German literature, and with it my own poetical undertakings, had already for some time become strange to me; and, as is usually the result in such an auto-didactic circular course, I turned back towards the beloved ancients who still constantly, like distant blue mountains, distinct in their outlines and masses, but indiscernible in their parts and internal relations, bounded the horizon of my intellectual wishes. I made an exchange with Langer, in which I at last played the part of Glaucus and Diomedes: I gave up to him whole baskets of German poets and critics, and received in return a number of Greek authors, the reading of whom was to give me recreation, even during the most tedious convalescence.
The confidence which new friends repose in each other usually develops itself by degrees. Common occupation and tastes are the first things in which a mutual harmony shows itself; then the mutual communication generally extends over past and present passions, especially over love- affairs: but it is a lower depth which opens itself, if the connection is to be perfected; the religious sentiments, the affairs of the heart which relate to the imperishable, are the things which both establish the foundation and adorn the summit of a friendship.
The Christian religion was fluctuating between its own historically positive base and a pure deism, which, grounded on morality, was in its turn to lay the foundation of ethics. The diversity of characters and modes of thought here showed itself in infinite gradations, especially when a leading difference was brought into play by the question arising as to how great a share reason, and how great a share the feelings, could and should have in such convictions. The most lively and ingenious men showed themselves, in this instance, like butterflies, who, quite regardless of their caterpillar state, throw away the chrysalis veil in which they have grown up to their organic perfection. Others, more honestly and modestly minded, might be compared to the flowers, which, although they unfold themselves to the most beautiful bloom, yet do not tear themselves from the root, from the mother stalk, nay,—rather through this family connection first bring the desired fruit to maturity. Of this latter class was Langer; for although a learned man, and eminently versed in books, he would yet give the Bible a peculiar pre-eminence over the other writings which have come down to us, and regard it as a document from which alone we could prove our moral and spiritual pedigree. He belonged to those who cannot conceive an immediate connection with the great God of the universe: a mediation, therefore, was necessary for him, an analogy to which he thought he could find everywhere in earthly and heavenly things. His discourse, which was pleasing and consistent, easily found a hearing with a young man, who, separated from worldly things by an annoying illness, found it highly desirable to turn the activity of his mind towards the heavenly. Grounded as I was in the Bible, all that was wanted was merely the faith to explain as divine that which I had hitherto esteemed in human fashion,—-a belief the easier for me, since I had made my first acquaintance with that book as a divine one. To a sufferer, to one who felt himself delicate, nay, weak, the gospel was therefore welcome; and even though Langer, with all his faith, was at the same time a very sensible man, and firmly maintained that one should not let the feelings prevail, should not let one's self be led astray into mysticism, I could not have managed to occupy myself with the New Testament without feeling and enthusiasm.
In such conversations we spent much time; and he grew so fond of me as an honest and well-prepared proselyte, that he did not scruple to sacrifice to me many of the hours destined for his fair one, and even to run the risk of being betrayed and looked upon unfavorably by his patron, like Behrisch. I returned his affection in the most grateful manner; and, if what he did for me would have been of value at any time, I could not but regard it, in my present condition, as worthy of the highest honor.
But as when the concert of our souls is most spiritually attuned, the rude, shrieking tones of the world usually break in most violently and boisterously, and the contrast which has gone on exercising a secret control affects us so much the more sensibly when it comes forward all at once: thus was I not to be dismissed from the peripatetic school of my Langer without having first witnessed an event, strange at least for Leipzig; namely, a tumult which the students excited, and that on the following pretence. Some young people had quarrelled with the city soldiers, and the affair had not gone off without violence. Many of the students combined to revenge the injuries inflicted. The soldiers resisted stubbornly, and the advantage was not on the side of the very discontented academical citizens. It was now said that respectable persons had commended and rewarded the conquerors for their valiant resistance; and, by this, the youthful feeling of honor and revenge was mightily excited. It was publicly said, that, on the next evening, windows would be broken in: and some friends who brought me word that this was actually taking place, were obliged to carry me there; for youth and the multitude are always attracted by danger and tumult. There really began a strange spectacle. The otherwise open street was lined on one side with men who, quite quiet, without noise or movement, were waiting to see what would happen. About a dozen young fellows were walking singly up and down the empty sidewalk, with the greatest apparent composure; but, as soon as they came opposite the marked house, they threw stones at the windows as they passed by, and this repeatedly as they returned backwards and forwards, as long as the panes would rattle. Just as quietly as this was done, all at last dispersed; and the affair had no further consequences.
With such a ringing echo of university exploits, I left Leipzig in the September of 1768, in a comfortable hired coach, and in the company of some respectable persons of my acquaintance. In the neighborhood of Auerstaedt I thought of that previous accident; but I could not forebode that which many years afterwards would threaten me from thence with still greater danger, just as little as in Gotha, where we had the castle shown to us, I could think in the great hall adorned with stucco figures, that so much favor and affection would befall me on that very spot.
The nearer I approached my native city, the more I recalled to myself doubtingly the circumstances, prospects, and hopes with which I had left home; and it was with a very disheartening feeling that I now returned, as it were, like one shipwrecked. Yet, since I had not very much with which to reproach myself, I contrived to compose myself tolerably well: however, the welcome was not without emotion. The great vivacity of my nature, excited and heightened by sickness, caused an impassioned scene. I might have looked worse than I myself knew, since for a long time I had not consulted a looking-glass; and who does not become used to himself? Suffice it to say, they silently resolved to communicate many things to me only by degrees, and before all things to let me have some repose, both bodily and mental.
My sister immediately associated herself with me, and as previously, from her letters, so I could now more in detail and accurately understand the circumstances and situation of the family. My father had, after my departure, applied all his didactic taste to my sister; and in a house completely shut up, rendered secure by peace, and even cleared of lodgers, he had cut off from her almost every means of looking about and finding some recreation abroad. She had by turns to pursue and work at French, Italian, and English; besides which he compelled her to practise a great part of the day on the harpsichord. Nor was her writing to be neglected; and I had already remarked that he had directed her correspondence with me, and had let his doctrines come to me through her pen. My sister was and still continued to be an undefinable being, the most singular mixture of strength and weakness, of stubbornness and pliability, which qualities operated now united, now isolated by will and inclination. Thus she had, in a manner which seemed to me fearful, turned the hardness of her character against her father, whom she did not forgive for having, in these three years, hindered, or embittered to her, so many innocent joys; and of his good and excellent qualities she would not acknowledge even one. She did all he commanded and arranged, but in the most unamiable manner in the world. She did it in the established routine, but nothing more and nothing less. Not from love or a desire to please did she accommodate herself to any thing, so that this was one of the first things about which my mother complained to me in private. But, since love was as essential to my sister as to any human being, she turned her affection wholly on me. Her care in nursing and entertaining me absorbed all her time: her female companions, who were swayed by her without her intending it, had likewise to contrive all sorts of things to be pleasing and consolatory to me. She was inventive in cheering me up, and even developed some germs of comical humor which I had never known in her, and which became her very well. There soon arose between us a coterie-language, by which we could converse before all people without their understanding us; and she often used this gibberish with great pertness in the presence of our parents.
My father was personally tolerably comfortable. He was in good health, spent a great part of the day in the instruction of my sister, went on with the description of his travels, and was longer in tuning his lute than in playing on it. He concealed at the same time, as well as he could, his vexation at finding, instead of a vigorous, active son, who ought now to take his degree and run through the prescribed course of life, an invalid who seemed to suffer still more in soul than in body. He did not conceal his wish that they would be expeditious with my cure; but one was forced to be specially on one's guard in his presence against hypochondriacal expressions, because he could then become passionate and bitter.
