(Sup.) Tues., March 11.

For several weeks I have not been quite well. I sleep badly, and have the most harassing dreams from night to morning, in which I see myself in the most various states, carry on all sorts of conversation with known and unknown persons, get into disputes and quarrels, and all this in such a vivid manner, that I am perfectly conscious of every particular next morning. But this dreamy life consumes the powers of my brain, so that I feel weak and unnerved in the day-time, and without thought or pleasure for any intellectual activity.

I had frequently complained of my condition to Goethe, and he had repeatedly urged me to consult my physician. “Your malady,” said he, “is certainly not very serious; it is probably nothing but a little stagnation, which a glass or two of mineral water or a little salts would remove. But do not let it linger any longer; attack it at once.”

Goethe may have been right, and I said to myself that he was right; but my indecision and disinclination operated in this case, so that I again allowed many restless nights and wretched days to pass, without making the least effort to remove the indisposition.

As I did not appear to Goethe very gay and cheerful to-day after dinner, he lost his patience, and could not refrain from smiling at me ironically, and bantering me a little.

“You are a second Shandy,” said he, “the father of that renowned Tristram, who was annoyed half of his life by a creaking door, and who could not come to the resolution of removing the daily annoyance with a few drops of oil.

“But so it is with us all! The darkness and enlightenment of man make his destiny. The demon ought to lead us every day in leading strings, and tell us and direct us what we ought to do on every occasion. But the good spirit leaves us in the lurch, and we grope about in the dark.

“Napoleon was the man! Always enlightened, always clear and decided, and endowed at every hour with sufficient energy to carry into effect whatever he considered advantageous and necessary. His life was the stride of a demi-god, from battle to battle, and from victory to victory. It might well be said of him, that he was found in a state of continual enlightenment. On this account, his destiny was more brilliant than any the world had seen before him, or perhaps will ever see after him.

“Yes, yes, my good friend, that was a fellow whom we cannot imitate.”

Goethe paced up and down the room. I had placed myself at the table, which had been already cleared, but upon which there was left some wine with some biscuits and fruit. Goethe filled for me, and compelled me to partake of both. “You have, indeed,” said he, “not condescended to be our guest at dinner to-day, but still a glass of this present from good friends ought to do you good.”

I did not refuse these good things, and Goethe continued to walk up and down the room, murmuring to himself in an excited state of mind, and from time to time uttering unintelligible words.

What he had just said about Napoleon was in my mind, and I endeavoured to lead the conversation back to that subject. “Still it appears to me,” I began, “that Napoleon was especially in that state of continued enlightenment when he was young, and his powers were yet on the increase,—when, indeed, we see at his side divine protection and a constant fortune. In later years, on the contrary, this enlightenment appears to have forsaken him, as well as his fortune and his good star.”

“What would you have?” returned Goethe. “I did not write my ‘love songs,’ or my ‘Werther,’ a second time. That divine enlightenment, whence everything proceeds, we shall always find in connection with youth and productiveness, as in the case of Napoleon, who was one of the most productive men that ever lived.

“Yes, yes, my good friend, one need not write poems and plays to be productive; there is also a productiveness of deeds, which in many cases stands an important degree higher. The physician himself must be productive, if he really intends to heal; if he is not so, he will only succeed now and then, as if by chance; but, on the whole, he will be only a bungler.”

“You appear,” added I, “in this case, to call productiveness that which is usually called genius.”

“One lies very near the other,” returned Goethe. “For what is genius but that productive power by which deeds arise that can display themselves before God and nature, and are therefore permanent, and produce results. All Mozart's works are of this kind; there lies in them a productive power which operates upon generation after generation, and still is not wasted or consumed.

“It is the same with other great composers and artists. What an influence have Phidias and Raphael had upon succeeding centuries, and Dürer and Holbein also. He who first invented the forms and proportions of the old German architecture, so that in the course of time a Strasburg minster and cathedral of Cologne were possible, was also a genius; for his thoughts have a power continually productive, and operate even to the present hour. Luther was a genius of a very important kind; he has already gone on with influence for many a long day, and we cannot count the days when he will cease to be productive in future ages. Lessing would not allow himself the lofty title of a genius; but his permanent influence bears witness against him. On the other hand, we have, in literature, other names, and those of importance, the possessors of which, whilst they lived, were deemed great geniuses, but whose influence ended with their life, and who were therefore less than they and others thought. For, as I said before, there is no genius without a productive power of permanent influence; and furthermore, genius does not depend upon the business, the art, or the trade which one follows, but may be alike in all. Whether one shows oneself a man of genius in science, like Oken and Humboldt, or in war and statesmanship, like Frederick, Peter the Great, and Napoleon, or whether one composes a song like Béranger, it all comes to the same thing; the only point is, whether the thought, the discovery, the deed, is living, and can live on.

“Then I must add, it is not the mass of creations and deeds which proceed from a person, that indicates the productive man. We have, in literature, poets who are considered very productive, because volume after volume of their poems has appeared. But, in my opinion, these people ought to be called thoroughly unproductive; for what they have written is without life and durability. Goldsmith, on the contrary, has written so few poems that their number is not worth mentioning; but, nevertheless, I must pronounce him to be a thoroughly productive poet, and, indeed, even on that account, because the little that he has written has an inherent life which can sustain itself.”

A pause ensued, during which Goethe continued to pace up and down the room. In the mean time, I was desirous of hearing something more on this weighty point, and therefore endeavoured to arouse Goethe once more.

“Does this productiveness of genius,” said I, “lie merely in the mind of an important man, or does it also lie in the body?”

“The body has, at least,” said Goethe, “the greatest influence upon it. There was indeed a time when, in Germany, a genius was always thought of as short, weak, or hunch-backed; but commend me to a genius who has a well-proportioned body.

“When it was said of Napoleon that he was a man of granite, this applied particularly to his body. What was it, then, which he could not and did not venture? From the burning sands of the Syrian deserts, to the snowy plains of Moscow, what an incalculable amount of marches, battles, and nightly bivouacs did he go through? And what fatigues and bodily privations was he forced to endure? Little sleep, little nourishment, and yet always in the highest mental activity. After the awful exertion and excitement of the eighteenth Brumaire, it was midnight, and he had not tasted anything during the whole day, and yet, without thinking of strengthening his body, he felt power enough in the depth of the night to draw up the well-known proclamation to the French people. When one considers what he accomplished and endured, one might imagine that when he was in his fortieth year not a sound particle was left in him; but even at that age he still occupied the position of a perfect hero.

“But you are quite right: the real focus of his lustre belongs to his youth. And it is something to say that one of obscure origin, and at a time which set all capacities in motion, so distinguished himself as to become, in his seven-and-twentieth year, the idol of a nation of thirty millions! Yes, yes, my good friend, one must be young to do great things. And Napoleon is not the only one!”

“His brother Lucien,” remarked I, “also did a great deal at an early age. We see him as president of the five hundred, and afterwards as minister of the interior, when he had scarcely completed his five-and-twentieth year.”

“Why name Lucien?” interposed Goethe. “History presents to us hundreds of clever people, who, whilst still young, have, both in the cabinet and in the field, superintended the most important matters with great renown.

“If I were a prince,” continued he, with animation, “I would never place in the highest offices people who have gradually risen by mere birth and seniority, and who in their old age move on leisurely in their accustomed track, for in this way but little talent is brought to light. I would have young men; but they must have capacities, and be endowed with clearness and energy, and also with the best will and the noblest character. Then there would be pleasure in governing and improving one's people. But where is there a prince who would like this, and who would be so well served?

“I have great hopes of the present Crown Prince of Prussia. From all that I hear and know of him, he is a very distinguished man; and this is essential to recognize and choose qualified and clever people. For, say what we will, like can only be recognized by like; and only a prince who himself possesses great abilities can properly acknowledge and value great abilities in his subjects and servants. ‘Let the path be open to talent’ was the well-known maxim of Napoleon, who really had a particular tact in the choice of his people, who knew how to place every important power where it appeared in its proper sphere, and who, therefore, during his lifetime, was served in all his great undertakings as scarcely any one was served before him.”

Goethe delighted me particularly this evening. The noblest part of his nature appeared alive in him, while the sound of his voice and the fire of his eyes were of such power, as if he were inspired by a fresh gleam of the best days of youth.

It was remarkable to me that he, who at so great an age himself superintended an important post, should speak so decidedly in favour of youth, and should desire the first offices in the state to be filled, if not by youths, at least by men still young. I could not forbear mentioning some Germans of high standing, who at an advanced age did not appear to want the necessary energy and youthful activity for the direction of the most important and most various affairs.

“Such men are natural geniuses,” returned Goethe, “whose case is peculiar; they experience a renewed puberty, whilst other people are young but once.

“Every Entelechia[1] is a piece of eternity, and the few years during which it is bound to the earthly body does not make it old. If this Entelechia is of a trivial kind, it will exercise but little sway during its bodily confinement; on the contrary, the body will predominate, and when this grows old the Entelechia will not hold and restrain it. But if the Entelechia is of a powerful kind, as is the case with all men of natural genius, then with its animating penetration of the body it will not only act with strengthening and ennobling power upon the organization, but it will also endeavour with its spiritual superiority to confer the privilege of perpetual youth. Thence it comes that in men of superior endowments, even during their old age, we constantly perceive fresh epochs of singular productiveness; they seem constantly to grow young again for a time, and that is what I call a repeated puberty. Still youth is youth, and however powerful an Entelechia may prove, it will never become quite master of the corporeal, and it makes a wonderful difference whether it finds in the body an ally or an adversary.

“There was a time in my life when I had to furnish a printed sheet every day, and I accomplished it with facility. I wrote my ‘Geschwister’ (Brother and Sister) in three days; my ‘Clavigo,’ as you know, in a week. Now it seems I can do nothing of the kind, and still I can by no means complain of want of productiveness even at my advanced age. But whereas in my youth I succeeded daily and under all circumstances, I now succeed only periodically and under certain favourable conditions. When ten or twelve years ago, in the happy time after the war of independence, the poems of the ‘Divan’ had me in their power, I was often productive enough to compose two or three in a day, and it was all the same to me whether I was in the open air, in the chariot, or in an inn. Now, I can only work at the second part of my ‘Faust’ during the early part of the day, when I feel refreshed and revived by sleep, and have not been perplexed by the trifles of daily life. And, after all, what is it I achieve? Under the most favourable circumstances, a page of writing, but generally only so much as one could write in the space of a hand-breadth, and often, when in an unproductive humour, still less.”

“Are there, then, no means,” said I, “to call forth a productive mood, or, if it is not powerful enough, of increasing it?”

“That is a curious point,” said Goethe, “and a great deal might be thought and talked about it.

“No productiveness of the highest kind, no remarkable discovery, no great thought which bears fruit and has results, is in the power of any one; but such things are elevated above all earthly control. Man must consider them as an unexpected gift from above, as pure children of God, which he must receive and venerate with joyful thanks. They are akin to the demon, which does with him what it pleases, and to which he unconsciously resigns himself, whilst he believes he is acting from his own impulse. In such cases, man may often be considered as an instrument in a higher government of the world,—as a vessel found worthy for the reception of a divine influence. I say this, whilst I consider how often a single thought has given a different form to whole centuries, and how individual men have, by their expressions, imprinted a stamp upon their age, which has remained uneffaced, and has operated beneficially upon succeeding generations.

“There is, however, a productiveness of another kind subjected to earthly influences, and which man has more in his power, although he here also finds cause to bow before something divine. Under this category I place all that appertains to the execution of a plan, all the links of a chain of thought, the ends of which already shine forth; I also place there all that constitutes the visible body of a work of art.

