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EVIL SPIRIT. From thee the glorified avert their view,
The pure forbear to offer thee a hand.
-Your what?-Angels and ministers of grace defend us!— • Your Drambottle.' Will Mr Taylor have us understand, then, that the noble German nation,' more especially the fairer half thereof, (for the Neighbour' is Nachbarin, Neighbouress,) goes to church with a decanter of brandy in its pocket? Or would he not rather, even forcibly, interpret Fläschken by vinaigrette, by volatile-salts?-The world has no notice that this passage is a borrowed one; but will, notwithstanding, as the more charitable theory, hope and believe so.
We have now done with Mr Taylor; and would fain, after all that has come and gone, part with him in good nature and good will. He has spoken freely, we have answered freely. Far as we differ from him in regard to German Literature, and to the much more important subjects here connected with it; deeply as we feel convinced that his convictions are wrong and dangerous, are but half true, and, if taken for the whole truth, wholly false and fatal, we have nowise blinded ourselves to his vigorous talent, to his varied learning, his sincerity, his manful independence and self-support. Neither is it for speaking out plainly that we blame him. A man's honest, earnest opinion is the most precious of all he possesses: let him communicate this, if he is to communicate any thing. There is, doubtless, a time to speak, and a time to keep silence; yet Fontenelle's celebrated aphorism, I might have my hand full of truth, and would open only my little finger, may be practised also to excess, and the little finger itself kept closed. That reserve, and knowing silence, long so universal among us, is less the fruit of active benevolence, of philosophic tolerance, than of indifference and weak conviction. Honest Scepticism, honest Atheism, is better than that withered lifeless Dilettantism and amateur Eclecticism, which merely toys with all opinions; or than that wicked Machiavelism, which in thought denying every thing, except that Power is Power, in words, for its own wise purposes, loudly believes every thing: of both which miserable habitudes the day, even in England, is wellnigh over. That Mr Taylor belongs not, and at no time belonged, to either of these classes, we account a true praise. Of his Historic Survey we have endeavoured to point out the faults and the merits: should he reach a second edition, which we hope, perhaps he may profit by some of our hints, and render
the work less unworthy of himself and of his subject. In its present state and shape, this English Temple of Fame can content no one. A huge, anomalous, heterogeneous mass, no section of it like another, oriel-window alternating with rabbit-hole, wrought capital on pillar of dried mud; heaped together out of marble, loose earth, rude boulder-stone; hastily roofed in with shinglessuch is the Temple of Fame; uninhabitable either for priest or statue, and which nothing but a continued suspension of the laws of gravity can keep from rushing ere long into a chaos of stone and dust. For the English worshipper, who in the meanwhile. has no other temple, we search out the least dangerous apartments; for the future builder, the materials that will be valuable.
And now, in washing our hands of this all-too sordid but not unnecessary task, one word on a more momentous object. Does not the existence of such a Book,-do not many other indications, traceable in France, in Germany, as well as here, betoken that a new era in the spiritual intercourse of Europe is approaching; that instead of isolated, mutually repulsive National Literatures, a World-Literature may one day be looked for? The better minds of all countries begin to understand each other, and, which follows naturally, to love each other, and help each other; by whom ultimately all countries in all their proceedings are governed.
Late in man's history, yet clearly at length, it becomes manifest to the dullest, that mind is stronger than matter, that mind is the creator and shaper of matter; that not brute Force, but only Persuasion and Faith is the king of this world. The true Poet, who is but the inspired Thinker, is still an Orpheus whose Lyre tames the savage beasts, and evokes the dead rocks to fashion themselves into palaces and stately inhabited cities. It has been said, and may be repeated, that Literature is fast becoming all in all to us; our Church, our Senate, our whole Social Constitution. The true Pope of Christendom is not that feeble old man in Rome; nor is its Autocrat the Napoleon, the Nicolas, with his half million even of obedient bayonets: such Autocrat is himself but a more cunningly-devised bayonet and military engine in the hands of a mightier than he. The true Autocrat and Pope is that man, the real or seeming Wisest of the past age; crowned after death; who finds his Hierarchy of gifted Authors, his Clergy of assiduous Journalists; whose Decretals, written not on parchment, but on the living souls of men, it were an inversion of the Laws of Nature to disobey. In these times of ours, all Intellect has fused itself into Literature: Literature, Printed
Thought, is the molten sea and wonder-bearing Chaos, into which mind after mind casts forth its opinion, its feeling, to be molten into the general mass, and to work there; Interest after Interest is engulfed in it, or embarked on it: higher, higher it rises round all the Edifices of Existence; they must all be molten into it, and anew bodied forth from it, or stand unconsumed among its fiery surges. Woe to him whose Edifice is not built of true Asbest, and on the everlasting Rock; but on the false sand, and of the drift-wood of Accident, and the paper and parchment of antiquated Habit! For the power, or powers, exist not on our Earth, that can say to that sea, roll back, or bid its proud waves be still.
What form so omnipotent an element will assume; how long it will welter to and fro as a wild Democracy, a wild Anarchy; what Constitution and Organization it will fashion for itself, and for what depends on it, in the depths of Time, is a subject for prophetic conjecture, wherein brightest hope is not unmingled with fearful apprehension and awe at the boundless unknown. The more cheering is this one thing which we do see and know -That its tendency is to a universal European Commonweal; that the wisest in all nations will communicate and co-operate; whereby Europe will again have its true Sacred College, and Council of Amphictyons; wars will become rarer, less inhuman, and, in the course of centuries, such delirious ferocity in nations, as in individuals it already is, may be proscribed, and become obsolete for ever.
