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the man who first emancipated his fatherland from foreign tyranny; who taught his people to trust in themselves and their own strength; who accomplished his work with the help of only spiritual weapons, without shedding a single drop of blood, and who, at the same time, gave an impulse to the improvement and reconstruction of his mother tongue. Beside this, was not Luther, through his numberless polemical treatises, his labours in connection with the translation of the Bible, which up in the Wartburg was completed under his direction, the model and pattern of a shrewd journalist and an able editor—a position to which he had become so much attached ? For Freytag, the modern era begins with the Reformation ?
In 1862, the year in which, in consequence of the military plans of the Prussian Government, political excitement in Germany recommenced, and during which Freytag often sent forth harsh words against the tyranny to which the popular representatives were subjected, he published the least interesting and attractive book he has written-The Technicalities of the Dramatic Art. His intention was, by drawing up a list of the traditional laws which govern the art of stage-writing, with the addition of some new ones, derived from the best existing stage-pieces, whose authors have written by intuition, to be of assistance to talented, but pos. sibly awkward, beginners, by giving them rules for their guidance in doubtful cases. The book was designed to do service as an intellectual corset: as this is unable to make a good figure, although it may improve one, so this book was intended to improve the style of young beginners.
Only two years after this, Freytag's second great novel, The Lost Manuscript, appeared. When it is remembered with what precision he depicts all the situations he touches, and how elaborately polished is his style, this fact must be accepted as evidence of a healthy intellectual fertility, such as is possessed by few living writers. . The circumstances to which we owe The Lost Manuscript is recalled by the author himself, in an article to the memory of his friend Moritz Haupt. “As we were sitting together one day,” he relates, “in a certain shady spot in Leipsic, before his appointment to Berlin, he disclosed to me in the strictest confidence, during the second bottle, that in some small town in Westphalia, in the attic of an old house, there existed the remains of an ancient monastic library. The owner, however, of these precious possessions was a snarling, unapproachable man, as he had good reason to know. Hereupon I suggested that we should take a journey to the mysterious house in company, and either move, tempt, or, if necessary, eject the old man altogether, so that we might dig for the bidden treasure. Nothing came of
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proposal, but the remembrance of it has contributed to the action in The Lost Manuscript.”
Freytag laid hold of this small and insignificant event. The project became an actual, accomplished fact. Thus, according to the book, he allowed his Professor to go in quest of the treasure. He was not permitted to find it, for that would have been opposed to reality; but were his efforts, on that account, to be all in vain ? By no means. The figure of the old, intractable peasant was there; what more natural than that this peasant should have a daughter, the exact opposite of her father, except that she resembled him in bodily health and strength ? And thus it might happen to him, as it happened to Saul the son of Kish; he went out to seek an old, dusty parchment, and found a maiden young and blooming. But only after long, inward struggles were these two permitted to taste happiness; not until after they had missed it, and so learned to value it. He, the author, was living at a court whose ruler was distinguished by the goodness of his heart, his clemency and liberality. Could he offer to him any more delicate homage than by presenting a picture which should be the very counterpart of the attractive and wellordered relations at his court ? But conflicts and descriptions did not suffice to fill a novel of ample dimensions. As usual, Freytag needed some lively, collateral action. And once more he turned to the distant past of his own life. He recalled the circumstances of twelve years before, when he had just transferred his home to Leipsic, and with his friend, Julian Schmidt, lived in a modest house in the Rosenthal. He could again hear the disputings and mean squablings of two unfriendly and rival hat-makers, agreeably mingled with the barking of a couple of dogs. What, and if the hostile rivals had children who were endeavouring, by their ardent affection for each other, to make up for the enmity between their parents ? Romeo and Juliet in Leipsic! This could only admit of a humorous representation. It was natural, too, that the Professor had a friend, an old fellow-student, and that he was son of one of the hostile houses. The circle in which both of them moved afforded ample opportunities for an elaborate illustration of its humorous elements. Here, then, was the plot of The Lost Manuscript ready sketched, and, in natural sequence, one link after another was evolved.
As is invariably the case with Freytag's works, there is an eminently moral tone running through the book. The portraiture is full of life and warmth. Freytag here shows himself to be a greater master in miniature-painting than even in Debit and Credit. With what exquisite skill are all these close relation
ships described ! How vivid is the confusion in the interior of the old tower in the castle, where the Professor is seeking for the manuscript-the scattered lumber, and the dust of a decade on the furniture! His descriptions of nature are also here wonderfully faithful. The summer stillness of the landscape about Bielstein; the thunder-storm; the flood; Ilse's journey by night, her sojourn in the cave, and her meeting with her husbandthis is all writing in most perfect, accord with the truth. His description is everywhere at its best when it takes the humorous form. There he works with his old methods, the use of contrasts. Great and important matters and concerns he treats as trifles; while small and insignificant things, such as the enmity between Filz and Stroh, he speaks of as he might be supposed to speak of the conflict between two great, opposing ideas.
The two volumes of Pictures from Germany's Past, had meanwhile been followed by New Pictures, which embraced the period between the middle ages and the modern era. The result was a certain derangement. Now, more than ever, the collection resembled a torso without head or feet. It was with pleasure, therefore, that Freytag acceded to the wish of his publisher to form from the different collections one complete work, and by additional and supplementary pictures, where necessary, to bring it down from the earliest times to the present century. The satisfaction Freytag had experienced in the former labours was doubled in the new, for in the meantime the great work of creating a united Germany had advanced with mighty strides.
