Attitude of Jean Paul Richter to Christianity
Mackay, Alexander T.
This study has been written, at the suggestion of Professor E. C. Mason, to examine to what extent Jean Paul may rightly be called a Christian. It is necessary to ask this question because much that is written about Jean Paul seems to assume that his novels are completely Christian in inspiration. Thus at times the sentimental vapourings of Hesperus and the animal magnetism of Sellna have been taken for Christianity. Such confusion is caused because so many of Jean Paul's critics do not ask themselves precisely what Christianity is and allow far too much to pass for it. In addition, too little attention has been paid by critics to the gloomy side of Jean Paul's nature. Yet if we never look beyond the sentimental religion on the surface of Jean Paul's works and realise that there is more in them than merely humour and sentiment, we shall fail to see that at a deeper level Jean Paul does in fact come very near to Christianity in a number of important matters. A third reason for undertaking this study is that the religious outlook of Jean Paul's last period, with its emphasis on animal magnetism, has been largely neglected or else misinterpreted. For these reasons then it appears profitable to go over the whole field of Jean Paul's writing in order to come to a new assessment of his attitude to Christianity.