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The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller by Calvin Thomas

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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

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. Questions of minute and
technical scholarship, such as have their proper place in a learned
monograph, or in the introduction and notes to an edition of the text,
have been avoided on principle. Everywhere--even in the difficult
thirteenth chapter--my aim has been to disengage and bring clearly into
view the essential, distinctive character of Schiller's work; and where
I have had to fear either that the professional scholar would frown at
my sins of omission, or that the mere lover of literature would yawn at
my sins of commission, I have boldly accepted the first-named horn of
the dilemma.

New York, Nov. 6, 1901.



Parentage and Schooling

Captain Schiller and his wife--Sojourn at Lorch--Traits of
Friedrich's childhood--Removal to Ludwigsburg--Karl Eugen, Duke of
Wuerttemberg--Impressions from court, theater and school--Poetic
beginnings--Duke Karl's change of heart--Franziska von Hohenheim--The
Academy at Solitude--Schiller at the Academy--School exercises--From law
to medicine--Early poems and orations--An ardent friend--Books read and
their effect--Dramatic plans--Dissertation rejected--Genesis of 'The
Robbers'--Morbid melancholy--Release from the Academy--Value of the
education received.


The Robbers

General characterization--The Schubart story--Schiller and
Schubart--The contrasted brothers--Comparison with Klinger and
Leisewitz--Influence of Rousseau and Goethe--Unlike earlier attacks
on the social order--Outlawry in the eighteenth century--The
noble bandit in literature--Karl Moor's crazy ambition--His
sentimentalism--Schiller's sympathy with his hero--Character of
Franz--Influence of Shakespeare--Ethical attitude of Franz--A dull
villain--Character of Amalia--The subordinate outlaws--A powerful
stage-play--Defects and merits.


The Stuttgart Medicus

Schiller's position at Stuttgart--Personal appearance--Convivial
pleasures--Visits at Solitude--Revision of 'The Robbers' for
publication--The two prefaces--Reception of 'The Robbers'--A stage-version
prepared for Dalberg--Changes in the stage-version--Popularity of
the play--Medicus and poet--The 'Anthology' of 1782--Character
of Schiller's youthful verse--Various poems considered--The songs
to Laura--Poetic promise of the 'Anthology'--Journalistic
enterprises--Schiller as a critic of himself--Quarrel with Duke
Karl--The Swiss imbroglio--The duke implacable--Flight from Stuttgart.


The Conspiracy of Fiesco at Genoa

General characterization--The historical Fiesco--Influence of
Rousseau--The conflicting authorities--Fact and fiction in the play--Not
really a republican tragedy--Character of Fiesco--Of Verrina--Schiller's
vacillation--Fiesco's inconsistency--Lack of historical lucidity--The
changed conclusion--Weak and strong points--Fiesco and the Moor--The
female characters--Extravagant diction.


The Fugitive in Hiding

Reception at Mannheim--An elocutionary failure--'Fiesco' rejected by
Dalberg--Refuge sought in Bauerbach--A new friend--Relations
with outside world--Interest in Lotte von Wolzogen--Literary
projects and employments--Beginnings of 'Don Carlos'--Friendly
overtures from Dalberg--Work upon 'Louise Miller'--Jealousy and
resignation--Flutterings of the heart--Departure from Bauerbach
with new play completed.


Cabal and Love

General characterization--English Beginnings of bourgeois
tragedy--'Miss Sara Sampson'--Development of the tragedy
of social conflict--Love in the age of sentimentalism--Rousseau
and the social conflict--Wagner and Lenz--Diderot's 'Father
of the Family'--Gemmingen's 'Head of the House'--Evolution
of Schiller's plan--Debt to predecessors--Hints from Wagner
and Lessing and 'Siegwart'--Weakness of the tragic conclusion--Character
of Louise--Her religious sentimentalism--Fearsomeness--Lack of
mother-wit--A cold heroine--Character of Ferdinand--Sentimental
extravagance--Father and son--Prototypes of President von Walter.


Theater poet in Mannheim

Mannheim in 1783--Dalberg and his theater--The situation on Schiller's
arrival--Letter to Frau von Wolzogen--Contract with Dalberg--Illness and
disappointments--Pecuniary troubles--'Fiesco' on the stage--Triumph of
'Cabal and Love'--Critical notices--Discourse on the theater--Contract
with Dalberg not renewed--Disappointments and distractions--Relations to
women--Charlotte von Kalb--The poems 'Resignation' and 'Radicalism of
Passion'--A friendly message from Leipzig--Project of the _Rhenish
Thalia_--Honored by the Duke of Weimar--Unhappiness and longing for
friendship--Escape from Mannheim.


The Boon of Friendship

Gottfried Koerner and the Stock sisters--Huber--Schiller's arrival in
Leipzig--A proposal of marriage--Sojourn at Gohlis--Schiller and
Koerner--An enthusiastic letter--Koerner's helpfulness--With the new
friends in Dresden--Influence of Koerner--A poetic 'Petition'--The 'Song
to Joy'--Contributions to the _Thalia_--Quickened interest in
history--Letters of Julius and Raphael--'The Ghostseer'
begun--Unwillingness to leave Dresden--A dramatic skit--Affair with
Henriette von Arnim--From Dresden to Weimar.


Don Carlos

Poetic merit of 'Don Carlos'--Its slow genesis--Schiller's
explanation--St. Real's 'Dom Carlos'--The original plan--Ripening
influences--Decision in favor of verse--Change of attitude toward Carlos
and Philip--Influence of Koerner--Completion of the play--Character of
Prince Carlos--The Marquis of Posa--Posa and the king--Posa's heroics in
the last two acts--Character of Philip--General estimate.


Anchored in Thuringia

Weimar in Schiller's time--Renewal of relations with Charlotte von
Kalb--First meeting with Herder and Wieland--Visit to Jena--Pleased with
Weimar--New literary pursuits--Visit to Meiningen and introduction to
the Lengefeld family--Charlotte von Lengefeld--A summer idyl--Awakening
interest in the Greeks--First meeting with Goethe--Appointed professor
at Jena--Bitterness toward Goethe--Love, betrothal and marriage--'The
Gods of Greece'--'The Artists'--'The Ghostseer'--The 'Letters on Don
Carlos'--Review of 'Egmont'--'The Misanthrope'--Translations from
Euripides and other minor writings.


Historical Writings

Schiller's merit as a historian--Genesis of 'The Defection of the
Netherlands'--The author's self-confidence--His readableness--Freedom
the animating idea--Attitude toward past and present--Position as a
historian--Too little regard for the fact--First lecture at
Jena--Influence of Kant--Theory of the Fall--The 'Historical
Memoirs'--Inchoate Romanticism--'History of the Thirty Years'
War'--Skill in narrating--Conception of the war as a struggle for
freedom--View of Gustav Adolf.


Dark Days Within and Without

A happy year--Disastrous illness in January, 1791--Feud with
Buerger--Interest in epic poetry--Second illness and desperate
plight--Help from Denmark--Resolution to master Kant's philosophy--Visit
to Suabia--Enterprise of the _Horen_--Attitude toward the
Revolution--Sympathy for Louis XVI.--Prediction of Napoleon--Made a
citizen of the French Republic--Disgust with politics--Program of the
_Horen_--Genius and vocation.


Aesthetic Writings

Value of philosophy to a poet--Goethe's opinion--Schiller's early
philosophizing--The essays on Tragedy--Plan of 'Kallias'--Kant's
aesthetics--Schiller's divergence from Kant--Beauty identified with
freedom-in-the-appearance--Explication of the theory--Essay on
'Winsomeness and Dignity'--Essay on 'The Sublime'--Remarks on
Schiller's general method--Letters to the Duke of Augustenburg--The
'Letters on Aesthetic Education'--Some minor papers--Essay on 'Naive
and Sentimental Poetry'.


The Great Duumvirate

Goethe and Schiller--Six years of aloofness--Beginning of intimacy--The
'happy event'--Campaign for the conquest of Goethe---Schiller, on
Goethe's genius--A friendly relation established--Comparison of the
duumvirs--Fortunes of the _Horen_--Return to poetry--Significance of the
essay on 'Naive and Sentimental Poetry'--Goethe on Schiller's
theory--Enemies assail the _Horen_--The Xenia planned in retaliation--A
militant league formed--The fusillade of the Xenia--Effect of the
Xenia--Return to the drama--Further relations of Goethe and Schiller.


Later Poems

General character of Schiller's poetry--'The Veiled Image at Sais'--'The
Ideal and Life'--Idealism of Goethe and Schiller--'The Walk'--Poems of
1796--'Dignity of Women'--'The Eleusinian Festival'--The
ballads--Attitude toward the present--Lyrics of thought--'The Maiden's
Lament'--Popularity of Schiller's cultural poems--'The Song of the
Bell'--Latest poems.



General characterization--Preparatory studies--Difficulties of the
subject--Study of Sophocles and Aristotle--Decision in favor of
verse--Completion of the play--'Wallenstein's Camp'--The historical
Wallenstein--Schiller's artistic achievement--Character of
the hero--His impressiveness--Effect of contrast--Octavio
Piccolomini--Max Piccolomini--Max and Thekla--Lyrical passages--Absence
of humor and irony.


Mary Stuart

Genesis of the play--Schiller's removal to Weimar--'Mary Stuart'
characterized--The fundamental difficulty--Unhistorical
inventions--Effect of these--The meeting of the queens--Character of
Elizabeth--Romantic tendencies--Mary conceived as a purified
sufferer--Pathos of the conclusion--Ugly portrait of Elizabeth
accounted for--The historical background--Dramatic qualities--Character
of Mortimer.


The Maid of Orleans

Variety in Schiller's work--Genesis of 'The Maid of Orleans'--Schiller's
Johanna--Miraculous elements--Attitude of the critics--Difficulty of the
subject--Johanna's tragic guilt--Her supernatural power--The scene with
Lionel--Schiller's poetic intention--A drama of patriotism--The
subordinate characters--Excellence of the composition.


The Bride of Messina

Genesis of the play--General characterization--Disagreement of the
critics--Relation to Sophocles--Substance of the plot--Ancients and
moderns--Fate and responsibility--Schiller's invention--Unnaturalness of
the action--Strange conduct of Don Manuel, Beatrice and the
mother--Lavish use of silence--Schiller's contempt of realism--Don
Cesar's expiatory death the real tragedy--Use of the fate idea--Apologia
for the chorus--Poetic splendor.


William Tell

'Tell' and 'The Robbers'--General characterization--Genesis--Attention
to local color--An interruption--Success on the stage--The theme of
'Tell'--A drama of freedom--The play intensely human--Goodness of the
exposition--Departures from usual method--Character of Tell--The
apple-shooting scene--The scene in the 'hollow way'--Tell's long
soliloquy--Introduction of Parricida--Bertha and Rudenz.


The End.--Unfinished Plays and Adaptations

A Russian theme chosen--Berlin negotiations--Work on 'Demetrius'--'The
Homage of the Arts'--Last illness and death--The unfinished
'Demetrius'--The historical Dmitri--The original plan modified--Character
of the hero--Poetic promise of 'Demetrius'--'Warbeck'--'The Princess
of Celle'--'The Knights of Malta'--Other unfinished plays--Adaptation
of 'Egmont'--Of 'Nathan the Wise'--Of 'Macbeth'--Of 'Turandot'--Interest
in the French drama--Adaptations from the French.


