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bears with her as with a child, as it was his wont, out of common gratitude to bear with inconvenient people, if they did not go too far, and then hastily to break off such a connexion.”-(Works, p. 47).-.pp. 31, 32.
It must be confessed, in the exposition which follows, Dr. Riemer does not treat the lady with great politeness, although he does justice to ber extraordinary talents. Already, in 1807, in Goethe's house, she complained to Riemer of the coldness of Goethe's behaviour to her. Our author then proves by those stubborn things, dates, that many of the sonnets were not addressed to nor written under the inspiration of her magic pen. How then could Bettina delude herself into such a strange supposition ?
“As to the sonnets which Bettina bona fide assumes to have been composed and addressed to her, they were neither written for her nor to her; it is possible that Goethe may have sent her some of them, as he willingly communicated his newest compositions to his friends. He even writes once to Bettina and tells her that she may consider the enclosed sonnet as addressed to herself, because he has nothing better to say. But he neither took nor borrowed his subject from her, to restore it to her in poetic forms. Goethe's fancy and heart could not be so poor in his sixtieth year that he was obliged to borrow his feelings from Bettina, to put them into verse, as the Greek Hypophetes did the inspired natural sounds of the somnambulant Pythian priestess. The subject is taken elsewhere, and many of the circumstances mentioned in the sonnets cannot, from time and place, as well as other circumstances, refer at all to Bettina."-pp. 34, 35.
“The numerous admirers and worshippers of the immortal child will of course consider my confessions as mere blasphemies, but mindful of my motto, I could only write as and what I know. Others may think of them as they please, I say only, dixi et salvavi animam meam."-p. 38.
«Out of gratitude for Bettina's attachment to his mother, for the communications which she received from her respecting his childhood and the history of his youth, without which Goethe could not have begun his Autobiography, but certainly likewise in memory of Bettina's beautiful mother, in whose company he had passed many happy hours, in the house of Madame de la Roche, from all these motives he allowed her to follow her own humours, whether natural or studied, found pleasure in her genial, although odd, clever and fantastic character; bore with equanimity her caresses and whims, and as it could only be question of a paternal, not passionate return, what could he do for so much mirth and attention, but occasionally give her some pleasure with such poetic sweetineats as he happened to have at hand, a fresh flower, a juicy piece of fruit from his poetic garden, as if they were made and grown for her. But this was all. If she required more or went so far as to be troublesome to him, he could not, as he himself confesses, do otherwise than break off the connexion, and that she was troublesome to him with her passionateness, Bettina herself allows."-pp. 39, 40.
We doubt not that this is the true state of the case, and fortunately Bettina's genius can bear the blow, although a few blossoms may fall from the wreath of glory with which her blind admirers bave crowned her.
Dr. Riemer has devoted a long chapter to Goethe's personal appearance; we need not dwell upon it, all who have seen him will acknowledge the justice of Napoleon's observation, c'est un homme. The
leading features in Goethe's character are to be found in his works. Far from being reserved, he was the most communicative of men. Schiller tells him to his face “that he is made to be inherited and plundered by others during his life, as has often happened, and would happen still more frequently, if people only knew their own advantage better.” It is the fashion to call bim interested, and yet he says of himself, “ to be disinterested in every thing, most disinterested in love and friendship, was my greatest delight, my maxim, my practice.”— (Works, xxvi. p. 291.) Dr. Riemer's volume contains many proofs that this was not au idle boast.
The long chapter on religiousness would lead us far beyond all reasonable limits. Those who have studied Goethe diligently will know what to think of his religious opinions, and it would require a volume to make them intelligible to others. Our principal object is to place before the English reader the present state of public opinion in Germany respecting their great poet, nor have we heard that his countrymen bave found his religious opinions repulsive, whatever objections might be advanced by many religious and excellently meaning persons at home. We could however have wished, that the anecdote of the Anseres Cbristicolæ (p. 393), on which Dr. Riemer seems to look back with some complacency, had been omitted; it is frivolous, to say the best of it, and our author has attached too much importance to what was doubtless a mere joke.
Our readers will be able to gather our opinion of the work before us from what we have said, and we shall now conclude our observations by a few short remarks upon Dr. Stahr's life of Merck.
