Decadence has arrived. In the year , the word "decadence" had become a fashionable term in cultural criticism and public discourse, and it is easy to detect the irony in Fontane's letter when he responds to a French request with a French term. One wonders today how the Germans of the late nineteenth century would have pronounced the word: the use of an accent in many written sources suggests a French pronunciation and would thus point to the French origins of modern decadence as a cultural phenomenon; the substitution of a z for the ce at the end, and the spelling with a k rather than c in the middle Dekadenz , on the other hand, would indicate a certain domestication of the term and its pronunciation.
The term, it seems, could be employed in a way that simply denoted physical decline, the lack of energy and the desire to be left alone that may come with old age. However, through the very use of a word that had only recently been introduced into the German lexicon, Fontane somehow engages with the connotations that the use of the term "decadence" started to evoke at that very time.
The latter part of Fontane's productive period overlapped with the era generally associated with cultural decadence in German-speaking central Europe; and several of his works have been studied as discourses on decadence, most notably L'Adultera , Schach von Wuthenow , and Der Stechlin. His example, however, highlights three dimensions of the debate on decadence in German-speaking central Europe: a that the use of the term "decadence" as an analytical concept and a label for a certain period in cultural history has become inflationary and has thus, probably, lost some of its force; b that the contemporary use of the term, ironic or otherwise, must have been quite widespread, as there must have been in the period under discussion, the last decade of the nineteenth century, some shared perception that their own time was one of stagnation or even decline, or whatever else the word was seen as denoting; c that since it is so firmly associated with French cultural influences, "decadence" could never be used entirely neutrally in the German discourse: in Fontane's letter the irony conveys an implicit polemicism.
Fontane's incidental use of the term highlights some of the difficulties in dealing with the subject matter in the German context. A contested, polemical, imprecise concept has been adapted as an analytical tool in scholarly discourse: we still describe as decadent those texts labelled as such by contemporary proponents of this movement, and their enemies.
The form in which the poem appears here is with but few changes the same as in the first edition "Gedichte von Theodor Fontane, " Berlin, , iioff. Lepel, op. The list, made up of classics, hand-books, and the works of friends, is as follows: L — " London, d. Januar ' Keine Prosa. More- over, although the fondness for detail which he shows in his travels and narratives, and his tendency in the latter to avoid the treatment of conflict, argue against dramatic "Goethe, den 'Faust' und ein altes schlechtes Buch — Lepeln gehorig — worin Goethe's Gedichte enthalten sind.
Treibt sich irgendwo 'rum. Lessing nur die beriihmten 3 Stucke. Lenau die kleine Ausgabe. Und der Band wo 'Genesius' drin steht. Auch eine Argo. Ich habe ihn hier. Wenn Platz ist, die Ueber- setzung. Dies bezahlt die Kasse der Deutsch-Engl. Die gewunschten Werke der Rutlionen und ihre Basreliefs werden sie mir hoffentlich schenken. Heine und Morike treibst Du vielleicht billig auf. The play was entitled in revised form "Nur eine Seele. The power of realistic dialog would have been as valuable to him in drama as in narrative. The use of brevity and thrilling suggestion, which he shows in the English ballads, evinces power to produce tension.
He considered Kugler an accomplished man, but not an original poet. He found von Lepel lacking in critical ability, and his "Herodes" weak in structure in spite of the brilliant details that in his opinion characterized all of von Le- pel's work. He wrote to Friedrich Witte 1 that he could do nothing with drama until he had repose and freedom from the cares incident to making a livelihood. Carl Wegmann, op. Wegmann points out that Fontane's version of "John Musgrave and Lady Barnard" is better motivated and more tragic than that of Percy, that Fontane's omissions add dramatic directness to "Das Douglas Trauerspiel," that he gives dramatic structure to the action in "Lord Athol," that he sub- stitutes dramatic for epic touches in "Marie Duchatel," in "Schon Margret und Lord William," and in " Chevy Chase.
Schlenther is of the opinion that he may have had in mind a cycle of Hohenzollern dramas cf. He wrote on resigning from the Royal Academy of Arts: ' "Eine gute Theaterkritik, um das Kleinste herauszugreifen, ist viel, viel besser als diese Reskripte-Fabrikation, bei der ich noch nichts Erfreuliches habe herauskommen sehn. Schlenther of his "Karl Stuart" and of the preservation of the fragment cf.
