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The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller   By: (1854-1919)

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E text prepared by Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon, Thomas Berger, and the Project Gutenbert Online Distributed Proofreading Team





Calvin Thomas

Professor in Columbia University


Eleanor Allen Thomas

Herzelibe frouwe min, Got gebe dir hiute und iemer guot! Kunde ich bas gedenken din, Des haete ich willeclichen muot.


I have wished to give a trustworthy account of Schiller and his works on a scale large enough to permit the doing of something like justice to his great name, but not so large as in itself to kill all hope and chance of readableness. By a trustworthy account I mean one that is accurate in the matters of fact and sane in the matters of judgment. That there is room for an English book thus conceived will be readily granted, I imagine, by all those who know. At any rate Schiller is one of those writers of whom a new appreciation, from time to time, will always be in order.

I have thought it important that my work, while taking due note of recent German scholarship, should rest throughout on fresh and independent study. Accordingly, among all the many books that have aided me more or less, I have had in hand most often, next to the works of Schiller, the collection of his letters, as admirably edited by Jonas. Among the German biographers I owe the most to Minor, Weltrich and Brahm, for the period covered by their several works; for the later years, to Wychgram and Harnack. Earlier biographers, notably Hoffmeister and Palleske, have also been found helpful here and there.

Of course I have not flattered myself, in writing of a man whose uneventful career has repeatedly been explored in every nook and cranny, with any hope of adding materially to the tale of mere fact. One who gleans after Minor and Weltrich and Wychgram will find little but chaff, and I have tried to avoid the garnering of chaff. One of my chief perplexities, accordingly, has been to decide what to omit. If there shall be those who look for what they do not find, or find what they did not expect, I can only say that the question of perspective, of the relative importance of things, has all along received my careful attention. Thoroughness is very alluring, but life is short and some things must be taken for granted or treated as negligible. Otherwise one runs a risk, as German experience proves, of beginning and never finishing.

My great concern has been with the works of Schiller to interpret them as the expression of an interesting individuality and an interesting epoch. It is now some twenty years since I first came under the Weimarian spell, and during that time my feeling for Schiller has undergone vicissitudes not unlike those described by Brahm in a passage quoted at the very end of this volume. At no time, indeed, could I truthfully have called myself a "Schiller hater", but there was a time, certainly, when it seemed to me that he was very much overestimated by his countrymen; when my mind was very hospitable to demonstrations of his artistic shortcoming. Time has brought a different temper, and this book is the child of what I deem the wiser disposition.

For the poet who wins the heart of a great people and holds it for a century is right; there is nothing more to be said, so far as concerns his title to renown. The creative achievement is far more precious and important than any possible criticism of it. This does not mean that in dealing with such a poet the critic is in duty bound to abdicate his lower function and to let his scruples melt away in the warm water of a friendly partisanship; it means only that he will be best occupied, speaking generally, in a conscientious attempt to see the man as he was, to "experience the savor of him", and to understand the national temperament to which he has endeared himself.

This, I hope, defines sufficiently the spirit in which I have written. In discussing the plays I have endeavored to deal with them in a large way, laying hold of each where it is most interesting, and not caring to be either systematic or exhaustive... Continue reading book >>

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