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Early eighteenth-century France saw the spring of sentiment bubble up in the 'comédie larmoyante.' The slender rill grew into a mighty stream when it met with a new tributary. This new tributary was Rousseau. It swelled the rivulet into a roaring torrent, whose waters swamped the whole of Europe. To describe the foreign effects of that flood would be a work of ages. Much has been written on the subject, of which the late Mr. Texte was undoubtedly the most promising student; but much remains to be written. I do not think even Mr. Brandes's work is final, and I am sure some more shelves of books will be needed to explain adequately why the Chinese ever painted the sorrows of Werther on porcelain.
In England, about 1800, Voltaire was quite forgotten, though his Annals of the Empire of Charlemagne were only first translated in 1781. The 'great professor and founder of the Philosophy of Vanity,' as Burke called Rousseau, was reigning supreme. Between 1752, when R. Wynne's translation of the Dijon Discourse appeared, and 1790, when the translation of the Confessions was completed, nearly all his works were ‘Englished' by various hands. And willing readers he found, despite Dr. Johnson's bursts of anger against the ' very bad man.' Nay, more, his disciples were crowding into England not only, as was to be expected, from France, but also from other quarters. Kotzebue was coming, a son of Rousseau, more truly of his kith and kin than Byron or Lamartine, than Chateaubriand and George Sand. ' However sincere may be one's love of virtue, it sooner or later grows weak without our perceiving it, and we become unjust and wicked in action without having ceased to be just and good in soul '—this statement of Rousseau would have been readily endorsed by Kotzebue. It would be deemed superfluous to enlarge on Kotzebue's characteristics. They have been repeatedly put in a nutshell.' ' Apotheose der Lüderlichkeit,' says Scherer;
Apotheose der Spatzenliebe,' emphasises von Gottschall. It is not surprising then to find that Kotzebue's teaching was to produce in England exactly the same results as the 'writings of Rousseau and his French infidels,' which Mrs. Hannah More describes in her own quaint and vigorous way: 'The chief materials out of which these delusive systems are framed, are characters who practise superfluous acts of generosity, while they are trampling on obvious and commanded duties; who combine sentiments of honour with actions the most flagitious : a hightone of self-confidence, with a perpetual breach of self-denial : pathetic apostrophes to the passions, but no attempt to resist them.' Sentimental comedy as exemplified in Vanbrugh's
zentare 8 seng be enknii aims in the past
Æsop, and in the plays of Cibber and Steele, had a pervading serious tone, was essentially ‘bourgeois ’ in character, situation, and incident, even romantic, and directly or indirectly didactic. Here was indeed a field for infidel' influences from France. But Mrs. More was mistaken. The infidel influence was to come from Germany. Still her mistake was a natural one, for her description applies as well to Kotzebue's sentimental plays as to the novels of Rousseau.
As for Kotzebue's other productions, they also found ready acceptance. His romantic plays fell in with the prevailing taste for scenic display which has always distinguished the English public, to whom gorgeous pantomimes and the whole ‘poetry of foot' still unreservedly appeal. As for his dramatic trifles, they were sure to be welcomed in the heyday of farce by the numerous admirers of Foote. On every side, then, the doors stood open wide for Kotzebue to step in. And it is easy to see why, about 1790, sentimental comedy proper was changing under the dominant influence of Kotzebue, backed by previous influence from Rousseau.
In Kotzebue's influence two elements were to be distinguished. The one was his sentimentality, which he borrowed from France. The other belonged exclusively to him. It was something which had been lacking in England for many decades, and was lacking even in Sheridan; it was interest of plot, striking and picturesque incidents and individuality of characters-in short, stage-craft.
Undoubtedly Kotzebue would have won a firm footing in England merely on account of the family traits which he had in common with sentimental comedy. But as a fact he was helped besides by the direct influence in England of bis spiritual father Rousseau, and by some other circumstances which we will presently consider.
At the time we are writing of, Napoleon's shadow loomed large all over Europe. Floating rumours of a French invasion kept the country in a state of nervous excitement. A politician who was, at the same time, a great orator, an acute manager, and a handy playwright, saw what possibilities some of Kotzebue's dramas afforded for playing on the country's deepest feeling, its ineradicable insularity. So Sheridan slightly altered Kotzebue's Pizarro, and inserted some of his own fiery harangues. The play transparently vilified the French and enthusiastically extolled English pluck in the defence of the soil. The 'boom' created by his play was absolutely unprecedented in English stage-history.
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Rival authors, such as Cumberland, were not slow to follow suit, and they also were successful.
Another element of success, which made Kotzebue's plays hold the boards long after his meteor had flashed across the theatrical sky, was their adaptability to the 'star system.' Rolla, Frederick, The Stranger, Pizarro, and Cora were parts well calculated for allowing the greater actors and actresses a full display of their particular powers. No modern actor-manager could wish them better for himself or for his leading lady.
