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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. III by Kuno Francke (Editor-in-Chief)

Part 13 out of 13

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some repose, between Luetzen and Weissenfels, near enough to the field
of battle to oppose any attempt the enemy might make to recover it. Of
the two armies, more than 9,000 men lay dead; a still greater number
were wounded, and, among the Imperialists, scarcely a man escaped from
the field uninjured. The entire plain from Luetzen to the Canal was
strewed with the wounded, the dying, and the dead. Many of the
principal nobility had fallen on both sides. Even the Abbot of Fulda,
who had mingled in the combat as a spectator, paid for his curiosity
and his ill-timed zeal with his life. History says nothing of
prisoners; a further proof of the animosity of the combatants, who
neither gave nor took quarter.

Pappenheim died the next day of his wounds at Leipzig; an irreparable
loss to the imperial army, which this brave warrior had so often led
on to victory. The battle of Prague, where together with Wallenstein,
he was present as colonel, was the beginning of his heroic career.
Dangerously wounded, with a few troops, he made an impetuous attack on
a regiment of the enemy, and lay for several hours mixed with the dead
upon the field, beneath the weight of his horse, till he was
discovered by some of his own men in plundering. With a small force he
defeated, in three different engagements, the rebels in Upper Austria,
though 40,000 strong. At the battle of Leipzic, he for a long time
delayed the defeat of Tilly by his bravery, and led the arms of the
Emperor on the Elbe and the Weser to victory. The wild impetuous fire
of his temperament, which no danger, however apparent, could cool, or
impossibilities check, made him the most powerful arm of the imperial
force, but unfitted him for acting at its head. The battle of Leipzic,
if Tilly may be believed, was lost through his rash ardor. At the
destruction of Magdeburg, his hands were deeply steeped in blood; war
rendered savage and ferocious his disposition, which had been
cultivated by youthful studies and various travels. On his forehead,
two red streaks, like swords, were perceptible, with which nature had
marked him at his very birth. Even in his later years these became
visible, as often as his blood was stirred by passion; and
superstition easily persuaded itself that the future destiny of the
man was thus impressed upon the forehead of the child. As a faithful
servant of the House of Austria, he had the strongest claims on the
gratitude of both its lines, but he did not survive to enjoy the most
brilliant proof of their regard. A messenger was already on his way
from Madrid, bearing to him the order of the Golden Fleece, when death
overtook him at Leipzic.

Though _Te Deum_, in all Spanish and Austrian lands, was sung in honor
of a victory, Wallenstein himself, by the haste with which he quitted
Leipzic and, soon after, all Saxony, and by renouncing his original
design of fixing there his winter-quarters, openly confessed his
defeat. It is true he made one more feeble attempt to dispute, even in
his flight, the honor of victory, by sending out his Croats next
morning to the field; but the sight of the Swedish army drawn up in
order of battle, immediately dispersed these flying bands, and Duke
Bernard, by keeping possession of the field, and soon after by the
capture of Leipzic, maintained indisputably his claim to the title of

But it was a dear conquest, a dearer triumph! It was not till the fury
of the contest was over that the full weight of the loss sustained was
felt and the shout of triumph died away into a silent gloom of
despair. He, who had led them to the charge, returned not with them:
there he lay upon the field which he had won, mingled with the dead
bodies of the common crowd. After a long and almost fruitless search,
the corpse of the king was discovered, not far from the great stone,
which, for a hundred years before, had stood between Luetzen and the
Canal, and which, from the memorable disaster of that day, still bears
the name of the Stone of the Swede. Covered with blood and wounds so
as scarcely to be recognized, trampled beneath the horses' hoofs,
stripped by the rude hands of plunderers of its ornaments and clothes,
his body was drawn from beneath a heap of dead, conveyed to
Weissenfels, and there delivered up to the lamentations of his
soldiers and the last embraces of his queen. The first tribute had
been paid to revenge, and blood had atoned for the blood of the
monarch; but now affection assumes its rights, and tears of grief must
flow for the man. The universal sorrow absorbs all individual woes.
The generals, still stupefied by the unexpected blow, stood speechless
and motionless around his bier, and no one trusted himself enough to
contemplate the full extent of their loss.

The Emperor, we are told by Khevenhuller, showed symptoms of deep, and
apparently sincere feeling, at the sight of the king's doublet stained
with blood, which had been stripped from him during the battle and
carried to Vienna. "Willingly," said he, "would I have granted to the
unfortunate prince a longer life and a safe return to his kingdom, had
Germany been at peace." But when a trait, which is nothing more than a
proof of a yet lingering humanity and which a mere regard to
appearances and even self-love would have extorted from the most
insensible, and the absence of which could exist only in the most
inhuman heart, has, by a Roman Catholic writer of modern times and
acknowledged merit, been made the subject of the highest eulogium and
compared with the magnanimous tears of Alexander for the fall of
Darius, our distrust is excited of the other virtues of the writer's
hero, and, what is still worse, of his own ideas of moral dignity. But
even such praise, whatever its amount, is much for one whose memory
his biographer has to clear from the suspicion of being privy to the
assassination of a king.

It was scarcely to be expected that the strong leaning of mankind to
the marvelous would leave to the common course of nature the glory of
ending the career of Gustavus Adolphus. The death of so formidable a
rival was too important an event for the Emperor not to excite in his
bitter opponent a ready suspicion that what was so much to his
interests was also the result of his instigation. For the execution,
however, of this dark deed, the Emperor would require the aid of a
foreign arm, and this it was generally believed he had found in
Francis Albert, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg. The rank of the latter
permitted him a free access to the king's person, while at the same
time it seemed to place him above the suspicion of so foul a deed.
This prince, however, was in fact not incapable of this atrocity, and
he had, moreover, sufficient motives for its commission.

Francis Albert, the youngest of four sons of Francis II., Duke of
Lauenburg, and related by the mother's side to the race of Vasa, had,
in his early years, found a most friendly reception at the Swedish
court. Some offence which he had committed against Gustavus Adolphus,
in the queen's chamber, was, it is said, repaid by this fiery youth
with a box on the ear; which, though immediately repented of, and
amply apologized for, laid the foundation of an irreconcilable hate in
the vindictive heart of the duke. Francis Albert subsequently entered
the imperial service, where he rose to the command of a regiment,
formed a close intimacy with Wallenstein, and condescended to be the
instrument of a secret negotiation with the Saxon court, which did
little honor to his rank. Without any sufficient cause being assigned,
he suddenly quitted the Austrian service, and appeared in the king's
camp at Nuremberg to offer his services as a volunteer. By his show of
zeal for the Protestant cause, and a prepossessing and flattering
deportment, he gained the heart of the king, who, warned in vain by
Oxenstiern, continued to lavish his favor and friendship on this
suspicious new comer. The battle of Luetzen soon followed, in which
Francis Albert, like an evil genius, kept close to the king's side and
did not leave him till he fell. He owed, it was thought, his own
safety amidst the fire of the enemy, to a green sash which he wore,
the color of the Imperialists. He was at any rate the first to convey
to his friend Wallenstein the intelligence of the king's death. After
the battle, he exchanged the Swedish service for the Saxon; and, after
the murder of Wallenstein, being charged with being an accomplice of
that general, he escaped the sword of justice only by abjuring his
faith. His last appearance in life was as commander of an imperial
army in Silesia, where he died of the wounds he had received before
Schweidnitz. It requires some effort to believe in the innocence of a
man, who had run through a career like this, of the act charged
against him; but, however great may be the moral and physical
possibility of his committing such a crime, it must still be allowed
that there are no certain grounds for imputing it to him. Gustavus
Adolphus, it is well known, exposed himself to danger, like the
meanest soldier in his army, and where thousands fell, he, too, might
naturally meet his death. How it reached him, remains indeed buried in
mystery; but here, more than anywhere, does the maxim apply that where
the ordinary course of things is fully sufficient to account for the
fact, the honor of human nature ought not to be stained by any
suspicion of moral atrocity.

