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out of ten, after having read a poem or play, have scarcely any notion whether the general design has been well conducted or not. Most readers go forward blindly, and have not sufficient comprehension of mind to perceive the relation of one scene or incident to another. They must therefore be furnished with temporary excitements for the faculties, as they proceed. Every person has seen a boy using the same stratagem to make a goose or other wild animal follow him. He takes a handful of pease, we shall suppose, and drops them one by one to the greedy bird, which is thus led on, step after step, to the place to which he means to conduct it. But the continued fulness of ideas, in a book, is a very different thing from the vile affection of saying fine things at every turn, which is the mere restlessness of pretension, and not a proof either of fecundity or of compilatory judgment.
LETTERS OK TIIK rUK.SF.NT STATE
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Your letter has indeed astonished me. The questions you ask, and the language of such English newspapers as I have lately met with, convince me that, amused and occupied with domestic trifles, the nation remains in a state of utter ignorance concerning many things that should at present rivet the attention of all European politicians. The Whigs and the Tories are, I doubt not, alike to blame. The former know nothing about the thoughts, feelings, sufferings, and intentions, of the Germans; and the latter are afraid to promote any discussion about these things, from a mistaken view of their own interests,—from fears that have, I am persuaded, their foundation in any thing but the truth. One small party among you say, that they hope Germany is on the eve of a revolution, and insinuate that England is, or ought to be, in a similar condition. The adherents of the ministry suffer themselves to be too much wrought upon by the foolish babbling of these
the most insignificant of their opponents, and almost persuade themselves, that those Germans who are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in their country, resemble the vulgar, illiterate, and despicable crew who are the present advocates of reform in England. If ever Britain needs a reform, I hope in God she will not listen to the advice of such men as recommend it to her now. But it argues the most deplorable ignorance on the part of any Englishman to suppose, that the discontented party in Germany bears any resemblance to that nest of croakers with which London is infested. We once needed a revolution, and we had it: it was brought about by such men as Hampden, Sidney, Fairfax, and Milton. Germany needs a revolution now; and she is likely to obtain the accomplishment of her wishes by means of men who are not unworthy of being named with those illustrious Englishmen,—or who at least would scorn to be considered as having any sympathy, either of opinions or of wishes, with your paltry rabble of Hunts, Homes, and Waithmans. England is fallen indeed, if she, whose ministers are subject to the inspection of an enlightened senate, and who possesses, in all her provinces, abundance of honourable, high-minded, and patriotic gentlemen,—is to be schooled into political wisdom by the noisy ravings of ambitious and designing shopkeepers. With what contempt would those lofty, devout, and heroic spirits, that opposed the cause of Charles, look down upon the venomous and unprincipled plebeians who presume to call themselves their successors. With what disgust would one of them contemplate the impure and senseless orgies of the Common Council room or of Moorficlds. Be satisfied, that Germany does not covet or dread any such outrageous and abominablc manifestations of democracy. It is indeed well that it should be so; for ours is the only country in the world wherein they can be both despised and tolerated.
However we may differ in opinion about its causes, or whatever may be our hopes or our fears with respect to its probable effects, the existence of a great ferment in the national mind of the Germans, is, at this moment, a fact which none will be inclined to call in question, who either have lately visited their country, or are familiar with the present complexion of their popular literature, I have travelled upon the Rhine, the Elbe, and the Danube,—I hare conversed with the subject of empire, republic, and principality,— with Austrian nobles, Hamburgh merchants, and Saxon professors,—and I have had no difficulty in perceiving, that, by every German capable of thinking upon political events, the present situation of his country is viewed as one into which all the elements of future agitation are abundantly infused. To one who is accustomed to the calm and unexpecting demeanour of Englishmen, it appears quite evident that some great commotion is at hand. The symptoms of the future crisis are not indeed violent and convulsive: that would ill accord with the habits and constitution of those in whose persons they are manifested. We see no madmen dancing with red caps,—we hear no Marseilles hymns chanted in the public gardens,—we read of no princes insulted, nor chateaux pillaged;—but he is blind who cannot discover hints to the full as unequivocal as these of some approaching struggle; and they who are acquainted with the character of the Germans (whether that acquaintance has been gained from themselves or from their books), will readily acknowledge, that with them the " note "t preparation" is not the less ominous because it is low.
