The Authenticity of Old Writings

750. ‘Among the many curious stupidities of the schools, none seems to me so ridiculous as the strife about the authenticity of old writings, old works. For I ask you, is it the author or the works we are admiring or censuring? Our sole concern is always and only the author before us; why should we bother about the names when we are interpreting a work of the spirit?’

751. ‘Who can maintain that it is Virgil or Homer we have before us when we are reading the works ascribed to them? But our business is with the writers, and what more do we want? And, indeed, it seems to me that the scholars who are so pernickety about this unimportant matter are no wiser than a very pretty woman who once asked me, with the sweetest possible smile, who was, in fact, the author of Shakespeare’s plays.’

Goethe, Maxims and Reflections

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