06 October 2016
Readers may remember a blog post some time ago featuring a manual for Czech servicemen simultaneously fighting alongside their British comrades to repel the threat of invasion and struggling with the English language. They were not, however, the only ones forced by history to grapple with a new language and bewildering customs.
The British Library holds a copy of a curious little book published at the modest price of three shillings and sixpence and ‘specially compiled to help the mistress and her German-speaking maid’ by Elsa Olga Hollis. Nothing is known about the author, who claims in the preface that she was encouraged to publish her work by friends and their foreign maids who had used her as an interpreter. She acknowledges the help of ‘Miss Lorna Yarde Bunyard’, who typed the manuscript and revised the English, and was presumably responsible for some of the oddly unidiomatic expressions and misprints, as when the maid is directed to close, not the Flügeltür (French window), but the Flügeltier, a strange winged creature.
Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter first appeared in May 1937 and by November of that year had already gone into a third edition. Clearly it was in great demand – but why?
Cover of Elsa Olga Hollis, Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter = German and English household phrases and words. (Mistress and Mädchen. A comprehensive German and English domestic phrase-book) (London, 1937) 12964.bb.54.
Hollis’s book was published some months before the British government introduced a visa requirement for refugees seeking entry from Germany and Austria following Hitler’s annexation of Austria in March 1938. Many of the women who arrived as domestic help came from wealthy and cultured families which employed servants, and had never had to make a bed or lay a table in their lives, let alone ‘throw the ashes and hard clinkers into the dustbin’, ‘empty slops and wipe utensils dry’ or tackle the ‘light work … getting tea, cleaning silver, ironing, mending clothes, cleaning out cupboards and so on’ between three o’ clock and the preparation of the evening meal. Marion Berghahn’s Continental Britons: German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany (revised ed., Oxford, 2007; YC.2007.a.9766) notes the psychological adjustments needed and the frequent insensitivity of employers who ‘lacked any clear ideas of their domestics’ backgrounds’ and exploited them mercilessly as cheap labour.
In fiction, characters who arrived in England in this way appear in Natasha Solomons’s The Novel in the Viola ([Bath], 2011; LT.2012.x.1871) and Eva Ibbotson’s The Morning Gift (London, 1994; H.95/761). Both authors recalled the experiences of relatives who escaped from Austria in the 1930s on domestic service visas, like Solomons’s Elise Landau, who confidently advertises ‘Viennese Jewess, 19, seeks position as domestic servant. Speaks fluid English. I will cook your goose’, or Ibbotson’s heroine Ruth Berger’s Aunt Hilda, an eminent anthropologist but inept housemaid who is repeatedly bitten by her employer's pug and gets the sack when she brings a glass-fronted bookcase crashing down on her while attempting to dust.
In Mistress and Mädchen the adventure begins with ‘Meeting the Boat’ (‘the crossing was (very, not) good, bad. I have (not) been seasick’), the Customs, and a train journey, culminating in ‘Arrival at the House’ (‘the chauffeur will bring in the rest of your luggage’) and ‘A Little Talk over Tea’, where the mistress of the house presses jam, cake, rolls and pastries on Marie, the new housemaid. She is informed that she will have to undertake the housework and all the cooking, though a charwoman comes for the rough work (‘grobe Arbeiten’), and assured ‘Sometimes we will try your native cookery’. Weekly and daily plans for housework are included, beginning with washing day on Monday (‘Here is the wash-tub, washing machine, soap, soda, soap-powder, Lux, copper stick, Blue and starch, mangle’) leading to the puzzled enquiry, ‘We do not “air” clothes at home. Why is it done?’), whereupon it is explained that ‘in England the air is so moist that everything gets damp’. Weights, measures and ‘really economical’ recipes are provided, together with precise instructions about how to make tea and ‘Toast machen’. One can picture poor Marie’s perplexity when requested to prepare ‘Reis Pudding’, ‘Talg-Puddings’ (the unappetizing translation of ‘suet puddings’), and ‘Minzmeat Pasteten’ for Christmas, not to mention ‘Rührei auf Toost’.
Not surprisingly, the heavy work, unfamiliar food and peremptory demands of her mistress (‘You will have to wait at table. See what Baby wants. You must finish your work sooner’) take their toll on Marie’s health, spirits and digestion. ‘What is wrong with you?’ barks Madam, to be met with a catalogue of ailments: ‘I have head-, eye-, ear-, tooth-, stomach ache. …I have a cold in the head, a nosebleed, a cough, indigestion’ (it must be all those tallow puddings). The plaintive query ‘Do I give satisfaction?’ receives only the chilly reply, ‘I have no reason to complain’, and the domestic tyrant continues ‘Be more careful with the breakable things…. If that happens again I shall have to give you notice! … I must send you back home’. Finally, the worm turns: ‘I wish to give notice,’ announces Marie. Triumphantly, her mistress brandishes the permit: ‘This permit is valid only for the particular employment for which it is issued … If you wish to leave now, I am afraid you will have to go home’.
It would be pleasant to think that Jan Novák, the Czech airman from Vojáci, učte se anglicky!, was invited to tea in the household and captivated by the sight of Marie, trim in her afternoon uniform (‘black, brown or wine-coloured dress (wool), small cap, and “afternoon” apron’); their eyes meet over the tea-tray, and they arrange a tryst in her meagre leisure time (‘one afternoon and evening a week and every other Sunday afternoon and evening free’), shyly exchanging phrases from their respective handbooks… One fears not. The German preface, unlike the English one, emphasizes the need to rise early, work quickly, and suppress any homesickness, ‘taking a great interest in everything new’ instead. But despite the unhappiness which many a Mädchen (of whatever age) endured, the domestic service visa was, all too often, a life-saver.
Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement
31 May 2016
Among the videos of performances in our current exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts is a puppet production of Der bestrafte Brudermord (‘Fratricide Punished’), a slapstick version of Hamlet. Its origins and its relationship to Shakespeare’s text are still matters of debate among scholars, but it seems to have been known and performed by travelling players in Germany from the early 17th century onwards.
German speakers who wanted to see Hamlet played in a formal theatre under Shakespeare’s own name had to wait until 1773 when the Court Theatre in Vienna put on a stage version by Franz Heufeld. This was based on Christoph Martin Wieland’s translation, the first attempt at a major translation of Shakespeare into German, covering 22 of the plays and published between 1762 and 1766 (8 vols, 11762.c.14.). However, although Heufeld’s Hamlet lacked the slapstick elements of Der bestrafte Brudermord, it still was hardly a faithful version of Shakespeare’s play.
Wieland’s translations were in fact not entirely complete or faithful. He made some cuts and, most notably, rendered the plays in prose, something that would give the young writers of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ generation an exaggerated idea of Shakespeare’s ‘naturalness’ compared to the formal verse of classical French drama. But Heufeld took much greater liberties cutting many characters and episodes and Germanising many of the names: Horatio becomes ‘Gustav’ and Polonius ‘Oldenholm’. The most surprising omission is the character of Laertes, leaving Hamlet nobody to duel with in the the final act. Instead, the Queen (neither Gertrude nor Claudius is named here) still drinks poisoned wine, but makes a dying confession of her own and the King’s guilt. Hamlet kills the King and is apparently left to become the new ruler of Denmark.
Heufeld’s abbreviated and Germanised cast list for Hamlet, from Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark (Vienna, 1772) 1607/2063
For all its infidelities, Heufeld’s Hamlet helped to start a boom in German productions of the play. The actor and theatre director Friedrich Ludwig Schröder saw a production in Prague which inspired him to prepare his own version. His translation follows Heufeld in many ways, but he restored Laertes to the action, although there is still no duel and Hamlet and Laertes are reconciled.
More radically, Schröder also restored the gravediggers’ scene, something generally frowned upon by critics and included only reluctantly by Wieland. However, although the scene appears in the first published edition of his translation, which is fleshed out to 6 acts in order to accommodate it, the gravediggers do not appear in the cast list printed there, so may not have made it into actual performances. Nor is the scene present in later published editions of Schröder’s translation.
Schröder’s Hamlet was the sensation of the 1776 theatre season in Hamburg and made a star of Franz Brockmann who played the title role (Schröder himself played the Ghost). It added huge momentum to the interest in Hamlet sparked by Heufeld’s work. No doubt thanks to this early enthusiasm, as the German passion for Shakespeare grew over the following decades, a particular fascination for Hamlet and identification with the Prince himself became one of its hallmarks.
The British Library holds first editions of Wieland’s, Heufeld’s and Schröder’s translations. However inadequate they may seem today as renderings of the original, they played a key role in bringing Shakespeare and Hamlet to Germany, and helped to pave the way for Wilhelm Schlegel’s verse translation, first staged in Berlin in 1799, nearly a quarter of a century after Schroder's triumph in Hamburg.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections
04 May 2016
Karl Marx’s magnum opus Das Kapital (Hamburg, 1872; C.120.b.1.) may have a reputation as an exceedingly dry and difficult book (causing William Morris to suffer acute ‘agonies of confusion of the brain’ in his reading of the great critique of political economy), but the toil is lightened by his frequent and often comic allusions to classical and European literature, from Aeschylus to Cervantes and Goethe.
His favourite though was always Shakespeare. Eleanor Marx, Karl’s daughter, described Shakespeare’s works as the Bible of the household, ‘seldom out of our hands and mouths’, and the German socialist biographer of Marx Franz Mehring pictured the whole family as practising ‘what amounted practically to a Shakespearian cult’. Marx reportedly read Shakespeare every day, and the family would entertain themselves on the walk back from their regular Sunday picnics on Hampstead Heath by dramatically reciting extracts from Shakespeare’s plays.
Marx’s friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels, co-author of the famous Communist Manifesto (London, 1848; C.194.b.289), displayed a similarly fierce passion for the bard in a letter to Marx, with characteristic invective, after the German dramatist Roderich Benedix criticized Shakespeare’s overwhelming popularity:
That scamp Roderich Benedix has left a bad odour behind in the shape of a thick tome against ‘Shakespearomania.’ He proved in it to a nicety that Shakespeare can't hold a candle to our great poets, not even to those of modern times. Shakespeare is presumably to be hurled down from his pedestal only in order that fatty Benedix is hoisted on to it…
Marx and Benedix: United by the beard, divided by the bard. (Images from Wikimedia Commons)
Much has been written of Marx's use of the ‘old mole’ from Hamlet as a metaphor for revolution in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (for an interesting discussion of this theme see the article by Peter Stallybrass cited below), but also noteworthy is Marx’s repeated use of a passage from Timon of Athens which, he says, shows how ‘Shakespeare excellently depicts the real nature of money’:
Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold?
No, Gods, I am no idle votarist! ...
Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair,
Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.
... Why, this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides,
Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads:
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed;
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves
And give them title, knee and approbation
With senators on the bench: This is it
That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;
She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To the April day again. Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that put’st odds
Among the rout of nations.
1829 watercolour by Johann Heinrich Ramberg depicting Timon 'laying aside the gold'. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, original at the Folger Shakespeare Library).
