European studies blog

10 posts from November 2015

27 November 2015

A tale of two Françoises: Madame de Maintenon (1635-1719)

When little Françoise d’Aubigné came into the world on 27 November 1635, her future seemed unlikely to be dazzling. True, her paternal grandfather was the distinguished Huguenot poet and patriot Agrippa d’Aubigné, but his son Constant had proved a sore disappointment, and had ended up in prison for conspiring against Cardinal Richelieu. He had married the prison governor’s daughter Jeanne de Cardilhac with suspicious haste; Françoise was their last child, following two older brothers. At the time of her birth Constant was still in prison at Niort, and according to some sources she was actually born within the prison walls.

Even after Constant’s release in 1639, his profligacy made the family’s fortunes unstable, and in an attempt to restore them he swept his wife and children off to Martinique, hoping for a lucrative position in France’s Caribbean colonies. The venture foundered, their house burnt down, and Jeanne returned to France with her children in 1647 in such poverty that the two youngest were reduced to begging.  Shortly afterwards Constant died, and Françoise and her brothers Constant and Charles were taken into the home of their Huguenot aunt and uncle Louise and Benjamin de la Villette. This happy interlude ended abruptly when the family of Françoise’s godmother Suzanne de Neuillant insisted that she should be raised in the Catholic faith of her baptism and educated in a convent.

However, Madame de Neuillant introduced Françoise to a wider social circle in Paris and brokered a marriage for her with the celebrated author and satirist Paul Scarron. The bride was 15 and her bridegroom 25 years older, but despite this, and the fact that he was grotesquely crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, their shared literary interests made for a stable marriage in which she nursed him until his death in 1652. His pension was continued by Anne of Austria, enabling Françoise to remain in the intellectual world of Paris, but when Louis XIV rescinded it in 1666 she was preparing to set out for Lisbon in the retinue of the new Queen of Portugal when she was saved by an unlikely new friendship.

  Maintenon, Pierre Mignard portrait (1694)Portrait of Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon (1698), by Pierre Mignard (From Wikimedia Commons)

Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, marquise of Montespan, had been a lady-in-waiting before catching the eye of Louis XIV and displacing Louise de la Vallière as his official mistress. She had dropped her homely Christian name in favour of the more ambitious Athénaïs as a member of the intellectual précieuses, and in these circles met Françoise, took a liking to her, and persuaded Louis to restore her pension. As the relationship with the king bore fruit,  ‘la veuve Scarron’ was appointed to care for the growing brood of illegitimate royal children in a house in the Rue de Vaugirard. Discretion was taken to such extremes that even essential workmen were rarely admitted, and the practical Françoise found herself hanging pictures and curtains and even turning her hand to plumbing when a leak threatened to flood the house.

However, not only constant child-bearing but an excessive fondness for the pleasures of the table (both feasting and gaming) and the bottle would prove the downfall of Athénaïs. Jean Teulé’s lively novel Le Montespan (English translation Monsieur Montespan: London, 2010; H.2012/.5122) vividly depicts her taste for fine clothing, her audacious hairstyle, and her capricious nature, which the king found increasingly wearing. Allegations that she was involved in the Affair of the Poisons  did nothing to help her cause, and in 1691 she retired to a convent.

Meanwhile Françoise had become governess to the royal children at Saint-Germain following their legitimation in 1673, and was rewarded by the king with the wherewithal to buy an estate at Maintenon the following year. In 1675 she was granted the title of Marquise de Maintenon, by which she is generally known. Louis appreciated her serene and steadfast temperament, and by the late 1670s had grown to enjoy her witty and well-informed conversation more and more. His Queen, Marie-Thérèse, also benefited from the calmer atmosphere at court following Madame de Montespan’s departure in 1680.

Inevitably detractors were eager to attach scandal to the Marquise’s name, and anonymous satires appeared, including La Cassette ouverte de l’illustre Criole, ou les Amours de Madame de Maintenon (1694; 1480.a.6.(1.), possibly by Pierre Le Noble, and Scarron aparu à Madame de Maintenon et les reproches qu’il lui fait sur ses amours avec Louis le Grand, in which the ghost of Scarron materializes to upbraid his widow for her unseemly familiarity with the king.

Maintenon Scarron aparu
Scarron aparu à Madame de Maintenon et les reproches qu’il lui fait sur ses amours avec Louis le Grand (Cologne, 1694) 8005.a.37.

By this time, though, Louis had legitimized not only his children but his relationship with their former governess. Not long after the death of the Queen in 1683, he married Madame de Maintenon in a private ceremony conducted at midnight by the Archbishop of Paris. Their unequal rank meant that the marriage could only be morganatic and was never officially announced, but it provided both, now well into their forties, with an emotional security and true companionship hitherto lacking in their lives. Her lack of a formal position as queen made her more approachable, and she exerted a considerable and largely benign influence on Louis, who admired her good judgment and shared her religious as well as her cultural interests. Among devotional works dedicated to her, the British Library holds the anonymous Réflections sur quelques parolles de Jésus-Christ.

Maintenon, Reflections
Réflections sur quelques parolles de Jésus-Christ... (Paris, 167?)  RB.23.a.36014

Notable among her enterprises was the school for impoverished girls of noble birth which Madame de Maintenon founded at Saint-Cyr. Planning a theatrical performance by the pupils, she commissioned Jean Racine to write two plays on edifying themes, Esther and Athalie, for them with great success, though not surprisingly there were those who insinuated that the first suggested the rivalry between Mesdames de Maintenon and Montespan in the virtuous Esther’s displacement of the scheming Queen Vashti. Her experience as a royal governess equipped her ideally for her work with her young protégées, who regarded her with great affection. When Louis died in 1715, she retired to Saint-Cyr, where she died in 1719 and was buried in its chapel. In an age whose pursuit of celebrity cults rivals that of the 21st century, her discretion, resourcefulness, wit and tact prevailed over more obvious attractions, and have much to teach us today.


Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social sciences), Research Engagement.

25 November 2015

Wojtek, the soldier bear from the Polish Army

On 7th November an unusual ceremony took place in Edinburgh: a monument to a soldier bear was unveiled to hundreds of people gathered in the middle of town. The statue had been commissioned by the Wojtek Memorial Trust, an organisation set up in 2008 by Aileen Orr. She is also the author of the book Wojtek the Bear: Polish war hero (Edinburgh, 2010; British Library YC.2011.a.10359), which makes a good read.