Paul Schlen- ther, op. There was no stipulation as to the number of criticisms per week; the number four of which Fontane speaks cf. In spite of the temporary renunciation of his position , of almost an- nual interruptions from illness, and of the fact that the last three years show criticisms of only 11 premiSres out of 27, Fontane's record from to i88g shows reports on of the new plays presented this statement is based on a comparison of my own record of Fontane's reports for the V. Theater liebt, mitnehmen zu konnen.
Ich fing auch an, dabei zu lernen, nicht sprachlich aber literarisch. Man lernt, man fordert sich, man empfangt einen Gradmesser mehr, man gewinnt Einblicke in grosse Vorzuge, denen nachzustreben ist, in kleine Fehler, die zu ver- meiden sind. Schlenther writes of Fontane that he had stood almost alone in the center of literary production for half a century, a voice in the desert, attempting by honest effort to direct the artistic taste of his time into proper channels.
There is, however, a tendency to dismiss Fontane's critical work with mere mention, or with half charitable statements of neutral shade, except for the respect shown for his individuality and his human wisdom. The fact that he could recognize good in a poor play may have been inter- preted to mean that his standard was variable or his ideal easily satisfied. There is no more conclusive proof to the contrary than in his attitude toward the naturalistic drama.
His firm conviction throughout his work had been that the drama should mirror actual life. Nevertheless, although he looked upon this attainment of the naturalists as a triumph, their goal meant for him only a temporary resting place. Art, in his opinion, demanded a broader conception of life. Therefore, he regarded the work of even the naturalists as only a most important contribution toward a completer drama of the future. Fontane W, 2, VIH, In certain fundamental lines the trend of what may be expected in Fontane's critical work is determined at the outset by opinions which he expressed in regard to criticism in general and by testimony concerning himself as critic.
To him the learned application of established theory to the question in hand meant little or nothing. Not tenets but sensations are to sit in judgment. In he writes that impressions may err, but that even in error they avail more than dead law. A certain sensitiveness to the weakness of his professional armor manifests itself, to be sure, in different ways. A sense of triumph when the unacademic succeeds cannot but reveal an undercurrent suggestive of the untrained man and his personal struggle in the literary world. He writes: ' "Als Kollege habe ich — und mit mir gewiss viele — noch die Spezialfreude gehabt, dass ein Schriftsteller den ersten und ein Pro- fessor erst den zweiten Preis errungen hat.
Es ist recht gut, dass wir Professoren und Geheimrate haben, aber ihre Alleinherrschaft dann und wann gebrochen zu sehn, ist doch eine Wonne, weil ein gelegentlicher Triumph von Gerechtigkeit und bon sens. One must feel that had Bunsen been successful in securing for Fontane early in his career a professorship at Oxford or Cambridge, he would have accepted it with brave front, although he wrote to his wife that the idea was ludi- crous.
He writes from London:' "Wenn ich erst die Sprache inne haben werde, so wird sich noch manches finden; bedenke, dass man hier nur ein bisschen Wissen und, versteht sich wie uberall, ein bisschen Gluck zu haben braucht, so ist der Lehrer fertig, wogegen man mich in Deutschland immer nach meinem Pass fragen und mir diese Laufbajm verschliessen wird. Brahm had a university training but was not a scholar by profession. Fiir viele war es Ulk, Radau, Mumpitz, und einige fochten mit, deren Devise war: ' Wir woUen doch mal sehen, was man dem Berliner alles einreden kann.
Aber wenn es auch anders lage, wurde ich doch 'weit vom Schuss' zu bleiben suchen. Ich kann mich da nicht mit einem Male gut einreihen. Abgesehen davon, dass einige in den Verwunderungsruf: 'Gott, nun auch hier noch' ausbrechen wiirden, passe ich wirklich in die Sache nicht recht hinein, weil ich der da zu spielenden Rolle nicht gewachsen bin. Es ist mir gelegent- lich passiert, dass ich mit einem lateinischen oder selbst griechischen Zitat wie mit du auf du angeredet worden bin, wobei ich immer das Gefiihl gehabt habe: 'Erde tu dich auf — ein Gefiihl, das mir in Weimar leicht noch mal erbluhen konnte.