Many literary critics have written interpretations of Shakespeare from a Marxist perspective, and several prominent commentators on Shakespeare (like George Bernard Shaw and Bertolt Brecht) drew on Marxian ideas in their understanding of his body of work. The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, unusually steeped in European literary culture for a Bolshevik, sought to explain what was so interesting about Shakespeare to Marxists:
In the tragedies of Shakespeare, which would be entirely unthinkable without the Reformation, the fate of the ancients and the passions of the mediaeval Christians are crowded out by individual human passions, such as love, jealousy, revengeful greediness, and spiritual dissension. But in every one of Shakespeare’s dramas, the individual passion is carried to such a high degree of tension that it outgrows the individual, becomes super-personal, and is transformed into a fate of a certain kind. The jealousy of Othello, the ambition of Macbeth, the greed of Shylock, the love of Romeo and Juliet, the arrogance of Coriolanus, the spiritual wavering of Hamlet, are all of this kind…
For Trotsky, Shakespeare represents the birth of modern literature by placing the individual man, his own personal desires and emotions, in the centre of the narrative, symbolizing the equally progressive and destructive aspirations for personal emancipation characterizing the bourgeois revolt against feudalism. After Shakespeare, he writes, ‘we shall no longer accept a tragedy in which God gives orders and man submits. Moreover, there will be no one to write such a tragedy.’
Mike Carey, CDA Student
Julius Roderich Benedix, Die Shakespearomanie (Stuttgart, 1873) 11766.g.14.
Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (London, 1970). X.519/4753.
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, On Literature and Art (Moscow, 1976). X.809/42007.
Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (London, 1936). 010709.e.52.
Peter Stallybrass, ‘“Well Grubbed, Old Mole”: Marx, Hamlet, and the (Un)Fixing of Representation’, Cultural Studies 12, 1 (1998), 3-14. ZC.9.a.1419
Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (New York, 1925). 011840.aa.17.
04 September 2015
In 1709 London found itself playing host to thousands of Germans who were fleeing famine, war and religious persecution in their native lands. Many of the first arrivals came from the Palatinate region, and the refugees became collectively known as the ‘poor Palatines’.
Most of these ‘Palatines’ wanted to travel on to America rather than stay in Britain. Many hoped to emulate the success of Joshua Kocherthal, who had emigrated to America in 1708 with a group of fellow Germans, helped by grants of money and land from the British government. Kocherthal’s published description of Carolina, with an appended account of the financial aid his party had received, encouraged others to head for Britain, convinced that they would receive similar assistance towards a new life across the Atlantic. Instead, the majority ended up housed in temporary camps on Blackheath and in Camberwell.
Title-page of Kocherthal’s pamphlet, Aussführlich- und umständlicher Bericht von der berühmten Landschafft Carolina, in dem Engelländischen America gelegen ... (Frankfurt am Main, 1709) C.32.b.38.
The Palatines’ motives for seeking refuge, their worthiness of help and their eventual fate, were the subject of much debate. Queen Anne and her government had indeed initially offered help and support to those perceived as Protestant refugees fleeing oppression by Catholic rulers, but by no means all those arriving in Britain fell into this category, and soon critics were pointing out that some had come from Protestant-ruled states and others were themselves Catholics (although most of the latter were offered a choice between conversion or repatriation). Whatever the reasons for their flight, the refugees were in any case soon arriving in too large numbers for the state to be able to provide for them, let alone pay for all of them to travel and settle in America.
Concerns were also expressed about the threat the refugees might pose if allowed to remain in Britain. Many were poor and unskilled labourers and it was argued that they would add nothing to the nation’s prosperity but instead reduce work and wages for their British counterparts. One vocal supporter of the Palatines’ right to remain was Daniel Defoe, whose political periodical A Review of the State of the Nation argued that British tradesmen and labourers had nothing to fear and that the newcomers would enhance rather than damage the ‘publick Wealth’. He also recommended settling the Palatines in sparsely-inhabited regions to develop the land for agriculture. But other voices were less welcoming.
A contemporary pamphlet, The Palatines Catechism, sets out some typical elements of the debate in a fictional dialogue between an ‘English tradesman’ and a ‘High-Dutchman’ (probably himself a German in modern parlance). Visiting the refugees’ camp, the ‘High-Dutchman’ admires their ‘Diligence and Industry’ and argues that Christian charity demands they should be supported and helped to settle in Britain. The Englishman sees only disorder and outlandish habits in the camp and is suspicious of the Palatines’ motives for coming; he declares that, ‘charity ought to begin at home,’ and that Britain should help her own numerous poor before taking in those of other countries. He also fears that, if the Palatines are given assistance, they will repay it by exploiting their benefactors once they are settled. Ironically, this fictional debate, like many of the real ones, ignored the fact that most of the refugees had no desire to remain in Britain.
Eventually some 3,000 Palatines were granted the longed-for passage to America, although their new life there as indentured workers was not exactly the future they had imagined. Other groups were settled elsewhere in the British Isles, including over 2,000 sent to Ireland. In the autumn of 1709 a new government banned further shiploads of German immigrants from coming to Britain, and in the following months those that remained in the camps gradually dispersed. Some found their way independently to new homes in Britain or America, but others gave up their hope of a better life in a new country and returned at last to Germany.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies
Daniel Defoe, A Review of the State of the British Nation. (London, 1704- 1712) C.40.h.1.
Daniel Defoe, A Brief History of the Poor Palatine Refugees (1709), introduction by John Robert Moore. Augustan Reprint Society Publication no. 106 (Los Angeles, 1964). WP.2367a/106
The Palatines’ Catechism, or a true description of their camps at Blackheath and Camberwell. In a pleasant dialogue between an English tradesman and a High-Dutchman (London, 1709). 1076.l.22.
