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Goethe and his British Critics

The Reception of Goethe's Works in British Periodicals, 1779 to 1855


Catherine W. Proescholdt-Obermann

The reception of an author by literary critics reveals much of the contemporary 'Zeitgeist'. A rich body of material is contained in critical articles published in literary journals which present a wide range of opinions not only on the author but also on political and social issues. The period of Goethe's early reception coincided with profound political and social changes throughout Europe. One of the consequences were significant changes in the quality and number of literary journals which were eagerly read by the emerging middle classes. During the evaluation of the review material for the years 1779 to 1855 certain types of response began to emerge as predominant at certain periods usually centering around an outstanding critic or publication. For many years Goethe was almost exclusively known as the «apologist for suicide» until ultimately, during the Victorian period, he came to be acknowledged as «Europe's sagest head».
Contents: A Survey of british literary periodicals - First acquaintance with Goethe, the author of Werther - Anti-Jacobin reaction - Henry Crabb Robinson - Mme de Staël - Carlyle - Goethe's death - Faust - Early Victorian change of mind - Lewes' The Life and Works of Goethe.