But by whatever hand he fell, his extraordinary destiny must appear a
great interposition of Providence. History, too often confined to the
ungrateful task of analyzing the uniform play of human passions, is
occasionally rewarded by the appearance of events which strike, like a
hand from heaven, into the nicely adjusted machinery of human plans
and carry the contemplative mind to a higher order of things. Of this
kind is the sudden retirement of Gustavus Adolphus from the
scene--stopping for a time the whole movement of the political machine
and disappointing all the calculations of human prudence. Yesterday,
the very soul, the great and animating principle of his own creation;
today, struck unpitiably to the ground in the very midst of his eagle
flight; untimely torn from a whole world of great designs and from the
ripening harvest of his expectations, he left his bereaved party
disconsolate; and the proud edifice of his past greatness sunk into
ruins. The Protestant party had identified its hopes with its
invincible leader, and scarcely can it now separate them from him;
with him, they now fear all good fortune is buried. But it was no
longer the benefactor of Germany who fell at Luetzen; the beneficient
part of his career Gustavus Adolphus had already terminated; and now
the greatest service which he could render to the liberties of Germany
was--to die. The all-engrossing power of an individual was at an end,
but many came forward to essay their strength; the equivocal
assistance of an over-powerful protector gave place to a more noble
self-exertion on the part of the Estates; and those who were formerly
the mere instruments of his aggrandizement now began to work for
themselves. They now looked to their own exertions for the
emancipation which could not be received without danger from the hand
of the mighty; and the Swedish power, now incapable of sinking into
the oppressor, was henceforth restricted to the more modest part of an

The ambition of the Swedish monarch aspired unquestionably to
establish a power within Germany and to attain a firm footing in the
centre of the empire, which was inconsistent with the liberties of the
Estates. His aim was the imperial crown; and this dignity, supported
by his power and maintained by his energy and activity, would in his
hands be liable to more abuse than had ever been feared from the House
of Austria. Born in a foreign country, educated in the maxims of
arbitrary power, and by principles and enthusiasm a determined enemy
to Popery, he was ill qualified to maintain inviolate the constitution
of the German States, or to respect their liberties. The coercive
homage which Augsburg, with many other cities, was forced to pay to
the Swedish crown, bespoke the conqueror rather than the protector of
the empire; and this town, prouder of the title of a royal city than
of the higher dignity of the freedom of the empire, flattered itself
with the anticipation of becoming the capital of his future kingdom.
His ill-disguised attempts upon the Electorate of Mentz, which he
first intended to bestow upon the Elector of Brandenburg, as the dower
of his daughter Christina, and afterward destined for his chancellor
and friend Oxenstiern, evinced plainly what liberties he was disposed
to take with the constitution of the empire. His allies, the
Protestant princes, had claims on his gratitude, which could be
satisfied only at the expense of their Roman Catholic neighbors, and
particularly of the immediate Ecclesiastical Chapters; and it seems
probable a plan was early formed for dividing the conquered provinces
(after the precedent of the barbarian hordes who overran the German
empire) as a common spoil, among the German and Swedish confederates.
In his treatment of the Elector Palatine, he entirely belied the
magnanimity of the hero, and forgot the sacred character of a
protector. The Palatinate was in his hands, and the obligations both
of justice and honor demanded its full and immediate restoration to
the legitimate sovereign. But, by a subtlety unworthy of a great mind,
and disgraceful to the honorable title of protector of the oppressed,
he eluded that obligation. He treated the Palatinate as a conquest
wrested from the enemy, and thought that this circumstance gave him a
right to deal with it as he pleased. He surrendered it to the Elector
as a favor, not as a debt; and that, too, as a Swedish fief, fettered
by conditions which diminished half its value, and degraded this
unfortunate prince into a humble vassal of Sweden. One of these
conditions obliged the Elector, after the conclusion of the war, to
furnish, along with the other princes, his contribution toward the
maintenance of the Swedish army, a condition which plainly indicates
the fate which, in the event of the ultimate success of the king,
awaited Germany. His sudden disappearance secured the liberties of
Germany and saved his reputation, while it probably spared him the
mortification of seeing his own allies in arms against him and all the
fruits of his victories torn from him by a disadvantageous peace.
Saxony was already disposed to abandon him, Denmark viewed his success
with alarm and jealousy; and even France, the firmest and most potent
of his allies, terrified at the rapid growth of his power and the
imperious tone which he assumed, looked around for foreign alliances
at the very moment he passed the Lech in order to check the progress
of the Goths and restore to Europe the balance of power.

* * * * *


[Footnote 59: Permission The Macmillan Co., New York, and G. Bell &
Sons, Ltd., London.]

[Footnote 60: Priests' plunder; alluding to the means by which the
expense of its erection had been defrayed.]

[Footnote 61: A ton of gold in Sweden amounts to 100,000 rix dollars.]

[Footnote 62: Gefreyter, a person exempt from watching duty, nearly
corresponding to the corporal.]

* * * * *



A Poetical work must vindicate itself--if the execution be defective,
little aid can be derived from commentaries.

On these grounds, I might safely leave the Chorus to be its own
advocate, if we had ever seen it presented in an appropriate manner.
But it must be remembered that a dramatic composition first assumes
the character of a whole by means of representation on the stage. The
Poet supplies only the words, to which, in a lyrical tragedy, music
and rhythmical motion are essential accessories. It follows, then,
that if the Chorus is deprived of accompaniments appealing so
powerfully to the senses, it will appear a superfluity in the economy
of the drama--mere hindrance to the development of the
plot--destructive to the illusion of the scene and wearisome to the
spectators. To do justice to the Chorus, more especially if our aims
in Poetry be of a grand and elevated character, we must transport
ourselves from the actual to a possible stage. It is the privilege of
Art to furnish for itself whatever is requisite, and the accidental
deficiency of auxiliaries ought not to confine the plastic imagination
of the Poet. He aspires to whatever is most dignified, he labors to
realize the ideal in his own mind-though in the execution of his
purpose he must needs accommodate himself to circumstances.

The assertion so commonly made, that the Public degrades Art, is not
well founded. It is the artist that brings the Public to the level of
his own conceptions; and, in every age in which Art has gone to decay,
it has fallen through its professors. The People need feeling alone,
and feeling they possess. They take their station before the curtain
with an unvoiced longing, with a multifarious capacity. They bring
with them an aptitude for what is highest--they derive the greatest
pleasure from what is judicious and true; and if, with these powers of
appreciation, they deign to be satisfied with inferior productions,
still, if they have once tasted what is excellent, they will, in the
end, insist on having it supplied to them.

It is sometimes objected that the Poet may labor according to an
Ideal--that the critic may judge from ideas, but that mere executive
art is subject to contingencies and depends for effect on the
occasion. Managers will be obstinate; actors are bent on display--the
audience is inattentive and unruly. Their object is relaxation, and
they are disappointed if mental exertion be required, when they
expected only amusement. But if the Theatre be made instrumental
toward higher objects, the pleasure of the spectator will not be
increased, but ennobled. It will be a diversion, but a poetical one.
All Art is dedicated to pleasure, and there can be no higher and
worthier end than to make men happy. The true Art is that which
provides the highest degree of pleasure; and this consists in the
abandonment of the spirit to the free play of all its faculties.
Every one expects from the imaginative arts a certain emancipation
from the bounds of reality: we are willing to give a scope to Fancy,
and recreate ourselves with the possible. The man who expects it the
least will nevertheless forget his ordinary pursuits, his every-day
existence and individuality, and experience delight from uncommon
incidents: if he be of a serious turn of mind, he will acknowledge on
the stage that moral government of the world which he fails to
discover in real life. But he is, at the same time, perfectly aware
that all is an empty show, and that, in a true sense, he is feeding
only on dreams. When he returns from the theatre to the world of
realities, he is again compressed within its narrow bounds; he is its
denizen as before--for it remains what it was, and in him nothing has
been changed. What, then, has he gained beyond a momentary illusive
pleasure which vanished with the occasion?

It is because a passing recreation is alone desired that a mere show
of truth is thought sufficient. I mean that probability or
vraisemblance which is so highly esteemed, but which the commonest
workers are able to substitute for the true.

Art has for its object not merely to afford a transient pleasure, to
excite to a momentary dream of liberty; its aim is to make us
absolutely free; and this it accomplishes by awakening, exercising,
and perfecting in us a power to remove to an objective distance the
sensible world (which otherwise only burdens us as rugged matter and
presses us down with a brute influence); to transform it into the free
working of our spirit, and thus acquire a dominion over the material
by means of ideas. For the very reason also that true Art requires
somewhat of the objective and real, it is not satisfied with a show of
truth. It rears its ideal edifice on Truth itself--on the solid and
deep foundations of Nature.

But how Art can be at once altogether ideal, yet in the strictest
sense real; how it can entirely leave the actual, and yet harmonize
with Nature, is a problem to the multitude; hence the distorted views
which prevail in regard to poetical and plastic works for to ordinary
judgments these two requisites seem to counteract each other.

It is commonly supposed that one may be attained by the sacrifice of
the other--the result is a failure to arrive at either. One to whom
Nature has given a true sensibility, but denied the plastic
imaginative power, will be a faithful painter of the real; he will
adapt casual appearances, but never catch the spirit of Nature. He
will only reproduce to us the matter of the world, which, not being
our own work, the product of our creative spirit, can never have the
beneficent operation of Art, of which the essence is freedom. Serious,
indeed, but unpleasing, is the cast of thought with which such an
artist and poet dismisses us; we feel ourselves painfully thrust back
into the narrow sphere of reality by means of the very art which ought
to have emancipated us. On the other hand, a writer, endowed with a
lively fancy, but destitute of warmth and individuality of feeling,
will not concern himself in the least about truth; he will sport with
the stuff of the world, and endeavor to surprise by whimsical
combinations; and as his whole performance is nothing but foam and
glitter, he will, it is true, engage the attention for a time, but
build up and confirm nothing in the understanding. His playfulness is,
like the gravity of the other, thoroughly unpoetical. To string
together at will fantastical images, is not to travel into the realm
of the ideal; and the imitative reproduction of the actual cannot be
called the representation of nature. Both requisites stand so little
in contradiction to each other that they are rather one and the same
thing; that Art is true only as it altogether forsakes the actual and
becomes purely ideal. Nature herself is an idea of the mind, and is
never presented to the senses. She lies under the veil of appearances,
but is herself never apparent. To the art of the ideal alone is lent,
or rather, absolutely given, the privilege to grasp the spirit of the
All and bind it in a corporeal form.

