Full text: Zeitungsausschnitte über Werke von Herman Grimm: Goethe

The Most Notable German 
Woman of Her Age. 
The Circumstances That 
Formed Her Character. 
Ml Brilliant *>y 3*s’®f. 
Meraaiiu Crrinon. 
Bettina von Aruhn fills, as Lewes says, a 
larger space in the literary history or the 19th 
century than any other German woman, but 
her works are not greatly read today, and 
even in her lifetime the distinction she won 
was to bs attributed in part certainly to an alto* 
gethor rare aud elevated nature. Gifts she 
had Indeed, and was both intellectual and 
accomplished, but, better than these, she was 
lo all who knew her a sunbeam in the 
flesh, and gave not only light but 
the Promethean spark itself to all 
who approached her. To those out 
ride of Germany, through a wretched 
translation of her principal work, she appears 
only as the most exaggerated sentimentalist of 
a sentimental age—the Do£casinn Sheldon of 
modern times. That this was neitner her 
character nor style is proved by the abundant 
testimony of many talented men still living 
who feel a personal debt of gratitude to her, 
such as they are conscious of to no other. 
The following sketch of her was written 
lately by Prof. Hermann Grimm of Berlin, 
who married her daughter. His lectures on 
"Goethe and His Times" have been translated 
this year by Miss Adams of Boston, and will 
be soon issued by Little & Brown. This 
article we receive direct from Miss Adams, 
who now resides in Germany: 
Bettina was born at Frankfort on the Main 
April 4, 1786. She married Achim von Arnim 
in 1811 in Berlin. The ‘'Correspondence of 
Goethe with a Child” appeared in 1836. She 
died on the 20Lh of January, 185!). 
Her correspondence with Goethe was pre 
ceded by oue with her brother, Clemens 
Brentano, and with tiie t “.5tilladnme” Caroline 
von Giinderrodc. In "these three books is 
contained the narrative of Bectina’s childhood 
and youth. Of these times she gives the most 
graphic aud pleasing description. Her 
mother was the Maximiliane von La 
Roche, whom Goethe so charmingly 
describes as just between tbe child and 
maiden when she first came to greet him in 
her mother’s house, aud whom he held so dear 
afterward when a j-oung wife in Frankfort. 
Biaximiliane’s character afforded the material 
which completed his picture of Lotte in the 
•‘.Sorrows of AVerther,” while her husband, 
Bcttina’s father, gave the final emphasis to 
the disagreeable character of Albert iu tbe ro 
mance. She was Bicutauo’s second wife, who, 
after her early death, soon died himself. 
Many brothers and sisters, all distinguished 
tor beauty and wit, formed a closely-linked 
chain, being iu the Idiosyncrasies of their 
natures best understood by one another—a 
great family, within whose circle were included 
all who, as relations or friends, were es- 
jmcially dear to them. The old family man 
sion of the “Golden Head” in the “Land- 
K sse.” in Frankfort, remained the central 
me of this republican community within 
which Bettina’s nature uniolded itself freely. 
was Betiina’s element and that of her broth 
ers and sisters. The moment absorbed her 
and inspired at the same time the desire to re 
cord what interested her so deeply. Bettina’s 
letters form an uninterrupted chronicle. 
Those of her brother, Clemens Brentano, 
who, in a yet higher degree than herself, com 
prehended aud gave form to the incidents of 
daily life, bear the same character. 
An Inexhaustible freshness and vital 
ity animated her to strive to obtain 
a knowledge of the world in all directions. 
Bettina was never ill, never a sufferer; nor, 
even to tiie last years of her life, variable in 
temper and mood, as is the case witli most of 
us. A victorious soul dwelt in her. She was 
overflowing with the most absolute confidence 
that things wore taking the right direction. 
She demanded large intercourse with people, 
and active participation in important affairs. 
She was cosmopolitan. From a child she was 
accustomed to change of place. AYe find her 
on the Main, on the Rhine, in Bavaria, Aus 
tria, Thuringia—always and everywhere sur 
rounded by friends or relatives. 
This scope granted her maidenhood, Bettina 
looked upon through her whole life as proper 
and essential to her. The future must stand 
open rich in anticipations if she were to be 
content. Public life in the days m which her 
youth fell favored universal views. Old forms 
In Germany were disintegrating. Fresh talent, 
Springing up everywhere, was not to be di 
verted from its proper channel, or monopo 
lized or smothered by party spirit. Each pur- 
sued quietly his own path, only that a great 
aim was common to all. Poetry, philology, 
natural sciences, philosophy and politics 
formed one great sea over which eacn 
took his own course, with the sails 
of all the others constantly in sight. 
The young and gifted, reckless of the past, 
were engrossed with the monstrous expecta 
tions of what the next day might bring forth. 
