Puslapio vaizdai


Goëthe had not created him to live; and he knew it. poor man," said Goëthe, in his memoirs, "does not doubt that the evil is without remedy, and that a deadly worm has eaten in its bud the youth of Werter."

What is, then, this deadly worm, which, according to Goëthe, has secretly devoured the youth of Werter? Let us not be deceived; it is the spirit of doubt, it is the genius of the eighteenth century; and it is not only Werter whom the worm has destroyed, but also Goëthe himself. Goëthe belongs to the eighteenth century; he is its disciple and heir; he is a doubter and a skeptic, like the eighteenth century, but is also a poet. It is that which has in some measure concealed his skepticism; and moreover, as he felt with the admirable discipline which he gave to his genius, that skepticism was hurtful to poetry, he has endeavored to correct its effects, and for that purpose he has called to his aid all the resources of art and science. He has worshipped nature. He was a Pantheist, and has placed God every where, to make amends for not having him in his heart. He has adored Greece, and has offered a kind of worship to beauty, such as Greece conceived it in the arts, striving to excite enthusiasm by the aid of the arts. He has adored the South, and has sung of the sweet land of the orange, because the South is the land of strong beliefs, and abhors skepticism. He has also adored the middle ages, which was not a skeptical era; he has sought every where to heal the wound of the insect which destroyed his youth, but has sought in vain. Skepticism lies at the bottom of all his enthusiasm, and the very diversity of his inspirations proves his indifference. He is

but there is more nature in one page of " Werter" than in the whole of the "Nouvelle Héloïse." Though Goëthe does not seem to us to be blamed for following the tendency of his genius into directions in which the peculiar delicacy and subtlety of his intellect insured him such success; and though a hundred years hence, we believe that what Menzel and other depreciators consider immoral, will not mislead a single imitator or corrupt a single youth; yet it must be conceded that the direct object of his works was not to make man more manly and his desires more elevated. We say the direct object; for indirectly, and sooner or later, whatever makes man wiser, nerves his mind and purifies his emotions and there may be truth in the theory, that art is to be cultivated as art; that the beautiful must reflect indifferently on its tranquil mirror whatever convention deems moral or immoral: for to whatever is really and essentially vicious, the beautiful itself is opposed.-BULWER.

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neither philosopher nor religionist, neither Christian nor Pagan, neither courtier nor citizen, neither of ancient nor modern times, neither of the North nor of the South; or rather he is all these at once. He is the echo of nature; he repeats all her songs, all her harmonies; but he did not add this song which we have in the soul; this song which is, if we may so speak, the melody of the soul, and which accords so well with the harmonies which come from nature. Ask Goëthe to represent man and nature in all their variety and in all their extent; he will do it. There is only one thing which we must not ask of him it is to represent himself. The me is wanting in Goëthe; not the me which knows that he is a great poet, and who wishes to be it, but the me who has a thought and a principle which he wishes to prevail; this me, in fine, which believes in something. It is this me whom the worm has devoured in Goëthe and Werter.



IN the seventeenth century, when religion prevailed, there were men, who, disdaining ordinary devotion, aimed at a higher, and carried into their piety the excitement of an over-wrought imagination. Fenelon, in his Spiritual Letters, counselled these restless and exalted souls to permit their minds to enjoy a little repose. "Requiescite pusillum. It is dangerous, ," said he, "to have the inner man too much agitated." Thus he dreaded this preference which man is often disposed to give to the inner life over the outer, to contemplation over action. He knew that many preferred rather to dream than to act; he knew particularly that this serious melancholy did not calm the passions, but on the contrary, excited them until they became a disease of the soul.

Werter, with other ideas and sentiments than those of the seventeenth century, is also one of those ardelions of the inner life; and it is his misfortune. "I look within myself," said he, "and I find there a world, but rather in gloomy apprehensions and forebodings, than in reality and in action." Such is the world in which he loves to live. His friends in vain persuade him to follow some profession. "Become the attaché of an embassy," said they "it is not too confining." Werter, however, refuses for a long time. One day, when he was melancholy and sad from the hopeless love which he cherishes for Charlotte, he accepts the appointment of secretary to the embassy. He prepares dispatches, seals letters, and sends off couriers. He has an occupation. But, what is strange, and calculated to disconcert the most firm resolutions-he very soon perceives that his ambassador is a fool, and, at an evening party at the residence of the minister, he meets two or three barons or marquises, who are impertinent.


