Now that I am again speaking of painting, I am reminded of a large establishment, where I passed much time, because both it and its managers especially attracted me. It was the great oil-cloth factory which the painter Nothnagel had erected,—an expert artist, but one who by his mode of thought inclined more to manufacture than to art. In a very large space of courts and gardens, all sorts of oil-cloths were made, from the coarsest, that are spread with a trowel, and used for baggage-wagons and similar purposes, and the carpets impressed with figures, to the finer and the finest, on which sometimes Chinese and grotesque, sometimes natural flowers, sometimes figures, sometimes landscapes, were represented by the pencils of accomplished workmen. This multiplicity, to which there was no end, amused me vastly. The occupation of so many men, from the commonest labor to that in which a certain artistic worth could not be denied, was to me extremely attractive. I made the acquaintance of this multitude of younger and older men, working in several rooms one behind the other, and occasionally lent a hand myself. The sale of these commodities was extraordinarily brisk. Whoever at that time was building or furnishing a house, wished to provide for his lifetime; and this oil-cloth carpeting was certainly quite indestructible. Nothnagel had enough to do in managing the whole, and sat in his office surrounded by factors and clerks. The remainder of his time he employed in his collection of works of art, consisting chiefly of engravings, in which, as well as in the pictures he possessed, he traded occasionally. At the same time he had acquired a taste for etching: he etched a variety of plates, and prosecuted this branch of art even into his latest years.
As his dwelling lay near the Eschenheim gate, my way when I had visited him led me out of the city to some pieces of ground which my father owned beyond the gates. One was a large orchard, the soil of which was used as a meadow, and in which my father carefully attended the transplanting of trees, and whatever else pertained to their preservation; though the ground itself was leased. Still more occupation was furnished by a very well-preserved vineyard beyond the Friedberg gate, where, between the rows of vines, rows of asparagus were planted and tended with great care. Scarcely a day passed in the fine season in which my father did not go there; and as on these occasions we might generally accompany him, we were provided with joy and delight from the earliest productions of spring to the last of autumn. We now also acquired a knowledge of gardening matters, which, as they were repeated every year, became in the end perfectly known and familiar to us. But, after the manifold fruits of summer and autumn, the vintage at last was the most lively and the most desirable; nay, there is no question, that as wine gives a freer character to the very places and districts where it is grown and drunk, so also do these vintage-days, while they close summer and at the same time open the winter, diffuse an incredible cheerfulness. Joy and jubilation pervade a whole district. In the daytime, huzzas and shoutings are heard from every end and corner; and at night rockets and fire-balls, now here, now there, announce that the people, everywhere awake and lively, would willingly make this festival last as long as possible. The subsequent labor at the wine-press, and during the fermentation in the cellar, gave us also a cheerful employment at home; and thus we ordinarily reached winter without being properly aware of it.
These rural possessions delighted us so much the more in the spring of 1763, as the 15th of February in that year was celebrated as a festival day, on account of the conclusion of the Hubertsberg peace, under the happy results of which the greater part of my life was to flow away. But, before I go farther, I think I am bound to mention some men who exerted an important influence on my youth.
Von Olenschlager, a member of the Frauenstein family, a Schoeff, and son- in-law of the above-mentioned Dr. Orth, a handsome, comfortable, sanguine man. In his official holiday costume he could well have personated the most important French prelate. After his academical course, he had employed himself in political and state affairs, and directed even his travels to that end. He greatly esteemed me, and often conversed with me on matters which chiefly interested him. I was with him when he wrote his "Illustration of the Golden Bull," when he managed to explain to me very clearly the worth and dignity of that document. My imagination was led back by it to those wild and unquiet times; so that I could not forbear representing what he related historically, as if it were present, by pictures of characters and circumstances, and often by mimicry. In this he took great delight, and by his applause excited me to repetition.
I had from childhood the singular habit of always learning by heart the beginnings of books, and the divisions of a work, first of the five books of Moses, and then of the "Aeneid" and Ovid's "Metamorphoses." I now did the same thing with the "Golden Bull," and often provoked my patron to a smile, when I quite seriously and unexpectedly exclaimed, "/Omne regnum in se divisum desolabitur; nam principes ejus facti sunt socii furum./" [Footnote: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, for the princes thereof have become the associates of robbers.—TRANS.] The knowing man shook his head, smiling, and said doubtingly, "What times those must have been, when, at a grand diet, the emperor had such words published in the face of his princes!"
There was a great charm in Von Olenschlager's society. He received little company, but was strongly inclined to intellectual amusement, and induced us young people from time to time to perform a play; for such exercises were deemed particularly useful to the young. We acted "Canute" by Schlegel, in which the part of the king was assigned to me, Elfrida to my sister, and Ulfo to the younger son of the family. We then ventured on the "Britannicus;" [Footnote: Racine's tragedy.—TRANS.] for, besides our dramatic talents, we were to bring the language into practice. I took Nero, my sister Agrippina, and the younger son Britannicus. We were more praised than we deserved, and fancied we had done it even beyond the amount of praise. Thus I stood on the best terms with this family, and have been indebted to them for many pleasures and a speedier development.
Von Reineck, of an old patrician family, able, honest, but stubborn, a meagre, swarthy man, whom I never saw smile. The misfortune befell him that his only daughter was carried off by a friend of the family. He pursued his son-in-law with the most vehement prosecution: and because the tribunals, with their formality, were neither speedy nor sharp enough to gratify his desire of vengeance, he fell out with them; and there arose quarrel after quarrel, suit after suit. He retired completely into his own house and its adjacent garden, lived in a spacious but melancholy lower room, into which for many years no brush of a whitewasher, and perhaps scarcely the broom of a maid-servant, had found its way. He was very fond of me, and had especially commended to me his younger son. He many times asked his oldest friends, who knew how to humor him, his men of business and agents, to dine with him, and on these occasions never omitted inviting me. There was good eating and better drinking at his house. But a large stove, that let out the smoke from many cracks, caused his guests the greatest pain. One of the most intimate of these once ventured to remark upon this, by asking the host whether he could put up with such an inconvenience all the winter. He answered, like a second Timon or Heautontimoroumenos, "Would to God this was the greatest evil of those which torment me!" It was long before he allowed himself to be persuaded to see his daughter and grandson. The son-in-law never again dared to come into his presence.
On this excellent but unfortunate man my visits had a very favorable effect; for while he liked to converse with me, and particularly instructed me on world and state affairs, he seemed to feel himself relieved and cheered. The few old friends who still gathered round him, often, therefore, made use of me when they wished to soften his peevish humor, and persuade him to any diversion. He now really rode out with us many times, and again contemplated the country, on which he had not cast an eye for so many years. He called to mind the old landowners, and told stories of their characters and actions, in which he showed himself always severe, but often cheerful and witty. We now tried also to bring him again among other men, which, however, nearly turned out badly.
About the same age, if indeed not older, was one Herr Von Malapert, a rich man, who possessed a very handsome house by the horse-market, and derived a good income from salt-pits. He also lived quite secluded; but in summer he was a great deal in his garden, near the Bockenheim gate, where he watched and tended a very fine plot of pinks.
Von Reineck was likewise an amateur of pinks: the season of flowering had come, and suggestions were made as to whether these two could not visit each other. We introduced the matter, and persisted in it; till at last Von Reineck resolved to go out with us one Sunday afternoon. The greeting of the two old gentlemen was very laconic, indeed almost pantomimic; and they walked up and down by the long pink frames with true diplomatic strides. The display was really extraordinarily beautiful: and the particular forms and colors of the different flowers, the advantages of one over the other, and their rarity, gave at last occasion to a sort of conversation which appeared to get quite friendly; at which we others rejoiced the more because we saw the most precious old Rhine wine in cut decanters, fine fruits, and other good things spread upon a table in a neighboring bower. But these, alas! we were not to enjoy. For Von Reineck unfortunately saw a very fine pink with its head somewhat hanging down: he therefore took the stalk near the calyx very cautiously between his fore and middle fingers, and lifted the flower so that he could well inspect it. But even this gentle handling vexed the owner. Von Malapert courteously, indeed, but stiffly enough, and somewhat self-complacently, reminded him of the /Oculis, non manibus/.[Footnote: Eyes, not hands.—TRANS.] Von Reineck had already let go the flower, but at once took fire at the words, and said in his usual dry, serious manner, that it was quite consistent with an amateur to touch and examine them in such a manner. Whereupon he repeated the act, and took the flower again between his fingers. The friends of both parties—for Von Malapert also had one present—were now in the greatest perplexity. They set one hare to catch another (that was our proverbial expression, when a conversation was to be interrupted, and turned to another subject), but it would not do; the old gentleman had become quite silent: and we feared every moment that Von Reineck would repeat the act, when it would be all over with us. The two friends kept their principals apart by occupying them, now here, now there, and at last we found it most expedient to make preparation for departure. Thus, alas! we were forced to turn our backs on the inviting side-board, yet unenjoyed.
