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great orb of poetry is surrounded by a fantastic pomp of form and color. Nor, on the other hand, does he ever become a mere cold realist.' If he accumulates details it is not in the spirit of a Defoe, or for the mere pleasure of producing illusion-for the generalizing tendency, so far from being weak, is almost excessive in him; but because, like the inductive philosopher, he is eager for facts and desires to have the broadest basis for his conclusions.
This taste for facts is not only to be perceived in the minuteness of particular descriptions, but in the whole character of his plays, novels and poems, and it explains how they may often seem dull, and sometimes may really be So. Seriousness and dulness may easily in literature be mistaken for each other. What is uninteresting as fiction may be highly interesting when it is regarded as fact; and in Goethe's works much more is fact and much less is mere fiction than the reader is apt to assume. His most famous work, "Faust," is not that which is most characteristic of his genius. He there revels in quaint and audacious invention, quite contrary to the habit, contrary even to the cherished principles, of his mature life. The truth is that Faust," though it was finished and published late, is in its conception a youthful work. long disposed to regard the commencement he had early made as among the crudities which in his second period he had outgrown. For many years it lay untouched, and when, in the closing years of the eighteenth century, he turned once more to "these modern phantoms, as he calls them, it is with misgiving and repugnance. But a tide of medievalism set in, by which, in spite of himself, he was carried away, and the First Part of "Faust,'' published in 1808, was Goethe's concession to the romanticist fashion-a sort of opportunist abandonment of his mature convictions and return to an earlier style which he had deliberately renounced. Many misconceptions of Goethe have resulted from the habit of estimating him by this exceptional work. In his other works it is a general rule that they are founded in a remarkable degree upon fact. Götz' is a dramatized memoir, so is Clavigo.' 'Werther "
constructed by combining what had passed between Goethe and Lotte Buff with the circumstances of Jerusalem's suicide. Tasso" is a picture of Court-life at Weimar; and in the relations of Tasso to the Princess, we see a reflection of those of Goethe to Frau v. Stein. In Wilhelm Meister," it is known that the Confessions of a Beautiful Soul" are substantially the memoirs of Fräulein v. Klettenberg, to which Goethe has made some additions. Much of this novel also is autobiographical. In the first book there are many pages which might almost as well have appeared in "Dichtung und Wahrheit." The very name of the hero is explained when we find Goethe in his early period, and when his enthusiasm for Shakespeare was at its height, harping upon William as the name of his guardian genius. When When we find his songs, in like manner, suggested in almost every case by some real incident. and some real feeling, we begin to perceive that Goethe regards poetry and literature generally in a way peculiar to himself. He brings it into a much closer connexion than other writers with actual life and experience. We perceive the full force of his own statement, that all his works taken together made up a great confession. With this clew in their hands, the commentators have traced the origin of a vast number of incidents and characters which otherwise world have been held, as a matter of course, to have been invented by Goethe. Thus in the little play, "Die Geschwister," we meet again with the Frau v. Stein. The story of "Stella " has been traced to the circle of Jacobi. In Wilhelm Meister," numberless identifications have been made. The prince in whose honor the players perform the masque of Peace," is Prince Henry of Prussia, the pedantic count is Count Werther, the countess is the sister of Minister Stein, and so on without end. Such identifications are unimportant in themselves, but they throw light upon the working of Goethe's imagination. They show us in what a singular degree real life furnished him not only with material, but with inspiration. He has himself told us that his only way of getting rid of the experiences which pressed upon him, was to
put them in a book. Many poets set a wide gulf between the real world and the world of their imaginations; most, perhaps, receive from life one or two strong and fresh impressions, which they after ward mix with a large amount of traditional commonplace; few but regard reality as an influence more or less adverse, more or less disenchanting. To Goethe, reality is the sole source of poetry; in his works so much poetry, so much experience.
Only a very great genius can venture to be thus matter-of-fact, and the greatest genius will not always handle such a method successfully. He who habitually turns his own life into poetry, who lays before the public whatever has chanced to make a deep impression upon himself, will at times-especially when, like Goethe, he is not writing for a livelihood-write what cannot possibly be interesting to others; and Goethe has written many pages tiresomely precise, which no one, if they had been written by any ordinary writer, would care to read, and many more which, if not wholly unimportant, seem at least not important enough. More usually he is not in reality dull; but he is, in his prose writings at least, what those who read lightly and for mere amusement call dull. Such readers can make little, for instance of "Wilhelm Meister," a novel with few incidents and only one or two strongly-marked characters-"a menagerie of tame cattle," Niebuhr called it -but full of discussion, strangely labored and minute, on matters more or less practical. It is as uninteresting to most plain people as Wordsworth's Prelude, and much more prosaic. Goethe has not in this instance made a mistake; he has only given the rein to his realistic and serious genius. But the majority of inankind are not serious, and if they enjoy realism, it is not real ism of this kind. He aims at no illusion, and his minute descriptions are seldom humorous. He appears as philosophic realist, studying life that he may become wise, and describing it that he may make his readers wise. Alas, for ninety-nine out of every hundred of them!
