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not written in ih3rme, it was very plain to
him that it could not be poetry, and he
would have none of it. A friend of the
family, at the same time an enthusiast for
Klopstock, smuggled the book into the
house. The mo£er and children were de-
lighted with it, and the latter learned large
portions of it by heart Groethe relates :

"We divided between us the wild, de-
spairing dialogue between Satan and Ad-
ramelech, who have been cast into tl^e Red
Sea. The first part, as the most violent, fell
to my share; the second, a litde more pa-



thetic, my sister undertook. The alternate
curses, horrible indeed yet well sounding,
thus flowed fit>m our lips, and we seized
every opportunity to greet each other with
these in^mal phrases.

"It was a Saturday evening in winter.
My father always had himself shaved by
candle-light, in order to be able on Sunday
morning to dress for church at his leisure,
k We sat on a footstool behind the stove, and
while the barber put on the lather, mur-
mured in moderately low tones our cus-
tomary imprecations. But now Adramelech
had t* lay iron bands on Satan. My sista:
seized me violently, and recited softly enough,
but with increaang passion :

*'<Give me thine aid, I entreat thee; wiU wor-
ship thee if thou requirest —

Thee, thou monster abandoned; yes, thee, of
all criminals blackest

Aid me; I suffer the tortures of death, which
is vengeful, etemaL

Once, in the time gone by, with a hot, fierce
hate I could hate thee,

Now I can hate thee no more. E'en this is
the sharpest of tortures.'

" Thus far everything had gone tolerably
well ; but loudly, with a temble voice, she
shouted out the foUowing words :

•"O, wie bin ich zermalmt!
Oh, how am I crushed!'

'' The good barber was starded and upset
the lather basin over my fother's breast.
There was a great uproar, and a seveie in-
vestigation was held, especially in view of
the mischief that might have resulted had
the Slaving been actually going forward.
In order to remove from our»slves all suspi-
cion of wantonness, we confessed to our Sa-
tanic characters, and the misfortone occa-
sioned by the hexameters was too apparent
for them not to be anew condemned and
banished."

The wide staircase begins in the large
hall on the ground floor, and leads on eadi
story to a spacious antediamber or hall, out
of which all the rooms open. These ante-
chambers on each floor, with large windows
toward the garden or court, are frequently
referred to b^ Goethe as having been the
delight of his childhood. In them the
family passed much of their time during the
warm season of die year, and the children
found there ample space for play. On the
second floor were tiie "best rooms." We
learn in an early chapter of " Wilhelm Meis-
ter's Apprenticeship" that they had what
was called English furniture, and wall-paper



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THE GOETHE HOUSE AT PMANKFORT



"7



of a Chinese pattern. Hardly had the old
Rath got them furnished to his mind when
the Seven Years' War broke out; Frankfort
was occupied by the French, and the Count
Thorane from Provence was billeted i^n
him. The Count, a well-bred and highly
cultivated nobleman, did everything in his
power to make his presence as little burden-
some as possible, and even refrained from
hanging up his maps on the Chinese wall-
paper. The friends of the fomily were
never wearied in dwdling on the Herr
Rath's good fortune that so gentlemanly an
occupant had fallen to his lot But the
Herr Rath would listen to no palliative sug-
gestions ; he was almost besi(te himself with
rage at seeing his best rooms, the apple of
his eye, seized upon by strangers and ene-
mies; and, added to this, he was so fierce
a partisan for '< Old Fritz," that during the
whole time of the Count's stay, which ex-
tended to about three years,' Rath Goethe
went about with a thorn in his flesh, and on
one occasion gave voit to his kmg pent-up
wrath in such terms that only the urgent
intercessions of his wife and friends saved
him from immediate arrest. The mother
and children were at once on the best of
temis with the Count, who often sent the
chiklren cake and ices from his table; but
the ices, to the children's great distress, the
mother always threw out of the window, de-
claring, in her h(mest amplicity, that she
did not believe the human stomach could
digest ice, be it ever so much sweetened.
Goethe dwells at some length on this very
important period of his boyhood, and the
influences i^kki his own growth and devel-
opment which arose from Count Thorane's
residence in his Other's house.