Hofrath Huesgen, not born in Frankfort, of the Reformed [Footnote: That is to say, he was a Calvinist, as distinguished from a Lutheran.— TRANS.] religion, and therefore incapable of public office, including the profession of advocate, which, however, because much confidence was placed in him as an excellent jurist, he managed to exercise quietly, both in the Frankfort and the imperial courts, under assumed signatures, was already sixty years old when I took writing-lessons with his son, and so came into his house. His figure was tall without being thin, and broad without corpulency. You could not look, for the first time, on his face, which was not only disfigured by small-pox, but deprived of an eye, without apprehension. He always wore on his bald head a perfectly white bell-shaped cap, tied at the top with a ribbon. His morning-gowns, of calamanco or damask, were always very clean. He dwelt in a very cheerful suite of rooms on the ground-floor by the /Allee/, and the neatness of every thing about him corresponded with this cheerfulness. The perfect arrangement of his papers, books, and maps produced a favorable impression. His son, Heinrich Sebastian, afterwards known by various writings on art, gave little promise in his youth. Good-natured but dull, not rude but blunt, and without any special liking for instruction, he rather sought to avoid the presence of his father, as he could get all he wanted from his mother. I, on the other hand, grew more and more intimate with the old man, the more I knew of him. As he attended only to important cases, he had time enough to occupy and amuse himself in another manner. I had not long frequented his house, and heard his doctrines, before I could well perceive that he stood in opposition to God and the world. One of his favorite books was "Agrippa de Vanitate Scientiarum," which he especially commended to me, and so set my young brains in a considerable whirl for a long time. In the happiness of youth I was inclined to a sort of optimism, and had again pretty well reconciled myself with God or the gods; for the experience of a series of years had taught me that there was much to counterbalance evil, that one can well recover from misfortune, and that one may be saved from dangers and need not always break one's neck. I looked with tolerance, too, on what men did and pursued, and found many things worthy of praise which my old gentleman could not by any means abide. Indeed, once when he had sketched the world to me, rather from the distorted side, I observed from his appearance that he meant to close the game with an important trump-card. He shut tight his blind left eye, as he was wont to do in such cases, looked sharp out of the other, and said in a nasal voice, "Even in God I discover defects."
My Timonic mentor was also a mathematician; but his practical turn drove him to mechanics, though he did not work himself. A clock, wonderful indeed in those days, which indicated, not only the days and hours, but the motions of the sun and moon, he caused to be made according to his own plan. On Sunday, about ten o'clock in the morning, he always wound it up himself; which he could do the more regularly, as he never went to church. I never saw company nor guests at his house; and only twice in ten years do I remember to have seen him dressed, and walking out of doors.
My various conversations with these men were not insignificant, and each of them influenced me in his own way. From every one I had as much attention as his own children, if not more; and each strove to increase his delight in me as in a beloved son, while he aspired to mould me into his moral counterpart. Olenschlager would have made me a courtier, Von Reineck a diplomatic man of business: both, the latter particularly, sought to disgust me with poetry and authorship. Huisgen wished me to be a Timon after his fashion, but, at the same time, an able jurisconsult, —a necessary profession, as he thought, with which one could, in a regular manner, defend one's self and friends against the rabble of mankind, succor the oppressed, and, above all, pay off a rogue; though the last is neither especially practicable nor advisable.
But if I liked to be at the side of these men to profit by their counsels and directions, younger persons, only a little older than myself, roused me to immediate emulation. I name here, before all others, the brothers Schlosser and Griesbach. But as, subsequently, there arose between us greater intimacy, which lasted for many years uninterruptedly, I will only say, for the present, that they were then praised as being distinguished in languages, and other studies which opened the academical course, and held up as models, and that everybody cherished the certain expectation that they would once do something uncommon in church and state.
With respect to myself, I also had it in my mind to produce something extraordinary; but in what it was to consist was not clear. But as we are apt to look rather to the reward which may be received than to the merit which is to be acquired; so, I do not deny, that if I thought of a desirable piece of good fortune, it appeared to me most fascinating in the shape of that laurel garland which is woven to adorn the poet.
Every bird has its decoy, and every man is led and misled in a way peculiar to himself. Nature, education, circumstances, and habit kept me apart from all that was rude; and though I often came into contact with the lower classes of people, particularly mechanics, no close connection grew out of it. I had indeed boldness enough to undertake something uncommon and perhaps dangerous, and many times felt disposed to do so; but I was without the handle by which to grasp and hold it.
Meanwhile I was quite unexpectedly involved in an affair which brought me near to a great hazard, and at least for a long time into perplexity and distress. The good terms on which I before stood with the boy whom I have already named Pylades was maintained up to the time of my youth. We indeed saw each other less often, because our parents did not stand on the best footing with each other; but, when we did meet, the old raptures of friendship broke out immediately. Once we met in the alleys which offer a very agreeable walk between the outer and inner gate of Saint Gallus. We had scarcely returned greetings when he said to me, "I hold to the same opinion as ever about your verses. Those which you recently communicated to me, I read aloud to some pleasant companions; and not one of them will believe that you have made them."—"Let it pass," I answered: "we will make and enjoy them, and the others may think and say of them what they please."
"There comes the unbeliever now," added my friend. "We will not speak of it," I replied: "what is the use of it? one cannot convert them."—"By no means," said my friend: "I cannot let the affair pass off in this way."
After a short, insignificant conversation, my young comrade, who was but too well disposed towards me, could not suffer the matter to drop, without saying to the other, with some resentment, "Here is my friend who made those pretty verses, for which you will not give him credit!"— "He will certainly not take it amiss," answered the other; "for we do him an honor when we suppose that more learning is required to make such verses than one of his years can possess." I replied with something indifferent; but my friend continued, "It will not cost much labor to convince you. Give him any theme, and he will make you a poem on the spot." I assented; we were agreed; and the other asked me whether I would venture to compose a pretty love-letter in rhyme, which a modest young woman might be supposed to write to a young man, to declare her inclination. "Nothing is easier than that," I answered, "if I only had writing materials." He pulled out his pocket almanac, in which there were a great many blank leaves; and I sat down upon a bench to write. They walked about in the mean while, but always kept me in sight. I immediately brought the required situation before my mind, and thought how agreeable it must be if some pretty girl were really attached to me, and would reveal her sentiments to me, either in prose or verse. I therefore began my declaration with delight, and in a little while executed it in a flowing measure, between doggerel and madrigal, with the greatest possible /naivete/, and in such a way that the sceptic was overcome with admiration, and my friend with delight. The request of the former to possess the poem I could the less refuse, as it was written in his almanac; and I liked to see the documentary evidence of my capabilities in his hands. He departed with many assurances of admiration and respect, and wished for nothing more than that we should often meet; so we settled soon to go together into the country.
Our excursion actually took place, and was joined by several more young people of the same rank. They were men of the middle, or, if you please, of the lower, class, who were not wanting in brains, and who, moreover, as they had gone through school, were possessed of various knowledge and a certain degree of culture. In a large, rich city, there are many modes of gaining a livelihood. These eked out a living by copying for the lawyers, and by advancing the children of the lower order more than is usual in common schools. With grown-up children, who were about to be confirmed, they went through the religious courses; then, again, they assisted factors and merchants in some way, and were thus enabled to enjoy themselves frugally in the evenings, and particularly on Sundays and festivals.
On the way there, while they highly extolled my love-letter, they confessed to me that they had made a very merry use of it; viz., that it had been copied in a feigned hand, and, with a few pertinent allusions, had been sent to a conceited young man, who was now firmly persuaded that a lady to whom he had paid distant court was excessively enamored of him, and sought an opportunity for closer acquaintance. They at the same time told me in confidence, that he desired nothing more now than to be able to answer her in verse; but that neither he nor they were skilful enough, so that they earnestly solicited me to compose the much- desired reply.
Mystifications are and will continue to be an amusement for idle people, whether more or less ingenious. A venial wickedness, a self-complacent malice, is an enjoyment for those who have neither resources in themselves nor a wholesome external activity. No age is quite exempt from such pruriences. We had often tricked each other in our childish years: many sports turn upon mystification and trick. The present jest did not seem to me to go farther: I gave my consent. They imparted to me many particulars which the letter ought to contain, and we brought it home already finished.
A little while afterwards I was urgently invited, through my friend, to take part in one of the evening-feasts of that society. The lover, he said, was willing to bear the expense on this occasion, and desired expressly to thank the friend who had shown himself so excellent a poetical secretary.
