Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIV. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER XIV. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 5: W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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Our friend read what was put before him with great interest, but at the same time he must needs confess that at the end of the preceding portion he had already suspected, nay, supposed, that the good creature had been discovered. The description of the rugged mountain-country had first inspired him with this idea; but he had been especially set upon the track by Lenardo’s presentiment on that moonlight night, as well as by the repetition of the words of his own letter. Friedrich, to whom he told all this circumstantially, quite agreed with his view.
But here the duty of communicating, describing, setting forth and condensing becomes more and more difficult. Who does not feel that we are now approaching the end, where the fear of lingering over details, with the wish to leave nothing incompletely cleared up, places us in a dilemma. It is true that by the despatch just arrived we have been enlightened about a good deal; however, the letters, and the many enclosures, contain various things which are not of general interest. We have accordingly resolved to combine what we then knew and found out, and that too which came to our knowledge later, and with this intent conclude with confidence the serious task that we have taken in hand of a faithful referee.
Before all else then we have to announce that Lothario with Theresa his wife, and Natalia, who did not wish to be parted from her brother, in company with the abbé, were actually already gone to sea. They started under favorable auspices, and it is to be hoped that a favorable wind fills their sails. The only unpleasant sentiment, a real moral grief, that they take with them, is that they were not able first to pay their visit to Makaria. The circuit was too great, the undertaking too important. They already had some delay to blame themselves for, and must sacrifice even a pious duty to necessity.
We, however, on our part as relator and describer, ought not let these beloved persons, who in times past won so much of our affection, depart to so great a distance, without having imparted some more particular information as to their intentions and doings hitherto, especially as it is so long since we have heard anything explicit about them. Nevertheless, we shall omit to do so, because their task hitherto has only referred, as a preparation, to the great undertaking upon which we see them embarking. We live, however, in the hope of satisfactorily meeting them again at some future day in full methodical activity, making manifest the real worth of their several characters.
Julietta, the sensible good one, whom we may still recollect, had married a man after her uncle’s heart, working thoroughly with sympathy and energy in his own direction. Julietta was latterly a good deal with the aunt, where many of those upon whom she had exercised a beneficial influence met together, not only such as remain devoted to the mainland, but those also who intend to go across the sea. Lenardo, on the other hand, had already taken leave of Friedrich. The communication through messengers between them was so much the more active.
If then those worthy people above-mentioned were absent from the catalogue of the guests, still there were to be found amongst them many important persons already intimately known to us. Hilaria came with her husband, who now appeared as a captain and indubitably rich landowner. She, with her great grace and amiability, gained here as always an easy pardon for her too great readiness to change in passing from one source of interest to another, of which in the course of this narrative we have found her guilty. The men especially did not tax her severely for it: a fault of this kind, if it is one, they do not consider objectionable, since each one may wish and hope that he too may have a turn.
Flavio, her husband, vigorous, cheerful and amiable enough, seemed to rivet her affection completely: she might well have forgiven herself for the past; even Makaria found no occasion to refer to it. He, the always passionate poet, begged on parting to be allowed to recite a poem that he had composed in honor of her and her surrounding friends during the few days of his stay here. He had often been seen walking up and down in the open air, after a short pause again walking forwards with excited gestures, writing at the desk, then thinking and writing again. But now he seemed to regard it as finished when he made his wish known through Angela.
The good lady, though unwillingly, gave her consent, and at all events it might be listened to, although one learned nothing more from it than one knew already, felt nothing but what one had already felt. Meanwhile, however, the delivery was easy and pleasing, treatment and rhymes partly new, though on the whole one might have wished it somewhat shorter. At last, he handed it over, very beautifully written on wide-bordered paper, and they separated with perfect mutual satisfaction.
This couple had returned from a notable, well-employed tour to the south in order to release their father, the major, from the house: who with the Irresistible one, who had now become his wife, also wished to inhale a little of the air of Eden for some measure of refreshment.
Thus these two also come in their turn, and so with Makaria as everywhere the Wonderful one found special favor, which was especially shown in this that the lady was received in the inner room and alone, which favor was afterwards accorded to the major also. He proved himself thereupon to be a cultivated military man, a good manager of house and land, a friend of literature, even worthy of praise as a didactic poet; and he experienced a good reception from the astronomer and other intimates of the house.
