Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER IV. - 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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How strangely, after all this, with the sense so vividly impressed on her of mutability and perishableness, must Ottilie have been affected by the news which could not any longer be kept concealed from her, that Edward had exposed himself to the uncertain chances of war! Unhappily, none of the observations which she had occasion to make upon it escaped her. But it is well for us that man can only endure a certain degree of unhappiness; what is beyond that, either annihilates him, or passes by him, and leaves him apathetic. There are situations in which hope and fear run together, in which they mutually destroy one another, and lose themselves in a dull indifference. If it were not so, how could we bear to know of those who are most dear to us being in hourly peril, and yet go on as usual with our ordinary everyday life?
It was therefore as if some good genius was caring for Ottilie, that, all at once, this stillness, in which she seemed to be sinking from loneliness and want of occupation, was suddenly invaded by a wild army, which, while it gave her externally abundance of employment, and so took her out of herself, at the same time awoke in her the consciousness of her own power.
Charlotte’s daughter, Luciana, had scarcely left the school and gone out into the great world; scarcely had she found herself at her aunt’s house in the midst of a large society, than her anxiety to please produced its effect in really pleasing; and a young, very wealthy man, soon experienced a passionate desire to make her his own. His large property gave him a right to have the best of everything for his use, and nothing seemed to be wanting to him except a perfect wife, for whom, as for the rest of his good fortune, he should be the envy of the world.
This incident in her family had been for some time occupying Charlotte. It had engaged all her attention, and taken up her whole correspondence, except so far as this was directed to the obtaining news of Edward; so that latterly Ottilie had been left more than was usual to herself. She knew, indeed, of an intended visit from Luciana. She had been making various changes and arrangements in the house in preparation for it; but she had no notion that it was so near. Letters, she supposed, would first have to pass, settling the time, and then unsettling it; and then a final fixing: when the storm broke suddenly over the castle and over herself.
Up drove, first, lady’s maids and men-servants, their carriage loaded with trunks and boxes. The household was already swelled to double or to treble its size, and then appeared the visitors themselves. There was the great aunt, with Luciana and some of her friends; and then the bridegroom with some of his friends. The entrance-hall was full of things—bags, portmanteaus, and leather articles of every sort. The boxes had to be got out of their covers, and that was infinite trouble; and of luggage and of rummage there was no end. At intervals, moreover, there were violent showers, giving rise to much inconvenience. Ottilie encountered all this confusion with the easiest equanimity, and her happy talent showed in its fairest light. In a very little time she had brought things to order, and disposed of them. Every one found his room,—every one had his things exactly as he wished, and all thought themselves well attended to, because they were not prevented from attending on themselves.
The journey had been long and fatiguing, and they would all have been glad of a little rest after it. The bridegroom would have liked to pay his respects to his mother-in-law, express his pleasure, his gratitude, and so on. But Luciana could not rest. She had now arrived at the happiness of being able to mount a horse. The bridegroom had beautiful horses, and mount they must on the spot. Clouds and wind, rain and storm, they were nothing to Luciana, and now it was as if they only lived to get wet through, and to dry themselves again. If she took a fancy to go out walking, she never thought what sort of dress she had on, or what her shoes were like, she must go and see the grounds of which she had heard so much; what could not be done on horseback she ran through on foot. In a little while she had seen everything, and given her opinion about everything; and with such rapidity of character it was not easy to contradict or oppose her. The whole household had much to suffer, but most particularly the lady’s maids, who were at work from morning to night, washing, and ironing, and stitching.
As soon as she had exhausted the house and the park, she thought it was her duty to pay visits all round the neighborhood. As they rode and drove very fast, all round the neighborhood was a considerable distance. The castle was flooded with return visits, and that they might not miss one another, it soon came to days being fixed for them.
