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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe



Those who expect a Novel will be disappointed in this work, which contains few characters and few events; and the design of which is to exhibit a picture of that disordered state of mind, too common in our own country. It is drawn by the masterly hand of Mr. Goethé*, and is perhaps little more than the relation of a fact which happened within his knowledge. It went through several editions in German, and soon made its way into France. About two years since, the English translator met {vi} with it; and being struck with the uncommon genius and originality of the thoughts, and the energy with which they are expressed, translated some of the letters from the French; and led on by the beauty of the work, which encreased in proportion as it was attended to, the whole was insensibly finished; and, as no translation from the German has hitherto appeared, it is now offered to the Public.

Among the number of pamphlets which this little work gave occasion to, there were not wanting some which censured it; and Mr. Goethé has been called the apologist of Suicide, by those who, not distinguishing the Author from the Work, very absurdly ascribed to him the erroneous sentiments which he has given his principal Character, -- a method of criticism which would equally affect all the epic and tragic writers that ever existed.

{vii} WERTER appears to have been strongly impressed with sentiments of religion; and it is not to be wondered at, that in his state of mind they should take an irregular form, and sometimes border upon extravagance. A few expressions which had this appearance, have been omitted by the French, and a few more by the English translator, as they might possibly give offence in a work of this nature.

*Doctor of Civil Law, and author of some dramatic pieces which are much esteemed.