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the discipline which is lacking in the “Grüne ideal flights, all imaginative subtilties, are lackHeinrich," and that when he was able to resume ing, whimsical, eccentric, angular characters literature he stepped out into it again with a fresh flourish in this confined soil. Of this community eye and brain; that it is good for an imaginative Keller has constituted himself the chronicler, writer to lean upon reality, in whatever shape. and, sharing most markedly many of its characWhat he hates in philosophy is materialism, in teristics, he has both consciously and unconpolitics the compromise known as Liberal-Con- sciously reproduced these in a series of inimitaservative, in religion all Jesuitry. What he wor- ble romances. ships is the true and guileless. His is a childlike Yet to Keller's first production, “ Der grüne nature, receptive to all beautiful influences, and Heinrich,” these remarks do not altogether apply. reproducing them without effort and without in- Nothing that Keller ever penned is imitative, even trospection. He loves the simple, grand land- his first-born is sui generis, and springs from a scape, the gold-green meadows and glittering fancy that has been unbiased and unrestrained. glaciers of his native land, and sings to Nature- It is a strange work, full of glaring faults of con“ Doch bin ich immer Kind geblieben
struction; capricious, unequal, an incongruous Wenn ich zu Dir ins Freie kam."
medley, which nevertheless contains so many
beauties that we can not lay it down unsatisfied, And, of this native land he is a faithful son, for it is full of that ineffable youthful fire of a owning its idiosyncrasies in fullest measure. He first effort which carries the reader over many is simple, strong, concrete, unsentimental, yet a rugged path. The book, published in 1854, not devoid of feeling. The granite of his Alps called forth much criticism and discussion, a sure brings forth men of granite, powerful and rug- sign that it had aroused interest; but it did not ged, yet sound to the core. Such a man is he, become popular, and can not be so any more and such live in his books. In confining his im- than “Wilhelm Meister," with which it is held agination to Switzerland, Keller has an advan- , to have some points in common. These are, tage over his German colleagues. In Switzer- however, very superficial. It is at least a comland social and political conditions are simpler, plete story, which the other is not. The resemand hence more tangible. A true democracy, blance begins and ends in the circumstance that consisting mainly of peasants and members of both relate the mental development of their hethe lower-middle class, there do not arise any of roes. Keller's romance is a medley of truth and those complicated social perplexities that vex fiction, the autobiographical part telling of his aristocratic nations. Men stand closer to each own struggles as an artist. The hero is called other, yet there is less jostling and crowding ; “green” because of the color of his coats, but conventionalities such as ours do not exist; we also trace a symbolical meaning in this apwithin certain limits of distance everybody is pellation, namely, that we are dealing with an known to everybody; and, as the aims of life are unripe nature. It is the history of an irresponuniform and more elemental, everybody under- sibly contemplative character working itself out stands everybody. As herdsmen and tillers of to maturity. Having completed his school studthe earth the landfolk derive their subsistence. ies, Heinrich attempts landscape-painting, and They are thus kept in contact with nature, and goes astray in various false schools. He then do not lose sight of the realities of existence, are turns to science, where his ideality is rudely not blinded and smothered by the artificialities shaken by the materialistic views presented to of civilization. Nor as a rule are they restless. him. Unable to find a solid basis, he wastes his The son continues to cut hay from his grandsire's time with boon companions, gets into debt, eats acres. Among such a people traditions survive up his widowed mother's savings, and finally sets through all outward changes. At no time have off on foot to return to his native Switzerland, a these greatly affected Switzerland, which re- mental and moral failure. On his road he is mained singularly untouched by the passing entertained by a count whom he had known in away of the old order in Europe. Patriotism, better days. Here he meets with hospitality and deep-seated love for their mountainous home, is the graces of life, falls in love, and is raised again for them no new emotion dating from yesterday. mentally and physically. He then bethinks him Hence, the air not being so full of doctrines and of his mother, whom he has cruelly neglected, systems as in Germany, a Swiss novelist stands sets off for Zurich, and arrives in time to attend on firmer ground. He deals with a homely na- her funeral. This so shocks him, his errors rise tion of a certain slow persistency of character, so vividly before him, that he dies too. The end who form a sober commonwealth of practical is clumsy, and open to sharp censure. It offends persons, devoid of romanticism, whose aspira- against all artistic canons, and leaves an untions do not arise beyond the preservation and pleasant, harsh impression.
