Caroline’s Review of Friedrich Schulz

Caroline’s Review of Friedrich Schulz

Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797)
130 (Tuesday, 25 April 1797) 217–24 (part 1);
131 (Wednesday, 26 April 1797) 225–32 (part 2).

Leipzig, b. Göschen: Kleine Romane by Friedrich Schulz. 8vo. Volume 1. 1788. 293 pages. Volume 2. 1789. 344 pages. Volume 3. 1789. 366 pages. Volume 4. 1790. 298 pages. Volume 5. 1790. 347 pages. (Each volume with a title copper engraving.) (5 Rthlr.).

Leipzig, b. Göschen: Leopoldine. Ein Seitenstück zum Moritz. By Friedrich Schulz. 1791. 8vo. Part 1. 317 pages. Part 2. 312 pages. (With copper engravings.) (2 Rthlr. 8 gr.).

Weimar, in der Hoffmanischen Buchhandlung: Kleine prosaische Schriften by the author of Moritz. 8vo. Volume 1. 1788. 176 pages. Volume 2. 1788. 224 pages. Volume 3. 1791. 198 pages. Volume 4. 1790. 164 pages. Volume 5. 1795. 308 pages.

Berlin, b. Fr. Vieweg the Elder: Gesammelte Romane by Friedrich Schulz. Part 3. Henriette von England. 1794. 8vo. XXIV and 256 pages. (1 Rthlr.). — The same also under the special title: Henriette von England. German ed. by Friedrich Schulz.

Part 1 of Review
Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 130
(Tuesday, 25 April 1797) 17–24

Among the numerous novels that swell our book catalogues at every book fair, most, indeed, almost all traverse the cycle of their insignificant existence so quickly, and disappear into the forgotten dust bins of old books in lending libraries so quickly that the art critic must stay hot on their heels if he is to avoid the considerable annoyance of expending his assessment on a piece that in fact no longer even exists.

On the other hand, even the most timely and well-founded criticism has little effect in stemming the tide of these loose wares among their intended readers. The purely sensuous hunger for novels must be satisfied, regardless by which fodder. The insuperable aversion against reading even the most ingenious book a second time is joined by an element of contentedness that will make do with even the most flaccid, stale, and outrageous material if it but appear new; in this situation, a mere paltry change of garments suffices to evoke the praise of “novelty” for even the most stale of materials.

For six or seven years now, every reviewer in the Holy Roman Empire working in this field has been opposing novels of chivalry; and yet the abundance of courtly lances and swords continues to flood in unabated upon them. There is simply no escaping the plethora of Fehmic courts, secret alliances, and ghosts. The ambition of both the writer and the reviewer with any self-respect must thus be restricted to addressing the more cultivated part of the reading public.

Friedrich Schulz attracted precisely that group in inaugurating his career so splendidly with the small novel Moriz; [1] the merits he has earned for our literature through translations, adaptations of foreign works, and his own writings are still too fresh in memory for one not to linger at least a short while in their recollection. Hence we do not fear in the slightest that we will be engaging in an undertaking wholly without value if through our assessment of the writings enumerated above — which, though no longer enjoying novelty, nonetheless deserve no less to be read today than when they did — we pay off a long-standing debt for the A. L. Z.

It is striking, and has been oft noted, that our language has hitherto perfected itself far more favorably for poetic use than for prose discourse. On the other hand, German writers on the whole still fare better with the more serious genres, those requiring energetic buoyancy and dignity, than with the lighter, more lively tone in which one’s intellectual powers unfold without tension and laborious effort, as it were more playfully, and where especially an agile wit has free reign to present itself in the most favorable light. Anyone who has spent much time among foreigners cannot fail to have noticed that in French and even in English, a conversation can be guided by a certain choice of expressions, delicacy of locution, and subtlety of references and distinctions the likes of which one can hardly attempt to the same degree in German without falling into foppish affectation and stiffness.

This latter phenomenon is self-evident given the former. The art of skillful and entertaining writing is closely connected with the gift of convivial communication, indeed the two perpetually interact. The more successfully the former is practiced, the more richly will the latter unfold and, through elevated, refined social pleasure even enhance conviviality in its own turn.

