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5                        MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

and an unerring sense of what is good and practical. Frau Jenny is
ridiculous, but delightful; the irony lights up, but does not corrode.
In Fontane's descriptions of the Prussian nobility, as in Die Poggen-
puhls (1896), which shows the family of a dead officer struggling
to keep up appearances, the irony touches very lightly. Fontane
has a limited range of characters - junkers, officers, dear old aunts,
gardeners, clergymen - but his types are sharply individualized by
his masterly handling of dialogue; his technique depends largely
on conversation or on self-expression in monologue and corres-
pondence. R. M. Meyer calls Fontane 'the first consistent realist
in German literature'; this is not quite correct: Fontane, it is true,
is not a 'poetic realist' because he is without Romanticism (except
in his ballads), but he differs from the 'consistent' naturalists be-
cause he is worlds removed from Armeleutepoesie\ the working-
classes only come into his work as foils to his gentry; his affinities
with the new school are in tone rather than in texture - they show,
not so much in his realism as in his large-hearted attitude to social
problems, or, to repeat the catchword, in the relativity of his

Two other forerunners of naturalism, Ludwig Anzengruber and
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, are of very high rank in literature.
The naturalistic drama really begins with LUDWIG ANZENGRUBER
(1839-89), the dramatic effectiveness of whose plays is partly due
to his training as an actor. He was a Viennese; i.e. a city man with
a good knowledge of village life and a more or less artificially
acquired knowledge of dialect - an advantage for stage purposes.
He had learned something from Berthold Auerbach (1812-82);
but, unlike Auerbach, he gets inside his peasants; and what he
really continues is the old Viennese Volksstuck (Mozart's Magic
Flute is such a local play), which he modernizes by dropping the
fabulous elements and some (but not all) of the irrelevant music,
while still keeping the sensational machinery, thunder and light-
ning playing round the catastrophe, bullets whizzing in a gloomy
gorge, etc. He made his reputation with Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld
(1870), which shows his qualities and his limitations. The hero
Hell (a symbolic name), a perfect priest in a Tyrolese village, has
reformed his parishioners, who idolize him, but his enlightenment
is looked upon by the village lord (whose name, Graf von Finster-
berg, symbolizes his obscurantism) as heterodoxy, and the play
ends with Hell being summoned to appear before his ecclesiastical