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The Circulation of Romantic Creativity: Coleridge, Drama, and the Question of Translation

  • Matthew Scott

…plus d’informations

  • Matthew Scott
    Magdalen College, Oxford

Corps de l’article

It is difficult to read. The page is dark.
Yet he knows what it is that he expects.

The page is blank or a frame without a glass
Or a glass that is empty when he looks.  [1]

- 1 -

This essay, which will move on to a discussion of Coleridge's translations of Schiller's tragedy Wallenstein, arises out of some general work on the relationship between the writing of drama in the period, and the translation of German texts between 1790 and 1805. In this, two points go almost without saying: first, that Coleridge is a central figure in the relationship described; second, that for a long time, there has been a critical neglect of the drama in the period. Recent critical attempts to address this neglect have, for the most part, taken their cue from Renaissance New Historicism, and as such have attempted to deal with the drama in fairly non-evaluative terms, stressing instead the social and political implications of writing drama in the first place, while looking to the latent ideological content of the plays under examination. My own interest in the subject grows from the very different, perhaps politically naive, ground of thinking about the way in which the questions of genre and influence interrelate.

The most recent study in the area, Julie A. Carlson's In the Theatre of Romanticism: Coleridge, Nationalism, Women, which is very strongly influenced by New Historicism, provides an extraordinarily rounded examination of Coleridge's dramatic activities, and their effect on subsequent writers. Nevertheless, for reasons which I shall come onto, the study in its entirety may be less attractive than its individual chapters. When viewed together under the auspices of a political agenda, Coleridge's different works stand as a unity which belies their individuality. But one might instead be inclined to take 'a backward glance over travelled roads', and attempt, in more formalist terms, to suggest reasons for the specific attractiveness of the individual work. In this case, my interest in Coleridge's translations of Wallenstein stems from a belief that they constitute an exciting artwork in their own right, while focusing attention both upon questions of aesthetic autonomy and literary influence, and upon the issue of genre. The Californian cultural melt-down out of which New Historicism to some extent arises, appears to me either to ignore questions of genre, preferring instead to deal with all artworks as cultural, and hence political, artifacts, or to concentrate simplistically upon a particular genre, fixing it with specific usable cultural values. Ultimately, both paths led to the same end, which, in formal terms, means dealing with genre with unproblematically. This provides an unsatisfactory starting point for any understanding of what artistic excitement means. I do not see this as an imbalance which needs necessarily to be redressed, rather different readers must do different things. In this paper, I wish to point to a number of issues which converge in these texts without, inevitably, dealing with any completely.

Carlson observes in the introduction to In the Theatre of Romanticism that "[c]anonized poets appear as alien subjects when considered in their role as playwrights," and she goes on: "Imagine an introduction to 'The Romantic Poets' that features The Borderers, not The Prelude, Remorse, not selected chapters of Biographia Literaria, Otho the Great, not the Great Odes, The Cenci, not Prometheus Unbound, Sardanapaulus, not Don Juan."  [2] Carlson's point is an important one even if it is, perhaps, easily countered. While it may be true that the real breadth of the period is vicariously signified for most readers by a select group of texts that are affordable and which confirm a pre-defined essence of 'Romanticism', it is nevertheless true to say, I think, that any attempt to re-invigorate the study of the unread work of the canonical writers, upon aesthetic grounds, will appeal to these very givens. The alternative route, applied by both Carlson and Daniel Watkins in A Materialist Critique of English Romantic Drama, lies in attempting to provide a new historicist understanding of the place of theatre within the worlds of the canonical poets.  [3] This is a place in which, assessing cultural production as a series of ideologically constructed events, the theatre can and must be seen to stand for more than merely a literary outlet. The way in which Watkins handles Coleridge's Osorio pays ample testament to this kind of approach. He writes:

To investigate Osorio from the perspective of its historical genesis is to place critical emphasis on the social (rather than literary) history within which the drama was written, as well as on the political unconscious of the story being dramatised. One way of developing this emphasis is to investigate the drama as both a product of the structural change within society required by the transition, in England, from feudalism to capitalism, and as a register of the sensibilities and consciousness accompanying that change.  [4]

Watkins's approach is very thorough, but, as he seems to suggest here, it is more like social history than literary criticism. What readers may find trying is the constant manifesto-like voice employed, which implies that although the texts may change, the focus, or message, remains constant: at its worst such an approach can sound like the critic playing to a crowd which knows what it wants to hear, and cares little for either Coleridge or Osorio.

For Carlson, too, the theatre is inextricably linked to political reform, in so far as drama proposes itself as action which can and must be played out upon a public stage: this provides her with a useful way into the early plays of both Wordsworth and Coleridge, which ostensibly embody radical sentiment. Carlson's debt to French feminism makes her see the reaction against drama in the internal poetry of both writers as "a misogynist reaction against the visibility of 'public women' in theatre."  [5] Her reasonable conception of Coleridge as a writer moving inexorably out of the physical and into the mental lies in line with his movement away from the world of play-writing which is always associated "with all the dirty words of Romanticism: senses, body, collaboration, labor, money, failure."  [6] Carlson's study, whatever one makes of this particular use of the body/spirit dialectic, (and it is difficult to conceive of thinking about certain Romantic writers, Keats for example, outside of the 'dirty' world of the senses) is nevertheless useful as a sustained treatment of the dramatist. Hoagwood's review of the study in The Wordsworth Circle, although very favourable, does nevertheless pick up upon Carlson's pitfalls admirably.  [7] He contends that as cultural study, the book focuses over-selectively upon certain general issues in order to analyse the local: in this case, the issue of women in the dramas, who, Carlson argues, in representing political action, emerge, in the long term, in a negative light. Behind Carlson's point lies another issue, which to some extent remains the focus of this paper, namely that of collaboration. For, in line with his reading of Schiller and more generally the German idealists, she suggests that Coleridge moves away from drama as political action (as well as action more generally), and into a position which is politically anti-theatrical. This is the point at which drama favours the illusion over the actual and is the point at which Schiller re-embarks upon his dramatic career with Wallenstein. From this situation, the male dramatist comes to represent the creative mind forming the artwork in a space which emphasises aesthetic 'play', and is removed from the physical world of political reform. Perhaps this move is best summarised by Schiller's dictum in the prologue to Wallenstein, "Ernst ist das Leben, heiter ist die Kunst."  [8]

