She was no longer young, he said, she had been badly treated by her first husband and didn't want to marry again, and it shone forth so noticeably from his telling how beautiful, how charming she was for him, how very much he desired that she might choose him, in order to extinguish the memory of the errors of her first husband, that I would have to repeat it to you word for word to give you a feeling for this man's pure longing, love, and devotion.
Indeed, I would have to possess the gifts of the greatest poet to be able to vividly portray for you at the same time the expressiveness of his gestures, the harmony of his voice, the mysterious fire of his glances.
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No, no words can express the tenderness that was in his entire being and expression; anything I could recreate would only be awkward and clumsy. I was especially moved by his fearing that I might think suspiciously of his relation to her, and doubt her good behavior. I can only repeat in my inmost soul how charming it was when he spoke of her figure, of her body, which without youthful charms powerfully attracted and bound him.
Never in my life have I seen urgent desire and warm longing so pure, indeed I can say, never thought or dreamed it could be this pure. Don't scold me when I tell you that my deepest soul glows when I remember this innocence and truth, that the image of this faithfulness and tenderness pursues me everywhere, and that I, as if inflamed by it myself, thirst and pine.
Now I will try quite soon to see her myself; or rather, now that I think it over, I will avoid doing so. It is better for me to see her through the eyes of her lover; perhaps she would not appear to my own eyes as she now stands before me, and why should I spoil the beautiful picture? June 16 Why don't I write you? You ought to guess that I am fine, that is—in short, I have made an acquaintance that has touched my heart. I have— I don't know. To tell you in orderly fashion how it happened that I have met one of the most charming creatures will be difficult.
I am cheerful and happy, and thus no good at writing chronicles. An angel! That's what everyone says about his, isn't it? And yet I'm not able to tell you how she is perfect, why she is perfect; enough, she has taken my whole mind captive. So much simplicity with so much understanding, so much goodness with so much firmness, and calmness of soul together with real life and activity. Some other time—no, not some other time, right now, I'll tell you about it.
If I don't do it now it will never happen. For, between us, since I began writing I was already three times on the point of laying down my pen, having my horse saddled, and riding out there. And yet I swore this morning not to ride out, but I go to the window every moment to see how high the sun still is. I'm back again, Wilhelm, I'll have my bread and butter for supper and write to you. What bliss it is for my soul to see her in the circle of those dear, cheerful children, her eight brothers and sisters!
So listen, I'll force myself to give you the details. I wrote you recently how I met the steward, S I neglected it, and perhaps would never have got around to it had not chance revealed the treasure that lay hidden in that quiet place. Our young people had arranged a ball in the countryside, which I found an agreeable prospect. I offered my hand to a good, lovely, but otherwise insignificant girl from here, and it was decided that I would hire a coach and ride out with my dancing partner and her aunt to where the festivity was, stopping on the way to pick up Charlotte S.
I asked. As we rode up to the gate the sun was still a quarter of an hour from the hills. It was quite oppressive, and the women expressed concern about a thunderstorm that seemed to be forming in small, heavy, grayish white clouds around the horizon. I deceived their concern by pretending expertness about the weather, although I too was beginning to fear that our merriment would suffer a blow.
I got out, and a servant girl who came to the gate asked us to walk around a bit, Mamsell Lotte would be right there. I went through the yard toward the agreeable house, and as I went up the steps that led to it and entered the door, my eyes encountered the most charming spectacle I have ever seen. In the hall, six children from eleven to two were swarming around a girl of fine figure, of medium height, wearing a simple white dress with pale red ribbons on arm and breast.
She was holding a loaf of black bread and cutting a piece for each of the little ones around her according to their age and appetite, and gave it to each with such amiability, and each one shouted out "thank you! Getting dressed and making all the arrangements for the house while I'm gone, I forgot to give the children their evening bread, and they won't have it sliced by anyone but me.
The little ones were looking at me sideways from some distance off, and I went up to the youngest, a child with the happiest features. He pulled back, just as Lotte came through the door and said: Louis, give your cousin your hand. I said as I held out my hand to her, do you think I am worthy of the happiness of being related to you? She told the little ones to do what their sister Sophie said as if it were she herself, which a few expressly promised. But a small, pert, blond girl of about six said: But it's not you, Lotte, we like you better. We had hardly settled down in the coach, the women had hardly got through the proprieties of greeting each other and making observations about their dresses and especially their hats, and the party they were looking forward to, when Lotte had the coach stop to let her brothers off.
They wanted to kiss her hand one more time, which the older did with all the tenderness that goes with being fifteen, the other with much fierceness and recklessness. She told them to greet the little ones again, and we drove on. The aunt asked whether she had finished the book she had lately sent her. You can have it back. The one before was no better. When I was younger, she said, I loved nothing so much as novels.
