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Der Wunsch. English

Hermann Sudermann

  Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by the Web Archive

  Transcriber's Notes:

  1. Page scan source:

  2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].







  _Authorized Edition_.


  Since the beginning of time men have been accustomed to regard the endof a century as a period of decadence. The waning nineteenth century isno more fortunate than its predecessors. We are continually beinginvited to speculate on the signs around us of decay in politics, inreligion, in art, in the whole social fabric. It is not for us toinquire here concerning the truth or the ethics of that belief. But, asfar as literature is concerned, it is very certain that the last yearsof the present century will be remembered for the extraordinary talentshown by a few young novelists and dramatists in most of the countriesof Europe. In England, we can point to Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Mr. J.M. Barrie; in France, to M. Paul Margueritte and M. Marcel Prevost; inBelgium, to M. Maurice Maeterlinck; in Germany, to Gerhard Hauptmann,Ludwig Fulda, and Hermann Sudermann.

  The events of Sudermann's life are few; and he has the good sense toprefer to be known through his works rather than through the medium ofthe professional interviewer. The facts here set down, however, we oweto the courtesy of Sudermann himself a circumstance that lends them anadditional interest.

  Hermann Sudermann was born September 30, 1857, in Matzicken, a poorvillage in Heydekrug, a district of East Prussia, situated on theRussian frontier. It is not unlikely that the following passage takenfrom one of his novels bears some resemblance to the place:--

  "The estate that my father farmed was situated on a high hill close tothe Prussian frontier; an uncultivated, wild park sloping gentlytowards the open fields formed one side of the hill, while the othersank steeply down to a little river. On the farther side of the streamyou could see a dirty little Polish frontier village.

  "Standing at the edge of the precipice you looked down on the ruinousshingle roofs; the smoke came up through the rifts in them. You lookedright into the midst of the miserable life of the dirty streets wherehalf naked children wallowed in the filthy where the women squattedidly on the threshold, and where the men in torn smocks, with spade onshoulder, betook themselves to the alehouses.

  "There was nothing attractive about the town, and the rabble offrontier Cossacks, who galloped here and there on their catlike, drowsynags, did not increase the charm."

  Sudermann began his education at the school of Elbing. But his parentswere in poor circumstances, and at the age of fourteen he found itnecessary to think about earning a living, and was apprenticed to achemist. He continued his studies in his leisure time with such goodresults that he returned to school, this time at Tilsit. In 1875 hewent to the university of Koenigsberg, and in 1877 to that of Berlin.His first intention was to become a teacher, and while still pursuinghis studies undertook for a few months the duties of tutor in the houseof the poet Hans Hopfen. But in 1881, after six years spent in studyinghistory, philosophy, literature, and modern languages (Sudermannunderstands English perfectly), he turned to journalism, and edited the_Deutsches Reichsblatt_, a political weekly. He soon threw asidenewspaper work for true literature, for what the Germans call_belletristik_, and he has become famous through his novels, shortstories, and plays. He is good-looking, with a dark melancholy facethat lights up with a most remarkable and expressive smile when hespeaks; nothing could be more unaffected than his manner, nor morecharming than his whole personality. As yet there is no SudermannSociety for the discussion of the author's works, but in Berlin, wherehe has many admiring friends, Sudermann occasionally reads to them hisproductions while they are yet unpublished. The little story called_Iolanthe's Hochzeit_ was first heard in that way.

  Although Sudermann's work is in all its aspects essentially modern,indeed all the conditions and problems of modern life have the highestinterest for him, he belongs to no class, ranges himself with neitherrealists nor idealists, and bows to the yoke of no literary fashion. Incommon with all great artists, Sudermann paints his own age, but whileportraying men and women as he knows them, in the nineteenth century,he gives them, at least in his novels and tales, the human nature thatis the same through all time. He has lived in Berlin, and his dramasgive us life in that city both among the proletariat and the richmiddle class. He has lived in East Prussia, and there is laid the sceneof his longer novels. He is familiar with other parts of Germany, withItaly, and with Paris, and everywhere he has used his gift of keenobservation to good purpose. A certain melancholy, a feeling of the"inevitableness" of things, if we may be allowed the expression, runsthrough all his writings, and may perhaps be traced to the effect onhis sensitive and high-strung nature of the East Prussian landscape,amid which he spent his boyhood. The meadow-flats and corn-lands, themeagre pine-woods, and dark, lonely pools of his native district, formthe background of most of his tales. Numerous passages might be quotedwhich would serve to show the melancholy and loneliness of thelandscape. As an example we may take:--

