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ART. I.-ON THE STUDY OF GERMAN IN AMERICA. Abriss der Deutschen Literaturgeschichte. Von Dr. E. P. EVANS, Professor der neueren Sprachen und Literatur an der Universität von Michigan. New York: Leypoldt & Holt, 1869. 12mo. pp. 235. A WORK in the German language by one who is not of German birth or lineage is certainly a novelty. Some of our best English works in theology, in moral and political and natural science, have come from expatriated Teutons; such as Max Müller, Dr. Lieber, Dr. Schaff, and others less widely known. Not a few of the ablest editors in the United States, from Carl Schurz downward, are Germans who write as vigorously and as gracefully in the English tongue as in their own. But this rule does not work in both ways, and there is little or no reciprocal writing of native Americans in the German dialect. The "Epitome of German Literary History," just issued by Leypoldt and Holt, is a rare instance in this kind. The author, Professor E. P. Evans, of the Michigan University, is already well known to our readers, by his translation of a work of Coquerel the younger, and of Adolf Stahr's "Life of Lessing," as well as by numerous articles in the reviews and magazines, all written in a style at once strong, clear, rich in humor and in scholarship. No book of the last decade has been more favorably received by the critics, or has done more to awaken new interest in liberal studies, than the translation of the" Life of Lessing."
VOL. LXXXVII. -NEW SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. I.
In his new German work, Professor Evans shows that his command of the German tongue is as ready and as easy as his command of his native tongue. In a work so condensed, an epitome of the literature of more than a thousand years brought within the limits of a college text-book, it is of course unreasonable to look for high rhetorical finish or fulness. There is no room here for elaborate biography or description or suggestion or criticism. We could expect in so rapid a summary hardly more than an annotated catalogue. But the author has the skill to put a great deal into a single sentence. In a few lines he can give the writer his proper place and rank, tell to what school he belongs, and what is his significance in literature. Of the leaders in every school he is able to give a satisfactory appreciation; and he marks distinctly the transition from one school to another, from one epoch to another. He has made excellent use of his ample materials, and has brought together here the results of wide and various German reading; soon, we hope, to be expanded into a comprehensive English history of German literature, which is the desire of all German scholars. We want something better in this kind than the narrow and one-sided history of Menzel, which was foisted upon the public thirty years ago, as a fair account of German literature.
In the mean time, the present work of Professor Evans will be of great value to teachers of German and German classes, for whom, indeed, it has been specially prepared; while it is useful in any library as a work of reference, supplied, as it is, with a full index, marginal indications, and a table of contents most ably drawn and arranged. It is precisely the book which German teachers have been wanting to get. Forty years ago a book of this kind would have had very small sale, and would have been passed almost without notice. Now such a book interests a public numbered by millions, and will be sent to all parts of the land. In the memory of many not yet old, German studies were eccentric, the sign almost of a disordered mind; were discouraged by wise professors, and dreaded even by curious students. Half a century has not yet passed, since the first teacher of the German language
was appointed in Harvard College, and for a much shorter time has it been a favorite study in that institution. Before the year 1840, in Boston, the American Athens, there was less knowledge of German than of Greek, and most of those who went into raptures over Goethe and Schiller, knew these poets only through imperfect translations. To have suggested such a study as suitable in the schools, even of the highest grade, would have been treated as amazing assurance. In the English High School, French had a place, but German was not thought of. Of course, in the ancient venerable "Latin School," this upstart jargon of the barbarians could find no entrance. Even the most "select" school for youths or maidens, with the highest scale of prices, did not include this in its programme. German teachers, in Boston and in all our cities, were few and far between. The most incompetent men were able to go on undetected by the few pupils whom they enticed. The second teacher in German in Harvard College, the best that could be found, may have been a good soldier, but a scholar he unquestionably was not; and his pupils made sport of his simplicity. Nowhere at that time was German considered an essential part of the education of a gentleman, hardly even an ornamental appendage. There were some who studied it; but they studied it in difficulties, with scanty aids, with little sympathy from friends, and under a ban at once literary and theological. Fond parents disclaimed all responsibility for the vagaries of foolish sons and transcendental daughters, who would waste their time over such bewil dering trash as the dialect of the beer-drinking Teutons. In no school or college, from Maine to Florida, had the German a prominent or a recognized place among the branches of polite learning, much less among the branches of useful learning. It came in rank after Italian and Spanish, far behind French and the classical tongues.
In one generation a marvellous change has come. The German language has been brought into the very front rank of ordinary studies. A college that has no teacher of this language now is a poor affair, not worthy of the name; and this is classed in many institutions as a "required study." It
is taught in the Normal Schools, it is taught in the High Schools, it is taught in every respectable" select" private school. It is a study not merely for adult pupils, but for children of tender years. Infants even learn it in the Kindergarten. The number of professional German teachers in the country is "legion." They abound in the cities, large and small; and they go westward along with civilization and settlement. They have a chance in Leavenworth and Omaha, as much as in Boston and New York. One can hardly take up a journal, metropolitan or provincial, without reading the prospectus of one or more German teachers. No bookstore is so small or so remote that German books do not make part of its stock, and help in its profits. Every considerble reading-room has German newspapers on its files. German is studied not only as a literary language, but for its social and practical uses. A housekeeper needs it, in many parts of the land, in her intercourse with servants and tradesmen; an employer needs it with his operatives. Children learn the language from their nurses and their playmates, before they are instructed in it from the grammar and the dictionary. Eminent educators, too, propose this language not merely as a supplement to classical training, but as a substitute for the classics, insist that it is worth more than Greek, more than Latin, more than both together; that it may take the place, in school and college, of those dead tongues. They discuss in conventions, they discuss in reviews, they discuss even in legislative halls, the relative value of German and Greek; and the weight of authority is by no means heaviest on the ancient side. What the accomplished Chancellor of the English Exchequer says in disparagement of the scholarship which has given him fame, is more than echoed on this side of the ocean; and classical scholars themselves are willing to lament that they spent so much time upon pagan authors, to the neglect of the tongues which hold so much of living literature. According to Mr. Dilke, the sons of New-Yorkers all go to Germany for their higher education. This statement, like many others of his book, is a blundering extravagance; but the number of American students who go to Germany to finish their education is large