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The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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The Sorrows of Young Werther by J.W. von Goethe
Translated by R.D. Boylan
Edited by Nathen Haskell Dole

The Sorrows of Young Werther


I have carefully collected whatever I have been able to learn of
the story of poor Werther, and here present it to you, knowing
that you will thank me for it. To his spirit and character you
cannot refuse your admiration and love: to his fate you will not
deny your tears.

And thou, good soul, who sufferest the same distress as he endured
once, draw comfort from his sorrows; and let this little book be
thy friend, if, owing to fortune or through thine own fault, thou
canst not find a dearer companion.


MAY 4.

How happy I am that I am gone! My dear friend, what a thing is
the heart of man! To leave you, from whom I have been inseparable,
whom I love so dearly, and yet to feel happy! I know you will
forgive me. Have not other attachments been specially appointed
by fate to torment a head like mine? Poor Leonora! and yet I was
not to blame. Was it my fault, that, whilst the peculiar charms
of her sister afforded me an agreeable entertainment, a passion
for me was engendered in her feeble heart? And yet am I wholly
blameless? Did I not encourage her emotions? Did I not feel
charmed at those truly genuine expressions of nature, which, though
but little mirthful in reality, so often amused us? Did I not --
but oh! what is man, that he dares so to accuse himself? My dear
friend I promise you I will improve; I will no longer, as has ever
been my habit, continue to ruminate on every petty vexation which
fortune may dispense; I will enjoy the present, and the past shall
be for me the past. No doubt you are right, my best of friends,
there would be far less suffering amongst mankind, if men -- and
God knows why they are so fashioned -- did not employ their
imaginations so assiduously in recalling the memory of past sorrow,
instead of bearing their present lot with equanimity. Be kind
enough to inform my mother that I shall attend to her business to
the best of my ability, and shall give her the earliest information
about it. I have seen my aunt, and find that she is very far from
being the disagreeable person our friends allege her to be. She
is a lively, cheerful woman, with the best of hearts. I explained
to her my mother's wrongs with regard to that part of her portion
which has been withheld from her. She told me the motives and
reasons of her own conduct, and the terms on which she is willing
to give up the whole, and to do more than we have asked. In short,
I cannot write further upon this subject at present; only assure
my mother that all will go on well. And I have again observed,
my dear friend, in this trifling affair, that misunderstandings
and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice
and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent

In other respects I am very well off here. Solitude in this
terrestrial paradise is a genial balm to my mind, and the young
spring cheers with its bounteous promises my oftentimes misgiving
heart. Every tree, every bush, is full of flowers; and one might
wish himself transformed into a butterfly, to float about in this
ocean of perfume, and find his whole existence in it.

The town itself is disagreeable; but then, all around, you find an
inexpressible beauty of nature. This induced the late Count M to
lay out a garden on one of the sloping hills which here intersect
each other with the most charming variety, and form the most lovely
valleys. The garden is simple; and it is easy to perceive, even
upon your first entrance, that the plan was not designed by a
scientific gardener, but by a man who wished to give himself up
here to the enjoyment of his own sensitive heart. Many a tear
have I already shed to the memory of its departed master in a
summer-house which is now reduced to ruins, but was his favourite
resort, and now is mine. I shall soon be master of the place.
The gardener has become attached to me within the last few days,
and he will lose nothing thereby.

MAY 10.

A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like
these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart.
I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which
was created for the bliss of souls like mine. I am so happy, my
dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil
existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of
drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that
I never was a greater artist than now. When, while the lovely valley
teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper
surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray
gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the
tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth,
a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of
the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless
indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence
of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image, and the breath of
that universal love which bears and sustains us, as it floats around
us in an eternity of bliss; and then, my friend, when darkness overspreads
my eyes, and heaven and earth seem to dwell in my soul and absorb its
power, like the form of a beloved mistress, then I often think with
longing, Oh, would I could describe these conceptions, could impress
upon paper all that is living so full and warm within me, that it might
be the mirror of my soul, as my soul is the mirror of the infinite
God! O my friend -- but it is too much for my strength -- I sink
under the weight of the splendour of these visions!

MAY 12.

I know not whether some deceitful spirits haunt this spot, or
whether it be the warm, celestial fancy in my own heart which
makes everything around me seem like paradise. In front of the
house is a fountain, -- a fountain to which I am bound by a charm
like Melusina and her sisters. Descending a gentle slope, you come
to an arch, where, some twenty steps lower down, water of the
clearest crystal gushes from the marble rock. The narrow wall which
encloses it above, the tall trees which encircle the spot, and the
coolness of the place itself, -- everything imparts a pleasant but
sublime impression. Not a day passes on which I do not spend an
hour there. The young maidens come from the town to fetch water,
-- innocent and necessary employment, and formerly the occupation of
the daughters of kings. As I take my rest there, the idea of the old
patriarchal life is awakened around me. I see them, our old ancestors,
how they formed their friendships and contracted alliances at the
fountain-side; and I feel how fountains and streams were guarded by
beneficent spirits. He who is a stranger to these sensations has
never really enjoyed cool repose at the side of a fountain after the
fatigue of a weary summer day.

MAY 13.

You ask if you shall send me books. My dear friend, I beseech you,
for the love of God, relieve me from such a yoke! I need no more
to be guided, agitated, heated. My heart ferments sufficiently of
itself. I want strains to lull me, and I find them to perfection
in my Homer. Often do I strive to allay the burning fever of my
blood; and you have never witnessed anything so unsteady, so
uncertain, as my heart. But need I confess this to you, my dear
friend, who have so often endured the anguish of witnessing my
sudden transitions from sorrow to immoderate joy, and from sweet
melancholy to violent passions? I treat my poor heart like a sick
child, and gratify its every fancy. Do not mention this again:
there are people who would censure me for it.

MAY 15.

The common people of the place know me already, and love me,
particularly the children. When at first I associated with them,
and inquired in a friendly tone about their various trifles, some
fancied that I wished to ridicule them, and turned from me in
exceeding ill-humour. I did not allow that circumstance to grieve
me: I only felt most keenly what I have often before observed.
Persons who can claim a certain rank keep themselves coldly aloof
from the common people, as though they feared to lose their importance
by the contact; whilst wanton idlers, and such as are prone to bad
joking, affect to descend to their level, only to make the poor
people feel their impertinence all the more keenly.

I know very well that we are not all equal, nor can be so; but it
is my opinion that he who avoids the common people, in order not
to lose their respect, is as much to blame as a coward who hides
himself from his enemy because he fears defeat.

The other day I went to the fountain, and found a young servant-girl,
who had set her pitcher on the lowest step, and looked around to
see if one of her companions was approaching to place it on her
head. I ran down, and looked at her. "Shall I help you, pretty
lass?" said I. She blushed deeply. "Oh, sir!" she exclaimed.
"No ceremony!" I replied. She adjusted her head-gear, and I
helped her. She thanked me, and ascended the steps.

MAY 17.

I have made all sorts of acquaintances, but have as yet found no
society. I know not what attraction I possess for the people, so
many of them like me, and attach themselves to me; and then I feel
sorry when the road we pursue together goes only a short distance.
If you inquire what the people are like here, I must answer, "The
same as everywhere." The human race is but a monotonous affair.
Most of them labour the greater part of their time for mere
subsistence; and the scanty portion of freedom which remains to
them so troubles them that they use every exertion to get rid of
it. Oh, the destiny of man!

But they are a right good sort of people. If I occasionally forget
myself, and take part in the innocent pleasures which are not yet
forbidden to the peasantry, and enjoy myself, for instance, with
genuine freedom and sincerity, round a well-covered table, or
arrange an excursion or a dance opportunely, and so forth, all
this produces a good effect upon my disposition; only I must forget
that there lie dormant within me so many other qualities which
moulder uselessly, and which I am obliged to keep carefully concealed.
Ah! this thought affects my spirits fearfully. And yet to be
misunderstood is the fate of the like of us.

Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas, that I ever knew
her! I might say to myself, "You are a dreamer to seek what is
not to be found here below." But she has been mine. I have
possessed that heart, that noble soul, in whose presence I seemed
to be more than I really was, because I was all that I could be.
Good heavens! did then a single power of my soul remain unexercised?
In her presence could I not display, to its full extent, that
mysterious feeling with which my heart embraces nature? Was not
our intercourse a perpetual web of the finest emotions, of the
keenest wit, the varieties of which, even in their very eccentricity,
bore the stamp of genius? Alas! the few years by which she was
my senior brought her to the grave before me. Never can I forget
her firm mind or her heavenly patience.

A few days ago I met a certain young V--, a frank, open fellow,
with a most pleasing countenance. He has just left the university,
does not deem himself overwise, but believes he knows more than
other people. He has worked hard, as I can perceive from many
circumstances, and, in short, possesses a large stock of information.
When he heard that I am drawing a good deal, and that I know Greek
(two wonderful things for this part of the country), he came to
see me, and displayed his whole store of learning, from Batteaux
to Wood, from De Piles to Winkelmann: he assured me he had read
through the first part of Sultzer's theory, and also possessed a
manuscript of Heyne's work on the study of the antique. I allowed
it all to pass.

I have become acquainted, also, with a very worthy person, the
district judge, a frank and open-hearted man. I am told it is a
most delightful thing to see him in the midst of his children, of
whom he has nine. His eldest daughter especially is highly spoken
of. He has invited me to go and see him, and I intend to do so
on the first opportunity. He lives at one of the royal hunting-lodges,
which can be reached from here in an hour and a half by walking,
and which he obtained leave to inhabit after the loss of his wife,
as it is so painful to him to reside in town and at the court.

There have also come in my way a few other originals of a questionable
sort, who are in all respects undesirable, and most intolerable
in their demonstration of friendship. Good-bye. This letter will
please you: it is quite historical.

MAY 22.

That the life of man is but a dream, many a man has surmised
heretofore; and I, too, am everywhere pursued by this feeling.
When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and
inquiring faculties are confined; when I see how all our energies
are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again have no
further end than to prolong a wretched existence; and then that
all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation
ends in nothing better than a passive resignation, whilst we amuse
ourselves painting our prison-walls with bright figures and brilliant
landscapes, -- when I consider all this, Wilhelm, I am silent.
I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather
of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living
power. Then everything swims before my senses, and I smile and
dream while pursuing my way through the world.

All learned professors and doctors are agreed that children do not
comprehend the cause of their desires; but that the grown-up should
wander about this earth like children, without knowing whence they
come, or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives,
but guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums, and the rod, -- this
is what nobody is willing to acknowledge; and yet I think it is

I know what you will say in reply; for I am ready to admit that
they are happiest, who, like children, amuse themselves with their
playthings, dress and undress their dolls, and attentively watch
the cupboard, where mamma has locked up her sweet things, and,
when at last they get a delicious morsel, eat it greedily, and
exclaim, "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but others
also are objects of envy, who dignify their paltry employments,
and sometimes even their passions, with pompous titles, representing
them to mankind as gigantic achievements performed for their welfare
and glory. But the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all
this, who observes with what pleasure the thriving citizen converts
his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor
man pursues his weary way under his burden, and how all wish equally
to behold the light of the sun a little longer, -- yes, such a man
is at peace, and creates his own world within himself; and he is
also happy, because he is a man. And then, however limited his
sphere, he still preserves in his bosom the sweet feeling of liberty,
and knows that he can quit his prison whenever he likes.

