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16 posts categorized "Anglo-German"

15 August 2014

'Pfui, der Struwwelpeter!' British Adventures of a German nursery classic

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In 1844 the German doctor and writer Heinrich Hoffmann was looking for a book to give his three-year-old son for Christmas. Fed up with the dull, moralising tales on offer, he decided to create his own book, telling the stories of children who meet various – often exaggeratedly brutal – fates as a result of their bad or foolish behaviour. The stories are written in lively rhymes with cartoonish illustrations, in many cases integrated into the text and telling the story visually alongside it like a forerunner of the modern comic book. Hoffmann was encouraged to publish the result the following year and so Der Struwwelpeter was born. It was an instant success and, when an English translation appeared in February 1848, became a bestseller in Britain too, aided by clever and catchy translations of the original verses.

2xStruwwelpeter
The eponymous Struwwelpeter/Shock-headed Peter, left in Hoffmann's original illustration, from an early English edition (London, 1848; British Library 11645.f.42.) and right from the 100th German edition (Frankfurt am Main, 1876; 12389.i.13.)

 The  book was soon established as a nursery classic in Britain and to those brought up in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, a reference to ‘Harriet and the matches’ or ‘Johnny Head-in-Air’ would have been instantly familiar. The characters, stories and accompanying pictures formed an easily recognisable basis for political or social comment and caricature, much as the Alice books with Tenniel’s illustrations still do today. A German Politischer Struwwelpeter appeared as early as 1849, and an English Political Struwwelpeter  50 years later.

Political Struwwelpeter cover
Harold Begbie, The Political Struwwelpeter, illustrated by F. Carruthers Gould. (London, 1899). 12315.k.22. The cover shows ‘The Neglected [British] Lion’

On the outbreak of war in 1914 both German and British writers reached again for Hoffmann’s book as a basis for satire. The German Kriegs-Struwwelpeter replaces the naughty children with representatives of the various anti-German allies, while the poems in E.V. Lucas’s Swollen-Headed William all describe the misdeeds of Kaiser Wilhelm II. You can read more about both books and see digitised images on our World War One webpages. The Second World War also produced a British parody, Struwwelhitler, ascribed to ‘Dr Schrecklichkeit’ (‘Dr Horror’; the real authors were Philip and Robert Spence).

Struwwelhitler
Struwwelhitler: a Nazi story book by Doktor Schrecklichkeit.
(London, 1941). YA.2002.a5749.

Struwwelpeter also seems to have developed the kind of cult status among Victorian and Edwardian adults that classic children’s television programmes enjoy among their modern descendants; a review of a stage version in the London Times of 23 December 1912 speaks of ‘the childish stories which bearded men have been known to shout at each other across dinner tables’. The Marlborough Struwwelpeter, written and illustrated by a pupil in his last year at Marlborough College, turns the stories into tales set around the school and is full of in-jokes about its traditions and characters. It is no doubt just one chance survivor of many such local parodies.

Marlborough Struwwelpeter cover
Arthur de Coetlogon Williams, The Marlborough Struwwelpeter (Marlborough, [ca. 1909])  X.525/1299

Today, however, Struwwelpeter is generally out of favour as a children’s book. It is still in print in Germany, but probably intended more for nostalgic adults or collectors than for children. In Britain it has been out of print for many years and is generally only mentioned in articles such as this one about the ‘most shocking’ (or ‘nastiest’, ‘most horrific’, etc.) children’s books ever. Since the 1960s those who read it as children have, with some exceptions, queued up to say how it terrified and traumatised them. Stories usually picked out as particularly gruesome are those of Harriet (Paulinchen in German) who plays with matches and is burnt to death, and Conrad/Konrad, whose punishment for thumb-sucking is to have both thumbs cut off by a tailor with giant scissors (‘the great, long, red-legg’d scissor-man’ in the English version).

  Harriet and the matches
Harriet’s terrible fate from The English Struwwelpeter

There is a tendency now to describe Struwwelpeter as a sadistic and authoritarian attempt to frighten children into obedience and make them conform to a rigid social code. But in fact Hoffmann wrote it as a reaction against books which he thought were overly moralistic or blandly accepting of social norms. Some tales even challenge contemporary attitudes: a huntsman is shot by his intended prey, and three boys who mock a black man are punished. Even in the most ‘horrific’ tales, the very exaggeration of the children’s fates, both in the stories and the accompanying illustrations, was intended for comic rather than frightening effect. This tradition has continued in Britain through Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales and Harry Graham’s Ruthless Rhymes to the works of Roald Dahl and the focus on ‘all things wicked, weird and woeful’ in the highly successful Horrible Histories books. Struwwelpeter was also successfully reinvented for new audiences in the late 1990s as the ‘junk opera’ Shockheaded Peter.

