This book is a precious gift to the American public. The essays contain the flower of the observations of the most accomplished observer the world has ever known and in his favorite direction. The translations are made with a spirit, a fidelity and fulness of comprehension, worthy the admirable beauty and depth of the originals.
The “Conversations between Goethe and Dr. Eckermann,” translated some years since by the writer of this notice, of which a sapient Editor observed at the time that the remarks therein contained were so trifling he “could even have wished the fair translator had substituted her own in preference,” (so shallow seem depths to those who never venture beyond their own!) has obtained a consideration of the most valuable kind. It has been read and many times re-read by artists, literary men, and the thoughtful who delight to trace the laws of organization, even when they have not energy to organize new forms. To all who prized that book, the volume before us will bring yet more important benefits. But, it must be received as a book to study, to be considered with deep attention; no careless and flippant survey will be of any avail.
The translator says in his preface, “The name of Artist, as applied to Goethe, is familiar to all the world. This title was owing not so much to the artistic feeling and knowledge conspicuous in his great works, as to these admirable writings, in which the nature of Art, and its relations to Man and to Life, are developed. In fact, in his prose writings this subject is rarely forgotten, and if it shall seem to any one that an undue portion of his intellectual activity was devoted to its development, to its development, a careful study of his works will make it appear that Art is not with him a single side of humanity, but a medium for viewing all humanity, a core around which all knowledge, all experience, all science, all the ideal as well as all the practical of our nature which in the desultory acquirements of men so often stand in contradiction, arrange themselves into one harmonious whole. It is in this view, that Art, as part of cultivation, is deserving of that large place which he has given to it.”
An essay which elucidates these remarks is in our hands. It was written by a friend, on occasion of the Phi Beta oration which called forth the eloquent and indignant reply of Mr. Calvert, quoted by us a month or two since. It forms so excellent an introduction both to the book and the subject, being, indeed, so far as we know, more searching and comprehensive than any thing that has been uttered in this country upon that subject, that we subjoin it. It is longer and requires a more thoughtful attention than is desirable in newspaper essays generally; but we believe many readers will thank us for an opportunity of becoming acquainted with it.*
“Essays on Art; By Goethe; Translated . . .” New-York Daily Tribune, 29 May 1845, p. 1.