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Romanticism and the Rise of German Nationalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2009


Romanticism though in its beginning little concerned with politics or the state, prepared the rise of German nationalism after 1800. It was an aesthetic revolution, a resort to imagination, almost feminine in its sensibility; it was poetry more deeply indebted to the spirit of music than the poetry of the eighteenth century had been, rich in emotional depth, more potent in magic evocation. But German romanticism was and wished to be more than poetry. It was an interpretation of life, nature and history—and this philosophic character distinguished it from romanticism in other lands. It was sharply opposed to the rationalism of the eighteenth century; it mobilized the fascination of the past to fight against the principles of 1789. In that indirect way romanticism came to concern itself with political and social life and with the state. It never developed a program for a modern German nation-state, but with its emphasis on the peculiarity of the German mind it helped the growth of a consciousness of German uniqueness.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 1950

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1 See on “personality” and “individuality” Strich, Fritz, Dichtung und Zivilisation (Munich, 1928), p. 35,Google Scholar and his Deutsche Klassik und Romantik (Munich, 1922).Google Scholar See on romanticism in general the articles by Lovejoy, Arthur O., Briefs, Goetz A. and Anderson, Eugene N. in Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. II, No. 3 (06, 1941).Google Scholar On the political implications see Kluckhohn, Paul, Persönlichkeit und Gemeinschaft, Studien zur Staatsauffasung der deutschen Romantik, (Halle, 1925);Google ScholarSchmitt, Carl, Politische Romantik, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1925);Google ScholarBaxa, Jakob, Einführung in die romantische Staatswissen-schaft (Jena, 1923);Google ScholarGesellschaft und Staat im Spiegel deutscher Romantik, ed. by Baxa, Jacob (Jena, 1924);Google ScholarBorries, Kurt, Die Romantik und die Geschichte (Berlin, 1925);Google ScholarVerschoor, Andries David, Die ältere deutsche Romantik und die Nationalidee, (Amsterdam, 1928);Google ScholarSalomon, Gottfried, Das Mittelalter als Ideal in der Romantik (Munich, 1922);Google ScholarAris, Reinhold, History of Political Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815 (London, 1936), pp. 205341;Google ScholarKörner, Josef, Die Botschaft der deutschen Romantik an Europa (Augsburg, 1933).Google Scholar Two more general works are Petersen, Julius, Wesenbestim-mung der deutschen Romantik (Leipzig, 1926),Google Scholar and Brunschwig, Henri, La Crise de I'Etat Prussian à la fin du XVIIe siècle et la génèse de la mentalité romantique (Paris, 1947).Google Scholar On the difference between English and German romanticism see Fair-child, Hoxie N., “The Romantic movement in England,” part of a symposium on romanticism in PMLA, vol. 55 (03, 1940), pp. 160.Google Scholar

2 Kohn, Hans, The Idea of Nationalism, pp. 413ff,Google Scholar

3 In an essay in the periodical Athenäum (Berlin, 17981800), vol. 1, part 2, pp. 28f,Google Scholar quoted by Blankenaeel, John C., PMLA, vol. 55, p. 3.Google Scholar

4 Review of “The Athenaid,” an epic in thirty books published in 1787, two years after the death of its author, Grover, Richard (1712–1785), in the Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen, 1789, p. 1988.Google Scholar

5 Novalis' Werke, ed. by Friedemann, Hermann (Berlin: Deutsches Verlagshaus Bong Bi Co., n.d.), vol. 3, pp. 168, 159, 163 (Fragments 947, 884, 885, 887, 919).Google Scholar See also Samuels, Richard, Die poetische Stoats-und Geschichtsauffassung Friedrich von Harden-bergs (Novalis), Frankfurt a.M.: Diesterweg, 1925.Google Scholar

6 NovatiS' Werke, p. 175 (Fragment 967). See also Fragment 946, “Alle Menschen sollen thronfähig werden,” and Fragment 980 which explains that there is only one king by reason of economy. “If we were not obliged to proceed economically, we would all be kings.”Google Scholar

7 Ibid., pp. 155, 174, 169 (Fragments 863, 965, 950).

8 Ibid., p. 165 (Fragment 936).

9 Ibid., pp. 137, 176 (Fragments 756, 972, 973).

10 Ibid., vol. 4, p. 145.

11 Though Novalis himself warned wisely: “It is strong proof how far we have really progressed, that we think so contemptuously of our progress, of the stage we have reached.” Ibid., vol. 3, p. 139 (Fragment 768).

