Full text: Zeitungsausschnitte über Werke von Herman Grimm: Goethe

© Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg, Best. 340 Grimm Nr. Z 38 
They both belonged among Bettina’s oldest 
friends. I myself, from a child, had looked 
upon Bettina as a near relative of a superior 
order—a kind of counterpart to my molher, as 
my Uncle Jacob, who always lived with us, 
seemed my father’s counterpart. Without 
Bettina’s energetic assistance we should urob- 
ably never have reached Berlin. I considered 
her house as a part of ours, and saw her daily 
from 1S41 until her death, except wheu jour 
neys intervened. I can never express how 
much I owe her, or lind id possible to recount 
the wealth of things I saw and enjoyed in her 
The period from 1840 up to the revolution of 
’48, and even then for a seriee of years later, 
was the last golden era in which public life in 
Berlin depended on personal opinion and in 
tercourse. In truth, the ruling censorship was 
so scrupulous and sensitive as to make it im 
possible to treat of the things which moved 
the world in the newspapers with equal dig 
nity. Bettina had never had much to do witli 
newspapers—what she wrote appeared in 
book form. .She might claim the privilege of 
being allowed to say many tilings forbidden to 
others. Bettina and Alexander von Hum 
boldt were the most distinguished representa 
tives of this candor and frankness 
in the expression of opinion, Men be 
lieved they must know more of the truth of 
things who had prepared themselves, and the 
way, barred to "others, stood open to them. 
Who had something to attain, who desired an 
unobstructed career, who felt themselves mis 
understood, applied to them. Many missives 
of such import have I seen, year after year, fall 
into her hand. Bettina and Von Humboldt 
were aliLj capable of suddenly kindling a 
spark in beings Dy no means extraordinary 
which raised them far above their ordinary 
level. From her youth Bettina looked upon 
herself as the natural counsellor and friend of 
the unfortunate. Her letters are full of them. 
She had a magnetic power over sad, forlorn 
people, and gave constantly with liberal hand. 
From her efforts to succor and sustain the 
oppressed the political ideas took form which 
m fatter years became ever more pronounced 
in her. She returned to the ideas of her 
youth. She had as a child almost participated 
In the French revolution, which between '40 
and ’50 was again glorified as the epoch when 
ideas of our present freedom were evoked 
among us. With awe these conflicts were once 
more regarded, and men sighed for a German 
Mirabean. What is called politics today 
interested Bettina very little. The emphasis 
of her work, of which the title was also the 
dedication, “This book belongs to tho King,” 
and whose appearance created the greatest 
sensation in Germany, did not lie in anything 
which admitted of being bronght into para 
graphs. In ihe year 1830, when the cholera 
pest appeared in Berlin, Bettina fearlessly 
undertook the relief of the sick ana needy. 
From this time dates her sympathy with the 
“people.” Arguing from her personal knowl 
edge of the laboring classes in Berlin, who 
had no work and nothing to eat, she came to 
look upon the whole nation at 
that time as without political will of 
its own, and diseased and helpless. 
Bettina’s propositions were made from this 
point of view. Today this book is simply a 
testimony to tier noble intentions, ana shows 
what radical confusion the want of a healthy 
public life created among us. This was her 
last work which caused any sensation, and, 
with the year 1848, Bettina’s career in this di 
rection closed. Her “Discourse with Demons” 
scarcely found a public. Happily for Bettina’s 
last years, tho revolution came on neither sud 
denly nor in a way to wound her or even to 
make her conscious that she was no longer 
Many energetic natures find themselves in 
old age confronted with a now generation and 
new circumstances which they do not under 
stand. They isolate themselves and turn aside 
bitterly to live in recollections of the past. 
Bettina was spared this. Her mind was so 
rich, ;-or interests so universal, that the do 
main *ras still large enough upon which she 
could withdraw. To the very last she looked 
forward to new events and experiences 
eagerly and full of hope. She was always 
writing. Next to editing her own works 
those of Arniin’s claimed her care and atten 
When her picture rises vividly before me I 
see her seated at her desk. Every letter of 
her handwriting was legible, fully formed and 
energetic. She continually effaced wliat did 
not please her until she attained such grueo 
of style as lent to all she wrote the air of hav 
ing been easily written. Her hastily-written 
letters are often much more labored m style 
chan her books. She read uninterruptedly all 
the new literature as well as the 
classics. Goethe, Shakespeare and the 
Greek tragedians were her favorite reading. 
The book whose style she most admired was 
Hölderlin’s “Hyperion.” She had cherished a 
predilection for Hölderlin from her youth, 
and when the new edition of his work by- 
Schwab appeared it became a yet stronger 
feeling. From this moment it was her in 
separable companion. One book lay on ner 
table, from which she ofeen read, that 1 never 
met elsewhere, “Klinger’s Observations and 
In her early days, Bettina drew and culti 
vated such a keen eye for plastic art, that her 
criticisms were wholly to be relied on. In 
latter years, musical interests became su 
preme, together with the writing of music. 
Beethoven held the highest place In her esti 
mation. Among her compositions, which are 
no longer known, that which moved me mo9t 
deeply, was on the words of Faust: “O 
schau'dre nicht.” One of her motives is to be 
found in Joachim’s violin concert. 
It appears strange to me that, ont of Bet- 
tma’s manifold experiences, scarcely one pre 
sents itself which admits of being completely 
told, so as to give any conception of what it 
was to live with her. I have found it impos 
sible to give to tiiose who never knew Bettina 
the least idea of her. How i9 one to describe 
the power in a being which renders every 
moment spent with them of the richest sig 
nificance; the attractive charm which no 
orte can resist; the gift above all of 
entering into tne feelings of the young, to in 
fluence and elevate them? She gave sight to 
men and made them haupy and trustful. 
Others who knew her confess themselves as 
little able as myself to describe wherein lay 
this power to inspire, and vet, like myself, are 
even today aware of its magic potency. One 
might speak of the affluence of imagery that 
streamed from her lips—of her skill in detect 
ing new phases in things and the like—but 
they should be only secondary, after all. 
1 have found that, with natures of the high 
est order, the actual source of their inspiring- 
attractive power lies in their clearer percep 
tion of the value of existence, and that, hav 
ing ever present to their souls the importance 
of the great thoughts revealed to mankind, 
they find refreshment in consecrated moments 
in the farther interpretation of them for 
themselves. One recollection is especially 
dear to me. In the beginning of the year 1850, 
Bettina, with her family, had reached Weimar 
on her return from a long journey. Thither I 
went to meet them. It was in October— 
I found her in the Elephant, on the market 
place, the old, classic inn, in which she had 
taken possession of the first it.age. 1 still re 
member entering the room in the twilight, 
where, as yet, no' lamps had been brought. A 
variety of people were assembled, to whom I 
was introduced without seeing them. There 
was music, and I heard for the first time a 
sonata of Beethoven’s for violin and piano. I 
sat still in my corner. The delight of seeing 
once more those among whom I might be 
reckoned; the softly stealing, entrancing mu 
sic transported me into a new world. 
Weimar was still the residence of Goethe and 
hi6 spirit was hovering about us there. The 
next morning at 6 o'clock Bettina knocked . 
at my door. We went through the park that 
borders the Urn. The rustling yellow leaves 
of the poplars were glistening in the sun’s 
first rays, while all beneath still lay in 1 
damp shade. We took the narrow path I 
leading to Goethe’s garden house. All j 
was solitary. The dark shops under 
the houses were closed, the little gar 
den gate fast bolted—but near it there 
was an aperture in the hedge through 
which we pressed into the garden. The earth 
was thickly strewn with leaves, yellow-red 
and brown, or all the colors intermingled. It 
seemed as if no one had been here for an age, 
for the branches of tho trees had grown so as 
to hang low over the path. Behind the house 
stood d half-broken bench. Here we seated 
ourselves. The ground under onr feet was 
paved with little erect river pebbles, between 
which moss had sprung up. Bettina told me 
that Goethe once described to her his passing 
many a night here in the open air, and wheu 
he waked how beautiful the stars appeared 
to him twinkling thiough the branches. 
