Goethe (estate model)
Description (P1:C1): "the gardener directing Edward" (HB:231) (by Philipp Johann?). The beaker, retort, test tube view of the estate, wherein Edward is beginning to contemplating his thought experiment of the reactions that could occur if he were to invited the Captain to the estate.
In Elective Affinities, estate is the retort (or social retort), reaction vessel, closed or semi-closed, depending, reactive system, beaker, test tube, among other namesakes:

I wonder what would happen if

wherein the story and human chemical reactions of German polymath Johann Goethe’s 1809 physical chemistry based novella takes place. The following discussion from P1:C2 gives a well-honed gist of the concept of the estate as the reaction vessel for the various human chemical reaction experiments played out in each chapter:

“That strange Mittler is right after all,” replied Charlotte; “all such undertakings are ventures; what will come of them it is impossible to foresee. New elements introduced among us may be fruitful in fortune or in misfortune, without our having to take credit to ourselves for one or the other. I do not feel myself firm enough to oppose you further. Let us make the experiment; only one thing I will entreat of you—that it be only for a short time. You must allow me to exert myself more than ever, to use all my influence among all my connections, to find him some position which will satisfy him in his own way.”


English Germanic-literature scholar Gerlinde Röder-Bolton, in his 1998 book George Elliot and Goethe: an Elective Affinity, which discusses how George Elliot adopted aspects of Elective Affinities into two of her works, describes the estate as a vessel for the chemical reactions as such:

“Spatial enclosure and narrative compactness are part of the Novelle’s economy. In Die Wahlverwandtschaften, this is also implicit in the novel’s central metaphor of the chemical reaction. Just as chemical experiments are conducted under controlled laboratory conditions, so Goethe provided specific narrative conditions—the isolation of his four main characters—in order to observe the operation of natural laws.”

Estate | System viewEstate | Human chemist view

Advanced intelligence perspetive
Left: the thermodynamic system view of the estate with its boundaried enclosure, through which reactants are selectively introduced, mediated via a certain boundary regulation (servants). Right: the "human chemist" or rather advanced perspective view of the estate, according to which time, both slowed down and accelerated perspectives, come into play.

Eliot, in some way, is said to present her modified version of this in her “Laws of Attraction” book section, among other places. A noted section about the surveying of the estate that occurs is as follows:

“… the property and its surroundings; at the same time he expressed his long-cherished desire to become more familiar with his estate ..." The first thing we should do," said the Captain, "is to survey the whole property with a compass …”

The estate is replete with a mansion [RH] or castle [HB], depending on translation, summer house [HB] or moss hut [RH], some type of rock formation [HB] or cliff face [RH], lake, orchard, graveyard, paths, among other natural amenities, such as ponds a mill, all within the confines of the estate.
map of the estate (film)
Screen shot of Charlotte and Edward, from the 1996 film version, viewing the scale size model of the estate in front of them, with what seems to be a map of the estate behind them.

Architectural surveying | Analysis
Wolfgang Staroste, in his 1961 “Raumgestaltung und Raumsymbolik in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften”, according to Gerlinde Röder-Bolton, supposedly, is said to give an extended analysis of the spatial organization of the estate. [3]

In 2007, American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims, argued that the land and water descriptions are representative of Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman's 1775 division of his reactions into the "wet way" (aqueous) and "dry way" (heated), such as can be depicted in scale model of the lakes (wet) and land (dry) regions of the estate, adjacent. [1]

The "reaction" of Ottilie with the child Otto occurring in the "wet way" of rowing across the lake in a distraught state of mind results in the drowning death (reaction end) of the child (P2:C13).

In P1:C3, the Captain draws out a map of the estate. Adjacent, for example, is a screen shot of Charlotte and Edward, from the 1996 film version, viewing the scale size model of the estate in front of them, with what seems to be a map of the estate behind them.

The following are a few noted depictions of the new geological undertakings the characters make in changing the land of the estate, the focus of which are said be based on a certain philosophical point of view Goethe was outlining in regards to the relationship between land, housing, travel ways, and his human chemical theory:

Edward and the Captain Surveying
The chart was brought and spread out (Elective Affinities)
Edward and the Captain surveying the land (P1:C3).Description: “the chart [of the landscape of the estate] … was brought and spread out” (P1:C6).

Charlotte Laying the Corner-stone

EA part two

Description: "Charlotte Laying the Corner-stone" (P1:C9).Description: "Charlotte Advising with the Architect." (P2:C1)

The Architect Exhibiting his Portfolio

Description: "The Architect Exhibiting his Portfolio." (P2:C2)

Mansion | Castle
The following, below left, is a recent artistic rendition of the mansion of the estate, which may have taken its cues the Charlotte von Stein mansion in Thuringia, sections of which are shown below right and bottom. [5]

Estate (mansion)
Charlotte von Stein mansion

Charlotte von Stein (house in Weimer)

The following circa 1782 silhouette, to exemplify, is Goethe in front of his house (given to him by the Duke) in Weimar. In the background, to the left, is the house of the Duke and Duchess, next to it is the house of Charlotte von Stein, and the structure to the right is the house of Goethe. [6]

Goethe silhouette (c.1782) f2

This would date the silhouette to later than 1782, the year he moved in. Goethe's house is still standing today, with his own original carriage in the garage. It is now a museum. A lovely garden graces the back of the house.

The following are various artistic renditions of the estate:

Elective Affinities (Penguin Classics) 1986 cover artElective affinities (2001)

The 1986 cover art to the Penguin Classics edition of Elective Affinities. The image possibly depicts the church with its tower that is described in P1:C1.A 2001 watercolor rendition of the estate—retort, reaction vessel, closed reaction system, beaker—by Colombian artist Nohra Barros. [2]

Elective Affinities (1960 Kindred by Choice) cover

The image from 1960 Kindred by Choice cover version of Elective Affinities. Possibly a depiction of the summer house or moss hut?

Summer house | Moss hut
The opening P1:C1 discussion of Eduard in his nursery-garden or orchard and the mention of the summer house, seems to imply that the story, in some way, is in recollection, of Goethe's garden house (as shown), at which a large part of Goethe's existence took place, which was was the first home acquired by Goethe in Weimar in 1776, a few months after his arrival in Weimar, together with the surrounding garden. The purchase was financed by Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The garden house was Goethe’s main residence and workplace until he moved to Frauenplan in June 1782. [4]

Goethe's Garden House | Reconstruction
Goethe's Garden House | Original

Goethe garden house 2Garden house (original)

After buying the house, Goethe began to repair it and redesign the garden immediately (similar to as occurs in Elective Affinities). He divided it into three parts which are still recognizable today: the park-like slope behind the house, the sunny orchard and the lower part of the garden where the vegetable beds can be found. [4] The architectural landscape reconstruction and surveying that occurs in the novella seems to revolved around recollection of his garden house years.

1. Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two) (dry way, pgs. 389, 391, 419; wet way, pgs. 389, 391) . Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
2. (a) Elective Affinities (watercolor, 7x9, 2001) – by Nohra Barros.
(b) Elective Affinities (14 Jan 2009) –
3. Bolton-Roder, Gerlinde. (1998). George Elliot and Goethe: an Elective Affinity (estate, pg. 22-23; chemical reaction, pgs. 36, 40). Rodopi.
4. (a) Goethe garden house (modern reconstruction) –
(b) Goethe garden house (history) –
5. Charlotte von Stein mansion (in Großkochberg/Thuringia) –
6. Gilbert Stuart Blog: February 5, 2009 –

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