My mother, by nature very lively and cheerful, spent under these circumstances very tedious days. Her little housekeeping was soon provided for. The good woman's mind, inwardly never unoccupied, wished to find an interest in something; and that which was nearest at hand was religion, which she embraced the more fondly as her most eminent female friends were cultivated and hearty worshippers of God. At the head of these stood Fraeulein von Klettenberg. She is the same person from whose conversations and letters arose the "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul," which are found inserted in "Wilhelm Meister." She was slenderly formed, of the middle size: a hearty natural demeanor had been made still more pleasing by the manners of the world and the court. Her very neat attire reminded of the dress of the Hernhutt women. Her serenity and peace of mind never left her; she looked upon her sickness as a necessary element of her transient earthly existence; she suffered with the greatest patience, and, in painless intervals, was lively and talkative. Her favorite, nay, indeed, perhaps her only, conversation, was on the moral experiences which a man who observes himself can form in himself; to which was added the religious views which, in a very graceful manner, nay, with genius, came under her consideration as natural and supernatural. It scarcely needs more to recall back to the friends of such representations, that complete delineation composed from the very depths of her soul. Owing to the very peculiar course she had taken from her youth upwards, the distinguished rank in which she had been born and educated, and the liveliness and originality of her mind, she did not agree very well with the other ladies who had set out on the same road to salvation. Frau Griesbach, the chief of them, seemed too severe, too dry, too learned: she knew, thought, comprehended, more than the others, who contented themselves with the development of their feelings; and she was therefore burdensome to them, because every one neither could nor would carry with her so great an apparatus on the road to bliss. But for this reason most of them were indeed somewhat monotonous, since they confined themselves to a certain terminology which might well have been compared to that of the later sentimentalists. Fraeulein von Klettenberg guided her way between both extremes, and seemed, with some self- complacency, to see her own reflections in the image of Count Zindendorf, whose opinions and actions bore witness to a higher birth and more distinguished rank. Now she found in me what she needed, a lively young creature, striving after an unknown happiness, who, although he could not think himself an extraordinary sinner, yet found himself in no comfortable condition, and was perfectly healthy neither in body nor soul. She was delighted with what nature had given me, as well as with much which I had gained for myself. And, if she conceded to me many advantages, this was by no means humiliating to her: for, in the first place, she never thought of emulating one of the male sex; and, secondly, she believed, that, in regard to religious culture, she was very much in advance of me. My disquiet, my impatience, my striving, my seeking, investigating, musing, and wavering, she interpreted in her own way, and did not conceal from me her conviction, but assured me in plain terms that all this proceeded from my having no reconciled God. Now, I had believed from my youth upwards that I stood on very good terms with my God,—nay, I even fancied to myself, according to various experiences, that he might even be in arrears to me; and I was daring enough to think that I had something to forgive him. This presumption was grounded on my infinite good will, to which, as it seemed to me, he should have given better assistance. It may be imagined how often I got into disputes on this subject with my friend, which, however, always terminated in the friendliest way, and often, like my conversations with the old rector, with the remark, "that I was a foolish fellow, for whom many allowances must be made."
I was much troubled with the tumor in my neck, as the physician and surgeon wished first to disperse this excrescence, afterwards, as they said, to draw it to a head, and at last thought it best to open it; so for a long time I had to suffer more from inconvenience than pain, although towards the end of the cure the continual touching with lunar caustic and other corrosive substances could not but give me very disagreeable prospects for every fresh day. The physician and surgeon both belonged to the Pious Separatists, although both were of highly different natural characters. The surgeon, a slender, well-built man, of easy and skilful hand, was unfortunately somewhat hectic, but endured his condition with truly Christian patience, and did not suffer his disease to perplex him in his profession. The physician was an inexplicable, sly-looking, fair-spoken, and, besides, an abstruse, man, who had quite won the confidence of the pious circle. Being active and attentive, he was consoling to the sick; but, more than by all this, he extended his practice by the gift of showing in the background some mysterious medicines prepared by himself, of which no one could speak, since with us the physicians were strictly prohibited from making up their own prescriptions. With certain powders, which may have been some kind of digestive, he was not so reserved, but that powerful salt, which could only be applied in the greatest danger, was only mentioned among believers; although no one had yet seen it or traced its effects. To excite and strengthen our faith in the possibility of such an universal remedy, the physician, wherever he found any susceptibility, had recommended certain chemico-alchemical books to his patients, and given them to understand, that, by one's own study of them, one could well attain this treasure for one's self, which was the more necessary, as the mode of its preparation, both for physical, and especially for moral, reasons, could not be well communicated; nay, that in order to comprehend, produce, and use this great work, one must know the secrets of nature in connection, since it was not a particular, but an universal remedy, and could indeed be produced under different forms and shapes. My friend had listened to these enticing words. The health of the body was too nearly allied to the health of the soul; and could a greater benefit, a greater mercy, be shown towards others than by appropriating to one's self a remedy by which so many sufferings could be assuaged, so many a danger averted? She had already secretly studied Welling's "Opus Mago-cabalisticum," for which, however, as the author himself immediately darkens and removes the light he imparts, she was looking about for a friend, who, in this alternation of glare and gloom, might bear her company. It needed small incitement to inoculate me also with this disease. I procured the work, which, like all writings of this kind, could trace its pedigree in a direct line up to the Neo-Platonic school. My chief labor in this book was most accurately to notice the obscure hints by which the author refers from one passage to another, and thus promises to reveal what he conceals, and to mark down on the terminology which might well have been compared to that of the later sentimentalists. Fraeulein von Klettenberg guided her way between both extremes, and seemed, with some self-complacency, to see her own reflections in the image of Count Zindendorf, whose opinions and actions bore witness to a higher birth and more distinguished rank. Now she found in me what she needed, a lively young creature, striving after an unknown happiness, who, although he could not think himself an extraordinary sinner, yet found himself in no comfortable condition, and was perfectly healthy neither in body nor soul. She was delighted with what nature had given me, as well as with much which I had gained for myself. And, if she conceded to me many advantages, this was by no means humiliating to her: for, in the first place, she never thought of emulating one of the male sex; and, secondly, she believed, that, in regard to religious culture, she was very much in advance of me. My disquiet, my impatience, my striving, my seeking, investigating, musing, and wavering, she interpreted in her own way, and did not conceal from me her conviction, but assured me in plain terms that all this proceeded from my having no reconciled God. Now, I had believed from my youth upwards that I stood on very good terms with my God,—nay, I even fancied to myself, according to various experiences, that he might even be in arrears to me; and I was daring enough to think that I had something to forgive him. This presumption was grounded on my infinite good will, to which, as it seemed to me, he should have given better assistance. It may be imagined how often I got into disputes on this subject with my friend, which, however, always terminated in the friendliest way, and often, like my conversations with the old rector, with the remark, "that I was a foolish fellow, for whom many allowances must be made."
I was much troubled with the tumor in my neck, as the physician and surgeon wished first to disperse this excrescence, afterwards, as they said, to draw it to a head, and at last thought it best to open it; so for a long time I had to suffer more from inconvenience than pain, although towards the end of the cure the continual touching with lunar caustic and other corrosive substances could not but give me very disagreeable prospects for every fresh day. The physician and surgeon both belonged to the Pious Separatists, although both were of highly different natural characters. The surgeon, a slender, well-built man, of easy and skilful hand, was unfortunately somewhat hectic, but endured his condition with truly Christian patience, and did not suffer his disease to perplex him in his profession. The physician was an inexplicable, sly-looking, fair-spoken, and, besides, an abstruse, man, who had quite won the confidence of the pious circle. Being active and attentive, he was consoling to the sick; but, more than by all this, he extended his practice by the gift of showing in the background some mysterious medicines prepared by himself, of which no one could speak, since with us the physicians were strictly prohibited from making up their own prescriptions. With certain powders, which may have been some kind of digestive, he was not so reserved, but that powerful salt, which could only be applied in the greatest danger, was only mentioned among believers; although no one had yet seen it or traced its effects. To excite and strengthen our faith in the possibility of such an universal remedy, the physician, wherever he found any susceptibility, had recommended certain chemico-alchemical books to his patients, and given them to understand, that, by one's own study of them, one could well attain this treasure for one's self, which was the more necessary, as the mode of its preparation, both for physical, and especially for moral, reasons, could not be well communicated; nay, that in order to comprehend, produce, and use this great work, one must know the secrets of nature in connection, since it was not a particular, but an universal remedy, and could indeed be produced under different forms and shapes. My friend had listened to these enticing words. The health of the body was too nearly allied to the health of the soul; and could a greater benefit, a greater mercy, be shown towards others than by appropriating to one's self a remedy by which so many sufferings could be assuaged, so many a danger averted? She had already secretly studied Welling's "Opus Mago-cabalisticum," for which, however, as the author himself immediately darkens and removes the light he imparts, she was looking about for a friend, who, in this alternation of glare and gloom, might bear her company. It needed small incitement to inoculate me also with this disease. I procured the work, which, like all writings of this kind, could trace its pedigree in a direct line up to the Neo-Platonic school. My chief labor in this book was most accurately to notice the obscure hints by which the author refers from one passage to another, and thus promises to reveal what he conceals, and to mark down on the margin the number of the page where such passages as should explain each other were to be found. But even thus the book still remained dark and unintelligible enough, except that one at last studied one's self into a certain terminology, and, by using it according to one's own fancy, believed that one was, at any rate, saying, if not understanding, something. The work mentioned before makes very honorable mention of its predecessors, and we were incited to investigate those original sources themselves. We turned to the works of Theophrastus, Paracelsus, and Basilius Valentinus, as well as to those of Helmont, Starkey, and others, whose doctrines and directions, resting more or less on nature and imagination, we endeavored to see into and follow out. I was particularly pleased with the "Aurea Catena Homeri," in which nature, though perhaps in fantastical fashion, is represented in a beautiful combination; and thus sometimes by ourselves, sometimes together, we employed much time on these singularities, and spent the evenings of a long winter—during which I was compelled to keep my chamber—very agreeably, since we three (my mother being included) were more delighted with these secrets than we could have been at their elucidation.
