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creased and increasing. Upon this suggestion I have at length acted, though not without many misgivings,
Germany and its literature open a new world to one accustomed only to the habits and the opinions of England. They present trains of thought as foreign to those with which we are familiar, as their forms of language are to our modes of expression. This great dissimilarity affords, as may readily be imagined, ample scope for the misconceptions and misrepresentations of ill-informed, prejudiced, and uncandid readers ; indeed, renders it very difficult for the most candid and enlightened to avoid them, without a far more intimate knowledge of the country than foreigners can usually acquire. And accordingly, such misconceptions and misrepresentations do very widely prevail. It may
be said that this is an inconvenience under which all nations labour with respect to each other. To a certain extent that is true; but it admits of modifications from the peculiarities of national character. Few, I imagine, will assert that the energetic and practical English, mind has that plasticity which enables it to place itself in the
stances of another, and, as it were, to adopt trains of thought, associations and images, wholly unlike the accustomed ones. We are astonished at deviations from our own standard, and readily conclude that all that is unwonted is wrong. On the other hand, there is no quality for which Germans are more remarkable, than for their power of complete selftransplantation (if I may use the word) to that point of view whence another looks upon the world, and of fair appreciation of varieties in thought, expression and action. Hence their pre-eminent success as translators; and hence the universality of their literature, in which every nation may find itself candidly judged and faithfully reflected. From these causes it follows that German writers have less chance of being understood here, than ours in Germany.
I have been the more inclined to submit to the public these slight results of a desultory reading, from the hope that they may contribute a little to correct the extravagant notions which have long been current in this country as to the general character of German literature. In some places it has been represented as all composed of cloudy philosophy, dull pedantry, or romantic horrors ; in others, as deformed throughout by whining sentimentality, impurity, or irreligion. That, in the multitudinous offspring of the German press, some of each of these misshapen productions are to be found, we shall be little inclined to doubt, if we consider the disgusting shapes assumed by portions of our own literature ; but that a sound-hearted and intelligent country gives birth to nothing else, is as little consistent with probability as it is with truth.
These strange misrepresentations are, it is true, no longer listened to by the more instructed portion of society. The translations and criticisms of some of the valuable works which Germany has contributed to every branch of knowledge, but especially to philology and history, and still better, the study of the originals, have produced a vast and increasing change in the more cultivated part of public opinion. But though it is rather the fashion now to talk with a vague admiration of German literature, we are very far as yet from that intimate knowledge of it, upon which alone a just estimate of its merits can be founded.
It must of course be difficult, if not impossible, to characterize an entire national literature ; and
I am far from imagining myself in any way qualified for such a task. But if I were called upon to point out the quality which strikes me as the most prominent and pervading in that of Germany, I should
it is earnestness. I have ventured to express an opinion that wit and humour are not the strong points of German writers. Happily for themselves and the world, they are even less successful in persiflage. Still more happily, they seem conscious of this; few of them attempt a style of writing in which the French display their inimitable finesse and lightness of touch, and other nations their bad taste and bitterness of feeling.
What has elsewhere been said of Goethe's writings is, I think, true of German literature generallythat it is suggestive. Those who wish to close a book with the comfortable feeling that no new idea has been suggested, and no old one disturbed, will regard this as very questionable praise; but those who read in order to be made to think, will, I hope, derive some satisfaction even from the fragments thus loosely thrown together.
The choice of these passages has been determined by considerations as various as their character and their subjects. In some it was the value of the matter, in others the beauty of the form, that struck me; in some the vigorous, unaffected good sense, in others the fantastic or mystical charm. Some recalled familiar trains of thought, which meet one in a foreign literature like old friends in a far country; others suggested ideas altogether new and strange. My readers must, therefore, apply measures as different as those which I have used, and by no means ascribe to me the intention of recommending every opinion to their unqualified assent, or every passage to their unqualified admiration.
Still less must they imagine that this little collection is intended to serve as a guide for the student in the choice of books. Against such a misconception I must earnestly protest. Though some of the passages are but samples of the excellence of the store whence they are taken, others may be regarded as the rare flowers plucked from a field otherwise nearly barren or overgrown with weeds.
I have too much experience of the indulgence of German readers not to feel assured that, if this little book finds its way among them, it will be treated better than it deserves. They will, I hope, discover