“Thus, Shakspeare was inspired with the first thought of his Hamlet, when the spirit of the whole presented itself to his mind as an unexpected impression, and he surveyed the several situations, characters, and conclusion, in an elevated mood, as a pure gift from above, on which he had no immediate influence, although the possibility of conceiving such a thought certainly presupposed a mind such as his. But the individual scenes, and the dialogue of the characters, he had completely in his power, so that he might produce them daily and hourly, and work at them for weeks if he liked. And, indeed, we see in all that he has achieved, constantly the same power of production; and in all his plays we never come to a passage of which it could be said ‘this was not written in the proper humour, or with the most perfect faculty.’ Whilst we read him, we receive the impression of a man thoroughly strong and healthy, both in mind and body.

“Supposing, however, that the bodily constitution of a dramatic poet were not so strong and excellent, and that he were, on the contrary, subject to frequent illness and weakness, the productiveness necessary for the daily construction of his scenes would very frequently cease, and would often fail him for whole days. If now, by some spirituous drink, he tried to force his failing productiveness, and supply its deficiencies, the method would certainly answer, but it would be discoverable in all the scenes which he had written under such an influence, to their great disadvantage. My counsel is, therefore, to force nothing, and rather to trifle and sleep away all unproductive days and hours, than on such days to compose something which will afterwards give one no pleasure.”

“You express,” returned I, “what I myself have very often experienced and felt, and what one must respect as thoroughly true and just. But still it appears to me that a person might, by natural means, heighten his productive mood, without exactly forcing it. It has often been the case in my life to be unable to arrive at any right conclusion in certain complicated circumstances. But if, in such a case, I have drunk a few glasses of wine, I have at once seen clearly what was to be done, and have come to a resolution on the spot. The adoption of a resolution is, after all, a species of productiveness, and if a glass or two of wine will bring about this good effect, such means are surely not to be rejected altogether.”

“I will not contradict your remark,” returned Goethe; “but what I said before is also correct, by which you see that truth may be compared to a diamond, the rays of which dart not to one side, but to many. Since you know my ‘Divan’ so well, you know also that I myself have said—

When we have drunk
We know what's right;

and therefore that I perfectly agree with you. Productive-making powers of a very important kind certainly are contained in wine; but still, all depends upon time and circumstances, and what is useful to one is prejudicial to another. Productive-making powers are also contained in sleep and repose; but they are also contained in movement. Such powers lie in the water, and particularly in the atmosphere. The fresh air of the open country is the proper place to which we belong; it is as if the breath of God were there wafted immediately to men, and a divine power exerted its influence. Lord Byron, who daily passed several hours in the open air, now riding on horseback along the sea-shore, now sailing or rowing in a boat, now bathing in the sea, and exercising his physical powers in swimming, was one of the most productive men who ever lived.”

Goethe had seated himself opposite to me, and we spoke about all sorts of subjects. Then we again dwelt upon Lord Byron, and touched upon the many misfortunes which had embittered his later life, until at last a noble will, but an unhappy destiny, drove him into Greece, and entirely destroyed him.

“You will generally find,” continued Goethe, “that in his middle age a man frequently experiences a change; and that, while in his youth everything has favoured him, and has prospered with him, all is now completely reversed, and misfortunes and disasters are heaped one upon another.

“But do you know my opinion on this matter? Man must be ruined again! Every extraordinary man has a certain mission which he is called upon to accomplish. If he has fulfilled it, he is no longer needed upon earth in the same form, and Providence uses him for something else. But as everything here below happens in a natural way, the demons keep tripping him up till he falls at last. Thus it was with Napoleon and many others. Mozart died in his six-and-thirtieth year. Raphael at the same age. Byron only a little older. But all these had perfectly fulfilled their missions, and it was time for them to depart, that other people might still have something to do in a world made to last a long while.”

It was now late; Goethe gave me his dear hand, and I departed.

  • [1] If for this Aristotelian word the reader substitutes the popular expression “soul,” he will not go far wrong as far as this passage is concerned.—Trans.

(Sup.) Wed., March 12.

After I had quitted Goethe yesterday evening, the important conversation I had carried on with him remained constantly in my mind. The discourse had also been upon the sea and sea air; and Goethe had expressed the opinion, that he considered all islanders and inhabitants of the sea-shore in temperate climates far more productive, and possessed of more active force, than the people in the interior of large continents.

Whether or not it was that I had fallen asleep with these thoughts, and with a certain longing for the inspiring powers of the sea; suffice it to say, I had in the night the following pleasant, and to me very remarkable, dream:—

I saw myself in an unknown region, amongst strange men, thoroughly cheerful and happy. The most beautiful summer day surrounded me in a charming scene, such as might be witnessed somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the south of Spain or France, or in the neighbourhood of Genoa. We had been drinking at noon round a merry table, and I went with some others, rather young people, to make another party for the afternoon.

We had loitered along through bushy and pleasant low lands, when we suddenly found ourselves in the sea, upon the smallest of islands, on a jutting rock, where there was scarcely room for five or six men, and where one could not stir for fear of slipping into the water. Behind us, whence we had come, there was nothing to be seen but sea; but before us lay the shore at about a quarter of an hour's distance, spread out most invitingly. The shore was in some places flat, in others rocky and somewhat elevated; and one might observe, between green leaves and white tents, a crowd of joyous men in light-coloured clothes, recreating themselves with music, which sounded from the tents. “There is nothing else to be done,” said one of us to the other, “we must undress and swim over.” “It is all very well to say so,” said I, “you are young, handsome fellows, and good swimmers; but I swim badly, and I do not possess a shape fine enough to appear, with pleasure and comfort, before the strange people on shore.” “You are a fool,” said one of the handsomest, “undress yourself, give me your form, and you shall have mine.” At these words I undressed myself quickly, and was soon in the water, and immediately found myself in the body of the other as a powerful swimmer. I soon reached the shore, and, naked and dripping, stepped with the most easy confidence amongst the men. I was happy in the sensation of these fine limbs; my deportment was unconstrained, and I at once became intimate with the strangers, at a table before an arbour, where there was a great deal of mirth. My comrades had now reached land one by one, and had joined us, and the only one missing was the youth with my form, in whose limbs I found myself so comfortable. At last he also approached the shore, and I was asked if I was not glad to see my former self? At these words I experienced a certain discomfort, partly because I did not expect any great joy from myself, and partly because I feared that my young friend would ask for his own body back again. However, I turned to the water, and saw my second self swimming close up to me, and laughing at me with his head turned a little on one side. “There is no swimming with those limbs of yours,” exclaimed he, “I have had a fine struggle against waves and breakers, and it is not to be wondered at that I have come so late, and am last of all.” I at once recognized the countenance; it was my own, but grown young, and rather fuller and broader, with the freshest complexion. He now came to land, and whilst he raised himself, and first stepped along the sand, I had a view of his back and legs, and was delighted with the perfection of the form. He came up the rocky shore to us, and as he came up to me he had completely my new stature. “How is it,” thought I to myself, “that your little body has grown so handsome. Have the primeval powers of the sea operated so wonderfully upon it, or is it because the youthful spirit of my friend has penetrated the limbs?” Whilst we enjoyed ourselves together for some time, I silently wondered that my friend did not show any inclination to resume his own body. “Truly,” thought I, “he looks bravely, and it may be a matter of indifference to him in which body he is placed, but it is not the same thing to me; for I am not sure whether in that body I may not shrink and become as diminutive as before.” In order to satisfy myself on this point, I took my friend aside, and asked him how he felt in my limbs? “Perfectly well,” said he; “I have the same sensation of my own natural power as before; I do not know what you have to complain of in your limbs. They are quite right with me; and you see one only has to make the best of oneself. Remain in my body as long as you please; for I am perfectly contented to remain in yours through all futurity.” I was much pleased by this explanation, and as in all my sensations, thoughts, and recollections, I felt quite as usual, my dream gave me the impression of a perfect independence of the soul, and the possibility of a future existence in another body.

“That is a very pretty dream,” said Goethe, when, after dinner to-day, I imparted to him the principal features. “We see,” continued he, “that the muses visit you even in sleep, and, indeed, with particular favour; for you must confess that it would be difficult for you to invent anything so peculiar and pretty in your waking moments.”

“I can scarcely conceive how it happened to me,” returned I; “for I had felt so dejected all day, that the contemplation of so fresh a life was far from my mind.”

“Human nature possesses wonderful powers,” returned Goethe, “and has something good in readiness for us when we least hope for it. There have been times in my life when I have fallen asleep in tears; but in my dreams the most charming forms have come to console and to cheer me, and I have risen the next morning fresh and joyful.

“There is something more or less wrong among us old Europeans; our relations are far too artificial and complicated, our nutriment and mode of life are without their proper nature, and our social intercourse is without proper love and good will. Every one is polished and courteous; but no one has the courage to be hearty and true, so that an honest man, with natural views and feelings, stands in a very bad position. Often one cannot help wishing that one had been born upon one of the South Sea Islands, a so-called savage, so as to have thoroughly enjoyed human existence in all its purity, without any adulteration.

“If in a depressed mood one reflects deeply upon the wretchedness of our age, it often occurs to one that the world is gradually approaching the last day. And the evil accumulates from generation to generation! For it is not enough that we have to suffer for the sins of our fathers, but we hand down to posterity these inherited vices increased by our own.”

“Similar thoughts often occur to me,” answered I; “but if, at such a time, I see a regiment of German dragoons ride by me, and observe the beauty and power of these young people, I again derive some consolation, and say to myself, that the durability of mankind is after all not in such a desperate plight.”

“Our country people,” returned Goethe, “have certainly kept up their strength, and will, I hope, long be able not only to furnish us with good horsemen, but also to secure us from total decay and destruction. The rural population may be regarded as a magazine, from which the forces of declining mankind are always recruited and refreshed. But just go into our great towns, and you will feel quite differently. Just take a turn by the side of a second diable boiteux, or a physician with a large practice, and he will whisper to you tales which will horrify you at the misery, and astonish you at the vice with which human nature is visited, and from which society suffers.

“But let us banish these hypochondriacal thoughts. How are you going on? What are you doing? What else have you seen to-day? Tell me, and inspire me with good thoughts.”

“I have been reading Sterne.” returned I, “where Yorick is sauntering about the streets of Paris, and makes the remark that every tenth man is a dwarf. I thought of that when you mentioned the vices of great towns. I also remember to have seen, in Napoleon's time, among the French infantry, one battalion which consisted entirely of Parisians, who were all such puny, diminutive people, that one could not comprehend what could be done with them in battle.”

“The Scotch Highlanders under the Duke of Wellington,” rejoined Goethe, “were doubtless heroes of another description.”

“I saw them in Brussels a year before the battle of Waterloo,” returned I. “They were, indeed, fine men; all strong, fresh, and active, as if just from the hand of their Maker. They all carried their heads so freely and gallantly, and stepped so lightly along with their strong bare legs, that it seemed as if there were no original sin, and no ancestral failing, as far as they were concerned.”

“There is something peculiar in this,” said Goethe. “Whether it lies in the race, in the soil, in the free political constitution, or in the healthy tone of education,—certainly the English in general appear to have certain advantages over many others. Here in Weimar, we see only a few of them, and, probably, by no means the best; but what fine, handsome people they are. And however young they come here, they feel themselves by no means strange or embarrassed in this foreign atmosphere; on the contrary, their deportment in society is as full of confidence, and as easy as if they were lords everywhere, and the whole world belonged to them. This it is which pleases our women, and by which they make such havoc in the hearts of our young ladies. As a German father of a family, who is concerned for the tranquillity of his household, I often feel a slight shudder, when my daughter-in-law announces to me the expected arrival of some fresh, young islander. I already see in my mind's eye, the tears which will one day flow when he takes his departure. They are dangerous young people; but this very quality of being dangerous is their virtue.”

“Still, I would not assert,” answered I, “that the young Englishmen in Weimar are more clever, more intelligent, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people.”

“The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend,” returned Goethe, “Neither does it lie in birth and riches; it lies in the courage which they have to be that for which nature has made them. There is nothing vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing halfway or crooked; but such as they are, they are thoroughly complete men. That they are also sometimes complete fools, I allow with all my heart; but that is still something, and has still always some weight in the scale of nature.

