The Life and Works of Friedrich Schiller HTML version

Professor in Columbia University
Eleanor Allen Thomas
Herz elibe 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 lat er
years, to Wychgram and Harnack. Earlier biographers, notably Homeister
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 cha,
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1and I have tried to avoid the garnering of cha. 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 int eresting
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 unlik e 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 dierent temper, and this