Philip Otterness, ‘The 1709 Palatine Migration and the Formation of German Immigrant Identity in London and New York’ Explorations in Early American Culture, 3 (1999), 8-23. ZA.9.a.11137 https://journals.psu.edu/phj/article/download/25606/25375
24 June 2015
The British Library’s online and microfilm newspaper collections are an invaluable resource for the cultural historian. In a year of significant anniversaries related to the Second World War – from the liberation of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps to the rescue of 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – these archives can provide an indirect glimpse of events as they unfolded.
Submerged in the mythological narratives, hackneyed rhetoric and clichéd images that have accumulated in the intervening decades, we are in danger of losing touch with the reality of these events. The reports, photographs and readers’ letters found in the newspapers can enable us to reconnect with that reality through the words of those who were living through it.
The liberation of Bergen-Belsen by British troops in April 1945 was one of the most momentous events of the war’s final months. Using online, word-searchable archives of the Daily Express and Daily Mirror alongside microfilm archives of the Evening Standard, three of the most widely read newspapers in 1940s Britain and all available to access in British Library reading rooms, I’ll take a closer look at reaction to this shocking event.
On 19th April 1945, the Daily Express printed some of the earliest photographs taken at Belsen after its liberation. These were evidence, the paper asserted, ‘of the vileness of the creatures we are fighting’ and of ‘the depths of sadistic brutality to which the German has reverted’. In other words, the unexpected and horrific revelations were taken as proof that anti-German wartime propaganda was rooted in truth, that Germany was a nation of barbarians.
Readers’ letters published in the Daily Mirror and the Evening Standard a few days later echoed these sentiments. ‘The evidence of the German maniacal guilt is for all the world to see’, wrote one, while another claimed, ‘The only decent German is a dead German’, echoing a popular wartime phrase. A Mirror reader suggested conducted tours of the camps for anyone who thinks ‘there are still any good Germans. Perhaps then they would change their minds’.
Sign erected by British forces at the gates of Bergen-Belsen after the liberation (Photograph BU 6995 from the Collections of the Imperial War Museum, via Wikimedia Commons)
Such reactions are perhaps unsurprising after six years of total war and a vigorous Ministry of Information propaganda campaign designed to arouse hostility among Britons towards the whole German nation, not just the Nazi elite.
What is more unexpected is the number of obstinately liberal voices that made themselves heard in the midst of a conservative clamour. The Very Rev. W. R. Inge, previously Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, argued in the Evening Standard against the wholesale denunciation of Germany. Germany is ‘a nation of decent people’, he claimed, and we must attempt to understand how they came to ‘acquiesce in these atrocities’. Others, such as cartoonist David Low, emphasised the number of German nationals imprisoned and killed in the camps, while a reader in south-west London demanded the end of ‘the nonsensical generalisation, so dangerous for the future peace of Europe, that Gestapo, Nazis and Germans mean all the same thing.’
‘Don’t forget some of us are Germans’: Cartoon by David Low, Evening Standard 19 May 1945 (© Solo Syndication, image from British Cartoon Archive. Reproduced with kind permission)
These brief examples offer a glimpse of the fascinating and diverse public debate in Britain in the days surrounding the liberation of Belsen. With the resources available at the British Library, we can push the clutter of history aside and return, through the words of journalists and readers, to this and thousands of other momentous events across the world and throughout history.
Judith Vonberg is a PhD student in Cultural History and freelance journalist. You can read and follow her own blog here: https://judithvonberg.wordpress.com
17 June 2015
In the summer of 1814, with Napoleon defeated and exiled to Elba, Britons were eagerly welcoming a military hero of the campaign against the French to their shores. It was not (or not only) Wellington’s name that they shouted in the streets, but that of ‘Old Blucher’, the 71-year-old Prussian Field Marshal who had led the victorious allies into Paris and done so much to secure their victory.
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (his British admirers seldom wrote and probably never pronounced the umlaut) had enjoyed a long and successful military career, despite over a decade of enforced retirement after he got on the wrong side of Frederick the Great. During the Napoleonic Wars he led Prussian troops with mixed success but great courage, and was instrumental in what was believed to be Napoleon’s final defeat in 1814.
‘Old Blucher beating the Corsican Big Drum’, 1814 Caricature by George Cruikshank celebrating Blücher’s role in defeating Napoleon. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
It was following this triumph that Blücher visited Britain with other allied leaders and commanders. A trawl through the British Newspaper Archive confirms that he was the most enthusiastically fêted of the visitors, drawing crowds wherever he went. A satirical poem, ‘Blucher and the British Ladies’, in the Morning Chronicle of 23 June 1814 claimed that he could barely go outside without being mobbed by female admirers. Ladies could also show their admiration by wearing the ‘Blucher bonnet and spencer’ and ‘Blucher boots and slippers’, or by dancing to a ‘Blucher Waltz’. Indeed Blücher’s name became attached to many things, including George Stephenson’s first steam locomotive and a racehorse which won the 1814 Derby - while the Field Marshal himself looked on.
Blücher had hoped to retire to his Silesian estates after the triumphs of 1814, but he was recalled following Napoleon’s return from Elba in March 1815. Despite defeat and injury at the Battle of Ligny on 16 June 1815, he went on to lead his forces to Waterloo two days later. The Prussians’ arrival was decisive in securing the allied victory, and when Wellington and Blücher met late in the evening they saluted each other as victors.
Following Waterloo, Blücher at last retired for good. He did not visit Britain again, but he was still celebrated by the British as the joint victor of Waterloo: in a travelling display of Madame Tussaud’s waxworks he was even placed alongside the national heroes of the Napoleonic wars, Nelson and Wellington. However, as the 19th century progressed, popular British accounts of Waterloo began to play down the role of the Prussians and attribute the victory solely or primarily to Wellington. Today Blücher’s name is little known among the general British public, and some might be surprised – perhaps even indignant – to learn that Wellington and his forces needed German assistance to win the day.
