From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Notes 4, pages 276-281


Page 117, line 26 (con't.)
from the "Neighborhood Interpreter." However it is no accident that Thorane's words reflect the core of Goethe's soul concerning the French years as the Count speaks of party spirit, his reference to the material interests of the house owner, and his contrasting statements concerning reputation and duty. [Return to text]

Page 120, line 2. One notices the excellent use of realistic details. [Return to text]

Page 122, line 15. Like Goethe's own father. "Abstruse": distanced from the world because of one's own melancholy thoughts. [Return to text]

Page 122, line 31. Not quite equivalent verbal rendering of "par example." [Return to text]

Page 123, line 27. "The London Merchant" by Lillo (1731, translated 1755), the model for the moralizing drama, had much to do with the development of the "Bürger Tragödie" [common man tragedy.] One also notices its influence in Lessing's "Miss Sara Sampson." [Return to text]

Page 123, line 29. "Les fourberies de Scapin" by Moliere, model for Goethe's musical "Scherz, List und Rache" [Joke, Ruse and Revenge] (v.8.) [Return to text]

Page 123, line 33. "Neither party convinced the other" — according to the author's meaning this statement is not based on moral grounding but rather aesthetic force. [Return to text]

Page 124, line 11. Not previously mentioned; Loeper rightly cites a line from Zahme Xenien [Gentle Epigrams]:
   Some boys prefer to read Terence,
   For others, Grotius is their pick
   These lads vex me with their ignorance
   as I examine their rhetoric. [Return to text]

Page 124, line 16. Alexis Piron, 1689-1773, worthily introduced by Goethe in Remarks to Rameau's Nephew (V.34). His "half mythological, half allegorical" plays were originally written for the small Jahrmarkt's Theater. [Return to text]

Page 124, line 124. Pomey's Pantheon mythicum, the first school mythology, was published in 1659. [Return to text]


Page 126, line 1. The young genius' first battle with the rules established by the school of poetics. [Return to text]

Page 126, line 3. See Goethe's own fable, "Dilettant and Critic." [Return to text]

Page 126, line 8. A young man mentioned later (p.166, lines 5 forward). [Return to text]

Page 126, line 33. See p.185, line 7 [Return to text]

Page 127, line 2. Again directed against the public and critics of the age. Young Goethe's assertion of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" is inaccurate since plays such as "Die Mitschuldigen" [The Accomplices] are written under the regime of the French School. [Return to text]

Page 128, line 8. "Die Bahne": railway carts, banne in French. [Return to text]

Page 128, line 17. Seekatz, Schütz, Hirt, Juncker. [Return to text]

Page 129, line 18. Quaint old-time expression. [Return to text]

Page 132, line 6. It is not reported when the King's Lieutenant moved out. By the summer of 1761 the Moritz family had already moved in. — In Goethe's usual way the story rounds out on a peaceful note. [Return to text]

Fourth Book (p.132-192)

"The fourth book, a book of chaotic educational elements, closes with a covetous look towards the laurel wreath." (Roethe) For me the main emphasis seems to lie in the paragraph (p.164, line 5 forward) where Goethe stresses how "in his life and his chopped-up learning experiences his intellect and his senses still coalesce to form one point of quiet operation." In other words, his individuality now begins to crystalize. Awakened by a multitude of situations and nourished by many educational elements, his intellect begins to develop into a centralized entity. For the most part this occurs in an unconscious fashion and not without foreign tendencies such as the desire for literary fame.

Page 132, line 27. The elder Moritz (according to Loeper Jr.) was a Danish legation counselor and the other was a chancellory director; both envoys had various imperial positions. [Return to text]


Page 133, line 17. The Kaiser appointed such a commission whenever a royal house was in debt. See "Urfaust", verse 526 forward. [Return to text]

Page 133, line 24. The original biographical scheme says about Court Counselor Hüsgen (189, 21): He was a mathematician and I am grateful to him for my elementary knowledge. [Return to text]

Page 133, line 31. Later as head of the Ducal School of Design in Weimar Goethe had plenty of opportunity to think about the various methods of drafting instruction. Thus here we also have a connection to pedagogical interests of the day! — One may compare the descriptions found in G. Keller's "Green Heinrich" and Ludwig Richter's autobiography whereby these authors discuss their first drawing teachers. [Return to text]

Page 134, line 5. Charles Lebrun, "Sur le caractère des passions", with typical drawings of evil affects such as anger and hatred. See Lessing, "Hamburg Dramaturgy", section 93. [Return to text]

Page 134, line 19. Piazzetta,Giambattista, Venetian painter (1682-1754): "Icones ad vivum expressae" engraved by J. Cattini 1763; or Studi di pittura, engraved by Pitteri 1760. [Return to text]

Page 134, line 33. "Around this time": it occurs to Goethe to detail the aspects of his impressive education in one section - mathematics, drawing, music, physics, etc. [Return to text]

Page 136, line 34. Such a decree has not been authenticated. [Return to text]

Page 137, line 24. A polemic look at the present. See in "Journeyman Years," Book III, chapter 3: "Shortly they shall see that building is more instructive than tearing down, uniting more than dividing, the dead more alive than they were before they were killed." [Return to text]

Page 137, line 31. God, Intellect and the World No. 21 (around 1814):
   Magnetic attraction, answers I await!
   No greater mystery than love and hate!
[Return to text]

