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As the judge makes himself acquainted with all the particulars of the case, concerning which he is called upon to pass judgment; so ought the critic to read all the works of an author, before he has the right of passing his sentence ; says a cotemporary writer : and we would rather advocate this principle, than see a voluminous writer condemned, in consequence of a few pages nierely, which, from their want of connection, perhaps, have proved obscure or unintelligible. It is well known, that those who are not accustomed to dwell upon and develop a connected series of abstract truths, sometimes find it difficult to understand the most simple views, then expressed in an abstract manner. To illustrate this remark, let us first contemplate a truth presented in the usual modes of expression, and then view it in its more general principles. "Those heroes,” says Menzel,“ who, in the course of centuries, have been created by poets, are almost entirely wanting in national characteristics, and seem to be the offspring of theory only;" a sentiment, which the philosopher of a certain school would express in a general principle, by saying: in the heroes of poetry, we recognize the analysis of the possible, rather than the synthesis of the actual. If we should attempt to present the link, which some of our readers may think necessary, between these two modes of expressing the same thought, we would say: the poets have been engaged only in tracing out and presenting (analyzing) the capabilities of the nature of man, (the possible,) without caring how far these capabilities have manifested themselves in the history of man, and without endeavoring to collect and arrange those materials, which might have enabled thein to form a true, though ideal,
picture of life.
A writer in one of the English reviews, remarks, in regard to this subject, that there are hardly six Englishmen to be found, who are sufficiently well acquainted with the works of Kant, in the German, to succeed in translating them into English; and the attempts which have hitherto been made by English philosophers, seem to confirm his opinion. Only two years ago, a translation of Tenneman's philosophy of history was published there, by a Rev. Mr. Johnson ; a work, in which all the various philosophies are criticised, according to the modes of thought which are peculiar to Kant. The important fact, however, soon appears, that his work is but a translation of a French translation. In the French translation, Ancillon, the father of the Prussian minister, and greatly distinguished for his philosophical pursuits, had been called le père, in order to distinguish him from his son, who, of course, is introduced as “le fils.” But Mr. Johnson unhesitatingly translates Ancillon le père, into father Ancillon, and thus, without mercy, transforms a German nobleman, of high reputation, into a capuchin friar! In another part of the French translation, Priestly Vol. VII.
is called “the great naturalist," (le grand physicien,) but in the pages of Mr. Johnson, he figures as the “great physician !”
The great difficulties which obstruct the success of foreigners, when attempting to read Kant, in the original, have suggested the opinion, that native Germans, after becoming thoroughly acquainted with the English language, might be more successful in introducing the works of Kant to the English reader. We believe, however, that the genius of the English language, and the peculiar modes of thought, which characterize the philosophy of Kant, could not be united with each other, without great sacrifices; and that, on the whole, it would be less laborious to study Kant in the original, than to make use of any, even of the best translations.
Geologists affirm, that of the whole diameter of our earth, we are acquainted with only a very minute portion. Nor, in the knowledge of our minds, have we gone much farther; but, as the German miners have penetrated deepest into the earth, so has the attention of the German writers been most extensively directed to psychological researches. The contemplative tendency of the German mind, which is, in some measure, the result of their political relatiops, has led them,-to speak in the language of another,—“to cultivate the pleasures afforded in the seclusion of domestic life, rather than to strive for those inalienable rights, which only can secure private happiness. It has enabled them to cultiyate the empire of ideas more actively and successfully than any other nation.” We would add, however, that they, like the Athenians, are but too often “fortes in tabula,” great on paper only; and that, in many of the German productions, there is something fantastical and ghost-like, something that does not seem adapted to this world, and reminding us of the fact, that the attention of the German author is much oftener directed to the mysterious chaos in his own bosom, than to the world around bim. In France, England, and America, a man possessing a great mind, as often becomes an eminent statesman, as in Germany he is distinguished as an author. It is this life of speculative enjoyment, so entirely different from the practical character of other nations, which has impressed itself on the literature of Germany. In judging, therefore, of the literary activity of Germany, it is necessary to bear in mind, that the popular element, which characterizes the political, and, in some measure, the social life of other countries, is almost entirely wanting in that country. This national feature appears in German literature, for instance, in a frequent exhibition of personal feelings, and individual states of mind. The German authors are often as unreserved in their works, as they are in the circles of their families or friends. It is the peculiar charm of these circles, which has given to many of their productions, that superior attraction of kindliness and love,
which never fails of touching the heart, and which has been too frequently derided, as hyper-sentimental. A union, which is cemented by the conviction, that an unreserved and unlimited confidence must be reciprocated as freely as it is granted, has so much in it lovely and wivning, that we are scarcely aware of the fact, that its child-like character sometimes degenerates into the childish. In a country like ours, where the political or the mercantile influence is felt to pervade, more or less, the various departments of social life, the case must be somewhat different. Where, bowever, these influences yield to the influence of literature, we meet with that general spirit of social warmth, of the want of which, the German emigrant complains in every country but his own. Whether high or low, rich or poor, male or female, it may be said, without exaggeration, that in almost every interview of two Germans in a foreign country, they are heard to lament, that the German “gemüthlichkeit,” or mutual longing after an unreserved and free communion of spirit, is no where found but in Germany.
