The painters represented here alongside with the two writers to whom this volume is devoted, are Cornelius, Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Rethel, and Kaulbach. These men were not only contemporary with Hebbel and Ludwig, but may indeed be called their artistic counterparts. Though widely differentiated by individual temper and talent, these painters and poets belong to the same phase of mid-century German literature and art: the striving of Romanticism beyond itself, the struggle for a new style uniting depth of feeling and terseness of delineation, the longing for a new view of life harmonizing the worship of the past with the demands of modern society and the problems of the day. Hence the heroic note in the work of these painters and poets, hence their predilection for great historical or mythological or religious subjects, hence their leaning toward tragic conflicts in every day situations, hence their all too conscious striving for pointed effects; hence, also, the inspiring influence emanating from their best productions.
By William Guild Howard, A.M.,
Assistant Professor of German, Harvard University
The greatest German dramatists of the middle of the nineteenth century were Franz Grillparzer, Friedrich Hebbel, and Otto Ludwig. In a caustic epigram written in 1855, Grillparzer set forth that Dame Poetry, for some years a widow and now ailing, needed a husband, but could find none; and we remember that the heroine of Libussa rejects the wise Lapak, the strong Biwoy, and the rich Domaslaw because she desires in one man, united, the qualities which separately dominate the three. With more charity, Grillparzer might have more fully recognized the poet in Hebbel or Ludwig; but we may be permitted to think of these three dramatists as not unlike the three suitors for the hand of Libussa: Grillparzer was rich, Ludwig was wise, and Hebbel was strong. Each of them was somewhat deficient in the qualities of the other two; each, however, was a personality, and Hebbel one of the most powerful that ever lived.
Hebbel’s career is a long battle against all but insuperable obstacles. Born at Wesselburen in the present province of Schleswig-Holstein on March 18, 1813, he was the son of a poor stone mason—so poor that, as Hebbel said, poverty had taken the place of his soul. Though Klaus Hebbel was a well-meaning man, he was a slave to the inexorable non possumus of penury. In winter, especially, lack of work made even the provision of daily bread often difficult and sometimes impossible for him. But Friedrich Hebbel’s childhood, full of hardship as it was, was not cheerless. The father did what he could; and the mother, at whatever sacrifice to herself, could nearly always do something for the children. The greatest hardship was caused by the father’s