The Sorrows of Young Werther’s Original™
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(On a grey and frosty December morning of the year 1773, the body of the passionate and idealistic young artist Werther was discovered lying on the floor of his study with a bullet wound to the head. By his side was a pistol, along with a wrapper from a Werther’s Original™ cream candy. He had shot himself in despair over his impossible love for the married Charlotte S. , the daughter of a local estate officer. It is to his beloved Lotte, as she was known to him, that Werther addressed his dramatic and heart-wrenching suicide note, which we transcribe below:)
-Past Eleven O’Clock
All around me is so silent, and my soul is so calm. I thank Thee, God, for granting me this consolatory sweetness in my last moments.
I step to the window, dearest Lotte, and through the tempestuous clouds being driven by I can see, I can still see a few stars of the eternal heaven. Often I have gazed up at the stars, drunk with rapture, and perhaps, as now, sucking on a delicious Werther’s Original candy, the sweetness of which I had come to revere as a sacred symbol of my happiness! But oh, Lotte, what is there that does not remind me of you! In these my final moments, my thoughts are turned entirely to you, to the memories of the happy hours we once spent together.
Also, somewhat incongruously, perhaps, –Who can fathom the workings of a mind on the brink of self-annihilation?- I find myself thinking back to the very first candy given to me by my grandfather: It was Werther’s Original, and I was just a boy. I shall never forget that first taste – sweet and creamy and… just plain good!
And now, Lotte, now it is a very different candy that I must swallow. You see, Lotte, I do not flinch from taking the cold and bitter pill from which I must suck upon the sleep of death! You handed it to me, and I do not hesitate, no more than I hesitated that day –Alas! So many years ago!- when I was just four years old, and my dear grandfather first handed me that luscious, melt-in-your-mouth candy!
To think that I might have enjoyed the happiness of dying for you! Of sacrificing myself for you, Lotte! Or, failing that, to think that I might have lived to old age, and become a grandfather myself, with a grandchild of my own, to whom I would have given -what else?- Werther’s Originals, made with the freshest ingredients and loving care in manufacture, from a recipe crafted with European tradition! But all of this, I see now, is never to be.
I wish to be buried in these clothes, Lotte; you touched them and they are sacred. The pink ribbon you wore at your breast the first time I saw you amongst your children –oh, give them a thousand kisses, and tell them the fate of your wretched friend. Dear creatures! Perhaps you could give them each a Werther’s Original before you do so, to soften the blow –This ribbon is to be buried with me. Along with, I beseech you, this last golden Werther’s Original wrapper, the likes of which have enveloped so many of my sweetest memories. I have made the request of your father also.
Ah, I little thought that my path was leading me this way! Be of peaceful heart, I implore you! Be of peaceful heart! Always remember, Lotte, you are someone very special, someone very special indeed, deserving of the very best in all things, right down to the candy that you select for yourself and for your dear sweet children.
They are loaded – It is striking twelve! The last bit of indulgent creamy goodness has melted down my throat! So be it! Lotte! Grandpa! Soft and sweet and uncommonly good Werther’s Originals, adieu! Adieu!
Goethe, no doubt reaching for a Werther’s Original.