The story of the brave soldier bear started in Persia (today’s Iran) in 1942. Found in the mountains as an orphaned cub, he was sold to Polish soldiers for a few cans of corned beef. The Polish Army, newly formed in the USSR under General Władysław Anders, was on its way through Persia to Palestine.  Corporal Piotr Prendysz was appointed as the cub’s guardian, and the bear was given the name Wojtek (Voytek) meaning “joyful warrior”. The legend has it that Wojtek was enlisted as a soldier with the rank of Private and his pay was double food rations. In fact, he was adopted by the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps and became their mascot.

Wojtek 1
Wojtek in Iraq, 1942. Courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.

Initially Wojtek was fed with diluted condensed milk via an old vodka bottle. He quickly grew huge, weighing 250 kg and measuring almost two metres in length. He loved beer and cigarettes, eating instead of smoking the latter.  His favourite game was wrestling with his fellow soldiers, but due to his gentle nature he never hurt anybody.  He liked human company so much that at night he often slipped into tents and slept beside his mates’ beds. Wojtek soon became the soldiers’ best friend. Although he settled well into army routine his record of acts of mischief was steadily growing.  In a large Allied forces’ military camp in Iraq Wojtek stole a washing line of women soldiers’ underwear to the horror of the terrified women.  On Christmas Eve after a traditional Polish feast he made his way to the camp food store. In search of his favourite jams and fruits he devastated the place. Spilled cooking-oil was mixed with flour, grain and other foods on the floor.  However, in June 1943, in an attempt to commit another crime, he captured an Arab spy. Wojtek was barred from taking his much-loved showers due to the shortage of water, a precious commodity in the Middle East. The door of the bath house was locked but he would hang around outside.  On this day he spotted the unlocked shower door, and upon entering he found a man hiding in the showers whose screams alerted the camp guards.

Wojtek 2
Wojtek wrestling his comrade. Courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

In 1944 the Polish Corps was transferred from Egypt to Italy to fight in the Italian campaign with the British forces. To embark on the ship Wojtek needed a special permit. Convinced by the argument that he contributed hugely to strengthening the fighting spirit of the soldiers, the British authorities approved his travel warrant just in time for him to join the Company on their voyage to Italy. However, the height of his fame came during the Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944. Wojtek helped his comrades carry artillery shells to the front line. He watched what the soldiers were doing and stood upright with his front paws outstretched, indicating his intentions.  He carried the large boxes of ammunition from the supply lorries to the artillery positions even under heavy cannon fire.  After the battle Wojtek featured on the 22nd Company logo showing a bear carrying a shell. The Company fought in the battle of Bologna in April 1945, the last combat in the Italian campaign.  A year later they finally sailed for Glasgow and this time Wojtek was officially on the passenger list.

Wojtek 3
A happy Wojtek, Italy, October 1944. Courtesy of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

Wojtek had spent one year at Winfield Camp in Scotland together with his mates before the company was demobbed, and was  then transferred to Edinburgh Zoo in 1947. Though he was the main attraction for numerous visitors to the zoo he greatly missed his comrades in arms and always reacted joyfully to the Polish language. He died there peacefully in November 1963.

  Wojtek 4Wojtek’ statue in the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. Courtesy of the PISM.

Magda Szkuta, Curator East & SE European Collections


References/Further reading

Wieslaw A. Lasocki, Wojtek spod Monte Cassino (London, 1968). X.631/769

Geoffrey Morgan and W.A. Lasocki, Soldier Bear (London, 1970). X.809/8265

Krystyna Mikula-Deegan, Private Wojtek – soldier bear (Kibworth, 2011). H.201/6712

Wojtek album (London, 2013) LC.37.a.1031                                      

 

23 November 2015

1267 Shots Later

The Stefan Zweig Collection of manuscripts, donated to the British Library in 1986, has been described as ‘the most important and valuable donation made to the Library in the 20th century’.  The manuscripts are not those of Zweig’s own works but a selection of the autograph manuscripts of great composers, writers and historical figures which Zweig collected throughout his life.  A catalogue of the music manuscripts was published in 1999 and these have all been digitised. Now it is the turn of the literary and historical manuscripts. A digitisation programme was begun in early 2015, and nearly all of the manuscripts can now be viewed via the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts catalogue. A printed catalogue is due for publication in 2016, and the full catalogue descriptions will also be found online. In this post,  Pardaad Chamsaz, a collaborative PhD student working on the collection, considers the challenges involved in digitising Honoré de Balzac’s proof copy of his novel Une ténébreuse affaire, with its myriad corrections and editions.

When the first marked page of the corrected proof for Balzac’s Une ténébreuse affaire (British Library Zweig MS 133) prosaically gives its title, author and status as “épreuves”, we may linger on this last word, as it signals both its stage in the writing process as well as the “test” that its reading threatens. This innocuous page sits on top of a pile of over 600 sheets, both typed and handwritten, where the typescript is aggressively handled and manipulated, so that the physical struggle for the work is eternalised on the underbelly of its published variant.

  Balzac Folio 1
The unassuming first leaf of Une ténébreuse affaire

This unassuming opening faced the Imaging Studio team, as Une ténébreuse affaire was delivered for digitisation earlier this year. They were all too aware of the “test” they were about to embark on. Indeed, translations for épreuve include equivalents such as “hardship”, “ordeal”, “trial” – words not inappropriate to the task at hand. Once the conflict of logistics around when to attempt the digitisation was resolved (the difference between the “let’s leave it until the end of the project” and “let’s get it out of the way” schools of thought – both implying trepidation), the photographer entered the proof, labelled by its collector, Stefan Zweig, as a ‘Höllenlabyrinth von Korrekturen’, an infernal labyrinth of corrections.

Zweig MS 133 f 18r
The ‘infernal labyrinth’ within: f. 18 of Une ténébreuse affaire

Zweig considered the proof as a key document in his collection that could provide immense insights into the secret of literary creation. When Zweig purchased the item in 1914, he wrote in his diary that as soon as he saw it in the famous Parisian antiquarian bookseller, Blaisot, he bought it ‘lightning-quick, rashly, greedily, in spite of feeling like I might have overpaid’. Now, the library’s Zweig MS 133 is one of the most unique and complete examples of a Balzac corrected proof outside of the Spoelberch de Lovenjoul collection in the library of the Institut de France in Paris.

