Imagens das páginas


and then Sismondi, her companion, came and kissed my hand, and said I had a great deal of wit. Afterwards I listened to her when she spoke of Goethe; she said she expected to find a second Werther, but she had been mistaken, neither his figure nor his manner suit the character, and she was very sorry that he was entirely without it. Frau Rath, I was provoked at these speeches (that was superfluous you will say); I turned to Schlegel, and said in German, Madame de Staël was mistaken twice; first in her expectation and then in her opinion.' We Germans expect that Goethe can shake twenty heroes out of his sleeve, to astonish the French as much; but we are of opinion that he is himself quite another kind of hero. * She threw a laurel-leaf with which she had been playing on the ground; I trod upon it, and pushed it aside with my foot and went away. That is the story of my meeting with the famous woman."


Soon afterwards Madame de Staël paid a visit to the Frau Rath, and Bettina is not sorry for the opportunity of giving Goethe a history of the meeting:

"Your mother had either from irony or pride dressed herself out wonderfully, but with German humour, not with French taste. I must tell you that when I looked at your mother with her three feathers on her head, one white, one red, and one blue, the French national colours, rising out of a field of sun-flowers, my heart beat with pleasure and expectation; she was very skilfully rouged, her great black eyes shot out fire like cannon, round her neck hung the Queen of Prussia's well-known gold chain, lace of an ancient pattern and of great splendour, a real family treasure, covered her bosom, and so she stood with white kid gloves, in one hand an elaborate fan with which she set the air in motion, the other which was bare, beringed all over with sparkling stones, now and then taking a pinch out of a gold snuff-box with a miniature of you in hanging locks with powder leaning thoughtfully on your hand. * At last the long expected visiter came, through a suite of lighted rooms, accompanied by Benjamin Constant; she was dressed as Corinne, a turban of lawn and orange-coloured silk, a dress like it with an orange tunic, with the waist very high, so that there was little room for her heart. Her black eyebrows and eyelashes shone, and her lips too with a mystic red; her gloves were drawn down, and only covered the hand, in which she held the well-known sprig of laurel. Your mother cast some would be--courageous glances at me, when they were introduced. I observed Madame de Staël's astonishment at your mother's extraordinary dress and look, which betrayed a strong feeling of pride. She spread out her gown with her left hand, and with the right she saluted with a flourish of her fan, and while she bowed her head repeatedly with great condescension, she said in a voice raised so that one could hear it through the whole room, 'Je suis la mère de Goethe'— 'Ah! je suis charmée,' said the authoress, and here followed a solemn silence. Then followed the presentation of her clever follower, who was equally desirous to make the acquaintance of Goethe's mother. Your mother

The Famous Woman and the Old Lady.


answered their civilities, by wishing them a happy new year in French which she muttered between her teeth, accompanied by solemn curtsies. In short, I think the audience was perfect, and gave a fine proof of the German dignity (Grandezza). Presently your mother beckoned to me. I must be interpreter between them * * * Madame de Staël wanted to read how thou writest to thy mother, and thy mother promised it-I thought that she would certainly not get thy letter from me to read, for I am not fond of her; as often as thy name passed her not well-shaped lips, an internal rage came over me; she told me that thou calledst her Amie in thy letters; ah! she certainly saw that this came upon me very unexpectedly, ah! she said still more than this. But now my patience broke down-How canst thou like so disagreeable a face? Ah! there one sees that thou art vain-Or perhaps she has only lied-Were I with thee I would not suffer it."

And then she goes on to tell him how angry his mother was at her dislike and jealousy of the famous woman. She said it was not a trifle to meet celebrated people.

"Thy mother would not allow any joking, she thought I took too much on myself, and I must not get the conceit that thou hast any interest in me but such as one takes in children who have not left off their dolls; thou canst talk philosophy (Welt-weisheit machen) with de Staël; with me thou couldst only play.-Suppose thy mother was right!"

And she passes into a pretty rhapsody about flowers and butterflies, ending with the story of the nun and the myrtle, and then she returns to the attack.