Looking at the book in this context, and especially considering its design, it is perhaps not unjust to place it also in the tradition celebrated in our current exhibition Comics Ummasked – that of the subversive and anarchic comic book, that ‘challenge[s] categorisation, preconceptions and the status quo’. Like many of the comics in the exhibition, Struwwelpeter has been loved and hated, treasured and condemned in equal measure, and its legacy and influence will continue to be debated.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

22 July 2014

Tauchnitz and Marinack: the famous and the unknown bringing English literature to the Germans

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When I started thinking about topics for this series of Anglo-German blogs, publishing and bookselling were naturally on the list, not least the famous Tauchnitz Verlag in Leipzig which published  English literature in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I didn’t expect that an enquiry received in the course of my regular work would alert me to other English-language publishing ventures in 19th-century Germany and to one not at all famous Englishwoman hoping to bring the best of British poetry to the Germans.

To start with the better-known figure: Christian Bernhard Tauchnitz established his publishing house in 1837, and began issuing his ‘Collection of British Authors’ in 1841. At a time when international copyright law was in its infancy, Tauchnitz’s policy of offering fair payment in return for the right to publish and distribute the works of British (and later American) writers on the continent appealed to both authors and publishers in the Anglophone world, and he won many clients and friends among them.

Tauchnitz
Portrait of Christian Bernhard Tauchnitz, from The Harvest; being the record of one hundred years of publishing, 1837-1937, offered in gratitutde to the friends of the firm by Bernard Tauchnitz (Leipzig, 1937) British Library 2710.k.29.

In theory, Tauchnitz’s books were only for sale in continental Europe and bore warning messages against importing them to Britain. This sometimes led to speculation that the books were pirated, whereas in fact the reverse was true: Tauchnitz editions were fully authorised for distribution on the continent but not allowed to compete with the authors’ British publishers on home ground. But many British travellers who purchased Tauchnitz novels while abroad simply brought them back home without any thought for the niceties of publishing and copyright, making the brand familiar even to stay-at-home Britons. The British Library holds one of the world’s largest collections of surviving Tauchnitz editions, the Todd-Bowden collection.

In establishing his business Tauchnitz had an eye for the growing market among English-speaking travellers abroad, but his aim was also to make English literature in the original language available and better known to the German reading public. He was by far the most successful German publisher to venture into this field, but not the only one.  Others, hoping no doubt to rival Tauchnitz’s success, also established series of English literary works, and this is where our less famous figure comes in.

In 1861, one Mary Maria Marinack edited an anthology entitled Selections from the Works of the British Classical Poets... for the illustrious Brockhaus Verlag. The enquiry which  I mentioned came from someone who had a copy of this book and wanted to know more about both it and its compiler. To my surprise I quickly found a reference to Marinack in the standard German biographical dictionary, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) – not in her own name but as the wife of a German schoolmaster and educationalist, Karl Eduard Niese. The daughter of “a cultured English family”, born in 1829, Mary married Karl Eduard in 1861 and the couple established a highly successful preparatory school in Thuringia, which even received royal approval when two Princes of Saxe-Weimar were enrolled there.

Selections from the British Poets
Selections from the works of the British Classical Poets from Shakespeare to Shelley. Systematically arranged with biographical and critical notices by Maria Mary Marinack. (Leipzig, 1851). 11602.f.8.

In the preface to her work Marinack says that an “increase of the general interest throughout Germany in English Literature, particularly Poetry” and her own “fervent admiration for my native Poets” inspired her to compile the collection. No doubt with her husband’s profession in mind, she adds that she has sought “to avoid all that is improper for the perusal of youth” so that “this volume may be safely recommended to the heads of the higher Schools and Institutions.”

At around the same time as Selections from the Works of the British Classical Poets Brockhaus also published an 8-volume ‘Library of English Poetry’. Marinack’s anthology, although not in that series, was probably part of the same initiative to break into the English-language market.  However, the venture enjoyed little success and was not continued, which probably explains why Marinack’s proposed second and third volumes also came to nothing.

We may know little about the details of Marinack’s life, but she represents not only the personal ties between England and Germany through her marriage, but also the cultural exchange between the two countries in the 19th century. Furthermore, her role in Brockhaus’s brief English-language publishing venture tells a small part of a wider Anglo-German book trade story, one where the infinitely more famous Bernhard Tauchnitz is a major figure.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References:

Tauchnitz-Edition : The British Library, London (London, 1992).  ZA.9.d.172(47).

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)

27 June 2014

How Jane Austen saved August von Kotzebue

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While Germans were taking Shakespeare to their hearts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was hoping to similarly promote Schiller’s plays in England. But the German dramatist who briefly conquered the British stage of the day was a far lesser literary figure.