This mass of workings around the detective novel’s ever more complex intrigue, contains printed pages of uneven lengths and widths overlain with thick handwritten corrections, often with an indecipherable set of symbols linking old and new text. The reader will find slips of paper glued onto some pages to indicate replacement text, as well as, from the very beginning of the “labyrinth”, around 200 inserted small leaves of manuscript additions. It was rumoured that Balzac would go through this correction process 10-15 times for each work, and Zweig was in awe of how Balzac’s physical work was so tangible in these proofs.

Just as Zweig senses the artist wrestling with their art, like Jacob with the angel, the photographer fought with our corrected proof, unfolding its pages, pinning it down (for the count), before focusing the camera (one, two…) and shooting it still… only to turn the page and for the battle to recommence. ‘Jedes Blatt ein Schlachtfeld’, every page a battlefield, in the words of Zweig. Weeks of labour, in Balzac’s rewriting, in Zweig’s reading, in our digitizing. If the corrected proof opens a door onto the workshop of the writer, where, in the stroke and the trace of the ink, we experience the fugitive presence of the hand manically at work, we should retrace our digitisation in the same way and detail the actions behind the stillness of a photo.

Balzac pinned down
Balzac pinned down  (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

Balzac resisting
Balzac fights back (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

 
Balzac digital
Balzac captured on the Imaging Technician’s screen (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

With the majority of the manuscripts in the Stefan Zweig Collection now digitised and available online, we are presented with an awkward idea: the unique material object, with which Zweig experienced the writing process, has lost its materiality through its digital cloning. No longer the actual trace, the photograph becomes, in the words of Sonja Neef, an ‘imprint of a trace’, a step away from the unique encounter. In the same way as Zweig draws attention to the “underground” compositional stages of writing, perhaps, by re-embodying the digitisation process, we can give the screen shot the texture it deserves.

Pardaad Chamsaz  Collaborative Doctoral Student

References:

Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von gestern. (Frankfurt, 1955). F10/3573

Oliver Matuschek, Ich kenne den Zauber der Schrift: Katalog und Geschichte der Autographensammlung Stefan Zweig, (Vienna, 2005). YF.2006.a.13265

Sonja Neef Imprint and Trace: handwriting in the age of technology (London, 2011). YC.2011.a.14184

 

19 November 2015

From Poetry to Songs: Hare, Rabbit and Sirens in Apollinaire’s Bestiary

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) moved to Paris and started publishing poems, articles and art reviews in the 1900s. He was close to artists like Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck or le Douanier Rousseau. In 1911, he published a deluxe edition of his Bestiaire, in 120 copies, composed of 30 poems illustrated with engravings by Raoul Dufy. 18 of these poems had previously appeared in 1908 in the journal La Phalange, under the title ‘La marchande des quatre saisons ou le Bestiaire mondain’.

Mediaeval interest in bestiaries often resided less in the naturalistic and physical descriptions of the animals and their behaviour, often fanciful, than on their symbolic and allegorical level. Although Apollinaire does not put the emphasis on the didactic aspect of the bestiary, his work is infused with both Classical and Biblical or religious references. The poet, who chose his pseudonym after Apollo, God of Music and Poetry, gave his 1911 Bestiary, the subtitle ‘Cortege d’Orphée’. The collection of poems is introduced and guided by the character of Orpheus, emblem of the poet himself, who addresses directly the reader, drawing his attention to the text, the images, and the animals, in four poems introducing and accompanying the collection. The poet plays on the concept of the animal series and on the combination of text and engravings. He accentuates the brevity of each entry, as each poem is only formed of a quatrain.

1lievrea
The Hare, from Guillaume Apollinaire, Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d’Orphée, illustrated with woodcuts by Raoul Dufy (New York, 1977), British Library LR.430.e.10

In medieval bestiaries, and at least since Isidore of Seville, the hare is characterised by its velocity, associated with timidity and fearfulness, while the rabbit is known both for its fertility and the fact that it is hunted by dogs. In Raoul Dufy’s engraving, a hare bouncing in an open field appears encircled in a medallion formed by a horn, while the frame is completed with gun and whip and with two hunting dogs. In Apollinaire’s poem, both the hare and the rabbit are associated with love, sexual intercourse and fertility. The poem is formulated as an advice to the reader, who should not be like the hare and the lover, both ‘lascif[s] et peureux’, but should aim to reach the fertility and productivity of the doe, transposed in the field of imagination and intellectual creativity: ‘Mais que toujours ton cerveau soit / La hase pleine qui concoit’.

As for the rabbit, it is presented by Apollinaire as a symbol for the beloved, and the archaic or literary use of the French word  ‘connin’ for rabbit, reminds us of the medieval association of the animal with the female organ (‘con’), in the context of the love chase, an aspect often playfully illustrated in manuscript marginalia (as in this example).

3Carte_du_tendre_300dpiFrançois Chauveau, ‘Carte du Tendre’,  from Madeleine de Scudéry, Clélie, Histoire romaine, première partie (Paris 1654) Paris, BNF, Cartes et Plans, GE F PIECE- 11777

The use of allegory in the bestiary is reinforced in ‘Le Lapin’ by Apollinaire’s reference to the 17th century engraving of the ‘Carte du Tendre’. In La Clélie, a romantic novel by Madame de Scudéry, this allegorical map provides a topographical representation of the country or journey of love with all its delights and pitfalls. In the 1911 Bestiaire, Dufy’s engraving shows the rabbit in front of a peaceful hilly countryside with plants and trees and a church in the background (below).

4lapina

The only imaginary creature retained by Apollinaire is the siren, actually presented as a group: ‘les Sirènes’. They are preceded by a representation of Orpheus accompanied by a warning against flying Sirens (‘volantes Sirènes’, ‘oiseaux maudits’) and their deadly songs. In antiquity, they were half women half birds, reputed to charm sailors with their songs and lull them into sleep before killing them, but in the middle ages, sirens also started to be depicted and pictured as women with a fish tail.

  5Sloane 278 f.47 sirenlg
Mediaeval Siren and Onocentaur (man/donkey hybrid), Bestiary,  British Library MS Sloane 278. f. 147

The chant of Apollinaire’s Sirens can be contrasted with that of the poet, whose love and song has the power to raise Eurydice from the dead, or that of the pure and sexless angels in Paradise.  In both the Orpheus and the Sirens’ engravings, the sirens bear female heads and breasts, but also wings and lion arms, their body ending in a tripartite fish tail in the second engraving. This maritime aspect is highlighted in the corresponding poem, where the enticing song of the temptresses gives way to wails founded in tediousness (‘ennui’).