We came together late enough, the meal was most frugal, the wine drinkable; while, as for the conversation, it turned almost entirely on jokes upon the young man, who was present, and certainly not very bright, and who, after repeated readings of the letter, almost believed that he had written it himself.
My natural good nature would not allow me to take much pleasure in such a malicious deception, and the repetition of the same subject soon disgusted me. I should certainly have passed a tedious evening, if an unexpected apparition had not revived me. On our arrival we found the table already neatly and orderly set, and sufficient wine served on it: we sat down and remained alone, without requiring further service. As there was, however, a scarcity of wine at last, one of them called for the maid; but, instead of the maid, there came in a girl of uncommon, and, when one saw her with all around her, of incredible, beauty. "What do you desire?" she asked, after having cordially wished us a good- evening: "the maid is ill in bed. Can I serve you?"—"The wine is out," said one: "if you would fetch us a few bottles, it would be very kind."— "Do it, Gretchen," [Footnote: The diminutive of Margaret.—TRANS.] said another: "it is but a cat's leap from here."—"Why not?" she answered; and, taking a few empty bottles from the table, she hastened out. Her form, as seen from behind, was almost more elegant. The little cap sat so neatly upon her little head, which a slender throat united very gracefully to her neck and shoulders. Every thing about her seemed choice; and one could survey her whole form the more at ease, as one's attention was no more exclusively attracted and fettered by the quiet, honest eyes and lovely mouth. I reproved my comrades for sending the girl out alone at night, but they only laughed at me; and I was soon consoled by her return, as the publican lived only just across the way. "Sit down with us, in return," said one. She did so; but, alas! she did not come near me. She drank a glass to our health, and speedily departed, advising us not to stay very long together, and not to be so noisy, as her mother was just going to bed. It was not, however, her own mother, but the mother of our hosts.
The form of that girl followed me from that moment on every path; it was the first durable impression which a female being had made upon me: and as I could find no pretext to see her at home, and would not seek one, I went to church for love of her, and had soon traced out where she sat. Thus, during the long Protestant service, I gazed my fill at her. When the congregation left the church, I did not venture to accost her, much less to accompany her, and was perfectly delighted if she seemed to have remarked me and to have returned my greeting with a nod. Yet I was not long denied the happiness of approaching her. They had persuaded the lover, whose poetical secretary I had been, that the letter written in his name had been actually despatched to the lady, and had strained to the utmost his expectations that an answer must come soon. This, also, I was to write; and the waggish company entreated me earnestly, through Pylades, to exert all my wit and employ all my art, in order that this piece might be quite elegant and perfect.
In the hope of again seeing my beauty, I immediately set to work, and thought of every thing that would be in the highest degree pleasing if Gretchen were writing it to me. I thought I had composed every thing so completely according to her form, her nature, her manner, and her mind, that I could not refrain from wishing that it were so in reality, and lost myself in rapture at the mere thought that something similar could be sent from her to me. Thus I mystified myself, while I intended to impose upon another; and much joy and much trouble was yet to arise out of the affair. When I was once more summoned, I had finished, promised to come, and did not fail at the appointed hour. There was only one of the young people at home; Gretchen sat at the window spinning; the mother was going to and fro. The young man desired that I should read it over to him: I did so, and read, not without emotion, as I glanced over the paper at the beautiful girl; and when I fancied that I remarked a certain uneasiness in her deportment, and a gentle flush on her cheeks, I uttered better and with more animation that which I wished to hear from herself. The lover, who had often interrupted me with commendations, at last entreated me to make some alterations. These affected some passages which indeed were rather suited to the condition of Gretchen than to that of the lady, who was of a good family, wealthy, and known and respected in the city. After the young man had designated the desired changes, and had brought me an inkstand, but had taken leave for a short time on account of some business, I remained sitting on the bench against the wall, behind the large table, and essayed the alterations that were to be made, on the large slate, which almost covered the whole table, with a pencil that always lay in the window; because upon this slate reckonings were often made, and various memoranda noted down, and those coming in or going out even communicated with each other.
I had for a while written different things and rubbed them out again, when I exclaimed impatiently, "It will not do!"—"So much the better," said the dear girl in a grave tone: "I wished that it might not do! You should not meddle in such matters." She arose from the distaff, and, stepping towards the table, gave me a severe lecture, with a great deal of good sense and kindliness. "The thing seems an innocent jest: it is a jest, but it is not innocent. I have already lived to see several cases, in which our young people, for the sake of such mere mischief, have brought themselves into great difficulty."—"But what shall I do?" I asked: "the letter is written, and they rely upon me to alter it."— "Trust me," she replied, "and do not alter it; nay, take it back, put it in your pocket, go away, and try to make the matter straight through your friend. I will also put in a word; for look you, though I am a poor girl, and dependent upon these relations,—who indeed do nothing bad, though they often, for the sake of sport or profit, undertake a good deal that is rash,—I have resisted them, and would not copy the first letter, as they requested. They transcribed it in a feigned hand; and, if it is not otherwise, so may they also do with this. And you, a young man of good family, rich, independent, why will you allow yourself to be used as a tool in a business which can certainly bring no good to you, and may possibly bring much that is unpleasant? "It made me very happy to hear her speak thus continuously, for generally she introduced but few words into conversation. My liking for her grew incredibly. I was not master of myself, and replied, "I am not so independent as you suppose; and of what use is wealth to me, when the most precious thing I can desire is wanting?"
She had drawn my sketch of the poetic epistle towards her, and read it half aloud in a sweet and graceful manner.
"That is very pretty," said she, stopping at a sort of /naive/ point; "but it is a pity that it is not destined for a real purpose."— "That were indeed very desirable," I cried; "and, oh! how happy must he be, who receives from a girl he infinitely loves, such an assurance of her affection."—"There is much required for that," she answered, "and yet many things are possible."—"For example," I continued, "if any one who knew, prized, honored, and adored you, laid such a paper before you, what would you do?" I pushed the paper nearer to her, which she had previously pushed back to me. She smiled, reflected for a moment, took the pen, and subscribed her name. I was beside myself with rapture, jumped up, and was going to embrace her. "No kissing!" said she, "that is so vulgar; but let us love if we can." I had taken up the paper, and thrust it into my pocket. "No one shall ever get it," said I: "the affair is closed. You have saved me."—"Now complete the salvation," she exclaimed, "and hurry off, before the others arrive, and you fall into trouble and embarrassment!" I could not tear myself away from her; but she asked me in so kindly a manner, while she took my right hand in both of hers, and lovingly pressed it! The tears stood in my eyes: I thought hers looked moist. I pressed my face upon her hands, and hastened away. Never in my life had I found myself in such perplexity.
The first propensities to love in an uncorrupted youth take altogether a spiritual direction. Nature seems to desire that one sex may by the senses perceive goodness and beauty in the other. And thus to me, by the sight of this girl,—by my strong inclination for her,—a new world of the beautiful and the excellent had arisen. I perused my poetical epistle a hundred times, gazed at the signature, kissed it, pressed it to my heart, and rejoiced in this amiable confession. But the more my transports increased, the more did it pain me not to be able to visit her immediately, and to see and converse with her again; for I dreaded the reproofs and importunities of her cousins. The good Pylades, who might have arranged the affair, I could not contrive to meet. The next Sunday, therefore, I set out for Niederrad, where these associates generally used to go, and actually found them there. I was, however, greatly surprised, when, instead of behaving in a cross, distant manner, they came up to me with joyful countenances. The youngest particularly was very kind, took me by the hand, and said, "You have lately played us a sorry trick, and we were very angry with you; but your absconding and taking away the poetical epistle has suggested a good thought to us, which otherwise might never have occurred. By way of atonement, you may treat us to-day; and you shall learn at the same time the notion we have, which will certainly give you pleasure." This harangue caused me no small embarrassment, for I had about me only money enough to regale myself and a friend: but to treat a whole company, and especially one which did not always stop at the right time, I was by no means prepared; nay, the proposal astonished me the more, as they had always insisted, in the most honorable manner, that each one should pay only his own share. They smiled at my distress; and the youngest proceeded, "Let us first take a seat in the bower, and then you shall learn more." We sat down; and he said, "When you had taken the love-letter with you, we talked the whole affair over again, and came to a conclusion that we had gratuitously misused your talent to the vexation of others and our own danger, for the sake of a mere paltry love of mischief, when we could have employed it to the advantage of all of us. See, I have here an order for a wedding-poem, as well as for a dirge. The second must be ready immediately, the other can wait a week. Now, if you make these, which is easy for you, you will treat us twice; and we shall long remain your debtors." This proposal pleased me in every respect; for I had already in my childhood looked with a certain envy on the occasional poems, [Footnote: That is to say, a poem written for a certain occasion, as a wedding, funeral, etc. The German word is /Gelegenheitsgedicht/."—TRANS.]—of which then several circulated every week, and at respectable marriages especially came to light by the dozen,—because I thought I could make such things as well, nay, better than others. Now an opportunity was offered me to show myself, and especially to see myself in print. I did not appear disinclined. They acquainted me with the personal particulars and the position of the family: I went somewhat aside, made my plan, and produced some stanzas. However, when I returned to the company, and the wine was not spared, the poem began to halt; and I could not deliver it that evening. "There is still time till to-morrow evening," they said; "and we will confess to you that the fee which we receive for the dirge is enough to get us another pleasant evening to-morrow. Come to us; for it is but fair that Gretchen, too, should sup with us, as it was she properly who gave us the notion." My joy was unspeakable. On my way home I had only the remaining stanzas in my head, wrote down the whole before I went to sleep, and the next morning made a very neat, fair copy. The day seemed infinitely long to me; and scarcely was it dusk, than I found myself again in the narrow little dwelling beside the dearest of girls.