The Verdict of Posterity

Schiller a national poet--His idealized personality--Estimate of
Dannecker--Of Madame de Stael--Goethe's 'Epilogue'--Controversy over
Goethe and Schiller--Attitude of Schlegel--Of Menzel--Goethe's
loyalty to his friend--The mid-century epoch--Unreasonable
criticism--Interesting prophecy of Gervinus--Schiller's aesthetic
idealism often misunderstood--Schiller as a friend of the
people--Partisan misconceptions--The enthusiasm of 1859--Epoch of the
philologers--Present opinion of Schiller--Conclusion.



Parentage and Schooling

Nur, Vater, mir Gesaenge.

_From the poem 'Evening', 1776._

When the Austrian War of Succession came to an end, in the year 1748, a
certain young Suabian who had been campaigning in the Lowlands as army
doctor was left temporarily without employment. The man's name was
Johann Kaspar Schiller; he was of good plebeian stock and had lately
been a barber's apprentice,--a lot that he had accepted reluctantly when
the poverty of a widowed mother compelled him to shift for himself at an
early age. Having served his time and learned the trade of the
barber-surgeon, he had joined a Bavarian regiment of hussars. Finding
himself now suddenly at leisure, after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, he
mounted his horse and rode away to the land of his birth to visit his
relations. Reaching Marbach--it was now the spring of 1749--he put up at
the 'Golden Lion', an inn kept by a then prosperous baker named Kodweis.
Here he fell in love with his landlord's daughter Dorothea, a girl of
sixteen, and in the course of the summer married her. He was at this
time about twenty-six years old. He now settled down In Marbach to
practice his crude art, but the practice came to little and Kodweis soon
lost his property in foolish speculation. So the quondam soldier fell
out of humor with Marbach, went into the army again, and when the Seven
Years' War broke out, in 1756, he took the field with a Wuerttemberg
regiment to fight the King of Prussia. He soon reached the grade of
lieutenant, in time that of captain; fought and ran with his countrymen,
at Leuthen, floundered at peril of life in the swamps of Breslau and
otherwise got his full share of the war's rough-and-tumble. From time to
time, as the chance came to him, he visited his young wife in Marbach.

These were the parents of the poet Schiller, who was born November 10,
1759, ten years after Goethe, ten years before Napoleon. It is worth
remembering that he who was to be in his way, another great protestant
came into the world on an anniversary of the birth of Lather. He was
christened Johann Christoph Friedrich.

The childhood of little Fritz unfolded amid conditions that must have
given to life a rather somber aspect. After the close of the war Captain
Schiller moved his little family to Lorch, a village some thirty miles
east of Stuttgart, where he was employed by the Duke of Wuerttemberg in
recruiting soldiers for mercenary service abroad. This hateful business,
which was in due time to form a mark for one of the sharp darts of
'Cabal and Love', seems to have been managed by him with a degree of
tact and humanity; for he won the esteem of all with whom he had to do.
At home, being of a pious turn and setting great store by the formal
exercises of religion, he presided over his household in the manner of
an ancient patriarch. Between him and his son no very tender relation
ever existed, though the poet of later years always revered his father's
character. The child's affections clung rather to his mother, whom he
grew up to resemble in form and feature and in traits of character. She
was a woman of no intellectual pretensions, but worthy of honor for her
qualities of heart.[1] Of education in the modern sense she had but
little. Her few extant letters, written mostly in her later years, tell
of a simple and lovable character, tenderly devoted to husband and
children. Tradition credits her with a certain liking for feeble poets
of the Uz and Gellert strain, but this probably did not amount to much.
Her sphere of interest was the little world of family cares and
affections. Her early married life had been darkened by manifold sorrows
which she bore at first with pious resignation, becoming with the flight
of time, however, more and more a borrower of trouble.[2] At Lorch her
trials were great, for Captain Schiller received no pay and the family
felt the pinch of poverty. Here, then, was little room for that merry
comradeship, with its _Lust zum Fabulieren_, which existed between the
boy Goethe and his playmate mother at Frankfurt-on-the-Main.

In after-time, nevertheless, Schiller was wont to look back upon the
three years at Lorch as the happiest part of his childhood. The village
is charmingly situated in the valley of the Rems, a tributary of the
Neckar, and the region round about is historic ground. A short walk
southward brings one to the Hohenstaufen, on whose summit once stood the
ancestral seat of the famous Suabian dynasty, and close by Lorch is the
Benedictine monastery in which a number of the Hohenstaufen monarchs are
buried. Here was the romance of history right at hand, but we can hardly
suppose that it meant much to the child. The Middle Ages were not yet in
fashion even for adults, and little Fritz had other things to think of.
With his sister Christophine, two years older than himself, he was sent
to the village school, where he proved so apt a pupil that his parents
became ambitious for him and sent him to the village pastor, a man named
Moser, to be taught Latin. The child looked up to his august teacher and
resolved to become himself some day a preacher of the word. Not much is
known of Moser, but to judge from his namesake in 'The Robbers', where
all passions and qualities are raised to the _n_th power, he must have
been a man for whom the reproof of sinners was not only a professional
duty but a personal pleasure. The plan of making their Fritz a man of
God was eagerly embraced by the pious parents and became a settled
family aspiration.

The boy himself was very susceptible at this time to religious
impressions. Sister Christophine carried with her through life a vivid
memory of his appearance at family worship, when the captain would
solemnly intone the rimed prayers that he himself had composed for a
private ritual. 'It was a touching sight', she says in her
recollections[3] of this period, 'to see the reverent expression on the
child's winsome face. The pious blue eyes lifted to heaven, the light
yellow hair falling about his forehead, and the little hands folded in
worship, suggested an angel's head in a picture.' From the same source
we learn that Fritz was very fond of playing church, with himself in the
role of preacher. Another reminiscence tells how he one day ran away
from school and, having unexpectedly fallen under the paternal eye in
his truancy, rushed home to his mother in tearful excitement, got the
rod of correction and besought her to give him his punishment before his
sterner parent should arrive on the scene. Still another, from a
somewhat later period, relates how the mother was once walking with her
children and told them a Bible story so touchingly that they all knelt
down and prayed. This is about all that has come down concerning
Schiller's early childhood. He may have seen the passion-play at Gmuend,
but this is uncertain. In any case it only added one more to the
religious impressions that already dominated his life.

Toward the end of the year 1766, having exhausted his private resources
at Lorch, Captain Schiller applied for relief and was transferred to
duty at Ludwigsburg, where the family remained under somewhat more
tolerable conditions for about nine years. At Ludwigsburg he began to
interest himself in agriculture and forestry. In 1769 he published
certain 'Economic Contributions', which exhibit him as a sensible,
public-spirited man, eagerly bent upon improving the condition of
Suabian husbandry. In 1775, having become known as an expert in
arboriculture, he was placed in charge of the ducal forests and
nurseries at Castle Solitude, and there he spent the remainder of his
days in peaceful and congenial activity. He died in 1796.

For the impressionable Fritz one can hardly imagine a more momentous
change of environment than this which took him from a quiet rural
village to the garish Residenz of a licentious and extravagant prince.
Karl Eugen,[4] Duke of Wuerttemberg, whom men have often called the
curse, but the gods haply regard as the good genius, of Schiller's
youth, came to power in 1744 at the age of sixteen. The three preceding
years he had spent at the Prussian court, where Frederick the Second
(not yet the Great) had taken a deep interest in him and tried to teach
him serious views of a ruler's responsibility. But the youth had no
stomach for the doctrine that he was in the world for the sake of
Wuerttemberg. Having come to his ducal throne prematurely, through the
influence of the King of Prussia, he began well, but after a few years
shook off the restraints of good advice and entered upon a course of
autocratic folly that made Wuerttemberg a far-shining example of the
evils of absolutism under the Old Regime. Early in his reign he married
a beautiful and high-minded princess of Bayreuth, but his profligacy
soon drove her back to the home of her parents. Then a succession of
mistresses ruled his affections, while reckless adventurers in high
place enjoyed his confidence and fleeced the people at pleasure. To
gratify his passion for military display he began to raise unnecessary
troops and to hire them out as mercenaries. In 1752 he agreed with the
King of France, in consideration of a fixed annual subsidy, to supply
six thousand soldiers on demand. The money thus obtained was mostly
squandered upon his private vices and extravagances. On the outbreak of
the Seven Years' War the French king demanded the promised troops; and
so it came about that the Suabian Protestants were compelled, in
defiance of public sentiment, to make war against their co-religionists
of Prussia. In the inglorious campaigns which followed, the Duke of
Wuerttemberg cut a rather sorry figure, but criticism only exasperated
him. He promised another large body of troops to France, and the men
were raised by harsh measures of conscription. The Estates of the duchy
protested against this autocratic procedure, and, as Stuttgart sided
with the opposition, the duke determined to punish his unruly capital by
removing his court to Ludwigsburg, where an ancestor of his, early in
the century, had founded a city to match Versailles and serve the
express purpose of a 'Trutz-Stuttgart'.

The removal of the court to Ludwigsburg took place in 1764, three years
before the Schiller family found a home there. From the first a purely
artificial creation, the little city had been going backwards, but it
now leaped into short-lived glory as the residence of a prodigal prince
who was bent on amusing himself magnificently. The existing ducal palace
was enlarged to huge dimensions and lavishly decorated. Great parks and
gardens were laid out, the market-place was surrounded with arcades, and
an opera-house was built, with a stage that could be extended into the
open air so as to permit the spectacular evolution of real troops.
Everything about the place was new and pretentious. The roomy streets
and the would-be gorgeous palaces, flaunting their fresh coats of yellow
and white stucco, teemed with officers in uniform, with blazing little
potentates of the court and with high-born ladies in the puffs and
frills of the rococo age. Here Karl Eugen gave himself up to his dream
of glory, which was to rival the splendors of Versailles. He maintained
a costly opera, procuring for it the most famous singers and dancers in
Europe, and squandered immense sums upon 'Venetian nights' and other
gorgeous spectacles. For all this barbaric ostentation the people of
Wuerttemberg were expected to foot the bills. 'Fatherland!' said his
Highness, when a protest was raised on behalf of the country, 'Bah! I am
the fatherland.'

Here it was, then, that the young Friedrich Schiller got his first
childish impressions of the great world; of sovereignty exercised that a
few might strut in gay plumage while the many toiled to keep them in
funds; of state policies determined by wretched court intrigues; of
natural rights trampled upon at the caprice of a prince or a prince's
favorite. There is no record that the boy was troubled by these things
at the time, or looked upon them as anything else than a part of the
world's natural order. It is a long way yet to President von Walter.

The house occupied by Captain Schiller at Ludwigsburg was situated close
by the theater, to which the duke's officers had free admission. As a
reward of industry little Fritz was allowed an occasional evening in
front of the 'boards that signify the world'. The performances, to be
sure, were French and Italian operas, wherein the ballet-master, the
machinist and the decorator vied with one another for the production of
amazing spectacular effects. People went to stare and gasp--the language
was of no importance. It was not exactly dramatic art, but from the
boy's point of view it was no doubt magnificent. At any rate it made him
at home in the dream-world of the imagination, filled his mind with
grandiose pictures and gave him his first rudimentary notions of stage
effect. We are not surprised to learn, therefore, that in his home
amusements playing theater now took the place of playing church. Sister
Christophine was a faithful helper. A stage could be made of big books,
and actors out of paper. When the puppet-show was outgrown, the young
dramatist took to framing plays for living performers of his own
age,--with a row of chairs for an audience, and himself as manager and

Christophine relates that her brother's fondness for this sort of
diversion lasted until he was thirteen years old. In the mean time,
however, his chosen career was kept steadily in view. He was sent to the
Latin school, from which, if his marks should be good, he might hope to
advance in about five years to one of the so-called convent schools of
Wuerttemberg. After this his theological education would proceed for
about nine years more at the expense of the state. The Ludwigsburg
school was a place in which the language of Cicero and the religion of
Luther were thumped into the memory of boys by means of sticks applied
to the skin; Fritz Schiller was a capable scholar, though none of his
teachers ever called him, as in the case of the boy Lessing at Meissen,
a horse that needed double fodder. The ordinary ration sufficed him, but
he memorized his catechism and his hymns diligently, fussed faithfully
over his Latin longs and shorts, and took his occasional thrashings with
becoming fortitude. On one occasion we hear that he was flogged by
mistake and disdained to report the incident at home. Religious
instruction consisted of mechanical repetition insisted on with brutal
severity,--a mode of presenting divine things that must have contrasted
painfully, for the sensitive boy, with his mother's simple religion of
the heart. When it is added that he was often nagged and punished by a
too exacting father, we get a not very sunny picture of our poet's
boyhood. It is told,[5] and it may well be true, that he was subject to
fits of moodiness, in which he would complain of his lot and brood
gloomily over his prospects. Nevertheless a schoolmate[6] has left it on
record that Schiller as a lad was normally high-spirited, a leader in
sports as well as in study, and very steadfast in his friendships.

