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The major work of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust (1808), was translated into English by one of Britain's most capable mediators of German literature and philosophy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Goethe himself twice referred to Coleridge's translation of his Faust. Goethe's character wrestles with the very metaphysical and...
The major work of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust (1808), was translated into English by one of Britain's most capable mediators of German literature and philosophy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Goethe himself twice referred to Coleridge's translation of his Faust. Goethe's character wrestles with the very metaphysical and theological problems that preoccupied Coleridge: the meaning of the Logos, the apparent opposition of theism and pantheism. Coleridge, the poet of tormented guilt, of the demonic and the supernatural, found himself on familiar ground in translating Faust. Because his translation reveals revisions and reworkings of Coleridge's earlier works, his Faust contributes significantly to the understanding of Coleridge's entire oeuvre. Coleridge began, but soon abandoned, the translation in 1814, returning to the task in 1820. At Coleridge's own insistence, it was published anonymously in 1821, illustrated with 27 line engravings copied by Henry Moses after the original plates by Moritz Retzsch. His publisher, Thomas Boosey, brought out another edition in 1824. Although several critics recognized that it was Coleridge's work, his role as translator was obscured because of its anonymous publication. Coleridge himself declared that he "never put pen to paper as translator of Faust", and subsequent generations mistakenly attributed the translation to George Soane, a minor playwright, who had actually commenced translating for a rival press. This edition of Coleridge's translation provides the textual and documentary evidence of his authorship, and presents his work in the context of other contemporary efforts at translating Goethe's Faust.
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