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home sports, studies of art, and coro-
nation magnificences. Yet the darker
aspects were not wanting to him, as we
see in what he has told us of his trem-
bling visits to the Jews' quarter, of the
skulls of state criminals grinning from
the highways, of the judicial burnings
of books, of the seven years' war, with
its excitements and family feuds, and
of the great earthquake at Lisbon,
which spread consternation over the
world. Mr. Lewes, in his account, has
omitted many of these details, because
they were already so charmingly nar-
rated in the autobiography.

It was a good thing for the young
Goethe, with his sensibilities and im-
pulses, that his father was of a rigid
didactic turn, with a hand and eye for
art, and an unyielding zeal for disci-
For he
pline as well as knowledge.
was thereby indoctrinated into science
and history, into half a dozen languages,
into riding, and drawing, and dancing,
and other graceful accomplishments.
The warm affection and active fancy
of one parent fed his heart and imagina-
tion, while the stern monitions of the
other trained him into character and
self-command. On the one side was
the dear and noble literature of the
nursery, with its ballads and snatches
of old song, and puppet-shows, opening
the child's paradise; and on the other
was classic lore, severe tutorships,
and innumerable accuracies and warn-
ings, with now and then an appeal to
ambition. At the same time, the social
position of the family drew about it de-
cided men-men of strong natures and
cultivation, whose houses were furnish-
ed with books and pictures, and whose
talk was full of character and thought,
all which aroused the intellect of the
boy; while, in executing their little er-
rands among artists and tradesmen, he
was brought in contact with the hum-
bler classes, where he saw life in its
It was,
narrowness and debasement.
indeed, in one of these excursions from
his own charmed circle into the nether
regions of want and despair, that he
was led into that first serious experi-
ence, which imparts so singular a pathos
to his boyish life-the passion for
Gretchen, at once full of simplicity,
fervor, and distress-a passion which
rose upon him like a fair young dream,
and then, after a few months of deli-
cious dalliance, withdrew into the night,
leaving him dark and lonely, and incon-

Lewes's Life of Goethe.


in the unfoldings of his religion. He was not, however, like our Shakespeare, the artist of humanity and all time, but only of his age. His mission was to interpret to the first half of the nineteenth century the riddle of its being; to gather up its weltering miscellany of facts, sciences. philosophies, and arts, and to hang them on its front as a garland of flowers; to exhibit the poetry of its vast prosaic explorations; to detect the unitary and the universal amid its infinite details; and to mould its distracted activities into some sort of organic vitality. Whatever his deficiencies, then, they were the deficiencies of his era, and whatever his greatness, it was the greatness of that era consummated in a single head, or, rather, precipitated from its solutions by the wonderful electricity of genius into a single and brilliant result.

We shall the better perceive the force of these truths if, following Mr. Lewes, we first run over briefly the leading incidents of his career, and the more prominent traits of his writings.

All the earlier circumstances of Goethe's life seem to have been peculiarly adapted to the development of his fine natural parts. Frankfort, his birthplace, cosily lying among the gardens and green fields of the silver-flowing Maine, though a provincial town, was bustling with ancient associations, and beginning to be animated with modern activity. Its fairs and imperial coronations, its quaint old customs and fantastic parades, its cloisters and trenches, and old buildings, contrasting with the bustle of commerce and free-citizenship, were things likely to excite a youthful imagination. The little Wolfgang, with an organization so sensitive that already, in his ninth week, as Bettina amusingly tells us, he had troubled dreams, who could be convulsed by a look at the moon, and was savagely intolerant of any kind of deformity or discord, and withal insatiable in its thirst for nursery tales (of which the good mother fortunately had a store), was early and richly nourished by both the gloom and the glitter of his native city. A genial, brown-eyed, handsome child, he appears to have absorbed all influences with a keen relish, and yet with calm thoughtfulness. For the most part he saw existence on the sunnier side, in country rambles, amid cheerful friends, rural occupations, VOL. VII-13

solable. It was an experience that never entirely passed away; for when the impetuous boy had grown into the world-famous man, the vanished Gretchen reappeared as the sad, sweet, imperishable figure of the Faust.

Goethe's youth was a continuation of the same favorable influences, controlled by a strong inward force, which had marked even his childhood. His student years at Leipsic, Strasbourg, etc., of which Mr. Lewes gives the best account that we have seen, vastly better than Goethe's own, where the most interesting parts are strangely disguised, cover a period when opinion on all subjects was undergoing a singular ferment. Full of buoyancy, of hope, of wild, uncouth, provincial life, yet glowing with the consciousness of uncommon strength, "he had," as Wieland said afterwards, the devil in him at times, and could fling out before and behind like a young colt." He seemed prepared for all fortunes-for fun and frolic, for adventure, for study, for logic, and for love and religion. Among the musty professors, and the wild, breakneck, but withal intellectual students, he was at home with all-a young unacknowledged giant, secretly glorying in his prowess, now and then using it in very grotesque fashions-yet docile, pretensionless, avid of all sorts of knowledge, and possessed of a great, free, and laughing heart.


German literature was very much in the same inchoate condition as himself -in the flush of a mighty youth-striving to emancipate itself from the swaddling bands of timidity, imitation, and awkwardness, and dashing forward to a career of original and self-sustained power. A watery deluge, says Goethe, swelled up to the very top of the Teutonic Parnassus. Yet a rainbow of promise began to form itself upon the clouds. One by one, minds of considerable magnitude managed to emerge from the prevailing obscurity. Gunther, Gottsched, Gellert, Gessner, each in his line, did something to bring back the national writers from the stateliness of Roman decorum, and the tinsel of French glitter, to German nature and truth. But the most complete revolution was effected by three men, very different from each other, Klopstock, Lessing, and Wieland, of whose efforts Mr. Lewes gives a just critical view. The struggle was long and difficult,

giving rise to the fiercest battles of words.

Goethe, with constitutional ardor, threw himself into the thickest of the fight. He penetrated to the very heart of the mystery which had baffled inferior intellects. His good sense, his prodigious attainments in both ancient and modern learning, but more than all, the unerring instincts of the born poet, enabled him to unravel the twists of the critics, and expose the inner and deeper principles of art. Early taught in the school of the noble old Hebrew prophets and singers, and more recently initiated into the wizard ring of Shakespeare's genius, he contemptuously broke through the entanglements of a formal and shallow pedantry, and soared away into the clearer regions of poetic truth. He saw the barrenness, the constraint, the utter futility of the prescriptive principles which then prevailed; he saw that artists were laboring over the stiff and hard shell of the matter, not even suspecting the existence of a kernel; and then, with doubt, it must be confessed with hesitation, with manifold trial and sorrow, and perplexitieshe labored painfully but surely into a conception of what the modern spirit demanded of art.

Yet his attention was not exclusively confined to the literary and artistic strivings of himself and his contemporaries. All the sciences, and nearly all learning, along with civil society itself, partook of the general confusion, while his nature was such that it could not rest till it was all set right in his head. Medicine, philosophy, jurisprudence, religion, he pursued with almost as much fidelity as art; and he endeavored, with the same native and decided force, to master and mould their elements into unity. And the singular triumph of his activity, the great beauty of his power, was, that these tormenting and momentous inquiries were carried on in the midst of a most exuberant and joyous outward life-curious adventures, such as are known only to the roistering student-life of Germany; frequent and frolicsome rambles by flood and field; tavern-scenes; visits to distant famous structures, even to manufactures and mines; love-commitments that stirred the profoundest depths of emotion; a constant interest in all the doings of courts and cottages, alternated with protracted studies, with deep, almost

in it to admire. Goethe, it placed at
once in a position where his majestic
and graceful intellect could freely un-
fold-in a circle of cultivated friends,
possessed of leisure and means for the
pursuit of art, and capable of the most
delicate appreciation of his own lofty
endowments. An organization so fine,
and yet so magnificent, found its genial
atmosphere in the almost ideal refine-
ment of the court. The simplicity of his
manners could not be corrupted by it,
while it nourished and enriched his
imagination. True, Jean Paul has
said that "under golden mountains
many a spiritual giant lies buried;"
but had they been greater giants, they
might, as Goethe did, have melted these
mountains with images of beauty. His
court life was valuable to him, however,
not because of its glitter and show, but
because it simply gave him freedom.
'Tis a mistake to suppose that genius
always thrives best in loneliness and
poverty; as life, in every sort, finds
its most sure and healthful growth in a
fitting and congenial medium. Burns
as a peasant was no greater than he
would have been as a prince: on the
other hand, a larger nurture would have
aided in a larger development. Men
of strong native force will, it is true,
overcome obstacles of formidable com-
pass; but the same force will exert
itself all the more effectively, where
such obstacles are wanting, or are
of a less oppressive magnitude. In
the one case, we may get a rugged,
monstrous upshoot-a very Polyphe-
mus of savage energy in the other,
we are likely to have a mightier, self-
"gold mountains have buried many a
poised, majestic Jupiter. True enough,
spiritual giant;" but there have been
many more, we think, in this world,
buried in mud-holes and ditches.

