THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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33 posts categorized "Anglo-German"

04 May 2018

Karl Marx’s 200th Birthday

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This year sees the 200th birthday of political philosopher Karl Marx, who was born in the German town of Trier on 5 May 1818.

Marx C.120.g.2 (1)
Karl Marx (1818-1883). Frontispiece of Le Capital (Paris, 1872-75). C.120.g.2.

In connection with the anniversary, the British Library opened a new display in its Treasures Gallery earlier this week. ‘Karl and Eleanor – Life in the Reading Room’ (free entry, until 5 August) explores the special relationship that Karl Marx and his youngest daughter, political activist Eleanor Marx, had with the Reading Room of the British Museum, one of the predecessor institutions of the British Library.

Marx Round Reading Room 11902.b.52
The Round Reading Room of the British Museum, completed in 1857, where Marx spent much of his time as a reader. From Thomas Greenwood, Free Public Libraries, their organisation, uses and management (London, 1886) 11902.b.52. 

From the first edition of the Communist Manifesto to letters written by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and others in their circle, items from the Library’s collection provide an unique insight into the life and work of one of history’s most significant and controversial thinkers.


Marx manifesto and letter
The Communist Manifesto and a letter from Marx on display in the Treasures Gallery  (©Sam Lane Photography)

Marx made London his permanent home after being forced into exile after taking part in the German revolution of 1848. He famously spent long hours in the British Museum, researching and writing his works that would go on to shape world history.

Marx Reader's ticket
Index slip recording the issue of a British Museum reader’s ticket to Karl Marx, dated 21 July 1873. MS Add. 54579, f.i 

One highlight of the exhibition, displayed for the first time, is an original edition of the French translation of Das Kapital (1872-75), which Karl Marx himself had donated to the British Museum Library. Crucially, it contains some annotations in the margins that are believed to be in Marx’s own hand. There is a chance to learn more about this book and its significance in a talk by the exhibition curators on 18 June (book tickets here).

Marx corrections 2
One of the manuscript corrections in Le Capital (C.120.g.2.), thought to be in Marx's hand

The run-up to the bicentenary has seen lots of new artistic, academic and wider public engagement with Marx’s life. Last year, a new play Young Marx was performed at London’s Bridge Theatre to great acclaim, while Oscar-nominee Raoul Peck directed a film on the topic. Members of both production teams, as well as novelist Jason Barker, are coming to the British Library on the afternoon of 5 May to discuss these recent re-imaginings of Marx. The panel discussion is followed by a rare UK screening of Peck’s The Young Karl Marx (last minute tickets are available here).

Also, on 16 May, recent biographers of Karl and Eleanor Marx, Gareth Stedman Jones and Rachel Holmes, will be speaking at the Library about these two fascinating characters, their lives in London, and their wider legacy.

Marx display 2
The ‘Karl and Eleanor Marx’ display in the British Library’s Treasures Gallery (©Sam Lane Photography)

The British Library is of course not alone in marking Marx’s birthday. From a large exhibition in Marx’s native Trier, to a variety of events in the UK and a display in Nanjing in eastern China – the Marx anniversary is a truly global affair.

Diana Siclovan, exhibition curator for ‘Karl and Eleanor Marx’

Find out more about the ‘Karl and Eleanor Marx’ display in The Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery and the accompanying series of events at the British Library here.

08 January 2018

Two Murders, a Suicide and an Anglo-German Newspaperman

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In the course of my research on German printers and publishers in 19th-century London it can be hard to discover how long an individual was at a business address, let alone any more personal details of their lives and backgrounds. But searching for information about Johann Lachmann von Gamsenfels, sometime printer of the German-language Londoner Journal (1878-91), I discovered an unexpected and tragic story.

On 15 August 1889 Gamsenfels took lodgings in Stratford-on-Avon, accompanied by a woman and a four-year-old girl. They appeared a devoted and happy family, and enjoyed visiting the local sights, but on the following Monday morning the landlady heard gunshots from their room. The police were called and forced open the locked door to reveal the woman and child lying on the bed and Gamsenfels on the floor, all three shot through the left temple. Gamsenfels had apparently murdered his wife and daughter while they slept and then killed himself.

Gamsenfels Illustrated Police News
The discovery of the bodies as depicted in The Illustrated Police News 31 August 1889, via the British Newspaper Archive

Such a ghastly event was bound to arouse press interest and there was no shortage of lurid coverage, especially when it was found that the murdered woman was not Gamsenfels’s wife but his mistress. The couple had been living together for some years as if married, while Gamsenfels continued to support and occasionally visit his legal wife Rosanna and their son. Rosanna said at the inquest that she had found compromising letters to Gamsenfels from a woman five years previously and had confronted them both, but claimed to have had no knowledge of her husband’s continued infidelity and to have accepted his explanation of long absences from home as business related.

One thing that struck me in all this was that Gamsenfels was described in the newspaper reports as editor – and sometimes founder – of the Londoner Journal, although the issues of the paper which I have examined mention him only as its printer. Even in this capacity his name disappears after July 1884, as do large-scale advertisements for his printing business. This must have been around the time that Rosanna discovered his infidelity, and indeed when his mistress became pregnant with their daughter, and I can’t help speculating that his disappearance from the public face of the paper is related to these events.