“The happiness of personal freedom, the consciousness of an English name, and of the importance attached to it by other nations, is an advantage even to the children; for in their own family, as well as in scholastic establishments, they are treated with far more respect, and enjoy a far freer development, than is the case with us Germans.

“In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neighbour's children were trying their little sledges in the street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now, when the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they would like to play with their companions before the door, I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, and feared the approach of some despot of the police. Not a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout; the police is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end nothing remains but the Philistine.

“You know that scarcely a day passes in which I am not visited by some travelling foreigner. But if I were to say that I took great pleasure, in the personal appearance, especially of young, learned Germans from a certain north-eastern quarter, I should tell a falsehood.

“Short-sighted, pale, narrow-chested, young without youth; that is a picture of most of them as they appear to me. And if I enter into a conversation with any of them, I immediately observe that the things in which one of us takes pleasure seem to them vain and trivial, that they are entirely absorbed in the Idea, and that only the highest problems of speculation are fitted to interest them. Of sound senses or delight in the sensual, there is no trace; all youthful feeling and all youthful pleasure are driven out of them, and that irrecoverably; for if a man is not young in his twentieth year, how can he be so in his fortieth?”

Goethe sighed and was silent.

I thought of the happy time in the last century, in which Goethe's youth fell; the summer air of Sesenheim passed before my soul, and I reminded him of the verses—

In the afternoon we sat,
Young people, in the cool.

“Ah,” sighed Goethe, “those were, indeed, happy times. But we will drive them from our minds, that the dark foggy days of the present may not become quite insupportable.”

“A second Redeemer,” said I, “would be required to remove from us the seriousness, the discomfort, and the monstrous oppressiveness of the present state of things.”

“If he came,” answered Goethe, “he would be crucified a second time. Still, we by no means need anything so great. If we could only alter the Germans after the model of the English, if we could only have less philosophy and more power of action, less theory and more practice, we might obtain a good share of redemption, without waiting for the personal majesty of a second Christ. Much may be done from below by the people by means of schools and domestic education; much from above by the rulers and those in immediate connection with them.

“Thus, for instance, I cannot approve the requisition, in the studies of future statesmen, of so much theoretically-learned knowledge, by which young people are ruined before their time, both in mind and body. When they enter into practical service, they possess, indeed, an immense stock of philosophical and learned matters; but in the narrow circle of their calling, this cannot be practically applied, and must therefore be forgotten as useless. On the other hand, what they most needed they have lost; they are deficient in the necessary mental and bodily energy, which is quite indispensable when one would enter properly into practical life.

“And then, are not love and benevolence also needed in the life of a statesman,—in the management of men? And how can any one feel and exercise benevolence towards another, when he is ill at ease with himself?

“But all these people are in a dreadfully bad case. The third part of the learned men and statesmen, shackled to the desk are ruined in body, and consigned to the demon of hypochondria. Here there should be action from above, that future generations may at least be preserved from a like destruction.

“In the mean time,” continued Goethe, smiling, “let us remain in a state of hopeful expectation as to the condition of us Germans a century hence, and whether we shall then have advanced so far as to be no longer savants and philosophers, but men.”

(Sup.*) Fri., May 16.

I took a drive with Goethe. He amused himself with recollections of his disputes with Kotzebue and Co., and recited some very lively epigrams against the former, which were certainly more jocular than cutting. I asked him why he had not included them in his works.

“I have a whole collection of such little poems,” returned Goethe, “which I keep secret, and only show occasionally to my most intimate friends. This was the only innocent weapon which I had at command against the attacks of my enemies. I thus quietly found a vent by which I freed and purified myself from the horrid feeling of malevolence which I must otherwise have felt and fostered against the public and often malicious cavillings of my opponents. I have, therefore, by these little poems done myself an essential and personal service; but I do not want to occupy the public with my private squabbles, or to injure any living person. In later times, some of these things may be brought out without hesitation.”

(Sup.*) Fri., June 6.

The King of Bavaria, some time ago, sent his court painter, Stieler, to Weimar, in order to take Goethe's portrait. Stieler brought with him, as a sort of letter of introduction, and as a proof of his skill, a finished portrait, the size of life, of a very beautiful young lady, namely, the young Munich actress, Fräulein von Hagen. Goethe gave Stieler all the necessary sittings, and his portrait had now been finished for some days.

To-day, I dined with him alone. At dessert he rose, and conducting me into the cabinet adjoining the dining-room, showed me Stieler's newly completed work. Then, very cautiously, he led me further on into the so-called Majolica chamber, where we saw the portrait of the beautiful actress. “That is worth something,” said he, after we had observed it for some time, “is it not? Stieler was no fool. He employed this beautiful morsel as a bait for me, and whilst by such arts he induced me to sit, he flattered me with the hope that, under his pencil, another angel would appear, whilst he was only painting the head of an old man.”

Sun., June 15.

We had not been long at table before Herr Seidel was announced, accompanied by the Tyrolese. The singers remained in the garden-room, so that we could see them perfectly through the open doors, and their song was heard to advantage from that distance. Herr Seidel sat down with us. These songs and the Gejodel[1] of the cheerful Tyrolese, with their peculiar burden, delighted us young people. Fräulein Ulrica and I were particularly pleased with the “Strauss,” and “Du, du liegst mir im Herzen,” and asked for a copy of them. Goethe seemed by no means so much delighted as we.

“One must ask children and birds,” said he, “how cherries and strawberries taste.”

Between the songs the Tyrolese played various national dances, on a sort of horizontal guitar, accompanied by a clear-toned German flute.

Young Goethe was called out, but soon returned and dismissed the Tyrolese. He sat down with us again. We talked of “Oberon,” and the great concourse of people who had come together from all quarters to see that opera; so that even at noon there were no more tickets to be got. Young Goethe proposed that we should leave the table.

“Dear father,” said he, “our friends will wish to go somewhat earlier to the theatre this evening.”

Goethe thought such haste very odd, as it was scarcely four o'clock; however, he made no opposition, and we dispersed through the apartments. Seidel came to me and some others, and said softly, and with a troubled brow,

“You need anticipate no pleasure at the theatre; there will be no performance; the Grand Duke is dead; he died on his journey hither from Berlin.”

A general shock went through the company. Goethe came in; we went on as if nothing had happened, and talked of different things. Goethe called me to the window, and talked about the Tyrolese and the theatre.

“You have my box to-day,” said he, “and need not go till six; stay after the others, that we may have a little chat.”

Young Goethe was trying to send the guests away, that he might break the news to his father before the return of the Chancellor, who had brought it to him. Goethe could not understand his son's strange conduct, and seemed annoyed.

“Will you not stay for coffee?” said he; “it is scarcely four o'clock.”

The others all departed; and I, too, took my hat.

“What! are you going too?” said he, astonished.

“Yes,” said young Goethe; “Eckermann has something to do before going to the theatre.” “Yes,” said I, “I have something to do.” “Go along, then,” said Goethe, shaking his head with a suspicious air; “still, I do not understand you.”

We went with Fräulein Ulrica into the upper rooms, while young Goethe remained below, and communicated the sad tidings to his father.


I saw Goethe late in the evening. Before I entered his chamber, I heard him sighing and talking aloud to himself: he seemed to feel that an irreparable rent had been torn in his existence. All consolation he refused, and would hear nothing of the sort.

“I thought,” said he, “that I should depart before him; but God disposes as he thinks best; and all that we poor mortals have to do, is to endure and keep ourselves upright as well and as long as we can.”


The Dowager Grand Duchess received the melancholy news at her summer residence of Wilhelmsthal, the younger members of the family received it in Russia. Goethe went soon to Dornburg, to withdraw himself from daily saddening impressions, and to restore himself by fresh activity in a new scene.

By important literary incitements on the part of the French, he had been once more impelled to his theory of plants; and this rural abode, where, at every step into the pure air, he was surrounded by the most luxurious vegetation, in the shape of twining vines and sprouting flowers, was very favourable to such studies.

I sometimes visited him there, in company with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. He seemed very happy, and could not refrain from repeatedly expressing his delight at the beautiful situation of the castle and gardens.

And, indeed, there was, from windows at such a height, an enchanting prospect. Beneath was the variegated valley, with the Saale meandering through the meadows. On the opposite side, toward the east, were woody hills, over which the eye could wander afar, so that one felt that this situation was, in the day time, favourable to the observation of passing showers losing themselves in the distance, and at night to the contemplation of the eastern stars and the rising sun.

“I enjoy here,” said Goethe, “both good days and good nights. Often before dawn I am already awake, and lie down by the open window, to enjoy the splendour of the three planets, which are at present to be seen together, and to refresh myself with the increasing brilliancy of the morning-red. I then pass almost the whole day in the open air, and hold spiritual communion with the tendrils of the vine, which say good things to me, and of which I could tell you winders. I also write poems again, which are not bad, and, if it were permitted me, I should like always to remain in this situation.”

  • [1] The peculiar Tyrolese burden.—Trans.

Thurs., Sep. 11.

At two o'clock to-day, in the very finest weather, Goethe returned from Dornburg. He looked very well, and was quite browned by the sun. We soon sat down to dinner, in the chamber next the garden, the doors of which stood open. He told us of many visits and presents which he had received; and seemed to take pleasure in interspersing his conversation with light jests. If, however, one looked deeper, one could not but perceive a certain embarrassment, such as a person feels who returns to a former situation, conditioned by manifold relations, views, and requisitions.

During the first course, a message came from the Dowager Grand Duchess, expressing her pleasure at Goethe's return, and announcing that she would have the pleasure of visiting him on the following Tuesday.

Since the death of the Grand Duke, Goethe had seen no member of the reigning family. He had, indeed, corresponded constantly with the Dowager Grand Duchess, so that they had sufficiently expressed their feelings upon their common loss. Still, the personal interview could not but awake painful emotions, and could not be anticipated without some apprehension. Neither had Goethe yet seen the young Duke and Duchess, nor paid his homage to them as new rulers of the land. All this he had now to undergo, and even, though it could not disturb him as an accomplished man of the world, it was an impediment to his talent, which always loved to move in its innate directions, and in its own activity. Visits, too, threatened him from all parts. The meeting at Berlin, of celebrated natural philosophers, had set in motion many important personages, who, passing through Weimar on their way, had, some of them, announced themselves, and were soon expected. Whole weeks of disturbance, which would take the inner sense out of its usual track, and other annoyances connected with visits otherwise so valuable;—all this was foreseen like a coming spectre by Goethe, when he again set his foot on the threshold, and paced his rooms. What made all these coming evils still worse, was a circumstance which I cannot pass over. The fifth section of his works, which was to contain the “Wanderjahre,” had been promised for the press at Christmas. Goethe had begun entirely to remodel this novel, which originally appeared in one volume, combining so much new matter with the old, that in the new edition it would occupy three volumes.

Much is done, but there is also much to do. The manuscript has everywhere gaps of white paper, which are yet to be filled up. Here something is wanting to the introduction; here is to be found a suitable link to render the reader less sensible that this is a collective work; here are fragments of great interest, some of which want a beginning, others an end; so that altogether there is much to do to all the three volumes, to make the important work at once attractive and graceful.

Last spring Goethe gave me this manuscript to look over. We then both in words and writing discussed the subject at great length. I advised him to devote the whole summer to the completion of this work, and to lay aside all others for the time. He was likewise convinced of the necessity of the case, and had resolved to do so; but the death of the Grand Duke had caused a gap in his existence; the tranquillity and cheerfulness necessary to such a composition were not now to be thought of, and he needed all his strength merely to sustain the blow and revive from it. Now, when with the commencement of autumn, returning from Dornburg, he again paced the rooms of his Weimar residence, the thought of completing his “Wanderjahre,” for which he had now only the space of a few months, came vividly before his mind, in conflict with the various interruptions which awaited him, and impeded the free action of his talent. When all these matters are taken into consideration, I shall be understood when I say that Goethe was ill at ease within himself, although he jested lightly at dinner. I have another reason for mentioning these circumstances, they are connected with an observation of Goethe's, which appeared to me very remarkable, which expressed his situation and peculiar character, and of which I will now speak.