Lewes's Life of Goethe.


agonizing questionings of the riddles of the world. Thus, whatever the matter in hand, his broad, mercurial, rich nature was found to get at the bottom of it, to comprehend it, to make it entirely his own. No half-way tasting of existence, in any of its forms, was satisfactory to him: no manifestation of the great soul of humanity, be it a rural pastime or a great world-venerated intellectual system, could be uninteresting to him he looked at mankind, in all their likings and leanings, with open eye, with a sunny, open heart. In the paraphrase of his own distich

"Life, his inheritance, broad and fair;
Earth was his seed-field, to time he was heir."

With such a nature, and such a development of it, having met and overcome most of the trials of the more impulsive periods of life-a naturally strong, noble figure of a man, richly adorned and embroidered with all the graces that fortune, family, education, and society can superadd-Goethe found a sphere for which he was peculiarly prepared, in the brilliant court of Karl August. The young Prince of Weimar, attaining his majority and his power just about the same time, was fortunately one who had a heart capable of love, as well as a head fit to rule. The sudden but lasting attachment which sprung up between himself and Goethe, was as honorable to both as it appears to have been cordial and his dignified. Thoughtless radicalism has imputed to Goethe, that this, on part, was devotion to the ruler, rather than to the man; but the fact was, that this friendship was one of reciprocal respect and equal favor, where any social advantages conferred by the arch-duke were more than compensated by the celebrity conferred by the poet. The life of neither of these illustrious personages was made up of courtparades or court-intrigues, but of useful labor in their several spheres. Karl governed his little province with a manly sense of his duty: Goethe immortalized it by the best works of the best modern literature. Indeed, it was a rare and beautiful sight, this intimacy and good-will-cemented in earliest youth, and carried on to late old age— between one worthily born of a race of kings, and another destined to become greater than any king. There was nothing in it to carp at-there was much

Goethe, we have said, valued his prosperous condition for its freedom: it gave him opportunities for a rare and expansive culture; it gave him books; it gave him the instruments of art; it gave him access to all modes of life, to all classes of society, to noble and ennobling companions; and, what was better than all, and so essential to his being, the means of a free communion with nature by observation and travel. That impartial judgment of men and things, which was one of the kindly traits of his character; that manysided interest in all that relates to the

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intellectual destinies of humanity; his unceasing researches into the realms of science, and his miraculous activity in those of literature, are all to be more or less ascribed to the graceful comfort of his external circumstances. he been cramped and tortured by the pressures of indigence-as poor dear Richter was-this impassive Goethethe delight of women and the admiration of men-might have become a rude, double-fisted iconoclast, battering away at all established things, with the fierce rage and revenge of a demon. It would have been a sight, truly, that, for men to look at and tremble! such sights being necessary, too, at times; but we are persuaded that Goethe has served us better in another way.

embrace-translate him into a new and heavenly world. "This day," said he, referring to his first sight of the paradise of art, "this day I was born

Let it not be thought, however, that Goethe's life at court was in any degree the life of a courtier. It was a life of universal activity, and of broad intercourse with men. With a princely family at its head, whose taste diffused a love of art and letters, while its active beneficence cherished the best affections of the people; with the two most illustrious of poets to give tone to its opinions, and provide its amusements; with the excellent Herder and kindred spirits, for its preachers and models of virtue; visited all the year by Richters, and Humboldts, and De Staëls, by the most eminent in rank, and science, and virtue, of all lands; the centre of thought and literary productiveness to cultivated Germany-it was just the sphere for his peculiar taste. Yet he was not confined to it. He often sought the refreshment of more rural scenes: now wandering away into the sublimities of Switzerland, and then again losing himself amid the beauties of Italy. Who, indeed, can estimate the influences upon his spirit of these far journeyings? The record of them is in his works-in those conceptions of the All-Fair, which, filling his soul, overflowed into his speech. What must Italy, for instance, always so enrapturing to the northern imagination, have been to the fancy of Goethe? A land of wonder, of magic, of glory. Its monuments of the highest that man has achieved in art; its statues, its pictures, its architecture, and its music, its waters and its skies-so early longed after, so passionately enjoyed, as the lover longs for his mistress, and dissolves in the soft ecstacy of her



Thus, in endless studies, in the freest interchanges of friendship, in the creation of immortal thoughts, in delicious visits to the most delicious climes, the years of Goethe's manhood passed away. For eight years and more he knew "no rest and no haste," like a star, keeping on its God-appointed way;" and when death came it met him busy with the pen-the implement at once of his pleasure and his power; and he sank, as a child sinks to sleep with the glow of the day's activity still on his cheek, looking forward to a morrow of hope and joy. "Let the light enter," were his last words, echoed back, let us hope, from a region where all is light.