Gamsenfels large ad Londoner JournaMasthead of the Londoner Journal (12 January 1884; NEWS14598) with an advertisement for Gamsenfels’s printing business

Did the Londoner Journal’s staff agree to turn a blind eye to Gamsenfels’s adultery if he withdrew his name from the enterprise? Were they perhaps sympathetic to his situation and willing to give him a nominal role as editor in order to help him support two households? I say ‘nominal’ because by the time of the murder he and his mistress were also touring with a stage act (as ‘Herr Mozart and Mme Lenormand’), which sits oddly with editing a newspaper full time. Yet if his colleagues were in any way complicit in Gamsenfels’s double life or allowing him to carry out less than a full-time role, they gave no hint of it in their report of his death. There he is described as ‘our editor for many years’ and ‘a diligent worker, jovial colleague and good friend’. The writer states that Gamsenfels and his wife were estranged – something Rosanna seems to have played down in her comments to the inquest – but implies no prior knowledge of the mistress and illegitimate child. So my speculations must remain just that. 

Lachmann LJ report
The opening of the Londoner Journal's report of Gamsenfels’s death (22 August 1889)

Gamsenfels’s motive for the murder-suicide was equally impossible to prove. At the inquest it was assumed that severe financial difficulties must have led him to such a desperate act and that his state of mind could not be ascertained, although the Londoner Journal claimed that ‘sufficient resources were always available to him,’ and describes the crime as being carried out  ‘apparently in a moment of mental disturbance.’ The inquest judge  (quoted in the Banbury Guardian of 5 September 1889) took a more moralising tone: ‘it was the natural result of an illicit and shameful connection … a vicious life ending in a disgraceful manner.’

But the saddest mystery in this strange case is the identity of the dead woman. Many reports identify her only by her stage name Mme Lenormand. Later she was tentatively identified as Caroline Monthey, the woman whose letters Rosanna Gamsenfels had discovered in 1884, but Rosanna herself said she could not be certain of this. Whoever she was, both she and the daughter she had with Gamsenfels, the victims of his crime, were buried anonymously, with no family or friends to mourn them.

 Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

14 September 2017

150 Years of Capital

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The British Library claims an important relationship with Karl Marx and his associates. Arriving to London as an exile in 1849, Marx became a familiar face in the reading rooms of the British Library (then part of the British Museum), making use of their extensive collections to pursue information that would later prove foundational to his famous critique of political economy, Capital. The first edition of this canonical work was received with little fanfare, selling only 1000 copies in its first four years. In 1872, Marx himself presented a copy, published in German, for our collections (C.120.b.1). The donation was acknowledged like any other, with a cursory record in a large, leather-bound index that now sits in our corporate archives. Now, 150 years since its original publication date on 14 September 1867, it is among our most treasured texts.

  Marx register
Marx’s donation index entry. BL Corporate Archives DH53/6

In preparation for the 2018 bicentenary of Marx’s birth, we have been tracing the course of his time with the British Library. It is a well-trodden path; few figures have been subject to as much intense historical and ideological scrutiny, and it is hard to believe that after two centuries our explorations may yield new discoveries. But it would seem that the Library still has secrets to give up. This week, consulting the donation indexes led to the discovery that Marx also presented a second copy of Capital, this one in French.


Marx French
Title page of Le Capital (Paris, 1872) C.120.g.2.

The text, with its intricately-embellished chapter headings and impressive title page, is a thing to behold. Closer inspection also reveals various handwritten annotations in the margins of the page. Words are crossed out, better alternatives suggested, and minor errors deleted. In his search for a common unit of value between two comparable commodities – cloth and coat – the word toile (‘linen’) is substituted for the less accurate drap (‘sheet’): 

Marx corrections 1   Marx corrections 2
Handwritten corrections in the donated copy of Le Capital

There is good reason to suspect that these annotations are written in the author’s own hand. The birth of the French edition was, for Marx, lengthy and tortuous. In his opinion:

although the French edition…has been prepared by a great expert in both languages, he has often translated too literally. I have therefore found myself compelled to re-write whole passages in French, to make them accessible to the French public. It will be all the easier later on to translate the book from French into English and the Romance languages. (Letter to Nikolai Danielson, 28 February 1872, MECW, vol.44, p.327)

One is inclined to feel some sympathy for the long-suffering translator, Joseph Roy, working as he was from the second German edition of Capital handwritten in Marx’s famously dreadful scrawl. Marx was a ruthless editor, and it is easy to imagine the famously rigorous intellectual leafing through the copy en route to the library, unable to resist making a few last-minute alterations.

Marx was also a constantly evolving writer, and the ideas contained in the French edition differed significantly from those of its predecessor. Notably, the much-discussed section outlining the fetishism of commodities was refined. Where the German edition concerns itself with the fantastical appearance of the commodity, the French edition foregrounds the necessary reality of ‘material relations between persons and social relations between things’. In short, then, this is a work unpopulated by phantoms; instead, we begin to see how the workings of capital come to modify the essence of human personhood. Marx himself claimed that the French edition ‘possessed a scientific value independent of the original and should be consulted even by readers familiar with German’. Still, it was long neglected by the Anglophone world, largely due to Engels’s own preference for the earlier German incarnation.

  Marx Register 2
Donation index entry for the final instalment of Le Capital. BL Corporate Archives DH53/7

The donation registers show that the French edition was delivered to the British Library in six instalments, between 12 October 1872 and 8 January 8 1876. This period corresponds with various complications in Marx’s life, with frequent bouts of insomnia and liver disease affecting his ability to work. In a letter to Friedrich Sorge on 4 August 1874 (MECW, vol.45, p.28), Marx lamented that ‘that damned liver complaint has made such headway that I was positively unable to continue the revision of the French translation (which actually amounts almost to complete rewriting)’. So the staggered delivery of the manuscript likely reflects these intellectual and physical obstacles, but it is also revealing of the audience that Marx had in mind for his work. The French edition was initially published in a serialized format in workers’ newspapers between 1872 and 1875. ‘In this form,’ Marx wrote,‘the book will be more accessible to the working-class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.’ However, he fretted that the French public, ‘always impatient to come to a conclusion…zealously seeking the truth’, would be frustrated by the wait between instalments. A puzzling concern for a man whose work had hitherto been received with so little public zeal.

