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The inability of his father or his family to appreciate his thought or his work, and the frequent misunderstandings of his motives, were a constant source of trial in his early days of manhood. His attraction to the drama, and the early production of plays, which were represented on the stage at Leipsic, were a great source of alarm to his worthy parents, who mourned over the son they designed for the ministry, as being entirely given over to evil.
In times when heresy against the church of Luther was as heinous an offence as heresy against Rome had been two centuries before, save only that it was no longer punishable by death, it was a brave man who would say, “Well-doing is the main thing,-belief is secondary," and express his longing for the day when it would be conformable to decorum to be called a good Christian, as now public opinion demands that so long as one is in good health, he shall be considered an atheist.”
Throughout his whole life Lessing was struggling with poverty and sorrow, and the year which completed his Nathan the Wise, projected long before, was perhaps the darkest one of all. Indeed, he speaks of finding laudanum for his sorrow and pain in his literary pursuits. He possessed a faculty of masking his griefs “ by a certain wild, ironical humor," as his biographer terms it, which we have noticed as characterizing strong men who suffer keenly. For the sad story of his love we wouid refer our readers to the pages of his biography, for we do not feel equal to telling the tale.
Nathan the Wise is the ripest work of his ripest years, simple and beautisul in its conception and execution. The miserable theologians who regarded themselves as the representatives and defenders of the Christian faith, were terrified at his setting forth of the weaknesses and foibles of the prevailing religion, and of course raised the cry of Jew and Atheist. The making a Jew, whose wisdom and virtues exceeded those of the Christians figuring in the play, the chief personage in it, was sufficient cause for this outcry.
The following passage is one which must have made him exceedingly ot noxious.
You do not know, you will not know the Christians.
We should like to quote the whole fable of the Three Rings, but limited space excludes all but the closing passage, which we trust will be so interesting that every one will want to read the whole.
Go, therefore, said the judge, unless my counsel
A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and in his own time, and Lessing well knew that it would be long before the truths embodied in this play would be recognized. Wearied by controversies with the theologians, he said, they would let him “ at least preach undisturbed in his old pulpit, the theatre.” A hundred years was, he thought, the earliest period when a stage representation of Nathan would be possible, but in 1783, only two years after his death, it appeared at Berlin. The actor who took the principal role was unequal to his part, as were indeed the rest of the company. An amusing anecdote is related in connection with this occasion. “Who plays Nathan ?” enquired Engel, when Dobbelin informed him of the speedy appearance of the piece. “ Nathan? Why, I myself!” replied the self-conscious theatre director. “Well; but who plays the Wise ?" was the response of Engel.
Though the play has long been popular in Germany, it has never been produced, we believe, in any other European country, with the exception of Turkey. A Greek translation was brought out by Greek actors at Constantinople in 1842. It was received with considerable enthusiasm, although, it is said, the audience sometimes seemed disposed to receive Nathan's frankness before the throne of Saladin with less magnanimity than did this Sultan himself.
Unwavering courage in defence of whatever he held to be true and right, is Lessing's most marked characteristic.
When his parents stung him with reproaches concerning his course of life and opinions, which seemed to them blasphemous, he replies grandly: “ Time shall show whether he is the better Christian who has the maxims of religion by heart, goes to church, and joins in all the ceremonies through force of habit, or he who has once wisely doubted and has arrived at conviction through deep investigation, or at least has endeavored to arrive at it. The Christian Religion is not a thing that ought to be received on trust from one's parents."
We should like to present some of Lessing's ideas of nationality and government, of his thoughts on the education of the human race ; but he presents himself so clearly in his finest attitude of truth seeker and finder, that one cannot but feel that the consideration of this gives the deepest insight of his character. How grand must have been the repose of the soul who could say, “If God held all truth shut in his right hand, and in his left nothing but the ever-restless instinct for truth, though with the condition of forever and ever erring, and should say to me, Choose ! I would bow reverently to his left hand, and say, Father, give! Pure truth is for Thee alone.”
