Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Hours with Goethe, 1830
By Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847)
From the ‘Letters from Italy and Switzerland’: Translation of Grace Wallace

YESTERDAY evening I was at a party at Goethe’s, and played alone the whole evening: the Concert-Stück, the ‘Invitation à la Valse,’ and Weber’s Polonaise in C, my three Welsh pieces, and my Scotch Sonata. It was over by ten o’clock, but I of course stayed till twelve o’clock, when we had all sorts of fun, dancing and singing; so you see I lead a most jovial life here. The old gentleman goes to his room regularly at nine o’clock, and as soon as he is gone we begin our frolics, and never separate before midnight.  1
  To-morrow my portrait is to be finished: a large black-crayon sketch, and very like, but I look rather sulky. Goethe is so friendly and kind to me that I don’t know how to thank him sufficiently, or what to do to deserve it. In the forenoon he likes me to play to him the compositions of the various great masters, in chronological order, for an hour, and also tell him the progress they have made; while he sits in a dark corner, like a Jupiter Tonans, his old eyes flashing on me. He did not wish to hear anything of Beethoven’s; but I told him that I could not let him off, and played the first part of the Symphony in C minor. It seemed to have a singular effect on him: at first he said, “This causes no emotion, nothing but astonishment; it is grandios.” He continued grumbling in this way, and after a long pause he began again,—“It is very grand, very wild; it makes one fear that the house is about to fall down: and what must it be when played by a number of men together!” During dinner, in the midst of another subject, he alluded to it again. You know that I dine with him every day, when he questions me very minutely, and is always so gay and communicative after dinner that we generally remain together alone for an hour while he speaks on uninterruptedly.  2
  I have no greater pleasure than when he brings out engravings and explains them to me, or gives his opinion of ‘Ernani,’ or Lamartine’s Elegies, or the theatre, or pretty girls. He has several times lately invited people; which he rarely does now, so that most of the guests had not seen him for a long time. I then play a great deal, and he compliments me before all these people, and “ganz stupend” is his favorite expression. To-day he has invited a number of Weimar beauties on my account, because he thinks I ought to enjoy the society of young people. If I go up to him on such occasions, he says, “My young friend, you must join the ladies, and make yourself agreeable to them.” I am not however devoid of tact, so I contrived to have him asked yesterday whether I did not come too often; but he growled out to Ottilie, who put the question to him, that “he must now begin to speak to me in good earnest, for I had such clear ideas that he hoped to learn much from me.” I became twice as tall in my own estimation when Ottilie repeated this to me. He said so to me himself yesterday: and when he declared that there were many subjects he had at heart that I must explain to him, I said, “Oh, certainly!” but I thought, “This is an honor I can never forget;”—often it is the very reverse.

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