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Die Patrizier, von C. F. VAN DER VELDE. I vol. 8vo. pp. 314.
Dresden, 1823. Peter Schlemihl. Translated from the German of the BARON DE LA
MOTTE FOUQUE. 12mo. pp. 166. Price 6s. 6d. London, 1824.
MOTTE FOUQUE, by GEORGE SOANE. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 154.
The PATRICIANS is by far the best fiction in any language, that has hitherto been derived from the example of the Scotch Romances. Though an imitation as to manner, yet the subject and matter are perfectly original, and what is surprising in a German novel, the characters think and act like the creatures of real life, instead of being mere puppets set forth to give utterance to the sentimental or metaphysical visions of the author. Generally speaking, a German is either above or below nature; his representations are not drawn from the world, but from certain moods of his own mind; if he have a feeling for nature, his characters are so many descriptive poets; if he have a turn for the sentimental, they are prodigious sentimentalists; if he love the supernatural, they live only in the world of spirits; but whatever may be his prevailing passion, his writing is sure to be plentifully seasoned with mysticisms and metaphysics. It is seldom too, that a German makes a perfect whole even on his own principles; where the parts of his work are good, separately considered, they are deficient in that relation which is an indispensable condition of unity; it is as if a sculptor should set the head of Venus on the trunk of Hercules.
The scene of the Patricians is laid at Schweidnitz in Silesia, towards the end of the 16th century, at a time when the noblemen had not yet learnt to part with any of their imaginary rights, and the burghers, insolent in their wealth, had as little learnt to bear their newly acquired power. It is in this spirit that a quarrel takes place about a horse, between Francis Friend, the son of the Burgo-master Erasmus, and a young nobleman, and, as might be expected, the individual dispute ends in a general fray between the parties. The consequences are powerfully detailed in the subsequent visit of Francis to his mistress, the beautiful Agatha.
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“ The lovely Agatha, the daughter of the city-messenger, Onopbrius Goldmann, sat at the window in her humble chamber. The spindle rested in her hand; on her lap lay an open volume of the songs and tales of the master-bards, but her hazel eyes wandered from the book to the darkening street, and her bosom heaved beneath its drapery. • Twilight,' she exclaimed, twilight is already coming on, and still my father does not return. Oh! that no accident has happened to Francis. At this moment, some one burst open the street door, and rushed into the chamber ;-it was Francis Friend.
" I have had a glorious row with the vagabond nobles,' he cried, embracing the maiden roughly, and the mad Netz has flayed my arm, but I think I have paid him for it, in a way that will make him remember me. Bind up the wound, Agatha.
" Wicked man,' replied Agatha chidingly, as she stripped off the sleeve through which the blood was welling, you are always running wantonly into danger, and care not for the anxiety, which I suffer on your account.'
" " What, am I to let those vagabonds steal the horse from my stables? In the end they'll quarter themselves upon me, and drive me out of house and home.'
".You hate the nobles so violently, and yet have married the daughter of a noble !' .". Unfortunately! And I do believe it is on that very account she is such an abomination to me; but I shan't be such a fool again. My wife won't be much longer on her feet, and when she is unharnessed, my next choice is soon settled; a girl of low rank, when she is as beautiful as my Agatha, is dearer to me than a dozen countesses.'
" · Flatterer,' murmured Agatha, winding her arms about his neck, while her kisses burnt upon his lips.
H'Gracious Heaven !" cried a deep-base voice, and the lovers started from each other in terror.-Onophrius Goldmann stood at the open door, his left hand hid in his doublet, and supporting himself with the right, for he was exhausted almost to fainting, but his eyes shot lightning at the delinquents. Francis in vain sought to recover from the shame of surprise to his usual braving tone, and Agatha wrung her hands and wept.
" I promise you,' at length stammered Francis, that Agatha's honour shall one day be redeemed before the world.'
" You!' cried Onophrius, ' a husband! Heaven have mercy on us! Would you send your wife after the murdered Netz, or, like count Gleichen, get a dispensation at Rome for a double wedlock ?"
" Not so rough, old man,' exclaimed Francis threateningly, 'I don't like to hear such language, nor does it become the servant towards his master's son.
" "That is the curse, which rests upon the poor and lowly,' exclaimed Onophrius, crawling to the nearest chair, and sinking down upon it, exhausted. It is our curse that we are powerless, and weaponless, and lawless, against the great who wrong us, and that over
NO. 1. VOL. I.
and above all, we must spill our blood for our tyrants. Maimed in your defence, I return to my hovel, find you in the arms of my seduced child, and when my just anguish pours itself forth in words, you meanly appeal to your father's rank, and close my mouth by despicable threats.'
" Maimed !' cried Friend in alarm, and Agatha flew with loud lamentations to her father, who, drawing his left arm from his doublet, showed the stump, bound up in bloody cloths.
"• Eternal mercy! your hand ! shrieked Agatha.
« • It lies before the house of the Widow Fox in the market,' said Onophrius gloomily ; .Netz hewed it from the arm just before you killed him.'
" ' I am very sorry for it, but on my honour I will make all good again.' ." "That is more than you can do; though you should fill this room with gold, no hand will grow again upon this stump; though you should dress my child in brocade, and adorn her with pearls and diamonds, she will still be your strumpet, over whom I must tear the grey locks from this aged head. Gracious Heavens! how little must you Gentlemen think of us poor people that you fancy all is to be satisfied with gold, -all, life and limb, honour and conscience !'
“ Only let two eyes be closed first,' protested Francis, and if I do not then take home your Agatha as my wife, you may call me villain in the public market-place.
