Sunday, August 13, 2017

Goethe im Rheingau

First there was one
 We all hear of free-range poultry and meat, but in Sointula one sees “free range” concretized. The daily experience of all these cows grazing in my back yard, roaming from their homestead further up the road, has put me in mind of Goethe. Cows in yards and on public ways was probably a common sight in the small town of Weimar, if not on the meadows of the ducal residence,  perhaps along the Ilm, where Goethe had his cottage.

Then there were two

And three
As I mentioned in an earlier post, a couple of weeks ago I traveled in the Rheingau with friends. We stopped at the Brentano House in Winkel, which was once part of the large estate of Franz and Antonia Brentano. Franz, a wealthy Frankfurt merchant, was the half-brother of Clemens and Bettina Brentano. Goethe spent the first eight days of September of 1814 at their estate, which allowed him also to visit other Rheingau points of interest. Antonia Brentano wrote later of this visit:

Als Goethe bei uns zu Besuche wohnte, veranstaltete er immer selbst die Landparteien, die Mittags vorgenommen werden sollten. Er sagte z.B. "Heute Nachmittag anspannen und nach Johannisgrund fahren," denn zum Gehen bequemte er sich nicht gerne. Oder bestellte er eine Nachenfahrt.

Don't forget me!
Along with his interest in the Rochus Chapel, Goethe noted the following in his diary of Septmber 6:  “Spaziergang erst allein, dann mit Mad. Brentano und Dlle Serviere. Frl. v. Güngerode Leben und Tod. Ort ihres Selbstmordes. Kurz vorhergehend.”

He visited the vineyards of Vollrat Castle as well as those of Johannisberg. As he would write at the time to his son, he got to know the region well.

Sointula pastoral
Hier bin ich sehr gut, schön und bequem, man thut mir alles zu Lieb und Lust. Ohne die Aufmercksame Gefälligkeit dieser Familie, hätte ich die Gegend im ganzen Umfang nicht kennen lernern, welche sehr der Mühe wert ist. Man kann lange in der Erinnerung dieser Bilder genießen.

One image he did not record, however, no doubt because it could scarcely be a memorable one, was that of livestock wandering around the countryside, even if by then much farm land would have been fenced. For those of us in the West today, the sight in my back yard is of course an unusual one, prompting me to thoughts about the prominence of the pastoral genre in earlier centuries.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Home again

A visitor in my back yard
I got back from Germany on Monday, so happy to be back on my small island and also back to work on my novel. Many of you will not know that Goethe Girl once published novels, back before Goethe came into her life in a big way. I am now returning to my literary persona and my days in Sointula, so full of peace and quiet, are conducive to novelistic labors.

Herewith follow a few scenes from my final days in Germany, spent in Marburg with my friends Eberhard and Uschi Leyendecker. Marburg was where I studied so many years ago and met up with my old friends from those days at the reunion in Mannheim. (Click on photos to enlarge.)


Eberhard prepares an evening collation

Marburg was also home to a Romantic circle

The castle in Marburg
All over Germany there are Reformation exhibitions. Our group attended one in Mannheim on the papacy and its role in the "founding," to so speak, of Europe. The exhibition in the castle in Marburg laid emphasis on the role of education in the Reformation. Philipps-Universität in Marburg was the first protestant university founded after the Reformation, in 1527. Pictured below is its founder, Philipp I of Hessen (1504-1567).

Philipp I of Hessen



Friday, July 28, 2017

Goethe in Rheingau

Almost 213 years ago, on September 2, 1814, Goethe visited the Rheingau region. I learned this from a lovely exhibition catalogue I bought at the Goethe-Museum in Frankfurt on Tuesday: Goethes Zeitschrift Ueber Kunst und Alterthum: von den Rhein- und Mayn Gegenden zur Weltliteratur. The first chapter concerns "Im Rheingau Herbstages," with Goethe's visit at the country estate of the Brentano family in Winkel on the Rhine. And 213 years later, I visited the Brentano house with friends from the outing in Mannheim. Unfortunately, we had not checked to see if the house was open.It was not, and is very much in needs of patrons to rehabilitate it. We went next to the nearby Vollrads castle, which Goethe visited on September 2. It was very much open for a visit, at least the grounds. Here is what Goethe wrote about his visit to Vollrads:



