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A Survey of German Genius

ISSUE:  Autumn 1940

If we consider the nature and distribution of the genius which has flowered on the German racial soil we are at the outset struck by several traits which we may also encounter along other avenues of approach to Germany.

We see, for instance, a certain vagueness of outline in the groups of German genius, with a lack of pronounced character in the total body of that genius and in its local subdivisions alike. In these respects German genius presents a contrast to French genius, which is definitely characterized, whether we consider it as a whole or whether we have regard to its separate local groups. German genius, on the other hand, has often seemed, even to Germans, to be intellectually rather characterless, although morally the exponents of German genius have often been marked by strength of character to a high degree.

In association with the comparative characterlessness of German genius, we find also, and no doubt inevitably, a lack of originality and initiative. New ideas, the germs of invention, the intuitions of discovery, have not come from Germany nearly so often as from Italy and France and England. Originality of idea, it is true, is not the only or indeed the chief quality of genius, not even in art where it yet counts for so much. The Germans are supreme in music: most of the supremely beautiful things in music have come from Germany in the broad sense; yet the great musical movements, though nearly all matured by Germans, have scarcely ever originated in Germany, but mostly in The Netherlands and Italy. The comparative infertility of German genius in ideas is more than compensated for by the ardor and sensitiveness of its massive receptivity, by its extraordinary ability to develop and organize new ideas to effective ends.

It has thus come about that the orientation of German genius, beyond that of any other great people, is international. This is by no means to say that the actual products of German genius are always fitted for international use and enjoyment. That is conspicuously not the case. But the receptiveness of the German mind to international influences renders an international outlook singularly easy, even when it has been combined with a narrowly Germanic national spirit. No other land has produced, as its supreme representative in literature, so genuinely international a spirit as Goethe. Yet Goethe is only the representative, though in a supreme degree, of an attitude which has never been altogether uncommon in Germany, not even during the Great War, when in the midst of a fever of Pan-Germanism a large number of distinguished Germans publicly maintained, at serious cost to themselves, a vigorously international attitude.

This internationality of German genius is associated with a remarkably large infusion of foreign blood in its chief representatives. In the genius of no other great European country can we so frequently find a foreign racial admixture. In determining it, we must put aside the presence of the “Alpine” or “Celtic” element as well as of the Slav element. These elements are not “Germanic” in the narrow anthropological sense, but they are so anciently rooted in Germany that we cannot count them foreign, and so widespread that if we ruled them out there would be little German genius to deal with. We must take into account only recent and definitely determinable foreign elements in the man of genius’s ancestry. In France such elements are remarkably rare. The same may be said (with a few exceptions) of Italy. In England, of which I can speak with assurance on the basis of my own investigations, the foreign element is also not common among the most prominent men of genius. But in Germany we find four or five men of the first order of eminence who were of partly foreign origin. The father of Leibnitz, in some ways the finest and most accomplished representative of the noblest German spirit, was of Polish origin. Kant’s paternal grandfather was Scotch, Schopenhauer’s father was Dutch, Diirer’s father was a Hungarian, Beethoven’s paternal grandfather was Flemish, the mother of the Humboldts was of French Huguenot descent, as was Du Bois-Reymond’s father, Helmholtz’s mother was English, and though it is incorrect to regard Moltke, as is sometimes done, as a Dane, his grandfather was of remote Danish ancestry and his grandmother was a French Huguenot. We note here especially the prevalence of French Huguenot blood, also found in a much larger number of German men of genius of the second order. Everywhere that it penetrated this blood has been precious; but it is only in Germany, and more especially in Prussia, that the national genius has been so considerably dependent upon it. This immigration of French Protestants, extending back to the Reformation, lasted till the middle of the eighteenth century. They were often the most enlightened and vigorous people of their own nation, and many countries benefited by their invasion, but none so greatly as Germany. The vigor and quality of these stocks were out of all proportion to their size. They furnished precisely what was needed in Prussia especially, and German thinkers have been the first to acknowledge the inestimable benefits thus conferred on the German character and the German genius. When the French Ambassador asked Frederick the Great if he had any message to send to Louis XIV, “I only wish,” the King replied, “he would again revoke the Edict of Nantes.” Some indeed regarded this element as at one time almost too powerful, for at a time when Berlin numbered only ten thousand inhabitants, half of them were refugees, chiefly French. They established anew the industries destroyed by the Thirty Years’ War. They transformed Berlin from a dirty provincial town into a great city. They brought over a number of manufacturers of wool and silk and cloth. It is stated that formerly ten per cent of the officers in the German army were of French origin. They were physicians and architects and painters as well. A number of distinguished German scholars, men of science, artists, and poets have been of French origin.

