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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe



March 15.

I HAVE just had an adventure which will drive me from hence: I lose all patience. -- Death! -- it is not to be remedied: and you only are the cause of all this; -- you that drove me on, and urged and tormented me; -- you that made me take an employment I am by no means fit for. I have great reason now to be satisfied -- so have you! But, that I may not again be told, that the impetuosity of my temper ruins every thing, I here send you, Sir, a plain and simple narration of the affair, as any mere chronicler of facts would relate it.

The Count of O---- likes me, distinguishes me; it is known that he does; I have mentioned it to you a hundred times. Yesterday I dined with him; it was the day on which all the nobility met at his {127} house. I never would have dreamed of the assembly, nor that we subalterns were excluded. In short, I dined with the Count, and after dinner we went into the hall, and talked, and walked backwards and forwards. -- Colonel B. who came in, joined in the conversation, and the time passed away till the company came. God knows, I was thinking of nothing! when entered the right noble and right honourable Lady of T----, accompanied by her husband and their silly daughter with her small waist and flat neck; with disdainful looks and a haughty air they passed by me. As I hate the whole race, I intended to go away, and was only waiting till the Count had disengaged himself from their impertinent prate, to take leave, when the agreeable Miss B. came in. As I never see her but with pleasure, I stayed and talked to her, leaning over the back of her chair, and did not perceive till after some time that she seemed a little confused, and did not speak to me with her usual ease of {128} manner. I was struck with it. "Heavens!" said I to myself, "can she too be like all the rest?" I was angry , and going to withdraw; but the desire of examining further into this matter kept me. The rest of the company came. I saw the Baron F---- enter with the same coat that he wore at the coronation of Francis the first; the Chancellor, and his wife, who is old and deaf; the Count of I----, whose Gothic dress made a still greater contrast to our modern coats, &c. &c. I spoke to those that I knew amongst them; they were all laconic in their answers. I was taken up with observing Miss B. and did not see that the women were whispering at the end of the room, and that by degrees the same whispering and murmuring got round amongst the men, and that Madame S. was speaking with great warmth to the Count -- (this I have since learnt from Miss B.) -- At length the Count came up to me and took me to the window -- "You know our ridiculous {129} customs," he said; "I perceive the company is rather displeased at your being here: I would not upon any account--" "I beg your excellency's pardon; I ought to have thought of it before: but I know you will excuse this little inattention. I was going," I added, "some time ago, but my evil genius kept me here;" and smiling I bowed to take leave. He shook me by the hand in a manner which expressed every thing. I made a bow to the whole illustrious assembly, got into my chaise, and drove to M. -- I contemplated the setting sun from the top of the hill. -- I read that beautiful passage in Homer, where the honest herdsmen are described receiving the king of Ithaca with so much hospitality; and I returned well pleased. When I went into the supper-room at night, there were but a few persons assembled, and they had turned up a corner of the table-cloth, and were playing at dice. The good-natured Adelin came up to me as soon as I entered, and {130} in a low voice said, "You have met with a very disagreeable incident," -- "Who, I?" -- "The Count obliged you to withdraw from the assembly." -- "Devil take the assembly!" said I, "I was very glad to be gone." "I am rejoiced," he said, "that you look upon the affair in that light; all that concerns me is, to find that it is talked of every where already." From that moment I began to think of it in a different manner. All those that looked at me whilst we were at table, I imagined were looking at me on account of this incident; and bitterness entered my heart. And now that I am pitied wherever I go, and hear the triumph of my enemies; who say, "This is always the case with those vain insignificant personages who pretend to despise forms, and want to raise themselves;" with other nonsense of the same kind -- I could plunge a dagger into my heart. Say what you will of philosophy and fortitude: one may laugh at nonsense that has no foundation, but how is it possible to endure that {131} these paltry rascals should have any hold of one?