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So far, I have aimed to provide a brief overview of some of the critical work which is being carried out in the field of Romantic drama. I have suggested both that this work may only account for one of a number of ways of investigating the field, and that I would favour a return to a more formalised criticism. By looking back at the critical ground out of which I think Carlson and Watkins emerge, I hope to show where these two approaches, ideological cultural history and formalist literary criticism, diverge, and where some critical ground can be made up between them.

At the beginning of his collection of essays, Shakespearian Negotiations, Stephen Greenblatt, one critical precursor to the agenda outlined above, writes, "I began with the desire to speak with the dead." This is the formal desire which for the literary critic is always to be primary, if perpetually doomed. He will go on to write, of Shakespeare, in the same essay, "The Circulation of Social Energy", that:

The attempt to locate the power of art in a permanently novel, untranslatable formal perfection will always end in a blind alley, but the frustration is particularly intense in the study of Shakespeare for two reasons. First, the theater is manifestly the product of collective intentions [....] Second, the theater manifestly addresses its audience as a collectivity.  [9]

Greenblatt's project here appeals to the familiar New Historicist binarisms of the social and the private; the political and the artistic. However, it is not so simple as to merely equate the social with the political. In the first place, collective intentionality is expressed by the fact that the writing of drama is the product of the circulation of second hand material, designated by the reception of "collective genres, narrative patterns, and linguistic conventions," while all the while remaining prone to the investigation of conscious or unconscious literary influence.  [10] This aspect of the social practice of creative writing moves quickly out of precise political or ideological ground, and presumably into genre study; the investigation of influence; and linguistic or deconstructionist reading, and although these may be implicitly political, they are not explicitly so.

Only when combined with Greenblatt's second contention, that theatre naturally inhabits a collective social and political world in which it can never address an audience of one, do such readings appear radical. Few of us after all really believe in aesthetic autonomy in his sense of the belief: namely, that " a moment in which a solitary individual puts words on a page [...] is the heart of the mystery and that everything else is to be stripped away and discarded." Instead, we have come to see writing in terms of the very conventions that he highlights, those of collective languages; genres; and rhetorical structures. Needless to say, these may inhabit a no-man's-land somewhere along the continuum which runs from private artistic existence to public political life, without ever being wholly one or the other.

Nevertheless, when combined as on Carlson's view, Greenblatt's terms both seem specifically political: the collective intentionality of the artist becomes that of the politician. Since it is a political and social activity to write drama at all, the collaboratory means employed to do so lose their aesthetic importance, and become instead purely political dialogues. In other words, the public/private continuum disappears and becomes purely political. This move inevitably displaces questions which we generally see as quintessential to the period for the very reason that they are private, questions such as the nature of creativity; of originality; of the imagination. Furthermore, it does not become enough to attempt to explain such issues by reference to aesthetic terms like influence. Carlson writes that:

If we can postpone such evaluative reflexes or borrow from French feminism the notion that bad theatre is good politics, we discover in the content of these plays further challenges to the pleasures and discipline of romanticism. For one thing, under this spotlight history is not so much displaced by imagination as featured through action, however discursive.  [11]

History, here, does not mean the incorporation of historiographical material, although it may imply that historiography has a historical significance. Rather, history means the sum of a series of statements which can be made with confidence about the period upon the evidence of the contemporary literature. "Bad theatre" presumably hides its 'historical' motives less well than, say, 'great literature'. Under the terms which Carlson applies, following Greenblatt implicitly, to choose to write (or translate) non-political drama, becomes a wholly political act of aesthetic escapism. In Coleridge's case, to translate Wallenstein, a drama dealing first and foremost with humanity, and only at a remove with politics or history, has a very political motive because it shows itself precisely as political escapism. Furthermore, as a historiographical drama dealing implicitly with the development of nationalism, it is politically replete with all the implications of rediscovering a nationalist, even Shakespearean, dramatic language.