No one who knows any thing of the present state of Germany,—who is aware, that in that country, ruled as it almost every where is by a set of arbitrary despots, there prevails, upon every subject but one, the utmost possible liberty of thought and writing, —no one who is acquainted with the simple fact, that (if we except politics) the Germans are in truth very much the same sort of people with the English,—that their ancestry is the same, —that their ancient institutions, their religious habits, and, above all, the tone and complexion of their literature, bear the strongest resemblance to ours,—that their favourite authors are, in truth, the intellectual children of our own ;—no one who knows this, can be surprised with the general fact, that the Germans are at present a discontented people. Were it otherwise,
there might indeed be great reason for wonder ;—the same that there was of old, when the traveller contemplated the strange spectacle of Greeks, who had Homer and Demosthenes in their hands, submitting, without resistance, to the oppressions of a Roman praetor; or who saw, somewhat later, the Romans themselves, nourished as they were in their youth by the noble enthusiasm of their Sallust and their Tacitus, bowed down, with scarcely one self-reproaching murmur, beneath the deadening tyranny of their military Cssars:—the same, or very nearly the same, reason for wonder, which perhaps at some distant, some very distant day, the inhabitant of some free and happy land beyond the Atlantic may feel, should he come to survey England out of a love for departed glory, and find them slaves that speak the language of Milton.
The triumph of human intellect over the sway of despotism was never made more manifest than it has been within the last fifty years among the Germans. Their princes bound them all over within the small links of a pervading and lethargic chain: they left only one opening free, and that has been sufficient. They burdened them with imposts, privileges, and oppressions—but they permitted them to read and to write; and although over literature too they have successfully attempted to establish some control, that which they left free has been enough to work the future enlargement of all that ever watt enslaved. They permitted their people to rear up a national poetry— to embalm, in imperishable materials, the faded recollections of ancient glory and independence. After Locke and Milton had been naturalized, and Millar and Schiller had arisen, the progress of the public mind was a thing no longer within the control of external power. The giant of literature had touched the soil, and, like Antaeus, he was irresistible.
Frederick the Great employed all the weapons of contemptuous ridicule against the rising literature of his country, with a zeal and a perseverance which might almost induce one to suspect that he had foreseen the nature of its future progress, and anticipated, among some other of its consequences, the present perplexities of his successor. It was reserved for after years to discover, that he might D
perhaps have acted wisely, both for his own Fame and for the safety of his children, had he been less munificent in his patronage of French encydopaediasts, and devoted the pensions he squandered on Maupertuis and Diderot, to sustain the neglected manhood of Klopstock, or the rising genius of Wieland and Goethe. The nobles of Germany may live to rue the day that they ever insulted their country by banishing her language. In the days of Frederick, German literature wanted patronage, and in vain expected it from his hands. It has since grown and thriven without any royal assistance, and is likely to repay, with terrible vengeance, upon the monarchs of the present age, the injury it received from the hostility or coldness of those of the last. Whatever faults may be found with the great authors of Germany, since the days of Klopstock they have been uniformly free of that indifference of external events, which gave an air so tame and energetic to all the works of their predecessors. No literature ever made such rapid strides to perfection as that of Germany has done within the last fifty years: it is equally certain, that no literature of any country,—even of Greece, Spain, or England,—was ever more thoroughly imbued and animated with the spirit of nationality.