  "Thick and heavy as if you could grasp them with your hands, the cloudsspread over the flat land. Here and there the trunk of a willowstretched forth its rugged knots to the air, heavily laden with moisture.The tree was soaked with damp, and glistened with the drops that had hungin rows on the bare boughs. The wheels sank deep into the boggy road thatran between withered reeds and sedge.

  * * * * *

  "The moon stood high in the heavens and shed her calm, bluish light farover the sleeping heath. The clumps of alders on the moor bore wreathsof lights and from the slender silvery trunks of the birches whichbordered the broad straight road in endless rows, came a sparkle andbrightness that made the road seem as if lost far below in the silverydistance.

  "Silence all around. The birds had long ceased singing. A stillness ofthe late summer time, the complacent stillness of departing life layover the broad plain. You scarcely heard the sound of a cricket in theditches, or a field-mouse disturbed in its slumbers, gliding throughthe tall grass with its low chipping whistle."

  Such pictures constantly meet us in the pages of Sudermann's books;taken in connection with their setting, they are often of great forceand beauty. Nothing, however, is obtruded; there is no searching aftera dramatic background, or undue word-painting; everything is in keepingwith and subordinate to the main interest of the tale.

  With such surroundings, Sudermann cleverly assimilates his characters.They are mostly the victims of circumstances which they are more orless unable to overcome. In some cases the fault, as with LeoSellenthin in _Es war_, Sudermann's latest novel, lies in the weaknessor sinfulness of the man; in others, in surroundings and events forwhich the man is not himself directly responsible. Sometimes the nobleunselfish love and devotion of a woman make a happier state of thingspossible; Sudermann is a firm believer in the power and influence ofgood women in human life. His women are not so sharply outlined asIbsen's, but he recognises in the sex, though much more vaguely, likepossibilities. For example, Leonore in _Die Ehre_ sees the folly andemptiness of fashionable life and has the courage to give her handwhere she loves
, to a man who, by her set, would be considered farbeneath her. Magda, in _Heimat_, refuses to desert her child. And hisyoung girls are even more charming, more natural than those of Ibsen.Eager-hearted Dina Dorf, with her desire for a larger life in theworld; hard-working Petra Stockman with her delight in her work and herunflinching truth and honesty; Bolette Wangel with her desire forknowledge, "to know something about everything" are, as everybodyknows, among Ibsen's most delightful creations. In _Es War_ Sudermanngives us as perfect and natural a study of a young girl as we have metwith in fiction or the drama for a very long while. Hertha cherishes asecret love for a man much older than herself but has reason to fearthat his affections are set on a married woman, the wife of his bestfriend. To Hertha's innocent and unworldly mind this is a great puzzle;to her the sacredness of love between husband and wife seems a matterof course.

  "Certainly the beautiful woman was a thousand times lovelier than poorHertha--and she was, moreover, much cleverer.... But could she--andtherein lay the great puzzle, the invincible contradiction that knockedall suspicion on the head--could she as a married woman possibly be anobject of love to a man other than her husband? Wives were loved bytheir husbands--that is why they are married and by no one else in theworld."

  But Hertha determines to take such means as are within her power ofdiscovering if suck things are possible, if such things exist. Shefirst consults her books--books, of course, suited to a young girl'slibrary. She goes through her novels, but nothing in them points to theenormity. Then she turns to the classics, to Schiller!

  "Amalie was a young girl--so was Luise--but then there was the queen ofSpain! However, in that case it was clear as noonday how little poetsdeserved to be trusted, for that a man should fall in love with hisstepmother could only take place in the world of imagination wheregenius, drawn away from the earth, intoxicated with inspiration, soarsaloft. Not in vain had she, a year and a half before, written a schoolcomposition on 'Genius and Reality,' in which she had treated thequestion in a most exhaustive manner."

