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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 101, 102, 103, & 104

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 19 April 1768[101.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 One hundred and first through one hundred and fourth? – I had intended for the year’s run of these pages to consist of just a hundred essays. To be sure, fifty-two weeks and two essays a week come out to a hundred and four. But why should the weekly journalist alone among all wage-workers get no holidays? And just four in a year, that’s hardly any!

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 But Dodsley and Company have explicitly promised the public, in my name, a hundred and four essays.[101.2] I must not make these good people liars.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The only question is: how do I best begin? – The material is already cut; I’ll have to either patch it or stretch it. – But that sounds so amateurish. I have an idea that should have occurred to me right away: it is the actor’s custom of having a small afterpiece that follows the main performance. The afterpiece can be about anything at all, and it does not have to have any connection with what preceded it. – Such an afterpiece, then, shall fill the pages I wanted to spare myself.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 First a word about myself! For why shouldn’t an afterpiece be permitted a prologue, starting with a “poeta cum primum animum ad scribendum appulit”?[101.3]

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 When, some time ago, a few good people here had the idea of trying to see whether something more could be done for the German theater than could happen under the direction of a so-called principal, they thought of me – I have no idea why – and allowed themselves to dream that I could somehow be useful to this undertaking.[101.4] – I was just standing idly by in the marketplace, no one wanted to hire me, doubtless because no one knew what to do with me, except these friends![101.5] – Thus far, no occupation has really held much interest for me. I have never asked for or even offered my services for anything; but at the same time I have never rejected out of hand anything for which I am believed to be well-matched.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Did I want to contribute to the improvement of the theater here? That was easily answered. My only reservations were whether I could, and how I might best do so.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 I am neither an actor nor a playwright.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 It is true I am sometimes accorded the honor of being identified as the latter. But only because I am misjudged. One ought not to draw such a generous conclusion from the few attempts at drama I have ventured. Not everyone who takes up a brush and spreads a bunch of color around is a painter. The oldest attempts were written at that time of life in which we so willingly mistake delight and prolific ease for genius. All that is tolerable in my more recent attempts is due, I am well aware, to criticism alone. I do not feel in myself the living spring that works its way up by virtue of its own energy, and bursts forth, under its own force, in such rich, fresh, and pure streams.[101.6] I have to force everything up and out of myself with the use of pumps and pipes. I would be very poor, cold, and shortsighted, had I not to some extent learned how to unobtrusively borrow foreign treasures, warm myself at foreign fires, and strengthen my eyes through the glasses of art. As such, I was always ashamed or upset when I read or heard something against criticism. It was said to stifle genius, and yet I flattered myself that I had obtained from it something that comes very near to genius. I am a lame man who cannot possibly be edified by an invective against crutches.[101.7]

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Yet, of course, just as crutches can help a lame man move from one place to another, but cannot turn him into a runner, so it is with criticism. If, with its help, I can bring something into being that is better than what someone with my talents would do without criticism, yet nonetheless it costs me too much time, I must be free of other business and uninterrupted by external distractions, I must have all my reading at the ready, and I must, at every step, be able to calmly rifle through all of the observations I have ever made regarding customs and passions. As such, no one in the world could be less suited than I to labor to entertain the theater with novelty.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 I must therefore take a pass at doing for the German theater what Goldoni did for the Italian in enriching it with thirteen new plays in one year.[101.8] Indeed, I would take a pass at it even if I could do it. I am more distrustful of first thoughts than even de la Casa or the old Shandy ever were.[101.9] For even if I do not take them to be the temptations of the evil one,[*][101.10] whether we take that literally or allegorically, I still believe that first thoughts are the first, and that the best does not always tend to float on the top of every soup. My first thoughts are surely not a jot better than the average man’s; and the wise thing for the average man to do with those first thoughts is to keep them under wraps.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 At last someone hit upon the idea of using me for the very thing that makes me such a slow, or – as it seems to my more energetic friends – lazy worker: criticism. And thus originated the idea for this journal.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 I liked this idea. It reminded me of the didaskalia of the Greeks, that is, of the short reports, which even Aristotle thought worthwhile to write, about the plays of the Greek stage. It reminded me of how I once long ago laughed to myself at the highly learned Casaubon, who, out of deep respect for concrete knowledge, imagined that Aristotle primarily wrote his didaskalia in order to rectify the chronology.[†] [101.11] – Truly, it would have been an eternal disgrace to Aristotle if he had concerned himself more with the poetic value of the plays, with their influence on morals, and with the education of taste, than with the year of the Olympiad, the Olympiad itself, and the names of the Archons under whom those plays were first performed![101.12]

