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Fifth Book

Every bird has its decoy, and every man is led and misled in a way
peculiar to himself. Nature, education, circumstances, and habit kept me
apart from all that was rude; and though I often came into contact with
the lower classes of people, particularly mechanics, no close connection
grew out of it. I had indeed boldness enough to undertake something
uncommon and perhaps dangerous, and many times felt disposed to do so;
but I was without the handle by which to grasp and hold it.

Meanwhile I was quite unexpectedly involved in an affair which brought
me near to a great hazard, and at least for a long time into perplexity
and distress. The good terms on which I before stood with the boy whom I
have already named Pylades was maintained up to the time of my youth. We
indeed saw each other less often, because our parents did not stand on
the best footing with each other; but, when we did meet, the old
raptures of friendship broke out immediately. Once we met in the alleys
which offer a very agreeable walk between the outer and inner gate of
Saint Gallus. We had scarcely returned greetings when he said to me, "I
hold to the same opinion as ever about your verses. Those which you
recently communicated to me, I read aloud to some pleasant companions;
and not one of them will believe that you have made them."--"Let it
pass," I answered: "we will make and enjoy them, and the others may
think and say of them what they please."

"There comes the unbeliever now," added my friend. "We will not speak of
it," I replied: "what is the use of it? one cannot convert them."--"By
no means," said my friend: "I cannot let the affair pass off in this

After a short, insignificant conversation, my young comrade, who was but
too well disposed towards me, could not suffer the matter to drop,
without saying to the other, with some resentment, "Here is my friend
who made those pretty verses, for which you will not give him credit!"--
"He will certainly not take it amiss," answered the other; "for we do
him an honor when we suppose that more learning is required to make such
verses than one of his years can possess." I replied with something
indifferent; but my friend continued, "It will not cost much labor to
convince you. Give him any theme, and he will make you a poem on the
spot." I assented; we were agreed; and the other asked me whether I
would venture to compose a pretty love-letter in rhyme, which a modest
young woman might be supposed to write to a young man, to declare her
inclination. "Nothing is easier than that," I answered, "if I only had
writing materials." He pulled out his pocket almanac, in which there
were a great many blank leaves; and I sat down upon a bench to write.
They walked about in the mean while, but always kept me in sight. I
immediately brought the required situation before my mind, and thought
how agreeable it must be if some pretty girl were really attached to me,
and would reveal her sentiments to me, either in prose or verse. I
therefore began my declaration with delight, and in a little while
executed it in a flowing measure, between doggerel and madrigal, with
the greatest possible /naiveté/, and in such a way that the sceptic
was overcome with admiration, and my friend with delight. The request of
the former to possess the poem I could the less refuse, as it was
written in his almanac; and I liked to see the documentary evidence of
my capabilities in his hands. He departed with many assurances of
admiration and respect, and wished for nothing more than that we should
often meet; so we settled soon to go together into the country.

Our excursion actually took place, and was joined by several more young
people of the same rank. They were men of the middle, or, if you please,
of the lower, class, who were not wanting in brains, and who, moreover,
as they had gone through school, were possessed of various knowledge and
a certain degree of culture. In a large, rich city, there are many modes
of gaining a livelihood. These eked out a living by copying for the
lawyers, and by advancing the children of the lower order more than is
usual in common schools. With grown-up children, who were about to be
confirmed, they went through the religious courses; then, again, they
assisted factors and merchants in some way, and were thus enabled to
enjoy themselves frugally in the evenings, and particularly on Sundays
and festivals.

On the way there, while they highly extolled my love-letter, they
confessed to me that they had made a very merry use of it; viz., that it
had been copied in a feigned hand, and, with a few pertinent allusions,
had been sent to a conceited young man, who was now firmly persuaded
that a lady to whom he had paid distant court was excessively enamored
of him, and sought an opportunity for closer acquaintance. They at the
same time told me in confidence, that he desired nothing more now than
to be able to answer her in verse; but that neither he nor they were
skilful enough, so that they earnestly solicited me to compose the much-
desired reply.

Mystifications are and will continue to be an amusement for idle people,
whether more or less ingenious. A venial wickedness, a self-complacent
malice, is an enjoyment for those who have neither resources in
themselves nor a wholesome external activity. No age is quite exempt
from such pruriences. We had often tricked each other in our childish
years: many sports turn upon mystification and trick. The present jest
did not seem to me to go farther: I gave my consent. They imparted to me
many particulars which the letter ought to contain, and we brought it
home already finished.

A little while afterwards I was urgently invited, through my friend, to
take part in one of the evening-feasts of that society. The lover, he
said, was willing to bear the expense on this occasion, and desired
expressly to thank the friend who had shown himself so excellent a
poetical secretary.

We came together late enough, the meal was most frugal, the wine
drinkable; while, as for the conversation, it turned almost entirely on
jokes upon the young man, who was present, and certainly not very
bright, and who, after repeated readings of the letter, almost believed
that he had written it himself.

My natural good nature would not allow me to take much pleasure in such
a malicious deception, and the repetition of the same subject soon
disgusted me. I should certainly have passed a tedious evening, if an
unexpected apparition had not revived me. On our arrival we found the
table already neatly and orderly set, and sufficient wine served on it:
we sat down and remained alone, without requiring further service. As
there was, however, a scarcity of wine at last, one of them called for
the maid; but, instead of the maid, there came in a girl of uncommon,
and, when one saw her with all around her, of incredible, beauty. "What
do you desire?" she asked, after having cordially wished us a good-
evening: "the maid is ill in bed. Can I serve you?"--"The wine is out,"
said one: "if you would fetch us a few bottles, it would be very kind."--
"Do it, Gretchen," [Footnote: The diminutive of Margaret.--TRANS.] said
another: "it is but a cat's leap from here."--"Why not?" she answered;
and, taking a few empty bottles from the table, she hastened out. Her
form, as seen from behind, was almost more elegant. The little cap sat
so neatly upon her little head, which a slender throat united very
gracefully to her neck and shoulders. Every thing about her seemed
choice; and one could survey her whole form the more at ease, as one's
attention was no more exclusively attracted and fettered by the quiet,
honest eyes and lovely mouth. I reproved my comrades for sending the
girl out alone at night, but they only laughed at me; and I was soon
consoled by her return, as the publican lived only just across the way.
"Sit down with us, in return," said one. She did so; but, alas! she did
not come near me. She drank a glass to our health, and speedily
departed, advising us not to stay very long together, and not to be so
noisy, as her mother was just going to bed. It was not, however, her own
mother, but the mother of our hosts.

The form of that girl followed me from that moment on every path; it was
the first durable impression which a female being had made upon me: and
as I could find no pretext to see her at home, and would not seek one, I
went to church for love of her, and had soon traced out where she sat.
Thus, during the long Protestant service, I gazed my fill at her. When
the congregation left the church, I did not venture to accost her, much
less to accompany her, and was perfectly delighted if she seemed to have
remarked me and to have returned my greeting with a nod. Yet I was not
long denied the happiness of approaching her. They had persuaded the
lover, whose poetical secretary I had been, that the letter written in
his name had been actually despatched to the lady, and had strained to
the utmost his expectations that an answer must come soon. This, also, I
was to write; and the waggish company entreated me earnestly, through
Pylades, to exert all my wit and employ all my art, in order that this
piece might be quite elegant and perfect.

In the hope of again seeing my beauty, I immediately set to work, and
thought of every thing that would be in the highest degree pleasing if
Gretchen were writing it to me. I thought I had composed every thing so
completely according to her form, her nature, her manner, and her mind,
that I could not refrain from wishing that it were so in reality, and
lost myself in rapture at the mere thought that something similar could
be sent from her to me. Thus I mystified myself, while I intended to
impose upon another; and much joy and much trouble was yet to arise out
of the affair. When I was once more summoned, I had finished, promised
to come, and did not fail at the appointed hour. There was only one of
the young people at home; Gretchen sat at the window spinning; the
mother was going to and fro. The young man desired that I should read it
over to him: I did so, and read, not without emotion, as I glanced over
the paper at the beautiful girl; and when I fancied that I remarked a
certain uneasiness in her deportment, and a gentle flush on her cheeks,
I uttered better and with more animation that which I wished to hear
from herself. The lover, who had often interrupted me with
commendations, at last entreated me to make some alterations. These
affected some passages which indeed were rather suited to the condition
of Gretchen than to that of the lady, who was of a good family, wealthy,
and known and respected in the city. After the young man had designated
the desired changes, and had brought me an inkstand, but had taken leave
for a short time on account of some business, I remained sitting on the
bench against the wall, behind the large table, and essayed the
alterations that were to be made, on the large slate, which almost
covered the whole table, with a pencil that always lay in the window;
because upon this slate reckonings were often made, and various
memoranda noted down, and those coming in or going out even communicated
with each other.

I had for a while written different things and rubbed them out again,
when I exclaimed impatiently, "It will not do!"--"So much the better,"
said the dear girl in a grave tone: "I wished that it might not do! You
should not meddle in such matters." She arose from the distaff, and,
stepping towards the table, gave me a severe lecture, with a great deal
of good sense and kindliness. "The thing seems an innocent jest: it is a
jest, but it is not innocent. I have already lived to see several cases,
in which our young people, for the sake of such mere mischief, have
brought themselves into great difficulty."--"But what shall I do?" I
asked: "the letter is written, and they rely upon me to alter it."--
"Trust me," she replied, "and do not alter it; nay, take it back, put it
in your pocket, go away, and try to make the matter straight through
your friend. I will also put in a word; for look you, though I am a poor
girl, and dependent upon these relations,--who indeed do nothing bad,
though they often, for the sake of sport or profit, undertake a good
deal that is rash,--I have resisted them, and would not copy the first
letter, as they requested. They transcribed it in a feigned hand; and,
if it is not otherwise, so may they also do with this. And you, a young
man of good family, rich, independent, why will you allow yourself to be
used as a tool in a business which can certainly bring no good to you,
and may possibly bring much that is unpleasant? "It made me very happy
to hear her speak thus continuously, for generally she introduced but
few words into conversation. My liking for her grew incredibly. I was
not master of myself, and replied, "I am not so independent as you
suppose; and of what use is wealth to me, when the most precious thing I
can desire is wanting?"

She had drawn my sketch of the poetic epistle towards her, and read it
half aloud in a sweet and graceful manner.

