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The International Turn in American Studies

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Edited By Marietta Messmer and Armin Paul Frank

The volume is a contribution to the ongoing debate on the internationalization of American Studies. The essays by European, American and Latin American scholars provide critical evaluations of a wide range of concepts, including trans-national and post-national, international, trans-atlantic, trans-pacific, as well as hemispheric, inter-American and comparative American studies. Combining theoretical reflections and actual case studies, the collection proposes a reassessment of current developments at a time when American nations experience the paradoxical simultaneity of both weakened and strengthened national borders alongside multiple challenges to national sovereignty.
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The Literary World in the “American Renaissance” and the International Context of American Studies

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Daniel Göske

Kassel University, Germany

The Literary World in the “American Renaissance” and the International Context of American Studies

The late 1840s and early 1850s were formative years in the history of American literature and culture. A century later, F.O. Matthiessen famously called this era The American Renaissance, and his readings of Emerson’s, Thoreau’s, Hawthorne’s, Melville’s, and Whitman’s major works helped to establish and institutionalize the academic discipline of American (literary) Studies after the Second World War. Even though Matthiessen emphasized the ideal of a democratic American culture, his “insistence on aesthetic principles” prevented him from favoring an overly nationalist perspective.1 He included extended discussions of his authors’ responses to selected writers from the English Renaissance and, in some cases, to continental Romanticism. Matthiessen’s magisterial readings were, in later decades, followed up by U.S.-based scholars like Gilmore, Pease, or Railton, who included Poe, Fuller, Beecher Stowe and other writers. Most of these studies concentrate on a unilateral approach, situating their authors almost exclusively in the immediate national context. Historical evidence suggests, however, that the recent move towards an internationalization of American Studies has its often overlooked precedent, or rather its historical foundation, in the internationalisation of the American and transatlantic literary scene around 1850.

The flowering of American literature in mid-nineteenth-century resulted, at least partly, from a vigorous, often nationalist, response to the British tradition, or better, to certain writers who dominated it.2 It also coincided with and, as Chai, Leypoldt, and others have argued, benefited from, an increased awareness of the literary world at large, mainly of continental European writers, artists, and musicians. Indeed, Frank and Mueller-Vollmer have clearly outlined the “exceptional internationality” of American literature at that time, situating its emergence firmly in an “Atlantic reading culture” and discussing numerous aspects of the “transfer” (through “agents ← 271 | 272 → and activities, institutions, media, networks, and environments”) and “transformation” (through individual American writers) of British and German culture in the United States. Moreover, they have indicated the extent to which German culture in particular may have been seen, from the 1830s on, as an alternative tradition which could complement or qualify the still dominant impact of British publications on the American market.3 This assumption is borne out by the surprising number of editions and translations of German works which were published and reviewed in antebellum America. Hence the debate in major literary magazines around 1850 provides rich material for Americanists who, rejecting what Lawrence Buell has called a “cisatlantic hermeticism,” want to explore the inter-national horizon of American print culture in this formative era.4

The intricate interplay between European, British, and American literature, still acknowledged in the old Cambridge History of American Literature (1917), was increasingly marginalized in the latter half of the 20th century, when American literary studies became “a patriotic subject in methodology as well as in thematic content.”5 The trend towards a unilateral master narrative of American literature that foregrounds the national elements while obfuscating their international contexts and transatlantic networks, is clearly visible in the major histories by Spiller (1948, 1953), Elliott (1988), Bercovitch (1994–2005), and even in Marcus’ and ← 272 | 273 → Sollors’ openly anecdotal New Literary History of America (2009). Moreover, the international outlook of American literature in general and the literary scene around 1850 in particular has been almost completely disregarded in recent bibliographies and other reference books. Even though many major articles on German literature in 19th-century American magazines were listed by Goodnight and Haertel more than a century ago, they were mostly excluded from Daniel Wells’ indices to 19th-century periodicals, especially for the two decades preceding the Civil War.

Hence I want to explore the intriguing complexity of what could be termed the internationalist interval in the antebellum American print culture by discussing relevant material in selected periodicals before 1850. I want to focus especially on the weekly Literary World (1847–1853) and the United States Magazine and Democratic Review (1837–1859), a monthly that functioned as the mouthpiece of the so-called Young America movement. Less scholarly and more versatile than the old quarterlies like the venerable Edinburgh Review (which was widely read in the U.S.) or its American counterpart, the North American Review, these two New York journals boosted home-grown authors while also commenting on recent developments overseas. They were highly influential before large middlebrow monthlies like Harper’s or Putnam’s Monthly Magazine began to dominate the scene in the 1850s.6

“Dignify patriotism, use foreign literature”: Metropolitan (Inter)Nationalism

The Literary World was modeled on the London Athenaeum but paid particular attention to American fiction, poetry, nonfictional prose (travel, history, religion, science, medicine), drama, music, and art. It was committed, particularly in the beginning, to a recognizably national literature that would “elevate what is familiar around us, attach us to home, dignify patriotism, use foreign literature as a means to these ends, not seek to supplant what is native by the European, and make us ← 273 | 274 → absentees from America at our own firesides.”7 Except for a rather bland interim period from May 1847 to September 1848, when it was run by the poet and journalist Charles Fenno Hoffman, the World was edited by Evert Duyckinck and his younger brother George, close friends, for a while, of Melville’s.8 The Duyckinck brothers purchased the journal in October 1848 from its original owners, the publishers John Wiley, George P. Putnam, and Daniel Appleton. The World’s weekly appearance in, as the editorial of the second volume had it, “the metropolis of our book-world, on this side of the Atlantic,” allowed it to stay au courant with the literary news of the day.9 Short notices, anecdotes, or downright gossip, appearing under rubrics like “What is Talked About,” “Miscellany,” or “Literary Intelligence” (“foreign” and American), provided entertaining reading, while editorials, reviews, and countless excerpts from forthcoming books made the journal indispensable for ambitious readers, serious writers, and professional publishers alike. Informing the public about the literary scene at home and abroad and providing the publishing industry with “a forum in its inexpensive advertising pages in addition to book notices,” the Duyckinck brothers “blended a newsletter tone with intellectually responsible commentary. The high quality of the World’s contents was as unique for the period as its omnibus coverage.”10 Among the topics that were usually discussed in their international ramifications were the vexed problem of copyright and the Atlantic book trade, the expansion of libraries, learned societies, universities, and other institutions of higher education, the advance of ← 274 | 275 → science, ethnological and archaeological research, the impact of liberal theology (usually German) on organized religion and, indeed, the nationality of literature.

Of course, the political upheavals in Britain and on the continent, particularly in and after 1848, were also mentioned, although less often and more indirectly than in the United States Magazine and Democratic Review. This monthly was at first published in Washington by the Jacksonian journalist John O’Sullivan (of “manifest destiny” fame) and his brother-in-law Samuel Langtree. They conceived the Democratic as a “national periodical that would represent the interests of the Democratic party and combat the ‘literary toryism’ of the nation’s leading magazines,” claiming to be “partisan in politics and neutral in literary matters.” As the full title indicates, the journal tried to combine the features of a quarterly review with the miscellany material of a monthly magazine, and the editors wanted to rival the best British journals where “political controversy and belles-lettres went hand in hand.”11 In 1841 the Democratic moved to New York, and both editors, serious about literary neutrality, managed to attract numerous established as well as up and coming writers. They printed poetry by Bryant, Lowell, Whittier, or Simms, criticism by Poe, Duyckinck, or Parke Godwin, some 25 stories and essays by Hawthorne, and numerous melodramatic tales by one Walter Whitman. Even after O’Sullivan withdrew in 1846, the journal continued to be an important presence, not least because it was “more hospitable to French and German writers than most American magazines.”12 Indeed, it may have been the editors’ anti-British nationalism which favored, at least for a time, a strong interest in continental, especially German, culture and literature.