If he had not once or twice, especially in Faust," had the good luck to light upon a fable interesting to all the world,
and so once or twice charmed, like Shakespeare, the many and the few at once, Goethe would have remained, at least outside Germany, a writer little known and only prized by a curious reader here and there. As it is, his universal fame brings into notice pieces. which have no superficial attractions, and makes men study closely other pieces which they would have passed over lightly. Once admitted as a classic, he reaps all the benefit of his seriousness. For his works bear examination if only they can attract it. Those who read them at all will read them over and over. Here is literature which nourishes; here are books which may become bosom friends. Here are high views put forward modestly, grand and large ideas which will not disappoint those who try to reduce them to practice; precepts which are not merely earnest, but, what is so much rarer, serious.
He makes his Tasso say of Clorinda, Armida, Tancred, and the rest, what sounds strangely when applied to them, 'I know they are immortal, for they are." (Ich weiss es, sie sind ewig, denn sie sind.) Of Goethe's own characters this might very fairly be said, and it is a remarkable saying. He, one of the great poetic creators, hardly believes in what is called the creative imagination at all. According to him, if a character is to be such as will bear examination, it must not be invented, but transferred from real life. The very play from which the maxim is taken illustrates it. Tasso at Ferrara is in reality Goethe at Weimar, not indeed Goethe as he was, for he had precisely the balance of character which Tasso wants, but as he was tempted to be, as he feared in the first years of his Court-life to become. How consistently in all his works he acted on the same maxim his commentators have shown, and those who assume to be his critics should be careful to remember. Perhaps Goethe does not impress us quite as Shakespeare does, whose plays are so full of latent thought, who reveals so much on close examination which is wholly unsuspected by the ordinary reader, that an experienced student of him gives up fault finding in despair. Goethe, on the other hand, seems quite capable of making mis-,
takes; still there is such a fund of reality and of actual fact in his so-called fiction that criticism of it may easily be rash. Thus Coleridge, in the curious passage which is his sole manifesto on the subject of the greatest writer of his age, finds fault with the character of Faust," which he calls dull and meaningless. It is indeed not quite easy to understand Faust," as it is not easy to understand "Hamlet. But Coleridge himself more earnestly than any one forbids us to lay the blame of the obscurity of Hamlet's character on Shakespeare. And there is at least a probability that Faust's character too will bear examination, because Faust is no mere imaginary being, but is in fact Goethe himself. If inconsistency has crept in, it is the consequence of a questionable practice which Goethe had of keeping his designs so long by him that his hand altered during the progress of the execution.
Goethe then is not in the same class as Scott, first, because he wants the rich fund of traditional sentiment which came to Scott by right of birth; secondly, because he has a much more abundant supply of what may be called new poetry that is, poetry derived at first hand from Nature, which is as a spring chillingly cold, yet so pure and refreshing! He is not like Scott, but rather like Wordsworth and Shakespeare compounded together. But before our conception of him can be complete, we must recognize another great quality that he possesses.
Goethe is a perfect Solomon for proverbs; they pour from him in floods. He has such an abundance of them to communicate, that he is often at a loss where to find room for them, and puts them recklessly into the mouths of personages who cannot reasonably be credited with such a rare talent for generalization-the practical Therese, the tender and unhappy Ottilie. The knack of coining pregnant sentences is so remarkable in him, that when we see it so strangely combined with a lyrical talent and a love of natural science, we are irresistibly reminded of the ancient description of Solomon, which says that he spake of trees, from the cedar which is in Lebanon to the hyssop which springeth out of the wall; also he spake
three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five." He is a sage as truly as he is a poet, and never, unless in Shakespeare, has such another combination of the generalizing with the imaginative faculty been witnessed. But when we examine his wisdom, we find that it is much more than a mere instinctive habit of observation combined with unrivalled power of expression. His sentences are not mere detached fragments, or momentary flashes, of insight. They are the coherent aphorisms of a sort of system of philosophy. He is not merely a sage, he is even a philosopher. His wisdom, though it is not presented in scholastic form, has unity about it, and is calculated to influence, nay, has deeply influenced, philosophic students. We have had, in recent times, several literary men, who, without being philosphers in the academic sense, yet claim to have something to say and to contribute something original to philosophic discussion. And the most specialized philosophers may well listen with respect, as Mill listens to Wordsworth, to men of exceptional sensibility, who see the universe in a light peculiar to themselves, even when such men are without learning, and cannot command the proper philosophic expression for their thoughts. Goethe looks at the discussions of the school from the outside, and regards them rather with derision than respect, as the readers of
Faust" do not need to be reminded. He continued through life to regard the new systems which sprang up around him with something of the same sceptical indifference which he had shown in youth to the Collegium Logicum. all the great philosophers, perhaps, only Spinoza produced much impression on him. Yet he is a philosopher in a higher degree than any other literary man, and has produced a deeper impression than any literary man upon thinkers and students. Though in the modern sense we hesitate to call him a philosopher, yet in the old sense, and in the highest sense of the name, few of the recognized philosophers have nearly so good a title to it as he. For to him philosophy is not merely a study, but a life; it is not summed up in thinking and classifying and constructing systems, but extends to all departments of
activity. And it would be difficult to name the philosopher who has devoted himself with more methodical seriousness than Goethe to the problem of leading, and then of teaching, the best and most desirable kind of life. He conceives the problem in its largest possible extent. From prudential maxims in the style of Johnson, he rises to more general precepts on the choice of a vocation, pouring out a fund of wisdom peculiarly his own on the mistakes men make about their own aptitudes; then he dwells more particularly on the life of the artist, a subject till then scarcely noticed by moralists, but treated by Goethe with the greatest comprehensiveness; then he rises to morality and religion. On all subjects alike he is serious; on all subjects perfectly unfettered. He has the advantage of a vast experience, for he has practised every art, tasted every literature, informed himself about every science, turning away only from quite abstract studies, mathematics, logic, and metaphysics; and beside all that can be acquired from study, society, and travel, he has managed a theatre and governed a small State. He has the coolness and shrewdness of the most practical men; but he has none of the narrowness, none of the hardness, to which practical men are liable. the contrary, he is full of tender sympathy, and he has also infinite goodhumor.