"That is very pretty," said she, stopping at a sort of /naïve/
point; "but it is a pity that it is not destined for a real purpose."--
"That were indeed very desirable," I cried; "and, oh! how happy must he
be, who receives from a girl he infinitely loves, such an assurance of
her affection."--"There is much required for that," she answered, "and
yet many things are possible."--"For example," I continued, "if any one
who knew, prized, honored, and adored you, laid such a paper before you,
what would you do?" I pushed the paper nearer to her, which she had
previously pushed back to me. She smiled, reflected for a moment, took
the pen, and subscribed her name. I was beside myself with rapture,
jumped up, and was going to embrace her. "No kissing!" said she, "that
is so vulgar; but let us love if we can." I had taken up the paper, and
thrust it into my pocket. "No one shall ever get it," said I: "the
affair is closed. You have saved me."--"Now complete the salvation," she
exclaimed, "and hurry off, before the others arrive, and you fall into
trouble and embarrassment!" I could not tear myself away from her; but
she asked me in so kindly a manner, while she took my right hand in both
of hers, and lovingly pressed it! The tears stood in my eyes: I thought
hers looked moist. I pressed my face upon her hands, and hastened away.
Never in my life had I found myself in such perplexity.

The first propensities to love in an uncorrupted youth take altogether a
spiritual direction. Nature seems to desire that one sex may by the
senses perceive goodness and beauty in the other. And thus to me, by the
sight of this girl,--by my strong inclination for her,--a new world of
the beautiful and the excellent had arisen. I perused my poetical
epistle a hundred times, gazed at the signature, kissed it, pressed it
to my heart, and rejoiced in this amiable confession. But the more my
transports increased, the more did it pain me not to be able to visit
her immediately, and to see and converse with her again; for I dreaded
the reproofs and importunities of her cousins. The good Pylades, who
might have arranged the affair, I could not contrive to meet. The next
Sunday, therefore, I set out for Niederrad, where these associates
generally used to go, and actually found them there. I was, however,
greatly surprised, when, instead of behaving in a cross, distant manner,
they came up to me with joyful countenances. The youngest particularly
was very kind, took me by the hand, and said, "You have lately played us
a sorry trick, and we were very angry with you; but your absconding and
taking away the poetical epistle has suggested a good thought to us,
which otherwise might never have occurred. By way of atonement, you may
treat us to-day; and you shall learn at the same time the notion we
have, which will certainly give you pleasure." This harangue caused me
no small embarrassment, for I had about me only money enough to regale
myself and a friend: but to treat a whole company, and especially one
which did not always stop at the right time, I was by no means prepared;
nay, the proposal astonished me the more, as they had always insisted,
in the most honorable manner, that each one should pay only his own
share. They smiled at my distress; and the youngest proceeded, "Let us
first take a seat in the bower, and then you shall learn more." We sat
down; and he said, "When you had taken the love-letter with you, we
talked the whole affair over again, and came to a conclusion that we had
gratuitously misused your talent to the vexation of others and our own
danger, for the sake of a mere paltry love of mischief, when we could
have employed it to the advantage of all of us. See, I have here an
order for a wedding-poem, as well as for a dirge. The second must be
ready immediately, the other can wait a week. Now, if you make these,
which is easy for you, you will treat us twice; and we shall long remain
your debtors." This proposal pleased me in every respect; for I had
already in my childhood looked with a certain envy on the occasional
poems, [Footnote: That is to say, a poem written for a certain occasion,
as a wedding, funeral, etc. The German word is
/Gelegenheitsgedicht/."--TRANS.]--of which then several circulated
every week, and at respectable marriages especially came to light by the
dozen,--because I thought I could make such things as well, nay, better
than others. Now an opportunity was offered me to show myself, and
especially to see myself in print. I did not appear disinclined. They
acquainted me with the personal particulars and the position of the
family: I went somewhat aside, made my plan, and produced some stanzas.
However, when I returned to the company, and the wine was not spared,
the poem began to halt; and I could not deliver it that evening. "There
is still time till to-morrow evening," they said; "and we will confess
to you that the fee which we receive for the dirge is enough to get us
another pleasant evening to-morrow. Come to us; for it is but fair that
Gretchen, too, should sup with us, as it was she properly who gave us
the notion." My joy was unspeakable. On my way home I had only the
remaining stanzas in my head, wrote down the whole before I went to
sleep, and the next morning made a very neat, fair copy. The day seemed
infinitely long to me; and scarcely was it dusk, than I found myself
again in the narrow little dwelling beside the dearest of girls.

The young people, with whom in this way I formed a closer and closer
connection, were not exactly of a low, but of an ordinary, type. Their
activity was commendable, and I listened to them with pleasure when they
spoke of the manifold ways and means by which one could gain a living:
above all, they loved to tell of people, now very rich, who had begun
with nothing. Others to whom they referred had, as poor clerks, rendered
themselves indispensable to their employers, and had finally risen to be
their sons-in-law; while others had so enlarged and improved a little
trade in matches and the like, that they were now prosperous merchants
and tradesmen. But above all, to young men who were active on their
feet, the trade of agent and factor, and the undertaking of all sorts of
commissions and charges for helpless rich men was, they said, a most
profitable means of gaining a livelihood. We all liked to hear this; and
each one fancied himself somebody, when he imagined, at the moment, that
there was enough in him, not only to get on in the world, but to acquire
an extraordinary fortune. But no one seemed to carry on this
conversation more earnestly than Pylades, who at last confessed that he
had an extraordinary passion for a girl, and was actually engaged to
her. The circumstances of his parents would not allow him to go to
universities; but he had endeavored to acquire a fine handwriting, a
knowledge of accounts and the modern languages, and would now do his
best in hopes of attaining that domestic felicity. His fellows praised
him for this, although they did not approve of a premature engagement;
and they added, that while forced to acknowledge him to be a fine, good
fellow, they did not consider him active or enterprising enough to do
any thing extraordinary. While he, in vindication of himself,
circumstantially set forth what he thought himself fit for, and how he
was going to begin, the others were also incited; and each one began to
tell what he was now able to do, doing, or carrying on, what he had
already accomplished, and what he saw immediately before him. The turn
at last came to me. I was to set forth my course of life and prospects;
and, while I was considering, Pylades said, "I make this one proviso,
lest we be at too great a disadvantage, that he does not bring into the
account the external advantages of his position. He should rather tell
us a tale how he would proceed if at this moment he were thrown entirely
upon his own resources, as we are."

Gretchen, who till this moment had kept on spinning, rose, and seated
herself as usual at the end of the table. We had already emptied some
bottles, and I began to relate the hypothetical history of my life in
the best humor. "First of all, then, I commend myself to you," said I,
"that you may continue the custom you have begun to bestow on me. If you
gradually procure me the profit of all the occasional poems, and we do
not consume them in mere feasting, I shall soon come to something. But
then, you must not take it ill if I dabble also in your handicraft."
Upon this, I told them what I had observed in their occupations, and for
which I held myself fit at any rate. Each one had previously rated his
services in money, and I asked them to assist me also in completing my
establishment. Gretchen had listened to all hitherto very attentively,
and that in a position which well suited her, whether she chose to hear
or to speak. With both hands she clasped her folded arms, and rested
them on the edge of the table. Thus she could sit a long while without
moving any thing but her head, which was never done without some
occasion or meaning. She had several times put in a word, and helped us
on over this and that, when we halted in our projects, and then was
again still and quiet as usual. I kept her in my eye, and it may readily
be supposed that I had not devised and uttered my plan without reference
to her. My passion for her gave to what I said such an air of truth and
probability, that, for a moment, I deceived myself, imagined myself as
lonely and helpless as my story supposed, and felt extremely happy in
the prospect of possessing her. Pylades had closed his confession with
marriage; and the question arose among the rest of us, whether our plans
went as far as that. "I have not the least doubt on that score," said I;
"for properly a wife is necessary to every one of us, in order to
preserve at home, and enable us to enjoy as a whole, what we rake
together abroad in such an odd way." I then made a sketch of a wife,
such as I wished; and it must have turned out strangely if she had not
been a perfect counterpart of Gretchen.

The dirge was consumed; the epithalamium now stood beneficially at hand:
I overcame all fear and care, and contrived, as I had many
acquaintances, to conceal my actual evening entertainments from my
family. To see and to be near the dear girl was soon an indispensable
condition of my being. The friends had grown just as accustomed to me,
and we were almost daily together, as if it could not be otherwise.
Pylades had, in the mean time, introduced his fair one into the house;
and this pair passed many an evening with us. They, as bride and
bridegroom, though still very much in the bud, did not conceal their
tenderness: Gretchen's deportment towards me was only suited to keep me
at a distance. She gave her hand to no one, not even to me; she allowed
no touch: yet she many times seated herself near me, particularly when I
wrote, or read aloud, and then, laying her arm familiarly upon my
shoulder, she looked over the book or paper. If, however, I ventured to
take on a similar liberty with her, she withdrew, and did not return
very soon. This position she often repeated; and, indeed, all her
attitudes and motions were very uniform, but always equally becoming,
beautiful, and charming. But such a familiarity I never saw her practise
towards anybody else.

One of the most innocent, and, at the same time, amusing, parties of
pleasure in which I engaged with different companies of young people,
was this,--that we seated ourselves in the Höchst market-ship, observed
the strange passengers packed away in it, and bantered and teased, now
this one, now that, as pleasure or caprice prompted. At Höchst we got
out at the time when the market-boat from Mentz arrived. At a hotel
there was a well-spread table, where the better sort of travellers,
coming and going, ate with each other, and then proceeded, each on his
way, as both ships returned. Every time, after dining, we sailed up to
Frankfort, having, with a very large company, made the cheapest water-
excursion that was possible. Once I had undertaken this journey with
Gretchen's cousins, when a young man joined us at table in Hochst, who
might be a little older than we were. They knew him, and he got himself
introduced to me. He had something very pleasing in his manner, though
he was not otherwise distinguished. Coming from Mentz, he now went back
with us to Frankfort, and conversed with me of every thing that related
to the internal arrangements of the city, and the public offices and
places, on which he seemed to me to be very well informed. When we
separated, he bade me farewell, and added, that he wished I might think
well of him, as he hoped on occasion to avail himself of my
recommendation. I did not know what he meant by this, but the cousins
enlightened me some days after. They spoke well of him, and asked me to
intercede with my grandfather, as a moderate appointment was just now
vacant, which this friend would like to obtain. I at first wished to be
excused, as I had never meddled in such affairs; but they went on urging
me until I resolved to do it. I had already many times remarked, that in
these grants of offices, which unfortunately were regarded as matters of
favor, the mediation of my grandmother or an aunt had not been without
effect. I was now so advanced as to arrogate some influence to myself.
For that reason, to gratify my friends, who declared themselves under
every sort of obligation for such a kindness, I overcame the timidity of
a grandchild, and undertook to deliver a written application that was
handed in to me.