While at Ludwigsburg he read from the prescribed Latin authors,
making the acquaintance of Ovid, Vergil and Horace, and in time won
praise for his facility in writing Latin verses. Some of his school
exercises have chanced to be preserved. The earliest, dated Jan. 1,
1769, is a Latin translation in prose of some verses which seem to have
been supplied by his teacher for the purpose. The handwriting and the
Latin tell of faithful juvenile toil and moderate success--nothing more.
Nor can we extract much biographic interest from the later distichs and
_carmina_ which he turned out at school festivals. Such things have
flowed easily from the pen of many a bright schoolboy whom the bees of
Hymettus failed to visit.

According, to Schiller's own testimony[7] his earliest attempt at German
verse was made on the occasion of his confirmation, in April, 1772. On
the day before the solemn ceremony he was playing about with his
comrades in what seemed to his mother an all too worldly frame of mind.
She rebuked him for his unseasonable levity, whereat the youngster went
into himself, as the Germans say, and poured out his supposed feelings
in a string of verses so tender and soulful as to draw from his amazed
father the exclamation: 'Fritz, are you going crazy?'

After such a beginning we are not surprised to learn that German poetry
made its first strong appeal to him through the pious muse of Klopstock.
His earliest more ambitious note is heard in a 'Hymn to the Sun',
written in his fourteenth year. It is the note of supernal religious
pathos. In rimeless lines of unequal length he celebrates the glory of
God in the firmament, soars into celestial space and winds up with a
vision of the last great cataclysm. All this is sufficiently
Klopstockian, as is also the boyish dream of an epic about Moses, and of
a tragedy to be called 'The Christians'.

But the time came when our young psalmodist of Zion was to be pulled out
of his predetermined course and made to sing another song. Were the
overruling powers malign or benevolent? Who shall say, remembering the
Greek proverb that a man is not educated save by flaying? Let us not
pause to speculate; but proceed as quickly as may be across the interval
that separates these innocent religious effusions from the opening of a
great literary career with the cannon-shot of 'The Robbers'.

About the year 1770 Duke Karl began to undergo a change of heart.
Wearying at last of life's vanities and frivolities, the middle-aged
sinner took up virtue and philanthropy, as if to show mankind that he
too could be a benevolent father to his people. The new departure was
due in part to the political success of the Estates in curbing his
extravagance, but rather more, no doubt, to the personal influence of
his mistress, Franziska von Hohenheim. This lady, whose maiden name was
Bernerdin, had been given in marriage as a girl of sixteen to a
worthless Baron von Leutrum, who misused her. Escaping from him with
thoughts of divorce in her mind, she went to visit friends in
Ludwigsburg. Here the inflammable duke fell in love with her, and, after
a not very tedious resistance, carried her away to his castle. This was
in 1772. Her divorce followed soon after, and she remained at court as
the duke's favorite mistress. He presently procured for her an imperial
title, that of Countess Hohenheim, and after the death of his duchess,
in 1780, he married her. She was not beautiful or talented, but she
possessed amiable qualities that made and kept her the object of Karl's
honest affection. She knew how to humor his whims without crossing his
stubborn will, and she chose to exert her influence in promoting humane
enterprises and leading her liege lord in the paths of virtuous
frugality. On the whole, the people of Wuerttemberg, who had suffered
much from mistresses of a different ilk, had reason to bless their
ruler's fondness for his amiable 'Franzele'. She was not unworthy to sit
for the portrait of Lady Milford.

An educational project, the founding of a school which later came to be
known as the Karlschule, marks the beginning of the duke's career in
his new role. He began very modestly in the year 1770 by gathering a
few boys, the sons of officers, at his castle called Solitude, and
undertaking to provide for their instruction in gardening and forestry.
This Castle Solitude was itself an outcome of the same lordly mood that
had led to the removal of the court to Ludwigsburg. It was situated on
a wooded height some six miles west of Stuttgart. Here, by means of
forced labor and at enormous expense,--and this was only one of many
similar building enterprises,--he had cleared a site in the forest and
erected a huge palace which, according to the inscription over the
door, was to be 'devoted to tranquillity'. But how was a prince to
enjoy tranquillity without the necessaries of life? In a short time a
score of other buildings, including an opera-house and a barracks, had
sprung up about the castle in the woods, while an immense outlying
tract had been converted into a park with exotic attractions in the
style of the time. Here, then, was need of expert forestry--whence the
opening of the school as aforesaid. Once started, it became the duke's
special pet and pride. His immense energy had found a new fad--that of
the schoolmaster. He was bent on having a model training-school for the
public service. In his own house, under his own eye, he proposed to
mould the future servants of the state like potter's clay. In this way
he would have them as he wanted them. To provide the clay for his
experiment he began to look around for promising boys, and thus his eye
fell on Friedrich Schiller. Summoning the father and making some
gracious inquiries, he offered to provide for the boy's education at
the new school. The anxious captain, knowing that divinity was not to
be on the program at Castle Solitude, sought to evade his sovereign's
kindness by pleading that Fritz had set his heart upon the service of
the church. The reply was that something else, law for example, would
no doubt do as well. Resistance to the earthly Providence was not to be
thought of by a man in Captain Schiller's position; and so the step was
taken which deprived some Suabian flock of a shepherd and gave the
world instead a great poet.

It was on the 17th of January, 1773, that schoolboy Schiller, with
disappointment in his heart, said farewell to his tearful mother and
took his cold way up the long avenue which led from Ludwigsburg to
Castle Solitude. According to the official record he arrived there with
a chillblain, an eruption of the scalp, fourteen Latin books, and
forty-three kreutzers in money. Soon afterwards his father signed a
document whereby he renounced all control of the boy and left him in the
hands of his prince.

The school at Solitude had now come to be known as the Military
Academy, and well it deserved its name. The duke himself was the
supreme authority in large matters and in small. The nominal head,
called the intendant, was a high military officer who had a sufficient
detail of majors, captains and lower officers to assist him in
maintaining discipline. Under the eye of these military potentates the
_eleves_, as they were called,--for the official language of the school
was French,--lived and moved in accordance with a rigid routine. They
rose at six and marched to the breakfast-room, where an overseer gave
them their orders to pray, to eat, to pray again, and then to march
back. Then there were lessons until one o'clock, when they prepared for
the solemn function of dinner. Dressed in the prescribed uniform,--a
blue coat with white breeches and waistcoat, a leather stock and a
three-cornered hat, with pendent queue and at each temple four little
puffs,--they marched to the dining-room and countermarched to their
places. When his Highness gave the command, _Dinez, messieurs_, they
fell to and ate. From two to four there were lessons again, then
exercise and study hours. At nine they were required to go to bed.
There were no vacations and few holidays. Visits to and from parents
were prohibited, and letters sent or received had to be submitted to
the Intendant. Books of a stirring character were proscribed, along
with tobacco and toothsome edibles, and quarters were often searched
for contraband articles. Whoso transgressed received a 'billet', which
he took to headquarters. Punishments were numerous, if not very severe,
and were sometimes administered by his Highness in person. The duke
wished his proteges to regard him as their father, but his system
tended to the encouragement not so much of honest gratitude as
of rank sycophancy. On occasion he could be very gracious and
condescending,--would take the youngsters into his carriage, give
them fatherly counsel, box their ears, suggest subjects for essays,
offer himself as opponent at their disputations, and so forth. He
was very proud of showing off the school to visitors. His birthday
and Franziska's were festal occasions, at which he would distribute
the prizes in person and allow the winners, if of gentle birth, to
kiss his hand; if commoners, to kiss the hem of his garment.

A modern reader will be very ready with his criticism of these
educational arrangements. The constant and petty surveillance, the
deliberate alienation of boys from all ties of home and kindred, the
systematic training in duplicity and adulation, were certainly not well
calculated for a school of manhood. Schiller himself, after his escape
from the academy, was wont to speak very bitterly of the education that
he had received there. Nevertheless the school had its good points,
especially after the removal to Stuttgart, in 1775. Here it became a
combination of university (minus the theological faculty) with a school
of art, a school of technology and a military academy proper. Several of
the professors were inspiring teachers who made friends of their
students. The fame of the institution brought together promising young
men from all parts of Germany and from foreign parts; and several of
them besides Schiller attained distinction in after-life.[8] There was
thus intellectual comradeship of the very best kind. And there was much
freedom in the choice of studies.

But the solid merits of the academy were the growth of time; in the
beginning it was, for Schiller at least, mere chaos and misery. The boy
grew rapidly into a lank, awkward youngster for whom the military
discipline was a great hardship; he never got entirely rid of the stiff
gait and ungainly bearing which resulted from these early struggles with
the unattainable. Frequent illness led to a bad record on the books of
the faculty. In 'conduite' he made but a poor showing, and he was
several times billeted for untidiness. In Latin and religion he got
along fairly well, and in Greek he actually took a prize toward the end
of the year 1773. But the Greek which procured him this distinction
hardly went beyond the rudiments and was mostly brought with him from
Ludwigsburg. For mathematics he had but little talent. His bitterest
trial, however, came with the law studies which he was obliged to take
up in his second year. A dry subject, a dull teacher and an immature,
reluctant pupil made a hopeless combination. And so he got the name of a
dullard. During the whole of the year 1775 it is recorded that he was at
the foot of his class.

Two bits of writing have come down to give us a glimpse of the boy's
mind during these two years of helpless floundering. A detestable
practice of the school authorities required the pupils to criticise one
another in moral disquisitions. On one occasion the duke gave out the
theme: 'Who is the meanest among you?' Schiller did his task in Latin
distichs which have been preserved. They show a healthy feeling for the
odiousness of the business, but he cleverly shifts the responsibility to
_Dux serenissimus_, who must of course know what is good for him. Then
he proceeds to depict one Karl Kempff as the worst boy in
school,--_defraudans socios, rudis ignarusque_,--but he hopes that the
wretched sinner will yet mend his ways and become worthy of his gracious
prince's favor.

In a much longer prose document he portrays the characters of some two
score schoolmates and finally his own. He begins modestly with a
deprecatory address to his most gracious sovereign, without whose wise
order he would never think of setting himself up as a judge of his
fellows. The portraits are amusingly ponderous in style, but their
substance is very creditable to their author's head and heart. Toward
the end he burns more incense to the duke: 'This prince who has enabled
my parents to do well by me; this prince through whom God will attain
his ends with me; this father who wishes to make me happy, is and must
be much more estimable to me than parents who depend upon his favor.' He
frankly confesses his own shortcomings: 'You will find me', he writes,
'often overhasty, often frivolous. You will hear that I am obstinate,
passionate and impatient; but you will also hear of my sincerity, my
fidelity and my good heart.' He owns that he has not thus far made the
best use of his gifts, but he pleads illness in excuse. His gracious
prince knows how eagerly he has taken up the study of the law and how
happy he will be some day to enter the service of his country. But, he
ventures to insinuate, he would be very much happier still if he could
serve his country as a teacher of religion.

