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stitution needs mending, then all the country knows that at that moment money is tight among the Seldwylers. Besides this they like to change their opinions and principles, and are always in opposition the very day after a new government has been chosen. If it be too radical, to vex it, they range themselves round the conservative pious parson of the town, whom only yesterday they turned into ridicule, court him, crowd his church, praise his sermons, and hawk about his tracts and Bâle Missionary Society reports, without, however, contributing a farthing. If, on the other hand, a half-way conservative government is in power, at once they gather round their schoolmaster, and the parson has to pay a heavy sum to the glazier. Should, however, a government of liberal jurists and rich men be at the helm, at once they combine with the nearest socialists and elect them into the council, demanding a veto, and direct self-government with permanent assemblies. But very soon they are tired of this, speak as though they are weary of public life, and let half a dozen sleepy old bankrupts attend to the elections, while they lounge in taverns, watching their labors, and laughing in their sleeves. Yesterday they were enthusiastic for confederate life, and righteously indignant that absolute national unity was not established in 1848; to-day they are as ardent for cantonal sovereignty, and send no representatives to the national council. Occasionally, when they carry things too far, and their agitations and motions threaten the peace, the government sends a commission of inquiry to regulate the management of the Seldwyla communal property. This always subdues them, they have to look after affairs at home, and danger is averted. All this causes them great pleasure, which is only exceeded by the annual festivity, when the young wine ferments and the whole place smells of must, and there is a devil of a noise about, and the Seldwylers are more good-for-nothing than usual. Yet it is a curious fact that, the more good-for-nothing a Seldwyler is at home, the better he becomes when he goes out into the world, and quits the warm, sunny valley in which he has not thriven.
That a strange merry town like this lends itself to all manner of strange careers is not astonishing. Of these, as Keller says in his preface, he proposes to narrate a few, which, though in some senses exceptional, yet could not have happened except at Seldwyla. Now, Seldwyla is not a real town, as we have said, but a typical one; still it is characteristic of its truth to nature that in the preface to his second volume, published fifteen years after the first, the author tells us that seven towns in Switzerland have been disputing as to which of them is intended
by Seldwyla, and each has offered to bestow upon him its freedom if he will only pronounce in its favor. To appease them, since he already has a home of his own which is as proud as their ambitious communes, he tells them that in every town and valley in Switzerland stands a tower of Seldwyla; that this spot is a combination of many such towns, and must be regarded as imaginary. Some have suggested that it is Rapperschwyl. The stories are obviously laid near the Lake of Zurich. But Keller will be betrayed into no geographical definitions. However, while these towns seek to secure their Homer during his lifetime, a greater change has come over the real Seldwyla in the course of the last ten years than has occurred for centuries. Or rather, to speak more correctly, the general life of the land has so shaped itself that the peculiar faculties of the Seldwylers have found a fruitful field for due development, so that they have become more like other people. This is especially recognizable in the growth of speculation in stocks, a lazy business that just suits their temperament. But since that time they laugh less, are monosyllabic, have little time to spare for jokes or playing tricks. Instead of bankruptcies with disgrace attached to them, they now arrange with their creditors. Politics they have almost abandoned, because they think these lead 'to war. Already the Seldwylers are like every one else, nothing more of interest occurs among them. Therefore the author in a second volume has gathered in an aftermath from the past events of the little town. Each volume contains five stories. "Romeo and Juliet of the Village" is the gem of the series; indeed, it deserves the palm above all else that Keller has ever penned. The story opens with a carefully detailed picture of two worthy Swiss peasants who, on a fine September morning, are plowing their respective fields. These fields lie touching each other on a slope of the river that runs near the town. Between their properties lies a like piece of ground, but it was barren and only covered with stones and weeds. And the rubbish seems likely to accumulate, for each peasant throws on these unclaimed acres whatever encumbers his own fields. Thus they plow on, until mid-day, when a little hand-cart comes up from the village, drawn by a boy of seven and a little girl of six. It contains the dinner of the two men, and among the food thrones a naked one-legged doll. The men halt from their labor, and sit down in a furrow to discuss their meal. Their conversation turns upon the middle field, and each tells the other how the commune has tried to induce him to pay rent for it until its lawful owner should appear. No one has yet claimed it, but they feel pretty well convinced it must belong to a certain
and be placed in the public asylum. His house and remaining acre are sold to pay his creditors, and Vrenchen must go out into the world and earn her living. As she sadly ponders this, the last day in the empty, lonely house, thinking of Sali, he comes in. In vain they try to cheer each other; their future looks too drear, they must part, and yet they feel that separated they can know no joy. In her despair the fancy seizes Vrenchen that she must dance once more with Sali, must spend one more day of happiness; then, come what may, she will bear it. Tomorrow is Kermess at a neighboring placecould they not go? Sali consents. Early next day he fetches her, and she quits her empty, desolate home. They pass through a wood, they halt at a wayside inn, they linger beside streams, they talk and are silent in turns. It is such a happy day, as bright in their hearts as the cloudless sky above their heads! When afternoon comes they join the dancers. The black fiddler leads the music, he smiles as he perceives them. On and on they dance; the moon rises and floods the floor with light, midnight comes and the guests leave, and still Vrenchen and Sali can not make up their minds to part. Indeed, it has grown only harder. The fiddler interposes; they are foolish children, he says, he will advise them. He and his friends are returning to the mountains, they will give them bridal escort, he will furnish the music, and once among the houseless folk they will need no forms to celebrate their wedding. He works upon their feelings till they consent, almost without knowing what they do, and the wild procession goes out into the night singing and playing. But as they pass Vrenchen's former home Sali's reason returns. He detains the girl, and they manage to escape unperceived. But as the frenzied notes of the fiddle fade into the distance and all is still around them, Sali says, "We have fled from these, but how shall we flee from ourselves?" With passionate ardor Vrenchen implores him never to leave her. For a time Sali keeps his reason, but his love and her ardor are too strong for his young blood. After all, he counts but nineteen years. There is only one thing they can do, he says, hold their wedding at this hour, and then perish together in the river. They find a haybarge anchored to the shore; Sali looses it, they step into the soft fragrant mass, and the boat floats slowly down stream, past woods through which the moonlight glints, past dark meadows, past sleeping farms. At chill daybreak two pale figures, holding each other in a tight embrace, slip into the river, and when the sun has fully risen the boat comes to a standstill at the nearest town. It is empty, and none can tell how it came thither.
black fiddler who lives with the homeless folk and can produce no baptismal certificate, for he is the very image of the owner who disappeared from Seldwyla many years ago. It is a pity for the soil to let it lie thus fallow, they agree. While they eat and talk, the children have been playing in the desert field, until in the hot noonday sun both drop to sleep exhausted. Meantime the fathers have finished plowing, but before leaving work each tears a deep furrow into the middle field that adjoins his own. Neither takes notice of the other's deed, though each sees what the other has done. Harvest succeeds harvest, and each year sees the ownerless field grow narrower and narrower; the stones upon it have risen to a ridge so high that the boy and girl, though they have grown taller, can no longer see across it when they come to visit their fathers at their work. Years pass. The commune decides that the waste land must be sold. Manz and Marti, the two peasants, are the only people who care to bid for it, every one in Seldwyla knowing how the ground had become reduced. Finally it is knocked down to Manz, who instantly complains that Marti has lately cut off a three-cornered piece of the land that is now his, and summons him to straighten the boundary. A violent altercation ensues, and a lawsuit is finally commenced that robs both men of their sound judgment, impoverishes their estates, wastes their time, and only ends in their mutual ruin. The hatred between them, of course, hinders the meeting of their children. Moreover, Manz leaves Seldwyla. After some years Sali meets Vrenchen, and the old childish love is reawakened. Their delight at meeting is great, but Vrenchen fears lest her father should learn that she is speaking to his enemy's son. She begs Sali be gone, and at last promises to meet him on their old play-ground. Here they are interrupted by the black fiddler. He greets them with a sardonic smile. He knows them, he says; they are the children of those who have robbed him of his land. Well, they will come to no good, he feels sure, and he will live to see them go the way of all flesh before him. Nevertheless, if they wish to dance, he is willing to fiddle. This sinister apparition casts a gloom over their meeting, but it does not last long. Vrenchen's joyous nature casts off the angry omen with a merry laugh, and the two chatter away, bemoan their fathers' hatred, and regret the glad days spent on this spot. In happy talk they pass the afternoon sitting in the high corn, listening to the singing of the lark, and dreaming day-dreams as fervent as her song. Here Marti finds them. Furious with both, he insults Sali, who loses all self-control, and hurls a stone at Marti that strikes him down senseless. He recovers, but only to prove a hopeless idiot,
Such this story, which is told with simple earnestness and pathos. Its construction is masterly. This, however, is far from being the case as a rule. In point of construction there is usually much to condemn in Keller: it is often lax and shapeless, his stories are apt to plunge like fairy tales into the midst of their subject. He seems to fancy that we too are Seldwylers and have known our neighbors and their concerns since childhood, that it is only needful to mention so-and-so for the whole bearings to rise up before us. This literalness, however, throws so powerful an air of reality over Keller's creations that even when these points are exaggerated we do not feel the exaggeration as we read, but are carried along by the stream of his persuasive plausibility. Into the "Romeo and Juliet" there enters no element of the burlesque, rarely absent from Keller's stories. Its Nemesis is Hellenic in its remorselessness. Nor is there anything forced or unnatural in the feelings and acts of these youthful peasants.
"Frau Regel Amrain and her Youngestborn" is a loosely framed tale, showing how a worthy, practical woman saved her son from the devious career of the Seldwyla youths, and converted him into a worthy burgher. The feeling of public spirit is strongly developed in the Swiss, where it is every man's duty to hold views upon the government and assist in it. And this is admirably brought out here. In "The Three Righteous Combmakers" Keller lets loose all his fun and extravagance, and inimitable it is to read. It is an excellent skit upon apparent probity of conduct unrooted in true morality, the counterfeit for which the real thing is often mistaken. These three phlegmatic and avaricious young combmakers try to establish a good name in Seldwyla, because each wishes to succeed his master in the business. They all appear so excellent the master can not choose between them, yet neither can he afford to keep more than one in his employ. He therefore proposes an absurd race to decide the matter, and all Seldwyla turns out to see the fun, which, as usual, they think is got up for their especial delectation. A canny old maid, the possessor of some money, has also been wooed by the three. She favors none, for she is resolved only to marry the one that will become the master. When she hears of the proposed race she joins her admirers and befools each in turn until she is at last herself befooled, and is made to accept the man she least favored, and who wins both business and bride by a happy ruse. Thus baldly told, it is impossible to convey an adequate idea of the absurdity of the story, which, narrated in Keller's quiet tone of realism, carries us along over all buffoonery, so that while we read we fully believe. Neither do
Keller's novelettes run in the usual groove, and love is by no means always or often the pivot of his plots. A poor tailor who is leaving Seldwyla in search of work is the hero of "Clothes make the Man." This tailor has the weakness always to dress in a long cloak and a Polish fur cap, which give an air of distinction to his appearance, and lead to his being mistaken for a count. The incident is trivial and hackneyed, not so its development. The stupefied assent of the tailor to the honors that are heaped upon him leads to many absurd situations. Though we despise the man's initial weakness that led him step by step into a web of falsehood, the story is so ingeniously told that we can never withhold our sympathy, and are relieved when all ends well and he wins a rich bride, who having deemed him a count remains faithful to a tailor. The way in which he is unmasked is characteristically Swiss. It is the custom in various parts of the country for the young people of the towns to divert themselves in winter with masquerade sledge-processions. Such a procession a few winters ago started from Samaden in the Engadine and visited the neighboring towns, parodying the past and present of that district—the sledges of the past bearing the herdsmen, the spinningwheels, Alpine horns, and dairy utensils of former days; the sledges of the present containing tourists, red guide-books in hand, or armed with Alpenstöcke, ropes, and ice-axes, waiters and landlords bearing bills of endless length. And such a procession, starting from Seldwyla, proceeded to Goldach to open the eyes of its inhabitants to the real status of their presumed Polish count. Their cavalcade represented a very history of tailoring, depicting tailors of all times and nations. The foremost sledge bore the inscription "Men make Clothes," the last, "Clothes make Men." To the confusion of the luckless workman, the party parade before him as he is about to celebrate his wedding. A gentle touch of irony runs through the whole, revealing how the Swiss, like their brother republicans the Americans, attach great value to titles. "Faber Fortunæ suæ (“The Smith of his Fortune ") is a trifle too broad, but it contains some ludicrous scenes. We are not told whether John Kabys knew this proverb-he certainly from boyhood built his life upon the idea. How he sets about achieving his fortune without doing real work for the same, and how his attempts end in grievous failures, must be read to be enjoyed. The serious close surprises in such a pure extravaganza. John ends by being a nailsmith who late in life learns to know the happiness of modest labor and honest earnings.
