Supplementary Appendix 257a.1

Schleiermacher’s Review of Lucinde [*]

When earlier some unfortunate woman was accused of being involved in the black arts, it was extremely dangerous to try to vindicate her innocence until after the latter was successfully dismissed. Because such will likely always be the case with books, these pages have out of a sense of obligation to public opinion not yet spoken about Lucinde. And indeed, at least by outward appearances, the reaction against this book bears an incisive similarity with those earlier trials in which malice constituted the accusation, while pious simplicity executed the verdict, forces that should not exist in the literary world.

For example, after the horrific accusations had been raised against individual passages that insulted all morality and order and against the pernicious spirit infecting the whole, did anyone actually read the book? As little as people were wont to pay attention to actual facts in those earlier trials. But one person apes and confirms the other, and after the public has been manipulated in this fashion, the judges have no other choice than — instead of criticism — to lose their good admonition.

So now that the book, as the saying goes, was officially incinerated a few weeks ago amid all the pious ceremonies customary at such occasions, one is in a better position to try to bring to bear a more natural view, one not inspired by superstition, and by encouraging people to actually read the book to presage the delightful entertainment that any comparison of the actual book with common opinion cannot but provide. And indeed, when a physician prescribes a harmless dose of saltpeter, and the patient, instead of taking the remedy, instead decomposes it and then accuses the physician of being a brewer of poison — such can hardly be any more comical.

It is admittedly a well-known fact that love is one of those particular phenomena of the heart whose inner nature very few people indeed comprehend, and onto which even the mere breath of most people exerts a corrosive power; and yet when now, after this wonderful operation, the double accusation is raised to the effect that the author intended to write a seductive book but, fortunately, himself rendered it harmless with his rapturous metaphysical enthusiasm, which he simply cannot do without; or that this time, intending to pour out his familiar nonsense over love, he simply could not stay away from libertinism, with which his own corrupt heart is in any case full — then refrain from laughing at this wisdom, wisdom unable to sense its own lack of understanding in such beautiful and clear contradictions, wisdom not guided toward an intimation of the loftier purpose of the work by any view of such.

What we expected instead was a different accusation, one which, because of the aforementioned misunderstandings, no one seems to have countenanced, namely, that Lucinde is sooner anything but a novel, deviating as it does in both content and form from anything considered to be part of a novel’s essence.

That said, one can only briefly allude to how, that notwithstanding, it does indeed belong to that genre through both content and form, which are excellently commensurate one with the other. Even the customary comparison between the novelistic [Romantisches] and dramatic prompts the observation that the former is to have as complete a view of the inner person as possible. Precisely such a view can admittedly be presented in no other way than through a portrayal of action; yet only those who take as their point of departure the belief that a person’s interior is shaped solely from the outside can consider external action to be sufficient in this regard; every other person will demand that a person’s disposition and views be articulated more directly and immediately, and that statements be made juxtaposed with which the relationship to a given object recedes and indeed disappears over against the relationship to ideas.

Then the narrative form as such seems to reside only at the two ends of the novel, where a person has not yet found his or her freedom and uniqueness and is thus yet being externally shaped by the nexus of external life; or where a person is already shaping his or her external lie and world through freedom. Lucinde seems to be construed according to these principles, notwithstanding it has at the end of this first volume not yet attained the final point, remaining instead in the middle, in reflection on itself and the world, and in the process of organically shaping and developing its own essence.

Everything here is thus put into the protagonist’s own quill, and only the period of his search for love expressed in narrative form, and — to maintain the boundaries of that form all the better — expressed in the third person, whereas everything else is directed immediately to the beloved as a letter, self-dialogue, or fantasy.

That which happens before that historical part contains — apart from what it is in and for itself — in various forms an exposition of content and form, of the point from which the whole begins, of the spirit that reigns there, and of the world of readers and friends this poetic piece would like to assemble for itself. Everything in the book is necessary to achieve this final purpose: the presentation of love, of joy and playfulness in the “Dithyrambic Fantasy” and the dialogue “Fidelity and Playfulness,” the demand for unconditional freedom of communication, and the constitution not so much of the episode as of the lyrical form of the whole, the classification of novels and the assessment of the one that is most common, the persiflage of empty business and of inappropriate psychologizing.

In the “Apprenticeship for Manhood” we are taken back to an earlier period when Julius, driven by inner need but finding nothing commensurate with that need that he might appropriate, consumes himself in false tendencies and inner confusion. The appearance of Lucinde, through whom we are returned to the actual starting point, concludes this historical piece.

Here the story stops once more for a rest, as it were, looking past the individual to the universal insofar as Julius, a new Pausias, weaves a garland for his beloved from tender and quite uniquely interpreted myths that metaphorically portrays a history of striving for love. Now, finally, the whole begins moving forward again.

Two letters are presented. The one portrays the pure joy in love — joy that can even be enjoyed in absentia — along with its sweetest hopes in the enthusiastic anticipation of fatherhood and of the domestic life that is not only grounded therein, but also comprehensible solely from that perspective. The other portrays the most profound pain occasioned when the beloved’s life is threatened. It is with great wisdom that Julius and Lucinde are kept at a distance from each other here so that the inner portrayal be all the purer and the impression it gives not be oppressed by external elements.

Two other letters present a view of male friendship from a contemporary perspective, friendship that was the most important, lofty concept for Julius before he discovered love. Here and in a couple of other passages, one might object that precisely the external circumstances — to which allusions are indeed made — are hardly articulated or specified at all. And in general, the final sections lack even that loose connecting thread that keeps the sections prior to the “Apprenticeship” together, between which a letter from Julius to Lucinde weaves its way in which everything in inserted. These here simply stand one beside the other, without any similar external unity.

That said, their inner meaning does admittedly precisely connect them; and yet even if the reader capable of completely understanding the whole on the basis of its principles does not sense this lack of an external connective, still the lack of such makes it extremely difficult for any lower degree of understanding to have access to and progress through the piece from a different perspective.

Following this individual section, “Yearning and Peace” and the “Dalliance of the Imagination” are again portrayals of the whole, of the highest, peaceful enjoyment of love and of the happiest and freest view of life mediated through it. The spirit of this work is doubtless inaccessible to anyone who from this perspective cannot understand everything else and in so doing become one with the poet.

The selection and treatment of individual elements is as unique and new as the economy of the whole. For example, in the case of almost everyone mentioned, the relationship between the characters and art functions as a means of drawing their character, and throws on these figures a light that, if other laws governing this work are not otherwise to be violated, could have come from nowhere else.

And this is one of the most difficult elements in the work, for those who themselves do not have a certain degree of artistic sense and understanding will only distantly intimate the intended impression. The art of the book itself, moreover, occasionally presents itself as prologue and epilogue in order to speak in a cordial fashion with the reader about the composition, and not just at the beginning with respect to the somewhat too formal constitution of the whole, but rather here and there also with respect to individual sections, e.g., before the “Metamorphoses” and after the “Reflection.”

We would like to have seen the author explain on such an occasion why the vision and allegory predominate so over all other forms, and why they recur with such disproportionate frequency, whereas dialogue, which seems to be more commensurate with the novel, occurs but twice.

But admittedly: what dialogues these two are! “Fidelity and Playfulness” is so highly characteristic that at least in this regard it cannot easily be surpassed, and “Yearning and Peace” is so poetic, so sublime and sacred, that one must refrain from trying to say anything about it with mere words. And in general, one cannot take seriously complaints about the lack of poesy in the work; one need read but the second letter to Lucinde to be convinced of quite the opposite; and then everything else as well! How indeed could there be any lack of poesy where there is so much love!

For it is precisely through love that the work becomes not only poetic, but also religious and moral. Religious insofar as it everywhere occupies the position from which it gazes out beyond life and into the infinite; moral insofar as it expands from the beloved out over the entire world, demanding freedom from all undue restrictions and prejudices for everyone just as for itself. We confess that nowhere have we found the relationship between poesy and morality as pure as here, where neither of the two serves the other, and instead each lives in and glorifies the other.


[*] Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks 6 (1800) 2 (July–December), 37–43. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott