Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 8. The German Influence; Karl Beck; Karl Follen

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXV. Scholars

§ 8. The German Influence; Karl Beck; Karl Follen

German scholarship did not come to these shores until after Americans had gone abroad to get it. The German immigration to New York and Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century brought few scholars. It was not until 1824 that the pioneers of the riper German culture, Karl Beck (1798–1866) and Karl Follen (1785–1840), arrived, at a time when Everett, Ticknor, Cogswell, and Bancroft had all returned from their studies in Germany. Follen and Beck, like Pietro Bachi, who came a year later, emigrated in consequence of the disturbances that attended the end of the Napoleonic régime. Follen had taken part in the war of liberation and had been one of the founders of the Burschenschaften. Charged with complicity in the assassination of Kotzebue, he made his escape to Switzerland, and then to Paris. There he fell in with his friend Karl Beck, likewise a refugee, and the two together came to America. Upon the recommendation of Ticknor, Beck was appointed teacher of Latin and gymnastics in the Round Hill School at Northampton, Massachusetts. In 1832 he became professor of Latin at Harvard, where he remained until his death in 1866. Upon Ticknor’s recommendation, too, Follen was appointed instructor in German at Harvard—the first to teach that subject there. He soon became a citizen, was highly esteemed among the Boston liberals, was a friend of W. E. Channing and of James Freeman Clarke, and himself entered the Unitarian ministry. In 1830 he was advanced to a full professorship of the German Language and Literature, which, however, was endowed for a period of five years only. He published a German reader (1826) and a German grammar (1828). His loss of his Harvard position is thought to have been due to his anti-slavery propaganda; and thenceforth he threw himself still more enthusiastically into speechmaking and preaching.