“[…]one ought every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels, Vol. 1 (1795)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (August 28, 1749 – March 22, 1832) was a German writer and polymath. His works include four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; and treatises on botany, anatomy, and color. In addition, Goethe’s breadth of work also incorporates numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters and nearly 3,000 drawings. He was born in the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire. His father and mother had several children, but only Johann Wolfgang and his sister, Cornelia, lived past their early ages. He would struggle with emotional turmoil and mood-swings for the rest of his life. He received his education from his father and private tutors, and developed a love for drawing and literature. He also took great pleasure in reading works on history and religion and had a lively devotion to theater and was greatly fascinated by puppet shows that were annually arranged in his childhood home. Goethe studied law at Leipzig University from 1765 to 1768, but detested learning age-old judicial rules by heart, preferring instead to attend poetry lessons. Although his literary work has attracted the greatest amount of interest, Goethe was also keenly involved in studies of natural science. Possibly his most renown work, the tragic play Faust, is considered by many to be Goethe’s magnum opus and the greatest work of German literature ever written.