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Title: Maxims and Reflections
Author: Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832
Language: English
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The translation of Goethe's "Prose Maxims" now offered to the public is
the first attempt that has yet been made to present the greater part of
these incomparable sayings in English. In the complete collection they
are over a thousand in number, and not more perhaps than a hundred and
fifty have already found their way into our language, whether as
contributions to magazines here and in America, or in volumes of
miscellaneous extract from Goethe's writings. Some are at times quoted
as though they were common literary property. To say that they are
important as a whole would be a feeble tribute to a work eloquent for
itself, and beyond the need of praise; but so deep is the wisdom of
these maxims, so wide their reach, so compact a product are they of
Goethe's wonderful genius, that it is something of a reproach to
literature to find the most of them left untranslated for the sixty
years they have been before the world. From one point of view, the
neglect they have suffered is in no way surprising: they are too high
and severe to be popular so soon; and when they meet with a wide
acceptance as with other great works, much of it will rest upon
authority. But even for the deeper side of his writings, Goethe has not
been denied a fair measure of popular success. No other author of the
last two centuries holds so high a place, or, as an inevitable
consequence, has been attacked by so large an army of editors and
commentators; and it might well be supposed by now that no corner of his
work, and least of all one of the best, had remained almost unnoticed,
and to the majority unknown. Many of these maxims were early translated
into French, but with little success; and even in Germany it was only so
late as the year 1870 that they appeared in a separate form, with the
addition of some sort of critical comment and a brief explanation of
their origin and history.[1]

But although to what is called the reading public these maxims are as
yet, no less in fact than in metaphor, a closed book, its pages have
long been a source of profit and delight to some of those who are best
able to estimate their value. What that value is, I shall presently
endeavour to explain. No one, I think, can perceive their worth without
also discerning how nearly they touch the needs of our own day, and how
greatly they may help us in facing certain problems of life and conduct,
some of them, in truth, as old as the world itself, which appear to us
now with peculiar force and subtlety.

It was in this respect that they were warmly recommended to me some
years ago by my excellent friend, Professor Harnack, the historian of
Dogma, a writer with a fine and prudent enthusiasm for all ennobling
literature. It is to him that I owe the resolve to perform for the
maxims, as far as I could, the office of translator; a humble office,
but not, as I have good reason to know, without its difficulty, or, as I
venture to hope, without its use. Of many of them the language is hardly
lucid even to a German, and I have gratefully to acknowledge the
assistance I have received from the privilege of discussing them with so
distinguished a man of letters.

To Professor Huxley I am also deeply indebted. I owe him much for
friendly encouragement, and still more for help of an altogether
invaluable kind; for in its measure of knowledge and skill, it is
admittedly beyond the power of any other living Englishman. The maxims
deal, not alone with Life and Character, where most of them are
admirable, but also with certain aspects of Science and Art; and these
are matters in which I could exercise no judgment myself, although I
understood that, while many of the maxims on Science and Art were
attractive, they were not all of great merit. Professor Huxley not only
did me the honour to select the maxims on Science, but he was further
good enough to assist me with them, and to read and approve the
translation as it now stands. The weight and the interest of his
authority will thus give additional value to that section of the book,
and also do much to overcome the objections that exist to making a
selection at all.

For a selection is a necessary evil. It is an evil because, even if it
leaves the best, it takes away something of a man's work; if it shows us
the heights he has reached, it obliterates the steps of his ascent; it
endangers thoughts that may be important but imperfectly understood; and
it hinders a fair and complete judgment. But in the end it is a
necessity: we are concerned chiefly with the best and clearest results,
and it is only the few who care to follow the elaborate details of
effort and progress, often painful and obscure. There is no author with
whom, for most readers, selection is so necessary as it is with Goethe;
and in no other kind of literature is it so amply justified or so
clearly desirable as where the aim is to state broad truths of life and
conduct and method in a manner admitting of no mistake or uncertainty.
When a writer attempts achievements, as Goethe did, in almost every
field of thought, it need be no surprise to any one who has heard of
human fallibility that in solid results he is not equally successful
everywhere. In deciding what shall be omitted, there is no difficulty
with maxims which time has shown to be wrong or defective; they have
only an historical interest. But great care is necessary with others
that are tentative, questionable, or obscure enough to need the light of
a commentary, sometimes dubious; where for most of us there is never
much profit and always occasion for stumbling. I count it a singular
piece of good fortune that the choice of the scientific maxims should be
undertaken by so eminent a judge of their practical value, who is also a
scholar in the language and a great admirer of Goethe in his other and
better known productions. For if a writer of this immense versatility
cannot always hope to touch the highest goal, it is well that all his
efforts should be weighed in a later day by the best and friendliest

The maxims on Art were at first a matter of some little difficulty. It
is plain, I think, that they are below the others in value and interest;
and in any collection of sayings the less there is of general worth, the
more delicate becomes the task of choosing the best. If I omitted them
all, the selection would not be duly representative, and it seemed
likely that some at least were worthy of being preserved, if only to
illustrate Goethe's theories. I therefore sought the best advice; and
here again I have to tender my thanks for assistance second to none in
skill and authority,--that of Sir Frederick Leighton, kindly given under
circumstances which much increase my obligation. For it is my duty to
say that Sir Frederick Leighton had no desire, but rather reluctance, to
make a selection from maxims on Art which he was often not prepared to
endorse, or to regard as in any way commensurate with Goethe's genius;
and nevertheless he did me the honour to point out a few which I might
insert, as being of interest partly for their own sake, partly also for
the name of their author.

The maxims on Science and Art are, however, when taken together, hardly
a fifth of this volume. The others I have selected on the simple and I
hope blameless principle of omitting only what is clearly unimportant,
antiquated, of past or passing interest, of purely personal reference,
or of a nature too abstruse to stand without notes of explanation, which
I should be sorry to place at the foot of any of these pages. I have
also omitted eleven maxims drawn from Hippocrates _On Diet_; fifteen
containing an appreciation of Sterne, together with some twenty more
which Goethe himself translated from a curious work wrongly attributed
to that writer. It will be convenient if I state that I have thus
omitted some hundred and twenty out of the six hundred and fifty-five
which make up the section styled in the original _Ethisches_, which I
translate by _Life and Character_, the section which also contains the
maxims on _Literature_, now collected and placed in a separate section
with those on _Art_. Sir Frederick Leighton chose thirty-five out of a
hundred and eighteen on Art, and Professor Huxley seventy-six out of two
hundred and eighty on Science.


Having thus acknowledged but in no way discharged a triple debt of
gratitude, it will be next in order if I briefly state the history of
the work which now appears in an English dress, before attempting to
speak of its nature and value.

The publication of the maxims belongs to the later, that is to say, the
last thirty, years of Goethe's life; and the greater number of them
appeared only in the last ten, while some are posthumous.

It is impossible to say with certainty at what period he began the
observations which were afterwards to come before the world in this
shape; nor is the question of any real interest except to pedantic
students of such matters. It is probable that, like most writers, Goethe
was in the habit of noting transient thoughts of his own, as well as
opinions of others that suggested more than they actually conveyed; and
of preserving for further use what he had thus, in his own words,
written himself and appropriated from elsewhere--_Eigenes and
Angeeignetes_. The maxims grew out of a collection of this character. It
was a habit formed probably in early life, for somewhere in the
_Lehrjahre_--a work of eighteen years' duration, but begun at the age of
twenty-seven--he makes Wilhelm Meister speak of the value of it. But
there are reasons for thinking that most of the maxims, as they now
stand, were not alone published but also composed in his last years. The
unity of meaning which stamps them with a common aim; the similarity of
the calm, dispassionate language in which they are written; the didactic
tone that colours them throughout, combine to show that they are among
the last and ripest fruits of his genius. Some were certainly composed
between the ages of fifty and sixty; more still between that and
seventy; while there is evidence, both internal and external, proving
that many and perhaps most of them were his final reflections on life
and the world. This it is that adds so much to their interest for as he
himself finely says in one of the last of them, "in a tranquil mind
thoughts rise up at the close of life hitherto unthinkable; like blessed
inward voices alighting in glory on the summits of the past."

But whenever all or any of them were written, and whatever revision they
may have undergone, none were published until 1809, when Goethe was
sixty years of age. It was then that he brought out _Die
Wahlverwandschaften_. A few of the maxims on Life and Character were
there inserted as forming two extracts from a journal often quoted in
the earlier part of the story. "About this time," writes Goethe, as he
introduces the first of these extracts, "outward events are seldomer
noted in Ottilie's diary, whilst maxims and sentences on life in
general, and drawn from it, become more frequent. But," he adds, "as
most of them can hardly be due to her own reflections, it is likely that
some one had given her a book or paper, from which she wrote out
anything that pleased her." A few more maxims appeared eight years later
in _Kunst and Alterthum_, a magazine founded by Goethe in 1816 and
devoted to the discussion of artistic questions; and a larger number
first saw the light in the same publication at various dates until its
extinction in 1828. Some of the observations on Science had meanwhile
been incorporated with two treatises on branches of that subject.

Eckermann tells a curious story of the way in which Goethe then
continued the publication of the maxims. _Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre_
had appeared in its first form in 1821. Afterwards, in 1829, Goethe
decided to remodel and lengthen it, and to make two volumes out of what
had originally been only one. His secretary was employed to copy it out
in its revised form. He wrote in a large hand, which gave the impression
that the story might well fill even three volumes; and directions to
this effect were sent to the publisher. But it was soon discovered that
the last two volumes would be very thin, and the publisher asked for
more manuscript. Goethe, in some perplexity, sent for Eckermann, and
producing two large bundles of unpublished papers, containing, as he
said, some very important things,--"opinions on life, literature,
science and art, all mingled together," proposed to him to lengthen out
the volumes by inserting selections from them. "You might," he
suggested, "fill the gaps in the _Wanderjahre_ by making up some six or
eight sheets from these detached pieces. Strictly speaking, they have
nothing to do with the story; but we may justify the proceeding by the
fact that I mention an archive in Makarie's house, in which such
miscellanies are preserved. In this way we shall not only get over our
difficulty, but find a good vehicle for giving much interesting matter
to the world." Eckermann approved the plan, and divided his selection
into two parts; and when the new edition of the _Wanderjahre_ appeared,
one of them was styled _Aus Makariens Archiv_, and the other
_Betrachtungen im Sinne der Wanderer: Kunst, Ethisches, Natur_. The
remainder of the unpublished maxims appeared posthumously, either in the
_Nachgelassene Werke_ in 1833, or in the quarto edition of 1836.

Instructions had been given to Eckermann to collect all the maxims,
arrange them under different heads, and include them in appropriate
volumes; but he resolved to deviate from his instructions to the extent
of publishing them all together; and the alteration is certainly an
advantage. A slight re-arrangement was made by von Loeper, who was
deterred from undertaking a more radical one, although he thought it
might be done with profit, by the consideration that when a literary
work of undesigned and fortuitous form has lived any number of years in
a certain shape, that fact alone is a weighty argument against any
change in it. In a translation, perhaps, where the work is presented
anew and to a fresh public, the change might be allowable; and I should
have undertaken it, had there not been a more serious reason, which von
Loeper also urges, against any attempt at systematic re-arrangement: the
further fact, namely, that many of the maxims have a mixed character,
placing them above our distinctions of scientific and ethical, and
making it difficult to decide under which heading they ought to fall. I
have, therefore, generally followed the traditional order; with this
exception, that, for obvious reasons, the maxims dealing with Literature
are here placed together; and as only a few of those on Art appear in
these pages, I have included them in the same section. In one or two
cases I have united closely connected maxims which are separated in the
original; and, for the sake of a short title, I have slightly narrowed
the meaning of the word _Spruch_, which applies to any kind of shrewd
saying, whether it be strictly a maxim or an aphorism. Some little
liberties of this kind may, I think, be taken by a translator anxious to
put the work before his own public in an orderly and convenient form.

The last section in this book requires a word of explanation. It is a
little essay on _Nature_ which is to be found with a variety of other
fragments in the last volume of Goethe's collected works. Too short to
stand by itself, if it appears at all, it must be in company with
kindred matter; and as a series of aphorisms, presenting a poetic view
of Nature unsurpassed in its union of beauty and insight, it is no
inappropriate appendage to the maxims on Science. It is little known,
and it deserves to be widely known. I venture to think that even in
Germany the ordinary reader is unaware of its existence. For us in
England it was, so to speak, discovered by Professor Huxley, who many
years ago gave a translation of it as a proem to a scientific
periodical. Perhaps that proem may yet be recovered as good salvage from
the waters of oblivion, which sooner or later overwhelm all magazines.
Meanwhile I put forward this version.

For sixty years this essay has stood unquestioned in Goethe's works; but
doubt has recently been cast on its authorship. The account hitherto
given rests upon the excellent ground of Goethe's own declaration. The
essay, it appears, was written about the year 1780, and offered to the
Duchess Amalia. Some time after her death it was found amongst her
papers, and sent to Goethe in May, 1828, when, as he wrote to his friend
the Chancellor von Müller, he could not remember having composed it;
although he recognised the writing as that of a person of whose services
he used to avail himself some forty years previously. That at so great a
distance of time a prolific author could not recall the composition of
so short a piece is not, indeed, improbable; but Goethe proceeded to say
that it agreed very well with the pantheistic ideas which occupied him
at the age of thirty, and that his insight then might be called a
comparative, which was thus forced to express its strife towards an as
yet unattained superlative. Notwithstanding this declaration, the essay
is now claimed as the production of a certain Swiss friend of Goethe's,
by name Tobler, on external evidence which need not be examined here,
and on the internal evidence afforded by the style, which is certainly
more pointed and antithetic than is usual with Goethe. But a master of
language who attempted every kind of composition may well have attempted
this; and even those who credit an otherwise unknown person with the
actual writing of the essay candidly admit that it is based upon
conversations with Goethe. It is so clearly inspired with his genius
that he can hardly be forced to yield the credit of it to another.


It is no wish or business of mine to introduce these maxims by adding
one more to the innumerable essays, some of them admirable, which have
been written on Goethe. I have found the translation of one of his works
a harder and certainly a more profitable task than a general discourse
on them all; and I profoundly believe that, rather than read what has
been written on Goethe, it is very much better to read Goethe himself.
It is in this belief that I hope the present translation may help in a
small way to increase the direct knowledge of him in this country. But
there are some remarks which I may be allowed to make on the nature and
use of maxims, and the peculiar value of those of Goethe; so far, at
least, as they deal with life and character and with literature. If
Professor Huxley could be induced to publish the comments which he made
to me as I read him the scientific maxims, besides being the best of
introductions to that section of the book, they would form a keen and
clear review of Goethe's scientific achievements, and an emphatic
testimony to his wonderful anticipations of later theories.

Between a maxim, an aphorism, and an apophthegm, and in a more obvious
degree, between these and an adage and a proverb, the etymologist and
the lexicographer may easily find a distinction. But they are, one and
all, fragments of the wisdom of life, treasured up in short, pithy
sentences that state or define some general truth of experience; and
perhaps with an adage and a maxim, enjoin its practice as a matter of
conduct. In the literature of every age there have been writers who,
instead of following a less severe method, thus briefly record the
lessons taught them by a wide view of the doings of men; from the dim,
far-off beginnings of Ptah Hotep the Egyptian to the authors of the
Proverbs of Solomon and the Book of Wisdom, from Theognis and Plutarch
downwards to our own time. They give us the shrewdest of their thoughts,
detached from the facts which gave them birth. But the professed writers
of maxims are not the only or always the best authors of them. There is
no great writer who is not rich in wise sentences; where we have the
advantage of seeing for ourselves the train of thought that induced and
the occasion that called them forth. Terse and pregnant sayings are
scattered innumerably through the pages of the finest poets, the great
orators, philosophers, and historians, wherever they touch the highest
level of truth and insight; be it in the lofty interpretation of life,
the defence of action or policy, the analysis of character and conduct,
or the record of progress; and then it is that large ideas and wide
observations take on imperceptibly the nature of maxim or aphorism,
illumining, like points of light, whole fields of thought and
experience. And the test of their value is that they lose little or
nothing by being deprived of their particular context and presented as
truths of general import. A collection of proverbs, shrewd sayings, and
pointed expressions, taken from the whole range of Greek and Latin
literature, was made by the industry of Erasmus in his great folio of
_Adagia_; and perhaps some future student, as diligent as he, may gather
up the aphoristic wisdom in the writings of modern times. Goethe himself
has in all his great works a wealth of aphorism unsurpassed by any other
writer whatever, even though it be Montaigne or Bacon or Shakespeare;
and sayings of his not to be found in this collection are some of the
best that he uttered.

The besetting sin of the maxim-writer is to exaggerate one side of a
matter by neglecting another; to secure point and emphasis of style, by
limiting the range of thought; and hence it is that most maxims present
but a portion of truth and cannot be received unqualified. They must
often be brought back to the test of life itself, and confronted and
compared with other sides of the experience they profess to embody. And
when a maxim stands this trial and proves its worth, it is not every one
to whom it is of value. To some it may be a positive evil. It makes the
strongest appeal to those who never see more than one aspect of
anything, hardening their hearts and blunting their minds; and even to
those who could make a good use of it, there are times when it may
mislead and be dangerous. Maxims in their application seem to need
something of the physician's art: they must be handled with care, and
applied with discretion. Like powerful drugs they may act with
beneficent effect on a hardy constitution; they may brace it to effort,
or calm the fever of a misguided activity; but great is the mischief
they work where the mind is weak or disorganised. As a medicine may save
a man at one time that would kill him at another, so the wise counsel of
to-day may easily become the poisonous suggestion of to-morrow.

