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"She had it there winter and summer, and all her arrangements were made for its sake; she gave it air night and day, and only allowed herself as much warmth in winter as was good for the myrtle. How she felt herself rewarded when it was covered with buds. She showed me them when they were only just set; I helped to tend the myrtle; every morning I filled the jug with water at the Magdalen-well; the buds grew and reddened, and at last they opened; on the fourth day it was in full blossom-a white cell every blossom, with a thousand radiating shafts in the middle, each with a pearl on its point. It stood in the open window, and the bees greeted it. It is only now that I know that this tree is consecrated to love-then I did not know it, I now understand the tree. Say, can love be tended more sweetly than this tree was? and can tender care be more sweetly rewarded than by such a full blossom? Ah! the dear nun, with half-faded roses on her cheeks, shrouded in white, and with the black veil waving round her quick and graceful walk-how her pretty hand reached out of the wide sleeve of her black woollen dress to water the flowers ** Last year I
visited the convent again in passing by. My nun had become prioress --she was obliged to walk with a crutch: she had fallen lame-she took me into her garden-her myrtle was in full blossom. She asked me if I knew it still; it was much grown. There were fig-trees all round with ripe fruit, and large pinks; she broke off fruit and flower, and gave me all-only the myrtle she spared; that too I knew beforehand."
At thirteen Bettina went to live at Offenbach, near Frankfort, with her maternal grandmother, who was well known in her time as a voluminous writer of fiction, by the name of Sophia de la Roche, a foolish Frenchification of her real name, Von Lichtenberg. Of this period of her life she gives many amusing and pretty details, including an exquisite confession of her first three kisses. The first was from a young French soldier whom she helped to escape when the Austrians took Offenbach; the second was of a less romantic character, being inflicted by the respectable and elderly Herder; the third was from the reigning Duke of Aremberg, who had been blinded by an accident in shooting. "He asked afterwards if I had told my grandmother, and I said 'Yes.' Well, and was she angry? No:' Et bien, est ce qu'elle n'a rien dit? oui. Et quoi?-A poor man,' she said, 'a blind man.' Oh oui,' he cried, elle a bien raison, a blind man, a poor man,' till at last he broke out in a cry of sorrow, which pierced my heart like a sword." It was here that she formed a friendship with the lay-canoness, Caroline v. Günderode, a daughter probably of President v. Günderode, whom Goethe mentions somewhere as living in Alsace. From her Bettina learned much, including something of philosophical language, which has probably given an appearance of system to her speculations, to which in themselves they have little pretence. In one of her letters to
VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVIII.
Clemens, she gives a most natural and vivid account of a joint flirtation of herself and her friend with Clemens' handsome and clever friend, the young Achim v. Arnim, whom she afterwards married. Long before that time, however, the canoness had put an end to her life, after trying to soften the blow to Bettina by breaking off their friendship without explanation. Her history of the melancholy story is one of the most touching in all biography, as touching as any thing in fiction. Their separation led to the acquisition of an acquaintance of a different character.
"On the second day as I went along the road where she lived, I saw the house of Goethe's mother, whom I did not know intimately, and had never visited; I went in, Frau Rath,' I said, 'I want to make your acquaintance; I had a friend, the Canoness Günderode, and she is lost to me, and you must replace her.' 'We will make the trial,' she said, and so I came every day and sat on the stool, and let her tell me about her son, and I wrote it all down and sent it to Günderode. When she went to the Rheingau she sent me back the papers; the maid who brought them said the canoness's heart throbbed violently when she gave her the papers, and when she asked what message she should take, she gave her no answer."
