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21 posts categorized "Anglo-German"

31 December 2014

On the eve... Germans in Britain in 1913

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Throughout 2014 we have been using posts on the European Studies blog to mark the twin anniversaries of the Hanoverian succession and the outbreak of the First World War by looking at Anglo-German cultural relations and the role of Germans in Britain during the two centuries between. As the year draws to a close, I turned to a publication of 1913, Die deutsche Kolonie in London, issued by the ‘Anglo-German Publishing Company’ (based, coincidentally, like London’s earliest German printers and booksellers, near The Strand), to see what Britain’s ‘German colony’ looked like at the end of those two centuries.

Deutsche Kolonie cover
Die deutsche Kolonie in London
(London, 1913). British Library 8139.k.9.

The book was published to mark Kaiser Wilhelm II’s silver jubilee, and opens with a portrait of Wilhelm, fulsome tributes in prose and verse and an appeal for contributions to a commemorative ‘Imperial Jubilee Fund’ intended to support Germans and German institutions in Britain.  This is followed by a brief history of German settlement in Britain and a comprehensive overview of the German community and institutions in London and beyond, demonstrating the strength and vitality of this community on the eve of the First World War.

Some 15 German churches and congregations in London are described as well as 12 in other cities including Edinburgh, Bradford, Liverpool and Newcastle.  In London there is a German School in the south-eastern suburb of Forest Hill,  a location chosen because it and the neighbouring districts were popular with German families. (Today’s London German focus has stayed south of the river but moved westwards: the modern ‘Deutsche Schule in London’ is in Richmond-on-Thames.) Continuing the educational theme, the German professors Karl Breul of Cambridge and H.G. Fiedler of Oxford reflect on the study of German and the role of German academics in British universities and schools.

Deutsche Kolonie St Georges
St George’s German Lutheran Church, one of the oldest in London; the BL acquired its library  in 1996 

Social welfare comes next, with institutions including a benevolent society and an ‘Arbeiterkolonie und Altenheim’ in Hitchin, which accepts any needy German-speaker. Hitchin was also the location of a convalescent home attached to the German Hospital in Dalston (one of the few British German institutions revived after 1918). Orphanages in Dalston and Clapham, and sailors’ hostels and missions in various port cities are also described.

Recreation and culture are represented by the ‘German Athenaeum’ (a society for arts and sciences) and the ‘Turnverein’, a gymnastic society whose specially built London gymnasium still stands not far from the British Library. There are literary and gymnastic clubs outside the capital too, and a range of ‘Vaterländische Vereine’. The ‘Deutsches Volkstheater West-London’ founded in 1911 is described as enjoying some success and critical acclaim, although London’s German colony is not sufficient to support it as a permanent company playing every night. More popular are the many singing clubs. And gymnastics is not the only sport catered for: there are clubs for skittles and cycling, and the ‘Deutscher Fußball-Klub London’ has been ‘deemed worthy of taking its place in the 1st division of the North London league’. 

There is also a range of  professional clubs and societies for workers of all kinds, from bankers to waiters (the charmingly named ‘Union Ganymed’). As well as a place to meet and socialise, these groups offered various kinds practical help to their members: lectures and training, help finding positions, and support when out of work.

Deutsche Kolonie Kellnerverein
The London headquarters of the Kellnerverein (Waiters’ Association) ‘Union Ganymed’

Finally – and always worth a look in such publications – there are advertisements. Businesses catering specifically for Germans include bookshops, hotels, a photographer and J.C. Bell, ‘the German dentist’, who offers written guarantees on false teeth and promises that ‘a trained and experienced lady is always present when ladies are treated.’ Other firms advertise German products sold in Britain; I was struck by the proud claim by the makers of ‘König’s Liqueur-Gin’ that their product was ‘drunk by H.M. Kaiser Wilhelm II in the English House of Lords and House of Commons and at Buckingham Palace’, which gives a presumably unintended impression of the Kaiser boozing his way through a state visit.

Deutsche Kolonie Zahnarzt
The German dentist’s advertisement

Altogether the book paints a picture of a flourishing community, and one with a deep pride in a recently-unified native land. In their introduction the authors seem almost wilfully blind towards the rise in British anti-German sentiment at both popular and political levels, even suggesting that Wilhelm II is figure admired among the English. But one passage in the  introduction by Richard Pflaum is oddly prophetic. Praising Wilhelm for having gained international recognition for Germany by peaceful means, he adds:

Für die Deutschen in England hätte ein Krieg Deutschlands die unabsehbarsten Folgen hervorrufen können, weil ein solcher Krieg … zu einen Weltkrieg sich hätte entwickeln müssen, in dem das Volk, unter dem wir wohnen und dessen Gastfreundschaft wir seit Jahrhunderten genießen, an die Seite der Gegner Deutschlands gedrängt worden wäre.

[For the Germans in England a German war could have led to the most incalculable consequences, because such a war would surely have developed into a world war, in which the people among whom we live, and whose hospitality we have enjoyed for centuries, would have been forced on to the side of Germany’s opponents.]

The following year what most Britons saw as very much a ‘German war’ did break out, and the consequences were indeed incalculable for Britain’s German community and its institutions. In the century since, very different waves of German migrants, refugees and settlers have come and gone, but the ‘German London’ depicted in this book has become a thing of the past.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic studies

Some further reading on Germans in Britain and Anglo-German relations 1714-1914

Aneignung und Abwehr : interkultureller Transfer zwischen Deutschland und Grossbritannien im 19. Jahrhundert / Rudolf Muhs, Johannes Paulmann und Willibald Steinmetz (Hg.). (Bodenheim, 1998). YA.2000.a.20029

Anglo-German scholarly networks in the long nineteenth century / edited by Heather Ellis, Ulrike Kirchberger. (Leiden, 2014) YD.2014.a.909

John R. Davis, The Victorians and Germany (Bern, 2007). YD.2008.a.1627

Germans in Britain since 1500, edited by Panikos Panayi (London, 1996). YC.1996.b.5061

Rüdiger Görner, Dover im Harz : Studien zu britisch-deutschen Kulturbeziehungen (Heidelberg, 2012)

James Hawes, Englanders and Huns (London, 2014). YC.2014.a.15194

»In unserer Liebe nicht glücklich« : kultureller Austausch zwischen Großbritannien und Deutschland 1770-1840 / herausgegeben von Uwe Ziegler und Horst Carl. (Göttingen, 2014) Ac.6431/2[Vol.102]

John Mander, Our German cousins : Anglo-German relations in the 19th and 20th centuries (London, 1974). 74/9820

Migration and transfer from Germany to Britain, 1660-1914 / edited by Stefan Manz, Margrit Schulte Beerbühl, John R. Davis. (Munich, 2007) YD.2007.a.9202

Philip Oltermann, Keeping up with the Germans : a history of Anglo-German encounters (London, 2012). YK.2012.a.24179

Panikos Panayi, German immigrants in Britain during the nineteenth century, 1815-1914 (London, 1995) YC.1996.a.721

Richard Scully, British images of Germany : admiration, antagonism & ambivalence, 1860-1914 (Basingstoke, 2012). YC.2013.a.465  

Miranda Seymour, Noble endeavours : the life of two countries, England and Germany, in many stories (London, 2013) Awaiting shelfmark.

Susanne Stark, "Behind inverted commas" : translation and Anglo-German cultural relations in the nineteenth century (Clevedon, 1999) YC.1999.a.3194

Viktorianisches England in deutscher Perspektive / herausgegeben von Adolf M. Birke und Kurt Kluxen. (Munich, 1983) X.800/39562

28 November 2014

‘All Horrid’ – but not all German

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One of the display cases in our current Gothic Exhibition shows a collection of books whose fame today rests largely on their being mentioned in a novel by Jane Austen (much like Kotzebue’s Lovers’ Vows, discussed in an earlier post).  These are the ‘Horrid Novels’ which Isabella Thorpe recommends to her new friend Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey as the two girls embark on a spree of gothic fiction reading.

The titles Isabella lists are:  ‘Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries.’ Unlike Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, which the girls also read, these titles had pretty much sunk into obscurity by the time Northanger Abbey was posthumously published, and early literary critics believed that they were inventions of Austen’s, parodying typical titles of the genre. Later researchers, however, established that, although Austen (or Isabella) made some minor errors in transcribing the titles, all seven books were genuine products of the time.

However, one thing less than genuine about some of them is a claim to be of German origin. Of the seven, only Clermont offers no hint of German-ness on its title page. The Orphan of the Rhine clearly indicates a German setting, but goes no further, while the other five are all billed as ‘a German story/tale’ or ‘From the German.’ However, this is only strictly true of two: The Necromancer is an adaptation of Karl Friedrich Kahlert’s Der Geisterbanner, and The Horrid Mysteries is a translation of Carl Grosse’s Der Genius. The Castle of Wolfenbach, The Mysterious Warning and The Midnight Bell are only ‘German stories’ insofar as their action is at least partially set in Germany – and this was probably not all that the authors meant to imply

Castle of Wolfenbach-titlepage
Title-page of The Castle of Wolfenbach, [not] a German story. (London, 1794) British Library C.192.a.187

Claiming a false (and often foreign) origin for a work of gothic fiction was not uncommon. The first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, purported to be translated from an Italian manuscript (and the device of an invented source goes back further still). Indeed, the original German editions of both Der Geisterbanner and Der Genius claim to be based on other sources: Danish accounts collected by ‘Lorenz Flammenberg’ and the ‘papers of the Marquis C* von G**’ respectively.

Grosse Genius (Gothic)
The German title-page of Carl von Grosse, Der Genius (Halle, 1791) 12547.b.22.

But why such a German flavour in a list of English gothic novels? After all, the gothic novel began with Walpole’s supposedly Italian tale, and Ann Radcliffe’s novels also tend towards Italian settings. Italy, France and other southern, Catholic countries of Europe were popular backdrops for British gothic writers since sinister, conspiratorial monks, nuns and priests could be introduced as villains, pandering to the prejudices of a Protestant audience. Yet a German source was clearly a sign of gothic credibility for readers like Catherine and Isabella.

One reason is that there was a definite German influence on English gothic fiction. This came partly via the works of the Sturm und Drang movement and partly from the translations of the more popular and less literary ‘Schauerromane’ (literally ‘shudder novels’), themselves often influenced by British gothic models. (The false translation traffic could go both ways, too: a number of German gothic novels were ascribed to Ann Radcliffe in the first years of the 19th century.)  This German influence was not always welcomed. In 1807 the writer Charles Maturin wrote of literary ‘horrors’ reaching British shores on a ‘plague-ship of German letters’. Two years earlier The Critical Review had rather sarcastically described Matthew Lewis’s The Bravo of Venice as a ‘Germanico-terrific Romance’. The Bravo was an adaptation of a real German work, Heinrich Zschokke’s Abällino, although the reviewer, ‘not acquainted with the original’, and obviously on his guard against false claims of translation from the German, casts doubt on this. Nonetheless he still has some harsh words for the ‘writers of the German school’ and their constant desire to shock.

Mysterious warning frontispiece
Gothic goings-on in the frontispiece of The Mysterious Warning (London, 1796) 1153.f.32.

Apart from actual literary influences, the fact that ‘Gothic’ was still a synonym for ‘Germanic’ or Teutonic’ was no doubt another factor in the identification of Germany with things gothic, as was the Germans’ continued use of ‘gothic’ type. Interestingly, the Minerva Press, which published six of Austen’s ‘Horrid Novels’ and many other gothic works, printed its name in gothic type on its title pages – an early example of this kind of typeface being used as a kind of branding for the demonic and supernatural.

But perhaps another, although less easily demonstrable, explanation is that Germany simply lent itself more readily to gothic imagery in the popular imagination, with all the necessary forests, mountains and mediaeval buildings to furnish the scenery. Italy, despite its suspect Catholicism and its fair share of mountains and bandits, also carried connotations of fine art, classical civilisation and the Renaissance, all the antithesis of gothic. Perhaps even the idea of lowering North European skies as opposed to the sunshine of southern climes played a part: it’s harder to be gothic under a blue and sunny sky.