One Sunday, after dinner, while my grandfather was busy in his garden,
all the more because autumn was approaching, and I tried to assist him
on every side, I came forward with my request and the petition, after
some hesitation. He looked at it, and asked me whether I knew the young
man. I told him in general terms what was to be said, and he let the
matter rest there. "If he has merit, and, moreover, good testimonials, I
will favor him for your sake and his own." He said no more, and for a
long while I heard nothing of the matter.

For some time I had observed that Gretchen was no longer spinning, but
instead was employed in sewing, and that, too, on very fine work, which
surprised me the more, as the days were already shortening, and winter
was coming on. I thought no further about it; only it troubled me that
several times I had not found her at home in the morning as formerly,
and could not learn, without importunity, whither she had gone. Yet I
was destined one day to be surprised in a very odd manner. My sister,
who was getting herself ready for a ball, asked me to fetch her some so-
called Italian flowers, at a fashionable milliner's. They were made in
convents, and were small and pretty: myrtles especially, dwarf-roses,
and the like, came out quite beautifully and naturally. I did her the
favor, and went to the shop where I had been with her often already.
Hardly had I entered, and greeted the proprietress, than I saw sitting
in the window a lady, who, in a lace cap, looked very young and pretty,
and in a silk mantilla seemed very well shaped. I could easily recognize
that she was an assistant, for she was occupied in fastening a ribbon
and feathers upon a hat. The milliner showed me the long box with single
flowers of various sorts. I looked them over, and, as I made my choice,
glanced again towards the lady in the window; but how great was my
astonishment when I perceived an incredible similarity to Gretchen, nay,
was forced to be convinced at last that it was Gretchen herself. Nor
could I doubt any longer, when she winked with her eyes, and gave me a
sign that I must not betray our acquaintance. I now, with my choosing
and rejecting, drove the milliner into despair more than even a lady
could have done. I had, in fact, no choice; for I was excessively
confused, and at the same time liked to linger, because it kept me near
the girl, whose disguise annoyed me, though in that disguise she
appeared to me more enchanting than ever. Finally the milliner seemed to
lose all patience, and with her own hands selected for me a whole
bandbox full of flowers, which I was to place before my sister, and let
her choose for herself. Thus I was, as it were, driven out of the shop,
she sending the box in advance by one of her girls.

Scarcely had I reached home than my father caused me to be called, and
communicated to me that it was now quite certain that the Archduke
Joseph would be elected and crowned king of Rome. An event so highly
important was not to be expected without preparation, nor allowed to
pass with mere gaping and staring. He wished, therefore, he said, to go
through with me the election and coronation diaries of the two last
coronations, as well as through the last capitulations of election, in
order to remark what new conditions might be added in the present
instance. The diaries were opened, and we occupied ourselves with them
the whole day till far into the night; while the pretty girl, sometimes
in her old house-dress, sometimes in her new costume, ever hovered
before me, backwards and forwards among the most august objects of the
Holy Roman Empire. This evening it was impossible to see her, and I lay
awake through a very restless night. The study of yesterday was the next
day zealously resumed; and it was not till towards evening that I found
it possible to visit my fair one, whom I met again in her usual house-
dress. She smiled when she saw me, but I did not venture to mention any
thing before the others. When the whole company sat quietly together
again, she began, and said, "It is unfair that you do not confide to our
friend what we have lately resolved upon." She then continued to relate,
that after our late conversation, in which the discussion was how any
one could get on in the world, something was also said of the way in
which a woman could enhance the value of her talent and labor, and
advantageously employ her time. The cousin had consequently proposed
that she should make an experiment at a milliner's, who was just then in
want of an assistant. They had, she said, arranged with the woman: she
went there so many hours a day, and was well paid; but she would there
be obliged, for propriety's sake, to conform to a certain dress, which,
however, she left behind her every time, as it did not at all suit her
other modes of life and employment. I was indeed set at rest by this
declaration; but it did not quite please me to know that the pretty girl
was in a public shop, and at a place where the fashionable world found a
convenient resort. But I betrayed nothing, and strove to work off my
jealous care in silence. For this the younger cousin did not allow me a
long time, as he once more came forward with a proposal for an
occasional poem, told me all the personalities, and at once desired me
to prepare myself for the invention and disposition of the work. He had
spoken with me several times already concerning the proper treatment of
such a theme; and, as I was voluble in these cases, he readily asked me
to explain to him, circumstantially, what is rhetorical in these things,
to give him a notion of the matter, and to make use of my own and
others' labors in this kind for examples. The young man had some brains,
but not a trace of a poetical vein; and now he went so much into
particulars, and wished to have such an account of every thing, that I
gave utterance to the remark, "It seems as if you wanted to encroach
upon my trade, and take away my customers!"--"I will not deny it," said
he, smiling, "as I shall do you no harm by it. This will only continue
to the time when you go to the university, and till then you must allow
me still to profit something by your society."--"Most cordially," I
replied; and I encouraged him to draw out a plan, to choose a metre
according to the character of his subject, and to do whatever else might
seem necessary. He went to work in earnest, but did not succeed. I was
in the end compelled to re-write so much of it, that I could more easily
and better have written it all from the beginning myself. Yet this
teaching and learning, this mutual labor, afforded us good
entertainment. Gretchen took part in it, and had many a pretty notion;
so that we were all pleased, we may, indeed, say happy. During the day
she worked at the milliner's: in the evenings we generally met together,
and our contentment was not even disturbed when at last the commissions
for occasional poems began to leave off. Still we felt hurt once, when
one of them came back under protest, because it did not suit the party
who ordered it. We consoled ourselves, however, as we considered it our
very best work, and could, therefore, declare the other a bad judge. The
cousin, who was determined to learn something at any rate, resorted to
the expedient of inventing problems, in the solution of which we always
found amusement enough; but, as they brought in nothing, our little
banquets had to be much more frugally managed.

That great political object, the election and coronation of a king of
Rome, was pursued with more and more earnestness. The assembling of the
electoral college, originally appointed to take place at Augsburg in the
October of 1763, was now transferred to Frankfort; and both at the end
of this year and in the beginning of the next, preparations went forward
which should usher in this important business. The beginning was made by
a parade never yet seen by us. One of our chancery officials on
horseback, escorted by four trumpeters likewise mounted, and surrounded
by a guard of infantry, read in a loud, clear voice at all the corners
of the city, a prolix edict, which announced the forthcoming
proceedings, and exhorted the citizens to a becoming deportment suitable
to the circumstances. The council was occupied with weighty
considerations; and it was not long before the Imperial quartermaster,
despatched by the hereditary grand marshal, made his appearance, in
order to arrange and designate the residences of the ambassadors and
their suites, according to the old custom. Our house lay in the Palatine
district, and we had to provide for a new but agreeable billetting. The
middle story, which Count Thorane had formerly occupied, was given up to
a cavalier of the Palatinate; and as Baron von Königsthal, the Nuremburg
/chargé-d'affaires/, occupied the upper floor, we were still more
crowded than in the time of the French. This served me as a new pretext
for being out of doors, and to pass the greater part of the day in the
streets, that I might see all that was open to public view.

After the preliminary alteration and arrangement of the rooms in the
town-house had seemed to us worth seeing; after the arrival of the
ambassadors one after another, and their first solemn ascent in a body,
on the 6th of February, had taken place,--we admired the coming in of
the imperial commissioners, and their ascent also to the /Romer/,
which was made with great pomp. The dignified person of the Prince of
Lichtenstein made a good impression; yet connoisseurs maintained that
the showy liveries had already been used on another occasion, and that
this election and coronation would hardly equal in brilliancy that of
Charles the Seventh. We younger folks were content with what was before
our eyes: all seemed to us very fine, and much of it perfectly

The electoral congress was fixed at last for the 3d of March. New
formalities again set the city in motion, and the alternate visits of
ceremony on the part of the ambassadors kept us always on our legs. We
were, moreover, compelled to watch closely; as we were not only to gape
about, but to note every thing well, in order to give a proper report at
home, and even to make out many little memoirs, on which my father and
Herr von Königsthal had deliberated, partly for our exercise and partly
for their own information. And certainly this was of peculiar advantage
to me; as I was enabled very tolerably to keep a living election and
coronation diary, as far as regarded externals.

The person who first of all made a durable impression upon me was the
chief ambassador from the electorate of Mentz, Baron von Erthal,
afterwards elector. Without having any thing striking in his figure, he
was always highly pleasing to me in his black gown trimmed with lace.
The second ambassador, Baron von Groschlag, was a well-formed man of the
world, easy in his exterior, but conducting himself with great decorum.
He everywhere produced a very agreeable impression. Prince Esterhazy,
the Bohemian envoy, was not tall, though well formed, lively, and at the
same time eminently decorous, without pride or coldness. I had a special
liking for him, because he reminded me of Marshal de Broglio. Yet the
form and dignity of these excellent persons vanished, in a certain
degree, before the prejudice that was entertained in favor of Baron von
Plotho, the Brandenburg ambassador. This man, who was distinguished by a
certain parsimony, both in his own clothes and in his liveries and
equipages, had been greatly renowned, from the time of the Seven Years'
War, as a diplomatic hero. At Ratisbon, when the Notary April thought,
in the presence of witnesses, to serve him with the declaration of
outlawry which had been issued against his king, he had, with the laconic
exclamation, "What! you serve?" thrown him, or caused him to be thrown,
down stairs. We believed the first, because it pleased us best; and we
could readily believe it of the little compact man, with his black,
fiery eyes glancing here and there. All eyes were directed towards him,
particularly when he alighted. There arose every time a sort of joyous
whispering; and but little was wanting to a regular explosion, or a
shout of /Vivat! Bravo!/ So high did the king, and all who were
devoted to him, body and soul, stand in favor with the crowd, among
whom, besides the Frankforters, were Germans from all parts.