This interest, however, and the possible interpenetration of cultural nationalism and international awareness, have largely been neglected. In his brilliant study on the Young America movement, Widmer places the “American” contributions to World and the Democratic in the immediate political and cultural context that ← 275 | 276 → Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman and others worked in. He pays almost no attention to the wealth of “foreign” material: critical essays, short book notices, lengthy reviews, and translations. In the revolutionary year of 1848 alone, the Democratic discussed, always with an eye on the American situation, topical issues like the revolutionary events in Paris, the fate of Prince Napoleon Louis Bonaparte, or industrial reform and the increasing poverty of the working classes in Britain, France, and Ireland. Political events in the German-speaking countries, however, were not seriously covered. Only an anonymous wit poked fun at “Poor dear old Germany! – turned topsy-turvy by a mob of greasy, beer-drinking students, and Socialist professors!”13 The apparent chaos in the notoriously disunited German states seems to have strengthened the romantic image of Germany as the seat of high culture. Hence the Democratic of 1848 made use of its ample format and printed long works by classic German writers: Moses Mendelssohn’s “Phaidon; or, the Immortality of the Soul,” Schiller’s ballad “The Diver,” Goethe’s “Hermann und Dorothea,” and even Lessing’s tragedy Emilia Galotti.

In the late 1840s and early 1850s, monthlies like the Democratic, the American Whig Review or Holden’s Dollar Magazine, and weeklies like the World provided ample material for American readers who wanted to stay abreast with the literary and cultural scene in the Old World. Extensive reviews, articles, translations, and uncounted news items about European authors testify to the editors’ and contributors’ lively interest in, and awareness of, what Goethe had called, in 1827 and after, ‘world literature’ – and their own, still young nation’s place in it.14 Poe, who was deeply embedded in and dependent on the periodical market, but also ← 276 | 277 → writers like Fuller, Hawthorne, Whitman, and Melville benefited from it, and new insights can be gained if we consider their work in this international context.

Networks, “Influence,” and the Individual Talent: Melville and the World

Let me cite the example of the World. Duyckinck tried to cover European literature extensively, mainly drawing on British and selected French periodicals, but also recommending new German journals that could be obtained at Westermann’s, Garrigue’s and other German bookshops in New York.15 As the Duyckinck Papers at the New York Public Library show, numerous attempts were made to link up with important publishers in Europe in order to establish connections and exchange material. In this early era of international cultural relations and transfer, friends and contributors literally acted as go-betweens. For instance, Duyckinck asked Melville’s travelling companion in 1849–50, the German-American philologist George J. Adler, to approach the famous French critic Philarète Chasles, editor of the Revue des deux mondes and lecturer on modern literature at the Collège de France, in this matter. But the times were, Adler reported from Paris, too agitated to engage in full-fledged joint-ventures, although Chasles was quite happy to be one of Duyckinck’s occasional contributors.16 ← 277 | 278 →

Melville’s close connection with Duyckinck and Adler can serve as an example of just how difficult it is to ascertain precisely the “influence” (a problematic metaphor, to begin with) that any source, foreign or otherwise, may have had on an individual American author at the time. It seems safe to assume that oral communication in literary salons or intimate talk among friends was probably as decisive in steering an ambitious author on a new course.17 Melville’s many visits in Duyckinck’s Manhattan home may have been as important to his intellectual development as his private reading of books or journals. We know little about their talks, though, and can take our cue only from their correspondence and the articles in the World before February 1852, when Melville discontinued his subscription.

His intense, spirited conversations with Adler on the boat to England in October 1849 present another intriguing case. They must have resonated deeply, as Melville’s journal testifies: “We talked metaphysics continually, & Hegel, Schlegel, Kant & c were discussed under the influence of the whiskey.” In the following weeks, during the transatlantic passage but also in London and Paris, Melville and Adler were “riding on the German horse again.”18 Those intellectual joyrides ← 278 | 279 → may well have included Goethe, Schiller, Jean Paul, and many of those German writers Adler himself translated, edited, or wrote about.19 Most of his contributions to the World, however, were not signed. But Duyckinck published excerpts from Adler’s version of Goethe’s Iphigenia, advertising it as “a novelty for the stock of American literature.”20 And in April and May 1851, while Melville was feverishly working on Moby-Dick in the Berkshires and occasionally visiting New York, the World featured Adler’s translation of parts of Jean Paul’s Vorschule der Ästhetik. The sections on the “Definition of the Ludicrous” and “Theory of the Sublime” may have informed parts of Moby-Dick which Melville was just in the process of writing. Indeed, the German writer most often named in conjunction ← 279 | 280 → with Melville’s philosophically ambitious and stylistically diverse romances was Jean Paul Richter.21

Melville’s precise knowledge and use of his work, however, is difficult to assess and requires further investigation. We know that he had read Carlyle’s essay on Jean Paul and borrowed, shortly before embarking on the composition of Moby-Dick, the Scottish writer’s edition of German Romance from Duyckinck. This anthology included Carlyle’s version of Jean Paul’s Quintus Fixlein as well as Flower, Fruit, and Thorn Pieces, Edward H. Noel’s translation of Siebenkäs. The only remark about Jean Paul in Melville’s correspondence, however, dates from 1864, after he had conversed with a Union general, behind the lines in Virginia, about Titan (in Charles Timothy Brooks’ version of 1851): “The worst thing I can say about it is,” Melville reported back to a friend, “that it is a little better than ‘Mardi.’”22 In view of the older Melville’s usually brief and disparaging remarks ← 280 | 281 → about his own work, this doesn’t help us much. One would have to study Carlyle’s, Noel’s, Brooks’ and other translators’ versions closely, side by side with Melville’s metaphysical romances, in order to gauge the extent to which the German novelist’s example, stylistic and otherwise, may have informed his own fiction. And one should also take into account the many snippets of Jean Paul’s works that were used as fillers in the World and other journals of the day.

Source hunting is not my main object here, however, even though a case of borrowing from or transformation of a single text may provide interesting insights into how a major writer’s mind works.23 I suspect that most authors thrive just as much on hearsay, partial knowledge, and an awareness of the general debate. For writers like Melville or Hawthorne, who lived far apart from any metropolitan center in those years, journals could provide necessary stimuli and context for their work. Moreover, if one wants to assess the general debate about nationality around 1850, periodicals are particularly useful tools. I hope to show that the American literary scene, certainly in the major publishing centers of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, offered an intellectual climate that was surprisingly diverse and international, thanks to growing migration, increasing transatlantic contacts, and – in the absence of an international copyright – piracy. A brief survey of several journals between 1847 and 1850 displays a comparatively keen interest in German culture, as I want to indicate in the following. ← 281 | 282 →

The World, the Democratic and the “rich treasures of the Teutonic mind”

Thanks to the centralized book and periodical culture in London and Paris, American editors and critics had few problems in reporting on the British and French literary scene. The German-speaking countries, however, lacked a cultural capital and were thus more difficult to survey directly. Hence British magazines like the London Athenaeum, Literary Gazette, Fraser’s Magazine or Blackwood’s Magazine as well as the big quarterly reviews remained the chief sources of information. Not always were these British intermediaries openly acknowledged. Often, however, American editors and critics took issue with them. This resulted in significantly deviating responses, to individual authors as well as in terms of general assessments, and these responses would not have evolved had a direct line of communication between the United States and Germany been in place. Indeed, even the many instances of a bilateral stock-taking of anglophone cultures, written with the intention of defining America’s peculiar achievement against the backdrop of the “British branch of Anglo-Saxonhood,” contained side glances at continental European culture.24 Ample occasion for comparative glances across the Atlantic was provided by reviews of literary histories, like Sismondi’s on the South of Europe, Talvi’s on the Slavic Nations, Ticknor’s on Spanish, and Menzel’s on German Literature. Major (multi)national anthologies like Longfellow’s Poets and Poetry of Europe (1847), Rufus Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America (1842, revised 1847), Poets and Poetry of England (1844) and Prose Writers of America (1847), Chambers’ Cyclopedia of English Literature (1847) or Hedge’s Prose Writers of Germany (1847) invited further comparison.

