The greatest German literary figure of the modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was a poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, critic, theater director, and statesman. He is best known for Faust, which he started at the age of 23 and finished shortly before his death, 60 years later. The Sorrows of Young Werther, written at the age of 25, quickly achieved cult status and remains an exemplar of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. In addition to hundreds of poems of all kinds, Goethe wrote a series of classic memoirs of his childhood and travels as well as numerous essays on scientific subjects.
Translator Bayard Taylor (1829–1878) was a well-known poet and travel writer whose interpretation of Faust was praised by Encyclopedia Americana as "one of the finest attempts of the kind in any literature."