August von Kotzebue (1761-1819) was an immensely prolific writer, who produced over 200 plays as well as autobiographical and historical works, fiction and essays. He spent his life between his native Germany, Russia (including a brief period as a prisoner in Siberia) and Estonia. He was a somewhat controversial figure in the world of letters, and once wrote an essay with the telling title ‘Woher kommt es, daß ich so viele Feinde habe?’ (‘Why do I have so many enemies?’). His death was as melodramatic as anything in his plays: in 1819 he was fatally stabbed in his own home by a liberal student who detested Kotzebue as an embodiment of conservatism.

For a short period Kotzebue enjoyed great popularity in Britain. The English Short-Title Catalogue  lists a staggering 178 individual editions of his plays published between 1796 and 1800 in Britain and Ireland, with a further 48 in America, and there were many performances on both London and provincial stages, although these statistics are rather tempered by the fact that many are translations or adaptations of the same titles which were repeatedly reprinted and performed. Chief among these were Menschenhaß und Reue, Das Kind der Liebe, Die Versöhnung and Die Spanier in Peru, under various English titles. Translators and adaptors included Sheridan and the gothic author Matthew Lewis, as well as Maria Geisweiler whom we met in an earlier post  and who, of course, was both translator and publisher of her Kotzebue editions.

Although the Kotzebue publishing boom could not be sustained at such a level for long, his works remained popular on the British stage at least into the 1820s. Despite this public success, they were not well received by critics, and later literary historians have sometimes blamed Kotzebue’s popularity for damaging the wider reputation of German drama and keeping better-quality German works off the British stage. 

However, if Kotzebue is known at all to the British public today it is indirectly, through the work of a literary contemporary who could not have been more different: Jane Austen. We know that Austen saw a performance of at least one of Kotzebue’s plays, Die Versöhnung (as The Birthday) in Bath in 1799. Sadly, her opinion of it is not recorded, but it has been argued that the play may have had some small influence on the characters and plot of Emma.

However, it is not in Emma but in Mansfield Park that a work by Kotzebue plays a crucial role. When the young Bertrams and Crawfords decide to pass the time with some amateur dramatics, they settle on Lovers’ Vows, Elizabeth Inchbald’s adaptation of Das Kind der Liebe, for their performance. Austen’s heroine Fanny Price, unhappy at the very idea of putting on a play, is doubly horrified to learn that it is to be this tale of illegitimacy and attempted seduction. As she fears, it offers opportunities for open flirtation in the guise of acting, which for some of the cast – and indeed for Austen as author – is of course the whole idea!

Lovers Vows (1345.a.23)
Lovers’ Vows from vol. 23 of The British Theatre (London, 1808) British Library 1345.a.23.

Austen never names the play’s author or translator, but the way in which she refers to the characters and action, and the significance of the roles in the play for her own characters, suggests that in the second decade of the 19th century Lovers’ Vows would have been recognisable and familiar to her audience. Her use of the play as a plot device has given it a tenuous modern afterlife, with synopses and discussions on the many Austen websites and even occasional performances. The cult of Kotzebue in Britain may have been short-lived, but on the back of the thriving cult of Jane Austen, he still has a tiny claim to literary immortality in this country.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References:

Douglas Milburn, Jr., “The Popular Reaction to German Drama in England at the End of the Eighteenth Century,” Rice University Studies 55.3 (Summer 1969) 149–62. Ac.1720/2.

11 June 2014

Charles Bairnes, accused: a German on trial in 18th-century London

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On 26th February 1783 a German servant named in the records as ‘Charles Bairnes’ (Benz?) was indicted at the Old Bailey for ‘feloniously stealing […] one gold watch chain, one gold watch key, one gold mourning ring and one small silver key, the goods of Charles Western, Esq.’. Bairnes was just one of the many thousands of young Germans in every walk of life who came to London during the eighteenth century to seek their fortunes. He had evidently not been in the country long enough to learn sufficient English in order to follow the court proceedings, let alone to argue his own case. The reaction of the Court to this clear disadvantage, was perhaps a little unexpected: ‘The prisoner being a German, was asked by the Court, whether he chose to have one half of the jury composed of his own countrymen, to which he replied in the affirmative, and the jury were sworn in’. It was apparently no trouble finding six German-speaking jurors and also an interpreter, one ‘John Bessel’. The court proceedings were apparently conducted in both languages so that the accused, judge, the whole jury and witnesses could follow them easily.

Bairnes was first given a character reference by his current employer, a ‘Mr. Villiers’. Further character references were supplied by Villiers’s brother and his servant, another German named ‘Christian Water’ (Walter?), who had known Bairnes as a child in Germany. A final character reference was supplied (in German) by a ‘commissioner of the King of Prussia’s mines’ named ‘John Fisher’.

The English lack of interest in Germany and its language became a topos in German accounts during the 18th century. Among the numerous complaints by German-speaking residents and travellers, that of the writer Johann Christian Hüttner (d. 1847) is not untypical:

Among a hundred Englishmen, or even seventy Londoners, you will hardly find one that has the faintest idea about Germany. Just last August I met a surgeon in London from a well-known port city who asked me if it might be possible to sell a certain medicine on the other side of the Channel. I said I would ask a friend in Hamburg. ‘Hamburg?’, answered the surgeon, ‘I’ve often heard about that place  - tell me, what language do they speak there?’.  (Englische Miscellen. Vol. 1 Tübingen, 1800, p. 95-96. British Library P.P.3438.b. [My translation].)

The Bairnes case suggests, of course, a rather more complex situation. Not just that there was an extraordinarily large, German-speaking population in eighteenth-century London but acceptance of Germans and familiarity with the German language might have been greater than is often supposed – or is represented by contemporaries. Certainly Bairnes was treated fairly enough: not only was the trial largely conducted in his own language, as Mr. Western could supply no supporting evidence to support his accusations, Bairnes was found “not guilty”.

Graham Jefcoate

References:

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674 to 1913, 26 February 1783. URL: http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17830226-38-defend435&div=t17830226-38#highlight

  Old Bailey
An Old Bailey trial in the early 19th century. From Rudolph Ackermann, The Microcosm of London (London, [1808-1810]) British Library C.194.b.305-307. 

 

28 May 2014

"Tremendous in sublimity" or "Plunging into whirlpools": Coleridge's German books

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In an earlier ‘Anglo-German’ post I wrote about the German Romantic author Ludwig Tieck as a mediator of English literature in Germany, and mentioned his meeting with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who sought to play a similar role for German literature in Britain. Long before he met Tieck, Coleridge had been fascinated by German literature and thought: a late-night reading of Schiller’s play Die Räuber (in translation) as a student inspired a rather overwrought sonnet to the “Bard tremendous in sublimity!”.

But Coleridge still spoke hardly any German when in September 1798 he set out for Germany with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, hoping to improve his knowledge. Unlike the Wordsworths, who ended up spending an isolated and miserable winter in Goslar, Coleridge made the most of his time,  travelling, observing, making contacts and eventually enrolling as a student at Göttingen University. By the end of his ten-month stay he claimed, with a hearty dose of self-deprecation, that he could “speak [German] so fluently that it must be torture for a German to be in my company … my pronunciation is hideous.”

Back home, although many of Coleridge’s plans for published works which would bring German writers and philosophy to a wider public never came to fruition, he continued to read and engage with German literature and philosophy, as is evident from his discussions and correspondence with Tieck almost two decades later and from the notes he made in his German books. 
Coleridge books
A selection of Coleridge’s German books in the British Library’s collections

Just as the British Museum Library bought many books from Tieck’s library, so it acquired many from Coleridge’s collection. Unlike Tieck’s books, these were listed in the Library’s printed catalogue under Coleridge’s name (“Books containing MS notes by S.T. Coleridge”). Of 198 titles with this heading, some 83 are in German, with an additional handful of translations of German works or Latin works by German authors. The idealist philosophers Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel are best represented, but there are also works of German literature, theology and natural history.

Like Tieck, Coleridge liked to annotate his books, and was not afraid to take issue with what he read. Unlike Tieck, however, he seems to have preferred writing on fly-leaves or inserting separate sheets of comments rather than writing in the margins themselves. Reflecting on Herder’s Kalligone he criticises the German idealists for making their philosophy of nature “supersede the logical discipline”.

  Coleridge Kalligone
Johann Gottfried Herder, Kalligone (Leipzig, 1800) British Library C.43.a.11.

In his copy of Fichte’s Die Bestimmung des Menschen he gets more personal, arguing that Fichte “plunges head over heels into the … whirlpool of pseudosophy.”

Coleridge Bestimmung
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Die Bestimmung des Menschen (Berlin, 1800) C.43.a.12.

These comments show Coleridge to have been an enaged and critical reader, but there’s at least one example of more frustrated and frankly baffling marginalia. In his copy of Novalis’s writings (C.43.a.18) he notes in the bottom margin of one page: “Strangely out of place. Why in a cavern? And by a ghostly old hermit?”. This does not seem to relate to anything on the page in question: perhaps it was something that occurred to Coleridge from another context or another book he had open. Or perhaps a person from Porlock interrupted his note-taking…

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References:

Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions (London, 1989) YH.1989.b.977.

12 May 2014

Maria Geisweiler, translator

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On 22 October 1816 Maria Geisweiler (1763-1840) wrote to the Home Secretary, Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757-1844), about her husband and (more particularly) about the couple’s financial plight: ‘My Lord, the cruel anxiety, and distress of mind, under which I labour, is such I cannot again refrain from making an effort to interest your Lordships [sic] feelings, for my poor deranged husband’. (British Library Add. MS. 38263, f.304.)

Geisweiler and her Swiss-born husband Constantine (originally a printseller) had in the years 1799-1801 set up what can only be described as an extraordinarily ambitious programme to promote German literature in England. This comprised a bookshop (latterly in Parliament Street) selling imported German books, a short-lived literary magazine called The German Museum, and a series of translations of contemporary German authors for which both Maria and Constantine were responsible. In 1801 they travelled to Germany to promote their programme at the Leipzig Easter Book Fair and to solicit support from Goethe, Schiller and Wieland at Weimar.

 
German Museum vol 1
The first volume of The German Museum (London, 1800) 

The Geisweilers’ literary efforts received what one might politely call ‘mixed’ reviews. The visit to Germany was also a failure and the business folded in 1801 or early 1802. About this time Constantine began to show signs of mental illness (described by one contemporary as a ‘Paroxysmus’). Although he tried other trades (dealing in wines), within a few years he was entirely unable to work. In April 1805 Maria, now over 40 years old, appears to have given birth to a son named Constantine who died very shortly after.

Clearly Maria needed great personal resources (and the help of others) to manage this situation. She had born in London into a typically bilingual Anglo-German family. Her father was a merchant called Frederick Heinzelmann, her mother an Englishwoman called Elizabeth. Maria’s background was therefore well-to-do. When she married the much younger Constantine in 1799 she was 36 years old and had already lost one, aristocratic husband (an unidentified Count von Schulenberg – Maria continued to style herself, and even her new husband, ‘de Geisweiler’).

By 1816 Maria’s situation must have been desperate. Nevertheless she tried to do her best for herself and her husband in possibly the only way she knew how, not merely by lobbying the government for financial support but also but by translating. In the same year as the letter to Addington she published the translation of an obscure German novel under the title Angelion, or the wizard of Elis. This received no better reviews than her earlier productions, the Monthly Review observing acidly: ‘We are sorry to describe this work as a singular and wearisome medley, displaying much of the sickly sentiment and strained antithesis of most German novelists’ (vol 83, 1817, p.100; 267.f.1-31). But the book was not necessarily a flop in the financial sense: no fewer than 175 persons are listed among the subscribers, including Baron Best, the head of the Hanoverian Legation in London, numerous other ‘persons of quality’, and leading English and Scottish booksellers. One suspects that the subscriptions were a discreet way of extending charity to the Geisweilers.

Maria Geisweiler died in 1840. Her husband survived her by nine years. Her attempts to secure his future may have been successful. At the time of the 1841 census he was living in a private ‘madhouse’ in Kensington. After his death in 1849 readers of the Morning Chronicle (19 June 1850) learnt that he may have died alone, but was not entirely without means: ‘Geisweiler, deceased. – If the next of kin of Constantine de Geisweiler, late of Kensington, deceased, will apply to Messrs. H. and O. Webb, 22 Sackville Street, they will hear something to their advantage’.

Graham Jefcoate, Nijmegen and Chiang Mai

References:

The German Museum, or Monthly Repository of the Literature of Germany, the North and the Continent in general. 3 vols. (London, 1800-1801). 266.l.24-26.

Angelion, or, the Wizard in Elis. A romance. Taken from the German (London, 1816) 12554.bbb.17.

 

23 April 2014

Whose Shakespeare?

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In the film Star Trek VI, a Klingon ambassador claims that Shakespeare can only be appreciated ‘in the original Klingon’. This is a clever reference to the way in which many countries have adopted Shakespeare’s works as their own but, since the imaginary Klingons have the kind of militaristic society and guttural language often associated with Germany in Anglo-American popular culture, I suspect that the scriptwriters had Germany particularly in mind, for few nations have claimed ownership of Shakespeare as enthusiastically as the Germans. Since the  late 18th century German writers have shown an admiration sometimes bordering on idolatry for Shakespeare’s work, and it is often claimed that his plays are more frequently performed in Germany than Britain (although this statistic no doubt owes something to Germany’s larger number of flourishing provincial theatres).

What one critic described as ‘Shakespearomania’  really took off in the 1770s when the young writers of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ embraced Shakespeare’s ‘naturalness’ and freedom from strict Aristotelian unities as a contrast to the French classical drama then upheld as an ideal. These angry young men may have taken their understanding of Shakespearean freedom to extremes, but the interest in his work which they aroused was influential and survived after they had burned themselves out or settled into less wild literary pursuits.