Denn trotzdem ich meinen Lewes und sogar meinen Herman Grimm gelesen habe, habe ich doch von Goethewissenschaftlichkeit keinen Schimmer und wurde jeden AugenbUck die Angst haben: 'Jetzt geht es los. When Fontane feels himself upon a footing that involves no apparent claim of equality with scholars and that cannot, therefore, be legitimately denied him, he regards adverse criticism, although sometimes irritated by it, with charac- teristic objectivity.
This fact-sense reveals itself nowhere more strikingly than in a letter to Friedlander concerning the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy, conferred upon him at the end of his seventy-fourth year by the University of Berlin. Both the letter cited cf. The latter reads here: 39 him and at the same time without overestimating his merits, he shows the conviction that in spite of the influence of friends in securing such distinctions, he is as worthy of them as others.
His conception of criticism was indeed in no sense a sub- terfuge. It had its foundation in the belief that all true art is born necessarily of spontaneous impulse, that the esthetic nature is an incessant creative force, that individuality is a source from which new values may accrue constantly to established norms. It is wholly in keeping with the need of self-expression, which led him personally into the pursuit of letters for a doubtful livelihood.
It is in keeping, further, with the place of importance, beside esthetic worth, that he granted to sincere originality in his praise of Scherenberg's poetry, when he said that its essence lay in its separation from tradition and in its tendency, in spite of frequent lack of beauty, to build upon new foundations in content and form.
Der Kritik liegt es ob, sich fiber solche Emp- findungen klarzuwerden und das Warum einer gewissen Missstim- mung zu ergrunden. Fontane, accordingly, grants to the critic " Ich habe bier nachzutragen, dass icb im Nov. Geburtstage, seitens der philosoph. Fakultat der Berliner Universitat zum Doctor honoris causa ernannt wurde.
Eine grosse Freude, die icb wobl Scblentber und Prof. Ericb Scbmidt ver- danke, welch letzterer die Fakultat mobil macbte. The reflection of indi- viduality advocated by him does not admit of caprice. The esthetic standard, according to which the first involuntary record of approval or disapproval is made, must be stable and must show above all else a response to the test of artistic necessity or artistic truth. He says in his merciless criticism of Frl.
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Clara Ziegler that the public stands under the influence of external appeal alone, but the critic must justify what the stage offers on the basis of truth and of unity be- tween underlying thought and visible line and form. Fontane asserts that his purpose here is to call the attention of the public to a weakness in organic development, not to suggest to the writer how he shall improve his work. Aber was der Dichter weiss, das Publikum weiss es nicht, oder doch nicht immer. So stehe dann nur seinetwillen hier, was ich zu sagen habe. His criticism of Heyse is in the main apparently both open and just.
Occa- sionally, however, it shows a startling amount of considera- tion given to a mediocre play, as in the report on "Das Recht der Starkeren," ' and in such cases it does not carry conviction with it. It seems restrained, at times by the sense of professional courtesy, at times, in the absence of spontaneous approval, by the fear of yielding unconsciously to personal prejudice. He wrote in that Heyse considered everything poor that was not by Goethe or himself,' and as late as that Heyse could not accustom himself to the fact that taste changed in the course of fifty years.
They continued to exchange occasional letters and visits after Heyse left Berlin for Munich, and Heyse even attempted to secure for Fontane the position of secretary to King Maxi- milian of Bavaria,' through which Fontane would have been closely associated with the Munich circle of poets.
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But there was never any deep sympathy between them. The method used here — of testing by consistency and truth — is, however, most common in Fon- tane's work. His recensions of "Hans Lange" show uni- formly, moreover, that he gives this drama high rank except for its conclusion. The judgment pronounced here must therefore be accepted as sincere, whether the expression of purpose is one largely of courtesy or not. Certain secondary restrictions limit even further the critic's method.
The nature of a criticism should depend, in Fon- tane's opinion, to some extent upon the standing of the author whose work is in question. Therefore, he applies an entirely different norm to a tragedy by Grillparzer or Otto Ludwig and to a comedy by Lubliner. In , Fontane had pro- nounced Goethe's conception of Egmont, which had been the delight of his youth, an atrocity Greuel , an historic sin. He admitted that a masterly portrayal made it acceptable on the stage but said nevertheless: ' "Wer fiinfzig Jahre alt ist, Geschichte gelesen und in sich auf- genomman hat, kann dem 'Hares deutschar Nation' dieses Attentat gegen eins der schonsten Kapitel der Geschichte der Menschheit nicht verzeihen.