Charlotte, in the meantime, with her aunt, and the man of business of the bridegroom, were occupied in determining about the settlements, and it was left to Ottilie, with those under her, to take care that all this crowd of people were properly provided for. Game-keepers and gardeners, fishermen and shop-dealers were set in motion, Luciana always showing herself like the blazing nucleus of a comet with its long tail trailing behind it. The ordinary amusements of the parties soon became too insipid for her taste. Hardly would she leave the old people in peace at the card-table. Whoever could by any means be set moving (and who could resist the charm of being pressed by her into service?) must up, if not to dance, then to play at forfeits, or some other game, where they were to be victimized and tormented. Notwithstanding all that, however, and although afterwards the redemption of the forfeits had to be settled with herself, yet of those who played with her, never anyone, especially never any man, let him be of what sort he would, went quite empty-handed away. Indeed, some old people of rank who were there she succeeded in completely winning over to herself, by having contrived to find out their birthdays or christening days, and marking them with some particular celebration. In all this she showed a skill not a little remarkable. Every one saw himself favored, and each considered himself to be the one most favored, a weakness of which the oldest person of the party was the most notably guilty.
It seemed to be a sort of pride with her, that men who had anything remarkable about them—rank, character, or fame—she must and would gain for herself. Gravity and seriousness she made give way to her, and, wild strange creature as she was, she found favor even with discretion itself. Not that the young were at all cut short in consequence. Everybody had his share, his day, his hour, in which she contrived to charm and to enchain him. It was therefore natural enough that before long she should have had the architect in her eye, looking out so unconsciously as he did from under his long black hair, and standing so calm and quiet in the background. To all her questions she received short sensible answers; but he did not seem inclined to allow himself to be carried away further, and at last, half provoked, half in malice, she resolved that she would make him the hero of a day, and so gain him for her court.
It was not for nothing that she had brought that quantity of luggage with her. Much, indeed, had followed her afterwards. She had provided herself with an endless variety of dresses. When it took her fancy she would change her dress three or four times a day, usually wearing something of an ordinary kind, but making her appearance suddenly at intervals in a thorough masquerade dress, as a peasant girl or a fish maiden, as a fairy or a flower-girl; and this would go on from morning till night. Sometimes she would even disguise herself as an old woman, that her young face might peep out the fresher from under the cap; and so utterly in this way did she confuse and mix together the actual and the fantastic, that people thought they were living with a sort of drawing-room witch.
But the principal use which she had for these disguises were pantomimic tableaux and dances, in which she was skilful in expressing a variety of character. A cavalier in her suite had taught himself to accompany her action on the piano with the little music which was required; they needed only to exchange a few words and they at once understood one another.
One day, in a pause of a brilliant ball, they were called upon suddenly to extemporize (it was on a private hint from themselves) one of these exhibitions. Luciana seemed embarrassed, taken by surprise, and contrary to her custom let herself be asked more than once. She could not decide upon her character, desired the party to choose, and asked, like an improvisatore, for a subject. At last her piano-playing companion, with whom it had been all previously arranged, sat down at the instrument, and began to play a mourning march, calling on her to give them the Artemisia which she had been studying so admirably. She consented; and after a short absence reappeared, to the sad tender music of the dead march, in the form of the royal widow, with measured step, carrying an urn of ashes before her. A large black tablet was borne in after her, and a carefully cut piece of chalk in a gold pencil case.
One of her adorers and adjutants, into whose ear she whispered something, went directly to call the architect, to desire him, and if he would not come to drag him up, as master-builder, to draw the grave for the mausoleum, and to tell him at the same time that he was not to play the statist, but enter earnestly into his part as one of the performers.
Embarrassed as the architect outwardly appeared (for in his black, closefitting, modern civilian’s dress, he formed a wonderful contrast with the gauze crape fringes, tinsel tassels, and crown), he very soon composed himself internally, and the scene became all the more strange. With the greatest gravity he placed himself in front of the tablet, which was supported by a couple of pages, and drew carefully an elaborate tomb, which indeed would have suited better a Lombard than a Carian prince; but it was in such beautiful proportions, so solemn in its parts, so full of genius in its decoration, that the spectators watched it growing with delight, and wondered at it when it was finished.