The rooms which the Count occupied
consist of one large central drawing-room
having four windows to the street, with
rooms opening out of it on each side; that
on the left having two windows, and the
smaller one on the rig^t but one. The
Count was subject to fits of dejecdcm or
hypochondria, at which times he would re-
tire for dajrs and see no one but his seivant.
Hefilled the post of Lieutenant du Roi, a
sort of Judge-Advocate, whose business it
was to decide upon all cases of strife arising
between soldiers or between soldiers and
citiiens; but when his hypochondria seized
Wm, not the most urgent cases could draw
him from the little one-wmdowed nest to
the right of the drawing-room, which he had
chosen iot his "growkry." The family
learned from the servant's gossip that the



Count once, when this fit was on him, had
^ven what he afterward thought a very un-
righteous decision, and hence his determi-
nation to retire entirely at such seasons from
all participation in human a&irs.

Passing up the stairs from the second to
the third floor, we notice the monograms
J. C. G., C. E. G., in the wrought-iron stair
railing. We cross the cheerful antechamber
and come to the ^artments which the
fiainiily occupied. The division of the rooms
is slightly different from that on the floor
below, the central room being smaller, with
but three windows, the side rooms having
each two. The central room was the family
drawing-room ; here, as has been mentioned,
all the pictures were hung after the rebuild-
ing, hence it was usually called the ''pict-
ure-room." Count Thorane, a great lover
of art, hearing the picture-room spoken of
on the night of his arrival, insisted upon
seeing it at (Mice, and went over each pict-
ure i^nth a candle in his hand. To the left
of the picture-room was the Herr Rath's
library, study, and special sanctum. Be-
sides its two firont windows it has^ a little
window in the side wall, giving a good view
up the street A few lines in the Autobiog-
raphy explain its use. " I slii^>ed home,"
Goedie writes, '' by a roundabout way, for
on the side toward the kleiner Hirschgra-
ben my father, not without the oppo^on
of his neighbor, had had a small guckfemUr
(peep-hole) made in the w^; tlm side we
avoided when we did not wish him to see
us coming home." To the right of the pict-
ure-room was the Frau Rath's sitting-room,
and behind and communicating with it,
looking toward the court, the parents' bed-
room,— the room in which the poet was
bom, — and in the wing, still further in the
rear, the children's bedroom.

On the fourth floor we come to the Man-
sard rooms, — the poet's rooms, — which re-
quire a few 'words of preface. From the
time of its sale in 1705 by Goethe's mother
until die death oi the poet in 1832, the
Goethe house seems to have been little
thought of. But the renewed interest in a
great man's history which is always awak-
ened by his death, brought again into notice
the house in which Goedie was bom.
The Roessing femily, in whose possession it
was, were at first very much astonished at
the frequent applications to see the house.
The first one occurred in the year after
Goethe's death, and, from that time, the
number of visitors increased day by day.
There is on the fourth floor a small attic



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THE GOETHE HOUSE AT FRANKFORT



room to which some obscure tradition Was
attached as having been Goethe's room.
The Roessings accepted this tradition with-
out investigation, and, thus, for thii^-five
years, it was the custom to conduct visitors
at once to this Httle attic and point it out to
them as Goethe's chamber where he had
written his eariier works. Of course, it was
not long before it got the name of the
Werther-Zimmer, and Bettina von Amim
tmconsciously added to the apocryphal
character of her book f" Goethe's Corre-
spondence with a Chila"), by having a
view of the Werther-Zimmer engraved as
a frontispiece to it So striking a confir-
matian of the supposed fondness of the
Muses for garrets could not fail to be
noted, and many a sage visitor doubtless
dwelt upon the coincidence that the rich
man's son must go to the garret to mount
his Pegasus. But the whole romance of
the Werther attic has been crumbled in the
dust by Dr. G. H. Otto Volger, who, with
true German patience and industry, has so
thoroughljr investigated every point in con-
nection 'with the Goethe mansion. It is not
necessary to follow Dr. Volger into all the
details of his proof The diief points are :
ist That the so-called Werther room is
not in the gable ^ and has no rooms commu-
nicating with it 2d. That it never has a ray
of morning sun. In regard to th^ first point,
Goethe constantly speaks of his room as a
gable room (Giebelnmmer), having other
rooms communicating with it In regard
to the second point, the feet that Goethe's
room had the morning sun is estabUshed by
the poet's well-known account of his morn-
ing sacrifice to the Almighty, after the Old
Testament feshion, when die rays of the
morning sun, concentrated through a burn-
ing-glass, were made to light the pastilles on
the boy's extemporized altar. Dr. Volger
selects the long celebrated attic as the
place where the silk-worms were kept, and
where the engravings were bleached, as so
circumstantiaUy described in the Autobiog-
raphy.