We then strolled through the wet 
faded grass about the house until the sun be 
gan to shine. Roses ana vines on trellises ran 
up over the chalk-white walls, and, where the 
wooden frames no longer held them fast, the 
vines drooped in clusters, and swung down as 
if they would detach themselves wholly. We 
discovered, close to some withered roses, 
bunches of ripe grapes, with lotten berries 
among them, as if nobody cared to pick them. 
Bettina took some of them in her handkerchief. 
I see the vines still trembling in the morning 
light as Bettina grasps them and plncks the 
She was at that time not far from 70 years of 
age, but in the possession of her full activity 
and vigor. She spoke of Goethe without the 
least tinge of sadness, as is so often the case 
with old people, when reviewing the days that 
are gone. The present, which was still hers, 
enchanted her. 
Bettina confidently believed the time would 
come when Steinliäuser’s colossal monument 
to Goethe, now so unfavorably placed in the 
Weimar Museum, would have a better 
position. With Wichmaun’s help she 
had herself executed the plaster model 
of it, and among the many statues in 
tended to glorify Goethe, Bettina’s alone seems 
to embody what Goethe was to his age m the 
second half of his life. The complete fulfil 
ment of the conception, in which the group of 
Goethe with the genius who is seizing the 
strings of ihe lyre he holds, was to have 
formed only the (’crowning point, engrossed 
Bettina’s thoughts greatly during tho last 
years of her life. Steinhäuser came to Berlin 
and stayed at her house, wnere, by their 
united eflorts, the whole wa3 erected. A 
plaster model of the statue stood in the groat 
hall of her house, and she constantly found ' 
something to improve in it. Ever new plan? 
were forged to obtain the means for it. Bet 
tina listened to nothing with so much pleasure 
as wheu I painted to her our all going to 
Home to watch the achievement of the monu 
ment. Feeble, and no longer able to walk 
alone, Bke was many times led up to the work, 
and, supporting herself by resting her hands 
on the staging on wiiich the model stood, she 
would move round it slowly, scrutinising it 
from all sides. 
Beside this statue they placed her coffin be 
fore it was borne to Wleperdorf. Her own 
ones had all gone before to receive it there. I 
was alone in the great hall. It lay there a 
heap of laurel wreaths and long leafv vines, 
which I nailed about the casket. I cannot say 
that I have been conscious in thus giving my 
recollections of Bettina of intending to write i 
her last eulogy. The feeling would have been 
natural indeed, but, after the fiight of 20 
years since her death, the 'glorifica 
tion would come somewhat late. It 
would seem that, having long re 
mained m a measure uncomprehended, 
something like a true appreciation of her in 
dividuality has again been awakened, and, 
since Loeper’s short life of her in “German 
Biographies,” been deeply and unmistakably 1 
felt. j 
Like all people, Bettina had her weaknesses, 1 
and there would exist no reason why we I 
should be silent with regard to them, if ] 
anything decided in her life had I 
been connected with them. But a ' 
description of her nature does not, j 
in rny judgment, require it. All the j 
thoughts of her which arise In me are of a ! 
loving, joyous being. I see her ever before 
me, occupied with serious interests. Never 
for an instant did I find her exercised about 
trifles, or for her own benefit. In this she re 
sembled Goethe, in my eyes, whose every act 
was determined by that same bright, inward 
illumination, which, streaming from his own 
soul, irradiated everything around him. 
Only of the few great spirits in all ages 
could this be said.

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