Full text: Zeitungsausschnitte über Werke von Herman Grimm: Unüberwindliche Mächte

252 
The Examiner. 
© 
Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg, Best. 340 Grimm Nr. Z 36 
praised, and he learns to respect him 
self. Has he found his mission ? He 
accompanies Mr. Smith into the heart 
of the State of New York, and almost 
concludes to occupy himself there, in 
Smith’s behalf, as overseer of his lum 
ber business ; but at this crisis he 
makes a discovery, or thinks he makes 
one. 
Smith has always promised to relate 
his own family history. On board the 
Hudson River steamer, as they return 
to New York, he tells that his mother 
was a German woman ; that she was 
the daughter of a German pastor; but 
at the urgencies of a -young countess, 
she had entered her service, on her 
marriage, as lady’s maid. But she had 
been forced to leave her. The young 
countess’s lover had been hidden in her 
apartment. She had been obliged to 
bear the shame, for the countess had 
not had the nobility to tell the truth 
and defend her. Arthur has listened 
to this with some interest, for among 
his mother’s pictures had been the por 
trait. of a favorite lady’s maid, who had 
been suddenly dismissed from his 
mother’s service. Smith closes his 
narration with the exclamation, " I 
would like to meet the son of that 
count; I would ask him, ‘ Is the count 
indeed his father?’” On returning to 
Smith’s house, Arthur finds from seeing 
the picture of Smith’s mother, that she 
indeed was the trusted and loved ser 
vant of his mother. Smith’s question 
returns to his mind, " Is the count his 
father ? ” He falls directly into a brain 
fever. From this he recovers to re 
turn to Germany, and attempt to dis 
cover from family letters the history of 
his birth. He finds that his mother, 
before her marriage, did have a lover 
from whom she was separated by the 
machinations of an aunt. But who 
was he ? a peasant, or a nobleman ? 
and was he Arthur’s father ? 
This plot thus ingeniously brings up 
the pith of the question. A French 
romancer would have veiled the point 
more delicately; an English novelist 
would have feared the little shade of 
ridicule in which the hero is placed. 
But the position is this: Arthur feels 
that as the son of a count, he ought 
not stoop to labor ; it is a degradation. 
He must remember the long line of 
ancestors who have preceded him, who 
have done nothing in the world, but 
have held their place. “Noblesse oblige.” 
But if he is not a nobleman, if he is 
the son of a peasant? — the very 
thought frees him; he may do what he 
pleases with his life, may carve out his 
own title. Inspired by this idea, he 
presents himself to his old friend, Er 
win ; he makes himself known, not only 
by what he has to say of America and 
its free institutions, but by articles 
which he writes for the newspapers on 
the subject. 
The Prussian war breaks out. He 
enters into the contest with zeal. He 
leads a regiment — is wounded. Em 
my and her mother come out to meet 
him. The mother’s prejudices are set 
aside. The marriage is arranged. On 
the eve of his marriage Mrs. Forster 
comes to bring him the deeds of his 
family estate, which she has purchased. 
He finds it necessary to explain to her, 
what he fancied she already understood 
— the doubts upon his birth. Mrs. 
Forster is able to clear them; she is 
indignant at the stain these doubts 
bring upon the reputation of her hus 
band. She repeats her story. It is 
true, then, that he is the son of a count. 
The thought drives him into a fit of 
temporary madness. What, the old re 
straints are to come back, the old ques 
tionings ! Then is the same old line 
of ancestors to make its claim upon 
him ! He wanders out by night to the 
old family estate. Towards morning 
his brain grows clearer. An ideal of 
life rises before him. He will accept 
his nobility. He will tear down the 
old castle, with its harrowing associa- 
Grimm's “Invincible Powers” 
263 
tions, he will cultivate the estate, he 
will live for the good of his country. 
It is too late ! as he utters these reso 
lutions to his friend Erwin, who has 
come to find him, he is struck down by 
the shot of a bastard peasant, who 
has claimed to be the son of the count. 
Emmy and her mother have happily 
followed him, and Emmy receives his 
last sigh. Arthur’s vacillating life has 
come to an end, and it remains for his 
friends to build up a fancy of what he 
might have achieved. 
One of the pleasantest episodes of 
the book comes in at the close of the 
war, when Arthur is taken wounded 
from the hospital to a German castle, 
by a countess who entertains him kind 
ly because he is a count. Here we 
have a description of petty court life, 
where there is a little social circle of 
dilettanti who talk upon art, and court 
ladies who gossip of princesses ; where 
the quiet, beautifully arranged park has 
the charm of nature cultivated by a re 
fined art; where time flows on in easy 
channels, and life is softened by refine 
ment ; where the great questions of 
the day, if they are touched upon, are 
approached in a placid way, and looked 
at as from without. Here Arthur pass 
es some weeks, forgetting for a time 
the fresher and more energetic ideas 
he had brought from America. This 
is designedly a picture painted in con 
trast with a country scene in America, 
represented in the second volume, where 
the pioneer had hewed out, himself, the 
timber for his house, and had opened a 
wide landscape of mountain and forest; 
where the talk was on subjects as wide 
as the scenery and as fresh and elevat 
ing. 
The author makes an occasional mis 
take in portraying his American hero 
ine. A foreigner finds difficulties in 
understanding what he considers the 
boldness of manner of our American 
women. He does not appreciate that 
it is the deference of American men 
that permits the women to be more 
free. An American girl is not neces 
sarily more bold in her bearing towards 
her lover than is a German maiden, 
but the courtesy of American men al 
lows her more freedom in public. A 
Frenchman may be more polite to a 
woman than an American, but he does 
not respect her so much, aud his bear 
ing is influenced by this. An Ameri 
can young lady would not be more 
likely to visit her lover at his house 
with a comparative stranger, than 
would a German Fraulein. Yet she 
might venture a long journey alone for 
his sake, not from her own boldness, 
but from the consciousness that she 
would be everywhere treated with 
respect. 
Yet Grimm’s characterizations of 
American society are happy, and he 
presents clearly the difficulties as well 
as the welcome that the German would 
meet with in entering it. 
At the same time there is no adu 
lation of American institutions. The 
refinement of the older world is often 
contrasted favorably for the latter. It 
is this impartial study of the modes 
of social thought in the Old and New 
World that form the value of the book 
to both Americans and Germans. 
This novel is no more voluminous 
than some of the later English novels. 
It is far superior to some of these, 
those of the Edmund Yates school for 
instance, because it presents higher 
questions of life. If the two classes 
of novels are true pictures of the life 
they represent, we should be led to 
conclude from the way in which it ap 
proaches these graver questions that 
German society at present is on the 
higher plane. This book presents a 
study of far more interest than that of 
the coarse women and effeminate men 
who figure in this second-rate class of 
English novels ; and we await with in 
terest the solution that a few years will 
bring. In the death of his hero, Her-
	        

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