Wed., Feb. 4.

“I have continued to read Schubart,” said Goethe. “He is, indeed, a remarkable man, and he says much that is excellent, if we translate it into our own language. The chief tendency of his book is to show that there is a point of view beyond the sphere of philosophy,—namely, that of common-sense; and that art and science, independently of philosophy, and by means of a free action of natural human powers, have always thriven best. This is grist for our mill. I have always kept myself free from philosophy. The common-sense point of view was also mine; and hence Schubart confirms what I myself have been saying and doing all my life.

“The only thing I cannot commend in him is this, that he knows certain things better than he will confess, and does not therefore go quite honestly to work. Like Hegel, he would bring the Christian religion into philosophy, though it really has nothing to do with it. Christianity has a might of its own, by which dejected, suffering humanity is re-elevated from time to time, and when we grant it this power, it is raised above all philosophy, and needs no support therefrom. Neither does the philosopher need the countenance of religion to prove certain doctrines; as, for instance, eternal duration. Man should believe in immortality; he has a right to this belief; it corresponds with the wants of his nature, and he may believe in the promises of religion. But if the philosopher tries to deduce the immortality of the soul from a legend, that is very weak and inefficient. To me, the eternal existence of my soul is proved from my idea of activity; if I work on incessantly till my death, nature is bound to give me another form of existence when the present one can no longer sustain my spirit.”

My heart, at these words, beat with admiration and love.

“Never,” thought I, “was a doctrine spoken more inciting to noble minds than this. For who will not work and act indefatigably to the end of his days, when he finds therein the pledge of an eternal life?”

Goethe had a portfolio brought, full of drawings and engravings. After he had looked at some in silence, he showed me a fine engraving after a picture of Ostade's.

“Here,” said he, “you have the scene of our goodman and goodwife.”

I looked at the engraving with much pleasure. I saw the interior of a peasant's dwelling, with kitchen, parlour, and bed-room, all in one. Man and wife sat opposite one another; the wife spinning, the husband winding yarn; a child at their feet. In the background was a bed, and everywhere there was nothing but the rudest and most necessary household utensils. The door led at once into the open air. This idea of a happy marriage in a very limited condition was perfectly conveyed by this engraving; comfort, content, and a certain luxuriance in the loving emotions of matrimony, were expressed in the face of both man and wife, as they looked upon one another.

“The longer one looks,” said I, “at this picture, the happier one feels; it has quite a peculiar charm.”

“It is the charm of sensuality,” said Goethe, “with which no art can dispense, and which in subjects of this kind reigns in all its fulness. On the other hand, in works of a higher kind, when the artist goes into the ideal, it is difficult to keep up the proper degree of sensuality, so as not to become dry and cold. Then youth or age may be favourable or impeding, and hence the artist should reflect on his age, and select his subjects accordingly. I succeeded with my ‘Iphigenia’ and ‘Tasso,’ because I was young enough to penetrate and animate the ideal of the stuff with sensual feeling. At my present age, such ideal subjects would no longer be suited to me, and I do right in selecting those which comprise within themselves a certain degree of sensuality. If the Genasts stay here, I shall write two pieces for you, both in one act and in prose. One will be of the most cheerful kind, and end with a wedding; the other will be shocking and terrible, and two corpses will be on the stage at the termination. The latter proceeds from Schiller's time, who wrote a scene of it at my request. I have long thought over both these subjects, and they are so completely present to my mind, that I could dictate either of them in a week, as I did my ‘Bürgergeneral.’”

“Do so,” said I; “write the two pieces at all events; it will be a recreation to you after the ‘Wanderjahre,’ and will operate like a little journey. And how pleased the world would be, if, contrary to the expectation of every one, you did something more for the stage.”

“As I said,” continued Goethe, “if the Genasts stay here, I am not sure that I shall not indulge in this little pleasantry. But without this prospect there is but small inducement; for a play upon paper is nought. The poet must know the means with which he has to work, and must adapt his characters to the actors who are to play them. If I can reckon upon Genast and his wife, and take besides La Roche, Herr Winterberger, and Madame Seidel, I know what I have to do, and can be certain that my intentions will be carried out.

“Writing for the stage,” he continued, “is something peculiar, and he who does not understand it thoroughly, had better leave it alone. Every one thinks that an interesting fact will appear interesting on the boards,—nothing of the kind! Things may be very pretty to read, and very pretty to think about; but as soon as they are put upon the stage the effect is quite different, and that which has charmed us in the closet will probably fall flat on the boards. If any one reads my ‘Hermann and Dorothea,’ he thinks it might be brought out at the theatre. Töpfer has been inveigled into the experiment; but what is it, what effect does it produce, especially if it is not played in a first-rate manner, and who can say that it is in every respect a good piece? Writing for the stage is a trade that one must understand, and requires a talent that one must possess. Both are uncommon, and where they are not combined, we shall scarcely have any good result.”

Mon., Feb. 9.

Goethe talked of the “Wahlverwandtschaften,” especially remarking, that a person whom he had never seen or known in his life had supposed the character of Mittler to be meant for himself.

“There must,” said he, “be some truth in the character, and it must have existed more than once in the world. Indeed, there is not a line in the ‘Wahlverwandtschaften’ that is not taken from my own experience, and there is more in it than can be gathered by any one from a first reading.”

Tues., Feb. 10.

I found Goethe surrounded by maps and plans referring to the building of the Bremen harbour, for which great undertaking he showed an especial interest.

There was then much talk about Merck, and Goethe read me a poetical epistle written from Merck to Wieland in 1776, in very spirited but somewhat hard, doggrel verse (Knüttelverse). The lively production is especially directed against Jacopi, whom Wieland seems to have over-estimated in a critique in the Merkur—a fault which Merck cannot pardon.

We then talked of the state of culture at the time, and how difficult it was to emerge from the so-called storm-and-stress period to a higher culture; of his first years in Weimar; of the poetic talent in conflict with the reality, which he, from his position at court, and the various sorts of service demanded of him, was, for his own higher advantage, obliged to encounter. Hence nothing poetical of importance was produced during the first ten years. He read several fragments, and showed how he was saddened by love affairs, and how his father always was impatient of the court life.

Then we came to the advantage that he did not change his place of abode, and was not obliged to go twice through the same experience; then came his flight to Italy, in order to revive his poetic power,—the superstitious fancy that he would not succeed if any one knew about it, and the profound secrecy in consequence; how he wrote to the Grand Duke from Rome, and returned from Italy with great requisitions upon himself.

Next we talked of the Duchess Amelia—a perfect princess, with perfectly sound sense, and an inclination for the enjoyment of life. She was very fond of Goethe's mother, and wished her to come to Weimar, but he opposed it.

Then about the first beginnings of “Faust.”—“‘Faust’ sprang up at the same time with ‘Werther.’ I brought it with me in 1775 to Weimar; I had written it on letter paper, and had not made an erasure, for I took care not to write down a line that was not worthy to remain.”

Wed., Feb. 11.

Oberbaudirector Coudray dined with me at Goethe's house. He spoke much of the Female School of Industry and the Orphan's Institute, as the best establishments in their kind of this country. The first was founded by the Grand Duchess; the latter by the Grand Duke, Charles Augustus. Much was said about theatrical decoration and road-making. Coudray showed Goethe a sketch for a prince's chapel. With respect to the place of the ducal chair, Goethe made some objections, to which Coudray yielded.

Soret came after dinner. Goethe showed us once more the pictures of Herr von Reutern.

Thurs., Feb. 12.

Goethe read me the thoroughly noble poem, “Kein Wesen kann zu nichts zerfallen” (No being can dissolve to nothing), which he had lately written.

“I wrote this poem,” said he, “in contradiction to my lines—

Denn alles muss zu nichts zerfallen
Wenn es im Seyn beharren will
, &c.

For all must melt away to nothing
Would it continue still to be;

which are stupid, and which my Berlin friends, on the occasion of the late assembly of natural philosophers, set up in golden letters, to my annoyance.”

The conversation turned on the great mathematician, Lagrange, whose excellent character Goethe highly extolled.

“He was a good man,” said he, “and on that very account, a great man. For when a good man is gifted with talent, he always works morally for the salvation of the world, as poet, philosopher, artist, or in whatever way it may be.

“I am glad,” continued Goethe, “that you had an opportunity yesterday of knowing Coudray better. He says little in general society, but, here among ourselves, you have seen what an excellent mind and character reside in the man. He had, at first, much opposition to encounter, but he has now fought through it all, and enjoys the entire confidence and favour of the court. Coudray is one of the most skilful architects of our time. He has adhered to me and I to him, and this has been of service to us both. If I had but known him fifty years ago!”

We then talked about Goethe's own architectural knowledge. I remarked that he must have acquired much in Italy.

“Italy gave me an idea of earnestness and greatness.” said he, “but no practical skill. The building of the castle here in Weimar advanced me more than anything. I was obliged to assist, and even to make drawings of entablatures. I had a certain advantage over the professional people, because I was superior to them in intention.”

We talked of Zelter.

“I have a letter from him,” said Goethe, “in which he complains that the performance of the oratorio of the Messiah was spoiled for him by one of his female scholars, who sang an aria too weakly and sentimentally. Weakness is a characteristic of our age. My hypothesis is, that it is a consequence of the efforts made in Germany to get rid of the French. Painters, natural philosophers, sculptors, musicians, poets, with but few exceptions, all are weak, and the general mass is no better.”

“Yet I do not give up the hope,” said I, “of seeing suitable music composed for ‘Faust.’”

“Quite impossible!” said Goethe. “The awful and repulsive passages which must occasionally occur, are not in the style of the time. The music should be like that of Don Juan. Mozart should have composed for ‘Faust.’ Meyerbeer would, perhaps, be capable; but he would not touch anything of the kind;[1] he is too much engaged with the Italian theatres.”

Afterwards—I do not recollect in connection to what—Goethe made the following important remark:—

“All that is great and skilful exists with the minority. There have been ministers who have had both king and people against them, and have carried out their great plans alone. It is not to be imagined that reason can ever be popular. Passions and feelings may become popular; but reason always remains the sole property of a few eminent individuals.”

  • [1] It must be borne in mind that this was said before the appearance of “Robert le Diable,” which was first produced in Paris, in November, 1831.—Trans.

Fri., Feb. 13.

Dined with Goethe alone.

“After I have finished the ‘Wanderjahre,’” said he, “I shall turn to botany again to continue the translation with Soret; I only fear it may lead me too far, and at last prove an incubus. Great secrets still lie hidden; much I know, and of much I have an intimation. I will confide something to you that will sound odd.

“The plant goes from knot to knot, closing at last with the flower and the seed. In the animal kingdom it is not otherwise. The caterpillar and the tape-worm go from knot to knot, and at last form a head. With the higher animals and man, the vertebral bones grow one upon another, and terminate with the head, in which the powers are concentrated.

“With corporations it is the same as with individuals. The bees, a series of individuals, connected one with another, at least as a community, produce something, which is the conclusion, and may be regarded as the head of the whole—the queen-bee. How this is managed is a mystery, hard to be expressed, but I may say that I have my thoughts upon it.

“Thus does a nation bring forth its heroes, who stand at the head like demigods to protect and save. Thus were the poetic powers of the French concentrated in Voltaire. Such heads of a nation are great in the generation in which they work; many last longer, but the greater part have their places supplied by others, and are forgotten by posterity.”

I was pleased with these remarkable thoughts. Goethe then spoke of the natural philosophers, with whom the great point was to prove their opinion.

Herr von Buch,” said he, “has published a new book, which contains a hypothesis in its very title. He has to treat of the blocks of granite which are scattered about in various directions, without our knowing how or whence they came. But as Herr von Buch entertains the hypothesis that such blocks have been cast forth, and shivered by some internal force, he indicates this in his title, by making mention of dispersed (Zerstreut) granite-blocks, so that the step to dispersion (Zerstreuung) is very short, and the unsuspecting reader finds himself in the toils of error he does not know how.

“One must be old to see all this, and have money enough to pay for one's experience. Every bon mot that I utter costs me a purseful of money; half a million of my private fortune has passed through my hands that I might learn what I know now;—not only the whole of my father's fortune, but my own salary, and my large literary income for more than fifty years. I have, besides, seen a million and a half expended for great objects by the princes, with whom I have been intimately connected, and in whose progress, success, and failure I have been interested.

“More than mere talent is required to become a proficient. One must also live amid important circumstances, and have an opportunity of watching the cards held by the players of the age, and of participating in their gain and loss.

“Without my attempts in natural science, I should never have learned to know mankind such as it is. In nothing else can we so closely approach pure contemplation and thought, so closely observe the errors of the senses and of the understanding, the weak and the strong points of character. All is more or less pliant and wavering, is more or less manageable; but nature understands no jesting; she is always true, always serious, always severe; she is always right, and the errors and faults are always those of man. Him, who is incapable of appreciating her, she despises; and only to the apt, the pure, and the true, does she resign herself, and reveal her secrets.

“The understanding will not reach her; man must be capable of elevating himself to the highest Reason, to come into contact with the Divinity, which manifests itself in the primitive phenomena (Urphenomenen), which dwells behind them, and from which they proceed.

