Friday, July 29, 2016

More Sointula days

Today I was able to download recent pictures. So here are a few. Click to enlarge.

First, beach scenes:






Next, some street scenes:



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sointula Days


Bere Point, Malcolm Island, photo by Dan Herlihy
Although I have been here a month, it has not been particularly sunny, which means I have not taken many pictures. Finally, a week of sun, and I try to download my photos today –– without success. I don't know what this means, but it may mean I need a new camera. In the meantime, I will post photos that I have taken in the last month. Click to enlarge.

The first are from a short visit I made down island to visit my old friend Frieda Werden from University of Texas Press days. She now lives on Denman Island.

Morning stroll with Frieda on Denman beach

Found art on Denman Island

The Sixties live on on Denman

Cafe gone, but sign remains


Suzette gives moral instruction



The following are from Sointula, except for the photo at the top of this post, by local photographer Dan Herlihy. I plan to purchase it, so expect to see it in my apartment this fall.

Well-maintained Finnish house

Another lovely house

Poorly maintained house

Mitchell Bay house under construction
Goethe Girl (2nd right) on dragon boat crew

Grass cutting
Sunset in my window
Here is Sointula

How Did They Manage to Do so Much?

The Night Bookmobile (detail), by Audrey Niffenegger
I asked myself this question while reading the biography of Goethe by the Scottish historian Peter Hume Brown (1849–1914). Keep in mind that Brown was not a Germanist, not even a literary scholar. Between 1898 and 1912, however, he made annual trips with Richard Haldane to Weimar, the two sharing an enthusiasm for Goethe's work and German literature in general, and collecting materials for a life of Goethe. In 1913 Brown brought out the first half of the biography; the second volume would appear posthumously, nearly complete in 1918, but edited by Richard and Elizabeth Haldane who also published a collection of Brown’s lectures.

Biographies, even the longest ones, give only a partial view of their subject, and Brown's is no exception. The inner life is not part of his remit, insofar as that refers to Goethe’s private emotions, but the extent of Brown’s knowledge of Goethe’s outward life and his works is pretty staggering. One small detail: noting that Carlsbad replaced Jena for Goethe after Schiller’s death, how did Brown come up with such details as that Goethe was among “about 650 visitors in Carlsbad”? Sigrid Damm, in Christiane and Goethe, devotes space to Goethe’s visits to the spa, including the one undertaken with Christiane, noting some of the well-known personalities at the watering hole, but she doesn’t mention how many visitors were actually partaking of the waters.

M.M. Prechtl, Goethe in Farbenkreis
Well, in answer to my question about how earlier writers managed to do so much, clearly they had someone like Christiane taking care of the household, from ceiling to cellar which included managing household accounts and servants, receiving visitors, generally isolating the master from distractions, and assuring that he had his favorite foods, even when he was in a town six hours a way by carriage. In “the troubled year of 1806,” according to Brown, Goethe was “assiduously  pursuing his own pursuits. In April he finished the first part of Faust, in December the didactic part of the Farbenlehre, and he was at the same time engaged on the edition of his collective [sic?] works.” He also assisted in restoring “the ordinary life” in Weimar and Jena after the French incursion. With the help of the commandant of the French soldiery quartered in Weimar, lectures were recommenced at the university of Jena on November 3; on December 5 the Institute of Drawing in Weimar was reopened; and also in December the theater in Weimar. “Goethe, in spite of conditions that would have arrested the productiveness of most men, turned out a considerable tale of literary work between 1805 and 1809.”

Does anyone care about the role of Christiane in all of this? Was she just a little nobody, an ordinary person, like many other women in Weimar, who would otherwise not attract any interest had she not been associated with Goethe? Marius Fränzel clearly thinks she does not merit a role in a double biography. Here is his judgment of Damm's study, summarized: Taken by herself, this woman is in no way interesting. Without her connection with Goethe, she remains ordinary, one among many contemporary women with an ordinary life. One should not be surprised to discover that she was no Simone de Beauvoir. Christiane herself simply does not interest us, despite the over 500 pages of this volume.

