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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


The prison term in 1903/4 seems to have turned Greve's life around. Four days after his release, he went to Paris and paid Gide a visit. The initial contact had been by correspondence in December 1903. It was arranged by Karl Vollmoeller whom Gide called affectionately "cher Sorrentin" because of Vollmoeller's vacation home in Sorrento, Italy. The reason for mediating an encounter was Greve's & Gide's common interest in Oscar Wilde.

When they finally met, they discussed their respective Wilde essays, and the life/art dichotomy in Gide's L'Immoraliste, a book Greve was translating at the time. Greve now demonstrated how his outlook had changed within a year: he declared, in a complete reversal of his former, decadent l'art-pour-l'art position: "Je ne suis pas un artiste. C'est le besoin d'argent qui maintenant me fait écrire. L'oeuvre d'art n'est pour moi qu'un pis-aller. Je préfère la vie" (Gide, 1976, 34).[20] In other words, Life, particularly in its material requirements, has from now on primary importance. Art has been demoted to the secondary rank, and is seen as a mere means for making a living.

Greve's monumental translation efforts and a notable shift in genre preference confirm that he practiced what he preached: only three post-prison poems are known ("Hexe," "Erster Sturm," "Die Stadt am Srande"), though more may await discovery. He wrote two substantial novels about Else, announced another one called Der Sentimentalist (for Feb., 1906) which Stefan George seems to have remembered in a conversation with Edith Landmann some twelve years later, and he worked on at least one satirical play, Der heimliche Adel or Der Zahnadel (ca. 1906/7). He also published several critical essays. All of this is in stark contrast with his former aesthetist preferences with an almost obsessive preoccupation with Oscar Wilde. The austere, hard-working Flaubert, renowned for his symbolic realism and mastery of French prose, is emerging as Greve's new model to identify with in the future.

Gide, besides noting Greve's visit in his diaries, recorded his impressions of the memorable encounter on June 2, 1904, the next day, but only published them fifteen years later as "Conversation avec un allemand avant la guerre" in Nouvelle Revue Française (Aug., 1919; in Incidences, 1924). The eminent Gide scholar Claude Martin has provided a critical edition of this text in the October 1976 Bulletin des amis d'André Gide.[21] He appended two highly informative letters by Greve: the first, attached by Gide himself, is sent from Cologne (7.6.1904, 37-38), and follows up on the recent Paris conversation. Greve also reveals that he is about to go to London (no doubt, to further his current H. G. Wells and Meredith translations). The second letter is from the Greves' voluntary exile in Wollerau (17.10.1904, 39-41). It was added by the editor. In this astounding document, Greve addresses the entire Fanny Essler project in great detail:  first, he announces that he is using the name of his future fictional heroine as a pseudonym for poetry publications:

"Et de moi-même. 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).[22]

Note that the masculine gender is maintained for 'Fanny Essler' in "un poète (!) déjà assez consideré (!)", and that Greve is the narcissistic subject of his/her poems.

Greve then gives credit to Else Greve for translating Flaubert's correspondence, leaving no doubt that he is doing all the work, since she only knows Italian. Her name did indeed appear on two of Greve's translations of Flaubert's voluminous correspondence. Greve continues playing on the gender confusion he has introduced with his list of three names, one his own, one Else's as his wife, one a woman's name as pseudonym for both: Mme Fanny Essler has written two autobiographical novels in "Bonn sur Rhin" where he was imprisoned, and as her mentor, he is simply preparing them for publication. He may well have written drafts of both books using Else's long letters to him, so that his work was in fact largely to little more that editorial. 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" (emphasis mine).

This plan, however, did not materialize. When the book came out in 1905, the title was still in place, but it was clearly identified as fiction, and Greve's name was sitting squarely in the author's position: Fanny Eßler:[23] ein Roman von Felix Paul Greve; Entwurf des Umschlags vom Verfasser. Stuttgart: Axel Juncker Verlag, [1905].

Greve's claim to the cover-design could be an unacknowledged appropriation of Else's artistic talents. She designed book covers in Dachau before she even met Endell (Ab17 ff; FE 405; 411 mentions one in white silk). "To push the farce to the limit," Greve announces, he will soon publish a major critical article about Fanny Essler's poetry: "Pour pousser la farce à l'outrance, je publierai dans quelques semaines un grand article sur le grand poète Fanny Essler..." Unfortunately, this article and a related one on German versification mentioned earlier in the letter remain undiscovered so far.

At the time of these remarkable revelations, five poems by Fanny Essler had already appeared on August, 27 and on October 15, 1904 in the same Munich journal which also published Greve's poem "Die Hexe," Browing's "Kleon (sic!)" and his Meredith article.[24] Why the fireworks of names and roles? As Greve candidly admits to Gide, he has to flood a reluctant German market, and Alexander von Bernus' Freistatt is the only journal open to him at the time (40). The fact that Friedrich Huch, whom Greve must have known from his Munich days, was the editor then, may have been a decisive factor.[25]

If Greve ever kept his promise and sent "his" Fanny Essler poems to Gide, he must have done so after completing the cycle with two further poems five months later, on March 25, 1905. Only when seen together can their clever composition be fully appreciated (PEd 40-47 & Centennial e-Edition 2005).


[20] M Knönagel (59 ff.) is the only critic to my knowledge who accurately relates Greve's reversal of the art/life poles to his imprisonment. Unaware of the explicit Gide conversation, Knönagel arrives at his conclusions through a pertinent comparison of Greve's Wilde articles of early and late 1903, before and after the catastrophic event.

[21]Martin admirably cross-referenced all discrepancies and omissions in the published versions. An important one (36) contradicts Spettigue's allegation that Greve intended to offer himself as a homosexual partner during this encounter (FPG, 126): to Gide's question "Etes-vous pédéraste?", Greve responds without hesitation "Absolument pas!" Another important difference is that full names replace the intials "B.R." (Greve) and "von M." (Vollmoeller). Both these informative letters of June & October 1904 are lacking in Spettigue's recent description of Greve's fascinating correspondence with Gide (1992, 25-26).

[22]"And now about me. I must work in rather strange ways. I am not one person anymore, I am three: 1. FPG. 2. Mme Else Greve. 3. Mme Fanny Essler. The latter whose poems I shall send to you shortly, and which -- this is still a secret -- are addressed to me, is a poet already well regarded in some parts of Germany..." (transl. & emphasis mine).

[23]On the second printing, London. The first printing (Berlin copy) spelled "Essler," as does Greve to Gide, and Freistatt for the poems, but not on all issue covers. There are no further copies attested to my knowledge.

[24]By some curious coincidence, essays by Ernst Hardt, Endell, O. A. H. Schmitz and Vollmoeller are represented in the same volume.

[25]Huch was editor from Heft 19, 1904, to Heft 25, 1905 (Dietzel, v. 3, 832). Grove's privately printed novel Two Generations 1939, of which he sent a copy to Thomas Mann in Princeton, seems to have used Mann's incest story "Wälsungenblut" (1905) and Huch's novel Geschwister (1903) as intertexts. The sister's name is Alice in both Huch's and Grove's novels.

Originally published:
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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