Had Goethe appeared as a thinker and philosopher only, he would have been similar to Bacon. Can we say that he would have been at all inferior? His observation extends over wider provinces of life; he is more honest, more kindly. His faculty of style is at least equally great. There is a certain similarity too in the scientific pretensions of the two men. Both professed to be discoverers, and the claims of both have been denied; but what seems clear is that both had a prophetic sense of the tendency of science, a profound and just instinct of new scientific developments at hand.
I do not speak here of what may be questionable in Goethe's speculations.
I do not raise the question whether his influence may not have been in some respects harmful. The question in this article is simply of the extent or magnitude of his influence.
What an imposing total do we arrive at if we add together all the qualities that have been enumerated ! The creator of the literature of his country, the author of the freshest lyrics, and one of the grandest dramas, the high-minded literary reformer, disdainful of popularity, who kept his works free from rhetorical falseness, the unrivalled critic and observer; this man is also the teacher, and at the same time the example, of a great system of practical philosophy.
Scarcely any man has been to any nation all that Goethe has been to Germany. When we think what he did, we are irresistibly led to inquire what he was. He, himself, in "Dichtung und Wahrheit," showed that the key to his writings is to be found in his biography. His countrymen have taken the hint with German docility, and followed it up with German industry. It has been said that the life of Louis XIV. might almost be written from day to day, and we begin to know Goethe's life with the same minuteness. The revelation certainly heightens our sense of his greatness. If we look merely at the fulness of his life, at the quantity of action, sensation and thought comprised in it, if we try merely to reckon up how much work he did, we are lost in amazement, and admire more than ever the rare quality, the freshness and exquisiteness of so much of that work. conception of Goethe is completed when we add to all the numerous and various excellencies shown in his writings, that in the man himself as he lived and moved, there was a spring of vitality so fresh
a heart as strong as a mountain river''), that the mere story of his life without any help from strange adventures, the mere narrative of his undertakings, travels, plans, conversations, loves and friendships, is fascinating.Contemporary Review.
THE ATTITUDE OF CARLYLE AND EMERSON TOWARD CHRISTIANITY. BY R. C. SEATON.
IN the November number of this Review the respective intellectual positions of Johnson and Carlyle were discussed, and it was shown that even those who reject the supernatural sanctions of Christianity are forced almost in their own despite to fall back for support on the fundamental moral conclusions of Christian theology.* It is proposed to indicate in this paper the attitude of Carlyle toward Christianity, and in doing so it may be useful to say something of another writer whose name is often joined with Carlyle's. I mean Emerson, who is sometimes-especially by those who talk as if an epigrammatic expression were a valid substitute for accurate thought-called an "American Carlyle. Now in one sense-in the broad sense that both these thinkers were opposed to the materialistic view of the universe-they do agree. this is so general an agreement as not to form a basis for comparison, and from every other point of view if their names. are to be brought together they should be contrasted and not compared. One cannot be adequately expressed in the terms of the other: Carlyle might as well be called a Scotch Emerson. In truth if it had not been for the fortunate visit of Emerson to Craigenputtock in 1833, before Carlyle's moroseness had become a habit, one may safely predict they would have found no mutual attraction. This, however, is not the place to draw out the contrast into details, more especially as Emerson has never exercised much influence on English thought, but rather to confine that contrast to one special point, that is the relations of both to historical Christianity.
from one point of view. It appeared to
The fiend that man harries
Even the greatest crime is evidence of the strength of the moral sentiment, else how could it be a crime? For
We envy not the beast that takes
His licence in the field of time, Unfettered by the sense of crime, To whom a conscience never wakes.
Hence Emerson looked forward to an indefinite advance in human society. Wordsworth," he says, writes of the delights of the boy in Nature: For never will come back the hour Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower.
But I have just seen a man, well knowing what he spoke of, who told me that the verse was not true for him; that his eyes opened as he grew older, and that every spring was more beautiful to him than the last.' Man must in the future rise to his former stature and recover his original brightness. Nothing less can be destined for such a being.
His tongue was framed to music,
And his hand was armed with skill,