The torch was taken up by the Romantics. Like the ‘Stürmer und Dränger’, they admired the truth to nature they found in Shakespeare, but they also began to engage more seriously and critically with his works and to try and improve on the available translations. It was a group of writers associated with German Romanticism – August Wilhelm Schlegel, Ludwig and Dorothea Tieck and Wolf Heinrich von Baudissin – who created what became the classic German translation of Shakespeare.

Ludwig Tieck represents the two main strands of 19th-century German Shakespeare reception: a creative, emotional response and an academic interest. As a writer he admired and was influenced by Shakespeare’s work, and his involvement in the translation was driven by the desire for a high-quality German version of the plays for reading and performance. But he also took a scholarly approach, researching Shakespeare’s world and the theatre of his age, and travelling to England in 1817 to pursue his studies. The visit included meetings with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, himself a significant mediator of German literature in England, and the two men later corresponded. 
Ludwig Tieck
Ludwig Tieck, from the frontispiece of Ludwig Tieck’s sämmtliche Werke (Paris, 1837) British Library RB.23.b.864

The British Museum Library bought a number of books from the sale of Tieck’s library in 1849, among them an edition of Shakespeare’s works with Tieck’s handwritten annotations. Most of these were made not in the plays themselves but in the preliminary volumes which contain studies of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan stage; this is Tieck the critical scholar at work rather than Tieck the romantic author reading for aesthetic pleasure. His copious comments are difficult to read, but he often appears to take issue with the critical opinions expressed and sometimes simply expresses his disapproval with an exclamation mark or a comment like ‘Unsinn!’ (‘nonsense!’). 

Tieck annotations
Manuscript notes by Tieck in vol. 2 of The Plays of William Shakspeare. With the corrections and illustrations of various commentators. (Basel, 1799-1802) C.134.dd1.

As the 19th century continued Shakespeare flourished in Germany, both in performance and as a subject of academic study, and came to be regarded as Germany’s ‘third classic poet’ alongside Goethe and Schiller. In 1903 the German critic Theodor Eichhoff entitled his study of the Bard Unser Shakespeare (‘Our Shakespeare’), and just over a decade later, with Germans encouraged to boycott foreign culture after the outbreak of the First World War, the playwright Gerhart Hauptmann claimed an exception for Shakespeare, declaring that ‘[Shakespeare’s] soul has become one with ours … Germany is the land where he truly lives’. Unsurprisingly this drew furious responses from Britain.

But this is to start moving beyond the period of our survey of Anglo-German relations, and besides, the use of literature for national propaganda in time of war is not the best way to consider the significance of Shakespeare in the wider world. After all, the British should be proud rather than defensive when their national poet transcends national boundaries so triumphantly that even a race of fictional aliens wants to claim him! And if we want a happier image of the ‘German Shakespeare’, how about Tieck enthusiastically engaging with the plays and their criticism, and discussing them with Coleridge? If we want to ask ‘Whose Shakespeare?’  there are many possible answers from all over the world, and ‘Tieck’s Shakespeare’ is among the most positive of them.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References/further reading

Theodor Eichhoff, Unser Shakespeare. Beiträge zu einer wissenschaftlichen Shakespeare-Kritik. (Halle, 1903) 011765.h.32.

Gerhart Hauptmann, ‘Deutschland und Shakespeare’, Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, Jahrgang 51 (1914), pp. vii-xii. Ac.9423/5.

Hansjürgen Blinn, Der deutsche Shakespeare = The German Shakespeare : eine annotierte Bibliographie zur Shakespeare-Rezeption des deutschsprachigen Kulturraums (Berlin, 1993) 2725.g.2308

Roger Paulin, The Critical Reception of Shakespeare in Germany 1682-1914: Native Literature and Foreign Genius (Hildesheim, 2003) YD.2005.a.2139

Geoffrey West, ‘Buying at Auction: Building the British Museum Library’s Collections in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century’, in Giles Mandelbrote and Barry Taylor (ed.) Libraries within the Library: the Origins of the British Library’s Printed Collections (London, 2009), pp. 341-352. YC.2010.a.1356 [For information on books from Tieck’s library now in the BL]

Edwin H. Zeydel, Ludwig Tieck and England: a Study in Literary Relations of Germany and England During the Early Nineteenth Century (Princeton, 1931) 10709.ee.23

 

11 April 2014

‘Schirmer’s Children’: a German theatre troop

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 On 30 September 1806 the German printer Johann Benjamin Gottlieb Vogel (d. 1832) in Poland Street, Oxford Street, printed a ‘Plan for a subscription for a choice manuscript collection of music: containing the most celebrated compositions of the first masters on the continent, arranged and partly originally composed for the piano-forte or the harp, by Mr. Wœlfl’. Behind this initiative stood one Friedrich Schirmer, who, we are informed, ‘intends, before his return to Germany, a periodical publication of a choice manuscript collection of the best modern German music’.