 
6sirenesa
Sirens from Apollinaire's Bestiaire

The position of the poet himself becomes ambiguous when his identification with Orpheus leads to an association with the sirens, as he depicts himself as the sea, full of ‘vaissaux chantants’ and ‘voix machinées’, in a curious conflagration of the tricky and enticing sirens and the ships and crews which become their victims. While in Orpheus’ poem, death was associated with the sirens’ songs, in the sirens’ verses, age may account for the voices haunting the poet’s mind, and his experience may be related to the use and mastery of crafty devices in the range of his poetical work.

 
7orpheea2
Orpheus from Apollinaire’s Bestiaire

After the First World War, without consultation, both Louis Durey  and Francis Poulenc, members of the Groupe des six  (a group of composers close to the poetic avant-garde circles, Jean Cocteau in particular) set Apollinaire’s Bestiaire  to music. In 1919, Durey produced melodies for song and piano for the 26 animal poems of the Bestiaire (Music Collections G.1270.b.(16.)), while the four Orpheus sections remained spoken. A later version, produced in 1958, is set for voice and orchestra. Poulenc set 12 of Apollinaire’s poems to music, although following Georges Auric’s advice, he finally retained only six of them: Le Dromadaire, La Chèvre du Tibet, La Sauterelle, Le Dauphin, L’Ecrevisse and La Carpe, a work which gave him notoriety and had a long lasting success (Music Collections H.1846.kk.(2.)).

8001a
Record sleeve showing Le groupe des six (Le chant du monde, 1968); the recording includes Poulenc’s
Bestiaire, sung by Irène Joachim

Later musical adaptations include Claude Ballif’s  30 poems for soprano or baritone and piano (1945-1948), Jean Absil’s Cinq petites pièces pour quatuor vocal mixte (1964), Alan Mills’ 6 poems for baritone and piano (1985) , John Carbon’s 3 poems for soprano, horn, cello and piano (2002), and Régis Campo’s 11 poems for soprano and orchestra (2008). The British Library Sound Archive holds many audio recordings of Poulenc’s songs (from the ‘Groupe des six’ to contemporary adaptations), several recordings of Durey’s Bestiaire and one of Absil’s, recorded by the Chorale universitaire de Grenoble, which can be listened to in the British Library Reading Rooms.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator, Romance Collections

References / further reading

Francis Steegmuller, Apollinaire: Poet among the Painters (London, 1963).

David Badke, The Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages  (online resource)

Debra Hassig, Medieval Bestiaries: Text, Image, Ideology (Cambridge, 1995). YC.1996.b.2164

Christian Heck and Cordonnier Rémy. Le bestiaire médiéval : l'animal dans les manuscrits enluminés (Paris, 2011) LF.31.b.9154

Francis Klingender, Animals in Art and Thought to the End of the Middle Ages, ed. by Evelyn Antal and John Harthan (London, 1971). X.322/1206.

L'humain et l'animal dans la France médiévale (XIIe-XVe s.) = Human and animal in medieval France (12th-15th c.), sous la direction d'Irène Fabry-Tehranchi et Anna Russakoff. (Amsterdam, 2014)  YF.2014.a.22449

 

17 November 2015

From Shakespeare and Stendhal to Stalin and Sarkozy: André Glucksmann (1937-2015)

When the French philosopher André Glucksmann died on 10th November 2015, the news perhaps received less attention in the United Kingdom than elsewhere in Europe. Glucksmann was indeed a European in the widest sense of the word, both in terms of his origins and his range of influence. Born in 1937 in Boulogne-Billancourt, he was the son of an Ashkenazi Jewish couple from the heart of Europe; his father originally came from Bukovina (now Romania) and his mother from Prague. His education, too, followed the classic French model; after graduating from the Ecole normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, he published his first book, Le Discours de la Guerre (Paris, 1967; British Library X.700/21738), which fittingly appeared in 1968, the year of the Paris student uprisings.

André_Glucksmann_(2)                   André Glucksmann in 2012 (©Stephan Röhl. Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Although his allegiances were initially Marxist, Glucksmann gradually developed a critical outlook which led him in 1975 to publish La Cuisinière et le Mangeur d’hommes  (Paris, 1975; X.708/17739), an essay on the relationship between the State, Marxism and concentration camps which drew comparisons between the rise of Nazism and Communism and the atrocities committed in the name of both. It appeared in a Russian translation by Nina Staviskaya (Kukharka i liudoed; London, 1980; X.908/43770). He went on to explore the subject of totalitarianism and its origins in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche in Les maîtres penseurs (Paris, 1977; X.510/10207).

A close associate of Jean-Paul Sartre, Glucksmann traced the Existentialist strands in the writings of Dostoevsky in the wake of the 2001 New York bombings in Dostoïevski  à Manhattan (Paris, 2002; YF.2006.a.28133). He declared that his interest in philosophy and the moral basis of human rights stemmed from his experiences as a member of a Jewish family in Nazi-occupied France and the conviction which he developed in consequence of the vital importance of intervention.  With notable impartiality, he spoke up for the Muslim victims of Islamic terrorism, the Nicaraguan Contras, the independence of Chechnya and the Vietnamese boat people, but also advocated the use of nuclear power.

Together with Bernard-Henri Lévy, another former Marxist thinker, he was a member of the Nouveaux Philosophes; his Czech heritage and his rejection of Communism  naturally drew him to Václav Havel, resulting in the publication of a volume (YA.1990.a.14197) in 1989 pairing a translation of one of Havel’s texts (Quelques mots sur la parole) with Glucksmann’s Sortir du communisme, c’est rentrer dans l’histoire.  Glucksmann joined Havel, Desmond Tutu and Wei Jingsheng in signing an appeal in August 2008 urging the Chinese authorities to respect human rights at the time of the Beijing Olympics, and was also a signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism.

The complex power structures within the former Soviet Union also attracted Glucksmann’s attention, and won him a particularly strong reputation in Ukraine, where Galina Akkerman published Na zakhysti svobody (Kyïv, 2013; YF.2014.a.14241), a collection of Elena Bonner's conversations with him. He recognized the importance of Georgia’s oil and gas reserves in maintaining the European Union’s independence from Gazprom, and thus opposed attempts by Abkhazia and South Ossetia to achieve autonomy.