The divinity was out of the question, but relief was at hand. Toward the
end of 1775, having come to terms with the Stuttgart people, Duke Karl
transferred his academy to more commodious quarters in the city. A
department of medicine was added and Schiller gladly availed himself of
the duke's permission to enroll in the new faculty. His professional
studies were now more to his taste and he applied himself to them with
sufficient zeal to make henceforth a decent though never a brilliant
record. His heart was already elsewhere. For some time past he had been
nourishing his soul on forbidden fruit,--books that had to be smuggled
in and were of course all the more seductive for that very reason. With
a few intimates--Scharffenstein, the Von Hovens and Petersen--he formed
a sort of literary club which read and discussed things. What they read
spurred them to imitation and to mutual criticism. Presently they
commenced sending their productions to the magazines. Schiller began to
indulge in pleasing dreams of literary fame; and with this new-born
confidence in himself there came, as his health improved, a firmer step,
a more erect bearing and an increased energy of character. To be a poet
by grace of God was better than the favor of princes.

For some time, however, the youth's effusions gave little evidence of a
divine call. His first poem to get into print was the one entitled
'Evening', which appeared in Haug's _Suabian Magazine_ in the autumn of
1776. In irregular rimed verses--the rimes often very Suabian--we hear
of sunset glories producing in the bard a divine ecstasy that carries
him away through space. Then he returns to earth and hears in the voices
of evening a general symphony of praise. It is still the Klopstockian
strain of magniloquent religiosity, tempered somewhat by the influence
of Haller. In 'The Conqueror', a poem published in 1777, the
Klopstockian note is still more audible. The form is a pseudo-antique
strophe such as Klopstock often used; the substance a rhetorical
denunciation of military ambition. The most awful curses are imprecated
upon the head of the ruthless 'conqueror', whose badness is portrayed in
lurid images and wild syntax that fairly rack the German language.[9] No
wonder that editor Haug cautioned the young poet against nonsense,
obscurity and exaggerated metatheses.

Nor is there much more of promise in the few occasional poems that have
come down from Schiller's salad days in the academy. One of them was
inspired by a visit of the emperor Joseph, whom our poet glorifies in
strains almost too fervid for utterance.[10] The other two are birthday
greetings to Franziska von Hohenheim--effusions of 'gratitude', as it is
called. The gratitude purports to come, in one of the poems, from the
_ecole des demoiselles_, which Franziska had founded as a feminine
pendant to the academy. Schiller's verses, truth to tell, sound like
rank fustian. The duke's mistress is glorified as a paragon of virtue.
'Her sweet name flies high on the wings of glory, her very glance
promises immortality. Her life is the loveliest harmony, irradiated by a
thousand virtuous deeds.' And so on. As poetic spokesman of the girls he
pours out those 'Elysian feelings' which he supposes them to cherish
toward their kind and virtuous 'mother'.

There are two or three extant school orations which likewise exhibit
him in the role of a fervid eulogist. The rhetoric of them is very
highfalutin, and the flattery would be nauseating if one did not
remember that it was largely a matter of fashion. Custom required that
a prince be addressed in the language of adulation, and nothing in that
line was too extravagant for the taste of the time. As for Schiller, he
had got the reputation of an orator and he only did what was expected
of him as the public representative of the school. Nor should we think
too harshly of the duke for encouraging the foolishness, since he too
only conformed to the custom of the Old Regime. At the same time it is
a pleasure to learn from certain well authenticated anecdotes that he
and his _eleves_ did not always live in a fool's paradise of
sycophancy. There is a story, vouched for by Weltrich, to the effect
that Schiller, who had acquired fame as a mimic, was one day asked by
the duke, with Franziska on his arm, to give an impromptu specimen of
his powers by imitating his sovereign. The youth hesitated, but after
some urging borrowed the duke's cane and proceeded to examine him. As
his Highness did not answer well, Schiller exclaimed: 'Oh, you are an
ass!' Then he took Franziska's arm and began to walk away with her.
Serenissimus looked on with mixed emotions, but only said: 'Come now,
leave Franzele to me!'

The young Schiller was nothing if not intense. When an emotion took
possession of him it set him on fire, and the expression of it was like
the eruption of a volcano. Toward the end of his course at the academy
he had a misunderstanding with his dear friend Scharffenstein, with whom
he had sworn eternal brotherhood. The result was a long letter of wild
expostulation in this vein:

What was the bond of our friendship? Was it selfishness? Was it
frivolity? Was it folly? Was it an earthly, vulgar, or a higher,
immortal, celestial bond? Speak! Speak! Oh, a friendship erected
like ours might have endured through eternity.... If you or I had
died ten times, death should not have filched from us a single hour!
What a friendship that might have been! And now! Now! What has
become of it?... Hear, Scharffenstein! God is there! God hears me
and thee, and may God judge!

And so on for six mortal pages, octavo print. The modern cynic will
smile at this ecstatic cultus of friendship, but let him at the same
time recall the saying of Goethe that what makes the poet is a heart
completely filled with one emotion.[11]

It is now time to glance at the really important phase of Schiller's
youthful development--his reading. While his native Suabia, just then
rather backward in literary matters, was still chewing the cud of pious
conventionality, a prodigious ferment had begun in the outside world.
What is called the 'Storm and Stress' was under way. The spirit of
revolt, which in France was preparing a political upheaval, was abroad
in Germany, where it found expression in stormy or sentimental plays and
novels,--works composed on the principle that everything is permissible
except the tame and the conventional. The productions of these young
innovators differed widely from one another, but they had a common note
in their vehement would-be naturalism. There were over-wrought pictures
of daring sin and terrible punishment; novels and plays laying bare the
_misere_ of the social conflict; tragedies of insurgent passion at war
with conventional ideas; of true love crossed and done to death by the
prejudice of caste. And so forth.

How much of this literature fell into the hands of Schiller at the
academy can not be told with perfect certainty, but it would seem that
very little of it escaped him. He read and was deeply touched by
Gerstenberg's 'Ugolino', with its horrific picture of the agonies of
starvation. He read the early writings of Goethe, of Leisewitz and of
Klinger, and was touched by the woes of Miller's Siegwart. In 'Emilia
Galotti', with its drastic comment upon the infamies of princely lust,
he saw the subject of court life in a light very different from that in
which it habitually appeared to the carefully guarded pupils of the
Stuttgart academy. He became acquainted with Ossian, and the shadowy
forms of the Celtic bard, big with their indefinable woe, increased the
turmoil of his soul. Probably he read Rousseau more or less, though
direct evidence of the fact is lacking. At any rate the air was
surcharged with Rousseauite feeling. Certainly he read Plutarch and
Cervantes, and along with all these came Shakspere,[12] to whom he was
introduced--in the Wieland translation--by his favorite teacher, Abel.

The effect of this reading upon the mind of Schiller was prodigious. It
changed the native docility of his temper, weaned him completely from
his seraphic proclivities and carried him with a rush into the
mid-current of the literary revolution. There came a time when the young
medical student, faithfully pursuing his routine and on festal occasions
spouting fervid panegyrics of the noble Karl and the divine Franziska,
was not altogether what he seemed to be. There was another Schiller,
burning with literary ambition and privately engaged in forging a

Two dramatic attempts preceded 'The Robbers'. The first had to do with
Cosmo dei Medici; the second, called 'The Student of Nassau', was based
upon a newspaper story of suicide. Both were destroyed by their
disgusted author, in what stage of progress we do not know. Still he was
not discouraged; the tragic drama was clearly his field and he might
succeed better the next time. But where to find a subject? His
perplexity became so great that, as he said later, he would have given
his last shirt for a good theme. Finally, in the year 1777, his friend
Hoven drew his attention to a story by Schubart that had lately been
published in the _Suabian Magazine_,--a story of a father and his two
dissimilar sons, one of them frank and noble-minded but wild, the other
a plausible moralist but at heart a scoundrel. Schiller took the hint
and began to write, his interest being no doubt increased by the
miserable fate of Schubart, who was then languishing in the Hohenasperg
as the helpless victim of Karl Eugen's pusillanimous tyranny.[13]

Just how much progress was made with 'The Robbers' in the year 1777 is
not known; probably not much, for Schiller soon decided to drop his
literary pursuits for the present and devote himself closely to his
medical studies. Perhaps he may have hoped by hard work to finish his
course in four years instead of the expected five. At any rate he now
bent to his toil and allowed the play to lie dormant in his mind. In
1779 he submitted a thesis on 'The Philosophy of Physiology', but it was
judged unfit for print. The professors condemned it variously as
tedious, florid, obscure, and, worst of all, disrespectful toward
recognized authorities such as Haller. In these judgments the duke
concurred. He found that Eleve Schiller had said many fine things and in
particular had shown much 'fire'. But the fire was too strong; it needed
to be 'subdued' by another year of study.

It has usually been assumed by Schiller's biographers that in his
intense longing for liberty he was embittered by this disappointment,
and that in his mood of wrath he now took up his neglected play and
poured into it, hissing hot, the whole fury of his quarrel with the
world. There is, however, no evidence that he really hoped to win his
release from the academy in the year 1779, or that the thesis just
spoken of was regarded as a graduation thesis.[14] Neither his own
letters nor those of his friends indicate that he was angry at being
kept in school another year. Probably the critics have made too much
out of this factor of personal disgruntlement. Schiller was a poetic
artist, and his first play is much more than the wild expression of a
plucked student's resentment. Nevertheless it is only natural to
suppose that his proud and ambitious spirit chafed more or less under
the requirements of an academic routine that his manhood had
outgrown. That he succeeded after all, at the end of the year 1779,
in capturing a number of prizes and received them in the presence of
Goethe and the Duke of Weimar, who happened just then to be visiting
Stuttgart, could do but little to sweeten the bitter dose that had
been prescribed for him.

He now set about the preparation of a new thesis, and in the intervals
of his professional occupation he worked with feverish energy upon 'The
Robbers'. To gain time for writing he would often feign illness, and
when the duke or an inspector surprised him would hide his manuscript in
a big medical treatise kept at hand for the purpose. A few comrades who
were in the secret eagerly watched the progress of his work and
vociferously applauded the scenes which he now and then read to them.
One of these comrades has left it on record that in the excitement of
composition Schiller would often stamp and snort and roar.--And thus it
was, in the stolen hours of the night and driven by the demon that
possessed him, that he bodied forth his titanic drama of revolt. It was
virtually finished during the year 1780. In after-time Schiller reasoned
himself into the conviction that art must be 'cheerful',[15] but very
little of cheerfulness went to the composition of 'The Robbers'. It was
the disburthening of an oppressed soul that suffered horribly at times
from morbid melancholy--the chicken-pox of youthful genius. A letter of
June, 1780, shows how he had battled with the specters of despair.
Writing to Captain von Hoven, whose son had lately died, he says:

A thousand times I envied your son as he was wrestling with death,
and would have given up my life as calmly as I go to bed. I am not
yet twenty-one years old, but I can tell you frankly that the world
has no further charm for me. I have no delight in thinking of the
world, and the day of my departure from the academy, which a few
years ago would have been a day of festal joy, will not be able to
force one happy smile from me. With each step, as I grow older, I
lose more and more of my contentedness; and the nearer I come to the
age of maturity, the more I could wish that I had died in childhood.