  She next tries her friend Elly, a girl of her own age, but much moreexperienced in the ways of the world.

  "'Listen, dear, I want to ask you a very important question. You're inlove, aren't you?'

  "'Yes'; replied Elly.

  "'And you're sure the man's in love with you?'

  "'Why do you say "man"?' asked Elly. 'Curt is my ideal. A little timeago it was Bruno--and before that it was Alfred--but now it's Curt, Yethe's not a man.'

  "'What is he, then?'

  "'He's a _young_ man.'

  "'Oh! that's it, is it? No, he's certainly not a man.' And Hertha'seyes shone: she knew what a 'man' looked like. 'Well, darling,' shewent on, 'do you think that a "man," or a _young_ man--it's all thesame--could possibly love a married woman?'

  "'Of course--naturally he would,' replied Elly, with perfect calmness.

  "Hertha smiled indulgently at such want of intelligence.

  "'No, no, little one,' she said. 'I don't mean his own wife, but awoman who is the wife of another?'

  "'So do I! replied Elly.

  "'And that seems to you quite a matter of course?'

  "'My dear child, I didn't think you were so innocent! said Elly;'everybody knows as much as that. And formerly it was even worse. Atrue knight always loved another man's wife: it was a great crime tolove his own wife. He would cut off his right hand for the stranger'ssake, and would die for her, pressing her blue favour to his lips; foryou see at that time they always wore her blue favour. You'll find itin every history of literature.'

  "Hertha became very thoughtful. 'Ah! in those days!' she said, with theghost of a smile; 'in those days men went to tournaments and stabbedeach other in sport with their lances.'

  "'And to-day,' whispered Elly, 'men shoot each other dead withpistols.'

  "Hertha felt as if she had been stabbed to the heart, and the littlepink and white daughter of Eve continued, 'I think it must be quitedelightful when one is married to know that some one is hopelessly inlove with you. It's quite certain that most unhappy love affairs arisein that way.'

  "The next day Hertha questioned her grandmother.

  "'Grandmother, I'm grown up now, aren't I?'

  "'Yes--so, so,' answered the old lady.

  "'And probably I shall soon be married.'

  "'You!' shouted her grandmother, in deadly terror. Doubtless thewretched child had come to confide in her the addresses of some boobyof a neighbour.

  "'Yes.' continued Hertha, inarticulately and with great hesitation;'with my big fortune I am not likely to be an old maid.'

  "'Child!' exclaimed the old lady, 'of whom are you thinking?'

  "Hertha blushed to her neck. 'I?' she stammered, trying to preserve anindifferent tone of voice, 'of nobody.'

  "'Oh, then you were merely talking generally?'

  "'Of course; I only meant generally'

  "'Well, and what do you want to know?'

  "'I want to know--how it is with--you understand--with lovewhen one----'

  "'When one----'

  "'Well, when one is married?'

  "'Then you go on loving just as you did before.' replied hergrandmother, lightly.

  "'Yes, I know that. But suppose you love another man to whom you aren'tmarried?'

  "'Wha--t!' In her terror the old lady let her spectacles fall off hernose. 'What other?'

  "Hertha suddenly felt as if she must collapse. She had to summon allher courage and pull herself together in order to go on.

  "'Can't it happen, grandmother dear, that some one to whom you're notmarried takes it into his head----'

  "'My dear child' replied the grandmother, 'never come to me with suchfoolish questions. You cannot understand such things. Now give me akiss and get your knitting.'"

  So that plan did not answer. There was still one further possibility ofdiscovery. Hertha had a school friend who had lately got married. Shewould ask her. So she began:--

  "'Wives love their husbands, that goes without saying. But do you thinkit possible that wives can be loved by other men?'

  "'How odd you are', replied Meta. 'You can't prevent people loving.'

  "'I know that. But a man, don't you see, who would----'

  "'Well, that sort of thing does happen.'

  "'What! is some one in love with you?'

