Jean Paul in Weimar, 1795

‘[W]ith the publication of Jean Paul’s second novel, Hesperus oder 45 Hundsposttage (1795, Hesperus or 45 Dog-Dispatch-Days), [Goethe and Schiller] could not ignore [Jean Paul]. Hesperus surpassed Goethe’s simultaneously appearing Wilhelm Meister’s Apprentice Years as well as Ludwig Tick’s William Lovell in both sales and public interest. Overnight Jean Paul became perhaps “the most read writer” in Germany, and soon an invitation from Weimar was on the way. Setting out on foot from his impoverished home in the Bavarian village Hof, Jean Paul went to meet his fate. The anecdotes describing his reception resulted, however, not in the happy ending to the story of a parvenu, but, to quote Max Kommerell, in the material for a great “unwritten German comedy”. The first philosophical comedy of literary history—Socrates in Athens—was written by Aristophanes and bears the name The Clouds. Jean Paul in Weimar would be the sequel: Wieland, who was a great admirer and later a close friend, listened in amused discomfort as Jean Paul dismissed the Ancient Greeks as childish and of no importance for contemporary art; invited to the opera and offered a seat with the prominent guests if he would only don a sword, Jean Paul refused and took his place among the masses; dining with Goethe and Schiller, Jean Paul elaborated at length his theory of tragedy while Goethe spun his dinner plate in annoyance; and Schiller, upon making his acquaintance delivered the lasting image of Jean Paul in Weimar: “alien, like one who has fallen from the moon”.’

Source: The Pleasures of Abandonment: Jean Paul and the Life of Humor, Paul Fleming. Würzburg: Kønigshausen & Neumann, 2005. Pages 16–17.
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