ART. IX.-Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum, aliaque aevi decimi sexti monimenta rarissima.-Die Briefe der Finsterlinge an Magister Ortuinus von Deventer, nebst andern sehr seltenen Beytraegen zur Litteratur-Sitten-und Kirchengeschichte des Sechzehnter Jahrhunderts. Herausgegeben und erlaeutert durch DR ERNST MUENCH. 8vo. Leipzig: 1827.
W ITH the purest identity of origin, the Germans have shown always the weakest sentiment of nationality. Descended from the same ancestors, speaking a common language, unconquered by a foreign enemy, and once the subjects of a general government, they are the only people in Europe who have passively allowed their national unity to be broken down, and submitted, like cattle, to be parcelled and reparcelled into flocks, as suited the convenience of their shepherds. The same unpatriotic
apathy is betrayed in their literary as in their political existence. In other countries taste is perhaps too exclusively national; in Germany it is certainly too cosmopolite. Teutonic admiration seems, indeed, to be essentially centrifugal; and literary partialities have in the Empire inclined always in favour of the foreign. The Germans were long familiar with the literature of every other nation, before they thought of cultivating, or rather creating, a literature of their own; and when this was at last attempted, θαυματὸν τῶν ἀπόντων was still the principle that governed in the experiment. It was essayed, by a process of foreign infusion, to claborate the German tongue into a vehicle of pleasing communication; nor were they contented to reverse the operation, until the project had been stultified by its issue, and the purest and only all-sufficient of the modern languages degraded into a Babylonish jargon, without a parallel in the whole history of speech. A counterpart to this overweening admiration of the strange and distant, is the discreditable indifference manifested by the Germans to the noblest monuments of native genius. To their eternal disgrace, the works of Leibnitz were left to be collected by a Frenchman; while the care denied by his countrymen to the great representative of German universality, was lavished, with an eccentric affection, on the not more important speculations of Giordano Bruno, Spinoza, and Cudworth. But no neglect, even by their own confession, has weighed so long or so heavily against the Germans, as the want of a collective edition of the works of their great national patriot, Ulric von Hutten, and of a critical and explanatory edition of their great national satire, the Epistola Obscurorum Virorum. This reproach has, in part, been recently removed. Dr Muench has accomplished the one, and attempted the other; we wish we could say accomplished well, or attempted successfully. We speak at present only of the latter; and, as an essay towards (what is still wanting) an explanatory introduction, shall premise a rapid outline of the circumstances which occasioned this celebrated satire-a satire which, though European in its influence, has yet, as Herder justly observes,effected for Germany incomparably more than Hudibras for England, or Garagantua for France, or the Knight of La Mancha for Spain.' It gave the victory to Reuchlin over the Begging Friars, and to Luther over the Court of Rome.
The Italians excepted, no people took so active a part in the revival of ancient literature as the Germans; yet in no country did the champions of the new intelligence obtain less adventitious aid in their exertions, or encounter so formidable a resistance from the defenders of the ancient barbarism. Germany did not,
like Italy and France, allure the learned fugitives from Constantinople to transplant into her seminaries the language and literature of Greece; and though learning was not here deprived of all liberal encouragement, still the princes and nobles of the empire did not, as the great Italian families, emulate each other, in a munificent patronage of letters. But what in Germany principally contributed to impede the literary reformation, was the opposition which it met with in the great literary corporations themselves. In the other countries of Europe, especially in France and England, the first sparks of the rekindled light had been fostered in the universities; these were in fact the centres from whence the new illumination was diffused. In Germany, on the contrary, the academic walls contained the most resolute enemies of reform, and in the universities were found the last strongholds of an effete, but intolerant scholasticism. Some, indeed, of the restorers of polite letters, taught as salaried or extraordinary instructors (professores conducti) in the universities of Germany; but the influence which they exerted was personal, and the toleration they obtained precarious. Dependent always on the capricious patronage of the Prince, they were viewed as intruders by those bodies who constituted and governed these institutions. From them they encountered, not only discouragement, but oppression; and the biography of the first scholars who attempted, by public instruction, to disseminate a taste for classical literature in the great schools of Germany, exhibits little else than a melancholy series of wanderings and persecutions-abandoning one university only, in general, to be ejected from another.
The restoration of classical literature, (and classical literature involved literature in general,) was in Germany almost wholly accomplished by individual zeal, aided principally by one private institution. This institution was the conventual seminary of St Agnes, near Zwoll, in Westphalia, founded by the pious Thomas à Kempis; from whence, immediately or mediately, issued nearly the whole band of those illustrious scholars who, in defiance of every opposing circumstance, succeeded in rapidly elevating Germany to a higher European rank in letters, than (rebarbarized by polemical theology and religious wars) she was again able to reach for almost three centuries thereafter.
*No thanks, however, to the universities: they, of course, resisted the innovation. A king and a minister, Francis and Wolsey, determined the difference; but for them, Budaeus and Colet might have been persecuted like Buschius and Reuchlin.