We need only turn back to what Coleridge himself says about Schiller and, in particular, about Wallenstein to see that Carlson is somewhat justified in equating the project with both nationalist and Shakespearean motives. At the various points in his career when Coleridge comments upon Schiller, it is very often with an eye to Shakespeare. Although Schiller comes off unfavourably by comparison, the very fact that the two are dealt with together proclaims something of Coleridge's admiration for his writing. In the Preface to the second of his translations, The Death of Wallenstein, he writes:

Few, I trust, would be rash or ignorant enough to compare Schiller with Shakespeare, yet, merely as illustration, I would say that we should proceed to the perusal of Wallenstein, not from Lear or Othello, but from Richard the Second, or the three parts of Henry the Sixth.  [12]

It is significant that Coleridge offers us this comparison, especially given the fact that the authenticity of the early Histories was under question as evidenced by Malone's essay in his collected works. The implication seems to be that the mature Schiller can bear comparison only with the style of a lesser Shakespeare, and this is a point taken up and developed by unfavourable contemporary reviewers. The British Critic, in an unsigned review, comments that:

For the tediousness of most of the scenes and speeches in the dramas, the translator, Mr. Coleridge, makes the best apology in his power, comparing them to Shakespeare's three historical plays of Henry the Sixth. But, not to mention that a very small part of those plays is supposed, by the best critics, to have been the work of Shakespeare, is not this comparison to the worst of our bard's historical dramas, somewhat like that of the actor, who assured himself of success, 'because he was taller than Garrick, and had a better voice than Mossop"?  [13]

Nevertheless, the fact remains that this is a fair comparison in the sense that Schiller's Wallenstein, like Shakespeare's Histories, opens itself readily both to questions of historiography and of inscribing a national literature written out of collective history. This is something that Coleridge himself expresses much later in his Table Talk of 1833:

The young men in Germany and England who admire Lord Byron prefer Goethe to Schiller; but you may depend upon it, Goethe does not, nor ever will, command the mind of the people of Germany as Schiller does. Schiller had two legitimate phases. The first as author of the Robbers, which must not be considered with reference to Shakespeare, but as a work of the material sublime - and in that line it is undoubtedly very powerful indeed. It is quite genuine and deeply imbued with Schiller's own soul. After this, Schiller outgrew the composition of such plays as the Robbers and at once took his true and only rightful stand in the grand historical drama the Wallenstein. Not the intense drama - he was not master of that - but of the diffused drama of history, in which alone he had ample score for his varied powers. This is the greatest of his works - not unlike Shakespeare's historical plays - a species by itself.  [14]

Coleridge had complained to Josiah Wedgwood during the translation of the "dull heavy play", but whether we should take this seriously, or as merely an expression of temporary exasperation in the face of an extraordinary project, is hard to say.  [15] Given the results, one would probably favour the latter. Here, in the Table Talk, Coleridge consciously figures the play as a nationalist work, implying that the incorporation of history works to capture the national imagination. Nevertheless, Wallenstein is not a work which speaks of a political or radical agenda but rather deals with the specific question of the aesthetic as a realm which may incorporate, as E. S. Shaffer puts it, epic issues concerned with "the nature of leadership, with the peculiar conjunction of religious superstition, personal ambition, and national achievement."  [16] I certainly do not wish to suggest that Wallenstein does not have these nationalist motives, nor that it in some way provides Coleridge with the means to write high drama in the Shakespearean mould; nor would I contend with Carlson's conclusion that this project has political ends in that it shows Coleridge beginning to move away from radicalism and even from the outside world which is, at least in part, political. What I would suggest is that there is more to the work than these issues, and that one needs to follow Greenblatt only in his first point in order to see this. In other words, the translations have a considerable amount to say about the nature of creativity and originality in their own right, and that to displace these questions from the aesthetic or literary critical world by appeal to action is to lose a vital part of the study of Romanticism.

To return to Greenblatt, with whose words I began this section, it is now possible to see precisely why, on his terms, it can never be possible "to speak with the dead". The patterns of doubling or of mirroring which Greenblatt points to in the social energy of Renaissance drama are socially rather than linguistically constructed, so that to attempt to uncover the speaking voice of the poet or author, is to release many other unspoken voices, whose silent agendas are political:

I had dreamed of speaking with the dead, and even now I do not abandon this dream. But the mistake was to imagine that I would hear a single voice, the voice of the other. If I wanted to hear one, I had to hear the many voices of the dead. And if I wanted to hear the voice of the other, I had to hear my own voice. The speech of the dead, like my own speech, is not private property.  [17]

The many ever-present voices that Greenblatt points to are social voices which have an ideological importance above and outside literary echoes that, as keen formalist readers, we may think we hear. For Greenblatt, we may begin to read texts as sites of collective intentionality in literary terms, but this move will very quickly reveal itself as flawed because, he would suggest, that in order to read well we will always read as historians, aware of the social collectivity of the scene of writing. This view makes good sense on one level but it may be problematic as well. For one thing, in Carlson's reading of Wallenstein, Greenblatt's critical logic becomes the elevation of a commonplace fact about composition history to a grand point about the historical motives behind a belief in creativity. This is a grand point which is made outside a reading of the text, and which is then imported for personal political motives. Secondly, Greenblatt's view progresses from an over simple conception of the poetic voice. This view understands the poetic voice as the voice of the poet per se, which we must uncover in order to 'understand' the text before us. The issue of voice is rather clearly more complicated than this, even when seen in purely poetic terms, and the question of whether it may ever be possible to 'speak with the dead' is, itself, a high(ly) 'romantic' question, which we find in poetry from Wordsworth and Coleridge to Stevens and Ashbery.

Behind Greenblatt's dead lies, I would suggest, another very different voice, against which he is setting himself. This is something like the voice of the dead which return in Bloom's revisionary ratios. For Bloom, in contrast to Greenblatt, the voice of the dead poet is one which returns perpetually in poetic and specifically non-political or non-socialised terms. While I do not wish to suggest that Bloomian ratios contain the key to opening up a reading of the act of creation which takes place when one great poet translates the work of another, I do, nevertheless, believe that the key to Coleridge's translations lies in an understanding of the transference of powerful poetry from one poet's writing to another, and the job of the critic must be to unweave the tapestry of voices at work in this transference. If nothing else, the translations stand as an act of extraordinary reading, which is mirrored and expanded in the very text itself.

