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Autobiography by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Unfortunately, she knew German enough to understand me, and spoke it
just as much as was necessary to scold. She abused me violently. Who was
I, she would like to know, that had a right to doubt the family and
respectability of this young man? At all events, she would be bound he
was as good as I; and his talents might probably procure him a fortune,
of which I could not even venture to dream. This moral lecture she read
me in the crowd, and made those about me wonder what rudeness I had
committed. As I could neither excuse myself, nor escape from her, I was
really embarrassed, and, when she paused for a moment, said without
thinking, "Well! why do you make such a noise about it?--to-day red, to-
morrow dead." [Footnote: A German proverb, "Heute roth, Morgen todt."]
These words seemed to strike the woman dumb. She stared at me, and moved
away from me as soon as it was in any degree possible. I thought no more
of my words; only, some time afterwards, they occurred to me, when the
boy, instead of continuing to perform, became ill, and that very
dangerously. Whether he died, or not, I cannot say.

Such intimations, by an unseasonably or even improperly spoken word,
were held in repute, even by the ancients; and it is very remarkable
that the forms of belief and of superstition have always remained the
same among all people and in all times.

From the first day of the occupation of our city, there was no lack of
constant diversion, especially for children and young people. Plays and
balls, parades, and marches through the town, attracted our attention in
all directions. The last particularly were always increasing, and the
soldiers' life seemed to us very merry and agreeable.

The residence of the king's lieutenant at our house procured us the
advantage of seeing by degrees all the distinguished persons in the
French army, and especially of beholding close at hand the leaders whose
names had already been made known to us by reputation. Thus we looked
from stairs and landing-places, as if from galleries, very conveniently
upon the generals who passed by. More than all the rest do I remember
the Prince Soubise as a handsome, courteous gentleman; but most
distinctly, the Marchal de Broglio, who was a younger man, not tall,
but well built, lively, nimble, and abounding in keen glances, betraying
a clever mind.

He repeatedly came to see the king's lieutenant, and it was easily
noticed that they were conversing on weighty matters. We had scarcely
become accustomed to having strangers quartered upon us in the first
three months, when a rumor was obscurely circulated that the allies were
on the march, and that Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick was coming to drive
the French from the Main. Of these, who could not boast of any special
success in war, no high opinion was held; and, after the battle of
Rossbach, it was thought they might be dispersed. The greatest
confidence was placed in Duke Ferdinand, and all those favorable to
Prussia awaited with eagerness their delivery from the yoke hitherto
borne. My father was in somewhat better spirits: my mother was
apprehensive. She was wise enough to see that a small present evil might
easily be exchanged for a great affliction; since it was but too plain
that the French would not advance to meet the duke, but would wait an
attack in the neighborhood of the city. A defeat of the French, a
flight, a defense of the city, if it were only to cover their rear and
hold the bridge, a bombardment, a sack,--all these presented themselves
to the excited imagination, and gave anxiety to both parties. My mother,
who could bear every thing but suspense, imparted her fears to the count
through the interpreter. She received the answer usual in such cases:
she might be quite easy, for there was nothing to fear; and should keep
quiet, and mention the matter to no one.

Many troops passed through the city: we learned that they halted at
Bergen. The coming and going, the riding and running, constantly
increased; and our house was in an uproar day and night. At this time I
often saw Marshal de Broglio, always cheerful, always the same in look
and manner; and I was afterwards pleased to find a man, whose form had
made such a good and lasting impression upon me, so honorably mentioned
in history.

Thus, after an unquiet Passion Week, the Good Friday of 1759 arrived. A
profound stillness announced the approaching storm. We children were
forbidden to quit the house: my father had no quiet, and went out. The
battle began: I ascended to the garret, where indeed I was prevented
seeing the country round, but could very well hear the thunder of cannon
and the general discharge of musketry. After some hours we saw the first
symptoms of the battle in a line of wagons, in which the wounded, with
various sad mutilations and gestures, were slowly drawn by us, to be
taken to the convent of St. Mary, now transformed into a hospital. The
compassion of the citizens was instantly moved. Beer, wine, bread, and
money were distributed to those who were yet able to take them. But
when, some time after, wounded and captive Germans were seen in the
train, the pity knew no limits; and it seemed as if everybody would
strip himself of every movable that he possessed to assist his suffering

The prisoners, however, were an evidence of a battle unfavorable to the
allies. My father, whose party feelings made him quite certain that
these would come off victorious, had the violent temerity to go forth to
meet the expected victors, without thinking that the beaten party must
pass over him in their flight. He first repaired to his garden before
the Friedberg gate, where he found every thing lonely and quiet; then
ventured to the Bornheim heath, where he soon descried various
stragglers of the army, who were scattered, and amused themselves by
shooting at the boundary-stones, so that the rebounding lead whizzed
round the head of the inquisitive wanderer. He therefore considered it
more prudent to go back, and learned on inquiry what the report of the
firing might have before informed him, that all stood well for the
French, and that there was no thought of retreating. Reaching home in an
ill humor, the sight of his wounded and captured countrymen brought him
altogether out of his usual self-command. He also caused various
donations to be given to the passers-by; but only the Germans were to
have them, which was not always possible, as fate had packed together
both friend and foe.

My mother and we children, who had already relied on the count's word,
and had therefore passed a tolerably quiet day, were highly rejoiced;
and my mother doubly consoled the next day, when, having consulted the
oracle of her treasure-box, by the prick of a needle, she received a
very comfortable answer, both for present and future. We wished our
father similar faith and feelings; we flattered him as much as we could;
we entreated him to take some food, from which he had abstained all day;
but he repulsed our caresses and every enjoyment, and betook himself to
his chamber. Our joy, however, was not interrupted; the affair was
decided: the king's lieutenant, who, against his habit, had been on
horseback that day, at last returned home, where his presence was more
necessary than ever. We sprang to meet him, kissed his hands, and
testified our delight. This seemed much to please him. "Well," said he
more kindly than usual, "I am glad also for your sakes, my dear
children." He immediately ordered that sweetmeats, sweet wine, and the
best of every thing should be given us, and went to his room, already
surrounded by a crowd of the urging, demanding, supplicating.

We had now a fine collation, pitied our poor father who would not
partake of it, and pressed our mother to call him in; but she, more
prudent than we, well knew how distasteful such gifts would be to him.
In the mean time she had prepared some supper, and would readily have
sent a portion up to his room; but he never tolerated such an
irregularity, even in the most extreme cases: and, after the sweet
things were removed, we endeavored to persuade him to come down into the
ordinary dining-room. At last he allowed himself to be persuaded
unwillingly, and we had no notion of the mischief which we were
preparing for him and ourselves. The stair-case ran through the whole
house, along all the ante-rooms. My father, in coming down, had to go
directly past the count's apartment. This ante-room was so full of
people, that the count, to get through much at once, resolved to come
out; and this happened unfortunately at the moment when my father
descended. The count met him cheerfully, greeted him, and remarked, "You
will congratulate yourselves and us that this dangerous affair is so
happily terminated."--"By no means!" replied my father in a rage: "would
that it had driven you to the Devil, even if I had gone with you!" The
count restrained himself for a moment, and then broke out with wrath,
"You shall pay for this," cried he: "you shall find that you have not
thus insulted the good cause and myself for nothing!"

My father, meanwhile, came down very calmly, seated himself near us,
seemed more cheerful than before, and began to eat. We were glad of
this, unconscious of the dangerous method in which he had rolled the
stone from his heart. Soon afterwards my mother was called out, and we
had great pleasure in chattering to our father about the sweet things
the count had given us. Our mother did not return. At last the
interpreter came in. At a hint from him we were sent to bed: it was
already late, and we willingly obeyed. After a night quietly slept
through, we heard of the violent commotion which had shaken the house
the previous evening. The king's lieutenant had instantly ordered my
father to be led to the guard-house. The subalterns well knew that he
was never to be contradicted, yet they had often earned thanks by
delaying the execution of his orders. The interpreter, whose presence of
mind never forsook him, contrived to excite this disposition in them
very strongly. The tumult, moreover, was so great, that a delay brought
with it its own concealment and excuse. He had called out my mother, and
put the adjutant, as it were, into her hands, that, by prayers and
representations, she might gain a brief postponement of the matter. He
himself hurried up to the count, who with great self-command had
immediately retired into the inner room, and would rather allow the most
urgent affair to stand still, than wreak on an innocent person the ill
humor once excited in him, and give a decision derogatory to his

The address of the interpreter to the count, the train of the whole
conversation, were often enough repeated to us by the fat interpreter,
who prided himself not a little on the fortunate result, so that I can
still describe it from recollection.

The interpreter had ventured to open the cabinet and enter, an act which
was severely prohibited. "What do you want?" shouted the count angrily.
"Out with you!--no one but St. Jean has a right to enter here."

"Well, suppose I am St. Jean for a moment," answered the interpreter.

"It would need a powerful imagination for that! Two of him would not
make one such as you. Retire!"

"Count, you have received a great gift from heaven; and to that I

"You think to flatter me! Do not fancy you will succeed."

"You have the great gift, count, of listening to the opinions of others,
even in moments of passion--in moments of rage."

"Well, well! the question now is just about opinions, to which I have
listened too long. I know but too well that we are not liked here, and
that these citizens look askance at us."

"Not all!"

"Very many. What! These towns will be imperial towns, will they? They
saw their emperor elected and crowned: and when, being unjustly
attacked, he is in danger of losing his dominions and surrendering to an
usurper; when he fortunately finds faithful allies who pour out their
blood and treasure in his behalf,--they will not put up with the slight
burden that falls to their share towards humbling the enemy."

"But you have long known these sentiments, and have endured them like a
wise man: they are, besides, held only by a minority. A few, dazzled by
the splendid qualities of the enemy, whom you yourself prize as an
extraordinary man,--a few only, as you are aware."

"Yes, indeed! I have known and suffered it too long! otherwise this man
would not have presumed to utter such insults to my face, and at the
most critical moment. Let them be as many as they please, they shall be
punished in the person of this their audacious representative, and
perceive what they have to expect."

"Only delay, count."

"In certain things one cannot act too promptly."

"Only a little delay, count."

"Neighbor, you think to mislead me into a false step: you shall not

"I would neither lead you into a false step nor restrain you from one:
your resolution is just,--it becomes the Frenchman and the king's
lieutenant; but consider that you are also Count Thorane."

"He has no right to interfere here."

"But the gallant man has a right to be heard."

"What would he say, then?"

"'King's lieutenant,' he would begin, 'you have so long had patience
with so many gloomy, untoward, bungling men, if they were not really too
bad. This man has certainly been too bad: but control yourself, king's
lieutenant; and every one will praise and extol you on that account.'"

"You know I can often endure your jests, but do not abuse my good will.
These men--are they, then, completely blinded? Suppose we had lost the
battle: what would have been their fate at this moment? We fight up to
the gates, we shut up the city, we halt, we defend ourselves to cover
our retreat over the bridge. Think you the enemy would have stood with
his hands before him? He throws grenades, and what he has at hand; and
they catch where they can. This house-holder--what would he have? Here,
in these rooms, a bomb might now have burst, and another have followed
it;--in these rooms, the cursed China-paper of which I have spared,
incommoding myself by not nailing up my maps! They ought to have spent
the whole day on their knees."

"How many would have done that!"

"They ought to have prayed for a blessing on us, and to have gone out to
meet the generals and officers with tokens of honor and joy, and the
wearied soldiers with refreshments. Instead of this, the poison of
party-spirit destroys the fairest and happiest moments of my life, won
by so many cares and efforts."

"It is party-spirit, but you will only increase it by the punishment of
this man. Those who think with him will proclaim you a tyrant and a
barbarian; they will consider him a martyr, who has suffered for the
good cause; and even those of the other opinion, who are now his
opponents, will see in him only their fellow-citizen, will pity him,
and, while they confess your justice, will yet feel that you have
proceeded too severely."

"I have listened to you too much already,--now, away with you!"

"Hear only this. Remember, this is the most unheard-of thing that could
befall this man, this family. You have had no reason to be edified by
the good will of the master of the house; but the mistress has
anticipated all your wishes, and the children have regarded you as their
uncle. With this single blow, you will forever destroy the peace and
happiness of this dwelling. Indeed, I may say, that a bomb falling into
the house would not have occasioned greater desolation. I have so often
admired your self-command, count: give me this time opportunity to adore
you. A warrior is worthy of honor, who considers himself a guest in the
house of an enemy; but here there is no enemy, only a mistaking man.
Control yourself, and you will acquire an everlasting fame."

