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From The Spectator. on the Eastern shores, or as hardy pioneers THE GERMAN PRESS IN AMERICA. in the primeval forests of the far West. THE German element has of late played a The unlucky insurrections of the year 1848 rather conspicuous part in North American brought men of higher aspirations and of a politics, and its influence greatly contributed more intellectual stamp among them; and to the success of the Republican party in the these radicals proved a powerful leaven in the election which raised Lincoln to the Presi- hitherto sluggard population. They started dency. The Germans themselves reckon their newspapers containing matters somewhat number in the United States at five millions more momentous than idle local gossip, and at least, whilst native Americans want to re- continued on the other side of the Atlantic duce it to two or three millions. The differ- the great discussions of philosophical and ence might be easily accounted for, since the economical principles which had brought former claim as their own all children born them to grief under the petty despotisms of of Teutonic parents, whilst the latter regard the Old World. They wanted, above all, to only those as true “ Dutchmen ” who were form a German party, which, by throwing its actually born in Germany, and have immi- numbers and influence either on the right or grated at a later period in life. However the left, might turn the scales in the political that may be, it cannot be denied that their strife for supremacy. They did not succeed weight in the political scale begins to be at first, the German colonists remaining calduly felt, and they hardily fight for the Union lous to their passionate appeals, and preferboth in public meetings and on the field of ring to walk in the wake of some recognized battle, both with the pen and the sword. It American faction. But the blind and veheis asserted that over one hundred thousand ment opposition of the Know-nothings, their men of that nationality have enlisted in the violent vindication of the exalted and excluRepublican armies, and if just now the re- sive rights of nativism, estranged the Gerported flight of the corps of Schurz and mans from the Democrats, and threw them, Steinwehr at Chancellorsville has brought often against their will, into the arms of the them into unreasonable disrepute, it ought Republican party. It may now be safely as not to be forgotten that on several occasions serted that these three millions of immigrants they have borne the brunt of the day under are all Unionists, however fairly their symtheir favorite leader, General Sigel, who, un- pathies may still be divided among the old happily for himself and his countrymen, was Democrats and their successful antagonists. induced to resign his command several weeks The German press in America has espoused ago. We are, in consequence, entitled to the cause of the Union and of freedom with expect that the Germans, who are generally an ardor and a vehemence to which even natendowed with many military qualities, as is ural-born Americans are strangers. Bred in sufficiently testified by the eagerness of poten- a far-off country, which was never convulsed tates to enlist them in their service, will soon by the bloody strife between slaveholders and redeem their character. At all events, it ap- abolitionists, and in which the fancied necespears preposterous and cruel to treat as mer- sities of forced labor have forever been uncenary hirelings thousands of men who zeal- known, free editors, crammed with the logiously rushed to arms in the defence of their cal principles of Kant and Hegel, devoted to adopted country and the loftiest principles of the faith of “Humanism,” feel no difficulty freedom.
