Frede r I c k p h

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Frederick Philip Grove’s Obsession With Else von Freytag-Loringhoven

  • The Evidence in his First Canadian Novels
  • by Gaby Divay for the German-Canadian Chair, UW Winnipeg, Dec 4, 2003

WHO was he?

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  • Frederick Philip Grove was really born Felix Paul Greve in 1879
  • In Dec 1902, he & Else, wife of his friend August Endell, become lovers; they elope to Palermo in Jan 1903
  • In 1903/4, Greve serves a prison sentence in Bonn for defrauding his friend Kilian
  • Greve & Else live in Wollerau & Paris-Plage until 1906, then in Berlin until Greve disappears in July 1909
  • He roams the Unites States until he appears as Grove in Manitoba, in 1912

And WHO was she??

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  • She was born Else Ploetz in 1874
  • In Berlin, in the 1890s, she lives with members of the Stefan George Circle, notably Melchior Lechter & Ernst Hardt
  • In 1901, she marries August Endell, one of the “Masters” surrounding George, in Munich
  • The Endells move to Berlin; Greve soon becomes a daily visitor, until the three-some head for Palermo in Jan1903 (Endell is left behind in Naples)
  • Else & Greve are reunited when he gets out of prison in June 1904; they remain together until Greve disappears in July 1909
  • Else follows Greve to Pittsburgh in June 1910

Stefan George

A gruesome end in Kentucky…

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  • They operate a small farm near Sparta, Kentucky until Greve leaves her in the fall of 1911
  • According to Else, the Greve she joined in America upheld a “back to nature” ideal, including blonde & blue-eyed virginity, & sexual abstinence
  • There are also hints in Else’s autobiography that the relationship was rocky before Greve left her again, and this time for good
  • Since our scandalous pair WAS married in 1907, both became bigamists in 1913 & 1914 respectively!

Else Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven

FPG became Grove in 1912, but what became of Else???

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  • She modelled in nearby Cincinnati, & made her way to New York
  • There, she married Leo, the black sheep of the illustrious Freytag-Loringhoven family, in Nov 1913
  • She made herself 10 years younger -- no doubt, to match the groom’s age, & used her maiden name, Ploetz
  • She was now titled “The Baroness”, but still penniless
  • So: more modelling, but also publications in The Little Review, & contacts with artists & writers like Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, William Carlos Williams, to name just a few of the more famous…

Else in 1917: Oil, Theresa Bernstein, NY

Did Grove hide from Else?

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  • There are certainly indications that he did:
    • He taught in the remotest corners of remote Manitoba for ten years
    • He kept a very low profile, publishing but ONE article -- and in German! -- during those years
    • The timing of his first Canadian books was well-synchronized with her movements from New York to Berlin & Paris
  • He married his blonde & blue-eyed fellow-teacher Catherine Wiens in 1914
  • He made himself six years older, & declared to be a widower from Moscow, Russia
    • He told her around 1915/16 that they & their infant daughter might have to pack up & leave, because of a woman…
    • He had reason to be scared: had she known of his whereabouts, she would have come after him…

Felix Paul’s Career in Canada, 1912-1929

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  • Significance of this Heading:
    • As one of his very first translations into German, Greve proposed Meredith’s Beauchanp’s Career -- that was in 1902
    • Grove volunteered to provide a spicy story of his wild college years entitled “Felix Powell’s Career” in the 1930/40s
    • Note the clever combination of FPG’s given names “Felix Paul” & Meredith’s title!