This remarkable man was first known to the public by Goethe's remarks on bim in his Autobiography, in which Dr. Stahr complains that the poet has not done justice to his friend. He was however almost totally forgotten until his name was honourably mentioned in one of the numerous publications of letters to and from Goethe, &c. Böttiger of Dresden, with a petty love of scandal, has not spared Merck, but this is a misfortune that may easily be borne, as his journal, wbich his own son had the want of taste to publish, does not speak more favourably of any of the great men of his time. The biography of Merck remains to be written, for Dr. Stahr's book, although valuable, exhibits more of collectanea than finished and connected description. His appreciation of Goethe, before he became distinguished, proves bis penetration ; his just although sometimes severe criticisms on the works which Goethe submitted to him in manuscript, mark his taste and the soundness of his judgment. The variety and versatility of his talents is extraordinary, equally so the influence which he exercised over all around. The Duchess Amelia, the mother of Karl August, the celebrated friend of Goethe, was much attached to him. She bad paid several visits to the Rhine in his company, and thus writes to him, Aug. 14, 1778, after one of these trips
“Never shall I forget the goodness of Providence in giving me a friend like yourself, who in such strange and oppressing circumstances remains true to his heart and to his belief in truth and goodness; inclosing these in the depths of his heart and bearing with courage the will of the Lord.”-p. 97.
Her illustrious son writes to him in the same strain of enthusiasm.
“The purport of my letter, dear Merck," says the duke, “ is like a whetstone to pure Darmstadt steel, to excite sparks. I am in the worst letter-writing humour in the world, and am so spoiled by receiving good letters from you that I can hardly live without them.”
That be owed this favour to his manly character, his knowledge of mankind and his social qualities, and not to servile flattery, is evident from a letter of Goethe's to Wieland, in which, after requesting Merck to cultivate the acquaintance of the hereditary Prince of Darmstadt, be begs him " to lay aside some of his usual reserve with princes and to be as open and natural with him as the prince by his behaviour might encourage.”
Goethe's mother, an excellent judge of character, called Merck her dear son, and the list of his correspondents includes the names of many celebrated contemporaries, amongst others those of the travellers Banks and Forster. At a later period he devoted himself to natural philosophy. Osteology and mineralogy, particularly antediluvian fossils, attracted his attention, and his valuable collection was bought after bis death by the Grand Duke of Darmstadt and forms the principal part of the museum of that city. His restless spirit was not satisfied with this; he established a manufactory, a bleaching ground and a printing office. These numerous undertakings, too much at any time for one man however active, proved ruinous and Merck put an end to his own existence. It was found after his death however that his affairs were not so bad as he had feared, and the dread of a deficit in the public chest intrusted to him was unfounded, as there remained a surplus. The latter half of the work consists of selections from his contributions to the literature of the time.
ART. XI.- Die Günderode. Zwei Theile. (Günderode. Two volumes.)
Grünberg and Leipsic. 1840. BETTINA von Arnim, the heroine of the “ Correspondence of Goethe with a Child," has here published the letters which passed some thirty years ago between herself and the friend whose tragical death, in a letter to Goethe's mother, forms one of the most interesting parts of the first named work. As we have thought it our duty, in our notice of Dr. Riemer's work on Goethe in our present number, to give some extracts from the chapter in which he speaks of "the immortal child," although our remarks may have given offence to her admirers, we gladly avail ourselves of the contemporaneous appearance of the work before us to do justice to the real merits of tbis distinguished lady.
Whatever objections may be advanced against the matter-of-fact truth of the form in which she has chosen to give to the public her celebrated correspondence with Goethe, we ought not to omit the circumstance that even according to Dr. Riemer's own showing it was possible for Bettina to suppose that some of the sonnets were coniposed by Goethe for her. There may have been some self-delusion, we confess, but then it was not so very unnatural in an enthusiastic girl of fifteen or sixteen. But be that as it may, there can be no doubt that she is a woman of eminent genius. Her extraordinary talent in grouping every thing that comes before her into a poetic picture, the rich flow of her somewhat too fantastical imagination, her cheerful and happy humours, ber soundness of judgment, except when she willingly gives way to wanton caprice, form a union of qualities but seldom found in the same person.
