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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



It does not appear that Else and Greve/Grove had any contact with each other after their dramatic separation in 1911. Else's remark "he might be very successful now in America, if he is not de ad ... I do not know. I became separated from him by his suddenly leaving me..." (Ab 36) suggests that she was unaware of Grove's post-Sparta whereabouts, and he is not among the many old lovers and friends she approached from Berlin with often impertinent demands for support.

Grove may have tried to find her in December 1913. To Warkentin, he mentions that for Christmas he had gone to Arkansas (which might stand Cincinnati or even New York), where he was hospitalized with "a  raging fever." He then  says: "As for my marriage, that has gone to smash: something I have been working on for the last five years. I don't blame the girl -- I merely don't understand her. Difference of age was considerable: she was my pupil before she went to college." (10. 2. 1914, Letters, 13). Else, though older, in a way had been his pupil. The five years Grove worked on his "marriage" leads back to late 1908, when Greve announced to Gide that he would be "divorced," hinting darkly at plans to disappear in the near future:" y aura une grande lacune dans quelques mois..."(Letters, 547-548). Insel manager Anton Kippenberg was reportedly approached by Greve from a New York hospital, which may have been on occasion of Grove's illness in December, 1913 (Michael, A81). It would, however, not have been beyond Else, who had just married to Baron Leo in November, to include Kippenberg in her soliciting campaigns then or at any other time during her New York years from 1913 to 1923.

            In his first novel Settlers of the Marsh (1925), Grove set a rather unflattering monument to Else as Clara Vogel. The vague pioneer setting in Manitoba's Riding Mountain region has a definite likeness to Sparta, Kentucky surroundings, so that when Clara takes the train from the nearby town of "Minor" (=Plumas) to go to town (Winnipeg) for sporadic city amusements, it stands for Else escaping to Cincinnati from the hated rural isolation in nearby Kentucky. Sparta, today an insignificant community of 130 inhabitants, was a market-centre of some importance in 1910, boasting two hotels and a direct railroad connection to the Ohio border-town ca. 80 miles to the northeast. Sprinkled along the way are similar small towns with railroad depots at roughly five-mile intervals. This infrastructure resembles the Manitoba location in amazing detail. When Grove taught in this area (1916-1922), a railway also linked small settlements in similar fashion on the way to Winnipeg, 120 km to the southeast.

Particularly impressive is the location[36] of the virginal protagonist's stately range-line mansion: no building exists today, but the "bluff" where Niels reportedly built his house is located at a bend of the meandering Grassy River. The entire area around is bare, flat prairie land. This particular spot is lusciously treed and relatively hilly, and thus bears a striking resemblance to the country-side near the Eagle Creek at Sparta (seen in May, 1994).

It is strange that Grove toiled in near-total seclusion for well over a decade until Else returned to Europe. Settlers appeared six months before she went to Paris in April, 1926, the first autobiographical novel was published around the time of her death in 1927, and wide-spread public exposure during the lecture tours was safely delayed until afterwards (1928-1929). He possibly kept well-informed about her moves.[37]

            Unlike Greve/Grove, Else was not in the habit of masquerading in assumed identities, masks or roles, though she did offer her first poems to the Little Revue under the name Tara Osrik (Anderson, 178). Her reminiscences and opinions of Greve are communicated without disguise, and most have been addressed above. Only the following points need to be added now.

            From New York, in 1921, she sent the young photographer Berenice Abbot to Gide with a proposal to have her come to Paris for the greatest benefit of the town. Her extravagant letter, accompanied by samples of her work in the Little Review, identified her as Greve's "wife:

"...(Gide) examine le curieux pli: il contient une lettre en anglais, écrite en caractères d'impression, sur une sorte de papier de garde à coulées jaunes et rouges, avec de temps en temps des frottis d'or. Le texte est plus imvraisemblable encore: en un langage cru, exalté et suffisant, une femme lui propose tout simplement de se faire entretenir par lui. Elle croit qu'il y aurait grand profit pour Paris à sa venue! La signature révèle la femme de Paul Greve...Les trois revues americaines sont remplies d'elle: vers, portraits, articles. L'énormité de tout cela l'amuse" (Bruxelles, June, 1921; emphasis mine).

            The amazing offer, noted by Maria van Rysselberghe (v. 1, 85) who, in the eminent Gide scholar Claude Martin's opinion chronicled Gide's life as Eckermann recorded Goethe's (introd., v. 1), was an outrage given that Gide was rather the traditionalist antipode to surrealist (André Breton) and dadaist groups (Duchamp, Picabia, Man Ray) at the time.

            In January, 1923 Else's poem "Circle" with an oblong, primitivist illustration appeared in Broom (128). It is her only publication in this avant-garde journal which was published in New York, Rome and Berlin by Peggy Guggenheim's cousin Harold Loeb. The frontispiece to the same volume (4, 1922/23, 2) is completely out of character with the rest of the journal's modernist content: an old-fashioned lithograph of the dancer Fanny Elssler in a pas-de-deux, etched by G. Leybold in 1840. The juxtaposition of old and new has a comical effect, which is repeated in reverse when Sheeler's photograph of Freytag-Loringhoven's "Portrait of Marcel Duchamp," a dadaist sculpture of an unplucked pheasant with protruding metal parts, follows upon a traditional etching of Duchamp by Joseph Stella with the same title (Little Review 9, no. 2, 1922). Else created at least two other "portraits" of this sort (one of Duchamp, one of Berenice Abbott, both in more two-dimensional reliefs), which shows that she continued to apply in novel ways the Petrarchan principle used in the 'Fanny Essler' sonnets and in her poem "Schalk."

[36]Professor Richard Ottenbreit, University of Winnipeg, personal communication, 9.6.1994.

[37]This astute and valid observation I also owe to Professor Ottenbreit who furthermore reports that Grove's extensive foreign correspondence did not go unnoticed by local postmasters in rural Manitoba, particularly, during the War years.

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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