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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Rudolf von Gottschall (1823–1909)

RUDOLF VON GOTTSCHALL was born in Breslau, September 30th, 1823. He was the son of a Prussian artillery officer, and as a lad gave early evidence of extraordinary talent. His father was transferred to the Rhine, and young Gottschall was sent successively to the gymnasiums of Mainz and Coblenz. Even in his school days, and before he entered the university, he had through his cleverness attained a certain degree of eminence. His career at the University of Königsberg, whither he went to pursue the study of jurisprudence, was interrupted by the results attendant upon a youthful ebullition of the spirit of freedom. His sympathy with the revolutionary element was too boldly expressed, and when in 1842 he published ‘Lieder der Gegenwart’ (Songs of the Present), he found it necessary to leave the university in order to avert impending consequences. In the following year he published ‘Censurflüchtlinge’ (Fugitives from the Censor), a poem of a kind not in the least likely to conciliate the authorities. He remained for a time with Count Reichenbach in Silesia, and then went to Berlin, where he was allowed to complete his studies. He was however refused the privilege of becoming a university docent, although he had regularly taken his degree of Dr. Juris.

He now devoted himself wholly to poetry and general literature. For a while he held the position of stage manager in the theatre of Königsberg, and during this period produced the dramas ‘Der Blinde von Alcalá’ (The Blind Man of Alcalá: 1846) and ‘Lord Byron in Italien’ (Lord Byron in Italy: 1848). After leaving Königsberg he frequently changed his residence, living in Hamburg and Breslau, and later in Posen, where in 1852 he was editor of a newspaper. In 1853 he went to Italy, and after his return he settled in Leipzig. Here he definitely established himself, and undertook the editing of Blätter für Litterarische Unterhaltung (Leaves for Literary Amusement), and also of the monthly periodical Unsere Zeit (Our Time). He wrote profusely, and exerted an appreciable influence upon contemporary literature. He was ennobled by the Emperor in 1877.

As a poet and man of letters, Gottschall possesses unusual gifts, and is a writer of most extraordinary activity. His fecundity is astonishing, and the amount of his published work fills many volumes. His versatility is no less remarkable than his productiveness. Dramatist and critic, novelist and poet,—in all his various fields he is never mediocre. Chief among his dramatic works are the tragedies ‘Katharina Howard’; ‘King Carl XII.’; ‘Bernhard of Weimar’; ‘Amy Robsart’; ‘Arabella Stuart’; and the excellent comedy ‘Pitt and Fox.’ Of narrative poems the best known are ‘Die Göttin, ein Hohes Lied vom Weibe’ (The Goddess, a Song of Praise of Woman), 1852; ‘Carlo Zeno,’ 1854; and ‘Sebastopol,’ 1856.

He has published numerous volumes of verses which take a worthy rank in the poetry of the time. His first ‘Gedichte’ (Poems) appeared in 1849; ‘Neue Gedichte’ (New Poems) in 1858; ‘Kriegslieder’ (War Songs) in 1870; and ‘Janus’ and ‘Kriegs und Friedens Gedichte’ (Poems of War and Peace) in 1873. In his novels he is no less successful, and of these may be mentioned—‘Im Banne des Schwarzen Adlers’ (In the Ban of the Black Eagle: 1876); ‘Welke Blätter’ (Withered Leaves: 1878); and ‘Das Goldene Kalb’ (The Golden Calf: 1880).

It is however chiefly as critic that his power has been most widely exerted, and prominent among the noteworthy productions of later years stand his admirable ‘Porträts und Studien’ (Portraits and Studies: 1870–71); and ‘Die Deutsche Nationallitteratur in der Ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts’ (The German National Literature in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century: 1855), continued to the present time in 1892, when the whole appeared as ‘The German National Literature of the Nineteenth Century.’