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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe



January 8, 1772.

WHAT men are these! -- Form occupies their whole souls: they can employ their time and thoughts for a whole year together, in contriving how to get nearer, by one chair only, to the upper end of the table. -- And don't call it idleness; for on the contrary they increase their labour, by giving to these trifles the time they ought to employ in business. Last week, in a party upon the ice in sledges, there was a dispute for precedence, and the party was immediately broken up.

The idiots! they do not see that 'tis not the place which constitutes real greatness: the man who enjoys the highest post very rarely acts the principal part; many a king is governed by his minister, and many a minister by his secretary. Who is in that cafe to be accounted {120} the first, and chief? Is it not the man who has the power or the address to make the passions of others subservient to his own designs?