This sounds gloomy enough, but the desperate mood did not last long, A
number of medical reports written in the summer of 1780 indicate that
Schiller was able to take the calm professional view of a case very
similar to his own. A fellow-student named Grammont was afflicted with
hypochondria, and Schiller was set to watch him. His analysis of the
case is eminently sane. He finds it difficult to decide whether the
young man's malady has its seat in the mind or in the bowels: whether
too much brooding over hard problems has ruined his digestion and
given him a headache, or whether a physical derangement has confused
his ideas of duty and religion. He thinks there is a fair chance of
curing the patient by means of medicine and good advice.--A youth who
can talk thus of another's _Weltschmerz_ is himself in no great danger
from the malady.

In November, 1780, he submitted a new thesis upon 'The Connection
between Man's Animal and Spiritual Nature'. In this essay he considers
the question whether, for the purposes of moral perfection, the body is
to be regarded as the enemy and gaoler of the soul, or as its friend and
coadjutor. The drift of his argument is to show in detail the dependence
of the spirit upon the flesh. Finding that philosophers have been unjust
to the body, he comes to its rescue,--expounding good doctrine in an
interesting though rather florid and unprofessional style. In the course
of his philosophizing he perpetrates the sly joke of quoting from his
own manuscript play and ascribing the words to an imaginary 'Life of
Moor', by one Krake.--Further comment upon the essay may be dispensed
with,[16] seeing that Schiller as a medical man does not greatly
interest us at the present time. Enough that it was accepted and
procured him his release from bondage toward the close of the year.

Afterwards, in the bitterness of his quarrel with the Duke of
Wuerttemberg, Schiller took an altogether gloomy view of the training he
had received at the Military Academy. He saw only the forcing process to
which he had been subjected, the narrow life that had kept him from a
knowledge of the world, and the petty restrictions that had prevented
his love of poetry from developing in a sane and natural manner.
However, it is always the poet's fate to grow strong through his own
gifts and his own trials; what schools of any kind can do for him or
against him is of comparatively little moment. Had Schiller enjoyed in
his youth the freedom of a real university, his literary career would no
doubt have opened differently, and with another beginning the whole
would have been different; but whether it would then have interested the
world after a hundred years, as that of the real Schiller does, is a
question for omniscience. Speaking humanly one can only say that the
misguided paternalism of Karl Eugen in rousing the tiger proved a
blessing in disguise. And the schooling itself was by no means so
despicable. Schiller left the academy a good Latinist, though with but
little Greek. He had learned to read French, if not English. He had
dabbled in such philosophy as there was going and acquired an interest
in the fundamental problems. He had read not widely but intensely--which
is always better. He had made a number of good friends. And not least
important for his future career, he had had an excellent opportunity to
observe the forms and usages of high life.[17]


[Footnote 1: What is known of her has been put together by Ernst Mueller,
in "Schillers Mutter, ein Lebensbild", Leipzig, 1894.]

[Footnote 2: "Unsere Mutter naehrt sich gleichsam von bestaendiger Sorge",
wrote her son to his sister in 1784.]

[Footnote 3: As quoted by Schiller's sister-in-law, Karoline von
Wolzogen, in her 'Life of Schiller', first published in 1830. The
Baroness von Wolzogen quoted from a manuscript by Christophine, which
was at that time in the family archives and has since been published in
the _Archiv fuer Litteraturgeschichte_, I, 452. Christophine wrote down
her recollections in order to counteract the false stories of Schiller's
childhood which began to get into print soon after his death. Of this
character, for example, is the oft-repeated tale of his climbing a tree
during a thunder-storm in order to see where the lightning came from.
This is an invention of Oemler, his earliest biographer, who invented
much besides.]

[Footnote 4: An excellent account of him is to be found in Vol. 15 of
"Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie".]

[Footnote 5: By Schiller's youthful friend Petersen, _Morgenblatt_,
1807; quoted by Weltrich, "Friedrich Schiller", I, 77, and by other

[Footnote 6: Wilhelm von Hoven, quoted by Karoline von Wolzogen.]

[Footnote 7: As reported by his friend Conz, _Morgenblatt_, 1807. Cf.
Weltrich, p. 80, foot-note.]

[Footnote 8: For example: Cuvier, Dannecker and the musician Zumsteeg.
The pros and cons of the Karlschule are discussed very fully by Weltrich
and also by Minor in their biographies of Schiller.]

[Footnote 9: For example:

Und mit offenem Schlund, welcher Gebirge schluckt,
Ihn das Weltmeer mir nach,--ihn mir der Orkus nach
Durch die Hallen des Todes--
Deinen Namen, Eroberer!]

[Footnote 10: Weltrich, p. 182, argues that the poem is spurious. The
question is hard to decide.]

[Footnote 11: "Goetz von Berlichingen", Act I.]

[Footnote 12: The acquaintance began, it would seem, in 1775 or 1776. At
first Schiller was repelled by Shakspere's 'coldness',--his intermixture
of humor and buffoonery with pathos. Of this first impression he wrote
many years later, in his essay on 'Naive and Sentimental Poetry', as
follows: "Durch die Bekanntschaft mit neueren Poeten verleitet, in den
Werken den _Dichter_ zuerst aufzusuchen, _seinem Herzen_ zu begegnen ...
war es mir unertraglich, dasz der Poet sich hier gar nirgends fassen
liesz und mir nirgends Rede stehen wollte. Mehrere Jahre hatte er meine
ganze Verehrung, und war mein Studium, ehe ich sein Individuum lieb
gewinnen konnte. Ich war noch nicht faehig, die Natur aus erster Hand zu

[Footnote 13: Schubart's crime was the utterance of a mild poetic
lampoon to the effect that 'when Dionysius of Syracuse was compelled to
go out of the tyranny business he became a Schulmeisterlein.' He had
also commented too frankly on the duke's relation to Franziska. Angered
by these things Karl caused him to be tricked over the borders into
Wuerttemberg, seized, and without trial shut up in the dungeon of
Hohenasperg, where he was kept for ten years (1777-1787). Schiller
visited him in November, 1781, and was received with tears of joy as the
author of 'The Robbers'.]

[Footnote 14: Cf. Weltrich, I, 278.]

[Footnote 15: "Ernst ist das Leben, heiter ist die Kunst."--_Prologue to

[Footnote 16: Weltrich, I, 298 ff., analyzes it and discusses its
scientific value at some length.]

[Footnote 17: Kuno Fischer, "Schiller-Schriften", I, 139, has some very
interesting remarks on this subject. "Woher gewann er [says Fischer],
der Sohn eines Dorfbarbiers,... eine solche sichere und eingelebte
Anschauung, ich moechte sagen, Fuehlung fuerstlichen Wesens, wenn nicht
Herzog Karl, ein Meister in der Kunst fuerstlichen Repraesentierens, ihn
zum Modell gedient haette?"]


The Robbers

O ueber mich Narren, der ich waehnete die Welt durch Greuel zu
verschoenern und die Gesetze durch Gesetzlosigkeit aufrecht zu
erhalten.--'_The Robbers_'.

After leaving the academy Schiller soon began to look about for a
publisher of his precious manuscript. Not finding one he presently
decided to borrow money and print the play at his own expense. It
appeared in the spring of 1781, accompanied by a modest preface in which
the anonymous author pronounced his work unsuited to the stage but hoped
it would be acceptable as a moral contribution to literature. In less
than a year it had been played with ever memorable success and ere long
it was the talk of Germany.

In dealing with 'The Robbers' it has always been much easier to point
out faults than to do justice. Schiller himself set the fashion of a
drastic criticism which had the effect of advertising 'The Robbers' as a
violent youthful explosion containing more to be apologized for than to
be admired. And indeed it is not a masterpiece of good taste. Upon an
adult mind possessing some knowledge of the world's dramatic literature
at its best, and particularly if the piece be read and not seen,
Schiller's first play is very apt to produce the impression of a boyish
extravaganza. The sentimental bandit who nourishes his mighty soul on
the blood of his fellow-men, and undertakes to right a private wrong by
running amuck against society in another part of the world, is a figure
upon which we decline to waste our sympathy. We have no place for him in
our scheme of art unless it be in comic opera or in the penny dreadful.
Emotionally we have lost touch with him as we have with Byron's Corsair.
When he stalks across the serious stage and rages and fumes and wipes
his bloody sword, we are inclined to smile or to yawn. As for the
villain Franz, with his abysmal depravity, and Amalia, with her witless
sentimentalism, we find it hard to take them seriously; they do not
produce a good illusion. And then the whole style of the piece, the
violent and ribald language, the savage action, the rant and swagger,
the shooting and stabbing,--all this seems at first calculated for the
entertainment of young savages, and moves one to approve the oft-quoted
_mot_ of the German prince who said to Goethe: 'If I had been God and
about to create the world, and had I foreseen that Schiller would write
'The Robbers' in it, I should not have created it.'[18]

This is one side of the story. The other side is that 'The Robbers'
made an epoch in German dramatic literature. Not only is it the
strongest and completest expression of the eighteenth-century storm and
stress, but it proved a highly effective stage-play. Nor was its
success ephemeral. Its author quickly outgrew it, but it maintained
itself during the entire period of Germany's leadership in matters of
dramatic art, and even to-day it preserves much of its old vitality. It
is true that when a modern audience assembles to see a performance of
'The Robbers', they are not impelled solely by the intrinsic merits of
the piece. Loyalty to the great dramatic poet of the nation plays its
part. People think: Thus our Schiller began,--and they expect to make
allowances. But when all such allowances are made, it remains true that
'The Robbers' is a powerful stage-play which reveals in every scene the
hand of the born dramatist. We may call it boyish if we will, but its
boyishness is like that of 'Titus Andronicus'. Each is the work of a
young giant who in learning the use of his hammer lays about him
somewhat wildly and makes a tremendous hubbub. But Thor is Thor, and
such boys are not born every day.

The starting-point of Schiller's invention was the conception of the two
hostile brothers, and this he had from Schubart, although other writers,
notably Klinger and Leisewitz, had already made use of it in dramatic
productions. In the Schubart story[19] we hear of a nobleman with two
sons, of whom the elder, Karl, is high-minded but dissolute, while the
younger, Wilhelm, is a hypocritical zealot. Karl plays the role of the
prodigal son and his excesses are duly reported at home by his brother.
After a while the sinner repents and writes his father a remorseful
letter, which is intercepted by Wilhelm. Then the older brother returns
to the vicinity of his home and takes service with a poor farmer. Here
it falls to his lot to rescue his father from the hands of assassins. It
turns out that the instigator of the murder was no other than Wilhelm.
When the plot is discovered the magnanimous Karl entreats pardon for his
vile brother. His prayer is granted, Wilhelm receives a share of the
estate and all ends in happy tears.--In publishing the sketch Schubart
recommended it to the geniuses of the day as an excellent foundation for
a novel or a comedy. Here was a chance, he thought, to prove that the
Germans, notwithstanding the servility of their pens, were not the
spiritless race that foreigners saw in them; 'to show that we too, in
spite of our oppressive forms of government, which permit only a
condition of passivity, are men who have their passions and can act, no
less than a Frenchman or a Briton.' He therefore cautioned any
playwright who might try his hand upon the subject to lay the scene not
in a foreign country but in contemporary Germany.