"That would be odd," replied the count, with a smile.

"Merely natural," continued the interpreter: "I have not sent the wife
and children to your feet, because I know you detest such scenes; but I
will depict to you this wife and these children, how they will thank
you. I will depict them to you conversing all their lives of the battle
of Bergen, and of your magnanimity on this day, relating it to their
children, and children's children, and inspiring even strangers with
their own interest for you: an act of this kind can never perish."

"But you do not hit my weak side yet, interpreter. About posthumous fame
I am not in the habit of thinking; that is for others, not for me: but
to do right at the moment, not to neglect my duty, not to prejudice my
honor,--that is my care. We have already had too many words; now go--and
receive the thanks of the thankless, whom I spare."

The interpreter, surprised and moved by this unexpectedly favorable
issue, could not restrain his tears, and would have kissed the count's
hands. The count motioned him off, and said severely and seriously, "You
know I cannot bear such things." And with these words he went into the
ante-room to attend to his pressing affairs, and hear the claims of so
many expectant persons. So the matter was disposed of; and the next
morning we celebrated, with the remnants of the yesterday's sweetmeats,
the passing over of an evil through the threatenings of which we had
happily slept.

Whether the interpreter really spoke so wisely, or merely so painted the
scene to himself, as one is apt to do after a good and fortunate action,
I will not decide; at least he never varied it in repeating it. Indeed,
this day seemed to him both the most anxious and the most glorious in
his life.

One little incident will show how the count in general rejected all
false parade, never assumed a title which did not belong to him, and how
witty he was in his more cheerful moods.

A man of the higher class, who was one of the abstruse, solitary
Frankforters, thought he must complain of the quartering of the soldiers
upon him. He came in person; and the interpreter proffered him his
services, but the other supposed that he did not need them. He came
before the count with a most becoming bow, and said, "Your Excellency!"
The count returned the bow, as well as the "excellency." Struck by this
mark of honor, and not supposing but that the title was too humble, he
stooped lower, and said, "Monseigneur."--"Sir," said the count very
seriously, "we will not go farther, or else we may easily bring it to
Majesty." The other gentleman was extremely confused, and had not a word
to utter. The interpreter, standing at some distance, and apprised of
the whole affair, was wicked enough not to move; but the count, with
much cheerfulness, continued, "Well, now, for instance, sir, what is
your name?"--"Spangenberg," replied the other. "And mine," said the
count, "is Thorane. Spangenberg, what is your business with Thorane?
Now, then, let us sit down: the affair shall at once be settled."

And thus the affair was indeed settled at once, to the great
satisfaction of the person I have here named Spangenberg; and the same
evening, in our family circle, the story was not only told by the
waggish interpreter, but was given with all the circumstances and

After these confusions, disquietudes, and grievances, the former
security and thoughtlessness soon returned, in which the young
particularly live from day to day, if it be in any degree possible. My
passion for the French theatre grew with every performance. I did not
miss an evening; though on every occasion, when, after the play, I sat
down with the family to supper,--often putting up with the remains,--I
had to endure my father's constant reproaches, that theatres were
useless, and would lead to nothing. In these cases I adduced all and
every argument which is at hand for the apologists of the stage when
they fall into a difficulty like mine. Vice in prosperity, and virtue in
misfortune, are in the end set right by poetical justice. Those
beautiful examples of misdeeds punished, "Miss Sarah Sampson," and "The
Merchant of London," were very energetically cited on my part: but, on
the other hand, I often came off worst when the "Fouberies de Scapin,"
and others of the sort, were in the bill; and I was forced to bear
reproaches for the delight felt by the public in the deceits of
intriguing servants, and the successful follies of prodigal young men.
Neither party was convinced; but my father was very soon reconciled to
the theatre when he saw that I advanced with incredible rapidity in the
French language.

Men are so constituted that everybody would rather undertake himself
what he sees done by others, whether he has aptitude for it or not. I
had soon exhausted the whole range of the French stage; several plays
were performed for the third and fourth times; all had passed before my
eyes and mind, from the stateliest tragedy to the most frivolous
afterpiece; and, as when a child I had presumed to imitate Terence, I
did not fail now as a boy, on a much more inciting occasion, to copy the
French forms to the best of my ability and want of ability. There were
then performed some half-mythological, half-allegorical pieces in the
taste of Piron: they partook somewhat of the nature of parody, and were
much liked. These representations particularly attracted me: the little
gold wings of a lively Mercury, the thunderbolt of a disguised Jupiter,
an amorous Dana, or by whatever name a fair one visited by the gods
might be called, if indeed it were not a shepherdess or huntress to whom
they descended. And as elements of this kind, from "Ovid's
Metamorphoses," or the "Pantheon Mythicum" of Pomey, were humming in
swarms about my head, I had soon put together in my imagination a little
piece of the kind, of which I can only say that the scene was rural, and
that there was no lack in it of king's daughters, princes, or gods.
Mercury, especially, made so vivid an impression on me, that I could
almost be sworn that I had seen him with my own eyes.

I presented my friend Derones with a very neat copy, made by myself;
which he accepted with quite a special grace, and with a truly
patronizing air, glanced hastily over the manuscript, pointed out a few
grammatical blunders, found some speeches too long, and at last promised
to examine and judge the work more attentively when he had the requisite
leisure. To my modest question, whether the piece could by any chance be
performed, he assured me that it was not altogether impossible. In the
theatre, he said, a great deal went by favor; and he would support me
with all his heart: only the affair must be kept private; for he had
himself once on a time surprised the directors with a piece of his own,
and it would certainly have been acted if it had not been too soon
detected that he was the author. I promised him all possible silence,
and already saw in my mind's eye the name of my piece posted up in large
letters on the corners of the streets and squares.

Light-minded as my friend generally was, the opportunity of playing the
master was but too desirable. He read the piece through with attention,
and, while he sat down with me to make some trivial alterations, turned
the whole thing, in the course of the conversation, completely topsy-
turvy, so that not one stone remained on another. He struck out, added,
took away one character, substituted another,--in short, went on with
the maddest wantonness in the world, so that my hair stood on end. My
previous persuasion that he must surely understand the matter, allowed
him to have his way; for he had often laid before me so much about the
Three Unities of Aristotle, the regularity of the French drama, the
probability, the harmony of the verse, and all that belongs to these,
that I was forced to regard him, not merely as informed, but thoroughly
grounded. He abused the English and scorned the Germans; in short, he
laid before me the whole dramaturgic litany which I have so often in my
life been compelled to hear.

Like the boy in the fable, I carried my mangled offspring home, and
strove in vain to bring it to life. As, however, I would not quite
abandon it, I caused a fair copy of my first manuscript, after a few
alterations, to be made by our clerk, which I presented to my father,
and thus gained so much, that, for a long time, he let me eat my supper
in quiet after the play was over.

This unsuccessful attempt had made me reflective; and I resolved now to
learn, at the very sources, these theories, these laws, to which every
one appealed, but which had become suspicious to me chiefly through the
impoliteness of my arrogant master. This was not indeed difficult, but
laborious. I immediately read Corneille's "Treatise on the Three
Unities," and learned from that how people would have it, but why they
desired it so was by no means clear to me; and, what was worst of all, I
fell at once into still greater confusion when I made myself acquainted
with the disputes on the "Cid," and read the prefaces in which Corneille
and Racine are obliged to defend themselves against the critics and
public. Here at least I plainly saw that no man knew what he wanted;
that a piece like the "Cid," which had produced the noblest effect, was
to be condemned at the command of an all-powerful cardinal; that Racine,
the idol of the French living in my day, who had now also become my idol
(for I had got intimately acquainted with him when Schff Von
Olenschlager made us children act "Britannicus," in which the part of
Nero fell to me),--that Racine, I say, even in his own day, was not able
to get on with the amateurs nor critics. Through all this I became more
perplexed than ever; and after having pestered myself a long time with
this talking backwards and forwards, and theoretical quackery of the
previous century, threw them to the dogs, and was the more resolute in
casting all the rubbish away, the more I thought I observed that the
authors themselves who had produced excellent things, when they began to
speak about them, when they set forth the grounds of their treatment,
when they desired to defend, justify, or excuse themselves, were not
always able to hit the proper mark. I hastened back again, therefore, to
the living present, attended the theatre far more zealously, read more
scrupulously and connectedly, so that I had perseverance enough this
time to work through the whole of Racine and Molire and a great part of

The king's lieutenant still lived at our house. He in no respect had
changed his deportment, especially towards us; but it was observable,
and the interpreter made it still more evident to us, that he no longer
discharged his duties with the same cheerfulness and zeal as at the
outset, though always with the same rectitude and fidelity. His
character and habits, which showed the Spaniard rather than the
Frenchman; his caprices, which were not without their influence on his
business; his unbending will under all circumstances; his susceptibility
as to whatever had reference to his person or reputation,--all this
together might perhaps sometimes bring him into conflict with his
superiors. Add to this, that he had been wounded in a duel, which had
arisen in the theatre, and it was deemed wrong that the king's
lieutenant, himself chief of police, should have committed a punishable
offence. As I have said, all this may have contributed to make him live
more retired, and here and there perhaps to act with less energy.

[Illustration: A woman spinning and another reading while a child plays

Meanwhile, a considerable part of the pictures he had ordered had been
delivered. Count Thorane passed his leisure hours in examining them;
while in the aforesaid gable-room he had them nailed up, canvas after
canvas, large and small, side by side, and, because there was want of
space, even one over another, and then taken down and rolled up. The
works were constantly inspected anew, the parts that were considered the
most successful were repeatedly enjoyed, but there was no want of wishes
that this or that had been differently done.

Hence arose a new and very singular operation. As one painter best
executed figures, another middle-grounds and distances, a third trees, a
fourth flowers, it struck the count that these talents might perhaps be
combined in the paintings, and that in this way perfect works might be
produced. A beginning was made at once, by having, for instance, some
beautiful cattle painted into a finished landscape. But because there
was not always adequate room for all, and a few sheep more or less was
no great matter to the cattle-painter, the largest landscape proved in
the end too narrow. Now also the painter of figures had to introduce the
shepherd and some travellers: these deprived each other of air, as we
may say; and we marvelled that they were not all stifled, even in the
most open country. No one could anticipate what was to come of the
matter, and when it was finished it gave no satisfaction. The painters
were annoyed. They had gained something by their first orders, but lost
by these after-labors; though the count paid for them also very
liberally. And, as the parts worked into each other in one picture by
several hands produced no good effect after all the trouble, every one
at last fancied that his own work had been spoiled and destroyed by that
of the others; hence the artists were within a hair's-breadth of falling
out, and becoming irreconcilably hostile to each other. These
alterations, or rather additions, were made in the before-mentioned
studio, where I remained quite alone with the artists; and it amused me
to hunt out from the studies, particularly of animals, this or that
individual or group, and to propose it for the foreground or the
distance, in which respect they many times, either from conviction or
kindness, complied with my wishes.