He was especially distinguished also by our old friend the worthy uncle, who, living at some distance, at this time came over oftener than he was otherwise wont to do, though it were only for a few hours at a time; but he could not be persuaded to stay for a single night, though the best accommodation was offered to him.
Yet at such short meetings his presence was in the highest degree gratifying, for he was then willing as a man of the world and of the court to appear in an indulgent and intermediary character, in which accordingly a trace of aristocratic pedantry was not found unpleasant. Moreover, his good-humor now proceeded from his heart; he was happy, as we all feel when we have to deal with matters of importance with sensible rational people. The comprehensive business was in full course; it went on continuously with carefully fostered collaboration.
To this he gave only his principal moments. He is a landowner, by inheritance from his ancestors, beyond the seas. What that implies, he who understands the position of affairs there may explain more in detail to his friends, for it will of necessity take us too far now. These important possessions had hitherto been let on lease, and under various drawbacks brought in little. The association with which we are sufficiently acquainted is now authorized to take possession there, in the midst of the most perfect civil institutions, from which as an influential link of the State it can look for advantage to itself, and spread itself still further in the uncultivated waste. Here then will Friedrich with Lenardo come especially to the front to show how one can in point of fact begin from the beginning and strike out a natural path.
Hardly had those we have named departed, satisfied in the highest degree with their stay, when there were announced some guests of a very different sort, and yet welcome ones too. We should scarcely have expected to see Philina and Lydia make their appearance in a place of such sanctity, and yet they arrived. Montan, who was still lingering in the mountains, was presently to fetch them, and take them by the nearest road to the lake. Both were very well received by the housekeepers, stewardesses, and other women who had situations or dwelt in the house. Philina brought with her a pair of most lovable children, and while simply and very attractively dressed she distinguished herself by an extraordinary habit. From her flower-embroidered belt she carried, hanging from a long silver chain, a moderately large pair of English scissors, with which she would often snip and snap in the air, just as if she wanted to give emphasis to her conversation, and by doing this she aroused the merriment of all present, whereupon also the question soon followed whether it could be that, in so large a family, there was no cloth to cut. And then it was discovered very fortunately for such energy, that a couple of brides were to be fitted out. Hereupon she looks at the costume of the country, and bids the girls walk up and down before her, whilst she cuts away; in doing which she proceeded with spirit and taste, and, without in any way detracting from the character of such a costume, she managed to soften down its peculiar stiff barbarousness with so soft a grace that the two thus clothed pleased themselves and others better, and overcame their anxiety lest they might have deviated from what was traditional.
Now came Lydia, who was skilful in sewing readily, neatly and swiftly, to their complete assistance, and one might venture to hope to see the brides, with the aid of the rest of the womankind, dressed out more quietly than one would have thought, and in the meantime these girls dared not go far away. Philina busied herself with them down to the minutest details, and treated them as if they were dolls or stage-dummies. Heaps of ribands and other festive array usual in the neighborhood were fittingly distributed, and at last the result was attained that these buxom bodies and neat figures, generally decked out with barbarous formality, now became somewhat conspicuous, but in such a way that all vulgarity seemed in every point toned down into a sort of gracefulness.
But over-busy people, in circumstances restricted by uniform rules, become wearisome. Philina with her voracious scissors had got into the rooms where the stores for the clothing of the large household lay at hand in materials of various kinds. There she experienced, in the prospect of cutting it all up, the greatest delight: it was necessary actually to take her out, and lock the door fast; for she knew neither bounds nor measure. Angela, on this account, really would not be treated as a bride; for she dreaded such a slasher; in general the relations between the two were by no means happily brought out. This however, can only be enlarged on later.
Montan put off coming longer than had been anticipated, and Philina insisted on being presented to Makaria. This was done, for then they hoped that they would get rid of her all the sooner, and it was a sufficiently remarkable sight to see the two sinners at the feet of the Saint. They lay at her knees on either side, Philina between her two children, whom she urged down with demonstrative gracefulness. With her wonted geniality she said—“I love my husband, my children. I gladly work for them, for others too: forgive the rest.” Makaria saluted and blessed her; she withdrew with a becoming bow.
