Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

works, "Begriindung der Ethik durch die Physik, "Vorlesungen iiber religiose Philosophic," are written with a poetic mind and a philosophic sagacity. Joh. Fried. HeeRaet (1776) professor at Konigsberg, became, through the instrumentality and influence of Fichte, the founder of a peculiar scheme, in opposition to existing philosophical systems, by which he naturally became involved in polemical disputes. By him we possess "Allgemeine Metaphysik" and "Nachgelassene Schriften," the latter of which gives a life and an outline of his philosophical career and character. Kael Wilh. F. Solgee (1780-1819) had a very great influence, particularly with respect to the aesthetical development of the Beautiful; his works, "Erwin, Gesprache iiber das Schone und die Kunst," " Vorlesungen iiber JEsthetik," we quote in proof of it. Solger was "Naturphilosoph," but not an immediate imitator of Schelling, yet endowed with many sterling and curious views. He exercised a great influence over the romantic school, particularly over Tieck, whom, in fact, he introduced to philosophy. His friendly, critical intercourse with Raumer, Tieck, and other distinguished writers, has been published under the title of " Solger's Briefwechsel," and is a very entertaining and beautiful book. Besides the foregoing, may yet be mentioned the son of Fichte, who has distinguished himself in many ways, particularly by his "Beitrage zur Characteristik der Philosophie"; Heinrich Rittee, who has written one of the most sterling histories of ancient and modern philosophy extant, and J. C. F. Holderlin (1770), the friend of Hegel, a poetic and philosophic mind, but early wrecked by madness: "Hyperion," his most celebrated work, is a specimen of the remarkable acumen of this unfortunate man.

JOHANN CASPEE LAVATER* (1741-1801) Was born on the 15th of November 1741, at Zurich. He

was a deacon in the same city, and died by the hand of a

French assassin, on the 2nd of January 1801.

Lavater was a man of a pious and reflective turn of mind, and his intentions were always good and unexceptionable. He was a prominent character in his own day, though not unfrequently subjected to much ridicule and contempt, by reason of the mysticism that prevailed in his works, and of his physiognomical discoveries, which he gave to the world in two treatises, respectively entitled "Von der Physiognomik" and "Physiognomische Fragmente."

His " Schweizerlieder" would warrant us in receiving him as a poet: among them are some excellent compositions, although it is in sacred pieces that Lavater is the most successful. His " Jesus Messias" is a kind of pendant (if we may be allowed the expression) to Klopstock's "Messias." The religious enthusiasm, however, discoverable in his didactic and preceptive prose, often assumes the tone of fanaticism;— a circumstance that was greatly admired by some of his contemporaries, and severely censured by others.

GEORG CHRISTOPH LICHTENBERG (1742-1799) Was born at Ober-Ramstadt, in the vicinity of the town of Darmstadt, on the 1st of July 1742. He enjoyed, at Gottingen, the twin titles of court-counsellor and professor of philosophy. He expired on the 24th of February 1799. Lichtenrerg was endowed with a most original mind, in which a manly and scientific tone of thought was interwoven with a sense of whatever is poetically beautiful and true. In addition to this, he was gifted with a rich vein of

* Hegner, U. Beitrage zur näheren Kenntniss und wahren Darstellung Lavaters. 1835.

humour and satire, of which he gave the world a notable specimen in his work entitled, " Erklarung der Hogartschen Kupferstiche." It is admitted on all hands, that the great English national-artist has never been better understood by any one of his expositors. Lichtenberg's descriptions and details are racy and delightful, on account of the exquisite drollery and caprice, with which he has illustrated the whimsical moods and eccentricities of Hogarth; nay, Lichtenberg's commentary is generally considered even more witty than the pictures themselves. Nevertheless, we are prepared to contend, that there is quite a world in Hogarth. Lichtenberg's "Vermischte Schriften" will be found to embrace a collection of the most witty, satirical, and humorous pieces, that have ever proceeded from his clever pen. His " Briefe aus England " are charged with some peculiarly interesting and valuable matter, including, amongst other topics, an elaborate criticism upon the powers and style of that great English actor David Garrick. Lichtenberg gives a most perfect outline of the histrionic genius and individual grandeur of this "star" of former days. He notes down, and with a very clever hand, the conceptions acquired by his nice observation and sagacity, and he offers a most welcome and important contribution to those channels, to which we have been accustomed to look for whatever might aid enquiry as to Garrick's dramatic character.

But Lichtenberg has also greatly influenced the progress of the cultivation of the national mind, by saving the German nation, by his satires, from the servility and oppression of the soi-disant aristocrats. With a sharp vein he appeared against Lavater and his unscientific "Physionomik," whilst he answered the rude attacks of Zimmermann in a masterly caustic style. Our language produced, at one and the same time, masterpieces in all manner of styles; such as Herder's " Ideen," Goethe's " Werther," Lessing's "eilf Antigotze," and Lichtenberg's pole

84 ZIMMERMANN.

mical satires against Lavater's mannerism and Zimmermann's person. The last-named productions, namely, Lessing contra Goetze, and Lichtenberg's satirical letters, are the most violent specimens, but exempt from vulgar insult, of rhetorical and bitter invective against particular persons. These two genres, and this cutting phraseology, which were respectively used by Lichtenberg and Lessing, are both of a distinguished character, and of finished excellence in their way.

JOHANN GEORG EITTER VON ZIMMERMANN

(1728-1795)

Born on the 8th of December 1728, at Brugg, in Switzerland.

He became counsellor of the board of court physicians at

Hanover, and died on the 7th of October 1795.

We are indebted to Zimmermann for a popular philosophical work, bearing the title of " Ueber die Einsamkeit," a book of such great note in its time, as to have passed into various languages and editions. Perspicuity and unstudied elegance characterize his treatise," Ueber den Nationalstolz.

Zimmermann's private character is certainly a very detestable one; he was a mean flatterer, greedy after decorations. Schlosser, in the third volume of his "Geschichte des 18ten Jahrhunderts," has given a masterly characteristic estimate of the period when Zimmermann and Lavater were looked upon as the Coryphaei of German literature. DIE STURM UND DRANGPERIODE.

This period, so styled by Goethe, after the title of one of the dramas of Klinger, " Sturm und Drang," may be characterized as follows:

In the latter half of the eighteenth century there existed in Germany not even the remotest shadow of political freedom; there was no indication whatever, either of the public voice being heard, or of the open transaction of state business; whilst the liberty of the press, in its most limited meaning, was also altogether unknown. There were certainly amongst the petty princes of Germany, some that were favourable to onward progress, and a few of the better and bolder ministers wished for that publicity which they could not effect. Political papers there were scarcely any; those in the field did not appear to be established for the purpose of speaking freely and openly, but to gossip about and to flatter the royal courts; moreover these newspapers were kept under the strictest public censorship; they had no flesh and blood, but were miserable and disgusting skeletons. The political constitution of Germany was, at that unhappy era, under the pressure of feudal potentates; it dared scarcely breathe, and how could free speech be heard? how was it possible to speak the plain truth, when these princes were absolute sovereigns even in every town; while, in every small village, the burgomaster carried on a despotic power unheard of elsewhere?

But, at this very time, the productions of Lessing and Herder roused the minds of the people, whilst the French writers, Diderot, Rousseau, and Voltaire, exercised a surprising influence over the Germans. It must be borne in mind, that another generation had grown up under the manacles of despotic power, while the vigorous intellectual life of France was operating upon us in divers ways. It was at this period that Lessing's " Antiquarische Briefe," Herder's

« ZurückWeiter »