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I have suggested that Greenblatt's concept of collective intentionality has an important link to Bloomian or, at least more openly formalist considerations of the production literary texts, this is something I shall come back to in the closing stages of this paper. In this section, I would like to point to the open transference of material between Germany and England in the period 1790 to 1805, in the hope that this will be suggestive of the curious position that Wallenstein itself occupies.

The importance of German literature to cultural productivity in England was significant in the 1790s, although the principal influence in theatre was not Goethe, despite the translation of Die Leiden des Jungen Werters in 1774, but Kotzebue. Werter did, however, make its way into the sentimental theatre of the day in the form of Francis Reynolds's play Werter. A Tragedy, published in 1786 and substantially revised for the London stage in 1802. Furthermore, many of Goethe's other writings, including some later classical works did find their way into translation reasonably quickly: Goetz von Berlichen, Stella, Iphigenia auf Tauris, and Herman und Dorothea were all translated into English between 1790 and 1801.

The state of drama in England in the 1790s is fairly clear from the abundant contemporary collections of plays available. Despite our common conceptions about the period this was very clearly not a time of dramatic inactivity. Nevertheless, it was certainly not a time of 'high drama'. Plays tended to be formulaic, often including Gothic elements, and often embodying simple moral lessons. Despite being attacked by Coleridge himself in the Biographia, by Austen in Mansfield Park, and by Wordsworth in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads as "sickly and stupid German tragedies", the plays and influence of August von Kotzebue are important for just these formulae. Over thirty of his plays made it to England during the 1790s either in translation or loose adaptation and their influence can be seen in plot, setting and even in titles. One personal collection in the Bodleian Library has bound Kotzebue's Adelaide of Wulfingen (1798), translated by Ben Thompson, alongside Pye's similar Adelaide (1800).

Coleridge himself has an ambiguous and troubled reaction to the stage. Early on he clearly thought that the stage could be an arena for suggesting political action, while as his career continues he develops a critique of the stage, which will ultimately become an opposition towards it. John David Moore, in his useful essay, "Coleridge and the 'modern Jacobinical Drama'", suggests that this process can be explained by reference to both an increasing reaction against political reform, as well as a belief in the moral ambiguousness of much of the drama of the period. Nevertheless, there is another element at work, which brings us round to the beginnings of a discussion of the collaboration between Coleridge and Schiller, which culminates in his translations of Wallenstein in 1800. This is the sense of the denigration of an art form that Coleridge felt in the cheap Drury Lane theatre of the day. Carlson picks up upon this to suggest that within Coleridge's sense of the need to re-invigorate the writing of drama as high art, lies a nationalism whose impulse goes back to an appreciation of 'the golden age of English drama' in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. From this point of view, it is hardly surprising that Coleridge looks to Germany and Schiller, in particular, when he begins his play-writing career, for Schiller had found a language and a style which seemed able to appropriate Shakespeare, in formal and linguistic terms, while all the while remaining faithful to the concerns of the day. In short, Schiller remained dedicated to the production of something like classical high tragedy.

It is just exactly the loss of this art form that Moore points to as a characteristic of the day. He writes:

The events of the French Revolution, that period's prototype of social upheaval, were described and analysed by Tory and Jacobin alike in terms of a stage drama. The Revolution was theatre. For Burke the fall of the ancien regime was tragedy succeeded by the hideous burlesque acted out by the populace, but for Paine the entire drama was one of burlesque and revivifying comedy. The ancien regime was a burlesque waiting to be exposed by a theatrical Republicanism. Tragedy was the genre of the old order, comedy that of the new.  [18]

Within this context, the transition of Schiller's early plays to England had an effect which was startling. Die Rauber which was translated by Francis Tytler in 1792 from the French was to have enormous influence. Coleridge wrote to Southey, in a much quoted letter, of 3 November 1794:

'Tis past one o clock in the morning - I sate down at twelve o' clock to read the 'Robbers' of Schiller - I had read chill and trembling until I came to the part where Moor fires a pistol over the Robbers who are asleep - I could read no more - My God! Southey! Who is this Schiller? This convulser of the heart? Did he write his Tragedy amid the yelling of Fiends?...Why have we ever called Milton sublime?  [19]

In order to understand the effect that The Robbers had in England it is important to be clear about the play's specific genesis in Germany, and its place within Schiller's development. Schiller's career is normally divided into early and late, or political and quietist periods. The early work consists of the plays Die Rauber; Die Verschworung des Fiesco; Kabale und Liebe, and Don Carlos. Meanwhile the later Schiller is the aesthetician of various essays on tragedy; The Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters; "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry"; and the late plays: Wallenstein; Maria Stuart; Die Jungfrau von Orleans; Die Braut von Messina, and Wilhelm Tell. Therefore, while Coleridge was still very much a young man when he translated Wallenstein, he was working with the material of an experienced dramatist and thinker whose major work of aesthetics, The Aesthetic Education, was in its final stages as the play was being written. Die Rauber on the other hand was the work of a very young man, written in 1781 when Schiller was only twenty-two.