Much the same is true for new ventures like Wiley and Putnam’s popular “Library of Choice Reading,” which was edited by Evert Duyckinck and published in both London and New York. When the publishers decided to issue an “American rival alongside of their foreign series,” a critic of the Democratic complained that this “provoked comparisons rather unpleasant to our pride as Americans.” Although there were “more readers in the United States – readers in the highest ← 282 | 283 → sense – than in any modern nation, except Germany,” a “flourishing literature” at home was virtually impossible as long as Congress refused to pass an internationally binding copyright law and the American author, unable to compete with cheap British imports, was forced to rely on the “irregular methods of the amateur.”25

Even translations of important authors were embroiled in patriotic polemics about piracy and plagiarism. An editorial of the Literary World in the fall of 1848 used the famous question by Sidney Smyth, favorite foe of American nativists (and many later Americanists), to highlight two “cases of gross piracy in England”: the prestigious series of “Bohn’s Standard Library” had published translations of Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell and Goethe’s autobiography which, the critic suggested, had clearly been lifted, in large parts, from earlier American versions.26 Such cases rankled critics like the reviewer of Parke Godwin’s translation of Dichtung und Wahrheit, who saw in literary translation (not just of “Goethe, Schiller, and Jean Paul”) a peculiar opportunity for Americans: “[S]urely this is a field in which English authors can have little advantage over us.”27 No wonder that, when Goethe’s Autobiography was reissued in 1850, the World printed a sharp protest against the “bold appropriation” of Godwin’s version by the “London translator (so called)” John Oxenford and his publisher Bohn. The American translator and his publisher had known that their book, which first appeared in Wiley and Putnam’s “Library of Choice Reading” in 1846, “was not likely to have an extensive sale in the American market.” But they had (like most American authors at the time) ← 283 | 284 → “confidently relied upon the English market for their remuneration.” By merely changing a few words here and there, Oxenford had robbed them of their intellectual property and financial investment: the American version had effectively been “reprinted as an original English translation.” Perfidious Albion? Not quite. In the absence of an international copyright law, this kind of “reciprocal free-booking” was practised, the American reviewer had to admit, on both sides of the Atlantic.28

Clearly, the (inter)nationality of the book market and the nationality of literature were much discussed in those years. Even within a single nativist journal, however, the debate was far from unanimous. In March 1847, the Democratic compared the young republic’s “intellectual servitude” to Britain with the “despotic influence of the writers of France over those of Germany” before Goethe appeared and “Germany was delivered from this degrading intellectual bondage.”29 Drawing on De Stael’s De l’Allemagne, the critic countered the universalist stance of the North American Review by claiming: “Nationality in literature is only one of the many forms of patriotism” (270). Voicing his hope for a truly national poet in the future yet almost despairing of the present situation, he concluded:

If there is anything peculiar in our institutions and condition, we would have some native bard to sing, some native historian to record it. […] What we complain of is, the unnational spirit of our writers; that they slavishly adhere to old and foreign models; that alike in their subjects, and in their method of handling them, they are British, or German, or something else than American. (271) ← 284 | 285 →

Walt Whitman, the young editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, who often clipped from the Democratic, may have rejoiced over this appeal to literary patriotism, as Widmer claims (109). But its anxious questioning and dire diagnosis, its failure to grasp the consequences of multiethnic immigration and its fuzzy demand for a peculiarly American “method” of “home themes” and “home thoughts” were a far cry from Whitman’s confident, all-encompassing “Salut Au Monde,” ten years later.

Other articles in the Democratic handled the issue of America’s (inter)nationality in letters differently. An essay on “English and American Literature” in March 1848 harped on America’s “enterprising spirit” and “free trade principle,” not least in its “periodical literature,” and proudly emphasized the reciprocal changes that the “approximation of America to Europe is annually producing in all the commercial, political and social relations of the old world.”30 But although the Democratic continued its crusade against Britain’s “oppressive” press laws and a residual “sensitiveness of Americans in respect to foreign opinion” (210f), it also printed long translations from some French and several “celebrated German writers.” This unusual procedure was justified by the fact that “Western Europe, more especially Germany, is daily drawing near to us in commercial, political and social affinities, and the taste, which of late has rapidly gained strength for her literature, has not been gratified by popular republications of her eminent writers.”31

Half a year later, another article conceded that “our intercourse with England and France is so direct and so frequent, that London and Paris is more easily reached or heard from than some parts of our own country.” But, the critic maintained, “our education will not be complete until we have attended the third of the three great European schools – until we have added to our own native and acquired wealth also the rich treasures of the Teutonic mind.” In contrast to the “practical and commercial” English and the “volatile and changeful” French, the Germans “have mingled little in political affairs and the so-called reforms and social improvements of the day.” This seemed to make German culture particularly and providentially apt for importation: “Were poetry, religion and philosophy banished from the earth, we might almost trust to the Germans to re-create and restore them. These appear to be pre-eminently their lot and portion on the earth. […] ← 285 | 286 → We may call them a nation of students, and their country the land of books and libraries, which are easily accessible to all.”32

By the late 1840s, responses to German culture in influential literary journals became more frequent, and this coincided with a flurry of German books about the United States which were often published in America and carefully scrutinized by American critics.33 Rapidly increasing immigration, not least of German intellectuals and writers, numerous American travellers in and correspondents from Europe, and the first direct steamer connection to Bremen in 1847 provided a more direct access to German publications and, indeed, mail services.34 Yet this new interest in the periodical press was also based, to a considerable extent, on publications by Americans who had actively pursued the transfer of culture in earlier decades. ← 286 | 287 →

“The idealism we require to balance our utilitarianism”: Transcendentalist Mediators

The first generation of American mediators were “cultural explorers” who had studied at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin in the 1820s and 1830s.35 Later aficionados of German culture took their cue from the American edition of Madame de Staël’s Germany (De l’Allemagne), which had first appeared in 1814. In contrast to the first group, they championed German literature and philosophy rather than German contributions to political and cultural history, education, and the sciences. Many of these writers, clergymen, and educators belonged to, or sympathized with, the Transcendentalists. In important though not widely distributed journals like the Christian Examiner and the Dial, they offered translations and sophisticated assessments of German literature and philosophy to readers mostly in New England.36 Apart from Emerson, the main champions of cultural transfer from Germany were Margaret Fuller, James Freeman Clarke, George Ripley, Charles T. Brooks, and Frederic Henry Hedge.

In July 1836, Fuller published a seminal essay on the “Present State of German Literature” in the American Monthly Magazine, which was based on her fascinated reading of Heine’s Romantische Schule and Jean Paul.37 One of the “principal ← 287 | 288 → means of knowledge is comparison,” she wrote. And a comparative look abroad showed that most British writing was informed “by the same utilitarian tendencies with our own,” whereas “French belles lettres of the present day can afford little gratification to decent society” and “the literature of Italy is dead.”

To whom, then, can we look with more propriety than to the true-hearted Germans for the needful admonitions that “man cannot live by bread alone,” and the idealism we require to balance our utilitarianism? The Germans have their faults, but these faults, pointed out with so much acuteness by Heine the “progress-man,” are as good as virtues to us, since, being the exact opposites of our own faults, they may teach us the most important lessons. And Germany may be said, in a sense to be our only contemporary. South America is younger, and all Europe, with the exception of Russia, older than we. Germany dates her present magnificent intellectual life from the same period that we date our present no less magnificent political life.

“We ought to be acquainted and sympathize as far as we can,” Fuller added, and Heine’s book offered “some excellent material for the bridge between Germany and us.”38 In the following years she published a voluminous translation of Eckermann’s Conversations with Goethe (1839) and important essays on Goethe, Schiller, Jean Paul, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Freiligrath, and Beethoven. From 1844 to 1846, Fuller covered the European scene for the New-York Tribune, and her Papers on Literature and Art (1846), praised by the fervently nationalist Democratic, were informed by her candid appraisal of the American scene in the context of an Atlantic book culture.39

Fuller’s transcendentalist friends joined in this campaign to counterpoise American utility by German idealism, and many of their efforts had a lasting impact. Clarke published the germanophile Western Messenger in Louisville, and Ripley, a leading member of Brook Farm, edited a series of Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature (1838–1842), with ten of the 14 volumes, including Fuller’s Conversations with Goethe and Menzel’s literary history, exclusively devoted to German writers. Reverend Brooks, who authored a much reprinted anthology of ← 288 | 289 → German Lyric Poetry in 1842 and contributed many items to Duyckinck’s Literary World, was a prolific translator in many genres. Among his best-known works are his version of Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell (1838), Jean Paul’s Titan (1851) and Goethe’s Faust (1856). Hedge was the founder and “exacting praeceptor germanicus” of the “Transcendental Club.”40 He edited a comprehensive anthology of the major Prose Writers of Germany (567 pages in double columns) for the well-known Philadelphia publisher Carey and Hart in 1847. The book appeared as a companion to similar collections of American, English, and European literature by Griswold, Longfellow, and other editors.