MAY 26.

You know of old my ways of settling anywhere, of selecting a little
cottage in some cosy spot, and of putting up in it with every
inconvenience. Here, too, I have discovered such a snug, comfortable
place, which possesses peculiar charms for me.

About a league from the town is a place called Walheim. (The reader
need not take the trouble to look for the place thus designated.
We have found it necessary to change the names given in the original.)
It is delightfully situated on the side of a hill; and, by proceeding
along one of the footpaths which lead out of the village, you can
have a view of the whole valley. A good old woman lives there,
who keeps a small inn. She sells wine, beer, and coffee, and is
cheerful and pleasant notwithstanding her age. The chief charm
of this spot consists in two linden-trees, spreading their enormous
branches over the little green before the church, which is entirely
surrounded by peasants' cottages, barns, and homesteads. I have
seldom seen a place so retired and peaceable; and there often have
my table and chair brought out from the little inn, and drink my
coffee there, and read my Homer. Accident brought me to the spot
one fine afternoon, and I found it perfectly deserted. Everybody
was in the fields except a little boy about four years of age, who
was sitting on the ground, and held between his knees a child about
six months old: he pressed it to his bosom with both arms, which
thus formed a sort of arm-chair; and, notwithstanding the liveliness
which sparkled in its black eyes, it remained perfectly still.
The sight charmed me. I sat down upon a plough opposite, and
sketched with great delight this little picture of brotherly
tenderness. I added the neighbouring hedge, the barn-door, and
some broken cart-wheels, just as they happened to lie; and I found
in about an hour that I had made a very correct and interesting
drawing, without putting in the slightest thing of my own. This
confirmed me in my resolution of adhering, for the future, entirely
to nature. She alone is inexhaustible, and capable of forming the
greatest masters. Much may be alleged in favour of rules, as much
may be likewise advanced in favour of the laws of society: an
artist formed upon them will never produce anything absolutely bad
or disgusting; as a man who observes the laws, and obeys decorum,
can never be an absolutely intolerable neighbour, nor a decided
villain: but yet, say what you will of rules, they destroy the
genuine feeling of nature, as well as its true expression. Do not
tell me "that this is too hard, that they only restrain and prune
superfluous branches, etc." My good friend, I will illustrate
this by an analogy. These things resemble love. A warmhearted
youth becomes strongly attached to a maiden: he spends every hour
of the day in her company, wears out his health, and lavishes his
fortune, to afford continual proof that he is wholly devoted to
her. Then comes a man of the world, a man of place and respectability,
and addresses him thus: "My good young friend, love is natural;
but you must love within bounds. Divide your time: devote a portion
to business, and give the hours of recreation to your mistress.
Calculate your fortune; and out of the superfluity you may make
her a present, only not too often, -- on her birthday, and such
occasions." Pursuing this advice, he may become a useful member
of society, and I should advise every prince to give him an
appointment; but it is all up with his love, and with his genius
if he be an artist. O my friend! why is it that the torrent of
genius so seldom bursts forth, so seldom rolls in full-flowing
stream, overwhelming your astounded soul? Because, on either side
of this stream, cold and respectable persons have taken up their
abodes, and, forsooth, their summer-houses and tulip-beds would
suffer from the torrent; wherefore they dig trenches, and raise
embankments betimes, in order to avert the impending danger.

MAY 27.

I find I have fallen into raptures, declamation, and similes, and
have forgotten, in consequence, to tell you what became of the
children. Absorbed in my artistic contemplations, which I briefly
described in my letter of yesterday, I continued sitting on the
plough for two hours. Toward evening a young woman, with a basket
on her arm, came running toward the children, who had not moved
all that time. She exclaimed from a distance, "You are a good
boy, Philip!" She gave me greeting: I returned it, rose, and
approached her. I inquired if she were the mother of those pretty
children. "Yes," she said; and, giving the eldest a piece of
bread, she took the little one in her arms and kissed it with a
mother's tenderness. "I left my child in Philip's care," she said,
"whilst I went into the town with my eldest boy to buy some wheaten
bread, some sugar, and an earthen pot." I saw the various articles
in the basket, from which the cover had fallen. "I shall make
some broth to-night for my little Hans (which was the name of the
youngest): that wild fellow, the big one, broke my pot yesterday,
whilst he was scrambling with Philip for what remained of the
contents." I inquired for the eldest; and she bad scarcely time
to tell me that he was driving a couple of geese home from the
meadow, when he ran up, and handed Philip an osier-twig. I talked
a little longer with the woman, and found that she was the daughter
of the schoolmaster, and that her husband was gone on a journey
into Switzerland for some money a relation had left him. "They
wanted to cheat him," she said, "and would not answer his letters;
so he is gone there himself. I hope he has met with no accident,
as I have heard nothing of him since his departure." I left the
woman, with regret, giving each of the children a kreutzer, with
an additional one for the youngest, to buy some wheaten bread for
his broth when she went to town next; and so we parted. I assure
you, my dear friend, when my thoughts are all in tumult, the sight
of such a creature as this tranquillises my disturbed mind. She
moves in a happy thoughtlessness within the confined circle of her
existence; she supplies her wants from day to day; and, when she
sees the leaves fall, they raise no other idea in her mind than
that winter is approaching. Since that time I have gone out there
frequently. The children have become quite familiar with me; and
each gets a lump of sugar when I drink my coffee, and they share
my milk and bread and butter in the evening. They always receive
their kreutzer on Sundays, for the good woman has orders to give
it to them when I do not go there after evening service. They are
quite at home with me, tell me everything; and I am particularly
amused with observing their tempers, and the simplicity of their
behaviour, when some of the other village children are assembled
with them.

It has given me a deal of trouble to satisfy the anxiety of the
mother, lest (as she says) "they should inconvenience the gentleman."

MAY 30.

What I have lately said of painting is equally true with respect
to poetry. It is only necessary for us to know what is really
excellent, and venture to give it expression; and that is saying
much in few words. To-day I have had a scene, which, if literally
related, would, make the most beautiful idyl in the world. But
why should I talk of poetry and scenes and idyls? Can we never
take pleasure in nature without having recourse to art?

If you expect anything grand or magnificent from this introduction,
you will be sadly mistaken. It relates merely to a peasant-lad,
who has excited in me the warmest interest. As usual, I shall
tell my story badly; and you, as usual, will think me extravagant.
It is Walheim once more -- always Walheim -- which produces these
wonderful phenomena.

A party had assembled outside the house under the linden-trees,
to drink coffee. The company did not exactly please me; and, under
one pretext or another, I lingered behind.

A peasant came from an adjoining house, and set to work arranging
some part of the same plough which I had lately sketched. His
appearance pleased me; and I spoke to him, inquired about his
circumstances, made his acquaintance, and, as is my wont with
persons of that class, was soon admitted into his confidence. He
said he was in the service of a young widow, who set great store
by him. He spoke so much of his mistress, and praised her so
extravagantly, that I could soon see he was desperately in love
with her. "She is no longer young," he said: "and she was treated
so badly by her former husband that she does not mean to marry
again." From his account it was so evident what incomparable
charms she possessed for him, and how ardently he wished she would
select him to extinguish the recollection of her first husband's
misconduct, that I should have to repeat his own words in order
to describe the depth of the poor fellow's attachment, truth, and
devotion. It would, in fact, require the gifts of a great poet
to convey the expression of his features, the harmony of his voice,
and the heavenly fire of his eye. No words can portray the
tenderness of his every movement and of every feature: no effort
of mine could do justice to the scene. His alarm lest I should
misconceive his position with regard to his mistress, or question
the propriety of her conduct, touched me particularly. The charming
manner with which he described her form and person, which, without
possessing the graces of youth, won and attached him to her, is
inexpressible, and must be left to the imagination. I have never
in my life witnessed or fancied or conceived the possibility of
such intense devotion, such ardent affections, united with so much
purity. Do not blame me if I say that the recollection of this
innocence and truth is deeply impressed upon my very soul; that
this picture of fidelity and tenderness haunts me everywhere; and
that my own heart, as though enkindled by the flame, glows and
burns within me.

I mean now to try and see her as soon as I can: or perhaps, on
second thoughts, I had better not; it is better I should behold
her through the eyes of her lover. To my sight, perhaps, she would
not appear as she now stands before me; and why should I destroy
so sweet a picture?

JUNE 16.

"Why do I not write to you?" You lay claim to learning, and ask
such a question. You should have guessed that I am well -- that
is to say -- in a word, I have made an acquaintance who has won
my heart: I have -- I know not.

To give you a regular account of the manner in which I have become
acquainted with the most amiable of women would be a difficult task.
I am a happy and contented mortal, but a poor historian.

An angel! Nonsense! Everybody so describes his mistress; and yet
I find it impossible to tell you how perfect she is, or why she is
so perfect: suffice it to say she has captivated all my senses.

So much simplicity with so much understanding -- so mild, and yet
so resolute -- a mind so placid, and a life so active.

But all this is ugly balderdash, which expresses not a single
character nor feature. Some other time -- but no, not some other
time, now, this very instant, will I tell you all about it. Now
or never. Well, between ourselves, since I commenced my letter,
I have been three times on the point of throwing down my pen, of
ordering my horse, and riding out. And yet I vowed this morning
that I would not ride to-day, and yet every moment I am rushing
to the window to see how high the sun is.

I could not restrain myself -- go to her I must. I have just
returned, Wilhelm; and whilst I am taking supper I will write to
you. What a delight it was for my soul to see her in the midst
of her dear, beautiful children, -- eight brothers and sisters!

But, if I proceed thus, you will be no wiser at the end of my
letter than you were at the beginning. Attend, then, and I will
compel myself to give you the details.

I mentioned to you the other day that I had become acquainted with
S--, the district judge, and that he had invited me to go and visit
him in his retirement, or rather in his little kingdom. But I
neglected going, and perhaps should never have gone, if chance had
not discovered to me the treasure which lay concealed in that
retired spot. Some of our young people had proposed giving a ball
in the country, at which I consented to be present. I offered my
hand for the evening to a pretty and agreeable, but rather commonplace,
sort of girl from the immediate neighbourhood; and it was agreed
that I should engage a carriage, and call upon Charlotte, with my
partner and her aunt, to convey them to the ball. My companion
informed me, as we drove along through the park to the hunting-lodge,
that I should make the acquaintance of a very charming young lady.
"Take care," added the aunt, "that you do not lose your heart."
"Why?" said I. "Because she is already engaged to a very worthy
man," she replied, "who is gone to settle his affairs upon the
death of his father, and will succeed to a very considerable
inheritance." This information possessed no interest for me.
When we arrived at the gate, the sun was setting behind the tops
of the mountains. The atmosphere was heavy; and the ladies expressed
their fears of an approaching storm, as masses of low black clouds
were gathering in the horizon. I relieved their anxieties by
pretending to be weather-wise, although I myself had some
apprehensions lest our pleasure should be interrupted.