With writers who depend for effect on mere qualities of style and ignore
the weightier matters of depth and truth of observation, Goethe has
nothing in common; nor with those who vainly imagine that insight is a
kind of art, with a method that may be learned and applied. By constant
practice a man of literary talent may, it is true, attain a fair mastery
of language terse and attractive, and then set himself, if he will, to
the deliberate creation of aphoristic wisdom or a philosophy of
proverbs; mistaking the dexterous handling of a commonplace for the true
process of discovery. The popular literature of the last generation
supplies a terrible instance of the length to which the manufacture of
maxims can thus be carried, for a time with immense success; and we have
seen how a few years suffice to carry them and their author to
obscurity. How different is the true process! The maxim that increases
knowledge and enriches literature is of slow and rare appearance; it
springs from a fine faculty of observation which is in no one's
arbitrament, and only less rare than the gift of utterance which adds
charm to a thought that itself strikes home with the power of
impregnable truth. No amount or intensity of effort will alone produce
it; but to the mind of genius it comes like a sudden revelation,
flashing its light on a long course of patient attention. "What we call
_Discovery_," says Goethe, "is the serious exercise and activity of an
original feeling for truth. It is a synthesis of world and mind, giving
the most blessed assurance of the eternal harmony of things."

It is, then, depth and truth and sanity of observation which chiefly
mark these sayings of Goethe. It is no concern of his to dazzle the mind
by the brilliance of his wit; nor does he labour to say things because
they are striking, but only because they are true. He is always in
contact with realities, always aiming at truth; and he takes a kindly
and a generous view of the world. He has none of the despair that
depresses, none of the malice that destroys. There are writers who
profess to honour a lofty ideal by a cynical disparagement of everything
that falls short of it; who unveil the selfish recesses of the heart as
a mistaken stimulus to its virtues; who pay their tribute to great work
by belittling human endeavour. Goethe shows us a more excellent way.
Touched with a profound feeling of the worth of life, the wisdom of
order, the nobility of effort, he gives us an ideal to pursue and shows
us the means of pursuing it. Out of the fulness of a large experience,
unique in the history of literature, he unfolds the scheme of a
practicable perfection, and enforces the lessons he has learned from the
steady, passionless, and undaunted observation of human affairs.

To Goethe these sayings were merely _reflections_ or _opinions_; it is
his literary executors and his editors who called them by more ambitious
titles, so as to challenge a comparison with certain other famous books
of wise thought. They are the reflections of a long life rich in all the
intellectual treasures of the world, in its versatility amazing, in its
insight well-nigh fathomless; a life that, in his own words, approached
the infinite by following the finite on every side. Such a man need only
speak to utter something important; and we on our part need only
remember how wide was the range of his knowledge, how full and complete
his existence, to set the utmost value on his reflections at the end of
it. But that he knew nothing of the pinch of poverty and was spared the
horrors of disease, that he suffered no great misfortune, and basked in
the bright side of the world, free from the ills that come to most men,
there was no page of the book of life that was not thrown open to him.
The things of the mind, the things of art, the things of nature--in
their theory and in their practice he had worked at them all; regarding
them as so many varied manifestations of an eternal Idea in itself
inscrutable and here unattainable. There was no kind of literature with
which he was unfamiliar, whether it was ancient or modern, of the East
or of the West; and the great spiritual influences of the world,
Hebraism, Hellenism, Christianity, Mediævalism,--at one or another time
in his life he was in touch with them all, and found his account in them
all. In matters of learning he was occupied with nothing but what was
actual and concrete; it was only to abstract studies, to logic,
metaphysics, mathematics, that he was indifferent; in his own phrase, he
never thought about thinking. There was hardly any branch of the natural
science of his day that he did not cultivate, that he did not himself
practise; geology, mineralogy, botany, zoology, anatomy, meteorology,
optics; and he made some remarkable discoveries and the strangest
prophecies. To Art he gave a life-long devotion. While still a youth, he
wrote an important essay on Gothic architecture; he engraved, drew,
painted, and for a time took up sculpture. In all the higher forms of
Art, with the single exception of music, he had so much practical
interest that he often doubted whether in following Literature he had
not mistaken, or at least unduly narrowed, the sphere of his activity.
He was little abroad, but no one ever profited more by his travels than
Goethe. Twice he went to Italy, and what a change of mind was produced
by that change of sky! Rome was to him a new birth, a new conception of
life. And besides Literature, Science, and Art, he busied himself with
Administration, with the duties of the Court, with the practical details
of the Theatre; but out of them all he learned something himself and
taught something to others. He lived the fullest life granted to man. He
had a youth of the wildest enthusiasm and romance; a prime of a classic
austerity, of a calm earnestness; a majestic age of the ripest wisdom,
when there came to him, as it were a second youth, with something of the
fire of the old romantic feeling lighted up in him anew. And out of all
these prodigious efforts in so many directions, he passed unharmed, and
never lost himself. He steadily pursued his own task and refused to be
drawn aside. He stood aloof from the controversies of his time. The
battles of belief, philosophical systems, French Revolutions, Wars of
Liberation, struggles of democracy and nationality,--these things
moved him little or not at all. But he is not on that account to be
held, as some foolish critics have held him, indifferent, selfish, or
less serious, or less complete a man than his fellows. He did the best
in any one's power: he resolutely kept to his own business, and, neither
heating nor resting, worked at his own high aims, in the struggle not
merely to learn and to know, but to act and to do. He felt profoundly
that the best anyone can achieve for himself is often the best he can
achieve for others. The whole moral of _Wilhelm Meister_ is that a man's
first and greatest duty, whether to others or to himself, is to see that
his business in life is a worthy one and suited to his capacities. If he
discovers his vocation and pursues it steadily, he will make his outer
life of the greatest use and service to the world, and at the same time
produce the utmost harmony within. That was what Goethe tried to do in
his own person, and he laboured at his self-imposed task with a
perseverance, a real unselfishness, and a determination entirely

It is almost the last fruit of this life of concentrated activity, the
final outcome of this indomitable character, that is here put before us.
And we shall find that to the complex phenomena of the world Goethe
applied no other measure but reason and the nature and needs of man.
With a full consciousness of the mysteries that surround our existence,
he never made the futile endeavour to pass beyond the bounds of present
knowledge and experience, or to resolve contradictions by manipulating
the facts. In these detached reflections he does, indeed, propound a
theory and sketch out a system of conduct; but they cannot, like the
_Thoughts_ of Pascal, for instance, be brought under a single and
definite point of view. They are a mirror of life itself, and the inner
and outer facts of life in all their diversity. The unity they possess
is the unity that is stamped upon them by the all-embracing personality
of their author, always and unweariedly striving to make his life
systematic, distinct, and fruitful; and to judge them as a whole, a man
must be able to fathom so great a genius. But to every one in every walk
of life Goethe has a word of wise counsel, as though he understood every
form of existence and could enter into its needs. In a fine passage in
the _Wanderjahre_, he likens the thought that thus in wondrous fashion
takes a thousand particular shapes, to a mass of quicksilver, which, as
it falls, separates into innumerable globules, spreading out on all
sides. And while these sayings may present thoughts in seeming
contradiction one with another, as the moment that called them forth
presented this or that side of experience, their inmost nature is a
common tendency to realise a great ideal of life. It is little they owe
to the form in which they are cast; they are not the elements of an
artistic whole which must be seized before we can understand the full
meaning of its parts. They are a miscellaneous record of the shrewdest
observation; and to read them as they should be read, a few at a time,
is like the opportunity of repeated converse with a man of extraordinary
gifts, great insight, and the widest culture, who touches profoundly and
suggestively now on this, now on that aspect of life and the world and
the progress of knowledge. It is the fruit of his own experience that
Goethe gives us; and we shall do well to think of it as he himself
thought of another book, and to bear in mind that "every word which we
take in a general sense and apply to ourselves, had, under certain
circumstances of time and place, a peculiar, special and directly
individual reference."

Goethe is no exception to the rest of mankind in not being equally wise
at all times, and in the maxims there are degrees of value: they do not
all shine with the like brilliance. Some of them are valuable only for
what they suggest; of some, again, it is easy to see that, they appear
as matters of speculation rather than as certainties. They raise
difficulties, ask for criticism, if possible, correction; or, it may be,
they call attention to the contrary view and invite a harmony of
opposites. Some of them make a great demand upon our ability "to
understand a proverb and the interpretation; the words of the wise and
their dark sayings." Their value sometimes depends on the way they are
viewed, the culture brought to their understanding, the temper in which
they are approached. We look at them, and at first admire; we change our
point of view, and find something to criticise and dispute. The
obscurity of maxims, as Goethe reminds us, is only relative; not
everything can be explained to the reader which was present to the mind
of the writer. Some of them seem at first to be of little interest; on
one side they may even repel, but from another they attract again, and
win perhaps a partial approval. They seem to move as we change our
position, and to be without fixed or certain character. But some, again,
are so clear and unmistakable, so immeasurably above criticism or
objection, that like the furthest of the stars they have no parallax:
whatever position we take, their light is steadfast.

Let no one suppose that in the main Goethe's reflections on life had
never been made before; that it was not so, no one knew better than he.
As a preface and note of warning to them all, he reiterates the words of
the preacher: "there is no new thing under the sun." Yes! says Goethe,
there is nothing worth thinking but it has been thought before; _we must
only try to think it again_. "It is only when we are faithful," he says
elsewhere,[2] "in arresting and noting our present thoughts, that we
have any joy in tradition; since we find the best thoughts already
uttered, the finest feelings already expressed. This it is that gives us
the perception of that harmonious agreement to which man is called, and
to which he must conform, often against his will as he is much too fond
of fancying that the world begins afresh with himself." What Goethe
means is that we shall do best to find out the truth of all things for
ourselves, for on one side truth is individual; and that we shall be
happy if our individual truth is also universal, or accords with the
wisest thought of the past. It is in this practical light that we must
view the maxims, and not as mere academic generalities. It is easy to
read them in an hour and forget them as soon; easy to view them with a
tepid interest as the work of a great author; but no one will fully
understand the value of any of them, who has not experience enough to
know its truth. Well is it for us if with the experience we also gain
the truth! If any one should say that some of these maxims are very
obvious, and so simply true as almost to be platitudes, I would bid him
remember that the best education is often to discover these very simple
truths for oneself, and learn to see how much there is in commonplaces.
For those who have grown old in the world are never weary of telling us
that the further we go, the more we shall find, in general, that the
same things will happen to us as have happened to others; and it will
then be our advantage if we have the same reflections, best of all if we
come of ourselves to the same conclusions, as the wisest of those who
have gone before us; next best, if we can really and intelligently
follow in the footsteps of their thought.

But although the matter of Goethe's sayings is not original in the sense
of being new to the world--while it was original for him, since he
discovered it for himself and on his own path, their manner is something
new, and their range is unparalleled. Take any other set of maxims you
will, nowhere is there so wide an outlook, nowhere so just an estimate
of human difficulties, nowhere an aim at once so lofty and so
practicable. Nowhere is there a larger, stronger, healthier, more
tolerant view of life and the world, or an atmosphere clearer of the
mists that too often obscure and distort our vision. And in their
expression, nowhere is there so little of the besetting sin to sacrifice
truth to effect. Goethe has none of the shallow malice and uncharitable
candour that with writers of an earlier age passed for the practical
wisdom of every day; and we need only contrast his maxims with the
similar work of La Rochefoucauld, Helvetius, and Chamfort, admirable as
they may be in their exposure of human selfishness, to determine on
which side is the greater service to mankind. How different the views of
the world taken by how many writers!--the secret of it all is that the
men themselves are different.

It was said of Goethe that his heart, which few knew, was as great as
his intellect, which all knew. Certainly his writings and not least his
maxims are a profound example of the truth that in the last resort it is
moral rather than intellectual qualities that make great literature. It
is not to be denied that much may be done by a mere facility of style, a
command of words, a fine taste, a wide acquaintance with the turns and
resources of language; but in the end the effect is produced by the man
himself, his character and his strength. To the strenuous, earnest man,
like Goethe, the world offers a stirring spectacle and provides a great
opportunity; and he grasps and uses them both to the best of his
peculiar capacity. It is diversity of temperament dealing with partial
knowledge that makes so many and such various doctrines. A man's views
of life are, in short, those which he deserves to have, and his writings
are cast in the mould of his character. It is no more strange that the
authors of books should give us such varied pictures of the humanity
around us, than that painters should conceive natural objects so
differently. Literature, too, is like a gallery of landscape and
portrait: it is the same world which is presented, the same men and
things; but the way of looking at it varies with the artist; who,
whatever his training may have been, will see in Nature what he brings
to it himself. _Ars est homo additus naturæ_. If this be truly to define
the essence and method of Art, it is equally true to say that Literature
is man added to life; and, here as there, everything depends on the
character and capacity of the man.

No one has as yet said that he doubts Goethe's capacity, although there
are many who have solemnly pronounced him uninteresting. The critic who
can read Goethe's works with real attention, and then venture to call
them dull, is simply showing that he has no call to the office he
assumes, or no interest in literature of the highest class. What is
true, of course, is that Goethe is profoundly serious, and he is,
therefore, not always entertaining; but that is enough to make him pass
for dull in the eyes of those who take literature only as a pastime,--a
substitute for a cigar, or something to lull them to sleep when they are
tired. But another and more formidable accusation is made against Goethe
which affects his character, and would go far to destroy the value of
his writings if it were true; but to many it is curiously inconsistent
with the other charge of being dull. It is that he is immoral. Now of
all the great writers of the world, Goethe is admittedly the greatest
teacher. He is essentially and frankly didactic; and nowhere is there so
large and worthy a body of literature from a single pen which is
informed with so high and so serious a purpose. Roundly to call its
author immoral is a charge which sufficiently refutes itself by its own
ignorance and absurdity. The charge comes, as a rule, from those who
judge life by the needs and duties of a young girl, and they confound
the whole of morality--character and conduct in all relations to one's
fellow-men--with one section of it. They forget that Goethe was a man of
the old _régime_; that his faults were those of his time and class. They
forget that an extreme repugnance to all monasticism, asceticism, and
Roman Catholicism in general, naturally led him to pay a diminished
regard to the one virtue of which the Christian world is sometimes apt
to exaggerate the importance, and on which it is often ready to hang all
the law and the prophets. To some, again, Goethe appears to be a
supremely selfish wizard, dissecting human passion in the coldest blood,
and making poetical capital out of the emotional tortures he caused in
others. This, too, is a charge which the merest acquaintance with his
life and work must of necessity refute: it is too simple a slander to be
seriously discussed. Since these are charges which have, however, kept
many estimable people from reading Goethe, it may be some consolation to
them to know that the maxims are entirely free from any possibility of
objection on this ground.

The element of moral teaching which runs through Goethe's mature works
like a golden thread, re-appears in the maxims free and detached from
the poetic and romantic environment which in such varied shapes is woven
around it in _Werther, Tasso, Meister_, above all in _Faust_. To do the
next duty; to meet the claims of each day; to persist with a single mind
and unwearied effort on a definite, positive, productive path;
cheerfully to renounce what is denied us, and vigorously to make the
best of what we have; to restrain vague desires and uncertain aims; to
cease bewailing the vanity of all things and the fleeting nature of this
our world, and do what we can to make our stay in it of lasting
use,--these are lessons which will always be needed, and all the more
needed as life becomes increasingly complex. They are taught in the
maxims with a great variety of application, and nowhere so concisely
summarised as in one of them. "The mind endowed with active powers," so
it runs, "and keeping with a practical object to the task that lies
nearest, is the worthiest there is on earth."

Goethe has been called, and with truth, the prophet of culture; but the
word is often misunderstood. We cannot too clearly see that what is here
meant is not a mere range of intellectual knowledge, pursued with
idolatrous devotion: it is moral discipline, a practical endeavour,
forming wise thought and noble character. And this is the product, not
of learning, but of work: if we are to know and realise what there is in
us, and make the best of it, our aim must be practical and creative.
"Let every man," he urges, "ask himself with which of his faculties he
can and will somehow influence his age." And again: "From this time
forward, if a man does not apply himself to some art or handiwork, he
will be in a bad way. In the rapid changes of the world, knowledge is no
longer a furtherance. By the time a man has taken note of everything, he
has lost himself." The culture of which he speaks is not mainly
intellectual. We use the word in a way that is apt to limit and conceal
its meaning, and we often apply it to a strange form of mental growth,
at once stunted and overfed, to which, if we may judge by its fruits,
any breath of real culture would be fatal. It has nothing to do with
learning in the general and narrow sense of the word, or with the often
pernicious effects of mere learning. In the language of the hour we are
wont to give the exclusive name of culture to a wide acquaintance with
books and languages; whether or not it results, as it has before now
resulted, in a want of culture in character and outward demeanour, in
airs of conceit, in foolish arrogance, in malice and acrimony.

A uniform activity with a moral aim--that, in Goethe's view, is the
highest we can achieve in life. "Character in matters great and small
consists," he says, "in a man steadily pursuing the things of which he
feels himself capable." It is the gospel of work: our endeavour must be
to realise our best self in deed and action; to strive until our
personality attains, in Aristotle's word, its entelechy; its full
development. By this alone can we resolve all the doubts and hesitations
and conflicts within that undermine and destroy the soul. "Try to do
your duty, and you will know at once what you are worth." And with all
our doing, what should be the goal of our activity? In no wise our own
self, our own weal. "A man is happy only when he delights in the
good-will of others," and we must of a truth "give up existence in order
to exist"; we must never suppose that happiness is identical with
personal welfare. In the moral sphere we need, as Kant taught, a
categorical imperative; but, says Goethe, that is not the end of the
matter; it is only the beginning. We must widen our conception of duty
and recognise a perfect morality only "where a man loves what he
commands himself to do." "Voluntary dependence is the best state, and
how should that be possible without love?" And just in the same sense
Goethe refuses to regard all self-denial as virtuous, but only the
self-denial that leads to some useful end. All other forms of it are
immoral, since they stunt and cramp the free development of what is best
in us--the desire, namely, to deal effectively with our present life,
and make the most and fairest of it.

