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Meantime this demoniac drama produced very opposite results to Schiller’s reputation. Among the young men of Germany it was received with an enthusiasm absolutely unparalleled, though it is perfectly untrue that it excited some persons of rank and splendid expectations (as a current fable asserted) to imitate Charles Moor in becoming robbers. On the other hand, the play was of too powerful a cast not in any case to have alarmed his serenity the Duke of Wurtemberg; for it argued a most revolutionary mind, and the utmost audacity of self-will. But besides this general ground of censure, there arose a special one, in a quarter so remote, that this one fact may serve to evidence the extent as well as intensity of the impression made. The territory of the Grisons had been called by Spiegelberg, one of the robbers, “the Thief’s Athens.” Upon this the magistrates of that country presented a complaint to the duke; and his highness having cited Schiller to his presence, and severely reprimanded him, issued a decree that this dangerous young student should henceforth confine himself to his medical studies.

The persecution which followed exhibits such extraordinary exertions of despotism, even for that land of irresponsible power, that we must presume the duke to have relied more upon the hold which he had upon Schiller through his affection for parents so absolutely dependent on his highness’s power, than upon any laws, good or bad, which he could have pleaded as his warrant. Germany, however, thought otherwise of the new tragedy than the serene critic of Wurtemburg: it was performed with vast applause at the neighboring city of Mannheim; and thither, under a most excusable interest in his own play, the young poet clandestinely went. On his return he was placed under arrest. And soon afterwards, being now thoroughly disgusted, and, with some reason, alarmed by the tyranny of the duke, Schiller finally eloped to Mannheim, availing himself of the confusion created in Stuttgard by the visit of a foreign prince.

At Mannheim he lived in the house of Dalberg, a man of some rank and of sounding titles, but in Mannheim known chiefly as the literary manager (or what is called director) of the theatre. This connection aided in determining the subsequent direction of Schiller’s talents; and his Fiesco, his Intrigue and Love, his Don Carlos, and his Maria Stuart, followed within a short period of years. None of these are so far free from the faults of the Robbers as to merit a separate notice; for with less power, they are almost equally licentious.

Finally, however, he brought out his Wallenstein, an immortal drama, and, beyond all competition, the nearest in point of excellence to the dramas of Shakspeare. The position of the characters of Max Piccolomini and the Princess Thekla is the finest instance of what, in a critical sense, is called relief, that literature offers. Young, innocent, unfortunate, among a camp of ambitious, guilty, and blood-stained men, they offer a depth and solemnity of impression which is equally required by way of contrast and of final repose.

From Mannheim, where he had a transient love affair with Laura Dalberg, the daughter of his friend the director, Schiller removed to Jena, the celebrated university in the territory of Weimar. The grand duke of that German Florence was at this time gathering around him the most eminent of the German intellects; and he was eager to enroll Schiller in the body of his professors. In 1799 Schiller received the chair of civil history; and not long after he married Miss Lengefeld, with whom he had been for some time acquainted. In 1803 he was ennobled; that is, he was raised to the rank of gentleman, and entitled to attach the prefix of Von to his name. His income was now sufficient for domestic comfort and respectable independence; while in the society of Goethe, Herder, and other eminent wits, he found even more relaxation for his intellect, than his intellect, so fervent and so self-sustained, could require.