Traditional interpretations of the play have tended to see it in purely radical terms as a drama which curiously prefigures the revolution in France. There can be little doubt that this accounted for something of its attraction in England in which there was, as Rosemary Ashton has pointed out, a radical reception committee in waiting. The radical reception was of course tempered somewhat by those who saw the play as scandalously revolutionary, in particular The Anti-Jacobin, who exaggerated and the mocked the Gothic elements in their parody The Rovers, (1798). This attack represented, as Ashton points outs, an attack upon the whole Sturm und Drang movement which sought to remove French Classicism from German drama replacing it instead with a naturalised Shakespeare.  [20] Nevertheless, in modern critical terms, it is clear, I think, that the play is nothing like as radical as contemporary interpreters thought. The religious tolerance, equality and personal freedom exhibited in the play are qualities under considerable debate, and this is often ignored. Schiller's belief in the aesthetic education as an inspiration to rational action in the ideal state is laid down in the later Letters, but it is clear that in this early play he has already something like this in mind from the apparent stasis at the end of the play, and from his unwillingness to commit himself too eagerly to any particular political path.

The appeal of the play to Coleridge, therefore, may be seen to exist upon two levels: first, there is the political nature of the drama, but second, and more important are the formal qualities of the work. Largely, the play succeeds in these terms because of three separate elements. First, and most important, is the extreme naturalism of the piece, which has characters speaking in believable voices, and thinking about real issues in reasoned terms. Second, there is an appeal to the contemporary taste for Gothic elements in staging, and plot development. Third, and this may be the crucial point for Coleridge, Schiller manages to begin his task of re-invigorating drama in classical tragic terms by taking stock set-pieces from Shakespeare and giving them a definitively modern feel. For Coleridge, schooled in Shakespeare from an early age, Schiller's drama is sufficiently Shakespearean to make one feel at home, but is not so linguistically in debt to a former idiom to feel like mere pastiche.

The Robbers reception in England must be seen as one of the most important cultural events of the 1790s, if only because of its influence upon drama in the period, and upon the translation of other contemporary German work. In his 1830 Life of Schiller, Carlyle wrote that "The publication of The Robbers forms an era not only in Schiller's history, but in the literature of the world."  [21] This sense of a transition from one form of drama to other is evidenced by the vast body of work which takes elements from the play implicitly or overtly. One of the earliest example of this is the play Adelaide by Amelia Alderson of Norwich which exists only in a plot sketch, but which is thought to have been written at the behest of another Norwich writer, William Taylor, who read the play in German to his coterie in around 1785, and who went on to make a translation of Goethe's Iphigenia auf Tauris. His own play Harolde and Tostig, written in 1790 but only published in 1810 in The Monthly Review, borrows the brothers plot from the play. Meanwhile, more obvious links to the play are visible in The Borderers, Lewis's The Castle-Spectre, and Coleridge's own Osorio. Lewis wrote of The Castle Spectre that his dream scene was indebted to the dream of Franz Moor, which "is surpassed by no vision ever related upon the stage". He goes on, "Were I asked to produce an instance of the sublime, I should name the Parricide's confession - 'Ich kannte den Mann!'"  [22] L. A. Willoughby pointed out in his 1921 article on the reception of The Robbers, that Lewis's own play was later developed into a novel by Sarah Wilkinson, The Castle Spectre. An Ancient Baronial Romance which matches the fashion in Germany at the time of producing prose romances based upon Die Rauber.

This spate of writing over the decade after the introduction of the play, and in particular in the eighteen months around the composition of Osorio and The Borderers brings up the important question of literary authenticity and of the nature of collaboration. This interesting theoretical issue is raised by a play calling itself The Red-Cross Knights. A Play in Five Acts [...] Founded on The Robbers of Schiller. This play of 1799 by J. G. Holman, takes the play and turns it into a Christian work about the Spanish crusades against the Moors, while remaining self-consciously indebted to the original. Like Coleridge, Holman borrows the brothers plot from Schiller in Roderic and Ferdinand, and incorporates a mutual love interest in Eugenia. In the 'Advertisement', Holman explains that he had become 'captivated' by the 'beauties' of Schiller's play, and he describes a curious creative process in which he had originally intended merely to prepare the piece for the stage, but found that his work was prohibited by the licenser. He goes on:

On a more dispassionate investigation of the play, I found much to justify the licenser's decision...Still unwilling to abandon a favourite object, I determined on forming a Play, which should retain as much of the original, with the omission of all that seemed objectionable.  [23]

The final result excises the unacceptable radicalism of the Ur-play, but nevertheless incorporates whole scenes from Tytler's translation. Leaving aside questions of the political imperatives operating overtly upon the author, it is interesting to question the exact position of the author within all this. The play ends up looking like a piece of bricolage in which the author emerges as an organising principle and signatory. Furthermore, within this, the voice of the author is what emerges at the cracks in this structure.