I alighted; and a maid came to the door, and requested us to wait
a moment for her mistress. I walked across the court to a well-built
house, and, ascending the flight of steps in front, opened the door,
and saw before me the most charming spectacle I had ever witnessed.
Six children, from eleven to two years old, were running about the
hall, and surrounding a lady of middle height, with a lovely figure,
dressed in a robe of simple white, trimmed with pink ribbons. She
was holding a rye loaf in her hand, and was cutting slices for the
little ones all around, in proportion to their age and appetite.
She performed her task in a graceful and affectionate manner; each
claimant awaiting his turn with outstretched hands, and boisterously
shouting his thanks. Some of them ran away at once, to enjoy their
evening meal; whilst others, of a gentler disposition, retired to
the courtyard to see the strangers, and to survey the carriage in
which their Charlotte was to drive away. "Pray forgive me for
giving you the trouble to come for me, and for keeping the ladies
waiting: but dressing, and arranging some household duties before
I leave, had made me forget my children's supper; and they do not
like to take it from any one but me." I uttered some indifferent
compliment: but my whole soul was absorbed by her air, her voice,
her manner; and I had scarcely recovered myself when she ran into
her room to fetch her gloves and fan. The young ones threw inquiring
glances at me from a distance; whilst I approached the youngest,
a most delicious little creature. He drew back; and Charlotte,
entering at the very moment, said, "Louis, shake hands with your
cousin." The little fellow obeyed willingly; and I could not
resist giving him a hearty kiss, notwithstanding his rather dirty
face. "Cousin," said I to Charlotte, as I handed her down, "do
you think I deserve the happiness of being related to you?" She
replied, with a ready smile, "Oh! I have such a number of cousins,
that I should be sorry if you were the most undeserving of them."
In taking leave, she desired her next sister, Sophy, a girl about
eleven years old, to take great care of the children, and to say
good-bye to papa for her when he came home from his ride. She
enjoined to the little ones to obey their sister Sophy as they
would herself, upon which some promised that they would; but a
little fair-haired girl, about six years old, looked discontented,
and said, "But Sophy is not you, Charlotte; and we like you best."
The two eldest boys had clambered up the carriage; and, at my
request, she permitted them to accompany us a little way through
the forest, upon their promising to sit very still, and hold fast.

We were hardly seated, and the ladies had scarcely exchanged
compliments, making the usual remarks upon each other's dress, and
upon the company they expected to meet, when Charlotte stopped the
carriage, and made her brothers get down. They insisted upon
kissing her hands once more; which the eldest did with all the
tenderness of a youth of fifteen, but the other in a lighter and
more careless manner. She desired them again to give her love to
the children, and we drove off.

The aunt inquired of Charlotte whether she had finished the book
she had last sent her. "No," said Charlotte; "I did not like it:
you can have it again. And the one before was not much better."
I was surprised, upon asking the title, to hear that it was ____.
(We feel obliged to suppress the passage in the letter, to prevent
any one from feeling aggrieved; although no author need pay much
attention to the opinion of a mere girl, or that of an unsteady
young man.)

I found penetration and character in everything she said: every
expression seemed to brighten her features with new charms, --with
new rays of genius, -- which unfolded by degrees, as she felt
herself understood.

"When I was younger," she observed, "I loved nothing so much as
romances. Nothing could equal my delight when, on some holiday,
I could settle down quietly in a corner, and enter with my whole
heart and soul into the joys or sorrows of some fictitious Leonora.
I do not deny that they even possess some charms for me yet. But
I read so seldom, that I prefer books suited exactly to my taste.
And I like those authors best whose scenes describe my own situation
in life, -- and the friends who are about me, whose stories touch
me with interest, from resembling my own homely existence, -- which,
without being absolutely paradise, is, on the whole, a source of
indescribable happiness."

I endeavoured to conceal the emotion which these words occasioned,
but it was of slight avail; for, when she had expressed so truly
her opinion of "The Vicar of Wakefield," and of other works, the
names of which I omit (Though the names are omitted, yet the authors
mentioned deserve Charlotte's approbation, and will feel it in
their hearts when they read this passage. It concerns no other
person.), I could no longer contain myself, but gave full utterance
to what I thought of it: and it was not until Charlotte had addressed
herself to the two other ladies, that I remembered their presence,
and observed them sitting mute with astonishment. The aunt looked
at me several times with an air of raillery, which, however, I did
not at all mind.

We talked of the pleasures of dancing. "If it is a fault to love
it," said Charlotte, "I am ready to confess that I prize it above
all other amusements. If anything disturbs me, I go to the piano,
play an air to which I have danced, and all goes right again

You, who know me, can fancy how steadfastly I gazed upon her rich
dark eyes during these remarks, how my very soul gloated over her
warm lips and fresh, glowing cheeks, how I became quite lost in
the delightful meaning of her words, so much so, that I scarcely
heard the actual expressions. In short, I alighted from the
carriage like a person in a dream, and was so lost to the dim
world around me, that I scarcely heard the music which resounded
from the illuminated ballroom.

The two Messrs. Andran and a certain N. N. (I cannot trouble myself
with the names), who were the aunt's and Charlotte's partners,
received us at the carriage-door, and took possession of their
ladies, whilst I followed with mine.

We commenced with a minuet. I led out one lady after another,
and precisely those who were the most disagreeable could not bring
themselves to leave off. Charlotte and her partner began an English
country dance, and you must imagine my delight when it was their
turn to dance the figure with us. You should see Charlotte dance.
She dances with her whole heart and soul: her figure is all harmony,
elegance, and grace, as if she were conscious of nothing else, and
had no other thought or feeling; and, doubtless, for the moment,
every other sensation is extinct.

She was engaged for the second country dance, but promised me the
third, and assured me, with the most agreeable freedom, that she
was very fond of waltzing. "It is the custom here," she said,
"for the previous partners to waltz together; but my partner is
an indifferent waltzer, and will feel delighted if I save him the
trouble. Your partner is not allowed to waltz, and, indeed, is
equally incapable: but I observed during the country dance that
you waltz well; so, if you will waltz with me, I beg you would
propose it to my partner, and I will propose it to yours." We
agreed, and it was arranged that our partners should mutually
entertain each other.

We set off, and, at first, delighted ourselves with the usual
graceful motions of the arms. With what grace, with what ease,
she moved! When the waltz commenced, and the dancers whirled
around each other in the giddy maze, there was some confusion,
owing to the incapacity of some of the dancers. We judiciously
remained still, allowing the others to weary themselves; and, when
the awkward dancers had withdrawn, we joined in, and kept it up
famously together with one other couple, -- Andran and his partner.
Never did I dance more lightly. I felt myself more than mortal,
holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying, with her
as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object;
and O Wilhelm, I vowed at that moment, that a maiden whom I loved,
or for whom I felt the slightest attachment, never, never should
waltz with any one else but with me, if I went to perdition for it!
-- you will understand this.

We took a few turns in the room to recover our breath. Charlotte
sat down, and felt refreshed by partaking of some oranges which I
had had secured, -- the only ones that had been left; but at every
slice which, from politeness, she offered to her neighbours, I felt
as though a dagger went through my heart.

We were the second couple in the third country dance. As we were
going down (and Heaven knows with what ecstasy I gazed at her arms
and eyes, beaming with the sweetest feeling of pure and genuine
enjoyment), we passed a lady whom I had noticed for her charming
expression of countenance; although she was no longer young. She
looked at Charlotte with a smile, then, holding up her finger in
a threatening attitude, repeated twice in a very significant tone
of voice the name of "Albert."

"Who is Albert," said I to Charlotte, "if it is not impertinent
to ask?" She was about to answer, when we were obliged to separate,
in order to execute a figure in the dance; and, as we crossed over
again in front of each other, I perceived she looked somewhat
pensive. "Why need I conceal it from you?" she said, as she gave
me her hand for the promenade. "Albert is a worthy man, to whom
I am engaged." Now, there was nothing new to me in this (for the
girls had told me of it on the way); but it was so far new that
I had not thought of it in connection with her whom, in so short
a time, I had learned to prize so highly. Enough, I became confused,
got out in the figure, and occasioned general confusion; so that
it required all Charlotte's presence of mind to set me right by
pulling and pushing me into my proper place.

The dance was not yet finished when the lightning which had for
some time been seen in the horizon, and which I had asserted to
proceed entirely from heat, grew more violent; and the thunder was
heard above the music. When any distress or terror surprises us
in the midst of our amusements, it naturally makes a deeper impression
than at other times, either because the contrast makes us more
keenly susceptible, or rather perhaps because our senses are then
more open to impressions, and the shock is consequently stronger.
To this cause I must ascribe the fright and shrieks of the ladies.
One sagaciously sat down in a corner with her back to the window,
and held her fingers to her ears; a second knelt down before her,
and hid her face in her lap; a third threw herself between them,
and embraced her sister with a thousand tears; some insisted on
going home; others, unconscious of their actions, wanted sufficient
presence of mind to repress the impertinence of their young partners,
who sought to direct to themselves those sighs which the lips of
our agitated beauties intended for heaven. Some of the gentlemen
had gone down-stairs to smoke a quiet cigar, and the rest of the
company gladly embraced a happy suggestion of the hostess to retire
into another room which was provided with shutters and curtains.
We had hardly got there, when Charlotte placed the chairs in a
circle; and, when the company had sat down in compliance with her
request, she forthwith proposed a round game.

I noticed some of the company prepare their mouths and draw
themselves up at the prospect of some agreeable forfeit. "Let us
play at counting," said Charlotte. "Now, pay attention: I shall
go round the circle from right to left; and each person is to count,
one after the other, the number that comes to him, and must count
fast; whoever stops or mistakes is to have a box on the ear, and
so on, till we have counted a thousand." It was delightful to see
the fun. She went round the circle with upraised arm. "One,"
said the first; "two," the second; "three," the third; and so on,
till Charlotte went faster and faster. One made a mistake, instantly
a box on the ear; and, amid the laughter that ensued, came another
box; and so on, faster and faster. I myself came in for two. I
fancied they were harder than the rest, and felt quite delighted.
A general laughter and confusion put an end to the game long before
we had counted as far as a thousand. The party broke up into
little separate knots: the storm had ceased, and I followed Charlotte
into the ballroom. On the way she said, "The game banished their
fears of the storm." I could make no reply. "I myself," she
continued, "was as much frightened as any of them; but by affecting
courage, to keep up the spirits of the others, I forgot my
apprehensions." We went to the window. It was still thundering
at a distance: a soft rain was pouring down over the country,
and filled the air around us with delicious odours. Charlotte
leaned forward on her arm; her eyes wandered over the scene; she
raised them to the sky, and then turned them upon me; they were
moistened with tears; she placed her hand on mine and said,
"Klopstock!" at once I remembered the magnificent ode which was
in her thoughts: I felt oppressed with the weight of my sensations,
and sank under them. It was more than I could bear. I bent over
her hand, kissed it in a stream of delicious tears, and again
looked up to her eyes. Divine Klopstock! why didst thou not see
thy apotheosis in those eyes? And thy name so often profaned,
would that I never heard it repeated!