In the mean time, a very severe trial was preparing for me: for a disturbed, and, one might even say, for certain moments, destroyed digestion, excited such symptoms, that, in great tribulation, I thought I should lose my life; and none of the remedies applied would produce any further effect. In this last extremity my distressed mother constrained the embarrassed physician with the greatest vehemence to come out with his universal medicine. After a long refusal, he hastened home at the dead of night, and returned with a little glass of crystallized dry salt, which was dissolved in water, and swallowed by the patient. It had a decidedly alkaline taste. The salt was scarcely taken than my situation appeared relieved; and from that moment the disease took a turn which, by degrees, led to my recovery. I need not say how much this strengthened and heightened our faith in our physician, and our industry to share in such a treasure.
My friend, who, without parents or brothers and sisters, lived in a large, well-situated house, had already before this begun to purchase herself a little air-furnace, alembics, and retorts of moderate size, and, in accordance with the hints of Welling, and the significant signs of our physician and master, operated principally on iron, in which the most healing powers were said to be concealed, if one only knew how to open it. And as the volatile salt which must be produced made a great figure in all the writings with which we were acquainted; so, for these operations, alkalies also were required, which, while they flowed away into the air, were to unite with these superterrestrial things, and at last produce, /per se/, a mysterious and excellent neutral salt.
No sooner was I in some measure restored, and, favored by the change in the season, once more able to occupy my old gable-chamber, than I also began to provide myself with a little apparatus. A small air-furnace with a sand-bath was prepared; and I very soon learned to change the glass alembics, with a piece of burning match-cord, into vessels in which the different mixtures were to be evaporated. Now were the strange ingredients of the macrocosm and microcosm handled in an odd, mysterious manner; and, before all, I attempted to produce neutral salts in an unheard-of way. But what, for a long time, kept me busy most, was the so-called /Liquor Silicum/ (flint-juice), which is made by melting down pure quartz-flint with a proper proportion of alkali, whence results a transparent glass, which melts away on exposure to the air, and exhibits a beautiful clear fluidity. Whoever has once prepared this himself, and seen it with his own eyes, will not blame those who believe in a maiden earth, and in the possibility of producing further effects upon it by means of it. I had become quite skilful in preparing this /Liquor Silicum/; the fine white flints which are found in the Main furnished a perfect material for it: and I was not wanting in the other requisites, nor in diligence. But I wearied at last, because I could not but remark that the flinty substance was by no means so closely combined with the salt as I had philosophically imagined, for it very easily separated itself again; and this most beautiful mineral fluidity, which, to my greatest astonishment, had sometimes appeared in the form of an animal jelly, always deposited a powder, which I was forced to pronounce the finest flint dust, but which gave not the least sign of any thing productive in its nature from which one could have hoped to see this maiden earth pass into the maternal state.
Strange and unconnected as these operations were, I yet learned many things from them. I paid strict attention to all the crystallizations that might occur, and became acquainted with the external forms of many natural things: and, inasmuch as I well knew that in modern times chemical subjects were treated more methodically, I wished to get a general conception of them; although, as a half-adept, I had very little respect for the apothecaries and all those who operated with common fire. However, the chemical "Compendium" of Boerhaave attracted me powerfully, and led me on to read several of his writings, in which (since, moreover, my tedious illness had inclined me towards medical subjects) I found an inducement to study also the "Aphorisms" of this excellent man, which I was glad to stamp upon my mind and in my memory.
Another employment, somewhat more human, and by far more useful for my cultivation at the moment, was reading through the letters which I had written home from Leipzig. Nothing reveals more with respect to ourselves, than when we again see before us that which has proceeded from us years before, so that we can now consider ourselves as an object of contemplation. But, of course, I was as yet too young, and the epoch which was represented by those papers was still too near. As in our younger years we do not in general easily cast off a certain self- complacent conceit, this especially shows itself in despising what we have been but a little time before; for while, indeed, we perceive, as we advance from step to step, that those things which we regard as good and excellent in ourselves and others do not stand their ground, we think we can best extricate ourselves from this dilemma by ourselves throwing away what we cannot preserve. So it was with me also. For as in Leipzig I had gradually learned to set little value on my childish labors, so now my academical course seemed to me likewise of small account; and I did not understand, that, for this very reason, it must be of great value to me, as it elevated me to a higher degree of observation and insight. My father had carefully collected and sewed together the letters I had written to him, as well as those to my sister; nay, he had even corrected them with attention, and improved the mistakes, both in writing and in grammar.
What first struck me in these letters was their exterior: I was shocked at an incredible carelessness in the handwriting, which extended from October, 1765, to the middle of the following January. But, in the middle of March, there appeared all at once a quite compressed, orderly hand, such as I used formerly to employ in writing for a prize. My astonishment resolved itself into gratitude towards good Gellert, who, as I now well remembered, whenever we handed in our essays to him, represented to us, in his hearty tone of voice, that it was our sacred duty to practise our hand as much, nay, more, than our style. He repeated this as often as he caught sight of any scrawled, careless writing, on which occasion he often said that he would much like to make a good hand of his pupils the principal end in his instructions; the more so as he had often remarked that a good hand led the way to a good style.
I could further notice that the French and English passages in my letters, although not free from blunders, were nevertheless written with facility and freedom. These languages I had likewise continued to practise in my correspondence with George Schlosser, who was still at Treptow; and I had remained in constant communication with him, by which I was instructed in many secular affairs (for things did not always turn out with him quite as he had hoped), and acquired an ever increasing confidence in his earnest, noble way of thinking.
Another consideration which could not escape me in going over these letters, was that my good father, with the best intentions, had done me a special mischief, and had led me into that odd way of life into which I had fallen at last. He had repeatedly warned me against card-playing; but Frau Hofrath Boehme, as long as she lived, contrived to persuade me, after her own fashion, by declaring that my father's warnings were only against the abuse. Now, as I likewise saw the advantages of it in society, I readily submitted to being led by her. I had indeed the sense of play, but not the spirit of play: I learned all games easily and rapidly, but I could never keep up the proper attention for a whole evening. Therefore, however good a beginning I would make, I invariably failed at the end, and made myself and others lose; through which I went off, always out of humor, either to the supper-table or out of the company. Scarcely had Madame Boehme died, who, moreover, had no longer kept me in practice during her tedious illness, when my father's doctrine gained force: I at first begged to be excused from joining the card-tables; and, as they now did not know what else to do with me, I became even more of a burden to myself than to others, and declined the invitations, which then became more rare, and at last ceased altogether. Play, which is much to be recommended to young people, especially to those who incline to be practical, and wish to look about in the world for themselves, could never, indeed, become a passion with me; for I never got any farther, no matter how long I might have been playing. Had any one given me a general view of the subject, and made me observe how here certain signs and more or less of chance form a kind of material, at which judgment and activity can exercise themselves; had any one made me see several games at once,—I might sooner have become reconciled. With all this, at the time of which I am now speaking, I had, from the above considerations, come to the conviction, that one should not avoid social games, but should rather strive after a certain skill in them. Time is infinitely long; and each day is a vessel into which a great deal may be poured, if one would actually fill it up.