AndreGlucksmannCollageDSC_0912Books by André Glucksmann from our collections

Glucksmann supported Nicolas Sarkozy in the April-May 2007 French presidential elections, and together with his son Raphaël Glucksmann (b.1979) he published Mai 68 expliqué à Nicolas Sarkozy (Paris, 2008; YF.2009.a.20084), examining the philosophical revolutions and counter-revolutions behind the events of that year and concluding with ‘praise of permanent subversion’ to counter the violent diatribe launched on 29 April 2007 by Sarkozy against the Sorbonne uprising. The breadth of Glucksmann’s intellectual compass, from Montaigne and Shakespeare to Stendhal and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, is typical of the daring and expansive approach and the skilled and incisive arguments of a philosopher who was prepared to apply them in the service of humanity in its fullest sense.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist, Humanities & Social Sciences, Research Engagement

13 November 2015

Germany's first female doctor: Dorothea Erxleben, 1715-1762

Despite being considered the more nurturing and caring sex, and having an age-old role as healers and nurses in families and communities, women were for centuries largely excluded from professional medicine, seen as the preserve of university-educated men.

One of the pioneering exceptions to this rule was Dorothea Christiane Erxleben, the first German woman to qualify as a doctor. She was born on 13 November  1715 in Quedlinburg to the physician Christian Polycarp Leporin and his wife Anna Sophia. Dorothea was bright and a quick learner, and her father was determined that she should share the same education as her younger brother, Christian. Both children studied Latin with a local schoolmaster and learned science and medicine from their father.

Colour portrait of Dorothea Erxleben
A contemporary portrait of Dorothea Erxleben (image from Wikimedia Commons)

However, childhood education was one thing, formal adult training quite another. While Christian might be expected to take over his father’s practice in due course, a medical career for Dorothea was impossible by contemporary standards. Nonetheless, the siblings planned to study medicine together and, with her father’s encouragement, Dorothea petitioned Fredrick II of Prussia for permission to enter the University of Halle with her brother. This was granted in 1741, but Dorothea did not actually attend the university. Accounts and chronology  vary between sources, but it seems that there was some problem involving Christian’s military service which left him unable to take up his own place at Halle and that Dorothea did not want (or was not able) to study there without his company.

Instead, Dorothea took what might seem like the complete opposite path: in 1742 she married Johann Christian Erxleben, a widowed clergyman with five children (she would have four more children of her own). But she clearly embarked  on matrimony and domestic life very much on her own terms and continued to study and practice medicine. In the year of her marriage she published a book describing and arguing against the factors that prevented women from studying. Again, her father was instrumental in encouraging her to publish, and provided a preface to the book, but Dorothea speaks clearly and firmly in her own voice.  She condemns familiar assertions that women’s education is a waste of time, goes against religious teaching, damages their health and strength, or prevents them from carrying out their ‘proper’ domestic duties. All of these beliefs she disproved in her own life, successfully combining the role of clergy wife and mother to nine children with her work in medicine.

 
Title page of 'Gründliche Untersuchung der Ursachen, die das weibliche Geschlecht vom Studieren abhalten'
Dorothea Erxleben (as Dorothea Leporin), Gründliche Untersuchung der Ursachen, die das weibliche Geschlecht vom Studieren abhalten (Berlin, 1742), British Library 8416.de.59 (and in digital form)
 

On her father’s death in 1747, Dorothea took over his practice, effectively becoming a doctor in all but name. This made her enemies among other local physicians, and the death of one of Dorothea’s patients gave them the opportunity to accuse her formally of ‘quackery’ and of practising without qualifications.  In order to clear her name and be able to continue working, Dorothea volunteered to submit a medical dissertation for examination. The civic and university authorities debated for some time whether a woman could in fact qualify as a doctor: did the university statutes allow for female students, and if medicine was a public profession, were doctors public officials, a role from which women were barred?

Finally, on 12 June 1754, Dorothea was allowed  to present and defend her dissertation before the medical faculty in Halle – in Latin, as was usual at the time. Her argument was that swift and pleasant cures were often deleterious to a patient’s health in the longer term. She impressed the examiners both with her medical knowledge and her Latin and was awarded her doctorate. The published version of the dissertation includes a number of tributes in both Latin and German by her supporters, including her old Latin teacher, Tobias Eckhard.

Title-page of Dorothea Erxleben's dissertation
Dorothea Erxleben, Dissertatio
inauguralis, exponens quod nimis cito ac jucunde curare sæpius fiat caussa minus tutæ curationis. (Halle, 1754) T.600.(33.). The dissertation which gained Dorothea the official title of doctor.

Dorothea would continue to practise medicine unhindered until her death in 1762. Sadly, however, she remained an exception in German medical history for nearly 150 years. Only at the start of the 20th century would women be admitted to German medical schools. However, Dorothea is still remembered as a pioneer. Various clinics and foundations have been named after her, a commemorative stamp bearing her image appeared in the 1980s, and on the 200th anniversary of her birth she has been the subject of the day’s ‘doodle’ on the German Google site, bringing this 18th-century pioneer into the 21st century.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

 

11 November 2015

Mechanics not Magic

From the flint axe to the electric washine machine, human beings have generally tried to lighten the physical load in their lives and increase comfort and pleasure. In 18th-century Europe, new technologies burgeoned for ever more purposes. From Jethro Tull’s seed drill to increasingly sophisticated mechanical clocks, new inventions were both discussed in learned journals and sold at various metropolitan and provincial fairs throughout France and England. That science and technology were servants of a wider humanity was an idea that Revolutionary France extensively explored and implemented. The imposition of the kilometre and kilogram brought order, uniformity and mutual understanding and, indeed, the guillotine itself replaced protracted, labour-intensive methods of execution with an instantaneous and humane one.

This idea also explored in the literature of the Revolution and a curious example of it is the novella Le miroir des événemens actuels, ou La belle au plus offrant, histoire à deux visages by François-Félix Nogaret (1740-1831). The British Library has recently acquired a copy of this extremely rare work. Combining shades of the Gothic, Romantic and erotic, it is science fiction aspiring to be science fact. It evolves into a political tract advocating an alliance between applied science and rational thought in order to enhance human well-being and happiness.

NogaretTitle-page of  François-Félix Nogaret, Le miroir des événemens actuels, ou La belle au plus offrant, histoire à deux visages (Paris, 1790) British Library C.188.b.98

The story develops through the person of Aglaonice – a young, intelligent woman – who offers to marry the man who will create the most ingenious machine to win her heart. Six suitors then come forward. The first two discredit themselves by the scientific incompetence and pointlessness of their inventions. The third and fourth suitors reveal themselves as fraudsters intent only on swindling the gullible. The fifth suitor is named Frankestein, as comely in person as he is in character. He offers a self-locomoting statue which plays a range of music of exquisite beauty. Understandably, Aglaonice desires him but accepts his advice to see the sixth suitor before making her decision. This final suitor’s machine is also an automaton which manufactures jewels. Since his invention combines superior technological ingenuity with financial stability and wealth generation, Aglaonice chooses him as her husband. Her sister marries Frankestein.

The mechanism to make these automata function is not described but Aglaonice’s examination of each invention is strictly rational and scientific. If it fails against its scientific claims, she rejects it. Her criteria are also ethical, requiring the betterment and greater happiness of human beings and not just simple scientific achievement without social purpose. Therefore, only that which brings wealth and beauty into the world wins Aglaonice’s heart. Frankestein’s ethics match Aglaonice’s. By not pressing his initial advantage but wanting the sixth suitor’s invention to be seen, he ensures the greatest good of the greatest number. He thus exemplifies the “new man” advocated by so much Revolutionary rhetoric - devoted to the general welfare rather than to private benefit and reflecting the social optimism which was so strong in the first phase of the Revolution.

In the text, both the fictional and factual interweave rather awkwardly but are humorous and serious by turns with occasionally the texture of journalism. The French reading public of 1790 would have immediately understood the social and political events and technological developments to which the many puns, leitmotifs and wordplays refer. The author also supports his purpose with frequent digressions into science and natural history. The story ends with an unsurprising attack on the obscurantism and authoritarianism of the Catholic Church and a demand for its exclusion from all social and political power.

Since 1818 and the first publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, there is also the teasing question of the relationship, if any, between her novel and Nogaret’s novella. Certainly, the name of  Frankestein echoes in Frankenstein and unnamed beings are artificially created in both cases. Otherwise, these two works mirror each other only in their points of opposition.

The creatures made by Frankestein and the sixth suitor serve what La Mettrie believed to be the purpose of human nature which is the search for and creation of hedonism and delight in life. These automata are made to bring exclusively these things to human beings. They cannot do otherwise. The medical scientist Dr Victor Frankenstein, however, assembles and reanimates a human corpse just because he can. The scientific achievement is justification enough for his actions.  The being that he creates inherits the fullness of human nature. It demands love but is physically unlovable and Dr Frankenstein denies it any possibility of love. In return and of its own free will, it chooses to destroy the loving relationships of others.

Frankensteinc0382505 Frontispiece from Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (London, 1831). 1153.a.9.

There have been suggestions that Shelley’s Frankenstein may be a story describing how the French revolutionaries lost control of the Revolution which became a deadly behemoth and that Nogaret’s novella was a possible source for her story. Without firmer evidence, these must remain suggestions.

Des McTernan, Former Curator, French Collections

 

09 November 2015

Politics and the Pepper-mill: Erika Mann (1905-1969)

One day in June 1935, a traveller waiting on the small Worcestershire station of Malvern Link was startled to be approached by a cropped-haired young woman in a mannish tweed jacket. Smiling, she advanced on him with the words, ‘How very good of you to marry me!’ There had been a double misunderstanding: in her eagerness she had alighted too early instead of at Great Malvern, and had mistaken him for the bridegroom she had never met – the poet W. H. Auden.

  Erika Mann and WH Auden
Erika Mann and W.H. Auden, reproduced in Hans Wißkirchen, Die Familie Mann (Reinbek, 1999) British Library YA2.001.a.2394.

Erika Mann had arrived at that quiet provincial station by a complicated and unlikely journey. She was born in Munich on 9th November 1905, the first child of the writer Thomas Mann and his wife Katia, née Pringsheim, and baptized Erika Julia Hedwig in honour of her mother’s late brother Erik and her two grandmothers (Hedwig Dohm, her great-grandmother, had been a noted feminist author of Jewish descent). Perhaps her father also recalled Erika Grünlich, a character in his novel Buddenbrooks (1901) which had established his reputation as an author. He wrote to his brother Heinrich that he was initially disappointed that his first-born was not a son, but this was remedied the following year by the birth of Erika’s brother Klaus. Four more brothers and sisters followed, but Thomas Mann always professed a special affection for the two oldest and his youngest daughter Elisabeth.

Mann family
The six Mann children with their mother, ca. 1919. Erika is on the far right, holding Elisabeth, with Klaus next to her (reproduced in Hans Wißkirchen, Die Familie Mann

With a family heritage rich in literary and dramatic talent (her aunt Julia Mann was an actress), it was not surprising that young Erika soon began to show gifts in these directions, and become something of a trial to her parents. It was obvious that the strongly academic German Gymnasium tradition had little appeal for her, and while still attending the Luisengymnasium in Munich she and Klaus, who were inseparable, set up their own theatre group, the Laienbund Deutscher Mimiker. She was also engaged by Max Reinhardt  to make her debut with the Deutsches Theater, Berlin. In his novella Unordnung und frühes Leid (Disorder and Early Sorrow; Berlin, 1926: 12552.p.11) Thomas Mann paints a lively picture of his family’s colourful and sometimes chaotic life; the pranks played by the adolescents Bert and Ingrid are only too close to the antics which led their father to send Erika and Klaus to the progressive Bergschule Hochwaldhausen for some months in 1922.

Back at the Luisengymnasium Erika managed to scrape through her Abitur before embarking on her training for the stage. Through this she met the actor Gustav Gründgens (portrayed in Klaus Mann’s novel Mephisto (1936) as the opportunist Nazi sympathizer Hendrik Höfgen), whom she married in 1926. The marriage ended in divorce in 1929, increasingly strained by the couple’s very different sexual and political orientations, and in 1933 Erika founded the cabaret Die Pfeffermühle (The Pepper-mill) with Klaus and the actress Therese Giehse, writing its pronouncedly anti-fascist material herself.

With the rise of Hitler, the Mann family came under increasing scrutiny; Heinrich Mann was among the first to be stripped of his German citizenship and fled to France, while Thomas, Katia and their children left for Zurich, subsequently taking first Czechoslovak and then American citizenship. Erika, the last to leave, rescued many of her father’s papers before joining her parents in Switzerland, where her cabaret became a focal point for exiles but also caused difficulties with the renewal of her permits to live and work there. It was for this reason that she sought a marriage of convenience with the British author Christopher Isherwood, whom she knew from Berlin; he suggested that his friend Auden might oblige, and the ceremony duly took place in June 1935 at Ledbury Register Office. Secure in her possession of British citizenship, the bride left immediately afterwards on the London train and never saw Auden again, but they remained on good terms, and after Erika’s death Auden always  gave his civil status as ‘widower’. 