JUNE 19.

I no longer remember where I stopped in my narrative: I only know
it was two in the morning when I went to bed; and if you had been
with me, that I might have talked instead of writing to you, I
should, in all probability, have kept you up till daylight.

I think I have not yet related what happened as we rode home from
the ball, nor have I time to tell you now. It was a most magnificent
sunrise: the whole country was refreshed, and the rain fell drop
by drop from the trees in the forest. Our companions were asleep.
Charlotte asked me if I did not wish to sleep also, and begged of
me not to make any ceremony on her account. Looking steadfastly
at her, I answered, "As long as I see those eyes open, there is
no fear of my falling asleep." We both continued awake till we
reached her door. The maid opened it softly, and assured her, in
answer to her inquiries, that her father and the children were
well, and still sleeping. I left her asking permission to visit
her in the course of the day. She consented, and I went, and,
since that time, sun, moon, and stars may pursue their course: I
know not whether it is day or night; the whole world is nothing
to me.

JUNE 21.

My days are as happy as those reserved by God for his elect; and,
whatever be my fate hereafter, I can never say that I have not
tasted joy, -- the purest joy of life. You know Walheim. I am
now completely settled there. In that spot I am only half a league
from Charlotte; and there I enjoy myself, and taste all the pleasure
which can fall to the lot of man.

Little did I imagine, when I selected Walheim for my pedestrian
excursions, that all heaven lay so near it. How often in my
wanderings from the hillside or from the meadows across the river,
have I beheld this hunting-lodge, which now contains within it all
the joy of my heart!

I have often, my dear Wilhelm, reflected on the eagerness men feel
to wander and make new discoveries, and upon that secret impulse
which afterward inclines them to return to their narrow circle,
conform to the laws of custom, and embarrass themselves no longer
with what passes around them.

It is so strange how, when I came here first, and gazed upon that
lovely valley from the hillside, I felt charmed with the entire
scene surrounding me. The little wood opposite -- how delightful
to sit under its shade! How fine the view from that point of
rock! Then, that delightful chain of hills, and the exquisite
valleys at their feet! Could I but wander and lose myself amongst
them! I went, and returned without finding what I wished. Distance,
my friend, is like futurity. A dim vastness is spread before our
souls: the perceptions of our mind are as obscure as those of our
vision; and we desire earnestly to surrender up our whole being,
that it may be filled with the complete and perfect bliss of one
glorious emotion. But alas! when we have attained our object,
when the distant there becomes the present here, all is changed:
we are as poor and circumscribed as ever, and our souls still
languish for unattainable happiness.

So does the restless traveller pant for his native soil, and find
in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the affections of
his children, and in the labour necessary for their support, that
happiness which he had sought in vain through the wide world.

When, in the morning at sunrise, I go out to Walheim, and with my
own hands gather in the garden the pease which are to serve for
my dinner, when I sit down to shell them, and read my Homer during
the intervals, and then, selecting a saucepan from the kitchen,
fetch my own butter, put my mess on the fire, cover it up, and sit
down to stir it as occasion requires, I figure to myself the
illustrious suitors of Penelope, killing, dressing, and preparing
their own oxen and swine. Nothing fills me with a more pure and
genuine sense of happiness than those traits of patriarchal life
which, thank Heaven! I can imitate without affectation. Happy is
it, indeed, for me that my heart is capable of feeling the same
simple and innocent pleasure as the peasant whose table is covered
with food of his own rearing, and who not only enjoys his meal, but
remembers with delight the happy days and sunny mornings when he
planted it, the soft evenings when he watered it, and the pleasure
he experienced in watching its daily growth.

JUNE 29.

The day before yesterday, the physician came from the town to pay
a visit to the judge. He found me on the floor playing with
Charlotte's children. Some of them were scrambling over me, and
others romped with me; and, as I caught and tickled them, they
made a great noise. The doctor is a formal sort of personage: he
adjusts the plaits of his ruffles, and continually settles his
frill whilst he is talking to you; and he thought my conduct beneath
the dignity of a sensible man. I could perceive this by his
countenance. But I did not suffer myself to be disturbed. I
allowed him to continue his wise conversation, whilst I rebuilt
the children's card houses for them as fast as they threw them
down. He went about the town afterward, complaining that the
judge's children were spoiled enough before, but that now Werther
was completely ruining them.

Yes, my dear Wilhelm, nothing on this earth affects my heart so
much as children. When I look on at their doings; when I mark in
the little creatures the seeds of all those virtues and qualities
which they will one day find so indispensable; when I behold in
the obstinate all the future firmness and constancy of a noble
character; in the capricious, that levity and gaiety of temper
which will carry them lightly over the dangers and troubles of
life, their whole nature simple and unpolluted, -- then I call
to mind the golden words of the Great Teacher of mankind, "Unless
ye become like one of these!" And now, my friend, these children,
who are our equals, whom we ought to consider as our models, we
treat them as though they were our subjects. They are allowed no
will of their own. And have we, then, none ourselves? Whence comes
our exclusive right? Is it because we are older and more experienced?
Great God! from the height of thy heaven thou beholdest great
children and little children, and no others; and thy Son has long
since declared which afford thee greatest pleasure. But they
believe in him, and hear him not, --that, too, is an old story;
and they train their children after their own image, etc.

Adieu, Wilhelm: I will not further bewilder myself with this subject.


The consolation Charlotte can bring to an invalid I experience
from my own heart, which suffers more from her absence than many
a poor creature lingering on a bed of sickness. She is gone to
spend a few days in the town with a very worthy woman, who is given
over by the physicians, and wishes to have Charlotte near her in
her last moments. I accompanied her last week on a visit to the
Vicar of S--, a small village in the mountains, about a league
hence. We arrived about four o'clock: Charlotte had taken her
little sister with her. When we entered the vicarage court, we
found the good old man sitting on a bench before the door, under
the shade of two large walnut-trees. At the sight of Charlotte
he seemed to gain new life, rose, forgot his stick, and ventured
to walk toward her. She ran to him, and made him sit down again;
then, placing herself by his side, she gave him a number of messages
from her father, and then caught up his youngest child, a dirty,
ugly little thing, the joy of his old age, and kissed it. I wish
you could have witnessed her attention to this old man, --how she
raised her voice on account of his deafness; how she told him of
healthy young people, who had been carried off when it was least
expected; praised the virtues of Carlsbad, and commended his
determination to spend the ensuing summer there; and assured him
that he looked better and stronger than he did when she saw him
last. I, in the meantime, paid attention to his good lady. The
old man seemed quite in spirits; and as I could not help admiring
the beauty of the walnut-trees, which formed such an agreeable
shade over our heads, he began, though with some little difficulty,
to tell us their history. "As to the oldest," said he, "we do not
know who planted it, -- some say one clergyman, and some another:
but the younger one, there behind us, is exactly the age of my wife,
fifty years old next October; her father planted it in the morning,
and in the evening she came into the world. My wife's father was
my predecessor here, and I cannot tell you how fond he was of that
tree; and it is fully as dear to me. Under the shade of that very
tree, upon a log of wood, my wife was seated knitting, when I, a
poor student, came into this court for the first time, just seven
and twenty years ago." Charlotte inquired for his daughter. He
said she was gone with Herr Schmidt to the meadows, and was with
the haymakers. The old man then resumed his story, and told us
how his predecessor had taken a fancy to him, as had his daughter
likewise; and how he had become first his curate, and subsequently
his successor. He had scarcely finished his story when his daughter
returned through the garden, accompanied by the above-mentioned
Herr Schmidt. She welcomed Charlotte affectionately, and I confess
I was much taken with her appearance. She was a lively-looking,
good-humoured brunette, quite competent to amuse one for a short
time in the country. Her lover (for such Herr Schmidt evidently
appeared to be) was a polite, reserved personage, and would not
join our conversation, notwithstanding all Charlotte's endeavours
to draw him out. I was much annoyed at observing, by his countenance,
that his silence did not arise from want of talent, but from caprice
and ill-humour. This subsequently became very evident, when we
set out to take a walk, and Frederica joining Charlotte, with whom
I was talking, the worthy gentleman's face, which was naturally
rather sombre, became so dark and angry that Charlotte was obliged
to touch my arm, and remind me that I was talking too much to
Frederica. Nothing distresses me more than to see men torment
each other; particularly when in the flower of their age, in the
very season of pleasure, they waste their few short days of sunshine
in quarrels and disputes, and only perceive their error when it
is too late to repair it. This thought dwelt upon my mind; and
in the evening, when we returned to the vicar's, and were sitting
round the table with our bread end milk, the conversation turned
on the joys and sorrows of the world, I could not resist the
temptation to inveigh bitterly against ill-humour. "We are apt,"
said I, "to complain, but - with very little cause, that our happy
days are few, and our evil days many. If our hearts were always
disposed to receive the benefits Heaven sends us, we should acquire
strength to support evil when it comes." "But," observed the vicar's
wife, "we cannot always command our tempers, so much depends upon
the constitution: when the body suffers, the mind is ill at ease."
"I acknowledge that," I continued; "but we must consider such a
disposition in the light of a disease, and inquire whether there
is no remedy for it."

"I should be glad to hear one," said Charlotte: "at least, I think
very much depends upon ourselves; I know it is so with me. When
anything annoys me, and disturbs my temper, I hasten into the
garden, hum a couple of country dances, and it is all right with
me directly." "That is what I meant," I replied; "ill-humour
resembles indolence: it is natural to us; but if once we have
courage to exert ourselves, we find our work run fresh from our
hands, and we experience in the activity from which we shrank a
real enjoyment." Frederica listened very attentively: and the
young man objected, that we were not masters of ourselves, and
still less so of our feelings. "The question is about a disagreeable
feeling," I added, "from which every one would willingly escape,
but none know their own power without trial. Invalids are glad
to consult physicians, and submit to the most scrupulous regimen,
the most nauseous medicines, in order to recover their health."
I observed that the good old man inclined his head, and exerted
himself to hear our discourse; so I raised my voice, and addressed
myself directly to him. "We preach against a great many crimes,"
I observed, "but I never remember a sermon delivered against
ill-humour." "That may do very well for your town clergymen,"
said he: "country people are never ill-humoured; though, indeed,
it might be useful, occasionally, to my wife for instance, and the
judge." We all laughed, as did he likewise very cordially, till
he fell into a fit of coughing, which interrupted our conversation
for a time. Herr Schmidt resumed the subject. "You call ill
humour a crime," he remarked, "but I think you use too strong a
term." "Not at all," I replied, "if that deserves the name which
is so pernicious to ourselves and our neighbours. Is it not enough
that we want the power to make one another happy, must we deprive
each other of the pleasure which we can all make for ourselves?
Show me the man who has the courage to hide his ill-humour, who
bears the whole burden himself, without disturbing the peace of
those around him. No: ill-humour arises from an inward consciousness
of our own want of merit, from a discontent which ever accompanies
that envy which foolish vanity engenders. We see people happy,
whom we have not made so, and cannot endure the sight." Charlotte
looked at me with a smile; she observed the emotion with which I
spoke: and a tear in the eyes of Frederica stimulated me to proceed.
"Woe unto those," I said, "who use their power over a human heart
to destroy the simple pleasures it would naturally enjoy! All the
favours, all the attentions, in the world cannot compensate for
the loss of that happiness which a cruel tyranny has destroyed."
My heart was full as I spoke. A recollection of many things which
had happened pressed upon my mind, and filled my eyes with tears.
"We should daily repeat to ourselves," I exclaimed, "that we should
not interfere with our friends, unless to leave them in possession
of their own joys, and increase their happiness by sharing it with
them! But when their souls are tormented by a violent passion,
or their hearts rent with grief, is it in your power to afford
them the slightest consolation?