Reibmayr has divided German genius into three geographical zones:

1.  West of the Ems and of the Rhine from the point where the Rhine turns southwards as far as Mainz, then south of the Main and of the Danube to Vienna.

2.  East of the Ems, the Rhine, and the Neckar up to Lubeck, the Elbe, the Saale, and Regensburg.

3.  The region from the east of the second zone to the Russian, Polish, and Hungarian frontiers.

This more or less longitudinal division from east to west is not altogether satisfactory, for it not only includes (in a manner far from uncommon among German scholars) regions which are in no sense Germanic, but it disregards anthropological distinctions, and, for instance, assimilates peoples who are so remote racially from each other as those of Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria. Racially, and with regard to types of genius, a latitudinal delimitation of zones, from north to south, would be better. We should thus have a small northern Germanic zone, of more or less long-headed people, from the Baltic coast through Pomerania and Mecklenburg and Schleswig-Holstein to Friesland. Then we should have a much larger racially mixed but largely Slav zone from a broad eastern basis in East Prussia, Posen, and Silesia, narrowing down through Saxony, to be diffused and lost towards the northwest; finally, we should have a very broad-headed and dark “Alpine” zone, larger if we include Austria to the south, firmly entrenched among the hills of higher Germany and mingling to the north with the Slav zone. The first zone would comprise many of the most vigorous, dominating, and tenacious representatives of German genius; the second would be the great center of intellectual and administrative genius; the third, emphasizing elements already clearly traceable in the second zone, would be the central home of the peaceable, industrious, poetic, and musical activities of Germany.

From the historical and developmental point of view, however, Reibmayr’s zones really help us to realize the three stages of the evolution of the German spirit, and present to us three distinct and to some extent successive pictures of German genius.

The first zone, that of the west and south, is the least Germanic of all. It is largely “Celtic”; that is to say, more precisely, of Alpine stock in the west and almost entirely so in the south. The Franks and the Alamanni who occupied the region between the Rhine, the Danube, and the Main absorbed the Latin culture they were in contact with and became civilized when the Germanic hordes to the east were still savages. Thus this region was the source from which all Germany was civilized, and all the sacred shrines of German culture are to be found here. A certain Latin vivacity, a Gallic spirit, and a tendency to cosmopolitanism have always marked the people of this region, even until today. There is a graciousness, an international breadth and harmony in the genius of this zone which we find nowhere else in Germany to the same extent. Nicholas of Cusa, who, it has been claimed, opened the modern period of thought, was a man of the Moselle, though his culture was largely Italian; in the fifteenth century he was the chief exponent of progress and reform in religion, science, letters, and philosophy. Charlemagne and Goethe represent the supreme manifestation of the Frankish spirit and both alike reveal its orderly, harmonious, receptive, and genuinely international impulses, while we may add that Karl Marx belonged on both sides of his family to the German and Dutch Rhineland.

