in his memory, the
more gladly since they may be fleeting precursors of what in the future
the world and our brotherhood shall do for him. This is the sentiment,
and this the purpose, for the sake of which I venture to entreat a
gracious hearing; and if what I shall say from an affection tested for
almost forty years rather than for mere rhetorical effect--by no means
well composed, but rather in brief sentences, and even in desultory
fashion--may seem worthy neither of him who is honored nor of them who
honor, then I must remark that here you may expect only a preliminary
outline, a sketch, yes, only the contents and, if you so will, the
marginal notes of a future work. And thus, then, without more delay, to
the theme so dear, so precious, and, indeed, so sacred to us!

Wieland was born in 1733 near Biberach, a small imperial free-town in
Swabia. His father, a Lutheran clergyman, gave him a careful training
and imparted to him the first elements of education. He was then sent to
the monastery of Bergen on the Elbe, where the truly pious Abbot
Steinmetz presided over an educational institution of good repute.
Thence he went to the University of Tuebingen, and then lived for some
time as a private tutor in Bern, but he was soon attracted to Bodmer, at
Zurich, who, like Gleim at a later date in North Germany, might be
called the midwife of genius in South Germany. There he gave himself
over entirely to the joy that arises from youth's self-creation, when
talents develop under friendly guidance without being hampered by the
higher requirements of criticism. Soon, however, he outgrew this stage,
returned to his native town, and henceforth became his own teacher and
trainer, while with ceaseless activity he pursued his inclination toward
literature and poetry.

His mechanical official duties as the chief of the chancery robbed him,
it is true, of time, though they could not deprive him of joy and
courage; and that his spirit might not be dwarfed amid such narrow
surroundings, he fortunately became acquainted with Count Stadion, whose
estates lay in the vicinity, and who was a minister of the Prince
Elector of Mainz. In this illustrious and well-appointed house the
atmosphere of the world and of the court was for the first time wafted
to him; he became no stranger to domestic and foreign affairs of state;
and in the count he gained a patron for all his life. In consequence, he
did not remain unknown to the Prince Elector of Mainz, and since the
University of Erfurt was to be revived under Emmerich Joseph, our friend
was summoned thither, thus exemplifying the tolerant sentiments which,
from the beginning of the century, have spread among men who are akin
through the Christian faith, and have even permeated humanity as a

He could not labor long at Erfurt without becoming known to the Duchess
Regent of Weimar, at whose court Count von Dalberg, so active in every
form of good work, did not fail to introduce him. An adequate education
of her princely sons was the chief object of a tender mother, herself
highly cultured, and thus he was called thither to employ his literary
talents and his moral endowments for the best interests of the princely
house, for our weal, and for the weal of all.

The retirement promised him after the completion of his educational
duties was given him at once, and since he received a more than promised
alleviation of his domestic circumstances, he led, for nearly forty
years, a life of complete conformity to his disposition and to his

The influence of Wieland on the public was uninterrupted and permanent.
He educated his generation up to himself, giving to the taste and to the
judgment of his contemporaries a decided trend, so that his merits have
already been sufficiently recognized, appraised, and even portrayed. In
many a work on German literature he is discussed as honorably as
judiciously; I need only recall the laudations which Kuettner,
Eschenburg, Manso, and Eichhorn have bestowed upon him.

And whence came the profound influence which he exercised on the
Germans? It was a result of the excellence and of the openness of his
nature. In him man and author had completely interpenetrated; he wrote
poetry as a living soul, and lived the poet's life. In verse and prose
he never hid what was at the instant in his mind and what each time he
felt, so that judging he wrote and writing he judged. From the fertility
of his mind sprang the fertility of his pen.

I do not employ the term "pen" as a rhetorical phrase; here it is valid
in the strictest sense, and if a pious reverence pays homage to many an
author by seeking to gain possession of the quill with which he formed
his works, the quill of which Wieland availed himself, would surely be
worthy of this distinction above many another. For the fact that he
wrote everything with his own hand and most beautifully, and, at the
same time, with freedom and with thoughtfulness; that he ever had
before him what he had written, carefully examining, changing,
improving, indefatigably fashioning and refashioning, never weary even
of repeatedly transcribing voluminous works--this gave to his
productions the delicacy, the gracefulness, the clearness, the natural
elegance which can be bestowed on a work already completed, not by
effort, but by unruffled, inspired attention.

This careful preparation of his writings had its origin in a happy
conviction which apparently came to him toward the end of his residence
in Switzerland, when impatience at production had in some measure
subsided, and when the desire to present a perfected result to the
public had become more decidedly and more obviously active.

Since, then, in him the man and the poet were a single individuality, we
shall also portray the latter when we speak of the former. Irritability
and versatility, the accompaniments of poetical and of rhetorical
talents, dominated him to a high degree, but an acquired rather than an
innate moderation kept them in equilibrium. Our friend was capable of
enthusiasm in highest measure, and in youth he surrendered himself
wholly to it, the more actively and assiduously since, in his case, for
several years that happy period was prolonged when within himself the
youth feels the worth and the dignity of the most excellent, be it
attainable or not.

In that pure and happy field of the golden age, in that paradise of
innocence, he dwelt longer than others. The house where he was born, in
which a cultivated clergyman ruled as father; the ancient,
linden-embowered monastery of Bergen on the Elbe, where a pious
teacher kept up his patriarchal activity; Tuebingen, still monastic
in its essential form; those simple Swiss dwellings about which
the brooks murmured, which the lakes laved, and which the cliffs
surrounded--everywhere he found another Delphi, everywhere the groves in
which as a mature and cultivated youth he continued to revel even yet.
There he was powerfully attracted by the monuments of the manly
innocence of the Greeks which have been left us. Cyrus, Araspes,
Panthea, and forms of equal loftiness revived in him; he felt the spirit
of Plato weaving within him; he felt that he needed that spirit to
reproduce those pictures for himself and for others--so much the more
since he desired not so keenly to evoke poetic phantoms as, rather, to
create a moral influence for actual beings.

Yet the very fact that he had the good fortune to dwell so protractedly
in these loftier realms, and that he could long regard as the most
perfect verity all that he thought, felt, imagined, dreamed, and
fancied--this very fact embittered for him the fruit which he was
obliged at last to pluck from the tree of knowledge.

Who can escape the conflict with the outer world? Even our friend is
drawn into this strife; reluctantly he submits to contradiction by
experience and by life; and since, after a long struggle, he succeeds
not in uniting these august figures with those of the vulgar world, or
that high desire with the demands of the day, he resolves to let the
actual pass current as the necessary, and declares that what has thus
far seemed real to him is phantasy.

Yet even here the individuality and the energy of his spirit reveals
itself to be worthy of admiration. Despite all the fulness of his life,
despite so strong a joy of living, despite noble inward talents and
honorable spiritual desires and purposes, he feels himself wounded by
the world and defrauded of his greatest treasures. Henceforth he can in
experience nowhere find what had constituted his joy for so many years,
and what had even been the inmost content of his life; yet he does not
consume himself in idle lamentations, of which we know so many in the
prose and verse of others, but he resolves upon counter-action. He
proclaims war on all that cannot be demonstrated in reality; first and
foremost, therefore, on Platonic love, then on all dogmatizing
philosophy, especially its two extremes of Stoicism and Pythagoreanism.
Furthermore, he works implacably against religious fanaticism, and
against all that to reason appears eccentric.

But he is at once overwhelmed with anxiety lest he go too far, lest he
himself act fantastically, and now he simultaneously begins battle
against commonplace reality. He opposes everything which we are
accustomed to understand under the name Philistinism--musty pedantry,
provincialism, petty etiquette, narrow criticism, false prudery, smug
complacency, arrogant dignity, and whatever names may be applied to all
these unclean spirits, whose name is Legion.

Herein he proceeds in an absolutely natural manner, without preconceived
purpose or self-consciousness. He stands before the dilemma of the
conceivable and the real, and, as he must advise moderation to control
or to unite the two, he must hold himself in check, and must be
many-sided, since he wishes to be just.

He had long been attracted by the pure, rational uprightness of noble
Englishmen, and by their influence in the moral sphere, by an Addison,
by a Steele; but now in their society he finds a man whose type of
thought is far more agreeable to him.

Shaftesbury, whom I need only mention to recall a great thinker to the
mind of every well-informed man,--Shaftesbury lived at a time when much
disturbance reigned in the religion of his native land, when the
dominant church sought by force to subdue men of other modes of thought.
State and morals were also threatened by much that must arouse the
anxiety of the intelligent and right-thinking. The best counter-action
to all this, he believed, was cheerfulness; in his opinion, only what
was regarded with serenity would be rightly seen. He who could look
serenely into his own bosom must be a good man. This was the main thing,
and from it sprang all other good. Spirit, wit, and humor were, he held,
the real agencies by which such a disposition should come in contact
with the world. All objects, even the most serious, must be capable of
such clarity and freedom if they were not bedizened with a merely
arrogant dignity, but contained within themselves a true value which did
not fear the test. In this spirited endeavor to become master of things
it was impossible to avoid casting about for deciding authorities, and
thus human reason was set as judge over the content, and taste over the
manner, of presentation.

In such a man our Wieland now found, not a predecessor whom he was to
follow, nor a colleague with whom he was to work, but a true elder twin
brother in the spirit, whom he perfectly resembled, without being formed
in his likeness; even as it could not be said of the Menaechmi which was
the original, and which the copy.

