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Exploring the Interior

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Karl S. Guthke

I. “The great map of mankind unrolled”

5. Opening Goethe’s Weimar to the World: Travellers from Great Britain and America

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A Cultural Institution: The Travelling Englishman in Goethe’s Weimar

1As Goethe lay dying, his speech failed him; to communicate his last words and possibly his legacy, he raised his right hand and “wrote” words in the air – indecipherable, alas, except for one letter: W. Speculation about the meaning of this W has been a minor cottage industry ever since.

  • 1 Guthke, Die Entdeckung des Ich (Tübingen, 1993), 268. “Weimar”: F. Norman, “Henry Crabb Robinson a (...)
  • 2 Norbert Oellers and Robert Steegers, Treffpunkt Weimar: Literatur und Leben zur Zeit Goethes (Stut (...)

2The word so rudely truncated by the Grim Reaper – was it Wolfgang? Or Weimar? Or was Professor Richard Friedenthal clairvoyant when he guessed, in his popular biography, that it was Weltliteratur, in the Goethean sense not of “Great Books” but of intellectual trade relations (“geistiger Handelsverkehr,” WA 1, 42/1: 187):1 that worldwide interconnectedness of national cultures, brought about by boundary-crossing intermediaries. Perhaps the W was the ultimate shorthand for all three. For wasn’t Wolfgang the catalyst for the inauguration of that age of World Literature, and wasn’t Weimar its prime venue? Of course it was – and not least by virtue of its very own version of a specific cultural institution of the time, known on the continent as “the travelling Englishman.” What follows focuses on this unique phenomenon: the English and American visitors in Goethe’s Weimar – a feature of the cultural life of the time that is hard to miss, though that is exactly what a recent history of Weimar culture manages to do.2

  • 3 Cp. R. R. Wuthenow, “Reisende Engländer, Deutsche und Franzosen,” Rom-Paris-London, ed. Conrad Wie (...)
  • 4 3 March 1831. See L. A. Willoughby, “Goethe Looks at the English,” Modern Language Review, L (1955 (...)

3In principle, the institution was by no means new in Goethe’s day. As early as 1734 an anonymous book had appeared, entitled Der reisende Engelländer. A guidebook and travelogue rolled into one, it attributed the English penchant for travel to melancholia and the attempt to overcome it, rather than to a propensity (as we might think) for do-it-yourself empire-building or a yen for salacious off-the-beaten-track specials (as Goethe’s Mephistopheles thought when he looked for Britons in the Classical Walpurgis Night, “sie reisen sonst so viel”).3 Goethe himself slipped into what was by his time a familiar type of common casting, when he, the author-to-be of Der Groß-Cophta, visited the Cagliostro family in Palermo in the guise of “Mr. Wilton” from London (WA 1, 31: 133, 300) – W again: the plot thickens. “Ein reisender Engländer” was also the identity chosen by Melina in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre when the acting troupe decided to enliven their pleasure-boat trip by adopting improvised roles (WA 1, 21: 189). Needless to add, the term is used frequently by Goethe himself as a designation for a known quantity, all but collapsing Englishness and travelling into one, as is still the case in a remark made to his diarist-in-residence Eckermann a year before his death.4 And to this day, Goethe’s editors and commentators know the type, thinking that the tag “reisender Engländer,” attached to this or that person in Goethe’s life, says it all.

  • 5 De l’Allemagne, pt. 2, ch. 7: “un homme d’un esprit prodigieux en conversation.” Thackeray: Goethe (...)
  • 6 Ernst Beutler, Essays um Goethe, 4th ed., I (Wiesbaden, 1948), 481, 509.

4Yet it does not. For the itinerary changes. Up to the end of the eighteenth century, the typical English tour of the Continent would include the usual assortment of waterfalls, cathedrals, castles, and mountain peaks (once they were no longer thought to be dotted with dragon’s nests). Jeremy Black’s book The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1992) even adds a chapter on “Love, Sex, Gambling and Drinking,” for good measure. But neither Weimar nor Goethe make it into the index of this reference work. By the early nineteenth century, after the lifting of the continental blockade at the latest, however, Weimar was definitely on the map, perhaps replacing the odd waterfall. And considering that even the 1734 Reisende Engelländer had included “conversation[s] with persons of various classes” in its bill of fare displayed on its very title-page, we may be sure that what accounted for the change was not the Grand Duchess’s needlework, but the hoped-for chance to meet the author of Werther and Faust, rumored to be so attractively immoral. After all, Madame de Staël’s book, published in London in 1813, with all 1,500 copies sold in three days, presented Goethe as a genius of conversation, and French conversation at that, not even hinting that his French was as Teutonic as a nineteen-year-old whippersnapper named William Makepeace Thackeray proudly reported it was.5 It was Madame de Staël’s image of Goethe, the wise and scintillating causeur, that lured Americans like George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell to Weimar, even from anglophile Göttingen.6

  • 7 Willibald Franke, Die Wallfahrt nach Weimar (Leipzig, 1925), 2–3.
  • 8 Johannes Falk, Goethe aus näherem persönlichem Umgange (Berlin, 1911), 199–200.
  • 9 Frédéric Soret, Zehn Jahre bei Goethe (Leipzig, 1929), 436.
  • 10 Eckermann, 24 November 1824; 10 January 1825.
  • 11 WA 3, 11: 257; G 3/2: 431.
  • 12 Soret, 189, 190, 137 (“Weimar ist so still und menschenleer, das [sic] wirklich nur Engländer hier (...)

5Be that as it may, a steady stream of visitors poured into Goethe’s house at Frauenplan (which one visitor, George Calvert, insensitively translated as “women’s place” [G 3/1: 759]). They ranged not exactly from Madame de Staël’s enemy Napoleon (who summoned Goethe to an audience in Erfurt) but certainly from Madame de Staël’s English publisher to the local butcher’s wife eager to meet the author of (Schiller’s!) “Glocke,”7 from the disgraced Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr (who did not say a word about his conversation with Goethe in his diary, but did record a lot of gossip about other Weimarians, whose names he misspelled without fail) all the way to the sixteen-year-old Weimar high-school student who, having paid half a guilder to see a tiger and a bear in a circus, jumped at the opportunity to see the “great man” with that “fiery eye” for free, if only from under the shrubs in a consenting neighbor’s garden.8 But by far the most plentiful cohort in this wide range of visitors was that of the British and American travellers. (In what follows, English is often used to mean English-speaking.) Goethe’s diaries abound with routinely uninformative entries like “Obrist Burr aus Nordamerika,” the “Engländer Swift,” “Herr Ticknor aus Boston,” though some documented visitors, like George Butler, from Cambridge, did not even rate this much indifference; conversely, comparatively few anglophone visitors jotted down their impressions of Goethe’s conversation. Also, Goethe and his inner circle, his diarist Johann Peter Eckermann, Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer, Frédéric Soret, and others, not infrequently mention travelling Englishmen as guests at teatime or lunchtime, in Goethe’s or in Ottilie’s, his daughter-in-law’s, quarters (e.g., G 3/2: 148); one day in 1823 Kanzler von Müller recorded “countless newly arrived Englishmen, some of them just passing through,” at a soirée at the court (G 3/1: 606), and in 1830 the Goethe household, ever orderly, had to compile a “list of travelling Englishmen.”9 Goethe inquired about them, even asked to be introduced to them, if only “by and by.”10 Unlike the other company registered in his diary entries on social events, most of these (probably short-term) English visitors are usually nameless, much like the visiting fireman of American social mythology; often they appear in the plural, in those days of incipient group travel,11 and perhaps they were not really human. At any rate, Ottilie suggested as much when she wrote to Goethe’s spare Eckermann, Soret, on 16 August 1826 that Weimar was deserted (“menschenleer”), only Englishmen were still there; Soret for his part agreed with Ottilie that the English in Weimar would not significantly “add to one’s knowledge of human nature,” but they did dance well.12

  • 13 S. S. Prawer, Breeches and Metaphysics: Thackeray’s German Discourse (Oxford, 1997), 26. Cp. WA 4, (...)
  • 14 R. G. Alford, “Englishmen at Weimar,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, V (1889), 191–92
  • 15 D. F. S. Scott, Some English Correspondents of Goethe (London, 1949), 15.

6Human or not, Weimar was “teeming with Englishmen,” Duke Carl August remarked as early as 1797; and by 1830, Goethe summarized, in a letter to Carlyle, that for many years there had been visits from inhabitants of the three kingdoms “who like to stay with us for some time, enjoying good company” (WA 4, 47: 17) – and giving a boost to the otherwise parochial marriage market, as Thackeray observed.13 Of no fewer than fourteen of them Goethe commissioned the court painter Johann Joseph Schmeller to do portraits.14 For while he liked to complain about the bother of meeting English visitors, often driven by mere curiosity, he did suggest that they were, after all, his favorite strangers, whom, as one of them, R. P. Gillies, noted, he “seldom refused to see” (G 3/1: 253), as long as they did not bring their dogs. Indeed, far from being averse to such visitors, Goethe seems to have had a sort of mail-order business to get a steady supply of them, writing to Professor Charles Giesecke in Dublin for yet another shipment of “suchlike worthy persons” (WA 4, 40: 28) or receiving word from Soret that two young Englishmen are being dispatched from Geneva “als Ersatz für Barry und Michelson” (Soret, 205; cp. WA 4, 41: 6–7). This is surprising since not all conversations with English visitors were worth writing home about; think of the hapless Brit who felt that the father in the “Erlkönig” poem should not be unduly concerned about the death of his child, considering, in his misreading of a word of the text, that he had at least eighteen children [G 3/2: 700]); and note that the only recorded conversation with Mellish, that long-time Weimar resident of great culture and taste, consists of just one, if heady, word, Goethe’s exclamation: “Champagne.”15

  • 16 Scott, 60.
  • 17 Frank Ryder, “George Ticknor and Goethe: Boston and Göttingen,” Publications of the Modern Languag (...)
  • 18 Trevor D. Jones, “English Contributors to Ottilie von Goethe’s Chaos,” Publications of the English (...)
  • 19 A. Gillies, 8; Soret, 208–209.
  • 20 L. A. Willoughby, 482; Eduard Engel, Goethe (Berlin, 1910), 554.
  • 21 A. Gillies, 11.
  • 22 See S. S. Prawer, “Thackeray’s Goethe: A `Secret History,’” Publications of the English Goethe Soc (...)
  • 23 Jones, 81. On the musical instrument, a serpent, see George Downes, Letters from Continental Count (...)

