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Third Book

At that time the general interchange of personal good wishes made the
city very lively on New-Year's Day. Those who otherwise did not easily
leave home, donned their best clothes, that for a moment they might be
friendly and courteous to their friends and patrons. The festivities at
my grandfather's house on this day were pleasures particularly desired
by us children. At early dawn the grandchildren had already assembled
there to hear the drums, oboes, clarinets, trumpets, and cornets played
upon by the military, the city musicians, and whoever else might furnish
his tones. The New-Year's gifts, sealed and superscribed, were divided
by us children among the humbler congratulators; and, as the day
advanced, the number of those of higher rank increased. The relations
and intimate friends appeared first, then the subordinate officials;
even the gentlemen of the council did not fail to pay their respects to
the /Schultheiss/, and a select number were entertained in the
evening in rooms which were else scarcely opened throughout the year.
The tarts, biscuits, marchpane, and sweet wine had the greatest charm
for the children; and, besides, the /Schultheiss/ and the two
burgomasters annually received from some institutions some article of
silver, which was then bestowed upon the grandchildren and godchildren
in regular gradation. In fine, this small festival was not wanting in
any of those things which usually glorify the greatest.

The New-Year's Day of 1759 approached, as desirable and pleasant to us
children as any preceding one, but full of import and foreboding to
older persons. To the passage of the French troops people certainly had
become accustomed; and they happened often, but they had been most
frequent in the last days of the past year. According to the old usage
of an imperial town, the warder of the chief tower sounded his trumpet
whenever troops approached; and on this New-Year's Day he would not
leave off, which was a sign that large bodies were in motion on several
sides. They actually marched through the city in greater masses on this
day, and the people ran to see them pass by. We had generally been used
to see them go through in small parties; but these gradually swelled,
and there was neither power nor inclination to stop them. In short, on
the 2d of January, after a column had come through Sachsenhausen over
the bridge, through the Fahrgasse, as far as the Police Guard-House, it
halted, overpowered the small company which escorted it, took possession
of the before-mentioned Guard-House, marched down the Zeil, and, after a
slight resistance, the main guard were also obliged to yield. In a
moment the peaceful streets were turned into a scene of war. The troops
remained and bivouacked there until lodgings were provided for them by
regular billeting.

This unexpected, and, for many years, unheard-of, burden weighed heavily
upon the comfortable citizens; and to none could it be more cumbersome
than to my father, who was obliged to take foreign military inhabitants
into his scarcely finished house, to open for them his well-furnished
reception-rooms, which were generally closed, and to abandon to the
caprices of strangers all that he had been used to arrange and keep so
carefully. Siding as he did with the Prussians, he was now to find
himself besieged in his own chambers by the French: it was, according to
his way of thinking, the greatest misfortune that could happen to him.
Had it, however, been possible for him to have taken the matter more
easily, he might have saved himself and us many sad hours; since he
spoke French well, and could deport himself with dignity and grace in
the daily intercourse of life. For it was the king's lieutenant who was
quartered on us; and he, although a military person, had only to settle
civil occurrences, disputes between soldiers and citizens, and questions
of debt and quarrels. This was the Count Thorane, a native of Grasse in
Provence, not far from Antibes: a tall, thin, stern figure, with a face
much disfigured by the small-pox; black, fiery eyes; and a dignified,
reserved demeanor. His first entrance was at once favorable for the
inmates of the house. They spoke of the different apartments, some of
which were to be given up, and others retained by the family; and, when
the count heard a picture-room mentioned, he immediately requested
permission, although it was already night, at least to give a hasty look
at the pictures by candlelight. He took extreme pleasure in these
things, behaved in the most obliging manner to my father, who
accompanied him; and when he heard that the greater part of the artists
were still living, and resided in Frankfurt and its neighborhood, he
assured us that he desired nothing more than to know them as soon as
possible, and to employ them.

But even this sympathy in respect to art could not change my father's
feelings nor bend his character. He permitted what he could not prevent,
but kept at a distance in inactivity; and the uncommon state of things
around him was intolerable to him, even in the veriest trifle.

