Page images
PDF
EPUB

Countess von Stolberg, or the recently published letters to Kestner and Charlotte, and compare their tone with the tone of the Autobiography, wherein the old man depicts the youth as the old man saw him, not as the youth felt and lived. The picture of youthful follies and youthful passions comes softened through the distant avenue of years. The turbulence of a youth of genius is not indeed quite forgotten, but it is hinted with stately reserve. Jupiter, serenely throned upon Olympus, forgets that he was once a rebel with the Titans.

When we come to know the real facts, we see that the Autobiography does not so much misstate as understate; we, who can read between the lines,' perceive that it errs more from want of sharpness of relief and precision of detail than from positive misrepresentation Controlled by contemporary evidence, it furnishes one great source for the story of the early years; and I greatly regret there is not more contemporary evidence to furnish more details.

For the later period, besides the mass of printed testimony in shape of Letters, Memoirs, Reminiscences, etc., I have endeavored to get at the truth by consulting those who lived under the same roof with him, those who lived in friendly intercourse with him, and those who have made his life and works a special study. I have sought to acquire and to reproduce a definite image of the living man, and not simply of the man as he appeared in all the reticences of print. For this purpose I have controlled and completed the testimonies of print by means of papers which have never seen the light, and papers which, in all probability, never will see the light -- by means of personal corroboration, and the many slight details which are gathered from far and wide when one is alive to every scrap of authentic information and can see its significance; and thus comparing testimony with testimony, completing what was learned yesterday by something learned to-day, not unfrequently helped to one passage by details furnished from half-a-dozen quarters, I have formed the conclusions which appear in this work. In this difficult, and sometimes delicate task, I hope it will be apparent that I have been guided solely by the desire to get at the truth, not having any cause to serve, any partisanship to mislead me, or personal connection to trammel my judgment. It will be seen that I neither deny, nor attempt to slur over, points which may tell against him. The man is too great and too good to forfeit our love, because on some points he may incur our blame.

Considerable space has been allotted to analyses

and criticisms of Goethe's works.

In the life of a

great Captain, much space is necessarily occupied by his campaigns. By these analyses I have tried to be of service to the student of German literature, as well as to those who do not read German; and throughout it will be seen that pains have not been spared to make the reader feel at home in this foreign land.

The scientific writings have been treated with what proportionately may seem great length; and this, partly because science filled a large portion of Goethe's life, partly because, even in Germany, there is nothing like a full exposition of his aims and achievements in this direction. Many readers will be interested in the subject : and it may be satisfactory to them to know that one of the most eminent scientific authorities in Europe has given his sanction to my exposition.

LONDON, OCTOBER, 1855.

« EelmineJätka »