Книга: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe «Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings»

Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings

Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Infobox Writer
name = Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

birthdate = birth date|1749|8|28|df=y
birthplace = Free Imperial City of Frankfurt, Holy Roman Empire
deathdate = death date and age|1832|3|22|1749|8|28|df=y
deathplace = Weimar, Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
occupation = Poet, Novelist, Playwright, Natural Philosopher, Diplomat
nationality = German
period = Romanticism
movement = Sturm und Drang; Weimar Classicism
notableworks = "Faust"; "The Sorrows of Young Werther"; "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship"
spouse = Christiane Vulpius
influences = Gellert, Hafez, Herder, Homer, Ossian, Klopstock, Lessing, Rousseau, Shakespeare, Schelling, Schiller, Spinoza, Winckelmann
influenced = Iqbal, Lamarck, Darwin, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Carlyle, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Nikola Tesla, Turgenev, Steiner, Mann, Hesse, André Gide, Cassirer, Jung, Spengler, Wittgenstein, Grass

Audio|De-Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe.ogg|Johann Wolfgang von Goethe IPA2|ˈjoːhan ˈvɔlfgaŋ fɔn ˈgøːtə, (in English generally pronEng|ˈgɝːtə; [dictionary.com] 28 August 1749ndash 22 March 1832) was a German writer. George Eliot called him "Germany's greatest man of letters… and the last true polymath to walk the earth." [cite book|title=Middlemarch|first=George|last=Eliot|origyear=1871|year=2004|publisher=Broadview Press|isbn=1551112337|editor=Note by editor of 2004 edition, Gregory Maertz at link|url= http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN1551112337&id=4MopnRJ-HmMC&pg=PA710&lpg=PA710&sig=4nAO63zmLS9Ua-x0mevpZA7kSIY|pages=p.710] Goethe's works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. Goethe's "magnum opus", lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama "Faust". [citeweb|url=http://www.bartleby.com/65/go/Goethe-J.html|title=Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. (2001-2005)] Goethe's other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship" and the epistolary novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther".

Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; this movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sentimentality (" _de. Empfindsamkeit"), "Sturm und Drang", and Romanticism. The author of the scientific text "Theory of Colours", he influenced Darwin with his focus on plant morphology.citebook|last=Darwin|first=C. R.|year=1859|title=On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life|publisher=John Murray|edition=1st edition|url=http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F373&viewtype=text&pageseq=165&keywords=goethe] cite journal |last=Opitz |first=John |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2004 |month= |title=Goethe's bone and the beginnings of morphology |journal=American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A |volume=126A |issue=1 |pages=1–8 |doi=10.1002/ajmg.a.20619 |url= |accessdate= |quote=] He also served at length as the Privy Councilor ("Geheimrat") of the duchy of Weimar.

Goethe is the originator of the concept of "Weltliteratur" ("world literature"), having taken great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, Persia, Arabic literature, amongst others. His influence on German philosophy is virtually immeasurable, having major effect especially on the generation of Hegel and Schelling, although Goethe himself expressly and decidedly refrained from practicing philosophy in the rarefied sense.

Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a major source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry and philosophy. Goethe is considered by many to be the most important writer in the German language and one of the most important thinkers in Western culture as well. Early in his career, however, he wondered whether painting might not be his true vocation; late in his life, he expressed the expectation that he would ultimately be remembered above all for his work in colour.

Early life

Goethe's father, Johann Caspar Goethe (Frankfurt am Main, Hessen, 29 July 1710ndash Frankfurt, 25 May 1782), lived with his family in a large house in Frankfurt, then an Imperial Free City of the Holy Roman Empire. Goethe's mother, Catharina Elisabeth Textor (Frankfurt, 19 February 1731ndash Frankfurt, 15 September 1808), the daughter of the Mayor of Frankfurt Johann Wolfgang Textor (Frankfurt, 11 December 1693ndash Frankfurt, 6 February 1771) and wife (married at Wetzlar, 2 February 1726) Anna Margaretha Lindheimer (Wetzlar, 23 July 1711ndash Frankfurt, 18 April 1783, a descendant of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Henry III, Landgrave of Hesse-Marburg), married 38-year-old Johann Caspar when she was only 17 at Frankfurt on 20 August 1748. All their children, except for Goethe and his sister, Cornelia Friederike Christiana, who was born in 1750, died at an early age.