12 Ibid., pp. 191, 192 (Fragments 1064, 1072).

13 Later the romanticists accused Johannes Müller of a lack of patriotism. In reality, Müller was fundamentally an eighteenth century rationalist and cosmopolitan, an enthusiast for human rights and liberty. Adam Müller in an article in Phoebus, a periodical which he published together with Heinrich von Kleist in Dresden in 1808, blamed the historian for being too impartial. Such an attitude, Adam Müller conceded, could be admitted while discussing the domestic affairs of the fatherland but it was inadmissible regarding an external enemy. The heart of the historian must include hatred besides love which can be easily corrupted. “Every hero, therefore also the scholarly hero, needs a fatherland, a firm foundation, on which he could build his army camp, his place d'armes.” An historian must take a stand; a cosmopolitan mentality was contrary to true humanity, Adam Müller maintained.

14 Körner, Josef, Nibelungenforschungen in der deutschen Romantik, Untersuchungen zur neuern Sprach- und Literaturgeschichte, ed. by Walzel, O., N.F., , no. 9 (Leipzig, 1911). Zeume was also the author of “Der Rheinstrom, Deutschlands Weinstrom, nicht Deutschlands Rainstrom” (“printed on the Rhine in the second year of German liberty”) which never achieved the fame of Arndt's similar book.Google Scholar

15 Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Alte deutsche Lieder appeared in Heidelberg in the fall of 1805 with the date of 1806. Two further volumes followed in 1808. The first volume contained an important introduction by Tieck. Arnim's letter “An Herrn Kapellmeister Reichardt” which appeared first in Reichardt's Berlinische Musikalische Zeitung was printed as a postscript to the “Wunderhorn.” Both texts are reprinted and easily accessible in Deutsche Vergangenheit und Deutscher Staat, ed. by Klucfchohn, Paul, Deutsche Literatur in Entwicklungsreihen, Reihe Romantik, vol. 10 (Leipzig, 1935), pp. 83126. Under the impression of romanticism Stendhal wrote in 1807 to his sister Pauline: “Je ne sais pourquoi le moyen âge est liè dans mon coeur avec I'idée de l'Allemagne.”Google Scholar

16. Die Deutschen Volksbücher. Nähere Würdigung der schonen Historien-, Wetter-, und Arzneibüchlein, welche teils innerer Wert, teils Zufall Jahnhunderte hindurch bis auf unsere Zeit erhalten hat. Görres, Von J., Professor der Physik an der Sekondärschule zu Coblenz (Heidelberg, 1807).Google Scholar

17 The full title of the journal read: “Zeitung für Einsiedler. Alte und neue Sagen und Wahrsagungen, Geschichten und Gedichte.” It appeared for only half a year and was then published in book form “Trüst-Einsamkeit.” It was published as no. 3 of the Neudrucke romantischer Seltenheiten (Munich, 1924).Google Scholar

18 Kantorowicz, Hermann U., “Volksgeist und Historische Rechtsschule,” Historische Zeitschrift, vol. 108 (1912), p. 211. Not only law but also religion was a product of the Volksgeist.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

19 A translation of Savigny's pamphlet by Hayward, Abraham, Of the Vocation of Our Age for Legislation and jurisprudence, was printed by Littlewood Si, Co., London, 1831 (?), “Not for Sale.”Google Scholar

20 Wieneke, Ernst, Patriotismus und Religion in Friedrich Schlegels Gedichten (Munich, 1913);Google ScholarVolpers, Richard, Friedrich Schlegel ah politischer Denker und deutscher Patriot (Berlin-Steglitz, 1916).Google Scholar Similar was the development of his brother August Wil-helm who first welcomed the Revolution and the consulate and later changed under the influence of Madame de Stäel. Brandt, Otto, August Wilhelm Schlegel, der Romantiker und die Politik (Stuttgart, 1919).Google Scholar

21 The “Versuch über den Begriff des Republikanismus veranlasst durch die Kantische Schrift zum ewigen Frieden” was printed in Schlegel, Friedrich, Prosaische Jugendschriften 1794–1802, ed. Minor, J. (Vienna, 1882), vol. II, pp. 5771. There on page 68 Schlegel wrote in the Kantian way: “Nur universeller und vollkommener Republikanismus wiirde ein gültiger … Definitivartikel zum ewigen Frieden sein.”Google Scholar

