Page images

when they shall have the same education, the same laws, and shall all keep in view one common end. The first Christians, who were of one heart and one spirit in whatever part of the world they had rested, would have been of the same sentiments. Love would have been a sufficient bond of union. Love, like their's, needs not necessarily a chief head of union. A religious body without a single head may have its inconveniences; but those who have one sustain numerous unpleasantries also. A supreme head, if corrupt, rapidly spreads that corruption among the members; whilst the same vital effects do not follow when a bishop or inferior pastor fails, for then all do not fail with him."

That is pretty conclusive from one of the Romanist denomination, and it is now time for us, having thus proceeded to greater length than we intended, to close by investigating a few fresh points in the great progress of ages. Has Romanism during this progress propagated science? She suffered numerous valuable discoveries to perish, and simply tended those that suited her selfish ends. Has she raised man in the sphere of common manhood? Have her Lives of the Saints, the Roman Catholic exemplars, done as much good as even Plutarch's? It is with us matter of doubt. What has been her family influence? Cold, chilling, contracted. Setting aside the holiest ties, the dearest links of connections, lending herself to every selfish scheme of the ambitious parent; destroying the love also of the child to the parent, the parent to the child; fixing affections on her Roman petrefactions, totally abstracting kindly sentiments, and appropriating to herself, with a greedy clutch, the possessions of house after house, and kingdom after kingdom; until even the statute of mortmain was drawn across her giant incursions on property and possessions. On the manners she exercised no beneficial influence. She even attempted to contract Dante into her own dwarfish dimensions; but the Nazarite burst the cords of Rome, and recorded her damning offences in characters that will never die. Look, however, at the gloom and horror which she imposed on that master mind. As to the laws, she has always been rebellious to human rule; never giving to Cæsar the things that were Cæsar's; but grasping Cæsar's possessions, and his subjugated realms.


As to human liberty, her offences are so foul with inquisitions, torture, auto-da-fès, that they need but be glanced at. her Michael Angelos, her Raphaels, come to us, splendid as were their works, with the terrible sense of the moral evil by which even their labours on St. Peter's were maintained, by the souldamning indulgences of Tetzel. This is a fearful summary; and the evils of Protestantism can never, from its self-corrective principle, reach to this formidable accumulation. It is at least allied

to sound philosophy and pure reason, and with even these secondary guides, her steps might well be steadied from the fearful lapses of the sister community; but there is more than these, she bears within herself, "the lamp unto her feet, the light unto her paths." Every question now becomes submitted to the great principle of revealed truth. Even were her guides to fail, the people would not; but her guides cannot fail, for the power of their system works effectually within them.

A Church that derives its power from the divine oracles, and cousults them for its course and way, that seeks to obtain of them the great truth, will never want that aid and assistance that is promised to honest endeavour and manly purpose. But a Church that derives her power from other and questionable sources, that has bound herself up in an iron bond of infallibility, that quietly permits the acts of demons to be termed her acts, must be prepared to abide the fearful demands of an enlightened age, the inquisition of the sons of knowledge. If she be found wanting in the constituents of a true Church,-if she be found unequal to describe her own true power,-if she be detected assuming false elements of it, and making a totally wrong estimate of its extent,if she be arrested with a lie in her right hand, she must be prepared to meet the brunt of a shock that has been concentrating its force for many an age, and powerful indeed must she stand, if she can abide the issue, and not sink from the earth as Smyrna and Laodicea.



ART. X.-1. F. W. Reimer, Mittheilungen von und über Goethe, aus mündlichen und schriftlichen Quellen. (F. W. Reimer, Communications of and concerning Goethe, from oral and written Sources.) Berlin. 1840.

2. Johann Heinrich Merck, ein Denkmal herausgegeben von Dr. Adolf Stahr. (Memoir of J. H. Merck. By Dr. A. Stahr.) Oldenburg.



We have classed these two books together, as the intentions of their authors in publishing them were similar: Dr. Reimer, entering the lists highly indignant at the violent and often unjust accusations of the younger German writers against Goethe; Dr. Stahr, to rescue from oblivion the memory of a remarkable man, supposed to be the original from whom Goethe took many features of his Mephistopheles. think the latter has been more successful in his attempts, and it is not a little singular that a man like Merck, who exercised considerable influence over the illustrious men who shed such lustre upon the city of Weimar, should have remained unknown amidst such a book-writing people as the Germans. This ignorance is such, that we have sought his name in vain amongst the novelty-loving volumes of the numerous Conversations-Lexicons.

Another volume on Goethe, we think we hear some of our readers exclaim. Yes, gentle reader, and a goodly octavo of five hundred pages, marked moreover, Vol. I., and how many are to follow, deponent knoweth not. The author was intimately acquainted with Goethe, lived in his house for several years, and was consulted by the poet in the composition or publication of most of his works during this long period. When we add that he bears the character of an honest and truth-loving man, we have said quite sufficient to account for the interest with which we opened the work. It is with reluctance that we feel ourselves compelled to state, that it has hardly equalled our expectations. Goethe was a great man as well as a distinguished poet, and the best proof of this is, the magical influence which he exercised upon all who came within his sphere. To this many of the most eminent men of Germany will willingly bear witness. Among the most enthusiastic of his admirers is Dr. Eckerman, whose interesting conversations with Goethe need no recommendation from us, as they are doubtless in the hands of all German scholars.