in declaring war to the knife against the In former times, the German settlers in Southern « institution.” Their influence is America, chiefly drawn from the sober, in- not to be despised, for if daily, weekly, and dustrious peasantry which dwell on the slopes periodical publications are all taken into acof the Black Forest, and on the pleasant bor-count, the number of German newspapers ders of the Rhine and the Maine, had no reaches close to two hundred. Every party, other anxiety but to pursue their tillage in every shade, every school is represented here, peace, free from the Government shackles from the Roman Catholic lucubrations of which weighed so heavily on their shoulders Father Oertel to the materialist declamations in their native land. Ease, and even afflu- of Carl Heinzen. ence, were the price of untiring labor and The most wide-spread, and, therefore, most strict economy, and they often became rich, influential journal is the Staats Zeitung of either as saving tradesmen in the large cities ' New York, the property of the “ widow"
Uhle. This sold Democratic gossip,” as periodicals owe their influence merely to the numerous adversaries condescend to call it, private character and talent of the chief has often changed editors, and, as usual in editor, and are altogether to be looked upon successful papers, follows rather than directs as private enterprises. Every political scheme, public opinion. Still, it has strongly de- every philosophical opinion, be it the wildclared in favor of the Union, and as it has its enthusiastic exponents in that numerous
est fancy or the most absurd day-dream, finds found great favor with thriving shopkeepers class; but the great, unfailing characteristic and sturdy farmers, we may take it as a symp- is the combativeness of the writers. True to tom that the large middle class among the their European habit, the Germans in AmerGerman settlers are unfavorable to the dis- ica prefer making war against one another to severing pretensions of the South. Two other a combined assault against the common daily periodicals published in the Empire City evince a bitterness and a power of coarse in
enemy, and in this ungrateful struggle they deserve to be mentioned—the Abend Zeitung vective worthy of a better or a worse cause. and the Criminal Zeitung. The former hoists Foremost, and almost alone on his unenviable the Republican flag and pronounces in favor pinnacle, stands M. Heinzein, of the Boston of speedy abolition ; the second had for many Pioneer, the most radical, unsparing, indisyears a communistic tint, and, though social- creet, and violent, but also the most deeply ist to an extreme, never discovered in slavery convinced of all German editors. He is wantanything higher than an 66 economical >
ing neither in cleverness nor conceitedness, question. It may be startling, but it is by and has, indeed, often brought his unwilling no means strange, to discover that the men countrymen over to his ideas. In one of its who, in Europe, affected to give to the right recent issues, an English paper, the Missouri to labor the precedence over political liberty, Republican, thus speaks of him :concerned themselves in the American negroes only so far as their presence might influence
“When, a year or more ago, we took occathe position of free workmen.
sion to point out to the leaders of the radical The West of the United States possessed, to lashing them to the chariot wheel of the
German press that their course inevitably led until very lately, an influential and well written paper, the Anzieger des Westens, pub- great Bugaboo, Carl Heinzen, at Boston, the lished by M. (now Colonel) Börnstein, a po- olution in spe, there was quite an effort made
self-proclaimed Danton of the prospected revlitical refugee, and M. Charles Bernays, once American Consul in Switzerland. This
jour- did us the justice to copy our article verba
to make us appear ridiculous. Carl Heinzen nal was so successful, and had enlisted among tim in his "Pioneer, and broadly hinted that its staff so many correspondents of the highest standing, (among others, Dr. Ruge, from we were about right in our estimate of the Brighton), that the editors once offered a
modern lansquenets of revolutionary young high price for the best German novel written Germany; for, by some such name, he chose in America. The competition was exciting them worthy of a better title, though of some
to stigmatize his compatriots, not deeming and lively, and the prize was awarded by competent judges to M. Douai, the former infinitely more degrading. editor of the San-Antonia Zeitung, whom the
" And what do we behold ? Day after day, slaveholders had driven from Texas, and who step by step, ever uncompromisingly and reis at present a contributor to one of the New lentlessly did Heinzen proceed ; now fulmiYork papers. The Americans were secretly and his countrymen in America in particular,
nating, then hectoring the world generally, somewhat startled to hear that the Anzeiger but never failing to treat with unspeakable had ceased to appear, in spite of its financial prosperity; having formerly been a Demo- contempt his fellow-countrymen of the young erat, and converted by the war to the Repub- of candor, of logic, tact, and foresight. He
for their servility, their want lican creed, it seems that M. Börnstein found insuperable dificulties in maintaining his was treated as a madman at times ; again he moral ground, and preferred to interrupt his was drawn into ridicule and contempt. Somejournalistic labor. Another paper, the West- times even a green specimen of late importaliche Post, started at St. Louis several years of " inexorable logic,” to be crushed ; but
tion entered the lists with him in the field ago, as an opposition publication, has now entirely replaced its antagonist; it is of the all in vain.” true abolition hue, and carries the numerous In fact, there has been erected in America Germans who inhabit the State of Missouri a new stage for German literature but we into the ultra Republican camp;
feel bound to confess that the products are Among the widely-circulated papers, we neither of the highest nor the purest kind, have to notice the Chicago Staats Zeitung, a and that the performers are in nowise remarkUnionist journal, founded by Brentano, the able for the Atticism of their wit or the former dictator of Baden. Most of the other'amiability of their temper.
