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The Mond Bequest at King's College London: A Celebration

Goethe, Lotte, and Kestner

Lotte's emerald ringLotte's emerald ringGoethe's family circumstances were extremely comfortable. His mother belonged to one of the leading families in Frankfurt am Main, whose principal administrative office Goethe’s maternal grandfather had held.

His father was wealthy and a trained advocate, though not of patrician birth and so ineligible for election to the highest office.

Lotte's sugar bowlLotte's sugar bowlThe son was educated to follow in his father’s (and hopefully maternal grandfather’s) footsteps, learning the ancient and modern languages, dancing, drawing and other accomplishments from private tutors, studying law in Leipzig and Strasbourg, and proceeding to the final stage of his legal training at the Holy Roman Empire’s law courts in Wetzlar.

It was here that Goethe met and fell in love with Lotte, who was betrothed to the Hannoverian Ambassador at Wetzlar, Kestner.

By indulging his love for Lotte, Goethe recklessly put himself (and Lotte and Kestner) into an awkward position, which lasted some months, until on 11 September 1772 Goethe suddenly and without notice left Wetzlar.

References:

  • John R. Williams, The Life of Goethe (Blackwell, 1998)
  • Nicholas Boyle, Goethe: The Poet and the Age, vol. 1: The Poetry of Desire (OUP 1991)
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