How far this national literature, even if left entirely to itself, might have in time succeeded in breaking the bonds of Germany—this is a question to which, but for some late events, it might have been in the power of our children to supply an answer. But the French Revolution produced a convulsive effect over the whole of cultivated Europe, and imparted a more than natural velocity of action to the awakening national spirit of the Germans. The horrible enormities of those bloody demagogues into whose hands the work of the Revolution fell, gave rise, indeed, to no inconsiderable reaction. The calm and rational Germans were disgusted with the prospect of procuring even good to themselves at such a price; and with cordiality assisted their feeble and trembling sovereigns in their endeavours to suppress the progress of the treacherous contagion. By degrees, however, there is no doubt that the seed of liberal sentiment, even although it had been scattered by the way side, and
obstructed by thorns and brambles, did spring up, and the crop, if not abundant, was at least a crop. Year after year the grain shed itself around, and the harvest grew. The Germans opposed indeed the tyrannies of Bonaparte, but they began to know and feel that foreign oppression' (however necessary it might be to throw these off first), were not the only oppressions; and it became the universal belief throughout the country, that as soon as no danger should remain from abroad, there was much to be seen to at home. The excess of cruelty to which they were subjected during the ten years which elapsed after the French despotism was established over their country, filled them with an enthusiasm for liberty, far more settled, and far more universal, than that which had been kindled within their breasts by the distant spectacle of the infant Revolution. Long familiarity had rendered them less sensible to the inflictions of their native princes, but the tyranny of Napoleon shewed itself in new forms of outrage, and roused unmingled aversion. They were well prepared for an eruption long before the actual moment of opportunity arrived. They had full leisure to speculate upon the true nature of those causes, which had subjected a people so numerous, and naturally so powerful, as they knew themselves to be, to insults thus atrocious and intolerable. The petty tricks, ambitions, and jealousies, of their sovereigns; the disunion of their great country; the absurd privileges of the nobility ;—all these things appeared to them in quite a new point of view. Necessity was once more the mother of wisdom; every strong place in the midst of Germany was in the hands of the French, and most of the petty princes were, by every tie of inclination and intent, their allies; but one sentiment had become diffused in unextinguishable zeal throughout all the population of that part of Germany, which has long given its form and pressure to the general intellect of the nation. The conduct of Napoleon shewed that he perceived the danger long before the explosion took place; but he was far too proud and confident to adopt any of those measures by which alone it must have been prevented. To no prince who everabused the kindness of his early destiny,
"A ftn '*iKtu*eL /tn2i rupQtpirr*,
The humiliation of Prussia has been the most profound; her prince had been degraded into a mere cipher; her cities unremittingly spoiled by a succession of brutal generals; and every sentiment, national as well as manly, which could pave the way to vengeance, had been rivetted in the heart of every subject, by Napoleon's unworthy treatment of the queen. It was fitting that in Prussia also the first manifestation of these feelings should break forth. When, after an unequalled series of calamities, defeats, and degradations, it at last became visible to the people of Germany, that their governments might yet, by one bold and simultaneous struggle, accomplish that which, in spite of them, had been so well begun, an appeal was made, first tacitly and then openly, to the King of Prussia, which, to Jus eternal shame be it spoken, he did not hear with that promptness and decision of purpose, which suited alike his own interest and the inclination of his people. It is well known that his person was in danger at Berlin, before he yielded to the popular voice and put himself at the head of the army of Silesia. By the influence of the memorable society of virtue (the Tugend-bund), and now by the artful, though energetic, proclamations of Frederick-William, a sentiment of enthusiasm, equal to that which fires the bosoms of religious martyrs, was kindled in the breast of noble, merchant, and peasant. The old barriers of custom, precedence, and dignity, fell away, like gossamer webs, before the strong breath of necessity. Armies were to be made, and the sovereign had it no longer in his power to criticise in his war-office, the quartcrings of those who were willing to assume his uniform. A time was come in which barons, burghers, and Jews, became aware that, as their cause was the same, their exertions should be equal What Frederick-William did, at the opening of the campaign, the sovereigns of Baden, Wurtemberg, and Bavaria, were compelled by their sol
diers to do before its close. The spirit which had been conjured up was one too powerful to be controlled by those who had evoked it. The course of events proceeded. The spectacle which Germany exhibited in the year 1813, has never been equalled since the days of Marathon and Salamis. It was not suspected by the sovereigns of the country, that the future results of the enthusiasm should bear so near a resemblance to that of those first struggles of Athenian patriotism. They who presided at the great national conflicts of Lutzen, Leipsic, and Hanau, will learn ere long, that on those terrible days the Germans fought for themselves as well as for their princes. Among the motley multitude who crowded in those animating days to the standards of their country, the most remarkable and grotesque, and certainly not the least efficient, consisted of the students of the German universities. For the first time in modern ages, professors became the military leaders of their pupils, and Korner and Wolfe performed the same part among the Landwehr, which Mschylus did at Salamis, and Socrates at Plataea. Who can wonder to hear that the survivors did not return to their academic bowers the same beings as they left them? Their souls had been moved in the strong current of the world. To the spirit of enthusiasm wherewith they had of old been imbued, there was now added the sense of power, and the commanding energy of will. They have learned what they can do themselves. They have acquired the still more important knowledge, that they are not an isolated set of beings, cut off from men, and devoted to books—that they are in truth the same people with those around them; that their interests, their wishes, their passions, and their powers, are the same. In the retirement to which they have returned, they can no longer muster by beat of drum, and mingle in the tumults of the real battle; but they who have seen the warlike aspect of their persons and amusements, their beards, their sabres, and their fencing-schools, will have no difficulty in perceiving that these men do not look upon themselves as for ever done with war. He will observe in them the determination to wait till the moment come, and then, rising as before with one irresistible impulse, to drive every thing before them that opposes right. From the intercourse of those campaigns, the hussar derived illumination, and the scholar firmness. The chief defect of German minds was supplied by the fortuitous reunion of those too long separated powers—reflection and ardour. The late tumults of rejoicing patriotism, with which the day of the reformation was celebrated at Jena, at Leipsic, and at Berlin, is proof sufficient of a secret understanding, and a good omen of what may yet be done, when the day, not for words, but for action, shall arrive.
