From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Notes 3, pages 270-275


Page 78, line 24. The story of Goethe's aristocratic heritage incited active resentment, for example, with Börne. However this other child's fairytale has as much symbolic meaning as the tale of Paris since the origin of artistic genius loses itself in the dark. Similarly the honest report concerning the inoculating lies on the young Narcissus provides proof of his honesty. [Return to text]

Page 80, line 1. Incorrect: the grandmother was ten years younger. [Return to text]

Page 81, line 23. One of the major themes upon which the book was written. — The various organic systems, which make up a human being, determine his potential. Thus the painter, the author, the man of the world, etc. become related to and condensed in the young Goethe. [Return to text]

Page 82, line 19. A new connection between individual lives and general destiny. [Return to text]

Page 83, line 15. Concerning Protestants, Reformists, and Catholics in Frankfurt see Book XVII (V.25). [Return to text]

Page 84, line 3. On August 6, 1743 the chief magistrate, the two eldest sheriffs and the oldest legal counselor were appointed for the first time as true imperial counselors for life. Goethe's father received the appointment in May 1742. [Return to text]

Page 85, line 25. Published 1740; "The One True Religion" was published 1751. [Return to text]

Page 86, line 27. Intimation of the dispute between father and son with the appointment to Weimar. [Return to text]

Page 87, line 15. One thinks of the famous conclusion of "Werther's Sorrow" where, according to Kestner's report, the suicide's grave lies in Jerusalem. [Return to text]

Page 90, line 5. The original manuscript contained the following report, which Goethe may have deleted because it would have detracted from the economy of the book:

"He came to admire the completion of his project and it should have been a marvelous occasion however the end of his noble, well-ordered life arrived in a unique fashion. One Sunday he climbed alone to the top of the annex of the nearly completed hospital,


"however the roof section for a chimney stack had not yet been completed and gave way. He had been missing for quite some time before his body was found under a mantelpiece. He was buried in a grave, which he had constructed himself in the botanical gardens in the form of a small chapel. His stone coffin stood under a vault open to the sky as constructed to his specifications. An iron fence surrounded the chapel and the gardener used to place grain stalks in there to dry. What a delightful and useful way for a grave sight to be appointed.

"Incidentally, the undertaking did not come to a halt upon his death. Up to this time there was only a hospital for poor foreigners. It was unimaginable until that time that a citizen of Frankfurt might fall into such an impoverished and abandoned state and require a nursing facility. However with increased wealth and properity there also comes increased poverty for certain citizens. Their needs could never be addressed before and the construction of a citizen's hospital was a long hoped-for wish. This wish was completely fulfilled by a unique, reasonable and wealthy man, whose magnificent undertaking was sealed by his death. It garnered the attention of many wealthy people and in a short time the facility received substantial gifts and endowments whereby not only was the construction completed but the entire enterprise was placed on secure financial footing." [Return to text]

Page 91, line 20. These poets belong collectively to the first representatives of a purer and more refined taste in German poetics, which had sunken so low. However (with the exception of Klopstock) Haller is the only one of them to achieve greatness. [Return to text]

Page 93, line 5. Changing the "Red" Sea with the "Dead Sea". [Return to text]

Page 94, line 12. The picture of old Frankfurt society is first represented by social status and then by the characteristics of the literary public. Both images are made to reflect the differences between the old and new generations. Ochsenstein and


Senckenberg had to overcome opposition because of their humanistic perceptions and Counselor Schneider found opposition because of his sympathies for Klopstock. Between both groups stands Friedrich Karl v. Moser, an interesting personality and an author. His very essence makes him a representative of the "challenging epoch" while his work makes him an important authority on the political situation. Moser — as Philo, from Bekenntnisse einer schönen Seele [Acknowledgements of a Beautiful Soul] in Wilhelm Meister — had Merck for his personal and political opponent, which in Goethe's judgment was a good thing. — The closing sentence brings to rest the "poet's misgivings" with a pessimistic epigram: Just how little his most personal experiences were used in his life's work soon builds into a leitmotif in the autobiography. [Return to text]

Third Book (p.94-132)

Page 94, line 5.

The "Thorane Book." Just as "Acknowledgements of a Beautiful Soul" is inserted in the Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister in order to condense the instructional element, many scholars believe the Book Thorane is inserted to emphasize the epic charm. Above all else the intention was technical. The original outline neglected to mention the royal lieutenant's name. This book artfully unites the variously scattered pieces of information into one portrait of young life in the old house on Hirschgraben street: art and politics, paternal authority and foreign influences, relationships to the external world in unmediated contact with war, theater and critique. At the same time there is special attention paid to further illustration of the locale — Each part creates a major portrait slowing down an epic: the second, Strassburg and Sesenheim, the third with the travel descriptions in the fourteenth book. [Return to text]

Page 94, line 18. A highly animated description of these New Year celebrations is contained in a letter from Geothe to Johanna Fahlmer dated January 1774 (Weimar ed., Letters 2, 141.) [Return to text]

Page 95, line 11. One notices the artful preparation.