The young people, with whom in this way I formed a closer and closer connection, were not exactly of a low, but of an ordinary, type. Their activity was commendable, and I listened to them with pleasure when they spoke of the manifold ways and means by which one could gain a living: above all, they loved to tell of people, now very rich, who had begun with nothing. Others to whom they referred had, as poor clerks, rendered themselves indispensable to their employers, and had finally risen to be their sons-in-law; while others had so enlarged and improved a little trade in matches and the like, that they were now prosperous merchants and tradesmen. But above all, to young men who were active on their feet, the trade of agent and factor, and the undertaking of all sorts of commissions and charges for helpless rich men was, they said, a most profitable means of gaining a livelihood. We all liked to hear this; and each one fancied himself somebody, when he imagined, at the moment, that there was enough in him, not only to get on in the world, but to acquire an extraordinary fortune. But no one seemed to carry on this conversation more earnestly than Pylades, who at last confessed that he had an extraordinary passion for a girl, and was actually engaged to her. The circumstances of his parents would not allow him to go to universities; but he had endeavored to acquire a fine handwriting, a knowledge of accounts and the modern languages, and would now do his best in hopes of attaining that domestic felicity. His fellows praised him for this, although they did not approve of a premature engagement; and they added, that while forced to acknowledge him to be a fine, good fellow, they did not consider him active or enterprising enough to do any thing extraordinary. While he, in vindication of himself, circumstantially set forth what he thought himself fit for, and how he was going to begin, the others were also incited; and each one began to tell what he was now able to do, doing, or carrying on, what he had already accomplished, and what he saw immediately before him. The turn at last came to me. I was to set forth my course of life and prospects; and, while I was considering, Pylades said, "I make this one proviso, lest we be at too great a disadvantage, that he does not bring into the account the external advantages of his position. He should rather tell us a tale how he would proceed if at this moment he were thrown entirely upon his own resources, as we are."
Gretchen, who till this moment had kept on spinning, rose, and seated herself as usual at the end of the table. We had already emptied some bottles, and I began to relate the hypothetical history of my life in the best humor. "First of all, then, I commend myself to you," said I, "that you may continue the custom you have begun to bestow on me. If you gradually procure me the profit of all the occasional poems, and we do not consume them in mere feasting, I shall soon come to something. But then, you must not take it ill if I dabble also in your handicraft." Upon this, I told them what I had observed in their occupations, and for which I held myself fit at any rate. Each one had previously rated his services in money, and I asked them to assist me also in completing my establishment. Gretchen had listened to all hitherto very attentively, and that in a position which well suited her, whether she chose to hear or to speak. With both hands she clasped her folded arms, and rested them on the edge of the table. Thus she could sit a long while without moving any thing but her head, which was never done without some occasion or meaning. She had several times put in a word, and helped us on over this and that, when we halted in our projects, and then was again still and quiet as usual. I kept her in my eye, and it may readily be supposed that I had not devised and uttered my plan without reference to her. My passion for her gave to what I said such an air of truth and probability, that, for a moment, I deceived myself, imagined myself as lonely and helpless as my story supposed, and felt extremely happy in the prospect of possessing her. Pylades had closed his confession with marriage; and the question arose among the rest of us, whether our plans went as far as that. "I have not the least doubt on that score," said I; "for properly a wife is necessary to every one of us, in order to preserve at home, and enable us to enjoy as a whole, what we rake together abroad in such an odd way." I then made a sketch of a wife, such as I wished; and it must have turned out strangely if she had not been a perfect counterpart of Gretchen.
The dirge was consumed; the epithalamium now stood beneficially at hand: I overcame all fear and care, and contrived, as I had many acquaintances, to conceal my actual evening entertainments from my family. To see and to be near the dear girl was soon an indispensable condition of my being. The friends had grown just as accustomed to me, and we were almost daily together, as if it could not be otherwise. Pylades had, in the mean time, introduced his fair one into the house; and this pair passed many an evening with us. They, as bride and bridegroom, though still very much in the bud, did not conceal their tenderness: Gretchen's deportment towards me was only suited to keep me at a distance. She gave her hand to no one, not even to me; she allowed no touch: yet she many times seated herself near me, particularly when I wrote, or read aloud, and then, laying her arm familiarly upon my shoulder, she looked over the book or paper. If, however, I ventured to take on a similar liberty with her, she withdrew, and did not return very soon. This position she often repeated; and, indeed, all her attitudes and motions were very uniform, but always equally becoming, beautiful, and charming. But such a familiarity I never saw her practise towards anybody else.
One of the most innocent, and, at the same time, amusing, parties of pleasure in which I engaged with different companies of young people, was this,—that we seated ourselves in the Hoechst market-ship, observed the strange passengers packed away in it, and bantered and teased, now this one, now that, as pleasure or caprice prompted. At Hoechst we got out at the time when the market-boat from Mentz arrived. At a hotel there was a well-spread table, where the better sort of travellers, coming and going, ate with each other, and then proceeded, each on his way, as both ships returned. Every time, after dining, we sailed up to Frankfort, having, with a very large company, made the cheapest water- excursion that was possible. Once I had undertaken this journey with Gretchen's cousins, when a young man joined us at table in Hochst, who might be a little older than we were. They knew him, and he got himself introduced to me. He had something very pleasing in his manner, though he was not otherwise distinguished. Coming from Mentz, he now went back with us to Frankfort, and conversed with me of every thing that related to the internal arrangements of the city, and the public offices and places, on which he seemed to me to be very well informed. When we separated, he bade me farewell, and added, that he wished I might think well of him, as he hoped on occasion to avail himself of my recommendation. I did not know what he meant by this, but the cousins enlightened me some days after. They spoke well of him, and asked me to intercede with my grandfather, as a moderate appointment was just now vacant, which this friend would like to obtain. I at first wished to be excused, as I had never meddled in such affairs; but they went on urging me until I resolved to do it. I had already many times remarked, that in these grants of offices, which unfortunately were regarded as matters of favor, the mediation of my grandmother or an aunt had not been without effect. I was now so advanced as to arrogate some influence to myself. For that reason, to gratify my friends, who declared themselves under every sort of obligation for such a kindness, I overcame the timidity of a grandchild, and undertook to deliver a written application that was handed in to me.
One Sunday, after dinner, while my grandfather was busy in his garden, all the more because autumn was approaching, and I tried to assist him on every side, I came forward with my request and the petition, after some hesitation. He looked at it, and asked me whether I knew the young man. I told him in general terms what was to be said, and he let the matter rest there. "If he has merit, and, moreover, good testimonials, I will favor him for your sake and his own." He said no more, and for a long while I heard nothing of the matter.
For some time I had observed that Gretchen was no longer spinning, but instead was employed in sewing, and that, too, on very fine work, which surprised me the more, as the days were already shortening, and winter was coming on. I thought no further about it; only it troubled me that several times I had not found her at home in the morning as formerly, and could not learn, without importunity, whither she had gone. Yet I was destined one day to be surprised in a very odd manner. My sister, who was getting herself ready for a ball, asked me to fetch her some so- called Italian flowers, at a fashionable milliner's. They were made in convents, and were small and pretty: myrtles especially, dwarf-roses, and the like, came out quite beautifully and naturally. I did her the favor, and went to the shop where I had been with her often already. Hardly had I entered, and greeted the proprietress, than I saw sitting in the window a lady, who, in a lace cap, looked very young and pretty, and in a silk mantilla seemed very well shaped. I could easily recognize that she was an assistant, for she was occupied in fastening a ribbon and feathers upon a hat. The milliner showed me the long box with single flowers of various sorts. I looked them over, and, as I made my choice, glanced again towards the lady in the window; but how great was my astonishment when I perceived an incredible similarity to Gretchen, nay, was forced to be convinced at last that it was Gretchen herself. Nor could I doubt any longer, when she winked with her eyes, and gave me a sign that I must not betray our acquaintance. I now, with my choosing and rejecting, drove the milliner into despair more than even a lady could have done. I had, in fact, no choice; for I was excessively confused, and at the same time liked to linger, because it kept me near the girl, whose disguise annoyed me, though in that disguise she appeared to me more enchanting than ever. Finally the milliner seemed to lose all patience, and with her own hands selected for me a whole bandbox full of flowers, which I was to place before my sister, and let her choose for herself. Thus I was, as it were, driven out of the shop, she sending the box in advance by one of her girls.