Johann Caspar and private tutors gave Goethe lessons in all the common subjects of that time, especially languages (Latin, Greek, French and English). Goethe also received lessons in dancing, riding and fencing. Johann Caspar was the type of father who, feeling frustrated in his own ambitions by what he saw as a deficiency of educational advantages, was determined that his children would have all those advantages which he had not had.Goethe had a persistent dislike of the church, characterizing its history as a "hotchpotch of mistakes and violence" ("Mischmasch von Irrtum und Gewalt"). His great passion was drawing. Goethe quickly became interested in literature; Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Homer were among his early favourites. He had a lively devotion to theatre as well and was greatly fascinated by puppet shows that were annually arranged in his home; a familiar theme in "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship".

Legal career

Goethe studied law in Leipzig from 1765 to 1768. Learning age-old judicial rules by heart was something he strongly detested. He preferred to attend the poetry lessons of Christian Fürchtegott Gellert. In Leipzig, Goethe fell in love with Käthchen Schönkopf and wrote cheerful verses about her in the Rococo genre. In 1770, he anonymously released "Annette", his first collection of poems. His uncritical admiration for many contemporary poets vanished as he became interested in Lessing and Wieland. Already at this time, Goethe wrote a good deal, but he threw away nearly all of these works, except for the comedy "Die Mitschuldigen". The restaurant Auerbachs Keller and its legend of Faust's 1525 barrel ride impressed him so much that Auerbachs Keller became the only real place in his closet drama "Faust Part One". Because his studies did not progress, Goethe was forced to return to Frankfurt at the close of August 1768.

In Frankfurt, Goethe became severely ill. During the next year and a half which followed, because of several relapses, the relationship with his father worsened. During convalescence, Goethe was nursed by his mother and sister. Bored in bed, he wrote an impudent crime comedy. In April 1770, his father lost his patience; Goethe left Frankfurt in order to finish his studies in Strasbourg.

In Alsace, Goethe blossomed. No other landscape has he described as affectionately as the warm, wide Rhine area. In Strasbourg, Goethe met Johann Gottfried Herder, who happened to be in town on the occasion of an eye operation. The two became close friends, and crucially to Goethe's intellectual development, it was Herder who kindled his interest in Shakespeare, Ossian and in the notion of Volkspoesie (folk poetry). On a trip to the village Sesenheim, Goethe fell in love with Friederike Brion, but, after a couple of weeks, terminated the relationship. Several of his poems, like " _de. Willkommen und Abschied", " _de. Sesenheimer Lieder" and " _de. Heideröslein", originate from this time.

Despite being based on his own ideas, his legal thesis was published uncensored. Shortly after, he was offered a career in the French government. Goethe rejected it; he did not want to commit himself, but to instead remain an "original genius".At the end of August 1771, Goethe was certified as a licensee in Frankfurt. He wanted to make the jurisdiction progressively more humane. In his first cases, he proceeded too vigorously, was reprimanded and lost the position. This prematurely terminated his career as a lawyer after only a few months. At this time, Goethe was acquainted with the court of Darmstadt, where his inventiveness was praised. From this milieu came Johann Georg Schlosser (who was later to become his brother-in-law) and Johann Heinrich Merck. Goethe also pursued literary plans again; this time, his father did not have anything against it, and even helped. Goethe obtained a copy of the biography of a noble highwayman from the Peasants' War. In a couple of weeks the biography was reworked into a colourful drama. Entitled "Götz von Berlichingen", the work went directly to the heart of Goethe's contemporaries.

