You write that you have pondered my letter to Pastor Wesley, yet I am unable to accept the consequences which you draw from it. You remind me that literature comes down to us only as it has been interpreted by earlier generations, and molded by each so as to conform with particular needs and understandings of their moment. You reduce the "humanities" to exactly that: a study of humanity over time. As to any individual human, that personality is submerged, quickly lost in the flow of the ages.
I recall your having exclaimed that a whole world lies in the sentence: individuum est ineffabile. I took that to be your positive expression of respect, even awe. Was I wrong? Am I to understand that individuality is "beyond utterance," because anything we utter will reflect only our own moment? For me, the entire fascination of your work, Your Excellency, arises from the personality I find there--or from the personality I think I glimpse there. I have even imagined that the whole sense of your grand opus, Faust, is to be found in its exploration of individual personality.
More than that. Literature for me resolves itself into personalities--does not our correspondence illustrate that? You are saying, I take it, that in so far as the classic is concerned the author is for all practical purposes lost to us, in a hall of self-reflecting mirrors.
Your very respectful,
J. W. Worthy
P. S. Indeed, I have noted the tendency of some teachers to cozen a following of students or potential disciples in exactly the way you claim the successful poet works, piping a beguiling tune for which they supply the text. Is this truly the poet's strategy as well?
or see the correspondence with Goethe