Matthew Lewis raises the question of authenticity in the preface to his translation of Kabale und Liebe in 1797. Between 1792 and 1801 Schiller's five major tragedies were translated into English, therefore suggesting a real speed of transition between the two countries. However, as has been pointed out in relation to Coleridge's translation of Wallenstein, the issue of translation is a tricky one, for in many cases the uneasy balance between writer and translator can be upset. Lewis, as author of The Castle Spectre, has a peculiar interest in authenticity. He writes:

The Following pages contain a translation of Schiller's "Cabale und Liebe." A Play calling itself a Version of that admired Tragedy has already appeared in England, but so extremely ill executed, and in so mutilated a condition as to leave scarce a shadow of resemblance between the Original and the Copy. The Author has taken the liberty of omitting whole characters and scenes, and in several places has thought proper to substitute his own sentiments for Schiller's; an alteration by which the piece is very far from gaining.  [24]

In a letter to Wordsworth, of 23 January 1798, Coleridge produces a comprehensive review of The Castle Spectre, in which he shows himself to be aware of the problems of literary authenticity. He writes:

There are no felicities in the humorous passages; and in the serious ones it is Schiller Lewis-ized - i.e. a flat, flabby, unimaginative Bombast oddly sprinkled with colloquialisms [...] This Play proves how accurately you conjected concerning theatric merit. The merit of the Castle Spectre consists wholly in it's situations. These are all borrowed, and are all absolutely pantomimical; but they are admired managed for stage effect. There is not much bustle; but situations for ever. The whole plot, machinery, & incident are borrowed - the play is a patchwork of plagiarisms - but they are very well worked up, & for stage effect make an excellent whole.  [25]

Two points are worth making in relation to this letter: first, Coleridge points to some of the issues that were raised in relation to Holman's play, namely, of the issue of the use of borrowed plot structure and device in the later work. Second and more important however, is the issue of language. Coleridge charges Lewis with appropriating and even debasing the language of the original. His criticism is merely evaluative: Lewis's language is not his own, and furthermore it is an unsuccessful in his hands. Nevertheless, there is an interesting problem here which it is hard to resolve, of the issue of the transference of poetic language from one poet to another. We need to ask ourselves where, if anywhere, is the original voice of the translating poet, and how do we reach out, as readers, to that voice.

When Coleridge came to translate Schiller's later play Wallenstein, he was to find himself in very much the same dilemma as Lewis had been in with The Minister. This is the familiar Master/Slave dialectic that translator's must naturally fall into. Nevertheless, it has a particular currency in the period, in which translations and supposed translations begin to break down the barrier between primary and secondary art works. We need only think of Macpherson or Chatterton to consider how the discovery and transmission of the art work stands as a mask for creativity. Coleridge was obviously aware of having taken liberties with the prompt book text that he used for the translation of the plays, and he certainly remains conscious of having appropriated another artist's work in order to promote his own poetic imagination. Both Tieck and August Wilhelm Schlegel claimed to prefer Coleridge's version to the original, and although he came to dislike it for a time after the realism of failure in the reviews (the British Critic called his translations "devoid of harmony or elegance"), his confidence was renewed by later praise from Shelley amongst others. In his preface to The Piccolomini he writes:

In the translation I endeavoured to render my Author literally wherever I was not prevented by absolute differences of idiom; but I am conscious, that in two or three short passages I have been guilty of dilating the original; and from anxiety to give the full meaning, have weakened the force.  [26]

Criticism relating to Coleridge's translations of Wallenstein is fairly sparse, and it either tends to relate to the peculiarities of diction in the translation, or to Shakespearean resonances in the language.  [27] One way into the plays as they relate to Coleridge may be to think about differences between the early Schiller of The Robbers and the later poet and theorist of the final dramas. Schiller had given up writing drama ten years before Wallenstein in order to dedicate himself to history and philosophy, and when he returns to drama it is with a view to writing works which will accommodate these interests. In The Aesthetic Education we find much which relates to the theories of High Romanticism which have come to seem paradigmatic of the thinking of the period. Schiller's analysis of the state moves away from the radicalism that we might expect and instead deals with the cultural productions of the state, and the ways in which these reflect upon modernity in general terms.

The modern world, as well as modern art, has for Schiller fragmented in such a way that modern consciousness can no longer aspire to the condition of fulfilment that he sees as the necessary aspiration of man. Letter Two stands in some way as the locus classicus of post-enlightenment disillusion with modernity. No justice can be done to the treatise in such a short space, but it will suffice to say that as Schiller sets himself up self-consciously against Plato, in his theory of the modern state, so he accords art and the contemplation of the art work a vital position within the context of modern thought. Exactly how Schiller supposed the spieltrieb to be a redemptive force in the modern world is hotly debated, and somewhat problematic, but nevertheless, he does suggest that in the contemplation of the art work we become free to chose the rational course in life which leads to the construction and maintenance of the ideal.

This position is rather clearly more conservative than his earlier thought, even though, as I suggested, arguments for The Robbers conservatism can be made. Still, it does go some way to suggest why he chose to move away from prosaic Sturm und Drang drama and into the genre of verse drama. Wallenstein as such provides the model for what Coleridge himself could not produce. It is epic in proportion including the very latest historiographical pedigree as its basis, but furthermore, it is very self-consciously high art. Schiller as the dramatist appears to present reality with absolute objectivity, as the scenes progress neatly into one another, and the drama plays itself out. Nevertheless, the drama is elevated by the use of verse, and lent an almost classical power by the incorporation of long speeches; internalised self-examination; and recourse to the inevitable fate of history. There are many passages one could single out, in which Schiller both points to the mythology of the world of the play, and twists and contorts the syntax of the language so that it appears to over echo Shakespeare. Wallenstein's early speech on astrology sets a formal tone for the tragedy we know will follow:

