An enthusiasm for this novel is not, nowadays, an easy thing to share. Unless one moves in circles professionally devoted to German literature, the mention of its title is likely to call up among literary people the following notions: that T. S. Eliot has not approved of Goethe, while nineteenth-century England did, both facts still, to many, rather discouraging; that the Bildungsroman, of which Goethe's novel is the great example, is a sloppy and self-indulgent genre—there is no form, since it just goes autobiographically on and on, nor any proper commitment to experience, which the self-obsessed hero only passes through; that this one might be full of “wisdom,” perhaps, but that here is precisely its greatest fault, for what can wisdom be but smug “Victorian” moralizing or analyzing or generalizing, mere simplifying abstraction at best, and the death of all actuality, complexity, and charm. Nor is it fashion alone which accounts for the novel's virtual disappearance from our intellectual landscape. No, even when it is read it tends to be disliked. Press it on the up-to-date intelligent reader, the reader who devours the Russians or Stendhal or Flaubert or Proust with joy, and more often than not—such has been my experience—he will find it repulsively cold-blooded, even frivolous, in its treatment of human affairs. It is sometimes admitted that what happens in the novel, at least after the rather long flash-back at the beginning, ought to be interesting enough. But, the complaint is, one is hurried through even the big scenes at a pace that is shockingly sprightly. There is no sign that the author feels anything or wants us to feel anything. One is hurried on, moreover, to no particular purpose. Instead of “adding up,” the story rambles in the most outmoded way. And so forth.