Professor Abeken of Osnaburg had sent me, shortly before the 28th of August, an enclosure, requesting me to give it to Goethe on his birth-day, and saying it was a memorial relating to Schiller, which would certainly give him pleasure. When Goethe was speaking to-day at dinner, of the various presents which had been sent to him at Dornburg in honour of his birth-day, I asked him what Abeken's packet contained.

“It was a remarkable present,” said Goethe, “which really gave me great pleasure. An amiable lady, with whom Schiller took tea, conceived the happy idea of writing down all he said. She comprehended it well, and related it with accuracy, and after so long a time, it still reads well, inasmuch as one is transplanted immediately into a situation which is now passed by with a thousand others as interesting, while the living spirit of this one only has been felicitously caught and fixed upon paper.

Schiller appears here, as always, in perfect possession of his sublime nature. He is as great at the tea-table as he would have been in a council of state. Nothing constrains him, nothing narrows him, nothing draws downward the flight of his thoughts; the great views which lie within him are ever expressed freely and fearlessly. He was a true man, such as one ought to be. We others always feel ourselves subject to conditions. The persons, the objects that surround us have their influence upon us. The tea-spoon constrains us, if it is of gold, when it should be of silver, and so, paralyzed by a thousand considerations, we do not succeed in expressing freely whatever may be great in our nature. We are the slaves of objects round us, and appear little or important according as these contract or give us room to expand.”

Goethe was silent. The conversation turned on other subjects; but I continued to meditate on these important words, which had touched and expressed my own inmost soul.

(Sup.*) Fri., Sept. 26.

Goethe showed me to-day his rich collection of fossils, which he keeps in the detached pavilion in his garden. The collection was begun by himself; but his son has greatly increased it; and it is particularly remarkable for a long series of petrified bones, all of which were found in the neighbourhood of Weimar.

Wed., Oct. 1.

Herr Hönninghausen of Crefeld, head of a great mercantile house, and also an amateur of natural science, especially mineralogy,—a man possessed of varied information, through extensive travels and studies—dined with Goethe to-day. He had returned from the meeting of natural philosophers at Berlin, and a great deal was said about things connected with the subject, especially mineralogical matters.

There was also some talk about the Vulcanists, and the way in which men arrive at views and hypotheses about nature. On this occasion, several great natural philosophers were mentioned, including Aristotle, concerning whom Goethe spoke thus:—

“Aristotle observed nature better than any modern, but he was too hasty in his opinions. We must go slowly and gently to work with nature, if we would get anything out of her.

“If, on investigating natural objects, I formed an opinion I did not expect nature to concede the point at once, but I pursued her with observations and experiments, and was satisfied if she were kind enough to confirm my opinion when occasion offered. If she did not do this, she at any rate brought me to some other view, which I followed out, and which I perhaps found her more willing to confirm.”

Fri., Oct. 3.

To-day, at dinner, I talked with Goethe about Fouqué's Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg,”[1] which I had read, in compliance with his wish. We agreed that this poet had spent his life in old-German studies, without drawing from them any real culture in the end.

“From these old-German gloomy times,” said Goethe, “we can obtain as little as from the Servian songs, and similar barbaric popular poetry. We can read it and be interested about it for a while, but merely to cast it aside, and let it lie behind us. Generally speaking, a man is quite sufficiently saddened by his own passions and destiny, and need not make himself more so by the darkness of a barbaric past. He needs enlightening and cheering influences, and should therefore turn to those eras in art and literature, during which remarkable men obtained perfect culture, so that they were satisfied with themselves, and able to impart to others the blessings of their culture.

“But if you would have a good opinion of Fouqué, read his ‘Undine,’ which is really charming. The subject is, indeed, very good, and one cannot even say that the writer has done with it all that was possible; however, ‘Undine’ is good, and will give you pleasure.”

“I have been unfortunate in my acquaintance with the most modern German literature,” said I. “I came to the poems of Egon Ebert from Voltaire, whose acquaintance I had just made by those little poems which are addressed to individuals, and which certainly belong to the best he ever wrote. And now, I have fared no better with Fouqué. While deeply engaged in Walter Scott's ‘Fair Maid of Perth,’ the first work of this great writer which I had ever read, I am induced to put it aside, and give myself up to the ‘Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg.’”

“Against these great foreigners,” said Goethe, “the modern Germans certainly cannot keep their ground; but it is desirable that you should, by degrees, make yourself acquainted with all writers, foreign and domestic, that you may see how that higher world-culture, which the poet needs, is really to be obtained.”

Frau von Goethe came in, and sat down to the table with us.

“But,” continued Goethe, with animation, “Walter Scott's ‘Fair maid of Perth’ is excellent, is it not? There is finish! there is a hand! What a firm foundation for the whole, and in particulars not a touch which does not lead to the catastrophe! Then, what details of dialogue and description, both of which are excellent.

“His scenes and situations are like pictures by Teniers; in the arrangement they show the summit of art, the individual figures have a speaking truth, and the execution is extended with artistical love to the minutest details, so that not a stroke is lost. How far have you read?”

“I have come,” said I, “to the passage where Henry Smith carries the pretty minstrel girl home through the streets, and round about lanes; and where, to his great vexation, Proudfoot and Dwining met him.”

“Ah,” said Goethe, “that is excellent; that the obstinate, honest blacksmith should be brought at last to take with him not only the suspicious maiden, but even the little dog, is one of the finest things to be found in any novel. It shows a knowledge of human nature, to which the deepest mysteries are revealed.”

“It was also,” said I, “an admirable notion to make the heroine's father a glover, who, by his trade in skins, must have been long in communication with the Highlanders.”

“Yes,” said Goethe, “that is a touch of the highest order. From this circumstance spring the relations and situations most favourable for the whole book, and these by this means also obtain a real basis, so that they have an air of the most convincing truth. You find everywhere in Walter Scott a remarkable security and thoroughness in his delineation, which proceeds from his comprehensive knowledge of the real world, obtained by life-long studies and observations, and a daily discussion of the most important relations. Then come his great talent and his comprehensive nature. You remember the English critic, who compares the poets to the voices of male singers, of which some can command only a few fine tones, while others have the whole compass, from the highest to the lowest, completely in their power. Walter Scott is one of this last sort. In the ‘Fair Maid of Perth’ you will not find a single weak passage to make you feel as if his knowledge and talent were insufficient. He is equal to his subject in every direction in which it takes him; the king, the royal brother, the prince, the head of the clergy, the nobles, the magistracy, the citizens and mechanics, the Highlanders, are all drawn with the same sure hand, and hit off with equal truth.”

“The English,” said Frau von Goethe, “particularly like the character of Henry Smith, and Walter Scott seems to have made him the hero of the book; however, he is not my favourite; I like the Prince.”

“The Prince,” said I, “is, indeed, amiable enough with all his wildness, and is as well drawn as any of the rest.”

“The passage,” said Goethe, “where, sitting on horseback, he makes the pretty minstrel girl step upon his foot, that he may raise her up for a kiss, is in the boldest English style. But you ladies are wrong always to take sides. Usually, you read a book to find nutrition for the heart; to find a hero whom you could love. This is not the way to read; the great point is, not whether this or that character pleases, but whether the whole book pleases.”

“We women were made so, dear father,” said she, affectionately leaning over the table to press his hand.

“Well, we must let you have your own way in your amiability,” replied Goethe.

The last number of the “Globe” lay by him, and he took it up. I talked, in the mean while, with Frau von Goethe, about some young Englishmen, whose acquaintance I had made at the theatre.

“What men these writers in the ‘Globe’ are!” resumed Goethe, with animation. “One has scarcely a notion how it is they become greater and more remarkable every day, and how much, as it were, they are imbued with one spirit. Such a paper would be utterly impossible in Germany. We are mere individuals; harmony and concert are not to be thought of; each has the opinions of his province, his city, and his own idiosyncracy; and it will be a long while before we have attained an universal culture.”

  • [1] The “War of the Singers of the Wartburg” was a famous poetical contest in the days of the old Minnesängers.—Trans.

(Sup.*) Mon., Oct. 6.

Dined with Goethe, in company with Herr von Martius, who has been here for some days, and who spoke with Goethe on botanical subjects. It is especially the spiral tendency of plants, about which Herr von Martius has made important discoveries; these he imparted to Goethe, to whom they open a new field. Goethe appeared to take up his friend's idea with a sort of youthful ardour. “For the physiology of plants,” said he, “much is gained by it. The new discovery of the spiral tendency is thoroughly conformable to my doctrine of metamorphoses; it has been found on the same path, but is a considerable step in advance of it.”

Tues., Oct. 7.

There was the most lively party at dinner to-day. Besides the Weimar friends, there were some natural philosophers returned from Berlin, among whom, Herr von Martius, from Munich, who sat next Goethe, was known to me. There was joking and conversations on the most various subjects. Goethe was particularly good-humoured and communicative. The theatre was then talked about, and much was said of the opera last given—Rossini's “Moses.” They found fault with the subject, and both praised and found fault with the music.

Goethe said, “I do not understand how you can separate the subject from the music, and enjoy each by itself. You say the subject is not a good one; but you can set that aside, and enjoy the excellent music. I really admire this arrangement in your natures, by which your ears are able to listen to pleasant sounds, while the most powerful sense, vision, is tormented by the absurdest objects. And that this ‘Moses’ is absurd you will not deny. When the curtain rises you see the people standing at prayer. This is very wrong. It is written ‘When thou prayest, go into thy closet, and shut the door.’ But there ought to be no praying on the stage.

“I would have made a wholly different ‘Moses,’ and have begun the piece quite otherwise. I would have first shown you how the children of Israel in their hard bondage suffered from the tyranny of the Egyptian task-masters, in order to render more conspicuous the merit of Moses in freeing his people from this shameful oppression.”

Goethe then cheerfully went through the whole opera step by step, through all the scenes and acts, full of life and intelligence, and with a historical feeling for the subject, to the delighted astonishment of the whole company, who could not but admire the irrepressible flow of his thoughts, and the wealth of his invention. It passed before me too quickly for me to seize it; but I remember the dance of the Egyptians, which Goethe introduced to express their joy at the return of light, after the darkness had been overcome.

The conversation turned from Moses to the deluge, and took a scientific turn.

“It is said,” observed Herr von Martius, “they have found on Ararat a petrified piece of Noah's ark, and I shall be surprised if they do not also find petrified skulls of the first men.”

This remark led to others of a similar kind, and the conversation turned upon the various races of men—how as black, brown, yellow, and white, they inhabit the different countries of the earth. The question finally arose whether we ought to assume that all men are descended from the single pair, Adam and Eve.

Von Martius was for the biblical account, which he sought to confirm by the maxim, that nature goes to work as economically as possible in her productions.

“I cannot agree to that opinion,” said Goethe; “I maintain rather that nature is always lavish, even prodigal; and that it would show more acquaintance with her to believe she has, instead of one paltry pair, produced men by dozens or hundreds.

“When the earth had arrived at a certain point of maturity, the water had ebbed away, and the dry land was sufficiently verdant, came the epoch for the creation of man, and men rose, through the omnipotence of God, wherever the ground permitted; perhaps on the heights first.

“To believe that this happened I esteem reasonable; but to attempt to decide how it happened I deem an useless trouble, which we will leave to those who like to busy themselves with insolvable problems, and have nothing better to do.”

“Even,” said Herr von Martius, archly, “if I could, as a naturalist, willingly yield to your excellency's opinion, I should, as a good Christian, find some difficulty in adopting a view which cannot well be reconciled with the account given us in the Bible.”

“Holy writ,” replied Goethe, “speaks, certainly, only of one pair of human beings, whom God made on the sixth day; but the gifted men who wrote down the Word of God, as recorded in the Bible, had first in view their own chosen people; and as far as that people is concerned, we will not dispute the honour of a descent from Adam and Eve. But we, as well as the Negroes and Laplanders, and slender men, who are handsomer than any of us, had certainly different ancestors; and this worthy company must confess that we at present differ in a variety of particulars from the genuine descendants of Adam, and that they, especially where money is concerned, are superior to us all.”