Yet, in truth, even Art cannot present it to the senses, but by means
of her creative power to the imaginative faculty alone; and it is thus
that she becomes more true than all reality, and more real than all
experience. It follows from these premises that the artist can use no
single element taken from reality as he finds it--that his work must
be ideal in all its parts, if it be designed to have, as it were, an
intrinsic reality and to harmonize with nature.

What is true of Art and Poetry, in the abstract, holds good as to
their various kinds; and we may apply what has been advanced to the
subject of tragedy. In this department, it is still necessary to
controvert the ordinary notion of the natural, with which poetry is
altogether incompatible. A certain ideality has been allowed in
painting, though, I fear, on grounds rather conventional than
intrinsic; but in dramatic works what is desired is illusion, which,
if it could be accomplished by means of the actual, would be, at best,
a paltry deception. All the externals of a theatrical representation
are opposed to this notion; all is merely a symbol of the real. The
day itself in a theatre is an artificial one; the metrical dialogue is
itself ideal; yet the conduct of the play must forsooth be real, and
the general effect sacrificed to a part. Thus the French, who have
utterly misconceived the spirit of the ancients, adopted on their
stage the unities of time and place in the most common and empirical
sense; as though there were any place but the bare ideal one, or any
other time than the mere sequence of the incidents.

By the introduction of a metrical dialogue an important progress has
been made toward the poetical Tragedy. A few lyrical dramas have been
successful on the stage, and Poetry, by its own living energy, has
triumphed over prevailing prejudices. But so long as these erroneous
views are entertained little has been done--for it is not enough
barely to tolerate as a poetic license that which is, in truth, the
essence of all poetry. The introduction of the Chorus would be the
last and decisive step; and if it only served this end, namely, to
declare open and honorable warfare against naturalism in art, it would
be for us a living wall which Tragedy had drawn around herself, to
guard her from contact with the world of reality, and maintain her own
ideal soil, her poetical freedom.

It is well known that the Greek tragedy had its origin in the Chorus;
and though, in process of time, it became independent, still it may be
said that poetically, and in spirit, the Chorus was the source of its
existence, and that without these persevering supporters and witnesses
of the incident a totally different order of poetry would have grown
out of the drama. The abolition of the Chorus, and the debasement of
this sensibly powerful organ into the characterless substitute of a
confidant, is, by no means, such an improvement in tragedy as the
French, and their imitators, would have it supposed to be.

The old Tragedy, which at first only concerned itself with gods,
heroes and kings, introduced the Chorus as an essential accompaniment.
The poets found it in nature, and for that reason employed it. It grew
out of the poetical aspect of real life. In the new Tragedy it becomes
an organ of art which aids in making the poetry prominent. The modern
poet no longer finds the Chorus in nature; he must needs create and
introduce it poetically; that is, he must resolve on such an
adaptation of his story as will admit of its retrocession to those
primitive times and to that simple form of life.

The Chorus thus renders more substantial service to the modern
dramatist than to the old poet--and for this reason, that it
transforms the commonplace actual world into the old poetical one;
that it enables him to dispense with all that is repugnant to poetry,
and conducts him back to the most simple, original, and genuine
motives of action. The palaces of kings are in these days
closed-courts of justice have been transferred from the gates of
cities to the interior of buildings; writing has narrowed the province
of speech; the people itself--the sensibly living mass--when it does
not operate as brute force, has become a part of the civil polity, and
thereby an abstract idea in our minds; the deities have returned
within the bosoms of mankind. The poet must reopen the palaces--he
must place courts of justice beneath the canopy of heaven--restore the
gods, reproduce every extreme which the artificial frame of actual
life has abolished--throw aside every factitious influence on the mind
or condition of man which impedes the manifestation of his inward
nature and primitive character, as the statuary rejects modern
costume, and of all external circumstances adopts nothing but what is
palpable in the highest of forms--that of humanity. But precisely as
the painter throws around his figures draperies of ample volume, to
fill up the space of his picture richly and gracefully, to arrange its
several parts in harmonious masses, to give due play to color, which
charms and refreshes the eye--and at once to envelop human forms in a
spiritual veil, and make them visible--so the tragic poet inlays and
entwines his rigidly contracted plot and the strong outlines of his
characters with a tissue of lyrical magnificence, in which, as in
flowing robes of purple, they move freely and nobly, with a sustained
dignity and exalted repose.

In a higher organization, the material, or the elementary, need not be
visible; the chemical color vanishes in the finer tints of the
imaginative one. The material, however, has its peculiar effect, and
may be included in an artistical com position. But it must deserve its
place by animation, fulness and harmony, and give value to the ideal
forms which it surrounds, instead of stifling them by its weight.

In respect of the pictorial art, this is obvious to ordinary
apprehension, yet in poetry likewise, and in the tragical kind, which
is our immediate subject, the same doctrine holds good. Whatever
fascinates the senses alone is mere matter and the rude element of a
work of art:--if it take the lead it will inevitably destroy the
poetical--which lies at the exact medium between the ideal and the
sensible. But man is so constituted that he is ever impatient to pass
from what is fanciful to what is common; and reflection must,
therefore, have its place even in tragedy. But to merit this place it
must, by means of delivery, recover what it wants in actual life; for
if the two elements of poetry, the ideal and the sensible, do not
operate with an inward mutuality, they must at least act as allies--or
poetry is out of the question. If the balance be not intrinsically
perfect, the equipoise can be maintained only by an agitation of both

This is what the Chorus effects in tragedy. It is, in itself, not an
individual but a general conception; yet it is represented by a
palpable body which appeals to the senses with an imposing grandeur.
It forsakes the contracted sphere of the incidents to dilate itself
over the past and future, over distant times and nations and general
humanity, to deduce the grand results of life, and pronounce the
lessons of wisdom. But all this it does with the full power of
fancy--with a bold lyrical freedom which ascends, as with godlike
step, to the topmost height of worldly things; and it effects it in
conjunction with the whole sensible influence of melody and rhythm, in
tones and movements.

The Chorus thus exercises a purifying influence on tragic poetry,
insomuch as it keeps reflection apart from the incidents, and by this
separation arms it with a poetical vigor; as the painter, by means of
a rich drapery, changes the ordinary poverty of costume into a charm
and an ornament.

But as the painter finds himself obliged to strengthen the tone of
color of the living subject, in order to counter-balance the material
influences--so the--lyrical effusions of the Chorus impose upon the
poet the necessity of a proportionate elevation of his general
diction. It is the Chorus alone which entitles the poet to employ
this fulness of tone, which at once charms the senses, pervades the
spirit, and expands the mind. This one giant form on his canvas
obliges him to mount all his figures on the cothurnus, and thus impart
a tragical grandeur to his picture. If the Chorus be taken away, the
diction of the tragedy must generally be lowered, or what is now great
and majestic will appear forced and overstrained. The old Chorus
introduced into the French tragedy would present it in all its poverty
and reduce it to nothing; yet, without doubt, the same accomplishment
would impart to Shakespeare's tragedy its true significance.

As the Chorus gives life to the language--so also it gives repose to
the action; but it is that beautiful and lofty repose which is the
characteristic of a true work of art. For the mind of the spectator
ought to maintain its freedom through the most impassioned scenes; it
should not be the mere prey of impressions, but calmly and severely
detach itself from the emotions which it suffers. The commonplace
objection made to the Chorus that it disturbs the illusion and blunts
the edge of the feelings, is what constitutes its highest
recommendation; for it is this blind force of the affections which the
true artist deprecates this illusion is what he disdains to excite. If
the strokes which Tragedy inflicts on our bosoms followed without
respite--the passion would overpower the action. We should mix
ourselves up with the subject-matter, and no longer stand above it. It
is by holding asunder the different parts, and stepping between the
passions with its composing views, that the Chorus restores to us our
freedom, which would else be lost in the tempest. The characters of
the drama need this intermission in order to collect themselves; for
they are no real beings who obey the impulse of the moment, and
merely represent individuals--but ideal persons and representatives of
their species, who enunciate the deep things of Humanity.

Thus much on my attempt to revive the old Chorus on the tragic stage.
It is true that choruses are not unknown to modern tragedy; but the
Chorus of the Greek drama, as I have employed it--the Chorus, as a
single ideal person, furthering and accompanying the whole plot--is of
an entirely distinct character; and when, in discussion on the Greek
tragedy, I hear mention made of choruses, I generally suspect the
speaker's ignorance of his subject. In my view the Chorus has never
been reproduced since the decline of the old tragedy.


[Footnote 63: Permission G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., London, and The
Macmillan Co., New York.]

* * * * *




Jena, August 23, 1794.

I yesterday received the welcome news that you had returned from your
journey. We may therefore hope to see you among us again soon, which
I, on my part, most heartily wish. My recent conversations with you
have put the whole store of my ideas in motion, for they related to a
subject which has actively engaged my thoughts for some years past.
Many things upon which I could not come to a right understanding with
myself have received new and unexpected light from the contemplation I
have had of your mind (for so I must call the general impression of
your ideas upon me). I needed the _object_, the body, for several of
my speculative ideas, and you have put me on the track of finding it.
Your calm and clear way of looking at things keeps you from getting on
the by-roads into which speculation as well as arbitrary
imagination--which merely follows its own bent--are so apt to lead one
astray. Your correct intuition grasps all things, and that far more
perfectly than what is laboriously sought for by analysis; and merely
because this lies within you as a whole, is the wealth of your mind
concealed from yourself. For, alas! we know only that which we can
take to pieces. Minds like yours, therefore, seldom know how far they
have penetrated and how little cause they have to borrow from
philosophy, which, in fact, can learn only from them. Philosophy can
merely dissect what is given it, but the giving itself is not the work
of the analyzer but of genius, which combines things according to
objective laws under the obscure but safe influence of pure reason.


Although I have done so at a distance, I have long watched the course
which your mind has pursued, and have observed, with ever renewed
admiration, the path which you have marked out for yourself. You seek
for the necessary in nature, but you seek it by the most difficult
route--one which all weaker minds would take care to avoid. You look
at Nature as a whole, when seeking to get light thrown upon her
individual parts; you look for the explanation of the individual in
the totality of her various manifestations. From the simple organism
you ascend step by step to those that are more complex, in order, in
the end, genetically to form the most complicate of all--man--out of
the materials of nature as a whole. By thus, as it were, imitating
nature in creating him, you try to penetrate into his hidden
structure. This is a great and truly heroic idea, which sufficiently
shows how your mind keeps the whole wealth of its conceptions in one
beautiful unity. You can never have expected that your life would
suffice to attain such an end, but to have struck out such a path is
worth more than reaching the end of any other; and you, like Achilles
in the Iliad, made your choice between Phthia and immortality. Had you
been born a Greek, or even an Italian, and had you from infancy been
placed in the midst of choice natural surroundings and of an
idealizing Art, your path would have been infinitely shortened,
perhaps even have been rendered entirely superfluous. Had such been
the case, you would, on your first perception of things, have taken up
the form of the Necessary, and the grand style would have been
developed in you with your first experience. But being born a German,
and your Grecian spirit having been cast in this Northern mold, you
had no other choice but either to become a Northern artist; or, by the
help of the power of thought, to supply your imagination with what
reality withheld from it, and thus, as it were, to produce a Greek
from within by a reasoning process. At that period of life when the
soul, surrounded by defective forms, constructs its own inward nature
out of outward circumstances, you had already assumed a wild Northern
nature, and your victorious genius, rising above its materials, then
discovered this want from within, and became convinced of it from
without through its acquaintance with Greek nature. You had then, in
accordance with the better model which your developing mind created
for itself, to correct your old and less perfect nature, and this
could be effected only by following leading ideas. However, this
_logical_ direction which a reflecting mind is forced to pursue, is
not very compatible with the _esthetic_ state of mind by which alone a
reflecting mind becomes creative. You, therefore, had one task more:
for inasmuch as your mind had passed over from intuition to
abstraction, so you had now to go back and retranslate ideas into
intuitions, and to change thoughts into feelings; for it is only
through the latter that genius can be productive.

It is somewhat in this manner that I imagine the course pursued by
your mind, and whether I am right or not you will yourself know best.
However, what you yourself can scarcely be aware of (as genius ever
remains the greatest mystery to itself) is the beautiful harmony
between your philosophical instinct and the purest results of your
speculative reason. Upon a first view it does indeed seem as if there
could not be any greater opposites than the speculative mind which
proceeds from unity, and the intuitive mind which proceeds from
variety. If, however, the former seeks experience with a pure and
truthful spirit, and the latter seeks law with self-active and free
power of thought, then the two cannot fail to meet each other half
way. It is true that the intuitive mind has only to deal with
individuals, the speculative mind only with species. But if the
intuitive mind is that of a genius and seeks the nature of the
Necessary in experience, then individuals will be produced, it is
true, but they will possess the character of the species; and again,
if the speculative mind is that of a genius, and does not lose sight
of experience when rising above it, then it will indeed produce
species only, but with the possibility of individual life and with a
well-founded relation to actual objects.

But I find that in place of sending you a letter I am writing an
essay--pray excuse this, and ascribe it to the lively interest with
which the subject has filled me; and should you not recognize your
own image in this mirror, do not on that account flee from it, I pray.
* * *

Diderot's work[65], especially the first part, is very interesting,
and, considering the subject, is handled with edifying delicacy. I beg
to be permitted to keep this book for a few days longer.

It would, I think, be well if we could now soon start the new
periodical, and you would perhaps be kind enough to let the first
number be opened with something of yours. I, therefore, take the
liberty of asking you whether you would be willing to let your
novel[66] appear in our journal in successive numbers? But whether you
determine to let us have it or not, I should consider it a very great
favor to be allowed to read it.

My friends and my wife commend themselves to your kind remembrance.

* * * * *


Ettersburg, August 27, 1794.

On the anniversary of my birthday, which took place this week, I could
not have received a more acceptable gift than the letter in which you
give the sum of my existence in so friendly a manner, and in which, by
your sympathy, you encourage me to a more assiduous and active use of
my powers.

Pure enjoyment and true usefulness can only be reciprocal, and it will
be a pleasure to me to unfold to you at leisure what your conversation
has been to me; how I, too, regard those days as an epoch in my life,
and how contented I feel in having gone on my way without any
particular encouragement; for it seems to me that, after so unexpected
a meeting, we cannot but wander on in life together. I have always
prized the frank and rare earnestness which is displayed in all that
you have written and done, and I may now claim to be made acquainted
by yourself with the course taken by your own mind, more especially
during these latter years. If we make it clear to each other to which
point we have thus far attained, the better able we shall be to work
on together without interruption.

All that relates to myself I will gladly communicate to you; for,
being fully conscious that my undertaking far exceeds the measure of
human capabilities and their earthly duration, I should like to
deposit many things with you, and thereby not only preserve them but
give them life.

Of what great advantage your sympathy will be to me you will yourself
soon perceive, when, upon a closer acquaintance, you discover in me a
kind of obscurity and hesitation which I cannot entirely master,
although distinctly aware of their existence. Such phenomena, however,
are often found in our natures, and we quietly submit to them as long
as they do not become too tyrannical.

I hope to be able to spend some time with you soon, when we shall talk
over many things.

Unfortunately, a few weeks before receiving your proposal, I had given
my novel to Unger,[67] and the first proof sheets have already come to
hand. I have more than once thought, during these last days, that it
would have been very suitable for your periodical. It is the only
thing I have by me of any size, and is a kind of problematical work
such as the good Germans like.

I will send the first Book as soon as I get all the proof sheets. It
is so long since it was written that, in the actual sense of the word,
I may be said to be only the editor.


The highest aim he reached
on soaring pinion
Closely allied to all we value most
Thus honor him! What life but
To Genius yields, in full shall
give Posterity.

Goethe on Schiller.]

If, among my projects, there were anything that would serve the
purpose you mention, we should, I think, easily agree as to the most
appropriate form to put it in, and there should be no delay in my
working it out. Farewell, and remember me to your circle.

* * * * *


Jena, August 31, 1794.

On my return from Weissenfels, where I met my friend Koerner from
Dresden, I received your last letter but one, the contents of which
pleased me for two reasons; for I perceive from it that the view I
took of your mind coincides with your own feelings, and that you were
not displeased with the candor with which I allowed my heart to
express itself. Our acquaintance, although it comes late, awakens in
me many a delightful hope, and is to me another proof of how much
better it often is to let chance have its way than to forestall it
with too much officiousness. Great as my desire always was to become
more closely acquainted with you than is possible between the spirit
of a writer and his most attentive reader, I now clearly see that the
very different paths upon which you and I have moved could not, with
any advantage to ourselves, have brought us together sooner than at
the present time. I now hope, however, that we may travel over the
rest of our life's way together, and, moreover, do this with more than
usual advantage to each other, inasmuch as the last travelers who join
company on a long journey have always the most to say to each other.

Do not expect to find any great store of ideas in me; this is what I
shall find in you. My need and endeavor are to make much out of
little, and, when you once come to know my poverty in all so-called
acquired knowledge, you will perhaps find that I have sometimes
succeeded in doing this; for, the circle of my ideas being small, I
can the more rapidly and the more frequently run through it; for that
very reason I can use my small resources with more effect, and can, by
means of form, produce that variety which is wanting in the
subject-matter. You strive to simplify your great world of ideas; I
seek variety for my small means. You have to govern a whole realm, I
but a somewhat numerous family of ideas, which I would be heartily
glad to be able to extend into a little world.