Ohngefähr in der Mitte von Winkel biegt man aus nach der Höhe zu, um Vollrath zu  besuchen. Erst geht der Weg zwischen Weinbergen, denn erreicht man eine Wiesenfläche, sie is hier unerwartet, feucht und mit Weiden umgeben. Am Fuß des Gebirges, auf einem Hügel liegt das Schloß, rechts und links fruchtbare Felder und Weinberge, einen Bergwald von Buchen und Eichen im Rücken.

Schloß Johannisberg
 I will not repeat the entire account here (see KuA), suffice it to say that Goethe Girl was able to purchase a bottle of the Goethe wine at Schloß Vollrads. We also made a stop at Schloß Johannisberg. The next time I have a glass of Johannisberg Riesling, I will know from where it originates.

Near the Brentano house in Winkel


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Friends of his youth

Goethe Girl has made a quick (!) trip from Vancouver to Frankfurt. The purpose was a reunion with friends of mine from university days in Marburg back in the Stone Age. We meet very five years for a reunion, which takes place in the town of the organizer. This year we are in Mannheim. After my arrival at Frankfurt International Airport, I headed into the city and went to the Goethe-Museum for a very short visit, before heading on to Mannheim. The works below include two paintings that represent works with which Goethe was familiar and which he discussed in his autobiography, Poetry and Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit).  The other paintings are of people who were of influence  in his youth. The dates indicate the way they might have looked when Goethe knew them.The paintings of Oeser, Stolberg, and Gellert are by Anton Graff. The painting of Carl August is by Johann Ernst Heinsius. According to the museum label, Carl August decided in 1780 to chop off the customary Prussian pigtail in favor of a "Schwedenkopf." (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Adam Friedrich Oeser (1776)
Christian F. Gellert (1769)
Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg (1785)
Carl August, Duke of Weimar (1781)

Justus Junckner, Visit to an Artist's Studio (1854)










Monday, July 17, 2017

Sointula days

At the other end of Malcolm island, reached after travel on a logging road, is Mitchell Bay. Back in the Sixties, some folks from the U.S. settled this part of the island, living, as we now say, "off the grid." (It is amazing how interminable the road to Mitchell Bay is when you are driving in second gear.) In the meantime, some beautiful houses have been built, as exemplified by that of Thelma and Murray, who invited me to go out in their boat to look for whales. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

The best part of the excursion was the sight of a huge pod of dolphins. They came close to the boat, swam and dived under it, but mostly they were in search of herring. They travel fast. I could not help thinking at the time how mysterious they seemed and that they would find a prominent place in Greek mythology. It just so happened that yesterday a correspondent of this blog wrote to me about the frequent appearance of dolphins in Greek mythology. He mentioned a depiction of them, dated 1600 B.C., on the walls of a bathroom in the palace at Knossos. The picture here shows these marvelous water creatures.

Whales were seen as well. Afterward, Thelma showed me her beautiful quilts.

Goethe Girl is also working while here, as will be revealed in further posts.

Departing Mitchell Bay to view whales

White-sided dolphins too fast to photograph

Goethe Girl enjoys the ride

The ocean

Thelma's quilt reminded me of Goethe's color wheels

Thelma herself

Photograph credit (Knossos): Te Ara

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gone fishing

I am back in Sointula for my summer sojourn. It has been a busy first week, with a day trip to northwest Vancouver Island. The painting of the logger (detail only) was taken at the Scarlet Ibis Pub in Holberg on the way to Grant Bay, where the beach pictures were taken. Goethe Girl can be seen standing in front of a wonderful outcropping of basalt. Click on photos to enlarge.