All this time he had not once turned towards the queen, but had given his whole attention to what he was doing. At last he inclined his head before her, and signified that he believed he had now fulfilled her commands. She held the urn out to him, expressing her desire to see it represented on the top of the monument. He complied, although unwillingly, as it would not suit the character of the rest of his design. Luciana was now at last released from her impatience. Her intention had been by no means to get a scientific drawing out of him. If he had only made a few strokes, sketched out something which should have looked like a monument, and devoted the rest of his time to her, it would have been far more what she had wished, and would have pleased her a great deal better. His manner of proceeding had thrown her into the greatest embarrassment. For although in her sorrow, in her directions, in her gestures, in her approbation of the work as it slowly rose before her, she had tried to manage some sort of change of expression, and although she had hung about close to him, only to place herself in some sort of relation to him, yet he had kept himself throughout too stiff, so that too often she had been driven to take refuge with her urn; she had to press it to her heart and look up to heaven, and at last, a situation of that kind having a necessary tendency to intensify, she made herself more like a widow of Ephesus than a Queen of Caria. The representation had to lengthen itself out and became tedious. The pianoforte player, who had usually patience enough, did not know into what tune he could escape. He thanked God when he saw the urn standing on the pyramid, and fell involuntarily as the queen was going to express her gratitude, into a merry air; by which the whole thing lost its character, the company however being thoroughly cheered up by it, who forthwith divided, some going up to express their delight and admiration of the lady for her excellent performance, and some praising the architect for his most artist-like and beautiful drawing.
The bridegroom especially paid marked attention to the architect. “I am vexed,” he said, “that the drawing should be so perishable; you will permit me however to have it taken to my room, where I should much like to talk to you about it.”
“If it would give you any pleasure,” said the architect, “I can lay before you a number of highly finished designs for buildings and monuments of this kind, of which this is but a mere hasty sketch.”
Ottilie was standing at no great distance, and went up to them. “Do not forget,” she said to the architect, “to take an opportunity of letting the baron see your collection. He is a friend of art and of antiquity. I should like you to become better acquainted.”
Luciana was passing at the moment. “What are they speaking of?” she asked.
“Of a collection of works of art,” replied the baron, “which this gentleman possesses, and which he is good enough to say that he will show us.”
“Oh, let him bring them immediately,” cried Luciana; “you will bring them, will you not?” she added, in a soft and sweet tone, taking both his hands in hers.
“The present is scarcely a fitting time,” the architect answered.
“What!” Luciana cried, in a tone of authority; “you will not obey the command of your queen!” and then she begged him again with some piece of absurdity.
“Do not be obstinate,” said Ottilie, in a scarcely audible voice.
The architect left them with a bow, which said neither yes nor no.
He was hardly gone, when Luciana was flying up and down the saloon with a greyhound. “Alas!” she exclaimed, as she ran accidentally against her mother, “am I not an unfortunate creature? I have not brought my monkey with me. They told me I had better not; but I am sure it was nothing but the laziness of my people, and it is such a delight to me. But I will have it brought after me; somebody shall go and fetch it. If I could only see a picture of the dear creature, it would be a comfort to me; I certainly will have his picture taken, and it shall never be out of my sight.”
“Perhaps I can comfort you,” replied Charlotte. “There is a whole volume full of the most wonderful ape faces in the library, which you can have fetched if you like.”
Luciana shrieked for joy. The great folio was produced instantly. The sight of these hideous creatures, so like to men, and with the resemblance even more caricatured by the artist, gave Luciana the greatest delight. Her amusement with each of the animals was to find some one of her acquaintance whom it resembled. “Is that not like my uncle?” she remorselessly exclaimed; “and here, look, here is my milliner M., and here is Parson S., and here the image of that creature — bodily! After all, these monkeys are the real incroyables, and it is inconceivable why they are not admitted into the best society.”
It was in the best society that she said this, and yet no one took it ill of her. People had become accustomed to allow her so many liberties in her prettinesses, that at last they came to allow them in what was unpretty.
During this time, Ottilie was talking to the bridegroom; she was looking anxiously for the return of the architect, whose serious and tasteful collection was to deliver the party from the apes; and in the expectation of it, she had made it the subject of her conversation with the baron, and directed his attention on various things which he was to see. But the architect stayed away, and when at last he made his appearance, he lost himself in the crowd, without having brought anything with him, and without seeming as if he had been asked for anything.
For a moment Ottilie became—what shall we call it?—annoyed, put out, perplexed. She had been saying so much about him—she had promised the bridegroom an hour of enjoyment after his own heart; and with all the depth of his love for Luciana, he was evidently suffering from her present behavior.
The monkeys had to give place to a collation. Round games followed, and then more dancing; at last, a general uneasy vacancy, with fruitless attempts at resuscitating exhausted amusements, which lasted this time, as indeed they usually did, far beyond midnight. It had already become a habit with Luciana to be never able to get out of bed in the morning or into it at night.
About this time, the incidents noticed in Ottilie’s diary become more rare, while we find a larger number of maxims and sentences drawn from life and relating to life. It is not conceivable that the larger proportion of these could have arisen from her own reflection, and most likely some one had shown her varieties of them, and she had written out what took her fancy. Many, however, with an internal bearing, can be easily recognized by the red thread.
FROM OTTILIE’S DIARY.
“We like to look into the future, because the undetermined in it, which may be affected this or that way, we feel as if we could guide by our silent wishes in our own favor.”
“We seldom find ourselves in a large party without thinking, the accident which brings so many here together should bring our friends to us as well.”
“Let us live in as small a circle as we will, we are either debtors or creditors before we have had time to look round.”
“If we meet a person who is under an obligation to us, we remember it immediately. But how often may we meet people to whom we are ourselves under obligation without its even occurring to us!”
“It is nature to communicate one’s self; it is culture to receive what is communicated as it is given.”
“No one would talk much in society, if he only knew how often he misunderstands others.”
“One alters so much what one has heard from others in repeating it, only because one has not understood it.”
“Whoever indulges long in monologue in the presence of others, without flattering his listeners, provokes ill-will.”
“Every word a man utters provokes the opposite opinion.”
“Argument and flattery are but poor elements out of which to form a conversation.”
“The pleasantest society is when the members of it have an easy and natural respect for one another.”
“There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they find to laugh at.”
“The ridiculous arises out of a moral contrast, in which two things are brought together before the mind in an innocent way.”
“The foolish man often laughs where there is nothing to laugh at. Whatever touches him, his inner nature comes to the surface.”
“The man of understanding finds almost everything ridiculous; the man of thought scarcely anything.”
“Some one found fault with an elderly man for continuing to pay attention to young ladies. ‘It is the only means,’ he replied, ‘of keeping one’s self young, and everybody likes to do that.’ ”
“People will allow their faults to be shown them; they will let themselves be punished for them; they will patiently endure many things because of them; they only become impatient when they have to lay them aside.”
“Certain defects are necessary for the existence of individuality. We should not be pleased, if old friends were to lay aside certain peculiarities.”
“There is a saying, ‘He will die soon,’ when a man acts unlike himself.”
“What kind of defects may we bear with and even cultivate in ourselves? Such as rather give pleasure to others than injure them.”
“The passions are defects or excellencies only in excess.”
“Our passions are true phœnixes: as the old burn out, the new straight rise up out of the ashes.”
“Violent passions are incurable diseases; the means which will cure them are what first make them thoroughly dangerous.”
“Passion is both raised and softened by confession. In nothing, perhaps, were the middle way more desirable than in knowing what to say and what not to say to those we love.”