He does not at any time take exception to Schil- ler's free adaptation of history in "Die Jungfrau von Orleans" and "Maria Stuart," and in he admits that even Egmont may be made convincing by an actor who really grasps Goethe's conception of this hero and can give the figure its distinctive historic-romantic stamp, the basic element which is its very essence. The duty of criticism is to speak the truth, only under exceptional conditions to perform the oflSces of comfort and support ' Berlin criticism is in Fontane's opinion miserable in all its branches, lacking in spirit and not free from restraint " The diary note in objection to Lindau's attitude toward "The Lady from the Sea" is: "Lindau weiss nicht recht, ob er loben oder tadeln, bewundern oder ver- werfen soil.
He writes to his daughter that they are like criminals, afraid of betraying themselves before court by something that might some time be turned against them. This opinion, taken from a letter to Fontane's publisher, Wilhelm Herz, was called forth by criticisms, lacking penetration, directed against his "Wan- derungen," and the irritation that he felt led him here to a sweeping subsequent statement, seeming to condemn all contemporary German criticism.
This demand is, indeed, reflected repeatedly in his work. He praises Brahm's sensitiveness, insight, and style , but tells him that the vital point is lacking in his criticism of Paul Heyse. Dies Wort 'Detail' wahl' ich absichtlich, weil ich das Wort 'Urteil' oder auch nur 'Ein- zelurteil' vermeiden mochte. Sie sehen nun schon, worauf ich hinaus will. Sie haben Heyse sorgfaltig untersucht und der im Neben- zimmer angstlich wartenden Familie das mitgeteilt, was diese, Par- don, schon wusste. Aber die Schliisse daraus haben Sie nicht gezogen und haben der Familie nicht mitgeteilt, ob er leben oder sterben muss.
Und darauf kommt es an. Wir diirfen von. In Ihrem Aufsatze ist nicht Liebe, nicht Hass. Sie sagen im einzelnen eine Menge hiibscher, geistvoUer, witziger, auch sehr zutreffender Sachen. Ich stehe persohnlich so zu Heyse, dass ich ihn fur das grosste, noch mehr fur das reichste Talent halte, das wir zur Zeit in Deutschland besitzen, dessen Bedeutung aber durch einen falschen Tropfen in seinem Blut immer wieder in Frage gestellt, in vielen seinen Productionen einfach vernichtet wird.
War' ich der jiingere, konnt' ich. Urn iiberlebend, in die Lage kommen, iiber ihn zu schreiben, ich wiird' ihn in meinem Essay sehr hoch und sehr tief stellen und das Verkehrte und schliesslich doch auch sehr Unkon- sequente seiner Lebensanschauimgen und seines Liebeskatechismus zu beweisen suchen. Heyse, den ich sehr liebe, weiss auch, dass ich so fiber ihn denke. He writes that Lindau is clever and entertaining, but that in matters of chief concern he often fails to hit the nail on the head.
But direct treatment of salient and distinctive character- istics does not involve severity, the charge he brings occa- sionally against Paul Schlenther, whom alone he names in the same class with Otto Brahm in points of cleverness, un- derstanding, and style. He considers Schlenther's judgment of von Hiilsen's direction of the Royal Stage Berlin and its results not entirely just , since it fails to take into account the fact that neither Vienna, Munich, Dresden, nor Hamburg can show a better sum total within the two decades previous to this date.
But his work shows throughout a full consideration of the diffi- culties involved in the hoped-for attainment. He writes to Schlenther similarly that the art of finding plays bad and saying so in complimentary terms has not yet been dis- covered, but that he considers Schlenther's judgment of L'Arronge's "Loreley" nevertheless more severe than neces- sary. It must be simply a truthful expo- nent of art. It excludes, therefore, both hero-worship and annihilation.
Hiilsen und seine Leute. It is an interesting coincidence that Dr. Schlenther was called in to the position Laube had once held as theater-director W, 2, VII, 80 f.
Gottfried Keller und Theodor Fontane : Ursula Amrein :
He prizes wit in Lindau , but only because he finds it in connection with more important factors rarely found in unison, — good training and good sense Schulung, bon sens and a wealth of happy ideas. Das ist gar nichts. Das kann man von jadam dritten Man- schen sagen. Hauptmann hat ain grosses, ein seltenas Talent. Conrad Alberti's sensational exposition of the points of weakness in the man- agement of the Royal Stage he considers void of new ideas.
