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Art. I.-Goethes Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand,
(Goethe's Works. Completed, final Edition,) 40 voll. Stutt
gard and Tübingen. 1827-30. It is now four years since we specially invited attention to this Book; first in an Essay on the graceful little fantasy-piece of Helena, then in a more general one on the merits and workings of Goethe himself: since which time two important things have happened in reference to it; for the publication, advancing with successful regularity, reached its fortieth and last volume in 1830; and now, still more emphatically to conclude both this “completed final edition," and all other editions, endeavours and attainments of one in whose hands lay so much, come tidings that the venerable man has been recalled from our earth, and of his long labours and high faithful stewardship we have had what was appointed us.
The greatest epoch in a man's life is not always his death; yet for bystanders, such as contemporaries, it is always the most noticeable. All other epochs are transition-points from one visible condition to another visible; the days of their occurrence are like any other days, from which only the clearer-sighted will distinguish them; bridges they are, over which the smooth highway runs continuous, as if no Rubicon were there. But the day in a mortal's destinies which is like no other, is his death-day: here too is a transition, what we may call a bridge, as at other epochs; but now from the keystone onwards half the arch rests on invisibility; this is a transition out of visible Time into invisible Eternity.
Since death, as the palpable revelation (not to be overlooked by the dullest) of the mystery of wonder, and depth, and fear, which every where from beginning to ending through its whole course and movement lies under life, is in any case so great, we find it not unnatural that hereby a new look of greatness, a new interest should be impressed on whatsoever has preceded it and led to it; that even towards some man, whose history did not then first become significant, the world should turn, at his departure, with a quite peculiar earnestness, and now seriously ask itself a question, perhaps never seriously asked before, What the purport and character of his presence here was; now when he has
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gone hence, and is not present here, and will remain absent for evermore. It is the conclusion that crowns the work; much more the irreversible conclusion wherein all is concluded: thus is there no life so mean but a death will make it memorable.
At all lykewakes, accordingly, the doings and endurances of the Departed are the theme: rude souls, rude tongues grow eloquently busy with him; a whole septuagint of beldames are striving to render, in such dialect as they have, the small bible, or apocrypha, of his existence, for the general perusal. The least famous of mankind will for once become public, and have his name printed, and read not without interest: in the Newspaper obituaries ; on some frail memorial, under which he has crept to sleep. Foolish lovesick girls know that there is one method to impress the obdurate false Lovelace, and wring his bosom; the method of drowning: foolish ruined dandies, whom the tailor will no longer trust, and the world turning on its heel is about forgetting, can recal it to attention by report of pistol; and so, in a worthless death, if in a worthless life no more, reattain the topgallant of renown, for one day, Death is ever a sublimity, and supernatural wonder, were there no other left: the last act of a most strange drama, which is not dramatic but has now become real; wherein, miraculously, Furies, god-missioned, have in actual person risen from the abyss, and do verily dance there in that terror of all terrors, and wave their dusky-glaring torches, and shake their serpenthair! Out of which heart-thrilling, so authentically tragic fifth act there goes, as we said, a new meaning over all the other four; making them likewise tragic and authentic, and memorable in some measure, were they formerly the sorriest pickleherring farce.
But above all, when a Great Man dies, then has the time come for putting us in mind that he was alive: biographies and biographic sketches, criticisms, characters, anecdotes, reminiscences, issue forth as from opened springing fountains; the world, with a passion whetted by impossibility, will yet a while retain, yet a while speak with, though only to the unanswering echos, what it has lost without remedy: thus is the last event of life often the loudest; and real spiritual Apparitions (who have been named Men), as false imaginary ones are fabled to do, vanish in thunder.
For ourselves, as regards the great Goethe, if not seeking to be foremost in this natural movement, neither do we shun to mingle in it. The life and ways of such men as he, are, in all seasons, a matter profitable to contemplate, to speak of: if in this deathseason, long with a sad reverence looked forward to, there has little increase of light, little change of feeling arisen for the writer, a readier attention, nay a certain expectance, from some readers is call sufficient. Innumerable meditations and disquisitions on this subject must yet pass through the minds of men; on all sides must it be taken up, by various observers, by successive generations, and ever a new light may evolve itself: why should not this observer, on this side, set down what he partially has seen into, and the necessary process thereby be forwarded, at any rate, continued?
A continental Humourist, of deep-piercing, resolute, though strangely perverse faculty, whose works are as yet but sparingly if at all cited in English literature, has written a chapter, somewhat in the nondescript manner of metaphysico-rhetorical, homiletic-exegetic rhapsody, on the Greatness of Great Men; which topic we agree with him in reckoning one of the most pregnant. The time, indeed, is come when much that was once found visibly subsistent without must anew be sought for Within; many a human feeling, indestructible and to man's well-being indispensable, which once manifested itself in expressive forms to the Sense, now lies hidden in the formless depths of the Spirit, or at best struggles out obscurely in forms become superannuated, altogether inexpressive, and unrecognisable; from which paralysed imprisoned state, often the best effort of the thinker is required, and moreover were well applied, to deliver it. For if the Present is to be the “ living sum-total of the whole Past,” nothing that ever lived in the Past must be let wholly die; whatsoever was done, whatsoever was said or written aforetime, was done and written for our edification. In such state of imprisonment, paralysis and unrecognisable defacement, as compared with its condition in the old ages, lies this our feeling towards great men; wherein, and in the much else that belongs to it, some of the deepest human interests will be found involved. A few words from Herr Professor Teufelsdreck, if they help to set this preliminary matter in a clearer light, may be worth translating here. Let us first remark with him, however, “ how wonderful in all cases, great or little, is the importance of man to man;"
* Deny it as he will,' says Teufelsdreck, man reverently loves man, and daily by action evidences his belief in the divineness of man. Wbat a more than regal mystery encircles the poorest of living souls for us ! The highest is not independent of him; his suffrage has value: could the highest monarch convince himself that the humblest beggar with sincere mind despised bim, no serried ranks of balberdiers and bodyguards could shut out some little twinge of pain; some emanation from the low had pierced into the bosom of the high. Of a truth, men are mystically united; a mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.
Thus too has that fierce false hunting after Popularity, which you often wonder at, and laugh at, a basis on something true: nay, under the other aspect, what is that wonderful spirit of Interference, were it