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Presented to the 
library of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

hy 

The Estate of the late 

PROFESSOR A. S. P. WOODHOUSE 

Head of the 
Department of English 
University College 
1944-1964 . 



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LAOCOON 



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Motto by Translator. 

“Macaulay told me that the reading of this little book 
formed an epoch in his mental history, and that he learned 
more from it than he had ever learned elsewhere.” 

Lewes, Life of Goethe , p. 57. 




LAOCOON 



BY 

GOTTHOLD EPHRAIM LESSING 



TRANSLATED JV1TH PREFACE AND NOTES 
BY THE LATE 

Rt. Hon. Sir ROBERT PHILLIMORE, Bart. 




LONDON 

GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, Limited 

NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO. 



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TO 

Gbe IRfgbt Ibonourable HCl. £. ©labstone 

IN MEMORY 
OF LONG FRIENDSHIP 
AND A COMMON LOYE OF HOMER 
THESE PAGES 

ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED 
BY THE WRITER. 



Note.— This edition is reprinted, with the kind consent of 
Sir Walter Phillimore, Bart., from the edition published by- 
Messrs Macmillan in 1874. A few misprints have been 
corrected, and the notes haye been transposed to the end of 
the .volume. The publishers take this opportunity of express- 
ing their sincere thanks to the family of the late Sir Robert 
Phillimore for permission to include his work in their New 
Universal Library. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

Translator’s Preface 1 

Introduction 55 

Chapter 

I 59 

II 64 

III 70 

IV 74 

V . . 85 

VI 92 

VII 98 

VIII . . . . . . . .102 

IX 107 

X Ill 

XI 114 

XII 119 

XIII ‘ 124 

XIV 127 

XV 129 

XVI 131 



CONTENTS 



viii 

Chapter 

XVII 

XVIII 

XIX 

XX . 

XXI 

XXII 

XXIII 

XXIV 

XXV 

XXVI 

XXVII 
XXVIII 
XXIX 

Notes 

Appendix 

Index 



PAGE 

139 

145 

152 

158 

165 

169 

175 

179 

183 

191 

199 

203 

206 

211 

290 

333 



PREFACE 



Section I 

i 

1. Birth and Education of Lessing i; 2. State of German Literature 
when Lessing began his career as author; 3. Lessing’s Works 
generally; 4. Winkelinann. Lessing’s Laocoon ; 5. Ancient 
Versions of the story of Laocoon ; 6. Notice of some of the prin- 
cipal Modern Authors referred to by Lessing ; 7. Notice of 
Modern Authors not referred to by Lessing, but who wrote, before 
the publication of the Laocoon , on Poetry and Painting. 

1. The territory which once formed the ancient 
| German margraviate of Lusatia was divided into 
Upper and Lower Lusatia. It lay between the 
Elbe and the Oder, situated to the north of Bohemia, 
to the south of Brandenburg, and to the west of 
Silesia. The race which dwelt on the northern de- 
clivities of the Giant mountains (Riesen Gebirge), 
which separate Silesia from Bohemia, were men 
of robust and vigorous minds ; and early in the 
seventeenth century intellectual life began to 
develop itself simultaneously in Upper Lusatia 
and Silesia. 

In one of the six towns of Upper Lusatia, of 
which Gorlitz was the intellectual centre, Johann 
Gottfried Lessing and his wife, Justine Salome, 

J whose maiden name was Feller, dwelt. He was 
- the Lutheran pastor of Kamenz ; and of these 
| parents, on the 22nd of January, 1729, Johann 

£ 1 The principal authorities to which I have had recourse for the 

■•j materials of this sketch are : G. E. Lessing’s Leben und Werke, vol. i, 

" by Danzel ; vol. ii, by Gurauer: Leipzig, 1849. G. E. Lessing’s Sein. 
^ Leben und Seine Werke , von A. Stahr : Berlin, 1859. Goedeke’s 
4 Grundriss zur Geschichte der Deutschen Dichtung , 1, Oil, § 221. Ger- 
i vinus’s Geschichte der Poetisclien National-Literatur, 4, 318 : Leipzig, 
1843. Germtin Classics, by Dr Bucliheim, vol. iii, Clarendon Press 
. ( Series: Oxford, 1873. Gostwick and Harrison’s Outlines of German 
1S \ Literature , 201. 

al B 



2 



LAOCOON 



Gotthold Ephraim, commonly called Gotthold 
Ephraim Lessing, the writer of the Laocoon , was 
bom. He died at Brunswick in 1781. 

