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FrL & FPG's 1904/5 'Fanny Essler' Complex (Seven Poems & One Novel)
How to cite this 2005 e-Article

Else von Freytag-Loringhoven & Felix Paul Greve

Felix Paul Greve's & Else von Freytag-Loringhoven's
1904/5 'Fanny Essler' Poems: His or Hers?
Revised e-Edition in Ten Parts
by Gaby Divay, University of Manitoba Archives, ©25Mar2005


Felix Paul Greve was a minor literary figure in the orbit of Stefan George's circle until he embarked with Else, wife of his friend August Endell, for Palermo in January, 1903. From June, 1903, he served a year-long prison term in Bonn for having defrauded Herman Kilian of the enormous sum of 10.000 Marks to support the lavish life-style[3] he had adopted in his Munich days in 1901/2.

Kilian had been a close friend and fellow-student since Greve's brief tenure at Bonn University from 1898 to 1900/1. Greve dedicated his poetry collection Wanderungen (1902) to him, and Kilian, who studied chemistry, allegedly translated the first essay of Wilde's Intentions, which is ironically "The Art of Lying" ("Ästhetik der Lüge").[4]

During his confinement, Greve not only wrote his two novels about Else Endell's life, but also consolidated his career as an extremely prolific translator, first of contemporary English and French authors (Wilde, Meredith, Wells, Gide, and Swinburne), later of world literature as well (Arabian Nights, Balzac, Cervantes, Dickens, Lesage, Swift, and many more). Although it was a lucrative profession, he chose to disappear from the German scene with a staged suicide in late July 1909[gd1]: burdened with heavy debts, he had made another fraudulent attempt by selling one of his last translations (probably Swift's Prosawerke) to two publishers simultaneously (Kippenberg, 550). Therefore, he had excellent reason to fear dire legal consequences for this and possibly similarly illegal transactions, especially, since he was a repeat offender.

Three years later, in September 1912, he assumed his new identity as Frederick Philip Grove in Canada. on Else's documents throw some light on the otherwise obscure American period, though Grove's 1927 book A Search for America provides some accurate leads. FPG taught for many years in Manitoba, first in the German-speaking districts of Haskett and Winkler in the southern area, later in Virden, Gladstone, and the Riding Mountain area.

Grove added anything from five to nine, but usually seven, years to his age. More consistently, he added twenty years to his actual arrival in Manitoba in 1912. Because of anti-German sentiment during World War I, but also because he had an interest in concealing a partially shady past, Grove always claimed to be of Anglo-Swedish origin, but found only vague excuses for not being in command of his alleged mother tongue while mastering several other European languages with ease. In two semi-autobiographical accounts, modelled openly after Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit,[5] he used more fiction than fact in describing his cosmopolitan European upbringing and illustrious literary connections. Nevertheless, the essential outline of Greve's youth is adhered to quite faithfully, so that the biographical sketch Greve submitted in 1907 (Letters, 538 ff.) for an entry in Brümmer's Lexikon der deutschen Dichter und Prosaisten (1913, v. 2) reads like a blueprint of the relevant sections in Grove's A Search for America (1927) and In Search for Myself (1946).

Many of Grove's creative writings point clearly, if more indirectly, to his former existence as Greve. His very first Canadian publication was the lengthy article "Rousseau als Erzieher" (the title imitates Nietzsche's "Schopenhauer als Erzieher") in the German-Canadian newspaper Der Nordwesten (Nov.-Dec., 1914). With its impressionistic style, it is remarkably similar to Greve's critical essays on Nietzsche (1901), Wilde (1903), Meredith and Flaubert (1904). Grove's first books, The Turn of the Year (1921) and Over Prairie Trails (1922) were nature essays reminiscent of Greve's last known publication "Reise in Schweden" (1909) which emulated Flaubert's travel impressions (translated by Greve, 1905/6), and possibly drew on similar German texts, notably by Heine and Fontane.[6] Grove's largely ignored poetry[7] remains indebted to the same formal requirements of the Stefan George school Greve applied in his Wanderungen. It contains the most conclusive literary evidence that Grove was Greve: six German manuscript poems in typical "Jugendstil" manner extant in Grove's archives include "Die Dünen fliegen auf..." which is a replica of Greve's "Erster Sturm" of 1907.[8] Grove skillfully translated it and another poem as "The Dying Year" and "Arctic Woods." Avoiding convoluted syntactical and supernatural elements of the neo-romantic German originals, he arrived at convincing, realistic creations. Especially the second poem emerged transformed into a powerful, realistic depiction of a Canadian winter landscape (PEd, facsims., 59 a-c).