Wallenstein: The heavenly constellations make not merely
The days and nights, summer and spring, not merely
Signify to the husbandman the seasons
Of sowing and of harvest. Human action,
That is the seed too of contingencies,
Strewed on the dark land of futurity
In hopes to reconcile the power of fate.
Whence it behoves us to seek out the seed-time,
To watch the stars, select their proper hours,
And trace with searching eye the heavenly houses,
Whether the enemy of growth and thriving
Hide himself not, malignant, in his corner.  [28]

An important point to be made about Coleridge's collaboration with Schiller is that the success of the drama in no way vindicates 'German' theatre in English terms. As the reviews make plain, for the general audience German drama was still very much a question of the work of Kotzebue, and Schiller remained the dramatist of The Robbers. Instead, Wallenstein stands as testament to the enduring power of literature to write history, and more than this, to the power of Shakespearean drama to influence the art forms of the future. In "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry", Schiller was to suggest that only the truly great writers of the past could create new forms, while sentimental art must remain the lot of modern writers. As such we are, as it were, bound into re-writing the work of our forefathers whose influence is ever pervasive. This is to some extent the situation in Wallenstein, and Coleridge's advice to us to look back to Shakespeare's early history plays as a key to the trilogy is not without foundation. Like Henry VI Parts Two and Three, the drama is unremitting in its seriousness, while at the same time it incorporates vast rhetorical passages and curiously astrological imagery. The action of the drama is not succinctly political, but inexorably historical. As such we do not respond irrationally in Schiller's terms by becoming politically engaged but are instead indifferent to the action, because it is history, and yet it is only a semblance of the reality with which we are presumably familiar. This explains Coleridge's remarks in the preface: "It was my intention to have prefixed a Life of Wallenstein to this translation; but I found that it must either have occupied a space wholly disproportionate to the nature of the publication, or have been merely a meagre catalogue of events narrated not more fully than they are already in the Play itself."  [29] History has very literally become subsumed within the play of the text.

- 4 -

By way of a conclusion, I would briefly like to relate my reading of the translation of Wallenstein into what I have said about Greenblatt and Bloom in the earlier part of this paper. One of the most exciting elements of the play as a translation seems to me to lie in the way in which it thematically deals with issues that lie at the heart of the work as a translation. I have suggested that instead of focusing upon the historical and ideological issues at work in the process of the transition of literature from the mind to the world stage, we should rather ask questions about what happens to language when it is translated or transmitted from one author to another. In relation to the specific issue of translation from one language to another, these questions are inevitably problematised, and attention must dwell to some degree upon the inconsistencies that the translator produces. It is now not as fashionable as previously it was to conjure all literary writing as the translation of previous discourses, unless one suggests this in purely New Historicist terms. To suggest in purely formal aesthetic terms that art works are made up of a blend of previous reading and individual creativity seems politically naive.

Nevertheless, translations are curious objects with which many of us must make do. A good translation can have enormous power of its own, which seems unsatisfactorily explained by describing the writing as a unique instance of the blend of two minds. Despite the ironic reversal of logic, it may seem more satisfactory to say that most works of art are like translations, but that translations make less of an attempt to hide their process. In this way, it becomes useful and interesting to show where Coleridge borrows consciously or unconsciously from Shakespeare in his translation of Wallenstein, but this cannot be the whole story. Rather we must as Greenblatt suggests, at the end of his essay, go on in our search for the voice which is Coleridge's. An irony that surely would not have been lost on Coleridge is that if there is any sense in what I am suggesting, then it pushes his translations towards the logical endpoint of Schiller's sentimental literature. This is completely inherited literature. But one reassurance in this lies in the fact that modernist literature turned translation and bricolage into high art.

Further and perhaps more implicit ironies are also at work in the thematics of the text. Throughout the translation, we find references to language and to the fact that the word has both power and is powerless. The importance of language appears to me to function on three levels. First, language is figured as an immensely powerful device in the thematics of signature in the play. This is most clear in the deliberation over the counterfeit oath and later over the question of whether or not Max will sign it. Illo states:

 Let them then

Beat their wings bare against the wires, and rave
Loud as they may against our treachery,
At court their signatures will be believed
Far more than their most holy affirmations.  [30]

The signature stands as something of enormous power in a text whose own signatory status is curious.

This irony is compounded by the second, related fact that the action of the play is constantly concerned with letters and decrees: artifacts with signatory power and authority which can authorise action. In the closing stages of The Death of Wallenstein, we find that the murder of Wallenstein can only be carried out once letters authorising it have been received; while at the end of The Piccolomini, Sesina is captured with documents which attest to Tersky's treason, but not Wallenstein's:

Tersky. They have documents against us, and in hands,
Which shew beyond the power of contradiction -
Wallenstein. Of my hand-writing - no iota.  [31]

The fact that writing or the signature have a legal power, also suggests that they have some privileged authority to govern truth. Shortly before Octavio betrays him, Wallenstein demonstrates the actual fallibility of this contract. He states: "There is no such thing as chance. / In brief, 'tis signed and sealed that this Octavio / Is my good angel - and now no word more." This play, which in its translated state foregrounds issues of the circulation of texts, of the indeterminacy of the word, and of the contingency of the contract between author and text, plays to a set of thematic concerns which presents what is going on formally as a mirror of theme.

My third point takes up this concern with language in the play in more general terms. As Coleridge himself pointed out, the play is made up of long speeches, separated by artificial transitionary scenes. Furthermore, it deals with characters, most obviously Wallenstein himself and Max, who are desperately vocal in their attempts to articulate their own situations. In The Piccolomini, Max, who is figured by Coleridge through Schiller, and to an extent after Hamlet, as the archetypal 'Romantic' young man in search of meaning, is found desperately attempting to explain his own 'Dejection' and finding that, like Coleridge, he stares upon the world "with how blank an eye":

Max: Here is no face on which I might concentre
All the enraptured soul stirs up within me.
O Lady! tell me. Is all changed around me?
Or is it only I?