Moreover, Fränzel asserts, Damm knows this as well,  yet she seems to have set her self the task of pleading for this person, of making Christiane interesting — without success. 600 letters were exchanged between Goethe and Christiane, yet at the end of this book the relationship between Goethe and Christiane has not been illuminated. Fränzel  nsists that we know only what we can see from the outside, that they apparently loved each other — insofar as that can be explained — that they succeeded in establishing a way of life that was beneficial to Goethe’s productivity, and that was probably pragmatically accepted and maintained.  In sum: “Liebe und Alltag einer Lebensgemeinschaft.”

Fränzel does give Damm credit for the amount of archival research she has undertaken, which supports her narrative style, which he calls the  “Ich stelle mir vor” method. As he writes, “‘Ich stelle mir vor’ erscheint in diesem Blick nur als die reflektierte Variante dessen, was Biographik in wesentlichen Teilen immer schon war: Vergegenwärtigung des Undokumentierten.” Damm belongs to the school of biographers who rely on their imagination to effectuate a portrait, rather than on “the facts.”

Cornelia Goethe, ca. 1770, by J.L.E. Morgenstern
I think he is wrong, however, to condemn this double biography because of the lesser importance Christiane occupies in the world of Goethe studies. I pointed out in my last post Goethe’s failure to educate this “ordinary” woman with whom he lived on intimate terms for 28 years, especially the contrast it represented to the opportunities Marianne von Willemer received from Johann von Willemer. This failure is also of interest because of Goethe’s own pedagogical tendencies, revealed early on in his letters to Cornelia from Leipzig. And one should note the anecdote reported by Bettina Brentano, that the child Goethe had under his bed a stack of papers with lessons and stories in which he had planned to instruct his younger brother. He had once been an enthusiast for Rousseau, remember?

As has been written: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." There is no use in speculating on what might have become of Christiane had Goethe devoted more time to her education. Had he done so, we would have had a different Goethe to contend with. But the omission does suggest that Goethe could not combine physical intimacy with a woman with whom he was intellectually or literarily involved (Charlotte von Stein), even had he wished to do so (Marianne v. Willemer, Minna Herzlieb)

Picture credits: The Guardian; Galeria Jacobsa Nürnberg

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Christiane und Marianne

Marianne von Willemer, 1809
Weimar had lain in the path of Napoleon's retreat after the battles between the French army and the Russian-Austrian allies in October 1813. As in 1806, Weimar was threatened, but the early arrival of Russian Cossacks, Prussian and Hungarian Hussars, and Austrian Dragoners had prevented the town from being burned to the ground by the retreating French. Despite uncertainty and fears, Goethe and his household were again spared. They receive a “Sauvegarde” on October 22. The Austrian general Hieronymus von Colloredo was quartered in Goethe's house from October 23, along with 14 officers. Every room in the house was required, and one can imagine the amount of work Christiane had to organize. According to Damm, there was a single "Abtritt" in the house. Despite the tribulations, Goethe made note in his diaries of the “interesting acquaintances” he had made, which to some extent mitigated the evils that he experienced: Metternich, Hardenberg, Prince Paul of Wurttemberg, Prince August of Prussia. At the court in Weimar he met emperor Alexander.

1814, as Sigrid Damm notes, the year of Restoration, was also one of restoration for Goethe. Christiane, however, was not part of what many at the time saw as Goethe's rejuvenation and rebirth. His failure to make her part of his intellectual life continued to deepen the distance them, no more so than in his discovery of the Persian poet Hafiz. A new woman, Marianne Willemer, came into his life. Damm's portrayal of the relationship between Marianne and Goethe, in connection with the composition of the West-East Divan, indicates what Christiane might have been had Goethe nurtured her spiritually and not been solely content for her to serve as his "Hausschatz" or "Bettschatz" (his own terms),

In May 1814, Goethe and Christiane made their final trip together as man and wife, to Bad Berka. While there, Goethe was given a copy of the Divan translation by Joseph von Hammer. Goethe began to make his escape from the risin German patriotism, with which he had no sympathy, and other contemporary political distractions with his "hegira" to the East.  Damm writes: “Gedankliches Auswandern als bewußte Abgrenzung zum Zeitgeschehen.” Throughout 1814 he continued to write poems in emulation of Hafiz. He also traveled in July to the Rhine/Main area. During his absence Christiane experienced the first of what Damm calls "Anfälle."