Your mind works intuitively to an extraordinary degree, and all your
thinking powers appear, as it were, to have come to an agreement with
your imagination to be their common representative. In reality, this
is the most that a man can make of himself if only he succeeds in
generalizing his perceptions and making his feelings his supreme law.
This is what you have endeavored to do, and what in a great measure
you have already attained. My understanding works more in a
symbolizing method, and thus I hover, as a hybrid, between ideas and
intentions, between law and feeling, between a technical mind and
genius. This it is that, particularly in my earlier years, gave me a
rather awkward appearance both in the field of speculation and in that
of poetry; for the poetic mind generally got the better of me when I
ought to have philosophized, and my philosophical mind when I wished
to poetize. Even now it frequently enough happens that imagination
intrudes upon my abstractions, and cold reason upon my poetical
productions. If I could obtain such mastery over these two powers as
to assign to each its limits, I might yet look forward to a happy
fate; but, alas! just when I have begun to know and to use my moral
powers rightly, illness seizes me and threatens to undermine my
physical powers. I can scarcely hope to have time to complete any
great and general mental revolution in myself; but I will do what I
can, and when, at last, the building falls, I shall, perhaps, after
all, have snatched from the ruins what was most worthy of being

You expressed a wish that I should speak of myself, and I have made
use of the permission. I make these confessions to you in
confidence, and venture to hope that you will receive them in a kindly

I shall today refrain from entering into details about your essay,
which will at once lead our conversations on this subject upon the
most fertile track. My own researches--entered upon by a different
path--have led me to a result rather similar to that at which you have
arrived, and in the accompanying papers you will perhaps find ideas
which coincide with your own. I wrote them about a year and a half
ago, for which reason, as well as on account of the occasion for which
they were penned (they were intended for an indulgent friend), there
is some excuse for their crudeness of form. These ideas have, indeed,
since then, received in me a better foundation and greater precision,
and this may possibly bring them much nearer to yours.

I cannot sufficiently regret that _Wilhelm Meister_ is lost to our
periodical. However, I hope that your fertile mind and friendly
interest in our undertaking will give us some compensation for this
loss, whereby the admirers of your genius will be double gainers. In
the number of the _Thalia_ which I herewith send you, you will find
some ideas of Koerner's on Declamation, which, I think, will please

* * * * *


Jena, January 7, 1795.

Accept my best thanks for the copy of the novel you have sent me. The
feeling which penetrates and takes hold of me with increasing force
the further I read on in this work, I cannot better express in words
than by calling it a delicious, inward sense of comfort, a feeling of
mental and bodily well-being, and I will vouch that this will be the
effect produced upon all readers.

This sense of comfort I account for from the calm clearness,
smoothness, and transparency which pervade the whole of your work, and
which leave nothing to disturb or to dissatisfy the mind, and the mind
is not more excited than is necessary to fan and maintain a joyous
life. Of the individual parts I shall say nothing till I have seen the
Third Book, which I am looking forward to with longing.

I cannot express to you what a painful feeling it often is to me to
pass from a work of this kind into one of a philosophical character.
In the former all is so joyous, so alive, so harmoniously evolved, and
so true to human life; in the latter all is so stern, so rigid,
abstract, and so extremely unnatural; for all nature is synthesis, and
philosophy but antithesis. I can, in fact, give proof of having been
as true to nature in my speculations as is compatible with the idea of
analysis; indeed, I have perhaps been more faithful to her than our
Kantians would consider permissible or possible. But still I am no
less fully conscious of the infinite difference between Life and
Reasoning, and cannot, in such melancholy moments, help perceiving a
want in my own nature which in happier hours I am forced to think of
only as a natural duality of the thing itself. This much, however, is
certain--the poet is the only true man, and the best philosopher is
but a caricature in comparison with him.

I need scarcely assure you that I am in the utmost anxiety to know
what you have to say to my philosophy of the Beautiful. As the
Beautiful itself is derived from man as a whole, so my analysis of it
is drawn from _my_ own whole being, and I cannot but be deeply
interested in knowing how this accords with yours.

Your presence here will be a source of nourishment both to my mind and
my heart. Especially great is my longing to enjoy some poetical works
in common with you.

[Illustration: Schiller on Goethe]

You promised to let me hear some of your epigrams when an opportunity
occurred. It would be a great and additional pleasure to me if this
could be done during your approaching visit to Jena, as it is still
very uncertain when I may be able to get to W.

Just as I am about to close comes the welcome continuation of your
_Meister_. A thousand thanks for it!

* * * * *


Weimar, November 21, 1795.

Today I received twenty-one of Propertius' elegies from Knebel and
shall look them over carefully and then let the translator know where
I find anything to object to; for, as he has given himself so much
trouble, nothing ought, perhaps, to be altered without his sanction.

I wish you could induce Cotta to pay for this manuscript at once; it
could easily be calculated how many sheets it would print. I have, it
is true, no actual occasion to ask this, but it would look much
better, would encourage energetic cooeperation, and also help in making
the good name of the _Horen_ better known. A publisher has often
enough to pay money in advance, so Cotta might surely once in a way
pay upon the receipt of a manuscript. Knebel wants the Elegies to be
divided into three contributions; I, too, think this the right
proportion, and we should thus have the first three numbers of next
year's _Horen_ nicely adorned. I will see to it that you get them in
proper time.

Have you seen Stolberg's abominable preface to his Platonic
discourses? The disclosures he there makes are so insipid and
intolerable that I feel very much inclined to step out and chastise
him. It would be a very simple matter to hold up to view the senseless
unreasonableness of this stupid set of people, if, in so doing, one
had but a rational public on one's side; this would at the same time
be a declaration of war against that superficiality which it has now
become necessary to combat in every department of learning. The secret
feuds of suppressing, misplacing, and misprinting, which it has
carried on against us, have long deserved that this declaration should
be held in honorable remembrance, and that continuously.

I find this doubly necessary and unavoidable in the case of my
scientific works, which I am gradually getting into order. I intend to
speak out my mind pretty frankly against reviewers, journalists,
collectors of magazines, and writers of abridgments, and, in a prelude
or prolog, openly to declare myself against the public; in this
instance, especially, I do not intend to allow any one's opposition or
reticence to pass.

What do you say, for instance, to Lichtenberg, with whom I have had
some correspondence about the optical subjects we spoke of, and with
whom, besides, I am on pretty good terms, not even mentioning my
essays in his new edition of Erxleben's Compendium, especially as a
new edition of a compendium is surely issued in order to introduce the
latest discoveries, and these gentlemen are usually quick enough in
noting down everything in their interleaved books! How many different
ways there are of dispatching a work like this, even though it were
but done in a passing manner I However, at the present moment, my
cunning brains cannot think of any one of these ways.

I am, at present, very far from being in anything like an esthetic or
sentimental mood, so what is to become of my poor novel? Meanwhile, I
am making use of my time as best I can, and my comfort is that, at so
low an ebb, one may hope that the flood is about to return.

Your dear letter reached me safely, and I thank you for your sympathy,
which I felt sure you would give me. In such cases one hardly knows
what is best to do--to let grief take its natural course or to fortify
oneself with the assistance which culture gives us. If one determines
to follow the latter course--as I always do--one feels better merely
for the moment, and. I have noticed that Nature always reasserts her
rights in other ways.

The Sixth Book of my novel has made a good impression here also; to be
sure, the poor reader never knows what he is about with works of this
kind, for he does not consider that he would probably never take them
up had not the author contrived to get the better of his thinking
powers, his feelings, and his curiosity.

Your testimony in favor of my tale I prize very highly, and I shall
henceforth work with more confidence at this species of composition.

The last volume of my novel cannot in any case appear before
Michaelmas; it would be well if we could arrange the plans we lately
discussed in reference to this.

My new story can, I think, hardly be ready by December, and,
moreover, I can scarcely venture to pass on to it till I have, in some
way or other, written something in explanation of the first. If, by
December, I could write something of this kind neatly, I should be
very glad of thus being able to give you a contribution for next
year's opening number. Farewell. May we long enjoy having around us
those who are nearest and dearest to us. Toward New Year's I hope
again to spend some time with you.

* * * * *


Jena, July 2, 1796.

I have now run through all the eight Books of your novel, very
hurriedly, it is true, but the subject-matter alone is so large that I
could scarcely get through it in two days' reading. Properly speaking,
therefore, I ought not to say anything about it even today, for the
surprising and unparalleled variety which is therein _concealed_--in
the strictest sense of the word--is overpowering. I confess that what
I have as yet grasped correctly is but the _continuity_, not the
_unity_, although I do not for a moment doubt that I shall become
perfectly clear on this point also, if, as I think, in works of this
kind, the continuity is more than half the unity.