7It is also worth remembering that several important English and American travellers to Germany, or indeed to Weimar, chose not to approach the threshold that, famously, welcomed visitors in Latin (“Salve”) and was commonly considered a landmark: Wordsworth, William Taylor, Longfellow, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, among others. Nor was Goethe necessarily the reason why a traveller from England or America might follow the semi-beaten track to Weimar. To be sure, Lord Gower, the translator of Faust, claimed that he journeyed to the Continent “with the sole object” of visiting Goethe,16 and Göttingen Professor Georg Sartorius, with nice self-effacement, stated the same on behalf of his American students George Ticknor and Edward Everett.17 But there were other reasons for going to Weimar. Around 1800 it was Jean-Joseph Mounier’s academy in the Belvedere Castle, designed primarily for young Englishmen of good family and gifted with what Professor Trevor Jones’s research has identified as a sense of “very Britannic horseplay.”18 Pillars of Weimar society like Karl August Böttiger and Johann Gottfried Melos offered them room and board plus punch in the evenings, with daily German lessons by Eckermann thrown in for twelve Thaler a month.19 But even after the closing of Mounier’s institute in 1801, the stream of British youngsters (as well as of more mature visitors) continued to pour into Weimar, the “colony” “perpetuating” itself and allowing for sophisticated conversation (“geistreiche interessante Unterhaltung” as Goethe said (WA 4, 39: 167)). This was not because, as a German critic thought, Weimar was “the real capital” of Germany; no: “Word had gone around in Oxford and Cambridge that life in Weimar was both pleasant and cheap,” as Professor Willoughby observed.20 Maybe not cheap. True, it was a Scot, James Macdonald, who showed his appreciation by augmenting the rent with a locket containing a snip of his own hair.21 But Thackeray complained about the high price of his sauerkraut-cumculture package deal.22 Not cheap, perhaps, but pleasant certainly, and this was to some extent due, not to Goethe, but to Ottilie, who loved everything English, especially men. The round of teas and lunches and thé-dansants in her attic apartment in Goethe’s house was never-ending, with the indefatigable hostess overshadowing the man who allegedly overshadowed everybody else, even at his own dinner table – on 31 August 1827, for example, when “several times during the meal Englishmen were announced who had taken lodging in the Hotel Erbprinz and wished to call on Frau von Goethe” (G 3/2: 193). There were dozens of them in Ottilie’s orbit over the years; some well-behaved, some not (like the obstreperous “scion of quality” who, according to George Downes, threatened the police with a rare musical instrument). Some scholars have counted them, with preliminary investigations indicating that Thackeray was “one of the very few Englishmen in Weimar who did not make love to Ottilie.”23

  • 24 Chaos (1829–1832; reprint, Bern, 1968), II, 34.
  • 25 Soret, 325–326.
  • 26 Chaos, Postscript by Reinhard Fink, 45.

8Ottilie’s eros-driven hustle and bustle (“Treiben”) as Goethe called it with discreet irritation (G 3/1: 622) did, however, have its literary side. That is the journal Chaos, founded in 1829 and soon to be followed by the equally short-lived Creation, when interest in Byron mysteriously gave way to concern with religion.24 Chaos was a multicultural enterprise, founded on an afternoon in 1829 when conversation ran the whole gamut from “es regnet” via “it rains” to “il pleut.”25 The only qualification required of contributors was that they had spent a minimum of three days in Weimar.26 So the pages of Chaos were graced with numerous pieces of prose and poetry in English, penned by the Weimar colony of horseplaying teenagers and twenty-somethings, from Thackeray on down. Eminently forgettable, of course, if it weren’t for the numerous reminders, throughout Chaos, that English had become the language of Weimar. German is out of fashion in Weimar, complained Johann Diederich Gries, the translator, hoping that it might soon become fashionable as a foreign language (“als fremde Sprache Mode werden,” I, 48). Or take the dismay of an as yet unresearched German maiden aunt on hearing that her niece, who had up to now been so good, embroidering Byron’s portrait on a footstool and all, now wants to move to Weimar to learn English. Is she aware, cautions her aunt, that the English are conspiring to ruin Weimar by sending “all evildoers of their country” to Weimar where “nobody is safe any more now”? Charles Knox, the son of the Bishop of Derry, seems hellbent on tearing down all churches in town; Walter Scott’s Robin the Red now resides in the culture capital under the name of Campbell, “fortunately, I hear, without his bloodthirsty wife,” not to mention Captain Parry with his polar bears and that sex-starved fellow Robinson from his “desert island with those wild animals.” “Oh my daughter, I am warning you against Weimar! Your aunt, who has always wanted what is best for you” (I, 142–143).

  • 27 Scott, 46.

9Goethe was tolerant about Chaos and the social whirl around Ottilie, but when it came to his own accessibility, he was a stickler for protocol, befitting the Poet Prince (“Dichterfürst”) he was so enjoyably believed to be. There is something mock-heroic or Kafkaesque about the attempt of a would-be celebrity tourist, described in a letter to Goethe in 1822: “I was once on my way to Goethe’s dwelling – What imports it to recollect that I could never reach it – And the hope is extinguished for ever.”27 Whatever funny thing happened on the way to Frauenplan in this case, “there are forms which one must go through to see the great Patriarch,” wrote August Bozzi Granville, a visitor whose attempt was successful. “He likes not being taken by surprise” (G 3/2: 246). A letter of introduction – “from great personages or intimate friends,” Charles Murray, the publisher, was told by his Weimar landlord (G 3/2: 707; cp. 3/1: 759) – was normally a sine qua non even for a chat in the vegetable garden. In a pinch, a good word from associates like Kanzler Friedrich von Müller, Soret, Heinrich Peucer, Friedrich Justin Bertuch, Ludwig Friedrich von Froriep, or even Ottilie might do. But in addition to this local infrastructure of busybodies, there was a worldwide network of former visitors introducing prospective ones in writing.

  • 28 Jacob N. Beam, “A Visit to Goethe,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, VIII (1947), 116.
  • 29 WA 3, 12: 144–45; WA 1, 42/1: 102.
  • 30 Theodore Lyman brought Manfred; see Leonard L. MacKall, “Mittheilungen aus dem Goethe-Schiller-Arc (...)
  • 31 Ibid., 5.
  • 32 G 3/2: 66 (Downes); WA 3, 10: 60 (George Knox); John Hennig, Goethe and the English Speaking World(...)

10Even so, it could take “much negotiation,” as Francis Cunningham found in 1827.28 Fortunate the traveller who could add a meaningful present to his letter of introduction, such as a message from Scott or Byron,29 a new book by Byron,30 or a stellar item for the Geheimrat’s autograph collection, like an envelope addressed (to someone other than Goethe) by American President Monroe (no letter inside)31 or specimens of minerals32 or Prime Minister “Cannings kleine Büste” (WA 3, 11: 135). In the case of R. P. Gillies, even a written allusion to Faust did the trick (G 3/1: 254). Charles Murray had none of the above handy; so he sent his passport to Goethe with a letter saying that if Goethe were not willing to see him and his companion, would he please tell them so in writing, rather than through the valet, so that Goethe’s note might be preserved in perpetuity as a family heirloom (G 5: 260). They were admitted, heirloom-less. But the rule remained in effect, for unannounced visitors had to be discouraged so that Goethe was not interrupted by other people’s thoughts (“fremde Gedanken”) as it was difficult enough to cope with his own (G 3/1: 735–36). In 1826 Douglas Kinnaird was instructed to advise potential English visitors to use “Anmeldungscharten,” apparently provided by the Goethe Admissions Office and eerily reminiscent of the ritual for admission to imperial foot-washing sessions under Franz Joseph (WA 4, 41: 7). But it was worth the effort. The more informative among the preregistered visitors were rewarded with quotable remarks and a souvenir: a bronze medal or two, an autograph poem or, American-President-style, a portrait engraving (G 3/2: 457, 250, 709, 157). H. C. Robinson got three continental kisses, which was the local maximum (G 3/2: 441; cp. 438).

World Literature as “Intellectual Trade Relations”

  • 33 Eckermann, 15 July 1827; WA 1, 41/2: 299, 348; WA 1, 42/1: 187; WA 4, 44: 257. See the collection (...)

11Time to ask: what was in it for Goethe? Looking back on the summer of that Brit-ridden year 1827, he wrote to the art collector and historian Sulpiz Boisserée on 12 October of the “countless English men and women who were well received by my daughter-in-law and with whom I talked, more or less. If one knows how to make use of such visits, they eventually provide an idea of the nation, […] and so one does not get out of the habit of thinking about them” (“unzählige Engländer und Engländerinnen, die bey meiner Schwiegertochter gute Aufnahme fanden, und die ich denn auch mehr oder weniger sah und sprach. Weiß man solche Besuche zu nutzen, so geben sie denn doch zuletzt einen Begriff von der Nation, […] und so kommt man gar nicht aus der Gewohnheit, über sie nachzudenken,” WA 4, 43: 107–108). One thing to think about in this connection was Weltliteratur, the pet project first mentioned that year. The English visitors proved useful in the promotion of this “geistiger Handelsverkehr” which was to create the mutual familiarity, tolerance, and appreciation that Goethe thought was “the great benefit that world literature has to offer.”33

  • 34 Strich, 64, 77; Walther Killy, Von Berlin bis Wandsbeck (München, 1996), passim.
  • 35 G 3/1: 48; see also Strich, 55–58 on the value Goethe put on conversation. “Goethe’s knowledge of (...)

12The English visitors’contribution to such a worldwide literary life took many forms. The very act of – entirely unmetaphorical – conversation was of course the basic ingredient, in this age when social culture was developing even among the normally solitary German intellectuals cooped up in their small and cantankerous worlds.34 Hence Goethe’s eagerness to meet the English travellers – now and then. “You see, my dear children, what would I be if I had not always been in touch with intelligent people and had learned from them. You should learn not from books but through a lively exchange of ideas, through easy-going sociability!” (“Seht, lieben Kinder, was wäre ich denn, wenn ich nicht immer mit klugen Leuten umgegangen wäre und von ihnen gelernt hätte? Nicht aus Büchern, sondern durch lebendigen Ideenaustausch, durch heitre Geselligkeit müßt ihr lernen!”)35

  • 36 “In time Goethe became known in America as an authority on European and American mineralogy, long (...)

13Many of his English and American visitors were well-informed and highly educated, in touch with the literary scene at home; they brought literary gossip, local minerals, and English books, which they sometimes read to Goethe, often following up with correspondence, more books, and journals. So Goethe did indeed learn a lot from his visitors about English literature and culture and life in the colonies, not to mention American and Irish mineralogy.36 Conversely, the visitors, back home again, or earlier, would bubble over, in letters and conversation, with reports of their encounters with the “majestic” man whom literary historian Fritz Strich was to call the “head” of the intellectual capital of Europe (68). More likely than not, Goethe would have read and interpreted his own writings to the intermediaries, correcting misunderstandings as he went along – Werther to Lord Bristol (G 3/2: 593–95), Hermann und Dorothea to James Macdonald (WA 3, 2: 65). He even explicated his “connection” with Byron to Henry Crabb Robinson (G 3/2: 451), thus giving a helpful hand in shaping his own image abroad. The visitors moreover, as well as translating some of Goethe’s works into English, would eventually publish books and essays on the author and his writings. These were sometimes brought to his attention so that he could inform himself first-hand about the progress of Weltliteratur, comment on it and thus promote it (and himself) even more.

  • 37 Scott, 36; WA 3, 9: 266; G 3/1: 271.
  • 38 MacKall, 8.
  • 39 WA 4, 31: 246, 394–395 (“aufs fleißigste studirt”).
  • 40 John Hennig, Goethes Europakunde (Amsterdam, 1987), 68.
  • 41 England: Eckermann, 10 January 1825; America: G 2: 1180–1181; 3/1: 140; 3/2: 598; Univ. of Virgini (...)