However, Wellington himself seemed in no doubt at the time. In his official dispatch of 19 June 1815 he wrote, “I shall not do justice to my feelings or to Marshal Blücher and the Prussian army, if I do not attribute the successful result of this arduous day, to the cordial and timely assistance I received from them.”
Perhaps this year’s Waterloo anniversary will remind the British public of Blücher again, and win him back some of the respect he enjoyed here in 1814 and 1815.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections
31 December 2014
Throughout 2014 we have been using posts on the European Studies blog to mark the twin anniversaries of the Hanoverian succession and the outbreak of the First World War by looking at Anglo-German cultural relations and the role of Germans in Britain during the two centuries between. As the year draws to a close, I turned to a publication of 1913, Die deutsche Kolonie in London, issued by the ‘Anglo-German Publishing Company’ (based, coincidentally, like London’s earliest German printers and booksellers, near The Strand), to see what Britain’s ‘German colony’ looked like at the end of those two centuries.
The book was published to mark Kaiser Wilhelm II’s silver jubilee, and opens with a portrait of Wilhelm, fulsome tributes in prose and verse and an appeal for contributions to a commemorative ‘Imperial Jubilee Fund’ intended to support Germans and German institutions in Britain. This is followed by a brief history of German settlement in Britain and a comprehensive overview of the German community and institutions in London and beyond, demonstrating the strength and vitality of this community on the eve of the First World War.
Some 15 German churches and congregations in London are described as well as 12 in other cities including Edinburgh, Bradford, Liverpool and Newcastle. In London there is a German School in the south-eastern suburb of Forest Hill, a location chosen because it and the neighbouring districts were popular with German families. (Today’s London German focus has stayed south of the Thames but moved westwards: the modern ‘Deutsche Schule in London’ is in Richmond-on-Thames.) Continuing the educational theme, the German professors Karl Breul of Cambridge and H.G. Fiedler of Oxford reflect on the study of German and the role of German academics in British universities and schools.
St George’s German Lutheran Church, one of the oldest in London; the BL acquired its library in 1996
Social welfare comes next, with institutions including a benevolent society and an ‘Arbeiterkolonie und Altenheim’ in Hitchin, which accepts any needy German-speaker. Hitchin was also the location of a convalescent home attached to the German Hospital in Dalston (one of the few British German institutions revived after 1918). Orphanages in Dalston and Clapham, and sailors’ hostels and missions in various port cities are also described.
Recreation and culture are represented by the ‘German Athenaeum’ (a society for arts and sciences) and the ‘Turnverein’, a gymnastic society whose specially built London gymnasium still stands not far from the British Library. There are literary and gymnastic clubs outside the capital too, and a range of ‘Vaterländische Vereine’. The ‘Deutsches Volkstheater West-London’ founded in 1911 is described as enjoying some success and critical acclaim, although London’s German colony is not sufficient to support it as a permanent company playing every night. More popular are the many singing clubs. And gymnastics is not the only sport catered for: there are clubs for skittles and cycling, and the ‘Deutscher Fußball-Klub London’ has been ‘deemed worthy of taking its place in the 1st division of the North London league’.
There is also a range of professional clubs and societies for workers of all kinds, from bankers to waiters (the charmingly named ‘Union Ganymede’). As well as places to meet and socialise, these groups offered various kinds practical help to their members: lectures and training, help finding positions, and support when out of work.
Finally – and always worth a look in such publications – there are advertisements. Businesses catering specifically for Germans include bookshops, hotels, a photographer and J.C. Bell, ‘the German dentist’, who offers written guarantees on false teeth and promises that ‘a trained and experienced lady is always present when ladies are treated.’ Other firms advertise German products sold in Britain; I was struck by the proud claim by the makers of ‘König’s Liqueur-Gin’ that their product was ‘drunk by H.M. Kaiser Wilhelm II in the English House of Lords and House of Commons and at Buckingham Palace’, which gives a presumably unintended impression of the Kaiser boozing his way through a state visit.
Altogether the book paints a picture of a flourishing community, and one with a deep pride in a recently-unified native land. In their introduction the authors seem almost wilfully blind towards the rise in British anti-German sentiment at both popular and political levels, even suggesting that Wilhelm II is figure admired among the English. But one passage in the introduction by Richard Pflaum is oddly prophetic. Praising Wilhelm for having gained international recognition for Germany by peaceful means, he adds:
Für die Deutschen in England hätte ein Krieg Deutschlands die unabsehbarsten Folgen hervorrufen können, weil ein solcher Krieg … zu einen Weltkrieg sich hätte entwickeln müssen, in dem das Volk, unter dem wir wohnen und dessen Gastfreundschaft wir seit Jahrhunderten genießen, an die Seite der Gegner Deutschlands gedrängt worden wäre.
[For the Germans in England a German war could have led to the most incalculable consequences, because such a war would surely have developed into a world war, in which the people among whom we live, and whose hospitality we have enjoyed for centuries, would have been forced on to the side of Germany’s opponents.]
