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Last evening in Divinity chapel, a lecture on "Carlyle in Relation to Goethe" was delivered by Mr. Robert Niven, an English barrister, who has devoted much time to the study of Go the, Carlyle and Emerson. The speaker was introduced by Professor C. C. Everett of the Theological school. Mr. Niven said that there is nothing in the history of European literature more noteworthy than Carlyle's relation to Goethe. Carlyle was one of the first to recognize the great genius of Goethe and Goethe in return felt Carlyle to be a moral force.
That Carlyle ever came to be a disciple to Goethe has appeared strange to many for they seemed to the casual observer to be widely separated; Goethe was a patrician, the favorite of a count, whileCarlyle was more a plebeian. The most serious obstacle to Carlyle's worshipping Goethe, was found not in the writings of Goethe but in Goethe's life itself.
Carlyle might have been at first uncertainwhether Goethe's star was that of light or darkness. But Carlyle carefully studied Goethe's motives, his aspirations and his writings, and the result of his considerations and investigations was unqualified approval of the great German poet. Carlyle did not blindly become an admirer of Goethe but brought all his powers of mind to bear upon his life and works. Had Carlyle not judged Goethe so carefully and so critically his thoughts and opinions would not have been, as they are now, those of mankind but simply those of Carlyle. The explanation of Carlyle's attitude to Goethe is that of conviction of great imagination and power of expression united to high moral power. Carlyle never judged a man to have faults if the inner spirit which inspired and ruled a man's life was pure and noble, and this spirit Goethe had in the highest degree. Goethe, of course, had his petty faults, but nevertheless he had lived as a man, he had lived a life of antique heroism and thus the existence of inherent faults in Goethe could be apparent only to the caviler. "Goethe had spots in his character, but spots are in the sun." Carlyle accepted Goethe in his skepticism for he had felt skepticism himself; he accepted him in his doubting, for he had had doubts himself; and he accepted Goethe in his faith for he knew the faith to be well-founded and noble.
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