The partners in this affair were therefore greatly discouraged,
especially Seekatz, a very hypochondriacal, retired man, who, indeed, by
his incomparable humor, was the best of companions among friends, but
who, when he worked, desired to work alone, abstracted and perfectly
free. This man, after solving difficult problems, and finishing them
with the greatest diligence and the warmest love, of which he was always
capable, was forced to travel repeatedly from Darmstadt to Frankfort,
either to change something in his own pictures, or to touch up those of
others, or even to allow, under his superintendence, a third person to
convert his pictures into a variegated mess. His peevishness augmented,
his resistance became more decided, and a great deal of effort was
necessary on our part to guide this "gossip;" for he was one also,
according to the count's wishes. I still remember, that when the boxes
were standing ready to pack up all the pictures, in the order in which
the upholsterer might hang them up at once, at their place of
destination, a small but indispensable bit of afterwork was demanded;
but Seekatz could not be moved to come over. He had, by way of
conclusion, done the best he could, having represented, in paintings to
be placed over the doors, the four elements as children and boys, after
life, and having expended the greatest care, not only on the figures,
but on the accessories. These were delivered and paid for, and he
thought he was quit of the business forever; but now he was to come over
again, that he might enlarge, by a few touches of his pencil, some
figures, the size of which was too small. Another, he thought, could do
it just as well; he had already set about some new work; in short, he
would not come. The time for sending off the pictures was at hand; they
had, moreover, to get dry; every delay was untoward; and the count, in
despair, was about to have him fetched in military fashion. We all
wished to see the pictures finally gone, and found at last no expedient
than for the gossip interpreter to seat himself in a wagon, and fetch
over the refractory subject, with his wife and child. He was kindly
received by the count, well treated, and at last dismissed with liberal

After the pictures had been sent away, there was great peace in the
house. The gable-room in the attic was cleaned, and given up to me; and
my father, when he saw the boxes go, could not refrain from wishing to
send off the count after them. For much as the tastes of the count
coincided with his own, much as he must have rejoiced to see his
principle of patronizing living artists so generously followed out by a
man richer than himself, much as it may have flattered him that his
collection had been the occasion of bringing so considerable a profit to
a number of brave artists in a pressing time, he nevertheless felt such
a repugnance to the foreigner who had intruded into his house, that he
could not think well of any of his doings. One ought to employ painters,
but not degrade them to paper-stainers; one ought to be satisfied with
what they have done, according to their conviction and ability, even if
it does not thoroughly please one, and not be perpetually carping at it.
In short, in spite of all the count's own generous endeavors, there
could, once for all, be no mutual understanding. My father only visited
that room when the count was at table; and I can recall but one
instance, when, Seekatz having excelled himself, and the wish to see
these pictures having brought the whole house together, my father and
the count met, and manifested a common pleasure in these works of art,
which they could not take in each other.

Scarcely, therefore, had the house been cleared of the chests and boxes,
than the plan for removing the count, which had formerly been begun, but
was afterwards interrupted, was resumed. The endeavor was made to gain
justice by representations, equity by entreaties, favor by influence;
and the quarter-masters were prevailed upon to decide thus: the count
was to change his lodgings; and our house, in consideration of the
burden borne day and night for several years uninterruptedly, was to be
exempt for the future from billetting. But, to furnish a plausible
pretext for this, we were to take in lodgers on the first floor, which
the count had occupied, and thus render a new quartering, as it were,
impossible. The count, who, after the separation from his dear pictures,
felt no further peculiar interest in the house, and hoped, moreover, to
be soon recalled and placed elsewhere, was pleased to move without
opposition to another good residence, and left us in peace and good
will. Soon afterwards he quitted the city, and received different
appointments in gradation, but, it was rumored, not to his own
satisfaction. Meantime, he had the pleasure of seeing the pictures which
he had preserved with so much care felicitously arranged in his
brother's chateau: he wrote sometimes, sent dimensions, and had
different pieces executed by the artists so often named. At last we
heard nothing further about him, except after several years we were
assured that he had died as governor of one of the French colonies in
the West Indies.


However much inconvenience the quartering of the French had caused us,
we had become so accustomed to it, that we could not fail to miss it;
nor could we children fail to feel as if the house were deserted.
Moreover, it was not decreed that we should again attain perfect family
unity. New lodgers were already bespoken; and after some sweeping and
scouring, planing, and rubbing with beeswax, painting and varnishing,
the house was completely restored again. The chancery-director Moritz,
with his family, very worthy friends of my parents, moved in. He was not
a native of Frankfort, but an able jurist and man of business, and
managed the legal affairs of many small princes, counts, and lords. I
never saw him otherwise than cheerful and pleasant, and diligent with
his law-papers. His wife and children, gentle, quiet, and benevolent,
did not indeed increase the sociableness of our house; for they kept to
themselves: but a stillness, a peace, returned, which we had not enjoyed
for a long time. I now again occupied my attic-room, in which the ghosts
of the many pictures sometimes hovered before me; while I strove to
frighten them away by labor and study.

The counsellor of legation, Moritz, a brother of the chancellor, came
from this time often to our house. He was even more a man of the world,
had a handsome figure, while his manners were easy and agreeable. He
also managed the affairs of different persons of rank, and on occasions
of meetings of creditors and imperial commissions frequently came into
contact with my father. They had a high opinion of each other, and
commonly stood on the side of the creditors; though they were generally
obliged to perceive, much to their vexation, that a majority of the
agents on such occasions are usually gained over to the side of the

The counsellor of legation readily communicated his knowledge, was fond
of mathematics; and, as these did not occur in his present course of
life, he made himself a pleasure by helping me on in this branch of
study. I was thus enabled to finish my architectural sketches more
accurately than heretofore, and to profit more by the instruction of a
drawing-master, who now also occupied us an hour every day.

This good old man was indeed only half an artist. We were obliged to
draw and combine strokes, from which eyes and noses, lips and ears, nay,
at last, whole faces and heads, were to arise; but of natural or
artistic forms there was no thought. We were tormented a long while with
this /quid pro quo/ of the human figure; and when the so-called
Passions of Le Brun were given us to copy, it was supposed at last that
we had made great progress. But even these caricatures did not improve
us. Then we went off to landscapes, foliage, and all the things which in
ordinary instruction are practised without consistency or method.
Finally we dropped into close imitation and neatness of strokes, without
troubling ourselves about the merit or taste of the original.

In these endeavors our father led the way in an exemplary manner. He had
never drawn; but he was unwilling to remain behind, now that his
children pursued this art, and would give, even in his old age, an
example how they should proceed in their youth. He therefore copied
several heads of Piazetta, from his well-known sheets in small octavo,
with an English lead-pencil upon the finest Dutch paper. In these he not
only observed the greatest clearness of outline, but most accurately
imitated the hatching of the copperplate with a light hand--only too
slightly, as in his desire to avoid hardness he brought no keeping into
his sketches. Yet they were always soft and accurate. His unrelaxing and
untiring assiduity went so far, that he drew the whole considerable
collection number by number; while we children jumped from one head to
another, and chose only those that pleased us.

About this time the long-debated project, long under consideration, for
giving us lessons in music, was carried into effect; and the last
impulse to it certainly deserves mention. It was settled that we should
learn the harpsichord, but there was always a dispute about the choice
of a master. At last I went once accidentally into the room of one of my
companions, who was just taking his lesson on the harpsichord, and found
the teacher a most charming man: for each finger of the right and left
hand he had a nickname, by which he indicated in the merriest way when
it was to be used. The black and white keys were likewise symbolically
designated, and even the tones appeared under figurative names. Such a
motley company worked most pleasantly together. Fingering and time
seemed to become perfectly easy and obvious; and, while the scholar was
put into the best humor, every thing else succeeded beautifully.

Scarcely had I reached home, than I importuned my parents to set about
the matter in good earnest at last, and give us this incomparable man
for our master on the harpsichord. They hesitated, and made inquiries:
they indeed heard nothing bad of the teacher, but, at the same time,
nothing particularly good. Meanwhile, I had informed my sister of all
the droll names: we could hardly wait for the lesson, and succeeded in
having the man engaged.

The reading of the notes began first; but, as no jokes occurred here, we
comforted ourselves with the hope, that when we went to the harpsichord,
and the fingers were needed, the jocular method would commence. But
neither keys nor fingering seemed to afford opportunity for any
comparisons. Dry as the notes were, with their strokes on and between
the five lines, the black and white keys were no less so: and not a
syllable was heard, either of "thumbling," "pointerling," or "gold
finger;" while the countenance of the man remained as imperturbable
during his dry teaching as it had been before during his dry jests. My
sister reproached me most bitterly for having deceived her, and actually
believed that it was all an invention of mine. But I was myself
confounded and learned little, though the man at once went regularly
enough to work; for I kept always expecting that the former jokes would
make their appearance, and so consoled my sister from one day to
another. They did not re-appear, however; and I should never have been
able to explain the riddle if another accident had not solved it for me.

One of my companions came in during a lesson, and at once all the pipes
of the humorous /jet d'eau/ were opened: the "thumblings" and
"pointerlings," the "pickers" and "stealers," as he used to call the
fingers; the "falings" and "galings," meaning "f" and "g;" the
"fielings" and "gielings," meaning "f" and "g" sharp, [Footnote: The
names of the sharp notes in German terminate in "is," and hence "f" and
"g" sharp are called "fis" and "gis."]--became once more extant, and
made the most wonderful manikins. My young friend could not leave off
laughing, and was rejoiced that one could learn in such a merry manner.
He vowed that he would give his parents no peace until they had given
him such an excellent man for a teacher.

And thus the way to two arts was early enough opened to me, according to
the principles of a modern theory of education, merely by good luck, and
without any conviction that I should be furthered therein by a native
talent. My father maintained that everybody ought to learn drawing; for
which reason he especially venerated the Emperor Maximilian, by whom
this had been expressly commanded. He therefore held me to it more
steadily than to music; which, on the other hand, he especially
recommended to my sister, and even out of the hours for lessons kept her
fast, during a good part of the day, at her harpsichord.

But the more I was in this way made to press on, the more I wished to
press forward of myself; and my hours of leisure were employed in all
sorts of curious occupations. From my earliest years I felt a love for
the investigation of natural things. It is often regarded as an instinct
of cruelty that children like at last to break, tear, and devour objects
with which for a long time they have played, and which they have handled
in various manners. Yet even in this way is manifested the curiosity,
the desire of learning how such things hang together, how they look
within. I remember, that, when a child, I pulled flowers to pieces to
see how the leaves were inserted into the calyx, or even plucked birds
to observe how the feathers were inserted into the wings. Children are
not to be blamed for this, when even our naturalists believe they get
their knowledge oftener by separation and division than by union and
combination,--more by killing than by making alive.

An armed loadstone, very neatly sewed up in scarlet cloth, was one day
destined to experience the effects of this spirit of inquiry. For the
secret force of attraction which it exercised, not only on the little
iron bar attached to it, but which was of such a kind that it could gain
strength and could daily bear a heavier weight,--this mysterious virtue
had so excited my admiration, that for a long time I was pleased with
merely staring at its operation. But at last I thought I might arrive at
some nearer revelation by tearing away the external covering. This was
done; but I became no wiser in consequence, as the naked iron taught me
nothing further. This also I took off; and I held in my hand the mere
stone, with which I never grew weary of making experiments of various
kinds on filings and needles,--experiments from which my youthful mind
drew no further advantage beyond that of a varied experience. I could
not manage to reconstruct the whole arrangement: the parts were
scattered, and I lost the wondrous phenomenon at the same time with the

Nor was I more fortunate in putting together an electrical machine. A
friend of the family, whose youth had fallen in the time when
electricity occupied all minds, often told us how, when a child, he had
desired to possess such a machine: he got together the principal
requisites, and, by the aid of an old spinning-wheel and some medicine
bottles, had produced tolerable results. As he readily and frequently
repeated the story, and imparted to us some general information on
electricity, we children found the thing very plausible, and long
tormented ourselves with an old spinning-wheel and some medicine
bottles, without producing even the smallest result. We nevertheless
adhered to our belief, and were much delighted, when at the time of the
fair, among other rarities, magical and legerdemain tricks, an
electrical machine performed its marvels, which, like those of
magnetism, were at that time already very numerous.

The want of confidence in the public method of instruction was daily
increasing. People looked about for private tutors; and, because single
families could not afford the expense, several of them united to attain
their object. Yet the children seldom agreed; the young man had not
sufficient authority; and, after frequently repeated vexations, there
were only angry partings. It is not surprising, therefore, that other
arrangements were thought of which should be more permanent as well as
more advantageous.

The thought of establishing boarding-schools (/Pensionen/) had
arisen from the necessity, which every one felt, of having the French
language taught and communicated orally. My father had brought up a
young person, who had been his footman, valet, secretary, and in short
successively all in all. This man, whose name was Pfeil, spoke French
well. After he had married, and his patrons had to think of a situation
for him, they hit upon the plan of making him establish a boarding-
school, which extended gradually into a small academy, in which every
thing necessary, and at last even Greek and Latin, were taught. The
extensive connections of Frankfort caused young French and English men
to be brought to this establishment, that they might learn German and
acquire other accomplishments. Pfeil, who was a man in the prime of
life, and of the most wonderful energy and activity, superintended the
whole very laudably; and as he could never be employed enough, and was
obliged to keep music-teachers for his scholars, he set about music on
the occasion, and practised the harpsichord with such zeal, that,
without having previously touched a note, he very soon played with
perfect readiness and spirit. He seemed to have adopted my father's
maxim, that nothing can more cheer and excite young people, than when at
mature years one declares one's self again a learner; and at an age when
new accomplishments are acquired with difficulty, one endeavors,
nevertheless, by zeal and perseverance, to excel the younger, who are
more favored by nature.