Goethe could not subsist on being one of the editors of a literary periodical (published by Schlosser and Merck). In May 1772 he once more began the practice of law at Wetzlar. In 1774 Goethe wrote the book which would bring him world-wide fame, "The Sorrows of Young Werther". Despite the immense success of "Werther", it did not bring Goethe much financial gainndash copyright law at the time being essentially nonexistent. (In later years Goethe would bypass this problem by periodically authorizing "new, revised" editions of his Complete Works. [see "Goethe and his Publishers"] )

Early years in Weimar

In 1775 Goethe was invited, on the strength of his fame as the author of "The Sorrows of Young Werther", to the court of Carl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. (The Duke at the time was 18 years of age, to Goethe's 26.) Goethe thus went to live in Weimar where he remained throughout the rest of his life, and where, over the course of many years, he held a succession of offices; becoming the Duke's chief adviser.

Goethe, aside from official duties, was also a friend and confidant to the Duke, and participated fully in the activities of the court. For Goethe, his first ten years at Weimar could well be described as a garnering of a degree and range of experience which perhaps could be achieved in no other way. Goethe was ennobled in 1782 (this being indicated by the "von" in his name).

During Goethes term of office as a member of the Geheime Consilium, the top deliberative circle of the Duke Carl August of Saxony-Weimar, there are three cases of killing a just-born baby by the mother. Whereas in 1781 Dorothea Altwein was pardoned to lifelong penal servitude (she was released after 27 years) and Maria Rost assigned to lifelong penal servitude by the Duke, without judical sentence (she was released after 6 years), Johanna Höhn was executed. Johanna Catharina Höhn, born the 15th of April 1759 in Tannroda in Saxony-Weimar, had killed her just born baby, a boy, in an attack of panic. She was adjudicated on death, only by the sword, because there were arguments for mitigation. Duke Carl August would pardon Johanna Höhn to lifelong penal servitude. Therefore he commended the members of his government and the members of his deliberative circle to give their votes to the question, whether the capital punishment for this delict should be repealed. He himself was voting for repealing and to substitute by lifelong penal servitude. As one of the three members of the Geheime Consilium Goethe gave his vote for maintaining the capital punishment, at 4th of November 1783, after the votes of the others, Fritsch and Schnauss. Goethe' vote decided the issue: In Saxony-Weimar the capital punishment was not repealed, and the Duke ordered the execution, just after Goethe's vote. Johanna Höhn was beheaded at 28th of November 1783. Goethe gave his vote in the same year, in which he wrote his poem “Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut”.


Goethe's journey to the Italian peninsula from 1786 to 1788 was of great significance in his æsthetical and philosophical development. His father had made a similar journey during his own youth, and his example was a major motivating factor for Goethe to make the trip. More importantly, however, the work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann had provoked a general renewed interest in the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome. Thus Goethe's journey had something of the nature of a pilgrimage to it. During the course of his trip Goethe met and befriended the artists Angelica Kauffmann and Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, as well as encountering such notable characters as Lady Hamilton and Alessandro Cagliostro (see Affair of the Diamond Necklace).

He also journeyed to Sicily during this time, and wrote intriguingly that "To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything." While in Southern Italy and Sicily, Goethe encountered, for the first time genuine Greek (as opposed to Roman) architecture, and was quite startled by its relative simplicity. Winckelmann had not recognized the distinctness of the two styles.

Goethe's diaries of this period form the basis of the non-fiction "Italian Journey". "Italian Journey" only covers the first year of Goethe's visit. The remaining year is largely undocumented, aside from the fact that he spent much of it in Venice. This "gap in the record" has been the source of much speculation over the years.

In the decades which immediately followed its publication in 1816 "Italian Journey" inspired countless German youths to follow Goethe's example. This is pictured, somewhat satirically, in George Elliot's "Middlemarch".