14This exchange covers a lot of ground. A few examples may suffice. By all accounts, Goethe was eager for “information,” rather than opinion (G 3/2: 249, 670; 3/1: 255). George Henry Calvert, an American blue blood from the South, described him at their first meeting as an “expectant naturalist, eagerly awaiting the transatlantic phenomenon” (G 3/1: 760). Most welcome, always, was news about Byron and his literary and other activities, with the Irishman Charles Sterling acting as the most important, though by no means only intermediary (WA 1, 42/1: 101–103). Scott ran a close second to Byron, with R. P. Gillies introducing himself as a friend of Scott and Lady Jane Davy and J. G. Lockhart, Scott’s son-in-law, no doubt reporting the latest.37 Captain David Skinner brought news from Carlyle (WA 4, 44: 137; 45: 302); Robinson was in touch with, and could give information about, Lamb, Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Scott and Carlyle, among others, telling Goethe, for example, that Byron’s The Deformed Transformed owed much to Faust, whereupon Goethe praised it to the high heavens (G 3/2: 452); he also read Byron, Coleridge as well as Milton to Goethe (G 3/2: 455–58); Charles Murray even helped him with Anglo-Saxon literature (G 3/2: 708). More tangible was information through books that Goethe received from his English visitors: a volume of Byron from Ticknor (G 2: 1168), Sylvester O’Halloran’s Antiquities from Anthony O’Hara (WA 3, 4: 130, 133), Charles Dupin’s Voyages dans la Grande Bretagne from Des Voeux (WA 3, 11: 46, 332), a volume on mineralogy and geology, published in Boston, from Cogswell,38 who also sent his essay “On the State of Literature in the United States.” On his visit he had presented D. B. Warden’s Statistical […] Account of the United States of North America, which Goethe assured him he had studied most carefully.39 Journals, those all-important agents of Weltliteratur, were sent by Randall Edward Plunkett40 and others. Such was the inflow of information that Goethe claimed to be quite at home in England, while American visitors time and again commented on his thorough familiarity, encouraged by such contacts, with conditions in their country, down to the layout of the University of Virginia,41 though he did seem to think that life in the state of Indiana was such that women were driven to the spinning wheel (G 3/1: 69).

  • 42 F. Norman, 105; Hertha Marquardt, Henry Crabb Robinson und seine deutschen Freunde, I (Göttingen, (...)
  • 43 Scott, 33; Herbert Maxwell, Sir Charles Murray (Edinburgh and London, 1898), 78.
  • 44 Orie W. Long, Literary Pioneers (Cambridge, MA, 1935), 196.

15To turn to the flow in the other direction: the best known visitors passed their impressions of Goethe and his work on to those who mattered in the literary life of their country. H. C. Robinson apparently gushed about his conversations with Goethe at the slightest provocation or even without it, and “with disconcerting regularity,”42 to Carlyle and Madame de Staël most notably, but also to Wordsworth, Lamb, Hazlitt, and, perhaps most effectively, Sarah Austin, whose Characteristics of Goethe (1833) was authoritative for a long time, until G. H. Lewes’s biography (1855) in fact, which in turn contained a famous letter from Thackeray about his encounters with Goethe in Weimar. Lockhart reported to Scott (G 3/1: 271). So did James Henry Lawrence; Charles Murray reported to Carlyle;43 M. G. Lewis to Byron, etc. Lewis, famously, also translated parts of Faust to Byron when he was turning Manfred over in his mind, and Goethe was pleased with what came of it – so very much like his own Faust. Other visitors subsequently published translations of works of Goethe’s: Mellish tackled Hermann und Dorothea, Charles Des Voeux Tasso, benefiting from feedback from Goethe (G 3/2: 193–94); George Seymour translated Dichtung und Wahrheit, Calvert some poetry and the correspondence with Schiller, while Samuel Naylor was encouraged by Goethe to undertake an English rendering of the medieval Reineke Fuchs (G 5: 144). Calvert, who visited in 1825, was to be the author of the first American biography of Goethe (in 1872, by which time New England was no longer “stumbling over the correct pronunciation of his name”).44

  • 45 Scott, 69–70, 73–74.
  • 46 On Gillies, see Scott, 43, and Scott, “English Visitors to Weimar,” German Life and Letters, New S (...)
  • 47 Long, 68.
  • 48 G 3/2: 438. Cp. 3/2: 448: “interested in the progress of his fame in England.”
  • 49 Beam, 118, see also 116–118; Frank Ryder, “George Ticknor and Goethe: Europe and Harvard,” Modern (...)
  • 50 Mackall, 17, 14.

16William Fraser, who visited in 1827, no doubt for longer than the “few minutes” requested, was editor and, with R. P. Gillies, cofounder of the Foreign Review, where Carlyle’s essay on the second part of Faust appeared.45 Robinson wrote on Goethe in journals, as did Gillies, preparing the way for Carlyle, it has been said.46 Everett and Bancroft published widely noted articles on Goethe in the North American Review in 1817 and 1824. The former is considered to be “the first significant paper on Goethe in an American journal.”47 Of the latter, Goethe received two copies within hours of each other – Weltliteratur in high gear (G 3/1: 762). This was Bancroft’s review of Dichtung und Wahrheit – an essay that heaped fulsome praise on Goethe, which Goethe himself, in a letter to Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, took, without irony, as an indication of transatlantic good judgement (“Verstand und Einsicht,” WA 4, 39: 167), delighted that his works were making an impact not just on the world, but the New World. As Robinson observed, also without irony, Goethe “ardently enjoyed the prospect of his own extended reputation,”48 or of his very own Weltliteratur. Also, American professors who had talked to Goethe, Ticknor and Calvert definitely, but no doubt also Everett, Cogswell and Bancroft, lectured on or at least mentioned Goethe in their lectures, though, regrettably, “with the even then critical eyes of Boston and Harvard,” according to Professor Jacob Beam of Princeton University.49 Weltliteratur, academic-style. Cogswell introduced Goethe to American undergraduates by arranging for the gift, in 1819, of thirty-nine volumes of his publications to Harvard College, bookplated to this day as “The Gift of the Author, John W. von Goethe, of Germany.” It was meant, Goethe said, as a token of recognition for the “promotion of solid and elegant education”; and Cogswell, anticipating the spirit of Weltliteratur, thanked Goethe in 1819 on behalf of “the whole literary community of my country.”50

17This was the time when the tide of Goethe’s mixed reputation in the English-speaking world was beginning to turn, for the better; the contributions of his English-speaking visitors to this reversal of fortune, while hard to quantify, are probably also hard to overlook.

The World and the “Dichterfürst”

18The panorama of Weltliteratur, with Goethe as its central massif and English visitors as the principal mountaineers, is as vast as it is diffuse, eluding any attempt to gain an overview. Still, rushing in where surveyors fear to tread, one might ask some specific questions which, in turn, may allow us to perceive some structure and meaning in this cultural institution, the Goethe stop on the Grand Tour. What did the principal players in this interaction represent to one another? What did Goethe see in the English visitors that beat a track to his house, and what did they see in him? And what is the significance of that encounter of cultural images? The short and incomplete answer is this: for Goethe, cooped up in the narrow world of acute provinciality, German-style, the English, much more than the French or Poles or any other nationals, provided an opportunity to get in touch, firsthand, with what he called the world, that is, not so much with the sophisticated cosmopolitan ambiance of the European metropolises but, more importantly, with “die große weite Welt” out there beyond the confines of Germany or even beyond Europe. This was a world which, by definition and often in practice, was not beyond the confines of the experience of the English, those enterprising citizens of a far-flung empire over which the sun was not about to set. Goethe, the “Weimaraner,” was ever eager to be a “Weltbewohner” (“an inhabitant of the world”), and talking to travellers from the English-speaking world was the next best thing. So they were unabashedly pumped for information about the outlying regions beyond Weimar. England, after all, unlike virtually all other countries, was in touch with all corners of the Earth (“nach allen Weltgegenden thätig,” WA 1, 41/1: 56).

  • 51 W. H. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar (Cambridge, 1962), 58.
  • 52 Lotte in Weimar (n.p., Suhrkamp, 1949), 404.

19But what was in it for the visitors? Surely most of them were in no position to appreciate Goethe’s works, for the simple reason that they were what academic correctness calls linguistically challenged; lucky the visitor who could pronounce his name. What they came to see, and sometimes indeed quite literally just to see, to gawk at, like yet another waterfall on the itinerary, was not Goethe but Goethe’s nimbus. Nimbus is defined in Funk and Wagnall’s Standard College Dictionary (1957) as “a luminous emanation […] believed to envelop a deity or holy person; glory” or, secularized, an “atmosphere or aura, as of fame, glamor, etc., about a person.” In German-speaking countries one variety of such persons is called a “Dichterfürst,” a term applied to Goethe to this day, but an outlandish notion to the English, a bit like something straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan. In any case, one sees the irony of the constellation: the “world,” not just well-travelled Londoners but also Australians and Americans, as well as English visitors familiar with places like Jamaica or Egypt or Brazil, made its way into Goethe’s house to pay homage to a world-class power of a different kind, believed to rule over the world of inwardness and culture, from this (as Professor Bruford established)51 three-shop town. The age of global empire was also the age of Goethe, with its belief that the “universe” was “within” – and the two met in Weimar. Thomas Mann got it right, the Gilbert and Sullivan side of it, that is, when in Lotte in Weimar he had August von Goethe ask his self-absorbed, self-important father on behalf not of himself but of the “entire world” out there: “Did you enjoy your breakfast?”52

20Let’s have a closer look at this encounter, this unique constellation in the cultural history of the two countries. First, the English and the world, then the “Dichterfürst” deep in the German province, and finally the significance of their encounter in the eyes of the cultural historian.

The English World and the German Province

  • 53 Arthur R. Schultz, “Goethe and the Literature of Travel,” Journal of English and Germanic Philolog (...)
  • 54 WA 4, 12: 54; Eckermann, 3 May 1827.

21The English: the world was theirs, it seemed to Goethe, and as one of his Irish visitors, William Swifte, put it: “travelling Englishmen,” unlike continentals, would “take their country along, wherever they go” (G 3/2: 156). Thus, as the world (which Goethe had read about voraciously in travelogues ever since he devoured Anson’s Voyage round the World as a boy)53 came to Weimar, it would – in those coveted conversations – reveal its glories to the possessor of a “glory” of a different kind. Much as Alexander von Humboldt (whom Ottilie in Wahlverwandtschaften is dying to listen to) could tell Goethe more about the real world in an hour than he could read in books in a week, or more in a day than he could have discovered on his own in years,54 and just as Georg Forster, when Goethe sought his company in Kassel in 1779, was asked a lot of questions about what life was like in the South Seas (“viel ausgefragt […], wies in der Südsee aussieht,” WA 4, 4: 61–62), so, too, the English visitors were systematically pressed into service to enlarge Goethe’s knowledge of the world, especially the world beyond Europe.

