From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Notes 6, pages 288-293


Page 178, line 7. "Natural forms of human existence" modified merely by life circumstances - a basic principle for Goethe, which was beautifully illustrated by B. Hehn. - In the "familial essence of each handicraft" one is reminded of the later description of the cobbler workshop (V.23, p.128). [Return to text]

Page 182, line 27. The pictures have been rediscovered — and they give an example for the manner in which poetry and truth come together in the individual details of the narrative. "The two flower bouquets, which the artist Juncker painted for Goethe's father, remained firm in detail in the son's memory. However the motivation behind the selection, the carefully prepared oak board which his father supposedly contributed, just does not pan out: both pictures were painted on linen, thus the point falters." (Roethe) [Return to text]

Page 184, line 19. One thinks of the "Journey in the Rhine and Main Regions"! (v.29) [Return to text]

Page 185, line 6. Originally a more objective introduction was planned: "Men, who are remarkable for their learning and even more for their remarkable character, are prized and much discussed" and before that mention of a group of "Men, who as dilettants, art connaisseurs, owners, collectors, et.al. are also regarded as wealthy people." This list (v.Uffenbach, v.Haekel) then became associated with a subjective roster: "Men who exerted a significant influence on my adolescence." With it v. Malapart was reintroduced. In the beginning Hüsgen interested the poet mostly as an original personality. His description is included in the rough draft while Reineck and Olenschlager were filled out in greater detail in the final copy because of their influence on the boy. [Return to text]

Page 185, line 7. Joh. Daniel v.Olenschlager, born 1711, 1761 the "junior mayor." In 1771 as "senior mayor" he administered the Citizen and Lawyer's Oath to Goethe. In "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul"


he was called "Narcissus," just as he was in real life by detractors. His "New Commentary" on the Golden Bulls with pro-Austrian Empire and anti-Prussian tendencies was published in 1766, however the work might already have been in production by 1763. [Return to text]

Page 186, line 12 forward. "Kanut" by Elias Schlegel 1748; Racine's "Britannicus" 1760. "Both works are definitely characteristic for Olenschlager's tendencies and the general tastes of the age (v. Loepere). The "Fritish" party consists of the English and Swiss while the French and people from Leipzig sided with the Austrian Empire, admittedly not without exception. [Return to text]

Page 186, line 26. v. Reineck, royal Polish Archducal advisor to the Saxon Under Secretary of War, had his title renewed in 1729. The daughter was not abducted. Her father wanted her to marry a man she didn't love and he had expelled her beloved from the house. She fled and was disinherited. [Return to text]

Page 186, line 32. Yet another pedagogical wink. The lawsuit filer could not fail to be represented in the gallery, which Goethe's life story constructed, of those who miss out on life. [Return to text]

Page 187, line 14. Timon of Athens, the proverbial misanthrope. Heautontimorumenos, the self-tormentor, a hero in the so-named comedy by Terence, quoted by Goethe as the typical designation for self-torment ("Heautontimorumeny") [Return to text]

Page 188, line 2. Major von Malapart, seven years older than Reinecke. The charming genre portrait of both dianthus lovers is an example of the tendency which Goethe developed after the Italian journey for interlacing daintily arranged, similarly "positioned" groups in his narration. [Return to text]

Page 189, line 21. Hüsgen, "Privy Councillor and advisor to several princes of the empire," also a member of the council aristocracy to which Goethe's father belonged. [Return to text]

Page 190, line 1. Calamanco: a patterned woolen fabric. [Return to text]

Page 190, line 19. Henrici Cornelii Agrippae of Nettesheim's De incertitudine et vanitate omnium scientiarum et artium liber, lectu plane jucundus et elegans 1527; a satirical work aimed at the scientific charlatanism of the era. [Return to text]

Page 191, line 33. So as not to stand alone among the old


people, for the sake of optical perspective Goethe places a series of younger men between them and himself. Again there are three, just as there were Olenschlager, Reineck and Hüsgen (Malapart is more an ancillary figure.) Griesbach really doesn't belong to this group. He was only four years older than Goethe. He came to Frankfurt as a child and the pair became reacquainted years later when Griesbach was a professor of theology in Jena, where he died in 1812. The brothers Schlosser were lawyers in Frankfurt. The younger brother later became Goethe's in-law. They are dealt with in the following books. [Return to text]

Fifth Book (p.192-256)

The fifth book brings Part 1 to a close with Goethe's first love, and even more his first disappointment in love, thus indicating the end of childhood. This is the last educational testing. Just as the fourth book depicts "So as not to remain alone, make yourself sociable" so the fifth book certifies the Orphean prophecy concerning love and its fate: "The most beloved will be scolded away from your heart."

