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Perhaps the Germany of the enlightened despots , he may have thought, might offer a better theatre for his talents. But through the autumn he waited in vain for the coach Charles Augustus had promised to send to collect him, and by agreement with his father he set out instead for Italy.

Just after he had left, the long-awaited coach arrived, chased after him, and caught up with him in Heidelberg. All his plans were changed, and he arrived in Weimar on November 7. Eleven years were to pass before the journey to Italy was completed. In Weimar Goethe could take a role in public affairs that in Frankfurt would have been open to him only after 40 years, if then. It was soon clear that more was wanted of him than supplying a passing visit from a fashionable personality. The duke bought him a cottage and garden just outside the city walls and paid for them to be restored.

Although at first Goethe had few duties beyond accompanying Charles Augustus and arranging court entertainments, he soon began to accumulate more prosaic responsibilities and was, initially at least, motivated by the idea of a reformed principality governed, in accordance with Enlightenment principles, for the benefit of all its subjects and not just of the landowning nobility.

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Weimar, which consisted mainly of large tracts of the Thuringian Forest , had almost no industry and few natural resources, but in the hills near Ilmenau there had once been a silver mine, and Charles Augustus entrusted to Goethe his ambition to get it working again. For over 20 years Goethe struggled—preparing the legal work, getting together shareholders, equipment, and expert staff, informing himself about mining and geology—only to be defeated by repeated flooding of the shafts and, most decisively, by the poor quality of the ore that was eventually recovered.

This post made him virtually—though not in fact—prime minister and the principal representative of the duchy in the increasingly complex diplomatic affairs in which Charles Augustus was at the time involving himself. Goethe was attracted to the world of the court. He felt destined for her even before he met her, and, for 10 years during which they were lovers in everything except a physical sense, he allowed her to exercise over him an extraordinary fascination.

With his ennoblement Goethe might be thought to have reached the pinnacle of his career. However, his literary output had begun to suffer. Until he continued to produce original and substantial works, particularly, in , a prose drama in a quite new manner, Iphigenie auf Tauris Iphigenia in Tauris , which shows the healing process he attributed to the influence of Frau von Stein in the context of an emotionally charged brother-and-sister relationship and as a profound moral and theological reeducation.

Thereafter, however, he found it increasingly difficult to complete anything, and the flow of poetry, which had been getting thinner, all but dried up.

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He kept himself going as a writer by forcing himself to write one book of a novel, Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung The Theatrical Mission of Wilhelm Meister , each year until In a rough-and-tumble, ironic way, reminiscent of the English novelist Henry Fielding , it tells the story of a gifted young man who aims for stardom in a reformed German national theatrical culture. For 10 years Goethe turned away completely from publishing; the last lengthy work of his to be printed before the silence was Stella in Goethe was never entirely at ease in his role of Weimar courtier and official.

In December , uncertain whether staying in Weimar with increasing responsibilities was compatible with his literary vocation, he set off secretly to the Brocken, the highest summit in the Harz Mountains and the centre of much superstitious folklore, and determined that if he could climb it when it was already deep in snow—something no one had attempted in living memory—he would take this as a sign that he was on the right path.

In he decided to mark his 30th birthday and his entry on more serious official duties with a long trip to Switzerland in the company of Charles Augustus. For a second time he came to the St. Gotthard Pass, where he once more turned away from the road to Italy so as to pursue his duty in Germany, hoping that events would show his life was coherent and he was doing the right thing. By , however, that hope had worn thin.

In that year Goethe withdrew from the Privy Council and his most onerous responsibilities in the ducal Exchequer, with little to show for all his effort and with fundamental reform out of the question. His 40th birthday was coming into sight, and he was still unmarried. Worst of all, perhaps, his extra leisure seemed unable to revive his poetic vein. He had become increasingly interested in natural science: in geology, because of his work on the mines he thought he could define the basic structure of rocks as rhomboidal and crystalline , and in anatomy , for the light it shed on the continuity between humans and other animals.