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 I had the intention of calling this journal the “Hamburg Didaskalia.” But this title sounded too foreign to me, and now I am very glad that I preferred the present one. What I wanted to include or not include in a Dramaturgy was up to me; at least Lione Allacci had nothing to dictate to me on the subject.[101.13] But the scholars claim to know what a didaskalia ought to look like, even if it is only from Terence’s extant Didascaliae, which Casaubon called “brevitur & eleganter scriptas.”[101.14] I had no desire to write my Didaskalia either so briefly or elegantly, and our present-day Casaubons would certainly have shaken their heads when they discovered how seldom I commemorated some chronological incident that could, one day in the future, shed light on some historical fact when millions of other books had been lost. In which year of the reign of Louis XIV or Louis XV, and whether in Paris or at Versailles, and whether in the presence of blood royalty or not, this or that French masterpiece was first performed – they would have searched for this in my work and, to their great astonishment, not have found it.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 I explained in my Notice what these pages were rather to be; my readers will know what they have actually become.[101.15] Not exactly what I promised to make them: something else, but yet, I think, nothing worse.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 “It will follow every step here that is relevant to the art of both the writer and the actor.”

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 I very quickly grew weary of the last part. We have actors, but no art of acting.[101.16] If there ever were such an art, it is gone; we have lost it; it must be entirely reinvented. There is plenty of general commentary on the subject in many languages; but specific, universally acknowledged rules that are clearly and precisely formulated and by which the criticism or praise of an actor in any particular case may be justified? Of these I can think of perhaps two or three. That is why all arguments on this subject seem dithering and ambivalent; that is why it is really not surprising that the actor with a successful career may find himself injured from all sides. He will believe himself criticized too much and never praised enough; all too often, he will not even know for certain whether someone intends to criticize or praise him. It has long been noted overall that the sensitivity of artists with regard to criticism increases in exact proportion to the decrease in the certainty and clarity and number of principles of their art. – So much for my excuses, on my own account and on account of those without whom I would not have to excuse myself.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 But the first part of my promise? With regard to that, admittedly, the “here” has not much come into consideration – and how could it have? The gates had hardly opened, and people already wanted to see the competitors at their goal, a goal that continually got set farther and farther away.[101.17] When the public asks: “so what has really taken place?” and answers itself with a sarcastic, “nothing,” then I ask in reply: “and what has the public done, then, to make it possible for something to happen?” Also nothing, and in fact, something even worse than nothing. The public not only did not encourage the work, it didn’t even allow it to run its natural course. – And about the well-intentioned idea of creating a national theater for the Germans, when we Germans are not yet a nation! I am not talking about our political constitution, but rather simply about our moral character. You could almost say this consists of: not wanting to have one of our own at all. We remain the sworn imitators of everything foreign, and in particular the subservient admirers of the never sufficiently admired French. Everything that comes to us from that side of the Rhine is beautiful, charming, lovely, divine; we would rather deny our sight and hearing than find it otherwise; we would rather be persuaded to take clumsiness for spontaneity, insolence for grace, grimaces for expression, a jingle of rhyme for poetry, and howling for music than have the least doubt about the share of superiority in everything that is good and beautiful and noble and proper, that this amiable nation, this first among all nations in the world (as it likes to call itself so very modestly) has received from a just Fate. –

