The author was a priest in the Catholic Church and subsequently left it as he slowly lost faith in its teachings. He then began a life-long literary career until his death in 1955. He translated over 200 books and some 300 titles under Haldeman-Julius Publications and became know as the "world's greatest scholar. Quoted from the author's "Preface."
"SIR J . SEELEY complained some years ago that there were too few books about Goethe in English literature. The complaint seems just when we reflect, not merely on the large generosity with which German scholars have recognised the greatness of our own national poet, but on the intensely interesting personality and career of Goethe. We know comparatively little of Shakespeare, and our most devoted research yields only a dim and elusive suggestion of his personality in many phases. His genius breaks on us almost suddenly from clouds of conjectures and legends. It is very different with Goethe. The material for writing a biography of him is exceptionally rich: it has been collected and sifted by three generations of ardent students; and the life and character which this material
represents to us in their development are of unusual and unfading human interest. The art of Shakespeare is so objective, so detached, that it would live imperishably if every trace of the artist were obliterated as completely as every trace of Homer, or the Homeric poets. The great works of Goethe are suffused with personal feeling, and reflect at every stage the impassioned drama of his career. We do not seek to know the artist merely as a tribute to his art."
"Goethe still treads the stage of the world in the character of Faust, but the true story of his life is far more attractive than the melodramatic mutilation of his great tragedy which is annually presented in the theatres of every land. We have from his own hand a minute and masterly description of the boyhood of a genius; we behold, in his narrative and his impulsive letters, the exquisitely sensitive youth awakening in a world which is a hundred years too old for him, and, while conscious of a mighty task, wavering time after time between the valleys of love and the hills of learning; we find his developed nature so many-sided that he attracts into his life nearly every person of consequence in his age, and reflects in his art every spasm of its travail for the birth of the new world; and even in his later years we see his genius linked, in rare association, with a passion that holds him to the common rank of men. The greatest literary artist since Shakespeare, and no inconspicuous figure in the scientific culture of the new world, he is, nevertheless, so profoundly human that almost every
chapter in his career is a romantic love-story." […]
"It will be seen from the outset when I deal with his relation to his mother, that the work is not a mere compendium of the things that are usually said about Goethe. It offers a new interpretation of some important phases of his career. It is based on a careful reading of Goethe's letters and works, and the letters and writings of those who knew him; though I have gathered supplementary information in the whole field of German Goethe-literature, and I have found most helpful companions of research in the larger biographies of Bielschowsky and (especially) Heinemann. A few other works on particular stages of Goethe's career will be gratefully mentioned in their proper places. Generally, however, I have preferred to remove the literary scaffolding, so to speak, in order that the simple lines of the narrative may be followed with greater ease."