What Shaftesbury, born in a higher station, more favored with worldly
advantages, and more experienced by travel, office, and cosmopolitan
knowledge, did in a wider circle and at a more serious period in
sea-girt England, precisely this our friend, proceeding from a point at
first extremely limited, accomplished through persistent activity and
through ceaseless toil, in his native land, surrounded on every side by
hills and dales; and the result was--to employ, in our condensed
address, a brief but generally intelligible term--that popular
philosophy whereby a practically trained intelligence is set in decision
over the moral worth of things, and is made the judge of their aesthetic

This philosophy, prepared in England and fostered by conditions in
Germany, was thus spread far and wide by our friend, in company with
countless sympathizers, by poems and by scholarly works, even by life

And yet, if we have found Shaftesbury and Wieland perfectly alike so far
as point of view, temperament, and insight are concerned, nevertheless,
the latter was far superior to the former in talent; for what the
Englishman rationally taught and desired, the German knew how to
elaborate poetically and rhetorically in verse and prose.

In this elaboration, however, the French mode of treatment was
necessarily most suitable to him. Serenity, wit, spirit, and elegance
are already at hand in France; his luxuriant imagination, which now
desires to be occupied only with light and joyous themes, turns to tales
of fairies and knights, which grant it the greatest freedom. Here,
again, in the _Arabian Nights_ and in the _Bibliotheque universelle des
romans_, France offered him materials half-prepared and adapted, while
the ancient treasures of this sort, which Germany possesses, still
remained crude and unavailable.

It is precisely these poems which have most widely spread and most
firmly established Wieland's fame. Their light-heartedness gained them
access to everyone, and even the serious Germans deigned to be pleased
with them; for all these works appeared indeed at a happy and favorable
time. They were all written in the spirit which we have developed above.
Frequently the fortunate poet undertook the artistic task of giving a
high value to very mediocre materials by revising them; and though it
cannot be denied that he sometimes permits reason to triumph over the
higher powers, and at other times allows sensuality to prevail over the
moral qualities, yet we must also grant that, in its proper place,
everything which can possibly adorn noble souls gains supremacy.

Earlier than most of these works, though not the earliest of all, was
the translation of Shakespeare. Wieland did not fear impairment of his
originality by study; on the contrary, he was convinced at an early date
that a lively, fertile spirit found its best stimulus not only in the
adaptation of material that was already well known, but also in the
translation of extant works.

In those days the translation of Shakespeare was a daring thought, for
even trained _litterateurs_ denied the possibility of the success of
such an undertaking. Wieland translated freely, grasped the sense of his
author, and omitted what appeared to him untranslatable; and thus he
gave to his nation a general idea of the most magnificent works of
another people, and to his generation an insight into the lofty culture
of by-gone centuries.

Great as was the effect of this translation in Germany, it appears to
have exercised little influence upon Wieland himself. He was too
thoroughly antagonistic to his author, as is sufficiently obvious from
the passages omitted and passed over, and still more from the appended
notes, in which the French type of thought is evident.

On the other hand, the Greeks, with their moderation and clarity, are to
him most precious models. He feels himself allied with them in taste;
religion, customs, and legislation all give him opportunity to exercise
his versatility, and since neither the gods nor the philosophers, and
neither the nation nor the nations are any more compatible than
politicians and soldiers, he everywhere finds the desired opportunity,
amid his apparent doubts and jests, of repeatedly inculcating his
equitable, tolerant, human doctrines.

At the same time, he takes delight in presenting problematical
characters, and he finds pleasure, for example, in emphasizing the
lovable qualities of a Musarion, a Lais, and a Phryne without regard to
womanly chastity, and in exalting their practical wisdom above the
scholastic wisdom of the philosophers.

But among these he also finds a man whom he can develop and set forth as
the representative of his own convictions--I mean Aristippus. Here
philosophy and worldly pleasure are through wise moderation so united in
serene and welcome fashion that the wish arises to be a contemporary in
so fair a land, and in such goodly company. Union with these educated,
right-thinking, cultivated, joyous men is so welcome, and it even seems
that so long as one may walk with them in thought, one's mind will be as
theirs, and one will think as they.

In these circles our friend maintained himself by careful experiments,
which are still more necessary to the translator than to the poet; and
thus arose the German _Lucian_, which necessarily presented the Greek to
us the more vividly since the author and the translator could be
regarded as true kindred spirits.

But however much a man of such talents preaches decency, he will,
nevertheless, sometimes feel himself tempted to transgress the
boundaries of propriety and decorum, since from time immemorial genius
has reckoned such escapades among its prerogatives. Wieland indulged
this impulse when he sought to assimilate himself to the daring,
extraordinary Aristophanes, and when he was able to translate his jests,
as audacious as they were witty, though he toned them down with his own
innate grace.

For all these presentations an insight into the higher plastic art was
also obviously necessary, and since our friend was never vouchsafed the
sight of those ancient masterpieces which still survive, he sought to
rise to them in thought, to bring them before his eyes by the power of
imagination; so that we cannot fail to be amazed to see how talent is
able to form for itself a conception even of what is far away. Moreover,
he would have been entirely successful if his laudable caution had not
restrained him from taking decisive steps; for art in general, and
especially the art of the ancients, can neither be grasped nor
comprehended without enthusiasm. He who will not commence with amazement
and with admiration finds no entrance into the holy of holies. Our
friend, however, was far too cautious, and how could he have been
expected to make in this single instance an exception from his general
rule of life?

If, however, he was near akin to the Greeks in taste, in sentiment he
was still more closely allied to the Romans--not that he would have
allowed himself to be carried away by republican or by patriotic zeal,
but he really finds his peers among the Romans, whereas he has, in a
sense, only fictitiously assimilated himself to the Greeks. Horace has
much similarity to him; himself an artist, and himself a man of the
court and of the world, he intelligently estimates life and art; Cicero,
philosopher, orator, statesman, and active citizen, also closely
resembles him--and both arose from inconsiderable beginnings to great
dignities and honors.

While our friend occupies himself with the works of both these men, how
gladly would he transport himself back into their century and their
surroundings, and transfer himself to their epoch, in order to transmit
to us a clear picture of that past; and he succeeds amazingly. Perhaps,
on the whole, more sympathy might be desired for the men with whom he is
concerned, but such is his fear of partisanship that he prefers to take
sides against them rather than on their behalf.

There are two maxims of translation. The one demands that the author of
an alien nation be brought over to us so that we may regard him as our
own; the other, on the contrary, lays upon us the obligation that we
should transfer ourselves to the stranger and accommodate ourselves to
his conditions, to his diction, and to his peculiarities. The advantages
of both are sufficiently well known to all cultured men by masterly
examples. Our friend, who here also sought the middle way, endeavored to
combine both; yet, as a man of taste and feeling, in doubtful cases he
gave the preference to the first maxim.

Perhaps no one has so keenly felt as he how complicated a task
translation is. How deeply was he convinced that not the letter but the
spirit giveth life! Consider how, in his introductions, he first
endeavors to shift us to the period and to make us acquainted with the
personages; how he then makes his author speak in a way which we already
know, akin to our own thought and familiar to our ear; and how, finally,
in his annotations, he seeks to explain and to obviate many a detail
which might remain obscure, rouse doubt, and be offensive. Through this
triple endeavor one can see clearly that he first has mastered his
subject, and then he also takes the most praiseworthy pains to put us in
a position in which his insight can be communicated to us, that we also
may share the enjoyment with him.

Although he was equally master of many tongues, yet he clung to the two
in which the value and the dignity of the ancient world have most purely
been transmitted to us. For little as we would deny that many a treasure
has been drawn and is still to be drawn from the mines of other ancient
literatures, so little shall we be contradicted when we assert that the
language of the Greeks and of the Romans has transmitted to us, down to
this very day, priceless gifts which in content are equal to the best,
and in form are superior to every other.

The organization of the German Empire, which includes so many small
states within itself, herein resembled the Greek. Since the tiniest,
most unimportant, and even invisible city had its special interests it
was constrained to cherish and to maintain them, and to defend them
against its neighbors. Accordingly, its youth were early roused and
summoned to reflect upon affairs of state. And thus Wieland, too, as the
chief of the chancery of one of the smallest imperial free-towns, was in
a position calculated to make of him a patriot and, in the best sense of
the term, a demagogue; as when later, in one such instance, he resolved
to bring down upon himself the temporary disfavor of his patron, the
neighboring Count Stadion, rather than to make an unpatriotic

His _Agathon_ itself teaches us that within this sphere as well he gave
preference to sound principles; nevertheless, he took such interest in
the realities of life that all his occupations and all his predilections
ultimately failed to prevent him from thinking about the same. He
particularly felt himself summoned anew to this when he dared promise
himself a weighty influence on the training of princes from whom much
might be expected.

In all the works of this type which he wrote a cosmopolitan spirit is
manifest, and since they were composed at a time when the power of
absolute monarchy was not yet shaken, it became his main purpose
insistently to set their obligations before the rulers and to point them
to the happiness which they should find in the happiness of their

Now, however, the epoch came when an aroused nation tore down all that
had thus far stood, and seemed to summon the spirits of all the dwellers
upon earth to a universal legislation. On this matter, likewise, he
declared himself with cautious modesty; and by rational presentations,
which he clothed under a variety of forms, he sought to produce some
measure of equilibrium in the excited masses. Since, however, the tumult
of anarchy became more and more furious, and since a voluntary union of
the masses appeared inconceivable, he was the first once more to counsel
absolutism and to designate the man to work the miracle of

If, now, it be remembered in this connection that our friend wrote
concerning these matters not, as it were, after, but during, events, and
that, as the editor of a widely-read periodical he had occasion--and was
even compelled--on the spur of the moment to express his views each
month, then he who is called to trace chronologically the course of his
life will perceive, not without amazement, how attentively he followed
the swift events of the day, and how shrewdly he conducted himself
throughout as a German and as a thinking, sympathetic man. And here is
the place to recall the periodical which was so important for Germany,
the _Deutscher Merkur_. This undertaking was not the first of its kind,
yet at that time it was new and significant. The name of its editor
immediately created great confidence in it; for the fact that a man who
was himself a poet also promised to introduce the poems of others into
the world, and that an author to whom such magnificent works were due
would himself pass judgment and publicly express his opinion--this
aroused the greatest hopes. Moreover, men of worth quickly gathered
about him, and this alliance of preeminent _litterateurs_ was so active
that the _Merkur_ during a period of several years may be employed as a
textbook of our literary history. On the public generally its influence
was profound and significant, for if, on the one hand, reading and
criticism became the possession of a greater multitude, the desire to
give instant expression to his thoughts became active in everyone who
had anything to give. More was sent to the editor than he expected and
desired; his success awakened imitators; similar periodicals arose which
crowded upon the public, first monthly, then weekly and daily, and which
finally produced that confusion of Babel of which we were and are
witnesses, and which, strictly speaking, springs from the fact that
everyone wishes to talk, but no one is willing to listen..