The following year what most Britons saw as very much a ‘German war’ did break out, and the consequences were indeed incalculable for Britain’s German community and its institutions. In the century since, very different waves of German migrants, refugees and settlers have come and gone, but the ‘German London’ depicted in this book has become a thing of the past.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic studies
Some further reading on Germans in Britain and Anglo-German relations 1714-1914
Aneignung und Abwehr : interkultureller Transfer zwischen Deutschland und Grossbritannien im 19. Jahrhundert / Rudolf Muhs, Johannes Paulmann und Willibald Steinmetz (Hg.). (Bodenheim, 1998). YA.2000.a.20029
Anglo-German scholarly networks in the long nineteenth century / edited by Heather Ellis, Ulrike Kirchberger. (Leiden, 2014) YD.2014.a.909
John R. Davis, The Victorians and Germany (Bern, 2007). YD.2008.a.1627
Germans in Britain since 1500, edited by Panikos Panayi (London, 1996). YC.1996.b.5061
Rüdiger Görner, Dover im Harz : Studien zu britisch-deutschen Kulturbeziehungen (Heidelberg, 2012) 11823.t.3/299
James Hawes, Englanders and Huns (London, 2014). YC.2014.a.15194
»In unserer Liebe nicht glücklich« : kultureller Austausch zwischen Großbritannien und Deutschland 1770-1840 / herausgegeben von Uwe Ziegler und Horst Carl. (Göttingen, 2014) Ac.6431/2[Vol.102]
John Mander, Our German cousins : Anglo-German relations in the 19th and 20th centuries (London, 1974). 74/9820
Migration and transfer from Germany to Britain, 1660-1914 / edited by Stefan Manz, Margrit Schulte Beerbühl, John R. Davis. (Munich, 2007) YD.2007.a.9202
Philip Oltermann, Keeping up with the Germans : a history of Anglo-German encounters (London, 2012). YK.2012.a.24179
Panikos Panayi, German immigrants in Britain during the nineteenth century, 1815-1914 (London, 1995) YC.1996.a.721
Richard Scully, British images of Germany : admiration, antagonism & ambivalence, 1860-1914 (Basingstoke, 2012). YC.2013.a.465
Miranda Seymour, Noble endeavours : the life of two countries, England and Germany, in many stories (London, 2013) YC.2015.a.8377
Susanne Stark, "Behind inverted commas" : translation and Anglo-German cultural relations in the nineteenth century (Clevedon, 1999) YC.1999.a.3194
Viktorianisches England in deutscher Perspektive / herausgegeben von Adolf M. Birke und Kurt Kluxen. (Munich, 1983) X.800/39562
28 November 2014
One of the display cases in our current Gothic Exhibition shows a collection of books whose fame today rests largely on their being mentioned in a novel by Jane Austen (much like Kotzebue’s Lovers’ Vows, discussed in an earlier post). These are the ‘Horrid Novels’ which Isabella Thorpe recommends to her new friend Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey as the two girls embark on a spree of gothic fiction reading.
The titles Isabella lists are: ‘Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries.’ Unlike Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, which the girls also read, these titles had pretty much sunk into obscurity by the time Northanger Abbey was posthumously published, and early literary critics believed that they were inventions of Austen’s, parodying typical titles of the genre. Later researchers, however, established that, although Austen (or Isabella) made some minor errors in transcribing the titles, all seven books were genuine products of the time.
However, one thing less than genuine about some of them is a claim to be of German origin. Of the seven, only Clermont offers no hint of German-ness on its title page. The Orphan of the Rhine clearly indicates a German setting, but goes no further, while the other five are all billed as ‘a German story/tale’ or ‘From the German.’ However, this is only strictly true of two: The Necromancer is an adaptation of Karl Friedrich Kahlert’s Der Geisterbanner, and The Horrid Mysteries is a translation of Carl Grosse’s Der Genius. The Castle of Wolfenbach, The Mysterious Warning and The Midnight Bell are only ‘German stories’ insofar as their action is at least partially set in Germany – and this was probably not all that the authors meant to imply
Claiming a false (and often foreign) origin for a work of gothic fiction was not uncommon. The first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, purported to be translated from an Italian manuscript (and the device of an invented source goes back further still). Indeed, the original German editions of both Der Geisterbanner and Der Genius claim to be based on other sources: Danish accounts collected by ‘Lorenz Flammenberg’ and the ‘papers of the Marquis C* von G**’ respectively.
But why such a German flavour in a list of English gothic novels? After all, the gothic novel began with Walpole’s supposedly Italian tale, and Ann Radcliffe’s novels also tend towards Italian settings. Italy, France and other southern, Catholic countries of Europe were popular backdrops for British gothic writers since sinister, conspiratorial monks, nuns and priests could be introduced as villains, pandering to the prejudices of a Protestant audience. Yet a German source was clearly a sign of gothic credibility for readers like Catherine and Isabella.
One reason is that there was a definite German influence on English gothic fiction. This came partly via the works of the Sturm und Drang movement and partly from the translations of the more popular and less literary ‘Schauerromane’ (literally ‘shudder novels’), themselves often influenced by British gothic models. (The false translation traffic could go both ways, too: a number of German gothic novels were ascribed to Ann Radcliffe in the first years of the 19th century.) This German influence was not always welcomed. In 1807 the writer Charles Maturin wrote of literary ‘horrors’ reaching British shores on a ‘plague-ship of German letters’. Two years earlier The Critical Review had rather sarcastically described Matthew Lewis’s The Bravo of Venice as a ‘Germanico-terrific Romance’. The Bravo was an adaptation of a real German work, Heinrich Zschokke’s Abällino, although the reviewer, ‘not acquainted with the original’, and obviously on his guard against false claims of translation from the German, casts doubt on this. Nonetheless he still has some harsh words for the ‘writers of the German school’ and their constant desire to shock.
Apart from actual literary influences, the fact that ‘Gothic’ was still a synonym for ‘Germanic’ or Teutonic’ was no doubt another factor in the identification of Germany with things gothic, as was the Germans’ continued use of ‘gothic’ type. Interestingly, the Minerva Press, which published six of Austen’s ‘Horrid Novels’ and many other gothic works, printed its name in gothic type on its title pages – an early example of this kind of typeface being used as a kind of branding for the demonic and supernatural.
