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It may easily be supposed that Wieland had concerns upon his hands of much greater importance than the answering of my letter. I was not indeed perfectly satisfied at its remaining unanswered, but was, however, willing to pardon this negligence, provided I should see my.production in print; a satisfaction I had not the smallest doubt of receiving. Every month therefore, I expected the appearance of the Mercury with excess of impatience, and eagerly ran over the list of its contents, assured of finding my • Winter's Tale. In the first month I consoled myself for my disappointed hopes, by the conviction that Wieland had only postponed the insertion of my production from a superabundance of materials. But when, first a quarter, then half a year, passed on, and still no tale appeared, I was vain and absurà enough to persuade myself, for a moment, that Wieland through envy wished to suppress my growing talents.
I do not attempt to veil my weakness. I hold ye up a mirror, ye poetasters, in which to view yourselves! Two years after, when my reason was somewhat more matured, I sent Wieland another poem, called · Ralph and Guido,' accompanied by a really modest anonymous letter. My humility was then rewarded by the pleasure of seeing my offspring inserted in the very next number.
But, as I hinted above, at the same time that my pride was so mortified with regard to my: Winter's Tale,' another circumstance happened, which gave me great encouragement, and almost effaced the chagrin of my disappointment in the former instance. A student of the name of Gether was drowned bathing in the Saale, and the extreme affliction into which his intimate friend Schuettdorf was plunged by his untimely fate, excited universal compassion. Without being acquainted with either of the parties, I wrote some verses upon this affecting subject, which were printed by Schuettdorf himself, and set to music by a composer of great taste, of the name of Reinhard.
Of three poems occasioned by this melancholy catastrophe, I was flattered with the assurance that mine was indisputably the best. This preference, united with the inexpressible pleasure derived from seeing myself for the first time in print, was quite sufficient to expunge all humiliating recollections, and I became more ardently devoted to the muses than ever. The first
of my stay at Jena was just expired, when my sister married and settled at Duisburgh upon the Rhine. From affection to her, and that she might not be immediately separated from all her friends and relations, I accompanied her home, promising at the same time to spend a year at this duodecimo university. The journey to Duisburgh furnished my imagination with a great variety of new images, since, in the course of it, I saw the celebrated town of Cassel, enriched by so many works of art, Frankfort on the Maine, and above all, the glorious scenery that nature presents along the banks of the Rhine, from the place where we entered our yacht, till we arrived at Cologne. Whoever wishes to make an experiment upon himself, whether or not he has any turn for poetry, must take this journey, and if he do not in the course of it find the poetical vein irresistibly burst forth, he may give up the point at once.
I cannot forbear here inserting a humorous anecdote that occurred in the course of our peregrinations. At Cassel we happened accidentally to lodge in the same hotel with Abbott the player, who had formerly been almost the god of my idolatry at Weimar, and who now carried on his profession in the first-mentioned town. The respect I had then conceived for his person was not by any means extinguished, and the moment I espied him at the table d'hôte, I was all attention, nor could think any more of eating or drinking.
On that day · Ariadné of Naxos' was to be performed. He was talking of it at the table, and re
gretting the smallness of his stage, and scantiness of the decorations ; in particular he complained heavily of the want of a sun. But suddenly turning to my sister, who was scarcely less attentive to him than myself, this Theseus, whose head was already vered o'er with age,” said, with all the gallantry of a knight errant in the good old days of chivalry, if you, madam, would be so obliging as to stand in the back-ground, we should have no occasion for any other sun.”
It was enough. At so ridiculous an hyperbole mny profound respect vanished in a moment as with a stroke of an enchanter's rod. I looked at him ear. nestly, smiled, and returned to eating my dinner with an excellent appetite.
One of my first anxieties at Duisburgh was to insti. tute a private theatre. I did not experience much difficulty in collecting together a number of young men, all perfectly ready to strut their hours as kings, as heroes, as generals. A more arduous task was to find a place suited to our representations. This little town, as is very commonly the case with little towns, was enveloped by a thick cloud of prejudices. The few who possessed taste had no room large enough to answer our purpose, and those who had rooms would not suffer them to undergo such profanation.