Schirmer's MS collection
The first issue of Schirmer’s choice manuscript collection of music (London, 1806) British Library f.65.s.

Only two issues of the arrangements by Joseph Wölfl (1773-1812) saw the light of day, but Schirmer had already made his mark the previous year: as the Plan points out, he was ‘late proprietor and manager of the German Theatre in London’ - surely the first such initiative in the British capital.

Schirmer, who had arrived in England in 1804, had obtained a licence to present a season of ‘musical and dramatical interludes in the German language’ under the name ‘German Theatre’ to start on 22 June 1805 at the Sans Souci Theatre off Leicester Fields. The core of Schirmer’s troupe comprised members of his own family, including his wife, daughter and son. Shortly after the opening, ‘Schirmer’s Children’ (‘die Schirmerschen Kinder’) gave a command performance for the court at Windsor (Frogmore), where they performed the operetta Unschuld und Liebe, oder das geraubte Lämmchen (‘Innocence and love, or the stolen lamb’) with music apparently adapted from a score by Johann Adam Hiller (1728-1804). They were, by all accounts, a success.

The opening of a German-speaking theatre in London is the subject of a number of rather breathless reports by the London-based German journalist J. C. Hüttner. English reviews of their performances suggested that all but Schirmer’s daughter were talented singers. A review of the comic opera Die drei Freier (‘The three suitors’) remarked that Miss Schirmer has a ‘good figure, but sings ill [...] the rest all sang well & they keep time most inimitably’. Schirmer’s season continued for about a year, a not unrespectable period for a foreign-language music theatre troop with a limited repertoire.

Most of the pieces performed by Schirmer’s Children were printed for sale during the performances, though very few copies have survived. We are lucky to have a copy in the British Library of The three suitors, or like loves like. A musical farce, in one act (some of it on blue paper). This was printed by Vogel ‘and sold at the playhouse, Leicester Place, Leicester Square’ in 1805.

Drei Freier
Die drei Freier ; oder, Gleich und Gleich gesellt sich gern ... = The three suitors, or, Like loves Like. ... 
(London, 1805). 1343.d.10.

Graham Jefcoate, Nijmegen/Chiang Mai

References

J. C. Hüttner, London und Paris, (Weimar, 1798- ) vol. 16, 1805, pp. 3-12. P.P.4689.

Michael Kassler, The music trade in Georgian England.  (Aldershot, 2011), pp 460, 485.   YC.2011.a.10792

Frederick Burwick, Playing to the crowd: London popular theatre, 1780-1830. (Basingstoke, 2011), p. 21.  YC.2012.a.21614

26 March 2014

Theodora Grahn, language teacher

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Among the many extraordinary Germans living in London in the Georgian period, few can have been more extraordinary than Theodora Grahn (1744-1802). Grahn, the only child of an architect, was born in Leipzig and, following her parents’ early demise, was brought up by an aunt in Berlin. She is said to have developed language skills at an early age. During the Seven Years War she started a business as an exchange broker, a rather precocious step one might think, as she was only 19 when the war ended in 1763. If not her age, then maybe her gender proved a disadvantage in this profession: it was around this time she began to dress as a man and adopted an aristocratic, masculine pseudonym, “Baron de Verdion”.

After exposure as an impostor, she moved to London around 1770, where, having demoted herself Mr de Verdionfrom “Baron” to “Dr. John” de Verdion, she worked as a language teacher and translator and also  dealt in antiquarian books and coins and medals. The British Library holds a trade card (see left; shelfmark  C.191.c.16.[vol.1(1)] (31).) printed for Grahn as a language teacher and translator: “Mr. de Verdion, at Mr. Hare’s, No. 17. Greville Street, Hatton Garden, teaches German, French, and English, in the most expeditious manner, and upon the most reasonable terms. He also translates into either [sic] of these languages”. 

 Although she is said to have had persons of quality among her pupils, her reputation was somewhat disreputable. Never leaving her house except dressed as a man, she became known for her prodigious consumption of food and drink in coffee-houses and taverns. Her true gender seems to have been known if not openly acknowledged. With her “grotesque” appearance and her famous umbrella she became a well-known London eccentric and a subject for satire.

Theodora Grahn 1
Portrait of Theodora Grahn, from the account of her life in Kirby’s wonderful and scientific museum: or, magazine of remarkable characters, vol. 2, London 1804 (pp. 47-53). G.13550

Grahn died of cancer in 1802, having made a will as “John de Verdion otherwise Theodoria [sic] de Verdion, Master of Languages of Upper Charles Street Hatton Garden” and was buried in the cemetery of St Andrew’s, Holborn, under her assumed masculine identity. After her death, a number of accounts of her life appeared in books featuring bizarre individuals and occurrences.