From The Saturday Review. are as wearisome to the reader as the author STAHR'S LIFE OF LESSING. * appears to think them incumbent upon himGERMAN authors seem gradually awaken- self. The reader should be now and then ing to the fact of the brcvity of life, and to permitted to draw his own lessons, without the corresponding necessity of brevity in their having it flung in his teeth that he is a child monographs. They begin to perceive that, of the degraded and materialistic nineteenth in order to find readers, a writer must be tol-century. Moreover, a subject like the life of erably short and moderately readable; and Lessing claims an almost historic dignity of that the public is more frequently propitious treatment, and that “ pitch of style which to the successful digester than to the patient the late Dr. Arnold judged requisite in the accumulator of materials. There is scarcely composition of history. Not that M. Stahr a fact in Mr. Lewes' Life of Goethe which was without the best of intentions to impart had not been previously mentioned in Vie-such a dignity to his book. The second edihoffos laborous work on the same subject ; but tion is ushered in by a most sonorous blast of even to German readers Mr. Lewes has made trumpets, consisting in the eulogies of certain himself Goethe’s biographer par excellence. critics, quoted with modest pride by the not A similar fate might have befallen the Life unconscious author. The book is described of Lessing, had a foreign author of reputa- as “ a lamp to lighten the darkness around; tion, till very recently, chosen to avail him- as “ the free confession of a free man amongst self of the copious materials extant in the hindering and even threatening circumstanlearned work of Guhrauer ; but M. Adolf ces ; a breath of air and a ray of light amidst Stahr determined that a popular life of a the smoke of a gloomy mysticism, a Byzanwriter who was the very incarnation of the tine hierarchy, a blasé romanticism, which German mind should at all events be at- had intruded themselves into the ancient tempted by one of his grateful compatriots. home of the healthiest, clearest, and manliest
M. Stahr is one of the most prolific, and of German minds ;” and a prophecy is added also one of the most entertaining, of living that “it will last, this book, it will work, and German writers. He is deeply enough read, in numberless unseen pipes pour forth its pure to satisfy the claims of his own nationality, contents through the world.” Being transbut he has at the same time the vivacity of a lated, these very brave words signify that, in Frenchman and the independent feelings of praising Lessing, M. Stahr meant to tread on an Englishman. He appears to be one of the corns of those who yet survive as the relthose happily-constituted mortals who are at ics of the systems which Lessing overthrew. home everywhere. He has worshipped in
If, however, the reader will consent to overthe museums of Rome and Florence, and con- look, or to estimate at its proper value, the versed at his ease in Paris salons ; he has occasionally almost oppressive grandeur of Aristotle under his pillow and Longinus.at M. Stahr's commentative oratory, he will his fingers' ends; he is au fait with the secret find in this biography a very faithful picture, springs of Goethe's amours and the secret drawn by a most skilful hand, of an intelmeaning of the Music of the Future ; he com-lectual life matchless for its vigor and truthmands the political situation in Germany and fulness. Lessing was restless, in the sense in the rest of Europe, and has encompassed in which the pilgrim, ever pressing onward and traversed the entire field of ethics, ancient to a goal it will never be given him to attain, and modern. He is a greater polyhistor than is restless. Those who complain of a want was Lessing himself; and his criticisms at- of unity in his manifold expeditions on varitempt as free and bold a range as those of the ous fields but ill understand the unity of the subject of this biography. That such a writer true critic's life. Lessing was anything but should but rarely be dull, is no matter for a mere negative and destructive critic. Every
and it is perhaps equally natural literary advance which he made formed a link that we should often miss in him the sobriety in that synthesis which, in a short life, he was and moderation which becomes, a critic of the able with unusual completeness to establish. arch-critic. Constant allusions to the present In judging of works in the field of any art,
it was his constant aim to establish the rules * G. E. Lessing. Sein Leben und seine Werke. Von Adolf Stahr. 2 Bande. 2te Ausgabe. Berlin : and the limits of that art. From a purifica1862.