But perhaps another, although less easily demonstrable, explanation is that Germany simply lent itself more readily to gothic imagery in the popular imagination, with all the necessary forests, mountains and mediaeval buildings to furnish the scenery. Italy, despite its suspect Catholicism and its fair share of mountains and bandits, also carried connotations of fine art, classical civilisation and the Renaissance, all the antithesis of gothic. Perhaps even the idea of lowering North European skies as opposed to the sunshine of southern climes played a part: it’s harder to be gothic under a blue and sunny sky.
The continuing identification of German and gothic probably explains why Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein, despite coming from rational, Protestant, French-speaking Geneva, has a German surname, and conducts his anatomical experiments while studying in Germany. And it survives to this day, not least in the use of gothic lettering (and oddly superfluous umlauts) in the marketing of heavy metal and gothic rock bands.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies
The seven ‘Horrid Novels’ as displayed in the current British Library exhibition are:
Eliza Parsons, The Castle of Wolfenbach, a German Story (London, 1794) C.192.a.187
Regina Maria Roche, Clermont, a Tale (London, 1798) 1152.h.1.
Eliza Parsons, The Mysterious Warning, a German Tale (London, 1796) 1153.f.32.
Karl Friedrich Kahlert, The Necromancer: or The Tale of the Black Forest: founded on facts, translated from the German of Lawrence Flammenberg by Peter Teuthold. (London, 1794) C.175.i.8.
Francis Lathom The midnight bell, a German story, founded on incidents in real life… (London, 1798) C.117.ff.31.
Eleanor Sleath, The Orphan of the Rhine, a Romance (Dublin, 1802) Loan from University College Cork Library
Carl von Grosse Horrid Mysteries, a story from the German of the Marquis von Grosse, translated by P. Will (London, 1796) Loan from the Taylor Institution Library, Oxford
Michael Sadleir, Things Past (London, 1944) 12359.f.26.
Patrick Bridgwater, The German Gothic Novel in Anglo-German Perspective (Amsterdam, 2013) ZA.9.a.5563(165)
07 November 2014
Ever since Baroness Lehzen taught the young Princess Victoria, German governesses had occupied a place in 19th-century British consciousness. Many German women came to Britain during the century to teach either in schools or private homes, and a Verein deutscher Lehrerinnen in England was founded in 1876 to offer them advice and assistance. By the beginning of the 20th century it was common – and fashionable – for upper-class families to employ a ‘Fräulein’ to help educate their daughters, even against the background of rising of anti-German sentiment.
Der Vereinsbote. Organ des Vereins deutscher Lehrerinnen in England. Vol. 26, no. 1, February 1914 (P.P.1215.fb). The journal of the Association of German Teachers in England. Like other British German newspapers and periodicals, it ceased publication in August 1914.
On the outbreak of war, however, governesses were among the Germans in Britain viewed with particular suspicion. Because some lived closely with the families of well-connected employers, they could easily be demonised as potential spies or fifth columnists. A browse through contemporary newspapers via the British Newspaper Archive reveals a number of stories, or variations on the same story, about German governesses whose trunks were found to conceal bombs or secret documents. A report in the Lichfield Mercury of 21 August 1914 even claims that a German ‘secret order book’ had been discovered which recommended the placing of ‘handsome German governesses’ in the families of British military officers to gather information; presumably their handsomeness was intended to help tempt the officers into indiscretions of various kinds.
These stories may strike us as faintly absurd, but their underlying message was taken seriously at the time, even in high places. In 1916, the Prime Minister of New Zealand specifically mentioned governesses, alongside waiters and clerks, as Germans employed in Britain who had used their position to collect information which was ‘promptly conveyed to Berlin.’ And of course these attitudes could have serious consequences for the women who suddenly found themselves designated ‘enemy aliens’, perhaps after many years as part of a British family, and suspected of spying.
Families who employed a German governess sometimes themselves fell under suspicion. A Mr Cunningham was still pursuing damages from the War Office in 1923, claiming that his business had collapsed when it was boycotted following a military search of his house in 1914, triggered in part by the presence there of a German governess. Even the British Prime Minister was suspected of harbouring a spy in the form of his children’s long-serving governess Anna Heinsius.
A popular example of the ‘governess as spy’ theme was the 1914 play The Man who Stayed at Home, set in a small seaside hotel where the hero, a British secret agent, affects a languid and flippant air to disguise his true mission as a spy-catcher. One of the first characters we meet is Fräulein Schroeder, described in the stage directions as ‘a tall, angular and unattractive spinster with a dictatorial manner and entirely unsympathetic soul.’
A modern audience might expect, or even hope, that such an obvious candidate as Fräulein Schroeder would turn out not to be a villain. But the popular stereotypes of the day prevail: she is in fact in cahoots with the hotel’s owner, Mrs Sanderson (German widow of an Englishman), her ‘son’ Carl (actually ‘Herr von Mantel, son of General von Mantel, and paid spy of the German Government’) and the waiter Fritz (who, despite a thick stage-German accent, manages to convince everyone that he is Dutch), all spies in the service of their ‘Imperial Master’ in Berlin.
The play clearly pleased the British public. It had a long run in London and was filmed twice (1915 and 1919) and adapted as a novel (1915). The novel is somewhat kinder about Fräulein Schroeder’s appearance: initially, at least, she radiates ‘all the placid good nature and quietude of spirit of the best of her race’ and has ‘small, kindly brown eyes’. But her fanaticism and ruthlessness are far more strongly emphasised and, in a change from the play, she poisons herself when the German plot is foiled, a ‘sordid and ugly’ death depicted as encapsulating the inglorious nature of her cause.
