Herman Friedrich Grimm.

The life and times of Goethe online

. (page 1 of 42)
Online LibraryHerman Friedrich GrimmThe life and times of Goethe → online text (page 1 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


:- '.; is



...

v





. -



:






..-.



.-..:






.



- ' V '''.".-.'
" -' - - - -

.:". .'' '

H i - ' ..,'"-'

I ,. \ m

'.,' : '.



. '



LIBRARY





THE



LIFE AND TIMES



OF



GOETHE.



BY

HERMAN GRIMM.



TRANSLATED BY

SARAH HOLLAND ADAMS.



BOSTON:
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

1880.



Copyright, 1880,
BY SARAH HOLLAND ADAMS.



UNIVERSITY PRESS:
JOHN WILSON AND Sox, CAMBRIDGE.



THIS TRANSLATION

IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED TO

RALPH WALDO EMERSON,

THE FRIEND OF THE AUTHOR, THE FRIEND OF TRANSLATORS AND

TRANSLATIONS, AND THE INSPIRATION OF MANY

GREAT MEN IN ALL COUNTRIES.



THESE lectures are not intended to give a biog-
raphy of Goethe, but to show in what sense he
was at once the most real, as well as the most
ideal, man and poet that ever lived.

I ask for the labor bestowed on this translation
the mercy of the reader, and a measure of grati-
tude that even so -much of the intrinsic meaning
of a very valuable work can be shared by another
public than the one for which it was written.

A perfect translation would be simply a re-crea-
tion, possible only to the genius of the author.
Zelle, of Berlin, says Hegel could be translated
into Greek, but never into English. No transla-
tion can ever bring out the fine psychological
differences imbedded in the deposits of language ;
but what enthusiasm, sympathy, and earnest study
can do toward rendering a clear translation, I
have devoted to this work, the fruit of my visit
to Germany, and the honor, as well as advan-
tage, derived from personal acquaintance with its
author.

S. H. A.
BERLIN, August, 1880.



TO THE TRANSLATOR.



I RETURN to you herewith the manuscript of your translation of
my book, which you have intrusted to me. I have compared it
carefully, and find it excellent. It will be a pleasure to me if your
work is printed in your fatherland.

I am very much indebted to America. I can indeed say that no
author, with whose writings I have lately become acquainted, has
had such an influence upon me as Emerson. The manner of writ-
ing of this man, whom I hold to be the greatest of all living
authors, has revealed to me a new way of expressing thought.
Although I grew up in the study of Goethe, and had had much
intercourse with those who have known him personally, I am in-
debted to Emerson for the historical view of Goethe, which taught
me to regard him as the great phenomenon in the universal devel-
opment, of mankind. In this sense I have sought to represent him
in these lectures.

Should you give this letter a place in the introduction to your
translation, permit me to add a few words which are addressed to
my countrymen in America.

I have been told that many Germans in America undervalue their
own language and read only English books. Without doubt it is
right and necessary to speak the language in which the fortunes of
the country are decided, where one lives, and which one calls his
fatherland. But how much would he lose who would thereby for-
get his own language ! Should my book, as an English translation,
enter the household of such a German, it may be that he and his
family will learn what a man Goethe was, and what an inestimable
benefit it is to be able to read his works in his own language.

May this book help to draw still nearer together the two nations
of the earth, who have before them the most glorious future.

HERMAN GRIMM.
BERLIN, May, 1880.



CONTENTS.



LECTURE. PAQI

I. INTRODUCTION 1

II. PLAN OF THE LECTURES. GOETHE'S FIRST FRANK-
FORT DAYS. STUDY OF LAW IN LEIPSIC.

CHANGE TO STRASBURG 18

III. LIFE IN STRASBURG. HERDER. NEW IDEAS OF

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 38

IV. FREDERIKA IN SESENHEIM. DOCTOR'S DEGREE.

RETURN TO FRANKFORT 57

V. PRACTISING LAW. His PARENTS. MERCK.

"GoTZ VON BERLICHINGEN " 77

VT. GOTZ VON BERLICHINGEN 93

"VII. THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER 117

VIII. "WERTHER" . 140

IX. LAVATER 167

X. FRITZ JACOBI. SPINOZA 184

XI. LlLLI SCHOENEMANN 210

XII. WEIMAR. ANNA AMALIA. VON FRITSCH. WIE-

LAND 231

Xni. FRAU VON STEIN 247

XIV. CARL AUGUST AND GOETHE IN THE TEN YEARS . . 264

XV. THE GERMAN AND THE ROMAN IPHIGENIA . 283



Vlll CONTENTS.