Was it for this, we increase of their goods and chattels. But, if all ask ourselves, that Heinrich suffered and made
others suffer and sacrifice themselves for him, in Auerbach or Gotthelf on the same domain, steerorder that he should die just when his strangely ing between the sentimentalisms and unrealities commingled nature had come to an harmonious of the former and the bare prose of peasant-life issue, and has forced its way through the ham- as represented by the latter. While all the scenes pering inclosure?
and incidents are somewhat remote from real life, The best portion of this work is the hero's with its hot, busy strife, they are yet true to naautobiography, which occupies two out of the ture. Only the every-day vulgarities and commonfour volumes, and deals with his childhood. We place elements do not thrust themselves into nofollow the development of an observant, silent, tice. Keller mingles ideality with the inflexible introspective child, endowed with a poet's na- necessity of material things, the plummet of reality ture, lacking stability of purpose, full of phantasy may be sunk into his depths, but a moonlit atmosand intensity of emotion, with good and evil im- phere suffuses the surface. pulses struggling for mastery. And as back- Seldwyla is a fictitious town, a sort of Swiss ground to the whole, Zurich with its lovely lake, Abdera. It is supposed to be still surrounded by and the country around, with its snowy moun
its old fortifications, and remains the same quiet tains, its green swards, its purling streams, and spot it was three hundred years ago. Its founders its chalets. In none of his later writings has can never have meant it should come to much Keller so keenly reproduced the atmosphere of good, for they pitched it a full half-hour from Switzerland, or told us as much of its national any navigable river. But it is charmingly situlife and customs. The descriptions of landscape ated, in the midst of green hills open to the south, are full of intense sympathy with nature, of a a fair wine ripens around its walls, while higher semi-mystical and pantheistic kind, reminding of up the hills stretch boundless forests, the rich Wordsworth's treatment, but more simple and property of the commune. For this is one of unaffected, because more unconscious, than the the peculiarities of Seldwyla, that the commune poet's method. But these descriptions are not is rich and the citizens are poor, in such a manthe only exquisite thing in the work. The episode ner that no one in Seldwyla knows on what they of Heinrich's childish innocent love for a young have lived for centuries. And yet they live, and girl, Anna, recalls Longus's “ Daphnis and Chloe right merrily too, and are very critical concerning in its delicacy of narrative and treatment. The the ways of others if they quit their native town. continuation of Heinrich's life-story is not so The glory and nucleus of this little town consists good; the author has lost sight of perspective, of their young men of twenty to thirty-six, who he grows too didactic, the narrative is too often give the tone in Seldwyla society and rule the interrupted by disquisitions. These are frequently roast. During these years they conduct their excellent in themselves, and sometimes necessi- business by letting others do their work while tated by the current of the story, but proportion they run into debt, an art the Seldwylers practice has not been observed. Our author allows his with a grace and good humor peculiar to thempen to meander, the maxims and reflections do selves. When they have passed this age, and not always apply to the particular case. At last have lost all credit, they find it needful to begin our conception of Heinrich grows confused amid life at the time when others are just taking firm this extraneous matter, and he disappears from root. Then they either enter foreign service and our grasp into a nebulous dreamland. There is fight for strange tyrants, or go forth in search of a casual air about the whole which destroys its adventures; and a Seldwyler is always to be recepic character. It is a grave novel, strong in ognized by the fact that he understands how to just those points to which the ordinary novel- make himself comfortable in any latitude. Those reader is, as a rule, indifferent. is best char- who remain at home work at things they have acterized as a serious character-study, a psycho- never learned, and become the most industrious logical investigation of the most secret folds of people possible. Timber there is enough and to the human heart, the analysis of an artistic na- spare, so that the very poorest are maintained by ture that withdraws from customs and rules of the commune from the produce of its wood-sales. ordinary life, and finds the laws for its conduct And in this rotation the little people has gone on in its inner self. In every point the “Grüne for centuries, remaining always contented and Heinrich” is a first attempt, and at once stamped cheerful. If money is scarce or a shadow. hangs its creator as a bisarre, or what Mr. Bagehot over their souls, they cheer themselves by getting would call "an irregular and unsymmetrical, up political agitations, a further characteristic of writer," endowed with idiosyncrasy and ability. the Seldwylers. For they are passionate parti
But “ Die Leute von Seldwyla" is the work sans, constitution-menders, and agitators, and that founded Keller's fame. It is a series of nov- when their delegate at the Great Council brings elettes that may be classified as peasant-stories, forward some specially insane motion, or when though they differ markedly from the labors of the cry goes forth from Seldwyla that the con
stitution needs mending, then all the country by Seldwyla, and each has offered to bestow
