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Sixth Book


Thus I felt urged alternately to promote and to retard my recovery; and
a certain secret chagrin was now added to my other sensations, for I
plainly perceived that I was watched, that they were loath to hand me
any sealed paper without taking notice what effect it produced, whether
I kept it secret, whether I laid it down open and the like. I therefore
conjectured that Pylades, or one of the cousins, or even Gretchen
herself, might have attempted to write to me, either to give or to
obtain information. In addition to my sorrow, I was now more cross than
hitherto, and had again fresh opportunities to exercise my conjectures,
and to mislead myself into the strangest combinations.

It was not long before they gave me a special overseer. Fortunately it
was a man whom I loved and valued. He had held the place of tutor in the
family of one of our friends, and his former pupil had gone alone to the
university. He often visited me in my sad condition; and they at last
found nothing more natural than to give him a chamber next to mine, as
he was then to provide me with employment, pacify me, and, as I was well
aware, keep his eye on me. Still, as I esteemed him from my heart, and
had already confided many things to him, though not my affection for
Gretchen, I determined so much the more to be perfectly candid and
straightforward with him; as it was intolerable to me to live in daily
intercourse with any one, and at the same time to stand on an uncertain,
constrained footing with him. It was not long, then, before I spoke to
him about the matter, refreshed myself by the relation and repetition of
the minutest circumstances of my past happiness, and thus gained so
much, that he, like a sensible man, saw it would be better to make me
acquainted with the issue of the story, and that, too, in its details
and particulars, so that I might be clear as to the whole, and that,
with earnestness and zeal, I might be persuaded of the necessity of
composing myself, throwing the past behind me, and beginning a new life.
First he confided to me who the other young people of quality were who
had allowed themselves to be seduced, at the outset, into daring hoaxes,
then into sportive breaches of police, afterwards into frolicsome
impositions on others, and other such dangerous matters. Thus actually
had arisen a little conspiracy, which unprincipled men had joined, who,
by forging papers and counterfeiting signatures, had perpetrated many
criminal acts, and had still more criminal matters in preparation. The
cousins, for whom I at last impatiently inquired, had been found to be
quite innocent, only very generally acquainted with those others, and
not at all implicated with them. My client, owing to my recommendation
of whom I had been tracked, was one of the worst, and had sued for that
office chiefly that he might undertake or conceal certain villanies.
After all this, I could at last contain myself no longer, and asked what
had become of Gretchen, for whom I, once for all, confessed the
strongest attachment. My friend shook his head and smiled. "Make
yourself easy," replied he: "this girl has passed her examination very
well, and has borne off honorable testimony to that effect. They could
discover nothing in her but what was good and amiable: she even won the
favor of those who questioned her, and could not refuse her desire of
removing from the city. Even what she has confessed regarding you, my
friend, does her honor: I have read her deposition in the secret reports
myself, and seen her signature."--"The signature!" exclaimed I, "which
makes me so happy and so miserable. What has she confessed, then? What
has she signed?" My friend delayed answering, but the cheerfulness of
his face showed me that he concealed nothing dangerous." If you must
know, then," replied he at last, "when she was asked about you, and her
intercourse with you, she said quite frankly, 'I cannot deny that I have
seen him often and with pleasure; but I have always treated him as a
child, and my affection for him was truly that of a sister. In many
cases I have given him good advice; and, instead of instigating him to
any equivocal action, I have hindered him from taking part in wanton
tricks, which might have brought him into trouble.'"

My friend still went on making Gretchen speak like a governess; but I
had already for some time ceased to listen to him, for I was terribly
affronted that she had set me down in the reports as a child, and
believed myself at once cured of all passion for her. I even hastily
assured my friend that all was now over. I also spoke no more of her,
named her no more: but I could not leave off the bad habit of thinking
about her, and of recalling her form, her air, her demeanor; though now,
in fact, all appeared to me in quite another light. I felt it
intolerable that a girl, at the most only a couple of years older than
me, should regard me as a child; while I conceived I passed with her for
a very sensible and clever youth. Her cold and repelling manner, which
had before so charmed me, now seemed to me quite repugnant: the
familiarities which she had allowed herself to take with me, but had not
permitted me to return, were altogether odious. Yet all would have been
well enough, if by signing that poetical love-letter, in which she had
confessed a formal attachment to me, she had not given me a right to
regard her as a sly and selfish coquette. Her masquerading it at the
milliner's, too, no longer seemed to me so innocent; and I turned these
annoying reflections over and over within myself until I had entirely
stripped her of all her amiable qualities. My judgment was convinced,
and I thought I must cast her away; but her image!--her image gave me
the lie as often as it again hovered before me, which indeed happened
often enough.

Nevertheless, this arrow with its barbed hooks was torn out of my heart;
and the question then was, how the inward sanative power of youth could
be brought to one's aid? I really put on the man; and the first thing
instantly laid aside was the weeping and raving, which I now regarded as
childish in the highest degree. A great stride for the better! For I had
often, half the night through, given myself up to this grief with the
greatest violence; so that at last, from my tears and sobbing, I came to
such a point that I could scarcely swallow any longer; eating and

drinking became painful to me; and my chest, which was so nearly
concerned, seemed to suffer. The vexation I had constantly felt since
the discovery made me banish every weakness. It seemed to me something
frightful that I had sacrificed sleep, repose, and health for the sake
of a girl who was pleased to consider me a babe, and to imagine herself,
with respect to me, something very much like a nurse.

These depressing reflections, as I was soon convinced, were only to be
banished by activity; but of what was I to take hold? I had, indeed,
much to make up for in many things, and to prepare myself, in more than
one sense, for the university, which I was now to attend; but I relished
and accomplished nothing. Much appeared to me familiar and trivial: for
grounding myself, in several respects, I found neither strength within
nor opportunity without; and I therefore suffered myself to be moved by
the taste of my good room-neighbor, to a study which was altogether new
and strange to me, and which for a long time offered me a wide field of
information and thought. For my friend began to make me acquainted with
the secrets of philosophy. He had studied in Jena, under Daries, and,
possessing a well-regulated mind, had acutely seized the relations of
that doctrine, which he now sought to impart to me. But, unfortunately,
these things would not hang together in such a fashion in my brain. I
put questions, which he promised to answer afterwards: I made demands,
which he promised to satisfy in future. But our most important
difference was this: that I maintained a separate philosophy was not
necessary, as the whole of it was already contained in religion and
poetry. This he would by no means allow, but rather tried to prove to me
that these must first be founded on philosophy; which I stubbornly
denied, and, at every step in the progress of our discussions, found
arguments for my opinion. For as in poetry a certain faith in the
impossible, and as in religion a like faith in the inscrutable, must
have a place, the philosophers appeared to me to be in a very false
position who would demonstrate and explain both of them from their own
field of vision. Besides, it was very quickly proved, from the history
of philosophy, that one always sought a ground different from that of
the other, and that the sceptic, in the end, pronounced every thing
groundless and useless.

However, this very history of philosophy, which my friend was compelled
to go over with me, because I could learn nothing from dogmatical
discourse, amused me very much, but only on this account, that one
doctrine or opinion seemed to me as good as another, so far, at least,
as I was capable of penetrating into it. With the most ancient men and
schools I was best pleased, because poetry, religion, and philosophy
were completely combined into one; and I only maintained that first
opinion of mine with the more animation, when the Book of Job and the
Song and Proverbs of Solomon, as well as the lays of Orpheus and Hesiod,
seemed to bear valid witness in its favor. My friend had taken the
smaller work of Brucker as the foundation of his discourse; and, the
farther we went on, the less I could make of it. I could not clearly see
what the first Greek philosophers would have. Socrates I esteemed as an
excellent, wise man, who in his life and death might well be compared
with Christ. His disciples, on the other hand, seemed to me to bear a
strong resemblance to the apostles, who disagreed immediately after
their Master's death, when each manifestly recognized only a limited
view as the right one. Neither the keenness of Aristotle nor the fulness
of Plato produced the least fruit in me. For the Stoics, on the
contrary, I had already conceived some affection, and even procured
Epictetus, whom I studied with much interest. My friend unwillingly let
me have my way in this one-sidedness, from which he could not draw me;
for, in spite of his varied studies, he did not know how to bring the
leading question into a narrow compass. He need only have said to me
that in life action is every thing, and that joy and sorrow come of
themselves. However, youth should be allowed its own course: it does not
stick to false maxims very long; life soon tears or charms it away

The season had become fine: we often went together into the open air,
and visited the places of amusement which surrounded the city in great
numbers. But it was precisely here that matters went worse with me; for
I still saw the ghosts of the cousins everywhere, and feared, now here,
now there, to see one of them step forward. Even the most indifferent
glances of men annoyed me. I had lost that unconscious happiness of
wandering about unknown and unblamed, and of thinking of no observer,
even in the greatest crowds. Now hypochondriacal fancies began to
torment me, as if I attracted the attention of the people, as if their
eyes were turned on my demeanor, to fix it on their memories, to scan
and to find fault.