LECTURE. PAOX

XVI. ROME 302

XVII. THE END OF "IPHIGENIA." " TASSO." CHRIS-

TIANE. "ROMAN ELEGIES" 321

XVIII. ROME. SICILY. NAPLES. PHILIPP HACKEET.
SECOND SOJOURN IN ROME. RETURN TO WKI-
MAK. SCHILLEE 343

XIX. SCHILLER AND GOETHE. THEIR ESTRANGEMENT . 364

XX. GOETHE'S SECLUSION. THE UNION WITH SCHILLER.

SCHILLER'S WIPE 383

XXI. GOETHE AND SCHILLER IN WEIMAR 404

XXII. SCHILLER AND GOETHE 420

XXIII. STUDY OP NATURAL SCIENCE. " THE NATURAL

DAUGHTER." " ELECTIVE AFFINITIES ". . . . 442

XXIV. GOETHE AS A POLITICIAN. NAPOLEON. "FAUST" 475
XXV. "FAUST." CONCLUSION . 500



CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE 527

INDEX 537



LECTURE I.

INTRODUCTION.

TT is ninety-nine years, almost to a day, since GOETHE
* appeared for the first time in "Weimar. It was on
the seventh of November, 1775, when, in his twenty-
sixth year, he responded to the call of the Duke, who
had himself hardly reached his twentieth year.

Goethe, although even then enjoying the reputation of
a poet, both in and out of Germany, was just entering
that higher ground for intellectual activity, and begin-
ning that career in which for himself and for us he
became what he is, and what is comprehended in the
single word Goethe. From his advent in Weimar the
century moves on, stamped with the name of Goethe.

Goethe has worked in the intellectual life of Germany
as some great physical phenomenon might work in the
realm of Nature. Our coal formations tell of times of
tropic warmth, when palms grew in this land. Recently
explored caverns speak of ice-periods, when the reindeer
was at home among us. In enormous spaces of time
radical changes have been produced in the German soil,
which in its present condition bears so much the appear-
ance of eternal unchangeableness. And, to carry our
simile further, Goethe has affected the spiritual atmos-



2 LIFE AND TIMES OF GOETHE.

phere much like some telluric event, which raised the
average climatic warmth a certain number of degrees. If
this were to happen we should have another vegetation,
another kind of cultivation, and with this an entirely new
foundation for our whole existence.

Goethe has created our language and literature. Be-
fore him both of them were valueless in the world-
market of the European nations. Such statements must
be received as referring not to the exceptions but to the
average product. In the year 1801, when Goethe and his
followers had already accomplished the principal part of
that which could be done for the regeneration of the Ger-
man language, Karl August still speaks of the " pitiful
German tongue from which Schiller has wrung the sweet-
est melody." Goethe himself, fifteen years earlier, had
spoken much more severely of the German language.

When Goethe began to write, the German language
was as limited in its general influence as the German
national interest in our politics. The nation existed,
had a silent consciousness of its worth, and a presenti-
ment of its future course ; but that was all. Among
the criticisms which Goethe wrote in the beginning of
his literary career, he speaks of the meaning of patri-
otism, and asks how one could demand of us such a
feeling as inspired the Romans, who felt themselves to
be citizens of a world-embracing empire. Any influence
beyond our own borders seemed to us impossible. The
English, French, and Italian critics noticed German
literary productions only so far as our authors (by
way of addition to foreign literature) allowed their works
to appear as a part of the same. Frederic the Great, if
perchance he had the honor to he named at all, was
counted in Paris among French authors, and regarded
himself as such.



INTKODUCTIOtf. 3

French was spoken in all circles of North Germany,
and it ranked as the second mother-tongue. In Austria
the Italian language prevailed. Voltaire discusses, in
the article " Langue " of the Encyclopedia, the peculi-
arities of different languages as forms of literary expres-
sion ; and in this the German is not mentioned at all.
Not until Goethe's " Werther " had been devoured by
the French and English, and had penetrated even into
Italy, was the possibility conceded in foreign countries of
German literature of a higher rank.