The success of this new experiment in friendship is a sufficient proof how far Bettina, with all her imaginative susceptibility of disposition, was removed from the character of a mere sentimentalist. The Frau Rath, at the age of seventy-six, still retained the full vigour of her intellect, which was equally remarkable for boldness, for masculine humour, and for the power of telling stories, with which she had first taught her son to be a poet. It appears to the critic, whom we have before noticed, that she played the part of Madame Mère, at Frankfort, with burlesque solemnity.' Burlesque or strange it certainly does appear, till we have entirely got rid of our English associations and customs, that rank and royalty should in Germany, pay homage to the great poet of the country by respectful attention to his mother. We cannot, of course, defend it; but we must make allowances for foreigners. But burlesque as her position might be, there was very little solemnity in it. Let the reader make himself acquainted with the story of the tea-drinking with the Queen of Prussia, as told in the first volume of the 'König's buch,' and he will find an account much fuller than a Court Circular, but certainly much less solemn. Goldsmith or Scott would have delighted in the details of her putting on her state gown, and of her maid Lieschen's cap, which was wrong side foremost, though her mistress said that the cap was all straight, and that only the head was turned. The disappointment of the Frau Rath that the road did not pass the burgomaster's house, that he might see her in the court carriage and four, her pleasure when she provi
dentially met him, and struck him dumb with astonishment, sadly takes off from her dignity and solemnity. Indeed the queen's recollections of the old lady could scarcely be solemn, for she had, with her sister, when a young Princess of Mecklenburg, visited her, and, for the first time in her life, had pumped water for herself there; and when her governess remonstrated against the impropriety, the Frau Rath had locked the governess up, and let the princesses pump till they were tired. Poor girls,' she said, 'I could not bear to see them forbidden such an innocent pleasure. Nor is her return more solemn, with the chain which the queen had put round her neck, and which Lieschen insisted on her wearing in bed, and then ran and brought all the neighbours to see. But we must pass by this history, which was before her acquaintance with Bettina.
In conversation with her friend, who naturally was never tired of talking of her illustrious son, Bettina cherished the fanciful passion for Goethe, which was first suggested, as she says, by hearing him abused by her aunt, who so often found fault with herself. In the winter of 1806-7 an opportunity offered of seeing him. Her brother-in-law, Savigny, offered to take her to Weimar, if she would persuade his wife to go with him to Berlin in man's clothes, and accompany them herself in similar costume; a precaution rendered necessary by the armies which swarmed in Germany. After a cold journey, in which we sympathise with her disappointment at not finding a robber to fire her pistols at; and after extorting, by her services as courier and assistant hostler, the acknowledgment from her philosophical brother-in-law that the girl was of some use after all, she visited Weimar on their return from Berlin. After changing her dress she set out to visit Goethe, but her heart failed her, and she first called on Wieland, who was, although she does not mention it, related to her through her maternal grandmother. He had never seen her; but she pretended to be an old acquaintance. "And he bethought himself backwards and forwards, and said, 'Yes, a dear angel you certainly are, and I know you well; only I can't think when and where I have seen you.' And I laughed at him, and said, 'Now I have got it out that you dream of me, for nowhere else can you possibly have seen me."" She made him give her a note of introduction to Goethe. 'Bettina Brentano, Sophia's sister (Countess Herberstein), Maximilian's daughter, Sophie de la Roche's grand-daughter, wishes to see thee, dear brother, and pretends that she is afraid of thee; and that a note from me will be a talisman to give her courage. Though I am pretty certain that she is only making fun of me, still I must do as she chooses; and I shall be surprised if the case is not just the same with thee as with me.' And so she
went and commenced her worship of Goethe, for it was more like devotion to a higher being than love. Not only what he was, though that was much, but all that she admired, or could conceive in art, in intellect, and in excellence, was idealised to her in him alone. She told him that if she lived at Weimar she would only come and see him on Sundays and holy days. A curious coincidence of serious feeling with Beatrice's witty answer to Don Pedro's proposal:- If I might have another for working days; your grace is too costly to wear every day.' She had been worn out by excitement and expectation. Years had passed in yearning for him. I fell asleep on his breast, and when I woke, began a new life. And more will I not write at this time.' This letter is addressed to his mother. Sometimes, however, the old lady thought it necessary to scold her, very characteristically, but with no more result than scolding produces in general. She was provoked at an exceedingly pretty image, with which Bettina describes her relation to Goethe. I don't hang on my love like lead. I am like the moon which shines into his room. When the people are there in full dress, and all the candles lighted, the moon is little noticed; but when they are gone, and the tumult is passed, then has the soul so much the greater yearning to drink its light. So will he, too, turn to me, and think of me when he is alone.'