The quality which maintained the value and the dignity of the _Deutscher
Merkur_ for many years was its editor's innate liberality. Wieland was
not created to be a party leader; he who recognizes moderation as the
chief maxim cannot make himself guilty of one-sidedness. Whatever
excited his active spirit he sought to equalize within himself through
taste and common sense, and thus he also treated his collaborators, for
none of whom he felt very much enthusiasm; and as, while translating the
ancient authors whom he so highly esteemed, he was accustomed frequently
to attack them in his notes, so, by his disapproving annotations, he
often vexed, and actually estranged, valued and even favorite

Even before this, our friend had been forced to endure full many an
attack on account of major or minor writings; so much the less as the
editor of a periodical could he escape literary controversies. Yet here,
too, he shows himself ever the same. Such a paper war can never last
long for him, and if it threatens to be in any degree protracted, he
gives his opponent the last word and goes his wonted path.

Foreigners have sagaciously observed that German authors regard the
public less than the writers of other nations, and that, therefore, one
can tell from his writings the man who is developing himself, and the
man who seeks to create something to his own satisfaction,--and,
consequently, the character of these two types soon becomes obvious.
This quality we have already ascribed to Wieland in particular; and it
will be so much the more interesting to arrange and to follow his
writings and his life in this sense, since, formerly and latterly, the
attempt has been made to cast suspicion on our friend's character from
these very writings. A large number of men are even yet in error
regarding him, since they fancy that the man of many sides must be
indifferent, and the versatile man must be wavering; it is forgotten
that character is concerned simply and solely with the practical. Only
in that which a man does and continues to do, and in that to which he is
constant, does he reveal his character, and in this sense there has been
no more steadfast man, no man constantly more true to himself, than
Wieland. If he surrendered himself to the multiplicity of his emotions,
and to the versatility of his thoughts, and if he permitted no single
impression to gain dominion over him, in this very way he proved the
firmness and the sureness of his mind. This witty man played gladly with
his opinions, but--I can summon all contemporaries as witnesses--never
with his convictions. And thus he won for himself many friends, and kept
them. That he had any decided enemy is not known to me. In the enjoyment
of his poetic works he lived for many years in municipal, civic,
friendly, and social surroundings, and gained the distinction of a
complete edition of his carefully revised works, and even of an _edition
de luxe_ of them.

But even in the autumn of his years he was destined to feel the
influence of the spirit of the age, and in an unforeseen manner to begin
a new life, a new youth. The blessings of sweet peace had long ruled
over Germany; general outward safety and repose coincided most happily
with the inward, human, cosmopolitan views of existence. The peaceful
townsman seemed no longer to require his walls; they were dispensed
with; and there was a yearning after rustic life. The security of landed
property gave confidence to everyone; the untrammelled life of nature
attracted everyone; and as man, born a social being, can often fancy to
himself the sweet deceit that he lives better, easier, happier in
isolation, so Wieland also, who had already been vouchsafed the highest
literary leisure, seemed to look about him for an abode more quiet in
which to cultivate the Muses; and when he found opportunity and strength
to obtain an estate in the very vicinity of Weimar, he formed the
resolution there to pass the remainder of his life. And here they who
have often visited him, and who have lived with him, may tell in detail
how it was precisely here that he appeared in all his charm as head of
the house and of the family, as friend, and as husband, and especially
how, since he could indeed withdraw from men but men could not dispense
with him, he most delightfully developed his social virtues as a
hospitable host.

While inviting younger friends to elaborate this idyllic portrayal, I
may merely note, briefly and sympathetically, how this rural joy was
troubled by the passing away of a dear woman friend who resided with
them, and then by the death of his esteemed and careful consort. He laid
these dear remains in his own property, and although he resolved to give
up agricultural cares, which had become too intricate for him, and to
dispense with the estate which for some years he had enjoyed, he
retained for himself the place and the space between his two dear ones
that there he, too, might find his resting place. And there, then, the
honorable brethren have accompanied him, yea, brought him, and thus have
they fulfilled his lovely and pleasant wish that posterity might visit
and reverence his tomb within a living grove.

Yet not without a higher reason did our friend return to the city, for
his devotion to his great patroness, the Duchess Dowager, had more than
once given him sad hours in his rural retirement. He felt only too
keenly how much it cost him to be far from her. He could not forego
association with her, and yet he could enjoy it only with inconvenience
and with discomfort. And thus, after he had seen his household now
expanded and now contracted, now augmented and now diminished, now
gathered together and now scattered, the exalted princess draws him into
her own immediate circle. He returns, occupies a house very close to the
princely residence, shares in the summer sojourn in Tiefurt, and now
regards himself as a member of the household and of the court.

In very peculiar measure Wieland was born for the higher circles of
society, and even the highest would have been his proper element; for
since he nowhere wished to stand supreme, but gladly sought to take part
in everything, and was inclined to express himself with moderation
regarding everything, he must inevitably appear an agreeable companion,
and in still higher degree he would have been such in a more
light-hearted nation which did not take too seriously every form of

For his poetic and his literary aspirations were alike addressed
immediately to life, and though he did not seek a practical end with
absolute invariability, yet he ever had a practical aim before his eyes,
whether it was near or far. Therefore his thought was always clear, his
phraseology was lucid and readily intelligible, and since, with his
extensive knowledge, he continually held to the interest of the day,
followed it, and intelligently occupied himself with it, his
conversation also was diversified and stimulating throughout; so that I
have not readily become acquainted with anyone who more gladly received
and more spiritedly responded to whatever happy idea others might bring

Bearing in mind his type of thought, his mode of entertaining himself
and others, and his honorable purpose of influencing his generation, he
can scarcely be reproached for feeling an antagonism toward the more
modern philosophical schools. When, at an earlier period, Kant gave
merely the preludes of his greater theories in his minor writings, and
in a lighter style seemed to express himself problematically upon
the most weighty themes, then he still stood close enough to our friend;
but when the huge system was erected, all those who had thus far gone
their way poetizing and philosophizing in full freedom, were forced to
see in Kant's monumental work a menacing citadel which would limit their
serene excursions over the field of experience.

Yet not merely the philosophers, but also the poets, had much, and,
indeed, everything, to fear from the new intellectual tendency, so soon
as large numbers should allow themselves to be attracted by it. It would
at first appear as though its purpose was mainly directed toward
knowledge, and then toward the theory of morals and its immediately
subsidiary subjects. It was readily obvious, however, that, if it was
intended to establish, more firmly than had hitherto been the case,
those weighty affairs of higher knowledge and of moral conduct, and if
there the demand was made for a sterner, more coherent judgment,
developed from the depths of humanity--it was readily obvious, I repeat,
that taste also would soon be referred to such principles, and,
therefore, the attempt would be made absolutely to set aside individual
fancies, chance culture, and popular peculiarities, and to evoke a more
general law as a deciding factor.

This was, moreover, actually realized, and in poetry a new epoch emerged
which was necessarily as antagonistic to our friend as he was to it.
From this time on he experienced many unfavorable judgments, yet without
being very deeply influenced by them; and I here expressly mention this
circumstance, since the consequent struggle in German literature is as
yet by no means allayed and adjusted, and since a friend who desires to
value Wieland's merits and sturdily to uphold his memory must be
perfectly conversant with the situation of affairs, with the rise and
with the sequence of opinions, and with the character and with the
talents of the cooperators; he must know well the powers and the
services of both sides; and, to work impartially, he must, in a sense,
belong to both factions. Yet from those minor or major controversies
which arose from his intellectual attitude I am drawn by a serious
consideration, to which we must now turn.

The peace which for many years had blissfully dwelt amid our mountains
and hills, and in our delightfully watered valleys, had long been, if
not disturbed, at least threatened, by military expeditions. When the
eventful day dawned which filled us with amazement and alarm, since the
fate of the world was decided in our walks, even in those terrible hours
toward which our friend's carefree life flowed on, fortune did not
desert him, for he was saved first through the precaution of a young and
resolute friend, and then through the attention of the French
conquerors, who honored in him both the meritorious author, famed
throughout the world, and a member of their own great literary

Soon afterward he had to bear the loss of Amelia, so bitter to us all.
Court and city endeavored to extend him every compensation, and soon
afterward he was favored by two emperors with insignia of honor, the
like of which he had not sought, and had not even expected, throughout
his long life.

Yet in the day of joy as in the day of sorrow he remained constant to
himself, and thus he exemplified the superiority of delicate natures,
whose equanimity knows how to meet with moderation good and evil fortune

But he appeared most remarkable of all, considered in body and in
spirit, after the bitter calamity which befell him in such advanced
years when, together with a beloved daughter, he was very severely
injured by the overturning of his carriage. The painful results of the
accident and the tedium of convalescence he bore with the utmost
equanimity, and he comforted his friends rather than himself by the
declaration that he had never met with a like misfortune, and it might
well have seemed pleasing to the gods that in this way he discharge the
debt of humanity. Now, moreover, he speedily recovered, since his
constitution, like that of a youth, was quickly restored, and thus he
became a proof for us of the way in which great physical strength may be
combined with delicacy and clean living.