But the writer who would cultivate for society must himself be cultivated by it; and yet how many among the great mass of those who labor to entertain the reading public in Germany have genuinely been able, amid the most refined circumstances of life, to cast off the awkward one-sidedness of their intellect through diverse and carefully selected social contact, not to speak of successfully appropriating for themselves the manifold virtues constituting truly good tone? How many, feeling their own power and Germanness, are not instead far from even being conscious of this need?

Herr S. knows the world and society; he has shown himself to be an intelligent, bright, and unprejudiced observer especially through the animated portraits he has presented of several of Europe’s main cities; and in order to be such, one must move about with freedom and confidence amid the throng of quite different modes of thinking and endeavors that rub up against one another and intersect thousandfold in the centers of refinement. To this active engagement in real life, together with the natural inclination of his own disposition as a writer to be a pleasant social companion, Herr S. then added another course of study that is generally equally alien to the authors of our usual novels, namely, a broad familiarity with French literature.

Certainly nowhere is the talent of narrating agreeably and vivaciously more at home than in French literature. It diminishes Herr S.’s fame not a bit that in this respect he, who himself never seeks to conceal such, owes much to his models; for who, indeed, can do without models for development and cultivation? Nor is the imitation through which his discourse approaches the French manner in any wise an anxious one, or inappropriate to the inner spirit of that manner. Under his hands, that which he freely appropriates has indeed quite put off any foreign appearance

Without becoming un-German in the least, one can indeed exchange the dragging, shuffling, ponderous style — shortcomings to which our language is admittedly all too subject by the very nature of its syntax and word order — with the brisk, evanescent pace of French prose. Nothing, however, would remove us farther from the advantages of this model than Gallicisms, for no nation more stringently guards the characteristic purity of its language, nor banishes everything from it that cannot be harmonized with its general disposition, than the French.

Herr S. has largely avoided this hazard on which one otherwise so easily falters when attempting such approximation. Even when working wholly according to foreign creations, he translates less in a word-for-word fashion and evokes an original less frequently than traditional German faithfulness is generally wont to do, which does otherwise fare quite well in translations. Perhaps this is precisely why he has succeeded better in rendering the impression of the whole, to which end an unforced, unaffected quality plays such an essential role in this genre.

These merits notwithstanding, one might yet criticize several individual stylistic features of this tasteful writer. For example, here and there especially in the works of Madam de la Fayette (the authoress of Henriette von England, Zaide, and the Prinzessin von Cleves, [2] the latter two of which constitute the first two volumes of the Gesammelte Romane and have already been reviewed in this journal), we missed the more delicate and natural disposition of the original in his translation.

Neither in adaptations nor in original creations does he quite seem to have at his disposal a capacity for profusely florescent discourse; and since the chosen genre does not really need this feature in any case, it would have been better to dispense entirely with claims to such. In several passages where he is searching for the most intimate expression for a certain rapturous enthusiasm of feeling, or the most powerful sensual expression for mesmerizing beauty, he instead resorts to the precious in the former instance, the overladen in the latter, also moving beyond the limits of straightforward prose without sweeping the reader along with any genuinely poetic lilt, something which, contrary to common opinion, can indeed be accomplished alongside the greatest simplicity.

We also encountered all sorts of minor transgressions against correct language use, notwithstanding grammatical precision would have been an extremely welcome virtue here insofar as such is still very rare indeed among us wherever we deal with our language in an active, living way rather than with excessively measured preparation, namely, in conversation, in extemporaneous presentations, and even onstage.

Since those pieces among Herr S.’s writings here that are translated or adapted do not at all derive from the most recently published originals, originals to which a more immediate demand generally draws the merely mechanical translators, translators who are often wholly unfamiliar with the literature of the language, and since he has instead disseminated French originals in Germany that in part were written quite some time ago but with which nonetheless only a few among us had become familiar, it is reasonable that his selection be considered in this respect as well, if that selection indeed be a good one.

Such admittedly does not seem to us to be consistently the case, and though we do not at all hesitate to acknowledge that some of these stories did indeed completely merit being transplanted by such a skilled hand, in the case of others we greatly regret that Herr S. was not more often disposed to engage his own powers of imagination for the purpose of independent invention. A brief look at the individual pieces will justify this assessment. We will for now pass over Leopoldine, printed in increments among the Kleine Romane, since it did appear separately as well, that we may conclude with the author’s most extensive original piece.

