Home  »  Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship  »  Chapter XVI

J.W. von Goethe (1749–1832). Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Book V

Chapter XVI

THE DEPARTURE of Philina did not make a deep sensation, either in the theatre or in the public. She never was in earnest with anything: the women universally detested her; the men rather wished to see her tête-à-tête than on the boards. Thus her fine, and for the stage even happy talents were of no avail to her. The other members of the company took greater labour on them to supply her place: the Frau Melina, in particular, was much distinguished by her diligence and zeal. She noted down, as formerly, the principles of Wilhelm; she guided herself according to his theory and his example; there was of late a something in her nature that rendered her more interesting. She soon acquired an accurate mode of playing; she attained the natural tone of conversation altogether, that of keen emotion she attained in some degree. She contrived, moreover, to adapt herself to Serlo’s humours; she took pains in singing for his pleasure, and succeeded in that matter moderately well.

By the accession of some other players, the company was rendered more complete: and while Wilhelm and Serlo were busied each in his degree, the former insisting on the general tone and spirit of the whole, the latter faithfully elaborating the separate passages, a laudable ardour likewise inspired the actors, and the public took a lively interest in their concerns.

“We are on the right path,” said Serlo once; “if we can continue thus, the public too will soon be on it. Men are easily astonished and misled by wild and barbarous exhibitions; yet lay before them anything rational and polished, in an interesting manner, and doubt not they will catch at it.

“What forms the chief defect of our German theatre, what prevents both actor and spectator from obtaining proper views, is the vague and variegated nature of the objects it contains. You nowhere find a barrier, on which to prop your judgment. In my opinion, it is far from an advantage to us, that we have expanded our stage into as it were a boundless arena for the whole of nature: yet neither manager nor actor need attempt contracting it, until the taste of the nation shall itself mark out the proper circle. Every good society submits to certain conditions and restrictions; so also must every good theatre. Certain manners, certain modes of speech, certain objects and fashions of proceeding, must altogether be excluded. You do not grow poorer by limiting your household expenditure.”

On these points our friends were more or less accordant or at variance. The majority, with Wilhelm at their head, were for the English theatre; Serlo and a few others for the French.

It was also settled, that in vacant hours, of which unhappily an actor has too many, they should in company peruse the finest plays in both these languages; examining what parts of them seemed best and worthiest of imitation. They accordingly commenced with some French pieces. On these occasions, it was soon observed, Aurelia went away whenever they began to read. At first they supposed she had been sick: Wilhelm once questioned her about it.

“I would not assist at such a reading,” said she: “for how could I hear and judge, when my heart was torn in pieces? I hate the French language from the bottom of my soul.”

“How can you be hostile to a language,” cried our friend, “to which we Germans are indebted for the greater part of our accomplishments; to which we must become indebted still more, if our natural qualities are ever to assume their proper form?”

“It is no prejudice!” replied Aurelia: “a painful impression, a hated recollection of my faithless friend, has robbed me of all enjoyment in that beautiful and cultivated tongue. How I hate it now, with my whole strength and heart! During the period of our kindliest connexion, he wrote in German, and what genuine, powerful, cordial German! It was not till he wanted to get quit of me, that he began seriously to write in French. I marked, I felt what he meant. What he would have blushed to utter in his mother-tongue, he could by this means write with a quiet conscience. It is the language of reservations, equivocations and lies: it is a perfidious language. Heaven be praised! I cannot find another word to express this perfide of theirs in all its compass. Our poor treulos, the faithless of the English, are innocent as babes beside it. Perfide means faithless with pleasure, with insolence and malice. How enviable is the culture of a nation that can figure out so many shades of meaning by a single word! French is exactly the language of the world; worthy to become the universal language, that all may have it in their power to cheat, and cozen, and betray each other! His French letters were always smooth and pleasant, while you read them. If you chose to believe it, they sounded warmly, even passionately: but if you examined narrowly, they were but phrases, accursed phrases! He has spoiled my feeling to the whole language, to French literature, even to the beautiful delicious expressions of noble souls which may be found in it. I shudder when a French word is spoken in my hearing.”