The continuing identification of German and gothic probably explains why Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein, despite coming from rational, Protestant, French-speaking Geneva, has a German surname, and conducts his anatomical experiments while studying in Germany.  And it survives to this day, not least in the use of gothic lettering (and oddly superfluous umlauts) in the marketing of heavy metal and gothic rock bands.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References/Further reading:

The seven ‘Horrid Novels’ as displayed in the current British Library exhibition are:

Eliza Parsons, The Castle of Wolfenbach, a German Story (London,  1794) C.192.a.187

Regina Maria Roche, Clermont, a Tale (London, 1798) 1152.h.1.

Eliza Parsons, The Mysterious Warning, a German Tale (London, 1796) 1153.f.32.

Karl Friedrich Kahlert, The Necromancer: or The Tale of the Black Forest: founded on facts, translated from the German of Lawrence Flammenberg by Peter Teuthold. (London, 1794)  C.175.i.8.

Francis Lathom The midnight bell, a German story, founded on incidents in real life… (London, 1798) C.117.ff.31.

Eleanor Sleath, The Orphan of the Rhine, a Romance (Dublin, 1802) Loan from University College Cork Library

Carl von Grosse Horrid Mysteries, a story from the German of the Marquis von Grosse, translated by P. Will (London, 1796) Loan from the Taylor Institution Library, Oxford


Michael Sadleir, Things Past (London, 1944) 12359.f.26.

Patrick Bridgwater, The German Gothic Novel in Anglo-German Perspective (Amsterdam, 2013) ZA.9.a.5563(165)


07 November 2014

Is your governess really a spy?

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Ever since Baroness Lehzen taught the young Princess Victoria, German governesses had occupied a place in 19th-century British consciousness. Many German women came to Britain during the century to teach either in schools or private homes, and a Verein deutscher Lehrerinnen in England  was founded in 1876 to offer them advice and assistance. By the beginning of the 20th century it was common – and fashionable – for upper-class families to employ a ‘Fräulein’ to help educate their daughters, even against the background of rising of anti-German sentiment.

Vereinsbote PP.1215.fb
Der Vereinsbote. Organ des Vereins deutscher Lehrerinnen in England
. Vol. 26, no. 1, February 1914 (British Library P.P.1215.fb). The journal of the Association of German Teachers in England. Like most British German newspapers and periodicals, it ceased publication in August 1914.

On the outbreak of war, however, governesses were among the Germans in Britain viewed with particular suspicion. Because some lived closely with the families of well-connected employers, they could easily be demonised as potential spies or fifth columnists.  A browse through contemporary newspapers via the British Newspaper Archive reveals a number of stories, or variations on the same story, about German governesses whose trunks were found to conceal bombs or secret documents. A report in the Lichfield Mercury of 21 August 1914 even claims that a German ‘secret order book’ had been discovered which recommended the placing of ‘handsome German governesses’ in the families of British military officers to gather information; presumably their handsomeness was intended to help tempt the officers into indiscretions  of various kinds.

These stories may strike us as faintly absurd, but their underlying message was taken seriously at the time, even in high places. In 1916, the Prime Minister of New Zealand specifically mentioned governesses, alongside waiters and clerks, as Germans employed in Britain who had used their position to collect information which was ‘promptly conveyed to Berlin.’ And of course these attitudes could have serious consequences for the women who suddenly found themselves designated ‘enemy aliens’, perhaps after many years as part of a British family, and suspected of spying.

Families who employed a German governess sometimes themselves fell under suspicion. A Mr Cunningham was still pursuing damages from the War Office in 1923, claiming that his business had collapsed when it was boycotted following a military search of his house in 1914, triggered in part by the presence there of a German governess. Even the British Prime Minister was suspected of harbouring a spy in the form of his children’s long-serving governess Anna Heinsius.

A popular example of the ‘governess as spy’ theme was the 1914 play The Man who Stayed at Home, set in a small seaside hotel where the hero, a British secret agent, affects a languid and flippant air to disguise his true mission as a spy-catcher. One of the first characters we meet is Fräulein Schroeder, described in the stage directions as ‘a tall, angular and unattractive spinster with a dictatorial manner and entirely unsympathetic soul.’