Kleine Romane, volume 1, pp. 1–148. Liebe nach der Kunst, after the French Le beau de la galanterie. [3]


Although we are not familiar with the latter, it must have little to commend it within this genre otherwise so commensurate with French custom, since the German adapter indicates the author of the original story only as the brayer, and because he as the real master of the painting was not always entirely successful in remedying the latter’s infelicities. The countess’s art would not appear refined enough by far were the seduced man at least more worthy of the expended effort, and were it perhaps some amiable personality trait that made it so difficult for her to gain control of him rather than mere lack of character and ponderous stupidity. Perhaps it was commensurate with the original intention for one to come away with the unpleasant impression of emptiness of the sort that generates this manner of love in the first place.

Volume 2, pp. 203–90. Das Ideal, a more serious than light story, albeit one essentially empty with respect to content.


Various passages here might demonstrate the previous assertion concerning the author’s inclination to seek the most ardent expression of feeling along a wholly inappropriate path, one occasionally leading him into the completely opposite region, namely, that of frigidity. On page 241 we read: “For situations of this sort, language has no words, the narrator no composure, and the reader no sympathy. The writer has accomplished all he could by pointing silently, with a trembling finger, to the tear rolling down the pale cheek of him who endures such torment.”

Any reader who feels even half as bad about the suffering at issue here as the narrator himself according to this description would have to be excessively soft-hearted indeed. The lover who feels so ill had at least seen the object of his passion; but what happens to the heroine is quite appropriate: for why does she fall in love on the basis of a mere decription merely because it coincides with her ideal? A provençal noble and poet once allegedly fell so mortally in love with a certain Countess of Tunisia with whom he had absolutely no acquaintance that he died the very first moment he laid eyes on her.

But such things have not happened for a very long time now. Neither anticipation nor surprises compensate us for the improbabilities arising during the course of the story. Our immediate awareness that two people must die in order that two ideals be brought together inclines us to hasten to learn of their deaths, after which the story is essentially over.

Prinz Dadedido, pages 291–344, is a modest fairy tale in which mischievous phantasy quite daintily engages its illustrative imagination without dissolving wholly into allegory; it is quite amiably recounted from the French and is, moreover, adorned with several more contemporary allusions.

Volume 3. Liebesglück durch Unbeständigkeit. Pages 191–272.


A prefatory introduction seeks to set the perspective for this originally French novella (Rosalie ou le triomphe de l’inconstance), [4] i.e., excuse the fact that it was incorporated into this otherwise fine collection at all. Even to an imagination accustomed to such material, be it yet otherwise unhardened against the ugliness of unveiled depravity, it cannot but appear more immoral than frivolous, more repugnant than charming. In their own relentlessly unsparing stories, Crebillon, Hamilton, [5] and others understand how to keep any stirrings of indignation at bay by the overall atmosphere they generate; be the portrayal ever so free, its tone always suggests it is merely playing with its object in a condescending or even contemptuous fashion.

By contrast, here the reader quickly senses a serious effort to gloss the lax relationship between all men and women with a sophistic veneer. The inventors of such societal pieces are not so much making a contribution to the history of morals than serving as such themselves.

Das vollkommene Weib und der vollkommene Mann. Pages 273–366. In our opinion the most ingenious of the shorter stories our author presents. Here, too, however, he is little more than a translator, though such is not explicitly indicated and the interspersed satire exhibits a quite local and novel bearing. The French original was already translated into German many years ago under the title Prinz Typhon und Prinzessin Zartkinda (see Johann Elias Schlegel’s Werke, part 3). [6]

Herr S. has with a successful hand merely managed to apply a fitting garment to an addiction of our age that has not yet completely faded, turning two guiding fairies into an authoritarian German pedagogue and a French governess. Quite without his adding anything, the original contrasts here were already organized in a quite comical fashion, individually portrayed with cheeky, pert features and yet not at all exaggerrated with respect to their universal meaning and overall effect; in his own turn, however, he has used a light and pleasant hand in dealing both with what he found before him as well as with what he himself added.

Although there is not much in the way of the latter, there was no need for any more extensive additions in any case, and what little he did add is quite witty. One is astonished to find that features seeming to derive solely from the intent to render a German oddity ridiculous can in fact already be found in the original. An allegorical “temple of self-love” has justifiably been omitted.