We laughed; the conversation became general. Goethe, excited by Von Martius to argument, said many interesting things, which, under the appearance of jesting, had a deeper meaning at bottom.

After dinner, the Prussian minister, Herr Von Jordan, was announced, and we went into the next room.

Wed., Oct. 8.

Tieck, returning from a journey to the Rhine, with his wife, his daughters, and Countess Finkenstein, was expected to dine with Goethe to-day. I met them in the anteroom. Tieck looked very well; the Rhine baths seemed to have had a favourable effect upon him. I told him that since I had seen him I had been reading Sir Walter Scott's new novel, and what pleasure this extraordinary genius had given me.

“I suspect,” said Tieck, “that this last novel of Scott's, which I have not yet read, is the best he has ever written; however, he is so great a writer, that the first work of his which you read always excites astonishment, approach him on what side you will.”

Professor Göttling came in, just fresh from his Italian tour. I was extremely glad to see him again, and drew him to a window that he might tell me what he had seen.

“To Rome!” said he; “you must to Rome, if you would become anything! That is indeed a city! that is a life! that is a world! Whatever is small in our nature cannot be eradicated while we are in Germany, but as soon as we enter Rome a transformation takes place in us, and we feel ourselves great, like the objects which surround us.”

“Why,” said I, “did you not stay there longer?”

“My money and my leave of absence were at an end,” he replied, “but I felt very uncomfortable when I again crossed the Alps, leaving fair Italy behind me.”

Goethe came in, and greeted his guests. He talked on various subjects with Tieck and his family, and then offered the countess his arm to take her to the dining-room. We followed, and when we took our seats at the table made a motley group. The conversation was lively and unconstrained, but I remember little of what was said.

After dinner, the Princes von Oldenburg were announced. We then went up to Frau von Goethe's apartment, where Fräulein Agnes Tieck seated herself at the piano, and gave us the song “Im Felde schleich' ich still und wild,” with a fine alto voice, and so thoroughly in the spirit of the situation, that it made quite an ineffaceable impression on the mind.

Thurs. Oct. 9.

I dined to-day with Goethe and Frau von Goethe alone; and as it often happens that a conversation begun on one day is continued on another, so was it on this occasion. Rossini's “Moses” was again spoken of, and we recalled with pleasure Goethe's lively invention the day before yesterday.

“What I said, in the merriment and good-humour of the moment, about ‘Moses,’” said he, “I cannot recall; for such things are done quite unconsciously. But of this I am certain, that I cannot enjoy an opera unless the story is as perfect as the music, so that the two may keep pace one with another. If you ask what opera I consider good, I would name the ‘Wasserträger’ (Water-Carrier); for here the subject is so perfect, that, if given as a mere drama, without music, it could be seen with pleasure. Composers either do not understand the importance of a good foundation, or they have not intelligent poets who know to assist them with good stories. If ‘Der Freischütz’ had not been so good a subject, the mere music would hardly have drawn such crowds; and therefore Herr Kind should have some share in the honour.”

After various discussion on this subject, we spoke of Professor Göttling, and his travels in Italy.

“I cannot blame the good man,” said Goethe, “for speaking of Italy with such enthusiasm; I well know what I experienced myself. Indeed, I may say that only in Rome have I felt what it really is to be a man. To this elevation, to this happiness of feeling, I have never since arisen; indeed, compared with my situation at Rome, I have never since felt real gladness.

“But,” continued Goethe, after a pause, “we will not give ourselves up to melancholy thoughts. How do you get on with your ‘Fair Maid of Perth?’ How far have you read? Tell me all about it.”

“I read slowly,” said I. “However, I am now as far as the scene where Proudfoot, when in Henry Smith's armour he imitates his walk and whistle, is slain, and on the following morning is found in the streets of Perth by the citizens, who, taking him for Smith, raise a great alarm through the city.”

“Ay,” said Goethe, “that scene is remarkable; it is one of the best.”

“I have been particularly struck,” said I, “with Walter Scott's great talent for disentangling confused situations, so that the whole separates itself into masses and quiet pictures, which leave on our minds an impression as if, like omniscient beings, we had looked down and seen events which were occurring at the same time in various places.”

“Generally,” said Goethe, “he shows great understanding of art; for which reason we, and those like us, who always particularly look to see how things are done, find a double interest and the greatest profit in his works.

“I will not anticipate, but you will find in the third volume and admirable contrivance. You have already seen how the prince in council makes the wise proposal to let the rebel Highlanders destroy one another in combat, and how Palm Sunday is appointed for the day when the hostile clans are to come down to Perth, and to fight for life or death, thirty against thirty. You will see with admiration how Scott manages to make one man fail on one side on the decisive day, and with what art he contrives to bring his hero Smith from a distance into the vacant place among the combatants. This is admirably done; and you will be delighted when you come to it.

“But, when you have finished the ‘Fair Maid of Perth,’ you must at once read ‘Waverley,’ which is indeed from a quite different point of view, but which may, without hesitation, be set beside the best works that have ever been written in this world. We see that it is the same man who wrote the ‘Fair Maid of Perth,’ but that he has yet to gain the favour of the public, and therefore collects his forces so that he may not give a touch that is short of excellence. The ‘Fair Maid of Perth,’ on the other hand, is from a freer pen; the author is now sure of his public, and he proceeds more at liberty. After reading ‘Waverley,’ you will understand why Walter Scott still designates himself the author of that work; for there he showed what he could do, and he has never since written anything to surpass, or even equal, that first published novel.”

Thurs. evening, Oct. 9.

In honour of Tieck, a very pleasant tea-party was given this evening in the apartments of Frau von Goethe. I made the acquaintance of Count and Countess Medem. The latter told me that she had seen Goethe to-day, and had been highly delighted by the impression he had made. The count was especially interested about “Faust” and its continuation, and conversed with me about it for some time with much animation.

We had hoped that Tieck would read something aloud, and he did so. The party retired into a more remote room, and after all had comfortably seated themselves in a wide circle on chairs and sofas, he read “Clavigo.”

I had often read and felt this drama; but now it appeared to me quite new, and produced an effect such as I had scarcely experienced before. It seemed as if I heard it from the stage, only better; every character and situation was more perfectly felt: it produced the impression of a theatrical representation in which each part is well performed.

It would be hard to say what parts Tieck read best; whether those in which the powers and passions of the male characters are developed; or the quiet clear scenes addressed to the understanding; or the moments of tortured love. For giving expression to passages of this last sort, he had especial qualifications. The scene between Marie and Clavigo is still ringing in my ears; the oppressed bosom; the faltering and trembling of the voice; the broken half-stifled words and sounds; the panting and sighing of a hot breath accompanied with tears;—all this is still present with me, and will never be forgotten. Every one was absorbed in listening, and wholly carried away. The lights burned dim; nobody thought of that, or ventured to snuff them, for fear of the slightest interruption. Tears constantly dropping from the eyes of the ladies showed the deep effect of the piece, and were the most hearty tribute that could be paid to the reader of the poet.

Tieck had finished, and rose, wiping the perspiration from his forehead; but the hearers seemed still fettered to their chairs. Each man appeared too deeply engaged with what had just been passing through his soul, to have ready the suitable words of gratitude for him who had produced so wonderful an effect upon us all. Gradually, however, we recovered ourselves. The company arose, and talked cheerfully with one another. Then we partook of a supper which stood ready on little tables in the adjoining rooms.

Goethe himself was not present this evening; but his spirit and a remembrance of him were living among us all. He sent an apology to Tieck; and to his daughters, Agnes and Dorothea, two handkerchief-pins, with his own picture and red ribbons, which Frau von Goethe gave them, and fastened to their dresses like little orders.

Fri., Oct. 10.

From Mr. William Frazer, of London, editor of the “Foreign Review,” I received, this morning, two copies of the third number of that periodical, and gave one of them to Goethe at dinner.

I found again a pleasant dinner party, invited in honour of Tieck and the Countess, who, at the urgent request of Goethe and their other friends, had remained another day, the rest of the family having set off in the morning for Dresden.

At table a special subject of conversation was English literature, and particularly Walter Scott, on which occasion Tieck said, that he brought to Germany the first copy of Waverley ten years ago.

Sat., Oct. 11.

The above-mentioned number of the “Foreign Review” contained, with a variety of other important and interesting articles, a very fine essay by Carlyle, upon Goethe, which I studied this morning.

I went to Goethe a little earlier to dinner, that I might have an opportunity of talking this over with him before the arrival of the other guests. I found him, as I wished, still alone, expecting the company. He wore his black coat and star, with which I so much like to see him. He appeared to-day in quite youthful spirits, and we began immediately to speak on topics interesting to both. Goethe told me that he likewise had been looking at Carlyle's article this morning, and thus we were both in a position to exchange commendations of these foreign attempts.

“It is pleasant to see,” said Goethe, “how the earlier pedantry of the Scotch has changed into earnestness and profundity. When I recollect how the ‘Edinburgh Reviewers’ treated my works not many years since, and when I now consider Carlyle's merits with respect to German literature, I am astonished at the important step for the better.”

“In Carlyle,” said I, “I venerate most of all the mind and character which lie at the foundation of his tendencies. The chief point with him is the culture of his own nation; and, in the literary productions of other countries, which he wishes to make known to his contemporaries, he pays less attention to the arts of talent, than to the moral elevation which can be attained through such works.”

“Yes,” said Goethe, “the temper in which he works is always admirable. What an earnest man he is! and how he has studied us Germans! He is almost more at home in our literature than ourselves. At any rate, we cannot vie with him in our researches in English literature.”

“The article,” said I, “is written with a fire and impressiveness which show that there are many prejudices and contradictions to contend with in England. ‘Wilhelm Meister’ especially seems to have been placed in an unfavourable light by malevolent critics and bad translators. Carlyle, on the contrary, behaves very well. To the stupid objection that no virtuous lady could read ‘Wilhelm Meister,’ he opposes the example of the late Queen of Prussia, who made herself familiar with the book, and was rightly esteemed one of the first women of her time.”

Some of the guests came in now, whom Goethe received. He then turned to me again, and I continued.

“Carlyle has, indeed,” said I, “studied ‘Meister,’ and, being so thoroughly penetrated with its value, he would like to see it universally circulated,—would like to see every cultivated mind receive similar profit and enjoyment.”

Goethe drew me to a window to answer me.

“My dear young friend,” said he, “I will confide to you something which may help you on a great deal. My works cannot be popular. He who thinks and strives to make them so is in error. They are not written for the multitude, but only for individuals who desire something congenial, and whose aims are like my own.”

He wished to say more; but a young lady who came up interrupted him, and drew him into conversation. I turned to the others, and soon afterwards we sat down to table.

I could pay no attention to the conversation that was going on; Goethe's words were impressed upon me, and entirely occupied my mind.

“Really,” thought I, “a writer like him, an intellect so exalted, a nature so comprehensive, how can he be popular? Can even a small part of him be popular? even those songs which convivial companies or enamoured maidens sing, and which again are not for others?

“And, rightly regarded, is not this the case with everything extraordinary? Is Mozart, is Raphael popular? and is not the relation of the world towards these great fountains of overflowing spiritual life like that of some dainty person, who is pleased now and then to snatch up a little that may for a while afford higher enjoyment.

“Yes,” I continued, in my own mind, “Goethe is right. He cannot be popular to his full extent; his works are only for individuals who desire something congenial, and whose pursuits are like his own. They are for contemplative natures, who wish to penetrate into the depths of the world and human nature, and follow in his path. They are for those susceptible of passionate enjoyment, who seek in the poet the bliss and woe of the heart. They are for young poets who would learn how to express their feelings, and how to treat a subject artistically. They are for critics, who find there a model for the best rules of judgment, and also for the means of making a criticism interesting and attractive, so that it may be read with pleasure.