Page 138, line 3. Armature: a piece of soft iron bundled with a magnetic stone. [Return to text]

Page 139, line 13. Leopold Heinrich Pfeil of Butzbach in the Wetterau. In young Goethe's correspondence there are handwritten


corrections placed in the margins by Pfeil after Counselor Goethe had given him the letters. See Goethe Jahrbuch VII, 121. [Return to text]

Page 142, line 17. In an earlier draft: "Once one has departed Italy he has the desire to surround himself with things from the various regions so he might continue to live there. He loves the images but doesn't pay attention to them. Eventually he sees them as treasures simply to be preserved." [Return to text]

Page 144, line 2. The first attempt at a novel — the construction was far too elementary and there was obviously a great deal of difficulty in contrasting the characters. Later on Goethe seldom used this comfortable medium of binding his novel characters together through siblingship. [Return to text]

Page 144, line 9. "Siegwart, a Cloister History" (1777), J.M. Miller's imitation of "Werther." [Return to text]

Page 144, line 22. Young Goethe's interest in Yiddish (See also 145,3; 147,20; 175,23) is found in a "Jewish sermon" found in Leipzig, perhaps written by his own hand during his student days. It contains the following:

   "The Goyem say we have no king, no emperor, no septer and no crown. However I will show it stands written that we do have a king, an emperor, a septer and a crown. Well where then is our emperor? I will tell you. He's there past the great and dreadful red sea. When three times a hundred thousand years have passed a great man with boots and spurs will gallop his way across the great and dreadful red sea. He will have a horn in his hand. What kind of horn will it be? A trumpet. And when he blows on his horn all the Jews, who have inhabited the world for the past hundred thousand years will come together to cross the great and dreadful red sea. Now what do you say to that? And what a wonder it will be when I tell you he will come riding on a huge snow-white stead; and what a wonder when three times one hundred and ninety-nine thousand Jews sit upon this horse, for


all shall have a place. And when a few goyem try to climb up, they will find no place. Now what do you say to that? And let me tell you about an even greater miracle. Once all the Jews are sitting on the white stead, it will stretch out its huge, huge tail and the Goyem will think, couldn't we climb up and sit on its tail. Then they will all shimmy up onto its tail and when all are seated the great snow white stead will return the way it came over the dreadful red sea, but the stead will drop its tail and the goyem will all fall off into the huge and dreadful red sea. Now what do you say to that? [Return to text]

Page 145, line 20. Dr. Albrecht, born 1694, rector of the high school since 1748. [Return to text]

Page 145, line 26. The following description of the Hebrew instruction is remembered down to the smallest detail — an attempt to make notes from the piano lessons and letters from the Hebrew instruction more palatable through a novel-like approach. In both cases it is demonstrated how the individual tries to do justice to any piece of new learning but in the end the learner "turns back to the path which nature has already laid out for him." Anything, which he does not like or does not excite his imagination or nourish his character, runs through like rainwater off the roof. This is shown here with particular pleasure. The desire to learn Hebrew is only a small indication of his pressing need to study the bible, through which the poet will see the typical forms of human existence. The teacher, although an extremely intelligent and original man, remains a typical schoolmaster and for this student his instructions remain superficial utterances. At the end Dr. Albrecht sits with his Lucian listening to young Goethe, satisfied with his efforts yet still prone to laughing. Goethe similarly described his relationship to the teacher who gave him color instruction. [Return to text]


Page 145, line 29. "Surplice and wig" were the ministerial garb of rectors. Antitheses such as "an Aesop in surplice and wig" were favorites in French literature especially at the time of Voltaire. [Return to text]

Page 146, line 6. "Translocation" occurred in the spring when students moved up to the next class ranking. [Return to text]

Page 146, line 25. Goethe gladly spent some time in his autobiography with "Lucianish" figures such as Albrecht and Merck and "Eulenspiegelish" (prankster) characters such as Behrisch and even Lenz. For him they are representatives of a negative tendency which, though fruitless in itself, tends to act as a positive stimulus - for example Mephistopheles in Goethe's prologue to "Faust." The introduction of happier or more cheerful characters also corresponds to Goethe's inclination towards lightening up the heavy content of educational stories and it is his age-old technique to work with comic episodes ("The Dangerous Bet" in the "Journeyman Years;" carnaval masks in Part II of "Faust," parties in the "Annals" of 1805, and many more examples.) [Return to text]

Page 147, line 2. Goethe may also have been thinking of the kindred nature of the witty philologist Fr.A. Wolf. [Return to text]

Page 147, line 28. A paper owned by G. v.Loeper shows that even the old Goethe occasionally took up these exercises again. See also V.30, pp.280, 21 and 307,4. [Return to text]

Page 149, line 9. See the Book of Joshua, Chapter 10, verses 12-13, and the article "Israel in the Desert" (V.5). [Return to text]

Page 149, line 17. Sebastian Schmid, professor in Strassburg, died 1699. [Return to text]

Page 150, line 13. "The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments with full explanation compiled from the most select comments of various English authors ..." Leipzig 1749-1770, 19 volumes, up to V.10 by 1763. [Return to text]

Page 150, line 30. Yet another indication of the growing individuality of the young Goethe through self-directed education. [Return to text]

Page 151, line 7. Goethe explains his motivation on p.164, line 1 for inserting the analysis of ancient biblical history in the story of his youth.
[Return to text] Go to rest of the note on p. 282



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