Thus variously was I occupied in my solitude; the more so, as the departed spirits of the different tastes to which I had from time to time devoted myself had an opportunity to re-appear. I then again took up drawing: and as I always wished to labor directly from nature, or rather from reality, I made a picture of my chamber, with its furniture, and the persons who were in it; and, when this no more amused me, I represented all sorts of town-tales, which were told at the time, and in which interest was taken. All this was not without character and a certain taste; but unfortunately the figures lacked proportion and the proper vigor, besides which the execution was extremely misty. My father, who continued to take pleasure in these things, wished to have them more distinct, wanting every thing to be finished and properly completed. He therefore had them mounted and surrounded with ruled lines; nay, the painter Morgenstern, his domestic artist,—the same who afterwards made himself known, and indeed famous, by his church-views,— had to insert the perspective lines of the rooms and chambers, which then, indeed, stood in pretty harsh contrast with those cloudy looking figures. In this manner he thought he would make me gain greater accuracy; and, to please him, I drew various objects of still life, in which, since the originals stood as patterns before me, I could work with more distinctness and precision. At last I took it into my head to etch once more. I had composed a tolerably interesting landscape, and felt myself very happy when I could look out for the old receipts given me by Stock, and could, at my work, call to mind those pleasant times. I soon bit the plate and had a proof taken. Unluckily the composition was without light and shade, and I now tormented myself to bring in both; but, as it was not quite clear to me what was really the essential point, I could not finish. Up to this time I had been quite well, after my own fashion; but now a disease attacked me which had never troubled me before. My throat, namely, had become completely sore, and particularly what is called the "uvula" very much inflamed: I could only swallow with great pain, and the physicians did not know what to make of it. They tormented me with gargles and hair-pencils, but could not free me from my misery. At last it struck me that I had not been careful enough in the biting of my plates, and that, by often and passionately repeating it, I had contracted this disease, and always revived and increased it. To the physicians this cause was plausible, and very soon certain on my leaving my etching and biting, and that so much the more readily as the attempt had by no means turned out well, and I had more reason to conceal than to exhibit my labors; for which I consoled myself the more easily, as I very soon saw myself free from the troublesome disease. Upon this I could not refrain from the reflection, that my similar occupations at Leipzig might have greatly contributed to those diseases from which I had suffered so much. It is, indeed, a tedious, and withal a melancholy, business to take too much care of ourselves, and of what injures and benefits us; but there is no question but that, with the wonderful idiosyncrasy of human nature on the one side, and the infinite variety in the mode of life and pleasure on the other, it is a wonder that the human race has not worn itself out long ago. Human nature appears to possess a peculiar kind of toughness and many- sidedness, since it subdues every thing which approaches it, or which it takes into itself, and, if it cannot assimilate, at least makes it indifferent. In case of any great excess, indeed, it must yield to the elements in spite of all resistance, as the many endemic diseases and the effects of brandy convince us. Could we, without being morbidly anxious, keep watch over ourselves as to what operates favorably or unfavorably upon us in our complicated civil and social life, and would we leave off what is actually pleasant to us as an enjoyment, for the sake of the evil consequences, we should thus know how to remove with ease many an inconvenience which, with a constitution otherwise sound, often troubles us more than even a disease. Unfortunately, it is in dietetics as in morals,—we cannot see into a fault till we have got rid of it; by which nothing is gained, for the next fault is not like the preceding one, and therefore cannot be recognized under the same form.
While I was reading over the letters which had been written to my sister from Leipzig, this remark, among others, could not escape me,—that, from the very beginning of my academical course, I had esteemed myself very clever and wise, since, as soon as I had learned any thing, I put myself in the place of the professor, and so became didactic on the spot. I was amused to see how I had immediately applied to my sister whatever Gellert had imparted or advised in his lectures, without seeing, that, both in life and in books, a thing may be proper for a young man without being suitable for a young lady; and we both together made merry over these mimicries. The poems also which I had composed in Leipzig were already too poor for me; and they seemed to me cold, dry, and, in respect of all that was meant to express the state of the human heart or mind, too superficial. This induced me, now that I was to leave my father's house once more, and go to a second university, again to decree a great high /auto-da-fe/ against my labors. Several commenced plays, some of which had reached the third or the fourth act, while others had only the plot fully made out, together with many other poems, letters, and papers, were given over to the fire: and scarcely any thing was spared except the manuscript by Behrisch, "Die Laune des Verliebten" and "Die Mitschuldigen," which latter play I constantly went on improving with peculiar affection; and, as the piece was already complete, I again worked over the plot, to make it more bustling and intelligible. Lessing, in the first two acts of his "Minna," had set up an unattainable model of the way in which a drama should be developed; and nothing was to me of greater importance than to thoroughly enter into his meaning and views.
The recital of whatever moved, excited, and occupied me at this time, is already circumstantial enough; but I must nevertheless recur to that interest with which supersensuous things had inspired me, of which I, once for all, so far as might be possible, undertook to form some notion.
I experienced a great influence from an important work that fell into my hands: it was Arnold's "History of the Church and of Heretics." This man is not merely a reflective historian, but at the same time pious and feeling. His sentiments chimed in very well with mine; and what particularly delighted me in his work was, that I received a more favorable notion of many heretics, who had been hitherto represented to me as mad or impious. The spirit of contradiction and the love of paradoxes are inherent in us all. I diligently studied the different opinions: and as I had often enough heard it said that every man has his own religion at last, so nothing seemed more natural to me than that I should form mine too; and this I did with much satisfaction. The Neo- Platonism lay at the foundation; the hermetical, the mystical, the cabalistic, also contributed their share; and thus I built for myself a world that looked strange enough.
I could well represent to myself a Godhead which has gone on producing itself from all eternity; but, as production cannot be conceived without multiplicity, so it must of necessity have immediately appeared to itself as a Second, which we recognize under the name of the Son: now, these two must continue the act of producing, and again appear to themselves in a Third, which was just as substantial, living, and eternal as the Whole. With these, however, the circle of the Godhead was complete; and it would not have been possible for them to produce another perfectly equal to them. But, since the work of production always proceeded, they created a fourth, which already fostered in himself a contradiction, inasmuch as it was, like them, unlimited, and yet at the same time was to be contained in them and bounded by them. Now, this was Lucifer, to whom the whole power of creation was committed from this time, and from whom all other beings were to proceed. He immediately displayed his infinite activity by creating the whole body of angels,—all, again, after his own likeness, unlimited, but contained in him and bounded by him. Surrounded by such a glory, he forgot his higher origin, and believed that he could find himself in himself; and from this first ingratitude sprang all that does not seem to us in accordance with the will and purposes of the Godhead. Now, the more he concentrated himself within himself, the more painful must it have become to him, as well as to all the spirits whose sweet uprising to their origin he had embittered. And so that happened which is intimated to us under the form of the Fall of the Angels. One part of them concentrated itself with Lucifer, the other turned itself again to its origin. From this concentration of the whole creation—for it had proceeded out of Lucifer, and was forced to follow him—sprang all that we perceive under the form of matter, which we figure to ourselves as heavy, solid, and dark, but which, since it is descended, if not even immediately, yet by filiation, from the Divine Being, is just as unlimited, powerful, and eternal as its sire and grandsire. Now, the whole mischief, if we may call it so, having arisen merely through the one-sided direction of Lucifer, the better half was indeed wanting to this creation; for it possessed all that is gained by concentration, while it lacked all that can be effected by expansion alone: and so the entire creation might have been destroyed by everlasting concentration, become annihilated with its father Lucifer, and have lost all its claims to an equal eternity with the Godhead. This condition the Elohim contemplated for a time: and they had their choice, to wait for those eons, in which the field would again have become clear, and space would be left them for a new creation; or, if they would, to seize upon that which existed already, and supply the want, according to their own eternity. Now, they chose the latter, and by their mere will supplied in an instant the whole want which the consequence of Lucifer's undertaking drew after it. They gave to the Eternal Being the faculty of expansion, of moving towards them: the peculiar pulse of life was again restored, and Lucifer himself could not avoid its effects. This is the epoch when that appeared which we know as light, and when that began which we are accustomed to designate by the word creation. However much this multiplied itself by progressive degrees, through the continually working vital power of the Elohim, still a being was wanting who might be able to restore the original connection with the Godhead: and thus man was produced, who in all things was to be similar, yea, equal to the Godhead, but thereby, in effect, found himself once more in the situation of Lucifer, that of being at once unlimited and limited; and since this contradiction was to manifest itself in him through all the categories of existence, and a perfect consciousness, as well as a decided will, was to accompany his various conditions, it was to be foreseen that he must be at the same time the most perfect and the most imperfect, the most happy and the most unhappy, creature. It was not long before he, too, completely acted the part of Lucifer. True ingratitude is the separation from the benefactor; and thus that fall was manifest for the second time, although the whole creation is nothing and was nothing but a falling from and returning to the original.
One easily sees how the Redemption is not only decreed from eternity, but is considered as eternally necessary,—nay, that it must ever renew itself through the whole time of generation [Footnote: "Das Werden," the state of becoming, as distinguished from that of being. The word, which is most useful to the Germans, can never be rendered properly in English.—TRANS.] and existence. In this view of the subject, nothing is more natural than for the Divinity himself to take the form of man, which had already prepared itself as a veil, and to share his fate for a short time, in order, by this assimilation, to enhance his joys and alleviate his sorrows. The history of all religions and philosophies teaches us, that this great truth, indispensable to man, has been handed down by different nations, in different times, in various ways, and even in strange fables and images, in accordance with their limited knowledge: enough, if it only be acknowledged that we find ourselves in a condition which, even if it seems to drag us down and oppress us, yet gives us opportunity, nay, even makes it our duty, to raise ourselves up, and to fulfil the purposes of the Godhead in this manner, that, while we are compelled on the one hand to concentrate ourselves (/uns zu verselbsten/), we, on the other hand, do not omit to expand ourselves (/uns zu entselbstigen/) in regular pulsation. [Footnote: If we could make use of some such verbs as "inself" and "unself," we should more accurately render this passage.—TRANS.]