"And when the last fatal malady seizes the being whose untimely
grave you have prepared, when she lies languid and exhausted before
you, her dim eyes raised to heaven, and the damp of death upon her
pallid brow, there you stand at her bedside like a condemned
criminal, with the bitter feeling that your whole fortune could
not save her; and the agonising thought wrings you, that all your
efforts are powerless to impart even a moment's strength to the
departing soul, or quicken her with a transitory consolation."

At these words the remembrance of a similar scene at which I had
been once present fell with full force upon my heart. I buried my
face in my handkerchief, and hastened from the room, and was only
recalled to my recollection by Charlotte's voice, who reminded me
that it was time to return home. With what tenderness she chid
me on the way for the too eager interest I took in everything!
She declared it would do me injury, and that I ought to spare
myself. Yes, my angel! I will do so for your sake.


She is still with her dying friend, and is still the same bright,
beautiful creature whose presence softens pain, and sheds happiness
around whichever way she turns. She went out yesterday with her
little sisters: I knew it, and went to meet them; and we walked
together. In about an hour and a half we returned to the town.
We stopped at the spring I am so fond of, and which is now a
thousand times dearer to me than ever. Charlotte seated herself
upon the low wall, and we gathered about her. I looked around,
and recalled the time when my heart was unoccupied and free.
"Dear fountain!" I said, "since that time I have no more come to
enjoy cool repose by thy fresh stream: I have passed thee with
careless steps, and scarcely bestowed a glance upon thee." I
looked down, and observed Charlotte's little sister, Jane, coming
up the steps with a glass of water. I turned toward Charlotte,
and I felt her influence over me. Jane at the moment approached
with the glass. Her sister, Marianne, wished to take it from her.
"No!" cried the child, with the sweetest expression of face,
"Charlotte must drink first."

The affection and simplicity with which this was uttered so charmed
me, that I sought to express my feelings by catching up the child
and kissing her heartily. She was frightened, and began to cry.
"You should not do that," said Charlotte: I felt perplexed. "Come,
Jane," she continued, taking her hand, and leading her down the
steps again, "it is no matter: wash yourself quickly in the fresh
water." I stood and watched them; and when I saw the little dear
rubbing her cheeks with her wet hands, in full belief that all
the impurities contracted from my ugly beard would be washed off
by the miraculous water, and how, though Charlotte said it would
do, she continued still to wash with all her might, as though she
thought too much were better than too little, I assure you, Wilhelm,
I never attended a baptism with greater reverence; and, when
Charlotte came up from the well, I could have prostrated myself
as before the prophet of an Eastern nation.

In the evening I would not resist telling the story to a person
who, I thought, possessed some natural feeling, because he was a
man of understanding. But what a mistake I made. He maintained
it was very wrong of Charlotte, that we should not deceive children,
that such things occasioned countless mistakes and superstitions,
from which we were bound to protect the young. It occurred to me
then, that this very man had been baptised only a week before; so
I said nothing further, but maintained the justice of my own
convictions. We should deal with children as God deals with us,
we are happiest under the influence of innocent delusions.


What a child is man that he should be so solicitous about a look!
What a child is man! We had been to Walheim: the ladies went in
a carriage; but during our walk I thought I saw in Charlotte's
dark eyes -- I am a fool -- but forgive me! you should see them,
-- those eyes. -- However, to be brief (for my own eyes are weighed
down with sleep), you must know, when the ladies stepped into their
carriage again, young W. Seldstadt, Andran, and I were standing
about the door. They are a merry set of fellows, and they were
all laughing and joking together. I watched Charlotte's eyes.
They wandered from one to the other; but they did not light on me,
on me, who stood there motionless, and who saw nothing but her!
My heart bade her a thousand times adieu, but she noticed me not.
The carriage drove off; and my eyes filled with tears. I looked
after her: suddenly I saw Charlotte's bonnet leaning out of the
window, and she turned to look back, was it at me? My dear friend,
I know not; and in this uncertainty I find consolation. Perhaps
she turned to look at me. Perhaps! Good-night -- what a child I am!

JULY 10.

You should see how foolish I look in company when her name is
mentioned, particularly when I am asked plainly how I like her.
How I like her! I detest the phrase. What sort of creature must
he be who merely liked Charlotte, whose whole heart and senses
were not entirely absorbed by her. Like her! Some one asked me
lately how I liked Ossian.

JULY 11.

Madame M-- is very ill. I pray for her recovery, because Charlotte
shares my sufferings. I see her occasionally at my friend's house,
and to-day she has told me the strangest circumstance. Old M--
is a covetous, miserly fellow, who has long worried and annoyed
the poor lady sadly; but she has borne her afflictions patiently.
A few days ago, when the physician informed us that her recovery
was hopeless, she sent for her husband (Charlotte was present),
and addressed him thus: "I have something to confess, which, after
my decease, may occasion trouble and confusion. I have hitherto
conducted your household as frugally and economically as possible,
but you must pardon me for having defrauded you for thirty years.
At the commencement of our married life, you allowed a small sum
for the wants of the kitchen, and the other household expenses.
When our establishment increased and our property grew larger, I
could not persuade you to increase the weekly allowance in proportion:
in short, you know, that, when our wants were greatest, you required
me to supply everything with seven florins a week. I took the
money from you without an observation, but made up the weekly
deficiency from the money-chest; as nobody would suspect your wife
of robbing the household bank. But I have wasted nothing, and
should have been content to meet my eternal Judge without this
confession, if she, upon whom the management of your establishment
will devolve after my decease, would be free from embarrassment
upon your insisting that the allowance made to me, your former
wife, was sufficient."

I talked with Charlotte of the inconceivable manner in which men
allow themselves to be blinded; how any one could avoid suspecting
some deception, when seven florins only were allowed to defray
expenses twice as great. But I have myself known people who
believed, without any visible astonishment, that their house
possessed the prophet's never-failing cruse of oil.

JULY 13.

No, I am not deceived. In her dark eyes I read a genuine interest
in me and in my fortunes. Yes, I feel it; and I may believe my
own heart which tells me -- dare I say it? -- dare I pronounce
the divine words? -- that she loves me!

That she loves me! How the idea exalts me in my own eyes! And,
as you can understand my feelings, I may say to you, how I honour
myself since she loves me!

Is this presumption, or is it a consciousness of the truth? I do
not know a man able to supplant me in the heart of Charlotte; and
yet when she speaks of her betrothed with so much warmth and
affection, I feel like the soldier who has been stripped of his
honours and titles, and deprived of his sword.

JULY 16.

How my heart beats when by accident I touch her finger, or my feet
meet hers under the table! I draw back as if from a furnace; but
a secret force impels me forward again, and my senses become
disordered. Her innocent, unconscious heart never knows what agony
these little familiarities inflict upon me. Sometimes when we
are talking she Iays her hand upon mine, and in the eagerness of
conversation comes closer to me, and her balmy breath reaches my
lips, -- when I feel as if lightning had struck me, and that I
could sink into the earth. And yet, Wilhelm, with all this heavenly
confidence, -- if I know myself, and should ever dare -- you
understand me. No, no! my heart is not so corrupt, it is weak,
weak enough but is not that a degree of corruption?

She is to me a sacred being. All passion is still in her presence:
I cannot express my sensations when I am near her. I feel as if
my soul beat in every nerve of my body. There is a melody which
she plays on the piano with angelic skill, -- so simple is it,
and yet so spiritual! It is her favourite air; and, when she
plays the first note, all pain, care, and sorrow disappear from
me in a moment.

I believe every word that is said of the magic of ancient music.
How her simple song enchants me! Sometimes, when I am ready to
commit suicide, she sings that air; and instantly the gloom and
madness which hung over me are dispersed, and I breathe freely

JULY 18.

Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love? What is
a magic-lantern without light? You have but to kindle the flame
within, and the brightest figures shine on the white wall; and,
if love only show us fleeting shadows, we are yet happy, when,
like mere children, we behold them, and are transported with the
splendid phantoms. I have not been able to see Charlotte to-day.
I was prevented by company from which I could not disengage myself.
What was to be done? I sent my servant to her house, that I might
at least see somebody to-day who had been near her. Oh, the
impatience with which I waited for his return! the joy with which
I welcomed him! I should certainly have caught him in my arms,
and kissed him, if I had not been ashamed.

It is said that the Bonona stone, when placed in the sun, attracts
the rays, and for a time appears luminous in the dark. So was it
with me and this servant. The idea that Charlotte's eyes had dwelt
on his countenance, his cheek, his very apparel, endeared them all
inestimably to me, so that at the moment I would not have parted
from him for a thousand crowns. His presence made me so happy!
Beware of laughing at me, Wilhelm. Can that be a delusion which
makes us happy?

JULY 19.

"I shall see her today!" I exclaim with delight, when I rise in
the morning, and look out with gladness of heart at the bright,
beautiful sun. "I shall see her today!" And then I have no
further wish to form: all, all is included in that one thought.

JULY 20.

I cannot assent to your proposal that I should accompany the
ambassador to _______. I do not love subordination; and we all
know that he is a rough, disagreeable person to be connected with.
You say my mother wishes me to be employed. I could not help
laughing at that. Am I not sufficiently employed? And is it not
in reality the same, whether I shell peas or count lentils? The
world runs on from one folly to another; and the man who, solely
from regard to the opinion of others, and without any wish or
necessity of his own, toils after gold, honour, or any other
phantom, is no better than a fool.

JULY 24.

You insist so much on my not neglecting my drawing, that it would
be as well for me to say nothing as to confess how little I have
lately done.

I never felt happier, I never understood nature better, even down
to the veriest stem or smallest blade of grass; and yet I am
unable to express myself: my powers of execution are so weak,
everything seems to swim and float before me, so that I cannot
make a clear, bold outline. But I fancy I should succeed better
if I had some clay or wax to model. I shall try, if this state
of mind continues much longer, and will take to modelling, if I
only knead dough.

I have commenced Charlotte's portrait three times, and have as
often disgraced myself. This is the more annoying, as I was
formerly very happy in taking likenesses. I have since sketched
her profile, and must content myself with that.

JULY 25.

