Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), p. 42


Werther, describing the reaction at a dance to a frightening thunderstorm, describes the dialectical workings of pleasure and horror in increasing one's capacity to feel:

The dance had not yet finished when the lightning, which we had seen flaring on the horizon for some time and which I had pronounced to be merely sheet lightning, began to flash more violently, and the thunder to drown out the music. Three ladies fled the rows, followed by their gentlemen; the confusion became general, and the music ceased. If something distressing or terrible surprises us in our pleasures, it naturally makes a more powerful impression on us than at other times, partly because the contrast affects us very keenly, and partly and more importantly because our senses have been opened to feelings and we are the more susceptible to impressions. To such causes I must ascribe the remarkable grimaces made by several of the ladies.

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
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