In late 1792, Goethe took part in the battle of Valmy against revolutionary France, assisting Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar during the failed invasion of France. Again during the Siege of Mainz he assisted Carl August as a military observer. His written account of these events can be found within his Complete Works.

In 1794 Friedrich Schiller wrote to Goethe offering friendship; they had previously had only a mutually wary relationship ever since first becoming acquainted in 1788. This collaborative friendship lasted until Schiller's death in 1805.

In 1806, Goethe was living in Weimar with his mistress Christiane Vulpius, the sister of Christian A. Vulpius, and their son Karl August. On 13 October, Napoleon's army invaded the town. The French "spoon guards", the least-disciplined soldiers, occupied Goethe's house. Quotation|The 'spoon guards' had broken in, they had drunk wine, made a great uproar and called for the master of the house. Goethe's secretary Riemer reports: 'Although already undressed and wearing only his wide nightgown … he descended the stairs towards them and inquired what they wanted from him … . His dignified figure, commanding respect, and his spiritual mien seemed to impress even them.' But it was not to last long. Late at night they burst into his bedroom with drawn bayonets. Goethe was petrified, Christiane raised a lot of noise and even tangled with them, other people who had taken refuge in Goethe's house rushed in, and so the marauders eventually withdrew again. It was Christiane who commanded and organized the defense of the house on the Frauenplan. The barricading of the kitchen and the cellar against the wild pillaging soldiery was her work. Goethe noted in his diary: "Fires, rapine, a frightful night … Preservation of the house through steadfastness and luck." The luck was Goethe's, the steadfastness was displayed by Christiane.|"Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy", Ch. 5 [citebook|last=Safranski|first=Rüdiger|title=Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy|publisher=Harvard University Press|year=1990|isbn=0674792750]

The next day, Goethe legitimized their relationship by marrying Christiane in a quiet marriage service at the court chapel. Christiane Vulpius and Goethe produced a son, Karl August von Goethe (25 December 1789ndash 28 October 1830), whose wife, Ottilie von Pogwisch (31 October 1796ndash 26 October 1872), cared for the elder Goethe until his death in 1832. They had three children: Walther, Freiherr von Goethe (9 April 1818ndash 15 April 1885), Wolfgang, Freiherr von Goethe (18 September 1820ndash 20 January 1883) and Alma von Goethe (29 October 1827ndash 29 September 1844). Christiane Vulpius died in 1816.

Later life

. Post-1793, Goethe devoted his endeavour principally to literature.

In 1823, having recovered from a nearly fatal heart illness, he fell in love with Ulrike von Levetzow whom he wanted to marry, but, because of the opposition of her mother (Ulrike was 18), he never proposed. Their last meeting in Carlsbad on 5 September 1823 inspired him to the famous "Marienbad Elegy" which he considered one of his finest and dearest works. [cite web|url=http://www.hamelika.cz/SHAMELIKA/1974/1974_16/h74_16.htm|title=Goethe's third summer]

In 1832, after a life of vast productivity, Goethe died in Weimar. He is buried in the Ducal Vault at Weimar's Historical Cemetery.

Eckermann closes his famous work, "Conversations with Goethe", with this passage:


Literary work

The most important of Goethe's works produced before he went to Weimar were his tragedy "Götz von Berlichingen" (1773), which was the first work to bring him recognition, and the novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" (called "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers" in German) (1774), which gained him enormous fame as a writer in the "Sturm und Drang" period which marked the early phase of Romanticism - indeed the book is often considered to be the "spark" which ignited the movement, and can arguably be called the world's first "best-seller". (For the entirety of his life this was the work with which the vast majority of Goethe's contemporaries associated him). During the years at Weimar before he met Schiller he began "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship", wrote the dramas "Iphigenie auf Tauris" ("Iphigenia in Tauris"), "Egmont", "Torquato Tasso", and the fable "Reineke Fuchs".