Scarcely had I reached home than my father caused me to be called, and communicated to me that it was now quite certain that the Archduke Joseph would be elected and crowned king of Rome. An event so highly important was not to be expected without preparation, nor allowed to pass with mere gaping and staring. He wished, therefore, he said, to go through with me the election and coronation diaries of the two last coronations, as well as through the last capitulations of election, in order to remark what new conditions might be added in the present instance. The diaries were opened, and we occupied ourselves with them the whole day till far into the night; while the pretty girl, sometimes in her old house-dress, sometimes in her new costume, ever hovered before me, backwards and forwards among the most august objects of the Holy Roman Empire. This evening it was impossible to see her, and I lay awake through a very restless night. The study of yesterday was the next day zealously resumed; and it was not till towards evening that I found it possible to visit my fair one, whom I met again in her usual house- dress. She smiled when she saw me, but I did not venture to mention any thing before the others. When the whole company sat quietly together again, she began, and said, "It is unfair that you do not confide to our friend what we have lately resolved upon." She then continued to relate, that after our late conversation, in which the discussion was how any one could get on in the world, something was also said of the way in which a woman could enhance the value of her talent and labor, and advantageously employ her time. The cousin had consequently proposed that she should make an experiment at a milliner's, who was just then in want of an assistant. They had, she said, arranged with the woman: she went there so many hours a day, and was well paid; but she would there be obliged, for propriety's sake, to conform to a certain dress, which, however, she left behind her every time, as it did not at all suit her other modes of life and employment. I was indeed set at rest by this declaration; but it did not quite please me to know that the pretty girl was in a public shop, and at a place where the fashionable world found a convenient resort. But I betrayed nothing, and strove to work off my jealous care in silence. For this the younger cousin did not allow me a long time, as he once more came forward with a proposal for an occasional poem, told me all the personalities, and at once desired me to prepare myself for the invention and disposition of the work. He had spoken with me several times already concerning the proper treatment of such a theme; and, as I was voluble in these cases, he readily asked me to explain to him, circumstantially, what is rhetorical in these things, to give him a notion of the matter, and to make use of my own and others' labors in this kind for examples. The young man had some brains, but not a trace of a poetical vein; and now he went so much into particulars, and wished to have such an account of every thing, that I gave utterance to the remark, "It seems as if you wanted to encroach upon my trade, and take away my customers!"—"I will not deny it," said he, smiling, "as I shall do you no harm by it. This will only continue to the time when you go to the university, and till then you must allow me still to profit something by your society."—"Most cordially," I replied; and I encouraged him to draw out a plan, to choose a metre according to the character of his subject, and to do whatever else might seem necessary. He went to work in earnest, but did not succeed. I was in the end compelled to re-write so much of it, that I could more easily and better have written it all from the beginning myself. Yet this teaching and learning, this mutual labor, afforded us good entertainment. Gretchen took part in it, and had many a pretty notion; so that we were all pleased, we may, indeed, say happy. During the day she worked at the milliner's: in the evenings we generally met together, and our contentment was not even disturbed when at last the commissions for occasional poems began to leave off. Still we felt hurt once, when one of them came back under protest, because it did not suit the party who ordered it. We consoled ourselves, however, as we considered it our very best work, and could, therefore, declare the other a bad judge. The cousin, who was determined to learn something at any rate, resorted to the expedient of inventing problems, in the solution of which we always found amusement enough; but, as they brought in nothing, our little banquets had to be much more frugally managed.
That great political object, the election and coronation of a king of Rome, was pursued with more and more earnestness. The assembling of the electoral college, originally appointed to take place at Augsburg in the October of 1763, was now transferred to Frankfort; and both at the end of this year and in the beginning of the next, preparations went forward which should usher in this important business. The beginning was made by a parade never yet seen by us. One of our chancery officials on horseback, escorted by four trumpeters likewise mounted, and surrounded by a guard of infantry, read in a loud, clear voice at all the corners of the city, a prolix edict, which announced the forthcoming proceedings, and exhorted the citizens to a becoming deportment suitable to the circumstances. The council was occupied with weighty considerations; and it was not long before the Imperial quartermaster, despatched by the hereditary grand marshal, made his appearance, in order to arrange and designate the residences of the ambassadors and their suites, according to the old custom. Our house lay in the Palatine district, and we had to provide for a new but agreeable billetting. The middle story, which Count Thorane had formerly occupied, was given up to a cavalier of the Palatinate; and as Baron von Koenigsthal, the Nuremburg /charge-d'affaires/, occupied the upper floor, we were still more crowded than in the time of the French. This served me as a new pretext for being out of doors, and to pass the greater part of the day in the streets, that I might see all that was open to public view.
After the preliminary alteration and arrangement of the rooms in the town-house had seemed to us worth seeing; after the arrival of the ambassadors one after another, and their first solemn ascent in a body, on the 6th of February, had taken place,—we admired the coming in of the imperial commissioners, and their ascent also to the /Romer/, which was made with great pomp. The dignified person of the Prince of Lichtenstein made a good impression; yet connoisseurs maintained that the showy liveries had already been used on another occasion, and that this election and coronation would hardly equal in brilliancy that of Charles the Seventh. We younger folks were content with what was before our eyes: all seemed to us very fine, and much of it perfectly astonishing.
The electoral congress was fixed at last for the 3d of March. New formalities again set the city in motion, and the alternate visits of ceremony on the part of the ambassadors kept us always on our legs. We were, moreover, compelled to watch closely; as we were not only to gape about, but to note every thing well, in order to give a proper report at home, and even to make out many little memoirs, on which my father and Herr von Koenigsthal had deliberated, partly for our exercise and partly for their own information. And certainly this was of peculiar advantage to me; as I was enabled very tolerably to keep a living election and coronation diary, as far as regarded externals.
The person who first of all made a durable impression upon me was the chief ambassador from the electorate of Mentz, Baron von Erthal, afterwards elector. Without having any thing striking in his figure, he was always highly pleasing to me in his black gown trimmed with lace. The second ambassador, Baron von Groschlag, was a well-formed man of the world, easy in his exterior, but conducting himself with great decorum. He everywhere produced a very agreeable impression. Prince Esterhazy, the Bohemian envoy, was not tall, though well formed, lively, and at the same time eminently decorous, without pride or coldness. I had a special liking for him, because he reminded me of Marshal de Broglio. Yet the form and dignity of these excellent persons vanished, in a certain degree, before the prejudice that was entertained in favor of Baron von Plotho, the Brandenburg ambassador. This man, who was distinguished by a certain parsimony, both in his own clothes and in his liveries and equipages, had been greatly renowned, from the time of the Seven Years' War, as a diplomatic hero. At Ratisbon, when the Notary April thought, in the presence of witnesses, to serve him with the declaration of outlawry which had been issued against his king, he had, with the laconic exclamation, "What! you serve?" thrown him, or caused him to be thrown, down stairs. We believed the first, because it pleased us best; and we could readily believe it of the little compact man, with his black, fiery eyes glancing here and there. All eyes were directed towards him, particularly when he alighted. There arose every time a sort of joyous whispering; and but little was wanting to a regular explosion, or a shout of /Vivat! Bravo!/ So high did the king, and all who were devoted to him, body and soul, stand in favor with the crowd, among whom, besides the Frankforters, were Germans from all parts.
On the one hand these things gave me much pleasure; as all that took place, no matter of what nature it might be, concealed a certain meaning, indicated some internal relation: and such symbolic ceremonies again, for a moment, represented as living the old Empire of Germany, almost choked to death by so many parchments, papers, and books. But, on the other hand, I could not suppress a secret displeasure, when at home, I had, on behalf of my father, to transcribe the internal transactions, and at the same time to remark that here several powers, which balanced each other, stood in opposition, and only so far agreed, as they designed to limit the new ruler even more than the old one; that every one valued his influence only so far as he hoped to retain or enlarge his privileges, and better to secure his independence. Nay, on this occasion they were more attentive than usual, because they began to fear Joseph the Second, his vehemence, and probable plans.
