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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe


May 15.

I AM already very much known and beloved by the common people here, particularly the children. At first when I took notice of them and spoke to them, they answered me rather roughly, and thought I meant to insult them. However, I was not discouraged; but I found the truth of an observation I had often made before -- that people of condition keep their inferiors at a great dis- {9} tance, as if they could lose their dignity by coming near them. It is only a schoolboy's wantonness, or very poor pretence to wit, which could possibly make any body attest to descend to the same level with their inferiors, in order afterwards to treat them with contempt and ridicule. I know that we are not, nor cannot be all equal; but whoever keeps aloof from the people, in order to gain respect, I look upon as a coward, who hides himself lest he should not be able to stand before his adversary.

The last time I was at the fountain, I found a young woman on the steps, with her pail standing by her, waiting till somebody came who might help to put it on her head. "Shall I help you, my dear?" I said. "Oh! no! Sir, " she answered, colouring. "Make no ceremony," said I, and helped her to lift the pail; she thanked me, and went up the steps.