22Who but the English themselves could have told the author of the Novelle those stories about the “lion-hunting” English that he proudly repeated to Edmund Spencer (G 3/2: 925). Even as a teenager in Frankfurt Goethe was able, or so he claimed in his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit, written at the high tide of English pilgrimages to Weimar, to use his teacher Harry Lupton to soak up a lot of information about his country and its people (WA 1, 27: 26). William Hamilton’s company was appreciated in Naples, primarily because he had roamed through all the realms of Creation (“alle Reiche der Schöpfung,” WA 1, 31: 68). But to return to Weimar, Charles Gore, a temporary Weimar resident, was to be ranked high among Weimar’s major assets (“bedeutende Vortheile”) because he had “seen and experienced much” on his extensive travels in southern Europe (WA, 1, 46: 337). Two Australians, the brothers Edward and James Macarthur from Sydney, were eagerly admitted on 15 December 1829, without regret: they had much of interest to tell about their country and their life, with “savages” living nearby (“erzählten viel Interessantes von ihren dortigen Zuständen, Landesart der benachbarten Wilden” (WA 3, 12: 166) – which compares favorably with Samuel Johnson’s remark about the exploration of Australia: too much bother for just one new animal.

23The conversation was hardly less informative when, in August 1827, a Madame Vogel, “a Scotswoman who had travelled to Brazil,” was invited for the evening (WA 3, 11: 98), or when, the following year, Dr. Michael Clare, whom Weimar Prince Bernhard had met at the Niagara Falls, turned up in nearby Dornburg and proved wellinformed about Jamaica (“unterrichtet und mittheilend. Das Gespräch bezog sich meist auf Jamaica, wo er mehrere Jahre residirt hatte,” WA 3, 11: 262). Similarly, Goethe wrote to his son that Cogswell, “ein freyer Nordamerikaner”(soon to be director of Harvard College Library) had brought him books and essays and told him many pleasant things about his country (“auch viel Erfreuliches von dort her erzählt,” WA 4, 31: 154). Goethe followed up with a letter to Cogswell, requesting him to report more, from time to time, “from that part of the world,” which is surely not a euphemism for Harvard College Library (ibid., 246). Granville, who presented his Essay on Egyptian Mummies to Goethe in 1828 (WA 3, 11: 158), reported on Goethe’s “great eagerness after general information,” not so much about mummies as about St. Petersburg, where Granville had spent some time a little earlier (G 3/2: 249).

  • 55 Hennig, Goethe and the English Speaking World, 13–16.

24James Henry Lawrence, the Chevalier Lawrence, returned to Weimar in 1829 after a nine years’absence and told Goethe about his far-flung travels (WA 3, 12: 145). So did Captain Reding, “who has seen much of the world with his clear eyes” (“der viel Welt mit klaren Augen gesehen hat”) in 1831 (WA 3, 13: 119). And then there was Anthony O’Hara, an Irish adventurer who had travelled extensively in Eastern Europe and had been the tsar’s last ambassador to the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta; he resided in Weimar for a time in 1811, repeatedly treating Goethe to accounts of his manifold odysseys (“die Geschichten seiner vielfältigen Irrfahrten”) and to the best mocca in town (WA 1, 36: 70–71; cp. WA 3, 4: 126). On 21 May 1825 the diary records: “Herr Stratford Canning [the diplomat and former ambassador to Constantinople] arriving from Petersburg” (WA 3, 10: 58), and on 4 July 1831: a “talkative Englishman” who had seen the midnight sun at Torneå (WA 3, 13: 104). On 28 October 1818 it was Hare Naylor, an Englishman “who had travelled throughout Europe and briefly into Asia” (WA 3, 6: 258). Another English visitor was Ottilie’s would-be beau Charles Sterling, who in 1823 came to Weimar on horseback straight from the Mediterranean, and talked, if not about real experiences, then about his pipe dreams (plausible, being British) of living among exotic “savages”55 – which Sterling eventually did. Englishmen, these examples suggest, were world-travellers almost by definition in Goethe’s eyes, and Goethe benefited from their expeditions by hearing what it was like anywhere in the inhabited world (“wie es auf irgend einem Puncte der bewohnten Welt aussieht,” WA 4, 47: 31). And he loved to have his geographical expertise confirmed: with Michael Clare he recapitulated what he knew about the Antilles, gratified to find that he was pretty much “at home” there and to be able to learn something new as well (“Mit Sir Clare habe ich die Antillen in möglichster Geschwindigkeit recapituliert und, indem ich zu einiger Zufriedenheit fand, daß ich dort ziemlich zu Hause bin, machte ich mir durch seine Mittheilung noch einiges Besondere zu eigen,” WA 4, 44: 276).

25One could go on. But instead it is worth pointing out that the world as seen through English eyes was not necessarily accepted as heaven on earth by Goethe (right or wrong, my visitor’s country). Goethe did muster up the courage to tell off Lord Bristol, the bishop of Derry, in 1797 on the general subject of the morality of world domination, bringing up colonial exploitation and wars of conquest (G 3/2: 593–95; Eckermann, 17 March 1830); on another occasion he held forth on the commercially profitable evils of slavery (Eckermann, 1 September 1829); Werther was not as harmful as British commercial practices, one hears in a curious exercise in comparative literature (G 2: 904). Yet the point is that even in the case of Lord Bristol, whom he called coarse, inflexible, and dimwitted (“grob,” “starr,” and “beschränkt”) such national shortcomings (“nationale Einseitigkeit”) are typically made up for in Goethe’s eyes by extensive knowledge of the world (“große Weltkenntniß,” WA 1, 36: 256–257).

  • 56 See David Blackbourn, The Long Nineteenth Century (London, 1997), 270–271; see also Richard Dobel,(...)
  • 57 WA 1, 28: 212; see also WA 1, 46: 337–338; Eckermann, 15 May 1826.
  • 58 Soret, 630.

26In this respect, then, even the lord of the eccentric Hervey family conformed to the image that Goethe had begun to form of the English early on and was apparently determined to have confirmed by any and all English visitors. This image was the obverse of his impression of the Germans, and both had more than a nodding acquaintance with well-established national clichés, tiresome even then.56 In short, the British had “knowledge of the world” and the ever-ready self-confident common sense that comes with it; Germans had a speculative and introspective bent of mind. The British, as citizens of a worldwide empire, though essentially without talent for “Reflexion” (Eckermann, 24 February 1825), were surrounded from early on by an important world (“von Jugend auf von einer bedeutenden Welt umgeben”), even if they stayed put, simply by absorbing the imperial atmosphere: they grew up with daily news from the far corners of the world; many had family connections with the colonies, and virtually all could see exotic wares and artefacts and people all around them, day in, day out.57 In a word, they had experience in dealing with the world at large (“Weltgeschäften,” WA 1, 28: 212). Germans, by contrast, might, like Wieland, have moral and aesthetic “Bildung,” but even Wieland, for all his urbanity, lacked Shaftesbury’s world-encompassing vision (“Weltumsicht,” WA 1, 36: 323); Germans see nothing of the world (“sehen nichts von der Welt”).58 While they bedevil themselves trying to solve philosophical problems, the English gain the world (“während die Deutschen sich mit der Auflösung philosophischer Probleme quälen, […] gewinnen die Engländer die Welt,” Eckermann, 1 September 1829). No wonder his English visitors, who, it will be remembered, brought their country with them, struck Goethe as acting as though the whole world was theirs (“als gehöre die Welt überall ihnen,” Eckermann, 12 March 1828), even if they were not colonial administrators themselves but Ottilie’s heartthrobs hoofing it in her quarters upstairs. No philistines, they were “komplette Menschen”; to be sure, there were some fools among them, but they too were complete, “complete fools” – a state of grace Germans evidently aspired to in vain. Indeed, to the extent that “the old heathen” believed in a second coming, he hoped that the new savior would be British in outlook and theory-resistent (Eckermann, 12 March 1828).

  • 59 Eckermann, 2 January 1824; cp. Soret, 405.
  • 60 Beutler, 511. See also Goethe’s similar remarks on Stefan Schütze (Eckermann, 15 May 1826) and Jea (...)

27There is a touch of personal ambition in all this. Goethe was fond of fantasizing along the lines of: if I had been born an Englishman… (“Wäre ich aber als Engländer geboren…”),59 wondering what might have become of him if he had gone to America as a young man and had never heard of “Kant, etc.” (G 2: 1028). Vicariously, of course, he had gone to America and had been born English – through his conversations with his English visitors (and “der Amerikaner ist im Grunde Engländer,” according to an eminent German Goethe specialist).60

  • 61 Hugo Landgraf, Goethe und seine ausländischen Besucher (München, 1932), 48: “letzten gesellschaftl (...)
  • 62 John Russell, A Tour in Germany […] in the Years 1820, 1821, 1822, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1825), 35, 55. (...)
  • 63 W. J. Fitzpatrick, The Life of Charles Lever (London, 1879), I, 77; cp. Downes, G 3/2: 65.

28Being only vicarious, Goethe’s experience of the “world” and its meaningful or important life (“bedeutendes Leben,” Eckermann, 15 May 1826) rubbed in the corresponding feeling of Weimar’s provinciality. “It is scarcely possible to mention one without thinking of the other,” reported a visitor, George Downes (G 3/2: 65). There is no denying that even the young among the English visitors possessed not only a real sense of urbanity but also a cosmopolitan perspective (which is surprising only if it should be true that they came to Weimar in search of the ultimate social polish, as a much-used German source has it).61 In their eyes, Weimar, “the German Athens” by the “muddy stream,” with “scarcely a straight street,” where “knitting and needlework know no interruption,”62 was the “village-like capital” of a miniature state, with a “miniature palace,” a “miniature theatre,” and miniature everything else, as Charles Lever noted in 182963 – miniatures compensated for by huge titles. George Butler (see n. 87) committed Böttiger’s three-part title to memory, and all doors opened, while Lockhart got nowhere when he inquired about Goethe as just plain “Goethe” or even “Goethe, the great poet”: the title, “Geheimer Rat,” was the key to name recognition (G 3/1: 271). One hears Lord Chesterfield chuckling in his grave.

  • 64 The Life and Correspondence of M. G. Lewis (London, 1839), I, 71, 80.
  • 65 Soret, 208.
  • 66 Erwin G. Gudde, “Aaron Burr in Weimar,” South Atlantic Quarterly, XL (1941), 384, 388.
  • 67 Ryder, Modern Language Quarterly, 415.
  • 68 I take these quotations from Prawer’s Breeches and Metaphysics, 16–18, 26, 31.

29Professional charity requires one to be brief on this point, and in any case who could hope to equal Vanity Fair’s vignette of the Duchy of Kalbsbraten-Pumpernickel, with its court teeming with assorted homely but stuck-up “Transparencies” (high-ranking German aristocrats) – the court that Goethe himself had described as well-meaning, but not quite rising above mediocrity yet (WA 1, 53: 383). M. G. Lewis, heir to great quantities of Jamaican sugar, arriving in 1792 eager to “speak very fluently in my throat,” reported that “some things” were “not quite so elegant […] as in England: for instance, the knives and forks are never changed, even at the duke’s table; and the ladies hawk and spit about the room in a manner most disgusting.”64 Professor Melos thought that the young Englishmen who boarded in his house made unheard-of demands for luxuries like fresh tablecloths and napkins every day, and this was only “for example.”65 Aaron Burr, passing through in 1810, not only found that nobody at the hotel “Elephant” understood what he considered to be French and that his room there was triangular, but also managed to mistake the Grand Duchess for a chamber-maid.66 Ticknor, every bit the Harvard-trained American, was “displeased” in 1816 by the parochial “servility” shown to his baronial host as well as to the baron’s “dinner.”67 Thackeray, of course, Weimar class of 1831, takes the prize. He, too, found the court “absurdly ceremonious,” presided over by “as silly a piece of Royalty as a man may meet,” with the local “delights” running the narrow range from schnaps and “huge quantities of cabbage” to stoves and rheumatism, not to mention that “great bore,” Madame de Goethe, though she did have three volumes of Byron sitting on her coffee table. Here is Thackeray, studying “the manners of the natives” much like an anthropologist on a field trip: required court dress suggests “something like a cross between a footman and a Methodist parson”; the moment an Englishman arrives, “the round of mothers offer the round of daughters who are […] by this time rather stale” as so many Englishmen had already visited; there is lots of tea and card-games and French with an oddly un-English pronunciation, but fortunately, at half past nine “all the world [!] at Weimar goes to bed.”68 In matters cultural, as Goethe said to Eckermann, German life was indeed cut off from the world and miserable (“isoliert, armselig,” 3 May 1827).

