“It’s hard to say whether things really happened like that or whether Bettina made it up, but if she did, then so much the better: she is revealing to us how she wants us to see her, and she describes her method of approaching men: in a childlike way she was impudently sincere (declaring that she didn’t care about the death of the Duchess and that she was uncomfortable on the couch on which dozens of visitors had been grateful to sit); in a childlike way she jumped on his lap and hugged him; and to top it all off, in a childlike way she fell asleep there!
Nothing is more useful than to adopt the status of a child: a child can do whatever it likes, for it is innocent and inexperienced; it need not observe the rules of social behavior, for it has not yet entered a world ruled by form; it may show its feelings, whether they are appropriate or not. People who refused to see the child in Bettina used to say that she was crackbrained (once, while dancing with joy, she fell and knocked her head against the corner of a table), badly brought up (in society she would sit on the floor rather than in a chair), and, especially, catastrophically unnatural. On the other hand, those willing to see her as an eternal child were bewitched by her natural spontaneity.
Goethe was moved by the child. She reminded him of his own youth, and he gave Bettina a beautiful ring as a present. That evening, he noted tersely in his diary: Mamsel Brentano.“
- Milan Kundera, Immortality, Part 2 Chapter 5.
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