I therefore drew my friend into the woods; and, while I shunned the
monotonous firs, I sought those fine leafy groves, which do not indeed
spread far in the district, but are yet of sufficient compass for a poor
wounded heart to hide itself. In the remotest depth of the forest I
sought out a solemn spot, where the oldest oaks and beeches formed a
large, noble, shaded space. The ground was somewhat sloping, and made
the worth of the old trunks only the more perceptible. Round this open
circle closed the densest thickets, from which the mossy rocks mightily
and venerably peered forth, and made a rapid fall for a copious brook.

Scarcely had I dragged hither my friend, who would rather have been in
the open country by the stream, among men, when he playfully assured me
that I showed myself a true German. He related to me circumstantially,
out of Tacitus, how our ancestors found pleasure in the feelings which
Nature so provides for us, in such solitudes, with her inartificial
architecture. He had not been long discoursing of this, when I
exclaimed, "Oh! why did not this precious spot lie in a deeper
wilderness! why may we not train a hedge around it, to hallow and
separate from the world both it and ourselves! Surely there is no more
beautiful adoration of the Deity than that which needs no image, but
which springs up in our bosom merely from the intercourse with nature!"
What I then felt is still present to my mind: what I said I know not how
to recall. Thus much, however, is certain, that the undetermined, widely
expanding feelings of youth and of uncultivated nations are alone
adapted to the sublime, which, if it is to be excited in us through
external objects, formless, or moulded into incomprehensible forms, must
surround us with a greatness to which we are not equal.

All men, more or less, have such a disposition, and seek to satisfy this
noble want in various ways. But as the sublime is easily produced by
twilight and night, when objects are blended, it is, on the other hand,
scared away by the day, which separates and sunders every thing; and so
must it also be destroyed by every increase of cultivation, if it be not
fortunate enough to take refuge with the beautiful, and unite itself
closely with it, whereby both become equally undying and indestructible.

The brief moments of such enjoyments were still more shortened by my
meditative friend: but, when I turned back into the world, it was
altogether in vain that I sought, among the bright and barren objects
around, again to arouse such feelings within me; nay, I could scarcely
retain even the remembrance of them. My heart, however, was too far
spoiled to be able to compose itself: it had loved, and the object was
snatched away from it; it had lived, and life to it was embittered. A
friend who makes it too perceptible that he designs to improve you,
excites no feeling of comfort; while a woman who is forming you, while
she seems to spoil you, is adored as a heavenly, joy-bringing being. But
that form in which the idea of beauty manifested itself to me had
vanished into distance; it often visited me under the shade of my oak-
trees, but I could not hold it fast: and I felt a powerful impulse to
seek something similar in the distance.

I had imperceptibly accustomed, nay, compelled, my friend and overseer
to leave me alone; for, even in my sacred grove, those undefined,
gigantic feelings were not sufficient for me. The eye was, above all
others, the organ by which I seized the world. I had, from childhood,
lived among painters, and had accustomed myself to look at objects, as
they did, with reference to art. Now I was left to myself and to
solitude, this gift, half natural, half acquired, made its appearance.
Wherever I looked, I saw a picture; and whatever struck me, whatever
gave me delight, I wished to fix, and began, in the most awkward manner,
to draw after nature. To this end I lacked nothing less than every
thing; yet, though without any technical means, I obstinately persisted
in trying to imitate the most magnificent things that offered themselves
to my sight. Thus, to be sure, I acquired the faculty of paying a great
attention to objects; but I only seized them as a whole, so far as they
produced an effect: and, little as Nature had meant me for a descriptive
poet, just as little would she grant me the capacity of a draughtsman
for details. This, however, being the only way left me of uttering my
thoughts, I stuck to it with so much stubbornness, nay, even with
melancholy, that I always continued my labors the more zealously the
less I saw they produced.

But I will not deny that there was a certain mixture of roguery; for I
had remarked, that if I chose for an irksome study a half-shaded old
trunk, to the hugely curved roots of which clung well-lit fern, combined
with twinkling maiden-hair, my friend, who knew from experience that I
should not be disengaged in less than an hour, commonly resolved to
seek, with his books, some other pleasant little spot. Now nothing
disturbed me in prosecuting my taste, which was so much the more active,
as my paper was endeared to me by the circumstance that I had accustomed
myself to see in it, not so much what stood upon it, as what I had been
thinking of at any time and hour when I drew. Thus plants and flowers of
the commonest kind may form a charming diary for us, because nothing
that calls back the remembrance of a happy moment can be insignificant;
and even now it would be hard for me to destroy as worthless many things
of the kind that have remained to me from different epochs, because they
transport me immediately to those times which I like to remember,
although not without melancholy.

But, if such drawings may have had any thing of interest in themselves,
they were indebted for this advantage to the sympathy and attention of
my father. He, informed by my overseer that I had become gradually
reconciled to my condition, and, in particular, had applied myself
passionately to drawing from nature, was very well satisfied,--partly
because he himself set a high value on drawing and painting, partly
because gossip Seekatz had once said to him, that it was a pity I was
not destined for a painter. But here again the peculiarities of father
and son came into conflict: for it was almost impossible for me to make
use of a good, white, perfectly clean sheet of paper; gray old leaves,
even if scribbled over on one side already, charmed me most, just as if
my awkwardness had feared the touchstone of a white ground. Nor were any
of my drawings quite finished; and how should I have executed a whole,
which indeed I saw with my eyes, but did not comprehend, and how an
individual object, which I had neither skill nor patience to follow out?
My father's mode of training me in this respect was really to be
admired. He kindly asked for my attempts, and drew lines round every
imperfect sketch. He wished, by this means, to compel me to completeness
and fulness of detail. The irregular leaves he cut straight, and thus
made the beginning of a collection, in which he wished, at some future
time, to rejoice at the progress of his son. It was, therefore, by no
means disagreeable to him when my wild, restless disposition sent me
roving about the country: he rather seemed pleased when I brought back a
parcel of drawings on which he could exercise his patience, and in some
measure strengthen his hopes.

They no longer said that I might relapse into my former attachments and
connections: they left me by degrees perfect liberty. By accidental
inducements and in accidental society I undertook many journeys to the
mountain-range, which, from my childhood, had stood so distant and
solemn before me. Thus we visited Homburg, Kroneburg, ascended the
Feldberg, from which the prospect invited us still farther and farther
into the distance. Königstein, too, was not left unvisited; Wiesbaden,
Schwalbach, with its environs, occupied us many days; we reached the
Rhine, which, from the heights, we had seen winding along far off. Mentz
astonished us, but could not chain a youthful mind which was running
into the open country; we were delighted with the situation of Biberich;
and, contented and happy, we resumed our journey home.

This whole tour, from which my father had promised himself many a
drawing, might have been almost without fruit; for what taste, what
talent, what experience, does it not require to seize an extensive
landscape as a picture! I was again imperceptibly drawn into a narrow
compass, from which I derived some profit; for I met no ruined castle,
no piece of wall which pointed to antiquity, that I did not think an
object worthy of my pencil, and imitate as well as I could. Even the
stone of Drusus, on the ramparts of Mentz, I copied at some risk, and
with inconveniences which every one must experience who wishes to carry
home with him some pictorial reminiscences of his travels. Unfortunately
I had again brought with me nothing but the most miserable common paper,
and had clumsily crowded several objects into one sheet. But my paternal
teacher was not perplexed at this: he cut the sheets apart; had the
parts which belonged to each other put together by the bookbinder;
surrounded the single leaves with lines; and thus actually compelled me
to draw the outline of different mountains up to the margin, and to fill
up the foreground with some weeds and stones.

If his faithful endeavors could not increase my talent, nevertheless
this mark of his love of order had upon me a secret influence, which
afterwards manifested itself vigorously in more ways than one.

