Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/Goethe and Frederika Brion


It was in the spring of 1770 that young Wolfgang Goethe arrived in Strasburg to study Jurisprudence in the then famous University[1] of Strasburg. During the first six months of his student life in Strasburg he lived merrily, joining heartily in the pleasure parties of his Strasburg friends. On the twenty-eighth of August of the above-named year young Goethe completed his twenty-first year. Nature had endowed him with uncommon beauty of face and figure, a warm temperament, and a lively imagination. He felt within him a fund of passion and sentiment which yearned for a vent. The surrounding landscape appeared to him a picture which knit itself to his inmost being. There throbbed within him a craving for the pleasurable sensations which woman’s love can give. He had already had some experience in love affairs. When a student at Leipzig he had won the heart of Anna Katherine Schönkopf. He had purposely tormented her, and she, after a patient endurance of his cruel sport, had broken loose from him, had conceived a strong dislike Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/374 Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/375 Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/376 dictated walking up and down the room with his hands behind him, but at this episode he often stopped in his walk and paused in his dictation; then after a long silence followed by a deep sigh he continued the narrative in a lower tone.

Goethe and Frederika were to see each other once more. It is in the autumn of 1779. Goethe has become a privy counsellor and is travelling with his patron the Grand Duke of Weimar to Switzerland. Ho is now, more over, the world-famous author of "Gotz von Berlichingen" and the "Sorrows of Werther." Surrounded by this double halo of literary glory and social eminence, he was emboldened to "look up" Frederika and Lili. His account of his visit to these two ladies is preserved in a letter—to the Frau von Stein! We will give his report of his interview with the Brions.

"On the twenty-fifth (September), in the evening, I rode somewhat in an oblique direction to Sesenheim while the others continued their journey, and found there a family group as I had left them eight years previously, and was greeted in a most kind and friendly manner. As I am now as pure and still as the zephyr, the atmosphere of good and quiet people is highly welcome to me. The second daughter of the house had loved me more exquisitely than I deserved, and more than others to whom I have given much passion and fidelity. [This is an allusion to his correspondent!] I was obliged to leave her at a moment when it almost cost her her life. She passed

The old Parsonage at Sesonheim.

lightly over this to tell me of what remained to her of an illness of that time, conducted herself in the most charming manner, with such hearty friendship from the first moment when I unexpectedly came face to face with her on the threshold, that I was quite at my ease. I must also say of her that she did not make the slightest attempt to awaken in my soul the old sensation. She led me into both bowers and I was compelled to sit there, and it gave me pleasure. We had the most beautiful full moon. I enquired after everybody. A neighbour, who had formerly helped us carpenter, was called in and testified that he had asked after me only a week previously. The barber was also invited and came. I found old songs which I had composed, a carriage which I had painted. We recalled many tricks of that good time, and I found their souvenirs of me as lively as if I had only been away six months. The old people were cordial, they thought I had grown younger. I stayed the night there and took leave the next morning at sunrise, saluted by friendly looks, so that I can now once more think with satisfaction on this little comer of the world and live internally in peace with the spirits of these reconciled ones."

A part of the conversation with Frederika related to poor Lenz. Goethe writes in the "Biographische Einzelnheiten" as follows:—

"Lenz had introduced himself to the family after my departure and tried to learn concerning me as much as he could, until she (Frederika) Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/378 Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/379

  1. The university fell to the ground during the troubles of the French Revolution. It is now represented by the Protestant Seminary.