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Gottfried Keller (1819–1890). The Banner of the Upright Seven.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Criticisms and Interpretations. II. By Calvin Thomas

UP to a dozen years before his death Keller had received little attention in Germany; to-day there is a library of books about him, and he is universally considered a fixed star of high magnitude. While he was an ardent Swiss republican, and while the life that he depicts is almost exclusively Swiss, the Germans of the empire have pretty generally accepted him as their greatest master of prose fiction since Goethe.

Keller was a romantic realist with the soul of a poet, the eye of a man of science, and the temperament of an artist who loves life in all its manifestations. But this leaves his humour out of the account, and his humour is precisely the best part of him. In a broad sense he is didactic—like Goethe; that is, he felt that it was his mission to comprehend and describe the character of his Swiss countrymen, to the end of furthering them toward higher ideals of communal life. But this attitude never clouds his vision for the facts. He sees at every pore, as Emerson said of Goethe. He does not select ugliness for special or angry scrutiny, any more than he avoids it through excess of daintiness, but takes all things as they come. What he offers is not medicine but food—the nourishment of sane and delightful art. But no one should go to him for an exciting narrative. His spell is not in his plot. In “Green Henry,” particularly, his pace is so very leisurely that one sometimes wishes there were not so many little things to be taken note of by the way.—From “A History of German Literature” (1909).