This trial is too severe for Werter; and he tenders his resignation. A few days afterwards, he attaches himself to a prince who is amiable and affable; but he soon discovers that this prince also has a great fault. "He values," said Werter, my mind and my talents more than my heart, of which alone I am vain, and which is the only source of all my strength, of all my happines, and of all my misery." Thus he always withdraws within himself, scorning the mind and talents which are the instruments of the man who acts, and hastens to return to the inner life; for it is there that he lives, and moves, and has his being.

Having quitted his ambassador because he was a fool, and the prince because he over-prized talents, Werter abandons all business. And in truth he was right; for what profession can we find, where we do not come in contact with rogues, fools, impertinent and good-for-nothing people? "I am only a traveller and a pilgrim upon earth," to his friends.

says he

And are we better than him? Yes, if we have an occupation and persevere in it; not only because employment is the means of adding to our personal worth the strength of character which is derived from a profession, recognized in society; but because the professions (and it is this which constitutes their chief merit ) are the fulfilment of the divine law of labor. God has placed us in this world to act and not to dream; to all our thoughts, to all our sentiments, he has connected action as a necessary condition: worship to piety, the care of a family to love, the cultivation of the arts to the idea of the beautiful. God is never satisfied with thought alone, because it very soon subsides into revery.* This divine law ennobles all the professions of men; it alleviates the fatigues of labor, it lightens the tediousness of business. "I would be very happy to go to see you," writes Fenelon to a friend, "but I have no time. I am compelled to confer with a metropolitan chapter about a suit, which I must dispatch quickly, so that I may write my letters, and examine

* Revery has in all times inspired a disgust for labor, and led to suicide. There is in Stobaus an account of a young man who, compelled by his father to undertake agricultural work, hung himself, leaving a letter, in which he declared that agriculture was too monotonous a trate; that it was always necessary to sow in order to reap, and to reap in order to sow, and that this circle was endless and insupportable.

my accounts.

Oh! how miserable would these thorny details render life, if the will of God did not embellish and sweeten all the occupations which he has given us.”.

This reverence for the will of God, this love for the divine law which makes life easy and pleasant, is what Werter does not possess, because, being a child of the eighteenth century, he has not the simple and firm faith which his fathers had; and that is the reason why this pilgrim and sojourner upon earth, as he loves to call himself, did not finish his pilgrimage. In this pilgrimage of life, which is painful and hard, those alone reach the end of it, who walk in the path which God has marked out for them. Those who only walk in the path which is pleasing to themselves, run a great risk of having their pilgrimage cut short.

Werter, such as Goëthe had created him, could not live. When he wished to make his characters live, he made them different from Werter. See his Hermana, in his Hermann and Dorothea. What a simple and firm character! What a masculine heart and mind! What a contrast with Werter! The love which he has for Dorothea is not for him a subject of profound and subtle reflections; he does not remark, like Werter, that since he loves, no faculty of his soul remains inactive, and that he believes that he is more than he is, because he is then all that he can be :- -no: he thinks only that in times of war and disaster, it is good for a man to marry, "because there were many fine women who require the protection of a husband, and that we need the consoling looks of a woman in the hour of sorrow and affliction." We recognize in these sentiments, at once manly and tender, men who were born to live. But what do you wish Werter to do? Did he wish, and were he able to seduce Charlotte-he would then perhaps live. But what would there be in this history so strange and peculiar? Would it be superior to a thousand and one histories of the same kind? Was it, in fact, difficult for Goëthe to tell us, that a young man endeavored to make himself loved by a young woman? And yet, if this history has not this denouement, it can only have one other, that of suicide. It is not that Werter has not many qualities which would dispose a man to love life. Thus he is good; but his goodness is of a piece with his character: it is soft and contemplative; it resembles in no respect, the active and patient goodness of Hermann. Werter loves man and nature; and even in the

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