For the Library’s administrators, these piecemeal instalments of Capital, and interactions with its author, only proved something of a mild inconvenience. In a letter dated 17 July 1873, the Library’s Assistant Secretary wrote to William Butler Rye, Keeper of Printed Books, with the following request:

Dear Mr. Rye,
I am directed by Mr. Jones to forward to you fasc. IV of the French edition of Das Kapital. In a letter received from Dr. Karl Marx on the 15th, he says: “I feel not sure whether or not I have sent the 6th and last fascicile [sic] of the first volume of the German edition” (of Das Kapital). Would you be so good as to communicate with Dr. Marx on the object: he writes from No.1 Maitland Park Road.
Believe me,
Yours truly,
Thomas Butler

Butler letter 1 Butler letter 2 Butler letter 3
Letter to William Butler Rye, BL Corporate Archives DH4/13

Izzy Gibbin, UCL Anthropology.  (Izzy is working with the British Library on a doctoral placement scheme looking at ways to mark the bicentenary of Marx’s birth, including an exhibition in the Treasures Gallery and a series of related events)

References

Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Collected works (MECW) (London, 1975-2004) X.0809/543.

31 January 2017

PhD placement opportunity on ‘Karl Marx and the British Library’

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Marx Slip

Index slip recording the issue of a reader ticket to Marx, British Library Add. MS 54579, f. 1

2018 will mark the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, an event that will be commemorated with public events and exhibitions across the world. The relationship between the British Library and Karl Marx is significant. Marx lived in London for most of his adult life and spent much time studying in the reading room of the British Museum, one of the main predecessors of the British Library.

RoundReadingRoom

The Round Reading Room of the British Museum

 The British Library’s collections hold unique material relating to Marx’s life and work, including a first edition of Das Kapital that Marx himself donated to the Library. The Library is also home to millions of items relating to the context and legacy of Marx’s work, including the various and conflicting versions of ‘Marxism’ that have proliferated in the centuries after his death.

Given this intimate connection to Marx’s life and work, the Library is interested in developing ideas for events or other activities and outputs that will engage the public and research communities with the importance of Karl Marx’s life and his wider legacy. Ideas currently under discussion include an exhibition in the Library’s Treasures Gallery, a series of public events, learning activities or the production of new interactive online resources. The PhD placement student will assist with this project by researching creative ways in which the Library can mark Karl Marx’s 200th birthday.

The main requirement for this placement is a good understanding of, as well as genuine interest in, Karl Marx’s work and both its historical and contemporary significance. The placement student should also be enthusiastic about public engagement. View a detailed placement profile here

Application guidelines
For full application guidelines and profiles of the other placements offered under this scheme, visit the Library’s Research Collaboration webpages

The application deadline is 20 February 2017.

For any queries about this placement opportunity, please contact Research.Development@bl.uk 

A note to interested applicants
This is an unpaid professional development opportunity, which is open to current (or very recent) PhD researchers only. To apply, you need to have the approval of your PhD supervisor and your department’s Graduate Tutor (or equivalent senior academic manager).
Our PhD placement scheme has been developed in consultation with Higher Education partners and stakeholders to provide opportunities for PhD students to develop and apply their research skills outside the university sector. Please note that the Library itself is not able to provide payment to placement students, nor can it provide costs for daily commuting or relocation to the site of the placement. Anyone applying for a placement at the Library is expected to consult their university or Doctoral Training Partnership/Doctoral Training Centre to ascertain what funding is available to support them. The Library strongly recommends to universities that a PhD student given approval to undertake a placement is in receipt of a stipend for the duration of the placement.

 

25 January 2017

Unsuccessful Persuasion: Jane Austen in 19th-century Germany

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Jane Austen’s huge popularity today makes it easy to forget that for the first few decades after their publication her novels were comparatively little read even in the English-speaking world. In continental Europe, this lack of interest was even more pronounced. Although translations of Austen’s novels were published in a number of countries during the 19th century, they generally failed to make much impact.

This was particularly true of Germany. Prior to 1948 only three Austen translations appeared in German. The first of these was her last completed novel, Persuasion, translated by Wilhelm Adolf Lindau.

Unlike some early translations, which adapted or abridged Austen to suit local tastes, Lindau’s is an extremely faithful one. The main change that he made was to germanise the characters’ forenames (although their surnames remain resolutely English): Anne Elliot becomes Anna, Frederick Wentworth is Friedrich, the Musgrove sisters are Henriette and Luise, and so on. Even the author becomes ‘Johanna Austen’ on the title-page and in Lindau's summary of the ‘Biographical Notice’  from the first English edition of Persuasion. Lindau also adds a few footnotes to the text, explaining, for example, that Lyme is ‘a coastal town in Dorsetshire’ and that Mr Elliot’s travelling on a Sunday counts against him with Anna because it breaks the observance of the Sabbath, ‘which is very much respected in England.’

Jane Austen Anna RB.23.a.21555
Title page of Lindau's translation of Persuasion (Leipzig, 1822). British Library RB.23.a.21555.