Else associated with members of the George-Circle long before Greve during the 1890s in Berlin, and around 1900 in Munich. She was involved with Melchior Lechter, one of the artistic "masters" of the group, had a passionate affair with Ernst Hardt, travelled in platonic harmony with O. A. H. Schmitz' brother Richard in Italy, and then settled in a renowned artists' colony in Dachau, near Munich. There she met the architect August Endell, another "master" of the George group.[9] She called him Tse (Chinese for master), he addressed her as Ti ("the yellow one", representing royalty in China; Ab 37-38), and they were married in August, 1901. Her reputation was not the best: the philosopher Ludwig Klages remembers Endell's stork-like appearance, and describes Else as "a Berlin courtesan who had passed through many a hand in intellectual circles" (Eggert, 248, tr. gd).[10] The marriage was unhappy, as Endell turned out to be impotent, and Else reacted with unkind and violent outbursts. For these, she was sent for innovative anti-hysteria treatment[11] to the Frisian island Föhr in October/November, 1902. Endell had designed Dr. Gmelin's Sanatorium in 1898, and there Else now became obsessed with her husbands dashing young friend, Felix Paul Greve:

      "...the man -- who was to be my first potent mate [mss.: husband I ever possessed], with whom I also remained together the longest time I ever was with one man, about ten years -- was in Berlin, keeping my husband company -- I dreaming about him, but also about my husband whom I did not desire to abandon, not even for this miracle of a youth -- if it was only possible, and he came up to my expectations after my wombsqueeze excursion. But he did not, and the matter ended with hair-pulling and slipper-hurling on my part" (Ab 30).

At Christmas, Greve & Else became lovers (Ab 44; FE, 502),[12] as an explicit postcard to Marcus Behmer, depicting Gmelin's Sanatorium, attests. In late January 1903, an unusual trio embarked in Hamburg for Italy: Tse/Endell was allowed to come along as far as Naples, where he was dismissed with a consolation bicycle (presumably, to improve his physical condition; Ab 67). "The Greves" went on to Palermo, and had a good time until Felix Paul Greve's unexpected arrest.

For a long time, it was unknown if they ever became a couple in the legal sense of the word. Greve already talks about Else as "meine Frau" in early 1903, when she is still married to Endell, & to Gide in mid-1904, when she is barely divorced. Since Gisi von Freytag-Loringhoven ascertained in 2001, that they actually did wed in Berlin in August 1907, both parties were guilty of bigamy in North America: Else married a black sheep of the illustrious Freytag-Loringhoven family in November, 1913 in New York, and FPG married his fellow-teacher Catherine Wiens in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, in August, 1914. Else used her maiden name Ploetz for the occasion, and deducted eleven years from her real age (39). The marriage left her titled, but penniless within less than a year, the Baron leaving New York for World War I. Greve, now Grove, stated that he was a 40 year old widower from Russia -- he was 35, born 1in 1879 in Radomno, which was then well within the boundaries of the German Reich. Only after 1918 did it indeed became a German-Polish, not a German-Russian, border-town.

Else's revealing documents at the University of Maryland provide a frank account of her life experiences, much as described in Greve's first novel, Fanny Essler (1905). More importantly, they confirm that Greve started a new life in North America rather than perishing in 1909, as Else's accusatory note to Insel-publisher Kippenberg had intimated at the time. While her note is no longer extant, Kippenberg's elegant reply deflects point by point charges that Greve took a boat to Sweden with the intention never to arrive because the Insel establishment had overworked, underpaid and unfairly criticized him. In his counter-arguments, Kippenberg emphasizing Greve's tremendous debts and his latest fraudulent dealings (Kippenberg, 548 ff.).

This master-piece also serves as evidence that the couple's transfer to the North American continent was likely the result of a concerted effort, not unlike their mystifying, literary collaboration under investigation here. Else displayed devious talents of her own, since she probably took Kippenberg up on his generous offer for financial help. She may have approached other publishers in similar fashion until she could rejoin Greve some months later in June 1910. Extortion and blackmail attempts are reported by several of her American friends (W. C. Williams, 169; G. Biddle, 140), the Freytag-Loringhoven family around 1920, and they abound in her later correspondence from Berlin and Paris.

