« PreviousContinue »
enemies of Goethe and Schiller-are dismissed as a regrettable incident.
Apart from his fascinating autobiography the main works of Goethe's later life are the Theory of Light,' the Elective Affinities,' 'Wilhelm Meister,' the WestOestlicher Divan,' and 'Faust.' The attempt to overthrow Newton was all the more audacious since it rested on a misunderstanding of his theory; but his investigations into the nature of colours founded physiological optics, while his discovery of the intermaxillary bone and the metamorphosis of plants secure him honourable mention in the history of biology and botany among the pioneers of the doctrine of evolution. Of the Wahlverwandschaften' (Elective Affinities) its author remarked that there was not a line in it which he had not himself experienced; and, though the end is inferior to the beginning, it presents far greater human interest than 'Wilhelm Meister.' The Professor's verdict on the longest of Goethe's three great novels is unexpectedly favourable. He admits that it has never been popular; that it lacks unity; that the hero is, as Carlyle called him, a milksop, and that Mignon alone grips the imagination.
'Yet, in spite of its imperfections as a work of art, in spite of the grossness of many of its themes and the faded sentimentalism of others, "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre" is among the great books of European literature. In hardly any other book can there be found such a wealth of thought on so many subjects of living and permanent interest.'
Goethe's writings are as subjective as Shakespeare's are impersonal; and the West-Oestlicher Divan,' suggested by a German translation of Hafiz and inspired by his passion for Marianne Willemer, is not only evidence of the poet's attraction to orientalism but a kind of poetical diary of the years 1814-18. If among the three hundred pieces there are traces of an obscurity unknown in the works of his prime, its wealth of reflexion will always command the attention of readers who care even more for the substance of a poem than the form. The chapters on 'Faust' are worthy of their transcendant theme. The 'Urfaust' was written between
1773 and 1775, and the finishing touches to the Second Part were only completed a few months before the poet's death in 1832. Even the First Part did not appear till 1808, though a fragment-different from the 'Urfaust' -had been published in 1790. Its emotional core was the tragedy of Gretchen, which the Professor associates with his desertion of Friederike.
'It was written with his heart's blood, which cannot be said of anything else that came from his hand. These scenes are Goethe's supreme triumph as a poet, and of all parts of the poem they make the widest human appeal; but they do not constitute its essential greatness. Its real greatness is found in its intellectual interest for the modern world. What the "Divine Comedy" and "Paradise Lost" did for their respective ages, "Faust" did for Goethe's. Dante and Milton gave poetic expression to the deposit of thought in which they were born, and which they accepted with personal conviction. Unshackled by any authority, Goethe presents no systematic body of doctrine, but in its hero he symbolises the human spirit in its limitless quest after satisfaction for soul and sense.'
The chapter on the Second Part has been supplied by Lord Haldane, who not only provides a skilful analysis of its somewhat miscellaneous fare but manfully vindicates its claim to be regarded as one of the supreme examples of reflective poetry. He does not mention that among the many triumphs of Reinhardt's art was its successful presentation at Berlin shortly before the war.
The foregoing summary of the Professor's literary verdicts shows that he is no uncritical admirer of a writer who damaged so many of his works by padding and irrelevances. But in his judgment of Goethe's position as a thinker there are no apologetic half-tones. Scattered through these volumes is a string of resounding tributes, 'as great a thinker as he was a poet,' 'one of the most comprehensive minds the world has known,' 'one of humanity's enduring counsellors,' 'the first of modern independent thinkers.' For philosophy in the technical sense he had no inclination, and it was rather the attitude than the system of his favourite Spinoza that appealed to him. The sphere in which he has no rival but Shakespeare is the philosophy of life. 'His
spirit works and searches in all directions,' wrote Schiller, and strives to construct a whole-and for me that makes him a great man.' If we possessed nothing but the conversations with Eckermann-at once most restful and most stimulating-we should know we were in the company of a master mind. We owe indeed scarcely less to the old age of Goethe than to his youth.
‘A peculiarly characteristic section of his work belongs for the most part to his closing years. Many and varied as were the works in prose and verse which he had given to the world, there was in his mind an overflow of reflexions for which he had not been able to find a place. The habit of meditating on all the experience that it presented to him, and condensing in aphoristic form the results of his thinking, became the prevailing tendency among his mental activities. The most abundant harvest was brought forth in the last decade of his life. He put many of them to a singular use; regardless of all artistic propriety, he emptied them into "Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre" simply to extend that work to its desired length. But he was unwilling that any of his words should be lost to the world, and he instructed Eckermann to publish the remaining maxims. We have many similar collections by men of the world, by men of action, and by pure thinkers; but for range, depth and suggestiveness none of these are comparable to those of Goethe. Of all men he, perhaps, lived the fullest life of intellect, soul and sense; there was virtually no field of human experience closed to him.'