In such terms, she could for hours continue to give utterance to her chagrin, interrupting or disturbing every other kind of conversation. Sooner or later, Serlo used to put an end to such peevish lamentations by some bitter sally; but, by this means, commonly the talk for the evening was destroyed.

In all provinces of life, it is unhappily the case, that whatever is to be accomplished by a number of coöperating men and circumstances, cannot long continue perfect. Of an acting company as well as of a kingdom, of a circle of friends as well as of an army, you may commonly select the moment when it may be said that all was standing on the highest pinnacle of harmony, perfection, contentment and activity. But alterations will ere long occur: the individuals that compose the body often change; new members are added; the persons are no longer suited to the circumstances, or the circumstances to the persons; what was formerly united, quickly falls asunder. Thus it was with Serlo’s company. For a time, you might have called it as complete as any German company could ever boast of being. Most of the actors were occupying their proper places; all had enough to do, and all did it willingly. Their private personal condition was not bad; and each appeared to promise great things in his art, for each commenced with animation and alacrity. But it soon became apparent that a part of them were mere automatons, who could not reach beyond what was attainable without the aid of feeling. Nor was it long till grudgings and envyings arose among them, such as commonly obstruct every good arrangement, and easily distort and tear in pieces everything that reasonable and thinking men would wish to keep united.

The departure of Philina was not quite so insignificant as it had at first appeared. She had always skilfully contrived to entertain the Manager, and keep the others in good humour. She had endured Aurelia’s violence with amazing patience; and her dearest task had been to flatter Wilhelm. Thus she was, in some respects, a bond of union for the whole: the loss of her was quickly felt.

Serlo could not live without some little passion of the love sort. Elmira was of late grown up, we might almost say grown beautiful: for some time she had been attracting his attention, and Philina, with her usual dexterity, had favoured this attachment so soon as she observed it. “We should train ourselves in time,” she would say, “to the business of procuress; nothing else remains for us when we are old.”

Serlo and Elmira had by this means so approximated to each other, that, shortly after the departure of Philina, both were of a mind; and their small romance was rendered doubly interesting, as they had to hide it sedulously from the father; Old Boisterous not understanding jokes of that description. Elmira’s sister had been admitted to the secret: and Serlo was in consequence obliged to overlook a multitude of things in both of them. One of their worst habits was an excessive love of junketing, nay, if you will, an in-intolerable gluttony. In this respect they altogether differed from Philina, to whom it gave a new tint of loveliness, that she seemed as it were to live on air; eating very little; and for drink, merely skimming off, with all imaginable grace, the foam from a glass of champagne.

Now, however, Serlo, if he meant to please his doxies, was obliged to join breakfast with dinner; and with this, by a substantial bever, to connect the supper. But amid gormandising, Serlo entertained another plan, which he longed to have fulfilled. He imagined that he saw a kind of inclination between Wilhelm and Aurelia; and he anxiously wished that it might assume a serious shape. He hoped to cast the whole mechanical department of his theatrical economy on Wilhelm’s shoulders; to find in him, as in the former brother, a faithful and industrious tool. Already he had, by degrees, shifted over to him most of the cares of management: Aurelia kept the strong-box; and Serlo once more lived as he had done of old, entirely according to his humour. Yet there was a circumstance which vexed him in secret, as it did his sister likewise.

The world has a particular way of acting towards public persons of acknowledged merit: it gradually begins to be indifferent to them; and to favour talents which are new, though far inferior; it makes excessive requisitions of the former, and accepts of anything with approbation from the latter.

Serlo and Aurelia had opportunity enough to meditate on this peculiarity. The strangers, especially the young and handsome ones, had drawn the whole attention and applause upon themselves; and Serlo and his sister, in spite of the most zealous efforts, had in general to make their exits without the welcome sound of clapping hands. It is true, some special causes were at work on this occasion. Aurelia’s pride was palpable, and her contempt for the public was known to many. Serlo indeed flattered every individual; but his cutting gibes against the whole were often circulated and repeated. The new members again were not only strangers, unknown and wanting help, but some of them were likewise young and amiable; thus all of them found patrons.

Ere long, too, there arose internal discontents, and many bickerings among the actors. Scarcely had they noticed that our friend was acting as director, when most of them began to grow the more remiss, the more he strove to introduce a better order, greater accuracy, and chiefly to insist that everything mechanical should be performed in the most strict and regular manner.

Thus, by and by, the whole concern, which actually for a time had nearly looked ideal, grew as vulgar in its attributes as any mere itinerating theatre. And unhappily, just as Wilhelm, by his labour, diligence and vigorous efforts, had made himself acquainted with the requisitions of the art, and trained completely both his person and his habits to comply with them, he began to feel, in melancholy hours, that this craft deserved the necessary outlay of time and talents less than any other. The task was burdensome, the recompense was small. He would rather have engaged with any occupation in which, when the period of exertion is past, one can enjoy repose of mind, than with this, wherein, after undergoing much mechanical drudgery, the aim of one’s activity cannot still be attained but by the strongest effort of thought and emotion. Besides, he had to listen to Aurelia’s complaints about her brother’s wastefulness; he had to misconceive the winks and nods of Serlo, trying from afar to lead him to a marriage with Aurelia. He had withal to hide his own secret sorrow, which pressed heavy on his heart, because of that ambiguous officer, whom he had sent in quest of. The messenger returned not, sent no tidings; and Wilhelm feared that his Mariana was lost to him a second time.

About this period, there occurred a public mourning, which obliged our friends to shut their theatre for several weeks. Wilhelm seized this opportunity to pay a visit to the Clergyman, with whom the Harper had been placed to board. He found him in a pleasant district; and the first thing that he noticed in the parsonage, was the old man teaching a boy to play upon his instrument. The Harper showed no little joy at sight of Wilhelm; he rose, held out his hand, and said:

“You see, I am still good for something in the world; permit me to continue; for my hours are all distributed, and full of business.”

The Clergyman saluted Wilhelm very kindly; and told him that the Harper promised well, already giving hopes of a complete recovery.

Their conversation naturally turned upon the various modes of treating the insane.

“Except physical derangements,” observed the Clergyman, “which often place insuperable difficulties in the way, and in regard to which I follow the prescriptions of a wise physician, the means of curing madness seem to me extremely simple. They are the very means by which you hinder sane persons from becoming mad. Awaken their activity; accustom them to order; bring them to perceive that they hold their being and their fate in common with many millions; that extraordinary talents, the highest happiness, the deepest misery, are but slight variations from the general lot: in this way, no insanity will enter; or, if it has entered, will gradually disappear. I have portioned out the old man’s hours; he gives lessons to some children on the harp; he works in the garden; he is already much more cheerful. He wishes to enjoy the cabbages he plants; my son, to whom in case of death he has bequeathed his harp, he is ardent to instruct, that the boy may be able to make use of his inheritance. I have said but little to him, as a clergyman, about his wild mysterious scruples; but a busy life brings on so many incidents, that ere long he must feel how true it is, that doubt of any kind can be removed by nothing but activity. I go softly to work; yet if I could get his beard and hood removed, I should reckon it a weighty point; for nothing more exposes us to madness, than distinguishing ourselves from others, and nothing more contributes to maintain our common sense, than living in the universal way with multitudes of men. Alas! how much there is in education, in our social institutions, to prepare us and our children for insanity!”

Wilhelm stayed some days with this intelligent divine; heard from him many curious narratives, not of the insane alone, but of persons such as commonly are reckoned wise and rational, though they may have peculiarities which border on insanity.