Felix Paul’s Career I Re-Inventing a Past

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  • Before Grove emerges as an author from Rapid City in 1922, he has no reason to compose a fake autobiography
  • WHEN he has to take a stand in 1922, due to publishers’ & readers’ demands, he cleverly combines the more laudable elements of his past as Greve with the vastly more desirable family background of …
  • … his friend-turned-foe, Kilian, who had him imprisoned 20 years earlier

Felix Paul’s Career II The Canadian Author Emerging

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  • It needs to be said: NOWHERE in Grove’s vast oeuvre is there any EXPLICIT hint of Else
  • There ARE, however, hidden implications galore in Grove’s early works of the 1920s
  • Even in Grove’s 1st publication, a sprawling article entitled “Rousseau als Erzieher” in Der Nordwesten in late 1914, the very theme matches Else’s report of Greve’s “Back-to-Nature” ideal of 1910/11

Felix Paul’s Career III “Rousseau als Erzieher”

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  • Formally, this essay is reminiscent of Greve’s two 1903 articles on Oscar Wilde, his first choice if identification
  • Thematically, it is reminiscent of Nietzsche’s essay “Schopenhauer als Erzieher”
  • As such, the 1914 article also harks back to Greve’s1901 review of Nietzsche’s Works in the Münchner Allgemeine

Oscar Wilde

Felix Paul’s Career IV Impersonal Nature Essays

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  • Eight years later, in 1922, Grove’s first book, Over Prairie Trails, appears; its sequel, The Turn of the Year, is published in 1923
  • Both are devoid of personal revelations beyond the here & now
  • Formally, these nature essays are entirely indebted to Flaubert’s symbolic realism
  • Greve had adopted it while in prison in 1903/4
  • Else says: Greve liked Flaubert, so he wanted to BE Flaubert --
  • That holds true for Grove as well, and to the end of his life


Felix Paul’s Career V Settlers of the Marsh (1925 1)

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  • This was Grove’s next book, and his 1st novel
  • Though set in the Manitoba pioneer district near Waldersee (Odense in the novel), it is ENTIRELY devoted to Else
  • It can be considered a rather mean monument set to her memory, as we shall see

Felix Paul’s Career VI Settlers (1925 2): Kentucky

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  • When this book was published, Else was back in Berlin
  • Grove’s first novel can be considered a therapeutic “coming to terms” with the rather cowardly Kentucky ending of his decade-long, intense & rocky relationship with Else
  • Apart from some basic biographical givens -- such as her age (she was 38 in 1911, he was 33) -- he basically limits his description to their joint & otherwise poorly documented year of 1910/11

Felix Paul’s Career VII Settlers (1925 3): Black & White

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  • The protagonist Niels is, like FPG, 30 years old when he arrives in Canada
  • Unlike FPG, Niels has no shady past
  • But both are tireless workers
  • Niels clears the land, sows & reaps, & builds a white mansion “on a bluff” near a creek

Felix Paul’s Career VII Settlers (1925 3): A Bluff…

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  • Who has ever driven around Waldersee KNOWS that the landscape is as flat as a table top
  • However, the foremost Grove-Country topographer Richard Ottenbreit, UW, has identified a location on the Grassy River where there IS something like a “bluff”, no matter how modest
  • Sparta, Kentucky, as the REAL, though unacknowledged setting of the novel, is nestled between fairly sizeable hills

Felix Paul’s Career VIII Settlers (1925 4): White & Black

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  • A perfect mate for Niels would have been his neighbour’s daughter, blonde & blue-eyed Ellen
  • But the anti-heroine, Clara Vogel, Niels opposite in every way, gets to him first
  • Unlike Niels, who, at age 30, is still virginal (!), she is experienced, even depraved
  • One fateful night, they kiss… as did Else & Greve at Christmas 1902
  • Niels feels obliged to marry her

Felix Paul’s Career IX Settlers (1925 5): A gruesome end

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  • Needless to say, this union is headed for disaster: he works as hard as ever, she adheres to her depraved lifestyle
  • Sex seems to play no more part in their marriage -- like in Kentucky
  • Clara/Else is depicted as horribly old; her pathetic attempts to hide her age with make-up & henna are not working
    • Else was 38 years old in 1911; she had started to dye her hair at 27 in 1903, while Greve was in prison
  • More & more often, she escapes to “the city” on lame pretexts, such as dental appointments
  • Eventually, she even invites her suitors to Niels’ white mansion
  • This is when he sees no other way out but to shoot her