“His works are for the artist, inasmuch as they enlighten his mind generally, and teach him particularly what subjects are suited to works of art; what he should use, and what leave aside. They are for the observer of nature, not only because great laws are discovered and taught him, but, still more, because they give him the method by which the intellect must proceed with nature to make her reveal her mysteries.

“In short, all those who are making efforts in science or art, may be guests at the richly-provided banquet of his works, and in their productions bear witness to the great general source of light and life from which they have drawn.”

These and similar thoughts were in my head all dinner-time. I thought of individuals, of many a good German artist, of natural philosophers, poets, and critics, who owed to Goethe a great part of their culture. I thought of intellectual Italians, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, who have their eyes upon him, and who have worked in his spirit.

In the mean while, all around me were jesting and talking, and partaking of the good fare. I spoke now and then a word, but without exactly knowing what I said. A lady put a question to me, to which, it seems, I did not render a very appropriate answer: they all laughed at me.

“Let Eckermann alone,” said Goethe. “He is always absent, except when he is at the theatre.”

They laughed at me again; but I did not regard it. I felt myself, to-day, peculiarly happy. I blessed my fate, which, after many singular dispensations, had associated me with the few who enjoy the conversation and intimacy of a man whose greatness I had deeply felt only a few moments since, and whom I now had personally before my eyes, in all his amiability.

Biscuits and some very fine grapes were brought for dessert. The latter had been sent from a distance, and Goethe would not say whence they came. He divided them, and handed me a very ripe branch across the table.

“Here, my good friend,” said he, “eat these sweets, and much good may they do you.”

I highly enjoyed the grapes from Goethe's hand, and was now quite near him both in body and soul.

They talked of the theatre, and of Wolff's great merits, and of what had been done by that excellent artist.

“I know very well,” said Goethe, “that our earlier actors learned much from me, but I can properly call none but Wolff my pupil. I will give you an instance, which I am very fond of repeating, to show how thoroughly he was penetrated with my principles, and how fully he acted in my spirit. I was once very angry with Wolff for various reasons. He played one evening, and I was sitting in my box. ‘Now,’ thought I to myself, ‘you can keep a sharp look out upon him; for there is not, to-day, a spark of affection within you, which can speak out for him and excuse him. Wolff acted, and I kept my sharp eye fixed upon him. And how did he act! How safe—how firm he was! It was impossible to find out in him even the shadow of an offence against the rules which I had implanted in him, and I saw that a reconciliation with him was inevitable.’”

(Sup.*) Fri., Oct. 17.

Goethe has, for some time past been reading the “Globe” very eagerly, and he often makes this paper the subject of his conversation. The endeavours of Cousin and his school appear to him especially important.

“These men,” said he, “are quite on the way to effect an approximation between France and Germany, inasmuch as they form a language which is entirely fitted to facilitate the interchange of ideas between the two nations.”

The “Globe” has also a particular interest for Goethe, because the newest productions in French belles-lettres are reviewed, and the freedom of the romantic school, or rather the emancipation from the fetters of unmeaning rules, is often defended in a very animated manner.

“What is the use of the whole lumber of rules belonging to a stiff antiquated time,” said he to-day, “and what is the use of all the noise about classical and romantic! The point is for a work to be thoroughly good and then it is sure to be classical.”

Mon., Oct. 20.

Oberbergrath[1] Nœggerath of Bonn, on his return from the meeting of natural philosophers at Berlin, was a very welcome guest to-day at Goethe's table. There was much talk about mineralogy, and the worthy stranger gave us some profound information about the mineralogical phenomena in the neighbourhood of Bonn.

After dinner we went into the room where there is the colossal bust of Juno. Goethe showed the guests a long slip of paper, with outlines of the frieze of the temple at Phigalia. While we were looking at these, the remark was made that the Greeks, in representing animals, adhered less to nature than to certain conventional rules, and there was an attempt to prove, that in representations of this kind they are inferior to nature, and that their rams, oxen, and horses, as they appear in bas-relief, are often very stiff, shapeless, and imperfect creatures.

“I will not dispute with you about that point,” said Goethe; “but before all things, we must distinguish the time and the artist from which such works proceed. For numbers of masterpieces have been found, in which the Greek artists, in representing animals, have not only equalled, but even far surpassed nature. The English, who understand horses better than any nation in the world, are now compelled to acknowledge that two antique heads of horses are more perfect in their forms than those of any race now existing upon earth.

“These heads are from the best Greek period, and while we are astonished at such works, we should not so much infer that the artists have copied from a more perfect nature than we now possess, as that they themselves had become of some value in the progress of art, so that they turned to nature with their own personal greatness.”

While all this was said, I stood on one side, looking at an engraving with a lady, at one of the tables, and could only lend half an ear to Goethe's words; but so much the deeper did they sink into my mind.

After the company had gradually departed, and I was alone with Goethe, who stood by the stove, I approached him.

“Your excellency,” said I, “made an excellent remark a little while ago, when you said that the Greeks turned to nature with their own greatness, and I think that we cannot be too deeply penetrated with this maxim.”

“Yes, my good friend,” said Goethe, “all depends upon this; one must be something in order to do something. Dante seems to us great; but he had the culture of centuries behind him. The house of Rothschild is rich; but it has taken more than one generation to accumulate such treasures. All these things lie deeper than is thought.

“Our worthy artists who imitate the old German school know nothing of all this; they proceed to the imitation of nature with their own personal weakness and artistic incapacity, and fancy they are doing something. They stand below nature. But whoever will produce anything great, must so improve his culture that, like the Greeks, he will be able to elevate the mere trivial actualities of nature to the level of his own mind, and really carry out that which, in natural phenomena, either from internal weakness or external obstacles, remains a mere intention.”

  • [1] Literally, “Upper-Mine-Councillor”—a superior officer in a mining office.—Trans.

Wed., Oct. 22.

To-day at dinner we talked about ladies, and Goethe expressed himself very beautifully. “Women,” said he, “are silver dishes into which we put golden apples. My idea of women is not abstracted from the phenomena of actual life, but has been born with me, or arisen in me, God knows how. The female characters which I have drawn have therefore all turned out well; they are all better than could be found in reality.”

(Sup.) Thurs., Oct. 23.

Goethe spoke to-day with great respect of a little paper of the Chancellor's, on the subject of the Grand-Duke Charles Augustus, which reviews, in a short compass, the active life of this remarkable prince.

“He has been very happy with this little work,” said Goethe; “the materials are brought together with great circumspection and care; then all is animated with the breath of the heartiest love, while at the same time the style is so close, that one act follows immediately upon another, and we almost feel a mental giddiness in the contemplation of such fulness of life and action. The Chancellor has also sent his work to Berlin, and received some time ago a highly remarkable letter from Alexander von Humboldt, which I could not read without deep emotion. Humboldt was on the most intimate terms with the Grand-Duke during a long life; which certainly is not to be wondered at, since the profound and highly endowed nature of the Prince was always athirst for fresh knowledge, and Humboldt, with his great universality, was just the man to be always ready with the best and profoundest answer to every question.

“Now, it is a singular fact that the Grand-Duke passed the very last days before his death at Berlin, in almost constant intercourse with Humboldt, and that he was at last able to obtain from his friend the solution of many important problems which lay upon his heart. Further, the circumstance that one of the greatest princes whom Germany had ever possessed had such a man as Humboldt to witness his last days and hours, could not fail of producing a favourable effect. I have made a copy of the letter, and will impart some passages to you.”

Goethe rose and went to his desk, whence he took the letter, and then reseated himself at the table. He read for some time in silence. I saw tears in his eyes. “Read it for yourself,” said he, whilst he handed it to me. He rose and walked up and down the room whilst I read:—

“Who could have been more shocked at the sudden departure of the illustrious deceased,” writes Humboldt, “than I, whom he treated during thirty years with such kind distinction, I may say with such sincere predilection. Even here he would have me near him almost every hour; and as if this great brightness, as with the lofty snow capped Alps, were the forerunner of departing light, never have I seen the great humane prince more animated, more intelligent, more mild, more sympathizing with the further development of the people, than in the last days when we had him here. I frequently said to my friends, anxiously and full of misgivings, that this animation, this mysterious clearness of intellect, combined with so much bodily weakness, was to me a fearful phenomenon. He himself evidently vacillated between hope of recovery and expectation of the great catastrophe.

“When I saw him at breakfast four-and-twenty hours previously to this, though he was ill and without appetite, he still questioned me cheerfully upon the granite of the shores of the Baltic which had just been brought from Sweden, upon the tails of the comets which might dim our atmosphere, and upon the cause of the extreme severity of the winter on all the eastern coasts.

“When I saw him for the last time, he pressed my hand at my departure, and cheerfully said—‘Do you believe, Humboldt, that Töplitz and all the warm springs are like water artificially heated? We will discuss that at Töplitz, when you come there with the king. You will see that your old kitchen fire will still make me hold together for a while.’ Strange! for with such a man everything is of importance.

“In Potsdam, I sat many hours alone with him upon his couch; he drank and slept alternately, then drank again, then rose to write to his consort, and then slept again. He was cheerful, but much exhausted. In the intervals, he overpowered me with the most difficult questions upon physics, astronomy, meteorology, and geognosy; upon the transparency of the nucleus of a comet; upon the atmosphere of the moon; upon the coloured double stars; upon the influence of the spots in the sun upon temperature; upon the appearance of organized forms in the primitive world; and upon the internal warmth of the earth. He slept at intervals during his discourse and mine, was often restless, and then said, mildly and kindly excusing his apparent inattention, ‘You see, Humboldt, it is all over with me!’

“Suddenly, he began to talk desultorily upon religious matters. He regretted the increase of pietism, and the connection of this species of fanaticism with a tendency towards political absolutism, and a suppression of all free mental action. ‘Then,’ he exclaimed, ‘there are false-hearted fellows who think that by means of pietism they can make themselves agreeable to princes, and obtain places and ribbons. They have smuggled themselves in with a poetical predilection for the middle ages.’

“His anger soon abated, and he said that he now found much consolation in the Christian religion. ‘It is a human doctrine,’ said he, ‘but has been distorted from the beginning. The first Christians were the free-thinkers among the ultras.’”

I expressed to Goethe my delight at this noble letter. “You see,” said Goethe, “what an extraordinary man he was. But how good it is of Humboldt to have taken up these last few traits, which may certainly serve as a symbol in which the whole nature of this eminent prince is reflected. Yes, such he was!—I can say it better than any one, for no one knew him so thoroughly as I did. But is it not lamentable that there is no distinction, and that such a man must depart from us so early! Had he staid with us only a poor century more, how, in his high position, could he have advanced his age! But mark this. The world will not attain its goal so speedily as we expect and desire. There are always retarding demons, who start in opposition at every point, so that although the whole progresses, it is but slowly. Only live on, and you will find that I am right.”

“The development of mankind,” said I, “appears to be laid out as a work for thousands of years.”

“Perhaps millions,” said Goethe—“who knows? But let mankind last as long as it may, it will never lack obstacles to give it trouble, and never lack the pressure of necessity to develop its powers.

“Men will become more clever and more acute, but not better, happier, and stronger in action, or at least only at epochs. I foresee the time when God will have no more joy in them, but will break up everything for a renewed creation. I am certain that everything is planned to this end, and that the time and hour are already fixed in the distant future for the occurrence of this renovating epoch. But a long time will elapse first, and we may still for thousands and thousands of years amuse ourselves in all sorts of ways on this dear old surface.”

Goethe was in a particularly good and elevated mood. He ordered a bottle of wine, and filled for himself and me. Our conversation again turned upon the Grand Duke Charles Augustus.