Count Thorane behaved himself, meanwhile, in an exemplary manner. He
would not even have his maps nailed on the walls, that he might not
injure the new hangings. His people were skilful, quiet, and orderly:
but in truth, as, during the whole day and a part of the night there was
no quiet with him, one complainant quickly following another, arrested
persons being brought in and led out, and all officers and adjutants
being admitted to his presence,--as, moreover, the count kept an open
table every day, it made, in the moderately sized house, arranged only
for a family, and with but one open staircase running from top to
bottom, a movement and a buzzing like that in a beehive; although every
thing was managed with moderation, gravity, and severity.

As mediator between the irritable master of the house--who became daily
more of a hypochondriac self-tormentor--and his well-intentioned, but
stern and precise, military guest, there was a pleasant interpreter, a
handsome, corpulent, lively man, who was a citizen of Frankfort, spoke
French well, knew how to adapt himself to every thing, and only made a
jest of many little annoyances. Through him my mother had sent to the
count a representation of the situation in which she was placed, owing
to her husband's state of mind. He had explained the matter so
skilfully,--had laid before him the new and scarcely furnished house,
the natural reserve of the owner, his occupation in the education of his
family, and all that could be said to the same effect,--that the count,
who in his capacity took the greatest pride in the utmost justice,
integrity, and honorable conduct, resolved here also to behave in an
exemplary manner to those upon whom he was quartered, and, indeed, never
swerved from this resolution under varying circumstances, during the
several years he staid with us.

My mother possessed some knowledge of Italian, a language not altogether
unknown to any of the family: she therefore resolved to learn French
immediately; for which purpose the interpreter, for whose child she had
stood godmother during these stormy times, and who now, therefore, as a
gossip,[Footnote: The obsolete word, "gossip," has been revived as an
equivalent for the German, "/gevatter/." But it should be observed
that this word not only signifies godfather, but that the person whose
child has another person for godfather (or godmother) is that person's
/gevatter/, or /gevatterin/ (feminine).] felt a redoubled
interest in our house, devoted every spare moment to his child's
godmother (for he lived directly opposite); and, above all, he taught
her those phrases which she would be obliged to use in her personal
intercourse with the count. This succeeded admirably. The count was
flattered by the pains taken by the mistress of the house at her age:
and as he had a cheerful, witty vein in his character, and he liked to
exhibit a certain dry gallantry, a most friendly relation arose between
them; and the allied godmother and father could obtain from him whatever
they wanted.

If, as I said before, it had been possible to cheer up my father, this
altered state of things would have caused little inconvenience. The
count practised the severest disinterestedness; he even declined
receiving gifts which pertained to his situation; the most trifling
thing which could have borne the appearance of bribery, he rejected
angrily, and even punished. His people were most strictly forbidden to
put the proprietor of the house to the least expense. We children, on
the contrary, were bountifully supplied from the dessert. To give an
idea of the simplicity of those times, I must take this opportunity to
mention that my mother grieved us excessively one day, by throwing away
the ices which had been sent us from the table, because she would not
believe it possible for the stomach to bear real ice, however it might
be sweetened.

Besides these dainties, which we gradually learned to enjoy and to
digest with perfect ease, it was very agreeable for us children to be in
some measure released from fixed hours of study and strict discipline.
My father's ill humor increased: he could not resign himself to the
unavoidable. How he tormented himself, my mother, the interpreter, the
councillors, and all his friends, only to rid him of the count! In vain
they represented to him, that, under existing circumstances, the
presence of such a man in the house was an actual benefit, and that the
removal of the count would be followed by a constant succession of
officers or of privates. None of these arguments had any effect. To him
the present seemed so intolerable, that his indignation prevented his
conceiving any thing worse that could follow.

In this way his activity, which he had been used chiefly to devote to
us, was crippled. The lessons he gave us were no longer required with
the former exactness; and we tried to gratify our curiosity for military
and other public proceedings as much as possible, not only at home, but
also in the streets, which was the more easily done, as the front door,
open day and night, was guarded by sentries who paid no attention to the
running to and fro of restless children.