From such rambling excursions, undertaken partly for pleasure, partly
for art, and which could be performed in a short time, and often
repeated, I was again drawn home, and that by a magnet which always
acted upon me strongly: this was my sister. She, only a year younger
than I, had lived the whole conscious period of my life with me, and was
thus bound to me by the closest ties. To these natural causes was added
a forcible motive, which proceeded from our domestic position: a father
certainly affectionate and well-meaning, but grave, who, because he
cherished within a very tender heart, externally, with incredible
consistency, maintained a brazen sternness, that he might attain the end
of giving his children the best education, and of building up,
regulating, and preserving his well-founded house; a mother, on the
other hand, as yet almost a child, who first grew up to consciousness
with and in her two eldest children; these three, as they looked at the
world with healthy eyes, capable of life, and desiring present
enjoyment. This contradiction floating in the family increased with
years. My father followed out his views unshaken and uninterrupted: the
mother and children could not give up their feelings, their claims,
their wishes.

Under these circumstances it was natural that brother and sister should
attach themselves close to each other, and adhere to their mother, that
they might singly snatch the pleasures forbidden as a whole. But since
the hours of solitude and toil were very long compared with the moments
of recreation and enjoyment, especially for my sister, who could never
leave the house for so long a time as I could, the necessity she felt
for entertaining herself with me was still sharpened by the sense of
longing with which she accompanied me to a distance.

And as, in our first years, playing and learning, growth and education,
had been quite common to both of us, so that we might well have been
taken for twins, so did this community, this confidence, remain during
the development of our physical and moral powers. That interest of
youth; that amazement at the awakening of sensual impulses which clothe
themselves in mental forms; of mental necessities which clothe
themselves in sensual images; all the reflections upon these, which
obscure rather than enlighten us, as the fog covers over and does not
illumine the vale from which it is about to rise; the many errors and
aberrations springing therefrom,--all these the brother and sister
shared and endured hand in hand, and were the less enlightened as to
their strange condition, as the nearer they wished to approach each
other, to clear up their minds, the more forcibly did the sacred awe of
their close relationship keep them apart

Reluctantly do I mention, in a general way, what I undertook to set
forth years ago, without being able to accomplish it. As I lost this
beloved, incomprehensible being but too soon, I felt inducement enough
to make her worth present to me: and thus arose in me the conception of
a poetic whole, in which it might be possible to exhibit her
individuality; but for this no other form could be devised than that of
the Richardsonian novels. Only by the minutest detail, by endless
particularities which bear vividly all the character of the whole, and,
as they spring up from a wonderful depth, give some feeling of that
depth,--only in such a manner would it have been in some degree possible
to give a representation of this remarkable personality; for the spring
can be apprehended only while it is flowing. But from this beautiful and
pious design, as from so many others, the tumult of the world drew me
away; and nothing now remains for me but to call up for a moment that
blessed spirit, as if by the aid of a magic mirror.

She was tall, well and delicately formed, and had something naturally
dignified in her demeanor, which melted away into a pleasing mildness.
The lineaments of her face, neither striking nor beautiful, indicated a
character which was not nor ever could be in union with itself. Her eyes
were not the finest I have ever seen, but the deepest, behind which you
expected the most; and when they expressed any affection, any love,
their brilliancy was unequalled. And yet, properly speaking, this
expression was not tender, like that which comes from the heart, and at
the same time carries with it something of longing and desire: this
expression came from the soul; it was full and rich; it seemed as if it
would only give, without needing to receive.

But what in a manner quite peculiar disfigured her face, so that she
would often appear positively ugly, was the fashion of those times,
which not only bared the forehead, but, either accidentally or on
purpose, did every thing apparently or really to enlarge it. Now, as she
had the most feminine, most perfect arched forehead, and, moreover, a
pair of strong black eyebrows, and prominent eyes, these circumstances
occasioned a contrast, which, if it did not repel every stranger at the
first glance, at least did not attract him. She early felt it; and this
feeling became constantly the more painful to her, the farther she
advanced into the years when both sexes find an innocent pleasure in
being mutually agreeable.

To nobody can his own form be repugnant; the ugliest, as well as the
most beautiful, has a right to enjoy his own presence: and as favor
beautifies, and every one regards himself in the looking-glass with
favor, it may be asserted that every one must see himself with
complacency, even if he would struggle against the feeling. Yet my
sister had such a decided foundation of good sense, that she could not
possibly be blind and silly in this respect; on the contrary, she
perhaps knew more clearly than she ought, that she stood far behind her
female playfellows in external beauty, without feeling consoled by the
fact that she infinitely surpassed them in internal advantages.

If a woman can find compensation for the want of beauty, she richly
found it in the unbounded confidence, the regard and love, which all her
female friends bore to her; whether they were older or younger, all
cherished the same sentiments. A very pleasant society had collected
around her: young men were not wanting who knew how to insinuate
themselves; nearly every girl found an admirer; she alone had remained
without a partner. While, indeed, her exterior was in some measure
repulsive, the mind that gleamed through it was also more repelling than
attractive; for the presence of any excellence throws others back upon
themselves. She felt this sensibly: she did not conceal it from me, and
her love was directed to me with so much the greater force. The case was
singular enough. As confidants to whom one reveals a love-affair
actually by genuine sympathy become lovers also, nay, grow into rivals,
and at last, perchance, transfer the passion to themselves; so it was
with us two: for, when my connection with Gretchen was torn asunder, my
sister consoled me the more earnestly, because she secretly felt the
satisfaction of having gotten rid of a rival; and I, too, could not but
feel a quiet, half-mischievous pleasure, when she did me the justice to
assure me that I was the only one who truly loved, understood, and
esteemed her. If now, from time to time, my grief for the loss of
Gretchen revived, and I suddenly began to weep, to lament, and to act in
a disorderly manner, my despair for my lost one awakened in her likewise
a similar despairing impatience as to the never-possessings, the
failures, and miscarriages of such youthful attachments, that we both
thought ourselves infinitely unhappy, and the more so, as, in this
singular case, the confidants could not change themselves into lovers.

Fortunately, however, the capricious god of love, who needlessly does so
much mischief, here for once interfered beneficially, to extricate us
out of all perplexity. I had much intercourse with a young Englishman
who was educated in Pfeil's boarding-school. He could give a good
account of his own language: I practised it with him, and thus learned
much concerning his country and people. He went in and out of our house
long enough without my remarking in him a liking for my sister; yet he
may have been nourishing it in secret, even to passion, for at last it
declared itself unexpectedly and at once. She knew him, she esteemed
him, and he deserved it. She had often made the third at our English
conversations: we had both tried to catch from his mouth the
irregularities of the English pronunciation, and thereby accustomed
ourselves, not only to the peculiarities of its accent and sound, but
even to what was most peculiar in the personal qualities of our teacher;
so that at last it sounded strangely enough when we all seemed to speak
as if out of one mouth. The pains he took to learn as much German from
us in the like manner were to no purpose; and I think I have remarked
that even this little love-affair was also, both orally and in writing,
carried on in the English language. Both the young persons were very
well suited to each other: he was tall and well built, as she was, only
still more slender; his face, small and compact, might really have been
pretty, had it not been too much disfigured by the small-pox; his manner
was calm, precise,--one might often have called it dry and cold; but his
heart was full of kindness and love, his soul full of generosity, and
his attachments as lasting as they were decided and controlled. Now,
this serious pair, who had but lately formed an attachment, were quite
peculiarly distinguished among the others, who, being already better
acquainted with each other, of more frivolous character, and careless as
to the future, roved about with levity in these connections, which
commonly pass away as the mere fruitless prelude to subsequent and more
serious ties, and very seldom produce a lasting effect upon life.

The fine weather and the beautiful country did not remain unenjoyed by
so lively a company: water-excursions were frequently arranged, because
these are the most sociable of all parties of pleasure. Yet, whether we
were going by water or by land, the individual attracting powers
immediately showed themselves; each couple kept together: and for some
men who were not engaged, of whom I was one, there remained either no
conversation with the ladies at all, or only such as no one would have
chosen for a day of pleasure. A friend who found himself in this
situation, and who might have been in want of a partner chiefly for this
reason, that, with, the best humor, he lacked tenderness, and, with much
intelligence, that delicate attention, without which connections of this
kind are not to be thought of,--this man, after often humorously and
wittily lamenting his condition, promised at the next meeting to make a
proposal which would benefit himself and the whole company. Nor did he
fail to perform his promise; for when, after a brilliant trip by water,
and a very pleasant walk, reclining on the grass between shady knolls,
or sitting on mossy rocks and roots of trees, we had cheerfully and
happily consumed a rural meal, and our friend saw us all cheerful and in
good spirits, he, with a waggish dignity, commanded us to sit close
round him in a semicircle, before which he stepped, and began to make an
emphatic peroration as follows:--

"Most worthy friends of both sexes, paired and unpaired!"--It was
already evident from this address, how necessary it was that a preacher
of repentance should arise, and sharpen the conscience of the company.
"One part of my noble friends is paired, and they may find themselves
quite happy; another unpaired, and these find themselves in the highest
degree miserable, as I can assure you from my own experience: and
although the loving couples are here in the majority, yet I would have
them consider whether it is not a social duty to take thought for the
whole. Why do we wish to assemble in such numbers, except to take a
mutual interest in each other? and how can that be done when so many
little secessions are to be seen in our circle? Far be it from me to
insinuate any thing against such sweet connections, or even to wish to
disturb them; but 'there is a time for all things,'--an excellent great
saying, of which, indeed, nobody thinks when his own amusement is
sufficiently provided for."

He then went on with constantly increasing liveliness and gayety to
compare the social virtues with the tender sentiments. "The latter,"
said he, "can never fail us; we always carry them about with us, and
every one becomes a master in them without practice: but we must go in
quest of the former, we must take some trouble about them; and, though
we progress in them as much as we will, we have never done learning
them." Now he went into particulars. Many felt hit off, and they could
not help casting glances at each other: yet our friend had this
privilege, that nothing he did was taken ill; and so he could proceed
without interruption.

"It is not enough to discover deficiencies: indeed, it is unjust to do
so, if at the same time one cannot contrive to give the means for
bettering the state of affairs. I will not, therefore, my friends,
something like a preacher in Passion Week, exhort you in general terms
to repentance and amendment: I rather wish all amiable couples the
longest and most enduring happiness; and, to contribute to it myself in
the surest manner, I propose to sever and abolish these most charming
little segregations during our social hours. I have," he continued,
"already provided for the execution of my project, if it should meet
your approbation. Here is a bag in which are the names of the gentlemen:
now draw, my fair ones, and be pleased to favor as your servant, for a
week, him whom fate shall send you. This is binding only within our
circle; as soon as that is broken up, these connections are also
abolished, and the heart may decide who shall attend you home."

A great part of the company had been delighted with this address, and
the manner in which he delivered it, and seemed to approve of the
notion; yet some couples looked at each other as if they thought that it
would not answer their purpose: he therefore cried with humorous

"Truly! it surprises me that some one does not spring up, and, though
others hesitate, extol my plan, explain its advantages, and spare me the
pain of being my own encomiast. I am the oldest among you: may God
forgive me for that! Already have I a bald pate, which is owing to my
great meditation."--

Here he took off his hat--

"But I should expose it to view with joy and honor if my lucubrations,
which dry up my skin, and rob me of my finest adornment, could only be
in some measure beneficial to myself and others. We are young, my
friends,--that is good; we shall grow older,--that is bad; we take
little offence at each other,--that is right, and in accordance with the
season. But soon, my friends, the days will come when we shall have much
to be displeased at in ourselves; then, let every one see that he makes
all right with himself; but, at the same time, others will take things
ill of us, and on what account we shall not understand; for this we must
prepare ourselves; this shall now be done."

He had delivered the whole speech, but especially the last part, with
the tone and gesture of a Capuchin; for, as he was a Catholic, he might
have had abundant opportunity to study the oratory of these fathers. He
now appeared out of breath, wiped his youthful, bald head, which really
gave him the look of a priest, and by these drolleries put the light-
hearted company in such good humor that every one was eager to hear him
longer. But, instead of proceeding, he drew open the bag, and turned to
the nearest lady. "Now for a trial of it!" exclaimed he: "the work will
do credit to the master. If in a week's time we do not like it, we will
give it up, and stick to the old plan."

Half willingly, half on compulsion, the ladies drew their tickets; and
it was easy to see that various passions were in play during this little
affair. Fortunately it happened that the merry-minded were separated,
while the more serious remained together, and so, too, my sister kept
her Englishman; which, on both sides, they took very kindly of the god
of Love and Luck. The new chance-couples were immediately united by the
/Antistes/, their healths were drank, and to all the more joy was
wished, as its duration was to be but short. This was certainly the
merriest moment that our company had enjoyed for a long time. The young
men to whose share no lady had fallen, held, for this week, the office
of providing for the mind, the soul, and the body, as our orator
expressed himself, but especially, he hinted, for the soul, since both
the others already knew how to help themselves.

These masters of ceremonies, who wished at once to do themselves credit,
brought into play some very pretty new games, prepared at some distance
a supper, which we had not reckoned on, and illuminated the yacht on our
return at night, although there was no necessity for it in the bright
moonlight; but they excused themselves by saying that it was quite
conformable to the new social regulation to outshine the tender glances
of the heavenly moon by earthly candles. The moment we touched the
shore, our Solon cried, "/Ite, missa est!/" Each one now handed out
of the vessel the lady who had fallen to him by lot, and then
surrendered her to her proper partner, on receiving his own in exchange.

At our next meeting this weekly regulation was established for the
summer, and the lots were drawn once more. There was no question but
that this pleasantry gave a new and unexpected turn to the company; and
every one was stimulated to display whatever of wit and grace was in
him, and to pay court to his temporary fair one in the most obliging
manner, since he might depend on having a sufficient store of
complaisance for one week at least.

We had scarcely settled down, when, instead of thanking our orator, we
reproached him for having kept to himself the best part of his speech,--
the conclusion. He thereupon protested that the best part of a speech
was persuasion, and that he who did not aim at persuasion should make no
speech; for, as to conviction, that was a ticklish business. As,
however, they gave him no peace, he began a Capuchinade on the spot,
more comical than ever, perhaps, for the very reason that he took it
into his head to speak on the most serious subjects. For with texts out
of the Bible, which had nothing to do with the business; with similes
which did not fit; with allusions which illustrated nothing,--he carried
out the proposition, that whosoever does not know how to conceal his
passions, inclinations, wishes, purposes, and plans, will come to no
good in the world, but will be disturbed and made a butt in every end
and corner; and that especially if one would be happy in love, one must
take pains to keep it a most profound secret.

This thought ran through the whole, without, properly speaking, a single
word of it being said. If you would form a conception of this singular
man, let it be considered, that, being born with a good foundation, he
had cultivated his talents, and especially his acuteness, in Jesuit
schools, and had amassed an extensive knowledge of the world and of men,
but only on the bad side. He was some two and twenty years old, and
would gladly have made me a proselyte to his contempt for mankind; but
this would not take with me, as I always had a great desire to be good
myself, and to find good in others. Meanwhile, I was by him made
attentive to many things.

To complete the /dramatis personae/ of every merry company, an
actor is necessary who feels pleasure when the others, to enliven many
an indifferent moment, point the arrows of their wit at him. If he is
not merely a stuffed Saracen, like those on whom the knights used to
practise their lances in mock battles, but understands himself how to
skirmish, to rally, and to challenge, how to wound lightly, and recover
himself again, and, while he seems to expose himself, to give others a
thrust home, nothing more agreeable can be found. Such a man we
possessed in our friend Horn, whose name, to begin with, gave occasion
for all sorts of jokes, and who, on account of his small figure, was
called nothing but Hörnchen (little Horn). He was, in fact, the smallest
in the company, of a stout but pleasing form; a pug-nose, a mouth
somewhat pouting, little sparkling eyes, made up a swarthy countenance
which always seemed to invite laughter. His little compact skull was
thickly covered with curly black hair: his beard was prematurely blue;
and he would have liked to let it grow, that, as a comic mask, he might
always keep the company laughing. For the rest, he was neat and nimble,
but insisted that he had bandy legs, which everybody granted, since he
was bent on having it so, but about which many a joke arose; for, since
he was in request as a very good dancer, he reckoned it among the
peculiarities of the fair sex, that they always liked to see bandy legs
on the floor. His cheerfulness was indestructible, and his presence at
every meeting indispensable. We two kept more together because he was to
follow me to the university; and he well deserves that I should mention
him with all honor, as he adhered to me for many years with infinite
love, faithfulness, and patience.

By my ease in rhyming, and in winning from common objects a poetical
side, he had allowed himself to be seduced into similar labors. Our
little social excursions, parties of pleasure, and the contingencies
that occurred in them, we decked out poetically; and thus, by the
description of an event, a new event always arose. But as such social
jests commonly degenerate into personal ridicule, and my friend Horn,
with his burlesque representations, did not always keep within proper
bounds, many a misunderstanding arose, which, however, could soon be
softened down and effaced.

Thus, also, he tried his skill in a species of poetry which was then
very much the order of the day,--the comic heroical poem. Pope's "Rape
of the Lock" had called forth many imitations: Zachariä cultivated this
branch of poetry on German soil; and it pleased every one, because the
ordinary subject of it was some awkward fellow, of whom the genii made
game, while they favored the better one.