“You see,” said Goethe, “how his extraordinary mind embraced the whole kingdom of nature. Physics, astronomy, geognosy, meteorology, vegetable and animal formations of the primitive world, and everything of the sort;—he had a mind for all and took interest in them all. He was eighteen years of age when I came to Weimar; but even then the buds showed what the tree would one day become. He soon attached himself most intimately to me, and took a deep interest in all that I did. It was advantageous to our intercourse that I was ten years older than he. He sat whole evenings with me, in earnest conversation on the subjects of art and nature, and other excellent topics. We often sat together deep into the night, and not unfrequently we both fell asleep on one sofa. We worked together for fifty years, and it is no wonder that we at last achieved something.”

“So thorough a cultivation as the Grand Duke seems to have received is probably rare among princes.”

“Very seldom!” returned Goethe. “There are, indeed, many who are capable of conversing very cleverly on every subject, but they have it not at heart, and only dabble upon the surface. And it is no wonder, if one considers the frightful dissipations and distractions which accompany a court life, and to which a young prince is exposed. He must take notice of everything; he must know a bit of this and a bit of that. Under such circumstances, nothing can take root; and it requires a strong natural foundation not to end in smoke in the face of such constant demands. The Grand-Duke was indeed a born great man; and in this all is said, and all is done.”

“With all his highly scientific and intellectual tendencies,” said I, “he appears to have understood the art of government.”

“He was a man of one piece,” returned Goethe, “and with him everything flowed from one single great source. And as the whole was good, so the individual parts were good, let him do as he might. But he possessed three especially useful qualities for carrying on a government. He had the talent of discriminating between minds and characters, and of placing every one in his proper place. That was a great point. Then he possessed another gift as great, if not greater: he was animated by the noblest benevolence, by the purest philanthropy, and with his whole soul aimed only at what was best. He always thought first of the happiness of his country, and only at last a little of himself. His hand was always ready and open to meet noble men, and to assist in promoting worthy objects. There was a great deal that was divine in him. He would have liked to promote the happiness of all mankind. Love engenders love, and one who is loved can easily govern.

“Thirdly, he was greater than those who surrounded him. After ten voices which he heard on a certain occasion, he perceived an eleventh, and that a better one, in himself. Strange whispers passed him unheeded, and he was not easily led to commit anything unprincely, by setting aside real merit on which a doubt had been cast, and taking worthless ragamuffins under his protection. He surveyed everything himself, judged for himself, and had in all cases the surest basis in himself. Moreover, he was of a silent nature, and his words were always followed by action.”

“How it grieves me,” said I, “that I knew nothing of him but his exterior; still that made a deep impression upon me. I see him still in his old drosky, in a worn-out grey cloak and military cap, smoking a cigar, as he drove to the chase, with his favourite hound by his side. I have never seen him ride otherwise than in this ugly old drosky. And never with more than two horses. An equipage with six horses, and coats with orders, do not seem to have been much according to his taste.”

“That sort of thing,” returned Goethe, “is now almost out of date with princes generally. The only point now is what a man weighs in the scale of humanity; all the rest is nought. A coat with a star, and a chariot with six horses, at all events, imposes on the rudest multitude only, and scarcely that. Then the Grand Duke's old drosky barely hung upon springs. Whoever rode with him had to put up with some desperate shocks. But that was in his way; he liked the rough and inconvenient, and was an enemy to all effeminacy.”

“We see traces of that in your poem of ‘Ilmenau,’” said I, “in which you appear to have drawn him to the life.”

“He was then very young,” returned Goethe, “and we certainly led rather a mad life. He was like a fine wine, still in a high state of fermentation. He did not know how to expend his powers, and we often nearly broke our necks. Fagging all day long on horseback, over hedges and ditches, through rivers, up hill and down hill; and then at night encamping in the open air, by a fire in the wood;—this was what he liked. To have inherited a dukedom was in him nothing; but to have taken one by storm, he would have considered something.

“The poem of ‘Ilmenau,’” continued Goethe, “contains, as an episode, an epoch which, in the year 1783, when I wrote it, had happened many years before, so that I could describe myself in it as an historical personage, and could hold a conversation with the self of former years. There occurs in it, as you know, a nightly scene after one of the break-neck chases in the mountain. We had built ourselves at the foot of a rock some little huts, and covered them with fir branches, that we might pass the night on dry ground. Before the huts we burned several fires, and we cooked and spread out the produce of the chase. Knebel, whose tobacco pipe was not then cold, sat next to the fire, and enlivened the company with various dry jokes, whilst the wine-flask passed from hand to hand. Seckendorf the slender, with his long thin limbs, had comfortably stretched himself out by the trunk of a tree, and was humming all sorts of poetics. On one side, in a similar little hut, lay the Grand Duke, in a deep slumber. I myself sat before him, by the glimmering light of the coals, absorbed in various grave thoughts, suffering accessions of regret for the mischief which had been done by my writings. Knebel and Seckendorf do not appear to me to be badly drawn, neither is the young prince, in the gloomy impetuosity of his twentieth year.

He hurries onwards, inconsiderate,
   No rock appears too steep, no bridge too small,
Ghastly mischances ever on him wait,
   And into Pain's hard arms he oft must fall.
The wild unruly impulse in his breast,
   Now here, now there, still sets him roving;
At last he takes his gloomy rest,
   When weary of his gloomy moving.
Joyless, though feeling no control,
   Sullen, though wild in happiest days,
Wounded and fagged in body and in soul,
   On a hard couch his frame he lays.

“That is he exactly. Not the slightest touch is exaggerated. Nevertheless, the Duke soon worked himself out of this ‘storm-and-stress period,’[1] into a state of useful clearness, so that on his birthday, in the year 1783, I could well remind him of this image of his earlier days.

“I will not deny that in the beginning he caused me much trouble and anxiety. Yet his noble nature soon cleared itself, and formed itself to the highest degree of perfection, so that it was a pleasure to live and act with him.”

“In these early times you made a tour with him through Switzerland,” remarked I.

“He was fond of travelling altogether,” returned Goethe, “not so much for the sake of amusing himself as to have his eyes and ears open, and notice whatever was good and useful, in order to introduce it into his own country. On this account, agriculture, cattle-breeding, and industry altogether, are infinitely indebted to him. His tendencies were not generally personal or egotistical, but of a purely productive kind; and, indeed, productive for the general good. He has thus acquired a name which has extended far beyond this little country.”

“His careless, simple exterior,” said I, “appeared to intimate that he did not seek renown, and that he set little store by it. It seemed as if he had become renowned without any effort of his own, merely by means of his own passive excellence.”

“There is something peculiar in that,” returned Goethe. “Wood burns because it has the proper stuff for that purpose in it; and a man becomes renowned because he has the necessary stuff in him. Renown is not to be sought, and all pursuit of it is vain. A person may, indeed, by skilful conduct and various artificial means, make a sort of name for himself. But if the inner jewel is wanting, all is vanity, and will not last a day. Just the same is it with popular favour. He did not seek it, and he by no means flattered people; but the nation loved him, because it felt that he had a heart for it.”

Goethe then mentioned the other members of the Grand Duke's family, and how the mark of a noble character ran through them all. He spoke of the benevolence of the present Regent, and of the great hopes which were entertained of the young Prince, and expatiated with evident love upon the rare qualities of the now reigning Princess, who, in the noblest spirit, was applying great means to alleviate sufferings and to bring forth germs of goodness. “She has at all times been a good angel to her country,” said he, “and she becomes so more and more the longer she is united to it. I have known the Grand Duchess since the year 1805, and have had many opportunities of admiring her mind and character. She is one of the best and most distinguished women of our time, and would be so if she were not a princess. And this is the great point, that even when the purple has been laid aside, much that is great, nay, what is really the best, still remains.”

We then spoke of the unity of Germany, and in what sense it was possible and desirable.

“I am not uneasy,” said Goethe, “about the unity of Germany; our good high roads and future railroads will of themselves do their part. But, above all, may Germany be one in love! and may it always be one against the foreign foe! May it be one, so that German dollars and groschen may be of equal value throughout the whole empire! one, so that my travelling-chest may pass unopened through all the six-and-thirty states! May it be one, so that the town passport of a citizen of Weimar may not be considered insufficient, like that of a mere foreigner, by the frontier officer of a large neighbouring state! May there be no more talk about inland and outland among the German states! In fine, may Germany be one in weight and measure, in trade and commerce, and a hundred similar things which I will not name!

“But if we imagine that the unity of Germany consists in this, that the very great empire should have a single great capital, and that this one great capital would conduce to the development of great individual talent, or to the welfare of the great mass of the people, we are in error.

“A state has been justly compared to a living body with many limbs, and thus the capital of a state may be compared to the heart, from which life and prosperity flow to the individual members, near and far. But if the members be very distant from the heart, the life that flows to them will become weaker and weaker. A clever Frenchman, I think Dupin, has sketched a chart of the state of culture in France, and has exhibited the greater or less enlightenment of the different departments by a lighter or darker colour. Now, some departments, particularly in the southern provinces remote from the capital, are represented by a perfectly black colour, as a sign of the great darkness which prevails there. But would that be the case if la belle France, instead of one great focus, had ten foci, whence life and light might proceed?

“Whence is Germany great, but by the admirable culture of the people, which equally pervades all parts of the kingdom? But does not this proceed from the various seats of government, and do not these foster and support it? Suppose, for centuries past, we had had in Germany only the two capitals, Vienna and Berlin, or only one of these, I should like to see how it would have fared with German culture, or even with that generally diffused opulence which goes hand in hand with culture. Germany has about twenty universities distributed about the whole empire, and about a hundred public libraries similarly distributed. There is also a great number of collections of art, and collections of objects belonging to all the kingdoms of nature; for every prince has taken care to bring around him these useful and beautiful objects. There are gymnasia and schools for arts and industry in abundance,—nay, there is scarcely a German village without its school. And how does France stand with respect to this last point!

“Then look at the quantity of German theatres, the number of which exceeds seventy, and which are not to be despised as supporters and promoters of a higher cultivation of the people. In no country is the taste for music and singing, and the practice of it so widely spread, as in Germany; and even that is something!

“And now think of such cities as Dresden, Munich, Stuttgard, Cassel, Brunswick, Hanover, and the like; think of the great elements of life comprised within these cities; think of the effect which they have upon the neighbouring provinces; and ask yourself if all this would have been the case if they had not for a long time been the residences of princes?

“Frankfort, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck, are great and brilliant; their effect upon the prosperity of Germany is incalculable. But would they remain what they are, if they lost their own sovereignty and became incorporated with any great German kingdom as a provincial town? I see reason to doubt this.”

  • [1] The “storm-and-stress (Sturm und Drang) period” of German literature, which takes its name from one of Klinger's plays, is that period of unfettered impulse which is particularly represented by Schiller's “Robbers.”—Trans.

Tues., Nov. 18.

Goethe spoke of a new article in the “Edinburgh Review.” “It is a pleasure to me,” said he, “to see the elevation and excellence to which the English critics now rise. There is not a trace of their former pedantry, but its place is occupied by great qualities. In the last article—the one on German literature—you will find the following remarks:—‘There are people among poets who have a tendency always to occupy themselves with things which another likes to drive from his mind.’ What say you to this? There we know at once where we are, and how we have to classify a great number of our most modern literati.”

(Sup.*) Wed., Dec. 3.

To-day, I had with Goethe a pleasant joke of a very particular kind. Madame Duval, of Centigny, in the Canton of Geneva, who is very skilful in preserving, had sent me, as the produce of her art, some citrons, for the Grand Duchess and Goethe, fully convinced that her preserves as far surpassed all others as Goethe's poems did those of most of his German contemporaries.

The eldest daughter of this lady had long wished for Goethe's autograph; it therefore occurred to me that it would be a good plan to decoy Goethe into writing a poem for my young friend, by using the citrons as a sweet bait.

With the air of a diplomatist charged with an important mission I went to him, and treated with him as one power with another, stipulating for an original poem in his own handwriting, as the price of the offered citrons. Goethe laughed at this joke, which he took in very good part, and immediately asked for the citrons, which he found excellent. A few hours afterwards, I was much surprised to see the following verses arrive as a Christmas present to my young friend:—

That must be a land of bliss
Where the citrons grow like this!
And where ladies find employment
Sweetening them for our enjoyment, &c.