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From onward he was also interested in botany. But these were substitutes for his literary activity, and, though some of the professors in the local university at Jena showed a polite interest, he could not achieve in science the recognition he had won in poetry. He would travel incognito, breaking, if only temporarily, all his ties with Weimar—even with Frau von Stein—and taking with him only the task of preparing his eight volumes for publication. The warm autumn, the scenery around Lake Garda , and the architecture of Andrea Palladio promised to fulfill all his hopes.

There may also have been some unsatisfactory encounters with prostitutes, his first sexual relations in many years, if not in his life. But his real aim was to reach Rome, the centre of the civilized world and origin of the Holy Roman Empire; the Eternal City had become a symbolic goal for him, like the Brocken or the St. Gotthard Pass, and he expected from it some crowning revelation.

On October 29 he arrived at last, only to find its ruinous state a painful disappointment. After finishing the rewriting of Iphigenia , which he was putting into blank verse before publishing it, and after sitting for what has become his best-known portrait by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein , he decided in the spring of to move on to Naples, as his father had done before him. As a geologist, Goethe climbed Vesuvius; as a connoisseur of ancient art, he visited Pompeii and Herculaneum.

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But none of this could provide the culmination that Goethe had failed to find in Rome. Goethe never went to mainland Greece, but in Sicily he thought he had seen the setting of Greek culture, and with some justification. He circled the island from Palermo, seeing the unfinished Doric temple at Segesta and the ruins of ancient Agrigentum, cutting across the interior to see Enna where, according to myth , Proserpine was taken down into Hades , visiting the Greek amphitheatre at Taormina, and climbing one of the lesser peaks of Mount Etna , the place where the philosopher Empedocles was said to have ended his life.

During this tour he drafted some scenes for a drama, Nausikaa , which was never completed but contains some of his most beautiful verse, evocative of the Mediterranean islands and, flitting about them, the almost audible ghosts of Classical antiquity. From Messina he returned to Naples, from which he visited the best-preserved of all Doric temples, at Paestum.

He left Naples in June expecting to pass quickly through Rome and to be in Frankfurt in August to spend the last months of his leave with his mother. What Goethe came to value most about this time, though, was not the opportunity of seeing ancient and Renaissance works of art and architecture firsthand but rather the opportunity of living as nearly as possible what he thought of as the ancient way of life, experiencing the benign climate and fertile setting in which human beings and nature were in harmony.

He was also pretending to be one of the colony of expatriate German artists in Rome he was particularly friendly with the Swiss-born painter Angelica Kauffmann and arranging there with a young widow of whom little is known his first protracted sexual liaison. His return to Weimar in June was extremely reluctant. She bore Goethe a son, August, on December 25, She was a busy and very competent housewife, but Weimar aristocratic society was merciless to her and grew suspicious of her lover.

Goethe refused to undergo the church ceremony that was the only way of being legally married, and so her very existence could not formally be acknowledged. Frau von Stein suffered a kind of nervous collapse, and all but the most superficial communication between her and Goethe ceased. In literary terms the Italian journey had not been a particularly successful time: Egmont had been completed, though with a shift of focus that blurred its political point, and some minor plays had been rewritten and ruined in the process. Almost no lyric poems had been written.

His misery at leaving Italy found an outlet in the play Torquato Tasso ; Eng. Torquato Tasso , the first tragedy in European literature with a poet as its hero, which was written largely in —89, though it had been begun in In richly plangent verse but at inordinately untheatrical length, Tasso descends into madness, uncomprehended by the court around him.

In old age Goethe acknowledged the closeness of this story of self-destruction to that of Werther. The erotic poems Goethe wrote in the first months of his love for Christiane, some of the earliest German imitations of Classical elegiac couplets, are among his most remarkable achievements. By his 40th birthday, in , Goethe had all but completed the collected edition of his works, including a revision of Werther , 16 plays, and a volume of poems.

The only fragmentary drama it contained was Faust , which he saw no chance yet of finishing and which appeared in print for the first time in as Faust: Ein Fragment. Together with some of the shorter poems on Christiane, they appeared in in the collection now known as the Venetianische Epigramme Venetian Epigrams. The years from to were lonely years for Goethe.

But outside the house, apart from Herder, who was increasingly disenchanted with Weimar, his only close friend was the duke.