"The Misused Love-Letters " is a medley of comedy and idyl. Here we are introduced to
one of those oddities Seldwyla breeds. Viggi Störteler, a shrewd and respectable merchant, has the maggot to be thought learned, and by and by even aspires to authorship. Under the pseudonym of "Kurt of the Forest" he produces some wretched high-flown novelettes, concocted with ideas stolen from various sources, and a tenth-rate paper publishes his lucubrations. He now thinks himself an author, and desires that his good homely wife should rise to his level, and become educated to be his muse. He plies her in vain with old anthologies and extract-books. They convey no meaning to the good housewife accustomed to look after her domestic concerns and lead an active life. No suggestive utterances fall from her lips. Viggi now thinks a correspondence might rouse her. He has a business journey to make, and will write her romantic letters, to which she must reply. On no account, he enjoins, must domestic or trivial details creep into the letters; these she can add on a separate sheet. The despair of Grittli is great when a few hours after her husband's departure there comes a missive of the most high-flown, turgid phrases that were ever bred in the brain of a foolish man. And to this she is to reply in a like strain. In despair she bethinks herself of her neighbor, an usher, who has the reputation of being a poetical dreamer, and who had often cast admiring eyes at the handsome young woman next door. Copying her husband's letter and changing it so that it reads as if addressed to a man, she puts it into the youth's hands and begs him to let her have an answer. She meant no harm: the usher was held fair game by the women-folk of Seldwyla, to all of whom he was more or less devoted. In due course William returns her an answer, in no wise behind her husband in sentimentality, and far exceeding it in sense and in reality of feeling. This letter Grittli copies, making the needful changes of sex. Her foolish husband is beside himself with joy when he gets this reply, and instantly writes another yet longer and more bombastic epistle. Grittli again has recourse to William. So for some weeks the twofold comedy of errors is played on, Viggi remaining absent longer than he had meant in order that a sufficient number of these letters may accumulate, for he intends to publish them as The Correspondence of Two Contemporaries." Meantime Grittli counts on William's good nature not to be hurt when he hears the whole thing is a joke. Indeed, she has hinted as much to him from the first. But William takes it seriously. One warm autumn day, as he is sitting in the wood, he is suddenly surprised by Viggi Störteler, who has come home unexpectedly. Wishing to avoid him, he rises and walks away, but unfortunately he leaves VOL. VIII.-35
his pocket-book behind him containing Grittli's letters. This Viggi finds, and, hoping to receive some ideas from the contents, reads with growing astonishment and anger as he recognizes his own words and his wife's writing. He storms home, will listen to no reason, and turns Grittli out of the house. Both sue for divorce, which is accorded on the ground of incompatibility, and Grittli's character is fully reestablished, while Viggi is the general mark for ridicule. William, however, is dismissed from his post as an unfit guide for youth. He leaves Seldwyla and farms a lonely plot of land some hours distant. In due time he becomes a worthy, steady character. He still loves Grittli, and she has grown to love him. The story of their courtship and ultimate marriage is a prose pastoral that makes us forget the ludicrous opening of the tale. While in the former part we are in a false and distorted atmosphere, here a breeze which has come across Alpine flowers and pure meadow-heights animates the whole. As a skit upon the pretensions of would-be authors, the story contains masterly touches, such as when Viggi is always on the search for ideas and characteristics which he carefully notes down, or when he passes an evening with authors of his sort, in whose conversations the words clique, honorarium, publisher, editor, paper, are the most prominent, while books are only read for business, and the classical writers are barely known by name. In "Dietegen" the scene is laid at the close of the fifteenth century, and deals with the feuds between Seldwyla and a neighboring town, totally unlike it in character. The connecting links are two children, and here again Keller displays his marvelous insight into the complex workings of the childlike mind. His children are singularly real, neither abnormally good nor naughty, but actual flesh and blood, little mortals foreshadowing their future failings and virtues. And these children remain true to their first draught: the youth and maiden are the parents of the boy and girl. And every incident in their lives and in the hostile attitude of the two towns is rendered with the same fidelity to nature. "Dietegen" is a complete and well-rounded composition, containing some dainty scenes and picturesque sketches of mediæval life, with its beauty and its cruelty. While "Dietegen" takes us into the Switzerland of the middle ages, "The Lost Laugh" shows us its modern aspect, its political agitations, its commercial activity, its religious dissensions. The story opens with a national fête upon the Lake of Zurich, at which the hero and heroine first meet. The parents of the latter are silk-manufacturers; the former has tried all manner of trades, but has settled to none. This, however, in Switzerland does not necessarily characterize a good-for
nothing as it would with us. There various callings are not so sharply separated. A merchant will turn clergyman, a clergyman merchant, an officer a silk-weaver, without losing caste. Thus Jucundus is no turncoat, but a versatile and restless youth, who, however, proves not sufficiently worldly wise to cope with others, and nearly comes to grief. The story is loosely put together, and often halts to allow of disquisitions. Yet these are always put into the mouths of the various characters. The author never obtrudes. Nevertheless, we may safely infer that here we gain an insight into Keller's views on the burning questions of the day. We see his ardent Liberalism, his hatred of formalism in any shape, his dislike to phrase-making and the ritual observances which have invaded even the plain Church of Calvin. In "The Lost Laugh" it is particularly prominent how Keller's mind has a gait of its own, so that the development of his stories is often slow of growth, and his grasp, though penetrating, seems at times a little uncertain in outline. Consequently he is apt to deviate, but in the end he generally gathers up all his threads, and we come to understand the hidden reason of apparent digressions. The Swiss character, with its healthy and often jejune common sense, its national self-consciousness and democratic pride, its absence of abstract range of thought, its stolidity, its true-heartedness and sturdy honesty, is reproduced in the various characters of this story.