And last, not least, a powerful aid to success was the rise of Romanticism in England. The part which Germany took in this movement has been weighed and measured in nearly every way. Werther was translated into English in 1779, Nathan der Weise the year after, and Minna von Barnhelm in 1789. The Räuber had to wait till 1792, Iphigenie till 1793, and Emilia Galotti till 1794. Kabale und Liebe was ‘Englished in 1795. The following year witnessed the triumph of Bürger's Lenore, twenty-two years after its publication in Germany. Scott translated The Chase and William and Helen, and elicited three other complete translations in the very same year. He also rendered Götz into English, while Wordsworth and Coleridge were on their tour through Germany, from which the latter brought back, as a royal present, his marvellous Wallenstein version (1800). Coleridge's sympathy with Germany cannot be doubted, but the touch of constraint, which may occasionally be detected in it, is very significant. He did not go the length of thinking Goethe
greatly overrated,' or of charging him with profligacy' and 'inhuman sensuality,' as Wordsworth did, but he neglected Goethe for lesser writers. He must have felt uneasy, after his first and splendid effort on Wallenstein, in borrowing, chiefly from Mathisson, Stolberg, Friederike Brun, and other such small luminaries. But his fault was that of all England at that time. Taking into account four capital works of each author, the average number of years which elapsed between a work's publication in Germany and its translation into English would be nineteen for Goethe, eleven for Schiller, and only six for Kotzebue. Schiller was more successful in England than Goethe. Klopstock, Gellert, Rammler-names that have now sunk into comparative or complete oblivion, rang higher than Lessing, Schiller, or Goethe. A tide of German translations swept over England, and bore Kotzebue into the very heart of the country. While Emilia Galotti could hold the boards no longer than three nights, Kotzebue's plays took every town by storm and continued successful, even after the interest in things German had died out. An Ode to the German Drama, by 'the late Mr. Seward,' which appeared in the Annual Register for 1799, cleverly, if not bar
moniously, states the case. I should like to quote the six stanzas, but will just give the concluding lines of the last, an English dramatist's prayer:
The fair, by vicious love misled,
That Kotzebue's influence was, beyond doubt, greater than has ever been acknowledged will first be seen from the number of his plays translated into English. That it did not owe much to the art of English translators is equally clear. It must be admitted that it was Sheridan's 'fair' as manager, and his handiness in adapting Pizarro to the English taste, which gave Kotzebue his chance. But once the way had been cleared, art or even skill had nothing more to do with Kotzebue. Now it was,' says a contemporary review, 'that laborious dulness, on the part of unqualified and plodding translators, acting in concert with the mercenary rapacity of speculating publishers, paved the way for the establishment of the German translating manufactory. Vainly did ' A London Gentleman' pathetically reproach Sheridan for being able to
.. join the tame translating crew, And banish Avon's Bard for Kotzebue.
Sheridan may have taken the warning, but somehow the 'translating crew' did not, and the stream of Kotzebue translations ceaselessly kept pouring into England. We might almost say with La Fontaine of whatever dramatists the period could boast :
Ils n'en mouraient pas tous, mais tous étaient frappés. Thomas Morton's Speed the Plough (1798), the comedy which ushered into the world the immortal character of Mrs. Grundy, is quite Kotzebuesque. Its Miss Blandford is a copy of Amelia in Lovers' Vows. In Morton's opera The Blind Girl, Clara unmistakably belongs to the same family. Her affected simplicity and pretentious phraseology, her effeminate and flippant spirit, and her absolute want of any bracing feeling stamp her with Kotzebue's mark. Cumberland's Wheel of Fortune (1795) might be traced to Kotzebue's Misanthropy and Repentance. Joanna Baillie's Plays on the Passions (1798-1836) chiefly differ from Kotzebue's in that they are quite ineffective as acting plays.
In short, many volumes might be written about indirect or unacknowledged indebtedness to Kotzebue. The desolate look
of the wilderness of late eighteenth-century drama may have deterred many a seeker for literary truths; but the journey, if uninviting, would very probably be fruitful. For there the barren soil shows nakedly its geological strata. And there also may be found the still undiscovered fountainheads of the drama of to-day. This late eighteenth century is like a diseased body, where every scar and wound is plain to the sight, where every symptom is strong and easily recognisable, and may possibly give a clue to the reasons of, and suggest a remedy for, the present consumptive state of the English drama. Nor is it the drama only on which the study of Kotzebue in England sheds additional light, but also the novel. The so-called “School of Terror,' now for ever connected with ‘Monk' Lewis's name, was indebted to him for some of its gruesome properties. The above-quoted ode acknowledges Kotzebue's plays as the source of their supply of 'dungeons, chains, and blood,' and sums up in the following terms :
Bound in thy necromantic spell
Again, the relish for exoticism which was characteristic of the Lewis-Maturin-Radcliffe-Beckford group, however traceable to Bernardin de Sainte-Pierre, was greatly fostered if not engendered in England by Kotzebue. The contemporary announcements and reviews of books will show a large number of accounts of embassies, descriptions of, and letters from, nearly every part of the world, especially the East. The author of Kamschatka, The Negro-Slaves, and Pizarro in Peru is partly responsible for that craze, which was to pass through Beckford's, Hope's, and Morier's oriental' novels into the poetry of Southey, Moore, and Byron.
By its sheer exaggeration Kotzebue's success could not but rouse reaction. Did not Neuman, the translator of Family Distress, argue that Kotzebue possessed all the excellence of Shakespeare without any of his defects? Others, with a touch of temper already, called him a German Shakespeare to whom Mrs. Inchbald acted as midwife and Sheridan as foster-father.' Even the Monthly Review—which at the outset occasionally supported Kotzebue-on finding nine translations to review for one month, grew weary of it, and exclaimed : 'A register-office seems wanting for Kotzebue's numerous (we had almost said innumerable) productions, by means of which our rival transla
VOL. LXXI-No. 422