As, then, his philosophy of life remained firm even under this test;
such an accident produced no change in his convictions or in his mode of
life. Companionable after his recovery as before, he took part in the
customary recreations of the social life of the court and of the city,
and with true affection and with constant endeavor shared in the
activities of the brethren of our lodge. But however much his eye seemed
always fixed on things earthly, and on the understanding and utilization
of them--yet, as a man of exceptional gifts, he could in no wise
dispense with the extramundane and the supersensual. Here also that
conflict, which we have deemed it our duty to portray in detail above,
became evident in a remarkable degree; for though he appeared to reject
everything which lay outside the bounds of general knowledge, and beyond
the sphere of what may be exemplified from experience, none the less,
while he did not transgress the lines so sharply drawn, he could never
refrain, in tentative fashion, as it were, from peeping over them, and
from constructing and representing, in his own way, an extramundane
world, a state concerning which all the innate powers of our soul can
give us no information.

Single traits of his writings afford manifold examples of this; but I
may especially recall his _Agathodaemon_ and his _Euthanasie_, and also
those beautiful declarations, as rational as they were sincere, which he
was permitted, only a short while since, to express openly and frankly
before this assembly. For a confiding love toward our lodge of brethren
had developed within him. Acquainted even as a youth with the historical
traditions regarding the mysteries of the ancients, he indeed shunned,
in conformity with his serene, lucid mode of thought, those dark
secrets; yet he did not deny that precisely under these, perhaps
uncouth, veils, higher conceptions had first been brought to barbarous
and sensual men, that, through awe-inspiring symbols, powerful,
illuminating ideas had been awakened, the belief in one God, ruling over
all, had been introduced, virtue had been represented more desirably,
and hope for the continuance of our existence had been purified both
from the false terrors of a dark superstition and from the equally false
demands of an Epicurean sensuality.

Then, as an aged man left behind on earth by so many valued friends and
contemporaries, and feeling himself in many respects alone, he drew near
to our dear lodge. How gladly he entered it, how constantly he attended
our gatherings, vouchsafed his attention to our affairs, rejoiced in the
reception of excellent young men, was present at our honorable banquets,
and did not refrain from expressing his thoughts upon many a weighty
matter--of this we are all witnesses; we have recognized it with
friendly gratitude. Indeed, if this ancient lodge, often reestablished
after many a change of time, required any testimony here, the most
perfect would be ready at hand, since a talented man, intelligent,
cautious, circumspect, experienced, benevolent, and moderate, felt that
with us he found kindred spirits, and that with us he was in a company
which he, accustomed to the best, so gladly recognized to be the
realization of his wishes as a man and as a social being.

Although summoned by our masters to speak a few words concerning the
departed, before this so distinguished and highly esteemed assembly, I
might surely have ventured to decline to do so, in the conviction that
not a fleeting hour, not loose notes superficially jotted down, but
whole years, and even several well weighed and well ordered volumes are
requisite worthily to celebrate his memory in consideration of the
monument which he has worthily erected for himself in his works and in
his influence. This delightful duty I undertook only in the conviction
that what I have here said may serve as an introduction to what should
in future be better done by others at the repeated celebration of his
memory. If it shall please our honored masters to deposit in their ark,
together with this essay, all that shall publicly appear concerning our
friend, and, still more, what our brethren, whom he most greatly and
most peculiarly influenced and who enjoyed an uninterrupted and a closer
association with him, may confidentially express and communicate, then
through this would be collected a treasure of facts, of information, and
of valuations which might well be unique of its kind, and from which our
posterity might draw, in after times, in order to protect, to maintain,
and to hallow for evermore so worthy a memory with love unwavering.



Our pilgrims had performed the journey according to program, and
prosperously reached the frontier of the province in which they were to
learn so many wonderful things. On their first entry they beheld a most
fertile region, the gentle slopes of which were favorable to
agriculture, its higher mountains to sheep-feeding, and its broad
valleys to the rearing of cattle. It was shortly before the harvest, and
everything was in the greatest abundance; still, what surprised them
from the outset, was that they saw neither women nor men, but only boys
and youths busy getting ready for a prosperous harvest, and even making
friendly preparations for a joyous harvest-home. They greeted now one,
and now another, and inquired about the master, of whose whereabouts no
one could give an account. The address of their letter was: _To the
Master or to the Three_, and this too the boys could not explain;
however, they referred the inquirers to an overseer, who was just
preparing to mount his horse. They explained their object; Felix's frank
bearing seemed to please him; and so they rode together along the road.

Wilhelm had soon observed that a great diversity prevailed in the cut
and color of the clothing, which gave a peculiar aspect to the whole of
the little community. He was just on the point of asking his companion
about this, when another strange sight was displayed to him; all the
children, howsoever they might be occupied, stopped their work, and
turned, with peculiar yet various gestures, toward the party riding
past; and it was easy to infer that their object was the overseer. The
youngest folded their arms crosswise on the breast, and looked
cheerfully toward the sky; the intermediate ones held their arms behind
them, and looked smiling upon the ground; the third sort stood erect
and boldly; with arms at the side, they turned the head to the right,
and placed themselves in a row, instead of remaining alone, like the
others, where they were first seen.

Accordingly, when they halted and dismounted, just where several
children had ranged themselves in various attitudes and were being
inspected by the overseer, Wilhelm asked the meaning of these gestures.

Felix interposed, and said cheerfully: "What position have I to take,

"In any case," answered the intendant, "at first the arms across the
breast, and looking seriously and gladly upward, without turning your
glance." He obeyed; how ever he soon exclaimed: "This does not please me
particularly; I see nothing overhead; does it last long? But yes,
indeed," he exclaimed joyfully, "I see two hawks flying from west to
east; that must be a good omen!"

"It depends on how you take to it, how you behave yourself," rejoined
the former; "now go and mingle with them, just as they mingle with each

He made a sign, the children forsook their attitudes, resumed their
occupations or went on playing as before. "Will you, and can you,"
Wilhelm now asked, "explain to me that which causes my wonder? I suppose
that these gestures, these positions, are greetings, with which they
welcome you."

"Just so," answered the other; "greetings, that tell me at once at what
stage of cultivation each of these boys stands."

"But could you," Wilhelm added, "explain to me the meaning of the
graduation? For that it is such, is easy to see."

"That is the part of better people than me," answered the other; "but I
can assure you of this much, that they are no empty grimaces, and that,
on the contrary, we impart to the children, not indeed the highest, but
still a guiding and intelligible explanation; but at the same time we
command each to keep and cherish for himself what we may have chosen to
impart for the information of each: they may not chat about it with
strangers, nor amongst themselves, and thus the teaching is modified in
a hundred ways. Besides this the secrecy has very great advantages; for
if we tell people immediately and perpetually the reason of everything,
they think that there is nothing behind. To certain secrets, even if
they may be known, we have to show deference by concealment and silence,
for this tends to modesty and good morals."

"I understand you," said Wilhelm. "Why should we not also apply
spiritually, what is so necessary in bodily matters? But perhaps in
another respect you can satisfy my curiosity. I am surprised at the
great variety in the cut and color of their clothes, and yet I do not
see all kinds of color, but a few only, and these in all their shades,
from the brightest to the darkest. Still I observe, that in this there
cannot be meant any indication of degrees of either age or merit; since
the smallest and biggest boys mingled together, may be alike in cut and
color, whilst those who are alike in gestures do not agree with one
another in dress."

"As concerns this, too," their companion replied, "I cannot explain any
further; yet I shall be much mistaken it you depart hence without being
enlightened about all that you may wish to know."

They were now going in search of the master, whom they thought that they
had found; but now a stranger could not but be struck by the fact that
the deeper they got into the country, the more they were met by a
harmonious sound of singing. Whatsoever the boys set about, in whatever
work they were found engaged, they were for ever singing, and in fact it
seemed that the songs were specially adapted to each particular
occupation, and in similar cases always the same. If several children
were in any place, they would accompany each other in turns.

Toward evening they came upon some dancing, their steps being animated
and guided by choruses. Felix from his horse chimed in with his voice,
and, in truth, not badly; Wilhelm was delighted with this entertainment,
which made the neighborhood so lively. "I suppose," he observed to his
companion, "you devote a great deal of care to this kind of instruction,
for otherwise this ability would not be so widely diffused, or so
perfectly developed."

"Just so," replied the other; "with us the art of singing forms the
first step in education; everything else is subservient to it, and
attained by means of it. With us the simplest enjoyment, as well as the
simplest instruction, is enlivened and impressed by singing; and even
what we teach in matters of religion and morals is communicated by the
method of song. Other advantages for independent ends are directly
allied; for, whilst we practise the children in writing down by symbols
on the slate the notes which they produce, and then, according to the
indication of these signs, in reproducing them in their throats, and
moreover in adding the text, they exercise at the same time the hand,
ear, and eye, and attain orthography and calligraphy quicker than you
would believe; and, finally, since all this must be practised and copied
according to pure metre and accurately fixed time, they learn to
understand much sooner than in other ways the high value of measure and
computation. On this account, of all imaginable means, we have chosen
music as the first element of our education, for from this equally easy
roads radiate in every direction."

Wilhelm sought to inform himself further, and did not hide his
astonishment at hearing no instrumental music.

"We do not neglect it," replied the other, "but we practise it in a
special place, inclosed in the most charming mountain-valley; and then
again we take care that the different instruments are taught in places
lying far apart. Especially are the discordant notes of beginners
banished to certain solitary spots, where they can drive no one crazy;
for you will yourself confess, that in well-regulated civil society
scarcely any more miserable nuisance is to be endured than when the
neighborhood inflicts upon us a beginner on the flute or on the violin.
Our beginners, from their own laudable notion of wishing to be an
annoyance to none, go voluntarily for a longer or shorter period into
the wilds, and, isolated there, vie with one another in attaining the
merit of being allowed to draw nearer to the inhabited world; on which
account they are, from time to time, allowed to make an attempt at
drawing nearer, which seldom fails, because in these, as in our other
modes of education, we venture actually to develop and encourage a sense
of shame and diffidence. I am sincerely glad that your son has got a
good voice; the rest will be effected all the more easily."

