And so Winckelmann planned to travel everywhere, partly on his own responsibility, partly in company with such wealthy travelers as would recognize the value of a scholarly and talented comrade.
Another cause of this inner restlessness and discomfort does honor to his heart—the irresistible longing for absent friends. Upon this the ardent desire of a man that otherwise lived so much in the present seems to have been peculiarly concentrated; he sees his friends before him, he converses with them through letters, he longs for their embraces, and wishes to repeat the days formerly lived together.
These wishes, especially directed toward his friends in the North, were awakened anew by the Peace of Hubertusbury (Feb., 1763). It would have been his pride to present himself before the great king who had already honored him with an offer to enter his service; to see again the Prince of Dessau, whose exalted, reposeful nature he regarded as a gift of God to the earth; to pay his respects to the Duke of Brunswick, whose great capacities he well knew how to prize; to praise in person Minister of State von Muenchausen, who had done so much for science, and to admire his immortal foundation at Goettingen; to rejoice again in the lively and intimate intercourse with his Swiss friends—such allurements filled his heart and his imagination; with such images was his mind so long occupied that he unfortunately followed this impulse and so went to his death.
He was devoted body and soul to his Italian lot to such an extent that every other one seemed insufferable to him. On his former journey, the cliffs and mountains of Tyrol had interested, yea, delighted him, and now, on his return to the fatherland, he felt terrified, as if he were being dragged through the Cimmerian portal and convinced of the impossibility of continuing his journey.
And thus upon the highest pinnacle of happiness that he could himself have wished for, he departed this earth. His fatherland awaited him, his friends stretched their arms toward him; all the expressions of love which he so deeply needed, all testimonials of public honor, which he valued so highly, awaited his appearance, to be heaped upon him. And in this sense we may count him happy, that from the summit of human existence he ascended to the blessed, that a momentary shock, a sudden, quick pain removed him from the living. The infirmities of old age, the diminution of mental power, he did not experience; the dispersal of the treasures of art, which he had foretold, although in another sense, did not occur before his eyes. He lived as a man and departed hence as a complete man. Now he enjoys in the memory of posterity the advantage of appearing only as one eternally vigorous and powerful; for in the image in which a man leaves the earth he wanders among the shadows, and so Achilles remains for us an ever-striving youth. That Winckelmann departed so early, works also to our advantage. From his grave the breath of his power strengthens us, and awakens in us the intense desire always to continue with zeal and love the work that he has begun.