By this love of playing the harpsichord, Pfeil was led to the
instruments themselves, and, while he hoped to obtain the best, came
into connection with Frederici of Gera, whose instruments were
celebrated far and wide. He took a number of them on sale, and had now
the joy of seeing, not only one piano, but many, set up in his
residence, and of practising and being heard upon them.

The vivacity of this man brought a great rage for music into our house.
My father remained on lasting good terms with him up to certain points
of dispute. A large piano of Frederici was purchased also for us, which
I, adhering to my harpsichord, hardly touched; but which so much
increased my sister's troubles, as, to duly honor the new instrument,
she had to spend some time longer every day in practice; while my
father, as overseer, and Pfeil, as a model and encouraging friend,
alternately took their positions at her side.

A singular taste of my father's caused much inconvenience to us
children. This was the cultivation of silk, of the advantages of which,
if it were more widely extended, he had a high opinion. Some
acquaintances at Hanau, where the breeding of the worms was carried on
with great care, gave him the immediate impulse. At the proper season,
the eggs were sent to him from that place: and, as soon as the mulberry-
trees showed sufficient leaves, they had to be stripped; and the
scarcely visible creatures were most diligently tended. Tables and
stands with boards were set up in a garret-chamber, to afford them more
room and sustenance; for they grew rapidly, and, after their last change
of skin, were so voracious that it was scarcely possible to get leaves
enough to feed them,--nay, they had to be fed day and night, as every
thing depends upon there being no deficiency of nourishment when the
great and wondrous change is about to take place in them. When the
weather was favorable, this business could indeed be regarded as a
pleasant amusement; but, if the cold set in so that the mulberry-trees
suffered, it was exceedingly troublesome. Still more unpleasant was it
when rain fell during the last epoch; for these creatures cannot at all
endure moisture, and the wet leaves had to be carefully wiped and dried,
which could not always be done quite perfectly: and for this, or perhaps
some other reason also, various diseases came among the flock, by which
the poor things were swept off in thousands. The state of corruption
which ensued produced a smell really pestilential; and, because the dead
and diseased had to be taken away and separated from the healthy, the
business was indeed extremely wearisome and repulsive, and caused many
an unhappy hour to us children.

After we had one year passed the finest weeks of the spring and summer
in tending the silk-worms, we were obliged to assist our father in
another business, which, though simpler, was no less troublesome. The
Roman views, which, bound by black rods at the top and bottom, had hung
for many years on the walls of the old house, had become very yellow
through the light, dust, and smoke, and not a little unsightly through
the flies. If such uncleanliness was not to be tolerated in the new
house, yet, on the other hand, these pictures had gained in value to my
father, in consequence of his longer absence from the places
represented. For at the outset such copies serve only to renew and
revive the impressions received shortly before. They seem trifling in
comparison, and at the best only a melancholy substitute. But, as the
remembrance of the original forms fades more and more, the copies
imperceptibly assume their place: they become as dear to us as those
once were, and what we at first contemned now gains esteem and
affection. Thus it is with all copies, and particularly with portraits.
No one is easily satisfied with the counterfeit of an object still
present, but how we value every /silhouette/ of one who is absent
or departed.

In short, with this feeling of his former extravagance, my father wished
that these engravings might be restored as much as possible. It was well
known that this could be done by bleaching: and the operation, always
critical with large plates, was undertaken under rather unfavorable
circumstances; for the large boards, on which the smoked engravings were
moistened and exposed to the sun, stood in the gutters before the garret
windows, leaning against the roof, and were therefore liable to many
accidents. The chief point was, that the paper should never thoroughly
dry, but must be kept constantly moist. This was the duty of my sister
and myself; and the idleness, which would have been otherwise so
desirable, was excessively annoying on account of the tedium and
impatience, and the watchfulness which allowed of no distraction. The
end, however, was attained; and the bookbinder, who fixed each sheet
upon thick paper, did his best to match and repair the margins, which
had been here and there torn by our inadvertence. All the sheets
together were bound in a volume, and for this time preserved.

That we children might not be wanting in every variety of life and
learning, a teacher of the English language had to announce himself just
at this time, who pledged himself to teach anybody not entirely raw in
languages, English in four weeks, and to advance him to such a degree,
that, with some diligence, he could help himself farther. His price was
moderate, and he was indifferent as to the number of scholars at one
lesson. My father instantly determined to make the attempt, and took
lessons, together with my sister and myself, of this expeditious master.
The hours were faithfully kept; there was no want of repeating our
lessons; other exercises were neglected rather than this during the four
weeks; and the teacher parted from us, and we from him, with
satisfaction. As he remained longer in the town, and found many
employers, he came from time to time to look after us and to help us,
grateful that we had been among the first who placed confidence in him,
and proud to be able to cite us as examples to the others.

My father, in consequence of this, entertained a new anxiety, that
English might neatly stand in the series of my other studies in
languages. Now, I will confess that it became more and more burdensome
for me to take my occasions for study now from this grammar or
collection of examples, now from that; now from one author, now from
another,--and thus to divert my interest in a subject every hour. It
occurred to me, therefore, that I might despatch all at the same time;
and I invented a romance of six or seven brothers and sisters, who,
separated from each other and scattered over the world, should
communicate with each other alternately as to their conditions and
feelings. The eldest brother gives an account, in good German, of all
the manifold objects and incidents of his journey. The sister, in a
ladylike style, with short sentences and nothing but stops, much as
"Siegwart" was afterwards written, answers now him, now the other
brothers, partly about domestic matters, and partly about affairs of the
heart. One brother studies theology, and writes a very formal Latin, to
which he often adds a Greek postscript. To another brother, holding the
place of mercantile clerk at Hamburg, the English correspondence
naturally falls; while a still younger one at Marseilles has the French.
For the Italian was found a musician, on his first trip into the world;
while the youngest of all, a sort of pert nestling, had applied himself
to Jew-German,--the other languages having been cut off from him,--and,
by means of his frightful ciphers, brought the rest of them into
despair, and my parents into a hearty laugh at the good notion.

To obtain matter for filling up this singular form, I studied the
geography of the countries in which my creations resided, and by
inventing for those dry localities all sorts of human incidents which
had some affinity with the characters and employments of my heroes. Thus
my exercise-books became much more voluminous, my father was better
satisfied, and I was much sooner made aware of my deficiency in both
what I had acquired and possessed of my own.

Now, as such things, once begun, have no end nor limits, so it happened
in the present case; for while I strove to attain the odd Jew-German,
and to write it as well as I could read it, I soon discovered that I
ought to know Hebrew, from which alone the modern corrupted dialect
could be derived, and handled with any certainty. I consequently
explained the necessity of my learning Hebrew to my father, and
earnestly besought his consent; for I had a still higher object.
Everywhere I heard it said, that, to understand the Old as well as the
New Testament, the original languages were requisite. The latter I could
read quite easily; because, that there might be no want of exercise,
even on Sundays, the so-called Epistles and Gospels had, after church,
to be recited, translated, and in some measure explained. I now purposed
doing the same thing with the Old Testament, the peculiarities of which
had always especially interested me.

My father, who did not like to do any thing by halves, determined to
request the rector of our gymnasium, one Dr. Albrecht, to give me
private lessons weekly, until I should have acquired what was most
essential in so simple a language; for he hoped, that, if it would not
be despatched as soon as English was learned, it could at least be
managed in double the time.

Rector Albrecht was one of the most original figures in the world,--
short, broad, but not fat, ill-shaped without being deformed; in short,
an Aesop in gown and wig. His more than seventy-years-old face was
completely twisted into a sarcastic smile; while his eyes always
remained large, and, though red, were always brilliant and intelligent.
He lived in the old cloister of the barefoot friars, the seat of the
gymnasium. Even as a child, I had often visited him in company with my
parents, and had, with a kind of trembling delight, glided through the
long, dark passages, the chapels transformed into reception-rooms, the
place broken up and full of stairs and corners. Without making me
uncomfortable, he questioned me familiarly whenever we met, and praised
and encouraged me. One day, on the changing of the pupils' places after
a public examination, he saw me standing, as a mere spectator, not far
from his chair, while he distributed the silver /proemia virtulis et
diligentioe/. I was probably gazing very eagerly upon the little bag
out of which he drew the medals: he nodded to me, descended a step, and
handed me one of the silver pieces. My joy was great; although others
thought that this gift, bestowed upon a boy not belonging to the school,
was out of all order. But for this the good old man cared but little,
having always played the eccentric, and that in a striking manner. He
had a very good reputation as a schoolmaster, and understood his
business; although age no more allowed him to practise it thoroughly.
But almost more than by his own infirmities was he hindered by greater
circumstances; and, as I already knew, he was satisfied neither with the
consistory, the inspectors, the clergy, nor the teachers. To his natural
temperament, which inclined to satire, and the watching for faults and
defects, he allowed free play, both in his programmes and his public
speeches; and, as Lucian was almost the only writer whom he read and
esteemed, he spiced all that he said and wrote with biting ingredients.
Fortunately for those with whom he was dissatisfied, he never went
directly to work, but only jeered at the defects which he wanted to
reprove, with hints, allusions, classic passages, and scripture-texts.
His delivery, moreover,--he always read his discourses,--was unpleasant,
unintelligible, and, above all, was often interrupted by a cough, but
more frequently by a hollow, paunch-convulsing laugh, with which he was
wont to announce and accompany the biting passages. This singular man I
found to be mild and obliging when I began to take lessons of him. I now
went to his house daily at six o'clock in the evening, and always
experienced a secret pleasure when the outer door closed behind me, and
I had to thread the long, dark cloister-passage. We sat in his library,
at a table covered with oil-cloth, a much-read Lucian never quitting his

In spite of all my willingness, I did not get at the matter without
difficulty; for my teacher could not suppress certain sarcastic remarks
as to the real truth about Hebrew. I concealed from him my designs upon
Jew-German, and spoke of a better understanding of the original text. He
smiled at this, and said I should be satisfied if I only learned to
read. This vexed me in secret, and I concentrated all my attention when
we came to the letters. I found an alphabet something like the Greek, of
which the forms were easy, and the names, for the most part, not strange
to me. All this I had soon comprehended and retained, and supposed we
should now take up reading. That this was done from right to left I was
well aware. But now all at once appeared a new army of little characters
and signs, of points and strokes of all sorts, which were in fact to
represent vowels. At this I wondered the more, as there were manifestly
vowels in the larger alphabet; and the others only appeared to be hidden
under strange appellations. I was also taught that the Jewish nation, as
long as it flourished, actually were satisfied with the former signs,
and knew no other way of writing and reading. Most willingly, then,
would I have gone on along this ancient and, as it seemed to me, easier
path; but my worthy declared rather sternly that we must go by the
grammar as it had been approved and composed. Reading without these
points and strokes, he said, was a very hard undertaking, and could be
accomplished only by the learned and those who were well practised. I
must, therefore, make up my mind to learn these little characters; but
the matter became to me more and more confused. Now, it seemed, some of
the first and larger primitive letters had no value in their places, in
order that their little after-born kindred might not stand there in
vain. Now they indicated a gentle breathing, now a guttural more or less
rough, and now served as mere equivalents. But finally, when one fancied
that he had well noted every thing, some of these personages, both great
and small, were rendered inoperative; so that the eyes always had very
much, and the lips very little, to do.