The “Dichterfürst” Observed

  • 69 Eberhard Lämmert, “Der Dichterfürst,” Dichtung, Sprache, Gesellschaft: Akten des IV. International (...)

30But Weimar did have something to offer, something to offset this mutually enhancing interplay of the English world and the German province. That was Goethe himself. He was the “Dichterfürst” – which is what put him on the tourist itinerary as a “sight worth a detour,” authentically German. As late as shortly before the turn of the millennium, a series of recordings of Goethe’s conversations with famous visitors that tourists were invited to listen to in front of Goethe’s house was advertised, irresistibly, as “Wallfahrt [pilgrimage] zum Dichterfürsten.” No wonder the news magazine Der Spiegel could report as late as 1999 (no. 24, 60) that a prominent Polling Institute found that Goethe comes second on the list of things that make Germans proud of being German, preceded by post-war reconstruction and followed, amusingly, by “Professors.” “In other countries they have something else,” as a protagonist observed in Fontane’s novel Effi Briest (ch. 19). There is not even a satisfactory English translation of the term “Dichterfürst”; “Prince of poets” would not do, “Poet Prince” may come closer as a “Dichterfürst” commands respect not just among poets and their readers, but in the world at large, in the real world. The metaphor (“Fürst”) is reified, and as such it gains real status and authority in matters other than literary, with the person so identified becoming a powerful cultural (not just literary) institution. In the decades around 1800 Goethe was the unrivalled showpiece of the species.69 As George Downes noted, in an unanthologized passage of his Letters from Continental Countries (1832), “Goethe still reigns the intellectual sovereign of Germany” (II, 438) – unthinkable, at the time, in a country commanding real global power.

  • 70 Russell, A Tour, 48–49.
  • 71 L. A. Willoughby, Samuel Naylor and “Renard the Fox” (London, 1914), 11; “audience”: G 3/1: 254; 3 (...)
  • 72 Beam, 116, 118; G 1: 819; 3/1: 254, 271, 760; 3/2: 671.
  • 73 Soret, 359, cp. 358.

31One of the visitors, John Russell, a young Scottish lawyer taken in tow by Viscount Lascelles on his grand tour in 1821, captured this status in a vignette that has likewise escaped anthologization in Goethe’s Gespräche: a concert in Weimar, given at the court in honor of somebody’s birthday (not Goethe’s). The music starts, Goethe arrives late, everybody rises, the music stops. “All forgot court and princes to gather round Gothe [sic], and the Grand Duke himself advanced to lead” Goethe to his seat, with all the deference of a professional usher.70 The “Dichterfürst” is “honoured by sovereigns,” Russell adds, rather unnecessarily (G 3/1: 243). Remember also the ceremonial worthy of a prince required to secure admission to Goethe’s “presence.” This feudal expression is actually used in English accounts of an “audience” with Goethe.71 So is the word “majestic” in the descriptions of Goethe’s personal appearance72 – much as if they had all consulted the same guidebook to cram for the occasion. Grillparzer, arriving from Imperial Austria, put it in a nutshell: Goethe received him like a monarch granting an audience (“wie ein Audienz gebender Monarch,” G 3/2: 79). Imagine Sheridan doing that at the time. And on 27 January 1830 Goethe was at long last able, with mock modesty, to impress Eckermann with proper documentation of his rank – showing him a letter addressed “Seiner Durchlaucht dem Fürsten von Goethe,” pleased with the postal delivery service. (“Fürst der Poeten” would be more correct, Soret thought.)73 The letter, like the visitors struck by Goethe’s sovereign majesty in and out of the concert hall, came from Britain, where the title “Dichterfürst” (awarded by Germans, out of too much love, “allzu große Liebe,” Goethe believed) was not a household word.

  • 74 G 3/2: 246 (cp. 3/1: 253); 3/2: 538. See also p. 146 below on Thackeray’s “lion” (at n. 89).
  • 75 Willoughby, Naylor, 11; cp. Bancroft: G 3/1: 242; Robinson: G 3/2: 449.

32Of course, in England there was Shakespeare. But the trouble with Shakespeare was that he was dead. Besides, as Goethe enlightened Eckermann on 2 January 1824, Shakespeare was not perceived to be such a “miracle” because he was surrounded by at least the semi-great, a bit like Mont Blanc: to be perceived as “gigantic,” Mont Blanc/Shakespeare would have had to be in the lowlands of the Lüneburg Heath; and in any case, “in today’s England, in 1824,” there was no Shakespeare, no “Dichterfürst” (cp. G 3/2: 449). In Weimar, things were different. Here, in the metaphorical language of the English (who might actually have gone lion-hunting in real life), “lion-worship” was rampant, as Chaos reported (I, 54). The English visitors wrote home that they had actually “stared at” the “lion” in his own habitat, the lion wearing a dressing gown and a “clean shirt, a refinement not usual among German philosophers”;74 one could even touch the lion: “I have been vain enough to think proudlier of myself ever since the hand that penned Faust […] friendlily retained my own in its mighty grasp,” wrote Samuel Naylor, understandably lapsing into Germanism, as did others affected by the “presence.”75

  • 76 Willoughby, Naylor, 11.

33There is a touch of secularized religion about this princely presence of Goethe as experienced by the English visitors. Naylor saw a “halo,”76 another daytripper “worships” the “oracle” (G 2, 845–46), idolatry is the order of the day, not to mention pilgrimage; the house is a “temple” (Chaos, I, 54); even the garden cottage is “sacred” (G 3/2: 457), etc. – somewhat unsettling, all this, for the clerical establishment. The Rev. Herder, Goethe’s dependably uncharitable neighbor, wrote to Carl Ludwig von Knebel on 11 September 1784 that Goethe’s house was a Bethlehem, adding his pious hope that the pilgrimage to the empty cradle would sooner rather than later discourage the visitors (“allmählich die Krippe leer finden u. die Wallfahrt unterlaßen.”)

  • 77 Swifte, Wilhelm’s Wanderings (London, 1878), 34–35; cp. G 3/2: 155.
  • 78 A. B. Granville, St. Petersburgh: A Journal […] (London, 1828), II, 671.

34Secularized religion, but no less disturbing are the purely secular circumlocutions used by English visitors to convey the German idea of the “Dichterfürst,” all of them fulsome. “The sublime man – [not only] honored by all the hundred millions in Christendom,” but also “wiser than the wisest of the seven sages of Greece” or even “the wise [professors] of Goettingen” (G 3/1: 760–61); “the world’s greatest luminary”;77 “the first man on earth; […] caressed by all the ladies of Germany” (G 3/1: 243), or just plain “immortal” (Russell, Tour, 39); “the greatest poet of his age,” “the very greatest of mankind” (G 1: 818; 3/2: 440), “the first literary character of the age” (G 3/2: 247). Even Thackeray stooped to “the Patriarch of letters” in his letter to Lewes, appended to G. H. Lewes’s biography of Goethe. Talking to Goethe was like talking to Shakespeare, Plato, Raphael, and Socrates all at once, Robinson confided (as though speaking from experience) – after getting over his initial tongue-tied condition (G 1: 945). Meeting such a phenomenon was, as Granville put it, “one of the highest gratifications which a traveller can enjoy, […] seeing and conversing with a genius whose fame, for the last fifty years, had filled all civilized Europe.”78

35“Seeing”: there were indeed those in the stream of English visitors who merely wished to see Goethe, like yet another waterfall (G 3/2: 411). One day in 1828, Goethe’s diary records, among other guests, “a mute Scotsman” (WA 3, 11: 205). But another encounter, in 1831, takes the prize, in this category of the, shall we say, uncharismatic Brit: Ottilie had asked Goethe to receive a young Englishman of scintillating wit and charm. Goethe agreed reluctantly and mischievously decided to profit from the encounter by saying not a word himself. But the visitor turned out to be tongue-tied; so the conversation was reduced to an elaborate pantomime until the Englishman proceeded to take his leave. As he passed by the bust of Byron in the reception room on his way out, Goethe relented at last, remarking: “This is the bust of Byron.” “Yes,” said the visitor, “he is dead!” – and “so we parted”:

einen jungen Engländer anzunehmen; es sei ein geistreicher, liebenswürdiger, sehr unterhaltender, lebhafter junger Mann. Da mußte ich, so ungern ich es tat, mich fügen. So willst du doch, dachte ich, einmal von dieser geistreichen, liebenswürdigen, lebhaften Unterhaltung profitieren und kein Wort sprechen. Der junge Mann wird mir gemeldet; ich trete zu ihm heraus, nötige ihn mit höflicher Pantomime zum Niedersetzen; er setzt sich, ich mich ihm gegenüber, er schweigt, ich schweige, wir schweigen beide; nach einer guten Viertelstunde, vielleicht auch nicht ganz so lange, steh’ich auf, er steht auf, ich empfehle mich wiederum pantomimisch, er tut dasselbe, und ich begleite ihn bis an die Tür. Nun schlug mir doch das Gewissen vor meiner guten Ottilie, und ich denke: ohne irgend ein Wort darfst du ihn wohl nicht entlassen. Ich zeige also auf Byrons Büste und sage: Dies ist die Büste des Lord Byron. – “Ja,” sagte er, “er ist tot!” – so schieden wir. (G 3/2: 806)

  • 79 Scott, “English Visitors to Weimar,” 337.

36Even Gillies, later an articulate writer on Goethe, preparing the way for Carlyle,79 admitted that he had merely “set my heart on seeing Goethe” and was struck by near-terminal speechlessness when he sensed that he was expected to say something (G 3/1: 257). H. C. Robinson, too, just “gaze[d] on him in silence” on his first visit, dumbfounded by the upscale freak show (G 1: 820).

37What did they see?

  • 80 John Hennig, “Irish Descriptions of Goethe,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, XXV (1956 (...)

