Goethe-recognition FAIL

Goethe in same room as unaware Hölderlin; hilarity ensues

I’ve already been at Schiller’s too, once or twice, the first time not altogether successfully. I went in, was greeted warmly, and barely noticed at the back of the room a stranger whose appearance, and what little he said at first, did nothing to suggest anything special about him. Schiller told him my name, and told me his too but I didn’t catch it. Coldly, almost without looking at him, I greeted him and was totally taken up, inwardly and outwardly, with Schiller. For a long time the stranger didn’t speak a word. Schiller brought in the Thalia, which contains a fragment of my Hyperion and my poem to Fate, and handed it to me. As Schiller then left us for a moment the stranger took the ioumal from the table, flicked through the fragment as I stood beside him, and didn’t say a word. I felt myself getting gradually redder and redder. Had I known what I know now, I’d have gone white as a sheet. He then turned to me, enquired after Frau von Kalb, the area and the neighbours round our village, and I answered all this in monosyllables, in a way I think I rarely do. But luck was simply against me. Schiller came back, we talked about the Weimar theatre, the stranger let fall a few words weighty enough to make me suspect something. But I suspected nothing. The artist Meyer from Weimar also joined us. The stranger conversed with him on various subjects. But I suspected nothing. I left, and learnt the same evening in the Professors’ Club (have you guessed?) that Goethe had been at Schiller’s that day. Heaven help me to make good my misfortune and my stupid behaviour when I get to Weimar. Later on I had supper at Schiller’s – he comforted me as much as he could, and with his wit and his conversation, which revealed the full force of his extraordinary mind, made me forget the disaster that had befallen me on the first occasion. I am also at Niethammer’s occasionally. I’ll tell you more of ]ena next time. Make sure you write soon too, dear Neuffer.

Yours, Hölderlin (letter to Christian Neuffer, 1794)

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