Amidst all these tall tales and spy-panics it is comforting to encounter stories of those who supported and defended such ‘enemy aliens’ trying to continue a teaching career in Britain during the war years. The Daily Mail of 3 September 1914 reported that a man who applied to the International Women’s Aid Committee for a governess for his children was shocked to be sent a German woman. But, the report continues, the Committee’s secretary responded that, ‘Our object is to help foreign women of any nationality who are the innocent victims of the war. We do not consider that we are helping the enemy in assisting a non-combatant German governess.’ A refreshing sentiment to set against the popular jingoism of the time.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies
Lechmere Worrall / J.E. Harold Terry, The Man who Stayed at Home: a play in three acts. French’s Acting Edition No. 2535 (London, ). 2304.h.71.(4)
Beamish Tinker [i.e. F. Tennyson Jesse], The Man who Stayed at Home ... From the play of the same name. (London, 1915) NN.2687
Panikos Panayi, The Enemy in our Midst : Germans in Britain during the First World War (New York, 1991) YC.1991.a.4196
This piece was posted live from Selwyn College Cambridge as part of the Women In German Studies Postgraduate workshop in November 2014.
04 October 2014
Around this time of year churches in Britain are celebrating Harvest Festival, and many congregations will no doubt sing the favourite seasonal hymn ‘We plough the fields and scatter’. But not many of the singers may be aware that this seemingly integral part of a British – or at least an Anglican – Harvest Festival service is in fact a translation of a German hymn, ‘Wir pflügen und wir streuen’, with words taken from a poem by the 18th-century German poet Matthias Claudius.
The English translation first appeared in 1861 in a collection entitled A Garland of Songs: or an English Liederkranz compiled by Charles S. Bere, a Devon clergyman. Bere was apparently something of a Germanophile: in a preface he speaks admiringly of the role played by vocal music in German homes and communities and expresses the hope that his English collection of secular and religious songs will encourage a similar culture among his compatriots. The translator, modestly described as “a lady … who wishes to be nameless”, was Jane Montgomery Campbell (1817-1878). Among her other contributions to the collection is a version of ‘Stille Nacht’ beginning ‘Holy Night, peaceful night’ (the more familiar – and frankly better – translation ‘Silent Night’ was made two years earlier by an American Episcopal priest, John Freeman Young).
German hymns had been making their way into English for a long time before Bere and Campbell collaborated on their Garland. The Latin-German macaronic carol ‘In dulci jubilo’ and Luther’s ‘Ein’ feste Burg’ appeared in English versions as early as the 16th century, and John Wesley made some translations from German in the 18th century. But the 19th century was the golden age of German-English hymn translation. For example, most of us know ‘Ein’ feste Burg’ best in Thomas Carlye’s translation as ‘A safe stronghold’ (or in another 19th-century American translation as ‘A mighty fortress’), and most of the German hymn translations in the Church of England’s standard hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern, date from this period.
Perhaps the most active 19th-century translator and promoter of German hymns in Britain was Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). Winkworth really deserves a blog post to herself: she was not only a translator but also a social reformer and a pioneering advocate of women’s higher education, but here we must restrict ourselves to her collection of hymn translations, Lyra Germanica, which first appeared in 1855. Winkworth moved in intellectual Christian circles where contemporary German theology was much admired. The hymns in Lyra Germanica – over a hundred in all – were translated from a collection compiled by the ambassador and scholar Karl Josias von Bunsen (Winkworth’s sister Susanna also translated one of Bunsen’s prose works on theology). Winkworth followed up the success of her first series of translations with a second series and a study of German devotional lyrics, Christian Singers of Germany.
Although only a small percentage of the many hymns Winkworth translated are in general use today, those that are remain some of the most familiar and recognisable German hymns in Britain. The latest edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (now simply called Ancient and Modern) includes six of her translations, perhaps the best known being no. 739 ‘Now thank we all our God’ (‘Nun danket alle Gott’) and no. 765, ‘Praise to the Lord’ (‘Lobe den Herrn’). Other German hymns in the collection include no. 9 ‘When morning gilds the skies’ (‘Beim frühen Morgenlicht’) translated by Edward Carswell and no. 181 ‘O sacred head surrounded’, Henry Williams Baker’s translation of Paul Gerhardt’s ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden’. It is also worth noting that many of the tunes in the book – for both German and other texts – are of German origin.
German hymns, then, are still sung in churches up and down the country, but it seems that they are waning somewhat in popularity. ‘Silent Night’ still holds its own in polls of favourite carols (although it has lost the top spot in recent years to a French rival, ‘O holy night’), but the only German entry in a recent BBC vote for ‘The UK’s top 100 hymns’ was ‘Now thank we all our God’, languishing at no. 65 in the chart. However, there is a German element within a wider European story behind the hymn which topped that poll, ‘How great thou art’. This is based on a Swedish original, and the most familiar English translation is by Stuart K. Hine, who discovered it when working as a Methodist missionary in the Carpathian Mountains in the 1930s. He translated it from a Russian version which was based in turn on an earlier German translation.
So whether at harvest time, Christmas or in the church year generally, an ‘English’ hymn may have an international story to tell. And if you are a churchgoer, you probably know more German hymns than you think.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies
A Garland of Songs: or an English Liederkranz, edited by the Rev. C. S. Bere. (London, 1861). A.745
Lyra Germanica: Hymns for the Sundays and Chief Festivals of the Christian Year, translated from the German by Catherine Winkworth. (London, 1855). 3436.f.27.
Catherine Winkworth, Christian Singers of Germany (London, 1869). 3605.bb.6.
Ancient and Modern: Hymns and Songs for Refreshing Worship. (London, 2013). D.845.t
Robert Maude Moorson, A Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern (London, 1885). 3436.g.55.
An Annotated Anthology of Hymns, edited with a commentary by J.R. Watson. (Oxford, 2002). YC.2002.a.10594.
Susan Drain, ‘Winkworth, Catherine (1827–1878)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29744]
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