•* ! My good Francis,' exclaimed Agatha, and gave him her hand, even before the eyes of her stern parent.
" If we both live,' said Onophrius, with peculiar emphasis, if we both live, I will remind you of your promise. But I fear that this day's tumult will have worse consequences than you imagine. Netz's friends are very powerful in the principality.'
" • Let them bite away their anger upon their own nails,' said Francis boastfully. “My father is lord of Schweidnitz, and will not let them hurt a hair of my head.'
" • You are safe, but I ! replied Onophrius thoughtfully.
" You stand and fall with me, old friend. If I forget you or yours, or what you have this day done and suffered for me, may God forget me in my dying hour!'
“ Amen!' said Onophrius, with failing voice, and dropt from his seat in a swoon from loss of blood..
The fears of Onophrius prove to be well founded; at the instigation of Netz's friends, the Bishop interferes, as the lord of the principality, and claims a superior jurisdiction over Erasmus, the Burgo-master of Schweidnitz. At first, the stern old Burgo-master resolves not to yield to what he conceives an usurped aụthority, but the better counsel of his adviser Heidenreich finally induces him to give way to the superior power
of his enemies, backed as it is by the rear of the imperial ban. The character of this inflexible and vigorous old man, is worked out with admirable truth and skill, but as it is shown more by acts and language on various occasions, than by any particular description, it must, of course, lose much of its force in the few detached scenes which can be admitted within the limits of a review. The interview with the Bishop will, however, help to a pretty fair estimate of the contending parties.
“ • Burgo-master, a shameful fray has happened in your city,' said the Bishop with dignified severity. I suppose, of course, you have taken proper measures to prevent the truth from being concealed, and the culprits from escaping punishment by flight?
" •The ringleader of the fray is in prison,' replied Erasmus, 'and the body of the deceased is in our care.
" • Whom do you understand by the ring leader?' asked the Bishop, looking keenly at Erasmus.
“ 'Napelwitz,' replied the Burgomaster with eagerness, Napelwitz, who broke into my son's dwelling like a common robber.'
"'You will render the prisoner to my delegate, which ought to have been done immediately on his arrest. The body of Netz we will presently view together, and then deliver it over to his relations for burial.'
" • You seem, my lord Bishop, as if you would bring this case under the emperor's jurisdiction : but according to our privileges, the trial and the sentence belong to us, and í may not give up the city charter."
• There is danger in delay, and therefore we will not waste the time in legal disputations. I will answer for what I do, and the emperor himself shall decide upon the compétence of the tribunal. Against this, I presumé, you can have nothing to object, Mr. Burgomaster.'
“ • No! 'replied Erasmus, with a heavy heart, and suppressed indignation.
" How is it with the answer on the part of the citizens ?' continued the Bishop, bringing forth a roll of papers. • According to the charge of the nobles, there were present and active in the fray, your son, Francis, the city-messenger, Onophrius Goldmann, the city servant, George Rudolph, and a cutler's apprentice. All these too are, of course, under arrest.'
“Erasmus was silent, for he felt bis wrong, and was too proud to justify it.
" No!' exclaimed the Bishop. Immediately take measures for bringing them hither under a secure guard. All-do you hear me? all, not excepting your own son.'
" The Burgo-master was silent, and did not stir, and the inward struggle began in his breast again.
$ • Well, gentlemen! Am I to be obeyed ?' cried the Bishop, advancing with indignant majesty to the Sessions’-table, and several, as if actuated by one spirit, ran out to fulfil his words. He continued; • I am almost displeased with you, Mr. Burgo-master, and I hardly know what the emperor, to whom I must communicate this unhappy affair, will say to your proceedings. What is to be thought of the equity of a judge, who imprisons the party of the murdered, and suffers the assassins to be at liberty, because his own son is at their head ?
" This reproach touched the sore place, and therefore cut so much the deeper into the soul of the proud old man, who was just about to burst forth in all the vigour of his mind, and with indignant zeal for the authority of his office, when Doctor Heidenreich whispered gently to him ; 'Since you have determined to submit, do it with a good grace, and make not matters worse by unseasonable passion.' Upon this, Erasmus restrained himself by a strong effort, kept down the words which he had just been going to pour out against the Bishop, and retreating to the window, gazed indignantly at the nobles, who kept watch on horseback before the Guild-hall, in close compact ranks, like so many colossuses of iron. In the mean time, the Bishop seated himself in the Burgo-master's arm-chair, reading over his papers, while so profound a silence reigned, that one might have heard the buzzing of the flies in the room, and the heavy breathing of the anxious old man."
· The result of the enquiry is, the condemnation of Onophrius to the rack, to extort from him a confession, while the object of Erasmus and his adviser Heidenreich is to prevent him from making any that may be fatal to Francis. For this purpose, Heidenreich visits Francis in prison, that he may first learn how far he is really involved in the murder of Netz, a suspicion which the latter steadily maintains to be false, but in a manner that only confirms his friend's belief of the fact, and he then considers the best means of persuading Onophrius to silence. No better way of doing this occurs to him, than by showing Onophrius, that he cannot save his own life by confession, while in sparing Francis he may save his daughter's honour, by an immediate marriage. In the meantime, Francis is visited in his prison by Agatha.
" • The dreadful news,' she exclaimed shuddering,'has penetrated even to my hovel; the dreadful news, that my father is to undergo the rack to night. But save him, Francis, save him, before it is too late. Your hand has plunged us into this abyss ; your hand must snatch us from it. You have solemnly sworn it, and must keep your word, that one day God may not forget you in your dying hour.'