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 But this platitude is so trite, and its closer application could so easily become bitter, that I would rather cease now.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Thus, instead of tracing here the steps that the art of playwriting actually could have taken, I was compelled to dwell on those it would preliminarily have to take in order to be able to run its course with bigger and faster steps in the end. They were steps a lost man had to retrace in order to return to the right path and refocus upon his goal.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Everyone has the right to boast of his diligence: I believe I have studied the art of dramatic writing, studied it more than twenty who practice it. Moreover, I have practiced it as much as is needed to be permitted to have a judgment in the matter, for I know very well that, just as it is with the painter who does not like to be criticized by anyone who has no idea how to use a brush, so it is with the writer, too. I have at least made an attempt at what he must carry out and, though I cannot do it, I can still make a judgment about whether or not it can be done at all. I demand just a voice in this company, where so many who claim one would be more silent than fish if they had not learned to parrot what this or that foreigner had said.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 But a person can study – and indeed study himself deeply – into error. What reassures me that this has not happened to me, that I do not misunderstand the essence of the art of playwriting, is that I understand it exactly as Aristotle abstracted it from countless masterpieces of the Greek stage. I have my own thoughts about the origin and foundation of this philosopher’s Poetics that I could not express here without going on too long. Nevertheless, I do not hesitate to admit (even if I should be ridiculed for it in these enlightened times!) that I consider it to be just as infallible a work as Euclid’s Elements.[101.18] Its principles are just as true and certain, if not as easy to comprehend, and as a result they are more susceptible to chicanery than anything contained in that latter work. In particular with regards to tragedy, which is the subject by Aristotle that time has best preserved for us, I venture to prove incontrovertibly that we cannot distance ourselves the least bit from Aristotle’s guiding principles without distancing ourselves just as much from perfection.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Armed with this conviction, I set out to assess some of the most famous examples of French theater in detail. For this theater was supposedly formed entirely according to Aristotle’s rules; and in particular, this theater wanted to convince us Germans that it was only through observance of these rules that it attained that height of perfection from which it looks so far down on the theater of all other modern nations. And we have long believed this so firmly that, among our writers, imitating the French and writing according to the rules of antiquity have become one and the same thing.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Nevertheless, the prejudice could not hold up forever against our instincts. Happily, these were awakened from their slumber by some English plays, and we finally discovered that tragedy was capable of a completely different effect than the one Corneille and Racine wanted to assign it. But blinded by this sudden ray of truth, we rebounded against the edge of another precipice. Certain rules that had been made so familiar to us by the French plays were too obviously lacking in the English ones. What conclusion was drawn from this? This: that even without these rules, the aim of tragedy could be achieved, that in fact these rules could likely be at fault if one did not quite achieve that aim.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 And that could have sufficed! – But people started mixing up these rules with all rules, and declared that stipulating what genius should and should not do was simply pedantry. In short, we were at the point of willfully forfeiting all knowledge from past times and demanding that each writer reinvent the art for himself from scratch.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 I would be all too vain in crediting myself with having done some good for our theater if I were to believe I had hit upon the only means for inhibiting this fermentation of taste.[101.19] I can at least flatter myself that I have worked toward that, insofar as nothing was more important to me than challenging the French theater’s obsession with rules. No other nation has more misunderstood the rules of ancient drama than the French. They mistook as essential some of Aristotle’s passing observations regarding the most fitting external constitution of the drama, and thereby they so enfeebled what was essential through various restrictions and interpretations, that nothing could develop other than works that remained distant from the highest effect, which was the basis on which the philosopher had devised his rules.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 I will dare to say something here that you can take as you like! – Name me one play by the great Corneille that I could not do better. How much do you want to bet? –

