This unique account of the life of German nationalist and revolutionary Charles Follen opens a window on several worlds during the first half of the nineteenth century. Seldom does one biography embrace so many important historical issues and events.
Trained as a lawyer in his native Germany, Follen was involved in student nationalism, eventually turning to revolutionary Jacobinism. He fled to Switzerland in 1819 after conspiring in the first political murder of modern German history--the assassination of the playwright August von Kotzebue. In Switzerland, Follen secretly continued activities for revolutionizing Germany. When his plans were discovered in 1824, he fled to America. For ten years, Follen taught at Harvard; he was the first professor of German literature at an American institution of higher learning. He played a central role in the early importation of German ideas to New England, contributing to the fields of literature, philosophy, and theology. His marriage to Eliza Lee Cabot allowed him to move in elite Boston social circles. After his ordination as a Unitarian minister in 1836, Follen combined his interest in social reform (including an ardent devotion to the antislavery movement) with clerical service. Unitarian leader William Ellery Channingand abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison became Follen's close friends.
During the last two years of his life, Follen began to doubt his own power to bring about political change and suffered a crisis in self-confidence before his accidental death at the age of forty-three.
Spevak has written the first comprehensive biography of Charles Follen...[It] is clearly written; his perceptive analysis places Follen in the broadest context; and his research is superb. The 48 pages of notes reflect Spevak's extensive work in primary sources in Europe and the U.S. Highly recommended for research collections and those with special emphasis on 19th-century American social reform, Unitarianism, and abolitionist thought.
Apart from its detailed attention to political and personal relationships among German activist groups, Spevack's method is primarily an intellectual history that draws on careful reading of key texts. Follen's draft constitution for a united Germany, his nationalist poetry, his lectures as professor of German language and literature at Harvard, and his theological and antislavery essays come in for close scrutiny, as do many other works by Follen and thinkers he read.
A sweeping and fascinating description and analysis of the intellectual and political connections between two cultures [Germany and America] in the early nineteenth century.
- 320 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.