From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Notes 7, pages 294-296


a work of art how attention is heightened then relieved by the falling of the curtain (p.223, 18). Thus the main scene of splendor, the entrance of the emperor, achieves perfect effect. Similarly the major scenes of splendor in "Faust, Part II" were prepared. [Return to text]

Page 228, line 15. The reader is given the chance to recover from his fantasy. At the same time the total magnificence of the earlier coronation scene serves as a backdrop for the previous events about to be reintroduced. [Return to text]

Page 233, line 34. Goethe's individual character is already so firmly set that the multitude of diverse external images crystalizes into one "very simple impression." And how masterfully he brings together the coronation and the love story in one brief paragraph! [Return to text]

Page 236, line 34. Goethe's oft repeated formula: "Bestow duration to the moment." [Return to text]

Page 240, line 10. The twins in "Menachmen" by Plautus. [Return to text]

Page 240, line 19. The over 130 pounds in official vestments had to be worn for 8 1/2 hours. (See Stricker, "Im neuen Reich" ["In the New Empire," 1873, no. 31] [Return to text]

Page 241, line 3 forward. The activity of the hereditary officers, who stood in for the high electors' officers, is proscribed by the Golden Bulle and used by Goethe in the 4th act of Faust II. [Return to text]

Page 241, line 20 forward. Handcloth = hand towel. [Return to text]

Page 242, line 2 forward. Even this raining of gold bore fruit in "Faust II", verses 5585 and forward. [Return to text]

Page 247, line 6 forward. Prince Esterhazy was a Bohemian royal ambassador. [Return to text]

Page 247, line 21 forward. According to v. Loeper and R. Köhler's information Goethe had the oldest description of the Fool's Paradise in mind - the Elysian Fields in Lucian's "True Histories" (Book II, Chapter 14.) On the other hand the "transformation of fruit in each lovely dish" refers to biblical manna. [Return to text]


Page 247, line 34 forward. Just as the poet preferred it, catastrophe immediately follows the most beautiful moment. [Return to text]

Page 254, line 32 One thinks here of the manner in which Goethe "tells himself story upon story" (253, 25) and may compare it with Tasso's self torment. [Return to text]

Page 255, line 27 It's not certain who the guilty parties were. The greatest likelihood seems to be Johann Adolf Wagner, who in 1764 was involved in an investigation but merely received a stern reprimand for fraud. Upon the careful investigation of Frankfurt city archivist Kriegk, the matter seems to stand as follows: "People in charge of the investigation commissioned a friend of the family, Counselor Schneider, rather than a person from the Magistry or an official because they were considering Goethe and other people of high social rank. As Goethe's sister had suggested, they later threw a veil over others for the sake of protecting those of higher rank. They eventually prosecuted only one of the involved individuals, namely the person who became a trusted official based on Goethe's recommendation, and they only charged him regarding his performance in office. In the end this caused Gretchen to return home to her father city. Goethe had spoken about secret documents. Everything concerning the investigation had been written down, however the documents were kept secret and once the entire matter was clarified, they were neither set before the counsel nor registered. Instead the documents were immediately destroyed. What might have been the most interesting aspect of the investigation was the discovery of Gretchen's family name and the subsequent revelation of her circumstances and existence. It's not impossible to think these facts may have been procured from the official documents, however things will remain unclear unless information was somehow preserved in a diary or some other papers. Private papers relating the details were on hand until at least thrity years ago, but they have disappeared." [Return to text]


Page 256, line 6 forward. Originally this closing was supposed to be elevated by literary reflections. Goethe continued: "As nourishment for such grief certain novels, especially those from Prévost, were good to read. The story of the Chevalier de Grieux and Manon Lescaut fell into my hands around this time and fortified me, in its gently torturous way, in my hypochondriatic foolishness." Now followed an introductory analysis of the famous novel by Abbé Prévost, which was tied to the love story: "The great comprehension incorporated into this writing and the priceless artistry of its execution still remain hidden to me. The work had great impact for me. I imagined I could be as loving and true as the Chevalier and since I believed Gretchen was far better than Manon proved to be, I also believed that anything people did for her would be well plotted out. Just as it is the nature of the novel that the plenum of youth is oversated and the soberness of maturity is renewed, this lecture contributed in no small extent to a richness, a contentment, and even to awe regarding my relationship with Gretchen for the time it lasted. And once it was destroyed, it made my situation more miserable and even affected a malignant evil upon me. Thus I saw fulfilled in me what had been written upon the page." These ancillary transitional sentences provide specific proof that at this time, although Goethe the man may have been mature, his poetic individuality was not. Even in Strassburg Herder became annoyed that his student took "The Preacher of Wakefield" too seriously. However the meaning behind Manon Lescaut should provide poetically intensifying, moral yet uncertain background illumination for Gretchen's character, and the young chevalier shows himself a dilettant of love and life, living up to the ideal and "attempting to develop the imaginary." [Return to text]


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