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He was lucky to survive the disastrous retreat from Valmy, in France, and to return home in December , but he was back on campaign in , observing the siege and virtual destruction of French-occupied Mainz. As a reward for his loyal support, Charles Augustus presented him with the freehold of the house on the Frauenplan in Weimar, which he remodelled into the form that has been preserved to the present day and which now also houses the Goethe National Museum.

But within the federal and feudal structure he thought established authority had an overriding right and duty to impose order, and he had little interest in procedures of representation or theories of the popular will. The creed was subtle, pragmatic , and benevolently paternalist, but it would be a travesty to see Goethe as a servile courtier or unprincipled egoist, though many have seen him in this light during his lifetime and afterward.

After the remarkable effort of completing his collected edition, Goethe seems not to have known where to go next as a poet. Perhaps by way of compensation for his lack of literary success, he turned to science.

Career at Bückeburg

He also began to try to apply the same principle to anatomy in order to explain the skeletal development of vertebrates. In , however, a completely new scientific issue began to obsess him: the theory of colour. Convinced that Sir Isaac Newton was wrong to assume that white light could be broken into light of different colours, Goethe proposed a new approach of his own. Colour was to be seen as emerging from the mingling of light and darkness. Later, however, he saw that it is of the essence of colour to require cooperation between the physical behaviour of light and the human perceptual apparatus.

In making this change to what one might call a more subjective science, Goethe was greatly helped by his study of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant , which was completely transforming the German intellectual landscape and was in particular being vigorously furthered in the University of Jena. The German Refugees , which were found tedious, and the Roman Elegies , which were found scandalous, and serialized a translation of the autobiography of Florentine Mannerist artist Benvenuto Cellini , which was acceptable but unexciting.

Schiller soon lost interest in the journal, which ceased publication after three years.

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Perhaps it had served its purpose simply by initiating the collaboration with Goethe, which was closer, longer, and on a higher level than any comparable friendship in world literature. Both profited incalculably from the relationship. The rewriting was therefore an immensely demanding task, but, as it came to an end, Goethe seemed to get a second wind. In the autumn he began an epic in the Homeric manner but set in contemporary Germany and dealing with the response of ordinary small-town people to the French Revolution and the associated wars: Herrmann und Dorothea , published in , one of the most successful and lucrative of his works.

A second hexameter epic, on the subject of Achilles , did not get beyond the first canto. With these Goethe returned to rhymed verse on a grand scale after some 10 years of writing in Classical metres and blank verse. At the same time, he took up again his great play in rhymed verse, Faust , and worked on it as the mood took him over the next five years. He decided probably in to divide it into two parts, of which the first at least could be completed soon, since it would cover all that he had so far written and required merely that certain gaps be filled.

Ever since the Italian journey, Goethe had thought of Weimar as a place where Classical culture might be brought to life once more. On a far grander scale, Goethe had been directing the rebuilding of the ducal palace, destroyed by fire in the exterior was unostentatious, but the interior decor was one of the earliest examples of the full Neoclassical style in Germany and had a lasting influence. But it was becoming obvious that the new world which had begun with the French Revolution in was going to make it ever more difficult to recover the spirit of antiquity.

Because Napoleon had forced Pope Pius VI to dispatch to Paris his best works of art, Goethe would not have found the Italy he had sought in anyway. Goethe never again set out to cross the Alps but accepted that everything that Italy had come to stand for in his mind—as the place of classic human perfection, in nature and in art—could be only an ideal to inspire him: he could not expect to experience it again as part of his normal life.

Goethe recognized that the modern world is not a Classical world, but he was also certain that the Classical ideal was infinitely superior to anything his contemporaries could offer. It lasted only two years, but in , to carry on its work, he inaugurated a series of art competitions in which subjects from Classical antiquity were judged according to a rigid canon opposed to the great changes then taking place in German art, especially in landscape and religious painting. On the other hand, he thought that the Classical world was the only true ideal and that the modern world was therefore profoundly misguided.

Something of this new understanding went into his recasting of Faust , and Faust, as the representative of modern man, took on some of the characteristics of a philosophical idealist. In it the French Revolution appears as the enemy of beauty and as inaugurating a new age in which the Classical world will survive in middle-class culture rather than in the courts that in the 18th century had been its home.

