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  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Freytag, Gustav

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(18161895)

    novelist

    Gustav Freytag was a journalist, a cultural historian,

    and Germanys most popular novelist

    between 1850 and 1870. He wrote about the rising

    commercial MIDDLE CLASS, entertained an

    optimistic belief in progress, and thought that literature

    should not only entertain but be instructive.

    His dramas were vehicles for his views on

    modern problems.

    Freytag was the son of the mayor of Kreuzberg,

    Silesia. He studied literature at BRESLAU and

    BERLIN, received his doctorate, and between

    1839 and 1844 was a lecturer at Breslau. He

    gave up teaching for scholarship and writing. He

    published his first comedy in 1844 and was successful

    with his plays Die Valentine (1847) and

    Graf Waldemar (1850). With an interest in liberal

    politics he joined the journal The Border Messengers

    (Die Grenzboten), a LEIPZIG periodical espousing

    the liberal NATIONALISM of the National

    Association founded in 1859 and a predecessor

    of the NATIONAL LIBERAL PARTY founded in 1867.

    The National Association also was a forum for

    the discussion of literary REALISM. In 1854 he

    was very successful with Die Journalisten (1854),

    in which he portrays the representatives of the

    daily press and satirizes the methods of politicians

    and party bosses. In 1861 Freytag gave up

    journalism until 1867 and then resumed it during

    the years leading to German unification. As

    a liberal nationalist he supported German unification

    under Prussian leadership. In 1867 he

    was elected to the parliament (Diet) of the

    NORTH GERMAN CONFEDERATION. Then during the

    Franco-Prussian War at the personal request of

    the Prussian crown prince, Friedrich, he traveled

    with headquarters to France, where he conceived

    of the idea of the patriotic novel Die

    398 Freytag, Gustav

    Ahnen (187381), a fictional chronicle of German

    history. In 1851 he bought an estate in

    Siebleben near Gotha, where he spent his summers.

    In 1863 he wrote an essay on the technique

    of drama, Die Technik des Dramas, then a

    volume of reminiscences (Errinnerungen aus

    mainem Leben, 1887).

    Freytags novel Debt and Credit (Soll und Haben,

    1855) was his most popular realist and significant

    chronicling of the life of the commercial

    middle class. The middle-class values Freytag

    emphasized were anticlericalism, antimaterialism,

    and anti-aristocratic pretentiousness. The

    goals that the middle class were supposed to

    strive for were work and nationalism. Freytag

    depicted the enterprising spirit of the middle class

    as the foundation for the new Germany. He skillfully

    portrayed a variety of characters and social

    types through the use of detail and humor.

    In his multivolume Scenes from the German Past

    (Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit, 1862) we

    have Freytags first contribution to historical literature.

    It is a survey of Germanys historical

    past that combines historical research with a

    poetic style. Historical and literary landmarks

    were published with a running explanatory text.

    It still ranks high among works in German cultural

    history.

    A realist writer of the mid-century and representative

    of a whole middle-class generation,

    he also has been criticized for his insensitiveness

    and ANTI-SEMITISM. In 1879 he retired to Wiesbaden,

    where he was honored until his death on

    April 30, 1895.

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