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 But no, I do not want anyone to take this for boasting. So take careful note of what I add: I will do it better for certain – and yet still be no Corneille – and yet still not have written a masterpiece. I will do it better for certain – and yet pride myself little on it. I will have done nothing more than anyone else can do – anyone who has as much faith in Aristotle as I do.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 A barrel for our critical whales![101.20] I rejoice in advance over how splendidly they will play with it. It has been thrown out just for them alone, in particular for the little whale in Halle’s briny waters.[101.21]

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 And with this segue – it need not be any more clever – I shall allow the serious tone of the prologue to dissolve into that of the afterpiece for which I reserved these last pages. And who else could have reminded me that it was time to begin this afterpiece, other than that Herr Stl., who just announced its content in the German Library of Herr Privy Councilor Klotz? – [‡] [101.22]

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 But then what does the buffoon in the colorful little jacket get for being so obliging with his drum?[101.23] I do not recall that I promised him anything for it. He may simply drum for his own pleasure, and heaven knows where he gets all the things that the amiable young men in the streets who follow him with an admiring “Ah!” learn from him at first hand. He must have the spirit of divination, in spite of the maid in the story of the apostle.[101.24] For who else could have told him that the author of the Dramaturgy and its publisher are one and the same?[101.25] Who else could have uncovered to him the secret reasons why I attributed a sonorous voice to one actress, and so extolled the work of another?[101.26] Admittedly I was in love with both of them at the time, but I would never have thought a living soul could guess it. The ladies could not possibly have told him themselves, either, so I must be right about the spirit of divination. Indeed, woe to us poor writers when our noble gentlemen, the journalists and periodical writers, wish to plow with such calves![101.27] When, in forming their judgments, they not only draw on their customary learnedness and perspicacity but also avail themselves of little tricks drawn from the most secret magic – who can stand against them?

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Inspired by his goblin, Herr Stl. writes: “I would also be able to advertise the second volume of the Dramaturgy if the author’s treatise against the booksellers was not keeping him so busy that he could not finish the work on time.”[101.28]

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 One should not call a goblin a liar when he really isn’t one. What that evil thing has put into Herr Stl.’s head here is not entirely false. In fact, I had such a project in mind. I wanted to tell my readers why this work was interrupted so often, why it was only after two years, and with much trouble to boot, that I finished what I had promised to do in one year. I wanted to complain about piracy, by means of which they hit upon the most direct way to suffocate it at birth.[101.29] I wanted to make some observations about the adverse consequences of piracy in general. I wanted to propose the only way to prevent it.[101.30] – But would that then have been a treatise against the booksellers? Much rather one in their favor, at least for the upright men among them, and there are some. My good Herr Stl., do not always trust your goblin so completely! You can see: such a hostile vermin only knows half of what it seems to know about the future. –

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 But now enough of answering the fool according to his folly, lest he think himself wise.[101.31] For the very same person says: do not answer the fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him![101.32] That is: do not answer him according to his folly in such a way that the matter itself is forgotten in the process, for this would make you just like him. And so now I turn again to my serious reader, from whom I seriously beg pardon for these buffooneries.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 It is the absolute truth: the only reason the issuance of these pages was hitherto so delayed, and why it will now cease completely, is the piracy that was intended to make them more available for common use. Before I say another word about this, allow me to put aside the suspicion of my own self-interest. The theater itself advanced the expenses for the work, in the hope of regaining at least a sizable portion from its sale.[101.33] I don’t lose anything if this hope comes to naught. Moreover, I am not in the least bothered by the fact that I can no longer bring forth the material I gathered for its continuation. I remove my hand from this plow as gladly as I laid my hand to it. Klotz and company nevertheless wish I had never laid my hand to it, and we can easily find one among them who will keep the daily log of an unsuccessful enterprise to its end and show me what kind of periodical use I could and should have conferred upon such a periodical paper.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 For I neither can nor wish to hide the fact that these last lines have been written nearly a year later than the date indicates. The sweet dream of founding a National Theater here in Hamburg has once again evaporated, and as far as I now can tell about this place, it may actually be the last place where such a dream will be realized.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 But that, too, makes no difference to me! – In general I would not want to give the impression that I consider it a great misfortune when endeavors in which I have taken part have been thwarted. The very fact that I took part in them indicates that they cannot have been of any special importance. But what if endeavors of broader importance could fail through the same hostilities that made mine fail? The world loses nothing because I was only able to bring two volumes of Dramaturgy to light instead of five or six. But it could lose something if someday a more useful work by a better writer were brought to a similar standstill, and if there really were people who expressly formed a plan so that even the most useful work initiated under similar circumstances should, and necessarily must, meet with failure.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 In respect thereof, I do not hesitate, and consider it my duty, to denounce a particular conspiracy to the public. This very Dodsley and Company, who took the liberty of pirating the Dramaturgy, have for some time been circulating among the booksellers a written and printed document that reads, word for word:

