Werther’s Unread Letters

By Théo de Vestu

Translated from the French by Ignatius Damas


Dear Werther,

Why must I continue to hear news about you from others and not you directly? Do you not realize how mortifying it is for me to learn from others what should have been discreetly conveyed to me by you!   Your dear and ever faithful friend Wilhelm had already informed me of your renunciation at the embassy, yet this new information I gathered by chance at the house of Frau Klatsch has left me absolutely depleted.  I cannot fully comprehend what could have motivated you to make such a hasty decision, to abandon your post at the embassy, when you perfectly knew what tremendous advantages this position could have furnished your career.

Oh Werther! Could it be true, that you, my own smart and handsome son, was thrown out of the ______, by the prince, for impudence and familiarity. I have known something was amiss since last you wrote with an urgent request to lend you money.  Dear Wilhelm was an angel when he returned the thirty Ducats accompanied by dozens of reassurances that you were well, and that your departure from the embassy was for the best.  Yet now I hear from Frau Sprichtviel, Frau Klatsch’s eldest married daughter, that you were thrown out, discharged because you were insinuating yourself upon a certain Fräulein von V.  No doubt facts have been altered and there’s a great deal that you must clarify for me, however, knowing you, my dear Werther, I fear there is some truth in the rumors I’ve heard.

Werther, first I must admit that since the death of you father I have been anxious for you and your future.  Having promised your father many years ago to always let you chose in your own plans of action, I had refrained from interfering with any of your choices.  This that I’ve learned, however, has left me too distressed to allow me to sit idly by, when my son has become the butt of the jokes amongst the provincial aristocracy.  Wilhelm tells me that you have returned to our old town of  W, where you spend a great deal of time with your married friends, but I implore you, come home.

Christmas is soon approaching and since you are no longer employed I would like to have you here at home so you can tell me what is no doubt troubling your heart.   I know half of the rumor’s I’ve heard are rubbish, but I also know to what extent your sensitivity and personal sense of pride can carry you. I know at times your sensitivity can cause you to be rash and break protocol;  I also know that often from too much feeling and eagerness you push people away.

Beyond all that I also know how noble your heart is; I know the many talents you posses, and recognize your perseverance and the enormous influence you can yield over others. You know this, I know this, your closes friends know this, but Werther, the world does not know this, and you must realize that sometimes we must play by their rules to make  your plans work.  I know you may call me sensible and think all my common sense advice an extended platitude, but I beseech you to return today.   I know often when melancholic you rather be left to your long lonely walks, however, this time I implore you—we’ve been too long apart.  It will be another lonely Christmas without your father, hurry back home.


Your Loving Mother


Dear Werther,

Again, I have been reflecting and I cannot help but say how sorry I am to have advised you get a job at a the embassy—with Count C of a people.  I should have suspected that you would have to encounter there the same type of people we detested at college; all those incompetent rank mongers who in their endless upward strive become caricatures of themselves.  I can see how doubly you must feel the pain of being scorned by those who most deserve contempt. That is why dear friend, I insist you allow me to fetch you soon before the holidays.

It is rare to find someone with whom every subject seems inexhaustible and I do so miss our long chats along the H. trails.  I know, how often when overcome with emotion you seek both solace and quietude in the loneliness of nature, but I would like you to let go of such loneliness (for some time at least) and come join us.  Remember, my dear friend, solace and quietude must be validated by society.  I know your pride has been wounded, as well as I know that if you remain at W. you do so simply because you still have not given up your mad passion for Lotte. I cannot ask you to feel what can only be contrary to your heart, therefore, I will limit myself to a humble exhortation: join us for the holidays.

Often you have spoken of how misunderstandings and miscommunications can be the cause of far greater strive in the world than genuine malignity;  knowing how rash your actions may become when you get carried away by emotion, I am afraid that by staying there in your present emotional state you are creating far more misunderstandings between you, Lotte, and her husband.  Come, join me, give yourself time to reassess, and see things coolly. I sense your heart is full of longing still; a longing that must be expressed in your art. If your soul has been a mirror to god’s infinity in nature, this painful experience will only serve to further polish that mirror, so you may reflect god’s infinity with greater brilliance.  You short change your own personal greatness—true greatness.  Ultimately, my dear Werther, if our wretchedness lies within us, as you no doubt say, then only by stepping outside of ourselves can we be rid of it. In other words, dear friend, turn your gaze outward and keep and eye on the road because I’m coming to fetch you!



Dear Werther,

I hope all is well when you receive this letter.  I have taken the liberty to personally write to you in order to apologize for any miscommunication that may have occurred between us as of late.  Perhaps, instead of coaxing my wife to curtail her acquaintance with you I should have been more direct.  Again I apologize about any miscommunication, but having long held the greatest of esteem for you and your many talents, the greatest amount of consideration for your personal feelings and sense of pride kept me reticent.  However, since your increasing erratic moods have led you to become intolerably drunk at my house, and caused disturbances which my neighbors have taken note of, I must ask you to avoid visiting our property again until your behavior has been thoroughly rehabilitated.   For as much pleasure as your company has always brought to or household, present circumstances dictates a protracted absence from our home.  Again, I humbly bestow upon you my sincerest affection and respect.

Best Wishes,


Dear Werther,

They’re going to hang me.  I’m not afraid to die, I’m afraid to lose my Y. forever. I had waited so long to find her—and now here I am; lost to her forever. Could I have done otherwise? I waited so long; waited for God to grant me the opportunity of laying my entire life before her. but the right time never came.  Instead, her brother kept putting obstacles between us, making up lies about me to her.  I was desperate! I should have told her how I felt about her years ago!  She knew! She always knew! But if I should’ve said it to her! Then when I did say it, it was too late. I knew I had lost her to her brother’s lies and our missed opportunities…so I decided to take destiny into my own hands and take her into my arms—that’s when her brother walked in.  I’m lost!  Since then my vision seems to have failed me.  They say I killed a man.  All I remember is being separated from my Y. and waking up in this cell. I am lost! There is no home, there is no me without her! The henchman cannot come soon enough to deliver me of my misery.

Yours truly,


(Peasant Boy)


Dear Werther,

Why haven’t you come to see us?  Lotte says it is because you have moved back to your original home, far, far from W.  When are you getting back?  We miss you so much! The snow is no fun without you! I demand you to come see us!  Lotte seldom wants to play the piano anymore.  I missed the days you’d visit and bring us oranges and cakes for tea. I went to a puppet show of La Route de Chat, and that night I dreamt of you.  You were a famous writer in my dream, then all too suddenly we all became puppets until I saw you by the sea, collecting sea shells for Lotte. Please come back soon, Albert is no fun and we need you, to play music and make merry.

With love,