  "Meta blushed, 'I don't bother about it. It's quite enough that Hansloves me, and of course I should very politely forbid anything of thesort.'

  "'Then people do forbid such things?'

  "'Certainly, if they're told of it.'

  "'What! you might be told?'

  "'Sometimes, if the man who is in love with you is very bold.'

  "'Good gracious,' said Hertha, shocked, 'If anyone behaved like that tome, I should box his ears.' But in great anxiety she continued, 'Do youthink it likely that there are women who have a different opinion?'

  "'Oh, yes!' said Meta.

  "'Who--in the end--return the bold mans love?'

  "'Even so.'"

  Then Meta repeats certain gossip that confirms Hertha's worst fears.The whole chapter should be read in order to appreciate rightly thecharm and pathos and naturalness of the delightful piece of characterdrawing.

  Like Ibsen and Zola, Sudermann does not hesitate to set the truthbefore us even when it is terrible or brutal or revolting. But hediffers from them in having a less gloomy outlook, in firmly believingthat, at the same time as human nature is coarse and brutal, stupid andviolent, it is loving, capable of sacrifice and of deep feeling. Hesees the strange not to say the inexplicable mixture of good and evilin all things human, and knows man to be neither all gold nor allalloy. This we take it is the true realism.

  To make Sudermann's point of view clear to English readers there isperhaps no better nor more direct way than to give a brief account ofhis works. They are three novels, _Frau Sorge_ (Dame Care), publishedin 1886, _Der Katzensteg_ (the name of a small wooden bridge over awaterfall that plays a prominent part in the story), 1888, _Es war_ (ItWas),
1893; three volumes of short tales, _Geschwister_ (Brothers andSisters), first published in the _Berliner Tageblatt_ in 1884 and 1886respectively (one of the stories, _Der Wunsch_, appears in the presentvolume), _Im Zwielicht_ (In the Twilight), novelettes written invarious newspapers, and _Iolanthe's Hochzeit_ (Iolanthe's Wedding),1892; and three dramas, _Die Ehre_ (Honour), _Sodom's Ende_ (TheDestruction of Sodom), and _Heimat_ (_The Paternal Hearth_).

  The most perfectly artistic of his longer novels, and that most deeplyimpregnated with the peculiar characteristics of East Prussianlandscape is _Frau Sorge_. Paul, the hero, is born just at the momentwhen his father's difficulties make it necessary for him to sell hishouse and land: this gloomy circumstance overshadows the whole ofPaul's life. While his brothers and sisters in spite of the familypoverty are, in their careless, unthinking way, happy and evenprosperous, wilfully blind to the fact that they owe all to theindustry and continual self-sacrifice of Paul, his life is one longtoil and struggle, one long fidelity to duty as he conceives it, onelong effacement and suppression of self. For this he receives nothanks, no acknowledgment. His spirit becomes crushed, almostextinguished. After long years of toiling, struggling, and suffering,he is redeemed through the love of a woman, but only when he hassacrificed to "Dame Care" all he held most precious, and when thecapacity in him for joy and hope has been well-nigh destroyed. Thecharacter portrayed with perfect art is, at the same time, faithful tonature: such men are rare, perhaps, but it is well that the novelistshould remind us of their existence, and thus help us to recognise thepotency for good that dwells in mankind.

  _Der Katzensteg_ is more powerful but less artistic than _Frau Sorge_.The German critics, however, consider it to be not only the mostimportant of Sudermann's writings, but the finest novel produced inGermany during this century. The character of the heroine, Regine, averitable child of nature, in whom savagery and lack of intelligenceand education exist side by side with the nobility and power ofsacrifice, of which nature in the rough is often capable, forms themain interest of the tale, and is a marvellous and original conception.There is one scene that for realism, intensity, and horror has scarcelybeen surpassed in any novel of modern times.