“The divinity works in the living not in the dead; in the becoming and changing, not in the become and the fixed. Therefore reason, with its tendency towards the divine, has only to do with the becoming, the living; but understanding with the become, the already fixed, that it may make use of it.

“Hence, mineralogy is a science for the understanding, for practical life; for its subjects are something dead, which cannot rise again, and there is no room for synthesis.

“The subjects of meteorology are, indeed, something living, which we daily see working and producing; they presuppose a synthesis, only so many are the co-operating circumstances, that man is not equal to this synthesis, and therefore uselessly wearies himself in observations and inquiries. We steer by hypothesis to imaginary islands; but the proper synthesis will probably remain an undiscovered country; and I do not wonder at this, when I consider how difficult it is to obtain any synthesis even in such simple things as plants and colours.”

Sun., Feb. 15.

Goethe received me with much praise, on account of my arrangement of the natural-historical aphorisms for the “Wanderjahre.” “Devote yourself to nature,” said he; “you are born for that purpose, and as the next task, write a compendium of the ‘Theory of Colours.’” We spoke much on this subject.

A chest arrived from the Lower Rhine, containing some antique coins which had been dug up, minerals, small cathedral-figures, and carnival-poems, all of which were unpacked after dinner.

Tues., Feb. 17.

We talked a great deal about Goethe's “Grosskophta.”

Lavater,” said Goethe, “believed in Cagliostro and his wonders. When the impostor was unmasked, Lavater maintained, ‘This is another Cagliostro, the Cagliostro who did the wonders was a holy person.’

Lavater was a truly good man, but subject to strong delusions; the whole sole truth was not to his mind; he deceived himself and others. This made a perfect breach between him and me. The last time I saw him was in Zürich; and he did not see me. I was coming in disguise down an avenue; seeing him approach, I stepped aside, and he passed without recognizing me. He walked like a crane, and therefore figures as a crane on the Blocksberg.”[1]

I asked whether Lavater had a tendency to observe nature, as we might almost infer from the “Physiognomy.”

“Not in the least,” said Goethe. “His tendency was wholly towards the moral—the religious. That part of his ‘Physiognomy’ which relates to the skulls of animals he got from me.”

The conversation turned upon the French—upon the lectures of Guizot, Villemain, and Cousin. Goethe spoke with high esteem of the point of view taken by these men; saying that they observed everything on a free and new side, and always went straight to their aim.

“It is,” said Goethe, “as if till now we had reached a garden through roundabout, crooked ways; these men, however, have been bold and free enough to pull down a wall, and put a door, so that we get at once into the broadest walk of the garden.”

From Cousin we passed to Indian philosophy.

“This philosophy,” said Goethe, “if what the Englishman tells us is true, has nothing foreign, but, on the contrary, the epochs through which we all pass are repeated in it. When we are children, we are sensualists; idealists when we love, and attribute to the beloved object qualities which she does not naturally possess. Love wavers; we doubt her fidelity, and are sceptics before we think of it. The rest of life is indifferent; we let it go as it will, and end, like the Indian philosophers, with quietism.

“In the German philosophy there are still two great works to do. Kant did an infinite deal, by writing the ‘Critique of Pure Reason;’ but the circle is not yet complete. Now, some able man should write the ‘Critique of the Senses and Understanding of Man;’ and, if this could be as well done, we should have little more to desire in German philosophy.

Hegel,” continued Goethe, “has written, in the Berlin Jahrbücher, a criticism upon Hamann, which I, of late, have read over and over again, and must highly praise. Hegel's judgments as a critic have always been excellent.

Villemain, too, stands very high in criticism. The French will, indeed, never see another talent to cope with Voltaire; but we can say of Villemain, that he is so far elevated above Voltaire by his intellectual point of view, as to be able to judge him in his virtues and his faults.”

  • [1] That is to say, in the intermezzo in “Faust.”—Trans.

Wed., Feb. 18.

We talked of the Theory of Colours, and among other things about drinking glasses, the dull figures on which appear yellow against the light, and blue against the dark, and therefore allow the observation of a primitive phenomenon.

“The highest which man can attain in these matters,” said Goethe, on this occasion, “is astonishment; if the primary phenomenon causes this, let him be satisfied; more it cannot bring; and he should forbear to seek for anything further behind it: here is the limit. But the sight of a primitive phenomenon is generally not enough for people; they think they must go still further; and are thus like children who, after peeping into a mirror, turn it round directly to see what is on the other side.”

The conversation turned upon Merck, and I asked whether he had ever meddled with natural science.

“Yes,” said Goethe, “he had even fine collections. Merck was altogether an extremely many-sided man. He loved art also; and if he saw a good work in the hands of a Philistine, of whom he thought that he did not know how to value it, he used every means to get it for his own collection. In such matters, he had no conscience; he considered all means fair, and did not despise even a sort of sublime fraud, if he could not attain his object otherwise.”

Goethe related some interesting examples of this peculiarity.

“A man like Merck,” continued he, “will not again be born, and if he were, the world would model him into a very different person. That was a good time when Merck and I were young! German literature was yet a clean tablet, on which one hoped to paint good things with pleasure. Now, it is so scribbled over and soiled, that there is no pleasure in looking at it, and a wise man does not know whereabouts he can inscribe anything.”

Thurs., Feb. 19.

Dined with Goethe tête-a-tête in his work-room. He was very cheerful, and told me that much which was good had lately befallen him, and that an affair with Artaria and the court had come to a happy termination.

We then talked a great deal about “Egmont,” which had been represented, according to Schiller's version, on the preceding evening, and the injury done to the piece by this version was brought under discussion.

“For many reasons,” said I, “the Regent should not have been omitted; on the contrary, she is thoroughly necessary to the piece. Not only does this princess impart to the whole a higher, nobler character, but the political relations especially of the Spanish court are brought much more clearly to view by her conversation with Machiavelli.”

“Unquestionably,” said Goethe. “And then Egmont gains in dignity from the lustre which the partiality of this princess casts upon him, while Clara also seems exalted when we see that, vanquishing even princesses, she alone has all Egmont's love. These are very delicate effects, which cannot be obliterated without compromising the whole.”

“It seems to me, too,” said I, “that where there are so many important male parts, a single female personage like Clara appears too weak and somewhat overpowered. By means of the Regent the picture is better balanced. It is not enough that the Regent is talked of; her personal entrance makes the impression.”

“You judge rightly,” said Goethe. “When I wrote the piece I well weighed everything, as you may imagine; and hence it is no wonder that the whole materially suffers, when a principal figure is torn out of it, which has been conceived for the sake of the whole, and through which the whole exists. But Schiller had something violent in his nature; he often acted too much according to a preconceived idea, without sufficient regard to the subject which he had to treat.”

“You may be blamed also,” said I, “for allowing the alteration, and granting him such unlimited liberty in so important a matter.”

“We often act more from indifference than kindness,” replied Goethe. “Then, at that time, I was deeply occupied with other things. I had no interest for Egmont or for the stage, so I let Schiller have his own way. Now it is, at any rate, a consolation for me that the work exists in print, and that there are theatres where people are wise enough to perform it, as it is written, without abbreviation.”

Goethe then asked me about the Theory of Colours, and whether I had thought any more of his proposal to write a compendium. I told him how the matter stood, and we fell unadvisedly into a difference of opinion, which I will describe, on account of the importance of the subject.

Whoever has made the observation, will recollect that on a clear winter's day, and in the sunlight, the shadows cast upon the snow frequently appear blue. This is classed by Goethe, in his Theory of Colours, under the subjective phenomena, for he assumes as a principle that the sunlight comes down to us—who do not live on high mountain-tops—not perfectly white, but, penetrating through an atmosphere more or less misty, has a yellowish lustre; so that the snow, when the sun shines upon it, is not perfectly white, but is a surface tinged with yellow, which charms the eye to opposition, and therefore to the production of the blue colour. The blue shadow seen upon the snow is, according to this view, a demanded colour,[1] under which rubric Goethe places the phenomenon, and then very consistently explains the observations made by Saussure on Mount Blanc.

When of late I again looked over the first chapters of the Theory of Colours, to try whether I could act upon Goethe's friendly proposal, and write a Compendium of the Theory, I was enabled by the snow and sunshine to observe more closely the phenomenon of the blue shadow, and found to my astonishment that Goethe's inference was founded on error. How I came by this discovery I will explain.

The windows of my apartment look due south upon a garden, bounded by a building, which, from the lower altitude of the sun in winter, casts towards me a shadow long enough to cover half the garden.

I looked upon this broad shadow on the snow some days ago, while the sky was quite blue and the sun was bright, and was astonished to see the whole surface perfectly blue. “This,” said I to myself, “cannot be a ‘demanded colour,’ for my eye is not brought into contact with any surface of snow illumined by the sun, so that the required contrast could be produced. On the contrary, I see nothing but the expanse of blue shadow.” However, to be quite certain, and to prevent the dazzling light of the neighbouring houses from affecting my eye, I rolled up a sheet of paper, and looked through it on the shaded surface, when I found that the blue remained unaltered.

That this blue shadow could be nothing subjective was now established in my mind beyond a doubt. There stood the colour, without me, independent—my subject had no influence upon it. But what was it? And as it was certainly there, how was it produced?

I looked once more, and, behold, the riddle was solved for me! “What can it be,” said I to myself, “but the reflection of the blue sky, which is brought down by the shade, and has an inclination to settle there? For it is written—Colour is akin to shade, readily combines with it, and readily appears to us in it and by it, as soon as an occasion is presented.”

The following days gave me an opportunity to confirm my hypothesis. I walked about the fields; there was no blue sky, the sun shone through foggy mists, and spread a perfectly yellow light over the snow. It was strong enough to cast a decided shadow, and in this case, according to Goethe's doctrine, the brightest blue should have been produced. However, there was no blue; the shadows remained grey.

On the following forenoon, when the atmosphere was cloudy, the sun peeped out from time to time, and cast decided shadows upon the snow. Again, they were not blue, but grey. In both cases the reflection of the blue sky was wanting to give the shadow its colour.

I was thus sufficiently convinced that Goethe's deduction of this natural phenomenon was proved to be fallacious, and that the paragraphs in the “Theory of Colours” which treated of this subject were much in need of modification.

Something similar occurred to me with the coloured double shadows, which are seen to peculiar advantage by taperlight at break of day, or at the beginning of evening twilight, as well as by a clear moonlight. That one of the shadows, namely the yellow one, shone upon by the taper-light is of an objective kind, and belongs to the doctrine of dense media, Goethe has not expressly said, although such is the case; the other one, the bluish or bluish-green shadow, shone upon by the purest day or moon light, he declares to be subjective—a “demanded colour,” produced in the eye by the yellow light of the taper diffused over the white paper.

Now, on a careful observation of the phenomenon, I did not find this doctrine thoroughly confirmed. On the contrary, it appeared to me that the weak day or moon light, acting from without, already brought with it a bluish tone, which is strengthened partly by the shadow, partly by the “demanding” (fordernd) yellow light of the taper, and that therefore we have an objective foundation here also.

That the dawning day and the moon cast a pale light is well known. A countenance seen at break of day, or by moonlight, appears pale, as is sufficiently proved by experiment. Shakspeare seems to have been aware of this fact, for in that remarkable passage, where Romeo leaves his beloved at daybreak, and he and Juliet suddenly appear so pale to each other, the observation of it must assuredly have served as a foundation. The operation of this light in producing paleness would of itself be a sufficient indication that it must bring with it a greenish or bluish tinge, since it has precisely the same effect as a mirror of bluish or greenish glass. The following may serve as a further confirmation:—

Light, as seen by the mind's eye, may be conceived as completely white; but the empirical light, as perceived by the corporeal eye, is seldom seen in such purity. On the contrary, it has a tendency to take either the plus or the minus side, and to appear with either a yellowish or bluish tone. In this case, the immediate sunlight, as well as the taperlight, inclines decidedly to the plus side—the yellowish; but the light of the moon, as well as that of dawn and evening twilight, neither of which are direct, but only reflected, and are further modified by twilight and night, incline to the passive—the minus side, and have a bluish tone to the eye.

Let any one place a sheet of white paper in the twilight or moonlight, so that one-half of it may be shone upon by the day or moon light, and the other by the taperlight, then one-half will have a bluish, the other a yellowish tone; and both lights, without any addition of shade, or any subjective heightening, will have already ranged themselves on the active or the passive side.

The result of my observations, therefore, was, that even Goethe's doctrine of the coloured double shadow was not thoroughly correct; that in the production of this phenomenon there was more of the objective than he had observed, and that the law of subjective “demand” (Forderung) could be looked upon as merely secondary.

Indeed, generally, if the human eye were so sensitive and susceptible, that at the slightest contact of one colour it had an immediate tendency to produce the opposite, it would be constantly transferring one colour into another, so that the most unpleasant mixture would arise.

Fortunately, however, this is not the case; but, on the contrary, a healthy eye is so organized that it either does not observe the “demanded” colours, or if its attention is directed towards them, produces them with difficulty; indeed, this operation requires some practice and dexterity before it can succeed even under favourable circumstances.

