Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dornburg again

My interest in Goethe's stay in Dornburg came in this way: I was at the New York Public Library, taking a break from my work, wandering in the third-floor corridor, where there is currently an exhibition of the works of William James Bennett (1787-1844), an American artist who made a series of topographical prints celebrating the American landscape. Many of the works are rendered in aquatint, suggesting watercolors. His views of American cities are well known, but I particularly liked the views of less settled regions, for instance, the view below of West Point.

It is dated 1831, and I couldn't help thinking about what Germany was like, in particular Goethe's environment, at about the same time. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find many comparable works; the Internet can't read my mind. (Perhaps someone will let me know where to search.) GoethezeitPortal has some nice documentation of Dornburg, including the acquarelle below, showing the three castles. The artist was Walter Hartwig, who was born in 1874. For some reason I suspect that Dornburg had not changed much since Goethe stayed there.

The "agenda" at the top of this post is Goethe's own, for September 9, 1828, on which he was making preparations to leave Dornburg and return to Weimar. Quite a busy day. I found the illustration in the Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts for 1971. At the end of each edition of the annual journal, there is a report on the preceding year's acquisitions, and the institution's report on the agenda is quite droll. It begins with Goethe's excuse for avoiding Weimar at the time of the Duke's funeral: "With the painful state of my interior I had at least to protect my outer senses" (Bei dem schmerzlichen Zustand des Innern mußte ich wenigstens meine äußern Sinne schonen). The report then goes on to say that, if one reads the diaries of this period, one discovers that the painful loss affecting him did not, however, cause an interruption in his work. I have already mentioned some of his pursuits in Dornburg, but the agenda at the top (click on image to enlarge) indicates the methodical way in which Goethe went about filling his days. Note that "Carlyle" is not crossed through; still some work to do there.

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