Louisa May Alcott and Goethe

Think of you! I do not think of you; you are always before my soul -Goethe

Louisa adored Goethe. She was born the same year Goethe passed away. Her father´s library included Goethe´s biography that was translated by Margaret Fuller and later in life Louisa collected all Goethe´s published works. Goethe was a highly respected writer in the transcendentalist circles. During his lifetime Goethe was a spoke-person of self-reliance which was something that Louisa practised in personal life.

Lot´s of research has been made between Louisa´s writings and Goethe´s works. Long Fatal Love Chase and Modern Mephistopheles have similarities with Goethe´s Faust. Less research has been made on Goethe´s influence on Little Women. There are some striking similarities between Goethe and Friedrich. Friedrich embodies a great deal of Goethe´s philosophical ideas. Goethe was not from Berlin, he was from Weimar. Berlin and Weimar are about 100 miles away from each other in the same region in Germany. Friedrich is from eastern Germany and grew up in the intellectual environment where Goethe set the cultural benchmark for educated Germans. If Friedrich is about forty years old at the close of the Civil War, then he would have been born around the time when Germans began to revere Goethe and his works.

Friedrich´s and Goethe´s personalities are very much alike. In a contemporary biography written by George Henry Calvert (who had met Goethe) records Goethe’s friend, Jung Stilling, as saying that it was a “pity that so few are acquainted with this nobleman in respect of his heart.”For example, when Goethe’s friend Moritz broke his arm on a trip to Rome, Goethe nursed him back to health. Similarly, Goethe was described by Herder as being a “great child” all of his life, eager to learn and willing to give “whatever he had” to make others happy. Friedrich is willing and able to comment on every subject, just as Goethe was highly sought after by members of his society. Calvert observes that there was so much life in Goethe that he “awakened and attracted life. He was a centre about which congenial men liked to move.

There has been speculation if Louisa wrote Friedrich to be her own ideal man. Teutonic heroes seem to be those who she favoured. Goethe and Friedrich look a lot alike. Both tall, solidly build men with brown hair. There were times when Goethe also had a beard. This is how Friedrich Schiller describes Goethe:

“The expression of his countenance is serious, at the same time that it is benevolent and kind. He has brown hair and appears older than I should say he really is. His voice is exceedingly pleasing, and his conversation flowing, lively, and amusing. It is a pleasure to listen to him” (Armknecht)

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Illustrator, writer and a folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. Currently writing a book about Finnish mythology. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

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Illustrator, writer and a folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. Currently writing a book about Finnish mythology. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

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