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A Brief Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Bio

by PoetrySoup
Goethe (Johann Wolfgang von), Germany’s greatest poet, b. Frankfort-on-Main, 28 Aug. 1749. He records that early in his seventh year (1 Nov. 1758) the great Lisbon earthquake filled his mind with religious doubt. Before he was nine he could write several languages. Educated at home until sixteen, he then went to Leipsic University. At Strasburg he became acquainted with Herder, who directed his attention to Shakespeare. He took the degree of doctor in 1771, and in the same year composed his drama “Goetz von Berlichingen.” He went [153]to Wetzlar, where he wrote Sorrows of Werther, 1774, which at once made him famous. He was invited to the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar and loaded with honors, becoming the centre of a galaxy of distinguished men. Here he brought out the works of Schiller and his own dramas, of which Faust is the greatest. His chief prose work is Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. His works are voluminous. He declared himself “decidedly non-Christian,” and said his objects of hate were “the cross and bugs.” He was averse to abstractions and refused to recognise a Deity distinct from the world. In philosophy he followed Spinoza, and he disliked and discountenanced the popular creed. Writing to Lavater in 1772 he said: “You look upon the gospel as it stands as the divinest truth: but even a voice from heaven would not convince me that water burns and fire quenches, that a woman conceives without a man, and that a dead man can rise again. To you, nothing is more beautiful than the Gospel; to me, a thousand written pages of ancient and modern inspired men are equally beautiful.” Goethe was opposed to asceticism, and Pfleiderer admits “stood in opposition to Christianity not merely on points of theological form, but to a certain extent on points of substance too.” Goethe devoted much attention to science, and he attempted to explain the metamorphosis of plants on evolutionary principles in 1790. Died 22 March, 1832.