And here it is that Goethe's moral code is fused with his religious
belief. "Piety," he says, "is not an end but a means: a means of
attaining the highest culture by the purest tranquillity of soul." This
is the piety he preaches; not the morbid introspection that leads to no
useful end, the state of brooding melancholy, the timorous
self-abasement, the anxious speculation as to some other condition of
being. And this tranquillity of soul, Goethe taught that it should be
ours, in spite of the thousand ills of life which give us pause in our
optimism. It is attained by the firm assurance that, somewhere and
somehow, a power exists that makes for moral good; that our moral
endeavours are met, so to speak, half-way by a moral order in the
universe, which comes to the aid of individual effort. And the sum and
substance of his teaching, whether in the maxims or in any other of his
mature productions, is that we must resign ourselves to this power, in
gratitude and reverence towards it and all its manifestations in
whatever is good and beautiful. This is Goethe's strong faith, his
perfect and serene trust. He finely shadows it forth in the closing
words of _Pandora_, where Eos proclaims that the work of the gods is to
lead our efforts to the eternal good, and that we must give them free

     Was zu wünschen ist, ihr unten fühlt es;
     Was zu geben sei, die wissen's droben.
     Gross beginnet ihr Titanen; aber leiten
     Zu dem ewig Guten, ewig Schönen,
     Ist der Götter Werk; die lasst gewähren.

And so too in _Faust_: it is the long struggle to realise an Ideal,
dimly seen on life's labyrinthine way of error, that leads at last to
the perfect redemption:--

     Wer immer strebend sich bemüht,
     Den können wir erlösen.

And throughout the perplexities of life and the world, where all things
are but signs and tokens of some inner and hidden reality, it is the
ideal of love and service, _das Ewig-Weibliche_, that draws us on.

But this assurance cannot be reached by a mere theory; and Goethe is not
slow to declare how he views attempts to reach it in that way. "_Credo
Deum!_ that," he reminds us here, "is a fine, a worthy thing to say; but
to recognise God when and where he reveals himself, is the only true
bliss on earth." All else is mystery. We are not born, as he said to
Eckermann, to solve the problems of the world, but to find out where the
problem begins, and then to keep within the limits of what we can grasp.
The problem, he urged, is transformed into a postulate: if we cannot get
a solution theoretically, we can get it in the experience of practical
life. We reach it by the use of an "active scepticism," of which he says
that "it continually aims at overcoming itself and arriving by means of
regulated experience at a kind of conditioned certainty." But he would
have nothing to do with doctrinal systems, and, like Schiller, professed
none of the forms of religion from a feeling of religion itself. To see
how he views some particular questions of theology the reader may turn
with profit to his maxims on the Reformation and early Christianity, and
to his admirable remarks on the use and abuse of the Bible. The basis of
religion was for him its own earnestness; and it was not always needful,
he held, for truth to take a definite shape: "it is enough if it hovers
about us like a spirit and produces harmony." "I believe," he said to
Eckermann, "in God and Nature and the victory of good over evil; but I
was also asked to believe that three was one, and one was three. That
jarred upon my feeling for truth; and I did not see how it could have
helped me in the least." As for letting our minds roam beyond this
present life, he thought there was actual danger in it; although he
looked for a future existence, a continuation of work and activity, in
which what is here incomplete should reach its full development. And
whatever be the secrets of the universe, assuredly the best we can do is
to do our best here; and the worst of blasphemies is to regard this life
as altogether vanity; for as these pages tell us, "it would not be worth
while to see seventy years if all the wisdom of this world were
foolishness with God."

In Goethe we pass, as over a bridge, from the eighteenth century to the
nineteenth; but though he lived to see a third of the nineteenth
century, he hardly belongs to it. Of its political characteristics he
had few or none. He was no democrat. As the prophet of inward culture,
he took the French Revolution for a disturbance, an interruption, and
not a development in the progress of the world's history; and for all
its horrors and the pernicious demoralisation of its leaders, he had the
profoundest aversion. But afterwards he came to see that it had
beneficial results; that a revolution is ultimately never the fault of
the people, but of the injustice and incapacity of the government; and
that where there is a real necessity for a great reform, the old leaven
must be rooted out.[3] But he knew the danger of such a process, and he
indicates it here in an admirable saying: "Before the French Revolution
it was all _effort_; afterwards it all changed to _demand_"; and this
may be supplemented by his opinion on the nature of revolutionary
sentiments: "Men think they would be well-off if they were not ruled,
and fail to perceive that they can rule neither themselves nor others."
And if he, had thus no theoretical sympathy with democratic movements,
he had little feeling for that other great political tendency of our
time--nationality; convinced as he was that interest in the weal and woe
of another people is always a mark of the highest culture. But apart
from politics there is one characteristic of our own time in which he
fully and especially shares, if only for the reason that he did much
himself to produce it; and herein he has influenced us profoundly and is
influencing us still. The nineteenth century has this advantage over
every preceding age, that in it for the first time honest doubt, instead
of distinguishing a few, has become a common virtue. Goethe is one of
the surest and safest of those who have led the transition. "We praise
the eighteenth century," he writes, "for concerning itself chiefly with
analysis. The task remaining to the nineteenth is to discover the false
syntheses which prevail, and to analyse their contents anew." Of the aim
of analysis and the proper course of inquiry, no one has given a better
account than Goethe in what he says, in the words I have quoted, about
active scepticism; and in the sphere of morals and religion it will
perhaps be found hereafter that he has contributed, in some degree at
least, to the attainment of that "conditioned certainty," for which, as
we hope, all our efforts are made.

In the maxims on Literature there is some excellent criticism on
literary methods, and much that may well be taken to heart by certain
writers of our own day. Goethe had little but rebuke for the whole of
the romantic movement, which began in his old age. The German form of it
he thought unnatural, and at best a conventional imitation of an earlier
period; and the French form, of which Victor Hugo was then the rising
star, he thought a perversion of naturalism, an exaggeration of it until
it became insipid or merely revolting. To Byron alone he gave the
tribute of the most ungrudging admiration: in the opposition between
classicism and romanticism, he declined to take him for a follower of
either, but as the complete representative of his own time. The maxim
that "the classical is health, and the romantic, disease," may not
altogether commend itself to us now; but with wonderful insight Goethe
foresaw the direction in which the romantic movement would lead. "The
romantic," he says here, "is already fallen into its own abysm. It is
hard to imagine anything more degraded than the worst of the new
productions." If he could have said this two generations ago, what would
he have said now? How could he have spoken without contempt of those who
make all that is common and unclean in itself a subject with which
literature may properly be occupied? These are the writers who profess
to be realists, under a completely mistaken notion of what realism
means, as applied to art; and to them the chief realities seem to be
just the very things that decent people keep out of sight. They forget
that in literature, as in all art, the dominating realities are the
highest Ideals. As an antidote to this poison of corruption Goethe
pointed to the ancient world, and bid us study there the types of the
loftiest manhood. "Bodies which rot while they are still alive and are
edified by the detailed contemplation of their own decay; dead men who
remain in the world for the ruin of others, and feed their death on the
living--to this," he exclaimed, "have come our makers of literature.
When the same thing happened in antiquity, it was only as a strange
token of some rare disease; but with the moderns the disease has become
endemic and epidemic." Akin to these pseudo-realists, and coming under
the same ban, are some of our modern novel-writers who do, indeed, avoid
the depth of degradation, but try to move the feelings by dwelling in a
similar fashion on matters which are not, and never can be, fit subjects
of literary treatment; such as painful deaths by horrible distempers, or
the minute details of prolonged operations. It is poor skill that cannot
find material enough in the moral sufferings of men and women, and is
driven to seek effect in descriptions of disease and surgery. Surely in
any literature worthy of the name these are topics which a richer
imagination and a more prolific art would have found unnecessary, and
better taste would have left undescribed.

To another class of writers--those who handle a pretty pen without
having anything definite to present, or anything important to say,
Goethe has also an applicable word. It is a class which is always
increasing in number, and tends to increase in talent. We may admit that
second- or third-rate work, especially in poetry, was never before done
so well as it is done now; and still we may find some useful truth in a
distinction which Goethe drew for the benefit of the minor poets and the
minor prose-writers of his own age. "Productions are now possible," he
said, "which, without being bad, have no value. They have no value,
because they contain nothing; and they are not bad, because a general
form of good workmanship is present to the author's mind." In one of the
many neglected volumes of his miscellaneous writings Goethe has a series
of admirable notes for a proposed work on _Dilettantism_; and there the
reader, if he is interested in Goethe's literary criticism, will find
some instructive remarks in close connection with this aphorism, and
also certain rules for discriminating between good and indifferent work
which ought to receive the most attentive study. And the stylists who
neglect plain language for a mosaic of curious phrase and overstrained
epithet, may profitably remember that, as Goethe here says, "it is not
language in itself which is correct or forcible or elegant, but the mind
that is embodied in it."

"Translators," he tells us, "sing the praises of some half-veiled beauty
and rouse an irresistible longing for the original." To them also he
gives a piece of excellent advice: "The translator must proceed until
he reaches the untranslatable." This is a counsel of exhortation as well
as of warning. It bids the translator spare no effort, but tells him
that at a certain point his efforts are of no avail. But none the less,
Goethe might have added, the faithful translator must strive as if this
hindrance to perfection did not exist; for it is thus only that he, or
any one else, can do anything worth doing. On methods of translation
much may be said, and it is sometimes urged, in a given case, that it is
not literal or that it is too free. A distinguished writer has recently
laid down that a translation should reproduce every word and phrase and
sentence of the original as accurately as a delicate tracing reproduces
the lines of a drawing. This is advice which may hold in the
school-room, but, I venture to maintain, nowhere else. In so far as
every language has a peculiar genius, a literal translation must
necessarily be a bad one; and any faithful translation will of its
nature be free. In other words, a translator will err if he slavishly
adheres to mere expression; he must have complete liberty to give his
author's meaning and style in the manner which he holds to be truest to
the original; and so, in translating from a foreign tongue, it will be
well for him to have some knowledge of his own. But he must guard
against the abuse of his position: his liberty may become license, and
his translation instead of being faithful may be phantastic. The
translator's first and last duty is, then, to efface himself. His first
duty is to stand entirely at the point of view of his author's thought;
his last, to find the clearest and nearest expression in his own
language both for that thought and for whatever is characteristic in the
way of conveying it; neither adding anything of his own nor taking away
anything from his author. The best translation is thus a re-embodiment
of the author's spirit, a real metempsychosis. Nothing can be done
without ideals, and this is the ideal at which the present translation
aims. That it fails of its aim and has many defects, no one knows better
than the translator himself; and he can only cherish the hope that where
he falls short he is sometimes close to the confines of what cannot be

December 2, 1892.

[1] _Goethe's Sprüche in Prosa_: zum ersten Mal erläutert und auf ihre
Quellen zurückgeführt von G. v. Loeper, Berlin, 1870. This forms the
text of the translation.

[2] _Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre_, Bk. I. ch. 10.

[3] _Gespräche mit Eckermann_, III. 4 January, 1824.




There is nothing worth thinking but it has been thought before; we must
only try to think it again.


How can a man come to know himself? Never by thinking, but by doing. Try
to do your duty, and you will know at once what you are worth.


But what is your duty? The claims of the day.


The world of reason is to be regarded as a great and immortal being, who
ceaselessly works out what is necessary, and so makes himself lord also
over what is accidental.


The longer I live, the more it grieves me to see man, who occupies his
supreme place for the very purpose of imposing his will upon nature, and
freeing himself and his from an outrageous necessity,--to see him taken
up with some false notion, and doing just the opposite of what he wants
to do; and then, because the whole bent of his mind is spoilt, bungling
miserably over everything.


Be genuine and strenuous; earn for yourself, and look for, grace from
those in high places; from the powerful, favour; from the active and
the good, advancement; from the many, affection; from the individual,


Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are. If I
know what your business is, I know what can be made of you.


Every man must think after his own fashion; for on his own path he finds
a truth, or a kind of truth, which helps him through life. But he must
not give himself the rein; he must control himself; mere naked instinct
does not become him.


Unqualified activity, of whatever kind, leads at last to bankruptcy.


In the works of mankind, as in those of nature, it is really the motive
which is chiefly worth attention.


Men get out of countenance with themselves and others because they treat
the means as the end, and so, from sheer doing, do nothing, or, perhaps,
just what they would have avoided.


Our plans and designs should be so perfect in truth and beauty, that in
touching them the world could only mar. We should thus have the
advantage of setting right what is wrong, and restoring what is


It is a very hard and troublesome thing to dispose of whole, half-, and
quarter-mistakes; to sift them and assign the portion of truth to its
proper place.


It is not always needful for truth to take a definite shape; it is
enough if it hovers about us like a spirit and produces harmony; if it
is wafted through the air like the sound of a bell, grave and kindly.


General ideas and great conceit are always in a fair way to bring about
terrible misfortune.


You cannot play the flute by blowing alone: you must use your fingers.


In Botany there is a species of plants called _Incompletæ_; and just in
the same way it can be said that there are men who are incomplete and
imperfect. They are those whose desires and struggles are out of
proportion to their actions and achievements.


The most insignificant man can be complete if he works within the limits
of his capacities, innate or acquired; but even fine talents can be
obscured, neutralised, and destroyed by lack of this indispensable
requirement of symmetry. This is a mischief which will often occur in
modern times; for who will be able to come up to the claims of an age so
full and intense as this, and one too that moves so rapidly?


It is only men of practical ability, knowing their powers and using them
with moderation and prudence, who will be successful in worldly affairs.


It is a great error to take oneself for more than one is, or for less
than one is worth.


From time to time I meet with a youth in whom I can wish for no
alteration or improvement, only I am sorry to see how often his nature
makes him quite ready to swim with the stream of the time; and it is on
this that I would always insist, that man in his fragile boat has the
rudder placed in his hand, just that he may not be at the mercy of the
waves, but follow the direction of his own insight.


But how is a young man to come of himself to see blame in things which
every one is busy with, which every one approves and promotes? Why
should he not follow his natural bent and go in the same direction as


I must hold it for the greatest calamity of our time, which lets nothing
come to maturity, that one moment is consumed by the next, and the day
spent in the day; so that a man is always living from hand to mouth,
without having anything to show for it. Have we not already newspapers
for every hour of the day! A good head could assuredly intercalate one
or other of them. They publish abroad everything that every one does, or
is busy with or meditating; nay, his very designs are thereby dragged
into publicity. No one can rejoice or be sorry, but as a pastime for
others; and so it goes on from house to house, from city to city, from
kingdom to kingdom, and at last from one hemisphere to the other,--all
in post haste.


As little as you can stifle a steam-engine, so little can you do this in
the moral sphere either. The activity of commerce, the rush and rustle
of paper-money, the swelling-up of debts to pay debts--all these are
the monstrous elements to which in these days a young man is exposed.
Well is it for him if he is gifted by nature with a sober, quiet
temperament; neither to make claims on the world out of all proportion
to his position, nor yet let the world determine it.


But on all sides he is threatened by the spirit of the day, and nothing
is more needful than to make him see early enough the direction in which
his will has to steer.


The significance of the most harmless words and actions grows with the
years, and if I see any one about me for any length of time, I always
try to show him the difference there is between sincerity, confidence,
and indiscretion; nay, that in truth there is no difference at all, but
a gentle transition from what is most innocent to what is most hurtful;
a transition which must be perceived or rather felt.


Herein we must exercise our tact; otherwise in the very way in which we
have won the favour of mankind, we run the risk of trifling it away
again unawares. This is a lesson which a man learns quite well for
himself in the course of life, but only after having paid a dear price
for it; nor can he, unhappily, spare his posterity a like expenditure.


Love of truth shows itself in this, that a man knows how to find and
value the good in everything.


Character calls forth character.


If I am to listen to another man's opinion, it must be expressed
positively. Of things problematical I have enough in myself.


Superstition is a part of the very being of humanity; and when we fancy
that we are banishing it altogether, it takes refuge in the strangest
nooks and corners, and then suddenly comes forth again, as soon as it
believes itself at all safe.


I keep silence about many things, for I do not want to put people out of
countenance; and I am well content if they are pleased with things that
annoy me.


Everything that frees our spirit without giving us control of ourselves
is ruinous.


A man is really alive only when he delights in the good-will of others.


Piety is not an end, but a means: a means of attaining the highest
culture by the purest tranquillity of soul.


Hence it may be observed that those who set up piety as an end and
object are mostly hypocrites.


When a man is old he must do more than when he was young.


To fulfil a duty is still always to feel it as a debt, for it is never
quite satisfying to oneself.


Defects are perceived only by one who has no love; therefore, to see
them, a man must become uncharitable, but not more so than is necessary
for the purpose.


The greatest piece of good fortune is that which corrects our
deficiencies and redeems our mistakes.


Reading ought to mean understanding; writing ought to mean knowing
something; believing ought to mean comprehending; when you desire a
thing, you will have to take it; when you demand it, you will not get
it; and when you are experienced, you ought to be useful to others.


The stream is friendly to the miller whom it serves; it likes to pour
over the mill wheels; what is the good of it stealing through the valley
in apathy?


Whoso is content with pure experience and acts upon it has enough of
truth. The growing child is wise in this sense.


Theory is in itself of no use, except in so far as it makes us believe
in the connection of phenomena.


When a man asks too much and delights in complication, he is exposed to


Thinking by means of analogies is not to be condemned. Analogy has this
advantage, that it comes to no conclusion, and does not, in truth, aim
at finality at all. Induction, on the contrary, is fatal, for it sets up
an object and keeps it in view, and, working on towards it, drags false
and true with it in its train.


The absent works upon us by tradition. The usual form of it may be
called historical; a higher form, akin to the imaginative faculty, is
the mythical. If some third form of it is to be sought behind this last,
and it has any meaning, it is transformed into the mystical. It also
easily becomes sentimental, so that we appropriate to our use only what
suits us.