tion of the literary stables of Germany, he
rose to distinct theories by which to deter A peculiar bitterness characterizes Lesmine the adherence to, or aberration from, sing's unceasing attacks on Voltaire. It must fixed rules in the case of the French and Eng- be admitted that Voltaire suffered but little lish schools. In his Litteraturbriefe, he showed from them during his lifetime, and that his how Shakspeare and the English dramatists reputation as an originator bids fair to last differ from the Greeks as species differ from as long in France as his fame as a destroyer ; species, but how the French are as far from for in that country, even more than elsethem as the perversion is from the original, where, success and vanity form almost imand the false from the true. To the Eng- pregnable entrenchments. To this, probalish poets of Pope's time, and their host of bly, much of the bitterness of Lessing's aniimitators in the German didactic poets, he mosity may be ascribed ; but M. Stahr suphad already assigned their true limits, exclud- plies another key, which may be taken for ing them from the Poetic Art. In his Ham- what it is worth. Lessing, it appears, had burger Dramaturgie, he more fully and spe- a personal opportunity of becoming acquainted cially exposed the radical vices of the French with the meanness and injustice of “ Voltaire, tragedians, and defeated Voltaire, and his Chambellan du Roi,” through certain more gods and worshippers, with their own weapon than questionable money transactions of the —the appliance of the rule of Aristotle. Yet latter, which involved him in a disgraceful he was not slow to perceive the likelihood of lawsuit, out of which he only escaped by an an aberration in a contrary direction, and to equally disgraceful compromise. His royal. warn young Germany against that defiance patron and disciple founded on these transacof all rules and laws which became the motto tions a comedy, entitled Tantale en Procès, and of their Sturm and Drang period, and of a mercilessly satirizing the avaricious philosomore recent French school. But to the Po- pher. Moreover, Lessing indiscreetly proetic Art itself, in contradiction to the Plastic, cured the MS. of Voltaire's Siècle de Louis he fixed limits, in bis Laocoon, which Winck- XIV., before publication, from the author's elmann himself, the greatest of German arch- secretary, and by accident took it away with æologists, had failed or refused to recognize. him from Berlin. The wrath of the philosFrom Æsthetics his genius took a loftier flight opher, who declared himself robbed, was treto Ethics, and after a long series of polemi- mendous. The secretary was dismissed, and cal encounters (some negative in their origin, an interchange of disagreeable letters in but all constructive in their aim), arrived at French and Latin passed between Voltaire its consummation in those speculations on the and Lessing. Lessing's letter has been lost, development of mankind, and the place be- but he said " it was not one Voltaire was longing in it to revealed religion, which likely to stick in his window. The Frenchopened to him, in his own words, “ an infinite man's letter certainly repeats the accusation view into a distance neither wholly hidden of theft against the secretary, but is otherfrom his eyes nor wholly discovered to them wise flattering to Lessing. M. Stahr seems by the soft gleam of sunset." His various to us to attach too much importance to the polemical encounters were conducted, if not affair, which only proves what every one always with moderation (as in the case of knew before-that the temper of Voltaire was Klotz), yet with a steady view to the goal vinegar itself. which would be approached by the removal The biographer-who, on a previous occaof the obstructions against which he revolted. sion, has started the theory that Goethe was Thus Lessing well deserves the name of a a democrat at heart, and saw through the second Luther, not only for his fearlessness in hollowness of courts and princes—is very overthrowing abuses, but because he did it anxious to prove Lessing a member, by anticifor the sake of the truth whose countenance pation, of the democratic party in Germany. they hid from the sight of man. In either He is candid enough to admit that his hero, case, the vehemence of such struggles is to except by occasional remarks, never mixed in us rather melancholy than delightful, when the politics of the day, but consoles himself we reflect on the hard fate of those who fight, by observing that the reason of this was cernot for fighting's sake, but to be enabled to tainly not “ that he lacked inclination or capursue the path for whose end they are yearn- pacity for a literary activity of the sort.” ing.