Volume 4. König Stark-an-Kopf und seine Familie. Pages 1–170. Die gute Frau. Pages 171–216. Muku und Bstbst. Pages 217–98.


Three fairy tales from the French, the first of which is undeniably the best. The most fetching sprightliness inspires especially the beginning, maintaining its lilt, albeit not always as brilliantly, right up to the end of the rather long series of wondrous occurrences. It exhibits sense and spirit in its individual features quite without any more intricately developed relationships, so that the clever inventress, the Countess von Nemond, could quite justifiably call it the conte en l’air.

The latter is more inclined to enter into allegorical clothing, and the phantasy (if we be allowed to borrow this expression from a connoisseur and master) is borne less by its own wings, which does, after all, accord best with the nature of the fairy tale. Die gute Frau does not succumb to the error of being excessively significant, since she herself is sufficiently insignificant. The rather broad naiveté of the nurse from whom the story allegedly derives — after all, one good woman is always happy to gossip about the other — is unable really to spice up the saccharrine contents, and we were reminded of the well-intentioned, virtuous enchantments with which Madam le Prince de Beaumont touches and entertains children in her own fairy tales. [7]

These three pieces, by the way, despite their differences, do resemble each other in their overall organization. To wit, extremely charming and amiable princes and princesses are to be brought together, good fairies exercise their influence to accomplish just that, bad fairies theirs to prevent it, though the former, as expected, always carry the day. Are we as little able to end our fairy tales without marriages as our novels and plays? —

The German disposition is expressed so freely and agilely here that the reader nowhere senses the wish that he be reading the original rather than the translation or adaptation. Unless this reviewer be quite mistaken, he has already encountered an earlier, different German translation of Muku und Bstbst (Acajou et Zirphile in French). [8]

Volume 5. Sophie, pages 151–268.


This story confirms once again the earlier assertion that the author is far less successful with the more emotional genre than with the one just discussed. Although Sophie’s initial appearance is indeed quite simple and engaging, eliciting genuine interest, the rather harshly expressed teaching, one, moreover, taking such a one-sided stance, already departs from this tone, and over the course of the story the reader encounters some rather arid, almost boring passages.

Sophie herself would be more worthy of compassion had she not allowed herself to be deceived by such crude dissimulation. The moral that a married woman ought not allow even the first lover access, could, since such was not even a voluntary action on Sophie’s part in any case, be better transformed into the moral that a young girl ought never allow herself to be guided by a female friend who has given her even the slightest cause for distrust.

Rapunzel, pages 269–89. This is presumably one of the author’s own original pieces, and would probably deserve the motto Il n’est rien d’inutile aux personnes de sens sooner than does Die gute Frau. [9] To be sure, even a quarter hour of mere diversion is never lost on such persons. —

Let us adduce the following passage as an example of ungrammatical carelessness. Page 274. “When she (the woman) approached the time birth, the fairy appeared before the childbed. She had a little girl, and she [Germ. sie] called her [Germ. sie, and in what follows] Rapunzel. She wrapped her in silver and golden cloth, she sprinkled her with precious water that she had in her little box, and now she became the most beautiful child under the sun. She took her home etc.” This repetition of the same pronoun in different grammatical cases and in reference to different persons is not only confusing, but also dissonant. When ambiguity cannot otherwise be avoided, which in fact was not the case here, one is always better advised to reiterate the names a few times.

Antönchen und Trudchen, pages 290–347. From the French of Countess Nemond, though one must confess that the half-crude, half-novelistic love between these two people could very well have grown in German soil, and the setting has been displaced quite effortlessly to Pomerania. We do, by the way, find this particular rendering into German more modestly executed than another of the same story published in a certain collection of Arabesken, Grotesken und Calots. [10]

Part 2 of Review
Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 131
(Wednesday, 26 April 1797) 225–32

Kleine prosaische Schriften. Volume 1. I. Kinderstreiche meiner Phantasie. II. Eine höchst seltsame Naturerscheinung. III. Eine Reihe von Familiengemälden. IV. Anekdote von Boissy. V. Geschichte meiner Hypochondrie. Ein Beytrag zur Seelen-Naturkunde.