Lydia lay to the left side of the saintly woman with her face on her breast, weeping bitterly and unable to utter a word. Makaria, interpreting her tears, tapped her on the shoulder as if she would soothe her. Then with pious intent she fervently and repeatedly kissed her head between the parted tresses, as it lay in front of her. Lydia raised herself, first to her knees, then to her feet, and regarded her benefactress with pure joy.
“What has happened to me!” she said; “how do I feel! The heavy painful burden, which deprived me, if not of all consciousness, at least of all reflection, is suddenly lifted from off my head: I can now look upwards freely, direct my thoughts on high, and,” she added after drawing her breath deeply, “I believe my heart will follow.”
At this moment the door opened, and as frequently one too long awaited will suddenly and unexpectedly appear, Montan came in. Lydia stepped gleefully up to him, embraced him joyfully, and as she led him to Makaria, she exclaimed, “He shall know how he is indebted to this divine one, and gratefully kneel down with me.”
Montan, surprised, and contrary to his usual custom somewhat embarrassed, said with a graceful bow towards the worthy lady, “It seems to be a great deal; for I become your debtor. It is the first time that you have come frankly and lovingly to me, the first time that you have pressed me to your heart, although I have long deserved it.”
We must now confidentially disclose that Montan had loved Lydia from her early youth, that the more engaging Lothario had enticed her from him, but that he had remained faithful to her and to his friend, and at last, probably to the no small surprise of our earlier readers, had gained her for his wife.
All these three, who would not have been able to feel quite at ease in European society, scarcely placed limits to the expression of their joy when the expected settlement abroad was spoken of. Philina’s scissors were already snipping; for she was thinking of securing the monopoly of providing this new colony with articles of apparel. Philina described very prettily the large store of cloth and linen, and snipped in the air, “already beholding,” she said, “the harvest for scythe and sickle before her.”
Lydia, on the other hand, only now by that happy blessing awakened again to sympathetic love, saw already in spirit her scholars increasing a hundredfold, and a whole population of housewives led on and stirred up to exactitude and elegance. The earnest Montan too has all the mineral wealth of those regions in lead, copper, iron and coal before his eyes, to such an extent that he is often ready to declare all his knowledge and ability as mere painful groping experiment towards the rich remunerative harvest that he there should first boldly gather in.
That Montan would soon be on good terms with our astronomer was to be foreseen. The discussions which they carried on in Makaria’s presence were attractive in the highest degree. However, we find but little of them to write down, Angela having been for some time less attentive in listening and more careless in writing them out. Much of it too might seem to her too general, and not sufficiently comprehensible for a young lady. We therefore insert in passing only a few of the utterances of those days which have come to us—in no case in her handwriting.
In the study of the sciences, particularly those that deal with nature, it is as necessary as it is difficult to inquire whether that which has been handed down to us from the past, and regarded as valid by our ancestors, is really to be relied on to such a degree that we may continue to build upon it safely in the future; or whether traditionary knowledge has become only stationary, and hence occasions inertia rather than progress. There is one characteristic that furthers this inquiry—whether, namely, the received results are being, and have been, and remain influential in and promotive of active endeavor.
The testing of the new stands in the opposite case—when one has to ask whether what is received is real profit or only fashionable conformity. For an opinion emanating from energetic men spreads like contagion throughout the crowd, and then it is said to be prevalent—an assumption that to the true inquirer expresses no idea. Church and State may at any rate have reasons to declare themselves dominant; for they have to do with the recalcitrant multitude, and if only order is kept, it is all the same by what means; but in the sciences absolute freedom is necessary; for then one is working not for to-day and to-morrow, but for an endlessly progressive succession of years.
But, moreover, if in science the false gets the upper hand, yet there will always remain a minority for the true; and if it should contract into one single spirit it would not matter: he will work his way in silence, in secret, and a time will come when people will inquire about him and his convictions, or when with the general diffusion of enlightenment they will venture to present themselves again.