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Message to the Messrs. Booksellers

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 With the assistance of various Gentleman Booksellers we have decided to forbid self-publishing from now on to those (like, for example, those several supposed businesses newly established in Hamburg and other places) who want to mingle in the book trade without the requisite qualifications, and we will reprint them without exception.[101.34] In addition, we will consistently reduce their established prices by half. These booksellers, who have joined this resolution and who have recognized that this kind of unauthorized interference would necessarily be detrimental to all booksellers, have resolved to establish a fund to support this proposal; to this end, they have already laid aside a goodly sum of money, with the request that they initially not be named, and yet at the same time with the promise to support it further. We anticipate the same toward the increase of the fund from the remaining group of well-intentioned booksellers, and we also highly recommend the services of our publishing house. We are unsurpassed with regards to quality of paper and printing; moreover, we will take care to keep a sharp eye on the countless number of blackmarketeers, to prevent each and every one from meddling and interfering in the book trade. We and the colleagues who have already joined us promise this much: that we will not reprint a single page from a legitimate bookseller without permission; but at the same time, we will be vigilant to ensure that as soon as a book is reprinted without permission from someone in our group, retaliatory measures will be inflicted not only on the illegitimate printers but also, and in no less measure, on those booksellers who undertake to sell their publications. We thus most respectfully request each and every one of the booksellers to get rid of every type of unauthorized reprint within one year after we have advertised the names of the Booksellers’ Society membership, or to expect to see their own best publications sold at half price or far less. For those booksellers who are members of our group and from whom something might be pirated, we will provide a sizeable recompense based on the proportion and proceeds of the fund. And thus we hope that, with the assistance of well-meaning booksellers, any remaining impropriety in the book trade will quickly subside.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 If circumstances permit, we will all come ourselves each year to the Easter book fair in Leipzig, and if not, we will still in that case give a commission. We commend ourselves to your good thoughts and remain your faithful colleagues,

J. Dodsley and Company

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 If this document contained nothing but an invitation to a more precise agreement among the booksellers, in order to prevent destructive piracy among themselves, then a man of letters could hardly deny them his approval. But how could it occur to reasonable and law-abiding people to give this plan such a reprehensible expansiveness? In order to put a stop to a couple of poor house thieves, they themselves want to become highway robbers? “They will pirate those who pirate them.” That may be, if the authorities will permit them to revenge themselves in this manner. But at the same time they want to “forbid self-publishing.” Who are these people who want to forbid it? Do they have the courage to confess to this crime under their real names? Has self-publishing ever been forbidden anywhere? And how can it be forbidden? What law can infringe on the learned man’s right to draw as much benefit from his own personal work as he possibly can? “But they mingle in the book trade without the requisite qualifications.” What are these requisite qualifications, anyway? To spend five years learning to tie up packages from some man who doesn’t know how to do anything except tie packages? And who may not mingle in the book trade? Since when is the book trade a guild? What are its exclusive privileges? Who accorded those privileges to them?[101.35]