Quite apart from their entertainment value, all these essays, which appeared previously separately in Der Teutsche Merkur and the Deutsches Museum, also possess more or less value for the psychologist and observer of human nature. The Familiengemälde are well-drawn portrayals of ill manners in brief dialogue form. Although these manners may sometimes in fact seem all too appalling to be worthy of portrayal in the first place, they are unfortunately not too appalling to have been drawn from reality. At the very least, no superfluous words are wasted on their characterization, and the disgust they elicit is abbreviated as much as possible.

Volumes 2 and 3. Josephe, after Marivaux. [11]

Marivaux is the only author who will probably object that he has obviously suffered at the hands of Herr S. His German adapter has taken away his uniqueness without compensating him. Josephe is merely a dry excerpt of Marianne. [12] The subtlty and agreeableness of the original is almost unrecognizable, and its vivacity has utterly disappeared. Such resided not in Marivaux’s wordiness and plethora of reflections, to which he drew even more attention through his constant apologies. The translator, who in his own preface addresses such in dainty contrasts, should then accordingly also have restricted them.

Why, however, was Josephe not allowed, as was Marianne, to narrate in first person and portray herself in a completely dramatic fashion? After all, Marianne reveals the modest wiles of her heart — along with the tricks her own imagination plays on her — no more and no less than the extent to which she herself is capable of having been aware of them. Her admissions bring us deceptively close to her without her becoming repugnant to us through excessively anxious analysis. What she seems to forfeit in the way of magnanimity and selflessness she gains in amiability; she is a wholly and utterly engaging being whose fundamental inclinations are so positive and good that the additions of self-love there all turn toward the better, and her means toward the noble-minded. We would be enchanted by her even if from her own lips, and in every situation, we were to learn of the real, complete disposition of her heart; indeed, she genuinely does enchant us.

By contrast, Josephe always remains the third person in which we hear about her. Not only has her volubility been eliminated, but also the characteristic features of her personality, and the conclusion has been abbreviated, much to the disadvantage of maintaining interest. The lover’s unfaithfulness breaks off so abruuptly that one cannot quite understand why it was not simply eliminated enitrely; for what in the original is a quite spicy element here merely becomes insignificant. The discovery of the parents is also prompted much more abruptly than was necessary; and in general, the ending has acquired a rather ordinary appearance. Herr S. must have produced this piece quite hastily, since otherwise one would have expected him to be excellently equipped to undertake it, having already undertaken something similar in his Leopoldine.

In the latter as in Marianne, feminine inclinations and gifts such as guile, presence of mind, and vanity are placed into revealing situations. Marianne’s portrait, however, is admittedly of a far more delicate admixture; in her, cunning is coupled with innocence and noble-mindedness, vanity with a feeling of dignity, something that, as we will see shortly, cannot be said of Leopoldine.

Volumes 4 and 5 contain two engaging historical essays: Martinuzzi oder Leben eines geistlichen Parvenü’s, in Bezug auf neuere Erscheinungen erzählt; and Geschichte der Camisarden. Bey Gelegenheit der jetzigen Revolution in Frankreich von neuem erzählt. The sort of instruction the author intended is already indicated in the superscriptions. The delivery is light, in the style of memoirs, and is probably consciously intended not to elevate itself to the more dignified level of a genuine historical portrayal. In Die Geschichte der Camisarden, the stories of small skirmishes, which often recur with the same basic circumstances, are a bit fatiguing. The comedy after the Italian of Count Strasoldo, Der Schein betrügt, occupying the second half of volume 5, cannot really be viewed as much of a gain for our stage.

Gesammelte Romane, 3 vols. The story of the princess Henriette von England did indeed merit becoming more familiar to us through translation. [Frontispiece:]


Madam de la Fayette was her intimate friend and an eyewitness to her sad death, whose circumstances she narrates with considerable precision. In this latter respect, her book can even serve as a source for the historian. With respect to the princess’s circumstances at the French court and the affairs of her heart, the biographer did, as she herself admits in her preface, sometimes have to be more sparing with the truth, though with the requisite caution one might still make good historical use of the material.

