The artistic movement of this age was open to every foreign idea, new or old, and interested itself in every accessible literature. It was partly because artistic movement was not deeply rooted in the national life that it drew so much of its matter from foreign sources, until as critics have seen a desire for national originality began to arise, in advance of patriotism. It is obvious that the free use of the intellectual and artistic capital of German's neighbors was an advantage, even a necessity for Germany in her backward condition; these countries themselves had freely plundered superior civilization in their own day as every 'young' literature must; these in their particular made no secret of his immense debt to France and England. That the results of these borrowings were not always fortunate goes without saying; Insel Felsenburg and Die schwedische Grfin have few of the merits of the work of Defoe and Richardson. But what is perhaps peculiar to Germany in this matter of imitation is that the habit became so deeply rooted that even national pride could not affect it much, and came in fact, by a natural compensation, to claim this very receptivity as a national virtue (Breuilly, 2001).
The German nation, narrowly confined geographically and politically disunited, cannot be expected to produce one, and, speaking just after the French Revolution, Goethe hesitates to wish for the upheaval that would be required in Germany to prepare the way for classical works. But his words indicate that it is by no means certain that he would have disapproved of the Nationalism of modern Germany if he could have lived to see it (Gagliardo 1991). He might have looked upon it as a necessary stage in the evolution of a truly classical German literature.
Critics (Berman 1986) suppose that German style was spoiled by too much philosophic speculation. They see too that conventions and traditions can have a deadening effect and must be constantly revised if they are not to produce in literature works like those French writings of the age of Voltaire. German writers had both the strength and the weakness resulting from not writing for a clearly defined public in the hope of influencing its views. They lacked the tug from reality that even the most unworldly of French or English authors constantly experienced. Literature then was unsocial, but it had positive qualities too. It was in the first place highly individualistic. If Germany had few literary traditions, it was at the same time comparatively free from the clogging effect.
Cosmopolitanism was its ideal. Considered from the point of view of economic and social history, it was essentially the work of free artists, such as could only arise when the possibility existed of writing for a heterogeneous public, without much need of patronage or much fear of persecution. In earlier ages, a writer had not easily secured a hearing for himself as such. It has been pointed out how frequently writers in the Spectator, the Tatler, and their German counterparts, assumed some mask, such as that of a lady or gentleman of quality, instead of writing under their own names (Epstein, 1966). It was not until late in the 18th century that the custom of making the hero of a novel an artist established