HWL. "Illustrations of Faust," lecture for a Harvard College course. Autograph manuscript, 1837.


Longfellow Papers MS Am 1340 (49), p. 97. Houghton Library.

In his 1837 lectures on Goethe, Longfellow argued that some of the more objectionable "subjective" traits of Goethe (his egocentrism, his sensuality) were actually qualities the writer himself had wanted to exorcize, hoping that a balanced personal life, achieved under the soothing influence of art, would translate into public benefit. This is how Longfellow understood the second part of Faust:

"In the character and life of Faust, Göthe has exhibited doubtless many traits of his own character, and many passages of his own life: It is his own figure thrown back upon the Past in gigantic shadow. There is a desperate desire to know, what man can never know; to be more than man; -the same disappointment and despair;-The lofty aspirations of the soul are quenched in sensuality;-then the World of Art unfolds itself before the weary spirit; and finally Faust ends where Göthe ended, in homely, useful activity."