Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Catalani and Goethe


One of the best stories told of Catalani is associated with an occasion when at Weimar she was placed next to Goethe at a fashionable dinner party. Catalani knew nothing of Goethe, but being struck by the fine appearance of the poet she asked the gentleman on her other side what was his name. "The celebrated Goethe, madam," was the reply. "Ah, yes. Pray on what instrument does he play?" was the rejoinder. "He is not a performer, madam, he is the renowned author of 'Werther!'" "Oh, yes, yes, I remember," said Catalani, and, turning to the venerable poet, she addressed him, "Ah, sir, what an admirer I am of 'Werther!'" A low bow followed in acknowledgment.

"I never," continued the lively lady — "I never read anything half so laughable in all my life. What a capital farce it is, sir!" "Madam," said the poet, looking serious, "the 'Sorrows of Werther' a farce?" "Oh, yes. Never was anything so exquisitely ridiculous," rejoined Catalani, still laughing heartily. It turned out that the lady had been talking all the while of a parody of "Werther," which had been performed at one of the minor theaters of Paris. But fancy the mortification of the poet! — Cornhill Magazine.

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