chapter  79
4 Pages

Johann Wilhelm Von Goethe on the influence of The Vicar of Wakefield on his whole life, in The Autobiography (Dichtung und Wahrheit), 1846

See No. 71 for biographical material about Goethe, who continued to be influenced by The Vicar, as he himself states, throughout his early lifetime. Goethe is known to have remarked on 5 December 1824 (Conversations, trans. John Oxenford, London, 1930, p. 74): 'And, besides, our own literature is chiefly the offspring of theirs [England's)! Whence have we our novels, our tragedies, but from Goldsmith, Fielding, and Shakespeare?' And Frank F. Moore, an early twentieth-century student of Goldsmith's reputation, has written in The Life of Goldsmith (1910), p. 274: 'Goethe has become eloquent testimony to the effect it [The Vicar of Wakefield] produced upon him, when as a student in Strasbourg, it was read to him by Herder. To the end of his long career he affrrmed that it had been the means of changing his ideals oflife and drawing him closer to the truest literary forms.' During 18n-22 Goethe composed his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit, in which he did not forget his debt to Goldsmith. This work was translated into English in 1824 from the French version by Aubert de Vitry. But it was not until 1846-8, when John Oxenford brought out his authentic and complete translation in two volumes, that Goethe's autobiography was read widely in England. The passage here appears in Oxenford' s translation in Bohn' s Standard Library Series (1846), II, pp. 208-II.