A. L. B.
O Eloise Vaughan, the true Eloise, oftenest to be the heritage of women,
was coming. Dr. Richard Glen- strength of insight, and of power to denning, pacing slowly up and down live true to that insight, than most the grape arbor, his eye fixed on the men possess. At the Medical School blue of the distant hills, and his ear this sensitiveness of the moral nature, half-cognizant of the steady rush of which was both native and trained, the river near by, pondered curiously encountered some rude shocks. 'That upon the fact. He was a man worth it never quailed and gave place to describing. Rather above medium wrong-doing we dare not say ; but height, with long, clean limbs, com- this is certain, Richard Glendenning's pact of nerve and muscle, a finely soul was one which could not fail to molded head, well set upon his should shrink back from sin, with a healthy, ders; dark hair, that lay in heavy hearty recoil, which was in itself an uncurled masses about his brow; a experience not to be undervalued. speculative Greek face, which yet The glory of those college days expressed an earnest realism not at his friendship with Proctor all Grecian; he struck you at once Vaughan. Proctor was broader chan as a very finely individualized speci- Richard, more comprehensive, less men of the race.
fastidious, but noble and true, just Dr. Glendenring's life had been fitted to be the medium of an acalso, in some respects, unique. Left quaintance with the world which fatherless in his boyhood, and brought Glendenning greatly needed. So finely up in the almost exclusive companion. were the two souls chorded that ship of a noble, wise mother, and a Vaughan's experience served his friend delicate, pure sister, now, alas, gone in place of a knowledge self-acquired, hence to a
more congenial region, and he took on second-hand the wis. where, he sometimes thought, she dom of the man of the world. The still watched over and loved him, the arrangement had this disadvantage. It native tone and purity of his charac- is only personal contact which can ter had been preserved from many give to any man the key of personal contaminating influences, and he took individualities, and so make him sure out into the world with him more of of himself in his intercourse with that kind of strength which seems
men and women.
A single incident of this friendship is your mate and not mine. And, belongs to our story. The two young Dick, true friend”_clasping his hand men had been out one summer after- in a manly, outspoken way,—“ if I noon for a holiday ramble, and sitting could see her a wife at all, and not under the sway and murmur of green grow cowardly, it would be your boughs, with the lapse of shining wife." waters at their feet, they had talked Glendenning smiled at this improof love. They were both men to
bable conceit. believe in love. Glendenning, with “I shall not describe her to you,” a religious intensity and enthusiasm; Vaughan went on. “Descriptions are Vaughan, with a strength and passion, always common-place, and everything if less exalted, still equally tenacious about Eloise is rare. Strong, tender, and enduring.
exalted, true, and looking just what “ You have all that before you, old she is. You know her sufficiently fellow," Vaughan had said, “ while I after that. Or, if you do not, let me have already passed it."
tell you an incident.” It was said with a seriousness He paused a moment as if dwelling which caused Glendenning to look tenderly upon scenes almost too sacred up at him in some wonder.
to be shaped in language. “I never knew before,” he said, “ It was just such another summer “that you had dipped your wing in afternoon that we were walking, Eloise those seas.”
and I, in the deep, still woods on the Between these two the confidence old Vaughan estate in Brockendale. was so perfect that the remark was I have not told you, but of course equivalent to a question,
you have surmised, that Eloise is my “ No," Vaughan replied; “it is a
She was very lovely that chapter of my life, known only to day. I recall now the soft splendor myself and one other. Something in of her eyes, the flow of her graceful this dreanıy air brings up the old summer drapery, brightened by the vision afresh, and I think I shall tell Scarlet plume of her hat. you about it."
wonder that, walking by her side, her He held his chin in his hand and silver accents falling on my ear as looked afar, not shaken, b::t just ut- sweet and clear as the tinkle of the terly possessed with remembrance. brooklet that covered the pebbles at There had been storms, or there could my feet, my passion should have never have been such a calm as this. reached its crisis. As friend and cousin, Glendenning sat silent, waiting. I knew that I was dear to her. How
Eloise,-Eloise Vaughan !” He could I foresee the trouble of her called the name softly as if expecting eyes as she hushed my rashly-uttered
“ She does not hear me, vows, and bade me, if I loved her, you see,” he said, turning to Glen- forget that I had ever dreamed so wild denning, with a smile that made his a dream. She was too true, too genfriend's eyes misty. “Oh! Eloise tle, not to be also firm at such a moVaughan, if ever my voice could have ment, and I knew as well as now reached your heart !”