In this distress, frorn whom will it be supposed we received assistance?-But that would never be guessed. It was even from the venerable fathers of the convent of the Minorets. With the utmost courtesy and politeness they offered us the use of their cloister, attended at our rehearsals, laughed at our jokes, and related with no small pleasure how they themselves had formerly played scripture-stories. Indeed, truth obliges me to confess, that in general among the catholic shepherds of souls, I have found less eccle. siastical bigotry, than among the pastors of the protestant church. The moment that the benedicat tibi Dominus is pronounced over the latter, they seein to consider themselves as beings of a superior order ; the former never forget that they are men; and if, in matters of faith, they are somewhat in olerant, they certainly practise much more forbearance towards the frailties of human nature. Hell is, indeed, equally their bugbear for frightening their deluded fellow-creatures, but with them there is still some hope of escaping from it; whereas, with the protestant, 'tis once there, and always there. In short, whoever is condemned to fall into the hands of a priest, will stand a much better chance with a monk than with a superintendent.
In the cloister of the Minorets' convent, to the astonishment, the delight, and the scandal of the Duisburgh public, we performed the play of “The Rivals. Since the creation of the world, never probably was the cloister of a convent so profaned ; and whoever had seen such a place crowded with females dressed in their best attire, might well have asked himself, “ Where am I? Is this a dream, or am I really within monastic walls ?”
The most ridiculous part of the story was, that for want of a sufficient number of performers, I played two characters--no less than Julia, and the young squire Ackerland.* Wherever these two were to appear together, I providently made such alterations as would adapt it to my purpose ; and in the damsel's character I wore the dress of an Amazon, so contrived, as that it could be changed in an instant when I was to make my appearance as the clownish squire. After these, and the like fashions, did I compel every difficulty to vanish before my theatrical rage.
But still, in writing, my mind did not emit one spark of originality. romance, which I began at
* Probably this was Sheridan's admirable comedy of The Rivals,' and a mistake is here made in calling the character Ackerland instead of Acres. Or perhaps the name may be altered in the German translation.-TRANSLATOR,
Duisburgh, was the exact counterpart of 'Sophy's Journey from Memel to Saxony.' No more than four sheets of this were ever completed. Two other productions I did finish, but only to receive two new mortifications. The first was a comedy called • The Ring; or, Avarice is the Root of all Evil;' founded, as usual, upon an old and worn out story: A young woman, supposed to be dead, was, by the desire of her lover, buried with a valuable ring he had presented to her, upon her finger, which, in the night, the ghostly father comes to take away, when she awakes, to his no small astonislıment and confusion.
This piece I had the assurance to send to Schreeder, who returned it with a very polite letter of rejection, which I received, even at the moment that I was meditating, in triumphant exultation, on the vast honours that awaited me upon its performance. I railed unmercifully at Schroeder, for not understand. ing his own interest better ; and, in the warmth of my indignation, quarrelled with the ungrateful dramatic muse, whom I resolved to forswear for ever. To console myself, I immediately wrote a romance of eight or ten sheets, which, in my own opinion, was no way inferior to Werther. The story was, indeed, much more horrible, since the hero threw himself from a rock, and was dashed in pieces.
Weigand, at Leipsic, was at that time principal accoucheur to all the fashionable romances, and to him therefore was my offspring sent for his decision upon its merits. For some time I hastened anxiously twice in the week to the post, in hopes of receiving tidings of my darling. At last came a letter, and a letter only, by which it was plain that my manuscript was not returned, and I instantly concluded for cer. tain, that it was already consigned to the press. Think, then, with what humiliation and confusion, on opening the letter, I read, that Mr Weigand was amply supplied with such articles for several fairs to come, and that my manuscript should be at my ser.