22 Schlegel, Friedrich, Sümmtliche Werke, 2. Originalausgabe, 15 vols., ed. by von Feuchteraleben, E. (Wien, 1846), vol. X, p. 14.Google Scholar

23 See The Idea of Nationalism, p. 413.Google Scholar

24 Schlegel's “Reise nach Frankreich” appeared in Europa, a periodical which he edited in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1803. There he wrote also: “How immensely farther would Europe be on the road to true liberty and culture, if the center of the Church in past times had not been in Italy but, as it ought to be, in Germany, where the natural greatness of the spirit and the freer heart had better fitted the great aim.” In Paris Schlegel discovered old German art; he praised Dürer because he had decided to paint not like the ancients or the Italians but in a German way. He went even so far as to prefer for national and religious reasons, old German poetry to Greek poetry and old German painting to Italian art.

25 See Sämmtliche Werke, vol. X, p. 93 and vol. VI, p. 212. Schlegel was also the first to sing the glory of die romantic German forest, therein the precursor of Eichendorff.Google Scholar

26 They were edited after his death by his friend C. J. H. Windischmann, professor of philosophy at the University of Bonn, in two volumes (Bonn: 1836–37); a second edition appeared there in 1846.

27 Ibid., vol. II, pp. 358, 382. Schlegel was in his lectures, however, so fascinated by the mediaeval Ständestaat and so hostile to all the innovations of the French Revolution, that he was against universal military service of citizens and wished, in the interests of peace, to reserve military service to the aristocracy.

28 Ibid., p. 385.

29 Sämmtliche Werke, vol. X, p. 159.Google Scholar The poem was also included into “Deutsche Wehrlieder,” edited by Jahn in 1813. Schlegel's stepson, Philipp Veit who served in the free corps, wrote to him and Dorothea, his mother, from Schönhausen near Magdeburg on July 1, 1813: “Jahn is sending you herewith the first issue of a collection of songs which are being sung in our corps or are being rehearsed. You will find there one of your own which was sung here yesterday in church to a good melody by Zelter.” His brother August Wilhelm had preceded Schlegel to Vienna. In a letter from Coppet he wrote in 1807 to Countess Louise von Voss, he declared that he knew only one aim for a writer in that historical age, “to present to the Germans the image of their ancient glories, their old dignity and liberty, and the mirror of the past, and thus to kindle every spark of national sentiment which might be dormant somewhere.” Briefe von und an August Wilhelm Schlegel, ed. by Körner, Josef, 2 vols. (Vienna, 1930), vol. I, p. 199f.Google Scholar

30 Sämmtliche Werke, vol. XI, p. 195.Google Scholar

31 Meinecke, Friedrich, Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat, 7th ed. (Munich, 1928), p. 92, objected from the point of view of the modern German power-state as much to the Christian political ethics of the romanticists as to the rational universalism of the enlightenment. “Beide schalten das als blinde Herrschsucht, was im Wesen des Staates selbst begründet lag, was Ausfluss seiner Selbsterhaltung und Selbstbestimmung war.” Meinecke argued that besides universal morality for individuals there exists an individual morality for the state and that this individual morality justifies the apparent immorality of the power-egotism of the state. “Denn unsittlich kann nicht sein, was aus der tiefsten individuellen Natur eines Wesens stammt,” which would justify every strong state and every strong individual to establish his own “nature” as a yardstick of all morality.Google Scholar

32 The Germans owe to the romanticists, to A. W. Schlegel and Tieck, their first famous Shakespeare translation. Shakespeare as a great national poet was praised by Schlegel, A. W., Sämmtliche Werke, ed. by Bocking, Bduard, 12 vols. (Leipzig, 1846–47), vol. VIII, p. 145;Google Scholar and by Tieck, , Kritische Schriften, (Leipzig, 1848), vol. I, pp. 38, 327.Google Scholar

33 “Eine geistige Gemeinschaft zu einem möglichst vollkommenen Leben durch Ent-wicklung der Geistes- und Gemütskräfte im Volk, welche ja eben allein Leben genann werden kann.” von Eichendorff, Joseph Karl Benedikt, Sämmtliche Werke. HistorischKritische Ausgabe, ed. by Kosch, and Sauer, , 24 vols. (Regensburg, 1908–13), vol. X, p. 159.Google Scholar