With my grandfather and other members of the council, whose families I used to visit, this was no pleasant time, they had so much to do with meeting distinguished guests, complimenting, and the delivery of presents. No less had the magistrate, both in general and in particular, to defend himself, to resist, and to protest, as every one on such occasions desires to extort something from him, or burden him with something; and few of those to whom he appeals support him, or lend him their aid. In short, all that I had read in "Lersner's Chronicle" of similar incidents on similar occasions, with admiration of the patience and perseverance of those good old councilmen, came once more vividly before my eyes.
Many vexations arise also from this, that the city is gradually overrun with people, both useful and needless. In vain are the courts reminded, on the part of the city, of prescriptions of the Golden Bull, now, indeed, obsolete. Not only the deputies with their attendants, but many persons of rank, and others who come from curiosity or for private objects, stand under protection; and the question as to who is to be billetted out, and who is to hire his own lodging, is not always decided at once. The tumult constantly increases; and even those who have nothing to give, or to answer for, begin to feel uncomfortable.
Even we young people, who could quietly contemplate it all, ever found something which did not quite satisfy our eyes or our imagination. The Spanish mantles, the huge plumed hats of the ambassadors, and other objects here and there, had indeed a truly antique look; but there was a great deal, on the other hand, so half-new or entirely modern, that the affair assumed throughout a motley, unsatisfactory, often tasteless, appearance. We were, therefore, very happy to learn that great preparations were made on account of the journey to Frankfort of the emperor and future king; that the proceedings of the college of electors, which were based on the last electoral capitulation, were now going forward rapidly; and that the day of election had been appointed for the 27th of March. Now there was a thought of fetching the insignia of the empire from Nuremburg and Aix-la-Chation; while Gretchen, by her unbroken attention, had highly encouraged me. At last she thanked me, and envied, as she said, all who were informed of the affairs of this world, and knew how this and that came about and what it signified. She wished she were a boy, and managed to acknowledge, with much kindness, that she was indebted to me for a great deal of instruction. "If I were a boy," said she, "we would learn something good together at the university." The conversation continued in this strain: she definitively resolved to take instruction in French, of the absolute necessity of which she had become well aware in the milliner's shop. I asked her why she no longer went there; for during the latter times, not being able to go out much in the evening, I had often passed the shop during the day for her sake, merely to see her for a moment. She explained that she had not liked to expose herself there in these unsettled times. As soon as the city returned to its former condition, she intended to go there again.
Then the impending day of election was the topic of conversation. I contrived to tell, at length, what was going to happen, and how, and to support my demonstrations in detail by drawings on the tablet; for I had the place of conclave, with its altars, thrones, seats, and chairs, perfectly before my mind. We separated at the proper time, and in a particularly comfortable frame of mind.
For, with a young couple who are in any degree harmoniously formed by nature, nothing can conduce to a more beautiful union than when the maiden is anxious to learn, and the youth inclined to teach. There arises from it a well-grounded and agreeable relation. She sees in him the creator of her spiritual existence; and he sees in her a creature that ascribes her perfection, not to nature, not to chance, nor to any one-sided inclination, but to a mutual will: and this reciprocation is so sweet, that we cannot wonder, if, from the days of the old and the new [Footnote: The "/new/ Abelard" is St. Preux, in the Nouvelle Heloise of Rousseau.—TRANS.] Abelard, the most violent passions, and as much happiness as unhappiness, have arisen from such an intercourse of two beings.
With the next day began great commotion in the city, on account of the visits paid and returned, which now took place with the greatest ceremony. But what particularly interested me, as a citizen of Frankfort, and gave rise to a great many reflections, was the taking of the oath of security (/Sicherheitseides/) by the council, the military, and the body of citizens, not through representatives, but personally and in mass: first, in the great hall of the Roemer, by the magistracy and staff-officers; then in the great square (/Platz/), the Roemerberg, by all the citizens, according to their respective ranks, gradations, or quarterings; and, lastly, by the rest of the military. Here one could survey at a single glance the entire commonwealth, assembled for the honorable purpose of swearing security to the head and members of the empire, and unbroken peace during the great work now impending. The Electors of Treves and of Cologne had now also arrived. On the evening before the day of election, all strangers are sent out of the city, the gates are closed, the Jews are confined to their quarter, and the citizen of Frankfort prides himself not a little that he alone may witness so great a solemnity.
All that had hitherto taken place was tolerably modern: the highest and high personages moved about only in coaches, but now we were going to see them in the primitive manner on horseback. The concourse and rush were extraordinary. I managed to squeeze myself into the Roemer, which I knew as familiarly as a mouse does the private corn-loft, till I reached the main entrance, before which the electors and ambassadors, who had first arrived in their state-coaches, and had assembled above, were now to mount their horses. The stately, well-trained steeds were covered with richly laced housings, and ornamented in every way. The Elector Emeric Joseph, a handsome, portly man, looked well on horseback. Of the other two I remember less, excepting that the red princes' mantles, trimmed with ermine, which we had been accustomed to see only in pictures before, seemed to us very romantic in the open air. The ambassadors of the absent temporal electors, with their Spanish dresses of gold brocade, embroidered over with gold, and trimmed with gold lace, likewise did our eyes good; and the large feathers particularly, that waved most splendidly from the hats, which were cocked in the antique style. But what did not please me were the short modern breeches, the white silk stockings, and the fashionable shoes. We should have liked half-boots,—gilded as much as they pleased,—sandals, or something of the kind, that we might have seen a more consistent costume.
In deportment the Ambassador Von Plotho again distinguished himself from all the rest. He appeared lively and cheerful, and seemed to have no great respect for the whole ceremony. For when his front-man, an elderly gentleman, could not leap immediately on his horse, and he was therefore forced to wait some time in the grand entrance, he did not refrain from laughing, till his own horse was brought forward, upon which he swung himself very dexterously, and was again admired by us as a most worthy representative of Frederick the Second.
Now the curtain was for us once more let down. I had, indeed, tried to force my way into the church; but that place was more inconvenient than agreeable. The voters had withdrawn into the /sanctum/, where prolix ceremonies usurped the place of a deliberate consideration as to the election. After long delay, pressure, and bustle, the people at last heard the name of Joseph the Second, who was proclaimed King of Rome.
The thronging of strangers into the city became greater and greater. Everybody went about in his holiday clothes, so that at last none but dresses entirely of gold were found worthy of note. The emperor and king had already arrived at /Heusenstamm/, a castle of the counts of Schoenborn, and were there in the customary manner greeted and welcomed; but the city celebrated this important epoch by spiritual festivals of all the religions, by high masses and sermons; and, on the temporal side, by incessant firing of cannon as an accompaniment to the "Te Deums."
If all these public solemnities, from the beginning up to this point, had been regarded as a deliberate work of art, not much to find fault with would have been found. All was well prepared. The public scenes opened gradually, and went on increasing in importance; the men grew in number, the personages in dignity, their appurtenances, as well as themselves, in splendor,—and thus it advanced with every day, till at last even a well-prepared and firm eye became bewildered.
The entrance of the Elector of Mentz, which we have refused to describe more completely, was magnificent and imposing enough to suggest to the imagination of an eminent man the advent of a great prophesied world- ruler: even we were not a little dazzled by it. But now our expectation was stretched to the utmost, as it was said that the emperor and the future king were approaching the city. At a little distance from Sachsenhausen, a tent had been erected in which the entire magistracy remained, to show the appropriate honor, and to proffer the keys of the city to the chief of the empire. Farther out, on a fair, spacious plain, stood another, a state pavilion, whither the whole body of electoral princes and ambassadors repaired; while their retinues extended along the whole way, that gradually, as their turns came, they might again move towards the city, and enter properly into the procession. By this time the emperor reached the tent, entered it; and the princes and ambassadors, after a most respectful reception, withdrew, to facilitate the passage of the chief ruler.
We who remained in the city, to admire this pomp within the walls and streets still more than could have been done in the open fields, were very well entertained for a while by the barricade set up by the citizens in the lanes, by the throng of people, and by the various jests and improprieties which arose, till the ringing of bells and the thunder of cannon announced to us the immediate approach of majesty. What must have been particularly grateful to a Frankforter was, that on this occasion, in the presence of so many sovereigns and their representatives, the imperial city of Frankfort also appeared as a little sovereign: for her equerry opened the procession; chargers with armorial trappings, upon which the white eagle on a red field looked very fine, followed him; then came attendants and officials, drummers and trumpeters, and deputies of the council, accompanied by the clerks of the council, in the city livery, on foot. Immediately behind these were the three companies of citizen cavalry, very well mounted,—the same that we had seen from our youth, at the reception of the escort, and on other public occasions. We rejoiced in our participation of the honor, and in our one hundred-thousandth part of a sovereignty which now appeared in its full brilliancy. The different trains of the hereditary imperial marshal, and of the envoys deputed by the six temporal electors, marched after these step by step. None of them consisted of less than twenty attendants and two state-carriages,—some, even, of a greater number. The retinue of the spiritual electors was ever on the increase,—their servants and domestic officers seemed innumerable: the Elector of Cologne and the Elector of Treves had above twenty state- carriages, and the Elector of Mentz quite as many alone. The servants, both on horseback and on foot, were clothed most splendidly throughout: the lords in the equipages, spiritual and temporal, had not omitted to appear richly and venerably dressed, and adorned with all the badges of their orders. The train of his imperial majesty now, as was fit, surpassed all the rest. The riding-masters, the led horses, the equipages, the shabracks and caparisons, attracted every eye; and the sixteen six-horse gala-wagons of the imperial chamberlains, privy councillors, high chamberlain, high stewards, and high equerry, closed, with great pomp, this division of the procession, which, in spite of its magnificence and extent, was still only to be the vanguard.
