Whatever Albert had ended up saying in that conversation about the business with the prisoner had been particularly offensive to Werther: he thought he’d noticed some personal jabs in there against himself, and even when, after a lot of thinking, his intelligence couldn’t deny that the two men had been right, even so, it was as if he’d have to renounce his deepest self if he admitted it — if he gave in.
A note that relates to this, that maybe sums up his whole relationship with Albert, turns up in one of his notebooks:
“I can tell myself and tell myself that he’s good and kind, but it tears me to pieces inside… I can’t be fair to him.”
* * *
Since it was a mild evening and it looked like the roads were starting to thaw, Lotte went back with Albert on foot. On the way, she kept glancing around in different directions, as if she missed Werther’s company. Albert started talking about him; he criticized him for attempting to obstruct justice. He touched on Werther’s manic sadness and wished aloud that it were possible to get him away. “Not just for his sake,” Albert said, “for ours, too. And, listen,” he went on, “I’m also asking you to readjust the way you hang out with him, to cut down on his coming over all the time. People are starting to notice, and I know some rumors are starting here and there.” Lotte didn’t say anything, and her silence seemed to have an impact on Albert; at least, from then on, he didn’t criticize Werther in front of her, and when she mentioned him, he’d drop the conversation or change the topic.
* * *
Werther’s fruitless attempt to rescue the “fuckup” was the final flare-up of a guttering candle; afterwards, he only sank further into pain and inertia. He came especially close to the edge when he heard that he might even be called as a witness against the man, who was now pleading not guilty.
All the unpleasant things Werther had encountered in his life along the way — the humiliation at the office job, everything else that had gone wrong for him, that had ever upset him — went round and round in his mind. Because of all these failures, he felt almost justified in not even trying, he felt cut off from all opportunity, like he had no way of grabbing any of the handles people use to get a grip on normal life, and so, finally surrendering completely to his extreme intuitions and patterns of thought and his neverending obsession, he sank down into the endless loneliness of his sad routine with the lovely and beloved person whose peace he was disturbing, throwing himself against the wall, wearing himself down with no aim and no hope, closer and closer to an unhappy end.
How lost he felt, how manic, how restless, and how tired he was of life all come across most clearly in some letters of his which I’ll post over the next few days.