"Seest though, this was a digression, and a bit of my wisdom; certainly it cannot make itself intelligible to the world-wisdom which prevails between thee and thy Amie De Staël-But this I can tell thee-I have seen many great works with tough contents bound in pig-skin; I have heard great scholars droning (brummen, in Scotch, bumming,) and I have always thought a single flower must put it all to shame, and a single May-beetle with a rap on a philosopher's nose must knock his whole system over."

The expressions which we marked by Italics are only more prominent instances of the graceful malice and agreeable unfairness Bettina's attack upon her rival. Her want of candour is pleasant, because it is so thoroughly feminine, and so free in its felicitous tact from serious ill-nature or malignity. It is evident that she affects more dislike and jealousy than she feels, well-knowing, that however high Corinne may stand in the opinion of the world, she is herself, with her youth and wit and tenderness, far more than a match for her in the only region where she cared to dispute the palm with the famous woman. We have chosen our extracts ill, if they have not shown that all Bettina's letters possess this peculiar charm of exhibiting a wholly womanly mind-Her playfulness,

her picturesque minuteness, her fragmentary and intuitive guesses at truth, are quite of another kind from the thoughts of a man, and perhaps for that reason have found in men their warmest admirers. The only seeming exception we have found to this view of her character, consists in her singular independence in her opinions even of the influence of Goethe himself. The convictions of a woman, though as all men know for the most part impregnable to logic, are easily endangered by an assault from the fortunate master of her affections. It is perhaps a sign of the difference between Bettina's imaginative attachment and solid every-day love, that in many points she continues to maintain opinions which Goethe either censured or treated with indifference. At sixteen she is in vain reproved by her brother for degrading herself by helping a poor Jewess in her household work, and afterwards on the occasion of an attempt to relieve the Jews of Frankfort from some of the restrictions to which they were subject, she retains and defends her interest in their cause in opposition to the sneers of Goethe, who as the son of a chief citizen of an imperial city and as a man of supercilious refinement, naturally regarded their race with contempt and dislike. In some points, too, she felt that even he might learn from her. She soon discovered that his knowledge of music and his feeling for it were bounded by limits far too narrow for her own enthusiasm; and many of her most eloquent letters are devoted to attempts to impress him with her own belief in the art. Of this musical gospel, as Goethe called it, we express no opinion; except that, whenever it descends into the sphere of our comprehension, it appears to be based on a true principle, applicable to every art alike, that the artist must look upon his art as something higher and more powerful than himself, not proceeding from his deliberate invention, but carrying him away with it like inspiration. The remainder we must leave to the judgment of the initiated, in the full belief, however, that there must be truth in her rhapsodies, as they won for her the favour and affection of Beethoven, the most competent judge, we suppose, of his time.


Not even Goethe's own writings are safe from her freedom of criticism. She often complains of the worthlessness of the characters in Wilhelm Meister,' and she is greatly dissatisfied with the Wahlverwandtschaften.' "The inclosed drawing," she once writes to him, "is the portrait of Tiedemann, a professor of medicine here, who interests himself so much about fish that he wrote a work about fishes' hearts, with very good copper-plates; now since thou hast shown, in thy Elective Affinities,' that thou examinest heart and nerves closely, fish hearts also will be interesting to thee, and, perhaps, thou wilt discover that thy Charlotte has the heart of a bleak."

Rebels against Napoleon and Goethe.