The capacity all will admit, but of the in
clination there is an utter want of evidence. Spinoza (to whom M. Stahr compares him on Of the occasional remarks in question M. more than one occasion), was one of singular Stahr is not slow to make the most. Even aand unblemished purity, and furnishes anvery common-place poetical panegyric on other proof of the certain, but not very proFrederic II., contributed by Lessing in his found truth, that freedom of speculation is youth as a feuilletonist to a Berlin paper, is not, as some have ever been found to hold, forced into the argument. The poet says the beginning of immorality. His biographer that " it would be a happiness to the king, observes (we hope we are not uncharitable in were his people already worthy of him," suspecting that we detect in the observation which is interpreted to mean, « in other the faintest possible tinge of regret) that words, if it could do without even so intelli
" Lessing is the only one among the hegent (erleuchtet) a despotism.” M. Stahr bas|
roes of our classical literature, in whose also discovered a passage in which Lessing heart, love, full and great, found no entrance advocates the unity of Germany, though till the maturity of manhood. He was forty merely for the object of free trade between years old when he met, in Eva König, the the States. It would have been well to omit wife of his heart, and the story of his life up all fruitless speculation as to what Lessing to that time
at Lessing to that time knows of no passion in any way “ would have done" had he lived in the times of " the great struggle against abso- M. Stabr, however, insists on the trutå of lutism," and to confess at once, as the author the rumor that Lessing, as early as his nine afterwards does, that Lessing's radicalism teenth year, entertained a passing passion for was only “ theoretic.” The biographer per- the actress Lorenz, and proceeds to make the ceives Schiller's motto, In tyrannos, visible, most of it. He has also discovered, even though unwritten, on the brow of Minna Von against his own judgment, possible evidence, Barnhelm ; and quotes more direct evidence in a poem of eight lines, that his hero was from the fragmentary dramas, Spartacus and guilty of a “ transitory error." His marHenzi, the hero of the latter of which is said riage, long delayed by money difficulties, to be none other than Lessing himself. Had took place in October, 1776, and ere sisteen Lessing felt it to be part of his mission to be months had passed, he was a broken-hearted a political reformer, he was not the man to widower, his beloved Eva having followed give any but a full and complete expression their first infant to the grave. “My wife is to the passionate longings within him. But dead,” he wrote, “ and this experience, too, he had to fight other battles, and with other I have made. I am glad that there cannot foes. The work of his life was to conquer be many such experiences remaining for me liberty of thought the one true lesson," to make.” His studies were now to him, to in the words of a modern historian, “ worth use his own expression, “ laudanum;" and learning from the Reformation," and the one with a weary heart he bore the burden of lesson Lessing had learnt from the history of the remaining three years of his existence. his country.
Yet to those three years we owe Nathan We had intended to make a few obser- and his Education of the Human Race. Such vations on Lessing's plays, whose poetical was the domestic life of this great manmerits M. Stahr appears to us much to over- one year of happiness, and all the other rate. It is known that he himself wished years full of hope deferred, and of other trithem excluded from representation on the als for his own family was a source of anynational stage he was working for; and it is thing but comfort to him. His public life evident that he wrote them, so to speak, more may be simply described as a struggle for from a sense of duty, as practical examples, bare existence. He began it as little better than from the instincts of creative genius. than a literary hack; and ended it as the It has been remarked that his own inclina- underpaid librarian of Duke Ferdinand of tions lay rather towards the epos than to the Brunswick. The Elector Palatine gener dramama tendency (barren except of one ously promised him an annual pension for small but perfect fruit), which, it may be re- which he received deroted thanks, but of membered, for a long time hampered Goethe's which his memory was never retentive enough productive power.
to cause the payment of a single louis d'or. The private life of Lessing, like that of Such was the situation of the theoretic re