A Study in Austrian Intellectual History: From Late Baroque to Romanticism

By Robert A. Kann | Go to book overview

II
ABRAHAM A SANCTA CLARA1 1646-1709

1. Of Pulpit and Public

a. Background and Career

By friends and foes alike Abraham a Sancta Clara is considered the most eminent preacher as well as the finest prose writer of his time in Catholic Germany. Even as adverse a critic of his work and influence as the distinguished liberal literary historian Wilhelm Scherer admits that " Abraham a Sancta Clara succeeded where every other writer of the outgoing seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries failed. He alone at that time knew how to permeate some of his writings with such dash and verve, he alone knew how to put them in such a vigorous spiritual setting, that even today we feel their attracting and compelling force."2 On the other hand, N. Scheid, who might be expected to extol the famous preacher and writer, refers in the Catholic Encyclopedia to many of his works as a "confused mixture" and concludes: "Even up to the most recent times Abraham's influence is chiefly noticeable in the literature of the pulpit, though but little to its advantage."3

Surely the man whose work is characterized in so contradictory a fashion occupies a strange ideological position. And it is a prominent position as well. This great satirist and critic of manners, mores, and social institutions is an outstanding figure not only in the history of Austrian and German literature but in the general cultural history of Austria as well. Of even greater significance, however, is Abraham's spiritual influence on Austrian

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