 I find myself,

As among strangers! Not a trace is left
Of all my former wishes, former joys.
Where has it vanished to? There was a time
When even, methought, with such a world as this
I was not discontented. Now how flat!
How stale! No life, no bloom, no flavour in it!
My comrades are intolerable to me.
My father - Even to him I can say nothing.
My arms, my military duties - O!
They are such wearing toys!  [32]

In this speech we can find many elements of canonical English literature: Hamlet; Satan of Paradise Lost Book II; even proleptically the language of later Romantic poetry. Perhaps the echoes of Satan are too strong to be co-incidental:

 Thus with the year

Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or the summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of Nature's works to me expunged and razed,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.

But most clearly, it seems to me echo the poetic dialogue which Coleridge and Wordsworth will come on to write two years later in Coleridge's Dejection and Wordsworth's Ode. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Earliest Childhood. It is easy to see how the thematic concerns of Wallenstein would have captivated Coleridge: here, the question which Max asks is the same as the one Wordsworth is asking in the Ode. Intimations of Immortality, namely of the constancy of the self over time and of the power of the imagination to withstand these changes.

Furthermore, behind both Wordsworth's Ode, with its "Blank misgivings of a creature / Moving about in worlds not realised" and Coleridge's blank eye lies the universal blank of Milton's Satan, as Bloom has argued, and it is interesting to see this 'blank' return in Coleridge's Wallenstein.  [33] Early on it the drama, Tersky remarks to Illo, of Wallenstein that:

His policy is such a labyrinth,
That many a time when I have thought myself
Close by his side, he's gone at once, and left me
Ignorant of the ground where I was standing.  [34]

By contrast, he suggests that to his astrologer, Sesina, Wallenstein "comes forward blank and undisguised". As the play moves on, we realise both that his coming forward to Sesina as a blank has been his downfall, and that the 'necessity', or fatal destiny, that Sesina preaches is to be unavoidable. The action of the play is governed by necessity and the speeches that Wallenstein and Max indulge in are merely delaying tactics which put off the inevitable. It is therefore highly appropriate that necessity itself should be figured as a blank: it is the blank that we all fear, and that is decided for Wallenstein before the play begins. He says:

Yes, Max, I have delayed to open it to thee,
Even till the hour of acting 'gins to strike.
Youth's fortunate feeling doth seize easily
The absolute right, yea, and a joy it is
To exercise the single apprehension
Where the sum squares in proof;
But where it happens, that of two sure evils
One must be taken, where the heart not wholly
Brings itself back from out the strife of duties,
There 'tis a blessing to have no election,
And blank necessity is grace and favour.  [35]

In the scene following we hear Wallenstein speaking at his most Wordsworthian, which is significant when we consider that Coleridge had read the 'spots of time' passage in Gottingen, six months earlier. Wallenstein says: "There exist moments in the life of man / When he is nearer the great soul of the world / Than is man's custom, and possesses freely / The power of questioning his destiny." If the play teaches us one lesson about such questioning, it is that it must always be in vain. Ultimately, on the problem of language, we learn a lesson from the insignificant Gordon, one of Wallenstein's murderers: he says, "A word may be recalled, a life can never be."

This line may almost stand as a motto for the work, and is particularly poignant in the mouth of the translator: the play is merely words and they may indeed be changed and recalled in future translations of the work. At the end of Wallenstein's life he longs to see Max. To see, rather than to speak to the man whom he now realises was his double, (despite the fact that Max has longed to speak with him before his death) would be enough to make the doomed Duke 'well':

Wallenstein. Methinks,
If I but saw him, 'twould be well with me.
He, is the star of my nativity,
And often marvellously hath his aspect
Shot strength into my heart.
Countess. Thou'lt see him again.
Wallenstein. See him again? O never, never again.
Countess. How?
Wallenstein. He is gone - is dust.
Countess. Whom meanst thou then?
Wallenstein. He, the more fortunate! yea, he hath finished!
For him there is no longer any future,
His life is bright - bright without spot it was,
And cannot cease to be. No ominous hour
Knocks at his door with tidings of mishap.
Far off is he, above desire or fear;
No more submitted to the change and chance
Of the unsteady planets. O tis well
With him! but who knows what the coming hour
Veil'd in thick darkness brings for us!

This long passage is one of the powerful in the play. It proclaims the need for sight, just as it suggests that pointlessness of speech. At the end of the play, the doublings and contortions which have been ever present as objects of the dramatic construction are replaced by a silence which speaks of the dark power of fatal necessity.

I hope to have suggested something of the power of Coleridge's translation and something of its curious self-reflexivity. It is true to say that the translations occupy an important position in Coleridge's move away from radicalism, and into a relationship with the abstract. They are works which it is hard to comment upon because we are forever in an artistic no-man's-land, but they are all about the difficulty of writing and of speaking, and of the need for autonomy in art. As we read them more we may begin to realise that to view art as an autonomous formal arena does not mean making simple points about authorship, but rather implies looking into the artwork to discover the multiple layers upon which it exists. And this is surely something we could valuably re-learn in relation to more than merely these texts.

Parties annexes