They had now reached a place where Felix was to remain, and make trial
of his surroundings, until they were disposed to grant a formal
admission. They already heard from afar a cheerful singing; it was a
game, which the boys were now enjoying in their play-hour. A general
chorus resounded, in which each member of a large circle joined
heartily, clearly, and vigorously in his part, obeying the directions of
the superintendent. The latter, however, often took the singers by
surprise, by suspending with a signal the chorus-singing, and bidding
some one or other single performer, by a touch of his baton, to adapt
alone some suitable song to the expiring tune and the passing idea. Most
of them already showed considerable ability, a few who failed in the
performance willingly paid their forfeit, without exactly being made a
laughing-stock. Felix was still child enough to mix at once among them,
and came tolerably well out of the trial. Thereupon the first style of
greeting was conceded to him; he forthwith folded his arms on his
breast, looked upward, and with such a droll expression withal, that it
was quite plain that no hidden meaning in it had as yet occurred to him.

The pleasant spot, the kind reception, the merry games, all pleased the
boy so well, that he did not feel particularly sad when he saw his
father depart; he looked almost more wistfully at the horse as it was
led away; yet he had no difficulty in understanding, when he was
informed that he could not keep it in the present locality. On the other
hand, they promised him that he should find, if not the same, at all
events an equally lively and well-trained one when he did not expect it.

As the superior could not be found, the overseer said: "I must now leave
you, to pursue my own avocations; but still I will take you to the
Three, who preside over holy things: your letter is also addressed to
them, and together they stand in place of the Superior."

Wilhelm would have liked to learn beforehand about the holy things, but
the other replied. "The Three in return for the confidence with which
you have left your son with us, will certainly, in accordance with
wisdom and justice, reveal to you all that is most necessary. The
visible objects of veneration, which I have called holy things, are
included within a particular boundary, are not mingled with anything, or
disturbed by anything; only at certain times of the year, the pupils,
according to the stages of their education, are admitted to them, in
order that they may be instructed historically and through their senses;
for in this way they carry off with them an impression, enough for them
to feed upon for a long time in the exercise of their duty."

Wilhelm now stood at the entrance of a forest-valley, inclosed by lofty
walls; on a given signal a small door was opened, and a serious,
respectable-looking man received our friend. He found himself within a
large and beautifully verdant inclosure, shaded with trees and bushes of
every kind, so that he could scarcely see some stately walls and fine
buildings through the dense and lofty natural growth; his friendly
reception by the Three, who came up by-and-by, ultimately concluded in a
conversation, to which each contributed something of his own, but the
substance of which we shall put together in brief.

"Since you have intrusted your son to us," they said, "it is our duty
to let you see more deeply into our methods of proceeding. You have seen
many external things, that do not carry their significance with them all
at once; which of these do you most wish to have explained?"

"I have remarked certain seemly yet strange gestures and obeisances, the
significance of which I should like to learn; with you no doubt what is
external has reference to what is within, and vice versa; let me
understand this relation."

"Well-bred and healthy children possess a great deal; Nature has given
to each everything that he needs for time and continuance: our duty is
to develop this; often it is better developed by itself. But one thing
no one brings into the world, and yet it is that upon which depends
everything through which a man becomes a man on every side. If you can
find it out yourself, speak out."

Wilhelm bethought himself for a short time, and then shook his head.
After a suitable pause, they exclaimed "Veneration!"

Wilhelm was startled.

"Veneration," they repeated. "It is wanting in all, and perhaps in
yourself. You have seen three kinds of gestures, and we teach a
threefold veneration, which when combined to form a whole, only then
attains to its highest power and effect. The first is veneration for
that which is above us. That gesture, the arms folded on the breast, a
cheerful glance toward the sky, that is precisely what we prescribe to
our untutored children, at the same time requiring witness of them that
there is a God up above who reflects and reveals Himself in our parents,
tutors and superiors. The second, veneration for that which is below us.
The hands folded on the back as if tied together, the lowered, smiling
glance, bespeak that we have to regard the earth well and cheerfully; it
gives us an opportunity to maintain ourselves; it affords unspeakable
joys; but it brings disproportionate sufferings. If one hurts oneself
bodily, whether faultily or innocently; if others hurt one,
intentionally or accidentally; if earthly chance does one any harm--let
these be well thought of, for such danger accompanies us all our life
long. But from this condition we deliver our pupil as soon as possible,
directly we are convinced that the teachings of this stage have made a
sufficient impression upon him; but then we bid him be a man, look to
his companions, and guide himself with reference to them. Now he stands
erect and bold, yet not selfishly isolated; only in a union with his
equals does he present a front toward the world. We are unable to add
anything further."

"I see it all," replied Wilhelm; "it is probably on this account that
the multitude is so inured to vice, because it takes pleasure only in
the element of ill-will and evil speech; he who indulges in this, soon
becomes indifferent to God, contemptuous toward the world, and a hater
of his fellows; but the true, genuine, indispensable feeling of
self-respect is ruined in conceit and presumption."

"Allow me, nevertheless," Wilhelm went on, "to make one objection: Has
it not ever been held that the fear evinced by savage nations in the
presence of mighty natural phenomena, and other inexplicable foreboding
events, is the germ from which a higher feeling, a purer disposition,
should gradually be developed?"

To this the other replied: "Fear, no doubt, is consonant with nature,
but not reverence; people fear a known or unknown powerful being; the
strong one tries to grapple with it, the weak to avoid it; both wish to
get rid of it, and feel happy when in a short space they have conquered
it, when their nature in some measure has regained its freedom and
independence. The natural man repeats this operation a million times
during his life; from fear he strives after liberty, from liberty he is
driven back into fear, and does not advance one step further. To fear is
easy, but unpleasant; to entertain reverence is difficult but pleasing.
Man determines himself unwillingly to reverence, or rather never
determines himself to it; it is a loftier sense which must be imparted
to his nature, and which is self-developed only in the most
exceptionally gifted ones, whom therefore from all time we have regarded
as saints, as gods. In this consists the dignity, in this the function
of all genuine religions, of which also there exist only three,
according to the objects toward which they direct their worship."

The men paused. Wilhelm remained silent for awhile in thought; as he did
not feel himself equal to pointing these strange words, he begged the
worthy men to continue their remarks, which too they at once consented
to do.

"No religion," they said, "which is based on fear, is esteemed among us.
With the reverence which a man allows himself to entertain, whilst he
accords honor, he may preserve his own honor; he is not at discord with
himself, as in the other case. The religion which rests on reverence for
that which is above us, we call the ethnical one; it is the religion of
nations, and the first happy redemption from a base fear; all so-called
heathen religions are of this kind, let them have what names they will.
The second religion, which is founded on that reverence which we have
for what is like ourselves, we call the Philosophic; for the
philosopher, who places himself in the middle, must draw downward to
himself all that is higher, and upward to himself all that is lower, and
only in this central position does he deserve the name of the sage. Now,
whilst he penetrates his relations to his fellows, and therefore to the
whole of humanity, and his relations to all other earthly surroundings,
necessary or accidental, in the cosmical sense he lives only in the
truth. But we must now speak of the third religion, based on reverence
for that which is below us; we call it the Christian one, because this
disposition of mind is chiefly revealed in it; it is the last one which
humanity could and was bound to attain. Yet what was not demanded for
it? not merely to leave earth below, and claim a higher origin, but to
recognize as divine even humility and poverty, scorn and contempt,
shame and misery, suffering and death; nay, to revere and make lovable
even sin and crime, not as hindrances but as furtherances of holiness!
Of this there are indeed found traces throughout all time; but a track
is not a goal, and this having once been reached, humanity cannot turn
backward; and it may be maintained, that the Christian religion having
once appeared, can never disappear again; having once been divinely
embodied, cannot again be dissolved."

"Which of these religions do you then profess more particularly?" said

"All three," answered the others, "for, in point of fact, they together
present the true religion; from these three reverences outsprings the
highest reverence, reverence for oneself, and the former again develop
themselves from the latter, so that man attains to the highest he is
capable of reaching, in order that he may consider himself the best that
God and nature have produced; nay, that he may be able to remain on this
height without being drawn through conceit or egoism into what is base."

"Such a profession of faith, developed in such a manner, does not
estrange me," replied Wilhelm; "it agrees with all that one learns here
and there in life, only that the very thing unites you, that severs the

To this the others replied: "This confession is already adhered to by a
large part of the world, though unconsciously."

"How so, and where?" asked Wilhelm.

"In the Creed!" exclaimed the others, loudly; "for the first article is
ethnical, and belongs to all nations: the second is Christian, for those
struggling against sufferings and glorified in sufferings; the third
finally teaches a spiritual communion of saints, to wit, of those in the
highest degree good and wise: ought not therefore in fairness the three
divine Persons, under whose likeness and name such convictions and
promises are uttered, to pass also for the highest Unity?"

"I thank you," replied the other, "for having so clearly and coherently
explained this to me--to whom, as a full-grown man, the three
dispositions of mind are not new; and when I recall, that you teach the
children these high truths, first through material symbols, then through
a certain symbolic analogy, and finally develop in them the highest
interpretation, I must needs highly approve of it."

"Exactly so," replied the former; "but now you must still learn
something more, in order that you may be convinced that your son is in
the best hands. However, let this matter rest for the morning hours;
rest and refresh yourself, so that, contented and humanly complete, you
may accompany us farther into the interior tomorrow."




_Most Serene Princess,_

_Most Gracious Lady,_

Another benefaction has been added to the many which art and science owe
to Your Highness by the most gracious permission to publish the
following letters of Winckelmann. They are addressed to a man who had
the happiness of counting himself among your servants, and soon
afterward of living in close relation with Your Highness, at the time
when Winckelmann found himself in the most embarrassing circumstances,
the straightforward and touching narration of which one cannot read
without sympathy.