In contemplation as in action, we must distinguish between what may be
attained and what is unattainable. Without this, little can be achieved,
either in life or in knowledge.


_'Le sense commun est le génie de l'humanité.'_

Common-sense, which is here put forward as the genius of humanity, must
be examined first of all in the way it shows itself. If we inquire the
purpose to which humanity puts it, we find as follows: Humanity is
conditioned by needs. If they are not satisfied, men become impatient;
and if they are, it seems not to affect them. The normal man moves
between these two states, and he applies his understanding--his
so-called common-sense--to the satisfaction of his needs. When his needs
are satisfied, his task is to fill up the waste spaces of indifference.
Here, too, he is successful, if his needs are confined to what is
nearest and most necessary. But if they rise and pass beyond the sphere
of ordinary wants, common-sense is no longer sufficient; it is a genius
no more, and humanity enters on the region of error.


There is no piece of foolishness but it can be corrected by intelligence
or accident; no piece of wisdom but it can miscarry by lack of
intelligence or by accident.


Every great idea is a tyrant when it first appears; hence the advantages
which it produces change all too quickly into disadvantages. It is
possible, then, to defend and praise any institution that exists, if its
beginnings are brought to remembrance, and it is shown that everything
which was true of it at the beginning is true of it still.


Lessing, who chafed under the sense of various limitations, makes one of
his characters say: No one _must_ do anything. A clever pious man said:
If a man _wills_ something, he must do it. A third, who was, it is true,
an educated man, added: _Will_ follows upon _insight_. The whole circle
of _knowledge, will_, and _necessity_ was thus believed to have been
completed. But, as a rule, a man's knowledge, of whatever kind it may
be, determines what he shall do and what he shall leave undone, and so
it is that there is no more terrible sight than ignorance in action.


There are two powers that make for peace: what is right, and what is


Justice insists on obligation, law on decorum. Justice weighs and
decides, law superintends and orders. Justice refers to the individual,
law to society.


The history of knowledge is a great fugue in which the voices of the
nations one after the other emerge.



If a man is to achieve all that is asked of him, he must take himself
for more than he is, and as long as he does not carry it to an absurd
length, we willingly put up with it.


Work makes companionship.


People whip curds to see if they cannot make cream of them.


It is much easier to put yourself in the position of a mind taken up
with the most absolute error, than of one which mirrors to itself


Wisdom lies only in truth.


When I err, every one can see it; but not when I lie.


Is not the world full enough of riddles already, without our making
riddles too out of the simplest phenomena?


'The finest hair throws a shadow.' _Erasmus_.


What I have tried to do in my life through false tendencies, I have at
last learned to understand.


Generosity wins favour for every one, especially when it is accompanied
by modesty.


Before the storm breaks, the dust rises violently for the last time--the
dust that is soon to be laid forever.


Men do not come to know one another easily, even with the best will and
the best purpose. And then ill-will comes in and distorts everything.


We should know one another better if one man were not so anxious to put
himself on an equality with another.


Eminent men are therefore in a worse plight than others; for, as we
cannot compare ourselves with them, we are on the watch for them.


In the world the point is, not to know men, but at any given moment to
be cleverer than the man who stands before you. You can prove this at
every fair and from every charlatan.


Not everywhere where there is water, are there frogs; but where you have
frogs, there you will find water.


Error is quite right as long as we are young, but we must not carry it
on with us into our old age.

Whims and eccentricities that grow stale are all useless, rank nonsense.


In the formation of species Nature gets, as it were, into a
_cul-de-sac_; she cannot make her way through, and is disinclined to
turn back. Hence the stubbornness of national character.


Every one has something in his nature which, if he were to express it
openly, would of necessity give offence.


If a man thinks about his physical or moral condition, he generally
finds that he is ill.


Nature asks that a man should sometimes be stupefied without going to
sleep; hence the pleasure in the smoking of tobacco, the drinking of
brandy, the use of opiates.


The man who is up and doing should see to it that what he does is right.
Whether or not right is done, is a matter which should not trouble him.


Many a man knocks about on the wall with his hammer, and believes that
he hits the right nail on the head every time.


Painting and tattooing of the body is a return to animalism.


History-writing is a way of getting rid of the past.


What a man does not understand, he does not possess.


Not every one who has a pregnant thought delivered to him becomes
productive; it probably makes him think of something with which he is
quite familiar.


Favour, as a symbol of sovereignty, is exercised by weak men.


Every man has enough power left to carry out that of which he is


Memory may vanish so long as at the moment judgment does not fail you.


No nation gains the power of judgment except it can pass judgment on
itself. But to attain this great privilege takes a very long time.


Instead of contradicting my words people ought to act in my spirit.


Those who oppose intellectual truths do but stir up the fire, and the
cinders fly about and burn what they had else not touched.


Man would not be the finest creature in the world if he were not too
fine for it.


What a long time people were vainly disputing about the Antipodes!


Certain minds must be allowed their peculiarities.


Snow is false purity.


Whoso shrinks from ideas ends by having nothing but sensations.


Those from whom we are always learning are rightly called our masters;
but not every one who teaches us deserves this title.


It is with you as with the sea: the most varied names are given to what
is in the end only salt water.


It is said that vain self-praise stinks in the nostrils. That may be so;
but for the kind of smell which comes from unjust blame by others the
public has no nose at all.


There are problematical natures which are equal to no position in which
they find themselves, and which no position satisfies. This it is that
causes that hideous conflict which wastes life and deprives it of all


If we do any real good, it is mostly _clam, vi, et precario_.


Dirt glitters as long as the sun shines.


It is difficult to be just to the passing moment. We are bored by it if
it is neither good nor bad; but the good moment lays a task upon us, and
the bad moment a burden.


He is the happiest man who can set the end of his life in connection
with the beginning.


So obstinately contradictory is man that you cannot compel him to his
advantage, yet he yields before everything that forces him to his hurt.


Forethought is simple, afterthought manifold.


A state of things in which every day brings some new trouble is not the
right one.


When people suffer by failing to look before them, nothing is
commoner than trying to look out for some possible remedy.


The Hindoos of the Desert make a solemn vow to eat no fish.


To venture an opinion is like moving a piece at chess: it may be taken,
but it forms the beginning of a game that is won.


It is as certain as it is strange that truth and error come from one and
the same source. Thus it is that we are often not at liberty to do
violence to error, because at the same time we do violence to truth.


Truth belongs to the man, error to his age. This is why it has been said
that, while the misfortune of the age caused his error, the force of his
soul made him emerge from the error with glory.


Every one has his peculiarities and cannot get rid of them; and yet many
a one is destroyed by his peculiarities, and those too of the most
innocent kind.


If a man does think too much of himself, he is more than he believes
himself to be.


In art and knowledge, as also in deed and action, everything depends on
a pure apprehension of the object and a treatment of it according to its


When intelligent and sensible people despise knowledge in their old age,
it is only because they have asked too much of it and of themselves.


I pity those who make much ado about the transitory nature of all things
and are lost in the contemplation of earthly vanity: are we not here to
make the transitory permanent? This we can do only if we know how to
value both.


A rainbow which lasts a quarter of an hour is looked at no more.


It used to happen, and still happens, to me to take no pleasure in a
work of art at the first sight of it, because it is too much for me; but
if I suspect any merit in it, I try to get at it; and then I never fail
to make the most gratifying discoveries,--to find new qualities in the
work itself and new faculties in myself.


Faith is private capital, kept in one's own house. There are public
savings-banks and loan-offices, which supply individuals in their day of
need; but here the creditor quietly takes his interest for himself.


Real obscurantism is not to hinder the spread of what is true, clear,
and useful, but to bring into vogue what is false.


During a prolonged study of the lives of various men both great and
small, I came upon this thought: In the web of the world the one may
well be regarded as the warp, the other as the woof. It is the little
men, after all, who give breadth to the web, and the great men firmness
and solidity; perhaps, also, the addition of some sort of pattern. But
the scissors of the Fates determine its length, and to that all the rest
must join in submitting itself.


Truth is a torch, but a huge one, and so it is only with blinking eyes
that we all of us try to get past it, in actual terror of being burnt.


'The wise have much in common with one another.' _Æschylus_.


The really foolish thing in men who are otherwise intelligent is that
they fail to understand what another person says, when he does not
exactly hit upon the right way of saying it.


Because a man speaks, he thinks he is able to speak about language.


One need only grow old to become gentler in one's judgments. I see no
fault committed which I could not have committed myself.


The man who acts never has any conscience; no one has any conscience but
the man who thinks.


Why should those who are happy expect one who is miserable to die before
them in a graceful attitude, like the gladiator before the Roman mob?


Some one asked Timon about the education of his children. 'Let them,' he
said, 'be instructed in that which they will never understand.'


There are people whom I wish well, and would that I could wish better.


By force of habit we look at a clock that has run down as if it were
still going, and we gaze at the face of a beauty as though she still


Hatred is active displeasure, envy passive. We need not wonder that envy
turns so soon to hatred.


There is something magical in rhythm; it even makes us believe that we
possess the sublime.


Dilettantism treated seriously, and knowledge pursued mechanically, end
by becoming pedantry.


No one but the master can promote the cause of Art. Patrons help the
master,--that is right and proper; but that does not always mean that
Art is helped.


The most foolish of all errors is for clever young men to believe that
they forfeit their originality in recognising a truth which has already
been recognised by others.


Scholars are generally malignant when they are refuting others; and if
they think a man is making a mistake, they straightway look upon him as
their mortal enemy.


Beauty can never really understand itself.



It is much easier to recognise error than to find truth; for error lies
on the surface and may be overcome; but truth lies in the depths, and to
search for it is not given to every one.


We all live on the past, and through the past are destroyed.


We are no sooner about to learn some great lesson than we take refuge in
our own innate poverty of soul, and yet for all that the lesson has not
been quite in vain.


The world of empirical morality consists for the most part of nothing
but ill-will and envy.


Life seems so vulgar, so easily content with the commonplace things of
every day, and yet it always nurses and cherishes certain higher claims
in secret, and looks about for the means of satisfying them.


Confidences are strange things. If you listen only to one man, it is
possible that he is deceived or mistaken; if you listen to many, they
are in a like case; and, generally, you cannot get at the truth at all.


No one should desire to live in irregular circumstances; but if by
chance a man falls into them, they test his character and show of how
much determination he is capable.


An honourable man with limited ideas often sees through the rascality of
the most cunning jobber.


If a man feels no love, he must learn how to flatter; otherwise he will
not succeed.


Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must
act in spite of it, and then criticism will gradually yield to him.


The masses cannot dispense with men of ability, and such men are always
a burden to them.


If a man spreads my failings abroad, he is my master, even though he
were my servant.


Whether memoirs are written by masters of servants, or by servants of
masters, the processes always meet.


If you lay duties upon people and give them no rights, you must pay them


I can promise to be sincere, but not to be impartial.


Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of
ability to be ungrateful.


We are all so limited that we always think we are right; and so we may
conceive of an extraordinary mind which not only errs but has a positive
delight in error.


It is very rare to find pure and steady activity in the accomplishment
of what is good and right. We usually see pedantry trying to keep back,
and audacity trying to go on too fast.


Word and picture are correlatives which are continually in quest of each
other, as is sufficiently evident in the case of metaphors and similes.
So from all time what was said or sung inwardly to the ear had to be
presented equally to the eye. And so in childish days we see word and
picture in continual balance; in the book of the law and in the way of
salvation, in the Bible and in the spelling-book. When something was
spoken which could not be pictured, and something pictured which could
not be spoken, all went well; but mistakes were often made, and a word
was used instead of a picture; and thence arose those monsters of
symbolical mysticism, which are doubly an evil.


For the man of the world a collection of anecdotes and maxims is of the
greatest value, if he knows how to intersperse the one in his
conversation at fitting moments, and remember the other when a case
arises for their application.


When you lose interest in anything, you also lose the memory for it.


The world is a bell with a crack in it; it rattles, but does not ring.


The importunity of young dilettanti must be borne with good-will; for as
they grow old they become the truest worshippers of Art and the Master.


People have to become really bad before they care for nothing but
mischief, and delight in it.


Clever people are the best encyclopædia.


There are people who make no mistakes because they never wish to do
anything worth doing.


If I know my relation to myself and the outer world, I call it truth.
Every man can have his own peculiar truth; and yet it is always the


No one is the master of any truly productive energy; and all men must
let it work on by itself.


A man never understands how anthropomorphic he is.


A difference which offers nothing to the understanding is no difference
at all.


A man cannot live for every one; least of all for those with whom he
would not care to live.


If a man sets out to study all the laws, he will have no time left to
transgress them.


Things that are mysterious are not yet miracles.


'Converts are not in my good books.'


A frivolous impulsive encouragement of problematical talents was a
mistake of my early years; and I have never been able to abandon it


I should like to be honest with you, without our falling out; but it
will not do. You act wrongly, and fall between two stools; you win no
adherents and lose your friends. What is to be the end of it?


It is all one whether you are of high or of humble origin. You will
always have to pay for your humanity.


When I hear people speak of liberal ideas, it is always a wonder to me
that men are so readily put off with empty verbiage. An idea cannot be
liberal; but it may be potent, vigorous, exclusive, in order to fulfil
its mission of being productive. Still less can a concept be liberal;
for a concept has quite another mission. Where, however, we must look
for liberality, is in the sentiments; and the sentiments are the inner
man as he lives and moves. A man's sentiments, however, are rarely
liberal, because they proceed directly from him personally, and from his
immediate relations and requirements. Further we will not write, and let
us apply this test to what we hear every day.


If a clever man commits a folly, it is not a small one.


There is a poetry without figures of speech, which is a single figure of


I went on troubling myself about general ideas until I learnt to
understand the particular achievements of the best men.


It is only when a man knows little, that he knows anything at all. With
knowledge grows doubt.


The errors of a man are what make him really lovable.


There are men who love their like and seek it; others love their
opposite and follow after it.


If a man has always let himself think the world as bad as the adversary
represents it to be, he must have become a miserable person.


Ill-favour and hatred limit the spectator to the surface, even when keen
perception is added unto them; but when keen perception unites with
good-will and love, it gets at the heart of man and the world; nay, it
may hope to reach the highest goal of all.


Raw matter is seen by every one; the contents are found only by him who
has his eyes about him; and the form is a secret to the majority.


We may learn to know the world as we please: it will always retain a
bright and a dark side.


Error is continually repeating itself in action, and we must unweariedly
repeat the truth in word.


As in Rome there is, apart from the Romans, a population of statues, so
apart from this real world there is a world of illusion, almost more
potent, in which most men live.


Mankind is like the Red Sea: the staff has scarcely parted the waves
asunder, before they flow together again.


Thoughts come back; beliefs persist; facts pass by never to return.


Of all peoples, the Greeks have dreamt the dream of life the best.


We readily bow to antiquity, but not to posterity. It is only a father
that does not grudge talent to his son.


There is no virtue in subordinating oneself; but there is virtue in
descending, and in recognising anything as above us, which is beneath


The whole art of living consists in giving up existence in order to


All our pursuits and actions are a wearying process. Well is it for him
who wearies not.


Hope is the second soul of the unhappy.


Love is a true renovator.


Mankind is not without a wish to serve; hence the chivalry of the French
is a servitude.


In the theatre the pleasure of what we see and hear restrains our


There is no limit to the increase of experience, but theories cannot
become clearer and more complete in just the same sense. The field of
experience is the whole universe in all directions. Theory remains shut
up within the limits of the human faculties. Hence there is no way of
looking at the world, but it recurs, and the curious thing happens, that
with increased experience a limited theory may again come into favour.

It is always the same world which stands open to observation, which is
continually being contemplated or guessed at; and it is always the same
men who live in the true or in the false; more at their ease in the
latter than in the former.


Truth is at variance with our natures, but not so error; and for a very
simple reason. Truth requires us to recognise ourselves as limited, but
error flatters us with the belief that in one way or another we are
subject to no bounds at all.


That some men think they can still do what they have been able to do, is
natural enough; that others think they can do what they have never been
able to do, is singular, but not rare.


At all times it has not been the age, but individuals alone, who have
worked for knowledge. It was the age which put Socrates to death by
poison, the age which burnt Huss. The ages have always remained alike.


That is true Symbolism, where the more particular represents the more
general, not as a dream or shade, but as a vivid, instantaneous
revelation of the Inscrutable.


Everything of an abstract or symbolic nature, as soon as it is
challenged by realities, ends by consuming them and itself. So credit
consumes both money and itself.


Mastery often passes for egoism.


With Protestants, as soon as good works cease and their merit is denied,
sentimentality takes their place.


If a man knows where to get good advice, it is as though he could supply
it himself.


The use of mottoes is to indicate something we have not attained, but
strive to attain. It is right to keep them always before our eyes.


'If a man cannot lift a stone himself, let him leave it, even though he
has some one to help him.'


Despotism promotes general self-government, because from top to bottom
it makes the individual responsible, and so produces the highest degree
of activity.


A man must pay dear for his errors if he wishes to get rid of them, and
even then he is lucky.


Enthusiasm is of the greatest value, so long as we are not carried away
by it.


School itself is the only true preparation for it.


Error is related to truth as sleep to waking. I have observed that on
awakening from error a man turns again to truth as with new vigour.


Every one suffers who does not work for himself. A man works for others
to have them share in his joy.


Men's prejudices rest upon their character for the time being and cannot
be overcome, as being part and parcel of themselves. Neither evidence
nor common-sense nor reason has the slightest influence upon them.


Characters often make a law of their failings. Men who know the world
have said that when prudence is only fear in disguise, its scruples
cannot be conquered. The weak often have revolutionary sentiments; they
think they would be well off if they were not ruled, and fail to
perceive that they can rule neither themselves nor others.


