Passions like playing cards

Passions like playing cards (Goethe, 1799)
A rendition of the famous 1799 Goethe to Schiller comment that Crebillon treats the "passions like playing cards" with NO trace of the delicate "chemical affinities", i.e. micro-interaction forces of attraction and repulsion, that move people, interaction-wise; which is equivalent to the post 1882 [see: Helmholtz] statement that "there is no trace of any fine delicate free energies [Gibbs energy] that drive the reactive system" in Crebillon.
In hmolscience, passions like playing cards is []

On 23 Oct 1799, Goethe, in a letter to Friedrich Schiller, stated the following, in truncated form, on the work of French author work of French author Prosper Crebillon (1674-1762): [1]

“Crebillon … treats the passions like playing cards, that one can shuffle, play, reshuffle, and play again, without their changing at all. There is no trace of the delicate, chemical affinity, through which they attract and repel each other, reunite, neutralize [each other], separate again and recover.”

In short, Goethe stated his opinion that Crebillion's writing is not realistic in the sense that it is not based on the way that people "react" to each other, according to the principles and outcomes of chemistry. The full letter reads as follows: [2]

“I congratulate you upon the continued good state of things in the sick room; perhaps I may myself pay it a visit. My life here is as prosaic as Voss's Almanack, and I do not, under the present circumstances, see any possibility of making any progress with my work, for it requires a tender state of mind. Just that which has now to be done with Mahomet can, least of all, be accomplished by mere reason.

Since Humboldt's letter [N1] and your adaptation of Mahomet have given me new light regarding the French stage, I find more pleasure in reading their plays, and have now begun Crebillon. He is remarkable in a peculiar way. He treats the passions like playing cards, which are mixed, played out, and can again be shuffled and played out without being in the least degree changed. There is in him no trace of any fine chemical affinity, by which they are attracted and repelled, united, neutralized, again divided and repaired. True he does, in his way, obtain situations which it would be impossible to obtain otherwise. To us this manner would be intolerable, but I have been thinking whether it might and should not be successfully employed in an inferior kind of composition, in operas and plays of chivalry and mystery. My thoughts on the subject will lead to discussion and reflection.

I shall be very glad if you bring the scheme of your Maltese Knights with you. If I can make it possible—but more especially if I see no other way of getting my Mahomet finished—I shall come over on the 1st of November; by that time everything that depends upon me here will be pretty well set agoing for a time.

From Frankfurt I have received the news that Schlosser [N2] is dead. The French and his own garden were the immediate causes of his death. He was in it when the French were approaching Frankfurt; he was late, and found the nearest gate locked, he had to hurry on to the next one—which was a long way off—came into a very hot room, and was thence called to the town-hall, whereupon he was attacked by a fever, which proved fatal and carried him off in a very short time. Farewell, and let us make use of the days that are still before us.”

(add discussion)

See also
Balzac feelings and affinity dialogue | Balzac (1834)
Church of Elective Affinities | Shelley (1816)

N1. This letter of Humboldt's was published in the fifth number of the PropyUea under the title of: Ueber die gegenwartige Framlisische tragieche Biihne.
N2. Goethe's brother-in-law who had returned to Frankfurt as syndic some months previously. He died on the 17th of October.

1. (a) Winnett, Susan. (1993). Terrible Sociability: the Text of Manners in Laclos, Goethe, and James (pg. 220). Stanford University Press.
(b) Lynch, Sandra. (2005). Philosophy and Friendship (Crebillon, pg. 37). Edinburgh University Press.
(c) Steer, Alfred G. (1990). Goethe’s Elective Affinities: the Robe of Nessus (Crebillon, pg. 37; symbolically, pg. 158). Winter.
2. Goethe, Johann. (1799). “Letter to Friedrich Schiller”, Oct 23; in: Collected Works, Volume 14 (pg. 284-85). Publisher.

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