This Romanized and more or less “Celtic” zone has been from the earliest days the radiating focus of civilization in Germany; Strasbourg especially was the laboratory in which the arts of the Latin world, particularly those of France, were adapted or transmuted for German use. A very large proportion of the poets, artists, and scholars of mediaeval Germany came from Strasbourg, just as earlier they came from England and later from Basel. Latin influences flowed down the Rhine and Norse influences worked up it. Thus the Rhine became the sacred source of the Nibelung legend and the homeland of Germanic myth. It is natural that the German should cling to the shrines of Germanic culture which this western zone holds. But it must still be remembered that they are shrines of Germanic culture precisely because they were not purely German. Even in the fifteenth century, Thomas Murner, the satirist of Strasbourg, one of the leading figures in early German literature, strongly opposed the idea that Alsace is Germanic, even though he himself wrote in German. That is a dispute which, in the nature of things, can never be really settled by any squabble over the political possession of this region. We have to regard Alsace simply as the natural mediator between France and Germany.

In this first zone Reibmayr includes to the south the different and more easterly region of Swabia (largely coinciding with modern Wurttemberg and Baden). Anthropologically this region is in the highlands, mainly a land of Alpine population, while the river valleys, lower down, are occupied by a more Germanic people. Swabia, the land of Schiller and so many other poets and dreamers, is the great Germanic focus of poetic idealism. It is the home of romance, even in philosophy, for Schelling is romantic and Hegel has been termed “the greatest of romantic philosophers”; this is true even in music, for Mozart’s father was from Augsburg. By its large and harmonious spirit, its freedom from a narrow conception of patriotism, Swabia resembles the other parts of this first zone. But it differs from it by yielding an altogether indisputable element of the pure German spirit and genius, as well as by its historically late evolution. The ancient duchy of Swabia played a highly important part in mediaeval German poetry. In the earliest period the whole poetic and scholarly activity of Germany may be said to lie between the two poles of the abbey of Fulda and the monastery of St. Gall; the one was immediately to the north and the other immediately to the south of the Swabian region understood in the larger sense. Later, Hartmann von Aue was a Swabian, and so, unless he was a Frank, was Wolfram von Eschenbach. Swabia has a more important place in the production of poetry than any other German region. Like the other regions of Germany it has long lost local character and isolation. But the Swabians were once regarded as the purest of Germanic races and noted for their quaint and genial character. They were hostile to novelty, perhaps lacking in initiation, but emotional, idealistic, sensitive to the beauty of nature, easily moved by large and sometimes vague ideas. Schiller is the great and typical poet of this region, as Goethe is of the Rhine. But there are a great number of tender and charming poets to be found here, among these Holdulm (revered by young Germany of today), Uhland, Morike, Kerner, Schubalth, Hauff. The last of the Swabian school, though his reputation was mainly local, was Fischer, while the most distinguished writer of Swabian stock in recent times has been Victor von Scheffel, who wrote “Ekkehard,” the best of German historical novels. In thought and philosophy, Al-bertus Magnus the Universal Doctor, Sebastian Franck, a pioneer in science and mystical theology, Schelling, and Hegel are the great and typical figures.

Swabia leads us into the second or central zone, which was predominant in the evolution of German genius from the fifteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, and has probably contributed its fair share to the total ever since. Here, taking the main stream of history, we are undoubtedly at the core of German genius. Foreign elements are reduced to a minimum. Here was the most obstinate resistance to the acceptance of Christianity and here was the first vigorous and successful effort to throw off Catholicism; here also were produced the tough Germanic pioneers of social democracy. If we believe that the German genius is marked rather by character than by grace, by depth of emotion rather than by clarity of intellect, by industry rather than by artistry—a genius that is rugged, independent, rebellious, and exuberant—it is here, in the land between Hamburg and Nurem-burg, that we shall find the great representatives of Germany. Here is the home of Luther, here the home of Lessing, the Father of Protestantism and the Father of Rationalism. We can find no more central and typical German figures than these—the cowled peasant, coarse and sensual and devout and superstitious, who fled from the cloister to mold the spiritual and to some extent even the national fate of Germany, and the Kamenz pastor’s son, as many-sided as Luther, and as impulsive a fighter, yet not the child of Luther, but rather an Erasmus grown militant, wearing himself out in a perpetual struggle for clarity in intellect, for toleration in morals, for love in religion, and so laying spiritual foundations, as yet unbuilt on, not only for Germany but for all humanity.