The many affairs which were settled before the tribunal of the royal
lieutenant had quite a peculiar charm, from his making it a point to
accompany his decisions with some witty, ingenious, or lively turn. What
he decreed was strictly just, his manner of expressing it whimsical and
piquant. He seemed to have taken the Duke of Ossuna as his model.
Scarcely a day passed in which the interpreter did not tell some
anecdote or other of this kind to amuse us and my mother. This lively
man had made a little collection of such Solomonian decisions; but I
only remember the general impression, and cannot recall to my mind any
particular case.

By degrees we became better acquainted with the strange character of the
count. This man clearly understood his own peculiarities; and as there
were times in which he was seized with a sort of dejection,
hypochondria, or by whatever name we may call the evil demon, he
withdrew into his room at such hours, which were often lengthened into
days, saw no one but his /valet/, and in urgent cases could not
even be prevailed upon to receive any one. But, as soon as the evil
spirit had left him, he appeared as before, active, mild, and cheerful.
It might be inferred from the talk of his /valet/, Saint Jean, a
small, thin man of lively good nature, that in his earlier years he had
caused a great misfortune when overcome by this temper; and that,
therefore, in so important a position as his, exposed to the eyes of all
the world, he had earnestly resolved to avoid similar aberrations.

During the very first days of the count's residence with us, all the
Frankfort artists, as Hirt, Schütz, Trautmann, Nothnagel, and Junker,
were called to him. They showed their finished pictures, and the count
bought such as were for sale. My pretty, light room in the gable-end of
the attic was given up to him, and immediately turned into a cabinet and
studio; for he designed to keep all the artists at work for a long time,
especially Seekatz of Darmstadt, whose pencil, particularly in simple
and natural representations, highly pleased him. He therefore caused to
be sent from Grasse, where his elder brother possessed a handsome house,
the dimensions of all the rooms and cabinets; then considered, with the
artists, the divisions of the walls, and fixed accordingly upon the size
of the large oil-pictures, which were not to be set in frames, but to be
fastened upon the walls like pieces of tapestry. And now the work went
on zealously. Seekatz undertook country scenes, and succeeded extremely
well in his old people and children, which were copied directly from
nature. His young men did not answer so well,--they were almost all too
thin; and his women failed from the opposite cause. For as he had a
little, fat, good, but unpleasant-looking, wife, who would let him have
no model but herself, he could produce nothing agreeable. He was also
obliged to exceed the usual size of his figures. His trees had truth,
but the foliage was over minute. He was a pupil of Brinkmann, whose
pencil in easel pictures is not contemptible.

Schütz, the landscape painter, had perhaps the best of the matter. He
was thoroughly master of the Rhine country, and of the sunny tone which
animates it in the fine season. Nor was he entirely unaccustomed to work
on a larger scale, and then he showed no want of execution or keeping.
His paintings were of a cheerful cast.

Trautmann /Rembrandtized/ some resurrection miracles out of the New
Testament, and alongside of them set fire to villages and mills. One
cabinet was entirely allotted to him, as I found from the designs of the
rooms. Hirt painted some good oak and beech forests. His cattle were

Junker, accustomed to the imitation of the most elaborate Dutch, was
least able to manage this tapestry-work; but he condescended to ornament
many compartments with flowers and fruits for a handsome price.

As I had known all these men from my earliest youth, and had often
visited them in their studios, and as the count also liked to have me
with him, I was present at the suggestions, consultations, and orders,
as well as at the deliveries, of the pictures, and ventured to speak my
opinion freely when sketches and designs were handed in. I had already
gained among amateurs, particularly at auctions, which I attended
diligently, the reputation of being able to tell at once what any
historical picture represented, whether taken from biblical or profane
history, or from mythology; and, even if I did not always hit upon the
meaning of allegorical pictures, there was seldom any one present who
understood it better than I. Often had I persuaded the artists to
represent this or that subject, and I now joyfully made use of these
advantages. I still remember writing a circumstantial essay, in which I
described twelve pictures which were to exhibit the history of Joseph:
some of them were executed.