What is really characteristic in such subjective phenomena, viz., that the eye to a certain extent requires a strong incitement to produce them, and that when they are produced they have no permanence, but are transient and quickly fading, has been too little regarded by Goethe, both in the case of the blue shadow in the snow, and in that of the coloured double-shadow, for in both cases the surface in question has a scarcely perceptible tinge, and in both cases the “demanded” colour appears decidedly marked at the very first glance.

But Goethe, with his adherence to a law he had once recognized, and with his maxim of applying it even in such cases where it seems concealed, could easily be tempted to extend a synthesis too far, and to discern a favourite law even in cases where a totally different influence is at work.

When to-day he spoke of his Theory of Colours, and asked how the proposed compendium was going on, I would willingly have passed over my new discoveries in silence, for I felt in some perplexity as to how I should tell him the truth without offending him.

Nevertheless, as I was really in earnest with respect to the compendium, it was necessary to remove all errors, and to rectify all misunderstandings, before I could make a sure progress in the task.

All that I could do was to make the frank confession to him that, after careful observation, I found myself compelled to differ from him in some points, inasmuch as I found that neither his deduction of the blue shadow in the snow, nor his doctrine of the coloured double-shadow, was completely confirmed.

I communicated to him my thoughts and observations; but as I have not the gift of describing objects fully and clearly by word of mouth, I confined myself to a statement of the results of my observation, without going into a more minute explanation of details, intending to do this in writing.

However, I had scarcely opened my mouth, when Goethe's sublimely-serene countenance became clouded over, and I saw but too clearly that he did not approve of my objections.

“Truly,” said I, “he who would get the better of your Excellency must rise early in the morning; but yet it is possible that the wise may go too far, and the foolish find the spoil.”

“As if, forsooth, you had found it,” returned Goethe, with an ironical laugh; “with your idea of coloured light you belong to the fourteenth century, and with all the rest you are in the very abyss of dialectics. The only thing good about you is that you are, at any rate, honest enough to speak out plainly what you think.

“My Theory of Colours,” he continued, “fares just the same as the Christian religion. One fancies, for a while, that one has faithful disciples; but, before one is aware, they fall off and form a new sect. Your are a heretic like the rest, for you are not the first that has apostatized. I have fallen out with the most excellent men about contested points in the Theory of Colours, viz., with —— about ——, and with —— about ——.” Here he mentioned some names of eminence.

We had now finished eating, conversation came to a standstill, and Goethe rose and placed himself against the window. I went up to him and pressed his hand, for I loved him in spite of his taunts, and I felt, moreover, that I was right, and that he was the suffering party.

Before long, we were again talking and joking about indifferent subjects; but when I went to him, and told him that he should have my objections in writing for a closer examination, and that the only reason he did not agree with me lay in the clumsiness of my verbal statement, he could not help, half-laughing and half-sneering, throwing in my teeth something about heretics and heresy at the very doorway.


If it should appear strange that Goethe could not readily bear contradiction with respect to his Theory of Colours, while with respect to his poetical works he always showed himself perfectly easy, and heard every well-founded objection with thanks, we may perhaps solve the riddle by reflecting that, as a poet, he received the most perfect satisfaction from without, while, by the Theory of Colours, the greatest and most difficult of his works, he had gained nothing but censure and disapproval. During half a life he had been annoyed by the most senseless opposition on every side, and it was natural enough that he should always find himself in a sort of irritable polemic position, and be always fully armed for a passionate conflict.

His feeling for the Theory of Colours was like that of a mother who loves an excellent child all the more the less it is esteemed by others.

“As for what I have done as a poet,” he would repeatedly say to me, “I take no pride in it whatever. Excellent poets have lived at the same time with myself, poets more excellent have lived before me, and others will come after me. But that in my century I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colours—of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here I have a consciousness of a superiority to many.”

  • [1]Geforderte Farbe,” that is to say, a colour called forth by the eye itself, according to Goethe's peculiar theory, as explained above.—Trans.

Fri., Feb. 20.

Dined with Goethe. He is pleased at having finished the “Wanderjahre,” which he will send off to-morrow. In the Theory of Colours he is coming over a little to my opinion concerning the blue shadow in the snow. He talked of his “Italian journey,” which he had again taken under consideration.[1]

He then talked about the fourth volume of his Life, and the method in which he would treat it; saying that my notes on the year 1824, concerning what he had already executed and planned, would be highly useful to him.

He read Göttling's journal aloud, which treats of the former fencing-masters at Jena in a very kindly spirit. Goethe speaks very well of Göttling.

  • [1] There is no occasion to explain the slight omission here.—Trans.

Mon., Mar. 23.

“I have found a paper of mine among some others,” said Goethe to-day, “in which I call architecture ‘petrified music.’ Really there is something in this; the tone of mind produced by architecture approaches the effect of music.

“Splendid edifices and apartments are for princes and kingdoms. Those who live in them feel at ease and contented, and desire nothing further.

“To my own nature this is quite repugnant. In a splendid abode, like that which I had at Carlsbad, I am at once lazy and inactive. On the contrary, a small residence, like this poor apartment in which we now are, and where a sort of disorderly order—a sort of gipsy-fashion—prevails, suits me exactly. It allows my inner nature full liberty to act, and to create from itself alone.”

We talked of Schiller's letters, the life which he and Goethe had led together, and how the two had daily incited each other to activity.

“Even in ‘Faust,’” said I, “Schiller seems to have taken great interest; it is pleasant to see how he urges you, or allows himself to be misled by his idea of continuing ‘Faust’ himself. I perceive by this that there was something precipitate in his nature.”

“You are right,” said Goethe, “he was like all men who proceed too much from the idea. Then he was never in repose, and could never have done; as you may see by his letters on ‘Wilhelm Meister,’ which he would have now this way, and now that way. I had enough to do to stand my ground, and keep his works and mine free from such influences.”

“I have,” said I, “been reading this morning his ‘Indian Death Dirge,’ and have been delighted with its excellence.”

“You see,” said Goethe, “what a great artist Schiller was, and how he could manage even the objective, when brought traditionally before his eyes. That ‘Indian Death Song’ is certainly one of his very best poems, and I only wish he had made a dozen like it. And yet—can you believe it?—his nearest friends found fault with this poem, thinking it was not sufficiently tinctured with his ideality. Yes, my good fellow, such things one has to suffer from one's friends. Humboldt[1] found fault with my Dorothea, because, when assailed by the soldiers, she took up arms and fought. And yet, without that trait, the character of the extraordinary girl, so adapted to the time and circumstances, is at once destroyed, and she sinks into commonplace. But the longer you live, the more you will see how few men are capable of appreciating what must be, and that, on the contrary, they only praise, and would only have that which is suitable to themselves. These of whom I spoke were the first and best; so you may judge what was the opinion of the multitude, and how, in fact, I always stood alone.

“Had I not had some solid foundation in the plastic arts and natural science, I should scarce have kept myself up in that evil time, and its daily influences; but this was my protection, and enabled me to aid Schiller also.

  • [1] Wilhelm von Humboldt.—Trans.

Tues., Mar. 24.

“The higher a man is,” said Goethe, “the more he is under the influence of demons, and he must take heed lest his guiding will counsel him to a wrong path.

“There was altogether something demoniac in my acquaintance with Schiller; we might have been brought together earlier or later; but that we met just at the time when I had finished my Italian journey, and Schiller began to be weary of philosophical speculation,—this, I say, led to very important consequences for us both.”

Thurs., April. 2.

“I will discover to you,” said Goethe, to-day at dinner, “a political secret, which will sooner or later be made public. Capo d'Istria cannot long continue to be at the head of Grecian affairs, for he wants one quality indispensable for such a position; he is no soldier. There is no instance of a mere cabinet statesman being able to organize a revolutionary state, and bring the military and their leaders under his control. With the sabre in his hand, at the head of an army, a man may command and give laws, secure of being obeyed; but without this the attempt is hazardous. Napoleon, if he had not been a soldier, could never have attained the highest power; and Capo d'Istria will not long keep the first place, but will very soon play a secondary part. I tell you this beforehand, and you will see it come. It lies in the nature of things, and must happen.”

Goethe then talked much about the French, especially Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot.

“These men,” said he, “look into, through, and round[1] a subject, with great success. They combine perfect knowledge of the past with the spirit of the nineteenth century; and the result is wonderful.”

We then came to the newest French poets, and the meaning of the terms “classic” and “romantic.”

“A new expression occurs to me,” said Goethe, “which does not ill define the state of the case. I call the classic healthy, the romantic sickly. In this sense, the ‘Nibelungenlied’ is as classic as the ‘Illiad,’ for both are vigorous and healthy. Most modern productions are romantic, not because they are new, but because they are weak, morbid, and sickly; and the antique is classic, not because it is old, but because it is strong, fresh, joyous, and healthy. If we distinguish ‘classic’ and ‘romantic’ by these qualities, it will be easy to see our way clearly.”

The conversation turned upon the imprisonment of Béranger

“He is rightly served,” said Goethe. “His late poems are really contrary to all order; and he has fully deserved punishment by his offences against king, state, and peaceful citizenship. His early poems, on the contrary, are cheerful and harmless, and are well adapted to make a circle of gay and happy people, which, indeed, is the best that can be said of songs.”

“I am sure,” said I, “that he has been injured by the society in which he lives, and that, to please his revolutionary friends, he has said many things which he otherwise would not have said. Your excellency should fulfil your intention of writing a chapter on influences; the subject is the richer and more important, the more one thinks of it.”

“It is only too rich,” said Goethe; “for in truth all is influence except ourselves.”

“We have only to see,” said I, “whether an influence is injurious of beneficial—whether it is suitable or repugnant to our nature.”

“That is indeed the point,” said Goethe, “but the difficulty is for our better nature to maintain itself vigorously, and not to allow the demons more power than is due.”

At dessert, Goethe had a laurel, in full flower, and a Japanese plant, placed before us on the table. I remarked what different feelings were excited by the two plants; that the sight of the laurel produced a cheerful, light, mild, and tranquil mood, but that of the Japanese plant, one of barbaric melancholy.

“You are not wrong,” said Goethe; “and hence great influence over the inhabitants of a country has been conceded to its vegetation. And, surely, he who passes his life surrounded by solemn, lofty oaks must be a different man from him who lives among airy birches. Still we must remember that men, in general, have not such sensitive natures as we, but vigorously pursue their own course of life without allowing so much power to external impressions. Nevertheless, this much is certain,—that not only the inborn peculiarities of race, but soil and climate, aliment and occupation, combine to form the character of a people. It is also to be borne in mind, that the primitive races mostly took possession of a soil that pleased them; and, consequently, where the country was already in harmony with their own inborn character.”

“Just look round,” continued Goethe; “behind you, on the desk, there is a paper which I wish you to look at.”

“This blue envelope?” said I.

“Yes,” said he. “Now, what do you say to the handwriting? Is it not that of a man who felt himself noble and free, as he wrote the address? Whose do you think it is?”

I looked at the paper with partiality. The hand was indeed free and imposing. “Merck might have written so,” said I.

“No,” said Goethe; “he was not sufficiently noble and positive. It is from Zelter. Pen and paper were favourable to him in the case of this envelope; so that the writing perfectly expresses his great character. I shall put the paper into my collection of autographs.”

  • [1] This felicitous rendering of “Einsicht, Umsicht, and Durchsicht,” is by Mrs. Fuller.—Trans.

Fri., April 3.

Dined with Coudray at Goethe's. Coudray gave an account of a staircase in the grand-ducal palace at Belvidere, which had been found inconvenient for many years,—which the old master had always despaired of improving,—and which had now been completely rectified under the reign of the young prince.

Coudray also gave an account of the progress of several highways, saying that the road over the mountains had to be taken round a little, on account of a rise of two feet to the rood (Ruthe), while in some places there were eighteen inches to the rood.

I asked Coudray how many inches constituted the proper standard for road-making in hilly districts. “Ten inches to the rood,” said he, “is a convenient measure.” “But,” said I, “when we go from Weimar along any road—east, south, west, or north—we find some places where the highway has a rise of far more than ten inches to the rood.” “Those are short, unimportant distances,” replied Coudray; “and in road-making we often pass over such spots in the vicinity of a place, that we may not deprive it of its little income from relays.” We laughed at this honest fraud. “And in fact,” continued Coudray, “it is a mere trifle; the carriages get easily over the ground, and the passengers are for once and a way inured to a little hardship. Besides, as the relays are usually put on at inns, the drivers have an opportunity of taking something to drink, and they would not thank any one for spoiling their sport.”

“I should like to know,” said Goethe, “whether in perfectly flat countries it would not be better to interrupt the straight line of road, so as to allow it to rise and fall a little. This would not prevent comfortable travelling; and there would be this advantage, that the road would be always kept dry by the draining.”

“That might be done,” replied Coudray, “and would probably be very useful.”