Passmg by the Werther room, which is
directly to the ri^t on reaching the top of
the staircase, and crossing the antecham-
ber, similar to those cm the odier floors, one
comes to the poef s rooms. The central one
is a pleasant and spacious reception-room,
where the son of the house could receive
with dignity, and without apology, the friends
and the visitors of distinction idiom the suc-
cess of «• Goetz " and of " Werttier " s^tiacted
to htm from every quarter. It stands at pres-



ent bare and cheerless, but we can picture
to ourselves the simple fiimiture, the books,
tiie pictures, the casts from the antique —
heads of the Laocoon group, and of Niobe
and her children — and die minerals, and the
natural curiosities which bore witness to the
mental activity and versatihty of its occu-
pant The house directly opposite is the
only one in the Hirschgral>», except the
Goethe mansion, which' remains unchanged,
so that, in looking from the poet's window,
the outline and general efiisct of the opposite
house are precisely what they were when the
boy-worshiper stood in the eariy morning
light waiting for the sun to peer over its roof
and kindle his altar-fire. This house, in the
Goethes' time, was occupied by tfie family
Von Ochsenstein, whose sons were W<^-
gang's playmates.

The last years of Goethe's residence at
home, before he accepted the invitation of the
Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, were diose
of his early fame as the au^or of " Goetz "
and " Werther," and his growing reputation
brought many new elements into the ikmily
life. Everybody of distinction, especially
of literary distinction, who came to Frank-
fort, sought the acquaintance of Goethe,
and the stately house in the Hirschgraben
was enlivened by visitors of many qualities,
who were received with a formal but gener-
ous hospitality. The old Rath did his best
to preserve a poNte sdence when sentiments
were uttered which shodced all his precon-
ceptions, while the mother won all hearts by
her good-nature, jollity, and sound common
sens^. The departure of the poet for Wei-
mar made no very great change in this re-
spect; the admirers of the poet came to
pay their respects to his parents, and a visit
to Goethe's mother, especially, was looked
forward to as an honor and a pleasure.
The house came to be generally known
among Goethe's friends as the Casa Santa^
a name it probably first received fix>m Wie-
land.

In 177Q9 the poet came himself, bringing
with him his fri^, the Grand Duke of Saxe-
Weimar. Nobles, tiades-people, and hotel-
keepers were open-mouthed with wonder at
seeing a Grand Duke dwelling in a simple
citizen's house. But the disappointment of
the fether that his son had not followed the
path of a jurist, for which he had drilled him
during his boyhood, was, p^aps, amply
made up fryr when the son returned home
a Privy-Coundllor (Geheim-Ri^)» and
brought a Grand Duke to Frankfort as his
guest.



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THE GOETHE HOUSE AT FRANKFORT



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In 1782, the Herr Rath died in his sev-
enty-second year. For thirteen years the
Fraa Rath lived alone in the Casa Sania —
nominally, at least, alone, for the stream of
visitors was almost constant " I am much
more fortunate thim Frau von Reck," she
writes; -''that lady must travel about in
order to see Germany's learned men, they
all visit me. in my house, which is by fau-
more convenient*— yes, yes, those to whom
God is gracious. He blesses in their sleep." *
Our visit to Goethe's early home termi-
nates with the inspection of his own rooms
on the fourth floor. We return to the con-
sideration of what we have ventured to call
the dmmoHs persana of the home circle,
and having already spoken of the feither, we
now come to the aster and the mother.

The relations between Goethe and his sis-
ter Comdia were of the most intimate kind.
There was but a year's difference in their
ages, and they were often taken to be twins,
'n^y sluuied together the joys and sorrows
of childhood, and no new experience was
OHDplete imtil communicated to the other.
The brother's departure for the University of
Leipsic was their first sqMuration, and in Wolf-
gang's absence, Cornelia led a weary life.
All the father's (pedagogy was now exerted
upon her. He left her no time for social
pleasures or for associating with other young
girls; an occasional omcert was her only
relaxation. Even the relation c^ mutual
confidence between die brother and sister
was entirely broken up, as dl their letters
passed throu^ the father's hands. It was
therefore not strange when Goethe returned
home after an absence of neariy tluee years,
that be found the father and daughter living
in a state of almost open hostility, and was
himself made the confid^Jit of lus sitter's
complaints, and of his mother's anxieties
in her p<mtion of mediator and peace-
maker. Of his sister Goethe writes :

