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pher may think it safe to preserve, as he has obtained knowledge of them from authentic sources; no one can think, without pain, of a memoir, in which these or any similar great men should have brought to light the forgotten trifles of their boyhood, or the small gossip of their thoughtless days.
There is something like an exception to the justice of this remark in one class of society, in the older world. By the peculiar structure of their institutions, in consequence of which men are born to rank, wealth, and power, and from the days even of infancy are invested with a species of social importance, there are some men so placed in the world, ihat they seem to have no private life; they are always before the public. Like the kings and queens of France, they even take their meals before the world. They are never out of full costume; they are made up even for those occasions, when common men are not only glad to be let alone, but necessarily are let alone. In the case of these individuals, personal and private anecdote acquires an inportance. We love to read how Queen Elizabeth patted Lord Bacon on the head, when he was four years old, and called him her little lord-keeper. But Lord Bacon's father was lord-keeper too, and from the moment of the chancellor's birth he was surrounded by whatever was great, dignified, and honourable. But who could wish to read a self-biography of Sir Peter King (a man, who may perhaps be compared with Lord Bacon, at least as having like him sat in the chancellor's seat), in which he should tell us all about the times, when he stood behind his father's counter and sold groceries. There is nothing dishonourable in selling grocery; Heaven forbid; but we suppose one man weighs out a pound of Muscovado or breaks up a drum of figs, much as another; and whether it be Sir Peter King, or Neighbour Smallspice, there is no dignity in the action, nor is it worth being recorded.
Now it so happens that Göthe was born in respectable, but rather humble life. His youth was passed among companions not equal even to himself; among associates, few of whom had, at the time, any name, we will not say in the world, but even in the good city of Frankfort on the Main. Some of them, in fact, were exceeding sorry fellows; and were so esteemed by Göthe himself; and yet he takes us into their eircle, and iells us all about them, and relates all the pranks that he and they played together. This is a gratuitous sacrifice of dignity. If it were necessary to make a literary use
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of the knowledge of low life thus obtained, it could have been abundantly done in the form of a work of fiction, a German Gil Blas. But to make one's self the hero of his own Gil Blas is rather a hazardous experiment on the good nature of the world. Many of the most respectable English writers, Goldsmith and Johnson at least we may name, and Shakspeare unquestionably beyond all others,—owed the truth and accuracy of their sketches of low life to their having mingled in it themselves. In their moral essays or fictitious pictures, the display of this knowledge does not impair their dignity ; but who wishes to know more,—who is not sorry that he knows so much, -of Johnson rioting at midnight with Savage, in the streets of London ?
We shall not enter into an analysis of this work, which has been done repeatedly in the literary journals of the day. In what we have said of it, we have hinted at the worst. very entertaining and not uninstructive work. It contains a great deal of literary anecdote, criticism, and speculation. It will make the reader feel more at home with the great German writers, than any other book of the size which we could name to him. He will here see Klopstock, Wieland, Herder, and men like these, in a light, which, if he be not deep in the literary history of Germany for the last generation, will be new to him. As the commencement of Göthe's literary career, the only part of it comprehended in this work, was precisely at the period of the great literary fermentation in Germany, at which her peculiar literature was springing into being, the work will form in many respects, an important accession to the literary history of Europe.
The account given of those of Göthe's own productions which were composed in his youth, is particularly attractive. His Sorrows of Werter is the production, by which he was first, and is still chiefly known in England ; though only through the medium of a miserable English translation of a more miserable French one; unless a second has since appeared. The incidents of this sentimental romance were borrowed, to a considerable extent, from occurrences in real life, at the time that Göthe was a youthful practitioner of law at the imperial chamber of Wetzlar. He did not, however, confine himself to the train of events which actually took place; for while he furnished from himself several of the traits of Werter, various others, and the fatal catastrophe of the whole, were borrowed from the history of one of his youthful
co-practitioners at the court. The following is the description of the prominent personages of this far-famed romance, of which the exact title is “ The Sufferings of the Young Werther."*
Among the young men attached to the court, as a school of preparation for their official career, was one, whom we used to call, without ceremony, the Betrothed. He was distinguished for a quiet, steady deportment, clearness of views, precision of word and decd. His ever cheerful activity and unrelaxing diligence recommended him so effectually to his superiors, that they promised him early promotion; and this reasonable ground of hope had induced him to plight his faith to a young lady whose character afforded him the fairest hopes of a happy union. After her mother's death, this lady had undertaken the management of the family, and had consoled her father by the zeal and intelligence which she had displayed in her care of his numerous infant children-a happy omen for him on whom her hand was to be bestowed. He might fairly expect her to prove a good wife and mother. Nor was it necessary to be so particularly interested, in order to perceive that she was a person worthy of the affections of a man of merit. She was one of those who may not, perhaps, excite violent passions, but who please generally. A graceful form, a pleasing countenance, a pure heart, a sweet temper, a cheerful activity resulting from this happy disposition, an easy and exemplary method of performing the daily duties requisite in the care of a familyall these gifts were her portion. I had always observed such qualities with peculiar pleasure, and been fond of the society of women endowed with them. li I could find no opportunity of being useful to them, I at least shared with them, more willingly than with others of their sex, the innocent joys of youth, which every moment renews, and which may be procured without trouble and with so little expense. It is allowed that women indulge in dress only for the purpose of exciting envy in each other; and that in this rivalship, which frequently destroys their best qualities, they are indefatigable. Those, accordingly, appeared to me the most amiable, whose simple and modest toilette aims only at decency, and satisfies the lover-the intended husband—that they think of him alone, and that they can pass their lives happily without splendour or luxury.