Coudray then produced a paper,—the scheme of instructions for a young architect whom the Upper-Building Board (Oberbaubehörde) was about to send to Paris to complete his education. He read the instructions, of which Goethe approved. Goethe had obtained the necessary assistance from the minister; we were pleased at the success of the affair, and talked of the precautionary measures to be adopted in order that the money might be really of use to the young man, and last him for a year. The intention was, on his return, to place him as a teacher at the industrial school which was to be established, by which means the clever young man would at once have a suitable sphere of action. All was well devised, and I gave my silent good wishes.

Plans and studies for carpenters, drawn by Schindel, were then produced and looked over. Coudray considered them of importance, and perfectly fitted for the use of the Industrial school.

There was then some talk about buildings, the means of avoiding echo, and the great firmness of the edifices belonging to the Jesuits. “At Messina,” said Goethe, “all the buildings were thrown down by an earthquake except the church and convent of the Jesuits, which stood unharmed, as if they had been built the day before. There was not a trace that the earthquake had had the slightest effect upon them.”

From the Jesuits and their wealth, conversation turned upon the Catholics and Irish emancipation. “Emancipation will, we see, be granted,” said Coudray, “but with so many clauses on the part of Parliament, that it cannot in any way be dangerous to England.”

“All preventive measures,” said Goethe, “Are ineffectual with Catholics. The Papal see has interests and means to carry them out quietly, of which we never dream. If I were a member of Parliament, I would not hinder emancipation; but I would have it recorded, that when the first distinguished Protestant head fell by a Catholic vote, people might think of me.”

Conversation then turned on the newest French literature, and Goethe spoke again with admiration of the lectures of MM. Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot.

“Instead of the superficial lightness of Voltaire,” said he, “they have an erudition, such as, in earlier days, was unknown out of Germany. And such intellect! such searching and pressing out of the subject! superb! It is as if they trod the wine-press. All three are excellent, but I would give the preference to Guizot; he is my favourite.”

Speaking on topics of universal history, Goethe spoke thus on the subject of rulers:—

“To be popular, a great ruler needs no other means than his greatness. If he has striven and succeeded in making his realm happy at home and honoured abroad, it matters not whether he ride about in a state coach, dressed in all his orders, or in a bear-skin, with his cigar in his mouth, in a miserable drosky, he is sure of love and esteem from his people.

“But if a prince lacks personal greatness, and does not know how to conciliate his subjects by good deeds, he must think of other means, and there is none better and more effective than religion and a sympathy with the customs of his people. To appear at church every Sunday; to look down upon, and let himself be looked at for an hour by the congregation, is the best means of becoming popular which can be recommended to a young sovereign, and one which, with all his greatness, Napoleon himself did not disdain.”

Conversation again turned upon the Catholics, and it was remarked how great were the silent operation and influence of the ecclesiastics. An anecdote was related of a young writer of Henault, who had made somewhat merry with the rosary in a periodical which he edited. The paper was immediately bought up through the influence of the priests over their several congregations.

“An Italian translation of my ‘Werther,’” said Goethe, “very soon appeared at Milan. Not a single copy of it was to be seen a short time afterwards. The bishop had caused the whole edition to be bought up by the clergy in the various districts. I was not vexed, but pleased with the shrewd gentlemen, who saw, at once, that ‘Werther’ was a bad book for the Catholics, and I could not do otherwise than commend him for taking immediately the most effective measures quietly to suppress it.”

Sun., April 5th.

Goethe said he had driven out to Belvidere this morning, to look at Coudray's new staircase in the castle, which he found excellent. He also told me that a great petrified log had been sent him, which he would show me.

“Such petrified trunks,” said he, “are found about the fifty-first degree round about the earth, as far as America, like a girdle. We must always go on wondering. We have no idea whatever of the early organization of the earth, and I cannot blame Herr von Buch for trying to indoctrinate mankind for the sake of spreading his hypothesis. He knows nothing, but nobody knows more; and, after all, it does not matter what is taught, if it has only some show of reason.”

Goethe told me that Zelter desired to be remembered to me, at which I was greatly pleased. We then talked of his “Travels in Italy;” and he told me that in one of his letters from that country he had found a song, which he would show me. He asked me to hand him a packet of papers which lay before me on the desk. I gave it him: it contained his letters from Italy; he looked out the poem, and read:—

Cupido, loser, eigensinniger Knabe.

Cupid, thou wanton, thou self-will'd boy, &c.[1]

I was highly pleased with this poem, which seemed to me perfectly new.

“It cannot be strange to you,” said Goethe, “for it is in ‘Claudine von Villa Bella,’ where it is sung by Rugantino. I have, however, given it there in such a fragmentary state, that one passes it over without observing what it means. I think, however, it stands well. It prettily expresses the situation, and is in the anacreontic vein. This song, and others of the kind from my operas, should properly be reprinted among my ‘Poems,’ that the composer may have them all together.” I thought this a good notion, and took it as a hint for the future.

Goethe had read the poem very beautifully. I could not get it out of my head, and it seemed to have made a lasting impression upon him also. The last lines—

So rude thy sport, I fear my poor little soul will
Haste away to escape thee, and flee her dwelling,

he uttered from time to time, as if in a dream.

He then told me of a book about Napoleon, lately published, which was written by one who had known the hero in his youth, and contained the most remarkable disclosures. “The book is very tame,” said he, “written without any enthusiasm; but one sees what a grand character there is in the truth when one ventures to speak it.”

Goethe also told me about a tragedy by a young poet. “It is a pathological work,” said he; “a superfluity of sap is bestowed on some parts which do not require it, and drawn out of those which stand in need of it. The subject was good but the scenes which I expected were not there; while others, which I did not expect, were elaborated with assiduity and love. This is what I call pathological, or even ‘romantic,’ if you would rather speak after our new theory.”

We remained together a little longer very cheerfully, and at last Goethe gave me some honey and also some dates, which I took with me.

  • [1] The poem in its complete form will be found in the letters relating to the “Second Stay at Rome” (Zweiter römischer Aufenthalt), under the head of “January, 1788.”—Trans.

Mon., April. 6.

Goethe gave me a letter from Egon Ebert, which I read at dinner, and which highly pleased me. We said a great deal in praise of Egon Ebert and Bohemia, and also mentioned Professor Zauper with affection.

“Bohemia is a peculiar country,” said Goethe. “I have always liked to be there. In the culture of the literati there is still something pure, which begins to be rare in the north of Germany; since here every vagabond writes, with whom moral basis or higher views are not to be thought of.”

Goethe then spoke of Ebert's newest epic poem, of the early female government in Bohemia, and of the origin of the tradition of the Amazons. This brought conversation to the epic of another poet, who had taken great pains to get favourable notices of his work in the public prints.

“Such notices,” said Goethe, “have appeared in various papers. But at last comes the ‘Halle Literary Gazette,’ telling plainly what the poem is really worth, and thus all the compliments of the other papers are nullified. He who nowadays will not have the truth, is discovered; the time is past for deluding and misleading the public.”

“I wonder,” said I, “that man can toil so for a little fame, and even stoop to falsities.”

“My good fellow,” said Goethe, “a name is no despicable matter. Napoleon, for the sake of a great name, broke in pieces half a world.”

A short pause arose, after which Goethe told me more of the new book about Napoleon, adding—

“The power of truth is great. Every halo, every illusion which journalists, historians, and poets have conjured up about Napoleon, vanishes before the terrible reality of this book; but the hero becomes no less than before; on the contrary, he grows in stature as he increases in truth.”

“His personal influence,” said I, “must have had a peculiar magic, that men should so attach themselves to him at once, adhere to him, and suffer themselves to be wholly governed by him.”

“Certainly,” said Goethe, “his personal influence was immense. Yet the chief reason was, that men under him were sure of attaining their object. On this account they were drawn towards him, as they are to every one who gives them a like certainty. Thus actors attach themselves to a new manager, of whom they think that he will assign them good parts. This is an old story constantly repeated; so is human nature constituted. No man serves another disinterestedly, but he does it willingly if he knows he can thus serve himself. Napoleon knew men well; he knew how to make proper use of their weaknesses.”

The conversation turned upon Zelter.

“You know,” said Goethe, “that Zelter received the Prussian Order. But he had no coat of arms, while, from his large family, he might hope for a long continuance of his name. A coat of arms was therefore necessary as an honourable basis, and I have taken the fancy to make him one. I wrote to him, and he was pleased, but insisted on having a horse. ‘Good,’ said I, ‘a horse you shall have, but it shall be one with wings.’ But turn your head; a paper lies behind you, upon which I have made the sketch with pencil.”

I took up the paper, and examined the drawing. The arms looked very stately, and I could not but praise the invention. In the lower field were the battlements of a city wall, intimating that Zelter had been, in early days, a skilful mason. A winged horse rose from behind, indicating his genius and high aspirations. Above the escutcheon was a lyre, over which shone a star, as a symbol of the art by which our excellent friend, under the influence and protection of favouring stars, had won his fame. Beneath was annexed the Order which his king, in recognition of his great merits, had bestowed upon him.

“I have had it engraved by Facius,” said Goethe, “and you shall see an impression. Is it not pleasant for one friend to make a coat of arms for another, and thus, as it were, bestow nobility upon him?”

We sat a while longer at table, taking some glasses of old Rhenish wine, with some good biscuits. Goethe hummed to himself unintelligibly. The poem of yesterday came into my head again. I recited the lines—

My goods and chattels hast thou knock'd about sadly;
I seek, and only seem to wander in blindness.

“I cannot get that poem out of my head,” said I. “It is quite unique, and most admirably expresses the disorder which love occasions in our life.”

“It brings a gloomy condition before our eyes.” said Goethe.

“On me,” said I, “it makes the impression of a Dutch picture.

“There is something in it of the ‘Good man and good wife,’” said Goethe.

“You have just anticipated me,” said I; “for I have been forced to keep on thinking of that Scottish subject, and Ostade's picture was before my eyes.”

“Yet, strange to say,” observed Goethe, “neither of these two poems could be painted; they convey the impression of a picture—they produce a similar mood; but, once painted, they world be nothing.”

“It is,” said I, “a fine instance of poetry verging as nearly on painting as possible, without going out of its own sphere. Such poems are my favourites, as they inspire both contemplation and feeling. But I hardly understand how you could obtain the feeling of such a situation; the poem is as if from another time and another world.”

“I shall not write such another,” said Goethe; “and know not how it came to me, as is often the case.”

“One peculiarity of this poem,” said I, “is, that it has upon me the effect of rhyme, and yet it is not in rhyme. How is this?”

“That is the result of the rhythm,” he replied. “The lines begin with a short syllable, and then proceed in trochees till the dactyle near the close, which has a peculiar effect, and gives a sad, bewailing character to the poem.”

He took a pencil, and divided the line,—

Vŏn | mēinĕm | brēitĕn | Lāgĕr | bīn ĭch vĕr | trīebĕn.

We then talked of rhythm in general, and came to the conclusion that no certain rules can be laid down for such matters.

“The measure,” said Goethe, “flows, as it were, unconsciously from the mood of the poet. If he thought about it while writing the poem he would go mad, and produce nothing of value.”

I was waiting for the impression of the seal. Goethe began to speak of Guizot.

“I am going on with his lectures, which continue to be excellent. Those of the present year go about as far as the eighth century. I know no historian more profound or more penetrating. Things of which no one thinks have the greatest significance in his eyes, as sources of important events. For instance, what influence certain religious opinions have had upon history; how the doctrine of original sin, grace, and good works has given this or that form to certain epochs, is shown and deduced with the utmost clearness. Then the enduring life of Roman law, which, like a diving duck, hides itself from time to time, but is never quite lost, always coming up again alive, is well set forth; on which occasion full acknowledgment is give to our excellent Savigny.

“When Guizot speaks of the influence which other nations exercised on the Gauls in former times, I was particularly struck with what he says of the Germans.

“‘The Germans,’ says he, ‘brought us the idea of personal freedom, which was possessed by that nation more than any other.’

“Is not that good? Is he not perfectly right? and does not this idea work upon us even to the present day? The Reformation is as much attributable to this source, as the Burschen conspiracy on the Wartburg—wise as well as foolish enterprises. Even the motley character of our literature; the thirst of our poets for originality—the belief of each one that he must strike out a new path; the separation and isolation among our learned men, each one standing by himself, and working from a point of his own—all comes from this source.

“The French and English, on the other hand, keep far more together, and guide themselves one by another. They harmonize in dress and manners. They fear to differ from one another, lest they should be remarkable, or even ridiculous. But with the Germans each one goes his own way, and strives to satisfy himself; he does not ask about others, for, as Guizot rightly observes, he has within him the idea of personal freedom, from which, as I have said, comes much that is excellent, but also much absurdity.”

Tues., April 7.

As I entered, I found Hofrath Meyer, who had been ill of late, sitting with Goethe at table, and was rejoiced to see him so much better. They spoke of things relating to art,—of Peel, who has given four thousand pounds for a Claude Lorraine, and has thus found especial favours in the eyes of Meyer.

The newspapers were brought in, and we looked over them while waiting for the soup. The emancipation of the Irish was now discussed as the order of the day.