Lindau did change the book’s title, calling it Anna, ein Familiengemählde (‘Anna, a family portrait’). Perhaps he thought Austen’s own title too oblique or not sufficiently appealing – and it is worth noting that this alone of Austen’s novels still appears under different titles in the German-speaking world, most commonly as Anne Elliot or Überredung (a literal translation of Persuasion) or some combination of these, but at least once under the unlikely title Verführung (‘Seduction’). But Lindau may also have deliberately chosen to emphasise the family ties and interrelationships among the Elliots, Musgroves and Wentworths/Crofts.

A review in the Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände (PP.4735) of 21 December 1822 certainly picked up on this aspect, describing the novel as ‘a family portrait in every respect’, with well-drawn everyday domestic situations and conversations, and with a lead character who will win readers’ hearts. The translation is praised, but the novel is criticised overall for being too slow and drawn-out for German tastes. The Wegweiser im Gebiete der Kunst und Wissenschaft of 4 September 1822 also praised Lindau for capturing Austen’s ‘simple but cultivated style.’ The reviewer here, while admitting that the novel will ‘gently arouse’ rather than ‘actively grip’ the reader’s mind, was clearly less bored and states that the work ‘fully deserved to be translated.’

Although the very few reviews of Anna were mainly positive, the book does not seem to have been a great success and no further Austen translations appeared until Stolz und Vorurteil, Louise Marezoll’s version of Pride and Prejudice, in 1830. This was a freer translation than Lindau’s and sacrificed many nuances of Austen’s original, possibly to avoid the criticisms levelled against the slow pace of Anna, but again the novel enjoyed little success. 

Jane Austen Stolz und Vorurteil
Title-page and opening of Louise Marezoll’s Stolz und Vorurteil, reproduced in Detlef Münch, Illustrierte und kommentierte Bibliographie der deutschen Buchausgaben von Jane Austen 1822-2011 (Dortmund, 2011) YF.2013.a.1280

Germany, it seemed, was just not interested in Jane Austen. Although both Lindau and Marezoll were prolific translators of Anglophone literature, neither produced any further German translations of Austen’s work. Nor indeed did anyone else until 1939 when Karin von Schab published a new Pride and Prejudice translation under the title Elisabeth und Darcy.

After the Second World War, more of Austen’s work gradually began to appear in German, but it only in the last couple of decades that she has begun to reach a wider German-speaking audience, due in part (as indeed is Austen’s current phenomenal popularity in Britain and America) to the film and television adaptations of the 1990s and 2000s. Although some of these may be more in the manner of Marezoll’s free adaptation of Austen than Lindau’s more faithful rendition, let us hope that Lindau would nonetheless be gratified to see an author he first tried to introduce to the Germans finally receiving their attention.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References

The Reception of Jane Austen in Europe, edited by Brian Southam and A.A. Mandel (London, 2014) YC.2016.a.4133

Beiträge zur Rezeption der britischen und irischen Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts im deutschsprachigen Raum, herausgegeben von Norbert Bachleitner (Amsterdam, 2000) ZA.9.a.5563(45)

 

11 October 2016

Andreas Gryphius, monarchs and mechanicals

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In 2016 we have been commemorating the 400th anniversaries of the deaths of both Cervantes and Shakespeare. Today, however, we look at a literary figure who was born in the year of those deaths, Andreas Gryphius.

Gryphius portrait
Andreas Gryphius, after an engraving by Philip Kilian. Reproduced in Marian Szyrocki Andreas Gryphius: sein Leben und Werk (Tübingen 1964) British Library X.909/3470

Gryphius was born in Glogau in Silesia, today Polish Głogów, on 2 October 1616 although some sources claim 11 October as the date, possibly a confusion of birth and baptismal dates, but more likely due simply to roman numerals being read as arabic ones. His early years were marked by personal loss and the upheavals of what would become the Thirty Years’ War. His father died when he was four years old, his mother seven years later, and young Andreas spent the following years moving between various Silesian towns, living with his stepfather or other relatives and patrons, sometimes attending school and sometimes studying independently. In 1638 he entered the University of Leyden, a centre of European scholarship and a refuge from the ongoing war in the German territories, where he could develop his literary and academic talents in an atmosphere both politically safe and intellectually stimulating. After six years in Leyden and a further four travelling around Europe, Gryphius returned to Silesia and in 1649 was appointed Syndic of his native Glogau, a post he held until his death in 1664, despite being a Protestant in a state that, since the Peace Of Westphalia, was under Catholic control. Alongside the duties of his post, he continued the writing career which had begun in his teens.

Despite the vicissitudes of the Thirty Years’ War, German literature was enjoying something of a renaissance in this period, with writers such as the founders of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft (modelled on the Italian academies) seeking to give German a new status as a language of literature and scholarship. Gryphius became a member in 1662, and was given the soubriquet ‘der Unsterbliche’ (the Immortal), which suggests the esteem in which contemporaries held him, although it  has some poignancy in retrospect given that Gryphius was dead within two years of his election to the society.

Gryphius frontispiece 11525.bb.3
Frontispiece of a collected edition of Gryphius’s works, A Gryphii Deutsche Gedichte erster Theil (Breslau, 1657) 11525.bb3.