'' She had by turns to pursue and work at
French, Italian, and Endish, besides which
he (the father) compelledf her to praotioe at
the harpsichord a great part of the day.
Writing also was not to be neglected, and I
had already remarked that he had directed



SAlaL"-



lit % wem 's Gott gdnnt giebt er 's im
Y — an idiomatic phrase difficult to translate ;
asimikr one, "Gott giebt es den Seinen im Schlaf"
(God blesses bis owb in their sleep), is in frequent
lueinGeniMaijr. *'ImScfa]af" is nsed to express any-
thing that has been obtained without personal effort ;
for example, should any one become rich by inherit-
ance or a sudden rise m values, the Germans would
say,nEr ist reich aeworden im Schlaf " (H« has be-
come rich in his sleep).



her correspondence with me, and commu-
nicated to me his teaching through her
pen. My sister was, and still continued to
be, an indefinable being, the most singular
mixture of strength and weakness, of obsti-
nacy and compliance ; which qualities acted,
now united, and now separated, at her own
will and inclination. Thus she, in a man-
ner which seemed to me terrible, had turned
the hardness of her character against her'
&ther, whom she did not forgive, because dur-
ing these three years he had forbidden or
embittered to her many an innocent pleas-
ure, and she would acknowledge no single
one of his good and excellent qwdities. She
did all that he commanded or directed, but
in the most imamiable manner in the world ;
she did it in the established routine, but
nothing more and nothing less; out of love
or favor she accommodated herself to noth-
ing, so that this was one of the first things
about which my mother complained in a
private conversation with me."

Cornelia seems to have inherited many
of her Other's traits of character, and the
Herr Rath found his own inflexibility
matched against the same quality, which had
been transmitted to his child.

On Wolfgang's return from Leipsic the
old confidential relations were resumed be-
tween the brother and the sister. AU their
thoughts and feelings were shared ; Cornelia
read his letters from his University fiiends,
and went over with him his replies to them.
These were the happiest days of Cornelia's
life; they amount, deducting Wolfgang's
absence for a year and a half at Strasburg,
to about three years and a hal£ They are
most interesting to us in connection with
Cornelia's influence upon the production of
<' Goetz von BerUchingen," as Goethe thus
relates it:

*' I had, as I proceeded, conversed cir-
cumstantially about it with my sister, n^o
took part in such matters widi heart and
soul. I so often renewed this conversation
without taking any steps toward beginning
work, that she at length, impatient and inter-
ested, begged me earnestly not to be ever
talking into the air, but once for all to set
down on paper that which was so present
to my mind. Determined by this impulse,
I began one morning to write, without hav-
ing first sketched out any draft or plan. 1
wrote the first scenes, and in the evening
they were read to Cornelia. She greatly
i^iplauded ^m, yet qualified her praise by
the doubt whether I should so continue;
indeed she expressed a decided unbelief in



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THE GOETHE HOUSE AT FRANKFORT



my perseverance. This stimulated me only
the more. I went on the next day and the
third ; hope increased with the daily com-
munications, and everything, step by step,
gained more life as I became thoroughly
master of the subject Thus I kept m;^f
uninterruptedly at the work, which I pursued
straight onward, looking neither backward
nor to the right or the left, and in about
' six weeks I had the pleasure of seeing the
manuscript stitched."

Cornelia's memory is still further asso-
ciated with her brother's first success by
the discovery of her portrait sketched by
Goethe in pencil on the margin of a proof-
sheet of " Goetz." A copy of it is given
by Professor Otto Jahn in his coUection of
" Goethe's Letters to his Leipsic Friends."
The resemblance to Goethe is strongly
marked in the prominent nose, and, above
aU, in the large eyes, of which he wrote :
'' Her eyes are not the finest I have ever
seen, but the deepest, behind which you
expected the most ; and when they expressed
any afifection, any love, their brilliancy was
unequaled." The face is interesting, but
one that would be ordinarily classed among
the very plain. Cornelia became early con-
scious of this, and tormented herself with
the conviction that no woman without per-
sonal beauty could expect to inspire any
man with love. It does not seem to have
occurred to her that mental accomplishments
might make up for the lack of beauty.
Probably she had little idea of her own
mental quaUties, the state of isolation in
which she was brought up having deprived
her of the means of comparing herself with
other girls of her own age, and kept her in
ignorance of her superiority — a superiority
due, first, to her own mental powers, and,
secondly, to her father's unflagging instruc-
tions. In her diary, which is given in Pro-
fessor Jahn's book, she indulges at ^reat
length in these self-tormendng reflections.
Hapless Cornelia I the world reads this diary,
which was her one secret fi^om her brother,
and which she wrote in French, perhaps
with the idea that, should it be mislaid, the
foreign tongue would keep it secret from
many. It is addressed to one of her female
firiends. I^e has been reading "Sir Charles
Grandison," and thus gives utterance to her
feelings in school-giri French :

