Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Silk, The Scribe, The Scientist And Their Doubles

Fig. 1. Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein - Goethe in the Campagna, 1787

'Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life.'

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Addendum: The Future Of Our Lives Is Short, While That Of Our Deaths Is Eternal

Fig. 2. Monument to Goethe in the Pincio Gardens, Rome

'On Friday, March 16th, 1832, Goethe awoke with a chill, from which he gradually recovered, and was so much better by Monday that he designed to begin his regular work on the following day. But in the middle of the night he woke up with a deathly coldness, which extended from his hands over his body, and which it took many hours to overcome. It then appeared that the lungs were attacked and that there was no possible hope of recovery. Goethe did not anticipate death. He sat fully clothed in his arm-chair, made attempts to reach his study, spoke confidently of his recovery, and of the walks he would take in the fine April days. His daughter-in-law, Ottilie, tended him faithfully. On the morning of the 22nd his strength gradually left him, and he sat slumbering in his arm-chair, holding Ottilie's hand. Her name was constantly on his lips, though his mind occasionally wandered, at one time to his beloved Schiller, at another to a fair female head, with black curls, some passion of his youth. His last words were an order to a servant to open another shutter to let in more light. After this he traced with his forefinger letters in the air. At half-past eleven in the forenoon he drew himself, without any sign of pain, into the left corner of his arm-chair, and went so peacefully to sleep that it was long before the watchers knew that his spirit was fled. He was buried in the grand-ducal vault, where the bones of Schiller were laid, and where Duke Karl August had directed his body be placed, though the request was disregarded as contrary to the etiquette of German courts.'

This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 11. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 89-90.