Sorrows of Werther

Original Text: 
The Complete Poems of W. M. Thackeray (New York: White, Stokes, and Allen, 1883): 70-71. PR 5602 W5 Robarts Library.
2    Such as words could never utter;
3Would you know how first he met her?
4    She was cutting bread and butter.
5Charlotte was a married lady,
6    And a moral man was Werther,
7And, for all the wealth of Indies,
8    Would do nothing for to hurt her.
9So he sighed and pined and ogled,
10    And his passion boiled and bubbled,
11Till he blew his silly brains out,
12    And no more was by it troubled.
13Charlotte, having seen his body
15Like a well-conducted person,
16    Went on cutting bread and butter.


1] Werther: a semi-autobiographical romance by Johann Wolfgang Goethe about a young man who falls in love with Charlotte and who, after a brief spell of happiness in her company, commits suicide in love-despair following her marriage to Albert. Gordon N. Ray, in Thackeray: The Age of Wisdom, 1847-1863 (New York, 1958), suggests that the poem arose from Thackeray's anguish at Jane Brookfield's rejection of him (166-67). See also George P. Landow, "Some New Thackeray Letters," English Language Notes 10 (June 1973): 279-81. My thanks to Phil Butcher for pointing out this reference. Back to Line
14] shutter: a litter or stretcher for moving someone ill. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Southern Literary Messenger. See The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray, III (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1945-46): 411.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.