On the one hand these things gave me much pleasure; as all that took
place, no matter of what nature it might be, concealed a certain
meaning, indicated some internal relation: and such symbolic ceremonies
again, for a moment, represented as living the old Empire of Germany,
almost choked to death by so many parchments, papers, and books. But, on
the other hand, I could not suppress a secret displeasure, when at home,
I had, on behalf of my father, to transcribe the internal transactions,
and at the same time to remark that here several powers, which balanced
each other, stood in opposition, and only so far agreed, as they
designed to limit the new ruler even more than the old one; that every
one valued his influence only so far as he hoped to retain or enlarge
his privileges, and better to secure his independence. Nay, on this
occasion they were more attentive than usual, because they began to fear
Joseph the Second, his vehemence, and probable plans.

With my grandfather and other members of the council, whose families I
used to visit, this was no pleasant time, they had so much to do with
meeting distinguished guests, complimenting, and the delivery of
presents. No less had the magistrate, both in general and in particular,
to defend himself, to resist, and to protest, as every one on such
occasions desires to extort something from him, or burden him with
something; and few of those to whom he appeals support him, or lend him
their aid. In short, all that I had read in "Lersner's Chronicle" of
similar incidents on similar occasions, with admiration of the patience
and perseverance of those good old councilmen, came once more vividly
before my eyes.

Many vexations arise also from this, that the city is gradually overrun
with people, both useful and needless. In vain are the courts reminded,
on the part of the city, of prescriptions of the Golden Bull, now,
indeed, obsolete. Not only the deputies with their attendants, but many
persons of rank, and others who come from curiosity or for private
objects, stand under protection; and the question as to who is to be
billetted out, and who is to hire his own lodging, is not always decided
at once. The tumult constantly increases; and even those who have
nothing to give, or to answer for, begin to feel uncomfortable.

Even we young people, who could quietly contemplate it all, ever found
something which did not quite satisfy our eyes or our imagination. The
Spanish mantles, the huge plumed hats of the ambassadors, and other
objects here and there, had indeed a truly antique look; but there was a
great deal, on the other hand, so half-new or entirely modern, that the
affair assumed throughout a motley, unsatisfactory, often tasteless,
appearance. We were, therefore, very happy to learn that great
preparations were made on account of the journey to Frankfort of the
emperor and future king; that the proceedings of the college of
electors, which were based on the last electoral capitulation, were now
going forward rapidly; and that the day of election had been appointed
for the 27th of March. Now there was a thought of fetching the insignia
of the empire from Nuremburg and Aix-la-Chation; while Gretchen, by her
unbroken attention, had highly encouraged me. At last she thanked me,
and envied, as she said, all who were informed of the affairs of this
world, and knew how this and that came about and what it signified. She
wished she were a boy, and managed to acknowledge, with much kindness,
that she was indebted to me for a great deal of instruction. "If I were
a boy," said she, "we would learn something good together at the
university." The conversation continued in this strain: she definitively
resolved to take instruction in French, of the absolute necessity of
which she had become well aware in the milliner's shop. I asked her why
she no longer went there; for during the latter times, not being able to
go out much in the evening, I had often passed the shop during the day
for her sake, merely to see her for a moment. She explained that she had
not liked to expose herself there in these unsettled times. As soon as
the city returned to its former condition, she intended to go there

Then the impending day of election was the topic of conversation. I
contrived to tell, at length, what was going to happen, and how, and to
support my demonstrations in detail by drawings on the tablet; for I had
the place of conclave, with its altars, thrones, seats, and chairs,
perfectly before my mind. We separated at the proper time, and in a
particularly comfortable frame of mind.

For, with a young couple who are in any degree harmoniously formed by
nature, nothing can conduce to a more beautiful union than when the
maiden is anxious to learn, and the youth inclined to teach. There
arises from it a well-grounded and agreeable relation. She sees in him
the creator of her spiritual existence; and he sees in her a creature
that ascribes her perfection, not to nature, not to chance, nor to any
one-sided inclination, but to a mutual will: and this reciprocation is
so sweet, that we cannot wonder, if, from the days of the old and the
new [Footnote: The "/new/ Abelard" is St. Preux, in the Nouvelle
Héloise of Rousseau.--TRANS.] Abelard, the most violent passions, and as
much happiness as unhappiness, have arisen from such an intercourse of
two beings.

With the next day began great commotion in the city, on account of the
visits paid and returned, which now took place with the greatest
ceremony. But what particularly interested me, as a citizen of
Frankfort, and gave rise to a great many reflections, was the taking of
the oath of security (/Sicherheitseides/) by the council, the
military, and the body of citizens, not through representatives, but
personally and in mass: first, in the great hall of the Römer, by the
magistracy and staff-officers; then in the great square (/Platz/),
the Römerberg, by all the citizens, according to their respective ranks,
gradations, or quarterings; and, lastly, by the rest of the military.
Here one could survey at a single glance the entire commonwealth,
assembled for the honorable purpose of swearing security to the head and
members of the empire, and unbroken peace during the great work now
impending. The Electors of Treves and of Cologne had now also arrived.
On the evening before the day of election, all strangers are sent out of
the city, the gates are closed, the Jews are confined to their quarter,
and the citizen of Frankfort prides himself not a little that he alone
may witness so great a solemnity.

All that had hitherto taken place was tolerably modern: the highest and
high personages moved about only in coaches, but now we were going to
see them in the primitive manner on horseback. The concourse and rush
were extraordinary. I managed to squeeze myself into the Römer, which I
knew as familiarly as a mouse does the private corn-loft, till I reached
the main entrance, before which the electors and ambassadors, who had
first arrived in their state-coaches, and had assembled above, were now
to mount their horses. The stately, well-trained steeds were covered
with richly laced housings, and ornamented in every way. The Elector
Emeric Joseph, a handsome, portly man, looked well on horseback. Of the
other two I remember less, excepting that the red princes' mantles,
trimmed with ermine, which we had been accustomed to see only in
pictures before, seemed to us very romantic in the open air. The
ambassadors of the absent temporal electors, with their Spanish dresses
of gold brocade, embroidered over with gold, and trimmed with gold lace,
likewise did our eyes good; and the large feathers particularly, that
waved most splendidly from the hats, which were cocked in the antique
style. But what did not please me were the short modern breeches, the
white silk stockings, and the fashionable shoes. We should have liked
half-boots,--gilded as much as they pleased,--sandals, or something of
the kind, that we might have seen a more consistent costume.

In deportment the Ambassador Von Plotho again distinguished himself from
all the rest. He appeared lively and cheerful, and seemed to have no
great respect for the whole ceremony. For when his front-man, an elderly
gentleman, could not leap immediately on his horse, and he was therefore
forced to wait some time in the grand entrance, he did not refrain from
laughing, till his own horse was brought forward, upon which he swung
himself very dexterously, and was again admired by us as a most worthy
representative of Frederick the Second.

Now the curtain was for us once more let down. I had, indeed, tried to
force my way into the church; but that place was more inconvenient than
agreeable. The voters had withdrawn into the /sanctum/, where
prolix ceremonies usurped the place of a deliberate consideration as to
the election. After long delay, pressure, and bustle, the people at last
heard the name of Joseph the Second, who was proclaimed King of Rome.

The thronging of strangers into the city became greater and greater.
Everybody went about in his holiday clothes, so that at last none but
dresses entirely of gold were found worthy of note. The emperor and king
had already arrived at /Heusenstamm/, a castle of the counts of
Schönborn, and were there in the customary manner greeted and welcomed;
but the city celebrated this important epoch by spiritual festivals of
all the religions, by high masses and sermons; and, on the temporal
side, by incessant firing of cannon as an accompaniment to the "Te

If all these public solemnities, from the beginning up to this point,
had been regarded as a deliberate work of art, not much to find fault
with would have been found. All was well prepared. The public scenes
opened gradually, and went on increasing in importance; the men grew in
number, the personages in dignity, their appurtenances, as well as
themselves, in splendor,--and thus it advanced with every day, till at
last even a well-prepared and firm eye became bewildered.

The entrance of the Elector of Mentz, which we have refused to describe
more completely, was magnificent and imposing enough to suggest to the
imagination of an eminent man the advent of a great prophesied world-
ruler: even we were not a little dazzled by it. But now our expectation
was stretched to the utmost, as it was said that the emperor and the
future king were approaching the city. At a little distance from
Sachsenhausen, a tent had been erected in which the entire magistracy
remained, to show the appropriate honor, and to proffer the keys of the
city to the chief of the empire. Farther out, on a fair, spacious plain,
stood another, a state pavilion, whither the whole body of electoral
princes and ambassadors repaired; while their retinues extended along
the whole way, that gradually, as their turns came, they might again
move towards the city, and enter properly into the procession. By this
time the emperor reached the tent, entered it; and the princes and
ambassadors, after a most respectful reception, withdrew, to facilitate
the passage of the chief ruler.

We who remained in the city, to admire this pomp within the walls and
streets still more than could have been done in the open fields, were
very well entertained for a while by the barricade set up by the
citizens in the lanes, by the throng of people, and by the various jests
and improprieties which arose, till the ringing of bells and the thunder
of cannon announced to us the immediate approach of majesty. What must
have been particularly grateful to a Frankforter was, that on this
occasion, in the presence of so many sovereigns and their
representatives, the imperial city of Frankfort also appeared as a
little sovereign: for her equerry opened the procession; chargers with
armorial trappings, upon which the white eagle on a red field looked
very fine, followed him; then came attendants and officials, drummers
and trumpeters, and deputies of the council, accompanied by the clerks
of the council, in the city livery, on foot. Immediately behind these
were the three companies of citizen cavalry, very well mounted,--the
same that we had seen from our youth, at the reception of the escort,
and on other public occasions. We rejoiced in our participation of the
honor, and in our one hundred-thousandth part of a sovereignty which now
appeared in its full brilliancy. The different trains of the hereditary
imperial marshal, and of the envoys deputed by the six temporal
electors, marched after these step by step. None of them consisted of
less than twenty attendants and two state-carriages,--some, even, of a
greater number. The retinue of the spiritual electors was ever on the
increase,--their servants and domestic officers seemed innumerable: the
Elector of Cologne and the Elector of Treves had above twenty state-
carriages, and the Elector of Mentz quite as many alone. The servants,
both on horseback and on foot, were clothed most splendidly throughout:
the lords in the equipages, spiritual and temporal, had not omitted to
appear richly and venerably dressed, and adorned with all the badges of
their orders. The train of his imperial majesty now, as was fit,
surpassed all the rest. The riding-masters, the led horses, the
equipages, the shabracks and caparisons, attracted every eye; and the
sixteen six-horse gala-wagons of the imperial chamberlains, privy
councillors, high chamberlain, high stewards, and high equerry, closed,
with great pomp, this division of the procession, which, in spite of its
magnificence and extent, was still only to be the vanguard.

