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Auerbach, Keller, and Freitag. Reuter is Germany's favorite dialect poet. Although his works are written in Platt Deutsch, which is the language spoken by the peasantry of North Germany, they are popular in every part of the empire. The sage of Mecklenburg is one of the few European poets in whose honor the New World has erected a statue. Auerbach came into prominence through his Black Forest Village Stories, which we are told give an admirably true picture of this historic part of southern Germany, and which have besides been translated into many foreign languages. This work, says Kluge, "marked a new epoch in the field of literature." Perhaps the greatest novelist that Switzerland has produced is Keller, whom Koch calls one of Germany's first writers of fiction. Keller's most popular novels are considered his first and his last, Green Henry, and Martin Salander. The first, in its revised edition, created such a sensation that it must be reckoned one of the literary events of recent German literature. Germany's Thackeray and her "ideal novelist of the cultured and moneyed middle class of society," is Freitag, whose greatest novels are Debit and Credit, which gave the author an international reputation, and The Ancestors, a series of historical novels that have been termed "a German national epic in the form of fiction." Freitag was also a dramatist of distinction. His Journalists, which one authority calls the greatest German comedy of the century, certainly ranks second only to Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm.
Germany's leading living novelists are Spielhagen, Fontane, Heyse, and Ebers.* "In the year 1870," says Litzmann, Freitag and Spielhagen were the greatest and most extensively read novelists of Germany." Freitag died a very old man several years ago. Although Spielhagen gained his reputation before the Franco-Prussian War, most of his literary work has been done since that time. His first great novel was Problematic Natures. Spielhagen is a voluminous writer, and in all of his works of fiction, which discuss the many questions of the day, criticism sees a perfectly reflected image of the present generation. In his novel entitled From Night to Light, which is considered one of the best German works of
* Ebers has died since the writing of this article.
its character, we find "the idealism of the older school combined with the realistic tendencies of our time." Fontane may be considered one of the greatest realistic novelists Germany has produced. Born of a French refugee family, he has spent most of his life in the city of Berlin. He is a very versatile writer. His best works, however, are his novels, which until the beginning of last decade got their material from the past. Sixteen years ago, when already an old man, he began to make modern Berlin the scene and inodern Berliners the characters of his works of fiction, and the novels he has given us during this time may be considered, in the estimate of the writer, his cleverest productions. Germany has, perhaps, never had a novelist who was so noticeably productive in his old age. Heyse, son of the celebrated philologist, was born in Berlin, but lives in Munich, whither he was called by King Max. He has achieved distinction in several fields of literature. His chief strength, however, lies in the novelette. "A favorite of the fair sex," "a representative of elegant correctness," and the possessor of "a never-failing good taste," Heyse is Germany's undisputed master" in the short story. His novelettes, which consist of thirteen volumes, possess "truly artistic perfection." Like many of his contemporaries, he prefers to lay the scenes of his novelettes in the land which Germany loves most of all foreign lands-Italy. Heyse is said to be deeper than Tieck, and as a story-teller he has been compared with the almost inimitable Wieland. His two principal novels are The Children of the World and In Paradise. Ebers is the most international of Germany's living novelists. Until the state of his health compelled him to resign he was a Leipsic professor. His lifework has been very productive in two fields, Egyptology and fiction. A quarter of a century ago he found in the ruins of Thebes a papyrus which dates from the sixteenth century B. C. Of the many scholarly works Ebers has published the one on this papyrus, called Papyrus Ebers, is the most important. The scene of most of his novels is laid in the land of the pyramids. His best novel is considered An Egyptian Daughter of a King, although several others have no doubt been equally popular. It is difficult to tell which is Ebers's vocation and which his
avocation. His debut in the university and the literary world occurred in successive years.
Germany has produced few really great dramatists. Lessing, philosopher, theologian, philologist, dramaturgist, and dramatist, is called the reformer of German literature. Although he worked assiduously in many fields of intellectual endeavor he achieved distinction in every one. It was this many-sided man who wrote the first genuinely German comedy, which critics call "The best German comedy," and who has been termed by Brander Matthews the world's greatest dramaturgist of the eighteenth century. Lessing led the way, and Goethe followed. Goethe has been dead long enough to give criticism a sufficiently great perspective to enable it to fix his place among literary artists. "The prophet of generations unborn" is the greatest poet and his "Faust" the greatest drama the world has produced. Schiller, some years younger than Goethe, died twenty-seven years earlier. He is Germany's most popular dramatist, the dramas of his great contemporary being too psychological ever to gain great favor. Schiller was wonderfully "skilled in the craft of the theater" and exceptionally "cunning in stage effect." The world can boast few dramatists whose works of art contain in such a high degree all the elements that enter into a great and successful drama.
