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[88] more, perhaps, than a country was ever wasted and degraded by war before or since, effectually stopped the progress of cultivation, and to this, and to the troubles which for above a century afterwards continued to arise as often as they were appeased, from their division into religious parties and principalities, is clearly to be traced the slow progress the Germans made, while the nations around them were fast advancing to the luxuries of a refined literature. At length, when time and collision had worn them down to an uncomfortable kind of quietness, such as you would naturally expect from their clumsy and shapeless constitution, they began to put forth their awkward strength. Their circumstances, however, did not all favor them. From local situation and political interest they were more connected with France than with any other nation; and the gay splendor of literature at the Court of Louis XIV. at once carried captive their imagination and taste. Nothing could be more unfortunate than this, for nothing would less apply to the rude and powerful language, and the fiery, but untempered talents of Germany, than the straitlaced rules of French criticism. In this prison-house, however, the shorn and manacled strength of the land toiled half a century with ignominious skill and success; and the many monuments it has left behind are as much the subject of patriotic abhorrence and contempt at the present day as the more recent ones, which lately covered their hills, to mark their political servitude and degeneracy. . . . At length, between 1760 and 1770, from causes which perhaps it is impossible accurately to trace and estimate, but the chief of which are certainly to be sought in the humble servitude under which it had so long suffered, German literature underwent a sudden and violent and total revolution. It is equally difficult to determine precisely to whom is to be given the honor of leading the way in this emancipation. If any one author or work must be selected, it would probably be the ‘Literary Letters,’—a periodical publication managed by Lessing; but this was so instantly succeeded and surpassed by the earliest works of Klopstock, Wieland, and Goethe, that it is evident the spirit of regeneration had long been working in the land, and that, if Lessing was the first to call it forth, it was rather from accident than extraordinary genius or boldness.

The literature of Germany now sprang at once from its tardy soil, like the miraculous harvest of Jason, and like that, too, seems in danger of perishing without leaving behind it successors to its greatness. Besides the four whom I have named, I know of no authors who have enjoyed a general and decisive popularity, and who have


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