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In spite of the rain, some hundred and fifty people gathered in Sever 11, last evening, to hear Professor Francke's lecture on "Individualism as a Force in German Literature," given under the auspices of the Deutscher Verein. Professor Ripley's lecture was to have been given last evening, but owing to his illness, was postponed, and Professor Francke's lecture substituted.
Professor Francke said that the literature of a nation contains all the traits which combine to make the national life; and since it would be too great a task to attempt to grasp the relation of all these traits to literature, we should confine our attention to one or two at a time. He proposed to examine the influence which Individualism had had upon the literature of Germany.
German literature of today is in harmony with the idea that the government should exist to perfect the individual rather than the state, and hence we may say that German literature is in opposition to German government. The lecturer then briefly sketched the history of Germany, showing how after the thirty pear's war it was seen that strong bonds of unison among the different principalities could only be maintained by allowing the individual more freedom of thought.
The force of Individualism is illustrated by the works of Lessing, Herder, Schiller and Goethe. Germans may well be proud of Lessing, for throughout his life he fought for noble causes. He fairly respected the rights of his opponents and, though falsely accused by the ignorant, he never wavered in his work. In judging Lessing we must take into consideration the circumstances under which he wrote since many of the reforms for which he strove, have now been established. But although his works are not now of the same value as they were, their effect on German life will never cease. Although Herder's effect on German literature will be less lasting than Lessing's, still the nation is his debtor. Prof. Francke regretted that he was unable to more than briefly allude to Schiller and Goethe. In concluding the lecturer spoke of the wide gulf which separates the Germany of Goethe's time, when freedom was the watchword, from the present Germany, where that watch-word is authority.
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