As that of which I already knew the contents had now to be stuttered in
a strange gibberish, in which a certain snuffle and gargle were not a
little commended as something unattainable, I in a certain degree
deviated from the matter, and diverted myself, in a childish way, with
the singular names of these accumulated signs. There were "emperors,"
"kings," and "dukes," [Footnote: These are the technical names for
classes of accents in the Hebrew grammar.--TRANS.] which, as accents
governing here and there, gave me not a little entertainment. But even
these shallow jests soon lost their charm. Nevertheless I was
indemnified, inasmuch as by reading, translating, repeating, and
committing to memory, the substance of the book came out more vividly;
and it was this, properly, about which I desired to be enlightened. Even
before this time, the contradiction between tradition, and the actual
and possible, had appeared to me very striking; and I had often put my
private tutors to a non-plus with the sun which stood still on Gibeon,
and the moon in the vale of Ajalon, to say nothing of other
improbabilities and incongruities. Every thing of this kind was now
awakened; while, in order to master the Hebrew, I occupied myself
exclusively with the Old Testament, and studied it, though no longer in
Luther's translation, but in the literal version of Sebastian Schmid,
printed under the text, which my father had procured for me. Here, I am
sorry to say, our lessons began to be defective in regard to practice in
the language. Reading, interpreting, grammar, transcribing, and the
repetition of words, seldom lasted a full half-hour; for I immediately
began to aim at the sense of the matter, and, though we were still
engaged in the first book of Moses, to utter several things suggested to
me by the later books. At first the good old man tried to restrain me
from such digressions, but at last they seemed to entertain him also. It
was impossible for him to suppress his characteristic cough and chuckle:
and, although he carefully avoided giving me any information that might
have compromised himself, my importunity was not relaxed; nay, as I
cared more to set forth my doubts than to learn their solution, I grew
constantly more vivacious and bold, seeming justified by his deportment.
Yet I could get nothing out of him, except that ever and anon he would
exclaim with his peculiar, shaking laugh, "Ah! mad fellow! ah! mad boy!"

Still, my childish vivacity, which scrutinized the Bible on all sides,
may have seemed to him tolerably serious and worthy of some assistance.
He therefore referred me, after a time, to the large English biblical
work which stood in his library, and in which the interpretation of
difficult and doubtful passages was attempted in an intelligent and
judicious manner. By the great labors of German divines the translation
had obtained advantages over the original. The different opinions were
cited; and at last a kind of reconciliation was attempted, so that the
dignity of the book, the ground of religion, and the human
understanding, might in some degree co-exist. Now, as often as towards
the end of the lesson I came out with my usual questions and doubts, so
often did he point to the repository. I took the volume, he let me read,
turned over his Lucian; and, when I made any remarks on the book, his
ordinary laugh was the only answer to my sagacity. In the long summer
days he let me sit as long as I could read, many times alone; after a
time he suffered me to take one volume after another home with me.

Man may turn which way he please, and undertake any thing whatsoever, he
will always return to the path which nature has once prescribed for him.
Thus it happened also with me in the present case. The trouble I took
with the language, with the contents of the Sacred Scriptures
themselves, ended at last in producing in my imagination a livelier
picture of that beautiful and famous land, its environs and its
vicinities, as well as of the people and events by which that little
spot of earth was made glorious for thousands of years.

This small space was to see the origin and growth of the human race;
thence we were to derive our first and only accounts of primitive
history; and such a locality was to lie before our imagination, no less
simple and comprehensible than varied, and adapted to the most wonderful
migrations and settlements. Here, between four designated rivers, a
small, delightful spot was separated from the whole habitable earth, for
youthful man. Here he was to unfold his first capacities, and here at
the same time was the lot to befall him, which was appointed for all his
posterity; namely, that of losing peace by striving after knowledge.
Paradise was trifled away; men increased and grew worse; and the Elohim,
not yet accustomed to the wickedness of the new race, became impatient,
and utterly destroyed it. Only a few were saved from the universal
deluge; and scarcely had this dreadful flood ceased, than the well-known
ancestral soil lay once more before the grateful eyes of the preserved.

Two rivers out of four, the Euphrates and Tigris, still flowed in their
beds. The name of the first remained: the other seemed to be pointed out
by its course. Minuter traces of paradise were not to be looked for
after so great a revolution. The renewed race of man went forth hence a
second time: it found occasion to sustain and employ itself in all sorts
of ways, but chiefly to gather around it large herds of tame animals,
and to wander with them in every direction.

This mode of life, as well as the increase of the families, soon
compelled the people to disperse. They could not at once resolve to let
their relatives and friends go forever: they hit upon the thought of
building a lofty tower, which should show them the way back from the far
distance. But this attempt, like their first endeavor, miscarried. They
could not be at the same time happy and wise, numerous and united. The
Elohim confounded their minds; the building remained unfinished; the men
were dispersed; the world was peopled, but sundered.

But our regards, our interests, continue fixed on these regions. At last
the founder of a race again goes forth from hence, and is so fortunate
as to stamp a distinct character upon his descendants, and by that means
to unite them for all time to come into a great nation, inseparable
through all changes of place or destiny.

From the Euphrates, Abraham, not without divine guidance, wanders
towards the west. The desert opposes no invincible barrier to his march.
He attains the Jordan, passes over its waters, and spreads himself over
the fair southern regions of Palestine. This land was already occupied,
and tolerably well inhabited. Mountains, not extremely high, but rocky
and barren, were severed by many watered vales favorable to cultivation.
Towns, villages, and solitary settlements lay scattered over the plain,
and on the slopes of the great valley, the waters of which are collected
in Jordan. Thus inhabited, thus tilled, was the land: but the world was
still large enough; and the men were not so circumspect, necessitous,
and active, as to usurp at once the whole adjacent country. Between
their possessions were extended large spaces, in which grazing herds
could freely move in every direction. In one of these spaces Abraham
resides; his brother Lot is near him: but they cannot long remain in
such places. The very condition of a land, the population of which is
now increasing, now decreasing, and the productions of which are never
kept in equilibrium with the wants, produces unexpectedly a famine; and
the stranger suffers alike with the native, whose own support he has
rendered difficult by his accidental presence. The two Chaldean brothers
move onward to Egypt; and thus is traced out for us the theatre on
which, for some thousands of years, the most important events of the
world were to be enacted. From the Tigris to the Euphrates, from the
Euphrates to the Nile, we see the earth peopled; and this space also is
traversed by a well-known, heaven-beloved man, who has already become
worthy to us, moving to and fro with his goods and cattle, and, in a
short time, abundantly increasing them. The brothers return; but, taught
by the distress they have endured, they determine to part. Both, indeed,
tarry in Southern Canaan; but while Abraham remains at Hebron, near the
wood of Mamre, Lot departs for the valley of Siddim, which, if our
imagination is bold enough to give Jordan a subterranean outlet, so
that, in place of the present Dead Sea, we should have dry ground, can
and must appear like a second Paradise,--a conjecture all the more
probable, because the residents about there, notorious for effeminacy
and wickedness, lead us to infer that they led an easy and luxurious
life. Lot lives among them, but apart.

But Hebron and the wood of Mamre appear to us as the important place
where the Lord speaks with Abraham, and promises him all the land as far
as his eye can reach in four directions. From these quiet districts,
from these shepherd-tribes, who can associate with celestials, entertain
them as guests, and hold many conversations with them, we are compelled
to turn our glance once more towards the East, and to think of the
condition of the surrounding world, which, on the whole, perhaps, may
have been like that of Canaan.

Families hold together: they unite, and the mode of life of the tribes
is determined by the locality which they have appropriated or
appropriate. On the mountains which send down their waters to the
Tigris, we find warlike populations, who even thus early foreshadow
those world-conquerors and world-rulers, and in a campaign, prodigious
for those times, give us a prelude of future achievements. Chedor
Laomer, king of Elam, has already a mighty influence over his allies. He
reigns a long while; for twelve years before Abraham's arrival in
Canaan, he had made all the people tributary to him as far as the
Jordan. They revolted at last, and the allies equipped for war. We find
them unawares upon a route by which, probably, Abraham also reached
Canaan. The people on the left and lower side of the Jordan were
subdued. Chedor Laomer directs his march southwards towards the people
of the Desert; then, wending north, he smites the Amalekites; and, when
he has also overcome the Amorites, he reaches Canaan, falls upon the
kings of the valley of Siddim, smites and scatters them, and marches
with great spoil up the Jordan, in order to extend his conquests as far
as Lebanon.

Among the captives, despoiled, and dragged along with their property, is
Lot, who shares the fate of the country in which he lives a guest.
Abraham learns this, and here at once we behold the patriarch a warrior
and hero. He hurriedly gathers his servants, divides them into troops,
attacks and falls upon the luggage of booty, confuses the victors, who
could not suspect another enemy in the rear, and brings back his brother
and his goods, with a great deal more belonging to the conquered kings.
Abraham, by means of this brief contest, acquires, as it were, the whole
land. To the inhabitants he appears as a protector, savior, and, by his
disinterestedness, a king. Gratefully the kings of the valley receive
him; Melchisedek, the king and priest, with blessings.

Now the prophecies of an endless posterity are renewed; nay, they take a
wider and wider scope. From the waters of the Euphrates to the river of
Egypt all the lands are promised him, but yet there seems a difficulty
with respect to his next heirs. He is eighty years of age, and has no
son. Sarai, less trusting in the heavenly powers than he, becomes
impatient: she desires, after the Oriental fashion, to have a
descendant, by means of her maid. But no sooner is Hagar given up to the
master of the house, no sooner is there hope of a son, than dissensions
arise. The wife treats her own dependant ill enough, and Hagar flies to
seek a happier position among other tribes. She returns, not without a
higher intimation, and Ishmael is born.

Abraham is now ninety-nine years old, and the promises of a numerous
posterity are constantly repeated: so that, in the end, the pair regard
them as ridiculous. And yet Sarai becomes at last pregnant, and brings
forth a son, to whom the name of Isaac is given.

History, for the most part, rests upon the legitimate propagation of the
human race. The most important events of the world require to be traced
to the secrets of families, and thus the marriages of the patriarchs
give occasion for peculiar considerations. It is as if the Divinity, who
loves to guide the destiny of mankind, wished to prefigure here
connubial events of every kind. Abraham, so long united by childless
marriage to a beautiful woman whom many coveted, finds himself, in his
hundredth year, the husband of two women, the father of two sons; and at
this moment his domestic peace is broken. Two women, and two sons by
different mothers, cannot possibly agree. The party less favored by law,
usage, and opinion must yield. Abraham must sacrifice his attachment to
Hagar and Ishmael. Both are dismissed; and Hagar is compelled now,
against her will, to go upon a road which she once took in voluntary
flight, at first, it seems, to the destruction of herself and child; but
the angel of the Lord, who had before sent her back, now rescues her
again, that Ishmael also may become a great people, and that the most
improbable of all promises may be fulfilled beyond its limits.

Two parents in advanced years, and one son of their old age--here, at
last, one might expect domestic quiet and earthly happiness. By no
means. Heaven is yet preparing the heaviest trial for the patriarch. But
of this we cannot speak without premising several considerations.

If a natural universal religion was to arise, and a special revealed one
to be developed from it, the countries in which our imagination has
hitherto lingered, the mode of life, the race of men, were the fittest
for the purpose. At least, we do not find in the whole world any thing
equally favorable and encouraging. Even to natural religion, if we
assume that it arose earlier in the human mind, there pertains much of
delicacy of sentiment; for it rests upon the conviction of an universal
providence, which conducts the order of the world as a whole. A
particular religion, revealed by Heaven to this or that people, carries
with it the belief in a special providence, which the Divine Being
vouchsafes to certain favored men, families, races, and people. This
faith seems to develop itself with difficulty from man's inward nature.
It requires tradition, usage, and the warrant of a primitive time.

Beautiful is it, therefore, that the Israelitish tradition represents
the very first men who confide in this particular providence as heroes
of faith, following all the commands of that high Being on whom they
acknowledge themselves dependent, just as blindly as, undisturbed by
doubts, they are unwearied in awaiting the later fulfilments of his

As a particular revealed religion rests upon the idea that one man may
be more favored by Heaven than another, so it also arises pre-eminently
from the separation of classes. The first men appeared closely allied,
but their employments soon divided them. The hunter was the freest of
all: from him was developed the warrior and the ruler. Those who tilled
the field bound themselves to the soil, erected dwellings and barns to
preserve what they had gained, and could estimate themselves pretty
highly, because their condition promised durability and security. The
herdsman in his position seemed to have acquired the most unbounded
condition and unlimited property. The increase of herds proceeded
without end, and the space which was to support them widened itself on
all sides. These three classes seemed from the very first to have
regarded each other with dislike and contempt; and as the herdsman was
an abomination to the townsman, so did he in turn separate from the
other. The hunters vanish from our sight among the hills, and reappear
only as conquerors.