Contra Herr S.’s assertion that this work provides a deceptively faithful portrait of the spirit of galanterie at the time, we would object that Madam de la Fayette was a woman of such strict manners that her quill could not but have shied away from many of the circumstances that would in fact have been quite characteristic in that sense. It does indeed seem a bit peculiar to make her the chronicler of so infinitely many intertwined and entangled love affairs; and because for reasons of propriety she claimed to have absolutely no eye for the sensual side of those affairs, she instead threw herself wholly into the accompanying courtly intrigues being played out and from which then the story of this English princess is also almost exclusively woven. So greatly do they resemble one another that the reader must turn to the names of the various persons to distinguish them.

In the Prinzessin von Cleves, it is only the historical framework itself that consists in such twisted adornments, from which the primary actors then emerge en medaillon; their passion and their virtue cannot but interest any receptive heart. Hence viewed as a novel, Henriette von England cannot at all be compared with that one. Herr S. concedes too much to the authoress when in his preface he explains on page xvi that he translated the Prinzessin von Cleves and Zaide primarily to present German writers with models for historical novels.

Though such may apply to the former, Zaide is rather empty, and even with the implemented abbreviations still occasionally boring. Nor is the French spirit at all evident in it, yielding instead to the mannerism of certain Spanish novellas. Turns of phrase such as the following found in Henriette: page 84: “since both were inclined to fiery passions”; page 99: “to have nothing secret from him”; page 141: “at that time, where he was removed from court”; page 159: “her modest gift of intellect” etc. demonstrate the attentiveness even an experienced translator must apply in order to avoid all foreign elements.

We now come to Leopoldine.

[Here, in order, the frontispieces and interior engravings to vols. 1 and 2 (some repeated from above):]



It was translated into French a while back and is, we are told, being read in France to considerable acclaim. Nor could one expect anything different. A certain subtlety of understanding, one visibly predominating among the other characteristics necessarily engaged in producing this novel, will prove uncommonly effective in captivating the delighted interest of our adroit neighbors.

The overall disposition is also thoughtfully conceived and skillfully executed; little is left wanting with respect to the novel’s progress toward a specific goal, its tightly connected parts, diverse use of the sparse elements, and subtle anticipation and steady movement, through all the various stages, toward the final development; and French connoisseurs and critics have from time immemorial put an excessively high value on these merely artistically correct perfections — which are yet fundamentally different from the genuinely poetic content of a creation of the imagination — so much so that with respect to a genre particularly receptive to such perfections, namely, tragedy, they would rather make do with empty forms than accept a more richly infused material that may be a bit more loosely organized.

Although we do respectfully acknowledge the stringent demands the author made on himself in this piece, we might nonetheless wish he had made more use of the epic freedom attaching to the novel, thereby giving his piece greater scope and diversity (as little as the theory of the novel has hitherto been established, one may nonetheless be permitted to maintain beforehand that the novel does differ from the drama with respect to its inner disposition as well, and not merely through form and outer garb).

As inventive as he was in infusing as much variety as possible into the narrow boundaries of his subject matter, he nonetheless still has not avoided a certain element of monotony. He seems indeed to have made the whole enterprise more difficult for himself than might have been necessary. The meaning of his ongoing portrait could probably have been concentrated into fewer outlines, making the overall portrayal more free and beautiful, had it not so thoroughly exhausted everything. Expressing something through that which one in fact suppresses is admittedly no easy matter, presupposing as it does that one has already engaged the reader’s imagination sufficiently to count on its self-engagement.

But the rewards are not inconsiderable, since readers value far more highly what they believe to have found themselves than what is simply given to them outright. This observation brings us to one of the book’s primary shortcomings, one deriving from superfluity one might just as well have done without. We expect a writer to acquaint us with his characters more quickly and more completely than might occur through their simple appearance in reality, and yet more through the way he has them act than through his own observations about them.

And the author does make do with precisely this device with respect to the other characters in his ensemble; the heroine alone, who is introduced narratively throughout, is concerned not only with describing precisely her inner disposition in every situation she finds herself, but also with elucidating completely her own actions on the basis of the interweaving of even her most secret impulses. The reader’s acumen is thereby relieved of considerable effort, except that on several occasions the explications themselves lapse into hairsplitting or become rather murky; but as just observed, we would prefer to infer or surmise what the poet cannot otherwise transfer from a person’s invisible, interior world into the sensuous world, than to have someone simply tell us.