But a subject less general, though incomprehensible and extraordinary, that came under discussion, was Montan’s casual disclosure that in his mountain and mining investigations he was assisted by a being who displayed the most wonderful qualities, and a quite peculiar relation to everything that one might call stone, mineral—even in general, an element. This being felt not only a great effect from waters flowing underground, from metalliferous layers and veins, as well as coal measures, and aught else of the sort that lay together in masses, but, what was more wonderful, it felt different and again different as soon as it merely changed its soil. The different sorts of mountains exercised a special influence upon it, about which since he had managed to produce a language which was strange enough, but at the same time sufficient, he was able to arrive at a clear understanding with it and test it in details, when it stood the test in a remarkable way, being able as it was to distinguish chemical as well as physical elements by the feeling, nay, even distinguishing by look alone the heavier from the lighter substances. This being, about whose sex he would not disclose himself more plainly, he has sent forward with the departing friends, and he hoped a good deal from it in furtherance of his aims in the unexplored districts.
This confidence on the part of Montan opened the stern heart of the astronomer, who accordingly, with Makaria’s consent, revealed to him in return her relation to the planetary system. By the aid of later communications by the astronomer we are in a position to impart, if not adequately, at any rate the chief point of their conversations on such important subjects.
Let us, in the meanwhile, admire the similarity of the cases here occurring, together with the greatest diversity. One friend, in order not to become a Timon, had plunged himself into the deepest caverns of the earth; and even there he was aware that in human nature there is something analogous to what is most rigid and uncouth. To the other, on the contrary, Makaria’s spirit gave an instance of the fact that as in the former case, tarrying, so in this case distant removal, is the attribute of gifted natures; and that it is necessary neither to penetrate to the centre of the earth, nor to remove beyond the limits of our solar system, but that they are already sufficiently occupied, and in particular made attentive to action and summoned to it. Upon and in the soil is found matter for the highest earthly requirements, a world full of material, handed over to the manipulation of man’s highest faculties; but upon that spiritual road sympathy, love and orderly free activity are always found. To reconcile these two worlds with one another, to make manifest their double-sided peculiarities in the passing phenomenon of life, is the highest form to which man can develop himself.
Hereupon the two friends made a contract, and undertook in any case not to conceal their experiences; for he who could smile at them as tales well suited for a romance, might still continue to regard them as a symbol of all that was most worthy to be desired.
The departure of Montan and his ladies soon followed, and if he and Lydia had been very welcome, yet the too-restless Philina was tiresome to a number of young ladies accustomed to repose and order, but particularly to the noble-minded Angela; moreover, several other circumstances combined to increase the discomfort.
We have already had occasion to remark that Angela did not fulfil as before the duty of attending and taking notes, but seemed to be otherwise occupied. To explain this anomaly in a person so given to order, and moving in the most refined of circles, we are compelled, late as it is, to introduce a new actor in this comprehensive drama.
Our old and tried merchant-friend Werner was compelled, with the growth, nay, with the so-to-say unlimited increase of his business, to look around for other assistants, whom, not without special previous testing, he attached more nearly to himself. Such a one he now sends to Makaria, to treat about the payment of important sums of money which this lady out of her large means determined and promised to devote to the new undertaking, with especial reference to her favorite Lenardo. The above-mentioned young man, now Werner’s assistant and partner, a lively natural youth, and a perfect phenomenon, recommends himself by a singular talent, an unlimited readiness at calculation in every case, and especially with the undertakers as they are now working together, when they must needs occupy themselves closely with calculations in the manifold senses of a business reckoning and ascertain their balance.
Even in daily society where, in discussion about matters of the world, the conversation is of numbers, sums, and balances, such a man must be in the highest degree welcome as a colleague. Moreover, he played the piano very gracefully—in which calculation, united and combined with an amiable natural disposition, is extremely helpful. The tones flow lightly and harmoniously together, but he often hints that he would also be at home in deeper regions; and thus he becomes most highly attractive whilst he says little, and scarcely a symptom of feelings transpires through his conversation. In any case he is younger than his years; something childlike might almost be attributed to him. And whatever else may be said of him, he has gained Angela’s favor, and she his, to Makaria’s great content, for she had long wished to see the noble girl married.