The conversation became doubly animated on the entrance of the Doctor, with whom it was a custom to pay frequent visits to his friend the Clergyman, and to assist him in his labours of humanity. The physician was an oldish man, who, though in weak health, had spent many years in the practice of the noblest virtues. He was a strong advocate for country life, being himself scarcely able to exist except in the open air. Withal he was extremely active and companionable. For several years, he had shown a special inclination to make friends with all the country clergymen within his reach. Such of these as were employed in any useful occupation, he strove by every means to help; into others, who were still unsettled in their aims, he endeavoured to infuse a taste for some profitable species of exertion. Being at the same time in connexion with a multitude of noblemen, magistrates, judges, he had in the space of twenty years, in secret, accomplished much towards the advancement of many branches of husbandry; he had done his best to put in motion every project that seemed capable of benefiting agriculture, animals or men; and had thus forwarded improvement in its truest sense. “For man,” he used to say, “there is but one misfortune; when some idea lays hold of him, which exerts no influence upon active life, or still more, which withdraws him from it. At the present time,” continued he on this occasion, “I have such a case before me; it concerns a rich and noble couple; and hitherto has baffled all my skill. The affair belongs in part to your department, worthy Pastor, and your friend here will forbear to mention it again.

“In the absence of a certain nobleman, some persons of the house, in a frolic not entirely commendable, disguised a young man in the master’s clothes. The lady was to be imposed upon by this deception; and although it was described to me as nothing but a joke, I am much afraid the purpose of it was to lead this noble and most amiable lady from the path of honour. Her husband, however, unexpectedly returns; he enters his chamber; thinks he sees his spirit; and from that time falls into a melancholy temper, firmly believing that his death is near.

“He has now abandoned himself to men who pamper him with religious ideas; and I see not how he is to be prevented from going among the Herrnhuthers with his lady; and as he has no children, from depriving his relations of the chief part of his fortune.”

“With his lady?” cried our friend, in great agitation; for this story had affrighted him extremely.

“And alas!” replied the Doctor, who regarded Wilhelm’s exclamation only as the voice of common sympathy; “this lady is herself possessed with a deeper sorrow, which renders a removal from the world desirable to her also. The same young man was taking leave of her; she was not circumspect enough to hide a nascent inclination towards him; the youth grew bolder, clasped her in his arms, and pressed a large portrait of her husband, which was set with diamonds, forcibly against her breast. She felt a sharp pain, which gradually went off, leaving first a little redness, then no trace at all. As a man, I am convinced that she has nothing farther to reproach herself with, in this affair; as a physician, I am certain that this pressure could not have the smallest ill effect. Yet she will not be persuaded that an induration is not taking place in the part; and if you try to overcome her notion by the evidence of feeling, she maintains, that though the evil is away this moment, it will return the next. She conceives that the disease will end in cancer; and thus her youth and loveliness be altogether lost to others and herself.”

“Wretch that I am!” cried Wilhelm, striking his brow, and rushing from the company into the fields. He had never felt himself in such a miserable case.

The clergyman and the physician were of course exceedingly astonished at this singular discovery. In the evening, all their skill was called for, when our friend returned, and, with a circumstantial disclosure of the whole occurrence, uttered the most violent accusations of himself. Both took interest in him; both felt a real concern about his general condition, particularly as he painted it in the gloomy colours which arose from the humour of the moment.

Next day the physician, without much entreaty, was prevailed upon to accompany him in his return; both that he might bear him company, and that he might, if possible, do something for Aurelia, whom our friend had left in rather dangerous circumstances.

In fact, they found her worse than they expected. She was afflicted with a sort of intermittent fever, which could the less be mastered, as she purposely maintained and aggravated the attacks of it. The stranger was not introduced as a physician; he behaved with great courteousness and prudence. They conversed about her situation bodily and mental: her new friend related many anecdotes of persons who, in spite of lingering disorders, had attained a good old age; adding, that in such cases, nothing could be more injurious than the intentional recalling of passionate and disagreeable emotions. In particular he stated, that for persons labouring under chronic and partly incurable distempers, he had always found it a very happy circumstance when they chanced to entertain, and cherish in their minds, true feelings of religion. This he signified in the most unobtrusive manner; as it were historically; promising Aurelia at the same time the reading of a very interesting manuscript, which he said he had received from the hands of an excellent lady of his friends, who was now deceased. “To me,” he said, “it is of uncommon value; and I shall trust you even with the original. Nothing but the title is in my handwriting: I have called it, Confessions of a Fair Saint.”

Touching the medical and dietetic treatment of the racked and hapless patient, he also left his best advice with Wilhelm. He then departed; promising to write; and, if possible, to come again in person.

Meanwhile, in Wilhelm’s absence, there had changes been preparing such as he was not aware of. During his directorship, our friend had managed all things with a certain liberality and freedom; looking chiefly at the main result. Whatever was required for dresses, decorations and the like, he had usually provided in a plentiful and handsome style; and for securing the cooperation of his people, he had flattered their self-interest, since he could not reach them by nobler motives. In this he felt his conduct justified the more, as Serlo for his own part never aimed at being a strict economist; but liked to hear the beauty of his theatre commended; and was contented, if Aurelia, who conducted the domestic matters, on defraying all expenses, signified that she was free from debt, and could besides afford the necessary sums for clearing off such scores as Serlo in the interim, by lavish kindness to his mistresses, or otherwise, might have incurred.

Melina, who was charged with managing the wardrobe, had all the while been silently considering these things, with the cold spiteful temper peculiar to him. On occasion of our friend’s departure, and Aurelia’s increasing sickness, he contrived to signify to Serlo, that more money might be raised and less expended; and consequently something be laid up, or at least a merrier life be led. Serlo hearkened gladly to such allegations, and Melina risked the exhibition of his plan.

“I will not say,” continued he, “that any of your actors has at present too much salary; they are meritorious people, they would find a welcome anywhere; but for the income which they bring us in, they have too much. My project would be, to set up an opera: and as to what concerns the playhouse, I may be allowed to say it, you are the person for maintaining that establishment upon your single strength. Observe how at present your merits are neglected; and justice is refused you, not because your fellow actors are excellent, but merely good.

“Come out alone, as used to be the case; endeavour to attract around you middling, I will even say inferior people, for a slender salary; regale the public with mechanical displays, as you can so cleverly do; apply your remaining means to the opera, which I am talking of; and you will quickly see, that with the same labour and expense, you will give greater satisfaction, while you draw incomparably more money than at present.”

These observations were so flattering to Serlo, that they could not fail of making some impression on him. He readily admitted, that, loving music as he did, he had long wished for some arrangement such as this: though he could not but perceive that the public taste would thus be still more widely led astray; and that with such a mongrel theatre, not properly an opera, not properly a playhouse, any residue of true feeling for regular and perfect works of art must shortly disappear.

Melina ridiculed, in terms more plain than delicate, our friend’s pedantic notions in this matter, and his vain attempts to form the public mind, instead of being formed by it. Serlo and he at last agreed, with full conviction, that the sole concern was how to gather money, and grow rich, or live a joyous life; and they scarcely concealed their wish to be delivered from those persons who at present hindered them.

Melina took occasion to lament Aurelia’s weak health, and the speedy end which it threatened; thinking all the while directly the reverse. Serlo affected to regret that Wilhelm could not sing; thus signifying that his presence was by no means indispensable. Melina then came forward with a whole catalogue of savings, which, he said, might be effected, and Serlo saw in him his brother-in-law replaced threefold. Both of them felt well that secrecy was necessary in the matter; but this mutual obligation only joined them closer in their interests. They failed not to converse together privately, on everything that happened; to blame whatever Wilhelm or Aurelia undertook; and to elaborate their own project, and prepare it more and more for execution.

Silent as they both might be about their plan, little as their words betrayed them, in their conduct they were not so politic as constantly to hide their purposes. Melina now opposed our friend in many points that lay within the province of the latter; and Serlo, who had never acted smoothly to his sister, seemed to grow more bitter, the more her sickness deepened, the more her passionate and variable humours would have needed toleration.

