In 1786, when he was already the acknowledged leader of the Sturm und Drang literary movement, Goethe set out on a journey to Italy to fulfil a personal and artistic quest and to find relief from his responsibilities and the agonies of unrequited love. As he travelled to Venice, Rome, Naples and Sicily he wrote many letters, which he later used as the basis for the Italian Journey. A journal full of fascinating observations on art and history, and the plants, landscape and the character of the local people he encountered, this is also a moving account of the psychological crisis from which Goethe emerged newly inspired to write the great works of his mature years.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in 1749. Having studied at Leipzig and Strassburg, he began to write some essays and lyrical verse, and at twenty-four wrote a play Goetz von Berlichingen, which brought him national fame and established him in the Sturm und Drang movement. He is most famous for his tragedy Werther. He died in 1832. W. H. Auden was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University from 1956 to 1960. He published poems throughout his life, and in 1946 became a US citizen. He died in 1973. Elizabeth Mayer has also translated, in collaboration with Louise Bogan, Elective Affinities and Werther.