View of Frankfurt from Gerbermühle, with dedication by Goethe
1815 begins with her illness. Goethe writes to Johann Jacob von Willemer in Frankfurt in April that Christiane had been “two fingers” away from death. Does Goethe stay and attend to his wife, the woman with whom he has lived for 28 years? I am afraid Goethe does not come off well in Damm's account. That summer he is again in the Rhine/Main area, and spends over a month with the Willemers, both at their residence in Frankfurt and at their summer retreat at "Gerbermühle." The influence of Marianne on the further composition of the Goethe's Divan as well as her own contributions have been studied by scholars. (For an overview in English,  especially concerning the "Suleika" cycle, go to this link.) What interests me here, and what Damm contends Goethe must have noticed, were the parallels between Marianne and Christiane. Both were accomplished in the field of "Lebenskunst."

Marianne came from a theatrical background, i.e., her mother was an actress, with father unknown. She made an early appearance on the Frankfurt stage at the age of eleven with a traveling troupe of ballet-dancers. Theatrical notices of the time point out "the gracefulness of her infantine performances." Mignon, anyone? It was at this time that she attracted the notice of the wealthy Frankfurt banker Willemer, who literally purchased the girl from her mother (2,000 gulden) and who thereupon raised her in his own household, educating her with his own daughters. Like Christiane, Marianne was a "creature" of a man, but one who provided her with a many-sided education. For instance, she had had music lessons from Clemens Brentano. In the late summer of 1815, she met Goethe on equal terms.

Christiane, too, was Goethe's "Geschöpf," as Damm writes, but he never gave her the opportunity to rise above her background, which in any case was not lacking in intellectual substance. She went frequently to the theater, evidence of a life-long interest, awakened early in companionship with her brother, who himself was an accomplished writer. In the last year of her life, she attended 43 performances in a five-month period. She was on intimate terms with Weimar's star actress, Caroline Jagemann (also the duke's mistress), and, as Damm notes, had mediated the artistic differences between Goethe as director of the Weimar theater and Jagemann.

One can't help thinking that Christiane might have become a knowledgeable theater critic or even taken a more active role in Weimar theatrical productions had Goethe taken the time to lead her. After their marriage duties were imposed on her from which she had been excluded for 18 years and in which she was not skilled.  There had never been lessons, no training or education at all.  As Damm writes, Christiane did not know "the text." So, while the relationship with Marianne came to be symbolized by the Ginko leaf, with its two-part leaf form representing symmetry and even equal partnership, Goethe's relationship with Christiane is associated with the clinging ivy and strangled tree of the poem "Amyntas."

Despite the number of volumes of Goethe's works devoted to "autobiography," Damm observes that Goethe remained silent about his happiness during the six weeks he spent in Marianne's company. It is only in the Divan that one feels his happiness. And although Goethe lived for sixteen years after Christiane's death in 1816, he likewise never wrote a word about the woman with whom he had lived for twenty-eight years. Goethe never discussed any truly private matters. Damm refers to this reticence as a natural disposition to self-protection. His silence about Christiane, however, has given rise to clichés, legends, and half-truths that have obscured her image for posterity.