Yes, dear Charlotte! I will order and arrange everything. Only
give me more commissions, the more the better. One thing, however,
I must request: use no more writing-sand with the dear notes you
send me. Today I raised your letter hastily to my lips, and it
set my teeth on edge.

JULY 26.

I have often determined not to see her so frequently. But who
could keep such a resolution? Every day I am exposed to the
temptation, and promise faithfully that to-morrow I will really
stay away: but, when tomorrow comes, I find some irresistible
reason for seeing her; and, before I can account for it, I am with
her again. Either she has said on the previous evening "You will
be sure to call to-morrow," -- and who could stay away then? --or
she gives me some commission, and I find it essential to take
her the answer in person; or the day is fine, and I walk to Walheim;
and, when I am there, it is only half a league farther to her. I
am within the charmed atmosphere, and soon find myself at her side.
My grandmother used to tell us a story of a mountain of loadstone.
When any vessels came near it, they were instantly deprived of
their ironwork: the nails flew to the mountain, and the unhappy
crew perished amidst the disjointed planks.

JULY 30.

Albert is arrived, and I must take my departure. Were he the best
and noblest of men, and I in every respect his inferior, I could
not endure to see him in possession of such a perfect being.
Possession! -- enough, Wilhelm: her betrothed is here, -- a fine,
worthy fellow, whom one cannot help liking. Fortunately I was not
present at their meeting. It would have broken my heart! And he
is so considerate: he has not given Charlotte one kiss in my
presence. Heaven reward him for it! I must love him for the
respect with which he treats her. He shows a regard for me, but
for this I suspect I am more indebted to Charlotte than to his own
fancy for me. Women have a delicate tact in such matters, and it
should be so. They cannot always succeed in keeping two rivals
on terms with each other; but, when they do, they are the only

I cannot help esteeming Albert. The coolness of his temper contrasts
strongly with the impetuosity of mine, which I cannot conceal.
He has a great deal of feeling, and is fully sensible of the
treasure he possesses in Charlotte. He is free from ill-humour,
which you know is the fault I detest most.

He regards me as a man of sense; and my attachment to Charlotte,
and the interest I take in all that concerns her, augment his
triumph and his love. I shall not inquire whether he may not at
times tease her with some little jealousies; as I know, that, were
I in his place, I should not be entirely free from such sensations.

But, be that as it may, my pleasure with Charlotte is over. Call
it folly or infatuation, what signifies a name? The thing speaks
for itself. Before Albert came, I knew all that I know now. I
knew I could make no pretensions to her, nor did I offer any, that
is, as far as it was possible, in the presence of so much loveliness,
not to pant for its enjoyment. And now, behold me like a silly
fellow, staring with astonishment when another comes in, and
deprives me of my love.

I bite my lips, and feel infinite scorn for those who tell me to
be resigned, because there is no help for it. Let me escape from
the yoke of such silly subterfuges! I ramble through the woods;
and when I return to Charlotte, and find Albert sitting by her
side in the summer-house in the garden, I am unable to bear it,
behave like a fool, and commit a thousand extravagances. "For
Heaven's sake," said Charlotte today, "let us have no more scenes
like those of last night! You terrify me when you are so violent."
Between ourselves, I am always away now when he visits her: and I
feel delighted when I find her alone.


Believe me, dear Wilhelm, I did not allude to you when I spoke so
severely of those who advise resignation to inevitable fate. I
did not think it possible for you to indulge such a sentiment.
But in fact you are right. I only suggest one objection. In this
world one is seldom reduced to make a selection between two
alternatives. There are as many varieties of conduct and opinion
as there are turns of feature between an aquiline nose and a flat

You will, therefore, permit me to concede your entire argument,
and yet contrive means to escape your dilemma.

Your position is this, I hear you say: "Either you have hopes of
obtaining Charlotte, or you have none. Well, in the first case,
pursue your course, and press on to the fulfilment of your wishes.
In the second, be a man, and shake off a miserable passion, which
will enervate and destroy you." My dear friend, this is well and
easily said.

But would you require a wretched being, whose life is slowly wasting
under a lingering disease, to despatch himself at once by the
stroke of a dagger? Does not the very disorder which consumes his
strength deprive him of the courage to effect his deliverance?

You may answer me, if you please, with a similar analogy, "Who
would not prefer the amputation of an arm to the periling of life
by doubt and procrastination!" But I know not if I am right, and
let us leave these comparisons.

Enough! There are moments, Wilhelm, when I could rise up and shake
it all off, and when, if I only knew where to go, I could fly from
this place.


My diary, which I have for some time neglected, came before me
today; and I am amazed to see how deliberately I have entangled
myself step by step. To have seen my position so clearly, and
yet to have acted so like a child! Even still I behold the
result plainly, and yet have no thought of acting with greater


If I were not a fool, I could spend the happiest and most delightful
life here. So many agreeable circumstances, and of a kind to
ensure a worthy man's happiness, are seldom united. Alas! I feel
it too sensibly, -- the heart alone makes our happiness! To be
admitted into this most charming family, to be loved by the father
as a son, by the children as a father, and by Charlotte! then the
noble Albert, who never disturbs my happiness by any appearance
of ill-humour, receiving me with the heartiest affection, and
loving me, next to Charlotte, better than all the world! Wilhelm,
you would be delighted to hear us in our rambles, and conversations
about Charlotte. Nothing in the world can be more absurd than our
connection, and yet the thought of it often moves me to tears.

He tells me sometimes of her excellent mother; how, upon her
death-bed, she had committed her house and children to Charlotte,
and had given Charlotte herself in charge to him; how, since that
time, a new spirit had taken possession of her; how, in care and
anxiety for their welfare, she became a real mother to them; how
every moment of her time was devoted to some labour of love in
their behalf, -- and yet her mirth and cheerfulness had never
forsaken her. I walk by his side, pluck flowers by the way, arrange
them carefully into a nosegay, then fling them into the first
stream I pass, and watch them as they float gently away. I forget
whether I told you that Albert is to remain here. He has received
a government appointment, with a very good salary; and I understand
he is in high favour at court. I have met few persons so punctual
and methodical in business.


Certainly Albert is the best fellow in the world. I had a strange
scene with him yesterday. I went to take leave of him; for I took
it into my head to spend a few days in these mountains, from where
I now write to you. As I was walking up and down his room, my eye
fell upon his pistols. "Lend me those pistols," said I, "for my
journey." "By all means," he replied, "if you will take the
trouble to load them; for they only hang there for form." I
took down one of them; and he continued, "Ever since I was near
suffering for my extreme caution, I will have nothing to do with
such things." I was curious to hear the story. "I was staying,"
said he, "some three months ago, at a friend's house in the country.
I had a brace of pistols with me, unloaded; and I slept without
any anxiety. One rainy afternoon I was sitting by myself, doing
nothing, when it occurred to me I do not know how that the house
might be attacked, that we might require the pistols, that we might
in short, you know how we go on fancying, when we have nothing
better to do. I gave the pistols to the servant, to clean and
load. He was playing with the maid, and trying to frighten her,
when the pistol went off -- God knows how! -- the ramrod was in
the barrel; and it went straight through her right hand, and
shattered the thumb. I had to endure all the lamentation, and to
pay the surgeon's bill; so, since that time, I have kept all my
weapons unloaded. But, my dear friend, what is the use of prudence?
We can never be on our guard against all possible dangers. However,"
-- now, you must know I can tolerate all men till they come to
"however;" -- for it is self-evident that every universal rule
must have its exceptions. But he is so exceedingly accurate, that,
if he only fancies he has said a word too precipitate, or too
general, or only half true, he never ceases to qualify, to modify,
and extenuate, till at last he appears to have said nothing at
all. Upon this occasion, Albert was deeply immersed in his
subject: I ceased to listen to him, and became lost in reverie.
With a sudden motion, I pointed the mouth of the pistol to my
forehead, over the right eye. "What do you mean?" cried Albert,
turning back the pistol. "It is not loaded," said I. "And even
if not," he answered with impatience, "what can you mean? I
cannot comprehend how a man can be so mad as to shoot himself,
and the bare idea of it shocks me."

"But why should any one," said I, "in speaking of an action, venture
to pronounce it mad or wise, or good or bad? What is the meaning
of all this? Have you carefully studied the secret motives of our
actions? Do you understand -- can you explain the causes which
occasion them, and make them inevitable? If you can, you will be
less hasty with your decision."

"But you will allow," said Albert; "that some actions are criminal,
let them spring from whatever motives they may." I granted it,
and shrugged my shoulders.

"But still, my good friend," I continued, "there are some exceptions
here too. Theft is a crime; but the man who commits it from extreme
poverty, with no design but to save his family from perishing, is
he an object of pity, or of punishment? Who shall throw the first
stone at a husband, who, in the heat of just resentment, sacrifices
his faithless wife and her perfidious seducer? or at the young
maiden, who, in her weak hour of rapture, forgets herself in the
impetuous joys of love? Even our laws, cold and cruel as they
are, relent in such cases, and withhold their punishment."

"That is quite another thing," said Albert; "because a man under
the influence of violent passion loses all power of reflection,
and is regarded as intoxicated or insane."

"Oh! you people of sound understandings," I replied, smiling, "are
ever ready to exclaim 'Extravagance, and madness, and intoxication!'
You moral men are so calm and so subdued! You abhor the drunken
man, and detest the extravagant; you pass by, like the Levite,
and thank God, like the Pharisee, that you are not like one of
them. I have been more than once intoxicated, my passions have
always bordered on extravagance: I am not ashamed to confess it;
for I have learned, by my own experience, that all extraordinary
men, who have accomplished great and astonishing actions, have
ever been decried by the world as drunken or insane. And in
private life, too, is it not intolerable that no one can undertake
the execution of a noble or generous deed, without giving rise to
the exclamation that the doer is intoxicated or mad? Shame upon
you, ye sages!"

"This is another of your extravagant humours," said Albert: "you
always exaggerate a case, and in this matter you are undoubtedly
wrong; for we were speaking of suicide, which you compare with
great actions, when it is impossible to regard it as anything but
a weakness. It is much easier to die than to bear a life of misery
with fortitude."

I was on the point of breaking off the conversation, for nothing
puts me so completely out of patience as the utterance of a wretched
commonplace when I am talking from my inmost heart. However, I
composed myself, for I had often heard the same observation with
sufficient vexation; and I answered him, therefore, with a little
warmth, "You call this a weakness -- beware of being led astray
by appearances. When a nation, which has long groaned under the
intolerable yoke of a tyrant, rises at last and throws off its
chains, do you call that weakness? The man who, to rescue his
house from the flames, finds his physical strength redoubled, so
that he lifts burdens with ease, which, in the absence of excitement,
he could scarcely move; he who, under the rage of an insult, attacks
and puts to flight half a score of his enemies, are such persons
to be called weak? My good friend, if resistance be strength, how
can the highest degree of resistance be a weakness?"