"Eh, girl," writes the Frau Rath, in answer, "thou art quite crazy, what fancy art thou taking up? Eh! and who is thy love, who is to think of thee by night in the moonlight? Dost thou think he has nothing better to do? God bless us! yes (Ja proste Mahlzeit). I tell thee again, once for all, every thing in order, and write orderly letters, in which there is something to read. Write nonsensical stuff to Weimar-write what happens to you, all in order, one thing after another. First, who is there, and how thou likest every body, and what every body has got on, and whether the sun shines or whether it rains; that too, is to the purpose. My son has written to me again. I am to tell thee to write to him: but write to him in an orderly way, or thou wilt spoil thy whole sport. On Friday I was at a concert, and a violincello was played, and I thought of thee; it sounded so exactly like thy brown eyes. Adieu, girl, thou art missing everywhere to thy Frau Rath."
And in her description and stories she does write with order, though it is the order of a picture not of a catalogue. Her adventures upon the hill of St. Rochus near Bingen, her little voyages on the Rhine, and her walks at Schlangenbad are all the more real for the eloquent thoughts and bursts of feeling with which they are interspersed. How naturally the flow of animal spirits in a crowd is described after the procession to bless the vineyards of the Johannisberg is over, and the last vine has been
The Famous Woman and the Young Lady.
sprinkled with holy water, and the sexton has tucked censer, surplice, and church-banner under his arm, and made the best of his way home.
Temporal life comes on: merry songs take possession of men's throats, and a lively allegro of carelessness supplants the peninential hymn, all kinds of disorder begin; the boys wrestle and fly their kites in the moonlight, the girls spread the linen which lies on the bleaching field, and the young men pelt each other with wild chesnuts: then the town cowherd drives his cows through the crowd, the bull first, to make room, the pretty host's daughters stand under the vine-arbours before the door, and clap the lid of the wine-can, and the choristers look in there and hold judgment on seasons and vintages, and Mr. Celebrant says to Mr. Chaplain, Now we have represented to our Lord God what our wine wants-another week's dry weather, then rain in the mornings and bright sun at noon, and so on through July and August; and so if it is not a good year for wine it is no fault of ours.'
Little as she claimed from Goethe in return for her adoration, Bettina felt so far jealous of rivals for his favour, as to receive with amusing irritability the account of some civilities which he had exchanged with Madame de Staël, Die berühmte Frau (the famous woman) as she calls her; and notwithstanding that the celebrated foreigner appears totally innocent of any offence in the matter, and that no woman ever more fully deserved her fame, we cannot but enter into the graceful spitefulness of the witty girl against the famous woman. Like Wieland, though we are pretty sure she is in the wrong, we must do as she chooses.
"He has not written to me since August," she complains to the Frau Rath; "I suppose Madame de Staël has taken up his time, and he has not thought of me. A famous woman is a curiosity, no one else can compare with her; she is like brandy, with which the grain from which it is made cannot compare. Brandy bites the tongue and gets into the head, and so does a famous woman; but I like the simple wheat better. The sower sows it in the loosened earth, and the kind sun and the fruitful rain tempt it forth again, and then it covers the fields with green and bears golden ears, and at last comes a merry harvest home. Well! I will rather be a simple grain of wheat than a famous woman, and I would rather he should break me as his daily bread, than fly through his head like a dram."
And then she proceeds to an account of a party at which she had met Madame de Staël the night before. She had sat next to the famous woman, and the gentlemen were pressing round her, and leaning over her chair.
"I said 'Vos adorateurs me suffoquent,' * and when the pressure became too great, I said, ' Vos lauriers me pesent trop sur les épaules,' and I got up and pushed my way through her admirers,