Felix Paul’s Career X Settlers (1925 6): A kitschy ending

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  • A symbolic seven years must Niels atone for this crime in Stony Mountain prison
  • From Else’s perspective, their relationship lasted closer to ten years, from fall 1902 to late 1911
  • The novel ends on a hopeful note: after his release, Niels & Ellen -- now middle-aged, but still more or less virginal -- have a good talk
  • It is implied that they will be united some fine day (soon)…
    • I wouldn’t swear to it, but the two may even walk off together into the sunset, holding hands…

Felix Paul’s Career Xa Settlers (1925 6a):7, 9, or 10 years?

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  • The symbolic SEVEN years may stand for the duration of his involvement with Else from start to finish, 1902-1909, from FPG’s view-point
  • It is interesting, that from Else’s perspective, their involvement lasted closer to TEN years, from 1902 through 1911
  • Objectively speaking, their relationship spanned NINE years, counting from the fall of 1902, when Else dreamt of Greve while on her “womb-squeeze” excursion on the island Föhr, until the fall of 1911, when Greve left her in Kentucky
  • Note that TWO of the nine years they spent apart: 1903, when Greve was in prison, & 1909/10, when he had left Europe behind! So, FPG had a point, after all…

Felix Paul’s Career XI Settlers (1925 7): Infrastructures

  • Sparta, Kentucky, lies ca. 120 km southwest from Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Winnipeg, “the city”, lies ca. 120 km southeast from Waldersee
  • In 1910/11 for the 1st, and in ca. 1917/18 for the 2nd location, both routes were connected by rail, studded with train stations in small towns at about 5-mile intervals
  • Waldersee was predominantly German-speaking -- Winnipeg was not
  • Sparta was not predominantly German-speaking -- but Cincinnati was

Felix Paul’s Career XII Settlers (1925 8): Main source FrL1

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  • All we know about the scandalous pair’s Sparta, Kentucky time, stems from Else’s archival collection at the University of Maryland, College Park
  • Many of her German poems there are dedicated to FPG, but on only one she added “Sparta, Kentucky / am Eagle Creek”
  • This allowed me to pinpoint, in 1990, an important part (one-third, to be precise) of Greve’s “lost” three years in the US

Felix Paul’s Career XIII Settlers (1925 9): Main source FrL2

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  • On another poem, “Wolkzug”, Else states:
    • “Das war in Palermo -- als Felix Paul Greve in Deutschland im Gefängnis war, meinet- d.h. seinetwegen! Ich holte ihn ein Jahr später in Kölln [sic!] ab. Ein Engländer "Freund" (Kilian, gd) hatte ihn hineingebracht. Aus Eifersucht. Von da machte er seine Übersetzercarriere. In Kentucky -- verliess er mich -- in der Einöde -- schickte mir -- verborgen -- $20 von da -- nichts. Ich konnte kein Englisch -- kannte keine Arbeit -- war hochmütig -- wurde für verrückt gehalten. Else…”
  • This note sums up better than ANY other known source the couple’s ten-year relationship, from the 1st involuntary abandonment in Palermo in 1903, to the final & voluntary one in 1911


Felix Paul’s Career XIV Settlers (1925 10): Conclusion 1

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  • If, as suggested earlier, Settlers can be read as a therapeutic exercise, it can also be viewed as wishful thinking:
  • I believe that Greve would have LOVED to kill Else in whatever fashion possible in Kentucky
  • Domestic violence was certainly in the picture then, as it was in Berlin around 1907/8
  • Grove’s novel means to alleviate the author’s guilty conscience, AND…
  • …to JUSTIFY Greve’s abandonment of Else in Sparta

Felix Paul’s Career XV Settlers (1925 11 ): Conclusion 2

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  • HE fell prey to a depraved woman
  • Without HER, he would have achieved great things…
  • He HAD to free himself from her clutches to fulfill his writer’s vocation… etc.