The patriarchs belonged to the shepherd class. Their manner of life upon
the ocean of deserts and pastures gave breadth and freedom to their
minds; the vault of heaven, under which they dwelt, with all its nightly
stars, elevated their feelings; and they, more than the active, skilful
huntsman, or the secure, careful, householding husbandman, had need of
the immovable faith that a God walked beside them, visited them, cared
for them, guided and saved them.

We are compelled to make another reflection in passing to the rest of
the history. Humane, beautiful, and cheering as the religion of the
patriarchs appears, yet traits of savageness and cruelty run through it,
out of which man may emerge, or into which he may again be sunk.

That hatred should seek to appease itself by the blood, by the death, of
the conquered enemy, is natural; that men concluded a peace upon the
battle-field among the ranks of the slain may easily be conceived; that
they should in like manner think to give validity to a contract by slain
animals, follows from the preceding. The notion also that slain
creatures could attract, propitiate, and gain over the gods, whom they
always looked upon as partisans, either opponents or allies, is likewise
not at all surprising. But if we confine our attention to the
sacrifices, and consider the way in which they were offered in that
primitive time, we find a singular, and, to our notions, altogether
repugnant, custom, probably derived from the usages of war; viz., that
the sacrificed animals of every kind, and whatever number was devoted,
had to be hewn in two halves, and laid out on two sides: so that in the
space between them were those who wished to make a covenant with the

Another dreadful feature wonderfully and portentously pervades that fair
world; namely, that whatever had been consecrated or vowed must die.
This also was probably a usage of war transferred to peace. The
inhabitants of a city which forcibly defends itself are threatened with
such a vow: it is taken by storm or otherwise. Nothing is left alive;
men never: and often women, children, and even cattle, share a similar
fate. Such sacrifices are rashly and superstitiously and with more or
less distinctness promised to the gods; and those whom the votary would
willingly spare, even his nearest of kin, his own children, may thus
bleed, the expiatory victims of such a delusion.

In the mild and truly patriarchal character of Abraham, such a savage
kind of worship could not arise; but the Godhead, [Footnote: It should
be observed, that in this biblical narrative, when we have used the
expressions, "Deity," "Godhead," or "Divinity," Goethe generally has
"die Gtter," or "the Gods."--TRANS.] which often, to tempt us, seems to
put forth those qualities which man is inclined to assign to it, imposes
a monstrous task upon him. He must offer up his son as a pledge of the
new covenant, and, if he follows the usage, not only kill and burn him,
but cut him in two, and await between the smoking entrails a new promise
from the benignant Deity. Abraham, blindly and without lingering,
prepares to execute the command: to Heaven the will is sufficient.
Abraham's trials are now at an end, for they could not be carried
farther. But Sarai dies, and this gives Abraham an opportunity for
taking typical possession of the land of Canaan. He requires a grave,
and this is the first time he looks out for a possession in this earth.
He had before this probably sought out a twofold cave by the grove of
Mamre. This he purchases, with the adjacent field; and the legal form
which he observes on the occasion shows how important this possession is
to him. Indeed, it was more so, perhaps, than he himself supposed: for
there he, his sons and his grandsons, were to rest; and by this means
the proximate title to the whole land, as well as the everlasting desire
of his posterity to gather themselves there, was most properly grounded.

From this time forth the manifold incidents of the family life become
varied. Abraham still keeps strictly apart from the inhabitants; and
though Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian woman, has married a daughter of
that land, Isaac is obliged to wed a kinswoman of equal birth with

Abraham despatches his servant to Mesopotamia, to the relatives whom he
had left behind there. The prudent Eleazer arrives unknown, and, in
order to take home the right bride, tries the readiness to serve of the
girls at the well. He asks to be permitted to drink; and Rebecca,
unasked, waters his camels also. He gives her presents, he demands her
in marriage, and his suit is not rejected. He conducts her to the home
of his lord, and she is wedded to Isaac. In this case, too, issue has to
be long expected. Rebecca is not blessed until after some years of
probation; and the same discord, which, in Abraham's double marriage,
arose through two mothers, here proceeds from one. Two boys of opposite
characters wrestle already in their mother's womb. They come to light,
the elder lively and vigorous, the younger gentle and prudent. The
former becomes the father's, the latter the mother's, favorite. The
strife for precedence, which begins even at birth, is ever going on.
Esau is quiet and indifferent as to the birthright which fate has given
him: Jacob never forgets that his brother forced him back. Watching
every opportunity of gaining the desirable privilege, he buys the
birthright of his brother, and defrauds him of their father's blessing.
Esau is indignant, and vows his brother's death: Jacob flees to seek his
fortune in the land of his forefathers.

Now, for the first time, in so noble a family appears a member who has
no scruple in attaining by prudence and cunning the advantages which
nature and circumstances have denied him. It has often enough been
remarked and expressed, that the Sacred Scriptures by no means intend to
set up any of the patriarchs and other divinely favored men as models of
virtue. They, too, are persons of the most different characters, with
many defects and failings. But there is one leading trait, in which none
of these men after God's own heart can be wanting: that is, unshaken
faith that God has them and their families in his special keeping.

General, natural religion, properly speaking, requires no faith; for the
persuasion that a great producing, regulating, and conducting Being
conceals himself, as it were, behind Nature, to make himself
comprehensible to us--such a conviction forces itself upon every one.
Nay, if we for a moment let drop this thread, which conducts us through
life, it may be immediately and everywhere resumed. But it is different
with a special religion, which announces to us that this Great Being
distinctly and pre-eminently interests himself for one individual, one
family, one people, one country. This religion is founded on faith,
which must be immovable if it would not be instantly destroyed. Every
doubt of such a religion is fatal to it. One may return to conviction,
but not to faith. Hence the endless probation, the delay in the
fulfilment of so often repeated promises, by which the capacity for
faith in those ancestors is set in the clearest light.

It is in this faith also that Jacob begins his expedition; and if, by
his craft and deceit, he has not gained our affections, he wins them by
his lasting and inviolable love for Rachel, whom he himself wooes on the
instant, as Eleazar had courted Rebecca for his father. In him the
promise of a countless people was first to be fully unfolded: he was to
see many sons around him, but through them and their mothers was to
endure manifold sorrows of heart.

Seven years he serves for his beloved, without impatience and without
wavering. His father-in-law, crafty like himself, and disposed, like
him, to consider legitimate this means to an end, deceives him, and so
repays him for what he has done to his brother. Jacob finds in his arms
a wife whom he does not love. Laban, indeed, endeavors to appease him,
by giving him his beloved also after a short time, and this but on the
condition of seven years of further service. Vexation arises out of
vexation. The wife he does not love is fruitful: the beloved one bears
no children. The latter, like Sarai, desires to become a mother through
her handmaiden: the former grudges her even this advantage. She also
presents her husband with a maid, but the good patriarch is now the most
troubled man in the world. He has four women, children by three, and
none from her he loves. Finally she also is favored; and Joseph comes
into the world, the late fruit of the most passionate attachment.
Jacob's fourteen years of service are over; but Laban is unwilling to
part with him, his chief and most trusty servant. They enter into a new
compact, and portion the flocks between them. Laban retains the white
ones, as most numerous: Jacob has to put up with the spotted ones, as
the mere refuse. But he is able here, too, to secure his own advantage:
and as by a paltry mess (/of pottage/) he had procured the
birthright, and, by a disguise, his father's blessing, he manages by art
and sympathy to appropriate to himself the best and largest part of the
herds; and on this side also he becomes the truly worthy progenitor of
the people of Israel, and a model for his descendants. Laban and his
household remark the result, if not the stratagem. Vexation ensues:
Jacob flees with his family and goods, and partly by fortune, partly by
cunning, escapes the pursuit of Laban. Rachel is now about to present
him another son, but dies in the travail; Benjamin, the child of sorrow,
survives her; but the aged father is to experience a still greater
sorrow from the apparent loss of his son Joseph.

Perhaps some one may ask why I have so circumstantially narrated
histories so universally known, and so often repeated and explained. Let
the inquirer be satisfied with the answer, that I could in no other way
exhibit how, with my life full of diversion, and with my desultory
education, I concentrated my mind and feelings in quiet action on one
point; that I was able in no other way to depict the peace that
prevailed about me, even when all without was so wild and strange. When
an ever busy imagination, of which that tale may bear witness, led me
hither and thither; when the medley of fable and history, mythology and
religion, threatened to bewilder me,--I liked to take refuge in those
Oriental regions, to plunge into the first books of Moses, and to find
myself there, amid the scattered shepherd-tribes, at the same time in
the greatest solitude and the greatest society.

These family scenes, before they were to lose themselves in a history of
the Jewish nation, show us now, in conclusion, a form by which the hopes
and fancies of the young in particular are agreeably excited,--Joseph,
the child of the most passionate wedded love. He seems to us tranquil
and clear, and predicts to himself the advantages which are to elevate
him above his family. Cast into misfortune by his brothers, he remains
steadfast and upright in slavery, resists the most dangerous
temptations, rescues himself by prophecy, and is elevated according to
his deserts to high honors. He shows himself first serviceable and
useful to a great kingdom, then to his own kindred. He is like his
ancestor Abraham in repose and greatness, his grandfather Isaac in
silence and devotedness. The talent for traffic, inherited from his
father, he exercises on a large scale. It is no longer flocks which are
gained for himself from a father-in-law, but nations, with all their
possessions, which he knows how to purchase for a king. Extremely
graceful is this natural story, only it appears too short; and one feels
called upon to paint it in detail.

Such a filling-up of biblical characters and events given only in
outline, was no longer strange to the Germans. The personages of both
the Old and New Testaments had received through Klopstock a tender and
affectionate nature, highly pleasing to the boy, as well as to many of
his contemporaries. Of Bodmer's efforts in this line, little or nothing
came to him; but "Daniel in the Lion's Den," by Moser, made a great
impression on the young heart. In that work, a right-minded man of
business, and courtier, arrives at high honors through manifold
tribulations; and the piety for which they threatened to destroy him
became, early and late, his sword and buckler. It had long seemed to me
desirable to work out the history of Joseph; but I could not get on with
the form, particularly as I was conversant with no kind of versification
which would have been adapted to such a work. But now I found a
treatment of it in prose very suitable, and I applied all my strength to
its execution. I now endeavored to discriminate and paint the
characters, and, by the interpolation of incidents and episodes, to make
the old simple history a new and independent work. I did not consider,
what, indeed, youth cannot consider, that subject-matter was necessary
to such a design, and that this could only arise by the perceptions of
experience. Suffice it to say, that I represented to myself all the
incidents down to the minutest details, and narrated them accurately to
myself in their succession.

What greatly lightened this labor was a circumstance which threatened to
render this work, and my authorship in general, exceedingly voluminous.
A well-gifted young man, who, however, had become imbecile from over-
exertion and conceit, resided as a ward in my father's house, lived
quietly with the family, and, if allowed to go on in his usual way, was
contented and agreeable. He had, with great care, written out notes of
his academical course, and acquired a rapid, legible hand. He liked to
employ himself in writing better than in any thing else, and was pleased
when something was given him to copy; but still more when he was
dictated to, because he then felt carried back to his happy academical
years. To my father, who was not expeditious in writing, and whose
German letters were small and tremulous, nothing could be more
desirable; and he was consequently accustomed, in the conduct of his own
and other business, to dictate for some hours a day to this young man. I
found it no less convenient, during the intervals, to see all that
passed through my head fixed upon paper by the hand of another; and my
natural gift of feeling and imitation grew with the facility of catching
up and preserving.

As yet, I had not undertaken any work so large as that biblical prose-
epic. The times were tolerably quiet, and nothing recalled my
imagination from Palestine and Egypt. Thus my manuscripts swelled more
and more every day, as the poem, which I recited to myself, as it were,
in the air, stretched along the paper; and only a few pages from time to
time needed to be re-written.

