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The flight to Italy

Letter by GoetheLetter by GoetheReturning to Frankfurt Goethe began the career as an advocate that his father had planned for him, but this was to be short-lived.

In 1775, after another unhappy romantic attachment, he left for the small and impoverished Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, where over the next ten years he developed from the Duke’s boon companion and mentor into the first minister of state.

Eventually the administrative work became too much for him and stifled his creativity. With the Duke's permission he planned an extended vacation in Italy.

This was funded in part by a new edition of his writings, chief among which was Werther.

Before he could leave for Italy, Goethe had to undertake the difficult task of editing the novel’s second edition. At 3 am on 3 September 1786 Goethe repeated his escape from Wetzlar in September 1772 by stealing out of Karlsbad without a word to his Weimar friends.


  • Goethe, The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters, trans. T. J. Reed (OUP 1999)
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