We see here the thought that struck fire in the mind of young Schiller,
whose bent was all for tragedy. If there was to be a proof that strong
passion and bold action were still possible, notwithstanding the
degeneracy of the age, what better object could there be for the
passion to wreak itself upon than the age itself? If life had become
vapid, and the German character servile and pusillanimous, here was the
very field for a mad Ajax who should make havoc among the cowards and
the pigmies. In Schubart's tragi-comedy there are no heroic passions
whatever. Nothing is conceived in a large and bold way. The characters
live and move throughout in the little world of their own selfish
interests. Such a piece, in which the penitent hero bends his back to
the plow and weakly pardons an abominable crime, did not comport with
Schiller's mood of fierce indignation. So he converted the story into a
tragedy and turned Schubart's meek and forgiving prodigal into a
terrible avenger of mankind.

In the contrasted brothers we see what Minor[20] well enough calls the
hot and cold passions. Karl is a hotspur whose emotions are always keyed
up to the highest pitch; he is never calm and is incapable of sober
reasoning. His boiling blood and his insensate ambition are his only
oracles. We may say that his motives are lofty, but in trying to set the
world right and make it conform to his perfervid dreams of justice and
freedom, he becomes a madman and a criminal. Franz, on the other hand,
represents the scheming intellect sundered from conscience and natural
feeling. He is a monster of cool, calculating, hypocritical villainy. At
the end he cowers in abject terror before the phantom conscience that he
has reasoned out of existence in the first act. The portrait of the two
brothers, as thus conceived, is crudely simple. There are no delicacies
of shading, no subtleties of psychological analysis. In short, Robber
Moor and his brother give the impression of having been made to a scheme
rather than copied from nature. Nevertheless the scheme is conceived
with superb audacity and executed with a dramatic power and insight that
had never been surpassed in Germany.

To understand the furore created by 'The Robbers' one should read two
other storm-and-stress plays, by writers of no mean dramatic talent,
which present the same fundamental situation,[21]--'The Twins', by
Klinger, and 'Julius of Tarentum', by Leisewitz. Both these plays came
out in the year 1776 and were evidently studied with care by Schiller.
Both follow the timid example which had been set by Lessing of laying
the scene in a foreign land, Klinger gives us two brothers, Guelfo and
Ferdinando, of whom neither the mother nor her physician can tell which
was born first. But Ferdinando has always been treated as the elder, has
enjoyed the favor of his father, risen to power and distinction and won
the prize in love. He is of a noble and forgiving temper and plays only
a subordinate part. The hero is Guelfo, who, like Schiller's Karl Moor,
has read Plutarch and would fain do something great, like Brutus or
Cassius. But he remains after all only a poor knight. His hand is
unnerved and his heroic spirit paralyzed by the suspicion that he has
been the life-long victim of a conspiracy; that he and not Ferdinando is
the elder brother. The whole interest of the play turns upon the
portraiture of his morbid, insensate jealousy. In the fourth act he
takes a morning ride with his brother and murders him. Then he defiantly
reports the deed at home and is himself slain by his father.

In 'Julius of Tarentum' the younger brother, Guido, is, again, the man
of action; a _miles gloriosus_ who boasts of his strong arm and dreams
of glory. He looks with contempt and hatred upon his gentle, sentimental
brother Julius, who, though heir to the throne, prepares to renounce his
career because he is thwarted in love. The girl Blanca, upon whom he has
fixed his affections, is not deemed a suitable bride for him by his
father and has been shut up in a convent. He determines to abduct her by
night and flee with her to some romantic spot in the far north. In the
execution of this purpose he is killed by his jealous brother Guido, who
is then made to suffer death at the hands of his own father.

In both these plays we have, as in 'The Robbers', an aged father whose
dynastic hopes center in an excellent son; this son the object of mad
jealousy on the part of a younger brother, and both brothers in love
with the same girl. The plays exhibit talent of a high order, but talent
that always falls short of genius. Psychical states are portrayed by
means of talk, and the talk is big enough; but very little actually
happens. The mighty passions have to be taken largely upon trust and the
conversation often drags. Dramatic possibilities are not fully grasped,
the situations are felt but not seen, and there is an obvious reluctance
to make unusual demands upon the stage. Even Klinger, whose play of
'Storm and Stress' gave a name to the whole contemporary movement in
German literature, reads tamely enough in comparison with 'The Robbers'.
But what is most noteworthy of all, Klinger and Leisewitz give us simply
dynastic tragedies. In both the outlook is limited to the fortunes of a
single house. In both we miss the great dramatist who looks upon life
with a roving eye and intertwines his tale of private woe with the
larger tangle of human destiny.

This last is what the young Schiller did with masterly insight. He
converted the dynastic tragedy of his predecessors into a tragedy of the
social revolution; and his work has lived because we can hear in it the
preliminary roar of the storm which was soon to burst in the streets of
Paris.[22] He laid his scene not in far-off Italy nor in the remote
past, but in Germany and in the middle of the century which boasted of
its enlightened philosophy and its excellent police regulations. Of the
two brothers he took the sentimentalist for his hero, but made him at
the same time a man of action, a man of heroic mould and a self-helper.
The logic of Rousseau finds in Karl Moor a practical interpreter. What
the Frenchman had preached concerning the infamies of civilization, the
badness of society and politics, the reign of injustice and unreason,
the petty squabbles of the learned, the necessity of a return to
nature,--all this seethes in the blood of Moor, but he does not content
himself with indignant rhetoric or sentimental repining. He takes arms
against the sea of troubles. Instead of an excellent youth pitifully
done to death by a jealous brother, we get a towering idealist who is
the moulder of his own fate. With sublime [Greek: hubris] he takes it
upon himself to wield the avenging bolts of Jove, but finds that Jove
rejects his assistance. He errs disastrously in his judgment, like any
short-sighted mortal, and his work goes all agley. But when the end
comes it is not depressing. We see no longer a revolting fratricide and
the painful sacrifice of virtue to the meanest of passions, but the
verdict of the gods upon human presumption.

In making his hero a defiant self-helper and sending him with sword in
hand against the minions of the established order, Schiller was
obviously influenced by the example of 'Goetz von Berlichingen'. Like
Goetz, Karl Moor regards himself as the champion of freedom against the
law, which is its enemy. Both are friends of the oppressed and haters of
pedantry and pettifoggery. Both fight like lions against tremendous
odds. Both assume the leadership of a band of outlaws whom they cannot
control, and thus become responsible for revolting crimes not foreseen
or intended. But along with these and other resemblances that might be
pointed out there is an important difference. In the fourth act of the
earlier play a Heilbronn Councillor says to Goetz: 'We owe no faith to a
robber.' Whereat Goetz exclaims: 'If you did not wear the emperor's
emblem, which I honor in the vilest counterfeit, you should take back
that word or choke upon it. Mine is an honorable feud.' That is, the
knight of the sixteenth century repudiates the name in which Karl Moor
glories. Says Schiller's Pater in the second act: 'And you, pretty
captain! Duke of cutpurses! King of scoundrels! Great Mogul of all
rogues under the sun!' To which Moor replies: 'Very true. Very true.
Just proceed.' In comparison with such a daredevil Goethe's hero seems
to roar like a sucking dove. In his own mind Goetz never really burns the
bridge behind him. He is at heart a loyalist who recognizes the
emperor's claim to his allegiance. As a free imperial knight he feels
himself within his right under the feudal system. In resisting his
enemies he does not set himself in opposition to governmental authority
_per se_, but only to the abuse of authority by subordinates who
disgrace their master and his. And in assuming the leadership of the
insurgent rabble he thinks to restrain their ferocity and thus earn the
thanks of the supreme authority.--It remained for Schiller to convert
this rude self-helper in the age of expiring feudalism into a savage
anarchist in the boastful age of enlightenment.

It was a bold idea to be conceived by a youth in a school where every
third word was of virtue and philanthropy. Not that there was anything
particularly audacious in a strong presentation of the spirit of revolt.
For some time past this spirit had been nourished by the writings of
Rousseau and those who followed in his wake, until attacks upon the
social order, in some phase of it, had come to be almost the staple of
literature. But the attacks had not been very dangerous. Either they
were veiled by a distant setting of the scene, or the indictment of the
age was presented incidentally in connection with some lacrimose tragedy
of the individual. People had learned to sigh and weep that things
should be so, but there the matter ended. The German princeling could
look on with equanimity, assured that the rhetoric and the tears did not
mean him, or that if they did it did not matter. In real life those who
felt themselves oppressed by the civilization of Europe could emigrate,
and they did emigrate in large numbers. This was one form of the return
to nature. In literature, however, the usual expedient was to let the
hero chafe himself to death and go down, without striking a blow, before
the irresistible tyranny of the established order. Schiller's hero is of
another ilk. Romantic flight with his lady-love does not occur to him.
Surrender to the wrong is out of the question. He finds another form for
the return to nature and puts into practice the maxim, Here or nowhere
is America. He stays and fights at the head of a troop of bandits. Thus
the play which was originally to have been called 'The Lost Son' became
'The Robbers'.

In their way, then, Schiller's outlaws stand for the state of nature.
They represent natural man rising in brute strength against the
oppressions of a depraved society. Such at least is Karl Moor's
construction of the matter when he says to the Pater: 'Tell them that my
business is retribution, that my trade is vengeance.' Under our modern
development of the social sentiment we can hardly imagine a really
high-minded youth setting out in such a Quixotic and fanatical
enterprise. This feature of Schiller's plot, which has for us something
of the burlesque about it, has been taken more than any other to prove
his inexperience of life. But the fact is that the thing was after all
not so unthinkable. Outlawry on a large scale was by no means unknown,
and the romance of outlawry was familiar in literature. The Thirty
Years' War had familiarized Germany with marauding bands who recognized
no authority save that of their leader. Even in the eighteenth century
the brigandage which was common in the Mediterranean countries continued
to flourish in Southern Germany. As late as 1781, the very year in which
'The Robbers' appeared, we hear of the capture in Bavaria of a band of
outlaws numbering nearly a thousand men. The year 1771 witnessed the
execution of the robber-chieftain Klostermayer, who, under the name of
the Bavarian Hiesel, became the subject of an idealizing saga in which
we recognize the essential features of Karl Moor.[23]

Schiller's main fiction was thus, in a sense, warranted by the facts;
and it gains further in artistic plausibility when we consider that the
idealized bandit was already a familiar type in literature. The author
of 'The Robbers' was acquainted with Robin Hood, and he had probably
read 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona', in which the banished Valentine
becomes the captain of a band of outlaws on condition that they "do no
outrages on silly women or poor passengers", and the outlaws reply that
they "detest such vile, base practices."[24] He had also read, in 'Don
Quixote', of the high-toned robber, Roque Guinart, who had more of
compassion, in his nature than cruelty. Cervantes makes Roque comment
thus upon his mode of life: "Injuries which I could not brook and thirst
for revenge first led me into it contrary to my nature; for the savage
asperity of my present behavior is a disgrace to my heart, which is
gentle and humane." At the end of the episode Roque sends his captives
away "admiring his generosity, his gallantry, and his extraordinary
conduct, and looking upon him rather as an Alexander the Great than as a
notorious robber."[25] Here was a sufficient hint for a criminal in the
grand style, who should imagine himself the spiritual congener of
Plutarch's heroes.

'A singular Don Quixote whom we abominate and love, admire and
pity',--such was Schiller's own formula for his first dramatic hero.
From the standpoint of ordinary logic it must be admitted that Moor's
motive for becoming a robber (the lying letter that he receives from
Franz) is quite insufficient. He is duped too easily and should have
known his brother better. He is too ready to give up everything dear to
him, including the dear Amalia. 'I have no sweetheart any more', is a
weak surrender for a man of his heroic stamp. In any case the wrong that
has been done him is a private wrong that has nothing to do with the
constitution of society. One does not see how it is to be righted or how
the world is to be purged of such baseness by killing and plundering
people in the Bohemian Forest.

