Caroline’s Review of
Neujahrsgeschenk: Papiere aus dem Nachlasse eines kaiserlichen Offiziers
Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 189 (Thursday, 15 June 1797) 695–96
Mannheim: Neuer Kunstverlag. Neujahrsgeschenk: Papiere aus dem Nachlasse eines kaiserlichen Offiziers. 1797. XVIII and 87 pages. 8vo. (Bound 16 gr.).
“New Year’s Gift: Papers from the Literary Estate of an Imperial Officer”
In our age, when every possible cloak is used to get something published, it is difficult to determine the authenticity of such a literary estate, authenticity which, after all, ought ideally to guide one’s judgment. If the papers are what they are to appear, then the editor has acquainted us with an upright, neither particularly happy nor cheerful individual whose education and upbringing are thrown into stark relief by the coarseness that invariably surrounded him in this capacity and who otherwise bears not a trace of a military disposition.
That background, however, has gotten him no further than these attempts at mastering poetic prose that doubtless gave him more satisfaction that any of his readers, and several pleasingly melancholic Lieder that are not at all badly versified and do indeed leave behind a pleasing enough impression. The sister’s letters express her love for her brother quite well along with a fairly sensible and steadfast emotional tenor.
If by contrast the entire book is merely a cloak, then we have received a rather paltry gift for the New Year. This much is certain, namely, that the character of this Austrian officer exhibits no particularly unique or personal features; his German does not give him away, and his piety exhibits not a trace of Catholicism. Indeed, his sister even rejects the power of prayer. There are no political elements apart from a poetic fragment on the liberation of humanity in which neither the Austrian nor the poet reveals much about himself.
Translation © 2018 Doug Stott