As well as poems and plays Gryphius wrote factual prose works and was not afraid of controversy. One of his first published works, Fewrige Freystadt, describes the fire that devastated the Silesian town of Freystadt (modern-day Kożuchów) in 1637, and openly criticises the authorities for failures in dealing with the crisis. In his early years as a Syndic in Glogau, he published a collection of historical documents Glogauisches Fürstenthumbs Landes Privilegia ... (Lissa, 1653; 1502/223) intended to demonstrate to the ruling Habsburg Emperor that local freedoms had a long precedent and could not be overturned by a centralising absolutist state. But it is for his poems, and perhaps even more his plays, that Gryphius is best remembered today. The plays include both tragedies and comedies (among the latter the splendidly titled Horribilcribrifax Teutsch), and interestingly one of each has an English connection.

The tragedy Ermordete Majestät, oder Carolus Stuardus is unusual for its time in dramatizing a near-contemporary event, the execution of the English King Charles I in 1649. Although the play was not published until 1657, Gryphius began work on it soon after hearing of Charles’s execution, and he later revised it partly to take account of the Restoration. The action is relatively static: various groups of people discuss the reasons for or against and the possible repercussions of regicide, Charles prepares to die a martyr, and a series of allegorical choruses comment on the situation. Gryphius strongly takes the royalist side, and seems to have a low opinion of how the English treat their monarchs in general: in Act I the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots lists a number of murdered kings (who later appear as a chorus) and reflects ‘Es ist der Insell Art’ (‘It is the way of the Island’ [i.e. Britain]).

Gryphius Carolus 11525.bb.3
The opening of Ermordete Majestät, oder Carolus Stuardus from the 1657 collection of Gryphius’s works

Gryphius’s ‘English’ comedy is Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz, essentially a version of the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ material from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, although leaving out the fairies and Bottom’s transformation. The comedy shows the schoolmaster Peter Squentz and his players preparing their version of Pyramus and Thisbe and presenting it to drama-loving King Theodorus and his court in the hope of winning favour. Their rustic language, outmoded poetic style and frequent blunders cause great amusement among the aristocratic audience, and the play is sometimes described as a satire on common folk who pretend to be learned and talented above their station, but Squentz and his company are nonetheless shown to come off well since Theodorus rewards them with 15 Gulden for every mistake.

Gryphius Squentz 11745.a.55.
A song performed by the weaver and Meistersinger Lollinger in Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz, from the collection A Gryphii Freuden und Trauer-Spiele auch Oden und Sonnette (Leipzig, 1663) 11745.a.55. It is a parody of the Meistergesang style, widely considered outdated by Gryphius’s time.

Gryphius claims to have adapted his work from that of Daniel Schwendter, revising and improving Schwendter’s text. It his highly unlikely that either Schwendter or Gryphius knew Shakespeare’s original play, but quite possible that either could have seen a version of it –or of the Mechanicals subplot – performed by travelling English players on the continent, an idea supported by the fact that one of Gryphius’s characters is called Pickelhäring, the name of a stock fool character among such troupes.

While even Gryphius’s most ardent admirers could hardly claim him as Shakespeare’s literary equal or heir, there is nonetheless a nice symmetry in the fact that the author of this first literary reworking of a Shakespeare play in German was born in the year of Shakespeare’s death and died in 1664, the centenary year of Shakespeare’s birth.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

06 October 2016

Mistress, Mädchen and Minzmeat Pasteten: Kitchen English with Elsa Olga Hollis

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Readers may remember a blog post some time ago featuring  a manual for Czech servicemen simultaneously fighting alongside their British comrades to repel the threat of invasion and struggling with the English language. They were not, however, the only ones forced by history to grapple with a new language and bewildering customs.

The British Library holds a copy of a curious little book published at the modest price of three shillings and sixpence and ‘specially compiled to help the mistress and her German-speaking maid’ by Elsa Olga Hollis. Nothing is known about the author, who claims in the preface that she was encouraged to publish her work by friends and their foreign maids who had used her as an interpreter. She acknowledges the help of ‘Miss Lorna Yarde Bunyard’, who typed the manuscript and revised the English, and was presumably responsible for some of the oddly unidiomatic expressions and misprints, as when the maid is directed to close, not the Flügeltür (French window), but the Flügeltier, a strange winged creature.

Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter  first appeared in May 1937 and by November of that year had already gone into a third edition. Clearly it was in great demand – but why?

Mistress und Mädchen cover
Cover of Elsa Olga Hollis, Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter = German and English household phrases and words. (Mistress and Mädchen. A comprehensive German and English domestic phrase-book) (London, 1937) British Library 12964.bb.54.

Hollis’s book was published some months before the British government introduced a visa requirement for refugees seeking entry from Germany and Austria following Hitler’s annexation of Austria in March 1938. Many of the women who arrived as domestic help came from wealthy and cultured families which employed servants, and had never had to make a bed or lay a table in their lives, let alone ‘throw the ashes and hard clinkers into the dustbin’, ‘empty slops and wipe utensils dry’ or tackle the ‘light work … getting tea, cleaning silver, ironing, mending clothes, cleaning out cupboards and so on’ between three o’ clock and the preparation of the evening meal. Marion Berghahn’s Continental Britons: German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany (revised ed., Oxford, 2007; YC.2007.a.9766) notes the psychological adjustments needed and the frequent insensitivity of employers who ‘lacked any clear ideas of their domestics’ backgrounds’ and exploited them mercilessly as cheap labour.

