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to suggest her) is, I must say—but no, I will not say it-it pains me even to think it. And Lotte's husband—you called him your friend, and God knows he was 80—is yourIn another letter to his friend Von Hennigs, the same husband says of his wife, and the treatment she had received from Goethe, “ Lotte never lived in the sort of familiar intercourse there described, with Goethe, or with any one else. * are sorry now; but of what use is that? It is true he had a high opinion of my wife ; but for that reason he ought to have drawn her more faithfully—as too discreet and too delicate to allow him to go so far as he is represented to have done in the First Part." It is pleasant to return from well-founded complaints, still worse than even this, to the contemplation of conduct like that of Wieland towards the beautiful and intellectual woman whose affections he had gained; and the contrast will appear all the more remarkable, when it is remembered that, in many parts of his writings, the author of Oberon suggests doubts as to the existence of real virtue in man or woman.
After an absence of ten years, Wieland returned to his native town. What he was doing in the mean time we will glance at presently. It is sufficient to say here, that although his love for Sophia seemed to have increased rather than diminished during his absence, he found her a wife and a mother on his return. She had been married nearly three years; but the fact was concealed from him. A man of less generosity would have sought revenge ; he could easily have embittered her wedded life. But, far from making any such attempt, he abstained from pursuing any course that might give pain to either herself or her husband. First, indeed, he wept and reproached his former mistress; but no eye saw what he wrote on the subject but her own. She replied, giving certain excuses for her inconstancy, and telling him that if they had formerly met as lovers they could now meet as friends. This seems to have soothed Wieland.
M. La Roche, her husband, had been attached to the person of Count Stadion, Prime Minister to the Elector of Menz, in the relation of secretary. He received the poet kindly; and pressed him to make frequent visits to his house. Wieland tried to efface all recollection of his former passion; but he found the resolution much more easily formed than fulfilled, as we see from many passages in his private correspondence. In a deeply pathetic and beautiful letter, written
to Zimmerman, a few years after (Jan., 1765), he speaks of the charms of this early illusion, “for which no joys, no honors, no gifts of fortune, not even wisdom itself, can afford an equivalent, and which, when it has once vanished, returns no more.' This showed, as, indeed, did all his dealings with the fair sex, that he was worthy of the love of woman. There is good reason to believe, too, that Sophia never forgave herself for having so bitterly disappointed, not to say deceived, such a man; though it does not appear that her husband ever treated her otherwise than with kindness and sympathy. Few passages, in the whole range of literature, are more interesting, in view of all the circumstances of the case, than that in which she describes, forty-nine years afterwards, with deep and touching emotion, the feelings she experienced while listening to the young poet as he played on the harpsichord at the parsonage. Though now an old woman, she gives vivid pictures of the meetings they had beside the solitary Church of St. Martin, nearly half a century previously.
It was no wonder that Wieland was attached to a lady so intellectual and brilliant as Sophia ; for she became an author herself, of no ordinary distinction. Her History of Miss Sternheim and Melusina's Summer Evening have been read from one end of Europe to the other, each having been translated into at least three languages. But the same, or anything of the kind, could not be said of the lady whom he finally married, in 1765. She is, indeed, described, by all who knew her, as gentle, mild, and affectionate; but she had neither beauty nor wit. No one praises her more than Wieland himself; nor could any husband of the same age have evinced deeper grief for the loss of his wife. Two years after her death, he writes thus mournfully to Böttiger :
“Since the death of my dear wife, I have lost all pleasure in life, and the glow which things had for me before is gone for ever. I endeavor to occupy my attention and to deaden the sense of my loss, which I feel most keenly, when I lie down at night, or when I awake. Never have I loved anything so much as I did her. When I knew that she was near me in the room, or if she came into my room at times and spoke a friendly word or two, and went away, it was enough. Since she is gone, I say to myself, no labor will prosper with me more. Perhaps I could not have supposed that, with her weak frame, she would have been spared to me for thirtyfive years, to scatter flowers upon my path of life with her unpretending fidelity and duty. But then I think of Philemon, in the fable. Why could we not have died the same day ?”
Much could be added to this, in proof of his strong and unwavering attachments, and the scrupulous, pious care with which he sought, through evil report and good report, to guard the reputation of the beloved one. We have intentionally dwelt on this feature of his character, because such a man was wanting among the great minds of Germany, to make amends, if it were possible, for conduct like that of Goethe. Nor was this of any slight importance ; for what happiness have the greatest men, especially in the evening of lifes without the kindness and confidence of woman ? Fortunately, there are but few among the gifted like Goethe. Those, who have erred most in other respects, have regarded the reputation of their benefactresses as sacred. Even Voltaire, whatever were his faults besides, has never penned a line affecting the honor, either of Madame Russelmonde, or the Marchioness de Prie. On the contrary, he challenged the Duke of Rohan on behalf of the latter, and wrote an epigram on the same personage, which led to his being committed to the Bastile. That Swift treated both Stella, and Venessa badly, is but too true ; but he would no more have deliberately stabbed the reputation of either, than he would have plunged the dagger into his own breast. Byron was quite as much a libertine as Goethe ; but what lady's character has the former deliberately injured by his pen ? Even the wife that spurned him had never any just ground for charging him with making any attacks upon her honor. Like Wieland, it was enough for him that, however much he was disappointed-however much grief he was made to sufferhe once had tender relations with the cause of all !
