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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE WOMEN  WRITERS                           337

sincerity of conviction to this friend of Leibniz whom the Protest-
ants have martyred. Enrica von Handel-Mazzetti's best novel is no
doubt Jesse und Maria (1906). Jesse, a Protestant iconoclast, has
designs against the miracle-working image of the Virgin at Steyr
(where it is still the bourne of pilgrims), and Maria, for the sake
of the Catholic faith, betrays him; she is then torn by remorse,
and the story shows that in her heart she loves the man whose
death she has compassed. What the story brings out is that there
is as much sincerity and true goodness in one religion as in the
other; what matters is the essential humanity of characters who
are estranged by the intensity of their own convictions. So fair to
Protestants is this writer that she has been accused of upholding
or condoning Protestant doctrine; and certainly any Protestant
might swear that her next novel, Die arme Margaret (1910), gives
the palm of victory to the Protestant heroine. The intention prob-
ably is, however, to show that salvation rests with the Virgin and
even with her carven image, and perhaps by reason of this argu-
ment and because of the general womanishness (in a good sense)
of the story Die arme Margaret gives a better idea of the author's
essential qualities than docs Jesse und Maria. The tale has breathless
interest and a faultless heightening of the tension to the final too
sensational but compelling scenes; and yet, if reduced to its bare
outlines, it is in the nature of an old saint's legend (Reiligenkgend^
with the devil nearly triumphing over a woman's chastity and
balked only in the moment of seizure by the intervention of the
Virgin. Poor Margaret is the young widow - very lovely with her
lily-white skin and golden locks - of a Protestant in Steyr who
has been executed for heresy. Since she remains obstinately Pro-
testant a company of twenty-five Pappenheim dragoons under the
command of a strapping and perfectly handsome lieutenant is sent
to force her to recant. The lieutenant, a mere boy, still a virgin in
spite of his campaigning, has carte blanche, he billets himself and
his men in her little cottage, leaving Margaret only the windy
attic for herself and suckling child, and proceeds - fanatically con-
vinced that he is thus serving God - to put the poor woman to
torture; and the author dwells on the pressure of his devilish
devices with that love (sadistic or otherwise) of the description of
suffering which is a marked feature of her work. The climax of
the piled-up agony comes when the lieutenant, in a terrific thun-
derstorm, attempts to rape his prisoner; her desperate resistance