Great colleagues such as Th. Mann have detected a «secret tendency to the balladesque» in Fontane's prose; noted critics such as Demetz have felt something similar; others have written perceptive studies of Fontane's ballads; and there is no shortage of examinations of his prose. But until now, no one has been so foolhardy as to attempt to dissect the threads making up the feeling that Mann and many since have quite rightly sensed in reading Fontane's novels. And yet it is a logical undertaking for Fontane was celebrated as the most popular balladeer of his age many years before he became the great novelist of a somewhat later era: it would be surprising if there were not some influence. This book establishes not only that there are such threads, and that they can be pulled apart and examined, but also that they are more than occasional random reminiscences.