The work before us is of a different nature. Dr. Riemer, instead of giving us his own reminiscences of Goethe (which however we hope he will do on a future occasion), has unfortunately adopted a polemical tone of no ordinary severity. We say unfortunately, not that we would blame him for the feelings which he entertains on this subject; on the

contrary, they are highly honourable to him; but it was incumbent upon him to maintain the position which he had taken up by other arguments than by quotations from Goethe's works, for it is in these that its chief merit consists, and the student who is not deeply read in some of the less known works of the poet, will find in the volume before us an interesting collection of table talk.

That there has been a growing spirit of opposition to Goethe, which has not hesitated to attack his character in a manner which must give pain to every well-wisher to the Germans, we are compelled to admit. Yet we think it would have been wiser in Dr. Riemer not to have taken up the cudgels on behalf of his friend and patron, but to have left it to time and the influence of his own best defence, his works. For the manner in which he has conducted his cause will convince no one, and excite still more violently the passions of party spirit. As we do not recollect to have seen this reaction against Goethe taken notice of by our critics, we shall say a few words upon the subject.

We believe that the higher and more philosophical writers among the Germans still look upon Goethe with the veneration which during his lifetime he universally commanded. The Berlin Academy held a special sitting this year in honour of the poet's birth-day, a fact which may deserve mention, should Dr. Riemer's ominous chapter on the faults of his countrymen reach a second edition. But the periodical literature is mostly in the hands of younger men, with the exception of Wolfgang Menzel, whose antipathy to Goethe almost equals in violence his patriotic hatred of the French. The light and frivolous tone in which many of these spurned the dead lion, was well calculated to excite the indignation of Dr. Riemer, and he prefixed to his volume the following words from Bidpai, "For it is said, that he who withholdeth a testimony for the dead, shall be scourged with scourges of fire at the day of the resurrection." We turned eagerly to the chapter on Patriotism, (Deutschheit), and regretted not to find it more satisfactory, for this we suspect to be the chief reason for the violent opposition, the insulting remarks heaped upon Goethe's memory, that, living at a period during which the French Revolution and Buonaparte's usurpation reduced Germany to the lowest depth of degradation, he has no where exhibited a feeling such as was to be expected from a leader among the people. True, he was a poet and not a man of action, but Dr. Riemer has not given us any proof of Goethe's feelings on this subject, even in private conversation. If he be in possession of any such, we would respectfully submit that it is his imperative duty to make them public. For although it cannot be doubted that an event which changed the condition of the continent must have deeply affected a mind like Goethe's, yet with the exception of a few secondary works, it does not seem to have produced such an impression as might have been expected. Fichte was a man of science, and the courage with which he delivered his "Speeches to the German Nation," at a time when his voice was drowned by the noise of French drums in the streets of Berlin, will render his name immortal, when little or nothing of his philosophical system will be remembered. Since the battle of Waterloo, the German

mind has taken a more practical direction, and the literature of the day, although trammelled by the fetters of the censorship, becomes more and more mixed up with politics. It is not therefore surprising that the restless longing spirit, the political complexion of the younger writers, should feel discontented with the plastic repose that pervades the works of Goethe. As party spirit is seldom just, so we find a host of scribblers, and some writers of note too, denying him the place to which he is unquestionably entitled. But we doubt not that in time the fierce attacks will subside, and that when he shall have been longer numbered with the dead, the clouds of party vision will disperse, and he will again enjoy the undivided admiration of his countrymen. It is no small proof of a noble character that in his voluminous works and the numerous collections of letters to and from him, nothing mean or ungenerous, nothing positive, has been advanced against him. The charges are merely negative; his antagonists and deprecators can only assert that he did not express such sentiments as might have been expected. hear not a word of a want of patriotism proved against him.


Man can only work in the sphere allotted to him, and the more clearly defined that sphere is, the less right we have to require that he shall be equally great in those regions which his tutelary genius warns him not to enter. Goethe has over and over again told us, and we believe it was a peculiarity which he inherited from his mother, that it was his custom to put aside whatever was disagreeable or intolerable to him, and we think this remark more serviceable to him than the vague observations by which Dr. Riemer excuses his silence by alleging his delicate position as a minister, &c.

One of the most successful chapters of the work is that relating to Bettina von Arnim, the celebrated heroine of Goethe's Correspondence with a Child. This lady had encouraged and doubtless entertained the belief that many of Goethe's sonnets, and of the most interesting compositions of his later years, were inspired by her letters; and we well recollect the astonishment which we felt, that a young lady should thus step in between Goethe and his high renown. Dr. Riemer somewhat rudely destroys the halo which had surrounded the Child.

"Another work" (in the preceding chapter he had cautioned the reader against considering Falk's little volume as authentic) “has, in the eyes of the ignorant, injured him whom it was intended to exalt, inasmuch as it not only exposed him to ungrounded reproaches of coldness and hardness of heart, but threatened to diminish or destroy his claim to genius, the originality of the finest compositions of his later years, the Sonnets and the Divan. This was Goethe's Correspondence with a Child..

"When Goethe published his autobiography, under the title of Fiction and Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit), he meant to say, it was the veil of fiction in the hand of truth. Truth was the body, fiction the dress, the frame that inclosed a real picture. In the correspondence, fiction is the principal subject, round which the authoress has occasionally hung a frame. The whole is in one word a romance which borrows from reality time, place, and circumstances; but the heroine is in imaginary, more in fantastic than real, love with Goethe; sometimes scolds and quizzes him, sometimes plays at love with him, and feigns nocturnal visits, promenades and cloak-scenes with him. ... He

« EelmineJätka »