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GOETHE'S LIFE AND WORKS.
FROM MY LIFE: POETRY AND TRUTH.
MUCH inconvenience as the intrusion of the French had caused us, yet we had grown so accustomed to it =that we could not but miss it, nor we = children fail to feel as if the nurse were dead. Moreover, it was not appointed that we should return to entire domestic unity. New lodgers were already agreed on; and after some sweeping and scouring, planing and waxing, painting and whitewashing, the house was completely arranged again. The Chancery director Moriz, with his family, very worthy friends of my parents, came into occupation. He was not a native of Frankfort, but an able lawyer and man of business, and conducted the legal affairs of many smaller princes, #counts, and noblemen. I had never seen him otherwise than cheerful, obliging, and diligent at his law-papers. His wife and children, gentle, quiet, and kind, certainly did not increase the society in our house, for they stayed by themselves; but a stillness, a peace had returned, which for a long 3 time we had not enjoyed. I now ocEcupied once more my garret-room, in which the ghosts of the many pictures sometimes hovered before me, which I tried to frighten away by work and study.
The counsellor of legation Moriz, a brother of the Chancery director, came frequently from henceforth to our house. He was even more a man of the world, of striking appearance, and with suitably pleasing manners. He, too, managed the affairs of different persons of rank; and on occasions of meetings of creditors and imperial commissioners, came often into contact with my father. Both hung much together, took commonly the part of the creditors; but found, to their vexation, that the greater number of the agents in such matters are usually gained over to the debtors. The Counsellor of Legation willingly imparted his acquirements, was fond of mathematics; and because NO. CCXCV. VOL. XLVII,
these had no place in his present mode of life, he procured himself a pleasure by helping me on in this study. Thus I was enabled to draw my architectural designs more accurately than before, and to profit more by the instruction of a drawing-master who also gave us daily an hour's lesson. This good old man was certainly but half an artist. We had to make strokes and put them together, from which eyes and noses, lips and ears, and finally, entire faces and heads, were to arise. But in this process there was no thought of the forms in nature or in art. We were long tormented with this quid pro quo of the human structure; and it was believed at last that we had made great progress, when the so-called Passions of Le Brun were given us to copy. But neither did these caricatures improve us. Then we wavered away into landscapes, foliage, and every thing that is practised, without consistency or method, in common teaching. At last we got into accurate imitation and neatness of strokes, and troubled ourselves no further about the merit or the taste of the original.
In this attempt my father led the way, that he might show it to us. He had never drawn ; but now, as his children pursued this art, he would not lag behind, but even in his old age would give them an example how they ought to proceed. He copied, therefore, some heads of Piazzetta, after his well-known plates in small octavo, and executed them with English black-lead on the finest Dutch paper. In these he not only preserved the greatest neatness of outline, but even imitated most accurately the hatching of the copperplate, with a light hand, only too slightly, as, from wishing to avoid hardness, he gave no gradation to his drawing. Yet they were all of them soft and accurate. His persevering unwearied labour proceeded so far, that he drew the whole of that large collection, number by number;
Goethe's Life and Works. No. IV.
head to another, and selected only
those which pleased us..
About this time, also, the project
which had been long under consideration for teaching us music, was exe. cuted; and assuredly the last decisive impulse to it deserves some notice. That we were to learn the harpsichord was determined; but there had always been a dispute as to the choice of a master. At last I went once by accident into the room of one of my companions who was taking a harpsichord lesson, and I found the teacher a most delightful man. For every finger of the right and left hand he had a nickname, by which he pointed it out most amusingly when it was to be used. The black and white keys were also figuratively named, and even the tones appeared under metaphorical titles. Such a various company worked most merrily together. Fingering and time appeared to be quite easy and obvious; and, while the scholar was animated into the pleasantest temper, every thing else succeeded admirably.
at once regularly to work; for I was always expecting that the former jokes sister with hopes from day to day. would be repeated, and consoled my
But still the jokes
came not, and I should never have been able to solve this riddle, if another accident had not explained it to me.
One of my companions came in, and all the pipes of the comic jet-d'eau opened at once. Then, like the queerlittle men, re-appeared at once the thumbkins and pointlings, the crawlers and hawlers, as he used to call the fingers; the fa-lets and ga-lets, his names for the notes ƒ and g, and fee-lets and gee-lets, for fis and gis. My young friend could not cease laughing, and rejoiced that so much could be learned so Pleasantly. He vowed that he would leave his parents no rest till they had given him so admirable a man for master.
Thus the way to two arts was early enough opened to me, according to the principles of a modern theory of education, by mere hap-azard, without any belief that natural talent could help me any further forward. My father maintained that every
One must learn
Scarcely had I reached home before I entreated my parents to be in earnest at last, to give us this incomparable to draw; and therefore held in particular man for master on the harpsichord. honour the Emperor Maximilian, who They still delayed a little, and made had made this an express command some enquiries, and heard nothing bad
cularly good. Meanwhile, I had re
peated to my
He also held me more
steadily to it
of the master, but also nothing parti- than to music, which, on the contrary, he recommended specially to my sister, names we could hardly wait for the her a good part of the day fixed to the
lesson, and succeeded in securing that the man should be employed.
The reading the notes began first; and as no jokes were introduced in this, we comforted ourselves with the hope that when we should reach the
more I wished
But the more I was this way excited to press on, the to press myself, and employed even my play-hours in ailanner of the strangest occupations.
From my ear
instrument, and have to deal with the liest days I had felt a love of enquiry
fingers, the hidden merriment would come to light. But neither the keys nor the fingering seemed to give occasion for any comparisons. The black and white keys remained as dry as the
into natural things. It
often thought cruelty, if Iong with obthis way and and devour
notes themselves, with their strokes them. But this may also be a mani
upon and between the five lines, and
festation of curiosity
Of the desire to
there was not a syllable said either of find out how such things hang to
thumbkin, or pointling, or gold-finger.
gether, and what is
The man's face changed as little in aspect. I remember that, when I was
his dry teaching as it had before changed in his dry jesting. My sister reproached me most bitterly for having deceived her, and believed that it had really been a mere invention of mine.
a child, I pulled flowers
to pieces, to xed into the birds, to ob
the wings. And, in fact, children But I was myself confounded and ought not to be ill thought of for this,
learned little, although the man went
as even naturalists beli
e they gain
knowledge oftener by separation and division, rather than by union and combination rather by killing than by making alive.
One day an armed loadstone, very prettily sewed up in scarlet cloth, became the object for this spirit of enquiry. For the secret attraction which it exercised, not merely on the iron rod connected with it, but which, moreover, was of such a kind that it increased, and daily became capable of bearing a greater weight-this mysterious virtue had so conquered my admiration, that I was long satisfied with mere amazement at its effects. But at last I conjectured that I should obtain some nearer explanation if I removed the outward covering. This was accomplished, but made me none the wiser, for the naked iron casing taught me nothing further; I removed this also, and held in my hands the mere stone, with which I made endless trials on filings and sewingneedles, which, however, yielded no further advantage to my boyish brain but that of a varied experience. I could not put together the mechanism again; the parts were scattered; and I lost the wondrous phenomenon, together with the apparatus.
I was not more fortunate in putting together an electrical machine. A friend of the family, whose youth had fallen in the time when electricity employed all minds, often told us how, as a boy, he had often wished to possess such a machine-how he had sought out the chief requisites, and, with the help of an old spinning-wheel and some medicine bottles, had produced tolerable results. As he gladly and frequently repeated this to us, and also gave us some general information as to electricity, we children thought the thing very plausible, and long tormented ourselves over an old spinning-wheel and some medicine bottles, without being able to produce even the smallest result. Nevertheless we kept fast our faith, and were much delighted when at the fair time, among other rarities, magical and juggling tricks, an electrical machine also performed its wonders, which, as well as the magnetic ones, were for that time already much multiplied.