A modern audience might expect, or even hope, that such an obvious candidate as Fräulein Schroeder would turn out not to be a villain. But the popular stereotypes of the day prevail: she is in fact in cahoots with the hotel’s owner, Mrs Sanderson (German widow of an Englishman), her ‘son’ Carl (actually ‘Herr von Mantel, son of General von Mantel, and paid spy of the German Government’) and the waiter Fritz (who, despite a thick stage-German accent, manages to convince everyone that he is Dutch), all spies in the service of their ‘Imperial Master’ in Berlin.

Man who stayed at home
Cover of a 1916 acting text of The Man who stayed at Home .The image was also available as a poster for groups wishing to stage the play.

The play clearly pleased the British public. It had a long run in London and was filmed twice (1915 and 1919) and adapted as a novel (1915). The novel is somewhat kinder about Fräulein Schroeder’s appearance: initially, at least, she radiates  ‘all the placid good nature and quietude of spirit of the best of her race’ and has ‘small, kindly brown eyes’. But her fanaticism and ruthlessness are far more strongly emphasised and, in a change from the play, she poisons herself when the German plot is foiled, a ‘sordid and ugly’ death depicted as encapsulating the inglorious nature of her cause.

Amidst all these tall tales and spy-panics it is comforting to encounter stories of those who supported and defended such ‘enemy aliens’ trying to continue a teaching career in Britain during the war years. The Daily Mail of 3 September 1914 reported that a man who applied to the International Women’s Aid Committee for a governess for his children was shocked to be sent a German woman. But, the report continues, the Committee’s secretary responded that, ‘Our object is to help foreign women of any nationality who are the innocent victims of the war. We do not consider that we are helping the enemy in assisting a non-combatant German governess.’ A refreshing sentiment to set against the popular jingoism of the time.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References/further reading

Lechmere Worrall / J.E. Harold Terry, The Man who Stayed at Home: a play in three acts. French’s Acting Edition No. 2535 (London, [1916]). 2304.h.71.(4)

Beamish Tinker [i.e. F. Tennyson Jesse], The Man who Stayed at Home ... From the play of the same name. (London, 1915)NN.2687

Panikos Panayi, The Enemy in our Midst : Germans in Britain during the First World War (New York, 1991) YC.1991.a.4196

This piece was posted live from Selwyn College Cambridge as part of the Women In German Studies Postgraduate workshop in November 2014.

04 October 2014

Ploughing, scattering and translating, or, You know more German hymns than you think.

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Around this time of year churches in Britain are celebrating Harvest Festival, and many congregations will no doubt sing the favourite seasonal hymn ‘We plough the fields and scatter’. But  not many of the singers may be aware that this seemingly integral part of a British – or at least an Anglican – Harvest Festival service is in fact a translation of a German hymn, ‘Wir pflügen und wir streuen’, with words taken from a poem by the 18th-century German poet Matthias Claudius.

The English translation first appeared in 1861 in a collection entitled A Garland of Songs: or an English Liederkranz compiled by Charles S. Bere, a Devon clergyman. Bere was apparently something of a Germanophile: in a preface he speaks admiringly of the role played by vocal music in German homes and communities and expresses the hope that his English collection of secular and religious songs will encourage a similar culture among his compatriots. The translator, modestly described as “a lady … who wishes to be nameless”,  was Jane Montgomery Campbell (1817-1878). Among her other contributions to the collection is a version of ‘Stille Nacht’ beginning ‘Holy Night, peaceful night’ (the more familiar – and frankly better – translation ‘Silent Night’ was made two years earlier by an American Episcopal priest, John Freeman Young).

Stille Nacht JM Campbell
Jane Montgomery Campbell’s translation of ‘Stille Nacht’ from A Garland of Songs.

German hymns had been making their way into English for a long time before Bere and Campbell collaborated on their Garland. The Latin-German macaronic carol ‘In dulci jubilo’ and Luther’s ‘Ein’ feste Burg’ appeared in English versions as early as the 16th century, and John Wesley made some translations from German in the 18th century. But the 19th century was the golden age of German-English hymn translation. For example, most of us know  ‘Ein’ feste Burg’ best in Thomas Carlye’s translation as ‘A safe stronghold’ (or in another 19th-century American translation as ‘A mighty fortress’), and most of the German hymn translations in the Church of England’s standard hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern, date from this period.