unclaimed acres whatever encumbers his own That a strange merry town like this lends fields. Thus they plow on, until mid-day, when itself to all manner of strange careers is not as- a little hand-cart comes up from the village, drawn tonishing. Of these, as Keller says in his pref- by a boy of seven and a little girl of six. It conace, he proposes to narrate a few, which, though tains the dinner of the two men, and among the in some senses exceptional, yet could not have food thrones a naked one-legged doll. The men happened except at Seldwyla. Now, Seldwyla is halt from their labor, and sit down in a furrow not a real town, as we have said, but a typical to discuss their meal. Their conversation turns one; still it is characteristic of its truth to nature upon the middle field, and each tells the other that in the preface to his second volume, pub- how the commune has tried to induce him to lished fifteen years after the first, the author pay rent for it until its lawful owner should aptells us that seven towns in Switzerland have pear. No one has yet claimed it, but they feel been disputing as to which of them is intended pretty well convinced it must belong to a certain
black fiddler who lives with the homeless folk and be placed in the public asylum. His house and can produce no baptismal certificate, for he and remaining acre are sold to pay his creditors, is the very image of the owner who disappeared and Vrenchen must go out into the world and from Seldwyla many years ago. It is a pity for earn her living. As she sadly ponders this, the the soil to let it lie thus fallow, they agree. While last day in the empty, lonely house, thinking of they eat and talk, the children have been playing Sali, he comes in. In vain they try to cheer each in the desert field, until in the hot noonday sun other; their future looks too drear, they must both drop to sleep exhausted. Meantime the part, and yet they feel that separated they can fathers have finished plowing, but before leaving know no joy. In her despair the fancy seizes work each tears a deep furrow into the middle Vrenchen that she must dance once more with field that adjoins his own. Neither takes notice Sali, must spend one more day of happiness; of the other's deed, though each sees what the then, come what may, she will bear it. Toother has done. Harvest succeeds harvest, and morrow is Kermess at a neighboring placeeach year sees the ownerless field grow narrower could they not go? Sali consents. Early next and narrower; the stones upon it have risen to day he fetches her, and she quits her empty, a ridge so high that the boy and girl, though they desolate home. They pass through a wood, they have grown taller, can no longer see across it halt at a wayside inn, they linger beside streams, when they come to visit their fathers at their they talk and are silent in turns. It is such a work. Years pass. The commune decides that happy day, as bright in their hearts as the cloudthe waste land must be sold. Manz and Marti, less sky above their heads! When afternoon the two peasants, are the only people who care comes they join the dancers. The black fiddler to bid for it, every one in Seldwyla knowing how leads the music, he smiles as he perceives them. the ground had become reduced. Finally it is On and on they dance; the moon rises and floods knocked down to Manz, who instantly complains the floor with light, midnight comes and the that Marti has lately cut off a three-cornered guests leave, and still Vrenchen and Sali can not piece of the land that is now his, and summons make up their minds to part. Indeed, it has him to straighten the boundary. A violent alter- grown only harder. The fiddler interposes; they cation ensues, and a lawsuit is finally commenced are foolish children, he says, he will advise them. that robs both men of their sound judgment, im- He and his friends are returning to the mounpoverishes their estates, wastes their time, and tains, they will give them bridal escort, he will only ends in their mutual ruin. The hatred be- furnish the music, and once among the housetween them, of course, hinders the meeting of less folk they will need no forms to celebrate their children. Moreover, Manz leaves Seldwyla. their wedding. He works upon their feelings After some years Sali meets Vrenchen, and the till they consent, almost without knowing what old childish love is reawakened. Their delight they do, and the wild procession goes out into at meeting is great, but Vrenchen fears lest her the night singing and playing. But as they pass father should learn that she is speaking to his Vrenchen’s former home Sali's reason returns. enemy's son. She begs Sali be gone, and at last He detains the girl, and they manage to escape promises to meet him on their old play-ground. unperceived. But as the frenzied notes of the Here they are interrupted by the black fiddler. fiddle fade into the distance and all is still around He greets them with a sardonic smile. He knows them, Sali says, “We have fled from these, but them, he says; they are the children of those how shall we fee from ourselves?" With paswho have robbed him of his land. Well, they sionate ardor Vrenchen implores him never to will come to no good, he feels sure, and he will leave her. For a time Sali keeps his reason, but live to see them go the way of all fesh before his love and her ardor are too strong for his him. Nevertheless, if they wish to dance, he is young blood. After all, he counts but nineteen willing to fiddle. This sinister apparition casts years. There is only one thing they can do, he a gloom over their meeting, but it does not last says, hold their wedding at this hour, and then long. Vrenchen's joyous nature casts off the perish together in the river. They find a hayangry omen with a merry laugh, and the two barge anchored to the shore; Sali looses it, they chatter away, bemoan their fathers' hatred, and step into the soft fragrant mass, and the boat regret the glad days spent on this spot. In happy floats slowly down stream, past woods through talk they pass the afternoon sitting in the high which the moonlight glints, past dark meadows, corn, listening to the singing of the lark, and past sleeping farms. At chill daybreak two pale dreaming day-dreams as fervent as her song. figures, holding each other in a tight embrace, Here Marti finds them. Furious with both, he slip into the river, and when the sun has fully insults Sali, who loses all self-control, and hurls risen the boat comes to a standstill at the neara stone at Marti that strikes him down senseless, est town. It is empty, and none can tell how it He recovers, but only to prove a hopeless idiot, came thither.