This region teems with men who have had in them something of the rough vigor and independence of Luther, something of the keen penetration and wide outlook of Lessing, or sometimes men who are at the same time related to both types, like Wilhelm Liebknecht of Upper Hesse, a district where the tough democratic spirit has been peculiarly vigorous. Hence have come philosophers, theologians, scholars, conversationalists, scientists, travelers, merchants: men like Eckhart, the mystic, one of the greatest and most typical of Germans; Leibnitz, not less conspicuous; Nietzsche and Schleiermacher and Lotze and Herbart and Reimarus and the brothers Schlegel; Lamprecht; from here also Hans Sachs and Klopstock and Burger and Riickert. J. P.

Richter and Novalis, perhaps the two most peculiarly Germanic of German prose writers; Jacob Grimm and Mullen-hoff, the two chief pioneers in Germanic origins; the painters Durer and Wolgemuth and Altdorfer and Aldegrever and Kranach; while, as a supreme distinction, here is the home of the great and most purely Germanic makers of music, Bach and Handel (whose father, however, came from Silesia) and Gluck and Weber and Brahms and Wagner. It is in this region, we see, that the most genuine and unmixed products of German genius have been elaborated, often obscure and fantastic and unfitted for exportation, yet, on the other hand, often among the best and finest that has been contributed by any land to human civilization. Here, above all, is the home of the German spirit. It must at the same time be remembered that this central zone is anthropologically by no means purely Germanic throughout, and perhaps even less so when we consider its genius than when we take into account the ordinary population.

At the north this zone of genius covers all that part of Germany from Schleswig-Holstein to Friesland, which the Germans themselves regard as peculiarly “Germanic”: the region, that is to say, inhabited by a population approximating the tall, fair, long-headed people of Scandinavia. This notion of what is “Germanic” is, however, as we know, a superstition; it may have been true two thousand years ago; it has never been true of Germany since Germany began to be civilized and organized. It is therefore not surprising that this northern section of the second zone of genius, while it has produced a number of fine, vigorous, independent, and original men, and some of the best scholars of Germanic origin, cannot show one who ranks among the great Germans of the first order, and not many typical Germans of lesser degree. On the contrary, the men of this northern region have often distinguished themselves by their fierce opposition to the more dominant tendencies of Germany as represented by Prussia. This district is the cradle of the AngloSaxons and its genius may still be regarded as more nearly Anglo-Saxon than Germanic, though it would be idle to expect it to show that vivacity and complexity which, through the infusion of other elements, have long since modified the Anglo-Saxon genius in England. In modern imaginative literature Frenssen is the most notable representative of this region.

More centrally in this zone we reach Westphalia, a typically Germanic region. “The Westphalians have no genius,” said Frederick the Great. But there has here always been a high cultivation of the national root-character. “No people in the world,” remarked Erasmus, “deserve more praise for their endurance of labor, their faith, their morals, their simple wisdom, and their wise simplicity.”