But now the line became concentrated more and more, while the dignity
and parade kept on increasing. For in the midst of a chosen escort of
their own domestic attendants, the most of them on foot, and a few on
horseback, appeared the electoral ambassadors, as well as the electors
in person, in ascending order, each one in a magnificent state-carriage.
Immediately behind the Elector of Mentz, ten imperial footmen, one and
forty lackeys, and eight /heyducks/ [Footnote: A class of
attendants dress in Hungarian costume.--TRANS.] announced their
majesties. The most magnificent state-carriage, furnished even at the
back part with an entire window of plate-glass, ornamented with
paintings, lacquer, carved work, and gilding, covered with red
embroidered velvet on the top and inside, allowed us very conveniently
to behold the emperor and king, the long-desired heads, in all their
glory. The procession was led a long, circuitous route, partly from
necessity, that it might be able to unfold itself, and partly to render
it visible to the great multitude of people. It had passed through
Sachsenhausen, over the bridge, up the Fahrgasse, then down the Zeile,
and turned towards the inner city through the Katharinenpforte, formerly
a gate, and, since the enlargement of the city, an open thoroughfare.
Here it had been happily considered, that, for a series of years, the
external grandeur of the world had gone on expanding, both in height and
breadth. Measure had been taken; and it was found that the present
imperial state-carriage could not, without striking its carved work and
other outward decorations, get through this gateway, through which so
many princes and emperors had gone backwards and forwards. They debated
the matter, and, to avoid an inconvenient circuit, resolved to take up
the pavements, and to contrive a gentle descent and ascent. With the
same view, they had also removed all the projecting eaves from the shops
and booths in the street, that neither crown nor eagle nor the genii
should receive any shock or injury.

Eagerly as we directed our eyes to the high personages when this
precious vessel with such precious contents approached us, we could not
avoid turning our looks upon the noble horses, their harness, and its
embroidery; but the strange coachmen and outriders, both sitting on the
horses, particularly struck us. They looked as if they had come from
some other nation, or even from another world, with their long black and
yellow velvet coats, and their caps with large plumes of feathers, after
the imperial-court fashion. Now the crowd became so dense that it was
impossible to distinguish much more. The Swiss guard on both sides of
the carriage; the hereditary marshal holding the Saxon sword upwards in
his right hand; the field-marshals, as leaders of the imperial guard,
riding behind the carriage; the imperial pages in a body; and, finally,
the imperial horse-guard (/Hatschiergarde/) itself, in black velvet
frocks (/Flügelröck/), with all the seams edged with gold, under
which were red coats and leather-colored camisoles, likewise richly
decked with gold. One scarcely recovered one's self from sheer seeing,
pointing, and showing, so that the scarcely less splendidly clad body-
guards of the electors were barely looked at; and we should, perhaps,
have withdrawn from the windows, if we had not wished to take a view of
our own magistracy, who closed the procession in their fifteen two-horse
coaches; and particularly the clerk of the council, with the city keys
on red velvet cushions. That our company of city grenadiers should cover
the rear seemed to us honorable enough, and we felt doubly and highly
edified as Germans and as Fraukforters by this great day,

We had taken our place in a house which the procession had to pass again
when it returned from the cathedral. Of religious services, of music, of
rites and solemnities, of addresses and answers, of propositions and
readings aloud, there was so much in church, choir, and conclave, before
it came to the swearing of the electoral capitulation, that we had time
enough to partake of an excellent collation, and to empty many bottles
to the health of our old and young ruler. The conversation, meanwhile,
as is usual on such occasions, reverted to the time past; and there were
not wanting aged persons who preferred that to the present,--at least,
with respect to a certain human interest and impassioned sympathy which
then prevailed. At the coronation of Francis the First all had not been
so settled as now; peace had not yet been concluded; France and the
Electors of Brandenburg and the Palatinate were opposed to the election;
the troops of the future emperor were stationed at Heidelberg, where he
had his headquarters; and the insignia of the empire, coming from Aix,
were almost carried off by the inhabitants of the Palatinate. Meanwhile,
negotiations went on; and on neither side was the affair conducted in
the strictest manner. Maria Theresa, though then pregnant, comes in
person to see the coronation of her husband, which is at last earned
into effect. She arrived at Aschaffenburg, and went on board a yacht in
order to repair to Frankfort. Francis, coming from Heidelberg, thinks to
meet his wife, but arrives too late: she has already departed. Unknown,
he jumps into a little boat, hastens alter her, reaches her ship; and
the loving pair is delighted at this surprising meeting. The story
spreads immediately; and all the world sympathizes with this tender
pair, so richly blessed with children, who have been so inseparable
since their union, that once, on a journey from Vienna to Florence, they
are forced to keep quarantine together on the Venetian border. Maria
Theresa is welcomed in the city with rejoicings: she enters the Roman
Emperor Inn, while the great tent for the reception of her husband is
erected on the Bornheim heath. There, of the spiritual electors, only
Mentz is found; and, of the ambassadors of the temporal electors, only
Saxony, Bohemia, and Hanover. The entrance begins, and what it may lack
of completeness and splendor is richly compensated by the presence of a
beautiful lady. She stands upon the balcony of the well-situated house,
and greets her husband with cries of "Vivat!" and clapping of hands: the
people joined, excited to the highest enthusiasm. As the great are,
after all, men, the citizen deems them big equals when he wishes to love
them; and that he can best do when he can picture them to himself as
loving husbands, tender parents, devoted brothers, and true friends. At
that time all happiness had been wished and prophesied; and to-day it
was seen fulfilled in the first-born son, to whom everybody was well
inclined on account of his handsome, youthful form, and upon whom the
world set the greatest hopes, on account of the great qualities that he

We had become quite absorbed in the past and future, when some friends
who came in recalled us to the present. They were of that class of
people who know the value of novelty, and therefore hasten to announce
it first. They were even able to tell of a fine humane trait in those
exalted personages whom we had seen go by with the greatest pomp. It had
been concerted, that on the way, between Heusenstamm and the great tent,
the emperor and king should find the Landgrave of Darmstadt in the
forest. This old prince, now approaching the grave, wished to see once
more the master to whom he had been devoted in former times. Both might
remember the day when the landgrave brought over to Heidelberg the
decree of the electors, choosing Francis as emperor, and replied to the
valuable presents he received with protestations of unalterable
devotion. These eminent persons stood in a grove of firs; and the
landgrave, weak with old age, supported himself against a pine, to
continue the conversation, which was not without emotion on both sides.
The place was afterwards marked in an innocent way, and we young people
sometimes wandered to it.

Thus several hours had passed in remembrance of the old and
consideration of the new, when the procession, though curtailed and more
compact, again passed before our eyes; and we were enabled to observe
and mark the detail more closely, and imprint it on our minds for the

From that moment the city was in uninterrupted motion; for until each
and every one whom it behooved, and of whom it was required, had paid
their respects to the highest dignities, and exhibited themselves one by
one, there was no end to the marching to and fro: and the court of each
one of the high persons present could be very conveniently repeated in

Now, too, the insignia of the empire arrived. But, that no ancient usage
might be omitted even in this respect, they had to remain half a day
till late at night in the open field, on account of a dispute about
territory and escort between the Elector of Mentz and the city. The
latter yielded: the people of Mentz escorted the insignia as far as the
barricade, and so the affair terminated for this time.

In these days I did not come to myself. At home I had to write and copy;
every thing had to be seen: and so ended the month of March, the second
half of which had been so rich in festivals for us. I had promised
Gretchen a faithful and complete account of what had lately happened,
and of what was to be expected on the coronation-day. This great day
approached; I thought more of how I should tell it to her than of what
properly was to be told: all that came under my eyes and my pen I merely
worked up rapidly for this sole and immediate use. At last I reached her
residence somewhat late one evening, and was not a little proud to think
how my discourse on this occasion would be much more successful than the
first unprepared one. But a momentary incitement often brings us, and
others through us, more joy than the most deliberate purpose can afford.
I found, indeed, pretty nearly the same company; but there were some
unknown persons among them. They sat down to play, all except Gretchen
and her younger cousin, who remained with me at the slate. The dear girl
expressed most gracefully her delight that she, though a stranger, had
passed for a citizen on the election-day, and had taken part in that
unique spectacle. She thanked me most warmly for having managed to take
care of her, and for having been so attentive as to procure her, through
Pylades, all sorts of admissions by means of billets, directions,
friends, and intercessions.

She liked to hear about the jewels of the empire. I promised her that we
should, if possible, see these together. She made some jesting remarks
when she learned that the garments and crown had been tried on the young
king. I knew where she would be, to see the solemnities of the
coronation-day, and directed her attention to every thing that was
impending, and particularly to what might be minutely inspected from her
place of view.

Thus we forgot to think about time: it was already past midnight, and I
found that I unfortunately had not the house-key with me. I could not
enter the house without making the greatest disturbance. I communicated
my embarrassment to her. "After all," said she, "it will be best for the
company to remain together." The cousins and the strangers had already
had this in mind, because it was not known where they would be lodged
for the night. The matter was soon decided: Gretchen went to make some
coffee, after bringing in and lighting a large brass lamp, furnished
with oil and wick, because the candles threatened to burn out.