Pictures: Willemer portrait by by Johann Jacob de Lose (Freies Dt. Hochstift–Frankfurter Goethe-Museum); Goethe's poem "Ginkgo Biloba," in his handwriting, 1815, with attached Ginkgo leaves

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Portrait of a Marriage"

African American cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
In Sigrid Damm's Christiane und Goethe, the years from 1796 to 1802 marks greats strains in the relationship. Schiller has entered the picture, Goethe is feeling the need for poetic productivity. The love nest is sacrificed to the working life, and he spends much time in Jena. The letters from Christiane to Goethe from this period are painful to read. She has no social status, only him, and she sounds a bit like Gretchen in Faust. On September 25, 1796, she writes:  “[E]s ist mir … als wär mir es unmöglich, länger ohne Dich zu leben.” On October 2: "“Des Abends ist mein letzter Gedanke an Dich und des Morgens ist es wieder der erste. … Kurz, wenn Du nicht da bist, ist es alles nichts.” Truly cringe-worthy.

While he is in Jena, his letters to her have mentioned what he is working on, if not the content. When he informs her in 1797 that he has finished writing “Die Braut von Korinth” and “Der Gott und die Bajadere,” she actually suggests he take a break from writing. When she learns of his intention to travel to meet Heinrich Meyer in Switzerland, she threatens to come along, whether he wants her or not: "Und wenn Du nach Italien oder sonst eine lange Reise machst und willst mich nicht mitnehmen, so setze ich mich mit dem Gustel hinten darauf; denn ich will lieber Wind und Wetter und alles Unangenehme auf der Reise ausstehen, als wieder so lange ohne Dich sein." Damm writes that Goethe must feel himself threatened in the most important part of his existence, his creativity.

"Amyntas," written in classic, elegiac meters, visualizes this threat. In the poem Amyntas, suffering from love, addresses Nikias a "doctor of body and soul," who had advised reason. But Amyntas compares his situation to that of an apple tree, whom he has discerned speaking. The tree can scarcely bear fruit any longer and its own existence is threatened by the ivy that encircles, embraces, and strangles it.

Und so saugt sie das Mark, sauget die Seele mir aus … nichts gelangt zur Krone hinauf, die äußersten Wipfel / Dorren, es dorret der Ast über dem Bache schon hin. / Ja, die Verräterin ist’s! sie schmeichelt mir Leben und Güter, / Schmeichelt die strebende Kraft, schmeichelt die Hoffnung mir ab.”

Like the tree, however, Amyntas recognizes his own contribution to this threatening pas de deux:

 “Hab ich nicht selbst sie genährt und sanft sie herauf mir erzogen? … Soll ich nicht lieben die Pflanze, die, meiner einzig bedürftig, / Still, mit begieriger Kraft, mir um die Seite sich schlingt?/ Tausend Ranken wurzelten an, mit tausend und tausend / Fasern, senket sie, fest, mir in das Leben sich ein.”

Goethe is often called "the poet of experience," but as this poem demonstrates, the experience is never unmediated. He transfuses his experience with inherited poetic imagery or forms, especially classical exemplars.

Nicholas Boyle writes that Schiller, commenting to Goethe on the poem, diplomatically overlooked the Nikias-like advice he had been offering Goethe for over a year. Further, according to Boyle, Goethe "turns the symbol of sexual obsession into a symbol of quasi-marital fidelity and so creates a sense of amused detachment from a paradoxical relationship":

"Halte das Messer zurück! o Nikias! schone den Armen, / Der sich inliebender Lust willig gezwungen, verzehrt. / Süß ist jede Verschwendung! o! laß mich der schönsten genießen! / Wer wich der Liebe vertaut hält er sein Leben zu Rat?"

Paradoxical, indeed. Talk about sexual dependence. Körner responds to Schiller, who has written to him of Goethe's "weakness" vis a vis Christiane: “Man verletzt die Sitten nicht ungestrafft."

Andre Masson, Goethe and the Metamorphosis of Plants (1940)
The complexity of the relationship can be seen in an earlier poem (1790) more complimentary to Christiane, namely, "The Metamorphosis of Plants," which again resorts to intense nature imagery to describe the interdependence of the lovers: “O! gedenke denn auch wie, aus dem Keim der Bekanntschaft, / Nach und nach in uns holde Gewohnheit ersproß .. Denke wie mannigfach bald diese bald jene Gestalten, / Still entfaltend, Natur unsern Gefühlen geliehen.”

