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then composed fables of no decisive value; and at last, in the seven years' war, wrote war songs, which met with general admiration, and continue to live in the memory of his nation. He possessed alike the friendship of Klopstock and Wieland; and, preserving the vivacity of youthful feeling during a life of eightyfour years, will long be remembered for his poetry, his friendship, and his benevolence. Kleist, an officer in the Prussian service, was a friend of Gleim’s, and a favourite with the public. Having obtained the rank of major, he distinguished himself in the battle of Kunersdorff, which was gained by the Russians. He stormed three batteries; and, leading on the attack of a fourth, he fell, wounded, from his horse, exclaiming to his regiment, “My children, desert not your king.” His poetry is marked by a gentle melancholy, and an eye for nature.—Ramler, an imitator of Horace, took great pains with his style; but he has neither depth nor earnestness; his poems are artificial and cold. At the University of Leipzig, several young men nourished in each other the love of poetry, and maintained their independence of Gottsched. The fables of Gellert were, in their day, very popular. When Frederick II. was at Leipzig, Gellert was presented to him; and Frederick pronounced him the cleverest of the German scholars with whom he had conversed. He was sickly and hypochondriacal; without inventive talent or power; but distinguished for the simplicity of his religious character. His style is clear and correct. His influence may have been good; his permanent value is inconsiderable. The satires of Rabener are deficient in originality and variety; himself cheerful, he was employed in the tax-gatherer's department in Saxony; Satires on persons in high life he had prepared, and announced them as to be published after his death. Of their merit, nothing can ever be known; in the bombardment of Dresden, his house, and with it his papers, were burnt. So the character of the sovereigns of that day is unimpeached by the satirist. Of Cronegk much was expected; his character was eminently amiable; his talent distinguished. His tragedy, Codrus, met with a success which he did not live to enjoy. For the rest, in the little which he had time to finish, he followed established usage. Kästner, too, afterwards professor in Göttingen, and famous over all Europe, in his day, as a mathematician, wrote epigrams, which have a great deal of caustic humour, and, though sometimes coarse, are generally exceedingly sharp and severe. Gessner, the Swiss, was intended for a bookseller. His fortune as a writer has been great; in almost all the languages of Europe, there are translations of some of his works; but his merit is moderate. He is altogether too innocent and tender. It will never do to have, for page after page, nothing but the bleating of lambs and innocents; a lion must now and then roar; though the roaring of Gessner, harmless as that of honest Bottom, would be such, that “the ladies need not be afeard.” And Zimmerman, too, likewise by birth a Swiss, and a physician of some merit—how came he by his fame as a writer? He was a fine specimen of the melancholic temperament, excessively given to vanity and hypochondria. Before he was much noticed, he was a man of real worth, of good talents, and extensive knowledge; but flattery spoiled him outright. His vanity was not the vanity of self-complacency, which is amiable and harmless, and belongs to the sanguineous man; but the passionate thirst for distinction; a perpetual contemplation of himself, which needed to be kept in good humour by perpetual adulation from others. His success at the courts of Hanover and Berlin, might seem to have made his station enviable; but he led a miserable life. He was such a capricious, irritable man, in his family, that his son ran away, and his daughter had none of the pleasant gentleness of her sex in his presence; once, in the house of another, she fell at the feet of a lady, with whom her acquaintance was transient, begging her to rescue her from her father. The name of Winckelman is not to be pronounced without veneration for his merits, and sorrow for the miseries of his life. The whole circle of human knowledge does not possess a more cheerful subject of study than that of ancient art, to which he devoted himself; it is exclusively employed in the observation of beautiful forms, and traces the history of the human mind, as exercised in representing objects of imitated or ideal loveliness. And we know not the man of superior mind, whose life has been less favoured by the ordinary gifts of fortune. He was the son of a poor shoemaker, in a town of little note. At the public school, the aged master was pleased with him, and took him into his house; and when the old man grew blind, Winckelman used to be his guide and to lead to him, receiving in return the benefit of his conversation. When seventeen years old, Winckelman found his way to a gymnasium in Berlin; and, at the time that the library of the learned Fabricius was sold at auction, in Hamburgh, he went all the dreary distance between those cities, on foot, to buy a few ancient classics, with money which he begged on the way. At Halle, in 1738–9, where he was supported by small pittances of charities, he neglected the study of a profession, and gave himself to that of the ancients and the arts. One year he was private teacher in a family; then he removed to Jena, where he learned English and Italian; he was again private teacher, and then a subordinate master in a public school. Finally, when twenty-nine years old, he obtained a place in the employ of the Saxon minister, near Dresden, with a salary of fifty-six dollars. And here he was contented and happy; for now he could make himself familiar with the works of art in Dresden. At length his merits were perceived; and the sovereign of Saxony gave him leave to travel to Rome, with a pension of one hundred and fifty dollars, to continue two years. Such was the patronage of princely liberality . At Rome he made himself friends, and resided in Italy, chiefly in Rome, thirteen years. At length, in 1768, he was induced to visit Germany. As he saw the mountains of the Tyrol, his heart grew heavy; as he descended them on the north, he was seized with a real home-sickness for Italy. With difficulty he was induced to proceed to Vienna. Here he was well received by Kaunitz, who had a taste for the fine arts, and kindly noticed by Maria Theresa. It was in April 1766, that he entered Germany; and early in June, he was on his way again to Italy. On the journey, a criminal, who had been condemned to die, but afterwards had been pardoned, joined him as a travelling companion; and in Trieste, in the hope of getting some gold medallions which Winekelman had with him, murdered him at midday. Winckelman’s History of Ancient Art was first published in 1764. It is a work which is the common property of cultivated nations; original in its design; of acknowledged importance; full of taste, erudition, and eloquence. When we consider the nature of the subjects, in treating which he gained his glory, so unlike any thing that lay in his horoscope; or the melancholy events in his life, or the admirable style in which his works are written, especially when the imperfect state of German literature, previous to his leaving Germany, is remembered, we feel for him an unmixed admiration. Of how energetic a will must he have been possessed, to accomplish what he did, as it were in spite of his destiny! And how much is it to his honour, that, though he could find rest only among the creations of Grecian art, he preservo ed the pride of a German, and laid his laurels at the feet of his country. . We have now enumerated the most distinguished writers in the German language, who flourished before the year 1770; when a new era began in the history of German literature. We reserve the discussion of this recent period for another opportunity.
ART. VIII.-4. History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. By WASHINGTON IRVING. In three volumes: New-York: Elliot & Palmer. 1828.
We cannot present to the notice of our readers, a new work from the pen of Irving, without indulging ourselves in the expression of our unfeigned admiration of his genius and character:
—his name stands associated in our minds, with so many endearing recollections; his example has done so much in purifying our national taste, and in vindicating our claims to literary distinction, that it would be ungrateful, not to convey to him, the high sense that we entertain of his public services, and, if it be necessary, to assure him of the strong hold which he possesses in the minds and hearts of his countrymen. It may in truth be said, that no author has mingled in his writings more of his own feelings and associations; his readers are admitted to the closest intimacy with his inmost thoughts, habits, and sentiments; nor is it possible for any to mistake them: he unconsciously reveals himself to us, as a man of the highest principles of virtue, honour, and liberality; a keen, but tolerant observer of the follies and absurdities of his fellow men; a sound-hearted American, proud of his country, jealous of its honour, and attached to its free institutions. Men of his refined temperament of mind, and acute sensibility, whose aim is rather to charm the imagination, than to enlarge the bounds of knowledge, stand in need of the excitement of public favour; their minds are often clouded by doubts and misgivings of their own powers, and too much disposed to ascribe an undue value to the opinions of others, as a counterpoise to their own feelings of distrust and self-condemnation. It is not our intention to discuss the merit of his former productions: his “History of New-York, from the beginning of the World to the end of the Dutch Dynasty,” is, in our opinion, the most original of all his works; the name of Diedrick Knickerbocker is stamped upon the mind of every reader; and his veracious legend, is known and quoted by all ranks and degrees of persons, with inexhaustible merriment. To be read, admired, and understood, by the great body of the people, is, indeed, to enjoy the highest reward of literary fame, and may be confidently regarded as the certain guarantee of its perpetuity. The succeeding works of Irving, The Sketch Book, Bracebridge Hall, and Tales by a Traveller,-are too well known to require a critical examination. To us, they appear to display a finer tact of authorship, greater maturity of taste, and more enlarged views of human nature; but, at the same time, less boldness of outline and freedom of touch, than are to be found in his earlier works. He has shown himself strongest in American subjects; Rip Van Winkle, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Dolph Heighliger, and Wolfert Webber, are full of invention, poetic feeling, and picturesque humour. The humour of Irving, in our opinion, distinguishes him beyond all his contemporaries; his vein is singularly rich and original, flowing naturally from the subject, drawn from the simplest objects, and so mingled with the pathetic, as frequently to make our eyes overflow. We heartily rejoice in the well-earned success of Irving; his
reputation abroad, as a classical American author, is perfectly established; the taunting question of “who reads an American book?” has been answered by him in the only way that it merited being answered. Hitherto we have been accustomed to regard Irving wholly as a voyager in the world of fiction. In the work before us, he presents himself in the new light of the grave historian of perhaps the most memorable event in the annals of the world ; that by which an entire hemisphere was opened to the view of the nations of the ancient continent. An event, whose important consequences are yet but partially developed, in doubling the extent of civilized society, in preparing an asylum for liberal principles of government, and in opening the way for the prevalence of a religious system, which, however varied in sect, and diversified in doctrine, rests on the foundation of universal toleration and unlimited charity. If, in assuming the character of the historian, Irving may have given up many advantages, such as his brilliant and inventive imagination, his powers of description and intense sense of natural beauty, and still more, his vein of delicate, yet keen-edged humour; attributes which have rendered his former works so fascinating; still he may find a compensation in the overpowering interest of his subject, while the graces of his chaste and simple, yet polished diction, remain to attract and delight his readers. The circumstances of the times, the brilliancy of the event, the difficulties overcome, the enthusiasm and chivalry of his hero, throw around his work the charms of fictitious narrative; while the dignity and importance of the discovery he celebrates, will place his work among the most important of histories. Our author, in his preface, briefly states the origin of his undertaking. We should do him injustice, were we to give it in any language but his own :“Being at Bordeaux, in the winter of 1825–6, I received a letter from Mr. Alexander Everett, minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Madrid, informing me of a work then in the press, edited by Don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, Secretary of the Royal Academy of History, &c., containing a collection of documents relating to the . of Columbus ; among which were many of a highly important nature, recently discovered. Mr. Everett, at the same time, expressed an opinion, that a version of the work into English, by one of our own country, would be peculiarly desirable. I concurred with him in the opinion, and having for some time contemplated a visit to Madrid, I shortly after set off for * capital, with an idea of undertaking, while there, the translation of the Work. “Soon after my arrival, the publication of Mr. Navarrete made its appearance. I found it to contain many documents hitherto unknown, which threw additional lights on the discovery of the new world, and which reflected great credit on the exertions of the learned editor, Still, the whole presented rather a mass of rich materials for history, than a history itself . These were precious treats for the mere man of research ; but the sight of disjointed papers and official documents,
is apt to be repulsive to the general reader, who seeks for clear and connected narrative. These circumstances made me hesitate in my proposed undertaking;