“It is instructive,” said Goethe, “to see how things come to light on this occasion, of which no one ever thought, and which would never have been spoken of but for the present crisis. We cannot, however, get a clear notion of the state of Ireland; the subject is too intricate. But this we can see, that she suffers from evils which will not be removed by any means, and therefore, of course, not by emancipation. If it has hitherto been unfortunate for Ireland to endure her evils alone, it is now unfortunate that England is also drawn into them. Then, no confidence can be put in the Catholics. We see with what difficulty the two million of Protestants in Ireland have kept their ground hitherto against the preponderating five million of Catholics; and how, for instance, the poor Protestant farmers have been oppressed, tricked, and tormented, when among Catholic neighbours. The Catholics do not agree among themselves, but they always unite against a Protestant. They are like a pack of hounds, who bite one another, but, when a stag comes in view, they all unite immediately to run it down.”

From Ireland conversation turned to the affairs of Turkey. Surprise was expressed that the Russians, with their preponderating power, did not effect more in the late campaign.

“The fact of the matter is this,” said Goethe, “the means were inadequate, and therefore overgreat requisitions were made upon individuals; this produced great personal deeds and sacrifices, without advancing the cause on the whole.”

“It may be,” said Meyer, “a bad locality. We see, in the earliest times, that, at this very spot, if an enemy attempted to penetrate anywhere from the Danube to the northern mountains, he always encountered the most obstinate resistance, and almost invariably failed. If the Russians could only keep the seaside open, to furnish themselves with stores in that way!”

“That is yet to be hoped,” said Goethe; “I am now reading Napoleon's campaign in Egypt,—namely, what is related by the hero's everyday companion, Bourrienne, which destroys the romantic cast of many scenes, and displays facts in their naked sublime truth. It is evident that he undertook this expedition merely to fill up an epoch when he could do nothing in France to make himself ruler. He was at first undecided what to do; he visited all the French harbours on the Atlantic coast, to inspect the fleets, and see whether an expedition against England were practicable or not. He found it was not, and then decided on going to Egypt.”

“It raises my admiration,” said I, “that Napoleon, at that early age, could play with the great affairs of the world as easily and securely as if many years' practice and experience had gone before.”

“That, my dear friend,” said Goethe, “is an inborn quality with great talents. Napoleon managed the world as Hummel his piano; both achievements appear wonderful, we do not understand one more than the other, yet so it is, and the whole is done before our eyes. Napoleon was in this especially great—that he was at all hours the same. Before a battle, during a battle, after a victory, after a defeat, he stood always firm, was always clear and decided as to what he should do. He was always in his element, and equal to each situation and each moment, just as it is all alike to Hummel whether he plays an adagio or an allegro, bass or treble. This facility we find everywhere where there is real talent, in the arts of peace as well as in war; at the harpsichord as behind the cannon.

“We see, by this book,” continued Goethe, “how many fables have been invented about the Egyptian campaign. Much, indeed, is corroborated, but much is not, and most that has been said is contradicted. That he had eight hundred Turkish prisoners shot is true; but the act appears as the mature determination of a long council of war, on the conviction, after a consideration of all the circumstances, that there were no means of saving them. That he descended into the Pyramids is a fable. He stood at his ease on the outside, and let others tell him what they had seen below. In the same way, the tradition that he wore the Eastern dress is inaccurate. He put it on once at home, and appeared in it among his followers, to see how it became him. But the turban does not suit such long heads, and he never put on the dress again.

“He really visited those sick of the plague, and, indeed, in order to prove that the man who could vanquish fear could vanquish the plague also. And he was right! I can instance a fact from my own life, when I was inevitably exposed to infection from a putrid fever, and warded off the disease merely by force of will. It is incredible what power the moral will has in such cases. It penetrates, as it were, the body; and puts it into a state of activity which repels all hurtful influences. Fear, on the other hand, is a state of indolent weakness and susceptibility, which makes it easy for every foe to take possession of us. This Napoleon knew well, and he felt that he risked nothing in giving his army an imposing example.

“But,” continued he, gaily, “pay your respects. What book do you think Napoleon carried in his field library?— my ‘Werther!’”

“We may see by his levée at Erfurt,” said I, “that he had studied it well.”

“He had studied it as a criminal judge does his documents,” said Goethe, “and in this spirit talked with me about it. In Bourrienne's work there is a list of the books which Napoleon took to Egypt, among which is ‘Werther.’ But what is worth noticing in this list, is the manner in which the books are classed under different rubrics. Under the head Politique, for instance, we find the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran; by which we see from what point of view Napoleon regarded religious matters.”

He told us many other interesting matters from the book. Among others, the incident was mentioned how Napoleon with his army went through part of the dry bed in the narrow part of the Red Sea, at the time of ebb; but was overtaken by the flood, and the last men waded up to their arms in water, so that the exploit nearly ended in Pharaoh's style. This led Goethe to say much that was new on the rise of the flood. He compared it with that of the clouds which do not come from a great distance, but arise at once in various parts, and pass along symmetrically everywhere.

Wed., April 8.

Goethe was already at table when I entered; he received me with a very cheerful air.

“From whence, think you,” said he, “have I received a letter?—From Rome. But from whom?—From the King of Bavaria.”

“I sympathize in the pleasure you feel,” said I. “And is it not odd? Not an hour since, and during my walk, I had occupied myself with thinking about the King of Bavaria; and now I receive this pleasant intelligence.”

“We have often internal intimations of that sort,” said Goethe. “There is the letter; take it, sit down by me, and read it.”

I took the letter, Goethe took the newspaper, and so I read undisturbed the royal words. The letter was dated Rome, 26th March, 1829, and was written in a very legible and dignified hand. The King told Goethe that he had bought an estate in Rome, the Villa di Malta, with the adjacent gardens in the neighbourhood of the Villa Ludovisi, at the north-west end of the city. It stands upon a hill, so that he can see over all Rome, and has towards the north-east a full view of St. Peter's.

“It is a prospect,” he writes, “which one would travel a long way to enjoy, and which I have at my command every hour, from the windows of my own house.”

He goes on congratulating himself at being so pleasantly settled at Rome. “I had not seen Rome for twelve years,” he writes, “and longed for it as one longs for a mistress; I shall return with my feelings tranquillized, as one comes to a beloved female friend.” He then speaks of the sublime edifices and works of art with the enthusiasm of a connoisseur, whose heart is set on the really beautiful and its advancement, and who is keenly sensitive to any departure from good taste. The letter altogether was conceived and expressed in a beautiful and thoroughly humane feeling, such as one does not expect from persons of such high rank. I expressed my delight to Goethe.

“There you see a monarch,” said he, “who, while he has his royal majesty, preserves the innate beauty of his nature as a man. This is a rare phenomenon, and therefore the more delightful.”

I looked again at the letter, and found in it some more excellent passages. “Here in Rome,” writes the King, “I refresh myself from the cares of a throne; Art and Nature are my daily enjoyments—artists my table companions.” He also writes how he passed the house where Goethe resided, and how he thought of him at the time. Some passages are cited from the “Roman Elegies,”[1] from which it may be seen that the King keeps them fresh in his memory, and likes to read them at Rome, from time to time, on the very spot where they were produced.

“Yes,” said Goethe, “he is particularly fond of those elegies. He has teazed me a great deal to tell him how far they are matter of fact; the effect of the poems being so pleasant, that it seems as if there must have been something in the reality. People seldom reflect that a poet can generally make something good out of small occasions.

“I wish,” continued Goethe, “that I had the King's poems by me, that I might allude to them in my answer. I should think they were good, to judge from the little I have read. In form and treatment he has much of Schiller, and, if he has put the substance of a lofty soul into so fine a vase, we have a right to expect much excellence. I am glad that the King is so pleasantly settled at Rome. I know the villa—the situation is beautiful, and all the German artists reside in the vicinity.”

The servant changed the plates, and Goethe bade him spread out the large engraving of Rome on the floor of the “covered chamber.” “I will show you on what a beautiful spot the King has settled, that you may have a right notion of the locality.” I felt much obliged to Goethe.

“Yesterday evening,” said I, “I read ‘Claudine von Villa Bella,’ and was much delighted with it. The foundation is so well laid, and it is carried out with so much joyous audacity, that I feel the strongest desire to see it on the stage.”

“If it is well played,” said Goethe, “the effect is not bad.”

“I have already cast the piece in my mind,” said I, “and distributed the parts. Herr Genast must be Rugatino; he seems actually made for the part. Herr Franke must be Don Pedro, for he is similarly shaped, and it is good for two brothers to be somewhat alike. Herr La Roche should be Basco, who, with his excellent art and making-up, would give the part the wild aspect it requires.”

“Madame Eberwein,” continued Goethe, “would make a very good Lucinde, and Mademoiselle Schmidt would be Claudine.”

“For Alonzo,” said I, “we ought to have a stately figure—rather a good actor than a singer, and I think Herr Oels or Herr Graff would be well placed. But by whom is the opera composed, and what is the music like?”

“By Reichardt, and it is excellent,” answered Goethe; “only, the instrumentation is a little too weak, owing to the taste of the time. Something should now be done in this respect, so as to make the instrumentation a little stronger and fuller. With our song, ‘Cupido, loser, eigensinniger Knabe,’ the composer has been particularly happy.”

“It is a peculiarity of this song,” said I, “that it puts me in a pleasant dreamy mood whenever it is recited.”

“From such a mood it proceeded,” said Goethe, “and therefore this effect is the right one.”

We had finished eating. Frederick came in and told us that he had laid out the engraving of Rome in the “covered chamber.” We went in to look at it. The picture of the great metropolis of the world lay before us. Goethe soon found the Villa Ludovisi, and near it the King's new purchase—the Villa di Malta.

“See,” said he, “what a superb situation! The whole city is spread out before you, and the hill is so high, that you can see quite over the buildings towards south and east. I have been in this villa, and have often enjoyed the view from the windows. Here, where the city extends out in a point towards the north-east beyond the Tiber, lies St. Peter's; and here, hard by, is the Vatican. The King, you see, has from the windows of his villa a full view of these buildings across the river. The long road here, from the north into the city, comes from Germany; that is the Porta del Popolo. I lived in one of these first streets near the gate, in a corner house. They show another in Rome as the place where I lived; but it is not the right one. No matter; such things are, at bottom, quite indifferent, and we must let tradition take its course.”

We returned into the dining-room.

“The Chancellor,” said I, “would be pleased with that letter from the King.”

“He shall see it,” said Goethe.

“When I read in the Paris newspaper,” continued Goethe, “the speeches and debates of the Chambers, I cannot help thinking of the Chancellor, and how truly he would be in his element there. For such a place it is not enough to have talent, but an impulse to speak, and a delight in it; both of which are united in our Chancellor. Napoleon, too, had this impulse to speak; and when he could not he was forced to write or dictate. We find with Blucher, too, that he liked to speak, and spoke well and with emphasis; he had cultivated this talent at the lodge. Our Grand Duke, too, liked to speak, though he was by nature laconic; and when he could not speak, he wrote. He has prepared many laws, many treaties, for the most part well; only princes have not time or quiet to obtain the necessary knowledge of details. Even in his last days he made an order about paying for the restoration of pictures. This was a happy instance, for, quite like a prince, he had made a mathematical calculation for paying the expenses of restoration by measure; if the restored picture holds twelve square feet, pay twelve dollars; if four feet, four dollars. This was like a prince, but not like an artist; for a twelve-foot picture may be in such a state that it can be cleaned without much trouble in a day, while a four-foot picture may be in such a condition that the industry and toil of a whole week will scarcely suffice to restore it. But princes, like good military men, are fond of mathematical arrangements, and go to work on the grand scale, according to measure.”

I was pleased with this anecdote. We then said a great deal about Art, and kindred subjects.

“I possess drawings,” said Goethe, “after pictures by Raffaelle and Domenichino, upon which Meyer made a remarkable observation, which I will communicate:—

“‘The drawings,’ said Meyer, ‘somewhat evince a want of practice; but it is evident that whoever made them had a delicate and just feeling for the pictures which were before him, and this has passed into the drawing, so as to bring the originals faithfully before the mind. If an artist of our day copied those pictures, he would draw everything far better, and perhaps more correctly; but I can venture to say, that he would want this true feeling for the original, and that, therefore, his superior drawing would be far from giving us so pure and perfect a notion of Raffaelle or Domenichino.’

“Is not that good?” said Goethe. “And the same may be said of translations. Voss, for instance, has certainly made an excellent translation from Homer; yet, I am inclined to think, a person might have had and conveyed a more naïve and faithful representation of the original, without being, on the whole, so masterly a translator as Voss.”

I found this all very just, and perfectly agreed with it. As the weather was fine, and the sun was already high, we went a little way down the garden, where Goethe had some trees tied up, which hung too low upon the path.