  Before turning to the short tales in which we find some of Sudermann'sbest and most characteristic work, it would be well to point out one ofhis chief titles to genius. He has the gift of being able to describeterrible and heart-stirring scenes, joyful or pathetic or humorousscenes, with the utmost simplicity of style. In a few words of thesimplest sort he brings before our eyes living pictures. Each sentencepalpitates with life. As we read, we seem to live with the men andwomen of his creation through their agony; we suffer as they do, andrejoice with them when they are glad: at times we are breathless asthey are with suspense and excitement. And this is done without any ofthe analytical introspection with which we have become only toofamiliar in recent novels. The characters, at least in the novels andtales, are not mere nervous organisms, but livings loving, erring,feeling, human beings. The gift of terse narration joined to greatsimplicity of language is found in French writers like Flaubert andMaupassant, but it is new to Germany. It is, then, perhaps, Sudermann'shighest praise that we can say of him that he possesses the strengthwithout the unpleasantness of the great French writers of our day, andcombines their artistic feeling, their power and their fine wit withall that is soundest and best in the Teutonic mind and character.

  Many of the short tales are of a less specially German cast, andpossess an interest that is universal. _Der Wunsch_ (The Wish), forinstance, is a powerful psychological study, set forth with wonderfuldirectness and simplicity. Although the tale deals with the old themeof a woman who falls in love with her sister's husband, it is instinctwith passion and original in treatment. Olga loved her sister Marthadearly, and had, indeed, brought about Martha's marriage with RobertHellinger almost by her own efforts, but in so doing had herself,though unconsciously, fallen in love with Robert. Martha, always frailand delicate, after the birth of her child, falls dangerously ill. Olgagoes to her to nurse her, and love for her sick sister and passion forRobert struggle for mastery in her soul. Thus, into a characterentirely good, noble, and self-sacrificing, steals the wish, "if onlyshe were to die!" In the event Martha does die. Then Robert's eyes areopened; he knows that he loves--has all along loved Olga, and he asksher to be his wife. At first she refuses, then consents; but the samenight, having felt all the while that the wish for Martha's death,though never expressed by sign or word, makes her in a sense hersister's murderer, she puts an end to her life. She herself relates allthe circumstances in a document written to explain her act to her oldfriend the physician. A couple of quotations will give a better idea ofSudermann's style than pages of criticism. In a few marvellous strokeshe paints the effect on Robert of his first sight of Olga's corpse:--

  "When the elder Hellinger entered the room he saw a picture that frozethe blood in his veins.

  "His son's body lay stretched on the floor. In falling he must haveclung to the posts of the bier on which they had placed the deadwoman, thus bringing down the whole erection with him, for on top ofhim--among the broken boards--lay the corpse in its long white shroud,the stiffened face on his face, the bare arms thrown over his head."

  The scenes in Martha's sick room are portrayed with an art that makesthem live in our memory. Here is one of them, Martha lies in bed sickunto death. Olga and Robert, wearied out with sleepless nights and withtheir terrible anxiety, are watching her.

  "There was absolute silence in the half-darkened room; only the windwith gentle rustling, swept past the window, and the mice scratchedamong the rafters of the ceiling.

  "Robert buried his face in his hands and listened to Martha's dismalravings. Gradually he seemed to grow calmer; his breathing becameslower and more regular; now and again his head inclined to one side,but the next moment he drew it up again.

  "Sleep overpowered him, I wanted to persuade him to go to bed but I wasfeared at the sound of my own voice and kept silent.

  "The upper part of his body leaned over more and more frequently to oneside; at times his hair touched my cheek, and groping he sought asupport.

  "And then suddenly his head sank down on my shoulder and remainedthere.

  "My body trembled as if an incredible happiness had befallen me, I wasseized with an irresistible desire to stroke the bushy hair that fellover my face. Close to my eyes I saw a few silver threads. 'He isbeginning to get grey,' I thought, 'it is high time that he should knowwhat happiness means,' and then I actually stroked his hair.

  "He sighed in his sleep and tried to place his head more comfortably.

  "'He is lying uncomfortably,' I said to myself 'you must get close tohim.' I did so. His shoulder lay against mine, and his head sank downon my bosom.

  "'You must put your arm round him,' something within me cried out,'otherwise he cannot find rest!

  "Twice, thrice, I tried to do so, but as often drew back.

  "If Martha should suddenly wake! But her eyes saw nothing, her earsheard nothing.

  "And I did it.

