Lessing: The Founder of Modern German Literature by Garland H B

By Garland H B

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His first objective was Berlin, which he reached after spending a week at Leipzig en route. His brother Karl was in Berlin and the two passed a brief period together which did something to calm Lessing's nerves. In the second week of March he set out for Vienna, there to join Eva who had just completed the liquidation of her resources. His route southward lay through Dresden and Prague, and after many adventures on the bad Prussian roads he finally reached his goal on the 31st March, 1775. His original leave was exceeded and from Dresden he had petitioned for an extension.

The market was at the same time inundated with imitations and translations of French and to a lesser extent of English works. Such was the state of German literature when the nineteen-year-old Lessing, soon to be the foremost critic of the age, arrived in Berlin. z. LESSING AS REvmWER It is not the least of Lessing's virtues that he was vitally interested in and preoccupied with the literature of his own day. And so, after a year of poverty and an abortive attempt at periodical literature, I he began his career, as many another young man has done, as a reviewer.

His plan had the merit of simplicity. He proposed to create a German literature by straightforward imitation of French classical literature. Quite apart from considerations of national temperament and modes of thought and feeling, it is clear that the fundamental D 39 LESSING condition of French literature of the eighteenth century, a single central court,1 was absent in Germany and that the attempt could not but fail. Moreover, in addition to this error of judgment, Gottsched was quite unsuited to the task of raising the standard of German literature.

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