He expresses gratitude that Minister von Gossler did not summon him instead of Albert! This is not a revelation of strictly personal feeling; Fontane was not jeal- ous of the honor shown to a younger man. The dominant feeling in this specific case is ex- treme irritation at the lack of appreciation of more capable men. The less spectacular work of Brahm and Frenzel is in Fontane's opinion superior to that of Alberti in both tone and practical import. Other phases of this parade of knowledge, to which Fon- tane objects, are what he calls at one place the "Al- lesbesserwissen " of the Scherer school — with their tendency to make philology the basis of justification; at another place , the hypersagacity of critics who probe after truth to such an extent that the resujt is an impression of utter lack of truth.
Hulsen's failure to ad- vance the younger actors and to the death of older favorites.
Unter den Stucken, die er zur Annahme eidpfiehlt, ist auch eins von Alberti. Dabei trifft es sich sehr komisch, dass er — da er bei der Aufzahlung tiichtiger dramatischer Krafte nach dem Buchstaben ging — eigentlich mit sich selbst hatte anfangen mussen. Er hat aber doch Anzengruber mit An seinem Alberti mit Al vorgestellt, well ihm dieser Vortritt doch zu misslich vorkommen mochte. Fontane's judgment of what he terms the academic ele- ment in criticism is at times, however, ill-grounded.
He writes of Dr. Schlenther's lecture on Ibsen that it is clever, striking in parts, but not convincing erobernd , — a little academic in effect. Another instance of Fontane's antipathy to anything smack- ing of learned criticism is his failure to recognize the purpose of Max Nordau in "Einiges iiber Schillers Don Carlos" Nordau's intention was distinctly not an apprecia- tion of Schiller's art or a study of the structure of the drama, but a discussion of the influences bearing upon the work in the process of production.
Liest man das alias, so erscheint einem Schiller wie der Drucker, Herausgeber, und Gesamtredakteur des 'Friesacker Anzeigers,' der seinen 'Don Carlos' aus damaligen Zeitungsnotizen zusammen geklebt hat. Was wir jetzt im 'Don Carlos' haben, ist danach ein dramatisierter Leit- faden zur Zeitgeschichte von bis , Salat, Kompendiumge- mengsel. Nordau erkennt nicht mal an, dass Schiller, das Mindeste zu sagen, wenigstens mit einer vorziiglichen Wurstmaschine gear- beitet hat.
This lecture appeared in Zur guten Stunde , f. He makes in addition various scattered confessions in regard to his work and his fitness for it. His first important refer- ence to his own critical qualities occurs in the correspondence with the actor, MaximiUan Ludwig, concerning his adverse verdict against the role of Uriel Acosta. He asserts here that he is justified in his metier by fineness of feeling and a sense for art ; that he has unconditional faith in the correctness of his impressions Empfindung ; and that if this were not the case he would lay down the critic's pen.
This statement of confidence, although not restricted, was made to bear directly upon literature and can hardly be applied to other forms of art. Schlenther says of Fon- tane, to be sure, that his critical impulse found expression through the medium of the theater simply because this avenue for income opened to him, an opinion based partly upon the readiness with which he had agreed to contribute art reports to the Kreuzzeitung, partly upon the fact that the stage was to him only one of several places where life might be portrayed in artistic form. But a nature deeply sensitive to art in any form is likely to respond with something of a thrill to all its forms, and the interest in plastic art is naturally uppermost in the course of a limited sojourn in Italy.
More- over, Fontane confesses at one point that he felt less confi- dence in his judgment of art than in that of the stage. Lagen die Dinge gUnstiger, so wtirde ich mich mit einem wahren Feuereifer in diese Fragen stiirzen und in einem Tone losgehen wie etwa iiber die Iphigenie der Frau Erhartt. He writes Jan. The examples which he cites in this instance prove, however, that he is writing under the sway of an ex- treme mood. Such a statement as that he sees hardly any difference between "Iphigenie," "Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen," "Die Weisheit Salomos" and "Nausikaa" is capable of no other interpretation.
Brahm, reporting on the first performance of "Ghosts" in Berlin Jan. Erhartt was one of the actresses of the Royal Theater. He wrote Aug. The only conclusion to draw is that neither individuality nor self-confidence was on the verge of annihi- lation in Fontane even when he gave up his regular activity as critic.