To the period of his friendship with Schiller belong Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years (the continuation of "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship"), the idyll of "Hermann and Dorothea", and the "Roman Elegies". In the last period, between Schiller's death, in 1805, and his own, appeared "Faust Part One", "Elective Affinities", the "West-Eastern Divan" (a collection of poems in the Persian style, influenced by the work of Hafez), his autobiographical "" ("From My Life: Poetry and Truth") which covers his early life and ends with his departure for Weimar, his "Italian Journey", and a series of treatises on art. His writings were immediately influential in literary and artistic circles.

"Faust Part Two" was only finished in the year of his death, and was published posthumously.

cientific work

Although his literary work has attracted the greatest amount of interest, Goethe was also keenly involved in studies of natural science. [cite web|url=http://www.natureinstitute.org/about/who/goethe.htm |publisher=The Nature Institute|title=Johann Wolfgang von Goethe |accessdate=2008-08-28] He wrote several works on plant morphology, and colour theory.

With his focus on morphology he influenced Darwin. His studies led him to independently discover the human intermaxillary bone in 1784, which Broussonet (1779) and Vicq d'Azyr (1780) had (using different methods) identified several years earlier. [cite journal |author=K. Barteczko and M. Jacob |title=A re-evaluation of the premaxillary bone in humans |journal=Anatomy and Embryology |year=1999 |volume=207 |issue=6 |pages=417–437 |doi=10.1007/s00429-003-0366-x ] While not the only one in his time to question the prevailing view that this bone did not exist in humans, Goethe, who believed ancient anatomists had known about this bone, was the first to prove its peculiarity to all mammals. In 1790, he published his "Metamorphosis of Plants". [citeweb|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=0Fjuaog1_E0C&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&ots=ezKJugQmvs&dq=intermaxillary+bone+prove&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html&sig=jkPjZ1STzEfso5aFHxmFqxeof18|title=Metamorphosis of Plants|publisher=Google Books|accessdate=2008-08-28]

During his Italian journey, Goethe formulated a theory of plant metamorphosis in which the archetypal form of the plant is to be found in the "leaf" - he writes, "from top to bottom a plant is all leaf, united so inseparably with the future bud that one cannot be imagined without the other". [cite book |last=Goethe |first=J.W. |title=Italian Journey |publisher=Suhrkamp ed., vol 6 | translator = Robert R Heitner]

In 1810, Goethe published his Theory of Colours, which he considered his most important work. In it, he (contentiously) characterized colour as arising from the dynamic interplay of darkness and light. After being translated into English by Charles Eastlake in 1840, this theory became widely adopted by the art world, most notably J. M. W. Turner (Bockemuhl, 1991 [cite book |last=Bockemuhl |first=M. |title=Turner |publisher=Taschen, Koln |year=1991|isbn=3822863254] ). It also inspired the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, to write his "Remarks on Colour". Goethe was vehemently opposed to Newton's analytic treatment of colour, engaging instead in compiling a comprehensive description of a wide variety of colour phenomena. Although Goethe cannot necessarily be criticized for the accuracy and extent of his observations, scientists in general have found little use for his theory because not much can be predicted by means of it. Goethe was, however, the first to systematically study the physiological effects of colour, and his observations on the effect of opposed colors led him to a symmetric arrangement of his colour wheel, 'for the colours diametrically opposed to each other… are those which reciprocally evoke each other in the eye. (Goethe, "Theory of Colours", 1810 [cite book |last=Goethe |first=Johann |title=Theory of Colours, paragraph #50 |year=1810] ). In this, he anticipated Ewald Hering's opponent color theory (1872). [cite web|url=http://webexhibits.org/colorart/ch.html |title=Goethe's Color Theory|accessdate=2008-08-28]

Goethe outlines his method in the essay, "The experiment as mediator between subject and object" (1772). In the Kurschner edition of Goethe's works, the science editor, Rudolf Steiner, presents Goethe's approach to science as phenomenological. Steiner elaborated on this in the books "The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception" [cite web|url=http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA002/English/AP1985/GA002_index.html |title=The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception|accessdate=2008-08-28] and "Goethe's World View", [cite web|url=http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA006/English/MP1985/GA006_index.html |title=Goethe's World View|accessdate=2008-08-28] in which he emphasizes the need of the perceiving organ of intuition in order to grasp Goethe's biological archetype (i.e. "The Typus").