After these achievements, which were certainly laudable in a boy, I will
mention a little disgrace which happened to me within this circle of
artists. I was well acquainted with all the pictures which had from time
to time been brought into that room. My youthful curiosity left nothing
unseen or unexplored. I once found a little black box behind the stove:
I did not fail to investigate what might be concealed in it, and drew
back the bolt without long deliberation. The picture contained was
certainly of a kind not usually exposed to view; and, although I tried
to bolt it again immediately, I was not quick enough. The count entered,
and caught me. "Who allowed you to open that box?" he asked, with all
his air of a royal lieutenant. I had not much to say for myself, and he
immediately pronounced my sentence in a very stern manner: "For eight
days," said he, "you shall not enter this room." I made a bow, and
walked out. Even this order I obeyed most punctually; so that the good
Seekatz, who was then at work in the room, was very much annoyed, for he
liked to have me about him: and, out of a little spite, I carried my
obedience so far, that I left Seekatz's coffee, which I generally
brought him, upon the threshold. He was then obliged to leave his work
and fetch it, which he took so ill, that he well nigh began to dislike

It now seems necessary to state more circumstantially, and to make
intelligible, how, under the circumstances, I made my way with more or
less ease through the French language, which, however, I had never
learned. Here, too, my natural gift was of service to me; enabling me
easily to catch the sound of a language, its movement, accent, tone, and
all other outward peculiarities. I knew many words from the Latin;
Italian suggested still more; and by listening to servants and soldiers,
sentries and visitors, I soon picked up so much, that, if I could not
join in conversation, I could at any rate manage single questions and
answers. All this, however, was little compared to the profit I derived
from the theatre. My grandfather had given me a free ticket, which I
used daily, in spite of my father's reluctance, by dint of my mother's
support. There I sat in the pit, before a foreign stage, and watched the
more narrowly the movement and the expression, both of gesture and
speech; as I understood little or nothing of what was said, and
therefore could only derive entertainment from the action and the tone
of voice. I understood least of comedy; because it was spoken rapidly,
and related to the affairs of common life, of the phrases of which I
knew nothing. Tragedy was not so often played; and the measured step,
the rhythm of the Alexandrines, the generality of the expression, made
it more intelligible to me in every way. It was not long before I took
up Racine, which I found in my father's library, and declaimed the plays
to myself, in the theatrical style and manner, as the organ of my ear,
and the organ of speech, so nearly akin to that, had caught it, and this
with considerable animation; although I could not yet understand a whole
connected speech. I even learned entire passages by rote like a trained
talking-bird, which was easier to me, from having previously committed
to memory passages from the Bible which are generally unintelligible to
a child, and accustomed myself to reciting them in the tone of the
Protestant preachers. The versified French comedy was then much in
vogue: the pieces of Destouches, Marivaux, and La Chaussée were often
produced; and I still remember distinctly many characteristic figures.
Of those of Molière I recollect less. What made the greatest impression
upon me was "The Hypermnestra" of Lemière, which, as a new piece, was
brought out with care and often repeated. "The Devin du Village," "Rose
et Colas," "Annette et Lubin," made each a very pleasant impression upon
me. I can even now recall the youths and maidens decorated with ribbons,
and their gestures. It was not long before the wish arose in me to see
the interior of the theatre, for which many opportunities were offered
me. For as I had not always patience to stay and listen to the entire
plays, and often carried on all sorts of games with other children of my
age in the corridors, and in the milder season even before the door, a
handsome, lively boy joined us, who belonged to the theatre, and whom I
had seen in many little parts, though only casually. He came to a better
understanding with me than with the rest, as I could turn my French to
account with him; and he the more attached himself to me because there
was no boy of his age or his nation at the theatre, or anywhere in the
neighborhood. We also went together at other times, as well as during
the play; and, even while the representations went on, he seldom left me
in peace. He was a most delightful little braggart, chattered away
charmingly and incessantly, and could tell so much of his adventures,
quarrels, and other strange incidents, that he amused me wonderfully;
and I learned from him in four weeks more of the language, and of the
power of expressing myself in it, than can be imagined: so that no one
knew how I had attained the foreign tongue all at once, as if by

