Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), p. 78 (Letter of 9 May)


Werther:

Now I am at the prince's hunting lodge. He is a true and simple soul with whom one can live very pleasantly. There are odd people about him, though, whom I do not understand. They do not seem to be rogues, but neither do they strike me as honest people. At times they seem honest, and still I cannot bring myself to trust them. I am sorry to hear the prince often speaking of things he has merely heard tell of, or read about; when he does so, he adopts the point of view of the one who presented the matter to him.

I am also disturbed to find he values my mind and abilities more highly than my heart, which is my only source of pride, and indeed of everything, all my strength and happiness and misery. The things I know, anyone can know--but my heart is mine and mine alone.


Werther clearly values the knowledge gained from feeling and emotion (the "heart") far above that derived from scholarship or custom. Moreover, those who like the prince rely on their intellect rather than their feeling are untrustworthy although "they seem honest," perhaps because no truth derived from other than the heart can be steadfast. The heart is also primary in directing intellect: real knowledge is somehow innate; intelligence almost instinct.


Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
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source bibliography
critical bibliography