"The heart is often affected, moreover, to the advantage of different, but especially of social and refined, virtues; and the more tender sentiments are excited and unfolded in it. Many touches, in particular, will impress themselves, which give the young reader an insight into the more hidden corner of the human heart and its passions,—a knowledge which is more worth than all Latin and Greek, and of which Ovid was a very excellent master. But yet it is not on this account that the classic poets, and therefore Ovid, are placed in the hands of youth. We have received from a kind Creator a variety of mental powers, to which we must not neglect giving their proper culture in our earliest years, and which cannot be cultivated, either by logic or metaphysics, Latin or Greek. We have an imagination, before which, since it should not seize upon the very first conceptions that chance to present themselves, we ought to place the fittest and most beautiful images, and thus accustom and practise the mind to recognize and love the beautiful everywhere, and in nature itself, under its determined, true, and also in its finer, features. A multitude of conceptions and general knowledge is necessary to us, as well for the sciences as for daily life, which can be learned out of no compendium. Our feelings, affections, and passions should be advantageously developed and purified."
This significant passage, which is found in "The Universal German Library," was not the only one of its kind. Similar principles and similar views manifested themselves in many directions. They made upon us lively youths a very great impression, which had the more decided effect, as it was strengthened besides by Wieland's example; for the works of his second brilliant period clearly showed that he had formed himself according to such maxims. And what more could we desire? Philosophy, with its abstruse questions, was set aside; the classic languages, the acquisition of which is accompanied by so much drudgery, one saw thrust into the background; the compendiums, about the sufficiency of which Hamlet had already whispered a word of caution into our ears, came more and more into suspicion. We were directed to the contemplation of an active life, which we were so fond of leading; and to the knowledge of the passions, which we partly felt, partly anticipated, in our own bosoms, and which, if though they had been rebuked formerly, now appeared to us as something important and dignified, because they were to be the chief object of our studies; and the knowledge of them was extolled as the most excellent means of cultivating our mental powers. Besides, such a mode of thought was quite in accordance with my own conviction,—nay, with my poetical mode of treatment. I therefore, without opposition, after I had thwarted so many good designs, and seen so many fair hopes vanish, reconciled myself to my father's intention of sending me to Strasburg, where I was promised a cheerful, gay life, while I should prosecute my studies, and at last take my degree.
In spring I felt my health, but still more my youthful spirits, restored, and once more longed to be out of my father's house, though with reasons far different from those on the first time. The pretty chambers and spots where I had suffered so much had become disagreeable to me, and with my father himself there could be no pleasant relation. I could not quite pardon him for having manifested more impatience than was reasonable at the relapse of my disease, and at my tedious recovery; nay, for having, instead of comforting me by forbearance, frequently expressed himself in a cruel manner, about that which lay in no man's hand, as if it depended only on the will. And he, too, was in various ways hurt and offended by me.
For young people bring back from the university general ideas, which, indeed, is quite right and good; but, because they fancy themselves very wise in this, they apply them as a standard to the objects that occur, which must then, for the most part, lose by the comparison. Thus I had gained a general notion of architecture, and of the arrangement and decoration of houses, and imprudently, in conversation, had applied this to our own house. My father had designed the whole arrangement of it, and carried out its construction with great perseverance; and, considering that it was to be exclusively a residence for himself and his family, nothing could be objected to it: in this taste, also, very many of the houses in Frankfort were built. An open staircase ran up through the house, and touched upon large ante-rooms, which might very well have been chambers themselves, as, indeed, we always passed the fine season in them. But this pleasant, cheerful existence for a single family—this communication from above to below—became the greatest inconvenience as soon as several parties occupied the house, as we had but too well experienced on the occasion of the French quartering. For that painful scene with the king's lieutenant would not have happened, nay, my father would even have felt all those disagreeable matters less, if, after the Leipzig fashion, our staircase had run close along the side of the house, and a separate door had been given to each story. This style of building I once praised highly for its advantages, and showed my father the possibility of altering his staircase also; whereat he got into an incredible passion, which was the more violent as, a short time before, I had found fault with some scrolled looking-glass frames, and rejected certain Chinese hangings. A scene ensued, which, indeed, was again hushed up and smothered; but it hastened my journey to the beautiful Alsace, which I accomplished in a newly contrived comfortable diligence, without delay, and in a short time.
I had alighted at the Ghost (/Geist/) tavern, and hastened at once to satisfy my most earnest desire and to approach the minster, which had long since been pointed out to me by fellow-travellers, and had been before my eyes for a great distance. When I first perceived this Colossus through the narrow lanes, and then stood too near before it, in the truly confined little square, it made upon me an impression quite of its own kind, which I, being unable to analyze on the spot, carried with me only indistinctly for this time, as I hastily ascended the building, so as not to neglect the beautiful moment of a high and cheerful sun, which was to disclose to me at once the broad, rich land.
And now, from the platform, I saw before me the beautiful country in which I should for a long time live and reside: the handsome city; the wide-spreading meadows around it, thickly set and interwoven with magnificent trees; that striking richness of vegetation which follows in the windings of the Rhine, marks its banks, islands, and aits. Nor is the level ground, stretching down from the south, and watered by the Iller, less adorned with varied green. Even westward, towards the mountains, there are many low grounds, which afford quite as charming a view of wood and meadow-growth, just as the northern and more hilly part is intersected by innumerable little brooks, which promote a rapid vegetation everywhere. If one imagines, between these luxuriantly outstretched meads, between these joyously scattered groves, all land adapted for tillage, excellently prepared, verdant, and ripening, and the best and richest spots marked by hamlets and farmhouses, and this great and immeasurable plain, prepared for man, like a new paradise, bounded far and near by mountains partly cultivated, partly overgrown with woods, he will then conceive the rapture with which I blessed my fate, that it had destined me, for some time, so beautiful a dwelling- place.
Such a fresh glance into a new land in which we are to abide for a time, has still the peculiarity, both pleasant and foreboding, that the whole lies before us like an unwritten tablet. As yet no sorrows and joys which relate to ourselves are recorded upon it; this cheerful, varied, animated plain is still mute for us; the eye is only fixed on the objects so far as they are intrinsically important, and neither affection nor passion has especially to render prominent this or that spot. But a presentiment of the future already disquiets the young heart; and an unsatisfied craving secretly demands that which is to come and may come, and which at all events, whether for good or ill, will imperceptibly assume the character of the spot in which we find ourselves.
Having descended the height, I still tarried a while before the face of the venerable pile; but what I could not quite clearly make out, either the first or the following time, was, that I regarded this miracle as a monster, which must have terrified me, if it had not, at the same time, appeared to me comprehensible by its regularity, and even pleasing in its finish. Yet I by no means busied myself with meditating on this contradiction, but suffered a monument so astonishing quietly to work upon me by its presence.
I took small, but well-situated and pleasant, lodgings, on the north side of the Fish-market, a fine, long street, where the everlasting motion came to the assistance of every unoccupied moment. I then delivered my letters of introduction, and found among my patrons a merchant, who, with his family, was devoted to those pious opinions sufficiently known to me, although, as far as regarded external worship, he had not separated from the Church. He was a man of intelligence withal, and by no means hypocritical in his conduct. The company of boarders which was recommended to me, and, indeed, I to it, was very agreeable and entertaining. A couple of old maids had long kept up this boarding-house with regularity and good success: there might have been about ten persons, older and younger. Of these latter, one named Meyer, a native of Lindau, is most vividly present to my mind. From his form and face he might have been considered one of the handsomest of men, if, at the same time, he had not had something of the sloven in his whole appearance. In like manner his splendid natural talents were marred by an incredible levity, and his excellent temper by an unbounded dissoluteness. He had an open, jovial face, rather more round than oval: the organs of the senses, the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, could be called rich; they showed a decided fulness, without being too large. His mouth was particularly charming, owing to his curling lips; and his whole physiognomy had the peculiar expression of a rake, from the circumstance that his eyebrows met across his nose, which, in a handsome face, always produces a pleasant expression of sensuality. By his jovialness, sincerity, and good nature, he made himself beloved by all. His memory was incredible; attention at the lectures was no effort for him; he retained all he heard, and was intellectual enough to take an interest in every thing, and this the more easily, as he was studying medicine. All his impressions remained vivid; and his waggery in repeating the lectures and mimicking the professors often went so far, that, when he had heard three different lectures in one morning, he would, at the dinner-table, interchange the professors with each other, paragraphwise, and often even more abruptly, which motley lecture frequently entertained us, but often, too, became troublesome.
The rest were more or less polite, steady, serious people. A pensioned knight of the order of St. Louis was one of these: but the majority were students, all really good and well-disposed; only they were not allowed to go beyond their usual allowance of wine. That this should not be easily done was the care of our president, one Doctor Salzmann. Already in the sixties and unmarried, he had attended this dinner-table for many years, and maintained its good order and respectability. He possessed a handsome property, kept himself close and neat in his exterior, even belonging to those who always go in shoes and stockings, and with their hat under their arm. To put on the hat was with him an extraordinary action. He commonly carried an umbrella, wisely reflecting that the finest summer-days often bring thunder-storms and passing showers over the country.