Logical powers of a high order, an intense love 
of study, which he derived from his father’s ex- 
ample and teaching, restless incessant eagerness 
of inquiry into every subject unchecked by any 
reverence for authority, keen susceptibilities, con- 
stant literary and polemical controversy, unsettled 
religious opinions, very straitened circumstances, 
unquiet habits, a craving for excitement which 
sometimes led him to the gaming table, a passion 
for that kind of society — in which the stream of 
life ran rapidly, though turbidly — and domestic 
sorrow, combined to chequer the fifty -two years of 
his very distinguished and very unhappy life. 

His public education, begun at Meissen in the 
year 1741, was continued at the University of 
Leipzig in 1746, where he renounced the studies 
and career of a Theologian, which his father had 
wished him to follow. He went to Berlin in 1748. 
He resided for some time at Leipzig, and in 1760 
became a member of the Academy there. He sup- 
ported himself by translating foreign works, and 
taught himself French, Italian, and Spanish. He 
resided at Breslau 1760-1764, where he was official 
secretary to General Tauenzien. He was at Berlin 
from 1765 to 1767. He lived at Hamburg, where 
he became a journalist, during 1767-1769. He was 
appointed by the Duke of Brunswick Privy Coun- 
cillor and Librarian of a great Library at Wolfen- 
biittel ; there he took up his abode in May 1770. In 
this library he discovered, and afterwards published, 
a treatise of Berengarius \ supposed to be lost, 
respecting the Holy Eucharist. In 1775 he accom- 
panied Prince Leopold of Brunswick in his journey 
to Italy. He married, in April, 1776, a widow, Eva 
Konig, who died in 1778. He appears to have felt 
her loss very deeply. 

i Gurauer, 2, 11 ; Goedeke, 611, 612, 663. 



PREFACE 



3 



2. German literature is one of the youngest 1 of 
the European family. At the time when Lessing 
began to write it was in a very meagre condition. 

Leibnitz and Wolff had indeed, in their different 
paths, attained deserved literary honours. The 
former had been dead nearly half a century, and 
wrote his great works in a foreign language. The 
latter was too ponderous and too scholastic to be 
popular. Neither left any abiding marks upon their 
native language or literature 2 . 

Gottsched and his school had done their utmost 
to lower the national taste to the level of a base 
imitation of French literature ; and the efforts of 
the Swiss, Breitinger and Bodmer, from whom 
works of considerable merit appeared simultane- 
ously at Zurich in 1740, and upon whom the dawn of 
a better day had shone, had not sufficient power to 
stem the tide. Haller, Hagedorn, Kastners, Rabe- 
ner, Liscow, keeping aloof from the contest between 
Gottsched and the Swiss, contributed something, 
but not much, to the improvement of German 
literature. Klopstock, indeed, vindicated the higher 
claims of poetry to be the fruit of genius — unat- 
tainable by the intellect alone or mere learned 
industry — and to be far above the frozen mediocrity 
and petty conventional decencies, within which 
Gottsched, in his absence of all the susceptibility of 
genius, his blind admiration for the French imita- 
tion of classical antiquity, would have confined it. 
But it was reserved for Lessing thoroughly to 
awaken the sleeping German mind, and imbue it 
with a true philosophy, which included the romantic 
as well as the classical school within the domain of 
poetry ; from which Gottsched’s narrow and unin- 
spired mind would have excluded Shakspere, Milton, 
Ariosto, and Tasso. ‘ Lessing schrieb deutsch ’, says 

1 ‘Die deutsche Literatur ist eine derjiingsten unter der Europa* 
isclien’, Schlegel, Kritische Schrtften , i, 1. 

2 Danzel, 1, 118; De Quincey, vol. xii, 282; Gervlnus, 4, 63;, 
Goedeke, 560-1.