34 Zacharias Werner (1768–1823), an east Prussian, served the Prussian government in Warsaw and in other Prussian parts of Poland where he became one of the first German poets expressing their sympathy for the Polish cause. See Arnold, Robert F., Geschichte der deutschen Polenliteratur von den Anfangen bis 1800 (Halle, 1900), p. 277.Google Scholar

35 So wird auch der grossen Genossenschaft des Staates mit innerlich ausgewechselten Gesellen nicht gedient, sondern der der liebste sein, der ihr, weil mit ungebrochener Eigentümlichkeit, aus ganzer Seele dient, wie er eben kann und mag.” Eichendorff, , Sämmtliche Werke, vol. X, p. 341.Google Scholar

36 Ibid., vol. Ill, p. 325.

37 The romanticists opposed capitalism, commerce and the “influence of money.” Schlegel went as far as to oppose taxes because they might give to the moneyed classes the power to influence the state. He suggested that the state should receive its income from the ownership of land and from the monopoly of all foreign trade. To Iniebuhr in his “Roman History” the period when the Romans tilled their own fields represented die ideal, while the later period based upon commerce and trade, represented decadence and moral corruption. Another romantic historian Karl Ottfried Müller (1797–1840) found in Greek history his model in Sparta and its constitution full of “deepest political wisdom.” A romantic philosopher, Franz Xaver von Baader (1765–1841) charged in his “Über das damalige Missverhältnis der Vermögenslosen oder Proletars zu den Vermögen-besitzenden Klassen der Sozietät in betreff ihres Auskommens, sowohl in materieller, als intellektueller Hinsicht, aus dem Standpunkte des Rechts betrachtet” (Munich, 1835) that plutocratic servility to gold under liberalism rendered the poor into serfs of money whose conditions were worse than those of rural serfs. See on his social philosophy Baumgardt, David, Franz von Baader unde die philosophische Romantik (Halle, 1927).Google Scholar

38 August Wilhelm Schlegel became a student of Sanskrit and Indian literature. Friedrich Schlegel regarded his Standestaat as related to the Indian caste system and both as an Aryan heritage. Sämmtliche Werke, vol. XII, p. 347.Google Scholar

39 Adam Müller was practically unknown in the second half of the nineteenth century. The German neo-romanticists of the twentieth century rediscovered him. See Weinberger, Otto, “Das Neue Schrifttum über Adam Müller,” Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. LI (1924), p. 808 ff;Google ScholarAris, Reinhold, Die Staatslehre Adam Müllers in ihrem Verhältnis zur Deutschen Romantik (Tübingen, 1929);Google ScholarReinkemayer, Ferdinand, Adam Müllers ethische und philotophische Anschauungen im lichte der Romantik (Osterwieck am Harz, 1926);Google ScholarBaxa, Jakob, Adam Müller, Ein Lebensbild aus den Befreiungskriegen und aus der deutschen Restoration (Jena, 1930).Google ScholarAt the same time many of his works were republished, Von der Notwendigkeit einer theologischen Grund-lage der gesamten Staatsvissenschaften und der Staatsmrtschaft insbesondere (Leipzig, 1819) as vol. XVIGoogle Scholar of the Allgemeine Bücherei der österreichischen Leo-Gesellschaft (Vienna, 1897); his Zwölf Reden über die Beredsamkeit und deren Verfall in Deutsch-land (Vienna, 1812)Google Scholar and his Vorlesungen über die deutsche Wissenschaft und Liter-atur (Dresden, 1907) were edited by Salz, Arthur (Munich, 1920);Google ScholarOthmar Spann's series “Die Herdflamme” published his Die Elemente der Staatskunst, 2 vols., ed. by Baxa, Jakob,Google Scholar and his Versuche einer neuen Theorie des Gelds mil besonderer Rücksicht auf Grossbritannien, ed by Lieser, H. (Vienna, 1922).Google Scholar