Otherwise not only does one forfeit the appeal and allure attaching to any more active engagement of the mind, the portrayal itself — in and of itself — also loses. The circumstantial nature of the concept obscures the vividness of imagery. The poetic presentation of a character should be able to stand up to the analytical scrutiny of a psychologist, but it should not itself be such an analysis. What this means is that the commentary must be incorporated into the text. Although an unclothed anatomical figure is an excellent device for providing instruction concerning the positions, connections, and use of the various muscles, what artist would erect it as an object of agreeable observation?

If, however, the author’s purpose did indeed require that he disrupt the rounded fullness of the outlines of his protagonist in order to present that character’s inner structure and the inner connections of every constituent part individually, he still would have done better had he taken over this task himself rather than have Leopoldine compose such confessions.

From time immemorial, a certain omniscience has always been one of the claimed and acknowledged privileges of the muses. No one, that is, asks the writer to explain how he knows something, even should he penetrate into the innermost regions of the soul. By contrast, one improbable element coursing through the entire novel is that Leopoldine is able to narrate the story of her own childhood such that she renders an account of the nature of all the various impressions she has received and of all the variously intertwined motives of her actions with a sophistication and assurance of the sort that would do honor to even the most practiced self-observer at his most maturely reflective age. Recollection cannot reach further than the present; it cannot summon back what, at the moment it was present, already lay too far in the background to come to consciousness.

And what could be her motivation for writing down her story? Was she writing perhaps for the beloved, into whose arms we see her led at the end? In that case, she might at least have considered disguising the hostile truth here and there for the sake of beauty. How could she not have felt a bit shy about dealing so ruthlessly with herself in allowing him to peer all too deeply into her heart? Or did she simply not sense in how unfavorable a light the wiles of her self-love, the lurking vigilance of her self-interest, her dissimulation, her base faint-heartedness, her pathetic dependence on the opinion of others, could not but appear alongside the unaffected, ardent devotion of the wild boy? This would betray in the adult Leopoldine precisely the same heartlessness — perfected and as a fixed part of her character — the inclination to which one is already disappointed to sense in the child.

Quite apart from these considerations, however, the question is whether the characteristics of an individual being are not being presented here in a more universalized fashion, that is, whether Leopoldine is really to be taken as an illustration of the initial development of femininity as such. In that case, we fear the author has quite offended the amiability of her sex, and has not sooner imposed on poor nature as such the burden of mistakes deriving in fact merely from a distorted upbringing.

There are also reasons to doubt whether nature herself genuinely acknowledges any difference of intellectual character obtaining between the sexes before the point in time when it begins to develop physically the germ of their respective, different destinies, and whether the detrimental consequences of any precipitate maturity will not inevitably be invoked when uniquely male or female characteristics are enticed forth by artificial means, where in fact merely the indefinite striving of childhood as such should predominate. Our author’s distance from this view of things seems so great that in both Moritz and Leopoldine, the trenchant contrast between the character of the sexes even before their entry into the years of youth provides the foundation for the entire exposition. —

In any event, it would be unreasonable to ascribe to the feminine character as such the early degeneration of this small, selfish creature, since it is indeed growing up in the most unnatural of circumstances. The sight of this so unequal and yet never-ending struggle between outgrown depravity, on the one hand, and incipient depravity, on the other, has something uneasy and painful about it.

Although the count is not worth much in any case, neither would he accomplish any particularly exquisite conquest in Leopoldine. Over the course of the story, he plays the role of a Sisyphus who has condemned himself to push the stone up the hill, and the unspeakable patience his egoism expends in order to captivate the egoism of a child (for surely he could not flatter himself with being capable of winning Leopoldine’s heart) prompts the suspicion that an abyss of emptiness, indifference, and boredom is to be found in his soul.

And although the reader does take sides against the success of his efforts, efforts that are wholly illegitimate and run completely contrary to the purposes of nature, yet how, on the other hand, can one warm up to Leopoldine reuniting with faithful Fritz, whom she does not at all deserve, having denied him every time her own inclinations for him found themselves at odds with petty vanity? This boy (without our denying the merit of the well-drawn caricatures of the gracious mama and little Christel, the latter of whom is cut wholly from a singular mold and constitutes a quite original creation) genuinely is the only really comfortable figure in the entire portrait.