God knows how happy I was when I could sit down in a corner of a Sunday and with all my heart share in the happiness and misfortune of a Miss Jenny. And I won't deny that these novels still have some charm for me. But since I so rarely get to a book, it has to be one after my taste, and I love that author best in whom I recognize my own world, for whom things happen as they do around me, and whose story becomes for me as interesting and after my heart as my own domestic life, which is, of course, no paradise, but on the whole a source of unutterable blessedness.
I made an effort to conceal my emotions at these words. This didn't last long, for when I heard her speak in passing with such truth about The Vicar of Wakefield, about 3—, I totally lost my composure, told her everything I knew, and noticed only after a while, when Lotte directed the conversation to the others, that they had been sitting the whole time with startled eyes, as if they weren't sitting there. The aunt looked at me more than once, wrinkling her nose mockingly, but that did not bother me in the least.
The conversation turned to the joys of dancing. And if I have something on my mind and drum out a contredanse on my out-of-tune clavier, then everything is fine again. How I feasted during the conversation on those black eyes, how those moving lips and fresh, cheerful cheeks absorbed my entire soul!
How I, totally immersed in the marvelous content of what she said, often did not hear the words with which she was expressing herself! In short, when we stopped in front of the pavilion, I got down from the coach like one dreaming, and was so lost in dreams in the darkening world around that I hardly paid attention to the music echoing down to us from the brightly lit hall. Two gentlemen, Audran and a certain X—who can remember all the names!
We wove around one another in minuets; I asked one woman after another to dance, and it was of course the most unbearable ones who could not bring themselves to offer me their hands at the end and release me. Lotte and her partner began an English dance, and you may feel how happy I was when it was her turn to begin a figure with us! You have to see her dance! She was so wrapped up in it with all her heart and all her soul, her whole body a harmony, so without care, so spontaneous, as 2 It has been deemed necessary to suppress this place in the letter in order not to give anyone grounds for complaint.
Although, basically, no author can really be much interested in the opinion of one girl, and of a young, unsettled person at that. Whoever shares Lotte's applause will certainly feel it in his heart should he read this passage, and no one else needs to know it. I asked her for the second contredanse; she promised me the third, and with the most charming frankness in the world assured me that she dearly loved to dance the German dance.
Your lady can't waltz either and doesn't like to, but I noticed in the English dance that you waltz well; if you want to be mine for the German dance, go ask my partner, and I'll go to your lady. Now it began! We were delighted for a while with all the diverse interweaving of arms. How charmingly, how fleetingly she moved! And when we came to waltzing and the couples circled around each other, things got, at the beginning, pretty muddled, because only a few people could do it.
We were clever and let them have their fling, and after the clumsiest left the floor, we jumped in and valiantly kept it up with another couple, Audran and his partner. Never have I got started so easily. I was no longer a person. To have the most charming creature in my arms and fly around with her like lightning, so that everything around us vanished, and— Wilhelm, to be honest, I swore an oath to myself that a girl that I loved, and on whom I had a claim, should never waltz with anyone but me, even if it cost me my life!
You understand what I mean! We took several turns around the hall in order to catch our breath. In the third English dance we were the second couple. As we were dancing down the row and I, God knows with what bliss, was hanging on her arm and eye, which was full of the truest expression of the purest, most open, enjoyment, we came to a woman I had found odd because of the charming expression on her no longer quite young face.
She looked at Lotte with a smile, raised a menacing finger, and with great significance uttered the name Albert twice as she flew by. Who is Albert? I asked Lotte, if it is not too bold a question. Albert is a fine person to whom I am as good as engaged. Enough, I became confused, forgot myself, and blundered between the wrong couple so that everything got completely mixed up, and it took all Lotte's presence of mind and pushing and pulling to quickly restore order. The dance had not yet finished when the lightning, which we had already long seen flashing on the horizon, and which I had constantly maintained was a sign of cooling weather, began to become much stronger, and the thunder drowned out the music.
Three women left the line, their partners followed; the disorder became general, and the music stopped. It is natural, when a misfortune or something dreadful surprises us in the midst of enjoyment, that it makes a stronger impression on us than otherwise, partly because of the contrast we feel so vividly, partly and even more because our senses have been opened to perception and therefore take in an impression more rapidly. It is to these causes I must ascribe the remarkable grimaces I saw break out on the faces of several ladies.
The cleverest one betook herself to a corner, sitting with her back to the window, and stopped her ears. Another knelt down before her and buried her head in the lap of the first. A third pushed between both and embraced her sisters with a thousand tears. Some wanted to go home; others, who knew even less what they were doing, did not have enough presence of mind to control the impertinence of our young poor devils, who seemed to be quite busy snatching away from the lovely lips of the afflicted all the fearful prayers directed at heaven.
Several of the men had gone downstairs to smoke a pipe in peace, and the rest of the company did not refuse when the innkeeper's wife hit upon the clever idea of taking us to a room that had shutters and curtains. Hardly had we got there when Lotte busied herself setting up a circle of chairs and, when at her request the company had sat down, gave instructions for a game. I saw many a person who, hoping for a juicy pledge, pursed his mouth and stretched his limbs.
Pay attention! I'll go around the circle from right to left, and you will count as I go around, each one the number that's his, it has to go like brushfire, and whoever stumbles or makes a mistake gets a box on the ear, and so on up to a thousand. She went around the circle with her arm outstretched. Then she began to walk faster, increasingly faster; then someone missed and slap! And faster and faster. I myself received two slaps, and with inward pleasure thought I noticed that they were stronger than those meted out to the others. A general laughter and noisy bustle ended the game well before it reached a thousand.
The most intimate took one another aside, the thunderstorm had passed, and I followed Lotte into the ballroom. On the way she said: The slaps made them forget the storm and everything! There was thunder off to one side, the glorious rain was rustling down on the countryside, and the most refreshingly sweet aroma rose up to us in the fullness of a warm draft of air. She was standing, resting on her elbows, her glance penetrated the scene, she looked up at the sky and at me, I saw her eyes fill with tears, she placed her hand on mine and said—Klopstock!
I couldn't bear it, bent over her hand and kissed it, covering it with the most blissful tears. And I looked up at her eyes again— O noble poet! If you had seen how idolized you were in this glance, after it I would never wish to hear your so often profaned name mentioned again. June 19 I no longer know where I stopped in my story; I know only that it was two in the morning before I got to bed, and that if I could have babbled on to you instead of writing, I would perhaps have kept you up until morning. I haven't yet told you what happened on our ride home from the ball, and today I don't have the whole day to do so.
There was the most glorious sunrise. The dripping woods and the freshened fields all around! Our companions dozed off. She asked me, didn't I want to join them? I shouldn't hesitate on her account. I left her there with the request to be able to see her the same day, she granted it, and I came; and since that time sun, moon, and stars can calmly go about their business, I know neither day nor night, and the whole world fades away around me. June 21 I am living such happy days, days such as God reserves for His saints; and come what may, I cannot say that I haven't experienced life's joys, its purest joys.
Had I thought, when I chose Wahlheim as the goal of my walks, that it lay so close to heaven! How often on my long wanderings have I seen, from the mountain, from the plain across the river, the hunting lodge that now contains all my desires! Dear Wilhelm, I have thought about all sorts of things, about people's desire to spread themselves out, make new discoveries, roam around; and then again about the inner drive to yield voluntarily to restrictions, to go along on the track of habit without bothering about what's to the right or left.
It is wonderful how everything around attracted me when I came here and looked from the hill into the lovely valley. Oh, distance is like the future! An enormous glimmering oneness lies before our soul, our feeling blurs in it along with our eyes, and we long to let go of our whole being, to let ourselves be filled with all the bliss of a single great, glorious feeling. When we hasten there, when there becomes here, everything is as it was, and we stand in our poverty, in our finiteness, our soul thirsting for the refreshment that has slipped away. Thus the most restless vagabond longs at last for his home country and finds in his hut, on his spouse's breast, in the circle of his children, in the tasks of supporting them the bliss that he sought in the wide world in vain.
When I go out to my Wahlheim mornings with the sunrise and pick my own sugar peas in the garden of the inn, sit down, pull off their strings, and now and then glance into my Homer; when I then choose a pan in the small kitchen, cut some butter, put the pea pods on the fire, cover them, and sit down to watch, shaking them occasionally: then I feel so vividly how Penelope's arrogant suitors slaughtered, carved, and roasted oxen and swine.
Nothing fills me so much with a calm, genuine feeling as the traits of patriarchal life, which I, thank God, can weave into the way I live without affectation. How happy I am that my heart can feel the simple, harmless bliss of the person who brings to his table a cabbage he has grown himself, not just the cabbage alone but all the good days, the beautiful morning he planted it, the lovely evenings he watered it, and as he had his joy in its advancing growth, he enjoys it all again in one moment.
June 29 The day before yesterday the doctor came out from town to the steward and found me on the floor under Lotte's children, some clambering over me, others teasing me, and I tickling them, which occasioned a lot of yelling. The doctor, a very dogmatic marionette, smoothing his cuffs as he talked and pulling out an endless loose thread, found this beneath the dignity of a clever man; I saw that from his nose.
But I didn't let it distract me in the least, let him deal with quite rational matters, and went back to rebuilding for the children the houses of cards they had knocked down. The doctor later went around town complaining that the steward's children were already badly behaved enough, Werther was spoiling them completely. Yes, my dear Wilhelm, children are the closest thing on earth to my heart. When I look at them and see in these small beings the seeds of all the virtues, all the powers that they will one day so urgently need; when I glimpse future steadfastness and firmness of character in their obstinacy, and in their willfulness good humor and ease that will enable them to maneuver through the perils of the world, everything so unspoiled, so of a piece!
And now, my friend, they, who are people like us, whom we should be regarding as our models, we treat as inferiors. They are not supposed to have any will! And where does the privilege lie? But they believe in Him and don't listen to Him—that's old too! July 1 What Lotte must be to a sick person I can feel in my own poor heart, which is more troubled than many hearts languishing on sickbeds. She will be spending a few days in town with an upstanding woman who according to the doctors is nearing her end and wishes to have Lotte with her in her final moments.
Last week I went with Lotte to visit the pastor of St We arrived around four. Lotte had brought her second sister along As we entered the yard of the parsonage, shaded by two high walnut trees, the good old man was sitting on a bench before the door, and when he saw Lotte he brightened up, forgot his stick, and ventured to get up to meet her. She ran over to him, made him sit down as she sat down herself, brought many greetings from her father, and hugged his dirty, rebellious, youngest boy, the nattering chick of his old age.
You should have seen her, how she busied the old man, how she raised her voice so his half-deaf ears could hear her, how she told him about young, robust people who had died unexpectedly, how excellent the spa at Karlsbad was, how she praised his resolve to go there next summer, how she found that he looked much better, much more cheerful than the last time she had seen him. The old man became quite animated, and since I could not help praising the beautiful walnut trees that shaded us so charmingly, he began, although with some difficulty, to tell us their story.
But the younger tree back there is as old as my wife, fifty years come October. Her father planted it on the morning of the day she was born toward evening. He was my predecessor in office, and it's impossible to describe how dear this tree was to him; it's certainly no less dear to me.
My wife was sitting on a hewn log beneath it the first time I came into the yard here as a poor student, twenty-seven years ago. The story had not long been finished when the pastor's daughter came through the garden with the aforementioned Herr Schmidt.
She welcomed Lotte heartily, and I must say, I didn't find her bad: a quick, comely brunette, who could well have been entertaining for one's short stay in the country. Her suitor which is how Herr Schmidt promptly presented himself , a sensitive but quiet person, was reluctant to join our conversation, although Lotte constantly drew him in.
What distressed me most was that I seemed to notice in his features that it was more stubbornness and bad humor than limited understanding that prevented him from joining in. This unfortunately became all too clear, as it turned out; for when we were out walking, Friederike with Lotte and sometimes with me, the gentleman's countenance, which was to begin with of a brownish tint, darkened so visibly that it was time for Lotte to pull me by the sleeve and give me to understand that I had been too forward with Friederike.
Now nothing vexes me more than when people torment each other, and most of all when young people in the bloom of life, when they could be most open to all its joys, spoil their few good days with sour faces, realizing only too late how irreparable their wastefulness is. This rankled me, and when we returned to the parsonage toward evening and were drinking milk at the table and the conversation turned to the joys and sorrows of the world, I could not help picking up the thread and speaking heatedly against sour spirits.
We human beings complain so often, I began, and it seems to me mostly wrongly, that there are so few good days and so many bad ones. If our hearts were always open to enjoy the goodness that God prepares for us each day, we would have enough strength to bear the bad when it comes.
I know it does with me. If something bothers me and threatens to make me irritated, I jump up and sing a few contredanses up and down the garden, and it promptly goes away. Our nature dwells on it, and yet if we have the energy to pluck up our courage, we work with renewed vigor and find in activity true contentment— Friederike was paying close attention, but the young man objected that one is not master of oneself, and is least able to control one's feelings.
Certainly, whoever is sick will go to all the doctors, and not refuse the greatest resignation, the bitterest medicines, in order to restore the health he longs for. I raised my voice as I turned toward him: There is so much preaching against vice, I said, I have never heard anyone rail against bad moods from the pulpit. That's the job of the pastors in town, he said, the peasants have no bad humors; yet it would do no harm either, from time to time, it would be a lesson for his wife at least, and for the steward.
Is it not enough that we cannot make each other happy, must we also rob each other of the pleasure that every heart can sometimes grant itself? And show me the person in bad spirits who is so good at hiding it, at bearing it alone, without destroying the joy around him! Or are these bad moods not rather an inner annoyance at our own unworthiness, a displeasure with ourselves, which is always bound up with an envy goaded on by foolish vanity? We see happy people whom we don't make happy, and that is unbearable. All the gifts, all the obligingness in the world will not for a single moment replace contentment with oneself, which the envious unease of our tyrant has spoiled for us.
My heart was full to overflowing at this moment; the memory of so many past things surged into my soul, and tears came to my eyes. Whoever, I exclaimed, says to himself every day: You can do nothing for your friends but leave them their joys and increase their happiness by enjoying it with them. Are you able, if their inner soul is tormented by a consuming passion, shaken by grief, to offer them a drop of relief? And if the final, most terrifying illness strikes down the creature that you have undermined when she was blooming, and she now lies there in pitiful exhaustion, her unfeeling eye looking toward heaven, mortal sweat breaking out on her pallid forehead, and you stand before her bed like one damned, with the innermost feeling that with all your wealth you are able to do nothing, and fear convulses you inside so that you would give up everything to be able to infuse the dying creature with a drop of strength, a spark of courage.
At these words, the memory of such a scene at which I had been present overcame me with all its force. I put my handkerchief to my eyes and left the company, and only Lotte's voice, calling out to me, "Let us go," brought me to myself. And on the way home how she scolded me for identifying too warmly with everything, it would destroy me! I should spare myself! For your sake I must live! July 6 She is always around her dying friend and is always the same, always the alert, gracious creature who, wherever she looks, eases pain and makes people happy. Yesterday evening she went for a walk with Marianne and little Malchen; I knew about it and met up with them, and we went on together.
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Our path led after an hour and a half back toward the town, by the well that is so dear to me and now a thousand times dearer. Lotte sat down on the little wall, we stood before her. I looked around, and oh, the time when my heart had been so alone came to life again before me. Meanwhile Malchen came with the glass. Marianne wanted to take it from her. She immediately began to scream and weep. In the evening, in the joy of my heart, I could not help relating the episode to a man whose judgment of people I trusted because he has understanding; but what a response I got!
He said it had been quite wrong of Lotte; one should never fool children; that sort of thing gives rise to countless errors and superstitions, from which children must be protected early. July 8 What a child one is! How one so craves a glance! What a child one is! The women rode out, and during our walk I believed—in Lotte's black eyes— I'm a fool, forgive me, you should see them, these eyes. The women were chatting from the coach with the fellows, who were easy and casual enough. But on me! But she did not see me! The coach went off, and a tear rose to my eyes. I looked after her and saw Lotte's bonnet leaning out, and she turned to look, alas!
I hover in this uncertainty, that is my consolation; perhaps she turned around to look for me! Oh, what a child I am. July 10 You should see the ridiculous figure I cut when she is spoken of in company! If someone asks me how I like her— Like! How I hate the word!
What kind of person must he be who "likes" Lotte, for whom she does not fill every sense, every feeling! Recently someone asked me how I like Ossian!
Classic children's library: 8-11
July 11 Frau M. I see her occasionally at a friend's, and today she told me of a wonderful incident. A few days ago, when the doctor said she would not live, she summoned her husband Lotte was in the room and spoke to him thus: I must confess something to you that could give rise to confusion and vexation after my death.
I managed the household as efficiently and cheaply as I could, but you will pardon me for having gone behind your back these thirty years. At the beginning of our marriage you decided on a meager amount for financing the kitchen and other household expenses. As our household grew and our business increased, you were not to be moved to increase my weekly allowance along with our circumstances; in short, you know that in times when things were at their best I still had to make do with seven guldens a week.
I took them without arguing and made up the difference every week from the receipts, since no one would suspect the wife of stealing from the cash-box. I didn't waste anything and would have been of easy mind going to meet Eternity even without having confessed it, except that she who will have to manage the household after me wouldn't know what to do, and you could still go on insisting that your first wife needed only that amount.
I spoke with Lotte about the incredible blindness of the human mind, that a person should not suspect something must be going on if someone makes do with seven guldens when he sees expenses of perhaps twice that sum. But I myself have known people who would have taken the prophet's everlasting little jug of oil into their houses without surprise. July 13 No, I am not deceiving myself! I read in her black eyes genuine feeling for me and my destiny.
Indeed, I feel, and in this I can trust my heart, that she—Oh, may I, can I express heaven in these words! Loves me! Whether it's presumption, or a feeling of our true relationship—I don't know the person from whom I would fear anything in Lotte's heart. July 16 Oh, how it runs through all my veins if my fingers inadvertently touch hers, if our feet touch under the table!
I pull back as if from fire, but a secret power draws me forward again—all my senses make me giddy. If while we are talking she places her hand on mine, and in conversing moves closer to me, so that the heavenly breath of her mouth can reach my lips— 1 think I will sink down as if struck by lightning. If I should ever dare, this heaven, this trust—! You understand me. No, my heart is not so corrupt.
Weak enough! She is sacred to me. All desire falls silent in her presence. I never know what is happening to me when I am with her; it's as if my nerves are turning my soul inside out. It is her favorite song, and as soon as she strikes the first note it stills all my pain, confusion, and fancies. Not a word about the old magic power of music is improbable to me. How the simple song seizes me! And how she knows when to play it, often at a time when I would like to put a bullet through my head!
It disperses the darkness and confusion of my soul, and I breathe more freely again. July 18 Wilhelm, what is the world to our heart without love?
What a magic lantern is without light! As soon as you put the little lamp inside, the most colorful pictures appear on your white wall! And if it were nothing but that, passing phantoms, it always makes us happy when we stand before them like wide-eyed boys and are delighted by the miraculous apparitions. I could not go to Lotte today, an unavoidable gathering prevented me. What was to be done? I sent my servant there, just to have a person around me who will have been near her today How impatiently I awaited him, with what joy I saw him again!
I would have gladly clasped his head and kissed him if I wouldn't have been ashamed. We are told about the Bononian stone that, if you place it in the sun, draws the sun's rays and shines for a while at night. That's how it was with the fellow. The feeling that her eyes had rested on his face, his cheeks, on the buttons of his jacket and the collar of his coat, made these things so sacred, so dear!
I wouldn't have parted with the lad at that moment for a thousand talers. I felt so happy in his presence. Wilhelm, are those phantoms, when we are happy? July 19 I shall see her! I exclaim every morning, when I awake and full of cheer look toward the beautiful sun; I shall see her! And I have no other wish for the whole long day. Everything, everything, is devoured by this prospect. I don't much fancy being a subordinate, and besides we all know that the man is unpleasant. You say that my mother would be happy to see me engaged in some activity: that made me laugh.
Am I not active now? And isn't it at bottom all the same whether I count peas or lentils? Everything in the world ends up being a dirty business, and a person who wears himself out for money or honor or whatever else for someone else's sake, without its being his own passion, his own need, is always a fool. July 24 Since it matters so much to you that I not neglect my drawing, I would rather pass over the whole matter than tell you that I have been doing little since.
I have never been happier, never has my feeling for nature, down to the smallest pebble, the little blade of grass, been fuller or more intense, and yet—I don't know how to express myself, my power to represent is so weak, everything swims and totters so before my soul, that I cannot get hold of an outline; but I imagine that if I had clay or wax, I would probably try to form it.
If this goes on I will take clay and knead, even if it should be patties! I began Lotte's portrait three times and prostituted myself three times, which vexes me the more because I used to be very good at likenesses. So I cut out her silhouette instead, and must content myself with that.
July 26 Yes, dear Lotte, I will take care of and arrange everything; give me more things to do, often. But there is one thing I would beg of you: not to sprinkle sand on the notes you write me.
Today I raised one quickly to my lips and the sand got in my teeth. July 26 I have already sometimes undertaken not to see her so often. But who could possibly hold to that? Every day I succumb to the temptation and make a sacred promise to myself: Tomorrow you'll stay away for once. But when morning comes I again find an irresistible reason, and before I know it I'm with her. Either she said the evening before: You are coming tomorrow, aren't you? Or she gives me something to do, and I find it fitting to bring her the answer myself; or the day is simply too beautiful, I go to Wahlheim, and once I'm there it's only a half hour to her!
I'm there. My grandmother told a fairy tale about a magnetic mountain: the ships that came too close lost all their ironwork, the nails flew to the mountain, and the poor, miserable crew came to grief among the planks crashing together. July 30 Albert has arrived, and I shall leave; even if he were the best, the most noble person, whom I would be ready to subordinate myself to from every point of view, it would he unbearable to see him in front of me in possession of so much perfection.
A good, dear man that one must love. Fortunately, I was not there to meet him! That would have torn my heart to pieces. And he is so honorable, and hasn't kissed Lotte in my presence a single time. May God reward him for it! I must love him for the sake of the respect he has for the girl. He is well-inclined toward me, but I suspect it is Lotte's work more than his own feeling; for women are subtle in these things, and they are right: if two suitors can keep on good terms with one another, however rarely it happens, she will always retain the advantage.
But I cannot deny Albert my respect. His calm exterior is in vivid contrast to the restlessness of my character, which cannot be concealed. He has a great deal of feeling, and knows what he has in Lotte. He appears to be rarely in a bad mood, and you know that is the sin in a person that I hate more than any other. He takes me for a person of intelligence; and my devotion to Lotte, my keen joy at everything she does, increases his triumph, and he loves her the more for it.
Whether he doesn't sometimes torment her with little pangs of jealousy remains to be seen, at least I, in his place, would not be entirely safe from this devil. Be that as it may! My joy at being with Lotte is gone. Shall I call it foolishness or blindness? Tell it as it is! I clench my teeth and mock my misery and doubly and triply mock those who would say that I should resign myself because there was no way it could have turned out otherwise.
You are frightening when you are so merry. I'm out there, and am always happy when I find her alone. August 8 Please, dear Wilhelm, I was certainly not talking about you when I scolded as unbearable those people who demand that we resign ourselves to unavoidable fates. I truly did not think that you could be of a similar opinion. But basically you are right. Just one thing, dear friend: In the world an either-or is very seldom met with; feelings and ways of acting are as variously shaded as gradations between a hawk nose and a pug nose.
So you will not take it amiss if I grant your whole argument but yet seek to steal my way between either and or. Either, you say, you have hopes of Lotte or you have none. Good, in the first case try to carry them through, try to achieve the fulfillment of your desires. In the second case, pull yourself together and try to rid yourself of a wretched feeling that must consume all your energies—Dear friend!