In true patriotism we find Wieland similarly distinguished; in this, too, his conduct contrasts strongly with that of Goethe. To illustrate the fact, we need only refer to the different manner in which the attentions of Napoleon were received by the two poets, after he had proved himself their country's worst and most ruthless enemy-him who had committed such vindictive outrages on the territory of their best benefactor and friend, the generous and munificent Duke of Saxe Weimar. To this prince both were bound by the most sacred ties. But the Duke was absent when the battle of Jena was fought, and when the burning and pillage of Weimar, that soon followed, took place. The Duchess Louisa alone, of all the ducal family, remained to receive the conqueror, and she did so like a heroine—she who was so generous a patron of literature, and whose purse, as well as palace, was always open to the two great men, but especially to Goethe. Fälk tells us, in his personal reminiscences of Goethe, that such was the confidence of the people of Weimar in the heroism of the Duchess, that “when they learned that she was in the castle, their joy knew no bounds. When they met, they threw themselves in each other's arms, exclaiming, The Grand-Duchess is here !!” Napoleon had previously announced his intention of passing the night at the ducal palace. The Duchess, pale, but calm, resolute, and dignified, received the conqueror at the head of the grand stair-case—him on whom the fate of her people and of her whole family depended. There she stood like another Maria Antoinette, or Maria Theresa, to brave danger in whatever form it might present itself. “ Who are you, Madame ?” (Qui êtes vous, Madame ?) asked Napoleon, with a gesture of corresponding rudeness. « The Duchess of Weimar, Sire,” was her prompt reply. “I pity you,” rejoined Napoleon, in the same surly tone, “but I must crush your husband.” Without giving her time to say a word in defence of the Duke, he tuted abruptly to his attendants, and ordered that his dinner should be served in his own apartments. But, even the stern conqueror was touched by her heroism. Next morning, after having another interview with her, in the presence of several of his general officers, he exclaimed, 5. Voilà une femme, à qui nos deux cents canons n'ont pas peut faire peur."
It was after all this-after every conceivable evil had been inflicted on Germany—after the Duke of Saxe-Weimar had been insulted in every possible way, that Goethe went to Erfurt to receive the “attentions" of the spoiler. Not a word of complaint did the greatest genius, then living, attempt to utter. On the contrary, he was delighted with everything Napoleon said, not excepting his criticisms on Homer, Ossian and Shakespeare. Wieland was equally honored; a formal invitation had been sent to him, requesting his presence. But, before he had time to receive it, Napoleon himself happened to see him at the theatre, whither he went to witness the representation, by a French company, of Voltaire's tragedy of the Death of Cæsar, in which the celebrated Talma performed the principal part. He sat, as usual, in a private side-box on the second tier, reserved for the ducal family, to which he was regarded as attached. The eagle eye of Napoleon soon observed him; he asked who was the venerable old man with the black velvet calotte. Being told
that this was Wieland, he expressed a wish that the poet should not leave, after the play, until he saw him.
After a long conversation, of which Wieland himself gives an interesting account in one of his letters, he begged to be excused from remaining any longer. Goethe ventured to ask no questions—all his remarks were compliments to the despoiler of his country; but Wieland had the manliness to plead for the Fatherland, and to speak out, in other respects, like one whose noble privilege it was to address posterity, sure that his voice would be heard. Nor is it to be doubted that Napoleon honored him all the more for his courage and patriotism. “I asked him," says the poet, “how it happened that the public worship which he had, in some degree, reformed in France, had not been rendered more philosophic, and more on a par with the spirit of the times.” Wieland," he replied, “worship is not made for philosophers; they believe neither in me nor in my priesthood. As for those who do believe, you cannot give them, or leave them, wonders enough. If I had to make a religion for philosophers, it should be just the reverse." To this, Wieland adds that Napoleon went so far with his skepticism as to question whether Jesus Christ had ever existed.
The Conqueror thought he would render himself agreeable to the poet in this way, supposing, from his writings, that he had no faith in the Christian religion ; but Wieland, always manly, always considerate and respectful to the fair sex, took the liberty of intimating that, whatever his own views were, he had ever abstained from making any remarks which he thought calculated to wound the religious scruples of the Duchess. This was a rebuke which few would have ventured upon; but the Emperor took it in good part, and dismissed the poet, at his own request, with a cordial" Bon soir."
Nor was this the last heard by Wieland from Napoleon, who, in about a week after, sent him the cordon of the Legion of Honor; and, before he had time to wear this many days, he received a similar distinction from the Emperor Alexander, i. e., the order of Saint Anne of Russia. These, however, are things which we do not regard as possessing any importance in the case of a man like Wieland, further than as evidence of the high esteem in which he was held by sovereigns of the most opposite tastes, and whose interests were the most conflicting.