40 Die Elemente der Staatskunst, vol. I, pp. 29, 37, 48.Google Scholar

41 Ausgevählte Abhandtungen, ed. by Baxa, Jakob (Jena, 1921), p. 21.Google Scholar

42 Müller, Adam, Vorlesungen über die deutsche Wissenschaft und Literatur, p. 4.Google Scholar

43 Ibid., pp. 14f. See also pp. 48, 59f. and passim. What Germany is to Europe, Europe is to the world. “Die gesamte Erdoberfläche unseres Planeten strebt offenbar nach einer grossen Gesellschaft, bei deren Errichtung Europa im Ganzen dieselbe Vermittlerrolle spielen wird, nach der sich, unserer neulichen Auseinandersetzung zufolge, die deutsche Bildung im Verhältnis zu dem Staat von Europa hinneigt. Mittelpunkt der Zivilisation der Welt, nicht bios ihr Gipfel, soil Europa werden.” Ibid., p. 38. About the pan-geringeres angelegt als die Vorzüge der verschiedenen Nationalitaten zu vereinigen, sich in humanism of the Germans see also Schlegel, A. W. in Europa, I, 269: “Es ist auf nichts alle hineinzudenken und hineinzufuhlen und so einen kosmopolitischen Mittelpunkt des menschlichen Geistes zu stiften.”Google Scholar

44 Vorlesungen über die deutsche Wissenschaft und Literatur, p. 163 f.Google Scholar

45 Ibid., p. 165 f. See also Zwölf Reden iiber die Beredsamkeit, pp. 124 ff. (describing his oratory duel with Fox in the night of February 11th to 12th, 1891), 135 ff., 167 ff., 186 f. He paid his tribute also to the oratory of Fox and of the two Pitts but Burke was the greatest of all to him. He called him “Stellvertreter des unsichtbaren Englands, Geisterseher seiner Geschichte, Prophet seiner Zukunft;… Wenn die weltliche Beredsamkeit … in Fox einen Gipfel erreicht hat: so hat die heilige Beredsamkeit in diesem Jahrhundert nur durch Einen Mund geredet, durch den Mund Burkes.”Google Scholar

46 “Bilde dein angewiesenes Werk nur ruhig fort, du vielfach verwundetes und unterdrücktes, aber auch jetzt schon mit Gutern, die die spätesten Enkel deiner Unterdrücker noch segnen werden, vielfach entschädigtes Volk⃜” Vorlesungen über die deutsche Wissenschaft und Literatur, p. 167, p. 169.Google Scholar

47 Die Elemente der Staatskunst, 3rd and 7th lectures. Müller, Adam, Vom Geiste der Gemeinschaft, ed. by Biilow, Friedrich (Leipzig, 1931), pp. 41, 81.Google Scholar

48 2nd lecture, pp. 20–23, 28, 34f.

49 Treitschke, , Deutsche Geschichte im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, vol. I, p. 589,Google Scholar praised very highly a book Vom Kriege by von Lilienstem, Rüble (17801847): “Nowhere did the keen political idealism of the War of Liberation find a nobler expression than in that book,” which in Treitschke's opinion “proved victoriously the indestructible blissful necessity of war.” He proposed to “nationalize the armies and militarize the nations.” In reality the book was largely plagiarized from Adam Müller.Google Scholar

50 34th lecture, p. 236.

51 über Konig Fritdrich II und die Natur, Würde und Bestimmung der Preussischen Monarchie. Öffentliche Vorlesungen gehalten zu Berlin im Winter 1810 von Adam Müller (Berlin, 1810), 1st lecture, p. 5.Google Scholar

52 2nd lecture, p. 52f. There is something of the spirit of Fichte's “Reden” in Müller's eighth lecture: “Um die Zukunft mit Kraft und Bestimmtheit zu empfinden, muss man erst das Nationalleben empfunden haben. Was der Privatmann ”Zukunft“ nennt, ist ein weites Feld des Zufalls, worüber die Wetter Gottes und seine Winde und Zeiten walten, wovon das Herz nichts ahndet: eben weil es ein isoliertes Herz, ein Privat-herz ist, und weil es den unendlichen Gott von sinem einsamen Standpunke nicht fassen kann, sein Gesetz in den Erziehungscalcul nicht aufnehmen kann. Was der nationale Bürger “Zukunft” nennt, ist dagegen etwas sehr Bestimmtes und Besonderes; das Vaterland, d.h. Gott selbst und sein Gesetz, ist ja in der Rechnung. Nicht also der Privatmann, sondern nur der nationale Bürger, kann erziehen; also ist die Nationalität selbst conditio sine qua non aller Erziehung. Wie mögt ihr denn erziehen, bevor ihr einen Altar, ein Heiligtum, ein vaterländisches höchstes Gut fest und für die Ewigkeit erkannt habt? Ohne so ein Mittelstes, Nationales, Religiöses, worauf alles bezogen werde, und welches die junge Generation und ihr ganzes Streben ordne und festhalte, erzieht Ihr nur Privat-manner, und erneuert die alte Misere.”