The coffee served to enliven us for several hours, but the game
gradually slackened; conversation failed; the mother slept in the great
chair; the strangers, weary from travelling, nodded here and there; and
Pylades and his fair one sat in a corner. She had laid her head on his
shoulder, and had gone to sleep; and he did not keep long awake. The
younger cousin, sitting opposite to us by the slate, had crossed his
arms before him, and slept with his face resting upon them. I sat in the
window-corner, behind the table, and Gretchen by me. We talked in a low
voice: but at last sleep overcame her also; she leaned her head on my
shoulder, and sank at once into a slumber. Thus I now sat, the only one
awake, in a most singular position, in which the kind brother of death
soon put me also to rest. I went to sleep; and, when I awoke, it was
already bright day. Gretchen was standing before the mirror arranging
her little cap: she was more lovely than ever, and, when I departed,
cordially pressed ray hands. I crept home by a roundabout way; for, on
the side towards the little /Stag-ditch/, my father had opened a
sort of little peep-hole in the wall, not without the opposition of his
neighbor. This side we avoided when we wanted not to be observed by him
in coming home. My mother, whose mediation always came in well for us,
had endeavored to palliate my absence in the morning at breakfast, by
the supposition that I had gone out early; and I experienced no
disagreeable effects from this innocent night.

Taken as a whole, this infinitely various world which surrounded me
produced upon me but a very simple impression. I had no interest but to
mark closely the outside of the objects, no business but that with which
I had been charged by my father and Herr von Königsthal, by which,
indeed, I perceived the inner course of things. I had no liking but for
Gretchen, and no other view than to see and take in every thing
properly, that I might be able to repeat it with her, and explain it to
her. Often when a train was going by, I described it half aloud to
myself, to assure myself of all the particulars, and to be praised by my
fair one for this attention and accuracy: the applause and
acknowledgments of the others I regarded as a mere appendix.

I was indeed presented to many exalted and distinguished persons; but
partly, no one had time to trouble himself about others, and partly,
older people do not know at once how they should converse with a young
man and try him. I, on my side, was likewise not particularly skilful in
adapting myself to people. I generally won their favor, but not their
approbation. Whatever occupied me was completely present to me, but I
did not ask whether it might be also suitable to others. I was mostly
too lively or too quiet, and appeared either importunate or sullen, just
as persons attracted or repelled me; and thus I was considered to be
indeed full of promise, but at the same time was declared eccentric.

The coronation-day dawned at last on the 3d of April, 1764: the weather
was favorable, and everybody was in motion. I, with several of my
relations and friends, had been provided with a good place in one of the
upper stories of the Römer itself, where we might completely survey the
whole. We betook ourselves to the spot very early in the morning, and
from above, as in a bird's-eye view, contemplated the arrangements which
we had inspected more closely the day before. There was the newly
erected fountain, with two large tubs on the left and right, into which
the double-eagle on the post was to pour from its two beaks white wine
on this side, and red wine on that. There, gathered into a heap, lay the
oats: here stood the large wooden hut, in which we had several days
since seen the whole fat ox roasted and basted on a huge spit before a
charcoal fire. All the avenues leading out from the Römer, and from
other streets back to the Römer, were secured on both sides by barriers
and guards. The great square was gradually filled; and the waving and
pressure grew every moment stronger and more in motion, as the multitude
always, if possible, endeavored to reach the spot where some new scene
arose, and something particular was announced.

All this time there reigned a tolerable stillness; and, when the alarm-
bells were sounded, all the people seemed struck with terror and
amazement. What first attracted the attention of all who could overlook
the square from above, was the train in which the lords of Aix and
Nuremberg brought the crown-jewels to the cathedral. These, as palladia,
had been assigned the first place in the carriage; and the deputies sat
before them on the back-seat with becoming reverence. Now the three
electors betake themselves to the cathedral. After the presentation of
the insignia to the Elector of Mentz, the crown and sword are
immediately carried to the imperial quarters. The further arrangements
and manifold ceremonies occupied, in the interim, the chief persons, as
well as the spectators, in the church, as we other well-informed persons
could well imagine.

In the mean time the ambassadors drove before our eyes up to the Römer,
from which the canopy is carried by the under-officers into the imperial
quarters. The hereditary marshal, Count von Pappenheim, instantly mounts
his horse: he was a very handsome, slender gentleman, whom the Spanish
costume, the rich doublet, the gold mantle, the high, feathered hat, and
the loose, flying hair, became very well. He puts himself in motion;
and, amid the sound of all the bells, the ambassadors follow him on
horseback to the quarters of the emperor in still greater magnificence
than on the day of election. One would have liked to be there too; as
indeed, on this day, it would hare been altogether desirable to multiply
one's self. However, we told each other what was going on there. Now the
emperor is putting on his domestic robes, we said, a new dress, made
after the old Carolingian pattern. The hereditary officers receive the
insignia, and with them get on horseback. The emperor in his robes, the
Roman king in the Spanish habit, immediately mount their steeds; and,
while this is done, the endless procession which precedes them has
already announced them.

The eye was already wearied by the multitude of richly dressed
attendants and magistrates, and by the nobility, who, in stately
fashion, were moving along; but when the electoral envoys, the
hereditary officers, and at last, under the richly embroidered canopy,
borne by twelve /schöffen/ and senators, the emperor, in romantic
costume, and to the left, a little behind him, in the Spanish dress, his
son, slowly floated along on magnificently adorned horses, the eye was
no more sufficient for the sight. One would have liked to fix the scene,
but for a moment, by a magic charm; but the glory passed on without
stopping: and the space that was scarcely quitted was immediately filled
again by the crowd, which poured in like billows.

But now a new pressure ensued; for another approach from the market to
the Römer gate had to be opened, and a road of planks to be bridged over
it, on which the train returning from the cathedral was to walk.

What passed within the cathedral, the endless ceremonies which precede
and accompany the anointing, the crowning, the dubbing of knighthood,--
all this we were glad to hear told afterwards by those who had
sacrificed much else to be present in the church.

The rest of us, in the interim, partook of a frugal repast; for in this
festal day we had to be contented with cold meat. But, on the other
hand, the best and oldest wine had been brought out of all the family
cellars; so that, in this respect at least, we celebrated the ancient
festival in ancient style.

In the square, the sight most worth seeing was now the bridge, which had
been finished, and covered with orange and white cloth; and we who had
stared at the emperor, first in his carriage and then on horseback, were
now to admire him walking on foot. Singularly enough, the last pleased
us the most; for we thought that in this way he exhibited himself both
in the most natural and in the most dignified manner.

Older persons, who were present at the coronation of Francis the First,
related that Maria Theresa, beautiful beyond measure, had looked on this
solemnity from a balcony window of the Frauenstein house, close to the
Römer. As her consort returned from the cathedral in his strange
costume, and seemed to her, so to speak, like a ghost of Charlemagne, he
had, as if in jest, raised both his hands, and shown her the imperial
globe, the sceptre, and the curious gloves, at which she had broken out
into immoderate laughter, which served for the great delight and
edification of the crowd, which was thus honored with a sight of the
good and natural matrimonial understanding between the most exalted
couple of Christendom. But when the empress, to greet her consort, waved
her handkerchief, and even shouted a loud /vivat/ to him, the
enthusiasm and exultation of the people was raised to the highest, so
that there was no end to the cheers of joy.

Now the sound of bells, and the van of the long train which gently made
its way over the many-colored bridge, announced that all was done. The
attention was greater than ever, and the procession more distinct than
before, particularly for us, since it now came directly up to us. We saw
both, and the whole of the square, which was thronged with people,
almost as if on a ground-plan. Only at the end the magnificence was too
much crowded: for the envoys; the hereditary officers; the emperor and
king, under the canopy (/Baldachin/); the three spiritual electors,
who immediately followed; the /schöffen/ and senators, dressed in
black; the gold-embroidered canopy (/Himmel/),--all seemed only one
mass, which, moved by a single will, splendidly harmonious, and thus
stepping from the temple amid the sound of the bells, beamed towards us
as something holy.

A politico-religious ceremony possesses an infinite charm. We behold
earthly majesty before our eyes, surrounded by all the symbols of its
power; but, while it bends before that of heaven, it brings to our minds
the communion of both. For even the individual can only prove his
relationship with the Deity by subjecting himself and adoring.

The rejoicings which resounded from the market-place now spread likewise
over the great square; and a boisterous /vivat/ burst forth from
thousands upon thousands of throats, and doubtless from as many hearts.
For this grand festival was to be the pledge of a lasting peace, which
indeed for many a long year actually blessed Germany.

Several days before, it had been made known by public proclamation, that
neither the bridge nor the eagle over the fountain was to be exposed to
the people, and they were therefore not, as at other times, to be
touched. This was done to prevent the mischief inevitable with such a
rush of persons. But, in order to sacrifice in some degree to the genius
of the mob, persons expressly appointed went behind the procession,
loosened the cloth from the bridge, wound it up like a flag, and threw
it into the air. This gave rise to no disaster, but to a laughable
mishap; for the cloth unrolled itself in the air, and, as it fell,
covered a larger or smaller number of persons. Those now who took hold
of the ends and drew them towards them, pulled all those in the middle
to the ground, enveloped them and teased them till they tore or cut
themselves through; and everybody, in his own way, had borne off a
corner of the stuff made sacred by the footsteps of majesty.

I did not long contemplate this rough sport, but hastened from my high
position through all sorts of little steps and passages, down to the
great Römer-stairs, where the distinguished and majestic mass, which had
been stared at from the distance, was to ascend in its undulating
course. The crowd was not great, because the entrances to the city-hall
were well garrisoned; and I fortunately reached at once the iron
balustrades above. Now the chief personages ascended past me, while
their followers remained behind in the lower arched passages; and I
could observe them on the thrice-broken stairs from all sides, and at
last quite close.

Finally both their majesties came up. Father and son were altogether
dressed like Menaechmi. The emperor's domestic robes, of purple-colored
silk, richly adorned with pearls and stones, as well as his crown,
sceptre, and imperial orb, struck the eye with good effect. For all in
them was new, and the imitation of the antique was tasteful. He moved,
too, quite easily in his attire; and his true-hearted, dignified face,
indicated at once the emperor and the father. The young king, on the
contrary, in his monstrous articles of dress, with the crown-jewels of
Charlemagne, dragged himself along as if he had been in a disguise; so
that he himself, looking at his father from time to time, could not
refrain from laughing. The crown, which it had been necessary to line a
great deal, stood out from his head like an overhanging roof. The
dalmatica, the stole, well as they had been fitted and taken in by
sewing, presented by no means an advantageous appearance. The sceptre
and imperial orb excited some admiration; but one would, for the sake of
a more princely effect, rather have seen a strong form, suited to the
dress, invested and adorned with it.

