Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

In a changed for inglorious coce made grieche

part, having nominated Wieland to the office. The confidence of fellow-citizens is peculiarly flattering, because it reposes on long familiarity; and, as the situation offered if not a liberal yet an honourable independence, Wieland accepted the place, and undertook its laborious duties. His return to Biberach, however, was not free from disappointment. Sophia, to whose hand he might now have aspired, was become the wife of M. Laroche, a secretary of Count Stadion : many years had not elapsed before he discovered that the necessary duties of his office made grievous inroads on his leisure; and the inglorious comforts of competency appeared ill exchanged for the precarious earnings of literary publicity. In a letter dated 1763, he compares Biberach with San Marino; describes the triviality of those legal records which formed his morning task, and of those quadrille parties which his patrons expected him to join in the afternoon; laments that he is as much without society as Milton's Adam among the beasts of paradise; and adds that his only tolerable hours are those which he can snatch from business and from company to devote to composition. In one respect, however, this situation was of moral use; having no one on whom he could lean, he gradually acquired an upright and self-supported character. Hitherto, with the suppleness of a cameleon, he had too much imitated the hues of his acquaintance, and had cultivated the arts of ingratiation with some sacrifice of the dignity of independence: but he now first became himself; and his native tinge was slowly perceived to be very different from that which he reflected, or assumed, while in the circle of his Swiss connections.

A translation of Shakspeare was at this period the employ· ment of Wieland's leisure; and, between the years 1762 and

1766, he published (in eight volumes) the twenty-two principal plays. He seems to have used Pope's edition, and often leaves out the feeble passages, there placed between dotted commas as supposed interpolations of the players. He received of the bookseller two dollars per sheet for the job, Eschenburg republished this version in 1775, with corrections, and added the fourteen omitted pieces.

At Warthausen, about three miles from Biberach, on an eminence which overlooks a valley 'stretching towards the Danube, stands a proud mansion belonging to the noble family of Stadion ; and hither the old Count Frederic, now a widower, who had been Austrian ambassador to the court of George the Second, but was retiring from the exertions of public life, came in his seventieth year, at the close of 1763, to reside. * With hin dwelt his former secretary Laroche, to APP. Rev. VOL. LXXXIII.

Kk

whom

[graphic]
[graphic]

and the kind affections were indulged within the limits of the beautiful and the good. — The married daughters of Count Stadion came occasionally to visit at Warthausen. At these times, the Muses redoubled their efforts to enliven the family-circle; poems of Wieland yet in manuscript were read aloud for their amusement; and the story of Diana and Endymion is noticed as one of the pieces so rehearsed. It contains passages to which English ladies would hesitate at listening: but probably the poet knew where to skip: or perhaps in southern countries the married women less affect severity; and, at a time when the court of France gave the tone to Europe, and received it from Madame de Pompadour, the novels of Crébillon and the metrical tales of Grecour were to be found on fashionable toilettes. Certainly a loose cast prevailed in the literature of the times, which Wieland could imitate in his Comic Tales without forfeiting the suffrage of the genteel world. The ladies at Warthausen not only fancied poetry, but were remarkably fond of fairy-tales, and gave occasion to those studies which excited the composition of Don Sylvio of Rosalva, a novel printed in 1764. The Ricciardello of Dumouriez, also, a French translation from the Italian of Fortiguerra, had pleased in Count Stadion's family, and probably suggested to Wieland his modern Amadis, which was not published until 1771. This burlesque epopea was successful, but has outlived its popularity: it appeared when the French writers had made a conquest of the taste of the German courts; and, by this accommodation of manner, Wieland gradually succeeded in regaining for Germany and the German language the patronage of its princes.

Laroche having a clerical friend named Brechter, for whom he wished to obtain some small piece of preferment, Wieland undertook to canvas in his behalf the corporation of Bibe rach, and obtained from the Mayor an appointment of his candidate. Some part of the corporation, however, soon became alarmed at the liberal or the heretical tone of Brecha ter's preaching or conversation, and made formal representa, ations to the Mayor, requiring that he should rescind the nomination. The strife became warm in the corporate body; some harsh and calumnious words were used; a sort of riot was threatened, to prevent Brechter from ascending the pulpit; and Wieland, in his official capacity, accompanied by the Mayor and peace-officers, led Brechter through the assembled congregation to the desk. This incident obliged Wieland to break with the orthodox party, with whom he had antherto kept terms, but who now made some attempt, through the courts of law at Vienna, to deprive him of his official situKk 2