Between the publication of the first and second volumes of The People of Seldwyla" falls a work of a somewhat different kind, namely, a cycle of "Seven Legends." These stories (“Märchen ") are perhaps the most individual of Keller's productions, in which his comic instincts, his mirth, now purely genial, now underlaid with earnestness, his fantastic humors, have full play. The legends are all constructed upon the basis of Church traditions. In some cases Keller has merely expanded these, in others he has caught the spirit and form of the narrative but changed the conditions. The fundamental idea, however, is in all cases subverted. It is the human and natural elements in man that are made to triumph over the unnatural asceticisms of religious fanatics. We are shown how enthusiasm can be carried to an absurd pitch; how, when love interposes, the subject succumbs to natural emotions and is brought back to earth. Their whole purport is to show that while we are in the world we must do the world's work, and have no right thus to withdraw ourselves from its duties and temptations for the selfish gratification of our own inclinations. Keller is a freethinker in the best and noblest sense of the word, a profoundly religious soul unfettered by forms, and it is
against the worship of mere forms that he combats in these legends. But his purpose is hidden under airy conceits, and it is possible to read and enjoy these dainty stories without a guess at their deeper aim. Written in the spirit of the middle ages, which saw no irreverence in familiarity with divine things, they are carried out in the pure and delicate spirit of noble humanism. Perhaps the most racy and original is Keller's amplification of the old legend told by St. Gregory of Nyssa, of Musa, the girl who loved dancing and was forbidden by the Virgin to exercise her pastime upon earth. In accordance with the records of the same Church father, the nine Muses were permitted to quit hell once a year and enter heaven. Keller has availed himself of this notion, and depicts the manner in which this one day was spent. The Muses, in gratitude for this annual respite from torment, compose a hymn of praise, which they propose to perform the next time they are admitted within the precincts of paradise. Words and melody are modeled upon the psalms they hear the angels sing. But, alas! the earth-tones, the earth-yearnings, the minor key of unfulfilled desires and aspirations so sobs through their composition that what seemed cheerful sounds like wailing when heard in heaven. Their hymn creates a disturbance, and the nine are thenceforth banished from heaven for all time. The semi-comic, semimournful manner in which this incident is told is incomparable, and so is the roguish gravity, the quiet, unforced satire, that runs through these seven tales.
We now come to the last book published by Keller. He is not, therefore, as we see, a prolific writer, and hence has the right to be heard, as he only speaks when he has something to say. "Zurich Novelettes" ("Zürcher Novellen ") is the collective title of the series. The fair city of Zurich was till lately full of old-fashioned ways and things, and boasts a long and agitated history, which furnishes rich matter to a chronicler. Keller traces this from mediæval times down to the present day, connecting the whole by a loose framework, which probably serves an allegorical purpose. The stories are supposed to be told by a godfather to his godson, Jaques, a youth whose one desire it was to be an original, and who had read, to his sorrow, that our modern conditions do not produce originals, but that all people are alike, as though turned out by the dozen. He was determined to make an attempt to rise above this modern curse. He had various projects for achieving distinction. He had already planned a new Ovid, which was to deal with the metamorphoses of nymphs and mortals into the plants and dyes used in his father's factory, only somehow the subject was not inspiring, and the book