A THIS INAUGURAL LECTURE on December 22, 1789, Eulogius Schneider, the first Professor of Aesthetics at Bonn University, reflected upon the meager state of Catholic literature in the Holy Roman Empire and the hindrances to its development. Five months after the fall of the Bastille, he boasted that “ohne Zwang, ohne Blutvergiessen” (without force, without spilling blood) the Enlightenment had revolutionized Catholic Germany during the preceding twenty years: industry had been promoted; practical Christianity preached; toleration legislated; theology purified; superstitions suppressed; and the education system had been thoroughly reformed (Gedichte, 168–71). He also claimed that nobody could fail to be impressed by the boom of scholarly publications by Catholic authors across a host of subjects, including philosophy, jurisprudence, mathematics, natural science, geography, history, linguistics, and theology. But with regard to drama and poetry, he opined that his fellow Catholic writers lagged far behind their Protestant counterparts in both productivity and quality and therefore remained patently consigned to the second tier of German literature.
Schneider commended, for instance, the works of the coterie of ex- Jesuit Austrian poets, such as Aloys Blumauer, Michael Denis, and Karl Mastalier, but he felt that they could scarcely be placed at the summit of modern German literature. He also argued that no Catholic orators had matched the eloquence of the Protestants, save for Phillip Brunner, Siegfried Wieser, and his former colleagues at the Stuttgart court chapel. Schneider admired Michael Ignaz Schmidt's Geschichte der Deutschen (History of the Germans, 1778–93) for its “tiefen Philosophie” (deep philosophy), but he thought that it could hardly be recommended as a “Muster eines guten historischen Stils” (Gedichte, 172; model of a good historical style). Schneider identified three major hindrances that he believed were holding back German Catholic literature: the pedagogic practices and continuing influence of the Jesuits; the prevalence of a monastic ideal; and the dearth of institutional support and court patronage provided by the secular and ecclesiastical princes.
The exclusive focus on Latin in the Jesuit syllabus, Schneider argued, had prevented children from acquiring a true appreciation for the structure and beauty of their own language and had merely served to promote their stifling scholastic and ultramontane theology. Before 1773, the Jesuits had run almost every school and university in Catholic Germany.