Felix Paul’s Career XVI Settlers (1925 12 ): Conclusion 3

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  • In the overly-saintly stance of the protagonist lies the novel’s greatest weakness:
  • There is NO PLAUSIBLE REASON why Niels should have felt OBLIGED, after ONE fleeting encounter, to marry bad Clara
  • Like Greve in Kentucky, Niels has no use for sex, so, even THAT cannot be construed as a valid motivation…
  • It is even harder to believe that worldly Clara would have accepted his proposal, & gone into voluntarily rural exile
  • In any case, in REAL life, Greve was a willing participant in Else’s seduction of Christmas 1902!

Felix Paul’s Career XVII A Search for America (1927 1)

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  • This openly autobiographical novel is a master-piece of narration:
    • It blends Dichtung & Wahrheit à la Goethe, though with perhaps a different proportion of Fiction versus Fact
    • It skillfully draws on all sorts of genres, from the picaresque- & the adventure novel, to the Bildungsroman, and satirical stories like Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus & Voltaire’s Candide
  • There is not a trace of Else in its nearly 400 pages, but this very absence is a telling one…

Felix Paul’s Career XVIII A Search for America (1927 2)

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  • It is Grove’s fourth book
  • Else is by now in Paris, and even IF Settlers & The Search had been instant bestsellers, spreading like wild-fire all over the world, she wouldn’t have had a chance to read them, never mind recognizing herself in the former, nor Greve in the latter:
    • In Berlin, she was destitute, selling newspapers in the streets, & checking in & out of charitable or mental institutions
    • In Paris, at least her frame-of-mind was better for a while, but after not even 18 months, she committed suicide there in mid-December 1927

Felix Paul’s Career XIX A Search for America (1927 3)

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  • Grove’s zeal to reveal the more glorious aspects of his past lends his narrative a confessional touch, though he understandably omits the least savory ones
  • Apart from his cosmopolitan upbringing in an affluent Anglo-Swedish family, he addresses his American adventures:
    • His brief tenure at a Toronto “eatery” that resembles Dante’s Inferno
    • His fateful encounter with two counterfeiters in New York
    • His first job there, selling encyclopedias
    • His -- of course, innocent! -- participation in a major book scam
    • His experience in a furniture factory
    • His tramp- & hobo days while moving west
    • His tenure at a Bonanza farm “in the Dakotas”
    • And finally, his moving north to Winnipeg

Lining Paper Map, ASA 2nd ed.

The Bonanza Farm (near Fargo)

Felix Paul’s Career XX A Search for America (1927 4)

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  • Of the three years Greve dwelled in the States, from his disappearance in 1909, to his emergence as Grove in Manitoba in 1912, only one-and-a-half years are covered in the book
  • All the New York based adventures happened BEFORE Else followed him
  • The west-ward migration took place AFTER he left her
  • OMITTED is the time he spent in Pittsburgh before her arrival, and the year they spent together in Sparta, Kentucky

Felix Paul’s Career XXI A Search for America (1927 5)

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  • This means that Grove gave the “Else-in-America” complex VERY SPECIAL treatment in his previous book
  • Its importance is thus NOT negated by its omission from ASA, but rather, paradoxically, enhanced, & given elevated status!
  • The fact that Grove composed Settlers before the Search for America illustrates that its story took rather urgent precedence over all the other episodes

Felix Paul’s Career XXII Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 1)

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  • In many ways, Jane Atkinson is a counter-piece to Settlers
  • This novel is also loaded with references to FPG's past, this time, to his Munich days in 1901/2…
  • …AND, enigmatically, to the highly interesting “Fanny Essler” complex of 1904/5

Felix Paul’s Career XXIII Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 2)