Attempts had often been made before Goethe so far
to perfect the German language that expression might
be found in it for the finer shades of thought ; but be-
yond a personal circle these efforts were unsuccessful.
Klopstock, Lessing, and Wlnckelmann, while they availed
tbemselves of the forms of the classic languages and of
French and Italian, sought to create their own German ;
but all without radical effect. Herder had been more
successful in giving higher qualities to German prose
than any other writer, save Goethe. Herder assisted
Goethe more than any one in producing a true living
German language, which later authors have been taught
by him to write. This Goethe did by collecting together
and turning to advantage the work of all those who had
preceded him. Goethe would ascribe this service to
Wieland, but he has himself in reality cast all other
attempts into the shade. It was Goethe's verses which
made Schiller's flow ; and he lent to Schlegel the fulness
whereby he converted Shakspeare almost into a German
poet.

Goethe's prose has become by degrees, in all depart-
ments of intellectual life, the standard form of expres-
sion. Through Schelling it has penetrated into philos-
ophy ; through Savigny into jurisprudence ; through



4 LIFE AND TIMES OF GOETHE.

Alexander von Humboldt into natural science ; and
through Wilhelm von Humboldt into philology. We are
even indebted to Goethe for our present style of letter-
writing. Innumerable expressions which we now use
without questioning their source, because they seem to
stand so naturally at our command, would without
Goethe have been sealed to us.

Out of this unity of the language arose among us the
true fellowship in higher intellectual enjoyment to which
we are solely indebted for our political unity, a unity
which could never have been achieved without the un-
ceasing activity of those whom we, in the highest sense,
call " the educated," and to whom Goethe first gave the
common direction.

Before Goethe there were three great poets, who ex-
erted over the nations from which they sprung a power
which may be compared with the influence of Goethe in
Germany, Homer, Dante, and Shakspeare. All that is
comprehended in the term " spiritual influence " is espe-
cially to be claimed as the effect wrought by these men
on Greeks, Italians, and English : each in a different
way, it is true ; but the success of each places them
in almost equal rank. In every single Greek, Italian,
and Englishman can the chain, as it were, be traced
which binds him irrevocably to one of these three great
leaders of the people. Without them Greece and Italy
would be cold political abstractions. Homer and Dante
have called into being the higher unity of Greece and
Italy, which stands far above "the political. And who
knows what an exalted role Shakspeare may yet play,
if the fragments of English-speaking peoples, the world
over, shall at some time seek for a supreme authority in
whose word they may feel themselves united ? And who
knows what offices are reserved for Goethe in Germany



INTRODUCTION. 5

in the future changes of our destiny ? But let us speak
of what he has already accomplished. No poet or thinker
since the time of Luther has worked in so many different
directions at once, and permeated with his influence four
successive generations, as Goethe has done. How wholly
unlike was Voltaire's work in France ! So far as quan-
tity is concerned, Voltaire embraced far more ; certainly
he worked more intensively than Goethe. Also during
his life his writings penetrated more instantaneously,
deeply, and widely among the people. But he was not so
unresistingly believed in ; he did not stand upon the same
moral height with Goethe. Voltaire destroyed ; Goethe
built up. Again, Goethe never tried to create a party
for a momentary aim ; he always granted his rivals full
scope ; his immortal weapons were too precious to be
used against mortals. Goethe worked quietly and im-
perceptibly, like Nature herself. We see him every-
where recognized, without envy, as a man raised above
men : " an Olympian, enthroned over the world," Jean
Paul calls him ; to whom no one could give anything,
who was enough to himself. Goethe stands lifted above
love and aversion. The 'few who have acknowledged
themselves his enemies appear from the outset to have
much trouble in maintaining their stand-point, while
to-day they seem utterly incomprehensible. And, even
as regards these, it was good fortune for any one to have
been in relation with Goethe ; and it was impossible to
ignore him.

Almost too much appears to have been said about
Goethe even now. An entire library of publications
concerning him exists. This increases daily ; latterly
scarcely a week has passed in which, either here or there,
something new about him has not been printed. And
yet these labors dedicated to him are but the faint