With this man I talked over my design of continuing to study jurisprudence at Strasburg, so as to be able to take my degree as soon as possible. Since he was exactly informed of every thing, I asked him about the lectures I should have to hear, and what he generally thought of the matter. To this he replied, that it was not in Strasburg as in the German universities, where they try to educate jurists in the large and learned sense of the term. Here, in conformity with the relation towards France, all was really directed to the practical, and managed in accordance with the opinions of the French, who readily stop at what is given. They tried to impart to every one certain general principles and preliminary knowledge, they compressed as much as possible, and communicated only what was most necessary. Hereupon he made me acquainted with a man, in whom, as a /repetent/, [Footnote: A repetent is one of a class of persons to be found in the German universities, and who assist students in their studies. They are somewhat analogous to the English tutors, but not precisely: for the latter render their aid /before/ the recitation; while the repetent /repeats/ with the student, in private, the lectures he has previously heard from the professor. Hence his name, which might be rendered /repeater/, had we any corresponding class of men in England or America, which would justify an English word.—/American Note/.] great confidence was entertained; which he very soon managed to gain from me also. By way of introduction, I began to speak with him on subjects of jurisprudence; and he wondered not a little at my swaggering: for, during my residence at Leipzig, I had gained more of an insight into the requisites for the law than I have hitherto taken occasion to state in my narrative, though all I had acquired could only be reckoned as a general encyclopedical survey, and not as proper definite knowledge. University life, even if in the course of it we may not exactly have to boast of industry, nevertheless affords endless advantages in every kind of cultivation, because we are always surrounded by men who either possess or are seeking science, so that, even if unconsciously, we are constantly drawing some nourishment from such an atmosphere.
My repetent, after he had had patience with my rambling discourse for some time, gave me at last to understand that I must first of all keep my immediate object in view, which was, to be examined, to take my degree, and then, perchance, to commence practice. "Regarding the former," said he, "the subject is by no means investigated at large. It is inquired how and when a law arose, and what gave the internal or external occasion for it: there is no inquiry as to how it has been altered by time and custom, or how far it has perhaps been perverted by false interpretation or the perverted usage of the courts. It is in such investigations that learned men quite peculiarly spend their lives, whereas we inquire into that which exists at present: this we stamp firmly on our memory, that it may always be ready when we wish to employ it for the use and defence of our clients. Thus we qualify our young people for their future life, and the rest follows in proportion to their talents and activity." Hereupon he handed me his pamphlets, which were written in question and answer, and in which I could have stood a pretty good examination at once; for Hopp's smaller law-catechism was yet perfectly in my memory: the rest I supplied with some diligence, and, against my will, qualified myself in the easiest manner as a candidate.
But since in this way all my own activity in the study was cut off,—for I had no sense for any thing positive, but wished to have every thing explained historically, if not intelligibly,—I found for my powers a wider field, which I employed in the most singular manner by devoting myself to a matter of interest which was accidentally presented to me from without.
Most of my fellow-boarders were medical students. These, as is well known, are the only students who zealously converse about their science and profession, even out of the hours of study. This lies in the nature of the case. The objects of their endeavors are those most obvious to the senses, and at the same time the highest, the most simple, and the most complicated. Medicine employs the whole man, for it occupies itself with man as a whole. All that the young man learns refers directly to an important, dangerous indeed, but yet in many respects lucrative, practice. He therefore devotes himself passionately to whatever is to be known and to be done, partly because it is interesting in itself, partly because it opens to him the joyous prospect of independence and wealth.
At table, then, I heard nothing but medical conversations, just as formerly in the boarding-house of Hofrath Ludwig. In our walks and in our pleasure-parties likewise not much else was talked about: for my fellow-boarders, like good fellows, had also become my companions at other times; and they were always joined on all sides by persons of like minds and like studies. The medical faculty in general shone above the others, with respect both to the celebrity of the professors and the number of the students; and I was the more easily borne along by the stream, as I had just so much knowledge of all these things that my desire for science could soon be increased and inflamed. At the commencement of the second half-year, therefore, I attended Spielmann's course on chemistry, another on anatomy by Lobstein, and proposed to be right industrious, because, by my singular preliminary or rather extra knowledge, I had already gained some respect and confidence in our society.
Yet this trifling and piecemeal way of study was even to be once more seriously disturbed; for a remarkable political event set every thing in motion, and procured us a tolerable succession of holidays. Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France, was to pass through Strasburg on her road to Paris. The solemnities by which the people are made to take notice that there is greatness in the world were busily and abundantly prepared; and especially remarkable to me was the building which stood on an island in the Rhine between the two bridges, erected for her reception and for surrendering her into the hands of her husband's ambassadors. It was but slightly raised above the ground; had in the centre a grand saloon, on each side smaller ones; then followed other chambers, which extended somewhat backward. In short, had it been more durably built, it might have answered very well as a pleasure-house for persons of rank. But that which particularly interested me, and for which I did not grudge many a /buesel/ (a little silver coin then current) in order to procure a repeated entrance from the porter, was the embroidered tapestry with which they had lined the whole interior. Here, for the first time, I saw a specimen of those tapestries worked after Raffaelle's cartoons; and this sight was for me of very decided influence, as I became acquainted with the true and the perfect on a large scale, though only in copies. I went and came, and came and went, and could not satiate myself with looking; nay, a vain endeavor troubled me, because I would willingly have comprehended what interested me in so extraordinary a manner. I found these side-chambers highly delightful and refreshing, but the chief saloon so much the more shocking. This had been hung with many larger, more brilliant and richer, hangings, which were surrounded with crowded ornaments, worked after pictures by the modern French.
Now, I might perhaps have become reconciled to this style also, as my feelings, like my judgment, did not readily reject any thing entirely; but the subject was excessively revolting to me. These pictures contained the history of Jason, Medea, and Creusa, and therefore an example of the most unhappy marriage. To the left of the throne was seen the bride struggling with the most horrible death, surrounded by persons full of sympathizing woe; to the right was the father, horrified at the murdered babes before his feet; whilst the Fury, in her dragon-car, drove along into the air. And, that the horrible and atrocious should not lack something absurd, the white tail of that magic bull flourished out on the right hand from behind the red velvet of the gold-embroidered back of the throne; while the fire-spitting beast himself, and the Jason who was fighting with him, were completely covered by the sumptuous drapery.
Here all the maxims which I had made my own in Oeser's school were stirring within my bosom. It was without proper selection and judgment, to begin with, that Christ and the apostles were brought into the side- halls of a nuptial building; and doubtless the size of the chambers had guided the royal tapestry-keeper. This, however, I willingly forgave, because it had turned out so much to my advantage; but a blunder like that in the grand saloon put me altogether out of my self-possession, and with animation and vehemence I called on my comrades to witness such a crime against taste and feeling. "What!" cried I, without regarding the by-standers, "is it permitted so thoughtlessly to place before the eyes of a young queen, at her first setting foot in her dominions, the representation of the most horrible marriage that perhaps ever was consummated? Is there among the French architects, decorators, upholsterers, not a single man who understands that pictures represent something, that pictures work upon the mind and feelings, that they make impressions, that they excite forebodings? It is just the same as if they had sent the most ghastly spectre to meet this beauteous and pleasure-loving lady at the very frontiers!" I know not what I said besides: enough, my comrades tried to quiet me and to remove me out of the house, that there might be no offence. They then assured me that it was not everybody's concern to look for significance in pictures; that to themselves, at least, nothing of the sort would have occurred; while the whole population of Strasburg and the vicinity, which was to throng thither, would no more take such crotchets into their heads than the queen herself and her court.
I yet remember well the beauteous and lofty mien, as cheerful as it was imposing, of this youthful lady. Perfectly visible to us all in her glass carriage, she seemed to be jesting with her female attendants, in familiar conversation, about the throng that poured forth to meet her train. In the evening we roamed through the streets to look at the various illuminated buildings, but especially the glowing spire of the minster, with which, both near and in the distance, we could not sufficiently feast our eyes.
The queen pursued her way: the country people dispersed, and the city was soon quiet as ever. Before the queen's arrival, the very reasonable regulation had been made, that no deformed persons, no cripples nor disgusting invalids, should show themselves on her route. People joked about this; and I made a little French poem in which I compared the advent of Christ, who seemed to wander upon earth particularly on account of the sick and the lame, with the arrival of the queen, who scared these unfortunates away. My friends let it pass: a Frenchman, on the contrary, who lived with us, criticised the language and metre very unmercifully, although, as it seemed, with too much foundation; and I do not remember that I ever made a French poem afterwards.