The first demand that Fontane made of a critic, the involuntary response to an esthetic impression, he con- sidered absolute — in so far as anything is absolute — and he felt that this faculty of correct sensibility had been laid in his cradle at birth. A critic cannot exist without the esthetic sense, but it is the union of this sense with the ability to explain esthetic impressions that produces able criticism.
In regard to this relative factor of explanation, Fontane was always conscious of weakness in himself. Paul Schlenther Berlin, The argument in question probably occurred in an intermission. Wer mich aufmerksam liest, wird deshalb in steter Wiederkehr Aeusserungen finden wie etwa: 'es will mir scheinen', 'ich hatte den Eindruck', 'ich gebe anheim'. Das ist nicht die Sprache eines absoluten Besserwissers.
He writes to his daughter that he never considered himself a great critic, that in knowledge and keenness he is far inferior to such men as Brahm, but that his directness and honesty at least must have been refreshing to his readers. The term 'keenness' can have to do only with ability in exposition, in answering the question "Why" in regard to sensations and impressions.
However Fontane may have felt about this element in his work, he was undoubtedly freer than most critics from some qualities that limit esthetic insight and render improbable a just and open verdict. Neither personal prejudice nor a tendency to blinding enthusiasm enters into his criticism.
His admiration could mount to a high level of enthusiasm without drowning the sound of the steady inner voice that pronounced esthetic verdicts, as in the cases of Schiller, Otto Ludwig, Ibsen, Hauptmann, Holz, and Schlaf. His condemnation could be severe without any attempt at annihilation, as in the case of Lubliner's "Gabriele," Brachvogel's "Narziss," Gutzkow's ' ; cf.
X, He could not have performed ably the function of criticizing the plays produced on the Royal Stage between and without doing so. There are frequent expressions of regret from him that blame outweighs praise in his work. But the absolute rejection of plays that he attempted to criticize seriously at all is rare. Trivial in der Idee, trivial in den Characteren, trivial in der Sprache.
Ich mochte noch hinzu- setzen: trivial auch in der Gesinnung. Dazu auch hier wieder die Wahrnehmung, dass die Gestalten, die uns das Leben schildern soUen, nicht aus dem Leben selber, sondern aus dritter respective siebenter Hand genommen sind, aus dem alten elenden Bestande herkommlicher, vieUeicht nie wahrgewesener Buhnenfiguren. Wohin sind wir gekommen? Und wir glauben, uns Uber franzosische Ehebruchsstucke moquiren zu durfen.
Dies ist ja alles viel bedenklicher. Und dabei hohl, hohl. Work based upon such foundations was naturally not taken lightly. Schlenther testifies that no one was ever admitted to Fontane when a criticism was in progress. IS, , B I. The critic says with gratitude, for example, of Adolf Klein's impersonation that it proves his own demands neither false nor unreasonable.
He writes that a play makes a new claim on a critic every moment and gives no time to test subtle points for the explanation of shortcomings. The introduction to his criticism of "Vor Sonnenaufgang" indicates that for him there was a problem in every scene, since he did not take the easier course of denunciation or of unreserved praise. Again and again the note of sense of duty occurs; and duty for the critic meant to Fontane — as is obvious from this discussion — the conscientious application of esthetic and intellectual faculties, with no thought of personal advantage, n reporting truth.
Aber er ist ein Ideal ge- blieben und mit Recht; denn das Vollendete muss unvoUendet bleiben. Die fertigen gotischen Dome sind nicht voUendet und die voUendeten sind nicht fertig. Every serious critic is to some degree an educator. This is especially true of the critic whose work includes a construct- ive as well as a destructive element; nor does the statement involve unquestioned acceptance of the principles according to which he would build.
The very negation of existing conditions and the suggestion of substitutes arouse the criti- cal attitude in others, and affect public sentiment — if only indirectly. The worth of both the destructive and the constructive in Fontane's criticism has been largely overlooked. His work has been considered primarily a record of impressions upon a rather erratic plate, and therefore of value chiefly as a revelation of an original and versatile personality. Richard M. Meyer, "Die deutsche Literatur des Jahrhunderts," 3.
Destruction may rest entirely on a basis of theory. Con- struction may be largely theoretical, but in order to be enduring it must take into consideration practice as well. Fontane's constructive criticism has to do, like Lessing's, with both; but his methods are altogether different. He found a strong basic theory adapted to German drama already in 'existence. This he accepted for the most part without any show of opposition, although it was not his belief that any generation could establish an unalterable law for all time.