6 LIFE AND TIMES OF GOETHE.

beginnings of a work which must stretch on to a bound-
less future. Goethe's first century only has elapsed ; but
to none of the following, so far as the future can be
foretold, will be spared the trouble of ever anew reshap-
ing Goethe for themselves. The German people must
change their nature before they will cease to do this.
For thousands of years there has been a science called
Homeric, which has had its disciples in uninterrupted
succession ; for hundreds of years, one that bears the
name of Dante, and one that bears Shakspeare's name :
henceforth there will be one called Goethe. His name
long since designated not his person alone, but the cir-
cumference of a whole domain. Each generation will
believe that it comprehends his nature better : never,
until now, the right stand-point seems to have been
attained from which Goethe can be impartially studied.
Opinions in regard to his work will vary ; he will appear
to stand nearer to, or farther from, the German people,
according to the character of the times : but he will never
be wholly dethroned, never be resolved into himself,
never melt as a glacier, of which, when the last drop has
run away, nothing remains. If, however, that should hap-
pen which has happened to Homer, that after the lapse of
thousands of years, when our German shall have ceased to
be a living language, wholly distant generations may be
unable to conceive that a single man could have created so
many and such various kinds of works, then may the
learned men, who will certainly for a time be believed,
affirm that Goethe is to be interpreted only as a myth-
ical name, under which the entire intellectual work of
his age was comprehended.

It would seem as if already the time approached in
which the German people, after having gone too far in their
adoration of Goethe, were inclined in some degree to



INTRODUCTION". 7

withdraw their homage. But this is only an appearance.
A few have tried to represent Goethe as a discarded
aristocrat, who had rendered his service and might rest.
Such things have been said ; but what begins to be
strange to us about him is not what Goethe is in him-
self, but the image bearing his name which the last
generation formed of him. We live in a new era, which
must create anew its own image of him : it overthrows
the old one, but does not touch Mm. To-day, more than
ever, it is important that our attention should be turned
to him ; but another stand-point must be accepted.

This change of stand-point is the natural result of the
different position we occupy in Germany to-day towards
all historical inquiry. Before Germany was united and
free, and stood politically on her own feet, the aim of
our historical labor was to burrow into the past, out of
which, as secret advocates of a course of proceeding which
we did not dare openly to call by the right name, we ven-
tured to initiate for ourselves a better Present. All his-
torical work bore the secret motto, " It is impossible
that things in Germany should remain as they are."

But within the last twenty-five years, with the aid of
this scholarly labor, the revolution has been accom-
plished which we may now regard as finished. We
possess a Present far exceeding our expectations.
Its benefits are no longer something to be struggled
after or hoped for, but to be held fast, developed, and
utilized. With the light of this freshly dawning day,
the times which lie behind us take on a new aspect.
We no longer seek in them the weapons which might
avail us in obtaining freedom, but we seek after those
which, the struggle for liberty being successfully ended,
will strengthen us in the position won, and render per-
manent the possession of the blessings gained. We seek



8 LIFE AND TIMES OF GOETHE.

to fathom the nature of historical movements, and to
regulate our own in conformity to them. Many things
so contemplated take on a wholly new meaning. Splen-
dors fade, and things which were despised rise into un-
dreamed-of importance. Goethe, to whose nature every
form of agitation was foreign, and who especially in his
later years, when his opinion was most frequently asked
had the appearance and seemed to have the style of
thinking of a comfortable conservative, as statesman and
historian now takes a new position. We perceive in him
one of those who most confidently foresaw our present
freedom, and prepared the ground for it. We read with
astonishment how accurately he prophesied the revolu-
tionary agitation of the latter half of the nineteenth
century. We understand how he came to look upon the
dead calm in which his last years fell as an unavoidable
necessity ; we see how he held steadfastly in view the
free future of his country, and quietly gave to his works
the material needed for these days. Goethe's labor
helped to create the soil on which we to-day sow and
reap ; he belongs among the foremost founders of Ger-
man freedom ; without him, in spite of all our conquests,
we should be wanting in the ideas which enable us to
derive the noblest benefits from them.

Naturally, when things of this kind come before us
as a new discovery, the career of such a man is to be
historically reconstructed.

What, then, was Goethe in his main characteristics?
Among the many who struggled and aspired with him, he
was the most powerful and the most successful : one for
whom Fate manifestly smoothed the way ; a husbandman
cultivating the field of the mind, with never a sterile
year, but ever the full harvest. It might be a dry or a
rainy year, but Goethe always had his fruit set in the



INTRODUCTION. 9

very field to which the weather was favorable. His pro-
gress was never interrupted by useless delays, to which
he must look back as upon so much lost time. He was
healthy, handsome, and vigorous. He always lived fully
in the present and in his surroundings, and was at the
same time far in advance of the general progress of man-
kind. With an ever-upward development, even to his
latest days, he experienced the whole destiny of man on
earth. It is well to consider the sum-total of his years.

