Friday, December 24, 2010

Goethe at Christmas

As an indication of how little Christmas meant to Goethe, there is not a single mention of Goethe in the Christmas email of the Goethezeitportal. This is the major website for all kinds of information on Goethe and the era of Goethe, including texts, documentation, and so on. As always, there are lots of cool pictures (including the two posted here) and texts. Even Heinrich Heine, who was not a Christian (despite conversion), has an entry, describing Christmas in Berlin in 1822. Rüdiger Safranski in his book on the friendship between Goethe and Schiller, mentions one Christmas, in 1800, when Karoline Schlegel wrote to Goethe imploring him to invite Schelling for Christmas. It seems that Schelling (whom Karoline would later marry) was depressed. One glance from Goethe, she wrote, would transform him: "If I had a wish that I might dare to express, it is this, that you would lure him from his solitude at Christmas and invite him to be near you."

Goethe did, going so far as to send his own horses to Jena to pick up Schelling and bring him to Weimar on December 26. Schelling stayed until January 4 as a guest in Goethe's house am Frauenplan. Schiller joined them on New Year's Eve, when they engaged in "serious discussions," according to Safranski.

It's unclear to me whether Safranski is making a connection between events, but the next paragraph (p. 263) reports that, three days later, Goethe came down with erysipelas, a horrible bacterial infection, that nearly killed him: "he lost his sight, occasionally consciousness."


Zentrist said...

Please do me a small favor--and translate this book by Rudiger Safranski! (Just kidding...) Seriously, I've got to read this book. It's amazing to think of these philosophers, artists...of Goethe--all these folks together in one room having "serious discussions." Something must have weakened Goethe's immune system. Maybe it was the "idealism" or "transcendentalism" of Schelling!

Goethe Girl said...

Yes, too much transcendentalism -- or "Naturphilosophie." Thanks for all your comments this year. They have given me much to think about.