Like the other volumes of this series, Hedge’s Prose Writers of Germany was extensively reviewed, and its impact on impressionable writers like the young Whitman is well known. Indeed, Hedge’s anthology must be seen as a landmark in the history of German-American literary relations.41 I use it here as a stepping stone for a brief survey of American responses, some reprinted from British sources, to continental and especially German literature between 1846 and 1850. Hedge’s anthology collected short biographies and texts by 28 authors from Luther, Jacob Böhme, Abraham a Sancta Clara to Schelling, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Chamisso. Goethe is by far the best represented in terms of the pages allotted him; Schiller’s only contribution is the essay “Upon Naive and Sentimental ← 289 | 290 → Poetry.” Among Hedge’s most daring selections are long excerpts from Goethe’s Elective Affinities, for American critics like Fenton a “licentious and detestable” novel of adultery, and Jean Paul’s “Dream,” i.e. the “Rede des todten Christus vom Weltengebäude herab, daß kein Gott sei,” from the Siebenkäs, in Noel’s version.42

Some of the translations in Hedge’s American anthology of German prose had been made by British writers. Indeed, much of what Hedge and his friends learned about German culture came through foreign mediators like Coleridge, Madame de Stael, and Emerson’s friend Thomas Carlyle. It is an important fact, moreover, that only Hedge had a firsthand knowledge of German culture. Emerson and his disciples lacked personal experience through extended travel or study in German-speaking countries. Yet Emerson’s German streak was an important element in the public debate about the nationality of the U.S.’s literature. Outside of New England, it seems to have been perceived as part and parcel of an all too narrow-minded campaign for cultural self-reliance. In May 1847, for instance, the Literary World carried a spirited plea for a concept of world literature that rejected Emerson’s allegedly “opposite view”:

If we are to have a literature that shall be called American, and which shall do honor to Americans, it must, we apprehend, have a foundation deeper and broader, and far more difficult to be laid, than many who write on this subject, seem to have conceived. […] [I]n literature and philosophy, we must master and make our own what has already been produced, and from this elevation commence our onward and upward course. […] [I]n literature, as in commerce, we become enriched by all the nations with whom we have active intercourse.

The New York critic was aware that “the author of ‘Self-Reliance’ […] has presented with much emphasis the opposite view” but suggested: “[P]erhaps we have no finer illustration of the advantage to be derived from the study of foreign literature, than he himself affords”.43 Clearly, cultural self-reliance was not an option for the critic ← 290 | 291 → of the Literary World. As a former colony and a young, modern, hybrid nation, the U.S. simply did not have a strong national character. It could not look back to an earlier “stage of isolation” in which the “Scotch, Irish, Swiss, and German, acquired their peculiar traits.” Americans who are looking for a “distinctly American literature” should, the critic advised, “bestow greater attention upon the production of our Teutonic kindred” in order to avoid an undue influence by British writers “– whom if we follow, we can never hope to equal, much less exceed. If we would compete with England, we must avoid that insular exclusiveness and prejudice against everything foreign.” The “youthful aspirant” of culture must follow a different course, and the critic asked:

And why should not our country, which is at home the freest, and in her intercourse with others the most generous and unrestricted, – receiving into her bosom the exile and unportioned of every land, – be also the most Catholic in taste and spirit, and gather treasures of wisdom and philosophy, of science and letters, from every people and every language? (387)

This spirited plea for literary internationalism served as the introduction to a review of Eliza Buckminster Lee’s translation of Jean Paul’s Flegeljahre, and while Carlyle’s earlier efforts were duly noted, the World welcomed the fact that the “genial Jean Paul” was now “presented to the American public” by an American (387).44 If the “genial” German remained a favorite in Duyckinck’s journal, Goethe was clearly seen as Germany’s master writer and an important “novelty” for American literature. Indeed, among the classical and contemporaneous German authors discussed in the World, he is by far the best represented, with more than a hundred items, including numerous reviews of Iphigenie, Clavigo, Werther, Hermann und Dorothea, Wilhelm Meister, Faust, and, last but not least, Dichtung und Wahrheit. This is quite significant since Goethe, like Heine a few years later, was seen as an ← 291 | 292 → immoral, ambiguous character by many American critics, and not just those of the powerful religious press.45

When the Auto-Biography of Goethe, the first complete English version, came out in 1846, it provoked, among guarded praise, quite hostile reactions. Wiley and Putnam published the 2-volume set as part of their prestigious “Library of Choice Reading” series, and Godwin, Bryant’s son-in-law and later contributing editor of Putnam’s Monthly, functioned as the “editor” of a veritable consortium, with four translators rendering one part each of Dichtung und Wahrheit.46 Their version was intended to “supply what may be considered a great deficiency in English literature” and to counter the “disgraceful imposture” of an unreliable English translation which had been little more than “a poor copy of a wretched French version,” as Godwin wrote in his preface: “Goethe is the hardest of all Germans to translate” because “he is such a consummate master of form” (1: ix). For Americans, “the First European Poet and Literary Man of the Nineteenth Century” was particularly important, and his autobiography showed “the growth of the greatest of German minds, and at the same time the whole progress of German literature” (x).

Despite this rather exaggerated praise, Godwin was at some pains to distance himself from Goethe’s more questionable attitudes: “The translators are not of course to be held responsible for any opinions expressed in the course of the work” (1: x). This disclaimer hints at the problematic nature of the undertaking. The critic of the American Whig Review called Goethe “the friend and approver of despotism, the inventor of new superstitions, more subtle and more heathenish; the exemplar of a court-bred insolence advancing itself even against the Divine ← 292 | 293 → Idea.” And about Dichtung und Wahrheit he wrote: “For a total absence of that charming element of autobiographies, the loss of self in age, country, and pursuits, it seems to be without its equal. […] In fine, we as much admire the skill as detest the spirit of this autobiography.”47 And while the World extolled its “cheering and earnest views,” emphasizing Goethe’s “beneficial influence upon our too anxious and excited minds,” Duyckinck’s more outspoken private diary betrays an uneasy fascination:

His knowledge of life seems to have in it something of the demon, that “knowledge of things good and evil” which Satan promised to Eve. […] In reading Goethe I have an instinct of an immense reservoir of self in his character into which he pours his vast contemplation and experience of life. An egotism which escapes our view in its breath.48

The “First European Poet and Literary Man of the Nineteenth Century” remained a highly controversial figure in the following years. Even Emerson’s remarks in Representative Men did not help much, as a review in the World indicates: “A character more selfish and despicable could not be painted. Indeed, there is something demoniac about both Napoleon and Goethe as here represented, and Mr. Emerson’s portraits are flattering enough.”49 Emerson’s collection of essays on Plato, Swedenborg, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Goethe was itself a product of America’s exceptional internationality. Partly inspired by Carlyle’s book On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History (1841), which excluded Goethe, it was based on lectures that the sage of Concord had delivered in the U.S. and in Britain from 1845 to 1848, “emerging from the mists of transcendentalism into the robust daylight of New York and London.”50 ← 293 | 294 →

“A learning nation”: America’s Exceptional Internationality

“Nationality in Literature” remained a key issue in those years but the World had slightly softened its earlier crusade for American nationalism. In July 1849, the Duyckincks reprinted, under that title, an excerpt from a long review of Longfellow’s Kavanagh, which had just appeared in the North American Review. Renouncing a cultural variant of the Monroe doctrine, it claimed that the “demand for a nationality bounded historically and geographically by the independent existence and territory of a particular race or fraction of a race, would debar us of our rightful share in the past and the ideal” (11). The North American upbraided “our advocates of nationality” for “assigning geographical limits to the poet’s range of historical characters as well as to his natural scenery.” Rather, they should adopt, like major writers throughout the world, a universalist stance: “There is no time or place in human nature; and Prometheus, Coriolanus, Tasso and Tell are ours if we can use them, as truly as Washington or Daniel Boone” (12). This passage invites comparison with Melville’s celebration of a new nation in Redburn, his fourth novel that he dashed off at that very time, in July 1849. In chapter 33, the sight of a group of devout, sober German emigrants in the Liverpool docks, triggers off, in the young title hero’s mind, an almost eschatological vision of America as a nation of nations:

Our ancestry is lost in the universal paternity; and Caesar and Alfred, St. Paul and Luther, and Homer and Shakspeare [!] are as much ours as Washington, who is as much the world’s as our own. We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and people are forming into one federated whole; and there is a future which shall see the estranged children of Adam restored as to the old hearth-stone in Eden. (169)

Melville seems vaguely to grope for a transnational concept of America, yet the conclusion to the chapter does not envision a multicultural, multilingual “federated whole.” Neither, however, does it echo the notion of a technologically advanced, global culture the anonymous critic had foreseen.51 Rather, Melville falls back on universal, Biblical myths. In a curious typological interpretation of Scripture he celebrates a new world which will evolve “in the fullness and mellowness of time,” many generations hence: “Then shall the curse of Babel be revoked, a new Pentecost come, and the language they shall speak shall be the language of Britain. Frenchmen, and Danes, and Scots; and the dwellers on the shores of the Mediterranean, ← 294 | 295 → and in the regions round about; Italians, and Indians, and Moors; there shall appear unto them cloven tongues as of fire” (169). English appears here not as the emerging lingua franca of international trade (not least in litteris) but as a mystical form of communication of mankind. This is of course a far cry from the American realities around 1850.

