Walt and Vult; Or, The Twins . . .

WALT AND VULT; OR, THE TWINS. Translated from the Flegeljahre of JEAN PAUK. In two volumes.— Boston: James Monroe & Co. Wiley & Putnam, New York. 1846.

  We greet with great pleasure, this translation of one of Richter’s most celebrated works. We cannot doubt that the unexpected earnestness of welcome with which his biography by the same refined and feeling writer was received will be extended to this book also.

  Richter is a most difficult and complicated theme to one who wishes to know him well. He loves complexity and perplexity, and if he has riches to adorn a palace, splendid as the three-mile villa of Adrian, he cannot be contented without the amusement of arranging them in a labyrinth. His main thought is so oppressed by collateral thoughts that it is often difficult to seize it. The translator gives this account of the scope of this book:

  “One might, before reading, as what is the object and character of the work. It would be difficult to answer. But it may be called a series of pictures, describing the successive moods of mind of the Poet; and from these moods of mind, arise scenes of comic, tender or pathetic interest. It contains Jean Paul’s own view of the value of his own art; that of an imaginative writer, and the adaptation of such a pursuit to the actual world. It probably throws more light on the personal character of the author than any other of his works.

  “His most authentic biographer tells us that Richter, ‘in the combined characters of his Twins meant to embody the characteristics of the true poet.’ The truthfulness, generosity, tenderness and hopefulness of the poetical temperament wrought in and blended with humor and satire; with a cold, sarcastic dissection of character; with a penetrating knowledge, and a keen sense of all that is false and hypocritical.

  This is an union belonging to the highest form of genius; to Shakespeare, Cervantes, Burns; preeminently to Jean Paul himself. * * * * *

  “Winn, like a true woman, loves the tender, the spiritual, the poetical in Walt, but is only brought to acknowledge her love to the society-refined and accomplished Vult, when he exhibits to her his culture and knowledge of the world, and by his address draws from her unsophisticated character its deepest secret.”

  But the book is chiefly enchanting from the myriad beauties which adorn the banks of the stream as it flows, more than for the object it seeks or the burthen it bears.

  For ourselves, what we think of Richter, here as elsewhere, was expressed long since in the following lines, which, if not good as verse, convey to us, even now, so true a sense as to seem worth using again.

POET of Nature! Gentlest of the Wise!
  Most airy of the fanciful, most keen
Of satirists, thy thoughts, like butterflies,
  Still near the sweetest-scented flowers have been;
With Titian’s colors thou capnst sunset paint,
  With Raphael’s dignity, celestial love;
With Hogarth’s pencil, each deceit and feint
  Of meanness and hypocrisy reprove;
Canst to Devotion’s highest flight sublime
  Exalt the mind, by tenderest pathos’ art.
  Dissolve in purifying tears the heart,
Or bid it, shuddering, recoil at crime;
  The fond illusions of the youth and maid,
At which so many world-formed sages sneer,
  When by thy altar-lighted torch displayed,
Our natural religion must appear.
All things in thee tend to one polar star.
Magnetic all thy influences are!

Some murmur at the ‘want of system’ in Richter’s writings.

A LABYRINTH! A flowery wilderness!
  Some in thy ‘Slip-boxes’ and Honey-moons’
Complain of—want of order, I confess,
But not of system in its highest sense.
Who asks a guiding clue through this wide mind,
In love of Nature such will surely find;
In tropic climes, live like the tropic bird,
Whene’er a spice-fraught grove may tempt thy stay,
  Nor be by cares of colder climes disturbed—
No frost the Summer’s bloom shall drive away,
Nature’s wide temple and the azure dome
Have plan enough for the free spirit’s home!


“Walt and Vult; Or, The Twins . . . ,” New-York Daily Tribune, 3 March 1846, p. 1.