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 If Dodsley and Co. complete their piracy of the Dramaturgy, I beg them at least not to mutilate my work, but rather to reproduce faithfully what they find written against them here. I will not blame them if they want to attach their defense – if any defense is possible.[101.36] Moreover, they may compose it (or have it composed by a man of letters who is low enough to lend them his pen) in any tone they like, even in that very interesting tone of the Klotz school, rich in all sorts of little histories and anecdotes and satires, without one word about the matter at hand. I will only declare in advance that it is a lie to insinuate at all that that I speak so heatedly against them out of injured self-interest. I never had anything printed at my own cost and doubt I will ever do so in my life. As I already said, I know more than one honest man among the booksellers to whose management I willingly hand over such business. But none of them should think ill of me for showing my disdain and hatred for people in comparison to whom highwaymen and ambushers are truly not the worst among men. For each of these makes his coup de main for himself alone, while Dodsley and Co. want to rob as part of a gang.[101.37]

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 The best thing is that only the minority will likely accept their invitation. Otherwise it would be time for men of letters to seriously consider undertaking the well-known Leibniz project.[101.38]

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 END OF THE SECOND VOLUME


47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 [*] “An opinion John de la Casa, archbishop of Benevento, was afflicted with – which opinion was, – that whenever a Christian was writing a book (not for his private amusement, but) where his intent and purpose was bona fide, to print and publish it to the world, his first thoughts were always the temptations of the evil one. – My father was hugely pleased with this theory of John de la Casa; and (had it not cramped him a little in his creed) I believe would have given ten of the best acres in the Shandy estate, to have been the broacher of it; – but as he could not have the honour of it in the literal sense of the doctrine, he took up with the allegory of it. Prejudice of education, he would say, is the devil &c.” (Life and Op. of Tristram Shandy Vol. V. p. 74).

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 [†] (Animadv. in Athenaeum Libr. VI. cap. 7) “Διδασκαλια accipitur pro eo scripto, quo explicatur ubi, quando, quomodo & quo eventu fabula aliqua fuerit acta. – Quantum critici hac diligentia veteres chronologos adjuverint, soli aestimabunt illi, qui norunt quam infirma & tenula praesidia habuerint, qui ad ineundam fugacis temporis rationem primi animum appulerunt. Ego non dubito, eo potissimum spectasse Aristotelem, cum Διδασκαλιας suas componeret.”

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 [‡] Vol 9, p. 60.