Matthew Arnold described Goethe as the clearest, largest, and most helpful thinker of modern times, and Byron hailed him as the undisputed the undisputed sovereign of European literature for fifty years. Lord Haldane expresses a hope that Germany, confronted with the unexpected summons to build her life anew, will turn more closely to the greatest of her teachers; and English readers, though their need is less and they are not ill supplied with counsellors of their own, will be grateful to Prof. Hume Brown for retracing the career and reinterpreting the message of the most imposing figure in the republic of letters since Shakespeare.
G. P. GOOCH.
Art. 9.-ELEONORA FONSECA AND THE NEAPOLITAN REVOLUTION OF 1799.
1. Una Poetessa Partenopea. Nuova Antologia LXXXII, August, 1899.
2. The 'Monitore' of the First Parthenopean Republic. Feb. 2-June 8, 1799.
3. La Rivoluzione Napoletana del 1799 (New edition of 1912). By Benedetto Croce. Bari: Laterza, 1912.
4. La Rivoluzione Napoletana. By Salvatore di Giacomo. 5. Naples in 1799. By Constance H. D. Giglioli. Murray,
6. Nelson and the Neapolitan Jacobins. Edited by H. C. Gutteridge, for the Navy Records Society, 1903.
ON Jan. 16, 1752, the infant daughter of a Portuguese nobleman resident in Rome, Don Clement de Fonseca Pimentel, was baptised in Santa Maria del Popolo. According to the register, a stately series of names was bestowed on the baby of three days old, but Eleonora was the one selected for general use. On the lips of the younger members of the family, it doubtless assumed some shorter form; for, though its owner was the eldest child of the Marquis de Fonseca and his equally aristocratic spouse, Catarina Lopez, the household included two small boys, related to Eleonora by a double cousinship. They had come from Portugal with their mother, who was the sister of Donna Catarina and the widow of Ferdinand Fonseca, brother of Don Clement.
No light has been thrown on the reasons which brought this little company of relatives from Braganza to Rome; but there they continued to reside till Eleonora was in her ninth year, and there her brothers, Michele and Girolamo, also were born. Swift was her progress from the nursery to the schoolroom, where her cousins were already at work under the supervision of Abbé Lopez. To her uncle Eleonora was probably indebted for her escape from the cramping influence of 'female education, and for her early association with men of letters. Her childhood in Rome was in itself a goodly gift of fortune. Whether the city spoke to her in its ancient or its modern tongue, she was equally ready to respond. Latin was the staple of the
teaching she shared with her brothers and cousins; and for her there was never any deadness in the language of the great writers of the Augustan age. Their spiritual kinship was the discovery of a later day, but her schooling gave her the passport to their realm of gold; and from the first it had a homelike aspect to the young explorer, familiar with the city of the Cæsars.
Strained relations between the Papal Curia and the Court of Lisbon were the inevitable outcome of the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal in 1759. In the summer of the following year, Portuguese subjects in Rome were commanded by their King to quit the city within three months. In Naples the Fonseca family found a new home and a congenial social environment at the predominantly Spanish Court. Thus it came about that another ancient city laid its spell upon Eleonora. Of its ugly, repellent side, she had as yet no conception. To her delighted gaze, Naples revealed itself in all its loveliness of situation and surroundings.
Happy in the place of her nativity, Eleonora was no less happy in the date of her transplanting to Naples. That city of startling contrasts was on the eve of an outburst of intense intellectual vitality. The quickening influence was the literary and philosophical revival in Northern and Western Europe, which for lack of a better name is loosely summed up as the Romantic Movement. Originating in revolt against the rationalism and pseudo-classicism of the early 18th century, it became, in its ultimate issue, a change of attitude towards the whole of life. Its demand for the free play of the emotions was soon seen to be incompatible with any intellectual thraldom of women. In the wake of the pioneer Romanticist, Samuel Richardson, comes the modern woman-novelist, Fanny Burney; in the wider pathway opened up by Rousseau and his followers, appears the modern woman-journalist, Eleonora Fonseca.
These representatives of the spirit of the New Age were born in the same year. While, however, the English girl, 'with very little education but what she gave herself,' made straight for her appointed course, Eleonora's classical training predisposed her to mistake an exceptional facility in Latin and Italian verse for the poet's high vocation. And, since the writing of passable