More recently, Grahn has come to the attention of those working in the field of gender studies, who have sometimes assumed she was a transsexual as well as a transvestite. I’m not so sure, however, that we can draw firm conclusions about her gender identity or sexual orientation from the information we have. Her assumption of a masculine identity and dress could simply be seen as an effective strategy for a determined young woman in a world that provided so few opportunities for talented and independent women. We shall never know what she really was behind the masculine mask.

Graham Jefcoate, Nijmegen/Chiang Mai

17 March 2014

Parishes, Printing and Pietism – the Pietist Mission and German Publishing in London

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Some Germans came to London as a workforce skilled in required, specialist trades; others came to try their luck and find work, often with hopes to make their fortune in the British capital, which bustled with life, diversity, and activity during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Germans would settle to live and put down roots in London near to where they worked and also to where their compatriots had already settled. In the east end of London in the late 17th and 18th centuries the sugar trade flourished, and many of the Germans settling there were confectionery bakers, with a skill which was in high demand. Generally, they were well-off, respectable tradesmen. Some of the parishioners at St George’s Lutheran Church were sugar factory owners, working in a trade where men earned good wages. 

Such wealth and status are reflected in the parish life of St George’s. With its school attached, St George’s Church in the East End of London is a good-sized building, its interior very reminiscent of protestant churches from the same period in north-eastern Germany. The parish was funded by parishioners who would have to buy or rent their seats and pews in the church. In contrast to the customary, spartan design of Lutheran churches, the comfortable family box pews of the factory owners and well-to-do families clearly reflected their wealth.

St George’s parish archives, which are held at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives reveal much about parish life and parishioners’ backgrounds. The archives are often a first port of call for genealogists researching German ancestry.

That places of worship could be built, parishes could be founded was only possible thanks to the Toleration Act  passed under William III in 1689.

Whilst German parish life was beginning to thrive in the east end of London, in Germany the Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle, and their missionary activity worldwide, were enjoying their heydays. August Hermann Francke founded the Franckesche Stiftungen in 1698 as a school for orphans and the poor. Rapidly the institution grew and expanded into a city within a city, with schools for all age groups, workshops where the orphans first trained as apprentices and then continued in employment, gardens, kitchens, a library, a pharmacy – and a publishing house. It was a whole independently-functioning microcosm, often referred to as ‘the New Jerusalem’. In the print shop, Francke and his pupils were able to have their Pietist, devotional literature published, which they then promoted as part of their missionary activities across the world.

 Waisenhaus
Plan of the Waisenhaus in Halle, from August Hermann Francke, Segens-volle Fussstapfen des noch lebenden und waltenden liebreichen und getreuen Gottes ... (Halle, 1709) British Library RB.23.a.16349 (copy from the Library of St George's Church)

One of the first buildings added to the original orphanage was the ‘English House’, where visiting students from Britain lodged.  Francke’s pupils also travelled to England – and then across the globe, promoting Christian knowledge as missionaries.  Gustav Anton Wachsel, the first pastor of St George’s Lutheran Church, had a background steeped in August Hermann Francke and German Pietism. His library, the foundation of St George’s Church Library, reflects that. Many titles are German Pietist works, published by the Waisenhaus in Halle, notably: August Hermann Franckens Oeffentliche Reden über die Passions-Historie, wie dieselbe vom Evangelisten Johanne im 18. und 19. Cap. beschrieben ist, gehalten von Esto mihi bis Ostern 1716 in dem Wäysenhause zu Glaucha an Halle. (Halle, [1733]; British Library RB.23.a.16404).

Perhaps the most renowned pupil of Francke who came to Britain in the 18th century was Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen (1694-1776), court preacher to King George I. Whilst as a court preacher he was based at the Royal Chapel at St James’s, it is likely that he would occasionally have preached at St George’s too. His titles are certainly present in the St George’s collection, including the commentary on the Lord’s Prayer shown below.

Ziegenhagen, Kurtze Erklärung
Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen, Kurtze Erklärung des Gebets des Herrn, oder des Vater Unsers, nebst einigen Anmerckungen über dasselbe. (London, 1750.) RB.23.a.16338(1). (copy from the Library of St George's Church)

This work was printed by Johann Christoph Haberkorn and Johann Nicodemus Gussen, who ran the first German printing press in London. The printing and publishing trade was one which Germans adopted and helped to flourish in 18th-century London. Publishing religious and devotional texts provided good, solid work for the printing shops, and the publications were an important medium to promote Christian knowledge, all in the tradition of August Hermann Francke and the Stiftungen in Halle.

Dorothea Miehe, Curator German Studies