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GOETHE'S FARBENLEHRE.

scientific character.[1] Before a writer permits himself to use words such as these, he should be very sure that he has firm ground under his feet; and even then it would be better to leave them unsaid. There is nothing in any line of scientific research to make a man of undoubted learning and ability forget the courtesy which he owes to another.

 

GOETHE'S FARBENLEHRE-(THEORY OF COLORS).[2]
By Professor JOHN TYNDALL, F. R. S.
I.

IN the days of my youth, when life was strong and aspiration high, I found myself standing one fine summer evening beside a statue of Goethe in a German city. Following the current of thought and feeling started by the associations of the place, I eventually came to the conclusion that, judging even from a purely utilitarian point of view, a truly noble work of art was the most suitable memorial for a great man. Such a work appeared to me capable of exciting a motive force within the mind which no purely material influence could generate. There was then labor before me of the most arduous kind. There were formidable practical difficulties to be overcome, and very small means wherewith to overcome them, and yet I felt that no material means could, as regards the task I had undertaken, plant within me a resolve comparable with that which the contemplation of this statue of Goethe was able to arouse.

My reverence for the poet had been awakened by the writings of Mr. Carlyle, and it was afterward confirmed and consolidated by the writings of Goethe himself. But there was one of the poet's works, which, though it lay directly in the line of my own studies, remained for a long time only imperfectly known to me. My opinion of that work was not formed on hearsay. I dipped into it so far as to make myself acquainted with its style, its logic, and its general aim; but having done this I laid it aside, as something which jarred upon my conception of Goethe's grandeur. The mind willingly rounds off the image which it venerates, and only acknowledges with reluctance that it is on any side incomplete; and believing that Goethe in the "Farbenlehre" was wrong in his intellectual, and perverse in his moral judgments—seeing, above all things, that he had forsaken the lofty impersonal calm which was his chief characteristic, and which had entered into my conception of the godlike in literature—I abandoned

  1. "Studies," etc., pp. 360, 371.
  2. A discourse delivered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, on Friday evening, March 19, 1880.