In fiction, characters who arrived in England in this way appear in Natasha Solomons’s  The Novel in the Viola ([Bath], 2011; LT.2012.x.1871) and Eva Ibbotson’s The Morning Gift (London, 1994; H.95/761). Both authors recalled the experiences of relatives who escaped from Austria in the 1930s on domestic service visas, like Solomons’s Elise Landau, who confidently advertises ‘Viennese Jewess, 19, seeks position as domestic servant. Speaks fluid English. I will cook your goose’, or Ibbotson’s heroine Ruth Berger’s Aunt Hilda, an eminent anthropologist but inept housemaid who is repeatedly bitten by her employer's pug and gets the sack when she brings a glass-fronted bookcase crashing down on her while attempting to dust.

The adventure begins with ‘Meeting the Boat’ (‘the crossing was (very, not) good, bad. I have (not) been seasick’), the Customs, and a train journey, culminating in ‘Arrival at the House’ (‘the chauffeur will bring in the rest of your luggage’) and ‘A Little Talk over Tea’, where the mistress of the house presses jam, cake, rolls and pastries on Marie, the new housemaid. She is informed that she will have to undertake the housework and all the cooking, though a charwoman comes for the rough work (‘grobe Arbeiten’), and assured ‘Sometimes we will try your native cookery’. Weekly and daily plans for housework are included, beginning with washing day on Monday (‘Here is the wash-tub, washing machine, soap, soda, soap-powder, Lux, copper stick, Blue and starch, mangle’) leading to the puzzled enquiry, ‘We do not “air” clothes at home. Why is it done?’), whereupon it is explained that ‘in England the air is so moist that everything gets damp’. Weights, measures and ‘really economical’ recipes are provided, together with precise instructions about how to make tea and ‘Toast machen’. One can picture poor Marie’s perplexity when requested to prepare ‘Reis Pudding’, ‘Talg-Puddings’ (the unappetizing translation of ‘suet puddings’), and ‘Minzmeat Pasteten’ for Christmas, not to mention ‘Rührei auf Toost’.

Mistress und Mädchen mince pies
A culture shock for Marie? The recipes for mincemeat and mince pies from Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter

Not surprisingly, the heavy work, unfamiliar food and peremptory demands of her mistress (‘You will have to wait at table. See what Baby wants. You must finish your work sooner’) take their toll on Marie’s health, spirits and digestion. ‘What is wrong with you?’ barks Madam, to be met with a catalogue of ailments: ‘[I have head-, eye-, ear-, tooth-, stomach ache. …I have a cold in the head, a nosebleed, a cough, indigestion’ (it must be all those tallow puddings). The plaintive query ‘Do I give satisfaction?’ receives only the chilly reply, ‘I have no reason to complain’, and the domestic tyrant continues ‘Be more careful with the breakable things…. If that happens again I shall have to give you notice! … I must send you back home’. Finally, the worm turns: ‘I wish to give notice,’ announces Marie. Triumphantly, her mistress brandishes the permit: ‘This permit is valid only for the particular employment for which it is issued … If you wish to leave now, I am afraid you will have to go home’.

It would be pleasant to think that Jan Novák, the Czech airman from Vojáci, učte se anglicky!, was invited to tea in the household and captivated by the sight of Marie, trim in her afternoon uniform (‘black, brown or wine-coloured dress (wool), small cap, and “afternoon” apron’); their eyes meet over the tea-tray, and they arrange a tryst in her meagre leisure time (‘one afternoon and evening a week and every other Sunday afternoon and evening free’), shyly exchanging phrases from their respective handbooks… One fears not. The German preface, unlike the English one, emphasizes the need to rise early, work quickly, and suppress any homesickness, ‘taking a great interest in everything new’ instead. But despite the unhappiness which many a Mädchen (of whatever age) endured, the domestic service visa was, all too often, a life-saver.

Susan Halstead,  Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement

31 May 2016

From Slapstick to Schlegel: Hamlet goes to Germany

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Among the videos of performances in our current exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts is a puppet production of Der bestrafte Brudermord (‘Fratricide Punished’), a slapstick version of Hamlet. Its origins and its relationship to Shakespeare’s text are still matters of debate among scholars, but it seems to have been known and performed by travelling players in Germany from the early 17th century onwards.

German speakers who wanted to see Hamlet played in a formal theatre under Shakespeare’s own name had to wait until 1773 when the Court Theatre in Vienna put on a stage version by Franz Heufeld. This was based on Christoph Martin Wieland’s translation, the first attempt at a major translation of Shakespeare into German, covering 22 of the plays and published between 1762 and 1766 (8 vols, British Library 11762.c.14.). However, although Heufeld’s Hamlet lacked the slapstick of Der bestrafte Brudermord, it still was hardly a faithful version of Shakespeare’s play.

Wieland’s translations were in fact not entirely complete or faithful. He made some cuts and, most notably, rendered the plays in prose, something that would give the young writers of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ generation an exaggerated idea of Shakespeare’s ‘naturalness’ compared to the formal verse of classical French drama. But Heufeld took much greater liberties cutting many characters and episodes and Germanising many of the names: Horatio becomes ‘Gustav’ and Polonius ‘Oldenholm’. The most surprising omission is the character of Laertes, leaving Hamlet nobody to duel with in the the final act. Instead, the Queen (neither Gertrude nor Claudius is named here) still drinks poisoned wine, but makes a dying confession of her own and the King’s guilt. Hamlet kills the King and is apparently left to become the new ruler of Denmark.

 
Heufeld Cast list 1772
Heufeld’s abbreviated and Germanised cast list for Hamlet, from Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark (Vienna, 1772) 1607/2063

For all its infidelities, Heufeld’s Hamlet helped to start a boom in German productions of the play. The actor and theatre director Friedrich Ludwig Schröder saw a production in Prague which inspired him to prepare his own version. His translation follows Heufeld in many ways, but he restored Laertes to the action, although there is still no duel and Hamlet and Laertes are reconciled.