Goethe had a twofold life measured out to him, whose
latter half, indeed, proved most important to the full
completion of that which he had begun in the earlier
part. He was allowed to enter into the enjoyment of a
secure and undisturbed inheritance of the conquests of
his youth, as if he were his own heir and successor to the
throne. To how few has been granted this privilege !
The latter half of the lives of Lessing and Herder were
blighted. Schiller began gradually to die just as he was
beginning really to live ; Just as lie had begun to unfold
his capacities, and freely to make the most of his creative
power. "We recall the names of many others, whose ca-
reer was interrupted before their fortieth year, although
they seemed to possess a vigor which should not have
been exhausted in double that number of years. It is
curious to reflect with what doubtful aspects Goethe
himself entered on the second portion of his life. He
seemed to be intellectually exhausted. We gather from
many observations made at the close of the last century
and the beginning of this, that his friends in Weimar
and his admirers all over Germany had resigned them-
selves to the idea that he had passed his prime. The
cool, reserved Privy Councillor with the double chin, more
and more inclining to rest ; past the fiery days of youth,
in stately ease he keeps aloof from men and things ; he



10 LIFE AND TIMES OF GOETHE.

turns aside from whatever reminds him of the old times.
He sees again his friends the Jacobis in Dusseldorf, and
will read something aloud to them : they put " Iphigenia"
into his hand, but he lays the book aside ; it is disagree-
able to him to touch again the old feelings. It is only an
accident if something in the verses which he now writes
here and there reminds us of what once charmed in his
poetry. Even those who stand nearest to him realize this
change. They pity him, but they must regard it as a
change in some degree common to all men. Around him,
also, has grown up a new generation (about whom he
scarcely troubles himself), who would like nothing better
than to shake off the burdensome authority of the old
Dictator. As a result of the French Revolution there
prevailed in Germany new and unfavorable conditions,
which Goethe was unwilling to have anything to do with,
or indeed even to try to understand. Schiller was the
man of the day ; and, after he had passed away, there
seemed no one left to fill his and the former Goethe's
place.

But Goethe soars again ! " Faust " appears. With this
poem, in the new century, Goethe thrills all Germany as
if for the first time. No one had expected anything so
great. Once more he carries the young away with him,
while their elders return to their allegiance. Not until
this time had he taken complete possession of Germany.
There had always been men among us who had not felt
drawn to him. Baron Yon Stein until now had never
read any of Goethe's works, and now first makes his ac-
quaintance. Goethe's influence manifests itself in quite
a different way from what it had done earlier. On all
sides he gains the ascendancy. It now seems as if he
only needed to stretch out his hand to make his power
felt.



INTRODUCTION. 11

Goethe had enjoyed what are called the best gifts of
Fate : he had come at the right time, and the right time
had lasted for him as long as is permitted to mortal man.
But we pass on now to speak of the higher gifts, the
highest gifts of Fate ; and here we see an harmonious de-
velopment of spiritual power, which had perhaps fallen to
the share of others before him, but which we have never
been able to observe in any one as we may observe it in
him. It seemed as if Providence had placed him in the
simplest circumstances, in order that nothing should im-
pede his perfect unfolding. With a very few words his
whole outward life is stated.

The child of rich people in Frankfort, he returns after
the ordinary university course is ended to his native town,
a gradually declining Free City, to practise law. Meeting
by accident a Prince, who himself had but just attained
his majority, he wins his confidence, almost in a child-
like way, and follows him to Weimar, there to take his
position as Prime Minister and Court Poet.

To the end, Goethe was never anything but Prime
Minister and Court Poet of Weimar. He lived there al-
most uninterruptedly, and his whole story is included
in this.

But now we see how, in the course of years, he moulds
and shapes these at first merely outward circumstances
until they are exactly adapted to his necessities ; and
then how he remodels Weimar itself, until it becomes by
degrees a perfectly satisfactory soil to his individual na-
ture, into which he penetrates deeply with wide-spread
roots, and out of which he creates finally the principal
literary city of Germany. Goethe was the ideal centre
of his new Thuringian /atherland from the day of his
first appearance in it, and raised it with himself to im-
mortal renown.



12 LIFE AND TIMES OF GOETHE.

And now we can follow, step by step, the way in which
this was accomplished.

Goethe was not the poet lost in dreams, nor the writer



Online LibraryHerman Friedrich GrimmThe life and times of Goethe → online text (page 1 of 42)