When I saw him again he joked about the great advantages which he could now derive from his poetic profession, whereas in his youth he could not find a purchaser for his “Goetz von Berlichingen.” “I adopt your treaty of commerce,” said he; “when my citrons are eaten up do not forget to order some more; I will be punctual with my poetic payment.”

Tues., Dec. 16.

I dined to-day with Goethe alone, in his work-room. We talked on various literary topics.

“The Germans,” said he, “cannot cease to be Philistines. They are now squabbling about some verses, which are printed both in Schiller's works and mine, and fancy it is important to ascertain which really belong to Schiller and which to me; as if anything could be gained by such investigation—as if the existence of such things were not enough. Friends, such as Schiller and I, intimate for years, with the same interests, in habits of daily intercourse, and under reciprocal obligations, live so completely into one another, that it is hardly possible to decide to which of the two the particular thoughts belong.

“We have made many distiches together; sometimes I gave the thought, and Schiller made the verse; sometimes the contrary was the case; sometimes he made one line, and I the other. What matters the mine and thine? One must be a thorough Philistine, indeed, to attach the slightest importance to the solution of such questions.”

“Something similar,” said I, “often happens in the literary world, when people, for instance, doubt the originality of this or that celebrated man, and seek to trace out the sources from whence he obtained his cultivation.”

“That is very ridiculous,” said Goethe; “we might as well question a strong man about the oxen, sheep and swine, which he has eaten, and which have given him strength.

“We are indeed born with faculties; but we owe our development to a thousand influences of the great world, from which we appropriate to ourselves what we can, and what is suitable to us. I owe much to the Greeks and French; I am infinitely indebted to Shakspeare, Sterne, and Goldsmith; but in saying this I do not show the sources of my culture; that would be an endless as well as an unnecessary task. What is important is to have a soul which loves truth, and receives it wherever it finds it.

“Besides, the world is now so old, so many eminent men have lived and thought for thousands of years, that there is little new to be discovered or expressed. Even my theory of colours is not entirely new. Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other excellent men, have before me found and expressed the same thing in a detached form: my merit is, that I have found it also, that I have said it again, and that I have striven to bring the truth once more into a confused world.

“The truth must be repeated over and over again, because error is repeatedly preached among us, not only by individuals, but by the masses. In periodicals and cyclopædias, in schools and universities; everywhere, in fact, error prevails, and is quite easy in the feeling that it has a decided majority on its side.

“Often, too, people teach truth and error together, and stick to the latter. Thus, a short time ago, I read in an English cyclopædia the doctrine of the origin of Blue. First came the correct view of Leonardo da Vinci, but then followed, as quietly as possible, the error of Newton, coupled with remarks that this was to be adhered to because it was the view generally adopted.”

I could not help laughing with surprise when I heard this. “Every wax-taper,” I said, “every illuminated cloud of smoke from the kitchen, that has anything dark behind it, every morning mist, when it lies before a steady spot, daily convinces me of the origin of blue colour, and makes me comprehend the blueness of the sky. What the Newtonians mean when they say that the air has the property of absorbing other colours, and of repelling blue alone, I cannot at all understand, nor do I see what use or pleasure is to be derived from a doctrine in which all thought stands still, and all sound observation completely vanishes.”

“My good innocent friend,” said Goethe, “these people do not care a jot about thoughts and observations. They are satisfied if they have only words which they can pass as current, as was well shown, and not ill-expressed by my own Mephistophiles:—

Mind, above all, you stick to words,
Thus through the safe gate you will go
Into the fane of certainty;
For when ideas begin to fail
A word will aptly serve your turn, &c.

Goethe recited this passage laughing, and seemed altogether in the best humour. “It is a good thing,” said he, “that all is already in print, and I shall go on printing as long as I have anything to say against false doctrine, and those who disseminate it.

“We have now excellent men rising up in natural science,” he continued, after a pause, “and I am glad to see them. Others begin well, but afterwards fall off; their predominating subjectivity leads them astray. Others, again, set too much value on facts, and collect an infinite number, by which nothing is proved. On the whole, there is a want of originating mind to penetrate back to the original phenomena, and master the particulars that make their appearance.”

A short visit interrupted our discourse, but when we were again alone the conversation returned to poetry, and I told Goethe that I had of late been once more studying his little poems, and had dwelt especially upon two of them, viz., the ballad[1] about the children and the old man, and the “Happy Couple” (die glücklichen Gatten).

“I myself set some value on these two poems,” said Goethe, “although the German public have hitherto not been able to make much out of them.”

“In the ballad,” I said, “a very copious subject is brought into a very limited compass, by means of all sorts of poetical forms and artifices, among which I especially praise the expedient of making the old man tell the children's past history down to the point where the present moment comes in, and the rest is developed before our eyes.”

“I carried the ballad a long time about in my head,” said Goethe, “before I wrote it down. Whole years of reflection are comprised in it, and I made three or four trials before I could reduce it to its present shape.”

“The poem of the ‘Happy Couple,’” continued Goethe, “is likewise rich in motives; whole landscapes and passages of human life appear in it, warmed by the sunlight of a charming spring sky, which is diffused over the whole.”

“I have always liked that poem,” said Goethe, “and I am glad that you have regarded it with particular interest. The ending of the whole pleasantry with a double christening is, I think, pretty enough.”

We then came to the “Bürgergeneral” (Citizen-general); with respect to which I said that I had been lately reading this piece with an Englishman, and that we had both felt the strongest desire to see it represented on the stage. “As far as the spirit of the work is concerned,” said I, “there is nothing antiquated about it; and with respect to the details of dramatic development, there is not a touch that does not seem designed for the stage.”

“It was a very good piece in its time,” said Goethe, “and caused us many a pleasant evening. It was, indeed, excellently cast, and had been so admirably studied that the dialogue moved along as glibly as possible. Malcomi played Märten, and nothing could be more perfect.

“The part of Schnaps,” said I, “seems to me no less felicitous. Indeed, I should not think there were many better or more thankful parts in the repertoire. There is in this personage, as in the whole piece, a clearness, an actual presence, to the utmost extent that can be desired for a theatre. The scene where he comes in with the knapsack, and produces the things one after another, where he puts the moustache on Märten, and decks himself with the cap of liberty, uniform, and sword, is among the best.”

“This scene,” said Goethe, “used always to be very successful on our stage. Then the knapsack, with the articles in it, had really an historical existence. I found it in the time of the Revolution, on my travels along the French border, when the emigrants, on their flight, had passed through, and one of them might have lost it or thrown it away. The articles it contained were just the same as in the piece. I wrote the scene upon it, and the knapsack, with all its appurtenances, was always introduced, to the no small delight of our actors.”

The question whether the “Bürgergeneral” could still be played with any interest or profit, was for a while the subject of our conversation.

Goethe then asked about my progress in French literature, and I told him that I still took up Voltaire from time to time, and that the great talent of this man gave me the purest delight.

“I still know but little of him,” said I; “I keep to his short poems addressed to persons, which I read over and over again, and which I cannot lay aside.”

“Indeed,” said Goethe, “all is good which is written by so great a genius as Voltaire, though I cannot excuse all his profanity. But you are right to give so much time to those little poems addressed to persons; they are unquestionably among the most charming of his works. There is not a line which is not full of thought, clear, bright, and graceful.”

“And we see,” said I, “his relations to all the great and mighty of the world, and remark with pleasure the distinguished position taken by himself, inasmuch as he seems to feel himself equal to the highest, and we never find that any majesty can embarrass his free mind even for a moment.”

“Yes,” said Goethe, “he bore himself like a man of rank. And with all his freedom and audacity, he ever kept within the limits of strict propriety, which is, perhaps, saying still more. I may cite the Empress of Austria as an authority in such matters; she has repeatedly assured me, that in those poems of Voltaire's, there is no trace of crossing the line of convenance.”

“Does your excellency,” said I, “remember the short poem in which he makes to the Princess of Prussia, afterwards Queen of Sweden, a pretty declaration of love, by saying that he dreamed of being elevated to the royal dignity?”

“It is one of his best,” said Goethe, and he recited the lines—

   Je vous aimais, princesse, et j'osais vous le dire;
Les Dieux à mon reveil ne m'ont pas tout oté,
   Je n'ai perdu que mon empire.

“How pretty that is! And never did poet have his talent so completely at command every moment as Voltaire. I remember an anecdote, when he had been for some time on a visit to Madame du Chatelet. Just as he was going away, and the carriage was standing at the door, he received a letter from a great number of young girls in a neighbouring convent, who wished to play the ‘Death of Julius Cæsar’ on the birth-day of their abbess, and begged him to write them a prologue. The case was too delicate for a refusal; so Voltaire at once called for pen and paper, and wrote the desired prologue, standing, upon the mantlepiece. It is a poem of perhaps twenty lines, thoroughly digested, finished, perfectly suited to the occasion, and, in short, of the very best class.”

“I am very desirous to read it,” said I.

“I doubt,” said Goethe, “whether you will find it in your collection. It has only lately come to light, and, indeed, he wrote hundreds of such poems, of which many may still be scattered about among private persons.”

“I found of late, a passage in Lord Byron,” said I, “from which I perceived with delight that even Byron had an extraordinary esteem for Voltaire. We may see in his works how much he liked to read, study, and make use of Voltaire.”

“Byron,” said Goethe, “knew too well where anything was to be got, and was too clever not to draw from this universal source of light.”

The conversation then turned entirely upon Byron, and several of his works, and Goethe found occasion to repeat many of his former expressions of admiration for that great genius.

“To all that your Excellency says of Byron,” said I, “I agree from the bottom of my heart; but, however great and remarkable that poet may be as a genius, I very much doubt whether a decided gain for pure human culture is to be derived from his writings.”

“There I must contradict you,” said Goethe; “the audacity and grandeur of Byron must certainly tend towards culture. We should take care not to be always looking for it in the decidedly pure and moral. Everything that is great promotes cultivation as soon as we are aware of it.”

  • [1] This poem is simply entitled “Ballade,” and begins “Herein, O du Guter! du Alter herein!”—Trans.

(Sup.) Sun., Dec. 21.

Last night I had a strange dream, which I related to Goethe this evening, and which he thought very pleasant. I imagined myself in a foreign town, in a broad street, towards the south-east, where I stood with a crowd of men, and watched the heavens, which appeared covered with a light mist and shone with the brightest yellow. Every one was full of expectation as to what would happen, when two fiery points appeared, which, like meteor stones, fell to the ground before us with a crash, not far from the spot where we were standing. We hastened to see what had fallen, and behold! there stood before me Faust and Mephistophiles. I was both delighted and astonished, and joining them as acquaintance, walked along with them in cheerful conversation, turning the next corner of a street.

What we said I do not remember, yet the impression of their personal appearance was so peculiar, that it is still perfectly distinct to me, and not easily to be forgotten. Both were younger than one is accustomed to consider them; and, indeed, Mephistophiles might have been about one-and-twenty years of age, and Faust about seven-and-twenty. The former appeared thoroughly gentlemanlike, cheerful, and free; and stepped along as lightly as any Mercury. His countenance was handsome without malice; and one would not have discerned that he was the devil, had it not been for two elegant horns which sprouted from his youthful forehead, and turned sideways, just as a beautiful growth of hair raises itself, and then turns to each side. When, as we went along, Faust, in speaking, turned his countenance towards me, I was astonished at the peculiarity of the expression; the noblest moral feeling and benevolence spoke in every feature, as the prevailing original character of his nature. He appeared as if, in spite of his youth, all human joys, sorrows, and thoughts had already passed through his soul, so careworn was his countenance. He was rather pale, and so attractive that one could not look at him enough. I endeavoured to impress his features upon my mind, in order to draw them. Faust walked on the right, Mephistophiles between us two, and I still retain the impression of the manner in which Faust turned his fine peculiar countenance, in order to speak with Mephistophiles or with me. We went through the streets, and the crowd dispersed without taking further notice of us.