Hamlet Schroeder RB.23.a.18775
Title-page of the first editon of Schroder's translation of Hamlet (Hamburg, 1777) RB.23.a.18775. The frontispiece shows Franz Brockmann as the Prince.

More radically, Schröder also restored the gravediggers’ scene, something generally frowned upon by critics and included only reluctantly by Wieland. However, although the scene appears in the first published edition of his translation, which is fleshed out to 6 acts in order to accommodate it, the gravediggers do not appear in the cast list printed there, so may not have made it into actual performances. Nor is the scene present in later published editions of Schröder’s translation.

  Gravediggers
The opening of Schroder's 6th act with the gravediggers

Schröder’s Hamlet was the sensation of the 1776 theatre season in Hamburg and made a star of Franz Brockmann who played the title role (Schröder himself played the Ghost). It added huge momentum to the interest in Hamlet sparked by Heufeld’s work. No doubt thanks to this early enthusiasm, as the German passion for Shakespeare grew over the following decades, a particular fascination for Hamlet and identification with the Prince himself became one of its hallmarks.

The British Library holds first editions of Wieland’s, Heufeld’s and Schröder’s translations. However inadequate they may seem today as renderings of the original, they played a key role in bringing Shakespeare and Hamlet to Germany, and helped to pave the way for Schlegel’s verse translation, first staged in Berlin in 1799, nearly a quarter of a century after Schroder's triumph in Hamburg.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

The British Library’s European and Americas Collections are holding a study day, ‘All the World’s a Stage’,  on 10 June, looking at Shakespeare’s cultural presence in Europe and the Americas. For a full programme and booking details see: http://www.bl.uk/events/all-the-worlds-a-stage-shakespeare-in-europe-and-the-americas

04 May 2016

The 'Shakespearomania' of Karl Marx

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Karl Marx's magnum opus Das Kapital (Hamburg, 1872; British Library C.120.b.1.) may have a reputation as an exceedingly dry and difficult book (causing William Morris to suffer acute ‘agonies of confusion of the brain’ in his reading of the great critique of political economy), but the toil is lightened by his frequent and often comic allusions to classical and European literature, from Aeschylus to Cervantes and Goethe.

His favourite though was always Shakespeare. Eleanor Marx, Karl’s daughter, described Shakespeare’s works as the Bible of the household, ‘seldom out of our hands and mouths’, and the German socialist biographer of Marx Franz Mehring pictured the whole family as practising ‘what amounted practically to a Shakespearian cult’. Marx reportedly read Shakespeare every day, and the family would entertain themselves on the walk back from their regular Sunday picnics on Hampstead Heath by dramatically reciting extracts from Shakespeare’s plays.

Marx’s friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels, co-author of the famous Communist Manifesto (London, 1848; C.194.b.289), displayed a similarly fierce passion for the bard in a letter to Marx, with characteristic invective, after the German dramatist Roderich Benedix  criticized Shakespeare’s overwhelming popularity:

That scamp Roderich Benedix has left a bad odour behind in the shape of a thick tome against ‘Shakespearomania.’ He proved in it to a nicety that Shakespeare can't hold a candle to our great poets, not even to those of modern times. Shakespeare is presumably to be hurled down from his pedestal only in order that fatty Benedix is hoisted on to it…

ShakespeareMarxBenedix

Marx and Benedix: United by the beard, divided by the bard. (Images from Wikimedia Commons)

Much has been written of Marx's use of the ‘old mole’ from Hamlet as a metaphor for revolution in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (for an interesting discussion of this theme see the article by Peter Stallybrass cited below), but also noteworthy is Marx’s repeated use of a passage from Timon of Athens which, he says, shows how ‘Shakespeare excellently depicts the real nature of money’:

Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold?
No, Gods, I am no idle votarist! ...
Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair,
Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.
... Why, this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides,
Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads:
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed;
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves
And give them title, knee and approbation
With senators on the bench: This is it
That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;
She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To the April day again. Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that put’st odds
Among the rout of nations.

ShakespeareMarxTimon1829 watercolour by Johann Heinrich Ramberg depicting Timon 'laying aside the gold'. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, original at the Folger Shakespeare Library).

Many literary critics have written interpretations of Shakespeare from a Marxist perspective, and several prominent commentators on Shakespeare (like George Bernard Shaw and Bertolt Brecht) drew on Marxian ideas in their understanding of his body of work. The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, unusually steeped in European literary culture for a Bolshevik, sought to explain what was so interesting about Shakespeare to Marxists:

In the tragedies of Shakespeare, which would be entirely unthinkable without the Reformation, the fate of the ancients and the passions of the mediaeval Christians are crowded out by individual human passions, such as love, jealousy, revengeful greediness, and spiritual dissension. But in every one of Shakespeare’s dramas, the individual passion is carried to such a high degree of tension that it outgrows the individual, becomes super-personal, and is transformed into a fate of a certain kind. The jealousy of Othello, the ambition of Macbeth, the greed of Shylock, the love of Romeo and Juliet, the arrogance of Coriolanus, the spiritual wavering of Hamlet, are all of this kind…

For Trotsky, Shakespeare represents the birth of modern literature by placing the individual man, his own personal desires and emotions, in the centre of the narrative, symbolizing the equally progressive and destructive aspirations for personal emancipation characterizing the bourgeois revolt against feudalism. After Shakespeare, he writes, ‘we shall no longer accept a tragedy in which God gives orders and man submits. Moreover, there will be no one to write such a tragedy.’