  • 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0
  • [101.1] Actually published Easter (March) 1769.
  • [101.2] Dodsley and Company: English publishing company belonging to Robert and James Dodsley, whose name was used by Leipzig publisher Engelbert Benjamin Schwickert to sell unauthorized copies of the Hamburg Dramaturgy. Lessing had attempted to publish his essays on his own, as partner in the printing enterprise of his friend Johann Joachim Christoph Bode (1730–93), but their efforts were severely hampered by the piracy rampant in German publishing at the time, as well as their inability to match the distribution abilities of the major publishers. For more on Lessing’s conflicts with publishers, see Nisbet 379–82; and Reemtsma 22–33.
  • [101.3] From the prologue to Terence’s Andria/Woman of Andros: “When the playwright first turned his mind to writing.” Tr. John Barsby, in Terence 1: 51.
  • [101.4] Principal (Prinzipal): leading actor; in the eighteenth century often functioning as an actor-manager.
  • [101.5] Allusion to Matthew 20: 6–7: “And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’”
  • [101.6] Lessing’s ostensibly self-effacing statement serves in fact as an introduction to his defense of criticism and also takes aim at the emerging generation of proto-Romantic writers, the forerunners of the Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress”) movement, who, by the late 1760s, increasingly eschewed rules of art in favor of intuitive “genius.” Lessing is credited with a much cited, but unverifiable, remark that he would slap anyone who called him a genius so hard that they would think they were slapped twice. (There are several colorful phrasings of this remark, which originated in the early nineteenth century, perhaps in the British Monthly Magazine; see the anonymous account, “Anecdotes of German Authors and Authoresses residing at Weimar in Saxony” 41.)
  • [101.7] Allusion to the revolutionary treatise on rhetoric, Conjectures on Original Composition (1759), by English poet Edward Young (1683–1765), in which the author states that “Rules, like crutches, are a needful aid to the lame, tho’ an impediment to the strong” (28). The treatise, which privileged originality over imitation, and argued in part that genius is as important as learning, was widely popular in Germany and influenced later Romantic writers. Young’s quotation appears in an essay by the young German professor and mathematician Thomas Abbt (1738–66); it was published in 1761 in the Briefe, die neueste Litteratur Betreffend [Letters Concerning the Newest Literature], of which Lessing was a co-editor. See Abbt, “Review of Möser” 327.
  • [101.8] In 1750, the prolific Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni famously pronounced to patrons of the Sant’ Angelo Theater that he would provide them with sixteen new plays in the coming year, a promise that he fulfilled.
  • [101.9] Shandy: the father of the titular character in the nine-volume novel Tristram Shandy (1759–66) by the English novelist Laurence Sterne (1713–67); in the novel, Tristram describes his father’s appreciation for the Italian poet, translator, and bishop Giovanni della Casa (1503–56), famous for his conduct manual Galateo: overo de’ costumi [Galateo: Or, The Rules of Polite Behavior] (1558).
  • [101.10] Lessing’s footnote provides an edited version of the original English. See Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 2: 42–44.
  • [101.11] Isaac Casaubon (Causaubonus) (1559–1614): Swiss theologian and leading classical scholar; commentator on numerous Greek and Roman authors. In his footnote, Lessing quotes from Casaubon’s commentary on The Deipnosophistai [The Gastronomers], a fifteen-book dialogue by the ancient Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus (fl. 200 CE); see Casaubon 414. For an English translation of Lessing’s footnote, see J. G. Robertson 120.
  • [101.12] Archons (“the ruling ones”): chief judicial officers and leaders of ancient Greek city-states.
  • [101.13] Lione (Leone) Allacci (Leo Allatius) (c. 1586–1669): Greek antiquarian scholar, theologian, and important Vatican librarian who provided a catalog of Italian plays (with their authors and composers, as well as the date and location of their premieres) in his Drammaturgia [Dramaturgy] (1666); a revised and expanded version was published in 1755. Unlike Allacci, Lessing had always intended that his “dramaturgy” would be more than merely a “register” of plays; see the Notice preceding Lessing’s essays (“Lessing’s Preface to the Hamburg Dramaturgy”), in which he articulates his original goals for the Hamburg Dramaturgy project. See J. G. Robertson for Italian and French precedents that may have influenced Lessing, and for the manner in which Lessing’s essays effectively changed the meaning of the word “dramaturgy” (122–23).
  • [101.14] Terence’s Didascaliae: production notes preceding the playwright’s works, which provide information regarding the original performances. breviter & eleganter scriptas: “briefly and elegantly written”; see Casaubon 415.
  • [101.15] See “Lessing’s Preface to the Hamburg Dramaturgy.”