At the south, the second zone is modified, as all these zones are in the south, by becoming softer, more poetic, more harmonious in the manifestation of its genius. As we include Halle in the second zone we must also include Leipzig, which lies but a few miles away, not only a great natural center of exchange, but a typical focus of the central German spirit. Leipzig is Slav in name and origin, and the numerous men of genius it has produced have often revealed a strain of Slav genius down even to the most representative of German plastic artists in recent times, Klinger, who unites mysticism with the clear hard emphasis by which German art in design, revolting violently against the tendencies more harmoniously expressed in music, tends to assert itself, and so has become a kind of modern Durer. Treitschke has remarked on the “extraordinary confusion of the two and thirty large and innumerable small domains which now pass by the name of the province of Saxony.” But this diversity is largely, though by no means altogether, superficial. Saxony, both the province and the kingdom alike, appears to be fairly uniform anthropologically, even right into Hanover, and while more Germanic than the region to the south, it is less Germanic than the north and distinctly infiltrated by Slav racial elements proceeding from a broad basis in Poland to an apex in Hanover. This Slav influence is pronounced in the origin, the physical appearance, and the name of some of the most typical men of German genius in this zone. Copernicus, born at Thorn, was the son of a Pole from Cracow; Leibnitz was of Polish origin; Nietzsche believed the same of himself and he was indeed more Polish than German in appearance; Bohme, the most influential of German mystics, belonged to a specially Slavonic region of eastern Saxony, while it is possible that his parents, though German, came from Bohemia; Treitschke, broad-shouldered, tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-complexioned, was physically a Slav; Handel belonged by birth and maternal ancestry to Halle, a center of Slav influence; and the prevalence of great composers in this zone itself indicates the presence of the Slav element, which in all central Europe is closely associated with musical genius. Putting aside the early masters who came from The Netherlands, only one great German composer, Brahms, came from the north.

It must also be pointed out that not only a great part of Saxony but northern Bavaria and the district still further south are included in the second zone. Here we have a region which, while it is rightly associated with mediaeval and Renaissance German genius, is by race and spirit still more remote than even Saxony from the Germanic north. We are here among the short dark round-heads, a hardy and cheerful people quite unlike the Saxons. They are not melancholic and suicidal like the Saxons, but more inclined to exert violence on others. Nacke, who pointed out these differences, observed that in his experience they were often seen among the insane. They are also found in the army, and Treitschke frequently refers to the unanimous complaints concerning the lack of discipline, the violence, and the love of plunder of the Bavarians in the campaigns of the early nineteenth century. The same violence and destructiveness to property has been noted in Bavarian troops, both in the war of 1870 and in the Great War of more recent times, although violence against the person is noted more especially among the Prussians. It seems to be in accordance with these traits that the genius of Bavaria is of a vigorous and enterprising temper rather than, like that of the softer but gifted people to the north of them, mystical and humanitarian and philosophical.

When we reach the third zone we are in the heart of Prussia at the creative focus of modern Germany. We observe at once a different impress on the men of genius here produced. They are less obscure—less profound, if we so please—than the men of the central zone often are, and also less intimate; in the fundamental sense they are less Germanic. But while they speak more clearly and in tones more generally intelligible to the world, it cannot be said that on the whole they possess that international spirit of which Goethe is the supreme and unapproached representative. The men of the first zone reached out their arms in a cosmopolitan spirit from the foundation of a soil in which they had themselves become rooted. In the third zone the racial elements of genius are often so recent and so mixed that they have not become rooted, and it is on the basis of an artificial and forced nationalism that their internationalism often arises.

The foreign, and especially the French Huguenot, element in Prussia is, as we have seen, remarkably large and potent. Yet even this precious element, powerful as it has been and operative even today, has not changed the heavy and tough native character. Rohrbach has in recent years lamented the inability of the Germans to come into friendly relations with other peoples, a defect having its root, he believes, and we may well agree, in a note of personal gruff ness in intercourse, which proceeded from the originally narrow and militaristic spirit of Prussia.

This third zone has only expressed itself in genius during recent times, and to no pronounced degree (except, as ever, in the south) until the end of the eighteenth century. But its essential characters appear from the first. Christian Wolf, who was born in 1679, is already the typical representative of Prussian genius, so definitely that the qualities that he represents—orderliness, dogmatism, receptivity, and industry—have sometimes seemed to be the hallmark of the German mind everywhere. He is also typical in this, that like so many of the most unmistakable representatives of the Prussian spirit, he was not himself a Prussian, but came from Breslau in the days before Silesia was Prussian. It is noteworthy that even the men of scientific military genius produced by this preeminently military state—Scharnhorst, Clausewitz, Gneisenau, Moltke—were all outsiders; Arndt, the fiercely patriotic soldier-poet of Prussia, was largely a Swede, as perhaps was Dahlmann, “the master builder of the German idea,” certainly half Danish, while Fichte, the prophet of Prussianism, and Treitschke, its historical bard, were both Saxons. Even Bismarck, says Lamprecht, who knew him, bore unmistakable traces of the lower Saxon and had a Plattdeutsch accent.