Mike Carey, CDA Student

References

Julius Roderich Benedix, Die Shakespearomanie (Stuttgart, 1873) 11766.g.14.

Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (London, 1970). X.519/4753.

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, On Literature and Art (Moscow, 1976). X.809/42007.

Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (London, 1936). 010709.e.52.

Peter Stallybrass, ‘“Well Grubbed, Old Mole”: Marx, Hamlet, and the (Un)Fixing of Representation’, Cultural Studies 12, 1 (1998), 3-14. ZC.9.a.1419

Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (New York, 1925). 011840.aa.17.

The British Library’s current exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts is a landmark exhibition on the performances that made an icon, charting Shakespeare’s constant reinvention across the centuries and is open until Tuesday 6th September 2016.

04 September 2015

The Poor Palatines: an 18th-century refugee crisis

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In 1709 London found itself playing host to thousands of Germans who were fleeing famine, war and religious persecution in their native lands. Many of the first arrivals came from the Palatinate region, and the refugees became collectively known as the ‘poor Palatines’.

State of the Palatines - Persecution
An account and depiction of the refugees’ sufferings in Germany, from The State of the Palatines for fifty years past to this present time… (London, 1710) British Library 9325.ccc.40.

Most of these ‘Palatines’ wanted to travel on to America rather than stay in Britain. Many hoped to emulate the success of Joshua Kocherthal, who had emigrated to America in 1708 with a group of fellow Germans, helped by grants of money and land from the British government. Kocherthal’s published description of Carolina, with an appended account of the financial aid his party had received, encouraged others to head for Britain, convinced that they would receive similar assistance towards a new life across the Atlantic. Instead, the majority ended up housed in temporary camps on Blackheath and in Camberwell.

Kocherthaler, Bericht C.32.b.38Title-page of Kocherthal’s pamphlet, Aussführlich- und umständlicher Bericht von der berühmten Landschafft Carolina, in dem Engelländischen America gelegen ... (Frankfurt am Main, 1709) C.32.b.38.

The Palatines’ motives for seeking refuge, their worthiness of help and their eventual fate, were the subject of much debate. Queen Anne and her government had indeed initially offered help and support to those perceived as Protestant refugees fleeing oppression by Catholic rulers, but by no means all those arriving in Britain fell into this category, and soon critics were pointing out that some had come from Protestant-ruled states and others were themselves Catholics (although most of the latter were offered a choice between conversion or repatriation). Whatever the reasons for their flight, the refugees were in any case soon arriving in too large numbers for the state to be able to provide for them, let alone pay for all of them to travel and settle in America.

State of the Palatines - worshipping
(Protestant) Palatine refugees worshipping in the Savoy Chapel, from The State of the Palatines

Concerns were also expressed about the threat the refugees might pose if allowed to remain in Britain. Many were poor and unskilled labourers and it was argued that they would add nothing to the nation’s prosperity but instead reduce work and wages for their British counterparts. One vocal supporter of the Palatines’ right to remain was Daniel Defoe, whose political periodical A Review of the State of the Nation argued that British tradesmen and labourers had nothing to fear and that the newcomers would enhance rather than damage the ‘publick Wealth’. He also recommended settling the Palatines in sparsely-inhabited regions to develop the land for agriculture. But other voices were less welcoming.

A contemporary pamphlet, The Palatines Catechism, sets out some typical elements of the debate in a fictional dialogue between an ‘English tradesman’ and a ‘High-Dutchman’ (probably himself a German in modern parlance). Visiting the refugees’ camp, the ‘High-Dutchman’ admires their ‘Diligence and Industry’ and argues that Christian charity demands they should be supported and helped to settle in Britain. The Englishman sees only disorder and outlandish habits in the camp and is suspicious of the Palatines’ motives for coming; he declares that, ‘charity ought to begin at home,’ and that Britain should help her own numerous poor before taking in those of other countries. He also fears that, if the Palatines are given assistance, they will repay it by exploiting their benefactors once they are settled. Ironically, this fictional debate, like many of the real ones, ignored the fact that most of the refugees had no desire to remain in Britain.

Palatines Catechism 2
The refugee camp as depicted in stylised form on the title-page of The Palatines Catechism

Eventually some 3,000 Palatines were granted the longed-for passage to America, although their new life there as indentured workers was not exactly the future they had imagined. Other groups were settled elsewhere in the British Isles, including over 2,000 sent to Ireland. In the autumn of 1709 a new government banned further shiploads of German immigrants from coming to Britain, and in the following months those that remained in the camps gradually dispersed. Some found their way independently to new homes in Britain or America, but others gave up their hope of a better life in a new country and returned at last to Germany.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References/further reading:

Daniel Defoe, A Review of the State of the British Nation. (London, 1704- 1712) C.40.h.1.

Daniel Defoe, A Brief History of the Poor Palatine Refugees (1709), introduction by John Robert Moore. Augustan Reprint Society Publication no. 106 (Los Angeles, 1964). WP.2367a/106

The Palatines’ Catechism, or a true description of their camps at Blackheath and Camberwell. In a pleasant dialogue between an English tradesman and a High-Dutchman (London, 1709). 1076.l.22.

Philip Otterness, ‘The 1709 Palatine Migration and the Formation of German Immigrant Identity in London and New York’  Explorations in Early American Culture, 3 (1999), 8-23.  ZA.9.a.11137 https://journals.psu.edu/phj/article/download/25606/25375