Scarcely were the gates of the great hall closed behind these figures,
than I hurried to my former place, which, being already occupied by
others, I only regained with some trouble.

It was precisely at the right time that I again took possession of my
window, for the most remarkable part of all that was to be seen in
public was just about to take place. All the people had turned towards
the Römer; and a reiterated shout of /vivat/ gave us to understand
that the emperor and king, in their vestments, were showing themselves
to the populace from the balcony of the great hall. But they were not
alone to serve as a spectacle, since another strange spectacle occurred
before their eyes. First of all, the handsome, slender hereditary
marshal flung himself upon his steed: he had laid aside his sword; in
his right hand he held a silver-handled vessel, and a tin spatula in his
left. He rode within the barriers to the great heap of oats, sprang in,
filled the vessel to overflow, smoothed it off, and carried it back
again with great dignity. The imperial stable was now provided for. The
hereditary chamberlain then rode likewise to the spot, and brought back
a basin with ewer and towel. But more entertaining for the spectators
was the hereditary carver, who came to fetch a piece of the roasted ox.
He also rode, with a silver dish, through the barriers, to the large
wooden kitchen, and came forth again with his portion covered, that he
might go back to the Römer. Now it was the turn of the hereditary cup-
bearer, who rode to the fountain and fetched wine. Thus now was the
imperial table furnished; and every eye waited upon the hereditary
treasurer, who was to throw about the money. He, too, mounted a fine
steed, to the sides of whose saddle, instead of holsters, a couple of
splendid bags, embroidered with the arms of the Palatinate, were
suspended. Scarcely had he put himself in motion than he plunged his
hands into these pockets, and generously scattered, right and left, gold
and silver coins, which, on every occasion, glittered merrily in the air
like metallic rain. A thousand hands waved instantly in the air to catch
the gifts; but hardly had the coins fallen when the crowd tumbled over
each other on the ground, and struggled violently for the pieces which
might have reached the earth. As this agitation was constantly repeated
on both sides as the giver rode forwards, it afforded the spectators a
very diverting sight. It was most lively at the close, when he threw out
the bags themselves, and everybody tried to catch this highest prize.

Their majesties had retired from the balcony; and another offering was
to be made to the mob, who, on such occasions, would rather steal the
gifts than receive them tranquilly and gratefully. The custom prevailed,
in more rude and uncouth times, of giving up to the people on the spot
the oats, as soon as the hereditary marshal had taken away his share;
the fountain and the kitchen, after the cup-bearer and the carver had
performed their offices. But this time, to guard against all mischief,
order and moderation were preserved as far as possible. But the old
malicious jokes, that when one filled a sack with oats another cut a
hole in it, with sallies of the kind, were revived. About the roasted
ox, a more serious battle was, as usual, waged on this occasion. This
could only be contested /en masse/. Two guilds, the butchers and
the wine-porters, had, according to ancient custom, again stationed
themselves so that the monstrous roast must fall to one of the two. The
butchers believed that they had the best right to an ox which they
provided entire for the kitchen: the wine-porters, on the other hand,
laid claim because the kitchen was built near the abode of their guild,
and because they had gained the victory the last time, the horns of the
captured steer still projecting from the latticed gable-window of their
guild and meeting-house as a sign of victory. Both these companies had
very strong and able members; but which of them conquered this time, I
no longer remember.

But, as a festival of this kind must always close with something
dangerous and frightful, it was really a terrible moment when the wooden
kitchen itself was made a prize. The roof of it swarmed instantly with
men, no one knowing how they got there: the boards were torn loose, and
pitched down; so that one could not help supposing, particularly at a
distance, that each would kill a few of those pressing to the spot. In a
trice the hut was unroofed; and single individuals hung to the beams and
rafters, in order to pull them also out of their joinings: nay, many
floated above upon the posts which had been already sawn off below; and
the whole skeleton, moving backwards and forwards, threatened to fall
in. Sensitive persons turned their eyes away, and everybody expected a
great calamity; but we did not hear of any mischief: and the whole
affair, though impetuous and violent, had passed off happily.

Everybody knew now that the emperor and king would return from the
cabinet, whither they had retired from the balcony, and feast in the
great hall of the Romer. We had been able to admire the arrangements
made for it, the day before; and my most anxious wish was, if possible,
to look in to-day. I repaired, therefore, by the usual path, to the
great staircase, which stands directly opposite the door of the hall.
Here I gazed at the distinguished personages who this day acted as the
servants of the head of the empire. Forty-four counts, all splendidly
dressed, passed me, carrying the dishes from the kitchen; so that the
contrast between their dignity and their occupation might well be
bewildering to a boy. The crowd was not great, but, considering the
little space, sufficiently perceptible. The hall-door was guarded, while
those who were authorized went frequently in and out. I saw one of the
Palatine domestic officials, whom I asked whether he could not take me
in with him. He did not deliberate long, but gave me one of the silver
vessels he just then bore, which he could do so much the more, as I was
neatly clad; and thus I reached the sanctuary. The Palatine buffet stood
to the left, directly by the door; and with some steps I placed myself
on the elevation of it, behind the barriers.

At the other end of the hall, immediately by the windows, raised on the
steps of the throne, and under canopies, sat the emperor and king in
their robes; but the crown and sceptre lay at some distance behind them
on gold cushions. The three spiritual electors, their buffets behind
them, had taken their places on single elevations; the Elector of Mentz
opposite their majesties, the Elector of Treves at the right, and the
Elector of Cologne at the left. This upper part of the hall was imposing
and cheerful to behold, and excited the remark that the spiritual power
likes to keep as long as possible with the ruler. On the contrary, the
buffets and tables of all the temporal electors, which were, indeed,
magnificently ornamented, but without occupants, made one think of the
misunderstanding which had gradually arisen for centuries between them
and the head of the empire. Their ambassadors had already withdrawn to
eat in a side-chamber; and if the greater part of the hall assumed a
sort of spectral appearance, by so many invisible guests being so
magnificently attended, a large unfurnished table in the middle was
still more sad to look upon; for there, also, many covers stood empty,
because all those who had certainly a right to sit there had, for
appearance' sake, kept away, that on the greatest day of honor they
might not renounce any of their honor, if, indeed, they were then to be
found in the city.

Neither my years nor the mass of present objects allowed me to make many
reflections. I strove to see all as much as possible; and when the
dessert was brought in, and the ambassadors re-entered to pay their
court, I sought the open air, and contrived to refresh myself with good
friends in the neighborhood, after a day's half-fasting, and to prepare
for the illumination in the evening.

This brilliant night I purposed celebrating in a right hearty way; for I
had agreed with Gretchen, and Pylades and his mistress, that we should
meet somewhere at nightfall. The city was already resplendent at every
end and corner when I met my beloved. I offered Gretchen my arm: we went
from one quarter to another, and found ourselves very happy in each
other's society. The cousins at first were also of our party, but were
afterwards lost in the multitude of people. Before the houses of some of
the ambassadors, where magnificent illuminations were exhibited,--those
of the Elector-Palatine were pre-eminently distinguished,--it was as
clear as day. Lest I should be recognized, I had disguised myself to a
certain extent; and Gretchen did not find it amiss. We admired the
various brilliant representations and the fairy-like structures of flame
by which each ambassador strove to outshine the others. But Prince
Esterhazy's arrangements surpassed all the rest. Our little company were
enraptured, both with the invention and the execution; and we were just
about to enjoy this in detail, when the cousins again met us, and spoke
to us of the glorious illumination with which the Brandenburg ambassador
had adorned his quarters. We were not displeased at taking the long way
from the Ross-markt (Horse-market) to the Saalhof, but found that we had
been vlllanously hoaxed.

The Saalhof is, towards the Main, a regular and handsome structure; but
the part in the direction of the city is exceedingly old, irregular, and
unsightly. Small windows, agreeing neither in form nor size, neither in
a line nor placed at equal distances; gates and doors arranged without
symmetry; a ground-floor mostly turned into shops,--it forms a confused
outside, which is never observed by any one. Now, here this accidental,
irregular, unconnected architecture had been followed; and every window,
every door, every opening, was surrounded by lamps,--as indeed can be
done with a well-built house; but here the most wretched and ill-formed
of all facades was thus quite incredibly placed in the clearest light.
Did one amuse one's self with this as with the jests of the
/pagliasso/, [Footnote: A sort of buffoon.] though not without
scruple, since everybody must recognize something intentional in it,--
just as people had before glossed on the previous external deportment of
Von Plotho, so much prized in other respects, and, when once inclined
towards him, had admired him as a wag, who, like his king, would place
himself above all ceremonies,--one nevertheless gladly returned to the
fairy kingdom of Esterhazy.

This eminent envoy, to honor the day, had quite passed over his own
unfavorably situated quarters, and in their stead had caused the great
esplanade of linden-trees in the Horse-market to be decorated in the
front with a portal illuminated with colors, and at the back with a
still more magnificent prospect. The entire enclosure was marked by
lamps. Between the trees, stood pyramids and spheres of light upon
transparent pedestals; from one tree to another were stretched
glittering garlands, on which floated suspended lights. In several
places bread and sausages were distributed among the people, and there
was no want of wine.

Here now, four abreast, we walked very comfortably up and down; and I,
by Gretchen's side, fancied that I really wandered in those happy
Elysian fields where they pluck from the trees crystal cups that
immediately fill themselves with the wine desired, and shake down fruits
that change into every dish at will. At last we also felt such a
necessity; and, conducted by Pylades, we found a neat, well-arranged
eating-house. When we encountered no more guests, since everybody was
going about the streets, we were all the better pleased, and passed the
greatest part of the night most happily and cheerfully, in the feeling
of friendship, love, and attachment. When I had accompanied Gretchen as
far as her door, she kissed me on the forehead. It was the first and
last time that she granted me this favor; for, alas! I was not to see
her again.

The next morning, while I was yet in bed, my mother entered, in trouble
and anxiety. It was easy to see when she was at all distressed. "Get
up," she said, "and prepare yourself for something unpleasant. It has
come out that you frequent very bad company, and have involved yourself
in very dangerous and bad affairs. Your father is beside himself; and we
have only been able to get thus much from him, that he will investigate
the affair by means of a third party. Remain in your chamber, and await
what may happen. Councillor Schneider will come to you: he has the
commission both from your father and from the authorities; for the
matter is already prosecuted, and may take a very bad turn."