Key works

The short epistolary novel, "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers", or "The Sorrows of Young Werther", published in 1774, recounts an unhappy romantic infatuation that ends in suicide. Goethe admitted that he "shot his hero to save himself": a reference to Goethe's own near-suicidal obsession with a young woman during this period, an obsession he quelled through the writing process. The novel remains in print in dozens of languages and its influence is undeniable; its central hero, an obsessive figure driven to despair and destruction by his unrequited love for the young Lotte, has become a pervasive literary archetype. The fact that "Werther" ends with the protagonist's suicide and funeralndash a funeral which "no clergyman attended"ndash made the book deeply controversial upon its (anonymous) publication, for on the face of it, it appeared to condone and glorify suicide. Suicide was considered sinful by Christian doctrine: suicides were denied Christian burial with the bodies often mistreated and dishonoured in various ways; in corollary, the deceased's property and possessions were often confiscated by the Church. [cite web|url=http://pipsproject.com/Understanding%20Suicide.html|publisher=Pips Project|title=The Stigma of Suicide - A history See also: cite web|url=http://elsinore.ucsc.edu/burial/burialSuicide.html|title=Ophelia's Burial] Epistolary novels were common during this time, letter-writing being a primary mode of communication. What set Goethe's book apart from other such novels was its expression of unbridled longing for a joy beyond possibility, its sense of defiant rebellion against authority, and of principal importance, its total subjectivity: qualities that trailblazed the Romantic movement.

The next work, his epic closet drama "Faust", was to be completed in stages, and only published in its entirety after his death. The first part was published in 1808 and created a sensation. The first operatic version, by Spohr, appeared in 1814, and was subsequently the inspiration for operas and oratorios by Schumann, Gounod, Boito, Busoni, and Schnittke as well as symphonic works by Liszt, Wagner, and Mahler. Faust became the ur-myth of many figures in the 19th century. Later, a facet of its plot, i.e., of selling one's soul to the devil for power over the physical world, took on increasing literary importance and became a view of the victory of technology and of industrialism, along with its dubious human expenses. In 1919, the Goetheanum staged the world premiere of a complete production of Faust. On occasion, the play is still staged in Germany and other parts around the world.

Goethe's poetic work served as a model for an entire movement in German poetry termed "Innerlichkeit" ("introversion") and represented by, for example, Heine. Goethe's words inspired a number of compositions by, among others, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz and Wolf. Perhaps the single most influential piece is "Mignon's Song" which opens with one of the most famous lines in German poetry, an allusion to Italy: " _de. Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn"?" ("Do you know the land where the lemons bloom?").

He is also widely quoted. Epigrams such as "Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him", "Divide and rule, a sound motto; unite and lead, a better one", and "Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must", are still in usage or are often paraphrased. Lines from "Faust", such as " _de. Das also war des Pudels Kern", " _de. Das ist der Weisheit letzter Schluss", or " _de. Grau ist alle Theorie" have entered everyday German usage. Although a success of less tasteful appeal, the famous line from the drama "Götz von Berlichingen" (" _de. Er kann mich im Arsche lecken": "He can lick my arse") has become a vulgar idiom in many languages, and shows Goethe's deep cultural impact extending across social, national, and linguistic borders.

It may be taken as another measure of Goethe's fame that other well-known quotations are often incorrectly attributed to him, such as Hippocrates' "Art is long, life is short", which is found in Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship".