Yet mass immigration, improved communication, and emerging publishing networks across the Atlantic seem to have fostered, if only for a brief interval before the panic of 1857 and the outbreak of the Civil War, a new, powerful interest in the literary world overseas. In the early 1850s, other periodicals in New York and elsewhere in the country emerged that were committed to furthering the cause of American literature within a broader, Atlantic context. One of the most interesting though least known cases is The International Monthly Magazine of Literature, Science and Art, published in New York between July 1850 and April 1852 before it was absorbed by Harper’s New Monthly. It was an eclectic and largely derivative journal which, however, contributed to the extraordinary awareness of foreign literature among American writers and readers in the early 1850s. Little is known about its operation. Apparently edited by Rufus Griswold and his assistant Charles Godfrey Leland, the translator of Heine, the International carried numerous articles on European and especially German issues and writers. Since it often named the provenance of its material, this short-lived, illustrated monthly indicates the emerging publishing networks in the increasingly diverse Atlantic reading culture.52

In August 1850, for instance, the International featured a piece on “German Criticism on English Female Romance Writers,” translated from a letter by the London correspondent of the Cologne Gazette, and an article on “The Theater in Russia and Poland,” taken from the Leipzig Grenzboten. But foreign material was mingled with original pieces on American topics, often seen through the eyes of foreign authors. In “America as Abused by a German,” the anonymous reviewer saw A. Kirsten’s Skizzen aus den Vereinigten Staaten von Nord Amerika as the work of a “paid hireling” intoning the “old song” of many European governments: “Depreciation of America, as far as applicable to the prevention of emigration” (448). Yet the critic maintained his journal’s editorial policy to “faithfully report all that is said of our country by foreign travelers or journalists.” Giving the familiar notion of American exceptionalism an internationalist spin, he added: ← 295 | 296 →

[…] we are certain that a higher feeling than mere nervous, sensitive vanity, induces in us the desire ‘To see ourselves as others see us,’ since there is no nation which more readily avails itself of the remarks of others, even when by far too bitter or unjust to improve. True to our national character of youthfulness, we are ever ready to act on every hint. We are, par excellence, a learning nation. (448)

The very mixture of native and foreign points of view makes this journal a valuable tool for an international American studies approach. In December 1851, the International featured a severely critical piece on “the Rise and Progress of Mormonism,” a review of George von Ross’ “Des Auswanderers’ [!] Handbuch, or, The Emigrants’ Hand-book: a True Sketch of the United States of America,” John R. Brodhead’s lecture, in the New York Historical Society, on “The Dutch Governors of Niew Amsterdam,” an article on educational institutions in Calcutta, taken from Bentley’s Miscellany in London, Cooper’s remarks on “American and European Scenery Compared,” reprinted from the Home Book of the Picturesque, just published by Putnam, and a survey of British reviews of Melville’s Moby-Dick, “the new nautical story by the always successful author of Typee” (602). If one wants to study the transfer of cultures and the internationality of the American literary scene, at least in its New York variety shortly after 1850, the International is a good point to start.

However, weeklies like the World and monthlies like the International or the Democratic had only a circulation of less than 2,000. After 1850, new ventures like Harper’s Monthly Magazine reached a much larger audience, cheaply reprinting literature by British and European writers. Harper’s started off with 7,500 copies in 1850 but, thanks to many pirated texts from popular British writers like Dickens, Thackeray, or Bulwer-Lytton, the circulation soared to 50,000 copies within half a year and then, on average, to 110,000 between 1850 and 1865. That of Putnam’s Monthly, Harper’s immediate and ambitious rival, peaked in 1855 at a much lower but still impressive 19,000 copies. (Later its sales declined, and the magazine folded in the financial panic of 1857.) As the subtitle indicates, Putnam’s Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science, and Art championed, first and foremost, native authors, printing major works by Cooper, Thoreau, Longfellow, Melville, Bryant, James Russell Lowell, and Bayard Taylor.53 Despite its avowed program of literary nationalism and perhaps in order to offset the influx of British writing, Putnam’s also covered continental European literature extensively. German culture in particular played a large role. ← 296 | 297 →

Indeed, a direct comparison of the editorial sections of both magazines in the year 1853 reveals remarkable differences. Harper’s editorials featured notices of 53 British books (and news items on their authors), followed by 45 American, 25 French and only 19 German publications. In contrast to this strong Anglo-American bias, Putnam’s listed and reviewed a total of 169 German books in the same year. This extraordinarily large contingent was followed by 154 American and 110 French publications – and trailed by only 52 British books, less than half of the French allotment.54 In later issues, the presence of European literature is much less pronounced, yet in the mid 1850s, Putnam’s offered its readers a lot of information on continental writing. Clearly, the precise nature of the transatlantic networks and the impact of the German element during the internationalist interval of antebellum American print culture need further investigation.

“American national identity,” Janice Radway maintained in 1999, “is constructed in and through relations of difference” (54). This is, of course, easier said than put into critical practise, if one wants to go beyond essentialist and historically inaccurate identity politics and move towards a “critical transnationalism” that can, as Giles suggests, “illuminate our understanding of where the culture of the United States is positioned within a framework of broader global affairs” (2007, 47). The medium of literary journals around 1850, however, provides both rich (and still largely unknown) material and a precise focus for looking at those constructions, or better, notions of American nationality as they evolved in a surprisingly international context. Weeklies like the Literary World and monthlies like the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, which helped to foster the intellectual climate for the “American Renaissance” in the early 1850s, were informed by the intricate interdependence of American and British, but also German and French cultures. They reported and commented on foreign ideas, works, and institutions by situating them in the on-going debate about U.S. culture and society. Reciprocally, they viewed American topics and individual works in the specifically generic, broadly critical, or plainly commercial context of an Atlantic reading culture. By combining new databases with the book and microfilm holdings of old research libraries, antebellum periodicals can now be read as polyphonic and heterogeneous sites of cultural transfer, transnational exchange, and intra-cultural differentiation. They provide ample opportunities for detailed investigations into the networks of 19th century print culture, the negotiations of different concepts of nationality, and individual responses, by American authors, to foreign works of literature. Seen in a simultaneously national and international context, these ← 297 | 298 → journals offer test cases for the interdisciplinary approach of American Studies in an era of increasing globalization and decreasing linguistic ability. In order to make good use of them, however, historians of American literature and culture need to cooperate not only with scholars of British, French, or German culture but also with experts in the fields of comparative literature, translation studies, book history, media studies, and the like. This is a tall order but an exciting one.

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1 Vanderbilt, 476. On the enduring impact of American Renaissance see also Gunn, 68–83, and Pease, 246–70.

2 See Lease, Weisbuch, Grey, Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, Giles (2001), Winship, and others.

3 Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, 13–15. Unfortunately, I have not been able to draw on Mueller-Vollmer’s forthcoming study on Transatlantic Crossings and Transformations: Studies in German-American Cultural Transfer from the End of the 18th to the End of the 19th Century. My contribution focuses on the transfer of culture in an essentially hybrid medium, the literary journal. Less ephemeral than newspapers and distributed more widely, the new quality magazines of the 1840s and early 1850s supported American writing but were themselves embedded in the Atlantic reading culture. The increasingly international network of periodical literature of this era has not yet been adequately studied. For a narrow, national view see Price / Smith; for an excellent survey of the German contribution to the early history of the book in the U.S. see Roeber.

4 “The restriction of focus to the national field is regulated in terms of notions of American cultural distinctiveness used to sort authors and texts in or out according to a criterion of emerging indigenousness that fails to take account of such factors as the interpenetration of the ‘indigenous’ and the ‘foreign’” (Buell, 412). Frank and Mueller-Vollmer put it thus: “[T]he national or sub-continental contextualizations that predominate in literary historiography are much too narrow for a representation of what really went on in the making of a(n American) literature” (14).

