Because He’s Worth It
- BuyThe Sufferings of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated by Stanley Corngold
Norton, 151 pp, £16.99, January 2012, ISBN 978 0 393 07938 8
Goethe’s most famous novel was once a Europe-wide sensation. There were Werther-themed prints, figurines, jewellery, perfume, fans, crockery and men’s clothing. The novel itself first appeared in English in 1779, as a translation of a translation: The Sorrows of Werther: A German Story was based on the French version. Translations of French novels made up a large part of the fiction published in England in the 18th century; English authors on their own seem to have been unable to satisfy the expanding market, and the whiff of scandal associated with novels, only partly displaced by the Pamela cult of sentimental virtue, could be both disavowed and enjoyed when books were written by and for the French. But after Werther, and not least because of its success, many more German books were made over into English.