Had these pages come to the attention of Your Highness in those days,
the dictates of your noble and charitable heart would have immediately
put an end to such distress, changed the fate of a most excellent man,
and directed it more happily for the future.

But who indeed ought to think of what might have happened, when so many
gratifying things that actually took place lie before us?

Your Highness has, since that time, established and supported much that
is useful and promotive of happiness, while our gracious and sympathetic
Prince adds constantly to the great number of his benefactions.

One may without vainglory recall the good that for us and for others has
been accomplished in our limited circle, the least significant aspects
of which cannot but excite the observer's admiration, which would be
greatly increased if a well informed writer should take the trouble to
describe its origin and growth.

[Illustration: PRINCESS AMALIA]

The intention of the benefactors was never selfish but was always
directed toward the good to be accomplished. The higher culture of this
land all the more deserves an annalist, since much formerly existed and
flourished of which all visible traces have now disappeared. May Your
Highness, in the consciousness of having been the prime mover and
constant participant in these enterprizes, attain that peculiar domestic
happiness, a hale and hearty old age, and long continue to enjoy the
brilliant period now opening for our circle, in which we hope that all
that has been accomplished will be further increased, unified and
strengthened, and thus handed down to posterity.

Cherishing the flattering hope that I shall continue to rejoice in that
inestimable favor with which Your Highnesses have deigned to adorn my
life, I am, with respectful devotion,

Your Most Serene Highness' obedient servant,



The friends of art who have for several years been associated at Weimar
are surely privileged to speak of their relation to the general public,
because (and this is the final test) they have always expressed similar
convictions and have been guided by well tried principles. Not that,
limited to certain modes of apprehending matters, they have obstinately
maintained a single point of view. On the contrary, they willingly
confess that they have learned much from diverse expression of opinion,
all the more so as they now learn with pleasure that their efforts in
behalf of culture are constantly becoming more closely allied to the
general progress of higher education in Germany.

With much gratification they call attention to the _Propyloea_, to the
critical and descriptive programs of no less than six exhibitions of
painting and statuary, to the many expressions of opinion in the
_Jenaisische Litteraturzeitung, and to the published translation of the
Life of Benvenuto Cellini.

Although these writings have not been printed and bound in the same
volumes and do not form parts of a single work, they have, nevertheless,
all been written in the same spirit. They have proved a leaven to the
whole, as we are learning slowly, but not without gratification; so that
there is no longer occasion to remember ingratitude often experienced,
and open or secret opposition.

The present publication is an immediate sequel to the foregoing works,
and of its contents we mention here only the most important.


The historical conception of related conditions promotes the more rapid
development of the artist as well as of the man. Every individual,
especially if he be a man of capacity, at first seems far too important
to himself. Trusting in his independent power, he is inclined to
champion far too quickly this or that maxim; he strives and labors with
energy along the path he has himself chosen; and when at length he
becomes conscious of his one-sidedness and his error, he changes just as
violently, enters upon another perhaps equally erroneous course, and
clings to principles equally faulty. Not until late in life does he
become aware of his own history and realize how much further a constant
development in accordance with well tested principles might have led

If the connoisseur owes his insight to history alone, which embodies the
ideas which give rise to art, for the young artist the history of art is
of the greatest importance.

[Illustration: WINCKELMANN]

He should not, however, search in it for indistinct models, to be
pursued passionately, but for the means of realizing himself and his
point of view, with its limitations. But unfortunately, even the
immediate past is seldom instructive to man, through no fault of his
own. For while we are learning to understand the mistakes of our
predecessors, time is itself producing new errors which, unobserved,
ensnare us, and the account of which is left to the future historian
with just as little advantage to his own generation.

But who would indulge in such mournful observations, and not rather
endeavor to promote the greatest possible clearness of view in his own
branch of study? This is the duty assumed by the writer of the present
sketch, the difficulty of which will be seen by connoisseurs, who, it is
hoped, will point out its deficiencies and correct its imperfections,
thereby making a satisfactory future work possible.


Letters are among the most important monuments which the individual
leaves behind him. Imaginative persons often picture to themselves, even
in solitary musings, the presence of a distant friend, to whom they
impart their most private opinions; and in the same manner a letter is a
kind of soliloquy. For often the friend to whom, we write is rather the
occasion than the subject of the letter. Whatever rejoices or pains,
oppresses or occupies us, is poured forth from the heart. As lasting
evidences of an existence or a condition, such papers are the more
important for posterity, the more the writer lives in the moment and the
less he is concerned with the future. Winckelmann's letters sometimes
have this desirable character.

Although this excellent man, who educated himself in solitude, was
reticent in society, serious and discreet in his personal life and
conduct toward others, he was free and unconstrained in his letters, in
which he often reveals himself, without hesitation, just as he felt. We
see him worried, troubled, confused, doubting and dilatory, but also
cheerful, alert, bold, daring, and unrestrained to the degree of
cynicism; altogether, however, as a man of tempered character and
confident in himself; who, although the outer conditions offered to his
imagination so much to choose from, usually chose the best way, except
when he took the last impatient step which cost him his life.

His letters, having the general characteristics of rectitude and
directness, differ according to the persons to whom they are addressed,
which is always the case when a clever correspondent imagines those
present with whom he is speaking at a distance, and therefore no more
neglects what is proper and suitable than he would in their presence.

Thus the letters addressed to Stosch (to mention only a few of the
larger groups of Winckelmann's letters) seem to us fine testimonials of
honest cooperation with a friend for a definite purpose; a proof of his
great endurance in a difficult task, thoughtlessly undertaken without
proper preparation, but courageously and happily concluded; they sparkle
with the liveliest literary, political, and society news, and form a
charming picture of life, which would have been more interesting if they
could have been printed entire and unmutilated. Charming also is his
frankness, even in passionate disapproval of a friend for whom the
writer was never tired of testifying as much respect as love, as much
gratitude as attachment.

The consciousness of his own superiority and dignity, combined with a
genuine appreciation of others, the expression of friendship,
cordiality, playfulness and pleasantry, which characterize the letters
to his Swiss friends, make this collection extremely interesting and
lovable as well as exceedingly instructive, although Winckelmann's
letters cannot on the whole be termed instructive.

The first letters to Count Buenau, in the valuable Dassdorf collection,
reveal an oppressed, self-absorbed spirit, which hardly ventures to
look up to such an exalted patron. That remarkable letter in which
Winckelmann announces his change of religion is a real galimatias, an
unfortunate and confused document.

The first half of our own collection serves to make this period
comprehensible, yea, immediately intelligible. They were written partly
at Noethenitz, partly at Dresden, and are directed to an intimate and
trusted friend and comrade. The writer stands revealed in all his
distress, with his pressing, irresistible desires, but on the road to a
new and distant happiness, earnestly sought.

The other half of our letters are written from Italy. They preserve
their direct, unrestrained character; but above them hovers the
joyfulness of the southern sky, and they are inspired with an exuberant
delight in the goal which he has attained. Besides this, they give,
compared with other contemporary letters that are already known, a more
complete view of his position.

The pleasure of appreciating and passing judgment upon the importance of
this collection, which is perhaps greater from the psychological than
from the literary point of view, we leave to receptive hearts and
judicious minds. We shall add only a few words about the man to whom
they were written, in accordance with our available information.

Hieronymus Dieterich Berendis was born at Seehausen in the Altmark in
the year 1720, studied law in the University of Halle, and was for some
years after his student days auditor of the Royal Prussian Regiment of
Hussars, usually called the Black Hussars from their uniform, but at the
time named after their Commander von Ruesch. After leaving that rude
life, he continued his studies in Berlin. During a sojourn at Seehausen
he made the acquaintance of Winckelmann, whose intimate friend he
became, and through whose recommendation he was afterward engaged as
tutor of the youngest Count Buenau. He conducted his pupil to Brunswick
where the latter studied at the Karolinum. When the Count afterward
entered the French service, his father, who was at that time minister
of state at Weimar, conducted Berendis into the service of the Duke, in
which he first became military counsellor, entering afterward the
service of the Dowager Duchess as Financial Councillor and Keeper of the
Privy Purse. He died on the 26th of October, 1783, at Weimar.


The most deserving citizen, no matter how great his service may have
been to his country and his city in a wider or narrower field, receives
but one funeral. Others, however, have so distinguished themselves by
worthy benefactions that they are honored by a public celebration of the
anniversary of their death, on which occasion the lasting influence of
their beneficence is praised. In the same sense we have every cause to
offer from time to time a well meaning tribute to the memory of the men
who have bestowed inexhaustible mental benefactions upon us.

From this point of view the slight tribute which friends of similar
opinions now offer should be regarded as a testimonial of their
appreciation, not as an account of his services. The feast at which it
is offered will be participated in by all appreciative minds on the
occasion of the recently discovered letters of Winckelmann, now for the
first time published.



The following essays, written by three friends, whose opinions on art in
general, as well as on the services of Winckelmann, coincide, were
intended as a basis for a more extended essay on this remarkable man,
and to furnish the materials for a work which should have at once the
merit of diversity and of unity.


But as in life many an undertaking encounters all kinds of obstacles,
which hardly allow the requisite material to be collected, to say
nothing of giving it the desired form, so here only half of the whole as
planned appears.

In the present instance, however, the half may be prized more than the
whole, since, by the study of three individual opinions on the same
subject, the reader may to a greater extent be stimulated and incited to
form an individual conception of the significant life and character of
Winckelmann, which can now be easily accomplished by the aid of the
earlier and more recently published materials. We therefore hope to
merit gratitude if, instead of waiting for a later opportunity and
promising a future achievement, we freely offer, in Winckelmann's own
refreshing manner, only that which is already prepared, even though it
be not complete, in order that it may after its own fashion exert a
timely influence in the great world of life and culture.


