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
|Bere Point, Malcolm Island, photo by Dan Herlihy|
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|
|Sunset in my window|
|Here is Sointula|
|The Night Bookmobile (detail), by Audrey Niffenegger|
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|
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|
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
|Marianne von Willemer, 1809|
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|
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.
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
|African American cemetery, Richmond, Virginia|
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)|
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
"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
|Beach on Kaleva Road|
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|
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|
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.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
|Wendy's cottage at sunset|
|Wendy (right) at Salmon Days 2013|
|Big Rock cottage|
I last saw Wendy in early September of 2015. As at my departure the previous year, Wendy invited me for a farewell dinner. Heather was also present, and we all agreed that we should make the farewell dinner an annual event. Little did we imagine that would not be the case, and I was shocked when I learned in January that she was sick and, then, of her quick passing from our lives.
Her cottage is for sale, but so far no one is in evidence. I went down to her garden this morning and cut some flowers, but this year there will be none of the vegetable bounty that I enjoyed in recent summers. Wendy was always generous and ready to be helpful. She had an inquiring mind and loved to discuss things. But it was her person that attracted me. And, although in the meantime something similar has been replayed in my experience in Sointula, the house she built and her beautifully cultivated garden were analogous to the devotion and care by which we also maintain friendships and love. Wendy radiated these qualities. I was privileged to live within the ambit of her aura, if only for a short time.
So, now I begin work anew without her lovely presence nearby.