Page images

proceeded to Neckarweihingen, where they ture were not inherent, but the natural reaccomplished their object for three kreut-sult of endeavoring to bind a singularly zers, having one to spare for a bunch of free and original language to rules and imgrapes. On this, young Schiller ascended agery foreign to its genius. Klopstock, an eminence which overlooks both places, Utz, Lessing, Goethe, and Gerstenberg, and uttered a grave poetical anathema on were, in different manners and degrees, of the barren land, and a like benediction on this order. From the study of these, Schilthe region of cream. ler caught the spirit of a German originalOn his father's return to Ludwigsburg, ity, which he afterwards so remarkably conyoung Schiller, then nine years old, first tributed to advance. Becoming, about the saw the interior of a theatre. This circum- same time, acquainted (through Wieland's stance seemed at once to disclose his ge- translation) with the writings of Shaksnius. From that moment, all his boyish peare, he studied them with avidity and desports had reference to the drama; and he light; though, as he acknowledges, with an began to forecast plans for tragedies. Not imperfect comprehension of their depth. that his inclination to the profession of his During his residence at Stuttgart, he had early choice diminished. He only regard- composed an epic, entitled "Moses," and ed dramatic literature and exhibitions as a tragedy called "Cosmo de' Medici," amusements and relaxations from severer part of which was afterwards worked up in pursuits. He now continued his studies in" The Robbers." But he had no sooner a school at Ludwigsburg, where he was decided on the medical profession, than he conspicuous for energy, diligence, and ac- resolved to abandon poetry for two years. tivity of mind and body. The testimonials He wrote a Latin treatise "On the Philoswhich he here received induced the duke ophy of Physiology," and defended a theto offer him a higher education, in a semi-sis "On the Connexion of the Animal and nary at Stuttgart, which he had lately Spiritual Natures in Man." He afterwards founded. His father, who felt his obliga- received an appointment as a military surtions to the duke, and not least the favor which was now offered him, reluctantly abandoned his original intention of indulging his son with the profession of his wishes; and young Schiller, still more reluctantly, in 1773, surrendered the Church for the bar. In the following year, when each scholar of the establishment was call-undertake it. ed on to delineate his own character, he openly avowed "that he should deem himself much happier if he could serve his country as a divine." And he found legal studies so little attractive, that, on the addition of a medical school to the establishment, in 1775, he availed himself of the duke's permission to enrol himself a member.

geon, and was esteemed able in his profession. On the expiration of his probational course, he held himself free to prosecute his favorite study. Accordingly, in the year 1780, the famous play of "The Robbers saw the light. It was published at his own expense, no bookseller venturing to

[ocr errors]

Of the genius displayed in this work there can be but one opinion. The language of Coleridge concerning it is very remarkable:

"Schiller! that hour I would have wished to die,

If through the shuddering midnight I had sent From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry! During this period, Schiller was not in- That in no after-moment aught less vast attentive to the revolution, or rather, creaMight stamp me mortal! A triumphant shout Black Horror scream'd, and all her goulin rout tion, then working in the poetry of GerFrom the more withering scene diminish'd past. many. The immense resources of the Ah! bard tremendous in sublimity! German language were, in great measure, Could I behold thee in thy loftier mood, unknown to the Germans themselves. They Wandering at eve with finely frenzied eye, Beneath some vast old tempest-swinging wood! studied and composed in the classical Awhile with mute awe gazing I would brood, tongues, and, finding their own so far reThen weep aloud in a wild ecstasy!" moved from those which they contemplated as the only models, regarded it as barba- Nevertheless, the defects of this work are rous; or, if they condescended to use it, not less glaring than its power is unquesendeavored to cast both words and senti-tionable; nor are these defects literary ments in a classical mould. But there were only. The sympathics of the reader are in minds among them who were beginning to part enlisted on the side of crime; while perceive that the defects of German litera- the whole spirit of the play but too well