After Greve's release from prison, the couple lived in Switzerland (Wollerau, near Zurich,1904-5), Northern France (Paris-Plage, 1905-6), and in Berlin until Greve's hasty departure (1906-9). In June, 1910, Else joined him in Pittsburgh for roughly a year (Ab 72). A recently found note in the New York Times (Sep. 1910) shows that they remained in the city for at least three months before farming near Sparta in northwestern Kentucky. This is where Greve left her permanently in late 1911, as Else wrote on her poem "Wolkzug".[14]

FPG assumed his well-documented existence as Grove in September 1912, she, finding herself abandoned in the "wilderness" of Kentucky without means or knowledge of English, started posing in nearby "Cinci, the city of pork".[15] The entire staff of the Academy of Arts there was of German-American origin and had usually received training in Germany as well, so that it is not impossible that she had met one or the other in Europe around 1900. The reference to a "conductor Georg" (German for "George") in her poem "Herr Peu-à-Peu" suggests that she mingled in the city's very active theatre milieu, maybe in one of the many choruses which never failed to be noted for elegant costumes and a lively performance in local German-language newspaper reports.[16] From 1913 until her return to Berlin in 1923, she was mostly in New York where she soon became notorious as an eccentric model, artist, and the poet in avant-garde circles meeting at the famous Arensbergs' salon (Watson, 269 ff.) or gathering around The Little Review's editors Margaret Anderson (177 ff.) and Jane Heap. This avant-garde journal published 27 of Else's controversial poems (about a third of these in German), and the editors introduced Else to writers like William Carlos Williams and Hart Crane. Around 1917, she also posed in Philadelphia for artists like George Biddle, Charles Sheeler, and Morton Schamberg whose sculpture "God" (a piece of curbed plumbing pipe mounted on wood, Philadelphia Museum of Art) is today mainly attributed to her (Reiss, 88). Most notably, she worked with internationally renowned artists Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. Two photos of her appeared in the only issue of New York Dada in April, 1921, and she was the nude star of their (lost) film experiment entitled "Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven shaving her pubic hair" (1921). A rare surviving frame was used by Man Ray in a much publicized letter to Tristan Tzara: it depicts Else in the position of the capital letter A in the witty pun

                                                                                                            de l'Amérique

playing cleverly with the French words "mer" and "merde."[17] This short-lived collaboration has assured Else a place in the history of dada, and widespread, continuous critical attention in art history publications -- quite unlike Greve/Grove who despite tireless efforts and numerous publications remains virtually unknown outside Canada (and often enough, within).

From New York and Berlin (1923-1926), Else tried by all possible and some impossible means to rejoin her friends in Paris. When she finally succeeded in April, 1926, she found herself largely ignored by a strong, but diverse American community. Her lack of French contributed to her isolation. Extreme mood-swings, already in clear evidence in her letters to Djuna Barnes from Berlin -- many contain explicit, suicidal notes --, are reflected in her late correspondence with Sarah Freedman (spring, 1927), Mary Reynolds (26.7.27), and Peggy Guggenheim (response, 29.8.27), and alternate with enthusiastic and apparently life-saving plans for opening her own modeling school on August 1st, 1927.[18] These high-flying plans failed due to bureaucratic intervention, and she more than likely committed suicide in December of that year at age 53.[19]

Grove, for his part, lost his only child Phyllis May in an appendicitis operation shortly before her twelfth birthday in the summer of that very year 1927. He went on a vast, coast-to-coast Canadian lecture tour in 1928/9, and left Rapid City, Manitoba, from where he had published all of his first six Canadian books, in the fall of 1929. After a brief interlude with Graphic and Ariston Publishers in Ottawa (during which time his son Arthur Leonard Grove was born), he realized his long-held dream to be a "gentleman farmer" by settling in 1931 on his estate in Simcoe, Ontario. How well he was doing financially is a matter of debate: in letters to publishers, he is perpetually broke & in imminent danger of losing his residence. To friends he is always riding the waves of success -- very much like Greve always displayed two sides to his publisher- or friend correspondents. After producing another six books in often difficult times, like an economic depression or the war years, Grove died in Simcoe in 1948 at the more reasonable age of 69. He was survived by his wife Catherine, who died in January 1972, & his son Leonard.

[3]A detailed report of the trial gleefully describes Greve's debts and lies (General-Anzeiger für Bonn und Umgebung, Nr. 4761, 30. 5. 1903, p. 7).

[4]A later edition of Fingerzeige (pref. Paris-Plage, November 1905) omits both the dedication & the reference to Kilian's collaboration. Kilian was responsible for Greve's arrest in May 1903.

[gd1]In late October 1998, shortly after the "In Memoriam FPG: 1879-1948-1998" Anniversary Symposium at the University of Manitoba, a search strategy based on the first two pages of ASA led to the discovery of Greve's long-elusive passage: he did leave in July [but in 1909, not in 1892!] on a White Star Liner -- the brand-new Megantic -- , sailing from Liverpool to Montreal in "second cabin" accommodation. See BISON entry for the July 31, 1909, Immigration Manifesto, & a contemporary postcard of the ship. See also Chapter I of ASA for the open pointers leading straight to the discovery.

