|A an example quote, highlighted by Libb Thims (2006), of Goethe’s circa 1820s “best book” comment, as described by Helmut Muller-Siever (1997), as found in Astrida Tantillo’s 2001 Goethe’s Elective Affinities and the Critics. |
“A lady addressed Goethe on the subject of Elective Affinities: ‘I do not approve of this book at all, Herr von Goethe; it is truly immoral and I do not recommend it to any women.’—Thereupon Goethe kept a serious silence for awhile, and finally, with great civility, replied: ‘I am sorry, for it is my best book.’”
“A women friend of mine said to Goethe at that time: ‘I cannot approve of Elective Affinities, Herr von Goethe; it really is an immoral book!’ According to her report Goethe was silent for a while and had then said with great earnestness: ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. It is my best book, and don’t think that this is the mere whim of an aging man. I grant you that one loves most deeply the child of one’s last marriage, the product of one’s late power of generation. But you wrong me and the book. The principle illustrated in the book is true and not immoral. But you must regard it from a broader point of view and understand that the conventional moral norms can turn into sheer immorality when applied to situations of this character.”
|German dramatist Heinrich Laube, source for the Goethe|
circa 1809-10 "best book" incident.
“In 1810, as Heinrich Laube reports (1), a lady is supposed to have complained to Goethe about the immorality of the novel; the author is said to have replied: "I am sorry, but it is after all my best book.”
“The only production of greater extent, in which I am conscious of having labored to set forth a pervading idea, is probably my Elective Affinities.”