Perhaps the most active 19th-century translator and promoter of German hymns in  Britain was Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). Winkworth really deserves a blog post to herself: she was not only a translator but also a social reformer and a pioneering advocate of women’s higher education, but here we must restrict ourselves to her collection of hymn translations, Lyra Germanica, which first appeared in  1855. Winkworth moved in intellectual Christian circles where contemporary German theology was much admired. The hymns in Lyra Germanica – over a hundred in all – were translated from a collection compiled by the ambassador and scholar Karl Josias von Bunsen (Winkworth’s sister Susanna also translated one of Bunsen’s prose works on theology). Winkworth followed up the success of her first series of translations with a second series and a study of German devotional lyrics, Christian Singers of Germany.

Lyra Germanica 3434.f.19
Binding from an 1868 luxury edition of Lyra Germanica (3434.f.19.), designed by John Leighton who was also one of the illustrators.

Although only a small percentage of the many hymns Winkworth translated are in general use today, those that are remain some of the most familiar and recognisable German hymns in Britain. The latest edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (now simply called Ancient and Modern) includes six of her translations, perhaps the best known being no. 739 ‘Now thank we all our God’ (‘Nun danket alle Gott’) and no. 765, ‘Praise to the Lord’ (‘Lobe den Herrn’). Other German hymns in the collection include no. 9 ‘When morning gilds the skies’ (‘Beim frühen Morgenlicht’) translated by Edward Carswell and no. 181 ‘O sacred head surrounded’, Henry Williams Baker’s translation of Paul Gerhardt’s ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden’. It is also worth noting that many of the tunes  in the book – for both German and other texts – are of German origin.

German hymns, then, are still sung in churches up and down the country, but it seems that they are waning somewhat in popularity. ‘Silent Night’ still holds its own in polls of favourite carols (although it has lost the top spot in recent years to a French rival, ‘O holy night’), but the only German entry in a recent BBC vote for ‘The UK’s top 100 hymns’ was ‘Now thank we all our God’, languishing at no. 65 in the chart. However, there is a German element within a wider European story behind the hymn which topped that poll, ‘How great thou art’. This is based on a Swedish original, and the most familiar English translation is by Stuart K. Hine, who discovered it when working as a Methodist missionary in the Carpathian Mountains in the 1930s. He translated it from a Russian version which was based in turn on an earlier German translation.

So whether at harvest time, Christmas or in the church year generally, an ‘English’ hymn may have an international story to tell. And if you are a churchgoer, you probably know more German hymns than you think.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References/further reading:

A Garland of Songs: or an English Liederkranz, edited by the Rev. C. S. Bere. (London, 1861). A.745

Lyra Germanica: Hymns for the Sundays and Chief Festivals of the Christian Year, translated from the German by Catherine Winkworth. (London, 1855). 3436.f.27.

Catherine Winkworth, Christian Singers of Germany (London, 1869).

Ancient and Modern: Hymns and Songs for Refreshing Worship. (London, 2013). D.845.t

Robert Maude Moorson, A Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern (London, 1885). 3436.g.55.

An Annotated Anthology of Hymns, edited with a commentary by J.R. Watson. (Oxford, 2002). YC.2002.a.10594.

Susan Drain, ‘Winkworth, Catherine (1827–1878)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 []


15 September 2014

A Teuton take on tartan: Sco(t)tland and the Germans

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Although I have used the title ‘Anglo-German Centuries’ to describe this series of blog posts, the intention was always to look at cultural ties between Germany and the whole of Britain. With the Scottish independence referendum imminent, this seems like a good moment to reflect specifically on Scotland in this context.

The early Hanoverian monarchs showed little personal interest in Scotland; since they had replaced the Stuart dynasty (which had ruled Scotland since the late 14th century) and had faced various Jacobite attempts to regain the crown, a certain wariness is hardly surprising. It was not until George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 that the increasingly anglicised Hanoverians also began to embrace their inner Scot and remember their Stuart ancestry. From here we can perhaps date the British royal family’s particular affection for Scotland, which continues to this day.