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  • If it weren’t for these redeeming features, the novel would be devoid of interest, in my opinion
  • Before it was e-published in 2000, there was only an ungainly typescript of 284 leaves of poor & thin "onion-skin" paper
  • Here, as an example, is the Title-Page

Grove's Jane Atkinson: The Title-Page

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Felix Paul’s Career XXIV Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 3)

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  • The novel is set in “Stockton” -- that is, Brandon, Maniboba
  • The time is roughly contemporary to Grove's tenure in Rapid City from 1922-1929
  • As in Settlers, we have here stark, black & white character contrasts:
    • The heroine, Jane, though dark-haired, is ALL GOOD… So is her neighbour, Arthur
    • That is the casting of Niels & Ellen in reverse
    • Her husband Jim, Arthur's brother, is ALL BAD -- much like Clara Vogel
    • Not much is going on over a couple of decades.

Felix Paul’s Career XXV Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 4)

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  • Even the implied triangle between Jane & the two brothers fails to keep the reader's attention
  • In the end, for no discernable reason whatsoever, “bad” Jim undergoes a profound transformation into “good” Jim
  • Gripped by unexplained remorse, Jim drives his car over a cliff
  • Jane, by some unlikely coincidence in the vicinity, rushes down to his side & asks him to forgive HER for having "been harsh" with him…
  • Then, concluding this drama & the book, comes the following punch-line. It reads: "In death he had his last great wish. Her hands were touching his brow."

Felix Paul’s Career XXVI Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 5)

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  • There is a word for this kind of literature, & it is “Kitsch”
  • The ending of Settlers, & most of Jane Atkinson, fits in perfectly with what has been recognized as a genre flourishing around 1900
  • Respectable authors like Hermann Hesse indulged in it, as did less eminent ones like Karl May; as a genre, Kitsch is akin to Harlequin- & Dime-novels
  • These were often serialized for mass-consumption -- something Grove considered doing on more than one occasion

Felix Paul’s Career XXVII Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 6): Link 1

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  • Here now THREE major links between FPG's dual-track lives:
    • Grove considered using the pseudonym ”Andrew R. Rutherford” for this novel -- this person was a renowned Scottish Judge, & Kilian’s maternal grandfather
    • His daughter’s name, & later Kilian’s daughter’s name as well, was Jane.
    • By laying claim to having blood-relations with these good people, Grove appropriated Kilian’s family background for himself.
    • He used this fabricated lineage for ALL biographical information about himself, including his two autobiographies of 1927 (ASA, e-©2001) & In Search of Myself, 1946

Felix Paul’s Career XXVIII Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 7): Link 2

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  • In guise of a rich Jewish banker from Montreal, we recognize Karl Wolfskehl, the “Zeus of Schwabing”, whose hospitality both Else, with Endell, & Greve had enjoyed
  • Here is how Jane describes him to a friend: "… like Michelangelo's Moses”
  • Wolfskehl, who paraded as Dionysos or Baal in carnival processions, sported indeed an uncanny resemblance with Michelangelo’s famous statue of 1511, especially, in half-profile
  • Greve, as a student of archaeology and Classics in Bonn between 1898 & 1900, had taken a course on the Renaissance artist -- with another course on Byron, & a third on oceanography, these were no doubt refreshing departures from an otherwise bland menu

Karl Wolfskehl

Felix Paul’s Career XXIX Jane Atkinson (ca. 1920 8): Link 3

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  • Last, not least, here now the rather perplexing link to the 1904/5 Fanny Essler complex:
  • Some thirty pages into the text, we find a self-quote from Greve's 1905 novel, Fanny Essler, about Else’s life in Berlin, in the 1890s
    • This cameo scene concerns a detailed account of Fanny’s/Jane's "maiden aunt" who has, in her thin grey hair, a grotesque array of tortoise-shell combs
    • These are remnants from a shop she owned on a major shopping street in Berlin / Toronto, namely, Friedrichstrasse / Yonge Street…
    • The significance of this scene is still a mystery. For some reason, I think that it might be related to Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks -- Mann became famous with this family chronic in 1901. Greve briefly shared an address with Mann at the Pension Gisela in Munich in 1902, & we have two 1939 letters by Mann to Grove in the UM Archives