[gd2]Apart from Greve's Passage in July 1909, the Bonanza Farm "in the Dakotas" & the book publishing scam orchestrated from New York could be identified by taking the apparently fictitious accounts of the protagonist "Phil Branden" at face value.

[5]Grove refers to Goethe's famous autobiography (English: Fact and Fabulation, or Fact & Fiction) in a ms. draft of his 1939 preface to the Ryerson ed. of A Search for America -- at the same time, Grove was composing his second, "true" autobiography In Search of Myself, 1946 (Grove Collection).

[6]Heine's Deutschland: ein Wintermärchen, Fontane's Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg, or Goethe's famous travel notes of his journey to Italy come to mind.

[7]Published as Grove's Poems/Gedichte, 1993. This critical edition (cited here as PEd) includes Greve's poetry, seven mss. found in the Stefan-George-Archiv in Stuttgart, and the Fanny Essler's poems under discussion here. An electronic edition is in preparation.

[8]This crucial evidence is only mentioned in passing in Spettigue's FPG: The European Years (1973, p.144). Grove's translation is mistakenly cited as "The Flying Years." Professor Spettigue became aware of Grove's Manitoba poem when the book was in press, while he had found the 1907 original "Erster Sturm" already in 1971/2.

[9]Eggert (247) and Weiss (44 ff.) attest to Endell's key position in the "Jugendstil" movement.

[10]"Eines Tages verheiratete sich Endell mit einer Berliner Buhlerin, die in Intelligenzkreisen durch viele Hände gegangen war..." Greve seems to have courted Klages' sister Helene in 1901, as he mentioned her several times in letters to Wolfskehl, and the starred dedication *** ** to the concluding poem of Wanderungen, "Irrender Ritter," matches the rhythm of her name.

[11]" husband sent me to a be away from him and to have, by the way, for his impotence, my womb massaged, so that he should not look the only guilty one." (Ab 28; emphasis mine)

[12]On December 26, 1902, from Berlin, Else sent Marcus Behmer a distraught photo-postcard of the Sanatorium: "Wir sind sehr unglücklich..." It is signed: "Ihre Sie liebende Tante Ti" (Stadtarchiv München).

[13]Gisi Baronin von Freytag-Loringhoven, personal communication, October 1991. Also in Spettigue, 1992a, 25.

[14]Else declared on arrival in New York that she was meeting a "T. R." Greve in Pittsburg (Spettigue, 1992a, 24). The unique reference to Sparta, Kent. appears on her poem "Schalk."

[15]Attested in a ms. note by Djuna Barnes, Freytag-Loringhoven archives.

[16]"...der fesche Chor...," etc., Cincinnatier Freie Presse and Volksblatt in columns entitled "Von deutschen Bühnen," or "Deutsches Theater."

[17]Considering that Man Ray was ignorant of French at the time, he may have appropriated it from his estranged wife Adon Lacroix who published similar puns in graphic arrangements. Apart from "Cher Tzara," the rest of the text is in English: "dada cannot live in New York..." (ill., Reiss, 86; also in Gammel, 2002).

[18]Else described the Paris Modelingstudio and its furnishings in glowing colours to all three, and solicited support. To Freedman (p. 16), she calls it " dream -- of island, of safety in sea of matter -- my last dream!", and p. 5 to Reynolds is written on the verso of a printed advertisement blurb. Peggy Vail-Guggenheim declares herself "delighted to own the original" of Else's surrealist play/letter (35 p.) which she typed for Else, wishes her luck, and obviously ignores the concluding plea "Please, give me lift (p. 35)." In October, Transition (12.10.1927) rejected Else's aphorisms (9 p.), keeping four poems for "possible future use." Experiences like these must have added to her final & ultimately fatal discouragement.

[19]Most friends (Reiss, 95; Williams, 169), Bernice Abbott, and also Djuna Barnes in her belated epitaph chose to believe in an accidental death: "On the fourteenth of December, sometime in the night, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven came to her death by gas, a stupid joke that had not even the decency of maliciousness." (Transition 11, February 1928, 19).

Original Article:
Divay, Gaby. "Fanny Essler's Poems: Felix Paul Greve's or Else von Freytag-Loringhoven's?"
Arachne: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language and Literature,
v. 1, no. 2 (1994), 165-197.
How to cite this e-Version:
Divay, Gaby. "Felix Paul Greve's & Else von Freytag-Loringhoven's 1904/5 'Fanny Essler' Poems: His or Hers?" e-Edition, ©March 2005 at

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