The yellow crocuses were in full vigour. We looked upon the flowers and then upon the path, where we had perfectly violet images. “You were lately of opinion,” said Goethe, “that green and red mutually called forth each other better than yellow and blue, inasmuch as the former colours stood at a higher degree, and were therefore more perfect, fuller,[2] and more effective than the latter. I cannot admit this. Every colour, as soon as it is decidedly exhibited to the eye, acts with equal force for the production of the ‘demanded colour.’ The only point is, that our eye should be in the right mood, that the sunlight should offer no impediment by overbrightness, and that the ground should not be unfavourable to the reception of the ‘demanded’ image. Generally, we must take care not to make too subtle distinctions and definitions with respect to colours, as we are too easily exposed to the danger of being led from the essential into the non-essential, from the true into the false, and from the simple into the intricate.”

I noted down this as a good doctrine for my studies. In the mean while, the time for the theatre had arrived, and I prepared to set out. “Mind,” said Goethe, laughing, as he took leave of me, “that you are able to get over the horrors of ‘Thirty Years of a Gamester's life’ this evening.”

  • [1] i.e. Goethe's—Trans.

  • [2] Literally “satiated” (gesättigt).—Trans.

Fri., April 10.

“While we are waiting for our soup, I will provide you with refreshment for your eyes.”

With these friendly words, Goethe placed before me a volume, containing landscapes of Claude Lorraine.

These were the first productions of this great master which I had seen. The impression they made upon me was extraordinary; and my surprise and rapture rose with every leaf I turned over.

The power of the shadowy masses on either side, the splendid sunlight from the background, and its reflection in the water, producing a clear and decisive impression, struck me as the always-recurring maxim upon art of the great master. I was also delighted to find each picture quite a little world by itself, in which there was nothing that was not in conformity with, and did not advance, the ruling thought. Whether it was a seaport with vessels at anchor, active fishermen and magnificent buildings on the water's edge, or a lonely barren hill-country, with its grazing goats, little brook and bridge, a few low bushes, and a shady tree, under which a reposing shepherd was piping, or a marshy spot, with standing pools, which in the powerful summer-heat gives a pleasant impression of coolness, there was always complete unity in the picture; nowhere a trace of anything foreign that did not belong to its element.

“Here you see, for once, a complete man,” said Goethe, “who thought and felt beautifully, and in whose mind lay a world, such as you will not easily find out of doors. The pictures have the highest truth, but no trace of actuality. Claude Lorraine knew the real world by heart, down to the minutest details, and used it only as a means to express the world of his beautiful soul. That is the true ideality which can so use real means that the truth evolved produces an illusion as if it were an actuality.”

“This, I think, is good doctrine,” said I, “and would apply as well to poetry as to the plastic arts.”

“Even so,” replied Goethe. “Meanwhile, you had better defer the further enjoyment of the admirable Claude till after dinner; for the pictures are too good to look at many of them at once.”

“That is my feeling,” said I, “for a certain fear comes over me when I am about to turn to the following leaf. It is a fear of a peculiar kind which is inspired by these beauties, and we have a similar feeling with an excellent book, when a crowd of excellent passages compel us to stop, and we loiter a little as we proceed.”

“I have answered the King of Bavaria,” said Goethe, after a pause, “and you shall read my letter.”

“That will be very instructive for me,” said I, “and will afford me much pleasure.”

“In the mean while,” said Goethe, “there is in the ‘Allgemeine Zeitung’ a poem to the King, which the Chancellor read to me yesterday, and which you must see likewise.”

Goethe gave me the paper, and I read the poem to myself.

“Now, what do you say to it?” said Goethe.

“They are,” I replied, “the feelings of a dilettante who has more good-will than talent, and to whom the high state of literature presents language ready made, which sings and rhymes for him, while he imagines that he himself is speaking.”

“You are perfectly right,” said he; “I also think the poem a very weak production. It bears no trace of external observation; it is wholly mental, and that not in the right way.”

“To write a poem well,” said I, “requires great knowledge of the subject; and he who has not, like Claude Lorraine, a whole world at command, will seldom produce anything good, with the best ideal tendencies.”

“And then,” said Goethe, “only an innate talent knows what is really to be done, while others, more or less, go on blundering.”

“The æsthetic teachers,” said I, “are a proof of this; for scarcely one of them knows what properly should be taught, and hence they complete the perplexity of young poets. Instead of treating of the Real, they treat of the Ideal; and instead of helping the young poet to what he has not, they confuse him about what he has. He who, for instance, has by nature wit and humour, will use these powers to the best advantage, if scarcely conscious that he is endowed with them; but he who allows himself to be influenced by the much-lauded treatises upon these high qualities, will be disturbed in the innocent use of his powers, consciousness will paralyze these powers, and instead of the aid he desires, he will find himself incalculably impeded.”

“You are quite right,” he replied, “and a great deal might be said on that chapter.”

“I have,” he continued, “been reading the new epic by Egon Ebert; and you must read it too, that we may help him out a little. He is really a superior talent, but this new poem lacks the proper poetical foundation—the foundation of reality. The external landscapes, sunset and sunrise—passages where the external world was his own—could not be better done. But the rest, which lies in ages gone by, and belongs to tradition, is not painted with its proper truth, and lacks the right kernel. The Amazons, with their life and actions, are described in that general way which young people esteem poetic and romantic, and which usually passes for such in the æsthetic world.”

“This is a fault,” said I, “which pervades the whole of our present literature. Special truth is avoided, for fear it should not be poetical, and thus we fall into commonplaces.”

“Egon Ebert,” said Goethe, “should have adhered to the chronicles; he would then have made something of his poem. When I remember how Schiller studied tradition, what trouble he gave himself about Switzerland when he wrote his ‘Tell,’ and how Shakspeare used the chronicles, and took into his plays whole passages word for word, I am inclined to prescribe the same course to a young poet of the present day. I have, in my ‘Clavigo,’ made use of whole passages from the ‘Memoirs’ of Beaumarchais.”

“But they are so worked up,” said I, “that the fact is not observed, and the passages do not stand out like an indigested mass.”

“If it is so,” said Goethe, “that is as it should be. Beaumarchais was a mad fellow, and you must read his ‘Memoirs.’ Lawsuits were his element, in which alone he felt truly at home. There are still in existence speeches from one of his lawsuits, which may be ranked among the most remarkable, the most full of talent, and the boldest which have ever been known of their kind. However, Beaumarchais lost this same famous lawsuit. As he was going down the stairs from the court, he met the Chancellor coming up. Beaumarchais ought to have given place, but he would not, and insisted that each should take half the stair. The Chancellor, insulted in his dignity, commanded his people to push Beaumarchais aside, which they did. Beaumarchais immediately returned into court, and began an action against the Chancellor, which he gained.”

I was pleased with this anecdote, and we continued talking over various things.

“I have now taken up ‘My Second Residence in Rome’ once more,” said Goethe, “that I may finally get rid of it, and turn my attention to something else. You know that my published Italian journey was entirely compiled from letters. But the letters which I wrote during my second visit to Rome are not of such a kind that I can make an advantageous use of them; they contain too many references to home and my connections in Weimar, and show too little of my Italian life. Yet there are many utterances which express my inward life at the same time. Now, I think of extracting these passages, and inserting them in my narrative, to which they will give tone and harmony.”

I found this plan perfectly judicious, and confirmed Goethe in his intentions.

“It has at all times been said and repeated, that man should strive to know himself. This is a singular requisition, with which no one complies or indeed ever will comply. Man is by all his senses and efforts directed to externals—to the world around him, and he has to know this so far, and to make it so far serviceable, as he requires for his own ends. It is only when he feels joy or sorrow that he knows anything about himself, and only by joy or sorrow is he instructed what to seek and what to shun. Altogether, man is a darkened being; he knows not whence he comes, nor whither he goes; he knows little of the world, and least of himself. I know not myself, and God forbid I should! But what I wish to say is this, that in my fortieth year, while living in Italy, I became wise enough to know thus much of myself—that I had no talent for plastic art, and that this tendency of mine was a false one. If I drew anything, I had not a sufficient inclination for the corporeal. I felt a certain fear lest objects should press too much upon me, and the weak and moderate was more to my taste. If I drew a landscape, and got through the back and middle ground, I never dared to give force enough to the foreground, so that my pictures never produced the proper effect. Then I made no progress except by practice, and was always obliged to begin again, if I left off for a while. Yet I was not absolutely destitute of talent, especially for landscape, and Hackert often said,—‘If you will stay with me eighteen months, you will produce something which will give pleasure to yourself and others.’”

I listened with great interest.

“But how,” said I, “can one be sure that one possesses a real talent for plastic art?”

“Real talent,” said Goethe, “has an innate sense for form, relations, and colour, so as soon to manage all that well with but little guidance. Especially, it has a sense for the corporeal, and an inclination to make it palpable by judicious distribution of life. Even in the intervals of practice, it progresses and grows inwardly. Such a talent is not hard to recognize, but is best recognized by a master.”

“I visited the palace this morning,” continued he, in a lively tone. “The apartments of the Grand Duchess show great taste; and Coudray has, with his Italians, given another proof of his talent. The painters were still busy with the walls; they were Milanese. I spoke Italian with them, and found that I had not lost the power. The language brings back, as it were, the atmosphere of the country. They told me that they had last painted the château of the King of Würtemburg, and that they had then been summoned to Gotha, where, however, they could not come to any agreement. They had been heard of in Weimar at the same time, and had come here to decorate the apartments of the Grand Duchess. I listened, and was pleased to speak Italian once more, for the language brings with it, as it were, the atmosphere of the country. These worthy people have been absent from Italy three years, but, as they tell me, they intend to go straight home from hence, when they have finished painting a scene for our theatre by order of Herr von Spiegel. This, probably, you will deem a piece of good news. They are very clever fellows. One is pupil of the best scene painter in Milan; and you may therefore expect a good scene.”

After Frederick had cleared the table, Goethe had a small plan of Rome laid before him.

“Rome,” said he, “would not do for the permanent abode of people like us. He who would settle there must marry and turn Catholic, else would he lead an insupportable existence. Hackert is not a little proud of having lived there so long a Protestant.”

Goethe then showed me, on the plan, the most remarkable squares and buildings. “This,” said he, “is the Farnese garden.”

“Was it not here,” said I, “that you wrote the witch-scene in ‘Faust’?”

“No,” he replied, “in the Borghese garden.”

I now refreshed myself with more landscapes by Claude, and we said a great deal about this excellent master.

“Could not now a young artist,” said I, “model himself upon him?”

“He who had a similar mind,” answered Goethe, “would certainly develop great excellence by forming himself on Claude Lorraine. But he whose soul nature had not endowed with similar gifts, would at most only borrow single peculiarities from this master, and use them as mere phrases.”

Sat., April 11.

I found the table laid out to-day in the long hall for several persons. Goethe and Frau von Goethe received me very kindly. The guests gradually arrived, viz., Madame Schopenhauer; young Count Reinhard, of the French embassy; his brother-in-law, Herr von D—— who was on his way to enter into the Russian Service against the Turks; Fräulein Ulrica; and, lastly, Hofrath Vogel.

Goethe was in an especially cheerful mood, and entertained the company before dinner with some good Frankfort jokes, especially relating to Rothschild and Bethmann, showing how one had spoiled the speculations of the other.

Count Reinhard went to Court; the rest of us sat down to dinner. Conversation became very animated. They talked about travelling and the bathing places; and Madame Schopenhauer especially interested us about the arrangement of her estate on the Rhine, near the Island of Nonnenwerth.

At dessert, Count Reinhard reappeared, and was praised for activity with which, during his short absence, he had not only dined at Court, but had changed his dress twice. He brought the intelligence that the new Pope—a Castiglioni—was elected, and Goethe gave the company an account of the traditional ceremonies observed at the election.

Count Reinhard, who had passed the winter at Paris, was able to give us a great deal of desirable information about celebrated statesmen, literati, and poets. We talked about Chateaubriand, Guizot, Salvandy, Béranger, Merimée, and others.

After dinner, when all except myself had departed, Goethe took me into his work-room, and showed me two very interesting papers, with which I was highly pleased. These were two letters written in his youth, one in 1770, from Strasburg, to his friend, Dr. Horn, at Frankfort; one in July, the other in December. In both spoke a young man who had a presentiment of great things which lay before him to do. In the last, traces of “Werther” were already visible; the Sesenheim connection had been formed, and the happy youth seemed rocked in an ecstasy of the sweetest feelings, and to be lavishing away his days as if half in a dream. The handwriting of the letters was calm, clear, and elegant; it had already assumed the character it always afterwards preserved. I could not forbear reading again and again these charming letters, and left Goethe full of the happiest and most grateful feelings.

Sun., April 12.

Goethe read me his answer to the King of Bavaria. He had represented himself as one who actually ascends the steps of the villa, and expresses his feelings by word of mouth in the King's immediate presence.

“It must be difficult,” said I, “to preserve exactly the proper tone and manner for such cases.”

“No one,” said Goethe, “who, during his whole life, has had to do with persons of high rank as I have, will find it difficult. The only point is not to be perfectly natural, but always to keep within the line of a certain conventional propriety.”

Goethe then spoke of the compilation of his “Second Residence at Rome,” which now occupied him.

“From the letters,” said he, “which I wrote at that period, I plainly see that we have certain advantages and disadvantages at every time of life, as compared with earlier or later periods. Thus, in my fortieth year, I was as clear and decided on some subjects as at present, and in many respects superior to my present self; yet now, in my eightieth, I possess advantages which I should not like to exchange for those.”