5 Giles (2007), 45. This trend coincided with a linguistic homogenization, as Sollors observes in his book on “transnationalism, ethnicity, and the languages of American Literature” (3–7). Here, however, I am concerned mainly with the inter- and transnational literary scene in English language periodicals.

6 On Harper’s and Putnam’s see Perkins and Ljungquist. Other periodicals with an internationalist outlook were Littell’s Living Age, a Boston weekly founded in 1844, which relied heavily on reprints from quality British periodicals, aiming “to include all the comment of British journals on American affairs” (Chlebek 225), or the International Monthly Magazine of Literature, Science and Art (see below). Some of these periodicals can easily be accessed through the “Making of America” database at Cornell University; the Literary World and others are only available in good research libraries.

7 “The Edinburgh Review on an American National Literature,” Literary World (6 March 1847): 101.

8 Melville’s essay on “Hawthorne and His Mosses” appeared in August 1850, but his “assertive nationalism is actually not in keeping with the Literary World’s more moderate position on the nationalism issue” (Yannella 226). Even Duyckinck’s first editorial was characteristically pragmatic and low-key: “There is a religious, a political, a mercantile world; why not a literary one?” His journal set out “to determine with impartiality, the relative position and virtues in all book transactions of the three great parties: the Author, the middle man the Publisher, and the Reader. The question of Literary Property [i.e., copyright], whether affecting the rights of the Native or the Foreign Author […], will be fully discussed.” See Literary World (6 February 1847): 5.

9 Thanks to “constant supplies of the best foreign journals,” the journal “offers at once the most complete and authentic weekly compendium of what is new or interesting in Science, History, and Art.” Literary World (7 August 1848): 5.

10 Yannella, 224. American contributors included Bryant, Fuller, Hawthorne, Irving, Longfellow, Melville, Poe, Simms, and Whittier, but many of the mostly unsigned reviews and essays cannot be traced to individual authors.

11 Weiner, 425. On the launching and the editorial politics of the Democratic see Widmer, 34–63. Its rival, The American Whig Review (1845–1852), advocated “ ‘the permanent maintenance of Whig principles and improvement of American literature’ ” (Menides 29) yet also printed a few articles on or translations of German writers like Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Uhland, Heine, or Freiligrath.

12 The criticism of foreign authors, however, was “usually derivative” (Weiner, 429). But the Democratic specialized, at least from the early 1840s to 1850, in extended articles about, reviews of, or lengthy translations from foreign authors, artists, and composers. On the reception of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven within the international context of periodical literature see Leypoldt’s brilliant analysis of the “Antebellum Discourse of Musical Nationalism” (134–48).

13 “Touching the Teutons,” Democratic Review 23 (October 1848): 317–20, 317. Duyckinck’s journal remained more aloof from politics but mentioned news items that were connected to literary men, as in “Arrest of Ferdinand Freiligrath,” Literary World (7 October 1848): 709. On the importance of the French and Italian revolutions of 1848–49 for the American literary Renaissance see Reynolds.

14 Neither Widmer nor Wells situate the “American” contributions in their proper international context although the Democratic featured extended translations from contemporary French and German writers: prose from Balzac, Hugo, Alexandre Dumas Père, Brentano, Goethe, Hauff, Hoffmann, Tieck, and Zschokke, verse by Béranger, Gautier, Heine, Herwegh, Schiller, Uhland and others, and even complete plays by Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller. The only non-English authors listed in Wells’ “Index” to the Literary World (1978) are Balzac, De Tocqueville, and Goethe, even though the journal featured numerous translations from and reviews of French and German writers like Béranger, Michelet, Lamartine, George Sand and Gerstäcker, Gutzkow, Halm, Heine, Herder, Leibniz, Jean Paul, Rückert, Schiller, Friedrich Schlegel, Tieck, or Zschokke.

15 “New German Periodical: Deutsches Museum,” Literary World (26 April 1851): 337f. On Westermann, New York’s most efficient German bookseller, and Garrigue, whose translation of Typee came out in 1847 and who published his lists of German books regularly in the World, see Cazdan, 160–64, 189–194. Among the German newspapers and magazines the World quoted from explicitly are the Augsburg Gazette, the Carlsruhe Gazette, or the Leipzig Blätter für die literarische Unterhaltung. Most news items about German literature, however, seem to have been taken from the British press. For Duyckinck’s keen interest in continental views on America see “A French Critic’s Opinion on American Literature and Authors,” Literary World (19 January 1850): 49–52.

16 Adler’s letters from 2 April, 20 June, 5 August 1850, “Duyckinck Papers,” Berg Collection, New York Public Library. The World had already reprinted Chasles’ long and rather insightful essays – first published in the Revue des deux mondes – on Melville, whom the French critic praised as “a curious novelty, an American Rabelais.” “The Actual and Fantastic Voyages of Herman Melville,” Literary World (4 August 1849): 89. For Duyckinck, the Parisian critic’s positive response to Mardi, fairer than any British review, was a big boost: “[I]t vastly enlarges the motives of an American author, when he can look to an influential European journal on the Continent for so cordial, appreciative a reception. It is something for a young American writer to have the way thus cleared for his introduction to the literary society of the old world – to be read in Paris, St. Petersburgh, and Madrid, as well as London and Edinburgh.” Literary World (11 August 1849): 103. Chasles’ essays on American culture were soon to be published in book form, moreover. Scribner’s brought out a translation of his Études sur la littérature et les moeurs des Anglo-Américains aux XIXe siècle (Paris, 1851) as Anglo-American Literature and Manners (New York, 1852). This is another sign of a deep interest in a European, non-British assessment of America’s culture. The anonymous translator, who praised the French critic’s “profound thoughtfulness and discriminating delicacy,” omitted only some extracts about English writers, “analyses of such familiar works as Melville’s Typee,” and the chapter on Major André and General Arnold in the War of Independence, which Chasles had based on Bancroft’s History and Emerson’s Essays (“Translator’s Note”, v f).

17 Hawthorne’s close connection to the editor of the Democratic is another example (see Widmer, 64–81). For almost twenty years O’Sullivan advised Hawthorne, who “appreciated his friend’s abilities as a con-artist” and even made him godfather of his first child (Miller, 150).

18 Journals (8f). Adler is one of the many forgotten middlemen of European culture in America. A German Jew from Leipzig, he immigrated to the States at the age of twelve in 1833 and graduated from the University of New York in 1844. Since he could not secure a position in his favorite fields, classical and oriental studies, Adler served as an unsalaried professor of German (1845–54), published books, gave public lectures, and contributed to literary journals. Little is known about this, as Melville wrote, “fine scholar whose society is improving in a high degree” (Journal 7). In 1853, Adler became paranoid and had to be institutionalised, but this did not prevent him from serious scholarly work. He published an anthology of German literature (1854), a voluminous Latin grammar, and a translation of Fauriel’s History of Provencal Poetry (both 1860), notes on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and a book on Wilhelm von Humboldt’s Linguistical Studies (1866). Adler died in 1868 before his projected bilingual edition of Goethe’s Faust was finished.

19 When George Duyckinck introduced him to Melville, Adler had already published several German textbooks and grammars and just completed a massive, two-volume Dictionary of the German and English Languages (New York, 1849), which the Literary World of January 1849 hailed as “the most extensive and valuable philological work ever issued from the American press” (29). The dictionary was offered, Adler’s preface said, as a contribution “towards bringing the Anglo, as well as the Saxon, to a new and proud consciousness of their primeval identity of origin and mind” (xii). Marovitz has speculated on the impact that Adler’s emphasis on the “importance of language as a categorizing agent” may have had on the future author of Moby-Dick. Moreover, Adler’s emphasis on the “German supremacy in contemporary thought and letter” over even British literary culture may have inspired Melville’s brief liaison with literary nationalism: “In ‘Hawthorne and His Mosses,’ Melville would substitute America for Germany when asserting that England’s literary influence over the young nation would soon be superseded” (Marovitz, 378f).

20 He praised Goethe’s classicism because it spoke of “primary and universal conditions of man,” beyond the pale of nationalist agendas: “The Majesty of Antiquity fills to the echo the trump which sounds forth even the unlettered woes of our plebeian life. What a splendid proof of the unity of the race does this Greek literature offer – while scientific men are groping about for their evidences in the dust of tombs […], a Goethe takes down the strangely fashioned harp from the wall, and, as he rekindles its ancient melodies, is more demonstrative than all the ethnologists.” “Goethe’s Iphigenia in Tauris,” Literary World (4 January 1850): 2. Whether Adler talked to Melville about his translation is not known but in January of 1851 he presented him with an inscribed copy.

21 Most critics felt that Mardi (1848), Moby-Dick (1851) and Pierre (1852) suffered from Melville’s admiration of Jean Paul and similar British writers. Ripley called Mardi “a monstrous compound of Carlyle, Jean-Paul [!], and Sterne.” According to Philarète Chasles, only Sterne, Jean Paul, and Cervantes had accomplished that “rarest product of art,” a “humoristic book” – and Melville failed. Duyckinck himself, at a loss to submit Moby-Dick to a “distinct classification as fact, fiction, or essay,” remarked caustically: “Something of a parallel may be found in Jean Paul’s German tales, with an admixture of Southey’s Doctor.” And when Pierre appeared in 1852, the American Whig Review fumed: “Mr. Melville’s style of writing in this book is […] precisely what a raving lunatic who had read Jean Paul Richter in a translation might be supposed to spout under the influence of a particularly moonlight [!] night.” See Higgins/Parker, 225, 245, 384, and 447.

22 Correspondence 392. His interest, however, must have been sparked much earlier, by Adler and the material in the Literary World. Matthiessen speculates that it was Jean Paul’s “surprising contrasts of fantastic speculation and deep feeling” that fascinated Melville and his contemporaries (120), but he sees only “superficial points of comparison” (291), for instance in Melville’s famous rhapsody on “The Whiteness of the Whale.” In this context, it is intriguing to cast a look at Brooks’ excerpt from Titan in his anthology of German Lyric Poetry (Boston, 1842), a blank verse description of a “scene in the polar regions,” from (as Brooks writes) “this vast and voluminous writer, – this ‘Titan’ of German authors” (394). Jean Paul’s poetic prose about “white-winged sea-birds” and the “pale sun,” a “while angel” above the “silent, ice-walled cloister of the pole,” suggests something like cosmic chill: “I gaze / Down on the dreary winter of the world. / How dumb and endless is it down below!” (216). The “gorgeous spectacle” of the “Aurora” (216), however, saves the speaker from Ishmael’s “thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way,” his horrified aversion from the “wretched infidel,” who “gazes himself blind at the monumental shroud that wraps all the prospect around him” (Moby-Dick, 195). Melville’s symbolist evocations of the “mystic ocean,” the “inscrutable tides of God” (Moby-Dick, 159) provide another telling contrast to Brook’s eloquent rendering of Jean Paul’s pantheistic hymns to the Mediterranean, its “Divine overfulness and intermingling with the world as before me.” “Naples: Midnight and Morning. From an Unpublished Translation of Jean Paul’s Titan,” Literary World (6 April 1850): 352.

23 In “Benito Cereno,” for instance, Melville compares the ominously beclouded sun with “a Lima intriguante’s one sinister eye peering across the Plaza from the Indian loop-hole of her dusk saya-y-manta” [!] (Piazza Tales, 47). This graphic image perhaps echoes the German naturalist J. von Tschudi, whose Travels in Peru, quoted in the World, contain a description of this exotic garment: “The Manta is a veil of thick black silk fastened by a band at the back of the waist, where it joins the saya. From thence it is brought over the shoulders and head, and drawn over the face so closely that only a small triangular space, sufficient for one eye to peep through, is left uncovered. […] The Saya y Manta are found to be very useful auxiliaries in the numerous intrigues in which the Limaens frequently engage.” Literary World (27 February 1847): 81. Perhaps Melville drew on Tschudi’s Peruvian travels for related passages in Moby-Dick or the Piazza Tales.

24 The critic rejected the “humbug of Anglo-Saxonism” and noted that thanks to immigration from the “Celtic races” and “Continental Europe,” only a little more than “half of our people are of Anglo-Saxon descent”: “Our forefathers were plucked from amid that strange insular ishmaelitish people by the hand of Providence itself, and placed upon this broad continent, as a nucleus around which the representatives of all races of Europe might rally, to form a new and peculiar branch of the human family.” “England and America,” Literary World (19 June 1847): 465–67, 465f.

25 “The Library of Choice Reading,” Democratic Review 20 (March 1847): 239f. The critic blamed the “imperfect efforts” of Simms, Poe, Cornelius Matthews and others for the “inferiority of the American series” and claimed that only a few volumes – Hawthorne’s Mosses, Melville’s Typee, or Fuller’s Papers on Literature and Art – could rival the works of the foreign series. On the “Library of American books” as a “watershed in American history” see Widmer (103–11), who, however, does not take this and other critical reactions into account.

26 He reprinted several extracts from the American (1837) and British (1846) version of Tell which proved “not only that English litterateurs and compilers do now and then ‘read an American book,’ but that even the labors and rights of a fellow-subject are not respected, if his book be published in America.” “Who Reads an American Book?” Literary World (16 September 1848): 641–43, 643.

27 The article contains a long argument in favor of literary translation and suggests that “peculiar circumstances of our origin and population, formed from every civilized nation, […] and the absence of any strong and decided nationality […] may have predestined this nation, for a time, to a certain eclecticism of character, that we may gather and select from the past and the old world, the scattered rays of light and truth […].” “The Autobiography of Goethe,” Literary World (18 September 1847): 149–51.

28 “Goethe’s Autobiography: The American and English Version,” Literary World (17 August 1850): 132f. Book historians have shown that “transatlantic textual transfers were not all in one direction. […] If the United States was an offshore publisher of British titles, Britain was an offshore publisher of American titles. The London and Edinburgh publishers seem mostly to have chosen not to weaken their demand for international copyright by unauthorised reprintings of texts first published in the United States, and they too resorted to various devices, in association with American partners.” After 1840, there was “a huge British readership for Longfellow, destined to become, by far, the most popular poet of the British Victorians,” and more than 1,5 million “offshore copies” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were sold in Britain in the early 1850s. After 1842, “American books and magazines were among the few sources of texts which could be printed to be sold cheaply in Britain.” New ventures like William Hazlitt’s (junior) Romancists and Novelist’s Library included numerous texts from the United States, France, and Germany, “including the works of Fenimore Cooper, a special favourite” (St Clair, 391f).

29 The United States, however, were not ready for that kind of cultural revolution: “Overmastered by the literature of England, we have consented to remain in a state of pupilage.” “Nationality in Literature,” Democratic Review 20 (March 1847): 264–72, 266.

30 “English and American Literature,” Democratic Review 22 (March 1848): 207–15, 207, 213. The critic crowed: “The number of readers here is doubling every twenty-five years, and another generation may find 20,000,000 democratic readers of English on this continent, against 500,000 aristocrats in England. Where will then be the market for literature?”(208).

31 Headnote to “Emilia Galotti,” Democratic Review 22 (June 1848): 511.

32 “Some Characteristics of the Germans and Their Literature,” Democratic Review 24 (January 1849): 44–48, 44, 46f.

33 Their authors were travel writers and novelists (Gerstäcker), historians (von Raumer, Löher), or German-American emigrants (Fleischmann, Ludewig). See Friedrich von Raumer’s America and the American People (New York, 1845), praised by Margaret Fuller in the New York Tribune (in Bean 277–84) and respectfully noted in the Democratic Review 17 (December 1845): 477, or Friedrich Gerstäcker’s Wanderings and Fortunes of some German Emigrants (New York, 1848), which showed, the World wondered, “how whole communities of strangers remain long among us with all their distinct national peculiarities, continuing to mask them without being fairly absorbed among the American population, for at least a generation.” Literary World (20 May 1848): 305. See also the collective review of Franz Löher’s groundbreaking History and State of the Germans in America (Cincinnati, 1847), Charles L. Fleischmann’s North American Farmer (New York, 1848), Hermann Ludewig’s Report on Emigration Matters in Germany (New York, 1848) in “German Publications in the United States,” Literary World (2 December 1848): 870–72.

34 The World celebrated “this nearer and newly opened intercourse with Germany” and praised the post-office at Bremen for planning to “distribute our mails over the whole North of Europe, through Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, over all Germany” and, thanks to the railroad, further southeast. “The practical operation of this would be, that the German resident in Iowa, could go up to the village nearest his farm, drop his letter in the post-office, and, postage paid or not, it would go direct to his friend in the heart of Silesia, on the banks of the Danube, or on the borders of the Black Forest.” “The First American Steamer to Germany,” Literary World (2 October 1847): 208f.

35 Mueller-Vollmer in Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, 228. Among the earliest Göttingen alumni were George Bancroft, the father of American historiography, Joseph Cogswell, who changed Harvard’s college library into a modern research institution after the Göttingen model, George Ticknor, first professor of romance languages at Harvard, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his successor and soon a bestselling poet and professional man of letters. This first phase of cultural transfer seems to have been largely academic. Indeed, almost 140 of the 225 American students who attended German universities between 1815 and 1850 would later hold professorships at colleges and universities in the U.S. – roughly 60 percent. See also Mueller-Vollmer (2003) and Buckley.

36 See Mueller-Vollmer in Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, 247f. The Boston quarterly Dial (1840–44), edited by Fuller and Emerson, never exceeded 300 subscribers; the Christian Examiner (1824–69), a bimonthly from Boston, had a longer run but was only moderately successful (Chielens 130 and 106). See Buckley for the reception of Goethe and Schiller in these New England journals.

37 In April 1835, Fuller confided to Clarke: “Did you ever hear of Henri [!] Heine? – I have seen some extracts from a work of his on modern German belles lettres which are highly amusing. Have been fascinated into reading Richter’s Flegel Jahre [!] – and cannot resist the original mind when I am with it though not of the kind I naturally like […].” Letters, 41. On Fuller’s “transnational project” of education and her use of German literature see Maas’ fine study.

38 “Present State of German Literature.” The American Monthly Magazine 8 (July 1836): 1–13, 3–5. See Williams on this New York journal (1833–38), which was then edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman and featured, among other articles, frequent translations from German and French authors.

39 The Democratic praised Fuller’s “true, genuine, invincible Americanism” but suspected that “the age for a national literature has not yet arrived”: “[W]here are our Burns, Beranger, or Moore, as these authors represent the life of Scotland, or France, or Ireland? We have no national minstrel.” “Miss Fuller’s Papers on Literature and Art,” Democratic Review 19 (1846): 198–202 and 316–20, 201f.

40 For brief remarks on Hedge’s and Ripley’s projects see Mueller-Vollmer, in Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, 243 and 283f; on Brooks see Frantz, 204–10.

41 On Whitman’s foraging in Hedge’s collection (or in excerpts provided in reviews) see Pochmann, 462. A. P. Peabody penned the most extensive response to Hedge’s Prose Writers of Germany for the prestigious North American Review 67 (October 1848): 464–86. He portrayed German literature as informed by censorship and political suppression yet also by a peculiar depth and richness. As if in response to Emerson’s address, Peabody stated: “The German scholar is cosmopolitan in his knowledge, taste, and appreciation” (473). He praised Hedge’s excellent editorial work and the “fine specimens of translations […] in good, vernacular English” (476) and reprinted extracts from Lessing’s “Education of the Human Race” and – a remarkable choice – Jean Paul’s “Dream.” For other responses to Hedge’s collection see the reviews in The Christian Examiner 44 (1848): 263–74 and the Literary World (29 January 1848): 625–28. The latter review contains a long extract of Sancta Clara and biographical sketches of Wieland and Kant with this “destructive, world-to-pieces-crushing thought” (627). For young American writers “just entering upon the wild domain of a new Literature,” the critic said, the collection was “of essential value” (628), much better than Burnet’s collection of English Prose Writers and Chambers’s Cyclopaedia of English Literature.” The Democratic, while less enthusiastic, also saw Hedge’s collection as proof that “the influence of German literature upon our own is daily becoming more marked.” “Prose Writers of Germany,” Democratic Review 22 (February 1848): 192.

42 Felton’s review of 1842 is quoted in Pochmann, 330. Jean Paul’s “amazingly strong” American reception, inaugurated by Carlyle and fostered by Fuller, can be seen in magazine references of the period where Jean Paul ranked third among all German authors. A total of 46 books of his were issued in English translation after 1810, half of them, however, only after 1864 (Pochmann, 332).

43 “Walt and Vult,” Literary World (29 May 1847): 387f. Parts of the article were copied in the Democratic, introducing a Select Library of German Classics which printed, in several instalments, lengthy translations of “the best and most attractive works of the master minds of German literature”: Goethe’s idyls Hermann and Dorothea and Alexis and Dora, parts of Iphigenia, and the complete text of Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm. “Select Library of the German Classics,” Democratic Review 23 (1848): 260. With the translation of Stifter’s novella “Condor” in 1850, this project of printing German classics apparently ended.

44 Lee is one of the forgotten female mediators of German culture in this era. Among her publications are a Life of Jean Paul Richter (1842), a translation of Grillparzer’s Sappho (1846), and Berthold Auerbach’s “Dorfgeschichten” from the Black Forest. She also wrote Sketches of a New England Village (1838) and a historical romance about the Puritan persecution of Quakers, which was praised in the New York World for the light it cast on the “comparative merits of our Puritan and Dutch ancestors.” “Naomi; or Boston Two Hundred Years Ago,” Literary World (1 January 1848): 542.

45 The review of Die Wahlverwandtschaften in the American Review of 1812 marks, says Pochmann, “the beginning of the long history of mingled praise and censure, the note of acrid controversy that governs American comment on Goethe to 1864” (330). Ever since Madame de Stael’s criticism of Goethe’s moral shortcomings, he had been attacked by Everett, Bancroft, and others, and the “qualified approval” by Emerson, Longfellow, Parker, and Motley had not helped much. Wolfgang Menzel’s partisan history of German literature (1827), translated by C.C. Felton for Ripley’s Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature series, portrayed him as politically indifferent and morally ambiguous. Godwin and his friends were clearly fighting an uphill battle. On Heine’s early reception in Britain and the U.S., see Göske.

46 Godwin apparently translated books 1–5, John Henry Hopkins, Charles A. Dana, and John S. Dwight the other sections. Godwin’s ambitious plans for an annotated edition and further translations of Goethe’s “Annals,” “Italian Journey” and correspondence did not materialize. The Auto-Biography of Goethe. Truth and Poetry: From My Life, ed. Parke Godwin. 2 vols. (New York, 1846–47), “Note by the Editor,” 2: 117.

47 “Goethe’s Autobiography,” American Whig Review 5.5 (March 1847): 539–40. More sympathetic reviews appeared in the Democratic Review 19 (1846): 443–55; 20 (1847): 14–22; and 21 (1847): 283–89; the Literary World (1 May and 18 September 1847): 296f. and 149–51; Southern Quarterly Review 11 (1847): 441–67; and the International Monthly Magazine 1.7 (12 August 1850): 194. For more see Haertel, 97ff.

48 “The Autobiography of Goethe,” Literary World (1 May 1847): 296. Duyckinck’s diary entry, quoted in Yanella/Yanella (232), contrasts sharply with a later review which detects hardly any “egotism and dogmatism.” “The Autobiography of Goethe,” Literary World (18 September 1847): 150.

49 “Representative Men,” Literary World (Feb. 1850): 123f, 124. In December 1847 and January 1848, the World had reported several times on British responses to Emerson’s lectures.

50 Williams (1987), xxvii. Emerson’s essay on Goethe, whom Carlyle had excluded, was a “late and uncertain choice” (xxxiv), but it certainly fit the new interest in the German writer, not least in the periodical press.

51 “The newspaper, the railroad, and the steamship are fast obliterating the externals of distinct and hostile nationality. The Turkish soldier has shrunk into coat and pantaloons, and reads Dickens.” “Nationality in Literature,” Literary World (7 July 1849): 12.

52 On Griswold’s and Leland’s role see Exman, 310, and Leland, 197. For its foreign items, the International acknowledged not only British but also French and German sources like the Revue des deux mondes, Journal de debats, Allgemeine Zeitung, Preußische Zeitung, or Grenzboten.

53 See Ljungquist, 328–31 and, for Harper’s, Perkins, 167f. In the 1850s, Harper’s was “the most successful magazine in America with its combination of English serials, its wide variety of shorter work, and its many illustrations” (Tebbel, 109).

54 I am grateful to Anja Hansen and Anna Weitemeyer for these findings.