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The Preface from the original English Edition of 1795:
"THOSE who expect a Novel will be disappointed in this work, which contains few characters, and few events; and the design of which is to exhibit a picture of that disordered state of' mind, too common in our country. It is drawn by the masterly hand of Mr. Goethe*, and is perhaps little more than the relation of a fact which happened within his within his knowledge. It went through several editions in German, and soon made its way into France. About two years since, the English translator met with it; and being struck with the uncommon genius and originality of the thoughts, and the energy with which they are expressed, translated some of the letters from the French; and led on by the beauty of the' work, which increased in proportion as it was attended to, the whole was insensibly finished; and as no translation from the German has hitherto appeared, it is now offered to the Public.
"Among the number of Pamphlets which this little work gave occasion to, there were not wanting some which censured it; and Mr. Goethe has been called the apologist of Suicide by those who, not distinguishing the Author from the Work, very absurdly ascribed to him the erroneous sentiments which he has given to his principal character, a method of criticism which would equally affect all the epic and tragic writers that ever existed.
"Werther appears to have been strongly impressed with sentiments of religion; and it is not to be wondered, that, in his state of mind, they should take an irregular form, and sometimes border upon extravagance. A few expressions which had this appearance have been omitted by the French, and a few more by the English translator, as they might possibly give offence in a work of this nature."
* Doctor of Civil Law, and author of some dramatic pieces, which are much esteemed.
An excerpt from the Preface of this edition:
"IT is somewhat remarkable that the "Sorrows of Werther," notwithstanding its great popularity, has never before been translated directly from the German into the English language. The translation by which the work has become familiarized in this country, was made from the French, a medium wholly incapable of maintaining the vigorous strength of the original. Well may it be styled "a faint and garbled version," by a competent authority, who farther observes: 'That the German Werther is a very different person from his English namesake. His sorrows in the original are recorded in a tone of strength and sarcastic emphasis, of which the other offers no vestige, and intermingled with touches of painful thought, glimpses of a philosophy deep as it is bitter, which our sagacious translator has seen proper wholly to omit.' The story of Werther is known to be the narration of an actual fact which happened within the knowledge of the author; and though it has been sometimes affirmed that Goethe subsequently smiled at this performance of his youth, yet he has left on record an account of his own state of mind during its composition, which is well worthy of perusal."
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer and statesman. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him exist. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Carl August in 1782 after taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe was a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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