38To some extent, it depends of course on the eye of the beholder. Still, basic features recur, and they do not include that humble, perfectly ordinary construct of the poet popularized at the time in Wordsworth’s preface to the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads. Rather, it seems as if the “unacknowledged legislator of mankind” had stepped out of the pages of Shelley’s essay in defense of poetry to be acknowledged – not so much as a poet (only a few of the English visitors can be said to have been particularly interested in literature) but as a worldly power, a figure of commanding “majesty.” The Irishman Charles Lever, whose account of his visit in 1828 has not found its way into the collected Gespräche, summed it up in his description of Goethe as “a man of grand presence and imposing mien, with much dignity of address.”80 This is particularly true of Goethe’s well-practiced dramatic entree into the reception room. “The door was opened before me by the servant,” Calvert remembered, “and there, in the centre of the room, tall, large, erect, majestic, Goethe stood,” approaching “silently,” Gillies continues, “at a slow majestic pace […] much like an apparition from another world,” “with a demeanour as if completely absorbed in his advanced thoughts, yet […] considering whether the strangers […] were, or were not, worthy of being honored even with a single word” (G 3/1: 760; 254–55). He kept his “hands behind his back,” noted Thackeray, “just as in Rauch’s statuette” (G 3/2: 670): Christian Daniel Rauch’s much-reproduced little statue of Goethe wearing a house-coat and a laurel wreath.

39This is a reference to life imitating art; it is only one of many suggestions that there was something unreal and stagey about the encounter, some role-playing or self-fashioning. Robinson, quite without irony, thought of Jupiter (G 3/2: 441). Granville thought that Goethe was “exposed to be stared at as a lion” (G 3/2: 246). It might have been more accurate to say that Goethe trotted himself out to be stared at, as a lion or a leviathan (G 3/2: 67). He admitted himself that he would normally throw “phraseological” dust in visiting strangers’eyes, but not in Robinson’s (“ich ihm, […] wie man wohl gegen Fremde zu thun pflegt, keinen blauen phraseologischen Dunst vor die Augen bringen durfte,” WA 4, 46: 54). More than one of Goethe’s English guests were reminded, by his bearing and motion about the room, of specific theatrical scenes they had seen on the London stage – be it John Kemble playing the Duke in Measure for Measure (the Duke!), or Mrs. Siddons “with all the pomp and corroborative scenery and decorations” (G 1: 819–21; 3/1: 254): the Dichterfürst as a public icon, known from “pictures, busts, and prints” (G 3/2: 708).

  • 81 The charitable interpreted this as defence against rampant adulation (G 2: 845) or as embarrassmen (...)

40It is true that some visitors found their host quite “affable” (G 3/1: 140), “gracious” (G 3/1: 116), or “unaffected” (G 3/2: 247), putting them at their ease (G 3/2: 708). But the point is of course that that needs saying, given the contrary expectation of solemn majesty or hauteur. And when, more often than not, Goethe did live up to that expectation,81 the princely role is perceived, by the worldly eye from overseas, to be not quite appropriate for a mere poet – and therefore rather funny.

41Even Robinson, easily the most sycophantic of the lot, was aware that Goethe’s “deportment to strangers had often been the subject of […] satire” (G 1: 820). And Robinson himself comes close to reporting comedy, the Gilbert and Sullivan side of the institution of “Dichterfürst,” when he notes, with a straight face, that “Goethe said nothing which un de nous autres could not have said too [including “gossip” and “scandal”-mongering], and yet everything was of infinite importance, for Goethe said it” – clearly, the princely medium becomes the message (G 1: 945, 946), though not a significant one.

  • 82 Beam, 116 (Cunningham); G 2: 1167 (“front teeth,” “watery”); 3/2: 597 (“somewhat collapsed”); G 3/ (...)
  • 83 See Ryder, Modern Language Quarterly, 422 (thousands of knickknacks).
  • 84 Willoughby, Naylor, 11.

42Robinson’s report is, of course, not meant to be funny. Other visitors, however, cannot resist the temptation to cut the “giant” figure down to size. The nimbus is not inviolable, when Goethe’s ruffled shirt strikes one visitor, Bancroft, as “not altogether clean” (G 3/1: 141), when the famous fiery eye is perceived to be “watery,” and hair becomes remarkable for its absence, when some of the oracle’s front teeth are reported gone, his mouth “somewhat collapsed,” and when Jupiter is observed to be hard of hearing and to walk “with the genuine shuffle of a German scholar (“Gelehrte”),82 to say nothing of his French (G 3/2: 235, 598, 671). Majesty is a little paltry, “pedantic” (G 2: 845), or even farcical. And its habitat contributes to this effect: not just the town, with the farmyard smells hanging about its streets, as Professor Bruford determined (59); Goethe’s house, the most sumptuous in town, would be undistinguished even in Bury St. Edmunds, one hears from Robinson, the son of a tanner (G 1: 948, cp. 820); Gillies agreed (G 3/1: 256); it is too flimsily built for vigorous dancing, Calvert noted and remained seated (G 3/1: 763); the furniture is reported to be spartan, “most plain,” no “luxurious or costly appliances,” the floors uncarpeted (G 3/1: 254, 256), nothing but “tausendfacher Tand,” said Ticknor.83 This is the house which (Froriep, speaking for the inner circle, confided to Samuel Naylor) stands for Weimar just as Louis XIV stood for the state.84

  • 85 Robinson, G 1: 819; cp. G 3/2: 452 and F. Norman (n. 1), Publications of the English Goethe Societ (...)
  • 86 Russell, A Tour, 49–50, 52.
  • 87 See Guthke, “Mißgunst am `Musensitz’: Ein reisender Engländer bei Goethe und Schiller,” German Lif (...)

43The intellectual environment is no better. It is curious how the word “jealousy” turns up when English visitors to Goethe’s Weimar describe its cultural atmosphere. The writers residing in the “German Athens” make snide remarks about each other, with Herder classically ridiculing Goethe as Jupiter minus the “flashes of lightning”85 and the “erudite professors of Jena” writing and doing “mortifying things against him” while others augured “that the best of his fame is past.”86 George Butler, whose diary notations on his Weimar visits around 1800 have only recently come to light, makes the most of this jealousy and “envy” among writers in and around the provincial “Musen-Sitz.” (Remember Herder’s remark about the Bethlehem next door.) “Sad Pity, that Genius should debase itself by the alloy of so mean a Passion as Envy!” While Butler stands in awe of the towering cultural achievements, he is appalled by the small-mindedness that comes with them.87

  • 88 A Tour, 52, but see the contrary statement on p. 41. For a similar, if more forgiving, statement on (...)

44Small-mindedness – the Dichterfürst himself is no exception. Gillies noted a certain carping spirit in his conversation: he “could by no means be led into hearty praise” of the works even of Scott or Byron, feeling “disgusted, or at least disappointed, with all the literary productions which he had read” (G 3/1: 255). John Russell, like Cogswell (G 1: 905), went into his audience with Goethe, having heard of “the jealousy with which he guards his literary reputation.” True, in the passage excerpted in the canonical Gespräche, Russell tries to exonerate Goethe for this failing as well as for the lack of “genius” in his conversation (G 3/1: 243–244). But a suppressed passage from his Tour in Germany notes the grim comedy of celebrity status: “Like an eastern potentate, or a jealous deity, he looks abroad from his retirement on the intellectual world,” expecting to be worshipped as an oracle by princes and others, pronouncing “doom” or sending forth “revelation.”88 No wonder Goethe thought that the German version of Russell’s book was unsuitable for excerpting in a sort of festschrift in his honor (WA 4, 40: 227; 3, 10: 331).

45Russell in his Tour in Germany also gets some comical mileage out of the well-known story about the mastiff and the theater director. He describes Goethe as the supreme ruler over the austere temple to the Muses, the Weimar Court Theatre, where it would have been “treason” to applaud before Goethe had given his “signal of approbation.” “Yet,” Russell goes on, “a dog […] could drive him away from the theatre and the world” because Goethe “esteemed it a profanation” that “a mastiff played the part of a tragic hero” in a French melodrama, where the dog had to ring a bell by snapping at the sausage tied to the bell rope (49). So it is a dog that makes Jupiter resign his directorship of the Weimar theater and prompts him to withdraw to Jena in a huff. Cogswell thought that it was this contretemps that motivated “the very favorable reception” Goethe accorded him and Ticknor, both dogless (G 2: 1182).

  • 89 I am following Prawer, “Thackeray’s Goethe: A Secret History,” Publications of the English Goethe (...)

46The comedy of the inappropriate celebrity status of the “Dichterfürst” continues with Gillies, in his account of his “audience,” as he called it, with Goethe in 1821. He cannot even say “the great man” without arousing a suspicion of mockery or irony (G 3/1: 253). “His Excellency’s majestic,” slow-moving figure was “much like an apparition from another world,” “ghostlike” (254). “He had veritably the air and aspect of a revenant. His was not an appearance, but an apparition. Evidently and unmistakeably he had belonged to another world which had long since passed away,” “perversely antique” with his powdered hair and grossly mismanaged neckcloth (254, 257). Gillies all but suggests that if Goethe should open his mouth, a moth might come fluttering out. In any case, “after the manner of ghosts in general, he waited to be spoken to,” “spirit” that he was, “evoked from his other world” (257). Goethe does speak, eventually, moth-free; but Gillies skilfully sharpens the irony of what the oracular celebrity has to say in this long-awaited moment of revelation. What Goethe has to say concerns largely the riding boots of a former Weimar visitor, Sir Brooke Boothby. Sir Brooke had made a fuss about not wanting to appear at court wearing the required silk stockings. “Ganz richtig,” intones the oracle, “he complained of our cold winters, disliked silk stockings” – which is why he wore his riding boots. “This important fact disposed of,” Gillies continues, the conversation turned to Werther, sans boots; but the irony remains unabated. Sir Brooke had received a copy of Werther from the author’s own hands, but never got around to reading it, we hear. Goethe, according to Gillies, was mystified by such negligence: Sir Brooke, Goethe said, “never would take the trouble of studying our language so as to comprehend our best authors” (258–59). (If there is a plural of modesty, this must be it.) And finally, before “Dichterfürst” bashing becomes tiresome, Thackeray. Professor Prawer had a good ear for the ironic undertones in the young visitor’s descriptions of the “great lion,” who was more likely an “old rogue,” with his “little mean money-getting propensities” – again, a report that did not make it into the sacrosanct Gespräche. But one does hope that Thackeray’s obiter dictum, conveyed by his biographer, Gordon Ray, is authentic: “If Goethe is a god, I’m sure I’d rather go to the other place.”89

Cultural History: Global vs. Humanist Education

47There is a touch of comedy, then, in this encounter between “the world” and the “Dichterfürst” – but the comedy points to an underlying significance, as any spoilsport would hasten to add. For Goethe’s encounter with his English visitors occurred at a crucial moment in cultural history: at the time of the “grand opening-up of the wide world” (Ulrich Im Hof), that is, of the expansion of geographical and ethnological knowledge to distant continents – an event that brought about a revolution of self-perception in the West. “The proper study of mankind is man” now pointedly includes an awareness of those non-European populations that came into full view in the age of Goethe, the period that John Parry identified as the second age of discovery (distinguishing its anthropological interest from the exploitative motivation of the earlier explorers). As Wieland put it in 1785, knowledge of human nature (“Menschenkenntnis”) is now becoming “Völkerkunde,” ethnology; Georg Forster agreed: the focus on human nature is now the focus on the “other” in distant parts of the world, or, at the very least, it must include it. This is the defining experience of the time as Felipe Fernández-Armesto has reminded us in his Millennium (1998). (What was the proudest moment in the life of Louis XVI? The day when he dispatched La Pérouse to the South Seas.) The British, as rulers of a vast empire, were more aware of this shift than the continentals (though ethnology did take root in Germany as well at the time, with Blumenbach and, alas, the racist Christoph Meiners). Here is Edmund Burke, writing to William Robertson, the author of a History of America, on 9 June 1777:

  • 90 The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, ed. Thomas W. Copeland, III, ed. George H. Guttridge (Cambridge (...)

