World Literature

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: His Life, Works, and Thought by Hugh Barr H. Nisbet

By Hugh Barr H. Nisbet

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) is the main eminent literary determine of the German Enlightenment and a author of eu value. His diversity of curiosity as dramatist, poet, critic, thinker, theologian, philologist and lots more and plenty else along with used to be corresponding to that of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, with all of whose principles he engaged. He contributed decisively to the emergence of German as a literary language and was once the founding father of glossy German literature, urging his compatriots to seem to England instead of France for literary thought. His significant performs (including the vintage drama on non secular tolerance, Nathan the Wise) are nonetheless usually played. He used to be an excellent controversialist, and his philosophical and non secular writings profoundly shook conventional assumptions. This booklet units his existence and paintings within the context of the highbrow, social, and cultural heritage of eighteenth-century Europe. it's the first entire account of Lessing's existence for over a century, and it serves as a reference paintings on all points of Lessing's lifestyles, paintings, and notion. The German version, released in 2008, is now considered as definitive; it used to be presented the Hamann learn Prize of the college and town of Munster and the Einhard Prize for Biography of the Einhard beginning in Seligenstadt. the current English variation has been revised and up-to-date within the mild of proper guides because 2008.

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43 These predictions were rudely shattered in December 1745 by historical events, and by a force which was to change Lessing’s life dramatically on several occasions: the army of Frederick the Great. The new Prussian monarch, whose seizure of Silesia in 1740 had shocked the continent, looked down with contempt from his Spartan state in the north on the sybarites of Dresden, and he had no compunction in invading Saxony when it allied itself with his enemy Austria in the War of the Austrian Succession (or Second Silesian War) of 1744–45.

By ‘reason’ (Vernunft), he clearly understands the rational metaphysics of Leibniz and Wolff, according to which the world is a finely adjusted system in which local disturbances do not upset the harmony of the whole; by religion, he means our knowledge of the divine being who created this system, and whose beneficent providence sustains it (there is no mention here of original sin, or of Christ and his work of atonement); and by experience, he means principally his own (necessarily limited) experience of life so far.

Germany, with its numerous separate states, had no shortage of universities: there were no fewer than twentyeight in Lessing’s day, excluding those in Austria, but most of them were small and undistinguished. A handful, however, stood out. Among them was Halle, founded in 1694 just across the border from Leipzig in Prussian territory: Halle was the stronghold of Pietism, that distinctive form of Lutheran piety which placed more emphasis on soul-searching introspection and practical charity than on systematic theology, and the home—since his recall from exile by the new Prussian monarch—of Christian Wolff, whose immensely influential philosophy more than compensated for any lack of system among his Pietist colleagues.

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