BLTC Press Titles


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The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


Friedrich Schlegel and Goethe, 1790-1802

by John William Scholl

Excerpt:

1. Gottingen.

There are no contemporary records of Friedrich's life in Gottingen in 1790-1. He studied under Heyne, busied himself with philology and aesthetics, as well as jurisprudence, for which he came to the university. He was associated with August Wilhelm and a small group of friends.

According to his own later testimony, Plato, the tragedians and Winckelmann formed the atmosphere of his life about this time. His seventeenth year would be 1789, or the year preceding the Gottingen period.3 In this same year he saw the collection of antiquities in Dresden for the first time. Did this atmosphere continue at Gottingen? Certain testimony in later letters seems to involve an affirmative answer.

On January 1,1794, when collecting materials for his first Greek publications, he says that he has not yet "reread"

1 Goethe und Kant, Karl Vorlander, Q.-Jahrb., xix, pp. 180 fl.

2 Goethe's Nathlass, Bd. x, p. 54. "FSWke., Bd. vi, pp. ivff.

the works of Aristophanes and Euripides, nor yet completely worked through Aeschylus, etc.1 The first reading must have antedated the earliest letter to August Wilhelm, since we have in this correspondence a most complete record of Friedrich's intellectual interests, and no Greek reading is mentioned until about September, 1793, from which time forward it is a marked feature.

That this first reading was not thorough is proved by the immense difficulty which he has in 1793—4. It must also seem strange that an absorbing study carried on in spite of parental purposes to the contrary, should have sunk so completely into the background of his interests during his first two whole years at Leipzig, as will appear from an examination of his letters.

On February 10, 1794, he declares that it was his inclination to investigate art where it was indigenous, and that it was necessary to his very life to begin his career with the study of art. He adds: "Du erinnerst Dich einiger mitgeteilten Plane in Gottingen. Sie sind nicht vergessen, und enthielten den Keim meiner jetzigen Absicht."2 When we compare this statement with his contemporary work, we might assume that some embryonic Hellenic project had begun to stir in the mind of Friedrich at Gottingen. A more definite notion of what his present purpose is can be gained from a letter of December, 1793, where he names such essays as Uber die Moralitlit der Griechischen Tragiker, Uber die Nachahmung der Griechischen Dichter, Apologie des Aristophanes; also a translation of Orestes and the Eumenides of Aeschylus. The register then proceeds: "Bei dem was ich Dir in Hannover ankündigte, bleibt's." This refers certainly to the meeting of the brothers in the summer of 1793, when Caroline was on the way to her retreat at Lucha, and not to their short

1 WSBr., p. 158. Ubid., p. 165.

stay in Hannover before August Wilhelm's departure for Amsterdam in May, 1791. To what it refers is not known. It may have been a promise to concentrate his energies upon some self-supporting work of a literary nature. It is clear that this whole definite plan is recent and only the germ of it is referred to Gottingen.1

A complete characterization of Greek literature and life, especially of Greek poetry, seems to hover before Schlegel's eyes, such a characterization as he once proposed to August Wilhelm with respect to Roman literature, such a characterization of the Greeks as he once planned for himself concerning the Germans, or such as he tried to make of several individual great poets. However, if the germ of any such plan did exist as early as 1790 it was incapable of development and fell completely out of sight for two whole years of intellectual foraging in various fields. If not forgotten, it was so overwhelmed by other interests that it never came to expression in one of the most intimate correspondences ever conducted, even when poetic art and art criticism were his special themes.


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