(…at least, women in Weimar in 1828….possibly with broader applicability.)
The key, apparently, being to have the characteristics of an 1828-style Englishman.
Talking with his friend Eckermann, Goethe observed that when Englishmen came to town, they were invariably a hit with the local women…Indeed, when one of them came to visit, Goethe found it necessary to brace himself for the inevitable female tears upon his departure. Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people.”
“The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend,” returned Goethe. ““Neither does it lie in birth and riches; it lies in the courage which they have to be that for which nature has made them. There is nothing vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing halfway or crooked; but such as they are, they are thoroughly complete men. That they are also sometimes complete fools, I allow with all my heart; but that is still something, and has still always some weight in the scale of nature.”
Goethe goes on to contrast the upbringing of English boys with that typical in his own country:
“In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neighbour’s children were trying their little sledges in the street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now, when the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they would like to play with their companions before the door, I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, and feared the approach of some despot of the police. Not a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout; the police is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end nothing remains but the Philistine.
An interesting remark, given the increasing constraints on childhood in our own present culture.
“Thus, for instance, I cannot approve the requisition, in the studies of future statesmen, of so much theoretically-learned knowledge, by which young people are ruined before their time, both in mind and body. When they enter into practical service, they possess, indeed, an immense stock of philosophical and learned matters; but in the narrow circle of their calling, this cannot be practically applied, and must therefore be forgotten as useless. On the other hand, what they most needed they have lost; they are deficient in the necessary mental and bodily energy, which is quite indispensable when one would enter properly into practical life. “And then, are not love and benevolence also needed in the life of a statesman,—in the management of men? And how can any one feel and exercise benevolence towards another, when he is ill at ease with himself?”
…which is interesting in the light of our current trend toward the expectation of 18 or 20 years of continuous schooling for those pursuing serious careers.
(from Conversations with Eckermann)