As, under the circumstances, you cannot exactly expect to receive from
me anything thoroughly satisfactory and yet wish to hear something,
you must be content with a few remarks; these, however, are not
altogether without value, inasmuch as they will tell of direct
impressions. To make up for this, I promise you that our discussions
about your novel shall continue throughout the month. To give an
adequate and truly esthetic estimate of a whole work, as a work of
art, is a serious undertaking. I shall devote the whole of the next
four months to it, and that with pleasure. Besides this, it is one of
the greatest blessings of my existence that I have lived to see this
work of yours completed, that it has been written while my faculties
are still in a state of growth, and that I may draw inspiration from
this pure source; further, the beautiful relation that exists between
us makes it seem to me a kind of religious duty to call your cause my
own, and to develop all that is real in my nature so fully that my
mind may become the clearest mirror of what exists beneath this
covering, and that I may deserve the name of being your friend in the
higher sense of the word. How vividly have I felt, at this time, that
excellence is a power, that it can influence selfish natures only as a
power, and that, as contrasted with excellence, there is no freedom
but love!

I cannot say how much I have been moved by the truth, the beautiful
vitality, and the simple fulness of your work. My agitation, it is
true, is greater than it will be when I have completely mastered your
subject, and that will be an important crisis in my intellectual life;
but yet this agitation is the effect of the Beautiful and only of the
Beautiful, and is merely the result of my reason not having yet been
able to master my feelings. I now quite understand what you meant by
saying that it was the Beautiful, the True, that could often move you
to tears. Calm and deep, clear and yet incomprehensible, like nature,
your work makes its influence felt; it stands there, and even the
smallest secondary incident shows the beautiful equanimity from which
all has emanated.


But I cannot, as yet, find words to describe these impressions, and,
moreover, I must today confine myself to the Eighth Book. How well you
have succeeded in bringing the large and widely extended circle, the
different attitudes and scenes of the events, so closely together
again! Your work may be compared to a beautiful planetary system;
everything belongs together, and it is only the Italian figures which,
like comets and as weirdly as they, connect the system with one that
is more remote and larger. Further, these figures, as also Marianna
and Aurelia, run wholly out of this system again, and, after having
merely served to produce a poetical movement in it, separate
themselves from it as foreign individuals. How beautifully conceived
it is to derive what is practically monstrous and terribly pathetic in
the fate of Mignon and the Harpist from what is theoretically
monstrous, from the abortions of the understanding, so that nothing is
thereby laid to the charge of pure and healthy nature! Senseless
superstition alone gives birth to such monstrous fates as pursue
Mignon and the Harpist. Even Aurelia's ruin is but the result of her
own unnaturalness, her masculine nature. Toward Marianna alone could I
accuse you of poetic selfishness. I could almost say she has been made
a sacrifice to the novel, as the nature of the case would not permit
of her being saved. Her fate, therefore, will ever draw forth bitter
tears, while in the case of the three others the reader will gladly
turn from what is individual to the idea of the whole.

Wilhelm's false relationship to Theresa is admirably conceived,
motivated, and worked out, and still more admirably turned to account.
Many a reader will at first be actually alarmed at it, for I can
promise Theresa but few wellwishers; all the more beautiful is the way
in which the reader is rescued from this state of uneasiness. I cannot
imagine how this false relation could have been dissolved more
tenderly, more delicately, or more nobly. How pleased Richardson and
all his set would have been had you made a scene out of it and been
highly indelicate in the display of delicate sentiments! I have but
one little objection to raise: Theresa's courageous and determined
resistance to the person who wishes to rob her of her lover, even
although the possibility is thereby reopened to her of possessing
Lothar, is quite in accordance with nature, and is excellent; further,
I think there are good reasons for Wilhelm's showing deep indignation
and a certain amount of pain at the banterings of his fellowmen and of
fate--but it seems to me that he ought to complain less deeply of the
loss of a happiness which had already ceased to be anything of the
kind to him. In Natalie's presence, as it seems to me, his regained
freedom ought to be to him a greater happiness than he allows it to
be. I am quite aware of the complication of this state of things and
what is demanded by _delicatesse_, but, on the other hand, Natalie may
in some measure be said to be hurt by this same _delicatesse_ when, in
her presence, Wilhelm is allowed to lament over the loss of Theresa.

One other thing I specially admire in the concatenation of the events
is the great good which you have contrived to draw from Wilhelm's
already-mentioned false relation to Theresa so as most speedily to
bring about the true and desired end, the union of Natalie and
Wilhelm. In no other manner could this end have been arrived at so
well and so naturally as by the path you have pursued, although this
very path threatened to lead from it. It can now be maintained, with
the most perfect innocence and purity, that Wilhelm and Natalie belong
to each other; and Theresa's letters to Natalie lead up to this
beautifully. Such contrivances are of the greatest beauty, for they
unite all that could be desired, nay, all that appeared wholly
ununitable; they complicate, and yet carry the solution in themselves;
they produce restlessness, and yet lead to repose; they succeed in
reaching the goal, while appearing to be making every effort to keep
from it.

Mignon's death, although we are prepared for it, affects one
powerfully and deeply--so deeply, in fact, that many will think you
quit the subject too abruptly. This, upon first reading it, was a very
decided feeling in my own case; but, on reading it a second time, when
surprise had subsided, I felt it less, and yet I fear that you may
have, in this, gone a hair's breadth too far. Mignon, before her end,
had begun to appear more womanly and softer, and thus to have become
more interesting in herself; the repulsive heterogeneity of her nature
had relaxed, and with this relaxation some of her impetuosity had
likewise disappeared. Her last song, especially, melts one's heart to
the most intense sympathy. Hence it strikes one as odd that, directly
upon the affecting scene of her death, the doctor should make an
experiment upon her corpse, and that this living being should so soon
be able to forget the person, merely in order to regard her as the
instrument of a scientific inquiry. It strikes one as being equally
strange that Wilhelm--who, after all, is the cause of her death, and
is aware of it--should at that moment notice the instrument-case and
be lost in the recollection of past scenes, when the present should
have so wholly absorbed him.

You may, in this case also, justify yourself as having been quite true
to nature, but I doubt whether you will be able to do this as regards
the "sentimental" demands of your readers; and therefore--in order
that nothing should interfere with the reader's acceptance of a scene
which is so splendidly motivated and so well worked out--I would
advise you to pay some attention to it.

Otherwise, I find everything you do with Mignon, when living as well
as when dead, most uncommonly beautiful. This pure and poetic creature
is specially and excellently qualified to have so poetical a funeral.
In her isolated condition, her mysterious existence, her purity and
innocence, she is so truly a representative of the period of life in
which she stands that she moves one to a feeling of unmixed sadness
and genuine human sorrow, for nothing but pure humanity was manifested
in her. That which, in every other individual, would be inconsistent,
nay, in a certain sense, revolting, is, in her, sublime and noble.

I should have liked to see the appearance of the Marquis in the family
motivated by something more than his mere dilettanteism in art. He is
too indispensable to the development, and the _need_ of his
interference might easily have been made more conspicuous than the
inner necessity. You have yourself spoilt the reader by the
arrangement of the rest of your work, and have justified him in making
greater demands than can generally be required of novel writers. Could
not the Marquis be made an old acquaintance of Lothar or of the Uncle,
and his journey hither be more interwoven with the whole?

The end, as well as the whole history of the Harpist, excites the
greatest interest. I have already said how excellent I find your
thought of deriving the terrible destinies of the Harpist and of
Mignon from religious extravagance. The priest's notion of describing
a small transgression as monstrous, in order that a great crime--which
he will not mention for humanity's sake--may be atoned for by it, is
sublime of its kind and a worthy representative of this whole mode of
thinking. You might perhaps make Sperate's story a little shorter
still, as it comes in at the end where one is prone to hurry
impatiently to the goal.

That the Harpist should prove to be Mignon's father, and that you
yourself do not mention it or thrust it at the reader, makes the
effect all the greater. One is forced to reflect upon the fact
oneself, to recall to mind how close in life was the relation which
existed between these two mysterious natures, and to look down into an
unfathomable depth of fate. But no more for today. My wife wishes to
inclose a little note to tell you her impressions of your Eighth Book.

Farewell, my beloved, my esteemed friend! I am deeply moved when I
think that that which we otherwise look for and rarely find in the far
distance of favored antiquity lies so close to me in you. You need no
longer be astonished that there are so few who are capable or worthy
of understanding you. The wonderful naturalness, truth, and fluency of
your description hide from the common herd of critics every thought of
the difficulty, of the grandness of your art, and those who are
capable of following the artist, who perceive the means by which the
effects have been produced, will feel themselves so averse, so hostile
toward the genial power which they there see in action, and find their
needy selves in such straits, that they will angrily thrust the work
from them, while in their hearts--though with _de mauvaise
grace_--they are certain to be your liveliest worshippers.

* * * * *

GOETHE _to_ SCHILLER Weimar, July 5, 1796.