No sooner had the news of the queen's happy arrival rung from the capital, than it was followed by the horrible intelligence, that, owing to an oversight of the police during the festal fireworks, an infinite number of persons, with horses and carriages, had been destroyed in a street obstructed by building materials, and that the city, in the midst of the nuptial solemnities, had been plunged into mourning and sorrow. They attempted to conceal the extent of the misfortune, both from the young royal pair and from the world, by burying the dead in secret; so that many families were convinced only by the ceaseless absence of their members that they, too, had been swept off by this awful event. That, on this occasion, those ghastly figures in the grand saloon again came vividly before my mind, I need scarcely mention; for every one knows how powerful certain moral impressions are when they embody themselves, as it were, in those of the senses.
This occurrence was, however, destined moreover to place my friends in anxiety and trouble by means of a prank in which I indulged. Among us young people who had been at Leipzig, there had been maintained ever afterwards a certain itch for imposing on and in some way mystifying one another. With this wanton love of mischief I wrote to a friend in Frankfort (he was the one who had amplified my poem on the cake-baker Hendel, applied it to /Medon/, and caused its general circulation) a letter dated from Versailles, in which I informed him of my happy arrival there, my participation in the solemnities, and other things of the kind, but at the same time enjoined the strictest secrecy. I must here remark, that, from the time of that trick which had caused us so much annoyance, our little Leipzig society had accustomed itself to persecute him from time to time with mystifications, and this especially as he was the drollest man in the world, and was never more amiable than when he was discovering the cheat into which he had deliberately been led. Shortly after I had written this letter, I went on a little journey, and remained absent about a fortnight. Meanwhile the news of that disaster had reached Frankfort: my friend believed me in Paris, and his affection led him to apprehend that I might have been involved in the calamity. He inquired of any parents and other persons to whom I was accustomed to write, whether any letters had arrived; and, as it was just at the time when my journey kept me from sending any, they were altogether wanting. He went about in the greatest uneasiness, and at last told the matter in confidence to our nearest friends, who were now in equal anxiety. Fortunately this conjecture did not reach my parents until a letter had arrived announcing my return to Strasburg. My young friends were satisfied to learn that I was alive, but remained firmly convinced that I had been at Paris in the interim. The affectionate intelligence of the solicitude they had felt on my account affected me so much that I vowed to leave off such tricks forever; but, unfortunately, I have often since allowed myself to be guilty of something similar. Real life frequently loses its brilliancy to such a degree, that one is many a time forced to polish it up again with the varnish of fiction.
This mighty stream of courtly magnificence had now flowed by, and had left in me no other longing than after those tapestries of Raffaelle, which I would willingly have gazed at, revered, nay, adored, every day and every hour. Fortunately, my passionate endeavors succeeded in interesting several persons of consequence in them, so that they were taken down and packed up as late as possible. We now gave ourselves up again to our quiet, easy routine of the university and society; and in the latter the Actuary Salzmann, president of our table, continued to be the general pedagogue. His intelligence, complaisance, and dignity, which he always contrived to maintain amid all the jests, and often even in the little extravagances, which he allowed us, made him beloved and respected by the whole company; and I could mention but few instances where he showed his serious displeasure, or interposed with authority in little quarrels and disputes. Yet among them all I was the one who most attached myself to him; and he was not less inclined to converse with me, as he found me more variously accomplished than the others, and not so one-sided in judgment. I also followed his directions in external matters; so that he could, without hesitation, publicly acknowledge me as his companion and comrade: for, although he only filled an office which seems to be of little influence, he administered it in a manner which redounded to his highest honor. He was actuary to the Court of Wards (/Pupillen-Collegium/); and there, indeed, like the perpetual secretary of a university, he had, properly speaking, the management of affairs in his own hands. Now, as he had performed the duties of this office with the greatest exactness for many years, there was no family, from the first to the last, which did not owe him its gratitude; as indeed scarcely any one in the whole administration of government can earn more blessings or more curses than one who takes charge of the orphans, or, on the contrary, squanders or suffers to be squandered their property and goods.
The Strasburgers are passionate walkers, and they have a good right to be so. Let one turn his steps as he will, he will find pleasure-grounds, partly natural, partly adorned by art in ancient and modern times, all of them visited and enjoyed by a cheerful, merry little people. But what made the sight of a great number of pedestrians still more agreeable here than in other places, was the various costume of the fair sex. The middle class of city girls yet retained the hair twisted up and secured by a large pin, as well as a certain close style of dress, in which any thing like a train would have been unbecoming: and the pleasant part of it was, that this costume did not differ violently according to the rank of the wearer; for there were still some families of opulence and distinction who would not permit their daughters to deviate from this costume. The rest followed the French fashion, and this party made some proselytes every year. Salzmann had many acquaintances and an entrance everywhere: a very pleasant circumstance for his companion, especially in summer, for good company and refreshment were found in all the public gardens far and near, and more than one invitation for this or that pleasant day was received. On one such occasion I found an opportunity to recommend myself very rapidly to a family which I was visiting for only the second time. We were invited, and arrived at the appointed hour. The company was not large: some played and some walked as usual. Afterwards, when they were to go to supper, I saw our hostess and her sister speaking to each other with animation, and as if in a peculiar embarrassment. I accosted them, and said, "I have indeed no right, ladies, to force myself into your secrets; but perhaps I may be able to give you good counsel, or even to serve you." Upon this they disclosed to me their painful dilemma; namely, that they had invited twelve persons to table, and that just at that moment a relation had returned from a journey, who now, as the thirteenth, would be a fatal /memento mori/, if not for himself, yet certainly for some of the guests. "The case is very easily mended," replied I: "permit me to take my leave, and stipulate for indemnification." As they were persons of consequence and good breeding, they would by no means allow this, but sent about in the neighborhood to find a fourteenth. I suffered them to do so; yet when I saw the servant coming in at the garden-gate without having effected his errand, I stole away and spent my evening pleasantly under the old linden-trees of the Wanzenau. That this self-denial was richly repaid me was a very natural consequence.
A certain kind of general society is not to be thought of without card- playing. Salzmann renewed the good instructions of Madame Boehme; and I was the more docile as I had really seen, that by this little sacrifice, if it be one, one may procure one's self much pleasure, and even a greater freedom in society than one would otherwise enjoy. The old piquet, which had gone to sleep, was again looked out; I learned whist; I made myself, according to the directions of my Mentor, a card-purse, which was to remain untouched under all circumstances; and I now found opportunity to spend most of my evenings with my friend in the best circles, where, for the most part, they wished me well, and pardoned many a little irregularity, to which, nevertheless, my friend, though kindly enough, used to call my attention.
But that I might experience symbolically how much one, even in externals, has to adapt one's self to society, and direct one's self according to it, I was compelled to something which seemed to me the most disagreeable thing in the world. I had really very fine hair; but my Strasburg hair-dresser at once assured me that it was cut much too short behind, and that it would be impossible to make a /frizure/ of it in which I could show myself, since nothing but a few short curls in front were decreed lawful; and all the rest, from the crown, must be tied up in a cue or a hair-bag. Nothing was left but to put up with false hair till the natural growth was again restored according to the demands of the time. He promised me that nobody should ever remark this innocent deception (against which I objected at first very earnestly), if I could resolve upon it immediately. He kept his word, and I was always looked upon as the young man who had the best and the best- dressed head of hair. But as I was obliged to remain thus propped up and powdered from early morning, and at the same time to take care not to betray my false ornament by heating myself or by violent motions, this restraint in fact contributed much to my behaving for a time more quietly and politely, and accustomed me to going with my hat under my arm, and consequently in shoes and stockings also; however I did not venture to neglect wearing understockings of fine leather, as a defence against the Rhine gnats, which, on the fine summer evenings, generally spread themselves over the meadows and gardens. Under these circumstances, violent bodily motion being denied me, our social conversations grew more and more animated and impassioned; indeed, they were the most interesting in which I had hitherto ever borne part.