Common-sense is born pure in the healthy man, is self-developed, and is
revealed by a resolute perception and recognition of what is necessary
and useful. Practical men and women avail themselves of it with
confidence. Where it is absent, both sexes find anything necessary when
they desire it, and useful when it gives them pleasure.


All men, as they attain freedom, give play to their errors. The strong
do too much, and the weak too little.


The conflict of the old, the existing, the continuing, with development,
improvement, and reform, is always the same. Order of every kind turns
at last to pedantry, and to get rid of the one, people destroy the
other; and so it goes on for a while, until people perceive that order
must be established anew. Classicism and Romanticism; close corporations
and freedom of trade; the maintenance of large estates and the division
of the land,--it is always the same conflict which ends by producing a
new one. The best policy of those in power would be so to moderate this
conflict as to let it right itself without the destruction of either
element. But this has not been granted to men, and it seems not to be
the will of God.


A great work limits us for the moment, because we feel it above our
powers; and only in so far as we afterwards incorporate it with our
culture, and make it part of our mind and heart, does it become a dear
and worthy object.


It is no wonder that we all more or less delight in the mediocre,
because it leaves us in peace: it gives us the comfortable feeling of
intercourse with what is like ourselves.


There is no use in reproving vulgarity, for it never changes.


We cannot escape a contradiction in ourselves; we must try to resolve
it. If the contradiction comes from others, it does not affect us: it is
their affair.


There are many things in the world that are at once good and excellent,
but they do not come into contact.


Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.


When men have to do with women, they get spun off like a distaff.


It may well be that a man is at times horribly threshed by misfortunes,
public and private: but the reckless flail of Fate, when it beats the
rich sheaves, crushes only the straw; and the corn feels nothing of it
and dances merrily on the floor, careless whether its way is to the mill
or the furrow.


However probable it is that a desire may be fulfilled, there is always a
doubt; and so when the desire is realised, it is always surprising.


Absurdities presented with good taste rouse disgust and admiration.


Of the best society it used to be said: their speech instructs the mind,
and their silence the feelings.


Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.


Beauty and Genius must be kept afar if one would avoid becoming their


We treat the aged with consideration, as we treat children.


An old man loses one of the greatest of human privileges: he is no more
judged by his peers.


In the matter of knowledge, it has happened to me as to one who rises
early, and in the dark impatiently awaits the dawn, and then the sun;
but is blinded when it appears.


Great primeval powers, evolved in time or in eternity, work on
unceasingly: whether to weal or to woe, is a matter of chance.



People often say to themselves in life that they should avoid a variety
of occupation, and, more particularly, be the less willing to enter upon
new work the older they grow. But it is easy to talk, easy to give
advice to oneself and others. To grow old is itself to enter upon a new
business; all the circumstances change, and a man must either cease
acting altogether, or willingly and consciously take over the new rôle.


Of the Absolute in the theoretical sense, I do not venture to speak; but
this I maintain: that if a man recognises it in its manifestation, and
always keeps his gaze fixed upon it, he will experience very great


To live in a great idea means to treat the impossible as though it were
possible. It is just the same with a strong character; and when an idea
and a character meet, things arise which fill the world with wonder for
thousands of years.


Napoleon lived wholly in a great idea, but he was unable to take
conscious hold of it. After utterly disavowing all ideals and denying
them any reality, he zealously strove to realise them. His clear,
incorruptible intellect could not, however, tolerate such a perpetual
conflict within; and there is much value in the thoughts which he was
compelled, as it were, to utter, and which are expressed very peculiarly
and with much charm.


He considered the idea as a thing of the mind, that had, it is true, no
reality, but still, on passing away, left a residuum--a _caput
mortuum_--to which some reality could not be altogether refused. We may
think this a very perverse and material notion; but when he entertained
his friends with the neverending consequences of his life and actions,
in full belief and confidence in them, he expressed himself quite
differently. Then, indeed, he was ready to admit that life produces
life; that a fruitful act has effects to all time. He took pleasure in
confessing that he had given a great impulse, a new direction, to the
course of the world's affairs.


It always remains a very remarkable fact that men whose whole
personality is almost all idea, are so extremely shy of all phantasy. In
this case was Hamann, who could not bear the mention of "things of
another world." He took occasion to express himself on this point in a
certain paragraph, which he wrote in fourteen different ways; and still,
apparently, he was never quite satisfied with it.

Two of these attempts have been preserved to us; a third we have
ourselves attempted, which we are induced to print here by the preceding


Man is placed as a real being in the midst of a real world, and endowed
with such organs that he can perceive and produce the real and also the

All healthy men have the conviction of their own existence and of an
existence around them. However, even the brain contains a hollow spot,
that is to say, a place in which no object is mirrored; just as in the
eye itself there is a little spot that does not see. If a man pays
particular attention to this spot and is absorbed in it, he falls into a
state of mental sickness, has presentiments of "things of another
world," which are, in reality, no things at all; possessing neither form
nor limit, but alarming him like dark, empty tracts of night, and
pursuing him as something more than phantoms, if he does not tear
himself free from them.


To the several perversities of the day a man should always oppose only
the great masses of universal history.


No one can live much with children without finding that they always
react to any outward influence upon them.


With any specially childish nature the reaction is even passionate,
while its action is energetic.


That is why children's lives are a series of refined judgments, not to
say prejudices; and to efface a rapid but partial perception in order to
make way for a more general one, time is necessary. To bear this in mind
is one of the teacher's greatest duties.


Friendship can only be bred in practice and be maintained by practice.
Affection, nay, love itself, is no help at all to friendship. True,
active, productive friendship consists in keeping equal pace in life: in
my friend approving my aims, while I approve his, and in thus moving
forwards together steadfastly, however much our way of thought and life
may vary.



In the world people take a man at his own estimate; but he must estimate
himself at something. Disagreeableness is more easily tolerated than


You can force anything on society so long as it has no sequel.


We do not learn to know men if they come to us; we must go to them to
find out what they are.


That we have many criticisms to make on those who visit us, and that, as
soon as they depart, we pass no very amiable judgment upon them, seems
to me almost natural; for we have, so to speak, a right to measure them
by our own standard. Even intelligent and fair-minded men hardly refrain
from sharp censure on such occasions.


But if, on the contrary, we have been in their homes, and have seen them
in their surroundings and habits and the circumstances which are
necessary and inevitable for them; if we have seen the kind of influence
they exert on those around them, or how they behave, it is only
ignorance and ill-will that can find food for ridicule in what must
appear to us in more than one sense worthy of respect.


What we call conduct and good manners obtains for us that which
otherwise is to be obtained only by force, or not even by force.


Women's society is the element of good manners.


How can the character, the peculiar nature of a man, be compatible with
good manners?


It is through his good manners that a man's peculiar nature should be
made all the more conspicuous. Every one likes distinction, but it
should not be disagreeable.


The most privileged position, in life as in society, is that of an
educated soldier. Rough warriors, at any rate, remain true to their
character, and as great strength is usually the cover for good nature,
we get on with them at need.


No one is more troublesome than an awkward civilian. As his business is
not with anything brutal or coarse, he might be expected to show
delicacy of feeling.


When we live with people who have a delicate sense of what is fitting,
we get quite anxious about them if anything happens to disturb this


No one would come into a room with spectacles on his nose, if he knew
that women at once lose any inclination to look at or talk to him.


A familiar in the place of a respectful demeanour is always ridiculous.


There is no outward sign of politeness that will be found to lack some
deep moral foundation. The right kind of education would be that which
conveyed the sign and the foundation at the same time.


A man's manners are the mirror in which he shows his portrait.


There is a politeness of the heart, and it is allied to love. It
produces the most agreeable politeness of outward demeanour.


Voluntary dependence is the best state, and how should that be possible
without love?


We are never further from our wishes than when we fancy we possess the
object of them.


No one is more of a slave than he who thinks himself free without being


A man has only to declare himself free to feel at the same moment that
he is limited. Should he venture to declare himself limited, he feels
himself free.


Against the great superiority of another there is no remedy but love.


It is a terrible thing for an eminent man to be gloried in by fools.


It is said that no man is a hero to his valet. That is only because a
hero can be recognised only by a hero. The valet will probably know how
to appreciate his like,--his fellow-valet.


There is no greater consolation for mediocrity than that the genius is
not immortal.


The greatest men are linked to their age by some weak point.


We generally take men to be more dangerous than they are.


Fools and wise folk are alike harmless. It is the half-wise, and the
half-foolish, who are the most dangerous.


To see a difficult thing lightly handled gives us the impression of the


Difficulties increase the nearer we come to our aim.


Sowing is not so painful as reaping.


We are fond of looking to the future, because our secret wishes make us
apt to turn in our favour the uncertainties which move about in it
hither and thither.


It is not easy to be in any great assembly without thinking that the
chance which brings so many people together will also make us meet our


A man may live never so retired a life but he becomes a debtor or a
creditor before he is aware of it.


If anyone meets us who owes us a debt of gratitude, it immediately
crosses our mind. How often can we meet some one to whom we owe
gratitude, without thinking of it!


To communicate oneself is Nature; to receive a communication as it is
given is Culture.


No one would speak much in society if he were aware how often we
misunderstand others.


It is only because we have not understood a thing that we cannot repeat
it without alteration.


To make a long speech in the presence of others without flattering your
audience, is to rouse dislike.


Every word that we utter rouses its contrary.


Contradiction and flattery make, both of them, bad conversation.


The pleasantest society is that in which there exists a genial deference
amongst the members one towards another.


By nothing do men show their character more than by the things they
laugh at.


The ridiculous springs from a moral contrast innocently presented to the


The sensual man often laughs when there is nothing to laugh at. Whatever
it is that moves him, he shows that he is pleased with himself.


An intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, a wise man hardly


A man well on in years was reproved for still troubling himself about
young women. 'It is the only means,' he replied, 'of regaining one's
youth; and that is something every one wishes to do.'


A man does not mind being blamed for his faults, and being punished for
them, and he patiently suffers much for the sake of them; but he becomes
impatient if he is required to give them up.


Certain faults are necessary to the individual if he is to exist. We
should not like old friends to give up certain peculiarities.


It is said of a man that he will soon die, when he acts in any way
unlike himself.


What kind of faults in ourselves should we retain, nay, even cultivate?
Those which rather flatter other people than offend them.


The passions are good or bad qualities, only intensified.


Our passions are, in truth, like the phoenix. When the old one burns
away, the new one rises out of its ashes at once.


Great passions are hopeless diseases. That which could cure them is the
first thing to make them really dangerous.


Passion is enhanced and tempered by avowal. In nothing, perhaps, is the
middle course more desirable than in confidence and reticence towards
those we love.


To sit in judgment on the departed is never likely to be equitable. We
all suffer from life; who except God can call us to account? Let not
their faults and sufferings, but what they have accomplished and done,
occupy the survivors.


It is failings that show human nature, and merits that distinguish the
individual; faults and misfortunes we all have in common; virtues belong
to each one separately.



The secret places in the way of life may not and cannot be revealed:
there are rocks of offence on which every traveller must stumble. But
the poet points to where they are.


It would not be worth while to see seventy years if all the wisdom of
this world were foolishness with God.


The true is Godlike: we do not see it itself; we must guess at it
through its manifestations.


The real scholar learns how to evolve the unknown from the known, and
draws near the master.


In the smithy the iron is softened by blowing up the fire, and taking
the dross from the bar. As soon as it is purified, it is beaten and
pressed, and becomes firm again by the addition of fresh water. The same
thing happens to a man at the hands of his teacher.


What belongs to a man, he cannot get rid of, even though he throws it


Of true religions there are only two: one of them recognises and
worships the Holy that without form or shape dwells in and around us;
and the other recognises and worships it in its fairest form. Everything
that lies between these two is idolatry.


It is undeniable that in the Reformation the human mind tried to free
itself; and the renaissance of Greek and Roman antiquity brought about
the wish and longing for a freer, more seemly, and elegant life. The
movement was favoured in no small degree by the fact that men's hearts
aimed at returning to a certain simple state of nature, while the
imagination sought to concentrate itself.


The Saints were all at once driven from heaven; and senses, thought, and
heart were turned from a divine mother with a tender child, to the grown
man doing good and suffering evil, who was later transfigured into a
being half-divine in its nature, and then recognised and honoured as God
himself. He stood against a background where the Creator had opened out
the universe; a spiritual influence went out from him; his sufferings
were adopted as an example, and his transfiguration was the pledge of


As a coal is revived by incense, so prayer revives the hopes of the


From a strict point of view we must have a reformation of ourselves
every day, and protest against others, even though it be in no religious


It should be our earnest endeavour to use words coinciding as closely as
possible with what we feel, see, think, experience, imagine, and reason.
It is an endeavour which we cannot evade, and which is daily to be

Let every man examine himself, and he will find this a much harder task
than he might suppose; for, unhappily, a man usually takes words as mere
make-shifts; his knowledge and his thought are in most cases better
than his method of expression.

False, irrelevant, and futile ideas may arise in ourselves and others,
or find their way into us from without. Let us persist in the effort to
remove them as far as we can, by plain and honest purpose.


As we grow older, the ordeals grow greater.


Where I cannot be moral, my power is gone.


A man is not deceived by others, he deceives himself.


Laws are all made by old people and by men. Youths and women want the
exceptions, old people the rules.


It is not the intelligent man who rules, but intelligence; not the wise
man, but wisdom.


To praise a man is to put oneself on his level.


It is not enough to know, we must also apply; it is not enough to will,
we must also do.


Chinese, Indian, and Egyptian antiquities are never more than
curiosities; it is well to make acquaintance with them; but in point of
moral and æsthetic culture they can help us little.


The German runs no greater danger than to advance with and by the
example of his neighbours. There is perhaps no nation that is fitter for
the process of self-development; so that it has proved of the greatest
advantage to Germany to have obtained the notice of the world so late.


Even men of insight do not see that they try to explain things which lie
at the foundation of our experience, and in which we must simply

Yet still the attempt may have its advantage, as otherwise we should
break off our researches too soon.


From this time forward, if a man does not apply himself to some art or
handiwork, he will be in a bad way. In the rapid changes of the world,
knowledge is no longer a furtherance; by the time a man has taken note
of everything, he has lost himself.


Besides, in these days the world forces universal culture upon us, and
so we need not trouble ourselves further about it; we must appropriate
some particular culture.


The greatest difficulties lie where we do not look for them.


Our interest in public events is mostly the merest philistinism.


Nothing is more highly to be prized than the value of each day.


_Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!_ This is so strange an utterance,
that it could only have come from one who fancied himself autochthonous.
The man who looks upon it as an honour to be descended from wise
ancestors, will allow them at least as much common-sense as he allows


Strictly speaking, everything depends upon a man's intentions; where
these exist, thoughts appear; and as the intentions are, so are the


If a man lives long in a high position, he does not, it is true,
experience all that a man can experience; but he experiences things like
them, and perhaps some things that have no parallel elsewhere.



The first and last thing that is required of genius is love of truth.


To be and remain true to oneself and others, is to possess the noblest
attribute of the greatest talents.


Great talents are the best means of conciliation.


The action of genius is in a way ubiquitous: towards general truths
before experience, and towards particular truths after it.


An active scepticism is one which constantly aims at overcoming itself,
and arriving by means of regulated experience at a kind of conditioned


The general nature of the sceptical mind is its tendency to inquire
whether any particular predicate really attaches to any particular
object; and the purpose of the inquiry is safely to apply in practice
what has thus been discovered and proved.


The mind endowed with active powers and keeping with a practical object
to the task that lies nearest, is the worthiest there is on earth.


Perfection is the measure of heaven, and the wish to be perfect the
measure of man.


Not only what is born with him, but also what he acquires, makes the


A man is well equipped for all the real necessities of life if he trusts
his senses, and so cultivates them that they remain worthy of being


The senses do not deceive; it is the judgment that deceives.


The lower animal is taught by its organs; man teaches his organs, and
dominates them.


All direct invitation to live up to ideals is of doubtful value,
particularly if addressed to women. Whatever the reason of it may be, a
man of any importance collects round him a seraglio of a more or less
religious, moral, and æsthetic character.


When a great idea enters the world as a Gospel, it becomes an offence to
the multitude, which stagnates in pedantry; and to those who have much
learning but little depth, it is folly.


Every idea appears at first as a strange visitor, and when it begins to
be realised, it is hardly distinguishable from phantasy and phantastery.


This it is that has been called, in a good and in a bad sense, ideology;
and this is why the ideologist is so repugnant to the hard-working,
practical man of every day.


You may recognise the utility of an idea, and yet not quite understand
how to make a perfect use of it.


_Credo Deum!_ That is a fine, a worthy thing to say; but to recognise
God where and as he reveals himself, is the only true bliss on earth.


Kepler said: 'My wish is that I may perceive the God whom I find
everywhere in the external world, in like manner also within and inside
me.' The good man was not aware that in that very moment the divine in
him stood in the closest connection with the divine in the Universe.


What is predestination? It is this: God is mightier and wiser than we
are, and so he does with us as he pleases.


Toleration should, strictly speaking, be only a passing mood; it ought
to lead to acknowledgment and appreciation. To tolerate a person is to
affront him.


Faith, Love, and Hope once felt, in a quiet sociable hour, a plastic
impulse in their nature; they worked together and created a lovely
image, a Pandora in the higher sense, Patience.


'I stumbled over the roots of the tree which I planted.' It must have
been an old forester who said that.


A leaf blown by the wind often looks like a bird.


Does the sparrow know how the stork feels?


Lamps make oil-spots, and candles want snuffing; it is only the light of
heaven that shines pure and leaves no stain.


If you miss the first button-hole, you will not succeed in buttoning up
your coat.


A burnt child dreads the fire; an old man who has often been singed is
afraid of warming himself.


It is not worth while to do anything for the world that we have with us,
as the existing order may in a moment pass away. It is for the past and
the future that we must work: for the past, to acknowledge its merits;
for the future, to try to increase its value.


Let every man ask himself with which of his faculties he can and will
somehow influence his age.