The only reply which our drama makes to this objection is to be found in
Moor's crazy ambition for distinction. He has the 'great-man-mania'.
What attracts him in the career of crime is not the wickedness but the
bigness of it; the opportunity of lifting himself above the common herd
and sending his name down to posterity as that of a very extraordinary
person. 'I loathe this ink-spattering century', he says, 'when I read in
my Plutarch of great men.... I am to squeeze my body into a corset and
lace up my will in laws.... Law has never made a great man, but freedom
hatches out colossi and extremes, O that the spirit of Hermann were
still glowing in the ashes! Place me at the head of an army of fellows
like myself, and Germany shall become a republic in comparison with
which Rome and Sparta were nunneries.' Such, monstrous egotism needs no
motive, but only an occasion, for breaking with the order of
civilization. An occasion is furnished by the letter.

But that which marks Karl Moor as a genuine child of Schiller's
imagination and of the sentimental age is his combination of virile
energy with soft-heartedness and true nobility of feeling. In all his
robbings and burnings he does not become vulgarized like his comrades.
He imagines that he is engaged in a righteous work and has God on his
side. For this reason he has a right to his melting moods, as, for
example, in the famous and oft-praised scene on the Danube. This
delicacy of feeling, which to an American or Englishman is apt to seem
absurd in a bandit-chief who is engaged in wholesale crime, is an
essential part of Moor's character. It is this which, on German soil,
gave to 'The Robbers' tragic interest and insured its immortality. One
sees all along that Moor is a wanderer in the dark, and one can
sympathize with his purposes and his dreams while detesting his conduct.
This makes him a heroic figure. And when the clearing-up comes and he
discovers that he has been the victim not of society but of an
individual villain; that his attempt to right wrongs by committing new
wrongs, to enforce the laws by lawlessness, and to correct violence by
violence, was nothing but presumptuous and criminal folly,--when all
this becomes clear to him, we have a tragic situation of the most
pathetic character. This element of high tragic pathos was first given
to a German drama by Schiller. It had not been given by Goethe and
Lessing, nor was it in them to give it. This is why German tragedy in
the true sense may be said to have its beginning in 'The Robbers'.

That Schiller in a sense sympathized with his hero is undeniable. What
gives vitality to the character is here as always the fact that the
author looked into his own heart and then wrote. This, however, only
means that the moods of Moor are veritable moods of Schiller, raised to
a white heat and translated into action. The young student, dreaming the
dreams of youth and pining for freedom and action, had more than once
felt his gorge rise to the choking-point as he found himself forced to
plod on among the dull, oppressive, unheroic facts of life; and those
acts of official villainy against which Moor draws the sword he had
himself seen flourishing unavenged in his native Wuerttemberg. But, on
the other hand, he was never for a moment insensible to the moral
hideousness and the tragic folly of Moor's conduct. It was to be
sublime, but insane and calamitous nevertheless. One is justified in
thinking, therefore, that Goedeke goes too far, or does not express the
truth felicitously, when he says that the author of 'The Robbers' 'felt
himself one' with his hero.[26] He felt himself one with certain phases
of Moor's thought and feeling; for the rest, however, the
robber-chieftain was to be abominated as well as admired. There has been
too much of the tendency to see in 'The Robbers' only a personal
document; only a youth's incoherent cry for liberty. The piece is a work
of art, duly calculated with reference to artistic effects.

Turning now from the figure of Karl to that of his brother, one is
struck at once with the artificiality of the portrait. We seem to have
before us in Franz Moor the result of a deliberate effort to conceive
the vilest possible travesty of human nature. Nothing here that was
copied from nature, nothing that Schiller found in his own heart. It is
all a brain-spun creation, born of his dramatic reading and of his
studies in medicine and philosophy. In the first place we can observe
that Franz is studiously contrasted with his brother. Karl is an
idealist and a man of sentiment; Franz is a materialist to whom the
natural emotions of the heart are objects of cynical derision. For Karl,
who knows his Klopstock as well as his Plutarch, love is a
transcendental dream foretelling a spiritual union in a world without
end; for Franz it is carnal appetite. Karl wears his heart upon his
sleeve; Franz is wily and hypocritical. The one is handsome and
chivalrous, the other ill-favored and cruel.

The jealous cadet who plots criminally against his more fortunate
brother is common to both Leisewitz and Klinger, but in neither is he an
intriguing villain. In 'Julius of Tarentum' Guido is really the more
masterful man of the two. He despises his brother as a weakling and
asserts no other claim than that of the strongest. In Klinger's play, as
we have seen, everything is made to turn upon Guido's cankering doubt of
his brother's seniority. One gets the impression that if the doubt could
be settled by indisputable evidence in favor of Ferdinando, there would
be no _casus belli_; the younger son would bow to the law of
primogeniture and that would end the matter. Schiller, however, felt the
need of a bolder contrast to his hero. The 'sublime criminal' required a
colossal foil; and as equality with the sword was out of the question,
the most obvious recourse was to pit natural depravity against natural
greatness; scheming intellect against hot blood.

In working out his conception Schiller took counsel freely of Shakspere,
whose name had now become for young Germany the symbol of all things
great in dramatic writing. The first soliloquy of Franz Moor reminds one
at once of Edmund in 'Lear', though there is none of the kind of
borrowing which makes easy prey for the philologist. Both villains covet
the wealth and station of a preferred brother; both make use of a
specious obstetrical argument and both operate with forged letters. In
general, however, the portrait of Franz was more influenced by Richard
the Third than by Edmund, or Iago, or any of the other Shaksperian
villains. Franz is the British Richard divested of his Shaksperian
lordliness, transferred to a humbler sphere of action and provided with
the mental outfit of an eighteenth-century _philosophe_, as seen by
hostile critics. Both descant on their own deformity and confide to the
public their villainous designs. But while Richard speaks in a tone of
genial cynicism, as if his principal concern were only to bring a little
variety into the tameness of "these fair, well-spoken days", the German
villain solemnly turns himself inside out and regales us _ad nauseam_
with the metaphysics of iniquity. This is his mode of reasoning:

Why did nature put upon me this burden of ugliness--this Laplander's
nose, this Moorish mouth, these Hottentot eyes? Death and
destruction! Why was she such a partisan?--But no, I do her
injustice. She gave us wit when she placed us naked and miserable on
the shore of this great ocean-world. Swim who can, and whoso is too
clumsy let him sink. The right is with him that prevails. Family
honor? A valuable capital for him that knows how to profit by
it.--Conscience? An excellent scarecrow with which to frighten
sparrows from cherry-trees.--Filial love? Where is the obligation?
Did my father beget me because he loved me? Did he think of me at
all? Is there anything holy in his gratification of carnal appetite?
Or shall I love him because he loves me? That is mere vanity, the
usual predilection of the artist for his own work.

Such is the ethical attitude of Franz Moor, as we gather it from his
first soliloquy. One sees that Schiller was concerned to portray a
scoundrel who had read deeply and come to the conclusion that in a world
like this there is no valid reason why a man should be virtuous.
Evidently the author had himself breathed the mephitic air of
eighteenth-century skepticism. His natural goodness of heart safeguarded
him from corruption, but it pleased him as artist to dip his pen in the
blackest ink and draw the picture of the devil with whom he had wrestled
in moments of solitary musing.

In spite of his intellectual subtlety, however, Franz is a rather dull
villain. His philosophical and physiological pedantry--for Schiller
endows him lavishly with the special lore of the medical man--obfuscates
his vision for the ordinary facts of human nature. He has upon the whole
a more intelligible motive for his rascality than Iago, but he is much
less interesting, much less picturesque, for simple lack of mother-wit.
What a woeful blunder, for example, is his attempt to win Amalia by
depicting her absent lover, at great length and with all manner of
revolting details, as the victim of the most loathsome of diseases! And
why should such a crafty schemer risk his neck and put himself in the
hands of a dangerous confederate for the purpose of hastening by a few
hours the demise of a childish old man who is already in his power? And
in his final agony of terror, when we should expect him to hide himself
or try to escape, how absurd that he should summon Pastor Moser merely
for the purpose of arguing with him upon immortality and judgment! We
see that he is after all a wretched coward who has merely cheated us
into the belief that he has put away the superstitions of orthodox
belief, while in reality they still linger in his blood. We miss in him
the invincible sang-froid of villainy which might have given a touch of
Shaksperian grandeur to his character. As it is, he is not grand, but
pitiable and revolting. When he strangles himself with his hat-band, one
is quite satisfied with the unheroic manner of his taking-off.

The subordinate characters of the piece are hardly worth discussing at
any length. The elder Moor is a mere nonentity,--a dummy in a
rocking-chair would have done as well. Evidently Schiller was concerned
to make the way as easy as possible for the clumsy villainy of Franz. A
more vigorous father, he may have felt, would have necessitated a more
subtle and plausible intrigue, which would have diverted attention from
the main issue of the contrasted sons. The heroine Amalia has always
been recognized, and was immediately recognized by Schiller himself, as
the weakest character in the play. But posterity's criticism is hardly
that formulated by him, namely, that we miss in Amalia the 'gentle,
suffering, pining thing--the maiden.'[27] Of gentle, suffering, pining
things there is no dearth in the German drama, and they were not in
Schiller's line. Nearly all of his women are made of heroic stuff, and
we honor him not the less for that. No one should blame Amalia for
boxing the ears of Franz or drawing the sword upon him: it is unladylike
conduct, but very good storm-and-stress realism.

What one must deplore, however, is the general mental inadequacy that is
paired with this spasmodic energy of scorn. Common sense is not the
highest of dramatic qualities, but a modicum of it would have made
Schiller's first heroine, to say the least, more interesting. She has no
power of initiative and seems made only to be duped. Her inability to
recognize her lover in the fourth act is a terrible strain upon one's
patience. Indeed the whole love-affair between her and Karl is utterly
un-human. What can one think, for example of a pair of ecstatically
faithful lovers to whom it has evidently never occurred to write to each
other? Here, if anywhere, one recalls Schiller's oft-quoted observation
that he had attempted in 'The Robbers' to depict human beings before he
had seen any.[28] Aside from his acquaintance with Franziska von
Hohenheim, and an occasional nearer view of the coy maidens of the
_ecole des demoiselles_, the female sex and the grand passion were for
him only bookish mysteries.

Of the subordinate outlaws there are several whose portraits are very
well drawn. Here Schiller was able to profit by the psychological
observations he had made upon his comrades in the academy. There were no
cutthroats there, but there were traits and exploits, animosities and
fidelities, which only needed to be heated in the poetic crucible in
order to befit the role of robbers in the Bohemian Forest. In particular
we may guess that the blatherskite Jew, Spiegelberg, with his swaggering
self-conceit and his bestial vulgarity, was copied to some extent from
life, though nothing definite is known of his original. Taken as a whole
the robbers form a picturesque company, each with his own character.
Shakspere would probably have been content to say 'first robber','second
robber', etc.; but for Schiller, accustomed to the pose of leadership
among his fellows, to company drill and to the weighing of men according
to their moral qualities, this was not enough. There had to be sheep and
goats, classified according to their loyalty. On the one hand, closest
to the leader stand the devoted Roller, the sturdy Schweizer and the
romantic idealist, Kosinsky; on the other are the envious malcontent,
Spiegelberg, and the wretched Schufterle. The others, less distinctly
characterized, represent the mass.