“While you made that remark,” said I, “the metamorphosis of plants came before my eyes, and I can well understand that one would not return from the period of the flower to that of the green leaf, and from that of the fruit or seed to the flower-state.”

“The simile,” said Goethe, “expresses my meaning perfectly.”

“Only imagine a perfectly indented leaf,” he continued, laughing; “do you think that it would go back from its state of free development to the dull confinement of the cotyledon? And, indeed, it is an interesting fact that we have a plant which may serve as a symbol of the most advanced age, since, having passed the period of flower and fruit, it still thrives cheerfully without further foundation.

“It is bad, however, that we are so hindered in life by false tendencies, and never know them to be false until we are already freed from them.”

“But how,” said I, “shall we know that a tendency is false?”

“A false tendency,” replied Goethe, “is not productive; or if it is, what it produces is of no worth. It is not so difficult to perceive this in others; but with respect to oneself the case is different, and great freedom of mind is required. And even knowledge of the truth is not always of use; we delay, doubt, cannot resolve—just as one finds it difficult to leave a beloved girl of whose infidelity one has long had repeated proofs. This I say, because I remember how many years were required before I could find out that my tendency to plastic art was a false one, and how many more, after I was sure of this fact, to separate myself entirely from it.”

“But,” said I, “that tendency has been of such advantage to you, one can hardly call it false.”

“I gained insight by it,” said Goethe, “and therefore I can make myself easy about it. That is the advantage we draw from every false tendency. He who with inadequate talent devotes himself to music, will never, indeed, become a master, but may learn to know and to value a masterly production. With all my toil, I have not become an artist; but, as I tried every department of art, I have learned to take cognizance of each stroke, and to distinguish merits from defects. This is no small gain; and, indeed, false tendencies are rarely without gain. Thus the Crusades, for the liberation of the holy sepulchre, manifestly represented a false tendency; but they did this good, they weakened the Turks, and prevented them from becoming masters of Europe.”

We talked on various subjects, and Goethe then spoke to me of a book on Peter the Great, by Ségur, which had interested him, and given him much light.

“The situation of Petersburg,” said he, “is quite unpardonable, especially when we reflect that the ground rises in the neighbourhood, and that the Emperor could have had a city quite free from all this trouble arising from overflow of the stream, if he had but gone a little higher up, and had only had the haven in this low place. An old shipmaster represented this to him, and prophesied that the people would be drowned every seventy years. There stood also an old tree, with various marks from times when the waters had risen to a great height. But all this was in vain; the Emperor stood to his whim, and had the tree cut down, that it might not bear witness against him.

“You will confess that such conduct is very strange in so great a man. Do you know how I explain it?—Man cannot cast aside his youthful impressions; and this principle goes so far, that even defects to which he is accustomed in his early years, and in the midst of which he has passed his happiest time, remain afterwards so dear to him that he is dazzled by them, and cannot perceive any fault. Thus would Peter the Great repeat Amsterdam, so dear to his youth, in a metropolis at the mouth of the Neva; as the Dutch are always tempted to build new Amsterdams over and over again in their new possessions.”

Mon., April 13.

To-day, after Goethe had said many good things to me at dinner, I again refreshed myself at dessert with some of Claude's landscapes.

“The collection,” said Goethe, “bears the title Liber Veritatis; it might as well be styled Liber Naturæ et Artis,—for here we find nature and art in the highest state and fairest union.”

I asked Goethe about the origin of Claude Lorraine, and in what school he had formed himself.

“His immediate master,” said Goethe, “was Antonio Tasso, but Tasso was a pupil of Paul Brill, so that the school and maxims of the latter formed the real foundation of Claude, and came to their full blossom in him; for what appeared too earnest and severe in those masters, is, in Claude Lorraine, developed to the most charming grace and loveliest freedom. There was no going beyond him.

“However, it is difficult to say from whom so great a genius, living in so remarkable a time and situation, actually did learn. He looked about, and appropriated to himself everything which could afford nourishment to his designs. No doubt Claude Lorraine was as much indebted to the Caracci school as to his immediate and nominal masters.

“Thus, it is usual to say Giulio Romano was a pupil of Raffaelle; but we might, with as much propriety, say he was the pupil of his age. Only Guido Reni had a pupil, who received so entirely into himself the spirit, soul, and art of his master, that he almost was, and did almost exactly, the same as he. This was a peculiar case, which has scarcely been repeated.

“The Caracci school, on the contrary, was of a liberating kind, so that each gift was developed by it in its natural direction, and masters proceeded from it all entirely different one from another. The Caracci seemed born to be teachers of art; they lived in a time when the best had already been done on every side, and hence they could present their pupils with models in all departments. They were great artists, great teachers; but I could not say they were truly gifted with the spirit (Geistreich).[1] It is a somewhat bold saying, but so it seems to me.”

After I had looked at a few more landscapes of Claude's, I opened an artist's lexicon, to see what is said of this great master. We found—“his chief merit was in his palette.”

We looked at one another, and laughed.

“There, you see,” said Goethe, “how much we learn if we rely on books, and take in all we find written.”

  • [1]Geistreich” frequently means little more than clever or ingenious; but it seems here to have a deeper signification, and the term “gifted with the spirit” has been borrowed from the American.—Trans.

Tues., April 14.

When I went in to-day, Goethe was at table with Hofrath Meyer, talking about Italy and art. He ordered a volume of Claude Lorraine to be laid before us, in which Meyer found the landscape of which the newspapers told us that Peel had given four thousand pounds for the original. One must admit that it is a beautiful picture, and that Mr. Peel has made no bad bargain.

On the right side of the picture is a group of people sitting and standing. A shepherd is leaning over a girl, whom he seems to be instructing to play upon the pipe. In the middle is a lake, in the full light of the sun; on the left are cattle grazing in the shade of a grove. The two groups balance one another admirably, and the light has a magical effect, in the artist's usual manner. There was then a discussion as to where the original had long been, and in whose possession Meyer had seen it when in Italy.

Conversation then turned on the new property of the King of Bavaria at Rome. “I know the villa very well,” said Meyer; “I have often been there, and still think with pleasure of the situation.

“The house is of moderate size. The King, no doubt, will adorn it, and make it agreeable according to his taste. In my time, the Duchess Amelia lived there, and Herder in the next house. Afterwards the Duke of Sussex and the Earl of Munster lived there. Strangers of high rank have always liked it, on account of the healthy situation and superb prospect.”

I asked Meyer how far it was from the Villa di Malta to the Vatican.

“From Trinita di Monte, which is near the villa, and where the artists lived,” said Meyer, “it is a good half league. We went over the ground daily, and often more than once.”

“The road by the bridge,” said I, “seems somewhat circuitous; I should think it would be a shorter way to cross the Tiber and go through the fields.”

“It is not so,” said Meyer; “but we had this notion, and often crossed the Tiber. I remember one occasion when we were returning on a fine moonlight night from the Vatican. Of our acquaintance, Bury, Hirt, and Lips were with us, and we were engaged in the customary dispute,—which is the greater, Raffaelle or Michael Angelo? So engaged, we entered the ferry. When we had reached the opposite shore, and the argument was still at its height, some wag—I think it was Bury—proposed we should remain upon the water till the strife was quite settled, and the parties agreed. The proposal was acceded to, and the boatman had to put off and row back. Now the dispute began to grow animated, and when we reached the shore we were always forced to put back, for the contest was not decided. Thus we went on, hour after hour, which suited nobody better than the boatman, who had an addition of bajocchi each time. He had with him, as an assistant, a boy of twelve years old, to whom our conduct at last appeared strange.

“‘Father,’ said he, ‘what is the matter with these men that they will not land, but we must always keep going back when we reach the shore?’

“‘I know not, my son,’ replied the boatman; ‘but I think they are mad.’

“At last, in order not to row to and fro the whole night, we came to a forced agreement, and landed.”

We laughed at this pleasant anecdote of artistic madness. Hofrath Meyer was in the best humour; he continued to tell us about Rome, and Goethe and I took pleasure in listening to him.

“This dispute about Raffaelle and Michael Angelo,” said Meyer, “was the order of the day, and was introduced whenever a number of artists met together large enough to take the two sides. It generally began at an inn, where we drank cheap good wine. Pictures, and parts of pictures, were referred to, and when the opposition party would not concede this or that, an immediate inspection of the pictures was found requisite. We left the inn and hurried to the Sistine Chapel, the keys of which were in the hands of a shoemaker, who would always open the door for a few groschen. When we were before the pictures the work of demonstration began, and after the dispute had lasted long enough we returned to the inn, to make up our differences over a bottle of wine, and to settle all controversies. Thus we went on every day, and the shoemaker, by the Sistine Chapel, received many a fee of four groschen.”

Mention was then made of another shoemaker, who generally hammered his leather on an antique marble head. “It was the portrait of a Roman Emperor,” said Meyer; “the antique work stood before the shoemaker's door, and we often saw him engaged in this laudable occupation as we passed by.”

Wed., April 15.

We talked of people who, without having any real talent, are excited to productiveness, and of others who write about things they do not understand.

“What seduces young people,” said Goethe, “is this—we live in a time in which so much culture is diffused, that it has communicated itself, as it were, to the atmosphere which a young man breathes. Poetical and philosophic thoughts live and move within him, he has sucked them in with his very breath, but he thinks they are his own property, and utters them as such. But after he has restored to the time what he has received from it, he remains poor. He is like a fountain which plays for a while with the water with which it is supplied, but which ceases to flow as soon as the liquid treasure is exhausted.”

Tues., Sept. 1.

I told Goethe of a person now travelling through Weimar, who had heard a lecture of Hegel's on the proof of the existence of God. Goethe agreed with me, that the time for such lectures was gone by.

“The period of doubt,” said he, “is past; men now doubt as little the existence of a God as their own, though the nature of the divinity, the immortality, the peculiarities of our own souls, and their connection with our bodies, are eternal problems, with respect to which our philosophers take us no farther. A French philosopher, of the most recent times, begins his chapter confidently thus:—

“‘It is acknowledged that man consists of two parts, body and soul; accordingly, we will begin with the body, and then speak of the soul.’

Fichte went a little farther, and extricated himself somewhat more cleverly from the dilemma, by saying—‘We shall treat of man regarded as a body, and of man regarded as a soul.’ He felt too well that a so closely combined whole could not be separated. Kant has unquestionably done the best service, by drawing the limits beyond which human intellect is not able to penetrate, and leaving at rest the insoluble problems. What a deal have people philosophized about immortality—and how far have they got? I doubt not of our immortality, for nature cannot dispense with the entelecheia. But we are not all, in like manner, immortal; and he who would manifest himself in future as a great entelecheia must be one now.

“While the Germans are tormenting themselves with the solution of philosophical problems, the English, with their great practical understanding, laugh at us, and win the world. Everybody knows their declamations against the slave-trade; and while they have palmed upon us all sorts of humane maxims as the real foundation of their proceedings, it is at last discovered that their true motive is a practical object, which the English always notoriously require in order to act, and which should have been known before. In their extensive domains on the western coast of Africa they themselves use the blacks, and it is against their interest for them to be carried off. They have founded large colonies of negroes in America, which are very productive, and yearly return a large profit in blacks. From these they can supply the demand in North America, and since they thus carry on a highly profitable trade, an importation from without would be against their commercial interests; so they preach with a practical view against the inhuman African slave-trade. Even at the Congress of Vienna, the English envoy denounced it with great zeal, but the Portuguese envoy had the good sense to reply quietly, that he did not know they had come together to sit in judgment on the world, or to decide upon principles of morality. He well knew the object of England; and he had also his own, which he knew how to plead for and obtain.”

Sun., Dec. 6.

To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the first scene of the second act of “Faust.”[1] The effect was great, and gave me a high satisfaction. We are once more transported into Faust's study, where Mephistophiles finds all just as he had left it. He takes from the hook Faust's old study-gown, and a thousand moths and insects flutter out from it. By the directions of Mephistophiles as to where these are to settle down, the locality is brought very clearly before our eyes. He puts on the gown, while Faust lies behind a curtain in a state of paralysis, intending to play the doctor's part once more. He pulls the bell, which gives such an awful tone among the old solitary convent halls, that the doors spring open and the walls tremble. The servant rushes in, and finds in Faust's seat Mephistophiles, whom he does not recognize, but for whom he has respect. In answer to inquires he gives news of Wagner, who has now become a celebrated man, and is hoping for the return of his master. He is, we hear, at this moment deeply occupied in his laboratory, seeking to produce a Homunculus. The servant retires, and the bachelor enters,—the same whom we knew some years before as a shy young student, when Mephistophiles (in Faust's gown) made game of him. He is now become a man, and is so full of conceit that even Mephistophiles can do nothing with him, but moves his chair further and further, and at last addresses the pit.