I saw that they took the affair for much worse than it was; yet I felt
myself not a little disquieted, even if only the actual state of things
should be detected. My old "Messiah"-loving friend finally entered, with
the tears standing in his eyes: he took me by the arm, and said, "I am
heartily sorry to come to you on such an affair. I could not have
supposed that you could go astray so far. But what will not wicked
companions and bad example do! Thus can a young, inexperienced man be
led step by step into crime!"--"I am conscious of no crime," I replied,
"and as little of having frequented bad company."--"The question now is
not one of defense," said he, interrupting me, "but of investigation,
and on your part of an upright confession."--"What do you want to know?"
retorted I. He seated himself, drew out a paper, and began to question
me: "Have you not recommended N. N. to your grandfather as a candidate
for the ... place?" I answered "Yes."--"Where did you become acquainted
with him?"--"In my walks."--"In what company?" I hesitated, for I would
not willingly betray my friends. "Silence will not do now." he
continued, "for all is sufficiently known."--"What is known, then?" said
I. "That this man has been introduced to you by others like him--in
fact, by. ..." Here he named three persons whom I had never seen nor
known, which I immediately explained to the questioner. "You pretend,"
he resumed, "not to know these men, and have yet had frequent meetings
with them."--"Not in the least," I replied; "for, as I have said, except
the first, I do not know one of them, and even him I have never seen in
a house."--"Have you not often been in ... street?"--"Never," I replied.
This was not entirely conformable to the truth. I had once accompanied
Pylades to his sweetheart, who lived in that street; but we had entered
by the back-door, and remained in the summer-house. I therefore supposed
that I might permit myself the subterfuge that I had not been in the
street itself.

The good man put more questions, all of which I could answer with a
denial; for of all that he wished to learn I knew nothing. At last he
seemed to become vexed, and said, "You repay my confidence and good will
very badly: I come to save you. You cannot deny that you have composed
letters for these people themselves or for their accomplices, have
furnished them writings, and have thus been accessory to their evil
acts; for the question is of nothing less than of forged papers, false
wills, counterfeit bonds, and things of the sort. I have come, not only
as a friend of the family, I come in the name and by order of the
magistrates, who, in consideration of your connections and youth, would
spare you and some other young persons, who, like you, have been lured
into the net." I had thought it strange, that, among the persons he
named, none of those with whom I had been intimate were found. The
circumstances touched, without agreeing; and I could still hope to save
my young friends. But the good man grew more and more urgent. I could
not deny that I had come home late many nights, that I had contrived to
have a house-key made, that I had been seen at public places more than
once with persons of low rank and suspicious looks, that some girls were
mixed up in the affair,--in short, every thing seemed to be discovered
but the names. This gave me courage to persist steadfastly in my
silence. "Do not," said my excellent friend, "let me go away from you;
the affair admits of no delay; immediately after me another will come,
who will not grant you so much scope. Do not make the matter, which is
bad enough, worse by your obstinacy."

I represented very vividly to myself the good cousins, and particularly
Gretchen: I saw them arrested, tried, punished, disgraced; and then it
went through my soul like a flash of lightning, that the cousins, though
they always observed integrity towards me, might have engaged in such
bad affairs, at least the oldest, who never quite pleased me, who came
home later and later, and had little to tell of a cheerful sort. Still I
kept back my confession. "Personally," said I, "I am conscious of
nothing evil, and can rest satisfied on that side; but it is not
impossible that those with whom I have associated may have been guilty
of some daring or illegal act. They may be sought, found, convicted,
punished: I have hitherto nothing to reproach myself with, and will not
do any wrong to those who have behaved well and kindly to me." He did
not let me finish, but exclaimed, with some agitation, "Yes, they will
be found out. These villains met in three houses. (He named the streets,
he pointed out the houses, and, unfortunately, among them was the one I
used to frequent.) The first nest is already broken up, and at this
moment so are the two others. In a few hours the whole will be clear.
Avoid, by a frank confession, a judicial inquiry, a confrontation, and
all other disagreeable matters." The house was known and marked. Now I
deemed silence useless; nay, considering the innocence of our meetings,
I could hope to be still more useful to them than to myself. "Sit down!"
I exclaimed, fetching him back from the door: "I will tell all, and at
once lighten your heart and mine; only one thing I ask,--henceforth let
there be no doubt of my veracity."

I soon told my friend the whole progress of the affair, and was at first
calm and collected; but the more I brought to mind and pictured to
myself the persons, objects, and events, so many innocent pleasures and
charming enjoyments, and was forced to depose as before a criminal
court, the more did the most painful feeling increase, so that at last I
burst forth in tears, and gave myself up to unrestrained passion. The
family friend, who hoped that now the real secret was coming to light
(for he regarded my distress as a symptom that I was on the point of
confessing with repugnance something monstrous), sought to pacify me; as
with him the discovery was the all-important matter. In this he only
partly succeeded; but so far, however, that I could eke out my story to
the end. Though satisfied of the innocence of the proceedings, he was
still doubtful to some extent, and put further questions to me, which
excited me afresh, and transported me with pain and rage. I asserted,
finally, that I had nothing more to say, and well knew that I need fear
nothing, for I was innocent, of a good family, and well reputed; but
that they might be just as guiltless without having it recognized, or
being otherwise favored. I declared at the same time, that if they were
not spared like myself, that if their follies were not regarded with
indulgence, and their faults pardoned, that if any thing in the least
harsh or unjust happened to them, I would do some violence to myself,
and no one should prevent me. In this, too, my friend tried to pacify
me; but I did not trust him, and was, when he quitted me at last, in a
most terrible state. I now reproached myself for having told the affair,
and brought all the positions to light. I foresaw that our childlike
actions, our youthful inclinations and confidences, would be quite
differently interpreted, and that I might perhaps involve the excellent
Pylades in the matter, and render him very unhappy. All these images
pressed vividly one after the other before my soul, sharpened and
spurred my distress, so that I did not know what to do for sorrow. I
cast myself at full length upon the floor, and moistened it with my

I know not how long I may have lain, when my sister entered, was
frightened at my gestures, and did all that she could to comfort me. She
told me that a person connected with the magistracy had waited below
with my father for the return of the family friend, and that, after they
had been closeted together for some time, both the gentlemen had
departed, had talked to each other with apparent satisfaction, and had
even laughed. She believed that she had heard the words, "It is all
right: the affair is of no consequence."--"Indeed!" I broke out, "the
affair is of no consequence for me,--for us: for I have committed no
crime; and, if I had, they would contrive to help me through: but the
others, the others," I cried, "who will stand by them?"

My sister tried to comfort me by circumstantially arguing that if those
of higher rank were to be saved, a veil must also be cast over the
faults of the more lowly. All this was of no avail. She had scarcely
left than I again abandoned myself to my grief, and ever recalled
alternately the images, both of my affection and passion, and of the
present and possible misfortune. I repeated to myself tale after tale,
saw only unhappiness following unhappiness, and did not fail in
particular to make Gretchen and myself truly wretched.

The family friend had ordered me to remain in my room, and have nothing
to do with any one but the family. This was just what I wanted, for I
found myself best alone. My mother and sister came to see me from time
to time, and did not fail to assist me vigorously with all sorts of good
consolation; nay, even on the second day they came in the name of my
father, who was now better informed, to offer me a perfect amnesty,
which indeed I gratefully accepted: but the proposal that I should go
out with him and look at the insignia of the empire, which were now
exposed to the curious, I stubbornly rejected; and I asserted that I
wanted to know nothing, either of the world or of the Roman Empire, till
I was informed how that distressing affair, which for me could have no
further consequences, had turned out for my poor acquaintance. They had
nothing to say on this head, and left me alone. Yet the next day some
further attempts were made to get me out of the house, and excite in me
a sympathy for the public ceremonies. In vain! neither the great
galaday, nor what happened on the occasion of so many elevations of
rank, nor the public table of the emperor and king,--in short, nothing
could move me. The Elector of the Palatinate might come and wait on both
their majesties; these might visit the electors; the last electoral
sitting might be attended for the despatch of business in arrear, and
the renewal of the electoral union,--nothing could call me forth from my
passionate solitude. I let the bells ring for the rejoicings, the
emperor repair to the Capuchin Church, the electors and emperor depart,
without on that account moving one step from my chamber. The final
cannonading, immoderate as it might be, did not arouse me; and as the
smoke of the powder dispersed, and the sound died away, so had all this
glory vanished from my soul.

I now experienced no satisfaction except in ruminating on my misery, and
in a thousand-fold imaginary multiplication of it. My whole inventive
faculty, my poetry and rhetoric, had pitched on this diseased spot, and
threatened, precisely by means of this vitality, to involve body and
soul into an incurable disorder. In this melancholy condition nothing
more seemed to me worth a desire, nothing worth a wish. An infinite
yearning, indeed, seized me at times to know how it had gone with my
poor friends and my beloved, what had been the result of a stricter
scrutiny, how far they were implicated in those crimes, or had been
found guiltless. This also I circumstantially painted to myself in the
most various ways, and did not fail to hold them as innocent and truly
unfortunate. Sometimes I longed to see myself freed from this
uncertainty, and wrote vehemently threatening letters to the family
friend, insisting that he should not withhold from me the further
progress of the affair. Sometimes I tore them up again, from the fear of
learning my unhappiness quite distinctly, and of losing the principal
consolation with which hitherto I had alternately tormented and
supported myself.

Thus I passed both day and night in great disquiet, in raving and
lassitude; so that I felt happy at last when a bodily illness seized me
with considerable violence, when they had to call in the help of a
physician, and think of every way to quiet me. They supposed that they
could do it generally by the sacred assurance that all who were more or
less involved in the guilt had been treated with the greatest
forbearance; that my nearest friends, being as good as innocent, had
been dismissed with a slight reprimand; and that Gretchen had retired
from the city, and had returned to her own home. They lingered the most
over this last point, and I did not take it in the best part; for I
could discover in it, not a voluntary departure, but only a shameful
banishment. My bodily and mental condition was not improved by this: my
distress now only augmented; and I had time enough to torment myself by
picturing the strangest romance of sad events, and an inevitably
tragical catastrophe.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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