That is well said and—soon said. But can you ask of the unfortunate person whose life is slowly, inexorably ebbing away in a creeping illness, can you desire of him that he should through a dagger stroke end his misery once and for all? And does not the malady that consumes his strength not also consume at the same time his courage to free himself from it? Of course you might answer with a related metaphor: Who would not rather let his arm be cut off than risk his life through dally and delay? Enough—Yes, Wilhelm, sometimes I have a moment of such jumping-up, shaking-off courage, and I would go—if I only knew where.
August 8, Evening My diary, which I have been neglecting for some time, came into my hands again, and I am astonished how knowingly I have got into this, step by step! How I have always seen my situation so clearly and yet acted like a child, see so clearly even now, without a glimmer of improvement. August 10 I could lead the best, the happiest life if I wasn't a fool. It is not easy to find united such beautiful circumstances to delight a person's soul as those in which I find myself now.
Alas, it is certain that our heart alone creates its happiness. When he tells me about her upstanding mother, how on her deathbed she gave her house and children over to Lotte and commended her to him, how since that time Lotte has been moved by a quite different spirit, how she, out of care for her management and in her seriousness became a true mother, how not a moment of her time passes without active loving, without work, and yet her cheerfulness and good humor have never left her.
I have rarely seen his like for order and industrious-ness in business matters. August 12 Certainly Albert is the best person in the world. I had a remarkable scene with him yesterday. I went to him to take leave, for the desire had come over me to ride into the mountains, from where I am writing you now, and as I was pacing up and down the room my eyes fell on his pistols. Once, on a rainy afternoon, as I was sitting around idly, I don't know where I got the idea that we could be attacked, we might need the pistols and could— You know how it is.
I gave them to the servant to polish and load. He was joking around with the maid and, God knows how, the pistol went off with the ramrod still in it, and the rod shot right through the ball of the girl's right hand and smashed her thumb. I had the wailing and on top of that to pay for the treatment, and since that time I leave all arms unloaded. Dear fellow, what is prudence? You can never be quit of danger. To be sure—Now you know that I am fond of people except for their "to be sure"; for isn't it obvious that every generalization suffers exceptions? But man is such a justifier! If he believes he has said to you something overhasty, general, half true, he never ceases to limit, modify, add, and subtract, until nothing remains of the matter.
And once started on this, Albert got very deeply into his text. I finally stopped listening to him, succumbed to a whim, and with a lifting gesture pressed the barrel of the pistol to my forehead, above the right eye. Albert said, taking the pistol from me, what are you doing? I can't imagine how a person can be so foolish as to shoot himself; the very thought is repugnant.
That you people, I exclaimed, in order to talk about something have to say right away: That is foolish, that is clever, that is good, that is bad! And what does all that mean? Does it mean that you have got to the bottom of the inner circumstances of an action? Do you know for certain that you can unravel the causes, why it happened, why it had to happen? If you had, you wouldn't be so hasty with your judgments.
You must admit, Albert said, that certain actions are depraved, whatever motives you may give them. I shrugged my shoulders and conceded the point. It is true that stealing is a vice: but the person who sets out to rob to save his family from imminent starvation, does he deserve pity or punishment? Who raises the first stone against the married man who in righteous anger sacrifices his unfaithful wife and her despicable seducer? Against the girl who in a blissful hour loses herself in the inexorable joys of love? Our laws themselves, these coldblooded pedants, let themselves be moved and suspend their punishment.
That is quite different, Albert replied, because a person whose passion carries him away loses all his powers of thought and is regarded as drunk, as insane. O you reasonable people! I cried, smiling. You stand there so calmly, so uninvolved, you moral people! You scold the drinker, loathe the weak-minded, pass by like the priest and thank God like the Pharisees that He has not made you as one of these.
I have been drunk more than once, my passions were never far from madness, and I don't regret either: for despite my limitations I have learned to understand how all exceptional people who created something great, something that seemed impossible, have from time immemorial been vilified as drunks and madmen. But it's unbearable in everyday life too to hear shouted after almost every halfway free, noble, unexpected deed: the person is drunk, he's an idiot!
Shame on you sobersides! Shame on you wise men! Those are more of your fancies, Albert said. You exaggerate everything and are certainly wrong at least here, in comparing suicide, which is what we are talking about, with great deeds, since one cannot regard it as anything but a weakness. For of course it is easier to die than steadfastly to bear a life of agony. I was on the point of breaking off; for no argument upsets me so much as when someone comes along with an insignificant commonplace when I am speaking from the fullness of my heart. But I got hold of myself, because I had heard this often, and had more often been upset by it, and I answered him with some heat: You call that weakness?
