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Anna Louisa
by [?]

SPECIMEN TRANSLATION FROM VOSS IN HEXAMETERS, WITH LETTER TO PROFESSOR W. (‘CHRISTOPHER NORTH’).

DR. NORTH,

Doctor, I say, for I hear that the six Universities of England and Scotland have sent you a doctor’s degree, or, if they have not, all the world knows they ought to have done; and the more shame for them if they keep no ‘Remembrancer’ to put them in mind of what they must allow to be amongst their most sacred duties. But that’s all one. I once read in my childhood a pretty book, called ‘Wilson’s Account of the Pelew Islands,’ at which islands, you know, H.M.S. Antelope was wrecked–just about the time, I fancy, when you, Doctor, and myself were in long petticoats and making some noise in the world; the book was not written by Captain Wilson, but by Keates, the sentimentalist. At the very end, however, is an epitaph, and that was written by the captain and ship’s company:

‘Stop, reader, stop, let nature claim a tear;
A prince of mine, Lee Boo, lies buried here.’

This epitaph used often to make me cry, and in commemoration of that effect, which (like that of all cathartics that I know of, no matter how drastic at first) has long been growing weaker and weaker, I propose (upon your allowing me an opportunity) to superscribe you in any churchyard you will appoint:

‘Stop, reader, stop, let genius claim a tear;
A doct’r of mine, Lee Kit, lies buried here.’

Doct’r of‘ you are to read into a dissyllable, and pretty much like Boney’s old friend on the road from Moscow, General Doct’roff, who ‘doctor’d them off,’ as the Laureate observes, and prescribed for the whole French army gratis. But now to business.

For your information, Doctor, it cannot be necessary, but on account of very many readers it will be so, to say that Voss’s ‘Luise’ has long taken its place in the literature of Germany as a classical work–in fact, as a gem or cabinet chef d’oeuvre; nay, almost as their unique specimen in any national sense of the lighter and less pretending muse; less pretending, I mean, as to the pomp or gravity of the subject, but on that very account more pretending as respects the minuter graces of its execution. In the comparative estimate of Germans, the ‘Luise’ holds a station corresponding to that of our ‘Rape of the Lock,’ or of Gresset’s ‘Vert-vert’–corresponding, that is, in its degree of relative value. As to its kind of value, some notion may be formed of it even in that respect also from the ‘Rape of the Lock,’ but with this difference, that the scenes and situations and descriptions are there derived from the daily life and habits of a fashionable belle and the fine gentlemen who surround her, whereas in the ‘Luise’ they are derived exclusively from the homelier and more patriarchal economy of a rural clergyman’s household; and in this respect the ‘Luise’ comes nearest by much, in comparison of any other work that I know of, to our own ‘Vicar of Wakefield.’ Like that delightful portrait of rural life in a particular aspect, or idyll as it might be called, the ‘Luise’ aims at throwing open for our amusement the interior of a village parsonage (Scotice, ‘manse’); like that in its earlier half (for the latter half of the ‘Vicar’ is a sad collapse from the truth and nature of the original conception into the marvellous of a commonplace novel), the ‘Luise’ exhibits the several members of a rustic clergyman’s family according to their differences of sex, age, and standing, in their natural, undisguised features, all unconsciously marked by characteristic foibles, all engaged in the exercise of their daily habits, neither finer nor coarser than circumstances naturally allow, and all indulging in such natural hopes or fictions of romance as grow out of their situation in life. The ‘Luise,’ in short, and the ‘Vicar of Wakefield’ are both alike a succession of circumstantial delineations selected from mere rustic life, but rustic life in its most pure and intellectual form; for as to the noble countess in the ‘Luise,’ or the squire and his uncle, Sir William, in the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ they do not interfere sufficiently to disturb the essential level of the movement as regards the incidents, or to colour the manners and the scenery. Agreeing, however, in this general purpose, the two works differ in two considerable features; one, that the ‘Vicar of Wakefield’ describes the rural clergyman of England, ‘Luise’ the rural clergyman of North Germany; the other, that the English idyll is written in prose, the German in verse–both of which differences, and the separate peculiarities growing out of them, will, it may perhaps be thought, require a few words of critical discussion.