Thomas Mann

Felix Paul’s Career XXX The Fanny Essler Complex, 1904/5

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  • One of the most astounding collaborations ever must be Greve & Else’s co-production of seven poems BY a certain Fanny Essler, & a novel ABOUT Else/Fanny Essler, with the TITLE Fanny Essler
  • Thanks to Claude Martin’s masterly edition of Gide’s “Conversation avec un Allemand” in the October 1974 issue of the Bulletin des amis d’André Gide, Greve’s wild plans for this complex can be followed -- here is what he had to say in a letter to Gide, dated October 17, 1904
    • "Il me faut travailler d'une façon bien singulière. Je ne suis plus une personne, j'en sommes trois: je suis 1. M. Felix Paul Greve; 2. Mme Else Greve; 3. Mme Fanny Essler. La dernière dont je vous enverrai prochainement les poèmes, et dont les poèmes -- encore un secret -- sont adressés à moi, est un poète déjà assez considéré dans certaines parties de l'Allemagne" (40).
    • Note the interesting use of the masculine gender in referring to Fanny Essler as "un poète (!) déjà assez consideré (!)", and the narcissistic element in the fact that Greve himself is the subject of his/her poems.

André Gide

Felix Paul’s Career XXXI The Fanny Essler Complex, 1904/5

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  • He goes on to explain plans for Fanny Essler’s prose:
    • Mme Fanny Essler has written two autobiographical novels in "Bonn sur Rhin" where Greve had been imprisoned -- note again the gender confusion!
    • As her mentor, he is simply preparing them for publication
    • He furthermore toys with the idea of having one of them published as an anonymous autobiography entitled … Fanny Essler!
      • "Jusqu'à présent elle n'a publié que des vers. Mais moi, F. P. Greve, son patron et introducteur, prépare la publication de deux romans qu'elle a écrits dans la prison de Bonn sur Rhin... Personne ne se doute de cet état des choses...L'un des romans de Mme Essler, qui paraîtra sans nom d'auteur et que M. l'éditeur croit une autobiographie, aura pour titre: Fanny Essler.”
  • However, when the book came out in 1905, the title was still in place, but Greve's name was sitting squarely in the author's position: Fanny Eßler: ein Roman von Felix Paul Greve

Felix Paul’s Career XXXII The Fanny Essler Complex, 1904/5

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  • About 20 years later, Else has this to say:
    • "Felix had written two novels. They were dictated by me as far as material was concerned; it was my life and persons out of my life. He did the executive part of the business, giving the thing the conventional shape and dress... They must be fearful books as far as art is concerned." (Ab 35).

Felix Paul’s Career XXXIII The Fanny Essler Complex, 1904/5

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  • Else describes here a clear-cut division of labour along form / content lines: SHE provided Greve with the raw material of her rich, biographical experience in perhaps imperfect form, HE applied his remarkable forming and marketing talents.
  • For the novel, Else received no credit for her contribution whatsoever. For the poems, she was at least indirectly acknowledged by the joint “Fanny Essler” pseudonym
  • Never again was FPG to create anything of the inspired quality that distinguished the seven Fanny Essler poems

Felix Paul’s Career XXXIV Fanny Essler Complex: Conclusion

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  • FPG was a great craftsman & imitator -- in a way, he always remained a translator at heart
  • He sadly was lacking the genius he believed he had. Following the Stefan George Mache for his poems, & Flaubert’s symbolic realism for his prose without variation, he was trapped in traditional patterns that have little appeal today
  • Else, on the other hand, embraced avant-garde currents like expressionism & dadaism with an open mind, and has rightfully earned her place among some of the leading artists of the 20th century

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