Let no one think that people have waited for him as for the Saviour.


Character in matters great and small consists in a man steadily pursuing
the things of which he feels himself capable.


The man who wants to be active and has to be so, need only think of what
is fitting at the moment, and he will make his way without difficulty.
This is where women have the advantage, if they understand it.


The moment is a kind of public; a man must deceive it into believing
that he is doing something; then it leaves us alone to go our way in
secret; whereat its grandchildren cannot fail to be astonished.


There are men who put their knowledge in the place of insight.


In some states, as a consequence of the violent movements experienced in
almost all directions, there has come about a certain overpressure in
the system of education, the harm of which will be more generally felt
hereafter; though even now it is perfectly well recognised by capable
and honest authorities. Capable men live in a sort of despair over the
fact that they are bound by the rules of their office to teach and
communicate things which they look upon as useless and hurtful.


There is no sadder sight than the direct striving after the
unconditioned in this thoroughly conditioned world.


Before the Revolution it was all _effort_; afterwards it all changed to


Can a nation become ripe? That is a strange question. I would answer,
Yes! if all the men could be born thirty years of age. But as youth will
always be too forward and old age too backward, the really mature man is
always hemmed in between them, and has to resort to strange devices to
make his way through.


It does not look well for monarchs to speak through the press, for power
should act and not talk. The projects of the liberal party always bear
being read: the man who is overpowered may at least express his views in
speech, because he cannot act. When Mazarin was shown some satirical
songs on a new tax, 'Let them sing,' said he, 'as long as they pay.'


Vanity is a desire of personal glory, the wish to be appreciated,
honoured, and run after, not because of one's personal qualities,
merits, and achievements, but because of one's individual existence. At
best, therefore, it is a frivolous beauty whom it befits.


The most important matters of feeling as of reason, of experience as of
reflection, should be treated of only by word of mouth. The spoken word
at once dies if it is not kept alive by some other word following on it
and suited to the hearer. Observe what happens in social converse. If
the word is not dead when it reaches the hearer, he murders it at once
by a contradiction, a stipulation, a condition, a digression, an
interruption, and all the thousand tricks of conversation. With the
written word the case is still worse. No one cares to read anything to
which he is not already to some extent accustomed: he demands the known
and the familiar under an altered form. Still the written word has this
advantage, that it lasts and can await the time when it is allowed to
take effect.


Both what is reasonable and what is unreasonable have to undergo the
like contradiction.


Dialectic is the culture of the spirit of contradiction, which is given
to man that he may learn to perceive the differences between things.


With those who are really of like disposition with himself a man cannot
long be at variance; he will always come to an agreement again. With
those who are really of adverse disposition, he may in vain try to
preserve harmony; he will always come to a separation again.


Opponents fancy they refute us when they repeat their own opinion and
pay no attention to ours.


People who contradict and dispute should now and then remember that not
every mode of speech is intelligible to every one.


Every man hears only what he understands.


I am quite prepared to find that many a reader will disagree with me;
but when he has a thing before him in black and white, he must let it
stand. Another reader may perhaps take up the very same copy and agree
with me.


The truest liberality is appreciation.


For the strenuous man the difficulty is to recognise the merits of elder
contemporaries and not let himself be hindered by their defects.


Some men think about the defects of their friends, and there is nothing
to be gained by it. I have always paid attention to the merits of my
enemies, and found it an advantage.


There are many men who fancy they understand whatever they experience.


The public must be treated like women: they must be told absolutely
nothing but what they like to hear.


Every age of man has a certain philosophy answering to it. The child
comes out as a realist: he finds himself as convinced that pears and
apples exist as that he himself exists. The youth in a storm of inner
passion is forced to turn his gaze within, and feel in advance what he
is going to be: he is changed into an idealist. But the man has every
reason to become a sceptic: he does well to doubt whether the means he
has chosen to his end are the right ones. Before and during action he
has every reason for keeping his understanding mobile, that he may not
afterwards have to grieve over a false choice. Yet when he grows old he
will always confess himself a mystic: he sees that so much seems to
depend on chance; that folly succeeds and wisdom fails; that good and
evil fortune are brought unexpectedly to the same level; so it is and so
it has been, and old age acquiesces in that which is and was and will


When a man grows old he must consciously remain at a certain stage.


It does not become an old man to run after the fashion, either in
thought or in dress. But he must know where he is, and what the others
are aiming at.

What is called fashion is the tradition of the moment. All tradition
carries with it a certain necessity for people to put themselves on a
level with it.


We have long been busy with the critique of reason. I should like to see
a critique of common-sense. It would be a real benefit to mankind if we
could convincingly prove to the ordinary intelligence how far it can go;
and that is just as much as it fully requires for life on this earth.


The thinker makes a great mistake when he asks after cause and effect:
they both together make up the indivisible phenomenon.


All practical men try to bring the world under their hands; all
thinkers, under their heads. How far each succeeds, they may both see
for themselves.


Shall we say that a man thinks only when he cannot think out that of
which he is thinking?


What is invention or discovery? It is the conclusion of what we were
looking for.


It is with history as with nature and with everything of any depth, it
may be past, present, or future: the further we seriously pursue it, the
more difficult are the problems that appear. The man who is not afraid
of them, but attacks them bravely, has a feeling of higher culture and
greater ease the further he progresses.


Every phenomenon is within our reach if we treat it as an inclined
plane, which is of easy ascent, though the thick end of the wedge may be
steep and inaccessible.


If a man would enter upon some course of knowledge, he must either be
deceived or deceive himself, unless external necessity irresistibly
determines him. Who would become a physician if, at one and the same
time, he saw before him all the horrible sights that await him?


How many years must a man do nothing before he can at all know what is
to be done and how to do it!


Duty: where a man loves what he commands himself to do.



When Madame Roland was on the scaffold, she asked for pen and paper, to
note the peculiar thoughts that hovered about her on the last journey.
It is a pity they were refused, for in a tranquil mind thoughts rise up
at the close of life hitherto unthinkable; like blessed inward voices,
alighting in glory on the summits of the past.


Literature is a fragment of fragments: the least of what happened and
was spoken, has been written; and of the things that have been written,
very few have been preserved.


And yet, with all the fragmentary nature of literature, we find thousand
fold repetition; which shows how limited is man's mind and destiny.


Excellent work is unfathomable, approach it as you will.


It is not language in itself which is correct or forcible or elegant,
but the mind that is embodied in it; and so it is not for a man to
determine whether he will give his calculations or speeches or poems the
desired qualities: the question is whether Nature has given him the
intellectual and moral qualities which fit him for the work,--the
intellectual power of observation and insight, the moral power of
repelling the evil spirits that might hinder him from paying respect to


The appeal to posterity springs from the pure, strong feeling of the
existence of something imperishable; something that, even though it be
not at once recognised, will in the end be gratified by finding the
minority turn into a majority.


When a new literature succeeds, it obscures the effect of an earlier
one, and its own effect predominates; so that it is well, from time to
time, to look back. What is original in us is best preserved and
quickened if we do not lose sight of those who have gone before us.


The most original authors of modern times are so, not because they
produce what is new, but only because they are able to say things the
like of which seem never to have been said before.


Thus the best sign of originality lies in taking up a subject and then
developing it so fully as to make every one confess that he would hardly
have found so much in it.


There are many thoughts that come only from general culture, like buds
from green branches. When roses bloom, you see them blooming everywhere.


Lucidity is a due distribution of light and shade.' _Hamann_.


A man who has no acquaintance with foreign languages knows nothing of
his own.


We must remember that there are many men who, without being productive,
are anxious to say something important, and the results are most


Deep and earnest thinkers are in a difficult position with regard to the


Some books seem to have been written, not to teach us anything, but to
let us know that the author has known something.


An author can show no greater respect for his public than by never
bringing it what it expects, but what he himself thinks right and proper
in that stage of his own and others' culture in which for the time he
finds himself.


The so-called Nature-poets are men of active talent, with a fresh
stimulus and reaction from an over-cultured, stagnant, mannered epoch of
art. They cannot avoid commonplace.


Productions are now possible which, without being bad, have no value.
They have no value, because they contain nothing; and they are not bad,
because a general form of good-workmanship is present to the author's


All lyrical work must, as a whole, be perfectly intelligible, but in
some particulars a little unintelligible.


A romance is a subjective epic in which the author begs leave to treat
the world after his own ideas. The only question is, whether he has any
ideas; the rest will follow of itself.


Subjective or so-called sentimental poetry has now been admitted to an
equality with objective and descriptive. This was inevitable; because
otherwise the whole of modern poetry would have to be discarded. It is
now obvious that when men of truly poetical genius appear, they will
describe more of the particular feelings of the inner life than of the
general facts of the great life of the world. This has already taken
place to such a degree that we have a poetry without figures of speech,
which can by no means be refused all praise.


Superstition is the poetry of life, and so it does not hurt the poet to
be superstitious.


That glorious hymn, _Veni Creator Spiritus_, is really an appeal to
genius. That is why it speaks so powerfully to men of intellect and


Translators are like busy match-makers: they sing the praises of some
half-veiled beauty, and extol her charms, and arouse an irresistible
longing for the original.


A Spinoza in poetry becomes a Machiavelli in philosophy.


Against the three unities there is nothing to be said, if the subject is
very simple; but there are times when thrice three unities, skilfully
interwoven, produce a very pleasant effect.


The sentimentality of the English is humorous and tender; of the French,
popular and pathetic; of the Germans, naïve and realistic.


Mysticism is the scholastic of the heart, the dialectic of the feelings.


If a man sets out to reproach an author with obscurity, he should first
of all examine his own mind, to see if he is himself all clearness
within. Twilight makes even plain writing illegible.


It is with books as with new acquaintances. At first we are highly
delighted, if we find a general agreement,--if we are pleasantly moved
on any of the chief sides of our existence. With a closer acquaintance
differences come to light; and then reasonable conduct mainly consists
in not shrinking back at once, as may happen in youth, but in keeping
firm hold of the things in which we agree, and being quite clear about
the things in which we differ, without on that account desiring any


In psychological reflection the greatest difficulty is this: that inner
and outer must always be viewed in parallel lines, or, rather,
interwoven. It is a continual systole and diastole, an inspiration and
an expiration of the living soul. If this cannot be put into words, it
should be carefully marked and noted.


My relations with Schiller rested on the decided tendency of both of us
towards a single aim, and our common activity rested on the diversity of
the means by which we endeavoured to attain that aim.


Once when a slight difference was mentioned between us, of which I was
reminded by a passage in a letter of his, I made the following
reflections: There is a great difference between a poet seeking the
particular for the universal, and seeing the universal in the
particular. The one gives rise to Allegory, where the particular serves
only as instance or example of the general; but the other is the true
nature of Poetry, namely, the expression of the particular without any
thought of, or reference to, the general. If a man grasps the particular
vividly, he also grasps the general, without being aware of it at the
time; or he may make the discovery long afterwards.


There may be eclectic philosophers, but not an eclectic philosophy.


But every one is an eclectic who, out of the things that surround and
take place about him, appropriates what is suited to his nature; and
this is what is meant by culture and progress, in matters of theory or


Various maxims of the ancients, which we are wont to repeat again and
again, had a meaning quite different from that which is apt to attach to
them in later times.


The saying that no one who is unacquainted with or a stranger to
geometry should enter the philosopher's school, does not mean that a man
must become a mathematician to attain the wisdom of the world.


Geometry is here taken in its primary elements, such as are contained in
Euclid and laid before every beginner; and then it is the most perfect
propædeutic and introduction to philosophy.


When a boy begins to understand that an invisible point must always come
before a visible one, and that the shortest way between two points is a
straight line, before he can draw it on his paper with a pencil, he
experiences a certain pride and pleasure. And he is not wrong; for he
has the source of all thought opened to him; idea and reality, _potentia
et actu_, are become clear; the philosopher has no new discovery to
bring him; as a mathematician, he has found the basis of all thought for


And if we turn to that significant utterance, _Know thyself_, we must
not explain it in an ascetic sense. It is in nowise the self-knowledge
of our modern hypochondrists, humorists, and self-tormentors. It simply
means: pay some attention to yourself; take note of yourself; so that
you may know how you come to stand towards those like you and towards
the world. This involves no psychological torture; every capable man
knows and feels what it means. It is a piece of good advice which every
one will find of the greatest advantage in practice.


Let us remember how great the ancients were; and especially how the
Socratic school holds up to us the source and standard of all life and
action, and bids us not indulge in empty speculation, but live and do.


So long as our scholastic education takes us back to antiquity and
furthers the study of the Greek and Latin languages, we may congratulate
ourselves that these studies, so necessary for the higher culture, will
never disappear.


If we set our gaze on antiquity and earnestly study it, in the desire to
form ourselves thereon, we get the feeling as if it were only then that
we really became men.


The pedagogue, in trying to write and speak Latin, has a higher and
grander idea of himself than would be permissible in ordinary life.


In the presence of antiquity, the mind that is susceptible to poetry and
art feels itself placed in the most pleasing ideal state of nature; and
even to this day the Homeric hymns have the power of freeing us, at any
rate, for moments, from the frightful burden which the tradition of
several thousand years has rolled upon us.


There is no such thing as patriotic art and patriotic science. Both art
and science belong, like all things great and good, to the whole world,
and can be furthered only by a free and general interchange of ideas
among contemporaries, with continual reference to the heritage of the
past as it is known to us.


Poetical talent is given to peasant as well as to knight; all that is
required is that each shall grasp his position and treat it worthily.


An historic sense means a sense so cultured that, in valuing the deserts
and merits of its own time, it takes account also of the past.


The best that history gives us is the enthusiasm it arouses.


The historian's duty is twofold: first towards himself, then towards his
readers. As regards himself, he must carefully examine into the things
that could have happened; and, for the reader's sake, he must determine
what actually did happen. His action towards himself is a matter between
himself and his colleagues; but the public must not see into the secret
that there is little in history which can be said to be positively


The historian's duty is to separate the true from the false, the certain
from the uncertain, and the doubtful from that which cannot be accepted.


It is seldom that any one of great age becomes historical to himself,
and finds his contemporaries become historical to him, so that he
neither cares nor is able to argue with any one.


On a closer examination of the matter, it will be found that the
historian does not easily grasp history as something historical. In
whatever age he may live, the historian always writes as though he
himself had been present at the time of which he treats, instead of
simply narrating the facts and movements of that time. Even the mere
chronicler only points more or less to his own limitations, or the
peculiarities of his town or monastery or age.


We really learn only from those books which we cannot criticise. The
author of a book which we could criticise would have to learn from us.


That is the reason why the Bible will never lose its power; because, as
long as the world lasts, no one can stand up and say: I grasp it as a
whole and understand all the parts of it. But we say humbly: as a whole
it is worthy of respect, and in all its parts it is applicable.


There is and will be much discussion as to the use and harm of
circulating the Bible. One thing is clear to me: mischief will result,
as heretofore, by using it phantastically as a system of dogma; benefit,
as heretofore, by a loving acceptance of its teachings.


I am convinced that the Bible will always be more beautiful the more it
is understood; the more, that is, we see and observe that every word
which we take in a general sense and apply specially to ourselves, had,
under certain circumstances of time and place, a peculiar, special, and
directly individual reference.


The incurable evil of religious controversy is that while one party
wants to connect the highest interest of humanity with fables and
phrases, the other tries to rest it on things that satisfy no one.


If one has not read the newspapers for some months and then reads them
all together, one sees, as one never saw before, how much time is wasted
with this kind of literature.


The classical is health; and the romantic, disease.


Ovid remained classical even in exile: it is not in himself that he sees
misfortune, but in his banishment from the metropolis of the world.


The romantic is already fallen into its own abysm. It is hard to imagine
anything more degraded than the worst of the new productions.


Bodies which rot while they are still alive, and are edified by the
detailed contemplation of their own decay; dead men who remain in the
world for the ruin of others, and feed their death on the living,--to
this have come our makers of literature.

When the same thing happened in antiquity, it was only as a strange
token of some rare disease; but with the moderns the disease has become
endemic and epidemic.


Literature decays only as men become more and more corrupt.


What a day it is when we must envy the men in their graves!


The things that are true, good, excellent, are simple and always alike,
whatever their appearance may be. But the error that we blame is
extremely manifold and varying; it is in conflict not only with the good
and the true, but also with itself; it is self-contradictory. Thus it is
that the words of blame in our literature must necessarily outnumber the
words of praise.


The Greeks, whose poetry and rhetoric was of a simple and positive
character, express approval more often than disapproval. With the Latin
writers it is the contrary; and the more poetry and the arts of speech
decay, the more will blame swell and praise shrink.


'What are tragedies but the versified passions of people who make Heaven
knows what out of the external world?'


There are certain empirical enthusiasts who are quite right in showing
their enthusiasm over new productions that are good; but they are as
ecstatic as if there were no other good work in the world at all.


In _Sakontala_ the poet appears in his highest function. As the
representative of the most natural condition of things, the finest mode
of life, the purest moral endeavour, the worthiest majesty, and the most
solemn worship, he ventures on common and ridiculous contrasts.


Shakespeare's _Henry IV_. If everything were lost that has ever been
preserved to us of this kind of writing, the arts of poetry and rhetoric
could be completely restored out of this one play.


Shakespeare's finest dramas are wanting here and there in facility: they
are something more than they should be, and for that very reason
indicate the great poet.


Shakespeare is dangerous reading for budding talents: he compels them to
reproduce him, and they fancy they are producing themselves.


Yorick Sterne was the finest spirit that ever worked. To read him is to
attain a fine feeling of freedom; his humour is inimitable, and it is
not every kind of humour that frees the soul.


The peculiar value of so-called popular ballads is that their motives
are drawn direct from nature. This, however, is an advantage of which
the poet of culture could also avail himself, if he knew how to do it.