Many of Goethe's works, especially "Faust", the "Roman Elegies", and the "Venetian Epigrams", depict hetero- and homosexual erotic passions and acts. In Faust, having signed (the Devil insists on his signature in an actual contract) his deal with the devil, the very first use of his new power thus gained sees Faust raping a young teenage girl. In fact, some of the "Venetian Epigrams" were held back from publication due to their sexual content. However, Karl Hugo Pruys caused national controversy in Germany when his 1999 book "The Tiger's Tender Touch: The Erotic Life of Goethe" tentatively deduced from Goethe's writings the possibility of Goethe's homosexuality. [Karl Hugo Pruys, "The Tiger's Tender Touch: The Erotic Life of Goethe". Trans. Kathleen Bunten. (Edition Q, 1999). ISBN 1883695120.] The sexual portraitures and allusions in his work may stem from one of the many effects of Goethe's eye-opening sojourn in Italy, where men, who shunned the prevalence of women's venereal diseases and unconscionable conditionsvague, embraced homosexuality as a solution that was not widely imitated outside of Italy. ["Outing Goethe and His Age", edited by Alice A. Kuzniar (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1996) (page number needed). ISBN 0804726159.] Whatever the case, Goethe clearly saw sexuality in general as a topic that merited poetic and artistic depiction. This went against the thought of his time, when the very private nature of sexuality was rigorously normative, and makes him appear more modern than he is typically thought to be. ["Outing Goethe and His Age"; edited by Alice A. Kuzniar (page number needed)]


Born into a Protestant (Lutheran) family, Goethe's early faith was shaken by news of such events as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the Seven Years' War. His later spiritual perspective evolved among pantheism, humanism, and various elements of Western esotericism, as seen most vividly in Part II of "Faust".

A year before his death he expressed an identification with the Hypsistarians, an ancient Jewish-pagan sect of the Black Sea region. After describing his difficulties with mainstream religion, Goethe laments:

Historical importance

Goethe had a great effect on the nineteenth century. In many respects, he was the originator of many ideas which later became widespread. He produced volumes of poetry, essays, criticism, a theory of colours and early work on evolution and linguistics. He was fascinated by mineralogy, and the mineral goethite is named after him. His non-fiction writings, most of which are philosophic and aphoristic in nature, spurred the development of many philosophers, including G.W.F. Hegel, Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Cassirer, Carl Jung, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Along with Schiller, he was one of the leading figures of Weimar Classicism.

Goethe embodied many of the contending strands in art over the next century: his work could be lushly emotional, and rigorously formal, brief and epigrammatic, and epic. He would argue that classicism was the means of controlling art, and that romanticism was a sickness, even as he penned poetry rich in memorable images, and rewrote the formal rules of German poetry. Even in contemporary culture, he stands in the background as the author of the story upon which Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice is based.

His poetry was set to music by almost every major Austrian and German composer from Mozart to are still performed.

Goethe was also a cultural force, and by researching folk traditions, he created many of the norms for celebrating Christmas, and argued that the organic nature of the land moulded the people and their customs—an argument that has recurred ever since, including recently in the work of Jared Diamond. He argued that laws could not be created by pure rationalism, since geography and history shaped habits and patterns. This stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing Enlightenment view that reason was sufficient to create well-ordered societies and good laws.

The Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institution, The Goethe-Institut is named after him, and promotes the study of German abroad and fosters knowledge about Germany by providing information on its culture, society and politics.