It will now be in order to look at 'The Robbers' a moment from the point
of view of dramatic art.[29] In a suppressed preface to the first
edition Schiller expressed himself very contemptuously with regard to
the stage, declaring that he had essayed a dramatized story and not a
stage-play. He would not advise that his work be put upon the boards;
for the rabble of the theater would not understand him, would take him
for an apologist of vice, and so forth. There seems no good reason to
doubt the essential sincerity of these expressions, though their author
quickly changed his tune when the staging of 'The Robbers' became a
practical question. In the heat of authorship, however, he had aimed at
a literary rather than a dramatic triumph. His chief models were
literary dramas. 'Goetz von Berlichingen' had won its way into favor as a
book for the reader. The dramatic works of Klinger, Lenz, Wagner and the
like, were for the most part too extravagant and amorphous for
representation, and Shakspere's day had not yet come.

This being so, it is a fact of interest that 'The Robbers' first
captured the public as a stage-play, and that too in a very much
modified version, from which all references to contemporary society had
been expunged, the action having been dated back into the fifteenth
century. This indicates that the initial success of the work was not due
mainly to the social 'tendency' which we see in it, but to its dramatic
power. And the dramatic power is there. With but slender knowledge of
the rules and the conventions, without ever having seen a moderately
good play in his life, with little help save from the poet's eye in a
fine frenzy rolling, the young student had shown himself at a stroke the
coming dramatist of his nation.

Let us freely admit that he had not shown himself a master of dramatic
craftsmanship. Faulty the piece no doubt is in several particulars. The
soliloquies of Franz are too long-winded, and the same may be said of
some of the robber-scenes. Spiegelberg's vulgar tongue is allowed to wag
too freely. Contempt of quotidian probability is now and then carried so
far as to produce an unintended effect of burlesque: as when the
robbers, who are merely dissolute students from Leipzig, fight with
twenty times their number of soldiers, lose one man and slay three
hundred. Again, one does not quite see the moral necessity of honest
Schweizer's killing himself, when he has the misfortune to find Franz
dead. He has indeed promised to capture him or die in the attempt, but
his promise was never meant to cover the case of the villain's suicide.
Under the circumstances his shooting himself is mere exuberance of
dramatic bloodshed.

But how absurd it would be to dwell upon these things as if they were
serious defects! Young Schiller undertook to Shaksperize. His parole
was not to be the natural and the probable, but the extraordinary, the
tremendous. Why then should he have been more timid than the author of
'Lear' and 'Macbeth'? One who is borne along by a whirlwind may be
pardoned for ignoring the rules and the proprieties. Of course it is
not intended to compare 'The Robbers' with the riper works of
Shakspere. That would be absurd, and yet no more absurd than to gird at
Schiller for doing what we pardon or even admire in Shakspere. Like
every great dramatist Schiller has an indefeasible right to demand that
we take his point of view, make his assumptions and enter into the
spirit of his creation. And when we do this, how magnificently he
carries us along! What animation in the dialogue everywhere, and what
fire in the robber-scenes! From first to last the play fairly throbs
with passion, and always with passion made visible. It is all action,
all meant to be done and seen. Extravagant it is, no doubt; but while
there are always hundreds of critics in the world who can see that and
say it more or less cleverly, there is but one man in a century who can
write such scenes.


[Footnote 18: The Schubart story is reprinted by Weltrich, I, p. 183
ff., who attempts to trace its provenience. It was not entirely fiction.
Cf. Minor, I, 298, to whom this chapter is indebted in many places.]

[Footnote 19: Eckermann's "Gespraeche mit Goethe", under date of Jan.
17, 1827.]

[Footnote 20: "Schiller, sein Leben und seine Werke," I, 299.]

[Footnote 21: Bitter family fends, and particularly the fiction of the
hostile brothers,--with motives of rivalry, jealousy and hatred, with
paternal curses and parricide and fratricide and filicide,--were just
then a literary fashion. It is worth noting in this connection that
J.M.R. Lenz published in 1776 a story entitled "Die beiden Alten", in
which a son shuts up his father in a cellar and sends a man to kill him.
But the man's heart fails him and the prisoner escapes,--to reappear
like a ghost among his kin. That Schiller read this story is at any rate
thinkable, though there is no direct evidence of the fact.]

[Footnote 22: Cf. Minor, I, 300: "Die Raeuber des jungen Schiller,
welcher sich damals nicht einmal um den nordamerikanischen
Freiheitskrieg, geschweige denn um das gewitterschwuele Frankreich
bekuemmerte, waren nur ein Symptom und eine Vorahnung; eine Wirkung im
Kleinen vor der groszen Katastrophe."]

[Footnote 23: Cf. Minor, I, 313 ff.]

[Footnote 24: Act IV, scene I.]

[Footnote 25: "Don Quixote," Chapter 89.]

[Footnote 26: "Grundrisz zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung", V, 19.]

[Footnote 27: Saemmtliche Schriften, II, 365. Citations from Schiller
refer, unless otherwise expressly indicated, to Goedeke's
historico-critical edition in 15 vols. Stuttgart, 1867-1876.]

[Footnote 28: Saemmtliche Schriften, III, 529.]

[Footnote 29: Cf. Bulthaupt, "Dramaturgie des Schauspiels," I, 209, who
has some excellent remarks upon the dramatic qualities of the play and
the histrionic problems connected with it.]


The Stuttgart Medicus

So gewisz ich sein Werk verstehe, so musz er starke Dosen in
Emeticis ebenso lieben als in Aestheticis, und ich moechte ihm lieber
zehen Pferde als meine Frau zur Kur uebergeben.--_Review of 'The
Robbers', 1782_.

The career that opened before Schiller on his release from the academy,
in December, 1780, turned out a wretched mockery of his hopes. He had,
or supposed he had, the right to expect a decent position in the public
service and a measure of liberty befitting a man who had served his time
under tutelage. What his august master saw fit to mete out to him,
however, was neither the one nor the other: he was stationed at
Stuttgart as 'medicus' to an ill-famed regiment consisting largely of
invalids. His pay was eighteen florins a month--say seven or eight
dollars. His duties consisted of routine visits to the hospital and
daily appearance at parade, with reports upon the condition of the
luckless patients whom he doctored savagely with drastic medicines.
Withal he was required to wear a stiff, ungainly uniform which did not
carry with it the distinction of an 'officer' and exposed him to the
derision of his friends. A humble petition of Captain Schiller that his
son be permitted to wear the dress of a civilian and extend his practice
among the people of the city met with a curt refusal.

Of Schiller's personal appearance at about this time we have two or
three descriptions by friends who knew him well.[30] Putting them
together we get a picture something like the following: He was about
five feet and nine inches in height, erect of bearing and knock-kneed.
He had reddish hair, a broad forehead, and bushy eyebrows which came
close together over a long, thin, arched nose. He was near-sighted. His
eyes, of a bluish-gray color, were usually inflamed, but very expressive
when he spoke with animation. One friend credits him with an 'eagle's
glance', another with an uncanny, demonic expression. He had a strong
chin, a prominent under-lip, and sunken, freckled cheeks. Altogether his
face and bearing told of immense energy.--One can imagine how the
creator of Karl Moor must have felt in his new situation. The young lion
had escaped from one cage into another that was even worse.

Nevertheless the new life did not altogether preclude an occasional sip
from the cup of earthly cheer. The young medicus found himself within
easy reach of a number of jovial friends whom he had known at the
academy. With one of these, a youth named Kappf, he hired a room of a
certain Frau Vischer, a widow who was to become the muse of his
high-keyed songs to Laura. The furniture consisted of a table and two
benches. In one corner were usually to be seen a pile of potatoes and
some plates. Here the friends feasted upon sausage and potato-salad of
their own make, a bottle of wine being added if the host happened to be
in funds. Sometimes there were convivial card-parties at a local inn,
where more than enough wine was drunk and bills were run up that still
remain unpaid. Tradition tells of a military banquet from which our
medicus had to be assisted home.

A nobler pleasure incident to the new life was the opportunity of
frequent visits to Castle Solitude. For eight years Schiller had been
cut off from intercourse with his parents and sisters, save through the
medium of officially inspected letters. Returning now at last he found
his mother in frail health, but his father still vigorous and active.
Sister Christophine had grown into a strong and self-reliant young
woman, the mainstay of the household. She took an interest in
literature, loved her brother devotedly, had a sister's boundless faith
in his genius, and now became his confidante and amanuensis. Another
sister, Louise, had reached the age of fourteen, two others had died,
and the youngest of all, Nanette, was now three years old. It was a
happy, sensible, affectionate family-circle, in which the long-lost son
and brother found sweet relief from the _misere_ of Stuttgart. The only
cloud in the sky was the mother's anxiety for the welfare of her son's
soul, with the resulting necessity of replying somewhat disingenuously
to her tender inquiries into his religious condition. To his parents and
sister the disgruntled medicus expressed freely his disappointment at
the provision which the duke had made for him. A hard fate, indeed, to
have studied seven years for the privilege of starving one's mind and
body as an insignificant army doctor!

It was partly the hope of earning money that led him to seek a publisher
for 'The Robbers'. Friend Petersen was exhorted to find one, if
possible, and was promised whatever he could get for the piece over and
above fifty florins. But Petersen had no luck and at last the ambitious
author decided, as the author of 'Goetz' had done before him, to print
his drama at his own expense. The money that he borrowed for the
purpose, on the security of a friend, involved him in debts that were to
hang over him for years and cause him endless trouble.

His plan once formed he began to take counsel with friends and revise
his manuscript in the light of their criticisms. Even after the printing
had begun, the revision continued. Things looked differently in the cold
type of the proof-sheet, and he saw that he had occasionally gone too
far in the direction of coarseness and extravagance. Thus the original
draft had provided that Amalia should actually be sent to a convent, and
that the furious Karl should appear with his robbers and threaten to
convert the nunnery into a brothel unless his sweetheart should be
delivered to him. This scene was condemned and the exploit given a more
appropriate place among the _res gestae_ of Spiegelberg. In many places
extravagant diction was toned down. The original preface, which was
mainly occupied with a labored defence of the literary drama as against
the stage-play, was rejected, and a new preface written which was
devoted chiefly to moral considerations. The author here admitted that
he had portrayed characters who would offend the virtuous, but insisted
that he could not do otherwise if he was to copy nature, because in the
real world virtue shines only in contrast with vice. He went on to say:

He who makes it his object to overthrow vice, and to avenge
religion, morality and social law upon their enemies, must unveil
vice in all its naked hideousness and bring it before the eyes of
mankind in colossal size; he must himself wander temporarily through
its nocturnal labyrinths and must be able to force himself into
states of feeling that revolt his soul by their unnaturalness. I may
properly claim for my work, in view of its remarkable catastrophe, a
place among moral books. Vice meets the end that befits it. The
wanderer returns to the track of law. Virtue triumphs. Whoever is
fair enough to read me through and try to understand me, from him I
may expect, not that he admire the poet, but that he respect the
right-minded man.

This attempt to recommend 'The Robbers' as a text-book in morality has
now a curious sound. It is a safe guess that the young attorney for the
defence wrote with his tongue in his cheek and an eye on the censor.

The first edition, which appeared in May, 1781, was styled a
'Schauspiel' and bore the Hippocratic motto: _Quae medicamenta non
sanant, ferrum sanat; quae ferrum non sanat, ignis sanat_. The author's
name was not given and the work purported (fallaciously) to have been
published at Frankfurt and Leipzig. The anonymity was not taken
seriously, however, and the Stuttgart medicus soon found himself a bit
of a literary lion. He was pointed out on the street as the man who had
written 'The Robbers', and distinguished travellers began to call upon
him. The reviewers mingled praise and blame, and the most thoughtful of
them, one Timme, declared in the Erfurt _Zeitung_ that here if anywhere

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