Although it is no wonder, yet it excites wonderment, when contemplating
a literature, especially the German, one observes how a whole nation
cannot get free from a subject which has been once given, and happily
treated in a certain form, but will have it repeated in every manner,
until, at last, the original itself is covered up, and stifled by the
heaps of imitations.

The heroic poem of my friend was a voucher for this remark. At a great
sledging-party, an awkward man has assigned to him a lady who does not
like him: comically enough, there befalls him, one after another, every
accident that can happen on such an occasion, until at last, as he is
entreating for the sledge-driver's right (a kiss), he falls from the
back-seat; for just then, as was natural, the Fates tripped him up. The
fair one seizes the reins, and drives home alone, where a favored friend
receives her, and triumphs over his presumptuous rival. As to the rest,
it was very prettily contrived that the four different kinds of spirits
should worry him in turn, till at the end the gnomes hoist him
completely out of the saddle. The poem, written in Alexandrines, and
founded on a true story, highly delighted our little public; and we were
convinced that it could well be compared with the "Walpurgisnight" of
Löwen, or the "Renommist" of Zachariä. [Footnote: This word, which
signifies something like our "bully," is specially used to designate a
fighting student.--TRANS.]

While, now, our social pleasures required but an evening, and the
preparations for them only a few hours, I had enough time to read, and,
as I thought, to study. To please my father, I diligently repeated the
smaller work of Hopp, and could stand an examination in it forwards and
backwards, by which means I made myself complete master of the chief
contents of the institutes. But a restless eagerness for knowledge urged
me farther: I lighted upon the history of ancient literature, and from
that fell into an encyclopaedism, in which I hastily read Gessner's
"Isagoge" and Morhov's "Polyhistor," and thus gained a general notion of
how many strange things might have happened in learning and life. By
this persevering and rapid industry, continued day and night, I became
more confused than instructed; but I lost myself in a still greater
labyrinth when I found Bayle in my father's library, and plunged deeply
into this work.

But a leading conviction, which was continually revived within me, was
that of the importance of the ancient tongues; since from amidst this
literary hurly-burly, thus much continually forced itself upon me, that
in them were preserved all the models of oratory, and at the same time
every thing else of worth that the world has ever possessed. Hebrew,
together with biblical studies, had retired into the background, and
Greek likewise, since my acquaintance with it did not extend beyond the
New Testament. I therefore the more zealously kept to Latin, the
masterpieces in which lie nearer to us, and which, besides its splendid
original productions, offers us the other wealth of all ages in
translations, and the works of the greatest scholars. I consequently
read much in this language, with great ease, and was bold enough to
believe I understood the authors, because I missed nothing of the
literal sense. Indeed, I was very indignant when I heard that Grotius
had insolently declared, "he did not read Terence as boys do." Happy
narrow-mindedness of youth!--nay, of men in general, that they can, at
every moment of their existence, fancy themselves finished, and inquire
after neither the true nor the false, after neither the high nor the
deep, but merely after that which is suited to them.

I had thus learned Latin, like German, French, and English, merely by
practice, without rules, and without comprehension. Whoever knows the
then condition of scholastic instruction will not think it strange that
I skipped grammar as well as rhetoric; all seemed to me to come together
naturally: I retained the words, their forms and inflexions, in my ear
and mind, and used the language with ease in writing and in chattering.

Michaelmas, the time fixed for my going to the university, was
approaching; and my mind was excited quite as much about my life as
about my learning. I grew more and more clearly conscious of an aversion
to my native city. By Gretchen's removal, the heart had been broken out
of the boyish and youthful plant: it needed time to bud forth again from
its sides, and surmount the first injury by a new growth. My ramblings
through the streets had ceased: I now, like others, only went such ways
as were necessary. I never went again into Gretchen's quarter of the
city, not even into its vicinity: and as my old walls and towers became
gradually disagreeable to me, so also was I displeased at the
constitution of the city; all that hitherto seemed so worthy of honor
now appeared to me in distorted shapes. As grandson of the
/Schultheiss/ I had not remained unacquainted with the secret
defects of such a republic; the less so, as children feel quite a
peculiar surprise, and are excited to busy researches, as soon as
something which they have hitherto implicitly revered becomes in any
degree suspicious to them. The fruitless indignation of upright men, in
opposition to those who are to be gained and even bribed by factions,
had become but too plain to me: I hated every injustice beyond measure,
for children are all moral rigorists. My father, who was concerned in
the affairs of the city only as a private citizen, expressed himself
with very lively indignation about much that had failed. And did I not
see him, after so many studies, endeavors, pains, travels, and so much
varied cultivation, between his four walls, leading a solitary life,
such as I could never desire for myself? All this put together lay as a
horrible load on my mind, from which I could only free myself by trying
to contrive a plan of life altogether different from that which had been
marked out for me. In thought I threw aside my legal studies, and
devoted myself solely to the languages, to antiquities, to history, and
to all that flows from them.

Indeed, at all times, the poetic imitation of what I had perceived in
myself, in others, and in nature, afforded me the greatest pleasure. I
did it with ever-increasing facility, because it came by instinct, and
no criticism had led me astray; and, if I did not feel full confidence
in my productions, I could certainly regard them as defective, but not
such as to be utterly rejected. Although here and there they were
censured, I still retained my silent conviction that I could not but
gradually improve, and that some time I might be honorably named along
with Hagedorn, Gellert, and other such men. But such a distinction alone
seemed to me too empty and inadequate; I wished to devote myself
professionally and with zeal to those aforesaid fundamental studies,
and, whilst I meant to advance more rapidly in my own works by a more
thorough insight into antiquity, to qualify myself for a university
professorship, which seemed to me the most desirable thing for a young
man who strove for culture, and intended to contribute to that of

With these intentions I always had my eye upon Göttingen. My whole
confidence rested upon men like Heyne, Michaelis, and so many others: my
most ardent wish was to sit at their feet, and attend to their
instructions. But my father remained inflexible. Howsoever some family
friends, who were of my opinion, tried to influence him, he persisted
that I must go to Leipzig. I was now resolved, contrary to his views and
wishes, to choose a line of studies and of life for myself, by way of
self-defense. The obstinacy of my father, who, without knowing it,
opposed himself to my plans, strengthened me in my impiety; so that I
made no scruple to listen to him by the hour, while he described and
repeated to me the course of study and of life which I should pursue at
the universities and in the world.

All hopes of Göttingen being cut off, I now turned my eyes towards
Leipzig. There Ernesti appeared to me as a brilliant light: Morus, too,
already awakened much confidence. I planned for myself in secret an
opposition-course, or rather I built a castle in the air, on a tolerably
solid foundation; and it seemed to me quite romantically honorable to
mark out my own path of life, which appeared the less visionary, as
Griesbach had already made great progress in a similar way, and was
commended for it by every one. The secret joy of a prisoner, when he has
unbound the fetters, and rapidly filed through the bars of his jail-
window, cannot be greater than was mine as I saw day after day
disappear, and October draw nigh. The inclement season and the bad
roads, of which everybody had something to tell, did not frighten me.
The thought of making good my footing in a strange place, and in winter,
did not make me sad; suffice it to say, that I only saw my present
situation was gloomy, and represented to myself the other unknown world
as light and cheerful. Thus I formed my dreams, to which I gave myself
up exclusively, and promised myself nothing but happiness and content in
the distance.

Closely as I kept these projects a secret from every one else, I could
not hide them from my sister, who, after being very much alarmed about
them at first, was finally consoled when I promised to send after her,
so that she could enjoy with me the brilliant station I was to obtain,
and share my comfort with me.

Michaelmas, so longingly expected, came at last, when I set out with
delight, in company with the bookseller Fleischer and his wife (whose
maiden name was Triller, and who was going to visit her father in
Wittemberg); and I left behind me the worthy city in which I had been
born and bred, with indifference, as if I wished never to set foot in it

Thus, at certain epochs, children part from parents, servants from
masters, /protégés/ from their patrons; and, whether it succeed or
not, such an attempt to stand on one's own feet, to make one's self
independent, to live for one's self, is always in accordance with the
will of nature.

