The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Thoma, Ludwig

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THOMA, tō'mạ, Ludwig, German satiric novelist and dramatist: b. Oberammergau, 21 Jan. 1867. He attended gymnasia at Munich and Landshut, the Forestry School at Aschaffenburg, and, in order to study law, the universities of Munich and Erlangen, thus obtaining his entire education in Bavaria. For a short time he practised law at Dachau, later at Munich (1897-98), soon relinquishing this career for that of literature. The general tone of his literary work is well indicated by the fact that he has been connected with the humorous and oppositional weekly Simplicissimus (q.v.) at Munich, as editor, since 1899. März, a more serious periodical (bi-monthly), has also for a time been under his editorship. The cartoons and quips of Simplicissimus were one of the mainstays of the German liberals in their fight with the Imperial Government, and it was one of the great disappointments of 1914 to behold the paper assume a more and more chauvinistic attitude after the events of August in that year, supporting the predatory and imperialistic policy of the German government where resistance would have been the proper attitude of a liberal organ. Thoma's own policy presented a similar change: caught in the great wave of chauvinism which the government had efficiently launched, he took part in the patriotic shouting, and incidentally engaged in polemic correspondence with a number of American writers, including George Haven Putnam, who published some of the interchanges of views in American newspapers. But Thoma is too critical and subtle a man to become a chauvinist of the worst type. In his literary work his opposition is directed chiefly against petty social prejudices and, in the political field, to the Roman Catholic Church; in the latter respect he resembles Anzengruber (q.v.) and Rosegger (q.v.), both of whom, like Thoma, bitterly attack the abuses of the petty clergy, not from a Protestant standpoint, but from the usual hostile position of the laity in Catholic countries. The most notable satires on the clergy are the short story ‘Der heilige Hies’ (Munich 1904), and the bitter novel ‘Andreas Vöst’ (ib. 1905, 13th ed.. 1910). His three best plays, which are very popular on the German stage, are ‘Die Lokalbahn,’ a comedy (1902); ‘Moral,’ comedy (1909), and ‘Magdalena,’ a popular tragedy (‘Volksstück,’ 1912). Each has as its theme one of the deficiencies of provincial life. ‘Die Lokalbahn’ pictures the officious bustle of gossiping town officials, who never achieve any results; ‘Moral’ reveals the low morality of a group of persons who have joined a society for moral uplift in order to be the more effectively cloaked from each other; ‘Magdalena’ is the story of a girl's gradual shifting from a love-life that is frank and unselfish, and which, therefore, meets with no disapproval from the villagers, to one that is governed by considerations of money, thus causing her ostracism and death. No man has better depicted the life of the small peasant and country townsman in Bavaria than has Thoma.

Other works are ‘Agricola’ (1897); ‘Assessor Karlchen’ (1900); ‘Witwen’ and ‘Die Medaille,’ comedies (1901); ‘Hochzeit,’ short stories (1901); ‘Grobheiten,’ poems (1901); ‘Die Wilderer,’ short story (1903); ‘Lausbubengeschichten,’ burlesques of child life (1904; 25th 1,000, 1907); ‘Peter Schlemihl’ (1906); ‘Tanta Frieda’ (like ‘Lausbubengeschichten,’ 1906; 30th ed., 1910); ‘Kleinstadtgeschichten’ (1908); ‘Erster Klasse,’ comedy (1910); Lottchens Geburtstag,’ a comedy (1911); ‘Der Wittiber,’ a novel (1911); ‘Josef Filsers Briefwechsel,’ a satire (1912); ‘Das Säuglingsheim,’ burlesque (1913). In the ‘German Classics’ (Vol. XIX, New York 1914), appears a translation of ‘Der heilige Hies’ (Matt the Holy).

Jacob Wittmer Hartmann.