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tion of others may for the present gratify the malignity or the pride of our hearts, cool reflection will draw very disadvantageous conclusions from such a disposition ; and in the case of scandal, as in that of robbery, the receiver is always thought as bad as the thief.'
These volumes abound in such passages, in which, be it observed, the style is as much entitled to admiration as the sense; and we could turn to page after page on which La Rochfoucauld would stop to meditate, or which La Bruyère would hail as an improvement on his own. But it requires knowledge and experience to appreciate them; and, on the whole, we quite agree with Lord Mahon, that it is only persons whose principles are fixed and understandings matured, who can derive the full benefit, without risk of evil, from the Letters on education. We recommend every parent who is bringing up a son for public life to study them ; but we differ from Dr Johnson as to the propriety of placing them in the hands of any young gentleman, even after taking out the immorality. A premature second-hand knowledge of mankind, with its common accompaniments of caution and self-seeking, would be a poor exchange for the frankness, openness, frolic spirits, and confiding generosity of youth. The remarks on women, thickly scattered, and pointedly expressed, are alone sufficient to do an infinity of harm to readers who are not prepared by personal experience to weigh the sweetness, devotedness, and high principle of one-half of the sex, against the weakness or littleness of the other; and it must not be forgotten for a moment, that, if we never glow with enthusiasm, and only arrive at virtue through expediency, the highest and most improving lesson we can ever teach is worldliness.
We regret that we have no space at present to criticize or make extracts from the Letters on general subjects; but it may be as well to state that, besides the new Letters printed by Lord Mahon, some additions to the Chesterfield correspondence already before the world, have been recently made by Dr Phillimore, in his Life of Lord Lyttelton.
Lord Chesterfield died on the 24th of March 1773, in the 79th year of his age, and was succeeded in his title and estates by a distant kinsman, Philip Stanhope, the father of the present Earl. The concluding period of his life was far from happy, though he was apparently surrounded with all that should accompany old age. The son of his affections was no more, and had disappointed him ; he derived no comfort from his wife; he had failed, according to his own notions, as a courtier; and his deafness had deprived him of his chief enjoyment in society. M. Suard, who saw him in 1769, says—Je viens d'être presenté au Comte de Chesterfield qui a été, comme vous savez, l'homme le plus
• aimable, le plus poli, le plus spirituel des trois royaumes; mais, hélas ! quantum mutatus ab illo ! Il est bien triste d'être
sourd, nous dit-il, quand on aurait beaucoup de plaisir à écouter. • Je ne suis pas aussisage que mon ami le President de Montes• quieu. Je sais être aveugle, m'a-t-il dit plusieurs fois, et moi • je ne sais pas encore être sourd.' He called his daily drive through the streets the rehearsal of his funeral, and used to say of Lord Tyrawley and himself: “ Tyrawley and I have
been dead these two years, but we don't choose to have it • known.'
The loss of sight was added to his other miseries ; but he retained his memory and his politeness to his latest breath. Only half an hour before he died, Mr Dayrolles came to see him, and the Earl had just strength enough to gasp out in a faint voice from his bed— Give Dayrolles à chair.' His good breeding,' exclaimed Dr Warren, the physician in attendance, only quits him with his life!'
Art. VI.-1. Lessingiana von Dr GOTTLIEB MOHNIKE. Leip
sig : 1844. 2. Lessing's Werke. 10 Bände. Leipsig : 1841. 3. The Literature of Germany, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, historically developed. By Franz THIMM. London : 1844.
THE he study of German Literature in England is comparatively
recent. At first only the worst specimens were imported; but they created a sensation,' (to use the stereotyped phrase,) and created also a rash, but not very unnatural contempt for the whole. This was succeeded by an extravagant admiration on the part of a few; and as these few were influential, the feeling at last extended to the public. German became the fashionable foreign language; its literature was almost universally welcomed as a valuable and fruitful importation. Translations became numerous; criticisms still more. In most sober minds this enthusiasm has now cooled down; in some it has ceased altogether; familiarity has ended the wonder. We confess it is not without satisfaction that we see this reaction. The good that is to be gained from the study of German literature we are very far from gainsaying ; but we are persuaded that this good is more than outweighed by the evils attending an indiscriminate admiration of that study. It is one thing to visit a country, another to make it a home. It is one thing to cultivate an acquaintance with a foreign literature, another to adopt it as a model. In the first case, we enlarge our views by obliterating prejudices; in the second, we narrow our minds to the prejudices of others; and thus lose our own nationality without attaining the strength of that we imitate. What Burke says of moral masquerades, applies equally to literary imitations :— Those who quit their proper characters to assume . what does not belong to them, are for the greater part ignorant
both of the character they leave and the character they assume.' Deplorably ignorant of the English character, and of the inexhaustible energy and wealth of English literature, must they be, who could suppose that either could gain by the adoption of any foreign standard, least of all a German. If, as scholars and archæologists, we may study the works of the worthy Teutones with advantage ; as thinkers, and as writers, we do so with peril. Their literature is of yesterday; and although its brief career has been prolific beyond example, it has not yet attained a tithe of the richness of our own, and will probably never attain its vigour.