Goethe had taken on the management of the Weimar court theatre in , had it rebuilt to his own design in , and thereafter put on first or early performances of seven major plays by Schiller in six years. But by the high point of classical Weimar culture had passed. That summer saw the opening of the new ducal palace, but it also saw the first effects of the Napoleonic reorganization of Germany, which had been set in motion by the Final Recess Hauptschluss drawn up by a committee of princes, the Reichsdeputation, earlier that year.

One result was that the University of Jena lost many of its most distinguished professors, including Schelling, to newer and wealthier institutions elsewhere. Jena never again rose to the dominant position it had enjoyed in the s. In December Herder died, and in early Schiller and Goethe both fell seriously ill.

Early life and travels

Schiller died. Goethe responded to the death of Schiller by winding up the projects that had dominated his middle years. War, however, delayed publication of Faust until Christiane showed great courage in keeping control of the soldiers billeted with the family, and, probably in order to secure her position in these dangerous days, Goethe formally married her in the vestry of the court church five days after the battle.

In an obvious reaction against this decision finally to commit himself, Goethe shortly afterward fell briefly and passionately in love with an unremarkable young lady, Wilhelmine Herzlieb, extricating himself from the entanglement only with considerable pain. The period after the death of Schiller and the Battle of Jena was at first a sombre one.

Elective Affinities purports to tell a Romantic story of the conflict between social conventions and passion—or Fate, or animal magnetism , or chemical affinity all explanations are canvassed —in the lives of four comfortable and cultivated people. Through the refractive medium of an exceptionally misleading narration, however, we glimpse a much bleaker world in which moral choice is hard, in which there are no consolations, and in which Romantic paraphernalia—whether speculative science, artistic medievalism, or landscape gardening—is a delusive distraction.

The years to were, however, a disturbed period during which no visits to Carlsbad took place. He had to be pleased that the Treaty of Paris signed in provided for the works of art looted from Italy to be returned, but he was no friend of reaction, whether political or cultural. Alienation from the modern age is the undertone in all his work of this period, which branches out in three very different directions.

He also approved of the plan to complete the unfinished cathedral in Cologne according to the rediscovered original drawings.


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But his friends did not immediately appreciate that Goethe might recognize a past achievement but still not think it a suitable ideal to inspire the contemporary artist. He started to write verse of his own in the style of the translation. Poems of the East and West. Goethe was fleeing from the upheavals of his own time. But in he was cruelly reminded that he could not flee present reality entirely.


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His wife died in June, probably of epilepsy. He abandoned a third visit to the Rhineland, and after only very few poems were added to the Divan , which was published in He had to make a new will and could see his 70th birthday approaching. The period until was one of tidying up at the end of life. He also took up a new scientific interest, meteorology.

One more crisis remained. In Goethe resumed his summer visits to Bohemia. Goethe stayed in Weimar and its immediate surroundings for the rest of his life. It was a final stage of renunciation, an acknowledgement of the reality of passing time and strength and life.

It premiered April 2, , in Vienna. Compared to other Beethoven symphonies, this symphony sounds the tamest. However, when it premiered, imagine how the audience reacted. After all, they were used to hearing the purely classical styles of Haydn and Mozart. They must have been shocked to hear the piece begin on a dissonant chord. Beethoven laid the ground for this symphony at least three years before its completion in This was a dramatic time for Beethoven, as his hearing was quickly diminishing.

Others believe the opposite: not every composer writes music set to their own inner-struggles; Beethoven was almost suicidal because of his hearing. The Eroica Symphony was first performed privately in early August It is clear that the performance was not as well accepted or understood as the composer would have liked.

Others said that the work merely illustrated a striving for originality that did not come off. While Beethoven was composing his famous 5th Symphony, he set it aside to work on a symphonic commission he received from the Sicilian Count, Oppersdorff. Much is unknown why he set it aside; perhaps it was too heavy and dramatic for the count's liking. As a result, Symphony No. Composed during , Beethoven premiered Symphony No.

Its opening four notes are far from being indistinguishable. When Symphony No.