Now, as I read the youthful letters ot my 
father and uncle, I realize how all interest in 
tbe past had disappeared, and all that was 
good seemed to lie only in the future. It was 
Bettina’s fate to be very intimate with the 
noblest or those who thought and worked in 
this spirit and to be allowed to penetrate even 
into the processes of their mental labors. 
Both Goethe’s and Beethoven’s letters to her, 
Whose genuine form we know today, prove 
bow seriously both men understood her. 
Earnestness was the sign-manual of those 
times. Bettina possessed the power to live in 
the thoughts which distinguished the epoch, 
and, through incessant study, to develop her 
self iu many directions. Her acquaintance 
with Goethe, for which she was well ure- 
pared, formed the climax of her routhful 
strivings. She arrived m Berlin at the same 
tune with Savigny, who had been called to the 
new university. Savigny’s wife was Bettina’s 
sister. Thither, also, repaired Clemens Bren 
tano. He was seven years older than Bettina, 
Mid. like herself, had already been for years 
kn intimate friend of Achim von Ar- 
Dim’s. Among Arnim’s letters to my 
father and uncle, which I am prepar 
ing for publication, the most beautiful 
certainly are those in which Ins marriage with 
Bettina are described. When my father spoke 
of Von Arnlm it was always in a most impres 
sive manner. It seemed as if Arnim rose be 
fore Ins eyes. Armin and Goethe were his 
most precious memories. Great talents, too 
early removed from earth, become sanctifieu 
tons. There was in Arnim’s nature, also, the 
heroic, unburdened, joyous tone which dis 
tinguished Bettina’s, although with a different 
expression. Bettina was a child of the South 
—dark hair and dark eyes. She was fearless 
and direct, and sought to mould circumstances 
to her will. Arulm was of the North, and more 
reserved. He was born for a country life. He 
was the genuine Prussian nobleman. AVher- 
ever lie appeared, I have heard it said, men 
felt that some good spirit bad come among 
them. An atmosphere of cheerfulness and 
rare excellence made his presence a benedic 
tion lo all about him. He was courteous, ele 
gant, handsome, free, brave and single- 
hearted. His style hud all these qualities. No 
greater contrast could be found man between 
his aud Clemens Brentano’s, as exhibited in 
their correspondence. Arnim’s name is sur 
rounded with a peculiar lustre in our literary 
history, but his workä are not widely known, 
and the best of them too little distinguished 
from the less successful. 
AVhen Bettina came to North Germany the 
struggles with Napoleon were just boginning, 
aad life, even in Berlin, full of excitement— 
but though these conflicts were crowned with 
Buccess, after the first intoxication of triumph 
passed away, Germany relapsed into astute 
of quietude which grew ever more profound. 
Naught remained of the gigantic hones which 
for many long years had 'roused the people, 
and whose sure fulfilment the war for freedom 
Beemcd to prophesy. As early as 18-20 Goethe 
spoke of a feeling among the people of the 
"••utter worthlessness of the present.” Not 
until this time did Bettina throw herself fully 
hito her new life. AA’itli her children around 
her she now lived for many years in the re 
tirement of the Margrases country home. Of 
these quiet years she tells us little. The 
most important event which marked them 
Was her acquaintance with Schleier- 
macher, who confirmed her sons, and 
with whom she exchanged letters, rich in 
contents, which are as yet imprinted. 
Bettina was just at the time of her marriage 
estranged from Goethe. She had gone with 
Arnim directly to Weimar, and there had a 
Bliarp altercation with Goethe’s wife, I have 
letters in Arnim’s own hand to Kiemer, in 
Which he strove to gain, at least, a meeting 
with Goethe; but Goethe drew back; the old 
friendship was renounced and Bettina and 
Arnlm mourned the loss bitterly. It was most 
natural that they should always look forward 
to a reunion. In the beginning of 1S20 the 
idea was embraced in Frankfort of erecting a 
memorial to Goethe in his native city. In 
Boisseree’s letters, as well as m Rauch’s life 
of Eggers, we read many of the details 
of the plan. In the last piages 
of tho diary (which forms the 
third part of the “Correspondence with a 
Child” Bettina relates how, at this time, the 
thought of the drawing of the monument to 
Goethe arose in her mind, which she after 
ward took to AVeimar. She would represent 
Goethe ns he had appeared to her from the 
first. For years she pursued this matter, into 
Which Arnlm entered with enthusiasm equal 
toner own. In 1831 Arnim died, and in tiie fol 
lowing year Goethe. Chancellor von Miiller 
returned to Bettina her letters found among 
Goethe’s posthumous papers. The thought 
now struck her that she would raise a monu 
ment to Goethe In her own way, and, since 
the sketch she had made could not be carried 
out in marble, it should form the flrst leaf in 
her “Correspondence with a Child,” and face 
the title page bearing the dedication to 
work the occnp’aiion she needed. Thoughts 
of the far-off days of youth awoke in her soul 
as she pored over the old letters. VVhat she 
Would have said and written to Goethe, but 
never did, and at tbe same time what—accord 
ing to her conception—Goethe might have said 
In reply, should now subsequently find ex- 
Jwasioa. The fruits should hang ripe aud 
sweet on the boughs, as in her early days, and 
weigh down the branches to meet the hand 
which was to pluck them. This was the key 
note to Uns unique book, of which Meusebach, 
in closing his review of it, justly said it would 
with difficulty escajie immortality. 
