Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

See other formats

6                      MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

species of interpretative biographical novel (Gedankenroman) which
has some of the elements of the me romande of our own day: Die
Osterinsel (1895) is written round the gospel of Nietzsche, while
HildegardMahlmann (i 897) has for central figure the peasant poetess
Johanna Ambrosius. As a dramatist Wilbrandt wrote comedies
(Die Vermahlten, 1871; Die Maler, 1872) which were reckoned as
the best after Freytag's Die Journalisten, and 'Roman' tragedies
(Gracchus, 1870; Arria und Messalina, 1874) which edified by gor-
geous pictures of ancient vice. In the history of the theatre he
counts, however, mainly by one play - Der Meister von Palmyra
(1889) - which answered the trumpet blast of the naturalists by
showing what might still be made of the old type of drama, how-
ever lifeless the lilt of the blank verse.

Two poets of the older generation belong more or less to the
new schools of naturalism and impressionism, Theodor Fontane
and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer; the former by virtue of his realism
and the relativity of his moral judgments, the latter by his use
of symbol and his handling of history and renaissance themes.
c. F. MEYER (1825-98), whose collected verse appeared in 1882,
used history to veil the intimate problem of his own personality,
and so cunningly that symbolism and psycho-analysis had to make
their impress on criticism before the hidden import of his verse
as of his tales could be unravelled. His physical development,
shocked by 'nervous breakdowns', was so imperfect that he did
not succeed in growing something in the nature of a moustache
till he was over fifty; he then married, and had a child. The salient
thing in his work1 is his worship of strong men2; hence his love
of renaissance types,3 In lyric verse he is the link between the

1 Huttens let^te Tage (1872; the story in verse of the last days of Ulrich von
Hutten); Jurgjenatscb (1876; his one novel, followed by short stories); Der
Heilige (1880; the story of Thomas a Becket shadows the German Kultur-
kampf}\ Novellen (1883: Das Amuletf, Der Schuss von der Kan^el, Plautus im
Nonnenkloster, Gustav Adolfs Page}; Das 'Leiden ernesKnaben (1883; imaging the
writer's own tortured boyhood); Die Hocb^eit des Moriches (1884; related by
Dante); Die Ricbterin (1885); Die Versucbung des Pescara (1887); Angela Borgia
(1890). He ranks with Theodor Fontane as a regenerator of the historical
ballad; Die Rose von Newport, Der sferbende Cromwell and Miltons JLache treat
English themes.

2  cDas Mittelmassige\ he wrote, *macbt mich desbalb so traurig^ well es in mir
selbst einen verwandten Stofffindet - darum sucbe icb so sehnsiichtig das Grossed

3 Widely read in historical literature, he was influenced by Jakob Burck-
hardt's (1818-97) Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860), one of the great
sources of inspiration for the impressionists.