  • [101.16] For more on eighteenth-century German acting and Lessing’s acting theory, see the editor’s second introductory essay (Baldyga, forthcoming).
  • [101.17] For more on the difficulties of the short-lived Hamburg National Theater, see the editor’s first introductory essay (Baldyga, forthcoming).
  • [101.18] Stoicheia [Elements]: foundational treatise on geometry by the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid (born c. 300 BCE).
  • [101.19] Fermentation of taste: despite Lessing’s complaints about the literary aesthetics of the new generation, he and younger writers were united in their admiration of Shakespeare, which perhaps allows for Lessing’s appreciation of an early Sturm-und-Drang drama that he and Bode published – the famously gruesome five-act tragedy Ugolino (1768) by German poet, playwright, and critic Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737–1823).
  • [101.20] Lessing resumes his battle with Christian Adolf Klotz, and with his periodical, the Deutsche Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften [German Library of Liberal Arts and Sciences], which had negatively reviewed the first volume of the collected essays of the Hamburg Dramaturgy; see [96.7]. “A barrel for our critical whales!”: Lessing’s metaphorical jibe at the Deutsche Bibliothek draws on a diversionary tactic used by sailors seeking to avert the attention of whales; writing of the sperm whale, Dutch amateur marine biologist Adriaen Coenen wrote in 1585 that seamen “throw tremendously large barrels into the sea with which they try to stop the beast from approaching because he starts to play with these barrels” (Coenen 44).
  • [101.21] The little whale: a reference to Klotz, who was at that time a professor of philosophy and rhetoric in Halle, a city known for the harvesting of salt.
  • [101.22] Herr Stl.: an author writing for Klotz’s Deutsche Bibliothek, suspected by Lessing of being Klotz himself. Herr Privy Councilor: in 1766, Frederick the Great awarded Klotz the title Geheimrat (Privy Councilor).
  • [101.23] Another jab at Klotz; here he is compared to the German fool Hanswurst, who sported a brightly colored jacket.
  • [101.24] A reference to the biblical Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul exorcises a fortune-telling slave-girl of “a spirit of divination” (Acts 16: 16–18).
  • [101.25] The original edition of the Hamburg Dramaturgy that was printed by Lessing does not list Lessing as a publisher.
  • [101.26] The Deutsche Bibliothek review of the Hamburg Dramaturgy suggests “secret reasons” (geheimen Ursachen) for Lessing’s praise of principal actress Elisabeth Löwen and ingénue Cordelia Felbrich. See Klotz, Deutsche Bibliothek 9: 59.
  • [101.27] Reference to the biblical Book of Judges in which Samson discovers that his wife has divulged the answer to a riddle posed by Samson to her people: “And he said to them, ‘If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle’” (Judges 14: 12–18).
  • [101.28] His goblin: the “spirit of divination” providing Klotz with his information. Klotz, Deutsche Bibliothek 9: 60.
  • [101.29] Piracy, here, refers to the unauthorized reprinting of works by unscrupulous publishers. See note 2 above.
  • [101.30] An indication of Lessing’s ideas concerning book manufacture and distribution can be found in an unpublished fragment entitled Leben und leben lassen: Ein Projekt für Schriftsteller und Buchhändler [Live and Let Live: A Plan for Writers and Booksellers] (written in the 1770s).
  • [101.31] Allusion to the biblical Proverbs 26: 5: “Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.”
  • [101.32] Proverbs 26: 4.
  • [101.33] The Hamburg National Theater offered subscriptions to the Hamburg Dramaturgy; for more on the distribution of Lessing’s journal, see the editor’s first introductory essay (Baldyga, forthcoming).
  • [101.34] The reprints threatened here would be unauthorized, pirated reissues of already-published works. Booksellers at the time printed only as many books as they anticipated they would sell; if a work was popular, other booksellers might (illegally) reprint the work before the original publisher had a chance to produce a subsequent edition. For more on the state of publishing in the eighteenth-century German Lands, see Pamela E. Selwyn’s Everyday Life in the German Book Trade.
  • [101.35] In his review of the Hamburg Dramaturgy and its pirated edition, Friedrich Nicolai, a long-time bookseller (and Lessing’s friend), gives his opinion on the necessary qualities and training for a bookseller; see Selwyn 30–31.
  • [101.36] Schwickert did both; he reprinted Lessing’s essay in full and added a response in which he defended his actions. See Schwickert, “Intermezzo” in Werke und Briefe 6: 927–9.
  • [101.37] coup de main: surprise attack.
  • [101.38] In his “De vera ratione reformandi rem literariam meditationes” [“On the True Way to Renew the Book Trade”] (1668), the great German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) had proposed to the Archbishop Elector of Mainz that a coalition of scholars take over the printing and distribution of their own works, thereby shutting out the middleman.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-101-102-103-104/