Erika_Mann_NYWTS
Erika Mann in American exile (Image from the Library of Congress New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection)

Her British passport enabled Erika to travel to New York in 1938 to rejoin her brother, Therese Giehse and other artists exiled from Nazi Germany and to relaunch Die Pfeffermühle in a new setting. However, despite a distinguished career as an author and journalist, she came under investigation by the FBI, as did Klaus. She had been one of the few women to report on the Spanish Civil War and the Nuremberg Trials, and had published a trenchant account of the Nazi educational system, School for Barbarians, but nevertheless both siblings’ political and sexual identities brought them under suspicion. In 1949, despairing of finding a place in the post-war world, Klaus took his own life.

Erika Mann School for Barbarians
Erika Mann, School for Barbarians (New York, 1938) British Library 8359.a.7.

The growing paranoia of the McCarthy era made life in the USA intolerable to the Mann family, and in 1952 they returned to Zurich. Erika became her father’s and brother’s literary executor, preparing an edition of Thomas Mann’s letters and writing a sensitive memoir of his final months, Das letzte Jahr  (The last year: Frankfurt am Main, 1968; X.989/24331.) published in the year before her own death. Readers who admire her scrupulous editorial skills and incisive political comment may be surprised to learn that her earliest writings included a series of children’s books, among which the British Library holds copies of Muck, der Zauberonkel (Muck the Magic Uncle; Basle, 1934: ) and of Štofek letí přes moře (Prague, 1934: X.990/4256), a Czech translation of her first book Stoffel fliegt übers Meer (Stoffel flies across the sea; 1932) issued by her father’s Prague publisher Melantrich. The variety of her works in the Library’s catalogue testifies to Erika Mann’s vivid and highly original approach to life and to the integrity and loyalty which she showed to the people and causes fortunate enough to win them.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement

 

Erika Mann Muck der Zauberonkel tp
Erika Mann, Muck der Zauberonkel (Basel, 1934) X.990/5963

 

 

05 November 2015

Despite the chocolate and the leather boots, one feels this country to be torture: Switzerland in 1915

100 years ago, during the First World War, an extraordinary mélange of intellectuals converged in the one safe haven left in a self-destructing continent. In 1915, Switzerland – and Zürich in particular – hosted the likes of James Joyce, Tristan Tzara and Lenin, which quickly made the neutral state one of the most fertile grounds for avant-garde ideas in literature, art and politics.

Hugo Ball brought together the band of artists including Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara that went on to collaborate under the banner of ‘Dada’ – a movement, which Annemarie Goodridge, in the catalogue of the British Library’s 2007 ‘Breaking the Rules’ exhibition, describes as acting out of the ‘desire to use new art forms to express opposition to the perceived spiritual bankruptcy of the age’ . In their minds, the war was a consequence of a ‘failing enlightenment project’ with an uncritical faith in scientific and technological “progress”’ (Stephen Foster, Dada: The Coordinates of Cultural Politics). Dada represented an attempt at a clean break from previous culture, a ‘tabula rasa’ in the words of Paul Dermée.

Tzara portrait
Robert Delaunay, Portrait of Tristan Tzara (1923). Madrid, Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofia (image from Wikimedia Commons)

One striking example of Dada creativity is first volume of the Collection Dada series published by Tristan Tzara between 1916 and 1919 containing the play by the same author, La première aventure celeste de Mr Antipyrine, illustrated with coloured woodcuts by Marcel Janco. Characters’ names like Mr Bleubleu and Mr Cricri set the tone for what is an exploration into sound as much as anything else, with speeches developing into nonsensical noise.

Tzara Mr Antpyrine 1
Cover (above) and opening (below) from Tristan Tzara, La première aventure celeste de Mr Antipyrine (Zürich, 1915) British Library Cup.408.u.39.
 

Tzara Mr Antpyrine 2

In 1916, the same year as the Dada artists exploded convention into fragments of spontaneity, absurdity and illogicality in their new home of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, the Nobel Prize for Literature (the belated award for 1915) was conferred upon a writer based not far away in Geneva, Romain Rolland. The writer of the ten-volume bildungsroman Jean-Christophe (the complete manuscript of the tenth volume is part of the British Library’s Stefan Zweig Collection) and biographies of key figures in culture like Michelangelo, Beethoven and Tolstoy, a humanist and pacifist, might seem worlds apart from the tenets of Dada but this is not necessarily the case.

  Rolland Jean Christophe preface
The preface to vol. 10 of Romain Rolland’s Jean-Christophe, British Library Zweig MS 184-186

Rolland’s 1915 collection of essays Au-dessus de la mêlée, even in its title, suggests a position beyond dogmatism, ‘above the battle’, as the English rendering has it. Rolland writes in the title essay:

The spirit is the light. It is our duty to lift it above tempests, and thrust aside the clouds which threaten to obscure it; to build higher and stronger, dominating the injustice and hatred of nations, the walls of that city wherein the souls of the whole world may assemble.  

Romain_Rolland_1915
Romain Rolland in 1915 (image from Wikimedia Commons)

We might call Rolland’s words a manifesto against manifestos in the sense of Tzara’s famous 1918 Dada manifesto, in which he writes, ‘je suis par principe contre les manifestes, comme je suis aussi contre les principes’ , where ‘principles’  are the same fixed truths that give way to  ‘tempests’ of dogmatic belief, the same truths that Rolland cannot tolerate. Clearly, Rolland draws upon a continuous notion of  ‘spirit’, something Dada renounced, yet their divergent approaches still led both to the same geographical and anti-establishment space.

A little late to the Swiss party, Stefan Zweig, Rolland’s close friend and intellectual ally, moved to Zürich in 1917. It is testament to the tolerance of the city and its commingling cultural movements that Zweig’s serious anti-war play Jeremias could open there, no doubt a short distance from the riotous events at the Cabaret Voltaire. Zweig, initially unconvinced by Switzerland, writes in his diary that ‘despite the chocolate and the leather boots, one feels this country to be torture’. Yet, in a diary entry 20 years after his time in Zürich, he reminisces, ‘how different was it in those times in Austria and Switzerland, where I could speak my own language and encourage others’.