that the love I coveted I could never, Richard grew pale about the mouth. never win. You who know me, know, To love in vain was to him a coom or can dream, just how aimless and too sad to be steadily contemplated, valueless my life appeared to me at when a friend so dear as Vaughan was that moment. Death seemed all that the sufferer.
was left to pray for. That instant, “ I'll tell you about her,” Vaughan as if in answer to my unspoken thought, said, more cheerfully. “It seems to I was startled by the shrill warning of me now, just at this moment, that she a rattlesnake, and beheld the deadly
It is no
reptile coiled just in our pathway. that you will not mention this inciEloise sprang with a cry to a safe dis- dent io any one. Promise me,' she tance, while I proceeded with a cool- replied, as I hesitated. If you acness that was half desperation, to cut knowledge yourself in any way my a stick with which to dispatch the foe. debtor, do not refuse me my boon. I certainiy did not intend to place for your sake, for mine, for all of us, myself within his reach ; yet just as this folly must be buried. I will not certainly my mood made me almost let you go until you promise me that utterly indifferent to the danger, and your lips shall never divulge it?' in an unguarded moment he sprang “I believe I did promise her, but and fastened his fangs in my arm. It by some accident of her soiled drawas the work of an instant to dispatch pery, the thing was known in our him, but before it was well accom- immediate families, though never beplished, Eloise was tearing off the yond. The Vaughans', you know, thin sleeve which covered the wound. are not wealthy, save in good blood,
0, Proctor,' she cried, “you have except my father, who has retrieved let him kill you? Pray God it may in trade the fortunes of his family. Of not be so! She caught the knife course he was overwhelmed with gratfrom my hand, and drawing it deeply itude to the svoman who had saved across the wound again and again, my life,- that she had previously replaced her dainty lips to the flowing fused to be my wife, he does not now wound and drew the venom. In know,-and would have bestowed upon vain were all my efforts to oppose her thousands : insisted, at least, upon her The strength of her determi. enabling her to gratify those aspiranation overawed me, and in five min. tions for culture which she was known utes' time, I knew that I was safe to cherish ; but she would never re. from the consequences of my own ceive anything from him. carelessness
• Just one lock of Proctor's hair “ « Eloise,' I said, I have no heart I want, uncle,' she replied to him, to thank you for having saved my life. half sadly, half playfully, to weave You have made it too poor a boon.” into a token. It is good to have saved
«« « Do not crush me by saying life. Do not spoil my reward by that,' she replied, sweetly; I ask no gifts.' My mother gave her the hair, thanks; my regrets are too deep for and she wears it yet, I think, upon the folly into which I have unwittingly her chain.” betrayed you. But, if in addition to There flowed on other talk be. the pain I have caused you, I had tween these two, but nothing could also been the means of bereaving your efface from Richard Glendenning's parents of their only child, over- mind the picture which these words whelming the bloom and promise of of his friend had made there. your life in one black and utter ruin, Three years later, Vaughan had Í should indeed have been dismayed. gone abroad for some years, and GlenYou cannot deceive me, Proctor. It was denning was anxiously looking about not fear which blanched your cheek, for a favorable opening for the practice and struck the vigor from your arm.' of his profession, which was now his
“ Thank you,' I said, 'for remind- sole means of support, when he reing me of my parents. From them ceived a letter from an old friend of at least you will receive the gratitude his mother, a Mrs. Chilvers, residing due your heroism.'
in Brockendale, the pith of which is “She caught my hand and looked contained in this extract. with an energy of entreaty into my “My principal motive in writing eyes
you, is to inform you of the recent “• Promise me, Proctor,' she said, removal by death of our lamented