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Chapter 5:

To C. S. Daveis, Portland.

Gottingen, February 29, 1816.
. . . . You will perhaps expect from me some notices of German literature, as I am now established in the very midst of it; and if you do not, I may as well write you about it as about something not half so interesting. . . . . To come to the subject, then, and begin in defiance of Horace,—ab ovo Ledce,—you know there are in this land of gutturals and tobacco two dialects: high German, so called because it is indigenous in the interior and higher parts of the country; and low German, so called because it is indigenous in the North, among the lowlands, and on the coast. How long these dialects have existed, it is not now possible to determine; but they are probably as old as the earliest population of the country, since traces of them have been found in Tacitus. The low German, which is the vernacular of the lowest class in this part of the country, is a much more harmonious and happy language in its elements than the high German, which is the language of all people of any education through the whole country, but which is a vernacular only at the South. Both were equally rude, indigent, and unpolished, until the time of the Reformation,—the epoch from which all culture is dated in Germany.

This great revolution accidentally gave the empire of literature to high German. It happened to be the native dialect of Luther. He translated his Bible into it, wrote in it his hymns and catechisms, which are still in use, and made it the language of the pulpit and religion, and, of course, the language of letters; for in Germany they have ever since been inseparably connected. The Thirty Years War, however, which immediately followed, and wasted and degraded Germany

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