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The autobiographical sketches of Kotzebue, in respect to self-complacent but talented coxcombry, bear some resemblance to the similar self-portraiture of our own Colley Cibber. In critical weight and solidity our countryman has undoubtedly the advantage; but the far wider field and more extensive personal adventure of the German make compensation for the extreme flippancy with which he treats both the public and himself. The Russian and Siberian experience of Kotzebue, in regard both to character and scenery, is also extraordinary and unique ; and if we are not favoured in his narratives with profound reflection, or deep insight into human nature, we at least are amused with the shrewd and animated observations of an entertaining and lively man. Neither, although his fame as a dramatist has much declined since his death, are his merits as a writer so low as not to claim some attention to his own account of his literary and personal career. His melancholy death too, and the real and reputed causes of it, have rendered him a public character of some notoriety; so that upon the whole, whether regarded as entertaining or characteristically illustrative, Kotzebue's account of himself merits a place in this collection.
It will be seen by what follows, that the Autobiography of Kotzebue is contained in three pieces, intitled “A Sketch of my Literary Career;' 'My Flight to Paris ;' and ' An Account of the Most Remarkable Year in the Life of Augustus Von Kotzebue.' A few slight omissions are made in the two former, simply as relating to local and temporary circumstances which would scarcely be understood at this time, and were of no great interest even when they first appeared. In every other respect, the entire work amounts to a full and complete republication of the most comprehensive translations of the works in question, which have appeared in the English language.
MY LITERARY CAREER.
As an author I have received my abundant share both of applause and abuse; and since both have been frequently alike undeserved on my part, it may perhaps not be wholly useless to those young men who are ambitious of treading the same slippery path, to receive instruction from a veteran :-from one who does not indeed stand at the goal of his wishes-for who ever reached that ?-but who has long been pursuing the path which he hoped would lead to it, and who will now relate, without disguise or ornament, where he has tottered, or where fallen, where he has been intoxicated with incense and flattery, where been deceived, or treated with ridicule, where he really was favoured by the muse, or where he mistook a Bacchante for one of the Nine.
Ye young and inexperienced, then-ye who have as yet only dipped the ends of your stayes in the honey of Parnassus, and think it must be salutary because it is sweet; pause for a moment, assemble round me and listen. I have given the reins to my pen, my heart is opened, and you shall hear equally where I was urged solely by vanity, and where I was impressed with a just sense of the true and beautiful.
Nor will I assume any particular merit for my sincerity, since there are situations in life in which
it is no less easy for a man to do well than to put on his great coat, and they are commonly those in which he can saunter about the whole day unmolested in the great coat, only bending now and then to pluck & flower, not to take up his adversary's gauntlet. When shut out from the great world he lives in rural peace, and receives more pleasure from the sight of the first blossorhs in May, or from discovering the first budding teeth of his infant child, than from receiving the gracious invitation from a patron, will dine with me to day.” When content and serenity of mind expand the heart to every joy, and consequently to every virtue, and when he is surrounded only by a few beloved friends who have long learned to separate the not ignoble emotions of the heart from the mistakes of the head. These, these, are the situations that induce a man readily to acknowledge every fault he has committed, and which inspire him with confidence to come undismayed before the public ; since then he hears the voice only of the candid judge who will not treat him with ridicule, or distort his meaning, and put malicious interpretations upon the most innocent errors he confesses.
“ And where," says Rousseau, “ shall we find the man of sense who has never said a foolish thing ? Where the honest man who has never done anything reprehensible? Were an exact register to be kept of every fault committed by even the most perfect among mortals, and were every other part of his character to be carefully suppressed, what opinion would the world have reason to form of such a man?”
Go on then, ye malicious critics, ye manglers of fame by profession, what will your barking concern the happy recluse, provided he have a wife and .a few friends who know and love him? Miserable hirelings! bark till you be tired, it is not in your power to drive from his bosom that wife and those friends.
Were I, however, to assert that I write this sketch solely with a view of serving young authors, I should advance as gross a falsehood as a bookseller who should profess that in selling his books at a low rate, he has no other object than to render the purchase easy to all lovers of knowledge. No, no, my friends! he only fixes this under-price upon a few old shopkeepers, which having been long on his hands he is glad to sell at any rate; and in the same manner this sketch has been lying in my brain for five years already, and I must now send it out into the world to make way for the reception of other things.
Indeed, to own the truth, I have one object in view in writing these pages, wholly extrinsic of all other considerations, which is, the pleasure I shall derive from the pursuit. I consider authorship as a luxury, and never in my life did I write but one book and one pamphlet that I felt to be a task. This was owing to their being undertaken entirely to please other people ; consequently, they were beyond comparison the worst compositions that ever came from my pen. But all my dramas, and whatever else among my numerous effusions have excelled the most in beauty and feeling, have been done for my own amusement; and the gratification I have received from the hours -so spent, has repaid my toils much more richly than the profits resulting from them, or even the applause they have procured me from the public.
Let me, then, amid the wanderings of my fancy forget the snow that now lies around my window, so shall I care little how it fares with the windows of my neighbours. Yet let me deprecate the idea of any one reading my book with the impression of its being written at the setting in of the first frost, a season so uncongenial to authorship. Not that I am entering at this moment upon a hazardous chase after applause—from that heaven defend me! To the singing-bird that pecks at my window I would