It is but another exhibition or development of the same feature in the German character, that, unless the expression of one's countenance should happen to be strikingly repulsive, it is hardly possible to take a walk in the environs of one of the large cities in Germany, without being enriched with the auto-biography of some one with whom we may chance to meet. Willingly, indeed, do we listen occasionally to a tedious narrative, or even to an obvious fabrication, if we are rewarded at other times by acquaintances, which, in their consequences, are even more enduring than our lives. To these social peculiarities, in part, has been ascribed the fact, that the German writers are, as a class, more diligent and efficient in literary enterprise, than those of other nations. It has been affirmed, that, by spending their evenings in the agreeable intercourse of their families and friends, the all-absorbing influence of social feeling produces so powerful a reaction, that it enables them to labor the next day sixteen out of twenty-four hours. This, however, is a somewhat exaggerated representation. The phlegmatic temperament of the German students, is the true cause why they are so persevering and efficient in authorship. Such a temperament is well known to be the most favorable to longevity, which, in Germany, is likewise promoted by the uniform character of the cliinate, and the hardening, physical discipline, to which the German youth are accustomed. Walking, fencing, gunning, swimming, skating, are objects of sedulous attention, until the physical constitution has been developed; and an hour's exercise during the day, is found sufficient for the scholar advanced in years. In August, however, the most favorable month there for such excursions, even he may be seen walking like Thales and Pythagoras
of old,) to the Mont Blanc, or the Gothard, with his knapsack on his back, and, in a truly youthful spirit, enjoying through the day, all that is beautiful or sublime on bis tour, and at night, giving himself up to as ambrosian a slumber, as any of which Homer ever dreamed.
The remark has been justly made, that this tendency to contemplation makes them beiter cosmopolites than Germans; and that their national character seems to consist in a desire of having none. Though they wish, like other nations, to become the archetypal people, the beau ideal for others, they seek to arrive at this object in a somewhat different way. Whilst the former endeavor to subject others to their national peculiarities, the Germans seem to aim at incorporating the peculiarities of all the other nations with their own. “If there were but one nation in the world, beside the Germans,” says Menzel," the latter, from their poetical tendency, and persevering labor, would long since have, probably, so completely transformed themselves into this other people, that there would be nothing left of them.” These remarks, however, refer principally to the inhabitants of the south. The south of Germany has produced the most distinguished poets, and in warmth and intensity of feeling, surpasses the north, the home of gravity and sober reason. To this circumstance, it must be partly ascribed, that in the south, the Roman Catholic religion continues to prevail ; whilst in the north, Protestantism has produced the profoundest thinkers and scholars, and has been embraced by all the northern branches of the Teutonic stock,—by Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the United States, -and, what is worthy of notice, by these branches only. Like the towering oaks of their forests, the northern tribes grew strong and hardy, under the influence of their long winters, whilst the deep and silent seriousness of nature, filled them with solemnity; for, after a short season of beauty and warmth, wood and valley were left dreary and mute :-the passenger-bird had taken a hasty farewell, to seek a warmer clime. This thoughtfulness was ennobled and spiritualized by the power of christianity; and it was equally favorable to the re-publication of christianity,—to Protestantism. But if it is impossible to deny the truth of these facts, the annals of the history of the human race speak likewise of whole nations, as well as of individuals, who have elevated themselves above the influence of nature. For more than two thousand years, the Swedes,-a noble race of men,-have been exposed to the same influences of climate, which the wretched Laplanders have experienced ; and yet they have taught us, that the soul of can rise above the conditions of nature. Even the physical diseases, with which the ancient Britons were afflicted, gave way before the power of music; and their rude manners were softened and elevated, by the influence which
the Lord exercised by Luitgard, the Saxon apostle, and his successors. As the same heaven, the same stars, and the same immeasurable distance, extend over the naked rock, the verdant bower, the waving corn-fields; so there is a Spirit, that is ever ready to speak to the soul of that man who is willing to listen. “ Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are,” but he "prayed earnestly," and he “ prayed again,” and the Lord heard his prayers. Man has been, and probably will be, found degraded every where; but in every zone, he likewise can raise himself above his condition. Dr. G. Schubart, to whom Dr. W. refers with deserved praise, (though we are far from admitting his sentiments in theology,) describes the firm and eternal resting-place of this power of the soul of man, in so beautiful a manner, that we cannot refrain from quoting a passage, found in his “ History of the Soul.”
In the midst of the realms of existence, there is a sun, which sustains and preserves every thing, which animates and directs every thing; and there is an eye, which is itself of sun-like nature, and made for that sun. The sun is God, the eye is the soul.
Neither the terrors nor the dread, which come to man on the wings of the storm, or in the thunder of the avalanche, or the eruptions of the volcano,—it is not these which have first proclaimed to him, that there is a God; nor is it from the starry heavens,—letters, as it were,—of his creation, that man has derived this knowledge. Deep as the longing, which, in the new-born babe, calls the mother, of whom it yet knows nothing; loud as the crying of the young raven, after food which he has never yet tasted; strong and intense as the
with which the eye, when unsealed, or the plant, when breaking from its capsule, seeks the light which they have never before felt ;--such is the longing which I feel through my whole being, for the living fountain of all being, from which I have derived my existence.
Should I take the wings of the morning, and fly where the last waves of the visible world are lost; should I descend into darkness, where there is no star, where the cries of anxiety, the loud manifestations of jov, nay, where even the softest breathing of life, is no longer heard; and should I remain there, alone and solitary, yet I should feel, that He upholds me; I should perceive his nearness, like the rustling of the eagle's wing; in the stilly night, I should perceive something within me, which cries after God. Like the anchor cast forth, which, at once penetrating the waves of the sea, sinks to the deep foundation, on which it Tests ; so is there a desire within my bosom, which takes its way through the midst of the creation, unto God.'
But we must conclude. In conclusion, then, we would express our earnest desire, that our literature may be enriched with a literary history of as comprehensive a character, as is that to which we have directed the attention of our readers. It is by works like this, that a general interest in the highest productions of the human