We had driven out through the Allerheiligen (/All Saints/) gate,
and had soon left Hanau behind us, after which we reached scenes which
aroused my attention by their novelty, if, at this season of the year,
they offered little that was pleasing. A continual rain had completely
spoiled the roads, which, generally speaking, were not then in such good
order as we find them now; and our journey was thus neither pleasant nor
happy. Yet I was indebted to this damp weather for the sight of a
natural phenomenon which must be exceedingly rare, for I have seen
nothing like it since, nor have I heard of its having been observed by
others. It was this; namely, we were driving at night up a rising ground
between Hanau and Gelhausen, and, although it was dark, we preferred
walking to exposing ourselves to the danger and difficulty of that part
of the road. All at once, in a ravine on the right-hand side of the way,
I saw a sort of amphitheatre, wonderfully illuminated. In a funnel-
shaped space there were innumerable little lights gleaming, ranged step-
fashion over one another; and they shone so brilliantly that the eye was
dazzled. But what still more confused the sight was, that they did not
keep still, but jumped about here and there, as well downwards from
above as /vice versa/, and in every direction. The greater part of
them, however, remained stationary, and beamed on. It was only with the
greatest reluctance that I suffered myself to be called away from this
spectacle, which I could have wished to examine more closely. The
postilion, when questioned, said that he knew nothing about such a
phenomenon, but that there was in the neighborhood an old stone-quarry,
the excavation of which was filled with water. Now, whether this was a
pandemonium of will-o'-the-wisps, or a company of luminous creatures, I
will not decide.

The roads through Thuringia were yet worse; and unfortunately, at night-
fall, our coach stuck fast in the vicinity of Auerstädt. We were far
removed from all mankind, and did every thing possible to work ourselves
out. I failed not to exert myself zealously, and might thereby have
overstrained the ligaments of my chest; for soon afterwards I felt a
pain, which went off and returned, and did not leave me entirely until
after many years.

Yet on that same night, as if it had been destined for alternate good
and bad luck, I was forced, after an unexpectedly fortunate incident, to
experience a teazing vexation. We met, in Auerstädt, a genteel married
couple, who had also just arrived, having been delayed by a similar
accident; a pleasing, dignified man, in his best years, with a very
handsome wife. They politely persuaded us to sup in their company, and I
felt very happy when the excellent lady addressed a friendly word to me.
But when I was sent out to hasten the soup which had been ordered, not
having been accustomed to the loss of rest and the fatigues of
travelling, such an unconquerable drowsiness overtook me, that actually
I fell asleep while walking, returned into the room with my hat on my
head, and, without remarking that the others were saying grace, placed
myself with quiet unconsciousness behind the chair, and never dreamed
that by my conduct I had come to disturb their devotions in a very droll
way. Madame Fleischer, who lacked neither spirit nor wit nor tongue,
entreated the strangers, before they had seated themselves, not to be
surprised at any thing they might see here; for that their young fellow-
traveller had in his nature much of the peculiarity of the Quakers, who
believe that they cannot honor God and the king better than with covered
heads. The handsome lady, who could not restrain her laughter, looked
prettier than ever in consequence; and I would have given every thing in
the world not to have been the cause of a merriment which was so highly
becoming to her countenance. I had, however, scarcely laid aside my hat,
when these persons, in accordance with their polished manners,
immediately dropped the joke, and, with the best wine from their bottle-
case, completely extinguished sleep, chagrin, and the memory of all past

I arrived in Leipzig just at the time of the fair, from which I derived
particular pleasure; for here I saw before me the continuation of a
state of things belonging to my native city, familiar wares and
traders,--only in other places, and in a different order. I rambled
about the market and the booths with much interest; but my attention was
particularly attracted by the inhabitants of the Eastern countries in
their strange dresses, the Poles and Russians, and, above all, the
Greeks, for the sake of whose handsome forms and dignified costume I
often went to the spot.

But this animating bustle was soon over; and now the city itself
appeared before me, with its handsome, high, and uniform houses. It made
a very good impression upon me; and it cannot be denied, that in
general, but especially in the silent moments of Sundays and holidays,
it has something imposing; and when in the moonlight the streets were
half in shadow, half-illuminated, they often invited me to nocturnal

[Illustration: Woman with birds.]

In the mean time, as compared with that to which I had hitherto been
accustomed, this new state of affairs was by no means satisfactory.
Leipzig calls up before the spectator no antique time: it is a new,
recently elapsed epoch, testifying commercial activity, comfort and
wealth, which announces itself to us in these monuments. Yet quite to my
taste were the houses, which to me seemed immense, and which, fronting
two streets, and embracing a citizen-world within their large court-
yards, built round with lofty walls, are like large castles, nay, even
half-cities. In one of these strange places I quartered myself; namely,
in the Bombshell Tavern (/Feuerkugel/), between the Old and the New
Newmarket (/Neumarkt/). A couple of pleasant rooms looking out upon
a court-yard, which, on account of the thoroughfare, was not without
animation, were occupied by the bookseller Fleischer during the fair,
and by me taken for the rest of the time at a moderate price. As a
fellow-lodger I found a theological student, who was deeply learned in
his professional studies, a sound thinker, but poor, and suffering much
from his eyes, which caused him great anxiety for the future. He had
brought this affliction upon himself by his inordinate reading till the
latest dusk of the evening, and even by moonlight, to save a little oil.
Our old hostess showed herself benevolent to him, always friendly to me,
and careful for us both.

I now hastened with my letters of introduction to Hofrath Böhme, who,
once a pupil of Maskow, and now his successor, was professor of history
and public law. A little, thick-set, lively man received me kindly
enough, and introduced me to his wife. Both of them, as well as the
other persons whom I waited on, gave me the pleasantest hopes as to my
future residence; but at first I let no one know of the design I
entertained, although I could scarcely wait for the favorable moment
when I should declare myself free from jurisprudence, and devoted to the
study of the classics. I cautiously waited till the Fleischers had
returned, that my purpose might not be too prematurely betrayed to my
family. But I then went, without delay, to Hofrath Böhme, to whom,
before all, I thought I must confide the matter, and with much self-
importance and boldness of speech disclosed my views to him. However, I
found by no means a good reception of my proposition. As professor of
history and public law, he had a declared hatred for every thing that
savored of the /belles-lettres/. Unfortunately he did not stand on
the best footing with those who cultivated them; and Gellert in
particular, in whom I had, awkwardly enough, expressed much confidence,
he could not even endure. To send a faithful student to those men,
therefore, while he deprived himself of one, and especially under such
circumstances, seemed to him altogether out of the question. He
therefore gave me a severe lecture on the spot, in which he protested
that he could not permit such a step without the permission of my
parents, even if he approved of it himself, which was not the case in
this instance. He then passionately inveighed against philology and the
study of languages, but still more against poetical exercises, which I
had indeed allowed to peep out in the background. He finally concluded,
that, if I wished to enter more closely into the study of the ancients,
it could be done much better by the way of jurisprudence. He brought to
my recollection many elegant jurists, such as Eberhard, Otto, and
Heineccius, promised me mountains of gold from Roman antiquities and the
history of law, and showed me, clear as the sun, that I should here be
taking no roundabout way, even if afterwards, on more mature
deliberation, and with the consent of my parents, I should determine to
follow out my own plan. He begged me, in a friendly manner, to think the
matter over once more, and to open my mind to him soon; as it would be
necessary to come to a determination at once, on account of the
impending commencement of the lectures.

It was, however, very polite of him not to press me on the spot. His
arguments, and the weight with which he advanced them, had already
convinced my pliant youth; and I now first saw the difficulties and
doubtfulness of a matter which I had privately pictured to myself as so
feasible. Frau Hofrath Böhme invited me shortly afterwards. I found her
alone. She was no longer young, and had very delicate health; was gentle
and tender to an infinite degree; and formed a decided contrast to her
husband, whose good nature was even blustering. She spoke of the
conversation her husband had lately had with me, and once more placed
the subject before me, in all its bearings, in so cordial a manner, so
affectionately and sensibly, that I could not help yielding: the few
reservations on which I insisted were also agreed upon by the other

Thereupon her husband regulated my hours; for I was to hear lectures on
philosophy, the history of law, the Institutes, and some other matters.
I was content with this; but I carried my point so as to attend
Gellert's history of literature (with Stockhausen for a text-book), and
his "Practicum" besides.

The reverence and love with which Gellert was regarded by all young
people was extraordinary. I had already called on him, and had been
kindly received by him. Not of tall stature; elegant without being lean;
soft and rather pensive eyes; a very fine forehead; a nose aquiline, but
not too much so; a delicate mouth; a face of an agreeable oval,--all
made his presence pleasing and desirable. It cost some trouble to reach
him. His two /Famuli/ appeared like priests who guard a sanctuary,
the access to which is not permitted to everybody, nor at every time:
and such a precaution was very necessary; for he would have sacrificed
his whole time, had he been willing to receive and satisfy all those who
wished to become intimate with him.