The distrust of the public mode of instruction increased from day to day, People looked about for domestic tutors; and, because single families
could not incur the expense, several combined in order to secure their object. But the children seldom agreed; the young man had not sufficient authority; and, after frequently renewed vexations, the parties commonly separated in bitterness. No wonder, therefore, that people thought of making arrangements which might be at once more durable and more advantageous.
The thought of setting up boarding-schools had been suggested by the necessity felt by all for having the French language taught and communicated in living use. My father had brought up a young man in his house who had become his footman, valet, secretary, and in fine, successively all in all. This man, whose name was Pfeil, spoke French well, and understood it thoroughly. After he married, and his patrons had to think of some situation in life for him, they fell upon the project of making him set up a boarding-school, which extended gradually into a small academical institution, in which every thing needful, and at last even Greek and Latin, were taught. The widespread connexions of Frankfort brought young Frenchmen and Englishmen to this establishment, who were intrusted to it that they might learn German, and also be cultivated in other ways. Pfeil, who was a man in the prime of life, and of the most extraordinary energy and activity, governed the whole very laudably. As he never could have work enough, and was obliged to have music-masters for his pupils, he betook himself occasionally to music, and practised the harpsichord with such zeal, that, having never before touched a note, he very soon played readily and well. He seemed to have adopted my father's maxim, that nothing is more cheering and exciting to young people, than when, being already of mature years, one makes one's self again a learner, and at an age when it is hard to gain new accomplishments, yet by zeal and perseverance seeks to excel those who are younger, and have thus more natural facility.
By this taste for playing the harpsichord, Pfeil had his attention turned to the instruments themselves, and, hoping to obtain the best, got into correspondence with Friderici of Gera, whose work in this kind was
celebrated far and wide. He took a number of them on commission, and now had the pleasure of seeing displayed in his house, not some single piano, but many, and of hearing himself practise on all.
This man's activity excited also in our house a great deal of musical performance. Except as to some
points of difference, my father remained in lasting friendship with him. We, too, had a great piano of Friderici's bought for us, which I, preferring my harpsichord, hardly touched. It was the means, however, of increasing my sister's troubles, as, in order to do due honour to the new instrument, she was compelled to employ some hours more daily in practising on it; while my father as inspector, and Pfeil as example and animating friend, stood alternately beside her.
An odd fancy of my father's gave much discomfort to us children. It was the preparation of silk, of the advantage of which, if it were spread more extensively, he had a high conception. Some acquaintances in Hanau, where the worms were kept with great care, gave him the immediate impulsion. The eggs were sent to him from thence at the right time; and as soon as the mulberry-trees showed sufficient leaf, they were stripped, and the almost invisible animals were most sedulously attended to. Tables and frames were fixed up in a garret-room, that they might have more space and nourishment; for they grew fast, and after the last casting of the skin were so voracious, that it was hardly possible to give them leaves enough for their sustenance. They had even to be fed day and night, because all depends on their having no want of nourishment at the time when the great and wondrous change is to take place in them. If, indeed, the weather was favourable, this business might be considered a pleasant entertainment. But if it turned cold, so that the mulberry. trees suffered, there was great trouble. But it was still more unpleasant if rain fell during the last period-for these creatures cannot at all bear moisture, and therefore the wetted leaves had to be carefully wiped and dried, which could not always be quite accurately done; and from this, or perhaps from some other cause, many diseases broke out among the flock,
by which the poor things were swept away in thousands. The subsequent corruption produced a truly pestilential smell; and as it was necessary to remove the dead and dying from the healthy, in order to save only a few, the business was in truth extremely laborious and disgusting, and caused many an unhappy hour to us children.
After we had passed the finest weeks of the spring and summer of one year in attendance on the silkworms, we had to help my father in another business, which, although simpler, did not give us less trouble. The Roman views had hung for many years on the walls of the old house, stretched by a black rod at top and bottom, and by the light, dust, and smoke, had become very yellow, and been defaced not a little by the flies. If this dirtiness could not be permitted in the new house, yet, on the other hand, those representations had become more and more interesting to my father by his lengthening absence from the places themselves. For at first such views serve to refresh and enliven the impressions lately received. They appear trifling in comparison with these, and seldom more than a melancholy substitute. But as the recollection of the original forms fades more and more away, the copies insensibly occupy their place, and become as dear to us as those once were; and what we formerly despised, now gains our esteem and love. Thus is it with all delineations, and particularly with portraits. It is hard for any one to be satisfied with the resemblance of a present object; but how highly do we value every shadow of an absent, and espe cially of a deceased person.