Albert looked steadfastly at me, and said, "Pray forgive me, but
I do not see that the examples you have adduced bear any relation
to the question." "Very likely," I answered; "for I have often
been told that my style of illustration borders a little on the
absurd. But let us see if we cannot place the matter in another
point of view, by inquiring what can be a man's state of mind who
resolves to free himself from the burden of life, -- a burden often
so pleasant to bear, -- for we cannot otherwise reason fairly upon
the subject.

"Human nature," I continued, "has its limits. It is able to endure
a certain degree of joy, sorrow, and pain, but becomes annihilated
as soon as this measure is exceeded. The question, therefore, is,
not whether a man is strong or weak, but whether he is able to
endure the measure of his sufferings. The suffering may be moral
or physical; and in my opinion it is just as absurd to call a man
a coward who destroys himself, as to call a man a coward who dies
of a malignant fever."

"Paradox, all paradox!" exclaimed Albert. "Not so paradoxical as
you imagine," I replied. "You allow that we designate a disease
as mortal when nature is so severely attacked, and her strength
so far exhausted, that she cannot possibly recover her former
condition under any change that may take place.

"Now, my good friend, apply this to the mind; observe a man in his
natural, isolated condition; consider how ideas work, and how
impressions fasten on him, till at length a violent passion seizes
him, destroying all his powers of calm reflection, and utterly
ruining him.

"It is in vain that a man of sound mind and cool temper understands
the condition of such a wretched being, in vain he counsels him.
He can no more communicate his own wisdom to him than a healthy
man can instil his strength into the invalid, by whose bedside he
is seated."

Albert thought this too general. I reminded him of a girl who had
drowned herself a short time previously, and I related her history.

She was a good creature, who had grown up in the narrow sphere of
household industry and weekly appointed labour; one who knew no
pleasure beyond indulging in a walk on Sundays, arrayed in her
best attire, accompanied by her friends, or perhaps joining in the
dance now and then at some festival, and chatting away her spare
hours with a neighbour, discussing the scandal or the quarrels of
the village, trifles sufficient to occupy her heart. At length
the warmth of her nature is influenced by certain new and unknown
wishes. Inflamed by the flatteries of men, her former pleasures
become by degrees insipid, till at length she meets with a youth
to whom she is attracted by an indescribable feeling; upon him she
now rests all her hopes; she forgets the world around her; she
sees, hears, desires nothing but him, and him only. He alone
occupies all her thoughts. Uncorrupted by the idle indulgence of
an enervating vanity, her affection moving steadily toward its
object, she hopes to become his, and to realise, in an everlasting
union with him, all that happiness which she sought, all that bliss
for which she longed. His repeated promises confirm her hopes:
embraces and endearments, which increase the ardour of her desires,
overmaster her soul. She floats in a dim, delusive anticipation
of her happiness; and her feelings become excited to their utmost
tension. She stretches out her arms finally to embrace the object
of all her wishes and her lover forsakes her. Stunned and bewildered,
she stands upon a precipice. All is darkness around her. No
prospect, no hope, no consolation -- forsaken by him in whom her
existence was centred! She sees nothing of the wide world before
her, thinks nothing of the many individuals who might supply the
void in her heart; she feels herself deserted, forsaken by the
world; and, blinded and impelled by the agony which wrings her
soul, she plunges into the deep, to end her sufferings in the broad
embrace of death. See here, Albert, the history of thousands; and
tell me, is not this a case of physical infirmity? Nature has no
way to escape from the labyrinth: her powers are exhausted: she
can contend no longer, and the poor soul must die.

"Shame upon him who can look on calmly, and exclaim, 'The foolish
girl! she should have waited; she should have allowed time to wear
off the impression; her despair would have been softened, and she
would have found another lover to comfort her.' One might as well
say, 'The fool, to die of a fever! why did he not wait till his
strength was restored, till his blood became calm? all would then
have gone well, and he would have been alive now.'"

Albert, who could not see the justice of the comparison, offered
some further objections, and, amongst others, urged that I had
taken the case of a mere ignorant girl. But how any man of sense,
of more enlarged views and experience, could be excused, he was
unable to comprehend. "My friend!" I exclaimed, "man is but man;
and, whatever be the extent of his reasoning powers, they are of
little avail when passion rages within, and he feels himself
confined by the narrow limits of nature. It were better, then --
but we will talk of this some other time," I said, and caught up
my hat. Alas! my heart was full; and we parted without conviction
on either side. How rarely in this world do men understand each


There can be no doubt that in this world nothing is so indispensable
as love. I observe that Charlotte could not lose me without a
pang, and the very children have but one wish; that is, that I
should visit them again to-morrow. I went this afternoon to tune
Charlotte's piano. But I could not do it, for the little ones
insisted on my telling them a story; and Charlotte herself urged
me to satisfy them. I waited upon them at tea, and they are now
as fully contented with me as with Charlotte; and I told them my
very best tale of the princess who was waited upon by dwarfs.
I improve myself by this exercise, and am quite surprised at the
impression my stories create. If I sometimes invent an incident
which I forget upon the next narration, they remind one directly
that the story was different before; so that I now endeavour to
relate with exactness the same anecdote in the same monotonous
tone, which never changes. I find by this, how much an author
injures his works by altering them, even though they be improved
in a poetical point of view. The first impression is readily
received. We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible
things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him
who would endeavour to efface them.


Must it ever be thus, -- that the source of our happiness must
also be the fountain of our misery? The full and ardent sentiment
which animated my heart with the love of nature, overwhelming me
with a torrent of delight, and which brought all paradise before
me, has now become an insupportable torment, a demon which perpetually
pursues and harasses me. When in bygone days I gazed from these
rocks upon yonder mountains across the river, and upon the green,
flowery valley before me, and saw all nature budding and bursting
around; the hills clothed from foot to peak with tall, thick forest
trees; the valleys in all their varied windings, shaded with the
loveliest woods; and the soft river gliding along amongst the
lisping reeds, mirroring the beautiful clouds which the soft evening
breeze wafted across the sky, -- when I heard the groves about me
melodious with the music of birds, and saw the million swarms of
insects dancing in the last golden beams of the sun, whose setting
rays awoke the humming beetles from their grassy beds, whilst the
subdued tumult around directed my attention to the ground, and I
there observed the arid rock compelled to yield nutriment to the
dry moss, whilst the heath flourished upon the barren sands below
me, all this displayed to me the inner warmth which animates all
nature, and filled and glowed within my heart. I felt myself
exalted by this overflowing fulness to the perception of the
Godhead, and the glorious forms of an infinite universe became
visible to my soul! Stupendous mountains encompassed me, abysses
yawned at my feet, and cataracts fell headlong down before me;
impetuous rivers rolled through the plain, and rocks and mountains
resounded from afar. In the depths of the earth I saw innumerable
powers in motion, and multiplying to infinity; whilst upon its
surface, and beneath the heavens, there teemed ten thousand varieties
of living creatures. Everything around is alive with an infinite
number of forms; while mankind fly for security to their petty
houses, from the shelter of which they rule in their imaginations
over the wide-extended universe. Poor fool! in whose petty
estimation all things are little. From the inaccessible mountains,
across the desert which no mortal foot has trod, far as the confines
of the unknown ocean, breathes the spirit of the eternal Creator;
and every atom to which he has given existence finds favour in his
sight. Ah, how often at that time has the flight of a bird, soaring
above my head, inspired me with the desire of being transported
to the shores of the immeasurable waters, there to quaff the
pleasures of life from the foaming goblet of the Infinite, and to
partake, if but for a moment even, with the confined powers of my
soul, the beatitude of that Creator who accomplishes all things
in himself, and through himself!

My dear friend, the bare recollection of those hours still consoles
me. Even this effort to recall those ineffable sensations, and
give them utterance, exalts my soul above itself, and makes me
doubly feel the intensity of my present anguish.

It is as if a curtain had been drawn from before my eyes, and,
instead of prospects of eternal life, the abyss of an ever open
grave yawned before me. Can we say of anything that it exists
when all passes away, when time, with the speed of a storm, carries
all things onward, -- and our transitory existence, hurried along
by the torrent, is either swallowed up by the waves or dashed
against the rocks? There is not a moment but preys upon you, --
and upon all around you, not a moment in which you do not yourself
become a destroyer. The most innocent walk deprives of life
thousands of poor insects: one step destroys the fabric of the
industrious ant, and converts a little world into chaos. No: it
is not the great and rare calamities of the world, the floods which
sweep away whole villages, the earthquakes which swallow up our
towns, that affect me. My heart is wasted by the thought of that
destructive power which lies concealed in every part of universal
nature. Nature has formed nothing that does not consume itself,
and every object near it: so that, surrounded by earth and air,
and all the active powers, I wander on my way with aching heart;
and the universe is to me a fearful monster, for ever devouring
its own offspring.


In vain do I stretch out my arms toward her when I awaken in the
morning from my weary slumbers. In vain do I seek for her at night
in my bed, when some innocent dream has happily deceived me, and
placed her near me in the fields, when I have seized her hand and
covered it with countless kisses. And when I feel for her in the
half confusion of sleep, with the happy sense that she is near,
tears flow from my oppressed heart; and, bereft of all comfort, I
weep over my future woes.


What a misfortune, Wilhelm! My active spirits have degenerated
into contented indolence. I cannot be idle, and yet I am unable
to set to work. I cannot think: I have no longer any feeling for
the beauties of nature, and books are distasteful to me. Once we
give ourselves up, we are totally lost. Many a time and oft I
wish I were a common labourer; that, awakening in the morning, I
might have but one prospect, one pursuit, one hope, for the day
which has dawned. I often envy Albert when I see him buried in a
heap of papers and parchments, and I fancy I should be happy were
I in his place. Often impressed with this feeling I have been on
the point of writing to you and to the minister, for the appointment
at the embassy, which you think I might obtain. I believe I might
procure it. The minister has long shown a regard for me, and has
frequently urged me to seek employment. It is the business of an
hour only. Now and then the fable of the horse recurs to me.
Weary of liberty, he suffered himself to be saddled and bridled,
and was ridden to death for his pains. I know not what to determine
upon. For is not this anxiety for change the consequence of that
restless spirit which would pursue me equally in every situation
of life?


If my ills would admit of any cure, they would certainly be cured
here. This is my birthday, and early in the morning I received a
packet from Albert. Upon opening it, I found one of the pink
ribbons which Charlotte wore in her dress the first time I saw her,
and which I had several times asked her to give me. With it were
two volumes in duodecimo of Wetstein's "Homer," a book I had often
wished for, to save me the inconvenience of carrying the large
Ernestine edition with me upon my walks. You see how they anticipate
my wishes, how well they understand all those little attentions
of friendship, so superior to the costly presents of the great,
which are humiliating. I kissed the ribbon a thousand times, and
in every breath inhaled the remembrance of those happy and irrevocable
days which filled me with the keenest joy. Such, Wilhelm, is our
fate. I do not murmur at it: the flowers of life are but visionary.
How many pass away, and leave no trace behind -- how few yield any
fruit -- and the fruit itself, how rarely does it ripen! And yet
there are flowers enough! and is it not strange, my friend, that
we should suffer the little that does really ripen, to rot, decay,
and perish unenjoyed? Farewell! This is a glorious summer. I
often climb into the trees in Charlotte's orchard, and shake down
the pears that hang on the highest branches. She stands below,
and catches them as they fall.


