An 1863 rendition of Eduard by Friedrich Pecht and Arthur von Ramberg. [1]
In Elective Affinities, Edward, the name used in the Hjalmar Boyesen (1885) and Herbert Waidson (1960) translations of Goethe's 1809 Elective Affinities.

Spelling alternative
The name is an alternative spelling of Eduard (main article), as used in the more popular Reginald Hollingdale (1971) and David Constantine (1994) translations.

Comment on | by Goethe
Goethe's literary assistant German poet Johann Eckermann reported that on 21 Jan 1827 Goethe spoke of Edward in the following manner: [2]

"I can't stand him myself, but I had to make him like that ... There is in any case much truth in his figure, for one finds enough people in the upper classes in whom, as in him, wilfulness takes the place of character."


Description | by Friedrich Pecht
The following is the 1863 description of the character Edward, in the depiction and emotion of the character shown adjacent, by German historical and portrait painter, lithographer, and art writer Friedrich Pecht: [1]

"If Goethe generally treats the gentlemen very badly who take the part of lovers in his works, and not only gives them heavy crosses to bear, but makes them also perform their parts poorly, this is wholly justifiable on psychological grounds, since long experience testifies that love makes men more stupid and women brighter.

Perhaps of all these afflicted gentlemen, none comes off so badly as the hero of the Elective Affinities, since the extraordinary power of the delineation leaves no doubt of its truth. The ground of this whole phenomenon is found here, that love-making, which with men is but a subordinate occupation, even if the most interesting, in romance and plays is made the chief work of the lover, and this affects us disagreeably. With men it is rather doing than being, with women it is rather being than doing.

But the Baron Edward occupies himself, as we see him, only in love-making; only in this has he attained to mastery; in all other things is he a thorough dilettante, with all that disagreeable and unmanly flavor which dilettanteism gives to men. Even if it were not told us in the beginning, we should infer from his whole demeanor that he had not been sufficiently chastised by his father when a boy, and that his gracious mother had almost spoiled him. In his flute-playing, in his gardening, in his readings, everywhere, he is in danger of being ridiculous, or at least of awakening a little contempt, because he begins with such impatient haste, and is neither earnest nor persistent. How finely is the Captain contrasted with him | The Captain also loves, but he does many things of which Edward has no perception—he labors, and so neither he nor Faust, to whom love also is only a subordinate thing, is in danger of arousing in our hearts a feeling of barren pity.

Only through two features has the poet preserved Edward from being perfectly despicable, as was Weislingen: with all his childish impatience, he is thoroughly amiable, and is, in every sense, brave. He seeks war and death when misfortune overtakes him.

This is the manly side of his character—only, alas ! do not clearly see it, but- merely hear of it incidentally; whereas the English poet takes good care, first of all, to make us accurately acquainted with this characteristic of his hero, so that no doubt respecting it can remain. But that our poet left it undecided what his intention was, is a highly-significant feature, not only in the portrait of Edward, but also in his own, and that of the period in which the book had its origin. It was written, as we know, in the years 1808-1809—the period of the deepest, most hopeless depression of Germany, and it makes upon us of today a very peculiar impression to see a man in a distinguished social position act without any discernible grounds for his action. All the personages of the story are German, the scene is laid in Germany, but the local characteristics are effaced with the utmost care. The whole plot could as well have been laid in the moon as in Germany. Every reference to an oppressed, betrayed, dishonored nation, and to the condition of public affairs, then most lamentable, which forms the invisible background of this painting, is wanting; and nevertheless it is simply this background which gives their justification to these figures of the poet. It was with the Germans of that time as with the Jews. Without a fatherland, and without any hope of obtaining one, all activity must limit itself to the family and to the intimate relations of friendship. In such a state of affairs all the emotions of the soul become sickly, as we find them described in Werther, in Wilhelm Meister, but especially in Edward.

Transferred to the year 1813, such a character as Edward is not imaginable. He goes out to serve under a leader “where death is probable, but victory is certain.” In these words Goethe could have thought only of Napoleon, and so gives to Edward the fortunate post of a soldier of the Confederation of the Rhine, but considerately avoids giving him the glory of a defender of the fatherland. Such high patriotism must necessarily have been a counteractive to that sickness of the soul under which he labored, and have greatly contributed to his mental recovery.

Nowhere does the extraordinary artistic superiority of Goethe more plainly show itself than in his description of the restless, hasty, hot-tempered, capricious, but nevertheless amiable Baron. We ever see the man of fine education, of fine culture, who, partly through his natural endowments, and partly through external influences from childhood, has learned to do not only the right thing but the wrong also, in an attractive way. He is, through and through, a cavalier, without a single plebeian feature, while the earnest Captain, contrasted with him, shows through his soldierly bearing the born citizen. We see in him a stiff and formal character; an active mind; a nature persistent, punctilious, and taking strict account both of time and money; while Edward is naturally prodigal of both, and has never learned to know rightly their worth. Generous even to excess, he is persistent only for a caprice which becomes indifferent to him so soon as he has attained it. In like manner, has he learned only to command, but never, like the Captain, to obey. He is full of courtesy, but it is of that distinguished kind which is not rooted in benevolence for those with whom he has to do, but in the wish to be considered very good-hearted and compassionate. It is certainly one of the finest touches in the delineation of his character that, learning that the Captain had spoken with Charlotte depreciatingly of his flute-playing, he should feel himself released form all obligations toward both. That he is full of caprices, but without determination; that he makes not the slightest attempt to control his unjustifiable passion; that the conception of duty seems wholly to be wanting; that he recognizes simple rights,—all this shows us certainly the spoiled son, but shows us also the nobleman of that time. In general, the whole romance, carefully as every trace of place and time is kept out of sight, depicts in an incomparable way the constitution of a portion of society at that period.

If we not accompany the impatient Baron without special sympathy in his progress through the whole book, so long as a gleam of hope remains to him, we cannot nevertheless deny him our sympathy when all hope has vanished. The manner in which he yields to slow decay, making no effort to live, but with a kind of joy gives himself to a lingering death, is powerfully described, and to the amiable man in his hopeless misery no one can deny a tear.

In the picture, he is represented writing to Charlotte of the country-seat, and impatience is manifest in his fingers, and breathing in every feature of this countenance. With raven locks, pale and embrowned, a form light and elastic, a brilliant and showy manner, he is nevertheless more cavalier than soldier. Although an elegant cavalry officer, he is deficient in that subjection to strict discipline which is as much due from himself as others, and which extends to mind and heart as well as to things external. He is good only for attack, for defense he is wholly unprepared"

1. Pecht, Friedrich, and Ramberg, Arthur. (1870). Goethe Gallery: Containing Characters from Goethe’s Works, drawn by Friederick Pecht and Arthur von Ramberg, fifty illustrations engraved on steel, with descriptive text by Frederick Pecht (The Councillor’s Lady Goethe, pgs. 24-29; Corneila Goethe, 32-35; Elective Affinities, pgs. 289-306). Appleton & Co.
2. Waidson, Herbert M. (1960). "Introduction", in: Kindred by Choice. John Calder.

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