Goethe's influence was dramatic because he understood that there was a transition in European sensibilities, an increasing focus on sense, the indescribable, and the emotional. This is not to say that he was emotionalistic or excessive; on the contrary, he lauded personal restraint and felt that excess was a disease: "There is nothing worse than imagination without taste". He argued in his scientific works that a "formative impulse", which he said is operative in every organism, causes an organism to form itself according to its own distinct laws, and therefore rational laws or fiats could not be imposed at all from a higher, transcendent sphere; this placed him in direct opposition to those who attempted to form "enlightened" monarchies based on "rational" laws by, for example, Joseph II of Austria or, the subsequent Emperor of the French, Napoleon I. A quotation from his "Scientific Studies" will suffice:

This change later became the basis for 19th century thought; organic rather than geometrical, evolving rather than created, and based on sensibility and intuition, rather than on imposed order, culminating in, as he said, a "living quality" wherein the subject and object are dissolved together in a poise of inquiry. Consequently, he embraced neither teleological nor deterministic views of growth within every organism. Instead, the world as a whole grows through continual, external, and internal strife. Moreover, he did not embrace the mechanistic views that contemporaneous science subsumed during his time, and there with he denied rationality's superiority as the sole interpretation of reality. Furthermore, he declared that all knowledge is related to humanity through its functional value alone and that knowledge presupposes a perspectival quality. He also stated that the fundamental nature of the world is aesthetic.

His views make him, along with Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Ludwig van Beethoven, a figure in two worlds: on the one hand, devoted to the sense of taste, order, and finely crafted detail, which is the hallmark of the artistic sense of the Age of Reason and the neo-classicistic period of architecture; on the other, seeking a personal, intuitive, and personalized form of expression and society, firmly supporting the idea of self-regulating and organic systems. Thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson would take up many similar ideas in the 1800s. His ideas on evolution would frame the question which Darwin and Wallace would approach within the scientific paradigm.


*"Goethe: The History of a Man" by Emil Ludwig
*"Goethe" by Georg Brandes
*"Goethe: his life and times" by Richard Friedenthal
* by Thomas Mann
*Conversations with Goethe by Johann Peter Eckermann
*"Goethe's World: as seen in letters and memoirs" ed. by Berthold Biermann
*"Goethe: Four Studies" by Albert Schweitzer
*"Goethe and his Publishers" by Siegfied Unseld
*"Goethe: The Poet and the Age" (2 Vols.), by Nicholas Boyle
*"Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients", by Angus Nicholls
*"Goethe and Rousseau: Resonances of ther Mind", by Carl Hammer, Jr.
*"Love Letters of Great Men, Vol. 1", by John C. Kirkland


ee also

*List of works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
*Minna Herzlieb
*Ulrike von Levetzow
*Goethe Basin
*Dora Stock - her encounters with the 16-year-old Goethe

External links

*gutenberg author|id=Goethe+Johann+Wolfgang+von | name=Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
* [http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/g/goethe/ The Lied and Art Song Texts Page] Poems of Goethe set in music
* [http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/237027/Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe Encyclopaedia Britannica, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20060406.shtml BBC In Our Time Programme on Goethe (online)]
* [http://www.janushead.org/8-1/index.cfm "Goethe's Delicate Empiricism," A Special Issue of Janus Head]
* [http://goethe.lingvisto.org/index.php Goethe's dual language poems (from German to other languages)]
* [http://www.goetheanscience.org/index.php Goethean Science Site]
* [http://www.quotationcollection.com/author/Johann_Wolfgang%20von_Goethe/quotes Goethe Quotes]
* [http://www.pbase.com/johnireland/image/62909444 Goethe Statue] - Lincoln Park, Chicago
* [http://dlxs2.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=cdl;idno=cdl330 Elective affinities] Cornell University Library Historical Monographs Collection. {Reprinted by} [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1429740647/?tag=corneunivelib-20 Cornell University Library Digital Collections]
* [http://quotationpark.com/authors/GOETHE,%20Johann%20Wolfgang%20von.html Famous Quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe]
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n79-3362Persondata
NAME=Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Goethe, Johann Wolfgang
SHORT DESCRIPTION=German philosopher, poet, and writer
DATE OF BIRTH=birth date|1749|8|28|df=y
DATE OF DEATH=death date|1832|3|22|df=y
PLACE OF DEATH=Weimar, Germany

Источник: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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