Goethe 1749 - 1832 (83)

Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.


The Sorrows

of Young Werther

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Frankfurt, August 28, 1749 - Weimar, March 22, 1832) was a German author, poet, philosopher, painter, scientist and statesman. His family was one of the wealthiest in Frankfurt and offered him a domiciliary multidisciplinary education with an emphasis on classical authors and languages. Johan from a young age displayed an inclination towards literature and theater, he loved painting and Ancient Greece. At the age of 15 he wrote his first poem, which was then destroyed. In 1765 he started studying law at Leipzig university as his father wished; at the same time he was experimenting with visual arts. In 1768 he took his degree in law and since 1771 he was working as a lawyer. Overwhelmed by the suicide of a friend, in 1774 he wrote "The passions of young Werther", the poem that made him famous throughout Europe. In 1775, he was called by Duke Carl August in Weimar, where he undertook several government positions, from consultant to minister. In 1776 he started an affair with Charlotte von Stein which lasted ten years. In 1786, all of a sudden, he left her and went to Italy. He wandered the country for about two years, which had a significant impact on his aesthetic and philosophical thought. The "Journey to Italy" was written of this journey, recounting the first year of the trip with details, hiding for some reason thoroughly the second; it is a classic work and influenced many young Germans to follow his example and travel to Italy in search of the ancient Greek and Roman architecture and philosophy.

After his trip to Italy he returned to Weimar and in late 1792 he took part in the battle of Valmy, helping Duke of Weimar during the failed invasion of France. Later he helped him again, as a military observer during the siege of Mainz. In 1806, Goethe was living in Weimar with his mistress and their son -their other children had died prematurely- when Napoleon's troops invaded the city and eventually some of the soldiers occupied Goethe’s house. He wrote about that night: Fires, looting, a terrible night, we managed to keep our house only through perseverance and our good fortune". Next day he formalized his 18-year relationship with Christiane in a quiet wedding ceremony. Christiane died after 10 years, Goethe had many relationships after her death, one of which, with Ulrike von Levetzow, came close to a marriage; her mother managed to stop it. All these years Goethe was devoted to literature, his greatest creation was Faust, which was completed in two volumes a year before his death, while his autobiography "Poetry and Truth" is one of the masterpieces in German language.

He died in 1832 in Weimar from heart failure. His last word according to his doctor was: "Light, more light." We do not know if he meant more light for humanity or he wanted the curtains to be opened because he could not see well.