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The Idea of Europe

 | 
Catriona Seth
, 
Rotraud von Kulessa

44. Europe Between Decline and Renewal

Texte intégral

1Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829),i author, translator, literary critic and historian, was a major figure of German Romanticism. His role as an intermediary between cultures comes across in his Journey to France, published in 1803 in the periodical he edited during his stay in France. He analyses the differences he perceives between Germany and its close neighbour, as well as Europe’s situation in the Napoleonic era.

2But is Europe now a continent as thoroughly wretched and as completely disregarded and neglected by nature as, for example, according to the opinion of some philosophical geographers, America supposedly is? No, certainly not; and no historian, no physicist would be willing to agree with such an opinion.

3Precisely in the utter disintegration of Europe the beginnings of a higher calling are visible. […]

4What in former times was great and beautiful has been so completely destroyed that I do not know how in this sense anyone could maintain that Europe still exists as a whole; rather we only have the surviving remnants, which are the necessary result of that tendency towards division. This latter can be viewed as complete, as it has reached the point of self-destruction. This would therefore seem to have created at least a little room for something new, and precisely because everything has been reduced to ruins, we find we have the materials and means to construct anything, and we ought not to feel daunted about building up and establishing a new world out of this destruction. […]

5Let us turn our attention back to the former subject and extend it a little. If those parts of the earth which we very significantly call the Orient and the North represent the visible poles of the principle of good on this earth, whereas everything else appears to be simply empty space, unformed and raw material, distinct weakness and incapacity or even an obstacle which works against this principle, then what really matters here, what everything depends on, is to combine the two. And that may hardly be possible anywhere other than in this continent of ours, which on the face of it has little to recommend it. And in this sense it is probably right to say: the true Europe is yet to emerge.

6Friedrich Schlegel, Journey to France, 1803.

Allegorical Engraving showing the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Drawing by Monnet, engraved by Jean-Baptiste Tilliard. In the centre: the main countries under the guise of Ancient Goddesses. Title: Peace Returned to Europe in 1763. Published in Paris on 21 June of that year.ii

Read the free text in the original language (1803 edition):
http://www.ub.uni-bielefeld.de/​diglib/​aufkl/​europa/​europa.htm

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Légende Allegorical Engraving showing the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Drawing by Monnet, engraved by Jean-Baptiste Tilliard. In the centre: the main countries under the guise of Ancient Goddesses. Title: Peace Returned to Europe in 1763. Published in Paris on 21 June of that year.ii
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/4332/img-2.jpg
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