But now the line became concentrated more and more, while the dignity and parade kept on increasing. For in the midst of a chosen escort of their own domestic attendants, the most of them on foot, and a few on horseback, appeared the electoral ambassadors, as well as the electors in person, in ascending order, each one in a magnificent state-carriage. Immediately behind the Elector of Mentz, ten imperial footmen, one and forty lackeys, and eight /heyducks/ [Footnote: A class of attendants dress in Hungarian costume.—TRANS.] announced their majesties. The most magnificent state-carriage, furnished even at the back part with an entire window of plate-glass, ornamented with paintings, lacquer, carved work, and gilding, covered with red embroidered velvet on the top and inside, allowed us very conveniently to behold the emperor and king, the long-desired heads, in all their glory. The procession was led a long, circuitous route, partly from necessity, that it might be able to unfold itself, and partly to render it visible to the great multitude of people. It had passed through Sachsenhausen, over the bridge, up the Fahrgasse, then down the Zeile, and turned towards the inner city through the Katharinenpforte, formerly a gate, and, since the enlargement of the city, an open thoroughfare. Here it had been happily considered, that, for a series of years, the external grandeur of the world had gone on expanding, both in height and breadth. Measure had been taken; and it was found that the present imperial state-carriage could not, without striking its carved work and other outward decorations, get through this gateway, through which so many princes and emperors had gone backwards and forwards. They debated the matter, and, to avoid an inconvenient circuit, resolved to take up the pavements, and to contrive a gentle descent and ascent. With the same view, they had also removed all the projecting eaves from the shops and booths in the street, that neither crown nor eagle nor the genii should receive any shock or injury.
Eagerly as we directed our eyes to the high personages when this precious vessel with such precious contents approached us, we could not avoid turning our looks upon the noble horses, their harness, and its embroidery; but the strange coachmen and outriders, both sitting on the horses, particularly struck us. They looked as if they had come from some other nation, or even from another world, with their long black and yellow velvet coats, and their caps with large plumes of feathers, after the imperial-court fashion. Now the crowd became so dense that it was impossible to distinguish much more. The Swiss guard on both sides of the carriage; the hereditary marshal holding the Saxon sword upwards in his right hand; the field-marshals, as leaders of the imperial guard, riding behind the carriage; the imperial pages in a body; and, finally, the imperial horse-guard (/Hatschiergarde/) itself, in black velvet frocks (/Fluegelroeck/), with all the seams edged with gold, under which were red coats and leather-colored camisoles, likewise richly decked with gold. One scarcely recovered one's self from sheer seeing, pointing, and showing, so that the scarcely less splendidly clad body- guards of the electors were barely looked at; and we should, perhaps, have withdrawn from the windows, if we had not wished to take a view of our own magistracy, who closed the procession in their fifteen two-horse coaches; and particularly the clerk of the council, with the city keys on red velvet cushions. That our company of city grenadiers should cover the rear seemed to us honorable enough, and we felt doubly and highly edified as Germans and as Fraukforters by this great day,
We had taken our place in a house which the procession had to pass again when it returned from the cathedral. Of religious services, of music, of rites and solemnities, of addresses and answers, of propositions and readings aloud, there was so much in church, choir, and conclave, before it came to the swearing of the electoral capitulation, that we had time enough to partake of an excellent collation, and to empty many bottles to the health of our old and young ruler. The conversation, meanwhile, as is usual on such occasions, reverted to the time past; and there were not wanting aged persons who preferred that to the present,—at least, with respect to a certain human interest and impassioned sympathy which then prevailed. At the coronation of Francis the First all had not been so settled as now; peace had not yet been concluded; France and the Electors of Brandenburg and the Palatinate were opposed to the election; the troops of the future emperor were stationed at Heidelberg, where he had his headquarters; and the insignia of the empire, coming from Aix, were almost carried off by the inhabitants of the Palatinate. Meanwhile, negotiations went on; and on neither side was the affair conducted in the strictest manner. Maria Theresa, though then pregnant, comes in person to see the coronation of her husband, which is at last earned into effect. She arrived at Aschaffenburg, and went on board a yacht in order to repair to Frankfort. Francis, coming from Heidelberg, thinks to meet his wife, but arrives too late: she has already departed. Unknown, he jumps into a little boat, hastens alter her, reaches her ship; and the loving pair is delighted at this surprising meeting. The story spreads immediately; and all the world sympathizes with this tender pair, so richly blessed with children, who have been so inseparable since their union, that once, on a journey from Vienna to Florence, they are forced to keep quarantine together on the Venetian border. Maria Theresa is welcomed in the city with rejoicings: she enters the Roman Emperor Inn, while the great tent for the reception of her husband is erected on the Bornheim heath. There, of the spiritual electors, only Mentz is found; and, of the ambassadors of the temporal electors, only Saxony, Bohemia, and Hanover. The entrance begins, and what it may lack of completeness and splendor is richly compensated by the presence of a beautiful lady. She stands upon the balcony of the well-situated house, and greets her husband with cries of "Vivat!" and clapping of hands: the people joined, excited to the highest enthusiasm. As the great are, after all, men, the citizen deems them big equals when he wishes to love them; and that he can best do when he can picture them to himself as loving husbands, tender parents, devoted brothers, and true friends. At that time all happiness had been wished and prophesied; and to-day it was seen fulfilled in the first-born son, to whom everybody was well inclined on account of his handsome, youthful form, and upon whom the world set the greatest hopes, on account of the great qualities that he showed.
We had become quite absorbed in the past and future, when some friends who came in recalled us to the present. They were of that class of people who know the value of novelty, and therefore hasten to announce it first. They were even able to tell of a fine humane trait in those exalted personages whom we had seen go by with the greatest pomp. It had been concerted, that on the way, between Heusenstamm and the great tent, the emperor and king should find the Landgrave of Darmstadt in the forest. This old prince, now approaching the grave, wished to see once more the master to whom he had been devoted in former times. Both might remember the day when the landgrave brought over to Heidelberg the decree of the electors, choosing Francis as emperor, and replied to the valuable presents he received with protestations of unalterable devotion. These eminent persons stood in a grove of firs; and the landgrave, weak with old age, supported himself against a pine, to continue the conversation, which was not without emotion on both sides. The place was afterwards marked in an innocent way, and we young people sometimes wandered to it.
Thus several hours had passed in remembrance of the old and consideration of the new, when the procession, though curtailed and more compact, again passed before our eyes; and we were enabled to observe and mark the detail more closely, and imprint it on our minds for the future.
From that moment the city was in uninterrupted motion; for until each and every one whom it behooved, and of whom it was required, had paid their respects to the highest dignities, and exhibited themselves one by one, there was no end to the marching to and fro: and the court of each one of the high persons present could be very conveniently repeated in detail.
Now, too, the insignia of the empire arrived. But, that no ancient usage might be omitted even in this respect, they had to remain half a day till late at night in the open field, on account of a dispute about territory and escort between the Elector of Mentz and the city. The latter yielded: the people of Mentz escorted the insignia as far as the barricade, and so the affair terminated for this time.
In these days I did not come to myself. At home I had to write and copy; every thing had to be seen: and so ended the month of March, the second half of which had been so rich in festivals for us. I had promised Gretchen a faithful and complete account of what had lately happened, and of what was to be expected on the coronation-day. This great day approached; I thought more of how I should tell it to her than of what properly was to be told: all that came under my eyes and my pen I merely worked up rapidly for this sole and immediate use. At last I reached her residence somewhat late one evening, and was not a little proud to think how my discourse on this occasion would be much more successful than the first unprepared one. But a momentary incitement often brings us, and others through us, more joy than the most deliberate purpose can afford. I found, indeed, pretty nearly the same company; but there were some unknown persons among them. They sat down to play, all except Gretchen and her younger cousin, who remained with me at the slate. The dear girl expressed most gracefully her delight that she, though a stranger, had passed for a citizen on the election-day, and had taken part in that unique spectacle. She thanked me most warmly for having managed to take care of her, and for having been so attentive as to procure her, through Pylades, all sorts of admissions by means of billets, directions, friends, and intercessions.