The latter, however, always thoughtful, and feeling how difficult it would be to fill her place, had already declined an offer of love from some one or other, and perhaps even done violence to a secret affection; but since a successor had been contemplated, nay, to some extent already appointed, she seems to have been taken unawares by a favorable impression, and to have resigned herself even passionately to it.
But we now reach the point of disclosing the most important thing, since all that has so long been our theme has little by little been shaped, resolved, and put into form again. Accordingly, it has been determined for the future that the Fair-good-one, otherwise called the Nut-brown Maid, shall attach herself to Makaria. The plan, submitted in a general sense to Lenardo, and also approved by him, is quite near to its execution: all the parties to it are agreed: the Fair-good-one: hands over all her property to her factotum. He marries the second daughter in the industrious family, and becomes the loomfitter’s brother-in-law. By this means the complete establishment of a factory with the aid of local and co-operative effort becomes possible, and the inhabitants of the labor-loving valley are busied in another and more lively fashion. Thus the amiable woman is made free; she comes to Makaria in Angela’s place, who is already betrothed to the young man above mentioned. Thus, for the moment, all is set straight; what cannot be decided remains in suspense.
But now the Fair-good-one desires that Wilhelm shall fetch her away; certain circumstances have still to be adjusted; and she sets a great value simply on this, that that which he in point of fact began, he shall complete. He first found her out, and a wonderful destiny set Lenardo upon his track; and now he—so she wishes—must lighten her departure, and so experience the pleasure, the satisfaction of having himself gathered up and knotted the ravelled threads of fate.
But now, in order to bring the spiritual, the moral, to a sort of completion, we must also reveal something more secret—in fact what follows: Lenardo had never made the slightest utterance about a closer connection with the Fair-good-one; but in the course of the negotiations, during the many messages to and fro, some inquiry had in a delicate way been made of her, as to how she would regard such a connection, and what, at any rate, if it should come to words, she would be inclined to do. From her reply could be gathered thus much, that she did not feel herself worthy to respond to such affection as that of her noble-minded friend by the bestowal of her divided self; kindness of such sort deserved a woman’s whole soul, all her faculties; but that she could not offer. The recollection of her lover, her husband, and the reciprocal union of both, was still so vivid within her, still occupied her whole being so completely, that no space for love and passion was conceivable, and that only the purest good-will, and on this occasion the most perfect gratitude, remained for her. With this they remained content, and as Lenardo had had no hand in the incident, it was not even necessary to give any explanation or answer about it.
A few general considerations will, it may be hoped, be in place here. The relation of all the foregoing personages to Makaria was confidential and reverent. They all felt the presence of a higher being, and yet in this presence every one retained the freedom of appearing quite in his own nature. Every one shows himself as he is, more than ever before parents and friends, with a certain confidence; for he has been enticed and prompted to bring to light only the good, the best that is in him; hence arose an almost general satisfaction.
But we cannot refrain from saying that, throughout these in some measure distracting circumstances, Makaria remained occupied with Lenardo’s position. She expressed herself on the subject to her intimates, to Angela and the astronomer. She believed that she plainly saw Lenardo’s mind before her. For the moment he is satisfied: the object of his solicitude is in the highest degree fortunate; Makaria had provided for the future in any circumstances. He had now to enter boldly upon and begin the great business, and leave the rest to the future and to fate. And here it might be supposed that he was chiefly fortified in this undertaking by the thought of summoning her over, if not even fetching her himself, as soon as ever he had established his footing.
Some general remarks cannot be withheld here. The strange case which here arose—passion developed from conscientiousness—was more closely observed. At the same time other instances of the wonderful transformation of impressions once received, the mysterious development of innate inclination and longing, were recalled: that in such cases there was little to be done was regretted, but it would be found in the highest degree advisable to keep as clear as possible, and not yield unconditionally to this or that connection.
But, this point reached, we cannot resist the temptation to communicate from our archives a paper which concerns Makaria and the special property which was bestowed on her mind. Unfortunately this memorandum was written from memory only some time after it was communicated, and is not, as would be desirable in so remarkable a case, to be looked upon as authentic. Be that as it may, however, so much is imparted here as will arouse reflection and recommend attention as to whether something similar or approximate has not been, somewhere or other, noted and recorded.