BLTC Press Titles

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The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


by Staël (Anne-Louise-Germaine, Madame de)




Madame Dk Stael's Germany, which we agree with Sir James Mackintosh in regarding as the greatest production of feminine genius, constitutes, in our series of French Classics, the fourth and fifth volumes of her works. The reader must look in the first volume for Biography, Critical Estimates, Bibliographical Notice, etc.

"We have used the translation published by Murray, in 1814. We know not who was its author. It shows a singular combination of ability and carelessness. We have spent almost labor enough in its careful revision to have made a new translation, and, if we are not mistaken, the result is a better translation than could have been made by either party alone. Madame de Stael's style, in which there is expressed a constant admixture (thus to speak) of indefinite sentiment and definite thought, is difficult to translate well.

Madame de Stael's book abounds in quotations from the best German authors. The English translator took these all at second-hand, through the French. Except jn two or three instances, we have substituted translations made directly from the German. It is almost useless to remark what a shadow of a shadow must be an ode of Klopstock or a ballad of Goethe when distilled through a language wholly different from the German into English.

Our notes, drawn from too many sources to be indicated here, are equal to nearly half the matter of the text. Our principal object has been to give abundant and reliable information in regard to the period since Madame de Stael wrote.

Important Appendices have been added, which complete the survey of German Literature, Philosophy, and Theology.

We had intended to say something here in regard to the intellectual importance of Germany, but we find what we wished to say so much better expressed by Mr. Carlyle,—and who has a better title than he to speak of intellectual Germany ?—that we gladly adopt his language :

"There is the spectacle of a great people, closely related to us in blood, language, character, advancing through fifteen centuries of culture, with the eras and changes that have distinguished the like career in other nations. Nay, perhaps the intellectual history of the Germans is not without peculiar attraction on two grounds: first, that they are a separate unmixed people ; that in them one of the two grand stem-tribes, from which all modern European countries derive their population and speech, is seen growing up distinct, and in several particulars following its own course; secondly, that by accident and by desert, the Germans have more than once been found playing the highest part in European culture; at more than one era the grand Tendencies of Europe have first imbodied themselves into action in Germany; the main battle between the New and the Old has been fought and gained there. We mention only the Swiss Revolt and Luther's Reformation. The Germans hav,e not indeed so many classical works to exhibit as some other nations; a Shakspeare, a Dante, has not yet been recognized among them; nevertheless, they too have had their Teachers and inspired Singers; and in regard to popular Mythology, traditionary possessions, and spirit, what we may call the inarticulate Poetry of a nation, and what is the element of its spoken or written Poetry, they will be found superior to any other modern people.

"The Historic Surveyor of German Poetry will observe a remarkable nation struggling out of Paganism; fragments of that stern Superstition, saved from the general wreck, and still, amid the new order of things, carrying back our view, in faint reflexes, into the dim primeval time. By slow degrees the chaos of the Northern Immigrations settles into a new and fairer world ; arts advance; little by little a fund of Knowledge, of Power over Nature, is accumulated for man; feeble glimmerings, even of a higher knowledge, of a poetic, break forth ; till at length in the Swabian Era, as it is named, a blaze of true though simple Poetry bursts over Germany, more splendid, we might say, than the Troubadour Period of any other nation; for that famous Nibelungen Song, produced, at least ultimately fashioned in those times, and still so significant in these, is altogether without parallel elsewhere.

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