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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe



May 17.

I HAVE made many acquaintance here; but I have as yet no society. I don't know what it is in me that can attract the inhabitants of this city; but they seek me, attach themselves to me, and then I am sorry that I can go no further with them. You ask me, what sort of people are they here? Just such, my dear friend, as are to be met with every where else. Men are much the same. The generality are forced to labour the greatest part of their time, merely to procure nourishment; and the small portion that remains is so irksome to them, that they are contriving to get rid of it. Such is the lot of man!

However, there is a sort of people, very good, and very amiable, with whom I often forget myself, and am dissipated enough to enjoy a great deal of that plea- {11} sure which is natural to us. A chearful meal, a neat table, gaiety with frankness and openness of heart, a walk, a dance, and other little amusements in their company, have a good effect on my disposition: but then it is necessary that I should forget those other qualities in me which lie dormant, useless; and which I am even obliged carefully to conceal from them. Alas! this idea sinks my spirits! and yet, my dear friend, 'tis the fate of all that are like me, not to be understood.

Why have I no longer the friend of my youth? or why did I ever know her? I might say to myself, "Werter, it is a vain pursuit; thou art seeking what is not to be found!" But I had found it: I did find and know an exalted mind, which raised me beyond myself, and made me all that I am capable of being. All the powers of my soul were extended, and the deep sentiment which nature engraved on my heart was unfolded. What an intercourse! Our ideas, our expressions, were {12} those of nature; and the purest affection warmed our hearts: and now -- but she was before me in the career; she is gone, and has left me alone in the world. Her memory will be ever dear to my heart. Oh! I can never forget the strength of her mind, and the indulgence of her temper.

A few days since I met with Mr. V. an agreeable young man, with a very pleasing countenance. He is lately come from the university; and does not think himself a prodigy, though he may perhaps see his superiority to many he meets with. Indeed he appears to have applied a good deal, and has acquired much knowledge. Having heard that I understood Greek, and could draw (two very extraordinary things in this country) he came immediately to see me, and displayed his whole stock of literature, from Batteux to Wood, and from DePiles to Winkelmann; assured me he had read all the first part of Sultzer's theory, and was in possession of a {13} manuscript of De Heyne's on the study of the Antique. I forgave him all this.

I am become acquainted too with a very worthy man, who is steward to the prince. He is free and open in his manner, and loves society. I am told that nothing is more pleasing than to see him surrounded by his family. He has nine children; and the eldest daughter is much talked about and admired. He gave me an invitation to his house, and I intend going the first opportunity. He is about a league and a half from hence, at a hunting-lodge which the prince gave him leave to inhabit, after the loss of his wife: he loved her extremely; and could not bear to continue in the steward's house, where she died.

I have besides fallen in with some ridiculous people, or rather they have put themselves in my way. Every thing in them is insupportable: but worst of all are their professions of friendship. Adieu. {14} I think this letter must please you; it is all historical.