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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE   NOVEL   OF   IMPRESSIONISM                   319

present a social outcast, the family with a good conscience are
adamant. Uncle Eli and Uncle Jason would indeed not withhold
consent, but as members of the family they must uphold its tribal
authority. And so by cruel moral pressure Jettchen is forced into
marriage with a loathsome cousin, Julius Jacoby, just arrived with
all his green pushfulness from Posen. His two aunts arrange the
affair. The reader, well informed of Jettchen's strong will and
intellectual leanings and her physical revulsion (her fine nerves
shiver at his approach as if her two hands touched a toad in the
dark) would expect her to elope rather than yield; but - and it
comes as a dramatic surprise - she cannot resist, because she is a good
Jewess as well as a passionate lover: she is an orphan - her father
had been killed fighting for Prussia against Napoleon, a volunteer
with Jason, who came off with a lame leg; and she has been
brought up, with all a father's care and affection, for twenty years
by Uncle Salomon, who now is entitled to present the bill which
Jettchen must pay. Like one hypnotized she goes through all the
agony of the marriage festival, but at its close steals out into the
starry night. The sequel, Henriette Jakoby (1908), falls below the
level of Jettchen Gebert: there is too little in the way of action and
the painting of moods is too extensive. The marriage, of course,
is a failure from the first, and Henriette takes refuge with Uncle
Jason. Gradually the truth dawns on her that Uncle Jason loves
her. The relations with Kossling are renewed, and in a weak
moment she gives herself to him. Then she realizes that Uncle
Jason's love is more to her, and she commits suicide. Jettchen is
one of the most charming ladies in recent German literature. We
see her, a perfect little housewife, preparing the immense family
banquets; and we admire her with Dr Kossling's eyes when in the
first chapter we find her going to market (like a dainty Doulton
lady) in her silver grey taffeta gown, coal-scuttle bonnet tied by
pink buds, lavender gloves and long-fringed Cashmere shawl and
velvet bodice. The presentation of the Biedermeier^eit, the period
of 1840 with its crinolines and daintily figured stuffs, its stately
mterieurs with massive furniture and costly porcelain, is generally
praised as scholarly, accurate, and for all its gentle irony appreci-
ative. How delightful it is to go with Jettchen and her aunt for a
summer holiday in sylvan Charlottenburg, and to hear why Uncle
Ferdinand's family prefer the more open solitudes of Schoneberg!
Altogether Jettcbm Gebert must be given high rank as more or less