When the work was done,--for, to my own astonishment, it really came to
an end,--I reflected, that from former years many poems were extant,
which did not even now appear to me utterly despicable, and which, if
written together in the same size with "Joseph," would make a very neat
quarto, to which the title "Miscellaneous Poems" might be given. I was
pleased with this, as it gave me an opportunity of quietly imitating
well-known and celebrated authors. I had composed a good number of so-
called Anacreontic poems, which, on account of the convenience of the
metre, and the lightness of the subject, flowed forth readily enough.
But these I could not well take, as they were not in rhyme; and my
desire before all things was to show my father something that would
please him. So much the more, therefore, did the spiritual odes seem
suitable, which I had very zealously attempted in imitation of the "Last
Judgment" of Elias Schlegel. One of these, written to celebrate the
descent of Christ into hell, received much applause from my parents and
friends, and had the good fortune to please myself for some years
afterwards. The so-called texts of the Sunday church-music, which were
always to be had printed, I studied with diligence. They were, indeed,
very weak; and I could well believe that my verses, of which I had
composed many in the prescribed manner, were equally worthy of being set
to music, and performed for the edification of the congregation. These,
and many like them, I had for more than a year before copied with my own
hand; because through this private exercise I was released from the
copies of the writing-master. Now all were corrected and put in order,
and no great persuasion was needed to have them neatly copied by the
young man who was so fond of writing. I hastened with them to the book-
binder: and when, very soon after, I handed the nice-looking volume to
my father, he encouraged me with peculiar satisfaction to furnish a
similar quarto every year; which he did with the greater conviction, as
I had produced the whole in my spare moments alone.

Another circumstance increased my tendency to these theological, or,
rather, biblical, studies. The senior of the ministry, John Philip
Fresenius, a mild man, of handsome, agreeable appearance, who was
respected by his congregation and the whole city as an exemplary pastor
and good preacher, but who, because he stood forth against the
Herrnhters, was not in the best odor with the peculiarly pious; while,
on the other hand, he had made himself famous, and almost sacred, with
the multitude, by the conversion of a free-thinking general who had been
mortally wounded,--this man died; and his successor, Plitt, a tall,
handsome, dignified man, who brought from his /chair/ (he had been
a professor in Marburg) the gift of teaching rather than of edifying,
immediately announced a sort of religious course, to which his sermons
were to be devoted in a certain methodical connection. I had already, as
I was compelled to go to church, remarked the distribution of the
subject, and could now and then show myself off by a pretty complete
recitation of a sermon. But now, as much was said in the congregation,
both for and against the new senior, and many placed no great confidence
in his announced didactic sermons, I undertook to write them out more
carefully; and I succeeded the better from having made smaller attempts
in a seat very convenient for hearing, but concealed from sight. I was
extremely attentive and on the alert: the moment he said Amen, I
hastened from church, and spent a couple of hours in rapidly dictating
what I had fixed in my memory and on paper, so that I could hand in the
written sermon before dinner. My father was very proud of this success;
and the good friend of the family, who had just come in to dinner, also
shared in the joy. Indeed, this friend was very well disposed towards
me, because I had made his "Messiah" so much my own, that in my repeated
visits, paid to him with a view of getting impressions of seals for my
collection of coats-of-arms, I could recite long passages from it till
the tears stood in his eyes.

The next Sunday I prosecuted the work with equal zeal; and, as the
mechanical part of it mainly interested me, I did not reflect upon what
I wrote and preserved. During the first quarter these efforts may have
continued pretty much the same; but as I fancied at last, in my self-
conceit, that I found no particular enlightenment as to the Bible, nor
clearer insight into dogmas, the small vanity which was thus gratified
seemed to me too dearly purchased for me to pursue the matter with the
same zeal. The sermons, once so many-leaved, grew more and more lean:
and before long I should have relinquished this labor altogether, if my
father, who was a fast friend to completeness, had not, by words and
promises, induced me to persevere till the last Sunday in Trinity;
though, at the conclusion, scarcely more than the text, the statement,
and the divisions were scribbled on little pieces of paper.

My father was particularly pertinacious on this point of completeness.
What was once undertaken had to be finished, even if the inconvenience,
tedium, vexation, nay, uselessness, of the thing begun were plainly
manifested in the mean time. It seemed as if he regarded completeness as
the only end, and perseverance as the only virtue. If in our family
circle, in the long winter evenings, we had begun to read a book aloud,
we were compelled to finish, though we were all in despair about it, and
my father himself was the first to yawn. I still remember such a winter,
when we had thus to work our way through Bower's "History of the Popes."
It was a terrible time, as little or nothing that occurs in
ecclesiastical affairs can interest children and young people. Still,
with all my inattention and repugnance, so much of that reading remained
in my mind that I was able, in after times, to take up many threads of
the narrative.

Amid all these heterogeneous occupations and labors, which followed each
other so rapidly that one could hardly reflect whether they were
permissible and useful, my father did not lose sight of the main object.
He endeavored to direct my memory and my talent for apprehending and
combining to objects of jurisprudence, and therefore gave me a small
book by Hopp, in the shape of a catechism, and worked up according to
the form and substance of the institutions. I soon learned questions and
answers by heart, and could represent the catechist as well as the
catechumen; and, as in religious instruction at that time, one of the
chief exercises was to find passages in the Bible as readily as
possible; so here a similar acquaintance with the "Corpus Juris" was
found necessary, in which, also, I soon became completely versed. My
father wished me to go on, and the little "Struve" was taken in hand;
but here affairs did not proceed so rapidly. The form of the work was
not so favorable for beginners, that they could help themselves on; nor
was my father's method of illustration so liberal as greatly to interest

Not only by the warlike state in which we lived for some years, but also
by civil life itself, and the perusal of history and romances, was it
made clear to me that there were many cases in which the laws are
silent, and give no help to the individual, who must then see how to get
out of the difficulty by himself. We had now reached the period when,
according to the old routine, we were to learn, besides other things,
fencing and riding, that we might guard our skins upon occasion, and
present no pedantic appearance on horseback. As to the first, the
practice was very agreeable to us; for we had already, long ago,
contrived to make broad-swords out of hazel-sticks, with basket-hilts
neatly woven of willow, to protect the hands. Now we might get real
steel blades, and the clash we made with them was very merry.

There were two fencing-masters in the city: an old, earnest German, who
went to work in a severe and solid style; and a Frenchman, who sought to
gain his advantage by advancing and retreating, and by light, fugitive
thrusts, which he always accompanied by cries. Opinions varied as to
whose manner was the best. The little company with which I was to take
lessons sided with the Frenchman; and we speedily accustomed ourselves
to move backwards and forwards, make passes and recover, always breaking
out into the usual exclamations. But several of our acquaintance had
gone to the German teacher, and practised precisely the opposite. These
distinct modes of treating so important an exercise, the conviction of
each that his master was the best, really caused a dissension among the
young people, who were of about the same age: and the fencing-schools
occasioned serious battles, for there was almost as much fighting with
words as with swords; and, to decide the matter in the end, a trial of
skill between the two teachers was arranged, the consequences of which I
need not circumstantially describe. The German stood in his position
like a wall, watched his opportunity, and contrived to disarm his
opponent over and over again with his cut and thrust. The latter
maintained that this mattered not, and proceeded to exhaust the other's
wind by his agility. He fetched the German several lunges too, which,
however, if they had been in earnest, would have sent him into the next

On the whole, nothing was decided or improved, except that some went
over to our countryman, of whom I was one. But I had already acquired
too much from the first master; and hence a considerable time elapsed
before the new one could break me of it, who was altogether less
satisfied with us renegades than with his original pupils.

With riding I fared still worse. It happened that they sent me to the
course in the autumn, so that I commenced in the cool and damp season.
The pedantic treatment of this noble art was highly repugnant to me.
From first to last, the whole talk was about sitting the horse: and yet
no one could say in what a proper sitting consisted, though all depended
on that; for they went to and fro on the horse without stirrups.
Moreover, the instruction seemed contrived only for cheating and
degrading the scholars. If one forgot to hook or loosen the curb-chain,
or let his switch fall down, or even his hat,--every delay, every
misfortune, had to be atoned for by money; and one was laughed at into
the bargain. This put me in the worst of humors, particularly as I found
the place of exercise itself quite intolerable. The wide, nasty space,
either wet or dusty, the cold, the mouldy smell, all together was in the
highest degree repugnant to me; and since the stable-master always gave
the others the best and me the worst horses to ride,--perhaps because
they bribed him by breakfasts and other gifts, or even by their own
cleverness; since he kept me waiting, and, as it seemed, slighted me,--I
spent the most disagreeable hours in an employment that ought to have
been the most pleasant in the world. Nay, the impression of that time
and of these circumstances has remained with me so vividly, that
although I afterwards became a passionate and daring rider, and for days
and weeks together scarcely got off my horse, I carefully shunned
covered riding-courses, and at least passed only a few moments in them.
The case often happens, that, when the elements of an exclusive art are
taught us, this is done in a painful and revolting manner. The
conviction that this is both wearisome and injurious has given rise, in
later times, to the educational maxim, that the young must be taught
every thing in an easy, cheerful, and agreeable way: from which,
however, other evils and disadvantages have proceeded.

With the approach of spring, times became again more quiet with us; and
if in earlier days I had endeavored to obtain a sight of the city, its
ecclesiastical, civil, public, and private structures, and especially
found great delight in the still prevailing antiquities, I afterwards
endeavored, by means of "Lersner's Chronicle," and other Frankfortian
books and pamphlets belonging to my father, to revive the persons of
past times. This seemed to me to be well attained by great attention to
the peculiarities of times and manners and of distinguished individuals.

Among the ancient remains, that which, from my childhood, had been
remarkable to me, was the skull of a State criminal, fastened up on the
tower of the bridge, who, out of three or four, as the naked iron spikes
showed, had, since 1616, been preserved in spite of the encroachments of
time and weather. Whenever one returned from Sachsenhausen to Frankfort,
one had this tower before one; and the skull was directly in view. As a
boy, I liked to hear related the history of these rebels,--Fettmilch and
his confederates,--how they had become dissatisfied with the government
of the city, had risen up against it, plotted a mutiny, plundered the
Jews' quarter, and excited a fearful riot, but were at last captured,
and condemned to death by a deputy of the emperor. Afterwards I felt
anxious to know the most minute circumstance, and to hear what sort of
people they were. When from an old contemporary book, ornamented with
wood-cuts, I learned, that, while these men had indeed been condemned to
death, many councillors had at the same time been deposed, because
various kinds of disorder and very much that was unwarrantable was then
going on; when I heard the nearer particulars how all took place,--I
pitied the unfortunate persons who might be regarded as sacrifices made
for a future better constitution. For from that time was dated the
regulation which allows the noble old house of Limpurg, the Frauenstein-
house, sprung from a club, besides lawyers, trades-people, and artisans,
to take part in a government, which, completed by a system of ballot,
complicated in the Venetian fashion, and restricted by the civil
colleges, was called to do right, without acquiring any special
privilege to do wrong.

Among the things which excited the misgivings of the boy, and even of
the youth, was especially the state of the Jewish quarter of the city
(/Judenstadt/), properly called the Jew Street (/Judengasse/);
as it consisted of little more than a single street, which in early
times may have been hemmed in between the walls and trenches of the
town, as in a prison (/Zwinger/). The closeness, the filth, the
crowd, the accent of an unpleasant language, altogether made a most
disagreeable impression, even if one only looked in as one passed the
gate. It was long before I ventured in alone; and I did not return there
readily, when I had once escaped the importunities of so many men
unwearied in demanding and offering to traffic. At the same time, the
old legends of the cruelty of the Jews towards Christian children, which
we had seen hideously illustrated in "Gottfried's Chronicle," hovered
gloomily before my young mind. And although they were thought better of
in modern times, the large caricature, still to be seen, to their
disgrace, on an arched wall under the bridge-tower, bore extraordinary
witness against them; for it had been made, not through private ill-
will, but by public order.

However, they still remained the chosen people of God, and passed, no
matter how it came about, as a memorial of the most ancient times.
Besides, they also were men, active and obliging; and, even to the
tenacity with which they clung to their peculiar customs, one could not
refuse one's respect. The girls, moreover, were pretty, and were far
from displeased when a Christian lad, meeting them on the sabbath in the
Fischerfeld, showed himself kindly and attentive. I was consequently
extremely curious to become acquainted with their ceremonies. I did not
desist until I had frequently visited their school, had assisted at a
circumcision and a wedding, and formed a notion of the Feast of the
Tabernacles. Everywhere I was well received, pleasantly entertained, and
invited to come again; for it was through persons of influence that I
had been either introduced or recommended.