Going on 10 p.m. it is 12.3 Celsius. More news to follow.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

Goethe and the Cult of Personality in 19th-Century Britain

Female preacher at a Quaker meeting
My friend and colleague Gregory Maertz, professor of English at Saint John’s University, reminds me of the men and women interviewed on HR2 “Doppelkopf,” one of my favorite German podcasts. Alongside his expertise in 19th-century British literature, he has recently published a volume of essays on the influence of Goethe in Britain in the late 18th–early 19th century. The title of the volume, Literature and the Cult of Personality, is a hint of the importance of Goethe, especially for Thomas Carlyle, at a time that the latter referred to as “these hard unbelieving utilitarian days.” In an age bereft of spiritual certainties, literature replaced the role of religion for Carlyle, and it was Goethe who became the prophet of the new dispensation, with his texts comparable to the Acts of the Apostles for people of faith. Thus, Goethe became “the Uniter and Reconciler” of “the inward spiritual chaos” of “the most distracted and divided age .. since the introduction of the Christian religion.”

It has been pointed out that Carlyle’s criticism is decidedly lacking in formal evaluation of Goethe’s works.  Instead, Goethe’s “oracular significance” was based to the greatest extent on what Carlyle perceived as his “sincerity” (or maybe “authenticity” as per Lionel Trilling?): Goethe was not simply some painter of words or imitator of poetic formulas. He lived what he wrote, which was suggested to Carlyle by Goethe’s own oracular pronouncement in Dichtung und Wahrheit: "Everything that I have published previously consists of fragments of a great confession."

While Carlyle is the best-known mediator of Goethe’s influence in Britain, the first chapter of Literature and the Cult of Personality concerns the first translators of German literature, writers loosely identified with the Godwin circle. They were among the earliest and most fervent supporters of the French Revolution, which very quickly made them marginal, not only with respect to the dominant politics (which were anti-Jacobin). The stance of being ideological outsiders may have been second nature to them, as many were Dissenters (e.g., Quakers, Methodists) or female, thus, with little access to what Greg calls the Oxbridge or public school education based on Latin and Greek.
Thomas Holcroft

A member of this circle, Thomas Holcroft, was so sympathetic to the French Revolution that he was effectively banished from publishing under his own name, even after his acquittal for treason in 1794. The appeal to him of Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea is not surprising, and he  produced the first translation to appear in Britain.  As Greg writes, the text allowed Holcroft to center himself “in a foreign otherness,” while the conflict within Hermann’s family mirrored that of the Godwin circle “in the wake of war hysteria and government reaction.” Goethe himself praised Holcroft for his translation in a letter of May 29, 1801, in which he distinguished two approaches to translation.

Because of my own work on the reception of Milton in Germany in the early 18th century, I was interested to learn of the many contacts of Germans in Britain already by then. Several German scientists and Enlightenment figures became members of the Royal Society on its founding in 1663, and throughout the following century German musicians and painters worked in England. The youngest Bach son, Johann Christian, organized concerts of Mozart’s music in London and arranged his appearance at court in 1764. John Wesley transmitted many German hymns into the Methodist musical inventory.

Thus, Goethe was not the first or only German writer whose works appeared in translation. Fuseli, who arrived in England from Zurich in 1760, produced the first translation of Winckelmann in English, and Henry  Hudson’s translation of Lavater’s Physiological Fragments appeared in a lavish edition of three volumes (1789, 1792, 1798). The plays of Kotzebue were wildly popular on the London stage (in contrast to those of Lessing or Goethe). Indeed, as Greg writes, the dominant literary public felt “nearly universal antipathy toward Goethe,” precisely for the lack of moralism in his works. In the words of the Anti-Jacobin Review, “he has attained that divine morality which looks down on all forms of human conduct, with equal eye, and sees in the lewdness of Faustus, or the purity of Iphigenie, but that exact adaptation of effect and cause of conduct and motive, which he characterizes the constitution of things.”

There is much of interest here. I liked William Taylor's characterization of Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) as a "biographical novel," revealing (quoting here Schopenhauer) the inner significance of everyday life, in contrast to the outer significance. Further chapters discuss the reception of Kant, Henry Crabb Robinson, the Romantic idealization of the artist, the influence of Goethe in New England, and Goethe’s role in the literary formation of George Eliot.