In any case, by 1798, as Damm writes, Goethe and Christiane finally came to an agreement, as Goethe has been able to make her understand the importance of his work for their combined future thriving; in other words, he must work and earn money. And his work means solitude for himself, even apart from her.

Picture sources: East End Cemetery; DreamTime;

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Goethe's brother-in-law


"Stürmisch brauste der Wind, tobend wie empörte Meereswogen, über den Nacken der hohen Apenninen, schüttelte die Wipfel hundertjähriger Eichen und beugte das schwankende Gesträuch der Flamme des Feuers zu, an welchem nahe bei einer steilen Felsenwand, in einem kleinen Tale, Rinaldo und Altaverde saßen. Die Nacht war dunkel, dichte Wolken verschleierten den Mond, und kein lächelnder Stern funkelte am Himmel."

This passage of purple prose is from a work entitled Rinaldo Rinaldini: der Räuberhauptmann. It is from the hand of Christian August Vulpius, the brother on whose behalf Christiane first approached Goethe, a meeting that inaugurated their relationship. Although Goethe ultimately helped him to secure a firm position at court with fairly substantial remuneration, he certainly never went out of his way and certainly never referred to him as his brother-in-law. (Which he would not in any case have been until 1806.) In his letters Goethe speaks of Christian August as "Registrator," as "Bibliothekar," as "der gute Rath Vulpius," while the latter addresses Goethe as "Ew. Exzellenz" and signs himself "untertanigster Diener." He seems to have known his place.

Indeed, Vulpius seems to have been regarded by Goethe as one of the many "Dienender" in his household. He carried out an immense amount of work for Goethe, with very little remuneration. As Damm writes: “Christian August Vulpius hat Goethes Vertrauen mit unendlichem Fleiß und lebenslanger Dienstwillingkeit und Liebe erwidert, ohne auf dessen Gegenliebe zu treffen.”


Vulpius, however, was a very accomplished person, and his life is testimony to the immense amount of effort a person without wealth and family connections had to make to secure a foothold in the world in the 18th century. Because of his many labors, executed to keep a roof over his head, he did not have the leisure to be a "literary artist" in the manner of Goethe and Schiller. Thus, the potboiler Rinaldo Rinaldini, which was an immensely popular work and which, today, represented by a literary agent, would have netted him an immense sum. It was made into a Finnish film in 1927, and, according to Wikipeida, into a TV series of 13 episodes in 1968. (Click on images to enlarge.) Besides reprints within a few years of its publication in 1798, it was translated into English in 1800, into French in 1801, and went on to appear in Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Swedish, and Danish. It is still in print in two editions.

His various plays were also performed in various cities in Germany.

Such popularity might have wounded Goethe, who no longer had much resonance with the public. His feelings toward Vulpius were similar to those he felt toward Friedrich Jusin Bertuch: “Der Mann bildet sich ein, daß wir Berührungspunkte hätten.” In Bertuch's case, it could not have been a matter of class, but of Bertuch's mercantile efforts. A publication of 1800, concerning "historisch-statistischen Nachrichten" about the famous city of Weimar places Vulpius sixth among the famous writers of the city: Wieland, Goethe, Herder, Bertuch, Böttiger, Vulpius, Falk, Scherer, Jean Paul, and Merkel.

Indeed, Vulpius's many writings appear to have been well received, including the 1788 Das Glossarium für das Achtzehnte Jahrhundert, an "Enlightenment" dictionary, which contains the following definition of "Dichter": "eine Menschengattung, welche sich des Hungers nicht erwehren kann und doch von Göttermalen, von Nektar und Ambrosia spricht." A reprint by the M. Wehrhahn Verlag was reviewed by the Suddeutsche Zeitung in 2002. Apparently, Vulpius's rehabilitation is underway, with his work being featured in an exhibition entitled Andere Klassik in 2012. In the same year, a review of the printed book Andere Klassik – Das Werk von Christian August Vulpius, edited by Alexander Košenina, appeared in Goethe Jahrbuch.