Goethe especially loves to develop an unexpected transition from one event to another. The Thorane Book starts in a time of peace and builds dramatically to a time of heightened events in a way similar to "Clavigo." [Return to text]

Page 96, line 17. The King's lieutenant, "Lieutenant de Roi," was the head of the Royal Police and Corrections Force within a French army division. François de Théas, Comte de Thorane was the subject of a detailed description by Martin Schubart (Munich 1896), which corrected many of Goethe's statements especially with regard to the Count's life: Thorane, born Jan. 19, 1719, died August 19, 1794 in his father city of Grasse, where Schubart discovered the Frankfurt picture and returned it to the Goethe house. — Goethe's erroneous description of Thorane (preserved in our text but notated) consists of an analog of French authors' names such as Fontane's and generals' names such as Castellane's, both men of the Napoleanic era. — Gutzkow dramatised the contents of the Third Book in his incidental piece, "The King's Lieutenant." [Return to text]

Page 99, line 15. The father's attitude was used to emphasize Goethe's philosophy "live with the world in peace." [Return to text]

Page 99, line 18. Goethe's own experience when Marshall Lannes lived in his house after the Battle of Jena. [Return to text]

Page 100, line 10. Goethe could have read about the decisions of the Duke of Ossuña, Viceroy of Naples, in Pitaval's Causes célèbres (1747). [Return to text]

Page 100, line 27. Biblical expression; see 1 Samuel 16,14. [Return to text]

Page 101, line 4. With the exception of Nothnagel the Frankfurt painters were characterized in the First Book, see page 30. [Return to text]

Page 102, line 9. The ironic style of the old Goethe. "May I ask, should we allow the entire district to burn down?" he asked in 1826 in a conversation concerning fire insurance with Ritter (Knight) von Lang (Goethe speeches 5, 302.) [Return to text]

Page 103, line 5. Schubart suggests that one of these paintings, now returned to Frankfurt, contains a picture of Goethe as a child. [Return to text]


Page 103, line 15. Roethe's contention, that this passage is merely symbolic, may not be correct - the passage is only meant to present an example of the disruption of patriarchal authority by the intrusion of the outside world. [Return to text]

Page 104, line 15. The theater, one of the poet's great life interests, appears here for the second time and on a higher plain. First we had the puppet theater, then the French comodies, then the German theater in Leipzig. This time the dilettante — as Goethe considers all young people — feels compelled towards productive imitation. Since he spent a considerable amount of time on this episode, the poet acknowledges the great significance and lasting influence the theory and practices which the French theater had on him. [Return to text]

Page 105, line 10. Destouches (1680-1754), Marivaux (1688-1763) and La Chaussée (1692-1754) - all three were pioneers of the modern French comedy of manners; at the very least the latter two must be considered advocates of sentimentality on stage and the "comédie larmoyante" or "dramatics." "Die Laune des Verliebten" (The mood of the beloved) shows the influence of this group. [Return to text]

Page 105, line 14. Lemierre's "Hypermnestra" appeared in 1758. [Return to text]

Page 105, line 17. "Le devin du village," Rousseau's famous opera, was first performed in 1765. Sedaine's musical comedy "Rose et Colas" with music by Monsigny and Grétry came a year earlier. Madame Favart's "Annette et Lubin" was first performed in 1762. Consequently Goethe could only have seen these plays later. He named them here because they had similar influences on the youth plays such as "Claudine von Villa Bella" and "Die Fischerin" just as every drama had influence on his early Alexandrine verse plays. [Return to text]

Page 106, line 29. Derones, son of an actor. [Return to text]

Page 109, line 27. Palissot's "Philosophers" of 1760 was directed against Rousseau. So Goethe accused in "Satyros." See "Remarks to Rameau's Nephew" (V.34.) [Return to text]

Page 110, line 3. Similarly a scenic observation to the dramatic and vivid picture of the culture. [Return to text]

Page 110, line 16. The lively duel —


a typical episode in old folktales about heroes — sounds similar to the conflict between Counselor Goethe and the King's Lieutenant; somewhat like "Götz von Berlichingen" (with "Romeo and Juliet" as its model) the dispute between the boys presages that of the men. [Return to text]

Page 110, line 23. Coffeehouses were quite new establishments, having spread from Venice all over Europe. The one in Frankfurt at the Rossmarkt originated at the time of the sudden French takeover. It's main headquarters is still there today. That our young hero was drawn to such a new and modern local is symbolic of just how far young Goethe had strayed from strict parental discipline! [Return to text]

Page 110, line 31. A Mignon-esque figure used to illustrate the early trips the boy made into moral reflection. [Return to text]

Page 112, line 3. Repeated emphasis on premonitions and omens — as earlier encounter by Grandfather Chief Magistrate and now by the grandson — ties together Goethe's general tendency in "Poetry and Truth" to link earlier and later events as if the earlier events presage the later ones. [Return to text]

Page 112, line 23. Prince Soubise, miserably defeated at Rossbach; Duke v. Broglio (later Broglie) one of the most capable French generals of the time - Goethe named a main place in Strassburg after him. [Return to text]

Page 114, line 4. The Battle of Bergen, April 13, 1759. Perhaps the name of the battle is intentionally missing: the historical facts take a back seat to personal and cultural history. Compare to the introduction to V.28. [Return to text]

Page 115, line 14. Mrs. Goethe was fond of consulting such oracle books; this time it was perhaps the "Golden Treasure Chest of God's Children" by Bogatzky (Halle 1735). Compare with Goethe's notes on "Divan" under "book oracle" (V.5.) [Return to text]

Page 117, line 26. This splendid dialog, the climax of Book Thorane, may actually have been based on written reports
Continue note on page 276
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Go to pages 276-281


Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks