Herausgegeben von Friedrich Brandstetter. 8vo. pp. 409.. Leipzig:
THERE is no lack of German literary histories. While English letters have not yet found an historian, there are scores of works upon every branch of German literature. Of these, many possess rare merits, and are characterized by a depth, a comprehensiveness of criticism not to be found in the similar productions of any other nation. Whoever has once been guided by the master-minds of Germany will bear witness that the guidance cannot be replaced by that of any other class of writers. Nowhere can such universality, such freedom from national prejudice, be found, — and this united to a love of truth, earnestness of labor, and perseverance of research that may be looked for in vain elsewhere.
The difficulty for the student of German literary history lies, then, in the selection. A new work, the “Literaturbilder” of J. W, Schaefer, will greatly tend to facilitate the choice. This is a representation of the chief points of the literature of Germany by means of well-chosen selections from the principal historians of letters. The editor introduces these by an essay upon the “Epochs of German Literature.” Then follow, with due regard to chronological order, extracts from the works of Vilmar, Gervinus, Wackernagel, Schlosser, Julian Schmidt, and others. These extracts are of such length as to give a fair idea of the writers, and so arranged as to form a connected history. Thus, under the third division, comprising the eighteenth century until Herder and Goethe, we find the following articles following each other: “ State of Literature in the Eighteenth Century ” ; “ Johann Christian Gottsched,” by E. C. Schlosser; “ Gottsched’s Attempts at Dramatic Reform,” by R. Prutz; “ Hagedorn and Haller,” by J. W. Schaefer; “ Bodmer and Breitiuger,” by A. Koherstein ; “ The Leipsic Association of Poets and the Bremen Contributions,” by Chr. F. Weisse; “ German Literature in the Middle of the Eighteenth Century,” by Goethe ; “Gottlieb Wilhelm Rabener,” by H. Gelzer; “ Gellert’s Fables,” by H. Prutz. Those who do not possess the comprehensive works of Gervinus, Cholorius, Wackernagel, etc., may thus in one volume find enough to be able to form a fair opinion of the nature of their labors,
The “ Literaturbilder,” though perhaps lacking in unity, is one of the most attractive of literary histories. A few important names are missed, as that of Menzel, from whom nothing is quoted. The omission seems the more unwarrantable, as this writer, whatever we may think of his views, still enjoys the highest consideration among a numerous class of German readers. The contributions of the editor himself form no inconsiderable part of the volume. Those quoted from his “ Life of Goethe ” deserve special mention. The work does not extend beyond the first years of the present century, and closes with Jean Paul.