In the very earliest days of our acquaintance, he took me with him upon
the stage, and led me especially to the /foyers/, where the actors
and actresses remained during the intervals of the performance, and
dressed and undressed. The place was neither convenient nor agreeable;
for they had squeezed the theatre into a concert-room, so that there
were no separate chambers for the actors behind the stage. A tolerably
large room adjoining, which had formerly served for card-parties, was
now mostly used by both sexes in common, who appeared to feel as little
ashamed before each other as before us children, if there was not always
the strictest propriety in putting on or changing the articles of dress.
I had never seen any thing of the kind before; and yet from habit, after
repeated visits, I soon found it quite natural.

It was not long before a very peculiar interest of my own arose. Young
Derones, for so I will call the boy whose acquaintance I still kept up,
was, with the exception of his boasting, a youth of good manners and
very courteous demeanor. He made me acquainted with his sister, a girl
who was a few years older than we were, and a very pleasant, well-grown
girl, of regular form, brown complexion, black hair and eyes: her whole
deportment had about it something quiet, even sad. I tried to make
myself agreeable to her in every way, but I could not attract her
notice. Young girls think themselves much more advanced than younger
boys; and, while aspiring to young men, they assume the manner of an
aunt towards the boy whose first inclination is turned towards them.--
With a younger brother of his, I had no acquaintance.

Sometimes, when their mother had gone to rehearsals, or was out
visiting, we met at her house to play and amuse ourselves. I never went
there without presenting the fair one with a flower, a fruit, or
something else; which she always received very courteously, and thanked
me for most politely: but I never saw her sad look brighten, and found
no trace of her having given me a further thought. At last I fancied I
had discovered her secret. The boy showed me a crayon-drawing of a
handsome man, behind his mother's bed, which was hung with elegant silk
curtains; remarking at the same time, with a sly look, that this was not
papa, but just the same as papa: and as he glorified this man, and told
me many things in his circumstantial and ostentatious manner, I thought
I had discovered that the daughter might belong to the father, but the
other two children to the intimate friend. I thus explained to myself
her melancholy look, and loved her for it all the more.

My liking for this girl assisted me in bearing the braggadocio of her
brother, who did not always keep within bounds. I had often to endure
prolix accounts of his exploits,--how he had already often fought,
without wishing to injure the other, all for the mere sake of honor. He
had always contrived to disarm his adversary, and had then forgiven him;
nay, he was such a good fencer, that he was once very much perplexed by
striking the sword of his opponent up into a high tree, so that it was
not easy to be got again.

What much facilitated my visits to the theatre was, that my free ticket,
coming from the hands of the /Schultheiss/, gave me access to any
of the seats, and therefore also to those in the proscenium. This was
very deep, after the French style, and was bordered on both sides with
seats, which, surrounded by a low rail, ascended in several rows one
behind another, so that the first seats were but a little elevated above
the stage. The whole was considered a place of special honor, and was
generally used only by officers; although the nearness of the actors
destroyed, I will not say all illusion, but, in a measure, all
enjoyment. I have thus experienced and seen with my own eyes the usage
or abuse of which Voltaire so much complains. If, when the house was
very full at such time as troops were passing through the town, officers
of distinction strove for this place of honor, which was generally
occupied already, some rows of benches and chairs were placed in the
proscenium on the stage itself, and nothing remained for the heroes and
heroines but to reveal their secrets in the very limited space between
the uniforms and orders. I have even seen the "Hypermnestra" performed
under such circumstances.

