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attracted to the society of the Moravians; but finding their piety irksome to him, and their morals too strict for his habits of life, he withdrew from them. “ It had become a standing custom with me, whenever I read missionary intelligence to Fraulein von Klettenberg, which she was very fond of hearing, to take the part of the pagans against the missionaries, and praise their old condition as preferable to their new one." He went through a special course of training, that he might school himself to bear, Without pain, unpleasant sights and sounds. He atfended surgical lectures, with the view, he says, of freeing himself “from all apprehension as to repulsive things. I have actually succeeded so far that nothing of this kind could ever put me out of-my self-possession. But I sought to steel myself, not only against these impressions of the senses, but also against the infections of the imagination. And in this also I went so far, that when a desire came over me once more to feel the pleasing shudder of youth, I could scarcely force it in any degree."? It will be seen, therefore, that his repression of nature did not grow out of a high moral purpose, but from the wish to avoid pain. He did not always repress what was evil in him, but often that which was good, and thus tried to give the evil unhindered
sway. It was not as a Christian, but as an epicurean, that he sought to regulate the law of spontaneous action. He had not the courage to carry out, on all sides, the doctrine which he puts into the mouth of Faust:
" The scope of all my powers henceforth be this, To bare my breast to every pang,
to know In my heart's core all human weal and woe,
1 Autobiography, Vol. II., p. 33.
2 Ibid., Vol. I., pp. 321, 322.
To grasp in thought the lofty and the deep,
It is greatly to be regretted that Goethe was little incon- not even more inconsistent with his theory than
we have now seen. If he had put down some of the impulses which he freely indulged, his life might not have been, in some of its aspects, the sad picture which it is. No respectable critic, however friendly to him, has attempted to justify his domestic and social life. Even Dr. Hedge, in his Prose Writers of Germany, says, “Unquestionably he was no saint. His wildest admirers have sought no place for him in the Christian calendar. In reading Goethe we do not feel, as when reading Dante or Milton, that we are conversing with a pure and lofty spirit.” His habit of trifling with maidenly but susceptible hearts was formed in early youth, and he defended the habit on purely subjective grounds, contending that the usages of society were artificial, and had no right to interfere with the action of nature. He refused all legal sanction to his marriage, except so far as might be necessary for the entailment of his name and wealth. His view of the position and rights of a wife are given where he says, “A wife should manage her household properly, and not censure every little fancy of her husband, but always depend on his return.” 1 It is certain that this large indulgence of husbands, which he thus recommends to every wife, he took for granted in his own.
Her life had but little acknowledged union with his. He was seldom seen with her in the company of other persons. Her sad life wore on in seclusion. Other “fancies " were continually leading him abroad; and into his house came the gay
1 Wilhelm Meister, p. 431,
and aspiring, almost .daily, to enjoy caresses which he denied to her. This manner of life caused Goethe no selfreproaches, for it grew logically out of his philosophical views. It was not wrong, but right, he would claim. It was the spirit of the universe coming to consciousness in him, and to let it act freely was obedience to the highest law. All the impulses of humanity are divine, was the major premise of his conduct; and he carried the reasoning out into his practice, in the direction now shown, even to old age. This appears in the story of Bettine, who came to Weimar while yet a child. Goethe's fame attracted her. She felt the spell of his intellectual greatness; to be his friend was the summit of her ambition. He saw to what her enthusiasm was carrying her, yet encouraged her love of his now superannuated person. He luxuriated in her affection for him, neither checking it nor seeking to elevate and chasten it, though it was wearing away the foundations of her moral nature. No sigh escaped him, but he smiled only the more blandly, while her brilliant but unschooled nature was breaking from its early moorings, and drifting far out from the lights of Christian faith, where the storm which no one rules beat down upon her. It was Mrs. Browning, with her pure woman's heart, who had pity on the young girl, loving so unwisely, and who, in her poem bewailing Bettine's fate, exclaims,
“ The bird thy childhood's playing
Without a leaf ! Art laying
Allowance to be made to art.
Its cold wing no sun can dry,
Still in thy bosom secretly." It is said that something should be pardoned, in Goethe's life, to his artistic spirit. His adven
tures were studies preparatory to the exercise of his literary function. He needed to experience all those human feelings which he would describe. He held the maxim of the ancient artist, who said that one cannot paint a horse without first becoming a horse. It would be a relief to know that some of Goethe's doings were for this object, and not simply for the gratification of his natural desires; that they were experienced only in sympathy, by the help of his imagination, though told as facts in his history. If we could grant this, then we should use it to explain what is noblest in his conduct as well as that which offends us. Thus his whole life becomes purely histrionic. When he is generous, when he gives to the poor and visits the wretched, just as when he trifles with the too confiding, he is not moved by a benevolent purpose, but is simply gathering material for the next story, play, or poem. He must become a suicide, in order to write Werther; must go into the woods, and live like a robber, in order to do the character of Goetz full justice; must become a stage-manager, and know actors and actresses intimately, in order to describe their rivalries, and jealousies, and quarrels. This artistic zeal made him partial to all the amusements of the theatre. He wroie many plays for the court-theatre at Weimar, and he aided in them as an actor, not only at home, but in the country around. The impression all along, in Wilhelm Meister, is that men may get their best schooling in the experiences of a theatrical career. Not in the sense of Shakespeare, but literally and seriously, he would have all the world a stage, and men and women merely players. Even though this be not the general rule, he at least is an artist, whose business is to paint life in all its phases; and what he would paint, he must somehow first make a part of himself. But we join issue with Goethe on this defini
The obligation. It is not the function of art, but of history tions of the and criticism, to deal with actual life. He who portrays life to us should discriminate between the bad and good; should make his representations honor the right always, and condemn whatsoever is wrong. Thus only is he a trustworthy teacher, gnarding us against evil, and begetting in us a love of what is pure, and true, and of good report. The ideal realm is that which belongs to art, and its moral purpose should be the same as that of criticism and history,,- the ennobling of our better nature. It is therefore bound to avoid all subjects which are low, vile, or degrading in their nature, and to give us only such representations as shall appeal to our upward and godlike tendencies. Here it was that Goethe sadly failed. He puts before his readers, painted in colors wholly sympathetic, scenes which stimulate what is most grovelling in human nature. To his deep dishonor it must be said, that he does not teach us to abhor the vices of society; he does not limit his studies to what is worthy of imitation in life; he does not take what is best in man, lift it up into the ideal realm, make it the material of his conceptions, and clothe it with especial charms, so as to draw us away from all that is vile and sinful, towards that life of pure and holy