In fine, with this feeling of his former prodigality, my father wished those engravings to be as far as possible restored. That this might be done by bleaching was well known; and this operation, which as to large plates is always critical, was now undertaken in rather unfavourable circumstances; for the large boards on which the smoke-stained engravings were damped and exposed to the sun, stood before the garret windows in the gutters, leaning against the roof, and were thus exposed to many accidents. The chief point was, that the paper was never to dry, but re
quired to be kept always damp. This was the duty of my sister and me; and the weariness and impatience which it caused, and the continual watchfulness, admitting no relaxation, made an extreme vexation of the idleness which we should otherwise have
so much enjoyed. The thing was nevertheless accomplished; and the bookbinder, who fixed each sheet on thick paper, did his best to re-unite and restore the margins which had here and there been torn by our negligence. All the sheets were collected into a volume, and were for this time saved.
That we children might not want variety of life and learning, an English language-master appeared just at this time, who engaged that within four weeks he would teach English to any one not quite new in acquiring languages, and advance him so far that, with a little labour, he would be able to go on by himself. He took a moderate honorarium, and was indifferent how many pupils took advantage at the same time of one of his lessons. My father immediately resolved to try the experiment; and agreed to take lessons with myself and my sister from the expeditious master. The appointed hours were faithfully kept, and we diligently went over the lessons by ourselves; and throughout the four weeks, we neglected some of our other studies rather than this. The teacher took leave of us and we of him with mutual satisfaction. As he remained afterwards in the town, and found many employers, he came now and then to see us, and help us, thankful that we had been among the first to place confidence in him, and proud that he could present us as examples to the others.
In consequence of this, my father had a new anxiety that English might be neatly fitted into the series of my other exercises in languages. Now, I acknowledge that it was always burdensome to me to take the ground work of my tasks now from one, now from another grammar or collection of examples; now from one, now from another author; and then with every hour to dissipate afresh my interest in my subject. The thought therefore occurred to me of carrying on the whole together; and I invented a romance of six or seven brothers and
sisters, who when separated from each other, and dispersed over the world, give each other alternately information of their position and feelings. The eldest brother gives an account in honest German of all the objects and occurrences of his journey. The sister, in a feminine style, with neat stops and short sentences, much as Siegwart was afterwards written, answers now him and now the other brothers, relating partly domestic events and partly affairs of the heart. One brother studies theology, and writes a very formal Latin, to which he often adds a Greek postscript. The English correspondence naturally fell to the share of a younger one, who was placed as a clerk at Hamburg; and the French was in the hands of one at Marseilles. A musician, on his first flight into the world, tock up the Italian; and the youngest, a kind of pert, unfledged booby, had betaken himself, the other languages being appropriated, to Jews' German; and by his horrible hieroglyphics threw the rest of his family into despair and mine into laughter at the joke.
I looked out for matter to suit this strange form of composition, by studying the geography of the countries in which my personages were placed, and by filling those dry localities with many kinds of human life, suited to the characters of my heroes, and to their various employments. My exercise books became, in this way, much more voluminous, my father was better satisfied, and I became sooner aware what knowledge and what kinds of dexterity I was deficient in.
Now, as such things, when once set a-going, have neither end nor limits, so it was in this case with me. For, in trying to master the queer Jew-German, and to write it as easily as I could read it, I soon found that I required to know Hebrew, from which alone the modern, corrupt, and distorted language can be drawn, and so handled with certainty. I therefore explained to my father the necessity of my learning Hebrew, and very eagerly pressed for his consent, having in this a higher aim. I heard it always said that, in order to understand the Old Testament as well as the New, the original languages were requisite. I could read the latter quite easily, because, that I might have practice even