With my way of feeling and thinking, it cost me nothing to let every one pass for what he was,—nay, for that which he wished to pass for; and thus the frankness of a fresh, youthful heart, which manifested itself almost for the first time in its full bloom, made me many friends and adherents. Our company of boarders increased to about twenty persons; and, as Salzmann kept up his accustomed order, every thing continued in its old routine,—nay, the conversation was almost more decorous, as every one had to be on his guard before several. Among the new-comers was a man who particularly interested me: his name was Jung, the same who afterwards became known under the name of Stilling. In spite of an antiquated dress, his form had something delicate about it, with a certain sturdiness. A bag-wig did not disfigure his significant and pleasing countenance. His voice was mild, without being soft and weak: it became even melodious and powerful as soon as his ardor was roused, which was very easily done. On becoming better acquainted with him, one found in him a sound common sense, which rested on feeling, and therefore took its tone from the affections and passions; and from this very feeling sprang an enthusiasm for the good, the true, and the just, in the greatest possible purity. For the course of this man's life had been very simple, and yet crowded with events and with manifold activity. The element of his energy was indestructible faith in God, and in an assistance flowing immediately from him, which evidently manifested itself in an uninterrupted providence, and in an unfailing deliverance out of all troubles and from every evil. Jung had made many such experiences in his life, and they had often been repeated of late in Strasburg: so that, with the greatest cheerfulness, he led a life frugal indeed, but free from care, and devoted himself most earnestly to his studies; although he could not reckon upon any certain subsistence from one quarter to another. In his youth, when on a fair way to become a charcoal-burner, he took up the trade of a tailor; and after he had instructed himself, at the same time, in higher matters, his knowledge- loving mind drove him to the occupation of schoolmaster. This attempt failed; and he returned to his trade, from which, however, since every one felt for him confidence and affection, he was repeatedly called away, again to take a place as private tutor. But for his most internal and peculiar training he had to thank that wide-spread class of men who sought out their salvation on their own responsibility, and who, while they strove to edify themselves by reading the Scriptures and good books, and by mutual exhortation and confession, thereby attained a degree of cultivation which must excite surprise. For while the interest which always accompanied them and which maintained them in fellowship rested on the simplest foundation of morality, well-wishing and well- doing, the deviations which could take place with men of such limited circumstances were of little importance; and hence their consciences, for the most part, remained clear, and their minds commonly cheerful: so there arose no artificial, but a truly natural, culture, which yet had this advantage over others, that it was suitable to all ages and ranks, and was generally social by its nature. For this reason, too, these persons were, in their own circle, truly eloquent, and capable of expressing themselves appropriately and pleasingly on all the tenderest and best concerns of the heart. Now, good Jung was in this very case. Among a few persons, who, if not exactly like-minded with himself, did not declare themselves averse from his mode of thought, he was found, not only talkative but eloquent: in particular, he related the history of his life in the most delightful manner, and knew how to make all the circumstances plainly and vividly present to his listeners. I persuaded him to write them down, and he promised to do so. But because, in his way of expressing himself, he was like a somnambulist, who must not be called by name lest he should fall from his elevation, or like a gentle stream, to which one dare oppose nothing lest it should foam, he was often constrained to feel uncomfortable in a more numerous company. His faith tolerated no doubt, and his conviction no jest. "While in friendly communication he was inexhaustible, every thing came to a standstill with him when he met with contradiction. I usually helped him through on such occasions, for which he repaid me with honest affection. Since his mode of thought was nothing strange to me, but on the contrary I had already become accurately acquainted with it in my very best friends of both sexes; and since, moreover, it generally interested me with its naturalness and /na vete/,—he found himself on the very best terms with me. The bent of his intellect was pleasing to me; nor did I meddle with his faith in miracles, which was so useful to him. Salzmann likewise behaved towards him with forbearance,—I say with forbearance, for Salzmann, in conformity with his character, his natural disposition, his age arid circumstances, could not but stand and continue on the side of the rational, or rather the common-sense, Christians, whose religion properly rested on the rectitude of their characters, and a manly independence, and who therefore did not like to meddle or have any thing to do with feelings which might easily have led them into gloom, or with mysticism, which might easily have led them into the dark. This class, too, was respectable and numerous: all men of honor and capacity understood each other, and were of the like persuasion, as well as of the same mode of life. Lerse, likewise our fellow-boarder, also belonged to this number: a perfectly upright young man, and, with limited gifts of fortune, frugal and exact. His manner of life and housekeeping was the closest I ever knew among students. He was, of us all, the most neatly dressed, and yet always appeared in the same clothes; but he managed his wardrobe with the greatest care, kept every thing about him clean, and required all things in ordinary life to go according to his example. He never happened to lean anywhere, or to prop his elbow on the table; he never forgot to mark his table-napkin; and the maid always had a bad time of it when the chairs were not found perfectly clean. With all this, he had nothing stiff in his exterior. He spoke cordially, with precise and dry liveliness, in which a light ironical joke was very becoming. In figure he was well built, slender, and of fair height: his face was pock-pitted and homely, his little blue eyes cheerful and penetrating. As he had cause to tutor us in so many respects, we let him be our fencing-master besides, for he drew a very fine rapier; and it seemed to give him sport to play off upon us, on this occasion, all the pedantry of this profession. Moreover, we really profited by him, and had to thank him for many sociable hours, which he induced us to spend in good exercise and practice.
By all these peculiarities, Lerse completely qualified himself for the office of arbitrator and umpire in all the small and great quarrels which happened, though but rarely, in our circle, and which Salzmann could not hush up in his fatherly way. Without the external forms, which do so much mischief in universities, we represented a society bound together by circumstances and good feeling, which others might occasionally touch, but into which they could not intrude. Now, in his judgment of internal piques, Lerse always showed the greatest impartiality; and, when the affair could no longer be settled by words and explanations, he knew how to conduct the desired satisfaction, in an honorable way, to a harmless issue. In this no man was more clever than he: indeed, he often used to say, that since heaven had destined him for a hero neither in war nor in love, he would be content, both in romances and fighting, with the part of second. Since he remained the same throughout, and might be regarded as a true model of a good and steady disposition, the conception of him stamped itself as deeply as amiably upon me; and, when I wrote "Goetz von Berlichingen," I felt myself induced to set up a memorial of our friendship, and to give the gallant fellow, who knew how to subordinate himself in so dignified a manner, the name of Franz Lerse.
While, by his constant humorous dryness, he continued ever to remind us of what one owed to one's self and to others, and how one ought to behave in order to live at peace with men as long as possible, and thus gain a certain position towards them, I had to fight, both inwardly and outwardly, with quite different circumstances and adversaries, being at strife with myself, with the objects around me, and even with the elements. I was then in a state of health which furthered me sufficiently in all that I would and should undertake; only there was a certain irritability left behind, which did not always let me be in equilibrium. A loud sound was disagreeable to me, diseased objects awakened in me loathing and horror. But I was especially troubled with a giddiness which came over me every time I looked down from a height. All these infirmities I tried to remedy, and, indeed, as I wished to lose no time, in a somewhat violent way. In the evening, when they beat the tattoo, I went near the multitude of drums, the powerful rolling and beating of which might have made one's heart burst in one's bosom. All alone I ascended the highest pinnacle of the minster spire, and sat in what is called the neck, under the nob or crown, for a quarter of an hour, before I would venture to step out again into the open air, where, standing upon a platform scarce an ell square, without any particular holding, one sees the boundless prospect before; while the nearest objects and ornaments conceal the church, and every thing upon and above which one stands. It is exactly as if one saw one's self carried up into the air in a balloon. Such troublesome and painful sensations I repeated until the impression became quite indifferent to me; and I have since then derived great advantage from this training, in mountain travels and geological studies, and on great buildings, where I have vied with the carpenters in running over the bare beams and the cornices of the edifice, and even in Rome, where one must run similar risks to obtain a nearer view of important works of art. Anatomy, also, was of double value to me, as it taught me to endure the most repulsive sights, while I satisfied my thirst for knowledge. And thus I also attended the clinical course of the elder Dr. Ehrmann, as well as the lectures of his son on obstetrics, with the double view of becoming acquainted with all conditions, and of freeing myself from all apprehension as to repulsive things. And I have actually succeeded so far, that nothing of this kind could ever put me out of my self-possession. But I endeavored to harden myself, not only against these impressions on the senses, but also against the infections of the imagination. The awful and shuddering impressions of the darkness in churchyards, solitary places, churches, and chapels by night, and whatever may be connected with them, I contrived to render likewise indifferent; and in this, also, I went so far that day and night, and every locality, were quite the same to me: so that even when, in later times, a desire came over me once more to feel in such scenes the pleasing shudder of youth, I could hardly compel this, in any degree, by calling up the strangest and most fearful images.
In my efforts to free myself from the pressure of the too gloomy and powerful, which continued to rule within me, and seemed to me sometimes as strength, sometimes as weakness, I was thoroughly assisted by that open, social, stirring manner of life, which attracted me more and more, to which I accustomed myself, and which I at last learned to enjoy with perfect freedom. It is not difficult to remark in the world, that man feels himself most freely and most perfectly rid of his own feelings when he represents to himself the faults of others, and expatiates upon them with complacent censoriousness. It is a tolerably pleasant sensation even to set ourselves above our equals by disapprobation and misrepresentation; for which reason good society, whether it consists of few or many, is most delighted with it. But nothing equals the comfortable self-complacency, when we erect ourselves into judges of our superiors, and of those who are set over us,—of princes and statesmen, —when we find public institutions unfit and injudicious, only consider the possible and actual obstacles, and recognize neither the greatness of the invention, nor the co-operation which is to be expected from time and circumstances in every undertaking.