There is in truth much in the volumes before us wbich we could have dispensed with, and we venture with all due politeness to whisper our opinion that they would have been improved by being curtailed one-balf. For with characteristic inconsistency, soon after pronouncing with all the positiveness which becomes a young lady, her hatred of philosophy and philosopbical dissertations, she favours us with awfully long diatribes, which, if not philosophy, we suppose were meant for it. The great defect of the work indeed consists in these attempts to reduce to language, and express with clearness, subjects wbich bave defied the unassisted powers of reason from the beginning of creation to the present day. But when, leaving these unfathomable depths, she returns to real life, and pictures nature, men and things in her own peculiar and forcible style, we are irresistibly attracted by the charms of her eloquence and her quickness of perception. It is true she does play the madcap occasionally and clambers up rocks and ruins in a most unaccountable manner. Her letters display too a laudable contempt of punctuation and postscript, which occasionally bear the same proportion to the body of the letter as Mr. O'Connell does to bis tail. Well: every one to his taste; we would rather bave balf-a-dozen such works, although there may be a spice of romance in their composition, than a score of books written according to critical rule and measure. And if there should be any German scholar who has not yet become acquainted with Bettina von Arnim, we are sure he will thank us for the present introduction.
Art. XII.- Vittoria Accorombona. Ein Roman in fünf Büchern, von
Ludwig Tieck. Zwei Bände, Zweite Auflage, mit einem Anhange. (Vittoria Accorombona. A Romance in five Books, by Ludwig Tieck. Two Volumes, Second Edition, with an Appendix.) Breslau,
1841. The extravagant applause bestowed upon this work, the blind enthusiasm of many of the German critics (although fortunately some of the more recent reports take a juster view of it), and the remarkable sentiments contained in it, have induced us to make a few observations, which may not be uninteresting to the English public.
The professed object of Tieck in the volumes before us was to rescue the memory of Vittoria from the calumnies (?) of the English dramatist Webster, in his play of the White Devil, or the tragedy of Paulo Giordano Ursini, Duke of Bracciano, with the life and death of Vittoria Accorombona, the famous Venetian courtisan.* As the materials for this purpose are somewhat scanty, the novelist was naturally driven to his
* Old Plays, vol. vi,
own mind for resources, and herein consists one of the incongruities of the work, that he has made his characters of the middle ages speak the sentiments of the nineteenth. This of itself is no small objection, but he bas made his work, as we shall see, a vehicle for disseminating opinions, which had formerly been the favourite topics of some younger writers in bis native country, but which even these had gradually abandoned. In many respects the action of the romance corresponds with that of the drama. We will not drag the reader through the crowd of wortbless characters that appear and disappear at random. A hypocritical pope who had passed his life in stooping to look for the keys of St. Peter, which he found at last, a lustful cardinal who proposes to a mother the dishonour of her own daughter, a lawless nobility in league with cruel and triumphant banditti, form the principal features of society, or rather anarchy in Rome at the period of which we are treating. The mother of Vittoria and of her two brothers lives at Tivoli, devoted to the education of her children. The dangers of the times force her to take refuge in Rome, where her daughter marries the insignificant Perett, nephew to Cardinal Montalto, afterwards pope. Vittoria, celebrated for her beauty and accomplishments, becomes the centre of attraction, and an introduction to her house is eagerly sought by wits and men of learning. Amongst others, a stranger who leads a wandering life in the neighbourhood of Rome, is introduced. Of stately form, although no longer in the bloom of youth, the care bestowed by the author soon points him out as likely to be the hero of the tale. His character does not display any peculiar marks of greatness, of which therefore the reader is made sensible by the persevering reflections of the author. This personage proves to be the Duke of Bracciano, who at this conversatione at the Peretti's hears from a thoughtless secretary of his brother-in-law's, the reigning Duke of Florence, a story highly injurious to the reputation of his wife, who, by the bye, he bimself abandons to indulge, it would seem, a truant disposition. The Duke returns to Florence, invites his consort to a country-seat, and after removing her attendants, strangles her. His subsequent behaviour is full of hypocrisy. He pretends a sorrow which imposes upon none, and invents a fictitious account of her sudden death. Yet Tieck after this represents him as a glorious, and, we had almost said, a perfect character. We have little doubt that this conception, which we consider erroneous, arose from a partial application of the sentiments expressed in Macchiavelli's Principe. He evidently wished to infer that different countries have different modes of judging of crimes, and must be supposed to display his hero in the light in which he would appear to bis countrymen in the age in wbich he lived. But if for the sake of the argument, we admit this to have been Tieck's intention, and no other explanation has occurred to us, we are the more at a loss to account for the sentiments which he puts in the mouth of Vittoria. To require approbation for the fidelity with which he adheres to the opinions of the times which he describes, whilst in the same work he can only carry into execution his professed object (to rescue the character of Vittoria) by glaringly violating this principle, is surely inconsistent.
The Duke returns to Rome and enters the apartment of Vittoria, just after a conversation respecting the murder of the Duchess. The com