Probably the name of Johann Peter Eckermann (EHK-ur-mahn) would be without any significance for literary history had it not been for his encounter with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Eckermann was born in 1792, the youngest child of a second marriage. The living conditions of his early life were extremely poor. His home was a one-room hut that could not be heated, and the only possession of the family was a cow, which also supplied the major part of the family’s diet. There was plenty of work for young Eckermann to do, and there was no opportunity for education. Nevertheless, he found time for drawing and painting. One of his drawings came to the attention of a county official, and soon Eckermann obtained patronages that gave him opportunity for education. His ambitions for the arts then shifted from drawing to poetry.
When he read for the first time a volume of Goethe’s poetry, he discovered his idol, and until his death he was a devoted disciple of the great author, who at this time was already the undisputed master of literary life in Germany. Eckermann had the courage to send some of his poetic efforts to Goethe and was rewarded by some encouraging words. From then on, he was determined to become a writer. In 1823 he completed his “Contributions to Poetry” and was searching for a publisher who might be willing to advance a reasonable fee. Goethe’s publisher, Herr von Cotta, was the most famous in Germany at this time, and Eckermann was hoping...
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