About this period, they took up the Emilie Galotti of Lessing. The parts were very happily distributed and filled; within the narrow circle of this tragedy, the company found room for showing all the complex riches of their acting. Serlo in the character of Marinelli was altogether in his place; Odoardo was very well exhibited; Madam Melina played the Mother with considerable skill; Elmira gained distinction as Emilie; Laertes made a stately Appiani; and Wilhelm had bestowed the study of some months upon the Prince’s part.

On this occasion, both internally and with Aurelia and Serlo, he had often come upon this question: What is the distinction between a noble and a well-bred manner; and how far must the former be included in the latter, though the latter is not in the former?

Serlo, who himself in Marinelli had to act the courtier accurately, without caricature, afforded him some valuable thoughts on this. “A well-bred carriage,” he would say, “is difficult to imitate; for in strictness it is negative; and it implies a long-continued previous training. You are not required to exhibit in your manner anything that specially be-tokens dignity; for, by this means, you are like to run into formality and haughtiness; you are rather to avoid whatever is undignified and vulgar. You are never to forget yourself; are to keep a constant watch upon yourself and others; to forgive nothing that is faulty in your own conduct, in that of others neither to forgive too little nor too much. Nothing must appear to touch you, nothing to agitate: you must never overhaste yourself, must ever keep yourself composed, retaining still an outward calmness, whatever storms may rage within. The noble character at certain moments may resign himself to his emotions; the well-bred never. The latter is like a man dressed out in fair and spotless clothes: he will not lean on anything; every person will beware of rubbing on him. He distinguishes himself from others, yet he may not stand apart; for as in all arts, so in this, the hardest must at length be done with ease: the well-bred man of rank, in spite of every separation, always seems united with the people round him; he is never to be stiff or uncomplying; he is always to appear the first, and never to insist on so appearing.

“It is clear, then, that to seem well-bred, a man must actually be so. It is also clear why women generally are more expert at taking up the air of breeding than the other sex; why courtiers and soldiers catch it more easily than other men.”

Wilhelm now despaired of doing justice to his part; but Serlo aided and encouraged him; communicated the acutest observations on detached points; and furnished him so well, that on the exhibition of the piece, the public reckoned him a very proper Prince.

Serlo had engaged to give him, when the play was over, such remarks as might occur upon his acting; a disagreeable contention with Aurelia prevented any conversation of that kind. Aurelia had acted the character of Orsina, in such a style as few have ever done. She was well acquainted with the part; and during the rehearsals she had treated it indifferently: but in the exhibition of the piece, she had opened as it were all the sluices of her personal sorrow; and the character was represented, so as never poet in the first glow of invention could have figured it. A boundless applause rewarded her painful efforts; but her friends, on visiting her when the play was finished, found her half fainting in her chair.

Serlo had already signified his anger at her over-charged acting, as he called it; at this disclosure of her inmost heart before the public, to many individuals of which the history of her fatal passion was more or less completely known. He had spoken bitterly and fiercely; grinding with his teeth, and stamping with his feet, as was his custom when enraged. “Never mind her,” cried he, when he saw her in the chair, surrounded by the rest; “she will go upon the stage stark-naked one of these days; and then the approbation will be perfect.”

“Ungrateful, inhuman man!” exclaimed she; “soon shall I be carried naked to the place where approbation or disapprobation can no longer reach our ears!” With these words she started up, and hastened to the door. The maid had not yet brought her mantle; the sedan was not in waiting; it had been raining lately; a cold, raw wind was blowing through the streets. They endeavoured to persuade her to remain, for she was very warm. But in vain: she purposely walked slow; she praised the coolness, seemed to inhale it with peculiar eagerness. No sooner was she home, than she became so hoarse that she could hardly speak a word: she did not mention that there was a total stiffness in her neck and along her back.

Shortly afterwards, a sort of palsy in the tongue came on, so that she pronounced one word instead of another. They put her to bed; by numerous and copious remedies, the evil changed its form, but was not mastered. The fever gathered strength; her case was dangerous.

Next morning she enjoyed a quiet hour. She sent for Wilhelm, and delivered him a letter. “This sheet,” said she, “has long been waiting for the present moment. I feel that my end is drawing nigh: promise me that you yourself will take this paper; that by a word or two, you will avenge my sorrows on the faithless man. He is not void of feeling; my death will pain him for a moment.”

Wilhelm took the letter; still endeavouring to console her, and to drive away the thought of death.

“No,” said she, “do not deprive me of my nearest hope. I have waited for him long; I will joyfully clasp him when he comes.”

Shortly after this, the manuscript arrived, which the physician had engaged to send her. She called for Wilhelm; made him read it to her. The effect, which it produced upon her, the reader will be better able to appreciate after looking at the following Book. The violent and stubborn temper of our poor Aurelia was mollified by hearing it. She took back the letter, and wrote another as it seemed in a meeker tone; charging Wilhelm at the same time to console her friend, if he should be distressed about her death; to assure him that she had forgiven him, and wished him every kind of happiness.

From this time, she was very quiet; and appeared to occupy herself with but a few ideas, which she endeavoured to extract and appropriate from the manuscript, out of which she frequently made Wilhelm read to her. The decay of her strength was not perceptible: nor had Wilhelm been anticipating the even, when one morning as he went to visit her, he found that she was dead.

Entertaining such respect for her as he had done, and accustomed as he was to live in her society, the loss of her affected him with no common sorrow. She was the only person that had truly wished him well; the coldness of Serlo he had felt of late but too keenly. He hastened therefore to perform the service she had intrusted to him; he wished to be absent for a time.

On the other hand, this journey was exceedingly convenient for Melina; in the course of his extensive correspondence, he had lately entered upon terms with a male and female singer, who, it was intended, should, by their performances in interludes, prepare the public for his future opera. The loss of Aurelia, and Wilhelm’s absence, were to be supplied in this manner; and our friend was satisfied with anything that could facilitate his setting out.

He had formed, within himself, a singular idea of the importance of his errand. The death of his unhappy friend had moved him deeply; and having seen her pass so early from the scene, he could not but be hostilely inclined against the man, who had abridged her life, and made that shortened term so full of woe.

Notwithstanding the last mild words of the dying woman, he resolved that, on delivering his letter, he would pass a strict sentence on her faithless friend; and not wishing to depend upon the temper of the moment, he studied an address, which in the course of preparation became more pathetic than just.

Having fully convinced himself of the good composition of his essay, he began committing it to memory, and at the same time making ready for departure. Mignon was present as he packed his articles; she asked him whether he intended travelling south or north; and learning that it was the latter, she replied: “Then I will wait here for thee.” She begged of him the pearl necklace which had once been Mariana’s. He could not refuse to gratify the dear little creature, and he gave it her: the neckerchief she had already. On the other hand, she put the veil of Hamlet’s Ghost into his travelling bag, though he told her it could not be of any service to him.

Melina took upon him the directorship; his wife engaged to keep a mother’s eye upon the children, whom Wilhelm parted with unwillingly. Felix was very merry at the setting out, and when asked what pretty thing he wished to have brought back for him, he said: “Hark you! bring me a papa!” Mignon seized the traveller’s hand; then, standing on her tiptoes, she pressed a warm and cordial, though not a tender kiss, upon his lips, and cried: “Master! forget us not, and come soon back.”

And so we leave our friend, entering on his journey, amid a thousand different thoughts and feelings; and here subjoin, by way of close, a little poem, which Mignon had recited once or twice with great expressiveness, and which the hurry of so many singular occurrences prevented us from inserting sooner:

  • O, ask me not to speak, I pray thee!
  • It must not be reveal’d but hid;
  • How gladly would my tongue obey thee,
  • Did not the voice of Fate forbid!
  • At his appointed time revolving,
  • The sun these shades of night dispels;
  • The rock, its rugged breast dissolving,
  • Gives up to Earth its hidden wells.
  • In Friendship’s arms each heart reposes;
  • There soul to soul pours out its woe:
  • My lips an oath forever closes,
  • My sorrows God alone can know.