Schiller was snatched from the world in the full maturity of his intellectual power, though he would undoubtedly have been able to perform an endless amount of additional work. His scope was so unlimited that he would never have been able to find a goal, and the constantly increasing activity of his mind would never have allowed him time for stopping. For long years ahead he would have been able to enjoy the happiness, the rapture, yes, the bliss of his occupation as a poet, as he so inimitably describes it in one of the letters in this collection, written about a plan for an idyl. His life ended indeed before the customary limit had been reached, yet, while it lasted, he worked exclusively and uninterruptedly in the realm of ideas and fancy.
Of no one else, perhaps, can it be said so truthfully that “he had thrown away the fear of that which was earthly and had escaped out of the narrow gloomy life into the realm of the ideal.” And it may be observed, in closing, that he had lived surrounded only by the most exalted ideas and the most brilliant visions which it is possible for a mortal to appropriate and to create. One who thus departs from earth cannot be regarded as otherwise than happy.
By JAMES TAFT HATFIELD, PH.D.
Professor of the German Language and Literature, Northwestern University.
The latter half of the eighteenth century has been styled the Age of Enlightenment, a convenient name for a period in which there was a noticeable attempt to face the obvious, external facts of life in a clear-eyed and courageous way. The centralizing of political power in the hands of Louis XIV. of France and his successors had been accompanied by a “standardizing” of human affairs which favored practical efficiency and the easier running of the social machine, but which was far from helpful to the self-expression of distinctly-marked individuals.
The French became sovereign arbiters of taste and form, but their canons of art were far from nature and the free impulses of mankind. The particular development of this spirit of clarity in Berlin, the centre of German influence, lay in the tendency to challenge all historic continuity, and to seek uniformity based upon practical needs.
Rousseau’s revolutionary protests against inequality and artificiality—particularly his startling treatise On the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men (1754)—and his fervent preaching of the everlasting superiority of the heart to the head, constitute the most important factor in a great revolt against regulated social institutions, which led, at length, to the “Storm and Stress” movement in Germany, that boisterous forerunner of Romanticism, yet so unlike it that even Schlegel compared its most typical representatives to the biblical herd of swine which stampeded—into oblivion. Herder, proclaiming the vital connection between the