Of all the oppressions by which the spirit of the enlightened and manly Germans are irritated, the most galling and insufferable is that occasioned by the preposterous privileges of the nobility. A class such as this—numerous without limit, idle, and excluded from most of the useful professions—to a liberal and generous nation, even the lower orders of whose society are distinguished by very excellent education and by universal habits of reading, is a nuisance beyond imagination intolerable, insulting, and absurd. The financial distresses of Austria have produced at least one happy effect, by rendering it absolutely necessary for the imperial government to redeem the profession of the merchant from that disgraceful situation, in which, throughout the other monarchies of Germany, it is placed. In Bavaria and Saxony also, some approximations have of late been made to the introduction of a more liberal state of affairs,—in consequence, I suppose, in the former of these countries, of the great acuteness and penetration of the reigning monarch; and in the latter, of the flourishing condition of the trade of Saxony, and the secret wishes of the nobles themselves to participate, without degradation, in the profits which it affords. Count Buhl, the descendant of the celebrated prime minister of the last Polish Augustus, is at this moment understood (although his name is suppressed in every firm) to be one of the first merchants in the wool trade ; by which wise measure he has, in a great degree, restored the dilapidated wealth of his illustrious family; and it is expected, that in a few years the Saxon gentlemen will be legally permitted to engage in trade, without forfeiting any of the lustre of their birth. In Prussia, the privileges of the nobility have at all times
been more distressing than in any other of the great German States; their freedom from all imposts amounting to a terrible piece of oppression on all the other orders of society. FrederickWilliam was obliged to throw his army open to every one in the year 1813, and he promised at that time, that neither the military, nor any other of the offensive parts of their privileges, should ever be restored. It is distressing to relate, that a virtual recall of all these promises has since taken place; for an edict has been uttered, preventing the rise of any man, not nobly born, to any rank higher than that of a sublieutenant. But the most disagreeable narrative to British ears is that which details the situation of Hanover. So far from the state of the nobility being altered in conformity to the spirit of the age, whatever alterations have occurred in that country have all tended exactly the other way. Till the present reign, one place in the supreme council was always open to all Hanoverian subjects; in the days of George III. it, like all the other six, has been declared to belong exclusively to the noblesse. Hanover is a small, and by no means a rich country, but its inhabitants are among the best educated and most moral people in the world; and as the soil is in every part excellent, the greatest possible facility is by nature afforded to every sort of agricultural and political improvement. But so long as the whole gentry of the country are prevented from occupying themselves, without degradation, in commerce; so long as the predilections of the reigning family render necessary the maintenance of the present enormously disproportionate military force, a complete stop is put to every rational prospect of good. I am unwilling to say much upon this subject, for I gladly acquit our Royal Family of having any seriously bad intentions. But surely their residence in our free and happy country might have been expected to produce impressions on their minds, sufficient to prevent them from pursuing a system of conduct which renders their native province, at this moment, the worst cultivated, and, without any exception, the most nobleridden district of Northern Germany. Compare Hanover with Weimar, Gotha, or even with the kingdom of Saxony, and it is impossible not to lament over the .miserable contrast.