The Journals of C...
In 1786, the great German writer Johann von Goethe took a lightning decision to leave his work, friends and family. Catching the first mail coach, Goethe set off to visit Italy, the setting of his beloved classics: ‘the goal by which I have been so long obsessed that it has almost gone stale in my mind’. It was a personal and artistic quest: Goethe gloried in the ruins of classical Rome, thrilled to the masterpieces of the Renaissance and was soon infected by the gaiety and light of a southern clime, finding much to marvel at, from the humble olive tree to his first sighting of the sea at Venice.
For those familiar with Goethe and the Sturm und Drang literary movement, his Italian Journey will prove a delightful surprise. He reveals his intimate thoughts on matters ranging from the leaning tower of Pisa to the future Lady Hamilton posing in Greek costume. Often slyly comic (‘It is my habit, as you know, to keep trying the patience of my friends’), Goethe includes some irresistibly funny anecdotes – such as the day he was nearly arrested as a spy for sketching the fort of Malcesine – as well as fascinating insights into the writer’s process of composition. On his Grand Tour, Goethe met the leading figures of his day, from Neapolitan royalty to artists like Angelica Kauffmann and J. H. W. Tischbein. With restless curiosity and a keen eye for observation he muses on everything from the way farmers deterred passers-by from eating their grapes to the volcanic eruption which occurred while he was visiting Vesuvius. Writing in beautifully cadenced prose, Goethe is an ideal companion, his journey a privilege to share.
As well as writing the journal and letters on which Goethe based his published account, he also sketched and painted in watercolour as he travelled. Although he is typically modest about his efforts, especially given the critical eyes of his many artist friends, these paintings are highly accomplished. This new Folio Society edition reproduces many of his works, as well as paintings, sculptures and architecture he admired. The edition uses the famous translation by W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer, renowned for its freshness and immediacy, which fully communicates Goethe’s enthusiasm and charm.