His constructive work is limited to improvement and exten- sion, to the perfection of harmony between the various parts, and to the development of detail. He could not call dramas into being to illustrate his principles, as did Lessing; but keeping the vision of a new national drarha and a powerful national stage before him, he made continuous suggestions for changes in scene, in general structure, in the dramatic or poetic conception of a play, and for the performance of wor- thy plays according to the ideas of the author.
The scope of these suggestions becomes apparent only by separating scattered bits from their context and massing them together. Then only are the full proportions of the ideal toward which he worked revealed: the disinterested co-operation of writer, director, actors, and public in behalf of a complete whole. His message to the public, most severe of all, is almost entirely one of denunciation for pleasure in the mediocre and for failure, therefore, to appreciate and demand the best.
They accept affectation for reality; sentimentality for power. They are ruled by prejudice or by prevailing sentiment. Wir sprechen dies um so lieber aus, als Herr Wiinzer im AUgemeinen nicht das fragwiirdige Gluck hat, zu den Lieblingen des Publikums zu gehoren. O Publikum. Ein einziges Mai regten sich zwei Hande und ihr leiser verschamter Klang haUte, beinah komisch, durch das stumm verbleibende Haus. Diese zwei Hande gehorten dem Unterzeichneten. Fontane expresses surprise in a letter to Hertz that he has heard nothing concerning a presentation of Heyse's "Weiber von Schorndorf. In a report on "Der Traum ein Leben" Fontane makes the state- ment that an increased demand and longing for real poetry would again produce such poets as Grillparzer.
He realizes that it is not possible to raise millions of people to the height of esthetic appreciation of art, but it is reasonable to ask of them a distinction between sense and nonsense. Bessere Dichterzeiten als am Versailler und Weimarer Hofe hat es nie gegeben, und die jetzt existierende Abhangigkeit vom Geschmacke des Publikums oder wohl gar von den Launen eines die Hand krampf- haft auf dam Beutel haltenden Buchhandlars ist kainaswegs ein Idealzustand danaben. In Fontane's suggestions to writers, the theoretical and the practical are present in fairly equal proportions.
It is con- venient here, however, in order to avoid confusion and repe- tition, to attempt a separation of the two elements, to bar for the present details which have to do more particularly with theory, and to consider here only the influence Fontane endeavors to exert on directing the current of production into what he believes to be proper channels. From report on Brachvogel's "Narziss. It is no doubt due in part also to his pronounced predilection for the distinctive element, or for discovering the basis for this element, in things to the general observer not more than ordinary.
He writes in his report on a one-act play by von Putlitz "Zwei Tassen" :' "Man wird einraumen. Ja, wir erklaren offen, dass wir fur seiche Kleinigkeiten eine ganz besondere Vorliebe haben, wenn das, was nun endlich da ist, uns als etwas in seiner Art Perfektes beriihrt. This quality reveals itself in almost every page of the " Wanderungen " and determines to some extent his method in narrative.
His personal preferences were not in the line of the amusement play. He writes :' ' V. Fontane himself says of his narra- tive work W, 2, VII, 80 : "wer auf plots und grosse Geschehnisse wartet, ist verloren. Fur solche Leute schreib' ich nicht. In "Der Stechlin" the unifying principle is the personality of the central figure; "Vor dam Sturm" Julius Rodenberg termed a series of prose ballads, and so fine was the implication of lack of general unity of the usual kind involved in this term that Fontane him- self understood for the first time what others had meant by the charge of loose construction brought against the novel cf.
W, 2, X, ff. Wie jeder in unsern Tagen ein Verlangen in sich tragt, im Juli und August einen Trunk Bergluft zu tun, so ist auch ein Verlangen da, in Wintertagen einen frischen Trunk Schiller zu tun.
It was his method, however — a method in accordance with his requirements for criticism and with his belief that the public were influential in deter- mining the standard of the stage — to study the reason for the success of plays which made no appeal to him. Ich finde mehr und mehr den Grund, warum sie wirken, wirken mtissen, und tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner. Objectiv haben sie gar keine Berechtigung. Similarly, although he recognizes Moser's emptiness,' he gives him the honor of founding a new German type, the amusement play. I, Fontane mentions him V. The new national type, for which he saw immediate need, was a type to combat the influence and popularity of the French society play.
