From J. W. von Goethe, GeheimratDear Professor Worthy,
To J. W. Worthy, Professor
My interest in your efforts remains both constant, and critical. In lieu of particulars, permit me to make one generalization. Documents from an earlier age, such as annals, chronicles, testimonials, memoirs and the like, can render their own epoch alive and present, before the mind's eye. They preserve an immediacy which, just as it is, delights us. Yet beyond this, all kinds of individual desires and purposes may make us wish to pass this same experience on to others. And so we set about it. --Yet how shall we compose what we have thus collected? We must perform as poets, as rhetoricians! Thus has it ever been, and such treatments do not fail of their effect. They capture the imagination, arouse the feelings, expand our emotional life, strengthen our character, and awaken us to action! Another world rises up before us, which has now consumed that first one. --Now suppose someone comes along and destroys this new world for us, and the old one is not completely accessible either.
Certainly, anyone who longs to go back and meditate upon primary, pristine evidence must be most grateful to a critic for breaking through all the secondary work and, even if unable to restore the original, for at least organizing the fragments, and enabling us to envisage a larger frame for them. But no general readership is going to be pleased with this, and that is understandable, too. Let me just come to the point. Had you and I lived closer together, had I had the good fortune of being informed about your work over the years, then I would have advised you to entitle it after the manner of our old and dear St. Croix: Critique of Authors on Older Literature. But for me your work is your work and, as you know, titles are a recent invention, anyhow.
Hill and dale may never meet, but pilgriming mankind certainly do come together. And why should I not hope to encounter you some day? Permit me to close, as I am so frequently wont to do, with the clausulum salutarem that this page may seem, if not so comprehensible or accessible, nonetheless cordial and well intended.
With best wishes,
or see the correspondence with Goethe.