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Die Schweiz im Spiegel englishcher Literatur 1849-75

Die Schweiz im Spiegel englishcher Literatur 1849-75, by Hans Lohrer. 147 pages, with bibliography and index. Zürich: Juris- Verlag, 1952.

The British visitors to Switzerland before 1850 were primarily interested in scenic grandeur, and this is reflected in their contemporary literature. In the quarter century that followed, the romantic appeal declined and the Victorian novelists use it merely as a transient background, as did Thackeray in The Newcomes and George Eliot in Middlemarch. The Swiss scene occupies a somewhat more eminent place in Matthew Arnold’s poetry, particularly in Obermann. Charlotte Brontë, who probably never visited Switzerland, nevertheless developed a true Swiss character (Frances Henri) in her posthumous novel The Professor; while George Eliot, living at Geneva, scarcely utilized her undoubted appreciation of the fine things about her. On the other hand the prophets, Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin, opposed to Victorian ideals, sought better answers on the Continent, but their demands were such that Switzerland could never satisfy. Leslie Stephen, preeminently mountaineer, stands midway between these two groups, but it is evident that Switzerland plays an unimportant and limited role in the English literature of 1849-75. With the industrial revolution the romance of natural beauty no longer sufficed to inspire notable writing.

The volume reviewed supplements Schirmer’s work (1929), which covered the period to 1849 and is to be followed by Werner Steffen’s continuity through 1875-1900.

J. M. T.