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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe


August 15.

IT is most certain that what renders one man necessary to another, is a familiarity of taste and sentiment. I see that Charlotte would not lose me without regret; and as to the children, they every day ask me to come again on the morrow. I went this afternoon to tune Charlotte's harpsichord: but I could not contrive to do it; all the children came about me, and asked me to tell them a story. Charlotte was desirous that I should please them, and I told my very best tale of the prince that was served by dwarfs. I improve by this exercise {88} myself, I assure you, and am quite surprised at the impression these stories make upon the children. If I invent an incident at any time, and afterwards omit it, the little arch rogues never fail to tell me, it was not so the first time; so that I now endeavour to relate with great exactness, and without any pauses, and in a tone of voice that is almost recitative. I see by this how much an author hurts his works by altering them even for the better. The first impression is readily received. A man will believe the incredible, it will be engraved on his memory; and woe unto those who would afterwards endeavour to efface it.