He felt keenly the lack of the German stage in light but not trivial comedy with a distinctly national flavor in its tone and trend of thought Gesinnung , and with a refreshing element of genuine humor. He recognized in Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Grillparzer, and Otto Ludwig a tragedy that was national in spirit and that met in many respects the sternest artistic requirements; but German comedy was deficient. His encouragement takes various forms. He recognizes the value of wit and happy ideas in plays of the day no playwrights are named as a wel- come substitute for the prosaic, the insipid, and the senti- mental in the Birch-Pfeiffer plays.
In he had written:'' "Die Anfechtbarkeit in Stoff und Gestalten bleibt dieselbe. It is evident, for example, in Fontane's change of attitude toward both von Moser and Lubliner.
He notes in von Moser 1 talent and great charm of spirit Liebenswiirdigkeit. On this ground he places him in what he terms at this time a new school of comedy, represented chiefly by Benedix, von Putlitz, Girndt, and Wilbrandt. A month later he appreciates in his work clearness — in spite of kaleidoscopic changes in scene — a good sense of construction, comedy of situation, and witty dialog. But he assumes that " Madchenschwiire," announced as adapted from the Polish, is by von Moser, because it reveals all of his virtuosity and at the same time all of his shortcomings. Eben so wenig von folgerichtiger Entwickelung.
Alles WiUkur; nie Verlegenheit was zu tun, weil alle Mittel gelten. Die Scene, der Moment herrschen souveran. He terms him a specialist in the brilliant stringing together of scenes. Material is a matter of indifference to him and he works with puppets. He gives both Laube and Benedix high rank among play-makers of the period for knowledge of life and the theater, for freedom from the bombastic phrase, and from that imitation of Shakspere's imagery which Philistines call poetic.
II, B 3. But they show also the application of norms related to the constant one, the lifelike. Stolberg's presentation of Elizabeth V. May 15, , B 2 : "Sie gab die Xonigin, die aus eifersiichtiger Frauen-Regung zwar die letzien Entsckeidungen hernimmt, aber doch immer Konigin bleibt. Nach dieser Seite bin ist die Elisabeth in ' Essex ' echter, eindringUcher, dramatischer als die Schiller'sche, in der wir nur die kleingeartete, neidisch Eifersiichtige sehen. May s, , B i. He writes of "Kriem- hild" 2? Akt; der 3. Akt 65 he writes that although the succession of artist anec- dotes is somewhat monotonous, a comedy by Wilbrandt is always a pleasure — whether it be old or new, in one act or three — on account of its refreshing, delicate humor.
The report on " Jugendliebe " is in a sense a patriotic call to German playwrights. Fontane defines here, too, the term "Liebenswiirdigkeit" used in his treatment of modern French comedy and applied to Putlitz, Girndt, and Benedix. Erfindung hin, Erfindung her, jedenfalls begegnen wir hier einem Etwas, das das Gegenteil von aller Lahmheit ist. Alias ist elastisch. Goetha sagt einmal, was frisch ist, ist auch nau, und diesem Ausspruche nach, den ich mir ganz zu aigan mache, haben wir hiar nichts Altes, Abgastandenas, sondern atwas blitz- blank Neuas.
Mit diasar Frischa im innigstan Zusammenhang steht, Oder viallaicht nur ain andares Wort fiir sia ist, die Liebenswiirdig- keit diasar Wilbrandtschan Arbeiten. Und dies ist unendlich vial. Im Laban wia in der Kunst ist diese Seite des Daseins viel sparlicher vartratan, als eine optimistiche Anschauung auf dan ersten Blick varmutan mochte. Liebenswiirdig sein umschliesst vial andere Gaban: Gasundheit des Fuhlens und Dankans, gaistige Beweglichkeit, Giita, nichts schwer nehman, lachanda Augen. All das spiagelt sich in dan Lustspialen Adolf Wilbrandts, in keinam mahr als in dieser 'Jugend- liebe'.
Das ganze aufgebaut auf dautschem Gefuhlslaben und deutschem Humor, und in dieser Beziehung spezifisch national. Wir soUten es wirklich mal mit uns selbst versuchen. An den Kraften dazu fehlt es nicht. Girndt, Wilbrandt. New to eBooks. Filter Results. Last 30 days Last 90 days All time.
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