The struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism for the soul of Germany was moderating its violence, for the Thirty Years’ War had brought theological hatreds to a reductio ad absurdum. Largely through Jesuit persuasion some Protestant princes went over to the Roman Church in this period. Calvinism gained on Lutheranism, which tended to a stiff Scholastic dogmatism. Chiefly in reaction to this formalism the Pietist movement spread, seeking to replace outward observances with an inner spirit of union with God. In the second half of the seventeenth century George Fox, William Penn, and Robert Barclay carried their Quaker gospel to Germany, and perhaps this missionary movement shared in developing Pietism there; we note that Philipp Jakob Spener’s Pia desideria(1675) appeared four years after Penn’s first visit. Spener, as pastor of a Lutheran church in Frankfurt-am-Main, supplemented its services with the mystic devotions of private assemblies (collegia pietatis) in his home. The name Pietist, like Puritan and Methodist, was given to these devotees by their critics as a term of ridicule; it was accepted by them, and became a badge of humble pride. They clung with fervor to the millenarian hopes that had consoled some of the German masses during the war. They thought of the Second Advent not as a vague doctrine of theology, but as a warm and active inspiration of their daily lives. At any moment now Christ would reappear on earth; he would still the strife of faiths and end the reign of force and war; he would establish a purely “spiritual church,” without organization, without ritual, without priests, but practicing with joy a generous Christianity of the heart.
August Francke carried on the movement with the ardor of a prophet. Many women were touched by his practical Christianity and enlisted in the cause of personal piety and public charity. Influenced by English Puritanism and French Quietism, the movement in turn influenced English Methodism and German poetry, and made itself felt in America, where Cotton Mather hailed it hopefully: “The world begins to feel a warmth from the fire of God, which thus flames in the heart of Germany.” 8 But Pietism, like Puritanism, injured itself by making its piety public and professional, sometimes falling into affectation and cant. In the eighteenth century it was swamped by the rationalist flood that poured in from France.
The successes of Richelieu, Mazarin, and Louis XIV, and the growing wealth and splendor of the French court, had an irresistible influence upon German society in the century following the Peace of Westphalia. For a time cosmopolitanism overcame nationalism. French ways dominated the princely courts in language, literature, liaisons, manners, dances, art, philosophy, wine, and wigs. The German aristocracy now spoke German chiefly to servants. German authors wrote in French for the upper classes or in Latin for the learned world. Leibniz, who wrote mostly in French, admitted that German “manners have been somewhat modified toward elegance and politeness” by French example, but mourned the replacement or infiltration of German speech by the language or phrases of France. 9
Only one German book of this age has survived—the Simplicius Simplicissimus (1669) of Hans von Grimmelshausen. In form it is the picaresque episodic autobiography of Melchior von Fuchshaim, who is one-quarter fool, one-quarter philosopher, and one-half rogue. In spirit it is a goodhumored but pessimistic satire on the Germany that was left barely alive after thirty years of war. Melchior begins as the foster child of a peasant, whose life is described in courtly terms:
Instead of pages, lackeys, and hostlers my sire had sheep, goats, and pigs, and each waited upon me on the chase until I drove them home. His armory was well provided with plows, mattocks, axes, hoes, shovels, dung forks and hay forks, wherewith he practiced every day, for hoeing and digging were his disciplina militaris;. . . drawing out manure was his science of fortification, holding the plow his strategy, cleaning out the stable his knightly diversion, his tournament. 10
A band of soldiers breaks into this peasant paradise, and tortures the family to make it reveal nonexistent hoards. Melchior escapes and finds refuge with an old hermit, who gives him his first lessons in theology. Asked for his name, he answers, “Rascal or scape-gallows,” for he has never heard himself otherwise addressed; his foster-father’s name, on the same basis, was “clown, ruffian, drunken dog.” Captured by soldiers, he is taken to the court of the governor of Hanau; there he is trained to be a fool, and is christened Simplicius Simplicissimus. He is kidnaped, becomes a thief, finds a hidden treasure, becomes a gentleman, seduces a girl, is forced to marry her, deserts her, becomes a Catholic, visits the center of the earth, loses his fortune, recoups it by quackery, wearies of wandering, and retires to lead the life of a hermit disillusioned with the world. This is Candide a century before Voltaire, except that its satire is softened with German humor rather than graced with Gallic wit. The book was condemned by the critics, and became a classic, the most famous production of German literature between Luther and Lessing.
We must not take it as a fair picture of Germany in the generation after the war. The German might be too fond of drink, but he kept his bubbling good humor even in his cups; his wife might call him a drunken dog, but she loved him faute de mieux, and reared his children sturdily. Perhaps there was a more wholesome morality in the Germany of this age than in France. Poor Charlotte Elisabeth, Princess Palatine, married (1671) against her wishes to “Monsieur” Philippe d’Orléans, the invert widower of “Madame” Henrietta, never forgot the cool loveliness of Heidelberg; and after fortythree years of uncomfortable living with the comforts of the French court, she still longed for “a good dish of sauerkraut and smoked sausages” as far preferable to the coffee, tea, or chocolate of Paris or Versailles. 11 Her stoic fidelity to her worthless husband, and her patience with the royal brotherin-law who ordered or permitted the devastation of the Palatinate, show us that even amid the ruins of Germany there were women who could teach decency and humanity to beribboned, embroidered, periwigged, perfumed kings.