She liked to hear about the jewels of the empire. I promised her that we should, if possible, see these together. She made some jesting remarks when she learned that the garments and crown had been tried on the young king. I knew where she would be, to see the solemnities of the coronation-day, and directed her attention to every thing that was impending, and particularly to what might be minutely inspected from her place of view.
Thus we forgot to think about time: it was already past midnight, and I found that I unfortunately had not the house-key with me. I could not enter the house without making the greatest disturbance. I communicated my embarrassment to her. "After all," said she, "it will be best for the company to remain together." The cousins and the strangers had already had this in mind, because it was not known where they would be lodged for the night. The matter was soon decided: Gretchen went to make some coffee, after bringing in and lighting a large brass lamp, furnished with oil and wick, because the candles threatened to burn out.
The coffee served to enliven us for several hours, but the game gradually slackened; conversation failed; the mother slept in the great chair; the strangers, weary from travelling, nodded here and there; and Pylades and his fair one sat in a corner. She had laid her head on his shoulder, and had gone to sleep; and he did not keep long awake. The younger cousin, sitting opposite to us by the slate, had crossed his arms before him, and slept with his face resting upon them. I sat in the window-corner, behind the table, and Gretchen by me. We talked in a low voice: but at last sleep overcame her also; she leaned her head on my shoulder, and sank at once into a slumber. Thus I now sat, the only one awake, in a most singular position, in which the kind brother of death soon put me also to rest. I went to sleep; and, when I awoke, it was already bright day. Gretchen was standing before the mirror arranging her little cap: she was more lovely than ever, and, when I departed, cordially pressed my hands. I crept home by a roundabout way; for, on the side towards the little /Stag-ditch/, my father had opened a sort of little peep-hole in the wall, not without the opposition of his neighbor. This side we avoided when we wanted not to be observed by him in coming home. My mother, whose mediation always came in well for us, had endeavored to palliate my absence in the morning at breakfast, by the supposition that I had gone out early; and I experienced no disagreeable effects from this innocent night.
Taken as a whole, this infinitely various world which surrounded me produced upon me but a very simple impression. I had no interest but to mark closely the outside of the objects, no business but that with which I had been charged by my father and Herr von Koenigsthal, by which, indeed, I perceived the inner course of things. I had no liking but for Gretchen, and no other view than to see and take in every thing properly, that I might be able to repeat it with her, and explain it to her. Often when a train was going by, I described it half aloud to myself, to assure myself of all the particulars, and to be praised by my fair one for this attention and accuracy: the applause and acknowledgments of the others I regarded as a mere appendix.
I was indeed presented to many exalted and distinguished persons; but partly, no one had time to trouble himself about others, and partly, older people do not know at once how they should converse with a young man and try him. I, on my side, was likewise not particularly skilful in adapting myself to people. I generally won their favor, but not their approbation. Whatever occupied me was completely present to me, but I did not ask whether it might be also suitable to others. I was mostly too lively or too quiet, and appeared either importunate or sullen, just as persons attracted or repelled me; and thus I was considered to be indeed full of promise, but at the same time was declared eccentric.
The coronation-day dawned at last on the 3d of April, 1764: the weather was favorable, and everybody was in motion. I, with several of my relations and friends, had been provided with a good place in one of the upper stories of the Roemer itself, where we might completely survey the whole. We betook ourselves to the spot very early in the morning, and from above, as in a bird's-eye view, contemplated the arrangements which we had inspected more closely the day before. There was the newly erected fountain, with two large tubs on the left and right, into which the double-eagle on the post was to pour from its two beaks white wine on this side, and red wine on that. There, gathered into a heap, lay the oats: here stood the large wooden hut, in which we had several days since seen the whole fat ox roasted and basted on a huge spit before a charcoal fire. All the avenues leading out from the Roemer, and from other streets back to the Roemer, were secured on both sides by barriers and guards. The great square was gradually filled; and the waving and pressure grew every moment stronger and more in motion, as the multitude always, if possible, endeavored to reach the spot where some new scene arose, and something particular was announced.
All this time there reigned a tolerable stillness; and, when the alarm- bells were sounded, all the people seemed struck with terror and amazement. What first attracted the attention of all who could overlook the square from above, was the train in which the lords of Aix and Nuremberg brought the crown-jewels to the cathedral. These, as palladia, had been assigned the first place in the carriage; and the deputies sat before them on the back-seat with becoming reverence. Now the three electors betake themselves to the cathedral. After the presentation of the insignia to the Elector of Mentz, the crown and sword are immediately carried to the imperial quarters. The further arrangements and manifold ceremonies occupied, in the interim, the chief persons, as well as the spectators, in the church, as we other well-informed persons could well imagine.
In the mean time the ambassadors drove before our eyes up to the Roemer, from which the canopy is carried by the under-officers into the imperial quarters. The hereditary marshal, Count von Pappenheim, instantly mounts his horse: he was a very handsome, slender gentleman, whom the Spanish costume, the rich doublet, the gold mantle, the high, feathered hat, and the loose, flying hair, became very well. He puts himself in motion; and, amid the sound of all the bells, the ambassadors follow him on horseback to the quarters of the emperor in still greater magnificence than on the day of election. One would have liked to be there too; as indeed, on this day, it would hare been altogether desirable to multiply one's self. However, we told each other what was going on there. Now the emperor is putting on his domestic robes, we said, a new dress, made after the old Carolingian pattern. The hereditary officers receive the insignia, and with them get on horseback. The emperor in his robes, the Roman king in the Spanish habit, immediately mount their steeds; and, while this is done, the endless procession which precedes them has already announced them.
The eye was already wearied by the multitude of richly dressed attendants and magistrates, and by the nobility, who, in stately fashion, were moving along; but when the electoral envoys, the hereditary officers, and at last, under the richly embroidered canopy, borne by twelve /schoeffen/ and senators, the emperor, in romantic costume, and to the left, a little behind him, in the Spanish dress, his son, slowly floated along on magnificently adorned horses, the eye was no more sufficient for the sight. One would have liked to fix the scene, but for a moment, by a magic charm; but the glory passed on without stopping: and the space that was scarcely quitted was immediately filled again by the crowd, which poured in like billows.
But now a new pressure ensued; for another approach from the market to the Roemer gate had to be opened, and a road of planks to be bridged over it, on which the train returning from the cathedral was to walk.
What passed within the cathedral, the endless ceremonies which precede and accompany the anointing, the crowning, the dubbing of knighthood,— all this we were glad to hear told afterwards by those who had sacrificed much else to be present in the church.
The rest of us, in the interim, partook of a frugal repast; for in this festal day we had to be contented with cold meat. But, on the other hand, the best and oldest wine had been brought out of all the family cellars; so that, in this respect at least, we celebrated the ancient festival in ancient style.
In the square, the sight most worth seeing was now the bridge, which had been finished, and covered with orange and white cloth; and we who had stared at the emperor, first in his carriage and then on horseback, were now to admire him walking on foot. Singularly enough, the last pleased us the most; for we thought that in this way he exhibited himself both in the most natural and in the most dignified manner.
Older persons, who were present at the coronation of Francis the First, related that Maria Theresa, beautiful beyond measure, had looked on this solemnity from a balcony window of the Frauenstein house, close to the Roemer. As her consort returned from the cathedral in his strange costume, and seemed to her, so to speak, like a ghost of Charlemagne, he had, as if in jest, raised both his hands, and shown her the imperial globe, the sceptre, and the curious gloves, at which she had broken out into immoderate laughter, which served for the great delight and edification of the crowd, which was thus honored with a sight of the good and natural matrimonial understanding between the most exalted couple of Christendom. But when the empress, to greet her consort, waved her handkerchief, and even shouted a loud /vivat/ to him, the enthusiasm and exultation of the people was raised to the highest, so that there was no end to the cheers of joy.
Now the sound of bells, and the van of the long train which gently made its way over the many-colored bridge, announced that all was done. The attention was greater than ever, and the procession more distinct than before, particularly for us, since it now came directly up to us. We saw both, and the whole of the square, which was thronged with people, almost as if on a ground-plan. Only at the end the magnificence was too much crowded: for the envoys; the hereditary officers; the emperor and king, under the canopy (/Baldachin/); the three spiritual electors, who immediately followed; the /schoeffen/ and senators, dressed in black; the gold-embroidered canopy (/Himmel/),—all seemed only one mass, which, moved by a single will, splendidly harmonious, and thus stepping from the temple amid the sound of the bells, beamed towards us as something holy.