As soon as I received your first letter I at once sat down to write to
you; but verily your two following letters have come to me, in the
midst of my truly worldly occupations, like two voices from another
world to which I can do naught but listen. Pray continue to refresh
and to encourage me! Your suggestions will enable me to finish the
Eighth Book as soon as I am able again to take it in hand. I already
possess the means to satisfy nearly every one of your suggestions, by
which, moreover, even to my mind, the whole work becomes more
connected at the points in question, and both truer and more pleasing.
Do not become weary of telling me your opinion frankly, and keep the
book a week longer. What you require of _Cellini_ I shall meanwhile
push forward; I shall also give you a sketch of what I still think of
doing to my Eighth Book, and hence the last transcript shall be out of
our hands by the beginning of August.

Your letters are now my sole recreation, and you must know how
grateful I am to you for having so unexpectedly set my mind at ease
about so many points. Farewell, and give my kind greetings to your
dear wife.

* * * * *


March 18, 1799.

I congratulate you with all my heart upon having finished your work;
it has given me particular satisfaction, although I have, so to say,
but tasted the outside of it, and that on a most disturbed morning.
For stage purposes it is quite sufficiently developed; the new
motives, which I did not know of, are very good and to the point.

If, at some future time, you could cut off a little from _The
Piccolomini_, both pieces would be a priceless gift to the German
stage, and they would have to be given throughout many a long year.

The last piece has, it is true, this great merit, that everything
ceases to be political and becomes of purely human interest; nay, the
historical element itself is but a light veil through which we have
the purely human element shining forth. The effect upon the mind is
neither interfered with nor disturbed.

I would certainly close with the monologue by the Princess, for it is,
in any case, left to the imagination as to what becomes of her. It
might perhaps be well, eventually, to have the Equerry introduced in
the first piece.

The close of the whole with the address of the letter is, in reality,
frightening, especially considering the tender state of one's feelings
at the moment. It is doubtless an exceptional case to conclude with
what is terrible after having exhausted all that was capable of
rousing fear and pity.

I shall not add more, and can but say that I am delighted at the
prospect of enjoying this work with you. I hope still to be able to
start on Thursday. You shall know for certain on Wednesday; we will
then read the play together, and I intend then to enjoy it in a
thoroughly composed state of mind.

Farewell; take a rest now and let us both begin a new life during the
vacation. My kind greetings to your dear wife, and think of me.

I do not intend, just yet, to boast of the work extorted from the
Muses; it is still a great question whether it is worth anything; in
any case, however, it may be regarded as preparatory.

* * * * *


Jena, March 19, 1799.

I have for long dreaded the moment when I should be rid of my work,
much as I wished for the time to come; and, in fact, I do feel my
present freedom to be worse than the state of bondage I have hitherto
been in. The mass which has formerly drawn and held me to it has now
gone, and I feel as if I were hanging indefinitely in empty space. At
the same time I feel also as if it were absolutely impossible for me
ever to produce anything again; I shall not be at rest till I once
more have my thoughts turned to some definite subject, with hope and
inclination in view. When I again have some definite object before me,
I shall be rid of the feeling of restlessness which at present is also
drawing me off from smaller things I have in hand. When you come I
mean to lay before you some tragic materials of my own invention, in
order that I may not, in the first instance, make a mistake as regards
subject. Inclination and necessity draw me toward subjects of pure
fancy, not to historical ones, and toward such in which the interest
is of a purely sentimental and human character; for of soldiers,
heroes, and commanders, I am now heartily tired.

How I envy you your present activity--your latest! You are standing on
the purest and sublimest poetic ground, in the most beautiful world of
definite figures where everything is ready-made or can be re-made. You
are, so to say, living in the home of poetry and being waited upon by
the gods. During these last days I have again been looking into
Homer, and there have read of the visit of Thetis to Vulcan with
immense pleasure. There is, in the graceful description of a domestic
visit such as we might receive any day, and in an account of any kind
of handicraft, an infinity of material and form, and the Naive shows
the full nature of the Divine.

Your hope of being able to finish the _Achilleid_ by August, or, at
least, your believing it to be possible to do so, is to me
inconceivable, notwithstanding all the proofs I have myself had of the
rapidity with which you get through things, especially as you do not
even reckon upon having April for work. I sincerely regret that you
will lose this month; perhaps, however, you will be able to preserve
your epic mood; if so, be sure not to allow theatrical cares to
disturb you. I will gladly relieve you of whatever trouble I can in
connection with _Wallenstein_.

A few days ago Imhof sent me the last two cantos of her poem, which
have given me very great pleasure. The development is extremely
refined and pure, and is accomplished by simple means and unusual
elegance. When you come we will talk it over together.

I herewith return _The Piccolomini_, and beg you to let me have
_Wallenstein's Camp_, which I wish likewise to have copied out, and
shall then, at last, be able to send the three plays to Koerner.

The box of groats has been called for and delivered up in your name to
a Herr Meyer. You have, no doubt, already received it. Farewell. My
wife sends kindest greetings. Tomorrow I hope to hear that we may
expect you on Thursday.

* * * * *


Weimar, July 30, 1800. The cheerful tone of your letter proves to me
that things are going well with you in Jena, and I congratulate you
that such is the case. I cannot boast the same of myself; the state of
the barometer, which is so favorable to you, brings on my spasms, and
I do not sleep well. Owing to this state of things, it was very
welcome news to me to hear from Koerner that he could not undertake the
journey. I shall, therefore, not go to Lauchstedt, and shall thus have
an unexpected gain in time and also in money; for, much as I should
have liked to see him again, it would just at present have been a
little inconvenient to me.

I congratulate you upon the progress you have made in your work. The
liberty which you appear to be taking with the French original, I look
upon as a good sign of the productive state of your mind, and also
augur from this that the work will bring us a step further forward
than _Mahomet_ did. I am looking forward eagerly to seeing your work
and to our discussions upon it.

If you carry out your idea respecting the choruses, we shall be making
an important experiment on the stage. My piece, too, will, I hope, be
so far advanced by the time you return that I may lay the finished
sketch of it before you, in order to assure myself that you approve of
it before I set about working it out. During the last few days I have
likewise been engaged with the conclusion of my collection of poems.
The stanzas on _Mahomet I_ have also had printed in it. If you are
curious to see them, Goepferdt could send you sheets R and S as soon
as they have been printed off.

Kirms sent me a very welcome today, for which I send you my best

My wife sends kindest greetings. May you farewell and enjoy the gay
variety of entertainments by which you are surrounded in Jena. Mellish
passed through here yesterday, and has again taken up his abode in
Doernburg. I hear a great deal about the merry life they are leading
in Wilhelmsthal, where the proceedings are evidently very Utopian. My
sister-in-law met with a serious accident in the carriage, which broke
in two; however, she herself was not hurt. Farewell.

* * * * *


Jena, August I, 1800.

_Tancred_ I laid aside yesterday morning. I have translated--and here
and there a little more than this--the close of the second act and the
third and fourth acts, with the exception of the close of the two
latter. By this means, as I think, I have secured the worthier parts
of the piece, to which I shall now have to add something of my own
that is life-giving, so that the beginning and the end may become
somewhat fuller than the original. The choruses will be very
appropriate; however, I shall nevertheless have to act very cautiously
so as not to injure the whole. Still, once being upon the path we have
entered, I shall never regret working out and accomplishing this task.

Yesterday I attended to some business matters, and today solved a
small difficulty in _Faust_; if I could remain here another fortnight
it should assume quite a different appearance. However, I have
unfortunately taken it into my head that my presence is required in
Weimar, and I am going to sacrifice my dearest wish to this fancy.

In other ways, also, these last few days have not been unfruitful in
many good things. We have long pondered over a _Bride in Sorrow_.
Tieck, in his poetic journal, reminds me of an old marionette play
called the _Hoellenbraul_, which I too remember to have seen in my
young days. It is a pendent to _Faust_, or, rather, to _Don Juan_. An
extremely vain and heartless girl, who has ruined her faithful lover,
consents to accept an unknown stranger as her betrothed, and he, in
the end, as a devil, carries her off with him--as she deserves. Ought
we not to be able to find the idea for a bride in sorrow here--at
least in this direction?

I have been reading a treatise of Baader's on the Pythagorean square
in nature, or the four quarters of the globe. Whether it be that I
have for some years past interested myself more in this species of
writing, or that he has contrived to make his intentions clearer, the
little work has pleased me and has served me as an introduction to his
earlier writings; however, my faculties are still unable to comprehend
all of the latter.

A student here, who is engaged with the anatomy of insects, dissected
some very neatly and explained them to me, and I have thus made
progress in this branch also, partly in knowledge of the subject
itself, partly also in the treatment of it.

If a young man like this could have some definite object given him to
work at, if only for four months, many very pleasant things might be
the result. However, if I can come over here again before the time
when certain cater-pillars change into chrysalies, I shall assuredly
try to make use of his ability and dexterity. One might, indeed,
easily do such things oneself, were it not that they would at once
lead one over into an entirely different sphere. On Monday I shall
be with you again, and shall have a number of things to bring with me
and to relate.