We possess at this time very great advantages towards the knowledge of human Nature. We need no longer go to History to trace it in all its stages and periods. History from its comparative youth, is but a poor instructour. […] But now the Great Map of Mankind is unrolld at once; and there is no state or Gradation of barbarism, and no mode of refinement which we have not at the same instant under our View. The very different Civility of Europe and of China; the barbarism of Persia, and Abyssinia […]. The Savage State of North America, and of New Zealand.90

  • 91 Wehler, Die Herausforderung der Kulturgeschichte (München, 1998), 147–48. For additional documenta (...)

48What is signalled here is a fundamental change in concepts of what it means to be educated: global awareness of the “other,” including the “savage”, vs. traditional, humanist ideas of human nature derived from history, particularly from classical antiquity. Proper knowledge of human nature now involves worldwide breadth of awareness rather than depth of introspection or historical knowledge. In a sense, this is the clash of what anthropologists call “wide” culture, on the one hand, and “deep” culture on the other – a pair of terms appropriated for cultural history by Hans Ulrich Wehler.91

49It is this contrast or historical sea change that played out in Goethe’s encounters with the British. (When Burke, glorifying the new global perspective, said “we,” he meant the British, of course.) And it bears repeating: this is not necessarily a contrast between the globetrotters and the stay-at-homes. It is a matter of awareness: of being open to whatever information was available, first-hand or second-hand, and this is where the British had the edge – simply because of what Goethe called the “bedeutende Welt” in which most educated Britons grew up.

  • 92 Lichtenberg, Schriften und Briefe, III, ed. Wolfgang Promies (München, 1972), 269, https://archive (...)

50In this sense, then, as Goethe saw it, the British, with their global education or experience, brought the world to Weimar. And it is to Goethe’s credit that – in a land of “unusual ignorance of the world”92 – he opened himself eagerly to it. Indeed, though not a theorist, he even conceptualized the conflicting ideas of education or culture. Germany (where life was “isoliert” and “armselig” for intellectuals) had humanist inward culture (“innere Cultur”) or at least aspired to it, he said in his notes for a continuation of his autobiography (WA 1, 53: 383). This was “Bildung” in the sense of self-cultivation (as W. H. Bruford translated the term in his book The German Tradition of Self-Cultivation in 1975). The opposite of such “innere Cultur” Goethe (in these notes) called cosmopolitan (“weltbürgerlich),” and this is what, by and large, the British represented to him, with their “knowledge of the world” and its populations.

51Moreover, this kind of “weltbürgerlich” culture (familiar with New South Wales or Brazil), Goethe seems to have felt, quite rightly, was not just an alternative to conventional humanist education but a culture whose time had come. In his Novelle there is the memorable sentence, addressed to the Duchess, to the effect that to qualify for the honor of her company one would have had to “see the world” (“Wen Ihr beehrt, Eure Gesellschaft unterhalten zu dürfen, der muß die Welt gesehen haben”), namely other “Welttheile,” other continents – a veiled statement about his own ideal choice of company or culture (WA 1, 18, 334–335).

52Nevertheless, it still seems to be widely agreed that when the chips were down, the culture that Goethe found most congenial was not global; it was humanist “innere Cultur”: that worldless “Bildung” focussed on the self, on Europe, its art and history – “deep” rather than “wide,” the predominant preference of the bespectacled Germans he so disliked. There is some truth in this view. Just as Iphigenie in Goethe’s play of that title cannot really learn anything from Thoas, the “barbarian,” so everything exotic that, unlike Persian culture, could not be assimilated, remained alien and sometimes even repulsive in Goethe’s eyes: Indian or Egyptian art, for example (as Henry Crabb Robinson reported with proper British dismay [G 1: 946, 948]). Goethe’s Campagne in Frankreich concludes with the sentiment that, however much the “world” and “faraway lands” may enchant us, we seek our happiness in our own narrow sphere:

Wir wenden uns, wie auch die Welt entzücke,
Der Enge zu, die uns allein beglücke. (WA 1, 33: 271)

53Why? Because Goethe believed that as a humanist he already had the world within himself, or so he told Eckermann on 26 February 1824 (see also WA 1, 35: 6).

54This, then, is the Goethe the British visitors saw when they described their encounters as something straight out of comic opera: the public icon of private “deep” culture – self-cultivation (self-absorbed inwardness) trotted out to be lionised. (Needless to say, inwardness, in Goethe’s case, did not exclude activity; but the “tätig” Goethe, active in a limited sphere, to be sure, rather than, like the English,“nach allen Weltgegenden,” the visitors did not catch sight of.) As a result, in their perception, majesty changed surreptitiously into pompousness, German self-cultivation into self-importance: a mere poet who had not been anywhere, really, whose journeys, even if ostensibly to Italy, had been (it must often have seemed from the perspective of the visitors) essentially trips into the interior of the self. To these visitors, who knew the world, this was outlandish, even amusing.

  • 93 Schulz, Exotik der Gefühle (München, 1998), 70.
  • 94 Schütze, Goethe-Reisen (Wien, 1998); Aufenanger, Hier war Goethe nicht: Biographische Einzelheiten (...)

55This image of Goethe, minus the comedy of it (the man of selfcultivation and humanistic education rather than of global culture, in my terminology) is compatible with that favored by generations of scholars and general readers; it has been most competently analyzed by Gerhard Schulz in his book on Goethe and Exotik der Gefühle – where it is pointed out that there is at least an element of Goethe’s own wisdom in the proverbial “Es wandelt niemand ungestraft unter Palmen”93 (roughly: nobody will walk under palm trees without coming to regret it). Jochen Schütze, in his engaging Goethe-Reisen, agreed, as did Jörg Aufenanger, with a vengeance, when reported that while Goethe travelled 37,765 km all told, which is once around the globe, he nevertheless had no curiosity about life elsewhere (“die Fremde”).94 Indeed, when in 1792 he was required to set out for France with his Duke’s army – what did he look forward to? To returning and closing the garden gate behind him (letter to Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, 18 August 1792). This is the man who, when he wished a young woman bon voyage, advised her: do not look right or left, look into yourself (WA 1, 4: 36).

56Such introspective self-cultivation may have been a specifically German aberration at the time, and Goethe no doubt shared it to a certain extent. But it is more correct to say that Goethe himself was sitting on the fence, as this essay has been suggesting all along. He welcomed his English visitors, pumping them for information about the continents brought into full view during the second age of discovery, readily acknowledging how much he had learned about the world from his English contacts. Over many years, after the end of the Continental Blockade, until the last three or so years of his life, he devoured Johann Christian Hüttner’s reports on English books about the far corners of the world; he studied journals such as Le Temps and Le Globe; travelogues were serious reading for him – all of which suggests a kind of balance of the two concepts of culture distinguished here.

57Conversely, there is a comparable balance on the part of his visitors: they left their island not just to see the Sphinx or fabled maharajas but also to see Goethe – respecting, with some effort, the icon of that pecular German inwardness that was the very antithesis of what they had been brought up to value. Remember Burke, with the map of the world unrolled before him.

  • 95 Berlin, 1999. See also Dietrich Schwanitz, Bildung (Frankfurt: 1999), 394.

58In retrospect, what we may appreciate about this encounter is the balance of those two concepts of education or culture which were in competition at the time. But as we look at this epoch-making constellation from our own vantage-point, which is post-colonial and post-Holocaust, we are also aware of something else: both concepts of what it means to be educated reveal serious shortcomings when they occur in their “pure state,” that is, when they lack that Goethean balance or complementarity. “Inward culture,” championed by Weimar Classicism, when left to its own devices, is prone to neglect the active, outer-directed, public or civic virtues that make the world bearable: in the face of barbarism (Burke’s word) in social or political life, “innere Cultur” may tend to stand by passively – think of Zeitblom vis-à-vis the Nazis in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus. Zeitblom is the representative of humanist culture, demonstrating the same lack of civic virtue in the face of evil that American press officer Saul K. Padover found when he interviewed educated Germans in 1945 about their attitude during the previous years. (Rediscovered by Enzensberger, Padover’s book, Lügendetektor, was a big hit in Germany in 1999.)95 On the other hand, we know by now that “Weltkenntnis,” so admired by Goethe, was all too often world domination, and, as such, repressive and exploitative – as Goethe knew very well: he confronted Lord Bristol with that charge in no uncertain terms.

59These, then, are the shortcomings, incomparably different ones, of course, that may be associated with the pure state of one or the other of the two concepts of what it means to be educated or cultured, associated, that is to say, with the lack of that balance that in some modest way Goethe at least aspired to, as did his visitors.

60Looking back, we may see something rather commendable in Goethe’s outlook. He valued his encounters with the British and American visitors (his preferred “others”) ultimately because they gave him the chance to question his own “Bildung” or values or identity. How? By thinking about theirs. As he himself summed up the net benefit of his encounters with them: one does not get out of the habit of thinking about them – and about oneself (“kommt man gar nicht aus der Gewohnheit, über sie nachzudenken,” WA 4, 43: 108).

Notes

1 Guthke, Die Entdeckung des Ich (Tübingen, 1993), 268. “Weimar”: F. Norman, “Henry Crabb Robinson and Goethe: Part II,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, New Series, VIII (1931), 35. WA refers to the Weimar Edition of Goethe’s Werke: part (Abt.), volume: page. “Eckermann” refers to Goethe’s conversations with J. P. Eckermann, available in many editions.

2 Norbert Oellers and Robert Steegers, Treffpunkt Weimar: Literatur und Leben zur Zeit Goethes (Stuttgart, 1999). George Butler is mentioned in passing.

3 Cp. R. R. Wuthenow, “Reisende Engländer, Deutsche und Franzosen,” Rom-Paris-London, ed. Conrad Wiedemann (Stuttgart, 1988), 100; Faust, line 7118 (“they tend to travel so much”).

4 3 March 1831. See L. A. Willoughby, “Goethe Looks at the English,” Modern Language Review, L (1955), 480.

5 De l’Allemagne, pt. 2, ch. 7: “un homme d’un esprit prodigieux en conversation.” Thackeray: Goethes Gespräche, ed. Wolfgang Herwig (Zürich, 1965–1987), 3/2: 671. References to Gespräche (G) are to this edition: volume: page. Vol. 3 is in two parts, referred to as “3/1” and “3/2.”

6 Ernst Beutler, Essays um Goethe, 4th ed., I (Wiesbaden, 1948), 481, 509.

7 Willibald Franke, Die Wallfahrt nach Weimar (Leipzig, 1925), 2–3.

8 Johannes Falk, Goethe aus näherem persönlichem Umgange (Berlin, 1911), 199–200.

9 Frédéric Soret, Zehn Jahre bei Goethe (Leipzig, 1929), 436.

10 Eckermann, 24 November 1824; 10 January 1825.

11 WA 3, 11: 257; G 3/2: 431.

12 Soret, 189, 190, 137 (“Weimar ist so still und menschenleer, das [sic] wirklich nur Engländer hier sind”; “zur Menschenkenntnis beitragen”).