  "Then a wild joy took possession of me, and stealthily I pressed him tome; something within me shouted joyously: 'Oh! how I would cherish andprotect you; how I would kiss away the furrows misery has made in yourbrow, and the cares from your soul! How I would toil for you with allmy young strength, and never rest till your eyes were fill of gladness,and your heart of sunshine. But to do that----'

  "I glanced over at Martha. Yes, she lived, still lived. Her bosom roseand sank in short, quick sobs. She seemed more alive than ever.

  "And suddenly there flamed before me, and it was as if I read writtenclearly on the wall the words:

  "'If only she were to die!'

  "'Yes, that was it, that was it. Oh! if only she were to die! Oh! ifonly she were to die!'"

  We have only to read Jean Ricard's _S[oe]urs_, a novel lately publishedin Paris, and dealing with the same theme, to recognise how very farsuperior is Sudermann's treatment of it.

  The volume of short tales entitled _Im Zwielicht_ is of a somewhatdifferent character. Though coloured to some extent by the melancholyand "inevitableness" of the longer novels, those qualities are lessintense, and we have lively touches of satire and brilliant flashes ofwit that remind us of the sprightliness of French writers. The talesare told in the twilight by one or other of two friends, a manand a woman, between whom there exists merely an intellectualbond of sympathy and union. The stories laugh good-naturedly atnarrow-mindedness and silly prejudice, an evil that Sudermann wiselyrecognises as existing everywhere, in the big city as in the smallvillage. Women's social aspirations, their immense delight inentertaining celebrities, and their belief that in so doing they aremoving in the stream of the world's history, are satirised withkeenness and truth. He strikes a deeper note in the tale that setsforth the difficulties of friendship and love between a woman of matureyears and a young man, a subject ably treated by Jean Richepin in hisfine novel, Madame Andre, and it is very interesting to note thecoincidence of view of the French and German writer. PerhapsSudermann's views may help towards a satisfactory solution of thatever-recurring will-o'-the-wisp--platonic affection. His heroinedeclares that to turn friendship into love, or love into friendship, isimpossible, because where such a transformation does take place, theremust, in the first instance, have been either not friendship or notlove. "From the day on which we reap love where we sowed friendship,the magic charm would be broken," she says, "Till then I was all andeverything--then I should be merely one more." And again, "Love beginsin the intoxication of the senses, and ends in the peace of calmfriendship, that is marriage; the contrary is not forbidden, but itleads--to the desert."

  In _Iolanthe's Hochzeit_, Sudermann proves himself the possessor of thehumour that borders on pathos. The little story has no tendency, itpreaches no sermon, Onkel Hanckel, "a good fellow (_ein guter Kerl_) byprofession," relates how he had to live up to the title, and how, atthe mature age of forty-seven, he became, almost against his will,engaged to a young girl. His feelings at the wedding ceremony, hishorror and shyness at the notion of being left alone with his brideafterwards, form a most delightful piece of comedy. Puetz, a surly,grasping, miserly, rich old man; Lothar, a dashing young lieutenant ofdragoons; the maiden sister; and Iolanthe herself--are portrayed with aquaint humour of which the earlier works gave little indication, whilethe vigour, simplicity, and directness of the narrative are as fine asever. The East Prussian dialect lends the original a local colour thatwould be difficult to reproduce in a translation.

  In his dramas Sudermann treats life very much from the same standpointas Ibsen does. His characters talk a great deal, and do next tonothing. He wages war against shams, thinks people should live outtheir own lives and develop their individuality at all hazards. Hepresents abnormal types, men and women who would be abnormal anywhere,in civilised society or the reverse, and who must not be taken asrepresentative of modern life. Each of the three dramas he has as yetgiven us presents a moral problem to the consideration of thespectators.

  _Die Ehre_ was first performed at the Lessing Theatre in Berlin, onNovember 27, 1889, and had an immense success. The dramatist ruthlesslyand boldly draws aside the curtain from the false ideas of honour heldby high and low alike, not only by the middle class and proletariat ofBerlin, but by civilised men in general: such social conventions,according to Sudermann, tend to make money-getting the sole aim of thecitizen, and help to undermine the peace and happiness of family life.The revelation is undoubtedly unpleasing, but all the same a greattruth underlies it, and in the end of the play the virtuous are notsacrificed to the wicked. In the speeches of Count Trast, the goodangel, the god from the machine of the drama, it is not perhapsaltogether fanciful to see the beliefs and opinions of Sudermannhimself. Trast's conclusion is that we shall do better to substituteduty for the many and varied sorts of honour recognised by society.

  _Sodom's Ende_ is a startling play. Even the Berlin censorship requiredalterations before it could permit the production of the drama on thestage of the Lessing Theatre. It still contains one scene that wouldeffectually prevent its performance in an English playhouse. The dramatakes its name from the title of a picture painted by Willy Janowski,who bids fair to become a great artist. But he has fallen under theinfluence of Adah Barcinowski, a cold, heartless, pleasure-lovingwoman, the wife of a wealthy stockbroker. That connection and his ownweak nature have ruined Willy mentally, morally, and physically. Heceases to work, leads a life of self-indulgence, heedless of the hurthe does to others. The character, unpleasing as it is, is consistentlydrawn by the dramatist, for even in the pangs of death Willy does notcease to note the artistic pose taken by the dead body of the girl hehas injured and betrayed. Never, perhaps, has the worst side of thatsection of frivolous idle society we are accustomed to call "smart"been more ably painted: its foolish vapidity, its utter futility, andits elegant wickedness and sinfulness, are boldly displayed.Unfortunately men and women without conscience, without comprehensionof duty, have always existed and still exist, but we doubt if theirevil influence is as far-reaching and all-important as latter-daynovelists and dramatists would have us believe.

  In his latest play, _Heimat_, produced January 7, 1893, Sudermann takesfor theme the duty owed by the child to the parent, and that due fromparent to child. A high-spirited and talented girl, daughter ofcommonplace, conventional parents, to the scandal of all concerned,leaves her home to carve for herself a career in the world, and byreason of her fine voice becomes a celebrated singer. After an absenceof many years chance brings her professionally to her native town, anda very natural desire is awakened in her to revisit her parents and herhome. Her father, whose health had been destroyed through the effectsof her former disobedience, wishes her to come back provided sherenounces for ever the life she has been leading. This she has nodesire to do, but for her father's sake she is not all unwilling toyield. When, however, she is further required to break with certainties very dear to her, she refuses, and the father dies from the shock.Now when we carefully read the play, or see it acted by competentartists, it is clear that much might be said on both sides. But asthere is nothing in the world more beautiful and holy than the tie thatbinds parent and child, so is the contemplation of conflict betweenthem always unlovely. We grant that in the storm and stress of modernlife such conflict is at times unavoidable, but it is scarcely thestuff of which works of art should be formed.

  A new play, a comedy, _Schmetterling-Schlacht_ (Butterfly Battle), isto be produced shortly at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna. Again a moralproblem is to be presented to the consideration of the public. Thethree heroines, honest working girls, paint butterflies on fans for aliving. Two of the girls, tired of being sweated, give up fan painting;they take to painting their faces instead, and practice otherabominations. The third girl continues her work, and remains virtuous.The play chiefly consists of a series of discussions between the girlsas to which way of life is preferable.

  Like his contemporaries, Ibsen and Bjoernson, Zola and Tolstoi,Sudermann would transfer the sermon from the pulpit to the stage: hesets before us certain phases of life that have come under his noticein all their ugliness and brutality, and would have us forthwith leavethe theatre sworn enemies of the evils he denounces. But his charactersare contented to preach and discuss, they never feel that they arecalled upon to act. Thus they lack life and reality, we have littlesympathy with them, and are never profoundly touched.

  As a writer of fiction, however, Sudermann's high position isunassailable. He ranks with the great masters in all countries who havesought, and are still seeking, to set before us modern life in itsmanifold aspects, in its complexity and its difficulties, but who,unlike the more pronounced school of naturalists, remember Joubert'smaxim that "fiction has no business to exist unless it is morebeautiful than reality."

  _August_, 1894.