I beg you, don't be misled by appearances. A people that sighs under the unbearable yoke of a tyrant, can you call that weakness if they finally boil over and sunder their chains? A man who, gripped by horror when his house has caught fire, feels all his strength tense and easily carries away burdens that he could barely move when he is calm; someone who, enraged at an insult, goes after six people and overpowers them, are they to be called weak? And, my good fellow, if effort is strength, why should extreme tension be the opposite? Let's see, then, if we can imagine in some other way the state of mind of the person who resolves to cast off the otherwise pleasant burden of life.
For only to the extent that we empathize do we have the right to speak about a matter. Human nature, I went on, has its limits. It can bear joy, sorrow, pain up to a certain point, but buckles as soon as that point is passed. So the question here is not whether one is weak or strong but whether he can endure the extent of his suffering. It may be moral or physical: and I find it just as strange to say that the person who takes his life is cowardly as it would be out of place to call someone a coward who dies of a malignant fever. Very paradoxical! Albert exclaimed. You will concede that we call a mortal illness one in which nature is so undermined, partly consuming her powers, partly so disabling them that she cannot restore them, and there is no happy revolution capable of restoring the normal course of life.
Now, my friend, let's apply that to the mind. Look at a person in his finiteness, how impressions work on him, ideas take root in him, until finally a growing passion robs him of all his rational powers of thought and destroys him. In vain does the calm, rational person observe the miserable man's condition, in vain does he speak to him!
Just as a healthy person at a sick man's bedside cannot impart to him any of his strength. For Albert this was all too general. I reminded him of a girl who had recently been found in the water, dead, and repeated her story to him. Not spoiled by the empty pleasures of inconstant vanity, her desire draws her straight to the goal, she wishes to become his wife, she wants to find in an eternal bond all the happiness she is lacking, enjoy the union of all the joys she longs for.
Repeated promises that seal the certainty of all her hopes, bold caresses that increase her desires, take complete hold of her soul; she hovers in a hazy awareness, is eager to the highest degree in a foretaste of every joy. Finally she stretches out her arms to embrace all her desires—and her beloved deserts her.
For he has abandoned her, he in whom alone she had felt all her being. She doesn't see the wide world lying before her, the many others who could replace her loss, she feels alone, abandoned by everyone—and blindly, driven to desperation by the horrible need in her heart, she jumps off in order to suf-focate all her torments in an enveloping, embracing death. And tell me, isn't that the case with illness? Nature finds no way out of the labyrinth of the confused and contradictory powers, and the person must die.
Woe to him who could look on and say: The fool! If she had waited, if she had let time do its work, her despair would surely have subsided, another man would have turned up to comfort her. If he had waited until his strength returned, his circulation improved, the tumult of his blood calmed down, everything would have turned out well and he would still be alive today! Rather— About that another time, I said, and reached for my hat.
Oh, my heart was so full— and we parted without having understood one another. As in this world no one easily understands another. August 15 It is surely true that in the world nothing makes a person necessary but love. I feel it in Lotte, that she would lose me reluctantly, and the children have no other notion than that I will always come tomorrow. Today I went out to tune Lotte's clavier, but I couldn't get to it; the little ones were after me for a fairy tale, and Lotte herself said that I should do what they wanted.
I sliced their evening bread for them, that they now take from me almost as gladly as from Lotte, and told them the story of the princess waited on by hands. I learn a lot this way, I can assure you, and am astonished at the impression it makes on them. Because I sometimes have to invent some incidental point that I forget the second time, they immediately tell me that it was different the time before, so that now I take care to practice reciting it pat and unchanging in a singing tone. I learned from this how an author, through a second, altered edition of his story, no matter how much better it may have become as literature, must necessarily harm his book.
The first impression finds us receptive, and man is so made that he can be persuaded by the most outlandish things; but it strikes root so immediately that woe to him who tries to scratch it out and eradicate it! August 18 Must it be, that what makes for man's happiness becomes the source of his misery? The full, warm feeling of my heart toward living nature, that flowed over me with such bliss, that made the world around me a paradise, has now become an unbearable torturer, a tormenting spirit, that pursues me wherever I turn.
Monstrous mountains surrounded me, abysses lay before me, and torrents rushed downwards, rivers poured beneath me, and forest and mountain resounded; and I saw all the unfathomable forces toiling and creating together in the depths of the earth, and above the earth and under the sky the races of all the kinds of creatures.
All, all populated with thousands of different forms, and people nesting and making themselves safe in little houses and ruling in their minds over the wide, wide world! Poor fool! You who consider everything puny because you are so small. Brother, only the memory of those hours makes me happy. Tolstoy masterfully weaves two parallel stories of desire, with two opposite conclusions.
The most difficult part of this read is keeping track of the variety of Russian names and nicknames. But, it's a worthwhile read. Community Reviews Description Product Details. There are no reviews for this product. Considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, Anna Karenina is Tolstoy's classic tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. A rich and complex masterpiece, the novel charts the disastrous course of a love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer.
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