Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kotzebue!!! Ermordung

Kotzebue is assassinated
On this date in 1819 Goethe recorded the following in his diary: "Kanzler von Müller die Nachricht von Kotzebue!!!! Ermordung." It is interesting how slow news traveled in those days: Kotzebue was murdered three days before in Mannheim. Three days for news to travel 216 miles (346 km).

August von Kotzebue was a very popular writer and dramatist in his day. In an article on world literature and literary history from 1930, Fritz Strich writes that the concept of world literature "posits criteria of supranational appreciation and dissemination," but goes on to note that, if this criterion is observed, then Kotzebue is "more of a world literary author than Goethe, ... [Edgar] Wallace with his detective stories more than Cervantes with his Don Quixote. In such a case it might offer a way out if one says: Kotzebue and Wallace do not belong to world literature because they do not belong to literature to being with."

Kotzebue was a conservative and his death was a political assassination by a nationalist student. The authorities used the event to crack down on the universities and the press.

An interesting fact: Jane Austen saw a play by Kotzebue, The Birthday, at Bath in 1799. The theatrical in her novel Mansfield Park is based on an adaption of the play by Elizabeth Inchbald. Since it includes sex outside of marriage, kissing, and illegitimacy, it was no wonder that Sir Thomas Bertram was very upset when he unexpectedly returned home and discovered the young people making preparations to perform it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grillparzer on Goethe

Grillparzer, ca. 1827, by Moritz Michael Dafflinger

I love this epigram by Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer about Goethe:

Er war nicht kalt, wie ihr wohl meint,
Nur hielt er die Wärme zu wenig vereint
Und da er sie teilte zuletzt ins All,
Kam wenig auf jeden einzelnen Fall

Grillparzer is a German-language writer whom I have barely studied (likewise, Jean Paul), but Fritz Strich wrote his dissertation on the Austrian writer: Franz Grillparzers Ästhetik (1905, under Franz Muncker; reprinted Hildesheim, 1977). In it, the "inductive aesthetician" Grillparzer was portrayed developing his anti-Romantic theories on the writings of Lessing, Goethe and Schiller, Kant, the German Romantic theorists (toward whom he felt a special animus), Hegel and his followers, and Friedrich Bouterweck.

According to my friend Paula Fichtner, author of Historical Dictionary of Austria (Scarecrow Press, 2nd ed., 2009), Grillparzer's career as author and dramatist "developed even as he toiled somewhat resentfully as a bureaucrat." At his death in 1856 he was director of the imperial treasury archives. There were literary successes in his life, but also failures. According to Fichtner, the negative public reaction to his play Weh dem der Lügt (Woe unto the Liar, 1838) caused the "hypersensitive dramatist to stop writing for the state altogether." He also had unpleasant experiences with government censorship.

Source: Franz Grillparzer, Sämtliche Werke, vol. 1 (Munich, 1960–1965), p. 476.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The end is near

Last entry in Goethe's diary on this day, 1832: "Den ganzen Tag wegen Unwohlseyn im Bette zugebracht."

Picture credit: Deutsche Welle

Monday, March 10, 2014

Eichendorff's Birthday

Ich schlaf am liebsten unterm Himmelsbette,
leicht mit dem Sternenmantel zugedeckt.

100th death commemoration
Joseph von Eichendorff was born 226 years ago, in 1788. A lot of interesting figures in German letters were born in that decade: Carl von Clausewitz (1780), Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Achim von Arnim (1781), Sulpiz Boissereé (1783), Jacob Grimm, Bettina von Arnim, Harmann von Pückler-Muskau  (1785), Ludwig Börne, Ludwig I, and Carl Maria von Weber (1786), Ludwig Uhland (1787), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788), and Georg Simon Ohm (1789).

Of course, I didn't know all of these dates by heart. I frequently look at One of my professors in graduate school used to say: "Die Daten, meine Damen und Herren, sind sehr wichtig."

As an undergraduate I loved Eichendorff's stories. In fact, the literature of the Romantic period was my real introduction to the study of literature, in contrast to simply reading and enjoying it.

Postcard picture credit: Goethezeitportal

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Goethe illustrations

The above image was posted on, via which I have now come across a rich source of Goethe illustrations: the digital catalogue of the Frankfurt Goethe-Haus. The drawing, a "study for Werther, is by the German Impressionist painter Franz Skarbina.

Searching through digital museum site, I also found this contemporary "Idealportrait Werthers in Medaillon, darunter Szene mit Werthers Abschied von Albert und Lotte." It is by "D. Chodowiecki del.," and appeared in the first volume of Goethe's writings in the 1779 "Gesamtausgabe." The difference in sensibility between the two images is quite striking. Did Goethe's contemporary readers visualize Lotte as the finely dressed lady to whom Werther is bidding farewell? Everything Goethe writes about her in The Sorrows of Young Werther suggests domesticity, not finery.