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German Literature:
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Jean Paul Richter is unique among the writers of the world. His works sparkle with gems, but these are thrown together without order or reason, and though delightful at first view, they become tiresome when read continuously. Nevertheless there is strong temptation to go back again for a fresh look at the riches. Richter, or Jean Paul, as he is usually called, was born at Wonsiedel in Bavaria in 1763, the son of a poor country pastor who died in debt. While he studied at the University of Leipsic he suffered from pinching poverty, and finally ran away to escape imprisonment for debt. After a time the poor lad became a private tutor, then a schoolmaster; then an author, and finally a celebrity. His first book was "Law-suits in Greenland" (1784), a collection of thin satirical sketches. He did not fairly succeed until he published his quaint romance "The Invisible Lodge" in 1793. Then followed, with continued success, "Hesperus" (1794), "The Life of Quintus Fixlein" (1796), "Flower, Fruit and Thorn-Pieces" (1797) and several more. The eccentric Jean Paul became the fashion of the time and giving up his school he visited the literary centers, being every-where welcomed. After his marriage at Berlin in 1801 he went back to Bavaria and wrote more books, his great romance, "Titan," the novel, "Wild Oats," "Levana" (1807), a treatise on education, and a host more. His collected works comprise sixty-five volumes. They consist of poetical rhapsodies about everything in the universe great and small. He is a splendid landscape-painter, an interpreter of the emotions of the soul, a describer of odd characters and grotesque incidents, a touching painter of domestic life, a scholar of recondite learning. His books abound in strange men and women who move about in a bewitched world, simple dreamers, gay wanderers with-out care, cynical philosophers, and burnt-out prodigals. Yet his pages reveal the real life, domestic and civil Germany a century ago. He paints the poor with their virtues and joys, rather than their sin and misery. Among the most attractive figures are the schoolmaster Quintus Fixlein and his beloved Thiennette, Dr. Katzenberger, Wuz, and Lawyer Siebenkaes. His language and style are as queer as his characters. He enlarged the German dictionary and tore pages out of the grammar. His abounding quality, for which many sins of writing are for-given, is his humor. While he heaped scorn upon every-thing that smacked of vulgarity and pretence, he was tender in sympathy for the weakness and failings of others and earnestly desirous to promote their spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. Carlyle, who borrowed some peculiarities of style from the German, says of him : "In the whole circle of literature we look in vain for his parallel. Unite the sportfulness of Rabelais and the best sensibility of Sterne, with the earnestness, and even in slight portions, the sublimity of Milton; and let the mosaic brain of old Burton give forth the workings of this strange union with the pen of Jeremy Bentham."

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