1. Goethe (whose birthday is today, August 28) wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther when he was twenty-six. It was such a bestseller that an unknown number of readers all over Europe emulated the tragic hero and killed themselves.
2. Goethe had a love affair with a married woman in Weimar for ten years to whom he wrote letters twice a day. Scholars believe he did not lose his virginity (with a prostitute in Rome) until he had left her.
3. Goethe’s Faust, having made a bargain with the devil, debauched an innocent girl and was responsible for her death, and their baby’s. He was admitted to heaven in the final scene.
4. At the age of seventy-two, he fell deeply in love with a nineteen-year-old girl. Friends prevented him from marrying her. He consoled himself by writing one of the greatest poems in the German language.
5. In old age, he thought his contributions to physics and optics were as important as his literary work.