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GOETHE AND HIS INFLUENCE.*
OETHE tells us in his Autobiography, that while
his mind was wandering about in search of a religious system, and thus passing over the intermediate areas between the various regions of theological belief, he met with a certain phenomenon which seemed to him to belong to none of them, and which he used to call therefore dæmonic influence. “ It was not divine, for it seemed unintellectual; nor human, for it was no result of understanding; nor diabolic, for it was of beneficent tendency; nor angelic, for you could often notice in it a certain mischievousness. It resembled chance, inasmuch as it demonstrated nothing; but was like providence, inasmuch as it showed symptoms of continuity. Everything which fetters human agency seemed to yield before it; it seemed to dispose arbitrarily of the necessary elements of our existence.” It is not always, says this great observer of life, “the first and best, either in moral nature or in abilities,” who possess this magnetic influence, and it is but rarely “that they recom
* “The Life and Works of Goethe : with Sketches of his Age and Contemporaries, from published and unpublished sources.” By G. H. Lewes. 2 vols. Nutt, 1855.
“ Freundschaftliche Briefe von Goethe und seiner Frau an Nicolaus Meyer, aus den Jahren 1800-1831." Leipzig, Hartung, 1856. (“Friendly Letters from Goethe and his Wife to Nicolas Meyer, between the years 1800 and 1831." Leipzig, 1856.) VOL. II.
mend themselves by goodness of heart; but a gigantic force goes out of them, and they exercise an incredible power over all creatures, nay, even over the elements themselves; and who can say how far this influence may reach? All moral forces united are powerless against them. The masses are fascinated by them. They are only to be conquered by the universe itself,” when they enter into conflict with it. Of course Goethe was thinking mainly of Napoleon, and men like him, as he afterwards told Eckermann, when he wrote this passage.
Such men put forth, he says, a power, “if not exactly opposite to, yet at least crossing, that of the general moral order of the world; so that the one might be regarded as the woof, the other as the warp.” He adds, that his life-long friend and patron, the Duke of Weimar, had this magnetic influence to such a degree that nobody could resist him, and no work of art ever failed in the poet's hands which the duke had suggested or approved. “He would have been enviable indeed if he could have possessed himself of my ideas and higher strivings; for when the dæmon forsook him, and only the human was left, he knew not how to set to work, and was much troubled at it. In Byron this element was probably very active, giving him such powers of fascination, especially with women." Eckermann, with his usual delightfully child-like simplicity, anxiously asks, “Has not Mephistopheles traits of this nature?” “No,” replies Goethe, “Mephistopheles is too negative a being. The dæmonic manifests itself in positive active power among | artists. It is found often in musicians, more rarely among painters. In Paganini it shows itself to a high degree, and it is by means of it that he produces such great effects." Of himself he says, “it does not lie in my nature, but I am subject to its influence;” by which Goethe probably meant modestly to disclaim having any personal fascination of this kind over other men, but to indicate, what we know