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from other conversations he really held to be true, that apparently arbitrary and quite inexplicable impulses had often exercised the most decisive and frequently fortunate influence on his own career. But it is quite clear that Goethe did possess in no common degree this capacity for, in a certain sense, fascinating men by his presence, as well as by his writings. If Byron had more of it as a man, Goethe succeeded in imparting far more of it to his works, and neither his life nor works can be properly judged without reference to its influence. It is something quite distinct from mere beauty, power, or general merit, either of personal character or of literary creation. It is a power which goes out from the individual man, and which can imprint itself only on such writings as carry with them the stamp of individual character; and not always even on those, if, as for example in the case of Byron's earlier works, the play of character is a good deal merged in some exaggerated mood of sentiment. It is not intensity: numbers of writers have surpassed Goethe in the intensity both of literary and personal characteristics. Schiller was a man of far keener and intenser, though narrower nature, and yet he could not help going into utter captivity to the calm and somewhat limply-constituted mind of his Weimar friend. It is not even in itself independence or strength of will ; for though Goethe had this in a remarkable degree, many others, as probably Schiller, possessed it in as high a degree, who were quite destitute of his fascinating talent. If it be expressible in one phrase at all (which it is not), it might be called presence of mind in combination with a keen knowledge of men ;-I mean that absolute and complete adequacy to every emergency which gave Napoleon his sang froid at the very turning-point of his great battles, and which in the literary world has secured for Johnson his Boswell, and for Goethe his Eckermann. Johnson, indeed, was immeasurably Goethe's inferior in the range of his
experience, and, what is of more importance, in his knowledge of man; but he was perhaps his superior in mere presence of mind, and hence was greater in conversation, but less in fascination. The Duke of Wellington had nearly as much presence of mind as Napoleon himself; but he had immeasurably less of the other element of fascination-instinctive knowledge of men, and knowledge how to use them.
Goethe is almost unrivalled in the literary world in the degree in which he combines these qualities. Shakespeare may have had them equally, but his dramas are too impersonal to tell us clearly what kind of individual influence he put forth. I should conjecture that his sympathy with men was too vivid to have enabled him to keep, as was the case with Goethe, a part of himself as a permanent reserveforce outside the actual field of action, and ready to turn the flank of any new emergency. Shakespeare can scarcely have been so uniformly able to detach himself, if he would, from the sympathies and passions of the moment as Goethe certainly was; for Goethe, like the little three-eyed girl (Dreiäuglein) in the German tale, had always an extra organ besides the eyes he slept and wept with, to take note of his own sleep and his own tears, and an extra will, subject to the command of the third eye, ready to rescue the ordinary will from the intricacies of human emotion. Shakespeare's knowledge of life was, I should think, less drawn from constant vigilance and presence of mind in the passing moment (to which I imagine him to have abandoned himself far more completely than Goethe), and more derived from the power of memory and imagination to reproduce past impressions. However this may be, Shakespeare has himself sketched less perhaps this cool presence of mind itself, than the effect which it produces on other men, in his picture of Octavius Cæsar. Cæsar's cool self-possessed eye for every emergency, and for the right use of human instruments, and its paralysing effect on Antony's more attaching and passionate character, is a striking example of what Goethe would have called the “dæmonic" element in human affairs—the element that fascinates men by at once standing out clear and quite independent of their support, and yet indicating the power to read them off, and detect for them their own needs and uses. There is always in this kind of magnetic power something repulsive at first; but if the repulsion be overcome, the attraction becomes stronger than ever; there is a resistance while the mind of the disciple is striving to keep its independence and conscious of the spell,-an intense devotion after he has once relinquished it, and consented to be a satellite. So the soothsayer tells Antony,
“ Thy demon, that's thy spirit which keeps thee, is
And Goethe, who had, as he says, himself experienced the force of this blind fascination in the Duke of Weimar's influence over him, as well as wielded it in no slight degree, tells Eckermann (himself a captive), “The higher a man stands, the more he is liable to this dæmonic influence; and he must take constant care that his guiding will be not diverted by it from the straight way. ... This is just the difficult point,- for our better nature stoutly to sustain itself, and yield to the dæmonic no more than is reasonable."
In Goethe himself this fascinating power existed as strongly as it is well possible to conceive in a man whose whole intellectual nature was of the sympathetic and contemplative, rather than of the practical cast,--who had no occasion to “use” men except as literary material,—and who, while he stood out independent of them, and could at
will shake off from his feet the dust of long association, yet felt with them as one who understood their nature and had entered into their experience. Goethe's sympathetic and genial insight into man would have been a pure embarrassment to a practical cold-tempered tool-seeker like Napoleon, who never deciphered men through sympathy, but always by an instinctive tact for detecting masterly and workmanlike instruments. And vice versa, the imperturbable self-possession and Napoleonic sangfroid of judgment that underlay in Goethe all storms of superficial emotion, was no little embarrassment to him in many of his literary moods. It prevented him, we think, from ever becoming a great dramatist. He could never lose himself sufficiently in his creations: yet it was emphatically this which gave that peculiar and undefinable fascination to those minutely-accurate observations on life with which all his later prose works and his conversations are so thickly studded. You can clearly see that men of strong nature did not submit to Goethe's magnetic influence without a struggle. Schiller, at first intensely repelled from him, was only gradually subdued, though thoroughly
and strangely magnetised into idolatry by personal con( verse. Herder's keen and caustic nature vibrated to the
end between the intense repulsion he felt for Goethe's completely unmoral genius,—the poet's impartial sympathy for good and evil alike,—and the irresistible attraction which his personal influence exerted. Only those could thoroughly cling to Goethe from the first who were not conscious of having any strong intellectual independence to maintain. Women, who love nothing so much as a completely independent self-sustained nature, especially if joined with thorough insight into themselves, were fascinated at once. Wieland, who had no intellectual ground to fight for, surrendered without terms. man of eminent ability and a different school of thought
seemed to approach him without some sense that, if exposed constantly to his immediate influence, he had to choose between fascination and aversion. Hence his very few intimate male friends : scarcely any man, at all able to enter into his mind and share his deeper interests, was likely to be found who could go so completely into captivity to his modes of thought; and, tolerant as he was, the centrifugal force of his mind threw off, to a certain respectful distance, all that the attractive force was not able to appropriate as part of itself.
There has been a very similar effect produced by his writings on those even who did not know the man. Novalis fluttered round them, repeatedly expressing his aversion, like a moth round a candle. They invariably repel, at first, English readers with English views of life and duty. As the characteristic atmosphere of the man distils into your life, you find the magnetic force coming strongly over you ;-you are as a man mesmerised ;-you feel his calm independence of so much on which you helplessly lean, combined with his thorough insight into that desire of yours to lean, drawing you irresistibly towards the invi- , sible intellectual centre at which such independent strength and such genial breadth of thought was possible. And yet you feel that you would be in many and various ways lowered in your own eyes if you could think completely as he thought and act as he acted. It becomes a difficult problem, in the presence of so much genius, and beneath so fascinating an eye, “ for our better nature stoutly to sustain itself and yield to the dæmonic no more than is reasonable.”
Let me attempt to contribute to the solution of this difficulty by some account and criticism of Goethe's life and genius in connection with that personal character which so subtly penetrates all he has written. Carlyle mistook completely when he said that Goethe, like Shakespeare, leaves little trace of himself in his creations. To a