Eighteen centuries of German culture are embraced by those books. A wealth of poetic and scientific enthusiasm lies hidden in them, and communicates itself to the reader, but there is also a wealth of labour and thought contained in them. What a mind it required to obtain so much young, vigorous life out of thousands of mouldy books, manuscripts and journals! What talent and indefatigable industry were needed to separate important matter from unimportant, and then to cleanse and polish it, and, where needful, cleverly restore it. The books of which Freytag has made use to this end would form a considerable library. Great as was the success which the Pictures achieved with the public, it was not less with the men of science. We will here quote the opinion of a scientific periodical.
Poetical constructive power, combined with a skilful use of authorities, has hero produced a sample of historical writing, to which it is all the more necessary to draw attention, as, in the historical literature of our day, there is a marked tendency, in imitation of the methods adopted by writers on natural science, and ignoring what is the very essence of historical writing, to be pleased with a one-sided style of criticism which can never be the ultimate aim of history. In considering the poet and the novelist we have, for a time,
forgotten the man. If we have recorded but few events in the life of Freytag during the past years, it is because, having never passed his days in wide circles and busy scenes, nothing remarkable had happened to him during this time. As many both of the outer and inner gifts of fortune as it is possible for an unpretending son of the modern school, a German journalist and author, to attain, were his. An existence free from want or care, contented, contemplative; an excellent and loving wife ; a happy home; staunch friends of like tastes; the love and veneration of his nation, and the universal recognition of his efforts and achievements. Anything more than this seemed impossible, and, indeed, to him appeared not worth striving for. But the year 1866, which witnessed changes and reverses in so many circumstances, brought new and unexpected excitement into his home. It had been decreed that the elections for the constitution of the North German Reichstag should take place. One of the divisions proposed Gustav Freytag as a Parliamentary candidate. The novelist did not conceal from himself, nor yet from others, that Parliamentary life was not his calling, and more especially that he, the first German writer of the day, did not possess the gift of easy stirring eloquence, in the degree which appeared necessary to a popular representative. Nevertheless, his sense of honour did not allow him to disregard his country's call to duty; he, therefore, did not decline, but was elected by a large majority. He was ardent in his attendance at the sittings of the House, and in recording his vote; but he only once took part in the debates, and then with no striking success. That he was not called to play a leading part in Parliamentary life became more evident to him here than it seemed before. In the following autumn, therefore, when the new elections were in prospect, he resolutely declined the committee's offer of re-election. There were other and personal circumstances which, more than this self-knowledge, moved him to take this step. The first was the death of his best friend Mathy; a second was the sickness of his wife, who had been laid low by a severe and incurable disease; both of which misfortunes happened in one year. The condition of his wife assumed for him, as her careful nurse, an aspect less and less cheering. From this time he did not venture to absent himself from home except for very short intervals. He was thus entirely precluded from any laborious Parliamentary duties. The days which followed grew sadder and yet more sad. What wonder that his mood became increasingly gloomy; that the once happy, humorous man gradually grew into a solitary recluse, shunning intercourse with the world, and finding his only entertainment and amusement in learning and in his work.
Henceforth Freytag lived, as the hermit of Siebleben and Wiesbaden, a retired life, occasionally writing a paper for the Grenzboten, in editing which, he was assisted by Jordan and Dove; working in secret at his next great book which he purposed to dedicate to his departed friend, in token of esteem, and as a lasting monument to his memory. Accordingly, in 1870 it appeared under the title of Karl Mathy; the Story of his Life. Of all Freytag's works, this less than any other has found its way among the people. Many of his most ardent admirers scarcely know its name, and yet it is, perhaps, the best he has written. Never before or since has he worked out his characters to such a perfection of plastic art; never has he displayed so much skill in representation, nor so clear an arrangement of his material, never so concise and finished a style, or such an affluence of great thoughts as here. One can see that during the progress of this work the biographies and characteristics of Tacitus, his old favourite, had been hovering before his mental vision, and he has equalled, perhaps even surpassed, them. As in the Pictures Freytag was able, by the aid of a happy expedient, to set up the individual life as a type, so here, in this presentation, Mathy did not appear merely as the man of vigorous activity and dauntless energy, who, from being a plain schoolmaster's son, worked his way up, after numerous adventures, to the position of a Minister of the Crown, but who, nevertheless, never truly enjoyed in its full sweetness the fruit of his toil : rather he became the representative of hundreds who, in various spheres, staked their dearest interests for the greatness and unity of their beloved land, patiently enduring scorn, contumely and persecution, and who, finally, were instrumental in securing the triumph of the good cause, but who, at the very outset of their career of renown, were snatched hence, thus sharing the tragic fate of Moses, being permitted to gaze into the Promised Land from the mountain top, but not to enter it.
During the war of 1870, he took part in the movement as correspondent to his own paper, the Grenzboten.
Amid the roar of battle and the tumult of war, the roll of volleys and the thunder of cannon, and by the nightly watch-fires of the bivouac, there ripened in Freytag's mind the idea of his last great work. While his united fatherland was still struggling with the foe, the purpose was maturing within him to celebrate the dawn of a new era by a work which, in the changeful fortunes of a race, should exhibit to the German people, a series of poetical dissolving views of its own entire history. To such a task his Pictures from Germany's Past were, indeed, admirable preliminary studies. And now that he was firmly resolved to devote all his energies to the work which, so far as he could see, would demand