Farewell meanwhile, and hold me in remembrance.

* * * * *


Ober-Rossla, April 6, 1801.

I wish you all happiness upon your return to Weimar, and hope soon to
see you again, either by your coming to pay me a visit or by my again
repairing to town.

My stay here suits me very well, partly because I move about in the
open air all day, partly because I am drawn down to the common objects
of life, and thus there comes over me a certain feeling of nonchalance
and indifference such as I have not known for a long time.

With regard to the questions contained in your last letter, I not only
agree with your opinion, but go even further. I think that everything
that is done by genius as genius, is done unconsciously. A person of
genius can also act rationally, with reflection, from conviction, but
this is all done, as it were, indirectly. No work of genius can be
improved or be freed from its faults by reflection and its immediate
results, but genius can, by means of reflection and action, be
gradually raised to a degree that in the end shall produce exemplary
works. The more genius a century possesses, the more are individual
things advanced.

With regard to the great demands now made of the poet, I too am of
the opinion that these will not readily call forth a poet. The art of
poetry requires of the person who is to exercise it a certain
good-natured kind of narrowness enamored of what is Real, behind which
lies concealed what is Absolute. Demands made by criticism destroy the
innocent, productive state, and give us as genuine poetry--in place of
poetry--something that is in fact no poetry at all, as unfortunately
we have seen in our own day; and the same is the case with the kindred
arts--nay, with Art in its widest sense.

This is my confession of faith, which otherwise does not make any
further claims.


I expect much good from your latest work. It is well conceived, and,
if you devote sufficient time to it, will round itself off of its own
accord. _Faust_ also has meanwhile had something done to it. I hope
that soon the only thing wanting in the great gap will be the
disputation; this, it is true, will have to be looked upon as a
distinct piece of work, and one which will not be accomplished at a
moment's notice.

The famous prize-question also has not been lost sight of during these
days. In order to obtain an empiric foundation for my observations, I
have commenced examining the character of the different European
nations. In Link's _Travels_ I have read a good deal more about
Portugal, and shall now pass on to Spain. I am daily becoming more
convinced how much more limited everything appears when such
observations are made from within.

Ritter came to see me for a minute, and has, among other things,
directed my attention again to the theory of colors. Herschel's new
discoveries, which have been carried further and extended by our young
naturalist, are very beautifully connected with that observation which
I have frequently told you of--that Bolognian phosphorus does not
receive any light on the yellow-red side of the spectrum, but
certainly does so on the blue-red side. The physical colors are
thereby identified with the chemical colors. The time and care which
I have devoted to this subject give me the greatest advantage in
judging of new observations, inasmuch as, in fact, I have thought out
some new experiments which will carry the matter further still. I
foresee that I shall this year write at least two or three chapters
more in my theory of colors. I am anxious, some day soon, to show you
the latest.

Would you care to come to me on Thursday with Professor Meyer? Please
talk this over with him, and I will then write to him more fully on
the subject. Meanwhile, farewell.

* * * * *


Weimar, August 18, 1802.

You can never be inactive, and what you call an unproductive mood most
other people would consider time fully occupied. If only some
subordinate genius--one of those very persons residing and presiding
at the universities--would give the finishing touch to your scientific
ideas, collect and edit them fairly, and, in this way, preserve them
for the world! For, unfortunately, you yourself will always be putting
off this business, because, as I think, what is actually didactic is
not a part of your nature. You are, in reality, very well qualified
for being appropriated and plundered by others during your own
lifetime, as has already happened to you several times and would
happen more frequently still if people understood their own advantage

If we had become acquainted with each other half a dozen years earlier
than we did, I should have had time to master your scientific
investigations; I should perhaps have sustained your inclination to
give these important subjects their ultimate shape, and, in any case,
should have honestly looked after what belonged to you.

I have lately been reading some notices on the elder Pliny, which have
astonished me in regard to what a man can accomplish by putting time
to good use. Compared with him, even Haller was a time-squanderer. But
I am afraid that the immense amount of time he devoted to reading,
making quotations and dictating, left him no proper time for
independent reflection, and he seems to have applied all the activity
of his mind to acquiring knowledge; for on one occasion he called his
nephew severely to task for walking up and down the garden without
having a book in his hand.

During these last days I have been hard at work with my play, and,
moreover, not unsuccessfully; and I have never yet learned so much
from any work of my own as from this. It is one I can more readily
survey and also more readily manage; besides, it is a more grateful
and enjoyable task to make a simple subject rich and full of substance
than to limit one that is too rich and broad.

Otherwise, however, a variety of things are at present engaging my
thoughts; and, as political affairs may also affect my circumstances,
I am awaiting my fate not without anxiety. There are also other things
which threaten to drag me out of my old position, and which,
therefore, are not agreeable to me.

The repairs I am having made and other arrangements will, I hope, be
finished this week; and when you return I shall be able to bid you
welcome in a clean and pretty house. Farewell, and let me soon hear
that you are coming back to us with a rich gift.

* * * * *


Jena, December 13, 1803.

It was to be expected that I should be recalled when Madame de Stael
came to Weimar. * * * If she comes to pay me a visit, she shall be
well received, and, if I know of her coming four-and-twenty hours
beforehand, a part of Loder's house shall be furnished for her use;
she would find homely fare, but we should really meet and speak to
each other, and she could remain as long as she liked. What I have to
do here can be done at odd quarters of an hour, and the rest of my
time I would place at her disposal; but to drive over in such weather
as this, to have to dress, to be at court and in society, is utterly
impossible. This I maintain as positively as was ever declared by
yourself in similar circumstances.

Take this as a friendly guidance for your actions, for I desire
nothing more than actually to see and to become acquainted with this
remarkable and highly respected woman, and I wish for nothing so much
as that she may care to take this drive of a couple of hours for my
sake. On her journey she must have become accustomed to worse fare
than she will find here. Arrange and manage these things with your
gentle, friendly hand, and send me an express messenger at once, as
soon as anything important occurs.

I wish you success in everything that your solitude produces,
according as you yourself may wish and desire! I am rowing about in a
foreign element, nay, I may say that I am merely paddling about in it,
with loss to things without, and without satisfaction from within or
toward within. But--as I am always learning more distinctly from
Polygnotus and Homer--we have in reality to conceive hell as existing
here; thus it may be considered to be also a life. A thousand
farewells in a heavenly sense!

* * * * *


January 14, 1805.

I am very sorry to hear that your having to keep at home is not
voluntary on your part. Unfortunately, we are none of us quite strong,
and he who is of necessity forced to learn to put up with being ill
has the best of it. I am very glad now that I formed a determination
and have commenced to occupy myself with a translation; thus these
days of misery have, at all events, been put to some use, and I have
lived and been active. During the next eight days I shall try to see
whether I can put myself into the proper humor for my _Demetrius_,
which, however, I fear I shall not be able to do. If it cannot be
managed, I shall have to look up some other semi-mechanical work.


Herewith I send you what has been copied out. Tomorrow my Rudolph will
get the whole finished.

Would you look over the first sheets, occasionally compare them with
the original, and mark in pencil whatever you may have to suggest? I
should like to have it ready as soon as possible, and before the roles
are copied out.

If the roles are commenced day after tomorrow, we could have a
reading-rehearsal next Sunday, and there would still be ten days
before the thirtieth.

The Duke has given me permission to read the _Memoirs of Marmontel_,
which you now have; therefore, please let me have them when you have
finished with them.

The Grand Duchess yesterday again spoke with great interest about your
late recital. She is looking forward to seeing and hearing many other
things at your house.

Farewell; and let me, too, soon hear from you again. Should you not be
in the humor to read the sheets through, please send them back to me,
so that I can make use of the time for having them copied out.

* * * * *


February 22, 1805.

It was pleasant to me to see a few lines in your handwriting, and it
has again awakened my belief in the return of the old state of
things--which I have at times quite despaired of. The two severe
attacks which I have had within the space of seven months have shaken
my system to its very foundation, and I shall have difficulty in
recovering my strength.

It is true that my present attack seems to have been merely the
general epidemic that is going about, but the fever in my case was so
great, and it seized me when I was already in such a weak state, that
I feel as if I had arisen from a most severe illness, and find it
specially difficult to struggle against a certain listlessness which
is the worst trouble in my case.

I am anxious to hear whether you have yet sent off the manuscript of
_Rameau_. Goeschen has not written anything about it to me, and, in
fact, for the last fortnight I have not heard of anything that is
going on in the world.

I trust that things may daily and hourly improve with you and with me
too, so that we may soon see each other in gladness.

* * * * *


[Footnote 64: Permission The Macmillan Co., New York, and G. Bell &
Sons, Ltd., London.]

[Footnote 65: Les Bijoux _Indiscrets._]

[Footnote 66: Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister._]

[Footnote 67: A publisher in Berlin]

* * * * *

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