Faust, Dr

Faust, DR.

according to tradition, a celebrated dealer in the black art. (The following account, chiefly translated from Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, is taken from Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v.) He was born probably about A.D. 1480, at Knittlingen (or Kundlingen), in Wurtemberg, or, as some say, at Roda, near Weimar. He is said to have studied magic at Cracow. "After having spent a rich inheritance left him by his uncle, Faust is alleged to have made use of his 'power' to raise or conjure up the devil, with whom he entered into a contract for twenty-four years, obtaining during that time his fill of earthly pleasure, but at its termination surrendering body and soul into the hands of the great enemy. The devil gave him an attendant spirit or daemon, called Mephistopheles, though other names are given him by the later traditionists, with whom he travelled about, enjoying life in all its forms, and astonishing people by working wonders, till he was finally carried off by the Evil One, who appeared in terrible guise between twelve and one o'clock at night, at the village of Rimlich, near Wittenberg, though several other places lay claim to that very questionable honor. Some have doubted, considering the monstrously mythical form in which his career has come down to us, whether such an individual as Faust ever existed; but it is now generally believed that there was a basis of fact, on which tradition has built its grotesque superstructure. Gorres, indeed, asserts that one George Sabellicus, who disappeared about the year 1517, is the real Faust; but Philip Melancthon the man of all the reformers- whose word in regard to a matter of fact would most readily be trusted-says that he had himself conversed with Dr. Faustus. Conrad Gesner (1561) is equally positive; and Luther, is his Table Talk, speaks of Dr. Faust as a man lost beyond all hope. The opinion that prevails, and which is reckoned to be intrinsically the more probable, is that some man of this name, possessed of varied knowledge, may possibly have practised jugglery (for the wandering savans of the Middle Ages had all a touch of the quack about them), and thus have been taken by time ignorant people for a dealer in the black art, and one' who maintained a secret and intimate relation with evil spirits. His widely diffused celebrity not only occasioned the wonders worked by other so- called necromancers of an earlier age Albertus Magnus, Simon Magus, and Paracelsus to be attributed to him, but likewise many ancient tales and legends of a marvellous character were gradually transferred to him, till he finally appears as the very hero of magicians. But while, on the one hand, the narrative of Faust's marvels afforded amusement to the people, on the other they were made use of for instruction by the clergy, who pointed out, in the frightful fate of Faust, the danger of tampering with the 'black art,' and the abominableness of a life sunk in sensuality and vice. The myth of Faust has received a manifold literary treatment. First come the Volksbucher (or people's books), Which record Faust's enterprises and feats. The oldest of these now known appeared at Frankfort in 1588. Then came an 'improved' edition of the same, by Widmann, entitled Wahrhaftige Historien von denen graulichen Sunden Dr. Joh. Faust's (True History of the Horrible Crimes of Dr. John Faust, Hamb. 3 vols. 1599); and in 1695, a work was published at Nurnberg by Pfitzer,. based upon that of Widmann. The oldest of these books was translated into all the civilized languages of Europe. Impostor-s also published books of magic under the name of Faust, such as Faust's grosser und gewaltiger Hollenzwang (Faust's Great and Potent Book of Spells), Fausten's Mirakelkunst (Faust's Art of Performing Miracles), and Dreifache Hollenzwang (The Threefold Book of Spells). These wretched productions are filled throughout with meaningless scrawls and figures, interspersed with texts from the Bible scandalously misapplied; but in the belief of the vulgar, they were supposed capable, when properly understood, of accomplishing prodigies. That the poetical art should in due time have seized on a subject affording so much material for the fancy to work upon was inevitable and consequently German literature abounds in elegies, pantomimes,, tragedies, and comedies on Faust. Since the end of the 17th century, the Puppenspiel (Puppet-show) of Dr. Faust (published at Leipsic in 1850) has been one of the most popular pieces in Germany. It forms the transition from the rude, magic tales concerning Faust to the later philosophic conception of the Faust-myth, which has become the most perfect poetical expression of the eternal strife between good and evil in the soul of man. The first writer who treated the story of Faust dramatically was the English writer Christopher Marlowe, about the year 1600 (German translation by W. Muller, Berlin, 1818): but the grandest work on the subject is Goethe's Faust, the first part of which appeared under the title of Dr. Faust, ein Trauerspiel (Leip. 1790), and afterwards in a remodelled form, under the title of Faust, eine Tragodie (Tubingen, 1808). The second part was published after the author's death, at Stuttgart, in 1833. Besides Goethe's drama may be mentioned Lessing's masterly fragment, Faust und die' Sieben Geister (Faust and the Seven Spirits), G. F. L. Muller's Dr. Faust's Leben (Dr. Faust's Life, Mannh. 1778), and Klinger's Faust's Leben, Thaten, und Hollenfahrt (Faust's Life, Doings, and Descent into Hell;

Petersburg and Leip. 1791). The plastic art has also found a fit subject in Faust. In Auerbach's cellar at Leipsic, where Faust is said to have performed many of his feats, are two rude daubs of the year 1525, representing Faust and Mephistopheles riding out of the cellar on a wine- barrel. Rembrandt and Christoph von Sichem have also illustrated the story of Faust, and, in modern times, Cornelius and Retzsch have done the same. See Peter, Die Literatur der Faustsage (The Literature of the Faust Myth), 2d edit. Leip. 1851."

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