The curtain did not fall between the acts: and I must yet mention a
strange custom, which I thought quite extraordinary; as its
inconsistency with art was to me, as a good German boy, quite
unendurable. The theatre was considered the greatest sanctuary, and any
disturbance occurring there would have been instantly resented as the
highest crime against the majesty of the public. Therefore, in all
comedies, two grenadiers stood with their arms grounded, in full view,
at the two sides of the back scene, and were witnesses of all that
occurred in the bosom of the family. Since, as I said before, the
curtain did not fall between the acts, two others, while music struck
up, relieved guard, by coming from the wings, directly in front of the
first, who retired in the same measured manner. Now, if such a practice
was well fitted to destroy all that is called illusion on the stage, it
is the more striking, because it was done at a time when, according to
Diderot's principles and examples, the most /natural naturalness/
was required upon the stage, and a perfect deception was proposed as the
proper aim of theatrical art. Tragedy, however, was absolved from any
such military-police regulations; and the heroes of antiquity had the
right of guarding themselves: nevertheless, the same grenadiers stood
near enough behind the side scenes.

I will also mention that I saw Diderot's "Father of a Family," and "The
Philosophers" of Palissot, and still perfectly remember the figure of
the philosopher in the latter piece going upon all fours, and biting
into a raw head of lettuce.

All this theatrical variety could not, however, keep us children always
in the theatre. In fine weather we played in front of it, and in the
neighborhood, and committed all manner of absurdities, which, especially
on Sundays and festivals, by no means corresponded to our personal
appearance; for I and my comrades then appeared dressed as I described
myself in the tale, with the hat under the arm, and a little sword, the
hilt of which was ornamented with a large silk knot. One day when we had
long gone in this way, and Derones had joined us, he took it into his
head to affirm that I had insulted him, and must give him satisfaction.
I could not, in truth, conceive what was the cause of this; but I
accepted his challenge, and was going to draw my sword. However, he
assured me, that in such cases it was customary to go to secluded spots,
in order to be able to settle the matter more conveniently. We therefore
went behind some barns, and placed ourselves in the proper position. The
duel took place in a somewhat theatrical style,--the blades clashed, and
the thrusts followed close upon each other; but in the heat of the
combat he remained with the point of his sword lodged in the knot of my
hilt. This was pierced through; and he assured me that he had received
the most complete satisfaction, then embraced me, also theatrically: and
we went to the next coffee-house to refresh ourselves with a glass of
almond-milk after our mental agitation, and to knit more closely the old
bond of friendship.

On this occasion I will relate another adventure which also happened to
me at the theatre, although at a later time. I was sitting very quietly
in the pit with one of my playmates; and we looked with pleasure at a
/pas seul/, which was executed with much skill and grace by a
pretty boy about our own age,--the son of a French dancing-master, who
was passing through the city. After the fashion of dancers, he was
dressed in a close vest of red silk, which, ending in a short hoop-
petticoat, like a runner's apron, floated above the knee. We had given
our meed of applause to this young artist with the whole public, when, I
know not how, it occurred to me to make a moral reflection. I said to my
companion, "How handsomely this boy was dressed, and how well he looked!
who knows in how tattered a jacket he may sleep to-night!" All had
already risen, but the crowd prevented our moving. A woman who had sat
by me, and who was now standing close beside me, chanced to be the
mother of the young artist, and felt much offended by my reflection.
Unfortunately, she knew German enough to understand me, and spoke it
just as much as was necessary to scold. She abused me violently. Who was
I, she would like to know, that had a right to doubt the family and
respectability of this young man? At all events, she would be bound he
was as good as I; and his talents might probably procure him a fortune,
of which I could not even venture to dream. This moral lecture she read
me in the crowd, and made those about me wonder what rudeness I had
committed. As I could neither excuse myself, nor escape from her, I was
really embarrassed, and, when she paused for a moment, said without
thinking, "Well! why do you make such a noise about it?--to-day red, to-
morrow dead." [Footnote: A German proverb, "Heute roth, Morgen todt."]
These words seemed to strike the woman dumb. She stared at me, and moved
away from me as soon as it was in any degree possible. I thought no more
of my words; only, some time afterwards, they occurred to me, when the
boy, instead of continuing to perform, became ill, and that very
dangerously. Whether he died, or not, I cannot say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not all!"

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

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

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

"Only delay, count."

"In certain things one cannot act too promptly."

"Only a little delay, count."

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

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

"He has no right to interfere here."

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

"What would he say, then?"

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

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

"How many would have done that!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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