Having seen the life of the man, let us next consider some of those works which were the fruits of it; and, what instantly strikes us, in regard to them, is their variety, in itself a proof of power, if not of merit. He wrote elegies, epigrams, ballads, songs, odes, satires, novels, biographies, translations, essays, tragedies, and books of science, and most of them with a peculiar and exquisite skill. His poems modulate through all the keys. His prose is the most graceful and transparent in German. His works of science, though partly superseded by more recent labors, are yet authorities in the closet. We read them all with delight, and, while we are reading them, think the one immediately before us the best of the whole. It is only on mature critical reflection that we learn to discriminate their comparative value. A few are then seen to be worthless, like Stella and his comedies generally; others again, like Clavigo, not superior to to the average of productions in that kind; but the greater part fix themselves in the memory as permanent and indestructible forms.

Assuming the Iliad to be the standard, the walk of art in which he was least eminent was the epic. His Achilleis, it is true, seems like a fragment of the old Grecian song, and only a fragment; for it has none of the breadth of outline, and intensity, and weight of interest, which give so much grandeur to the pages of Homer. Could we call

then, there is the Iphigenia-that state-
ly Grecian maiden translated into a
Christian clime-as severe in her beauty
as the creator of Antigone would have
chiseled her, and yet as lovely, and
tender, and sweet as the modern reli-
gion can render the soul of woman.
All these are inimitable pictures; but
our space, and a more important work
at hand, warn us not to dwell upon their
detailed graces.

Lewes's Life of Goethe.


the Hermann and Dorethea an epic, instead of an idyl, we should still have the same qualifications to make; for while it is perfect in its way, full of sweet pastoral simplicity and artless grace, breathing the odor of new-mown hay, and cheerful with the song of birds, its interest is scarcely more than individual or private. The dark burden of war gathers its gloomy folds transiently over the lovely scene; but soon rolls away into the distance, leaving the landscape as gentle as ever, and the men and children and cattle come forth to resume their labors in the glitter-, ing fields. Nor can we estimate the dramatic power of Goethe as highly as some have done; in which respect we His dramas agree with Mr. Lewes. are wonderful poems; but are rather dramatic in their external form than in inward principle. It is in considering them as poems, and not as dramas, that they impress most by their richness and variety. Their very names, when enumerated, recall, to the reader familiar with them, a series of the most beautiful images. There is old Goetz of Berlichingen-the burly robber-hero -"the iron-fisted self-helper"—with his robust earnestness, his heroic, tender affection, his violent, deep-rooted feudal hatreds-perishing at last, like the era of which he was & type-in a calm, almost voiceless, despair. There is Egmont, encircled by a mild splendor, like the glory which wreathed the head of his own Clärchen in the vision, walking though the distractions of a tumultuous, corrupt time, as the moon wades among the gathering night-clouds. Noble, famous, rich, glowing with purpose and hope, he is yet too wise or too weak for his age; he cannot yield and cannot conquer, and so exhales, from a troubled, weary environment, amid sweet dreams of love and glory, but to the sound of muffled drums. There is Tasso, in all his strength and weakness, surrounded by the splendors of a court and the applause of the world. yet pining in hopeless love, in morbid self-communings, lofty ideals alternating with miserable jealousies, and the tenderest, noblest of minds going out in darkness, till he seems like some grand ruin of his own Italy, lifting its masses of foliage into the crystal air and deepblue skies, when the sun retires behind the purple mountains and leaves it alone with the shadows and the stars. And,

The most original, grand, versatile, and altogether wonderful of Goethe's dramas, is unquestionably the Faust, Iliad and King Lear do in their kinds. which stands alone in its kind, as the We know of no poem in any language to the writing of which there was requisite a more various and exalted combination of faculties. Other poems may be more organically perfect, and demonstrate a larger possession of certain high faculties, but none a more general possession of several of the highest faculties. It is epic, tragic, and lyric, all at the same time-a complete story, and a development of character, minsong. Almost every feeling of the human breast is exgled with gushes of pressed in it, in every style of art. The grand, the pathetic, the thoughtful, the capricious, and the supernatural alternate through its mystic pages, as in a dream grotesque and scornful faces peer on us from the air; visions of baffled efforts, and wasted hopes, and broken hearts, break in among choirs of angelie voices, and men, and monsters, and seraphs, and the Supreme God, take part in the ever shifting play of faces. Wild as the drama is, howaver, tumultuous and many-voiced as are its sounds, from the harsh discords of devils' laughs. to the sweetest, tenderest human utterances, it is singularly true in its delineation of character. The personages, of the first part more especially, are real living beings, as much so as Macbeth or the Moor. Faust himself, with his far-reaching thoughts, and insatiate but baffled thirst for knowledge, is as near to the mind of every thinking man as ever was the generous, unhappy Hamlet. His early yearnings for truth, his weariness at the stale, flat, and unprofitable commonplaces of the world, his eagerness to love, his great wrestlings with evil, and his subsequent self-abandonment and woe, reach the depths of our hearts, and seem experiences that

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