" Je donnerais tout au monde pour ponvoir
paxvenir dans plusieurs ann^es \. imiter tant
soit peu Texcellente Miss Byron. L'imiter?
Folle que je suis ; le puis-je ? Je m'estimerais
assez heureuse d'avoir la vingti^me partie de



resprit et de la beattt6 de cette admiiaUe
dame, car alors je serais une aimable fille ;
c'est ce souhait que me tient au coeur jour
et nuit Je serais k blame si je d^arais
d'toe une grande beaut^ ; seulement un peu
de finesse dans les traits, un tdnt uni, ^
puis cette grace douce qui enchante au pre-
mier coup de vue ; voili tout Cependant
9a n'est pas et ne sera jamais, quoique je
puisse fain^etsouhaiter; ainsi il vaudra mieux
de cultiver I'esprit et tdcher d' toe support-
able du moins de ce c6t^-l^"
Further on :

" Vous aurez d^j& entendue que je fais
grand cas des charmes ext^rieures, mais peut-
Stre que vous ne savez pas encore que je
les tiens pour absolument n^cessaires au
bonheur de la vie et que je crois pour cda
que je ne serai jamais heureuse. ♦ ♦ ♦
£pouserai-je un mari que je n'aime pas ?
Cette pens^ me iscx honeur et cependant ce
sera le seul parti <^i me reste, car oii troirr^
un homm^ aimable qui pensit k mot ? Ne
croyez pas, ma ch^re, que ce soit grimace :
Vous connaissez les replis de mon coeur, je
ne vous cache rien, et pourquoi le ferais-je ?"
These words show by what sentiments
she was actuated in accepting the hand of
John GeOTge Schlosser. Her brother's ab-
sence at Strasburg had brought back again
to her the wearisomeness of her home life.
Goethe had now returned fix)m Strasburg
a Doctor-at-Law, but was soon to leave again
for Wetzlar in continuation of his juristical
studies, as marked out years before by his
father. Cornelia saw the world opening to
her brother, and felt that her only happiness
was slipping fix>m her gra^. Her life at
home without Wolfgang was intolerable to
her, and to escape from it she accq[>ted the
offa* of marriage.

John George Schlosser was an early firiend
of her broker. He was ten years older
than Goethe, and when he visited Leipac
during Goedie's stay there, die difference in
age caused the latter to look up to Sdilosser
as in many respects his scqperior. Schlosser
aftanrard edited a literary journal at Frank-
fort, to which Goethe contributed, and the
intimate relations with the brother led to the
acquaintance with the sister.

The bride^oom had been promised an
appointment in the Grand Duchy of Baden,
and expected to be placed at Carlsruhe,
the capital. But hardly had the newly mar-
ried pair reached Carlsruhe, when they
learned that they were to reside in Emmen-
dingen, a litde village on the borders of the
Black Forest, where Schlosser was to fill the



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THE GOETHE HOUSE AT FRANKFORT



121



post of Chief Magbtnte of the County of
Hochberg. Goethe humorously hints that
probably neidier the Grand Duke nor his
ministers cared to come too often in con-
tact with Schlosser's bhmt honesty, a view
which is confirmed by Lavater's description
of him, as a man made to tell princes truths
which no one else would dare to communi-
cate to them. With this very honest and
not very lively companion, for whom she had
no stronger feeling than esteem, Cornelia
went to her exile in the Bbu:k Forest
Schlosser was very much occupied with his
duties as magistrate, and devoted his leisure
moment to writing moial and rdigious
catet^isms for the people. Rath Goethe
said of his aon-in4aw that he seemed never
to be done with having books printed, and
all his friends exited thems^ves to moder-
ate this mania fxx rushing into print. But, in
spite of them all, he beaune a very volumin-
ous writer of books, all of which, with the ex-
ception of some translations from the Greek,
have long since gone into oblivion. Fancy
a woman whose intellectual powers had been
aroused and developed in the most intimate
relations with a mind such as the worid has
rarely known — &ncy such a woman shut up
in the Black Forest with a man who wrote
catechisms and replies to Pope's ^ Essay on
Man r' In a town, she would have gathered



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 21 of 163)