Wieland, or the Transformation
I feel little reluctance in complying with your request. You know not fully the cause of
my sorrows. You are a stranger to the depth of my distresses. Hence your efforts at
consolation must necessarily fail. Yet the tale that I am going to tell is not intended as a
claim upon your sympathy. In the midst of my despair, I do not disdain to contribute what
little I can to the benefit of mankind. I acknowledge your right to be informed of the
events that have lately happened in my family. Make what use of the tale you shall think
proper. If it be communicated to the world, it will inculcate the duty of avoiding deceit. It
will exemplify the force of early impressions, and show the immeasurable evils that flow
from an erroneous or imperfect discipline.
My state is not destitute of tranquillity. The sentiment that dictates my feelings is not
hope. Futurity has no power over my thoughts. To all that is to come I am perfectly
indifferent. With regard to myself, I have nothing more to fear. Fate has done its worst.
Henceforth, I am callous to misfortune.
I address no supplication to the Deity. The power that governs the course of human
affairs has chosen his path. The decree that ascertained the condition of my life, admits of
no recal. No doubt it squares with the maxims of eternal equity. That is neither to be
questioned nor denied by me. It suffices that the past is exempt from mutation. The storm
that tore up our happiness, and changed into dreariness and desert the blooming scene of
our existence, is lulled into grim repose; but not until the victim was transfixed and
mangled; till every obstacle was dissipated by its rage; till every remnant of good was
wrested from our grasp and exterminated.
How will your wonder, and that of your companions, be excited by my story! Every
sentiment will yield to your amazement. If my testimony were without corroborations,
you would reject it as incredible. The experience of no human being can furnish a
parallel: That I, beyond the rest of mankind, should be reserved for a destiny without
alleviation, and without example! Listen to my narrative, and then say what it is that has
made me deserve to be placed on this dreadful eminence, if, indeed, every faculty be not
suspended in wonder that I am still alive, and am able to relate it.
My father's ancestry was noble on the paternal side; but his mother was the daughter of a
merchant. My grand-father was a younger brother, and a native of Saxony. He was
placed, when he had reached the suitable age, at a German college. During the vacations,
he employed himself in traversing the neighbouring territory. On one occasion it was his
fortune to visit Hamburg. He formed an acquaintance with Leonard Weise, a merchant of
that city, and was a frequent guest at his house. The merchant had an only daughter, for
whom his guest speedily contracted an affection; and, in spite of parental menaces and
prohibitions, he, in due season, became her husband.