But in popular ballads there is always this advantage, that in the art
of saying things shortly uneducated men are always better skilled than
those who are in the strict sense of the word educated.


_Gemüth = Heart_. The translator must proceed until he reaches the
untranslatable; and then only will he have an idea of the foreign nation
and the foreign tongue.


When we say of a landscape that it has a romantic character, it is the
secret feeling of the sublime taking the form of the past, or, what is
the same thing, of solitude, absence, or seclusion.


The Beautiful is a manifestation of secret laws of nature, which,
without its presence, would never have been revealed.


It is said: Artist, study nature! But it is no trifle to develop the
noble out of the commonplace, or beauty out of uniformity.


When Nature begins to reveal her open secret to a man, he feels an
irresistible longing for her worthiest interpreter, Art.


For all other Arts we must make some allowance; but to Greek Art alone
we are always debtors.


There is no surer way of evading the world than by Art; and no surer way
of uniting with it than by Art.


Even in the moments of highest happiness and deepest misery we need the


False tendencies of the senses are a kind of desire after realism,
always better than that false tendency which expresses itself as
idealistic longing.


The dignity of Art appears perhaps most conspicuously in Music; for in
Music there is no material to be deducted. It is wholly form and
intrinsic value, and it raises and ennobles all that it expresses.


It is only by Art, and especially by Poetry, that the imagination is
regulated. Nothing is more frightful than imagination without taste.


If we were to despise Art on the ground that it is an imitation of
Nature, it might be answered that Nature also imitates much else;
further, that Art does not exactly imitate that which can be seen by the
eyes, but goes back to that element of reason of which Nature consists
and according to which Nature acts.


Further, the Arts also produce much out of themselves, and, on the other
hand, add much where Nature fails in perfection, in that they possess
beauty in themselves. So it was that Pheidias could sculpture a god
although he had nothing that could be seen by the eye to imitate, but
grasped the appearance which Zeus himself would have if he were to come
before our eyes.


Art rests upon a kind of religious sense: it is deeply and ineradicably
in earnest. Thus it is that Art so willingly goes hand in hand with


A noble philosopher spoke of architecture as _frozen music_; and it was
inevitable that many people should shake their heads over his remark. We
believe that no better repetition of this fine thought can be given than
by calling architecture a _speechless music_.


Art is essentially noble; therefore the artist has nothing to fear from
a low or common subject. Nay, by taking it up, he ennobles it; and so it
is that we see the greatest artists boldly exercising their sovereign


In every artist there is a germ of daring, without which no talent is


All the artists who are already known to me from so many sides, I
propose to consider exclusively from the ethical side; to explain from
the subject-matter and method of their work the part played therein by
time and place, nation and master, and their own indestructible
personality; to mould them to what they became and to preserve them in
what they were.


Art is a medium of what no tongue can utter; and thus it seems a piece
of folly to try to convey its meaning afresh by means of words. But, by
trying to do so, the understanding gains; and this, again, benefits the
faculty in practice.


An artist who produces valuable work is not always able to give an
account of his own or others' performances.


We know of no world except in relation to mankind; and we wish for no
Art that does not bear the mark of this relation.


Higher aims are in themselves more valuable, even if unfulfilled, than
lower ones quite attained.


Blunt naïvety, stubborn vigour, scrupulous observance of rule, and any
other epithets which may apply to older German Art, are a part of every
earlier and simpler artistic method. The older Venetians, Florentines,
and others had it all too.


Because Albrecht Dürer, with his incomparable talent, could never rise
to the idea of the symmetry of beauty, or even to the thought of a
fitting conformity to the object in view, are we never to spurn the


Albrecht Dürer had the advantage of a very profound realistic
perception, an affectionate human sympathy with all present conditions.
He was kept back by a gloomy phantasy, devoid both of form and


It would be interesting to show how Martin Schön stands near him, and
how the merits of German Art were restricted to these two; and useful
also to show that it was not evening every day.


In every Italian school the butterfly breaks loose from the chrysalis.


After Klopstock released us from rhyme, and Voss gave us models of
prose, are we to make doggerel again like Hans Sachs?


Let us be many-sided! Turnips are good, but they are best mixed with
chestnuts. And these two noble products of the earth grow far apart.


In every kind of Art there is a degree of excellence which may be
reached, so to speak, by the mere use of one's own natural talents. But
at the same time it is impossible to go beyond that point, unless Art
comes to one's aid.


In the presence of Nature even moderate talent is always possessed of
insight; hence drawings from Nature that are at all carefully done
always give pleasure.


To make many sketches issue at last in a complete work is something that
not even the best artists always achieve.


In the sphere of true Art there is no preparatory school, but there is a
way of preparation; and the best preparation is the interest of the most
insignificant pupil in the work of the master. Colour-grinders have
often made excellent painters.


If an artist grasps Nature aright and contrives to give its form a
nobler, freer grace, no one will understand the source of his
inspiration, and every one will swear that he has taken it from the


In studying the human form, let the painter reject what is exaggerated,
false, and mechanical; but let him learn to grasp of what infinite grace
the human body is capable.


Kant taught us the critique of the reason. We must have a critique of
the senses if Art in general, and especially German Art, is ever to
regain its tone and move forward on the path of life and happiness.



In the sphere of natural science let us remember that we have always to
deal with an insoluble problem. Let us prove keen and honest in
attending to anything which is in any way brought to our notice, most of
all when it does not fit in with our previous ideas. For it is only
thereby that we perceive the problem, which does indeed lie in nature,
but still more in man.


A man cannot well stand by himself, and so he is glad to join a party;
because if he does not find rest there, he at any rate finds quiet and


It is a misfortune to pass at once from observation to conclusion, and
to regard both as of equal value; but it befalls many a student.


In the history of science and throughout the whole course of its
progress we see certain epochs following one another more or less
rapidly. Some important view is expressed, it may be original or only
revived; sooner or later it receives recognition; fellow workers spring
up; the outcome of it finds its way into the schools; it is taught and
handed down; and we observe, unhappily, that it does not in the least
matter whether the view be true or false. In either case its course is
the same; in either case it comes in the end to be a mere phrase, a
lifeless word stamped on the memory.


First let a man teach himself, and then he will be taught by others.


Theories are usually the over-hasty efforts of an impatient
understanding that would gladly be rid of phenomena, and so puts in
their place pictures, notions, nay, often mere words. We may surmise, or
even see quite well, that such theories are make-shifts; but do not
passion and party-spirit love a make-shift at all times? And rightly,
too, because they stand in so much need of it.


It is difficult to know how to treat the errors of the age. If a man
oppose them, he stands alone; if he surrender to them, they bring him
neither joy nor credit.


There are some hundred Christian sects, every one of them acknowledging
God and the Lord in its own way, without troubling themselves further
about one another. In the study of nature, nay, in every study, things
must of necessity come to the same pass. For what is the meaning of
every one speaking of toleration, and trying to prevent others from
thinking and expressing themselves after their own fashion?


To communicate knowledge by means of analogy appears to me a process
equally useful and pleasant. The analogous case is not there to force
itself on the attention or prove anything; it offers a comparison with
some other case, but is not in union with it. Several analogous cases do
not join to form a seried row: they are like good society, which always
suggests more than it grants.


To err is to be as though truth did not exist. To lay bare the error to
oneself and others is retrospective discovery.


With the growth of knowledge our ideas must from time to time be
organised afresh. The change takes place usually in accordance with new
maxims as they arise, but it always remains provisional.


When we find facts within our knowledge exhibited by some new method, or
even, it may be, described in a foreign language, they receive a
peculiar charm of novelty and wear a fresh air.


If two masters of the same art differ in their statement of it, in all
likelihood the insoluble problem lies midway between them.


The orbits of certainties touch one another; but in the interstices
there is room enough for error to go forth and prevail.


We more readily confess to errors, mistakes, and shortcomings in our
conduct than in our thought.


And the reason of it is that the conscience is humble and even takes a
pleasure in being ashamed. But the intellect is proud, and if forced to
recant is driven to despair.


This also explains how it is that truths which have been recognised are
at first tacitly admitted, and then gradually spread, so that the very
thing which was obstinately denied appears at last as something quite


Ignorant people raise questions which were answered by the wise
thousands of years ago.


When a man sees a phenomenon before him, his thoughts often range beyond
it; when he hears it only talked about, he has no thoughts at all.


Authority. Man cannot exist without it, and yet it brings in its train
just as much of error as of truth. It perpetuates one by one things
which should pass away one by one; it rejects that which should be
preserved and allows it to pass away; and it is chiefly to blame for
mankind's want of progress.


Authority--the fact, namely, that something has already happened or been
said or decided, is of great value; but it is only a pedant who demands
authority for everything.


An old foundation is worthy of all respect, but it must not take from us
the right to build afresh wherever we will.


Our advice is that every man should remain in the path he has struck out
for himself, and refuse to be overawed by authority, hampered by
prevalent opinion, or carried away by fashion.


The various branches of knowledge always tend as a whole to stray away
from life, and return thither only by a roundabout way.


For they are, in truth, text-books of life: they gather outer and inner
experiences into a general and connected whole.


An important fact, an ingenious _aperçu_, occupies a very great number
of men, at first only to make acquaintance with it; then to understand
it; and afterwards to work it out and carry it further.


On the appearance of anything new the mass of people ask: What is the
use of it? And they are not wrong. For it is only through the use of
anything that they can perceive its value.


The truly wise ask what the thing is in itself and in relation to other
things, and do not trouble themselves about the use of it,--in other
words, about the way in which it may be applied to the necessities of
existence and what is already known. This will soon be discovered by
minds of a very different order--minds that feel the joy of living, and
are keen, adroit, and practical.


Every investigator must before all things look upon himself as one who
is summoned to serve on a jury. He has only to consider how far the
statement of the case is complete and clearly set forth by the evidence.
Then he draws his conclusion and gives his vote, whether it be that his
opinion coincides with that of the foreman or not.


And in acting thus he remains equally at ease whether the majority agree
with him or he finds himself in a minority. For he has done what he
could: he has expressed his convictions; and he is not master of the
minds or hearts of others.


In the world of science, however, these sentiments have never been of
much account. There everything depends on making opinion prevail and
dominate; few men are really independent; the majority draws the
individual after it.


The history of philosophy, of science, of religion, all shows that
opinions spread in masses, but that that always comes to the front which
is more easily grasped, that is to say, is most suited and agreeable to
the human mind in its ordinary condition. Nay, he who has practised
self-culture in the higher sense may always reckon upon meeting an
adverse majority.


There is much that is true which does not admit of being calculated;
just as there are a great many things that cannot be brought to the test
of a decisive experiment.


It is just for this that man stands so high, that what could not
otherwise be brought to light should be brought to light in him.

What is a musical string, and all its mechanical division, in comparison
with the musician's ear? May we not also say, what are the elementary
phenomena of nature itself compared with man, who must control and
modify them all before he can in any way assimilate them to himself?


To a new truth there is nothing more hurtful than an old error.


The ultimate origin of things is completely beyond our faculties; hence
when we see anything come into being, we look upon it as having been
already there. This is why we find the theory of _emboîtement_


There are many problems in natural science on which we cannot fittingly
speak unless we call metaphysics to our aid; but not the wisdom of the
schools, which consists in mere verbiage. It is that which was before
physics, exists with it, and will be after it.


Since men are really interested in nothing but their own opinions, every
one who puts forward an opinion looks about him right and left for means
of strengthening himself and others in it. A man avails himself of the
truth so long as it is serviceable; but he seizes on what is false with
a passionate eloquence as soon as he can make a momentary use of it;
whether it be to dazzle others with it as a kind of half-truth, or to
employ it as a stopgap for effecting an apparent union between things
that have been disjointed. This experience at first caused me annoyance,
and then sorrow; and now it is a source of mischievous satisfaction. I
have pledged myself never again to expose a proceeding of this kind.


Everything that we call Invention or Discovery in the higher sense of
the word is the serious exercise and activity of an original feeling for
truth, which, after a long course of silent cultivation, suddenly
flashes out into fruitful knowledge. It is a revelation working from
within on the outer world, and lets a man feel that he is made in the
image of God. It is a synthesis of World and Mind, giving the most
blessed assurance of the eternal harmony of things.


A man must cling to the belief that the incomprehensible is
comprehensible; otherwise he would not try to fathom it.


There are pedants who are also rascals, and they are the worst of all.


A man does not need to have seen or experienced everything himself. But
if he is to commit himself to another's experiences and his way of
putting them, let him consider that he has to do with three things--the
object in question and two subjects.


The supreme achievement would be to see that stating a fact is starting
a theory.


If I acquiesce at last in some ultimate fact of nature, it is, no doubt,
only resignation; but it makes a great difference whether the
resignation takes place at the limits of human faculty, or within the
hypothetical boundaries of my own narrow individuality.


If we look at the problems raised by Aristotle, we are astonished at his
gift of observation. What wonderful eyes the Greeks had for many things!
Only they committed the mistake of being over-hasty, of passing
straightway from the phenomenon to the explanation of it, and thereby
produced certain theories that are quite inadequate. But this is the
mistake of all times, and still made in our own day.


Hypotheses are cradle-songs by which the teacher lulls his scholars to
sleep. The thoughtful and honest observer is always learning more and
more of his limitations; he sees that the further knowledge spreads, the
more numerous are the problems that make their appearance.


Our mistake is that we doubt what is certain and want to establish what
is uncertain. My maxim in the study of Nature is this: hold fast what is
certain and keep a watch on what is uncertain.


What a master a man would be in his own subject if he taught nothing


The greatest piece of folly is that every man thinks himself compelled
to hand down what people think they have known.


If many a man did not feel obliged to repeat what is untrue, because he
has said it once, the world would have been quite different.


Every man looks at the world lying ready before him, ordered and
fashioned into a complete whole, as after all but an element out of
which his endeavour is to create a special world suited to himself.
Capable men lay hold of the world without hesitation and try to shape
their course as best they can; others dally over it, and some doubt even
of their own existence.

The man who felt the full force of this fundamental truth would dispute
with no one, but look upon another's mode of thought equally with his
own, as merely a phenomenon. For we find almost daily that one man can
think with ease what another cannot possibly think at all; and that,
too, not in matters which might have some sort of effect upon their
common weal or woe, but in things which cannot touch them at all.


There is nothing more odious than the majority; it consists of a few
powerful men to lead the way; of accommodating rascals and submissive
weaklings; and of a mass of men who trot after them, without in the
least knowing their own mind.


When I observe the luminous progress and expansion of natural science in
modern times, I seem to myself like a traveller going eastwards at dawn,
and gazing at the growing light with joy, but also with impatience;
looking forward with longing to the advent of the full and final light,
but, nevertheless, having to turn away his eyes when the sun appeared,
unable to bear the splendour he had awaited with so much desire.


We praise the eighteenth century for concerning itself chiefly with
analysis. The task remaining to the nineteenth is to discover the false
syntheses which prevail, and to analyse their contents anew.


A school may be regarded as a single individual who talks to himself for
a hundred years, and takes an extraordinary pleasure in his own being,
however foolish and silly it may be.


In science it is a service of the highest merit to seek out those
fragmentary truths attained by the ancients, and to develop them


If a man devotes himself to the promotion of science, he is firstly
opposed, and then he is informed that his ground is already occupied. At
first men will allow no value to what we tell them, and then they behave
as if they knew it all themselves.


Nature fills all space with her limitless productivity. If we observe
merely our own earth, everything that we call evil and unfortunate is so
because Nature cannot provide room for everything that comes into
existence, and still less endow it with permanence.


Everything that comes into being seeks room for itself and desires
duration: hence it drives something else from its place and shortens its


There is so much of cryptogamy in phanerogamy that centuries will not
decipher it.


What a true saying it is that he who wants to deceive mankind must
before all things make absurdity plausible.


The further knowledge advances, the nearer we come to the unfathomable:
the more we know how to use our knowledge, the better we see that the
unfathomable is of no practical use.


The finest achievement for a man of thought is to have fathomed what may
be fathomed, and quietly to revere the unfathomable.


The discerning man who acknowledges his limitations is not far off


There are two things of which a man cannot be careful enough: of
obstinacy if he confines himself to his own line of thought; of
incompetency, if he goes beyond it.


Incompetency is a greater obstacle to perfection than one would think.


The century advances; but every individual begins anew.


What friends do with us and for us is a real part of our life; for it
strengthens and advances our personality. The assault of our enemies is
not part of our life; it is only part of our experience; we throw it off
and guard ourselves against it as against frost, storm, rain, hail, or
any other of the external evils which may be expected to happen.


A man cannot live with every one, and therefore he cannot live for every
one. To see this truth aright is to place a high value upon one's
friends, and not to hate or persecute one's enemies. Nay, there is
hardly any greater advantage for a man to gain than to find out, if he
can, the merits of his opponents: it gives him a decided ascendency over


Every one knows how to value what he has attained in life; most of all
the man who thinks and reflects in his old age. He has a comfortable
feeling that it is something of which no one can rob him.


The best metempsychosis is for us to appear again in others.


It is very seldom that we satisfy ourselves; all the more consoling is
it to have satisfied others.


We look back upon our life only as on a thing of broken pieces, because
our misses and failures are always the first to strike us, and outweigh
in our imagination what we have done, and attained.


The sympathetic youth sees nothing of this; he reads, enjoys, and uses
the youth of one who has gone before him, and rejoices in it with all
his heart, as though he had once been what he now is.


Science helps us before all things in this, that it somewhat lightens
the feeling of wonder with which Nature fills us; then, however, as life
becomes more and more complex, it creates new facilities for the
avoidance of what would do us harm and the promotion of what will do us


It is always our eyes alone, our way of looking at things. Nature alone
knows what she means now, and what she had meant in the past.


Nature! We are surrounded by her and locked in her clasp: powerless to
leave her, and powerless to come closer to her. Unasked and unwarned she
takes us up into the whirl of her dance, and hurries on with us till we
are weary and fall from her arms.