Unhappy being that I am! Why do I thus deceive myself? What is
to come of all this wild, aimless, endless passion? I cannot pray
except to her. My imagination sees nothing but her: all surrounding
objects are of no account, except as they relate to her. In this
dreamy state I enjoy many happy hours, till at length I feel
compelled to tear myself away from her. Ah, Wilhelm, to what
does not my heart often compel me! When I have spent several hours
in her company, till I feel completely absorbed by her figure, her
grace, the divine expression of her thoughts, my mind becomes
gradually excited to the highest excess, my sight grows dim, my
hearing confused, my breathing oppressed as if by the hand of a
murderer, and my beating heart seeks to obtain relief for my aching
senses. I am sometimes unconscious whether I really exist. If
in such moments I find no sympathy, and Charlotte does not allow
me to enjoy the melancholy consolation of bathing her hand with
my tears, I feel compelled to tear myself from her, when I either
wander through the country, climb some precipitous cliff, or force
a path through the trackless thicket, where I am lacerated and
torn by thorns and briers; and thence I find relief. Sometimes I
lie stretched on the ground, overcome with fatigue and dying with
thirst; sometimes, late in the night, when the moon shines above
me, I recline against an aged tree in some sequestered forest, to
rest my weary limbs, when, exhausted and worn, I sleep till break
of day. O Wilhelm! the hermit's cell, his sackcloth, and girdle
of thorns would be luxury and indulgence compared with what I suffer.
Adieu! I see no end to this wretchedness except the grave.


I must away. Thank you, Wilhelm, for determining my wavering
purpose. For a whole fortnight I have thought of leaving her. I
must away. She has returned to town, and is at the house of a
friend. And then, Albert -- yes, I must go.


Oh, what a night, Wilhelm! I can henceforth bear anything. I
shall never see her again. Oh, why cannot I fall on your neck,
and, with floods of tears and raptures, give utterance to all the
passions which distract my heart! Here I sit gasping for breath,
and struggling to compose myself. I wait for day, and at sunrise
the horses are to be at the door.

And she is sleeping calmly, little suspecting that she has seen me
for the last time. I am free. I have had the courage, in an
interview of two hours' duration, not to betray my intention. And
O Wilhelm, what a conversation it was!

Albert had promised to come to Charlotte in the garden immediately
after supper. I was upon the terrace under the tall chestnut trees,
and watched the setting sun. I saw him sink for the last time
beneath this delightful valley and silent stream. I had often
visited the same spot with Charlotte, and witnessed that glorious
sight; and now -- I was walking up and down the very avenue which
was so dear to me. A secret sympathy had frequently drawn me
thither before I knew Charlotte; and we were delighted when, in
our early acquaintance, we discovered that we each loved the same
spot, which is indeed as romantic as any that ever captivated the
fancy of an artist.

From beneath the chestnut trees, there is an extensive view. But
I remember that I have mentioned all this in a former letter, and
have described the tall mass of beech trees at the end, and how
the avenue grows darker and darker as it winds its way among them,
till it ends in a gloomy recess, which has all the charm of a
mysterious solitude. I still remember the strange feeling of
melancholy which came over me the first time I entered that dark
retreat, at bright midday. I felt some secret foreboding that it
would, one day, be to me the scene of some happiness or misery.

I had spent half an hour struggling between the contending thoughts
of going and returning, when I heard them coming up the terrace.
I ran to meet them. I trembled as I took her hand, and kissed it.
As we reached the top of the terrace, the moon rose from behind
the wooded hill. We conversed on many subjects, and, without
perceiving it, approached the gloomy recess. Charlotte entered,
and sat down. Albert seated himself beside her. I did the same,
but my agitation did not suffer me to remain long seated. I got
up, and stood before her, then walked backward and forward, and
sat down again. I was restless and miserable. Charlotte drew our
attention to the beautiful effect of the moonlight, which threw a
silver hue over the terrace in front of us, beyond the beech trees.
It was a glorious sight, and was rendered more striking by the
darkness which surrounded the spot where we were. We remained for
some time silent, when Charlotte observed, "Whenever I walk by
moonlight, it brings to my remembrance all my beloved and departed
friends, and I am filled with thoughts of death and futurity. We
shall live again, Werther!" she continued, with a firm but feeling
voice; "but shall we know one another again what do you think?
what do you say?"

"Charlotte," I said, as I took her hand in mine, and my eyes filled
with tears, "we shall see each other again -- here and hereafter
we shall meet again." I could say no more. Why, Wilhelm, should
she put this question to me, just at the moment when the fear of
our cruel separation filled my heart?

"And oh! do those departed ones know how we are employed here? do
they know when we are well and happy? do they know when we recall
their memories with the fondest love? In the silent hour of
evening the shade of my mother hovers around me; when seated
in the midst of my children, I see them assembled near me, as
they used to assemble near her; and then I raise my anxious eyes
to heaven, and wish she could look down upon us, and witness how
I fulfil the promise I made to her in her last moments, to be a
mother to her children. With what emotion do I then exclaim,
'Pardon, dearest of mothers, pardon me, if I do not adequately
supply your place! Alas! I do my utmost. They are clothed and
fed; and, still better, they are loved and educated. Could you
but see, sweet saint! the peace and harmony that dwells amongst
us, you would glorify God with the warmest feelings of gratitude,
to whom, in your last hour, you addressed such fervent prayers for
our happiness.'" Thus did she express herself; but O Wilhelm! who
can do justice to her language? how can cold and passionless words
convey the heavenly expressions of the spirit? Albert interrupted
her gently. "This affects you too deeply, my dear Charlotte. I
know your soul dwells on such recollections with intense delight;
but I implore -- " "O Albert!" she continued, "I am sure you do
not forget the evenings when we three used to sit at the little
round table, when papa was absent, and the little ones had retired.
You often had a good book with you, but seldom read it; the
conversation of that noble being was preferable to everything, --
that beautiful, bright, gentle, and yet ever-toiling woman. God
alone knows how I have supplicated with tears on my nightly couch,
that I might be like her."

I threw myself at her feet, and, seizing her hand, bedewed it with
a thousand tears. "Charlotte!" I exclaimed, "God's blessing and
your mother's spirit are upon you." "Oh! that you had known her,"
she said, with a warm pressure of the hand. "She was worthy of
being known to you." I thought I should have fainted: never had
I received praise so flattering. She continued, "And yet she was
doomed to die in the flower of her youth, when her youngest child
was scarcely six months old. Her illness was but short, but she
was calm and resigned; and it was only for her children, especially
the youngest, that she felt unhappy. When her end drew nigh, she
bade me bring them to her. I obeyed. The younger ones knew nothing
of their approaching loss, while the elder ones were quite overcome
with grief. They stood around the bed; and she raised her feeble
hands to heaven, and prayed over them; then, kissing them in turn,
she dismissed them, and said to me, 'Be you a mother to them.' I
gave her my hand. 'You are promising much, my child,' she said:
'a mother's fondness and a mother's care! I have often witnessed,
by your tears of gratitude, that you know what is a mother's
tenderness: show it to your brothers and sisters, and be dutiful
and faithful to your father as a wife; you will be his comfort.'
She inquired for him. He had retired to conceal his intolerable
anguish, -- he was heartbroken, "Albert, you were in the room.
She heard some one moving: she inquired who it was, and desired
you to approach. She surveyed us both with a look of composure
and satisfaction, expressive of her conviction that we should be
happy, -- happy with one another." Albert fell upon her neck, and
kissed her, and exclaimed, "We are so, and we shall be so!" Even
Albert, generally so tranquil, had quite lost his composure; and
I was excited beyond expression.

"And such a being," She continued, "was to leave us, Werther!
Great God, must we thus part with everything we hold dear in this
world? Nobody felt this more acutely than the children: they cried
and lamented for a long time afterward, complaining that men had
carried away their dear mamma."

Charlotte rose. It aroused me; but I continued sitting, and held
her hand. "Let us go," she said: "it grows late." She attempted
to withdraw her hand: I held it still. "We shall see each other
again," I exclaimed: "we shall recognise each other under every
possible change! I am going," I continued, "going willingly; but,
should I say for ever, perhaps I may not keep my word. Adieu,
Charlotte; adieu, Albert. We shall meet again." "Yes: tomorrow,
I think," she answered with a smile. Tomorrow! how I felt the word!
Ah! she little thought, when she drew her hand away from mine.
They walked down the avenue. I stood gazing after them in the
moonlight. I threw myself upon the ground, and wept: I then sprang
up, and ran out upon the terrace, and saw, under the shade of the
linden-trees, her white dress disappearing near the garden-gate.
I stretched out my arms, and she vanished.



We arrived here yesterday. The ambassador is indisposed, and will
not go out for some days. If he were less peevish and morose, all
would be well. I see but too plainly that Heaven has destined me
to severe trials; but courage! a light heart may bear anything.
A light heart! I smile to find such a word proceeding from my pen.
A little more lightheartedness would render me the happiest being
under the sun. But must I despair of my talents and faculties,
whilst others of far inferior abilities parade before me with the
utmost self-satisfaction? Gracious Providence, to whom I owe all
my powers, why didst thou not withhold some of those blessings I
possess, and substitute in their place a feeling of self-confidence
and contentment?

But patience! all will yet be well; for I assure you, my dear
friend, you were right: since I have been obliged to associate
continually with other people, and observe what they do, and how
they employ themselves, I have become far better satisfied with
myself. For we are so constituted by nature, that we are ever
prone to compare ourselves with others; and our happiness or misery
depends very much on the objects and persons around us. On this
account, nothing is more dangerous than solitude: there our
imagination, always disposed to rise, taking a new flight on the
wings of fancy, pictures to us a chain of beings of whom we seem
the most inferior. All things appear greater than they really
are, and all seem superior to us. This operation of the mind is
quite natural: we so continually feel our own imperfections, and
fancy we perceive in others the qualities we do not possess,
attributing to them also all that we enjoy ourselves, that by this
process we form the idea of a perfect, happy man, -- a man, however,
who only exists in our own imagination.

But when, in spite of weakness and disappointments, we set to work
in earnest, and persevere steadily, we often find, that, though
obliged continually to tack, we make more way than others who have
the assistance of wind and tide; and, in truth, there can be no
greater satisfaction than to keep pace with others or outstrip
them in the race.

November 26.

I begin to find my situation here more tolerable, considering all
circumstances. I find a great advantage in being much occupied;
and the number of persons I meet, and their different pursuits,
create a varied entertainment for me. I have formed the acquaintance
of the Count C-- and I esteem him more and more every day. He is
a man of strong understanding and great discernment; but, though
he sees farther than other people, he is not on that account cold
in his manner, but capable of inspiring and returning the warmest
affection. He appeared interested in me on one occasion, when I
had to transact some business with him. He perceived, at the first
word, that we understood each other, and that he could converse
with me in a different tone from what he used with others. I
cannot sufficiently esteem his frank and open kindness to me. It

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