The parent vice of German literature is want of distinct purpose; and as consequences of this, want of masculine character, and chastened style. It is this want of definite purpose-or call it want of culture--which generates their idle speculation, trivial research, spurious enthusiasm, and endless book-making ? Where is the German who can write an ordinary-sized book ? He knows not how the thing is to be accomplished ; sees no advantage in accomplishing it. He writes to be read; and is certain that German readers will find time for any quantity; nay, justly suspects they would despise a small quantity. What we fashion into an essay, he developes into a system. Collaterals are of equal importance with principals ; the verification of a citation as valuable as the resolution of a problem !* It is really a sad speetacle to contemplate the singular waste of learned industry daily exemplified in Germany. Menzel says that there are ten millions of volumes yearly printed in that country; and the number of living authors (in 1828,) he reckoned at fifty thousand. If we reflect on this prodigious activity, and ask what have been the results, we are amazed at the poverty of that literature, appa
* We had lately occasion to consult an edition of Aristotle's little treatise De Animá, by F. A. Trendelenburg. The treatise occupies 109 pages, a third of them devoted to variorum readings; the preface has 70 pages, and the commentary 450 !
rently so rich. Let any one run over a catalogue of German publications, and he will be struck with their universal tendency towards whatever is most remote from human interest,-indeed, from human comprehension. When Kant, their most practical philosopher, demonstrated that all human knowledge was necessarily limited to phænomena, the professors, in an uproar, declared, as they do to this day, that he had departed from the true aim of philosophy; which, they said, was the knowledge of the absolute. This naïve petitio principii exemplifies the tendency of the German mind; and it is curious to mark the triumph with which Hegel proclaims that all Europe has left to Germany the sole cultivation of metaphysics : We have the exalted vocation,' he says, of guarding the holy fire, as the Eumolpids were the sole guardians of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Athens.' *
We have said that a want of definite purpose is the cause of the emptiness of German literature. This is shown by the excellence the Germans exhibit in those departments of intellectual activity, wherein only distinct purpose and proper culture can bestow any success. As chemists, anatomists, physiologists, and astronomers, they are certainly on an equality with France and England: in belles lettres, political economy, and morals, they are as certainly behind. When, therefore, we see this prodigious activity and manifest inferiority, we cannot but attribute it to a want of proper culture ; and are reminded of Plato's admirable saying, that ignorance itself is not so great an evil as misdirected learning. †
Such, broadly stated, appear to us the radical defects of German literature. In Gottlob Ephraim Lessing, there is no trace of them. If he has one characteristic which separates him from his successors, it is that of distinct purpose; the prominent per culiarity of his works, as contrasted with those of his countrymen, is their direct and practical tendency. His mind is of a quality eminently British. Of all Germans, he is the least German; yet he created German literature, and is the idol of his country. He has the qualities Englishmen most admire, because the history of our nation shows that with such qualities we have achieved our greatness. His mind is both clear and strong, free from schwärmerei, (a word untranslatable, because the thing itself is un-English,) free from cant and affectation of all kinds.
* Hegel-Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Phil. i. p. 4.
* Ουδαμού γάρ δεινόν ουδέ σφοδρόν άπειρία των πάντων ουδε μέγιστον κακόν, αλλ' η πολυπειρία και πολυμαθία μετά κακής αγωγής γιγνεται TOMÚ TOUTW Mercw gmula. De Legibus, vii. p. 62, ed. Bekker.
He valued books, but he valued action more. Few men have been so erudite, no man held erudition more cheaply. Nothing in his writings betrays that he ever thought of pandering either to morbid sensibility or irrational enthusiasm. Of how many German authors can this be said ? If there be any German writer, communion with whom may be beneficial to Englishmen, that writer is Lessing ;—not simply because he is one of the greatest of Germans, but because his greatness is of that kind which Englishmen best appreciate. He belongs, moreover, to that class of authors whose value consists in what they suggest or inspire more than in what they teach. The influence such men exercise, is indirect, but effective; and, consequently, the admiration they inspire is not always borne out by their works. If, therefore, in the course of this article, we use language which may appear too laudatory to those acquainted only with some of Lessing's works, our justification is, that our admiration is founded on an estimate of the entire man; and that we look at his works with reference to the time at which they were produced, and to the spirit pervading them.
Gottlob Ephraim Lessing was born at Cammenz in Pomerania, on the 22d July 1729. His father, a learned and pious clergyman, was a great admirer of artists and literary men, and very anxious to assemble them round him. The education of young Lessing early received a literary tinge. His progress in the classics gave great promise of future excellence; in consequence of which, he was sent to the University of Leipsig to study theology. It there became evident that the impetuous roystering youth was ill fitted for the sober studies and the grave deportment of a theological student. He was oftener seen with players and demireps than with grave professors. Arm-in-arm with his friend Mylius, whose disordered dress was significant of his loose disreputable life, did Lessing recklessly parade the streets of Leipsig. He tells us that he arrived at Leipsig fully persuaded that books were the most important things in the world; but he soon found they were only a fraction, and a small fraction, of what he had to study. He went out into the world to study it. He there became aware of his rustic manners, and grew ashamed of his provincial awkwardness. He_learned fencing, riding, and dancing ; perfected himself in French; began Italian and English. In a few months he had changed from a rustic boy into an accomplished cavalier. How much of this was due to the actresses, who doated on him, we cannot say. He relinquished theology, and devoted himself to medicine; but growing tired of that also, he obeyed his natural calling, and took to literature and philosophy. 'His passion