Picture credit: Wunschliste; Biller Antik

Friday, July 15, 2016

Goethe and Christiane, 2

Beach on Kaleva Road
I continue to read Sigrid Damm's fascinating book Christiane und Goethe: Eine Recherche. (See earlier post for first installment.) Damm writes in an afterword that this book is not a scholarly monograph. She wishes instead to approach her subject "narratively." Which she does, a method familiar to all who have read her earlier books. Scholarly or not, the research she brings to bear is impressive and shows the insights to be gained from archival diligence.

Part IV begins with the 1792 French campaign. Goethe wants no part of it; neither the deaths of aristocratic or of democratic sinners are of concern to him. He complains of the four-year song of pro and con in regard to the French Revolution. Nevertheless, he accompanies the duke, traveling alongside the army in civilian dress, with servant and luggage. The duke's soldiers call him "Feldpoet," and carry him over the mud in and out of his sleeping tent. When he reaches Luxumburg on October 2, he notes in his diary: "Hairdresser."

The letters to Christiane show Goethe the lover. "Declarations of love," they allows a glimpse of the  trust and intimacy that had grown up between them in the past four years. A sign of his longing for domestic comforts is his reference to Christiane as his “lieber Küchenschatz.” As Damm writes: "In seiner Lebensmitte ist eine Frau für ihn wichtig, die Bette und Tische mit ihm teilt. Ihm Behagen, Behaglichkeit in weitesten Sinne schafft: im Bett, am Tisch, in Haus.” Further: “Sein Wohlergehen steht über allem.” They have a nickname for the child Christiane is expecting: Pfuiteufelchen.

Former main entrance to Goethe's residence
The relationship changes after the meeting with Schiller in 1794. Goethe rediscovers his poetic vocation. He begins to spend days, weeks, in the company of Schiller and even of Schiller's family. In a letter of January 1795, Christiane shows her anger at this neglect. Addressing him as "Sie," she complains about the emptiness of the house and of her boredom. The complaints make her sound clinging, but not without reason. I was struck by a letter from Schiller to his wife from which Damm quotes. In it Schiller describes to Charlotte all the things that he and Goethe are discussing during Schiller's stay at the Frauenplan house in Weimar. Goethe, we must assume, discusses nothing with Christiane. Unlike Schiller's wife, she is a woman without conjugal rights. Schiller never encounters her, although she prepares his room, fixes his meals, and so on. If "Schillers Frau und Kind werden ganz selbstverständlich in die Freundschaft einbezogen," the reverse is not the case. The Frauenplan house is about Goethe and his interests. It is a “representative” home, decorated, as one visitor notes, with “feinstem epikuräischem Geschmack.”

Their fourth child was born in October 1795, apparently healthy, but dies within a few weeks. Rhesus factor is now suspected for these deaths; August, the first child, survived, but the blood incompatibility of the father and mother dooms the succeeding children. One wonders to what extent these deaths prevented their relationship from maturing.

Christiane keeps the household accounts; there are outlays on fine foods, not to forget Goethe's acquisitions of drawings and engravings. Christiane never takes the affluence for granted. “Die Wohlhabenheit des Hauses Goethe wird sie zeitlebens nicht als die ihre betrachten.” During this time, he seeks to get a small widow's pension for her, in case of his death. But, as Damm asks, was Goethe, who was never threatened with financial insecurity, able to put himself in Christiane's place?

Kaleva Road drift wood
To return to Damm's preface. Although Damm asserts that this book is not a scholarly monograph, the creation of Goethe's oeuvre took place against the background of their everyday life, whether they were together or apart. By considering Christiane, one attains astonishing insights into Goethe's method of working and the genesis of his works. These include, in this Part IV, Reinecke Fuchs, Wilhelm Meister, and the Roman Elegies.

 I beach combed this morning, although the beach on the west side of Malcolm Island is not friendly to walkers. Along with the huge pebbles, the "drift wood" on the beach is huge, like the bones of mastodons. As a walker, one must watch one's step, which means that I am always looking for rocks showing signs of interesting geological history.