As Roethe comments, it is not so striking that first love is typically pictured as remarkable yet seen with sober clarity." Thus Roethe characterized this book (and all those having Friederike at their center) as the apex of artistry. We refer back with particular interest to his exposition. The story of the coronation, whose scenes are interlaced with those of the Gretchen love story, are not just brought together for the sake of interspering contrasting moments. Symbolically the fate of the individual is linked to that of the general populace and the courtly pomp displayed in the coronation of Joseph points to an end, once and for all, to the romance with Austria and the Empire just like the galant Gretchen episode signifies the same for Wolfgang. Similarly one must pay attention to the advancing chronology


as represented in the previous era: the child, who does not yet possess an animated concept of world history, contents himself with the mythology of biblical times. The boy, who must soon take on the mantle of manhood, occupies himself with the ceremonial aspects of the history of the Empire. The maturing youth comes across the significance of the individual moment while in Strassburg with the entrance of Marie Antoinette. The history of Abraham is prehistoric; the coronation with its unchanging progression similarly timeless. Historic moments along with reflections upon personalities first arise in Book Thorane and later on with the pure comtemplation of their objective significance. [Return to text]

Page 195, line 26. Mystifications also belong to the means used by the poet to breathe life into a narration: the Giessen Professor Schmid was deceived (Book XII) when Goethe arrived in Sesenheim in disguise (Book X), etc. Such improvised pranks with firmly established roles provided amusement in the poet's life; there is also charm in the narration in seeing the well-known personality of the poet hidden in masquerade. [Return to text]

Page 196, line 27. Concerning the character of Offenbach's Gretchen nothing certain has been ascertained. There is no reason to doubt the historical accuracy of the described proceedings. She "supposedly served as a barmaid in the beerhouse "Puppenschänkelchen" at No. 29 Weissadlergasse," (v. Loepere) which was appropriate to her being, her half education and her good manner and would thus clarify the lack of detail concerning her family. [Return to text]

Page 197, line 26. Observation in the church was a huge move literarily as well as in life: Emilia Galotti! Even Faust sees his Gretchen briefly before the church. In the famous verses of that play these words resound: "While exiting," etc. Here again we see poetry worked into the story just as experience is interwoven into the poetry. [Return to text]

Page 198, line 22. Yet another genre structure brought to us from the literature: Gretchen and Klärchen. See also the poem


in v.1, p.117. Goethe loves to highlight such typical situations. We must always reexamine the question of the correlation between Wolfgang's and Faust's Gretchen. [Return to text]

Page 199, line 12. The first entanglement in external world intrigue is characterized through a long conversation piece. The poet still draws attention to himself: "I was glad to hear her talk as a result." [Return to text]

Page 200, line 31. As is often the case with Goethe, the word "common" may not correlate to the rigours of traditional moral usage but rather better understood as usual or everyday. [Return to text]

Page 201, line 11. Yet another significant moment emphasized by a meaningful maxim. [Return to text]

Page 202, line 30. Herein Goethe emphasizes that all his poetry is occasional poetry in the highest sense. Occasional poetry of the lower order is verse production made to order for a particular occasion and it serves as a step along the way by which he attains the inner liberation of the poet. The first poems are timeless. In "Christ's Descent into Hell" and "On Joseph" he composed poetry for no particular occasion. Now he was learning to give expression to specific sentiments for external events. [Return to text]

Page 203, line 22. Here the characteristics described on page 194, line 34 forward are elaborated upon; they show just how closely the narrator is already involved with the young people. [Return to text]

Page 206, line 15. Ironic jab at occasional poetics. [Return to text]

Page 207, line 6. In the summer of 1763 Goethe attended a concert of the 7-year-old Mozart; see also Eckermann's discussion of Feb. 3, 1830. It is significant that the poet emphasizes this interesting yet developmentally meaningless experience. — Incidentally the name Gretchen is missing in the biographical outline. The poet acknowledged the importance of this episode for the first time in the full draft. [Return to text]

Page 210, line 5. Two lines of fate, the personal and the general, come together. Gretchen as a hat maker


is reminiscent of the flower girl at the festival parade in "Faust;" in the "New Pausias" there is also the reflection of Counselor Goethe's typical demeanor - instructive and formal. As Düntzer rightly notices, the intertwining of both events was not planned beforehand. The love story would shortly end. Goethe developed his own technique (from the earlier books.) It may also be that both events did not happen at the same time, as Düntzer suggested. [Return to text]

Page 210, line 12. Published by Olenschlager in 1742 and 1745. The passage motivates Goethe's sufficient knowledge of ceremonial details, which in reality come from later basic studies of the "Coronation Diary of Joseph II," Mainz 1767-71 (see Alt, p.31.) [Return to text]

Page 213, line 21. Even this small sentence hides technical intention. It shows motivation on how young Goethe could study all the preparations in such detail. [Return to text]

Page 218, line 27. In Lavater's "Jesus, the Messiah, or, the Master's Arrival according to the Revelation of St. John," 1780, Song 19. [Return to text]

Page 219, line 14. One of the few sudden transitions in "Poetry and Truth" to be humorously colored. [Return to text]

Page 221, line 4. Conclave - a room for the election in the cathedral, see 20, 23. [Return to text]

Page 221, line 18. Abelard, the famous scholar, who took his love for Heloise Rousseau and made it the model for his novel Julie, or, the new Heloise; therefore the hero of this novel, St. Preux, resembles "the new Abelard." [Return to text]

Page 221, line 21. Premonition of catastrophe. [Return to text]

Page 222, line 5. The Electors from Trier and Cologne arrived on March 24th and 25th, 1764. [Return to text]

Page 224, line 4. Goethe's own account of the court festivities; as a poet and arranger of masquerade parades, etc. he worked on such "disguising art works" as gladly as any artist of the Renaissance. [Return to text]

Page 224, line 12. One notices in evaluating the narrative as
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Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks