Mendelssohn owed his first introduction to the public to Lessing's admiration.
This is the moral of Lessing's Nathan the Wise, the hero of which is undoubtedly Mendelssohn.
' A belief hinted again at the close of Lessing's Education of the Human Race; also - more definitely - by J.
Herder, on the other hand, Lessing's contemporary,.
From this time he continued to pour forth a number of critical writings on literature, art, &c. His bold ideas on these subjects, which were a great advance even on Lessing's doctrines, naturally excited hostile criticism, and in consequence of this opposition, which took the form of aspersions on his religious orthodoxy, he resolved to leave Riga.
At Schulpforta he had read with delight Lessing's Anti-Goeze, and during his Jena days had studied the relation between philosophy and religion.
Reiske died on the 14th of August 1774, and his MS. remains passed, through Lessing's mediation, to the Danish minister Suhm, and are now in the Copenhagen library.
Lessing's publication also helped to demonstrate the weakness of the older rationalist position, a position which really belongs to the 18th century, though its best-remembered exponent, Dr H.
Among Lessing's chief friends in Leipzig were C. F.
Frau Neuber even accepted for performance Lessing's first comedy, Der junge Gelehrte (1748), which he had begun at school.
The Schriften also contained Lessing's early plays, and one new one, Miss Sara Sampson (1755).
Among Lessing's chief friends during his second residence in Berlin were the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), in association with whom he wrote in 1755 an admirable treatise, Pope ein Metaphysiker 1 tracing sharply the lines which separate the poet from the philosopher.
C. von Kleist (1715-1759), a Prussian officer, whose fine poem, Der Frzihling, had won for him Lessing's warm esteem.
A disagreement with his patron shortly after resulted in Lessing's sudden dismissal; he demanded compensation and, although in the end the court decided in his favour, it was not until the case had dragged on for about six years.
Lessing's third residence in Berlin was made memorable by the Briefe, die neueste Literatur betreffend (1759-1765), a series of critical essays - written in the form of letters to a wounded officer - on the principal books that had appeared since the beginning of the Seven Years' War.
In Lessing's share in this publication, his critical powers and methods are to be seen at their best.
His friends there exerted themselves to obtain for him the office of keeper of the royal library, but Frederick had not forgotten Lessing's quarrel with Voltaire, and declined to consider his claims. During the two years which Lessing now spent in the Prussian capital, he was restless and unhappy, yet it was during this period that he published two of his greatest works, Laokoon, oder fiber die Grenzen der Malerei and Poesie (1766) and Minna von Barnhelm (1767).
The power of Minna von Barnhelm, Lessing's greatest drama, was also immediately recognized.
The Hamburgische Dramaturgic (1767-1768), Lessing's commentary on the performances of the National Theatre, is the first modern handbook of the dramatist's art.
Another result of Lessing's labours in Hamburg was the Antiquarische Briefe (1768), a series of masterly letters in answer to Christian Adolf Klotz (1738-1771), a professor of the university of Halle, who, after flattering Lessing, had attacked him, and sought to establish a kind of intellectual despotism by means of critical journals which he directly or indirectly controlled.
Soon after settling in Wolfenbiittel, Lessing found in the library the manuscript of a treatise by Berengarius of Tours on transubstantiation in reply to Lanfranc. This was the occasion of Lessing's powerful essay on Berengarius, in which he vindicated the latter's character as a serious and consistent thinker.
Lessing's theory of the origin of the epigram is somewhat fanciful, but no other critic has offered so many pregnant hints as to the laws of epigrammatic verse, or defended with so much force and ingenuity the character of Martial.
The last period of Lessing's life was devoted chiefly to theo logical controversy.
These papers are not only full of thought and learning; they are written with a grace, vivacity and energy that make them hardly less interesting to-day than they were to Lessing's contemporaries.
The play, which is written in blank verse, is too obviously a continuation of Lessing's theological controversy to rank high as poetry, but the representatives of the three religions - the Mahommedan Saladin, the Jew Nathan and the Christian Knight Templar - are finely conceived, and show that Lessing's dramatic instinct had, in spite of other interests, not deserted him.
In German I read, partly with my fingers and partly with Miss Sullivan's assistance, Schiller's "Lied von der Glocke" and "Taucher," Heine's "Harzreise," Freytag's "Aus dem Staat Friedrichs des Grossen," Riehl's "Fluch Der Schonheit," Lessing's "Minna von Barnhelm," and Goethe's "Aus meinem Leben."