Indeed, Zweig’s writing was influenced permanently by the humanist spiritual  ‘brotherhood’ in Switzerland, with his later biography of Erasmus the height of his humanist line of thought. Erasmus, for Zweig, embodies ‘Überparteilickeit’, that is a certain non-partisanship, linguistically akin to Rolland’s formulation for Au-dessus de la mêlée, where both reside ‘above’ something. In a letter to René Schickele in 1934, Zweig writes, ‘I do not connect myself to any party, to no group, […] but whatever I do, I try to do silently and would rather be attacked for it than celebrated.’ Tristan Tzara’s famous 1918 manifesto also asserts that the author is against action and for continual contradiction, for affirmation. He continues ‘I am neither for nor against and I won’t explain since I hate reason (bon sens)’.The only difference might then be expressed, adapting Zweig’s words, Tzara does not connect himself to anything and everything he tried to do, he tried to do it loudly.

Above and beyond the normality and madness of world war, the contrasting figures of the avant-garde and humanism co-existed in neutral Switzerland. In June 1919, Zweig was one of the signatories of Rolland’s ‘Declaration of the Independence of the Mind’. Rolland writes that the role of these guardians of spirit is to be the fixed point in the ‘centre of the whirlwind of passions, in the night’. Switzerland was precisely that centre – a continuous and varied productive culture out of which spiralled many more movements. What was common to all these movements, to Dada and Rolland, was their shared desire to ‘not only change art but also life by means of art’ (Roy Allen, ‘Aesthetic transformations: Origins of Dada’, in Foster op. cit.).

Pardaad Chamsaz, Collaborative Doctoral Student

References/further reading:

Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900-1937, edited by. Stephen Bury (London, 2007), YC.2008.b.251

Dada: The Coordinates of Cultural Politics, edited by Stephen Foster (New York, 1996) YC.1997.b.488 v.1

Tristan Tzara, La première aventure céléste de Mr Antipyrine (Zürich, 1916) Cup.408.u.39 

Tristan Tzara, Dada 3, (Zürich, 1918) W18/5841

Romain Rolland, Au-dessus de la mêlée, (Paris, 1915) W18/5841

Stefan Zweig, Jeremias : eine dramatische Dichtung in neun Bildern (Leipzig, 1922) 11747.h.31.

Stefan Zweig, Tagebücher (Frankfurt am Main, 1984), X3-0904

Stefan Zweig, Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam (Vienna, 1935), 2214.a.9

03 November 2015

Nikolai Misheev, an art critic of ‘The Chimes’

The name of the Russian literature and art critic and playwright Professor Nikolai Isidorovich Misheev (1878-1947) is well known in the academic circles of art historians and specialists in the Russian émigré press.  Misheev was born in Kyiv and graduated first from the Seminary and then  from the Faculty of History and Philology of Warsaw University. In St Petersburg he taught at women’s colleges, including the famous Smolnyi finishing school for young noblewomen. 

Misheev left Soviet Russia in 1925 and for the first four years lived in Riga, but settled in Paris in 1929. Not attempting to give a full survey of his works, I would just mention Misheev’s books held at the British Library: Noveishaia russkaia literatura (‘Essays on Modern Russian Literature’), the play Na rassvete (‘At dawn’) and Bylina (‘Russian Folk Tale’). In 1935, his essay on Russian folk-tales was translated into English under the title A Heroic Legend by Gleb Struve, (a Russian literary historian and later  author of the most influential book of its time on Russian émigré literature, Russkaia literatura v izgnanii ), and the founder of the School of Slavonic Studies, Bernard Pares

Image 1
Photographs of an exhibition of Russian émigré periodicals in Prague, from Perezvony, N18, 1926.

While living in Riga, Misheev actively contributed to one of the  Russian émigré magazines, Perezvony (‘The Chimes’), published between 1925 and 1929 (British Library PP.1931.pml). The magazine was meant to continue the pre-revolutionary tradition of illustrated weekly or monthly editions for the whole family. The first issue came out on 8 November 1925 and until February 1926 it appeared weekly. From Number 14 it became a bi-monthly publication; in 1927 it became a monthly and in 1928-29 the frequency diminished to two issues per year. Among its contributors were Boris Zaitsev (also editor of the literature section), Ivan Bunin, Konstantin Balmont, and  Marina Tsvetaeva.

The editorial board paid a lot of attention to the artistic appearance of the magazine. The cover, with a tree growing in a foreign soil covered with bells that create the familiar chimes of Russian churches in the background, was designed by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, and the influence of the “World of  Art” movement on the entire concept of the periodical is obvious.

Image 2
Cover of the first issue of Perezvony (1925)

Misheev took responsibility for the art section of the magazine and contributed to every issue (sometimes more than one item, in which case he use his pseudonyms, e.g. ‘Pritisskii’). A great number of issues were topical and presented essays on important Russian and world artists. Misheev wrote about  the Academicians Sergey Vinogradov (1869-1938), Nikolai Bogdanov-Bel’skii (1868-1945), Mikhail Nesterov (1862-1942),  Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Vilhelms Purvītis (1872– 1945) and many more.

Image 3 - Vinogrdov
S.Vinogradov. To the Reverend

 

Image 4 - Bogdanov-Belskii
N. Bogdanov-Bel’skii. A Defender of the Motherland.

 

Image 5 - Nesterov
M.Nesterov. Two sisters

 

Image 6- Dobuzhinsky
M. Dobuzhinsky. Dr Aibolit and Barmaley

 

Image 7 - Purvitus
V. Purvītis. In the country
.

Misheev contributed essays on Russian architecture, folklore and culture. As K. Pritisskii he wrote an article entitled  ‘Russkaia literatura, kak ‘nakaz’ russkogo naroda’ (‘Russian Literature as a mandate from the Russian people’) (No. 19, 1926, pp. 605-609). His accessible and popular style combined with profound knowledge of the history of art and Russian culture make Misheev’s essays an enjoyable read. 

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections

References:

Nikolai Misheev, Noveishaia russkaia literatura (St Petersburg, 1905) 1865.c.3.(83.); (Moscow, 1914) RB.23.b.6297

Nikolai Misheev, Na rassvete (St Petersburg, 1920) 11758.dd.27.

Nikolai Misheev, Bylina (Vladimirova, 1938)  YA.1996.b.7845 ; English translation by Gleb Struve and Bernard Pares:  A Heroic Legend: how the holy mountains let out of their deep caves the mighty heroes of Russia. (London, 1935) 20019.ee.33.

Gleb Struve, Russkaia literatura v izgnanii (New York, 1956) 11872.g.8.

Perezvony  (Riga, 1925-1929) PP.1931.pml; several issues are available online via Sait-arkhiv emigrantkoi pressy (The Website-archive of Russian émigré press).