Ladies who resemble her whose portrait I have sketched, are not the slaves of their occupations. They can find time for company, and can disengage their minds sufliciently to enjoy it. A suitable propriety of behaviour costs them no effort, and a little reading suffices to form their minds. Such was this amiable bride elect. Her intended husband, with the confidence natural to men of an honourble character, introduced to her, without hesitation, all whom he loved or esteemed. Entirely occupied in business during the greater part of the day, he was glad to see his mistress amuse herself with a walk or a little excursion into the country, with her friends of both sexes, after having completed her daily round of household cares. Charlotte-for this was she-was, in every respect, unpretending. She was rather inclined by her disposition to
* The name Werther is significant, and not unlike in import to St Preux
general benevolence than any determined preference; she considered herself, moreover, as consecrated to a man worthy to possess her, whose fate might, at any moment, be eternally united with hers. The air that surrounded her might be said to breathe serenity. It is a delightful sight to behold fathers and mothers devoting themselves wholly to their children; but it is something still more interesting to see a sister display a maternal affection towards her brothers and sisters. The former sentiment seems to be inspired by nature and habit; the latter has more the appearance of free will and generous sensibility.
As a new comer, free from all engagements, I felt myself in full security in the presence of a young lady whose hand was engaged. She could not interpret the marks of the most perfect devotion as attempts to attach her to me; and she was therefore free to accept them as disinterested proofs of affection and esteem. I neither wished to be, nor could be more than her friend, and hence I was the more easily enthralled. The youthful couple showed a sincere friendship for me, and treated me with perfect confidence. I, who had hitherto been idle and absent, like a man dissatisfied with his condition, now found all I wanted in a female friend, who, although her thoughts were constantly fixed on the future, knew how to abandon herself to the present moment. She took pleasure in my company; and it was not long before I found it impossible to exist out of hers. I had daily opportunities of seeing her: we might all be said to live together, and we became almost inseparable, at home and abroad. As soon as business left the lover at liberty, be flew to the presence of his mistress. Thus, without thinking of it, we all three accustomed ourselves to each other, and always found ourselves together, without having formed any plan for meeting. We lived together in this manner a whole summer, like the characters of a true German Idyl, the foundation of which was a fertile country, while a pure, lively, and sincere attachment formed its poetry. We took walks amidst rich harvests, moistened by the copious dew of the morning; we listened to the cheerful song of the lark, and the quail's shrill cry. If the heat became oppressive, or a storm overtook us, we never thought of separating; and the charm of an affection, equally constant and tender, easily dispelled any little domestic anxieties. Thus one day succeeded another, and all were holydays to us. Our whole calendar might have been printed in red letters. Whoever remembers the expressions of the happy and ill-fated lover of Julia will easily understand me. “Seated at the feet of my beloved, I shall peel hemp, and desire nothing further, this day, to-morrow, the day after-all my life.”
I must now introduce a person whose name will hereafter appear but too often; I mean Jerusalem, the son of the celebrated theologian. He held a place under the deputation. He was a middle-sized young man, but elegant, and of prepossessing appearance.
His face was almost a perfect oval; his features delicate and mild, as we usually see them in a handsome fair-haired man: his blue eyes were rather beautiful than expressive. His dress was that of Lower Germany, and imitative of the English costume. He wore a blue frock, a yellow leather waistcoat, and boots with brown tops. We never visited each other, but I often met bim in company. His manners were reserved, but amiable. He took an interest in the productions of the arts, and was fond of drawings or sketches representing the calm character of profound solitude. He
praised Gessner's engravings, and recommended the study of them. He seldom joined in social amusements, and was fond of living to himself and his own ideas. His attachment to the wife of one of his friends was talked of; but he was never seen in public with the object of his love. On the whole, people knew very little of his affairs, except that he devoted much time to the study of English literature. His father being rich, he did not take a very active part in business, or exert himself much to obtain an appointment.
Such, with a few verbal corrections of some errors in the translation, is the account of three of the personages from whom the leading characters in Werter were taken. A few years since Charlotte was living at Hanover, the mother of nine children. We ought perhaps to say one of the Charlottes; for Göthe informs us, in the present work, that he made a business to combine in the description of her person and character, traits which had fixed his admiration in various fair ladies of the day; and that as these were respectively recognised by their common friends, he was not a little annoyed by inquiries, which the real Charlotte was.
This work, as far as it can be called a biography, terminates, in the original, somewhat abruptly, with the third volume. A fourth has been published, as we observed, containing an account of the travels of Göthe in Italy, and possibly the series has been still farther continued. The work before us contains a translation only of the three first volumes. It is a translation apparently done by the job; and is not only full of errors in the meaning of words and construction of sentences, but is entirely destitute of the style and spirit of the original. With these great defects, however, it is valuable; and will be read with interest by all who feel a curiosity either in German literature in general, or the life of its Nestor. The volume is rendered considerably more useful by an Appendix, containing biographical notices of the principal persons named in it. This appendix appears to have been abstracted from a German Dictionary of authors of good authority, and though not very ample, either as to the number of articles it contains, or the amount of what is said of each, it will generally reward the English reader who may consult it. We close this article with an abstract of the life of Göthe, from the time when his own Memoirs stop, as it appears in the Postscript to the present volumé.
From Joerden's Lexicon of German Authors, it appears that our author spent in Frankfort the year 1775 as well as 1774, towards the end of which he has chosen to take leave of his readers. Except the