Such this story, which is told with simple Keller's novelettes run in the usual groove, and earnestness and pathos. Its construction is mas- love is by no means always or often the pivot of terly. This, however, is far from being the case his plots. A poor tailor who is leaving Seldwyla as a rule. In point of construction there is in search of work is the hero of “ Clothes make usually much to condemn in Keller: it is often the Man." This tailor has the weakness always lax and shapeless, his stories are apt to plunge to dress in a long cloak and a Polish fur cap, like fairy tales into the midst of their subject. which give an air of distinction to his appearance, He seems to fancy that we too are Seldwylers and lead to his being mistaken for a count. The and have known our neighbors and their con- incident is trivial and hackneyed, not so its decerns since childhood, that it is only needful to velopment. The stupefied assent of the tailor to mention so-and-so for the whole bearings to rise the honors that are heaped upon him leads to up before us. This literalness, however, throws many absurd situations. Though we despise so powerful an air of reality over Keller's cre- the man's initial weakness that led him step by ations that even when these points are exagger- step into a web of falsehood, the story is so inated we do not feel the exaggeration as we read, geniously told that we can never withhold our but are carried along by the stream of his per- sympathy, and are relieved when all ends well suasive plausibility. Into the “Romeo and Ju- and he wins a rich bride, who having deemed liet" there enters no element of the burlesque, him a count remains faithful to a tailor. The rarely absent from Keller's stories. Its Nemesis way in which he is unmasked is characteristically is Hellenic in its remorselessness. Nor is there Swiss. It is the custom in various parts of the anything forced or unnatural in the feelings and country for the young people of the towns to acts of these youthful peasants.
divert themselves in winter with masquerade “ "Frau Regel Amrain and her Youngest- sledge-processions. Such a procession a few born" is a loosely framed tale, showing how a winters ago started from Samaden in the Engaworthy, practical woman saved her son from the dine and visited the neighboring towns, parodying devious career of the Seldwyla youths, and con- the past and present of that district—the sledges verted him into a worthy burgher. The feeling of the past bearing the herdsmen, the spinningof public spirit is strongly developed in the wheels, Alpine horns, and dairy utensils of forSwiss, where it is every man's duty to hold mer days; the sledges of the present containing views upon the government and assist in it. And tourists, red guide-books in hand, or armed with this is admirably brought out here. In “The Alpenstöcke, ropes, and ice-axes, waiters and Three Righteous Combmakers ” Keller lets loose landlords bearing bills of endless length. And all his fun and extravagance, and inimitable it is such a procession, starting from Seldwyla, proto read. It is an excellent skit upon apparent ceeded to Goldach to open the eyes of its inhabiprobity of conduct unrooted in true morality, the tants to the real status of their presumed Polish counterfeit for which the real thing is often mis- count. Their cavalcade represented a very histaken. These three phlegmatic and avaricious tory of tailoring, depicting tailors of all times young combmakers try to establish a good name and nations. The foremost sledge bore the inin Seldwyla, because each wishes to succeed his scription “Men make Clothes,” the last, “Clothes master in the business. They all appear so ex- make Men.” To the confusion of the luckless cellent the master can not choose between them, workman, the party parade before him as he is yet neither can he afford to keep more than one about to celebrate his wedding. A gentle touch in his employ. He therefore proposes an absurd of irony runs through the whole, revealing how race to decide the matter, and all Seldwyla turns the Swiss, like their brother republicans the out to see the fun, which, as usual, they think is Americans, attach great value to titles. “ Faber got up for their especial delectation. A canny Fortunæ suæ (“The Smith of his Fortune '') is old maid, the possessor of some money, has also a trifle too broad, but it contains some ludicrous been wooed by the three. She favors none, for We are not told whether John Kabys she is resolved only to marry the one that will knew this proverb—he certainly from boyhood become the master. When she hears of the built his life upon the idea. How he sets about proposed race she joins her admirers and befools achieving his fortune without doing real work for each in turn until she is at last herself befooled, the same, and how his attempts end in grievous and is made to accept the man she least favored, failures, must be read to be enjoyed. The seriand who wins both business and bride by a hap- ous close surprises in such a pure extravaganza. py ruse.
Thus baldly told, it is impossible to John ends by being a nailsmith who late in life convey an adequate idea of the absurdity of the learns to know the happiness of modest labor story, which, narrated in Keller's quiet tone of and honest earnings. realism, carries us along over all buffoonery, so “ The Misused Love-Letters ” is a medley of that while we read we fully believe. Neither do comedy and idyl. Here we are introduced to