The man primarily responsible for this was Sir Walter Scott, who persuaded George IV to make his visit and the Scottish nobility to welcome him (and all concerned to don tartan kilts). But Scott was not just instrumental in introducing Britain’s ‘German’ monarchs to his country; he was also an important mediator of German culture in Britain. In his early twenties Scott had become fascinated with German literature – ‘German-mad’ as he later described it, His first published work was a translation of two ballads by Gottfried August Bürger in 1796 and the following year produced the first English translation of Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen

Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott. Frontispiece fom vol. 1 of  The Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott  (Paris, 1840) British Library 12273.g.2

Scott maintained an interest in German culture and literature throughout his life, and was influenced by the activities of the German writers and scholars who were rediscovering and recording national folklore and mediaeval literature (he corresponded for example with Jacob Grimm). He also encouraged Robert Pearse Gillies, another Scottish enthusiast for German literature, to found the Foreign Quarterly Review (London, 1827-1846; 268.h.15.), a journal devoted to continental literature. Through its pages Gillies introduced Kleist, among others, to British audiences.

Scott was among the 15 British admirers who presented Goethe with a golden seal on his 82nd birthday and was thanked in a poem addressed to ‘Fünfzehn englischen Freunden’. Chief among these ‘English’ friends was another Scot, Thomas Carlyle, who had begun a correspondence with Goethe after translating Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Carlyle was another great 19th-century champion of German literature and thought in Britain; indeed, in the words of the critic R.D. Ashton, he ‘became convinced that he alone knew anything about German literature … and that it was his duty to teach it’, and he continued in this mission for all his writing life.

Germans were also taken with Scotland and its culture. James Macpherson’s ‘Ossian’ poems were influential to the writers of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ and Romantic movements (and of course play a climactic role in Goethe’s Werther).  A combination of Macpherson’s work and actual Hebridean scenery inspired Felix Mendelssohn’s overture known both as ‘The Hebrides’ and ‘Fingal’s Cave’, and the same tour of Scotland inspired his ‘Scottish Symphony’.

Both Scott’s and Carlyle’s own works were well-received in Germany. Richard Andree, a German traveller to Scotland in the 1860s, described Scott as ‘the man who has brought Scotland’s history closest to us Germans’. On arrival in Edinburgh he hastened to pay his respects at the Scott memorial, but when he visited Scott’s home at Abbotsford he was somewhat disappointed by the stout guide who ‘smelt alarmingly of whisky’ and took quantities of snuff as she showed him round: ‘an unpleasant addition to the rooms where The Lady of the Lake was written’. 

In Edinburgh Andree almost immediately encountered fellow-Germans working there: three Swabian waiters at his hotel and a group of Palatine musicians busking in the street. This comes as something of a surprise as Scotland generally attracted far fewer Germans to work or settle in the 19th century than London or some of the northern English cities. Nonetheless, by the end of the century Edinburgh and Glasgow each had sufficient German populations to support a German church, so Andree’s waiters were part of a trend, if only a small one. (The musicians may have been a more itinerant group – he later encountered them again in Inverness.) A salutary reminder that sometimes the term ‘Anglo-’ is not enough when looking at British- German relations between 1714 and 1914.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies


Max Batt, ‘Contributions to the History of English Opinion of German Literature I. Gillies and the Foreign Quarterly Review’, Modern Language Notes vol. 17, no. 3 (March 1902) pp. 83-85. P.P.4970.i.

R.D. Ashton, ‘Carlyle’s Apprenticeship: His Early German Criticism and His Relationship with Goethe (1822-1832)’. Modern Language Review, vol.71, no. 1 (January 1976) 1-18 (p.7).

Richard Andree, Vom Tweed zur Pentlandföhrde: Reisen in Schottland (Jena, 1866) and available online [] 

Panikos Panayi, German immigrants in Britain during the nineteenth century, 1815-1914 (Oxford, 1995) YC.1996.a.721


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.

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: 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.

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


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


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


Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674 to 1913, 26 February 1783. URL:

  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


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