From the Second Classic Period to the Franco-Prussian War Germany produced three great dramatists-Kleist, Grillparzer, and Hebbel. Kleist, "the greatest dramatist of the Romantic School," devoted only the last six years of his short life to literary work. He committed suicide when only thirty-four. Several of his dramas, particularly "The Broken Pitcher," "perhaps the best German comedy in verses," and "The Prince of Homburg," "the most brilliant poetization of the Prussian spirit," have gained a permanent place in the repertoire of Germany's royal theaters. Grillparzer, "the greatest dramatist Austria has produced," and undoubtedly the dramatist of the century, if we except the two classics, Goethe and Schiller, began his literary career as a member of the Romantic School. However, with his second drama, "Sappho," of which Koch says, it is "the only German poetic
production whose diction and style almost reach Goethe's 'Iphegenie," the Austrian began to seek his inspiration in the antique world, and created dramas which may be placed among the few masterpieces German literature possesses. Hebbel raised himself from the humble position of a peasant boy to the proud distinction of being one of the greatest dramatists of Germany. The two principal sources of Hebbel's powerful dramas are the Bible and the German folksaga. His best work is the celebrated trilogy, "The Niebelungen," which gained the one-thousand-thaler prize offered by the King of Prussia.
To-day Germany boasts of a trio of great dramatists-Wildenbruch, Sudermann, and Hauptmann. Wildenbruch began writing in the seventies, and was called Germany's greatest living dramatist in the eighties. As soon as the celebrated Meiningers, whose tours mark an epoch in theatrical life, recognized in Wildenbruch a poetic genius of a high order, he immediately sprang into great popularity. Wildenbruch has been named the poet of the German youth. He received this name because of the charm of his diction and style, the patriotic character of his themes, and the magic of his personality. The dramatist whom Germany in 1896 selected to write a production to be given on the occasion of the dedication of the magnificent monument in honor of Emperor William the Great was Wildenbruch. Of all German dramatists Wildenbruch may be ranked second only to Schiller in the art of using most effectively the principal dramatic elements of a great theme. Sudermann and Hauptmann belong really to this decade. Both began their literary careers in the eighties, but the national recognition of each may be considered the first year of the nineties. Sudermann is a realist most of whose dramatic characters come from the upper classes. Like Ibsen, he seems to see only the flaws that exist in society, and deems it his duty to give society a picture of its real self.
Some of our critics question whether dramatic works that show the world its depravity really do any good. Rev. Robert Krebs, whose little book on Ibsen, Sudermann, and Hauptmann is one of the most careful and conscientious estimates
of the past decade's greatest realists, says: "A dramatic presentation of depravity, though it be photographically true, neither betters nor ennobles men." A realistic drama, we are further told, should teach a great truth. Only when we leave the theater, after having seen a realistic drama, feeling that we have been truly benefited, can we consider such a literary production a genuine work of art. We have nothing to say against realism. The first chapter of Romans, to which we are referred, is as realistic as any drama ever written. What we criticise is the realism that teaches nothing. Hauptmann, in nearly all of his dramas, is thoroughly realistic, in two or three much more so than Ibsen. It is possible, however, that Hauptmann has abandoned the school of realisın, as a member of which he was facile princeps among the Germans. In "The Sunken Bell," his last drama, we are introduced into a world of ideality. The drama represents a striving to realize the highest aspirations. The life of the hero was a struggle; he tried to attain the unattainable and failed. His life, however, was far from a failure. Like many a striving mortal, he never reached the promised land of his aspirations, but death found him among the heights.
Germany's three greatest living writers are the three dramatists we have just briefly discussed, and the three greatest books of the decade are the three dramas, "Henry," "Home," and "The Sunken Bell," the first by Wildenbruch, the second by Sudermann, and the third by Hauptmann. The marvelous success of "Henry" can be imagined when it is mentioned that it received the celebrated Schiller prize, and that it was enthusiastically applauded by the emperor and empress of Germany on the occasion of its first presentation. Sudermann's "Home" is called by Litzmann, the well-known professor of Bonn, the masterpiece of a dramatist whom Robertson calls the most cosmopolitan of Germany's living writers. The real sensation of the decade, however, is "The Sunken Bell." "This production of genius," says Zobelitz, the critic, "was perhaps more enthusiastically received than any other work of our time." We have seen that the lyric is somewhat on the decline. The future of German literature seems then to be a matter of the novel and the drama. Broadly speaking, these two represent