[ocr errors]

gotiations, he took advantage of the festivi-
ties occasioned by the visit of the Arch-
duke Paul of Russia, in October, 1782,
and left Stuttgart unperceived.

coincides with the tumultuous character kindly of the duke, and even justified his
of that period. And yet, we believe it is proceeding, which was not directed against
not less truly than finely said by Sir Bulwer the poet's genius, but his ill-taste. He, in-
Lytton, "Nothing could be further from deed, even dwelt warmly on the duke's pater-
the mind of the boy from whose unprac-nal conduct, who gave him salutary advice
tised hand came this rough Titan sketch, and warning, and asked to see all his poetry.
than to unsettle virtue, in his delineations This was resolutely refused; and the refusal,
of crime. Virtue was then, as it continu- as might be expected, was not inoffensive.
ed to the last, his ideal; and if at the first Yet the duke seems not to have renounced
he shook the statue on its pedestal, it was his interest in his young favorite, for no
but from the rudeness of the caress that measures were taken against him or his
sought to warm it into life." Schiller's family on his subsequent departure from
religious and virtuous feelings had, how- Stuttgart, and Schiller even paid a visit to
ever, unconsciously to himself, been dete- them during the duke's life, without any
riorated by the French skeptical writers. molestation. For this departure he wished
Voltaire moved his scorn and disgust; but the duke's permission, and endeavored,
abhorrence of filth will not save us from through his friend Dalberg, to obtain it;
pollution, if we permit its contact. Rous but impatient at the tediousness of the ne-
seau, insidious and visionary, harmonized
but too well with the temperament of the
earnest and contemplative youth; we know
from the painful evidence of a little poem
of Schiller's, bearing the name of that sub-
tle anarch, that the influence had been but
too effective; and we trace the fact even
more distinctly in the "Philosophical Let-
ters." But it would seem from his own
testimony, no less than from general evi-
dence, that the military despotism which
was the constitution of the seminary at
Stuttgart was the real creative principle of
the 66
Robbers." It furnished Schiller's
idea of order and government, while his
own restlessness beneath that rigid coer-
cion supplied his notion of liberty. It was
from a translation of the "Robbers," that
the general tendency of German literature,
and of the drama particularly, was estima-
ted in England. The "Robbers" could
not long be a stranger to the stage. The
Freiherr von Dalberg, manager of the the-
atre at Mannheim, produced it on his
boards in 1782. Schiller was present at
the two first representations in January and
May of that year. His absence, however,
was known to the duke, and he was placed
under arrest for a fortnight.


But his misfortunes did not end here. A passage in the "Robbers" gave offence to the Grisons, who complained to the duke against his subject. The result was that Schiller was prohibited from all but professional writing, and commanded to abandon all connexion with other states. But Körner informs us that, however exasperated at the time, he spoke in cooler moments

He had called their country "the thiefs


His mother and sister were in the secret; his father had not been informed, lest loyalty and military subordination should compel disclosure to the duke. There was another person left behind, in whom rumor attributes an interest to Schiller, though we are not informed whether she was apprised of his flight. This was the widow of a military officer, to whom it is said, Schiller had paid his addresses, and who is by some supposed to be the "Laura" of his early poems. A youth named Streicher was the companion of his wanderings. All Schiller's fortune lay in his tragedy, "The Conspiracy of Fiesco at Genoa,' which he had, for the most part, composed when under arrest. Arrived at Mannheim, he recited his play to the stage-manager, Meier, (for Dalberg was at Stuttgart,) with little success. His Swabian dialect, and uninelodious declamation, drove away all his audience save Iffland, to whose personation his "Francis Moor" in the "Robbers" had been deeply indebted. But, on a perusal, Meier acknowledged the real merit of " Fiesco," and agreed to produce it on the stage, if Schiller would make the requisite alterations. Meanwhile, Schiller and his friend were warned, by letters from Stuttgart, that their position at Mannheim was perilous. They accordingly once more took flight, and, after many hardships, took up their quarters at an inn at Oggersheim, where "Fiesco" was completed, and "Cabal and Love" begun. While at this place, Schiller was offered an asylum at Bauerbach, near Meinungen, an estate

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

be overclouded. He wrote to Schwann soliciting an union with his daughter; a request to which he had no anticipation of refusal, as he and the young lady had corresponded; and, had his destiny rested in her hands, there can be little doubt that he would not have been doomed to disappointment. The father, however, had apparently seen enough of Schiller's habits to infer that his wealth was not likely to equal his fame, and the poet once more met with a refusal.

of Madame von Wollzogen, with whose his "Laura." During this period he wrote sons he had studied at Stuttgart. Having essays on dramatic subjects, edited a peridisposed of his "Fiesco" to a bookseller, odical called "The Rhenish Thalia," comhe with alacrity accepted the generous of posed a poem called "Conrad of Swabia," fer, and Streicher pursued his way to Ham- and a second part of the " Robbers," to burg. At Bauerbach, Schiller found re- harmonize the incongruities of the first. pose and appliances for study; finished Some scenes of his "Don Carlos," appear"Cabal and Love," and sketched "Doning in the "Thalia," attracted the notice Carlos." Of the two first of these works of the reigning Duke of Saxe Weimar, who our limits will not permit us to speak. was then on a visit to the court of the They are not without evidence of their Landgrave of Hesse Darmstadt. The duke author's genius; but they are not less evi- was a lover of literature, and a poet, and dential of a taste which he lived to correct, he appointed Schiller a member of his and which, even at this period, he was cor- council. In March, 1785, Schiller removrecting. ed to Leipzig, where his poetry had pre"Don Carlos" is an immeasurable ad-pared him many friends, and from this year vance into the regions of taste and order. commenced what is called "the second periThe wild irregular prose of the previous od" of Schiller's life. He spent the summer dramas is exchanged for rich and melodi- at a village in the neighborhood, named Goous blank heroic verse: the characters are lis, surrounded by warm and affectionate no longer the crude imaginations of an un-hearts. It was during this time that he wrote disciplined ardor, but finished studies from his "Ode to Joy." But his joy was fated to nature, in historical prototypes; no longer bold distorted sketches, but richly, yet chastely, colored pictures; no longer flung together in heedless and disorderly profusion, but grouped with consummate art and sense of harmony. Yet it is probable that the historian has in this work encroached upon the poet, and rendered it in parts obscure, and the connexion not always palpable. It is far less lucid than the great dramatic writings which formed the labors of Schiller's later days. A considerable interval elapsed between the composition of the From the friendly circle at Leipzig he first and last portions; and, as the former removed to Dresden the same year. was printed, the drama could not well be he completed his "Don Carlos," which he rewritten, to make it harmonize with Schil-recast, as far as was practicable; and is ler's altered feelings and opinions; but it thought to have assimilated his princess spoke a great promise, and gave earnest of Eboli to a certain Fraulein A, a great a faithful performance. It has been ably beauty of that city. Here, too, he sketched translated by Francis Herbert Cottrell, the plan of a drama which he named "The Esq. Misanthrope;" collected materials for a history of the revolt of the Netherlands, under Philip II., and wrote his strange romance of "The Ghost Seer;" a work suggested by the quackeries of Cagliostro. At this period, also, were written the "Philosophical Letters," before alluded to. In 1787 he repaired to Weimar, where he was received with great enthusiasm by Herder and Wieland. Here he undertook the management of a periodical called "The German Mercury," which he enriched with several contributions in verse and prose, and to which he imparted new life and vigor. In the same year he received an invitation from Madame von Wollzogen to visit her at Meinungen. On his return

In 1786, Schiller took up his residence at Mannheim, where he occupied himself with theatrical projects. From this place he wrote to Madame von Wollzogen, soliciting the hand of her daughter Charlotte; but it appears that the attachment was not mutual, though Schiller always continued to be received in the most friendly manner by Madame von Wollzogen and her daughters. Perhaps the young lady herself regarded Schiller's as rather a preference than an affection, which she seems to have been justified in doing, as, not long after, he formed an attachinent to Margaret, daughter of his friend Schwann, the bookseller; a lady whom some suppose to have been


thence he made a brief sojourn at Rudolstadt, but a memorable one, as it was here that he saw the Fraulein von Langefeld. This event called forth the following observations in a letter to a friend:

"I require a medium through which to enjoy other pleasures. Friendship, taste, truth and beauty would operate on me more powerfully, if an unbroken train of refined, beneficent, domestic sentiments attuned me to joy, and renewed the warmth of my torpid being. Hitherto I have been an isolated stranger wandering about amid nature, and have possessed nothing of my own. I yearn for a political and domestic existence. For many years I have known no perfect happiness, not so much for want of opportunities, as because I rather tasted pleasures than enjoyed them, and wanted that even, equable, and gentle susceptibility which only the quiet of domestic life be


[blocks in formation]

"On the whole, my truly high idea of Goethe has not been diminished by this personal intercourse; but I doubt whether we shall ever approach very closely. Much which is yet interesting to me, much which is yet among my wishes and my hopes, has with him lived out its period. His whole being is, from the first, very differently constituted from mine; his world is not mine. Our modes of imagination are essentially distinct. However, no certain and well-grounded intimacy can result from such a meeting. Time will teach further."

gently, not only in reading and writing history, but also in the continued cultiva tion of poetry. He was at all times, as such a mind might be expected to be, devoted to classical literature. But, at this period, he imposed on himself a course of this study with a direct view to the purification of taste and style. He studied Homer profoundly, and with great delight. He translated into German the "Iphigenia in Aulis" (with the exception of the last scene), and a part of the "Phonissæ" of Euripides. His freedom, yet accuracy, particularly in the former of these translations, can scarcely be sufficiently admired. He projected a version of the "Agamemnon" of Eschylus, a play in which he much delighted. Bürger visited him at Weimar, in 1789, and the friends agreed to translate the same passage of Virgil, each in a metre of his own selection. These studies had a perceptible influence on his poetry, particularly his dramas.

Schiller's inaugural lecture at Jena was attended by an audience of more than 400; nor did it disappoint the high expectation which had been formed of it. His pen was now a ready and certain source of emolument; a "History of the Thirty Years' War," and a "German Plutarch," among various minor literary enterprises, were put in preparation. He was admired and caressed by the great; a pension was assigned him by the Duke of Saxe Weimar, and there was now no obstacle to the fulfilIn February, ment of his dearest wishes.

1790, he had the happiness to obtain the hand of the Fraulein von Langefeld. We here cast together, from several of his letters, as selected by Körner, passages descriptive of his enjoyment :-It is quite another life, by the side of a beloved woman, from that which I led before, so desolate and solitary; even in summer, I now, for the first time, enjoy beautiful Nature entireAnd the lesson was soon imparted; es-ly, and live in her. All around me is arpecially when it is considered that all Goe-rayed in poetic forms, and within me, too, the's prejudices were revolted by "The they are oft stirring. What a beautiful Robbers," and that he had actually avoid-life am I now leading! I gaze around ed an interview as long as possible. But me with joyful spirit, and my heart finds in a few months Goethe's interest in Schil- an everduring gentle satisfaction from ler, and high estimate of his abilities, were without! my soul experiences such sweet practically exemplified. "The Revolt of the Netherlands" had in part seen the light, and obtained high reputation for Schiller as a historian. By the efforts of Goethe, he was now appointed to the Chair of History in the University of Jena.

In this situation Schiller labored

support and refreshment! My being moves in harmonious evenness; not overstrained by passion, but calm and bright are the days which I pass. I look forward on my destiny with cheerful spirit; standing at the goal of my desires, I am myself astondili-ished to think how all has succeeded beyond

my expectations. Destiny has overcome [ of metaphysics. He had formed, at Jena, my difficulties, and brought me smoothly the friendship of Paulus, Schutz, Hufeland, to the end of my career. From the future and Reinhold; and by them he was iniI have every thing to hope. A few years, and I shall live in the full enjoyment of my mind; nay, I even hope to return to youth; the poet-life within me will restore it."

tiated in the philosophy of Kant, which he has exemplified in some of his prose writings. To this Sir Bulwer Lytton attributes the Christian conviction and religious tone which, after this period (so marked as to be called "the third" in Schiller's Life), pervades his compositions. We would rather ascribe it to the teaching of sickness, before the revelations of which the mists of sophistry and self-confidence vanish as in daylight. The thirtieth Psalm will still afford illustration. When David was troubled, his testimony was, "I cried unto thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord 1 made supplication." It is impossible to doubt that Schiller did likewise; or that he experienced a like return from Him who is unchangeable.

This language, while it proves the writer's affection, purity, and elevation of mind, conveys a painful impression that his worldly happiness had rendered him insensible, at least for a time, to considerations which are not less needful in such moments than amid the darkest sorrows; but of which our ingratitude then most loses sight, when the love which would awaken them is most conspicuous. How little do we know our real happiness, when we envy the sunshine of Schiller's heart, or repine in the night of solitude and abandonment! In that sunshine he had lost sight of the History, next to poetry, was Schiller's pole-star whereby alone his voyage could favorite employment; and he now occupied be directed, and which is ever clearest himself in an eminently congenial work, when other lights are away. In his pros- and that on which his reputation, as a prose perity, like the Psalmist, he had said, "I writer, is chiefly founded:-The History shall never be moved;" and, too proba- of the Thirty Years' War. This work apbly, even without the pious acknowledg-peared in Göschen's Historical Almanack. ment which qualified that presumption, This passage of history, from its poetical "Lord, by thy favor Thou hast made my character, had always a peculiar charm for mountain to stand strong." For though Schiller, under all circumstances, had never lost the first fresh devotional feelings of his boyhood, and had admitted doubts with pain, and desired to escape from them, yet he could not be as one whose faith was steadfastly grounded on the sure Rock of Revelation. Like the Psalmist, however, he could add, "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." Mercy and chastisement, each involved in the other, overtook him in the beginning of the following year. He was afflicted with a severe attack of disease of the chest, from which, though "fifteen years were added to his life," he never recovered. His whole frame was shattered; and repeated relapses left him incapable of public lectures and every other laborious exertion. The diminution of income consequent on this calamity added much to its severity. But this was not long to be a part of his distress. The Crown Prince of Denmark, and the Count von Schimmelmann, offered him a salary of 100 thalers for three years, with a delicacy and kindness, as he informs us, not less gratifying than the boon itself. Unembarrassed now by narrow circumstances and public duties, he gave himself to the study

Schiller; and various were his poetical projects in connexion with it. They resulted at length in the noblest productions of his pen, the two tragedies on the subject of Wallenstein. It is remarkable that, during this latter task, he had much less confidence in his poetic powers, criticised his former writings with severity, and acknowledged that he had become a new man in poetry. The truth was, his taste had grown severer, and his judgment riper, and his mind had been disciplined by the study of the ancients; in particular of Aristotle, whom he had found to differ far from the French theories ascribed to him. Schiller's genius was never more vigorous or brilliant, but it was now under guidance and command. The "Wallenstein" occupied seven years. During this period, the French Revolution was approaching its bloody crisis. Schiller gave the most unquestionable proof of his hostility to its barbarous principles by projecting an address to the French people in favor of their monarch, monarchy, order, and religion; a project which was not executed only because he could meet with no person who would undertake to translate his intended work into French. In 1793, the poet revisited the scenes and compan

« PreviousContinue »