AVith each one, in recalling the (lays of 
youth, Fancy sits like Penelope at the loom, 
drawing out of the well the old threads to 
weave them in anew. Even the most accu 
rate memory, when gathering up and laying 
together the things which constitute expe 
rience on earth, will join the threads so as to 
produce something like a work of art. Goethe 
in ‘’Dichtung und AVah/Jicit” has acknowl 
edged the necessity and naturalness of this 
Let us consider the kind of participation Bet 
tina had directly iu this work. She related to 
Goethe the stories of herchildhood, just as her 
mother had told them to her, and, at the same 
time, how she had reconstructed them to suit 
her own fancy. Goethe, who understood this 
well, listened eagerly to these accounts, and, 
as we see the use he made of them, 
it seems quite possible that it wa6 Bet 
tina who first struck the touo in which 
he wrote out later bis own narration. 
Certain it is that the desire to 
make experience conform to what it might 
have been mured Bettina to begin to write 
Slie never dreamed of looking upon the book 
in which Goethe is made the inspiration ot 
her young life ns anything but a work of art. 
She freely confessed vviiat she had added to It, 
saving that, in reality, she had never loved 
Goethe passionately. 
AVe will now pass on to examine what 
Goethe’s genuine letters to Bettina contain, 
which Dr. von Locpcr has published, so far 
as they could be obtained, together with those 
to her grandmother Sophie von La Roche. 
“Thy letters (Goethe writes to Bettina, May, 
1810, jusi as he was leaving for Carlsbad) 
travel with me and shall keep thy image ever 
present to me in friendly affectionate remem 
brance. I do not say more to thee, 
for, properly speaking, one can give 
thee nothing—because thou either createst 
or takest all to thyself. Farewell 
and think of me." The letter was sealed with 
a little Amor—neither by Bettina nor Goethe 
at the time was this symbol interpreted se 
riously—but precisely as the letter stands 
how much of what may be called fatherly 
love is expressed in Goethe’s word«, and how 
much equality! YVe have before us a vast 
amount of material, and can compare what 
Goethe said to others in letters—to no one 
after Hie times of Frau von Stein has lie de 
clared that he could give nothing. He ap 
preciated Eettina’s mental wealth, and con 
ferred upon her the rieht to feel that she was 
most nearly related to him. Nothing more. 
The passion which fills Boltina’s letters did 
not come into play between the actual Goethe 
and herself, but between the imaginary 
Goethe of the correspondence and Bettina as 
a new creation of later days. 
AA r e kuow how Goethe himself in the writ 
ing of “Werlher” was transported with a pas 
sion for Lotte which he had long ceased to 
feel, and which, perhaps, indeed had never 
stirred him so powerfully as he represents. 
He writes of what might have been. It was 
almost a year before his passionate imagina 
tion, even at that time, acquired intensity 
enough for tho romance. Bettina had borne 
these things in her mind for over 20 years be 
fore fitting opportunity presented for utter 
ance, and she was capable in a far greater 
measure than Goethe of transforming real 
experiences into myths. In fact, in such 
power did she possess this gift, that often in 
the very midst of events they assumed to 
her a legendary form. Her grandmother 
Soil hie La Roche had given evidence of this 
talent long before—but she endured what be- 
fel her, while Bettina accepted life bravely 
aud with a sovereign will to rule its accidents. 
Granting that Clemens of the “Friihlings- 
kriinze,” “Giinderrocle,” “Frau Hath" and 
“Goethe” arc creations of fancy, what vigor 
ous handling and what light and shade have 
these figures received in her modelling of 
them. Her treatment of her t hemes is only a 
little more daring than Goethe’s, for Marianne 
von AVillemer complained to me that an ele 
ment of passion was subsequently Introduced 
into the poems addressed to her in the Divan, 
which, on both sides, had been wholly foreign 
to their intercourse. 
Bettina was in herfiotli year when her book 
appeared. AVith a large family dependent on 
her, she had already for many years been 
settled in Berlin, where she was 
of relatives and friends. Her renown came 
like the reviving spring rain, which falls at 
night, and the enthusiasm she excited spread 
far and wide iu Germany. It was accepted as 
a matter of course that this was only her first 
work, and expectation was eager as to what 
might follow. “Giinderrode” had already taken 
strong hold on the community. This book 
was just published when luy father aud uncle 
were called to Berlin in 1841.

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