At first I attended my lectures assiduously and faithfully, but the
philosophy would not enlighten me at all. In the logic it seemed strange
to me that I had so to tear asunder, isolate, and, as it were, destroy,
those operations of the mind which I had performed with the greatest
ease from my youth upwards, and this in order to see into the right use
of them. Of the thing itself, of the world, and of God, I thought I knew
about as much as the professor himself; and, in more places than one,
the affair seemed to me to come into a tremendous strait. Yet all went
on in tolerable order till towards Shrovetide, when, in the neighborhood
of Professor Winkler's house on the Thomas Place, the most delicious
fritters came hot out of the pan just at the hour of lecture: and these
delayed us so long, that our note-books became disordered; and the
conclusion of them, towards spring, melted away, together with the snow,
and was lost.

The law-lectures very soon fared not any better, for I already knew just
as much as the professor thought good to communicate to us. My stubborn
industry in writing down the lectures at first, was paralyzed by
degrees; for I found it excessively tedious to pen down once more that
which, partly by question, partly by answer, I had repeated with my
father often enough to retain it forever in my memory. The harm which is
done when young people at school are advanced too far in many things was
afterwards manifested still more when time and attention were diverted
from exercises in the languages, and a foundation in what are, properly
speaking, preparatory studies, in order to be applied to what are called
"Realities," which dissipate more than they cultivate, if they are not
methodically and thoroughly taught.

I here mention, by the way, another evil by which students are much
embarrassed. Professors, as well as other men in office, cannot all be
of the same age: but when the younger ones teach, in fact, only that
they may learn, and moreover, if they have talent, anticipate their age,
they acquire their own cultivation altogether at the cost of their
hearers; since these are not instructed in what they really need, but in
that which the professor finds it necessary to elaborate for himself.
Among the oldest professors, on the contrary, many are for a long time
stationary: they deliver on the whole only fixed views, and, in the
details, much that time has already condemned as useless and false.
Between the two arises a sad conflict, in which young minds are dragged
hither and thither, and which can scarcely be set right by the middle-
aged professors, who, though possessed of sufficient learning and
culture, always feel within themselves an active desire for knowledge
and reflection.

Now, as in this way I learned to know much more than I could digest,
whereby a constantly increasing uncomfortableness was forced upon me; so
also from life I experienced many disagreeable trifles,--as, indeed, one
must always pay one's footing when one changes one's place and comes
into a new position. The first thing the ladies blamed me for was my
dress, for I had come from home to the university rather oddly equipped.

My father, who detested nothing so much as when something happened in
vain, when any one did not know how to make use of his time, or found no
opportunity for turning it to account, carried his economy of time and
abilities so far, that nothing gave him greater pleasure than to kill
two birds with one stone. [Footnote: Literally, "to strike two flies
with one flapper."--TRANS.] He had, therefore, never engaged a servant
who could not be useful to the house in something else. Now, as he had
always written every thing with his own hand, and had, latterly, the
convenience of dictating to the young inmate of the house, he found it
most advantageous to have tailors for his domestics, who were obliged to
make good use of their time, as they not only had to make their own
liveries, but the clothes for my father and the children, besides doing
all the mending. My father himself took pains to have the best materials
and the best kind of cloth, by getting fine wares of the foreign
merchants at the fair, and laying them up in store. I still remember
well that he always visited the Herr von Löwenicht, of Aix-la-Chapelle,
and from my earliest youth made me acquainted with these and other
eminent merchants.

Care was also taken for the fitness of the stuff: and there was a
plentiful stock of different kinds of cloth, serge, and Götting stuff,
besides the requisite lining; so that, as far as the materials were
concerned, we might well venture to be seen. But the form spoiled almost
every thing. For, if one of our home-tailors was any thing of a clever
hand at sewing and making up a coat which had been cut out for him in
masterly fashion, he was now obliged also to cut out the dress for
himself, which did not always succeed to perfection. In addition to
this, my father kept whatever belonged to his clothing in very good and
neat order, and preserved more than used it for many years. Thus he had
a predilection for certain old cuts and trimmings, by which our dress
sometimes acquired a strange appearance.

In this same way had the wardrobe which I took with me to the university
been furnished: it was very complete and handsome, and there was even a
laced suit amongst the rest. Already accustomed to this kind of attire,
I thought myself sufficiently well dressed; but it was not long before
my female friends, first by gentle raillery, then by sensible
remonstrances, convinced me that I looked as if I had dropped down out
of another world. Much as I felt vexed at this, I did not see at first
how I was to mend matters. But when Herr von Masuren, the favorite
poetical country squire, once entered the theatre in a similar costume,
and was heartily laughed at, more by reason of his external than his
internal absurdity, I took courage, and ventured at once to exchange my
whole wardrobe for a new-fashioned one, suited to the place, by which,
however, it shrunk considerably.

When this trial was surmounted, a new one was to come up, which proved
to be far more unpleasant, because it concerned a matter which one does
not so easily put off and exchange.

I had been born and bred in the Upper-German dialect; and although my
father always labored to preserve a certain purity of language, and,
from our youth upwards, had made us children attentive to what may be
really called the defects of that idiom, and so prepared us for a better
manner of speaking, I retained nevertheless many deeper-seated
peculiarities, which, because they pleased me by their /naïvete/, I
was fond of making conspicuous, and thus every time I used them incurred
a severe reproof from my new fellow-townsmen. The Upper-German, and
perhaps chiefly he who lives by the Rhine and Main (for great rivers,
like the seacoast, always have something animating about them),
expresses himself much in similes and allusions, and makes use of
proverbial sayings with a native common-sense aptness. In both cases he
is often blunt: but, when one sees the drift of the expression, it is
always appropriate; only something, to be sure, may often slip in, which
proves offensive to a more delicate ear.

Every province loves its own dialect; for it is, properly speaking, the
element in which the soul draws its breath. But every one knows with
what obstinacy the Misnian dialect has contrived to domineer over the
rest, and even, for a long time, to exclude them. We have suffered for
many years under this pedantic tyranny, and only by reiterated struggles
have all the provinces again established themselves in their ancient
rights. What a lively young man had to endure from this continual
tutoring, may be easily inferred by any one who reflects that modes of
thought, imagination, feeling, native character, must be sacrificed with
the pronunciation which one at last consents to alter. And this
intolerable demand was made by men and women of education, whose
convictions I could not adopt, whose injustice I thought I felt, though
I was unable to make it plain to myself. Allusions to the pithy biblical
texts were to be forbidden me, as well as the use of the honest-hearted
expressions from the Chronicles. I had to forget that I had read the
"Kaiser von Geisersberg," and eschew the use of proverbs, which
nevertheless, instead of much fiddle-faddle, just hit the nail upon the
head,--all this, which I had appropriated to myself with youthful ardor,
I was now to do without: I felt paralyzed to the core, and scarcely knew
any more how I had to express myself on the commonest things. I was,
moreover, told that one should speak as one writes, and write as one
speaks; while to me, speaking and writing seemed once for all two
different things, each of which might well maintain its own rights. And
even in the Misnian dialect had I to hear many things which would have
made no great figure on paper.

Every one who perceives in this the influence which men and women of
education, the learned, and other persons who take pleasure in refined
society, so decidedly exercise over a young student, would be
immediately convinced that we were in Leipzig, even if it had not been
mentioned. Each one of the German universities has a particular
character; for, as no universal cultivation can pervade our fatherland,
every place adheres to its own fashion, and carries out, even to the
last, its own characteristic peculiarities: exactly the same thing holds
good of the universities. In Jena and Halle roughness had been carried
to the highest pitch: bodily strength, skill in fighting, the wildest
self-help, was there the order of the day; and such a state of affairs
can only be maintained and propagated by the most universal riot. The
relations of the students to the inhabitants of those cities, various as
they might be, nevertheless agreed in this, that the wild stranger had
no regard for the citizen, and looked upon himself as a peculiar being,
privileged to all sorts of freedom and insolence. In Leipzig, on the
contrary, a student could scarcely be any thing else than polite, as
soon as he wished to stand on any footing at all with the rich, well-
bred, and punctilious inhabitants.

All politeness, indeed, when it does not present itself as the flowering
of a great and comprehensive mode of life, must appear restrained,
stationary, and, from some points of view, perhaps, absurd; and so those
wild huntsmen from the Saale [Footnote: The river on which Halle is
built.--TRANS.] thought they had a great superiority over the tame
shepherds on the Pleisse. [Footnote: The river near Leipzig.--TRANS.]
Zachariä's "Renommist" will always be a valuable document, from which
the manner of life and thought at that time rises visibly forth; as in
general his poems must be welcome to every one who wishes to form for
himself a conception of the then prevailing state of social life and
manners, which was indeed feeble, but amiable on account of its
innocence and child-like simplicity.

