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

By Robert A. Kann | Go to book overview

V
THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM Era of Francis I, 1792-1835

a. Government and Change

In a lecture on Lessing, Thomas Mann observes that in the German sphere Catholicizing Romanticism offers the only example of a reactionary period endowed with intellectual brilliance.1 Whether this is a unique phenomenon, and whether Mann was entirely justified in terming this period, without qualification reactionary, are certainly controversial questions. Yet various flaws in the intellectual history of Catholic Romanticism notwithstanding, that period of Austro-German history in which romantic ideas played so important a part was certainly one of great intellectual brilliance. Recognition of this fact, as will be discussed more fully below, has a decisive bearing on the conclusions of this study.

It should help much to refute one of the most widely held misconceptions about the Franciscan era. Well-established liberal, pseudo-liberal, and German national historiography has generally perceived the political, social, and intellectual currents of that period as merging into one murky stream of narrow reaction.2 Actually the character of this chapter of Austrian history is far more complex than it appears to such historians, several of them of distinguished rank. In the first place, a distinction has to be made between the era of Francis I and the regime itself. The intellectual concepts and scope of the two are by no means identical, in some ways are not even similar. Although many aspects of the emperor's regime cannot be defended, this much should be

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