Christian Wolf was influential in molding Prussian culture but he has long ceased to make any living appeal. Less than a century later, we find in the Humboldt brothers representatives of the Prussian spirit whose genius was of finer and more vital order: Alexander, a conquistador in the realms of physical science, and Wilhelm, active alike in science and morals and practical life, an even finer and rarer spirit. By his later activities Wilhelm von Humboldt leads us into the sphere of statesmanship, in which the Prussian forceful and organizing temper has above all sought expression. Here Bismarck is the supreme representative figure. Bismarck, the man who proclaimed blood and iron as his ideal, the great realist to his own people, and to outsiders (in the words of an Italian) “a barbarian of genius,” was far from resembling the conventional image which has often been set up to represent him. A colossus whose appearance reminded the historian Lamprecht of Charlemagne, yet, as Lamprecht himself points out, there was something other than this in Bismarck. A lionlike figure, certainly, but when Bebel met him for the first time he was astonished to hear a high treble voice; this colossus was a bundle of nerves, so full of apprehension that before any great crisis he fell ill, the victim of all sorts of neuralgias, with a feminine sensibility that in his love letters appear like masochism, a creature of moods that were sometimes a torment to himself and to others. Such a man who lived in the moment, and re-made his picture of the world every morning, naturally attached importance to what he called “imponderabilia” and the “psychological moment.” We cannot estimate the Prussian unless we realize in his character this element of complexity, even morbidity, the marks of a creature too rapidly civilized. Just as Goethe is the supreme figure of the first zone and Luther of the second, so Bismarck is the supreme figure of the third and last German zone. These three figures include all Germany.

It cannot be said that the third zone in its genuinely Prussian region has proved a favorable soil for any of the forms of art. The rare artists found in this uncongenial atmosphere have mostly led a distracted and tortured existence. The only composer of high eminence in this zone, Schumann (and he was really a Saxon from the peculiarly Slav region of Lusatia), died insane. Heinrich von Kleist, who was probably the finest poet of this land, was a highly morbid creature who spent his short life in restlessly wandering about the world and then committed suicide. Meinhold, the finest imaginative artist in prose of this zone, was the eccentric and unattractive pastor of a remote Baltic village.

The finer spirited and more sensitive children of Prussia have, ever since the days of Frederick William I, looked at their own land and its brutal officialdom with a loathing which has failed to recognize the elements it held of useful and needed discipline. “I think with loathing,” said the Prussian Winckelmann, “of this country which groans under the greatest despotism the world has ever known. It is better to be a circumcised Turk than a Prussian.” “In a country like Sparta the arts cannot thrive,” It is Treitschke who quotes that passage, with the remark that to describe the land of the corporal’s stick as a “Sparta” was “extremely ideal.” Hegel later (in 1801) expressed the keenest antipathy to Prussia, “a state whose dreary emptiness strikes everyone in the first of its villages he enters.”

We must go to the extreme east and south, to Polish Prussia and Silesia, among a Slavonized people having much in common with the neighboring Saxons, to reach a softer and more sympathetic atmosphere. Here we find Angelus Silesius (his father was a Pole) and Linzendorf and Eichen-dorff, all typical Silesians. Handel, of all German composers most akin to the great Russians, was the most Slav, a Silesian of Breslau on his father’s side, and from the most Slav region of central Germany on his mother’s. Herder, who was largely an inspirer of the extravagantly cosmopolitan though finely humanitarian universalism by which in the eighteenth century this third zone sometimes went beyond the first zone, was a Silesian through his father, an east Prussian through his mother, and perhaps the finest representative of the Silesian spirit on the spiritual side. (Schlei-ermacher, who harmoniously united mystical devotion with free critical inquiry, was a Silesian only by birth, not by race.) On the more practical side we have Rebel; while through his mother he belonged to the individualistic, anti-authoritarian people of the Rhineland, he derived his sensitive, emotional, humanitarian temper from his Silesian father. The Silesian temperament brings us to the Slav. It must be noted, indeed, that the whole of this eastern zone, even by virtue of its situation against Russia, is necessarily permeated throughout by the Slav element. It expresses itself spiritually in the gift for religion and for music. The majority of the men of genius born in this zone are of partly Slav blood.