All manners which result from the given relations of a common existence
are indestructible; and, in my time, many things still reminded us of
Zachariä's epic poem. Only one of our fellow-academicians thought
himself rich and independent enough to snap his fingers at public
opinion. He drank acquaintance with all the hackney-coachmen, whom he
allowed to sit inside the coach as if they were gentlemen, while he
drove them on the box; thought it a great joke to upset them now and
then, and contrived to satisfy them for their smashed vehicles as well
as for their occasional bruises; but otherwise he did no harm to any
one, seeming only to make a mock of the public /en masse/. Once, on
a most beautiful promenade-day, he and a comrade of his seized upon the
donkeys of the miller in St. Thomas's square: well-dressed, and in their
shoes and stockings, they rode around the city with the greatest
solemnity, stared at by all the promenaders, with whom the glacis was
swarming. When some sensible persons remonstrated with him on the
subject, he assured them, quite unembarrassed, that he only wanted to
see how the Lord Christ might have looked in a like case. Yet he found
no imitators and few companions.

For the student of any wealth and standing had every reason to show
himself attentive to the mercantile class, and to be the more solicitous
about the proper external forms, as the colony [Footnote: Leipzig was so
called, because a large and influential portion of its citizens were
sprung from a colony of Huguenots, who settled there after the
revocation of the edict of Nantes.--/American Note/.] exhibited a
model of French manners. The professors, opulent both from their private
property and from their liberal salaries, were not dependent upon their
scholars; and many subjects of the state, educated at the government
schools or other gymnasia, and hoping for preferment, did not venture to
throw off the traditional customs. The neighborhood of Dresden, the
attention thence paid to us, and the true piety of the superintendent of
the course of study, could not be without a moral, nay, a religious,

At first this kind of life was not repugnant to me: my letters of
introduction had given me the /entrée/ into good families, whose
circle of relatives also received me well. But as I was soon forced to
feel that the company had much to find fault with in me, and that, after
dressing myself in their fashion, I must now talk according to their
tongue also; and as, moreover, I could plainly see that I was, on the
other hand, but little benefited by the instruction and mental
improvement I had promised myself from my academical residence,--I began
to be lazy, and to neglect the social duties of visiting, and other
attentions; and indeed I should have sooner withdrawn from all such
connections, had not fear and esteem attached me firmly to Hofrath
Böhme, and confidence and affection to his wife. The husband,
unfortunately, had not the happy gift of dealing with young people, of
winning their confidence, and of guiding them, for the moment, as
occasion might require. When I visited him I never got any good by it:
his wife, on the contrary, showed a genuine interest in me. Her ill
health kept her constantly at home. She often invited me to spend the
evening with her, and knew how to direct and improve me in many little
external particulars: for my manners were good, indeed; but I was not
yet master of what is properly termed /étiquette/. Only one friend
spent the evenings with her; but she was much more dictatorial and
pedantic, for which reason she displeased me excessively: and, out of
spite to her, I often resumed those unmannerly habits from which the
other had already weaned me. Nevertheless she always had patience enough
with me, taught me piquet, ombre, and similar games, the knowledge and
practice of which is held indispensable in society.

But it was in the matter of taste that Madame Böhme had the greatest
influence upon me,--in a negative way truly, yet one in which she agreed
perfectly with the critics. The Gottsched waters [Footnote: That is to
say, the influence of Gottsched on German literature, of which more is
said in the next book.--TRANS.] had inundated the German world with a
true deluge, which threatened to rise up, even over the highest
mountains. It takes a long time for such a flood to subside again, for
the mire to dry away; and as in any epoch there are numberless aping
poets, so the imitation of the flat and watery produced a chaos, of
which now scarcely a notion remains. To find out that trash was trash
was hence the greatest sport, yea, the triumph, of the critics of those
days. Whoever had only a little common sense, was superficially
acquainted with the ancients, and was somewhat more familiar with the
moderns, thought himself provided with a standard scale which he could
everywhere apply. Madame Böhme was an educated woman, who opposed the
trivial, weak, and commonplace: she was, besides, the wife of a man who
lived on bad terms with poetry in general, and would not even allow that
of which she perhaps might have somewhat approved. She listened, indeed,
for some time with patience, when I ventured to recite to her the verse
or prose of famous poets who already stood in good repute,--for then, as
always, I knew by heart every thing that chanced in any degree to please
me; but her complaisance was not of long duration. The first whom she
outrageously abused were the poets of the Weisse school, who were just
then often quoted with great applause, and had delighted me very
particularly. If I looked more closely into the matter, I could not say
she was wrong. I had sometimes even ventured to recite to her, though
anonymously, some of my own poems; but these fared no better than the
rest of the set. And thus, in a short time, the beautiful variegated
meadows at the foot of the German Parnassus, where I was fond of
luxuriating, were mercilessly mowed down; and I was even compelled to
toss about the drying hay myself, and to ridicule that as lifeless
which, a short time before, had given me such lively joy.

Without knowing it, Professor Morus came to strengthen her instructions.
He was an uncommonly gentle and friendly man, with whom I became
acquainted at the table of Hofrath Ludwig, and who received me very
pleasantly when I begged the privilege of visiting him. Now, while
making inquiries of him concerning antiquity, I did not conceal from him
what delighted me among the moderns; when he spoke about such things
with more calmness, but, what was still worse, with more profundity than
Madame Böhme; and he thus opened my eyes, at first to my greatest
chagrin, but afterwards to my surprise, and at last to my edification.

Besides this, there came the Jeremiads, with which Gellert, in his
course, was wont to warn us against poetry. He wished only for prose
essays, and always criticised these first. Verses he treated as a sorry
addition: and, what was the worst of all, even my prose found little
favor in his eyes; for, after my old fashion, I used always to lay, as
the foundation, a little romance, which I loved to work out in the
epistolary form. The subjects were impassioned, the style went beyond
ordinary prose, and the contents probably did not display any very deep
knowledge of mankind in the author; and so I stood in very little favor
with our professor, although he carefully looked over my labors as well
as those of the others, corrected them with red ink, and here and there
added a moral remark. Many leaves of this kind, which I kept for a long
time with satisfaction, have unfortunately, in the course of years, at
last disappeared from among my papers.

If elderly persons wish to play the pedagogue properly, they should
neither prohibit nor render disagreeable to a young man any thing which
gives him pleasure, of whatever kind it may be, unless, at the same
time, they have something else to put in its place, or can contrive a
substitute. Everybody protested against my tastes and inclinations; and,
on the other hand, what they commended to me lay either so far from me
that I could not perceive its excellencies, or stood so near me that I
thought it not a whit better than what they inveighed against. I thus
became thoroughly perplexed on the subject, and promised myself the best
results from a lecture of Ernesti's on "Cicero de Oratore." I learned
something, indeed, from this lecture, but was not enlightened on the
subject which particularly concerned me. What I demanded was a standard
of opinion, and thought I perceived that nobody possessed it; for no one
agreed with another, even when they brought forward examples: and where
were we to get a settled judgment, when they managed to reckon up
against a man like Wieland so many faults in his amiable writings, which
so completely captivated us younger folks?

Amid this manifold distraction, this dismemberment of my existence and
my studies, it happened that I took my dinners at Hofrath Ludwig's. He
was a medical man, a botanist; and his company, with the exception of
Morus, consisted of physicians just commencing or near the completion of
their studies. Now, during these hours, I heard no other conversation
than about medicine or natural history, and my imagination was drawn
over into quite a new field. I heard the names of Haller, Linnaeus,
Buffon, mentioned with great respect; and, even if disputes often arose
about mistakes into which it was said they had fallen, all agreed in the
end to honor the acknowledged abundance of their merits. The subjects
were entertaining and important, and enchained my attention. By degrees
I became familiar with many names and a copious terminology, which I
grasped more willingly as I was afraid to write down a rhyme, however
spontaneously it presented itself, or to read a poem, for I was fearful
that it might please me at the time, and that perhaps immediately
afterwards, like so much else, I should be forced to pronounce it bad.

This uncertainty of taste and judgment disquieted me more and more every
day, so that at last I fell into despair. I had brought with me those of
my youthful labors which I thought the best, partly because I hoped to
get some credit by them, partly that I might be able to test my progress
with greater certainty; but I found myself in the miserable situation in
which one is placed when a complete change of mind is required,--a
renunciation of all that one has hitherto loved and found good. However,
after some time and many struggles, I conceived so great a contempt for
my labors, begun and ended, that one day I burnt up poetry and prose,
plans, sketches, and projects, all together on the kitchen hearth, and
threw our good old landlady into no small fright and anxiety by the
smoke which filled the whole house.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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