Goethe read the scene quite to the end. I was pleased with his youthful productive strength, and with the closeness of the whole. “As the conception,” said Goethe, “is so old—for I have had it in my mind for fifty years—the materials have accumulated to such a degree, that the difficult operation is to separate and reject. The invention of the whole second part is really as old as I say; but it may be an advantage that I have not written it down till now, when my knowledge of the world is so much clearer. I am like one who in his youth has a great deal of small silver and copper money, which in the course of his life he constantly changes for the better, so that at last the property of his youth stands before him in pieces of pure gold.”

We spoke about the character of the Bachelor. “Is he not meant,” said I, “to represent a certain class of ideal philosophers?”

“No,” said Goethe, “the arrogance which is peculiar to youth, and of which we had such striking examples after our war for freedom, is personified in him. Indeed, every one believes in his youth that the world really began with him, and that all merely exists for his sake.

“Thus, in the East, there was actually a man who every morning collected his people about him, and would not go to work till he had commanded the sun to rise. But he was wise enough not to speak his command till the sun of its own accord was really on the point of appearing.”

Goethe remained a while absorbed in silent thought; then he began as follows:—

“When one is old one thinks of worldly matters otherwise than when one is young. Thus I cannot but think that the demons, to teaze and make sport with men, have placed among them single figures, which are so alluring that every one strives after them, and so great that nobody reaches them. Thus they set up Raffaelle, with whom thought and act were equally perfect; some distinguished followers have approached him, but none have equalled him. Thus, too, they set up Mozart as something unattainable in music; and thus Shakspeare in poetry. I know what you can say against this thought; but I only mean natural character, the great innate qualities. Thus, too, Napoleon is unattainable. That the Russians were so moderate as not to go to Constantinople is indeed very great; but we find a similar trait in Napoleon, for he had the moderation not to go to Rome.”

Much was associated with this copious theme; I thought to myself in silence that the demons had intended something of the kind with Goethe, inasmuch as he is a form too alluring not to be striven after, and too great to be reached.

  • [1] That is, the second act of the second part of “Faust,” which was not published entire till after Goethe's death.—Trans.

Wed., Dec. 16.

To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the second scene of the second act of “Faust,” where Mephistophiles visits Wagner, who is on the point of making a human being by chemical means. The work succeeds; the Homunculus appears in the phial, as a shining being, and is at once active. He repels Wagner's questions upon incomprehensible subjects; reasoning is not his business; he wishes to act, and begins with our hero, Faust, who, in his paralyzed condition, needs a higher aid. As a being to whom the present is perfectly clear and transparent, the Homunculus sees into the soul of the sleeping Faust, who, enraptured by a lovely dream, beholds Leda visited by swans, while she is bathing in a pleasant spot. The Homunculus, by describing this dream, brings a most charming picture before our eyes. Mephistophiles sees nothing of it, and the Homunculus taunts him with his northern nature.

“Generally,” said Goethe, “you will perceive that Mephistophiles appears to disadvantage beside the Homunculus, who is like him in clearness of intellect, and so much superior to him in his tendency to the beautiful, and to a useful activity. He styles him cousin; for such spiritual beings as this Homunculus, not yet saddened and limited by a thorough assumption of humanity, were classed with the demons, and thus there is a sort of relationship between the two.”

“Certainly,” said I, “Mephistophiles appears here in a subordinate situation; yet I cannot help thinking that he has had a secret influence on the production of the Homunculus. We have known him in this way before; and, indeed, in the ‘Helena’ he always appears as a being secretly working. Thus he again elevates himself with regard to the whole, and in his lofty repose he can well afford to put up with a little in particulars.”

“Your feeling of the position is very correct,” said Goethe; “indeed, I have doubted whether I ought not to put some verses into the mouth of Mephistophiles as he goes to Wagner, and the Homunculus is still in a state of formation, so that his co-operation may be expressed and rendered plain to the reader.”

“It would do no harm,” said I, “Yet this is intimated by the words with which Mephistophiles closes the scene—

Am Ende hängen wir doch ab
Von Creaturen die wir machten.”

We are dependent after all,
On creatures that we make.

“True,” said Goethe, “that would be almost enough for the attentive; but I will think about some additional verses.”

“But,” said I, “those concluding words are very great, and will not easily be penetrated to their full extent.”

“I think,” said Goethe, “I have given them a bone to pick. A father who has six sons is a lost man, let him do what he may. Kings and ministers, too, who have raised many persons to high places, may have something to think about from their own experience.”

Faust's dream about Leda again came into my head, and I regarded this as a most important feature in the composition.

“It is wonderful to me,” said I, “how the several parts of such a work bear upon, perfect, and sustain one another! By this dream of Leda, ‘Helena’ gains its proper foundation. There we have a constant allusion to swans and the child of a swan; but here we have the act itself, and when we come afterwards to ‘Helena,’ with the sensible impression of such a situation, how much more clear and perfect does all appear!”

Goethe said I was right, and was pleased that I remarked this.

“Thus you will see,” said he, “that in these earlier acts the chords of the classic and romantic are constantly struck, so that, as on a rising ground, where both forms of poetry are brought out, and in some sort balance one another, we may ascend to ‘Helena.’

“The French,” continued Goethe, “now begin to think justly of these matters. Both classic and romantic, say they, are equally good. The only point is to use these forms with judgment, and to be capable of excellence. You can be absurd in both, and then one is as worthless as the other. This, I think, is rational enough, and may content us for a while.”

Sun., Dec. 20.

Dined with Goethe. We spoke of the Chancellor, and I asked whether he did not bring any news of Manzoni, on his return from Italy.

“He wrote to me about him,” said Goethe. “The Chancellor paid Manzoni a visit; he lives on his estate near Milan, and is, I am sorry to say, always indisposed.”

“It is singular,” said I, “that we so frequently find persons of distinguished talents, especially poets, with weak constitutions.”

“The extraordinary performances of these men,” said Goethe, “presuppose a very delicate organization, which makes them susceptible to unusual emotions, and capable of hearing celestial voices. Such an organization, in conflict with the world and the elements, is easily disturbed and injured; and he who does not, like Voltaire, combine with great sensibility an equally uncommon toughness, is easily exposed to perpetual indisposition. Schiller was always ill. When I first knew him, I thought he could not live a month; but he, too, had a certain toughness; he sustained himself many years, and would have done so longer, if he had lived in a way more favourable to health.”

We spoke of the theatre, and how far a certain performance had been successful.

“I have seen Unzelmann in the part,” said Goethe. “It was always a pleasure to see him, on account of the perfect freedom of his mind, which he imparted to us; for it is with acting as with all other arts. What the artist does or has done excites in us the mood in which he himself was when he did it. A free mood in the artist makes us free; a constrained one makes us uncomfortable. We usually find this freedom of the artist where he is fully equal to his subject. It is on this account we are so pleased with Dutch pictures; the artists painted the life around them, of which they were perfect masters. If we are to feel this freedom of mind in an actor, he must, by study, imagination, and natural disposition, be perfect master of his part, must have all bodily requisites at his command, and must be upheld by a certain youthful energy. But study is not enough without imagination, and study and imagination together are not enough without natural disposition. Women do the most through imagination and temperament; thence came the excellence of Madame Wolff.”

We pursued this subject further, talking of many of the chief actors of the Weimar stage, and mentioning their performance in several parts with due acknowledgment.

In the mean while, “Faust” came once more into my head, and I talked of the manner in which the Homunculus could be rendered clear upon the stage. “If we do not see the little man himself,” said I, “we must see the light in the bottle, and his important words must be uttered in a way that would surpass the capacity of a child.”

Wagner,” said Goethe, “must not let the bottle go out of his hands, and the voice must sound as if it issued from the bottle. It would be a part for a ventriloquist such as I have heard. A man of that kind would solve the difficulty to a certainty.”

We then talked of the Grand Carnival, and the possibility of representing it upon the stage. “It would be a little more than the market-place at Naples,” said I.

“It would require a very large theatre,” said Goethe, “and is hardly to be imagined.”

“I hope to see it some day,” was my answer. “I look forward with especial delight to the elephant, led by Prudence, and surmounted by Victory, with Hope and Fear in chains on each side. This is an allegory that could not easily be surpassed.”

“The elephant would not be the first on the stage,” said Goethe. “At Paris there is one, which forms an entire character. He belongs to a popular party, and takes the crown from one king and places it on another, which must indeed have an imposing effect. Then, when he is called at the end of the piece, he appears quite alone, makes his bow, and retires. You see, therefore, that we might reckon on an elephant for our carnival. But the whole scene is much too large, and requires a manager such as is not easily found.”

“Still, it is so brilliant and effective,” said I, “that a stage will scarcely allow it to escape. Then how does it build itself up, and become more and more striking! First, there are the beautiful gardeners, male and female, who decorate the stage, and at the same time form a mass, so that the various objects, as they increase in importance, are never without spectators and a background. Then there is the team of dragons, which coming from the background, through the air, soars overhead. Then the appearance of the great Pan with the apparent fire, and its extinction by the wet clouds, which roll to the spot. If all this is carried out as you have conceived, the public will, in its amazement, confess that it has not sense and intellect sufficient to appreciate such a profusion of phenomena.”

“Pray, no more about the public,” said Goethe; “I wish to hear nothing about it. The chief point is, that the piece is written; the world may now do with it as it pleases, and use it as far as it can.”

We then talked of the “Boy Lenker.”

“That Faust is concealed under the mask of Plutus, and Mephistophiles under that of Avarice, you will have already perceived. But who is the ‘Boy Lenker’?”

I hesitated, and could not answer.

“It is Euphorion,” said Goethe.

“But how can he appear in the carnival here,” asked I, “when he is not born till the third act?”

“Euphorion,” replied Goethe, “is not a human, but an allegorical being. In him is personified poetry, which is bound to neither time, place, nor person. The same spirit who afterwards chooses to be Euphorion, appears here as the ‘Boy Lenker,’ and is so far like a spectre, that he can be present everywhere, and at all times.”

Sun., Dec. 27.

To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the scene of the paper-money.[1]

“You recollect,” said he, “that at the imperial assembly the end of the song is that there is a want of money, and that Mephistophiles promises to provide some. This theme continues through the masquerade, when Mephistophiles contrives that the Emperor, while in the mask of the great Pan, shall sign a paper, which, being thus endowed with a money-value, is multiplied a thousand-fold and circulated. Now, in this scene the affair is discussed before the Emperor, who does not know what he has done. The treasurer hands over the bank-notes, and makes everything clear. The Emperor is at first enraged, but afterwards, on a closer inspection of his profit, makes splendid presents of paper-money to those around him, and as he retires drops some thousand crowns, which the fat court-fool picks up, and then goes off at once to turn his paper into land.”

While Goethe read this noble scene, I was pleased with the happy notion of deducing the paper-money from Mephistophiles, and thus in so striking a manner bringing in and immortalizing one of the main interests of the present day.

Scarcely had the scene been read over and discussed, when Goethe's son came down and seated himself with us at the table. He told us of Cooper's last novel, which he had read, and which he now described admirably in his own graphic manner. We made no allusion to the scene we had just read, but he began of his own accord to tell a great deal about Prussian treasury-bills, and to say that they were paid for above their value. While young Goethe went on talking in this way, I looked at the father with a smile, which he returned, and thus we gave each other to understand how very apropos was the subject of the scene.

  • [1] In the second part of “Faust.”

Wed., Dec. 30.

To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the next scene.

“Now they have got money at the imperial court,” said he, “they want to be amused. The Emperor wishes to see Paris and Helen, and they are, through magical art, to appear in person. Since, however, Mephistophiles has nothing to do with Greek antiquity, and has no power over such personages, this task is assigned to Faust, who succeeds in it perfectly. The scene showing the means which Faust must adopt to render the apparition possible is not quite complete yet, but I will read it to you next time. The actual appearance of Paris and Helen you shall hear to-day.”

I was happy in the anticipation of what was coming, and Goethe began to read. I saw the Emperor and his court pass through the ancient hall to witness the spectacle. The curtain rises, and the stage, representing a great temple, is before my eyes. Mephistophiles is in the prompter's box, the astrologer is on one side of the proscenium, and Faust, with the tripod, on the other. He utters the necessary formula, and Paris appears rising from the fumes of incense. While this handsome youth is moving about to ethereal music, a description of him is given. He sits down, and leans with his arm bent on his head, as we find him in ancient sculptures. He is the delight of the ladies, who express how they are charmed by the bloom of his youth, and is hated by the men, who are moved by jealousy and hatred, and depreciate him as much as they can. Paris goes to sleep, and Helen makes her appearance. She approaches the sleeper, imprints a kiss upon his lips, retires from him, and then turns round to gaze at him. While in the act of turning, she looks especially charming, and makes the same impression on the men which Paris made upon the women. The men are inspired to love and praise, the women to envy, hatred, and detraction. Faust himself is quite enraptured, and at the aspect of the beauty which he has called forth forgets time, place, and circumstance, so that Mephistophiles finds it necessary to remind him every moment that he is getting out of his part. A mutual affection between Paris and Helen seems to increase, the youth clasps her to carry her away; Faust is about to tear him from her, but, when he turns the key towards him, a violent explosion ensues, the apparitions melt into vapour, and Faust falls paralyzed to the ground.