She creates new forms without end: what exists now, never was before;
what was, comes not again; all is new and yet always the old.

We live in the midst of her and are strangers. She speaks to us
unceasingly and betrays not her secret. We are always influencing her
and yet can do her no violence.

Individuality seems to be all her aim, and she cares nought for
individuals. She is always building and always destroying, and her
workshop is not to be approached.

Nature lives in her children only, and the mother, where is she? She is
the sole artist,--out of the simplest materials the greatest diversity;
attaining, with no trace of effort, the finest perfection, the closest
precision, always softly veiled. Each of her works has an essence of its
own; every shape that she takes is in idea utterly isolated; and yet all
forms one.

She plays a drama; whether she sees it herself, we know not; and yet she
plays it for us, who stand but a little way off.

There is constant life in her, motion and development; and yet she
remains where she was. She is eternally changing, nor for a moment does
she stand still. Of rest she knows nothing, and to all stagnation she
has affixed her curse. She is steadfast; her step is measured, her
exceptions rare, her laws immutable.

She has thought, and she ponders unceasingly; not as a man, but as
Nature. The meaning of the whole she keeps to herself, and no one can
learn it of her.

Men are all in her, and she in all men. With all she plays a friendly
game, and rejoices the more a man wins from her. With many her game is
so secret, that she brings it to an end before they are aware of it.

Even what is most unnatural is Nature; even the coarsest Philistinism
has something of her genius. Who does not see her everywhere, sees her
nowhere aright.

She loves herself, and clings eternally to herself with eyes and hearts
innumerable. She has divided herself that she may be her own delight.
She is ever making new creatures spring up to delight in her, and
imparts herself insatiably.

She rejoices in illusion. If a man destroys this in himself and others,
she punishes him like the hardest tyrant. If he follows her in
confidence, she presses him to her heart as it were her child.

Her children are numberless. To no one of them is she altogether
niggardly; but she has her favourites, on whom she lavishes much, and
for whom she makes many a sacrifice. Over the great she has spread the
shield of her protection.

She spurts forth her creatures out of nothing, and tells them not whence
they come and whither they go. They have only to go their way: she knows
the path.

Her springs of action are few, but they never wear out: they are always
working, always manifold.

The drama she plays is always new, because she is always bringing new
spectators. Life is her fairest invention, and Death is her device for
having life in abundance.

She envelops man in darkness, and urges him constantly to the light. She
makes him dependent on the earth, heavy and sluggish, and always rouses
him up afresh.

She creates wants, because she loves movement. How marvellous that she
gains it all so easily! Every want is a benefit, soon satisfied, soon
growing again. If she gives more, it is a new source of desire; but the
balance quickly rights itself.

Every moment she starts on the longest journeys, and every moment
reaches her goal.

She amuses herself with a vain show; but to us her play is

She lets every child work at her, every fool judge of her, and thousands
pass her by and see nothing; and she has her joy in them all, and in
them all finds her account.

Man obeys her laws even in opposing them: he works with her even when he
wants to work against her.

Everything she gives is found to be good, for first of all she makes it
indispensable. She lingers, that we may long for presence; she hurries
by, that we may not grow weary of her.

Speech or language she has none; but she creates tongues and hearts
through which she feels and speaks.

Her crown is Love. Only through Love can we come near her. She puts
gulfs between all things, and all things strive to be interfused. She
isolates everything, that she may draw everything together. With a few
draughts from the cup of Love she repays for a life full of trouble.

She is all things. She rewards herself and punishes herself; and in
herself rejoices and is distressed. She is rough and gentle, loving and
terrible, powerless and almighty. In her everything is always present.
Past or Future she knows not. The Present is her Eternity. She is kind.
I praise her with all her works. She is wise and still. No one can force
her to explain herself, or frighten her into a gift that she does not
give willingly. She is crafty, but for a good end; and it is best not to
notice her cunning.

She is whole and yet never finished. As she works now, so can she work
for ever.

To every one she appears in a form of his own. She hides herself in a
thousand names and terms, and is always the same.

She has placed me in this world; she will also lead me out of it. I
trust myself to her. She may do with me as she pleases. She will not
hate her work. I did not speak of her. No! what is true and what is
false, she has spoken it all. Everything is her fault, everything is her


  Absent, the, 47.
  Absolute, the, 238.
  Abstractions, how destroyed, 203.
  Absurdities, 229, 575.
  Acquaintances, new, 432.
  Acquirements, 344.
  Acting unlike oneself, 298.
  Activity, 342, 368, 372, 401.
  Æschylus, saying of, 121.
  Age, 391.
  Age and Youth, 37, 233-4, 237, 295, 321, 374.
  Ages of life, 390.
  Agreement and disagreement, 384.
  Aims, 278, 342, 500.
  Altruism, 167, 214, 583.
  Analogies, 46, 523.
  Analysis, 568.
  Ancient literature, 447.
  Ancients, the, 443, 445, 570.
  Anthropomorphism, 165.
  Antiquities, 325.
  Antiquity and posterity, 190.
  Architecture, a speechless music, 493.
  Aristotle, 559.
  Art, 492, 494, 499, 508.
  Art and Nature, 482-3, 490-1, 509, 512.
  Art and the World, 485-6.
  Artist, the, 495-8.
  Artistic criticism, 116.
  Assemblies, 281.
  Attainable, the, 48.
  Attainments, 584, 587.
  Authority, 534-7.
  Authorship, 418.

  Ballads, 477-8.
  Beauty, 136, 232, 481.
  Bible, the, 457-9.
  Books, 417, 420, 432, 456.

  Cause and effect, 394.
  Century, the, and the individual, 581.
  Character, 367.
  Characteristics, 7, 29, 74, 91, 110, 179, 291, 297, 311, 344.
  Children, 245-7.
  Christ, 314.
  Classicism, 462-3.
  Clever folly, 175.
  Common-sense, 49, 217.
  Complications, 45.
  Confession of error, 529.
  Confidences, 142.
  Conscience, 125.
  Conscience and intellect, 530.
  Contemporaries, 386, 454.
  Contradictions, 87, 102, 223, 288-9, 378, 382.
  Converts, 170.
  Criticism, 146, 182, 304, 456.
  Critique of common-sense, 393.
  Critique of the senses, 514.
  Cryptogamy, 574.
  Culture, 328-9, 412.

  Dangerous men, 275-6.
  Debtor and creditor, 282-3.
  Deception, 320, 400.
  Defects, 89.
  Despotism, advantages of, 209.
  Dialectic, 379.
  Difficulties, 277-8, 330, 398.
  Dilettanti, 159.
  Discovery, 397, 553.
  Dispositions, like and unlike, 380.
  Distinctions, 166.
  Doggerel, 506.
  Doing good, 98.
  Dürer, Albrecht, 502-3.
  Duties and rights, 150.
  Duty, 3, 38, 402.

  Eclecticism, 436-7.
  Education, 444.
  Education, overpressure in, 371.
  Eighteenth century, 568.
  _Emboîtement_, theory of, 550.
  Empirical morality, 140.
  Encyclopædia, the best, 161.
  Enemies, 582.
  Enemies' merits, 387, 583.
  Enthusiasm, 211, 471.
  Erasmus, saying of, 63.
  Error and half-truth, 59, 61, 72, 564.
  Errors of the age, 521.
  Excellence unfathomable, 406.
  Existence of evil, 572-3.
  Experience, 43, 556.

  Facts and theories, 557.
  Facts and thoughts, 188.
  Facts newly stated, 526.
  Faith, 117.
  False notions, 5, 200.
  False tendencies, 64.
  Familiarity, 262.
  Fashion, 392.
  Fastidiousness, 260.
  Faults, 296-7, 299, 304-5.
  Favour, 83.
  Fear, 275.
  Figurative sayings:
  a leaf and a bird, 359.
  an old man warming himself, 363.
  blowing the flute, 16.
  buttoning one's coat, 362.
  curds and cream, 58.
  dirt and the sun, 99.
  dust and the storm, 66.
  frogs and water, 71.
  heroes and valets, 272.
  Hindoos of the desert, 106.
  hitting the nail, 78.
  lamps and the light of heaven, 361.
  lifting the stone, 208.
  mankind and the Red Sea, 187.
  names for the sea, 95.
  snow, 92.
  the Antipodes, disputing about, 90.
  the forester and the tree, 358.
  the iron in the smithy, 310.
  the millstream, 42.
  the rainbow, 115.
  the sparrow and the stork, 360.
  the world a bell, 158.
  turnips and chestnuts, 507.

  Flattery, 145, 287, 289.
  Fools, 271, 276.
  Forethought, 103.
  Form, the human, 513.
  Freedom and slavery, 268-9.
  Friends' defects, 387.
  Friendship, 248, 582.
  Fulfilment of desire, 228, 267.
  Fulfilment of duty, 38.
  Future, the, 280.

  General ideas, 15,177.
  Generosity, 65.
  Genius, 232, 273, 336-9, 425.
  Gentle judgments, 124.
  German art, 501.
  Germans, the, 326.
  God, 307, 353.
  Godlike, the, 308.
  Good advice, 206.
  Good manners, 254-7, 263-5.
  Good will of others, 34.
  Government, the best, 225.
  Graceful misery, 126.
  Gratitude, 283.
  Great ideas, 239, 349, 350-2.
  Great men, 274.
  Great men and little men, 69, 119, 271.
  Great men and the masses, 147.
  Greek and Latin, study of, 444, 446.
  Greek and Latin writers, 469.
  Greek art, 484.
  Greeks, the, 189, 443, 559.

  Habit, 129.
  Hatred and envy, 130.
  Hearing and understanding, 383.
  High positions, 335.
  Historian's duty, the, 452-3, 455.
  Historic sense, 460.
  History, 80, 451.
  History of knowledge, 55.
  Honour and rascality, 144.
  Hope, 194, 280, 315.
  Hypotheses, 560.

  Ideals, 141, 348.
  Ideas and sensations, 93.
  Ignorance, 231.
  Illusions, 186.
  Imagination, how regulated, 489.
  Imprudence, 50, 105.
  Incompetence and imperfection, 17, 18.
  Incompetency, 579-80.
  Individuals and the age, 201, 581.
  Influencing one's age, 365.
  Ingratitude, 152.
  Inquiry, limits of, 327, 554, 558, 576-7.
  Insight, 370.
  Intelligence, 322.
  Intention, 334.
  Interest in public events, 331.
  Introspection, 75.
  Investigator, the true, 543-4.
  Irregular circumstances, 143.
  Isolation of the good, 224.
  Italian art, 505.

  Judgment, 85-6.
  Justice and law, 54.

  Kepler, saying of, 354.
  Knowledge, 235, 324, 370, 525-6, 538.
  Knowledge and doubt, 178.
  Knowledge and new ideas, 82.
  Knowledge, branches of, 539.
  Knowledge of one another, 67-70, 251-3.
  Knowledge, the contempt for, 113.

  Language and thought, 317, 407.
  Languages, knowledge of, 414.
  Laws, 321.
  Laws, study of, 168.
  Leasing, saying of, 52.
  Lessons, 139.
  Liberal ideas, 174, 375.
  Liberality, the truest, 385.
  Life, the art of, 101, 192, 282, 584.
  Limitations, 578.
  Literature a fragment, 404-5.
  Literature, corrupt, 465-7.
  Literature, new, 409.
  Love, 195, 270.
  Love of truth, 28.
  Loving one's like, 180.
  Lucidity, 413.
  Lyrics, 421.

  Majorities, 544-6, 566.
  Malignance of scholars, 135.
  Man and his organs, 347.
  Masters, 94, 310.
  Mastery, 204.
  Matter, contents and form, 183.
  Maxims and anecdotes, 156.
  Maxims of the ancients, 438-42.
  Means and end, 11.
  Mediocrity, 221, 273.
  Memoirs, 149.
  Memory, 157.
  Men and women, 226, 295.
  Metaphysics, 551.
  Metempsychosis, the best, 585.
  Method in art and knowledge, 112.
  Mischief, 160.
  Misfortunes, 227.
  Mistakes, 13, 40, 153, 162, 210, 218, 285-6, 524, 561.
  Misunderstanding, 122.
  Moment, the, a kind of public, 369.
  Monarchs and the press, 375.
  Moods, 100.
  Morality, 319.
  Motive, 10.
  Mottoes, 207.
  Music, 488.
  Mysteries and miracles, 169.
  Mysticism, 430.

  Napoleon, 240-1.
  National character, 73, 374, 429.
  Nature, 572, 590.
  Nature and art, 482-3, 490-1, 509, 512.
  Nature and culture, 284, 477.
  Nature-poets, 419.
  Nature, study of, 561.
  Newspapers, 23, 375, 461.

  Obscurantism, 88.
  Obscurity in an author, 431.
  Observation and conclusion, 517, 559.
  Obstinacy, 579.
  Opinions, 107, 552.
  Opponents, 381-2.
  Opposition, 88.
  Originality, 1, 134, 409-11, 536-7.
  Origins, 550.
  Ovid, 463.

  Parties, 516.
  Passions, 300-3.
  Past, the, 138.
  Patience, 357.
  Patriotism in art and science, 448.
  Patrons, 133.
  Paying for one's humanity, 173.
  Peace, 53.
  Pedantry, 132, 535, 555.
  _Pereant qui ante nos nostra dizerunt!_ 333.
  Perfection, 343, 578, 580.
  Perseverance, 193, 537.
  Perversities of the day, 244.
  Pessimism, 181, 184.
  Phenomena, how to approach, 399.
  Philosophy and the ages of life, 390.
  Piety, 35-6.
  Plain speaking, 172.
  Plans and designs, 12.
  Poetical talent, 449.
  Poetry, 176.
  Posterity, the appeal to, 408.
  Power of conviction, 84.
  Practical men and thinkers, 395.
  Praising a man, 323.
  Prayer, 315.
  Predestination, 355.
  Prejudices, 215.
  Primeval powers, 236.
  Problem of science, 515, 551.
  Problematical natures, 97.
  Problematical opinions, 30.
  Problematical talents, 171.
  Problems, 527.
  Productive energy, 164.
  Productivity, 415.
  Progress and problems, 398.
  Progress, conflicts of, 219.
  Progress of science, 567.
  Propædeutics, 212, 511.
  Protestants, 205.
  Prudent energy, 16.
  Psychology, 433.
  Public, the, 96, 369, 389, 416, 541.

  Questions, 532.

  Reason, 4.
  Reformation, the, 313, 316.
  Religion, 312.
  Religious controversy, 460.
  Renaissance, the, 313.
  Revolution, saying on the, 373.
  Revolutionary sentiments, 216.
  Rhythm, 131.
  Riddles, 62.
  Ridiculous, the, 291-4.
  Right, doing what is, 77.
  Rocks of offence, 306.
  Roland, Madame, 403.
  Romances, 422.
  Romantic landscape, 480.
  Romanticism, 462, 464.

  _Sakontala_, 472.
  Satisfaction, 586.
  Scepticism, 340-1.
  Schiller, Goethe and, 434-5.
  Scholar, the real, 309.
  Schön, Martin, 504.
  Schools of thought, 569.
  Science: its course, 518, 540-1, 545-6, 567, 570-1, 589.
  Science: its problem, 515.
  Sects, 522.
  Self-appreciation, 20, 56, 111, 249, 366.
  Self-guidance, 21-2, 24-5, 33.
  Self-knowledge, 2.
  Senses, 345-6.
  Senses, false tendencies of, 487.
  Sentimental poetry, 423.
  Sentimentality, national, 429.
  Service, 196.
  Shakespeare, 473-5.
  Silence, 32.
  Sincerity and impartiality, 151.
  Sketches, 510.
  Society, 250.
  Society, soldiers and civilians in, 258-9.
  Society, the best, 230, 289.
  Soporifics, 76.
  Sowing and reaping, 279.
  Spectacles, 261.
  Speech, 382.
  Speech and language, 123.
  Speech and writing, 377.
  Speeches, 287.
  Spinozism in poetry, 427.
  Steady activity, 154.
  Sterne, 476.
  Subordination, 191.
  Success in the world, 6, 19, 368.
  Superiority of another, 270.
  Superstition, 31, 424.
  Symbolism, 202.

  Tact, 26-7.
  Tattle, 148.
  Tattooing, 79.
  Teaching, 519, 562-3.
  Theatre, effect of the, 197.
  Theory, 44, 520, 557.
  Theory and experience, 198.
  "Things of another world," 242-3.
  Thinkers, 416.
  Thinking for oneself, 8.
  Thoroughness, 41.
  Thought, 1, 396, 412, 533, 563.
  Thoughts at the close of life, 403.
  Timon, saying of, 127.
  Toleration, 356.
  Tradition, 392, 563.
  Tragedies, 470.
  Translation, 426, 479.
  Troubles, 104.
  Truth, 14, 28, 60, 120, 163, 336, 531, 547, 553.
  Truth and error, 108-9, 137, 185, 199, 213, 468, 528, 549, 552.
  Truth to oneself and others, 337.
  Tyranny of great ideas, 51.

  Ultimate facts, 558.
  Unconditioned, striving after the, 372.
  Understanding, 81, 383, 388.
  Unfathomable, the, 576-7.
  Unities, the three, 428.
  Unjust blame, 96.
  Unqualified activity, 9.
  Use and value, 541-2.

  Value of each day, 332.
  _Vanitas vanitatum!_ 114.
  Vanity, 376.
  _Veni Creator Spiritus_, 425.
  Visitors, 252-3.
  Voluntary dependence, 266.
  Vulgarity, 222.

  Wisdom of this world, 307.
  Wishing people well, 128.
  Will, 324.
  Word and picture, 155.
  Words of praise and blame, 468.
  Work, 57.
  Work for the past and the future, 364.
  Work, how it limits us, 220.
  World, the, 158, 565.
  Worthiest lot, the, 342.

  Youth, 588.


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