Thus, as a young resident in a large city, I was thrown about from one
object to another; and horrible scenes were not wanting in the midst of
the municipal quiet and security. Sometimes a more or less remote fire
aroused us from our domestic peace: sometimes the discovery of a great
crime, with its investigation and punishment, set the whole city in an
uproar for many weeks. We were forced to be witnesses of different
executions; and it is worth remembering, that I was also once present at
the burning of a book. The publication was a French comic romance, which
indeed spared the State, but not religion and manners. There was really
something dreadful in seeing punishment inflicted on a lifeless thing.
The packages burst asunder in the fire, and were raked apart by an oven-
fork, to be brought in closer contact with the flames. It was not long
before the kindled sheets were wafted about in the air, and the crowd
caught at them with eagerness. Nor could we rest until we had hunted up
a copy, while not a few managed likewise to procure the forbidden
pleasure. Nay, if it had been done to give the author publicity, he
could not himself have made a more effectual provision.

But there were also more peaceable inducements which took me about in
every part of the city. My father had early accustomed me to manage for
him his little affairs of business. He charged me particularly to stir
up the laborers whom he set to work, as they commonly kept him waiting
longer than was proper; because he wished every thing done accurately,
and was used in the end to lower the price for a prompt payment. In this
way, I gained access to all the workshops: and as it was natural to me
to enter into the condition of others, to feel every species of human
existence, and sympathize in it with pleasure, these commissions were to
me the occasion of many most delightful hours; and I learned to know
every one's method of proceeding, and what joy and sorrow, what
advantages and hardships, were incident to the indispensable conditions
of this or that mode of life. I was thus brought nearer to that active
class which connects the lower and upper classes. For if on the one side
stand those who are employed in the simple and rude products, and on the
other those who desire to enjoy something that has been already worked
up, the manufacturer, with his skill and hand, is the mediator through
whom the other two receive something from each other: each is enabled to
gratify his wishes in his own way. The household economy of many crafts,
which took its form and color from the occupation, was likewise an
object of my quiet attention; and thus was developed and strengthened in
me the feeling of the equality, if not of all men, yet of all human
conditions,--the mere fact of existence seeming to me the main point,
and all the rest indifferent and accidental.

As my father did not readily permit himself an expense which would be
consumed at once in some momentary enjoyment,--as I can scarcely call to
mind that we ever took a walk together, and spent any thing in a place
of amusement,--he was, on the other hand, not niggardly in procuring
such things as had a good external appearance in addition to inward
value. No one could desire peace more than he, although he had not felt
the smallest inconvenience during the last days of the war. With this
feeling, he had promised my mother a gold snuff-box, set with diamonds,
which she was to receive as soon as peace should be publicly declared.
In the expectation of the happy event, they had labored now for some
years on this present. The box, which was tolerably large, had been
executed in Hanau; for my father was on good terms with the gold-workers
there, as well as with the heads of the silk establishments. Many
designs were made for it: the cover was adorned by a basket of flowers,
over which hovered a dove with the olive-branch. A vacant space was left
for the jewels, which were to be set partly in the dove and partly on
the spot where the box is usually opened. The jeweller, to whom the
execution and the requisite stones were intrusted, was named Lautensak,
and was a brisk, skilful man, who, like many artists, seldom did what
was necessary, but usually works of caprice, which gave him pleasure.
The jewels were very soon set, in the shape in which they were to be put
upon the box, on some black wax, and looked very well; but they would
not come off to be transferred to the gold. In the outset, my father let
the matter rest: but as the hope of peace became livelier, and finally
when the stipulations,--particularly the elevation of the Archduke
Joseph to the Roman throne,--seemed more precisely known, he grew more
and more impatient; and I had to go several times a week, nay, at last,
almost daily, to visit the tardy artist. Owing to my unremitted teazing
and exhortation, the work went on, though slowly enough; for, as it was
of that kind which can be taken in hand or laid aside at will, there was
always something by which it was thrust out of the way, and put aside.

The chief cause of this conduct, however, was a task which the artist
had undertaken on his own account. Everybody knew that the Emperor
Francis cherished a strong liking for jewels, and especially for colored
stones. Lautensak had expended a considerable sum, and, as it afterwards
turned out, larger than his means, on such gems, out of which he had
begun to shape a nosegay, in which every stone was to be tastefully
disposed, according to its shape and color, and the whole form a work of
art worthy to stand in the treasure-vaults of an emperor. He had, in his
desultory way, labored at it for many years, and now hastened--because
after the hoped-for peace the arrival of the emperor, for the coronation
of his son, was expected in Frankfort--to complete it and finally to put
it together. My desire to become acquainted with such things he used
very dexterously to divert my attention by sending me forth as his dun,
and to turn me away from my intention. He strove to impart a knowledge
of these stones to me, and made me attentive to their properties and
value; so that in the end I knew his whole bouquet by heart, and quite
as well as he could have demonstrated its virtues to a customer. It is
even now present to my mind; and I have since seen more costly, but not
more graceful, specimens of show and magnificence in this sort. He
possessed, moreover, a pretty collection of engravings, and other works
of art, with which he liked to amuse himself; and I passed many hours
with him, not without profit. Finally, when the Congress of Hubertsburg
was finally fixed, he did for my sake more than was due; and the dove
and flowers actually reached my mother's hands on the festival in
celebration of the peace.

I then received also many similar commissions to urge on painters with
respect to pictures which had been ordered. My father had confirmed
himself in the notion--and few men were free from it--that a picture
painted on wood was greatly to be preferred to one that was merely put
on canvas. It was therefore his great care to possess good oak boards,
of every shape; because he well knew that just on this important point
the more careless artists trusted to the joiners. The oldest planks were
hunted up, the joiners were obliged to go accurately to work with
gluing, painting, and arranging; and they were then kept for years in an
upper room, where they could be sufficiently dried. A precious board of
this kind was intrusted to the painter Junker, who was to represent on
it an ornamental flower-pot, with the most important flowers drawn after
nature in his artistic and elegant manner. It was just about the spring-
time; and I did not fail to take him several times a week the most
beautiful flowers that fell in my way, which he immediately put in, and
by degrees composed the whole out of these elements with the utmost care
and fidelity. On one occasion I had caught a mouse, which I took to him,
and which he desired to copy as a very pretty animal; nay, really
represented it, as accurately as possible, gnawing an ear of corn at the
foot of the flower-pot. Many such inoffensive natural objects, such as
butterflies and chafers, were brought in and represented; so that
finally, as far as imitation and execution were concerned, a highly
valuable picture was put together.

Hence I was not a little astonished when the good man formally declared
one day, when the work was just about to be delivered, that the picture
no longer pleased him,--since, while it had turned out quite well in its
details, it was not well composed as a whole, because it had been
produced in this gradual manner; and he had committed a blunder at the
outset, in not at least devising a general plan for light and shade, as
well as for color, according to which the single flowers might have been
arranged. He scrutinized, in my presence, the minutest parts of the
picture, which had arisen before my eyes during six months, and had
pleased me in many respects, and, much to my regret, managed to
thoroughly convince me. Even the copy of the mouse he regarded as a
mistake; for many persons, he said, have a sort of horror of such
animals: and they should not be introduced where the object is to excite
pleasure. As it commonly happens with those who are cured of a
prejudice, and think themselves much more knowing than they were before,
I now had a real contempt for this work of art, and agreed perfectly
with the artist when he caused to be prepared another tablet of the same
size, on which, according to his taste, he painted a better-formed
vessel and a more artistically arranged nosegay, and also managed to
select and distribute the little living accessories in an ornamental and
agreeable way. This tablet also he painted with the greatest care,
though altogether after the former copied one, or from memory, which,
through a very long and assiduous practice, came to his aid. Both
paintings were now ready; and we were thoroughly delighted with the
last, which was certainly the more artistic and striking of the two. My
father was surprised with two pictures instead of one, and to him the
choice was left. He approved of our opinion, and of the reasons for it,
and especially of our good will and activity; but, after considering
both pictures some days, decided in favor of the first, without saying
much about the motives of his choice. The artist, in an ill humor, took
back his second well-meant picture, and could not refrain from the
remark that the good oaken tablet on which the first was painted had
certainly had its effect on my father's decision.

Now that I am again speaking of painting, I am reminded of a large
establishment, where I passed much time, because both it and its
managers especially attracted me. It was the great oil-cloth factory
which the painter Nothnagel had erected,--an expert artist, but one who
by his mode of thought inclined more to manufacture than to art. In a
very large space of courts and gardens, all sorts of oil-cloths were
made, from the coarsest, that are spread with a trowel, and used for
baggage-wagons and similar purposes, and the carpets impressed with
figures, to the finer and the finest, on which sometimes Chinese and
grotesque, sometimes natural flowers, sometimes figures, sometimes
landscapes, were represented by the pencils of accomplished workmen.
This multiplicity, to which there was no end, amused me vastly. The
occupation of so many men, from the commonest labor to that in which a
certain artistic worth could not be denied, was to me extremely
attractive. I made the acquaintance of this multitude of younger and
older men, working in several rooms one behind the other, and
occasionally lent a hand myself. The sale of these commodities was
extraordinarily brisk. Whoever at that time was building or furnishing a
house, wished to provide for his lifetime; and this oil-cloth carpeting
was certainly quite indestructible. Nothnagel had enough to do in
managing the whole, and sat in his office surrounded by factors and
clerks. The remainder of his time he employed in his collection of works
of art, consisting chiefly of engravings, in which, as well as in the
pictures he possessed, he traded occasionally. At the same time he had
acquired a taste for etching: he etched a variety of plates, and
prosecuted this branch of art even into his latest years.

As his dwelling lay near the Eschenheim gate, my way when I had visited
him led me out of the city to some pieces of ground which my father
owned beyond the gates. One was a large orchard, the soil of which was
used as a meadow, and in which my father carefully attended the
transplanting of trees, and whatever else pertained to their
preservation; though the ground itself was leased. Still more occupation
was furnished by a very well-preserved vineyard beyond the Friedberg
gate, where, between the rows of vines, rows of asparagus were planted
and tended with great care. Scarcely a day passed in the fine season in
which my father did not go there; and as on these occasions we might
generally accompany him, we were provided with joy and delight from the
earliest productions of spring to the last of autumn. We now also
acquired a knowledge of gardening matters, which, as they were repeated
every year, became in the end perfectly known and familiar to us. But,
after the manifold fruits of summer and autumn, the vintage at last was
the most lively and the most desirable; nay, there is no question, that
as wine gives a freer character to the very places and districts where
it is grown and drunk, so also do these vintage-days, while they close
summer and at the same time open the winter, diffuse an incredible
cheerfulness. Joy and jubilation pervade a whole district. In the
daytime, huzzas and shoutings are heard from every end and corner; and
at night rockets and fire-balls, now here, now there, announce that the
people, everywhere awake and lively, would willingly make this festival
last as long as possible. The subsequent labor at the wine-press, and
during the fermentation in the cellar, gave us also a cheerful
employment at home; and thus we ordinarily reached winter without being
properly aware of it.

These rural possessions delighted us so much the more in the spring of
1763, as the 15th of February in that year was celebrated as a festival
day, on account of the conclusion of the Hubertsberg peace, under the
happy results of which the greater part of my life was to flow away.
But, before I go farther, I think I am bound to mention some men who
exerted an important influence on my youth.

Von Olenschlager, a member of the Frauenstein family, a Schff, and son-
in-law of the above-mentioned Dr. Orth, a handsome, comfortable,
sanguine man. In his official holiday costume he could well have
personated the most important French prelate. After his academical
course, he had employed himself in political and state affairs, and
directed even his travels to that end. He greatly esteemed me, and often
conversed with me on matters which chiefly interested him. I was with
him when he wrote his "Illustration of the Golden Bull," when he managed
to explain to me very clearly the worth and dignity of that document. My
imagination was led back by it to those wild and unquiet times; so that
I could not forbear representing what he related historically, as if it
were present, by pictures of characters and circumstances, and often by
mimicry. In this he took great delight, and by his applause excited me
to repetition.

I had from childhood the singular habit of always learning by heart the
beginnings of books, and the divisions of a work, first of the five
books of Moses, and then of the "Aeneid" and Ovid's "Metamorphoses." I
now did the same thing with the "Golden Bull," and often provoked my
patron to a smile, when I quite seriously and unexpectedly exclaimed,
"/Omne regnum in se divisum desolabitur; nam principes ejus facti sunt

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