The influence his early sojourn in the den of robbers exerts on his heroic disposition is masterfully portrayed; naturally, this particular shading fades the longer he has lived away from them, and toward the end he is no longer a counterpart to Moriz, but rather becomes the flesh-and-blood Moriz himself. It is good that the author had both exit the stage while still at an age when the impetuous ebullitions of youthful exuberance may still count as character virtues, since otherwise he would have had to provide a more substantial and more precisely defined personality for them.

With the predilection that draws any person to subject matter in which he enjoys some measure of success, Herr S. allows his portrayals in these two novels to linger largely in the period of earliest youth, indeed of childhood. The story of a person’s childhood not infrequently provides significant revelations concerning that person’s subsequent life, and as such can doubtless be used quite effectively as an introduction or episode in a novel.

We will, however, leave in abeyance the question whether a reader’s expectations are entirely satisfied when a story breaks off precisely where the person is about to begin seeking his own way, on his own powers, through the more tangled circumstances of life, and whether, before the character of that person’s mind and intellect have become truly fixed through the natural processes of maturation and cultivation, it is not sooner merely initial inclinations and certain allusions to character than one’s complete moral character that are revealed.

Does not the same situation obtain with the inner person as with the outer, whose beauty and perfection can be discerned only in elements of cultivation that have attained their full growth, which is, moreover, also why the latter provide a much more sublime object for the formative arts than do the unstable features of the child, which nature has yet only fleetingly sketched?

Childhood has two completely distinct aspects, of which the one entertains the understanding and the other appeals to moral sensibility: the childish and the childlike. With the former we refer to the contrasts comprising children’s entire existence, e.g., the power of their desires alongside the insufficiency of their means; the pettiness of their goals and the seriousness with which they pursue them; their imitation of adults, who here find themselves represented on a rejuvenated scale.

Mainly, however, the comical element resides in the complete unconsciousness of their own drollery, just as a funny idea elicits the most powerful laughter precisely when the person presenting it remains serious. By contrast, the childlike, as it were pure humanity in the bud, is something so delicate and simple that it seems to elude poetic representation, and can be rendered perceptible perhaps only indirectly, through the emotion it elicits in morally attuned souls.

Since Herr Schulz’s novels in general occupy the head more than the heart, it goes without saying that the spirit and tone of his writings have not managed even to touch this particular string on the instrument. He has, however, managed to grasp masterfully the amusing element in the essence of childhood; his children’s scenes, whose invention is as piquant as it is natural, are painted in the most animated fashion and with the most cheerful of colors.

Notwithstanding everything one might fail to find in Leopoldine, she still maintains a distinguished position among our novels. And as considerably as German literature has indeed been enriched in this genre since its appearance, we nonetheless do not wish any less ardently that the author not abandon the career forever on which he embarked with so much success.


[1] Moriz. Ein kleiner Roman (rev. ed. Weimar 1787). Back.

[2] Marie-Madeleine de La Fayette, Histoire de Madame Henriette d’Angleterre (1720), Zaÿde (1670), La princesse de Clèves (1678). Back.

[3] Christophe Chayer, L’ amour décent et delicat: ou le beau de la galanterie (Paris 1760). — Frontispieces in the following discussion from, in order, Kleine Romane, vols. 1–5. Back.

[4] Anonymous, Rosalie ou le triomphe de l’inconstance (no place, 1783). Back.

[5] Claude-Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1707–77) (concerning Crébillon, see Caroline’s letter to Lotte Michaelis on 28 May 1786 [letter 70], note 1); Anthony Hamilton (1646?–1720). Back.

[6] “Die Prinzessinn Zartkinda und Prinz Typhon,” trans. from the French by Johann Elias Schlegel, Johann Elias Schlegel’s Werke, Dritter Theil, ed. Johann Heinrich Schlegel (Copenhagen, Leipzig 1764) 475–522. Back.

[7] Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1711–80). Back.

[8] Charles Pinot Duclos, Acajou et Zirphile (Paris 1780). Back.

[9] Fr., “Sensible people find nothing useless.” Back.

[10] Wilhelm Christhelf Siegmund Mylius, Gallerie von romantischen Gemälden, Arabesken, Grotesken und Calots: Originale und Kopien, 2 vols. (Berlin 1792). Back.

[11] Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux (1688–1763). Back.

[12] Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux, La vie de Marianne, 11 vols. (1731–41). Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott