Supplementary Appendix 330.2

Christoph Martin Wieland’s, Wilhelm Schlegel’s, and Ludwig Tieck’s
assessments of Johann Daniel Falk’s Taschenbuch für Freunde des Scherzes und der Satire

(1) Christoph Martin Wieland

Wieland’s remarks on Falk begin as follows (“Die Musen-Allmanache,” Der neue Teutsche Merkur [1796] 1:436–451, here 446–48):

I did not find the satire by Falk with the title “Die Gebethe” [The prayers; Göttinger Musenalmanach (1796) 91–115] too long, if by such the reviewer of the most recent Musen-Almanach publications in the Berliner Archiv der Zeit is trying to say that he found them boring [Germ. langweilig], — which to me seems hardly possible unless a reader happens to come upon them in an unpropitious hour and in an equally ill mood.

Indeed, may all our Musen-Almanache and other journals regale us with such long poems! For me, this new writer, one who has devoted himself to the poetic satire with so much genius and diligence, with such a rich vein of wit and humor, such a warm heart, so much knowledge and so decisive a talent for poetry, — I find this poet to be all the more interesting a phenomenon insofar as this particular genre has been hitherto so little plied, and, to my knowledge, not at all yet by any poet who is specifically equipped for such and indeed specifically destined for such through focused study.

In this particular case, however — unless I greatly err — it is no less than the spirits of Aristophanes, Horace, Lucian, Juvenal, and Swift, together with the spirit of the satirical painter Hogarth, who have descended to consecrate this person as a satirical poet.

His virtues in this respect are plentiful — and his greatest flaw — albeit a flaw I would wish on every young poet — is in my opinion merely that in the thrall of imagery and conceptions rushing at him he seems not always to be in complete control of his own imagination, allowing himself instead occasionally to be swept beyond the boundaries of what is seemly by the fire of his own enthusiasm (as seems to be the case more than once in the poem “Die Helden”) or to lose sight of his primary object. . . .

(2) Wilhelm Schlegel

Wilhelm reviewed the first volume (1797) of Falk’s journal in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 103 (Saturday, 1 April 1797) 4–6 (Sämmtliche Werke 11:23–25):

Since almost every discipline, science, art, and pastime among us has its own annual Taschenbuch [pocket-book, smaller format book, often an anthology dedicated to a specific theme], it was certainly more than in order that jesting, this truly universal pastime of cultured people, have its own as well.

At the very least, such a Taschenbuch need never fear being reproached with the same criticism otherwise invariably leveled at fragmented collections from various disciplines intended for quick circulation, namely, that they cultivate superficiality; nor will anyone maintain that one can be thoroughly witty only in proper, hefty tomes and volumes.

Indeed, this modest collection provides considerable proof to the contrary. Herr Falk has already made too favorable a name for himself through the publication of several poetic satires and one lengthier piece, the Gräber zu Kom [Die heiligen Gräber zu Kom und Die Gebete. Zwei Satire [The sacred graves at Kom and The prayers; two satires] (Leipzig 1796)], for anyone to doubt his unequivocal vocation to devote himself to this all-too-neglected literary field.

That said, the endemic seriousness of us Germans makes the cultivation of this field doubly urgent while, on the other hand, simultaneously presenting not inconsiderable hindrances. Of the two opposing conceptions concerning the boundaries of permissible mockery, namely, that which is revealed in the Twelve Tables of Roman law [table viii.1.a]: si qui pipulo occentassit, carmenve condissit, quod infamiam faxit flagitiumve alteri, fuste ferito [If any person has sung or composed against another person a song (carmen) such as was causing slander or insult to another, he shall be clubbed to death], and that which rendered possible the comedy in ancient Athens, the disposition of our own nation far more closely resembles ancient Roman severity than Attic frivolity.

Witty impudence, however, absolutely needs free air if it is to flourish, and yet our own excessively circumstantial reservations toward every cheeky idea or caprice makes it impossible for the writer to put us in a merry mood by means of jesting and mockery, which, after all, is so salutary in its own right. It is more the province of morality than criticism to determine whether this Taschenbuch anywhere oversteps the bounds of justified satirical freedom.

This reviewer read through this work without any annoyance whatever, and indeed was quite delighted to find his own, often dry and ungrateful task presented for once among such cheerful and merry imagery. The Lied in the style of the street ballad accompanying the copper engraving will immediately attract a whole crowd of readers through its subject matter (serenading as it does the most recent history of philosophy).


A droll parody of the nonsense occasionally perpetrated with the artistic terminology of the critical system is given the title “Versuch einer neuen Art von Dedication nach kritischen Principien von Casparus Dominicus an Ebendenselben” [Essay at a new kind of dedication according to critical principles by Casparus Cominicus to precisely the same].

The “Uhu, eine dramatisch-satirische Rhapsodie, mit Chören von Uhu’n, Raben und Nachteulen” [The screech-owl, a dramatic-satirical rhapsody, with choruses of owls, ravens, and night-owls] is similarly rich with reference to our own age. The author had initially intended it for a burlesque stage presentation, under which circumstances, we are assured, it would have gained considerably in comical strength.

Many of its features, however, are certainly no less funny when merely read as such, including the composition of a half-Matthissonian, half-Bürgerian elegy.

Since the author frequently breaks off because of alleged lacunae in his manuscript, one cannot really determine whether filling out those lacunae might help alleviate the disconnectedness between the scenes, or whether this feature in fact is to be taken as an expression of Aristophanian freedom. The latter might excessively increase the demands on the writer, since only the highest element of the comic can justify transgressing against all the otherwise applicable rules of such portrayals.

The “Bekenntnisse eines Weiberfeindes” [Confessions of a Misogynist], a dramatic narrative spiced from the outset with original humor and throughout with comical contrasts, is similarly a fragment, albeit without such being explicitly stated, for the story of the major, to the extent presented here, in fact does not provide the resolution promised at the beginning.

Bon ton auf dem Lande” [Proper tone in the country] is an excellent satire on the foolishness indicated by the title; its dialog is animated and moves with the most effortless fluidity within the fetters of the poetic meter and rhyme.

The dialogue preceding the “Kirchenrechnung” [The church invoice] without actually being directly derived from such, recalls the scene in Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm in which Francisca queries Just concerning Tellheim’s former manservant.

The “Kirchenrechnung” itself, by contrast, and the ironic praise of medicine appear too often in the guise of satire to be particularly attractive, though certain of its ideas are not at all bad.

“Psycharion oder die Entkörperung, eine Geschichte aus dem Griechischen” [Psycharion or the disembodiment, a story from the Greek], which presents a mysticism of sensuality under the cloak of its rhapsodic language, a piece whose poetic value we cannot assess here, is the only one that does not really accord with the purpose of this Taschenbuch in any perceivable way.

Otherwise its wealth of jest and satire is even richly strewn across the subject index and index of names, and even in the concluding self-review. Let us wish Herr Falk, who has already accomplished so much in the genres that in actuality presuppose the most cultivated maturity of mind and who herewith excites our anticipation of far greater things in the future — let us wish him every encouragement in traversing this path beset by such a variety of dangers.

Wilhelm also reviewed the second issue (1798) in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1798) 47 (Saturday, 10 February 1798) 369–71 (Sämmtliche Werke 11:254–60).

(3) Ludwig Tieck

In the preface to the first volume of his Kritische Schriften (1:viii), Tieck remarked the following concerning this review:

The short reviews of the Musenalmanache, written in 1796 and 1798, provoked considerable annoyance at the time despite their innocence. . . . I was the first to draw attention to the presumption of people like Falk, and simply could not comprehend his admirers, especially the renowned men and writers among them. I have since had to learn that despite their erudition and culture, many distinguished authors are incapable of sound judgment.

In his article “Die neuesten Musenalmanache und Taschenbücher (1796–1798),” in the Archiv der Zeit (Kritische Schriften 1:75–132, here 125–30), Tieck offers his critique of Falk’s journal (1798) in epistolary form:

Dearest friend,

At your request, I am herewith sending you Falk’s Taschenbuch along with my letter, whose intent is to make a few remarks on that Taschenbuch. — I know not whether you remember our wager. You have won, let me herewith declare, without accepting a judge beforehand. You risked asserting that Herr Falk’s second Taschenbuch would end up being even worse than his first; and indeed, you were quite right.

But please do admit that you did indeed take an enormous risk with this assertion and that probability was entirely on my side. Considering your uncommonly good luck in gambling, you certainly should not neglect the lottery as well.

How do you tell our German readers that Herr Falk is considered a satirist not only by the reviewers, but even by friends of Swift? That he considers himself thus should by no means distract us; Falk, after all, rhymes with Schalk (Germ. “rogue”); et c’est un rime, mais sans raison [and ’tis a rhyme, but without reason].

That he spent some time in Berlin is evident on each and every page of his Taschenbuch. I do not mean to say that he genuinely knows Berlin, but only that you should not be surprised when he mentions the names of Berlin taverns and brothels, its streets and alleys, etc.

Though the entire book seems calculated to satirize Berlin, there is no real need to apologize, since the author’s lack of knowledge is too obvious to prompt a call to speak out against him. Where no one shares my opponent’s opinion or even finds that opinion new and striking, I certainly have no need to speak out against him.

Although you probably think I am a real Berlin patriot, it is really nothing more than that I do not find Herr Falk’s satires satirical. A writer of satires who himself is witty but is unfamiliar with his own age or thinks himself above it is in dire trouble. He will be astonished at every quotidian occurrence and think himself quite mischievous and roguish [Germ. schalkhaft] when without further explanation he presents to the world this or that discovery — that is in fact already so familiar that one is merely puzzled solely by the discoverer rather than that which is allegedly discovered. If he mocks such things or, especially, speaks out against them out of a sense of zealous virtue, he appears foolish, and his wit will in all likelihood not prompt our forgiveness.

But just between us: is Herr Falk even witty in the first place? I do realize he himself thinks so, and that many respected men do as well; but I do not know why I find Sterne, Swift, Voltaire, and others witty, but not Herr Falk.

His unfamiliarity with the age is betrayed in every essay. He spars till he is out of breath with things that are already long forgotten. He thinks himself quite the dangerous one when declaiming against institutions or persons whom people do not remember anymore even in Berlin itself. He is so unfamiliar with the customs of larger towns that he finds Berlin remarkable, clapping his hands in utter astonishment in his text and notes about things he could find even in considerably smaller towns.

In a word, Falk as a satirist stands in every sense beneath his own age. His knowledge seems extraordinarily limited, but even more so his powers of understanding, otherwise he would not confuse and describe so wondrously several writers in his “Poor Thoms,” or conflate the customs tariff as an oppressive burden with forced labor in his “Decalogue.” Truly, one can but smile at the good-natured ignorance of this writer.

Have a look at this so-called “Decalogue” and tell me whether any writer who claims to be read has ever dared transgress so severely against taste and decency. Has he no sense for the fact that one simply does not speak in good society about certain things, even if everyone already knows them? This alleged poem equally lacks healthy judgment, wit, and decent verses. Ill-conceived versification indescribably torments the author in all his poems in any event. He becomes confused, his thinking distorted, and his wit less apparent and certainly less facile and light than in his prose.

But just who was his intended audience with this Taschenbuch? He explicitly eliminates the ladies, since they allegedly so rarely find pleasure in satirical poems. I myself would not risk giving his Taschenbuch to any of my female acquaintance, regardless of how persuaded Falk himself is of the moral degeneracy of Berliners.

In every essay, this author’s treatment of subjects is so common and so unremarkable that he certainly does not make it particularly easy for discriminating readers with taste or other friends of jest and satire. Consider merely the “Decalogue” with all its platitudes, the satire against propaganda with its pathetic alterations of Virgil’s verses.

Although the author is indeed witty in parts of this essay, he works the subject to death. The way he cites German poets is utterly ludicrous. The pinnacle of foolishness is where he adduces the moonlight Lied of Claudius. One everywhere notices that the author is simply unable to forget the students in Halle, and though the horse in the front with all the references to the university in Halle may well entertain the young students there, I doubt very much any cultivated man will derive much enjoyment from it. —

Most dull, honest Dull, the schoolmaster Holofernes says to witty constable Dull in Love’s Labour’s Lost [act 5, scene 1]; and indeed, it almost seems Herr Falk chose this line as the motto of his own writings.

“Poor Thoms” is a peculiar mix of jest and seriousness. The emotional element is flat, not to speak of the improbability, and the satirical part is probably the least successful here. Too bad that the nice Lied “Thoms sat by the shimmering lake” — that it went astray and landed precisely here. Here, too, Berlin is everywhere the trump card for the author’s wit.

But I am too weary to continue. Is it not strange that one of our respected poets [viz. Christoph Martin Wieland] has praised this writer so loudly? Does it not also seem to you as if those seven spirits [in Wieland’s review] who allegedly took up residence in this satirist a bit too hastily are now extracting satirical revenge?

That said, I do believe that many German readers are good-natured enough to read all of Herr Falk’s essays as if they were dictated in corpore [in person] by those illustrious men, — well, and then they will indeed appear thus to readers, and I confess I myself envy such splendid entertainment.

I have on several occasions wondered whether Herr W[ieland] wanted to play a trick on his countrymen by ironically recommending the young satirist [Falk], but this notion is in no way commensurate with this man’s noble traits.

The bad part is that many readers will be adducing his authority if they perhaps have the misfortune of enjoying Herr Falk’s “Decalogue.” The parody of Goethe’s poem “Know’st thou the land where the lemon tree blows” pleased me greatly despite its obscure elements. The author breaks off after the first stanza and makes do with a terse “etc.” Why did he not do this with all his essays?

Just a few words yet about Herr Falk’s originality. In this preface, he speaks out quite harshly against those who would deny him such. But is it not true that he is a mere imitator? And a poor one at that? In the previous Almanach, a witty story of Beaumarchais was utterly ruined and altered utterly without taste. The bitten apple and such in no way improved the story. The idea of Muhammadanism is not new; that sort of thing was already written against the fear of Catholicism. Indeed, Herr Falk even repeats certain anecdotes and alters them because he simply too easily misses the perspective from which something is witty in the first place.

I confess I am one of those people who, at every astonishing notion, immediately begin to doubt whether it really comes from Herr Falk; I have simply found excessively many reminiscences and imitations in his satires.

The author is quite proud of his personal satires, even defending them in his preface. Although I am certainly in favor of personal satire if the concept be properly understood, I cannot possibly endorse his. His attacks are more insignificant and characterless than genuinely cheeky. Every reviewer who reviews an inferior book is composing much more of a personal satire than does Herr Falk.

His waggishness is more that of a young boy who fears teasing and always tries to watch his back. Nor do his attacks at all exhibit the character of an ingenious writer whose genius ignores normal people; instead, he teases and reproaches essentially at random, excessively exposing his own head without even being aware of doing so. Without seeking to defend the Cosmopolitan, I can nonetheless maintain that what he said against Herr Falk is well founded.

The land in which Herr Falk lives certainly has nothing to fear from him, something I believe along with his publisher. Whether good Mr. Swift, whom he intends freely to adapt, will not thereby be exposed to an element of danger, is another question entirely. Perhaps Herr Falk would call it a free translation when he translates Pope’s verses:

Curs'd be the verse, how well so'er it flow,
That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear,
Or from the soft-ey'd virgin stead a tear!

[Approximate translation:]

A Lied that, unbridled, disturbs the peace of innocence,
Thereby causing tears to tremble in the eyes of virgins gone pale,
And though it unite all the charms of art,
May it be cursed if thereby a noble man become my foe. 

Such a defender of true freedom should at least be mindful lest his freedom evoke the notion of inferiority in the mind of the aristocratic reader.

Stay well otherwise, and use Sterne or Swift to dispel the foul mood into which your reading of this Taschenbuch may have put you.

Falk did, however, have his advocates, as Tieck rightly points out, and not just Wieland. Johann Gottfried Herder wrote to Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim on 6 October 1800 (Von und an Herder. Ungedruckte Briefe aus Herders Nachlass, ed. Heinrich Düntzer and Ferdinand Gottfried von Herder, 3 vols. [Leipzig 1861–62], 1:281):

Falk has dealt quite uprightly and skillfully and conscientiously with Friedrich Schlegel and consorts, with the former concerning Lucinde. You will be dumbfounded when you see all the vile defamation of shame that these gentlemen continually propagate and present in books and at the university as being the allegedly regnant moral and aesthetics. One cannot cry out to these people Ayez honte de vos ancêtres! [Be ashamed for your ancestors] since shamelessness knows no shame. Here one must encourage and honor Falk, that is, in his fight against this contemptible brood.