The memory of noteworthy men and the presence of important works of art,
awaken from time to time a spirit of contemplation. Both stand before us
as legacies of each succeeding generation, the former by reason of their
deeds and fame, the latter actually preserved as indefinable realities.
Every judicious observer knows full well that only the contemplation of
these men and monuments in their entirety would be of real value, and
yet we are always attempting to make them more comprehensible by our
reflection and our words.

One is especially impelled to this when something new relating to such
subjects is discovered and made known. We trust therefore that the
public will find our renewed observations on Winckelmann, his character
and his achievements a timely contribution, since the letters which are
now published throw a more vivid light upon his mode of thought and the
conditions under which he labored.


Even to ordinary mortals Nature has not denied a very precious
endowment--I refer to that lively impulse felt from earliest childhood,
to take hold of the external world, to learn to know it, to enter into
relation with it, and to form with it a complete whole. Certain chosen
spirits, on the other hand, often have the peculiarity of feeling a kind
of aversion to actual life, withdraw into themselves, and create in
themselves a world of their own, in this wise achieving the highest
inner development.

But when, in especially gifted men, appears the need common to all of us
of seeking in the external world a corresponding realization for all the
gifts with which Nature has endowed them, thereby raising their inner
being to a self-relying whole, we may be assured of the development of a
character in which both the present and the future world will rejoice.

Winckelmann was a man of this kind. Nature had placed in him whatever
makes and adorns the true man. Furthermore, he devoted his entire life
to the search for that which is harmonious and worthy in man and in art,
which is primarily concerned with man.

An obscure childhood, insufficient instruction in his youth, disjointed
and scattered studies in early manhood, the pressure of a school
position, and all the worry and annoyance that are experienced in such a
career--all these he had suffered as many others have. He had reached
the age of thirty without having enjoyed a single favor at the hands of
fate; yet in him were planted the germs of an enviable happiness, very
possible to realize.

Even in these unhappy days we find the trace of that impulse to know for
himself with his own eyes the conditions of the world, gloomy and
disjointed traces it is true, but expressed with sufficient decision. A
few attempts to see strange lands, undertaken without sufficient
reflection, were unsuccessful. He dreamed of a journey to Egypt; he set
out by way of France, but unforeseen obstacles turned him back. More
wisely guided by his genius, he at last seized upon the idea of forcing
his way to Rome. He felt how very profitable a sojourn in the Eternal
City would be for him. This was no whim, no mere thought; it was a
decided plan, which he undertook to realize with cleverness and


Man can accomplish much by the opportune use of individual powers, he
can even accomplish extraordinary things by the combination of several
powers; but the unique, the startling, he can only achieve when all
capabilities are evenly united in him. This last was the happy lot of
the ancients, especially of the Greeks in their best period; to the
other two alternatives we moderns are unfortunately limited by fate.

When the healthy nature of man acts as a unit, when he realizes his
place in the world as part of a great and worthy whole, when a
harmonious well-being accords him a pure and free happiness--then the
universe, if it had the power of self-realization, its end attained,
would rejoice and admire this culmination of its own genesis and
existence. For to what purpose is the array of suns, planets and moons,
of stars and milky ways, of comets and nebulae, of worlds existing and
arising, if it be not that a happy man may unconsciously rejoice in his
own existence?

While, in almost every act of contemplation, the modern thinker, as we
have just done, projects himself into the infinite, to return only in
the end--if he is happy enough in succeeding therein--to a limited
proposition, the ancients, without following a long, round-about path,
found their exclusive happiness within the lovely confines of this
world. Here they were placed, to this end they had been called, here
their activity found its field, their passion its object and

Why are their poets and historians the wonder of the judicious, the
despair of rivals, unless it be because the actors introduced by them
were so deeply concerned in their own selves, in the narrow circle of
the fatherland, within the circumscribed path of their own life as well
as that of their fellow citizens, and because with all their mind,
inclination, and power, they worked in and for the present? Under such
conditions it could not be difficult for a writer of their opinion to
immortalize such a present. What was actually occurring was for them the
only thing of value, just as for us only what is thought or felt seems
of greatest worth.

In a certain sense the poet lived in his imagination, just as the
historian lived in the political, and the investigator in the natural
world. All held fast to the nearest, the true, the actual, and even the
pictures of their fantasy have bone and marrow. Man, and whatever was
human, was considered of the highest value, and all his inner and
external relations to the world were represented with the same great
intelligence with which they were observed. Feeling and observation had
not been separated; that almost incurable breach in the healthy power of
man had not yet occurred.

Not only in enjoying happiness, but in enduring unhappiness also, these
natures were remarkably gifted. For as a healthy tissue resists illness
and is speedily restored after every attack, so the wholesome mind of
such natures quickly and easily recovers from internal and external
misfortune. Such an antique nature, in so far as one can make this
statement of any of our contemporaries, was reincarnated in Winckelmann.
At the very beginning it endured its mighty probation, and was not tamed
by thirty years of humility, discomfort, and sorrow; it could neither be
diverted from its path, nor blunted by adversity. As soon as he attained
a worthy freedom, he appears well rounded and complete, quite in the
antique sense. He was to live a life of action, enjoyment and self
denial, joy and suffering, possession and loss, exaltation and
debasement--yet in such a strange medley he was always satisfied with
the beautiful world in which such a variable fate befalls us.

Just as in life he possessed a really antique spirit, so in his studies
he was faithful to the same ideal. In the treatment of science in
general the ancients were in a rather unfortunate position, since for
the comprehension of the varied objects of nature a division of powers
and capabilities, a disintegration of unity (so to speak) is almost
unavoidable. In a like case the modern scholar encounters an even
greater danger, because in the detailed investigation of manifold
subjects, he runs the risk of scattering his energies and of losing
himself in disconnected knowledge, without supplementing the incomplete,
as the ancients succeeded in doing, by the completeness of his own

However much Winckelmann wandered about in the fields of possible and
profitable knowledge, guided partly by pleasure and inclination, partly
by necessity, he always came back sooner or later to antiquity,
especially to Greek antiquity, with which he felt himself most closely
related, and with which he was destined so happily to be united in his
best days.


The description of the ancient point of view, concerned only with this
world and its assets, leads us directly to the observation that such
advantages are conceivable only in a pagan mind. That confidence in
oneself, that activity in the present, the pure worship of the gods as
ancestors and the admiration of them _quasi_ as artistic creations only,
resignation to an all-powerful fate, the yearning for future fame,
itself dependent upon activities in this world--all these belonging
necessarily together, constitute such an inseparable whole that they
form a condition of human existence planned by Nature herself. In the
highest moment of happiness, as well as in the deepest of sacrifice,
even of destruction, we are always conscious of an indestructible

This pagan point of view pervades Winckelmann's deeds and writings, and
is expressed especially in his early letters, where he is still wearing
himself out in the conflict with more modern religious opinions. This
mode of thought, this remoteness from the Christian point of view,
indeed his repugnance of it, must be remembered in judging his so-called
change of religion. The churches into which the Christian religion is
divided were a matter of complete indifference to him, because in his
inmost nature he never belonged to any of them.


Since the ancients, as we boast, were really entire men, they must, as
they found all happiness in themselves and the world, have learned to
know the relations of human beings in the widest sense; they could not
therefore be lacking in that delight which arises from the attachment of
similar natures.

Here also a remarkable difference between ancient and modern times is
revealed. The relation to woman, which with us has become so tender and
spiritual, hardly rose above the limits of the lowest satisfaction. The
relation of parents to children seems to have been of a somewhat more
tender character. The friendship of persons of the male sex for one
another, with them took the place of all other sentiments; although they
pictured the maidens Chloris and Thyia as inseparable friends, even in

The passionate fulfilment of loving duties, the joy of inseparability,
the devotion of one for the other, their avowed allegiance during life,
and the duty of sharing death itself, if necessary, fill us with
astonishment. One even feels ashamed of one's own generation when poets,
historians, philosophers and orators overwhelm one with amazing stories,
events, sentiments and opinions, all of the same tenor and purport.

For a friendship of this character, Winckelmann felt himself born--not
only capable of it, but requiring it to the highest degree. He realized
himself only in the relation of friendship; he recognized himself only
in that image of the whole which requires a third for its completion.

Even at an early period he applied this ideal to a probably unworthy
object; to whom he consecrated himself, for whom he vowed himself to
live and to suffer; for whom he found even in his poverty the means of
being rich, of giving and of sacrificing; indeed he would not have
hesitated to surrender his existence, his very life. It is in this
relation that Winckelmann, even in the midst of poverty and need, feels
rich, generous and happy, because he is able to do something for him
whom he loves above everything else, and in whom he has, as the highest
sacrifice, to excuse even ingratitude.

However the times and circumstances might alter, Winckelmann reshaped
every object of worth with which he came in contact, to fit this ideal
of friendship. Although many of these attachments easily and quickly
vanish, the fine sentiment underlying them won for him the heart of many
an excellent man, and brought him the happiness of living in the most
beautiful relation with the best men of his age and environment.


Although such a deep need of friendship really creates and idealizes the
object of its affection, the lover of antiquity would, through it alone,
achieve only a one-sided moral excellence. The external world would
offer him little, if along with it a related, similar need and a
satisfying object of this need did not fortunately appear--we refer to
the demand for the sensuously beautiful, as revealed in a tangible
object. For the supreme product of an ever evolving nature is the
beautiful man. It is true that Nature can but seldom produce him,
because the ideal is opposed by many existing conditions, and even her
almighty power cannot tarry long with the perfect, and perpetuate the
beauty it has produced; for, to be exact, we may say it is only for a
moment that the beautiful man remains beautiful.

Against this mutability art now enters the lists. For, by being placed
at the summit of nature, man views himself as a complete nature, which
must now produce another consummation. He attains this end by striving
for virtue and perfection, by appealing to selection, arrangement,
harmony and significance, through which he at length rises to the
production of a work of art, which achieves a brilliant place among his
other works and actions. Once achieved and standing in its ideal reality
before the world, it produces a lasting and supreme effect. For in its
spiritual development from all of man's powers, it adopts all that is
noble and lovable; and by spiritualizing the human form and raising man
above himself, it closes the circle of his life and activity, and
deifies him in the present, in which both past and future are included.
By such emotions were those overwhelmed who saw the Olympian Jupiter, as
we gather from the descriptions and testimony of the ancients. God had
become man in order to raise man to God. One beheld supreme dignity and
was inspired by supreme beauty. In this sense we can only acknowledge
that the ancients were right when they said, with profoundest
conviction, that it was a misfortune to die without having seen this
great work.

For the appreciation of this beauty Winckelmann was by nature fitted. He
first learned of it in the writings of the ancients, but encountered it
personified in the works of art, in which we all first learn to know it,
that we may recognize and treasure it in nature's living creations.

When, however, the requirements of friendship and of beauty both find
inspiration in the same object, the happiness and gratitude of man seem
to pass all bounds. All that he possesses he would gladly give as a
feeble testimony of his attachment and his devotion.

So we often find Winckelmann in friendship with beautiful youths, and
never does he appear more animated and lovable than in such, though
often only flitting, moments.


With such opinions, with such needs and longings, Winckelmann for a long
time served objects alien to his own desires. Nowhere about him did he
see the least hope of help and assistance.

Count Buenau, in his capacity of a private gentleman, needed only to buy
one valuable book less in order to open for Winckelmann the road to
Rome; as a minister of state he had influence enough to have helped this
excellent man out of every difficulty; but he was probably unwilling to
lose so capable a servant, or else he had no appreciation of the great
service he would have rendered the world by encouraging a gifted man.
The Court at Dresden, from which Winckelmann might eventually hope for
adequate support, professed the Roman faith, and there was scarcely any
other way to attain favor and consideration than through confessors and
other members of the clergy.

The example of a Prince is a mighty influence in his country, and
incites with secret power every citizen to like actions in private life,
especially to moral actions. The religion of a Prince always remains in
a certain sense the ruling religion, and the Roman faith, like a
whirlpool, draws the quietly passing waves to itself and into its

In addition to this Winckelmann must have felt that a man, in order to
be a Roman in Rome, in order to identify himself with the life there,
and to enjoy confidential association, must necessarily profess the
religion of his associates, must yield to their faith, and accommodate
himself to their usages. The final result actually shows that he could
not have attained his end without this early decision, which was made
much easier for him by the fact that, as a thorough heathen by nature,
he had never become Christianized by his Protestant baptism.

Yet this change in his condition was not achieved without a bitter
struggle. We may, in accordance with our convictions, and for reasons
sufficiently weighty, make a final decision which is in perfect harmony
with our volition, desires and needs, which indeed seems unavoidable for
the maintenance and continuance of our very existence, so that we are in
perfect accord with ourselves. But such a decision may contradict the
prevailing opinion and the convictions of many people. Then a new
struggle begins, which, while it may cause no uncertainty, yet may
occasion discomfort, impatience and annoyance, because we discover
occasional inconsistencies in our actions while we suspect the existence
of many more in ourselves.

And so Winckelmann, before his intended step, seemed anxious, fearful,
sorrowful and swayed by deep emotion when he thought of its probable
effect, especially upon his first patron, Count Buenau. How beautiful,
sincere and upright are his confidential expressions upon this point!

For every man who changes his religion is marked by a certain stigma
from which it seems impossible to free him. From this it is evident that
men cherish a steadfast purpose above all else, all the more so because
they, divided into factions, constantly have their own safety and
stability in mind. This is not a matter of feeling or conviction. We
should be steadfast precisely there where fate rather than choice places
us. To remain faithful to one people, one city, one Prince, one friend,
one woman; to trace back everything to them; to labor, want and suffer
everything for their sake--this is estimable. To desert them is hateful;
inconstancy is contemptible.

Thus is indeed the harsh, the very serious side of the question, but it
may also be viewed from another point of view from which it has a more
pleasing and less serious aspect. Certain conditions of society, which
we in no sense approve of, certain moral blemishes in others, have an
especial charm for the imagination. If the comparison be permitted, we
might say that it is in this matter as it is with game which, to the
cultivated palate, tastes far better slightly tainted than when fresh. A
divorced woman or a renegade make an especially interesting impression.
Persons who would otherwise appear to be merely interesting and
agreeable, now appear admirable. It cannot be denied that Winckelmann's
change of religion considerably heightens in our imagination the
romantic side of his life and being.

But to Winckelmann himself the Catholic religion presented nothing
attractive. He saw in it only the masquerade dress which he threw around
him, and expressed himself bitterly enough about it. Even at a later
period he does not seem to have sufficiently observed its usages, and by
loose speech he perhaps made himself suspicious to devout
believers--here and there at least a slight fear of the Inquisition is


The transition from literature, even from the highest things that have
been expressed in word and language, from poetry and rhetoric, to the
plastic and graphic arts is difficult, indeed almost impossible. For
there lies between the two a tremendous chasm, over which only a
specially adapted nature can help us. We have now a sufficiently large
number of documents lying before us to enable us to judge how far
Winckelmann succeeded in doing this.

Through the joy of appreciation he was first attracted to the treasures
of art; but in order to use and judge them, he required artists as
intermediaries, whose more or less authoritative opinions he was able to
comprehend, revise, and express. In this manner originated his treatise
_Concerning the Imitation of Greek Masterpieces in Painting and
Sculpture_, with two appendices, published while he was still in

However much Winckelmann appears, even here, to be upon the right path;
however many delightful, fundamental passages these writings contain,
however correctly the final aim of art is already defined in them, they
are nevertheless, both as regards form and subject, so baroque and
curious, that one would in vain seek their meaning, unless he had
definite information concerning the personality of the connoisseurs and
judges of art at that time assembled in Saxony, and concerning their
abilities, opinions, inclinations and whims. These writings will
therefore remain a sealed book to posterity, unless well informed
connoisseurs of art, who lived nearer those times, should soon decide
either to write or cause to be written a description of the then
existing conditions, in so far as this is still possible. Lippert,
Hagedorn, Oeser, Dietrich, Heinecken and Oesterreich loved, practised
and promoted art, each in his own way. Their purposes were restricted,
their maxims were one-sided, yea, very often, freakish. They circulated
stories and anecdotes, the varied application of which was intended not
only to entertain but also to instruct society. From such elements arose
the earliest treatises of Winckelmann, which he himself very soon found
unsatisfactory, as indeed he did not conceal from his friends.

Although not sufficiently prepared, yet with some practical experience,
he at length began his journey, and reached that country where for the
receptive mind the time of real culture begins--that culture which
permeates the entire being, and finds expression in creations which must
be as real as they are harmonious, because they have, as a matter of
fact, proved powerful as a firm bond of union between most different


Winckelmann was at last in Rome, and who could be worthier to feel the
influence which that great privilege is able to produce upon a truly
perceptive nature! He sees his wish fulfilled, his happiness
established, his hopes more than satisfied. His ideals stand embodied
about him. He wanders astonished through the ruins of a gigantic age,
the greatest that art has produced, under the open sky; freely he lifts
his eyes to these wonderful works as to the stars of the firmament, and
every locked treasure is opened for a small gift. Like a pilgrim, the
newcomer creeps about unobserved; he approaches the most sublime and
holy treasures in an unseemly garment. As yet he permits no detail to
distract him, the whole affects him with endless variety, and he already
feels the harmony which finally must arise for him out of these
infinitely diversified elements. He gazes upon, he examines everything,
and to make his happiness complete, he is taken for an artist, as every
one in his heart would gladly be.

In lieu of further observations, we submit to our readers the
overpowering influence of the situation, as a friend has clearly and
sympathetically described it.

"Rome is a place where all antiquity is concentrated into a unity for
our inspection. What we have felt with the ancient poets, concerning
ancient forms of government, we believe more than ever to feel, even to
see, in Rome. As Homer cannot be compared with other poets, so Rome can
be compared with no other city, the Roman country with no other
landscape. Most of this impression is no doubt due, it is true, to
ourselves, and not to the subject; but it is not only the sentimental
thought of standing where this or that great man has stood, it is an
irresistible attraction toward what we regard as--although it may be
through a necessary deception--a noble and sublime past; a power which
even he who wished to cannot resist, because the desolation in which the
present inhabitants leave the land and the incredible masses of ruins
themselves attract and convince the eye. And as this past appears to the
mind in a grandeur which excludes all envy, in which one is more than
happy to take part, if only with the imagination (indeed, no other
participation is conceivable); and as the senses too are charmed by the
beauty of form, the grandeur and simplicity of the figures, the richness
of the vegetation (though not luxuriant like that of a more southern
region), the precision of the outlines in the clear air and the beauty
of the colors in their transparency--so the enjoyment of nature is here
a purely artistic one, free from everything distracting. Everywhere else
the ideas of contrast appear and the enjoyment of nature is elegiac or
satiric. It is true that these sentiments exist only for us. To Horace,
Tibur seemed more modern than does Tivoli to us, as is proved by his
'Beatus ille qui procul negotiis,' but it is only an illusion to imagine
that we ourselves would like to be inhabitants of Athens or Rome. Only
in the distance, separated from everything common, only as a thing of
the past, must antiquity appear to us. This is the sentiment of a friend
and myself, at least, in regard to the ruins; we are always incensed
when a half sunken ruin is excavated; for this can only be a gain for
scholarship at the expense of the imagination. There are only two things
which inspire me with an equal horror: that the Campagna di Roma should
be built up, and that Rome should become a well policed city, in which
no man any longer carried a knife. Should such an order-loving Pope
appear--which may the seventy-two cardinals prevent--shall move
away. Only if such divine anarchy and such a heavenly wilderness remain
in Rome, is there place for the shadows, one of which is worth more than
the whole present race."


But Winckelmann might have groped a long time among the multitudes of
antique survivals in search of the most valuable objects and those most
worthy of his observation, if good fortune had not immediately brought


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