ation.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ation. The question, however, was decided in his favour about the close of 1764. —This affair is remarkable as having supplied the real basis of a narrative included in the Abderites; where, under Greek names, and with a most dexterous substitution of incidents that were probable under Greek institutions, much personal satire is levelled against the corporation of Biberacb. Count Stadion took amiss some part of Wieland's conduct in these matters; - probably his courageous assertion of the independent rights of the corporation, over which the court of Vienna claimed some sovereignty; and Wieland says, in a letter dated 1766, Madame Laroche n'est plus ici : elle a suivi son mari et son maitre à Bonigheim, terre du Comte de Stadion : nous ne nous écrivons plus, parceque j'ai eu le malheur d'encourir la disgrace de son Excellence, en faisant mon devoir et rien de plus."

The year 1765 was allotted to the composition and completion of Agathon, the earliest work of Wieland to which he himself assigns a classical rank: it appeared in 1766. previous productions he considers as juvenile efforts, made while his mind was yet in the progress of education, and he had prejudices to lose as well as principles to acquire: but, in the Agathon, his philosophy alrcady appears systematized and mature; and his peculiar talent for psychological observation and mental anatomy is here advantageously displayed. In the intellectual progress of the hero, a secret history is given, under a Greek garb, of conflicts which had passed in the author's own soul.

In the autumn of 1765, Wieland married Miss Hillenbrandt, the daughter of a merchant at Augsburg; a lady more remarkable, it is said, for a pleasing person and for domestic virtues than for much accomplishment of mind. She looked up to her husband with a sort of worship, but is believed to, have been very little versed in his writings. Wieland being somewhat choleric, and often provoked by little things into bursts of angry eloquence, his wife bore these explosions of temper with such gentle patience that any bystander was filled with real admiration; even Wieland himself usually changed sides before he had done raving, and turned his own zeal into: ridicule :

- many

of his felicities of diction were thus struck out at a heat.

Idris and Zer.ide, a poem in the looser manner of Ariosto, occupied the author during the first months of his marriage: five cantos were printed, and five more were promised: but,, like the four Facardins of Count Hamilton, this fairy-tale remains a fragment. The earliest classical production of Wieland in verse, his Musarion, was undertaken next: it narrates a

philo

Wort Men. ivo.

[blocks in formation]

3

S are on th

philosophic conversation ; and, of all didactic poems, it has most dramatic vivacity and grace of diction. It appeared in 1768.

In a letter to Riedel, dated 1765, Wieland mentions that he had hired a garden out of Biberach, having a summer-house which commanded a fine rural prospect. “ Here,” adds he, “ I pass many afternoons with no other society than the Muses; and, when I rise for some minutes from my task, I snuff the odour of new-mown hay, or see the boys bathe, or watch the retters of flax. At a distance, I catch the churchyard in which the bones of my fathers and probably my own will one day repose together; or, in the rich confusion of the remoter landscape, I single out the new white castle of Horn, then sit down again, - and rime.”

The second volume shall be considered in our . next Appendix.

ART. VI. Biographie des Hommes Vivans, &c.; i.e. Biography

of living Characters; or a Series of Sketches, in alphabetical Order, of the Lives of such Men of the present Day as have been made remarkable by their Writings or their public Conduct : a Work entirely new, and composed by an Association of literary Men. Vols. I. and II., from the beginning of A to the end of E, 8vo. pp. 1104. Paris. 1817. "EVERAL years ago, we took occasion to notice with

approbation (M. R. Vol. Ixvi.) the first volume of a very extensive compilation intitled Biographie Universelle, the plan of which comprized biographical sketches of every age except

the present. The performance before us is intended to supply that deficiency, and proceeds from the same publishers ; who appear to have been successful in the former undertaking, the scale of which is now becoming so very large as to form, in all likelihood, forty closely printed octavos. The present work is of much smaller compass, and will probably be comprized in six volumes; the literary collaborateurs are, in a great measure, the same; and, as far as the political part is concerned, they do not scruple to borrow largely from the well-known Biographie Moderne, which we reported at considerable length in our lxxvth volume. The execution, where so many different persons are employed, is of course unequal, and it would be no difficult matter to point out a number of petty errors: but, comparing these volumes with the majority of others in the dictionary-form, we have no hesitation in giving them a respectable station, and in considering them as deserving a place on the shelves of those who have occasion to make freKk 3

quent

« ForrigeFortsæt »