13 S. S. Prawer, Breeches and Metaphysics: Thackeray’s German Discourse (Oxford, 1997), 26. Cp. WA 4, 43: 173. Carl August’s remark: Alexander Gillies, A Hebridean in Goethe’s Weimar (Oxford, 1969), 24 (“von Engländern wimmelt’s in Weimar”).

14 R. G. Alford, “Englishmen at Weimar,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, V (1889), 191–92.

15 D. F. S. Scott, Some English Correspondents of Goethe (London, 1949), 15.

16 Scott, 60.

17 Frank Ryder, “George Ticknor and Goethe: Boston and Göttingen,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, LXVII (1952), 961.

18 Trevor D. Jones, “English Contributors to Ottilie von Goethe’s Chaos,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, New Series, IX (1931–1933), 69.

19 A. Gillies, 8; Soret, 208–209.

20 L. A. Willoughby, 482; Eduard Engel, Goethe (Berlin, 1910), 554.

21 A. Gillies, 11.

22 See S. S. Prawer, “Thackeray’s Goethe: A `Secret History,’” Publications of the English Goethe Society, New Series, LXII (1993), 26, and Prawer, Breeches and Metaphsics, 28.

23 Jones, 81. On the musical instrument, a serpent, see George Downes, Letters from Continental Countries (Dublin, 1832), II, 433.

24 Chaos (1829–1832; reprint, Bern, 1968), II, 34.

25 Soret, 325–326.

26 Chaos, Postscript by Reinhard Fink, 45.

27 Scott, 46.

28 Jacob N. Beam, “A Visit to Goethe,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, VIII (1947), 116.

29 WA 3, 12: 144–45; WA 1, 42/1: 102.

30 Theodore Lyman brought Manfred; see Leonard L. MacKall, “Mittheilungen aus dem Goethe-Schiller-Archiv,” Goethe-Jahrbuch, XXV (1904), 6.

31 Ibid., 5.

32 G 3/2: 66 (Downes); WA 3, 10: 60 (George Knox); John Hennig, Goethe and the English Speaking World (Bern, 1988), 125.

33 Eckermann, 15 July 1827; WA 1, 41/2: 299, 348; WA 1, 42/1: 187; WA 4, 44: 257. See the collection of Goethe’s remarks on Weltliteratur in Fritz Strich, Goethe und die Weltliteratur (Bern, 1946), 397–400; also Reiner Wild, “Überlegungen zu Goethes Konzept einer Weltliteratur,” Bausteine zu einem transatlantischen Literaturverständnis, eds. Hans W. Panthel and Peter Rau (Frankfurt, 1994), 3–11.

34 Strich, 64, 77; Walther Killy, Von Berlin bis Wandsbeck (München, 1996), passim.

35 G 3/1: 48; see also Strich, 55–58 on the value Goethe put on conversation. “Goethe’s knowledge of […] most subjects was personal rather than book-knowledge” (Hennig, 126).

36 “In time Goethe became known in America as an authority on European and American mineralogy, long before he was acknowledged for his literary genius” (Walter Wadepuhl, Goethe’s Interest in the New World [Jena, 1934; reprint New York, 1973], 43).

37 Scott, 36; WA 3, 9: 266; G 3/1: 271.

38 MacKall, 8.

39 WA 4, 31: 246, 394–395 (“aufs fleißigste studirt”).

40 John Hennig, Goethes Europakunde (Amsterdam, 1987), 68.

41 England: Eckermann, 10 January 1825; America: G 2: 1180–1181; 3/1: 140; 3/2: 598; Univ. of Virginia: G 3/2: 598.

42 F. Norman, 105; Hertha Marquardt, Henry Crabb Robinson und seine deutschen Freunde, I (Göttingen, 1964), 17; W. D. Robson-Scott, “Goethe through English Eyes,” Contemporary Review, no. 1005 (Sept., 1949), 151. Norman’s article provides the most plentiful documentation of Robinson’s “conversational activities.”

43 Scott, 33; Herbert Maxwell, Sir Charles Murray (Edinburgh and London, 1898), 78.

44 Orie W. Long, Literary Pioneers (Cambridge, MA, 1935), 196.

45 Scott, 69–70, 73–74.

46 On Gillies, see Scott, 43, and Scott, “English Visitors to Weimar,” German Life and Letters, New Series, II (1949), 337.

47 Long, 68.

48 G 3/2: 438. Cp. 3/2: 448: “interested in the progress of his fame in England.”

49 Beam, 118, see also 116–118; Frank Ryder, “George Ticknor and Goethe: Europe and Harvard,” Modern Language Quarterly XIV (1953), 421; Harry W. Pfund, “George Henry Calvert, Admirer of Goethe,” Studies in Honor of John Albrecht Walz (Lancaster, PA, 1941), 138.

50 Mackall, 17, 14.

51 W. H. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar (Cambridge, 1962), 58.

52 Lotte in Weimar (n.p., Suhrkamp, 1949), 404.

53 Arthur R. Schultz, “Goethe and the Literature of Travel,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology, XLVIII (1949), 445–468; Uwe Hentschel, “Goethe und die Reiseliteratur am Ende des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts,” Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts, 1993, 93–127. An important purveyor of such books was J. Chr. Hüttner; see Walter Wadepuhl, “Hüttner, a New Source for Anglo-German Relations,” Germanic Review, XIV (1939), 23–27; Hennig, Goethe and the English Speaking World, 37–51; Guthke, Goethes Weimar und “die große Öffnung in die weite Welt” (Wiesbaden, 2001).

54 WA 4, 12: 54; Eckermann, 3 May 1827.

55 Hennig, Goethe and the English Speaking World, 13–16.

56 See David Blackbourn, The Long Nineteenth Century (London, 1997), 270–271; see also Richard Dobel, Lexikon der Goethe-Zitate (Zürich, 1968); H. B. Nisbet, Goethe-Handbuch (Stuttgart, 1996–1999), IV/1, 257–58.

57 WA 1, 28: 212; see also WA 1, 46: 337–338; Eckermann, 15 May 1826.

58 Soret, 630.

59 Eckermann, 2 January 1824; cp. Soret, 405.

60 Beutler, 511. See also Goethe’s similar remarks on Stefan Schütze (Eckermann, 15 May 1826) and Jean Paul (Xenion “Richter in London”).

61 Hugo Landgraf, Goethe und seine ausländischen Besucher (München, 1932), 48: “letzten gesellschaftlichen Schliff.”

62 John Russell, A Tour in Germany […] in the Years 1820, 1821, 1822, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1825), 35, 55. “The German Athens” also in Downes, II, 438.

63 W. J. Fitzpatrick, The Life of Charles Lever (London, 1879), I, 77; cp. Downes, G 3/2: 65.

64 The Life and Correspondence of M. G. Lewis (London, 1839), I, 71, 80.

65 Soret, 208.

66 Erwin G. Gudde, “Aaron Burr in Weimar,” South Atlantic Quarterly, XL (1941), 384, 388.

67 Ryder, Modern Language Quarterly, 415.

68 I take these quotations from Prawer’s Breeches and Metaphysics, 16–18, 26, 31.

69 Eberhard Lämmert, “Der Dichterfürst,” Dichtung, Sprache, Gesellschaft: Akten des IV. Internationalen Germanisten-Kongresses 1970 in Princeton, eds. Victor Lange and Hans-Gert Roloff (Frankfurt, 1971), 439–455.

70 Russell, A Tour, 48–49.

71 L. A. Willoughby, Samuel Naylor and “Renard the Fox” (London, 1914), 11; “audience”: G 3/1: 254; 3/2: 670.

72 Beam, 116, 118; G 1: 819; 3/1: 254, 271, 760; 3/2: 671.

73 Soret, 359, cp. 358.

74 G 3/2: 246 (cp. 3/1: 253); 3/2: 538. See also p. 146 below on Thackeray’s “lion” (at n. 89).

75 Willoughby, Naylor, 11; cp. Bancroft: G 3/1: 242; Robinson: G 3/2: 449.

76 Willoughby, Naylor, 11.

77 Swifte, Wilhelm’s Wanderings (London, 1878), 34–35; cp. G 3/2: 155.

78 A. B. Granville, St. Petersburgh: A Journal […] (London, 1828), II, 671.

79 Scott, “English Visitors to Weimar,” 337.

80 John Hennig, “Irish Descriptions of Goethe,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, XXV (1956), 123; cp. G 3/1, 243 and 2, 1181.

81 The charitable interpreted this as defence against rampant adulation (G 2: 845) or as embarrassment (see Beam, 121; G 2, 1167; 3/1: 141; 3/2: 62, 598).

82 Beam, 116 (Cunningham); G 2: 1167 (“front teeth,” “watery”); 3/2: 597 (“somewhat collapsed”); G 3/2: 439 (“hard [of] hearing”).

83 See Ryder, Modern Language Quarterly, 422 (thousands of knickknacks).

84 Willoughby, Naylor, 11.

85 Robinson, G 1: 819; cp. G 3/2: 452 and F. Norman (n. 1), Publications of the English Goethe Society, New Series, VIII (1931), 20.

86 Russell, A Tour, 49–50, 52.

87 See Guthke, “Mißgunst am `Musensitz’: Ein reisender Engländer bei Goethe und Schiller,” German Life and Letters, New Series, LI (1998), 15–27; also in Guthke, Der Blick in die Fremde (Tübingen, 2000), 281–291.

88 A Tour, 52, but see the contrary statement on p. 41. For a similar, if more forgiving, statement on the “oracle,” see George Jackson’s account (G 2: 845–846).

89 I am following Prawer, “Thackeray’s Goethe: A Secret History,” Publications of the English Goethe Society, New Series, LXII (1993), 28–30. The final quip is in the second volume of Ray’s biography, Thackeray (New York, 1958), viii.

90 The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, ed. Thomas W. Copeland, III, ed. George H. Guttridge (Cambridge, 1961), 351. This is the motto of P. J. Marshall and Glyndwr Williams, The Great Map of Mankind: British Perceptions of the World in the Age of Enlightenment (London, 1982). See also the essay “In the Wake of Captain Cook” above.

91 Wehler, Die Herausforderung der Kulturgeschichte (München, 1998), 147–48. For additional documentation of statements made in this section, see my book Die Erfindung der Welt: Globalität und Grenzen in der Kulturgeschichte der Literatur (Tübingen, 2005), 197–201.

92 Lichtenberg, Schriften und Briefe, III, ed. Wolfgang Promies (München, 1972), 269, https://archive.org/details/LichtenbergSchriftenUndBriefeBd3: “mit ungewöhnlicher Unbekanntschaft mit der Welt.”

93 Schulz, Exotik der Gefühle (München, 1998), 70.

94 Schütze, Goethe-Reisen (Wien, 1998); Aufenanger, Hier war Goethe nicht: Biographische Einzelheiten zu Goethes Abwesenheit (Berlin, 1999), 7, 14, 40.

95 Berlin, 1999. See also Dietrich Schwanitz, Bildung (Frankfurt: 1999), 394.

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