Goethe, Elisabeth (1730–1808)

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Goethe, Elisabeth (1730–1808)

German storyteller and mother of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Name variations: Elizabeth Göthé. Born Elisabeth Textor in 1730; died on September 13, 1808; one of four daughters of Johann Wolfgang Textor (a fashionable tailor); married Johann Caspar Goethe (a jurist), in 1748; children: Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832); Cornelia Goethe (c. 1751–c. 1778), and five boys who did not survive infancy.

Elisabeth Textor was born in 1730, one of four daughters of Johann Wolfgang Textor, a fashionable tailor, who was mayor of his village and little interested in the education of his daughters. Elisabeth was 18 when she married the 40-year-old Johann Caspar Goethe, a cultured but cold man, who regarded his wife as a child to be educated along with their children. Though she did not have a penny in her dowry, she came from an esteemed family of jurists—a perfect match for a man who had just purchased the title of Imperial Councilor in order to join the upper classes. Their son Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born one year after they married. Elisabeth Goethe, known as both lighthearted and practical, had a gift for storytelling, and loved spoiling her young "Hans." As an adult, Goethe, the renowned author, poet, dramatist, and philosopher, was cold toward his mother, who lived alone during the last 11 years of her life. "Yet it was from Elizabeth that Goethe got his spontaneity, naturalness, and solid, practical sense," wrote Horst Hohendorf, "whereas the marked inclination to systematize, theorize and collect came from his father."


Orlandi, Enzo, ed. The Life and Times of Goethe. Italy: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1967.

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Goethe, Elisabeth (1730–1808)

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