When we survey generally the intellectual manifestations of the German spirit—in literature, scholarship, science, philosophy—we seem to be impressed, above all, by the presence of a tendency to a vast and encyclopaedic universalism.

All the qualities of the German and his defects—his ferocious industry, his insatiable and impartial intellectual appetite, his uncritical formlessness, his often characterless receptivity—combine to aid in the creation of many-sided achievements of stupendous magnitude. Germany produced the first great representative of this type, the thirteenth century Dominican monk of Swabia, Albertus Magnus the Universal Doctor. It also produced the last, one of the most inspiring figures ever produced in any land, Leibnitz, a man of genuine cosmopolitan spirit, at least as much at home in Paris as in his own Leipzig, and writing his chief work in French or Latin, inventor and discoverer, thinker and philosopher, statesman and jurist, a penetrating pioneer into the future, always occupied in the task of uniting seeming antagonisms in some higher synthesis. Leibnitz remains the greatest representative of Germany’s most fruitful spiritual activity.

There has been no great encyclopaedic philosopher since Leibnitz. The immense importance of synthetic and unifying vision is, however, still well recognized, and is nowhere so widely attempted as in Germany. No modern man of science has been so various as Helmholtz, no modern psychologist so systematically comprehensive as Wundt, no anthropologist so universal as Virchow. And if we turn to less conspicuous men, it is only in Germany that we can find a writer like Eduard Reich, who patiently sets forth his own personal impressions of the universe in twenty octavo volumes of six hundred to eight hundred pages each.

No figure has appeared in Germany since 1870 of any significance to the world in general; Nietzsche began writing before that date and Wagner had been composing for half a century. The prominence in Germany during the past half century of a peculiarly intense and aggressive form of nationalism, with its accompanying ideals of state supremacy, has been equally disastrous to German genius and German internationalism. The Germans began to misunderstand their own international affinities. Then appeared an idea— like so many other German ideas, having its origin outside Germany—which turned the real fact inside out. Instead of recognizing the fact that German genius is to a remarkable extent non-German in origin, it was argued that non-German genius was really German. This doctrine, of which Woltmann was a chief propagandist, was more especially applied to Italy, and most of the great Italian figures— Dante, Boccaccio, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Buonarroti, Titian, and many others—were regarded as really of Germanic origin. A few years ago Otto Hauser in his “Weltgeschichte der Literatur,” seeing in all the most significant manifestations of the cultures of other countries the features of a Germanic mixture (Kinschlag), assumed that the Etruscans were Germans and found that the humor of Italian literature is echt Germanisch. If, however, we put aside such speculations and seek a genuine Germanic element in conspicuous modern European men of genius, where its presence could easily be demonstrated, we seldom find it, and it would be hazardous to suppose that it was ever more conspicuous than it is today. The influence of Germans during recent times in other countries than their own has been shown, not by the production of high genius but by more humble though valuable qualities of citizenship, so that, as Ferrero has pointed out, they have often formed a valuable cement in non-German communities. The vagaries of anthropological Pan-Germanism are really, however, a reaction against a premature and too extreme cosmopolitanism in a world not yet ready for so humane an idea. That reaction must not conceal from us those more characteristic traits of genuine internationalism which have peculiarly distinguished the greatest men of Germany—Leibnitz and Kant and Goethe and Wilhelm von Humboldt and Nietzsche and so many others—during the most brilliant flowering period of the German genius. It is not possible to doubt that the future will witness a renaissance of that spirit.


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