Bettina's propensity to idolise men of genius had made her a revolutionist in honour of Mirabeau, and an imperialist for love of Napoleon; but when the Tyrolese war of 1809 broke out, her early prejudices were too weak for her instinctive love of right. She was at Munich at the time, and her indignation was roused to the highest pitch by the insults of the Bavarian rabble to the Tyrolese prisoners of war. Of the success of the struggle she had little hope, foreseeing, too justly, that Austria would apologise to the great Napoleon for having done him the honour to oppose to him such a people as the Tyrolese.' As she could not assist them, she did all in her power to court something of martyrdom for them by running the risk of reproof; or, as she vainly hoped, of imprisonment. She talked treason (against Bavaria and France) in all companies, especially in the presence of the head of the police; she conveyed letters for Tyrolese, though she suspected them of being spies, and at last she wrote a letter to the crown prince (the present king) to remonstrate against the treatment or the prisoners. The chief of the police, of course, laughed at her enthusiasm; the prince, on setting out for the army, sent her a broken wine glass, with the message that he had rung it against Count Stadion's in drinking to the health of the Tyrolese. Every day she went to a tower which commanded a view of the mountains to watch the scene of the war and imagine its events, and attended the mass which Count Stadion the Austrian ambassador, being himself in priest's orders, read to her in the king's chapel. The friendship which this singular man, the elder brother of the well-known Austrian minister, entertained for Bettina was a remarkable instance of the attraction which she exercised on men much older than herself; founded, probably, on her capacity to understand and appreciate them. Tieck, Beethoven, and Jacobi, all cultivated her friendship, and the literary and accomplished prince-primate, after a most amusing flirtation, in which her answers are worthy of one of Shakspeare's heroines in their comic dialogues, gave her, by his authority as successor to St. Boniface, permission thenceforth to confess her sins to Goethe.

Goethe showed all the sympathy that could be expected with her feelings for the Tyrolese. Even if he shared them to the full extent, it would have been foolish in him to put them in writing. Language which might safely be used by an enthusiastic girl would have been madness in the minister of a prince, whose dominions a paragraph in the 'Moniteur' might have erased from the map of Europe. He told her, however, that the duke, as well as himself, had read her letters with pleasure, and, as usual, he asked her to continue to write. Her feelings, however, for the


great cause were too genuine to allow her to be satisfied with his silence, though she did not venture a direct remonstrance. In the following passage on Wilhelm Meister,' she probably uses in a double sense the name of Meister, which she often used as a title in addressing Goethe as Master. It is one of many expressions of her longing to join in the strife. Oh, had I a doublet, and hosen, and hat, she says in the words of a ballad.


"As a proof of my sincerity, I confess to thee, even in Wilhelm Meister,' I feel thus:-most of the people in it pain me, as if I had a bad conscience, and then one is not at ease within or without. I should like to say to Wilhelm Meister, 'Come, fly with me beyond the Alps to the Tyrolese; there will we whet our sword, and forget the ragbundle of comedians, and all thy mistresses must pine for a time, with their pretensions and their lofty feelings; when we come back the rouge will have faded on their cheeks, and their gauze gowns and fine feelings will shrink from thy sun-burnt Mars-like face. Yes, if any thing is to come of thee at last, thou must place thy enthusiasm in the war-believe me, Mignon would not have fled from this fair world, in which she was forced to leave her love behind, she would assuredly have borne with thee all the hardships of war, and spent the night on the rough Alps in wintry caverns with spare food; the fire of freedom would have kindled in her bosom also, and brought fresh and healthier blood into her veins. Ah! wilt thou not, for love of this child, leave all these people in the mass? Melancholy gets hold of thee because there is no world in which thou canst act. Would that thou fearedst not human blood. Here, among the Tyrolese canst thou act for a right, springing from pure nature as much as the love in the heart of Mignon. It is thou, Meister, who hast choked the bud of this tender life under all the weeds which overgrow thee. Say, what are they all to the earnestness of the time when Truth rises up in her pure original form, and defies the corruption which the Lie has established? Seest thou, Meister, if to-night, in the starry cold night, thou callest thy Mignon from her bed, where she had wept herself to sleep with tears for thee-thou sayest to her, 'Be quick and come with me; I mean to travel with thee unto the foreign land.'-Oh, she will understand it, it will not seem to her incredible; thou dost what she long ago required of thee, and what thou hast unaccountably neglected. Thou wilt give her happiness in granting that she may share thy heavy toils. By night, on perilous roads, where every step deceives, her quick sight, her bold confidence, will lead thee safe to join the warpressed nation; and when she sees thee offer thy breast to the shaft, she will not tremble, it will not hurt her like the shafts of the flattering Syren race; she will ripen quickly to the bold consciousness of striking truly into the harmony of the inspiration of freedom. And if thou must fall in the front rank, what has she lost? What could make up to her for this beautiful death, perhaps at thy side? Both locked arm-inarm, ye would lie under the cool and wholesome earth, and mighty

« AnteriorContinuar »